News: Volvo XC60 on sale now in the UK. New Zealand to wait


Volvo in the UK has announced full technical and specification details for the new XC60 crossover which arrives in dealer showrooms over there in Spring.

The new Volvo XC60 launches with three engine variants – two diesels and one petrol.  Six speed manual transmission is standard on both the 2.4D and D5 turbo diesel powerplants with six speed Geartronic available, while the high performance T6 petrol engine is available in six speed Geartronic guise only.

The frugal 163PS 2.4D and 185PS D5 variants with manual transmission both deliver 7.5L/100km on a combined cycle with CO2 emissions of 199g/km.  Joining the manual in VED band F is the Geartronic version, at 219g/km.  The popular D5 diesel engine generates 400Nm torque at 2000-2750rpm, while the entry level 2.4D offers 340Nm torque at 1750-2750rpm.  The 285PS T6 petrol is capable of a top speed of 215km/h and offers a brisk 0 to 100 performance of 7.1 seconds, while delivering 400Nm torque from 1500 to 4800rpm. Fuel consumption is 12L/100km with CO2 emissions of 284g/km.

With three trim levels, S, SE and SE Lux, available, the entry-level S model comes with all the high quality features you would expect from Volvo including front fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails and rear spoiler; while interior details include electronic climate control, information centre, cruise control, leather steering wheel with remote audio controls, brushed aluminium trim and a performance sound audio system with aux input and CD player. The award winning Volvo City Safety technology is joined by a full suite of standard safety equipment including RSC (Roll Stability Control), ROPS (Roll Over Protection System) and WHIPS (Whiplash Protection System).

The SE specification enhances equipment levels with the addition of Hill Descent Control, electric driver’s seat with three memory functions and Autofolding power door mirrors with ground lights. Added luxury also includes Eriksberg T-Tec/Textile upholstery and autodimming rear view mirrors with compass and chrome window trim.

The SE Lux is the ultimate in Swedish luxury, featuring chronographic instrument dials, leather upholstery, Nordic Light Oak natural wood trim and both front seats are both powered and heated. Further enhancements include luxury floor mats and chrome detailing. 18-inch alloy wheels, active bending headlamps, power tailgate and rear park assist are also all standard.

The Volvo XC60 will be available in 13 different exterior colours including the new Terra Bronze and Lime Grass Green metallic and the interior benefits from the finest materials and superb stitching to give a high quality finish. Upholstery includes Lomma textile available in S models, Eriksberg T-Tec/Textile in SE specifications and leather-faced in the top of the range SE Lux. Colours include Off-Black and Soft Beige, while those opting for leather-faced will have the choice of Off-Black with the new striking Lemon Green and Soft Beige with Espresso Brown. To complement the interior themes, three inlays are available to choose from including Brushed Aluminium, Classic Wood and Nordic Light Oak.

Volvo’s popular option packages are also available, including the Communications, Family and Winter Packs, plus the new Driver Support Pack which includes a host of Volvo’s safety aids including BLIS (Blind Sport Information System), ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control) and LDW (Lane Departure Warning).

No word as yet from Volvo NZ about when the XC60 will arrive here, but if you want to have a look at specs and colour visit The configuration tool allows customers to build and price a vehicle to their personal choice of engine, trim level, colour, upholstery and options

News: Fiat 500 gets the green nod at the What Car? Green Awards


The award-winning Fiat 500 supermini has received further confirmation of its green credentials after scooping top honours for its 1.2 Pop version in the Green Supermini category of the What Car? Green Awards in London.

The awards, which took place at the British International Motor Show, were designed to highlight and recognise the UK motor industry’s most economical and environmentally-friendly cars.

The Fiat 500 is currently Car of the Year 2008 and has won a host of other accolades including CAR Magazine Car of the Year, Fifth Gear SmallCar of the Year, EuroCarBody 2007 and Auto Europa 2008.

Commenting on the latest honour, Steve Fowler, editor-in-chief of What Car? says: “The Fiat 500 is the perfect green city car. It’s small, chic and, with an efficient petrol engine, it’s low on CO2 and equally harmful local pollutants.”

Available in New Zealand with a choice of three frugal, ultra-low emissions, Euro 5-ready engines: 69 bhp 1.2-litre and 100 bhp 1.4-litre petrol, or 75 bhp 1.3-litre MultiJet turbodiesel, the new Fiat 500 can be ordered in three different trim levels — Pop, Sport and Lounge.

With a starting price of just $26,990, the new Fiat 500 represents outstanding value for money and positions the car well below its benchmark rivals. At the top end of the range, a highly specified version with a larger engine costs only $31,990 — a price that includes air conditioning and alloy wheels as standard.

Stay tuned to Car and SUV as we will be bring you a full review on the Fiat 500 very soon.

Honda: Honda Accord VS V6 Mugen 2008 Review


If, like me, you purchased your first car in the early or mid-1990s then there’s a good chance you will have lusted over the Japanese rockets that started coming into New Zealand cheap at around that time. Mazda Familia GTR and RX-7, Nissan Skyline and Silvia, Subaru Impreza and Legacy, and Mitsubishi Evo satisfied the rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive market.

If you were a fan of front-wheel drive and VTEC, though, it was the Integra Type R, the CRX and the Civic Type R that would have caught your attention. Many of these arrived in New Zealand with a Mugen sticker somewhere on the flank, or hidden on a piece of body kit.

What we have here is the grownup’s version of those iconic cars. With an ostentatious body kit — some of it is carbon fibre — this Accord V6 Mugen allows people of my generation who now hold corporate jobs to have a sensible, businesslike car while recapturing some of that mid-90s, ‘clear taillight’ flavour.

It sports 18-inch wheels, but going up an inch in size would fill the arches better because the body kit gives the car a very inflated presence near the ground, with its sculpted lip and angular rear skirt that houses the quad tailpipes.

A car like this shouldn’t be all show and no go, so there’s a 3.5-litre i-VTEC V6 engine on tap. Does the i-VTEC scream like a real VTEC should? Those expecting a VTEC howl and the ability to wrap it around to an 8000rpm redline will be disappointed — the Accord tops out at around 6800rpm, and judicious use of your right foot liberates a smooth V6 roar.

The engine has variable cylinder management and there’s a small green Eco notification in the instrumentation cluster to encourage you to use it by reminding you when you’re being a lead foot. For moderate cruising, deceleration and low engine loads just three cylinders operate, giving an effective engine capacity of 1.75l. Under mild-to-moderate acceleration, and mild gradients four of the cylinders work (two from each bank.) Only when you bury the throttle pedal into the carpet and require the all of the urge of the engine will it fire up the other two cylinders.

What this means is a fuel consumption figure more like that of a 2.4-litre four cylinder (like, for example, Honda’s CRV). At just 10l/100km, it saves approximately 17 per cent over the previous version.

The auto gearbox has a sport mode with paddles behind the steering wheel. 202kW and 339Nm is released from the six cylinders and sweeps you towards 100kph in an almost seamless seven-second surge of acceleration. Using the paddle shifters the enthusiastic driver can ensure the Accord is in the correct gear for exiting a corner, even while in D-mode. Move the gear lever to S-mode and it’s the paddles all the way.

Gear Logic is always assessing the conditions and attempts to match gears to the requirements of gradient, cornering and acceleration — for example, it will hold a lower gear while coasting downhill, and will attempt to anticipate when you need acceleration out of a corner. While this type of system will never be absolutely perfect, it’s better than nothing at all, and with the backup of the paddles, it makes for a more dynamic drive.

However, what slightly spoils the drive is the steering feel. The steering is so light it actually makes driving on rough roads harder — it means you have to have more control over your arms because slight bumps on the road can inadvertently cause you to steer. It is so light that it feels like the tyres have three times too much pressure in them and that you’re driving on wet grass.

Inside the Accord is comfortable, but this base model has velour seat fabric — best get the next model up as I would imagine that come trade-in time that the leather would be more desirable.

As well as the less-than-desirable fabric, there are no reversing sensors, but the rest of the interior is more than adequate. There’s a sizeable glovebox, a large central binnacle with removable tray, and other places to store items. Instrumentation is easy to read, and there’s a large screen in the centre of the dash that displays additional setup parameters and functions (though not that many additional functions). It’s a long car and that means lots of legroom for rear seat passengers.

All passengers can be immersed in music assisted by the subwoofer that gives a nice kick to the beat (in case you want to relive some of those ‘techno’ moments).

The boot floor isn’t flat — it tapers away in a channel towards the lockable ski hatch — stuff rolls down here and it’s the furthest away from the boot aperture. Short people would find it hard to reach far enough in without actually climbing into the boot.

It’s an executive sports car that’s missing some important features. There are some significant omissions in the spec department in VS trim therefore I would expect most purchasers would plump for the leather seats, xenon headlights and rain-sensing wipers that come with the VL and VN models for $57,000 or $60,000 respectively.

It’s the technology that’s more impressive, though, and perhaps that’s worth the money. With 15 years of automotive experience since my first hot Japanese car (a Subaru Legacy RS-RA), I can now look back with fond memories while I look to the future and all the engine technology that will gradually filter down to other models, with Honda leading the way.

Price: from $52,500

What we like

  • Nice engine tone
    Smooth and sleek

What we don’t like

  • Steering is far too light
  • Missing critical pieces of kit for a car at this price point (trip computer, leather seats), so with all that hidden engine technology, it’s could be perceived as a bit pricey

Honda Accord VS V6 Mugen Specifications

Engine 3.5-litre 24-valve SOHC i-VTEC VCM
Maximum Power 202kW @ 6200rpm
Maximum Torque 340Nm @ 5000rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic transmission with Gear Logic Control
Front Suspension Double wishbone with stabiliser bar
Rear Suspension Multi-link with stabiliser bar
Wheels 17″ x 7.5″ 7-spoke alloy wheels
(For VS, VS Sport, VL, VL Sport, VN and VN Sport)

18″ x 7.0″ 7-spoke alloy wheels
(For VS Mugen, VL Mugen and VN Mugen)

Full size spare alloy wheel under floor.

Tyres 225/50 R17 (for 17″)
225/45 R18 (for 18″)
Vehicle Stability System Electronic Stability Control (VSA) incorporating Traction Control
Braking System ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), EBA (Emergency Brake Assist) and EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution)
Front-ventilated discs 300mm. Rear solid discs 282mm
Overall Length (mm) 4945
Overall Width (mm) 1845
Overall Height (mm) 1475
Wheelbase (mm) 2800
Track – Front/Rear (mm) 1580/1580
Ground Clearance (mm) 146
Front head room (mm – 991 with sunroof) 1051
Front leg room (mm) 1079
Front shoulder room (mm) 1479
Front hip room (mm) 1438
Rear head room (mm) 978
Rear leg room (mm) 944
Rear shoulder room (mm) 1432
Rear hip room (mm) 1379
Interior width (mm) 1542
Kerb Weight
(kg-VS/VL and VN)
Seating Capacity 5
Boot Capacity (VDA litres) 450
Turning Circle (metres) 11.5
Maximum warrantable towing weight (kg) 1500
Tank Capacity (litres) 70 litre
Recommended Fuel 91 Octane fuel
Emissions Control LEV II (Low Emission Vehicle) emissions control and Euro IV international standards
ADR 81/01 Combined Consumption 10.0 L/100kms
Optimal NZ drive test Auckland-Taupo-Auckland 7.5 L/100kms
Fuel Saver Infomation
Make and Model: Honda Accord V6 / V6L / V6LN
Star Rating: 3½ stars out of 6

Words and photos Darren Cottingham

Blogs: Fiat 500 – first impressions

Metrosexuals and fashionable women have universally decreed the Fiat 500 as cooler than frostbite. That’s because they haven’t driven it. I will admit that it has a funky interior, and from the front it’s ‘cute’-ish. However, from the back it looks like a melting snowman, which isn’t cool.

Also, the ride is choppy and jiggly, the gear lever collar traps your fingers (Ben Dillon, fellow scribe complained of the same), and the driving position isn’t spectacular. But, women and guys in touch with their feminine side don’t care about those things; they just want a car that’s trendy on the inside, and easy to park on Ponsonby Rd to go for a frappemochaccino with Fifi the Maltese-cross. Therefore the Fiat 500 should sell as well as botox treatments.

News: Subaru Legacy gets a diesel boxer


Subaru has unveiled the Saloon version of its critically acclaimed new Boxer Diesel Legacy in the UK.

Launched earlier in the year in the Legacy Sports Tourer and Outback, the world’s first boxer-diesel-engine for a passenger car offers outstanding refinement, throttle response and fuel economy coupled with class-leading ultra-low emissions.

Also exceptional is the new Boxer Diesel Legacy’s handling thanks to the engine’s light weight and low centre-of-gravity afforded by its horizontally-opposed cylinder layout.
The 150 PS Boxer Diesel Legacy Saloon boasts the best fuel efficiency in the 4WD passenger car class — and the lowest exhaust emissions. In fact, the new Legacy 2.0D Saloon returns 5.6 L/100km on the Combined Cycle with only 148 g/km of CO2.
Nor are these figures achieved at the expense of performance. The Boxer Diesel Legacy Saloon has a 215km/h top speed and 0-100km/h time of only 8.3 seconds.

Refinement is also a Boxer Diesel strongpoint, with official moving sound levels of 70.5 dB (A). Even a Rolls-Royce Phantom is higher at 72.0 dB (A).

The new Boxer Diesel provides class-challenging performance thanks to 150 PS at an ultra-low 3,600 rpm and a massive 350Nm torque at an accessible 1,800 rpm.

With a ‘square’ bore and stroke of 86 mm and 16.3:1 compression ratio, the world’s first Boxer Diesel provides effortless performance throughout a wide speed range, avoiding the breathless response of some diesels at high revs.

News: Nissan runs fuel-cell vehicle around the Nurburgring


Lap runs on the Nürburgring Nordschleife in Germany’s Eifel region are often cancelled due to rain. But the wet weather didn’t stop Nissan from taking its X-Trail fuel cell vehicle for a spin on the course recently, making Nissan the first automaker to record an FCV lap on the famous race track.

Frank Eickholt, member of the Nissan 24 Hours Nürburgring race team and Nordschleife aficionado, skilfully steered the 1.3 million euro prototype through ‘The Green Hell’ — as the course is often referred to — on standard street tyres. And although the 20.8 kilometre-long course was consistently wet — making it difficult to drive aggressively — Eickholt was thoroughly impressed with the X-Trail FCV which clocked in at 11:58 minutes.

“I was very surprised at just how comfortable it is to drive a fuel cell car. You get in, turn the key and off you go, just like with a normal car,” said Eickholt.

“Although some of the uphill sections were challenging, the speed was still very impressive. If the course hadn’t been so wet, I could have gotten more momentum out of the curves. Thirty to 40 seconds could have been shaved off for sure,” he added.

The five-seater X-Trail FCV is a zero-emission electric vehicle that runs in near silence. It is powered by electricity produced on board the vehicle, in a hydrogen fuel cell stack. Electricity is generated following an electro-chemical reaction between hydrogen — which is stored at 700 bar (10290 PSI) in a purpose-designed high-pressure tank — and oxygen. The only by-product is water vapour.

This electric current is channelled through an inverter to drive a powerful motor in the front of the car. The X-Trail FCV, which has been undergoing real-world trials in Japan and California since 2006, has an official top speed of 150 km/h and a range of 500 km. Maximum power is 90kW (120PS) while maximum torque is 280Nm.

It also features the latest in battery technology: a Nissan-designed compact lithium-ion battery with thin laminated cells. The Li-Ion battery is used to start the vehicle and to boost power under acceleration. Kinetic energy created under deceleration is captured and stored in the battery for future use.

Still in the early stages of development, Nissan is currently working to improve durability of the FCV componentry; to find a breakthrough in hydrogen storage systems; and to reduce the cost of the technology. The company hopes to see fuel cell vehicles in series production by 2015.

The X-Trail FCV is part of the Nissan Green Program 2010, Nissan’s midterm environmental strategy which is aimed at reducing CO2 emissions from the company’s products and activities around the world, as well as reducing other exhaust emissions and increasing recycling.

News: New Ford Fiesta ECO special


There is big demand in the UK for ‘low emission vehicles’ as at the moment these types of vehicles enjoy generous tax benefits by being less polluting.

Ford has put it’s hand up with the new Fiesta ECOnetic, which claims ultra low emissions of carbon-dioxide.

View the press release below.

The Fiesta ECOnetic becomes the most fuel efficient new five-seater family car in the UK.  With CO2 emissions at under 100g/km, Ford Fiesta ECOnetic is zero rated both for road tax (Vehicle Excise Duty) and for the ‘showroom tax’ element of VED introduced for the first year of ownership in this year’s Budget.

Aerodynamic body styling, lowered suspension, low resistance tyres and low friction oil all help the Ford Fiesta ECOnetic achieve ultra low CO2 emissions.  Additionally a green shift indicator in the instrument cluster highlights the optimal point to change gear to maximise fuel economy.

Roelant de Waard, Ford of Britain chairman and managing director, said:  “Many drivers are prepared to be green – but still want comfort, performance and an affordable price.  ECOnetic answers that demand.

“Ford’s ECOnetic range, complete with new Fiesta, delivers style with a green conscience.”

Fiesta ECOnetic — what’s different?

* Aerodynamic  rear air deflectors
* Lowered suspension
* Optimised rolling resistance tyres (175/65R14) and low friction oil
* Green shift indicator light
* Modified engine calibration
* Transmission final drive ratio changed from 3.37 to 3.05

Blogs: We get fatter, cars get bigger

Sitting in the Car and SUV fleet at the moment is a Ford Focus stationwagon. The Focus sits below the Mondeo in the range, but I swear that if you took a Mondeo stationwagon from 10 years ago, this new Focus is as big. Take the new Mini – it’s gargantuan compared to the original Mini, which you could park easily in any space longer in centimetres than a Labour politician’s IQ. Every time a new car comes out it has more shoulder room, more leg room, more height (and usually more weight). Even rally cars like the Subaru Impreza WRX STI aren’t immune. And the Mark V VW Golf GTI is now a bloated mass of automotive flab compared to Mark I.

Why is this? Well, part of it is to do with crumple zones, safety, and so on. But, I genuinely believe (though manufacturers will probably never admit it), that it’s because insanely large amounts of our population are volumetrically inefficient (that’s a technical term for overweight). Because car manufacturers have to cater to the average size (which is increasing), they don’t want their vehicles to be perceived as cramped.

The only car that seems to have downsized is the Hummer – the original H1 was so wide it straddled time zones; the H3 fits in my garage (even the Land Rover Defender couldn’t manage that, which I found out the hard way…oops!)