News: Volkswagen takes 3rd place from Ford in world rankings

The Volkswagen Group has taken its place among the world’s top three automakers thanks to the Wolfsburg-based company’s outstanding delivery figures in the first half of 2008. Rival Ford has to settle for fourth position.

“We are delighted that the Volkswagen Group has made it to the global automobile industry’s top three for the first time. This shows that we are on the right track with our ever-stronger international presence and, above all, our product program. We will systematically push ahead with our growth course even in the present difficult market environment,” Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, commented.

With 3.31 million vehicles delivered in the first half of 2008, the Volkswagen Group increased deliveries in the first six months of this year by 7.2 percent, moving up to third place in the global vehicle sales ranking and overtaking its rival Ford, which announced vehicle sales of 3.22 million for this period.

Blogs: Suzuki Vitara launch: camping in the Outback

There’s nothing like getting away from the horrible Auckland winter weather for a sunnier clime, and that’s just what we did when Suzuki invited us to be at the Australian launch of its new Vitara.

We flew into Sydney last Saturday and stayed at the airport Stamford Plaza, ready to take an early flight to Ayers Rock (Uluru) on Sunday morning. Looking down from the plane, there’s a whole lot of sand and scrub out there. Ayers Rock airport was a chilly 13 degrees, despite it being a clear blue sky. A bus transfer took us to the resort, built in the late ’80s and now showing its age.

Having not bothered with the lunch on the flight, I accidentally gatecrashed a private function, ‘borrowing’ some of the food, until I was informed of my misdemeanour.

A press conference in the afternoon, where we had the opportunity to ask questions of the Japanese visitors, was short and sweet. The Suzuki representatives were adamant the new car had much better road manners, was quieter and better featured. We would have to wait until the next day to find that out, though.

The sun was getting low by that time and we were bussed to a dining location in the outback overlooking Ayers Rock. A didgeridoo player set the scene and we watched the shadows lengthen as the sun set.

We made our way down a narrow path to our dinner location. The rapidly plummeting temperature made the Suzuki-supplied beanies essential. Dinner, a large buffet with kangaroo, crocodile and other more conventional fare, was followed by an astronomy talk. I have never seen the Milky Way so vividly – with zero light pollution, the sky sparkled with the light of distant suns.

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5:30am was the wake-up call for our helicopter ride to King’s Creek Station, taking in Ayers Rock, the Olgas, and a large salt lake (Lake Amadeus).

The Vitaras were parked at King’s Creek Station, ready for a thrashing over some severely corrugated roads, a good section of smooth, flowing curvaceous black-top, and an off-road section. The Vitara was capable of more than 120kph on the dusty, rutted, bumpy roads without any concern. And on the open road it was smooth and unflustered to a much higher speed than that. Very impressive.

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The final part of the day’s journey was a moderately easy off-road course next to our campsite, where we spent the remainder of the afternoon chatting and taking photos. With a meal of barramundi inside me I retired to my ‘luxury’ tent. Camping in the desert isn’t the most comfortable experience – getting up in the middle of the night to liberate some of the drink consumed earlier is an experience fraught with the danger of every plant having some kind of thorn or spine. And then you have to get warm again in the 2-degree cold.

The following day we drove to Alice Springs and took the flight back to Sydney, then on to Auckland. It was a fantastic trip, and well worth it for the new Suzuki Vitara. More will be revealed in the road test, coming soon!!

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News: Jeep takes the cake in UK SUV test

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Jeep has won the top prize in three categories of the UK’s biggest on and off-road test of 4×4 vehicles.

4×4 Magazine reviewed 67 vehicles for their annual ‘4×4 of the Year’ test and awarded marks in 10 key buying areas: on-road, off-road, comfort, safety, economy, loading, interior, styling, towing and value-for-money.

John Carroll, Editor of 4×4 Magazine, said: “This test aims to put the latest vehicles through a rigorous test and measure them in real world on- and off-road situations. In a market swamped with new 4x4s, Jeep has retained its mastery in three key segments — Budget, Mid-size and Extreme — with the Patriot, Cherokee and Wrangler.

Jeep Patriot: winner of Budget 4×4 of the Year

The judges said: “The Patriot is a huge step for Jeep — after all, the US brand built its reputation for ‘proper 4x4s’, with low range gearing and classic styling. However, in today’s green and cost-conscious climate, the Patriot opens up the Jeep legend to a wider audience. This is primarily thanks to a VW-sourced 2.0-litre turbodiesel that stretches fuel economy to over 6.8L/100km, considerably higher than anything a production Jeep could muster in the past; likewise, CO2 is well below average.”

Jeep Cherokee: winner of the Mid-size 4×4 category

“The all-new Cherokee takes Jeep to a new level. Few will quarrel with the new-look interior, which feels both roomier and is decked-out with smarter materials and comfier seats. Gone is the clumsy stable-door tailgate, replaced with a top-opening one-piece item. The rear screen still pops open separately while the boot space is more practical for loading too.

“An improved 2.8-litre turbo diesel provides torque aplenty with smooth six-manual and auto shifters, plus a revised suspension set-up that offers a better on-road drive. Best of all, though, is the Selec Trac II adaptive 4WD system with low range and hill descent control, cementing Jeep’s off-road advantage in this sector.”

Jeep Wrangler: winner of Extreme 4×4 group

“The descendant of the original 4×4 comes out on top as an extreme plaything and lifestyle vehicle. It rivals the Defender for showroom-spec off-road ability and the low-down torque of its 2.8-litre diesel means it comes pretty close to the Land Rover on rough terrain; the Americans will be wondering why they didn’t have a diesel rock-crawling Wrangler sooner. The interior is comfortable and roomy for the driver and front passenger, compared with the Defender’s, and the Wrangler is faster and smoother on-road than the Land Rover. It’s more nimble off-road than the Patrol and doesn’t have that laboured on-Tarmac feel that seems to plague the big Nissan.

“The Jeep is well appointed, with airbags (which the Defender doesn’t offer) and optional sat-nav, automatic gearbox and a soft-top. Price is a plus. It’s a deserving winner.”

News: Volkswagen Passat CC on sale in New Zealand now

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Volkswagen is extending the model range of the Passat car line by adding a third variation the Passat CC, which is on sale in New Zealand now with deliveries expected to start in October.

Its fully independent body design, an interior that has sporty individual bucket seats in the rear too, an impressive powertrain and technological highlights worthy of the luxury class, meld together to create a unique vehicle in the Passat’s market segment. The Passat CC (Comfort Coupe) is an elegant sedan and a dynamic coupe simultaneously. The concept and design of this Volkswagen are defining fresh, new directions beyond the mainstream.

The coupe philosophy is reflected in the interior with its four seat layout. In both the front and rear, ergonomically designed sport seats of the highest calibre are used. Overall, it can be said that Volkswagen has succeeded in further refining seating comfort and controls on this four-door coupe.

The engine in the Passat CC is a 3.6 litre six cylinder delivering 220 kW at 6,600 rpm.

It develops maximum torque of 350Nm from 2,400 rpm and accelerates the four-door coupe to 100 km/h in just 5.6 seconds. The Passat CC V6 is offered with the latest generation of 4Motion full-time all wheel drive and is shifted via the automated DSG dual clutch transmission.

The Passat CC has a RRP of $88,990.

News: New look Holden Barina now in New Zealand

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Holden New Zealand continues its competitive push into the value end of the light car market with a fresh new look and feel for the Barina 3-door and 5-door hatchbacks, plus the addition of side impact airbags across the range.

Starting from $16,990, the upgraded Holden Barina hatchbacks, boasts a 1.6 litre powertrain and refreshed exterior and interior styling.

Most notably, the Barina 3-door and 5-door hatchbacks have been given a strong Euro-styled front and rear end treatments.

Inside, the interior is significantly upgraded and features an updated instrument panel, console and new fabric trim.

From a safety perspective, all Barina models receive ABS and driver, front passenger and side impact airbags as standard.

The Barina hatchbacks also get a cleverly packaged interior characterised by the new instrument panel which features a matt chrome-trimmed four-circle instrument cluster.

The Barina range improves occupant safety with the inclusion of side impact airbags for driver and front passenger, which extend upwards to provide head as well as thorax protection and complement the driver and front passenger airbags already standard.

Barina is powered by a 1.6 litre DOHC multi-point fuel injected engine that produces 76kW of peak power at 5800rpm and develops peak torque of 145Nm at 3600rpm.

The 16-valve 1.6 litre powerplant returns 7.0 litres per 100 kilometres (manual transmission) and 7.6 litres/100 kilometres (automatic).

Ventilated front disc brakes are standard with alloy wheels and four-channel ABS braking system.

Holden Barina recommended retail pricing (excluding ORC)

3-Door Hatch              $16,990           (manual transmission)
3-Door Hatch              $18,690           (automatic transmission)
5-Door Hatch              $18,990           (manual transmission)
5-Door Hatch              $20,690           (automatic transmission)

News: Revised Citroen C5 landing in New Zealand showrooms in September

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The new Citroen C5 will make its New Zealand show room debut on Saturday 6 September, providing the French car maker with a replacement for the model that started Citroen’s renaissance and which has proven to be a benchmark for comfort, safety and diesel performance.

The Citroen C5 paved the way for the success of the Citroen C3, C4 and C4 Picasso, as well as providing a show case for Citroen technology in a wide range of areas, from safety to suspension and advanced engine technology. Until the arrival of the Citroen C6, the Citroen C5 also maintained Citroen’s reputation for luxurious large sedans that could cross continents in supreme comfort.

Available as sedan and, in the form of the Citroen C5 Tourer, a wagon that continues Citroen’s long running history of large, capacious estate cars, the new C5 is an all new car that boasts a strong styling statement and a long list of advanced equipment and features, including the legendary hydropneumatic suspension in its latest form, Hydractive 3+, that has made Citroen a byword for ride comfort.

With diesel power playing a dominant role in the existing Citroen C5 — some 85 per cent of C5 sedans and estates sold in New Zealand are Turbo Diesel — the new car will further extend its diesel share with a six cylinder diesel available for the first time in the C5. The 150 kW 440 Nm 2.7 litre Twin Turbo V6 was first seen in the Citroen C6 and is now set offer a new level of diesel ability in the new C5 when it arrives in September.

“Our plan was to launch the new C5 in October,” explains Lawrie Malatios, General Manager for Citroen in New Zealand, “but we have managed to have our first installment of production earlier than planned and this has enabled us to pull forward our launch by more than six weeks. The new Citroen C5 has been warmly welcomed in Europe as a significant advance on the existing car and offering new levels of performance and economy in a stunning new body, so we expect it to be another success for Citroen in New Zealand.”

Prices and specifications for the new Citroen C5 will be announced when it goes on sale in New Zealand on Saturday 6 September 2008.

News: Volkswagen Caddy adds interesting roof feature

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Among the display of leisure vehicles and campers on the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles stand at Europe’s largest recreational vehicle show that starts in Düsseldorf, Germany this weekend will be an interesting Caddy Topos Sail design concept which takes its nautical theme to the extreme of having a wooden boat deck on its roof.

The Caddy Topos Sail design concept, based on the smallest model in the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicle van range, uses design cues from classic yachts and has its multi-functional roof covered with wooden decking surrounded by aluminium roof rails.

The wooden sun deck on the roof is accessed via four matching wooden and aluminium steps in the Caddy’s tailgate, and to complete the design theme there are wooden inserts along the side of the vehicle and in the rear bumper.

Road Tests / Car Reviews: Volvo C30 S 2.4 2008 Review

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The last time I bought something from IKEA I was very disappointed. Not only did the bookshelf for my ever expanding library of car magazines (I tell my fiancee it’s for research) fall apart after a month, it didn’t look cool, which is what I thought smart Swedish design was supposed to do – be both well-constructed and aesthetically pleasing.

Unlike my furniture misadventure, the new Volvo C30 looks like it might be able to deliver on that promise.

The design inspiration for the C30 comes from the classic form of the Volvo P1800 ES, which was a station wagon version of the P1800 coupe. The P1800 coupe was the car that featured in the 1960s TV series The Saint which starred Roger Moore in his pre-Bond days.

Just like the old P1800, the C30 is a very stylish piece of design and takes several cues from the original.

The glass hatch at the back is one such feature, but in this case form rules function. The cargo space itself is not too bad, but the aperture is strangely shaped and makes putting large items in the back a bit ‘square peg in a round hole’. It will fit bags of groceries no worries, but you won’t fit big boxes or other bulky items in. The detachable boot blind in the back helps to reduce the paranoia of theft, but also makes putting tall items in the boot a bit of a pain.

The wide hips of the C30 pay tribute to the fins on the P1800 and give the car a very seductive look.

The side windows also play on the classic P1800 theme but they don’t do rearward visibility any favours, creating quite thick C-pillars that make parking a bit difficult.

These features aside the C30 follows the Volvo corporate look closely with the same front and rear treatments (especially in the lights) as the rest of the Swedish car-maker’s range.

Being a dark grey, the cabin of our base model test car is a little drab but the seats are very comfortable and the ‘floating’ silver centre console adds a spark of colour.

Interior architecture is neat and feels as solid as any Audi or BMW but without the flash.

The pictorial buttons for the climate control system are unique to Volvo and a great idea as well as being very easy to use. These are incorporated with the stereo controls on the floating console which has enough space behind it for wallets and phones.

Overall the interior is well-designed and purposeful with a feeling of solidity that runs right through to the driving experience.

Driving the C30 it feels incredibly stable, dense even, a feeling as unexpected as picking up a small piece of gold and discovering how weighty it is. It is a smallish car but at 1429kg it’s no lightweight, but this weight does play a role in making the car feel planted when driving.

Making your way at speed on patchy back-roads the Volvo is very composed and absorbs bumps with ease, gliding over New Zealand’s typically rough and undulating blacktop almost like a luxury saloon but without the wallow and roll associated with softly sprung large cars.

Push the Volvo into a fast corner and all you will find is a very safe form of understeer to curb your enthusiasm. It is a car that feels superglued to the road, very safe and very composed but not that sporty at all.

The 2.4-litre, 5-cylinder engine is very linear in its delivery and develops moderate power, but never enough to push you back into the seat. It sounds good too, with an off-beat idle that really starts to growl when you push it hard. The automatic transmission is a very smooth bit of gear that shifts firmly and lets you wind the engine to the redline without interfering by changing up early.

The C30 has sporting pretentions, by how it looks and the growly 5-pot, but it doesn’t deliver a proper sporting drive. With this in mind there is a hotter turbocharged T5 version of the C30 that uses the same engine as the Focus XR5 and could be the one to go for if sporty hatches are your thing

At $44,990 for the base S model (as tested), it is not cheap but it is a quality piece with Euro flair that will appeal to those more interested in looking good around town rather than a driver’s car.

Click through to the next page for full specs on the Volvo C30 S.

Price: from $44,990 (as tested).

What we like

  • Styling
  • Feeling of solidity when driving
  • Interior quality
  • Growly engine

What we don’t like

  • Perhaps a bit pricey
  • Bit drab inside
  • If you want overtaking power, buy the turbo version (or a Focus XR5)

Volvo C30 S 2.4i (125 kW)
Engine Type: Five-cylinder petrol
Power Train: Front wheel drive
Number of cylinders: 5
Engine Displacement: 2435 cc
Engine Bore: 83 mm
Engine Stroke: 90 mm
Max Engine Power: 125 kW@6000 rpm
Torque: 230 Nm@4400 rpm
Fuel type: Petrol
Acceleration (0-100) Five-speed Geartronic transmission: 8.8 s
Fuel consumption (city): 13.1 l/100km
Fuel consumption (highway): 6.6 l/100km
Fuel consumption (mixed): 9 l/100km
Emissions CO2: 214 g/km

Capacity
Fuel Capacity 62 l
Cargo Capacity 233 kg
Towing Capacity 1500 kg

Exterior dimensions
Height 1447 mm
Length 4252 mm
Width 1782 mm
Width inc Mirrors 2039 mm
Wheel base 2640 mm
Track Front 1548 mm
Track Rear 1544 mm
Turning Circle 11.1 m

Interior dimensions
Head Room Front 988 mm
Head Room Rear 959 mm
Shoulder Room Front 1390 mm
Shoulder Room Rear 1303 mm
Leg Room Front 1057 mm
Leg Room Rear 869 mm
Hip Room Front 1380 mm
Hip Room Rear 1146 mm

Words Ben Dillon, photos Darren Cottingham