News: Toyota takes 75,000 orders for 2010 Prius

Toyota Prius 2010 fq

The Toyota Prius is due to go on sale today in Japan and it’s facing some stiff hybrid competition with the new Honda Insight. But the 2010 Prius is puffed up and ready to rumble with a packed out order book. The Japanese Nikkei Business newspaper reports that Toyota already has 75,000 orders in the books a lot more than the 40,000 units the Japanese automaker expected. Toyota has already lowered the price of the Prius to combat the Insight’s entry price, and positive early Insight sales figures show that is a smart move. Honda’s newest hybrid sold 10,481 units in April, making it the first hybrid to ever top the Japanese sales chart (read news item).

The Prius’ pre-sale success is some welcome success during tough times. The automaker lost $7.7 billion USD last quarter, and expects to lose $8.6 billion in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2010. Toyota is also replacing 40% of its management team when new boss Akio Toyoda takes over the company next month.

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News: UK first to test Intelligent Speed Adaptation technology

London street scene

Transport for London plans to begin a six-month trial of a new technology that will artificially limit the top speeds of taxis, buses and government fleet vehicles in the English capital. Called Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA), the system will keep track of speed limits all over London and prevent operators from accelerating past the legal limit. The device can go further and is capable of slowing the vehicle down regardless of the driver’s desires.

If that’s too much, the system can be switched into an advisory mode that simply informs the driver when the speed limit has been reached. It sounds annoying but if the initial tests are positive it’s likely that the ISA technology will be made available within the next 12 months to private motorists who wish to limit the top speed of their personal vehicles. So far, there’s nothing to indicate that the government will mandate the use of the ISA system.

It’s hoped that a large number of drivers will choose to equip their vehicles with the ISA technology. Transport for London believes that both accidents and road congestion could be reduced by the system, which would in turn have the desirable effect of reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

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Honda: Honda Jazz 2009 Review

honda-jazz-fq3

A creative mind could endeavor to associate any vehicle with a matching musical genre. A 1960’s muscle car could represent Rock n Roll, a lightweight roadster could be pop music and an old dirty 4wd might be heavy metal. Honda has discounted any need for imagination and has taken the direct route by just calling its small hatchback the ‘Jazz’. So is the new Jazz hitting all the right notes?

he first Jazz was introduced here in 2001, and boldly took Honda’s subcompact seat left by the extinct City. The Jazz proved a success in NZ and abroad with global sales exceeding 2.5 million vehicles thanks to a signature blend of style and function. Now in its second generation the Jazz has eaten the pies and grown in most areas. There is a 55mm increase in length, 20mm in width and 10mm in interior height.

The result of the dimensional increase is noticed most in the cabin where overall interior space is easily class-leading. Head and legroom in the front seats is exemplary and the rear row will take three adult passengers comfortably. The Jazz’s floor area is low and flat adding to the interior capacity and the doors can open wide (80 degrees) to make entry and exit easy. But the real star of the show is a trick back seat that lowers flat into the floor to create a cavernous luggage area. With the front passenger seat also folded flat items up to 2.4m in length can be accommodated, perfect for a double bass or half a grand piano. Elsewhere in the cabin black and grey plastics harmonise in an artistic dash layout. The control positioning looks unconventional but the ergonomics are very good with radio and aircon buttons easily found without diverting driver attention. A useful trip computer screen sits between the instruments and offers up info on seatbelt indicators, average and instant fuel consumption, distance to empty and average speed. The leather bound steering wheel is another feature; it’s thick and houses handy audio controls. Overall the Jazz cabin is spacious and airy, fit and finish is strong, cup holders and storage options are many and overall functionality is unmatched in this segment.

Exterior styling has been slightly de-feminised when compared to the previous model; huge glaring front lights and a character-lined bonnet give the Jazz a serious face. An ascending belt-line tapers as it reaches the rear giving the Jazz a perched stance that helps create a sense of sportiness. The large front quarter window dissecting the A-pillar is a clever design feature as it gives a feeling of length to the Jazz for passengers and also when viewed in profile from the exterior. Rear styling is more conservative with jeweled taillights flanking a purposefully shaped hatch. Generally the styling is clean, balanced and modern, the Jazz is clearly made for right now without being confined by the bloodlines of many prior models. This contemporary look will help attract those looking to upgrade or downsize from larger vehicles.

What sized instrument is cased in beneath the stumpy bonnet? The Jazz has two available engines a 1.3 litre and a 1.5 litre. The tested vehicle sported the new 1.3 litre unit with Honda’s iVTEC variable valve technology, this power plant blows out 73kW of power. Even with the 1.3-litre motor the Jazz is capable in the city of keeping up with traffic, but it’s a small engine and behaves accordingly. I found that with three passengers the Jazz had to work hard getting up hills and accelerating from stationary. That said, it’s a content motorway cruiser and can overtake slower vehicles with sufficient space and planning.

Playing a duet with the engine is an electronic 5-speed automatic transmission. While it’s not the smoothest box on the market it doesn’t shy away from chopping down a gear to get the most from the small motor. Interestingly, paddle shifters are positioned behind the steering wheel for manual changes, a feature that will surely be seldom used by the Jazz’s more elderly target market. Fuel consumption is very good for the 1.3-litre engine with only 6.6 litres being sipped every 100km.

What’s most impressive dynamically about the Jazz is its handling. With a 35mm increase to the wheel track width over the previous model the new Jazz lifts very little when cornering despite its increased height. This is backed up by strong grip on windy roads and also in wet conditions. The steering is suitably light but a touch vague. Ride comfort is good for a subcompact with the suspension set slightly on the firmer side and minimal road and engine noise finds its way into the cabin.

A rhapsody of safety features come standard with the Jazz including six airbags in total including curtain airbags, ABS brakes and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD). Currently Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is notably missing which is disappointing.

I have two friends whose mothers own a Honda Jazz which is an indication of the target market, even Jeremy Clarkson’s mother has one. This shows that the Jazz has the styling inside and out to interest those who normally aren’t interested in cars.

Jazz the musical style favours spontaneity but the Honda Jazz is well planned and well thought out. The interior space and functionality is class leading and although the driving dynamics are a mixed bag the Jazz is easy to control and proved capable in most road situations. Priced from $25,800 it is more expensive than the Toyota Yaris or Suzuki Swift but you do get more for the extra money and until the new Ford Fiesta establishes itself in the kiwi marketplace the Honda Jazz will remain the drum to beat.

Click through to the next page for a list of specifications

Price: From $25,800 as tested $28,700

What we like:

  • Interior space and functionality
  • Sharp exterior design
  • Balanced handling and ride

What we don’t like:

  • Vague steering
  • No stability control
  • Auto transmission can be rough

Words and Photos: Adam Mamo

Honda Jazz (2009) – Specifications

Engine

Engine 16-valve, 1.3-litre, i-VTEC
Horsepower 73kW @ 6,000 rpm
Torque – Nm (kgm) 127Nm @ 4,800 rpm
Valvetrain i-VTEC (Intelligent Variable Valve Timing and Lift, Electronic Control) performance and economy enhancing technology
Transmission 5-speed automatic transmission with Gear Logic Control and steering wheel mounted racing inspired paddle shift.

Suspension and Wheels

Front and Rear Suspension MacPherson strut suspension
Wheels 15″ steel wheels. Space saver spare tyre. (Alloy accessory wheel available)
Tyres 175/65 R15
Braking System ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), EBA (Emergency Brake Assist) and EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution)

Dimensions

Overall Length (mm) 3900
Overall Width (mm) 1,695
Overall Height (mm) 1,525
Turning Radius (metres) 5.2
Luggage capacity (VDA litres rear seats up / flat) 380 / 1,321
Seating capacity 5
Warranty 36 month, unlimited Km new car warranty
Maximum warrantable towing weight (kg) 800AT

Fuel System

Fuel Tank 42 litre tank capacity
Recommended Fuel 91-octane or E10 fuel
Emission Control Emissions fall within Euro IV and LEV II international standards

Fuel Economy

ADR Combined Consumption (auto) 6.6 L/100Km
Optimal NZ Test Drive (auto) 4.85 L/100Km
EnergyWise Rally 2008 (auto) 5.21 L/100Km

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Blogs: The new Waterview interchange looks like a uterus

I wish I had seen Jesus’s face in some buttered toast, but I didn’t. I could have made a killing selling it on Ebay. But what I did see on the news last night, in a momentary burst of pareidolia, was that the new Waterview interchange, part of Auckland’s western ring road, looks like a diagram of a uterus.

Road junctions have a habit of acquiring names, most commonly ‘spaghetti junction’. Many of these acquired the name from locals who used a colloquial term either describing how it looks, or more commonly, what pub is nearby. For example, Swindon’s Magic Roundabout, originally called County Islands, was renamed in the 1980s.

I propose, though, that we start off by naming this junction ‘The Uterus’ as it will become a fantastic tourist attraction. No other city in the world will have the gall to name a junction after a bodily part so taboo, and after Melissa Lee’s assertion that the motorway will keep South Auckland criminals out of Mount Albert, this will seem tame in comparison.

People interested in all things uterine will flock to Waterview. I’m just interested to see what sculpture the council will erect there!

uterus - Waterview interchange

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News: Audi reveals big plans for RS5, A5 Sportback and new A8

Audi Sportback fq

During yesterday’s Audi AG investors meeting, Rupert Stadler, the automaker’s chairman, confirmed what had been expected that the RS5 will be available in both coupe and convertible forms, the A5 Sportback (pictured) will be released later this year and the redesigned A8 will debut in late 2009.

in regard to the RS5 a UK motoring magazine has confirmed that the 4.2-litre V8 found in the Audi RS4 and R8 will be fitted to the new performance coupe, with output expected to be around 450 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque and delivering a 0-100 time in the mid-four-second range. A series of weight reduction measures will be used and the brakes and suspension upgraded, a convertible variant will follow after the RS5 hits dealers later this year.

The A5 Sportback, firstly shown in concept form at the Detroit Auto Show, will become available sometime this year it should come packing the company’s new supercharged 3.0-liter V6 and a revised diesel V6 putting out around 240 hp and masses of torque. Stadler is convinced the A5 Sportback is a model that will be welcomed by buyers looking for something that offers, “the ideal blend of functionality and aesthetics.”

Stadler went on to say the next-generation A8 will be the sportiest model in its segment “and set new standards with regard to interior design.” The 2010 A8 should debut sometime around November this year.

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News: Skoda Yeti – it really exists and is now in production

Skoda Yeti fq

The first Skoda Yeti rolled off the assembly line at Skoda’s Kvasiny, Czech Republic plant on Tuesday 12 May 2009. With the start of series production, Skoda has officially introduced its fifth model line and entered the crossover segment.  The very first Yeti spotted leaving the production hall was an Aqua Blue, four-wheel drive model, fitted with a 1.8 TSI engine.

Skoda has designed Yeti as it does all its models — for the way people use cars.  Unique solutions include a VarioFlex rear seat system, which makes it easy to increase Yeti’s carrying capacity to as much as 1,760 litres.

Earlier, Skoda performed a number of final tests in the area around Oslo, Norway, which offered a variety of road surfaces similar to those seen in all European countries and most of the key regions outside Europe. The test team (which included members of the international media) used the diversity of roads and weather conditions to check some of the key systems, such as the driving stability system, ventilation and air conditioning system performance. The tests provided valuable information about the interaction between the respective control units, the chassis parameters and acoustic comfort, as well as the characteristics of the off-road systems.

The vehicles tested in Oslo were a 1.8 TSI petrol and a 2.0 TDI diesel, both 4×4 models. The drivers tested the vehicles’ behaviour on forest roads, as well as on an extreme downhill course using the downhill assist, a function enabling the driver to go down extremely steep hills and maintain control.

Thanks to its higher ground clearance (180mm) and Haldex clutch system, the Yeti is expected to be capable on-road and off-road. Add in low fuel consumption and low CO2 emissions and Yeti gives today’s drivers some green credentials also.

The Yeti is scheduled to make an appearance in New Zealand early in 2010 powered by the 2.0 TDI diesel engine.

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News: Lotus bringing back the Esprit for 2012

Lotus Evora eagle f

Recent reports state that Lotus is picking up the pace with the development of the much rumoured new Lotus Esprit. The new Esprit will join the new Elise in reaching the market sometime in 2012. The 2012 Lotus Esprit will be developed based of the upcoming Evora (pictured), but it will offer more generous dimensions and have a mid-engine layout. At this stage opinion is varied on what engine will power the 2012 Lotus Esprit, but it will most likely be a chunky V8.

The launch of the new 2012 Lotus Esprit isn’t a certainty yet and remains dependent on whether or not the Evora generates sufficient sales to help fund the development of the new version. If the business environment in the automotive industry improves dramatically, the new Lotus Esprit could see the showroom floor even sooner than the Evora convertible. Stay tuned.

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News: 2010 Opel Astra revealed before Frankfurt debut

Opel Astra fq

Financially troubled carmaker Opel has just released details of its upcoming next-generation 2010 Astra before its official debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show this September.

The 2010 Astra’s design is inspired by the larger Opel Insignia, it shows off all-new sheet metal that takes cues from its big brother and packages it into a smaller, more fluid shape. The fascia, headlamps and back-end reflect Opel’s new design direction, along with the sculpted sides and raked-back windscreen.

The new Astra has a wheelbase that stretches 2.8 inches longer than the outgoing model. The “wing and blade” design language employed on the exterior carries through to the interior, and joins ergonomic seats and the new Opel Eye front camera system, which can apparently recognise road signs and warns drivers if they veer out of their lane.

There will be a total of eight different engines available, including four CDTI common-rail diesels with displacements ranging from 1.3- to 2.0-litres and outputs of between 95 and 160 hp. Another four gas-powered units, with displacements between 1.4- and 1.6-litres, dish out between 100 and 180 hp along with a new turbocharged 1.4-litre that replaces the outgoing naturally aspirated 1.8-litre and puts out 140 hp and 14% more torque, while lowering fuel consumption.

The wraps officially come off the five-door Astra later this year, while a four-door sedan, three-door hatch and a two-mode hybrid variant are expected to debut in 2010. Global sales should begin towards the end of 2009, and hopefully we will see the new 2010 Astra down here in NZ next year with a Holden badge whacked on the front.

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