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A Prancing Horse SUV and Sweden Gets Plugged In.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Private Fleet Car Review: 2017 Great Wall Steed Diesel 4×4 Ute.

Great Wall first landed in Australia in 2009. It was a range full of petrol engines and manual transmissions and sharp pricing. However, quality was questionable and it wasn’t long before the brand was withdrawn. Fast forward a few years and the Great Wall brand features three variants in a four door crew cab design, a petrol or diesel 4×2 and a diesel 4×4, priced from $29990, driveaway. Private Fleet trials the 2017 Great Wall Steed 4×4 diesel to see if things have improved.Engines wise it’s a choice of a 2.4L petrol or 2.0L diesel, as tested. Both come with a manual, being a five cogger for the petrol and six for the oiler. The transmission itself in the Steed is typical manual; a reasonably light throw, a tad notchy, a sensible gate so you’re not hunting for the slot and there’s a simple push button based high/low range system. It is, however, mated to a living definition of time travel, backwards time travel. Great Wall quotes 110 kilowatts of power and a lowish 310 Nm of torque between 1800 to 2800 revs from the two litre engine… that’s substantially less than a good portion of its competitors.In order to get the Steed underway, a little slip of the clutch and a judicious prod of the go pedal are required, needing around 2000 revs to move it along with something approaching acceleration. It genuinely feels like an old school diesel, with nothing below 2000 and a cliff fall once you see 4000 rpm. It’s breathless, ragged, lacks urge and is defintely old school with the rattle. It also means that some uphill runs require constant downchanging, providing some good exercise for the left arm. However, on the freeway, the gearing means that it will happily pootle along right in the torque band.
It’s frighteningly thirsty though, with a final consumption figure of 9.7 litres of dinosaur juice being ingested for every 100 kilometres driven. That’s not great even allowing for the 1740 kilogram weight.The steering is also…unusual. What’s called lock to lock describes the process of winding the steering wheel from one side through to straight ahead to the other side. The Great Wall Steed is something close to five turns. What this means is a turning circle a battleship would be embarrassed to show and some serious arm work to engender directional changes. A half turn sees minimal left or right movement and you need, as a result, to wind on more lock to really see anything happen.Ride quality from the double wishbone front and leaf spring rear is also iffish. The Steed is too hard when it needs to be softer, and too soft when a firm and taut ride is needed. It’ll skip sideways too easily, thumps over the small metal speed bumps in shopping centres, crashes on the front when going over the bigger speed bumps, and just doesn’t seem to track straight and true on the freeway. In all, it’s a somewhat frustrating drive and ride experience.Outside it is handsome enough, with a number of positive comments from passers-by and colleagues. In profile it’s clear the car has been sourced from an Isuzu desgn, with the nose cone being given a thorough massage to ensure a clear GW identification. There’s a solid grille with five horizontal bars, a pair of LED driving lights inserted in each far corner of the bumper assembly, headlights not unlike that found in Holden’s Colorado, indicators in the wing mirrors and sitting in the middle of the 3200 mm wheelbase a pair of sidesteps. The rear bumper stands proud of the rear bodywork and adds a bit of extra length to the overall 5345 mm. There’s an approach angle for the alloy section in the front bumper of 25 degrees and a handy 21 degrees departure angle. Towing? 2000 kilos, braked.Tyres are 235/70/16 from Giti and are of a semi off-road capable tread design. They may also contribute to the skittishness of the Steed’s handling. What may also contribute is the one tonne cargo carrying capacity tray was unladen throughout the review period. It’s an almost square tray at 1545 mm long and 1460 mm wide and there’s 480 mm of depth. The test car came fitted with an alloy roll bar as well plus the tray was lined with a polyurethane liner and fitted with tie down points.Inside is where the Steed picks up some points. The slightly flat and slabby leather seats are heated, with the driver gaining simple electrical controls to adjust their pew. The overall presence is pleasant enough, with a basic but legible monochrome info screen between the uncomplicated dials; a touchscreen that is ssslllloooowwww to load the navigation system and looks peculiarly Asian in layout and colour scheme. Audio is standard AM/FM with Bluetooth and auxiliary inputs but you can watch DVDs….actual audio quality was ok, with a slightly boomy bass at levels that would normally sound tight and punchy. The rest of the dash and console is uncomplicated, ergonomically friendly, and of a pleasing enough quality throughout the cabin to appeal to most in the market.Safetywise the Steed features a reverse camera, which didn’t always engage, six ‘bags, pretensioning seat belts, stability control, hill start assist (which holds the brakes momentarily) and, surprisingly, tyre pressure monitoring. Blind spot monitoring, lane keeping alerts and the like aren’t available. However it still rates not terribly well for the ANCAP scoring, with a two from a possible five ponts when lasted tested. Warranty is a standard three years or one hundred thousand kilometres, and servicing starts at six months or five thousand kilometres. It’ll then move to 12 months or fifteen thousand after the first service.

At The End Of the Drive.
The 2017 Great Wall Steed, on its own, would be an ok vehicle for a private buyer or even a fleet buyer. However it needs more to really be a consideration, more as in refinement of the steering ratio, more in the torque, more in the fettling of the ride. It’s inside that the Great Wall Steed scores ponts, along with a not unattractive exterior. However, if price is a consideration, as it was in 2009 when I worked at a dealership that sold Great Wall, then 30K driveaway will dull the headache.
Here’s where you can find out more: 2017 Great Wall Steed diesel crew cab 4×4

Chalk and Cheese: New Releases From Suzuki, Toyota, and Hyundai.

As Australia heads into spring and cocks an eye towards summer, the northern hemisphere says hello to the autumn car show season. The Frankfurt Auto Show saw Suzuki confirm the additon of the Sport to its revamped Swift range, Toyota unveil a revamped Prado and in Korea Hyundao shows off the Genesis G70 sedan.

2018 Suzuki Swift Sport.
The latest generation of the Swift Sport brings with it a raft of changes which include a lower, wider stance, more aggressive styling, and a torque-to-weight ratio that catapults the Sport into true hot hatch territory.We say goodbye to the 1.6L naturally-aspirated motor and hello to the 1.4L Boosterjet turbo engine (it’s the same as found in the brilliant Vitara). It’ll be a welcome addition to an increasingly grunty line-up with a turbo now available in five models across the range. Coupled with compact dimensions and a kerb weight that’s sub one-tonne should be music to the ears of sports-minded drivers.

Swift Sport chief engineer Mr Masao Kobori said, “We know that our customers value a dynamic driving experience above everything else, so for the third-generation Swift Sport our development concept was Ultimate Driving Excitement. It’s lighter, sharper, and quicker. It’s more aggressive and emotive, but we’ve also refined the elements that make it practical to use every day—the clutch feel, the manual transmission shift throw, the seats and steering wheel. Everything that puts the driver at the heart of the experience.”

Whilst power and appearance were obvious key considerations, so too were safety and technology with the Sport featuring a Bluetooth®-compatible Smartphone Linkage Display Audio Display unit with a multimedia 7-inch touchscreen and sat nav together with advanced safety including lane departure warning, weaving alert, adaptive cruise and high beam assist.Pricing is yet to be confirmed for the Australian market; we hope it’ll be keen and competitive.

2018 Toyota Prado.
When you’re a good thing already, things tend not to get changed all that often and so it is with the Prado, copping it’s first real update in close to a decade. Of note is the ditching of the thirsty and high rev requirement 4.0L petrol V6. The good news is their 2.8L diesel stays and will be offered with either a six speed manual or six speed auto. The reason the petrol is going is simple: 98.6% of Prado sales are with the diesel. It develops an impressive 450 Nm of torque between 1,600 and 2,400 rpm when mated to the auto or 420 Nm from 1,400 to 2,600 rpm with the manual. Maximum power is 130 kW.Exterior changes focus on the grille which displays broad vertical bars with slit-shaped cooling openings finished in chrome. It’s flanked by restyled headlamps with main beams positioned inboard to avoid damage from obstacles during off-road driving. Each of the lower corners on the new front and rear bumpers kick upwards to enhance off-road manoeuvrability whilst the redesigned rear includes new lamp clusters and a smaller rear garnish plate incorporated within the number-plate surround. Inside also has the makeover wand waved: there’s a redesigned dash binnacle, dash, and switchgear; the centre console incorporates a flush-surface air-conditioning control panel with a lower profile at the top for a sleeker appearance and improved forward visibility.

There’s an increase in the presence of safety features: autonomous features – previously fitted to the premium VX and Kakadu variants – have been added to the automatic variants of the volume-selling GX and GXL grades.

Designed to help prevent accidents or mitigate their consequences, the technologies include a Pre-Collision Safety system that can now detect impact risks with pedestrians as well as vehicles.Relying on a camera mounted behind the rear-view mirror and a radar in the grille, these devices enable the Prado to operate its brakes autonomously to reduce the vehicle’s speed and even bring the car to a halt. A smart active cruise control system can also slow the car to a standstill if necessary.

Every Prado is now equipped with a Lane Departure Alert system that monitors lane markings and helps prevent accidents and head-on collisions caused by a vehicle leaving its lane. If the vehicle starts to deviate from its lane without the indicators being used, the system alerts the driver with visual and audible warnings.The range is also fitted with automatic high beam, a system that can detect the headlights or taillights of vehicles ahead and automatically switch between high and low beams to avoid dazzling other drivers. The VX grade, in addition, now features Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert -systems from the Kakadu that support safer motoring by giving the driver better real-time information about the area immediately around the car.
Pricing and confirmation of spec levels per model will be confirmed closer to launch.

Genesis G70.
The Genesis brand officially launched the G70 at the Hyundai Genesis Design Centre within the Namyang R&D Centre. Of course, strickly speaking, Genesis is a separate sub-brand of Hyundai. The G70 is set to go on sale on 20th September in the Korean market.

The Genesis G70 is an athletic and elegant luxury sedan offering a graceful and dynamic exterior, function-oriented interior with three different powertrains – the 3.3 litre V6 twin- turbo petrol, 2.0 litre turbo petrol and 2.2 litre diesel. The 3.3 litre V6 twin-turbo engine boasts an impressive 0-100 kph acceleration time of 4.7 seconds.We’ll also see some tech as the G70 also features high levels of advanced driver assist systems such as Highway Driving Assist (HDA), best-in-class safety with nine standard airbags and active hood function, and a high level of connectivity with server-based voice recognition technology.

Design wise, the G70 stamps its authority with a large crest-type grille, character lines beginning from the emblem of the voluminous hood, air intake functions, and LED daytime running lights (DRLs) express the muscularity/solidity of the car. Two distinctive linear LED DRLs on each side of the large crest grille foreshadow the future Genesis signature quad lamps. The rear also gets an update; the LED rear combination lamps, which continue the quad lamp theme, along with a raised trunk lid and compact bumper designs give the G70 a poised character. The rear lamps, evolved from the preceding G80 (known simply as Genesis here in Australia), have been stretched to the end of the rear to convey a wide and dynamic stance.

The G70 offers three powertrains – 3.3 litre V6 twin-turbo petrol, 2.0 litre turbo petrol and 2.2 litre diesel. The 3.3 litre V6 twin-turbo is at the heart of the enthusiast-focused “3.3 Turbo Sport models,” with 272 kW and 510 Nm.
G70 3.3T Sport’s dynamic and powerful performance includes 0-100 kph acceleration of 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 270 kph. Variable ratio steering and electronically controlled suspension are standard, providing agile steering response and an optimal ride and handling experience.

The G70 turbo petrol model is equipped with the Theta-II turbo 2.0 litre GDI engine, with 185 kW and maximum torque of 353 Nm (Sports package: 188 kW). The G70 2.2 litre diesel model features the R-FR 2.2 VGT engine with 149 kW and 441 Nm. It’s not yet confirmed what the Australian market will receive.

Dynamic performance features include Launch Control, there’s a rack-mounted, motor-driven power steering (R-MDPS) and multi-link rear suspension which provides precise handling and ride comfort. A proven system to improve vehicle cornering, dynamic torque vectoring system, is also on board as is mechanical limited slip differential (M-LSD) that helps safe driving capabilities in low friction road conditions such as rain, snow and ice.

Naturally the G70 brings a suite of safety programs. Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), Highway Driving Assist (HDA), Blind spot Collision Warning (BCW) and Driver Awareness Warning (DAW) have been added as part of the ‘Genesis Active Safety Control’ to offer the highest level of safety and convenience in its class.Details on which specifications and the appropriate pricing will be confirmed when details become available.

(With thanks to Autonews and Newspress).

Private Fleet Car Review: 2017 Nissan Navara Dual Cab ST-X.

It’s a hearty “welcome back” to Nissan and what a vehicle to get things up and running. The grunty and luxuriously appointed 2017 Nissan Navara ST-X dual cab ute graced the driveway for a week.The heartbeat of the Navara dual cab range is the immensely flexible and torquey 2.3 litre diesel available across the range. Depending on which specification you buy you’ll have either a 120 kW or 140 kW variant, such as the ST-X does, but you’ll also get either 403 Nm or 450 Nm between 1500-2500. It tapers off gently from that peak and acceleration in a rolling situation is stupendous. It’s geared to sit at around 1800 rpm or so for the highway and when required, will spin easily through the rev range and get you towards the horizon rapidly. You’ll never feel as if the engine is going to run out of urge and with the (optional, as fitted) seven speed auto, it’s a seamless, ongoing, never ending wave with only the flick of the tacho really giving you any indication of what’s happening underneath.What’s even more startling about the performance is the bulk the engine must pull around. Kerb weight is just thirty kilos shy of two tonnes, and Nissan quotes a gross mass of 2.9 tonnes. However, such is the all-round ability of the engine and driveline you’d not know of the weight. To top the icing with a cherry is the fuel economy from the sizable 80 litre tank. Nissan quotes 7.0L/100 kilometres on the combined cycle, AWT finished just north of that at 8.1L/100.The transmission in the ST-X is a high and low range four wheel drive capable setup, tied to the seven speed auto. Capable being the operative word here as low range mud eating is a doddle. All but one Navara dual cab variant (the RX) has a leaf spring rear, with the others being loaded up with an S-Link rear. Combined with the standard double wishbone front, the ST-X will crawl over and through just about any surface in high and low four wheel drive. The low gear ratios allow the engine to provide peak torque during the drive, ensuring the engine is on song during off road excursions.On tarmac ride quality is pretty damned good too. It’s a touch more taut at the rear but is tied down, compliant and only occasionally jiggly. Thanks to the tough suspension requirements it’s flat, composed, irons out most irregularities but there’s a dark side. At anything other than walking pace it’ll nose wide in corners. There’s no lack of grip as such, just a propensity for the front end’s steering to not be quite as tightly wound as perhaps it should be. Otherwise it’s a ride that you can live with, and enjoy. Highway and freeway dips and rises feel as if they have the ST-X as part of the surface, as there’s no discernible suspension travel, rather a sensation of following the curvatures. There’s some free play in the steering for cornering at speed, with load felt just slightly off centre.Enjoy it you can whilst sitting in the cabin. ST-X has a nickname: “ute in a suit”; there’s leather seats front and rear, with heating for the front. Great in winter but no ventilation on leather seats during an Aussie summer is not a good idea…and there are times where cloth is preferred such as a cold morning. Oddly, for a top of the range vehicle, only the driver’s window has an auto or one touch Up/Down as well. There’s a leather trimmed tiller, plenty of storage nooks including a tray in the top of the dash (with 12V socket), and chromed and bronzed silver accented highlights throughout.The dash dials are clean to read and separated by a colour info screen, the touchscreen and associated buttons are ergonomically friendly, there’s plugs for the audio and 12V accessories , and a simple to use dial for the four wheel drive system. You’ll have Bluetooth phone and streaming compatibility, a single CD player, plus cruise control. Safety comes in the form of the electronic aids such as Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, seven airbags including driver’s knee, and seatbelt pre-tensioning, making the Navara ST-X as safe as possible.There’s ample room front and rear for the family, for head and shoulders and, importantly, leg room. What you don’t get room for, which the ST-X has in common with every vehicle of its type, is room for shopping. Yes, you do have a tray that will excel at holding tools or whitegoods or hardware, but utes aren’t really ideal for family shopping…unless you’re a family of one and your shopping is tinned food and liquid refreshment.But little of that will count when you drive the ST-X. It’s an imposing beast, with an overall length of 5255 mm, stands at 1840 mm sans roof rails and will spread itself across 1850 mm. The wheelbase is a decent 3150 mm, one of the bigger wheelbases around, and contributes to the straight line stability of the vehicle. There’s decent front and rear overhangs too, allowing approach and departure angles of over 32 and 26 degrees when off roading. And underneath, the chassis is designed to work with the engine and transmission to allow up to 3500 kilograms worth of towing with a brake equipped trailer.Looks wise the Navara range for 2017 has been sharpened up a little; the front end is more angular, more asserrtive. There’s side steps on the ST-X, and meaty Toyo A25 255/60/18 rubber on either end. There’s a reverse camera integrated into the tail gate handle as well, linking to the touchscreen inside and provides a high definition image. There’s roof rails, a chromed roll bar mounted over the tray, a polyurethane tub lining, tie down points, which makes the overall presence high on the assertive “I’ll take this chair, mate”.At The End Of The Drive.
The Navara nameplate has always been a strong performer for Nissan. And even with the rise of the SUV the Navara continues to make an impact on a tough market. With competition from Volkswagen (Amarok), Mitsubishi (Triton), Ford (Ranger), Holden (Colorado), Isuzu (D-Max), just to name a few, the Navara has held onto a good market share. The ST-X especially is one that is worthy of looking at as a top of the ladder entry. As a work ute, it’s well and truly suitable, especially for areas that require a dedicated four wheel drive system. Wear a suit? Just as capable.

As a daily driver, the willing engine, smooth gearbox, and sheer driveability make it a no brainer. It’s compliant, comfortable, easy to move around despite the size and certainly has one of the more responsive throttles around. The 2017 Nissan Navara ST-X is certainly a solid contender in a very crowded market place.Check out the details of the range here: 2017 Nissan Navara dual cab range

Car Review: 2017 Kia Picanto.

There’s small cars, and there’s micro cars, and those that sort of slot in between. Kia’s Picanto is a small car that defies its external size to offer a well packaged and uncommonly roomy interior, all the while looking like it would fit into the tray of a four wheel drive ute. Private Fleet explores the funky 2017 Kia Picanto, priced at (at the time of writing), $16230 driveaway with metallic paint (Pop Orange on the test vehicle).And when PF says Picanto, it means Picanto. To paraphrase Chief Engineer Scott from Star Trek:The Next Generation’s brilliant episode “Relics”: “There’s no bloody S, no bloody Si, no bloody GT Line”. What you get is a single trim level, a 1.25 litre four, a five speed manual or archaic four speed auto, which is what the test car was fitted with. The little engine that could delivers 66 kilowatts at 6000 rpm and 122 Nm which peaks at 4000 rpm.The fuel thimble holds just 35 litres however fuel consumption for the auto is rated at 5.8L/100 km for a combined cycle. As it’s a city car in intent, figure on 7.9L/100 km around town. If you do decide to drive outside of the big city, it’s rated for 4.9L/100 km. That’s from a dry weight of five kilos under the tonne. We finished on 6.6L/100 km in a mainly city environment and generally with one aboard.

We said it was small. How does 3595 mm long, 1595 mm wide, 1485 mm tall, and a huge (relatively 2400 mm) wheelbase sound? Sounds horrible, right? But it’s that wheelbase increase (up slightly from the previous model) that provides ample legroom up front, enough for reasonable comfort for two adults in the back, and enough shoulder and head room for four without constant body contact. There’s even enough room to slide in 255L of cargo space with the comfortable rear pews up.What’s not small is the ability of the Picanto to deal with varying driving conditions, thanks to the brilliantly Australianised specification for the suspension. Kia’s engineers have tweaked the McPherson strut front and coupled torsion beam rear even further, and what is delivered is nothing short of surprising. It’s fair to expect a small car, riding on 175/65/14 rubber (wrapping steel wheels with alloy look wheel covers) from Nexen, to hop/jump/skip around on anything other than billiard table flat surfaces. Nope. You’ll get a car that’s composed, unflustered, sometimes even displaying indifference to broken or breaking up surfaces. Toss the little machine into a long flowing curve and there’s a subtle shift of balance as the car resettles. It’s nimble, adept, and sure footed.

There is a bit of crash from the front as you roll over the damnable shopping centre speed humps, but there’s no ongoing motion, simply an acknowledgement of a minor irritant. The electrically assisted steering and overall size play a major part in making this environment easy and liveable to deal with, as is moving it around on the tarmac. A smooth and fluid transition from lane to lane is also what this Picanto will deliver. Like most cars of this size, it will understeer when pushed hard, scrubbing the tyres, but really only in tightening corners and when taking advantage of the chassis dynamics.If there’s a downside to the driving experience, it’s fingers pointed at the transmission. No, not because it’s harsh, unforgiving, stuttery as it’s completely the opposite in being smooth, quiet, responsive. It’s the number four. As in ratios. As much of not being a fan of CVT as we are, the small torque output would be ideally suited to one of them. A further option to explore would be to look at what niche small car maker Suzuki has done. They’ve engineered some pokey small capacity turbo engines and have bolted them to six speed autos. Straight up it improves the driveability of the car, the usefullness of the engine and by having the extra ratios, economy hovers around the 6.0L/100 km mark.The interior is markedly improved from the previous model, with a seven inch touchscreen mounted up high in the centre console, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, reverse parking sensors and reverse camera, supportive cloth covered seats, a driving position that is comfortable enough, cruise control, and classic Kia ergonomics. Tech wise there’s auto headlights, globe lit driving lights, Bluetooth, and a USB and 12V socket in the front centre console.A noticeable feature or two of the Picanto’s interior is the resemblance to a couple of icons. One is the cluster that holds the dial based aircon controls, looking like a controller from a games console from Japan. The other is the broad sweep of the dash that terminates at either end with two air vents that bears more than a passing resemblance to a 1950s Cadillac’s tail.The trim itself is a mix of textured black plastic, alloy look highlights, and splashes of piano black around the touchscreen. The cloth trim has a subtle charcoal and light grey trim and complements the roof lining’s grey shade. The rear cargo space is trimmed with the standard hard wearing carpet and leads to a space saving spare. Storage inside is adequate with two cup holders in the centre, bottle holders for the doors, and there’s even a coat hook in the rear.The outside lifts the Picanto onto another level, with a striking sweep to the headlights, a determined and assertive font design, a pert and tight rear and in profile shows all four wheels pushed as far as practically possible to the corners. There’s potential in the exterior design, potential…..Naturally there’s six airbags, driver aids in the form of stability managements, hill start assist and the like, 2 ISOFIX child seat mounts, plus the standard seven year warranty and capped price servicing for seven years. Maximum cost is at the four year or 60000 kilometre mark, with a current scheduled price of $493.At The End Of The Drive.
We see potential above what the Picanto already delivers. It has the potential to become a cult classic car thanks to the fabulous chassis underneath, funky and eyecatching looks, and simply needs a more sporty engine and transmission combination, and a mild fettling of the body, to be a cult classic city car. Head over to Kia Australia’s Picanto to check it out for yourself.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2017 Kia Cerato Sport.

Car makers have a habit of badging a vehicle and calling it a Sports model. Holden did it with the SV6 Commodore, Ford’s Falcon XR6, Toyota with the Camry and Aurion…generally it’s cosmetic and that’s it. Kia has jumped on the sports wagon and added one to the Cerato family as the 2017 Kia Cerato Sport. It’s priced at $24790 RRP plus metallic paint (Snow White metallic pearl on the test car) at $520.Mechanically you get Kia’s free spinning two litre petrol four. It’s good for 112 kilowatts (6200 rpm) and 192 torques (4000 rpm). It’s a six speed auto in the test car. The ratios see around 2250 on the tacho for the state limit in Australia of 110 kph. Economy is claimed to be, from a fifty litre tank of standard unleaded, 9.9L/100 km for the city, a more reasonable 5.7 L/100 km for the highway, and a combined figure of 7.3L/100 km. Private Fleet saw a best of 6.2L/100 kilometres on a jaunt to the upper south coast of NSW and back.Externally you get a lithe, slippery, sinuously shaped 4560 mm long body with a solitary Sport badge on the left rear, the addition of a small bootlid spoiler above the 421 litre boot, sweet looking alloys and Nexen rubber of a 215/45/17 profile, with the overall look of a wheel and tyre combination failing to look as if they fit and fill the wheelwells. Perhaps 18s and a 50 series tyre would look more as if they’d fill the hole, but at what cost for ride quality? The Schreyer grille is a touch more upright and adds a visible extra toughness.To add to the Sport, you get a black valance for the rear bumper, globe driving lights in the front (no LED driving lights, they’re reserved for the top of the range SLi) and a number of features shared with the models either side, the S and Si, such as front and rear parking sensors, mirror mounted indicator lights, and folding heated exterior mirrors. The headlights slide deep into the fenders and have a white plastic insert that does nothing for lighting but breaks up the look to provide a bit more visual appeal. However, they’re not as sharped edged and attractive as sister car, Hyundai’s Elantra. The rear lights have also been given a slight makeover, with the look now more akin to a Euro style car.Internally it’s standard Kia; great ergonomics, clean layout and easy to read dash and console controls, cloth seats (shared with the S and covered in a harder wearing weave), a man made leather wrapped driver’s binnacle, 2 twelve volt sockets and USB, plenty of leg room inside the 2700 mm wheelbase and shoulder room in the small mid sized sedan thanks to an overall width of 1780 mm. Airconditioning is controlled by old school dials; old school they may be but there’s nothing simpler than a dial with pictures to tell you how hot/cold, how much blowing speed and where it’s going. Naturally there’s Bluetooth and a reverse camera to complement the six airbags plus there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on board.Audio and satnav are controlled via a seven inch touchscreen and it’s here where technology niggles. From Start, the screen shows a warning message and requires human intervention to agree and move forward. I’m not a fan of such a program, whereas a timed delay before reverting to the radio screen would be more appropriate. The satnav is brilliant in look and usage, showing a proper geographical perspective for the surrounding lands, and can be zoomed/expanded via the radio tuning knob on the right hand side.The driver faces a simple two dial layount, with speed and engine rev counter taking pride of place and fuel & engine temperature in two small sectioned locations to the bottom. In between the main dials is the info screen, with servicing intervals, speed, economy, trip meters and more available via the steering wheel mounted tabs. Again, typical, user friendly, human oriented Kia. The dash design overall hasn’t changed much, with the ovoid, curved, look and sweeping vertically oriented lines breaking up an otherwise somewhat slabby black plastic look.The six speed auto in the test car didn’t exhibit anything out of the ordinary nor was it the slickest, smoothest, transmission around. Hesitant and jerky sometimes from low throttle start, sometimes sweet and unfussed, barely noticeable in changes at speed, easily self changing on slight slopes and descents to holding a gear too long on a downhill or uphill run and requiring manual intervention. There’s three dive modes (Sport/Normal/Eco) and only rarely was Sport called upon for it’s quicker shifting. A mixed bag and not one of the best nor worst around and not really deserving of a Sport moniker.

The ride itself though is a delight and shows off the fettling Kia’s engineers have added. It’s well damped in the McPherson strut front/coupled torsion beam rear, with smaller lumps and bumps quickly dialled out, quick rebound from bigger dips and undualtions, however there was a sideways skip occasionally on some unsettled surfaces. The front benefits from uprated springs, adding a poise and nimbleness in turn-in.Tyre pressures were crucial, too, with 36 psi having the Cerato Sport feeling taut, grippy but also a touch skatey in tighter corners. Around 32 psi would provide the ideal balnce for ride and handling. You get a sense of agility, confidence, and tactility though, with a feeling that it’d require some serious issues to lose grip. But the electrically assisted steering is perhaps a little too eager to help, lacking real feedback and communication, with numbness on centre and an artifical weight once wound left and right plus a sense of twitchiness requiring the driver to add in minute corrections as you pedal along.

Acceleration is adequate without much sparkle, meaning a good press of the go pedal to move the 1309 kilo plus cargo is needed. Seat of the pants says around 8 to 9 seconds to 100 kph. The engine is smooth and never feels stresed as it climbs through the numbers but will sound a touch harsh and metallic as it gets over 4500.

The Cerato Sport gets the basics in electronic safety, such as Vehicle Stability Management, Hill Start Assist but being closer to entry level it misses out on Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning and the like. However there’s the embedded seven year warranty and fixed price servicing, with a maximum cost of $487 in the fourth service.At The End Of The Drive.
The cynical part of society would question adding a Sport nomenclature to a vehicle that basically isn’t. One would look for a turbo engine, perhaps a close ratio manual, a sports style front dam and side skirts. But, as mentioned, other makers have a standard car, added a bit of plastic and left the engine and transmission untouched. Kia’s Cerato Sport is pretty much this but slightly less, lacking side skirts and a definable Sport look. The cynical part of me would say that the firecracker turbo engine from the lamented Pro Ceed GT and the quad LED driving lights plus a standalone boot lid spoiler would be a look more befitting of a car to wear a Sport badge…
To make up your own mind and book a test drive, here’s the link to the 2017 Kia Cerato sedan

Kia Australia Releases Pricing For The Highly Anticipated Stinger.

Kia’s highly-anticipated Stinger performance GT will hit the Australian market with a sub-$60,000 recommended retail price. The Stinger, one of the most highly anticipated cars of 2017, will provide a top-end performer at a realistic price across the full 3.3-litre bi-turbo V6 range. With 272kW of power and 510Nm of torque the Stinger is capable of a launch control assisted 4.9 second 0-100km/h sprint and a low 13 second standing quarter.Starting at $48,990 for the S, through $55,990 for the mid-spec Si and on to $59,990 for the fully-loaded GT, the Stinger brings the style, the refinement and the power usually available only to owners with substantially deeper pockets.”It was critical for us to bring this car to as wide an audience as possible … something I believe we have achieved with the pricing we have been able to settle on,” Kia Motors Australia Chief Operating Officer, Damien Meredith said.“From the outset it was a goal to get a bi-turbo V6 into the market under $50,000. We have done that with room to spare.”Mr Meredith said the decision to announce 3.3-litre pricing ahead of the Stinger’s October arrival was to provide confidence to the substantial number of buyers who have shown faith in putting down a deposit without knowing a final price.”Almost all of the confirmed orders are for the 3.3-litre, so it makes sense to provide those customers with as much clarity as we can while they wait to take possession of their new cars.”Pricing for the 2.0-litre model is in the final stages of being settled and will be released as soon as it has been finalised. Go here to register your interest:Kia Australia Stinger registration

With thanks to Kia for images and content.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2017 Kia Sportage Si Premium.

Kia’s Sportage is one of the brands oldest nameplates for the Australian market. From its somewhat rough and ready, if competent, beginnings in the 1990s, it’s morphed into a handsome, bluff nosed, popular machine in the mid sized SUV market.
Available in 2017 as a four trim level range, covering Si, Si Premium, SLi, and GT-Line (formerly Platinum), there’s three engines, one transmission, and two or part time all wheel drive options. Private Fleet takes the entry level but one 2017 Kia Si Premium front wheel drive home for the week. The cost is $31510 with premium paint (a grey hued colour called Mineral Silver) at $520.Sportage comes with a choice of 2.0L petrol, 2.4L petrol, or 2.0L diesel. Power outputs for the diesel and bigger petrol are just a kilowatt apart, at 136 kW and 135 kW respectively. The Si and Si Premium has the 114 kW 2.0L four (plus the diesel is an option for the Si). Torque wise it’s a steady climb, from 192 Nm, 237 Nm (both at 4000 rpm) and a handy 400 Nm (1750 – 2750 rpm) for the oiler. For the Si, Kia says economy is 10.9L/7.9L/6.1L (per 100 kilometres, urban/combined/highway) from the 62 litre tank. Our final figure was 8.4L of unleaded per 100 kilometres in a mainly urban environment. Sizewise it’s well situated in the mid sized SUV bracket, with length at 4480 mm, overall width of 1855 mm, a wheelbase of 2670 mm and a ride height of 172 mm. Spare wheel is a full sized alloy.The sole transmission available is a six speed auto. There’s no paddle shifts available in the Si or Si Premium however there’s the now almost mandatory Sports shift or manual selection via the gear lever. For the most part it’s smooth enough but did exhibit occasional jerkiness and indecision. The auto would also downshift, from sixth to fifth and sometimes fourth under light throttle on slight slopes. On bigger slopes such as the Great Western Highway’s climb up from the river plain, it’s expected it would drop back, and did so easily, plus would hold that gear with only the throttle responsible for rev changes. In normal driving upshifts were slick, quiet, however light throttle on a cold engine seemed to have the cold also annoying the transmission’s electronics, with the hesitancy and judder found in older style autos.Give the Si Premium a solid push on the go pedal and it does drop back easily, as mentioned. What you’ll also get is the mechanical keen from the 2.0L as it winds its way rapidly through the rev range. The 114 kilowatts comes in at 6200 rpm and the engine certainly gives no sign it’ll struggle to reach those numbers. Acceleration is decent enough however there’s a sense that more could be on offer but doesn’t reach the front driven 225/55/18 rubber from Nexen. The 1560 kilogram kerb weight may be one reason. Braking is good, with the 305 mm vented fronts and 302 mm solid rears responding quickly and effectively every time the beautifully balanced and communicative brake pedal is pushed.The McPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension tie the Sportage down well. Although it theoretically could do some soft roading, tarmac is its natural friend and the two go well together. There’s a sense of balance in the way the Si Premium handles itself, with the tight corners for the Old Bathurst Road that snakes its way up from Penrith in Sydney’s west despatched as easily as the dips and undulations on the freeway system that rings the western parts of Sydney. Kia’s engineers spend a lot of time refining the spring and damper settings for Australian spec roads and it shows.

The Sportage is rarely fussed about the road surface, is quiet on all but the coarsest chip surfaces, and seat of the pants feedback tells you that even in quick sideways movement that it’s as composed as if it were standing still. The steering is quick at about 3.5 turns lock to lock, light in Normal mode, not much difference noticeably in Eco and feels a bit heavier, with more feedback in Sports, to round out the driving package. It helps move the Sportage from lane to lane quickly and without a sense of mass shifting direction, making for an almost sporting car drive.Apart from the tyre and wheel size between the Si and Si Premium (225/60/17 for Si), there’s also front parking sensors and electro-chromatic rear vision mirror to differentiate. The Premium also picks up LED DRLs, rain sensing wipers, driver AND front passenger Auto up/down window switches, dual zone climate control, Auto defog system, and illuminated vanity mirrors. Seat trim is a black and charcoal grey weave for the cloth with the front pews manually adjusted for height and seat back angle via levers. The rear seats fold down flat via side mounted levers and provide up to 1455 litres of cargo space, up from 460L with the seats up.The black plastics throughout the cabin have a warm texture to them, with a sweep around the bottom of the windscreen not unlike a new Jaguar. The steering wheel hub has the same feel whilst the smoother plastics are that almost suede feel to the matt fiished buttons and suurounds. The seven inch colour touchscreen, which features satnav, another item the Si alone doesn’t get, sits between the central air vents and there’s an alloy look to the surrounds. There’s bottle holders in all doors, cup/bottle holders in the centre console and a small storage locker in the console as well. The driver’s dial binnacle houses a 3.5 inch monochrome screen with information such as trip, fuel economy, service status, accessed via tabs on the steering wheel. There’s plenty of rear seat leg room, even with the front seats pushed back and enough for most front seat passengers when that seat’s pushed forward. All over and around, it’s typically high quality Kia.The touchscreen has a pseudo radio “dial look”, good quality sound, Bluetooth and Auxiliary/USB campatible, but notably no CD slot. In place of that is voice activated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. When in Reverse, the camera provides a clear enough picture but it’s not as clear and sharply defined as others available. There’s also a pair of 12V sockets at the front of the centre console and one at the rear, allowing for extra USB ports if needed. Aircon controls are simple to use, clean to look at, and the Synch button lights up when it’s a mono zone control, meaning temperature adjustment is for both right and left seats.Outside, the Sportage is stubby tailed, long bonneted, with a steeply raked windscreenbehind Kia’s signature Schreyer grille, and rear window, with a thickish C pillar and profile that reminds one of the original Sportage. The update in 2016 lost the angular and sloped headlights, changing them to an insert style that flows from the more upright nose back along the bonnet shut line. The Sportage designers may have taken inspiration from a classic sci-fi film for the design of the inner headlights, with the look not unlike at all the tri-lensed aliens from War Of The Worlds. The front bumper also has inserts for the globe lit daytime driving lights in each corner, matching the height of the rear’s indicator cluster located low in the rear bumper, not higher up inside the rear light cluster, a staple of the Sportage design.Naturally there’s plenty of safety on board in the form of six airbags, traction control, DBC or Downhill Brake Control and HAC (Hill start Assist Control). Only the GT-Line gets Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, Forward Collision Warning System, and Lane Departure Warning System. Servicing is yearly or 15000 kilometres plus capped at a cost of around $2756 over the seven years.

At The End Of The Drive.
Kia Sportage range stands up to be counted in a very crowded market. It’s a car that’s full of class and oozes plenty of style. Consider sibling Tucson from Hyundai, Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape, Renault’s brilliant Koleos, VW Tiguan and you get the idea of what it’s up against. With a strong list of standard equipment, a free revving petrol engine (and the diesel’s pretty damned good), a comfortable drive, and that seven year warranty, it acquits itself with dignity and poise. Kia’s 2017 Sportage range deserves to be on your radar when looking out for a new mid sized SUV.
For specifications and more, head over to :Kia Australia’s website and Sportage

Car Review: 2017 Kia Soul

Kia’s Soul is one of those cars that slips under the radar for no really good reason. Who knows if it’s the perception of the brand or of the name or the look, but it’s grossly unfair to disregard this car. Full stop.
Yes, it’s squarish. Yes, it looks somewhat odd, like the two or three other squarish designs. However, it’s roomy, effective, and a surprise. A mostly good surprise. Here’s a look at the 2017 Kia Soul, with the test vehicle fitted with a few extras.The 2017 model has undergone a mild facelift inside and out as of October 2016. It’s recognisably Kia inside, with a look familiar to anyone that has spent time in one of the brand’s car. Outside, it’s a change to the grille & air intake, front bumper, fog lamps, reflectors, and wheels. The interior gets a five inch screen for the audio system, with RDS (Radio Data Service) not included, the FlexSteer drive system with associated engine mapping and steering changes, a centre dash refresh, and changes to the seat coverings and door trims.It’s smaller outside than the design would have you believe, with an overall length of just 4140 mm and a wheelbase of 2570 mm maximises interior space. Overall width is decent at 1800 mm with shoulder room aplenty for four aboard. There’s one wheel size; 17 inches is the diameter and rubber comes from Nexus at 215/55. The spare is a spacesaver.The test car came clad in Inferno Red on the body and a Cherry Black roof, a $910 option cost over a single colour choice. Any single metallic is now just $620. A Clear White and Red roof combo will also be cost effective at $390. The review car came fitted with carpeted floor mats ($160), dash mat ($93 and superb at reducing windscreen reflection), an embossed and moulded cargo bay liner ($147), weathershields for the windows ($296) and an alloy roof rack set ($552) for a total cost of $1249 over the $24990 base cost and metallic paint. It’s a boxy shape, yes, but curvaceous enough to not be a completely hard edged look either. The window shields also aided in softening the edge plus it sits high enough in looks to almost be taken for a kind of SUV.The engine is a 112 kilowatt petrol four at two litres capacity. Peak torque of 192 Nm is available at 4000 rpm, 2200 below peak power. The sole transmission choice is a six speed auto with a decidedly dual clutch feel in change under way, yet lacks the roll forward found in DCTs. Kia rates the 2.0L engine as consuming a combined figure of 8.0L per 100 kilometres driven, 6.2L/100 km on the highway and a far too thirsty 11.0L/100 km in the suburban jungle. The tank holds just 54 litres and it’s this fuel figure that is one potential reason why the Soul hasn’t had the penetration it otherwise may deserve.Due to a last minute change of circumstances, the Soul became freed up to be taken away to Bega, the cheese capital of Australia and no doubt inspiration for many Monty Python related gags….Over a period of 54 hours, from departure to arrival back at PFCR HQ, the Soul faced strong head and cross winds, from south of Sydney on the Hume through to Canberra and the plains south of there, through to the road east from the driver’s delight of Brown Mountain. And return. After a round trip of 1111 kilometres, the final average fuel consumption was 8.4L per 100 kilometres. It wasn’t until returning the Soul that the claimed figure of 8.0L/100 km was seen, and that was on an unusually quiet freeway run.

On a similar run 12 months ago, we achieved sub 5.0L/100 km in a revamped small SUV from a niche Japanese brand. A smaller engine, turbo charged, and diesel…An 11.0L urban figure in a small SUV style vehicle just doesn’t cut it any more.
What did work, for the most part, was the six speed auto. Quiet, smooth, from stopped to go and under way. The only times it felt uncertain was in sixth at around 110 kmh on the slightest of uphill slopes, where you could feel the transmission “drag” against the spin of the engine, feeling as if it wanted to do something but didn’t know exactly what that something was. Otherwise, it’s reasonably geared, with 110 kmh seeing 2400 rpm on the tacho. But overtaking meant a solid press on the go pedal you’ll see the tacho needling zinging around well over 4000 rpm, also contributing to the fuel consumption.It’s typical Kia on the inside, meaning a well laid out dash and console, mostly matt black plastic for the dash, easy to use controls, and superbly comfortable seats (needed after a long country run). The driver sees a dash of red and black, with a centre circle, located inside the speedometer central location, showing information such as overall fuel consumption and trip meters, accessed via the standard steering wheel tabs. The speed and rev counter are analogue still, as are the temperature and fuel gauges to the right side. Cruise control and audio are also located on the tiller as are the bluetooth phone tabs. There’s a semi-circular motif embossed into the doors and some characterful designing for the airvents at each end of the dash. They sit directly underneath the horizontally located speakers and have one thinking something pagoda-like. The ovoid theme is continued with the gear selector and touchscreen both surrounded in a similar motif.As a drive, it’s engaging. The steering ratio is quick, with around 3.5 turns lock to lock and is ideal for shopping centre car parks or roadside tight parking thanks to its electronically assisted lightness. Ride quality is very good, with a slightly tighter rear than the front. The suspension is the tried and true McPherson strut/torsion beam combination and works well enough on the road. It’s nicely tied down as well, with rebound a short travel and that’s it with no pogoing. On the highways south of Canberra it was smooth sailing, even on some of the slightly unsettled and rutted surfaces, and crossing some cattle grids in Bega had plenty of rattatatta into the cabin but no body movement. On the long sweepers on the Monaro Highway it was flat and composed, with no body roll evident.Light braking of the 1375 kilogram mass plus passengers had the Soul easily controlled whilst hard braking via the progressive pedal saw little dive at the front. Hard acceleration saw no torque steer and the barest hint of a list of the nose. Slower speed corners were easily controlled either by a little less throttle in and a touch more out or a brushing of the brakes to settle the nose. The broad footprint aids in stability and the 215/55 tyres provide plenty of grip.With a cargo space (seats up) of 238 litres, there’s enough for a couple of overnight backs, until you lift the cargo space floor and see three compartments located underneath. Seats down, it increases to 878 litres. There’s bottle holders in all doors and a pair of cup holders in the centre console, plus a pair of 12V sockets bracketing a USB port and 3.5 mm socket. Standard equipment such as Auto headlights, speed related locking, rear view camera, sensors front and rear, tyre pressure monitoring and the suite of airbags and driving aids complete the picture.At The End Of The Drive.
At a tick under $27K the Soul is not expensive. Consider the seven year warranty and fixed priced servicing as well. Over seven years your service costs will be $2688.00 or $388 per year. Or, just over a dollar per day…It’s well featured, is comfortable drive and to ride in, and there’s plenty of room inside.
So why doesn’t the Soul have a better perception? You’re not spoiled for choice with just the one trim level available. It’s an unusual look in an environment populated with slick looking SUVs of various sizes and shapes or sleek European sedans. Is it the fuel economy?
Perhaps.
So it could be a combination of suburban thirst and a styling that is perhaps a little too unusual? If you were to ask the junior members of the PFCR family, it’s the latter…yet they observed that from inside you couldn’t see the outside. Sage advice for any prospective buyers that would be missing out on a thoroughly competent vehicle.
As a certain Akubra wearing former TV host used to say: “Do yourself a favour” and try the Soul. Here’s where you can go to check it out and book the test drive: 2017 Kia Soul