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Indicate, Mate. That’d Be Great.

In surveys of the things that annoy drivers, it’s always in the order of over eighty percent that respondents say people nott indicating that rates as an annoyance. Yet, in any city or town, in any Australian state or territory, you’ll find people that either use their indicators or use them correctly as being of the minority.

In NSW a very common transgression is not indicating when crossing a merge lane, along with non indicating when pulling away from the roadside. Here’s the legislation in NSW:

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Private Fleet Car Review: 2017 Great Wall Steed Diesel 4×4 Ute.

Great Wall first landed in Australia in 2009. It was a range full of petrol engines and manual transmissions and sharp pricing. However, quality was questionable and it wasn’t long before the brand was withdrawn. Fast forward a few years and the Great Wall brand features three variants in a four door crew cab design, a petrol or diesel 4×2 and a diesel 4×4, priced from $29990, driveaway. Private Fleet trials the 2017 Great Wall Steed 4×4 diesel to see if things have improved.Engines wise it’s a choice of a 2.4L petrol or 2.0L diesel, as tested. Both come with a manual, being a five cogger for the petrol and six for the oiler. The transmission itself in the Steed is typical manual; a reasonably light throw, a tad notchy, a sensible gate so you’re not hunting for the slot and there’s a simple push button based high/low range system. It is, however, mated to a living definition of time travel, backwards time travel. Great Wall quotes 110 kilowatts of power and a lowish 310 Nm of torque between 1800 to 2800 revs from the two litre engine… that’s substantially less than a good portion of its competitors.In order to get the Steed underway, a little slip of the clutch and a judicious prod of the go pedal are required, needing around 2000 revs to move it along with something approaching acceleration. It genuinely feels like an old school diesel, with nothing below 2000 and a cliff fall once you see 4000 rpm. It’s breathless, ragged, lacks urge and is defintely old school with the rattle. It also means that some uphill runs require constant downchanging, providing some good exercise for the left arm. However, on the freeway, the gearing means that it will happily pootle along right in the torque band.
It’s frighteningly thirsty though, with a final consumption figure of 9.7 litres of dinosaur juice being ingested for every 100 kilometres driven. That’s not great even allowing for the 1740 kilogram weight.The steering is also…unusual. What’s called lock to lock describes the process of winding the steering wheel from one side through to straight ahead to the other side. The Great Wall Steed is something close to five turns. What this means is a turning circle a battleship would be embarrassed to show and some serious arm work to engender directional changes. A half turn sees minimal left or right movement and you need, as a result, to wind on more lock to really see anything happen.Ride quality from the double wishbone front and leaf spring rear is also iffish. The Steed is too hard when it needs to be softer, and too soft when a firm and taut ride is needed. It’ll skip sideways too easily, thumps over the small metal speed bumps in shopping centres, crashes on the front when going over the bigger speed bumps, and just doesn’t seem to track straight and true on the freeway. In all, it’s a somewhat frustrating drive and ride experience.Outside it is handsome enough, with a number of positive comments from passers-by and colleagues. In profile it’s clear the car has been sourced from an Isuzu desgn, with the nose cone being given a thorough massage to ensure a clear GW identification. There’s a solid grille with five horizontal bars, a pair of LED driving lights inserted in each far corner of the bumper assembly, headlights not unlike that found in Holden’s Colorado, indicators in the wing mirrors and sitting in the middle of the 3200 mm wheelbase a pair of sidesteps. The rear bumper stands proud of the rear bodywork and adds a bit of extra length to the overall 5345 mm. There’s an approach angle for the alloy section in the front bumper of 25 degrees and a handy 21 degrees departure angle. Towing? 2000 kilos, braked.Tyres are 235/70/16 from Giti and are of a semi off-road capable tread design. They may also contribute to the skittishness of the Steed’s handling. What may also contribute is the one tonne cargo carrying capacity tray was unladen throughout the review period. It’s an almost square tray at 1545 mm long and 1460 mm wide and there’s 480 mm of depth. The test car came fitted with an alloy roll bar as well plus the tray was lined with a polyurethane liner and fitted with tie down points.Inside is where the Steed picks up some points. The slightly flat and slabby leather seats are heated, with the driver gaining simple electrical controls to adjust their pew. The overall presence is pleasant enough, with a basic but legible monochrome info screen between the uncomplicated dials; a touchscreen that is ssslllloooowwww to load the navigation system and looks peculiarly Asian in layout and colour scheme. Audio is standard AM/FM with Bluetooth and auxiliary inputs but you can watch DVDs….actual audio quality was ok, with a slightly boomy bass at levels that would normally sound tight and punchy. The rest of the dash and console is uncomplicated, ergonomically friendly, and of a pleasing enough quality throughout the cabin to appeal to most in the market.Safetywise the Steed features a reverse camera, which didn’t always engage, six ‘bags, pretensioning seat belts, stability control, hill start assist (which holds the brakes momentarily) and, surprisingly, tyre pressure monitoring. Blind spot monitoring, lane keeping alerts and the like aren’t available. However it still rates not terribly well for the ANCAP scoring, with a two from a possible five ponts when lasted tested. Warranty is a standard three years or one hundred thousand kilometres, and servicing starts at six months or five thousand kilometres. It’ll then move to 12 months or fifteen thousand after the first service.

At The End Of the Drive.
The 2017 Great Wall Steed, on its own, would be an ok vehicle for a private buyer or even a fleet buyer. However it needs more to really be a consideration, more as in refinement of the steering ratio, more in the torque, more in the fettling of the ride. It’s inside that the Great Wall Steed scores ponts, along with a not unattractive exterior. However, if price is a consideration, as it was in 2009 when I worked at a dealership that sold Great Wall, then 30K driveaway will dull the headache.
Here’s where you can find out more: 2017 Great Wall Steed diesel crew cab 4×4

Private Fleet Book Review: How To Drive. The Ultimate Guide From The Man Who Was The Stig by Ben Collins

As we’re less than 100 days away from Christmas, it might be time to start dropping some hints as to what you’d like your nearest and dearest to get you. For most of us, a new car is out of the question in the Christmas stocking, but a new book is probably much more feasible as a present for the typical Australian.

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Car Review: 2017 Suzuki S-Cross Turbo Prestige.

Suzuki continues to cement its position as a leader in the small car market by giving us an updated 2017 Suzuki SX-4 S-Cross. Although a sort of SUV look, it’s not. It’s front wheel drive only, powered by a ripper petrol fuelled turbo four. Like it so far? Private Fleet does.There’s three trim levels, simply named GL, Turbo, and Suzuki S-Cross Turbo Prestige. The test car, the Prestige, gets the same 1.4 litre turbo engine as the Turbo, however the GL is the outgoing model. Just need to clarify that…

Anyways, there’s a simple question the S-Cross Turbo poses. Is it any good? Most of the time a simple question has a simple answer and so it is with this car. Yes.First up, there’s that belter of an engine. 1.4L. 16 valves. Turbocharged. 103 kilowatts. Torque: 220 of them between 1500 to 4000. Transmission: six pseed auto. Potency level? High. This combination is superb. It reacts to a breath on the go pedal, the gearbox is crisp, shifts quickly and without fuss, and even with traction control on, will happily and merrily chirp the front driven 215/55/17 Continental tyres. It’s a corker. Consumption in a mainly urban environment finshed on 6.7L per 100 km from the 1170 kilogram plus fuel (47 litre) and passenger vehicle.It’s a ripper handler too, with beautifully weighted steering connecting the driver to the road and providing plenty of feedback. The ride quality also is near nigh perfect with a supple mix of sporting and absorption offering an ideal combination of tautness and comfort from the McPherson strut/torsion beam suspension.Tip it into a tightening radius corner and the body will lean but ever so slightly, whilst the tiller requires minimal input to adjust to the curver coming in on itself. Pound it across the sunken and raised sections of various tarmac roads and you’ll feel a small bump before it passes and the chassis settles rapidly. Brake wise it’s spot on, with feedback straight away and a progressive travel allowing a driver to judge just….when…more or less pressure was needed.Suzuki have also performed a stunning piece of engineering upon the S-Cross, managing to squeeze apartment sized room inside a shoebox. The S-Cross is a mere 4300 mm in length, stands tallish at 1585 mm and spans 1785 mm horizontally. Inside that overall length is a 2600 mm wheelbase, ensuring ample leg, shoulder, and head room for four people, although three up in the rear seat is a touch squeezy. Luggage space is also huge at 430L to 1269L, including a double tray storage plus there’s the usual assortment of bottle and cup holders.The interior design is now familiar and standard Suzuki; there’s the four quarter touchscreen with Navigation, Apps, radio and Phone plus voice activation, traditional and eminently usable dials for the aircon, blue backlit driver’s binnacle dials and a simple to read and use monochrome screen between them. The dash and console design is a curvy design, flowing around into the doors in a clear swoop and with airvents/gear selector surround/door trim highlighted in alloy look plastic. The manually adjusted seats seats are heated (not cooled) and are a comfortable mix of leather and cloth. Of course the rear seats are 60/40 in split and foldable to allow access to that capacious and well trimmed boot. If there’s a negative it’s a small but persistent one. The setbelt straps in the height adjustable locaters were double strapped, as in both front and rear were reachable to pull over and it was the rear strap, not front, that kept getting grabbed.Outside it’s unrecognisable from the original SX4 of 2007 and noticeably different from the superceded model The tail lights have been subtly but obviously refreshed however it’s the bluffer, more “no nonsense” front end that has the 2017 S-Cross standing out. Although the headlight cluster (LED projector on the Prestige) looks almost the same, they’re a touch more angular and feature dusk sensing in the Prestige. It’s the stand out proud reprofiled nose, with an assertive chrome grille, polyurethane black running from the centre to the rear along the flanks and with a splash of metal chrome around the globe lit DRLs. There’s a crease line and stance not unlike Ford’s Escape, a 180 mm ride height, and hi-vis polished alloys to finish the visual appeal.Safety is high, as usual, with reverse camara, sensors front and rear, Hill Hold Control, 2 ISOFIX points, seven airbags including knee, electronic driver aids, even an auto dimming rear vision mirror. Servicing is capped for up to 5 Years / 100,000km and you’ll get a 100,000 km or three year warranty.

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Holden: The Day For Closing Is Coming.

Holden, along with Toyota, will cease to manufacture cars in Australia. But how has the process leading up to that day been handled, what about the people involved? Private Fleet‘s Dave Conole had a one on one interview with the head of PR for Holden, Sean Poppit. This is part one of a two part story.

With Holden stopping manufacturing in Australia, what has been the process to wind down making cars up to the final day?
October 20 is the final day of production and we’ll continue building cars up until the final day and it will be full speed up until that point. Let’s say we’re doing 170 cars per day, we’ll stay at that figure right until the final day. Obviously that day won’t be a full production day and we’ll hold a private employee only ceremony at the plant to mark and honour our heritage and our people.
What is being done to support the workers across the factories?
At the plant in Adelaide we’ve got just under a thousand workers there. One of the things that has been ABSOLUTELY non-negotiable from us, right from the outset, have been what we call the transition services and the transition centres. Our HR and manufacturing teams have won several national, and in fact, global awards for the quality of that work.
We’ve got a full time transition centre set up at the Holden Vehicle Operations which is at our plant in Adelaide. We’ve fully decked out the bottom floor of one wing and that’s a dedicated, permanent , centre to assist people in getting new jobs or be retrained. We have independent people from many industries, government support including the military, people from the private sector like engineering groups…it’s been a benchmark piece of work and it’s something we’re justifiably and extremely proud of in the way it’s helped and continues to help people transition.
Up until this chat we’ve had an eighty percent success rate, meaning eighty percent of those that have left Holden since 2013 have found or gone onto new work, while that other twenty percent have either gone into full time study or chosen to retire. So it’s been an amazing success rate which I think is a testament to what we have in place to helping our people transition AND how eminently employable our people are.
That’s some really good news for the people involved, yes?
Absolutely. Not just in the north of Adelaide but in Adelaide itself Holden was seen as a job for life. It’s a great place to work, really fair pay, you get to work with a brand you are passionate about and get opportunities to move around the plant and do different roles. There’s lots of long term employees and we know it (the change) can be daunting to re-skill and re-train which really is the reason for being, these transition centres.
However there will still be roles for current employees, right, in places and roles such as Lang Lang or in research and development?
True. We’ll become a vehicle importer, engineering, and design centre and we’ll still have the second largest dealer network in the country. Our corporate HQ will remain here at Port Melbourne and there’ll still be our team of 150 designers as part of the international design studios and yes we’ll retain the Lang Lang proving ground (south east of Melbourne) and the 150 engineers on site there. What that means is there will be somewhere between 350 to 400 designers and engineers working on local and international products as well as the hundreds of people in the corporate side, sales, marketing etc.
With the new Commodore on the way, how does Holden see the vehicle being received?
We ran a drive day at the proving grounds earlier this year, with the next gen Commodore. We had the V6 and four cylinder version. We had a dozen Commodore customers there. I’ll be up front, we had a couple of them come up and question why they were there, saying yes they were keen to see the proving ground but didn’t have a lot of interest in a front drive Commodore.
(It’s here that Sean shared some quotes from those that attended.)
“I wouldn’t have considered this car, now I’d even consider the two litre, never mind the V6.”
“ I’m really surprised at how well it gets the power down, it feels quicker through the corners than expected.”
“The new Commodore is really impressive, I particularly like the V6 model with the all wheel drive, even the two wheel drive model is not bad and very quick with the turbo.”
It’s going to be on us to present the car in the right way, we don’t imagine for one second it’s going to have the same emotional and nostalgic appeal. Our sales numbers, we don’t expect it’ll sell in the same numbers the locally built car did. But what’s critical, and what was reinforced to us in a pilot program we ran recently…. what we want is for people to drive the car and understand that Holden magic, what made the Commodore so great, there’s a very, very big streak of it in this new car. Rob Tribbiani (Holden’s legendary chassis engineer and the driver of the Holden ute that set a record at the famed Nurburgring) is super excited about the all wheel drive V6 with the adaptive dampers and tricky real differential system, is a real belter. We just want the car to be driven and judged on its own merits.

Will Manufacturers be able to Eliminate Car Crashes?

In recent years, car developments have largely oriented around safety improvements. Manufacturers have honed in on this area, hoping to address the issue of fatalities on our roads. And for the large part, auto makers have played a notable role in reducing the road toll. Further innovations and developments are now being spoken of to maintain this momentum, and possibly, eliminate car crashes all together. But is this really possible?

There are no shortage of measures being designed as a direct response to car accidents. To name a few:

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Chalk and Cheese: New Releases From Suzuki, Toyota, and Hyundai.

As Australia heads into spring and cocks an eye towards summer, the northern hemisphere says hello to the autumn car show season. The Frankfurt Auto Show saw Suzuki confirm the additon of the Sport to its revamped Swift range, Toyota unveil a revamped Prado and in Korea Hyundao shows off the Genesis G70 sedan.

2018 Suzuki Swift Sport.
The latest generation of the Swift Sport brings with it a raft of changes which include a lower, wider stance, more aggressive styling, and a torque-to-weight ratio that catapults the Sport into true hot hatch territory.We say goodbye to the 1.6L naturally-aspirated motor and hello to the 1.4L Boosterjet turbo engine (it’s the same as found in the brilliant Vitara). It’ll be a welcome addition to an increasingly grunty line-up with a turbo now available in five models across the range. Coupled with compact dimensions and a kerb weight that’s sub one-tonne should be music to the ears of sports-minded drivers.

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Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Peugeot 3008 GT.

There have been times when a car maker undertakes a wholesale change to a vehicle and receives deafening silence. This is certainly not the case with Peugeot’s revamped 3008 range. How’s winning the European Car of the Year Award for 2017 sound? To find out if it is worth the fuss, Private Fleet goes one on one with the range topping Peugeot 3008 GT diesel.Clad in a pearl paint called Ultimate Red (a $1050 option), the 3008 GT comes with a 2.0L diesel and EAT6 (Efficient Automatic Transmission six speed) gearbox. The test vehicle starts at $49490 and was fitted with a strongly patterned leather seat trim ($2700), Electronic Tailgate (with foot operation) plus Panoramic Sunroof ($2500) for a RRP of $55740.

Sizewise it fits nicely into the mid sized SUV family. It’s a compact 4447 mm long, rides on a 2675 mm wheelbase, and has an overall width of just under 1900 mm. What this buys you is over 1450 mm of hip and shoulder room for the front seat passengers, and just a few mm less for the rear seats. There’s also plenty of leg room as well; what this all means for a buyer is an astonishing amount of comfort and freedom whilst being cosseted by the superbly padded and supportive seats. The pattern is, as one wag mentioned, the same as what you’d find being worn by a Game of Thrones character…not that that’s a bad thing.The front seats are heated and warm up quickly, but not quickly enough on a cold Sydney day. However, like so many leather seats, they’re not ventilated for cooling, and get somewhat sticky and uncomfortable on a warm day. That’s about the only negative on the seats as they look absolutely sensational with the thick quilted weave pattern and stitching. The front seats are, as you’d expect for a top of the tree model, electrically operated and have thigh extensions, and the second row seats are 60/40 split fold for the 591L/1670L rear cargo section.The office space is a wonderful place to be when it comes to driving the 3008 GT. The diesel pumps out a handy peak of 133 kilowatts at 3750 and an immensely useable 400 Nm of peak torque at 2000 rpm. Peugeot quotes a 0-100 kph time of 8.9 seconds, but the pucker-metre says quicker. Economy is quoted as 7.0L/100 km combined, with PF seeing closer to 8.0L/100 km in an urban oriented drive. The dry weight of the 3008 GT helps, being 1371 kilos. Compare that to a couple of direct competitors such as the CX-5 2.5L at 1565 kg or Hyundai’s Tucson 1.6L turbo, with 1683 kilos…There’s enough on tap to have, in spite of the electronic nanny systems cars have nowadays, a chirp from the front driven Continental ContiSportContact 235/50/19 rubber. Rolling acceleration is truly an experience and that 400 Nm really shows its mettle plus you’ll find yourself quickly on the high side of the legal limit if you’re not watching the numbers. The transmission, once it hooks up, is superb. It’ll grab the torque and power and shove that through the ratios to the driven wheels without a hiccup.

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Clearing Up The Myths About Biodiesel

Biofuels are widely touted as being a solution to the dual problems of (1) limited fossil fuel supplies and (2) too many carbon emissions. In a nutshell, biodiesel is produced by taking crude oil from a source that isn’t a fossil fuel (i.e. not rock oil or petroleum oil) and doing all the chemical this and that to refine it so it can be used in our cars… or at least our diesel-fuelled cars.

However, there are a few rumours out there about biodiesel that are putting off a few people from giving it a go or adopting it.

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Private Fleet Car Review: 2017 Nissan Navara Dual Cab ST-X.

It’s a hearty “welcome back” to Nissan and what a vehicle to get things up and running. The grunty and luxuriously appointed 2017 Nissan Navara ST-X dual cab ute graced the driveway for a week.The heartbeat of the Navara dual cab range is the immensely flexible and torquey 2.3 litre diesel available across the range. Depending on which specification you buy you’ll have either a 120 kW or 140 kW variant, such as the ST-X does, but you’ll also get either 403 Nm or 450 Nm between 1500-2500. It tapers off gently from that peak and acceleration in a rolling situation is stupendous. It’s geared to sit at around 1800 rpm or so for the highway and when required, will spin easily through the rev range and get you towards the horizon rapidly. You’ll never feel as if the engine is going to run out of urge and with the (optional, as fitted) seven speed auto, it’s a seamless, ongoing, never ending wave with only the flick of the tacho really giving you any indication of what’s happening underneath.What’s even more startling about the performance is the bulk the engine must pull around. Kerb weight is just thirty kilos shy of two tonnes, and Nissan quotes a gross mass of 2.9 tonnes. However, such is the all-round ability of the engine and driveline you’d not know of the weight. To top the icing with a cherry is the fuel economy from the sizable 80 litre tank. Nissan quotes 7.0L/100 kilometres on the combined cycle, AWT finished just north of that at 8.1L/100.The transmission in the ST-X is a high and low range four wheel drive capable setup, tied to the seven speed auto. Capable being the operative word here as low range mud eating is a doddle. All but one Navara dual cab variant (the RX) has a leaf spring rear, with the others being loaded up with an S-Link rear. Combined with the standard double wishbone front, the ST-X will crawl over and through just about any surface in high and low four wheel drive. The low gear ratios allow the engine to provide peak torque during the drive, ensuring the engine is on song during off road excursions.On tarmac ride quality is pretty damned good too. It’s a touch more taut at the rear but is tied down, compliant and only occasionally jiggly. Thanks to the tough suspension requirements it’s flat, composed, irons out most irregularities but there’s a dark side. At anything other than walking pace it’ll nose wide in corners. There’s no lack of grip as such, just a propensity for the front end’s steering to not be quite as tightly wound as perhaps it should be. Otherwise it’s a ride that you can live with, and enjoy. Highway and freeway dips and rises feel as if they have the ST-X as part of the surface, as there’s no discernible suspension travel, rather a sensation of following the curvatures. There’s some free play in the steering for cornering at speed, with load felt just slightly off centre.Enjoy it you can whilst sitting in the cabin. ST-X has a nickname: “ute in a suit”; there’s leather seats front and rear, with heating for the front. Great in winter but no ventilation on leather seats during an Aussie summer is not a good idea…and there are times where cloth is preferred such as a cold morning. Oddly, for a top of the range vehicle, only the driver’s window has an auto or one touch Up/Down as well. There’s a leather trimmed tiller, plenty of storage nooks including a tray in the top of the dash (with 12V socket), and chromed and bronzed silver accented highlights throughout.The dash dials are clean to read and separated by a colour info screen, the touchscreen and associated buttons are ergonomically friendly, there’s plugs for the audio and 12V accessories , and a simple to use dial for the four wheel drive system. You’ll have Bluetooth phone and streaming compatibility, a single CD player, plus cruise control. Safety comes in the form of the electronic aids such as Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, seven airbags including driver’s knee, and seatbelt pre-tensioning, making the Navara ST-X as safe as possible.There’s ample room front and rear for the family, for head and shoulders and, importantly, leg room. What you don’t get room for, which the ST-X has in common with every vehicle of its type, is room for shopping. Yes, you do have a tray that will excel at holding tools or whitegoods or hardware, but utes aren’t really ideal for family shopping…unless you’re a family of one and your shopping is tinned food and liquid refreshment.But little of that will count when you drive the ST-X. It’s an imposing beast, with an overall length of 5255 mm, stands at 1840 mm sans roof rails and will spread itself across 1850 mm. The wheelbase is a decent 3150 mm, one of the bigger wheelbases around, and contributes to the straight line stability of the vehicle. There’s decent front and rear overhangs too, allowing approach and departure angles of over 32 and 26 degrees when off roading. And underneath, the chassis is designed to work with the engine and transmission to allow up to 3500 kilograms worth of towing with a brake equipped trailer.Looks wise the Navara range for 2017 has been sharpened up a little; the front end is more angular, more asserrtive. There’s side steps on the ST-X, and meaty Toyo A25 255/60/18 rubber on either end. There’s a reverse camera integrated into the tail gate handle as well, linking to the touchscreen inside and provides a high definition image. There’s roof rails, a chromed roll bar mounted over the tray, a polyurethane tub lining, tie down points, which makes the overall presence high on the assertive “I’ll take this chair, mate”.At The End Of The Drive.
The Navara nameplate has always been a strong performer for Nissan. And even with the rise of the SUV the Navara continues to make an impact on a tough market. With competition from Volkswagen (Amarok), Mitsubishi (Triton), Ford (Ranger), Holden (Colorado), Isuzu (D-Max), just to name a few, the Navara has held onto a good market share. The ST-X especially is one that is worthy of looking at as a top of the ladder entry. As a work ute, it’s well and truly suitable, especially for areas that require a dedicated four wheel drive system. Wear a suit? Just as capable.

As a daily driver, the willing engine, smooth gearbox, and sheer driveability make it a no brainer. It’s compliant, comfortable, easy to move around despite the size and certainly has one of the more responsive throttles around. The 2017 Nissan Navara ST-X is certainly a solid contender in a very crowded market place.Check out the details of the range here: 2017 Nissan Navara dual cab range