Nissan Qashqai Ti 2010 Review

July 30th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Being named after a nomadic tribe of people it’s fitting that Nissan’s Qashqai has undergone a mid-cycle facelift and a movement towards an even more modern look. Selling in massive numbers in Europe, the small crossover has gained good traction here in NZ with 600 sales already achieved since its launch. The 2010 facelift is more a well-calculated nip and tuck than a butcher’s chop, with subtle changes both inside and out. Will the refresh move the quiet achieving Qashqai on to even greener pastures? Car and SUV spent a week living with the top-spec Ti model to find out more.

Visually, the major changes are at the Qashqai’s front where a new bumper, bonnet, honeycomb grille and headlamps distinguish it from its predecessor. The changes bring a smoother less awkward and more modern look while retaining its unique appeal.  At the rear differences are less obvious but the taillights have been replaced with new LED 2-piece units and the tailgate spoiler has been tweaked to help reduce aerodynamic drag. The Ti tested vehicle also includes front fog lamps and rolls on some nicely suited 18-inch alloy wheels. Overall the Qashqai remains a distinctive machine thanks to its bold styling but also its stocky dimensions and off road styling cues like the low black plastic mouldings and raised ground clearance.

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Toyota Camry Hybrid i-Tech 2010 Review

July 23rd, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

It’s not just a hybrid drivetrain that’s arrived in NZ with the latest Toyota Camry, it’s come carrying great anticipation too. While it’s often only badge fans that eagerly await a new model, the Camry Hybrid has sparked interest from private buyers, fleet purchasers, the environmentally conscious and even interested Taxi Drivers. Why shouldn’t it be anticipated either, it’s (almost) locally produced in South Australia, has the latest in fuel saving tech and is a fresh take on an old favourite. So is this hybrid machine really worth all the fuss? Car and SUV spent a week playing an eco-friendly, fleet-buying taxi driver to find out more.

While Toyota’s Prius was always designed to be a hybrid-only vehicle, the Camry doesn’t share that luxury and small tweaks have been made to its appearance for both functional reasons and to distance it from lower-spec siblings.  The most noticeable difference comes with a unique front bumper and grille. More than just give it a reworked face the new front end provides additional cooling to the engine bay and drops the coefficient drag by six percent to just .27cd. There’s also eye-catching blue tinted headlights, ‘Hybrid’ badges all round and some classy chrome trim on the boot and front grille. Our tested top model Camry Hybrid i-Tech also features 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps, LED rear lights and a rear boot spoiler as standard kit. Elsewhere it shares the same low-key but modern styling as the rest of the Camry range.

In the cabin there’s a distinct luxury feel with black leather upholstery and high-grade dark plastics. One point of interest is an all-new instrument cluster that looks fantastic and drops the traditional tachometer in favour of an instantaneous fuel consumption meter. This special meter allows the driver to gauge how economically they are driving and lets them know when the petrol engine is off and the car is regenerating energy. The central instrument panel is also of note with its cool blue illumination, silver switchgear and large control screen. This touch screen handles standard stereo functions but also gives a detailed fuel consumption graph and an energy-use display that tells everyone when the electric motor is working and when it’s recharging. The rest of the cabin is slightly uninspired but offers good visibility and comfortable seating for five adults. The leather seats are nicely soft but could use more lateral support and there are ample small storage options front and back. Boot storage however, has been compromised by the nickel metal hydride battery packs and capacity is reduced by 71-litres to 389-litres. It’s also more difficult to load longer items into the boot, but the back seat still split-folds to reveal a slim ski-port.

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Isuzu D-Max LS 2010 Review

July 16th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Staging a comeback is a risky game, it didn’t work out that well for Muhammad Ali, and it’s not paying off for Michael Schumacher either. So why does Isuzu think it can stage an epic comeback into the NZ ute market with its D-Max? Well, probably because it never really retired. For many, many years Isuzu supplied Holden with its well-known Rodeo ute in NZ, then following a corporate divorce, Holden retained that same ute range but renamed it the Colorado. This ultimately left Isuzu with a vehicle that shares its underpinnings with the Colorado but has a badge and dealer network all its own. So like most comebacks, it’s a little complicated. All that aside, what’s the Isuzu D-Max really like? Car and SUV spent a week on the comeback trail with the D-Max to find out more.

A quick look at our top-dog LS crew cab D-Max reveals an unfamiliar face on an orthodox ute body. It’s not the prettiest ute around but the toothy chrome grille and vertically stacked headlights are certainly distinctive. The cab is quite flat sided but wheel arches flare outwards dwarfing the standard 16-inch alloys beneath. At the rear jeweled taillights flank a wide tailgate that has a dash of style with its subtle top lip. Chrome touches on the rear bumper, side mirrors and door handles finish off the high-spec look nicely. Overall, the D-Max is a serious looking ute, it’s built for a purpose and has rejected curves in favour of a more traditional boxy shape. In fact, if our test vehicle wasn’t finished in charcoal sheet metal it’d probably be wearing a wife-beater singlet and showing some serious butt-crack.

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Volkswagen Scirocco R 2010 Review

July 9th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Since Cain and Abel made the Holy Bible exciting with its first murder, stories of oppositional twin brothers have always proved popular. While that story was one of the first, one of the latest comes from Volkswagen where the iconic Golf now shares its platform with the coupe-bodied Scirocco. When the Golf R was built the Scirocco received similar treatment albeit with marginally less power and handling ability. Now as second in line to the Volkswagen throne the new Scirocco R has been given all the benefits of R-division development with none of the responsibilities of being the number one son. Car and SUV put the pedal to the metal on the Scirocco R to find out just how far it could go to step out from behind the Golf’s shadow.

While there is much going on under the sheet metal it’s the Scirocco’s styling that truly sets it apart. Aesthetically, the Golf has moved forward conservatively into its Mk VI shape, not wanting to disrupt a winning formula. The Scirocco however, has been splashed with movie star good looks and genuine ‘right now’ appeal. It’s a two-door coupe with a ‘shooting brake’ styled roofline and plenty of width at the rear. In R form it sits lower and appears wider than the standard Scirocco, thanks to a muscular body kit that extends the side skirting. A chunky bumper at the front leads the charge and incorporates three gaping air intakes and LED daytime running lights. At the rear a pumped out rear bumper sits above a black aero diffuser and twin chrome exhaust tips that hint at leery intent. Gloss black wing mirrors, subtle ‘R’ badging and standard 18-inch ‘Talladega’ wheels finish the purposeful look nicely. The Scirocco styling may be a touch ostentatious for some tastes, but it’s daring, eye-catching and unlike the Golf R has the visual bark to match its bite.

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David Coulthard takes the Mercedes SLS AMG E-Cell for a spin (+video)

July 6th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Mercedes has filmed and released a video of David Coulthard taking a spin in the new SLS AMG E-Cell electric vehicle.

The now retired Formula One driver seems genuinely surprised by the acceleration, calling it “instant, but smooth” and “way, way more than I expected.” The car certainly moves alright and handles a slalom impressively – thanks to its low center of gravity.

The E-Cell has a lithium-ion battery pack which provides power to four electric motors. Together the motors produce a combined 392 kW (526 bhp) and 880 Nm, enabling the SLS AMG E-Cell to accelerate from 0-100 kph in just 4.0 seconds.

Check out the video below it’s worth a look. Continue reading “David Coulthard takes the Mercedes SLS AMG E-Cell for a spin (+video)” »

Volkswagen Polo TSI 2010 Review

July 2nd, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Take a quick look at a cars for sale section in any magazine or website and in the description of many small hatchbacks you’ll find the phrase ‘peppy’. But what does it really mean to be peppy? The dictionary would have you believe that peppy means “full of or characterized by energy and high spirits” and that’s probably correct but to save on words it could just have a photo of the new VW Polo TSI. What makes the second Polo variant available in NZ so lively is a new engine that’s low on displacement but very high on pep. Car and SUV took a closer look at the little Polo to solve the riddle of how less can really be more.

When the new Mk V Polo first touched down in NZ it was sold exclusively with a 1.4-litre 63kW engine, now it’s being offered with an all-new 1.2-litre unit. The new engine carries a $3k premium over the larger 1.4 motor but it’s money well spent because it must be the peppiest 4-cylinder in town. Using turbocharging to produce 77kW of power and a healthy 175Nm of torque the new engine is responsive and engaging. It suffers very little turbo lag and offers maximum torque from low in the rev range (1500 to 3500rpm) so it doesn’t need to be pushed hard. The TSI Polo will dash to 100kph in well under 10 seconds and has the mid-range punch to match much larger engines. But Grandmothers shouldn’t be scared off, the engine is well mannered at slower speeds and is never fierce on boost. With the pint-size engine and lightweight body the Polo also returns an impressive fuel economy of just 5.3l/100km combined.

With no manual option available in NZ the Polo TSI is fitted exclusively with a 7-speed DSG gearbox. It’s a modern piece of kit that changes seamlessly and gives a high-tech edge to the overall driving experience. Having seven ratios gives the smart gearbox a flexibility to either work through them rapidly keeping the Polo in its peak power band or focus on economy and get into a higher gear early. There is a sports mode available that keeps the engine in a lower gear and changes up later. There is also a sequential changing option on the gearshift for manual changes but steering wheel paddles are not available, even as optional equipment.

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BMW X1 23D 2010 Review

July 2nd, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Born into a rapidly expanding range, BMW’s new X1 is the final card to complete a full house in the X line-up consisting of the X3, X5 and X6 models. The X1 enters the market with crossovers well established in car buyers’ consciousness and no longer niche vehicles. BMW has hedged its bets nicely by representing itself in the small crossover segment to appeal to new customers and catch badge fans who may follow the current downsizing trend and leave behind larger X-series siblings. So with BMW’s now 10-year-long four-wheel-drive experience, modern powertrains and bullet-proof luxury quality it should be money in the bank, right? Perhaps, but with the tricky broad focus of crossover vehicles it’s not always that easy. Car and SUV spent some time with the new BMW X1 to see if it comes up trumps.

In styling terms the X1 is more closely related to a tall wagon than a boxy off-roader and is designed to appear bulky but is quite compact in the flesh. By comparison, it’s slightly shorter in length than both the Mazda3 hatch and the 3-Series wagon with which it shares many mechanical underpinnings. It’s exterior aesthetic is familiar yet shows a brazen streak with a raked back windscreen and deeply scalloped flanks. Out front, a XL-size BMW kidney grill sits between squinting headlights and fog lamps that are set deeply into a chunky bumper. A strip of tough silver and black plastic trim runs around the X1’s bottom edge to protect the panels and visually boast of rough roading cred. The rear is sharply cut off and houses a taillight cluster similar in design to the new 5-Series. Completing the hardy, low-slung look on our test vehicle were silver roof rails and optional 18-inch wheels (17-inch as standard).

Inside, you’re greeted with an elegantly finished dashboard that subtly cossets the driver. All instrumentation is clear, functional and well placed for easy operation on the fly. Numerous interior trim options are available but our test vehicle looked very sharp with a simple mix of black plastics and brushed metal/silver inserts. As you’d expect the fit and quality of materials is excellent and all touch surfaces feel top-notch. The optional ($3,300) leather seats were soft, supportive and offered a commanding driving position that made the most of the X1’s raised height. Standard kit on the 23d includes cruise control with braking function, CD stereo with auxiliary input and USB interface, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, dual-zone climate air conditioning and daytime running lights. There is also a wide range of optional equipment available like front parking sensors ($750) and an impressively huge panoramic glass roof ($3,350) that really lights up the cabin.

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Kia Rio EX 2010 Review

June 25th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

The second-generation of Kia’s mid-size Rio hatchback first reached New Zealand back in 2006 arriving as a capable and modern option for the budget conscious driver. But the Kiwi love affair with the hatchback meant competition was fierce and the plucky Korean compact didn’t stay new for too long. For 2010 the Rio has been given a facelift and a new lease on life, but will this be enough to iron out the wrinkles on this ageing model. Car and SUV spent a week with the reworked Rio to find out more.

As the latest vehicle to be updated in the Kia range the Rio receives the new corporate tiger-nose grille. That’s just the centrepiece of a completely restyled front end that incorporates a more aggressive front bumper with a gaping lower air dam and more pronounced fog lamps. The headlights are also new and use a split two-light design. It’s all very tidy along the sides with body coloured mouldings, door handles, a curved window line and wing mirror mounted indicators. At the rear a new bumper with a black plastic diffuser surrounds a chrome-finished exhaust tip. Completing the clean-cut look are eight-spoke 15-inch alloys and a subtle high-mounted hatch spoiler.

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