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January 2021 Sales Figures Show Upwards Swing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Reasonably-Priced Cars (Commodore/Falcon Replacements)

By now you’ve probably recovered from the loss of not being able to purchase a new Falcon or Commodore in Australia.  These were lovely, big, spacious cars that could travel long distances in superb comfort.  So what other alternatives are there for the buyer looking for a new car with those ‘good-ol’ Commodore and Falcon traits?  Well, the good news is there are some potential new vehicles for you.

I’ve had a look at some of the roomier cars with decent performance, decent comfort and reasonable pricing; and when I mean reasonable pricing I mean anywhere up to $60k.  There are one-or-two vehicles on the list that are priced beyond the $60k mark, but I’ve added them because I reckon that they would still be worth considering for those of you who have a few more dollars in your back pocket.  None on the list run out to much beyond $80k.

The pricing given for each vehicle should be regarded as the estimated standard model price, so if you go for the higher-end models or want more options, then you would expect that these variants will be pricier.  Don’t forget to get in touch with our sales team at Private Fleet because often we can get you some great deals!

Alfa Romeo Giulia ($60,900)

Alfa Romeo Stelvio ($65,900)

Alfa Romeo might just have a car that fixes your Commodore or Falcon withdrawal symptoms.  The Giulia is a really nice drive, is quick and gets five-star safety. The Stelvio is the SUV version that’s superbly nice-looking and great to drive.  These two Alfas tick all the right boxes for those who are after a great driving experience and something a bit special.

Audi A5 ($71,900)

Audi A6 ($84,900)

Audi Q5 ($66,900)

Three Audis come to mind – all of which are impeccably built, comfortable and high-tech.

BMW 3 Series ($70,900)

BMW 4 Series Coupe ($71,900)

These two Beemers are worth a look.  Any of the line-up are dynamic and efficient cars to drive.  They’ve just been updated with all the latest new technology.  The sexiest car in this list might be the 2021 4-Series Coupe.

Chrysler 300 ($59,950)

Do try one of these!  Superbly comfortable and roomy, the 2021 Chrysler 300 is loaded with luxury and style.  There is heaps of smooth engine torque and plenty of performance available with the 300.  A Chrysler 300 comes with the choice of a V6 or V8 petrol engine, and the pricing is outstanding, too.

Ford Everest ($50,090)

Ford Mustang ($51,590)

Ford Ranger ($29,190)

Three Fords might do it for you.  The Mustang has loads of performance available, but it is a bit tight on rear seat space.  The Ranger is a comfortable ute that doubles as a workhorse.  The Everest is an SUV Ranger, and is lovely to drive long distance with the family and gear on-board.  The Ranger and Everest boast five-star safety, 4×4 capability and come with all the latest technology.

Genesis G70 ($59,300)

Genesis G80 ($68,900)

Here are two very underrated cars, or perhaps just not so well known.  The G70 and G80 are smooth, luxury cars built by Hyundai, and come with gobs of style, refinement and high-tech features.  They are also superb at covering long distances quickly.  Nice lookers, too!

Haval H9 ($40,990)

Thought I’d throw the new Haval H9 into the mix.  It’s a stylish, spacious, big SUV that’s loaded, safe and comfortable to drive.  Check out the price!

Honda Accord ($51,990)

Honda might be able to tempt you into the fold with their new Accord.  There are few spacious FWD sedans that can do everything as nicely as an Accord.  Comfort, new technology, new features and reliability go hand-in-hand at Honda.

Jaguar XE ($65,670)

It might be a bit small for some, but the Jaguar XE is a pleasant drive.

Jeep Grand Cherokee ($59,950)

Ride high in a well-priced Jeep that can head off-road, is big on space and can cosset you in luxury.

Kia Sorento ($45,850)

Kia Stinger ($49,550)

Kia has these two models that are as different from each other as chalk and cheese.  However, they are roomy, good performers and are packed with up-to-date features as standard.  The pricing is excellent, and the Stinger goes like a stabbed rat!

Land Rover Discovery Sport ($65,700)

This new Landie might be the right option for you.  4×4 capability, loaded with kit and stylish.

Lexus ES 300h ($62,525)

Lexus GS 300 ($74,838)

Lexus IS 300 ($61,500)

Lexus IS 300h ($64,500)

Lexus IS 350 ($66,500)

Lexus NX 300 ($57,500)

Lexus NX 300h ($60,500)

Lexus RC 300 ($67,990)

Lexus RC 350 ($70,736)

I can count nine Lexus vehicles which might be the right fit for you.  Each variant is different, so there is a high chance that one of these will meet your requirements.  Lexus vehicles are high-end Toyotas with excellent reliability, performance, luxury and style.  Five-star safety comes with each of these machines, while the RC is a quick performer.  Hybrid versions are extremely efficient.  The NX is an SUV-type vehicle.

Mazda 6 ($34,490)

Mazda BT-50 ($36,550)

Mazda CX-8 ($39,910)

Mazda CX-9 ($45,990)

Aussie people seem to like Mazdas, and one of these four versions might appeal to you.  Mazda vehicles are well-priced, safe, comfortable and reliable performers.  The CX-9 is very roomy, and the 6 comes with sedan and wagon variants.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class ($66,300)

Mercedes-Benz CLA ($62,600)

Owning a new Merc doesn’t come cheap, so I’ve added just the C-Class and CLA as an alternative.  These 2 classy cars are excellent to drive, comfortable and safe.  They might be a bit small, however.

 

Mitsubishi Pajero ($54,490)

Mitsubishi Pajero Sport ($46,990)

Don’t forget the Pajero!  The latest version is very good at touring long distances, great for towing, spacious and a 4×4 king.  All the latest technology is on-board one of these.  Again, the pricing is first-rate.

Nissan Pathfinder ($44,240)

Check out the classy new Nissan Pathfinder.  It has plenty of space for the family, has five-star safety and it rides nicely on and off the road.

Peugeot 508 ($57,490)

Peugeot 5008 ($51,990)

Two classy Peugeot variants are well worth a look.  The new 508 and 5008 are very stylish and safe, and they are possibly some of the nicest cars to look at on this short list (that’s quite long).  Seating is spacious and comfortable, and the technology and features are all up-to-the-minute.  They cover the ground effortlessly and efficiently, and they are priced very well for what they offer.

RAM 1500 ($79,950)

I thought I’d add the highly rated RAM 1500.  “NZ Four Wheel Drive” magazine has classed this as the best ute for 2021.  4×4 action is a breeze in one of these tough yet comfortable machines, and space is abundant inside the cabin and out on the deck.

Skoda Kodiaq ($46,390)

The Kodiaq is one of the most practical vehicles you can buy.  Off-road ability, space and comfort are all part of the Kodiaq’s repertoire.  It also boasts one of the biggest boots.

Ssangyong Rexton ($39,990)

Ssangyong’s are tough, reliable and practical.  The Rexton is the latest SUV 4×4 variant that has all the latest new technology, comfort and space you’ll need.  Pricing is excellent and the styling looks pretty good, especially with big alloys and fat rubber.

Subaru Levorg ($37,240)

 Subaru Outback 3.6R.

Subaru Outback ($37,440)

How about the Levorg or Outback wagons?  Safety, AWD, reliability and practicality are all found inside one of these.  There are also some quick versions of these, as well.

Toyota Camry ($28,990)

This is one of the cheapest cars on the list that starts out at under $30k.  A new Camry is very modern, practical, efficient, safe and reliable.  What more could you want?

Volkswagen Passat ($46,590)

VW has the Passat.  Essentially it’s the European version of the Toyota Camry.  These are nice to drive, a bit more luxurious and great on style.  Here is a good practical car.

Volvo S60 ($55,990)

Volvo V60 ($57,990)

Volvo XC60 ($64,990)

Three Volvos slot into the price bracket range that I’ve been looking for – each a bit different from the other – but all built on Volvo’s latest 60 platform.  They are very modern, very stylish, very comfortable and very safe.  The Volvo XC60 has AWD and some handy off-road ability, while the V60 is a classy wagon.  The S60 is the sedan version.  Performance models come with hybrid technology, and all are great long-distance tourers.

2021 Kia Stonic Readies For Release.

Kia’s curiously named Stonic is being advertised on Australian TV for sale. The brand’s answer to the Kona, Stonic will have sharp pricing, a choice of three models (Stonic S, Sport, and Stonic GT-Line) with sub-2.0L engines, and a seven speed DCT for the GT-Line. The base model has a six speed manual or auto.Pricing starts from $22,990 for the Stonic S in manual guise, with a $1,000 premium for the auto. Sport starts at $24,990 and $25,990 for manual and auto, with GT-Line from $29,990. All prices are drive-away.

The engines are a 1.4L non-turbo four, or a 1.0L three cylinder. Power and torque figures are 74kW and 133Nm for the four, 74kW and 172Nm for the turbo three. It’s front wheel drive for the four cylinder, AWD for the turbo three potter.

The standard equipment for the S includes six airbags, car/pedestrian/cyclist detection AEB, Lane Following Assist, reversing camera with dynamic parking guidelines, rear parking sensors, driver attention alert, cruise control, idle stop and go (also in Sport), wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto (S trim only), multi-connection Bluetooth, 8-inch Multimedia touchscreen, 6-speaker sound system, 4.2-inch TFT LCD driver’s cluster, 15-inch steel wheels and auto headlights.

Step up to the Sport and there is 17-inch alloy wheels, smart key with push button start, 8-inch multimedia touchscreen with navigation, 10-year Mapcare updates with SUNA Traffic, electric folding mirrors and premium steering wheel and shifter.GT-Line adds in 17 inch alloys, idle-stop-and-go, a bespoke body package, MFR LED headlights, two tone colour or a sunroof, cloth and artificial leather seats, climate control air conditioning, privacy glass, and an electrochromic mirror.

Exterior colour choices are broad. There will be seven available for the 1.4L version, with Clear White, Silky Silver, Perennial Grey, Aurora Black Pearl, Signal Red, Mighty Yellow, and Sport Blue. The GT-Line has a choice of four exclusive two-tone treatments. There is Clear white with an Aurora Black Pearl roof, Mighty Yellow and Aurora Black Pearl roof, Sporty Blue with Aura Black Pearl Roof, and Signal Red with Aurora Black Pearl Roof. Silky Silver is not available on GT-Line. Premium paints have a $520 impost.Based on the Rio’s platform, the Stonic has had the gearbox moved forward by 28mm, and their is an increase of caster angle from 4.1 degrees to 4.6 degrees, Shock absorbers have been specified as the high performance RS-valve types. the rear shocks have been given a more upright stance, with 8.4 degrees off vertical, whilst Rio has 25 degrees.

Interior features include dual channel Bluetooth for two phones to connect for music streaming. The S has wireless connection for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto via the 8.0 inch however it’s not available on the Sport and GT-Line trims. Satnav has a 10-year Mapcare and SUNA traffic services support included.

Safety is high, of course, with camera and radar AEB across the three, with car, pedestrian, and cyclist recognition across an activation spread ranging from 5km/h to 180km/h for vehicles and 5km/h to 85km/h for pedestrian and cyclists. DAA or Driver Attention Alert is standard, along with Lane Keep Assist and Lane Following Assist. Parking Distance Warning connects to the rear sensors to monitor and alert for objects around the vehicle when reversing whilst the Rear Occupant Alert is a class leading inclusion which monitors rear door opening and closing to assist the driver about rear seat passengers when exiting the vehicle.Packaging has the Stonic at a length of 4140mm, width of 1760mm, height with roof racks 1520mm, wheelbase of 2580mm and minimum ground clearance of 165mm in S trim and 183mm for Sport and GT-Line, a maximum of 1,155L for the cargo, whilst towing is up to 1,000kg braked with the manual.

Check with your Kia dealer for a test drive.

Stellantis: One New Name, A New Home For Many

Stellantis. It’s the umbrella name for the coming together of two major automotive groups, the Peugeot and Citroen Alliance, and the Fiat Chrysler conglomerate. There are brands as diverse as Opel to Maserati, Citroen’s DS to Vauxhall, and there is already murmurs of upgrades to vehicles produced by companies now joined as one.

The full list, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Abarth, Lancia, and Maserati from FCA, and Citroën, DS, Opel, Peugeot, and Vauxhall from to PSA means that there is over 120 years of automotive history brought together. And collectively, there are now over 400,000 personnel with that collective pool of experience and knowledge.

John Elkann is the Chairman of the Stellantis board, and says: “It is no coincidence that Stellantis is born precisely when our world requires a new kind of automotive company that will champion clean and intelligent solutions to provide freedom of movement for all. Our global scale and reach provide us with the resources to invest in state-of-the-art technologies, distinctive excellence and unmatched choice for our customers.

But it is the geographic and cultural diversity of Stellantis’ people that from Day One is our greatest competitive advantage. It is they, with their energy, their knowhow and their constant commitment who make Stellantis what it is today. And it is they who day-by-day will build an even greater company for this new era of mobility.”Echoing his words is the new Chief Executive Officer, Carlos Tavares, with: “This is a great day. One year after we announced this project, Stellantis is born, notwithstanding the unprecedented societal and economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. I want to warmly thank all of the teams who made this possible and also thank the entire workforce who continued to move our operations forward during this exceptional year.

This demonstrates the agility, creativity and adaptability of our company which aims to be great rather than big, determined to be much more than the sum of its parts. It is also a further signal of the new company’s determination to be a leading player in the automotive industry in this ever changing environment. Stellantis is dedicated to “pursuing greatness” and enhancing the well-being of its employees.”

The group’s spread reaches to over 130 countries, and the brands cover the full spectrum of market segments from luxury, premium and mainstream passenger vehicles to hard-charging pickup trucks, SUVs and light commercial vehicles, as well as dedicated mobility, finance and parts and service brands. This new group now expects to leverage its size and economies of scale to invest in innovative mobility solutions for its global customer base. Forward estimates see Stellantis looking at a revenue base of over five billion Euro in a synergystic way of spreading the brands.

Achieving that revenue will come from a streamliniung of processes, including how purchasing is conducted, the crossover of drivetrains and platforms, and an amortisation of Research and Development. Currently, that estimate also comes from not closing any production plants. To ensure that all departments flow smoothly, including company-wide performance & strategy, planning, regions, manufacturing, brand and styling, there will be nine Governance Committees.

2021 Hyundai i30 Elite v 2021 Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport: Private Fleet Car Review

This Car Review Is About: The two cars, in hatchback form, that dominate the market for their sector. We were lucky enough to have the 2021 Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport and 2021 Hyundai i30 Elite side by side. Five door bodies, automatics, revvy four cylinder engines, and decent tech for the average family are hallmarks of both. However, one of the two is not like the other, in that the i30 range was given a refresh late in 2020, with the sedan now replacing the Elantra, with Toyota’s offering always having a sedan available.

We back-to-back the pair in a not quite but close apples for apples comparison. The Elite is close to the top of the i30 range, the Ascent Sport is the entry level to a three tier range from Toyota.

How Much Do They Cost?: In basic Glacier White and auto form the Ascent Sport starts from $29,380 with metallics a no cost option but $500 on SX and ZR. For our location, Hyundai’s website priced the i30 Elite auto at $33,830 in Polar White. Clad in Intense Blue, as was our test car, that goes to $34,340. Both cars are on a drive-away price schedule. Under The Bonnet Is: A 2.0L GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) engine for the contender in the Korean corner, and a same sized engine for the Japanese contender. The Hyundai runs a traditional torque converter auto with six ratios, the Toyota a CVT with ten preprogrammed steps. Both drive the front wheels and each have manual shifting. Power for the Korean is 120kW and peak torque is 203Nm, with 6,200rpm and 4,700rpm the required figures. Corolla has 125kW and 200Nm, however Toyota don’t appear to list the rev points.The i30’s overall economy finished on a creditable 7.2L/100km. We saw a best of 6.0L/100km, a very good figure considering it was loaded with four passengers and a reasonable amount of boot space filled. Corolla’s average hovered between 6.0L to 6.5L per 100km in a more urban oriented drive. Tank for the Ascent Sport is 50.0L, matched by the i30. Both are 91RON and E10 compatible.

On The Inside It’s: Black leather for the i30, with perforated squabs but no venting nor heating. The Ascent Sport has black cloth as befits an entry level vehicle. Both have DAB audio and a point of difference here. The Toyota’s layout is simple and intuitive barring the fact it’s a black and white 8.0 inch screen. The Corolla has voice recognition, a bonus at an entry level.It’s much easier to use whereas the Hyundai’s updated screen, even with the appeal of colour and in the Elite it’s 10.25 inches, isn’t as intuitive. We also found the sensitivity of the Korean’s tuner to be less than the Corolla’s. Ascent Sport has satnav as an option and includes a USB port in Ascent Sport trim. Smart apps are standard in both.The dash design for each stamps their mark; the Corolla’s has barely changed in some years and features the somewhat heavy and intrusive triple wave design that intrudes into the kneespace of driver and passenger. The Hyundai’s design has space between the plastic and the knees and in the i30 it’s a simple, single line from side to side that incorporates the piano black surrounds for the aircon. The Hyundai’s gear selector feels it has a shorter throw and the springing in the Corolla isn’t as tight as the Elite’s.Both have auto, dusk sensing headlights, with the Elite’s higher spec level adding in rain sensing wipers. It’s a key start for the Ascent Sport, push button for the i30. The Elite also has a 12V socket up front with a wireless charging pad. The Corolla’s dash display has the speedo front and centre, with the full colour 4.3inch info screen on far right. The Elite has a full colour TFT 7.0 inch display, shared across all models.One notable difference between the two is the Corolla’s much discussed cargo section. It’s not a high loading lip however the cargo section’s floor is level with it, and underneath is the spare wheel and associated equipment. The i30’s floor is below the lip and seems further from the rear seats too, making for a more family friendly usage. Also, the i30’s boot area is home to the bass driver for the audio system. The Corolla has 217L to 333L, a figure much commented on since the revamps, with the Hyundai starting from 395L and moving to 1,301L with the second row folded. Both have a full sized spare.994mm and 977mm are the head room front and rear measurements for the i30, 1073mm and 883mm leg room, with 1,427mm and 1,406mm shoulder room. The Toyota spec sheet doesn’t list them.

On The Outside It’s: A mild but noticeable update for the i30. Up front is a set of driving lights that have have expanded from a simple strip of LEDs to a more assertive looking set of triangular LEDs that fill out the insert, and double as indicators. The grille has morphed and moved to a broader design, and has a more flamboyant fan shaped styling. The rear lights have a slight restyle to match the very mild changes to the front lights.

Corolla was given its own do-over in 2018. It’s broader, sharper edged, and lower than the more bluff and upright standing i30. The flanks are more organic, curved, than the straight sides of the i30, and the rear has a more pronounced slope than its Korean counterpart. The LED DRLs are far more inboard and set inside the narrow headlight cluster.There’s notable differences between these two however there are similarities to other brands. The VW Golf is more akin to the squat and bluff i30, Subaru’s laid back Impreza hatch is closer to the Corolla.

i30’s length is 4,340mm, and stands 1,455mm tall. Width is 1,795mm and wheelbase is a decent 2,650mm. Corolla is 4375mm in length, with a 2640mm wheelbase. Height and width are 1,435mm and 1,790mm.

On The Road It’s: A definite difference in feeling. The Corolla’s steering is light in comparison to the i30 Elite’s but it’s also more twitchy. The Hyundai has some real weight, and it’s subtly but noticeably more front wheel drive. The lightness of the Ascent Sport means one can comfortably pootle around town with only one hand on the tiller but that twitchiness then demands both hands be in contact. The i30’s has a need for both, particularly because of the over-enthusiastic lane keep assist function. The Corolla’s is noticeable but nowhere near as “grabby”, a complaint well recognised about the Korean. The i30’s suspension is more sporting in tune, with the 225/45/17 Hankook Ventus Prime rubber gripping hard and well, and providing a little bit of absorption from the smaller sidewalls. The Ascent Sport has 205/55/16s from Dunlop’s Enasave range and the higher sideall is certainly noticeable in ride absorption. It also flexes just enough to put a bit of Sport into the Ascent Sport name. Highway and freeway ride quality certainly had the Ascent Sport in a slightly more wallowly mood, not quite as tied down nor quick to dampen, as the i30. In contrast, the i30 was a bit more bang thump.The i30 had a minor glitch in the engine under load. On the flat and and on uphill acceleration, there was a momentary “pinging”, a stutter in the otherwise smooth pull of the 2.0L. It has to be noted that we’ve not experienced anything like this in a modern car and Hyundai’s garage was made aware of it. The auto is smooth in changing and the electronics work with the throttle input and engine’s revs perfectly. Using the manual shift option makes fractionally quicker changes.For the CVT in the Ascent Sport, if a quick getaway is the required situation, manual shifting works wonders. There’s minor “slurring” on the changes but it’s preferable to the unenergetic normal sensation from the CVT on gentle to medium acceleration. A harder and heavier pedal extracts more from the 2.0L and CVT and even brings in mild torque-steer.

Braking in both is courtesy of well balanced, well modulated, discs front and rear. The pedal in the i30 has a heavier feel and in context matches the steering. The Corolla’s is lighter but not without feel. It’s also slightly quicker in the ratio, but not by much.

What About Safety?: Hyundai doesn’t skimp on the i30, with Blind Spot Collision, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Safe Exit warning missing only from the base i30 and Active. Otherwise the Safety Sense package adds in Driver Attention Warning, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) – City/Urban/Interurban/Pedestrian/Cyclist (camera & radar), Lane Following Assist and Lane Keeping Assist-Line.

Corolla matches this with Lane Trace Assist for the CVT equipped Ascent Sport, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and Pre-Collision Safety system with pedestrian (day and night) and cyclist (day) detection plus Road Sign Assist. Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic, like an entry level i30, is missing in the Ascent Sport. Both load up seven airbags including a kneebag for the driver.

What About Warranty And Service?: Toyota has a VIN based service structure online. Warranty is five years and unlimited kilometres. That’s the same for the i30 and Hyundai also uses a VIN based service quote system.

At The End Of The Drive. In honesty, there really isn’t a lot between them, even looking at putting the SX in the place of the Ascent Sport. It would be convenience factors such as the charge pad perhaps, the extra clearance of the dash in the i30 over the Corolla’s design, and the brilliant screen for the driver in the i30 against the slightly better economy in the Corolla and the more user friendly interface on the touchscreen.The driving experience is a user dependent one; for us the i30’s ride tune was preferable, however there is no doubt that the softer and more comfortable tune of the Corolla Ascent Sport has its adherents. There’s also that legendary Toyota sense of being bullet-proof and infallible. In essence, the gap isn’t as big as it could have been.

Mazda Hits 2021 With Updates To The Mazda6

Mazda Australia has released details of the key updates for 2021 to their Mazda6 Sedan and Wagon. Sales are due to start for the updated vehicles from March of 2021. This includes the addition of the GT SP Turbo 2.5L four cylinder engine which will be available in the sedan and wagon. Mazda Australia Managing Director, Vinesh Bhindi, commented: “As our passenger car flagship, Mazda6 holds strong appeal in its segment with its advanced specification and option of Sedan and Wagon body styles. This latest update is highlighted by the new GT SP model, which brings a distinctly sporty characteristic to the Mazda6 range and builds on the local GT SP portfolio alongside the CX-9.”

The Mazda6 Sport Sedan and Wagon offers a solid list of standard equipment. The sedan and wagon will ride on 17inch alloys with 225/55, rubber. Headlights are LED powered, as are the rear lights. The wing mirrors will be heated for those frosty and foggy mornings, and the wagon gets roof rails and a rear spoiler as standard.

Inside is Apple and Android app compatibility via an 8.0 inch satnav equipped touchscreen plus Bluetooth streaming and Mazda’s MZD Connect function. Stitcher and Aha internet radio is listed as standard. Passengers are kept cool thanks to dual zone climate control and rear facing vents for the second row passengers. The wagon receives a cargo net and Mazda’s Karakuri tonneau cover. There’s an electric park brake, leather wrapped steering wheel and gear selector knob, and Mazda’s Multi-function Control.Passengers sit on black cloth covered seats, and second row passengers have a USB port in the seat arm rest.

Safety is high, with Blind Spot Monitoring, a Driver Attention Alert function, along with Lane Departure Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Mazda Radar Cruise Control. Traffic Sign Recognition and Smart Brake Support are fitted, as is Smart City Brake Support [Forward/Reverse]. Tyre Pressure Monitoring makes sure all four corners can be checked on the go.Move to the Touring variant and there is black leather seats with the driver’s seat having a two position memory function along with 10 way adjustment. The passenger has a six way adjustment feature. LED DRLs are standard here as is keyless entry and front parking sensors.

On top of the Touring specification, the GT SP adds the turbocharged 2.5-litre petrol engine, plus 19 inch black painted alloys with 225/45 tyres. Front and rear seats gain heating and are wrapped in burgundy leather with the same colour highlights added to the instrument panel and door trims.Power for the Sport and Touring Sedans & Wagons comes from the Skyactiv-6 2.5L petrol four. Peak torque is 252Nm (4,000rpm(, and power is 140kW (6,000rpm). Economy is rated at 7.0L/100km A six speed auto drives the front wheels. Both GT SP and the Atenza variants have a same sized angine with 170kW (5,000rpm( and a very impressive 420Nm of peak torque at just 2,000rpm. Economy is rated at 7.6L/100km and that’s using 91RON unleaded.Visual differentiation sees both GT SP and Atenza models gaining Turbo badging. A new colour has been added called Polymetal Grey Metallic.

Over the equipment list for the Sport and GT, the Atenza specification has the same diameter wheels but are finished in a non-painted, bright, look. There is a sunroof, venting for the front seats, LED ambient lighting, and real wood trim. Nappa leather is available in walnut brown or white for the seats under black headlining and Ultrasuede door and dash trim. The driver sees information on a 7.0 inch display and the main touchscreen offers a 360 degree view.Pricing starts from $34,590 plus ORC for the Sport Sedan, with the Sport Wagon from $35,890 plus ORC. The Touring Sedan starts from $38,890 plus ORC with the Wagon from $40,190. Head to the GT SP Sedan and see $46,690 plus ORC and $47,990 plus ORC for the GT SP Wagon. The Atenza Sedan and Wagon start from $50,090 and $51,390 plus ORC each.

New 2021 Cars To Save Up For and Buy

Keeping my ear to the ground and spying on what new cars are coming to Australia next year has revealed a decent line-up of cars that should peak interest, grab the attention and generally convince a new-car buyer to hold off their purchasing till one of these arrives.  Let’s get straight down to business and take a look together:

Audi RS Q8 2021

A new Audi RS Q8 is coming in October boasting a whopping 441 kW and 800 Nm.  Hot performance is matched by AWD grip, and the interior is high-spec and gorgeous.  Being a luxury-performance SUV from Audi, the price will be in excess of $200k.

Audi A3 2021

Audi also will offer the new A3 Hatch alongside a new A3 Sedan.  These two small cars will have all the latest gadgets, and will be powered by an excellent 1.4-litre TFSI turbo-petrol engine.  The 4-cylinder is good for 110 kW and 250 Nm.  Linked to an eight-speed torque-converter automatic, the new car will be zippy and very efficient.  The A3 line-up wouldn’t be complete without the S3, and in 2021 we will see the new S3 Hatch and Sedan boasting a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 228 kW, 400 Nm and AWD: Excitement!

BMW 4 Series 2021

BMW gets a new 4 Series next year.  The car’s styling is gorgeous, while the interior features nice materials and new, better technology.  The base model 420i is good for 135 kW of power and 300 Nm of torque.  The 430i packs a healthy 190 kW and 400 Nm. And the M440i xDrive uses a 3.0-litre turbocharged inline 6-cylinder petrol engine with 285 kW of power and a very strong 500 Nm of torque.  All this power is put down via an eight-speed automatic and AWD.

Fiat 500 EV 2021

A brand new and cute Fiat 500 EV will potentially make it to our shores in 2021.  Powering the wee Fiat 500 is a 42 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that gives the car a 320km – 400 km range.  This might be the perfect little urban runabout, with premium style and fun being at the forefront of the car’s design.

Ford Escape 2021

Ford boasts the entry of the new Ford Escape which can also be had as a PHEV model.  The new Escape is really nice, practical and good to look at.  It’s a comfy SUV with plenty of grunt and excellent fuel efficiency.  The standard engine is the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder that produces 183 kW and 387 Nm through an excellent eight-speed automatic transmission.  This engine is available throughout the range and can be had in FWD or AWD modes.  The 2021 Ford Escape PHEV uses a naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine linked with an electric motor and a 14.4 kWh lithium-ion battery.  The combined output is 167 kW.  The Escape PHEV is good (it needs to be) and goes up against the successful Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV as well as the new Volvo XC40 hybrid.

Genesis G80 2021

If you’re on the lookout for a new luxury sedan, then hang about for the latest Hyundai Genesis G80.  This is quite a car with all the jaw-dropping looks to rival a Beemer 7 Series or Mercedes S-Class.  A 2.5-litre turbo or 3.5-litre turbo petrol are the options, and both can be linked to RWD or AWD options.  Smooth, quiet performance is likely to be matched with excellent reliability.  The recent J.D. Power U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study looked at any problems experienced by owners of 3-year-old vehicles, and they found that the 2020 Genesis G80 was named the most dependable midsize premium car with the lowest rate of reported problems over time.

Great Wall Ute

A new Great Wall Ute has just become available, and it’s a nice package.  The range consists of the Cannon, the Cannon-L and the range-topping Cannon-X.  The new Great Wall Ute will come with the strong new 2.0-litre turbo-diesel 4-cylinder engine producing 120 kW of power and 400 Nm of torque.  It will be offered with a choice of a six-speed manual or a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission, and it will also be able to pull a braked trailer of 2250 kg.  This is similar in size to a Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara or Toyota Hilux, except it will be cheaper to buy.

Hyundai Sonata 2021

We’ve got the classy looking new Hyundai Sonata Sedan.  This has to be arguably the best looking mid-to-large sedan on the market.  N-Line Sonatas are particularly good-looking and boast 19-inch alloy wheels, a boot-lid spoiler, unique bumpers, blacked out accents, a quad-tipped exhaust and a rear diffuser.  The N-Line isn’t short on power either, with the new 213 kW/422 Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol more than capable of dancing a jig.  It’s also mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, which can see the car through to 100 km/h from a standstill in a mere 5.3 seconds.

Hyundai Pallisade 2021

Hyundai’s new seven-seater Pallisade looks immense – which it is.  This is a large luxury SUV with all the comfort of an S-Class.  In Australia, we will get a petrol and a diesel option – which is excellent.  The 3.8-litre V6 petrol is up for 217 kW of power and 355 Nm of torque.  It’s mated to a very smooth eight-speed automatic transmission.  The 2.2-litre turbo-diesel makes 147 kW and 440 Nm via its eight-speed automatic and AWD set-up.  Diesel Pallisades are very efficient for such a big bruising SUV, and both engines are really good towing units.

Hyundai Tucson 2021

Hyundai also boast the arrival of the new Tucson with its nice streamlined looks.  The Tucson has proven pretty popular in Australia, so with the new base engine a naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol, a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol and a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel unit the options for power, the new medium comfortable SUV is set to build on current success story.

Hyundai iMax vans are very good and there will be a new one of these available by the end of 2021.

Kia Carnival 2021

Soon, you will be able to get into a new Kia Carnival, and with seven, eight or 11 seat configurations, this is a comfy and practical people mover.  The new Carnival has to be one of the spunkiest looking people movers on the market; in a market which has seen the Honda Odyssey having the better styling over recent times.  The new Carnival has it all: luxury, comfort, technology, safety; it’s all there.

LDV T60 Ute 2021

A new LDV T60 will grace our roads next year.  This is a good-looking, hard-working ute with good mechanicals, decent output and nice comfort and tech.  It will come with the rugged turbo-diesel, which offers 120 kW and 375 Nm, ensuring frugal, dependable transport.  The T60 has some pretty funky styling, boasting a seriously big grille, slim-line head lights, and a front DRL that runs the width of the ute.

Mercedes Benz S-Class 2021

An all-new Mercedes Benz S-Class is on the horizon.  Expect the best and nothing less.

Mitsubishi Outlander 2021

Awards for most futuristic car might be going to the brand new 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander.  The range-topping Outlander PHEV is expected to feature a larger battery than the current plug-in hybrid model, while the other engines are likely to be new, also.

Nissan X-Trail 2021

I’ve always been a fan of the X-Trail’s ability in all areas, and now the new Nissan X-Trail is upon us with a design that has been pleasantly tweaked, and offering more technology in the classy package.  Inside the new model, it’s packed with a new infotainment system with a 10.8-inch colour head-up display, a 12.3-inch digital dashboard, and a 9.0-inch touchscreen.  Wireless Apple CarPlay is included, along with wireless phone charging.  Nissan will also offer a full ProPilot suite of active safety assists on this model that will make this one of the safest in its class.  The AWD system packs a new electro-hydraulic clutch, which is designed to more accurately and quickly shuffle the power load around the wheels when slippage is detected.

Renault Captur 2021

Renault’s classy small Captur SUV is worth the wait.  Power will come from a 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine that is mated with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.  Output is rated at 117 kW of power and there is a healthy 260 Nm of torque.  Practicality and comfort is good inside a new Captur, which has a two-tier boot that holds up to 536 litres of luggage, and the split/folding rear seats can also be slid forward and back as needed.

Skoda Octavia 2021

A sleek new Skoda Octavia impresses with its low-slung lines available in sedan or wagon styling.  I personally love the shape of the wagon, with its long roofline and nicely filled out haunches.  The Skoda Ocatvia RS will be powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine making 180 kW and 370 Nm.  A locking front differential and dual-clutch transmission will be standard.  An efficient 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol four will likely run the rest of the Octavias.  Skoda Octavias have always been at the forefront of space and practicality.

Subaru Outback 2021

A brand new Subaru Outback is coming! This is a brilliant SUV/Wagon built for tackling the rough as well as the smooth.  The five-seater sits on a new modular Subaru Global Platform that is stiffer, boosting handling prowess and safety credentials.  The exterior styling looks good, while the cabin is new and stylish.  An 11.6-inch portrait-oriented centre touchscreen looks and functions really nicely.  So, there’s a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated Boxer petrol engine that hauls nice and smooth and will be standard across the range.  Also, a new 2.4-litre turbo unit with 190 kW of power replaces the six-cylinder option. This is a swift runner with great handling.  All models will be offered with the symmetrical AWD system, and they’ll use a CVT with eight stepped ratios.

Subaru Levorg 2021

A new Subaru Levorg is also about to run out on stage.  To start with, the Subaru Levorg will be powered exclusively by a 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engine with 130 kW of power between 5200 and 5600 rpm, and 300 Nm of torque between 1600 and 3600 rpm.  All-wheel drive is, of course, standard, as is a CVT.  A punchier big Turbo model will, no doubt, become available later on.

Toyota Kluger 2021

The new Toyota Kluger looks really good for the buyer looking to upgrade their old SUV.  An electrified version of this comfy and stylish seven-seat SUV will make the running costs even better.  The new Kluger hybrid blends a 2.5-litre petrol engine with two electric motors and a compact battery, delivering a maximum 179 kW output to the capable AWD system.  If you’re after petrol alone, then the 3.5-litre V6 offers a throaty 218 kW and strong performance.  FWD or AWD options are available, both of which run with a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission.  Drive one of these, and you can see why so many people like-and-buy Klugers.

Volkswagen Golf 2021

Volkswagen has their popular new Golf on sale soon; and a new Golf always looks nice parked up the driveway.

2021 Suzuki Swift GLX Turbo: Private Fleet Car Review

This Car Review Is About: A update to a member of the always popular Swift range. The GLX Turbo, in this case, gets a little extra equipment as part of the Series 2 refresh. For now, it’s also the top of the three tier range as the Suzuki Swift Sport takes a hiatus.How Much Does It Cost?: $25,410 drive-away is what you’ll see as a sticker price. That’s up from the Series 1 price of $22,990 two years ago.

Under The Bonnet Is?: A perky 1.0 litre three cylinder engine, which is good for 82kW and 160Nm from 1,500rpm to 4,000rpm.Transmission is a six speed auto only sadly, and it feels a bit like a dual clutch, but isn’t.

Fuel capacity is 37.0L, with consumption, says Suzuki at 5.1L/100km on the combined cycle. We averaged 6.6L/100km on our 70/30 split.

On The Outside It’s: A mix of 16-inch alloys (common across the three models), dusk-sensing LED headlights, reversing camera, and a body shape that lacks the sharper edged look of the previous model. The headlight design became more of an amorphous blob in the redesign a couple of years ago, whilst the rear lights followed the lead of Baleno and became smaller but stood out and away from the body.

A visual clue for the change from Series 1 to Series 2 update is a chrome bar running horizontally in the grille. The alloys also have been changed slightly.

On The Inside It’s: Featuring cruise control, cloth on the seats, and a reach & rake adjustable steering wheel column. The 7.0 inch touchscreen is the same four quarter starting look seen across the Suzuki family, with no DAB in the audio system. There are smartphone apps though, and the GLX gets an extra pair of speakers over the Navigator and Navigator Plus, making for six all up. For the driver, a 4.3 inch full colour screen shows varying sorts of info, including fuel consumption, speed, and a g-force meter for good measure.Suzuki have always managed to package a small car well, so there’s adequate head and leg room for most, however the sheer size of the Swift means boot space is on the small side at 265L, moving to 576L with seats folded.What About Safety?: A substantial increase for the Series 2. AEB is now standard and works over a broader velocity range. Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are now standard. Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keep Assist and Lane Departure Warning are backed up by six airbags and the usual ABS and stability controls.

On The Road It’s: Point and squirt in nature. The three cylinder doesn’t take much to spool up and get the Swift GLX Turbo humming. The transmission hooks up quickly, taking the torque of the little engine that can, translating it quickly and easily to drive. It’s smooth, slick, efficient, and the engine revels in being a free-spinner.

The transmission selector has a hiccup in its design though. It’s s straight through selector, from Park to Drive, and then Manual. There isn’t a lockout or a sideways move to engage, meaning more than once Manual was inadvertently selected and we’re left wondering momentarily why the gears hadn’t changed.The suspension is typical for a small car. There’s very little real suspension travel, having the Swift GLX Turbo bottoming out on the bumpstops too easily. There is barely enough compliance for a truly comfortable ride, with the shock absorbers tuned to dial out the pogo style up and down on undulations more so than “normal” road conditions.

Twirl the steering wheel and there’s enough resistance to provide a sense of sportiness at low speed, and it lightens up, but not too much at freeway velocities. Same for the brakes, as the GLX Turbo has discs all around rather than disc and drum. The pedal has just the right amount of pushback and feedback for the size of the car.What About Warranty And Service?: The Suzuki website has a page where an owner can submit their car’s build details. The Swift Sport comes with a five tear warranty, and with unlimited kilometres. They’ll cover commercial applications such as ride share for up to 160,000 kilometres.

Servicing is 12 monthly or 10,000 kilometres for turbo cars, and Suzuki have capped price servicing for five years or 100,000 kilometres. The first service is $239, followed by $329, $239, $429 then $239.

At The End Of The Drive. In comparison, we drove the Suzuki Sport in mid 2020, and you can see that here.
The GLX Turbo really isn’t that different in spirit and nature, so it remains to be seen if the Swift Sport itself will return in some way. For now though, the 2021 Suzuki Swift GLX Turbo is the current king of the castle in the Swift family.

Auto Bounce Back: Is the Slide Over?

Australia’s two and a half year run of decreasing sales has come to an end, says the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries. Sales for the month of November, 2020, were recorded at 95,205, an increase of 10,497 sales or 12.4 per cent on November 2019 when 84,708 sales were recorded.

Year to date (YTD) however shows that sales are still well down on 2019, with 978,628 sales last year, whilst 2020 has recorded 821,316 so far.

Toyota continued its imperious march over its competitors, with November figures of 23,204 sales, ahead of Mazda with 9,053 sales, Hyundai with 6,903 sales which just pipped Ford with 6,613 sales and Mitsubishi with 5,488 sales.

The top five selling models for the month were the Toyota HiLux with 5,038 sales, the Ford Ranger with 4,260 sales, the Toyota RAV4 with 3,800 sales, the Toyota Landcruiser with 2,947 sales and the Toyota Corolla with 2,774 sales.
SUVs continued to outsell other vehicle types with a 52.5 per cent share of the market for a total of 50,016 sales. That’s an increase of 26.5% over November 2019. 20,711 Passenger Vehicle were sold and that’s down 10.1 per cent from November 2019, for a 21.8 per cent of the total market. Light Commercial vehicles claimed 22.3 per cent of the market with 21,252 sales, up 11.5 per cent from November 2019.

Inside the passenger vehicle segment, 94 vehicles were pure electric, 2,912 were hybrids, whilst 33 were the plug-in hybrid or PHEV type. in the SUV segment, the breakdown is 84, 3,975, and 102. All three categories in these two segments show increases varying from some to substantial.
For the Micro car segment, Kia’s Picanto (433) continues to dominate, with MG’s MG3 taking the gold in the sub-$25K light cars (632) ahead of The Toyota Yaris and Suzuki Swift (482 and 446). For the small sub-$40K, Hyundai’s i30 was 2nd on 2,047, with the Kia Cerato 3rd on 1,625.

The medium sub-$60K saw Skoda’s Octavia in 2nd, well behind the Camry (286 vs 1,283) and ahead of the Mazda6 (161). BMW’s 3 Series continued to dominate the plus-$60K sector (461) over the Mercedes-Benz C-Class (353).

People movers and the Kia Carnival more than doubled the sales of the Honda Odyssey in the sub-$60K sector (268 to 107) whilst in the Sports Car sector the Mustang sold seven per day to move 230 in November 2020.
Moving to SUVs and in the light SUV segment it’s Mazda’s CX-3 doubling the newly released Yaris Cross (1,562 to 794) whilst it’s a hard fought battle in the sub-$40K small SUV. It’s a virtual tie between the Mitsubishi ASX over the Hyundai Kona (1,465 to 1,453) with the MG ZS having a win over the Kia Seltos and Mazda CX-30 (1,133 to 1,058 and 1,038).

Things are a little more spread out in the plus-$40K, with RAV4 (3,800) over Mazda’s CX-5 (2,412) and Hyundai’s Tucson (1,995). Subaru’s soon to be updated Forester found 1,502, just ahead of Nissan’s X-Trail at 1,405.

Toyota’s aging Prado continued to find appeal with 2,602 in the sub-$70K large SUVs. It’s well ahead of the Isuzu MU-X (848) that outsold the Kia Sorento (796) and Mazda CX-9 (743). In the same size but priced at over $70K, the new Genesis GV80 moved 21 but the winners were BMW’s X5 (366) and Audi’s Q7 (229).

Information courtesy of the FCAI and VFACTS.

2021 Kia Picanto S Manual: Car Review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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