Toyota retains title of world’s largest automaker

January 25th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

It was a tough 2010 for Toyota, the year was marked by repeated recalls including the single largest recall in automotive history (read news). Despite these major meltdowns, Toyota managed to remain the world’s largest automaker last year. According to recent reports, the Japanese manufacturer amazingly saw its sales actually rise by eight percent to 8.42 million units in total if you include sub brands Lexus, Hino and Daihatsu. That figure beat out second placed General Motors, which saw its sales increase by 12 percent with 8.39 million units sold.

Toyota’s sales did drop in the lucrative U.S. market by 0.4 percent due mainly to safety concerns, but the automaker saw large increases in China. The company’s sales in China jumped by 19 percent, but by comparison General Motors did even better with a Chinese sales increase of 29 percent.

Bronze medal winner Volkswagen, meanwhile, managed to sell 7.14 million vehicles worldwide during 2010, further confirming its place as the third-largest automaker in the world. That figure marks a 14 percent increase over 2009, and VW says that it fully expects to see sales increase by at least five percent more in 2011.

Toyota is also optimistic forecasting its sales to hit 8.6 million vehicles in 2011.

Dodge Caliber SXT 2010 Review

October 29th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

In our highly competitive world sometimes you have to be that little bit different just to get noticed. Carmakers worked this out a while back and have recently given the automotive world some unique and progressive designs. This holds especially true in the hatchback segment where radical styling has almost become the norm. So how exactly does a new car cultivate a unique appeal in these diverse times? To get the answers, Car and SUV spent a week with the updated 2010 Dodge Caliber because it still looks like no other vehicle on NZ roads.

What makes the Caliber aesthetically different is a mixture of traditional Dodge DNA and a body shape that’s a mash-up of hatchback, crossover and sports coupe. Its styling talks loudly and offers a truly American take on the conventional hatchback. The Caliber announces its arrival with its signature Dodge crosshair grille. In profile it shows off pumped up wheel arches, a coupe like roofline and a front foot, pouncing stance. The squared-off rear features jeweled tail lamps a narrow back windscreen and a protruding chunky bumper.  Exterior changes to the updated Caliber are minimal but do include some subtle chrome trim and a new 17-inch alloy wheel design which helps give the 2010 model an even sharper edge.

Step inside the Caliber and the unique styling continues with a fully refreshed interior design. The instrument panel, centre console storage bin and door panel trims have all been redesigned using higher quality materials. The result is a cabin that is more modern and user-friendly. There are some nice touches like chromed surrounds for the instruments and air vents and smart LED lighting which illuminates the cupholders. The hot rod red plastic inserts in the centre control stack may not appeal to all tastes but it provides another unique feature and matches up with the stain-resistant red/black cloth used on the seats. The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels good to grip and has audio controls at your fingertips. Continue reading “Dodge Caliber SXT 2010 Review” »

2010 PPG car colour survey results – silver is the new black

October 7th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Car colour specialists PPG has just released the details of it’s annual car colour survey and the results are becoming all to predictable.

Since PPG began keeping track of cars sales by color back in 1990, a key player in the car color world has been silver, and according to firm’s latest study, it’s still the business. For the tenth year on the trot, the silver, charcoal and gray category are the favourite hue for new car shoppers. It’s only getting more powerful too, in 2008, silver accounted for 20 percent of vehicles sold and that figure climbed to 25 percent in 2009, reaching its current height of 31 percent globally.

The only other colours to challenge silver are black and white, which were tied for second with 18 percent of total new cars sold each. Extroverted red achieved 11 percent while blue was close behind with 10 percent. For those who dare to be different, there’s always the colour green which managed four percent of the total action. Strangely, consumer color choices have come full circle from where they were 16 years ago. In the nineties, green was popular even once holding the top spot and silver was just up and coming.

Silver is even more popular in the Asian/Pacific region with a full third of all new cars sold sporting the conservative hue.

Kia NZ announces pricing for new Kia Sportage

August 27th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Pricing details have just been released on the all-new Kia Sportage, which goes on public sale from October 1.

Due to keen interest being shown in the new Sportage, Kia Motors NZ has decided to release pricing now, enabling buyers to plan ahead.

Prices start from just $33,990 + On Road Costs (ORC) for the base-model Sportage 2.0 Urban LX model, which undercuts the pre-GST rise prices of all other CUV/SUV rivals on the market.

“It was always the intention of Kia Motors New Zealand to position the new Sportage competitively in the marketplace and we are delighted to announce that we have been able to follow through with our promise of very sharp pricing,” says Todd McDonald, General Manager of Kia Motors New Zealand.

“Dealers have reported a phenomenal response to the new Sportage following the media unveiling a few weeks ago, which we are seeing reflected in the orders they have taken to date.

“By announcing pricing now, well ahead of the October 1 launch we are able to provide more surety to customers who are still in the process of making a purchase decision ahead of the predicted GST rises — they can see how competitive the Sportage is compared to the competition.”

Continue reading “Kia NZ announces pricing for new Kia Sportage” »

Toyota Camry Hybrid i-Tech 2010 Review

July 23rd, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

It’s not just a hybrid drivetrain that’s arrived in NZ with the latest Toyota Camry, it’s come carrying great anticipation too. While it’s often only badge fans that eagerly await a new model, the Camry Hybrid has sparked interest from private buyers, fleet purchasers, the environmentally conscious and even interested Taxi Drivers. Why shouldn’t it be anticipated either, it’s (almost) locally produced in South Australia, has the latest in fuel saving tech and is a fresh take on an old favourite. So is this hybrid machine really worth all the fuss? Car and SUV spent a week playing an eco-friendly, fleet-buying taxi driver to find out more.

While Toyota’s Prius was always designed to be a hybrid-only vehicle, the Camry doesn’t share that luxury and small tweaks have been made to its appearance for both functional reasons and to distance it from lower-spec siblings.  The most noticeable difference comes with a unique front bumper and grille. More than just give it a reworked face the new front end provides additional cooling to the engine bay and drops the coefficient drag by six percent to just .27cd. There’s also eye-catching blue tinted headlights, ‘Hybrid’ badges all round and some classy chrome trim on the boot and front grille. Our tested top model Camry Hybrid i-Tech also features 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps, LED rear lights and a rear boot spoiler as standard kit. Elsewhere it shares the same low-key but modern styling as the rest of the Camry range.

In the cabin there’s a distinct luxury feel with black leather upholstery and high-grade dark plastics. One point of interest is an all-new instrument cluster that looks fantastic and drops the traditional tachometer in favour of an instantaneous fuel consumption meter. This special meter allows the driver to gauge how economically they are driving and lets them know when the petrol engine is off and the car is regenerating energy. The central instrument panel is also of note with its cool blue illumination, silver switchgear and large control screen. This touch screen handles standard stereo functions but also gives a detailed fuel consumption graph and an energy-use display that tells everyone when the electric motor is working and when it’s recharging. The rest of the cabin is slightly uninspired but offers good visibility and comfortable seating for five adults. The leather seats are nicely soft but could use more lateral support and there are ample small storage options front and back. Boot storage however, has been compromised by the nickel metal hydride battery packs and capacity is reduced by 71-litres to 389-litres. It’s also more difficult to load longer items into the boot, but the back seat still split-folds to reveal a slim ski-port.

Continue reading “Toyota Camry Hybrid i-Tech 2010 Review” »

Isuzu D-Max LS 2010 Review

July 16th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Staging a comeback is a risky game, it didn’t work out that well for Muhammad Ali, and it’s not paying off for Michael Schumacher either. So why does Isuzu think it can stage an epic comeback into the NZ ute market with its D-Max? Well, probably because it never really retired. For many, many years Isuzu supplied Holden with its well-known Rodeo ute in NZ, then following a corporate divorce, Holden retained that same ute range but renamed it the Colorado. This ultimately left Isuzu with a vehicle that shares its underpinnings with the Colorado but has a badge and dealer network all its own. So like most comebacks, it’s a little complicated. All that aside, what’s the Isuzu D-Max really like? Car and SUV spent a week on the comeback trail with the D-Max to find out more.

A quick look at our top-dog LS crew cab D-Max reveals an unfamiliar face on an orthodox ute body. It’s not the prettiest ute around but the toothy chrome grille and vertically stacked headlights are certainly distinctive. The cab is quite flat sided but wheel arches flare outwards dwarfing the standard 16-inch alloys beneath. At the rear jeweled taillights flank a wide tailgate that has a dash of style with its subtle top lip. Chrome touches on the rear bumper, side mirrors and door handles finish off the high-spec look nicely. Overall, the D-Max is a serious looking ute, it’s built for a purpose and has rejected curves in favour of a more traditional boxy shape. In fact, if our test vehicle wasn’t finished in charcoal sheet metal it’d probably be wearing a wife-beater singlet and showing some serious butt-crack.

Continue reading “Isuzu D-Max LS 2010 Review” »

2010 Lexus LX570

July 9th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

This is a quick tour of an amazing 2010 Lexus LX 570 at the Pittsburgh International Auto Show

Kia Rio EX 2010 Review

June 25th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

The second-generation of Kia’s mid-size Rio hatchback first reached New Zealand back in 2006 arriving as a capable and modern option for the budget conscious driver. But the Kiwi love affair with the hatchback meant competition was fierce and the plucky Korean compact didn’t stay new for too long. For 2010 the Rio has been given a facelift and a new lease on life, but will this be enough to iron out the wrinkles on this ageing model. Car and SUV spent a week with the reworked Rio to find out more.

As the latest vehicle to be updated in the Kia range the Rio receives the new corporate tiger-nose grille. That’s just the centrepiece of a completely restyled front end that incorporates a more aggressive front bumper with a gaping lower air dam and more pronounced fog lamps. The headlights are also new and use a split two-light design. It’s all very tidy along the sides with body coloured mouldings, door handles, a curved window line and wing mirror mounted indicators. At the rear a new bumper with a black plastic diffuser surrounds a chrome-finished exhaust tip. Completing the clean-cut look are eight-spoke 15-inch alloys and a subtle high-mounted hatch spoiler.

Continue reading “Kia Rio EX 2010 Review” »

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