Suzuki Swift Ltd 2011 Review

June 17th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

The Suzuki Swift may be a lightweight in stature but it’s a heavyweight in terms of new car sales. Since 2005 when the compact hatch first reached our shores it’s battled hard with the much-loved Toyota Corolla for new car sales supremacy. Some months it won, some months it finished runner up but along the way more than 20,000 Swifts found their way into kiwi garages. That’s an impressive figure, but it’s just a fraction of the more than 2 million Swift’s that have been sold globally. So how did a one-time minnow car company like Suzuki do it? Simple really, with the Swift, Suzuki got the value-for-money ratio absolutely perfect. Now for 2011, the next-generation Swift has arrived in NZ and is already generating sales of more than 10 vehicles a day. Car and SUV joined the masses in getting behind the wheel of a new Swift to find out if Suzuki can really improve on a winning formula.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is how the old saying goes and it must have been in the minds of Suzuki designers when they penned the new model. The design is a safe evolution of its predecessor and only a keen eye will catch the differences at a glance. But take a closer look and the new model is more curvaceous and dynamic with a new front end including new wave-shaped headlights and a widened front grille. Along the flanks the glass profile narrows from the front windows to the rear, giving the Swift a more athletic stance. A- and B-pillars are still blacked out for a floating roof look and side mirrors and door handles are smartly colour matched. Rear design is defined by new red and clear tail lamps that push towards the back doors, a subtle hatch spoiler and bulky bumper. Our tested high-spec Swift Ltd was further dressed up with 16-inch alloy wheels and front fog lamps as standard kit. The Swift is available in 7 different colours with our test subject looking particularly dapper in ‘Boost Blue’. Continue reading “Suzuki Swift Ltd 2011 Review” »

Kia Sportage LTD 2011 Review

March 11th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

In just a few years Kia has gone from making up the numbers to becoming a true force in global car manufacture. At first it was all about changing brand perception, but that alone was never going to be enough. Now the Korean carmaker is setting about proving itself to be able to make good quality, well-equipped and aesthetically desirable vehicles in almost every market segment. One of the latest models to receive this full force treatment is Kia’s Sportage small SUV. Already a popular model on NZ roads the new look Sportage is ready to build on its predecessor’s reputation for practicality and durability at a bargain price. But take one look at the next-gen Sportage and it’s clear that this is one compact SUV that won’t be content with just being practical and durable, now it wants to be the best. Car and SUV booked some time with the new Sportage LTD to see how it measures up.

Before opening its doors or starting the engine, it’s hard not to take a moment and admire the Sportage for its absolutely striking styling. Its compact proportions are hidden behind a muscular, sporty look and athletic stance. A staunch character is created by expansive amounts of sheetmetal, a minimal glasshouse and raked-back front windscreen. Unique front and rear lights give the Sportage a futuristic concept car charm and a low roof line with forward-sloping C-pillars distance it from traditional boxy SUV shapes. Hints of off-road ability come from a raised ride height and tough black plastic capping the Sportage’s underside. Our top spec Ltd tested model came with visual extras like chrome trim around the window line and grille, silver integrated roof rails, LED daytime running lights and 17-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels. Continue reading “Kia Sportage LTD 2011 Review” »

Suzuki Kizashi Ltd & Sport 2010 Review

November 12th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Changing brand perception isn’t an easy task; consumers often have strong mental associations that can be difficult to break down. Suzuki is well known by most for its motorbikes and successful range of small cars like the Swift. But Suzuki decided a few years back that this image wasn’t enough and it wanted to be seen as a full strength carmaker. The only way Suzuki could see to show it’s a heavy hitter was to move up a weight division into the mid-size sedan segment. Now, after learning the ropes with a series of concept cars Suzuki has unleashed the production version of its Kizashi sedan for the NZ market. But will it have the deft moves and raw firepower to trouble the established journeyman of this hard fought category? Car and SUV spent some time ringside with the Kizashi Limited and the Kizashi Sport to find out more.

So how does it look?

The Kizashi’s Euro-inspired styling is athletic and handsome with a strong road presence and clever branding. A large Suzuki logo is framed at the front by a wide mesh grille and large HID headlights. A curved bonnet pushes back into lean shoulder lines and thick C-pillars add to the muscular look. But it’s the Kizashi’s rear design which is most distinctive with its curved boot lid, wrap around taillights and integrated stainless steel exhaust covers that pay homage to Suzuki’s motorcycle designs. The stumpy boot and minimal rear overhang help make the Kizashi look compact but boot capacity is surprisingly large at 461-litres.

Continue reading “Suzuki Kizashi Ltd & Sport 2010 Review” »

Kia NZ announces pricing for new Kia Sportage

August 27th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Pricing details have just been released on the all-new Kia Sportage, which goes on public sale from October 1.

Due to keen interest being shown in the new Sportage, Kia Motors NZ has decided to release pricing now, enabling buyers to plan ahead.

Prices start from just $33,990 + On Road Costs (ORC) for the base-model Sportage 2.0 Urban LX model, which undercuts the pre-GST rise prices of all other CUV/SUV rivals on the market.

“It was always the intention of Kia Motors New Zealand to position the new Sportage competitively in the marketplace and we are delighted to announce that we have been able to follow through with our promise of very sharp pricing,” says Todd McDonald, General Manager of Kia Motors New Zealand.

“Dealers have reported a phenomenal response to the new Sportage following the media unveiling a few weeks ago, which we are seeing reflected in the orders they have taken to date.

“By announcing pricing now, well ahead of the October 1 launch we are able to provide more surety to customers who are still in the process of making a purchase decision ahead of the predicted GST rises — they can see how competitive the Sportage is compared to the competition.”

Continue reading “Kia NZ announces pricing for new Kia Sportage” »

Suzuki SX4 Ltd Sporthatch 2010 Review

June 11th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

When most people think of a compact hatchback made by Suzuki it’s one model they usually have in mind — the Swift. But the Suzuki range has another small hatch within its ranks named the SX4. Riding higher than the Swift and with a larger engine the crossover-inspired SX4 hasn’t been able to match the Swift’s popularity since it was first introduced back in 2007. Back then, some claimed the SX4 was too thirsty for a small car and commented on the absence of a stability control system. Now for 2010, the SX4 is fighting back with a revised model range that features a CVT transmission, improved economy and better safety credentials. Car and SUV spent a week in the facelifted SX4 to see if it’s ready to emerge from behind its Swift sibling’s sizable shadow.

So what’s new on the 2010 model? Well, plenty, just not much in terms of exterior sheet metal. Some subtle tweaks feature up front in a new grille design and on our tested Ltd-spec model, sharp 17-inch alloys fill the guards. Elsewhere it’s a smart-looking hatchback with a tall but progressive stance, raked back headlights and a distinctive wrap-around rear windshield. The Ltd Sporthatch receives extras like front fog lamps and a sports-styled skirting kit with high mounted rear spoiler. Overall, the SX4’s looks aren’t exactly groundbreaking and while slightly generic, do still carry a broad modern appeal.

Continue reading “Suzuki SX4 Ltd Sporthatch 2010 Review” »

Kia Carnival Ltd 2010 Review

February 5th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Why would you name a motor vehicle the Carnival? Is it because when it parades down main street people stop and watch in awe? Not this Carnival. Or is it because it inspires young women to drink too much and then expose their breasts? Definitely not this Carnival.

It must be called a Carnival because like most Carnivals there are a lot of people in it. Eight people to be exact can fit in this Carnival at a squeeze. It took only one driver, however, to get the party started when Car and SUV road tested Kia’s 2010 Carnival Ltd.

A quick walk around the Carnival quickly reveals a utilitarian vehicle that’s built solely for its people moving purpose rather than any glitz or glamour. There are some clear aesthetic similarities with Chrysler’s Grand Voyager in its slab sides, van-like dimensions and generic front. Practicality is evident through the Carnival’s tinted security glass, large wing mirrors and handy integrated roof rails. Although sharp styling isn’t a major focus for vehicles in the MPV segment the Carnival could still benefit from a freshen-up. But new sheetmetal shouldn’t be too far away with Kia’s range-uniforming tiger-nose grille a likely addition.

For any people mover it’s the inside that counts most and the Carnival has plenty on offer for its numerous occupants with three rows of seats providing for various layouts. The back row can be folded flat into the floor and the middle row can be folded up or completely removed to create an enormous, even loading area. It’s an impressive seating layout and even with all three rows in use there is a small but usable luggage area at the very back. The front seats are wide and flat offering decent comfort and great visibility but little lateral support. Leather comes with the Ltd model as does power adjustment for the driver’s seat and tri-zone air conditioning to keep rear passengers cool. There is no DVD system for the family but an eight-speaker Infinity stereo handles entertainment duties well.

One feature that is surprisingly handy is powered sliding doors on both sides of the Carnival and a powered tailgate at the rear. Controlled by the key fob it’s easy to have the doors open by the time you reach the vehicle carrying your shopping and closed again when you start again. The slow sliding motion also cuts down the chance of little fingers getting jammed and subsequent stress. Other useful kit on the lengthy Carnival Ltd spec sheet includes; reversing camera and warning sensors, steering wheel mounted stereo and cruise controls, rain sensing wipers, a trip computer and 17-inch alloys.

Cabin fit and finish isn’t the Carnival’s strongest suit and there is a plasticky interior atmosphere. That said, many of the surfaces are covered in tough wipe-clean materials which are consistent with the Carnival’s practicality-first ethos and the vehicles budget pricing has to show somewhere. There’s also a range of small storage options, 12V plugs and cup holders throughout.

Working behind the scenes on the Carnival is Kia’s 2.9L CRDi Turbo diesel unit producing 134kW of power and a healthy 343Nm of torque. It’s not a performance motor but does allow for reasonable progress. A 9.0l/100km fuel economy is achievable on the combined cycle. One issue with the engine is its power delivery that can be erratic, starting off sluggish and then coming on in a sudden burst as the turbo spools up. It also never feels comfortable when used hard and becomes quite loud and unrefined. It will get around town without issue but on the open road fully laden, plenty of room will be required for safe overtaking.

The diesel engine is mated to a 5 speed automatic transmission, which is a competent unit and goes about its work with minimal fuss. Manual gear changes are available through a sequential shift capability on the gear stick. This is a handy option for holding the motor in gear to draw out all available power.

Dynamically the Kia is best suited to a leisurely pace. Soft suspension gives it a generally comfortable ride but rough uneven roads can unsettle it. The Carnival holds the road well with enough grip to stay safe but there is a liberal dose of body roll. There’s a high feel to its movement and must be handled accordingly. It’s firmly at the van end of the people-mover-scale while a competitor like the Honda Odyssey has much more of a station wagon dynamic but lacks the Carnival’s space.

Being a family vehicle safety is always going to attract scrutiny and the Carnival has the features buyers are seeking. An electronic stability programme, ABS, brakes, six-airbags, kiddie door locks, ISOFIX points, and seatbelt pretensioners are all standard fare.

The strongest virtue of the Carnival like most Kia models is in its price and at $53,990 you get a lot of equipment, comfort and class-leading space for the money. The entry-level EX Carnival has most of the Ltd’s more useful features and priced at $46,990 is also worth a look. Both vehicles come with Kia’s excellent 5-year/100,000km warranty and 1500km first service.

The Carnival is caught a bit short in power and handling ability but that won’t concern many buyers in the mini-van segment. What I respect about the Carnival is that it makes no attempt to masquerade as something it’s not. It’s a vehicle intensely focused on practicality down to the smallest detail with limited thought for aesthetics and gimmickry. What it gives buyers is comfortable, safe and spacious travel for the driver and 7 others. If you need the extra seats, don’t care about going fast and you want peace of mind motoring for the next 100,000km then take a long look at the Kia Carnival.

Price: 53,990 (EX diesel $46,990)

What we like:

  • General practicality
  • Very spacious
  • Price and warranty

What we don’t like:

  • Bland design
  • Weak driving dynamics
  • Erratic power delivery

Words and Photos: Adam Mamo

Other reviews of interest:

Honda Odyssey (2009) — Road Test

Dodge Journey R/T (2009) — Road Test

Chrysler Grand Voyager (2008) — Road Test

Honda Odyssey (2006) — Road Test

Kia Carnival Ltd (2010) – Specifications

ENGINE
Engine type 2.9L DOHC CRDi Turbo Diesel
Displacement (cc) 2902 cc
Compression ratio 17 : 3
Max. power 134 kW @ 3800 rpm
Max. torque 343 Nm @ 1750 – 3500 rpm
Fuel economy (combined cycle) 9.0L / 100 km
CO2 emissions (g/km) 224

TRANSMISSION
Gear box 5 speed automatic with sport shift

SUSPENSION
Front suspension McPherson strut
Rear suspension Multi link

WHEELS
Tyres 225/70 R16 235/60 R17

DIMENSIONS
Overall length 5130 mm
Overall width 1985 mm
Overall height 1830 mm
Wheelbase 3020 mm
Min. ground clearance 167 mm
Kerb weight min./max 2009 / 2141 kg
Interior volume (1st/2nd/3rd) 1770 / 1530 / 1390 litres
Fuel tank capacity 80 litres
Towing capacity – unbraked (kg) 750
Towing capacity – braked (kg) 2000