Hyundai Veloster Turbo Elite 2012 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” »

Kia Rio LX ISG Diesel Review

November 16th, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

You can hear the silence of this Kia Rio saving fuel every time you pull up to an intersection, put it in neutral and take your foot off the clutch. It’s because the engine quickly shudders to a stop meaning you’re not burning up precious diesel while waiting for all those other idiots who decided to take their journey (inconsiderately) right at the same time you did.

Push the clutch in again and the engine fires into life in a split second – about the same time as it takes to put it into gear – and you’re away. This is Idle, Stop and Go, or ISG in Kia’s vernacular, and it enables the Rio’s to get down to Continue reading “Kia Rio LX ISG Diesel Review” »

Honda Euro Civic L Auto 2012 Review

November 13th, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

Take one Civic, replace 70% of it and inject some slightly more confronting design language and you have the Euro Civic. It’s a Civic-sized car with Civic sensibilities, but designed (and positioned) so that Italian playboys will buy one for their mistress.

Honda has struggled recently with its brand image, and the problems with supply that resulted from the Japanese tsunami didn’t help. This car is going to inject a bit more design excitement into the range – something that’s been carried recently only Continue reading “Honda Euro Civic L Auto 2012 Review” »

Toyota Prius v S-Tech 2012 Review

November 9th, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

Whether it’s by happy accident or you’ve planned it, your four or more children put you in a small minority in New Zealand. Strictly speaking, having lots of children isn’t the most environmentally friendly thing you could do. Fortunately Toyota has created a seven-seat Prius v that will help atone your ecological transgressions.

Typically you’d choose an SUV, like a Toyota Land Cruiser or Holden Captiva 7, or a minivan to transport your kids. Universally, though, these will Continue reading “Toyota Prius v S-Tech 2012 Review” »

MG6 Turbo GT TSE Review

November 5th, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

Everyone I told I was driving an MG assumed that I was writing for our sister title, NZ Classic Car and that I would be donning a flat cap and one of those jackets with elbow patches. They warned me that if it wasn’t leaking that meant it had run out. However, MG has been resurrected.

We have a mixture of fond and, well, less-than-fond memories with MGs, from the Continue reading “MG6 Turbo GT TSE Review” »

Ford Falcon XT EcoBoost 2012 Review

November 1st, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

To some people, saying Falcon and four-cylinder turbo in the same sentence would make their lip curl. Until now you could only have your Ford with six or eight cylinders (well, only eight in an FPV), not four plus a hair dryer.

After all, the Falcon is a big car; it’s a car that’s had a six or eight for a reason. To top it off, they’ve given it a green-sounding name – EcoBoost – that, for sure, means it’s going to accelerate like a kitten pulling a Continue reading “Ford Falcon XT EcoBoost 2012 Review” »

BMW 320d 2012 Review

October 27th, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

The entry level model to BMW’s 3 series is surprising, mainly because if you’ve driven older base model 3s like the 318s from a few years ago you’d be expecting something kind of lacklustre and limp.

This obviously didn’t sit well with BMW. The base model is likely to be the best-seller, especially in Europe, where diesels are far more accepted, and you want to put your best precisely engineered Germanic foot forward.

BMW has cranked up Continue reading “BMW 320d 2012 Review” »

Lexus GS250 2012 Review

October 2nd, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

It’s ironic that the Lexus GS250 could be the best car for boosting fertility, but it’s mostly going to be purchased by those who have already procreated.

It’s a true story that a friend of a friend and his wife were trying to conceive and having some trouble. The doctor told him that he needed to keep his nether region as cool as possible to assist in the production of the little wrigglers required to seal the deal, and so it was that he traveled around in his car with the seat fans on full all the time.

Yes, the Lexus GS250 will blow cooling, life-giving air through the seat. One can only speculate that, given the Lexus comes from Japan where the population is in perilous decline (it will decrease from its current 126 million to less than 50 million within a hundred years unless young women stop buying and dressing up those annoying little dogs and start having babies), perhaps there’s some kind of government incentive. After all, the Toyota Land Cruiser we reviewed a couple of months ago also came with the same system.

Lexus has made the GS250 an exceptionally comfortable car to drive in and has given it a stereo of epic quality. Several times I found myself sitting in it after I’d turned the car off, just listening to the music. While the operation of the stereo is a little fiddly with the joystick on the centre console, the audible results are stellar. They are powerful and clear.

Twelve speakers wash you with sound via a 299W amp. Music input devices include all kinds of CD and media files, iPod and other MP3 players, radio data service, satellite radio (so you can listen to the BBC World Service) and just plain old terrestrial AM/FM. The system has voice recognition and you can connect your Bluetooth-enabled phone, as well as streaming music via Bluetooth.

The second audible aspect of the Lexus which I loved was the engine tone. If you are cruising along, you barely hear the engine at all – it’s exceptionally quiet – but bury the accelerator and the Sound Generator system (basically a couple of mufflers and intake manifold modification) takes you from a quite purposeful bassy tone at low revs through to a tone that sounds like the best of angry V6 engines with a hint of V8 Supercar thrown in.

The response of the engine is controlled by one of three modes: eco, normal and sport. Eco mode reduces the power, throttle response and air conditioning. In sport mode, the throttle response is enhanced and more power is available from the 2.5-litre V6 – up to 154kW and 253Nm. This gives a 0-100kph sprint of 8.8 seconds which is adequate for most overtaking needs.

The gearbox is a six-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddles. I expected it to be seven-speed, but the six-speed doesn’t seem to have any compromises. A snow mode is available.

Combined fuel consumption is quoted at 9.3l/100km. We managed 9.1 on a journey from Coromandel town to Auckland that included all the twisty awesomeness of the Thames Coast Road, plus an annoying late-night motorway closure at Papakura that delayed us and forced us through the back streets of Takanini after crawling along for 3km.

Being the baby of the range there are a couple of concessions. The cruise control is a budget one out of a Toyota. You can’t set a specific speed and it appears to wander up to 5kph from the set speed.

The satellite navigation, which displays on the 8-inch LCD, is easy enough to use once you’ve mastered the joystick and has a useful feature where you can retrace your journey. The maps were out-of-date, though. It didn’t know about the new Kopu bridge coming into Thames, so make sure you request an update if you’re purchasing one.

Given the GS250’s friendliness for creating children, they’ll be fine in the back until they are teens, at which time the lack of legroom will create problems. For short journeys there is enough, but you would not want to transport a sulky 15-year-old for any more than an hour or so. This does, however, allow for a slightly large boot than you might expect.

With all the noise, you also need poise. The Lexus stays flat through the corners, washing out into predictable understeer if you push it too hard. A cadre of electronics prevents you from kicking the back end out or getting into any kind of skid. There’s also a blind spot monitoring system to warn you if a vehicle is overtaking you on the left or right. If all these electronics can’t save you, nine airbags are the next line of defence.

While Lexus always does well in consumer surveys for satisfaction and reliability it’s comforting to know that the GS250 comes with a four-year unlimited kilometer warranty and a six-year corrosion warranty, fully transferable to new owners.

I really enjoyed the GS250. OK, it has a couple of minor issues, but the overall driving experience with its exhaust note, stereo quality and level of comfort are more than enough to negate them. If only I had an interest in having children!

Price: $102,900

Pros

  • Quiet
  • Beautiful engine tone on acceleration
  • High comfort level
  • Excellent stereo

Cons

  • Not much rear passenger leg room
  • Joystick operation of media centre and nav takes up a lot of space and isn’t that nice to use.
  • Budget cruise control


Words and photos: Darren Cottingham