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2019 Toyota C-HR: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: The 2019 Toyota C-HR. It can be seen as an alternative companion to the RAV4. Alternative because it’s a different option, companion becuase it’s a five door SUV that seats five. It’s a two-model range, with the Koba as the other entry. Under The Bonnet Is: A turbocharged 1.2L petrol engine. There is a manual transmission or CVT for the entry level, CVT only in the Koba. Opt for the CVT and it’s front wheel or all wheel drive for a choice. Peak power is 85kW between 5,200rpm to 5,600rpm. Torque is a bit more useable, with 185 of them between 1,500rpm and 4,000rpm. Economy is quoted as 6.3L/100km on the combined cycle. On our urban drive we saw a best of 7.4L, and a worse of 7.9L/100km. Recommended fuel is 95RON. There is no paddle shift in the base model, just the transmission selector for manual shifting.What’s It Cost?: Toyota’s website says the 2WD starts from around $30, 500 in Hornet Yellow. Head to a metallic colour and that goes to just over $31K. The AWD will start from around $34,700. You’ll get a five year and unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing can be booked via the myToyota app.

On The Inside Is: A reasonable amount of standard equipment and safety features for the ask. It starts with something basic but useable in the shape ofI an auto dimming rear vision mirror. There are auto headlights, dual zone aircon, but no DAB in the overly boomy audio system. The 6.1inch touchscreen system has a CD to make up for the lack of digital radio, plus USB & Bluetooth connectivity. Satnav and voice activation are also standard is the ToyotaLink app function.SafetySense is the name Toyota give to their suite of driver aids, and the C-HR has Lane Departure Warning, Auto High Beam, Blind Spot Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Autonomous Emergency Braking and Active Cruise Control are standard as well, as are seven airbags.Trim material in the C-HR is black and black. This may make the interior somewhat claustrophobic for some, as there is a hunchbacked look thanks to the rear window line being steeply sloped. There is some triangular shaped embossing in the roof lining which matches the interior light above the manually operated front seats and mirrors the rear light design. For the driver there is a sense of having their own office space. the dash sweeps around from the window to the centre stack, and this faces towards the driver’s seat. Trim here is of a piano black and there’s some smartly integrated buttons for the aircon controls.On The Outside It’s: Not unpleasing but definitely one example of beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This is down to the profile. The rear roof line slopes dramatically forward from the tail lights, which can compromise interior headspace for taller people. There’s a huge roof-lip spoiler too, which in the Hornet Yellow is noticeable. The wheel arches and guard are pumped out from the body and these are defined by strong crease lines coming down from the windscreen and rear window.

Overall length is 4,360mm, with a wheelbase of 2,640mm. Height is 1,565mm and width is 1,795mm.

The rear doors have a severe upwards kink to meet the roofline which means it looks like boot space is compromised. However, there’s enough boot space to house a week’s shopping for a family of four. It’s a high floor though, meaning a bit more of a lift to get items in. The front end bears (bore) a striking resemblance to the now outgoing RAV4 and features a triangular LED driving light cluster inside the angular headlight design. Alloys are 17 inch in size and on the C-HR have a design that somehow emphasizes the spinning when underway.

On The Road It’s: One of the few vehicles with a CVT that benefits from using the “manual” part of the gear selector. Programmed with seven ratios to mimic a standard auto, it’s far more responsive to using it manually. Use the C-HR in auto and it becomes what a 1.2L engine suggests. It suggests nothing special, it suggests sluggish, needing a heavy right foot. Move the lever to the right, pull back for M1, hit the go pedal, and tip forward for upshifts, and it comes alive. Forward movement seems to have far more sizzle and pizzaz than leaving the transmission to do it all by itself. Changes are swift, crisp, and really allow the driver to take advantage of the torque delivery.The engine itself is quiet though, with no audible appeal and neither is there anything at the exhaust’s end to suggest anything exciting. No rasp, no fizz, no….well, anything.
Ride quality though is average at best. The MacPherson strut front seems indecisive; should I be soft or should I bang on bumps? The steering rack didn’t help. There would be input at the same velocities having more response than others. The trailing arm double wishbone rear end also had issues, with a harder than expected setup banging away on otherwise normally non-intrusive bumps. On the road the steering feel is numb. There’s no real sense of communication from the front and although it’s not a guess where it’s pointing proposition, it doesn’t really provide a chance to converse with the front either. The Bridgestone Dueler rubber wasn’t a fan of the wet too. The front end had noticeable push-on understeer on wet roads, meaning that throttle usage had to be carefully weighed up. The AWD mode is automatic, meaning the driver can’t select any drive mode at all. There is a graphic for the driver that’s displayed on the 4.2 inch driver’s display screen. It’s a combination G-Force and drive apportion graphic, and a hard launch shows the drive being sent to the rear wheels and easing off in conjunction with the accelerator being eased off.

At The End Of The Drive: The C-HR is, for AWT, a conundrum. It’s a vehicle that offers an alternative but at the point of being why so. The RAV4 does everything the C-HR does and now offers a hybrid. But in terms of market alternatives Toyota have to have something that competes against what Mazda, Hyundai, Nissan et al have. the problem here is that the C-HR is a case of doing nothing terribly bad, it simply doesn’t do anything outrageously special. Make up your own mind here.

Nissan Patrol Updated for 2020

Nissan has shown off the new 2020 Nissan Patrol. There has been additions to the equipment and a reskin of the solid looking machine.

Significant changes see the Nissan “V-grille”reinterpreted for the new Patrol and it’s bracketed by a pair of boomerang LED driving lights.  This is mirrored by a similar design in the rear lights. Sequential indicators have also been added, a first for Nissan.“The Patrol is one of our longest-standing and most cherished models, with a long and proud heritage,” said Joni Paiva, regional vice president of the Africa, Middle East and India region at Nissan. The new Nissan Patrol represents the peak of luxury and ultimate capability and will continue to provide authentic experiences to its loyal customers in the Middle East and around the world.”

The interior has been given a makeover also. A redesigned centre console features dual displays which incorporate Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The leather pews are diamond-stitch quilted and have been given extra padding for that luxurious touch. There is also a hand-stitch covering on the tiller. Climate control and powered lumbar support can be optioned for the front seats. Passengers can also feel a bit more cossetted thanks to changes in the structure. Noise, vibration, and harshness, have been reduced for a higher level of comfort, plus the aircon has been improved.Nissan’s own Intelligent Mobility technologies provide a high safety standard. Blind Spot Warning, AEB with pedestrian detection, Forward Collision Warning become standard for the 2020 Patrol.

A V6 engine with 205kW and 394 Nm of torque is the entry level engine. Buyers can also choose a 5.6-litre V8 produces 298kW horsepower and 560 Nm of torque. Drive hits the tarmac and dirt with an All-Mode 4×4 system that provides different drive options depending road conditions. Hydraulic Body Motion Control, available on V8 models, ensures a more comfortable ride thanks to improved suspension and vibration reduction.

An on-sale date and pricing for Australia are yet to be confirmed.

Hybrid News From The Three Pointed Star.

Luxury car brand Mercedes-Benz has provided details of their new hybrid C-Class. There is also a potentially hybrid and/or electric S-Class on its way sometime inside the next decade. The C 300 e Sedan has a motor that can deliver 90 kilowatts of power and 440Nm of torque. Without utilising the petrol engine, there is up to 52 kilometres of electrical driving. Pair in the petrol driven 2.0L four, with a handy 350Nm of torque and 155kW of power, driving the rear wheels via a nine speed auto, peak power is rated as 235kW and torque as 700Nm. M-B says that combined fuel economy can reach as low as 2.1L per 100 kilometres. 0 – 100kmh is 5.4 seconds, the same as the Standard Plus Tesla Model 3.

The standard C-Class has a 2.0L with slightly lesser power and torque at 150kW and 300Nm of twist. 0 – 100kmh is 7.1 seconds.

The battery pack is able to hold 13.5kWh. It can be recharged to full from empty in around two hours using a Type 2 charger, or seven hours on a home circuit. It’s a smart capable battery, which allows both the heater element and cooling system to pre-climatise the interior. Other electronic goodness comes from Live Traffic Updates as standard, the Driver Assistance Package which bundles the Mercedes-Benz Distronic automated cruise control in with a predictive speed adjustment system. This covers off bends, junctions, and roundabouts.

Overall, the range has 19 different variants. There’s petrol power, diesel oomph, hybrid drivelines, and four body shapes. Buyers can choose from Sedan, Estate (wagon), Coupe, and Cabrio. Mercedes also have a limited edition Sport Edition package that buyers can specify as an option for the Sedan, Estate and Coupe. Add it to the Sedan and Estate and that’s $7,700. It’s $7,200 for the Coupe. The range starts at $64,500 and the Sport Edition has driveaway prices starting at $69,900.

When it comes to the S-Class, M-B have previewed a possible version with the unveiling of the EQS concept. EQ is a separate division, a sub-brand, that Mercedes-Benz have created to have an electric car division. By selling the S-Class, which is slated to be available early in 2020, and the EQS a year or so after, M-B then allows their customers to choose which they feel best represents a top level vehicle.

One of the aims of the concept is to assist in getting Level 3 Autonomous Driving classification. The chassis itself will become a modular platform, and will form the basis for a range of vehicles the M-B say will be released in the early 2020s. However, the S-Class, at this stage, is looking to stay as a petrol or hybrid rand range, leaving the EQS series as the separate and complementary arm using electric power. There will be a highly intensive LED look too, for the EQS, to help differentiate visually.

2019 Toyota HiAce LWB Petrol/Crew Cab Diesel/ SLWB Diesel Hi-Roof.: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: Toyota’s completely revamped HiAce range. There is a choice of petrol or diesel, manual or automatic, long wheel base or super long wheel base, panel or crew cab. We were lucky to back to back to back three different versions. There is the LWB V6 petrol van, LWB diesel crew cab, and hi-roof diesel super long wheel base.Under The Bonnet Is: A 2.8L diesel, 3.5L petrol V6, and six speed autos in the vehicles tested. There is a six speed manual available but for the LWB panel van version only. The free spinning V6 produces 207kW (6,000rpm) and 351Nm (4,600rpm). The diesel has 130kW (3,400rpm) and either 420Nm for the manual (1,400rpm – 2,600rpm) or 450Nm (1,600rpm 2,400rpm) in the auto. Economy is quoted as 8.2L/100km for the petrol auto LWB, 8.4L/100km for the auto Crew Cab, and the same for the SLWB diesel auto van.What Does It Cost?: The range starts at $38,640 for the 3.5L LWB and $48,640 for the same engine inside the SLWB. The diesels are $42,140 for the LWB van, $47,140 for the crew cab, and $52,140 for the SLWB van. That’s before on road costs and dealership fees.

On The Outside It’s: Big. Boxy. Has a bonnet. That’s about it. Oh, the hi-roof has a ….. high roof. It’s 2,280mm in height which makes it 80mm too tall for some shopping centre car park entries. Otherwise there is 1,990mm for the panel and crew cab vans. Overall lengths are over five metres. The LWB is 5,265mm and has a 3,210mm wheelbase. The SLWB is 5,915mm in length and has a wheelbase of 3,860mm. Width is 1,950mm.There’s no doubt that Toyota’s designers and engineers worked hard together to ensure the design is familiar and efficient, with a profile not dissimilar to the previous model from the rear to the front doors. It’s that bonnet that showcases the change in design, with the extra frontal safety it brings and a balance to the weight distribution. Both sides of the van have sliding doors with a soft touch close. Glass is standard, changing that for steel is optional.

Up front is a nose that stands proud of the rest of the body and houses a squarish grille and surround, squarish headlights, and even squarish wing mirrors. This echoes the overall body before the long rectangles of the tail light cluster. The LWB petrol has grey plastic panels (body colour optional), with the Crew Cab and SLWB had body coloured panels. Rubber is from Bridgestone and is 215/70/16 on steel wheels with plastic covers.

On The Inside It’s: A revamped driver’s cabin with an easy to read dash display, steering wheel tabs, and Toyota’s easy to use 7.0 inch touchscreen system. The seats are all cloth covered, and the Crew Cab has a centre console tray. The SLWB and the petrol van have painted metal and sheet wood interiors on the doors and rear panels. There’s tie down hooks and in the SLWB enough space to double as a Sydney apartment. It also has two storage shelves above the driver and passenger. Volumes for the new HiAce are decent. The SLWB is 9.3 cubic metres, with the LWB rated as 6.2 cubic metres. The payload for the SLWB is 1,175kg for the diesel, with the petrol somewhat oddly higher at 1,295kg. The LWB auto diesel is 955kg, and the diesel crew is 875kg.Dimensions are rated as 2,530mm in cargo length, 1,760mm in width, 1,268mm between the arches, and 1,340mm in height for the LWB van. Inside the SLWB it’s 3,180mm, 1,760mm, 1,268mm, and a decent 1,615mm in height. The Crew Cab is the same for height and width as the LWB.What was a surprise was how car-like it was in layout and features. For example, DAB audio is onboard along with the CD player, USB ports and 12V socket. The driver’s 4.2 inch information screen is colour, not monochrome, and there’s a good list of safety features. The Crew Cab has 9 airbags, with the LWB petrol and SLWB diesel both scoring seven. The love continues with an active Pre-Collision Safety System with day AND night time pedestrian detection, plus day time cyclist detection. Lane Departure Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, plus Blind Spot Monitor are also here. THEN there is Road Sign Assist to add in plus a reverse camera with guidance lines and a nifty feature here too. A second camera is linked to the rear vision mirror and shows rear vision without Reverse gear. What hasn’t changed is one small yet familiar detail. On the passenger side and in its little nook behind the sliding door is the jack and tools for it. That essentially hasn’t changed for four decades.On The Road It’s: A car disguised as a van. Yep, that’s the easiest way to describe the way it rides and handles, even with the compromise light commercial oriented rubber. Yes, there is some grip issue occasionally, but that’s more a minor hiccup. The suspension is MacPherson struts meets a leaf sprung rigid axle, and it works admirably. Comfort levels on road are high, as a result, with a well controlled ride. However, it’s not recommended to drive these on windy days. That flat and boxy profile makes an excellent sail for catching wind.Steering is an unusual feel and not in a bad way. The driver’s seat is some 1,200mm behind the front wheel’s centreline yet it’s calibrated so that it feels as if the driver is sitting directly over the top. The ratio is quick, too, with what feels like a variable ratio setup. This makes a three point turn seem less onerous that what it can be, especially with long wheelbases.

Naturally there’s plenty of drumming from road noise. As there’s little to no insulation, the road noise gets very easily transmitted up and into the cabin. The SLWB especially has the driver feeling as if a pair of noise cancelling headphones are required. The petrol V6 has some serious urge and will launch the 2205kg (dry) van easily and with alacrity. It wasn’t tried but with traction control turned off, it’s a fair bet it would spin the rear driven wheels into a cloud of smoke. It’s silky smooth and spins without issue. The diesels pull hard, naturally, yet don’t seem to have the same electric urge expected. And being ahead of the driver their chatter is muted.What About The Warranty? Here is what Toyota says.

At The End Of The Drive. They were and continue to be a familiar shape on Aussie roads, thanks to one particular telco giant’s constant order base. This latest version, complete with car-like ride and car-like features, can do naught but reinforce why it’s been a mainstay of Light Commercial Vehicles (or Large Capable Vans) for four decades or so. The pricing is pretty decent here too, and that goes a long way to cementing the HiAce’s status as the go-to vehicle for this class.

Check out more, here.

 

Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: The 2019/2020 Tesla Model 3. In August 2019 Tesla Australia released the Model 3 for local consumption. It’s a pared back Model S, in the sense that there’s a strong family resemblance to the sedan, however some of the features are deliberately lower key. That doesn’t mean that they’re of lesser value in usage.What Does It Cost?: The car supplied has a starting price of $66,000. Deep Blue Metallic Paint is $1,400. The full self driving capability package is $8,500. With other charges such as government and dealership fees, the final price was $81,165.Under The Bonnet Is: A choice of two drivelines to choose from, being the Standard Plus Performance. Simply put, the Standard has a battery better suited for city or short distance country driving. A full 100% charge offers a mooted 460 kilometres which of course is condition and driver dependent. The car provided was fitted with a rear wheel drive setup, as opposed to the Performance with a dual motor option. Suspension is double wishbone up front, and fitted with a virtual steer axis front suspension with coil over twin-tube shock absorbers and stabilizer bar. The rear is fully independent multi-link rear suspension with twin-tube shock absorbers and stabilizer bar. Steering is handled by a variable ratio and speed sensitive electronic power steering.On The Outside It’s: As mentioned, there is more than a passing resemblance to the larger Model S. The profile is similar, with the windowline almost identical, but the boot is stubbier with a small integrated lip spoiler. Also, the tail lights look the same. The main difference is up front. It’s not impossible to think Porsche when gazing upon the nose as the design, especially around the LED headlights, look very Germanic. Rubber is from Michelin in Pilot Sport specification and are 235/45/ZR18 on charcoal aero alloys. One of the notable changes is in respect to the door opening mechanism. There’s no self opening, and no interior door handles. These have been replaced by small touch tabs. The exterior handles are L shaped in a horizontal design, and work by pressing the rear which levers out the longer part of the L and simultaneously drops the window slightly. The boot lid is fully manual in operation also.On the Inside It’s: A bigger difference. There is no “traditional” looking dash as in a driver’s binnacle. Everything is controlled via a landscape oriented touchscreen that is centrally mounted. Even the glovebox is opened via the screen.Behind this, in the test car, was a single sheet of wood stretching across the full width and it sits atop a subtle full width slot that houses the main airvents. Beyond that is the speaker bar and that sits at the base of the windscreen. It’s minimalistic, uncluttered, classy, and not to everyone’s tastes.Above the passengers is a deeply tinted full glass roof, with front and rear separated by a dividing roll protection bar that’s been tested to withstand a force of a couple of tonnes.Drive is engaged via a lever on the right side of the powered steering column, with indicators and wipers on the left. Park is engaged by pressing a button on the right stalk’s end. The indicators have a three blink mode, or when pressed more firmly, will stay on until the driver manually disengages them when changing lanes. Having the three blink option isn’t one we support as it leads to lazy driving habits. The tiller is standard in look, bar two roller switches in the arm. These also can be moved slightly left and right when, for example, adjusting the powered mirrors for position, or changing audio stations.There is a form of voice activation embedded in the car as well. One form of usage is to ask the navigation system to take the car to a final location. There are also a range of games which cannot be accessed while the car is in motion, however a Toybox icon brings up various forms of entertainment, including “Emissions Testing”…five year old girls and boys will love it. As will most adults.To add to the difference is something the automotive industry will no doubt see more off. There is no key. There is a card or two called Concierge Card, however the main method to gain access and perform other operations remotely is via a smartphone app. Once paired, the car reads the presence of the phone, and will lock the car from a distance of between five to seven metres.That same app provides charging information, location of charging points, and remote operation of the locking mechanisms including the charge port flap on the rear left corner. Those cards, otherwise, grant access via a centre console reader, or one in the B pillar behind the driver.The display screen default is the Google maps image to the left and centre, with the right showing the drive display. Sensors and cameras around show a computer generated image showing the car and its location relevant to the road and surrounding traffic. To change the air-conditioning settings, it’s a form of pinch and swipe on a graphic that shows the image of the slot. Some of the information on the screen is laid out in response to Tesla owner feedback. To the bottom right are icons that depict the car settings, audio and for access to ancilliary actions. These are here as a result of that feedback, with the heating for rear and front window moved to the far left as these were icons, drivers said, are far less used therefore don’t need to be close to a right hand driver.

Although seating is designed to seat five, it’s best used as a four seater. There are a pair of USB ports up front, and a pair for the rear seats.Out on The Road It’s: Dare we say, typical Tesla. What that means is devastating performance both from a standing start and in rolling acceleration. Tesla’s 0-100km/h time is quoted as 5.6 seconds for the Standard. That feels slower than real world seat of the pants feedback would suggest. There are no official figures for rolling acceleration but again, seat of the pants says quick.The Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus was taken on a drive loop from the lower Blue Mountains to a town in the NSW Southern Highlands named Robertson, to Bowral, then back. Charge used to arrive at Robertson was over 50%. However it needs to be said that this involved some noticeable uphill runs, along with the subtle climb that the main southern highway has to that area. There are no superchargers in the area and typing in “destination chargers” in the navigation showed one to be a charge plug unsuitable for Tesla ports. Tesla Destination Chargers revealed one at a highway inn on the outskirts of Bowral.Robertson itself is “famous” for its pie shop, and rightly so. As it’s an ideal spot to stop between Wollongong, Kiama, Berry/Nowra, and the Bowral/Mittagong towns, it’d also make an ideal spot for a Tesla Supercharger. The one sourced was of the maximum 22kW variety, with an hour or so to charge in an extra 20% to be on the safe side to get home. Once the destination was typed in, it shows estimated time of travel and estimated charge left. Both were virtually spot on, with just 30% used on the return journey.The ride quality and steering is superb. Model 3 could be seen as the sports car entry in the Tesla range, and even though the Standard Plus has a slightly higher road clearance height, it’s still clearly low enough to provide a sense of sports car. The chassis and suspension work well to allow a sporting minded driver to push it top its limit, and in conjunction with the superb grip from the Michelin rubber, means that it really hangs on at velocities in turns that some others would need to be at five to ten kilometres per hour, maybe more, slower. This is also where the brilliantly balanced brake pedal came into its own. Although the regeneration system can slow the car well enough in some circumstances,t the pedal provides ample communication when needed.It’s a beautifully supple chassis too, with bump absorption on the very irregular back roads brilliantly sorted. Actual road noise isn’t fantastic on these sorts of roads, but once back on the smoother tarmac, the only really noticeable noise was wind.Charge levels, well, they’re the same as fuel usage. Go hard and that estimated range disappears quickly. Go gently, and range gets better. There is adjustable settings for the regenerative system, and this seemed to vary in grip depending on whether there was a slop to go down or coming up to a stop sign on a flat road. To gauge the driving style, the touchscreen shows the same sort of information the Model S and Model X have on their driver’s screen. Yellow for positive energy usage, a black like for when the car is using the battery.

When it comes to the autonomous service, the Tesla Model 3 relies on sensors and cameras to read the road ahead and around. A small steering wheel icon comes up on the screen, and one or two pushes downwards on the right hand stalk. This brings the car to full autonomous, with steering and active cruise control (with distance settings also adjustable) fully involved. However, it will still warn the driver that hands on the wheel should still be the norm.Left to its own devices, the steering will follow the roadside markings without issue. It will not work if there are substantially degraded or non-visible markings to be read. The motions are a mix of fluid and jerky, with longer corners having the wheel move minutely, section by section. Most of the drive though was under human control.

At the End Of the Drive. Tesla had promised a cheaper car for some time. It’s here. In Standard Plus trim, it’s an ideal city based vehicle. Ride quality, handling, a basic features list, make for an $81K electric car that can be held up, finally, as a worthy option compared to petroleum fueled cars. The inside happily swallows four, has a boot big enough to deal with a family, and isn’t unattractive to look at.And although the outright electric only competition is increasing, it’s still not a crowded market. For now, Tesla is still the leader.
Here is where more can be found.

Women and Their New Car

According to recent Forbes research, 62% of new car buyers in America are women.  They also suggest that 85% of new car buys are influenced by women.  Australia can’t be too far behind these stats, either.  But when it comes to spending habits, men and women are still vastly different, with very different priorities for their money.  Research shows that men are more likely to splash out and buy big, whereas women focus more on lifestyle which also means being comfortable with spending money on a new car without the guilt.  These spending habits and goal orientations do also align with what sort of cars women and men generally buy.

Think about this for an example.  Just over 90% of those purchasing a Ferrari are men.  Men tend to love big, fast cars more and are image conscious, like to focus on style and are more likely to be turned on by a car’s technology.  On the other hand, generally speaking, most women tend to be more concerned with how reliable and safe their new car will be, the car’s style and colour, and whether it will fit her needs.

A few years ago Autogenie did a bit of research from a random sampling of around 6000 brand new vehicles that were purchased back in 2013, and it was consistently divided between male and female buyers.  The study noted that women bought small cars and SUVs, while men preferred to buy sedans and ute’s.  Interestingly, the most popular vehicles that were purchased by male buyers were the Ford Mondeo, the Ford Ranger ute and the Toyota Hilux ute.  Women new car buyers preferred buying the Mazda6, Toyota Kluger SUV and Holden Barina city car.

Mazda3 a Winner With Women

The study also revealed that both male and female new car buyers liked the Mazda3.  Both the Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Golf made it to the best five most accepted models that men and women liked equally.  Among the male buyers, the larger Holden Commodore was well-accepted, finishing as the 4th most wanted model.  On the other hand, female customers preferred to buy smaller cars, and these were the Mazda3, Hyundai i30 and VW Golf.

But let’s, for moment, take the gender comparison out of what drives a buyer to buy a particular type of new car, and we find that everyone has different priorities for purchasing a new car.  The car’s fuel economy, purchase price, looks, interior space, and the number of luxury items and gadgets will all be factors which will tip the scales toward buying one new car from the other.

The ways people are buying new cars are also changing.  A lot more people now use online reviews and online guidelines to get an idea about vehicles they would, or might like to, buy.  Particularly women are turning to their social networks — both online and offline — for vehicle recommendations, according to Cars.com research.  Women like to turn to their friends and family for recommendations of what new car to buy because they don’t have a specific car in mind that they want to get.

Hatch, Sedan or SUV?

Women are looking for a vehicle that will fit their lifestyle, so they will need something for hauling their big dogs to the beach or something for traveling safely on back roads or something that’ll make the city traffic and tight spaces less stressful.  Women focus on safety, reliability and comfort. They’re also less brand loyal than male new car buyers.  These findings have been backed up by J.D. Power research.  Men will be more common to place performance and style on their car want list, as well as the latest technology like panoramic moonroofs and multimedia systems.

Buying a new car is always exciting.  During August, in Australia, the top-selling cars (in order from most bought to least) were:  Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30, Toyota RAV4, Mazda3, Toyota LandCruiser, Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Triton and the Nissan X-Trail.  I wonder which ones were bought most by women?

5 Ways Car Makers Reduce Price Competition

It’s a murky world the Australian automotive industry. Always has been and probably always will be.  When big, emotional purchases are on the table and there’s a complicated system of sales distribution, it’s always going to be difficult for the consumer to work out what’s a good deal.

The ‘problem’ is you can only buy a new car from an official new car dealership, licensed by the manufacturer.  Unlike almost any other product there aren’t new car resellers, independent distributors or outlets.  The actual purchase must always take place at a dealership and that dealership must be bound by conditions and obligations bound by the carmaker.  This means the manufacturer is in a unique position to influence the sales process and therefore the competition.

Of late there’s been significant interest from the ACCC and the government into what this means for the consumer in terms of pricing competition and transparency and also for the long-suffering dealerships.

 

In June, the ACCC announced they were examining the competition risk from the merger of the two biggest new car dealer groups in Australia

“The ACCC’s preliminary view is that the proposed acquisition is unlikely to substantially lessen competition for the supply of new cars in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane or nationally”

 

In August, the Morrison government announced a reform entitled ‘Delivering a fair and competitive car retailing sector’

“We have heard the concerns of those within the sector and are committed to creating a level playing field. It’s about ensuring everyone gets a fair go, including our small and family car dealers,”

 

This is squarely addressing the influence that car manufacturers have on the new car marketplace in particular with respect to their franchise agreements.

Private Fleet, having relationship with over 1,000 new car dealers, is uniquely placed to have recognised and worked through many of these issues over the last 20 years.  Here are 6 ways the car makers restrict competition:

 

1) Don’t Advertise Discounted Prices

Most independent businesses are unrestricted when it comes to what price to set for their products and services.  After all, it’s their profit margin so makes sense that they can vary their pricing structure to suit their needs.  Not so with new cars.  If a dealer advertises a new car at below RRP (or current national driveaway special), they will risk the wrath of the car manufacturers and likely be instructed to take the ad down

2) Don’t Advertise In Other Territories

Car makers allocate each dealer a ‘PMA’ or Primary Marketing Area.  If dealers advertise outside of these defined boundaries then, again, they’ll get a tap on the shoulder from the manufacturer.

3) Discourage Working With Brokers or Car Buying Services

Hits close to the bone this one.  But for almost all of our 20 years OEMs have put pressure on dealers to only sell directly and not through intermediaries who aren’t contracted to the sales and pricing conditions as the dealers themselves.  Thankfully, although dealers would never dare to publicly challenge this, in practice they have a business to run and overheads to meet so this ‘advice’ is generally ignored.  Here’s an extract from one of Toyota’s many dealer communications on the subject.

“Toyota is aware that new vehicle brokers and buyers agents may be acting as intermediaries between customers and Toyota Dealers.  This practise is of concern to Toyota.  Toyota strongly believes that Toyota Dealers are best placed to fully service the needs of Toyota customers.”

4) You Can’t Sell Brand-X if You Sell Our Brand

More and more there are multi-franchised dealers across Australia.  This makes sense especially for consumers as it makes it easier to compare models & prices in one spot.  However certain manufacturers will throw their weight around and threaten to rescind a franchise agreement if a dealer looks to take on a new ‘competing brand’.

5) No Trucking of Cars on Delivery

Dressed up as being the optimal delivery process, certain manufacturers (particularly prestige brands) insist on a personal handover between dealer and car buyer at the time of delivery.  But in practise this limits the scope of where a buyer can buy from unless they are prepared to travel a huge distance to compare options.  Consider Lexus buyers in Perth – there’s one dealer in WA.  Interstate dealers are prohibited from trucking cars across the country so where’s the competition there?

6) You Must Spend $$$ to Promote our Brand

Once a dealership is ‘granted’ a franchise, along with the agreement is a heavy obligation towards supporting the manufacturer’s brand even over the actual dealerships brand.  Want to sell plenty of cars without the fancy dealership overheads?  Nope, sell our cars and you’ve got to spend X million on an ultra-fancy forecourt to help fly the flag.  No efficient volume sales channels here please.

 

Without exception all these restrictions lead to less pricing competition for the consumer.  But what about the poor old car dealer?  Yes, I’m serious!  The dealers have their pressures and obligations to meet, staff to pay and doors to keep open. If they were allowed to run like normal independent businesses, what impact would that have on prices?  What efficiencies would we see flowing through the whole current sales process?

NEXT: Import restrictions, dealer ‘holdback’, legal intimidation…

2019 Toyota 86 GTS Manual and Auto – Private Fleet Car Review

This Car Review Is About: Toyota’s joint venture with Subaru, the two door sports coupe Toyota call 86. In this case we drove, back to back, the 86 GTS Manual with Dynamic Sports Pack, and the 86 GTS Auto.How Much?: The GTS Manual with Dynamic Sports Pack is priced from $43,534 driveaway with the “standard” GTS priced from $40,497. The Manual has Apollo Blue paint, a specialist colour for this model and trim, with the Auto being clad in White Liquid. Metallics are a $500 option. The auto is $42,866 with Ignition Red, $43,381 with the Liquid White.

Under The Bonnet Is: Subaru’s fabulous flat or “boxer” four. Peak power is 147kW (auto) and 152kW (manual) from the 2.0L capacity engine, with peak twist being either 205Nm or 212Nm. There are slightly different cog ratios in the manual as compared to the auto, with the manual’s final drive at 4.3:1, compared to 4.1:1 with the auto. Peak power is at a lofty 7,000rpm, with that peak torque found between 6,400rpm to 6,600rpm in the auto, 6,800rpm in the manual. In order to get those figures the engine is tuned to run on 98RON. Economy is quoted at 7.1L/100km or 8.4L/100km for the auto and manual on the combined cycle. Due to the physical size of the 86, fuel tank capacity is just 50L. We returned figures in largely urban driving of 7.9L/100km for the auto and 8.6km/100km for the manual. Gross vehicle masses are 1,670kg (auto) and 1,700kg (manual) with dry weights between 1,250kg to 1,280kg.On The Inside It’s: a nightmare for rear seat passengers, a tight squeeze for front seat passengers, and a harken back to “the glory days” of Toyota with a retro look and feel to the cabin’s design. The front seats use a lever method for moving the seats forward to allow access to the rear, but they also use levers for seat back and height adjustment, not the preferable electric or at least “roller dial” adjustment. They are heated via a two position switch but only for the squab, not the whole seat.The GTS spec has Alcantara trim on the doors and dash for a little extra comfort, plus carpeted floor mats which also add a little extra sound deadening. Pedals are alloy with rubber tabs for the retro look and aiding shoe grip. The dash dials are fully analogue with a small 4.2 inch LCD screen set at the bottom right. This provides oil and coolant temperatures, G-force instant and history, a power and torque delivery graph, and more. The main screen is 6.1 inches in measurement and is a modern look on a retro theme. There’s a solid black surround, a CD player slot, and AM/FM only, meaning no DAB. Satnav, reverse camera, and streaming apps are standard.The actual look is of dials and toggle switches. It’s meant to evoke a sense of looking back in time and it works. The dual zone climate control, the air intake for fresh/recirculate, even the glowing red LEDs for the clock and temperature displays, are all “olde timey” in look. The centre console plastics are a chintzy silver plastic and have the traction control tabs embedded. Both have the standard push button Start/Stop and that’s visually obvious by being located in the bottom right corner of the centre console stack. And for those that prefer mechanical stopping, a proper hand brake is employed.The dash is a sweeping design that joins both doors in an arc and wave and has the centre airvents looking not unlike a impulse engine housing from a starship. The top of the dash binnacle and the flat panel have the Alcantara trim, and there is a subtle silver hue to the airvent surrounds. That colour is also wrapping the gear selector. Thankfully, both headlights and wipers are Auto on. There are a couple of centre console cup/bottle holders, and just enough room in the door pockets for a bottle. The boot is also surprisingly big, and coped well enough with a weekly shop. For its more obvious audience, a couple or single, it’s ideal for an overnight bag or two.On The Outside It’s: Largely unchanged from the original model however a very mild facelift was applied in 2016. Tail lights are LED as are the headlight cluster driving lights. There are aerodynamic strakes in the lower quarters of the front bumper around the globe lit driving lights. The chin of the front bumper has been subtly restyled, and there are even thin strakes on the outer edges of the plastic at the bottom of the windscreen for air guidance.

The GTS Manual with Dynamic Sports pack comes with Brembo brakes and red calipers, Sachs suspension, and bespoke 17 inch black alloys. Rubber is from Michelin and is 215/45/17. There’s a small rear wing for both. The manual has it in full black whilst the auto was in black with body coloured end plates. There are twin exhaust tips and both are chromed. Indicators are embedded in the leading edge of the front wheel arches which also extend into the line of view from the driver’s seat. The auto also featured the excellent Brembo stoppers. Just a breath on the brake pedal has the Brembos applying grip, and with a beautifully modulated pedal, the driver can judge perfectly a “slow in fast out”corner drive.On The Road It’s: A huge amount of fun. Deliberately designed with a mix of skatiness and grip, the low centre of gravity, relatively thin rubber, and taut suspension make for a car that is always feeling like it’s ready to break loose. Get it onto a road that has more corners than straights and the chassis immediately shows why it delivers smiles in spades.

Although peak power and torque figures are north of 6,000rpm, the gearing and the engines are perfectly matched to give, if not true outright zip, a very good semblance of it. Because the driver sits so low to to the ground too, there’s a sense of higher speed. That’s helped by a raspy metallic induction note, especially in the auto with the longer gearing. On that point, the auto sees 100kmh/110kmh at 1,000rpm lower than the manual. 100kmh in the manual is 2,700rpm, 3,000rpm for 110kmh. Toyota’s head of PR, Orlando Rodriguez, advised that the manual was the pick for buyers and when the slight facelift in 2016 was applied, the change to the manual’s engine tune and final drive was applied due to the higher sales volumes. The auto’s driveline was left untouched.The manual is more manic to drive and the transmission changes have added faster acceleration times. The gear change is a combination of a definitive selector mechanism and a clutch that allows the driver to find JUST the right point to engage and slingshot away. Revs are dialled up, the left foot lifts to engage the clutch, and there’s a fine point where the rest of the travel upwards, and the accelerator’s pedal goes downwards, that works almost like a launch control. There is no clutch slippage, the narrow rubber hooks into the tarmac, and it’s off.

The auto is, naturally, easier to get under way and is by no means locked out of the fun facts. Left to its own devices it’s good enough, but use the paddle shifts or gear selector for a manual change, and it’s noticeably quicker, sharper, crisper. The selector in the manual is notchy, precisely metallic in feel, not unexpectedly, with a gate mechanism that tells the driver “yes, this is second, yes, this is third”. Reverse is a lift of a lock-out lever and across, and this too is definitive in its engagement and movement. Both have a suspension that tends towards the harder side of ride, with the Dynamic Sports Pack adding a hint more of the sharper edge. It’s the sort of feel that would have the Michelin rubber roll over a coin and tell you not only is it a five cent piece, it’s heads up and made in 1991. But neither are excessively uncomfortable, even with the rear end kicking up a corner every now and then. There is just enough “give” to dial out the upper end of the harshness. The dimensions of the 86 help with handling. It’s shorter than it looks, at 4,240mm and squeezes in a 2,570mm wheelbase.

Steering is thought process quick, with a lock to lock of just three turns. Think your way through a corner and the wheel points the broad nose exactly where it should be. Once the seating position has been sorted, and it really would be easier with the roller dial adjustment, not the levers, the car becomes an extension, and that’s how a good sports car or car with more sporting pretensions than others, should feel. Although it’s not the roomiest of cabins, there’s enough for the left arm to grab the manual gear selector, both arms to be just at the right angle to steer and not be cramped or over-extended, and therefore that steering becomes the extension.What About Safety?: Camera for reverse, seven airbags, hill start assist, and the mandated driver aids.And The Warranty Is? Toyota announced in January of 2019 that passenger cars would receive a five year, unlimited kilometre warranty, which could be bumped to seven years on the engine and drivetrain on “properly maintained vehicles” that are equipped with genuine Toyota parts.

At The End Of The Drive: The joint venture between Toyota and Subaru has provided a car that has found itself a strong niche. There is a bespoke motorsport series, the car is used in driver training, and drivers that have either one will acknowledge another driver. It’s a car that feels as if it needs more power however the chassis is tuned to take advantage almost perfectly of what there is. It’s also the kind of car that has a set audience and those that appreciate what its intention is, will be the ones that extract every erg of enjoyment from the drive. On a cost effective or “bang for your buck” basis, for a dollar per smile, at $40 to $45K, it’s a bargain. The Toyota website is where more information can be found.

Pencil Sharp BMW M240i

BMW Australia has managed to negotiate a super sharp driveaway price for its stonking M240i coupe. With deliveries due to start for Q4, buyers will look at $74,900 as a driveaway starting price. Standard inclusions make for a long list.

Up front is their M Performance TwinPower Turbo 6-cylinder in-line petrol engine. Peak power is 250kW of power with peak twist rated as 500Nm of torque. It’s quick, with a 0-100kmh of 4.6 sec. Drive gets to the tarmac via an 8 speed Sport Automatic gearbox, and the car rides on their proprietary Adaptive M Suspension with stopping power thanks to the M Sport brakes. The driver connects with the road through the variable sport steering, including the servotronic speed-sensitive assistance. Both driver and passenger have Sports seats to park their rear in and the driver has electric adjustment and memory positioning. Both front pews are heated but not vented. Sounds are fr

 

om Harman Kardon and pump through a 12 speaker set. An 8.8 inch touchscreen houses the controls including the nav system, a 20gb solid state hard drive, and also the Connected Drive services.

Outside are Adaptive LED headlights and the signature kidney grille is finished in Cerium Grey. Mirror covers are in black. There is also high-beam assist with extra safety assistance from the BMW Driving Assistant. That includes the Approach Control Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Pedestrian Warning, light city braking function and Attentiveness Assistant. Extra goodness for the driveaway offer comes from double-spoke 18-inch M light alloy wheels, sunroof, metallic paint and a wireless charge pad for compatible smartphones. Interior trim goes to Hexagon Alcantara and Anthracite/Black upholstery. Carbon fibre interior trim and Dakota leather upholstery can also be optioned.

Buyers can choose from these exterior colours: Black Sapphire Metallic, Mineral White Metallic, Mineral Grey Metallic, Estoril Blue Metallic, Sunset Orange Metallic, and Long Beach Blue Metallic. Wheel options are double-spoke, Jet Black 18 inch M light alloy with 225/40/18s up front and 245/35/18s for the rear. There is also double-spoke style, Bi-colour Jet-Black 18inch M light alloy and 225/40 R18 for the front, with 245/35 R18 at the rear. Then there is double-spoke style, Cerium Grey Matte 18 inch M light alloy plus 225/40 R18 and 245/35 R18.

Contact us or your local BMW dealer for more details.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Kia Picanto GT

This Car Review Is About: The 2019 Kia Picanto GT. It’s the pert and perky little five door hatch, with minor and tastefully styled body add-ons, an energetic powerplant, and a fun factor that’s off the scale. It’s a screaming bargain at just $17,990 driveaway.Under The Bonnet Is: A zippy and free spinning three cylinder petrol engine with a real warble when it’s spinning up. There are 74kW available at 4,500rpm, and a very useful 172Nm from 1,500rpm to 4,000rpm. Power heads to the front wheels via a five speed manual. Boost and bang for the milk-bottle sized engine comes from a turbocharger that adds plenty of sizzle. The dry weight of the Picanto GT is just 1,007kg, which means that the power and torque, plus the five speed, don’t need to work hard to provide the spark.

Tank size is just 35L for the standard unleaded fuel. Economy, says Kia, is 4.8L per 100km for the combined. In the urban cycle, its far more likely home, it’s 6.2L/100km. Get it onto the freeways and that drops to 4.0L/100km. We finished on 6.4L/100km on our mainly urban test cycle.On The Outside It’s: The same little block of Picanto that’s been available for a few years but now with extra grin. There are colour highlights from inserts outside and in, new wheels, front bar additions with driving lights and extra air intakes, whilst the rear gets the cool “neon” light look at night plus a twin exhaust and a diffuser style add-on. Nexen supplies the 195/45 N Blue Plus rubber to wrap the 16 inch eight spoke alloys. The review car came clad in Aurora Black, with the GT also having Clear White, Signal Red, and Titanium Silver.

On The Inside It’s: Comfortable and familiar, yet carries a bit more cachet. There are red leather highlights on the front seats, alloy pedals with rubber strips for extra foot grip, and red backlighting for the switchgear. There’s some brightwork on the tiller and piano black for the console stack. Seats are manually adjusted but with the not-quite-as user friendly levers rather than the dials which are MUCH more user friendly. Luggage space is 255L with the rear seats up, 1,055L with seats down. It’s JUST enough, if packed correctly, to carry a decent weekly family shop but if it’s a really decent shop, then the space behind the front seats will need to be used.Space itself is more than adequate for a couple, but go more than three then the Picanto’s 3,595mm length and 2,400mm wheelbase come into play. Thankfully the front seat room is enough for all but basketball players so pulled forward the rear leg room becomes tenable. Shoulder room is a bit cosy thanks to the 1,595mm and headroom is fine even with a 1,485mm height.Storage comes in the form of two cup holders in the centre console, bottle holders for the front doors, a coat hook and net hooks in the cargo area. Sounds are from a non-DAB equipped audio system but Bluetooth streaming is standard. Sound quality isn’t as good as it could be either, with depth and punch not on the same level as other systems found in Kias. Apple and Android apps are standard as well. That’s a good thing for those that use them as satnav is not standard.What About Safety?: Covered. Sort of…AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) with FCWS (Forward Collision Warning System) leads the party, backed up by a reverse camera and rear parking sensors. LED driving lights up front add visual safety and add to the visual presence and the headlights are Auto on. BUT, and it’s a big but, no Rear Cross Traffic Alert, no Blind Spot Alert, no Lane Keep Assist, no front sensors, hold back the Picanto GT in crucial areas.

On The Road It’s: An absolute bundle of fun. The engine is a cracker and the gearbox is well specced for cogs. The clutch is light and really could do with more feedback as to where the pedal is in travel and where the plates are in gripping. Once the driver has worked that out though, practice gets the pickup point and shifts to launch just right. However the spring loading for the gear selector is also light and a touch vague in where the lever goes. The gate is close so a slide from second to third feels like it’s in the same line, and there isn’t enough definition in the shifter’s movement to properly advise where the lever’s going.

ONCE everything is worked out, the little engine that could, does. It’s got a real warmth to the sound, yes, but the appeal is in how it pulls the Picanto GT , in how it allows tractability in gentle around town driving or getting serious on the freeway. It’s geared for easy going driving, but also some get up and go squirt as required. The turbo kicks in at just under 2,000 and on the freeway that gearing allows a push of the pedal to see the Picanto GT rocket forward. It’s accompanied by a thrum, a not unpleasant rumble from the three cylinder donk, which is muted when not being pressed.Off the line it’s easy to feel pressed back into the seat easily when driving in anger. There is some real urge in this tiny engine and it’s something a driver can exploit and enjoy. Bang the gear selector from first to second to third and the GT simply rolls on inexorably, seamless in its acceleration. Throw out the picks and the lightweight car slows quickly and confidently.And thanks to the slightly bigger footprint, and the grippier tyres, hard-arsed cornering can be exploited and enjoyed too. Under power the Picanto GT can be punted into turns that would see the speedo read 20, 30 km/h slower (depending on the corner’s radius and driving conditions) whilst taking advantage of the engine on boost.

Ride quality is good but not great. The rear end is prone to a little skipping around on the roads that have the expansion joints and the whole car will crash bang on missing road sections. It’s a suspension that is flat and taut but not supple enough to dial these out.

What About Warranty?:
There is Kia’s 7 years warranty as standard. That’s with unlimited kilometres. Roadside assist is for 12 months initially however if the Picanto GT is brought to Kia for servicing then that extends to 7 years coverage also. Servicing is capped price and for every 15,000 kilometres or annually, whichever occurs first.At The End Of The Drive. The Kia Picanto GT is an embodiment of the words “pocket rocket”. That 172Nm of torque is so useable in a small car, and somehow manages to stay engaging even when loaded with two adults, a ten year old, and shopping. It’s the gear selector and clutch that blunts the engine’s sharpness as these really could do with tightening up. Ride quality is also not quite en’ pointe as there’s a lack of the absorption needed in the upper end of the travel.

The lack of DAB isn’t crucial but FM sounded dull. If a GT designation is to indicate a top of the tree model, then add a top of the tree audio setup. Make up your own mind by going here.