Environmental Protection Agency wants a truce on horsepower wars Author: darren [30-01-2008 07:56] The director of the office of transportation at the EPA, Margo Oge has made a plea to the automotive industry to stop having as much fun developing cars with sensational levels of horsepower, like Chevy’s new Corvette ZR1 (currently producing a paltry 620 ponies). Instead, she wants to start a green war with ‘the most affordable and desirable, low carbon vehicles each year.’ Sounds terribly dull, but she claim such a challenge could assist with economic growth in the US, helping it reclaim market share. Hello, the US auto industry is almost dead. It’s so far behind the Japanese the only thing it has is large horsepower, big presence gas guzzlers. Anyway, many of the automakers are already on the front lines of the green battle – they know what their customers want – but they need to offer a range that suits all their customers because they don’t have the luxury of producing just one line like, for example, Tesla, with its electric roadster. Strict CAFE standards coming in by 2020 are also dictating average fuel economy and emissions. Ford and GM have already shelved plans for future V8s, preferring smaller turbocharged engines. Oge’s comments really are attention-grabbing headlines. They’ll make not one ounce of difference to the automakers’ strategies; they’re just designed to draw awareness to the EPA.
The Ford Fairmont MkII is the best car to use on critical missions involving stealth and cunning in cities. Resplendent in ‘overcast grey’ (that’s not Ford’s name for it), it sticks out like leopard in long grass. It’s unnoticeable as far as cars go; an inoffensive automobile for legions of company executives who want big inline-6 power but without the risk of making an unnecessarily ostentatious statement with gaudy paint and challenging body kits. Perhaps they are used as undercover cars, but we just don’t notice.
The greyness of the Fairmont’s exterior spills into the interior, so much so that I didn’t bother taking a photo of it. It was far too boring, so I sat beside the lake for 20 minutes instead, watching the occasional fish jump, and pondering what I could write about.
There have been some styling revisions since the MkI. There’s a new bonnet with interesting tapered channels, a chrome grille, and revised colour-coded front and rear bumpers.
The rear bumper incorporates parking sensors, while the boot features a subtle lip rather than the spoiler you might find on a Force 6.
The 190kW 4-litre inline six cylinder mill has enough stealthy grunt to whisk you away to any lakeside retreat without being held up by slower traffic. Should this heady power get the better of you, the car will be there first with traction control, and on the other end of the equation ABS and EBD to bring it to a halt. The driver can even adjust the pedals to get the most comfortable position.
In-car entertainment is courtesy of a standard Ford unit — LCD display, six-disc in-dash CD and acceptable speakers.
Despite my assertions that this is a sleeper and incredibly dreary to look at, Ford says that it has a ‘new stylish tapered hood, new prestigious chrome grille and chrome front headlamps, and new sporty front bumper and revised rear bumper design’ (the rear bumper even has reversing sensors as standard.) Use of the words ‘sporty’ and ‘Fairmont’ in the same sentence is a tad extreme.
Once again, Ford has created a car that quietly goes about achieving all that’s required of it, feeling like it’s been put together by the Germans but for twenty grand less. It actually does have a German-engineered 6-speed automatic transmission with sports sequential mode.
It’s a pity then that the Fairmont is actually a pretty good car. It rides with poise on the blacktop, it’s comfortable, and as far as handling goes it’s good for a large car. In my lakeside ruminations I really wanted to slate this car for all its dullness. In hindsight, if Ford had supplied one in a different colour I would have ended up writing a review about its practicality for the family, and its executive presence for a reasonable price.
Click to the next page for specifications
Price: From $47,990
What we like:
- Inconspicuous for those who want it
- Quiet achiever
What we don’t like:
- Characterless except for the engine
Words and photos Darren Cottingham
|E-Gas (Dedicated LPG) 4.0L DOHC VCT I6 with 4-speed Sequential Sports Shift automatic transmission (including Adaptive Shift)1||O|
|Barra 190 4.0L DOHC DIVCT I6 with ZF 6-speed Sequential Sports Shift automatic transmission (including Adaptive Shift)||S|
|Child Activity Organiser||A|
|Disabled driver’s kit (auto only)||NCA|
|Fridge ‘Day Tripper’ 15L/Fridge power adaptor||A|
|Scuff plate inserts ‘Ford’ or ‘XR’ logo||A|
|Momo Leather Steering Wheel||O/A|
|Power Adjustable Pedals||S|
|Automatic headlamps on/off feature||S|
|Boot Scuff Guard||A|
|Rear occupant heating/cooling||S|
|Front power windows||S|
|Rear power windows||S|
|Momo leather sequential sports shifter||A|
|Window shades (set of 2)||A|
|Leather wrap steering wheel||S|
|Automatic climate control with dual zone temperature control||S|
|Premium interior command centre with Premium audio system, dual climate control, large colour TFT screen and trip computer||O|
|Prestige interior command centre with Prestige audio system, dual climate control, large colour TFT screen and trip computer||S|
|CFC free air-conditioning||S|
|Outside Temperature Display||S|
|Alloy Pedal Pads – Falcon||A|
|Central Locking All Doors (incl. Wagon Tailgate)||S|
|Remote Keyless Entry with Panic Alarm||S|
|Cruise control with steering wheel mounted switches||S|
|Steering wheel audio controls||S|
|Mobile Phone Presenter||A|
|Front head room (mm)||1010|
|Front leg room (mm)||1086|
|Front shoulder room (mm)||1513|
|Front hiproom (mm)||1461|
|Rear headroom (mm)||976|
|Rear leg room (mm)||980|
|Rear shoulder room (mm)||1494|
|Engine size (optional E-gas engine) (cc)||3984|
|Engine size (standard engine) (cc)||3984|
|Compression ratio (standard engine)||10.3:1|
|Compression ratio (optional E-gas engine)||10.3:1|
|Max. Power (DIN) (standard engine)||190kW @ 5250rpm|
|Max. Power (DIN) (optional e-gas engine)||156kW @ 5000rpm|
|Max. Torque (DIN) (standard engine)||383Nm @ 2500rpm|
|Max. Torque (DIN) (optional e-gas engine)||370Nm @ 2750rpm|
|No. of valves (standard engine)||24|
|No. of valves (optional e-gas engine)||24|
|Bore x stroke (standard engine)||92.26 x 99.31mm|
|Bore x stroke (optional e-gas engine)||92.26 x 99.31mm|
|Injection||Sequential multipoint electronic fuel injection|
|Engine management||Powertrain control module incorporating electronic throttle control|
|DVD entertainment system||A|
|DVD entertainment system – games adaptor & games bag||A|
|Bluetooth® mobile phone kit||A|
|Premium audio system with colour TFT display screen and 6-disc in-dash CD, Audio Pep-pack – 150Watt amplifier and 150watt sub-woofer||O|
|Prestige Audio System with monochrome LCD display screen & 6-disc in-dash CD||S|
|On Glass Radio Antenna||S|
|Fuel tank capacity (L)||68L|
|Fuel consumption – ADR 81/01 (L/100km – rounded)||10.2|
|Recommended fuel||Reg/Prem unleaded|
Luggage Capacity (L)
|Front Brakes||Standard vented disc brakes with twin piston caliper|
|Rear Brakes||Standard solid disc brake with single piston caliper|
|ABS Brakes||4-channel ABS with Electronic Brakefoce Distribution (EBD)|
|6-way driver power seat||S|
|Knitted Velour Trim Seats||S|
|Driver lumbar support seats||S|
|Passenger Lumbar Support Seats||S|
|60/40 split fold-down rear seat back||S|
|Centre Rear Arm Rest with Cup Holders||S|
Kerb Weight (kg)
|Front||Fully independent double wishbone|
|Rear – sedan||Control Blade independent rear suspension|
Minimum Turning Circle (m)
|Diameter kerb to kerb||11|
|Overall height (mm)||1444|
|Overall length (mm)||4930|
|Front overhang (mm)||926|
|Overall width (excludes exterior side mirrors)||1864|
|Front track (mm)||1553|
|Rear track (mm)||1571|
|Rear overhang (mm)||1174|
Safety & Security
|Intelligent Safety System||S|
|Driver and front passenger airbags with dual stage inflators||S|
|Pyrotechnic seatbelt buckle pretensioners||S|
|Three point seat belts||S|
|Advanced restraints module||S|
|Crash severity sensor||S|
|Driver’s seat sensor||S|
|Side airbags (head and thorax)||S|
|Anti-lock braking system||S|
|Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)||O|
|Reverse sensing system||S|
|Smartshield security system||S|
|Fully integrated alarm with battery back-up||A|
|Child proof locks||S|
|High arched spoiler||O/A|
|Carry bars/roof racks and accessories||A|
|Roof luggage box 375L||A|
|Roof luggage box 405L||A|
|17″ x 7.5″ alloy 7-spoke (255/50 ZR17)||O|
Ride & Handling
|Control Blade Independent Rear Suspension (IRS)||S|
|Fully Independent Double Wishbone Front Suspension||S|
|Matching Alloy Spare Wheel||O|
|Sports Control Blade Independent Rear Suspension (IRS)||O|
|Steel spare wheel – 16″ x 6.5″||S|
|Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)||O|
|16″ x 7″ alloy wheels (10 spoke) – 215/60 R16 tyres||S|
|1st – 4-speed Auto||2.39|
|2nd – 4-speed Auto||1.45|
|3rd – 4-speed Auto||1.00|
|4th – 4-speed Auto||0.68|
|Reverse – 4-speed Auto||2.09|
|Final drive ratio – sedan – 4-speed Auto||3.23|
|1st – 6-speed Auto||4.17|
|2nd – 6-speed Auto||2.34|
|3rd – 6-speed Auto||1.52|
|4th – 6-speed Auto||1.14|
|5th – 6-speed Auto||0.87|
|6th – 6-speed Auto||0.69|
|Reverse – 6-speed Auto||3.40|
|Final Drive Ratio – 6-speed Auto||2.73|
Maximum Towing Capacity (Subject to New Zealand regulations)
There was a time when premium registration plates, such as single letter or single number variants, fetched in excess of NZ$600,000. But they’ve fallen out of favour recently. Any market goes through its phases, whether its property, artwork or vintage guitars, and the personalised plates market hasn’t exactly been super buoyant over the last few years.
This might be about to change with the news that the director of Project Kahn in the UK, Afzal Kahn, has just paid UKP440,000 for the plate F1 in the UK. That’s NZD1.123 million, the most we’ve heard of. Though, A1 will be up for sale sometime this year and perhaps will fetch more, being the first plate issued.
The rules are different for license plates in the UK – you can’t just make up your own like you can in New Zealand, and you can’t use a plate that’s newer than the car. Plates in the UK signify year and area of registration, so are not very flexible. This adds to the rarity value, and that’s perhaps why the price was so high.
The English buy more convertible cars per capita than the Spanish, which is surprising because the Spanish don’t experience drizzle on the epic, demoralising scale that the British do. The Eskimos have lots of words for snow; the Spanish probably have lots of words for sun. Probably.
So, like an unattractive, lank-haired woman might wear far too much perfume by Chanel when out on the town trying to attract a guy to capture the essence of the sultry European vixen, the British buy convertibles to capture the essence of Spain, where people don’t really buy convertibles.
And that neatly brings me to the Peugeot 207CC hard-top convertible with a peppy 1.6-litre twin-scroll turbo pushing out 150hp and 110Nm of torque. It’s a car that should definitely be driven by sultry European vixens because it is European, cute, and not really a man’s car. I spent the week with the top up trying to look like it was my girlfriend’s car. The thought crossed my mind I should have kept the beard I grew over Christmas and perhaps got some tats to reinforce my maleness, but my beard is ginger and that’s not good for asserting manliness.
Of course I told people I left the top up because I would be subjected to the rigours of the New Zealand sun and with my Anglo-Saxon complexion (don’t call it ginger) that would mean sunburn after just 10 minutes. That is partly true, because I totally understand where the Spanish come from. When it’s 27 degrees and your forehead is hot enough to cook paella on all you want is air conditioning and lots of it.
The 207CC does air conditioning, though not as well as many other cars, which is perhaps because Peugeot expects you to have the steel folding roof down — a procedure that takes around 25 seconds of holding a button down. This digital climate control air conditioning extends to the glovebox and contains a combined active carbon/pollen filter, which obviously doesn’t work if you have the top down.
Safety is good for a small convertible. The 207CC achieves a 4-star Euro NCAP rating from its four airbags (driver, passenger and front side airbags), ABS braking with EBFD (Electronic Brake Force Distribution) and EBA (Emergency Brake Assist).
Handling consists of very predictable understeer when pushed hard; when driven normally the light clutch and steering make around-town manoeuvring simple. The 207CC is short, too, so it fits in small gaps for parking (though it’s best to get the optional reversing sensors.) Further adding to the 207CC’s city-friendliness, the mirrors fold in automatically when the engine is turned off.
Technically the 207CC is a four seater, but I could not sit in the back seat even with the front one all the way forward. It would be for short parents with very young children only. It may have been a better option for Peugeot to forego the back seats completely and make an enormous boot, but you can use the back seat area for storage.
Storage generally in the front is minimal — the glove box is small and there’s no other lockable storage.
The driving position is better than some small Peugeots. It’s still not quite set up for a person who is tall, but not as bad as the 206GTI180 I owned. You’re presented with white-faced dials and a satisfying leather steering wheel. Cruise control and stereo controls are situated on the steering wheel and progress can be made along the roads of the nation in relative comfort.
A naturally aspirated 1.6-litre version is available with Porsche’s Tiptronic gearbox and saves you two grand. The turbo comes with a 5-speed manual.
Overall, this is a car with a distinctly feminine image. Its benign handling makes it easy to drive. For the fashion conscious woman the 207CC imparts an air of European sophistication and a serious sunburn if you’re not careful.
Price: from $43,990 (Sport Manual turbo), or $41,990 (naturally aspirated automatic)
What we like
- Good power for around town, and overtaking
- Easy to drive (clutch and steering are light)
- Boot is large when the top isn’t down
- $5k cheaper than an MX-5
What we don’t like
- Boot lid seems flimsy
- Dead pedal spacing designed for small shoes
- It’s a 3-seater at best unless all passengers are under 5’2″
- When the rear windows are open the seat belts vibrate
Words and photos Darren Cottingham
207CC Sport Manual
1.6 litre, 16 valve, turbo, 4 cylinder petrol engine
Cubic capacity (cc) 1598
Max power kW (HP) @ rpm 110 (150) @ 5800
Max torque (Nm @ rpm) 240 @ 1400
Emission control Catalytic converter
Emission standard E URO 4
Emission of CO2 by weight 171
Wheels and Tyres
Size 205/45 R17, Alloy
Front ventilated with sliding callipers
Rear solid discs with sliding callipers
Front Independent McPherson type, helical springs and hydraulic dampers, set to operating pressure of 5 bars
Rear Rear Torsion beam, helical springs and hydraulic dampers set to an operating pressure of 5 bars
Length (mm) 4037
Width (mm) with mirrors 1818
Height (mm) 1397
Weights an d Capacities
Kerb weight (kg) 1493
Braked trailer towing weight (kg) 1070
Unbraked trailer towing weight (kg) 600
City Cycle l/100km 9.6
Highway cycle l/100km 5.8
Combined l/100km 7.2
4 star Euro ENCAP rating
4 airbags – driver, passenger and front side airbags
ABS (with EBFD & EBA)
Electronic Stability Program (ESP) (with ASR & CDS)
2 x Rear 3-point seatbelts with pretensioning and load limiting front seatbelts
Load limiting rear seatbelts
Height adjustable front seatbelts and front seatbelt unfastened warning
Isofix on front passenger seat (child safety seat fixing points)
Fuel cut off inertia switch
Active rear rollover bars
Remote central locking
Alarm and deadlocking (optional)
Rolling code transponder immobiliser
Visible VIN number
Security coded in-car entertainment
Lockable glove box
Auto-lock doors/boot over 10 km (selectable)
Comfort and Convenience
Cruise control with speed limiter
Rear park aid (optional)
Internal operated central door locking
One-touch electric windows with anti-pinch front and rear windows
Electrically operated door mirrors & electric folding mirrors
Atmosphere perfumer (optional)
Style sport pack
Radio/CD Player, MP3 compatible
Steering wheel-mounted remote controls
5-Disc CD Changer in centre console (optional) with 6 speakers
Digital climate control air conditioning with air conditioned glovebox
Combined active carbon/pollen filter
Leather steering wheel
Front storage bins
12V Row 1
Athermic & acoustic windscreen
Auto and directional headlights
Front and rear fog lights & reverse lights
Steel folding roof
Electrochrome rear view mirror
If you had $16,990 to buy a new car you could buy a Kia Picanto manual and have $300 spare, or a Suzuki Jimny JX manual and have thousands of dollars worth of off-road fun. These cars are the cheapest on the market, but they’re quite different. As I’ve only driven the Picanto for a short distance I don’t want to give you any opinions yet (I get it for a longer test in a couple of weeks), but I had the Jimny for a week to explore its envelope.
In terms of the usual specification of a modern car the Jimny has a longer list of what it doesn’t have than what it has. No ABS, air conditioning, passenger sun visor mirror, electric windows, central locking, immobiliser, traction control, stability control, electric mirrors, stereo controls on the steering wheel, adjustable steering wheel, fifth seat, or height adjustable driver’s seat. Nope, it’s as spartan as they come. With this long list of absences, I’d assumed I wouldn’t like the Jimny, but that’s not the case. Lack of air conditioning and central locking aside (the only two things I really missed), the Jimny has the kind of engaging drive that’s usually totally engineered out of all but sports cars such as the Ariel Atom and Radical SR3. It’s a busy ride with constant adjustments required of the steering, and I find this invigorating. I don’t usually want a boring drive — I want cars to be more entertaining and involving, where I have to pay attention, and there’s an element of ‘juggling chainsaws’ to the proceedings. My personal feeling is that the more we make cars like lounges the more that people will fall asleep at the wheel and have accidents.
There’s no chance of falling asleep in a Jimny. Apart from the rather active steering, the suspension is designed for a good compromise between road and off-road. I didn’t take it through serious mud, but did enough to tell that it would most likely pull through where a heavier vehicle would get bogged down.
The driver sits quite high in the Jimny, so visibility is excellent and with it having a short bonnet, seeing to pull out of intersections when there are cars parked on the side of the road is easy. Manoeuvring is also simple with a fairly tight turning circle and dimensions that are easy to judge. The Jimny is equipped with two airbags, and all controls (there aren’t many of them) are simple to use. In the centre of the console are the three switches for 2WD, 4WD and 4WD low range. 4WD can be selected on the move; low range can be selected when stationary.
Speed is not the Jimny’s forte. The 1.3-litre engine dribbles out 63kW and 110Nm and assisted by the featherweight 1060kg it’ll crack 100kph in around 12 seconds. This also contributes to a reasonable fuel consumption of 7.1l/100km. Shifting gears (which you’ll do a lot of if you want to get the best performance from the engine) is accomplished with a satisfying click into place.
Four people can travel in the Jimny — the two in the back even get their own cup holders — though the boot is small. Fold the seats down and a practical and flat luggage space is revealed.
The Jimny is a sensible new car choice for anyone who requires a rugged but compact car with a sizable load space, but doesn’t want a ute. In fact, it is the type of car that people should learn to drive in. It’s not hugely quick, it’s adequate in terms of on-road handling, and it teaches you to pay attention to the road at all times. It’s not really any more difficult to drive than any other car, but it is certainly more engaging, requiring concentration that should then stay with you for the rest of your driving lifetime.
Price: from $16,990
What we like
- Engaging drive
- Off-road ability
- Value for money
What we don’t like
- You need the air conditioning in the summer
- Only 63kW
- Storage options sorely lacking
Words and photos Darren Cottingham
|Minimum turning radius||m||4.9|
|Curb weight||kg||Manual 1060||Manual 1060 / Auto 1075||Manual 1060 / Auto 1075|
|Gross vehicle weight||kg||1420|
|Type||M13A with VVT|
|Number of valves||16|
|Bore X stroke||78.0 x 69.5|
|Compression ratio||9.5 : 1|
|Maximum Output (EEC net)||Kw/rpm||63/6000|
|Maximum Torque (EEC net)||Nm/rpm||110/4100|
|Fuel distribution||Multi-point injection|
|Drive Select 4WD||High/low ratio transfer gears|
|Transfer gear ratio||High||Manual 1.000||Manual 1.000 / Auto 1.320||Manual 1.000 / Auto 1.320|
|Low||Manual 2.002||Manual 2.002 / Auto 2.643||Manual 2.002 / Auto 2.643|
|Type||Manual||5 – speed all synchromesh|
|Automatic||N/A||4 – speed electronically controlled||4 – speed electronically controlled|
|Steering||Ball and nut|
|Suspension||Front||3-link coil, rigid axle|
|Rear||3-link coil, rigid axle|
|Rear||Drum, leading & trailing|
|Fuel tank (unleaded 96)||Litres||40
|Electrically adjustable exterior mirrors||-||O||O|
|Remote central door locking (including tailgate)||-||O||O|
|Audio System – 2 speakers||Radio/CD|
|Instrument lighting colour||O|
|Luggage area underfloor storage box||O|
|Glovebox & passenger side compartment||O|
|LED speedometer with fuel warning light||O|
|Cabin light – 3 position||O|
|3-spoke urethane steering wheel||O||O||-|
|Leather covered steering wheel||-||-||O|
|Sun visors with drivers side vanity mirror||O|
|Day/night rear view mirror||O|
|Console box with cup holder||O|
|Walk-in system – passengers side||O|
|Reclining and sliding front seats||O|
|Detachable head restraints – front & rear||O|
|Fabric seat material||O|
|Separate reclining & split folding rear seats||O|
|Front door pockets/armrests||O|
|Fabric accented door trim||O|
|Fabric floor carpet & luggage compartment mat||O|
|Rear quarter trim with pocket/cup holder||O|
|Remote fuel lid opener||O|
|Green tinted glass – UV front windows||O|
|2-speed intermittent wipers||O|
|Rear window defogger/wiper/washer||O|
|Coloured side-splash panels||O|
|Spare wheel cover||-||-||O|
|SAFETY & SECURITY||JX||JLX||LTD|
|Push button drive Select 4WD system||O|
|Free wheel hubs (air hubs)||O|
|Collapsible steering column||O|
|ELR seat belts – front & rear||O|
|Height adjustable front seat belt anchors||O|
|Adjustable head restraints||O|
|Passenger grab handle||O|
|Side impact beams||O|
|Remote central locking||-||O||O|
OK, it was for the Tribeca as well as the Impreza WRX STI, but the STI was the fun bit. After a morning’s rampage through the back roads around Taupo in the Tribeca we got to experience the STI on the race track. First up though was a demonstration in Subaru’s Legacy to show the effectiveness of VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control). This consisted of entering a wet chicane at speed to invoke a diagonal slide (something that would usually result in a spin), and slamming on the brakes to let the car sort it all out.
Instinct tells you to steer in and gently push the brake (which I did the first time), but on the second go I slammed the anchors on and the Legacy just pulled up like nothing was wrong. This VDC is really something for drivers who don’t know what they’re doing!
Next up was a slalom course around part of Taupo’s track. It formed a loop with some very tight corners, and the whole thing was done in second gear. We each had four runs, 2 with the active centre diff on auto, and 2 with it locked. With the locked diff I set the fastest time of the day, 0.6 seconds ahead of anyone else at 27.75 seconds.
Then we got to drive it around the track for two lots of two laps. The VDC means you just cannot get this car out of shape (well, a heinous excess of speed will see you come off the track, but you can’t spin it). Even rally ace Sam Morgan didn’t get it into a spin. I’d write more, but I’ll save that for the review (plus, it’s nearly 10pm and I have to be at the airport again tomorrow for 5:50am and I haven’t packed yet).
So, a good day was had by all. I would buy an STI if it wasn’t sold out until August! That’s how popular they are.
We receive lots of information from the world’s car manufacturers and distributors, and because most of them are from non-English speaking countries, sometimes the quality of writing can be less than brilliant. Now, I’m not talking about the Fiats and BMWs of the world because they have whole teams of PR people whose first language is English. I’m talking about the small tuning houses and custom car manufacturers, which brings us to Mansory.
Mansory make bling bits for the worlds GT cars – if you want to turn your Rolls into a pimp-mobile, Mansory have the bodykit for you. In this case it’s for the Aston Martin DB9, and here is the sentence verbatim:
“The Aston Martin DB 9 series is one of the fascinatiest and prettiest sportcar in time, but MANSORY is sure there is a more sportier and stable style to do”
Fascinatiest - that is a truly splendid word. I’m partial to making up words myself, for example strokage (a measure of how much time you’ve had patting a dog or cat…or girlfriend), but fascinatiest is significantly better. I shall submit it to the Oxford English Dictionary for their consideratiousness.
As I’ve said before, hugely coincidental occurrences happen to me when testing cars. Today was the International Day of Action on Climate Change, a day to draw awareness to the things that we do that might be negatively influencing the climate. I turned up in the most frugal car available in New Zealand. No, it’s not a hybrid, it’s a Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion which runs on the traditionally heavy polluting diesel. Whereas Toyota’s Prius boasts a combined cycle of 4.4 litres per 100km, the Polo 58kW, 1.4-litre BlueMotion slashes that to just 3.8l/100km, and just 99g/km of CO2. So I had reason to gloat (except to the beardy ones who turned up on bicycles).
Why Blue, though? Green-this, green-that sprouts up like a lush PR-friendly canopy, each marque trying to outdo the others in its espoused environmentalness. Even Ferrari is at it, which is just enviro-Mental.
VW’s corporate colour is blue, and their branding people implored them to draw parallels with the sky and sea — they obviously haven’t been to Blackpool on a bleak day. BlueMotion represents the model in each range that is the most environmentally friends, from its fuel consumption to its overall ability to be recycled (a minimum of 85%, and reusable to a minimum of 95% by mass). BlueMotion is VW’s philosophy that economic fuel consumption doesn’t come at the expense of driving fun.
The reductions in consumption and emissions have been achieved a number of ways. Taller gear ratios mean you don’t get out of third around town, and not into fifth until you’re cruising above 90kph. In fact, looking at the trip computer, it’s less economical to drive in fourth at around-town speeds than third. BlueMotion models come with a manual gearbox, which is more effective at transferring the power to the wheels. 165/70-sized low-rolling-resistance tyres surround 14-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension lowers the car by 10mm for better wind resistance, and a more aerodynamic grille ekes out further gains.
I expected the narrow tyres to squeal with protest at the slightly provocation, but it didn’t happen.
The first thing I noticed on the inside was how the seat covers reminded me of my school bus back in the mid-‘80s. It’s the only thing that detracts from an otherwise functional, if spartan, cabin. In the interests of saving weight, there is nothing unnecessary. Air conditioning, electric windows, heated electronically adjustable wing mirrors, remote central locking and immobiliser come as standard.
Sizeable storage trays under both front seats more than make up for the small glovebox and lack of central binnacle storage.
There are two ways to drive the Polo — economically, or without holding people up. I tried driving economically and achieved 4.4l/100km, worse than VW’s quoted combined cycle, but my run always includes the long uphill of the Harbour Bridge and the winding, traffic island-strewn back streets of Herne Bay and Grey Lynn. This way of driving often frustrates other drivers, though, because you pull away slowly. Then there’s what I would term my usual everyday ‘I’m quite busy driving’ — there’s no dawdling, but I’m still aware of economy, coasting up to lights, trying to carry speed through corners, and attempting to be in the right gear to have acceleration available. This yielded 4.9l/100km, which is still extremely impressive.
There has to be a compromise when you are paring a car down to its acceptable minimum, and in this case it’s engine noise. It pulls well for its size and power — 195Nm of torque helps the Polo to 100kph in a claimed 12.8s — but at idle it sounds agricultural. There’s also the $4,000 price premium over the incredibly frugal Polo TDi.
Research has shown that putting an instantaneous fuel usage gauge in a car tends to make people drive more economically. It worked with me. I was constantly trying to make the car more economical and I regularly achieved cruising fuel usages in the 2.8-3l/100km. I felt good (on a ‘green’ level) about driving the Polo BlueMotion. VW will bring out a BlueMotion version of every one of its cars in time. It’s an easy purchase for badge snobbery, and very justifiable on an environmental level, but will the premium over VW’s already frugal equivalent model range hamper sales? Only time will tell.
Click through to the next page to see specifications
Price: from $30,990; our test car was fitted with the optional curtain airbags ($800)
What we like
- You can save the planet
- It’s a long time between visits to the petrol station
What we don’t like
- On a purely economic level it would take you lots of years to pay back the $4,000 price difference between the 1.4 TDi Polo and the BlueMotion if you take fuel savings alone
- Seat covers are old fashioned
- Intrusively noisy diesel clatter at idle
Words and photos Darren Cottingham
Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion
Model Year 2008 Specification Summary
Specifications are subject to change without notice. Effective 08/11/2007. Retail price does not include on-road costs.
Fuel consumption tested in accordance with EC directive 80/1268/EC. Consumption measured on European specification cars.
Retail Price (including GST) – Polo BlueMotion $30,990 (9N30Z4)
Performance & Fuel Consumption:
0-100 km/h 12.8
Top speed km/h 176
Combined l/100km 3.8
CO2 g/km 99
3-point automatic seat belts
ABS braking system with Brake Assist
Driver and front passenger airbags, with front/side airbags
Electromechanical steering with safety steering column (steering wheel height & reach adjustable)
Front seat belt height adjustment and belt tensioners
ISOFIX mountings on rear seat
Outer rear view mirrors, electrically adjustable and heated
Rear fog light
Three rear headrests
Cupholder in dash and centre console
Electric windows, front & rear
Floor mats, front & rear
Height adjustable front seats
Illuminated vanity mirrors
RCD200 single CD/tuner and four loudspeakers
Remote central locking with vehicle immobiliser, interior monitoring
Silver outer rear view mirrors
Standard front seating
Storage trays under front seats
Aerodynamic body enhancements
Sports suspension (10mm lower)
Warranty and Assistance
3 year / unlimited km mechanical warranty, 12 year anti-corrosion warranty
3 year Volkswagen Roadside Assistance
Metallic paint surcharge of $500 applies