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Archive for August, 2017

Why You Need To Keep Left

… Because you’ll be killed in a head-on smash, that’s why.

OK, let’s clarify a few things here.  Obviously, all of us need to drive on the road so that we don’t bump into other drivers.  When Car A is travelling north at 65 km/h on a road and Car B is travelling southwards at 85 km/h and the road is – whoops, channelled the old-fashioned maths books there for a moment – anyway, how do they keep from bumping into one another? Very simply, in Australia, we have agreed to keep to the left.

So why the left?  Why not the right?  In Australia, we can put this down to our colonial heritage.  We were colonised by the UK, which is why you’re reading this in English, so all that happened is that they imported their road rules along with the roads.

OK, so why do the Brits drive on the left-hand side of the road?

As a matter of fact, it wasn’t just the Brits who drove on the left-hand side of the road back in the horse and carriage days.  According to one source, everybody used to drive on the left once upon a time.  The reasons for this went back to the Romans (like the standard gauge on railway tracks) and possibly even earlier than this.  This is because of two facts about human beings: (1) the majority are right-handed and (2) we have belligerent tendencies.  Anyone approaching you head-on could be an enemy or at least a potential jerk who doesn’t know how to drive his/her oxcart properly, and you might need to defend yourself and/or teach the jerk a lesson.  Road rage is nothing new. In fact, it pre-dates roads, as one Egyptian tomb painting illustrates: it shows two boatmen having a punch up (with one spouting hieroglyphics that were translated as “Take that, you f***er!”) after having rammed each other on the Nile.  Anyway, if you’re right-handed and want to have your sword hand on the side nearest the potential oncoming enemy, you kept left.  This applied even to foot traffic – and was made official law for tourists pilgrims according to a Papal Edict in the 1300s.

If you’ve ever seen jousting in one of those historical re-enactment displays, you’ll see the origins of the “keep left” principle in action.  If you’re a knight, you keep your lance tucked firmly under yourright arm and then keep left in the lists so the lance hits the other guy, not your own horse’s head. It’s common sense.

We also mount horses and bikes from the left so our right hands do the balancing or take our weight (or hang onto the saddle in case the horse decides to take off while you’re halfway through the proceedings).  To make things easy getting on and off, you want to do this from the kerb, so you keep on the side nearest the kerb.  Even today, look at the tilt on the kickstand on a modern motorbike: it leans left so that the majority of bikers can get on and off comfortably (question: are there left-handed motorbikes that lean the other way?  Must ask my left-handed biker brother-in-law.)

So why on earth did people start to keep right in some parts of the world?   The person to blame is supposedly Napoleon.  According to some accounts, he may have been left-handed, so he insisted on doing things the left-handed way.  Alternatively, it may have just been the tendency of nutty dictators to make their armies walk in a funny way just because (think of Nazi Germany or North Korea).  A more boring theory puts it down to the habit of driving large teams of horses which meant that the driver had to sit on the left with the whip in his left hand (though don’t ask me why this was necessary).  And, thanks to the French Revolution, nuts to any Papal Edicts that had been knocking around since the Middle Ages!

Drive on zat side of ze road!

Anyway, the habit of driving on the right started in France and spread, along with French manners and Napoleon’s empire, around large chunks of Europe.  It also became the habit in the US, partly because one of the generals in the War of Independence was French (General Lafayette) and partly because they didn’t want to do things like the Brits did, and the Brits had defiantly refused to change the good old-fashioned habit just because Napoleon had said to. I say, old chap, we won’t do that!

As an aside, the French and the Americans deciding to do things the opposite of the Brits, whom they hated, was also responsible for the “pink for girls, blue for boys” thing.  Posh Brits wanting to dress their offspring in gender-distinct colours picked pink for boys, as this was considered a strong, bold colour that was a baby version of military red; blue was already associated with the Virgin Mary and was considered softer, gentler and more soothing.  The French, however, had their soldiers in blue uniforms and, sacré bleu, were going to reflect this in their baby clothes; thanks to the Revolution when they all officially became athiests/agnostics, who cares about Mary? The Yanks also hated the Redcoats, so they ditched pink for boys as well.

Anyway, I digress.  The French and the Americans decided to do things their way and introduce keeping right.  Those sharing a continent with them often ended up following suit and because they’d spent time under Napoleon’s possibly left thumb.  As the use of the motorcar spread, those sharing continents with them also made the shift from left to right to avoid cross-border carnage and also because they wanted posh American cars.

However, those of us with our own motoring industries in countries where the border is the beach kept to the old traditions, mostly because we don’t have the cross-border muddles and we produced our own posh cars, thank you.  The UK, Australia, New Zealand and Japan all drive on the left. So does India, probably because of the lengthy period of British colonialization.  Around one-third of the world still keeps left.

However, according to some road safety experts, keeping left versus keeping right isn’t as inconsequential and trivial as, say, the colours you use to show whether Bubs is a boy or a girl. The majority of the population is still right-handed and right-eyed, so it makes sense to have your dominant hand on the wheel actually controlling the direction of the car while the non-dominant hand moves the gears, and to have your dominant eye getting the best view of the traffic.

There has actually been a study, carried out in the late 1960s by a chap called J.J Leeming (who was a Brit – which may have biased his results), which suggests that when you take all other factors into account, the road accident rate is slightly higher in countries that drive on the right compared with those that drive on the left, thanks to the handedness factor. I have attempted to find out whether these results, originally published in a wee book called Road Accidents: Prevent or Punish? have been verified, but Google Scholar doesn’t seem to reveal any that directly compare accident rates in left-side countries versus right-side countries controlling for other factors.  Any civil engineering grad students out there looking for a good thesis topic who want to do this?

And there you have it: keeping left is possibly the oldest road safety rule known to humanity.  Keeping left isn’t fighting the natural preferences of the majority (sorry, lefties!).  So make sure you do it!

Holden On For The Future: Commodore VXR.

We’re not far from seeing the cessation of automotive manufacturing here in Australia, with Holden, Toyota, and HSV due to wrap up before the end of 2017. Holden will move to fully sourcing cars from Europe and with the sale of Opel to PSA Group, owner of Peugeot and Citroen, have a potentially larger portfolio to choose from. In the interim, however, Holden has provided details of the forthcoming Commodore and that’s a decision that’s divided Holden fans. That decision is to have kept the nameplate of Commodore and not move to something else.
Gone is the SS nameplate and replacing it is VXR. Here are the details.It packs a 3.6-litre V6 engine pumping out 235W and 381Nm, is paired with a 9-speed transmission and adaptive all-wheel drive system boasting torque vectoring technology and a twin-clutch rear differential. Combined with the selectable drive modes, the all-new Commodore VXR blends power with control for ultimate driver engagement. Differentiating the VXR as the jewel in the next-generation Commodore crown, the range-topping model boasts Brembo front brakes and a unique sports set-up allowing drivers to switch between driving modes. Driver-adjustable settings include Continuous Damping Control (CDC), steering, transmission and the adaptive AWD system.

The next-generation Commodore VXR will be on sale alongside the rest of the sedan range, along with Sportwagon and Tourer body styles, in early 2018.NEXT-GENERATION COMMODORE VXR KEY HIGHLIGHTS:

Performance credentials:
3.6-litre V6 engine
9-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifter select
Adaptive AWD with torque vectoring
Hi-per strut suspension
Three driver-select modes for engaging drive experience;

Sports inspired styling:
Front and rear sports fascias
Unique VXR rear lip spoiler
20-inch alloy wheels
Unique VXR sports performance front seats
Heated and ventilated leather front seats

Cutting-edge driver assistance systems and technology:
Next-generation Adaptive LED Matrix headlights
360 degree camera
Autonomous Emergency Braking (with pedestrian protection)
Adaptive Cruise Control
Lane Departure Warning
Lane Keep Assist
Forward Collision Alert
Side Blind-Zone Alert
Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
Head Up Display

The next generation Commodore VXR also adds sports styling to its “Sculptural Artistry Meets German Precision” design language with bespoke twenty inch wheels, larger rear spoiler, front and rear sports fascias, and premium VXR sill plates.

Head to www.holden.com.au for details on the current and forthcoming range.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2017 Kia Cerato Sport.

Car makers have a habit of badging a vehicle and calling it a Sports model. Holden did it with the SV6 Commodore, Ford’s Falcon XR6, Toyota with the Camry and Aurion…generally it’s cosmetic and that’s it. Kia has jumped on the sports wagon and added one to the Cerato family as the 2017 Kia Cerato Sport. It’s priced at $24790 RRP plus metallic paint (Snow White metallic pearl on the test car) at $520.Mechanically you get Kia’s free spinning two litre petrol four. It’s good for 112 kilowatts (6200 rpm) and 192 torques (4000 rpm). It’s a six speed auto in the test car. The ratios see around 2250 on the tacho for the state limit in Australia of 110 kph. Economy is claimed to be, from a fifty litre tank of standard unleaded, 9.9L/100 km for the city, a more reasonable 5.7 L/100 km for the highway, and a combined figure of 7.3L/100 km. Private Fleet saw a best of 6.2L/100 kilometres on a jaunt to the upper south coast of NSW and back.Externally you get a lithe, slippery, sinuously shaped 4560 mm long body with a solitary Sport badge on the left rear, the addition of a small bootlid spoiler above the 421 litre boot, sweet looking alloys and Nexen rubber of a 215/45/17 profile, with the overall look of a wheel and tyre combination failing to look as if they fit and fill the wheelwells. Perhaps 18s and a 50 series tyre would look more as if they’d fill the hole, but at what cost for ride quality? The Schreyer grille is a touch more upright and adds a visible extra toughness.To add to the Sport, you get a black valance for the rear bumper, globe driving lights in the front (no LED driving lights, they’re reserved for the top of the range SLi) and a number of features shared with the models either side, the S and Si, such as front and rear parking sensors, mirror mounted indicator lights, and folding heated exterior mirrors. The headlights slide deep into the fenders and have a white plastic insert that does nothing for lighting but breaks up the look to provide a bit more visual appeal. However, they’re not as sharped edged and attractive as sister car, Hyundai’s Elantra. The rear lights have also been given a slight makeover, with the look now more akin to a Euro style car.Internally it’s standard Kia; great ergonomics, clean layout and easy to read dash and console controls, cloth seats (shared with the S and covered in a harder wearing weave), a man made leather wrapped driver’s binnacle, 2 twelve volt sockets and USB, plenty of leg room inside the 2700 mm wheelbase and shoulder room in the small mid sized sedan thanks to an overall width of 1780 mm. Airconditioning is controlled by old school dials; old school they may be but there’s nothing simpler than a dial with pictures to tell you how hot/cold, how much blowing speed and where it’s going. Naturally there’s Bluetooth and a reverse camera to complement the six airbags plus there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on board.Audio and satnav are controlled via a seven inch touchscreen and it’s here where technology niggles. From Start, the screen shows a warning message and requires human intervention to agree and move forward. I’m not a fan of such a program, whereas a timed delay before reverting to the radio screen would be more appropriate. The satnav is brilliant in look and usage, showing a proper geographical perspective for the surrounding lands, and can be zoomed/expanded via the radio tuning knob on the right hand side.The driver faces a simple two dial layount, with speed and engine rev counter taking pride of place and fuel & engine temperature in two small sectioned locations to the bottom. In between the main dials is the info screen, with servicing intervals, speed, economy, trip meters and more available via the steering wheel mounted tabs. Again, typical, user friendly, human oriented Kia. The dash design overall hasn’t changed much, with the ovoid, curved, look and sweeping vertically oriented lines breaking up an otherwise somewhat slabby black plastic look.The six speed auto in the test car didn’t exhibit anything out of the ordinary nor was it the slickest, smoothest, transmission around. Hesitant and jerky sometimes from low throttle start, sometimes sweet and unfussed, barely noticeable in changes at speed, easily self changing on slight slopes and descents to holding a gear too long on a downhill or uphill run and requiring manual intervention. There’s three dive modes (Sport/Normal/Eco) and only rarely was Sport called upon for it’s quicker shifting. A mixed bag and not one of the best nor worst around and not really deserving of a Sport moniker.

The ride itself though is a delight and shows off the fettling Kia’s engineers have added. It’s well damped in the McPherson strut front/coupled torsion beam rear, with smaller lumps and bumps quickly dialled out, quick rebound from bigger dips and undualtions, however there was a sideways skip occasionally on some unsettled surfaces. The front benefits from uprated springs, adding a poise and nimbleness in turn-in.Tyre pressures were crucial, too, with 36 psi having the Cerato Sport feeling taut, grippy but also a touch skatey in tighter corners. Around 32 psi would provide the ideal balnce for ride and handling. You get a sense of agility, confidence, and tactility though, with a feeling that it’d require some serious issues to lose grip. But the electrically assisted steering is perhaps a little too eager to help, lacking real feedback and communication, with numbness on centre and an artifical weight once wound left and right plus a sense of twitchiness requiring the driver to add in minute corrections as you pedal along.

Acceleration is adequate without much sparkle, meaning a good press of the go pedal to move the 1309 kilo plus cargo is needed. Seat of the pants says around 8 to 9 seconds to 100 kph. The engine is smooth and never feels stresed as it climbs through the numbers but will sound a touch harsh and metallic as it gets over 4500.

The Cerato Sport gets the basics in electronic safety, such as Vehicle Stability Management, Hill Start Assist but being closer to entry level it misses out on Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning and the like. However there’s the embedded seven year warranty and fixed price servicing, with a maximum cost of $487 in the fourth service.At The End Of The Drive.
The cynical part of society would question adding a Sport nomenclature to a vehicle that basically isn’t. One would look for a turbo engine, perhaps a close ratio manual, a sports style front dam and side skirts. But, as mentioned, other makers have a standard car, added a bit of plastic and left the engine and transmission untouched. Kia’s Cerato Sport is pretty much this but slightly less, lacking side skirts and a definable Sport look. The cynical part of me would say that the firecracker turbo engine from the lamented Pro Ceed GT and the quad LED driving lights plus a standalone boot lid spoiler would be a look more befitting of a car to wear a Sport badge…
To make up your own mind and book a test drive, here’s the link to the 2017 Kia Cerato sedan

Kia Australia Releases Pricing For The Highly Anticipated Stinger.

Kia’s highly-anticipated Stinger performance GT will hit the Australian market with a sub-$60,000 recommended retail price. The Stinger, one of the most highly anticipated cars of 2017, will provide a top-end performer at a realistic price across the full 3.3-litre bi-turbo V6 range. With 272kW of power and 510Nm of torque the Stinger is capable of a launch control assisted 4.9 second 0-100km/h sprint and a low 13 second standing quarter.Starting at $48,990 for the S, through $55,990 for the mid-spec Si and on to $59,990 for the fully-loaded GT, the Stinger brings the style, the refinement and the power usually available only to owners with substantially deeper pockets.”It was critical for us to bring this car to as wide an audience as possible … something I believe we have achieved with the pricing we have been able to settle on,” Kia Motors Australia Chief Operating Officer, Damien Meredith said.“From the outset it was a goal to get a bi-turbo V6 into the market under $50,000. We have done that with room to spare.”Mr Meredith said the decision to announce 3.3-litre pricing ahead of the Stinger’s October arrival was to provide confidence to the substantial number of buyers who have shown faith in putting down a deposit without knowing a final price.”Almost all of the confirmed orders are for the 3.3-litre, so it makes sense to provide those customers with as much clarity as we can while they wait to take possession of their new cars.”Pricing for the 2.0-litre model is in the final stages of being settled and will be released as soon as it has been finalised. Go here to register your interest:Kia Australia Stinger registration

With thanks to Kia for images and content.

Road Rage.

Road rage. Two words guaranteed to trigger responses, raise hackles, flush cheeks, cause divisions and have opinions. But what is road rage? Wikipedia provided a simple, unambiguous meaning: “Road rage is aggressive or angry behavior by a driver of an automobile or other road vehicle which includes rude gestures, verbal insults, physical threats or dangerous driving methods targeted toward another driver in an effort to intimidate or release frustration.”

In NSW we have seen a couple of high profile examples of road rage recently, however it’s a daily occurence for unknown numbers. What do we see? People speeding past; changing lanes with no signal; weaving dangerously across three and four lanes; passing too closely on either side of your car; speeding up to block you out; not allowing you to change lanes or merge on or off the highway; racing other drivers (i.e., two maniacs who think car-handling skills are better than they actually are); roaring up behind as if they might intentionally rear-end you; constant tailgating; horn honking; flashing high beams at your mirror when you are in “their” fast lane; finger flipping; screaming out the window; causing or creating accidents; pulling over to fight; or worse, kill the other driver.

Whom do we see doing it? Frankly, just about anyone. However it’s also no longer a gender specific issue, as Psychology Today (USA based) says: Women may not get into roadside fistfights or point guns at each other like men, but they can drive just as aggressively, rudely, and even dangerously.

Personal experience from my point of view does, sadly, back up the validity of the comment. Even more sadly, a good proportion of the drivers one could describe as driving badly are P platers, those that would have finished their training anywhere between a few days to three years before, with a slight leaning towards males being “assertive” on their driving styles.

But there’s so many things that constitute bad driving that inflame and raise the ire of other drivers. A number of surveys point, somewhat oddly, to drivers failing to indicate as a major heart rate raiser. I say oddly given the sheer amount of vehicles with “broken indicators”….There’s little doubt a favourite is the slow lane speeders, those that hold up other drivers at a velocity below the speed limit on a single lane yet somehow find the extra effort to keep pace or move forward of you when a lane for overtaking becomes available.

Another seeming favourite is the tailgater, with “braketesting” a close follower. Driver’s that’ll sit right on the rear of your car for no apparent reason, and especially when there’s no possibility of them overtaking on either side due to traffic numbers. The braketesters, the ones that slow suddenly and again for no apparent reason, are in there as a road rager.

A comment from a follower of a road safety and driver education social media page was: “Those that drive at night with just their DRLs (daytime driving lights) and forget that the tail lights don’t come on so you can’t see them. And when you flash your lights at them to try and get them to turn theirs on they become aggressive.”

But what of the reactions? One response was: “people are genuinely sick and tired of bad drivers when there’s no need for bad driving.” Is there a level of impatience with people that simply don’t seem to be able to do something that genuinely isn’t that hard?

We’d like to hear from you. Tell us your experiences of road rage and why you think it exists.

How Will The Police Force Replace Their Fords and Holdens?

We all know that the Holden Commodore has been an Aussie icon on the roads for quite a few years now.  We’ve also all seen Holden Commodores tricked out as police cars… sometimes a bit too close for comfort and sometimes as a very welcome sight indeed. If you are both sharp-eyed and lead-footed, then the sight and shape of any white Commodore of a certain age is enough to get you easing up on the accelerator and slowing down; the shape is burned into your brain like the shape of a hawk is burned into the brain of a chicken (yes, chickens actually do have brains).

It also appears that the red lion vs blue oval rivalry might be alive and well in the police force, as all the points above also apply to Ford Falcons, including the bit about the shape being burned into the brains of the lead-footed.

However, the doors of the Holden factory are closing. So are Ford’s, which means that if our police force wants to have a vehicle fleet that’s up to date, they need to look for another company.  Naturally, car manufacturers around the globe have been eyeing up the contract of providing our police cars… and not just for the honour of the job but also for the very big bucks this sort of contract would entail.

So what are our boys and girls in blue going to be driving?

Rumours are flying thick and fast.  Browsing through the Australian Federal Police and the NSW police websites don’t exactly yield a lot of information about what the new vehicle is going to be – it’s all kept very, very quiet.  However, the rumour mill has popped up a couple of possibilities that could very well be in the running for what we’ll see on the roads sporting the disco lights and with the word POLICE proudly emblazoned on the side (hopefully not pulling up your driveway when you hadn’t dialled 000).

It’s not easy being a cop car.  A cop car has to have great handling and plenty of power and torque for quick responses. It shouldn’t look ridiculous and it should have enough space for all the gadgetry that a modern cop needs. (Question: how come talking on the phone is considered distracting to the common or garden driver but communicating with dispatchers and other units while driving isn’t distracting to a cop?)  A cop car also needs to have enough space to transport the newly arrested naughty people where they can’t be a problem to the driver, and possibly enough space to carry a K-9 officer.  It also shouldn’t cost the earth to purchase or maintain, so that rules out all the fancy wheels used by the police in the United Arab Emirates.  We’re paying enough tax without that sort of expense!

The rumour mill has ground out a few possibilities for what’s going to be the replacement for the Fords and Holdens.  One very likely contender at the moment is the Chrysler 300 SRT .  One of these V8-engined sedans was spotted wearing the NSW Police livery back in May.

However, FCA Australia (the official name of Chrysler Australia) haven’t exactly been trumpeting the winning of the contract all over their website the way you think they would do if they had sealed the contract. There are other possibilities still in the running:

Volvo XC60 SUVs, which provide a bit of off-road capacity plus Volvo’s legendary safety standards, have also been spotted with the disco lights fitted.  Volvo does police cars for other countries, so it’s got a proven track record in this area.

The Kia Stinger is another hot contender and certainly has a beautifully appropriate name – what else would you use in a police sting operation other than a Stinger?  This new release V6 sedan isn’t the only offering put up for consideration by Kia, with the Sorento SUV being in the running. The Kias are hot contenders because as well as offering plenty of bang, they don’t require quite as many bucks as some of the luxury European contenders, such as the BMW 5-series.

Another South Korean in the running is the Hyundai Sonata Active , a number of which have recently been added to the Queensland police fleet, although the rumour mill has it that these needed a few tweaks to the brakes and tyres (and possibly some other tweaks they’re not telling the general public about).

Up until now, the general policy was to use locally made cars as much as possible. However, now that the local factories have gone belly up, it’s quite possible that instead of just getting one or two main marques serving as the police fleet in most states, we’re going to see a range of decent mid-range sedans, station wagons and SUVs in police livery.  Which will make it a problem for the leadfooted among us who have conditioned themselves to react to the shape of a certain model: you’ll never be able to pick a patrol from a distance…

So that’s their game!

Which Driving Habits are Damaging Your Car

We’ve previously detailed some of the frustrating and pointless driving habits we witness on our roads. But what about the habits that we should be mindful of that have the potential to damage our car. Not only could these habits pose an inconvenience by forcing you off the road, they may also involve costly repairs. Let’s take a look at some of these driving habits.

 

Harsh Braking or Accelerating

While the thrill of accelerating is a joy to some, harsh accelerating, as well as sudden braking, can both lead to earlier maintenance. When accelerating in this manner you put the car’s engine under more stress. What’s more, if the engine isn’t fully warm, the wear on the engine is even more pronounced because oil has yet to be circulated through the engine system.

Sudden braking on the other hand can shorten the life span of the brakes, brake pads and rotors. Furthermore, if you’re inclined to ride the brakes, they will be worn down faster by way of the heat generated. Like you were taught in your driving lessons, you should always maintain a smooth transition when accelerating or braking.

 

Riding the Clutch

When it comes to manual vehicles, riding the clutch can lead to its own complications. Pressure from the clutch, regardless of how little, raises plates away from the flywheel. Without the friction between the clutch and the flywheel, the flywheel begins to slip leading to wear. Over time, this can lead to the clutch failing. Also when it comes to manual cars, keep an eye out for being in the wrong gear, which can deteriorate the engine and cylinder heads.

 

Ignoring the Hand Brake

Hand brakes were designed for a reason. To support the weight of the car while it is parked. When you opt not to use the hand brake, all the car’s weight is transferred to another component in the transmission of the vehicle – the parking prawl. The thing is, once you start to excessively load this part, it will eventually fail and render the parking in your transmission useless. Similarly, when you’re on a hill, you should be particularly precise to put the car’s transmission into neutral first, before setting the hand brake. Once you’ve done this and released the brakes, you may then subsequently shift the transmission into park.

 

Running the Fuel Tank Dry

Many of us are guilty of this. And in fact, you don’t even have to run the tank empty to cause problems. Problems may eventuate by leaving the tank at a low level. How? Well, fuel acts as a lubricant. Modern day fuels also have cleansing properties designed to look after the fuel pump and filter. When you run your fuel low, you can allow rust and dirt from the bottom of the tank to enter and damage the fuel filter.

 

Not Breaking the Car In Slowly

You know how during the early kilometres of your new vehicle there is a ‘break in’ period where it is advised you don’t drive aggressively? Well, that’s not just for your own safety. This is a form of conditioning, where you effectively allow a newly built vehicle to settle in and become accustom to stress from operation. While modern day cars do some form of this during manufacturing, it is still recommended that you don’t push it too hard during these early stages or you may compromise the vehicle’s life span ever so slightly.

 

Not Paying Attention to the Warning Signs

Just like you would listen to your body if it was telling you something wrong, you should listen to your vehicle. If you receive warning lights on your dashboard, make sure you understand what they are and that you address the problem. The sophistication of these systems is quite advanced, even when it comes to informing you of maintenance. If you start to delay maintenance, you may compound any existing problems and allow oils to turn into sludge that can damage the engine.

 

Private Fleet Car Review: 2017 Kia Sportage Si Premium.

Kia’s Sportage is one of the brands oldest nameplates for the Australian market. From its somewhat rough and ready, if competent, beginnings in the 1990s, it’s morphed into a handsome, bluff nosed, popular machine in the mid sized SUV market.
Available in 2017 as a four trim level range, covering Si, Si Premium, SLi, and GT-Line (formerly Platinum), there’s three engines, one transmission, and two or part time all wheel drive options. Private Fleet takes the entry level but one 2017 Kia Si Premium front wheel drive home for the week. The cost is $31510 with premium paint (a grey hued colour called Mineral Silver) at $520.Sportage comes with a choice of 2.0L petrol, 2.4L petrol, or 2.0L diesel. Power outputs for the diesel and bigger petrol are just a kilowatt apart, at 136 kW and 135 kW respectively. The Si and Si Premium has the 114 kW 2.0L four (plus the diesel is an option for the Si). Torque wise it’s a steady climb, from 192 Nm, 237 Nm (both at 4000 rpm) and a handy 400 Nm (1750 – 2750 rpm) for the oiler. For the Si, Kia says economy is 10.9L/7.9L/6.1L (per 100 kilometres, urban/combined/highway) from the 62 litre tank. Our final figure was 8.4L of unleaded per 100 kilometres in a mainly urban environment. Sizewise it’s well situated in the mid sized SUV bracket, with length at 4480 mm, overall width of 1855 mm, a wheelbase of 2670 mm and a ride height of 172 mm. Spare wheel is a full sized alloy.The sole transmission available is a six speed auto. There’s no paddle shifts available in the Si or Si Premium however there’s the now almost mandatory Sports shift or manual selection via the gear lever. For the most part it’s smooth enough but did exhibit occasional jerkiness and indecision. The auto would also downshift, from sixth to fifth and sometimes fourth under light throttle on slight slopes. On bigger slopes such as the Great Western Highway’s climb up from the river plain, it’s expected it would drop back, and did so easily, plus would hold that gear with only the throttle responsible for rev changes. In normal driving upshifts were slick, quiet, however light throttle on a cold engine seemed to have the cold also annoying the transmission’s electronics, with the hesitancy and judder found in older style autos.Give the Si Premium a solid push on the go pedal and it does drop back easily, as mentioned. What you’ll also get is the mechanical keen from the 2.0L as it winds its way rapidly through the rev range. The 114 kilowatts comes in at 6200 rpm and the engine certainly gives no sign it’ll struggle to reach those numbers. Acceleration is decent enough however there’s a sense that more could be on offer but doesn’t reach the front driven 225/55/18 rubber from Nexen. The 1560 kilogram kerb weight may be one reason. Braking is good, with the 305 mm vented fronts and 302 mm solid rears responding quickly and effectively every time the beautifully balanced and communicative brake pedal is pushed.The McPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension tie the Sportage down well. Although it theoretically could do some soft roading, tarmac is its natural friend and the two go well together. There’s a sense of balance in the way the Si Premium handles itself, with the tight corners for the Old Bathurst Road that snakes its way up from Penrith in Sydney’s west despatched as easily as the dips and undulations on the freeway system that rings the western parts of Sydney. Kia’s engineers spend a lot of time refining the spring and damper settings for Australian spec roads and it shows.

The Sportage is rarely fussed about the road surface, is quiet on all but the coarsest chip surfaces, and seat of the pants feedback tells you that even in quick sideways movement that it’s as composed as if it were standing still. The steering is quick at about 3.5 turns lock to lock, light in Normal mode, not much difference noticeably in Eco and feels a bit heavier, with more feedback in Sports, to round out the driving package. It helps move the Sportage from lane to lane quickly and without a sense of mass shifting direction, making for an almost sporting car drive.Apart from the tyre and wheel size between the Si and Si Premium (225/60/17 for Si), there’s also front parking sensors and electro-chromatic rear vision mirror to differentiate. The Premium also picks up LED DRLs, rain sensing wipers, driver AND front passenger Auto up/down window switches, dual zone climate control, Auto defog system, and illuminated vanity mirrors. Seat trim is a black and charcoal grey weave for the cloth with the front pews manually adjusted for height and seat back angle via levers. The rear seats fold down flat via side mounted levers and provide up to 1455 litres of cargo space, up from 460L with the seats up.The black plastics throughout the cabin have a warm texture to them, with a sweep around the bottom of the windscreen not unlike a new Jaguar. The steering wheel hub has the same feel whilst the smoother plastics are that almost suede feel to the matt fiished buttons and suurounds. The seven inch colour touchscreen, which features satnav, another item the Si alone doesn’t get, sits between the central air vents and there’s an alloy look to the surrounds. There’s bottle holders in all doors, cup/bottle holders in the centre console and a small storage locker in the console as well. The driver’s dial binnacle houses a 3.5 inch monochrome screen with information such as trip, fuel economy, service status, accessed via tabs on the steering wheel. There’s plenty of rear seat leg room, even with the front seats pushed back and enough for most front seat passengers when that seat’s pushed forward. All over and around, it’s typically high quality Kia.The touchscreen has a pseudo radio “dial look”, good quality sound, Bluetooth and Auxiliary/USB campatible, but notably no CD slot. In place of that is voice activated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. When in Reverse, the camera provides a clear enough picture but it’s not as clear and sharply defined as others available. There’s also a pair of 12V sockets at the front of the centre console and one at the rear, allowing for extra USB ports if needed. Aircon controls are simple to use, clean to look at, and the Synch button lights up when it’s a mono zone control, meaning temperature adjustment is for both right and left seats.Outside, the Sportage is stubby tailed, long bonneted, with a steeply raked windscreenbehind Kia’s signature Schreyer grille, and rear window, with a thickish C pillar and profile that reminds one of the original Sportage. The update in 2016 lost the angular and sloped headlights, changing them to an insert style that flows from the more upright nose back along the bonnet shut line. The Sportage designers may have taken inspiration from a classic sci-fi film for the design of the inner headlights, with the look not unlike at all the tri-lensed aliens from War Of The Worlds. The front bumper also has inserts for the globe lit daytime driving lights in each corner, matching the height of the rear’s indicator cluster located low in the rear bumper, not higher up inside the rear light cluster, a staple of the Sportage design.Naturally there’s plenty of safety on board in the form of six airbags, traction control, DBC or Downhill Brake Control and HAC (Hill start Assist Control). Only the GT-Line gets Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, Forward Collision Warning System, and Lane Departure Warning System. Servicing is yearly or 15000 kilometres plus capped at a cost of around $2756 over the seven years.

At The End Of The Drive.
Kia Sportage range stands up to be counted in a very crowded market. It’s a car that’s full of class and oozes plenty of style. Consider sibling Tucson from Hyundai, Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape, Renault’s brilliant Koleos, VW Tiguan and you get the idea of what it’s up against. With a strong list of standard equipment, a free revving petrol engine (and the diesel’s pretty damned good), a comfortable drive, and that seven year warranty, it acquits itself with dignity and poise. Kia’s 2017 Sportage range deserves to be on your radar when looking out for a new mid sized SUV.
For specifications and more, head over to :Kia Australia’s website and Sportage

Car Review: 2017 Kia Soul

Kia’s Soul is one of those cars that slips under the radar for no really good reason. Who knows if it’s the perception of the brand or of the name or the look, but it’s grossly unfair to disregard this car. Full stop.
Yes, it’s squarish. Yes, it looks somewhat odd, like the two or three other squarish designs. However, it’s roomy, effective, and a surprise. A mostly good surprise. Here’s a look at the 2017 Kia Soul, with the test vehicle fitted with a few extras.The 2017 model has undergone a mild facelift inside and out as of October 2016. It’s recognisably Kia inside, with a look familiar to anyone that has spent time in one of the brand’s car. Outside, it’s a change to the grille & air intake, front bumper, fog lamps, reflectors, and wheels. The interior gets a five inch screen for the audio system, with RDS (Radio Data Service) not included, the FlexSteer drive system with associated engine mapping and steering changes, a centre dash refresh, and changes to the seat coverings and door trims.It’s smaller outside than the design would have you believe, with an overall length of just 4140 mm and a wheelbase of 2570 mm maximises interior space. Overall width is decent at 1800 mm with shoulder room aplenty for four aboard. There’s one wheel size; 17 inches is the diameter and rubber comes from Nexus at 215/55. The spare is a spacesaver.The test car came clad in Inferno Red on the body and a Cherry Black roof, a $910 option cost over a single colour choice. Any single metallic is now just $620. A Clear White and Red roof combo will also be cost effective at $390. The review car came fitted with carpeted floor mats ($160), dash mat ($93 and superb at reducing windscreen reflection), an embossed and moulded cargo bay liner ($147), weathershields for the windows ($296) and an alloy roof rack set ($552) for a total cost of $1249 over the $24990 base cost and metallic paint. It’s a boxy shape, yes, but curvaceous enough to not be a completely hard edged look either. The window shields also aided in softening the edge plus it sits high enough in looks to almost be taken for a kind of SUV.The engine is a 112 kilowatt petrol four at two litres capacity. Peak torque of 192 Nm is available at 4000 rpm, 2200 below peak power. The sole transmission choice is a six speed auto with a decidedly dual clutch feel in change under way, yet lacks the roll forward found in DCTs. Kia rates the 2.0L engine as consuming a combined figure of 8.0L per 100 kilometres driven, 6.2L/100 km on the highway and a far too thirsty 11.0L/100 km in the suburban jungle. The tank holds just 54 litres and it’s this fuel figure that is one potential reason why the Soul hasn’t had the penetration it otherwise may deserve.Due to a last minute change of circumstances, the Soul became freed up to be taken away to Bega, the cheese capital of Australia and no doubt inspiration for many Monty Python related gags….Over a period of 54 hours, from departure to arrival back at PFCR HQ, the Soul faced strong head and cross winds, from south of Sydney on the Hume through to Canberra and the plains south of there, through to the road east from the driver’s delight of Brown Mountain. And return. After a round trip of 1111 kilometres, the final average fuel consumption was 8.4L per 100 kilometres. It wasn’t until returning the Soul that the claimed figure of 8.0L/100 km was seen, and that was on an unusually quiet freeway run.

On a similar run 12 months ago, we achieved sub 5.0L/100 km in a revamped small SUV from a niche Japanese brand. A smaller engine, turbo charged, and diesel…An 11.0L urban figure in a small SUV style vehicle just doesn’t cut it any more.
What did work, for the most part, was the six speed auto. Quiet, smooth, from stopped to go and under way. The only times it felt uncertain was in sixth at around 110 kmh on the slightest of uphill slopes, where you could feel the transmission “drag” against the spin of the engine, feeling as if it wanted to do something but didn’t know exactly what that something was. Otherwise, it’s reasonably geared, with 110 kmh seeing 2400 rpm on the tacho. But overtaking meant a solid press on the go pedal you’ll see the tacho needling zinging around well over 4000 rpm, also contributing to the fuel consumption.It’s typical Kia on the inside, meaning a well laid out dash and console, mostly matt black plastic for the dash, easy to use controls, and superbly comfortable seats (needed after a long country run). The driver sees a dash of red and black, with a centre circle, located inside the speedometer central location, showing information such as overall fuel consumption and trip meters, accessed via the standard steering wheel tabs. The speed and rev counter are analogue still, as are the temperature and fuel gauges to the right side. Cruise control and audio are also located on the tiller as are the bluetooth phone tabs. There’s a semi-circular motif embossed into the doors and some characterful designing for the airvents at each end of the dash. They sit directly underneath the horizontally located speakers and have one thinking something pagoda-like. The ovoid theme is continued with the gear selector and touchscreen both surrounded in a similar motif.As a drive, it’s engaging. The steering ratio is quick, with around 3.5 turns lock to lock and is ideal for shopping centre car parks or roadside tight parking thanks to its electronically assisted lightness. Ride quality is very good, with a slightly tighter rear than the front. The suspension is the tried and true McPherson strut/torsion beam combination and works well enough on the road. It’s nicely tied down as well, with rebound a short travel and that’s it with no pogoing. On the highways south of Canberra it was smooth sailing, even on some of the slightly unsettled and rutted surfaces, and crossing some cattle grids in Bega had plenty of rattatatta into the cabin but no body movement. On the long sweepers on the Monaro Highway it was flat and composed, with no body roll evident.Light braking of the 1375 kilogram mass plus passengers had the Soul easily controlled whilst hard braking via the progressive pedal saw little dive at the front. Hard acceleration saw no torque steer and the barest hint of a list of the nose. Slower speed corners were easily controlled either by a little less throttle in and a touch more out or a brushing of the brakes to settle the nose. The broad footprint aids in stability and the 215/55 tyres provide plenty of grip.With a cargo space (seats up) of 238 litres, there’s enough for a couple of overnight backs, until you lift the cargo space floor and see three compartments located underneath. Seats down, it increases to 878 litres. There’s bottle holders in all doors and a pair of cup holders in the centre console, plus a pair of 12V sockets bracketing a USB port and 3.5 mm socket. Standard equipment such as Auto headlights, speed related locking, rear view camera, sensors front and rear, tyre pressure monitoring and the suite of airbags and driving aids complete the picture.At The End Of The Drive.
At a tick under $27K the Soul is not expensive. Consider the seven year warranty and fixed priced servicing as well. Over seven years your service costs will be $2688.00 or $388 per year. Or, just over a dollar per day…It’s well featured, is comfortable drive and to ride in, and there’s plenty of room inside.
So why doesn’t the Soul have a better perception? You’re not spoiled for choice with just the one trim level available. It’s an unusual look in an environment populated with slick looking SUVs of various sizes and shapes or sleek European sedans. Is it the fuel economy?
Perhaps.
So it could be a combination of suburban thirst and a styling that is perhaps a little too unusual? If you were to ask the junior members of the PFCR family, it’s the latter…yet they observed that from inside you couldn’t see the outside. Sage advice for any prospective buyers that would be missing out on a thoroughly competent vehicle.
As a certain Akubra wearing former TV host used to say: “Do yourself a favour” and try the Soul. Here’s where you can go to check it out and book the test drive: 2017 Kia Soul

Car Manufacturer Global Sales Q1-17

The first half of 2017 has seen a number of new and interesting models coming onto the market by various car manufacturers.  It’s interesting to view, globally, how each car manufacturer’s sales has been tracking in the first few months of 2017.  According to JATO Dynamics figures, the big winner during the first quarter of 2017 has been the Renault-Nissan Alliance group recording huge growth in sales around the world.

It’s obvious, when you look at the results that Toyota, having sold 1.974 million car and LCV units, still remains at the top while growing at a rate of 11%.  Honda, in fifth position, also shows itself growing nicely overall.  Mercedes and Renault show the greatest growth for the quarter with 18.2% and 14.9%, respectively.  Mercedes-Benz is the fastest growing brand in the top-20 and the biggest luxury brand worldwide.  BMW and Suzuki have also gained greatly in sales over this period with 10% growth apiece.

Where there is market growth there will also be market shrinking, and for Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Audi, Peugeot, Buick and Jeep, their sales in the first quarter of 2017 have taken a dive.

In detail, according to JATO results, there are some key vehicles being sold in various segments.

City Cars

The top five city cars being sold around the world are the: Hyundai i10, Honda N-Box, Fiat 500, Fiat Panda, Suzuki Alto

Sub Compacts

The top five sub compact cars being sold around the world are the: VW Polo, Suzuki Swift, Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio, Toyota Yaris

Compacts

The top five compact cars being sold around the world are the: Toyota Corolla, VW Golf, Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra

Mid-size

The top five mid-size cars being sold around the world are the: Toyota Camry, Mercedes Benz C-Class, Honda Accord, VW Passat, BMW 3 Series

Executive

The top five executive cars being sold around the world are the: Mercedes Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, Hyundai Grandeur, Buick Lacrosse

Luxury

The top five mid-size cars being sold around the world are the: Mercedes Benz S-Class, Cadillac XTS, BMW 7 Series, Bentley Continental, Cadillac CT6

SUV

The top five SUV vehicles being sold around the world are the: Nissan X-Trail, Honda CR-V, VW Tiguan, Toyota RAV4, Honda HR-V

MPV

The top five MPV vehicles being sold around the world are the: Hongguang, Honda Jazz, Xiaokang, Baojun 730, Nissan Note

Sport

The top five Sport vehicles being sold around the world are the: Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, Camaro, Mazda MX-5, Porsche 911

Pickup/Ute

The top five Pickup/Ute vehicles being sold around the world are the: Ford F-Series, Dodge Ram, Chevrolet Silverado, Toyota Hilux, Nissan Navara

The greatest market sector growth, unsurprisingly, has been seen in the SUV market.