February 6th, 2015 by Robert Barry
The term pocket rocket has been applied to many small hot hatches, but none have been more deserving of the title than the new Audi S1 Sportback.
Here is a compact turbocharged four-cylinder 2-litre all-wheel-drive city hatchback with a six-speed manual transmission that will accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 5.9 seconds. Continue reading “Audi: 2015 S1 Sportback review” »
June 24th, 2014 by Darren Cottingham
The Germans have a fantastic array of compound words. In German you can keep adding descriptive words together to form a word that’s a bit like a train with multiple carriages. One such word is hochkommakrankheit which, according to my research, means a banal obsession with the deployment of apostrophes – literally ‘apostrophitis’. Continue reading “Kia: 2014 Pro_c’eed GT review” »
March 5th, 2014 by Robert Barry
You could be forgiven for thinking that the new Barina RS is a track searing hot hatchback thanks to the current television ad that sees Greg Murphy revving the engine and screeching the tyres around the Highlands circuit in Cromwell.
Alas, do not be fooled by the power of the telly ad because the latest addition to the Barina hatch range is only a mild butter chicken rather than a scorching Vindaloo, its a warm hatch rather than a hot one, but nevertheless its still a very good steer that will curry favour with many.
By adding the 1.4-litre turbocharged engine from the Holden Cruze as well as tweaking the suspension package, upgrading the brake package to discs all-round and lowering the ride height, the Holden engineers, in conjunction with their US and Korean colleagues have created a sporty and responsive hatchback that is fun to drive in the city and beyond. Continue reading “Holden: Barina RS 2014 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.
Five 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.
Sport 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.
Normal 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” »
September 8th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham
Bringing back a historic name is fraught with danger. Our memories tend to be dulled over time and we just remember what we want to. If the strongest emotions we experienced with a car were good, we’ll remember the car as being good. This is why people often want to buy something truly terrible like a VW Kombi to relive their youthful road trips.
But, if we got back in one of those older cars with an objective brain we would realise that cars have moved on, and in the same way you wouldn’t go back to having an outdoor toilet, or using acacia leaves as a contraceptive, you probably shouldn’t idolise the name of a vehicle that, at best, was tepid in its heyday.
Even if you conceived your children in a 1991 Pulsar SSS the reality is that it has not stood the test of time. It is really a very tedious Pulsar with a boomerang spoiler and slightly bigger wheels. You might have thought it was exciting back in the day, but if you go back far enough in history, so was showing some ankle.
Nissan put the SR20DE engine in it which dribbled out an anaemic 105kW. They could have given it some balls like the scary GTi-R, or even treated us to the SR16VE N1 which was the highest output naturally aspirated engine of its day until Honda’s F20C engine debuted in the S2000.
But they didn’t and this isn’t supposed to be too much of a history lesson because we’ve got a brand spankers 2013 Nissan Pulsar SSS to evaluate. At first glance, it’s a Pulsar with a body kit…keeping in line with the original, then. It does succeed in elevating the conservative Pulsar slightly. Very slightly. Continue reading “Nissan Pulsar SSS 2013 Review” »
September 7th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham
There is no point in buying the Ford Focus ST if you don’t like excitement. You will also want to give it a very wide berth if you look at manufacturer-supplied fuel economy figures and think that you’ll want to drive sensibly enough to match them. You won’t. Oh no, you’ll be taking long drives by yourself. The ST will be your secret lover and you will be burying those aluminium pedals into the carpet so you can adore the sonorous four-cylinder turbo howl from the two-litre EcoBoost motor.
This sound is piped into the cabin rather than letting the firewall transmit the acoustics, and you notice a definite change in engine tone as the revs rise. 184kW and 360Nm of torque means 100kph will come up in 6.5 seconds if you’re good enough at swapping cogs in the six-speed manual gearbox, but it’s not the acceleration that’s the high point of the Ford’s performance, it’s the cornering.
Direct steering is the foundation of any car that feels sporty, and the Focus has it. Only when the torque threatens to overwhelm the front wheels do electronics intervene and you lose a little bit of the connection, but basically the Focus is at home on a long sweeper or a tight switchback and everything in between. And when you’ve finished with that, put your sensible hat back on and you can cruise back home at motorway speeds getting fuel economy under 8l/100km. My trip from downtown Auckland to Whangaparaoa town centre and back achieved 7.8l/100km; Ford quotes 7.2l/100km combined. Continue reading “Ford Focus ST 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.
That’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.
While 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” »
November 21st, 2012 by Darren Cottingham
We took a look at the naturally aspirated Veloster Elite a few months ago. If you read the article you’ll see that I said that the turbo version will be awesome. Let’s find out whether it is.
My history is with four-wheel drive rally cars of the 90s. I liked the stiff suspension, the four-cylinder turbo sound and the agile feeling that you get when you don’t have a Continue reading “Hyundai Veloster Turbo Elite 2012 Review” »