As seen on:

SMH Logo News Logo

Call 1300 303 181

Archive for October, 2017

Private Fleet Car Review: Car Review: 2018 Subaru XV 2.0i & S Comparison.

Subaru’s continued product updates continue with a revamp of their XV, first released in 2012 and a car that immediately shook up an already crowded market place. Complete with a higher riding look, black cladding and some cool colours, Private Fleet compares the 2.0i and 2.0i-S Subaru XV level machines, providing an entry and top level comparison.There’s little doubt that the external tweaks have sharpened up an already good looking hatch. The tail lights are the newer C shaped LED style and the front gains the slimline look for the 2.0i and the Impreza LED DRL enclosed style on the S. The 2.oi was clad in a funky Sunshine Orange and the 2.0i-S in Cool Grey.The XV started with the wheel arches getting some extra urethane cladding and the 2018 version stays with it, making the machine look more capable of off-roading, along with the 220 mm ground clearance. There’s a rear spoiler on top of the rear window as standard and the 2.0i-S cops a sunroof.All XV’s are loaded up with roof rails as well, making the once shortish hatch a more imposing 1615 mm in height. That extra ride height lends itself to easier access, both getting in and out, as do the wide opening doors. The tailgate though is manual, even in the top of the range S, meaning people with shorter arms may struggle to reach the door handle when open. There’s a handy 310 litres of cargo space; handy but somewhat compromised also with the space saver spare seemingly located higher in the overall cargo space.. Seats down, you’ll be seeing 765 litres inside the 2665 mm wheelbase machine.Both have the familiar 2.0 horizontally opposed or “flat” four cylinder boxer engine. It drinks from a 63 litre tank standard unleaded and produces peak power and torque of 115 kilowatts and 196 Nm. Transmission is Subaru’s very well sorted CVT which, in the car at least, has less of the slipping clutch feel found in many others. A gentle throttle to start will have the XV hooking up and motorvating much easier… However it’s good for a 0-100 kph time of 10.4 seconds, so any expectation of something approaching rapidity should be put aside. There’s a win in the economy stakes though, with a worst of just 7.2L/100 km and a best of 5.3L/100 km.Although it’s the flat four, the standard exhaust lacks the throb this engine’s aural characteristics are known for. There’s hints of it when pushed hard from standstill but otherwise it’s somewhat lacking in appeal. There’s little road noise as well, allowing the car’s Apple and Android apps fitted system to do its job and, sadly, that’s not that great. The tuner sensitivity was below par with drop outs and static in areas there should be clear signal. The actual audio quality was ok, not great, and DAB tuners would be a nice addition.The audio system is accessed via touchscreen, with the 2.0i having a 6.5 inch screen with the S receiving an 8.0 inch. Naturally there’s auxiliary inputs, in this case awkwardly tucked away in a nook ahead of the gear selector. Bluetooth phone connectivity is standard through the range as well. Inside the centre console storage bin are two five amp USB sockets and another 12V socket. You’ll use these whilst seated in cloth trimmed seats in the 2.0i and gorgeous looking grey/black leather in the S. Yes, the S gets heating but again no venting, a huge oversight for a hot Australian market.The S also gets a sunroof and there’s a tweak here with tabs for the Lane Departure Warning and Collision Warning located in the EyeSight housing. It’s an odd choice given the other tabs, including the off switch for the swivelling headlights, along with tyre pressure monitoring and more, are located in a cluster near the driver’s right knee.All models have Hill Descent Control and X-Mode, with all models bar the entry level having a swag of safety features including Adaptive Cruise and Lead Vehicle Start Alert. There’s the now standard info screens in the top centre dash and centre driver’s binnacle, accessed via tabs on the steering wheel arm and lower left, covering tyre pressures, fuel usage, drive display and the like. There’s also different plastics with the S getting a carbon fibre look garnish and orange stitching.It’s on the road when the fettling of the XV shines…mostly. The rear end is too soft, hitting the bumpstops too easily and even more so with a week’s shopping loaded in. The front end’s travel is too short, with a legal school zone speed over the school zone speedhumps feeling and sounding as if the front end will pull itself out. It’s not a comfortable feeling. Thankfully the handling balances it out, with one noticeable benefit being a lack of need to constantly adjust the steering in a long and sweeping corner. It’s beautiful in weight, requiring some effort to move but not so that it’s going to give you Popeye forearms. It’s well ratioed at around 3.5 turns lock to lock, meaning you won’t be endlessly spinning the wheel for turns and makes shopping carparking so much easier to deal with.The S feels better on the road than the 2.0i, with a tauter ride and more damping in rises and falls. The tyres may have something to do with it also, with the 2.0i having Yokohama BluEarth 225/60/R17s and the S the sole 18 inch entrant, with Bridgestone Dueler 225/60s. The tyre pressures were higher in the S, adding to the firmer ride. There’s plenty of grip from both, with the symmetrical all wheel drive system that Subaru is famous for powering down through all four paws, allowing confident and intensive driving. There’s no lift off oversteer either, as you’d expect, it’s a simple and neutral resettling of the chassis.Although the engine isn’t the gruntiest around, it’s partnered with that very well sorted CVT, which responds quickly to throttle input and is programmed to feel more like a traditional six speed. It’s smooth, shifts quickly, and using the manual change does little, if anything, to improve .The XV starts at around $32500 with the 2.0i and tops out at a recommended price of a few dollars short of $40K. It’s a step up, literally, from the Impreza hatch and represents damned good value. There’s the standard three year warranty and perhaps it’s here that Subaru may need to consider upping that to five as standard rather than an extended version of an extra two years. However it’s nice to know there’s 24/7 roadside assistance.Subaru positions itself as a niche player. A Wheel Thing feels it’s now mainstream as the XV range stands alongside the Liberty sedan, the Impreza range, the Outback wagons, the BRZ and sporty WRX and STi, as offering a car that provides everything the discerning small to mid-sized SUV buyer would want.
Here is where you’ll find the XV and where you can configure one to suit your needs: 2018 Subaru XVBridgestone Dueler

Test, Retest…Or Not. When Should Australian Drivers Be Retested?

For most of us, the most stressful thing we would do after finishing high school, be that after year ten or twelve, is learn to drive. Life’s hard enough when you’re dealing with no longer being at school, dealing with puberty and discovering the appeal of the opposite or same sex, sneaking in a durry or a beer without “the olds” finding out, trying to find work and realising that the trains, trams, buses, don’t go anywhere near where you need them to be….so we learn to drive.

I learned to drive after I was 18 thanks to a stint in Her Majesty’s Royal Australian Army, “marching in” a week before my 18th birthday. Back in the day, before the decision in some states to allow Mum, Dad, or a legal adult, to teach driving, it was pretty much mandatory to undertake driving lessons through a recognised driving school. This is when the basics of driving were taught: get in, get a proper and comfortable driving position, check the seatbelt was plugged in, the mirrors were in the right position, and there was go-go juice in the tank. This was before airbags, anti-lock braking systems (ABS), electronic driver aids and, frankly, before automatic transmissions took over from manuals as the cogger of choice.The instructor would emphasise, for manual transmissions, that you had a foot on the clutch, the handbrake was on (a lever style, not today’s electronic type), then you’d turn the key, maybe even need to adjust the choke, before feeding in a fine balance of accelerator and clutch as you’d pull away either smoothly or bunny hopping…You’d find out that speed and lack of experience made for trouser puckering moments, that instructors were human judging by the strangled gasps, that brakes work wonderfully well when the pedal is mashed hard and that ABS was a long way off…

Indicators were mandatory, not optional extras like they seem to be now, with climate control air-conditioning controlled by how far you wound the window up or down and that the radio was AM, FM, maybe a cassette, and that USB and 3.5 mm auxiliary ports were something from Star Trek. Handling skills improved, judging distances for trailing the car/truck/bus in front were more related to speed than attitude, and the mirrors were scanned every so often to double check for following traffic rather than squeezing pimples or checking your hair.

After a few, let’s say ten lessons, the instructor would say words along the lines of “Think ya ready?” and you’d book a test, a test to get your driver’s licence. On the day, you’d either be in a cold sweat as you struggled to remember everything, or you’d be cool as Fonzie in the serene knowledge that “I got this”. You might luck out and get your licence in the first attempt, or you’d make a simple mistake or three and have to redo it at a later date. But once you got the piece of paper that said Mr/Miss Smith is certified capable of driving, you’d beg/borrow/steal the keys to Mum and/or Dad’s car and away you’d go. For me, it was in my Dad’s ex work car. Dad was a Telecom worker and drove the Toyota HiAce van, complete with four speed column shift MANUAL. Top speed in first? 20 kph…But I managed. I learned to drive this beast, took girlfriends and mates to the drives (drive in movies, for you young whipper snappers) before I got my first car. But I never had to take another test.

We’re now on the downhill slide towards Christmas of 2017, with just a couple of years before one fifth of the twenty first century is over. And in all states and territories but the state of New South Wales, you still don’t have a mandatory requirement to take another driver’s test, regardless of age. The NSW requirement that anyone older than 85 pass the driving test every two years seems to be doing nothing according to a recent submission to the NSW government’s StaySafe inquiry, as from 2010 to 2015, the number of licence holders older than 85 increased by 54 per cent while the number of fatalities increased 300 per cent. There was a 40 per cent increase in drivers aged 60 to 64.It seems nary a week goes by where the news doesn’t mention a crash allegedly caused by an elderly driver forgetting which pedal is for stop and which is for go. However, the inquiry is investigating whether drivers of all ages should be required to do more driver training to address the recent increase in road fatalities. Just about every independent driver training institution says yes, but in which forms, is yet to be decided. The inquiry did note, however, that a pensioner’s group asked to be part of the inquiry had not provided any suggestions appropriate for this group of drivers.

NSW is the only state to offer the very popular modified licence to drive to the shops for drivers over a certain age, for example, or within a radius around their homes. Around a third of older drivers have a modified licence. This doesn’t require drivers to sit the test, providing their doctor says they’re healthy enough to continue driving. 85 year old Shirley Bains, from the Blue Mountains, was one of those that said the driving test for people of her age was discriminatory, having passed her mandatory re-test on the first attempt.Herein lies a major problem with road safety. Under the current system in NSW, Australia’s most populous state, there’s a gap of nearly seventy years between obtaining your driver’s licence and having to undertake another test, whilst elsewhere there’s NO requirement to be retested. However, it’s clear that there’s more to the driver issues seen on the road than “merely” undertaking another test. Driver trainers will tell you, emphatically, that speed is not the problem, but the emphasis placed on speeding as the cause of crashes, fatal or non, by the governments, overlooks and even shadows other aspects of why people crash. Drive around in Sydney and the surrounds, you’ll be constantly reminded of this as there’s no other signage warning you to drive appropriately apart from the ones that tell you of the use of speed cameras. Cross the border into Victoria or the ACT, and the same applies.

Where’s the signage telling you to indicate, to use headlights, to not tailgate, to stay in the left lane if travelling at more than 80 kph? Where’s the government advertising for the same? Why isn’t it law to NOT have earpods in whilst driving? There’s so many more questions to be asked. So what do YOU think? What do you feel can be, should be, done to improve our driver standards? Should people 85 and over Australia wide be rested or should ALL drivers be retested every five or ten years after obtaining their licence?

Roads With A Difference

There are some pretty amazing roads around our world that might just be worth going to see.  Following are spectacular roads that have world record status, and you’ll see just why these ones stand out.

The Road Of Bones

1/            First of all, here in Australia we have the world’s longest road.  Highway 1 circumnavigates the continent and travels around the outside of Australia for over 14,000 km.  Along the way, you’ll be passing through some incredible scenery as well as some of Australia’s major cities that include Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide – along with a huge number of smaller towns.  Northern Territory roads allow a speed limit of 130 km/h on open road travel.

2/            Head over to Saudi Arabia and you’ll be able to take yourself down the world’s straightest road: Highway 10, Saudi Arabia.  This road was originally built as a private road for King Fahd and connects Highway 75 to Highway 95.  It runs for almost 240 kilometres, and is the perfect straight road to try out your Lane Assist and Fatigue Warning safety features!

3/            The world’s twistiest bit of road is found on Lombard Street, San Francisco, USA.  Unbelievable, the road features a 400 metre slope with a 27% gradient and a sum total of 1440 degrees to turn through and has a 5 mph speed limit.

4/            For those of you with a head for heights: you will enjoy the world’s highest roads around Uturunku, Bolivia.  Not only do they have amazing views but they are over 5500 m above sea level.  You will feel the lack of oxygen on this run!

5/            There are also roads that travel below sea level, and, in Israel, Route 90 is home to the world’s lowest road.  The road follows the western side of the Dead Sea where the water is so salty that you can go for a swim and float unaided.  No fish or plant-life are able to survive in this salty environment, either.

6/            Temperature is always a great leveller, and in Russia you’ll find the world’s coldest road that is called the ‘Road of Bones, (or M56).  Not for the faint hearted, the M56 has claimed many people’s lives whose cars have broken down and they’ve frozen to death.  Travelling in convoy is best.  During winter the temperature is rarely warmer than -30C.

7/            The world’s oldest road is the Via Appia, Italy.  Parts of this road have been preserved and are only open to pedestrians.  The Via Appia is located in south east Italy and can be dated back as far as 312 B.C.

8/            Our neighbours over the Tasman sea can lay claim to the world’s steepest road which is called Baldwin Street and is found in Dunedin, New Zealand.  Walking up Baldwin street can be as much fun as driving up it.  If you do drive up, just make sure there is room to turn around because it can be alarming having to stop just before the top of the road – your Hill Start Assist might just come in very handy.  A popular activity is to roll M&Ms down it!

9/            The world’s widest road is the ‘Monumental Axis’ found in Brasilla, Brazil.  In one part it is 250m wide!

10/         You are sure to find the world’s longest road bridge called the ‘Bang Na Expressway, Bangkok, Thailand entertaining.  Lasting for over 50 km, the bridge required an enormous 3.84 million tonnes of concrete in its construction.  Needless to say it wasn’t cheap to build, costing as much as £770 million to complete it build.

11/         On the other hand, the world’s tallest road bridge is the ‘Millau Viaduct’, France.  At its highest pint it is almost 250 m high!  The views are awesome.

Who said civil enginering was ever boring.  Let yourself loose on these roads, and you’ll have plenty of new conversation starters.

Kia Sorento Updates For Better Value.

Kia‘s award winning large SUV, the Sorento, has been given a mild makeover however it’s enough to provide a fresh look both inside and out. There’s also been some model changes. Here’s what’s been done.
Exterior.
There’s revised front and rear bumpers, new LED head-lamps for the now top of the range GT-Line (Platinum has been discontinued) and tail-lamps for SLi and GT-Line, and a new dark metallic finish to the iconic “tiger-nose” grille. Kia says the result is a more sophisticated and purposeful front-end appearance. A new Gravity Blue exterior paint finish is now available, as well as a new design for the Sorento’s 17-, 18- and 19-inch aluminium alloy wheels. The GT-Line gains bespoke enhancements, including four-lamp LED fog lights, red brake calipers, a more prominent sill step, and subtle GT Line badging designed to distinguish it from other Sorento models, plus a distinctive chrome twin exhaust tip.

Interior.
Inside, the cabin features a newly-designed steering wheel and driver instrument cluster, as well as a new climate control LCD display. The dashboard also features a new Audio Visual Navigation (AVN) system which has increased in size from 7 inches to 8 inches. There’s also an increased proportion of soft touch materials and leather for a more premium cabin ambience. Optional black and stone leather upholstery is also available for Aurora Black and Gravity Blue SLi models. The GT-Line driver’s seat is equipped with four-way lumbar support, plus gains unique paddle shifts and satin chrome highlights. The SLI gets two-way adjustable lumbar support to enhance seating comfort.The new Sorento also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for full smartphone integration. Android Auto is designed to work with Android phones running 5.0 (Lollipop) or higher whilst Apple CarPlay is best suited for iPhone 5 or newer.

The existing Infinity premium sound system in Sorento has been replaced with a high-end Harman/Kardon® sound system in SLi and GT-Line trim levels. The powerful 640-watt, 10-speaker surround-sound audio system features QuantumLogic with surround sound technology extracting signals from the original recording, redistributing them into an authentic, multi-dimensional soundstage. The final sound result is clear, refined and detailed playback of a driver’s favourite tunes.

Drivetrain.
The new Sorento is the first SUV from Kia available with the company’s new eight-speed automatic transmission. Designed in-house by Kia and launched in 2016, the transmission boasts 143 newly-patented technologies and delivers a slick-shifting, more decisive drive, while reducing emissions slightly, from 205g/km to 190 g/km. The new eight-speed automatic transmission requires fewer control valves, enabling a more direct mechanical link to the engine and is available on Sorento models powered by the 2.2-litre diesel engine and the 3.5-litre petrol engine, replacing the six-speed automatic transmission and the previously available 3.3L V6 petrol engine.

The new transmission offers four different drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport and Smart. Drivers can select their preferred mode with the Sorento’s electronic Drive Mode Select system. Each mode enables the driver to customise the powertrain’s responses to driver inputs, enhancing fuel economy or acceleration characteristics depending on driver preference. The Drive Mode Select also adapts the weight of the rack-mounted power steering system, for more relaxed or more immediate, engaging steering responses.

Pricing.
Pricing for the petrol variants is: Si $42,990 (+$2000); Sport $44,990 (previously Si Limited +$1000); SLi $46,990 (+$1000). Diesel pricing is: Si $45,490 (+$1000); Sport $48,490 (previously Si Limited +$1000); SLi $50,490 (+$1000); GT-Line $58,990 (+$500).

Tesla Powers Up Across Australia.

With the continued growth of the electric car segment, driven (no pun intended…well, maybe a little) by Tesla, the ability to travel further and further across the wide brown land has grown even more. Tesla has expanded its charging network further across Australia with the addition of five Superchargers across Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia and there’s rapid growth of Destination Chargers across the country.

The Supercharger link between Melbourne and Adelaide is complete with the opening of Horsham in Victoria, and South Australian locations Keith, Clare Valley and Adelaide city centre. These additions allow owners to drive from Adelaide to Brisbane emissions-free.

Western Australia’s first Supercharger is now open at Eaton Fair Shopping Centre. Located two hours from Perth and just a few kilometres north of one of W.A.s oldest seaside cities, Bunbury, Eaton is a convenient stop on the way to Margaret River’s picturesque wine region. Tesla owners can enjoy the centre’s retail, food and 24/7 amenities while charging up to 270km of range in 30 minutes.

Australia now has a total of 18 Supercharger stations, with another 17 planned for installation. In just the last four months more than 80 Destination Chargers have been installed bringing the total number of sites around Australia to 384. Recent additions include South Australia’s Barossa Pavilions, a 75-acre hillside retreat located in the , and Deep Blue Hotel and Hot Springs in Warrnambool offering luxurious accommodation and coastal views along Victoria’s famous Great Ocean Road.

These Supercharger and Destination Charging locations are part of the largest electric vehicle infrastructure supply in Australia and Tesla’s continued effort to double the size of charging sites by the end of the year. Tesla Superchargers have a higher power output than the Destination Chargers, with up to 120 kilowatts of power providing up to 270 kilometres of range in just half an hour. Planning for the locations looks at easy to access sites that also provide food, beverage, facilities, shopping centres to allow for drivers to have a rest stop in a pleasant environment whilst recharging themselves and their cars.

Destination Chargers work on the same basis as the charger you’d have installed at home. These allow longer stops for drivers whilst they charge at 40 kilometres of range every hour on single phase or double that on three phase. Tesla provides a map of their Australian charger bases here: Tesla Australia charging locations.

 

A Prancing Horse SUV and Sweden Gets Plugged In.

It’s now confirmed that Ferrari, one of the world’s great luxury sports car makers, will also release an SUV. This brings Ferrari into line with companies such as Bentley, Maserati, Jaguar, and Lamborghini.
Sergio Marchionne, Ferrari’s global chairman, dubbed the vehicle a FUV, a Ferrari Utility Vehicle, during an address in the US recently.With a mooted release date of 2020, currently, Marchionne said: ““We’re dead serious about this. We need to learn how to master this whole new relationship between exclusivity and scarcity of product, then we’re going to balance this desire to grow with a widening of the product portfolio.” Australia’s Ferrari representative, Herbert Appleroth said: “He has certainly given everyone some information on where he is thinking.”

When questioned if an SUV model would be an appropriate addition to Ferrari’s Australian range, Mr Appleroth said any future product would be embraced by the local arm and its customers. “Look, any new model that enters this market is highly popular, whatever that is,” he said. “As Enzo always said, he was asked once, ‘What is your favourite Ferrari?’ And he famously quoted, ‘The next one.’ And I think that is the same for us.

It’s said that the vehicle, in line with Ferrari’s business model model, would be exclusive and limited in release numbers.

Volvo‘s performance arm, Polestar, has unveiled its concept car, Polestar 1, and in a first for the Swedish icon, said that future cars would be exclusively electric. Polestar 1 will be manufactured in a new factory currently being built in Chengdu, China. The engine will be a super- and turbo-charged petrol engine assisted by two 80 kilowatt electric motors. Total power and torque is quoted as being 440 kW and 1000 Nm.

Thomas Ingenlath, Chief Executive Officer of Polestar said; “Polestar 1 is the first car to carry the Polestar on the bonnet. A beautiful GT with amazing technology packed into it – a great start for our new Polestar brand. All future cars from Polestar will feature a fully electric drivetrain, delivering on our brand vision of being the new standalone electric performance brand”.Also, Polestar cars will be ordered 100% online and offered on a two or three year subscription basis. The zero-deposit, all-inclusive subscription will also add features such as pick-up and delivery servicing and the ability to rent alternative vehicles within the Volvo and Polestar range, all incorporated into one monthly payment. However, Polestar will open shopfronts where people can visit and physically interact with a vehicle, enhancing the tactile experience. Polestar commenced taking orders from October 17, 2017.

Holden: The Day For Closing Is Coming. Part Two.

This is part two of an interview conducted with Holden’s PR guru, Sean Poppitt, before the closure of Holden as a manufacturer of cars and engines in Australia.

Speaking of local products…Keeping the Commodore nameplate has seen plenty of discussion as to whether it should stay or not. What has been Holden’s reason for doing so?
There wasn’t one single thing that drove that decision…there’s a number of different factors we considered…one of the first ones was this: we went out and talked to Commodore owners. We went and talked to non-Commodore owners, and we did a really extensive market research piece, sitting down with customers and non-customers and asking that question. The overwhelming response we got was to keep the name. Of course that doesn’t take anything away from people’s right to have an opinion on this, I would wonder how many of those with a negative opinion are Holden or Commodore owners.

Two, we made sure that we were comfortable that the car did everything a Commodore should do. (It’s here that Sean’s tone changed and he became very thoughtful.) What defines a Commodore? Is it local manufacturing? You could argue that it’s that as every Commodore from the start has been manufactured here. Let’s not forget that the first ever Commodore was…an Australian modified Opel Rekord…which we built…and we’ve come full circle…taking an Opel car and making it a Commodore.One of the great things about keeping our Lang Lang proving grounds is it’s allowed us to have our engineers embedded in that program for six years. There’s been well over one hundred and sixty thousand kilometres of local testing, which has given us a unique suspension tune for every single model, a unique engine and gearbox combination which isn’t available anywhere else in the world. We’re talking the V6 and nine speed auto, the advanced all wheel drive system, the adaptive chassis. If it’s going to be a Commodore we NEED it to be able to do X, Y, and Z. This car has everything the last car did and more, but there isn’t the obvious emotional attachment and nostalgic element to it not being built here.

I don’t want at all to make light or not give the gravity that it’s due to the local manufacturing people and the passion the people had for that, and what it’s meant for this country and this brand…by every conceivable measure, the new car is a better car than the old one.
(Sean’s tone becomes lighter here). We always knew that a front wheel drive four cylinder Commodore was going to raise some eyebrows, we knew that, but the four cylinder turbo is the fastest, most fuel efficient, most powerful base engine we’ve ever had in a Commodore, so by every single possible measure that car will be better than the base Commodore we have here.Outside of your preference for front drive or rear wheel drive, for the diehard performance enthusiast we’re going to have a sports car, or, potentially, sports cars in the not so distant future. It’s important to note that it’s really only in the last eighteen months that the sales of V8s in a Commodore has lifted up so high. Over the last ten years 88% of Commodore sales have been V6s, and of that a vast majority have been SV6s.
With Opel now under the PSA umbrella, does this open up the model range available for Australian buyers?
There’s certainly opportunities. We’ve been very clear that the current Opel products that we’re taking, which includes the next gen Commodore and the current Astra hatch, there will be no change to them over the course of their projected model life. Dan Amman, who’s our global president, said, when we were in Geneva recently that there’s more opportunity for Holden, not less.

At the current time, where does Holden see itself in five years time, especially with the new SUVs and Camaro in the frame?
We made a commitment back in, I believe, 2015, that we would launch 24 new models by 2020, which effectively means we’re revamping or replacing every single vehicle in the Holden line-up. I’d also say that right now we have the best “pound for pound” showroom we’ve ever had. And it’s only going to get better; we’ve got Equinoxe coming in mid November, the next gen Commodore of course, next year there’s the Acadia, which gives us this really filled out SUV portfolio, which is obviously great for us as that’s where the market is going.

Our strength, for a long time, has been in large sedans, which is a shrinking part of the market. The growth in SUVs, we’ve been really well represented there in the past, and we’ve got Trax, we’ve got Trailblazer, and Equinoxe and Acadia to come. Even Colorado, that continues to grow, with every month the figures show an increase in sales. It’s about going where the market goes rather than hanging onto a sector of the market where clearly people have voted with their feet and wallets to not be a part of.

When we made this announcement four years ago, back in 2013 (about ceasing manufacturing), which really raised questions about what does Holden stand for, which did have a shadow hanging over the business in a way, we want to stay and remain a clear and solid number four in the market and stay on track to sell one in ten vehicles sold in this country. I think it’s remarkable, too, that in such a tough period we’re still one of the top players in this country. I also think we’ve got a rare and unique opportunity to honour one hundred and sixty years of history and heritage and make sure that Holden means as much to our grandkids as it did to our grandfathers.(It’s a huge thanks to Sean Poppitt for his time and his candid responses, and since this interview Holden has confirmed the Camaro SS will come to Australia as the “halo” car. It also officially unveiled the 2018 Commodore which, effectively, confirms for Commodore the SS badging is no longer…)

Hyundai Kona Hits Aussie Roads.

Hyundai has joined the burgeoning small SUV family with the addition of the Kona, a sharp looking machine with a front end that is sure to raise eyebrows. New Kona will be available in three trim levels, Kona Active, Kona Elite and Kona Highlander, with an optional safety pack for Active (‘Active with Safety Pack’).

Engine.
You’ll have a choice of a 2.0-litre, 110 kilowatt/180 Nm naturally-aspirated, four-cylinder engine with conventional six-speed automatic and front-wheel-drive, or a 1.6-litre Turbo-GDI with 130 kW/265 Nm between 1500 to 4500 rpm with seven-speed dual-cutch transmission (DCT) and all-wheel-drive.

The 2.0L engine accelerates the front-wheel-drive Kona from standstill to 100km/h in 10 seconds flat. The ‘Gamma’ 1.6 T-GDi has 18% more power and 47% more torque than the 2.0 litre MPi engine, giving a 7.9 second 0-100km/h time.
The turbo engine is mated to Hyundai’s efficient and responsive seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission (DCT) which combines the fuel efficiency of a manual transmission with the ease and convenience of an automatic. Economy is quoted as 7.2L and 6.7L per 100 kilometres.

Body.
Kona will offer nine body colour choices and two roof colours. The rear echoes the Tucson and Santa Fe (and the front of the Kona) whilst the front has hints of Jeep Cherokee thanks to LED driving lights at the bonnet line, headlines in a slightly unusually shaped cluster at mid grille and globe driving lights centrally located at the bottom of the front bar. Profile wise it’s a long bonneted look, flared guards, a curved rear, with the driver pretty much centrally located. Hyundai have used an innovative manufacturing process, with AHSS or Advanced High Strength Steel, making the body more rigid yet 10 perent light than using conventional steel panels. There’s also metal adhesive, 114 metres of it, to supplement conventional building processes.

Dimensions.
It’s compact, for sure, at 4165 mm in length, 1800 mm in width, 1565 mm in height, and rides on a wheelbase of 2600 mm. Ground clearance is a minimum of 170 mm. Although it’s smallish, Hyundai have put some TARDIS inside, with front shoulder room of 1410 mm, leg room of 1054 mm, and head room of 1005 mm. Rear seat passengers will have no issues either. Boot space is a minimum of 361 litres.

Equipment and Suspension.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are on board, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) with Pedestrian Detection, plus Drive Mode Select is available on both automatic and DCT variants, the function letting drivers choose between ‘Comfort’, ‘Eco’ and ‘Sport’ modes. Blind Spot Colliosion Warning is active up to thirty kph, and there’s Rear Cross Traffic Collision Warning. On board will also be a Lane Keeping Assist package with Departure Warning.
Underneath there’s the tried and proven MacPherson strut front suspension, and a torsion beam or multi-link rear depending on using front wheel or all awheel drive. There’s also a variety of suspension tunes depending on which variant you buy. During testing, 13 and 29 front and rear shock absorbers for the all wheel drive system, and 13 & 29 for the front wheel drive, two different stabiliser bars, and three & two spring sets were trialled to provide the best balanced deemed suitable for both country and city driving.

Pricing.
Current pricing is set to start at $27000.

 

 

Car Review: 2018 Holden Astra LS/LT/LT-Z Sedan

It’s back to the future for Holden as the Astra nameplate on a sedan resurfaces with the sedans developed in Europe and built in Korea. The name replaces the Cruze, itself a resurrection of a previously used nomenclature. We’ve had the European sourced Astra hatch for a while and there’s also a new wagon version on the way. Private Fleet spends time with the mid-spec LT, top spec LT-Z, and entry level LS (there’s also a LS+), all fitted with the same engine and transmission combination.Up front, and the sole choice for a powerplant in the Astra sedan, is a 1.4L petrol engine, complete with turbo and good for 110 kilowatts. There’s 240 torques available between 2000 to 4000 rpm, with an extra five if you go for the six speed manual which is available in the LS only. Recommended go-go juice for the 52 litre tank is 91RON, of which it’ll drink at over eight litres per one hundred kilometres in an urban environment. On the freeway AWT saw a best of 6.3 in the LS and 7.1L/100 km in the LT-Z. Holden’s Astra sedan brochure doesn’t appear to specify weight, however elsewhere it’s quoted as being just under 1300 kilograms.The engine itself is a willing revver, especially so when the torque is on tap…for the most part. What was noticeable was the lag between a hard prod of the go-pedal, the change down a cog or two, and the resulting leap forward. In tighter Sydney traffic when a quick response was needed in changing lanes, that hesitation could potentially result in a safe move not being as safe as it should be. Also, in the LS, a noticeable whine, an unusual note at that, was audible and not found in the LT or LT-Z. Otherwise, once warmed up, the six speed auto had invisible gear changes up and down on a flat road, and downshifted nicely, holding gears, on the bigger downward slopes out west.It’s a trim, lithe, almost handsome car to look at though. It’s a longish 4665 mm in length and hides a boot of good depth and breadth at 465 litres. The rear deck lid does have old school hinges that swing down into the boot space though. The boot on the LT and LT-Z gain a small, discreet, lip spoiler as well. It’s also broad, with over 1800 mm in total width, and stands 1457 mm tall. What this gives you is 1003 mm front headroom, 1068 mm legroom, 1394 mm shoulder room, and in the rear 1350 mm shoulder room. 939 mm and 951 mm are the numbers in the rear for leg and head room.Up front, the three are virtually identical, bar chrome strips in the lower corners of the front bar for the LT/LT-Z. The headlights are LED DRL backed from the LS+ upwards and provide quite a decent spread of light. The headlight surrounds themselves gleam in the sunlight and add a solid measure of presence to the look. Wheels wise they’re all alloys, with a 16/17/18 inch and appropriate tyre size to match. There’s 205/55/16, 225/45/17, and 225/40/18s. And each of these contribute to the ride quality to the differing models…The LS is undoubtably the most plush, soft, of the three, but by no means does it lack grip when pushed. The rubber on the LS is from Hankook, the LT and LT-Z have Kumho Ecsta. Both brands provide more than enough grip and even occasionally chirp when when hard acceleration is given and both brands do provide a rumble, a somewhat intrusive rumble, on the coarser chip tarmac in Sydney. The LT and LT-Z also benefit from the fettling the Australia engineers have given, with a firmer and more sporting ride, less rebound but a small measure of more harshness.All three are brilliant freeway cruisers but it’s around town that the suspension tune really shines. In the varied road conditions that Sydney throws up, from table flat to mildly pockmarked to rutted and broken tarmac, all three dealt with them adroitly and with the words “sure footed” writ large. Only occasionally would the LT-Z, with the stiffest feel, skip and that was more so on the more ragged undulations that some corners have. There’s plenty of conversation from the steering wheel vinyl in the LS, leather in the LT/LT-Z), with an almost tactile amount of constant feedback through to the driver.Speaking of steering, the design of the wheel itself has your hands feeling as if they’re sitting between ten & two and eleven & one. The horizontal spokes sit just that little too high for a totally comfortable feel. You’ll also dip out on electric seats, even in the LT-Z, however there is more manual adjustment than in the LS. Across the range you’ll get auto headlights (which have an overly sensitive sensor), parking sensors, reverse camera, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, along with a seven inch and eight inch touchscreen for LS and the LT models.

Digital radio is also on board the LT and LT-Z to take advantage of the quite decent speakers on board. Also available in the LT and LT-Z are parking assist and with front parking sensors, Blind Spot Alert, auto headlights with tunnel detection, whilst the LS+ joins the party with Lane Keep Assist, following distance indicator, and Forward Collision Alert. However, window wise, only the LT-Z gets auto up and down for the driver’s window.Trim wise it’s cloth seats or machine made leather, soft-ish touch plastic on the dash, a grey coloured surround for the touchscreen and a frankly boring look for that in the LS, versus a higher sense of appeal and presence in the LT/LT-Z with chrome and piano black. Aircon in the LS is dialled in whereas the others get dials but with LEDs in the centre to show temperature and add more visual pizzaz. There’s a colour info screen in the LT and LT-Z’s driver binnacle which mirrors that seen in the touchscreen. Both look fantastic and appeal greatly. The LS? Standard monochrome. There’s clearly a high level of quality in the build being based on a Korean sourced sedan, but inside the Astra sedan does lack visual appeal, even though it’s not a physically unpleasant place to be.At The End Of The Drive.
At the time of writing, just a few days before Holden ceases manufacturing, the company had announced a seven year warranty being made available for the Astra range. However, there are terms and conditions so please speak to your local Holden dealership. Also, again at the time of writing (October 2017), the LS Astra sedan was being offered from $20990 driveaway if you choose the manual. Pick the self shifter it’s from $21990. The LS+ auto is from $23490 with the LT and LT-Z from $26290 and $30290 respectively. Again, please check with your local dealer. Those prices include stamp duty, 12 months rego and compulsory third party insurance, by the way.

All three (of the four trim levels available) cars tested did not disappoint; the LT-Z for me would be the pick, if only for the more sporting feel of the ride, the higher trim level and the fact that DAB is included, as it is below this model. But as a model range intended to effectively assist in kickstarting the importation model for Holden from October 2017 onwards, it’s somehow slipped under the radar. And that, so far, is a shame because it’s a very capable vehicle and more than worthy of continuing the legacy of the Holden Astra name.
Here’s where to go for inforamtion: 2018 Holden Astra range

Australia’s Solar Race

Solar Race Car

The ‘Nuon Solar Team’ continues to dominate the solar race across Australia that started in Darwin and will finish in Adelaide.  Racing without conventional combustion engines, the various teams from around the world converged on Darwin having built their vehicles as completely solar-powered electric machines.

There are three categories that are completing the journey.  The first being the quickest team to complete the 3000 km race distance – this race is known as the ‘Challenger Class’.

The second class is the known as the ‘Cruiser Class’, where there are points given to the teams for the number of passengers on board, the amount of energy that they are using in terms of the number of battery recharges that are occurring throughout the journey and the general practicality of the car.  Being a part of the ‘Cruiser Class’, the points aren’t all about speed.

Solar Race Cruiser Class

Finally, the third category is known as the ‘Adventure Class’ which is the non-competitive class, allowing cars built for previous races of the event to run again – usually with new team members.  The ‘Adventure Class’ can also be used as a catchment for those who, while meeting the exacting safety standards, may not have quite made full compliance with the latest race requirements.  This is the category with the more laid-back travel style.

At the end of day three: the quickest team competing in the ‘Challenger Class’ is the ‘Nuon Solar Team’ from Holland.

Nuon Solar Team

Second is the team from Tokai University.

Tokai University Race Team

Third is the team from Michigan University.

Novum Race Team

Just over halfway through the race and there will still be plenty of challenges ahead for all race competitors.  One of the major influences on how well a car performs in this race is the amount of sunshine there will be.  Cloudy days do impact the speed and progress of the cars.

This is an exciting race held here in Australia that is sponsored by Bridgestone, and it’s these sort of races that enable the evolution of production cars being run on electricity and solar energy.  If you can, get out and have a look at the cars as they silently run into Adelaide in a few days time.