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SUVs and Utes Globally Unstoppable

Toyota RAV4 SUV

This year is shaping up to be an exciting and interesting year for car sales in Australia.  Currently, the Toyota Hilux is selling well above even the second biggest seller: the Ford Ranger.  With over 4,500 sales in March, Toyota and there owners are loving life.  Ford Ranger during the same period sold 3721 units.  But take a look at this list and you’ll see that of the top ten models sold in Australia six of them are utes and SUVs.

  1. Toyota Hilux
  2. Ford Ranger
  3. Mitsubishi Triton
  4. Mazda3
  5. Toyota Corolla
  6. Mazda CX-5
  7. Hyundai i30
  8. Mitsubishi ASX
  9. Mitsubishi Outlander
  10. Kia Cerato

What about in the rest of the world?  Well, it continues to be true that more SUV and utes are being purchased than any other type of car in Australia and around the world.  In fact, the world’s most popular ute was not the Hilux but the Ford F-series (light truck).  Sorry Toyota lovers, but Ford takes you out globally!!  With well over 1 million F-series sold last year, that’s very impressive!  In New Zealand, Kiwis have a taste for the Ford Ranger more so than the Hilux, too.  But this isn’t about Ford being better than Toyota – just saying…

Ford F-Series

Now for redemption time for me, so as to get back on side with Toyota fans.  Last year the world’s most popular SUV was the Toyota RAV4.  It was also the most popular SUV in New Zealand.  Maybe all the rental car companies that love the robust and reliable nature of the RAV4 make up a big swag of those RAV4 global sales numbers.  The roads between Christchurch and Milford Sound are teeming with RAV4s!

So why do you think that the SUV and utes are growing so much in popularity here and around the world?  It could well be because a decade or so ago utes and SUVs were vehicles that had a bit of a hard nose to them, with a more practical bent to them.  Some utes were tremendously good at carrying loads but hideously uncomfortable to travel any longer distances with.  Today your SUV and ute still has huge practical merit but they are way more comfortable and sophisticated.  And who can argue with the SUVs ability to accommodate seven occupants?  It gets a bit difficult putting seven seats inside a stationwagon with room to spare; and just totally impossible trying to fit seven seats inside a sedan.

With these sort of stats rolling off car sales yards, one could easily say that SUVs and utes are very much taking over the world, and this regardless of rising fuel prices.

Car Review: 2019 Tesla Model X 100D

This Car Review Is About:
One of the two vehicles currently available from Tesla. The Model S and Model X are very closely related and come with a choice of drive combinations. A new model, a smaller car called Model 3 is scheduled for Australian release from July 2019. The vehicle tested is the non-P 100D. P for Performance, 100 for the kiloWatt hour drive, D for Dual motor (or, if you will, all wheel drive). The Model X can be specified with different seating configurations and the test vehicle was fitted out as a six seater. What About The Dollars?
Cost for the car tested started at $129,500. Metallic paint is $2,100, with the big black wheels $7,800. The seating colour scheme was $2,100 with the dash trim, a dark ash wood look, a standard no-cost fitment. It’s the electronic bits that add on, with the full self driving option and auto-pilot $7,100 and $4,300 each. With options fitted, Luxury Car Tax, and GST, plus charges such as government taxes, the car as tested came to $186,305.

Under The Bonnet Is:
Empty space. Yup, the Tesla Model X has a “frunk”, a front trunk, or in Aussie speak, a front boot. It’s big enough for a travel case of hiding the home charge cable that Tesla supplies. The engines for the 100D are located underneath at the front and rear, and engage via a single speed transmission. It’s this combination that gives the Tesla Model X startling acceleration, and in Ludicrous mode, a drive option available in the “P” designated cars, it’s quicker again. Call it three seconds to 100kph and you’d be on the money.On The Inside Is:
A choice of seating options. The test car came fitted with a white leather covered set of six seats. The three pairs all have their own form of power adjustment. Up front the driver has fore and aft movement, seat back adjustment, and lumbar support. The middle row are also adjustable for fore and aft, allowing access to the rear seats. However they do not have seat back adjustment. The third row are powered in a slightly different way, with a button locking or releasing them for raising or lowering.

Tesla fit a massive, vertically oriented, 17 inch touchscreen that houses virtually all of the functions. Audio, navigation, music access, air-conditioning, doors, car features, settings, online user manual, and some special features are all here. The map system is from Google and rendered in superb high definition on the screen. Drive orientation is in the upper right corner and can be set to swivel in direction or North as a permanent upper orientation.The overall front section presence is clean, uncluttered, traditional even. The driver’s binnacle has a full colour LCD screen that shows information such as energy usage, map, radio, and more. The steering column is perhaps the weakest part ergonomically. A left hand side indicator sits above the cruise control lever and both can be easily confused for the other as they’re very close together. The drive engage lever is on the right and is simple in operation.The centre row seats move forward and as they close towards the front seats gradually nose downwards to allow access to the rear. The rears are not adjustable for anything other than folded or not. Behind them is another storage locker with a lift away cover that otherwise provides a flat floor.The touchscreen itself houses “easter eggs”. At the top centre of the screen is a “T” symbol. Hold that for a second or two and a graphic that describes the individual car shows. A second or two later a screen appears above that and has an Atari games symbol, a Mars map symbol, a reindeer, a Christmas tree ornament and others. The Atari symbol brings up five games including Asteroids and Missile Command. The reindeer has the car’s driver display show a Father Christmas and sleigh, and rings Christmas bells on the indicator stalk. There is also an “emissions testing” icon that brings a grin to every ten year old boy when a sub-menu of different farts comes up.

On The Outside Is:
The extended roof version of the Model S. Extended as in the Model S formed the basis for the Model X. A higher roof line houses the famous folding gull wing doors, and there’s another part of the delight. When the Christmas ornament is pressed from the easter egg list, it invites the passengers to exit, and close the doors. A few seconds later if it works, as it’s sometimes hit or miss, the front windows roll down, the superb sound system pumps up, and the exterior LED lights up front flash in synchronisation. The doors themselves open and flap in unison and it is one unbelievably entrancing sight to see.The rear view sees an embedded airfoil otherwise the same looking tail lights at Model S. The nose is slightly different but unmistakeably Model S. The footprint is huge, with fan shaped alloys painted in black spanning 22 inches in diameter. Rubber is Goodyear Eagle and are 285/35.

The doors are normally hinged at the front, gull winged for the rear, and the driver’s door can be set to open on the approach of a person carrying the Tesla key fob. Unlike the Model S the door handles don’t extend out from the body, and require a firm press on the handle or via the key fob individually. A tap or two on the top can open or close all doors.

On The Road It’s:
A mix of elation and mild levels of meh. The meh is the steering feel. Although there are three drive modes that change the weight of the steering, it feels artificial and isolated. That’s not unexpected in such a technologically oriented vehicle. But that’s the worst of the on-road feels.

The time with the Model X coincided with a trip from the Blue Mountains to Bega via Canberra. Door to door it’s just on 500 kilometres. The full charge range of the Model X is knocking on 480km. An app that can be installed into your smartphone shows, once the car is linked to your account, the range expected, and when charging, the charge rate and charge distance. The AMOUNT of charge can also be adjusted, from zero through to 100%, with 80% being the default.

All Tesla cars come with a charge cable to hook the car up to a home’s electric network and Tesla themselves provide a higher output charge station to their buyers. These charge at 7 to 8 kilometres of range per hour. The first stop was at the supercharger portal in Goulburn. That’s a two hour drive with a supercharger near Canberra airport approximately another hour away. Superchargers will add in somewhere between 350km to 400km of range in an hour according to the app.Cooma is the next supercharger stop, another hour or so from Canberra, and this one is in an off the main road and not entirely welcoming location. It’s a set of six in a carpark entrance for a shopping complex, and on our visit half of the supercharger bays were taken up by non electric cars. The drives gave us a chance to properly evaluate, in a real world, family usage situation, and although the range expectations were one thing, proper usage delivers another.

Cargo was two adults, two children, a small dog, and a few overnight bags. Then there is the weight of the car and the topography to consider. Autopilot and cruise control were engaged and a small point on the autopilot. The lever needs to be pulled toward the driver twice to engage, and the cameras strategically embedded around the car will then “read” the roadsides in order to keep the Model X as centred as possible. The autopilot function itself was in “Beta” testing mode and again accessed via the touchscreen.The biggest appeal of the the Model X, and Model S, for that matter, is the sheer driveability of the chassis and drivetrain. Electric motors deliver torque constantly, as per this and acceleration across any driving condition is stupendous. The “P” designation adds in “Ludicrous” mode, which amps up the “get up and go” even further. Engage the drive, and it’s a double pull to bring the car out of hibernation mode, and plant the foot. That mountain you could see on the horizon is suddenly there before you.

The braking system can be set for two energy harvest levels and on the ten kilometres worth of downhill running at Brown Mountain, some forty kilometres west of Bega, added an effective twenty kilometres of range. It’s the uphill runs that pull the range expectations downwards, and severely at that. The ever-growing network of destination chargers alleviate range anxiety and a visit to the beautiful coastal town of Merimbula found a destination charger at a bayside motel. The navigation system can provide locations of chargers and when a destination charger shows, a tap of the screen advises the usage, as in in this case, passing through holiday makers. A big thanks to the good people at the Albacore Apartments, by the way. There are two Tesla destination chargers and these add range at 75 to 80 kilometres per hour.

The return trip was via Cooma without stopping and heading to Canberra’s Madura Parkway charge stop. Handily located next to a major fast food store and a number of other shops, an hour’s break saw the Model X arrive back at its Blue Mountains lair with perhaps 70km worth of range left.

Actual ride quality is on the high side of decent considering the size of the wheels and low profile rubber. Ride height can be ajusted via the touchscreen but a high ride setting lowers the car back to its standard height once a preset speed is reached. The Model X is stiff but not bone-shakingly so, taut, but not uncomfortably so. It’s flat, exhibits minimal body roll, and is surprisingly compliant on unsettled and rough surfaces. And although the steering lacks “humanity” it also points the Model X exactly where the wheel tells it to. Naturally, brake feel is spot on too.

The Safety Systems Are:
A solid list of 360 degree cameras, parking sensors that measure in millimetres and show on the driver’s screen, distance sensing radar cruise control, AEB, overhead and knee airbags, plus the usual electronic driver aids. The cruise control can be set to one to seven seconds of distance between the Model X and the car ahead. It’s worth noting that the braking can be on the hard side so driver involvement is still required to watch the road ahead. The same goes with the autonomous steering. Hands on the tiller are recommended at all times.

And The Warranty Is:
Four years for the body and structure. The drive systems and battery get eight years. Extra information is here.

At The End Of The Drive.
The timing of the drive came just after the leader of the Australian Opposition party put forward a proposition that by 2030 fifty percent of cars to be made available for sale be electric. Naturally this sparked the conversation about costs, range, and the time taken to recharge versus refueling a petrol or diesel car.

There’s an undeniable time factor in regards to recharging. But there is a welcome upside. The Goulburn stop provided an opportunity to visit a street mall, the Cooma break a visit to a park with historic significance. The Merimbula stop provided a chance to sample the local lifestyle and the Canberra stop a welcome half way point, lunch, and a leg stretch. The Model X itself is not a tiring car to drive meaning driver fatigue is minimised.

Therein, as the saying goes, lies the rub. The return trip from Bega took as much time as a normal petrol/diesel powered trip, even allowing for the hour or so to recharge. The upside was the break allowing a safe, straight through, return drive and the lack of fatigue from driving a comfortable vehicle. The downside was the evidence that range expectations versus the real world have some way to go before the two meet with a lesser margin in between.

And yes, the cost is significant, especially with the extra Australian government charges involved. However there are plenty of cars that start at the same price and offer an extensive option list. And there is the fluctuating cost of fuel. Depending on location it is theoretically possible to not pay a cent in recharge costs with an electric car.

Tesla will be releasing a lower cost version, effectively, of the Model S, and a new, smaller, SUV called the Model Y is in development. With battery technology improving and the uptake of solar power and batteries for home usage also on the upswing, plus the promise of further electric cars as standard from makers, they all mean that for the Australian market our driving future is in for an undeniable change.

Model X information and more on the other cars from Tesla can be found here.

The Top Five From The Last Five

Picture Australian roads in the mid 1970s. It was the era of Holden, Ford, and Chrysler. Japanese brands such as Subaru and Toyota were known of, Korean cars simply didn’t “exist”, and four wheel drive capable utes were the end product of after-market conversion companies. European cars were largely luxury types or sports cars, with Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz up against Porsche, whilst Volkswagen was best known for its “people’s car” still.

The Kingswood and Falcon duked it out with the big Chrysler Valiant, sedans and wagons, like “light” and “heavy” beer were the only choices.
But it was also heading towards the days of the so-called oil crisis. Emissions were also becoming something that would be under the microscope, and European designs would soon start to filter their way through to the Aussie marketplace.

Punk music was just starting to grow, Queen were thriving, and a small film called Star Wars has people queuing around street corners.Times and tastes have changed over the last forty years or so. Technology has made substantial differences to how we enjoy viewing, watching, listening, and driving.

2014 Top Five.
Toyota already had a reputation for building solid off road cars. They were known for cheap to run, if not exciting to drive, small cars, and in 2014 their Corolla was the number one selling car. Competitor Mazda also grew from a good yet uninspiring range, bar the exciting and thirsty EX-7, and in 2014 their Corolla fighter, the Mazda 3 (once known as the 323 and shared with Ford as the Laser) ran a VERY close second. How close?43,735 “Rollas” were sold in 2014, against 43,313 3s. Toyota claimed position number 3 in 2014. Their HiLux 4×2 and 4×4 utes, in two and four door configurations was making steady progress through the sales charts and finished ahead of Hyundai’s i30 five door hatch. The once almost unstoppable Holden Commodore would take fifth in 2014.

2015 would see a change in the rankings with not one, but two, utes in the top five. Toyota had consolidated first again, with the Corolla still of big appeal at just over 42K vehicles finding new homes. Mazda’s 3 had gone backwards considerably, with 38,644 in new driveways.

HiLux would be third yet again in 2015 but had lost close to three thousand sales. In fourth it was Hyundai’s tidy i30 but in fifth, and with sales going up by about the same HiLux went down, was Ford’s overhauled Ranger. 29,185 Rangers were sold, up from 26,619 in 2014.

2016 was a watershed year for the Australian automotive manufacturing industry. The largely home grown Falcon was no more and Ford Australia had ceased local manufacturing. The top five in 2016 was a case of the same yet different. HiLux had been given a makeover, with a more assertive and blokey styling. This was enough to propel it to the top of the charts for 2016, and how! 42,104 versions were sold, an increase of just shy of seven thousand. Corolla made it a Toyota one-two with the i30 taking bronze again. Ranger increased sales by nearly eight thousand to finish fourth on 36.934, with the Mazda3 in fifth, down by over two thousand to 36,107.

Best selling cars of 2017.
Well, it was a battle of the utes this year. The tsunami that was HiLux in 2016 continued, with an increase of nearly five thousand from 2016. 47,093 of them were purchased. Ford’s Ranger shouldered through the Corolla range and with 42,728, silver on the podium was Ford’s for the taking. It was a tussle of the small cars for third, fourth, and fifth, with Corolla, Mazda3, and the i30 taking the minor placings. i30 had collapsed, with just 28,780 being sold compared to 2016’s 37,772. 2017 would also see Holden and Toyota pull down the shutters on their local manufacturing operations.

2018’s Best Sellers.
Australia’s love affair with the Commodore, and sedans in general, was well and truly over. But that love for the HiLux was increased even further, with the chunky machine seeing 51,705 rolling out of showrooms. In December of 2018 alone, 3871 were sold.

Ford’s Ranger had undergone a facelift in 2017 and that momentum continued to have the brawny Australian designed machine shift 42,144 units. This was close to seven thousand units ahead of the Corolla, with its own 2017, edgy looking, facelift not diminishing appeal. 35,320 Toyota Corollas were bought, well over four thousand more than the Mazda3. In fifth was the bridesmaid’s bridesmaid, Hyundai’s i30. However, in 2018, more attention was on the i30N than the others, which means a climb to fourth for 2019 may well be the case.

Of note is Mitsubishi’s Triton. A facelifted version was made available in early 2019, and 2018 saw 24,896 sold. Holden’s Colorado didn’t crack the top ten in comparison.

Tell us what you think of the current state of Australian car sales, and which brand grabs your fancy by getting in touch via our blog and social media connections.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Lexus LC 500

This Car Review Is About:
The 2019 Lexus LC 500. It’s a big, luxury oriented, coupe with stand out styling, a brawny 5.0L V8, and a fair bit of heft. There’s heft to the price too: $189,629 plus on road costs as of February 2019.Under The Bonnet Is:
A V8 of five litres capacity. It’s the same one as found in the GS F, which produces 351kW and 530 Nm. Consumption on the combined cycle is rated as 11.6L/100km. There’s a ten speed auto that hooks up to the rear wheels via a Torsen limited slip diff, and if you’re a touch green around the gills, a hybrid version is available. Transmission changes are made via paddle shifts on the steering column, and the gear selector is atypical in that it’s a rocker movement towards the right, forward for reverse, back for Drive, and Park is a P button. Back to the left where M is listed gives Manual control.On The Inside Is:
A stupidly small amount of room. It’s a BIG looking car, with 4770mm overall length, a wheelbase of 2870mm, and 1630mm track. The driver sits just aft of the mid point and has plenty of leg room forward. So does the passenger. But it’s here that the good news ends. The rear seats are great for a suitcase or a bag or two of shopping. With the front seats in a suitable position up front, the gap between rear of seat and squab is minimal. Minimal. The up side is that the powered seats self adjust for fore & aft movement when the lever to flip them forward for rear seat access is pulled up.The seats themselves are low set, meaning anyone with muscle issues may struggle to lever themselves up and out. And with a low roof height, raising the seats may compromise the noggin of taller drivers.

Then there’s the passenger section. It’s quite aligned with a single seat fighter jet in concept, with a tub and grab handles on either side. Then there’s the dash. The passenger gets little to look at directly ahead apart from a sheet of faux carbon fibre style material, and Lexus have left the LC 500 with the multi-fold design. The air-con vents are squirreled away in a niche line with just a single vent in direct centre. Sometimes it felt as if the air flow isn’t happening.Up top and centre is the Lexus display screen. It’s wide, in full colour high definition, and operated via a track pad (no mouse) in the centre console. In full daylight it’s still clearly visible. Unfortunately, in a well meant effort to add extra visual splash, there is a aluminuim strip just below it and sitting on top of the centre airvent. It catches sunlight really well, and spreads it around the cabin really well. That includes straight back into the driver’s eyes.

Drive mode selectors have been relocated from here and are on dials on the left and right of the driver binnacle. The binnacle houses a full colour LCD screen that has a sliding circle that activates different looks to the screen. Yes, it might be somewhat gimmicky but it also allows a driver to choose some or all info at will. A super clear HUD is also fitted and again, it’s excellent in its instinctiveness.

The rear seat, what there is of it, is largely hampered by the exterior design. And there’s some interior fitment that is part of it. Lexus have moved the battery to under a boot floor cover to help with weight distribution. But the slope of the rear window line means head room is compromised, and the boot itself is two overnight bags in capacity.There is a very good range of interior trim colour combinations, with a total of eight coverings and shades available. They’re all a great place to sit and listen to the excellent Mark Levinson audio system which is DAB compatible, plus allows DVD playback. Speaker count? 13, sir.

The Outside Is:
Eyecatching. The low height, 1345mm from tyre bottom to carbon fibre roof top, makes the car look lithe, svelte, and a set of coke bottle hips add a measure of sensuality to the lines. A slim, broad, front houses a beautifully sculpted triangular design that has LED headlights, driving lights, and indicators in a vertical strip. Huge 21 inch polished alloys are clad in 245/45 rubber from Michelin, bookending that pinched in waist and airvents to reduce wheel well pressure.The boot really is tiny, at something like 195L of capacity. There also doesn’t appear to be an external button to open it either, with the key fob and interior tabs the seemingly only method. The bootlid also holds the wing, activated via a centre console mounted tab. Rear lights are wrapped in a chrome housing and their sharp edged look complements the nose. Exhaust pipes are buried in an elegant looking rear valance.The test car came in White Nova, a semi pearlescent shade. There are ten (yes, ten) other colours such as Zinnia Yellow and Garnet to choose from. All colours do a great job of highlighting the LC’s distinctive lines, and complement the somewhat restrained look the spindle grille has. Yes, you read that right. The grille is not the stand out part of the car’s look.

On The Road It’s:
Hobbled by its heft. Although looking like a relative lightweight, thanks to its low height and slim lines, there’s over 1900kg hiding under the skin. And with the engine producing peak torque at over 4000rpm, acceleration is quick, changes are quick, but everything feels dulled off slightly. It lacks the rawness, the sharpness, the knife edged attitude of the GS F, and in reality it’s more of a Grand Tourer in nature. It doesn’t provoke the same visceral response that the GS F provided. The Torsen differential is noticeable, too, in slow speed tight corners as found in Sydney’s north shore, and there’s a rear end skip on certain long sweepers that have road expansion joints built in, momentarily unsettling the LC’s broad rear end. Launch hard in a straight line and there’s a squirm from the rear as the meaty rubber grabs hold.Actual ride quality is tending towards the jiggly side when driving in the normal mode. Although there is an active suspension on board, it really doesn’t come into play until Sport/Sport+ is engaged. Suddenly the road feels smoother, handling sharpens up, and the engine note seems more brusque, with an added bite. And it is perhaps the engine that is, in an audible sense, the highlight of the whole package. Press the start button and there’s a quick whirr before a guttural growl comes from the pipes. It’s a higher pitch in tone compared to the more subterranean note from the GS F on idle, and there’s a real edge of anger to it when seriously under way. And thankfully there’s a real sense of the fire and brimstone being thrown around thanks to the snarl, and the crackle & pop of the engine on upshifts and backing off the throttle.The transmission is a gem however not always seamless in changes. When easing the LC around the exhaust note is comparatively subdued, but get in on the freeway and stand on the go pedal to fully appreciate the ferocity of the engine and sound. It does take some time, relatively speaking, for the urge the engine has to kick in, but when it does overtaking numbers are stellar. And so is the exhaust; it doesn’t caress the ears, it grabs them and pounds the angry notes down into them. That’s thanks to what Lexus call “sound control valves” that open and close on demand to offer the changing soundscape. That’s aided and abetted by an Active Noise Control system that cancels out extraneous noise, not unlike noise cancelling headphones.And The Safety Factor Is:
Naturally very, very high. The brakes, like the whole LC, don’t have the instantaneous response from breathing upon the pedal that the GS F has, but there’s no doubting the stopping power regardless. Six pistons up front and four at the rear haul up the LC confidently every time. Partnered with the full suite of active and passive safety systems, such as Lane Keep Assist, Radar Cruise Control, Autonomous Emergency Braking, and a pedestrian safety bonnet, it’s well up there on the safety ladder.The Warranty Is:
Four years or 100,000 kilometres, with the additional benefit of Lexus Drive Care. That covers items such as a up to $150 one way taxi fares, a courier service for small parcels, even personal and clothing costs up to $250. Contact Lexus for servicing costs, though.

At The End Of The Drive.
After an engaging week with the LC 500, we came away with the strong feeling that it’s a definite GT, a Grand Tourer. It’s a relaxed and comfortable highway & freeway machine, but suffers in comparison in tight inner city and suburbia. The aural appeal is huge on start up, but the limited room inside and in the boot really count it out of being anything other than a single or couple’s car. For a more multi-purpose and/or family oriented performance car from Lexus, the GS F fits the bill far better.

Get a start on comparing your desires for grand touring inside the 2019 Lexus LC 500 here.

 

 

A.N.C.A.P.

All new vehicles sold in Australia and surrounding areas MUST undergo testing to determine, in a level of stars up to five, how safe that car is. The higher the number and, ostensibly, the safer the car. The Australasian New Car Assessment Program is what is used and it’s a substantial overview of what makes a car tick the boxes safety wise.

From January 1 of 2018, ANCAP changed the parameters in what they were looking for in categories. There are four key areas: Adult Occupant Protection, Child Occupant Protection, Vulnerable Road User Protection, and Safety Assist.

First up is Adult Occupant Protection. ANCAP looks at the kind of protection, the kind of safety, offered to the most likely passengers in the front and second row seats of a car. They look at offset impacts, side impacts, whiplash injuries for front and second row, Autonomous Emergency Braking in a city setting, and rate the categories appropriately. Full width and frontal offset are the highest for adults, with a score of 8 being applied along with 8 for Side Impact and Pole (oblique). That last one is not uncommon, as it’s been found that drivers looking at an object in a crash situation have a higher tendency to impact that object.To achieve a five star rating for Adult Occupant Protection, the areas must achieve a total of 80% of the possible maximum score of 38. 80% is also the minimum requirement for the Child Occupant Protection, which has a maximum score of 49. There are just four margins here, Dynamic (Front) at 16 points, Dynamic (Side) with 8, 12 points for Child Restraint Installation, and 13 for On Board Features.

On the star rating, Adult Occupant and Child Occupant both have 80% to reach five stars. 70% is four stars, 60% for three stars, 50% for two stars, and 40% for just one star. Vulnerable Road User Protection and Safety Assist have 60% and 70% respectively.Vulnerable Road User Protection takes a look at Head Impact (24 points), with 6 points apiece for Upper Leg Impact, Lower Leg Impact, pedestrian related AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) and cyclist related AEB. The specifications here are about looking at frontal designs of vehicles; will it mitigate injury to a pedestrian and/or cyclist, and will it overall mitigate or avoid impact with pedestrians and/or cyclists?

The final sector, Safety Assist, measures the amount of safety features (the presence factor) and effectiveness of those systems. The current maximum score is 13, with 2020 moving that to 16. Speed Assistance Systems are rated to 3 points, Seat Belt reminders also rate as 3, and Lane Support Systems as 4. AEB in an inter-urban environment is current 3, with that increasing to 4 in 2020. A new category, Junction Assist, with two points, comes in next year.

A.N.C.A.P. themselves says:

In the real-world…

AEB systems use camera, radar and/or lidar technology to detect the speed and distance of objects in the vehicle’s path and automatically brake if the driver does not respond in order to avoid or minimise the severity of a crash.

At our test centre…

Over 100 different AEB test scenarios form part of our assessment with a vehicle’s ability to autonomously brake at lower city speeds (AEB City); at faster highway speeds (AEB Interurban); at stationery vehicle targets; at moving targets; and at braking targets all taken into consideration. Vulnerable road users are also considered, with collision avoidance testing undertaken to encourage and determine the effectiveness of more sophisticated AEB systems, detecting and preventing or minimising collisions with pedestrians and cyclists (AEB VRU) – at daytime and at night.

Autonomous emergencybraking diagram

Scores achieved in each physical and performance test feed into the respective area of assessment. The overall star rating of a vehicle is limited by its lowest performing area of assessment.

(With thanks to A.N.C.A.P.)

 

 

 

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Kia Optima Si

Kia’s once large sedan contender has been overshadowed by the Stinger, itself an excellent and vastly underrated vehicle. The Optima, though, remains the hidden gem in the bigger sedan family and the updated 2019 Kia Optima Si still impresses. The test car provided comes at a cost of $33,390, paint at $595 for premium paint, making the test car $33,985 plus on-roads.Power comes courtesy of a naturally aspirated 2.4L four for the Si or a turbocharged 2.0L four for the GT. Peak power is 138kW at 6000rpm, with peak torque a reasonable 241Nm. That comes in at 4000rpm, with a steady curve to there from idle. Powering the front wheels via a six speed auto that’s been slightly recalibrated for 2019, Kia quotes a combined fuel economy figure of 8.3L/100km from the 70 litre tank inside the 1540kg (dry) Optima.Rubber is from Continental, with Kia specifying their ContiPremiumContact5 at 215/55/17. It’s a grippy choice, with the front driven Optima making good use of the tyre’s adhesion. During the week’s review period, Sydney had both summer and winter driving conditions. The Continental rubber powered through both with equal levels of confidence. They also coped with the Si’s propensity to torque steer, an unusual sensation in an age where that quirk of front-wheel-drive cars is almost non-existent.Suspension is the proven combination of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear. The suspension has been massaged for the 2019 Optima, with the dampers erring towards the sporting side, a choice that sporting drivers will enjoy. Others may find that a little too severe. Indeed, on Sydney’s mix of unsettled and undulating roads as opposed to the new and smooth tarmac found in roadworks, the Optima Si had no issue in equalising both into a comfortable and composed ride. The only time PF semi-wished for a softer setup was over the bedamned shopping centre and local residence speed restrictors.The setup provides a nimble and communicative chassis. Steering input is received and processed quickly, with rapid changes of direction. Body roll is minimal, and the overall feel of the body is one of connection, not isolation from the road and its varying conditions. The steering is also relatively free from bump-steer.

Overall drive response is perhaps also not for those that aren’t of a sporting bent. The throttle response is virtually instant, with a “light-switch” feel. Tap the accelerator pedal and the engine engages instantly; go off, and it responds by damping down the revs quickly. It does take a bit of practice to get the smooth and progressive acceleration less responsive systems have. It’s a free revving engine, too, eagerly spinning around and bringing with it a steady rate of urge. It’s a tad buzzy past 4000rpm but that’s a rarity in seeing those numbers in normal driving. The transmission is a simply gorgeous piece of engineering, with invisible, seamless, changes. There’s no real sense of transition between ratios at all, with zero forward and back bodily movement as the cogs swap quietly and efficiently.Kia’s efficiency in packaging is in abundance in the Optima Si. Inside the 4855mm overall length, (yep, just 8.4 centimetres shorter than a VF Commodore) is a 2805mm wheelbase. That’s just eleven centimetres shorter than the Commodore’s. This equates to ample leg room front and rear, a luggage space of 450L (SAE measurement, 510L VDA, and complete with full sized spare), and 1475mm shoulder room up front. Rear seat passengers have 1432mm shoulder room and 904mm leg room.The Si has manually adjusted seats up front, with the driver getting a two position lumbar support seat. Cloth is the material of choice all round in the Si and all seats are comfortable enough to have passengers egress after a long drive feeling fine. Kia’s worked hard to make sure the cabin is a good place to be, and the quality of the fit and finish is testament to this. The trim is black, with a leather look texture, and there are subdued uses of an alloy hued plastic. The Optima has the almost standard arch sweep at the upper edge of the dash., joining in one fluid line both sides of the cabin.Switch-gear is typically clinical Kia in layout and look. The touchscreen in the Si is a seven inch unit, the GT gets an eight inch setup. Audio is AM/FM only with no DAB tuner fitted to both. The Si also misses out on satnav. However there is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with voice recognition, backed by Bluetooth streaming and the usual USB/Aux inputs. There are four cup holders and four bottle holders, map pockets, and back of seat pockets. Rear seat passengers also have a pair of charging sockets and air vents.The exterior received a mild refresh in 2018. The Schreyer grille now has an almost Maserati look to it, and the lower front bumper has been reprofiled with the lower intake now more angled in towards the corners towards deep-set cornering lights. The familiar angled headlights retain their LED driving lights and commence a long, sweeping, line to join the rear non-LED lights in the Si. The GT has LEDs here. The profile is a handsome coupe style and the test car came clad in Temptation Red.Safety is naturally of a high level with a five star rating. Lane Keep Assist and Autonomous Emergency Braking are standard, with the Si not receiving Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Dusk sensing headlights are standard, as are a pair of ISOFIX seat mounts. There are six airbags and the usual mandated safety equipment levels. Parking sensors front and rear take the edge off any parking problems in those tight shopping centre carparks.The seven year warranty is standard and Kia has a seven year fixed price servicing structure, with 15,000 kilometre or one year intervals. Year one/15,000 kilometres comes in at $289, with year four the most expensive at $559.

At The End Of The Drive.
The 2019 Kia Optima Si slides unhappily, it seems, into that niche of very good cars that are largely ignored by the buying public. Sedans on the whole are a class of car that were once loved but now sit, licking their wounds from an SUV mauling, in the shadows. The Optima itself, a handsome looker, a good drive, and well equipped, suffers from a number of factors in not having the sizeable presence it once had.

Head to the Kia website for more info.

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.

SUV, Hatch or Wagon?

SUVs like the Volvo XC40 look really cool!

 

The ever popular Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Station Wagons like the new Ford Focus are brilliant.

 

Why do most women like the SUV, wagon or hatchback shape?  These are the preferred vehicles that women are driving.  SUVs definitely offer that extra status not to mention size.  It seems too that Teal coloured cars are the ones that most excite the ladies.

SUVs are hitting our road on mass, thanks to the buyers, female and male, preferring their practicality, safety and room.  You can buy FWD only SUVs, which if you never go in search of the wide open spaces outside of Suburbia then these types of vehicle will do all your townie jobs nicely, and often with plenty of room to spare.  AWD equivalent SUVs are more expensive anyway!

SUVs are bigger than anything else on the road besides trucks and buses, so anyone will likely be attracted to the safety aspect of owning an SUV.  Many guys will like the fact that their special other half drives a big safe SUV, which often ends up carrying the kids too.  Having a higher ride height does give you a commanding view of the road ahead, and generally speaking, the extra ground clearance works wonders should you be into off-roading.

SUVs are easier to get in-and-out of, and for loading child seats, child accessories, and library book and shopping bags.  Generally speaking you step inside an SUV, rather than sink down into them- like in a hatchback.  When it comes loading cargo into the boot the space is usually large, higher and easier to access.  That said, there are some nicely designed station wagons and hatchbacks that are very practical.

Downsides to owning an SUV are that they cost more to feed; cost more to maintain, and they generally need more wizardry and expensive technology to defy the laws of physics should you want to drive them quickly around corners.  Still, manufacturers are beginning to build a wide variety of SUVs to suit your tastes.  You can even buy convertible SUVs or 2-door coupe SUVs – which pushes the contemporary envelope somewhat.

So if you are a lady on the lookout for a nice new SUV – perhaps Teal coloured or close to it, that is competitively priced then there are some models you may consider.  OK, you men could consider this as well – though you’ll probably prefer a silver, black or white colour (though flaming orange and buttercup yellow is said to get a guy’s heartrate up).  So, how about a Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, BMW X3, Ford Ecosport, Ford Escape, Ford Everest, Foton Sauvana, Haval H2, Hyundai Sant Fe or Kona, Jeep, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-3 or CX-5, MG GS, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross or Outlander, Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008, Renault Koleos, Skoda Kodiaq, Subaru Forester or XV, Suzuki Vitara, VW Tiguan, or any of the Volvo XC models?  Modern, safe and great multipurpose vehicles, this list is a good mix to get you thinking.

But if you don’t go the SUV way, there’s plenty of savings to be had by sticking to a hatchback or station wagon instead.  If you spend most of your time travelling within the confines of Suburbia then the SUV size might not make so much sense if a Station wagon or Hatchback will do.  And even at their most practical, an SUV is a bit more difficult to park in the tiny city car parks – unless you have an SUV with all the self-parking aids.

If you think that a good small hatch or station wagon will suit your needs just as well, you will enjoy the benefits of this type of vehicle being cheaper to buy, cheaper to maintain, more fun to drive and, thanks to the swelling tide of SUVs on the road, you’ll be bucking the trend and looking pretty cool.

Here’s some wagons or hatchbacks you might like to consider: Volvo V60, VW Golf wagon or hatch, your good old Toyota Corolla wagon or hatch, Subaru Forester or Impreza or Liberty, Skoda Octavia Wagon, Renault Megane, Proton Preve, loads of Peugeots, Nissan LEAF (Electric Vehicle), Mitsubishi ASX, a Mini, MG3, Mercedes Benz B-Class or C-Class, a Mazda 3 or 6, Kia Cerato or Soul, Hyundai i40 or i30, Honda Civic, Holden Astra, Ford Focus or Mondeo, Citroen C4 or C5, BMW 3 or 5 Series wagon, Audi A3 or A4, and Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

Kia Australia Releases 2019 Cerato S, Cerato Sport, Cerato Sport+

The evergreen Kia Cerato sedan has been given a pretty solid makeover, with the hatch due for its own tickle and release later this year, plus GT versions for both are said to be on their way. There’s also been a range realignment name-wise.. We have driven the Kia Cerato S, Cerato Sport, and Cerato Sport+.

The Cerato S sedan starts from $23,790 plus on roads, as tested. The review car was in Steel Grey, a pleasing shade and a $520 option. The Sport was $25,790 plus on roads, clad in a gorgeous Horizon Blue, and the Sport+in Snow White Pearl came in at $28,290, plus on roads, and paint. Servicing costs are for a fixed amount over Kia’s class leading seven year warranty, and top out at $2,869.00. There’s a good range of colours available but only one is classified as a non-premium colour…If you’re after a manual, you’ll find it in the Cerato S only. You’ll also find only a 2.0L injected four cylinder across the range, with six speeds, in both auto and manual guise, hanging off of the side for the engine. It’s a peak twist of 192Nm and power is 112kW. Rev points are 4000rpm and 6200rpm respectively and there’s a noticeable increase of oomph once 3000rpm is seen on the dial. As we drove the autos only, they’re pretty much all good in the transmission sense. It’s the engine that needs refining and smoothing. See 4000rpm on the tacho and there’s a noticeable harshness and noise. It’s a metallic keen that, although somewhat raucous, is really only ever apparent when a heavy right foot is used, thankfully. It’s otherwise quiet, pleasant even.

It’s here that the auto shines. Seamless shifting when left to its own devices, it delights in its smooth and unhurried nature. Tilt the gear selector right, it goes into Sport mode, and when rocked forward and back, the changes are sharp and crisp. Acceleration in all three is enhanced by using Sport mode as the changes suit the characteristics of the engine’s tune. That engine tune helps in economy too. Kia says it’s 7.4L per 100L from the 50L tank for a combined cycle and a still too high 10.2L/100km for the urban cycle. Driven in a mainly urban environment with engines all under 3000km of age, we averaged under 7.0L/100km across the three.Road handling from the three was similar yet in one car somewhat oddly different to the others. The Sport+ rides on the same tyre and rim size as the Sport. 225/45/17 is what’s bolted to each corner and the alloys look sensational. The S has steel wheels at 16 inches, with 205/55 rubber. The S and Sport are more akin in they ride than the Sport+, with the McPherson strut front and coupled torsion bar rear feeling tighter, tauter, and less composed in the Sport+. Long sweepers with minor corrugations had the rear step out, whereas the S and Sport were less inclined to deviate. In a straight line all three sat comfortably but the Sport+ was more the princess in the bed with the pea. Minor irregularities were magnified and enhanced in the Sport+, with just that little bit more unwanted pucker factor whilst sitting on its leather clad pews. Freeway rides are tied down, there’s little to no float, and road noise is minimal thanks to extra noise reduction materials plus NVH reduction engineering. Get funky in the tighter corners in the mountain roads and handling is predictable with steering nicely weighted. Boot it out of a corner and the steering loads up and there’s no tending towards lift-off understeer.The S and Sport have cloth seats, manual adjustment, and no heating. The Sport+ has heating, no venting, and no powered front seats, an odd omission for a top of the range car. In fact, there’s really not a whole lot of difference between the three in some areas. All have the drive mode choice of Eco/Comfort/Smart with Sport engaged as mentioned. All have AEB with Forward Collision Warning – Car Avoidance, with the Sport+ getting Pedestrian and Cyclist on top plus adaptive cruise. All three have Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, voice activation, and Digital radio via the eight inch screen, with the Sport+ having the same dropout issues as experienced in the Sorento. Climate control is in the Sport+, with “standard” aircon in the other two. The driver sees info via steering wheel mounted tabs on a 3.5 inch TFT screen between two standard analogue dials. Perhaps here a LCD screen for the dials would help add cachet and differentiate the the Sport+ further.All three have Blind Spot Detection as an option, as do they have Rear Cross Traffic Alert as an option. These are part of two safety packs available at a $1000 or $500 price point. All other safety systems such as Hill Start Assist are common. The Sport+ gets an electro-chromatic (dimming) rear vision mirror, LED daytime lights, push button start, centre console armrest that slides, and folding wing mirrors. It’s also the only one with an external boot release on the car. That sounds like nothing important but when you’re used to pressing a rubber tab on the boot and not using the key fob, it’s not a smart choice.What is a smart choice is the redesign outside and in. Kia’s gone with the Euro style touchscreen that stands proud of the centre dash and it looks good. There’s turbine style airvents and the Sport+ has more brightwork around these and in the cabin than the Sport and S. There’s a pair of 12V and USB ports up front, with one dedicated to charging and the other for the auxiliary audio access via the smartphone apps. Although the front screen has been moved backwards, there’s no decrease in head, shoulder, and leg room for the 4.6m long sedan. Boot space is, ahem, adequate, at 434L with a long and quite deep design, and the spare is a full sizer, albeit steel fabricated unit.Outside there’s been a major re-skin; the front screen has been moved by nearly twelve centimetres and the bonnet line has been raised. The headlight clusters flow backwards at the top into the guards, with a nod towards the Stinger in styling here. At the right angle, somewhere from the rear quarter, there’s more than a hint of a certain Japanese luxury brand too. Sport+ has LED driving lights in a Stinger like quad design around the main headlight. There’s angular vents at each front corner that house the indicators and the Sport and S have a pair of globe lit driving lights between. Rear end design has been revamped and there’s beautiful styling to the tail lights, flanks, rear window line, and an integrated lip in the boot lid itself. Reverse lights have been moved to a triangular housing in the lower corners, echoing the front and again harken to a Japanese brand. It’s a handsome and well balanced look overall.Warranty is Kia’s standard seven years and there is 24/7 roadside assistance available as well.

At The End Of The Drive.

Kia’s growth curve is strong. Its building vehicles with a good feature set, with high quality, and quietly doing so with gusto. The Cerato sedan, the latest in a range of cars that DOESN’T include a four wheel drive capable ute, is commendable for both its very good looking sheetmetal and high levels of standard equipment. What initially looks like oversights in some areas is potentially a pointer towards what will come in the Kia Cerato GT. As it stands, though, a weak link is the engine. It doesn’t feel smooth, slick, and quiet enough at revs, and for a naturally aspirated 2.0L petrol engine nowadays, a peak power of 112kW really isn’t advertising friendly. It’d be nice if the torque was available at a lower figure or if there was more of it, but for the average buyer, the main concern would be the rare occasion they’d venture into plus 3000rpm territory.

Frugal is the word that stands out here too. So bundle a good looking sedan with good petrol usage in with sharp sub $30K pricing and that feature set, and Kia is kicking goals. Kia Australia’s Cerato for 2019 is available now.

Value Up With Mitsubishi For Best Running Costs.

Mitsubishi has come out on top in a best value study looking at running costs.

According to data issued by the RACV, the Triton GLX in two and four wheel drive configuration, the big Pajero Sport GLX,  the smart-tech Outlander PHEV LS and Mirage ES all recorded the lowest running costs per week in their respective segments. This ensures that the Mitsubishi range extends its value-for-money appeal long after a customer leaves the dealership.

In the All-Terrain SUV category, the Pajero Sport GLX achieved the best-in-class result. Running costs averaged $237 per week, with the Triton GLX suggesting owners can enjoy less work and more play. It averaged running costs at just $210.99 per week for the 4×2 and $225.95 for the 4×4 drive-train.Mitsubishi’s small car, the Mirage ES, offering the lowest average running cost of just $108.78 per week. Sitting nicely in the mid-sizer SUV segment is the Outlander PHEV LS. This comfortably led the running costs charge in the EV segment at $259.22 per week.The annual running costs study assesses the cost of ownership of more than 100 vehicles in all segments over the first five years including list price, on road costs, depreciation, fuel and servicing. Costs may vary from state-to-state. Check with your local dealership for their prices then have a chat to us here at Private Fleet.