Archive for October, 2016
As recently as last month, consumer advocates and legal groups were once again campaigning for the introduction of extensive lemon laws. Australian consumer laws have long been considered inadequate for motorists who purchase new vehicles, only to see their purchase turn out to be a dud – in fact, a ‘lemon’.
This time, the lobbying extended further, with several groups joining together to put pressure on the government to make the necessary changes. With bodies such as the Consumer Credit Legal Service and Legal Aid NSW behind the push, are motorists overdue a change in legislation?
When we consider consumers’ entitlements to said respite, it’s worth noting that Australia trails its international peers by some margin. Major countries such as the UK, the US and Singapore are well ahead in this area. Consumers are protected by laws that dictate the number of permissible faults in a new vehicle, as well as the length of time such vehicles are allowed off the road due to any given major fault or combination of faults. Should a vehicle encounter more issues, or remain off the road longer than guidelines permit, the owner can notify an auto-maker about the fault(s) and request its repair, or an appropriate refund.
In Australia however, there is a shortfall in coverage regarding major vehicle failures, with customers expected to work with the retailer to resolve the problem – often leading to an escalating level of frustration when the problem is often unable to be identified. Among other concerns noted by lobbying groups and proponents of legislative changes, motorists are often burdened with repair costs that are disproportional compared to the price paid for the vehicle. In this respect, the sale of faulty second-hand vehicles attracts more attention, as consumers have even less legal protection.
Currently, one of the fundamental issues to navigate is a system where the customer is treated in a manner befitting of their fault being assumed. Understandably, with some customers looking to take advantage of certain scenarios, it is unfortunate things have unfolded in this manner. Motorists are responsible for demonstrating the vehicle’s defects. In practice, this works against the theory of affording consumers protection for products which they do not have an expert knowledge about
Predictably, motoring bodies are opposed to any legislative changes, suggesting there is no need for change. They argue motorists have sufficient access to recourse as it is, and assessments would be significantly open to interpretation. While there might be merit in the second statement, specialist panels with expert assessment are being touted as an appropriate option, while delicate wording would ease the degree of interpretation required. In the case of ambiguous interpretations, there is hardly any evidence to suggest that the current scope provides a better approach to deal with such concerns – particularly when one considers the use of vague references regarding rejection periods and a high threshold for time off the road.
The government would also be wise to separate and distinguish motor vehicles as requiring a separate form of consumer protection from standard items. After all, with vehicles likely to be the second largest purchase in one’s lifetime, the acquisition should not be understated with respect to its importance. And it goes without saying, the impediment of a non-functional vehicle is likely to have other ramifications on one’s personal and professional life.
With local vehicles surpassing previous all-time figures for recalls (albeit, with only a portion related to faults), and reliability data already withheld from consumers, it’s clear that manufacturers and motoring bodies also have a vested interest in retaining ambiguous legislation to uphold their reputation. Moreover, it also serves well to inhibit a customer’s avenue to recourse.
The key step is transparency. Quality control will only improve through continual feedback and learning. And whilst ‘naming and shaming’ is certainly not the intended course of action, a renewed focus on the number of faults experienced by certain manufacturers should be means to promote an improvement in build quality, which should then make interpretation of defects a whole lot easier.
We all know that seatbelts save lives. Why the Swedish inventor of the three-point seatbelt, Nils Bohlin of Volvo , didn’t get one of the Nobel Prizes for his invention, given the number of deaths his invention has prevented is something of a mystery. He did get a medal of some sort during his lifetime and was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame, so that does give him some of the recognition he deserves.
However, there are those idiots who still don’t wear seat belts. One wants to bang the heads of these idiots against a wall until they see sense, except that (a) this would result in a serious assault charge and (b) if they keep on not wearing seatbelts, they’re going to bang their own heads against the steering wheel, dashboard or worse one of these days.
Car manufacturers don’t like their vehicles featuring on the fatal crash list, so they are taking steps to make sure that we are fastening our seatbelts – and they’re providing better ones, too, with most modern vehicles having three-pointers all around the vehicle, including the middle seat at the back. They also take steps to make sure that you actually wear the seatbelts they have so thoughtfully provided. Back in the 1970s, the manufacturers flirted with the idea of a system that refused to start the engine unless the driver was safely buckled in, but this was banned by the US Congress in 1974 – goodness knows why.
Most cars prefer to have a seatbelt warning light of some description. In some vehicles, this applies to the driver’s seat only; in others, the system considers the front passenger and/or the rear seats. The warning system usually flashes lights or beeps until the buckle clicks home properly. The variety that involves the driver’s seat is the simplest. After all, a car will always have a driver if the engine is on and the vehicle is moving; it doesn’t always have front passengers. The driver-only versions start flashing and beeping if the key is in the ignition and the engine is on or some similar indication that you’re not just sitting there with the engine off waiting for your daughter’s ballet lessons to come to an end… or watching a romantic sunset from the front seat with a significant other.
The systems that throw a hissy fit if the passengers don’t buckle up usually have some sort of pressure or weight sensor in the seats. After all, nobody wants a warning light to go off to tell you to buckle in a non-existent passenger. These are pretty sensitive, too. You don’t need much weight to make the seat think that it’s got a passenger on board. For a parent, these are a godsend, as you know straight away if little Jason has got bored during the trip to Grandma’s and has undone the seatbelt while fiddling with it. If the seat belt comes undone, on goes the little warning light.
The only drawback with the passenger detection systems is that they think any weight at all is a passenger, as happened to my mother when out shopping in her Subaru Outback . Mum grabbed a few litres of milk and some other goodies, and plonked them on the front seat beside her as she drove off. However, the weight of two 2-litre milk bottles was enough to make the passenger seat detector throw a wobbly and (in her words) scream at her. As Mum was now on the road, she wasn’t in a position to reach over to the far side of the vehicle and grab the seatbelt to plug it in and shut the warning system up. She could, however, reach the milk bottles and sat there trying to shove the bottles off the seat and into the footwell, the alarm screaming at her all the time. Talk about trying to drive while distracted! Just as well she wasn’t trying to shove eggs around as well…
One also wonders what would happen with other loads carried on the back seat. We’ve all done this, haven’t we? Don’t we all toss our bags and coats into the back of the sedan? What about the cat carrier when taking Tiddles to the vet? Thankfully, a lot of warning lights for the rear seat don’t make noises at the driver but just have a little light. However, given the trend towards having more safety systems in our cars – and a good trend, too – it probably won’t be long until rear seat passenger detection systems start beeping at us as well. When this happens, we’ll all have to do the following:
- Put things in the boot or in the footwell;
- Get car seat harnesses for the dog;
- Plug the seatbelt in before placing a load that can’t be buckled in onto the seat (e.g. that large houseplant that’s too tall for the boot and/or the cat carrier.
And, of course, we need to keep wearing our seatbelts. No excuses – buckle up!
Hyundai’s quirky four door hatchback, the Veloster, has been given a limited edition model run of just 200 units. Painted Dazzling Blue Mica and given some cool looking black clad alloys, the Veloster Street Turbo spent a week with Private Fleet.With a starting price of $35750 plus on roads for a six speed manual version and $2500 for the seven speed dual clutch auto, the Veloster Street Turbo is off to a tough start. Using the outgoing Veloster SR Turbo + as a base ($34750 + ORCs), as Hyundai have realigned the Veloster into a two tier range, means that some extra equipment is required to justify the cost.Here’s what you get: push button Start/Stop, keyless entry, dusk sensing HID xenon headlights, LED running lights, tyre pressure monitoring, a seven inch navitainment touchscreen (but no RDS, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto or digital), leather appointed seating with colour coded inserts, colour coded plastic highlights on the door grips and centre console, blue seatbelts, branded door mats and Street badging on the fenders and the sweet looking Ray Grams Lights 18 inch alloys. Being based on the SR+ you’ll get steering wheel mounted phone controls, Bluetooth streaming, heated AND ventilated (huzzah!!!) front seats and a punchy eight speaker sound system.Up front is the same 150 kilowatt/265 Newton metre 1.6 force fed four. That’s connected to the aforementioned six speed manual and this, unlike the recently tested i30 SR, has a far better manual selector feel. There’s a proper sense of movement and placement, a satisfying “snick” to the gate and a real mechanical feel overall as opposed to the numbness experienced in the i30 SR.That torque is available between 1750 and 4500 revs, and compared to the last time Private Fleet and Veloster Turbo partnered up (Veloster Turbo review 2015) didn’t seem to move the car along as quickly. Perhaps it would be the manual versus the auto, it simply didn’t feel as wound up. Having said that, it still provided a tractable and useable driving style, with a smooth and fluid torque delivery.The ratios in the manual are closely stacked, meaning revs drop only minimally when changing, and also means you can keep the engine spinning and take advantage of the torque from 1750 onwards. It helps that the clutch has a decent pressure requirement to push and that the pickup point is appropriately mid travel. The combination allows a sporting aimed driver to bang through the gears and see 100 kmh reasonably quickly. Given that the car isn’t that heavy as well, at around 1400 kg, the overall fuel consumption figure of 7.9L/100 km was reasonable from the fifty litre tank.Inside, apart from the blue trim, the Veloster remains much the same. The design and look of the plastics is dating and not well, there’s sharp edges on the door grab handles however the deeply bolstered and very comfortable bucket seats make up for that. Being the oddity that it is in regards to entry and exit, the driver has slightly less issue in getting in and out thanks to the single door on the right hand side. Those using the left side, especially the rear door, will have to duck their head and slide across the centre rear seat mounted cup holders in order to fill the space behind the driver. Rear head room, thanks to the steeply raked roofline, is a touch tight for average sized humans, ok for kids but would be, erm, difficult to deal with for anyone of a bigger frame. There is, though, a 320 litre cargo space and a space saver spare to consider.There’s more refinement in the suspension, with a taut yet supple suspension combination providing a ride that errs on the side of sport but with just enough give to not rattle the fillings on smooth roads. Toss the Veloster Street onto anything else and expect a choppy, jiggly, teeth rattler. That initial level of sporting compliance disappears and there’s even some sideways skip when covering a corner with ripples or broken surface, even with the 225/40/18 Hankook rubber.Hyundai painfully continues with the three mode power steering and it’s rare that any one the modes (Comfort/Sport/Normal) tend to be on the money. Sport generally comes over too heavy, Comfort too light and well, just like the porridge, Normal is generally all you need for a reasonable facsimile of a communicative tiller setup.
At The End Of The Drive.
Given the dollars required, one could buy the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ, a Renault Clio, or a Mazda MX-5 and have some seroes to spare. The Veloster’s aging interior is one thing, the exterior looks are another. The engine is usable but, in honesty, not the firecracker A Wheel Thing remembers. Their is a respectable five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, 12 months roadside assist, plus you’ll get a complimentary first service at 1500km. There’s also a lifetime service plan with scheduled services with prices ranging from $159 to $259 for the first three years or 45,000km. They’re due due every six months or 7500km.
There’s an undeniable appeal about the Veloster, however, with sales consistent and even a quarter of these two hundred already sold since release. More info can be found here: 2016 2017 Hyundai Veloster range and info
It’s a topic that is cropping up more and more in conversation: will self driving cars become a reality? Nowadays the jury is leaning towards when, not if, and Tesla is at the front of the charge (no pun intended). Self-driving vehicles will play a crucial role in improving transportation safety and accelerating the world’s transition to a sustainable future. Full autonomy will enable a Tesla to be substantially safer than a human driver, lower the financial cost of transportation for those who own a car and provide low-cost on-demand mobility for those who do not.
As of mid October 2016, all Tesla vehicles produced in the factory – including Model 3 – will have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver. Eight surround cameras provide 360 degree visibility around the car at up to 250 meters of range. Twelve updated ultrasonic sensors complement this vision, allowing for detection of both hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of the prior system. A forward-facing radar with enhanced processing (Tesla radar) provides additional data about the world on a redundant wavelength, capable of seeing through heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead.
To make sense of all of this data, a new onboard computer with more than 40 times the computing power of the previous generation runs the new Tesla-developed neural net for vision, sonar and radar processing software. Together, this system provides a view of the world that a driver alone cannot access, seeing in every direction simultaneously and on wavelengths that go far beyond the human senses.
Model S and Model X vehicles with this new hardware are already in production, and customers can purchase one today: https://www.tesla.com/autopilot
Before activating the features enabled by the new hardware, there’s a further calibration of system using millions of miles of real-world driving to ensure significant improvements to safety and convenience. While this is occurring, Teslas with new hardware will temporarily lack certain features currently available on Teslas with first-generation Autopilot hardware, including some standard safety features such as automatic emergency breaking, collision warning, lane holding and active cruise control. As these features are robustly validated we will enable them over-the-air, together with a rapidly expanding set of entirely new features. As always, the over-the-air software updates will keep customers at the forefront of technology and continue to make every Tesla, including those equipped with first-generation Autopilot and earlier cars, more capable over time.
(With thanks to Heath Walker at Tesla Motors Australia for content)
October 7, 2016, just before 10 am in Melbourne, Victoria. We knew it was coming, we tried to deny it was coming but, inexorably, it arrived. The final Australian built Ford was rolled off the assembly line and the factory fell silent.
91 years. Three million, eight hundred and fifty three thousand, four hundred and thirty seven Falcons later, the last being an blue XR8 Sprint (an homage to the nameplate from the late 1960s), it’s over. Prior to the Sprint, there was a white Territory and a blue XR6. These cars were sold at an auction, raising money for charity. The FG-X Falcon XR6 sold for $81500, the ute XR6 went for $81000 and the Titanium Territory was passed to its new owner for $68500. However, there were three cars that Ford built without ID plates, making them unsaleable and will be kept by Ford for display in their museum.
But there’s much more to Ford in Australia that the events of October, 2016. It’s not commonly known that Ford Australia was founded as an outpost of Ford Canada, a then separate part of Ford USA, as Henry Ford had granted manufacturing rights to Commonwealth countries, except for the UK, to Canadian investors. The very first cars built were assembled from CKD (complete knocked down) kits imported from Canada. These were built in a disused factory from June of 1925, just three months after Ford USA announced that Geelong would be the home of the Australian outpost. The car? The famous “Model T”.
Australia’s Ford history can be tied into innovation; it’s widely accepted that the first coupe utility, or “ute” as it’s best known, originated in Australia and built on a Ford chassis. It’s said that a farmer or farmer’s wife needed a vehicle which could be used to church on Sunday and transport livestock the next. Released in 1934, the design of Louis Bandt, an engineer with Ford, was also born out of economic neccessity. Banks during the Great Depression would not lend money for cars but would for work related vehicles. The coupe utility fitted the bill.
Motorsport has played a huge part in Ford Australia’s history, although in the last couple of decades that gloss has faded. Such was the pride Aussies had in their largely homegrown cars, that a win on Sunday translated into a sell on Monday mentality. The brutal XY GTHO found itself a place in history when it became the fastest four door sedan (or saloon) in the world and had a moment in time frozen forever when Wheels magazine ran a story with the now infamous picture of the car’s speedometer showing 140 miles per hour in a blast on the Hume Highway, running between Sydney in the north, through to Melbourne in the south, in 1971. With Ford’s 5.8L Cleveland V8 sitting under the “shaker” air intake, feeding a four barrel carbie, a plastic chin spoiler and rear deck lid wing, the “Hoey” not only looked the part, the sounds it made when pushed in anger added to the presence.
In the late 1990s, Ford unveiled the R7, a concept car. A large SUV, with rounded and smooth body panels, it would be finalized into production as the Territory and has since bene regarded as one of the best of the Australian made cars. Ford Australia also utilised turbocharging, with their alloy blocked 4.0L six cylinder, which replaced the archaic 4.1L iron blocked engine, finding itself a home inside a range of sports themed cars with the XR nomenclature. The XR6-T and its Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) siblings would also create their own niche in history, as would the name, Tickford.
Although Australia has flirted with hard top two door cars in a mainstream selling environment, sometimes they’ve proved hard to shift and motorsport has helped out in the background.
Legend has it that some four hundred odd XC Falcon coupes were proving hard to shift and a marketing decision was made to repaint them. With a white body and blue striped look, the Cobra was born and it’s now history that two of them finished in a one two formation at Mt Panorama.
It’s fair to argue that some of Australia’s best looking locally manufactured cars were of the two door design. Chrysler had the Valiant Charger, with a distinctive advertising campaign involving two raised fingers. Holden had had the Monaro from the late 1960s and the two door LC/LJ Toranas before a body swap to the LH/LX and UC Torana.
Ford had had the XM and XP coupe, a beautifully balanced design before leaving that area and revisiting with the coke bottle flanked XA Falcon. The next model, the XB, had a slightly more muscular look with the redisgned front and tidied tail lights but the XC was destined for world wide fame, thanks to a cop in black leather…
Mad Max not only showcased the stark and barren beauty of the Outback, it allowed George Miller to share the evil and demonic black painted, supercharged, dual 44 gallon drum equipped monster that was the XB Falcon coupe and Max’s ride. Sadly, the next model, the XC Falcon would be the final Ford Australia factory produced “tudor”.
Ford’s also made decisions that have backfired in a sales sense; they cancelled off V8 engines in the early mid 1980s, leaving their primary opposition, General Motors Holden (at the time) to run away with the market when it came to these powerplants. It would be some years before Ford Australia once again slotted V8s into the cars, in 1991. They were also Canadian sourced, and somewhat different to the engines made and used in the United States.
Holden and Ford had also gone head to head when it came to luxury cars. Ford had the Fairlane and LTD, with Holden matching up with the Statesman and Caprice. In December 2007 Ford deleted the Fairlane and LTD, citing lack of sales as being unviable, again leaving the market door wide open for Holden to continue.
Depending on the Falcon car they were based on, the Fairlane and LTD were long, large, and imposing vehicles, all the way from their launch through to the BA Falcon, where that commanding and majestic look disappeared, along with their buyers.
Ford Australia also manufactured cars in other locations to Geelong; between 1981 and 1994, the Laser (one of many cars Ford shared as a platform with other makers such as Mazda) was built in Homebush, the site for the 2000 Olympics. The Ford Anglia, Cortina, and Escort, were built in Australia and based on the cars from the U.K. Mazda donated the 626 which would become the Telstar until Nissan’s Pintara became the Ford Corsair.
Perhaps, though, Ford Australia’s history can be seen by many as stemming from the Ford Falcon of 1960, effectively a right hand drive conversion of the American Falcon. Designated the XK, the range would see the introduction of utility and panel van bodies, however Australian roads, particularly in rural areas, soon proved to be the car’s undoing and subsequent engineering work saw the release of the XL. In 1964 the XM Falcon was unveiled, with the first fully Australian designed Falcon body. A year later the XP was released and introduced the Fairmont name. The XP was also the model that concreted teh Falcon into Australian sales, with then deputy manager, Bill Bourke, conceiving a plan to demonstrate the cars durability. A fleet of cars would drive for 110,000 kilometres at over 110 kmh at the You Yangs proving grounds, successfully showing the Australian engineering had improced thecar substanionally over its forebears.
In 1966 the car moved from a smooth and curvy look to a sharp edged, blocky design based on the third generation US Falcon. It was also the first model to have a V8, the 4.7 litre or 289 cubic inch powerplant. The long running 144 ci engine from previous models was deleted, leaving the once optionable 170 ci engine as the standard engine. The XR covered all bases, with Falcon, Falcon 500, and Fairmont sedans, Falcon, Falcon 500, and Fairmont wagons, Falcon and Falcon 500 utilities, and the Falcon Van all being made available.
As the American Falcon had strong ties with the Mustang that had been released in 1964, Ford Australia capitalised on that by unveiling the XR Falcon GT, packing a 225 horsepower or 168 kilowatt 4.7L V8. The XR was updated to the XT in 1968, offering a new V8 at 302 ci or 4.9 litres, plus a new 3.1 litre straight six or 3.6 litre six. A rework of the external design had the 1969 XW Falcon looking more muscular and hard edged, plus the soon to be legendary 5.8L 351ci was added. Again sourced from Canada, the engine offered, as standard, 291 horsepower or 217 kW, exiting through a dual exhaust and breathing in through a bonnet mounted airscoop for the GT variant. It also saw the introduction of the now iconic “Superoo” decals for the sides of the car.
August of 1969, just days after Armstrong and Aldrin had walked the moon, saw another memorable moment in time. Australia was given the GT-HO. Initially using the “Windsor” V8, it was soon changed to the “Cleveland” pumping out 300 horsepower or 221 kW. There was also an uprated suspenion, hence the HO or “Handling Option” part of the name.
That legend continued to grow with the introduction of the XY nameplate. With only minor styling changes it was the the “Shaker” air intake that many would identify the XY with. Top speed would be generally recognised as 141.5 miles per hour, or just under 228 kilometres per hour. The name “Phase 3” is also strongly identified with the XY GT-HO.
Ford America ceased production of their Falcon in the very early 1970s, with Ford Australia’s design and engineering team producing the XA. It’s the model that reintroduced the two door configuration and is also identified as one of the three cars associated with the “Supercar scare”, with the mooted Phase 4 seeing, allegedly, just three examples being produced.
The XB and XC updates saw some notable external changes and with the XC, a redesign of the dashboard, the “crossflow” head design for the six cylinder engine, and Australia’s first suspension built around using radial ply tyres, known as “Touring Suspension”. The XC is also the model that saw Ford utilise the last remaining two door bodyshells, as mentioned earlier, which gave the Australian motoring public the Cobra. They were individually numbered, rolled on 15 inch diameter wheels with a design intended to help brake cooling and motorvated by a mix of 302 ci and 351 ci engines, painted in that now iconic blue and white colour scheme.
Ford Au would move to a Ford Eu influenced design with the introduction of the XD. The 4.1L would gain an alloy head, increasing fuel economy and power slightly. The XE gave the Falcon a more angular front and the XF of the mid 1980s saw a softening of the design, with a rounded nose and more integrated tail lights. The XE would also be the first Falcon in over a decade to outsell its main opposition, the Holden Commodore, also a Euro based design. It was also the the last model to see the V8 for some time. The XG nameplate was applied to the two commercial derivations, the ute and panel van, and saw the introduction of a new powerplant, the slightly downsized 4.0L six, the loss of the archaic three speed automatic transmission associated with the Falcon for decades and a new five speed manual. The range was built on the XF platform whereas the Falcon had transitioned to the ovoid shaped EA and EB. Even the XR6 nameplate, seen in the EB, was brought in.
The Falcon had updated to the EF in the mid 1990s, with a slimline look to the front end, sleekly integrated headlights and a more curvaceous styling. The 4.0L engine was upgraded to an electronic ignition system and power saw an increase to 157 kW. The EL was a facelift, externally, however the standard six was refitted with the distributor ignition system previously deleted.
Ford Australia’s great hope, the AU Falcon, was released in 1998, utilising Ford’s “New Edge” styling. It was almost immediately condemned for its looks, and changes to the original look were implemented quickly with the April 200 series 2 and September 2001 series 3 updates. They included changes to the grille design, a raised bonnet and bigger wheels. September 2002 and a half billion dollars later, the BA Falcon was released. A flatter, less rounded and edge oriented design, inside and out, the BA went a long way to reversing the sales drop the AU had brought and won the Wheels magazine Car of the Year award. The BA’s interior was a more cohesive design and saw the introduction of the LCD screen Interior Command Screen. There was also the introduction of the “Barra” range of sixes, including the weapons grade potency of the turbocharged 4.0L. Throwing out 240 kilowatts and a massive 450 Newton metres of torque, it was just 22 Nm shy of the standard 5.4L US sourced alloy V8 also used.
2004 had Ford release the Territory, Ford’s entrant into the burgeoning SUV market and an immediate sales success. It was based on the BA’s floorplan, complete with the independent rear suspension that Falcon’s handling prowess had been lauded for in predeceding years. The BA would also be followed by the facelifted BF before a heavily revised external FG series was released in 2008. The range saw the dropping of the Fairmont and Futura name, the latter a name resurrected from the 1960s for the AU. Modifications to the turbo six saw torque reach an astounding 533 Nm.
The final Falcon, the FG X, was also the first Falcon with a three letter nomenclature and again saw a substantial external redesign. Criticism of the car centred aound the almost unchanged dash even though the abilities of the electronics had increased since the BA. But in a nod to history, the X refers to the history of Falcon, going all the way back to the 1960 XK.
Although Ford Australia has ceased to be a manufacturer, it will still be heavily involved with the world market. Research and Development, R&D, with the legendary You Yangs proving ground, will continue to be part of the global network. It also allows Ford Australia to source some of the world market cars; the Mustang has made a huge impact in the world market and especially in Australia, partly though, to the detriment of the final runs of the Falcon and derivative models.
Hyundai‘s i30 has quickly become a staple on Australian roads, taking the fight up to Ford’s Focus, Kia’s Cerato and Toyota’s Corolla. It’s an award winning car and for good reason, with a high quality level of fit and finish plus Australian tuning for the ride. Hyundai’s bundled everything into one package for the manual i30 SR and it comes out the other side holding its head up high.What a buyer will find in the near 1300 kilo SR is Hyundai’s non turboed Nu 2.0L gasoline direct injection engine, with peak power and torque of 124 kW and 201 Nm. Naturally, both come in at high revs, with 4700 of them needed to see peak torque. The transmisson is a six speed manual and it’s here, in the car provided, that something didn’t feel right. The gate mechanism is loose, sloppy, undefined, and changing from second to third to fourth and back feels as if the selector is moving up and down, not left to right to left.The clutch itself seemed initally quite soft and lacking in any real spring pressure, with a seemingly indeterminate pickup point on the travel, with the subsequent revving of the engine past where a normal pickup would bring them down telling the story. When it all gels, however, it’s smooth and usable, it just lacks a real presence.In amongst all this is a frugal powerplant, with a combined total, from the 50 litre tank, of just 7.0L per 100 kilometres. If you’re in freeway mode, 5.5L/100 km is what Hyundai quotes and around town is where a lighter foot may be needed, at 9.5L/100 km.The test car was painted Brilliant Red, matched by the Start/Stop button’s surround. Otherwise, the interior is standard i30, save for red additions and stitching to the seats, and alloy pedals. There’s a seven inch full colour navitainment touchscreen, sans RDS, a peculiarly Korean thing. There’s an impressive list of tech: Apple CarPlay is on board, as is Bluetooth audio, auto head lights, rain sensing wipers, dual zone climate control air conditioning, and auto windscreen defogging. There’s a reverse camera, hidden under the boot mounted badge that folds out and in. It’s a tad noisy and momentarily distracting. Behind the tail gate is 378 litres of usable cargo space, expanding to just over 1300 when the 60/40 split rear seats are folded.Outside there’s LED DRLs in the front, an SR badge on the rear along with two on the front flanks, gorgeous gunmetal grey tuning fork style alloys at 17 inches in diameter, shod in 225/45 Nexen rubber. It’s Hyundai’s fluidic design in profile with the headlights flowing back into the guards, bracketing the newish corporate grille that is a one piece design. It’s cohesive, good looking and suits the colour the test car was covered in.It also cuts a fine figure on the road. Hyundai’s engineered a wonderful road holding chassis, with tenacious grip, a beautifully weighted steering feel using the Normal mode (it feels too artificially heavy in Sports, too light in Comfort), a ride quality that balances front and rear in the way the SR rebounds from bumps and undulating roads, thanks to revalved dampers and retuned springs. Even on unsettled and broken surfaces, it ducks and weaves through them with aplomb, exhibiting a high level of body control. And although it’s a normally aspirated engine, there’s enough pluck in the powerplant to provide enough performance without seeming underpowered. Rev through the numbers and there’s a steady pull through the range without running out of puff at the top end.
At The End Of The Drive.
The SR raises the i30 above the entry level and sits comfortably below the Premium, offers a well thought out feature list and priced from $25590 plus ORCs it’s a good value package. On the road it’s a solid handler, with a willing enough engine, with the weakspot being the lacklustre gear selector. Work around that and the i30 SR stands out as a suitable alternative to the Japanese big sellers. Go here:Hyundai i30 SR for more info.
Just in case you haven’t noticed, this is 2016 (the latter half of 2016 at that). This isn’t Saudi Arabia. In other words, there are just as many women as there are men holding drivers’ licences in this part of the world (although I haven’t checked the exact stats). However, the people who make the car ads don’t seem to have caught up on this. Pause and think about all the car ads that you’ve seen recently. Not many of them feature women as the driver, except for a few for people-movers that show Mum ferrying around tons of kids (has anyone told these advertisers that this isn’t the 1950s?).
This situation was nicely highlighted by a team of comedians (female ones) from across the Tasman in this rather popular video clip (please excuse the four-letter words) that parodies a Holden Colorado ad:
This got me thinking about (a) the cars my female friends drive and (b) the number of commercials that feature women as the driver (not as the passenger or as some form of detachable decoration). My friends drive 4x4s, utes, small sedans, vans, hatchbacks, station wagons… the full range of vehicles. Most of them forked out their own money for said vehicles, too. And they don’t just use the cars as Mum’s Taxis, either (not surprising, seeing as several of them either don’t have kids or else their kids have grown up and left home or got their own licences). They’re using the cars to go to sports training, to go to work, to go to school, to take a load of garbage down to the dump, to tow the horse float and to carry out contracting work (and farm work). In short, they use vehicles the same way as my guy friends do. But the car ads? No – as far as they’re concerned, it’s guys who buy cars and drive them… apart from those people-movers.
Nope, it’s guys all the way for the typical car ad. In the case of utes and trucks, the not-so-subtle message is that these vehicles are what you drive if you’re a Real Man:
But us women? We’re only allowed to drive people-movers with tons of kids and the dog on board, according to the makers of car ads:
Nissan tried to target women buyers a few years ago, they really did, with the infamous ad for the Tiida that features Sex and the City actress Kim Cattrall. At least they tried, but using sex to sell anything shows a lack of imagination.
To be fair some manufacturers are starting to wake up to the surprising fact that it’s not just guys who drive and buy cars. Audi tried a social media campaign (#womendrivers https://twitter.com/search?q=%23womendrivers&src=typd), where users were tempted to click the hashtag, expecting to see a funny story about women driving badly but instead got a story about actual real women driving properly. However, the campaign aimed at busting stereotypes ended up backfiring (unlike the Audis themselves).
Holden has also come up with a real, fair dinkum ad (for the Spark ) that specifically targets younger women drivers.
Actually, despite the rip-off commercial, Holden seems to be doing pretty well for targeting women, as a quick peek through their YouTube channel and their ads seems to have at least a smattering of women drivers. Even the real Colorado ad seems to have realised this, so well done, Holden!
Come on, the rest of you car advertisers! Time to realise that you’re completely overlooking 50% of potential buyers!
Last week marked the end of an era for the automotive industry within Australia. After 91 years, the blue oval badge that many Australians came to love called time on the local manufacturing of its vehicles. The day was a bittersweet moment. On the one hand, the brand, the company and its tireless employees were recognised for their invaluable contributions over the years.
Sadly however, an abundance of job losses as well as the demise of a true Australian icon will leave a void within the nation’s proud history and culture. The manufacturer’s peers are in no better position, with Toyota and Holden also approaching the end of local production in 2017. But was this the only option available? Was it possible for Ford’s local manufacturing operations to be spared a lifeline?
Despite its late efforts to adapt to consumer and industry changes (e.g. economical driving), Ford was always going to be facing an uphill battle. As wage growth peaked in the mid-2000’s, labour costs continually drifted further and further away from those of nearby countries. Throughout Asia in particular, labour costs remained arduously low, incentivising numerous manufacturers to set up their regional operations for the Asian market amongst low-cost producers. To say that our nation’s positioning worked against the company would be an understatement.
Also weighing against the company was the particular requirements befitting right-hand drive vehicles. Although in theory this shouldn’t have impeded the prospects of exporting to neighbouring countries in Asia, said nations were instead able to capitalise on their low-cost positioning. These requirements also prevented Ford from exporting to the likes of the US or other parts of the world. When the local arm of the company sought permission to produce the Ford Falcon in left-hand drive (several times in fact), its parent company in the US was having none of it. The economies of scale were never there to provide efficiency gains.
When the company’s changes did come, they were usually slow-moving or reactive in nature. As the Falcon continued to be pushed heavily by the company, the likes of the Ford Territory (and its successors) and Ford Focus hatch were overlooked for too long while competitors made advancements. In the last 20 years, Australian SUV sales have increased over 20 fold. The corresponding market share has increased from around 8% in 1995, to approximately 37% by the end of 2015 – and these numbers continue to rise. Meanwhile, passenger vehicles have gone from approximately 77% to 43% market share in the same period.
Ford was also largely propped up by government intervention and regulation. Not only were taxation benefits and direct financial aid afforded to the company, but the market had to be ‘artificially’ managed by way of taxes and duties after it had been opened up in the 1980’s to allow motorists greater access to imports. The introduction of a luxury car tax and import tariffs sought to all but direct customers towards our local vehicles but consumers followed their needs.
While the effects of a recently overvalued Australian dollar did not impact Ford as it did with Holden and Toyota, government assistance became a necessity to prop the company upright – across the industry, this is believed to be $12bn over the last 20 years. With each year that passed, the prospect that Ford’s production could remain viable within our market became increasingly dim. And ultimately, all the major parties in this story bear some degree of responsibility for Ford’s sad farewell.
There’s a calling that emanates from a relatively innocuous hill in the central west of New South Wales. But this bump in the earth’s surface, just to the south of the former gold mining town of Bathurst, is home to a road that doubles as a race track and, once a year, becomes the home of “The Great Race“. That calling, to a place known as “The Mountain”, to Mount Panorama, entices the faithful and the dedicated with their almost tribal allegiances to a driver or a team, and since the 1990s, has coloured their blood red or blue exclusively. You’re either a Holden bloke or a Ford bloke, such is the barrier.Holden Special Vehicles, HSV, was born out of the breakdown in the relationship between car manufacturer, Holden, and its formerly favourite son, race car driver Peter Brock. Brock had taken over the running of the Holden Dealer Team and had formed an after market division, which eventually lead to Holden breaking off their supply deal. In 1987, Holden signed an agreement with Scottish born driver and businessman, Tom Walkinshaw, forming a joint venture that was named Holden Special Vehicles.One of the first products of that union was based on the Holden VL Commodore; HSV fitted an aerodynamically tested body kit, painted in a silver with hints of blue. Known colloquially as “The Batmobile” due to the add ons, the Holden VL Commodore SS Group A SV would set the tone for many of the following products.In 2016, HSV unveiled two limited edition models. Using the Clubsport as the donor, there is the Limited Edition SV Black, available in both sedan and ute bodies. The other is a car that harkens directly to the history of motorsport and was driven in Bathurst, the HSV Clubsport R8 Track Edition. Clad in “Sting” red paint, with yellow AP Racing brake calipers visible through gunmetal grey “Blade” alloys at 20 inches in diameter, the Track Edition makes for an ideal way to nod at Australia’s diverse and rich motorsport history.Mount Panorama is unique amongst the world’s motorsport circuits; its peak is 874 metres above sea level and there’s a height differential of 174 metres between the peak and the lowest point of the track, the starting straight. There’s slopes as tight as one in six and a corner said to have the highest tyre load of any race circuit in Australia plus the fastest corner in touring car racing. There’s a couple of cold facts.What isn’t cold is the warmth the place generates for the fans of motorsport that make the annual pilgrimage “out west”. There’s good natured rivalry, with supporters of the red and the blue sharing campsites, gags, memories and, importantly, a love of a good V8.The Track Edition packs a 340 kW/570 Nm 6.2L LS3 V8, pinched from Chevrolet. There’s a real transmission, a six speed manual, with an almost too light clutch. It’s unlike older cars, where the joke ran along the lines of being able to tell a HSV owner due to the size of the calf muscle in the left leg. It’s easy to push and balance on the throttle when required and it helps that the gear selector is couched in a definitive feeling gate mechanism. There’s a satisfying snick/snick/snick as you change up or down, as satisfying as the sound of a cold one being opened in the camping grounds.It’s a big heart, the LS3 V8. There’s a bore of near as dammit 104 mm, a stroke of 92 mm, with a free revving nature to boot. That peak power comes in at a typically high 6000 rpm, and the peak torque at 4600 rpm. It’s a gentle upwards slope for that torque, though, with just over 400 of them waiting to be told what to do at just 1000 revs. Just like the denizens that pack The Mountain every October, it’s easy going, relaxed, unfussed…until it’s pushed. Leave it in sixth at legal speed and press the loud pedal. It’s called the loud pedal for a good reason. There’s a low, long, subterranean, growl that builds and builds and builds from the front, as the induction system sucks in litres and litres of air, mixing with dinosaur juice and spitting out the remains via the quad exhaust.That quad exhaust is linked to a dial in the humble looking cabin. There’s a choice of Touring, Sport and Performance. Leave the dial on Touring and at idle you’d be pressed to say the engine’s running. Move it to either of the other two and a pair of baffles open in the inner banks of the mufflers, opening the throat of the LS3 and letting the world know it’s an eight in a vee. From a standing start and driven the way a muscle bound car should be sees license goodby speeds reached in a few seconds, a roaring, chest thumping snarl from both ends as you pluck the gears, easily finding each cog as the beautifully weighted selector falls to hand and the clutch and accelerator dance in unison. At Northern Territory legal speeds, the engine is barely ticking over at 2000 rpm.The MacPherson struts up front and multilink rear end are sprung with linear rate coil springs and for a car weighing over 1800 kilos it’s adept, comfortable in the ride, eats unsettled surfaces and totally undermines any perception that a muscle car should be uncoordinated in the way it drives. Even the electrically augmented steering is light, two fingertip light and responds instantly, changing the direction of the red machine instantly, as the Continental 275/35/20 tyres grip at either end of the 2915 mm wheelbase.The suspension is taut, specially engineered to give an intoxicating mix of Supercar inferring ride, a superbly flat stance into corners and that slow in/fast out response a track aimed driver expects. In fact, the whole package is genuinely one your gran could drive, it’s that docile to use when not exploring the outer limits of the ability the Track Edition has. The car industry uses the term “surprise and delight” to describe certain aspects of a car and that applies to the way the HSV flows on the road.Inside, the lack of visual differentation is a surprise and not entirely a delight. HSV eschews the fabric stitched into the centre line that the donor vehicles have but has stayed with the dash mounted fabric found in the Holden SS. There’s the standard dash plastic and layout, with Holden’s MyLink touchscreen systen with Pandora and Stitcher apps. HSV’s EDI, Electronic Driver Interface, didn’t seem to be enabled in this car. There’s a thumping Bose sound system, beautiful in its clarity buck lacking a DAB tuner.It’s hard to suggest any changes however as 2017 beckons and with it the knowledge that Australia’s Own will close the doors as a big car maker down under.It’s an engine of many personalities, the LS3, just like those found around the camp sites at The Mountain, especially those at the top, called Skyline. A Wheel Thing commentated from the tower there in the mid noughties, alongside the great Barry Oliver, with an enduring memory being watching Army helicopters doing aerobatics…below the level of Skyline. It provides a sweeping vista north, across the circuit, over Bathurst itself and east to the western fringe of the Blue Mountains. Regulars will have their campsites setup with heaters, fencing, signs, and the obligatory ambers on ice. There’s jackets adorned with badges, faces adorned with beards, and kids faces wreathed in smiles when the HSV R8 Clubsport Track Edition visits the top of The Mountain.We’ve got the dial set to Touring, so as to not draw the ire of the campers as we seek a suitable site for some pictures. Photo session over, it’s into the campsite and espy a site with both the blue and red colours on the flags. Photographer Scott grins and says he has an idea. Moments later the rear of the red car is up against the fenceline, with a horde of the curious swarming over the car. They note the working bonnet air vents, the lack of visual identification that it’s a Track Edition outside, door sill and centre console the only places Track Edition is mentioned.There’s an eyeballing of the body coloured and black wing, the contrasting black inserts in the front bumper against the red and the slim black skirting along the sills of the near five metre long machine…a Ford bloke nudges his Holden mate and points towards the yellow six piston calipers from AP racing with HSV embossing, visible through those “Blade” alloys. Comments are made about the gloss black highlight of the bonnet badge, with the consensus being that it looks wrong. “Where’s the chrome?” asks one. Another in the crowd asks “Howsitgomateorright?” A nod, a smile and then the inevitable question…”Can we check out the donk?”The aluminuim bonnet is lifted and instantly the population around the car doubles, as does the number of cameraphones. The engine’s being quietly idling in the background, feeding the dual zone aircon a steady flow of cooling air inside, across the non heated or cooled leather seats and suede wrapped steerer.It takes only a moment’s breath before “Goonmategiveitago!” The 6.3L alloy block snarls in response, effortlessly sending the mechanical needle spinning past the over emphasised numbers on the tacho, eliciting a cheer from the red lion faithful, an appreciative nod from some of the blue oval brethren, before one grins, walks away, and starts up his blue oval badged V8 to answer the challenge issued by the HSV. It’s no contest, say many, the red car sounds best.There’s a price to pay for that exuberance. You can’t call 6.2 litres of Chevrolet’s finest economical, unless you own Saudi Arabia. Even those few stabs on the throttle have shifted the fuel needle, as fuel is sucked in from the 71 litre tank, nestled near the 496 litre boot.. The LS3 prefers a liquid diet of 98 RON unleaded and will show nothing less than 12.0L of liquid gold being consumed for every 100 kilometres covered, and that on the return trip from The Mountain on a greasy highway after light rains.The crowd have dispersed, with many words of thanks, plenty of pictures taken, and thoughts turn towards the coming weekend of endurance racing at the Mountain. HSV is inextricably linked with the history of the place, with Tom Walkinshaw himself having raced in a Jaguar XJ-S. The Track Edition, at $68990, is a wonderful nod and counterpoint to The Great Race, with Holden Special Vehicles building just 150 of the car for Australia and six for New Zealand, making it a rarity, unlike the variety of characters found around Mount Panorama.HSV was born, in a way, of The Mountain, so it was fitting to take the Track Edition there. The place is iconic, there’s names etched forever into the history of Mount Panorama and motorsport runs deep in the souls of those that journey there every year for their annual pilgrimage. That’s the allure of The Mountain and the allure of HSV.
Go here for the latest in HSV’s range: www.hsv.com.au
A Wheel Thing thanks Damon Paull at HSV and Scott Richardson for photos.
It’s a pity that the Tokyo Motor Show only comes around every two years. This is because this particular motor show is famous – or should that be notorious – for revealing some rather unusual concept cars. Yes, the world also gets to see some great new developments from the top Japanese manufacturers and designers, but we also love looking at and laughing at some of the downright crazy ideas that some designers come up with.
Mind you, are they that crazy? After all, speculation, imagination, exploring the limits of what’s possible and trying new things is how new technologies are invented. However, some ideas are crazier than others. Take the following offerings from the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show.
Just to get us all thinking, each of these concepts showcased here gets a craziness rating out of ten and a final verdict:
Nissan Teatro for Dayz:
Most of the interior, including the display panels, the interior lighting, the headrests and more can be customised via a smartphone app. It’s got built-in ability to take selfies. What happens when several passengers inside the car have the same app isn’t clear. It could also be vulnerable to hackers.
Craziness rating: 7/10
Verdict: Why not? It’s not that different from changing the playlist being streamed on the audio, really.
Nissan Concept 2020 Vision Gran Turismo
It looks like something a 13-year-old would doodle on the inside of a maths book, to pinch a brilliant phrase from Jeremy Clarkson. This is probably because it’s going to be driven at very high speeds by 13-year-old boys. Don’t panic: it’s only going to be driven virtually. This concept car is actually designed for the Grand Turismo 6 computer game.
Craziness rating: 4/10
Verdict: Almost a caricature of what a street racer or performance car should look like, so not really pushing the envelope. Not my cup of tea but if the rumours that it will inspire the styling of future sporting Nissans are true, it will be popular.
Honda Wander Stand
Shown in the picture alongside the more practical Honda Wander Walker scooter, the Wander Stand is a sort of box that fits two people and can move in eight directions (forward and back, left and right, and all four diagonals).
Craziness rating: 7/10
Verdict: There’s an older invention that works just as well most of the time, known as “feet”.
If the front end isn’t bizarre enough, just wait until you see the back of this dune buggy: it’s backside is naked, revealing the engine.
Craziness rating: 8/10
Verdict: The styling alone gets it a high craziness rating. And is this dune buggy actually supposed to be driven with a naked engine on actual real sand?
Suzuki Mighty Deck
The name’s bigger than the vehicle. This could be described as the mongrel offspring of a Mini and a single-cab ute. It’s teeny (and looks like a Mini Cooper at the front) but it has an open deck out the back. If you’re asking why, it’s because vans, trucks, utes and similar commercial vehicles get a tax break in Japan, even if they’re miniature.
Craziness rating: 5/10
Verdict: The idea of a teeny weeny ute that might just be able to fit a lamb or a Labrador is ludicrous to the typical Aussie mind (especially if you’re a rural type) but if it’s done to make the most of a tax loophole, that’s actually quite sensible. It has a certain cute factor but I won’t be buying one.
Mercedes-Benz Vision Tokyo
It’s self-driving. It looks like a prop from a sci-fi movie (mind you, so do plenty of other concept cars). The seating is more like a couch where the passengers (there is no driver) face each other and the steering wheel (should you want one) retracts or pops out. Maps and the like are projected in the middle of the cabin as holograms.
Craziness rating: 9/10
Verdict: Where’s the lightsabre storage compartment and the teleporter?
The name seems to be a blend of two dwarves from Tolkien’s The Hobbit, but this actually is quite a good idea. The point of the Noriori is that you can get wheelchairs and prams into it very easily, then lock them in place.
Craziness rating: 4/10
Verdict: Could be some issues with seatbelt compliance regulations but a nice thought.
Toyoda Gosei Flesby
It’s soft and squashy, meaning that if you hit a pedestrian, he/she won’t be hurt (much), at least not if you’re travelling at low speeds. It’s steered via joysticks, and can customise the lighting, scent and posture depending on the driver’s mood… which it senses.
Craziness rating: 7/10
Verdict: I wanted to give this a higher craziness rating because the idea of a squishy soft car steered by joysticks that picks out a scent to suit what it thinks is your mood is so quirky. However, developing materials to enhance pedestrian safety isn’t that wacky, so I knocked off a couple of points on those grounds.
Now, here’s hoping that in 30 years’ time, people don’t look at this post and shake their heads at our lack of foresight because we thought some of these ideas were crazy…