Great Wall X240 2010 Review

February 26th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

As a nation China has presented the world with many great gifts. These include the compass, fireworks and Jackie Chan. But when it comes to the automotive realm China’s contributions have been limited, a fact that could be changing. There are currently over one hundred car manufacturers operating in China, a number that should prove too large even for a country of mammoth numbers. As these companies jostle for sales it was inevitable that the keen players would glance toward international markets and ultimately find their way down to NZ. One of the first to travel the waves and attempt to make them here is Great Wall Motors and one of its initial offerings is the X240 SUV. Car and SUV climbed aboard the X240 to see what this new vehicle is all about and just how well it stacks up against Japanese opposition.

The first questions most Kiwis ask about this pioneering Chinese vehicle is: How much does it cost and what do you get? The answers at first seem equally elementary. It costs $28,990, and you get loads of stuff. While that doesn’t tell the whole story, perceived value for money is the key to the Great Wall sales pitch and it’s the X240’s most defining characteristic.

The X240 is a compact 4WD SUV and with sub $30K pricing undercuts smaller 2WD SUV’s and is up to $20,000 cheaper than many rivals offering similar specification levels.

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Suzuki Alto 2010 Review

February 19th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Often being successful means playing to your natural strengths, which is why you never see 7-foot tall jockeys and likewise with 5-foot tall basketball players. For Suzuki, its strength is in small cars, it’s where success has been found in the past, currently with the Swift, and where opportunities exist for the future. Suzuki’s latest weapon in the increasingly city car battleground is the new Alto. Now in its seventh-generation the Alto is an international success story having sold more than 10 million units over a 30-year period. Not all models have made it to NZ but this writer’s mother once owned the first generation and spent many childhood holiday road trips wondering why large trucks were overtaking our car when I was sure it should be the other way round. Now, with any flashbacks well-repressed Car and SUV spent a week with the fresh-faced Alto to find its strengths and uncover any weaknesses.

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Volkswagen Polo 2010 Review

February 19th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

One of the best things about playing mini golf is that you get much of the pleasure of golf only condensed down into a simpler form. While the concept of mini golf works well as an activity for dating teen couples it hasn’t always worked so well for Volkswagen’s Polo. The Polo model has been around for 35 years making it only slightly younger than its Golf big brother. The Golf has gone on to be one of the most successful cars in history while the Polo has seen solid sales but has still shivered in its shadow as a smaller, less attractive substitute. Now, the Polo has entered its fifth-generation and unlike the Mark VI Golf is an all-new vehicle designed entirely from scratch.

The new Polo was created as a poster boy for VW to show its current focus on technology and simple modern design. It’s working well with the new Polo already winning the European Car of the Year Award for 2010. Car and SUV had some seat time in the latest Polo to see just what makes it so special.

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Subaru Outback D 2010 Review

February 12th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Across various media and product forms there are occasionally cases of an unlikely oddball gaining a cult following and then reaching major commercial success. The film that cost 300 grand to make and then grossed 150 million at the box office or those rubber shoes that look ridiculous but are sold by the truckload. If this notion were translated into the car world the most title for the most unlikely success story would belong to Subaru. Once a fringe player, Subaru is now an automaker making serious sales in many markets including our own. Its Outback model has played a major role in this transformation and has now reached its fourth generation. Car and SUV had a private viewing with the new diesel powered Outback to see if it’s strictly for Subaru fans or if it has a much broader appeal.

While the Outback doesn’t depart from Subaru’s trademark symmetrical all-wheel-drive and boxer engine combination a main change comes with the inclusion of a diesel engine option for the first time. It’s not just any diesel engine either, the 2-litre unit is the first time a horizontally opposed diesel engine has been used in a passenger vehicle. It’s by no means a rough first effort and took more than a decade to fully develop. The end result is 110kW of power and 350Nm of torque that’s delivered smoothly and quietly. It’s an advanced motor that is surprisingly petrol-like and revs freely, pushing past 4500 rpm. But it does have a tendency to lag slightly lower in the rev range before the turbo kicks in and can’t match the low-rpm gusto of some competitors. That said, the Outback will hit 100kph in under 10 seconds and is brawny through the mid-range enabling worry-free open road overtaking.

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Toyota Aurion Sportivo 2010 Review

February 12th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

The word Aurion has the ancient Latin meaning of ‘first light’ or ‘tomorrow’ and Toyota Australia had the future in mind when it developed, produced and released its large car effort back in 2006. Based on Camry underpinnings and sheet metal but with a larger front and rear the Aurion was set to cut into the large sedan market dominated by the Falcon and the Commodore. Offered exclusively with a V6 powerplant the Aurion wasn’t optimally positioned for the current climate where smaller more fuel-efficient vehicles have rapidly gained in popularity. But Toyota is pushing on with the Aurion and the 2010 range has received a mid-life refresh. Car and SUV spent some time with the sports-focused Aurion variant the Sportivo to see what’s new and what lays ahead for this Aussie born battler.

The 2010 model year changes to the Aurion range are all appearance and equipment based with the vehicles’ mechanicals remaining the same. In terms of exterior looks the Sportivo has been sharpened up and the sporty persona maintained over its more conservative siblings. Frontal styling changes are the most obvious with a wider honeycomb grille and trapezoidal low air intake. Black plastic framed fog lamps also feature strongly as do new halogen headlamp lenses. At the rear new clear taillights are distinctive in their modern, after-market style. Rounding off the refreshed look are smart 17-inch split five-spoke rims. All up, the changes reinforce the Aurion’s athletic presence, and maintain its look of a steroid pumped Camry.

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Volkswagen reveals reworked 2011 Touareg

February 12th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Described as the most technically innovative Volkswagen ever created, the 2011 Touareg makes use of many modifications to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.

The exterior design remains familiar but dimensions have changed 4.3 cm longer, 2.0 cm lower, and has a 4.0 cm longer wheelbase -  width remains unchanged. Design details include a new corporate face grille, a reshaped profile, and distinctive taillights.

Inside, the cabin has higher quality materials, more comfortable seats, and additional rear leg room. The rear seats can be folded down via a press of a button to free up 1,642 liters of cargo space (it has 580 liters of space with seats up). Other equipment includes a standard 6.5 inch touch-screen, a 6-disc CD changer, an available GPS navigation system (with an 8-inch touch-screen), and a variety of different trims.

Weighing in at 208 kilograms less than the outgoing model, the 2011 Touareg offers a choice of FSI, TDI, TSI, and Hybrid engines. The V8 petrol, V10 TDI, and W12 engines are no longer offered.

The Touareg Hybrid is motivated by a supercharged V6 TSI petrol engine that produces 245 kW and an electric motor with 34 kW. With a combined output of 279 kW and 580 Nm of torque, the Hybrid can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 6.5 seconds and push on to a top speed of 240 km/h. Combined fuel consumption is rated at 8.2 L/100 km, while CO2 emissions come in at 193 g/km. The hybrid can also drive up to 50 km/h in pure electric mode.

The 3.6-liter V6 FSI has 206 kW of power and 360 Nm of torque. It drinks 9.9 L/100 km, and has a CO2 emission rating of 236 g/km.

On the diesel side Volkswagen offers two TDI engines. The V6 TDI cranks out 176 kW and 550 Nm of torque. It consumes 7.4 l/100 km. On the other hand, the new 4.2-liter V8 TDI has 250 kW and a whopping 800 Nm of torque. Fuel consumption is rated at 9.1 L/100 km.

The engines send power through two all-wheel drive systems. The base 4Motion version has a Torsen limited-slip differential and an off-road driving program. If that isn’t enough for your off-road adventures, the V6 TDI offers an available 4XMOTION all-wheel drive system.  It allows the Touareg to climb grades of up to 45 degrees thanks to reduction gearing, locking differentials (center and rear), and a rotary terrain switch (which offers five modes – On-Road, Off-Road, Low, centre differential lock, and rear differential lock).

The new Touareg will start arriving in dealerships globally from April.

BMW 335d 2009 Review

February 5th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

When tough decisions need to be made it so often seems like the automotive world just isn’t a fair place. You can fit performance tyres to your car but they’ll wear out quicker. You can buy a Mazda MX-5 but your mates will call you names. And you can have scorching performance but you’ll pay for it with poor fuel economy. But this final statement is steadily being proven wrong by frugal yet powerful diesel vehicles and leading the charge is the BMW 335d.

The 335d has established itself as the star performer in the face lifted 3-series range. It’s rolling evidence that BMW’s EfficentDynamics philosophy of power, fuel economy and low emissions is far more than mere marketing hype. It comes with an inbuilt ability to sway the opinion of even the staunchest petrol purist. This unique gift starts with the straight six-cylinder diesel lump wedged under the bonnet.

Despite the ‘335’ badging motivation comes from a 3.0 litre engine that breathes deeply through a twin turbocharger set up. Power output is 210kW but the 520Nm of torque is the magic number. This figure easily trumps the torque of performance V8s and even BMWs own halo model M3. Peak torque is accessible from just 1750rpm and comes on with a surging acceleration that pushes the 335d from standing to 100kph in a mere 6 seconds. The engine is highly flexible and can deliver its power in either a relaxed fashion or with total urgency. The accessible mid-range poke allows for effortless passing on the open road and low-rpm cruising around town.

What’s the fuel cost for such performance? Just 7.1l per 100km combined and even with vigorous driving economy will only worsen slightly. It’s an impressive figure considering the motor’s generous 3-litre displacement and the vehicle’s burly 1665kg weight. All up, the 335d’s diesel motor is a gem and delivers so much grunt for so little diesel and all with an endearingly throaty exhaust note.

Shifting all the torque to the rear-wheels is BMW’s 6-speed automatic transmission, which is about as good as you can get from a traditional auto and harnesses the power well. It has an available sports mode that is intuitive in holding lower gears and allows the 335d explosive punch out of corners. If manual changes are your thing there are shifting paddles mounted on the steering wheel or a sequential floor shifter. The engine’s predictable, linear acceleration makes the manual shift options an easy and entertaining choice.

In terms of handling the 3-Series chassis and suspension compliment the powerful engine well. A perfect 50:50 weight distribution helps keep the 335d flat and sure-footed during cornering. Wide low-profile run flat tyres sit on each corner and guarantee ample levels of grip but do ride quite hard. The suspension is set with sporting intent rather than comfort, this can mean intensely uneven roads are quite jarring in the cabin. The suspension is uncompromisingly firm which makes for high handling limits but may not suit those seeking a part-time luxury cruiser. However, when the 335d hits the open road and with some space to get the turbos spooling up any ideas of a soft-riding cruiser will be rapidly forgotten.

Steering is exceptionally precise with a solid responsive feel and most importantly it is communicative. Overall, the BMW 335d offers truly rewarding driving dynamics that will stimulate the senses.

Visually the 2009 facelift has revised styling most noticeably up front with a new grille, headlights and bonnet providing a more purposeful face. Taillights and sill panels have also received treatment but it does remain an aesthetically understated vehicle. Our test car was fitted with the optional M-Sport package that injects more visual muscle to hint at what lays under the bonnet. The 335i’s clean no nonsense lines are attractive to most but will really appeal to those who feel no need to signal their go-fast intent.

The 335d cabin is highly functional and appealing with soft leather seats, dark plastics and silver metal trim. It’s pleasantly basic with minimal, intelligently positioned switchgear. BMW has continued with its once-criticised iDrive unit but serious work has been put into it and the results are impressive. Everything from radio settings to sat nav can be controlled through the large control dial, it’s a system that’s easy to learn and intuitive. The large display screen is crisp and can split in two so you can keep an eye on your navigation while performing other operations.

General interior fit and finish is excellent with all touch surfaces feeling just right. Small storage options are limited in the cabin but this minor issue doesn’t extend to the boot, which has a very useful 450-litre capacity. The front leather seats are cosseting and offer a variety of electronic adjustment, combined with a reach and rake shifting steering wheel getting set up is easy for any body type. Entry and exit of the vehicle isn’t so simple with the seats located fairly low within the cabin, older drivers or those with mobility issues may be deterred. Although the 3-Series dimensions have grown over the years it remains a small sedan and rear seat space is restricted. With the correct adjustment three adults can squeeze into the back without issue, but if you’re planning on carrying adult rear occupants regularly it may pay to look toward the larger 5-Series.

Safety credentials are top notch with six-airbags standing guard and electronic systems working under the surface: ABS brakes, stability and traction control, cornering brake control, electronic differential lock, electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake detection.

The 335d shows all the 3-Series virtues that have made the model such a success over the years. It has the dynamic ability, the robust build quality and the elegant styling. But what makes it really stand out is the hi-tech diesel-sipping power plant under the bonnet. The motor is complimented well by all other aspects of the car but the effortless power it provides and the fuel economy it can achieve put it at the pinnacle of production diesel engineering. If your want a car that’s a dedicated performance sedan but you also want something with genuine green credentials then BMW has made this once distant desire finally possible. If you also have the coin to afford it, then the BMW 335d isn’t one of life’s tough decisions at all.

Price: $106,900

What we like:

  • Exceptional diesel engine
  • Dynamic handling
  • Build quality

What we don’t like:

  • Rear seat space
  • Occasionally harsh ride
  • Diesel performance is expensive

Words and Photos: Adam Mamo

BMW 335d (2009) – Specifications

Cylinders/valves 6/4
Capacity in ccm 2,993
Stroke/bore in mm 90.0/84.0
Max. output in kW (PS) at 1/min 210 (286)/4,400
Max. torque in Nm at 1/min 580/1,750-2,250
Power-to-weight ratio (EU) in kg/bhp 5.8

Weight in kg
Unladen weight EU 1,655
Maximum permissible weight 2,100
Permitted load 520
Permitted axle load front/rear 1,015/1,120

Drag (cw) 0.30
Top speed (km/h) 250
Acceleration 0 – 100 km/h (in s) 6.0
Acceleration 0 – 1,000 m (in s) 25.2
Acceleration 80 – 120 km/h in 4th/5th gear (in s) -/-

Fuel consumption
Urban (l/100 km) 9.7
Extra-urban (l/100 km) 5.6
Composite (l/100 km) 7.1
CO2 emissions (g/km) 189
Tank capacity in I (approx.) 61

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 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

Gear box 5 speed automatic with sport shift

Front suspension McPherson strut
Rear suspension Multi link

Tyres 225/70 R16 235/60 R17

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