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Japanese cars

Japan’s Automotive Brilliance

Tokyo, Japan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toyota Mirai II

2021 Subaru Forester Sport: Private Fleet Car Review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At The End Of The Drive.

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

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

2021 Toyota Yaris ZR Hybrid: Private Fleet Car Review.

Toyota is arguably the world’s leader when it comes to lobbing a hybridised drive-train into cars, and their small car, Yaris, has finally been given the treatment as seen in Camry, Corolla, and luxo-brand Lexus.The Yaris comes in three flavours, being Ascent Sport, SX, and ZR, and in non-hybrid form starts at around $25,500 drive-away. That’s for the Ascent Sport in manual and plain white paint…. Go partly electric and there’s a need to head to the SX. There’s a price difference of $2,100 between the standard and hybrid, with the battery version seeing $32,545 on the sticker. ZR starts from $33,655 for the petrol, and the hybrid $35,715 in white. Our review car came with a red-orange colour known as Coral which takes it to $36,230. It’s worth noting that Toyota hiked the Yaris prices substantially in 2020, with the Ascent Sport copping an increase of $9,500…The engine is a three cylinder petrol jobbie, but unusual in that its a big’un. It’s a 1.5L unit, larger than the more common 1.0L to 1.2L powerplants found elsewhere. On its own it would be a more than respectable engine for Toyota’s smallest automobile. Fuel tank size is 36L, down from 40L, and 91RON is just fine. Economy is quoted as 3.3L/100km (combined cycle) for the Hybrid compared to 4.9L/100km from the standard 1.5L. Our 70/30 cycle saw 5.2L/100km from the 1,130kg (dry) ZR Yaris. Cargo is 270L minimum.As such, partnered with a battery system, the whole shebang delivers a total of 85 kW and 141 Nm to the front wheels via a CVT auto. The standard engine brings 88kW and 145Nm. Drive in the ZR is selected via a simple and straightforward in-line lever, complete with a B for Braking at the end of the selection line. This allows a driver to harness more of the kinetic energy that braking lets loose and channels it to the battery.ZR is ignited via a push-button, and there’s that eerie silence that hybrids and electric cars have, before a gentle accelerator push has the Yaris ZR Hybrid waft away quietly before the petrol engine kicks in. Toyota has configured this to play its part from either around 25kph on a gentle getaway, or, like all hybrids, straight away if the sensors read a heavy right foot. The 1.5L is noticeable but not intrusively so, and those that have drive three cylinder engined cars will appreciate that familiar off-kilter thrum upfront.There’s good initial speed, and the Yaris ZR Hybrid delights in both urban and freeway driving. Its quick, too, in rolling acceleration, with a definitive and solid urge to hustle as an when required. It hangs on nicely, with a finely tuned suspension dialling out all but the worst of the more common irregularities found in roads. A benign handling set-up sees minor understeer at suburban velocities, with long sweeping turns easily controlled by steering input or gentle braking.It’s well specified inside, with a HUD or Head Up Display taking pride of place. Toyota’s familiar and wonderfully user friendly touchscreen with voice recognition, Mobile Assistant, Siri Eyes Free, Miracast and myToyota mans the upper centre of the dash, and a mix of grey shades add a touch of funkiness to the seats. However, it’s still a kind of budget car in a way, as the driver’s seat is fully manual in adjustment, and the cloth trim means no heating or venting. They are, however, bolstered for extra support.The driver’s dash display is a little unusual in look, with the centre recessed in and having only an info screen. The power/charge screen and speed are housed in two separate dials on the binnacle and well forward of the info screen. They’re digital in layout and look, and have a stylised font that’s eyecatching. They need to be as otherwise the dash is remarkably bland and dull. A single thin strand of red breaks up the solid black plastics, and that’s it. The airvent surrounds are a piano black, and contrast with the varying sages of grey on the seats and linings of the roof and doors.Outside it’s a different story, with that Coral colour highlighting the Yaris’ pear shape from roofline to wheelarches as seen from front or rear. The tail tucks in around the prominent lights, with a subtle pair of lines that joins them and the rear door handles. LED headlights show the way at night.

Simple black and machined alloys underpin the Yaris ZR Hybrid, with the 18 inch wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Ecopia rubber at 185/55.No skimping on safety across the range either. Lane Trace Assist, Road Sign Assist, Lane Departure Alert, eight airbags, and Intersection Turn Assistance are across the board. Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are ZR bespoke. Servicing and warranty details are online.

At The End Of The Drive.

It’s a good drive but the price is an eyebrow raiser. Equipment levels are high to make up for it though, including the Head Up Display and eight airbags. Yaris is also heading Toyota’s push to bring sportiness back to the brand with the Gazoo Racing, GR, powerhouse versions. But, for the money, Kia, Hyundai, Mazda, Ford, VW, offer bigger vehicles and at not a whole lot worse economy.

Check out the 2021 Yaris here.

 

2021: A Honda Odyssey.

Honda Australia has confirmed details of the upgraded for 2021 Odyssey people mover. There’s a change to styling, an upgrade to safety called Honda Sensing, and new tech alongside convenience features.Power comes from an unchanged 2.4L petrol four, with 129kW (6,200rpm) and 225Nm (4,000rpm) with no diesel nor hybrid drive currently available. The transmission is a CVT, with engine idle shutdown, and paddle shifters.The restyled nose is perhaps a pointer to a new corporate look. A broad four bar grille leads the eyes to a pair of slimline headlights that fold back into the fenders, and are not dissimilar to those seen on a certain Toyota SUV. Both the bumper and bonnet have been restyled as well, with a broader and deeper set. The rear lights evoke a German brand, and in a first for Honda, the indicators are sequential in motion.

In profile the highlights are a new set of ten spoke alloys at 17 inches diameter, and a strong windowline. There is some racy styling too, with a creaseline that starts at the bottom of the front doors and rolls towards the rear up and over the rear wheel arch. This leads to a restyled rear bumper and some distinctive contours. These will show up thanks to four premium paints, with pearlescent Platinum White, Twinkle Black, Super Platinum, and a striking Obsidian Blue.Inside the Odyssey has a kick sensor powered tailgate, powered sliding side doors with a gesture sensor that lights as a person approaches, and Captains’ Chairs for the second row. Leather trim is standard and smartapps add to the technology.Robert Thorp, General Manager for Product, Customer and Communications, Honda Australia, says: “Odyssey has been the undisputed leader in the people mover private market for nine consecutive years. When it came time to purchase a new vehicle to transport their family, since 2012 more private buyers have chosen the Honda Odyssey than any other people mover. With the introduction of the updated 2021 Year Model, the Odyssey range now offers more comfort, convenience and innovative technology features than ever before – it is a first class people mover designed to suit the needs of family car buyers.”

The Odyssey has a ride height of 300mm, making entry and exiting an easy experience. The dash has a new 7.0 inch digital screen insert, an 8.0 inch main touchscreen, and a leather wrapped steering wheel. LED ambient lighting brings a luxury cabin touch and acoustic glass for extra cabin quietness adds to the comfort levels. A locking mechanism that closes and locks the doors called Reservation Locking closes the doors after a press of the exterior lock button.Honda Sense brings in Forward Collision Warning, Road Departure Mitigation System, Lane Keep Assist, and Adaptive Cruise Control as standard fitment across the restructured range. There are two grades, Vi L7 and Vi LX7, which replaces the VTi and VTi-L grades. Pricing starts from $44,250 (manufacturer’s list price) and $51,150 (manufacturer’s list price). The 2021 Honda Odyssey is on sale as of January 18, 2021.

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.

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.

2021 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: Isuzu’s substantially overhauled D-Max, specifically the 4×4 capable and top of the range X-Terrain. It heads a solid list of 4×2, 4×4, cab chassis, extended cab, and four door utes, all with the same 3.0L diesel and six cogger manual or autos. Info on the range and engine updates can be found here.How Much Does It Cost?: At the time of writing, Isuzu have a drive-away price tag of $58,990. Then there is the extensive list, over fifty, of options available.

Under The Bonnet Is: A revamped 3.0L diesel and six speed auto, driving a switchable two or four wheel drive system, with low range and a locking rear differential. Peak power is 140kW, but it’s the peak torque of 450Nm from 1,600rpm to 2,600rpm that does the important stuff.

Economy was good with our final figure of 9.7L/100km on our 70/30 urban to highway split close to the quoted figures from Isuzu, as the pure urban figure is 9.8L/100km, and highway 6.9L/100km. Isuzu’s combined figure is 8.0L/100km from a 76.0L tank. Towing capacity, by the way, is 3.5 tonnes. Dry weight is 2,30kg with a payload of 970kg.On The Inside It’s: A considerable step up from the previous model. There’s a more luxurious feel, a better look, yet some noticeable omissions.

Our time with the X-Terrain coincided with Sydney’s notoriously fickle late spring weather. Temperatures varied by twenty degrees Celsius, so the absence of heating and venting for the leather appointed seats was striking. However, they’ve been redesigned so there’s more sense of sitting in, not on, and the support level laterally goes up as a result. However, only the driver’s seat is powered for adjustability.

There is also no smartphone charge pad, only the driver’s windows switch is one touch, and the DAB tuner’s sensitivity isn’t the best going, with dropouts in areas no other vehicle we’ve tested and packing a DAB tuner having similar issues. Touchscreen size is 9.0 inches and Isuzu say it’s a pixel heavy count, at 144 pixels per square inch. The touchscreen interface for the audio needs polishing, as does the home screen look. It’s somewhat irksome that Isuzu has gone to a lot of trouble to “rebuild” the D-Max yet some basics have been overlooked. This is a top of the range vehicle, but yet…On the upside is the app connectivity and dash display design. It’s unlike virtually everyone else in look, yet it’s easy to read, and easy to use thanks to the steering wheel tabs that scroll information on a full colour LCD screen. The analogue dials are also clearly read, as are the no-nonsense tabs in a strip below the touchscreen. An added pair of pluses are the rain sensing wipers and auto headlights.

The dash itself has angles built into the soft-touch plastics that evoke the angles of the exterior of the D-Max. This includes the creaseline from the left air vent down and across the double glovebox design, with an upper and lower split. There’s a lidded storage locker on the upper dash that has been improved, in the sense the locker mechanism works all the time, every time. The very handy cup holders that pop out from under the left and right air vents remain.Drive is selected via a basic looking pistol grip lever, surrounded by piano black that echoes the material surrounding the touchscreen. The steering column is rake and reach adjustable. Leg room for the front seats is 1,075mm, with the rear seats in the four door ute at 905mm. 1,460mm shoulder room is what is found up front, meaning comfort levels in this aspect are high. Having rear seat air vents and a USB socket, plus a coat or shopping bag hook on the back of the front passenger seat raises the ante too.On The Outside It’s: Clad in a brilliant Cobalt Blue (on the test car), and there are three bespoke colours (two shared with the LS-U) including Volcanic Amber specifically for the X-Terrain. The most noticeable change from the previous model has been the enlargement of the grille which now extends further downwards, and the horizontals which have been flipped 180 degrees. The end plates now look more like teeth, adding an aggressive look.

Headlight design sees a slimming down of the design, and it brings a more assertive look, somehow evoking an eagle or a hawk. The rear lights also have been reprofiled, with a sharper overall look. The aggressive styling continues with strakes in the housing for the driving lights. On the test car was a lockable and rolling tray cover with the rear bumper, fitted with a towbar, having three steps to access the tray.

A stylish rollbar flows back from the roofline, and in a graphite grey plastic (with red highlights) it matches the roofrails and a pair of lower rear quarter aero-foils. Sidesteps and and wheel arch flares finish the package.Rolling stock sees black painted alloys wrapped in Bridgestone Dueller H/T rubber. They’re a good size at 265/60/18. The X-Terrain itself is a good size, measuring a full 5,365mm in total length, 1,785mm in height, and a broad 1,870mm on a 1,570mm track. Wheelbase is up too, from 3,095mm to 3,125mm. Wading depth is now up to 800mm thanks to a redesigned engine bay air intake.

On The Road It’s: A little underwhelming in one respect. There’s noticeable understeer in 2WD, the Duellers lose just enough grip to squeal as they push wide too. The auto suits the engine’s characteristics much better than the six speed manual we tested in the SX recently.

Being a diesel, it does mean that the torque delivery at low revs means it’s an unstressed, easy going, highway spinner. That breathlessness comes in more for suburban driving, especially when pulling away from a set of traffic lights and trying to clear traffic. It’s not the zippiest of engine and gearbox combinations, nor is it the quietest, feeling a little lacklustre in comparison to, say, a Kia Sorento 2.2L and eight speed, which has a similar overall weight. Move away from a suburban stop sign and it pulls cleanly and effortlessly away for the speed zone as the throttle sensor keeps revs lower than accelerating from the aforementioned lights..

The auto is smooth, with up and downshifts mostly invisible. Downhill runs had the transmission holding gear, and again mostly worked well enough, changing up when a human also would have made the change.

Ride quality, considering it’s a commercial oriented vehicle, isn’t horrible. It’s well tied down for the most part, with nicely controlled rebound from the rear leaf sprung suspension, and a well balanced, tauter, double wishbone front end, in comparison. Steering weight is well matched to the ride too, with enough effort required to move the new electronically assisted steering to not feel over-light and thus lose steering feel.

Being four wheel drive capable, there are some big numbers for the angles. Get off road and an approach angle of 30.5 degrees, a departure of 24.2 degrees, and a breakover of 23.8 degrees make for some exceptionally capable dirt eating.Something that stood out, and not entirely in a positive way, was the determination of what the Forward Collision Warning system felt to be a dangerous situation. There’s some recalibration to be done ans it would alert the driver to an object ahead however the brake was already being employed. At other times it would read an object that was turning left or right and therefore no longer a potential issue.

What About Safety?: There are now eight airbags throughout the cabin. In between the front pews is a centre mounted airbag, a segment first. A reverse camera is standard, along with parking sensors at either end. AEB is programmed for speeds above 10kph and has pedestrian & cyclist detection. Lane Keep Assist is standard and works best for speeds between 60 to 130. Forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assistance, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are also fitted.

What About Warranty And Service?: Isuzu’s warranty offers six years or 150,000km, plus they’ll lob in seven years of roadside assistance provided services are done at the dealerships. Service intervals on the new D-Max remain 15,000km or 12 months, covered initially by a seven-year capped-price servicing program. This totals $3374 over that period, with the most expensive service (at 90,000km) costing $749.

At The End Of The Drive. It’s a much improved machine that Isuzu has given the marketplace, and the results are already flowing, with sales of the 4×4 version over 1,500 in November 2020. It takes on the HiLux and Ranger, and outsold the Triton too.

It’s a better looker, the interior has a more upmarket feel, but it still needs some more polishing in a couple of areas for features seen in other marques but not here, such as heating/venting for the seats, or perhaps offering electrical adjustment for the front passenger seat, not just the driver’s. As an overall package, it’s a better option that before, and the coming months will tell the tale sales wise. It looks the part, and pricewise it is poised to take aim at the two above it quite nicely.

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.