January 15th, 2014 by Darren Cottingham
Back in 1997 if you wanted a fast but cheap road car you had a huge number of choices. Subaru Legacy RS, GT, and WRX; Nissan Skyline GTS-t and GT-Four; Nissan Pulsar GTi-R; Honda Integra Type R; and Mitsubishi Galant VR4, and Evo I, II and III. You could also get a version of the Evo with a 1.8-litre engine: the Lancer GSR.
The GSR looked very similar to an Evo I. In fact, many people put Evo I and Evo II body kits on their GSRs, and worked the engines up to well over 300kW. The GSR was much cheaper than an Evo, and you still see them around today (more so than older Subarus, which is a testament to how strong the 4G93 engine is).
17 years on, while I look back at my time owning performance cars with affection, I’m sitting in what could (or should) be the spiritual successor to those point-and-shoot turbo sedans of my youth. Except I’m not. The Lancer GSR might have the huge spoiler and the sharp body kit, but that’s where it stops.
It’s now a family car with sporty pretentions. It’s got a CVT gearbox and that’s not very sporty, although it does help with fuel economy around town. Quoted fuel economy is 7.3l/100km combined. I couldn’t get anywhere near this, hovering around in the high 9s. This isn’t particularly flash from a car that’s only pumping out 115kW and 201Nm. Acceleration off the line isn’t brisk, but overtaking performance is OK. Continue reading “Mitsubishi Lancer GSR 2013 Review” »
December 28th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham
The time to update the ix35 arrived a little before this new model. We last had an ix35 back in 2010 and since then the crossover challengers upped their game and the ix35 slipped down the rankings in terms of its competitiveness. We noted the strong engine, sharp styling, economy and equipment levels in the review (which you can read here), so how does this update treat the ix35?
The styling hasn’t changed significantly – headlights and alloys, both with more modern detailing, plus new colour options and roof rails – so you won’t notice much difference. Hyundai is working on colours that are branding statements themselves and you can have yours in Atomic Orange, Remington Red and a few other more muted tones.
The ix35’s styling has aged well in its short lifetime, and all that was needed was a freshen up. And so we have this model which is essentially a facelift.
On the inside there’s a slightly larger LCD between the rev counter and speedometer which shows the trip computer. The steering wheel features a couple of buttons for answering a Bluetooth-connected phone, plus a button to change the steering feeling to one of three modes (Flexsteer) – something that helps fix the vague steering we noted in the previous review. The rest of the interior is virtually identical.
The new audio system will stream audio via Bluetooth, and you can plug your phone in as well as use more conventional audio sources. Continue reading “Hyundai ix35 2.4 Elite AWD Series II 2014 Review” »
December 11th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham
Buy a Volvo with City Safety and in some countries you get a discount off your car insurance because insurance companies know that it has reduced crashes in XC60s by 22%. Insurers in New Zealand are lagging behind (probably trying to maintain their profits), but there might come a time soon when systems such as Volvo’s, or Subaru’s EyeSight attract a nice discount as they virtually eliminate at-fault minor fender benders.
This technology will ultimate also improve our traffic flow because there’ll be less opportunity to rubberneck. At the moment, though, not every manufacturer has a system like City Safety which brakes automatically for you at speeds up to 50kph if it detects you’re about to trade paint with another vehicle, or worse, squish a pedestrian.
Safety features aside (because it’s kind of a given when you talk about Volvos), the V60 is a station wagon that sits between the S series sedans and the XC series SUVs. You can get into one for a shade under $67,000, and the top of the line is the $87,000 R-Design. Our test car is the diesel D4 which is $69,990, plus it has the most popular options package. This bumps the price up to $77,210 with heated front seats, bi-xenon active bending lights, 18-inch alloys, electric passenger seat, alarm, navigation and some trim upgrades.
The driving experience is smooth with a pleasant wave of 400Nm of torque that is good at highway speeds on overtaking duty, but a little sluggish off the line followed by a burst of torque steer. The 120kW engine gets you too 100kph in 9.4 seconds which is a little tardy and would be improved dramatically if it was more spritely from rest. The five-cylinder, two-litre diesel has a grunty tone when pressed. Fuel economy is 6l/100km combined and that’s OK for a car this size.
The V60 excels at touring. Put it on the smooth expanses of motorway (that are still, unfortunately fairly rare in New Zealand), and it will devour the miles while delivering entertainment from a number of sources including Bluetooth streaming from your phone. It’s no slouch on the backroads, either, but it’s definitely exudes more of a plushness than a swift sportiness. Around town it performs well once you learn the correct throttle control – the large amount of available torque can mean it gathers momentum quicker than you’d expect with small throttle movements. Continue reading “Volvo V60 D4 Luxury 2013 Review” »
December 5th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham
We had an ASX Sport almost two years ago now, albeit a petrol one (read the review here). On the face of it, there’s not a huge amount of difference, except that it doesn’t seem as comfortable (more about that later). The reversing camera image has moved from the rear view mirror to the large screen in the centre of the dashboard. The central console area has been redesigned and utilises the space much better. The steering wheel has a slightly better feel and the buttons that control the cruise control and stereo are arranged to be marginally easier to use without looking at the wheel.
You still get paddle-shifters behind the wheel which control the six-speed automatic gearbox that is hooked up to the 112kW, 366Nm 2.2-litre turbodiesel. That is plenty of torque and it results in competent overtaking performance and reasonably constant cruise control speeds (engines lacking in torque struggle under cruise control in hillier terrain). However, it sometimes feels like it holds a high gear too long as you slow down and you get that low frequency vibration that, if you were in a manual car, would signal that you should change down a gear. You can use the paddles to quickly flick it down or up a gear if you need to.
Fuel economy is quoted at 5.8l/100km combined. Our primary journey was four people and light luggage to Mount Maunganui in which it achieved low a 5l/100km figure.
There are seven airbags (including a driver’s knee airbag) plus four-wheel ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution and active stability control – pretty much the same as the previous model.
Rural owners will appreciate the scratch resistant bumpers. Ironically, someone backed into our test ASX while it was parked and definitely left a scratch on the bumper – perhaps it could have been worse. Continue reading “Mitsubishi ASX Sport 2.2D diesel 4WD Review” »
December 2nd, 2013 by Darren Cottingham
Mention a Legacy GT Spec B to anyone of my generation (born in the ‘70s) who had an interest in cars when they were in their 20s and you’ll be regaled usually with fond memories of either ownership, mates who owned one, or the intoxication of the throbbing boxer engine. For those of you who remember the Friday night cruises up Queen Street, those old four-cylinder turbo Legacys in both sedan and wagon form were a fixture of the scene from 1989 through to the early 2000s. It was the mixture of capacious storage and the power to win the traffic lights grand prix that made them so appealing. But times move on and the Legacy isn’t any longer the fantasy car of practical boy racers. But should it be? We drove the Legacy X just a few weeks ago. It was quite good, but lacked the old Subaru character and certainly wasn’t fast. Now we’ve got our mitts on this Legacy GT B Premium spec, and it somewhat redresses the balance. It harks back to those original performance Legacys with the bonnet scoop and the kind of acceleration that frightens your granny. Neither the scoop or performance are extreme like they were on some of the Subaru WRX STI models in the past, but they’re there to remind you that in this Legacy the engine needs more than just the air that flows through the grille, and it will reward you with smiles. This vent channels cold air onto the top-mounted intercooler, which improves the turbo’s performance. Power is 195kW and 350Nm from the 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol motor, and it’s driven through a five-speed automatic. This is much better for this type of car than Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT gearbox, but it’s not the most responsive of gearboxes, especially when you compare it to, say, a DSG gearbox in a Volkswagen. 0-100kph feels like it’s in the low 6-second range, though no figure is given by Subaru. It’s not lightning fast off the line, but better when you’re moving. Gear shifts need to be anticipated because they’re a little slow even in manual mode. Continue reading “Subaru Legacy GT Spec B Premium Wagon 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.
The 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” »
November 22nd, 2013 by Darren Cottingham
With seven Mini model lines available there’s plenty of choice, whether you want classic, small and nimble, or something with more space, like this new Paceman.
Despite the Mini’s oxymoronic proportions (it’s not exactly ‘mini’ and adds almost 180kg over a standard Mini Cooper S), it delivers a relatively peppy 7.5 seconds to 100kph, which is half a second slower. You get the same 135kW, 240Nm 1.6-litre turbocharged engine. Fuel economy is OK for a petrol car with Mini quoting 6.1l/100km combined, 5.4l/100km extra-urban and 7.5l/100km urban. Those figures are for the 6-speed manual, which we tested; if you go for the automatic, it’s more thirsty.
The Paceman’s boot is where you get the main advantage over the standard Mini. It has 330 litres of space with the seats up (over twice as much as a Mini) and 1080 litres with the seats down, versus 680 in a Mini. The Paceman’s fuel tank is three litres less than a Mini at 47 litres.
The seats don’t fold fully flat in the rear. There are only two of them, too, and you won’t be transporting basketball players in comfort. You get to the rear seats via the front doors and sliding the front seats forward. The front seats don’t return to the place they were when you moved them forward, though, so you will end up making adjustments each time. Between the seats are two cup holders.
My drive to Piha on Auckland’s west coast quickly taught me that you have plenty of overtaking power, and excellent cornering ability, but the Paceman has quite an active drive when the roads are bumpy; it demands to be controlled because of the firmer suspension and sharp steering. You’ll feel like you need two hands on the wheel if the road is narrow and undulating because it feels fidgety on its large 18-inch alloys with 225/45R18 run-flat tyres, and the steering is very light. If you take command, though, it delivers a fairly engaging drive with an almost sports car-like feel at times. This is helped by an excellent driving position, supportive bucket seats and the fact that the suspension has been lowered 10mm to create a lower centre of gravity. Continue reading “Mini Cooper S Paceman 2013 Review” »
November 11th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham
Skiing, mountain biking, kayaking, wakeboarding: they all need either long or cumbersome equipment, and transport to places where proper tarmac can be sparse. They need a vehicle that’s an enabler. The Outback 2.5i Sport is that vehicle. With four-wheel drive, plenty of ground clearance and a practical station wagon body, it’ll take a family or a group of mates for adventures.
The Outback 2.5i Sport is a raised version of the Legacy 2.5i Sport and is the step below the Forester in terms of off-road capability (the Forester has a few more mm of ground clearance and some extra driving modes to help in the real rough stuff).
As well as Symmetrical All-wheel Drive, Subaru’s main safety feature is its EyeSight Preventative Safety System. This consists of a camera either side of the rear-view mirror. The cameras capture a three-dimensional image and can tell if a car is braking ahead of you, or if you’re about to run into a pedestrian. If automatic braking intervention is required, EyeSight can make that decision before you’ve even had time to react to help reduce or diminish the severity of a frontal collision.
EyeSight also takes over the throttle pre-collision, and provides active cruise control, lane departure warning and lead vehicle start alert (when the car in front of you moves out of the way while you’re under adaptive cruise control, or you are stationary and the car in front moves away it beeps to let you know). Continue reading “Subaru Outback 2.5i Sport 2013 Review” »