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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Hyundai ix35 CRDi Elite 2010 Review

May 31st, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

So what’s new about the Hyundai ix35? Well, pretty much everything, including the name. The ix35 is an all-new model for the Korean carmaker and is set to replace the popular Tucson here, in the NZ market. The ix35 is a sheet-metal representation of Hyundai’s bold charge from bare-bones carmaker to a builder of stylish and desirable product. But even for an in-form Hyundai the compact soft roader market segment is hard fought by established competitors like Toyota’s Rav4 and the Honda CR-V. The ix35 has got the fresh-faced looks to get into the ring, but does it have the ability to come out on top. Car and SUV tag-teamed with the new ix35 CRDi Elite to test its metal and its mettle.

Penned at Hyundai’s European Design Centre in Germany the ix35 has a distinctive Euro flair to its aesthetic. Using Hyundai’s new ‘fluidic sculpture’ design language the ix35 is busy with dramatic crease lines and multi-sided shapes. Up front an aggressive grille, raked windscreen and pumped up bonnet signal dynamic intent. Swollen wheel arches and an ascending belt line dominate the profile view and out back wrap around jewel-stone tail lights and a roof spoiler finish the modern look. The Elite tested model is given added appeal by chrome work on the front grille and door handles with 18-inch 5-spoke alloys filling the guards. Overall it’s a curvaceous modern looking vehicle which will appeal nicely to image conscious buyers, it also isn’t overtly feminised — a potential hazard within the class.

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Toyota refreshes RAV4 diesel SUV in NZ

May 24th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Toyota has enhanced its diesel RAV4 model with a bolder new look. The new chrome-accented front design emphasises RAV4 diesel’s wide track and stable stance.

The horizontal bar-type radiator grille design has been widened and is framed by new headlights which are integrated into a new bonnet and front bumper design.

Filling the wheel arches are newly designed 6-spoke 17″ alloy wheels that highlight the facelift model.

In the RAV4 interior there are no changes. Safety wise the RAV4 diesel is available with Vehicle Stability Control Plus (VSC+) and Traction Control as standard specification, as well as a full airbag package with driver and passenger front, side, driver’s knee and front/rear curtain shield airbags.

The 2.2 litre diesel engine hasn’t increased power and provides 110kW of gruntand 340Nm of torque delivered exclusively through a 6-speed manual gearbox. RAV4 uses just 5.8 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres while emitting 154 grams of CO2 per kilometre.

Toyota’s RAV4 is also available with a petrol engine in standard and Limited grades with the choice of manual or automatic transmissions. Specifications for these models remain unchanged.

The recommended retail price remains unchanged for all models.

Click here to read a full Car and SUV road test of the Toyota Rav4 diesel

Mitsubishi Challenger Exceed 2010 Review

May 21st, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

In the automotive world there are still some tough tasks waiting to be truly mastered. Like making a V8 engine that’s economical, or designing a cheap convertible sports car that isn’t labelled as a hairdressers ride. For Mitsubishi, the new mid-size SUV Challenger represents another difficult venture. Slotting into the range between the Outlander and the Pajero, the Challenger is designed to offer the elusive correct mix of soft roader comfort and cabin feel with fierce off road prowess. Car and SUV got into the all-new Challenger to see if it’s solved this complicated equation.

Visually the Challenger leaves no doubt about its off road aspirations with a chunky, tough look all round. Based on the Mitsubishi Triton’s tough ladder chassis it has a neutral ute-type stance and is tall (1,840mm) with a high ground clearance (220mm). Front-end styling is shared with the Triton but the top spec Challenger Exceed (as tested) receives chrome trim on its Mitsubishi family grille. Chrome and silver touches also feature surrounding the fog lamps, on the door handles and side mirrors, side steps, front scuff plate and17-inch alloys. Elsewhere exterior practicalities include a wide vertical-opening rear hatch, integrated roof rails and rear tinted glass. Overall, the Challenger’s ute underpinning give it the size and elevated stance of a serious off roader, it has a rugged high-waisted appeal that’s modern but not overly rounded or extravagant.

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Toyota Corolla Diesel 2010 Review

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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Fiat reveals the 500C by Diesel

April 13th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Fiat has released new information about it’s latest special edition, the 500C by Diesel.

Set for a special reveal at the Fiat Cafe in Japan, the convertible features 16-inch alloys, yellow brake calipers, and satin chrome accents. Inside, the cabin receives special treatment with a denim-style fabric, a ‘Mohican’ gear knob, satin chrome trim, and naturally, Diesel branding all over.

Four engines will be available in the special model: the 69 hp (51 kW) 1.2, the 100 hp (75 kW ) 1.4 16v, the 75 hp (56 kW) 1.3 Multijet, and the 95 hp (71 kW) 1.3 Multijet II.

Putting traction to the tarmac will be a five/six-speed manual or a five-speed Dualogic ‘robotized’ automatic.

Priced from €18,000, in Italy, the 500C is set to go on sale from May.