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Mahindra Pik-Up Gets Update for 2018.

Some brands in Australia’s car industry seem to sail under the radar. Sometimes that’s a good thing as it gives the canny and investigative buyer a chance to stand out from the crowd. There’s also a sense of brand loyalty amongst those that do buy, and so it is with Mahindra. The Indian based conglomerate has released an update to the sturdy Pik-Up two and four door ute, covering the drivetrain, exterior and interior, and safety. The trim levels are named S6 and S10.
Drivetrain.
It’s a two body range, the dual cab and single cab (and S6 and S10 for both), with two and four wheel drive available for both. That’s available via a six speed manual attached to a small but grunty Euro V compliant diesel. The capacity is 2.2 litres, and peak power is 103 kilowatts. The important name and number is torque and there’s 330 of them, between 1600 to 2800. That’s smart engineering as it means driveability is enhanced in a real world situation.

In the 4WD versions, it’s a Borg-Warner transfer case putting that torque to the dirt through all four paws plus there’s an Eaton system that will lock the rear diff if slippage is detected.. Tank size is a massive 80 litres, not far off the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s 93L. Economy for the four door is quoted as 8.8L/100 km. There is a single cab due in 2018, with economy slated to be 0.2L/100km better. Towing is rated as 2500 kilograms, braked.Interior.
There’s the visible and invisible. Mahindra have upped the safety stakes, with ABS, collapsible steering column, Electronic Brake Distribution, front airbags as standard. For the family, there’s ISOFIX seat anchor points also as standard. Visibly there’s a six-inch touchscreen in the S10 (CD/MP3 campatoble head unit for the S6)which displays the reverse camera, along with cruise control and satnav, climate control, auto headlights and wipers. The driver’s dash display receives a 3D effect on the analogue dials for better visualisation. There’s an upright design to the dash itself, ensuring plenty of leg room for the driver and passenger, as do the rear sear passengers thanks to some well thought out packaging.Exterior.
The Pik-Up has always had a solid, bluff, look, and this stays. However, the S10 gets a classy mix of black chrome grille with subtle chrome highlights, a reshaped lower air intake for better engine breathing and aerodynamics, with both grille and intake receiving a visual update thanks to black mesh, and a subtle increase to the Mahindra badge.
There’s LED driving lights for the completely restyled headlights in the S10 and restyled foglights as well. Tyres will be P245/75 R16.Release Information and Pricing.
As of December 2017, there will be the 4×4 S6 single cab chassis at $26,990 driveaway. A 4×2 version will be available in early 2018 at $21,990. The 4×4 S6 dual cab will come with either a cab chassis or factory fitted “well side tub” at $26,490 and $29,990 respectively. The S10 trim level and tub takes it to $31,990. There’s a huge range of options available such as snorkel, tow ball set-up, and winch compatible steel bill bars, with more to come in 2018.

Colours are limited to a four choice palette: Napoli Black, Arctic White, Red Rage and De-sat Silver. Warranty is five years or 100,000 kilometres and also includes five years roadside assistance.
For more information on the 2018 Mahindra Pik-Up range, head here: Mahindra Australia

Car Review: 2018 Mitsubishi ASX XLS Diesel AWD

Mitsubishi has a long and proud history with off road capable vehicles and continues that with the ASX range. Private Fleet spends time with the top of the range 2018 Mitsubishi ASX XLS, complete with the same 2.2L diesel as found in the Outlander, and seven speed CVT plus a six speed manual lower in the range.The range itself also offers a petrol 2.0-litre engine, and will power down via the front wheels or come with an all wheel drive system. It’s a mid-sized five seater, in the same bracket as theToyota RAV4. Mitsubishi is offering driveaway pricing deals at the time of writing, with the range starting at an easy on the wallet $24,990 for the LS 2WD petrol. Our test car is priced from $39,990.The engine is good for 110kW, and 360Nm between 1500 to 2750 rpm, making normal driving as easy as blinking. The CVT is well sorted, taking the right foor command and turning it into forward motion easily. The torque allows quick acceleration however doesn’t seem to be as comfortable with overtaking as Suzuki’s Vitara. Economy is good too, with a final figure of 5.9 litres of diesel consumed per 100 kilometres.

Inside, the ASX clearly shows its family oriented design, with leather accented cloth seats, digital radio, a sliding cloth screen for the full length glass roof, plenty of bottle and cup holders, USB charging ports BUT dips out on rear seat air vents and ventilation for the from seats, an almost unforgivable oversight for the Australian market. The plastics are hard to the touch, needing a more modern feel with padding and a softer feel where padding isn’t required. Also, the ovoid design of the console is now showing its age, needing a move to a more human encompassing design. However, cargo room is also looking good, with room for shopping, bags for the weekend way and suchlike, with 393L available with the rear seats up and increasing to to 1143L with the seats folded. Being a compact car in overall length, rear leg room is slightly compromised, with anyone from 180 cm and up maybe feeling a little cramped, but there’s plenty of head and shoulder room, front and rear.Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available, as are DAB/AM/FM (no CD) as is Bluetooth streaming via the 7.0-inch touchscreen. But the reliance on the two smartphone apps means no built in sat nav, even though GPS, showing the coordinates but no navigation, is there. And currently the apps have to be accessed via the phones being connected with cables, a somewhat clunky method and untidy as well.Being the top of the range means loading up with plenty of safety features and the ASX XLS gets the supreme pizza, with Forward Collision Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning, and Euro style flashing brake lights for the Emergency Stop System. Autonomous Emergency Braking is not yet fitted to the range however. A reverse camera is standard across the range, as are the ISOFIX child seat mounts and pretensioning seatbelts, Hill Start Assist, and seven airbags including driver’s kneebag.

Back to the driving habits and it’s a typical diesel; floor it and it’ll hesitate as the turbo spools up before kicking the tyres into action. Breathe the right foot over the throttle and you can watch the numbers change quickly and quietly. Economy is rated as 6.0L/100km on a combined cycle from a 60-litre tank and with the ASX being a middleweight, at 1540kg before fuel and passengers, there’s a useable torque to weight ratio. As a result it’ll get off the line, even with the CVT, with a solid rush.When it comes to dimensions, there’s a 2670mm wheelbase hiding inside that compact body, meaning you’ll get a sure footed handling and composed ride in combination with the struts and multi-link suspension. Rubber is from Bridgestone, and they’re 225/55/18s. Exterior styling owes much, like the original Outlander, to the Lancer sedan, with the ASX sporting the same sharp edged, bluff prow. At each corner up front are almost vertical LED driving lights and there’s splashes of chrome. It’s assertive and appealing.The ASX is easy to live with on road, with the steering being light, but attached enough so you don’t find you’re missing out on contact with what’s happening up front. Point and shoot style is how the ASX XLS works and the flexibility of the peak torque makes city driving an absolute doddle. The CVT has no manual mode available via the gear selector, so if you use the paddle shifters you’ll need to quickly slide into Neutral and back out (NOT recommended) to bring it back to Drive, or, when stopped, pulling both paddles back until it re-engages Drive. Although the AWD system is front wheel drive biased, the AWD button mounted in the centre console will direct drive to the rear on demand. If you wish to utilise all of that torque for towing, the ASX XLS will do so up to 1400 kilograms.At The End Of The Drive.
The ASX has received a nip and a tuck here and there over its life however it’s now, like its “doner” car, showing signs of age. Yes, it’s still comfortable and roomy enough for a family of four however the dash design and plastics now lag behind competitors. It’s a fantastic city oriented car with a frugal, punchy, diesel but the value of the Mitsubishi ASX XLS is also beginning to be questionable. In no way is it a bad car, it’s just now not as good as other choices.
Here is where you can get more information: 2018 Mitsubishi ASX range

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander LS AWD Diesel With Safety Pack

Revelations 2.2, Reading from the Book Of Diesel, Chapter: Mitsubishi Outlander LS AWDI had an epiphany whilst piloting Mitsubishi’s Outlander LS diesel seven seater (with safety pack) early on a Sunday morning to Kurrajong, a pretty area of the lower Blue Mountains and home to the start of the famous Bell’s Line of Road, the northern western bound access to Lithgow. The epiphany courtesy of the fact the reason we were on the way there was for day two of the little athletics carnival that our two kids were participating in.The epiphany itself? That little athletics can be a metaphor for a car and this car in particular. Truly. The Outlander diesel has a 2.2L capacity, offering a maximum power of 110 kilowatts and a very handy 360 torques. They’re available between 1500 to 2750 and ideal for the easy run from home to Kurrajong, via the sometimes curvy, sometimes twisty, but mostly straightish Hawkesbury Road into the southern reaches of Richmond, a few kilometres from the RAAF base, before the westbound journey into the lower reaches of the Blue Mountains.This means that it’s like a long distance runner, cruising along in a ten thousand metre race. There’s the get off the line grunt before settling into economy mode, barely breaking a mechanical sweat as you ease towards the finish line. Economy figures back that up with just 7.8 litres of dino juice imbibed after a predominantly urban 440 kilometres.Whilst you’re inside the seven seater, there’s plenty of room to enjoy, both for legs and heads. That means that you’re leading the race and by a good margin. There’s even space to stretch the legs up front, the same as being in that final twenty metres of a sprint and needing that extra pace. Those seven seats could be likened to an athlete that excels is more than just one discipline, with flexibility the key.One thing that stands out about the LS is just how comfortable it is. There’s cloth, not leather covered, seats, making getting back into the curvaceously bodied machine a lot easier to deal with on a hot day with hot and sweaty children. The rear row of seats fold up and down at the simple pull of a strap, with 128 litres of cargo (plus a 12V socket) with the rear seats up, enough for some esky bags and camp chairs, and when flat along with the middle row, allow 1608 litres of room.The steering is well weighted, and quite precise, just like a well practiced discus thrower. Think of the spin and throw and landing the disc in the same spot every time, precisely. Or a javelin, as you pick up the spear, judge its heft, the same as you would the steering into the tight turns of the Hawkesbury Road, and hurl it ensuring it buries itself nose first, just as you’d have the steering tell the nose of the Outlander exactly where to go. And it does.Then there’s that engine. It’ll purr along like a long distance runner, as mentioned, but it also has the sheer outright oomph that a hammer thrower, or shot putter, needs to launch the weight of the thing far and away. Wind it up into the torque zone, select 4WD lock from the three mode 4WD system, and it’ll happily pull itself up hill, over rocks, through puddles up to around 20 cm in depth nicely on the 18 inch diameter 225/55 tyres.This particular Mitsubishi Outlander LS AWD is fitted with Mitsubishi’s “Safety Pack”. Parking sensors front and rear complement the reverse park camera and airbags, then there’s the Lane Departure Warning system, Forward Collision Alert and Adaptive Cruise Control, which measures the distance ahead of the car whilst in cruise control and adapts speed to suit. Think of doing a long jump and adjusting your run up to the jump knowing you have centimetres more to achieve. Lob in Autonomous Emergency Braking, or pulling up if your run up is misjudged and before you cross the jump line, and it’s a well featured package. For extra additional enjoyment there’s the seven inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and DAB radio, just like a pair of lightweight running shoes that aid performance without being intrusive.As an everyday transport, the Mitsubishi Outlander LS (priced at the time of writing at $41990 driveaway without safety pack), with seven seats, diesel with oomph, the safety extras, and comfortable ride, is a revelation and as adaptable as a good athlete. With a five year warranty, 12 months roadside assistance, and three years capped priced servicing, it’s as good value as seeing your kids make their way through to the next level of little athletics.

The Rise of the Online Car Buyer

As society has grown to depend on the vital role that online marketplaces play in our lives, they’ve also shifted the landscape in which such transactions take place. In the car industry, motorists have increasingly voted with their feet – or perhaps more appropriately, voted with the click of a mouse. New car salespeople, who often have a reputation that precedes them, have turned buyers away from the caryards. Instead, many motorists now conduct at least their first line of research and enquiries online.

Whether it is P2P websites or online classifieds, car buyers now have a range of outlets available to them at the tip of their finger – all without needing to leave their very lounge room. At the same time, consumers also have access to more information than ever before, meaning they are better informed than the shoppers of years prior. In turn, this has meant that motorists have equal footing when it comes to dealing with salespeople.

As a result, the dynamics of the engagement between a buyer and seller have required a shift. Salespeople are now more attuned to the stereotypes that hang over their head and have largely modified their behaviour accordingly. While pushiness and shrewd tactics still exist, by and large things have evolved more towards an effort based approach to sales. That is, a salesperson needs to put in the effort required to quickly build trust and rapport with their prospective customer on the first visit, or said motorist will simply continue their search elsewhere. But has this necessary change come about too late?

The simple answer, is yes. The fact that technology has been the crucial point in redefining the market speaks to the extent of the shortcomings that were prevalent beforehand. On the part of the consumer, these issues while ‘patched over’, are not easily forgotten. There are still trust issues there and many motorists will narrow their search before they meet a salesperson. They will use this as the basis of their ‘targeted’ shopping experience, intending to optimise the transaction.

What’s more, the online car buyer now has added flexibility in the form of customisation. Of course motorists always had the option to include extras or upgrades as part of their purchase, but the integrated and streamlined process now details a level of convenience where all options are clearly presented, including a visual perspective, as separate and detailed offerings.

All said and done, the rise of online marketplaces have not been without issue. In some instances, unlicensed second hand car dealers have been operating from the anonymity of their online username. And when a market opens to participants who have not been vetted, consumers are forgoing many of the protective measures that have been mandated in the industry by regulatory authorities. Therefore, as always, buyers must be prepared to do the necessary research and consider the risks that accompany engaging with those they have not met, and/or cannot verify.

Moving On: Toyota Unveils First Non Aussie Built Camry For Decades

Just weeks after Toyota Australia finalised manufacturing operations in Australia, the Japanese goliath has unveiled the vehicle that will delight cardigan wearing lawn bowlers everywhere. Yes, it’s the new for 2018, and beyond, Toyota Camry.Toyota says the chassis has been overhauled for better ride and handling characteristics, with a fifty mm longer wheelbase that hides a lower and shorter body overall. There’s new safety tech, and an overhauled engine and transmission range. It’s the first sedan from the company to adopt Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) which changes the process in design, engineering, and packaged inside and out. There’s 30% more structural rigidity, the hip points for the seats have been lowered and moved rearward for more legroom, whilst the body itself is made using a hot-stamping process and laser screw welding.Engine wise there’s a return, for the Camry nameplate, to a V6 engine with direct injection and a new eight speed automatic, plus a direct injection four cylinder engine for the hybrid models and a new selectable drive mode system. Underneath there’s 19 inch wheels (SX), a fully independent rear, electric parking brake, whilst inside there’s pre-collision safety systems with autonomous braking, adaptive cruise control across the range, a ten inch head up display system and a new panoramic roof whilst the front end gets both a redesign and LED headlights.There’s been some name changing too: Ascent, Ascent Sport, SX, and SL. The first two will be four cylinder or hybrid powered, the SX a four or six, whilst the range topping SL will option all three engines. The six cylinder now offers a maximum power of 222 kilowatts and offers both an Atkinson cycle and Otto cycle combustion process, producing 362 Nm of torque at 4700 rpm. The 2.5L four offers two slightly different engine tunes, with the Ascent weighing fifteen to sixty five kilos less that the SX and SL getting 133 kW versus 135 and torque is different too, with 231 Nm vs 235 Nm. Transmission here will be a six speed. The hybrid cops a combined 160 kW setup that runs in series and parallel.Naturally fuel economy figures should be better and Toyota say the hybrid should be the best, with the Ascents under five litres per one hundred across the board bar the SL on an urban cycle at just 5.2L/100. The SX and SL with the V6 are quoted as 8.9L and 8.7L per 100 for the combined cycle however the urban cycle, its natural home, may be a bit of a concern for some at 12.7L and 12.5L per 100 km.Pricing for the new Camry:

Four-cylinder petrol

GRADE PRICE DIFFERENCE
Ascent $27,690 $1,200
Ascent Sport $29,990 -$200
SX $33,290 -$200
SL $39,990 $2,550

Hybrid

GRADE PRICE DIFFERENCE
Ascent $29,990 -$500
Ascent Sport $31,990 -$1,200
SL $40,990 $550

V6

GRADE PRICE DIFFERENCE
SX $37,290 -$6,700
SL $43,990 -$6,450

Options:
All grades: premium paint $450
SX: panoramic roof $1,950

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander LS PHEV

PHEV. It’s short, sharp, sounds like an ex AFL player but with vastly more substance. It stands for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. In layman’s terms, it’s an electrically powered car that you can plug in to your home power system to charge a battery inside the car. What it doesn’t tell you is that the petrol engine that’s also fitted can be used as a generator and that the brakes can be used to harvest the kinetic energy generated and recharge the battery on the go. Private Fleet trundles the Mitsubishi Outlander LS PHEV from the lower Blue Mountains to Temora, in the central west of NSW, via Bathurst, and home via Yass and Goulburn. It’s readily identifiable as a PHEV thanks to the three subtle (ahem) badges on the rear door and front flanks.Oh, there’s a Tesla style fast charge port so you achieve approximately 80 percent full charge from empty in just half an hour, as long as you have the appropriate equipment, including the transformer the PHEV comes with for the everyday single phase household which is best left overnight to really give the “tank” a full charge. Hence the Plug-in part of the name.Mitsubishi currently only have the Outlander as a hybrid vehicle and it’s a kinda cool one with three distinct hybrid modes, EV, Series, and Parallel modes. When the EV Mode is chosen you’re driving purely on battery power alone. You can also drive with the 2.0L petrol engine as a charging unit or as a paired situation where the petrol engine kicks in as required. Transmission is a single or fixed speed transaxle unit.

There’s a big silver EV button in the centre console or two buttons either side of the jet fighter Drive selector (no gears as such) marked Save or CHRG. Save turns off the electric option and runs purely on the petrol powerplant, the other is self explanatory.When fully charged, the battery indicator shows a range of around fifty kilometres. If you accelerate ssssllllooooowwwwllllyyyyy it will stay on battery only but give it a reasonable prod and the petrol engine cuts in. On battery it’s an eerie almost silence, with a barely audible whir as the PHEV wafts away. The petrol engine is isolated, muted, and there’s hardly a vibration in the body to alert you to it being engaged. The computer programing is seamless, as is the actual switching between modes, and the whole system is intuitive.Fuel consumption is still…..well, a concern. Mitsubishi’s refinement to the overall system now rate consumption as 1.7L of 91RON per 100 kilometres. That’s certainly achievable on virtually purely electric runs that cover no more than maybe fifteen kilometres or so. A Wheel Thing finished, after a week and well over 1000 kilometres, closer to 9.5L/100 kilometres. That’s from a 45L tank. Overall power is rated at 120 kW and that’s for the two electric motors fitted, one for the rear and one for the front wheels, which out put a total of 120 kW and 332 Nm. Mitsubishi says 6.5 hours for a full charge to the battery using the charger on a standard household supply.

The petrol engine is rated for a fairly measley 87 kW, but a better torque figure is usable at 186 Nm @ 4500 rpm. It’s also worth noting that you can effectively have the PHEV as an AWD or All Wheel Drive vehicle by the simple expedient of pushing a clearly marked 4WD button in the centre console.The drive west from the lower Blue Mountains sees the westbound highway rise by some five hundred metres vertically over a horizontal distance of perhaps eighty kilometres, before dropping drastically at the western edge to the Hartley Valley from Mt Victoria via one of the most picturesque yet narrow roads around. It’s here that you can tip the drive selector into B3 or B5, two different braking modes to harvest the kinetic energy, and add extra range back into the battery system. The brake pedal itself is slightly numb also but not so enough to isolate feedback to your foot when generating energy on a downhill run where the braking modes don’t slow the car enough.

There’s a couple of steepish climbs before entering Lithgow, the home of famed Australian runner Marjorie Jackson, before a reasonably flat run to Bathurst, and from here to the WW2 prison town of Cowra, where a number of Japanese prisoners staged a breakout. The roads were flat, surprisingly smooth, allowing the PHEV to build up speed slowly in order to not punch a hole in the range availability. The PHEV was also predisposed to understeer, not uncontrollable, but easier where safe to allow the nose to run wide and follow its own path. The steering itself was numb to the point of disconnection on centre, with an artificial feel to the travel either side.

On the more rough tarmac surfaces in the central west of NSW there was noticeable road noise from the 225/55/18 Toyo A25 rubber, which also didn’t look as if they’d fit the wheel well, with plenty of room between the lining and the rubber. The suspension itself is tuned somewhere between taut and not quite so taut, with initial give before firming up rapidly. Adding to the ride query is an overly short front suspension travel, a trait found in some other cars where riding over a school lane speed hump at exactly the legal speed has a crash thump that sounds as if the struts are about to pull out from the body mounts. It’s disconcerting and at odds with the mooted soft road ability the Outlander is marketed with. On the upside directional changes are dealt with well, on smooth roads, with a centre of gravity well below the driver’s seat meaning body roll is minimal.Economy here varied between 4.0L/100 km where the Charge tab was engaged, as once underway the drain on the system isn’t aware as much (naturally) as accelerating constantly. There’s a centre of dash display, as is standard in all Outlanders, in this case showing the range from purely battery and both battery and fuel. In Temora itself, the car was charged up overnight. The purpose of visiting Temora was to watch their Remembrance Day airshow, as Temora is a former working WW2 airforce base and home to aircraft such as a Gloster Meteor, Spitfire, Hudson, and more. The show itself was a quickish 3.5 hours but wrapped with the tarmac being opened for visitors being able to meet the pilots including Red Bull Air Race and former RAAF pilot, Matt Hall.An overnight charge has the battery in the PHEV topped up and Sunday’s return trip via the township of Harden (seriously), via Yass and along the monumentally boring Hume Highway past Goulburn. The roads here were again most straight and corners rated between 75 to 95 kmh meaning that most of them were well within the abilities of the drivetrain to gently ease off and gently accelerate up.

Straight line stability in the Outlander is wonderful, lateral stability not so, with both front and rear, time and again, skipping left and right on rutted and broken surfaces. There’s an instant feeling of uncertainty before either corner cocks a leg and then there’s the sideways movement. A quick lift of the right foot, the chassis regathers its thoughts, and it’s business as usual. In the greater scheme of things it’s a minor annoyance but shows that underneath it’s not quite as settled compared to some of its rivals.Final consumption figures are a long way from the claimed 1.7L/100 km which would be spot on for short distance, flat road, driving. But along the way you can enjoy the decently velour covered comfortable seats, the DAB equipped sound system, with plenty of punch and clarity. Being a largish SUV (call it 4.8 metres in length) means plenty of head (1030 mm), leg (1039 mm for the front), shoulder (1437 mm), and cargo space, with the five seater allowing 477 litres. There’s a parcel shelf that covers the spare and has a small locker for the charge cable. However the dash and overall cabin presence is dating and needs a makeover to bring it up to the perceived level of quality as seen in the Korean and European rivals. Outside it’s no different, apart from the badging, to the currently design ethos of Mitsubishi, with the broad and chromed “Shield” nose, curvaceous body that would shame some super models, and a rounded in profile but square from the rear…rear.You’ll not want for safety in the form of airbags, hill start assist, and the basic traction control systems, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and something called an Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System….what you don’t get is satnav, as the seven inch touchscreen interface has apps for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, has GPS, but not a navigation facility.At The End Of The Drive.
At the time of writing Mitsubishi didn’t list a price for the PHEV on their website, stating it was “Price on application”. Given the standard Outlander range starts at $27990 and goes up to $47990 for the Exceed version (also available as a PHEV) it’d be fair to say somewhere in the mid $30K bracket for the LS. It’s different in that you get a petrol power generator and a back up driver unit at that, with the main focus being that it’s a plug in unit and less reliant on the petrol engine. The fact that it’s a SUV is also different, with very, very few other companies offering anything similar and bear in mind the Outlander isn’t aimed at the luxury car market.

Unfortunately that shows up mostly in the interior, and on road the unsettled feeling it exhibits just a little too often. Measured up, on these two standards, against the Santa Fe, Sorento, Fortuner, and the Euros such as the Tiguan, its lagging. Where it scores the brownie points is in the drive tech, so click here: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV for specific information and contact your local dealer for pricing.

 

Car Of The Year Awards Surprise From News Corp.

As we head towards the end of 2017 the awards season for cars gets under way and some of Australia’s biggest media groups roll out their list of contenders for the gongs in various categories. News Corporation, the company behind CarsGuide, has released their list of finalists for their COTY awards and there’s no surprises in that the two Korean brands feature two of the more newsworthy cars of recent weeks. It’s no surprise that no Australian built cars feature but it is a surprise that there’s just two European brands in the mix…bear in mind that this is the view of this news group and it’s worth looking out for the lists from the other news groups.From Korea comes the monster killing Hyundai i30 with the comments of: Loads of standard equipment, confident roadholding and a five-year warranty. There’s also the Kia Picanto, the good looking small hatch with: value-for-money hatchback that’s well equipped and suited to city living. Kia also lobs out the polarising (to Holden and Ford fans) Stinger: Old-school, rear-wheel-drive sports sedan with room for five and a twin-turbo V6.

Audi is one of the two European entries, with News Corp choosing the new Q5: German precision engineering matched to a frugal diesel engine and cutting edge safety. Japan is the country of  origin for the rest of the finalists and it’s an eclectic mix, starting with Suzuki‘s Swift, a fun and funky and frugal little car with New Corp saying: Fun to drive turbo three-cylinder with strong safety package. Next up is Subaru‘s resurgent Impreza, recently tested by Private Fleet’s Dave: Quality cabin and crash-avoidance tech usually reserved for luxury cars.The Japanese onslaught continues with Honda‘s completely revamped Integra range including the fire snorting Type R: Explosive hot hatch with in-your-face styling and a punchy turbo engine. Mazda is in there as well with their mid range CX5: Well priced, stylish cabin design and surprisingly agile for a softroader. Honda throws in another SUV with the CR-V: Spacious, versatile interior, quality finishes and hi-tech feel. Skoda‘s brilliant new Kodiaq is the other European sourced finalist with: clever touches in the cabin, zippy turbo engine and a generous warranty.

The final word goes to Richard Blackburn, motoring editor: “Every year, it’s getting more difficult to separate the best from the rest. Brands that buyers once turned their backs on are now every bit as good as the established players, while safety technology usually reserved for expensive luxury cars is increasingly available on cheap hatchbacks.”

 

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Subaru WRX STi R-Spec.

Once upon a time, the World Rally Championship or WRC was regarded as highly as the Formula 1 championship. Names were known, cars were followed, and drivers were gods. Subaru looked at its small car, the Impreza, and thought that its all wheel drive system inside its roomy yet compact body would make a solid base from which to develop a WRC entry. Subaru Technica International, the motorsport arm of the car company, along with UK based ProDrive, gave us the WRX (World Rally Cross) and an icon was born.Flash forward to 2017 and the World Rally Championship is dull in lustre, with the once broad appeal now seemingly limited to hardcore motorsport fans. Subaru enters a team in the Australian Rally Championship, the ARC, with Molly Taylor the works driver. The car? The WRX STi. In road going trim it’s known as the Subaru WRX STi R-Spec and the 2018 version is now available to buy and drive. This test car was taken from the lower Blue Mountains to the Hunter Valley for a birthday (thanks for the cards and cakes, by the way) during some of the heaviest rain seen for Sydney and surrounds for some time.It’s Subaru’s 2.5L flat four that powers the four wheels, twisting out a peak of 407 torques at 4000 rpm, and 221 kilowatts at 6000. There’s oodles of torque on tap from idle and is well and truly felt when rifling through the close ratio six speed manual via the short throw gear selector. There’s a pair of twin chrome tipped exhausts that deliver the characteristic boxer four thrum which is audible inside the cabin, even over the roar of the Yokohama Advan 235/35/19 (first time this diameter has been fitted) tyres pumping litres of water. When it was dry, the R-Spec showed exactly what it can be capable of. Tenacious grip, speed into and out of corners that frighten lesser chassised cars, the sheer ability to be put into a situation that had the Advan tyres shrugging as if to say “Is that all?”. The racing creed of slow in, fast out is put to good use as the torque slingshots the R-Spec towards lightspeed.Being an all wheel drive car is one thing, being a premium sports oriented all wheel drive car is another, and Subaru continues to offer its DCCD or Driver Controlled Centre Differential system to back that up, along with Subaru’s variable engine mapping system. Accessed via a toggle switch mounted in the centre console, the system allows the driver to tailor the proportion of drive between front and rear from 50:50 to 41:59. Under normal driving you can feel the torque tugging at the front and in circumstances such as shopping centre car parking, its a bit of an effort to move the car around. By altering the torque split you can not minimise but alleviate some of the tugging up front. It allows manual or auto adjustment, with one step in auto and up to five in manual.Thanks to the weather, exploring the outer boundaries of the performance capabilities of the STi R-Spec wasn’t a safe option, but there’s no doubt the car is more than capable under thundering skies. There’s auto headlights, auto wipers and they adjust for speed as well. Being a six speed manual the R-Spec misses out on Subaru’s fabulous Eyesight collision avoidance system however does get Lane Change Assist, Blind Spot Monitor, and gains a camera for both front and left side vision enhancement, allowing more precise monitoring for parking and hopefully not scraping the 19 inch alloys. There’s also a non DAB equipped Harman Kardon sound system and here the first quibble arose. Even with the settings wound up, the audio quality, oddly and disappointingly, still sounded like AM, with a real lack of separation, clarity, depth, and bass.Ride quality is surprising, surprising in that something so taut is also comparatively comfortable. Yes, it’s tight and jiggly from the 2650 mm wheelbase, but there’s just enough give to provide a semblance of nice. On smooth blacktop it’s a delight, toss it onto the rutted and broken rough headed tarmac surrounding Cessnock and it’s railway locomotive in that you can count how many grains of sand on a pebble yet without feeling your spine will be shaken to dust. Pop into your local Westfields, hit those damnable yellow metal speed bumps, and instead of crash thump it’s next please. It’s a suspension tune that doesn’t detract from the outright capabilities of the R-Spec nor does it overly frighten in comfort loss.You’ll not lack for comfort inside either, with grippy and supportive heated Recaro seats, Subaru’s wonderful triple screen information systems, and plenty of room in the current Impreza bodies. However, this STI R-Spec is still built around the just superceded Impreza design, meaning it’s the fiddly touchscreen, smaller centre console bin, not quite as good as now ergonomics, and a flat dash look. Outside there’s a slight change, with the front bumper relocating the globe driving lights and indicators to inside the headlight cluster, and replacing them, in the lower corners, with a vented black plastic insert. At the rear is the STi’s trademark landing pad that masquerades as a wing for the handy 460 litre boot and designed so it doesn’t obscure rear vision from inside.What the STi does do extraordinarily well, whether it’s bright daylight or blown out grey skies, is simply DRIVE. There’s plenty of torque to launch the car off the line, and you can rifle through the gears with a silky snick snick, listening to the raspy throb rise and fall, feel the body of the car bobbing around, whilst feeling that the hand and feet and part of the road underneath.The torque allows an immense amount of drive-ability in all gears bar sixth if you’re traveling at eighty kph or less, where fifth and then fourth comes into play. In gear acceleration is nothing short of stupendous and overtaking, safely, is how it should be. Done quickly, not a ludicrously ponderous move for fear of being pinged. There’s a price to pay for this exuberance, with 98RON the only tipple the car will drink, and at a figure of over fifteen litres per one hundred kilometres covered in an urban environment. Even driven with as gentle a right foot for the weather demands, the lowest was still 9.4L/100 km.The steering, although heavy, isn’t strenuous, and does an excellent job of communicating to the driver just what kind of road and the condition of the road, the car is on. It’s twitchy at times yet never hints at instability, and can be easily held with one arm, but two is better as you’ll think a direction and the nose goes there. It’s ratioed for quick response so it’s definitely not suitable for a driver that tends towards the lackadaisical in their driving style. Thankfully there’s plenty of safety equipment on board in the form of airbags, pretensioning seat belts and the like and Brembo brakes that didn’t work terribly well. Yep, that’s right. Instead of hauling up the 1532 kilo machine in a fingersnap, there was a worrying, and occasionally puckerworthy, lack of retardation in this particular car. Even good shoving of the centre pedal, needed in the wet and vision obscuring conditions of the Pacific Highway on a rainy day, offered little resistance.At The End Of The Drive.
As a driver’s car, brakes aside, the STi R-Spec delivers a joyous experience. As a piece of technology, it delivers something tactile and connectable. Even based on a now slightly outdated base, the Subaru WRX STi R-Spec commands attention and stokes the driving fires. If there’s a final question mark, it’s the value of the asking price at $57K. Balanced against newer and cheaper metal such as offerings from Ford, VW, perhaps even the new Kia Stinger GT, it’s no longer as much a value add as it once was. But when it continues to emotionally connect to you as a driver then there’s no price that can be put on that.
Web yourself to Subaru WRX/STi info to book a drive and spec up your own WRX STi R-Spec.

Nissan Leaf Wins Award.

Nissan‘s small electric car, Leaf, has won, at the hugely prestigious Consumer Electronics Show, CES Best of Innovation award winner for Vehicle Intelligence and Self-Driving Technology.
Each year, the Consumer Technology Association announces its CES Best of Innovation award winners as part of the buildup to the January CES in Las Vegas. Nissan and the association will put on a special display of the new Nissan LEAF at the 2018 show. As confirmation of Nissan’s leading investment in innovation, the Nissan LEAF 100 per cent electric vehicle with ProPILOT (and e-Pedal technologies also won the following honour: CES honoree for Tech for a Better World.

Daniele Schillaci, Nissan’s executive vice president for global marketing and sales, zero-emission vehicles and the battery business, and chairman of the management committee for the Japan/A&O region says: “It is a great honour to have this early and important recognition for the new Nissan LEAF. This award recognises products and technologies that benefit people and the planet, so it is fitting that the new LEAF has been honoured. It is more than just a car. It is the icon of Nissan Intelligent Mobility, our vision to move people to a better world.”

The new Nissan LEAF brings a compelling package of everyday-useful innovations and technologies to more people worldwide than any electric vehicle has done before. The car is helping make the world a better place not only through innovation, but also through accessibility to more people.
Additional capabilities such as vehicle-to-home and vehicle-to-grid integration (availability depending on market) help owners know they can waste less and give back more.

Head to The Nissan website for more information.

Hyundai Conquers The COTY Small Cars.

Winning a Car of the Year award is no small thing and drive.com.au, one of the country’s respected publications, has seen fit to award their COTY for Best Small Car of 2017 to Hyundai’s rampaging i30 SR.
After a solid week of testing against its peer group, Hyundai’s best-selling car came up trumps, showing off its refined dynamics, lively engine and new technology by beating the best from Europe and Japan.

The six-strong judging panel, comprising Drive’s editorial and road test team, put more than 50 cars through their paces at Wakefield Park Raceway to determine the class winners. Judges used the raceway to compare handling, vehicle dynamics, ride quality and braking ability, before embarking on an extensive road drive program to assess each car thoroughly in urban, rural and highway driving environments“Our finalists are the best of the best in their respective classes and the small car class is very competitive,” said Drive editor Andrew Maclean. “Hyundai i30 represents great value-for-money in that class and i30 SR is a genuine pocket rocket. Its 150kW, 265Nm, turbocharged 1.6-litre engine delivers real hot hatch performance in a sub-$30,000 car. It has fantastic dynamics and the local chassis tuning stands it apart from everything else in its class.”

Hyundai Motor Company Australia Chief Executive Officer, JW Lee, said “i30 SR’s win in the Drive Car of the Year awards just six months after its launch here is a great result. Our confidence in the new, third-generation i30 range has been bolstered by this win in one of Australia’s most prestigious Car of the Year competitions.”

“The i30 offers a comprehensive suite of technology across the range and its beautiful design – coupled with outstanding chassis dynamics and real value for money – makes our affordable premium small car a winner with Aussie customers as well,” he added.