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Driving in Australia

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

Australia’s Solar Race

Solar Race Car

The ‘Nuon Solar Team’ continues to dominate the solar race across Australia that started in Darwin and will finish in Adelaide.  Racing without conventional combustion engines, the various teams from around the world converged on Darwin having built their vehicles as completely solar-powered electric machines.

There are three categories that are completing the journey.  The first being the quickest team to complete the 3000 km race distance – this race is known as the ‘Challenger Class’.

The second class is the known as the ‘Cruiser Class’, where there are points given to the teams for the number of passengers on board, the amount of energy that they are using in terms of the number of battery recharges that are occurring throughout the journey and the general practicality of the car.  Being a part of the ‘Cruiser Class’, the points aren’t all about speed.

Solar Race Cruiser Class

Finally, the third category is known as the ‘Adventure Class’ which is the non-competitive class, allowing cars built for previous races of the event to run again – usually with new team members.  The ‘Adventure Class’ can also be used as a catchment for those who, while meeting the exacting safety standards, may not have quite made full compliance with the latest race requirements.  This is the category with the more laid-back travel style.

At the end of day three: the quickest team competing in the ‘Challenger Class’ is the ‘Nuon Solar Team’ from Holland.

Nuon Solar Team

Second is the team from Tokai University.

Tokai University Race Team

Third is the team from Michigan University.

Novum Race Team

Just over halfway through the race and there will still be plenty of challenges ahead for all race competitors.  One of the major influences on how well a car performs in this race is the amount of sunshine there will be.  Cloudy days do impact the speed and progress of the cars.

This is an exciting race held here in Australia that is sponsored by Bridgestone, and it’s these sort of races that enable the evolution of production cars being run on electricity and solar energy.  If you can, get out and have a look at the cars as they silently run into Adelaide in a few days time.

Auto Industry News – Q3 2017

We review all the major news events in the automotive industry from the third quarter of 2017.

 

Safety and Environment

In what became the first ever compulsory recall for vehicles in Australia, the ACCC intervened to shine the spotlight on cars affected by defective Takata airbags. The recall eventuated amid a rising number of fatalities worldwide attributed to the faulty components, including a local fatality in Sydney.

Emissions scandals continue to plague manufacturers, with Peugeot and Citroen being looked into for their alleged use of ‘cheating’ devices similar to those used by Volkswagen. The companies join Renault and Fiat Chrysler to be looked into, however, they have strongly denied the accusations. Also being accused of unconscionable conduct, Daimler is facing concerns it sold over one million cars with excess emissions.

In a boost for environmentalists, Queensland’s government announced plans to develop the world’s longest electric highway that will promote the use of electric vehicles.

 

Technology

Fuel technology continues to be a major focal point. Volvo has drawn a line in the sand, as the auto maker plans to begin phasing out petrol and diesel in the coming years. This aligns with legislation in France and the UK that will ban said vehicles from 2040, and China planning to soon ban the production of these vehicles, although Australia isn’t expected to follow suit any time soon.

Locally, the nation could be at the forefront of hydrogen fuel technology, with a world first trial set for hydrogen powered vehicles next year. South Australia even became the first Australian state to endorse hydrogen as the next fuel technology.

On a related note, Sydney will play host to integral trials surrounding the future of autonomous vehicles in Australia, while first round results from testing in Victoria suggest infrastructure and technology are currently ill equipped for self-driving vehicles. Abroad however, and vacuum cleaner maker Dyson is eyeing the electric vehicle market, set to take on dedicated manufacturers as soon as 2020.

Other technology developments include:

 

Legal and Regulatory Issues

The government was caught up in a vehicle ‘carbon tax’ controversy, with auto bodies and car makers slamming a rumoured proposal, although the government went on the front foot to deny its prospects.

Elsewhere, the ACCC commenced proceedings against Ford Australia over its ‘faulty’ auto transmissions, however the car maker announced it will contend the accusations. Also facing scrutiny from the ACCC, Holden settled an investigation by announcing the industry’s first vehicle refund and replacement scheme for the first 60 days of vehicle ownership

However, the ACCC saved its biggest salvo for the broader new car industry, detailing a wide range of concerns regarding the way customers’ complaints are dealt with, the sharing of manufacturer data with independent repairers, and real world fuel/emissions tests. The developments could give rise to lemon laws. Naturally, this provoked concern and consternation from the automotive bodies.
Finally, the Federal Court has requested Volkswagen publish changes to vehicle performance on its website and social media arising from the Dieselgate saga.

Indicate, Mate. That’d Be Great.

In surveys of the things that annoy drivers, it’s always in the order of over eighty percent that respondents say people nott indicating that rates as an annoyance. Yet, in any city or town, in any Australian state or territory, you’ll find people that either use their indicators or use them correctly as being of the minority.

In NSW a very common transgression is not indicating when crossing a merge lane, along with non indicating when pulling away from the roadside. Here’s the legislation in NSW:

(2)  The driver must give the change of direction signal for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians.

(3)  If the driver is about to change direction by moving from a stationary position at the side of the road or in a median strip parking area, the driver must give the change of direction signal for at least 5 seconds before the driver changes direction.

In fact, the legislation even specifies what needs to be done: “How to give a left change of direction signal. The driver of a vehicle must give a left change of direction signal by operating the vehicle’s left direction indicator lights.” Naturally this applies for the right hand side of the car too. Note also the time requirement: at LEAST five seconds. Even more confusing is when to use an indicator if a road curves and also has an exit at the apex. Far too many DON’T indicate at the apex or actually indicate as they follow the road….and don’t need to indicate.

Complicated stuff, right? So why are there so many drivers that don’t indicate? Don’t indicate for more than one or two blinks? This also coincides with drivers wrestling their cars from lane to lane almost as if they’re being blown around like a leaf in the wind. Is there something wrong with a gentle, easy, merge along with enough indication?

Roundabouts are another bugbear and these, too, are easy to deal with.

  Giving a left change of direction signal when entering a roundabout

(1)  This rule applies to a driver entering a roundabout if:

(a)  the driver is to leave the roundabout at the first exit after entering the roundabout, and

(b)  the exit is less than halfway around the roundabout.

(2)  Before entering the roundabout, the driver must give a left change of direction signal for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians.

(3)  The driver must continue to give the change of direction signal until the driver has left the roundabout.

And:

Giving a right change of direction signal when entering a roundabout;

(1)  This rule applies to a driver entering a roundabout if the driver is to leave the roundabout more than halfway around it.

(2)  Before entering the roundabout, the driver must give a right change of direction signal for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians.

(3)  The driver must continue to give the change of direction signal while the driver is driving in the roundabout, unless:

(a)  the driver is changing marked lanes, or entering another line of traffic, or

(b)  the driver’s vehicle is not fitted with direction indicator lights, or

(c)  the driver is about to leave the roundabout.

Note 2.

Rule 117 deals with giving change of direction signals before changing marked lanes, or entering another line of traffic, in a roundabout.

Note 3. Rule 118 requires a driver, if practicable, to give a left change of direction signal when leaving a roundabout.
What’s important here is the last comment: indicate left when leaving a roundabout. I could count on one finger the amount of times this is seen on our our roads. What’s more troubling about the lack of indication Aussie drivers do is just how SIMPLE it is to indicate. Cars are designed, engineered, and built with many factors of safety, including how easy it is to access the indicator stalk. They’re literally at your finger tips. So what causes drivers to not uses them? Pride? Arrogance? Stupidity? Laziness? Distracted whilst wearing earbuds (a stupidly non-illegal rule!)?
Non indicating means no involvement in your driving, and having no involvement in driving heightens the risk factor, increases the danger factor. This is also exacerbated by the somewhat myopic focus our police and governments have on speeding as being the allegedly sole cause of crashing. Perhaps if more effort was expended on policing non indicators, not only would the revenue come but the message about being involved as a driver (as ANY worthwhile driver trainer and educator will insist upon) as a high point for safety may start seeing better examples of driving.
Be a safe driver. Indicate, mate. That’d be great.

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).

Clearing Up The Myths About Biodiesel

Biofuels are widely touted as being a solution to the dual problems of (1) limited fossil fuel supplies and (2) too many carbon emissions. In a nutshell, biodiesel is produced by taking crude oil from a source that isn’t a fossil fuel (i.e. not rock oil or petroleum oil) and doing all the chemical this and that to refine it so it can be used in our cars… or at least our diesel-fuelled cars.

However, there are a few rumours out there about biodiesel that are putting off a few people from giving it a go or adopting it.

Myth #1: Biodiesel will drive up food prices.

Facts: The thinking is like this: if we use, say, corn or sunflower oil to make biodiesel, this means that land that is currently used for growing food will be used to grow biodiesel feedstocks, which means there will be less food around, which means that food prices will go up. Even if crops aren’t competing for land, they may have to compete for fertiliser and water. This is a valid concern but we don’t have to choose between growing corn for our cornflakes and growing corn for oil. This is because biodiesel comes from a variety of sources. The good oil can be produced by algae that grow in septic tanks using grotty water that you’d never use on food crops. It can be harvested from the nuts of jatropha trees that grow on land that is no good for food crops. Waste oil and grease from fast food outlets (yep – all the oil from frying Kentucky Fried Chicken is good for making biodiesel) can be turned into biodiesel. They also use tallow sourced from animals – all the fatty bits that the butchers and slaughterhouse folk chop off a carcass because we don’t want to eat them can go for biodiesel as well as soap. I dare say that they could use the oils from the “fatbergs” found in sewers if they wanted to. It’s a case of being clever and using a range of sources to source the feedstocks for biodiesel, not just a few.

Just to throw a new twist into the food versus fuel debate, a lot of the corn grown in the US ends up as the ghastly corn syrup used to sweeten soft drinks and add to the obesity problem (corn syrup is also used to make the fake blood used in movies). Speaking for myself, perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad thing if we used less corn for making us fat and more for powering our cars!

Myth #2: Biofuel is still just an experimental fuel and hasn’t been tested properly.

Facts: There are whole scientific journals dedicated to biodiesel and biofuel research, covering everything from test cases looking at how well putting a fleet of buses onto biodiesel cuts emissions through to finding great new strains of algae that produce more biodiesel-suitable oil. So it’s certainly been tested and isn’t experimental. Of course research is ongoing – the same applies to methods of agriculture and medicine. Regarding whether it’s still a bit dodgy and uncertain whether you can put it in your vehicle, biodiesel had been tried out and it works just fine.

As a matter of fact, when Herr Diesel first invented the type of internal combustion engine that bears his name, he ran it on what we’d call biodiesel sourced from peanut oil. The engines had to be modified a little to take fossil fuel-sources diesel instead. So biodiesel is actually the older option and isn’t as new as you think.

Myth #3: You can only put biodiesel in a specially designed diesel engine.

Facts: While some car manufacturers – notably Mercedes-Benz about 10 years ago – trumpeted the fact that some of their models could run on biodiesel, the fact is that any diesel engine can run on biodiesel. However, it is true that because biodiesel is more of a solvent, it will loosen old deposits from the tank and pipes inside your engine, which means that you’ll have to check and change the filters more often at first if you make the switch to biodiesel. Apart from this initial clogging issue, any diesel engine can run on biodiesel. You can use biodiesel straight (known as B100) or a blend, depending on what’s available and what takes your fancy.

Cars that were made before 1993 can have problems with biodiesel, as the rubber pipes can’t handle this. If you like the idea of biodiesel and have an older model vehicle (and don’t want to take the opportunity to upgrade to a new car), then replacing the rubber hoses will do the job.

Obviously, you can’t run a petrol engine on biodiesel.  Owners of petrol-powered cars should look at ethanol and ethanol blends if they want a biofuel alternative to fossil fuels.

Myth # 4: Using biodiesel puts out just as much exhaust and pollution as regular diesel, so you’re not actually cutting down on emissions by using biodiesel.

Facts: For a start off, when it comes to cutting down on carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases, remember that producing the oils for biodiesel tend to come from plants and algae (and some animal fats in the case of waste oil from food outlets). While the algae or the corn plants or the jatropha trees are growing the oil-bearing seeds, they are quietly using the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so across the whole lifecycle of the biodiesel, this does mean fewer emissions and a smaller carbon footprint than fossil fuel-based biodiesel.

Secondly, a few tests run in the USA found that biodiesel exhaust doesn’t contain as many nasties so it burns cleaner. As far as I can make out, it’s kind of like the difference between wood smoke and coal smoke. Biodiesel exhaust doesn’t have as many sulphates, hydrocarbons or carbon monoxide, or as much particulate matter. This means that biodiesel reduces the amount of black smoke coming out of your diesel engine.

Some people claim that the exhaust fuel from cars running on biodiesel smells like hot chips and makes them feel hungry, especially if the biodiesel in question has been recycled from the stuff from fast food deep frying vats.

 

Myth #5: Biodiesel lowers your car’s performance.

Fact: OK, this one does have some basis in truth. If you put in 100% biodiesel into your engine, it won’t perform quite as well as if you used 100% petrodiesel or a petro-bio diesel blend. However, we’re only talking a 5–10% reduction in performance.  This means that you will notice a difference out on the race track or if you’re pushing your car to the limit – or possibly towing a very heavy load. However, for the average run about town picking up the groceries, dropping off the kids and going to work, you won’t really notice the difference.

My suggestion for a compromise here would be to use a petro-bio blend when towing but straight biodiesel for everyday driving.

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

The Splatometer.

Some of us might be familiar with the car care product “Bugger Off” – a really useful product that cleans insect splatter off the front of your car with ease.  In Australia there still seems to be plenty of insect life around but wildlife experts have been warning about the decline in insects for decades.  I’m not sure if you’ve noticed any decline in bug splatter on your windscreen over the last decade or so?

In areas of intensive agriculture, more-so cropping, the use of wide scale insecticides has diminished insect numbers.  Vast areas of the Australian Outback doesn’t have this problem, with little cropping present in remote areas.  But, where crop farming is intense, the use of insecticides is definitely reducing the total insect population.  The fall in insect numbers in Britain has reached troubling numbers that even motorists are noticing that their windscreens are clear of squashed beetles, flies, moths etc.  In Britain, a trip in the middle of summer once required the cleaning of the front window regularly, but now the glass is largely clear.  Richard Acland, of Chepstow, in Monmouthshire, Britain said he believed insecticides on crops were wiping out the world’s insect life, adding: “This is why cars are not bug-splattered anymore.”  Entomologists actually call it ‘the windscreen phenomenon,’ and statistical surveys reveal that the phenomenon has been noticed across Europe.

After extrapolating data from a mile of highway in Ontario, a researcher from Laurentian University, Canada calculated that hundreds of billions of pollinating insects were probably being killed by vehicles each year in North America.  She suggested that the increase in vehicle numbers is also contributing to the decline in worldwide insect populations.

Another research institute in Harpenden, England, has monitored insect populations using traps across the UK for more than 50 years and there has been evidence that insect numbers have really declined.  Experts mostly blame intensive agriculture and the use of pesticides over the past 50 years being attributed to this occurrence.  They did point out, however, that the loss of insects from vehicle windscreens is well-noted but actually demonstrating it is tricky.

In 2004 motorists were asked to attach a ‘splatometer’ to the front of their cars – a piece of PVC film to collect insects, to see if they were declining.  The results showed that there were 324,814 ‘splats’ recorded, which worked out to be an average of one squashed insect every five miles.  It would be beneficial to run another of these experiments to see if numbers have declined further or not.  One thing that might throw the data, however, is the increased aerodynamic shapes of new cars travelling the roads.  The reality that cars have changed shape over time, and are now far more aerodynamic, would also result in fewer insects actually being hit squarely on the windscreen and causing a splat.

Cars and insecticides are an insect’s nightmare.  Less insecticides and more shapely cars has to be a good thing for life on planet earth!  Have you noticed less insect splats?

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.