Bring The Hot Hatch Back

January 28th, 2012 by Tim Grimley

There has been an ever-so-slight outpouring of media brouhaha this week over a survey which revealed that buying a house in New Zealand – particularly Auckland – is a tough ask. Because our earning power is comparatively low when compared to the rest of the developed world, it now takes around 6 times the average household income to put a roof over your head.

This makes me quite apoplectic with rage.

Not about the house prices themselves I hasten to add as these are pretty much governed by the laws of supply and demand. Decent housing stock in the better, more accessible areas of our main cities is a finite commodity and as such can command serious premiums. And like all luxury commodities available to capitalist man, there will be some fortunate, hard-working, affluent souls who can afford it and the rest of us who cannot. If this offends your sense of justice, then why not pop off to North Korea and let me know how Communism works out for you.

Arm and a leg

No, I take decidedly more umbrage with the fact the survey was even conducted in the first place. I don’t know how much time, effort and expense went into this, but producing an end result that tells you little more that it’s a bit of a stretch to fork out for a pad in Remuera isn’t exactly breaking new ground. One can only assume that when they aren’t collating this particular tome the good folk at Demographia – the company behind the study – content themselves with unravelling such mysteries as the Catholicism of Popes and whether bears lean towards defecation in heavily treed areas.

It is no secret that more and more people have to make money stretch a lot further nowadays and it is inevitable that sacrifices will have to be made. And short of selling children into slavery and changing diets to consist entirely of Budget brand margarine, the single easiest target in any household is the family steed. In times of plenty having a plaything in the garage or a V8 as the regular runabout is a wonderful thing indeed, but in this dark fiscal age it seems we’re all destined to abandon fun forever, buy a Prius and wait to die.

If only there was a way we could afford some motoring pleasure in our lives whilst staying within the constraints of our increasingly meagre budgets. All our problems would be solved if someone – anyone – could sit down and come up with a vehicle that went like the toilet door on curry night, but cost about the same as a plate of poppadoms.

Oh, hang on a moment – they have. The hot hatchback.

The hot hatch was very much a child of the 1980s. This was the decade of excess, where greed was good and vast herds of investment bankers roamed free in their ubiquitous Porsche 911s. And that made hot hatches quite a lesson in irony. Because while they were designed to be the working man’s entry into the performance car club, they were also frugal, inexpensive to buy and were every bit as user friendly as the cooking models on which they were based.

Heart and soul

Sadly in recent times mainstream hot hatches have become decidedly more tepid affairs and the performance oriented options like MINI’s Cooper S and the fabulous Abarth 500 have shifted into the airy and expensive realm of the fashionable. This is all very well, but for the budget conscious buyer of today, things need stripping back to the roots; take a very cheap hatchback and tart it up with bucket seats, a trick camshaft, alloy wheels and a body kit. The brand is immaterial – up to the point their 205 GTi stole the hot hatch title from Volkswagen’s Golf, Peugeot’s level of street cred was shared with those knitted things your grandmother used for covering spare toilet rolls – but the end product must be uncompromisingly fun to drive whilst still be capable of accommodating a couple of sprogs and half of Pak ‘n Save.

I can only surmise it will be the Chinese – currently the default white knights of the motor industry – who will eventually pick up this particular baton and run with it. Acquiring companies such as MG Rover and Volvo has handed them a historical knowledge base into which they can tap and they can rest assured that a proper, old-fashioned hot hatch would do wonders for the worldwide brand credibility of anyone who makes a decent fist of it.

Besides, Geely GTi has a certain ring to it don’t you think?

Peugeot 4007 Allure SE 2012 Review

January 27th, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

Funnily enough, when I walked up to Peugeot to pick this 4007 up, I casually glanced in its direction and thought, why has someone parked an Outlander there? You see, I’d only seen the 4007 in front three-quarter and rear-three quarter view, and both of those slightly obscure its Outlander origins.

If you’ve read any of the Mitsubishi Outlander reviews we’ve written then you’ll know that it’s a solid SUV contender, and the 7-seat option adds practicality. However, what Peugeot does to make the 4007 is take it and make it better. It’s like a ‘finishing school’ .

Gone (praise the deities) is the slightly annoying CVT gearbox (the main thing I don’t like about the Outlander). In its place is a conventional 6-speed, dual-clutch automatic with a sport mode and a leather-bound gear shifter. The sport mode, as you would expect, changes down earlier and up later, but in typical French fashion it’s fairly ambivalent, and this actually works well. Some manufacturers overdo it on the sports mode; Peugeot has given it just enough extra verve to make it useful.

Second, possibly because of the revised weight distribution it definitely feels slightly less wallowy, but doesn’t compromise on comfort. The suspension setup on the two vehicles is the same – a Macpherson strut up front and multi link with stabilizer at the rear.

Third, there’s an aftermarket satellite navigation system by Pantera which forms part of the rear view mirror. In theory (and when it’s working), this is a really good system. It’s easy to see – you’re used to glancing at your rear view mirror – and it’s touch screen, with a fairly intuitive interface. It didn’t work all the time though; the signal dropped out occasionally and I couldn’t find the reason why as it was a clear, sunny day. The system also includes phone integration and will play music.
Fourth, Peugeot has some customleather seats made here in NZ, and they’re wide and comfortable. Continue reading “Peugeot 4007 Allure SE 2012 Review” »

ŠKODA Goes from Strength to Strength

January 27th, 2012 by Karen Joy Provo

ŠKODA continued on its success course, achieving a new sales record in 2011. The brand’s global sales increased by 15.3% to a new all-time high of 879,200 vehicles. Deliveries to customers rose by around 116,000 units in 2011, translating to a lift in world market share to 1.4% (2010: close to 1.3%).

Between January and December 2011, ŠKODA sold 879,200 vehicles worldwide (2010: 762,200). As the world market grew 5.1% (almost 62 million vehicles), ŠKODA outpaced the industry, advancing by 15.3%. The brand made significant progress in China, India and Russia. In many other European individual markets as in the rest of the world, ŠKODA achieved a new record for the year.

In New Zealand, ŠKODA also set a new record, its most successful year ever with 511 vehicles delivered to customers in 2011. The represents an overall increase of over 100% compared to 2010. The previous best ever year-end result of 325 was achieved in 2008. “To double our sales in one year was a fantastic result for Škoda and shows not only the growth of the brand but also of its improved consumer confidence”, says Sean Tupp General Manager of Škoda NZ. “All our model lines showed good growth last year, with diesel sales now making up 64% of our mix” he states. “Our variable servicing which enables vehicles to be serviced only once every two years has been well received” he added.

ŠKODA also succeeded in expanding deliveries in all sales regions worldwide. In Central and Eastern Europe, for example, deliveries rose to 231,600 units (2010: 194,800, +18.9%), and in Asia/the Pacific to 256,100 vehicles (2010: 203,300 +26%) in FY 2011. “In 2011, ŠKODA sold more vehicles than ever before,” says Jürgen Stackmann, ŠKODA’s Board Member for sales and marketing, adding: “We improved in every region and strengthened our position in the markets.”

“This was the year in which we first implemented our 2018 growth strategy, and we did so impressively,” says ŠKODA CEO Prof. Dr. h.c. Winfried Vahland. “We clearly picked up speed and set a new sales record. We also greatly improved our production, sales and international market presence and once again gained significant ground in both our European home and growth markets.”

879,200 cars delivered worldwide in 2011 marks an all-time best and translate into a total market share of 1.4%. ŠKODA’s next goal is defined clearly: by 2018, worldwide sales are to rise to at least 1.5 million per year. “The company has laid some excellent foundations for this in 2011. In 2012, we will continue to expand ŠKODA’s model range significantly and further strengthen our activities both in Europe and in international markets,” says Prof. Vahland.

Renault 5 for Monte

January 25th, 2012 by Karen Joy Provo

A trio of Renault 5 Alpines will contest this year’s Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique to start the celebrations marking the car’s 40th anniversary.

The cars have been purposely prepared for the event and will be driven by Frenchmen Jean Ragnotti who was second on the 1978 Monte Carlo Rally in a 5 Alpine, Alain Serpaggi and Manu Guigou. All three cars will start the rally from Reims.

This year, Renault is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Renault 5, which notched up total sales of five million cars in the course of its career. The diminutive French hatchback will be in the spotlight throughout 2012, and celebrations will kick off with the presence of three original, Renault-entered Renault 5 Alpines on the 2012 Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique.

The three cars have been specially prepared for the Monegasque event by Renault Classic. They were entirely stripped and carefully rebuilt as a function of the challenge that awaits them along the 2,500km route.

Emmanuel Guigou, the 2008 French Gravel Rally Championship runner-up who is more accustomed to the Group N4 Megane R.S. than the ‘R5 Alpine’.

Alain Serpaggi, a former test driver with Alpine who has an impressive, eclectic record in motorsport.

Jean Ragnotti will drive the same car (N°19) which he steered to second place overall on the 1978 Rallye Monte-Carlo. That landmark performance for the driver and his diminutive front-wheel drive car was backed up by a podium finish for Guy Fréquelin who came third on the same event.

Technical Data:

  • Engine: four cylinders in-line, 1,397cc,
  • Transmission: front-wheel drive, five-speed gearbox + reverse
  • Brakes: discs all-round
  • Length: 3.56m / Width: 1.52m / Weight: 870kg
  • Top speed: approximately 190kph

2012 XK – more luxury, greater performance

January 25th, 2012 by Karen Joy Provo

Jaguar’s coupe, the XK has a higher luxury specification for 2012 and sees the introduction of a new range topping XKR-S with formidable performance for a Grand Tourer coupe and convertible.

Coupled with a decrease in price the XK, now comes in Portfolio specification with new luxury soft grain leather upholstery, heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel, a suede headlining and an 8 speaker Bowers and Wilkins 525 watts sound system as new standard features over the previous model.

The latest XK, in all its derivations, is easily recognisable with its thinner Xenon headlights and LED running lights and turn signals. There is a larger grille and new front bumper.

And each model is distinguishable from its siblings. The chrome mesh grille on the XK is replaced by matt black detailing on the XKR, while the XKR-S gets a different front bumper to provide greater aerodynamic down force commensurate with its high speed ability.

The side power vents are now more horizontal with a mesh insert. At the rear the boot lid has a slimmer chrome finisher with an embedded Jaguar “leaper”.

There are five new paints in the 17 colour range and the choice of 11 different alloy wheels from 19 to 20 inches in diameter.

The Portfolio coupe and convertible models are available for $175,000 and $190,000 respectively and apart from the new features detailed above have adaptive dynamic suspension, sequential shift with steering column paddles of the six speed automatic transmission behind the 283 kWs five litre V8.

There are front and rear parking aids, keyless entry and start, 7 inch touch screen, satellite navigation and ipod connectivity.

The XKR comes with a supercharged version of the V8 motor producing 375 kWs and 625 Nm of torque. Added features include an active differential, ‘R’ performance brakes, quad tail pipes and the ‘R’ exterior.

It will sell for $195,000 and $210,000 for coupe and convertible respectively.

The range topping XKR-S has been awarded ‘2011 Sports Car of the Year’ by the respected German motoring magazine, Auto Bild Sportscars, following a poll of more than 70,000 of its readers.

Its 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine produces 412 kWs and 680Nm, enabling it to sprint to 100 km/h in just 4.4-seconds before going on to reach an electronically limited top speed of 300km/h. To ensure minimal lift and maximum stability at such high speeds the XKR-S has a bespoke aerodynamic pack, which includes a rear carbon fibre wing and front splitter.

It epitomises the attributes key to all Jaguar’s GT cars: explosive power, inspiring handling, relaxed comfort and discrete luxury.

The XKR-S Convertible was also recently revealed at the Los Angeles Auto show. It boasts the same performance credentials as the Coupe, including suspension and electronics changes designed to increase both agility and driver reward.

It has its own unique active exhaust system to produce a distinctively different symphony from the other XK models. Like all XKs, the XKR-S is based on an aluminium body which provides weight saving while still creating the stiffest platform in its class to provide Jaguar’s superb compromise between refinement, comfort and handling.

The XKR-S coupe and convertible are available to specific order at $260,000 and $275,000 respectively.

“Like the XK, Jaguar’s luxury sedan, the XJ also provides greater value for New Zealand customers in 2012.” says Paul Ricketts, Brand Manager for Jaguar New Zealand. The XJ range starts at $155,000 for the heavily specified 600Nm, three litre twin turbo diesel V6 model. Four other models have a choice of naturally aspirated or supercharged five litre V8s and six speed automatic power trains.

All have weight saving all aluminium body shells for better economy, superior agility and sparkling performance befitting Jaguar’s beautiful, fast cars persona.

A new rear seat comfort package is available with electrically controlled recline, lumbar and massage functions.

The naturally aspirated five litre XJ V8 with 283 kWs and 515 Nm of torque in Premium Luxury and Portfolio models starts from $180,000, while the supercharged Portfolio (346 kWs) is $240,000 and the top specification Supersport (375 kWs) is $285,000.

Pricing details

XK Portfolio Coupe $175,000
XK Portfolio Convertible $190,000
XKR Coupe $195,000
XKR Convertible $210,000
XKR-S Coupe $260,000
XKR-S Convertible $275,000
XJ SWB LWB
3.0D Premium Luxury $155,000 $162,500
5.0 V8 Premium Luxury $180,000 $187,500
5.0 V8 Portfolio $200,000
5.0 V8 Supercharged Portfolio $240,000
5.0 V8 Supersport $285,000 $300,000

Mazda BT-50 4WD Double Cab Limited 2012 Review

January 20th, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

We tested Mazda’s new BT-50 a few weeks ago, but in its lesser GSX guise. This week we’ve had the luxury Limited version which adds leather and reversing sensors.

It was interesting to have a second bite at the Mazda as often your perceptions change over time. I’m not a huge fan of utes – I don’t even own a pair of wellies – but the Mazda feels so car-like that you start to appreciate the benefits of having that extra height in traffic, among other things. It’s a big beast (200mm longer than the previous model) – not really designed for manoeuverability – but with the reversing sensors it’s way more palatable in the city. And that’s where this ute probably will live. Tradespeople aren’t going to worry about leather interiors; this is going to be bought by someone who wants to tow a boat or horse float (it’ll tow 3350kg on a braked trailer), while all their nautical or equestrian accessories can be accommodated in the tray.

For this new BT-50 Mazda has taken the corporate nose and grafted it onto a commercial vehicle. Porsche attempted this, putting the 911 nose onto the Cayenne (which has been beaten with the ugly stick). Mitsubishi has done it putting the Lancer Evo X nose onto the Outlander (which looks purposeful with its chiseled handsomeness). Has the corporate Mazda face transplant worked for the BT-50? Kind of. From some angles it does look a bit awkward, but it’s also striking. Awkwardness is a trait of many a car design from the wrong angle – Peugeots and Renaults are notorious for this. I like the BT-50 better the second time round though. It’s growing on me. Continue reading “Mazda BT-50 4WD Double Cab Limited 2012 Review” »

A Warne-ing For Cyclists

January 20th, 2012 by Tim Grimley

I find myself perched precariously on the horns of a dilemma. Thanks to an altercation between a bicycle and a motor vehicle in the centre of Sydney earlier this week, I am now in a position where I have to offer my allegiance to either Shane Warne or the cycling community.

To put this in some form of perspective, it’s a bit like a vegetarian having to choose between lamb and beef or – if that concept is a bit too abstract for the average carnivore to grasp – having a gun put to your head and being told your life would only be spared by spending a night covered in baby oil with Hone Hanawira or spending a night in a barrel of scorpions.

Given his irksome habit of skittling cricket teams I hold dear to my heart over the years, ordinarily I would have no problems in aligning myself with anyone whose sights took aim in the direction of Warnie’s hair replacements, but unfortunately the other protagonists in this case are the self important, road rule flaunting jossers of the militant cycling brigade. Continue reading “A Warne-ing For Cyclists” »

Kia Introduces Competitively Priced Carnival to NZ

January 20th, 2012 by Karen Joy Provo

A new variant of the 8-seater Kia Carnival people mover has been introduced to New Zealand to complement the existing super-luxury Limited, boasting a $6,000 saving.

The new Carnival EX comes loaded with high equipment and comfort levels, with electric opening side doors, bluetooth hands-free, dual zone climate A/C, plus reverse warning sensors and still represents extraordinary good value at only $45,990 plus ORC.

Among the list of other features included in its standard specification are 6 airbags, electric rear quarter window operation, steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, front fog lights, electric heated door mirrors, remote central door locking with burglar alarm and full electronic stability control.

Powered by the revised 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine the Carnival Ex delivers 202kW of peak power and 343Nm of torque, matched to a slick 6-speed sequential sports shift automatic transmission. Alloy wheels and high power disc brakes all-round are also part of the exceptional package.

The Carnival EX also retains the modular seating system that includes removable mid seats and rear seats that fold down completely into the floor to provide a large flat cabin space.

“The Carnival EX is aimed at those who want a well-equipped 8-seater that fits their family or business requirements at a more affordable price,” says Todd McDonald, General Manager of Kia Motors New Zealand.

“By removing only some of the luxuries, such as leather upholstery, but retaining many of the popular items that customers expect to see in a Kia, we have managed to create a very affordable and very desirable multi-passenger vehicle for the New Zealand market.”

Carnival has been one of the best selling people movers on the New Zealand market and the new EX 8-seater is now on sale at Kia dealerships throughout the country.

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