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Archive for February, 2020

Holden On To The Memory.

February 17, 2020. It’s the day after a very successful fund raising concert for Australia’s beleaguered fire fighting services. The country is on a high. Midday and the high is replaced by a collective sense of disbelief. It’s the day that many prophesied yet even more hoped would never come.

The name, Holden, would be consigned to the bin of history.

There will be many discussions as the reason why the once near invincible powerhouse that was “Australia’s own”, the company immortalised in a jingle along with “football, meat pies, kangaroos”, finally met its end at the hands of parent company General Motors. In simple terms, there will never be just one reason, there will be many.

If Holden’s last manager, Kristian Aquilina, to be is to believed, the company didn’t go down without some sort of a fight. “In this investment cycle, we developed an ambitious investment – an investment proposal to turn around our current performance and to see Holden flourish in this market, not just survive,” Aquilina stated.

“And over a number of months, GM undertook an exhaustive analysis of that plan together with our parent company we chased down every conceivable option, every strategy, every plan… We looked under every rock.

“We have had multiple rounds of discussions and have tried to find a way to defy gravity but the hard truth was there was just no way to come up with a plan that would support a competitive, and growing and flourishing Holden – and also provide a sufficient return to our investors.” he said. GM’s International Operations vice president Julian Blissett wasn’t willing to detail the costs involved, instead settling on a package to move the remaining Holden stock and close dealerships. The estimated cost is somewhere around $1.1 billion.

The closure also, sadly, includes the fabled Lang Lang proving grounds in the western part of Victoria. It’s rumoured that transport magnate Lindsay Fox has expressed interest in investing in the site. The anger that so many are feeling is inclusive of the statement by Holden after the closure of local building that Lang Lang and its importance would stay in place.

GM has also flagged the closure of its Thailand based manufacturing facility. However, a saviour for that plant in the form of Great Wall Motors may save the plant and its employees. Should this go ahead it places Great Wall into the same manufacturing heartbeat as brands such as Toyota, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, and others.Holden’s own history has places where its innovation could, could have gone further. The homegrown 5.0L, the famous 308, was being worked on for an overhead camshaft design. This “mule” engine kept the standard centre of block cam, meaning it was a three cam engine, unique at the time. Concept cars such as ECOmmodore, the W427, the Crewman and its HSV sibling, the Avalanche, were all possibilities for ongoing. Our friends at Bauer Media go further, with this list of concepts.

Holden has committed to the next ten years for customer support, a statement that some, cynically, will equate to Holden’s advertising of “We’re here to stay”, when clearly they aren’t.

It’s a day, and a decision, that for many will remain as a stain on the once thriving heart of Australian automotive manufacturing.

Kia Confirms Stylish Sorento For 2020.

Kia has confirmed the rumours of what its forthcoming Sorento will look like prior to its first public appearance at the 2020 Geneva International Motor Show. Not unexpectedly, it features styling cues first flagged in the Seltos. There has been subtle changes to the styling, such as the change to the front and rear overhangs. These have been reduced with the result being the Sorento now looks longer in profile. The front end has strong relationships with the Seltos, including the restyled headlight cluster with Kia saying it has “Tiger Eye” LED running lights. These are said to mimic the lines around the eyes of a tiger. A longer bonnet and a push-back of the windscreen’s A-pillar by 30mm adds to that perception of length. The rear edges of the bonnet wrap around further into the uppermost edges of the front guards, and create the start of a character line that helps draw the eyes from front to rear. This takes the view to the completely new rear lights, in a stunning vertyical block design, rather than the previous broadsheet styling horizontally, and there’s a hint of Volvo’s SUV here. There’s also the Seltos relationship to be found here, with the rear passenger window having the fin reaching towards the roof as seen in the smaller car.Passengers are given more in the way of sophistication and comfort. Trim levels have improved with metallic tones, higher grade materials, and wood-effect cladding. A new 10.25 inch touchscreen becomes the centrepiece of the tech level inside the Sorento. That complements the brand new 1203 inch full colour and high definition driver’s information screen. Along with other tech, the forthcoming Sorento is easily the most technologically advanced Sorento offered yet.The cabin is spacious, and has an ambience highlighted by LED mood lighting. The front air vents have an uncanny resemblance to the tail lights of the revered Holden HR. Switchgear takes Kia’s ergonomics to an even higher level, with a balanced look and spacing.The 2020 Sorento will be officially unveiled on March 3.

ŠKODA Electrifies With An Irish Twist.

Škoda has released details of their first electric vehicle and it’s to be a SUV. It will be called “Enyaq”. The name is derived from the Irish name ‘enya’, meaning ‘source of life’. Enya itself comes from the Irish Gaelic word ‘Eithne’, meaning ‘essence’, ‘spirit’ or ‘principle’. The ‘source of life’ symbolises the car manufacturer’s entry into the new era of electromobility and is in line with the Škoda brand’s history claim: ‘Driven by inventiveness –clever ideas since 1895’.

It’s to be built on the Volkswagen Group’s Modular Electrification Toolkit (MEB) platform and will be the first car from the brand to be built on this platform.. With its first all-electric SUV, Škoda is establishing a new nomenclature that combines the ‘E’ in reference to electromobility with the ‘Q’ that characterises the final letter of Škoda’s successful SUV family. With the new Enyaq, the Czech car manufacturer is taking another leap into the new era of electromobility in 2020.

Enyaq follows Škoda’s well-known SUV nomenclature. Like the names of Škoda’s successful SUV models Kodiac, Karoq, and Kamiq,names that have their origins in the language of the Inuit people living in northern Canada and Greenland, Škoda combines the future all-electric vehicles based on the MEB with the Irish language. The ‘E’ at the beginning of the name stands for electromobility whilst the ‘Q’ at the end creates a clear connection to the virtues of an SUV. The Škoda Enyaq is the next of the series of more than ten electric models that will be launched under the ŠKODA sub-brand by the end of 2022.

By 2025, Škoda expects all-electric vehicles and models with plug-in hybrid drives to account for 25% of sales. By 2021, the car manufacturer will have invested two billion euros in the development of electric models and a holistic, interconnected ecosystem for modern and environmentally friendly mobility solutions

Turbochargers For Beginners

It might look like a snail but with a turbo, your car certainly won’t be.

I could have called this post “Turbochargers for Dummies” but (a) anybody who is curious about how something works and wants to know more is not a dummy and (b) I don’t want to imply that those who want to have a vehicle with a turbocharger are dummies.

In any description or review of a new vehicle that’s got an internal combustion engine (petrol or diesel) or even a hybrid engine, you’ll probably come across the mention of a turbocharger somewhere in there.  However, what is the point of a turbocharger and how do they work?  Are they just a fancy luxury or do they actually do something useful and valuable?  If you’re new to the world of motoring or if turbos have just been something you’ve heard about over the years and never really thought about before, you could well be asking these questions.  After all, nobody is born known about how a car works and it’s not something they teach you at school.  (Maybe it should be something they teach at school – physics would certainly be a lot more interesting if you could see the practical applications.)

Back To Basics

Let’s start by going back to the basics of how an internal combustion engine (ICE) works.   An ICE can be thought of as the offspring of a cannon and a spinning wheel.  The cannon (the father of the engine) works by using a spark and a controlled explosion within a small space, which produces a massive amount of force that moves a load (in this case, the cannon ball) in a straight line.  Mama Spinning Wheel uses a crankshaft (piston), a drive wheel and a gearing system to turn that linear motion into useful rotational motion.

In your typical four-stroke engine, which was invented in 1867 by Nikolaus Otto, the explosion part of the process involves four main motions, referred to as intake, compression, combustion and exhaust or, more simply, suck, squeeze, bang and blow.  Get your mind out of the gutter.

Let’s look more closely at the intake stage of the cycle.  During the intake phase, the piston and valves allow a combination of fuel (petrol or diesel) into the chamber.  In a naturally aspirated engine, ordinary common or garden atmospheric pressure and suction push the air into the cylinder.  However, to make the process go more quickly and use fuel more efficiently, one needs some way of compressing and forcing the air into where you want it rather than relying on, essentially, gravity and air pressure.  This was a bit of a burning need when they started flying planes a bit higher than they did in, say, World War 1, and the atmospheric pressure was a lot less at altitude.  Compressing the air and forcing it into the business bits of the ICE is what a turbocharger does.

How Turbos Work

The next question is how the turbocharger does the job of compressing air and forcing air into the cylinders?  It uses a system originally developed in aeroplanes with turboprop engines.  This uses a fan system to slurp and pump air into the cylinder – the shape of the fan does this by altering the air pressure around the blades.  Seems ridiculously simple, right?

Bright sparks among you will have wondered what gets the fan moving to do this job of pumping the air in.  After all, you don’t get anything for free.  However, the original designers came up with a clever solution.  After all, during the final phase of the Otto cycle – the exhaust or blow phase – the waste air and other exhaust products (hopefully, there won’t be too many of these) is shoved out of the engine.  A basic turbocharger uses this exhaust air to drive the turbine part of the system.  This means that a turbocharger has two main parts: the turbine that harnesses the exhaust stream, which is hitched up to the second part: the compressor that takes in clean air.

There is a third part to a basic turbocharger that does more than just hold the two spinning bits together. This is the intercooler.  As anybody who’s used a bike pump has noticed, when you compress air, it gets hotter.  The problem with this is that as things get hotter, the molecules inside it move more and it expands – meaning it’s less compressed.  Cold air is denser than warm air, which means that it’s not just in your head if you find it harder going on the bike or jogging on a cold morning.  The intercooler is a kind of miniature radiator system that dissipates the heat energy created by compressing the air to keep it nice and dense.

Why Use Turbochargers?

So why do you need to have a turbocharger and get that extra air into your car engine, given that you don’t have the problems of a fighter jet operating at altitude? Is there any advantage to it for the everyday motorist?

The answer is, of course, a great big yes.  By shoving more air into the cylinders, the power delivered by the combustion (bang) part of the cycle is increased.  Power is the amount of force delivered every second, so the faster the engine burns, the more powerful it is.  This means that an otherwise small engine can get the oomph of something much bigger.  Because adding a turbocharger involves less weight than adding another cylinder or increasing the size of the cylinders (the other ways to make an engine more powerful), this improves the power to weight ratio.  It’s all about the POWER (I’m hearing Jeremy Clarkson inside my head at this point).

You may hear some people claim that turbochargers are more environmentally friendly than naturally aspirated engines.  This is a bit controversial and it’s not as simple as Turbo Good, Natural Aspiration Bad.  Quite simply, a 1.2 litre engine that is naturally aspirated will use less fuel than a turbocharged 1.2.  However, the turbocharged 1.2 litre will deliver a lot more power than the naturally aspirated 1.2 and will produce the power of a naturally aspirated engine that’s a lot bigger. Because it has delivered the oomph of a bigger engine without the demands of the extra weight that would be involved, the small turbo engine will consume less fuel than the naturally aspirated big one.  The turbocharger is a racing greyhound that needs to eat as many doggy bikkies as a big sooky mastiff but will win the race.

Of course, this is only a very basic introduction – for beginners – and turbocharger designs get a lot more complicated that that. You’ve got all kinds of fun variations like twin turbos, which can be in sequence or in parallel, as well as the issue of turbo lag and how to overcome it.

Ford Adds A New Cat To The Family.

Ford has resurrected a former nameplate and given it to yet another new small SUV. The European produced Puma is currently scheduled to hit Aussie showrooms in the second half of 2020. The main family line are the small and medium sized hatched in the form of Fiesta and Focus.

It’s as yet unconfirmed as to the engine; the European specs have a 1.0L three cylinder petrol engine at the car’s launch a few months ago, with 92kW or 114kW. It’s said that diesel will be an option there and it remains to be seen if that’s optioned here. Transmission choice is likely to be a dual clutch auto that’s close to being signed off, as the current option in Europe is a six speed manual.

Room wise there’s plenty of it inside, including a cargo space able to hold 456L, and this includes a wetbox in the lower section and capable of holding up to 80L. The lifestyle aspect is strong as there is also a drain plug in the floor, meaning any wet activities can be carried out without fear of ruining the cargo section.

Although the standard equipment list for the Australian specification hasn’t yet been locked away, it does appear that the Aussie cat will get Ford’s Co-Pilot 360. This will pack in AEB, lane centering tech, adaptive cruise, traffic sign recognition, active park assistance and blind spot monitoring.

Exterior design has a somewhat startled cat headlight look, and a set of rear flanks with a strong crease line before finishing with a distinctive set of tail lights.

Keep an eye on Ford’s website for updates.

Mitsubishi Expands Triton Range.

Mitsubishi has added two lifestyle driven models to the Triton range. Dubbed GSR and GLX-R, the titles are a mix of evocative history and a nod to the future. Companies are realising that for those that buy the big four wheel drive and off-road capable utes, they’re not necessarily being used for…off-road driving. They’ve become a lifestyle choice and the introduction of the pair mirrors that desire from a fickle market.

The GSR is perhaps the more visually worked over of the two and definitely leans towards the lifestyle, trend driven, marketplace. The wheels are black painted alloys and a diameter of 18 inches. The Mitsubishi “Dynamic Shield” is blacked out to provide a subtle, menacing, look. The headlight surrounds, skid plates, door mirrors, handles, and sidesteps are also all blacked out.

Inside there is the addition of a “Multi Around Monitor” with an activation switch on the steering wheel. The powered and heated front seats have leather trim, as do the steering wheel and park brake level &shift knob. There is an colourful option in the form of a tan orange highlight package. This will feature on the seats, console storage box, and console knee pads. Accessorising the GSR will be simple with the choice of three tonneau covers. There will be a soft, hard, and rollable cover available. A blacked out sports roll bar and tub liners will also be available.

The cost of the soft tonneau package is $2,699 (RRP) with the hard and roller style priced at $4,699 and $4,999 (RRP for each) respectively and also includes floor mats across the range.

Sliding into the gap between GLX+ and GLS will be the GLX-R. This is more restrained in finish, with 18 inch alloys also, fog lamps, and chrome finishes for the grille. door mirrors and handles, front bumper, and will be aimed at the driver that likes a more sophisticated look for their 4WD ute.

Pricing for the pair starts at $39,990 for the GLX-R with a six speed manual. A six speed auto kicks off at $42,490 and they’re both drive-away prices. The GSR is $50,990 without tonneau, whereas the soft cover starts at $52,990, and $54,990 for both the hard and roll cover versions. Premium paint is included on the GSR at a $740 value and prestige paint can be optioned for just $200.

Chat to your local Mitsubishi dealer or contact them via the Mitsubishi Australia website.

2020 Nissan Leaf EV: Private Fleet Car Review

This Car Review Is About: The second iteration of Nissan’s electric powered passenger vehicle called Leaf. It’s a genuinely well thought out and engineered machine, with good city range, and a price point that should appeal. For the second generation it’s been facelifted (it’s now much prettier) and given a tickle to the driving range.How Much Does It Cost?: Nissan list it at $49,990 plus on road costs. The drive-away price will vary from state to state but figure on a something between $54 to $56K depending on your location.

Under The Bonnet Is: The battery can store up to 40kWh, which is good for 110kW of power and 320Nm. The dash display provides a clear look at current charge with expected range, plus output during driving on the fly. Depending on figures, there is an expected range of either 315km (based on NEDC ADR 81/02 combined cycle) but a more realistic figure is an a 270km indicative driving range (European WLTP combined cycle). This is a more useable figure and with studies showing most city based drivers in Australia clocking just under 40 kilometres per day, it’s user friendly in that respect.

The car has two charging ports in the restyled nose, one with a direct connection to a CHAdeMO rapid charger and get from alert to 80 per cent charge in around 60 minutes depending on charging conditions, with the other a Type 2. There is an adapter with which to connect to an Australian standard 240V socket with more information found here.
On The Outside It’s: More of a distinctively “normal” look compared to the first model, and a slick, sleek, five door hatchback shape with aero styling. There’s a 3D look to the blue plastic that sits directly under the charge panel cover and it’s amazing in the depth of the look. This is matched by a similarly coloured panel in the lower rear bumper. Headlights are full LED, bracketing the now signature Vee that Nissan has for family identification. In profile it’s clear there’s a teardrop look from the aero effect and some subtle aero aids built into the metal and plastic. A sharp kick in the rear door meets neutral black and leads the eyes to the elegantly tapered rear which houses a manually operated ‘gate. Rubber comes from Goodyear’s Efficient Grip range and sit at 215/60 on 17 inch dark grey machined alloys.

On The Inside It’s: Roomy enough for four adults, and looks largely like a normal car’s interior. The noticeable difference is the gear selector. It’s a standard foot on brake, press console mounted button, a faint series of clicks as the drive engages, then a move of the rounded knob across to the right and forward for reverse and reverse for forward. Got that? Good. There is a small diagram next to the selector just in case it’s not immediately obvious. The knob itself is of a deep metallic grey highlighted by an electric blue ring at the base.Another highlight, sort of, is the choice to fit sumptuous and comfortable leather and velour trimmed seats with a bit of extra height than normal. But…with no venting option. Yes, they’re heated, but on a couple of scorching summer days in Sydney, the old glutes got a hammering. At least the single zone aircon cools down quick enough and has a fan capable of blowing good and hard. That sits underneath an 8.0 inch display that is ergonomically laid out but has a fussy audio system in regards to selecting and tuning radio stations. The ones already stored were Melbourne based and naturally wouldn’t connect without a retune. Actually doing so wasn’t easy, intuitive, simple. A bit of a letdown, really.

It does have DAB, and changing stations wasn’t instantaneous, but took a few seconds. Bluetooth streaming is standard. An upside is the display’s look, as it’s far better than that found in other Nissan models, thankfully. It sits inside a very stylish dashboard complete with leather look material, carbon-fibre look and piano black plastics, and a soft look overall. The doors also have some piano black inserts and soft touch material.The dash display is as clean as a whistle. A simple analogue dial for the velocity, an LCD screen of 7.0 inches for the usage info, with the now ubiquitous steering wheel mounted buttons to access the info. The screen will show expected range, Eco usage, charge levels, battery temperature, kWh information and more. To access the charge ports is simple too; a small button above the driver’s right knee and that pops the hatch in the nose. Back down to the centre console and there is a drive mode that, admittedly, we didn’t test for the sake of being prudent.

It’s called the e-pedal and it takes the brake pedal out of the equation. It works as a normal accelerator pedal but when the foot is removed the sensors will have it act as a brake and slow the Leaf to a complete stop. Nifty is the fact it will apply on up-and downhill slopes.

Ancilliaries such as a USB and 3.5mm auxiliary port are easily accessed, but there is no smart phone charge pad, even with a nook that looks like it was designed to house one. Bose supply the audio system and there’s a small yet effective soundbar style bass unit in the boot. Auto headlights and wipers, a pair of bottle holders and a slot for a mobile phone in the console, and bottle holders in the doors aim for a family friendly package. A boot capacity of 405L with the 60/40 rear seats up is enough for most families.

On The Road It’s: Not a rocketship, but it’s quick enough. The pedal has an initially sticky feel, which leads to a feeling that the Leaf isn’t going to be rapid. Thankfully that sticking feeling is only at the beginning of the pedal’s travel and a little more pressure brings out the Leaf’s true ability. It’s gentle to start with but will get some true velocity and exhibit the nature of an electric power system. A 0-100 time of 7.9 seconds means it’ll hustle well enough but it’s the highway and freeway that can really take advantage of the torque the Leaf has.Sink the slipper whilst cruising and the Leaf will sprint away nicely. The energy recovery system can then be set to one of two modes, with the result being the brakes will harvest more energy or will back off enough to extend the range. In either case the Leaf is a superb city performer and fits in beautifully with the urban lifestyle.

Steering is of an artificial feel though, with a sense of isolation from the driver and what feel there is just doesn’t feel that it speaks human. It’s weighted well enough, but it doesn’t communicate what the front end is doing. To counterbalance that is a great ride and part of this is thanks to the Intelligent Ride Control. This adjusts the power and torque of the engine just enough to dampen or raise the delivery. Why? Nissan’s engineers worked out that by adjusting the delivery it acts as a counterweight to the pitching fore and aft a car experiences when hitting bumps and irregularities.

The suspension has a tighter than expected feel, but this is a good thing. The chassis dynamics are tuned to deal with the mass of the Leaf; at 1,594kg plus cargo it’s knocking on the slightly portly door for its size. Naturally that’s due to the battery pack but with the suspension tuned to be taut for the most part, it drastically reduces excess suspension travel. It softens up at the end enough to be comfortable and pliant for most people to be happy with.What About Safety?: No shortage at all. A very smart feature is the subtle but audible tone when the Leaf is reversing to alert pedestrians. There’s the Intelligent Around-View Monitor for 360 degrees worth of vision. Front and rear parking sensors make tight shopping centre situations easier to deal with. Intelligent Trace Control assists in keeping the Leaf on the centre line when driving with imperceptible brake applications. With NIssan placing their safety features under the umbrella name of Intelligent, there’s also Intelligent Driver Alert, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection, and Intelligent Lane Intervention. Naturally there are Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Tyre Pressure Monitor System. Traffic sign recognition has the safety system audibly warn of speed zones and cameras too.

And The Warranty Is?: Five years, and unlimited kilometres. For the battery, Nissan advises:“The Nissan LEAF Lithium-Ion battery State of Health guarantee protects against battery capacity loss (less than 9 bars out of 12) as shown on the in vehicle capacity gauge for a period of 8 years or 160,000 kilometres, whichever comes first. The Warranty commences from the time the vehicle is first registered or put into service (whichever occurs first).” Roadside assist is included and is up to five years. Information on service costs is available here.
At The End Of The Drive.
Of the Japanese car makers, Nissan is the only one that currently offers a fully electric vehicle. Toyota has hybrids, Mazda has their SkyActiv engine tech, Mitsubishi has the Outlander PHEV. Suzuki and Subaru have yet to release hybrids, making the Leaf somewhat unique in this area. Bar some items such as no venting for the pews, and a fiddly audio interface, the Nissan Leaf makes its mark for being an electric car that looks like a normal hatch.

It drives, rides, and handles well enough, seats four very comfortably, but importantly has enough usable urban range to make daily range anxiety almost a thing of the past. As a family oriented car it succeeds admirably. And it’s priced almost perfectly given the current state of affairs for the electric car market in Australia.

Go here for detailed information on the 2020MY Nissan Leaf.

VFACTS Releases January 2020 Sales Figures.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) has today released the new vehicle sales figures for the month of January 2020. This has been done for the first time with an updated reporting system.

Total new vehicle sales were 71,731, a decrease of 10,263 sales compared to 2019. Of that number, passenger vehicles numbered 20,494, whilst SUVs made up 35,393, and LCV (Light Commercial Vehicles) 14,035. Passenger cars were down by 7,556 sales, and SUVs down by just 547 for the same time last year. LCVs saw a drop of 1,774. In percentage terms these equate to drops of 26.9%, 1.5%, 11.2%, and and overall drop of 12.5% for January.

The FCAI chief executive, Tony Weber, said: “Given the broad range of environmental, financial, international and political issues facing Australia during January, it is no surprise to see the new vehicle market has reported a conservative start to the year.”

Japanese giant, Toyota, topped the ladder with 14,809 sales, making Toyota have a 20.6% share of the market. Mazda slid into second with 6,695 for a 9.3% share. Hyundai was nipping at the heels of Mazda with 5,443 and 7.6%. Mitsubishi made 4th with 5,108 sales or 7.1% whilst Kia snared 5th with 4,705 sales and 6.6%.

Toyota’s Hilux, with 2,968 sales, took out the number 1 sales position. Ford’s Ranger claimed 2nd with 2,624 sales. Toyota also grabbed 3rd thanks to the Corolla, with 2,370 sales. The RAV4 from the same maker was 4th with 2,290 sale, followed by the Mitsubishi Triton with 2,075 sales.

Mr Weber said of the updated VFACTS reporting system: “VFACTS is the most accurate source of data for the automotive industry. The updated VFACTS system is working well and automotive brands have welcomed its release. The benefits of the new system include improved data accuracy and more timely reporting lines.

2020 Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport and SX Sedan: Private FleetCar Review.

This Car Review Is About: The updated Toyota Corolla sedan range. It’s possibly one of the longest running nameplates and styles in the Australian market. Lookswise the rear has been mildly massaged whilst the front takes on the appearance of the hatchback, released late in 2018. There’s some changes to the inside and a freshen-up to the ride. There’s also a change in location for manufacturing, with the Corolla returning to Japan after formerly being built in Thailand.There are three models to choose from, with the Ascent Sport, SX, and ZR. Engine choice is a “normal” 2.0L petrol for all three or a 1.8L hybrid for the Ascent Sport and SX. Transmission choices are a manual or CVT in the Ascent Sport, and CVT for the other two. We drove the Ascent Sport and SX 2.0L.

What Does It Cost?: $23,335 and $28,325 for the cars tested and these are prices before government and dealership charges. Driveaway charges vary around the country with variances of just a few to a couple of hundred of dollars. With the SX clad in Celestine Grey and the Ascent in a pearl white, there’s a bump of just over $500.Under The Bonnet Is: A 2.0L petrol engine in the cars reviewed. There is a 1.8L hybrid package available for Ascent Sport and SX, but the ZR stays with the 2.0L only. Peak power is 125kW, with peak twist 200Nm and that’s on standard pump unleaded. Toyota claims 6.0L/100km for the fuel economy and we matched that in the Ascent Sport, whilst the SX threw out 7.4L on a slightly more urban based drive. Tank size is 50L. The transmissions are the now conventional CVT for the 2.0L with the mechanical first gear cog for quicker off the line acceleration. The Ascent Sport can also be specced with a six speed manual and the hybrids have the cogless CVT.On The Outside Is: A mild tweak to the rear lights, with a resemblance to Holden’s Astra. In profile there’s more definition to the wheel arches whilst the front end is completely restyled and now shares the look, with slimmer headlights and deeper air intake, with the hatch. Eyecatching LED driving lights sit above a bumper with subtle differences to the hatch. It’s a good size overall, with a length of 4,630mm just 300mm shorter than the Camry. Boot space is bigger than the hatch too, with 470L swallowing up a family’s groceries or baggage with ease.

Both have alloys are they’re 16 inches in size, with the SX sporting a slightly different sheen in the alloy’s finish to the Ascent Sport. Rubber is from Bridgestone’s Ecopia range and are at 205/55 in size. There is otherwise no visible difference between the two, with the Ascent Sport lacking…something sporty to back up the name.On The Inside Is: Some subtle differences between the pair. The SX has a dual zone climate control versus the Ascent’s single zone, with corresponding changes to the design of the controls. Apart from a push start/stop button the SX and Ascent Sport have identical dash designs, down to the speedometer dominating the display for the driver. The display has the 4.2 inch LCD screen over to the right side, rather than centrally located like, well, just about everyone else.The design of the dash’s material is clean, unfussy, with the texture pleasing to the touch. There’s high gloss piano black around the aircon controls, and above them is the 8.0 inch touchscreen, complete with DAB (SX standard, optional in Ascent Sport, as is satnav), Bluetooth streaming, and bespoke Toyota app connection called myToyota. The screen’s look and layout is something some other manufacturers should look to for their screens. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, plus there is voice recognition, Siri eyes free, and Miracast. The SX has a wireless charge pad, a good feature in a mid-spec car. There are also four cup and bottle holders. Seats are manually adjustable in the two. All pews in both are cloth covered and none were heated or vented. There is a 2,700mm wheelbase on the sedan which is 60mm longer than the hatch. This provides crucial extra legroom for the rear seat passengers.

On The Road Its: Not much different from one to the other. The SX felt as if it had a slightly softer rear to the Ascent Sport, however there is a commonality for the two. the Ecopia rubber drums and drones on harsher tarmac, and the front end lacks confidence on wet roads. Entry speeds in corners had to be drastically reduced in the wet due to push-on understeer compared to driving the same in dry conditions.

Steering both is light with a touch of feeling artificial in heft. Brakes were mostly up to the job with a reasonable amount of stopping performance in the dry, and only a touch less in the wet thanks to the rubber. Ride quality in both, apart from the perceived softer rear in the SX, was excellent, with well controlled damping, high levels of absorption of bumps, and minimal body roll. Dry road cornering is competent and confident too, with dynamics sure to please anyone with a modicum of driving ability.

The first gear cog in the CVT makes a world of difference in getting off the line. Response is zippier, sharper, and blends nicely into the CVT’s own mechanism without issue. Rolling acceleration is improved too, with highway driving and overtaking easier to perform without issue. Downhill drives have the CVT hold and work as an engine brake and it’s all nicely integrated. The engine itself is muted for the most part, and really only aurally intrudes at the higher end of the rev range. There is a Sport button in the centre console and is pretty much superfluous in usage.What About Safety?: Toyota could be said to lead the way when it comes to safety packages. Lobbed under the umbrella name of SafetySense, the range features Active Cruise Control (ACC), Pre-Collision Safety System (PCS) with Pedestrian and Cyclist detection, Lane Departure Alert (LDA), Road Sign Assist (RSA) and Auto High Beam (AHB) plus reverse camera with fixed guidelines are standard in the SX and ZR. Driving is assisted by the usual traction aids including Hill-Start Assist, plus Active Cornering Assist. This is a system that gently applies brakes to the front driven wheels if required in cornering at speed. Seven airbags are common to both.

And The Warranty?: Simple. Five years and unlimited kilometres. And by ensuring the car is serviced as per the service schedule, Toyota will extend the engine and driveline warranty from five to seven years. Servicing is capped price, at $180 for the first four services at a 12 month or 15,000 kilometre spacing.At The End Of The Drive: In 2.0L and CVT spec there is a question mark for the Ascent Sport and SX differentiation. A retail price difference of $5,000 is a substantial ask for a car that in essence only has digital audio, satnav, and a wireless charge pad over the model below. The wheels and tyres are the same, the body is the same, driving performance is the same. It’s a curious question and one only a buyer can answer when in the showroom. You can compare the specs here.