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Mazda Launches Their First Hybrids

Mazda Australia has recently provided details of their new Skyactiv-X M-Hybrid powertrain. It will be available in August with the Mazda3 (the 2020 World Design Car of the Year) and in the CX-30 from September, with that car also a finalist in the WCOTY. It will, for the moment, be available only in the top of the range Astina, dubbed X20, for each trim level. Pricing for the Mazda3 X20 Astina starts from $40,590 with it being available in both manual and auto, and the CX-30 X20 Astina starts from $46,490. Both are before dealer delivery and government charges at the time of writing.

SkyActiv hybrid 1

The powerplant is a continuation of Mazda’s search to improve power, torque, and fuel consumption. The new engine is the world’s first mass production unit that combines compression ignition like a diesel, the torque of a diesel, and the free revving ability of a petrol nature.

Mazda has developed a proprietary ignition system. It’s called Spark Controlled Compression Ignition, or SPCCI. The engine can fire via a compression or traditional spark ignition. This is how Mazda says it works: “In SPCCI mode, a split injection process creates separate zones of fuel-air mixture inside the combustion chamber. First, a very lean fuel to air mixture is injected into the combustion chamber during the intake stroke, then a zone of atomised fuel is precisely injected directly around the spark plug during the compression stroke. The small injection of atomised fuel directly around the spark plug builds a richer core. When the spark fires, it ignites this core of fuel and air. This increases pressure in the combustion chamber to the point where the lean mixture rapidly combusts.”

SkyActiv Hybrid 2

Vinesh Bhindi, the managing director of Mazda Australia is excited by the new engine. “With every customer’s circumstances being unique, we need to offer a variety of ways to reduce vehicle emissions to suit individual needs and lifestyles. Skyactiv-X offers customers a lower emission engine option, while retaining the same joy of driving that Mazda vehicles have always offered.”

Contact your local Mazda dealer for more details.

(Pictures courtesy of Mazda)

Mercedes-Benz GLB Ready To Roll For Australia.

Mercedes-Benz has released to the Australian market the GLB. For the brand, it’s the first compact vehicle they manufacture to include a third row of seats. There’s enough space, by the way, for anyone up to 1.68 metres to suit the rear two seats. Conveniences such as a pair of drink holders, storage, and USB ports will be fitted, plus the seats will fold flush with the GLB’s cargo floor. These can be accessed by a 40:20:40 split fold centre row that moves by up to 140mm.

There will be three models available, the GLB 200, GLB 250, and GLB 45 Matic. Both the Mercedes-Benz GLB 200 and the GLB 250 4MATIC are available to order now. Deliveries are expect for July as a starting point. The manufacturer’s list prices are: GLB 200 from $59,900 (MRLP) and GLB 250 4MATIC from $73,900 (MRLP). The Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4 MATIC will be priced at $88,900 (MRLP) when it arrives in Australia later this year.The Mercedes-Benz GLB 200 sees 120kW and 250Nm from a direct injection turbocharged 1.3L four cylinder. A dual clutch automatic with seven ratios sends drive to the front wheels. The GLB 250 amps that with a 2.0L engine that produces 165kW and 350Nm. Transmission is the 8G-DCT eight-speed auto, and grip comes from the 4MATIC all wheel drive system.

AMG step in for the GLB 35 4MATIC and have waved their wand over the 2.0L petrol engine. 225 kW and 400 Nm power down via AMG’s SPEEDSHIFT DCT eight-speed auto with their Dynamic Select drive system. There will also be the AMG exhaust system, their bespoke braking system, plus their Sports suspension called Ride Control with electronically controlled damping. AMG’s power steering with speed sensitive adjustment is also on board.Mercedes-Benz have their highly regarded MBUX multimedia system as standard and the front seat occupants will be able to access infotainment via a pair of side by side 10.25 inch screens. Keyless entry, remote tailgate and engine start, the THERMOTRONIC climate control system, and “Comfort” seats will be standard. The door sills will be internally illuminated, and again convenience is standard thanks to satnav, smartapps including the Mercedes-Benz Me Control app and a charge pad, auto wipers, 19 inch alloys, and aluminuim roof rails. PARKTRONIC parking assist is backed up in the safety stakes with Blind Spot assist, Lane Keep Assist, and Traffic Sign Assist. Active Brake Assist with semi-autonomous braking is standard as are nine airbags.

The GLB 250 factors in a sunroof, powered memory front seats with heating, twin spoke 19 inch alloys and an adjustable suspension. Steering is aligned with the all wheel drive system with Sports Direct-Steer, and even a form of off-road suspension. Downhill Speed Regulation and the cornering lamps come into play as well, with the lights on each lower corner coming into play at speeds of up to 50kph. There are a few extra touches for the GLB 35 4MATIC, such as an AMG steering wheel with Nappa leather, Lugano leather on the seats, brushed stainless steel AMG foot pedals, and Carbon Structure interior trim. Outside is AMG’s Night Package trim, 20 inch diameter five spoke alloys, AMG body additions and dark tinted rear window glass.
The arrival of the GLB brings to six the number of models in the Mercedes-Benz compact car portfolio, which includes the A-Class hatch and sedan, B-Class, CLA Coupé and GLA compact SUV. Says Britta Seeger, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars Sales: “Every third Mercedes-Benz is now an SUV, every fourth a compact car. So a compact SUV such as the GLB blends all the success factors of our two highest-volume segments.”

An Abundance Of Energy: H2X Australia

Australia’s car manufacturing industry is dead. Long live the Australian car manufacturing industry.

But all is not yet lost…Hydrogen is seen as the potential next step in powering automobiles on Earth, and the technology has been around for decades, featuring strongly in the aerospace industries. Australian company H2X, based in Sydney, has been quietly working away since 2015 on using the most abundant element known, hydrogen, as the source material for automotive propulsion.The heart of a hydrogen powered vehicle is the fuel cell. Take hydrogen and oxygen, wave the magic wand, and electricity is made. The resulting leftover is water. Simple H2O. The efficiency of this process varies and comes in between 40 to 60 percent. Waste heat can be reused and brings efficiency to over 80%.

H2X are applying hydrogen fuel tech to vehicles that they hope to have up and running by the mid 2020s. A minivan, a tractor, and an SUV are amongst the range that the company has in mind. The firm recently turned the dirt at a location at Port Kembla, south of Sydney. It’s here that they currently intend to build the vehicles and also invest in battery and super-capacitors. However, in a reasonable effort to minimise extravagant start up costs, the firm will first use pre-assembled parts readily available from Asia, and a fuel cell from a company called ElringKlinger.A common issue with starting a new company is sourcing people with the required expertise. Here, H2X don’t appear to have a problem. Their CEO is a person that comes from hydrogen related businesses plus a solid automotive background with BMW, Audi, and Volkswagen. Heading the design bureau is the designer of the Giulietta, Chris Reitz. He’s also worked with VW and Nissan. Saab and GM have their DNA running in the veins of Peter Zienau as he worked on hybrid and electric programs with the pair. Opel, Lotus, Volvo, Aston Martin and Tesla have given Peter Thompson over thirty years of experience, including his involvement in the Tesla Roadster.There’s more power to come in the board, with Alan Marder, also with plenty of experience in startups dealing with hydrogen fuel cell and automotive industries spanning 35 years. He’ll head the marketing and strategy section, while the former head of the VW Group Asia, Kevin McCann, who also works with Hyundai, Volvo, and Deloitte, will be on the supervisory board.

Picking Port Kembla, says H2X, was a given, as it’s a focus for industries H2X will need as supports. Rail, metal manufacturing in the forms of steel and aluminuim, the size of the port to allow cargo ships, and electronics makers at a military spec level will go a long way to assisting the rumoured workforce of 5,000.They’ve already put forward what they hope will be the first vehicle to drive off the production line. The “Snowy” SUV, with a mooted range of 650km, a refuel time of around three minutes, and a freeway speed reaching time of 6.9 seconds, will be backed by a bio-safe interior, smartphone apps, and autonomous emergency braking. The powertrain is said to be a combination of a 60kW Elring Klinger PEM fuel cell, a graphene ultracapacitor from Skeleton Tech, a powerful 200kW electric motor, and a 5.0kg-capacity hexagon Type 4 hydrogen tank. A key feature that’s under the radar is a suspension system that will, like braking regenerative energy, apply the same process from suspension travel. The Snowy is on track for a 2022 unveiling.

Car Review: 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Exceed PHEV.

This Car Review Is About: A vehicle from a mainstream car maker that provides a technology still all too rare. Hybrid tech of its own right is becoming widespread, however the plug-in part is still uncommon. The Outlander from Mitsubishi is an all too rare opportunity to sample an option in drivetrain tech that perhaps could become a little more common with time. In PHEV form it’s strictly a five seater too.

How Much Does It Cost?: The Outlander falls into the medium SUV category. There are three PHEV variants, being the ES and ES ADAS (higher trim levels) and the Exceed. This starts from $56,390 plus on-road costs. At the time of writing, a drive-away cost of $60,390 was advertised.Under The Bonnet Is: The opportunity to drive, theoretically, up to 54 kilometres on a battery only run thanks to a pair of electric motors, one front, one rear connected to a single speed transmission. Otherwise there is a 2.4L petrol engine that charges the battery, and backs up the electrical drive in uphill runs or when the battery is low on charge. There are two charge ports on the right rear quarter and a separate charge cable that plugs into the standard home plug outlet. When the PHEV was first released five years ago it came only with a 15A cable. Thankfully Mitsubishi listened. There is also an app that allows a driver to monitor charging progress and set charging times.The petrol engine produces 94kW and 199Nm, with the electric engine adding its own 60kW and 70kW via the front and rear mounted motors. Consumption is rated as 1.9L/100km and the tank size is 45L. Our overall figure finished on a creditable 5.8L/100km, and most of that was from charging on the go. The battery itself is of a Lithium-ion mix, with a 13.8kWh capacity, voltage of 300, and 80kW maximum output for the generator. Charging time (80%) on the DC fast charger is is 25 minutes, with seven hours on the cable for home charging.On The Inside It’s: Time for an update. We’ve reviewed three PHEVs and the Outlander platform is aging. Gracefully, yes, but aging. The ergonomics are no longer suitable and the look and feel is obviously older compared to its opposition. There’s been barely any changes since the last model and that’s minor tweaks to the centre console around the fore and aft drive selector, a rejig of the touchscreen and the way the seat material is laid over the frames.The dash is a slab, there are buttons hidden by the steering wheel including the Start/Stop and information button, and it’s all just a bit out of step with the competition. Faux grey coloured carbon-fibre is laid on the passenger side of the dash, the centre console and underneath the aircon controls. There is the usual assortment of cup and bottle holders, plus auto headlights and auto wipers.Cargo wise there is 463L of space, down slightly on the normal five seater. This is thanks to a slightly higher cargo deck that sits over the battery and houses a compartment for tyre goo in the case of a puncture, plus the plug-in charger cable and indicator box. The rear axle houses a motor also, and this contributes to the height as well. There is a 12V outlet for this area though and the rear door is powered.Five seats is what the Outlander PHEV packs, and they’re also in need of an update. This is more to the material used as padding, as there’s more a sense of sitting on, not in, the pews.
On The Outside It’s: Getting closer to the angular shape of siblings AS, Triton, and Pajero Sport. There’s still the rounded, slightly bulbous shape that’s wrapped Outlander for well over a half decade now, but the nose has the look of the rest of the team. One would expect that the next update will drop the ovoid look and bring it more into line with the others.

Wheels are high gloss alloys and of a 25 spoke design. Rubber is 225/55/18 and from the Toyo Proxes range. Access to the two charging ports is via a flap on the right rear quarter, with fuel on the left rear.On The Road It’s: A good mix of electric propulsion for, as it turned out in the real world, around 45 kilometres. The driver’s display has a graphic that shows the charge level of the battery and any regeneration charge being fed back in. It’s a push button start system and there’s a couple of faint clicks and whirrs as the system gets ready. A flick of the drive selector to the right and a fore or aft movement for Reverse of Drive, and that’s as complicated as it gets.Unless the right foot is super heavy or heading uphill, the PHEV is a purely electric vehicle. There’s virtually no noise from the drivetrain, but plenty from the rubber, even on smooth road surfaces. As the charge level drops and heads towards maybe 10%, the petrol engine kicks in and tops up charge ever so gently. On the fly a driver can press a console tab to charge or use a Save Battery mode which entails the petrol engine kicking in and out as required. The swap-in and swap-out is almost seamless, with bare hints of vibration and a dull background drone the indications of the change.

The steering is leaden, heavy, and as the drive indicators don’t show torque split, it feels as if it’s a heavily front wheel drive oriented machine. The suspension is also super tight, with most of the smaller road surface niggles absorbed by the tyre sidewalls, not the suspension. The brake is also numb, a curious sensation given the regenerative ability of the system itself.

Acceleration is somewhere between not bad and slightly leisurely. A dry weight, befoer passengers etc, of just under 1.9 tonnes would have that effect… Even when the petrol engine kicks in, it’s an easy-going, unhurried affair. The single speed transmission does a sterling job too, coping admirably with the demands of either or when it comes to switching between the two power sources.

What About Safety?: Ultrasonic misacceleration Mitigation System is standard in the Exceed, as are Blind Sport Warning, Lane Change Assist, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Adapative Cruise Control with a simple push button to adjust, and a 360 degree camera system are also standard. Seven is the count for airbags.

What About Warranty And Service? Warranty is five years and capped price servicing applies. Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000kms. Conditions and further details can be found here.

At The End Of The Drive. Mitsubishi deserve accolades for their PHEV push. Hyundai have the Ioniq, itself an attractive proposition with electric, hybrid, and PHEV, variants Toyota doesn’t offer a PHEV. And with a real and usable range of around 40km, the Outlander PHEV is absolutely ideal for city running, and with the occasional dip into the petrol tank by using the engine to charge on the go, an easy 60+ , more than enough for most users, it’s perfect. But expect that on any other route consumption will increase.

There are other areas of mild “concern” too. The steering has no life, the dash is really showing its age, and the exterior is now the only member of the current Mitsubishi that lacks the truly hard edged “shield grille” design. And at $60K, buyers will look towards newer and competitively priced products, irrespective of fuel savings.

Outlander PHEV details are here.

Plenty of Automotive Joint Ventures and Deals

Lots of things are happening in the automotive world.  Exciting new deals and ventures continue to be made between big auto giants, and it’s mind-blowing how many joint ventures there actually are in car-manufacturing circles.

Only this week Ford Motors and Volkswagen Group sealed the deal to combine forces and make up to 8 million units of commercial vans and medium pickup trucks.  These two automotive giants will collaborate on a city van which is to be built-up by Volkswagen.  It’s a 1-ton cargo van developed by Ford.  Then a Volkswagen medium pickup, the VW Amarok, will be built on the Ford Ranger platform – soon to start in 2022.  Ford will also make a new electric vehicle for Europe by 2023, and it will be built on Volkswagen’s Modular Electric Drive system.

But this isn’t all.  Automotive manufacturers around the world are joining forces to invest in electric and self-driving technology to help save billions of dollars.

Here are a few other interesting combos:

Did you know that Chinese big gun Geely holds a 23% stake in London Taxis, and they also have an 8.3% stake, as well as a 15.9% voting rights, in Volvo?

How about knowing that Indian’s Mahindra holds a 70 % stake in Ssangyong Motors?

Did you know that Porsche has a 50.74% voting sway on VW?  However, the Porsche automotive business is fully owned by the Volkswagen Group.

A more commonly known joint force is that of the Renault – Nissan Alliance. Renault holds 43.4% of Nissan shares, and Nissan holds 15% of (non-voting) Renault shares.

Toyota holds 100 % stakes in Daihatsu, 50.1% stakes in Hino, 5.9% stakes in Isuzu, 5.05% stakes in Mazda, 16.7% stakes in Subaru and 4.94 % stakes in Suzuki.

VW also has a 99.5 % stake in Audi, a 33.73% stake in Scania and a 53.7% stake in MAN SE.

Daimler and the Beijing Automotive Group have a 50:50 stake joint venture.

Hyundai has a 50:50 stake with the Beijing Automotive Group.

BMW and Brilliance (a Chinese automotive manufacturer) have a 50% and 40.5% joint venture, respectively.

Changan Automobile (a Chinese automobile manufacturer) has large stakes in PSA (Peugeot/Citroen), Suzuki, Mazda and Ford.

Chery has big stakes in a Chery, Tata, Jaguar and Land Rover joint venture.

Dongfeng (a Chinese automobile manufacturer) has big stakes in Peugeot/Citroen, Honda, Nissan, Volvo and Renault.

FAW (a Chinese automobile manufacturer) has stakes in GM, VW and Toyota.

Toyota has a joint (50:50) venture with Peugeot and Citroen.

Sollers (a Russian automobile manufacturer) has stakes in Ford and Mazda for producing vehicles.

Eicher Motors (an Indian automotive manufacture) has stakes in Volvo (50:50).

One gets the feeling that China has a lot of say on things automotive!

Great EVs Available in Australia

Ever wanted to bite the bullet and go over to electric?  Driving electric is getting a little more popular, particularly as EV technology has moved on since the electric postie mobile, electric milk float or electric ice cream van.  EVs are appealing in that they offer zero emissions (once built) and offer much lower running costs.  The other thing about EVs is that they are rather fast; delivering a strong surge of power that is immediate – and the acceleration is unlike anything seen in the present and past world of combustion engines.

Here are some EVs you can buy in Australia:

Audi e-Tron

Audi e-Tron (approx $120k at least)

The e-tron is a high-end EV with Audi’s enviable build quality and interior finish being part of the e-tron lifestyle.  This is a nice German EV which uses a dual-motor setup with a choice of two battery sizes and power outputs: the e-tron 50 with a 71 kWh battery and 225 kW, or the e-tron 55 with its 95 kWh battery and 300 kW output. The driving range is between 300 and 480 km, all of which are refined and relaxed.

If you are doing bigger mileage and longer stints behind the wheel, then the e-tron is a great place to spend time.  Passenger and luggage space are excellent, and this is a fine EV from Audi.

BMW i3

BMW i3 (approx $70k)

The BMW i3 was BMW’s first electric car, and it brought a quality edge to the compact EV world.  The car is efficient and even uses recycled materials inside the cabin. There’s lots of space in the front seats.

A new i3 is made from carbon-fibre, boasts a 42.2 kWh lithium-ion battery, and has a 300 km range.  The more powerful i3 gets a 134 kW motor that can send this little car from 0 – 100 km/h in 6.9 seconds.

Hyundai Ioniq Electric

Hyundai Ioniq Electric (approx $50k)

The Hyundai Ioniq EV had a facelift last year which gave the car a new lease of life in the form of a 100 kW motor linked to a 38 kWh battery, which has upped the car’s official driving range to over 300 km.You also get a 50 kW fast-charger that will replenish a flat battery to 80% in less than an hour.  At home on the standard 7 kW wallbox you can fully charge the Ioniq in just over six hours.

Hyundai Ioniq cars boast a decent boot size and excellent infotainment systems.

Hyundai Kona Electric

Hyundai Kona Electric (approx $60k)

Hyundai’s electric SUV is going to be a good choice for those wanting EV in SUV styling.  This small electric SUV comes with a 64 kWh battery and has a range of over 400 km on a full charge.  With its 150 kW motor the Hyundai Kona scampers from a standstill to 100 km/h in around 7.6 seconds, which is very smart – quicker than most small SUVs.  It comes with an instant hit of power when you push the accelerator.  The interior is roomy, the infotainment excellent, and there’s a 332-litre boot space.  It’s got to be liked.

Jaguar i-Pace

Jaguar I-Pace (approx $123k)

This all-electric SUV is incredibly impressive. It combines a 90 kWh battery with an AWD electric motor that delivers close to 225 kW. Even though heavy, it’s still incredibly rapid, managing the 0-100 km/h sprint in just 4.5 seconds.  A 350 km driving range is very achievable in the real world.  The new I-Pace is luxurious, comfortable, roomy, and delivers on boot space, too.

On the road, the car deliver’s razor-sharp handling and rides smoothly.  The Jaguar I-Pace is an award winner, too: It was crowned 2019 World Car of the Year at the New York Motor Show.

Kia e-Niro

Kia e-Niro (approx $60k)

A new Kia e-Niro has a great driving range, with as much as 450 km available on a full charge.  This compact SUV is comfortable, practical and great value for money, making it one of the best all-round packages on the electric car market today.  The car features a 64 kWh battery and a 150 kW electric motor.  Boasting plenty of decent features, the e-Niro is a well-equipped small SUV with an 8-inch touchscreen, sat nav, heated leather seats, adaptive cruise control, a reversing camera and many other goodies besides. You also get the use of 451-litres of boot space and a 7-year/160,000 km warranty.  The buy new price is very competitive, and it’s little wonder that it is one of the best on the market and liked by many.

Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf (approx $50k)

A new Nissan Leaf looks cool and is available in two forms: one version has a 40 kWh battery that gives an official range of 270 km, while the top-of-the-range new Leaf e+ features a larger 62 kWh battery returning up to 380 km travel range. Real world range will likely be less, but still this is very good for the most part and many will be very happy with it.  You’ll be able to recharge that battery to 80% in 40 minutes from a rapid charger, and in 7.5 hours from a home wallbox.

A 0-100 km/h sprint takes 8 seconds.  A roomy, stylish interior is a Nissan Leaf strong point.  They drive very nicely and offer 435-litres of boot space.  Safety is very strong, especially with features like the advanced semi-autonomous Pro Pilot driving technology available on higher spec models.  The car’s infotainment system is good and it boasts Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Renault ZOE

Renault Zoe (approx $50k)

The Renault ZOE is one of the best electric cars on sale in Australia right now.  The car has had a recent facelift in 2019 that gave it more range, more power and faster charging at home and abroad.  The new Renault ZOE contains a 52 kWh battery that returns a close to 300 km range on a full charge.  Two power ratings are available: you can opt for either the 80 kW or 100 kW motor, with the 0-100 km/h sprint times being 11.4 and 9.6 seconds respectively.  These motors are both nippy, particularly about town and city environments.

Plug your little ZOE into a home wallbox delivering 7 kW of power, and the it will be fully charged from flat in under nine hours, while a 50kW fast-charger will see a 20-80% charge in less than an hour.  The new Renault ZOE, though small, is also good value for money and it’s a great way to get into EV travel.

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S (approx $150k)

The US firm Tesla created its premium electric car in the form of the Tesla Model S saloon. Packing over 380 kW from a pair of electric motors (one driving the front wheels and one driving the rear wheels), the Tesla Model S is quick, dynamic and capable of seeing off the 0-100 km/h sprint in 4.1 seconds.  A higher performance model is available that will do the same dash in just 2.4 seconds!

The premium Tesla Model S is a premium car with loads of nice features – including a whopping 17-inch infotainment screen that can be split-screened accordingly for various functions.

You may also want to look at the cheaper Tesla Model 3 (from approx $74k), and the SUV version Tesla Model X (from approx$165k).

New Protocols for Euro NCAP Crash Testing

Moving Barrier in new Euro NCAP tests.

‘Euro NCAP’; so what do all these letters mean?  Euro, obviously, means ‘European’, and NCAP means ‘New Car Assessment Programme’.  So what this team at Euro NCAP does is test out new cars by putting put them through a stringent crash test to see how they perform.  New cars need to meet a set of standards in order to get marked as having a certain level of crash safety.  This is really handy for the likes of you and me because it provides new car, and second-hand car, buyers a good informative test standard whereby we can satisfy ourselves that a car we’re about to buy meets levels of crash-test safety that we’re happy with.

This crash test safety rating, given by authorities like Euro NCAP and ANCAP (but not restricted to), stands up well in the real world, where cars involved in a crash keep the occupants safe according to the rating given in tests.  When a car is involved in a severe crash, the higher the car’s safety rating (approved through testing) is seen to offer a better chance of survival for its occupants.  The opposite is also true, where the lower the safety rating the higher the chance of severe injury to the car’s occupants.

Every two years, Euro NCAP updates and toughens its test protocols.  Recently, the crash testing bar at Euro NCAP headquarters has been raised for any new cars that get tested.  This is always a good thing because it drives new car manufacturers to improve their cars safety capability.  This year sees Euro NCAP  addressing some issues in occupant protection, providing an improved post-crash protection test and delivering a push for the new cars to have the latest advanced driver assistance technology.

Leading the new protocols is one major change in the offset crash test; and that is the introduction of a new moving barrier to moving car frontal crash test.  This replaces the current moderate offset-deformable barrier test, which has been used by Euro NCAP for the last twenty three years. The barrier will now move at around 50 km/h toward the car to better replicate what happens in the real world.  Even the thought of it suggests that manufacturers will have to strengthen their car’s safety cell to score highly!

This new crash test will evaluate the protection of the car’s occupants in the crash, as well as assessing how the cars’ front-end structures contribute, or not, to occupant injury in the collision. The new regulations also include the world’s most advanced mid-sized male crash test dummy called “THOR”.  Thor will provide lots of extra information on how well ‘he’ has been protected during the new crash testing regime.

Side impacts are never pretty, and they account for the second highest frequency of death or serious injuries. New adjustments to the near-side barrier test’s speed and mass has resulted in an increase in the severity of the test. Strengthening protection down the sides of new cars will have to be on the agenda if manufacturers want to score well in this side impact test.

Also, Euro NCAP will begin evaluating far-side impact protection that focuses on driver protection and the potential interaction between the driver and front-seat passenger during the collision. New protection offered by new-to-market countermeasures such as centre airbags between driver and passenger will be adequately scrutinised.

New driver-assist technologies will be looked at, and to score highly new cars will need to use competent accident emergency braking technology in the cars to protect vulnerable road users.  These would include road users behind the car in a reversing-back-over situation, as well as road users in the path of the car turning at a crossing. Also, evaluations on Driver Status Monitoring systems, designed to detect driver fatigue and distraction, will be part of the Safety Assist assessment run by Euro NCAP.

Manufacturers will be rewarded when any rescue information is accurate after a crash which has happened in the real world becomes easily available for scrutiny. Euro NCAP also checks ease of rescue after an accident has occurred, electric door handles, softness of materials in the cabin etc. and will endorse any technology that calls for help in an emergency situation.

These are some of the major changes we’ll see employed by Euro NCAP’s new 2020 protocols. Our local ANCAP testing will be sure to follow similar protocols so as to give the best information for us lot – the car buyers.

A Legacy Of Luxury: Bentley Digital Design.

With a brand such as Bentley, and the history and heritage the brand has, embracing the digital age can be fraught with conflict. Just how does a design for something to go inside be compatible, will it suit the look and “feel” of a particular vehicle, will its intended purpose grow old gracefully or be out of date in a few years?

Design teams aim for a particular look and in the case of such a brand as Bentley, that look must tie in with what has come before. One key area is that of what the driver will look at every time they slide onto the sumptuously appointed seats of a Flying Spur. The dashboard dials and multimedia interfaces are an area that Graeme Smith and his team of Human Machine Interface (HMI) designers at Bentley have taken on with great success.Utilising what is called a “mood board”, Smith and the team lay out the images of what will appear on the digital screen for the Flying Spur. The colors, the icons, that will be seen are reviewed in conjunction with the main designers at Crewe, the home of Bentley. Critical to the look, says Smith, is choosing to go 2D or use what is called skeuomorphic design. “A Bentley isn’t a smartphone; it’s going to be used and cherished for generations. So we chose a skeuomorphic approach that will age with the car. Look at pure digital instrument graphics from ten years ago – they’ve dated faster than the car they were part of.”

It’s a tricky ethos to deal with, he says, as going to a clean, ultra-modern, look, would be at odds with the history of Bentley, and by using skeumorphic design, they can be in the digital age and still convey the message that fits with the Bentley presentation. There is also a requirement, says Smith, to provide a family relationship between the vehicles yet provide a difference. For example, the speedometer and rev counter dials in the Flying Spur have bronze rings, a different hue to those in the Continental GT.Then there’s the end purpose of the vehicle a design goes into. The dials in the Continental GT have a 3D look to the knurled appearance, echoing the look of that cars gear selector. the Flying Spur has the outer edges looking akin to a machined appearance, reflecting the Spur’s more luxury oriented drive, as opposed to the overtly sporting nature of the GT.

Road time is also considered, as in when the car is on the road and the driver’s interest is in simply driving. A reduction in potentially distracting information is provided, says Smith. In a form of digital detox, the driver can see dials that provide the sheer essentials; fuel gauge levels, the temperature of the engine, local time, the vehicle’s velocity, and the ambient outside temperature. Bentley refers to its own history here, by dimming the dials to the point only the needles are visible, and allowing a driver to consider the night time drives at Le Mans, or Woolf Barnato’s legendary night drive through France to beat the Blue Train.

However, the story doesn’t finish there. The final part of the journey in the digital design of the dials is where the Flying Spur will live its life. Will it be in the United States? How about Dubai? Will it be used to chauffeur a Sheikh in Saudi Arabia? The central screen is also part of this equation, meaning that the team must consider something like 600 different icons and over 1,500 varying menu screens. The different languages (up to 27!) and idioms for the markets are considered, plus the varying market specific services such as satellite radio, apps such as Android Auto (with final sign-ff to be granted by the owners of the systems themselves), even the three different audio systems from Naim, Bang and Olufsen, and the brand’s own bespoke setup.It’s here that the HMI team divide the load. There are function owners, nine in total, that work with three graphic designers and focus on a specific area. This can be the climate control, audio settings, the interface that shows fuel consumption.To say Bentley says luxury, it says history, it says motorsport. It takes love and dedication to ensure that the history of Bentley is continued with eyes on the past, and eyes on the future. Graeme Smith and the Human Machine Interface team have those in mind and their eyes look forward with the past firmly in focus.

2020 SsangYong Korando ELX And Ultimate: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: The mid and top level 2020 SsangYong Korando. The car has been given a complete makeover inside and out. No longer does it look like a poor cousin to the curvy Korean sourced and no longer available Captiva. Rather it’s now a vehicle of its own styling, and yet there’s a whiff of familiarity as well.How Much Does It Cost?: The three model range starts at $26,990 with the EX, $30,990 for the petrol ELX and $36,990 for the petrol Ultimate. All prices are driveaway. There is a diesel available for the ELX and Ultimate for a $3,000 extra cost.Under The Bonnet Is: A rorty and exuberant 1.5L turbo petrol engine. Power and torque are rated at 120kW and 280Nm from 1,500rpm through to 4,000rpm. It’s got a nature very much like an excited puppy, with a free revving nature, plenty of pull when it’s up and running, and will have the front wheels scrabbling for grip from a hard launch. But there’s a price to pay and that’s at the petrol pump. We didn’t see anything under 9.0L/100km at any time. Ssangyong quotes only a combined figure and that’s 7.7L/100km, an indicator the suburban drive is over 9.0L/100km. The fuel tank is just 47L,

The transmission is a six speed auto and drives the front wheels. There is a transmission tunnel visible in the rear seat section, suggesting the Korando has been engineered for AWD later. And being a six-speeder also means it’s starting to be left behind considering the now virtually standard eight speeds found elsewhere.

On The Outside It’s: Squarer, boxier, and more assertive looking than the original. There’s a hint of Suzuki Swift and Volvo XC40 at the rear with the fin-shaped pillar insert, a touch of Volkswagen at the front with the layered horizontal lines in the centre.A chromed strip runs across in a line just under the leading edge of the bonnet, dipping down under each self-leveling headlight. The Ultimate sports a triple-tiered driving light cluster underneath; the ELX has blacked out inserts. Both have a triple layered set of lines in the main air-intake which echoes the driving lights in the Ultimate.

The rear lights mirror the front, with three chevrons either side and another chromed strip that runs under each cluster. Solid looking black polycarbonate finishes off each end whilst the sides and flanks have heavily sculpted lines to ease a slightly slabby look. The wing mirrors are folding and heated, a nice touch on those coolish, foggy days.

Good looking tuning fork style 18 inch alloys on the ELX have Kumho Crugen 235/55 rubber. The Ultimate has double spiral alloys at 19 inches in diameter and rubber from Hankook at 235/50.Overall it’s compact in size; 4,450mm in total length is shorter than it appears. A wheelbase of 2,675mm sits inside that. It’s tall at 1,620mm and broad at 1,870mm. It’s not excessively heavy at 1,435kg dry.

On The Inside It’s: Classy in the Ultimate, only a little less so in the ELX. The Ultimate has a full LCD display for the driver; on startup two spinning discs become the speed and rev counter displays. The look can morph into a couple of other looks depending on information required.For The ELX it’s traditional analogue yet still good looking. There are options to change the dial lighting and for both daytime and night time running in choice. Sadly the centre dash touchscreen is severely lacking in comparison. No DAB, no satnav, no real menu structure…It’s worse than basic, looks as dull as dishwater, and frankly detracts strongly from the Korando’s otherwise quite enjoyable ambience. The centre stack is piano black, the aircon controls are laid out cleanly, and in the case of the Ultimate are soft touch rocker-switch style tabs. A slightly odd touch is the size of the door handles inside. Very slimline and the kind a slippery finger would easily slide over and off.The manually adjusted for reach and rake steering wheel is on the larger side to hold. That’s not entirely a bad thing as it makes for easier push-pull driving. The Ultimate has it as heated as well, along with the leather seats being heated and vented. For the ELX the cloth clad seats do the job, and nicely thank you, with perhaps both needing a little more under thigh support.Both have a drive mode selector dial in the centre console, with Sport and Winter modes available. The buttons around the gear selector for the Ultimate look burrowed from the brand’s Korean cousins. The tiller is also familiar in look, if not heft.Room isn’t a major issue all round. The boot is 551L and grows to 1,248L. Headroom is 1,011mm and 987mm.On The Road It’s: A bit of fun. The steering and ride quality are twitchy; the steering requires constant input, the Lane Keeping Assist is, like its Korean counterparts, over-eager, and the ride is a little on the firm side. The front suspension crashes through at times, rather than providing initial compliance before dialing out impacts. But the steering is just light enough that you can feel a little bit sporty hustling the Korando through switchbacks and adjust for the slight oversteer and medium range velocities.

Actual engine engagement is solid. As mentioned it’s an eager thing and will happily chirp the front rubber. Once hooked up, there’s decent acceleration from a smallish turbo engine in a decent small-mid sized SUV. The auto, for “all” of its a six-speeder, is slick, changes well up and down through the cogs, and only occasionally felt as if it was in the wrong place. It also engine brakes downhills nicely, and a gentle tap of the paddle shifters at the bottom brings everything back into line.

The brakes are a touch on the soft side. There’s some space between the touch and push before engagement is felt and it’s a soft press still from there. But they do grab and haul up the Korando well enough, and stopping distance can be judged once some time with the car has been taken. Suspension wise, the Ultimate had a “feel” that it was more aligned with the sporting driver.

What About Safety?: AEB or Autonomous Emergency Braking is standard across the range, along with Forward Collision Warning. Lane Keep Assist is standard for all three, whereas Lane Change Assist isn’t for the EX. The Ultimate is the one to receive Adaptive Cruise Control, all three also get Lane Departure Warning, Driver Alert Warning, and seven airbags including driver’s knee. The EX dips out on Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Ultimate also gets Tyre Pressure Monitoring.

What About Warranty and Service?: Warranty is class equaling; seven years and unlimited kilometres. Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000 kilometres and are capped at $295 per service across the seven years for the Korando petrol. Roadside assistance is available for those seven years.

At The End Of The Drive. SsangYong have delivered a pretty decent vehicle in the form of the Korando ELX and Ultimate with petrol power. Sure, there’s some utterly unnecessary quirks but the lack of DAB and satnav is bordering on unforgivable. The poor user interface for the touchscreen makes accessing the apps on smart phones virtually impossible. The upside is the really cool driver’s display in the Ultimate, a ride quality and handling package that isn’t terribly unenjoyable, decent room, and good looks outside.

Some dollars by their marketing arm wouldn’t go astray as the car, and the brand, are invisible to the daily driver. That’s a shame as, aside from the quirks, the vehicles in the range are viable alternatives….or is it the quirks that stop the sale?

Dive into the Korando here.

Noisy Windscreen Wipers? What To Do.

There are certain noises in life that raise the hairs on the back of the neck. A screeching child demanding something, the sound of screeching tyres behind you, the screech in the wife’s voice as she finds your latest car parts receipt you thought you’d kept hidden…

But out driving, and suddenly that forecast rain hits earlier. You flick the wiper switch and screeeech, screeeech….back and forth and the fillings in your teeth are rattling.

How does this happen and what to do?

It’s potentially a combination of factors, but happily, it’s a short list. There are only two, three depending on how you look at it, things that are involved. One is the windscreen itself. The second and potentially third are one or both of the wiper blades.

How to approach this? Given the most likely source of the screeching is or are the blade/s, these would be the first ports of call for a visual inspection.
Lift the wiper arms up from the windscreen. Detach the blades from the arms and, using a good torch, inspect the blades themselves. Feel the blades with your fingers. Do they feel soft, malleable, easy to flick back and forth? Or are they dry, cracked, and brittle?

If any signs of a failing blade or blades are noticed, then a visit to your local car parts retail store to source new wiper blades is in order.

Once new blades are fitted and lowered, get the hose and give the windscreen a good squirt. Activate the wipers and listen. Still noisy? Then having eliminated one part of the equation, the other has to be the windscreen itself.

Specific window cleaning products do a fantastic job but what of the condition of the glass itself after the clean? Again, eyeball the window, and one method is to get that torch onto it at night and shine across the window. Look for a straight beam of light bouncing off it. If the reflection looks scatted, it’s likely the same reason we polish cars. The windscreen is likely to be pitted, scratched, and this form of damage will grab onto a wiper like a child to a lollypop. Hence the screeching later.

Depending on the condition of the glass, a treatment with IPA (iso-propyl alcohol) to further remove dirt and grime that may have become embedded and not removed by previous cleaning, may help. IPA may also be used, gently, to clean blades that are dirty but fine otherwise.   Professional services can offer a polishing of the glass and this does need to be professionally applied.

Unfortunately, the worst case scenario, but one that dramatically lifts the safety factor, is a windscreen replacement. Not only will new and smooth glass recues the friction levels and allow rainwater to run off easier, forward vision is less, far less in fact, likely to be reduced thanks to light scattering from the minute scratches.

Car parts websites have plenty of information about the right replacement blades to suit your car, and have plenty of handy tips and hints for ensuring your wiper blades are always in tip-top condition. If you’ve tried cleaning and swapping blades, and it’s worked, let us know via our feedback channels in our socials.