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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Toyota Corolla Wagon 2010 Review

June 25th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

When you’ve earned an advantage you maximise it any way you can. That’s a fact sportsmen know, politicians know, and Toyota knows well. The Corolla is the biggest selling car in the world and an institution here in NZ, so why not offer three body shapes? The Corolla hatch is big business, the sedan less so, while the wagon is the quiet achiever of the range. The wagon may provide a tempting prospect for fleet customers and those who desire Corolla reliability with added practicality.  So can this stretched Corolla work equally well for sales-reps and families alike? Car and SUV played taskmaster with the Japanese wagon to find out more.

The Corolla Wagon represents a special deal, it’s only available in very limited markets and reaches our shores in just one GX trim level. Priced at $31,190 the Wagon easily undercuts its hatch and sedan siblings by $3 — $8k but is an expectedly bare-bones machine.

The Corolla Wagon’s utilitarian appeal kicks off with a basic exterior aesthetic. A make-up-free Corolla face leads the way and silver hubcaps mask 15-inch steel wheels. All bumpers and door handles are colour coded and visibility is aided by a large glasshouse. There are some nice touches found under closer inspection like wing mirrors with indicator repeaters and a cheeky crease line at the base of the D-pillar giving extra shape to the rear. Halogen headlamps light the way ahead well and jeweled single piece taillights cap off what’s a modern and practical but somewhat uninspired look.

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Subaru Forester 2.0D Euro Spec 2010 Review

June 18th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Returning us to high school days, you might recall the first day back at school after the long summer holidays. There was usually some kid who during the break experienced a sudden spurt of maturity and returned much bigger and more grown up than ever before. It’s a similar scenario for the third generation Subaru Forester that now only scantly resembles the boxy first model that’s become a bit of a cult favourite here in NZ. Proof that as Subaru strives to be a more mainstream global brand its products are being designed with a broader, more sensible appeal. The new 2010 Forester is also available with a diesel engine option and although Subaru is a late bloomer into diesel power it’s an impressive motor on paper. Car and SUV spent a week with the oil-burning Forester 2.0D ‘Euro Spec’ to measure its growth and mark its report card.

Let’s duck straight under the Forester’s scooped bonnet where the 2.0-litre 4-cylinder diesel engine provides all-wheel motivation. With this new unit Subaru has continued its commitment to a horizontally opposed boxer configuration albeit in diesel form. Power output is rated at 108kW with a muscular 350Nm of torque available from just 1800rpm. It can lay claim to being the world’s first diesel boxer engine and gives the Forester an intriguing character. Off the mark it’s no rocket ship, but once the revs rise on the turbocharged engine there is generous mid-range torque on offer. Unlike some turbo diesels the Forester needs to be pushed and held higher in the rev range to extract its best performance. If you don’t, it can get bogged down, especially if it falls below turbo-range at around 1500rpm. This requires working the gears which makes for a more involving drive.

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Toyota Yaris Edge 2010 Review

June 18th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

In a world of mass production and broad appeal design finding an edge is not an easy task. But this hasn’t stopped carmakers from exploring small additions and various tweaks for their existing vehicles in the pursuit of stimulating sales. In the case of the Toyota Yaris the extra kit has come in the form of a special edition package named Edge. The new Toyota Yaris Edge has expanded the Yaris range in NZ and claimed a place as the highest-spec variant in the line-up. So what exactly gives this Yaris the edge over its siblings and what is Toyota giving you for the extra coin? Car and SUV revisited the Yaris to find out exactly what the Edge is all about.

Priced at $31,800 the Edge commands a $2,800 premium over the standard 1.5-litre Yaris ($28,990), so where’s the extra money going?

Mainly into exterior aesthetics, not quite to a ‘pimp my ride’ level but enough to keep the Yaris looking dapper as it gets into the latter stages of its lifecycle. Additions for the Edge include front fog lamps, handsome 15-inch alloys (the standard model rolls on steel rims), and a full sports styled body kit. What really sets the Edge apart from other members of the Yaris clan is the athletic look that comes with the body kit. It’s a comprehensive fit-out with front and rear bumper skirting pieces, side skirts and a roof spoiler at the rear. There’s also a replacement front grille that gives the Edge its own face. The body kit extends the Yaris’ natural lines well and with the vehicle’s raked back windscreen, high waistline, and stumpy bonnet it has a pouncing stance.

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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.

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Nissan 370Z Roadster 2010 Review

June 7th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Nissan’s Z cars have a lengthy history that’s been groundbreaking, if not always successful. It all kicked off back in the late 1960s when the 240Z was launched and changed the way the world viewed Japanese performance cars. Before this break-through vehicle Japanese sports cars were often seen as too small, uncomfortable and worse — underpowered. The 240Z threw that perception into its six-cylinder engine and burnt it up, but not every Z car since has been as well received. Now the new 370Z is the sixth vehicle to wear the iconic ‘Z’ badge and the coupe has received raving reviews, but can the roadster variant keep pace? Car and SUV spent some time with the 370Z’s soft-top sibling to find out if it’s pure Japanese sport car or just a very expensive hair dryer.

From the outside the Roadster isn’t a large departure from the Coupe: it’s brawny, bold and, while curvaceous, isn’t at all feminine. The 370Z has ironed out much of the awkwardness that the preceding 350Z was criticised for. The shark tooth look up front is purposeful and a long bonnet with raked back headlight clusters ooze style. At the rear it’s big booty time with a high deck and wide swollen guards that are pinched off by a nearly vertical rear bumper. With so much visual mass at the rear the 370Z is athletically stanced and possesses massive road presence. The look is finished off by perfectly matched 19″ Rays alloys and a Z badges on the front guards that moonlight as indicators.

When it comes to the roof, the 370Z looks better with it dropped, but it remains a commendable effort. It’s longer and tapers off more gradually than the roof on the 350Z roadster. It also uses a lined high-quality fabric rather than vinyl and houses a glass rear window. To lower or raise the roof requires no latches or manual input and is done with the push of a button by an electro-hydraulic system. It’s a busy affair as the roof clunks through its movements. It can also be performed from the outside of the car by holding down the door unlock button. There is a solid feel to the roof and its mechanism, once in place, up or down, there is no creaking or noise from any joining points.

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Skoda Yeti 2010 Review

June 7th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Why don’t we have Yetis in New Zealand? That’s a question seldom asked here. I mean we have enough crazy people to see them and it was Sir Ed Hillary that first climbed the highest peak in their native Himalayan region, surely he could have organised safe passage for at least one. But we still don’t have any Yetis¦ until now.

Skoda has come to the rescue and made its new Yeti crossover vehicle available to all curious kiwis. So is this latest product from the world’s most underrated automaker really a dynamically competent, uniquely styled and keenly priced specimen? Or is that just fantasy? Car and SUV tracked down one of NZ’s very first Yetis to find out more.

At first glance the Yeti is distinctive and modern but probably won’t scare anyone. Its nose is the Skoda corporate grille that sits between uniquely designed headlight clusters. Character lines crease the bonnet and a colour-coded B-pillar breaks up the wraparound glass house. It’s neutral in stance and is fairly restrained but still displays soft roader styling cues like enlarged wheel arches, black plastic protective skirting, integrated roof rails and nudge plates front and rear. The rugged yet refined look is finished off with 5-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels. Overall, it’s a well-defined vehicle, while it won’t suit all tastes, it’s square back, chunky bumpers and four-eyed face have an unorthodox charm.

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Hyundai ix35 CRDi Elite 2010 Review

May 31st, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

So what’s new about the Hyundai ix35? Well, pretty much everything, including the name. The ix35 is an all-new model for the Korean carmaker and is set to replace the popular Tucson here, in the NZ market. The ix35 is a sheet-metal representation of Hyundai’s bold charge from bare-bones carmaker to a builder of stylish and desirable product. But even for an in-form Hyundai the compact soft roader market segment is hard fought by established competitors like Toyota’s Rav4 and the Honda CR-V. The ix35 has got the fresh-faced looks to get into the ring, but does it have the ability to come out on top. Car and SUV tag-teamed with the new ix35 CRDi Elite to test its metal and its mettle.

Penned at Hyundai’s European Design Centre in Germany the ix35 has a distinctive Euro flair to its aesthetic. Using Hyundai’s new ‘fluidic sculpture’ design language the ix35 is busy with dramatic crease lines and multi-sided shapes. Up front an aggressive grille, raked windscreen and pumped up bonnet signal dynamic intent. Swollen wheel arches and an ascending belt line dominate the profile view and out back wrap around jewel-stone tail lights and a roof spoiler finish the modern look. The Elite tested model is given added appeal by chrome work on the front grille and door handles with 18-inch 5-spoke alloys filling the guards. Overall it’s a curvaceous modern looking vehicle which will appeal nicely to image conscious buyers, it also isn’t overtly feminised — a potential hazard within the class.

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