As seen on:

SMH Logo News Logo

Call 1300 303 181

The Sounds Of…

Much of the appeal of any new car – apart from factors like practicality and power – lies in the visual and tactile arenas. We admire the sleek lines or the bold aggressive chunkiness. We smile at the bug-eyed appeal of round headlights, such as those on the VW Beetle, or appreciate the clever styling achieved with pretty daytime running lights – or the classic Ring of Fire tail lights of an HSV. Chrome, interior lighting packages, exterior paint colour… it’s all visual. The interior styling also tends to cater to our senses of touch and comfort (kinaesthetics) with leather-wrapped this and that, lumbar support, heated seats and the like. Even a car with powerful acceleration and superb handling around the corners appeals to our kinaesthetic – it’s a human thing to enjoy the sensation of G-forces during acceleration and cornering.

We don’t tend to give the sense of sound much thought when picking out a new vehicle or even when driving, apart from what the sound system’s like (number of speakers, location and quality of speakers, input type…). However, we use our sense of hearing quite a lot when we’re in and around cars, although we’re less aware of it.

Click Here to Read More

Private Fleet Car Review: 2017 Haval H6 Lux.

This is the second visit to Private Fleet for Chinese brand Haval. This time round, the second level H6 Lux graces the driveway, complete with poky turbo four and six speed dual clutch auto, for two weeks. Let’s see how it fared.Style wise there’s nods towards the English and Germans, with a Range Rover Evoke-esque profile, complete with slanting window line, whilst front and rear there’s Audi in the grille and tail lights, even down to the crease line from the outer edges. The lights themselves are self levelling and there’s the almost obligatory LED driving lights in the cluster. It stands at 1700 mm tall including roof rails, 4549 mm in length and rolls on a 2720 mm wheelbase. Rubber is from Cooper, 225/55, on good looking 19 inch alloys.It’s here the first issue arises. The tyres are of a hard compound and work fantastically well on gravel and unsettled or broken road surfaces. But take the H6 onto wet roads, nay, even damp roads, and grip limits diminish rapidly. The front driven wheels will spin far too easily, with traction control seemingly powerless to intervene straight away. It’s worth pointing out that this happens on light throttle, not a heavy application. They’ll also spin on a dry road if at an angle, not with the steering wheel straight ahead.The dual clutch auto is from fabled German transmission maker Getrag, and when it’s under way it’s a pearler. Note the caveat: when it’s under way…from standstill it exhibits all of the worst traits of a DCT, being a far too l gap between engagement of first, the pressing of the accelerator, and forward motion happening. This particular transmission was also not a fan of cold weather, with stuttering and indecision the primary behaviour shown from start up. It also requires a fine balance between brake and go pedal on slight slopes such as those in residential roads and doing a three point turn. So combined with the overly hard rubber, lack of traction, the stutter then grip, the initial driving part is all a bit of an eyebrow raiser.When it all works it’s crisp, super quick, and silky silky smooth. There’s even a little “phut” from the twin exhaust tips well hidden in the lower bumper. Naturally there’s a manual shift option, and that’s just as efficient whether using the transmission selector or the twin metal paddles behind the tiller. Give it some welly and it’ll slide on through as easily as a goal-sneak in a world cup level football game.It’s a pretty decent ride too, with the rear perhaps just a little too softly sprung. On the rutted and unsettled road around Sydney Motorsport Park it’s fantastic, with minimal compression and there’s a genuine feeling of stability and agility. Take the Haval H6 out onto the freeways and it’s flat as a tack. It changes lane easily and smoothly, with no indication of mass transfer. The steering? Well…it feels like a long block of rubber, with nothing on centre and as you go further left or right it tightens but still has no feeling of anything bar…rubber.Oddly, it’ll also cock a rear at slow speed when winding on lock and coming off a kerb. There’s no sense of instability but it’s a weird sensation given the otherwise competency of the chassis. Punt it up (or down) Sydney’s Old Bathurst Road on the fringes of the Blue Mountains and it’ll both slur through the gears and ride clean and stable from top to bottom or vice versa. Ask the question for an overtake on a flat road and it’ll whistle up the required head of steam in no time.While you’re doing that you can enjoy the rather excellent interior. Yes, there’s a smattering of grey plastic with a woodgrain look but aside from that it’s well laid out, easy to read and use, comfortable to sit in with quick heating (front AND rear) leathers eats plus there’s a surprising amount of leg room for rear seat passengers and an indecent amount of rear cargo room. If there’s a let down, and it’s nit picky at that, it’s the look of the background for the driver’s info and centre screens. Think a crosshatched pattern in a slightly lighter blue than the rest of the screen and you’re looking at what a coloured screen from the 1980s. Having said that, the driver’s screen will show economy (and it’s far too thirsty at consistently over eleven litres of 95 RON per one hundred kilometres), tyre pressures, and more.There’s a full glass roof with sunroof at the front and backed by a coloured coded cloth roller, LED interior lighting that varies through seven or eight different colours, truly tasteful texture to the black plastic and a pleasing contrast with white lining the lower section, plus cobalt blue backlighting to the alloy sill plates. The centre console has the tab for the colour changing, drives modes (Sports/Eco/Normal), descent control, mirror folding, park assist, and even audio. What would have been nice in the Haval H6 would be the slide out extensions in the sunshades. Far too often the sun was coming through the gap left by the shortness of the shades. The selector is tastefully trimmed in alloy and leather and Haval have even gone back in time with a coin slot at the front of the console. It’s a push button Start/Stop and here’s another quirk. The Haval H6 test car required that, after you’d selected Park, that not one but two presses of the button were required in order to power off, in conjunction with ensuring the foot was OFF the brake. Leave the foot on and….the car would start back up.The wide opening doors make ingress and egress simple and show off just how much rear leg room there is even with the front pews pushed back. The sills look good in daylight and simply stunning at night. Safety wise there’s six airbags, ESP from Bosch, pretensioning seat belts and confident feeling brakes with the usual assistance electronically plus Euro flashing emergency style brake lights. Overall, Haval have really done a fantastic job in packing and trimming the H6.

At The End Of The Drive.
Haval H6. Not a particularly inspiring name but logical in the sense of how Haval will position their vehicles. Somewhat derivative styling, quirky transmission, and rubber bar steering aside, it’s a delightfully packaged vehicle, well equipped, a good drive and ride on dry and gravelly roads, and at just on $30K (plus free satnav as of June 2017) a very well priced item to consider. When Haval tighten up the DCT and make the feeling of steering more accessible it will be a hard package to ignore. Here’s the link to have a look for yourself: Haval Australia H6

It’s Swift For Sure As Suzuki Updates An Icon.

Suzuki‘s brand new Swift has landed in Australia and Private Fleet will be able to provide reviews of two members in the range in July. Here’s a look at what’s now available.

There will be a four model range: GL, GL Navigator, GL Navigator with Safety Pack and the top of the range GLX. There will be two engines available with the GLX receiving a 1.0 litre direct injection turbo and the other three a 1.2L DualJet multipoint injection powerplant. Power for the former is 82 kilowatts with the 1.2L rated as 66 kW. Importantly, torque for the three potter turbo is 160 Nm between 1500 and 4000 rpm, with the 1.2L receiving a peak figure of 120 torques at 4400 rpm.The entry level GL will power down via a five speed manual, the Navigators will use a CVT, and the GLX Turbo is fitted with a six speed auto. There’s currently no word yet of a Swift Sports model. Economy, unsurprsisingly, is frugal. The GL is rated at 4.6L/100 kilometres, the GL Navigator twins at 4.8L/100 km, and the GLX is 5.1L/100 km (combined cycle). The variances come from the weights, at 870 kg, 900 kg, and 915 kg (kerb weights).

Click Here to Read More

Making Sense of Car Servicing

Even for experienced car owners, or motorheads, car servicing can be an uncertain and difficult minefield to navigate. From capped-price servicing, to decisions on what parts to use and where to take the vehicle, or even the frequency with which your vehicle enters the garage – there are no shortage of decisions to consider.

First things first, servicing should be considered for what it really is – preventative maintenance. The purpose is to keep your car in good shape and identify any potential issues before they become a concern. As such, the key is to keep on top of your service schedule and book your car in regularly as per its recommended service intervals – often every 6 or 12 months, or 10-15,000km, whichever comes first.

Click Here to Read More

Will the X-Class be a Tradie Favourite?

Mercedes Benz X-Class Ute

I love utes – always have – and that’s why I’ve owned my current Navara for nearly six years.  It’s not brand spanking new but let’s just say it’s been a workhorse in the garden and beyond, and it has been really well looked after.  Longevity is what this Nissan Navara D21 is all about; it just keeps going without anything major needing to be done.  Could longevity and practicality be the key highly sort after characteristics of what a great ute should be?  If you happen to be a Tradie, then these features have to be playing on your mind when you buy a new ute for work.

Click Here to Read More

2017 Kia Rio Si: Private Fleet Car Review

Kia’s rollout of updated and revamped cars continues, with the Rio the latest of the family to receive a makeover. Private Fleet goes one on one with the $22000 (includes metallic paint)2017 Kia Rio Si.Straight up, gone are the goldfish goggle eyed headlights, trimmed down to slim line units from front on and sweeping back into the fenders. The grille is reduced to a mail slot and sits above a larger and restyled air intake bisecting two smaller slots fitted with driving lights that come on when cornering. In profile the window line echoes that of the Sorento as do the tail lights and overall the Rio seems to have a more upright stance than the outgoing model.That sleek new body hides a mix of modern and dinosaur style technology. There’s a peppy and zippy 1.4L multipoint fuel injected four, good for a maximum power output of 74 kilowatts and torque of 133 Nm. That figure is reached at 4000 rpm and it’s noticeable that pull from this engine, by the seat of the paints, comes in from around 2500. The dinosaur in the room is the archaic four speed automatic transmission. This, wholly and solely, holds back any decent driveability. Under light acceleration the shift from first to second feels as if the car has hit a puddle of molasses. When pushed the drop becomes even more visible, going from 5000 rpm down to just over 2000.

Although it shifts smoothly and slickly enough, the Rio would be better equipped with a CVT. Using the manual shift option barely improves the experience. It also affects fuel economy adversely, with the official figures being quoted as 6.2L/100 km from the 45 litre tank for the combined cycle. A Wheel Thing saw a best of 7.2L/100 and that was on a freeway at constant speed after a week of urban driving.Inside it’s a complete freshen up. A real boon for people that like variety is the addition of Digital Audio Broadcast or DAB radio. Yes, digital radio in a $22K car, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s a simple and clean look to the seven inch screen, which also offers in the Si and SLi satellite navigation with traffic information, with the typically ergonomic and easy to read look that typifies Kia. The leather bound steering wheel on the tilt and reach column is home to cruise control, audio, and Bluetooth buttons, with the formerly slightly sharp edges in previous versions now of a softer and rounder design.Air-conditioning is effective and the dials are old school by the fact they’re…dials. In the console below is the USB, 12V, and auxiliary ports for external music supply as the Rio no longer carries a CD slot. Vale the silver disc. The dash and console itself, of a semi gloss black plastic (which reflects badly in the dash, a safety distraction) on the upper section and a gunmetal look across the horizontal, flows and blends smoothly into the door trim. Oh, it’s a key start, not push button, for the driver and their passenger as they sit in cloth and leather trimmed seats.The 4065 mm long five door sits on a handy 2580 mm wheelbase, allowing cargo space of 325 litres with the rear seats up, increasing to 980 litres folded. With an overall width of 1725 mm and height of 1450 mm there’s plenty of leg, shoulder, and head room for four adults. There’s also a USB port for the rear seat passengers, plus ISOFIX mounts, a feature virtually standard in Australian specification cars nowadays as are the six airbags, driver safety programs (bar Autonomous Emergency Braking and Blind Spot Alert).Apart from the four speed auto, it’s a delight to drive on the road. Although the alloys are just 15 inch in diameter, with 185/65 tyres the Rio rides and handles well enough for most road conditions. It’s crisp enough in turn-in with a surprising lack of understeer. It’ll lane change quick enough, given its 1162 kg plus passenger weight and will do so with minimal body roll. The torsion beam axle stabilises the rear but the rear suspension attached is a little too soft with that rear end feeling as if it would bottom out easier. The brakes also need a tightening up, with again a little too much travel before a satisfactory amount of bite happens. The usual bumps, lumps, and undulations do affect the little car but it remains mostly well tied down and does allow for a comfortable enough ride in the urban environment.At The End Of The Drive.
Bluntly, it’s a crying shame the Rio has been hamstrung with that four speed auto. The engine feels as if it wants to deliver more, the chassis is competent enough, the new look is sweet, and the trim levels across the three models provides a well appointed choice for buyers. As more and more makers with small cars with small engines move to CVTs, for all of their foibles, it’s a better option for the Rio than the current one.
For information, details on Kia’s seven year warranty and associated service plan, and to book a test drive, head over to Kia Australia here: 2017 Kia Rio range.

Click Here to Read More

Private Fleet Car Reviews: 2017 Holden Astra RS manual hatch

Holden’s move to bring in its range of vehicles from Europe has already paid off with the fully European sourced Astra. With an all turbocharged engine range, the 2017 Astra family, which starts at $23990 driveaway, offers power, performance, and plenty of tech, as A Wheel Thing drives the 2017 Holden Astra 1.6L RS manual.It’s the 1.6L four here, with an immensely handy 280 torques between 1650 to 3500 revs and rolls off to the 147 kW peak output at 5500. So far it’s a numbers game, including six, six being how many forward ratios in the manual transmission supplied. It’s a delight, this transmission, with a beautifully progressive clutch pedal and a pickup point that feels natural. The gear selector is also well weighted, with no indecision in the close throw and tautly sprung lever. Reverse is across to the left and up, easily selected by a pistol grip trigger on the selecter’s front. It’s a delightfully refined package, one worth investigating, and a prime reason why we should move away from automatics as our primary transmission. Economy? A Wheel Thing finished on a sub 7.0L per 100L of 95 RON from the 48 litre tank.It’s a sweet looking machine too. A sharp yet slimline nose, with striking silver accents, rolls into a steeply raked front window, with good side vision before finishing with a somewhat odd looking C pillar design incorporating a pyramidical motif. There’s a black sheet between this and the roofline and there’s further eyeball catching with the deep scallops in the doors. Beautifully styled tail lights finish off what really is a handsome vehicle. Inside you’ll find a well sculpted office. There’s piano black highlights that contrast with charcoal grey black plastic and cloth trim on the seats in a checkerboard pattern. The dash design itself is organic, flowing, and evokes the design ethos of higher end luxury cars. The pews front and rear are wonderfully supportive and have just the right amount of give and bolstering. Rear seat passengers get enough leg room for comfort also and there’s no problem with head room for front or rear with 1003 mm and 971 mm respectively. The driver and passenger do not get electric seats, though, however there is DAB for the high quality audio system that’s part of the GM family’s MyLink set. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility along with streaming apps. For those that like to carry kids and shopping, there’s 360L pf cargo space with the seats folded up, cupholders front and rear, USB charger point, seatback pockets, and door pockets as well.The driver and passenger do not get electric seats, though as they’re reserved for the RS-V, however there is DAB for the high quality audio system that’s part of the GM family’s MyLink set. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility along with streaming apps and the leather clad tiller has audio and cruise controls that are pure GM in their ease of use. For those that like to carry kids and shopping, there’s 360L pf cargo space with the seats folded up, cupholders front and rear, USB charger point, seatback pockets, and door pockets as well.It’s its road manners and driveability where the Astra RS really shines. The six speed manual is fluid, smooth, and completely complements the torque delivery of the 1.6L powerplant. What makes the Astra RS a delight to drive is the beautifully balanced suspension. It really is one of the best ride packages you’ll find. Period. The suppleness of the suspension is deft in its ability to change with road surface changes, whilst it firms up to provide a sporting feel when required. Rubber is from France, with lightning bolt 17 inch alloys wrapped in Michelin 225/45 tyres.From smooth freeway surfaces such as those found in western Sydney where some areas have been freshly resurfaced, to gravelled and rutted entrance roads, the Astra RS feels comfortable and poised across these and every surface in between. Thrown into off camber turns the hatch sits flat and under control and rarely does the rear end feel as if it’s not attached to the front. The steering itself is weighted just so, with a fine balance of effort versus connection to the front. There’s a bare hint of understeer being a front wheel drive car and while hint ar torque steer when the go pedal is given a hard push from standstill.Holden will give you a three year or one hundred thousand kilometre warranty, which, given the levels of warranty offered by others is starting to look a little dated. However they do offer Lifetime Capped Price Servicing plus you can take the car for a twenty four hour test drive to make up your own mind. Yes, you’ll find driver aids on board and the RS gets Automatic Emergency Braking in the suite of aids.

At The End Of The Drive.

Click Here to Read More

Private Fleet Car Review: 2017 Holden Trax LS Turbo

Holden has a history of importing small cars for SUV style duties. Suzuki gave us the Drover, Isuzu the Jackeroo and a jacked up Barina became the Trax. A refresh to the car has been performed, with noticeable changes inside and out. The 2017 Holden Trax LS spends a week in the urban jungle.Up front is the 1.4L turbo four that once resided in the Cruze. In that car, even with an auto, it was lively, peppy, zippy. Not so in the LS auto. Holden have released the LS with the 1.8L engine and manual or the turbo four and auto only. Even with 200 torques at 1850 rpm it’s pulling close to 1400 kilos and felt as if the gear ratios were holding the little SUV back. When punched hard and under way, the performance characteristics did change…having said that, the auto had an unusual and odd whine, one not out of place in a manual transmission that wasn’t calibrated correctly.The turbo four drinks 95 RON as its preferred tipple and will do so at 6.9L per 100 km (quoted,combined) from a tank weighing in at 53 litres. That’s pretty much on the money in the week A Wheel Thing had the petite LS Trax however that’s the combined figure. Given this kind of car will be in short distance, stop start, style of travel, figure on something closer to 8.0L/100 km.

Ride quality is a mixed bag in the front wheel drive only Trax LS with a even and smooth feeling on freshly laid roads morphing into unsure and tentative on broken and rutted surfaces. There was even occasional mild bump steer and an odd sensation of the front MacPherson strut suspension’s settings not balancing the compound crank axle rear. Driving over the mildly broken surfaces of some local roads would have the front gently absorbing the irregularities and the rear would feel less tied down. All in all, just not a balanced mix. Handling was also a mixed bag with a numbness either side of centre of the tiller, a feeling of twitchiness in the communication from the steering wheel, and just hints of understeer from the Continental 205/70/16 rubber when pushed.

Click Here to Read More

New Vehicles from Mainland Asia, A Growth Sector

Currently, mainland Asia is a big pool of innovation and design, particularly, in car manufacturing.  Design teams beaver away at creating fun new designs, shapes and technologies.  The result of all this activity is the production of sharp-looking new vehicles appearing from South Korea, Malaysia and China, and in Australia we are benefiting from these excellent new car products that are competitively priced, well designed and built to a high standard.  Some Australian new-car buyers are recognising the value in buying a vehicle from South Korea, China and Malaysia, so it’s a great time to be a car buyer, not to mention a car enthusiast spoilt for choice.

Models from China

Click Here to Read More

Will Diesel Vehicles Still be a Part of our Future?

In recent times, diesel fuel technology has been occupying the news in what are (mostly) unwanted circumstances. Headlined by the Volkswagen ‘Dieselgate’ saga, which just about spread to all corners of the world, several other auto makers have also come under scrutiny over concerns they may have installed diesel emissions cheating devices.

In the wake of the scandal, Volkswagen’s CEO even went as far as to say that the manufacturer would no longer be offering diesel vehicles in the US market. The company cited that money being spent to adhere to increasingly stricter regulations could instead be better utilised by serving future technology, such as electric vehicles.

Click Here to Read More