May 14th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham
There’s more than one way to create temptation among potential car customers. You can offer more features for the same price or you can tempt by offering less for a discounted price. At Car and SUV we often review high-spec, bells and whistles cars but for this road test that’s all changed and we got some seat time in the cut-price cruiser Mitsubishi Lancer ES. The ES is Mitsubishi’s base-model Lancer that has achieved an attractive price point that will give it strong appeal to fleet customers and budget conscious consumers alike. But creating true temptation is about more than saving money, especially in the hard-fought compact sedan segment. We spent a week with the Lancer ES to uncover its allure.
In terms of price the Lancer ES is scalpel sharp at undercutting its direct Japanese competition. Costing $27,990 for the manual and $29,990 for the CVT auto, the base spec Lancer is $3-5k cheaper than its rivals. The lowest model Honda Civic ($33,800) and Subaru Impreza ($32,990) can’t match the Lancer ES, while the Mazda3 ($30,895) comes closest but only in hatch form. You would have to go Korean and consider the Kia Cerato LX with its $28,990 price as the specification is higher and the Cerato is arguably as good looking.
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May 7th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham
It does seem a touch odd that Subaru’s crossover wagon is named after a flat, dry, straight expansive centre of Australia, when it takes oppositional conditions to reveal its true strengths. But the new 2010 Outback isn’t just about using its trademark boxer engine and all wheel drive system to expertly negotiate twisting mountain passes, it has serious intent as a spacious, family-hauling all rounder. The three previous generations of Outback have developed a reputation of Swiss-army-knife practicality for the new model, so can it raise the bar even higher? Car and SUV opened up the new top-spec Outback 3.6R Premium to check if it has all the tools for success.
Sitting 70mm higher than its Legacy stable mate, the Outback casts a burly purposeful shadow. An increase in width over its predecessor helps negate the raised ride height and creates a balanced stance. A thick strip of black plastic cladding protects the bottom edges of the car and houses silver-ringed fog lamps out front. The winged grille and frowning headlights give the Outback road presence and the 17-inch 6-spoke alloys are a good match despite struggling to pack out the high wheel arches. Aesthetically, the Outback isn’t a natural beauty and has clearly been styled with the American market in mind. That said, it has a modern, clean look that’s well colour-coded and has some nice touches like tinted rear glass, integrated roof rails and subtle use of silver trim.
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May 7th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham
The Toyota Corolla needs little introduction, the name ‘Corolla’ is Latin for small crown and is a fitting moniker for what is undoubtedly the king of hatchbacks. Since its introduction in 1966 the Corolla has become the best selling car nameplate in the world with over 35 million sales. That’s one Corolla sold every 40 seconds, but staggering statistics aside what exactly makes this car so special? It’s not any radical styling flair or break-neck performance but instead bulletproof reliability and legendary longevity that have earned its lofty position. Now in 2010, the Corolla is offered with a variety of power train options including a new diesel motor. Car and SUV took a drive in the diesel-sipping Corolla to see if the king’s crown still shines bright.
What makes our tested Corolla special lays under the stout bonnet in the form of Toyota’s 1.4-litre turbo diesel motor. Code-named D-4D, this 4-cylinder mill puts out 66kW of power and a healthy 205Nm of torque. Armed with the diesel engine the Corolla is certainly no rocket ship but when pushed to higher revs it’s capable of decent progress. While the torque figure is impressive on paper it doesn’t translate into lashings of low-down grunt but is noticeable through the mid-range when the turbo engages. The Corolla feels at home in urban traffic and is a capable motorway cruiser but open-road overtaking requires ample space and caution.
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April 30th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham
The recent announcement that the Falcon Wagon will be discontinued may have left some enthusiasts worried about the future of this iconic Australian model. But at the top end of the Falcon range those concerns are unnecessary as FPV continues to unleash fierce V8-powered versions of the Ford mainstay. One of the current top-dogs in the FPV kennel is the high performance GT-P that comes stacked with the latest tech Ford’s performance arm has to offer. Car and SUV had a test drive in the GT-P to take it off the leash and see if its bite matches its loud bark.
The GT-P’s bark can be first heard in the loud exterior styling that leaves no one confused about the leery nature of this modern muscle car. Finished in a trademark Ford blue hue our test vehicle didn’t feature the ‘Boss’ decals set (available as a no-cost option), but still had a bullying athletic presence. The tone is set at the front where a “power bulged” bonnet lives above frowning headlights with war-painted grey accents and a massive lower air dam. The skirting is continued down the flanks and out back a high boot spoiler, black rear diffuser and dual exhausts confirm sinister intent. GT-P badging can be found on all four sides and bright red Brembo brake calipers hide behind distinctive 19-inch alloys. The GT-P is slightly more graceful and less in your face aesthetically than its HSV rivals, but still communicates its performance credentials with a menacing purpose.
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April 30th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham
Balance is a relative skill and while it’s easy for most of us to stroll down a flat road walking a tightrope is something we leave to the professionals. Creating a successful modern four-door family sedan is another balancing act with pitfalls on either side. Styling should be distinctive but not ostentatious, handling should be dynamic but the ride comfortable and the engine needs strength but to still offer decent fuel economy. Like most carmakers Subaru has at times struggled to perform the balancing act required to appeal to the masses and has instead been viewed as a niche automaker. Now for 2010 Subaru has a new model Legacy that is attempting to appease badge fans while attracting new buyers. Car and SUV spent some time with the Legacy Sedan Sport to take in the show.
What’s immediately noticeable with the 2010 Legacy is the increase in size over its predecessor. Length, height, width and wheelbase have all seen varying increases resulting in a completely new profile. A raked character-lined bonnet pushes into the arched roofline, ending out back in a short, high boot lid. A strip of chrome trim accents the roofline and matched up well with 17-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels on our tested base-model Sport. Pumped out wheel arches, a chrome grille and XL-sized light clusters finish an exterior look that’s stylishly modern but still rather generic. in fact, it shares little resemblance to the Legacys of old and is closer aligned to the Nissan Maxima. That said, it’s a handsome machine especially considering it’s the base-model and has features often reserved for higher-spec versions like front fog lamps, colour-coded side mirrors and tinted rear security glass.
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April 23rd, 2010 by Darren Cottingham
What happens when you grab the back of a VW Golf and take two steps backwards? It’s a riddle that Volkswagen has recently solved with its new MkVI Golf Variant. But the stretched Golf is no joke and is set to cater to fleet buyers and anyone who requires a larger cargo capacity and hybrid-rivalling fuel economy. The current Golf has been heaped with praise in its hatchback form but is the wagon set to follow suit. Car and SUV spent some time inside the Golf Variant’s expanded interior to find out more.
The dimensions of the Golf Variant don’t differ from the standard hatch as much as you’d initially assume. Obviously there is an increase in length of 44cm but all other measurements remain exactly the same, including the wheelbase. At the front very little distinguishes the Variant from the hatchback with both sharing a black plastic grille and gaping low air-intake in the bumper. In profile, there’s no hiding the Variant’s extra length that is concentrated in the rear overhang and highlighted by integrated roof rails. Rear styling is unique to the Variant and consists of slightly awkward taillights and a wide opening tailgate that when lifted creates a generous loading aperture.
The Golf Variant is available in NZ with only one trim level: the lower-spec ‘Trendline’. While the only exterior evidence of this basic fit-out is the hub-capped 16-inch wheels, the cabin is fairly Spartan. However, the Golf is known for its high quality interior and even in its most simple form remains impressive. Soft touch plastics integrate with subtle aluminium and chrome highlights to create an excellent overall surface quality. A thick leather-wrapped steering wheel and large easily read instruments help make driving a pleasurable experience. The central control stack is basic and logically laid out with separate stereo and climate controls. The seats are finished in a dark durable-looking cloth and although supportive may not prove too comfortable on longer journeys. Head and legroom is ample all around with rear passengers receiving slightly raised seating and their own air vents.
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April 23rd, 2010 by Darren Cottingham
Like many Kiwis, this writer long had a thing for Ford’s hotter versions of its small passenger vehicles. This fancy has over the years been partially satisfied, once by owning a Laser S and soon after an Escort XR3i. But for each occasion my wants were appeased there have been other fast Fords that I have regrettably never tasted. I’m not alone in my passion either, there’s something in the sporty Fords that really appeals to us here in NZ. Is it the reasonable priced attainability? Or is it the sleeves-rolled-up, blue-collar nature of these machines?
The answers may lay with Ford’s current go-fast offering in NZ – the Focus XR5 Turbo. While it’s not the top-spec Focus RS, which never made it here, the XR5 is no softie and I had a weeklong date with the hot hatch. So we set off on a quest to see if the XR5 shares the same assets of its revered ancestors.
Now in its second generation the Focus has undergone a facelift that has brought with it a more purposeful aesthetic. While only sharing minimal design DNA with its Escort forefather the XR5 has a refreshed face with reworked headlights and a flatter looking grille. At the rear it’s all business with a new tailgate and diffuser-styled bumper sitting above the twin exhaust outlets that signal speedy intent. Finishing the athletic look is a wide body-kit and distinctive Y-spoke 18-inch alloys. Overall, the XR5 is a real looker; it encompasses all the muscular styling cues hot hatch buyers look for and despite being in the latter stages of its lifecycle appears modern and suitably aggressive.
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April 16th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham
Building a Jeep can’t be an easy task. Mixing 67 years of brand DNA with all the modern practicalities and technologies demanded by SUV buyers is no simple feat. But Jeep has built a reputation on being rugged and uncompromising in both the vehicles it produces and its attitude towards gaining success in a segment that was once a niche but is now brutally competitive. To combat the competition Jeep has a solid range of off-road inspired vehicles to cater for a variety of needs. Sitting in the NZ line-up between the top dog Grand Cherokee and the pureblood Wrangler is the Cherokee Sport. This mid-size model is currently in its second generation and with a recent facelift is set to continue its assault on the NZ market. Car and SUV got some seat time in the revised Cherokee to see if it’s well positioned to invade the consciousness of Kiwi car buyers.
Little has changed in terms of looks for the updated Cherokee, much of the chrome work has now given way to colour-coded paint cutting down the visual bling. Our test vehicle looked smartly uniformed with door handles, roof rails, mirrors and even the iconic 7-slot grille finished in black. Wide wheel arches, a high waist and distinctive angular lines give the Cherokee a bulky presence while continuing Jeep family styling traits. A chunky front bumper and indicator lights built into the guards create a squared jaw look while at the rear it’s more about function with vertical jeweled lights and a split tail gate. Standard wheels are 5-spoke alloys which are good looking rims but at 16-inches don’t really fill out the arches. Overall, the Cherokee has a boxy charm that’s distinctly Jeep and appears well screwed together.
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