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2020 Toyota Fortuner Crusade: Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: Toyota’s forgotten SUV. The Fortuner is a seven seater based on the HiLux, much like the Pajero Sport is a derivative of the Triton. There are three trim levels being GX, GXL, and the range topping Crusade. It’s exclusively diesel and auto, going up against the Kluger to provide the oiler option in the mid-sized SUV segment for the brand. First released in Australia in 2015 a manual was available in the GX and has since been dropped. The vehicle’s history goes back further, with an initial release of 2005 and for the South African market to start.

How Much Does It Cost?: $50, 322, $55,387, and $63,262 are the prices listed on Toyota Australia’s website. These are drive-away prices as of March 30, 2020. Add metallic paint over the standard white and the GX goes to $50,952, whilst the GXL is $56,017. $63,892 is the metallic paint price for the Crusade, which was in Crystal Pearl for our review vehicle. The tow bar, tow ball, and 7 pin wiring harness are a $751.43 option. A third party supplied the electric brake controller system.Under The Bonnet Is: Toyota’s well proven 2.8L diesel, with 130kW and 450Nm. The latter comes in from 1,600rpm and rolls of at 2,400rpm. The auto has just six ratios, leaving the Fortuner somewhat off the pace in this respect. It also means economy is off the pace, with an urban figure (rarely quoted by companies lately) of 11.0L/100km. Combined is 8.6L/100km and on the highway Toyota says 7.3L/100km. On our 80/20 urban/highway cycle, we saw a best of 9.2L/100km. Towing is rated as 2,800 kilos braked. Starting weight is 2,135kg for the Crusade.

On The Outside It’s: Largely unchanged since the initial release. It’s an awkwardly shaped profile; there’s a sharp, angular front, an odd kickline to the darkened privacy glass rear windows that starts in the second half of the rear doors, and blacked out C and D pillars. An insert to the rear bumper has a placing for the towbar. From the front it’s a narrow headlight structure with LED driving lights incorporated but only in the Crusade.

The Crusade has splashes of chrome for that upmarket look. The broad face is mirrored by the tail lights and feature a similarly angular shaped design. Underneath, the Fortuner Crusade has Michelin Latitude rubber, and are 265/60/18 on 12 spoke alloys. Sidesteps were also fitted and are standard across the three tiers.Overall length puts in firmly in the same ballpark as its competitors. It’s 4,795mm and rolls on a 2,750mm wheelbase. Width in total is 1,855mm whilst height is 1,835mm. The rear track is slightly wider than the front, at 1,555m compared to 1,540mm. It’s pretty much the same size as its stablemate, Prado.

On the Inside It’s: A not unpleasant place to be if you’re in the front row. The vehicle supplied had a dark brown leather trim, a shade not far off a cocoa or chocolate. As is the norm, the front seats were powered and heated. The tabs for the heating are almost invisible, being placed at the bottom of the centre stack. The steering column has paddle shifts for changing and are largely unused.What’s noticeable about the whole design of the dash and console is the replication of the Toyota logo. From either side horizontally is an elongated oval shape, whilst the centre stack has a pair of vertical pillars to mimic the vertical bar in a T. Inside is a four layer design, being a pair of air vents, touchscreen, aircon, and drive mode dial next to the heat switches and auxiliary sockets. These sit ahead of a pair of cup holders and these are somewhat awkwardly placed for usage.

There is no HUD for the driver and the driver’s display screen, save for the now standard centre section, is fully analogue. Backlighting is a deep electric blue. The tiller is standard Toyota with the tabs for information access on the right, audio on the left. Trim material in the Crusade are soft touch, well stitched, and of a high quality to look at and feel. The sound system has JBL speakers and added in on the upper surface of the dash. The tuning system Toyota uses in their touchscreens is not as user friendly as others, and demonstrably so in the Crusade. The preset stations in the DAB tuner were not Sydney based, and to re-initialise them took some time. There are also no apps for extra connectivity.The key interior feature of the Fortuner is the fitment of a pair of third row seats. The HiLux chassis underneath doesn’t appear to allow a proper floor mount, with the pair side mounted and designed to fold down. The actual strap to release is easy enough to undo but the weight of the seats can make them difficult for some to use. These are accessed via a powered tailgate door. There’s 200 litres of cargo room with the third row seats in place, and when the third row is folded there is 716L. All seats folded yields 1080L. This also corresponds to head and leg space, where they’re adequate but just adequate.The rear seats get a separate climate control set of switches and a 220V socket as well. Spread throughout the cabin are three 12V sockets. In the vehicle supplied, rubber floor mats were supplied.

On The Road It’s: Decently quick, a very good handler, and nicely weighted in the steering. Standing start acceleration should please anyone seeking almost petrol like performance from a diesel. This applies to overtaking however anything from around 2,500rpm has the Fortuner Cascade easily running out of breath. It’s perhaps here that an extra pair or trio of cogs wouldn’t go astray for better driveability.

For a diesel it’s comparatively quiet too. Even at revs between 3,000rpm to 3,500rpm is there much noise, rather, it’s a semi-muted chatter and not excessively intrusive. Underway the transmission backs the engine up nicely, with mostly smooth shifts. There’s more than the occasional jolt as ratios change, and there’s also some backlash in the rear diff every now and there. Downhill and the engine braking system comes into play, and holds the gear just that little bit too long. A flick of the paddle shift is needed to go down a gear.Going off-road in the Fortuner is as easy as twirling the centre stack dial. 4WD high range can be done of the fly, whereas for low range the gear selector must be Neutral to engage the transfer case. There is also a rear diff lock switch. Going back to 4WD high and 2WD needs a little more patience, otherwise the system effectively locks in low range. Select Neutral, go to 4WD high, and there’s a few clunks before the transfer case disengages. This then allows the next move to 2WD. If getting dirty then decent approach and departure angles are required, and here Toyota’s Fortuner offers 30 degrees and departure angle of 25deg. Breakover is 23.5deg and ground clearance is 225mm. It’ll get wet at up to 700mm.

The brakes, for our tastes, need a little more bite, but they will haul up the Fortuner well enough for most drivers. There’s also a little steering rack shake, and again it’s fine enough for most drivers. Bump-steer was noticeable on occasion as well. On road manners have good response from the steering under normal driving.What About Safety?: Toyota’s Safety Sense package, which features their Pre-Collision Safety system with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, Lane Departure Alert, High-Speed Active Cruise Control and Road Sign Assistance, is standard across all three. Downhill Assist Control and Trailer Sway Control are also standard, as are seven airbags. However Rear Cross Traffic and Blind Spot Alerts aren’t fitted, nor is Lane Change Assist.

What About Service And Warranty?: Five years is the warranty, and for service costs it’s capped at $250 for the first four on a six month or 10,000 kilometre cycle.

At the End Of the Drive. In comparison to the competing product driven the week before, the Fortuner Crusade has more pepp, more zip, more dynamically usable driving. It’s an unusually styled vehicle but it suffers most from invisibility. It’s overlooked in the overall scheme of things, especially within the own family situation. One has to wonder if a solid refresh wouldn’t be a bad thing…

We liked it however there’s just something holding it back, so check it out here.

Do Honda’s Changes Signal the Beginning of an Australian Exit?

After Holden made the much-anticipated and expected decision to withdraw from the Australian market, attention has turned towards the rest of the industry, as it faces a growing crisis. Compounded by the Coronavirus pandemic that is spreading across the world, local car dealers were already up against it, competing in a market that has been tracking at its worst levels since the GFC.

With pressure only likely to grow in the wake of the health and economic crisis that our country now faces, more questions are being asked about how sustainable it is for manufacturers to compete in such a small yet hotly-contested market such as ours.

This has sparked a lot of speculation around which companies might be next to exit Australia. Honda has enjoyed particularly strong sales in Australia over the years, but with the company facing profitability issues at a global level, the directive has been to improve its operational efficiencies. This has convinced some industry insiders that it was likely to be a matter of time before the Japanese brand would need to respond, and respond they have.

 

 

Dealership changes

Earlier this month, Honda was said to be considering three potential options for its future down under. First, the company was understood to have the option to close its national network and exit the market. Second, the Japanese auto-maker could pursue a ‘rationalisation’ strategy and reduce the number of showrooms across the country. Finally, the company could move towards an independent distributor model.

Commenting on the speculation at the time, the company said, “Honda is committed to the Australian market and as a part of normal business, regularly assesses its operations and organisational performance. We committed to our dealer network that we would update them on our long-term plans in the first quarter of 2020 and we are planning to do this later this month”.

In recent days, the company has come to a decision. Starting from the middle of 2021, Honda will slash the number of dealerships across the country. From over 100 dealers at the moment, there are expected to be around 60 by the time the changes take place. Their owners are expected to reduce from 71 to just 12. In addition, the brand will also move to eliminate underperforming car models and adopt an “agency” style business with fixed prices across the board.

The move is set to spark a sharp cut in jobs across the Honda network, as well as a sizeable slump in sales for the brand as it focuses predominantly on the Civic small car, HR-V small SUV and CR-V medium SUV. On the back of the news, however, dealers have begun to interpret the move as the early stages of a formal Australian exit for the company. In the meantime, the official line from the manufacturer reads, “we are committed to the Australian market. This is about strengthening the business for the future”. But aren’t those familiar words we’ve heard before?

 

2020 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: Mitsubishi’s in a revamp phase and the Pajero Sport, once known as Challenger, is now into its second generation under that name. There’s been some mild updates to the exterior at either end and a little bit of a tickle inside as well. It’s a three model & four trim level range, with a five seater GLX, five or seven seater GLS, and seven seater Exceed, all with a diesel engine and eight speed auto transmission.

How Much Does It Cost?: There’s a spread of fourteen thousand dollars with the GLX starting at $45,990 drive-away, with the Exceed at $59,990 drive-away. The range has seven colours, including the White Diamond pearlescent on the Exceed tested. The RRP (before charges) price for the Exceed is $57,190. The White Diamond paint is $940, and this vehicle was fitted with a Front Protection Bar, towbar, and electric brakes for anything towed. Mitsubishi Au confirmed the front bar is $3,513, with the towbar and ball at $1,299, plus brakes at $685. With those accessories and paint the final d/a price was $65,687 as driven. Side steps are standard.Under The Bonnet Is: 133kW and 430Nm of power and torque from a 2.4L diesel. 8.0L per 100 kilometres on a combined cycle is the quoted figure for consumption, which indicates a higher figure around town. That’s how it worked out with a variance of consumption, from 9.0L to 12.5L around town. As is the wont for Mitsubishi’s on-board consumption figures, highway runs bring the figures down and we saw a best of 8.0L/100km on our last highway run.

On The Outside It’s: A refreshed nose and a tidy up of the much maligned rear lights. These have the vertical stripes shortened and now stop at the horizontal shut line in the powered rear door that matches the join line of the bumper. The front end sees a slim-down of the shield grille and headlights, and it’s a tighter, cleaner, design. A higher bonnet line also adds to the cleaner presence. The tailgate is powered and now features a hands-free, kick operated, sensor to open.The 18 inch alloys fitted are available as an option on the other vehicles, and have Toyo 265/60 Open Country rubber. These sit nicely in the large wheel wells.

On The Inside It’s: Been given a new display for the driver and a new smartphone-link Display Audio (SDA) system via the 8.0 touchscreen includes TomTom navigation for the Exceed model only, and utilises both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A newly developed Mitsubishi app can pair the vehicle to the app, which remotely allows power tailgate operation and engine shut-off.Some interior changes have added to one key feature and appeal level: family. There is now a proper Australian specification power outlet at the rear base of the centre console along with a dual USB port, There are a pair up front plus a HDMI port for playback on the touchscreen. A subtle redesign for the centre console has been done and provides a look more in keeping with society’s keen eyes nowadays. An under-seat tray has been installed for the passenger seat and there’s been extra padding added throughout the cabin.The driver’s display has been given the most visible overhaul. This is also an 8.0 colour screen in the Exceed, and a steering wheel tab provides two similar but different screens. One has the rev counter encircling the speedometer reading and the other has a traditional speed look. It’s modern, upmarket, and flanked by temperature and fuel gauges it has a measure of class as well.Front seats come with heating, no venting, and aren’t the best going in respect to support. They’re a bit flat, a bit slabby, and aren’t the first word in support. That’s disappointing given the Pajero Sport has off road driving ability and a grab handle isn’t quite enough.

Interior space is family friendly. 1,022mm head room up front and 1,067mm leg room for the front row starts the party. 880mm and 695mm leg room for rows two and three are enough for most families and passenger carrying. At the rear the cargo goes from 131L with all seats up to a very handy 1,488L with the centre and rear rows laid flat. The rear seats are typical Mitsubishi, by the way, with that superbly simple pull-strap system for raising and lowering them. Staying with the family friendly theme is having six cup holders and four bottle holders distributed around the cabin for easy access.One niggle, however, was the windscreen wiper spray mechanism. There are just four jets and they’re not quite efficient. An arm mounted mechanism would be a better option.

On The Road It’s: Sluggish to get going, sluggish in overtaking, and overall somewhat disappointing, considering it’s no lightweight nor is it a heavyweight at 2,110kg dry. The easiest way to describe its driving prowess is to say the handbrake was partially on, or it was towing an anchor. It came as a surprise that it wasn’t as spritely as expected, and the very first thought was tyre pressures. Given the exceedingly professional nature of the staff that prepare the vehicles to be reviewed, it was no surprise that these also were fine.

The engine was surprisingly chattery, and in comparison to the vehicle swapped into, and to be reviewed next, the overall driving experience didn’t live up to expectations. The transmission was perhaps a standout, with super slick down-changes, excellent holding of gears on downhill drives, and was quick to respond to throttle change requests.

Steering feedback was a little vague yet response was quick. It’s got enough weight to require a little bit of “Armstrong” yet will allow moving the Pajero Sport around the shopping centre car park a relatively pain-free experience. Ditto for the brakes; they’re a little iffi-ish initially but provide more bite and feedback as the pedal travels south.

Actual off-road performance comes courtesy of the Super-Select system with high and low range four wheel drive, complete with locking centre and rear diffs for true mud-mauling, rock-climbing ability.What About Safety?: A “Multi-Around Monitor” as Mitsubishi calls it, which is a 360 degree camera view, along with Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Mitigation, Ultrasonic misacceleration Mitigation System (UMS), and the usual alerts for Rear Cross Traffic and Blind Spots are standard. Airbags are seven including driver’s kneebag.

What About Warranty And Service?: At the time of writing, Mitsubishi Australia are offering seven years or 150,000 kilometres warranty. This particular offer expires March 31, 2020. Servicing details can be found on the Mitsubishi Motors Australia website.

At The End Of The Drive. The 2020 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed is most definitely a family oriented vehicle. That’s made obvious by the features such as the USB ports, bottle holders, easy access for the rear seats, and more.

However, the drive experience lacks and more than expected. It really did comes as a surprise and having driven the previous version and when it was known as Challenger, we’d have to suppose there was something with this particular vehicle and not indicative of the range.

Organise your own test drive by contacting your local Mitsubishi dealer via their on-line contact form.

 

2020 Nissan Patrol Ti: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: Nissans largely overhauled Patrol. The big machine has two models, a refresh inside and out, and comes only with a petrol V8. That’s an interesting move given its legendary competitor, Land Cruiser, is diesel V8 only now. Patrol has Ti and Ti-L as the models available. There’s a distinct sense of which market this car is intended for and it’s not millenials or baby boomers…We pilot the Ti for a week.

How Much Does It Cost?: It’s cheaper than what you may think. $75,990 for the Ti and $91,990 for the more upmarket Ti-L. They’re the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail price. The Nissan website at mid-March 2020 says $85,606 as a starting point on a drive-away price, with the Ti-L from $102,646 drive-away.

Under The Bonnet Is: a massive 5.6L V8 producing 298kW and a hefty 560Nm of torque. That latter figure comes at 4,000rpm but there is no lack of urge below that. Exploit that urge and you’ll easily exceed the quoted (combined) figure of 14.4L/100 from the 140L tank. On our typical suburban drive loop it’s been hovering around 15.5L/100km. There’s a simple reason for that. Tare weight, the weight before adding passengers, fuel, etc, is a whopping 2,715 kilograms. That’s marginally heavier than the Land Cruiser with a diesel engine.Not unexpectedly there is no manual transmission, rather Sir or Madam can specify a seven speed auto or…a seven speed auto. It’s cogged perfectly to deal with the rev ranges for peak power and torque. And for those that can afford the petrol, towing is 3.5 tonnes.

On The Outside It’s: Big. The proverbial block of flats on wheels, to be precise. You step up and across to the seats, and it feels as if the head is ten feet above the surrounds. The external revamp has the front end virtually brand new yet, oddly in our opinion, doesn’t have the Nissan face as seen on the company’s other vehicles. That means no angular headlights and chromed Vee grille. Actually, that’s not quite true. There is a Vee but as it has to spread across a wide space it’s nearer a U with a flat bottom. Overall width is 1,995mm with a height close to that at 1,940mm for the Ti. Add another 15mm for the Ti-L. Length? 5,175mm and a wheelbase of 3,075mm. Wheels on the Ti are 265/70/18 with rubber being Bridgestone’s Dueler.The restyled front lights are the same basic shape as the chromed Vee (or U), flipped ninety degrees though. LED powered they make for a clean white light and crisp amber indicator. The rear lights are redesigned and have a classy look. The body itself is squared off, blocky, a three cube design if you will. It’s an imposing sight especially when coated in a deep Hermosa Blue.

On The Inside It’s: As roomy as you’d expect from the exterior dimensions. And not only is there plenty of centre row leg room, (yep, that’s right, centre row) it’s an eight seater. That in itself is unusual given most vehicles of the sort pack seven. And it is is with the Ti-L, by the way.The seats are leather clad but neither heated nor vented. For a premium vehicle and priced accordingly that’s a shocking oversight. The next hit to the nerves is the realisation that digital radio is not supplied in the Ti either. In order to source a digital station one must use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Or Bluetooth streaming. Otherwise there’s old school AM/FM, and a CD player. That’s in keeping with the woodgrain trim that is inserted into the two arches ahead of driver and passenger. It also emphasises a little more the sense of marketplace the Patrol Ti has in mind.

For the driver it’s a pair of analogue dials in a binnacle that has the tabs for accessing the various information sets. However the screen used is a tiny one and in black and white, not colour. That’s a complete 180 degree switch from expectations.The starter button is high up on the left side of the steering column, and easily spotted. That’s a good sign. The layout of the buttons for audio and aircon are easy to read and follow. The design and layout shows thoughtfulness here as it’s elegant and smart. The 8.0 inch touchscreen is similarly planned with good layout, a map screen that reads like the “old” paper versions, and a 360 degree camera display that’s crisp and clear. In the centre console is the drive mode selector. There’s a specific on-road tab, along with Sand, Snow, Mud, and a jog switch for low and high range. Hill Descent Control is here also.Although the audio system in the Patrol Ti is not DAB, it’s better than good enough. There’s enough low and high end to ably complement the mid-range vocals. The aircon is the same. The four vents up front had backup with a centre and rear seat vent system, and there are separate controls for the centre seat passengers, meaning an all-round balance is easy to achieve.

Room wise, well, that massive body and wheelbase ensure plenty of head, shoulder, and leg room for the first two rows, with the third row perhaps a compromise for the legs. Due to the ride-height, 273mm by the way, passengers step up and there’s no need for anyone under six feet in height to duck the head. That extra height and wheelbase allows for a departure angle of 26.3 degrees and an approach angle of 34.4 degrees.What About Safety?: Heated wing mirrors are a smart safety choice for cold days. Tyre Pressure Monitoring is standard and a full suite of other features such as Intelligent Emergency Braking, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Intelligent Cruise Control and Intelligent Lane Intervention add to the package. Lane Departure and Blind Spot Warning shake hands with Intelligent Blind Spot Intervention.

On The Road It’s: A sheer experience, an expression of what was expected didn’t eventuate. The Patrol has double wishbone front and rear suspension, but it’s the addition of Nissan’s Hydraulic Body Control that makes moving the Patrol Ti around in a suburban environment a far better than expected experience. To say it’s nimble is an understatement. Yes, it has a big turning circle but it’s not a “heavy” car to drive. The steering is as light as a system in a car half the size, the ride quality on tarmac, its natural home, is excellent, and acceleration is surprisingly rapid.

It’s expected that a four wheel drive capable vehicle would be spongy, roly-poly, and soft in the absorption. The Patrol Ti is the complete opposite. It’s tight, and one could equate the ride to almost sports car like, such is the tactile feel the driver experiences. Handling is set so the mass, and it’s noticeable in some circumstances, feels less that what it actually is. It was on wet roads that the front end felt as if it may nose away, even with that off-road suitable rubber. That was when that mass made itself felt, and on one particularly notorious downhill left-hander, the superb brakes were utilised to ensure just the right velocity was driven at.Getting the Patrol Ti underway is as easy as blinking. The usual start procedure of foot on brake, press starter has a quick whirr of the starter and a whiiish as there’s an injection of fuel. There’s a muted but noticeable V8 rumble from both ends. Engage Drive and a gentle squeeze has the machine slide away without fuss. Need to get a hustle on? No problems here. The engine and transmission mesh perfectly, and the 100 number appears in a time that has to be somewhere around the six second mark.

Around town it’s a quiet experience, and one easily controlled by the gentle press of either pedal. The brakes, as mentioned, are superb, and allow a finely tuned judging of where the pedal needs to be in relation to hauling up 3,000 kilos. That light steering is a miracle worker in tight spaces such as car parks for shopping centres, and the thought quick driveline makes it easier to readjust when a second in/out to correctly align is needed. And that body control means that it’s stable, confident, sits flat where it should.We regret that circumstances precluded a proper off-road test. We’ll take it as said it would be fine.

What About Warranty And Service?: 24/7 roadside assistance is part of the warranty package. There is capped price servicing for the first six which are required at every 10,000 klicks or six months. The rate ranges from $376 for the first to $860 for the fourth. Nissan now offers a five year and unlimited kilometre warranty.

At The End Of The Drive. The 2020 Nissan Patrol Ti’s revamp makes a blocky and solid machine look less intimidating that what it could be. The changes to the front end particular visually remove what the mind perceives as mass and heaviness. It’s also a far more elegantly styled front end to boot. It’s in profile that a true sense of its “bigness” reach out and slap the eyeballs. Then there’s the opening of the doors and seeing that TARDIS like space whilst realising it’s roomy because it’s big.What came as a pleasant and welcome surprise was just how easy it was to drive. Yes, there were times where an eye on the mirrors or cameras were required thanks to the length and cornering requirements, but there’s some serious hustle, some adept handling, and that background V8 tone to tickle the eardrums. For us, the lack of DAB audio isn’t a deal-breaker but it’s a surprising omission, as were the seat heaters/vents. The woodgrain trim isn’t to everyone’s taste either. And the monochrome driver’s info-screen is at odds with the rest of the presentation too.

Our lasting impression is that the Patrol Ti is not a vehicle for millennials, nor is it one for baby boomers. It gave us an impression that it’s one for people that live in rural areas and have a certain amount of income, to be polite. Although it proved it can live in the urban jungle, the Patrol Ti, like Land Cruiser, is better left to roam the wild outside of cities. More on the 2020 Nissan Patrol can be found here.

2020 Toyota C-HR Koba Hybrid: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: Toyota’s C-HR. It’s a five door SUV/hatchback styled machine and complements the RAV4 offerings nicely. In late 2019 the two tier range was given a light refresh and now offers a hybrid drivetrain. That, however, is only available in the top of the range Koba, the best seller by the way. The entry level is either a 2WD or AWD, with the Koba adding the Hybrid 2WD as well. It’s a car that Toyota has built to a market and succeeded well in that respect.

How Much Does It Cost?: The range starts at $29,540 plus on roads. The Hybrid Koba starts from $36,440 plus ORC. In basic yellow the C-HR has a driveaway price (at the time of writing, March 2020) of around $33,185. Move to the Koba Hybrid with metallic paint and black roof, and we’re looking at $38,700.

Under The Bonnet Is: A 1.8L petrol engine and battery pack. The C-HR’s entry level has a 1.2L turbo four. Transmission is a Constantly Variable Transmission, with a low range style gear shift change via the drive selector. The petrol engine is rated as 72kW on its own, with the electric part supplying 53kW. However they’re downgraded to 90kW when combined. Peak torque is 142Nm. Economy, says Toyota, is rated as, on 91RON fuel, 4.3L/100km for the combined cycle. We achieved a best of 4.6L/100km.On The Outside It’s: A nosejob, headlights, tail lights, and new wheels. You’d need to side-by-side the former and current models to really pick the exterior differences. One that is visible is the change to scrolling indicators, not merely flashing. The Koba supplied had the black roof which minimises the almost hunchbacked cockroach look it has in profile. The Nebula Blue is a deep, rich, metallic shade and highlights the sharp creases on the front and rear doors plus really emphasises the big wheel arches. Rubber is Bridgestone Potenza’s 225/50/18 wrapping machined black painted alloys. The tailgate is manually operated and the space saver spare is placed under the cargo floor. There’s a smallish 318L here with the second row seats up.On The Inside It’s: Subtly different here too. The touchscreen in the C-HR Koba is larger, up to 8.0 inches from 6.1 inches. Unusually there is no DAB audio but Toyota has added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This is in line with (our guess that) Toyota is marketing this car for a certain group, a group happy to use technology that is handset based, either single or a couple, or a couple with a small child. Call it a gut feeling on that point.Otherwise it’s virtually unchanged. The Koba has leather trimmed seats, with minimal electric adjustment for the driver. There is plenty of piano black plastic in the centre console and centre of dash where smartly laid out aircon controls reside. The driver’s display incorporates, oddly, a G-Force meter along with power generation/distribution, expected range, consumption and more. The roof has the same embossed lining and the door trims are black plastic and charcoal cloth.The interior packaging is such that the rear seats sit higher up than the front seats. The rear door’s creaseline rises sharply, and with darkened glass it makes for a somewhat claustrophobic experience for rear seat passengers. babies, toddlers, small children would have no issue though.On the Road It’s: A typical CVT for driving, a decent chassis for the ride, and sorted well enough for the handling. The CVT saps power initially and with the hybrid system the engine kicks in at 20kph, just like the other hybrids in Toyota’s fleet. It will, however, get up to around 50kph before the petrol engine assists if using a very gentle right foot. Where Toyota excel in hybrid systems is the smoothness in switching between the engagement of the petrol and electric drives. Sink the slipper and there’s virtually no sense of anything mechanical moving with or against something else. Even at the nominal cut-in point of 20kph there’s a faint sense of something changing in the engine area but it’s so well modulated for most people the change wouldn’t be noticed.Highway driving showcases the best of the hybrid drive. It’s quiet, unobtrusive, and smooth in how it delivers to the front wheels. The dash display has Eco, Charge, and Power rather than a rev counter, and in cruise mode the needle hovers between Eco and Charge. Acceleration is enough for those that don’t expect sports car performance and it’s quick enough to suit those with some sporting pretensions. Thanks thanks to the on-tap torque an electric motor has and it ably backs up the petrol engine’s performance.

The engine revs easily but noisily, and perhaps the engine bay needs extra insulation. Watching the charge icon from the corner of the eye is enlightening too, as it dances between battery and engine power. Cruise along and the battery may be the primary source. Make a pass and watch the icons change as the petrol engine feeds power to both wheels and battery. the speedo needle responds in kind, and backing off the throttle sees the power needle gently sink back into Eco.

Steering is light enough to be twirled with one finger however there is also enough weight when required to give a sense of feedback. A sense only as it’s an isolated, numb, wheel otherwise. That’s in contrast to the adept suspension in the C-HR Koba. For all but the more unsettled surfaces the Koba does a decent enough job, and again won’t upset anyone other than its target market. And of course the brakes are spot on, as they should be for a hybrid system’s regenerative capability.

What About Safety?: Toyota’s Safety Sense package is standard across the range with Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beam, All-Speed Active Cruise Control and Pre-Collision Safety system with pedestrian detection. There is Forward Collision Warning, Brake Assist and Autonomous Emergency Braking, plus Rear Cross Traffic and Blind Spot alerts. Along with a reverse camera there is also a Panoramic View mode for the Koba. Airbags number seven and for the family there are three anchorage points.

What About Warranty And Service?: Five years and unlimited kilometres as standard for the warranty. An extra two years can be supplied if the car is serviced through a dealership. Do that and Toyota will cover the battery for up to ten years. There can even be seven years roadside assistance. Servicing is up to five years depending on model.At The End Of The Drive. We’re of the opinion that Toyota’s marketing team and their R&D team sat down at lunch one day and thrashed out a car that would appeal to the masses. But the masses would be of a certain age group and lifestyle. We’re talking a group born in the 1990s, single or a couple, and with either no children or a toddler, no older. Why? The C-HR Koba Hybrid isn’t a big car, will seat no more than four and with an enclosed style rear passengers would be non-adult.

With app connections for audio, rather than a DAB tuner it caters to the tech-savvy, and allows a broader range of sourcing music and navigation applications. It’s a green car with a hybrid drive system and it’s economical to run as well, another appealing factor.

Dynamically it rides and handles well enough to deal with people that will readily admit to knowing little about cars and see the C-HR as something a little out of the ordinary.

Make up your own mind by taking one for a test drive and checking it out here.

2020 Mitsubishi ASX Exceed: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: A recently (late 2019) updated ASX range which received the Mitsubishi shield nose, a mild refresh to the tail light cluster, and the deletion of a diesel as an option.

The Exceed sits at the top of a six tier (ES is manual or auto) range which provides one of the broadest choices available to Australian consumers for one stand-alone model.

How Much Does It Cost?: Mitsubishi have tight pricing for a diverse range. The entry point is the ES which lists at $24,990 drive-away as of February 2020. The Exceed comes in at $35,990. For that price Mitsubishi are including seven years warranty and two years free servicing.Under The Bonnet Is: Mitsubishi’s well proven 2.4L MIVEC petrol fed engine. There are no diesels and, as yet, no hybrids. Only the ES has a manual option, with a CVT being the transmission of no choice. It’s not a winner but more on that later. Peak power is 124kW, with peak twist of 222 torques available at 4,100rpm. Economy was excellent, with an around town best of a paltry 6.3L/100km. Mitsubishi’s combined figure is quoted as 7.9L/100km from a 63L tank filled with standard 91RON unleaded. Drive is now to the front wheels only.

On The Outside It’s: Lost the dumpy, squat, short jawed look and gained an assertive stance thanks to the reworked front. Apart from being resized and re-proportioned to fit the ASX, it’s identical to that seen on the rest of the family. The lower corners have a quad “ice cube” cluster with fog and indicator LEDs. With that sharper front end, it also highlights the curves in the rear which now don’t quite match the other end.

Both front fenders have a black plastic insert ringed with chrome. These sit on the join line with the doors and draw an upwards incline through the door handles to the rear window. The tailgate is manually operated, a feature that Mitsubishi should have sprung for to change to powered.

Tyres are from Bridgestone and their Ecopia range. They’re 225/55/17 and are on distinctive ten spoke alloys with black paint. The sheetmetal has a choice of eight colours, with the review vehicle in Lightning Blue.On The Inside It’s: Starting to show the base design’s age. Flat and slabby are how to describe the dashboard. Only the seats could be described as soft touch, and they’re sat on, not in. Again, the front seats are heated only, an oversight that doesn’t suit Australian summers.The driver faces a traditional two dial display with Mitsubishi’s standard colour LCD screen in between. For the Exceed, at least, a full LCD screen for a little class difference should be here.

The driver’s seat is powered for adjustment, at least. The second row fold easily and offer over 1,100 litres of cargo space. It’s here that you’ll find the subwoofer driver for the Rockford Fosgate DAB audio system. The company is a long time supplier of audio to Mitsubishi and it shows. It’s beautifully integrated and provides a sensational kick from the sub, balanced by outstanding treble and mid-range notes. The touchscreen is an 8.0 inch unit and the interface has been redesigned for a better look and use. Naturally it’s Android, Apple, and Bluetooth compatible in regards to the sounds system.Piano black surrounds the screen, as it does the gear selector and portions of the steering wheel. Auto wipers and headlights are standard also. The aircon is single zone and a pair of USB ports sit below the knurled chrome dials. The centre console houses two cupholders close to the console storage locker.

For a vehicle that fringes the small and medium SUV class, at just 4,365mm in length, it’s well packaged inside for head, shoulder, and leg room. Up front is 1,056mm with the rear seats having 921mm. Headroom is fine considering the ASX Exceed has a full glass roof. Front and rear measurements are 988mm and 934mm.

On The Road It’s: Frankly disappointing. The CVT hobbled the 2.4L to the point Sports mode was the preferred choice for driving. Sports mode should a mode to complement the normal Drive, not be the preferred standard. The Low range gear option made its presence appreciated when hitting the upwards slopes in Sydney’s Blue Mountains too, utilising the 222Nm far more efficiently than standard Drive.Left in Drive, acceleration was akin to wading knee deep in molasses whilst wearing boots and jeans. An Apollo trip to the moon and back is quicker than the ASX Exceeds time to 100. Flip the gear selector to the left and the chains are broken, the molasses is gone, and Apollo is still on the launch pad, such is the startling difference in nature. It also makes for a decent highway cruiser, quietly bubbling along and showing no signs of struggle. Corners, though….there’s little body roll but hit a road joint, an expansion joint, and suddenly the words lateral stability disappear. The front and/or rear skip violently sideways and for the unaware, it’s a moment of wondering what could happen.Braking and steering are suitable for the ASX Exceed too. There’s enough pedal pressure to tell the driver what’s going on in the stopping department whilst the steering, as light as it is, doesn’t feel artificial or over assisted.

Ride quality is also on par for expectations. It’s well tied down, finding that fine balance between absorption, suppleness, and tautness. Freeway driving has the steering requiring just the right amount of minimal input required.

What About Safety?: No problems here. Forward Collision Mitigation starts the list, Blind Spot Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Lane Change Assist are here, along with seven airbags including driver’s knee. Front seat seatbelt pretensioners and a pair of ISOFIX seat mounts in the rear seats are also standard. A reverse camera with guidelines and rear sensors add to the package.

At The End Of the Drive. In our opinion, as much of a difference the facelift has made, it’s still, essentially, the same decade old ASX inside and it shows. It’s a massive seller for Mitsubishi, it’s fair to say, and that’s due to some very good pricing and the less than discerning tastes for a quality drive from those buyers. Given that there are similar vehicles at not much more that have a better interior and are dynamically superior, Mitsubishi should be giving thought to an improvement underneath from here on in. Find out more here.

 

Subaru Unveils Updated Impreza and Hybridised XV & Forester.

Niche filler Subaru has finally joined the hybrid family. The XV hatch and Forester now have that propulsion as an option. They’ve also updated their Impreza sedan and hatch range. For the XV there will be one variant and in hybrid form only, whilst the Forester will offer two, in L and S AWD specification.

Forester will run the familiar 2.0L horizontally opposed four, as will the XV. Transmission remains as Subaru’s quite well sorted CVT. The Hybrid system has been dubbed “e-Boxer”, with a small capacity lithium battery linked to the petrol engine in a method called Motor Assist. There will be three drive modes available: Motor Assist EV driving, Motor Assist electric (EV) + petrol engine driving, and Petrol engine driving.

In pure EV mode it can reach speeds of up to 40 km/h before switching in the petrol engine. Economy, says Subaru, is down to 6.7L/100 from the 48L tank. Fuel is 91RON. That’s down from 8.1L/100km. XV Hybrid has an improvement of around 14% improvement for the urban cycle, and upwards of 7% for the combined. Forester’s improvements are 19% and 9% compared to the previous 2.5L variants.

Power is rated as 110 Kilowatts at 6,000 rpm and 196 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm with the electric energy part offering 12.3kW and 66Nm or torque. Naturally the electric system features regenerative braking energy harvesting. The battery is integrated into the floor and located where the spare wheel once resided. The petrol engine has Subaru’s AVCS, or Active Valve Control System. Pricing for the trio is: $35,580 for XV Hybrid AWD, $39,990 for Forester Hybrid L AWD and $45,990 for the Hybrid S. Those prices are manufacturer’s list prices.

Subaru’s X-Mode, for soft and wet weather road driving, has returned. This is again a switch operated drive mode, and will show on the driver displays to indicate its engagement. Forester Hybrid S also has Subaru’s SI Drive system, where different driving modes, Intelligent and Sport, allow for some driver tailoring. The touchscreen is 6.5 inches in L, 8.0 inches in S, and features DAB, Apple and Android apps, driver’s kneebag, and Subaru’s renowned EyeSight system.

Orders are being taken however the initial allocation has been presold, with May the current ETA for new stock.

The bodies for both have been slightly tweaked, as has the Impreza sedan and hatch. All models have been given a restyled grille, with the front bumper and fog lights changed as well, plus there are new alloy wheels. The tail lights for the hatch have been given a smokey glass appearance. Also, all Imprezas now have SI Drive.

The range remains as a four tier model. The entry level 2.0i model starts from $23,740 and $23,940 for sedan and hatch, whilst the 2.0i-L starts from $25,860 and $26,090. The 2.0i-Premium is $28,390 and $28,590 with the range topper 2.0i-S at $31,160 and $31,360. Again these are manufacturer’s list prices.

Apart from the looks there has been tweaks underneath for a better ride and handling package. Premium receives Blind Spot Monitor, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert plus Reverse Automatic Braking and Front View Monitor. The S gains front and side camera monitors, along with an auto dipping passenger side mirror when reversing.

All cars have a standard five year and unlimited kilometre warranty. Contact Subaru to book a test drive.

Mitsubishi Expands Triton Range.

Mitsubishi has added two lifestyle driven models to the Triton range. Dubbed GSR and GLX-R, the titles are a mix of evocative history and a nod to the future. Companies are realising that for those that buy the big four wheel drive and off-road capable utes, they’re not necessarily being used for…off-road driving. They’ve become a lifestyle choice and the introduction of the pair mirrors that desire from a fickle market.

The GSR is perhaps the more visually worked over of the two and definitely leans towards the lifestyle, trend driven, marketplace. The wheels are black painted alloys and a diameter of 18 inches. The Mitsubishi “Dynamic Shield” is blacked out to provide a subtle, menacing, look. The headlight surrounds, skid plates, door mirrors, handles, and sidesteps are also all blacked out.

Inside there is the addition of a “Multi Around Monitor” with an activation switch on the steering wheel. The powered and heated front seats have leather trim, as do the steering wheel and park brake level &shift knob. There is an colourful option in the form of a tan orange highlight package. This will feature on the seats, console storage box, and console knee pads. Accessorising the GSR will be simple with the choice of three tonneau covers. There will be a soft, hard, and rollable cover available. A blacked out sports roll bar and tub liners will also be available.

The cost of the soft tonneau package is $2,699 (RRP) with the hard and roller style priced at $4,699 and $4,999 (RRP for each) respectively and also includes floor mats across the range.

Sliding into the gap between GLX+ and GLS will be the GLX-R. This is more restrained in finish, with 18 inch alloys also, fog lamps, and chrome finishes for the grille. door mirrors and handles, front bumper, and will be aimed at the driver that likes a more sophisticated look for their 4WD ute.

Pricing for the pair starts at $39,990 for the GLX-R with a six speed manual. A six speed auto kicks off at $42,490 and they’re both drive-away prices. The GSR is $50,990 without tonneau, whereas the soft cover starts at $52,990, and $54,990 for both the hard and roll cover versions. Premium paint is included on the GSR at a $740 value and prestige paint can be optioned for just $200.

Chat to your local Mitsubishi dealer or contact them via the Mitsubishi Australia website.

2020 Nissan Leaf EV: Private Fleet Car Review

This Car Review Is About: The second iteration of Nissan’s electric powered passenger vehicle called Leaf. It’s a genuinely well thought out and engineered machine, with good city range, and a price point that should appeal. For the second generation it’s been facelifted (it’s now much prettier) and given a tickle to the driving range.How Much Does It Cost?: Nissan list it at $49,990 plus on road costs. The drive-away price will vary from state to state but figure on a something between $54 to $56K depending on your location.

Under The Bonnet Is: The battery can store up to 40kWh, which is good for 110kW of power and 320Nm. The dash display provides a clear look at current charge with expected range, plus output during driving on the fly. Depending on figures, there is an expected range of either 315km (based on NEDC ADR 81/02 combined cycle) but a more realistic figure is an a 270km indicative driving range (European WLTP combined cycle). This is a more useable figure and with studies showing most city based drivers in Australia clocking just under 40 kilometres per day, it’s user friendly in that respect.

The car has two charging ports in the restyled nose, one with a direct connection to a CHAdeMO rapid charger and get from alert to 80 per cent charge in around 60 minutes depending on charging conditions, with the other a Type 2. There is an adapter with which to connect to an Australian standard 240V socket with more information found here.
On The Outside It’s: More of a distinctively “normal” look compared to the first model, and a slick, sleek, five door hatchback shape with aero styling. There’s a 3D look to the blue plastic that sits directly under the charge panel cover and it’s amazing in the depth of the look. This is matched by a similarly coloured panel in the lower rear bumper. Headlights are full LED, bracketing the now signature Vee that Nissan has for family identification. In profile it’s clear there’s a teardrop look from the aero effect and some subtle aero aids built into the metal and plastic. A sharp kick in the rear door meets neutral black and leads the eyes to the elegantly tapered rear which houses a manually operated ‘gate. Rubber comes from Goodyear’s Efficient Grip range and sit at 215/60 on 17 inch dark grey machined alloys.

On The Inside It’s: Roomy enough for four adults, and looks largely like a normal car’s interior. The noticeable difference is the gear selector. It’s a standard foot on brake, press console mounted button, a faint series of clicks as the drive engages, then a move of the rounded knob across to the right and forward for reverse and reverse for forward. Got that? Good. There is a small diagram next to the selector just in case it’s not immediately obvious. The knob itself is of a deep metallic grey highlighted by an electric blue ring at the base.Another highlight, sort of, is the choice to fit sumptuous and comfortable leather and velour trimmed seats with a bit of extra height than normal. But…with no venting option. Yes, they’re heated, but on a couple of scorching summer days in Sydney, the old glutes got a hammering. At least the single zone aircon cools down quick enough and has a fan capable of blowing good and hard. That sits underneath an 8.0 inch display that is ergonomically laid out but has a fussy audio system in regards to selecting and tuning radio stations. The ones already stored were Melbourne based and naturally wouldn’t connect without a retune. Actually doing so wasn’t easy, intuitive, simple. A bit of a letdown, really.

It does have DAB, and changing stations wasn’t instantaneous, but took a few seconds. Bluetooth streaming is standard. An upside is the display’s look, as it’s far better than that found in other Nissan models, thankfully. It sits inside a very stylish dashboard complete with leather look material, carbon-fibre look and piano black plastics, and a soft look overall. The doors also have some piano black inserts and soft touch material.The dash display is as clean as a whistle. A simple analogue dial for the velocity, an LCD screen of 7.0 inches for the usage info, with the now ubiquitous steering wheel mounted buttons to access the info. The screen will show expected range, Eco usage, charge levels, battery temperature, kWh information and more. To access the charge ports is simple too; a small button above the driver’s right knee and that pops the hatch in the nose. Back down to the centre console and there is a drive mode that, admittedly, we didn’t test for the sake of being prudent.

It’s called the e-pedal and it takes the brake pedal out of the equation. It works as a normal accelerator pedal but when the foot is removed the sensors will have it act as a brake and slow the Leaf to a complete stop. Nifty is the fact it will apply on up-and downhill slopes.

Ancilliaries such as a USB and 3.5mm auxiliary port are easily accessed, but there is no smart phone charge pad, even with a nook that looks like it was designed to house one. Bose supply the audio system and there’s a small yet effective soundbar style bass unit in the boot. Auto headlights and wipers, a pair of bottle holders and a slot for a mobile phone in the console, and bottle holders in the doors aim for a family friendly package. A boot capacity of 405L with the 60/40 rear seats up is enough for most families.

On The Road It’s: Not a rocketship, but it’s quick enough. The pedal has an initially sticky feel, which leads to a feeling that the Leaf isn’t going to be rapid. Thankfully that sticking feeling is only at the beginning of the pedal’s travel and a little more pressure brings out the Leaf’s true ability. It’s gentle to start with but will get some true velocity and exhibit the nature of an electric power system. A 0-100 time of 7.9 seconds means it’ll hustle well enough but it’s the highway and freeway that can really take advantage of the torque the Leaf has.Sink the slipper whilst cruising and the Leaf will sprint away nicely. The energy recovery system can then be set to one of two modes, with the result being the brakes will harvest more energy or will back off enough to extend the range. In either case the Leaf is a superb city performer and fits in beautifully with the urban lifestyle.

Steering is of an artificial feel though, with a sense of isolation from the driver and what feel there is just doesn’t feel that it speaks human. It’s weighted well enough, but it doesn’t communicate what the front end is doing. To counterbalance that is a great ride and part of this is thanks to the Intelligent Ride Control. This adjusts the power and torque of the engine just enough to dampen or raise the delivery. Why? Nissan’s engineers worked out that by adjusting the delivery it acts as a counterweight to the pitching fore and aft a car experiences when hitting bumps and irregularities.

The suspension has a tighter than expected feel, but this is a good thing. The chassis dynamics are tuned to deal with the mass of the Leaf; at 1,594kg plus cargo it’s knocking on the slightly portly door for its size. Naturally that’s due to the battery pack but with the suspension tuned to be taut for the most part, it drastically reduces excess suspension travel. It softens up at the end enough to be comfortable and pliant for most people to be happy with.What About Safety?: No shortage at all. A very smart feature is the subtle but audible tone when the Leaf is reversing to alert pedestrians. There’s the Intelligent Around-View Monitor for 360 degrees worth of vision. Front and rear parking sensors make tight shopping centre situations easier to deal with. Intelligent Trace Control assists in keeping the Leaf on the centre line when driving with imperceptible brake applications. With NIssan placing their safety features under the umbrella name of Intelligent, there’s also Intelligent Driver Alert, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection, and Intelligent Lane Intervention. Naturally there are Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Tyre Pressure Monitor System. Traffic sign recognition has the safety system audibly warn of speed zones and cameras too.

And The Warranty Is?: Five years, and unlimited kilometres. For the battery, Nissan advises:“The Nissan LEAF Lithium-Ion battery State of Health guarantee protects against battery capacity loss (less than 9 bars out of 12) as shown on the in vehicle capacity gauge for a period of 8 years or 160,000 kilometres, whichever comes first. The Warranty commences from the time the vehicle is first registered or put into service (whichever occurs first).” Roadside assist is included and is up to five years. Information on service costs is available here.
At The End Of The Drive.
Of the Japanese car makers, Nissan is the only one that currently offers a fully electric vehicle. Toyota has hybrids, Mazda has their SkyActiv engine tech, Mitsubishi has the Outlander PHEV. Suzuki and Subaru have yet to release hybrids, making the Leaf somewhat unique in this area. Bar some items such as no venting for the pews, and a fiddly audio interface, the Nissan Leaf makes its mark for being an electric car that looks like a normal hatch.

It drives, rides, and handles well enough, seats four very comfortably, but importantly has enough usable urban range to make daily range anxiety almost a thing of the past. As a family oriented car it succeeds admirably. And it’s priced almost perfectly given the current state of affairs for the electric car market in Australia.

Go here for detailed information on the 2020MY Nissan Leaf.

2020 Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport and SX Sedan: Private FleetCar Review.

This Car Review Is About: The updated Toyota Corolla sedan range. It’s possibly one of the longest running nameplates and styles in the Australian market. Lookswise the rear has been mildly massaged whilst the front takes on the appearance of the hatchback, released late in 2018. There’s some changes to the inside and a freshen-up to the ride. There’s also a change in location for manufacturing, with the Corolla returning to Japan after formerly being built in Thailand.There are three models to choose from, with the Ascent Sport, SX, and ZR. Engine choice is a “normal” 2.0L petrol for all three or a 1.8L hybrid for the Ascent Sport and SX. Transmission choices are a manual or CVT in the Ascent Sport, and CVT for the other two. We drove the Ascent Sport and SX 2.0L.

What Does It Cost?: $23,335 and $28,325 for the cars tested and these are prices before government and dealership charges. Driveaway charges vary around the country with variances of just a few to a couple of hundred of dollars. With the SX clad in Celestine Grey and the Ascent in a pearl white, there’s a bump of just over $500.Under The Bonnet Is: A 2.0L petrol engine in the cars reviewed. There is a 1.8L hybrid package available for Ascent Sport and SX, but the ZR stays with the 2.0L only. Peak power is 125kW, with peak twist 200Nm and that’s on standard pump unleaded. Toyota claims 6.0L/100km for the fuel economy and we matched that in the Ascent Sport, whilst the SX threw out 7.4L on a slightly more urban based drive. Tank size is 50L. The transmissions are the now conventional CVT for the 2.0L with the mechanical first gear cog for quicker off the line acceleration. The Ascent Sport can also be specced with a six speed manual and the hybrids have the cogless CVT.On The Outside Is: A mild tweak to the rear lights, with a resemblance to Holden’s Astra. In profile there’s more definition to the wheel arches whilst the front end is completely restyled and now shares the look, with slimmer headlights and deeper air intake, with the hatch. Eyecatching LED driving lights sit above a bumper with subtle differences to the hatch. It’s a good size overall, with a length of 4,630mm just 300mm shorter than the Camry. Boot space is bigger than the hatch too, with 470L swallowing up a family’s groceries or baggage with ease.

Both have alloys are they’re 16 inches in size, with the SX sporting a slightly different sheen in the alloy’s finish to the Ascent Sport. Rubber is from Bridgestone’s Ecopia range and are at 205/55 in size. There is otherwise no visible difference between the two, with the Ascent Sport lacking…something sporty to back up the name.On The Inside Is: Some subtle differences between the pair. The SX has a dual zone climate control versus the Ascent’s single zone, with corresponding changes to the design of the controls. Apart from a push start/stop button the SX and Ascent Sport have identical dash designs, down to the speedometer dominating the display for the driver. The display has the 4.2 inch LCD screen over to the right side, rather than centrally located like, well, just about everyone else.The design of the dash’s material is clean, unfussy, with the texture pleasing to the touch. There’s high gloss piano black around the aircon controls, and above them is the 8.0 inch touchscreen, complete with DAB (SX standard, optional in Ascent Sport, as is satnav), Bluetooth streaming, and bespoke Toyota app connection called myToyota. The screen’s look and layout is something some other manufacturers should look to for their screens. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, plus there is voice recognition, Siri eyes free, and Miracast. The SX has a wireless charge pad, a good feature in a mid-spec car. There are also four cup and bottle holders. Seats are manually adjustable in the two. All pews in both are cloth covered and none were heated or vented. There is a 2,700mm wheelbase on the sedan which is 60mm longer than the hatch. This provides crucial extra legroom for the rear seat passengers.

On The Road Its: Not much different from one to the other. The SX felt as if it had a slightly softer rear to the Ascent Sport, however there is a commonality for the two. the Ecopia rubber drums and drones on harsher tarmac, and the front end lacks confidence on wet roads. Entry speeds in corners had to be drastically reduced in the wet due to push-on understeer compared to driving the same in dry conditions.

Steering both is light with a touch of feeling artificial in heft. Brakes were mostly up to the job with a reasonable amount of stopping performance in the dry, and only a touch less in the wet thanks to the rubber. Ride quality in both, apart from the perceived softer rear in the SX, was excellent, with well controlled damping, high levels of absorption of bumps, and minimal body roll. Dry road cornering is competent and confident too, with dynamics sure to please anyone with a modicum of driving ability.

The first gear cog in the CVT makes a world of difference in getting off the line. Response is zippier, sharper, and blends nicely into the CVT’s own mechanism without issue. Rolling acceleration is improved too, with highway driving and overtaking easier to perform without issue. Downhill drives have the CVT hold and work as an engine brake and it’s all nicely integrated. The engine itself is muted for the most part, and really only aurally intrudes at the higher end of the rev range. There is a Sport button in the centre console and is pretty much superfluous in usage.What About Safety?: Toyota could be said to lead the way when it comes to safety packages. Lobbed under the umbrella name of SafetySense, the range features Active Cruise Control (ACC), Pre-Collision Safety System (PCS) with Pedestrian and Cyclist detection, Lane Departure Alert (LDA), Road Sign Assist (RSA) and Auto High Beam (AHB) plus reverse camera with fixed guidelines are standard in the SX and ZR. Driving is assisted by the usual traction aids including Hill-Start Assist, plus Active Cornering Assist. This is a system that gently applies brakes to the front driven wheels if required in cornering at speed. Seven airbags are common to both.

And The Warranty?: Simple. Five years and unlimited kilometres. And by ensuring the car is serviced as per the service schedule, Toyota will extend the engine and driveline warranty from five to seven years. Servicing is capped price, at $180 for the first four services at a 12 month or 15,000 kilometre spacing.At The End Of The Drive: In 2.0L and CVT spec there is a question mark for the Ascent Sport and SX differentiation. A retail price difference of $5,000 is a substantial ask for a car that in essence only has digital audio, satnav, and a wireless charge pad over the model below. The wheels and tyres are the same, the body is the same, driving performance is the same. It’s a curious question and one only a buyer can answer when in the showroom. You can compare the specs here.