Kia Cerato 1.8 SX Hatchback 2014 Review

January 28th, 2014 by Darren Cottingham

We drove the Cerato sedan a while back, and now the Cerato is back with a hatch version and some new tricks, most notably a sat nav sitting in the middle of the dash.

kia-cerato-sx-1.8-hatch-2014-rear-quarterKia is continuing its modus operandi of providing cars that punch above their weight. The design is well-sorted, and there are no issues with quality. If you want the 1.8-litre SX, like our test car, the price has increased a little since the last version and is now $37,490. There’s a model above – the 2-litre, which is $40,490 (used to be $38,490) and that gets an extra 19kW, 31Nm of torque, alloy pedals, sun roof, paddle shifters and a few other niceties. Continue reading “Kia Cerato 1.8 SX Hatchback 2014 Review” »

Subaru Impreza 2.0i X 2013 Review

November 29th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

With almost all the current Impreza X stock snapped up, you’ll be hunting around the dealerships if you want to get one without waiting a few months for the next shipment. Subaru only brought 250 of the entry-level Imprezas into New Zealand and it certainly resonated with the buying public, because at a shade over thirty grand, the Impreza brings a lot to the party.

subaru-impreza-x-2013-rear-quartersubaru-impreza-x-2013-interiorThe thorn in the side of the Impreza X, though, is the entry level Volkswagen Golf TSI. Subaru cannot continue to solely trade on its rally-bred heritage and all-wheel drive competence to entice buyers now that there’s a Euro to be had for similar money.

That said, $31,990 buys you a lot of features. Five years ago we would have stepped in a car like this with its obviously low-end interior and expected no bells, whistles or other melodic implements. Today you get a very impressive set of standard equipment including dual zone climate control, Bluetooth compatibility, leather steering wheel and gear shift boot, reversing camera, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and a well-featured trip computer. It’s just missing the convenience of automatic lights and wipers.

The Impreza X is an entirely different beast to the Golf technically. While VW has been bestowing smaller turbocharged engines upon its models, Subaru has stayed with a trusty two-litre boxer motor with 110kW and 196Nm. It puts the power to the axles via Subaru’s CVT system called Subaru Lineartronic Transmission (SLT). While this is one of the better CVT systems on the market, the VW’s seven-speed DSG twin-clutch gearbox is far more engaging and nicer to drive with less of the unintended surge you can sometimes get with a CVT gearbox at certain revs on seemingly specific gradients. Continue reading “Subaru Impreza 2.0i X 2013 Review” »

Volkswagen Golf GTI 2013 Review

October 15th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

Looking slightly more chiselled than its predecessor, the Golf GTI tempts you with a strong engine and handling setup to use those angles to slice through the wind at high speed. The six-speed DSG gearbox eggs you on with gear changes that seem impossibly fast, and acceleration that’s almost as rapid, repeating each rev range as you gain speed like a record skipping the groove. Depending on the quality of passenger the accelerator pedal will make them either swear or giggle. There isn’t any middle ground.

volkswagen-golf-gti-2013-dcc-driving-modeFive modes are available to fine tune the performance of the Golf: comfort, normal, sport, eco or individual (where you can choose from a number of settings and store your favourite combination). They are selected using the touchscreen in the centre of the dash.

volkswagen-golf-gti-2013-rear-quarterSport mode is a huge amount of fun, blipping the throttle automatically on the downshifts and making you sound like you know what you are doing with the heel-toe technique. It’s completely redundant in the city…except that it sounds brilliant.

volkswagen-golf-gti-2013-sideNormal mode is what you will probably use the Golf in that majority of the time, unless you’re trying to be frugal (in which case, why would you buy the GTI)? Even using it in sport mode most of the time I didn’t notice that fuel economy was particularly bad.  The other modes? Well, who cares because you buy a GTI to have fun, not save the planet. Continue reading “Volkswagen Golf GTI 2013 Review” »

Volkswagen Golf TSI Comfortline 2013 Review

September 18th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

When you get a car that’s only got 18km on the clock you know it’s going to be better 2000km later once it’s run in a little. We’re not allowed to do that many kilometres in the cars, though, so by the time I took the VW Golf TSI back it was barely getting warmed up.

volkswagen-golf-comfortline-2013-rqGiven another 1500km and the engine should have started to free up and everything would start to feel smoother. Hopefully, also the seats would soften up because I don’t have a whole lot of padding of my own in that department.

volkswagen-golf-comfortline-2013-front-interior

Volkswagen claims 5 litres per 100km fuel economy (combined) with the 7-speed DSG gearbox. I took an 80km jaunt up the motorway at night with the cruise control set to 105kph and I would say 5l/100km is optimistic at best (probably achieved on a test track, not Auckland’s hilly motorway system), let alone 4.3l/100km which is what VW claims for extra urban (i.e highway driving). At the speed I was doing, you’d get around 870km out of a tank (50 litres). Continue reading “Volkswagen Golf TSI Comfortline 2013 Review” »

Ford Focus Trend Hatchback 2013 Review

August 11th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

There’s a theory that is used to explain why people can sometimes be extremely productive late at night. The fact is that the majority of tasks we have to perform are often mundane and don’t require that much of our brainpower. Consequently we get distracted by pictures of cats on Facebook. As we get more and more tired, our ability to process information diminishes and the tasks that once took up, say, 60% of our brainpower now take up much closer to 100%, and therefore the room for distracting thoughts is less.

ford-focus-trend-hatchback-2013-rqThat’s why I’m writing this article at 2:33am on a Sunday morning after first playing a gig in my band, then going to karaoke for a couple of hours for some post-gig socialising. It’s all about focus, which neatly segues into what this article is about: the Ford Focus Trend Hatchback.

ford-focus-trend-hatchback-2013-front-interiorWhile other guys are out chasing hot girls, I’m in writing about a hot hatch. I haven’t used the expression ‘hot hatch’ recently because I hadn’t felt like I’d been surprised. I’ve driven cars you could classify like that, but I didn’t expect to get into the mid-range Ford Focus and get the same feeling as an older Golf GTi or a sporty Renault Megane. The steering is crisp, the gear changes are sharp, and the engine revs willingly.

Despite the perky two-litre petrol engine, Ford reckons you’ll get 6.6l/100km. I didn’t even try because I was having too much fun keeping the six-speed PowerShift gearbox in Sport mode where it runs up and down the gears with a speed of change that feels a little like VW’s DSG. However, Ford does recommend you quench its thirst with Continue reading “Ford Focus Trend Hatchback 2013 Review” »

Nissan Pulsar ST Hatch 2013 Review

August 2nd, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

What you really want for a road trip is the top-of-the-range car, not the base model, but the $29,990 Nissan Pulsar ST acquitted itself nicely on a weekend away to Rotorua. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have relished the chance to punt the turbo SSS version through State Highway 1B, but that can wait for another day because I was glad for the better fuel economy.

nissan-pulsar-st-hatch-2013-interiorThe Nissan reports the petrol consumption in kilometers per litre rather than litres per 100km. We achieved approximately 14km per litre on the trip back from Rotorua to Auckland, which converts to a moderately respectable 7.1l/100km. This is nowhere near the 6.7l/100km combined cycle figure Nissan quotes, but not bad considering it has a naturally aspirated 1.8-litre petrol engine mated to a CVT gearbox (not as efficient on the open road as a standard auto ‘box), and carrying all that extra weight. Nissan would have produced that test figure driving on an almost empty tank with a driver made of helium.

nissan-pulsar-st-hatch-2013-rqThe mud might have been hot and bubbling in Rotorua, but you can’t really say that about the Pulsar’s performance. The engine produces 96kW and 174Nm and you have to work that pedal into the carpet to get overtaking performance. Fortunately the Continue reading “Nissan Pulsar ST Hatch 2013 Review” »

Holden Cruze SRi Hatchback 2013 – Review

June 25th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

The only way to arrive at Fieldays is via jet boat or helicopter. It avoids the 20-minute queue into the car park and the resulting walk from several leagues away. We opted for the jet boat – a seven-minute blast along the Waikato with a wind chill of, well, frosty.

holden-cruze-sri-2013-rqDespite the exhilaration and the paltry price of $20 return, it made me appreciate sitting in the Holden Cruze’s cosseting warmth as the outside temperature registered a number low enough that children of this age measure it in quarters Continue reading “Holden Cruze SRi Hatchback 2013 – Review” »

Toyota Corolla Levin ZR vs Corolla GLX (2013) Review

February 18th, 2013 by darren

Toyota-Corolla-Levin-fq

When it comes to popularity contests the Corolla Levin ZR and GLX are the Wills and Kate of the car world. The Corolla, a 5-door, front-wheel drive hatchback, is the biggest-selling car by quite a long way, eclipsing the Ford F-Series, Volkswagen Golf and Volkswagen Beetle with (probably) more than 40 million units sold by the time you read this, versus around 36, 27 and 24 million for the others, respectively.

Toyota-Corolla-Levin-f-interiorWhile the new Corolla doesn’t have anything as interesting to the masses as a Continue reading “Toyota Corolla Levin ZR vs Corolla GLX (2013) Review” »

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