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Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 SsangYong Tivoli ELX

This Car Review Is About: SsangYong’s Tivoli. SsangYong is the quiet third of a three tier car making setup from Korea. Nestled well below Hyundai and Kia, SsangYong currently have a three model range, and the Tivoli is the entry level to the brand. The Tivoli itself is based on the Kia Soul and is badged as EX, ELX, and Ultimate.
The ELX is a solid mid-level competitor in a very crowded market. Being based on the quirky looking Soul isn’t a bad thing either. SsangYong’s designers have done a good job of hiding the relationship with a heavily reworked interior and exterior. There’s no hiding that steeply raked windscreen though.Power Comes From: Behind the bluff and upright schnozz that hides a diesel or petrol powerplant. Our test car had the 1.6L diesel, a slightly chattery but butter smooth item. There’s a huge 300Nm of torque on tap between 1,500rpm and 2,500rpm. Peak power is just 85kW and is available from 3,400rpm to 4,000rpm. The diesel comes in 2WD or AWD for the Ultimate, and is a six speed auto only for the oiler. Economy is, unsurprisingly, pretty good for the pert little five door. Urban driving is quoted as 7.4L/100km for the 2WD version. We saw a best of 7.6L/100km in the urban cycle. Combined is 5.5L/100km and that’s without the realms of possibility. Tank size compromises range though, at just 47-L.What’s It Cost?: The range starts at a miserly $22,990 driveaway for the EX, without premium paint. It’s $27,990 driveaway for the ELX diesel auto, with premium paint an extra $495. Outside one can choose six colours, the test car was Space Black. Inside there are three choices with black overall, brown (mocha coffee shade), and beige. The trim is on the seats and the doors.

What Does It Look Like?: Overall, the presence is restrained from the outside, innocuous even. The front end is very SsangYong family in look, with LED eyebrow driving lights in a swept back cluster design. The lower air intake surround is a horizontal “double Y” with black urethane underneath joining the front and rear. The tail end itself is a look that evokes the MINI Countryman’s styling and a bold C pillar joins the top to the bottom.It’s compact in size to look at. Length is 4,202mm, height is 1,600mm with roof rails, and overall width is 1,798mm. What these numbers mean is good interior space for the 1,480kg (dry) Tivoli.
There’s some good looks inside too. The dash is the current Euro themed arch-type sweep from door top to door top and in the black-on-black it looks ok. The dash’s look is a mix of black textured plastics. There is a faux stitched look, a hood style binnacle, and piano black centre stack.This holds the aircon controls which are soft-touch buttons. An old-school amber backlit display screen sits above a dominant fan speed dial. Unlike most other manufacturers, SsangYong haven’t gone down the path of a standalone touchscreen for the audio/satnav, with the Korean make staying with an embedded look here. Again there is no DAB and that peculiar predilection to have one radio station sound like a skipping record.The driver faces a binnacle that has bright red backlit dials. These can be changed to five other backlights such as blue and yellow for that extra bit of personalisation. A monochrome centre screen shows wheel angle when parked. This is presumably to remind a driver which way they’re pointing when getting ready to move on.
Splashes of alloy look plastic add some colour to the black trimmed option. The seats are comfortable and not heated or vented in the ELX.
There’s the usual apps for the sound system, storage spaces front and rear, and a good amount of cargo space at the rear. There is a pair of 12V sockets, one up front and one for the rear.
Safety is high. AEB is standard, as are warning systems for forward collision and lane keeping. Australia doesn’t get the Euro spec traffic sign recognition system…yet.

What’s It Go Like?
It’s a hoot to punt around. There’s the barest hint of hesitation in the diesel from a standing start. The turbo very quickly spools up and there’s a rapid, smooth, but slightly noisy launch. The engine is a real old-school chatterer under load but there is no sense of vibration is any form. The gearbox is the same. It’s super quiet, super smooth, and rarely proved indecisive in its cog-swapping.

Off the throttle the engine is whisper quiet. There is a minimal amount of road and wind noise whilst coasting, and it’s again only when the go pedal gets the ask that the engine gets noticed. Mid range urge is sensational given the size of the engine. It’s relatively effortless in how it performs when compared to bigger cars with bigger engines. Ride is on the hard side however. The 205/60/16 from Kumho provide plenty of grip but that highish sidewall doesn’t do much in the way of aiding the suspension’s absorption. The spring and damper rates are almost adequate for smaller bumps but hit a traffic calmer at anything other than walking pace and it’s kapow.The rear corners will even “cock a leg” when in tight turns or at odd angles coming in and off some driveways. The upside is how it goes on the freeways. Undulating surfaces don’t exist, stability is high in windy conditions, and the steering, adjustable via a drive mode button, is well weighted. It’s responsive and ratioed so understeer is also kept to a minimum. As a driving package it’s far better than expected.
Warranty Is? Seven years. That’s also with unlimited kilometres, from front to rear. Srvices are 12 months or 15,000 kilometres.At The End Of the Drive: It’s a real shame that this quiet achiever is due to be discontinued. Although the forthcoming Korando promises to be just as good, the Tivoli could be kept as an alternative addition, much like many Euro makers seem to offer nowadays. And it’s at a price and trim point that would be a good alternative to quite a few others. And the Tivoli has just had an addition to the range in the form of the long wheelbase XLV.

Here is how you can find out more.

Car Review: 2019 SsangYong Musso Ultimate.

This Car Review Is About:
SsangYong continuing their Australian (and world wide) rebirth with the Musso. A four door ute, based on the Rexton SUV, the Musso is a two or four wheel drive machine. It’s reasonably well priced and reasonably well configured in the 4×4 Ultimate spec as tested at $39,990 driveaway. The range itself starts at $30,490 for the EX manual, $32,490 for the auto EX, and $35,990 for the ELX spec in auto.

Under The Bonnet Is:
A well mannered 2.2L diesel, and the aforementioned six speed auto. Peak torque is 400Nm and available from 1400rpm through to 2800rpm. Peak power is 133kW at a high for a diesel 4000rpm. Urban driving sees consumption hovering between 10.0 and 11.0 litres per 100km, and AWT finished on 10.7L/100km in a purely urban drive. Although the tank is 75-L, and dry weight is around 2060kg, that’s a hefty drink and needs work.Unlike the Rexton tested recently the Musso breathes better from a standing start, lacking the lag so woefully found in the Rexton. As a result the drive factor is immediately better, safer, more enjoyable. Transmission is a six speed auto and again, like the body and interior, pretty much what is found in the Rexton. This means mostly smooth changes, the occasional stutter depending on drive speed and throttle input, and the same on-the-fly drive modes as well, accessed via a cabin-mounted dial. It’s a package that will benefit from further development and refinement but is also pretty good straight out of the box.On The Outside It’s:
The nose and doors of the Musso before a somewhat truncated looking tray. Ostensibly it would be in competition with Ranger, HiLux, Colorado, D-Max, Triton, but also stands out as being the only ute from the three Korean car makers. The first and second sections of the Musso hint at the spaciousness outside, it’s the tray that “holds back” the Musso from really being in the same cargo space as the others. By no means though is it non-user friendly.

It’s fitted, in the test car, with a poly0urethane liner and also comes with tie down points. There also looks like a power point for something like a power generator. It’s certainly big enough for a pair of mountain bikes, and perhaps a couple of mini bikes. Full sized trail bikes make find it a squeeze though.Overall length is 5095mm. That puts it in the same size bracket (over five metres) as the rest but is still noticeable shorter. Although the wheelbase is huge at 3100mm, the rear wheels are closer to the cabin than the others, and the rear overhang of 1105mm is bigger than it looks in the flesh. That applies to the front overhang of 890mm, with reality making that figure look excessive.The wheels fitted to the review vehicle were 20 inch chromed alloys, with rubber of 255/50 from Nexen, Although good lookers and easy to clean, it raised the question of suitability for any dedicated off-road work. What does look good, although it does add to the look of a shortened tray, is the shroud at the forward end of the cargo space.

Headlights have LED running lights, and the front end has a design that SsangYong poetically says evokes a bird’s wings. It may do, but what it definitely is is inoffensive. Not unhandsome, and certainly a light-year away from the oddly styled model from some years ago.On The Inside Is:
A cabin that has largely dark grey to black overtones. The seats are dark grey/black leather (with the fronts heated), the dash is mostly black, the floor is black, most of the door trim is black. There is a splash of dull alloy chrome in the doors that spring from the dash-wide strip, and they house the tweeters in the non-DAB equipped, but very good sounding….sound system. It’s the same layout and look on this screen as seen in the Rexton and that’s a good thing. DAB would be nice as Hyundai has it fitted in their cars now…..There is also the same very handy 360 degree camera system too.However in this car the reverse parking sensors didn’t seem to be engaging correctly, and in the audio system one station, and one station only, seemed to be almost like a slightly dodgy CD, with a skip here and there. It wasn’t the station as confirmed by checking other audio sources simultaneously. It does have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto though, as per the spec found in Rexton.

Being a worker’s aimed ute, it’s not clad in the same gorgeous, diamond quilted, black upon black leather, which in a way is a disappointment. It would have given the Musso that extra stand-out point of difference. As it is that dark grey-black colour scheme looks ok, it just lacks the class that an ostensibly top tier vehicle could have.Instrumentation is as per Rexton. Cleanly laid out it makes for less time scanning for the right button to tip. It does lack the amount of buttons for operation of ancillary items as seen in the Rexton but it doesn’t lack for style or presence either.

Front and rear leg room, plus shoulder, hip, and head room are spot on for four adults, and possibly five at a pinch. There is certainly no issue in getting two children in there.

What About Safety?
No problems here. Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Alert, and Lane Change Assist are standard. Autonomous Emergency Braking, like nearly every company, isn’t here. The usual swag of driver aids such as Hill Descent Control, are here. Six airbags excluding driver’s knee are also standard.

On The Road It’s:
Mucho better in one key area than the Rexton. As stated, it’s better off the line, with a real lack of that inhale and go found in the Rexton. It’s more responsive, more willing, and it’s across the rev range too in comparison to the Rexton. It shares the same mechanical feel, the same lacking in damping steering column, which isn’t a good thing.

The Musso isn’t a lightweight but there is more spring in its step, a better sense of urgency and alacrity. Under steam, a gentle prod has the two tonne plus Musso reacting quickly, with a real sprightliness, and it makes overtaking much more safer. The whole driving experience in this area is appreciably more enjoyable, but it’s let down in return by the ride.

It’s stiff in comparison to the Rexton, which is understandable. However it’s stiff in comparison to its competition, and there’s a distinct sense of unhappiness as it hits unsettled surfaces, the road expansion joints, and it skips noticeably from these influences. Up front it’s more settled and composed, yet still more stiffly sprung than the Rexton. And that mechanical metal-on-metal steering takes some of the life out of the front end too. Brakes? Better than Rexton but still needing a good shove sometimes for a comfortable stoppage.

And The Warranty Is:
Again, it’s a good one. Seven years, unlimited kilometres, seven years roadside help, and a strong service structure. It matches Kia, its bigger Korean sibling in this respect.

At The End Of The Drive.
The 2019 spec SsangYong Musso Limited is a curious machine. It’s roomy, grunty, not unattractive, but it’s lacking in presence and some needed road manners. It’s got a good feature set but in top whack misses out on a couple of niceties and refinement as found in its competition. And although the price is good enough to appeal, the brand still suffers heavily from its previous incarnation. That, in itself, is the biggest stumbling block for SsangYong. SsangYong car range is where you can find details on the reborn SsangYong brand.

 

Car Review: 2019 Tesla Model X 100D

This Car Review Is About:
One of the two vehicles currently available from Tesla. The Model S and Model X are very closely related and come with a choice of drive combinations. A new model, a smaller car called Model 3 is scheduled for Australian release from July 2019. The vehicle tested is the non-P 100D. P for Performance, 100 for the kiloWatt hour drive, D for Dual motor (or, if you will, all wheel drive). The Model X can be specified with different seating configurations and the test vehicle was fitted out as a six seater. What About The Dollars?
Cost for the car tested started at $129,500. Metallic paint is $2,100, with the big black wheels $7,800. The seating colour scheme was $2,100 with the dash trim, a dark ash wood look, a standard no-cost fitment. It’s the electronic bits that add on, with the full self driving option and auto-pilot $7,100 and $4,300 each. With options fitted, Luxury Car Tax, and GST, plus charges such as government taxes, the car as tested came to $186,305.

Under The Bonnet Is:
Empty space. Yup, the Tesla Model X has a “frunk”, a front trunk, or in Aussie speak, a front boot. It’s big enough for a travel case of hiding the home charge cable that Tesla supplies. The engines for the 100D are located underneath at the front and rear, and engage via a single speed transmission. It’s this combination that gives the Tesla Model X startling acceleration, and in Ludicrous mode, a drive option available in the “P” designated cars, it’s quicker again. Call it three seconds to 100kph and you’d be on the money.On The Inside Is:
A choice of seating options. The test car came fitted with a white leather covered set of six seats. The three pairs all have their own form of power adjustment. Up front the driver has fore and aft movement, seat back adjustment, and lumbar support. The middle row are also adjustable for fore and aft, allowing access to the rear seats. However they do not have seat back adjustment. The third row are powered in a slightly different way, with a button locking or releasing them for raising or lowering.

Tesla fit a massive, vertically oriented, 17 inch touchscreen that houses virtually all of the functions. Audio, navigation, music access, air-conditioning, doors, car features, settings, online user manual, and some special features are all here. The map system is from Google and rendered in superb high definition on the screen. Drive orientation is in the upper right corner and can be set to swivel in direction or North as a permanent upper orientation.The overall front section presence is clean, uncluttered, traditional even. The driver’s binnacle has a full colour LCD screen that shows information such as energy usage, map, radio, and more. The steering column is perhaps the weakest part ergonomically. A left hand side indicator sits above the cruise control lever and both can be easily confused for the other as they’re very close together. The drive engage lever is on the right and is simple in operation.The centre row seats move forward and as they close towards the front seats gradually nose downwards to allow access to the rear. The rears are not adjustable for anything other than folded or not. Behind them is another storage locker with a lift away cover that otherwise provides a flat floor.The touchscreen itself houses “easter eggs”. At the top centre of the screen is a “T” symbol. Hold that for a second or two and a graphic that describes the individual car shows. A second or two later a screen appears above that and has an Atari games symbol, a Mars map symbol, a reindeer, a Christmas tree ornament and others. The Atari symbol brings up five games including Asteroids and Missile Command. The reindeer has the car’s driver display show a Father Christmas and sleigh, and rings Christmas bells on the indicator stalk. There is also an “emissions testing” icon that brings a grin to every ten year old boy when a sub-menu of different farts comes up.

On The Outside Is:
The extended roof version of the Model S. Extended as in the Model S formed the basis for the Model X. A higher roof line houses the famous folding gull wing doors, and there’s another part of the delight. When the Christmas ornament is pressed from the easter egg list, it invites the passengers to exit, and close the doors. A few seconds later if it works, as it’s sometimes hit or miss, the front windows roll down, the superb sound system pumps up, and the exterior LED lights up front flash in synchronisation. The doors themselves open and flap in unison and it is one unbelievably entrancing sight to see.The rear view sees an embedded airfoil otherwise the same looking tail lights at Model S. The nose is slightly different but unmistakeably Model S. The footprint is huge, with fan shaped alloys painted in black spanning 22 inches in diameter. Rubber is Goodyear Eagle and are 285/35.

The doors are normally hinged at the front, gull winged for the rear, and the driver’s door can be set to open on the approach of a person carrying the Tesla key fob. Unlike the Model S the door handles don’t extend out from the body, and require a firm press on the handle or via the key fob individually. A tap or two on the top can open or close all doors.

On The Road It’s:
A mix of elation and mild levels of meh. The meh is the steering feel. Although there are three drive modes that change the weight of the steering, it feels artificial and isolated. That’s not unexpected in such a technologically oriented vehicle. But that’s the worst of the on-road feels.

The time with the Model X coincided with a trip from the Blue Mountains to Bega via Canberra. Door to door it’s just on 500 kilometres. The full charge range of the Model X is knocking on 480km. An app that can be installed into your smartphone shows, once the car is linked to your account, the range expected, and when charging, the charge rate and charge distance. The AMOUNT of charge can also be adjusted, from zero through to 100%, with 80% being the default.

All Tesla cars come with a charge cable to hook the car up to a home’s electric network and Tesla themselves provide a higher output charge station to their buyers. These charge at 7 to 8 kilometres of range per hour. The first stop was at the supercharger portal in Goulburn. That’s a two hour drive with a supercharger near Canberra airport approximately another hour away. Superchargers will add in somewhere between 350km to 400km of range in an hour according to the app.Cooma is the next supercharger stop, another hour or so from Canberra, and this one is in an off the main road and not entirely welcoming location. It’s a set of six in a carpark entrance for a shopping complex, and on our visit half of the supercharger bays were taken up by non electric cars. The drives gave us a chance to properly evaluate, in a real world, family usage situation, and although the range expectations were one thing, proper usage delivers another.

Cargo was two adults, two children, a small dog, and a few overnight bags. Then there is the weight of the car and the topography to consider. Autopilot and cruise control were engaged and a small point on the autopilot. The lever needs to be pulled toward the driver twice to engage, and the cameras strategically embedded around the car will then “read” the roadsides in order to keep the Model X as centred as possible. The autopilot function itself was in “Beta” testing mode and again accessed via the touchscreen.The biggest appeal of the the Model X, and Model S, for that matter, is the sheer driveability of the chassis and drivetrain. Electric motors deliver torque constantly, as per this and acceleration across any driving condition is stupendous. The “P” designation adds in “Ludicrous” mode, which amps up the “get up and go” even further. Engage the drive, and it’s a double pull to bring the car out of hibernation mode, and plant the foot. That mountain you could see on the horizon is suddenly there before you.

The braking system can be set for two energy harvest levels and on the ten kilometres worth of downhill running at Brown Mountain, some forty kilometres west of Bega, added an effective twenty kilometres of range. It’s the uphill runs that pull the range expectations downwards, and severely at that. The ever-growing network of destination chargers alleviate range anxiety and a visit to the beautiful coastal town of Merimbula found a destination charger at a bayside motel. The navigation system can provide locations of chargers and when a destination charger shows, a tap of the screen advises the usage, as in in this case, passing through holiday makers. A big thanks to the good people at the Albacore Apartments, by the way. There are two Tesla destination chargers and these add range at 75 to 80 kilometres per hour.

The return trip was via Cooma without stopping and heading to Canberra’s Madura Parkway charge stop. Handily located next to a major fast food store and a number of other shops, an hour’s break saw the Model X arrive back at its Blue Mountains lair with perhaps 70km worth of range left.

Actual ride quality is on the high side of decent considering the size of the wheels and low profile rubber. Ride height can be ajusted via the touchscreen but a high ride setting lowers the car back to its standard height once a preset speed is reached. The Model X is stiff but not bone-shakingly so, taut, but not uncomfortably so. It’s flat, exhibits minimal body roll, and is surprisingly compliant on unsettled and rough surfaces. And although the steering lacks “humanity” it also points the Model X exactly where the wheel tells it to. Naturally, brake feel is spot on too.

The Safety Systems Are:
A solid list of 360 degree cameras, parking sensors that measure in millimetres and show on the driver’s screen, distance sensing radar cruise control, AEB, overhead and knee airbags, plus the usual electronic driver aids. The cruise control can be set to one to seven seconds of distance between the Model X and the car ahead. It’s worth noting that the braking can be on the hard side so driver involvement is still required to watch the road ahead. The same goes with the autonomous steering. Hands on the tiller are recommended at all times.

And The Warranty Is:
Four years for the body and structure. The drive systems and battery get eight years. Extra information is here.

At The End Of The Drive.
The timing of the drive came just after the leader of the Australian Opposition party put forward a proposition that by 2030 fifty percent of cars to be made available for sale be electric. Naturally this sparked the conversation about costs, range, and the time taken to recharge versus refueling a petrol or diesel car.

There’s an undeniable time factor in regards to recharging. But there is a welcome upside. The Goulburn stop provided an opportunity to visit a street mall, the Cooma break a visit to a park with historic significance. The Merimbula stop provided a chance to sample the local lifestyle and the Canberra stop a welcome half way point, lunch, and a leg stretch. The Model X itself is not a tiring car to drive meaning driver fatigue is minimised.

Therein, as the saying goes, lies the rub. The return trip from Bega took as much time as a normal petrol/diesel powered trip, even allowing for the hour or so to recharge. The upside was the break allowing a safe, straight through, return drive and the lack of fatigue from driving a comfortable vehicle. The downside was the evidence that range expectations versus the real world have some way to go before the two meet with a lesser margin in between.

And yes, the cost is significant, especially with the extra Australian government charges involved. However there are plenty of cars that start at the same price and offer an extensive option list. And there is the fluctuating cost of fuel. Depending on location it is theoretically possible to not pay a cent in recharge costs with an electric car.

Tesla will be releasing a lower cost version, effectively, of the Model S, and a new, smaller, SUV called the Model Y is in development. With battery technology improving and the uptake of solar power and batteries for home usage also on the upswing, plus the promise of further electric cars as standard from makers, they all mean that for the Australian market our driving future is in for an undeniable change.

Model X information and more on the other cars from Tesla can be found here.

Car Review: 2019 Suzuki Vitara AllGrip Turbo

This Car Review Is About: The revamped for 2019 Suzuki Vitara range, specifically the 1.4L Boosterjet AllGrip. It sits at the top of a tidied up three tier range. There is a choice of a 1.6L normally aspirated engine, a 1.4L 2WD, or the AllGrip as tested. The range starts at a decent $22,490 plus ORC, the turbo 2WD is $29,990, and the AllGrip is $33,990. Options and metallic paint are separate costs items, at $500 for metallic and $1,250 for the two tone choice. There are eight choices available and the test car was in Atlantis Turquoise Pearl with Metallic Black roof. The naming structure has also been revamped to reflect, simply, that it’s a Vitara, Vitara Turbo, and Vitara AllGrip.Under The Bonnet Is: 103kW and 220Nm. The torque is available from 1500rpm through to 4000rpm. Transmission in the AllGrip is a six speed auto only. A slightly different version is available for the 2WD and you can spec a five speed manual for the 1.6L. The turbo drinks 95RON from a 47L tank and is rated as 6.2L/100km on a combined cycle. It’s attached to a dial that brings up Auto, Snow, Sport, and Lock, for those times where more torque for the rear wheels is required. And there is no longer a diesel. Suzuki rates the gross vehicle mass, GVM, as 1,730kg.

On The Inside Is: A slightly made over interior. The most notable change is to the driver’s display. There is a full colour 4.3 inch screen, and this shows the drive modes in high definition. It’s beautiful to read and very easy on the eye. The AllGrip gets a G-force meter, a kilowatt and Nm pair of of circular graphs, a bar graph for brake and accelerator. The drive modes themselves are available via a centre mounted dial. The newly recovered for a soft touch binnacle itself has two push stalks, located at the ten and two o’clock positions on the silvery toned dials and a little hard to find otherwise. Aircon is dial controlled and Suzuki looks towards Lexus by adding a small but classy looking analogue clock that sits between the two centre mounted vents.Seats are manually operated in the AllGrip, and really should be powered here. Trim was a black diamond cloth with leather bolstered sides, and were super comfortable. The normal plastics on the dash and doors didn’t appeal or seem as being of the quality to look at and touch in a top level vehicle but a light gunmetal insert that runs full width does add a splash of colour.Front leg room for the driver and passenger were more than adequate, rear seats had plenty for people to a certain (teenaged) size and have privacy glass too. ISOFIX child seat mounts are standard, and the cargo area is adequate without being overwhelming in a small SUV. It starts at 375L, and maxes at 1,120L. The tail gate is manually operated. The roof in the review car had a full glass roof and light coloured cloth sun shield, however there was still plenty of heat getting through to the cabin.

Although a top line vehicle, only the driver’s window gets Auto up/down, however it does get auto wipers and auto headlights over the 1.6L model. Cruise control, Bluetooth streaming, satnav, paddle shifts for the auto, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard via Suzuki’s cool looking seven inch display touchscreen and there is a USB/12V socket up front. However there is no DAB tuner.On The Outside Is: A lightly revamped body. The main external change has been to the tail lights. They now have a three bar LED lit interior. 17 inch graphite coloured alloys are standard across the range, and rubber is again from Continental at 215/55. The lower front bar has been lightly reprofiled and has the addition of chrome blades around the driving lights and running horizontally across the lower part of the air intake. LEDs now power the headlights in the AllGrip. The former horizontal bars in the grille have been ditched and now refelct the five bar verticals Suzuki is known for. Parking sensors front and rear plus a reverse camera finish off the externals.

On The Road It’s: A little twitchy in the steering. The weight tends towards the light side and took a day or so to come to grips with the feedback level. Ride quality was also a touch twitchy, with the rebound rates on rougher tarmac quicker than expected. The compact size of the Vitara contributes somewhat to the edgy feel; at 4,175mm in length it packs a 2,500mm wheelbase and and rides on a 1,535mm track. This means irregular surfaces will impact more on a compact footprint than bigger vehicles.

The turbo’s torque spread is the standout here. Although the auto was occasionally indecisive when cold, better when warmed up, the engine was on song from the press of the Start/Stop button. It’s better than flexible for the size of the Vitara but would struggle in anything bigger. Acceleration is around eight seconds to see the century mark and is flexible enough to deal with around town without a quibble.Highway manners are acceptable. It rolls along quietly and without fuss, but when required will spring out of its torpor and boot the AllGrip past slower traffic without question. We also had a chance to test the Vitara at the Werribee 4×4 proving grounds, and its soft-road credibility remains untarnished. The 4×4 mode works in pulling the pugnacious little machine through a flowing creek, through and over mud and muddy puddles, and up and down slopes of up to thirty degrees without a blink.

The Safety Systems Are: The safety package for the 1.4L Boosterjet Vitara is comprehensive too. On top of a seven airbag system which includes the driver getting a kneebag, there is Lane Departure Warning, Hill Descent Control, High Beam Assist, Weaving Alert, Blind Spot Monitor, and Autonomous Emergency Braking. This couples with the Adaptive Cruise Control and Stop/Go function as required. It receives an ANCAP five star safety rating.And The Warranty Is: Five years/140,000 kilometres and comes with a five year capped price service package. The provisio is that the five year warranty is if serviced via the five year plan. Roadside assist is three years but will extend to five is serviced through Suzuki. The service schedule may raise an eyebrow as it’s six months or ten thousand kilometres. The first three services, according to Suzuki’s website are $175 with a maximum cost of $300 at the end of the fourth year.

At The End Of The Drive. The Vitara has always been a fun, small, soft-road capable vehicle. The decision to drop the diesel is a bit odd, but as that fuel seems to be on the nose and petrol/hybrids are on the up in respect to economy…The size of the Vitara is fine, but mainly for single/couples/small kids. The safety package in the AllGrip for a mid $30K or so driveaway price (check with your local dealer) is impressive and the overall driveability also impresses. That service impost though….well…

Suzuki can tell you more, here.

The Top Five From The Last Five

Picture Australian roads in the mid 1970s. It was the era of Holden, Ford, and Chrysler. Japanese brands such as Subaru and Toyota were known of, Korean cars simply didn’t “exist”, and four wheel drive capable utes were the end product of after-market conversion companies. European cars were largely luxury types or sports cars, with Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz up against Porsche, whilst Volkswagen was best known for its “people’s car” still.

The Kingswood and Falcon duked it out with the big Chrysler Valiant, sedans and wagons, like “light” and “heavy” beer were the only choices.
But it was also heading towards the days of the so-called oil crisis. Emissions were also becoming something that would be under the microscope, and European designs would soon start to filter their way through to the Aussie marketplace.

Punk music was just starting to grow, Queen were thriving, and a small film called Star Wars has people queuing around street corners.Times and tastes have changed over the last forty years or so. Technology has made substantial differences to how we enjoy viewing, watching, listening, and driving.

2014 Top Five.
Toyota already had a reputation for building solid off road cars. They were known for cheap to run, if not exciting to drive, small cars, and in 2014 their Corolla was the number one selling car. Competitor Mazda also grew from a good yet uninspiring range, bar the exciting and thirsty EX-7, and in 2014 their Corolla fighter, the Mazda 3 (once known as the 323 and shared with Ford as the Laser) ran a VERY close second. How close?43,735 “Rollas” were sold in 2014, against 43,313 3s. Toyota claimed position number 3 in 2014. Their HiLux 4×2 and 4×4 utes, in two and four door configurations was making steady progress through the sales charts and finished ahead of Hyundai’s i30 five door hatch. The once almost unstoppable Holden Commodore would take fifth in 2014.

2015 would see a change in the rankings with not one, but two, utes in the top five. Toyota had consolidated first again, with the Corolla still of big appeal at just over 42K vehicles finding new homes. Mazda’s 3 had gone backwards considerably, with 38,644 in new driveways.

HiLux would be third yet again in 2015 but had lost close to three thousand sales. In fourth it was Hyundai’s tidy i30 but in fifth, and with sales going up by about the same HiLux went down, was Ford’s overhauled Ranger. 29,185 Rangers were sold, up from 26,619 in 2014.

2016 was a watershed year for the Australian automotive manufacturing industry. The largely home grown Falcon was no more and Ford Australia had ceased local manufacturing. The top five in 2016 was a case of the same yet different. HiLux had been given a makeover, with a more assertive and blokey styling. This was enough to propel it to the top of the charts for 2016, and how! 42,104 versions were sold, an increase of just shy of seven thousand. Corolla made it a Toyota one-two with the i30 taking bronze again. Ranger increased sales by nearly eight thousand to finish fourth on 36.934, with the Mazda3 in fifth, down by over two thousand to 36,107.

Best selling cars of 2017.
Well, it was a battle of the utes this year. The tsunami that was HiLux in 2016 continued, with an increase of nearly five thousand from 2016. 47,093 of them were purchased. Ford’s Ranger shouldered through the Corolla range and with 42,728, silver on the podium was Ford’s for the taking. It was a tussle of the small cars for third, fourth, and fifth, with Corolla, Mazda3, and the i30 taking the minor placings. i30 had collapsed, with just 28,780 being sold compared to 2016’s 37,772. 2017 would also see Holden and Toyota pull down the shutters on their local manufacturing operations.

2018’s Best Sellers.
Australia’s love affair with the Commodore, and sedans in general, was well and truly over. But that love for the HiLux was increased even further, with the chunky machine seeing 51,705 rolling out of showrooms. In December of 2018 alone, 3871 were sold.

Ford’s Ranger had undergone a facelift in 2017 and that momentum continued to have the brawny Australian designed machine shift 42,144 units. This was close to seven thousand units ahead of the Corolla, with its own 2017, edgy looking, facelift not diminishing appeal. 35,320 Toyota Corollas were bought, well over four thousand more than the Mazda3. In fifth was the bridesmaid’s bridesmaid, Hyundai’s i30. However, in 2018, more attention was on the i30N than the others, which means a climb to fourth for 2019 may well be the case.

Of note is Mitsubishi’s Triton. A facelifted version was made available in early 2019, and 2018 saw 24,896 sold. Holden’s Colorado didn’t crack the top ten in comparison.

Tell us what you think of the current state of Australian car sales, and which brand grabs your fancy by getting in touch via our blog and social media connections.

Kia Drops Optima, Hyundai Unveils Sister Sonata.

Kia Australia has announced that the under-performing Optima is to be dropped from the Australian lineup. With the medium car segment shrinking and Optima moving just 54 units in January and February of 2019, the handsome and stylish front wheel drive machine is destined to be deleted as a sales choice by year’s end. However, as good a car as it is with a superb ride and sharp handling, the fact that the sales of the bigger Stinger have increased, and with close to 2000 units moved last year, but just eight percent of those being the sparkling turbo four as found in the Optima, the Optima’s future is clouded.

Kia itself has declared its electric intent, with the Soul looking to move to a purely electric platform. The petrol version’s sales has collapsed, and rather than continue with either the petrol or hybrid versions, as another small SUV is planned for Australia, Kia Australia will trial the Soul as a battery powered option only. Kia has also waved goodbye to the almost invisible Rondo.The newly updated Cerato hatch and sedan have grown in size, and by becoming closer overall to the Optima, and now packing turbo engines in the GT options, have given buyers a choice largely no longer taken up in the medium sedan segment.Kia’s majority shareholder owner, Hyundai, has unveiled their new Sonata though. Sister car to the Optima, the 2020 Sonata debuts a new design and features a more coupe styling. The rear features lights that do more than nod towards a Swedish influence, whilst the new nose has strong influences from the European mainland makers. Inside Hyundai have moved towards the Japanese and European high dash mounted screen as seen in Audi and Lexus, for two examples.Overall height is down by 30mm, whilst overall width is up by 25mm. This gives the 2020 Sonate a sleeker and more purposeful stance on road. That’s helped by a longer body and wheelbase of 45mm and 35mm respectively.

The current expected release date is in late 2019.

Car Review: 2019 Renault Trafic Crew Life LCV

This Car Review Is About:
The 2019 Renault Trafic Crew Life LCV (light commercial vehicle). It’s a long wheelbase version with a dedicated passenger cabin. Renault have it, at the time of writing, at a stellar $47,990 driveaway.Under The Bonnet Is:
A surprisingly torquey twin-turbo 1.6L diesel. At just 1500rpm there is 340Nm, and peak power isn’t bad either. At 3500rpm there is 103kW, although by then it’s run out of puff. The transmission fitted to the review vehicle is a slick six speed manual, driving the front wheels, that’s geared to take advantage of the torque early on to get it under way. There is no auto option. Economy is rated as 6.2L/100km, and the final figure of over 420km for a quarter tank (80L volume) consumed speaks volumes. And that’s with a dry weight of 1,736 kilos.
On The Outside It’s:
A van. Yes, it’s stating the obvious but sometimes the obvious is all there is. From front and rear perspectives its virtually cubical. From a side profile the long wheelbase (3,498mm inside an overall 5,399mm)is readily apparent, as is the elegantly profiled nose, complete with bonnet. This makes accessing the engine easier and provides a higher measure of impact protection. Front overhang is 938mm, with a rear overhang of 968mm.

The body in white highlighted the tinted windows fitted to the left and right hand side sliding doors which aren’t remotely operable. The windows themselves house slightly tricky sliding windows, and pull down sun shades. Overall cargo is rated as six cubic metres for the standard LWB, four metres for the crew cab version.
The alloy wheels are 17 inches in diameter and are wrapped in commercial spec, yet very comfortable and grippy, rubber of 215/60 profile from Dunlop.

The non-powered tailgate is surprisingly easy to lift, with a balance point requiring little effort in order to raise it. There is also an embedded pullstrap to help lower the door.

Both driver and passenger door mirrors have a number of wide angle mirrors to back up the reverse camera and rear sensors.

On The Inside It’s:
Got seating for six. There’s adequate room up front for three, even with the protuberance for the gear selector. Underneath the centre and left seat are storage compartments which are accessed by lifting the squab. The driver’s storage has a tool kit.

The other three seats have plenty of room all around, and behind them was a bulkhead separating the passenger section from the load bay. There was just enough body flex to have the bulkhead mounts squeaking quite a bit.
Although clearly a commercial vehicle, Renault’s ergonomics cant be faulted, for the most part. The gear selector housing has some impact on the centre seat passenger, but that’s unavoidable as it’s also ideally placed to fall naturally to hand for shifting.

The starter button is quite visible, so there’s no hunting around. Switchgear is just where the body feels it needs to be, and the left mounted indicator (with auto headlights) is a fingertip away. The floor is easy to clean rubber, with driver and front passengers stepping up easily.
A handy touch or two are the inbuilt mobile phone holder and upper dash storage locker. The phone holder is engineered to twist and to extend in height with the push of a button.
The seven inch touchscreen is easy to operate and read, and there is the pleasant addition of digital radio. However, much like the Megane recently reviewed, the tuner sensitivity isn’t on par with that from other manufacturers. Having said that, overall sound quality from the door mounted speakers, partnered with a pair mounted above and behind the driver and left front passenger, delighted in their depth and clarity.

On The Road It’s:

More car like in ride and handling than it had the right to be. The front wheels are ahead of the front seats but felt as if they were directly under them. With such a long body and wheelbase there was an expectation of dragging tne rear wheels on curbs in corners. It simply didnt happen. Somehow, the knowledge of where each corner was became almost intuitive vey quickly. Not once did the length of the Trafic Life pose an issue.

Driven in the environment it was, a predominantly urban drive, and with one to four aboard, plus a week’s load of shopping, the 1.6L engine never seemed as if it would struggle in this specific kind of usage. If used in a purely commercial way, that would probably be a different story.
But that’s where the low gearing for first and second worked so well. Below 1300 or 1400 revs, the Trafic Life had little. Life, that is. But once tbe turbo spooled up there was a rapid change in tne nature of it, and the 340 torques introduced themselves with a flourish.

Further up the gears and in both town and highway driving, the Trafic Life was rarely found wanting. The engine management system has an anti-stall feature, and once or twice at traffic lights this kicked in, enabling the get-away otherwise wanted.

It’s a superb highway cruiser, and around the urban drive cycle, fourth or fifth was all that was required. Braking, too, was wonderful, with an easy to judge feel, and plenty of speed reduction quickly.
Actual ride quality was enjoyable, with a firm, but not unpleasantly so suspension setup. Matched with a quick steering rack and driven hard through the tight and twisting turns on one particular Blue Mountains thoroughfare, the Trafic Life demonstrated just how well thought out and engineered the underpinnings are.

What About Safety And Warranty?
Front and side airbags, daytime running lights, Hill Start Assist, and the mandated traction aids are standard. Renault doesn’t list AEB or distance sensing cruise control. Warranty is listed as 3 years, unlimited kilometres, with annual or 30,000 kilometre service intervals.
At The End Of The Drive.
PF handed back the 2019 Renault Trafic Life with regret. It’s a better than expected family vehicle, economic to drive, comfortable whilst doing so, and has an easy to maintain interior. In colours other than the plain white our review vehicle came in, it’d also be a reasonably handsome looker on road. And at under $50k driveaway its a screaming bargain as a people mover.

For more details on the Renault Trafic range, here is where you can find them.

Car Review: 2019 Kia Carnival Platinum Petrol

This Car Review Is About:
The 2019 model year Kia Carnival Platinum with 3.3L V6 engine. It’s also available with a torquey 2.2L diesel. The car reviewed was priced at $60,290, plus $695 for premium paint, plus on road costs.Under The Bonnet Is:
Kia’s well sorted and rorty 3.3L V6. It produces 206kW at 6,000rpm, and will twist out 336Nm at 5,200rpm. The diesel, in comparison, has 147kW, and 440Nm, with the latter on tap between 1,750rpm and 2,750rpm. Economy is rated as 10.8L of regular unleaded from the 80L tank for every 100 kilometres on the combined cycle. Urban and highway are 14.5L and 8.7L per 100 kilometres for the 2,094 kilogram machine before fuel and passengers. Towing is 2,000 kilos, braked.Transmission is also well sorted, with eight forward cogs. Although not quite as smooth overall as General Motors’ ripper nine speed, it’s not that far behind in overall refinement.On The Inside Is:
What a proper people mover should be all about. With the rise of faux people movers masquerading as SUVs, Kia’s Carnival shows them how it’s done. Two up front, three in the middle on sliding seats, and three in the rear, and still with room enough. Overall length of 5,115mm starts the party and continues with a 3,060mm wheelbase.Storage is 960L with all three rows of seats up, with 2,220L or 4,022L depending on second and third row seats being folded down. Access is via a powered tailgate or powered sliding doors, with the remote key fob opening and closing either. The rear and centre row seats aren’t quite as intuitively friendly to operate as some others, ditching a pullstrap style at the rear in favour of a more complicated handle pull and lift arrangement, with the centre a little more fussy in operation also. Front and second row seats are vented and heated, for good measure. Kia’s brochure doesn’t specifically mention head/leg/shoulder room, but there’s more than enough space for anyone not named Dwayne Johnson.

The seat material was a mix of black and light grey leather which matched the upper and lower trim colours. Rear and centre row seats have independent aircon controls and vents. Smart devices have 3 USB ports and 3 12V sockets from which to be charged from, however there is no separate wireless charge pad.Kia says there are ten cup holders, with two up front, in the centre, and two on the centre row seat back, with four more for the third row. The front and sliding doors have a bottle holder each. The centre console also has a link to the aircon system with a coolbox there.

The Kia Carnival has ditched the seven inch touchscreen for an eight inch. It houses satnav, DAB, Bluetooth streaming, and the apps for additional features via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The safety menu has a wide array of information assistance including school zone awareness and narrow roads. All can be disabled should the slightly strident voice become too overbearing.The driver gets a polished wood trim look and leather tiller, with the hub holding Kia’s standard rollers and tabs to access ound and 3.5 inch centre dash screen info. Unusually the Platinum version stays with a full analogue dial display, with that centre screen the only digital part.

Ergonomics are pretty much Kia’s normal quality, that is to say “instinctive”. Auto headlights and dusk sensing wipers are standard also. What is also standard is a 360 degree camera system, allowing a selection of views around the big machine.What About Safety?
Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist, Autonomous Emergency Braking with Forward Collision Warning are standard. Rear Cross Traffic Alert adds to the overall package nicely. There are roof mounted, side mounted, and front mounted airbags but no driver’s kneebag. There are three ISOFIX mounts for child seats along with the older tether type.

The Outside Has:
Not changed for a few years now. It’s still a handsome beast, with a broad, stocky look. The exterior colours are few, with just six to choose from. Deep Chroma Blue was the provided colour, with Clear White, Panthera Metal, Silky Silver, Snow White Pearl, and Aurora Black available. Carnival Platinum rolls on easy clean chrome alloys, with 235/55/19 the dimensions and rubber from Nexen.Quad cased LED driving lights in the lower front corners along with standard LED driving lights that wrap around the headlights balance LED tail lights.

On The Road It’s:
Starting to show a little bit of age. As good and as supple the suspension is, it’s noticeably unsettled by lateral movements thanks to road expansion joints. The MacPherson strut/multi-link combo is fine in a straight line, will deal with being thrown into corners (considering the two tonne plus mass), but as long as there are no imperfections, it’s a very good gripper. It’s predictable in its handling across all sorts of driving situations, and will understeer on a nicely consistent, easily controllable, basis.

Like all weighty petrol fed cars, it needs a good poking to get moving. When a hasty departure isn’t required it will quietly purr away from the line but with the solid hint there’s mass to pull around. Amp it up and the muted snarl gets a little fiercer, a little angrier, and the metallic keen gets more noticeable as the spinning numbers get higher.The auto is mostly en pointe, but is prone to some lurching between gears, an occasional bang as the foot comes off the accelerator and momentarily has the electronics vagued out. There was some dithering between gears on light to moderate acceleration, and changes aren’t as silky smooth as expected, with minor but noticeable body movement fore and aft as they changed.

A positive is the wind resistance; with the flat, broad, sheetmetal, cross breezes would be fairly expected to move the Carnival around. In a brewing storm, perhaps, but with some stiff breezes encountered the Carnival remained stable on road.

The Warranty Is:
Kia’s seven year warranty and service costs package. First service is 15,000 kilometres or one year and is priced at $356.00. Year four is $689.00 and year six the other big one at $679.00. Check with your Kia dealer about associated services for warranty and serving issues.

At The End Of The Drive.
There is a possible update for the Carnival allegedly due in late 2019. If the facelifts to Cerato are any indication, it’ll further enhance the already not unattractive looks of the Carnival. Where it really wins is in the slowly growing “why buy a SUV when there are people movers?” movement. It’s a proper eight seater, even if row three might be a bit cramped depending on who sits there. There’s plenty of room, and tech,and plenty of street appeal.

Kia’s Carnival continues to win awards, but more importantly continues to win hearts. Here is where you can find more about the 2019 Kia Carnival.

 

HiAce Goes Out Of The Box.

Toyota’s venerable HiAce light commercial van has gone from a smooth, ovoid, mid sized van to a boxy and bigger version. Although not in the same capacity range as a Sprinter from Mercedes-Benz of a Trafic from Renault, its more compact size has allowed thousands of people to become a courier delivery driver, a taxi, or a people mover.Due for a mid 2019 release, the latest version has had one very noticeable design change. Gone is the long standing blunt nose, finally replaced with a semi-bonneted design. This has the end effect of engineers providing a stiffer chassis that offers an improvement in straight line performance and stability. Manoeuvrability from a range of more pliant suspensions is an extra bonus with new MacPherson struts being part of the uprated suspension system. The rear has newly designed leaf springs, with an increase of length of 200 mm adding an extra 30 mm of travel for a more compliant ride.Seating will range from a two seater version on a long wheelbase (LWB) and super long wheel base (SLWB), a five seater LWB van, and a super long wheelbase (SLWB) 12 seater commuter van.

Motorvation has changed as well. There will be two new engines – a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel or a 3.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol poweplant, both available with six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. Confirmation of power, torque, and consumption will be made available closer to the release date.A hallmark of the HiAce has been its cargo carrying ability and has been maintained at a maximum of 6.2 cubic metres for the lLWB wheel base and 9.3 cubic metres for the SLWB thanks to the redesign that offers clever packaging which increases internal width by 215mm and height by 5mm without altering overall exterior width. The SLWB two-seat van is capable of accommodating Australian standard pallets (1165mm x 1165mm) through its wider sliding side doors. Inside will be a range of mounting points to help secure cargo.

Sean Hanley, Toyota Australia’s vice president of sales & marketing, says: “Importantly, we anticipate even better whole-of-life costs with excellent reliability and resale value along with minimal downtime and affordable maintenance. The semi-bonnet design makes it significantly easier and quicker to replace parts such as the oil and air filters, battery, and coolant. In addition to being highly capable right off the showroom floor, all-new HiAce has been designed to offer immense flexibility through conversions and customisation to meet varied business and personal needs.”

The expected safety rating is five stars, thanks again to the redesigned chassis, and with up to nine airbags being fitted depending on version. Pre-collision warning with cyclist and pedestrian detection, autonomous emergency braking, and reversing camera are complemented by a digital rear view camera that can be fitted as an option.

Extra design features make the new HiAce just that little bit more human friendly too. The doors have a lower edge and sit over a wider step for easier access. The window glass is larger for better vision and a lower beltline means better side vision.Pricing for the 2019 Toyota HiAce is yet to be confirmed.

Fiat Goes Rare With 500C Spiaggina ’58 Edition.

Rare indeed will be the Fiat 500C Spiaggina ’58 Edition, as just 30 units will be be released. Priced from $25,990 (manufacturers list price) the car pays tribute to the 500 Jolly Spiaggina, the first special series of the Fiat 500 which was on sale in the late 1950s through to the mid 1960s. It was the embodiment of ” La Dolce Vita”, with its quirky styling, 22 horsepower engine, and doorless body.The 2019 version will feature both manual and auto transmissions, and will come with $3000 worth of extras at no cost. Outside will be the brilliant Volare Blue body colour, 16 inch white painted wheels in a classic and vintage look, and a white “beauty line”.Splashes of chrome add extra “bling” on the bonnet, mirror covers, and inserts in the bumpers. Bespoke Spiaggina branding is part of the look, with a rear quarter badge, plus “500” logos shown inside the compact yet comfortable cabin. Extra airiness comes courtesy of the beige fabric folding roof.The design itself is based on a concept car which featured no roof, a roll bar, and no rear seat.Power for the 2019 version is rated as 51kW from Fiat’s peppy 1.2L engine. The manual is a five speed, with the auto also a five speed. That option will be priced at $27, 490 (manufacturer’s list price). A seven inch Uconnect touchscreen will be standard, as will Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, climate control, and rear parking sensors.

Fiat Australia has the car on sale as of February 12, 2019. Contact them here.