Skoda Fabia 1.2 TSI 2011 Review

January 28th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

There are a few different ways you could describe the Skoda Fabia. Being the lowest price car in the VW Group range here in NZ you could call it ‘cheap’. But with upgraded styling inside and out you’d have to say ‘cheap but not boring’. With a new advanced powertrain there’s been an increase in performance so you might say the Fabia is ‘cheap but not boring and quite peppy’. But that is still too generalised and it’s generalisations that Skoda has worked so hard to fight against while shaking-off its now dated reputation for poor quality. So Car and SUV put all generalisations and pretensions aside to find out the finer details on Skoda’s updated city car.

What’s new for the Fabia is a whole swag of visual and mechanical updates that give the hatch a fresh injection of attitude. The changes also better target the Fabia at stealing budget-conscious buyers away from character competitors like the Mini Cooper and Fiat 500.

The styling, while you wouldn’t call it daring, it’s fresh and is more distinctively ‘Skoda and proud’ than previous models.  Updates include the new corporate grille, a more angular bonnet and reshaped headlights. The changes don’t just align the Fabia with the rest of the Skoda range but also give it a wider and lower look generating a sportier stance. The blacked out A and B pillars creates a ‘floating roof’ that can be customised in a contrasting colour. Our test specimen was finished nicely in Pacific Blue with a white roof. At the rear, there’s a high-mounted hatch spoiler, jeweled taillights and a chunky bumper. It’s elegantly colour-coded with some fine detailing like the roof colour matching the side mirror caps. Standard wheels are 15-inch steel rims with silver covers and 195/55 tyres but our test vehicle looked sharp with the optional ‘Elba’ 16-inch alloys and wider 205/45 rubber. Overall the Fabia design is better than ever before, it remains more conservative than some competitors in the segment, but it has a genuine European appeal and is handsomely finished. Continue reading “Skoda Fabia 1.2 TSI 2011 Review” »

Toyota Highlander 2011 Review

January 28th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

“There can be only one” is the tagline from the cult classic Highlander movies of the 1980s and 1990s. Unfortunately for Toyota’s SUV which shares the same name, there are many more than just one in the market segment it occupies. In fact, the mid-size car-based SUV battleground is one of the hardest fought in the current automotive climate and it’s only getting fiercer. After a recent mid-life update the Toyota Highlander is going back to war, fresh-faced and with some new moves. But will it be enough to slash away rivals to become NZ’s SUV champion? Car and SUV mounted up with the Toyota Highlander to find out more.

The visual changes to this weekend warrior are fairly subtle. There’s a more defined nose with frowning headlights and a new chrome grille. At the rear restyled tail lamps flank replaced bumper trim. The rest of the Highlander’s sheetmetal remains unchanged. Our tested Limited model had some high-spec extras like rear privacy glass, front fog lamps, integrated roof rails and striking 19-inch five-spoke alloys. Overall, the upgraded Highlander is a sharp looker, it’s well proportioned with a safe, neutral design that avoids being either too rounded or too boxy.

Step inside the Highlander and you’re greeted by a spacious environment with three rows of seating ready to accommodate seven occupants. Even the third row will fit smaller adults comfortably and there are plenty of small storage areas and cupholders throughout the cabin. The centre row of seating is versatile and can be slid forward and back, it also splits 40:20:40 allowing the middle seat to be removed creating a luxury feel for six people. Luggage room is useful in five-seat mode with 580-litres on offer. There isn’t much cargo space left with all seven seats required but no less than other vehicles with three seating rows. Continue reading “Toyota Highlander 2011 Review” »

VW to put the XL1 economy car into limited production

January 28th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

When Volkswagen decided to show off the latest version of its ambitious one-litre car at the Qatar Motor Show, many wondered if such a vehicle could be put into production. Those questions have now been answered with confirmation that the concept named Formula XL1 will be produced on a very small scale.

Apparently Volkswagen is ready to back itself with a small run of just 100 XL1s to be built as regular production vehicles. This means they will be offered for public sale. Details are scarce for the moment and there’s no word yet on what powertrain will move the production models. The concept features a two-cylinder TDI engine, electric motor, lithium-ion battery pack and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. With that amount of tech on board the XL1 can achieve an amazing 0.9L/100 km fuel economy.

The German domestic market will apparently be allocated the first examples with sales expected in the United States and China as well. Continue reading “VW to put the XL1 economy car into limited production” »

Diesel powers BMW to top of NZ premium car sales

January 28th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Fresh sales data from 2010 has confirmed what industry experts were expecting — that BMW was number one for sales of new diesel models in New Zealand among premium brands.

BMW recorded an all-time record number of diesel sales for the year with 746 units, finishing almost 50 ahead of Audi (699) and more than 480 ahead of Mercedes Benz (262).

This equates to 66% of the total BMW model mix being diesel powered (746 diesel units as percentage of 1133 total), up from 24% in 2005. For the overall new car industry in NZ, diesel accounted for only 31% of total sales.

“BMW offers a superior range of diesel models featuring torque-laden fuel efficient powertrains emitting fewer carbon emissions, but importantly without compromising BMW’s ultimate driving experience,” said the Managing Director of BMW Group New Zealand, Mark Gilbert. “Diesel plays an important part of our Efficient Dynamics story and it’s heartening our customers recognise the environmental and efficiency benefits available to them through selecting a diesel powered BMW, not to mention outstanding towing capability.”

The most popular three diesel models in the BMW range for 2010 were the 320d Sedan, the 118d Sports Hatch and X5 xDrive 30d SAV, showing the widespread popularity and application of diesel power across a variety of body styles.

“The surge in demand for diesel is represented in our model mix which now contains 31 different BMW vehicles with a diesel engine, compared with only 11 five years ago,” said Mr Gilbert.

Click here to read Car and SUV reviews of current BMW diesel models.

Stability control now standard on all new NZ Suzuki cars

January 28th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Suzuki NZ has just taken a step up the safety ladder with the announcement that electronic stability control will be fitted on all its new passenger car models sold in New Zealand.

The technology, is now standard specification across the Suzuki range, from the least costly Alto hatchback to the most expensive Kizashi executive sedan.

“We are delighted this potentially life-saving feature is included in all our new cars,” said Tom Peck, General Manager of Marketing for Suzuki New Zealand. “ESP is the most important step forward in motor vehicle occupant safety since the seat belt and we have made it our mantra for it to be available to more New Zealand motorists,” he said.

Arrival of the all-new sixth generation Suzuki Swift with standard ESP on each variant has completed the availability of the safety technology on all passenger models marketed by the brand.

According to several international safety agencies, one-third of fatal road accidents could have been prevented by ESP. From September this year, ESP will be mandatory on all new cars sold in the United States. It will also be a requirement in Australia by November 2013, and in Europe by 2014.

The technology features a series of sensors mounted at each wheel, on the steering wheels and in the centre of the car. These sensors constantly measure information at the rate of 50 times a second.

When understeer or oversteer is detected, ESP reduces engine torque and applies hydraulic pressure at the target wheel to ensure smooth, safe driving. Continue reading “Stability control now standard on all new NZ Suzuki cars” »

Pagani Zonda replaced by new Huayra – official photos

January 27th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

It hasn’t been an easy launch for Pagani’s new Huayra supercar, a series of grainy leaked images spoiled the party and stole the radically designed vehicle’s thunder. Regardless, Pagani is spushing on and has officially released details and images on the brand new Zonda replacement.

So what’s it all about? Well, Horacio Pagano’s newest creation is named after the Andean god of wind, Aymara Huayra Tata. The Huayra a more rounded styling and isn’t quiteas raw as the Zonda, but the two models do share certain brand similarities. Like the Zonda the Huayra won’t appeal to all tastes but it was never designed to.

Entry into the supercar is through a pair of swooping gullwing doors which reveal a fully bespoke interior with some cool details like blue illumination and an exposed gear selector.

The Italian machine is built around an all-new carbon-titanium monocoque frame while the body parts are constructed from carbon fibre. Lightweight materials have been thoroughly used during construction, with the Huayra tipping the scales at just 1,350 kg.

Behind the passenger firewall sits a brand spankers 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged V12 engine, built specially for Pagani by Mercedes-Benz’s AMG performance division. The 12-cylinder monster produces more than 700 hp and a torque figure of over 1000 Nm. Exact performance numbers and times will be announced at a later date. Continue reading “Pagani Zonda replaced by new Huayra – official photos” »

Volkswagen takes concept Touaregs to Qatar Motor Show

January 27th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

The Qatar Motor Show is a new entry on the on car show calender but it is already drawing out some very interesting concept vehicles. Volkswagen has brought two special Touareg concept cars that are sure to turn heads in the desert state.

The first vehicle takes the hardcore looks of the Race Touareg 3 Dakar rally vehicle and puts it into a street legal SUV. Named the Race Touareg 3 Qatar the vehicle is painted in “Magic Morning” metallic white with gold flakes and has some spiffy Race Touareg graphics along the flanks. The SUV also swaps its 16-inch wheels for blinging gold painted 18-inch BBS wheels.

Inside is where the real changes over the Dakar vehicle have taken place with a full stealth look achieved. It’s equipped with Recaro race seats finished in perforated Nappa leather.  There’s bits of matte carbon fibre trim and a roll cage painted in “Serpentino Grey Metallic”. A special tribute is paid to the Dakar Rally where all VW’s ictories are etched in the anodized aluminum of the center console. Even with the added weight, the 228 kW Race Touareg can still perform the sprint to 100 km/h in under 6 seconds.

The Race Touareg 3 Qatar is joined on Volkswagen’s show stand in Doha by the Touareg Gold Edition. As you might have already guessed the Gold Edition is all about bling and is tailor-made for the local crowds. It is fully decked out in 24-karat gold trim inside and out. The gold coating includes the 22-inch wheels, roof rails, window frames, door mirrors, grille surround and badging. The interior is also appointed with gold trim. Other highlights include an Alcantara roofliner, Nappa leather seats, natural brown leather and Walnut Burr veneers. Continue reading “Volkswagen takes concept Touaregs to Qatar Motor Show” »

Lamborghini Gallardo Bicolore Edition revealed in Qatar

January 27th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Lamborghini has just revealed a new Bicolore edition Gallardo 560-4 at the Qatar Auto Show.

It’s a striking vehicle but comes as little surprise following on from the Gallardo SE revealed back in 2006. The new 560-4 version sports a familiar high-contrast paint scheme with black covering the roof section, pillars, front air intakes and front spoiler. There’s also special titanium-finish multispoke Skorplus alloys filling the guards. The remainder of the bodywork can be purchased in yellow, orange, silver, blue or white, while the interior is black leather with contrasting stitching to match the exterior color.

The Gallardo LP 560-4 Bicolore comes packing Lambo’s V10 engine pumping out 560-horsepower and putting it to the ground through an all-wheel drive system. The model is exclusive to the European and Asia-Pacific markets. The North American market will receive the Bicolore treatment on the LP 550-2, which is the the rear-wheel-drive, 550-hp car.

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