Suzuki Splash 2011 Review

November 11th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

When the Suzuki Swift arrived in NZ it began giving the beat-down in sales numbers to almost every other hatchback in our market. Even the Toyota Corolla struggles to match the Swift’s sales figures. A key reason behind the Swift’s success is its affordability, but for some it’s still not affordable enough. For those folk there is now a second, cheaper Suzuki option. No, not the Alto, a third option then – the Splash.  Suzuki has sandwiched the Splash hatch between the superstar Swift and the entry-point Alto. Priced from $17,990 the Splash undercuts the base model Swift by $2,500 but shares the same platform. While it’s not a brand new model, having been offered in Europe for the past three years, it’s new to NZ. An interesting character for sure, and being marketed as the Swift’s little sister, it’s arrived with big expectations. Car and SUV spent some time with this Swift understudy to discover what sort of sister the Splash really is.

In terms of exterior styling, the Splash isn’t the prettiest member of the Suzuki family but it does have a certain upright appeal. The front is quite fluid with wide-eyed headlights and a trendy split grille but the Splash’s rear is squarer than a Dungeons and Dragons convention. That said, it’s an inoffensive design that borrows glimpses of style from the Swift. Details that give it away as a budget model include the black plastic door handles and side mirrors and also the 15-inch steel wheels – but the silver wheel covers match up nicely. Continue reading “Suzuki Splash 2011 Review” »

Skoda Yeti TSI 2011 Review

May 27th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Skoda’s Yeti was first spotted on New Zealand terrain last year and was offered only in diesel engine/manual transmission form. Some were at first frightened by its unusual looks and segment-bridging body shape, but soon enough we all began to accept it. Quickly, people in the know went from accepting to admiring, and very soon the Yeti was scooping up nominations and awards both domestically and internationally.  Now for 2011, a second Yeti has reached our shores to form a two-strong Yeti pack with its diesel-powered pioneering sibling. This new Yeti is a full $10k cheaper and while it offers slightly less than the diesel model, its practicality and driver-friendly nature are shared.  Car and SUV was very impressed during its first Yeti encounter last year and again after a fresh sighting of the new-to-NZ petrol model. Now we can answer the questions of curious kiwi motorists.

So what the hell is it?
Good question, the Yeti is a small crossover vehicle or you could think of it as a high-riding hatchback. It shares its platform with the Volkswagen Golf and uses a 1.2-litre TSI engine that also has service in the Golf, Polo and the smaller Skoda Fabia. Continue reading “Skoda Yeti TSI 2011 Review” »

Skoda Fabia 1.2 TSI 2011 Review

January 28th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

There are a few different ways you could describe the Skoda Fabia. Being the lowest price car in the VW Group range here in NZ you could call it ‘cheap’. But with upgraded styling inside and out you’d have to say ‘cheap but not boring’. With a new advanced powertrain there’s been an increase in performance so you might say the Fabia is ‘cheap but not boring and quite peppy’. But that is still too generalised and it’s generalisations that Skoda has worked so hard to fight against while shaking-off its now dated reputation for poor quality. So Car and SUV put all generalisations and pretensions aside to find out the finer details on Skoda’s updated city car.

What’s new for the Fabia is a whole swag of visual and mechanical updates that give the hatch a fresh injection of attitude. The changes also better target the Fabia at stealing budget-conscious buyers away from character competitors like the Mini Cooper and Fiat 500.

The styling, while you wouldn’t call it daring, it’s fresh and is more distinctively ‘Skoda and proud’ than previous models.  Updates include the new corporate grille, a more angular bonnet and reshaped headlights. The changes don’t just align the Fabia with the rest of the Skoda range but also give it a wider and lower look generating a sportier stance. The blacked out A and B pillars creates a ‘floating roof’ that can be customised in a contrasting colour. Our test specimen was finished nicely in Pacific Blue with a white roof. At the rear, there’s a high-mounted hatch spoiler, jeweled taillights and a chunky bumper. It’s elegantly colour-coded with some fine detailing like the roof colour matching the side mirror caps. Standard wheels are 15-inch steel rims with silver covers and 195/55 tyres but our test vehicle looked sharp with the optional ‘Elba’ 16-inch alloys and wider 205/45 rubber. Overall the Fabia design is better than ever before, it remains more conservative than some competitors in the segment, but it has a genuine European appeal and is handsomely finished. Continue reading “Skoda Fabia 1.2 TSI 2011 Review” »

Volkswagen Polo TSI 2010 Review

July 2nd, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Take a quick look at a cars for sale section in any magazine or website and in the description of many small hatchbacks you’ll find the phrase ‘peppy’. But what does it really mean to be peppy? The dictionary would have you believe that peppy means “full of or characterized by energy and high spirits” and that’s probably correct but to save on words it could just have a photo of the new VW Polo TSI. What makes the second Polo variant available in NZ so lively is a new engine that’s low on displacement but very high on pep. Car and SUV took a closer look at the little Polo to solve the riddle of how less can really be more.

When the new Mk V Polo first touched down in NZ it was sold exclusively with a 1.4-litre 63kW engine, now it’s being offered with an all-new 1.2-litre unit. The new engine carries a $3k premium over the larger 1.4 motor but it’s money well spent because it must be the peppiest 4-cylinder in town. Using turbocharging to produce 77kW of power and a healthy 175Nm of torque the new engine is responsive and engaging. It suffers very little turbo lag and offers maximum torque from low in the rev range (1500 to 3500rpm) so it doesn’t need to be pushed hard. The TSI Polo will dash to 100kph in well under 10 seconds and has the mid-range punch to match much larger engines. But Grandmothers shouldn’t be scared off, the engine is well mannered at slower speeds and is never fierce on boost. With the pint-size engine and lightweight body the Polo also returns an impressive fuel economy of just 5.3l/100km combined.

With no manual option available in NZ the Polo TSI is fitted exclusively with a 7-speed DSG gearbox. It’s a modern piece of kit that changes seamlessly and gives a high-tech edge to the overall driving experience. Having seven ratios gives the smart gearbox a flexibility to either work through them rapidly keeping the Polo in its peak power band or focus on economy and get into a higher gear early. There is a sports mode available that keeps the engine in a lower gear and changes up later. There is also a sequential changing option on the gearshift for manual changes but steering wheel paddles are not available, even as optional equipment.

Continue reading “Volkswagen Polo TSI 2010 Review” »