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2021 Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge PHEV: Private Fleet Car Review

Hybrid technology is becoming a way of life in the automotive world and ranges from the everyday car to the ultra luxury. Somewhere in between is Volvo and their hybrid SUV “Recharge” offerings. The big ‘un, the XC90, is now partially electrified and available as a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle or PHEV.Complete with a solid list of standard equipment and extras, their is a Manufacturer’s recommended list price and as driven price of $114,990 and $120,715.

The key to what turned out to be a surprisingly rapid and agile big SUV is a 2.0L petrol fed engine that is both supercharged and turbocharged. The EV part comes from a battery that assists and electric motor that produces, says Volvo, 65kW and 240Nm to work with the petrol powerplant’s 246kW and 440Nm. That torque figure comes in at 2,200rpm and runs to 4,400rpm.

This endows the hefty, at 2,315kg, XC90, with ferocious speed, albeit limited to 180kph as a top speed. It will easily see the freeway limit in 5.5 seconds, and overtake others at a rate that would have Superman blink in astonishment. Along the way, Volvo says economy is rated at 2.1L/100km from a 70L tank.Herein lies the rub. The battery, when fully charged, offers just 35km of range on battery power alone. In conjunction with the drive modes, such as (mild) off-road, and the Polestar engineering mode, this is possible but in the real world mostly not. To extract the best out of the combination, it’s highway cruising that needs to be employed as the battery runs down to a point that it no longer really assists but will supplement in a reduced capacity. To that end we saw a final overall figure of 6.4L/100km, in itself a better than respectable figure for the mass of the XC90 Recharge.The Four-C Active Chassis suspension is height adjustable thanks to electronically controlled airbags being employed and does so with the drive modes programming. It’ll also lower in height when the XC90 Recharge is switched off via the centre console located rotary dial. Here one would think that the ride quality is not that good. It’s the opposite, and although not quite completely dialing out the artificial feel airbag suspension setups have, it’s never anything less than comfortable.

Up front is a double wishbone transverse link setup, with the rear a integral axle transverse leaf spring composition. Together they bring a wholly adept ride and handling package to the XC90 Recharge, along with the grip levels thanks to the 22 inch double spoke black painted and diamond cut alloys. Pirelli supply the rubber and they’re 275/35s from the famous P-Zero range.Although a thin sidewall, the suspension is clearly tuned with that in mind, such is the poise and lack of bump-thump displayed. And those wide tyres add so much tenacity in being able to corner harder and longer when enjoying that flexibility from underneath the bonnet.

Steering is precise, and mayhaps too precise for some used to oodles of understeer or numbness. It’s perfectly weighted and for the size of the wheels and rubber, there’s a pleasing lack of “ponderous”. It’s more a delight than it has the right to be, and nimble enough in the feel to make it a small to mid-sized hatch rather than the large SUV it really is.

Rolling acceleration delivers in that “pin you back in the seat” manner, especially when the battery is charged. Although untimed, that quoted 5.5 seconds, too, is on the mark from a seat of the pants point of view.Recharge of the battery from the brakes is on a graduated level. Drive, once the ignition dial is switched, is engaged by a simple tap forward or backwards lever just ahead of the switch, and a tap back from Drive changes the amount of braking regenerative force that feeds the battery. Although needing a very long hill to make any appreciable impact, there is enough noticeable retardation and a small increase in range seen in the dash display.

Volvo have kept the fact that it’s a PHEV quiet. Apart from the numberplate fitted, there is the charge port on the front left fender and a badge on the powered tailgate with “Recharge”. Aside from the hole for that charge port, which opens at the press of a hand to reveal a weatherproofed, covered, port, it’s an invisible PHEV presence.The exterior is otherwise unchanged, from the Thor’s hammer driving lights and indicators to the LED rear lights, it’s a curvaceously boxy body. Inside there’s luxury in the form of the Bowers and Wilkins audio, leather seats, the integrated tablet-style infotainment screen, and LCD dash display. Run a drive destination into the navigation and the centre of the LCD driver’s screen shows the map. There is also a subtle, and almost lost, HUD display.Rear seats have their own climate control and the capacious cargo area (651L to 1,950L) has plenty of high quality carpeting and switches for the powered tailgate. There is a bag for the charge cable and a hook to hang it from. There is also a cargo blind which was in the way when it comes to moving the third row seats and no obviously apparent storage locker for it too.Controls for the car are embedded in the touchscreen, with climate control including venting/heating for the front seats, safety features, and smartapps such as Spotify and TuneIn included. The tablet style screen works on swiping left and right for the main info, and a pulldown from the top for settings and an electronic instruction manual.

Our review car came with options fitted; Climate pack which has heating for the windscreen washers, rear seat, and tiller at $600. The centre row seats has powered folding headrests at $275, whilst metallic paint is a hefty $1,950. The Nappa leather covered seats in charcoal to match the trim is $2,950.It’s a Volvo so those letters can be pronounced “safety”. Volvo has their CitySafe package, with Pedestrian, Vehicle, Large Animal, Cyclist Detection, and Intersection Collision Mitigation. Intellisafe Assist has Adaptive Cruise Control with Pilot Assist, Collision Warning with Auto Brake (which picks up parked cars on corners…), and Intellisafe Surround that includes Blind Spot Information System, Cross Traffic Alert and Rear Collision warning (which stops the car from moving if sensors pick up an obstacle), and airbags throughout the cabin.At The End Of The Drive. There is something to be said for the brands, in the automotive sense, that are leading the charge (no pun intended) towards hybrid and fully EV availabililty. Brands such as Jaguar have announced they’ll be fully EV by 2025, for example. Volvo, under the chequebook auspices of Geely, continue to produce the classy and safety-oriented vehicles they’re renowned for, and push towards a more expansive hybrid range.As potent as the petrol engine is on its own, the short distance available from battery power alone and as a backup for hybrid driving detracts somewhat from the intent, especially for our wide brown land. In Europe where you can drive through seventeen towns in the time it takes to sneeze four times, it’s a different story.

For the driver, it’s a sports car in a big car body, and just happens to be able to carry up to seven people in comfort and knowledge of safety thanks to the famous Volvo safety heritage. In the competition area there are the three German brands against it, and in a purely EV sense, Tesla’s Model X, complete with its lights and door dance routine for entertainment value. In a tough market segment, sometimes the difference can be small to see in value but Volvo assures that the extra range capability is coming. That will help the XC90 increase its appeal.

Thanks to Volvo Australia for the provision of the 2021 XC90 T8 Recharge.

 

A Class-C Update From Mercedes.

Mercedes-Benz have updated their evergreen C-Class saloon and Estate with what Gordon Wagener, the chief design officer of the Daimler group said reflected the desire to apply “sensual purity”. It’s due for release in the northern hemisphere’s summer season.

Mercedes-Benz C-Klasse, 2021 // Mercedes-Benz C-Class, 2021

The new C-Class will feature both forms of hybrid tech, being petrol and PHEV, and will run 48V technology. The battery alone will power the C-Class for up to 100 kilometres, the company says. The petrol engines will be four cylinders from what M-B call FAME (Family of Modular Engines). Along with turbocharging both the petrol and diesel engines the C-Class will have, M-B add in an ISG or integrated starter-generator. This provides low speed assistance using a 48 volt on-board electrical system that ensures functions such as gliding, boosting or energy recovery. Fast re-engagement has seamless switching from off to on when at lights or a stop sign.

Two engines with petrol will be available, one of 1.5L, the other of 2.0L. 125kW/250Nm for the C180, 150kW/300Nm for the C200 and C200 4MATIC from the 1.5L, with 190kW/400Nm for the C300 and C300 3MATIC versions. A pair of 2.0L diesels factor in, with 147kW/440Nm and 195kW/550Nm. Top speeds are limited at the upper end of the range to 250kph.

The plug-in hybrid C-Class will operate in all-electric mode in many cases thanks to an electric output of 95 kW (129 hp) and an all-electric range of around 100 kilometres. For many areas in Europe this could mean little to no ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) usage. The battery is an in-house design and built in a “pouch configuration” with 96 cells, with a total capacity of 25.4kWh. There is an internal cooling system fitted, managing heat discharge in any driving environment. The high density structure allows a charge rate of 30 minutes to full from empty using a 55kW charger. An 11kW charger is standard.

Mercedes-Benz C-Klasse, 2021 // Mercedes-Benz C-Class, 2021

Energy recovery rates can be driver controlled via rocker switches in the console across all driving modes except for Sport. Lifting the foot from the accelerator has the regenerative system act like brakes, slowing the C-Class whilst simultaneously feeding back energy to the battery. Mercedes-Benz have engineered in two additional driving modes which will enable the driver to take advantage of what the powertrain offers: BATTERY HOLD: Maintaining the charge state of the high-voltage battery is given priority, e.g. when intending to drive in a city centre or green zone later on; selection of the most suitable drive configuration by the hybrid powertrain system, depending on the driving situation and route, and ELECTRIC: Electric driving up to 140 km/h, adjustable energy recovery rate in overrun mode, adaptation of Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC for electric driving, activation of the combustion engine using a pressure point of the accelerator pedal (kick-down).

Extra tech sees optional rear-axle steering with 2.5 degrees of angle reducing a turning circle to 10.5 metres. These have the rear wheels in an opposite direction in steering at speeds up to 60kph, then align with the direct front steering above 60kph. The rear steering also effectively reduces the steering ratio to 2.1 turns lock to lock, down from 2.35.

Notable changes to both the saloon and wagon have seen increase to the overall dimensions. The previous model saloon jumps from 4,686mm to 4,751mm in length, the Estate from 4,702mm to 4,751mm. Width is up by 10mm and 20mm respectively to 1,820mm each. Both share an increased wheelbase of 2,865mm, up from 2,840mm each. Luggage capacity for the Estate ranges from 490L to 1,510L, with a slightly lower load lip, and the rears eats have a 40/20/40 split for extra versatility. A powered tailgate is standard across the range.

Australian delivery dates are yet to be confirmed.

Mercedes-Benz C-Klasse, 2021 // Mercedes-Benz C-Class, 2021

Isn’t It IONIQ…BEV And E-GMP Hyundai IONIQ5 On The Way

Hyundai have given to the world two more new automotive acronyms. BEV (battery electric vehicles) and E-GMP (Electric-Global Modular Platform) are attached to the new IONIQ5. Classed as a mid-sized SUV, it’s due in Australia sometime in Q3 (July to September) 2021.

The IONIQ 5 will have two battery pack options, either 58 kWh or 72.6 kWh, and two electric motor layouts, either with a rear motor only or with both front and rear motors. All PE variations provide outstanding range and deliver a top speed of 185 km/h.

The E-GMP platform sees Hyundai exploring design and engineering boundaries, with the base platform here providing a wheelbase of 3,000mm (100mm more than Palisade) inside an overall length of 4,635mm. The battery pack is expected to provide a driving range of up to 470km. A pair of motors will propel the IONIQ5 to 100kph in just over five seconds thanks to 225kW and 605Nm in all wheel drive mode when using the Long Range Battery. Go to the standard battery and there’s an expected 0-100 time of 6.1 seconds.

A key feature of the BEV is the ultra-fast charging, with 10% to 80% in 18 minutes of charge, and the platform will support 400V and 800V infrastructure. This also enables a range of 100km in five minutes worth of charging. A feature growing in stature, the ability to output charge, is also aboard. IONIQ 5 also provides an innovative V2L function, which allows customers to freely use or charge any electric devices, such as electric bicycles, scooters or camping equipment, serving as a charger on wheels with up to 3.6kW of power using what Hyundai called the V2L (Vehicle To Load) function. The port to connect and output will be placed under the second row seats. An external port is also fitted and can charge other devices whilst the IONIQ5 is powered down.

Thomas Schemera, Executive Vice President and Global Chief Marketing Officer, said: “IONIQ 5 will accommodate lifestyles without limits, proactively caring for customers’ needs throughout their journey. It is truly the first electric vehicle to provide a new experience with its innovative use of interior space and advanced technologies.”

Hyundai says the IONIQ5’s exterior heralds a new chapter in their design, with the vehicle equipped with Hyundai’s first clamshell hood which minimises panel gaps for optimal aerodynamics. The front bumper is defined by an eye-catching V-shape incorporating distinctive DRLs that provide an unmistakable light signature which is a bespoke IONIQ5 look. These small pixel-like clusters also appear at the rear of the vehicle. Colour choices will have nine for the exterior, three inside. Obsidian Black and Dark Pebble Gray/Dove Gray, while the optional colour pack offers Dark Teal/Dove Gray.

There are auto-retracting door handles that will provide a styling for a clean surface look, which also will increase aerodynamic efficiency. A distinctive C-pillar, derived and inspired from a previous EV concept, identifies the IONIQ5 from a distance.

Hyundai has a design brief they’ve termed Parametric Pixel and this is seen in the 20 inch diameter aero wheels. SangYup Lee, Senior Vice President and Head of Hyundai Global Design Centre, says: “A new mobility experience for the next generation – this was the mission from the first day we began this project, to look ahead towards the horizon, but stay fundamentally Hyundai,” said . “IONIQ 5 is the new definition of timeless, providing a common thread linking our past to the present and future.”

The interior has a “Living Space” theme which shows a movable centre console, the Universal island, with a travel of 140mm. Batteries are located in the floor, making for a flat surface and aiding interior space. The powered front seats have been reduced in thickness for better rear seat space. It’s a “green”car, with eco-friendly, sustainably sourced materials, such as recycled PET bottles, plant-based (bio PET) yarns and natural wool yarns, eco-processed leather with plant-based extracts, and bio paint with plant extracts used in areas such as the seats, door trim, headlining, and floor.

Interior design sees 531L of cargo space at the rear, with nearly 1,600L on offer with the second row seats folded. A front cargo area, or as it’s known, a “frunk” (front trunk).

With Remote Charging, IONIQ 5 drivers can start and stop charging with the push of a button on their smartphone app. During colder months, Remote Climate Control allows users to schedule pre-heating of IONIQ 5 while it is connected to an external power source. Not only does this ensure comfort for occupants during the drive, but it also saves battery power that would otherwise be needed to heat the vehicle on the road.

IONIQ 5’s Dynamic Voice Recognition system accepts simple voice commands to conveniently control cabin A/C, radio, hatch opening/closing, heated steering wheel, heated/cooled seats and other functions. The system can also assist with various points of interest (POI), weather status and stock market data updates.

IONIQ 5 also features a premium Bose sound system. Its eight speakers, including a subwoofer, are strategically placed throughout the vehicle for a high-quality listening experience.

IONIQ 5 will be available in selected regions starting in the first half of 2021, with Australia set to launch in Q3 2021.

China’s Automotive Targets

Autonomous Bus Train

Looking at the current landscape of automotive skill, technology and manufacture, China places itself solidly at the forefront.  China is a prominent global automotive game changer.  The huge growth in vehicle traffic across China has been driven primarily by the country’s economic development.  The growth has been immensely rapid (particularly since 2000), where the rate of motorisation of this huge country has been nothing short of phenomenal.

The Chinese government has led a massive revolution towards the urbanizing of its people.  Research has shown that about 300 million people are expected to move to the cities over the next few years, where all of the existing – as well as new – cities will grow considerably with the influx of new inhabitants coming in from around the countryside.  This massive development plan is scheduled to run through until 2025 and is based on clear goals and the development of good electric mobilization.  Being able to integrate electric vehicles into digitised infrastructures and services will soon become a complete Chinese realization.

Currently, in China electric vehicles (EVs) are not subject to any major restrictions; if there are restrictions they are only minor.  Compared with the growing costs and restrictions enforced upon combustion engine vehicles, getting yourself into an EV brings massive benefits for Chinese owners of new EVs, and the financial incentives for having an EV are strong.  As early as 2013, a change of policy that favoured electric mobilization throughout China’s major cities and infrastructure was initiated.  The expanding EV charging infrastructure is continuing to grow rapidly, though it has some way to go before being consistently functional over wider areas.

Big digital companies like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are providing the drive and expertise behind the autonomous transport network across China’s major cities.  Many big brand car manufacturers from around the world have already linked with huge Chinese automotive companies seeking to use China as a platform and marriage for producing their cars at lower cost, and it would seem logical that, after entering the Western market via European brands, the first imports of premium Chinese vehicles (hybrid, EV and Fuel Cell) from China to other countries around the world can be expected over the next few years.  The commercial EV sector and EV buses will likely arrive even sooner.

The Arab, Latin American and African markets are ripe for gaining access by the Chinese automotive manufacturers.  Also the Silk Road Project can be perceived as a means for opening up the Asian market to the big Chinese brands of EVs and Fuel Cell vehicles.

China is on target for completely phasing out combustion technology much earlier than was first expected.  At the end of 2017, Chinese car manufacturer BAIC announced plans to stop production of non-electric and hybrid cars by the end of 2025.

We see the Chinese brands like Great Wall, Haval, MG and LDV growing here in Australia, and it seems that this Chinese automotive development will continue rapidly into countries who want to take non fossil fuel transport to new levels.  China will play a key, dynamically strong role in the future of clean automotive transport.  I wonder how soon we’ll see more autonomous and EV transport being rolled out in Australia?

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

Mini dumps leather – a sign of change to come?

According to an interview with Mini’s design boss, Oliver Heilmer, the beloved car brand will soon no longer be offering a leather fit-out in any of its vehicles, instead going down the route of doing away with the material and turning vegan.

His remarks cited the sustainability – or lack thereof – as part of the reason why the brand is ditching the material in its next release, despite the fact that more than half of the company’s cars sold in the UK last year featured leather interiors.

Mini will instead opt for more “sustainable” fabrics according to Heilmer, arguing “we’re totally convinced that we will have modern and high-value products without leather.”

 

Mini isn’t alone, nor first for that matter

The company isn’t the first to make the move to ditch leather. In 2019, Tesla was among the first to announce that it would only utilise vegan fabrics in the cabin of its Model 3 sedan and Model Y SUV.

Elsewhere, a host of other brands have used faux leather in place of the real thing, and among European manufacturers, there have been plans to incorporate recycled materials such as plastic bottles in an effort to embrace a sustainable focus.

Even in the massive American market, electric car start-up Fisker is a brand positioning itself for an eco and sustainability-oriented future. Its Ocean SUV that is currently in development is set to use a large array of recycled materials like regenerated nylon from fishing nets for the carpet, recycled polyester from t-shirts to act as eco-suede upholstery, not to mention tyre waste for various other components in the car.

 

 

What matters to the consumer?

It raises an interesting proposition for future new car buyers – how important are those ‘luxury’ touches that many of us have become accustomed to seeing? With this being the first in a potentially broad and all-encompassing effort to introduce other materials that are more sustainable that their existing counterparts, there could be some interesting changes on the horizon.

However, given pricing isn’t exactly an area that would be in line for a reduction as part of the eco push, would you buy a premium car and be content with fabric finishes or recycled materials being incorporated across the board?

More broadly, is Mini’s move the beginning of a wider shift among car manufacturers to do away with leather and opt alternative materials instead?

Tesla Reinvents Their Wheel For 2021.

Tesla has revealed updates to their Model S. The big sedan has been given tweaks to the exterior, the drive, train, and the interior. Also, gone is the Performance model and replaced by the Model S Plaid and Model S Plaid+.

Front and centre, well…left on American spec cars, is a major change to the wheel. It’s no longer round or even vaguely ovoid. It’s a yoke, not unlike those found in fighter jets. A broad “U” shape, a pair of spokes join the verticals at hub height and allow a broader view of the digital screen. It’s sure to cause controversy and pub discussion, but that’s not the only change. The large centre console screen has been tipped 90 degrees to a landscape orientation and is set into the dash rather than standing proud. Tesla say it’s more a gamin screen than anything with ten teraflops of processing power.

There’s more carbon fibre or wood trim covering parts of the dashboard and door panels, and the door cards have been redesigned and appear to feature much-needed additional storage space. The stylish new centre console also has more storage space and comes complete with wireless charging for multiple devices. The rear seats look more sculpted and feature a new fold-down armrest with cupholders.

Rear-seat passengers get an 8-inch screen that offers the same infotainment and gaming functions as the main screen, and it even works with wireless gaming controllers. The Model S has three-zone climate control, a 22-speaker audio system, heated seats all around (and ventilated front seats), ambient lighting and a glass roof as standard. White, black and beige remain the only interior color options.

The exterior has been gently massaged. There the same coke bottle flanks, slightly reprofiled slimline front and rear lights, and coupe style profile. The front bumper has been reprofiled, losing the blunt end from top to bottom, and now adds a gentle curve to split the look horizontally, including a cooling airvent, as it wraps around to each wheel arch and extends a bottom lip ever so slightly. The rear valance has also been changed and looks more like a pair of exhausts tips hiding on each side.

Underneath are now three motors. The new Plaid and Plaid+ will offer a scintillating 1.99 seconds (Plaid) to see the 100kph mark, cross the 400 metres in just over nine seconds, and 200mph/320kph in the top speed matter. Current pricing, says Tesla, is US$121,190 Model S Plaid and US$141,190 Model S Plaid+. Expected range is now 520 miles or 837 kilometres.

The Model X will come with only one three motor variant, and should see the tonne in 2.5 seconds. Top speed for the SUV is around 163mph/262kph and a range of around 340 miles or 547 kilometres. Pricing starts from US$121,190, the same price as the Model S Plaid and US$40,000 more than the Long range bi-motor Model S.

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.

 

Takata Airbags Recall Update.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) has today (January 14) reported that the website relating to the Takata airbag safety recall, www.ismyairbagsafe.com.au, has reached 12 million checks. As a result, over two million vehicles equipped with the faulty Takata airbag inflators have been identified as having the problem airbags, which have the potential to kill or seriously injure vehicle occupants.

Across Australia, car manufacturers have replaced faulty Takata airbags in more than 2.72 million passenger cars and light commercial vehicles. Vehicle owners unsure of the recall status of their vehicles can immediately check by visiting the website or by texting the word TAKATA to 0487 247 224.

The 12 million represents a staggering 67 per cent of the 17.8 million passenger cars and light commercial vehicles on Australian roads. The FCAI chief executive, Tony Weber, said: “The website has been an outstanding success in helping people identify whether their vehicles are affected by the national Takata recall. The heavy usage of the website clearly demonstrates that vehicle owners appreciate being able to readily access important safety information.”

And although the deadline set by the industry had passed, manufacturers are still working to identify more vehicles, said Mr Weber. “We will continue hosting the website through early 2021 to ensure vehicle owners can readily check the recall status of their vehicles. If owners identify any outstanding faulty airbags, manufacturers and dealers will replace them free of charge.”

If you have a vehicle that is unregistered, it’s recommended you check by contacting the relevant brand directly. This, said Mr Weber, is important as he warned that state and territory governments were now deregistering or refusing registration of vehicles fitted with unrectified Takata airbags. “Don’t let your vehicle be taken off the road by the authorities. Vehicle owners can easily avoid the inconvenience and serious legal risks associated with deregistration by making prompt arrangements for free replacement”.

The www.ismyairbagsafe.com.au website is an integral part of the automotive industry’s national communications campaign in support of the airbag recall. The industry campaign has made extensive use of national and regional television, radio, print, cinema, digital and social media, and of non-English press.

Our Population’s Need for Cars

The numbers are saying that there is a growing percentage of our population here in Australia that are classed as elderly; by elderly I mean over 65 years of age with a bit of a white/grey background in their hair colour.  Our largest age group sits in the 30 to 34 year old bracket.  Our population of youngsters under the age of 10 also continues to increase.  As well as that, Australia’s overall population is continuing to grow swiftly – thanks mainly to Australia being a great place to make the shift to live and work in.  Building our infrastructure to keep up with the influx and accommodate the population growth is something Australia continues to do well, and definitely Australia does infrastructure a whole lot better than most countries in the rest of the world.

Brisbane, Perth and Sydney know how to do public transport, with Melbourne a shining light when it comes to usable public transport; in fact, more than 80 % of all public transport kilometres in Melbourne are travelled on roads.  All our big Australian cities do the public transport service pretty well, Adelaide being well up the user-usability, user-friendly, and user-satisfaction rankings, too.  However, most of us rely on our own private vehicles to get us across town and city, to travel from one township to another, or even to get from one major city to another throughout, and across, Australia.

The Australian road network covers more than 877,000 kilometres, which is quite phenomenal when you think about it, and well over half a million Australians rely on these roads for their full-time employment.  A relatively recent (2016) analysis of the preferred method of travel that residents in Australia used to get to work showed that 11.4 % used public transport, while 66.1 % used a private vehicle.  These figures still followed pretty-true in Australian Greater Capital Cities surveys, where 15.7 % used public transport and 63.3 % used a private vehicle.  Whilst many of the elderly move closer to the city centre or find a hub that is close to amenities, even the elderly find it hard to totally give up the car keys.  You can’t beat the park just outside your destination!

Here are some interesting stats and bits of info taken from various recent surveys held in Australia, and we need to thank the likes of the Australian Bureau of Statistics for keeping us informed.  Did you know that there were 19.8 million registered motor vehicles across Australia as at the 31st January 2020.  This points to our national fleet having increased by 1.5 % from the same figures discovered in 2019.  Of the 19.8 million vehicles, 25.6 % of the national fleet are diesel and 72.7 % are petrol.  Light, rigid, diesel trucks continue to have the largest growth rate in registrations, increasing 5.8 per cent over the year.  This is followed, rather contemplatively for me, by campervans with a 3.5 per cent growth in registrations.  Light rigid trucks include your Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux type vehicles.

Though still a very small portion of the pie, electric vehicles are gaining some traction in Australia.  Sarah Kiely, Director of ABS Transport Statistics, stated that “While electric vehicles are still small in number, less than 0.1 per cent of the fleet, the 14,253 electric vehicles registered in 2020 is almost double the previous year.”

The growth in our population and the need for more new cars for transportation are reasons why we are seeing the WestConnex  infrastructure project (US $16bn) that is linking Western and South Western Sydney with the city, airport and port in a 33 km continuous motorway.  Once this project is finished, motorists will be able to bypass up to 52 sets of traffic signals from Beverly Hills through to Parramatta.  The Melbourne Airport rail link (US $5bn) is set for construction beginning 2022.  There are many big-ticket infrastructure items on the go, and in the pipeline, that all help get our people about efficiently.

It might be time to trade in your 10.4 year old car (the average age for an Australian car) in for a new Toyota, which is the most preferred manufacturer by Australian new car buyers.