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Car Of The Year Awards Surprise From News Corp.

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

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

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

 

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

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

Nissan Leaf Wins Award.

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

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

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

Head to The Nissan website for more information.

Car Review: 2018 Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S Sedan

Subaru‘s new for 2017 advertising campaign, Subaru Do, features the hatch and sedan version (starting at just under $25K) of their evergreen Impreza, in the same flaming red colour (one of eight for the 2018 Subaru Impreza range), so the prospective buyer can see the external difference between the two as they flick between them. What’s not so obvious is the refinement to the shape and certainly to the inside compared to the just superseded version. Private Fleet takes the red sedan, in 2.0i-S form, for a week after two weeks of the high riding hatch version, the XV.The interior changes are subtle; noticeable yet subtle, and it’s only when you have the previous and current version side by side that you see things such as a relocation of the armrest on the doors, the centre console storage bin (with two USB charging points), the redesign of the air-con and centre dash, even the sweep of the dash itself (with a lovely looking stitched style for the material) as it meets the windscreen glass. S spec also gets a sunroof with aircraft style overheard tabs for operation.You’ll get an eight inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, set below the info screen as is traditional with the Impreza and its siblings (XV, Impreza hatch, Levorg, WRX)some obviously plasticky buttons (a slight step back from the indecisive touch tabs on the previous system), but there’s still room for a hard copy sound in the form of a CD slot. No DAB at the top end is an oversight, given the sheer variety of stations available.The plastics have a higher quality look and feel to them and the controls on the steering wheel have been redesigned for a more obvious yet stylish look. Even the seats seem to have a different feel. The seats in the S were black machine made leather, again with no cooling, and with all doors and sunroof shut, do not make for a comfy pew to plant the backside.Outside it’s tail lights and headlights, with the 460L boot and tail end receiving the C shaped LED inserts. It’s here that a slight oddity in the design manifests, with the reversing lamp in its own little section below the other lights in the cluster. It adds an awkward and unbalanced look to what could otherwise be an otherwise slim look as the trimmer cluster design would finish off the pert backside of the sedan nicely.

The headlights have been streamlined further, with the S getting LED illumination plus a chrome strip for an extra touch of visual class. The refinements as well has the overall profile, have the sedan looking more rakish and coupe like. It’s a tighter, cleaner, look with an overall more cohesive presence, including a slight reprofiling of the shut-line for the rear doors.The 2.0L engine is a willing revver and the CVT in the sedan, much like the XV, is easy to use, easy to drive, and works well. However, this particular transmission was somewhat indecisive and juddery. However, it’s worth noting that this behaviour was more noticeable when it was cold and hadn’t been driven. Manual mode, again, seems to make little difference in speed of change.

However, when everything is in synch, the 115 kilowatts and 196 Nm work to deliver an average fuel consumption around town of 8.4L/100 kilometres from the fifty litre tank holding standard 90RON unleaded, or a combined figure of a more reasonable 6.6L/100 km. We saw those figures in the real world.Ride and handling showed the sedan’s rear end somewhat less prone to the bottoming out as experienced in the XV yet still doesn’t feel as tied down as the front. What you get is more travel at the rear and when loaded up with a standard load of groceries, it’s on the bump-stops just that little easier. The steering lightens just a little though, thankfully ensuring you’re still in contact and being told what the front wheels are doing. With no weight in the back, it’s naturally more connected, with a small measure of sponginess the further left or right you wind on lock.

The all wheel drive system that underpins Subaru is noticeable for feeling like…a rear wheel drive car at some times and a front wheel drive at others. Never does it feel as if it’s confused nor confusing for the driver. Grip isn’t compromised either, thanks to Yokohama‘s brilliant Advan rubber, in this case a 225/40/18 set on gorgeous ten spoke alloy and painted wheels.The Eyesight system fitted to CVT equipped models is a ripper; not only can it sense a vehicle’s distance ahead of yours, it’ll activate an emergency sound if you’re too close and the computers sense you haven’t touched the brake. It’ll allow distance related cruise control and will also alert if the vehicle in front, when you’ve stopped, has moved on. There’s a swag of other safety features including Blind Spot Alert, parking assistance from front and rear sensors (not fitted to all models though), Hill Hold Assist, Lane Change Assist and more.

There’s seven airbags including the driver’s knee, and load limiting pretensioning seatbelts up front. Naturally it adds up to be a safe car to be in and comes with a five star ANCAP safety rating. That’s backed by a three year/unlimited kilometre warranty, with a five year warranty an option (talk to your dealer or broker) which is available to be transferred to a new owner within the warranty period.At The End Of The Drive.
There’s really not a lot to find fault with inside the Impreza sedan in 2.0Li-S spec, including a great price (at the time of writing) of $33K driveaway. No DAB, (a first world problem), no cooling in the seats (a must for an Australian market car), and a softish ride are more than balanced by good looks, great dynamics, useful economy, and a classy style & finish to rival other Japanese, Korean, and European competitors.

In fact, with the Impreza for 2018, Subaru can put this in the middle of that group and smile broadly, in full confidence it will more than hold its own. The sales figures reflect that for 2017, with the XV variant leading the charge whilst the sedan itself is up by 163% on a Year To Date basis, with 988 new homes for it in October, plus the brand itself celebrates its 34th month in a row of increased sales.

Here’s where you can go for more info and book a drive: 2018 Subaru Impreza range