Nissan Navara ST-X 2010 Review

August 20th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

When Nissan launched its current model Navara ST-X ute a few years back it came packing 403Nm of torque — the most in its class. It was a mighty figure that allowed ST-X owners bragging rights on building sites and rural pubs around our great country. Then Mitsubishi fought back unleashing its Triton ute with 407Nm of torque and there was a new sheriff in town. But the importance of this mini arms race clearly hasn’t been lost on Nissan because the 2010 Navara has been given a mild facelift, 450Nm of torque and a special badge branded on its hind quarter to let everyone know. Car and SUV saddled up with the refreshed Navara ST-X to see if it makes for a wild ride.

What’s most impressive about the jump forward in torque is that Nissan have retained the same engine with the same displacement and still achieved it. The 2.5-litre turbo diesel motor has received a new cylinder head design, an upgraded direct-injection system and a new variable-nozzle turbocharger. The end result is a 12kW increase in power to 140kW and the 12 percent gain in torque to 450Nm. Surprisingly fuel economy has also improved and is rated at 9.0l/100km combined with the automatic box that our test vehicle used.

The figures are impressive and so was the drive with the effortless and generous supply of torque being a defining characteristic. Almost anywhere in the rev range and at all speeds a prod on the gas pedal would bring on rapid acceleration and only minimal turbo lag. At open-road cruising speeds the Navara is settled and easily capable of quick overtaking manoeuvres. The motor while brawny is also fairly refined and happily potters along in urban traffic with minimal engine rattles or vibration entering the cabin.

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Nissan Pathfinder 450T 2010 Review

August 6th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Sometimes if you can’t find a path you just have to make a new one and that’s exactly what Nissan did back in 1986 when it released the first generation Pathfinder. Now, three generations of Pathfinder later Nissan are still cutting that same path towards a large SUV that mixes a comfortable, well-equipped interior with rolled-up-sleeves off-road ability. For 2010, the third-gen Pathfinder has received a facelift that has brought aesthetic and mechanical upgrades to the single-variant model. So how good is this refreshed bastion of boxy styling? Car and SUV made tracks in the new Pathfinder 450T to find out.

Externally, it’s not immediately obvious that anything has changed with the no-nonsense design, but a closer look reveals some subtle differences. The facelifted Pathfinder is 80mm longer than its predecessor thanks to a new, more pronounced front bumper. The bonnet and grille are also new and Xenon headlamps have been added which boast auto leveling and headlight washers hidden in the bumper mouldings. Elsewhere the Pathfinder’s styling is generally straightforward and almost timeless in its traditional SUV two-box shape. One interesting design detail is the high, vertically mounted rear door handles that certainly look cool but may prove difficult to reach for children or midgets. Our NZ-spec Pathfinder is better dressed than most and comes with integrated roof rails, front fog lamps, side-steps and 17″ alloys which finish off the distinctive look.

Jump into the Pathfinder cabin and what’s immediately noticeable is the cavernous space, it’s wide and very long. Three passengers can fit on the rear seat with plenty of shoulder and legroom and air-con vents in the ceiling will keep them cool too. If that’s not enough the Pathfinder also comes with a third row of seats that easily fold flat into the floor to create a massive luggage area. The middle row can also be folded flat to make a 2-metre long loading bay — perfect for large cargo or taking a nap.

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Honda to cease diesel engine development

July 19th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

It’s no secret how far diesel engines have come in the last few years. Old issues like rough running, nasty smells, loud operation and narrow power bands have all been ironed out. But after all that hard work, many automakers are now turning much of their focus on to electric and hybrid vehicles.

According to sources in Japan, Honda is joining the list of global automakers that have abandoned plans to move further into diesel power development. Instead, Honda will continue to focus entirely on hybrid basket, developing a new system for use in larger vehicles. Currently, Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist technology is used in the Civic Hybrid and the Insight.

Honda’s next hybrid system should further improve its current IMA tech, which has fallen short of the fuel efficiency and performance of rival Toyota, but is able to operate on the electric motor alone for longer stretches.

In addition to stopping development of clean diesel tech, Honda has also put the brakes on the new microcar plant in Japan that was to build future Kei cars for the domestic market.

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.

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2011 Nissan Murano gets new look and diesel engine

July 16th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Earlier this year, Nissan announced plans to introduce a new diesel engine option for the very first time on its European market Murano crossover. This created a need for additional cooling airflow to the diesel engine and radiators meaning that Nissan had to redesign the front end of the Murano. So the distinctive looking crossover will enters the 2011 model year with a reworked front end sporting a new grille and a reshaped bumper with larger air intakes and different fog lamps.

The Murano diesel will use a smoothed-out version of Nissan’s 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine which produces 190-horsepower and a healthy 450Nm / 331.9 lb-ft of peak torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The 2.5 dCi engine returns a 8.0lt/100km economy combined and 210g/km CO2 emissions.

Euro market cars will come equipped with 20-inch alloy wheels, power tailgate, rear and kerbside cameras and a navigation system with 7″ touch screen, HDD 9.3 Gb music server, ipod, Bluetooth and aux connectivity combined with a premium 11 speaker BOSE system all fitted as standard.

Nissan expects the diesel model to prove very popular in Europe and will account for over 90% of Murano sales. Check back as we bring you details of when the 2011 Nissan Murano will be arriving in NZ.

BMW X1 23D 2010 Review

July 2nd, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Born into a rapidly expanding range, BMW’s new X1 is the final card to complete a full house in the X line-up consisting of the X3, X5 and X6 models. The X1 enters the market with crossovers well established in car buyers’ consciousness and no longer niche vehicles. BMW has hedged its bets nicely by representing itself in the small crossover segment to appeal to new customers and catch badge fans who may follow the current downsizing trend and leave behind larger X-series siblings. So with BMW’s now 10-year-long four-wheel-drive experience, modern powertrains and bullet-proof luxury quality it should be money in the bank, right? Perhaps, but with the tricky broad focus of crossover vehicles it’s not always that easy. Car and SUV spent some time with the new BMW X1 to see if it comes up trumps.

In styling terms the X1 is more closely related to a tall wagon than a boxy off-roader and is designed to appear bulky but is quite compact in the flesh. By comparison, it’s slightly shorter in length than both the Mazda3 hatch and the 3-Series wagon with which it shares many mechanical underpinnings. It’s exterior aesthetic is familiar yet shows a brazen streak with a raked back windscreen and deeply scalloped flanks. Out front, a XL-size BMW kidney grill sits between squinting headlights and fog lamps that are set deeply into a chunky bumper. A strip of tough silver and black plastic trim runs around the X1’s bottom edge to protect the panels and visually boast of rough roading cred. The rear is sharply cut off and houses a taillight cluster similar in design to the new 5-Series. Completing the hardy, low-slung look on our test vehicle were silver roof rails and optional 18-inch wheels (17-inch as standard).

Inside, you’re greeted with an elegantly finished dashboard that subtly cossets the driver. All instrumentation is clear, functional and well placed for easy operation on the fly. Numerous interior trim options are available but our test vehicle looked very sharp with a simple mix of black plastics and brushed metal/silver inserts. As you’d expect the fit and quality of materials is excellent and all touch surfaces feel top-notch. The optional ($3,300) leather seats were soft, supportive and offered a commanding driving position that made the most of the X1’s raised height. Standard kit on the 23d includes cruise control with braking function, CD stereo with auxiliary input and USB interface, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, dual-zone climate air conditioning and daytime running lights. There is also a wide range of optional equipment available like front parking sensors ($750) and an impressively huge panoramic glass roof ($3,350) that really lights up the cabin.

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Subaru Forester 2.0D Euro Spec 2010 Review

June 18th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Returning us to high school days, you might recall the first day back at school after the long summer holidays. There was usually some kid who during the break experienced a sudden spurt of maturity and returned much bigger and more grown up than ever before. It’s a similar scenario for the third generation Subaru Forester that now only scantly resembles the boxy first model that’s become a bit of a cult favourite here in NZ. Proof that as Subaru strives to be a more mainstream global brand its products are being designed with a broader, more sensible appeal. The new 2010 Forester is also available with a diesel engine option and although Subaru is a late bloomer into diesel power it’s an impressive motor on paper. Car and SUV spent a week with the oil-burning Forester 2.0D ‘Euro Spec’ to measure its growth and mark its report card.

Let’s duck straight under the Forester’s scooped bonnet where the 2.0-litre 4-cylinder diesel engine provides all-wheel motivation. With this new unit Subaru has continued its commitment to a horizontally opposed boxer configuration albeit in diesel form. Power output is rated at 108kW with a muscular 350Nm of torque available from just 1800rpm. It can lay claim to being the world’s first diesel boxer engine and gives the Forester an intriguing character. Off the mark it’s no rocket ship, but once the revs rise on the turbocharged engine there is generous mid-range torque on offer. Unlike some turbo diesels the Forester needs to be pushed and held higher in the rev range to extract its best performance. If you don’t, it can get bogged down, especially if it falls below turbo-range at around 1500rpm. This requires working the gears which makes for a more involving drive.

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Skoda Yeti 2010 Review

June 7th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Why don’t we have Yetis in New Zealand? That’s a question seldom asked here. I mean we have enough crazy people to see them and it was Sir Ed Hillary that first climbed the highest peak in their native Himalayan region, surely he could have organised safe passage for at least one. But we still don’t have any Yetis¦ until now.

Skoda has come to the rescue and made its new Yeti crossover vehicle available to all curious kiwis. So is this latest product from the world’s most underrated automaker really a dynamically competent, uniquely styled and keenly priced specimen? Or is that just fantasy? Car and SUV tracked down one of NZ’s very first Yetis to find out more.

At first glance the Yeti is distinctive and modern but probably won’t scare anyone. Its nose is the Skoda corporate grille that sits between uniquely designed headlight clusters. Character lines crease the bonnet and a colour-coded B-pillar breaks up the wraparound glass house. It’s neutral in stance and is fairly restrained but still displays soft roader styling cues like enlarged wheel arches, black plastic protective skirting, integrated roof rails and nudge plates front and rear. The rugged yet refined look is finished off with 5-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels. Overall, it’s a well-defined vehicle, while it won’t suit all tastes, it’s square back, chunky bumpers and four-eyed face have an unorthodox charm.

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