Renault Megane 2011 Review

November 4th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Much like celebrities Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez, Renault’s Megane became well known for the shapely figure of its behind. This characteristic defined the second generation of Renault’s volume-selling hatchback. Butt now the Megane is back for its third edition and after shedding some pounds it’s sporting a sleeker, leaner look. Pitted as a genuine contender against the benchmark VW Golf, the Megane has a lot to prove here in NZ. It’s arrived here a couple of years after debuting in Europe but the Megane may be the vehicle to advance Renault’s place in the consciousness of kiwi car buyers. Car and SUV got some seat-time in a Megane hatchback and found out why.

Exterior Styling – No junk in the Trunk
The chunky back end of its predecessor is gone but it’s still no waif at the rear. Wrap-around two-piece taillights and a curved rear windscreen add visual width. Away from the famous derriere, the Megane has a strong look and although highly styled remains fairly sedate for a French hatch. Prominent front guards and muscular rear haunches give it a dynamic stance, and unique touches include thick plastic trim on the bottom of the doors and a deeply creased bonnet. The look is finished with colour-coded mirror caps, silver door handles and front fog lamps. Standard wheel fitment is a 16-inch 5-spoke alloy that has a chunky appeal but falls short of completely filling the cavernous guards. Overall, the Megane is an elegant looker, it may not appeal to those who like their French styling extreme but it won’t polarize opinion like its predecessor.   Continue reading “Renault Megane 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” »

Volkswagen Amarok Highline 2011 Review

June 24th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

It’s never easy being the new kid in class, if you want proof just ask Volkswagen’s new Amarok. As the first European entry into NZ’s hard fought ute segment the road ahead is rocky and steep for the Amarok. With the Volkswagen Group as a parent and some advanced tech in the Amarok’s genes it’s arrived loaded with interest and high expectations. But there are some established names and large egos to measure itself against in the NZ ute playground. So will the other kids like the new Amarok? Probably not. Should the other kids be worried? Absolutely. Car and SUV spent some time in the top spec Amarok Highline to see if this upstart has brought its A-game.

Under the Bonnet
The word Amarok means ‘wolf’ in the Inuit language and this is one wolf not content to just join the pack, it wants to do things its own way. Firstly, it has a smaller engine than its peers and is powered by a 2.0-litre twin turbo diesel unit. But that doesn’t mean its caught short on output figures; there’s 120kW of power on tap and 400Nm of max torque available from 1500rpm. That’s a fair whack of grunt for a ute of any engine size. It nearly matches the torque of the larger displacement mill in the Mitsubishi Triton (407Nm) and beats the Hilux’s 2.5-litre unit (343Nm) but can’t knock the Nissan Navara (450Nm) off its lofty perch.

The Amarok gets its high torque output from a linear twin turbo system that has the turbos engaging at different points in the rev range and overlapping briefly. The advantage of the smaller displacement engine comes with increased diesel economy. Official figures rate the Amarok at using just 7.8 litres per 100km and while that may prove a tough figure to chase down when carrying a heavy load or travelling gravel roads, it stacks up favourably against those same rivals. Continue reading “Volkswagen Amarok Highline 2011 Review” »

2011 Hyundai Elantra REview

June 17th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Hyundai NZ launched its all new Elantra compact sedan at a press event, held at the Fieldays show, yesterday. The Elantra comes with big expectations for Hyundai but the high hopes seem justified – because the 2011 Elantra is a solid all-round package.

Hyundai hopes to install the Elantra as New Zealand’s number one selling compact sedan, but does it really have what it takes to match Holden’s much-improved Cruze or established competitors like the Mazda3? Car and SUV got some seat time in the new Elantra to find out more.

The Elantra goes on sale in three trim levels A6, A6 Elite and A6 Elite Limited. The entry model Elantra A6 comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, cloth interior trim, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and audio streaming, six speaker stereo with iPod inputs, steering wheel audio controls, manual air conditioning and cruise control. It carries a price tag of $35,990.

The A6 Elite model adds 17-inch alloy wheels, full leather interior with electric drivers’ seat, keyless entry and start, a subwoofer for the stereo, dual-zone climate control, reversing sensors, heated seats front and rear, and rain-sensing wipers. The well-equipped Elantra Elite is priced at $39,990. Continue reading “2011 Hyundai Elantra REview” »

Mini Countryman Cooper S ALL4 2011 Review

May 20th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Mini’s new Countryman has been launched amid serious anticipation and with a tough task ahead. To really succeed it requires people to reconsider everything they know about a brand they instantly recognise and mostly admire. When the Mini first appeared in 1959, it was a budget car for the people, a distinctive machine that was attainable and the world loved it. Then in 2001 BMW reinvented the Mini in a modern form, some people weren’t so hot on it, many others were, but we all got used to this new Mini and grew to accept it. Now, in an understandable effort to broaden its model range and appeal, Mini has launched its new Countryman. With four doors and significantly larger dimensions it comes asking new questions of the public. Can people accept that Mini as a company is more than just one model with different variations? Can the Countryman be a viable option for practical-focused families and modern lifestyles? Will it still retain enough appeal for Mini enthusiasts and offer traditional go-kart-style driving dynamics? Car and SUV strapped into Mini’s top spec Countryman ALL4 in search of the answers.

Minis are most famous for being mini in stature so it’s no surprise that many folk are getting all caught up on the Countryman’s plus-size proportions. For the record it’s 4,110mm in length, 1,561mm in height and is quite wide at 1,996mm. This makes the Countryman 381mm longer, 128mm higher and 104mm wider than a regular modern Mini. Think of it as a large hatchback or a small crossover vehicle. Continue reading “Mini Countryman Cooper S ALL4 2011 Review” »

2011 Hyundai i20 Review

May 2nd, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Hyundai NZ launched its i20 light hatch into the kiwi market at a press event in Auckland last week with sales to commence from Monday the 1st of May. Car and SUV was there to get some driving seat time with the i20 and see exactly what this lively little machine is all about.

The i20 is new for NZ but has been offered in some markets since 2009, while not an official replacement for the Getz it’s set to become the new entry point vehicle for the Hyundai range. Priced at $25,990 for the manual and $26,990 for the auto it comes at a $3k – $4k premium over the Getz but offers greater refinement and a higher level of specification. At this price point Hyundai is putting its i20 into the ring with some serious opponents like the Ford Fiesta, Honda Jazz, Nissan Micra and Mazda2. To catch buyers’ attention Hyundai is marketing the i20 as receiving the distilled best qualities from a few of the successful vehicles in Hyundai’s current range.

In terms of standard specification the i20 does very well and both variants include some generous kit. Central locking with keyless entry, CD stereo with iPod integration, steering wheel audio controls, trip computer, cooled glove box, tilt and reach adjustable steering wheel, power windows and filtered air-conditioning are all included. When it comes to safety the i20’s credentials also check out very well with a full six airbag package, ABS brakes and an electronic stability program watching over driver and passengers. Continue reading “2011 Hyundai i20 Review” »

Nissan Micra Ti 2011 Review

April 29th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Chihuahuas are considered cute, even laughably so, right up till the moment they bite you. Once those pin-like teeth are nibbling on your leg, there is no doubt left in your mind that however harmless the Chihuahua looks it’s still an animal. What Chihuahuas are to the dog kingdom the Nissan Micra is the same for the automotive world, it’s compact, it’s cute but it still has the most of the same abilities and bite as any other car. The Micra story began back in 1982 when a boxy first-generation model was built to battle the Honda City. It would go on to have two more generations and become known for its budget price tag and quirky styling. Now, for its fourth generation this super-mini has toned down its radical design and is baring its teeth to its competitors in the light segment through strong equipment levels and improved practicality. Car and SUV took the new top-spec Micra Ti for a run to see if it has the bite to match its bark.

The new Micra is set to be a true global car for Nissan, with sales planned for 160 countries worldwide and production at four different factories. With this broad focus in mind, the Micra design is now much more conventional. The bug eyes remain but are better molded into the bonnet line and there’s a more discrete single-bar grille.  A wider lower air dam and fog lights on the Ti spec model give it a sporty, more purposeful face. Along the flanks it’s fairly tame with nice colour coding on the wing mirrors and door handles, with 15-inch 7-spoke alloys filling the guards. Out back there’s an integrated hatch spoiler with stop lamp, vertical taillights and a wide-opening hatch. The new styling slims the Micra down compared to its bulbous predecessor but a keen eye will notice that the new model is larger in wheelbase, width and length. Even with the more subdued styling the Micra won’t blend into the background, particularly when finished in ‘Spring Green’ like our extroverted test vehicle. Continue reading “Nissan Micra Ti 2011 Review” »

Renault stages bold comeback into NZ market

April 14th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

“Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years” is how the famous LL Cool J rap lyrics roll and today they ring true for car brand Renault who has unveiled a bold strategy for increasing sales in the NZ market.

After minimal sales in New Zealand last year, Renault is punching off the ropes and expanding its model range with vehicles positioned in very different core market segments. Renault’s offerings will include the new Fluence sedan, Megane Hatch, Megane Coupe-Cabriolet and the Koleos SUV. The new-to-NZ models were unveiled as part of a press event held in Auckland yesterday.

The models have just gone on sale as Renault adopts “Drive the Change” as its brand positioning statement, a phrase to reflect its new direction into the NZ mainstream motoring environment.

“Drive the Change” expresses the fundamental values of the Renault business culture – enthusiastic, innovative and human,” says Renault Cars General Manager, Stephen Kenchington. “Renault is investing proactively for growth with the all-new European styled and engineered Renault Mégane Hatch, the segment-reshaping Fluence Sedan, and stylish and chic glass-roofed Mégane Coupé-Cabriolet and Koleos SUV.”

“For the ultimate in European enthusiast sports machines, Kiwi drivers will be offered the visually exciting, muscled and toned new Mégane RS 250 Cup or Cup Trophée models. These will re-set the benchmark in terms of performance, equipment, attainability, as well as head-turning good looks that really stand out.” Continue reading “Renault stages bold comeback into NZ market” »

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