Volkswagen Passat TDI Wagon 2011 Review

August 5th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

In the sensible world of mid-size automobiles Volkswagen’s Passat has always been a quiet achiever. A competent journeyman that possesses all round ability but isn’t one to snatch at the limelight. The Passat has maintained this image for 38 years and seven generations. It’s proved a successful tactic too, with more than 15 million Passats being sold globally, making it the 11th biggest selling nameplate in history. Not bad for the quiet kid, but it might not be enough anymore. The Passat is beginning to exhibit some more extroverted tendencies. First there was the go-hard Passat R36 model released in 2008 and then the Passat CC (Compact Coupe) gave the model a sleeker profile. Now for 2011 the Passat wagon/sedan has been reworked for its seventh generation with sharp new sheet metal, tweaked engines and more equipment. So will this latest Passat break the well-formed mold, or play to traditional strengths? Car and SUV took a week long test drive in a Passat TDI Wagon to find out more.

The most obvious visual change to the new Passat is the inclusion of VW’s latest corporate face. The chrome-edged grille is broad and blends into wrapped-back headlights to create a wider, lower look. The chrome work is repeated around the window line and under the front fog lamps and lower air dam. All the panels have been replaced in the new Passat and the result is a more angular and purposeful machine. The short front, creased flanks and higher rear end give the Passat an athletic stance. Detailing like a subtle rear spoiler, integrated roof rails and twin exhaust tips finish the modernised look nicely. The standard wheel fitment on our tested 4Motion Comfortline model are 17-inch alloys with 18-inch designs an available option. Continue reading “Volkswagen Passat TDI Wagon 2011 Review” »

Skoda Superb TDI 4×4 Combi 2011 Review

July 29th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

For most kiwis looking to buy a comfortable and practical family wagon the name Skoda doesn’t immediately spring to mind. But why not? Is it because buyers are still stuck in the eighties when Skoda wore the brunt of naff jokes about quality? Or perhaps because folks know Skoda is European and worry about durability and value for money? Whatever the reason, for many wagon buyers the Skoda Superb isn’t even on their radar. But it damn well should be. Skoda’s med/large size wagon has many of its competitors beat in some key areas and build quality is certainly one of them. With a frugal diesel engine and a four-wheel-drive system the Superb can travel to remote locations and it won’t cost a lot to get there. So does this fringe player deserve a new place as a major force in the wagon market? Car and SUV thinks so, and after spending a week with the newest addition to the Superb range – the 4×4 Combi, we’re ready to tell you why.

Exterior Design
It may not be the sexiest wagon to ever pick up the groceries, but the Superb has everyman elegance and a sleek low look despite its generous proportions. It’s nicely balanced for a wagon without too much rear overhang and a tightly tapered hatch that gives few hints to the expansive cargo space within. It has a neutral face with chrome trim surrounding the corporate grille and acting as teardrops under its wrap around headlights. Bright fog lamps flank a wide lower air intake and a scalloped bonnet line leads into the raked back windscreen. Continue reading “Skoda Superb TDI 4×4 Combi 2011 Review” »

2011 Kia Picanto Review

July 22nd, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Kia’s all new 2011 Picanto was launched at a press event in Auckland yesterday and Car and SUV was given a first drive in this much-improved micro machine.

With a tagline of “Clever Around Town” the new Kia Picanto is designed for city/suburban use and comes with eco credentials, more standard equipment and sharper driving dynamics.

The Picanto’s price tag is also very tempting with the base model available from $18,590. So what do you get for the money?

The Picanto is being sold in NZ in two trim specifications LX and the higher grade EX. The entry model is the LX with a manual transmission, this features a clever ISG (Idle Stop & Go) technology which switches off the engine when idling and instantly re-starts as the clutch is depressed. It’s an impressive feature to offer in a sub $20k vehicle and while it takes some getting used to, it functions well. With this tech and a small 1.2-litre petrol engine the manual Picanto returns a thrifty fuel economy figure of 4.3L/100km. This makes it the most economical petrol dedicated car in the NZ market – so running costs are extremely low. The automatic LX and EX model Picantos return a fuel economy of 5.3l/100km and 5.6l/100km respectively. Continue reading “2011 Kia Picanto Review” »

Hyundai i20 2011 Review

July 15th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Living with a small car isn’t the same challenge it once was. Small hatchbacks now make better use of their space, have livelier drivetrains and are much more assured on road. While traditional strengths like fuel economy and value for money, remain. With high fuel prices and more congestion on NZ roads the relevance of sub compact vehicles is greater than ever and competition among carmakers is fierce. Hyundai, while once known for producing no frills product, has undergone a transition into a maker of good quality vehicles at an attractive price. Will the new entry-point i20 small hatch be able to continue Hyundai’s burgeoning good reputation? Car and SUV thought so when driving the i20 at its launch, but has just spent a week living with the small hatch to make sure.

On sale at $25,990 for the manual and $26,990 for the automatic, the i20 is priced at a premium over the Suzuki Swift. This lands it squarely in Ford Fiesta, Honda Jazz territory and that’s a tough place to be. To arm itself, the i20’s focus is on being a solid all rounder and boasting key attributes ‘distilled’ down from Hyundai’s larger cars. Continue reading “Hyundai i20 2011 Review” »

Holden Cruze SRi-V Series II 2011 Review

July 5th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Sequels don’t often live up to expectations but the Series II Holden Cruze might just buck that trend. Like a rock band recording a second album Holden had to get a new take on a now familiar sound. Shifting production of the Cruze from Korea to Australia has given the small sedan a positive new flavour. It’s received cosmetic tweaks revised suspension and in our tested SRi-V variant – a new turbocharged powerplant. Car and SUV spent some time with the Series II Cruze to find out if this sequel tastes sweeter than the original formula.

The Australian sourced Cruze has received some subtle styling tweaks to boost the vehicles appeal to a local palate. The grille and front indicators have been replaced and chrome trim has been used more extensively across the range. Our top-spec SRi-V model has been given the sporty treatment with a full body kit, bootlid spoiler, fog lamps, chrome door handles and 5-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels. The result is a very handsome small sedan with brawny big car styling in a compact body. The coupe-like roofline, broad shoulders and sharp creases work together nicely to give this sporty Cruze genuine road presence. Continue reading “Holden Cruze SRi-V Series II 2011 Review” »

Toyota FJ Cruiser 2011 Review

July 1st, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

It’s rare that any vehicle triggers a confused response from the average kiwi but the Toyota FJ Cruiser is one machine that can. With retro-inspired styling and unconventional angles the FJ Cruiser body has a brave disregard for low-key Kiwi tastes. Many Kiwi’s find themselves torn between loving it or loathing it. The Toyota badge draws us in, instantly recognising the FJ as a vehicle that must be reliable and practical like our much-loved Corolla or Hilux. But on closer inspection this Toyota seems different, it appears strangely familiar but clearly favours form over function, it’s bulky and flashy and we just don’t know. Toyota has certainly thrown the NZ market a curveball with its FJ Cruiser. In an attempt to avoid mass confusion, Car and SUV had some seat time in this distinctive off roader and brought back the results.

New Zealand is late in receiving the FJ Cruiser with it first released in the States back in 2006. It began life as a design concept paying homage to the original FJ40 Land Cruisers of the 1960s but its popularity led to full production. Built with the U.S market firmly in mind the FJ comes to us in one specification but with nine body colours on offer but the roof must be white. Continue reading “Toyota FJ Cruiser 2011 Review” »

Honda Accord V6 2011 Review

June 24th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Since the late 1970s the Honda Accord has been a bit of an institution on New Zealand roads. We have seen various numbers and variations of all eight generations of the Accord with the fifth instalment even being assembled locally in Nelson. But things have changed for the Accord over the years; it got larger, more powerful and is no longer the cost-conscious option it once was. Honda also doubled down with the Accord and split the model line into the more American market focused Accord V6 and the smaller, sharply packaged Accord Euro. So where does that leave NZ’s long serving Honda? Well it’s in good shape, sure it’s become a higher-priced mid/large luxury cruiser but it’s got loads of kit, an intelligent powertrain and for 2011 – an enhancing facelift. Car and SUV got reacquainted with the 2011 Accord V6 VL Sport to see exactly how far this mainstay has come.

Visually, the Accord’s athletic design has received a modest refresh. Changes include a new thickly chromed grille, restyled front bumper and modernised headlights. At the rear the two-piece taillights are also new and there’s some fresh detailing around the boot. Design and packaging are strengths of the Accord V6, and in tested Sport form it is one handsome devil. The Sport upgrade includes deeper front, rear and side skirting which really brings out the Accord’s aggressive, sleek lines and renders it long and low. The chrome work around the window line and through the grille is just enough bling to draw the eye, but not enough to spoil the low-key aesthetic. Finishing the look is chrome-tipped twin exhaust outlets and new 10-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels shod in 225/50 rubber. Continue reading “Honda Accord V6 2011 Review” »

Suzuki Swift Ltd 2011 Review

June 17th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

The Suzuki Swift may be a lightweight in stature but it’s a heavyweight in terms of new car sales. Since 2005 when the compact hatch first reached our shores it’s battled hard with the much-loved Toyota Corolla for new car sales supremacy. Some months it won, some months it finished runner up but along the way more than 20,000 Swifts found their way into kiwi garages. That’s an impressive figure, but it’s just a fraction of the more than 2 million Swift’s that have been sold globally. So how did a one-time minnow car company like Suzuki do it? Simple really, with the Swift, Suzuki got the value-for-money ratio absolutely perfect. Now for 2011, the next-generation Swift has arrived in NZ and is already generating sales of more than 10 vehicles a day. Car and SUV joined the masses in getting behind the wheel of a new Swift to find out if Suzuki can really improve on a winning formula.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is how the old saying goes and it must have been in the minds of Suzuki designers when they penned the new model. The design is a safe evolution of its predecessor and only a keen eye will catch the differences at a glance. But take a closer look and the new model is more curvaceous and dynamic with a new front end including new wave-shaped headlights and a widened front grille. Along the flanks the glass profile narrows from the front windows to the rear, giving the Swift a more athletic stance. A- and B-pillars are still blacked out for a floating roof look and side mirrors and door handles are smartly colour matched. Rear design is defined by new red and clear tail lamps that push towards the back doors, a subtle hatch spoiler and bulky bumper. Our tested high-spec Swift Ltd was further dressed up with 16-inch alloy wheels and front fog lamps as standard kit. The Swift is available in 7 different colours with our test subject looking particularly dapper in ‘Boost Blue’. Continue reading “Suzuki Swift Ltd 2011 Review” »