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Makes and Models

How Unique is My Drive?

Audi RS 5

It’s pretty likely that you’ll be aware of the enormous number of brand names out there in the market place.  The mass consumer goods industry is a huge area of vibrant buying madness, and it’s all about choice and variety – isn’t it?  Who is supplying the different brands and goods served onto our own dinner tables?  Who is supplying the different brands and goods that we choose to wear for clothing?  Who is supplying the different brands of fuel for our cars?  Who is supplying the different brands of cars that we buy?

There has been a bit of an illusion of choice that’s been built up over the last few decades.  Back in the old days when most people lived in villages and small towns everyone knew who the local blacksmith was that tinkered on the locals’ machinery.  The food and produce at the local store usually came from local farmers, and the animals were bought locally or nearby.  Today, goods may have travelled the world before they arrive at our door.  And, today, generally, we know all of the company names who own and sell the favourite brands that we buy – don’t we?

We likely inherently know that PepsiCo sells plenty of drink beverages, including its flagship Pepsi product.  We may well know that Nestle makes Milky Bars, Kit Kat, scorched almonds and Nescafe instant coffee.  What is less recognizable is that Nestle also makes DiGiorno pizzas and owns two competing brands of rather nice carbonated water, which are called San Pellegrino and Perrier.  Did you know that Nestle also has at least 29 separate brands that all help make them an annual sales turnover of $1 billion!  And, inside each of these brands, the company has hundreds of different food products in all kinds of sectors.  Nestle is the world’s largest food company by revenue, and its market capitalization in dollar terms is massive; well over $225 billion in fact.

There is nothing wrong in buying from any of these brands, but it is worth noting that every dollar of your money is a vote; a vote for products and companies that you believe in, or maybe now would rather not…  But let’s get back to cars, because, as much as I like chocolate, we are all about cars here at Private Fleet, aren’t we?

A relatively recent study found that it was actually only around 14 major big companies that controlled 54 common car brands that most of us either buy our own cars from, or will, at least, be familiar with.  So, say you were looking to buy a luxury car such as a quick Porsche or classy Bentley; well, you might just have less choice than you may think.  These two luxury brands are actually owned by Volkswagen (a German-based company) who also own the Audi, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Skoda brand, as well as VW and Seat.  Interestingly, motoring fans would often consider Porsche and Audi RS cars to be entirely different, even out-and-out rivals, but here they are being owned and governed by VW.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., often abbreviated as FCA, owns Alfa Romeo, Dodge, Maserati and Jeep; oh, and Lancia, RAM, Fiat and Chrysler vehicles.

GM is the company who owns Buick and Chevrolet.  But did you know they also own Holden, Vauxhall, Cadillac, Opel, GMC, Wuling Motors and Baojun.

Perhaps if you wanted a nice car built for the masses but that wasn’t at all much linked to any other marque, then you could argue that, of the 14 companies, Daimler, Ford, Honda, PSA, Hyundai, Toyota and Nissan are the truly most distinctive brands amidst the monopolies.  Daimler owns and makes Mercedes Benz and Smart cars; Ford owns and makes Ford and Lincoln cars; Honda owns and makes Honda and Acura cars; PSA owns and makes DS, Citroen and Peugeot cars; Hyundai owns and makes Hyundai and Kia cars; Toyota owns and makes Toyota, Lexus and Daihatsu cars; and Nissan owns and makes Nissan, Infiniti and Datsun cars.

It’s just another way of being informed and looking at things!

What Sort of Vehicles are Difficult to Finance?

Although it is easy enough to assume that any given vehicle is eligible for financing – they are an asset after all, right? – in reality this is far from normal practice. Lenders will want to minimise their exposure to certain levels of risk. And in the eyes of a financier, certain cars pose more risk than others when it comes to the borrower paying back the debt in full. Of course, restrictions vary from one lender to the next, plus your own personal circumstances may play a part in things as well. For a general overview of cars which have financing restrictions, continue reading.

First however, it’s important to realise why financiers view particular vehicles as a risk in deciding whether to issue a loan. The reason for this is because of the difficulties that would come in trying to resell a vehicle that has been the subject of a default loan, or delinquency. Lenders will usually take possession of the vehicle in such circumstances and the prospect of being left to hold scrap metal is something that hardly appeals to the majority of them.

Here are some of the types of cars you should be careful with if you need to fund your purchase with the help of a loan.

 

Written-off vehicles

Every state has its own register outlining vehicles that have been written-off. What’s more, it is common practice for prospective car buyers to check such registers before forking out their hard earned. Even if the write-off is deemed repairable, financiers would be hard pressed to offer finance for an asset that is unlikely to be on-sold in the future for any meaningful capacity other than scrap value.

 

Older vehicles

Although there is generally more flexibility and discretion with this category as opposed to written-off vehicles, restrictions on financing for older cars are still commonplace. If by the end of the loan the car will be at least 12 years old, you may encounter some resistance from the financier to support the loan.

This is even more so if you were taking on a long term lease. For example, up to five years. You might be wondering, how do collectors or vehicle enthusiasts secure some of those classic gems? Well, as with most things, if your credit history is in good shape, and you’re able to put forward a reasonable case for making repayments on the loan, there are always financiers at hand, but your options are far fewer than the latest Toyota RAV4, for example.

 

 

Imported vehicles

Since imports are vehicles registered abroad instead of locally – with many having their own specifications and operating conditions not aligned with Australia – they can be a tough ask for lenders to fund.

This is a case where the specific vehicle will need to be judged on its own merits, rather than a blanket rule applying across the board. As a general tip however, imports sold by private sellers are much less likely to get the tick of approval.

However, despite the above, recent regulatory changes allowing the import of vehicles have helped somewhat with addressing this issue, albeit as with most areas of life, the appetite of some is greater than others.

2021 Kia Picanto S Manual: Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: The baby of the current Kia range, Picanto. A pert five door hatch, Picanto is available in either S or GT-Line specification. It’s also one of the cheapest new cars currently available to buy in Australia.How Much Does It Cost?: Kia has the Picanto S, in manual transmission and 1.2L engine spec, at $16,990 and in non-metallic Clear White. The specification sheet supplied by Kia says there are no options available aside from the exterior colours such as Sparkling Silver, Honey Bee Yellow, or Aurora Black Pearl at $595.

Under The Bonnet Is: A 1.25L petrol four and a five speed manual in the review vehicle. There is an auto available with just four ratios available. That engine is the only option with the turbo 3 cylinder reserved for the Rio GT-Line. Peak power is 62kW (6,000rpm) and peak torque is 122Nm at 4,000rpm. Economy is a strong part of the Picanto’s appeal, with a combined figure of 5.0L/100km (manual) from the 35.0L fuel thimble. Our final overall average was a very creditable 6.0L/100km with a best of 4.4L/100km seen.On The Outside It’s: Not as visually appealing as the GT-Line. The Picanto S has a wheel and tyre package of 175/65/16 with steel wheels and plastic covers. The front bumper has halogen driving lights that come on with the ignition, with the bumper jutting forward from the headlights and tiger nose grille. There are no LEDs here, it’s pure old-tech front and rear on the slightly boxy body. The Clear White emphasises the more cubic shape of the Picanto when it’s sans GT-Line enhancements.On The Inside It’s: Dominated by the now ubiquitous stand alone touchscreen. At 8.0 inches in size it’s well amongst the standard sizes and features smartapp compatibility. Both Apple and Android are wireless and have voice recognition. Sound is good without being muddy. There is also a USB and 3.5mm socket in the lower front centre console.

The driver’s display is also familiar with a 4.2 inch colour display and analogue dials. An intriguing feature is the screen rolls lines upwards as the vehicle moves along and the driver changes gears.

Plastics throughout tend to the hard side; there is no soft touch on the binnacle, console, door tops, to add a touch of comfort. The upper section of the cabin is trimmed in a light grey material to counterbalance the largely black lower section.Seats are cloth covered, manually operated, and comfortable enough for the Picanto’s natural home, short suburban runs. Front seat leg and head room is adequate, as is rears eat head room, but taller people will find the rear pew a little claustrophobic. And nominally a five seater, the rear seat is not suitable for three adults. Luggage space echoes this at 255L (seats up) with 1,010L available with seats folded.On The Road It’s: Suitable for purpose. The 1.2L engine is by no means a firecracker, with alacrity not a word in its dictionary. That may sound harsh as even with four aboard, it pulls well enough although noticeably blunted compared to having just the driver aboard. Even with the free-spinning engine being wound up, it’s enough for moderate acceleration only. It also makes it a questionable choice as being the only engine option for the GT-Line version.

We’ve noted previously the soft springing for the clutch and gear selector; there is little to no weight in the lever and a very gentle one finger movement is enough to see the first to second to third and so on happen. The clutch is the same, there is no real pressure here at all. However, there is an upside to this and it’s that the Picanto S manual slots into the space needed for a learner driver.

It’s ideal for a new driver because that combination of soft clutch and lever won’t be intimidating and the pairing make for the ideal training mechanism. This applies to the somewhat woolly steering and soft suspension setup. The Picanto S bottoms out easily to the bumpstops, meaning some serious speed reduction or driver planning is required to lessen the bang thump. The miniscule disc and drum brake combo do a decent job of hauling up the petite Picanto, and work great with the down-changing of the gears coming to a set of lights or a stop sign.What About Safety?: Autonomous Emergency Braking with Forward Collision Warning is standard, however there is no Blind Spot Warning, Lane Keep Assist, or Rear Cross Traffic Alert. These may seem a major omission however it brings back to the driver their responsibility to not be trained to rely on electronic aids.

What About Warranty And Service?: The standard seven years warranty and capped price servicing applies. Total cost over the seven years is $2,806, for an average cost of $400 per year or just $7.70 per week. Years two, four, and six are where the costs climb higher than the others.At The End Of The Drive. For less than $18K (with metallic paint) the Picanto S manual is ideally priced to be a first new car or a supplementary car. It’s a city car, a suburban car, and fulfills this design brief perfectly. It’s comfortable enough for the city environment, has the basics at a suitable level for tech and entertainment, and provides a reasonable ride and handling package. It’s the sort of vehicle that, when expectations aren’t of a super level, it meets those expectations perfectly.

2021 Isuzu D-Max SX 4×2 Cab Chassis: Private Fleet Car Review

This Car Review Is About: The starting point to the revamped (finally) Isuzu D-Max range. There is a bewildering choice: five two wheel drive vehicles in two or four door versions, and eight 4WD including the top of the ladder X-Terrain (coming to AWT very soon).

How Much Does It Cost?: As of November 2020, Isuzu had the SX 4×2 cab chassis on a stunning drive-away deal of $29,990. A quote built on the Isuzu sire has a retail price of around $8,400 more, representing a huge saving for new buyers. The colour on our review was basic Mineral White as a no cost option. There are, of course, plenty of additions such as a nudge or bull bar at $1,000 or $2,999, a slide out step at $370.70, or, as fitted, an under tray water tank ($360.80) or lockable undertray tool box at $437.80. A welded wire mesh window protector was fitted and that’s $193.60.Under The Bonnet Is: A six speed manual gearbox and a 3.0L diesel. A six speed auto is optionable for the SX, standard in the 4x2s after the SX, and in the 4x4s only the LS-U and X-Terrain have auto only. The donk is common for all variants and produces 140kW and 450Nm. A worrying number though is what comes next. Urban economy is quoted as 10.2L/100km (9.8L/100km for the auto) for the SX 4×2 cab chassis. Then there is the weight: 1,695kg (dry) is a substantial figure for a vehicle that doesn’t look as half as heavy. Payload is listed as 1,305kg or 1,300kg depending on manual or auto fitted.Combined economy is listed as 8.0L/100km with the highway figure 6.7L or 6.9L/100km. We saw a best of 8.8L/100km and a worst of 10.1L/100km, with a final average of 9.7L/100km. Frankly, we expected a better return. Tank size, by the way, is 76L.

On The Outside It’s: Got some big numbers. Length overall: 5,325mm. Wheelbase: 3,125mm. 1,310mm for the rear overhang depending on the body fitted. 235mm for the body ground clearance. Inside the tray is 1,777mm of space, with a length of 2,550mm.

The main visible changes from the outgoing models are in the headlight design, the grille, and the bumper. The SX misses out on the LED driving lights, staying with a full halogen setup. The nose is a more upright style, the strakes in the grille have been turned upside down so the end points point downwards. It’s also bigger than before, extending downward to include, as a one piece item, a separate air intake. The surrounds for the driving lights in the far ends of the bumper has also been restyled.As mentioned, our review vehicle had some options fitted and these add some genuine flexibility to the overall usage. What was noticed though, was the somewhat ridiculous placing of the rear bumper, complete with step, underneath and inside the length of the tray. In essence, one could place a foot on the step but would have their leg at a 45 degree angle away from the step, rendering that particular feature unusable.We also noticed that the inside of the tray had a pair of ridges, one each side and a few centimetres from the outer wall. These have a series of holes drilled through from front to back, presumably to be used as tie down points.On The Inside It’s: Pretty good considering it’s the entry level model. Good looking plastics, comfortable and supportive cloth-trimmed pews, a dash display that’s slightly manga for our tastes, and simple to use & operate dials for the aircon. However, when the AC button is on, it’s only a too faint white light to show, rather than the more logical and visible blue light as seen virtually everywhere else.

A nice surprise was digital audio however the Android Auto/Apple CarPlay compatible 7.0 inch touchscreen has a home screen that is frankly terrible. There is a compass and a clock; the compass shows, when tapped, GPS coordinates only, rather than a far more usable navigation system. Once through to the audio screen (a tap of the piano black music symbol at bottom right) it brings up a screen that is mostly ok but not intuitive for scrolling through or setting stations as a favourite. As updated compared to the previous model, at this level, it may be it needs more polish.

It’s a key start and we found that on nearly every twist, it would act as if the battery was dead. A second twist and the engine fired up with no indication anything was amiss.Convenience features come in the form of a 12V socket, a USB port, a pair of cup holders and a small console bin. The tiller is reach and rake adjustable, and there is voice recognition software for the audio system. Headlights are auto-on and thick, easy to clean, rubber mates were fitted.

On The Road It’s: A typical light commercial in being a very bouncy ride without a load. We did get a chance to put in around 100kg of load and there was a small but noticeable improvement in the ride quality. The front suspension is coil springs on double wishbones, the rear is semi-elliptic leaf springs with gas shockers.

The redline on the 3.0 diesel is around 4,200rpm, but it runs out of puff well before that. Call it 3,000rpm and you’d be on the money. That peak torque, mind, is from 1,600rpm to 2,600rpm, so it’s entirely a bad think. Peak power is reached at 3,600rpm.It pulls nicely, and as expected, through to that 3,000rpm and this makes general driving a fair proposition. The gearing, however, is commercial (natch!) so 1st gets to maybe 25kph before a change up. 2nd runs to 40, 45kph. 6th sees around 2,000rpm at freeway velocities.Steering is heavy but not excessively so, and lightens up gradually as the numbers look north to 110kph. On the freeway it’s weighted just heavily enough to get the driver thinking, and light enough so extra effort to haul the SX 4×2 from lane to lane isn’t required. Changing down the gears is good enough too, with a heavy-ish clutch and notchy selector ensuring that driver involvement is a little less intuitive, a little more think about where things are.

The weighting of the selector is just about right though, and the lever height has the top fall to hand perfectly. This make the actual gear change on the go spot on, and combined with the notchy change, makes this manual transmission the right choice for the Isuzu SX 4×2.What About Safety?: Blind Spot Monitoring is standard, as is Rear Cross Traffic Alert and AEB. That’s across the range. Lane Departure Warning and Emergency Lane Assist are standard. A somewhat touchy Forward Collision Warning threw a few falsies our way but it too is standard across the range. Airbags? Eight, thank you very much, making the SX 4×2 better equipped in this respect that many passenger oriented vehicles. There are dual front, curtain, side, driver’s knee and far side airbags.

What About Warranty And Service?: It’s impressive. There is a six year warranty, seven years capped price servicing and roadside assist. First service is $389, fourth is $509, and seventh is $409. Intervals are 12 monthly or 15,000 kilometres.

At The End Of The Drive. As an entry level machine, the Isuzu D-Max SX 4×2 stacks up well. Pricing is sharp, engineering is sorted bar the surprisingly breathless engine, safety levels are high, and the cabin is decent enough. The touchscreen interface is a bit “how’s yer father” though and lowers the otherwise welcoming ambience of the cabin. The reskin has given the D-Max a more purposeful look and for the tradie, a huge range of options bring massive flexibility.

An overview of the D-Max range is available online.

2021 Jeep Compass Night Eagle: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: The new, to the Compass range, Night Eagle. It’s now the entry level to the Compass family, and perhaps even the Jeep range, with a couple of compromises.

How Much Does It Cost?: It has a list price of $36,950, plus ORC, which in context is quite a competitive ask.

Under The Bonnet Is: Where we’ll find the compromises. First up, it’s front wheel drive only. No transfer case or even an all-wheel-drive option. Secondly, the transmission is a six speed auto. No eight, no nine.

The engine is the brand’s Tigershark naturally aspirated 2.4L four cylinder petrol. 129kW (6,400rpm) and 229Nm (3,900rpm) are the numbers, along with a plus-nine fuel economy.Our best was 8.8L/100km but overall it hovered between 9.5 to 9.8 from the 66L tank. Jeep says the urban figure is a somewhat frightening 11.2L/100km. Frightening because the Compass Night eagle is no heavyweight at 1,446kg.

On The Outside It’s: More like a Cherokee, even the Grand Cherokee, then ever. A brash, bluff, profile, it starts with a deep chin, the familiar seven slot grille, and the LED indicators below the main lights. The Night Eagle dips out on adaptive cruise control, auto high beam, and front parking sensors.

The lower air intake has the forward facing anti-collision sensor. Although ostensibly not aimed at off-roading Jeep advises there is a 15.8 and 30.8 degree approach and departure angle from the Compass’ 4,394mm overall length. Wheelbase is 2,636mm.A new shade, a metallic ($645 option) called Grey Magnesio, coated the body and highlighted the black painted alloys perfectly. There are Bridgestone Turanz rubber and the package is 225/55/18 in size. The rear window line kinks towards the top of the manual tailgate, and the rear door opens easily and effortlessly. There is a security cover here, and the clips that attach to the upwards folding door made a habit of coming loose.On The Inside It’s: A surprise in that it doesn’t feel an entry level machine. Leather appointed seats, steering wheel, and drive selector surrounds add a luxury touch. There is a 230V power socket and USB port for the rear seat passengers, a 12V and USB plus 3.5mm Auxiliary in the leading edge of the centre console.

The touchscreen is Jeep’s 8.4 inch unit with u-Connect, digital audio, Apple and Android compatibility, and 18 themes for the display. Although in reality there are only four or five as choices of numbers showed the same display. The double-up of climate controls via the touchscreen and the rotary/push tabs works a treat. Noticed was the hexagonal seat trim motif that was mirrored in the touchscreen’s backgrounds.

Our test vehicle was fitted with a full glass, dual pane, sunroof ($1,950 option) that works quickly. This is easily opened and closed via overhead tabs just above the driver & front passenger seats. Being entry level, it’s a key start, not push button. The key itself would feel stuck after switching off and requiring a bit of coaxing to slide out. Also, being an American design (but built in India) it’s a left hand indicator stalk and there is a quite plasticky feel in engaging it. There’s a bit of finger effort required to move it and a solid plastic sounding click when it does.

For the driver there are a pair of analogue dials with the jewelled look inserts. In between is the multifunction LCD display with nine submenus for info on economy, tyre pressures, trip meters, etc. Cabin ambience is closer to the upper end of luxury, with high quality look and feel for the plastics. Cargo space is good too at 438L.However, there is a small hiccup, and it’s when the driver’s door is opened, a slight misalignment of the trim outside leads to a scraping noise.It’s short, sharp, and annoying because this kind of quality control issue should not still be happening in a modern, robot controlled, production line.

On The Road It’s: Where we find another hiccup and it’s more troubling. The transmission, as mentioned, is a six speed auto only, and the ratios don’t quite work.

Drive around the ‘burbs’ and it sits in 4th gear, rarely moving to 5th by itself, and requires manual intervention more often to get it to drop down. 1st and 2nd, in comparison, are long, holding on and especially under a harder pedal, rather than intuitively shifting down. Climb up a slope and either 1st or 2nd, never both, will go quickly before holding onto the next. It’s not always the smoothest of shifters either, with noticeable thumps and clunks at low to suburban speeds.

Yet, on the freeway, it easily slipped to 6th and has the engine rotating at a lazy 2,000rpm. Remember, there is no turbo here, nor currently a hybrid option. It can get thrashy when pushed, as a result, with a metallic whine rising in timbre as the revs climbed.

Driveline worries aside, it’s a good steer, with perhaps just a little too much understeer as moderate cornering speeds have the Night Eagle’s nose constantly running wide. Suspension tune is adequate, with reasonable if not tightly controlled rebound and absorption on most tarmac surfaces. It did deal with shopping centre comparison speed restrictions nicely.What About Safety?: It’s well equipped with Full Speed Forward Collision Warning Plus, Reverse Camera, Blind Spot Alert, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert fitted. Seven airbags are also standard as are rear parking sensors.

What About Warranty And Service?: Five years and 100,000 kilometres; here it falls short as pretty much everyone else offers unlimited kilometres. However, roadside assistance is for the lifetime of the vehicle. Capped price servicing applies and it’s a good’un. $399 per service for the first five years on a 12 monthly or 12,000 kilometre cycle.

At The End Of The Drive. It’s a very good overall change to a new entry level vehicle, but falls down inches one area any car is judged on: how it drives. It’s almost unheard of nowadays for an auto to not fully utilise all of its cogs, and for this six speeder to be quite reluctant to move from 4th, it diminishes the driving ability and results in the user-unfriendly fuel economy as seen.It’s fair to expect the Night Eagle to be a suburban prowler, in competition with vehicles such as the Tucson, Qashqai or perhaps X-Trail, perhaps the Kia Seltos, and the all-conquering RAV4.

The cabin is a nice place to be, its handling characteristics will suit some buyers, but the issue with the transmission, in our opinion, will quickly become tiresome and become the Night Eagle’s millstone. Click here for more info.

2020 Kia Rio GT-Line: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: Kia’s second smallest car, complete with attitude and spunk. It’s a bit like “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog”. Complete with a three cylinder engine and DCT, plus some body add-ons, and in the review car’s case, an eye-catching Mighty Yellow paint, how much fight is in this pint size warrior wannabe?How Much Does It Cost?: $24,490 drive-away plus $520 for premium paint.

Under The Bonnet Is: A relatively tiny 1.0L three cylinder with the Hyundai/Kia Smartstream label. But don’t think it’s too small for the Rio. 74kW and 172Nm (1,500 to 4,000rpm) combine to foist upon the 1,197kg (dry) machine enough pizzazz and spriteliness to provide enough of a grin factor when the car is driven…ahem…appropriately.It’s cheap to run as well; our worst was 7.0L/100km, with a best of 4.1L/100, with a final average of 6.2L/100km. Tank size is 45L worth for regular unleaded. None of those figures are far from Kia’s official figures of 5.3L/6.3L/4.8L per 100km on the combined/urban, and highway drives. And not that many would, but towing is rated as 1,000kg. Transmission is a seven ratio Dual Clutch Transmission.

On The Outside It’s: Largely unchanged for the past couple of years. It sits nicely in the compact class at 4,070mm in length although it looks smaller. It’s 1,450mm high, and 1,725mm wide, sitting on a wheelbase of 2,580mm.

That means it’s a stubby little thing with short overhangs, and slightly cubical when seen from either end directly. In profile the A-pillars have a slope that matches the rear pillar, bringing some visual balance to the main body.

Driving lights are the four-cube set, cast to either end of the front bar and in an enclosure limned in black that reaches out but doesn’t quite meet a slim air intake sitting under the main slimline tiger-nose. This is echoed with a mirror set in the rear bumper that has a pair of reflectors.

Wheels are 16 spoke 17 inch alloys with dark grey highlights, shod in Continental Contisport Contact rubber at 205/45.On The Inside It’s: Quite sparsely trimmed. The seats are a black cloth with white stitched leather bolstering, white piping, and fully manually adjustable. No electronics at all. Pedals are alloy, and a carbon-fibre look inlay runs full length across the dash. Otherwise, plastics are a bit low-rent to look at and touch aside from the piano black for the air vent, touchscreen, and drive selector surrounds.

Driver’s dials are analogue with the familiar 4.2 inch info cluster. Here is where a digital screen would have been a nice step up. Aircon controls are basic yet idiot-proof dials and push-buttons, sitting over a 12V & USB port. A sole USB port sits at the end of the small centre console. The main touchscreen is an 8.0 inch unit in glorious monochrome, featuring AM, FM, and Bluetooth along with Android and Apple compatibility.Convenience features run to bottle holders in each door, a pair of console cup holders, and rain sensing wipers. No airvents for the rear seaters though… Luggage space is 325L to 980L, with the second row seats folding but not level with the boot floor. That’s not quite enough for a weekly shop for a family of four, but then, the Rio GT-Line probably wouldn’t be in a driveway for that demographic.

Solar or UV blocking glass is standard for the GT’s front three windows, with privacy glass for the rears. A drive mode tab is placed up towards the drive selector, with Eco, Normal, and Sport the choices. There’s a sporting hint with the now familiar flat bottomed tiller. Packaging overall is good thanks to the slightly boxy body shape.

On The Road It’s: Much better in Normal mode than Eco. There’s more life, lighter steering, whereas Eco drags the Rio GT-Line into the mud and everything feels heavier and slower. Sport mode adds extra zip and especially in the mid-range of the engine’s torque delivery. In Eco, the steering has a feel of the front tyres being deflated. Switch to Normal and it lightens up just enough to feel…well…normal.

The seven speed DCT isn’t one of the better of its type, nor is it one of the worst. The clutch gaps aren’t as bad as it has been, with stop then start driving feeling more intuitive and natural. And safer. It also makes for normal and sportier driving a much more enjoyable experience, as changes are sharper, crisper, and more efficiently translating into getting the Rio percolating.

Engage Sport and it’s even swifter, however switching to manual changing (no paddle shifters either, by the way) and there’s a hint more speed in the cogs swapping. Under a gentle foot there is also the audible changes for the gears, with the three cylinder thrum that is so characteristic of these engines running up and down in the revs as the clutch disengages and re-engages for the next ratio. Some DCTs take time to warm up and perform at their best, Kia’s is somewhere between that and being ready to go from the get-go.Ride quality is where the Rio GT-Line varies. It’s too hard sometimes, with little travel and tyre absorption. There’s just that little bit too much bang-crash on some road surfaces, but in contrast nicely dials out any float, with zero rebound on those wallowy surfaces. There is ample grip from the Continental rubber too, making cornering at increasing speed a simple proposition, alongside easy lane changing.

Hit a flat road and it’s ideal, feeling tied to the tarmac, and it’s on this kind of surface where the GT part of GT-Line pays off. Ditto for the engine as that broad swathe of torque effortlessly pulls the GT-Line along. The steering is almost ideally weighted, with little effort needed to switch lanes. Road noise is noticeable but not to the point that cabin conversations feel intruded upon.

What was apparent, too, was the rate of rolling acceleration. Where a merge road goes from 80 to 100 or 110, a change of pace, rapidly, is needed. Here the Rio GT-Line shows appreciable agility without being a neck-snapper, with decent forward progress. It’s perhaps where the 1.2L three with more torque would be a better fit for the name GT-Line.What About Safety?: Autonomous Emergency Braking with Forward Collision Warning, Lane Following and Lane Keeping Assist. Six airbags, and the mandated assorted electronic driver aids are standard.

What About Warranty And Service?: Kia’s standard seven year warranty applies. Total service costs across the seven years is $3,299. That’s an average cost per year of $471 or just nine dollars per week. As is the norm, it’s service four for the big ticket cost at $704, with year five under half that at $319. Year six and seven see $602 and $569.

At The End Of The Drive. Kia’s Rio GT-Line isn’t aimed at the hot hatch market. It’s not aimed at the warm hatch market. It’s aimed at those that want a semblance of performance combined with user friendly economy figures and no need for anything bigger. It’s an ideal first car for the new driver as it’s not excessively endowed with snap/crackle/pop BUT there is enough to provide the appropriate grin factor.

As such, the Kia Rio GT-Line offers up a decent amount of fight however those looking for something with more spice will look elsewhere. That’s no shade on the GT-Line, by the way. It’s intended to be what it is and it fulfills that particular brief perfectly. Check it out, here.

MG Powers Up With Australian Release of ZS EV.

Historic nameplate MG joins the EV revolution with the all-new, full-electric MG ZS EV compact SUV. Now available to customers in Australia and New Zealand in one trim level only, it’s the cheapest EV available with a drive-away price of $43,990. That price includes an eight year, 160,000 kilometre battery warranty, and a five year, unlimited kilometre, car warranty. Roadside assistance is included for five years.It’s a price that is sure to attract keen interest. The CEO of MG Australia and New Zealand, Peter Ciao, said: “Until now, buyers have had to pay a premium price for an EV. This has meant that only a small portion of the public can afford to buy an EV. Our vision at MG Motor is to change this situation by making electric vehicles available and accessible to everyone. By removing the affordability barrier, we are seeking to fast track EV adoption in Australia and New Zealand.” MG have located the charge port for the front electric motor rated at 105kW and 353Nm at a central point. Charging is provided via a standard CCS2 socket located conveniently behind the grille. The flexibility comes from plugging in a standard household socket or a DC charge cable up to 350kW. This will bring the battery to 80 percent charge from zero in just 45 minutes. At home, it’s a standard overnight charge time for the 44.5kW battery, itself an in-house development by MG. The company is just one of three to have their own battery building facility.That battery size allows for the MG ZS EV to look at a range of just over 260 kilometres. It also endows the MG ZS EV with a 0-100kph time of a scintillating 3.1 seconds from a 1,532kg body, just 50kg heavier than a standard ZS. There are three drive modes to take advantage of, being Eco, Normal, and Sport.

The sole trim level doesn’t skimp on the niceties. Above the passengers is a Panoramic Stargazer glass roof, and at a surface coverage area of 90%, it’s one of the largest of its type. The fronts eat passengers have an 8.0 inch touchscreen complete with Apple and Android smartphone connectivity, satnav, and six speaker audio. drive selection is via a rotary gear selector and there are three regenerative modes.

The dimensions (4,314mm length, 1,809mm wide, 1,644mm tall on a 2,585mm wheelbase) provide plenty of head, leg, and shoulder room as well, along with a flat rear floor that provides up to 1,166L worth of cargo space when the 60/40 splitfold rears are folded. The leather seats have tight stitching and are well padded for comfort. Outside is the familiar “London Eye” headlight design and dual-tone alloys at 17 inches in diameter. Exterior colour choices will include one that is exclusive to the ZS EV, Clipper Blue. Buyers can also choose from Diamond Red metallic paint, Regal Blue,, metallic paint, and Dover White or Pebble Black.MG Pilot is the main safety system including Adaptive Cruise Control, Front Collision and Lane Departure Warning, plus Emergency Braking, and Speed Assist. It’s a five star safety rating for the MG ZS EV, with a high torsional strength cabin and rigidity factor. The battery has been certified independently to be fire, submersion, dust, pressure, impact, and salt spray resistant.

Our friends over at Exhaust Notes Australia attended the launch, and have provided this initial review

‘Electric for everyone’
MG Motor’s parent company, SAIC Motor, has invested heavily in electric as well as other new energy vehicle technologies, processes and battery production, making it one of only a handful of auto manufacturers to own its EV supply chain. In 2019, that expertise resulted in the production of more than 185,000 electric vehicles, making it one of the top five EV producers globally by volume. MG Motor now brings this experience to the local market, enabling it to deliver state-of-the-art EV technology at the best value and packed with features.

Novated Leasing: It’s Worth It!

The short answer is Absolutely !!!

Then they ask, what is it?

A novated lease is an agreement between your employer, a finance company and yourself.

When you choose the car you want, you then enter into a finance agreement in your own name. Then you, your employer and the finance company all sign a novation agreement. A key item here is that some lease companies will allow an employee to “finance” their existing vehicle or a pre-owned vehicle. You choose the car you want.

Your employer will make the monthly lease payments to the finance company, and you can use the vehicle as part of a salary packaging arrangement. With that agreement, most of the lease, running costs of the vehicle and fringe benefits tax (FBT) are deducted from your pre-tax salary. Your income tax is then calculated on your reduced salary, which will usually increase your net disposable income.

Benefits to you, the Driver.

Tax free running costs.

Unlimited personal use.

Up front budgeted motoring

Fully managed car ownership

Fuel Card

Income maximisation.

Your company makes your monthly payment for you

Benefits to Employer.

Payroll Tax savings on every dollar spent.

Employee is in a safe late model insured roadworthy car.

Employee has no bills to pay

One touch payroll activation

Helps build Employee Morale.

No cost implementation

Fully Managed Novated Leasing is the last employee personal use tax saving options currently offered from the ATO.

Effectively this means that a purchaser doesn’t actually buy a car, it’s financed and done so by packaging a salary in a way that payments to cover the costs of the lease come out of the salary before the taxation office get their slice. And by effectively lowering the amount of salary received, the tax bracket the salary slots into can be lower and/or have a lower rate of tax applied, which can mean the after tax pay is better.

There are some immediate benefits to the driver

The car can be for private use only, or a combination of work and play. A payment structure for the lease can be worked out so running costs such as fuel, insurance, new tyres, are all a 100% pre-tax payment.

GST is saved too, as having a novated lease means motoring costs are GST free for employees.

A company such as Fincar can assist in helping you with an obligation free quote for you and your company. Call 1300 346227

Hyundai Draws The N-Line.

Hyundai’s aggressive expansion has been bolstered by the news that the Korean goliath is adding to its i30 N-Line range with the Sonata, Tucson, i20, and Kona to all be given N-Line treatment. The current expected timeline is by the end of 2021 to have the full range in showrooms. This also includes the soon to be facelifted i30 hatch and new i30 sedan.Spearheading the launch, with i30 already available, is the new Sonata range. A heavily revised exterior brings dramatic lines to the handsome mid-sizer, including a unique frontal treatment which features Hyundai’s new signature Parametric Jewel Pattern grille. There are LED driving lights that run across the top of the assertively styled headlights and follow the leading edge of the bonnet’s shutline. In profile a hard and sharp edge rises over the elegantly sculpted flanks, finishing over a restyled rear diffuser in a bespoke N Line design and double twin-tipped exhaust outlets. Rear lights are low a striking U-shape on each side and joined by a brilliantly lit horizontal strip.

Power is from the Sonata N Line’s Smartstream 2.5 litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine which delivers 213kW and 422Nm of torque between 1,650 and 4,000 rpm. Transmission is the slick eight speed dual-clutch auto. That torque is courtesy of a turbo and a new cylinder head to allow better breathing. Dry mass is 1,636kg, and the body sits on its own unique suspension tune. There are firmer bushings, revised shock absorber valving plus higher spring rates whilst roll is controlled even more thanks to larger sway bars front and rear.To deal with the unexpected, N Line Sonata gets the full safety rig. It’ll be loaded with Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Reverse Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist and Lane Follow Assist. Factor in Advanced Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go and Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist and the N Line Sonata is covered.

Naturally there is a significant interior upgrade package as standard. A perforated leather wrapping for the steering wheel starts off, with supportive sports seats stitched in red. Sporty highlights come from the alloy pedals and alloy look trim for the gear selector and steering wheel.A customisable 10.25 inch widescreen touchscreen is front and centre. The driver sees a 12.3 inch full colour screen. This will provide four views, being driver assistance, parking assistance, navigation, and utility features. For sound and mobile phone support, there is dual Bluetooth streaming, allowing one to pair for music, the other for calls. Tunes will pump from a Bose 12 speaker system, and extra convenience comes from a smartphone charge pad, Hyundai’s Remote Start service, and soft touch exterior door handles.

The company also unveiled early hints on the Tucson N Line. Confirmation of on-sale dates is yet to be received.The release of the N Line foreshadows a step forward for the conglomerate of Hyundai, Genesis, and Kia. ccOS, the connected car Operating System has been developed in-house at Hyundai, and will be offered across the brands from 2022. The services has been working with computer parts maker NVIDIA, familiar to many for their Shield streaming device and graphics cards.

Standard across all models will be a heightened in-vehicle infotainment delivery, combining audio, video, navigation, connectivity, and artificial intelligence (AI)-based ‘connected car’ services, which will be broken down into four core areas of interest and usebility.

Secure Computing will offer protection for the vehicle with a monitoring of in- and external vehicle networks, and keeping data that is associated with vehicle safety isolated. Seamless Computing will focus on a provision of an uninterrupted service of connected smart devices and infrastructure. Intelligent Computing works with the AI to learn the driver’s style and driving methods. NVIDIA’s GPUs will process data in huge streams from within and outside the vehicle, with a look forward to new I.T. technologies

Hyundai Motor Group has been working with NVIDIA since 2015, and the NVIDIA DRIVE platform already underpins the advanced IVI systems found in the Genesis GV80 and G80, with a new fully digital interface expected to be unveiled in late 2021.

(Pictures are of overseas models and supplied by Hyundai.)

2021 Kia Sorento Sport+ Diesel: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: Kia’s redesigned, inside and out, Sorento, specifically the Sport+. This sits one step below the range-topper GT-Line, which does have a couple of nifty features, plus a higher level of seat trim. However there’s little, in real terms, missing, for most drivers here. It’s a four model range, (S, Sport and Sport+, and GT-Line) all autos of course, with petrol engines driving only the front wheels or a diesel and AWD combination. The auto for the petrol is the normal torque converter type, the diesels run a dual-clutch.

How Much Does It Cost?: Kia’s spec sheet shows $57,390 driveaway for the vehicle supplied, including $695 for the sparkling Mineral Blue premium paint.

Under The Bonnet Is: 440Nm and 148kW from a 2,151cc diesel. That torque is spread from 1,750rpm to 2,750rpm. 5.3L/100km is the quoted highway figure, we saw a best of 5.7L/100km. Combined fuel consumption is quoted as 6.1L/100km and urban as 7.4L/100km from the 67.0L tank. Our overall figure for our 70/30 urban/highway run was 7.2/100km. The engine is a new design as such, weighing around 19 kilos lighter thanks to the integration of alloy in the process.

On The Outside It’s: Heavily facelifted, not unattractive, and big. 4,810mm in overall length, it stands 1,700mm in height with roofrails, and has a solid stance with a width of 1,900mm and a wheelbase of 2,815mm. Length and width are up by 10mm, and the wheelbase is increased by 35mm compared to the predecessor. Overhangs, though, have been reduced.

Kia’s signature “Tiger grille” now has LED headlights on either side, with multi-focal reflection emitters and LED driving lights in a cool boomerang angle. The indicators are also LED. The overall styling is sharper, edgier, and the leading edge of the bonnet is a sweeping curve that has the top section finishing over the front wheels. Effectively, Kia has taken the ovoid look of the previous model and applied a rasp to the curves, then filed them to a fine edge. It looks great and menacing in all black paint.

A striking motif, and one not to our tastes, is a new Kia signature and it’s the fin on the C-pillar. In alloy-look plastic, it’s a jarring, discordant look in comparison to the otherwise appealing lines. At the rear are new vertical styled lights that evoke a certain American two door sports car. Gone are the broader, horizontal, clusters from before. Another off styling choices is the location of the tab for the powered rear door. It’s right at the bottom of the metal, not in the much easier to access number plate recess. Underneath this is a restyled valance that hides the exhaust tips nicely.To help differentiate between the models, wheel sizes vary. The S has 17inch alloys, the Sport pair have 19s, and 20s underpin the GT-Line. 235/55 Continentals wrap the wheels.

On The Inside It’s: A very good looking place to be. Aside from being a seven seater, with tilt and slide centre row seats, there’s a completely new look for the dash. The airvents have a strong resemblance to the tail lights from a 1960s HR Holden, there is a double widescreen look to the driver’s display and touchscreen, and a better looking centre console.The seats are superbly comfortable, with support and comfort of just the right mix. the front seats in the Sport+ are both heated and vented in the GT-Line only, with the Sport+ having heating only, however the second row seats also get heating. All windows are one touch and there is a “pinch” safety function that stops upward movement if an obstruction is detected.

From the driver’s seat, adjustable ten ways electrically, the dash immediately ahead has the familiar analogue dials and colour info screen, however the housing is all new. the almost redundant binnacle sits over a broad, rectangular housing which runs in one unbroken line to finish level with the passenger side of the centre console. that extension now houses a 10.25 inch ultra-widescreen touchscreen. Here the screen itself defaults to a map and audio split, with the map quite dark. A subtle arrow tab allows for the audio screen to go full width. In the GT-Line a 12.3 inch LCD screen replaces the dials seen in the Sport+

New haptic touch controls underneath this replace the more familiar press or rocker switches for most of the basic aircon controls such as fan speed, the actual a/c engagement, and fresh or recirculating air. They’re a bit hit and miss in operation as more than once (ok, quite a few times) it took two or three attempts to touch the right one on the go. Convenience features come from auto on headlights, auto wipers, and a tab for opening the tailgate.On the dash and doors are pieces of pressed alloy look material, and there is a diamond look for the embossing. This is mirrored in the seat trim for the Sport+. For the third row there is switches to fold the centre row, and a aircon dial plus a pair of USB ports, one for each side. This echoes the front console having three, one for Apple and Android access (which also have voice recognition), the other two specifically for charging on the go. The centre row seats have their own console airvents and a pair of or charge ports, one USB and the other a 12V.Audio quality is amazing. The DAB tuner has better sensitivity than others, including some other Kia products, and there is something in the speaker mix that brought forth notes previously unheard. There’s depth, a great soundstage, and enough punch to please.

Those second row seats have their own party piece. In the cargo section and on the bottom of the sides of the seats are a pair of buttons. The rear buttons fold them, the seat mounted one fold and automatically slide the seats forward. Handy is the word here. Boot space has grown; fold the second and third row and there is 2,011L, up by a huge 349L compared to the previous model. With the third row folded up, it’s a smallish but up by 45L, 187L, growing to 616L if the third row is folded.Noise insulation is solid. During our test drive, the cicada season was in full flight (no pun intended) and the decibel levels outside was considerable. Hop into the Sport+ and the din was almost completely muted.

On The Road It’s: Almost faultless. There were occasional light-switch moments as the engine’s torque suddenly arrived as the electronics determined forward speed needed oomph. Judicious judgement of the throttle otherwise allowed for more precise acceleration, and there’s some serious urge from the quite small engine. Sink the slipper and the momentary hesitation expected from a turbo-diesel is quickly despatched, changing to getting shoved in the seat forward motion.

The AWD system helps getting grip to all four corners as the torque-split on demand system does its thing. Our time with the car coincided with some fairly decent rainfals, and the AWD was confident and sure-footed throughout. Underway and it’s clear the SmartStream diesel is effortless, and refined, with absolutely no diesel chatter. It’s muted, quiet, but vocal enough to let you know it’s ready and waiting to play. Towing? A not unreasonable 2,000kg.

Being AWD capable also allows Kia to add in, on top of the Comfort/Sport/Smart/Eco drive modes, Snow, Sand, and Mud. These are activated via a simple push of a console dial to switch between normal or soft-roading modes, lighting up the chosen mode. All modes are essentially a changing of the tune for the engine and transmission; Sport really sharpens things up for the eight speed auto with crisper, quicker changes. Smart uses an AI to learn the driver’s habits, whilst Eco and Comfort are best used for highway driving.

Road manners for the Sorento Sport+ are at a very high level. Drive is selected via a traditional rocker lever, and underway the Australian tuned strut and multi-link suspension is impossible to fault. Suppleness is there when wafting along, absorbing road irregularities without a twitch, whilst getting sporty sees the upper end of the suspension bringing a grin to the face for its prowess. Hit a bump, a ripple, a speed restrictor, and the Sorento Sport+ blinks and forgets about that momentary intrusion, settling the two tonnes of mass as if nothing happened. Steering weight is noticeable for the fact it’s just right in heft and feedback, and the stoppers could do with perhaps a hint more feedback.

Noticeable too is the fact the dual-clutch auto doesn’t exhibit any of the quirks the design is infamous for. No gap between gear engagement, from Reverse to Drive it’s quick to engage and smooth too. No clunks, no pausing, with the only minor hiccup a feeling of wanting to move forward when stopped at a sign or red light. Smooth and quiet, it’s now one of the best of its type available.

The adaptive cruise control is also spot on. Some can be somewhat iffish in their performance; here it’s accurate and silken in its adaptability to traffic flow. There is also a forward traffic alert that bings and flashes a note on the driver info screen to say it’s ok to move on.What About Safety?: In honesty, it lacks nothing. The GT-Line gets a 360 degree camera view, Blind Spot Monitor and Parking Collision Avoidance Assist, otherwise all grades have what’s expected. Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist, AEB with Forward Collision Warning (cyclist, pedestrian, car, and junction) and Rear Cross Traffic plus the mandated electronics are standard. There are also the usual front and side airbags, plus now a Front Centre Side airbag. Our friends at Practical Motoring described it as thus.

What About Warranty And Service?:
Kia’s famous seven years warranty and unlimited kilometres is of course standard. Servicing over the seven years sees a maximum cost (unless there are issues outside the service boundaries) of $3,463, with the first year at $335, year four at $729 being the most expensive, with yearly or 15,000k intervals.

At The End Of The Drive. Reading social media can be a bit of an eye opener when it comes to the puerile and pathetic bias shown by some Australians towards Kia and sister brand Hyundai. Long gone are the days of basic, boring, cheap feeling looks and feel, replaced by European standard designs, and upmarket tactility. Ride and handling are world class, and especially tuned for Australia’s roads bring potentially better comfort, road holding, and quietness.

The 2021 Kia Sorento Sport+ is an absolute winner for families, with the perfect mix of features and convenience, driving styles, and all housed in those rugged good looks. As a bang for your buck and quality family conveyance, it’s hard to beat.