MINI: 2014 Cooper Hatch review

August 19th, 2014 by Darren Cottingham

The Mini is 55 years old, being first produced in 1959. 55 years is the same amount of time as the longest serving UK prisoner, serial killer John Straffen, had served when he died in 2007. However, this Mini initially slayed its competition, was killed off in 2000 and then was reborn into a not-quite-so-mini Mini in 2001 under BMW’s ownership where it has continued to be popular, although arguably less iconic. Continue reading “MINI: 2014 Cooper Hatch review” »

Ford: 2014 Focus Sport hatch review

August 15th, 2014 by Ian Ferguson

Yet another five-door hatch you say to yourself as you saunter towards the test car that’s fully fuelled with petroleum.

The bronze metallic effect of the paintwork enhances the shape and form of the Focus Sport much like contestants in the semi finals of a bodybuilding competition.

The colour is officially called Lunar Sky which is available along with Lunar Black, Midnight Sky, Winning Blue, Frozen White and Candy Red covering most bases and tastes.

Short of the excessive rear roof spoiler and a rather out of place letter “S” on the tailgate, you could be looking at one of an endless stream of anonymous tin boxes with colour added. Continue reading “Ford: 2014 Focus Sport hatch review” »

Suzuki: 2014 Swift Sport automatic

August 14th, 2014 by Darren Cottingham

I’m really getting fed up with how excellent the Suzuki Swift Sport is. Every time I get one it’s pretty much exactly the same; just a few minor tweaks, and that’s it. It’s like having the perfect girlfriend and then every six months she learns how to make a different dessert.

But is one new dessert a year enough?

Looking at it from the outside, it looks almost exactly like the Swift has looked since 2007 when I first drove one. It is the Peter Pan of small cars. Yes, the nose has changed a little, the lights have smeared their way backwards up the bonnet line, the wheels are an inch bigger and it’s a little more sculpted down the sides, there’s not much in it. Continue reading “Suzuki: 2014 Swift Sport automatic” »

Lexus: 2014 CT200h Limited vs F Sport review

August 12th, 2014 by Darren Cottingham

The road from Whatipu to Titirangi is narrow, bumpy and changes direction like a gazelle trying to outrun a cheetah. We were in the CT200h F Sport and my partner said to me that she was feeling sleepy, and the problem was with my ‘smooth driving’, the comfortable seats and the lack of noise from the Lexus. This Lexus makes your driving seem better than it is: the thing it excels at is turning the road into a muffled silk ribbon like I am the world’s best chauffeur. Continue reading “Lexus: 2014 CT200h Limited vs F Sport review” »

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” »

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