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2017 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Hatch: A Private Fleet Car Review.

Toyota adds another arrow to its Hybrid quiver with the release of the Corolla Hybrid Hatch, alongside the Camry Hybrid and Prius. It’s priced sharply, from $26990 plus ORCs and packs great value into the car thanks to borrowing features from the top of the range ZR. A Wheel Thing checks out the 2017 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Hatch.Visually, there’s no way to pick the Hybrid from its siblings, until you note the discreet Hybrid badging on the forward flanks and tailgate. It’s otherwise standard Corolla hatch, with a pedestrian friendly bonnet that almost straight line joins the windscreen. The broad swept tail lights have a sharply defined shelf in their diamond shape and are a defining feature of the rear of the car. Joining the front wheel arch and headlights is a swooping bifurcated line that joins to become one at the rear and draws the eyes to the privacy glass for the rear section.Wheels are ten spoke alloys at 16 inches in diameter clad in 205/55 Michelin Energy rubber. The Hybrid also pinches LED DRLs and auto levelling headlights from the ZR.
There’s further ZR touches inside with dual zone airconditioning, Suna traffic updates and satnav, Toyota Link (using a paired smartphone to provide data for onboard apps), and a 4.2 inch full colour LCD display for the driver that provides information including how the energy and drive is approportioned.The Hybrid Hatch is geared towards a better driving experience, with a double wishbone rear suspension, an electronically controlled brake system (that feeds regenerative energy back into the engine system), bigger 296 mm x 28 mm discs at the front as part of that energy recovery. The drive system itself consists of an Atkinson Cycle four cylinder petrol powered engine and a nickel metal hydride battery charged from the regenerative system and the petrol engine. Transmission is what Toyota describes as an E-CVT, an Electronically controlled Constant Variable Transmission.

At 5200 rpm the petrol engine delivers 73 kW and will give 142 torques at 4000 rpm. The specified fuel is 95RON and Toyota quotes 4.1L/3.9L/4.1L per 100 kilometres from the 45 litre tank (combined/urban/highway). In theory, that allows the Corolla Hybrid Hatch to travel somewhere close to 1000 kilometres. Considering a dry weight of 1365 kg and a gross weight of just over 1800 kilos, that seems like a pretty decent range.
The real world begs, however, to disagree.The system is programed for three drive modes: EV, Eco, and Power. Select EV, after getting in, strapping in, and pressing the blue hued Start/Stop button, then move the somewhat counter intuitive drive selector to D (it’s sprung so it will return to a central position by itself), and gently press the accelerator as the Hybrid silently moves off. Unfortunately, no matter how gently you move off, the programming activates the petrol engine at 30 kmh and flashes a warning on the dash screen to say so.
In real terms this effectively neuters the point of having an electically operated system, as from hereon in, the petrol engine is shown to either be directing power to the front wheels or momentarility topping up the battery. Once off the accelerator, the display will show the car is in Eco but still showing the petrol engine as involved. There is a B option on the selector, with that further engaging the brakes for regenerative energy and charges the battery located under a rear pew.Essentially, the petrol engine is constantly supplying a form of power to the drivetrain, rather than allowing the electrical engine to do more work. Yes, you do get kinetic energy fed back into the system but that restriction on where the petrol engine cuts in and continues to partner with the electrical is obvious with the fuel gauge showing a final figure of a quarter full, the trip meter shows 609 kilometres covered, consumption of 5.0L/100 kilometres and the bulk of the travel has been with a sole occupant…When driven with a light right foot, forward motion is…leisurely. A little bit more pressure does increade rapidity whilst a hard launch will get the Corolla to freeway speeds reasonably quickly but, again, at the expense of fuel consumption. What you’ll also get is a very good ride quality, with plenty of comfort, fluency, absorption, with the typical short travel crash and thump from shopping centre car parks, most likely the Corolla’s second most common habitat. On the highway it’s a smooth, mostly quiet ride, with bare hints of wind noise and tarmac rumble.Turn in from the steering is tight, with a ratio that promises just 2.7 turns lock to lock. There’s some numbness in regards to telling the driver about the road and coupled with tyres that never seemed to offer 100% confidence in grip in, admittedly, almost monsoonal conditions at times, there was a seat of the pants feeling of needing to back off a bit more than one would expect would be needed. It’d be interesting to drive the Hybrid in dry conditions to see what the grip level via the seat of the pants really is.In other aspects, the Hybrid Corolla is the same as any other Toyota. It’s loaded with safety features, has the same 3 year or 100,000 kilometre warranty, some very comfortable if basic looking cloth seats front (manually adjusted, by the way) and rear, a dullish looking plastic plate running across the dash, and retro style air vents left and right. The touchscreen itself is typically good Toyota in layout and usage, plus has apps which require a smartphone to be added in order to access.At The End Of The Drive.
From one point of view, it’s a curious thing that Toyota have added a hybrid to its biggest selling range considering there’s three Prius variants to choose from. BUT, the Corolla Hybrid looks like a Corolla and it IS one of the biggest selling cars going. From A Wheel Thing’s point of view, it’s got the green credentials to appeal, especially with that final fuel consumption figure, but lacks the driveability and variety it should have due to the programming restriction of being predominantly petrol, not electrically, motorvated.
To make up your own mind head over to the Toyota website and follow the links under new cars.

Utes are Great

What makes a good ute?

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$20K Small Business Tax Break End In Sight

Can you believe it’s been two years since the government announced the ‘Instant Asset Write-off” incentive in 2015?

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2017 Toyota Camry Altise: A Private Car Review.

Toyota Australia confirmed recently that the Aurion nameplate will be dropped and replaced by a Back to the Future nameplate. Camry V6, anyone? However, surrounded by a fleet of SUVs and the evergreen Corolla, what’s left in the tank for the base model nameplate, Altise? Private Fleet drives the 2017 Toyota Camry Altise and comes away wondering if it’s time to put this one out to pasture?When Camry first landed on Australian soil, it was a simple five door hatch. That morphed into a sedan and wagon range which, eventually, became a sedan only and gave birth to a renamed V6 version plus sheetmetal changes. That car was called Aurion and graced showrooms for barely a decade. Now Toyota has canned that car, the Camry is left as a large car in a medium car market thanks to its four cylinder powerplant. A 2.5L capacity unit, in base trim it spins out just 133 kilowatts at 6000 rpm and a reasonable but not overwhelming 231 Nm of torque at 4100 rpm. With a dry weight of 1465 kg to pull around plus 70 litres of 91 RON and human cargo, it’s no surprise that Toyota says it’s a 11.1L/100 kilometre consumption figure for its natural environment, the urban jungle. There is a Hybrid system available which, along with the four and V6, will carry over to the imported 2018 spec model.The Camry IS a big car. At 4850 mm long, 1470 mm high and 1835 mm wide, it well and truly takes it up to its classmates in the form of Falcon, Commodore, Sonata, Optima et al, and it really is only the engine that makes it a medium sized car in classification. It’s a proper five seater, rolls on a 2775 mm wheelbase, and has a boot big enough to swallow a couple of golf club carriers with room to spare, at 515L. Inside, there’s two bottle and cup holders up front for driver and passenger, with the rear getting two cup holders and four bottle holders. There’s also Bluetooth audio, standard AM/FM radio and CD (couldn’t find a USB/3.5 mm plug setup though) however the review car was also fitted with DAB. And yes, even the average speakers on board still sounded good for DAB.Interior trim was basic: black cloth, black plastic, manual adjustment for the seats, driver’s window only was one touch Up/Down, a binnacle centre speedo flanked by a tacho and combined fuel level and dial (not digitally) based consumption display. It’s old school in layout for the console, with dials for the aircon temperature and speed but a touch more modern for direction thanks to individual tabs. It’s typical Toyota in that the ergonomics are spot on however it’s a lacklustre look, with no real visual appeal in deference to basic functionality. If there’s a win here, it’s that it looks better than, even though there’s hints of, the dash from the IS series. Another score is the amount of hip/shoulder/leg room on offer.Outside, the Altise differs slightly from its stablemates, the Hybrid, Atara, and RZ, in having globe lit driving lights, not LED, in the left and extremities of the front bumper, plus the spindle design element is not as pronounced. Compared to the superceded model it looks longer, sleeker, wider, especially at the rear with the broadened tail lights, and more purposeful there, however the front has five horizontal bars that lend an almost baleen whale look to the snout. There’s even a change to the C pillar that lengthens the windowline and there’s plenty of glass to give passengers a broad and airy feeling.That 2.5L four and not inconsiderable heft make the Camry a willing if not spirited performer on road. Acceleration is leisurely at best, accompanied by a soundtrack that never gets raucous yet indicates a struggle to really pull. The six speed transmission is smooth enough however had the disconcerting tendency to brake the engine under almost any forms of acceleration. Light throttle, move, gear change, brake, accelerate again…repeated through to medium and most heavy throttle applications. In fact, the only time the car felt as if it had any life was in a hard acceleration from a blind corner, which momentarily had the front driven 215/60/16 tyres from Michelin chirping.Coupled with a not quite en pointe’ steering set up (vague, somewhat disconnected), a suspension set up that has mild tautness up front but with short travel struts that feel as if they’ll rip out over bigger speedhumps, as opposed to a softly sprung rear end that bottoms out just a bit too easily, it’s a dynamics package that’s a bit like burnt porridge for the three bears. Not too hot, not too cold, but no longer just right.

At the time of writing, the Camry Altise petrol had a driveaway price of just of $30K, but was also being offered with a special driveaway price of (from) $27990 with free satnav. There’s also the standard three year warranty or 100,000 kilometre covered, plus up to five low cost, capped price, standard logbook services at $140 for the first 4 years or 75,000km, whichever occurs first. Naturally there’s a full suite of safety systems including seven airbags,

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Choosing Car Parts: Genuine, Aftermarket, Rebuilt, Reconditioned, Recycled?

With car parts divided into various categories it’s easy for motorists to become confused.  Such categories include genuine, aftermarket, rebuilt, reconditioned, and recycled car parts. As a motorist, it’s important to know about each of them. Inevitably you will choose between these various categories of spare parts to carry out repairs and/or maintenance on your vehicle – or that decision will be made by a mechanic on your behalf. We’ll highlight the considerations and differences for drivers to be aware of.

Genuine and aftermarket car parts are the most commonly selected parts, carrying longer warranty coverage. Repairs conducted through a vehicle manufacturer or their dealer network will often utilise (new) genuine car parts. Independent repairers and mechanics will readily carry aftermarket replacements. While both are sourced new, the key difference is that genuine parts are those specified as the original equipment installed in the vehicle. That is, it is the specific (OEM) part listed in the vehicle’s build specifications.

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Cop Cars Around The Globe

A couple of days ago, the Dubai police force created a bit of a stir in the automotive world by managing to scoop the Guinness World Record for the fastest police car on the roads: a Bugatti Veyron.  With a top speed of 407 km/h and a 0–100 time of 2.5 seconds.  The acquisition and fitting of the Veyron as a police car is something of a PR exercise for the Dubai Police; however, it joins some of the other supercars driven by the police in this country, making the United Arab Emirates possibly the country where it’s most fun to be a cop.  Others in the Dubai police fleet include a Aston Martin One-77, a Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4, a Ferrari FF and the “humbler”(?) Audi R8 , Nissan GTR and Mercedes SL 63.

Not many of the boys and girls in blue around the world are so lucky.  Most of them have to put up with much more mundane machines, albeit with all the extras that cops get to play with, including the lights and sirens.

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2017 Toyota Corolla Ascent Sedan: A Private Fleet Car Review.

Car makers tend to have a vehicle that seems to define what that brand is. Holden has the Commodore and Kingswood, Ford the Falcon, Jaguar the XJ6. For Japanese goliath, Toyota, you can say Land Cruiser and Corolla and it’s the latter that perhaps embodies how a brand can be seen. Private Fleet checks out the heart of Toyota, the 2017 Corolla Ascent, in sedan and CVT form. Apart from the obvious difference in body shape between hatch and sedan, Toyota have given the sedan some subtle but noticeable design tweaks. The bonnet’s shut lines are more aligned with the Camry and the headlight structure is longer, running down towards the centre of the grille further than the hatch’s. Toyota have also given the front a more Camry and Lexus look, with the “spindle” look more noticeable. The taillights echo the Camry and there’s three distinctive crease lines under the C pillar, plus an aero ridge inside the wing mirrors to deflect rain. It’s the rear that lends a slightly frumpy look to the car, with a curve coming down from the lights and a high set join line, making the rear look heavy. The Ascent has 15 inch steel wheels with an alloy look complete the exterior. It’s also bigger than the styling has you believe, with an overall length of 4620 mm encapsulating a 2700 mm wheelbase and 470L boot, bracketed by a low 1460 mm height and a surprising 1775 mm width.Inside it’s typical Corolla and, in parts, doesn’t look like it’s changed since the 1970s. Black solid plastic, rotary dials for aircon and vents contrast with the brilliant blue backlit dials and touchscreen. There’s some brightwork with alloy look plastics on the doors, steering wheel hub, centre console and on the edges of the touchscreen. The seats and steering column are manually adjusted, with a basic black cloth covering the pews. Staying true to the history of the Corolla, Toyota fits a non electric, “old style”, lift up hand brake. And there’s never anything less in the presence than the feeling of typical Toyota build quality.Up front is the tried and proven combination of a 1.8L block with a four valve alloy head. Drinking unleaded at a rate of 6.8L/100 km (claimed, combined cycle) from a 55L tank, the engine produces 103 kilowatts at 6400 rpm, and requires 4000 revs to produce a maximum torque of 173 Nm. The test car was fitted with a seven speed CVT, in opposition to the standard six speed manual. Toyota have programmed this to act a little more like a traditional auto, in that there’s more feeling of a change of gear and a little less focus on the traditional CVT characteristic, that climb through the rev range and holding at a certain point as speed builds. The variable valve timing’s change is also perceptible, with an extra kick at somewhere around 3500 rpm.On the road, the Ascent’s ability to be an average, every day, mode of transport is on display. It’s neither under or overwhelming its ride, handling, comfort level. It just simply…does. Acceleration is neither leisurely nor outstandingly rapid, steering is neither sharp nor excessively vague, with more than a seemingly normal turn left and right to get the car around corners. The skinny-ish 195/65 tyres will provide enough grip for normal driving, but anything remotely sporting has them understeer and squealing in protest. They’ll also tramline, having the Ascent follow ruts and ridges, however the steering is polished enough for drivers to stay in control. However, the brakes are amongst the best in class, with a beautifully weighted feel from top to bottom, and no sense of anything other than the foot being able to read just where in the process the grip level is.Although entry level, there’s a rear camera, parking sensors, Bluetooth, a cruise control related distance sensor, apps via the touchscreen (which require a smart phone to be paired), and a range of driver’s information via the dash’s central screen. There’s no DAB, nor do all windows get one touch up/down movement. However there’s still only a three year warranty for car and paint and just five years for corrosion.At The End Of The Drive.
The Corolla Ascent sedan is the embodiment of the reason why the Corolla has been, for so long, the world’s number one selling car. It does what it does, quietly, with an unassuming way about it, without setting the world on fire. And that’s the appeal of the Corolla: there’s no surprises, you know exactly what you’re getting, and it’s dependable and reliable as a sunrise.
For pricing and details, go here:2017 Toyota Corolla Ascent

2017 Lexus IS200t & 2017 Lexus IS350: A Private Car Review.

Lexus released in late 2016 an update to their IS range. It’s available with a two litre turbo petrol, two point five litre petrol with a hybrid system, or a three point five litre V6 and a sole eight speed auto, across three trim levels, being Luxury/F Sport and Luxury Sport. The stylish and sleek looking cars have received some mild exterior tweaks and interior renovations. Private Fleet drives the Lexus IS200t Luxury and Lexus IS350 Luxury back to back.In profile, the IS is a long bonneted, short tailed, beauty. In essence, it’s not unlike a car dubbed the most beautiful in the world, with that ratio, with Jaguar’s E-Type seen as such by one Enzo Ferrari. That profile has been a design highlight of the IS since its release and the 2017 version carries that on. It sits low, too, at just 1430 mm. LED powered lights fore and aft for running lights and tail, plus the IS350 has LED headlights and they look great bracketing the familiar angled hour glass grille motif. There’s a stylish, almost shoe branded, swoop from front to rear that rises from the sills to the rear wheel arch within the overall 4680 mm length, which is up 15 mm from the preceding model thanks to a new front bar design. The IS200t is on 17 inch diameter wheels with the IS350 on 18s, and both look as if they struggle to fill the wheel wells. Overall, however, it’s a handsome look.Inside, it’s a different story between front and rear seats. In the back there’s enough leg and hip room for most thanks to the overall 1810 mm width, and plenty of head room too. It’s leather aplenty, and there’s the added bonus of sensibility, with heating and venting for driver and passenger seats. The onboard satnav is effective but has the annoying habit of telling you, 24/7, that you’re coming to a school zone. Surely a bit of software work can be done to change that to the days and hours required?Back to the front and it’s here where the IS trips up. Totally at odds with the sleekness of the exterior and looking like a throwback to the 1980s, is a angular and messy mix. Protusions and curves collide to provide an unharmonious mix, plus there’s an odd gunmetal sheen to the plastic itself. It lets down the presentation as there’s otherwise reasonable ergonomics, great audio with DAB (with the 350 getting a Mark Levinson system), the mouse and touchscreen combination (both of which were slightly overhauled, with the screen going up from seven inches) which becomes quite intuitive, and easy to read screens (also redesigned).A console mounted a dial for drive modes (which shows on the dash screen) and steering wheel buttons from the Lexus RC line of vehicles which are soft touch and simple to use again at odds with the pyramids of the dash. If there’s a highlight amongst the seeming jungle of jumble, it’s the analogue clock, proudly sited right in the centre of the upper dash. It’s a metallic look by day but glows a soft white in the darkness. There was also a (optionable item) full glass roof fitted to the IS350 .Engine wise it’s a pairing of turbocharged four cylinder and naturally aspirated 3.5L V6, both with a close ratio eight speed auto and Stop/Start technology. There’s 180 kW or 233 kW, and 350 Nm or 378 Nm, delivered at 1650 rpm or 4800 rpm. These last two give each car utterly different driving characteristics; the IS200t will launch well and continue to pull through to over 4000 where the power band comes in. The IS350 will pull hard but doesn’t have the same feeling of urgency. What it does have a far, far, better soundtrack than the smaller engined version. Planted hard, the right foot has that 3.5L V6 go from a bellow through to a howl to a metallic keen that sounds fantastic and intoxicating. The turbo four lacks the ability to caress the eardrums the same way but is a more user friendly drive. With the torque coming in so low and available over a wider range, the IS200t becomes the better choice as a driver.The steering ratios feel different,and each has variable ratio geometry which tightens up a turn or so either side. The IS350 feels less wieldy, more leaden, compared to the more responsive and nimble IS200t. Yet the conundrum is that, according to the Lexus website, the IS200t is 35 kilos heavier, at 1680 kg, than the 1645 kg IS350. Put it down, perhaps, to the broader range of torque, the seat of the pants saying that the IS200t is somewhat more dynamic than the IS350 although there’s a dedicated performance damper setup in the front for both along with aluminuim lower suspension parts.

Therein lies the rub. As of March 2017, driveaway pricing has the IS200t at just over $65K and the bigger engined version at around $7K more, with a hybrid version slotted in between. As an overall drive, the IS200t has a touch more finesse, a touch more conversational ability, a slightly better ride but neither match, to be blunt, the ability of the Megane GT tested just a week or so before. Then there’s the fuel costs…both are rated to run on a minimum of 95RON, for starters. There’s a reasonable fuel capacity of 66L, and the IS200t is rated at 7.5L/100 km, against the 3.5L’s 9.7L/100 km (combined cycle quoted).Bearing in mind the performance aspects of each, and that the IS350 seemed more responsive and performance luxury oriented only when really given some stick, those figure would very quickly be broken. As it was, the IS200t finished at around 8.5L/100 km and the other closer to 11.0L/100 km. The range for the bigger engined car was also less than the smaller and did in fact require topping up twice before returning the vehicle. This is even with (both vehicles) the drivetrain slipping automatically into Eco as a gauge after acceleration, but will remain in Sport until told otherwise. And there were times when Sport did actually make the drive better by providing sharper throttle response and acceleration. The IS200t did feel, too, as if it moved around more than the IS350, but overall felt just that bit more engaging to drive. Braking? Neither felt as if the pedal wasn’t connected, with bite straight away and a beautifully progessive response as you press harder, allowing the driver to judge precisely just how much was needed for the stopping distance.To offset this, Lexus do offer a standard 48 month/100,000 kilometre warranty, and 48 months roadside assist, plus a bucket load of standard equipment. There’s a full leather interior, a pedestrian sensing bonnet that fires up should a human intrude, Lane Change Alert, Blind Spot Monitoring, Emergency Brake Light (rapid brake light flashing), and the obigatory reverse camera with lane guidance. You’ll also get the Lexus Safety System+, which consists of a Pre-Collision Safety System, Active Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning+ with Sway Warning Systen and Auto High Beam. There’s also a Tyre Pressure Monitoring system on board.At The End Of The Drive.
There’s pluses and minuses with these two. A better sound system in the IS350 (which is an optionable item, by the way, in the F Sport Enhancement pack) against a more frugal and better handling IS200t. Hard core dedicated LED headlights in the IS350 and a far more aurally attractive soundtrack aren’t enough, in this comparison, to overcome the cheaper to buy and run and seat of the pants better handler IS200t. Head across to 2017 Lexus range. for more info about all cars in the Lexus lineup for 2017.

Alternative News: The Hyperloop.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Famed and distinguished author and scientist Sir Arthur C. Clarke has this as the third of his three laws, much like “The Three Laws of Robotics” his equally distinguished fellow writer Isaac Asimov postulated. To that end, Elon Musk is offering something that could almost be seen as magical because of the technology involved and if it comes to fruition will change the way mass public transportation is undertaken. Welcome to The Hyperloop.

In actuality, the technology is the hard part, the concept is simple. In essence, it’s a pod that will contain passengers (or cargo) that will be inside a tubular structure, with that tube largely evacuated of air and with the much talked about magnetic levitation system to propel the pod.

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How Does An Airbag Work?

Airbags – they’re in every single new car coming out and if your car doesn’t have at least one airbag somewhere, it’s probably old enough to just about qualify as a classic.  It’s probably just about getting to the point that Millennials (or the children of Millennials – whatever trendy label you slap on that generation) will probably take airbags for granted much the same way that Gen X takes seatbelts for granted. (Boomers and Busters probably remember a time before seatbelts were compulsory back and front – I’m Gen X and I’ve got vague memories of cars with no rear seatbelts.  They weren’t common.)

The airbag concept has been around since the early 1950s, with patents being granted just about simultaneously in the US and in Germany to two different inventors, Walter Linderer and John Hetrick (which makes me suspect a little idea swapping was going on during the post-war Allied occupation of Berlin).  However, airbags didn’t really become popular until the 1970s, which was when Ford decided to give them a try.  This was about the time when legislating bodies around the world were taking a long, hard look at what was happening on the roads and were really getting serious about road safety, although it wasn’t until 1984 that the US made seatbelt use compulsory.  It was also in the 1980s that saw vehicles of all marques installing airbags in an attempt to pick up accreditation from the newly established EuroNCAP.

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