News: Prius not separate… yet

Toyota Prius fq

Rumors have recently surrounded Toyota saying that a separate Prius brand will be announced by the automaker shortly. Toyota has replied on its own blog by stating that it is only a maybe at this stage.

Toyota can confirm that it’s considering a hybrid-only brand that would see separate space in dealerships – much like what is already being done with the Scion brand in the States. But a final decision has not yet been made and Toyota’s not even sure what products would fall under that new brand name, except for the Prius. Rumors continue about new hybrids from Toyota, including Prius-like hatchbacks both a bit larger and a bit smaller than the current model.

Road Tests / Car Reviews: Suzuki Jimny Sierra 2008 — Road Test


‘No frills’ is an expression that gets thrown around a lot, usually with negative connotations. Being no frills isn’t always a bad thing. No frills can mean saving money, or getting more for your budget. At the supermarket my mother would often explain to me that products labelled ‘Basic’ and ‘Home Brand’ are the same goods just without the fancy packaging. I always struggled to understand this theory. Exactly how could something look the same and taste the same but be so much cheaper simply due to low cost packaging. After driving the Suzuki Jimny Sierra, it’s a concept I’ve finally come to grips with.

The Jimny is priced at just $20,500 straight off the shelf, there are few new compact 4wds around for this price and it is naturally one of the vehicle’s most attractive characteristics. Suzuki has shown with the Swift that it’s come to play in the low cost car bracket. Although it’s unlikely the Jimny will ever mirror the Swift’s success, it still has some moves all its own.

Aesthetically the Jimny has plenty of character; the exterior styling is modern but suitably square, purposeful and strong. Walk around the front of the vehicle, look it in the eye and it glares back. Wrapped up in bright colour-coded paintwork it has a contrasting gloss finish on the panels but a matt finish on the plastics. Large wing-mirrors and chunky bumpers confirm the look of a large off-roader that was left in the clothes dryer too long and came out ultra-compact. Despite the Jimny’s diminutive size, visibility is very good thanks to generous glass and a good seating position, the only exception is a wide B-pillar which can create a blind spot with poor mirror positioning.

Open up the packet and the Jimny’s interior is basic but functional and seamlessly maintains the themes of a tough 4WD vehicle. The plastics look and feel hardy, and the instrument cluster is well-positioned and easy to read. The seats are comfortable but could offer more support especially if you’re planning on bumping around off-road. There is no escaping the Jimny’s size: it is a very small vehicle, and not built with big lads (like myself) in mind. The driver’s seat only travelled back far enough to be comfortable on the last click, and space between my right shoulder and the window was minimal. The Jimny is only 1.6m in width so with 2 big blokes in the vehicle, shoulders are nearly touching and knees can knock the gearstick. The back seat is small but can fit two adults, though anything more than a short trip may become cramped. Behind the rear seats there is very little storage space and anything more than a couple of grocery bags would require the rear seats to be folded down.

Turn the key and the Jimny springs into life, a 1.3-litre engine may sound lightweight but so is everything else, and with a kerb weight of only 1060kg, 63kW of power is enough¦just. You’re not going to be challenging anyone to a drag from the lights, but the Jimny has some pep when worked hard through the gears. The Jimny is thrifty with a combined economy figure of 7.3L/100km. The gearbox makes a satisfying click and the clutch engages where expected, making the Jimny a very easy vehicle to drive. The handling is a definite improvement over older models, but can still provide a lively experience on bendy roads. The Jimny has a  narrow width high ride height combination that can reflect in its driving habits. However, its honest steering response and body movement telegraph any instability early and the driver can make adjustment accordingly.

Off-road is where the Jimny proves it’s no shopping trolley, boasting a 4wd capability that Suzuki admits excels that of its flagship Grand Vitara model. On the label Suzuki calls it ‘Drive Action 4×4 with Air Locking Hub’ this means the Jimny can change between 4WD and 2WD with a switch in the cabin, and this can be done while moving. This combined with a ladder-type chassis and a dual ratio transfer case as standard puts the Jimny on a higher shelf than many competitors who lack a low range.

During my time with the Jimny I happened to drive with my mother, she took a shine to the vehicle immediately. I explained to her a few of the features I thought the Jimny was missing, like rear stereo speakers and a boot blind. She replied simply that she didn’t need all that stuff, and it suddenly made sense. The Jimny doesn’t need all the bells and whistles to impress, it’s unashamedly no frills and priced accordingly, that is its strength. So if you’re on a budget, you want to be a bit different and you occasionally leave the tarmac behind, then grab the Jimny and proceed to the checkout immediately.

Click through to the next page to read the full specifications of the Suzuki Jimny Sierra.

Price: from $20,500

Things we like

  • A very affordable new car
  • Off road maestro
  • Fun exterior styling

Things we don’t like

  • Isn’t one size fits all
  • No curtain airbag and paper thin doors give a feeling of vulnerability for occupants
  • Could use a touch more pace
Overall length mm 3645
Overall width mm 1600
Overall height mm 1670 1705
Wheelbase mm 2250
Track Front mm 1355
Track Rear mm 1365
Ground Clearance mm 190
Minimum turning radius m 4.9
Curb weight kg Manual 1060 Manual 1060 / Auto 1075
Gross vehicle weight kg 1420
Type M13A with VVT
Cylinders 4
Number of valves 16
Displacement cc 1328
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
Fuel Consumption – Urban Litres/100km 9.1 Manual 9.1 / Auto 9.6
Fuel Consumption – Extra- Urban Litres/100km 6.1 Manual 6.1 / Auto 6.4
Fuel Consumption – Combined Litres/100km 7.2 Manual 7.2 / Auto 7.6
Part time drive action 4 x 4 High/low ratio transfer gears
Final drive ratio 4300 Manual 4300 / Auto 4090
Transfer gear ratio High Manual 1000 Manual 1000 / Auto 1320
Low Manual 2002 Manual 2002 / Auto 2643
Type Manual 5 – speed
Automatic N/A 4 – speed
Steering Ball and recirculating
Suspension Front 3-link with coil spring rigid axle
Rear 3-link with coil spring rigid axle
Brakes Front Ventilated disc
Rear Drum, leading & trailing
Tyres 205/70R15
Seating 4
Fuel tank (unleaded 95) Litres 40

Words Adam Mamo, photography Darren Cottingham

News: Mitusbishi releases Ralliart and Hatch Lancers in NZ

Mitsubishi Lancer hatch fq

Mitsubishi is now welcoming new Ralliart and a Hatch variants into its Lancer ranks, offering a greater range of Lancer models than ever before.

“The big story is the inclusion of the Hatch,” said Mitsubishi Motors NZ’s sales and marketing general manager Peter Wilkins. “The small and medium car segments are dominated by Hatch sales and its arrival provides options for Lancer customers wanting greater versatility.

“Specifications of the Lancer Hatch match those of the Sedan, as do the price points,” he said. “Where the Hatch differs is in its larger, more flexible cargo space — one-touch fold-down seats create larger volume in the rear, which is easily accessible through the rear door. A further 56 litres is also available in the boot, thanks to its drop-down floor feature.

The new Lancer Ralliart is another exciting addition to the range, said Mr Wilkins. “It is designed to wow those who drive it and the inclusion of the automated-manual TC-SST (Twin Clutch — Sport Shift Transmission) allows them to maximise its performance.”

Ralliart’s 2.0L DOHC MIVEC turbocharged intercooled engine provides 180kW and 349Nm, while full-time 4WD delivers the power to all four wheels.

“We were really keen to offer an exhilarating, performance-tuned car to bridge the gap between the VRX and our range hero the Evo X,” said Mr Wilkins.

“The Ralliart provides that step up from the VRX. Closer in appearance and performance to the Evolution, Ralliart offers another option within the Lancer family.”

Another significant change for the range is the inclusion of a 2.4L DOHC MIVEC engine in both Sedan and Hatch VRX variants. The new engine delivers greater power and torque over the SX and VR 2.0L version — that’s 127kW and 230Nm over 115kW and 201Nm to be exact.

Both the SX and VRX variants feature either 5-speed manual transmission or 6-speed CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission).

Fuel consumption, stands at 7.6L/100km for the manual SX Sedan and 8.2L/100km for the CVT option. Consumption for the manual SX Hatch is 7.9L/100km and 8.3L/100km.

The larger-engined VRX uses 8.7L/100km in the manual Sedan and 8.5L/100km with CVT, while the Hatch uses 8.8L/100km and 8.9L/100km respectively. On premium unleaded 98, the Ralliart consumes 10L/100km.

Externally, the Ralliart shows a close resemblance to the Lancer Evolution X and includes an aluminium bonnet lid. Recaro race-style seats and a Rockford Fosgate sound system with a sub-woofer provide an internal point of difference over the VRX.

“The 2.4L VRX provides another option for buyers, particularly those of fleet vehicles, by adding diversity not only in specification but also engine size for their more senior staff.”

Prices for the Lancer Hatchback range from $32,500 for the SX manual to $40,990 for the VRX CVT. The Lancer Ralliart will retail for $49,990.

News: Crystal concept for Volvo S60

Volvo crystal concept

Volvo Cars has engaged Swedish glassworks Orrefors to create a floating centre stack in crystal for the company’s next concept car, which will be a first taste of the next-generation Volvo S60. It will be shown for the first time at the Detroit international motor show in January 2009.

In the concept car the crystal-clear centre stack forms a wave from the instrument panel all the way to the rear seat backrest.

“It almost looks like a waterfall from the instrument panel, flowing through the centre of the car,” says Volvo Cars design director Steve Mattin.

“If you want to explore the full scope of Scandinavian design, Sweden’s glassworks are a natural source of inspiration. Large glass areas are also very much part of modern Swedish architecture, creating the special, light transparency,” says Steve Mattin.

The experts at Orrefors were keen to accept the challenge and the result is one of the most unusual and handcraft-intensive objects in the company’s 110-year history. Producing the stack was in itself a challenge beyond the ordinary – even for experts at Orrefors.

“The full-size crystal piece in the concept car will not be a production feature. However, it does open up opportunities to use crystal on a smaller scale in the future. We’ll have to see how our customers respond,” says Steve Mattin.

Beside the driver’s seat, the crystal console cuts straight through the instrument panel and its upper section forms a navigation screen at the precise height of the driver’s combined instruments.

The gear selector has a versatile new shape. In the horizontal position it offers drive in automatic mode. If the driver is in the mood for sporty manual gear changes, the lever can be flipped up into the vertical position. Beside the gear selector there is also the starter button and parking brake.

“We’ve put the focus on ergonomics and safety. With the combined instruments at the same height as the navigation screen, all it takes is a horizontal eye movement to switch between sources of information. Another example is the controls used when you start and stop driving are a few centimetres from each other near the gear selector,” explains Steve Mattin.

News: New Mitsubishi Pajero – more performance for less

Mitsubishi Pajero 09 fq

The new Mitsubishi Pajero has arrived here in NZ and the new model boasts significantly better performance for less fuel.

“The 2009 Pajero’s 3.2L Direct Injection Common Rail Intercooled Turbo Diesel power plant has seen significant improvement over its predecessor,” said MMNZ general manager of marketing and sales Peter Wilkins. It now delivers 18% more power and 23% more torque, yet boasts a 12% reduction in fuel consumption, traveling 100km on just 9.2 litres of diesel.

“At its maximum power, the Euro 4 engine reaches 150kW. Maximum torque is an impressive 448Nm low in the rev range — perfect for towing boats, floats and automobiles weighing up to 3.3 tonnes,” he said.

Other improvements in the 2009 Pajero include significant sound proofing of the cabin on diesel models and new alloy wheels and body coloured wing mirrors and door handles for the GLS. Both diesel and petrol Exceed models gain a DVD entertainment unit for the rear passengers, auto wipers and headlights and a new front grille.

While the long wheelbase petrol and the short wheelbase GLS models are no longer available, the short wheelbase VRXs can still be purchased on a firm order arrangement.

A high-strength monocoque body and ladder frame chassis provides torsional rigidity for off-roading while incorporating impact-absorbing crumple zones to protect occupants and others in the event of a collision.

Further safety features include side and front dual-stage driver and passenger airbags, plus curtain airbags which help protect occupants in the front and rear seats. Active Stability Control across the range mitigates the consequences of over or understeer, keeping the vehicle balanced and on the drivers intended path.

Enhanced by its torsional rigidity and some of the best ground clearance angles in the segment, Mitsubishi’s All Terrain 4WD Technology (MATT) provides Pajero with strong off-road capability. The inclusion of a rear differential lock and hill hold assist aids serious adventurers when the going gets tough.

With 265/60/R18 tyres, the Pajero Exceed will stop from 100km/h in 42m. Braking is by way of large 333mm front ventilated, four calliper disc brakes on the long wheelbase models and 290mm ventilated discs with two piston callipers on the short wheelbase VRX.

These improvements to the new model Pajero should cement it’s reputation as one of New Zealand’s favorite 4WDs.

News: The Fuoss 01 track car coming

Fuoss Track car fq

Track fanatics over in Europe have a new option vying for their hard-earned cash. Using the same philosophy as vehicles from Lotus, Caterham and KTM, the Fuoss 01 relies on its light weight for acceptable performance. With only a 40-hp, 400cc Suzuki motorcycle engine motivating the 660-pound one-seater, the V-Max is a very limited 150 kph. Regardless, the Fuoss should be an very fun track tool, particularly with its five-speed sequential transmission taken from Suzuki. Just a jumped up go kart really, the driver sits as low as possible and with no heavy roof overhead, centre of gravity is kept down low.

Only ten examples are planned for its first year of production in 2009.

News: AC Schnitzer releases the X6 Falcon

AC Schnitzer X6 fq

It was only a matter of time before AC Schnitzer turned its hand to the X6, and the result has just been released as the BMW X6 Falcon.

Using the X5 Falcon as styling inspiration, the X6 variant gets the same stretched out body work, allowing it a 70mm wider track in the front and an additional 80mm in the rear. According to AC, extensive testing was done on the Nurburgring to refine the Falcon’s high-speed capability, helped by a new front lip, air intakes, repositioned fog lamps, side skirts and rear wing. Black or silver 22-inch Type VII wheels fill the arches.

As for power, the only models to benefit from engine tweaks are the X6 3.0d and 3.5d, boosting power to 272 hp (from 235 hp) and 310 hp (from 286 hp), respectively. AC will also be selling custom chrome tailpipes, aluminum interior trim, pedals and floor mats emblazoned with its logo.

News: Kia next to raise NZ car prices

Kia Picanto

Kia Motors is the next car company to raise prices with an announcement this week. Kia stated that the dramatic fall in the value of the New Zealand dollar will mean the price of its new cars will have to rise.

Todd Mcdonald, General Manager of Kia Motors New Zealand says prices will increase in the first week of November and will probably be introduced in small increments, as vehicle shipments progressively arrive from Korea. He says rises will vary from model to model and will be between 4% and 11%.

But the good news is that some Kia models will remain at current prices for a few more weeks, until present stocks are exhausted. Most of these are likely to be sold before Christmas.