News: Catalytic converter theft on the rise in the UK


Criminal gangs across the UK are stealing catalytic converters from vehicles at an increasing rate.  The precious metal content (usually platinum) fetches around £100 (NZ$270) for just a few minutes’ work.  Previously there was no way of identifying one converter from another, so thieves ran a low risk of being charged, even if caught.

Retainagroup, the car security marking and registration systems specialist, is working with Ford to provide a simple yet effective method of permanently marking catalytic converters to give them a unique identity.

Each mark, applied to the casing of the catalytic converter, comprises a logo (the manufacturer’s or Retainagroup’s International Security Register), a unique seven-digit code and a 24-hour telephone number.  Once the mark has been applied, the unique code is recorded with vehicle and owner details on the register and can be verified immediately at any time, day or night, 365 days per year.  The service is free except for the cost of the call and means that thieves stealing a marked and registered converter will put themselves at risk of being apprehended and charged.

Paul Lambotte, Head of Unit for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (AVCIS) said: “The theft of catalytic converters has become an increasing problem for vehicle owners. This crime disables the vehicle and has an environmental impact. AVCIS welcomes initiatives, such as catalytic converter marking, that enable the identification of stolen goods that are found in criminals’ possession.”

Blogs: Paradigm shift – Fiat 500 to Toyota Land Cruiser

We’ve gone from one of the smallest cars to one of the biggest. The Fiat 500 has been replaced with a Toyota Land Cruiser. It’s like replacing a hamster with an elephant. Sure, they’re both mammals, but one of them hits a bit heavier (and consumes more food).

The Land Cruiser is bound to receive some unwanted attention from cyclists who will bemoan its gargantuan size. (I’m not even going to try to fit it in the garage.) What I will do, though, is explain that it’s far better than cycling because a) it’s comfortable and warm; and b) I don’t have to breathe the fumes of other people in big diesel V8 SUVs.

Oh yeah, it’s also got this wicked satellite navigation so I don’t have to pull over to the side of the road, get a map out of my backpack and stand there shivering in the winter’s air like I would if I was on a bike. Today was a day of more stormy weather, a landslide in Torbay, a tornado down-country. So, I may be driving an ‘elephant’, but compared to all those people walking and cycling, who’s the Dumbo?

News: New Ford Ka to share Fiat 500 underpinnings


Ford has the new Ka coming soon and some people just can’t wait to see it. The new Ka is set to be produced alongside the Fiat 500 and Panda (which is unavailable in NZ) in Poland and will also have a cameo in the new Bond film ‘Quantum of Solace’.

Engine line-ups will include 1.4 and 1.6 litre petrol engines and 1.6 litre diesel with the possibility of the turbo 1.4 from the 500 Abarth added at a latter date.

Interesting to see the wheels are carrying the Focus/Mondeo ‘XR’ styling theme. Ford Sport Ka anyone?

News: AC Schnitzer rocks the BMW X6


AC Schnitzer has been a BMW fiddler for a long time now with subtle mods on most models over the years.

This AC modified X6 is something else though with huge 22-inch wheels and a flared body-kit coupled with a lower ride height thanks to a set of Nurburgring spec AC springs.

With the X6 it is a matter of taste, but if this goes as good as it looks, we will be very happy.

News: Volvo New Zealand considering R-Design upgrades for local cars


Volvo is currently evaluating the demand for its R-Design models with the arrival of a V50 AWD which is touring the country.

The R-Design upgrade is available on the C30 T5, S40 AWD and V50 AWD models and adds only $3500 to the cost of the vehicle.

“It’s a great value for money package,” said Mark Patterson, the General Manager of Volvo Cars. “R-Design is a comprehensive design package that accentuates the sporting capabilities of each vehicle.”

The R-Design kit includes:

* Unique front and rear spoilers and side skirting
* 17 inch Serapis Alloy wheels
* R-Design decals
* R-Design Instruments
* Milled alloy dashboard inlays
* White edged carpet mats
* Brushed aluminium sports pedals
* Unique front grille
* Unique instrument panel
* Alloy or leather steering wheel
* Alloy or leather gear knob
* R-Design trimmed upholstery

News: New Honda Jazz release scheduled for late 2008


Honda will follow-up one of the most successful models in supermini history when its all-new Jazz goes on sale this Spring.

By enhancing its strongest qualities, Honda engineers have taken the innovative design and versatility of the current Jazz to the next stage. Greater flexibility, more interior space and lively, but economical engines raise the bar even further in a class that’s struggled to match the Jazz for customer satisfaction and reliability.

And the famous Honda Magic Seats are back — but now they dive down in one action, making carrying large loads even easier. Their versatility is equalled by a new Double-Trunk boot feature in the luggage bay that can be configured in four ways to accommodate different-sized loads. Total luggage space in 1.4 models (with Double Trunk) now measures 399 litres (VDA) — greater than some MPVs and bettering all in the B-sector.

Two new, low emission petrol engines are designed to appeal to customers who might be downsizing, as well as those looking to achieve fuel economy comparable to diesel models. Adopting Honda’s i-VTEC variable valve timing technology, the 90PS 1.2-litre and 100PS 1.4-litre engines deliver lively performance with exceptional economy.

The 1.2-litre engine achieves an exceptional 5.1L/100km (combined), while CO2 emissions are also improved, at 120g/km. It’s a similar story with the new 1.4-litre engine. Compared to the previous i-DSI unit which produced 83 PS and 119Nm, power is up to 100PS and torque is 127Nm with fuel economy from 5.2L/100km (combined) for the manual model. CO2 exhaust emissions are as low as 123g/km.

There’s also the option of Honda’s next-generation 6-speed i-SHIFT automated manual transmission on the 1.4-litre engine — a first in this class. The unit is a development of the system first fitted to the Civic, with improvements made including; reduced gear change times, smoother shifts and more intelligent automatic mode shift logic.

The new SIL (Shift Indicator Light) fitted to manual models, similar to that found on the new Accord, provides a visual prompt of the best gear shift points to maximise economy.

Ride comfort has been much improved through a number of suspension revisions, which contribute to the ‘big car feel’ of the new Jazz. Meanwhile, a longer wheelbase (by 50mm) and wider front track (by 35mm) give the car greater agility. Honda’s stability assist, VSA, is now available across the range.

Stopping ability has been increased with larger brake front callipers, and the brake pedal has been tweaked to improve feel. Front ventilated discs and rear discs are matched with ABS, EBD and Brake Assist.

The overall height of Jazz remains the same (1,525mm) but the length of the car has increased slightly by 55mm (to 3,900mm) and it is also slightly wider, by 20mm (to 1,695mm).

Getting in and out is now much easier, thanks to wider-opening rear doors which open in three steps — just like their front counterparts — for added convenience in tight parking spots.

Once inside, the cabin is now even more spacious for driver and passengers, with greater headroom and an improved driving position.

The slightly increased exterior length and width have helped improve passenger space, as has the ‘pushing forward’ of the windscreen. Rear seat passengers now have 37mm greater kneeroom, while the distance between front and rear passengers is up by 30mm. The slightly wider body also means shoulder room increases by 44mm in the front and 43mm in the rear.

Visibility gets a considerable boost, too. Reduced width A-pillars, a larger windscreen and quarter windows three times the size of those in the previous model make for more relaxed driving, while retractable rear headrests ensure the view out of the rear window is now totally unobscured.

Increasing the feeling of spaciousness and freedom, EX models are equipped with a panorama roof that extends over the rear seats for an expansive sky view. Heat absorbing glass and a power sun shade ensure a comfortable cabin environment.

Elsewhere, high quality materials, stylish design and tasteful colours give the cabin an upmarket feel. More comfortable front seats have been fitted, along with a height adjustable driver’s seat and a steering wheel that’s adjustable for reach and rake on 1.4 models.

A single CD/radio is integrated into the fascia, offering MP3/WMA playback and speed-dependent volume adjustment. In 1.4 EX models, a USB adapter is located in the centre console storage box, which enables fifth generation iPods and a variety of other portable music devices to be played via the Jazz’s audio system.

The new Jazz benefits from Honda’s ACE body structure, a concept that is being progressively rolled out across the Honda range. In particular a front polygonal main frame helps to prevent misalignment between vehicles of different sizes and construction and multiple energy absorbing pathways disperse impact energy to prevent cabin deformation.

Dual front and side airbags are standard on all models, as are full length side curtain airbags and three-point seatbelts in all five seating positions (those in the front have dual-stage pretensioners). The front passenger airbag can also be deactivated to allow a rear facing child seat to be fitted to the front seat and for the first time Jazz is equipped with seatbelt reminders for both the front and rear seats. Front seats are also fitted with active headrests to minimise the potential for whiplash injuries.

Ford: Ford Focus 1.6L Wagon 2008 Review


If you are a spy and want to get around unnoticed (yes spying is about NOT being seen, James) then the Ford Focus Wagon is for you. This car is stealthy. This car is so stealthy that when it first came to the Car and SUV offices, I couldn’t see it.

“The new Focus is here” announced Editor Cottingham. I looked out the window. “Where?” I asked. “Between the Civic and the MINI” came the reply.
At first all I could see was an empty space, but as I squinted toward the place where a car should be, a form suddenly materialised in front of my eyes like a tiger suddenly jumping out of the bush.
It is probably the unremarkable styling and the dark colour that helped to mask the car from view, as during my time with the Focus I completely walked past it in a car park; three times.
I wasn’t the only who had problems finding the car. Other people in the Car office also had trouble seeing it in the car park. “Where’s Ben? His car isn’t…oh there it is”

The Russians would have won the Cold War if they’d had this kind of technology.

The Focus seems a lot larger than its predecessor. It’s amazing to see the change in vehicle sizes over the last ten years.
All the small cars (Focus, Civic et al.) have become medium sized and the mid-size cars have become super-sized. Hell, the Mondeo I am driving feels as big as an early 90’s Falcon.

This increase in size is a good thing because it means you have a small-ish car, with minimal overhangs that is easy to drive, has good visibility and is easy to park. It can also fit a lot of stuff in when you go camping, shopping or when making a mad border-dash with the back chock-full of Bollinger and Eastern bloc women with funny names who may try to kill you.
However with a bigger car you need more power to pull it and if the stealth of the Focus ever failed, and Bond was found out, the two mice under the bonnet would have their work cut out for them in a high speed pursuit.

The lackluster 1.6 litre engine as tested is quite torpid and not suited to an automatic transmission. With this combination it is no surprise that the Focus is tardy. It would be a much better proposition with the Duratorq turbo-diesel and manual transmission. The diesel combo is a little more expensive but it’s not only more powerful, it uses less fuel.

Fuel consumption in the Focus is a bit thirsty for its size with a combined 8.4 L/100km. This could however stem from the fact that you need to drive it hard to get up to speed which is where the diesel would again be the better option.

The driving experience is fine if you take the engine out of the equation (again, a more powerful engine would be better) as the Focus handles well and has an excellent ride compromise between comfort and (semi) performance. Luckily the stealth factor is not present when driving and people can actually see you.

It has a huge amount of space in the back to put things (hindered only by the rear seats not folding compleately flat) and the glovebox is roomier than a supermodel’s lunchbox.

The Focus is a very good car for those who need to address practical issues like carting kids, shopping and pets around (boot blinds and dog partitions are available options).
The interior is decent with comfortable seats, good ergonomics and controls that are easy to use and understand. Despite feeling a little upright and flat, I really liked the seats in the Focus as they were comfortable and easy to get in and out of (am I getting old?) and had funky stripes.

The Focus is extremely practical and with the right engine could be a good choice for carrying stuff quite cheaply. You know that it wouldn’t get stolen (stealth factor), but then again you might lose it.

Although Bond would be as likely to drive the Focus as marry Moneypenny and start collecting stamps, it would be the perfect car for him to pick Pussy Galore up in without the missus knowing- ‘Oh James’ indeed!!

Click through to the next page to read the full specs for the Ford Focus 1.6L Wagon

Price: from $26,190 for the hatch and $27,890 for the wagon

What we like

  • Urban stealth
  • Practicality
  • Interior ergonomics and dash
  • Seats

What we don’t like

  • Lifeless engine
  • Interior door plastics cheap

Engine & Transmission


1.6L Wagon Automatic

Engine Type 1.6L Duratec Petrol with 4 Speed Automatic
Cylinders 4
Engine size (cc) 1596
Maximum power (DIN) 74 kW @ 6000 rpm
Maximum torque (DIN) 150 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Combined Fuel Economy: 7.7
CO2 Commissions 184
Euro Stage IV S

Tow Ratings


1.6L Wagon Automatic

Braked 800
Unbraked 600

Transmissions and Ratios


1.6L Wagon Automatic

1st gear ratio 2.82
2nd gear ratio 1.51
3rd gear ratio 1.00
4th gear ratio 0.74
5th gear ratio -
6th gear ratio -
Reverse ratio 2.65
Final drive ratio 4.20

Fuel Consumption Data


1.6L Wagon Automatic

Combined fuel economy (l/100km) 7.7
CO2 Commissions(g/km) 184
Euro IV compliance S
Fuel 91-98 RON (E10 Compatible)

Luggage capacity (litres)


1.6L Wagon Automatic

Rear seat upright 482
Rear seat folded 1525

Fuel Consumption Data


1.6L Wagon Automatic

Combined fuel economy (l/100km) 7.7
CO2 Commissions(g/km) 184
Euro IV compliance S
Fuel 91-98 RON (E10 Compatible)



1.6L Wagon Automatic

Anti-lock Braking System with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution S
Dynamic Stability Control (including Traction Assist & Emergency Brake Assist)7 S
4 wheel disc brakes (ventilated front / solid rear) S
Front (mm) ventilated 278 x 25
Rear (mm) solid 265 x 11
Emergency brake light (Hazard warning light) S



1.6L Wagon Automatic

Hydraulic power-assisted steering S
Minimum turning circle (m) (kerb to kerb)

Words Ben Dillon – Photos Darren Cottingham

Blogs: Alternative fuel hoaxes surprisingly quiet

Oil’s done its stratospheric rise. Now it’s going to seep its way down to around $100 (and probably even $70, which is where the long term uptrend is). But that’s all conjecture and speculation – there’s nothing harder to predict than the future.

So, we should turn our attention to the complete lack of plausible hoaxes for alternative fuel. With oil being so expensive, where are the nutcases coming out of the woodwork with their spaghetti-powered tricycles? Looking into the pasta [sic] we see plenty of patently ludicrous ideas for powering cars – water being the main one, despite the fact that this will most likely violate at least one of the first or second laws of thermodynamics.

Where’s the new stuff? Where is the Russian who has created a nuclear-powered pickup truck? Where’s the hillbilly who claims aliens implanted renewable fuel secrets in his brain the last time he was ‘probed’? Where is the Swedish scientist who runs his Volvo on sweat collected from the saunas of his fair nation? Maybe they’re still out there, but with all the noise and publicity generated by the big car manufacturers and their own alternative fuel wars (hydrogen vs. hybrid vs. biodiesel vs. compressed air, etc), perhaps they’re drowned out. I certainly am not hearing about them! Send me your ideas.