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Solid-State Batteries for EVs

The flourish of new electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids on the auto markets hint towards the diminishing of fossil fuel use.  EV sales have a long, long way to go before outselling vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICEs), but the goals have been set by international emission standard agreements.  Certainly, doing away with EV range anxiety, the liquid lithium-ion batteries proneness to catching fire, having EVs with brief recharging times that are in line with current ICE refuelling times, and have pricing parity between a new EV and an equivalent new ICE vehicle would make a world of difference in the minds of people on the lookout for a new car.  Once these EV problems have been solved, perhaps consumers will genuinely buy into an all-EV future.

The good news for EV enthusiasts is that essentially every big automotive manufacturer in the world has unveiled its fleet’s electrification plans and zero-emission target dates. Some manufacturers have even gone further, declaring that gasoline and diesel engines would no longer be available in their model line-ups by 2050.  And, in order for these claims to become reality, some big landmark advancements in the EV future are being made right now, with huge money currently being pumped into various manufacturer’s kitties to research and create the perfect solid-state battery – especially designed for use in EVs.

One automotive manufacturer with a big sway in what goes down in the automotive world is Toyota, and they have pumped billions into creating a solid-state battery for use in their future hybrid vehicles and EVs.  A version of Toyota’s LQ Concept, which first debuted at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, is now using working solid-state batteries, and has been doing so since June 2020.  Toyota has been collecting all the performance data from the solid state batteries in the LQ for research, development, and better solid-state battery designs.  The LQ Concept car is unlikely to end up as a production vehicle, however the solid-state batteries inside the car, and their development, will be used as a blueprint in Toyota’s new hybrid vehicles and EVs soon to make an appearance on the market for buyers to purchase.

Toyota LQ Concept Solid-State

Toyota’s quick development of solid-state batteries for use in all their hybrid and electric vehicles by 2030 is a sign of the ramping up in EV production that is happening not only at Toyota but in all other big global automotive brands who are boosting investments in the anticipation of greater EV and hybrid vehicle consumerism.

What battery type does Tesla use?  Currently, Tesla has been using heavy liquid lithium-ion battery technology.  However solid-state batteries are really the next step in clever battery technology, especially for EVs.  Why?  Solid-state batteries offer much better energy density, which leads to smaller, lighter batteries for cars but with a vastly improved range before recharging is necessary.  Solid-state batteries will also be able to recharge from empty (flat) to 80 % in just 15 min – not anywhere between 2 to 10 hours that is currently the norm, if you can find a spare fast charger to park up at.

The good news for solid-state batteries doesn’t stop here either, because solid-state batteries are inherently safer due to the lack of flammable liquid electrolytes that you’ll find in liquid lithium-ion batteries.  You may have heard of various electronic devices bursting into flame?  Well, liquid lithium-ion batteries bursting into flame and causing fires in various EVs over the last couple of decades has been an issue.  This in itself has deterred many people away from buying into EVs altogether.

So, big dollars are being spent in the design of solid electrolyte batteries (solid-state batteries) that are stable, chemically inert, and still a good conductor of ions between the electrodes.  In essence solid-state batteries will be doing away with the slopping, flammable liquid lithium-ion electrolyte battery designs.

By default, solid-state batteries are more stable, but they are also more compact in design, and therefore lighter.  Solid state batteries thus pack more energy output into the same amount of storage space that heavier and lower-output liquid lithium-ion batteries require.  Because solid-state batteries are lighter, they have more energy density, offer more range, and deliver a better power to weight ratio, and they also recharge faster.

Solid-state batteries have been used in small electronic devices like pacemakers (an amazing bit of life-changing tech) as well as radio frequency identification (RFID), and wearable devices for years.  Having fewer bits and pieces involved in the solid-state battery design means fewer things are present to go wrong.  In addition to their improved safety, size, and stability, solid-state batteries in EVs would also offer faster charging times, more travel range, and even greater energy density.

Solid electrolytes in solid-state batteries can even be composed from a number of everyday materials – even ceramics and glass.  The challenge to making solid-state batteries viable, however, is developing the technology that is commonly used in small devices and applying it to large-scale applications like in an EV.  Currently, solid state batteries are expensive to fabricate because they have been prone to cracking, which has been a result of the brittleness of the electrolytes inside the battery expanding and contracting during continual use.  The new research and development is setting out to change this.

Toyota is cracking the problem and will be using their solid-state batteries in their new range of hybrid vehicles first, which is an ideal testing ground for their fully-kitted EVs soon.  Volkswagen is also promising that they will have solid-state batteries in use and in their cars by 2024.  Like Toyota and Volkswagen, BMW anticipates that solid-state batteries could make it into production cars by 2025.  Tech giants Samsung and Panasonic are working away at creating a range of solid state batteries that automakers will be able to use.  Toyota has partnered with Panasonic to pave the way to an EV future.

Hydrogen V8 ICE

Exciting news for internal combustion engine (ICE) lovers: Toyota, Mazda, Subaru and Kawasaki are wanting to collaborate on the attempt to keep the combustion engine alive while meeting all the global clean air targets.  Not only that, but Toyota and long-time Japanese engineering partner Yamaha are at work developing a special new hydrogen-powered 5.0-litre V8 engine.  Unlike a hydrogen fuel-cell car, which combines hydrogen and oxygen atoms to create electricity to drive a motor, this new hydrogen V8 internal combustion engine is a conventional piston-driven engine that has been tuned to burn hydrogen instead of petrol.

While this newly developed V8 engine isn’t completely new, the way it’s fuelled is.  It’s a 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 that is based off the engine that has been used in the Lexus RC F coupe.  Yamaha says that it produces around 335 kW of power at 6800 rpm and 540 Nm of torque at 3600 rpm.  Having modified the injectors, the head, the intake manifolds and other engine components, this work has added up to make the engine environmentally friendly.  The hydrogen-fed ICE has become less powerful than the petrol-fed V8 that the hydrogen engine is based on.  In the Lexus RC F coupe, the petrol V8 puts out 472 kW and 536 Nm of torque, so while torque has increased a little, power has dropped considerably.  That said, 331 kW is still a stonking amount of power to enjoy, and more often than not it is the torque that you really want in the real world conditions.  You also still get the sound of a burbling V8, and what’s not to like about that!

Yamaha engineer, Takeshi Yamada, said that the engine has a different character to a conventional petrol motor.  He stated that hydrogen engines provide a friendlier feel, making them easier to use even without having utilize other electronic aids for the drive.

Toyota is clearly committed to the project of providing ICE powerplants that use hydrogen as the fuel.  Given that Toyota has run a hydrogen-powered Toyota Corolla in Japan’s Super Taikyu race series as well as showcasing a hydrogen-powered Toyota Yaris GR prototype with the same hydrogen engine technology, it is obvious that they want to continue with this new breed of ICE.

One of the beauties about burning hydrogen instead of petrol is that the hydrogen powerplant does not produce carbon dioxide, which is considered to be one of the primary contributors to global warming.  There would also be no significant nitrogen oxides emissions from an ICE designed to burn hydrogen, thanks to the selective catalytic reduction technology used in the aftertreatment of the combustion gases.

“Hydrogen engines house the potential to be carbon-neutral while keeping our passion for the internal combustion engine alive at the same time,” Yamaha Motor president Yoshihiro Hidaka said.  He also added that: “I started to see that engines using only hydrogen for fuel actually had very fun, easy-to-use performance characteristics”.

While hydrogen is plentiful in the universe, it must be separated from other compounds to be used as fuel.  Up to the year 2020, most hydrogen was produced from fossil fuels, resulting in CO2 emissions. Hydrogen obtained from fossil fuels is often referred to as grey hydrogen, when emissions are released into the atmosphere.  Blue hydrogen is the hydrogen produced from fossil fuels when emissions are captured through carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Hydrogen that is produced from fossil fuels using the newer non-polluting technology called methane pyrolysis is often called turquoise hydrogen.

You can also generate hydrogen from renewable energy sources, and this hydrogen is often referred to as green hydrogen.  There are two practical ways of producing green hydrogen.  One of the ways is to use electric power for producing hydrogen from the electrolysis of water.  The other way of producing green hydrogen is to use landfill gas to produce the green hydrogen in a steam reformer.  Hydrogen fuel, when it is produced by using renewable sources of energy like wind or solar power, is a renewable fuel.

Hydrogen can also be created from another renewable energy source called nuclear energy via electrolysis, and this is sometimes seen as a subset of green hydrogen, but it can also be referred to as being pink hydrogen.

Obviously, when a car can be designed to run on hydrogen that has been produced from renewable energy sources, then this is a good thing.  Toyota and Yamaha remain adamant that this is great technology which could carve out a niche for itself in the new EV automotive landscape.

Toyota has also recently revealed a fleet of 12 zero tailpipe-emission concept vehicles, many of which will reach production in the coming years.

This is all good news stuff, especially for those of us who love the sound of an ICE instead of a silent EV.  The noisy farts always get the best round of laughter!

Honda’s Latest

As with many other automotive manufacturers, Honda is on the hunt for having its fleet become fully electrified.  Honda’s vision is to have 100% of its new vehicles with zero emissions by 2040.  There are some neat EV models in the pipeline, but also some vehicles that help transition the gap from petrol to hybrid to 100% electric.  Honda’s 2022 Civic models are set to be enjoyable.

Honda recently announced that their Prologue SUV, which will be Honda’s first new EV sold in big volume, will be a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) that will go on sale in 2024.  It is likely that the Prologue SUV will be an American-only seller first, so how that fits in with Australia remains to be seen.  As EV infrastructure expands, and customer interest grows nationwide and globally, the company will expand sales and marketing efforts accordingly.  Following the launch of the Honda Prologue, the company will create additional EVs based on the new e-Architecture that is currently being developed and customer demand.

Honda Prologue SUV

Honda has a long history of being a leader in creating hybrid and electrified vehicles.  Honda’s Insight still is a very good example of how a hybrid should perform, and it remains a strong seller with people who are looking for low emissions and frugality in fuel usage.  As Honda prepares for the launch of the Honda Prologue for America, the company will introduce hybrid-electric systems to other core models to continue to reduce CO2 emissions while helping create a bridge for customers to move from fossil fuels to hybrid to EVs.

Honda’s management have stated that they are aware that customers who have a good experience with a hybrid vehicle are more likely to buy an electric vehicle in the future.  We can see that their hybrid sales have increased over the last few years.  Led by models such as the CR-V Hybrid and the Accord Hybrid, Honda just recorded its best-ever first-half year of electrified vehicle sales.  The Insight has also sold well.

2022 Honda Civic Sedan

Now what about now?  Let’s take a look at the all-new Honda Civic Hatchback!  In 2022, Honda will be selling the latest Civic in Australia.  The car is aimed predominantly at young buyers who are captured by its fastback design and sporty driving character.  The new Civic will offer a slick-shifting 6-speed manual transmission as well as an automatic CVT option to go with the 2.0-liter normally aspirated motor or the 1.5-liter turbo engine.  High-performance Si and Type R models are to be available, and they are cars I’ll be keeping my eyes out for.

The largest back seat to ever be inside a Civic Hatchback comes with 2022 models, and the cars also features new standards of safety technologies.  All 2022 Honda Civic Hatchbacks include Honda’s new next-gen driver and front passenger airbags and an expanded Honda Sensing suite of driver-assistive and safety technology that adds Traffic Jam Assist and a smoother, more natural feeling to functions like Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and the Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS).  It will also include Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) with Pedestrian Detection, Forward Collision Warning, and Road Departure Mitigation (RDM).

2022 Honda Civic Dash

2022 Honda Civic EX-L models will boast all the luxury features, so big color touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, push-button start, partial digital instrumentation, blind-spot information (BSI), leather upholstery, an 8-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, heated outside mirrors, a one-touch power sliding moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control and LED headlights are the go.

Sportier Civics will have racy looks thanks to things like a short shifting 6-speed manual transmission (or CVT), Berlina Black 18-inch wheels, low-profile 235/40R-18 tyres, black exterior accents, an 8-speaker audio system, sport-specific upholstery, a leather-wrapped shifter and steering wheel, paddle shifters (CVT only) and sport pedals.

As the automaker prepares for the launch of the Prologue SUV in America, expect to see more hybrid variants of current core models to ease the transition to full electrification.

EVs and the Japanese Manufacturers

I like to get a feel for what is truly happening in the EV world by heading over to the Japanese to see what they are up to.  The Japanese make the best cars in the world, at least from a reliability and practical point of view, so it makes sense to me to have a look at what their plans are when it comes to EV innovation, invention and implementation.

Mazda

Mazda MX 30 EV

Mazda is planning to introduce ‘Skyactiv Multi-Solution Scalable Architecture’ for hybrids, PHEVs and EVs in 2022, and they plan to offer three EV models, five PHEV models and five hybrid models sometime between 2022 and 2025.  Mazda will also keep hybrids and PHEVs as part of their saleable new cars beyond 2030.

By the end of 2023, Mazda plans to show at least two plug-in hybrids by the end of the year.

In 2026 Mazda plans to show the platform for a new generation of EVs in the early part of the year.

By 2030 Mazda plans to offer a hybrid or electric variant for every model that Mazda has in their line-up.  However, even though Mazda will develop a dedicated EV platform by 2025, Mazda’s majority of vehicles beyond 2030 will be hybrids and plug-in hybrids, and, as such, Mazda is not about to stop developing its internal combustion engines anytime soon.

Honda

Honda EV Crossover

Honda plans to develop its own solid-state battery tech, rather than relying on outside developers.

By 2023, a Honda EV built in partnership with GM, reportedly a crossover, is expected to enter production.

Honda foresees that 40% of their models will be electric or hydrogen fuel-cell powered by 2030, climbing to 100% by 2040.  Honda is one of just a handful of automakers alongside Toyota, Hyundai, and BMW, to devote plenty of their development energy into to hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

Toyota

Toyota BZ EV Concept

By 2025, Toyota plans to launch 60 new hybrid, electric, or fuel-cell vehicles by the end of that year, and it also expects to have reached its goal of selling 5.5 million EVs each year.  Their dedication to hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles is strong, and they remain big game players in this sort of technology.

Looking across the Tasman (where NZ’s PM, Jacinda Ardern, put her foot in it by claiming that Toyota would be providing EV utes in just 2 more years) it is evident that Toyota will not be putting all their eggs in one basket and going totally bent on EV production.  Toyota is adamant that a slow EV uptake is more likely, and hence they would not be giving up on their particularly good hybrid engine technology any time soon.

Nissan

Nissan ids Concept EV

Nissan is the manufacturer of the highly successful Nissan Leaf EV Hatchback, which has been in production for some years now.  By 2023, Nissan plans to have launched eight EVs by the end of the year and will be hoping to be on target to sell 1-million hybrid or electric vehicles, globally, per-year.  Nissan states that their hybrid technology and their technology to improve their internal combustion engines won’t be stopping before 2030, at least.

Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Mitsubishi has the marvellous Outlander PHEV, which has been in production for many years now.  By 2030, Mitsubishi plans for 50% of its global sales to come from hybrid or electric vehicles.  I guess that leaves 50% to be still made up of efficient internal combustion vehicles.

Subaru

Subaru Solterra EV Concept

Subaru, by 2030, expects 40% of its global sales to come from hybrid or electric vehicles.  By 2035, Subaru plans to have a hybrid or electric version of every vehicle in its line-up.  Subaru seems to be singing off a similar song sheet to Toyota, where they both suggest that the hybrid vehicle will prove to be more popular in the short term, particularly as the EV infrastructure has a long way to go.

By 2050, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Nissan have made bold plans to reach net-zero carbon emissions.

The big questions are: Will the EV-charging infrastructure match the manufacturer claims?  Will people be able to afford an EV, let alone the huge cost to make their home charge ready, as the ideologically bold demands that some governments introduce along with big taxes?  Who is going to pay for all of this?

I read a recent comment where a reader of ‘Car and Driver’ made a very informed comment:

“It’s a ‘no thanks’ on Li batteries from me.  Lithium extraction has already spoiled the Atacama desert in Chile and now they have their sights set on the American West.  I can reduce my CO2 footprint far more by just driving less than by purchasing a 100 kWh battery, and the 10-20T of CO2 that was released to make it. I’ll wait for fuel cells.  As a Toyota driver… I have time.”

Kleva Kluger Is A Hefty Hybrid.

Toyota’s near twenty year old Kluger nameplate is joining the Toyota family of Hybrids. The big petrol powered machine, which has never had a diesel option, weighs in at a hefty two thousand kilos (dry) in its forthcoming Hybrid form. It will become the eighth Hybrid for the Japanese company.

The Kluger will come in 2WD or AWD petrol, or AWD Hybrid, and the Hybrid has the Toyota 2.5L petrol, whilst the Kluger stays with the familiar 3.5L V6 capacity in a new engine block. There willbe three trims levels, with the GX 2WD petrol starting from $47,650, the GXL 2WD petrol from $56,850, and Grande 2WD petrol from $68,900. Move to AWD and pricing runs at: GX AWD petrol from $51,650,
GXL AWD petrol from $60,850, and Grande AWD petrol from $72,900. The Hybrid range starts from $54,150 for the GX AWD hybrid, $63,350 for the GXL AWD hybrid, and $75,400 for the Grande AWD hybrid. Premium paint is a $675 option, with the Grande offering a rear seat entertainment system at $1,500.Sean Hanley, the Toyota Australia Vice President Sales and Marketing, said the addition of a hybrid option to one of Australia’s favourite family SUVs demonstrated Toyota’s commitment to driving sustainability forward. “The popularity of SUVs continues to grow and the new Kluger hybrid models mean that families can have all the space, comfort, refinement and versatility of a large SUV with a low environmental impact. In addition to that, the stylish new look, improved safety and high level of advanced technology makes the Kluger the perfect SUV for the modern family.Power comes from the 2.5L four and a pair of electric motors up front, backed by a single rear mounted engine. Toyota says the Hybrid’s combined power is 184kW, with the petrol engine contributing 142kW itself. Torque isn’t quoted for the Hybrid, however 242Nm is the 2.5L petrol engine’s figure and emissions of 128g/km. Jump to the 3.5L and 218kW is backed by 350Nm with drive being passed through a new eight speed auto.

The Hybrid has an electronic continuously variable transmission (e-CVT). The e-Four AWD system allows up to 100 per cent of drive to be sent through the front wheels or up to 80 per cent through the rear, depending on the conditions being driven in. This Dynamic Torque Control AWD system, which effectively disconnects the rear diff when AWD isn’t required, will be available in the GX and GXL. The Grande also receives a torque vectoring system, splitting torque to left or right as required. There will be three driving modes too, with Eco, Normal, and Sport offering a breadth of choice. Also included in the AWD models is a terrain adjustable program for Rock and Dirt, Mud and Sand soft-roading.Underneath the wheelhouse, the new Kluger is built on an updated chassis, called Toyota New Global Architecture or TNGA platform. The wheelbase is increased by 60mm longer wheelbase as is the overall length. It’s also somewhat broader than the current 2021 model for more interior room and stability on road. The suspension has been redesigned with multilink front and rear setups, with better overall ride quality, better handling, and better behaviour under braking conditions. Bigger discs at 340mm front and 338mm add their presence.

An exterior revamp sees a lessening of the heavily squared-jaw look, with slim LED headlights and taillights, with the front fenders rolling inwards slightly at the top for a visual weight reduction. There is a new line for the rear wheel arches, with a sinuous curve rolling up from the doors that reminds of the current IndyCar rear structure. Wheels themselves will be 18 inch alloys on the GX and GXL, and bespoke Chromtec 20 inch alloys for the Grande.The increase in space means increased comfort and Toyota adds in sliding and 60/40 split centre row seats, with the seven seater having 60/40 split fold also. Trim material finish has gone up a grade with soft touch dash materials, a higher quality cloth trim in the GX, and faux leather for the GXL. That grade also has gained heated front pews. GX and GXL have an 8.0 inch touchscreen, Android and Apple compatibility with DAB and Bluetooth, plus satnav for the GXL along with tri-zone climate control. Grande adds in a sunroof, HUD, and an 11 speaker audio system from JBL.

GX has dual zone, auto headlights and rain-sensing wipers as standard. Five USB ports make for family friendly smart usage. The increased wheelbase adds up to increase the cargo and third row space as well. Also upped is safety, with Toyota’s Safety Sense gaining traffic sign recognition, intersection turn assist, and emergency steering assist across the three, backing up the already substantial safety package.

The current expected release date for Australia is June.

Overseas model shown, courtesy of Toyota

2021 Subaru XV S & Premium: Private Fleet Car Review.

Subaru in Australia positions itself as a niche player. That may well be the case but it also does the brand a disservice. For example, March of 2021 saw 4,212 Subarus sold, with over 10,700 on a year-to-date basis. That puts the brand, for the month and YTD, ahead of Volkswagen, Honda, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, and just over 300 shy of Nissan. It’s one of the brand’s best set of sales numbers.It’s an astounding result for the company here in Australia given the range is Outback, BRZ sports coupe, Forester, Impreza sedan and wagon, WRX, and Impreza wagon-based XV. There is no large SUV nor a two or four door, two or four wheel drive ute.We were able to drive, back-to-back, two examples of the late-2020 updated XV. In honesty, the naming system needs work, with a base model simply called XV, then L and a hybrid, Premium, then S and a hybrid version. S and then Premium is what we were supplied with however it would make more sense to change S to Premium and vice-versa.

For 2021 there have been some minor changes to pricing. The base model starts from $29,690 (up $450), with the L from $31,990. That’s an increase of $380. The Premium jumps by a heft $1,170 to $34,590, with the S up by $760 to $37,290. The Hybrids, now a pair rather than a single offering are unchanged at 435,490 and $40,790. These are not inclusive of on-road costs.Externally there are minimal sheetmetal differences between the two. The wheels themselves are different in design, plus have an inch of diameter in difference. The Premium has 17s, the S has 18s and a more striking design. The Premium sources rubber from Yokohama at 225/60, the S has Bridgestones at 225/55. A mid-life update in late 2020 saw minor tweaks to the front bumper and around the driving lights in the lower sections, plus a refresh of the grille.The Premium now has folding wing mirrors and they’re heated as well. The S has self-leveling headlights and they are auto on, as are the wipers. Unfortunately the Premium and below don’t have auto on lights, a safety issue in our opinion.

There is an extensive colour palette too, including Lagoon Blue for the Hybrids. There is Crystal White, Dark Blue and Horizon Blue, Magnetite Grey and Crystal Black, along with Cool Grey, Ice Silver, Plasma Yellow and Pure Red.On the road the pair have gained suspension updates too, with a change to the front providing a slightly more precise handling. The front has MacPherson struts & coil springs, with the rear having double wishbones. Although ostensibly there’s been no change to the rear it feels slightly softer and more compliant over the smaller ruts and bumps. It’s quick to damp out any intrusioons from the road however we did notice some bump steer and a slight skip sideways over road joins.Drivewise the engine and transmission are unchanged, with the 2.0L flat four working quite handily with the CVT. It’s modestly powered at 115kW, with torque a handy 196Nm. The trick to extracting the best from the CVT is to not go heavy and hard from the start on the accelerator.A light but progressive press seems to extract the best overall acceleration, with a linear growth in speed, rather than the more traditional feel of slipping under pressure.

There is manual shifting available via paddle shifts, which can be quite handy in certain driving conditions such as uphill traffic, providing the driver with more overall control. Having said that, the CVT in both did display some of the traits they’re known for, with sensations of surging at low speed, but we also have to say that they weren’t as noisy as we’ve experienced.The drive system now has the SI Drive, an electronic program that adds some sporting spice to the engine’s mapping and the the changes in the CVT’s seven preset ratios. The S mode sharpens the throttle response and the XV feels sprightlier, zippier, and makes for better highway manouvering. The steering itself has some weight to it, but not so that it’s fighting the AWD system. It’s quick in response, and is ratioed for a tight 10.8 metre turning circle. The AWD system is naturally well sorted with no noticeable pull from either end but the grip levels are noted when hunting corners at speed.

Economy on both finished smack on 7.0L/100km, equaling the quoted economy figure on the combined cycle. However, our figures were on a our traditional 70/30 urban to highway, with Subaru quoting 8.8L/100km for the urban cycle. It’s a reasonable highway cruiser, with the revs ticking over just below 2,000 at Australian limits. It’s quiet, too, with the engine only showcasing its metallic keen and the boxer warble from the exhaust when pressed.

Safety for the Premium sees the “Vision Assist” package added in, with the Blind Spot Monitor, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, automatic braking in reverse if an object is sensed, and a front view monitor via a left wing mirror camera. The whole range has seven airbags including a kneebag. All but the entry level version have the Eyesight package which includes Adaptive Cruise, Brake Light Recognition which alerts the driver to say the vehicle ahead has moved on, Lane Departure Warning, and Lane Keep Assist. The latter is less aggressive in its workings than that found in the two Korean brands. Tyre Pressure Monitoring is standard, however, across all models.The S ups the ante thanks to Subaru’s X-Mode, a preprogrammed soft-road mode for snow or mild off-roading. There’s a bit of extra “looxshoory” with memory seating for the driver, heating but no venting for the front seats, good looking stitching across the dash and binnacle, piano black gloss trim, and auto dipping wing mirrors.

The expected user controls such as Info on the lower left of the steering wheel remain, showing a multitude of options on the dashboard’s upper screen. The 6.3 inch main screen stays with its frustrating lack of information being fully displayed as in artist and song title, whilst otherwise remaining easy to read and use.Premium has cloth covering in the centre of the seats and it’s a funky mix of bright yellow stitching contrasting with the light grey cloth and black leather. The interior door handles have a faux carbon-fibre inset, with the S having a higher quality sheen. The S also has alloy pedals and footrest. The rear seats have a fold-out centre section with two cupholders.Neither have a charge pad for smartphones nor a powered tailgate. There are 12V sockets up front but no rear seat ports. Cargo space is 310L with the rear seats up, 765L when they’re folded. The spare is a temporary or space saver. With the XV being the same body as the Impreza hatch, but raised in ride height, it makes for loading the cargo bay just that little bit easier thanks to less bending down.There’s a five year and unlimited kilometre warranty on the XV range, with capped price servicing with prices available via your dealer. There is also 12 months complimentary roadside assistance, and three years satnav maps update.At The End Of The Drive. It’s an axiom of driving a car that you’ll suddenly see “thousands” of the same car all of a sudden. That was so true during our fortnight with the S and Premium, with an XV seemingly on every corner.

There’s good reason for that; the Subaru XV is a willing performer, well priced, and not a bad drive once the vagaries of CVTs are understood. Economy is a plus too, so the hip pocket pain is minimised. Not unattractive to look at in the driveway is another plus, making the 2021 Subaru XV the smart choice.

With thanks to Subaru Australia.

Australian Car Sales Continue The Upwards Swing.

VFACTS and the FCAI have released the sales figures for March of 2021 and it’s good news. March 2021 saw 100,005 units moved, an increase of 18,315 over March of 2020. In a year to date sales sense it’s 263,648, up from 233,361 for the same time last year.

SUV sales were up 32 per cent and Light Commercial vehicles were up by 28 per cent. Eight of the top ten selling vehicles for the month were SUVs or Light Commercials, driven by increasing demand from the Private buyers.

Category wise, the passenger segment went down from 21,783 to 21,360. The SUV figures were 51,705 compared to 39,162 in March 2020. LCVs were 23,255, up from 18,165 in March 2020.

In the Passenger car segment Hybrids saw a slight increase, with 2,658, up from 2,441 in March 2020. Hybrid SUVs also saw an increase, with 2,190 in March 2020 up to 3,890 this year. PHEV SUVs doubled from 119 to 258.

For the Light Cars (under $25K), MG’s MG3 took the crown, with 1,238, an increase of over 30%. Third place was a real battle with Suzuki Swift (471), Kia Rio (452), and Suzuki Baleno (432) making a good sales fight, whilst in between was the Toyota Yaris on 636.

Small Cars (under $40K) and Toyota’s Corolla was under pressure from Hyundai’s i30. The Corolla moved 2,892 against 2,514. Third was tight with the Mazda3 just pipping the Kia Cerato, with 1,577 to 1,453. In the plus $40K range it was a battle between the German duo of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The A-Class stole first on 358, just nudging the 1 Series on 340. The 2 Series Gran Coupe took third on 222.

For the Medium segment it was the Toyota Camry out in front in both the under and over $60K bracket. 852 units moved, ahead of the BMW 3 Series on 567, and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class on 364. Camry, though, was down substantially from 2020, with 1,332 last year.

Kia’s Stinger continued to win the Large Sedan, with 173, down by just two from last year. Porsche’s new Taycan, a fully Electric Vehicle, entered with 161, six ahead of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Kia also outclassed the competition in the People Mover segment, with the Carnival reaching 616, up from 475 in March 2020. Honda’s Odyssey consolidates second with 162, up from 130.

Volkswagen snared third with its new Multivan for 121. In the over $60K segment it was Mercedes, Mercedes, and Toyota, with the V-Class (42), Valente (24) and Granvia (22), duking it out.

There’s been a change in the Sports car segment though. Ford’s Mustang still sold the most with 130 in the under $80K segment, however was outsold by the Mercedes-Benz in the over $80K by the C-Class Coupe and Convertible on 139. The 4 Series from BMW snared 110 for third in both segments.

Moving into the SUV segment and in the Light SUV category Mazda’s CX3 pummeled the opposition in the sub-$40K bracket with 1,744. Toyota’s Yaris Cross slid quickly into second on 846. For third it was another tight battle with Volkswagen’s T-Cross (655) edging out the Hyundai venue and Kia’s new Stonic on 636 and 624.

For the under $40K Small SUVs the Chinese made MG ZS stole the show on 1,510. Hyundai’s recently revamped Kona saw 1,462, just ahead of the Mazda CX-30 on 1,225. Nissan’s Qashqai was the only other entrant into the 1,000 club, squeaking in on 1,003.

Above $40K and Audi’s Q3 found 852 homes, ahead of the Volvo CX40 with 416. 279 and 249 went to Germany, with the X1 from BMW and GLA-Class from Mercedes. Mazda’s CX-5 gave the RAV4 a shake in the Medium sub-$60K, with Toyota selling 3,522 over the Mazda’s 3,022. Nissan’s X-Trail performed solidly for 1,932, just ahead of Subaru’s Forester with 1,439. Mitsubishi’s Outlander 1,085, just ahead of Honda’s CR-V on 972.

In the plus $60K bracket, only Mercedes cracked the 600 mark on 607 for the GLB. The GLC-Class wagon was a distant second with 374, with Audi Q5 on 336. The Lexus NX and BMW X5 went nose to nose on 295 and 291.

In the Large SUVs and under $70K it was Subaru’s outgoing and incoming Outback with 1,341, ahead of the 1,211 for Toyota’s Prado. 1,179 is the number for the Isuzu M-UX. Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport sold 886, whilst their ancient Pajero, due to be cancelled at the end of the year, sold 292.

Over $70K and it was the X5 on 309. Behind it was some close infighting with the Lexus RX (185), Range Rover Sport (181), and GLE-Class wagon (176) providing stiff competition for each other. Above that it’s a two horse race in the Upper large under $100K, with the LandCruiser and Patrol on 2,244 and 305, selling nearly eight times as many than the full field in the over $100K bracket.

In the ute segment, the 4×4 pickup and cab-chassis bracket had HiLux on 4,068 ahead of Ford Ranger with 3,710, continuing the Japanese brand’s number one position. Mitsubishi’s 4×4 Triton moved 2,223 for third. Isuzu’s D-Max was fourth on 1,338, ahead of the Mazda BT-50 and sibling under the skin, on 1,177.

Notable in those figures is the rise of the sharply priced Chinese built MG range, and the continued growth of non-PHEV Hybrids. Overall for March 2021, Toyota sold 21,319, with Mazda on 10,785. They were the only two brands to see double-digits for the month. Hyundai continues to outpace its Korean sibling, with 6,852 over 5,802. Mitsubishi moved 6,430 whilst Nissan sold 4,559, under the 5,977 of Ford. MG? 3,303 and ahead of Honda.

2021 Mitsubishi Outlander GSR PHEV: Private Fleet Car Review

Hybrid technology has fast become part of the automotive landscape. First seen in Toyota’s Prius, it hasn’t taken long to trickle down into mainstream passenger cars and SUVs. However, a new form of hybrid tech, the plug-in hybrid version, has taken more time. A front-runner for SUV PHEVs has been Mitsubishi with their Outlander.The Range: In 2021 they offer three; the ES, GSR, and Exceed. We spent a week with the sporting tuned (by Bilstein, no less) GSR Hybrid. It’s priced at $56,490 drive-away, and has a pair of electric motors for front and rear wheel drive simultaneously via a single ratio transmission. Main power is from the standard 2.4L petrol engine with 94kW and 199Nm. That’s on 91RON unleaded.The electric motors offer 60kW (front) and 70kW (rear), and are charged via one of two ports on the rear right quarter. The petrol tank is good for 45L and the economy is rated as 1.9L/100km on 91RON unleaded. Although Mitsubishi’s system constantly updates as you drive, in the Hybrid there are sub-menus to check charge rates, battery usage, and fuel over given times.

Our final figure would be somewhere around the 5.5L/100km mark if we read the graph correctly. That’s on our usual 70/30 urban to highway runs.The battery is rated at 12kWh and has an on-board charger rate of 3.7kW. using a standard home system it’s somewhere between 6.5 to 7 hours to “fill”. The plugs are Type 1 and CHAdeMO. Drive is engaged via a simple lever with an electronic Park function. There is also an adjustable Brake mode to recover more kinetic energy if possible. This works best on longer downhill runs.

At full charge, the PHEV offers up 55 to 55 kilometres as an estimated electric only range. For Australia, a range of 100 kilometres would be better. As an example, from the lower reaches of the Blue Mountains to Sydney is something between 70 to 80 kilometres…A charge gauge in the driver’s display shows how much is being harvested, as does a dial in the main touchscreen sub-menu. When running low, a button on the left side of the console next to the drive lever offers save or charge. This engages the petrol engine and makes it a generator for the batteries.Drive to each corner is via a single speed transmission, with drive modes such as Sport, Snow, Mud, plus battery save and charge modes. Stability on road comes from Mitsubishi’s much vaunted S-AWC (Super All Wheel Control) and Active Yaw Control. Sport lifts the overall performance and adds some serious extra squirt to the already rapid acceleration.

The GSR nameplate, once synonymous with the Lancer, adorns the powered tailgate. The current body shape is due for a hefty facelift (pictures at end) and release later in 2021 with a heavily reworked nose, and squared off rear with bumper lines lifted from the Pajero Sport.

As it stands there are the integrated eyebrow running lights in the headlights, wrapped in the chrome strips that boomerang forward then back towards the wheelarches. The current profile is largely uncharged for some years, with a sloped rear window line and broad spanning rear lights.The Drive: Bilstein provide the shock absorbers for the MacPherson strut and coil front, multi-link and stabiliser bar rear. 225/55/18 wheels and tyres from Toyo unpin the body. They offer decent grip, but even with the dual axle drive there was some minor slippage on damp roads.

We say damp as we drove it during the “rain bomb” that hit most of Australia’s southern eastern coast. When driven during the not-so-heavy patches, and on roads that had drained most of the surface water away, driving confidence was high. It was on corners and downhill runs when more circumspect driving was required.

What was noticeable was the fantastic tune of the suspension and the damping of the Bilsteins.Although the ride could be described as hard, given the GSR nomenclature, it was on the side of comfort with swift response smoothing out freeway dips and rises without feeling as if it jolted at each end of the travel. Smaller bumps jarred but again only for a moment as the Bilsteins disappeared those impacts rapidly.

Freeway driving had the rapid response telling the driver each square inch of road surface quality without any loss of comfort.

However, one one somewhat soggy and rutted gravel-style track, we heard uncharacteristic groans from the front strut tower caps. The suspension felt as if the stiffness of the setup was overwhelming the caps. As a result, speed had to be dropped to essentially a crawl in order to feel that travel was safe and not damaging the towers.

The Interior: Inside it’s water-resistant micro-suede cloth seat and leather bolsters. They’re as supportive as they come, and electrically powered for the driver. They’re heated up front too, unusual but welcomed for cloth pews and they’re quick to generate heat. There is only heating, though, and the switches are rocker for low or high.

The 8.0 inch touchscreen houses plenty of information and for the PHEV there are sub-menus aplenty to access information on how the hybrid system is working. There is also a punchy eight speaker audio system with DAB plus Bluetooth streaming and the smartphone apps. The interior however does show its age with no smartphone charge pad, an item sure to be included with the update…we hope.

Dashboard design for the Outlander is classic Mitsubishi; open and broad, well spaced for buttons, soft touch materials, and an organic flowing design. The steering feel feels on the large side compared to other marques however turn to turn lock is made easier in context. Head, leg and shoulder room for the five seater is huge with 1,030mm and 1,039mm head and leg up front.It’s a five seater due to the battery’s location and wiring for the charge port. Second row passengers have a pair of USB charge ports, and there is one plus a 12V up front. Cup and bottle holders number four apiece in total.

The powered tailgate is light and seems to prefer being opened by hand however the gentle push of the drop button does the trick in closing it. Folod the second row seats and 1,602L of capacity is available to you. There is also a 12V socket in the rear along with cup holders for seven seat non-hybrid Outlanders. Two underfloor nooks offer some small extra space and hold the charge cable and jack equipment.The Safety: Adaptive Cruise Control with sensor distance changing holds hands with the Forward Collision Mitigation system. This has pedestrian detection but not cyclist. This means the organic safety component needs to be scouting forward. Lane Departure and Blind Spot Warning systems are in place.

Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are also standard. Auto functions for high beam and wipers are standard, as is a rear view camera. Sensors front and rear are standard. Seven airbags include a driver’s kneebag.

The Rest: Warranty for the battery is eight years or 160,000km. Warranty details can be found here. Capped price servicing varies between the PHEV and non-hybrids. More on the 15,000k or 12 monthly service can be found here.

At The End Of The Drive. We have driven a few Outlander PHEVs over the last three to four years.

Our first run was in late 2017, and it was given a solid workout. Driven from the eastern fringes of the Blue Mountains to the central western town of Temora, a historic R.A.A.F base and now a museum, the Outlander PHEV showcased how these sorts of hybrid vehicles work nicely. It’s noticeable that in real terms only minor changes have been made since outside and in.

With a new Outlander on the way, buyers of the current model won’t be disappointed. As a range, it offers good pricing, good performance, and good value. Comfort in the GSR is high and the only niggles were the out of the ordinary complaints from the front end.

As a driver’s car, it meets that goal, and as a package for showcasing hybrid tech, it does an admirable job. Check out the 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV range here.

Vehicle courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors Australia.

2021 Mitsubishi Pajero GLS: Private Fleet Car Review.

Long before there were SUVs or “jacked up” station wagons on 4 wheel drive chassis’, there was Land Cruiser, Land Rover, and Patrol. Then Mitsubishi Japan said “we like this party” and thus Pajero was born.Long gone are the hey-days of this once unstoppable giant. It now sits on the automotive porch, quietly sipping a mug of oil, watching the pretty young things swan by with their fancy electric drivetrains, or their barely bigger than their originator SUV bodies.

Pajero’s time in the sun is fast approaching the end, but one of the grand-daddies of four wheel drives still has a thing or two to tell and teach the youngsters.

With a starting price of just $51,490 drive-away in GL form, with the Exceed an extra $10,500, the GLS slots into the middle with its $58,490. Drive comes from a engine not unlike Lenny from “Of Mice and Men”, with its big 3.2L size lending itself to gentle, low revving, characteristics and delivering 441 torques at a barely stressed 2,000rpm. Towing is rated at 3,000 kilograms.Economy is perhaps the weak point thanks to its dinosaur-like five speed auto. We saw a best of 7.8L/100km, with a final average of 9.8L/100km. The official combined figure is 9.9L/100km for the 2,330 kilo (dry) Pajero…

It’s an engine that is old-school diesel in one context. It’s rattly, but not in a bone shaking sense. It’s a noisy diesel, but put that down to it stemming from a time when the creatures that now feed the engine walked the earth. Refinement and noise isolation weren’t part of the original design brief, low down, stump pulling torque was.

The five speed auto is also from a time long lost in the mist. Although relatively smooth in changes, there can be jerky movements and an occasional drive backlash depending on the throttle application. By missing out on two or three or even four ratios it comparison to more modern machinery marks it as out of date.

Outside and inside, the era that the Pajero in its current form stems from is also evident. A big, blocky, squared off profile, (4,900mm x 1,875mm x 1,900mm) with a large glass area, short overhangs (it is a proper off-road capable vehicle, remember) along with an interior look and feel that largely says, loudly, 1990s.A display interface that is in pixel form, for example, which shows barometer, height, fuel usage and more. Handy info, but built on a hand held gaming platform from the 1980s.

For the driver, nowhere to be seen is the now expected centre of dash display with a full colour LCD screen or a smallish tiller loaded with tabs to access it.Here is a simple box representing the Pajero with two or four engaged corners and its rear differential lock.

The dial displays are standard analogue with a gunmetal sheen which matches the airvent surrounds. In the centre console there are a pair of levers.

No dials, no rotating buttons or tabs, two levers to engage drive and to select which driven (two or four) wheels to roll upon.Techwise, it’s the 7.0 inch touchscreen that stands out, complete with Rockford Fosgate sound. It’s typical Mitsubishi in being able to be read easily thanks to a clean layout, simple font, and a welcome resistance to attracting fingerprints.

Aircon is familiar in having dials and as is the deal with Mitsubishi they are as simple to use as they come. That’s the same with the seats. Cloth centred, and leather bolstered, they suffice, feeling a little slabby yet don’t lack for comfort over a drive of an hour.That applies to the controls at the end of the centre console which the centre row passengers can access. That console has a double level storage locker with a pair of press levers.

Centre row seats are fixed in a fore and aft sense, and have levers to fold. The third row aren’t difficult to access but are weighty, making raising and lowering a chore. But when the second and third row are folded, there’s a capacious 1,789L of cargo space. Third row head room is good at 961mm but a bit cramped for legs at 615mm. Middle row passengers have 1,017mm and 907mm respectively. Driver and front pew passenger luxuriate in 1,056 and 1,049mm head and leg room.What isn’t a chore is driving this venerable lump. The throttle response is instant, and we mean instant. There are barely a couple of millimetres of pedal travel before the engine reacts, and the tacho flickers in response.

Acceleration is progressive and diesel linear. Thanks to that low rev point and the amount of torque on tap, getting going is as easy as drawing breath.

The suspension shows its age on tarmac, with a harder than expected ride. There is some compliance but little of it on bumps that need instant damping.Freeway driving brings out a sense of each corner doing its own thing but telling the other three what it is. This keeps the boxy body flat and level, unfussed and diplodocus like in its mannerisms.

The five cogs hold back the Pajero too, with rolling acceleration and overtaking moves leisurely propositions.It’s noticeably twitchy at times, with the steering geometry such that road joins and the like unsettle the steering, jolting the front end momentarily and the steering wheel jumps in the driver’s hands. Dynamically, it’s not the first word yet, for all that, it can be manhandled to something approaching….a lumbering dexterity.

Age spots here too, as the wheel is a larger style than seen in younger chariots. Lock to lock feels closer to four turns than three. 225/55/18 wheels and rubber provide plenty of footprint, don’t unduly tax the power-assisted steering with an 11.4 metre turning circle, and can be coaxed, on wet roads, to provide a little bit of traction loss.

Off-roading is, or was, one of the strengths of the Pajero lineage, and the four wheel drive system has passed through to the Triton and Triton-based Pajero Sport in a more refined, electronically activated, sense. The stubby front and rear offer a 36.6 degree approach and 25.0 degree departure angle.

Here it’s a stubby lever, with a push down and forward to move from two wheel drive to the three four wheel drive modes. There’s plenty of grip, thanks to both the gearing and the torque, and partly why the Pajero, dinosaur it may be, has plenty to offer to drivers, older and younger.Where new drivers can learn how to drive safely is by driving a vehicle not loaded up with all of the latest must-haves. The onus them comes back to the organic component of the car. There is no Autonomous Emergency Braking, no Rear Cross Traffic, no Blind Spot Alert, no Vehicle Ahead has Moved, no Traffic Sign Recognition. Everything the Pajero GLS needs to do to be safe on the roads is left up to the person between the tiller and the seat.

Warranty is five years or 100,000 kilometres. Depending on where the services have been conducted, there may be a ten year or 200,000 kilometre warranty available.

At The End Of the Drive. in comparison to the Land Cruiser and Patrol, neither a spring chicken themselves, the Pajero GLS nevertheless delivers upon a promise. That promise is deliver the basics without fuss, without glitz, glamour, and show-ponying. It’s old, tired, the automotive equivalent of yelling at a Kona or T-Roc: “get off my driveway” but it still commands respect.

It’s not quick, it’s not agile, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s got grunt and this makes it docile to drive. Like a tiring ankylosaurus, there are still a few swings of its tail-punches left, but the opposition is waiting for the fall. Mitsubishi have confirmed that production comes to an end this year, after nearly four decades and 3.3 million sales. In 2020 build guise, the Pajero GLS is a dinosaur that still lives. Marvel and enjoy it for what it is and represents.

 

2021 Toyota Yaris Cross GXL 2WD Hybrid: Private Fleet Car Review.

Toyota started the SUV phenomenon with the original RAV4. Surprisingly, it’s a bit late to a party it helped plan, with the city SUV Yaris Cross coming after other brands have released similar vehicles. There’s a three model range with GX, GXL, and Urban, and a 2WD, 2WD Hybrid, and AWD Hybrid, the same as found in the newest RAV4. Each have a 3 cylinder, 1.5L petrol engine, the same as now found in the Yaris hatches.Pricing for the GX starts from $30,447 in Ink Black, 2WD and non-hybrid, with metallics, including the Mineral Blue found on the review vehicle, to $30,962. The pricing matrix can be slightly confusing so follow this link to find a price for your location and specification. Our Mineral Blue GXL Hybrid 2WD starts from $36,168 drive-away for our location.

The important parts of the Yaris Cross are the engine package and the size of the body. On the first point, we’ll admit to being somewhat baffled by the numbers. In non-hybrid trim, the 1.5L triple cylinder is rated, says Toyota, at 88kW and 145Nm. The hybrid package is 85kW and 120Nm……Economy isn’t hugely different at 5.4L/100km to 3.8L/100km on the combined cycle, with 91RON and a tank of 42L or 36L in the Hybrid. Transmission is a CVT with ten preprogrammed ratios and includes a mechanical first gear for better off the line acceleration. The AWD version has a separate rear axle electric motor and can take up to 60% of the torque when the drive sensors says so.Sizewise, the Yaris Cross sits on a 2,560mm wheelbase, with a total length of 4,180mm. There’s a height of 1,590mm, and width of 1,765mm. In comparison the Hyundai Kona in 2020 spec is 4,205mm and 1,550mm long and high on a 2,600mm wheelbase. Wheels for the GX and GXL are 16 inch diameter alloys, with rubber at 205/65 and from Bridgestone’s Turanza range.

That SUV body gives it an extra 30mm ground clearance than its hatchback sibling and stands taller by 90mm, spreads wider by 20mm and is longer by 240mm..

In profile, the Yaris Cross bears an unsurprisingly striking resemblance to bigger sibling RAV4, complete with bulldog blunt nose, a kicked up rear, and steeply angled tailgate line. The cargo door opens to a 390L space (314L in Urban) which houses a spacesaver spare. The Urban gets the goo kit.

The front is perhaps the blandest part of the Yaris Cross, and one of the blandest seen on a car in recent times. It looks nothing like the standard Yaris hatch nor the GR versions; they, at least, still have a family resemblance. Here we see a pair of intakes split by a body coloured strip, a pair of vertical LED strips, and darkened headlight covers. Body moldings for the wheel arches are joined by a thick slab on the sills which has the car’s name embossed in.Inside it’s not quite as bland. The dash is the same as the hatch, with a pair of smaller dials set ahead of an information screen. The left dial shows the energy status of the drive on the go, from charge to Eco, to Power. Speed and fuel tank info are on the right. The centre screen shows battery and drive flow information, audio, economy (3.9L/100km) was our final average). satnav and DAB are included in the main 7.0 inch touchscreen.In the console are the switches for the drive modes (Normal, Eco, Sport), traction control, and EV mode. As is the norm for Toyota, the petrol engine kicks in on anything other than a light throttle. The drive selector has a B for Brake, which harvests energy from the braking. There is only one USB port and no offering of a wireless charge pad. Plastics are of an average look and the steering wheel insert was slightly loose and squeaky.

Rear seat leg room is tight, quite tight. Adults would struggle to be comfortable and lanky teenagers don’t quite fit. A centre portion of the 60% part of the 60/40 seats has a pair of cupholders and that’s as much in the way of extra convenience items the rear seat passengers in the GXL will have. Having said that, the actual comfort level of sitting in the cloth covered seats is good, with plenty of support and the fronts eats have good lumbar support too.As a driving package the Yaris Cross demonstrates that even Toyota can get it wrong. The driveline exhibits the same bang and shunt as experienced in the Yaris ZR Hybrid as the throttle is applied or lifted. At times, in opposition, it’s smooth and seamless as the petrol engine kicks in and out, and noticable more on light throttle applications.. The 1.5L is raucous at times, and the insulation under the bonnet is thin, allowing plenty of noise through. Toyota have also located the bonnet strut directly above the engine. The doors aren’t well insulated either, which means external noises filter through easily, and the lack is noticeable when closing the doors. There’s a tinny “thunk”, not a satisfyingly weighted thump.

Steering is light, and the chassis is easily upset over bumps, but minimally changes the direction of the nose. It’s twitchy at times, and light cross winds had the Yaris Cross move around. It’s less composed than expected, all around, with an unsettled ride more often than not the sensation, rather than a well mannered experience. In small spaces, such as roads for a three point turn, underground carparks in shopping centres, and general daily driving, the fidgety handling becomes a benefit, as the short body and the light steering make moving the Yaris Cross around in these environments easy. On both sides of the drive, the Bridgestone rubber squealed…The same applies to the drive; it’s by no means a rocketship, even allowing for the CVT and the battery. Sink the slipper and the 1.5L yells its three cylinder noise, the CVT sees the rev count climb, and forward pace is …leisurely. It’s been timed elsewhere as something around the 11 to 12 second mark to reach 100kph. Again, the Yaris Cross points towards being better suited for the urban environment rather than the outer ‘burbs.

There is a good safety package as standard across the range. A pedestrian and cyclist calibrated anti-collision system is standard, as is Lane Trace Assist, Intersection Turn Assistance, and Traffic Sign recognition for speed signs. The GX misses out on Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. There are eight airbags, including two between the front passengers and, in a first for Toyota in Australia, an SOS function which can call an emergency centre at the press of a button or automatically in the event of airbag deployment.Warranty is a five year/unlimited kilometre mix, with servicing capped at $205 for a cycle of 15,000 kilometres. Battery warranty is ten years.

At The End Of The Drive.
City SUVs appear to be “the next big thing” in a crowded marketplace and although Toyota hasn’t lead the charge in this segment, it lobs a solid, if uninspiring, entry. It’s clearly marketed (and engineered, we think too) at a couple with no or one small child, making it an ideal second car too. The ride quality deters from really exploring its envelope as it’s dynamically off-par. But punt it at city velocities and it’s at home.

But, and yes, there has to be another but, it’s the price. Consider the Mazda CX-3 which ranges from $22,710 to $38,450, Ford’s new Puma ($29,990 to $35,540), Subaru’s XV, ($29,240 – $35,580), and the VW T-Cross ($27,990 – $30,990). Hybrid tech does factor but for some the drive quality will turn them away.