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Archive for February, 2021

Don’t Buy a Car Without These Active Safety Features

Shopping for a new car will introduce you to a swathe of new features that you probably never even knew existed. While you may have your eyes set on a particular vehicle, it never hurts to consider your other options. So once you line up car finance, it pays to check what is in demand within the car industry these days.

From different types of performance oriented specs, to efficiency features and even amenity perks, there are wide variances from one car to the next. Arguably however, none of these come close to the importance that safety features hold. On that note, here are 5 key active safety aids that you should be on the lookout for.

Of course, you’ll also have the now-standard ABS, airbags, brakes and the like, but the following ‘active’ features are among those yet to become standard in all cars. If your next car doesn’t have all of these features, we say keep searching.

 

Autonomous Emergency Braking

Fast becoming a standard feature on many new cars, this is a potentially life-saving technology for all road users. It incorporates a range of sensors and a camera that keeps an eye on the car’s distance from other things within its proximity – typically, people and other cars, albeit objects too.

If an obstruction is detected and the car is on course to collide with it, the vehicle will sound alerts and automatically begin to brake. AEB comes in various forms of sophistication, with more recent formats of the technology working to detect cyclists and pedestrians.

Driver Fatigue Detection

Known by a few different names, driver fatigue detection technology uses sensors within the cabin to monitor the driver for signs of drowsiness. It does this by looking for any sudden movements or rapid changes in the drivers posture, which is considered a potential sign that the person may have drifted off or lost concentration.

If you love getting away for the weekend on long drives this is an essential piece of equipment and thankfully, more cars are starting to feature it, although it is usually reserved for higher spec variants in a car company’s line-up.

 

Rear cross traffic alerts

It was previously thought that a reversing camera would be sufficient to keep an eye on any hazards while reversing. The number of incidents that still take place however, suggests otherwise. After all, vision is often impaired adjacent to the rear bumper.

Rear cross traffic alerts are designed to keep an eye behind and to each side of you while reversing and alert you to any potential hazards that you could collide with. It measures and interprets the speed, distance and anticipated path other vehicles may take. The range extends to as much as 50m, so it is particularly useful when reversing from a spot where your visibility to each side of the car is limited.

 

Blind spot monitoring

As every motorist would know, sometimes that blind spot can be a major problem when changing lanes. This technology is designed to monitor adjacent lanes for vehicles and alert the driver via sound or light that a car is travelling in the adjacent lane they may wish to merge in. If you travel in peak hour traffic regularly, this could make your journey a much safer one.

 

Lane departure warning

Using a series of cameras that keep track of the lines on the road, lane departure warning will alert you if you are about to veer from your lane. If it detects this is about to happen, the car may automatically readjust its positioning so that it returns into its lane.

 

Make sure your next car has all these features, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

China’s Automotive Targets

Autonomous Bus Train

Looking at the current landscape of automotive skill, technology and manufacture, China places itself solidly at the forefront.  China is a prominent global automotive game changer.  The huge growth in vehicle traffic across China has been driven primarily by the country’s economic development.  The growth has been immensely rapid (particularly since 2000), where the rate of motorisation of this huge country has been nothing short of phenomenal.

The Chinese government has led a massive revolution towards the urbanizing of its people.  Research has shown that about 300 million people are expected to move to the cities over the next few years, where all of the existing – as well as new – cities will grow considerably with the influx of new inhabitants coming in from around the countryside.  This massive development plan is scheduled to run through until 2025 and is based on clear goals and the development of good electric mobilization.  Being able to integrate electric vehicles into digitised infrastructures and services will soon become a complete Chinese realization.

Currently, in China electric vehicles (EVs) are not subject to any major restrictions; if there are restrictions they are only minor.  Compared with the growing costs and restrictions enforced upon combustion engine vehicles, getting yourself into an EV brings massive benefits for Chinese owners of new EVs, and the financial incentives for having an EV are strong.  As early as 2013, a change of policy that favoured electric mobilization throughout China’s major cities and infrastructure was initiated.  The expanding EV charging infrastructure is continuing to grow rapidly, though it has some way to go before being consistently functional over wider areas.

Big digital companies like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are providing the drive and expertise behind the autonomous transport network across China’s major cities.  Many big brand car manufacturers from around the world have already linked with huge Chinese automotive companies seeking to use China as a platform and marriage for producing their cars at lower cost, and it would seem logical that, after entering the Western market via European brands, the first imports of premium Chinese vehicles (hybrid, EV and Fuel Cell) from China to other countries around the world can be expected over the next few years.  The commercial EV sector and EV buses will likely arrive even sooner.

The Arab, Latin American and African markets are ripe for gaining access by the Chinese automotive manufacturers.  Also the Silk Road Project can be perceived as a means for opening up the Asian market to the big Chinese brands of EVs and Fuel Cell vehicles.

China is on target for completely phasing out combustion technology much earlier than was first expected.  At the end of 2017, Chinese car manufacturer BAIC announced plans to stop production of non-electric and hybrid cars by the end of 2025.

We see the Chinese brands like Great Wall, Haval, MG and LDV growing here in Australia, and it seems that this Chinese automotive development will continue rapidly into countries who want to take non fossil fuel transport to new levels.  China will play a key, dynamically strong role in the future of clean automotive transport.  I wonder how soon we’ll see more autonomous and EV transport being rolled out in Australia?

Hyundai Kona Steps Further For 2021

Hyundai’s quirky Kona has been taken extra steps to continue its appeal. There’s some exterior refreshing, and the addition of the N Line name to the range. The 2021 Kona is the third new SUV in Hyundai’s ‘18 models in 18 months’ product rollout which includes the new Palisade and updated Santa Fe. There will also be a new Kona EV and a performance oriented Kona N.

Hyundai Kona 2021

“In three short years on the market, the versatile Kona has grown to become a top-seller in the class and one of our most popular models.” Hyundai Motor Company Australia Chief Executive Officer, Jun Heo said. “New 2021 Kona builds on the qualities that have drawn small-SUV buyers to the model, with an eye-catching new look, new N Line sports variants, and additional standard comfort, convenience, technology and SmartSenseTM safety features.”

The line-up introduces Kona N Line and N Line Premium, with power coming from a new engine. It’s a 146kW SmartStream 1.6 turbo unit. It drives all four corners via a DCT transmission and rides on a sports-tuned chassis with a multi-link rear suspension.

There are four models; Kona, Kona Active, Elite, and Highlander They’ll have a new SmartStream 2.0-litre petrol engine and CVT automatic pairing which will drive the front wheels. Economy is quoted as 6.2L/100km on the official combined cycle. Base Kona has 16 inch alloys. Entry level safety starts with Forward Collision Avoidance, Lane Following Assist, Smart Cruise Control, and Rear Occupant Alert. Lane Keep Assist and a Driver Attention Warning system will also be standard from the entry level up.

Standard across the range will be smartphone compatibility and a wireless charge pad, reverse camera, Hyundai’s 4.2-inch TFT colour Supervision instrument cluster display, LED DRLs, and a touchscreen of 8.0 inches in the base Kona. Below is a tyre pressure monitoring system, above are roof rails. Active has leather appointed pews, leather wrapped steering wheel and drive selector knob, rear park assist, and exterior mirrors that are heated. There are also 17 inch alloys.

Hyundai Kona 2021

Elite’s touchscreen is 10.25 inches, with audio pumping from a Harman Kardon eight speaker system. Remote start from a smart key will be standard here along with front fog lights. Safety is enhanced with Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, and a Safe Exit Warning system. Exterior addons see a gloss black grille, tailgate and side garnishes, and cladding in a carbon grey.

Hyundai Kona 2021

Highlander gives the driver a 10.25 inch display and a HUD, vented and heated front seats plus powered driver’s seat, heating elements in the outboard sections of the rear seats and steering wheel, LED headlights and taillights, with 18 inch alloys and Continental rubber. Safety has a front park assist system and high beam assist added in. Beige leather is exclusive to Highlander and LED ambient lighting will feature as it will in N Line Premium.

Kona N Line has bespoke seating and cabin highlights such as red stitching and piping, plus alloy pedals.

Hyundai Kona 2021

The sporty Kona N Line introduces an all-new 146kW, 265Nm turbo engine along with a dual-clutch automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, a multi-link rear suspension arrangement and 18-inch sports alloy wheels wrapped in Continental tyres.

Building on the specification of Kona Elite, Kona N Line introduces N Line exterior additions and badging.

Inside, there are N Line sports front seats, and a unique cabin treatment featuring red stitching, piping and trim inserts, as well as alloy pedals. 2021 Kona N Line Premium brings, in addition, a 10.25-inch digital supervision instrument cluster, heated and air ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats and a heated steering wheel, and LED headlights, front indicators and taillights. Features found in the Highlander, a HUD, front park assist system, powered front seats, and a glass sunroof, will also be in the N Line Premium.

Hyundai Kona 2021

Outside will be a choice of seven colours: Atlas White, Dark Knight and Phantom Black, Surfy Blue and Dive in Jeju, and red shades called Ignite Flame and Pulse Red. A black roof option for Highlander and N Line Premium, with a sunroof deleted. The front end has been reshaped for the 2021 refresh, with a rounded upper leading edge, a new grille and bumper, and restyled lights.

Hyundai Kona 2021

Kona, Active, and Elite have projector headlights, with Highlander’s illuminators being multi-faceted reflector LED. The rear has a mild restyle. N Line has their own design features with a bespoke bumper, gloss black side mirror caps and, for N Line Premium, MFR LED headlights and rear lights.

2021 Kona N Line and N Line Premium are have exclusive black leather sports interior featuring red stitching and highlights.

Hyundai Kona 2021

Kona pricing is expected to start from $26,600 plus ORC. Active will start from $28,200, with Elite and Highlander from $31,600 and $38,000. $36,300 and $42,400 will be the starting prices for the N Line and N Line Premium plus ORC. Premium paint is $595, with the beige interior for Highlander a $295 option. Service intervals for the 2.0L will be 15,000km whilst the 1.6L is at every 10,000km.

Availability is currently from March 2021.

Hyundai Kona 2021

Japan’s Automotive Brilliance

Tokyo, Japan

You can’t go anywhere around Australia without noticing just how many Japanese made vehicles are motoring around our roads (and off them).  Since the 1960s, Japan has been among the top 3 automotive manufacturers in the world.  The country is home to a number of motor companies, and you’ll be familiar with them: Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Subaru, Isuzu.  There are, of course, more than these mainstream manufacturers.  Japan has around 78 car-manufacturing factories in 22 regions, and these employ over 5.5 million people (more than the entire population of New Zealand).

The strong competition that is happening on a global scale in the automotive industry has forced the manufacturers to come up with a new model design every four to five years.  Along with the new models, new innovative designs and new technologies are presented and used by the automakers in their new vehicles.  Automotive manufacturing is the prominent manufacturing type in Japan, which takes up 89% of the country’s manufacturing sector.  A large amount of time and money are invested into developing and improving the automotive manufacturing process, which, in turn, increases the quality and efficiency of their manufactured automotive products.

Some of the brilliant new developments from Japan automobile manufacturers have led to distinct and innovative new designs for current and future automobiles.  In order to control the market dependency on fuels, and in order to design vehicles that are more fuel-efficient, Japanese automakers have invested and built hybrid vehicles and fuel-cell vehicles.

The ideology and popularity of environmentally friendly vehicles is creating a wave of global interest and demand for these sorts of vehicles.  More and more automakers around the globe are focusing on creating the types of vehicles that are friendlier on the environment to their production line.  Japan’s automotive manufacturers are leaders in this field.  Japanese innovations in these technology sectors include autonomous taxi services and airport transportation, high-definition maps and open-source software modules for autonomous vehicles, advanced hydrogen fuel cell and alternating-current battery technology, and silicon carbide (SiC) semiconductor films for EV power electronics.  Japanese companies have been developing hydrogen fuel cell technology, which is projected to reach a market size of approximately $43 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 66.9% from 2019 to 2026.  Japan’s prowess in creating autonomous vehicles and their resulting cutting edge safety features puts them well ahead of the game.

An electric vehicle is an automobile that produces power from electrical energy stored in batteries instead of from the burning of fossil fuels.  Top automakers such as Toyota, Honda, and Nissan are already class leaders.

Hybrid vehicles use two or more distinct power sources to move the car.  Typically, electric motors combine with traditional internal combustion engines to produce power. Hybrid vehicles are highly fuel efficient.  Again, Japan’s Toyota motor company is one of the automotive industry leaders in hybrid vehicle research and production – with the Toyota  Prius model leading the way.  Hybrid variants are available on many of Toyota’s collection of new vehicles.

A Fuel Cell Vehicle is equipped with a “Fuel Cell” in which electricity is generated through the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen.  This chemical reaction provides the source of power to the motor.  Fuel cell systems operate by compressing hydrogen made from natural gas and gasoline, which is then converted to hydrogen by on-board systems.  Toyota’s latest fuel cell vehicle, the Mirai II, is sold in Japan.  The Mirai II uses a Hydrogen Electrochemical fuel cell that creates 130 kW.  The electric motor that is powered by the fuel cell produces 136 kW and 300 Nm.  It’s very stylish, too.

Toyota Mirai II

2021 Subaru Forester Sport: Private Fleet Car Review.

Subaru is the little car company that does. It quietly churns away in the background, almost like extras in a television show, hoping to be recognised by the wider audience for its efforts. And so it should be. Its WRX is the stuff of legends, the Outback is a more than capable bi-linguist, speaking tarmac and soft-roading equally, and then there’s Forester.The chunky, wagon-looking, mid-sized SUV, is a perennial favourite. In late 2020 a mild facelift was given, and a new trim, Sport, was added. Priced at a breath under $46,850 driveaway, the Forester Sport is aimed at those that like their weekends to be just that little bit dirtier but with comfort.

Power comes from Subaru’s legendary flat, or boxer, four. It’s at 2.5L in capacity, producing 136kW and 239Nm. To get those you have to see well over 4,000rpm. Drive to all four paws is courtesy of a Constant Variable Transmission, and it’s a bit old school in that it prefers the spin to around 3,500rpm and sits there as velocity increases to highway rates, rather than the now more familiar change change change. There are programmed steps and the steering column has paddle shifts to take advantage of those. Our drive cycle took in around 40% highway and we saw a creditable 7.1L/100km as our final overall figure.Outside and inside, Subaru have splashed some red-orange, on the lower sills, centre console, and air-vents. On our white example, complete with black painted 18 inch alloys, wrapped in 225/55 rubber from Bridgestone’s Dueler range, it makes for an eye-catching combination.Inside, Subaru’s fitted water repellent cloth, in varying and pleasing shades, to the seats and door trims. There are map pockets on the backs of the driver and front passenger seats. The seats are super-easy to clean and vacuum when required. The cargo section has a tough-wearing carpet top floor that lifts to expose some polystyrene that houses the jack equipment, a couple of small storage spots, and covers the full sized spare wheel. There are four cargo hooks, a 12V socket, and a tab either side to fold the rear seats easily. Capacity starts at 509L. It’s also inside where the age of the platform is showing. Compared to offerings from Korea, and the brand’s Japanese competition, there are far more hard edges, more right lower side buttons for various functions, an a lack of the now seemingly mandatory stand along touchscreen. Also, no wireless charge pad for smartphones.

Although DAB tuner equipped, the software still isn’t as good in one small area as the competition. The data service shows the full artist and song info in other cars, Subaru’s shows only the first ten characters or so. The layout though is clean and eyeball friendly.Underneath the screen is a CD player slot, and more hard press buttons for audio, map, and more. Climate control is a touch old school, with dials rather than buttons. However, when the aircons cooling was engaged, it cooled very quickly in comparison to some.

Subaru also has a driver attention monitor and this is cleverly hidden in the top section of the binnacle that houses the info screen. Look away from the straight-ahead for a second or two and warning tone sounds, and an icon flashes up on the screen ahead of the driver. There is Subaru’s X-Mode to enjoy, and it’s operated via a dial in the centre console. It’ll switch between Mud and Gravel at the flick of a wrist and back to Normal at a press.On its last major update, the rear lights changed to a C-design, and are LED lit. These match the same shaped Daytime Running Lights in the headlight clusters. Forester has always had a no nonsense stance, and the assertive looking grille, lower air intake, and black chin insert continue that. In size the wagon design hides the 1,730mm height, which provides plenty of head space and in the Sport, has a full length glass roof. The length of 4,625mm and a wheelbase of 2,670mm put it right in the ballpark for its competition. And when getting slightly mucky, 220mm of ground clearance is there.

On start-up the boxer has a metallic note before settling quickly into its sonorous flat four burble. the exhaust mutes the tone and no doubt after-market specialists can help that part of the equation. the CVT, as mentioned, is a bit old school in approach and delivery, yet doesn’t unduly hold back performance. It is called Sport, after all. There’s enough urge, as a result, on acceleration, and once in its stride, the 2.5L does a suitable job of moving the Forester around. It’s responsive to the throttle which gives it great suburban manners and on a country-style highway run, is quiet and relaxed.The suspension is beautifully setup, with damping well sorted for its own quick response, yet soft enough to waft the Sport across even mild gravelly roads without upsetting the fluidity of the chassis. On a gravel road, the X-Mode ensures a more sure footed approach and peace of mind. Subaru’s SI-Drive can also be engaged depending on the driver’s whim, and in the Sport, it’s a two-mode, not three, program, dropping the more incisive Sport Sharp.

Subaru’s safety record is virtually peerless, and their Eyesight system , with the stereoscopic cameras, have lead the way. Backed by a five year and unlimited kilometre warranty plus capped price servicing, Subaru’s Forester Sport has seven airbags including kneebag, torque vectoring, Blind Spot Monitor, Side View Monitor (with a camera fitted to the left hand side exterior mirror), Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist (and not as intrusive as some other brands), Lead Vehicle Start Alert, and Pre-Collision avoidance systems.At The End Of The Drive.

The Forester range is popular yet, oddly, almost invisible in one respect. It’s the not the sort of vehicle one hears about from mates and family as the vehicle of choice yet when out on the road they’re apparent and in good numbers. There’s a simple and good reason for that: they’re a bloody good car. It’s verging, though, on needing an update, but for the time being is still a willing and able performer.

Car courtesy of Subaru Australia, X-Mode definition courtesy of David Bonnici at WhichCar.

Mini dumps leather – a sign of change to come?

According to an interview with Mini’s design boss, Oliver Heilmer, the beloved car brand will soon no longer be offering a leather fit-out in any of its vehicles, instead going down the route of doing away with the material and turning vegan.

His remarks cited the sustainability – or lack thereof – as part of the reason why the brand is ditching the material in its next release, despite the fact that more than half of the company’s cars sold in the UK last year featured leather interiors.

Mini will instead opt for more “sustainable” fabrics according to Heilmer, arguing “we’re totally convinced that we will have modern and high-value products without leather.”

 

Mini isn’t alone, nor first for that matter

The company isn’t the first to make the move to ditch leather. In 2019, Tesla was among the first to announce that it would only utilise vegan fabrics in the cabin of its Model 3 sedan and Model Y SUV.

Elsewhere, a host of other brands have used faux leather in place of the real thing, and among European manufacturers, there have been plans to incorporate recycled materials such as plastic bottles in an effort to embrace a sustainable focus.

Even in the massive American market, electric car start-up Fisker is a brand positioning itself for an eco and sustainability-oriented future. Its Ocean SUV that is currently in development is set to use a large array of recycled materials like regenerated nylon from fishing nets for the carpet, recycled polyester from t-shirts to act as eco-suede upholstery, not to mention tyre waste for various other components in the car.

 

 

What matters to the consumer?

It raises an interesting proposition for future new car buyers – how important are those ‘luxury’ touches that many of us have become accustomed to seeing? With this being the first in a potentially broad and all-encompassing effort to introduce other materials that are more sustainable that their existing counterparts, there could be some interesting changes on the horizon.

However, given pricing isn’t exactly an area that would be in line for a reduction as part of the eco push, would you buy a premium car and be content with fabric finishes or recycled materials being incorporated across the board?

More broadly, is Mini’s move the beginning of a wider shift among car manufacturers to do away with leather and opt alternative materials instead?

January 2021 Sales Figures Show Upwards Swing

Australia’s Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries has released the sales figures for January of 2021. A total of 79,666 vehicles were sold in January 2021 which is up by 11.1 per cent on January 2020. 71,731 vehicles were sold in that month. Every state and territory saw an increase, and following on from December 2020, with the Northern Territory seeing the highest increase of 38.7% to just 1.9% in Victoria. Private buyers contributed by having an increase of 25.4%. Business buyers decreased, but by only 1.3% whilst government and rental sales dropped by 11.2% and 12.4%.

Of note was that Holden as a brand registered zero sales.

The private sales had the passenger vehicle category down by 9.3% compared to January 2020, with SUVs rising by 17.4%. Light Commercial Vehicles jumped by 24.6%. Toyota lead the way in January 2021 with 16,819 vehicles (21.1%) with HiLux 3,913 of those. Mazda was 2nd overall on 8,508 with 10.7% market share. Hyundai saw 5,951 new vehicles sold for a 7.5% share and Kia on 5,500 units for 6.9%. Mitsubishi backed up with 5,179 units and took a market share of 6.5%.Ford’s Ranger was the 2nd highest seller behind the HiLux, moving 3,120 units, just ahead of the RAV4 with 3,066 whilst the LandCruiser sold 2,388 units. Mazda’s CX-5 had 2,081 units find new homes.

The FCAI chief executive, Tony Weber, said: “During the past three months sales had increased by 12.4 per cent compared to the corresponding period twelve months earlier. The January sales numbers are indicative of positive consumer confidence in the domestic economy. With attractive interest rates and a range of other economic indicators encouraging consumption, we hope to see this trend in new vehicle purchasing continue through 2021.”

Toyota was the leading brand in January with sales of 16,819 vehicles (21.1 per cent of the market), followed by Mazda with 8,508 (10.7 per cent), Hyundai with 5,951 (7.5 per cent), Kia with 5,500 (6.9 per cent) and Mitsubishi with 5,179 (6.5 per cent).

The Toyota Hilux was the best-selling vehicle in January 2021 with sales of 3,913 vehicles, followed by the Ford Ranger (3,120), the Toyota RAV4 (3,066), the Toyota Landcruiser (2,388) and the Mazda CX5 (2,081).

In the Micro Car segment, the Kia Picanto continued to dominate in a three car field. The Fiat Abarth and Mitsubishi Mirage are the other two, and sold 49 and 56 respectively, way off the 573 of the Picanto.In the light car category, Chinese owned MG scored gold with 859, outclassing the Suzuki Swift (562), Volkswagen Polo (526) and the Toyota Yaris (486). Moving to the Small Cars, and Toyota’s Corolla moved 2,062, Just clearing the revamped Hyundai i30 on 1,952. 3rd was a tight tussle, with the Kia Cerato emerging as the winner over the Mazda3, on 1,545 to 1,501.

Medium cars and sub-$60K, and Toyota’s big Camry blew the opposition away on 815. Subaru’s Liberty was 2nd on 183. Skoda and there Octavia took bronze on 153, ahead comfortably of the Mazda6 with 114.

Large cars and there’s really only one contender now, Kia’s Stinger on 147, 99 units ahead of the Skoda Superb.

People movers and Kia’s Carnival moved 442, thumping the Hyundai iMax and Honda Odyysey, both on 67. Moving into Sports Cars and the Mustang said hello to 361 new homes, well ahead of Mazda’s MX5 and Hyundai’s soon to be discontinued Veloster, on 53 and 45.

For the Light SUVs sector, Mazda’s CX-3 absolutely dominated with 1,344. Toyota’s new SUV based on the Yaris, the Yaris Cross, moved an impressive 541, just edging out the slightly older VW T-Cros on 494.

In the Small SUV sector, another close battle here and it was 25 units separating the Mitsubishi ASX (1,278) to the MG ZS (1,253). Hyundai’s run-out Kona was the only other to crack the 1,000 with 1,091. It’s been updated and available for sale from February.

RAV4 and Mazda CX-5 duked it out for the Medium SUV segment, with 3,066 to 2,081. 4rd was Nissan’s X-Trail on 1,593, clear of Hyundai’s Tucson on 1,206. Go large and it was Toyota’s Prado on 1,259, ahead of Kia’s recently updated Sorento on 745. Mazda’s in-betweener, the CX-8, saw 571, tying with Hyundai’s Santa Fe. In the upper large, Toyota’s LandCruiser outclassed its opponent, Nissan’s Patrol, with 1,499 to 241.

Inside the ute/pick-up segment, the HiLux in both 4×2 and 4×4 continued its dominance. In two wheel drive guise it more than doubled the Isuzu D-Max, with 823 to 406. Ford’s Ranger was 3rd on 318. In the 4WD sector it was 3,090 to Ranger’s 2,802. In 3rd was Mitsubishi’s Triton, edging the D-Max on 1,416.

Petrol is still the clear winner in preferred fuels, with just 32 PHEVs, 78 EVs, and 1,915 Hybrids moving in the Passenger segment. In the SUVs, 30,062 petrols moved in comparison to diesel with 7,811, PHEV on 126, EV on 213, and Hybrids at 3,332.

On a country of manufacturing basis, Japan was the leader at 29,275, with Korea on 11,516. Thailand and their ute/pickup manufacturing shone at 16,903, and Chinese made vehicles rose to 4,198. This puts the brands sold from Chinese manufacturing into 4th overall.

2021 Mercedes-Benz Vito and Valente Released

Mercedes-Benz have been known for producing some quality Light Commercial Vehicles, and the Vito van has been at the forefront of that particular section of their markets. The latest version has been released to the Aussie market.

There will be three engines: The Vito 111 CDI with 84kW and 270 Nm torque, the Vito 116 CDI with 120 kW and 380 Nm torque, and the Vito 119 CDI with 140 kW and 440 Nm torque with a combined fuel consumption of 6.7 l/100 km plus CO2 combined emissions 176 g/km. The Vito 111 has a combined fuel consumption of 6.2-6.3 l/100 km with CO2 combined emissions 163-166 g/km whilst the 116 has combined fuel consumption of 6.7 l/100 km and CO2 combined emissions 176-178 g/km.

The range has been simplified and extra features added. The rear view mirror is now a digital item, whilst the reverse camera has been upgraded to suit. The interior has been enhanced as has safety with DISTRONIC and Active Brake Assist. Up front, the grille has been restyled. The Mercedes star plate is centrally positioned in the radiator grille and has three black louvres on all but the 111 where they are chromed.

Diane Tarr, Managing Director Mercedes-Benz Vans, said: “The versatility of Vito really sets it apart. In Australia, examples of its use include an RACV home and roadside assist vehicle, an Australian Post delivery van, an Optus technical service vehicle and as a trusted tool for many smaller business operations like florists or even mobile fitness instructors. It is a genuine trade specialist and fleet all-rounder for a wide range of different customers.

The Vito’s look and style is often symbolic of the business it supports. The newly designed radiator grill now makes it an even more attractive representation, and with more standard safety, new assistance systems and an upgraded infotainment offering, it will continue to meet the demands of our customers.”

The Vito 111 packs a 1.6L engine and six speed manual driving the front wheels. There is also a 2.1L engine and seven speed auto for the rear wheel drive versions. The Vito 116 has a 120kW/380Nm diesel as the spearhead and moves to a medium length wheelbase as the starting point. This, says M-B, provides an optimal carry capacity as a new starting point. Proven engine and transmission line up continues with reduced complexity, and emphasis on power and carrying capacity.

Active Brake Assist starts with an audible warning tone and a visual alert. If sensors read the driver has applied the brakes, ABA adds extra braking assistance, but if there is no response from the driver the system takes over and performs active braking manoeuvres. The sensors also alert to stationary objects and pedestrians. DISTRONIC is also available with Vito for the first time and standard on the 119. Blind Spot Assist and Lane Keep Assist, formerly options, are now standard.

The digital inside rearview mirror takes a feed from the high definition camera mounted in the rear window section and transmits to a 1600 x 320 screen. There is image processing to ensure that light balance is even and displaying as clear an image as possible. It also provides a wider view than a traditional rear-view mirror.

An updated infotainment system sees a 7.0 inch touchscreen with smartphone app compatibility. The screen is also the default viewer for the reverse camera. Bluetooth is also standard and has audio streaming and hands-free calling.

ILS, or Intelligent Light System, is standard on the 119. It’s a full LED system, covering the indicators, DRLs, low, high, and cornering lights. The spread is speed dependent also, and with Highbeam Assist Plus adjusts to suit speed and the lighting conditions. It does this by actuating the dipped-beam, partial main-beam and main-beam headlamps as required.

The exterior now has new colours including Graphite Grey and Selenite Grey, along with Steel Blue and Hyacinth Red metallic. There are two 18 inch alloy wheels, one with a 5-twin-spoke design in Tremolite Grey with a high sheen finish, and one with a 5-spoke design in black also with a burnished finish. There are also 17 inch black painted alloy wheels available.

The Vito Crew Cab dual purpose vehicle, which can carry up to six passengers, is available with the 116 or 119 CDI engine. The Valente 8 seater people mover is available with the 116 CDI engine. this highlights the flexibility of the Vito range, with body lengths, the engine choices, and styles.

Speak to your local Mercedes-Benz dealership for a test drive.

Top Six Tips For Ending The School Run Motoring Madness

If you listen carefully, you might hear the sound of parents (and quite a few children) cheering because the long summer holidays are over and it’s time for the school year to start.  Or maybe you won’t hear the cheering because all you can hear is the sound of traffic as everybody carts the little nippers to school.

I don’t suppose I’m the only person with grown-up children who avoids certain parts of the road at certain times of day, namely the places nearest the school and the times when school is starting and finishing.  We all know that the traffic goes mad at this time of day, with everybody wanting to pick up their kids or drop them off, depending on what the case may be.

I get it, I really do.  I’ve brought up kids and got them to school, and I appreciate how you want your children to arrive on time and safely.  I can understand how you’re busy and how you need to fit the school run into a hectic day.  However, there are things that we can all do to ease the congestion a bit so that there is less chance of an accident.  After all, if the road outside the school is madly full of cars of all sizes all trying to get the best parking spots to pick up young Jack and Olivia, then there is more chance of what the traffic analysts will coldly call a “human–vehicle conflict” and what everybody else calls a tragic accident.

So what can we do to make sure that everybody gets their kids to school and back safely? Now that the school year is starting off, here my six best ideas that you might like to apply.

  1. Do the kids actually need to be dropped off at the gate? This is where I trot out the old “I had to walk to school” speech, although I had to walk along a main road rather than through the snow, barefoot and uphill both ways. If your children are reasonably fit and active, and they have good traffic awareness around driveways and intersections (especially if there are good traffic lights or pedestrian crossings), then consider having the kids walk to school. It’s good exercise for them – and possibly you.  If the school is within 2 km of your home and your children are over 10, then there probably isn’t any good reason why they can’t walk themselves to school.
  2. Can you stay out of the crazy congestion zone? If the school is a bit further away and/or your regular commute takes you near it, then you could consider dropping the kids off outside the crazy zone right outside the school.  For example, instead of taking that detour on the way to work to drop the kids at the school gate, why not drop them off where you would have turned off? If they’re too young to walk alone, then park the car and walk with them for those last few blocks to the school gate. If they’re old enough to walk alone… well, they’re probably at the age when having Mummy walk with them to school is embarrassing anyway.
  3. Try carpooling. If you are not the only person on your street who does the school run, or if your kids go to the same after-school activities as someone else at the same school, then maybe it’s time to organise a car pool. This will be limited by the number of seats in your vehicle, of course.  Perhaps it’s time to think about getting a seven-seat MPV? However, car pooling can be a great way to build community and make some connections.
  4. Don’t double-park. If your only option is to drop the kids off at school yourself, then be a courteous driver. Don’t double park so that you can drop the youngsters off as close as possible to the gate. Double-parking makes things extremely difficult for those who are still learning how to cross the road as well as being supremely annoying for other drivers.  It’s also illegal.  Even if you’re not technically parked but are just stopping just for a moment to just let the kids out, still don’t do it.
  5. Keep out of any No Parking zones. Yes, your children are special, valuable and important. So are everybody else’s children. Let’s all respect the No Parking zones and don’t think that the rules don’t apply to you because you’re doing it for your children and they come first.
  6. If your school drop-off zone has time limits, respect them. Quite a few school have “kiss and run” drop-off points where you can stop for long enough to drop the kids off and say goodbye with a hug or kiss (if your kids are young enough to let you do this).  If we all respect the time limits here, then these systems will work.  These places are not the time to discuss lost homework, nosebleeds, etc. If an emergency arises, deal with it further down the street, not in the “kiss and run” spot.

Oh yes – if you want to try any of the ideas that involve children walking and there’s a chance that they’ll be late, you can take advantage of the fact that children who are old enough to walk by themselves are also at the age when parents are embarrassing because they exist.  Acquire some ghastly piece of clothing and state that if you have to drop them off because they mucked around and are now running late, you will do so wearing said item of clothing IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY.  It works.

2021 Toyota Prius i-Tech: Private Fleet Car Review.

As Toyota did with the RAV4, by creating the SUV market, it also kickstarted the hybrid revolution with the Prius. Maligned for its looks then and now, it still remains on Toyota’s sales lists as a reminder of its part in history. Reduced to a two trim level, one model range, Prius and i-Tech. it had us wondering why Toyota continues with it considering: Yaris, Corolla, Camry, RAV4, and various Lexus options.The i-Tech is a whisker under $50K, with Toyota listing it as $49,966 drive-away with plain white paint. Go to the premium such as the metallic blue on the review car and that’s now $50,491. That’s a whopping $7,741 (white) more than the standard Prius and well over Corolla hybrid pricing, with Ascent Sport, the entry level, coming in at just under $31K, or the top of the range ZR, at around $38,500.Power is provided courtesy of a 1.8L Atkinson Cycle petrol engine with 72kW and 142Nm. Peak combined power is 90kW for the 1,400kg i-Tech. Fuel tank capacity is 43L, with economy rated at 3.4L/100km on a combined cycle, and one we matched. Drive is to the front wheels via a CVT, with drive itself selected by a simple to use flick lever in the centre of the dashboard.

Ignition is via push-button on and a set of screens that are centrally located on the upper dash welcome the passengers when the doors are opened. The screens include a daily usage and drive distance, and can be configured, with a little bit of research on how to, to display the costs per travel distance. The right had screen becomes the speedo, fuel gauge, trip meter and displays the economy figure also.

Audio is from JBL and there’s some great quality to be found here. Access is via a 7.0 inch touchscreen and it’s slightly different in look than that found in the rest of the Toyota family.Seats are leather, and heated. They’re comfortable is lacking some thigh support. Head, leg, and shoulder room are better than adequate for the driver and front passenger, with rear leg room a little squeezy. The actual colour scheme is dull, with a black on black scheme for the trim below the window line. The Prius i-tech gets a HUD or Head Up Display. It’s as intuitive as it comes to use and an item slowly becoming more common. Another item that is increasing in presence is a wireless charge pad.The body style is coupe’ like, and the rear hatch opens to a decent sized cargo area of 1,415L with the rear seats lowered. The load lip is low enough that access is easy enough for most people and the cargo area is broad enough for most families to deposit a week’s worth of groceries without issue. Safety is high with AEB, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Sport Alert, and Forward Collision Warning with Pedestrian and Daylight Cyclists warning. Seven airbags also contribute to occupant safety. Servicing costs are found online.Outside there are fleeting moments of family recognition, particularly at the front, where the sharpish angles evoke the Corolla’s edgy styling. With just the one body now, as gone are the wagon and sedan, the five door hatch both harkens to the original, whilst bringing its own sort of sharp lined modernity, with definitive creaselines from front to rear.

The i-Tech has its own set of alloys, with aero-blade styling. Rubber is from Bridgestone’s Turanza range at 215/45/17 and they’re ample in grip.Where the Prius shines is in its around town performance. It is effortless, it is stress-free, and can be driven harder than one would anticipate.

Being a hybrid it can gently waft around, with a seamless, almost, transition, between battery and petrol. It’s been noted elsewhere that the drivetrain here has a subtle but noticeable clunk as the changes between power source happen, and we can confirm there is a minor jolt as the petrol engine kicks in or out. There are Power, Normal, and Eco drive modes, and for the most part, Normal is all that is required. power may be suitable for some country and uphill driving, and Eco great for flat track highways.Ride quality surprised as its got a sporting tune. This had us testing cornering speeds and roll. The Prius i-Tech is quite capable of getting antsy and will do so without qualms at a level highly unlikely to be seen by its target audience.

This brings us full circle to our starting point: who is the audience Toyota is looking for with the Prius?

At The End Of The Drive.

Toyota’s other hybrid offerings looking like “normal” cars; the Camry hybrid looks like a Camry, the Corolla hybrid looks like a Corolla, the Yaris and RAV4 hybrids look no different to their purely petrol fed siblings.

The Prius, though, is recognised as a Prius, the original eco-warrior, and that’s the only reason we can think of that it’s still offered by the Japanese car making giant. It delivers excellent fuel economy but isn’t that the point?