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Private Fleet Car Review: Suzuki Vitara S Turbo All-Grip.

It’s been some time between drives with Suzuki’s cool and funky Vitara. A recent catch-up with the turbocharged petrol fed S Turbo All-Grip, one built in November 2016 and close to ten thousand kilometres on it gave us a chance to see how they’ve held together.Sizewise the Vitara is a compact machine, with an overall length of just 4175mm. However clever packaging sees a wheelbase of 2500mm squeezed in. Breadth and height is decent too, at 1775mm and 1610mm. Up front is a 1.4L BoosterJet four, complete with 103kW and 220 torques from 1500 to 4000 revs. Transmission is a six speed auto and a torque split system to divert oomph from the front to the rear on demand.Having said that there is a drive mode selector button inside for Sports and Sand/Snow which lights up on the monochrome centre dash display. The switchover is seamless but the transmission was prone to stuttering and hesitation when cold. There’s a win for economy though, with a thousand kilometre week finishing on 6.1L of 95RON being consumed per one hundred kilometres. That’s from a 47 litre tank and pretty much on the money with Suzuki claiming a 6.2L/100 km for the combined cycle.Acceleration is pretty good, with that level of torque matching the light weight (1235 kg plus fuel and passengers). It’ll quickly and quietly drop a cog or two on demand and roll forward at speed easily enough. Overtaking then also becomes a simple matter of flexing the right ankle, and thanks again to its light weight, stopping is a brezze. Time and again the brakes would haul up the All-Grip with less than usual pressure but it helps when the pedal travel is intuitive and pressured well enough.It’s still the edgy yet slightly boxy shape that was available in the noughties, if perhaps somewhat more upright and squared off at either end. The front end sports LED driving lights in the lwoer quarters but also has globe lit driving lights that come on and override the LEDs when a switch on the indicator stalk is used. Hmm….The grille itself is a series of hexagons but it’s a solid sheet, meaning air is drawn in only through the lower extremities.Rubber is not off road suitable, even though the Vitara is, ostensibly, capable of light off-roading. They’re 17 inch Continentals with a 215/55 profile, wrapping five spoke black alloys. Dry weather grip is superb but in the wet weather they combined with the MacPherson strut front & torsion beam rear to feel skittish. The coil springs fitted to the Vitara S Turbo All-Grib are tuned for a more sports oriented ride, with a small amount of compliance dialed in to give comfort initially. As such the whole package needed dialing back on accelerator and steering input on Sydney’s greasy roads, just to be sure.Ride and handling is well sorted otherwise. It’s comfortable, if a touch taut. Bang crash is minimal on catseyes, speed reducing bumps in shopping centres, and the bigger road based bumps. Unsettled surfaces have the Vitara All-Grip unflustered and the suspension tune allows the dips and wallows to be flattened out with nary an intrusion felt past a momentary bump. Turn-in is precise and feedback is natural from the front.Inside is a compact but non-claustrophobic workspace. There’s splashes of colour such as the red ringed speedo and tacho displays matched by the simple twist and open airvents, a metallic grey insert on the passenger’s side of the dash, and alloy plastic touches on the tiller and gear selector. The radio is AM/FM only in this one, but partners with Apple CarPlay and voice command to provide interactivity. Satnav is standard across the Vitara range.Safety is high with seven airbags including a kneebag, with a full suite of traction control systems. Autonomous Emergency Braking isn’t fitted but remember that this car was built a year and a half ago from the review date. ISOFIX seat restraint points are standard. Hill Hold Control is also fitted to all autos and Hill Descent Control is available for the All-Grip. There’s parking sensors, rain sensing wipers and reverse camera as well.

Cargo space of 375L (seats up, 710L down) is compromised by virtue of the car’s smallish size. Pop open the non powered rear door and there’s a split level cargo area with blind. The lower level highlights a major safety issue common to almost every car maker. That is a space saver spare. Consider for a moment that the Vitara is an off/soft road capable vehicle so fitting them with a space saver is hardly sensible. Consider also the dry weight of the Vitara is only 1235 kilograms so a full sized alloy would have been a minor weight impost over a steel space saver.

The car was driven on a longish day drive to Canberra and return, copping a vee shaped construction nail in the right rear. Complicit in the situation was the suspension tune as there was no indication of a flat. There was no pulling, no drag, no obvious noise as such. The tyre itself looked initially to have been only a nail but upon being “deconstructed” showed a clear groove on the inside exterior where it had rode the alloy’s rim. This resulted in an unwelcome ninety minute delay at a certain tyre retailer.At The End Of The Drive.
Available in seven colours, the Vitara S Turbo All-Grip is currently available on a drive-away program at $33,990. It’s immensely good value, a comfortable ride, and in real terms ideal for a couple. Having piloted these cars before they’re borderline for a family of four outside of urban usage, again simply because of their compact footprint. Although rear legroom is adequate it’s the cargo area for baggage that holds it back and that’s unavoidable.But it IS a fun drive. Overwhelmingly so. It’ll be interesting to see what Suzuki does when its inevitable update comes along. Here’s where you can find out more about the existing model: 2016 onwards Suzuki Vitara

Mazda Goes Great, It’s The CX-8! And How About The Mazda6?

Mazda has added a new CX model to the range, with the CX-8 also being the sole diesel powered entry to the family. The seven seater will have a 2.2L oiler with 140kW and 450Nm of torque. Name plates will be Sport with front and all wheel drive, and Asaki AWD as the range leader.Pricing will naturally be competitive with a starting price of $42,490 (manufacturer’s list price) for the FWD Sport. The AWD Sport will start from $46,490, and the Asaki from $61,490.  The Asaki will feature heated front and rear seats, a Bose sound system, brown or white elather trim, and a woodgrain dash finish.Size-wise the CX-8 will be on the same 2930mm wheelbase as the petrol only CX-9, but is slightly smaller in length, width, and height. It’s based on the CX-5 platform but shares the same wheelbase as the larger CX-9.Adaptive Cruise Control, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Monitoring, and Lane Departure Warning are expected to be listed as standard equipment, along with a reversing camera and rear parking sensors for the Sport. Further details are expected closer to the launch date.CX-8 is due to be released for a July 2018 sales date.

The Mazda6 has also had the wand waved over it. There’s a refinement to the exterior including LED headlights with integrated fog lamps, a 170kW/420Nm turbocharged 2.5L petrol four, and upgrades to trim.
Standard equipment includes the i-ACTIVESENSE safety package which includes Mazda Radar Cruise Control, and the top end Atenza gains a 360 degree viewing monitor and vented front seats, a boon for Aussie drivers in warm climates. The seats themselves have been redesigned with better support and higher vibration absorption levels.There’s 14 variants for the 2018/2019 Mazda6, covering sedan and wagon, with Sport, Touring, GT, and Atenza trim levels. Pricing starts at $32,490 (plus on roads) for the Sport sedan with the 2.5L 140kW/252Nm petrol four, and tops out at $50,090 plus on roads for the Atenza diesel wagon. A 2.5L SkyActiv four cylinder petrol is also available with 170kW and 420Nm at 2000 rpm.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Toyota Camry SL V6 & Ascent Hybrid.

Car reviews are always a personal point of view. People have a love for a brand and that’s personal. Toyota has that brand loyalty and it’s won them millions of customers over decades. Toyota‘s Camry is a big part of that loyalty here in Australia and we first saw it as a five door hatch somewhere in the 1980s.The mid noughties saw the V6 Camry reborn as the Aurion and was sold side by side with the four cylinder and hybrid Camrys. Now, in 2018, we’re back to no Aurion and a V6 Camry. One of those, the top of the range 2018 Toyota Camry V6 SL trim spec, with barely two hundred kilometres on the clock, graced the driveway. There’s also a Hybrid version that sits above the Prius range and below the similarly styled Lexus offering.Exterior and interior styling are strongly reminiscent of Toyota’s luxury brand, Lexus. Tweaked for Toyota’s audience, there’s sharply angled headlights with LED lighting at both ends on the V6, standard globes for the Hybrid, a full length glass roof with sunroof offered for the full petrol car, and an almost coupe rear roofline. There’s aerodynamic strakes on the wing mirrors and embedded in the rear light plastics. The boot itself has a designed in extended lid that doubles as a spoiler. It’s perhaps the front end that brings a Spock like raised eyebrow, with a twin level V that stretches from each side to meet at the (blue hued on the Hybrid) Toyota logo.Inside it’s strongly Lexus, with multiple dash folds, a beige and black trim combination in the V6 car supplied, some buttons too easily hidden by the steering wheel, and a disturbingly cheap look plastic on the centre console compared to the rest of the interior. The dash design is an S shape line from the driver’s binnacle that winds down to finish near the passenger’s knee. Leg room isn’t an issue though, nor is cargo space. The Hybrid has moved the battery pack from the boot to under the rear seats, giving a full 524L of space. With a 2825mm wheelbase, an increase of 50mm over the outgoing version, front and rear leg room is more than adequate for intended passengers. What isn’t is no USB ports for them in the Ascent, that’s left for the SX and SL to deliver.Up front is a easily spun 3.5L V6. Peak power is 224 “killerwasps” at a almost stratospheric 6600rpm. Peak torque is 362Nm at a more typical petrol rev point of 4700rpm with quoted economy of 8.9L/100km for the combined. This is quite achievable in real world driving but utilise the spirited V6’s revving ability and that figure goes south and quickly. Power is put through to the ground via an eight speed auto connected to the front wheels. It’s not the most refined eight speeder around, with each change regardless of throttle position having the body rocking back and forth in sympathy. Compared to the super smooth nine speed in the ZB Commodore tested immediately before, it was almost harsh in its changes.The Hybrid counters this with a combined total of 160kW however this is less than the full capacities available from the petrol and battery system separately. The four is a 2.5L unit with 131kW and 88kW from the electrical side. Transmission here is a CVT and rarely does it feel out of step with the drive-train. It’s also a combination that equals the urge of the V6 when pushed, will quietly hum away on a (very) light throttle, and will pick up its side skirts and bootscoot away rapidly anywhere in between. Economy is quoted as 4.2L/100 km of 95RON or E10. AWT saw a best of 5.0L/100km and that was on a fuel sapping run to Canberra and back. The tank in the Camry seems to be of a V shape, meaning as the fuel level lowers the trips towards half, quarter, empty become quicker.Camrys have, somewhat fairly, been tagged as whitegoods on wheels. There’s little engagement, they’re designed to move human bodies from A to B and back again without issue. And these two do. If the word fun can be injected into these two, it’s the Hybrid more likely to do so but only just ahead of the V6, in a driver’s sense. A niggle with the Hybrid that AWT has had is the all too quick engagement of the petrol engine to supplement the battery system. On a flat road and with an eggshell’s pressure on the accelerator, the Hybrid will move away under battery only up to a point where the computer, regardless of whether EV has been selected via a button in the centre console, brings in the petrol engine.A dash screen on both allows varying info such as navigation, audio, and in the Hybrid, shows the power distribution and battery level. It shows the change between battery only, both, or when the petrol is driving and charging the battery. It’s here that faint thunks from the CVT as it deals with the changing drive inputs can be felt.

Road holding in a straight line shows that the Camry V6’s rear end is too soft. Every minor ripple set the Camry’s rear bouncing, and more often than not a good dip would have it on the bumpstops. The front was defineably tauter, with the same bumps that had the rear flustered consigned to a mere bump. Combined with a V6 and front driven wheels, a heavy foot will also induce a phenomenon rarely seen in cars nowadays. Torque steer. Some plough on understeer was noted as well with Bridgestone Turanza 235/45/18 rubber not seemingly up to the task. Another disconcerting suspension issue was the readiness of the rear end to skip sideways when on a turn and hitting even a small irregularity.Somehow, the Camry Hybrid felt better sorted at both front and rear. Float was reduced, turn in was crisper, there was a lesser feeling of understeer, a minimised lateral movement and compression at the rear. Ride felt more confident, perhaps thanks to the Michelin Primacy 215/55/17 tyres. Even in the rainy periods that struck Australia’s most populous city during the test week, the Hybrid gave a more composed and sedate performance on road, instilling a higher level of confidence.Features wise there’s plenty. DAB audio is in both and the model dependent varying sized touchscreens are easy to use although have a pre-programmed split screen look. Default mode has a map on two thirds and audio on the other third, however the soft touch Audio button then brings up the chosen source. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t installed but a connected smartphone allows music apps to be used. There’s a charging pad for compatible smartphones snuggled in under the lower dash fold, next to a 12V and USB/3.5mm socket connector. The tiller has tabs on the left spoke that allow access to the dash screen. Cupholders front and rear via the console and pull-down are in, as are door mounted bottle holders. LED lighting is featured and the glass roof in the V6 was simple to operate via the standard roof mounted toggles.Airbags (seven, including kneebag) and driving aids abound, with the Hybrid having the drive mode options in the console. The SL trim level has a Head Up Display which is discrete to the point it’s almost unnoticeable. Park Assist front and rear is fitted and it’s a doddle to use. Reverse parking comes with a camera and guidelines on the screen to help in tighter car park and roadside kerb parking. Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert is SL specific.

At The End Of The Drive.
Pricing for the 2018 Camry range starts from a manufacturers list price of $27,690 for the four cylinder Ascent. The Hybrid Ascent is $29,990. Go to the Hybrid SL and you’re looking at $40,990. The SL V6 is $43,990, bot of course check with your dealership and for special offers head to Toyota Australia’s website

The cars themselves will sell to the Toyota faithful and potentially steal a few from elsewhere. Pedaled hard the Hybrid edges ahead of the V6 purely on driveability, is definitely more economical, and in SL form they have a goodly range of kit. From a driver’s point of view however there still doesn’t seem to be a real level of engagement, that sense of momentary flutter when getting in. For AWT it’s perhaps the somewhat disjointed looking dash design and the V6 SL’s lack of real ride as opposed to what a free revving V6 engine offers. That’s possibly best left to the V6 SX for those that want a rorty and sporty V6 Camry.

 

Private Fleet Car Reviews: 2018 Subaru Liberty 3.6L and 2.5L.

Subaru‘s Liberty sedan continues to be a pillar of the Japanese brand’s sales success. The current three tier range has the 2.5L engine in the 2.5i and 2.5L Premium before a 3.6L flat six trim. Private Fleet goes back to back with the Subaru Liberty 3.6L and 2.5L Premium.The Liberty range itself received a mild facelift in early 2018, with a change to the front lights and bar, the rear lights, and a freshen up inside. Software such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto was added to a touchscreen that was slightly larger than before, Lane Keeping Assist was added to the safety package, plus the Premium gains a updated safety package. Premium variants add a suite of Vision Assist features including: Steering Responsive Headlights, Adaptive Driving Beam, Side View Monitor, and Front View Monitor.Underneath there were changes to the suspension and drivetrain. There’s a smoother and more refined feel to both engines, and the seven speed CVT autos in both also feel crisper and smooth in the changes. However, in this driver’s opinion, the suspension is a backwards step, being floaty, soft, far too short in travel and banging quickly to the bumpstops on even the smaller speed inhibitors in shopping centres. There’s more noticeable skipping sideways as well, with a two and a half day trip to the Kiama and Illawarra region, south of Wollongong, finding plenty of spots where the rear would suddenly move sideways and too easily on the Dunlop 225.50/16 rubber and alloys.The two different engines require, like all petrol engines, plenty of spin to see the maximum power. The 2.5L four sees 5800 rpm for 129 kW, and the bigger six 6000 rpm for 191 kW. However real driving relies on torque, and it’s here the six wins with 350 Nm at 4400 revs. The smaller donk has 235 Nm and 4000 revs, a still not inconsequential amount for its size. Both do a sterling job of pulling the 1577 and 1655 kilo machines around, however the four suffers in comparison on the uphill runs. There’s noticeable drop-off quicker which requires a firmer right foot. That relative lack of torque in a vehicle that weighs as it does sees a zero to one hundred time of 9.6 seconds, and a full 2.4 seconds quicker for the flat six in an eighty kilo heavier car.Economy on the 2.5L shows that it’s otherwise a brilliant highway performer, with the return figure from the Illawarra standing up at 6.4L of standard unleaded per 100 kilometres from the sixty litre tank. That’s on par with Subaru’s claimed 6.2L/100 km for the highway. The 3.6L is quoted as 7.5L per 100 km and driven in a more urban environment wasn’t far from the quoted combined figure of 9.9L/100 km. It’s the quoted figure of over fourteen litres for every hundred kilometres for the urban cycle that’s the concern.In profile it’s a handsome machine with a full 4800 mm length, and with the LED C shaped tail lights glowing at night, the auto swivelling headlights at work, and the white metallic paint glinting in the night, looks eye-catching and appealing. There’s also door mounted puddle lamps which cast a LED light over a broad area. Inside, the bigger touchscreen is easy to use, is well laid out, and features satnav, apps, and compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The powered seats are heated but not vented, and lack enough side bolstering for genuine comfort. There’s no shortage of shoulder or leg room though, thanks to a wheelbase of 2750 mm, width of 1840 mm overall, and a long but height shallow 493L boot. There piano black trim on the steering wheel looks and feels cheap and is at odds at the otherwise classy interior.There’s a good level of tech on board with Active Torque Vectoring, and the Premium & 3.6L feature the Vision Assist package which is Front View Monitor, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Side View Monitor, and Adaptive Driving Beam. Seven airbags including the driver’s knee bag means occupant safety is high. Height adjustable seat belts enhance that level. Reverse camera is standard across the range. But, and this is a big but, neither car had rear sensors and in an age where these are virtually mandatory this level of oversight is simply not good enough. What is good enough is Subaru’s Eyesight system. Stereo cameras mounted alongside the rear vision mirror, which is auto dimming by the way, rear the traffic ahead and are part of a safety bundle.Adaptive Cruise Control, Brake Light Recognition, Pre-collision Braking (which occasionally threw out some false positives), Pre-collision Brake Assist, Pre-collision Throttle Management, and Pre-collision Steering Assist work with the other driving aids to provide as much warning and support to drivers to avoid a crash as possible.But it’s the ride and handling that distinguishes this version compared to the previous and that’s not necessarily a good thing. It really does float, waft, and roll, and that suspension crash at low speeds just simply doesn’t feel good nor does it inspire confidence. It’s a chassis feel that a neighbour with a 2013 model Liberty said would turn him off from buying a new model. And it’s a chassis tune that feels aimed at more…mature drivers.

At The End Of The Drive.
Subaru’s list price for the 2.5L Premium is a reasonable $36,640. The six comes in at $43,140. Factor in on roads and those prices suddenly don’t look quite so attractive compared to the new Commodore and on a par with the Mazda 6 2.5L. The ride quality isn’t as good as expected, the lack of rear sensors may outweigh, in some buyer’s minds, the excellence of the EyeSight packagae, and the thirst around town of the six may also counter the positives. There’s always the Outback, though….Book a drive and make up your own mind, here: 2018 Subaru Liberty range

Car Review: 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Exceed AWD and LS.

Mitsubishi have joined the ever growing band of car makers supplying a smaller mid sized SUV. The oddly named Eclipse Cross fits snugly between the Outlander and ASX in size yet packs a 1.5L turbocharged four cylinder and CVT. It’s a comfortable four seater, has a couple of nifty features inside, and comes with a cargo space big enough for a family of four’s weekend away luggage or a week’s shopping. It’s priced from the high $20K mark plus on-roads so it’s not a bankbuster either.The three model range has the LS 2WD, Exceed 2WD, and AWD. All three have the same 1.5 litre turbocharged four cylinder petrol engine that produces 110 kW at 5500 rpm and 250 Nm from 2000 to 3500 rpm, and CVT with eight steps. There’s a 60 litre tank that holds standard unleaded, and runs at a quoted fuel consumption figure of 7.7 litres per one hundred kilometres for the combined cycle. However, part of the dash display screen option list is expected range. On highway and freeway usage the range does extend and from pickup to home saw over two hundred kilometres being added.Exterior design is eyecatching; there’s Mitsubishi’s signature shield design for the front, free flowing sheetmetal for the wheel arches, and an angled scallop that reaches rearwards from the middle of the front doors that lines up the door handles. The rear is the question mark of the design but sets the Eclipse Cross apart from its competitors. It’s sharply angled from the arrow head tail lights to the roof in profile and both end lights are joined by a horizontal bar through the glass that also blocks some rearward vision. Rolling stock is standardised at 225/55/18 with rubber from Toyo being more dry land and tarmac oriented.An interior highlight for the range is the addition of a trackpad device located in the centre console. It’s intended to backup the seven inch touchscreen but in practical use, with a drag and slide and push down to enter, it’s not really that effective. The touchscreen and trackpad themselves seem to be Audi inspired, as the touchscreen is now housed in a pod that stands proud of the upper dash construction. The aircon controls are buried under a ledge that houses the centre airvents and a pair of USB ports.The Eclipse Cross Exceed AWD has a Bose speaker system that’s clean, crisp, punchy, and takes advantage of the DAB radio that’s fitted to all three variants. The touchscreen’s interface isn’t hard to use but sourcing stations in the digital realm was tricky and not intuitive. Naturally there’s apps that can be selected via the touchpad that include Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Alongside that is the variable information available on the driver’s dash display that gives you economy, trip, eco rating, but not speed.The cabin itself is spacious and airy in feel, thanks to an overall height of 1685 mm, a width of 1805 mm overall, and a wheelbase of 2760 mm inside the compact 4405 mm length. The black of the lower seat level section is contrasted by alloy plastic highlights, glossy piano black, and the roof lining in a cloth weave of an almost beige shade. The seats themselves are cloth with a sliver diamond motif in the LS and heated leather (no cooling, sigh) in the Exceed. The Exceed also has a Head Up Display that folds up from the binnacle. Although it’s easy to read and populates itself with information such as speed, crash alerts for the radar assisted cruise control, the screen itself is perhaps a couple of inches too low for ease of vision. Also, the rear tail gate in the Exceed AWD isn’t power operated, as expected. Cargo space is 341L to 448L and sits above a space saver spare. That capacity goes to 1136L with the seats folded.Where the Eclipse Cross claws back points is in the manners on road. The 1.5L needs a little bit of coaxing off the line when loaded up but once into its stride responds willingly enough. With one aboard it’s a sparkling performer, an adept handler, and a surefooted performer in ride quality. With four aboard and the cargo area full it’s less willing to get under way but still has some solid mid range urge. The multi-link rear feels tauter when not loaded up and the front is well balanced in comparison. Absorption of bumps and irregularities is smooth and progressive with even the short and sharp speed restrictors in shopping centres lessened in their crash into the cabin. Turn in is measured and precise, with no feeling of oversteer in the AWD and little understeer in the 2WD. Mass, or lack thereof, helps, as the LS and Exceed 2WD weigh 1490 kilos dry, the AWD 1555 kilos dry.The Eclipse Cross AWD was taken on a good country drive, from Sydney to Bega and surrounds and back, covering in all over 1600 kilometres. Some of that was through the soft, wet, coarse sand of a crossing at the Bega River. Although CVTs tend not to engage straight away when the accelerator is pushed, the development from Mitsubishi has lessened this to the point that engagement is quick and combined with the AWD system (which is switchable for Snow and Gravel) allowed safe, unhurried, and unconcerned crossings. Only rarely, too, did the 1.5L feel that more torque was required, and naturally this was moreso uphill and when overtaking. The CVT is smooth and well matched to the engine, and when the go pedal is pushed to the carpet, has a steady and progressive climb through the revs to 4000 where it plateaus.Safety is paramount here with seven airbags, Autonomous Emergency Braking and radar cruise control. This needs some work as the braking is far too harsh and sudden. Modulation down to a more progressive stop would make this a far better experience. A full set of parking sensors is complimented by the reverse camera, 360 degree view on the touchscreen, Lane Departure Warning, and Rear Cross Traffic alert.

At The End Of The Drive.
It’s somewhat of an oddity, the Eclipse Cross, both in name and looks. As a family car and a daily driver, it fits the bill. It’s fine for four but no more, isn’t unattractive, drives well enough to suit almost every application, and the AWD system is ok for some gentle soft-roading. But a few minor quibbles such as the way the HUD sits, the lack of showing speed in the driver’s display, and the compromised rear vision take some of the gloss away.

The LS is priced at the time of writing at %31,990 driveaway, with most of the paint options at $590. The gorgeous metallic red that Exceed AWD is clad in is $890 and tops out at $39,380 driveaway. Specifications for the 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross are available here: 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross specifications.

Mazda SUVs Records More Growth.

Mazda‘s CX series had a redesign and introduced a new addition to the family with the diesel powered CX-8 in 2017. They’ve combined to give the Japanese brand some great sales figures for January 2018. The CX label has also accounted for just under 45% of Mazda sales in total.

In total 10113 variants of a CX vehicle were sold in the month. Even allowing for a public holiday or two, that’s over three hundred per day. It’s the CX-5 leading the charge, with figures of 2152, making it the number 1 SUV for the month. Nipping at its rubber heels is the CX-3, moving 1582. Respectively that’s an increase of 11.9% and 6.5%. However these are overshadowed by the 27.9% increase for the big seven seater CX-9. That sold 770 units.

Mazda Australia Managing Director, Vinesh Bhindi, said the result sets a promising outlook for the year to come. “Mazda’s class-leading SUV range continues to entice buyers and satiate their needs in a new car, offering style, performance and value. The latest VFACTS results project a great 2018 for Mazda and strong momentum for our SUV range, which will be bolstered further when we introduce the Mazda CX-8 in the second half of the year.” he said.

Contact Mazda via Mazda Australia for more details, and register your interest in the forthcoming CX-8 which is due for release in mid 2018.

Car Review: 2018 Mitsubishi ASX XLS Diesel AWD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four-cylinder petrol

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

Hybrid

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

V6

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

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

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander LS PHEV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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