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Safety

Yellow Or Blue: The Question That Exposed Dangerous Drivers

This picture, put into circulation by the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland, asked what really should have been a simple question to answer. Of the four cars pictured, which has the right of way?

Surprisingly, an overwhelming amount of respondents to the question, shared by us also, said the blue car.  Straight away this raises an issue that should have the politicians and heads of traffic police investigating better driver education and training.

Of the four cars, one is behind another and therefore is immediately out of the equation. The car it’s behind is at a Give Way sign, and must remain stationary until other cars have passed through. The blue car is crossing a clearly marked delineation on the road’s surface. Road regulations state that any crossing of such a marked line,including at roundabouts, merge lanes, and intersections such as this, require indication.

This leaves the yellow car, following the road as marked by the dotted centre line, as the first car to go through. The RACQ themselves published this: “The give way sign at this intersection makes the path the yellow vehicle is on the continuing road, which curves to the right. The red and orange vehicles are facing a give way sign and must give way to all other traffic. Therefore the yellow vehicle goes first, the blue vehicle goes second as it is effectively turning right off the continuing road and the red and orange vehicles follow.”

Responses to this ranged from: “ Yellow, Blue, Red, But why is Blue indicating right? There is no right turn” to “There should be a give way sign at the t-section and not where it’s currently placed.”

Questions were raised about the road design and markings: “The marks on the road mean nothing . It clearly states in the road rules all vehicles must give way to the vehicle on your right. As there is no give way sign, stop sign or arrows on road, apart from the red car with give way sign. So it is blue ,yellow and red.” It’s this kind of response that should also raise red flags with road designers.

Many queried why the blue car was indicating. The Queensland government’s official stance on this is:” When you change lanes, you must give way to any vehicle in the lane you are moving into. This rule applies even if your lane is ending and you have to cross a lane line. “ These are from the NSW Roads and Maritime Services website and clearly show the same regulations that should be adhered to. And in one succinct sentence: ” Generally if you’re turning across another vehicle’s path, you must give way.” At all times, any lane change, be it as shown here, or at merge lanes, or at roundabouts, indicators MUST be used.

Finally, it seems that governments really do need to rethink their road safety plan if something such as this, in a hypothetical sense, potentially translates to a real world situation. If so, it means many drivers in the blue cars would be held responsible for the crash.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Suzuki Swift GL Navigator

Good things come in small packages is a phrase that’s been around forever, it seems. And never more was it an apt phrase for a car than it is for the Suzuki Swift. It’s under four metres in length, has a driveaway price of $16990, has just five gears in a manual transmission, a 1.2L engine, and 66kW. And it’s a helluva fun car to punt around. We test the 2019 Suzuki Swift GL Navigator.The range has been rationalised somewhat, with the Swift GL dropped and the once middle of the range Navigator now the entry level. Above that sits the Navigator with optional safety pack, GLX, and Swift Sport

The car reviewed has a five speed manual and it takes a bit of getting used to. Not because it’s a manual but because there is almost no spring pressure on the gate’s mechanism. It’s limp, weak, and almost void of any real feel through the changes. That’s matched by a clutch pedal feel of pretty much the same. There’s no weight (just like the car at 870kg dry), no real pressure required to push it down.But once both are recognised for their foibles, they mesh quite well, and it really only took an hour or so to get the hang of how and where to utilise the pair in their movements. They also work well with the small engine. The 1.2L DualJet engine has just 120 torques and that comes at 4400 rpm. Simply put, it means that a bit of gear rowing is required, as is a bit of patience in regards to forward motion. The upside is economy, and Suzuki quotes around 4.5L/100km for the combined cycle. It needs to be economical as the fuel thimble holds just 37 litres. On our test the car, literally brand new at 11 kilometres on pick up, covered 300 kilometres on a half tank.Acceleration is leisurely, at best, however once the engine reaches 3000rpm the characteristics change noticeably. There’s a change of note, urge, as it is, increases, and it feels as if it spins just a bit easier. The five speed sometimes feels as if an extra gear would be handy however considering fifth sees around 2000rpm at highway speeds, it wouldn’t have the required torque to take advantage of it.On coarse chip roads the lack of sound insulation isn’t just noticeable, it’s painful. The constant drone, and drumming, from the 185/55/16 rubber transmitted to the cabin via the MacPherson struts and torsion beam suspension, would drown out normal levels of conversation and radio, AM/FM only by the way. On the smoother blacktops it was naturally quieter and also ramped up the fun factor in the drive. The comparatively big wheelbase, 2450mm, inside the tiny body length, 3840mm, means the Swift is very chuckable in corners, with an almost point and shoot handling style. The short travel suspension did mean some bumps crashed through, but the overall result is grin inducing…in the right hands.The Swift itself underwent a mild transformation externally over a year ago, with a look more akin to the Baleno thanks to pumped out tail lights and reshaped headlights. the fun factor is shown by the front end having a “smile” thanks to the horizontal lower grille and upturned corners. These house LED driving lights and bracket a wide hexagonal grille.Inside it’s basic, but functional. The dash’s upper section has the Euro inspired sweep from the curve of the windscreen through to the doors, and that’s mirrored in a curve closer to the binnacle that houses a simple pair of dials and a relatively underused monochrome info screen. It shows trip and fuel consumption, and that’s it. The touchscreen is simple to use, uncomplicated in its usage, and sits above traditional dial and slide aircon controls. The audio system is moderate in quality but does have Auxiliary/USB, Bluetooth and voice control, plus Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Safety levels in the standard Navigator GL are fine. Six airbags, standard passive driving aids, and cruise control, are a good starting point, with the Navigator and Safety Pack version adding Adaptive Cruise Control. Reverse Camera is standard across the range but the Navigator does not come with parking sensors.Naturally the seats are manually operated, and are comfortable enough for the price point of the Swift Navigator GL. Rear leg room is fine for near-teens but not recommended for people of six feet in height, for example. Cargo room is adequate, with a maximum of 556L with the rear sears folded. On its own, the cargo will hold almost all of a standard family weekly shop.

At The End Of the Drive.
As has been mentioned in our previous reviews, the Suzuki Swift is an ideal car for those getting a start in learning to drive. The basics are all in place, the safety factor is good enough to start with, and the softish clutch & shifter won’t scare a new driver. And at just on $17K it’s a good price. Above all, once the car is understood, it really is a fun machine to roll around town in. More details on the 2019 Suzuki Swift GL Navigator can be found here.

The Right Car For Your Dog Part One: The Legal Bits

Come on, fellow pet owners: admit it.  You’ve sometimes considered the needs of your furry friends (who you might refer to as your fur-kids) when purchasing a car.  I’ve done it myself.  I’ve said no to some lovely little numbers in the past simple because they weren’t compatible with our doggo.  I haven’t gone so far as to sell a vehicle I already owned because it wasn’t dog-friendly – although I did do this for my children.

OK, now we’ve got that out in the open, so let’s talk about it.  There you are: the time has come for a new set of wheels for whatever reason and you’re looking for a new car.  You want to make sure that all of the family is happy, and this includes the four-legged members of the family.  Meaning the dog, that is.  Cats don’t always take too well to riding in cars – some do and some don’t, but dogs usually enjoy riding in cars.  So what do you have to think of when choosing a car that’s compatible with your dog?

First of all, you have to keep the legal stuff in mind.  Fortunately, the laws for travelling with dogs are a lot less stringent than the laws about children in cars.  Here’s what you need to know:

  • It’s illegal to drive with a dog sitting on your lap. Obvious in the case of a St Bernard or a Newfoundland that might weigh more than you do but it also applies to Chihuahuas.
  • A dog (or any other animal!) has to be in an appropriate area of the car where your pet can’t interfere with the driver. This means that the driver’s footwell is out of the question Small dogs probably also shouldn’t sit on the bit behind the back seats in a sedan where they block the rear view mirror.  It’s best if your dog is restrained but this isn’t a legal requirement – yet!
  • Your dog probably shouldn’t be in the front passenger seat. The only possible exception would be a poodle or other teeny dog in a handbag.  Anything larger could easily become a nuisance to the driver, either by whacking you with a wagging tail or putting a nose (or paw) onto the controls.  A big dog will get in the way and a small dog would be badly hurt or even killed by an airbag going off in an emergency situation.  If you feel you absolutely have to have your dog in the front passenger seat (e.g. in a single-cab ute on a nasty cold rainy day) then use one of those doggy seatbelts or Doggo will try to get all over you.  Or at least my dog would.
  • If your dog is on the back of a ute deck without a canopy, it has to be restrained so it can’t jump or fall off (or lunge at passers-by when the ute’s parked).
  • Don’t leave your dog in the car – your dog can’t stay cool enough and can overheat very, very easily, which constitutes animal cruelty.

While we’re on the topic of dogs in cars, there are two things more that you need to know.  First, opening the window a weeny bit doesn’t do much to cool down the air temperature in the car, and it’s cool air that your dog needs to stay at the right temperature.  Leaving the A/C on or parking in the shade does something but not much.  And giving the dog water does nothing because the water heats up inside the car as well.  The only time that you’re probably OK to leave a dog in a car is if it’s a nasty cold rainy day, preferably during winter.  Second, breaking into a car to rescue a dog that you think is suffering inside a vehicle is considered vandalism, breaking and entering.  What’s more, if the dog in question isn’t suffering from heat exhaustion – for example, if it is a chilly day – the dog will see “strange person aggressively breaking into my property” and will react accordingly.  Dear well-meaning person who tried to break into my brother’s Subaru  (which was parked in the shade with the windows half open during winter) to “save” the pair of pitbulls sleeping on the back seat, you were flipping lucky that said pitbulls were a soppy pair of wimps and not at all like the stereotype pitbulls.

The answer to the question as to what to do with your dog when you’re out and about and need to nip into a shop where you can’t take the dog?  Step One is to leave the dog at home but this isn’t always feasible.  When I took my dog to the vet and I needed to pick up some bread from the supermarket practically next door, I did not drive home, drop off Doggo then go back to the supermarket!  Step Two (which is what I did) is to have the right sort of car: either a ute where you can open the back door of the canopy, which does allow enough air to circulate, or something with nice handy spokes on the alloy wheels or else a towbar so you can tie the dog up outside the car.  Step Three is to look for an alternative to tie your dog to.  If you’re lucky, your local shops have a spot where you can “park your dog” outside.  Failing that, a parking meter will do and it will keep your dog entertained with the doggy equivalent of social media at the same time.

OK, but what sort of car do you need for when you’re travelling from A to B with Doggo beside you for company?  The breed of car will depend on the breed of dog – and that deserves a post of its own, so I’ll cover it in Part 2.

Doors Opening For New Racers Through Race Academy International

Fangio. Brabham. Schumacher. Senna. Webber. Johnson. Brock. Recognise a few names? They all have one thing in common and no, it’s not the massive talent they displayed in their prime. Each and every driver had training, and lots of it. Some race drivers try and try and try and get nowhere because their talent, as good as it may be, may not be good enough. The few, the lucky few, that do, have that extra special percent that has the right door open.

However, there is a new race door opening and it’s one that will still require talent. Race Academy International is a new operation and staffed by people that, collectively, have more racing experience in the blood than many of us can ever comprehend. Key to its success is the sheer spread of the instructors brought on board to help interested drivers open one of the four doors RAI has available. It’s a genuine, and real, driver’s academy, where scores are weighed up by the instructors after each applicant is put through a stringent series of tests.Door one is just $990 and the Freshman level will look at car setup, feedback to the instructors, reviewing and interpreting data, plus a full half day session at Sydney Motorsport Park which includes two 15 minute trackwork tests. Just to add extra spice, a problem solving session with an engineer during a data review will be conducted.

Door 2 is the Clubman, at $1850, and looking at drivers that perhaps already have had some track time and need or want to improve upon that. There will be more intensive scoring and, in addition, a media training session and debrief interview with a motorsport journalist. Finally, any flags that a driver must need to know about on a race track will be covered in a training session.

More experienced drivers can opt for door 3 or 4, with the State and Ultra sessions especially tuned for those that have that, the experience, and the mental drive to win. All sessions in each level are scored and runners up will be formally recognised and awarded. Costs here are just $2850 and $2200.Some of the people doing the training have oil and petrol running in their veins. Matt Shylan, a regular competitor at Sydney Motorsport Park, is a relative late starter, competing in motorkhanas at the age of 12. Highly respected river, team manager, and experienced in motorsport PR, Gary Mennell brings 30 years of experience to RAI. Josh Muggleton was a competitor in the Nissan GT Academy International, has raced at Bathurst, and works with the Trackschool driver training group. Linda Devlin brings an extensive CV to RAI, with endurance racing, historic racing, and numerous class racing wins. Linda started competing at just 8 years of age.

Further information about this exciting initiative can be found here.

BabyDrive: Everything You Wanted To Know About Kids In Cars In One Handy Place

If you’re about to become a parent for the first time – or if you’re revisiting parenthood after a long break (it happens) – then you might be wondering what sort of car is right for your new family.  It’s not a stupid question.  Once upon a time, it might have been all right to sling the carry cot across the back seat and make the older siblings share a seatbelt and/or ride in the boot, but you’d get in major trouble if you tried that today.  They’re serious about car seats for children these days and the law says that children under the age of seven can’t wear an adult seatbelt – and even then, this depends on their size and height and some children may need a booster seat until they’re 12 or so.  (As an aside, I’m kind of glad that they didn’t specify a particular height or weight for using a booster seat – some petite adult women, such as my 18-year-old daughter, may not meet these and who wants to sit their license while sitting in a booster seat?).

Anyway, if you’re a parent-to-be, you mind may be buzzing with questions about what sort of car you need to get.  And if it isn’t, it should be!  A lot of first-time parents fall into the trap of putting a lot of thought and care into the birth plan and how they want the birth of their new baby to go.  While this is all very well, what they don’t tell you (and what I wish I had known all those years ago) is that labour and birth only last (at most) one day.  All the other bits about parenthood and life with a small child go on for months – years!  So if you haven’t started thinking about what sort of car you need as a new parent, it’s time to give it some thought.

There are a lot of things to consider and it’s easy to make a mistake.  Let’s just say that there’s a possibility that you may have to put that little sporty roadster on hold for a bit and buy something more family-friendly.  Been there, done that.  We said goodbye to our old Morris (which would be an absolute classic and worth a mint today if we’d hung onto it) because the pushchair wouldn’t fit in the boot and got a Toyota sedan – which was then traded in when Child #2 came along because there was no way that anybody could sit in the front seat when there were two car seats in the back – and no room between said seats either!  I’ve been watching my brother and his wife start to go through the same series of problems.

Imagine that you could find someone who could give you all the advice you need – kind of like a motor-savvy big sister who can answer all those very practical questions even better than we can here at Private Fleet (although we try our best!).  For example, if you’re expecting Child #3 and the eldest is still of an age to need a booster seat, or if you’ve got twins or triplets on the way, are there any cars out there that can fit three car seats across the back?  Which cars provide enough leg room in the rear seats so that bored toddlers don’t try whiling away the time stuck in traffic kicking the driver in the kidneys?  How do you know if the stroller will fit in the boot?

Well, this sort of big sisterly advice is exactly what you’ll get from a great new site that’s linked with Private Fleet called BabyDrive (yes, this is a shameless plug for the site but no, I did not write it, although I wish I had, and I wish Tace the reviewer lived a bit closer than Queensland because she’d probably be my new BFF).  This is a great site that has all the answers you need to do with choosing a new vehicle that will suit your new family – yes, it even tells you which vehicles can fit five car seats comfortably and which MPVs have the easiest access to the third row of seats.  It’s the sort of thing I wish that I had on hand when I was a new parent – and I’d certainly recommend it to any parent-to-be looking for a new family vehicle.  Like we do, BabyDrive reviews vehicles, but unlike us, they do it all from a parenting perspective.  You won’t find the hot little roadsters reviewed here and the car reviews don’t cover torque or fuel economy stats much.  However, each car is rated for driver comfort (you’ve got to love a review that tells you whether the headrest position works well with the typical ponytail hairstyle adopted by mums on the go!), carseat capacity, storage, safety and noise.  The reviews include some descriptions of driving as a new mother that will give you a rueful chuckle or two – even if you, like me, have your baby days well behind you.  It’s the sort of review that we couldn’t do here on Private Fleet unless I kidnapped my baby nephew.  We’ll tell you the other bits and pieces – as well as helping you score a great deal on pricing (another thing that’s appreciated by not just new parents!).  The reviews feature a video segment as well as a written review – great for those who are more visually oriented.

The noise review is particularly useful, especially given the tendency these days for cars to produce all kinds of beeps as warnings.  If you don’t know about the old parenting trick of going for a wee drive to help soothe a fretful child off to sleep, you know it now!  However, all the good soothing work of a nicely purring motor and the gentle motion of a car on the go can be undone by some wretched lane departure warning shrieking or a parking sensor bleeping, waking your baby up just as you get home.

And yes, you will find some hatchbacks reviewed on BabyDrive!  Of course, the big SUVs, MPVs and 4x4s feature heavily (and, as an extra piece of advice from a more experienced parent, these will stand you in good stead once your kids hit the school and teen years, and you have to take your turn doing the carpool run, or if you are ferrying a posse of teens to the movies or a sports match).  However, if it’s not a “BabyDrive” (i.e. something suitable for small children), then it won’t feature!

Check it out yourself at BabyDrive.com.au.

Kia Really Goes To Rio and Hyundai Nexo Goes Five Star.

Turbo or not turbo, that is the question. Kia seems to think the answer is yes, with the petite little Rio getting a rejig both in the mechanical and model sense. Finally the four speed auto has been given the flick and will be replaced by a six speed. The Si and SLi have also been discontinued and replaced by a model called Sport which will take the new six speed. The GT has a revvy 1.0L three cylinder and Kia’s own seven speed dual clutch auto.It’ll still be a three model range. The S kicks everything off with the unchanged 74kW four with six pseed manual or, sadly, the four speed auto. There’s a pretty good list of standard equipment including the expected stability and safety programs, reverse camera, reverse sensors, six airbags, and the smart apps of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Sport goes up a notch with a leather trimmed tiller, the aforementioned transmission choices, leather trimmed gear selector, and electric folding mirrors. It’ll also roll on stylish 17 inch alloys.

The top of the range GT-Line features a three cylinder turbo engine. It pack a fair bit of a punch for the size, with 88kW and 172Nm of torque on tap. The new seven speed dual clutch auto should take advantage of that and make the GT-Line the car it’s deserved to be. Autonomous Emergency Braking, Idle Stop and Go, and Lane Keep Assist enhance the appeal. The funky GT-Line body kit, LED driving lights and position lamps, LED rears and LED fog lamps add to the visuals of the pert Rio GT-Line.Along with Kia’s standard seven year warranty comes some sharp pricing. The S manual is a steal at $16,990 driveaway, and just $500 more for the S auto. The new Sport will start at $17,990 for the manual and $18,990 for the auto, with both also a driveaway price. The GT-Line remains super competitive at $21,990 and with the new seven speed DCT promises fire cracker performance in its price and class. Contact Kia for more details.A car due to land in Australia in the first half of 2019 is the hydrogen fed Hyundai Nexo. With the known volatility of the fuel, safety is paramount and the Nexo has achieved a Euro NCAP five star rating. This makes it the world’s first fuel cell vehicle to receive this rating. To back up the claim is a full suite of safety equipment under the Hyundai SmartSense banner. Forward Collision Avoidance Assist with pedestrian assist utilises radar and camera technology. In a three stage process the FCA will alert the driver by sound and by a visual alarm. Assessing the situation the onboard system may apply the brakes depending on the danger level. Maximum emergency braking is applied if the system feels it’s warranted.The onboard Lane Keeping Assist is part of the package that helped gain the EuroNCAP five star rating. That’s backed up by the Lane Following Assist system that’s also standard equipment. The pair keep the Nexo on the straight and narrow at speeds up to 150 kilometres per hour. Contact Hyundai for more details.

Robots And Skeletons From Kia And Hyundai

As often as science fiction leads to real life science fact, the reverse applies more than expected. Robotic assistance in various forms have been a part of sci-fi lore for decades and in films such as Aliens we’ve seen what are called exoskeletons. Hyundai and Kia, with the latter a major and wholly owned sub-section of Hyundai, are working together to develop the Hyundai Vest Exoskeleton (H-VEX). AI, or Artificial Intelligence, is also recognised as a major area of growth in technology, and established a specific robotics team to work on developing the technology and where applications can be utilised. Along with the Hyundai Chairless Exoskeleton or H-CEX, which adds extra support to a user’s knee joints, the units are lightweight but offer plenty of extra assistance.

The H-CEX itself weighs just 1.6 kilos yet provides up to 150 kilograms of extra lift. It’s fitted with waist, thigh, and knee belts to provide a range of adjustment for the user. The H-VEX is an upper body oriented device, and is said to be rated to an extra 60kg of mass when arms are raised above the head. the support design here focuses on the neck and upper back.
The robotics division is also investigating other forms of wearables, along with service robots and what is called micro wearability. Last years Hyundai’s robotics team showcased the Hyundai Medical exoskeleton or H-MEX. This provided a higher level of mobility for paraplegics and the infirm, with the end result being the device should be properly registered for legal use in the medical field. An extension of this is the HUMA, or Hyundai Universal Medical Assist program. This device can assist in having a human run at up to 12 km/h when needed.

AI is being developed for service and sales robots. Areas such as a natural conversation level and a natural mobility look & feel to assist in engaging with clients in environments such as car dealerships. By being able to provide specifications, price options, and more, it will help customers gain vital information before a need to have a salesperson become involved.

Hyundai exoskeleton

Dr. Youngcho Chi, Executive Vice President of Strategy & Technology Division and Chief Innovation Officer of Hyundai Motor Group said, “The field of robotics has the potential to usher in a new era in our industry. The possibilities for the technology are endless – from future mobility solutions and industrial productivity aids to vital military applications, we think the future is better with robots. The huge collective experience within the Hyundai Motor Group will facilitate rapid progress in the coming years. We are excited about current developments, and very optimistic for the use of this technology to improve lives around the globe.”

A Danger In Safety.

Evolution is a part of our lives and nowhere more evident than in the growth and change to the humble horseless carriage. From an open cabin with a tiny horsepower or two, to nimble sports cars and big four wheel drives, there’s been plenty of changes to witness.

Steam power came and went, electricity is back in vogue, and the fuel we use is still dinosaur based but fed to the engine under pressure, not sucked in by the sweep of a crankshaft.

We’ve seen the development of disc brakes, improvements in chassis design, changes to the structure of the glass in the windows. Parking sensors, rear view pointing cameras, even the pedals in the driver’s footwell can be directed away from the feet, and then there are bonnets that pop up to help minimise impact on a pedestrian busy looking at something in their hand that has roots in a 1960s sci-fi show.

Lighting technology has changed too. Candles in a lantern being waved by someone walking in front of a slow moving horseless carriage have given way to halogen gas filled lamps. They have, in turn, given way to three letters that mean little to the greater populace. LED or Light Emitting Diode tech gives us a brighter, whiter, purer light, and can be seen in any colour of the spectrum.

This technology is now evolving our headlights and what is called DRL, or Daytime Running Light. But it’s here that the safety factor becomes dangerous.

In all cars is a switch, be it mounted on a stalk coming from the steering column, or a dial near the driver’s knee. This switch activates the headlights fitted to the vehicle. But not all vehicles are equal. Some have the letters “Auto”, some do not. Those with Auto do tend to have the option of Off.

Why is this crucial? Simple. Auto means the headlights will light by themselves once a sensor determines light levels have fallen far enough to make seeing forward clearly difficult. Those that do not have Auto are left to the vagaries of humanity and therefore what they deem to be dark enough to activate the lights.But it’s also here that LED technology, along with the DRL situation, that raises the danger level. Let’s take the example of a vehicle with a strip of LED DRLs above each headlight and also has globe lit driving lights in the bottom left and right corner of the front bumper.

Invariably these cars either do not have an Auto headlight function OR they have a driver that is ignorant of one small but vitally important fact. The D in DRL means DAYTIME. They’re not intended to be used as a headlight substitute. Therefore their penetration and forward spread is nowhere near that of the headlights designed and fitted. Some cars also don’t light the tail lights even when Auto is on.

What this means is the driver sees something of the road ahead but drivers behind may not clearly see the vehicle in front. This then means that safety is compromised and drivers are putting themselves and others at extra risk. So a combination of believing that LED technology in the DRLs and providing the option of Off when cars have Auto headlights is a dangerous safety measure.

How Not To Use Your Phone In Your Car

Don’t stop reading and decide that this post isn’t relevant to you because you’re not one of those social media-obsessed millennials. The fact is that it’s not just teens and twenty-year-olds that get distracted by that beeping phone when they ought to be concentrating on their driving.  The problem seems to be common to all age groups. In the US (and possibly also here in Australia), it’s busy middle-aged people who are the most likely to be busted using their phones illegally while driving.

You’re going to have to break yourself of that habit of just taking a quick look at your phone to see what it’s notifying you about.  You know that it’s not safe and you know that the potential consequences go way beyond just getting busted and slapped with a fine.  To help you kick the habit, here’s a few things you could try to help you get out of the habit of checking texts, posts and calls while you’re driving.

(1) Analyse your excuses. Ask yourself why you feel that (a) you need to take a look at your phone right now and (b) why the law (yes, the law) about not looking at your phone when you’re driving applies to you.  Perhaps some of these sound familiar…

  • It could be important/urgent.
  • I’m a good/experienced driver and I know what I’m doing, not like those teenagers who are always on their phones.
  • The road’s not that busy right now.
  • I could miss out on bagging that new client/job/contract.
  • I’m only taking a quick look to see who it’s from.
  • I was at a red light so it’s OK.
  • I was just looking at the time.
  • I’m just looking at a photo.
  • I’m just taking a photo.
  • I’m perfectly capable of multitasking.
  • I’m trying to identify the song on the radio with the Shazam app.
  • I can text without looking at the keys/screen.

The cops have heard them all before…

Honestly, there isn’t a text, post or call that isn’t so urgent that it can’t wait 10 seconds while you find a place to pull over safely.  Yes, even that call that you need to make to secure that business deal – and if you were in the middle of a conversation that important, you shouldn’t have got behind the wheel in the first place.  The same goes for the text or call to the family or the boss to say that you’re running late – a few seconds later won’t make that much difference to them or you, but an accident while driving distracted will make a huge difference.

(2) Go cold turkey. As part of your pre-driving routine (closing the door, adjusting your seat if needed, putting on your seatbelt, starting the engine), either switch your phone off or put it in the back seat on the passenger side where you can’t reach it. Then you’ll either not know that you’re being notified or you’ll hear the beep but not be able to do anything about it until you can stop and reach the phone.  In the case of being able to hear the notification, you will probably find that the urge to respond instantly will pass after a few seconds, or at least a few minutes.

(3) Get an app. There are quite a few apps on the market that will autorespond for you if someone tries texting or calling while you’re driving. OK, you have to activate the app but this can easily become part of your pre-driving routine.  These apps might be marketed at teens and the parents of teens, but they work for everybody, just like the laws of the land and the laws of physics.

(4) Mute it. If you can’t hear the notification, you won’t be tempted to respond when you shouldn’t.  So mute your phone and don’t even have it on vibrate.

(5) Go offline. An awful lot of beeps and pings your phone makes are notifications from social media and emails.  The trouble with quite a few phones (at least it’s the case with mine) is that the notification for a text is the same as a notification for an email or an update.  Avoid quite a lot of temptations by going offline.

(6) Send a text before you drive.  Most of the texts and calls you receive are likely to be from your most important five contacts (probably family members, best friends and immediate work contacts).  Send them a group text telling them that you’re about to start driving (and maybe about how long you’ll be on the road) and they probably won’t send you anything for that period.  Again, this will dramatically cut down on the notifications tempting you.

(7) Enlist a passenger.  It’s kind of like the years B.C. (Before Cellphones) when the person in the front passenger seat had the job of reading the map for the driver. In this case, the front passenger becomes the official communications officer who will check the phone for you and tell you who it’s from, then (if necessary) opening the message and reading it out, and maybe typing out the reply you dictate.  Checking the identity of the sender before opening the message is a smart move if you and your significant other are in the habit of sending each other raunchy texts so your 10-year-old or your co-worker doesn’t suddenly end up being on the receiving end of way too much information.

Come on now – no more excuses!  Which of these steps are you going to try?

2019 Kia Sorento GT-Line Petrol.

The Kia Sorento has been given a freshen up for 2019, like most of the Kia range. The changes are subtle but effective, with enhancements inside and out. I drove the 3.5L petrol drinking V6 Kia Sorento GT-Line trim, with an eight speed auto and seven seats. It’s priced at $55,490 (RRP) and came in the optional Aurora Black metallic, an extra $595.00. Peak power from the free spinning V6 is 206kW. You’ll need to drive like an F1 driver in training to use it though, as it’s on tap at 6300rpm. More sensible is the torque. There’s 336 of them but again at a high rev point, 5000rpm.

Fuel economy has been vastly improved, even though the engine is a 3.5L, up from the previously used 3.3L. The addition of a slick eight speeder helps as we finished on 8.7L/100km. What’s truly astounding is that the big car (1932kg before fuel and passengers) was driven in a predominantly urban drive loop, reflecting its intended usage. Kia quotes 14.2L/100km from the 71L tank in a urban drive and 10.0L/100km on the combined cycle.

The engine and drive-train are a well suited combination. The throttle response is instant, there’s a genuinely angry rasp from the V6 when driven hard, and the auto is 90% on song. The final two cogs, when driven at state legal urban speeds, seem unsure as to whether they were wanted or not. There’d be no real change in the engine revs however the transmission would drop or gain a gear. Smoothly, yes, but being indecisive is not a driver’s best perception for automatics.

The Sorento was also taken into an environment it normally wouldn’t see. On the mid western fringes of the Blue Mountains is Australia’s own grand canyon. There’s some great gravel roads on which to drive and the Sorento was given its head on a few of them. There’s no full time AWD system, rather a clever torque split on demand for the diesel and front wheel drive only in the petrol. There’s four drive modes to complement this too: Eco, Sports, Smart, and Comfort. Bearing mind it’s an urban warrior, the Sorento surprised with its gravel road manners.

Handling was composed, rarely skittish, and only really exhibited nervousness on some of the more broken and rutted tracks. The ABS system worked a treat on some mid-slope downhill runs, with a balanced and measured feel to the pedal itself. The steering’s weight was spot on for the light off-road style of driving, and the Comfort drive mode turned out to be the best choice for the required driving style. The Sorento is easy to drive from the throttle; back off into turns and the nose will run slightly wide, but a feather touch puts power to the front and tightens up the steering.

Tarmac driving is, naturally, the strong part of the Sorento’s presentation. It’s nippy, belying the weight it has. Although a good 4800mm in length, and packing a 2780mm wheelbase, the Sorento wraps around like a well worn glove, with only inexperienced drivers likely to feel it’s a big ‘un. There’s some serious mumbo from the V6, even with peak torque so high up the ladder rev wise. Standing start acceleration is somewhat indecent for the size and as mentioned there’s a real snarl from the V6 as it punches out in anger and the 235/55/19 rubber hooks up.

There’s little upper body movement meaning lane change stability is high. Again the steering is weighted just fine and the Sports mode is the pick for freeway driving. Eco is a touch sluggish, Comfort is an ideal mix, with Smart learning the driver’s throttle and braking inputs on the fly. Suspension tune is sportish, with a flat freeway ride, enough initial give before tightening up, and this lends itself to some good speed through tight corners and curves. Stopping isn’t a problem thanks to the 320mm front and 305mm rear vented/solid discs. There’s a niggle with the Lane Keep Assist though. It’s a little too assertive in its straightening of the wheel and was eventually disengaged.

It helps that the office space is a cool place to be in. The driver sees a combination of LCD digital and “old school” analogue instrumentation, a thoughtfully laid out dash and ancillary controls with a silver highlight, an eight inch touchscreen with DAB (more on that, shortly) and a ten year SUNA satnav update program, rear and mid row folding seats with aircon vents for both, heated mid row and front seats with venting up front, plus memory and powered seats for the front pews.

The rear seats fold flat into the floor and there is a mammoth 1662L of cargo space available. Those rear seats themselves are best suited for children or those that don’t identify as tall. The seats are highlighted with light grey stitching and there are GT-Line logos embossed into the leather. But the upper dash reflects quite visibly in the windscreen and sadly the Sorento isn’t alone on that.

It’s wonderful that Kia offer DAB audio in some of their vehicles now, however the sensitivity of the two tested (the Cerato Sport+ also has DAB and will be reviewed separately) is frankly near useless. In areas where other brands have clear and constant signal, the Sorento’s dropped out. In the same place. Every time. Although the sound quality through the ten speaker Harman Kardon system was fine when it was picking up signal, the lack of continuity in DAB was beyond frustrating. Otherwise, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, are available when a compatible smartphone is connected, or plug into the Auxiliary and USB points.

The Sorento range comes loaded with family features and is spot on for a family lifestyle drive. Six cupholders, two per seat row, start it off. Four bottle holders, a good sized centre console locker, map pockets, 3 12V sockets and a pair of USB chargers allow flexibility for smart devices. There’s no wireless charging point for compatible smart phones…yet.

The centre row passengers have sunshades in the door for both privacy and sunshade. Access to the rear seats is via the tilt and slide centre row or via the powered tailgate. Soft glow LED lights brighten up the black interior and beige/bone trimmed and highlight the two centre row mounted suit hooks. The alloy plate sill panels also brighten up with a red backlighting. All up though the Sorento, as comfortable as it is, does lack a real and measurable quotient inside: cachet. It’s still somewhat plasticky and not quite as eyeball grabbing as some Euro competition.

Family safety is assured thanks to the Sorento GT-Line’s extensive list. A high definition screen links to cameras placed around the Sorento’s exterior for a full 360 degree look around. Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Autonomous Emergency Braking with Emergency Stop Signal are all on board. AEB is standard throughout the Sorento range.The Sorento’s exterior has been mildly massaged from the previous model, with slight changes to front and rear bumpers. There’s adaptive LED headlights in the GT-Line, with leveling and swiveling adding to night-time safety. There’s LED running and fog lights fitted, and the rear lights are also LED. The nose is bluff and smooth at the same time, with a subtle curve to the headlight’s upper edge on either side of the black & chrome grille.

Exterior colours are of a seven colour choice, with one (Snow White Pearl) being exclusive to the GT-Line. Otherwise there’s Clear White, Silky Silver, Metal Stream, Platinum Graphite, Gravity Blue, and the Aurora Black as seen on the test vehicle. There’s the standard seven year warranty and the capped price service intervals as well.

At The End Of the Drive.
Kia continues to go from strength to strength with is vehicles and the Sorento GT-Line is no different. Heaps of room, a broad range of family related features, and a family lifestyle oriented drive characteristic are big winners. The off road capability, a capability unlikely to be explored, from a front wheel drive SUV, place it ahead of its most likely competitor for moving people, Kia’s own Carnival. The better than expected fuel economy comes with a caveat: the test drive was with most one passenger, not a family and cargo.

At around the $60K drive-away point, it’s against Hyundai’s Santa Fe, Volvo’s XC40 and XC60, and models from Germany in regards to the intended buying market. Until all other makers standardise a seven year warranty then Kia will win straight away on that. As flexible as the interior is, it needs a lift visually. The DAB tuner needs a sensitivity boost whilst the lane assist service needs the opposite.

Make up your own mind by heading to Kia Australia website – Sorento to check out the 2019 Kia Sorento range.