Nissan Pulsar SSS 2013 Review

September 8th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

Bringing back a historic name is fraught with danger. Our memories tend to be dulled over time and we just remember what we want to. If the strongest emotions we experienced with a car were good, we’ll remember the car as being good. This is why people often want to buy something truly terrible like a VW Kombi to relive their youthful road trips.

nissan-pulsar-sss-2013-rq

But, if we got back in one of those older cars with an objective brain we would realise that cars have moved on, and in the same way you wouldn’t go back to having an outdoor toilet, or using acacia leaves as a contraceptive, you probably shouldn’t idolise the name of a vehicle that, at best, was tepid in its heyday.

Even if you conceived your children in a 1991 Pulsar SSS the reality is that it has not stood the test of time. It is really a very tedious Pulsar with a boomerang spoiler and slightly bigger wheels. You might have thought it was exciting back in the day, but if you go back far enough in history, so was showing some ankle.

nissan-pulsar-sss-2013-front-interiorNissan put the SR20DE engine in it which dribbled out an anaemic 105kW. They could have given it some balls like the scary GTi-R, or even treated us to the SR16VE N1 which was the highest output naturally aspirated engine of its day until Honda’s F20C engine debuted in the S2000.

But they didn’t and this isn’t supposed to be too much of a history lesson because we’ve got a brand spankers 2013 Nissan Pulsar SSS to evaluate. At first glance, it’s a Pulsar with a body kit…keeping in line with the original, then. It does succeed in elevating the conservative Pulsar slightly. Very slightly. Continue reading “Nissan Pulsar SSS 2013 Review” »

Honda Accord NT 2013 Review

August 27th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

Some things get simpler in life while some things get more complex. In the case of the Honda Accord NT, it has got both simpler and more complex in this latest iteration.

honda-accord-nt-2013-rqIt’s more complex because there are just so many more features than the previous model, and you will need to sit down with the instruction manual to find them all. I could write a couple of thousand words just describing all the bells, whistles and jangly bits it has. It’s simpler to drive, though, because it has some features that mean you don’t need to think. Or even look where you are going.

honda-accord-nt-2013-steering-wheelI am not lying when I say that I drove the Accord NT from the top of the Bombays all the way to Mt Wellington off-ramp only touching the steering wheel four times. No, I don’t have telekinetic powers (although that would be useful), and I definitely didn’t trust the car enough to put my hands behind my head and kick back. However, if you are driving on a relatively straight motorway the Honda will steer itself, keeping the car between the white lines (albeit in a slightly meandering way) using Lane Keep Assist System (LKAS).

It deals with gentle curves with ease, and I only had to take control when it either lost the lane marking (it was missing on the right for a short stretch once), or the corner was too sharp for it to cope (three times). Each time this happens, you get an orange warning light on the dash telling you to steer. Convenient…unless you’ve fallen asleep. Continue reading “Honda Accord NT 2013 Review” »

Ford Focus Trend Hatchback 2013 Review

August 11th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

There’s a theory that is used to explain why people can sometimes be extremely productive late at night. The fact is that the majority of tasks we have to perform are often mundane and don’t require that much of our brainpower. Consequently we get distracted by pictures of cats on Facebook. As we get more and more tired, our ability to process information diminishes and the tasks that once took up, say, 60% of our brainpower now take up much closer to 100%, and therefore the room for distracting thoughts is less.

ford-focus-trend-hatchback-2013-rqThat’s why I’m writing this article at 2:33am on a Sunday morning after first playing a gig in my band, then going to karaoke for a couple of hours for some post-gig socialising. It’s all about focus, which neatly segues into what this article is about: the Ford Focus Trend Hatchback.

ford-focus-trend-hatchback-2013-front-interiorWhile other guys are out chasing hot girls, I’m in writing about a hot hatch. I haven’t used the expression ‘hot hatch’ recently because I hadn’t felt like I’d been surprised. I’ve driven cars you could classify like that, but I didn’t expect to get into the mid-range Ford Focus and get the same feeling as an older Golf GTi or a sporty Renault Megane. The steering is crisp, the gear changes are sharp, and the engine revs willingly.

Despite the perky two-litre petrol engine, Ford reckons you’ll get 6.6l/100km. I didn’t even try because I was having too much fun keeping the six-speed PowerShift gearbox in Sport mode where it runs up and down the gears with a speed of change that feels a little like VW’s DSG. However, Ford does recommend you quench its thirst with Continue reading “Ford Focus Trend Hatchback 2013 Review” »

Holden Commodore VF Evoke Sportwagon 2013 Review

August 10th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

The weight and thickness of the boot floor gives away that this Commodore can carry a serious amount of kit. Fold the rear seats flat and there’s enough room for a mosh pit of meerkats. I’d tell you exactly how much but Holden’s flash new website makes it really difficult to find any meaningful data (even though it looks nice).

holden-commodore-evoke-2013-rqSuffice to say that, if you were having problems attracting enough meerkats to fill it, you could use the space for something more productive. I assisted someone moving on the weekend using the Commodore’s capacious boot to cram a large number of items in. So far so good if you’re into carrying lots of gear.

holden-commodore-evoke-2013-sTo haul that gear you’ll need a strong engine and the Commodore Evoke comes with a 3-litre SIDI V6 bolted to a six-speed automatic transmission. It feels like a good gearbox and engine. You get 185kW and 290Nm, but the Holden is on the heavy side and it feels a bit restrained; like it’s being held back. The flip side is that there’s an aura and sense of solidity and, as I’ve said before, with a Commodore you do feel like it is enveloping you slightly while you are driving it, which further adds to the impressions of being protected by the car.

holden-commodore-evoke-2013-interiorIt handles well given its size, and rides comfortably on the 16-inch wheels. Holden has introduced a suite of major changes that improve refinement over the previous model. Noise, vibration and harshness levels are low at speed, and at idle the engine is barely noticeable.  Put your foot down and the transmission takes on an almost supercharger-like whine. Even though there’s traction control, it’s completely unobtrusive in the dry.

Overall, even though this is the base model with its Continue reading “Holden Commodore VF Evoke Sportwagon 2013 Review” »

Nissan Pulsar ST Hatch 2013 Review

August 2nd, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

What you really want for a road trip is the top-of-the-range car, not the base model, but the $29,990 Nissan Pulsar ST acquitted itself nicely on a weekend away to Rotorua. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have relished the chance to punt the turbo SSS version through State Highway 1B, but that can wait for another day because I was glad for the better fuel economy.

nissan-pulsar-st-hatch-2013-interiorThe Nissan reports the petrol consumption in kilometers per litre rather than litres per 100km. We achieved approximately 14km per litre on the trip back from Rotorua to Auckland, which converts to a moderately respectable 7.1l/100km. This is nowhere near the 6.7l/100km combined cycle figure Nissan quotes, but not bad considering it has a naturally aspirated 1.8-litre petrol engine mated to a CVT gearbox (not as efficient on the open road as a standard auto ‘box), and carrying all that extra weight. Nissan would have produced that test figure driving on an almost empty tank with a driver made of helium.

nissan-pulsar-st-hatch-2013-rqThe mud might have been hot and bubbling in Rotorua, but you can’t really say that about the Pulsar’s performance. The engine produces 96kW and 174Nm and you have to work that pedal into the carpet to get overtaking performance. Fortunately the Continue reading “Nissan Pulsar ST Hatch 2013 Review” »

Toyota RAV4 GXL AWD 2013 Review

July 31st, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

It’s not really a soft roader because it has a lockable differential to augment its all-wheel drive, so if you put a decent set of off-road tyres on it, you’ll get to some remote places. There’s also 167mm of ground clearance (22cm more than an Aurion) and a 132kW, 233Nm 2.5-litre petrol engine to help you pull your way through the mud.

toyota-rav4-gxl-2013-rqThe RAV4 GXL’s off-road smarts continue with Downhill Assist Control, and that backs up the other safety electronics: ABS, Brake Assist (BA), Electronic Brake-Force Distribution (EBD), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRC), and Hill-start Assist Control (HAC). Seven airbags are fitted as standard.

toyota-rav4-gxl-2013-rear-lightThe engine returns 8.5l/100km (Toyota’s figures, presumably when driving in ECO mode) and emits 198g/km of CO2. You can take control of the 6-speed automatic transmission and move the lever to S mode for sequential changes.

Fitting with the trend of almost every other new automobile, the RAV4 has thick rear pillars and swoopy lines that make it difficult to judge when reversing. Fortunately there is a reversing camera with static guidelines and four sensors on the rear bumper to make sure you don’t run into anything.

The seats are large – almost too large for someone like me who has an aerodynamic body shape. If you’ve been at the pies, though, you will appreciate the RAV4’s seat width. It feels like it’s been engineered for the American market, and this flows through to the soft(ish) suspension that rides very well on NZ’s rough roads, but makes it feel a little like an SUV in the corners. Continue reading “Toyota RAV4 GXL AWD 2013 Review” »

Kia Cerato SX GDi Sedan 2013 – Review

July 20th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

Kia’s website instructed me to expect the unexpected regarding the Cerato, and I certainly didn’t expect the driver’s seat to be both heated and cooled in a car that costs a paltry $38,490. The passenger’s is only heated, so you will be able to gloat on a hot summer’s day as your unclad legs will not stick to the leather seat (which is also 10-way adjustable with two seat memories).

kia-cerato-sx-gdi-sedan-2013-rqFor your money you get a two-litre sedan packing a 129kW, 209Nm CVVT petrol engine with a theoretical fuel economy of 7.4l/100km. In reality Continue reading “Kia Cerato SX GDi Sedan 2013 – Review” »

Holden Captiva 5 LTZ 2013 – Review

June 28th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

Taking the Captiva 5 immediately after the Holden Cruze I was surprised at the difference in interior trim. The Captiva’s screens and controls look like they’re a few years older than the Cruze’s; does the rest of the car feel dated? Let’s find out.

holden-captiva-5-ltz-2013-rqTaking the Captiva up north to Tutukaka its on-road manners were quietly confident. Cornering and braking were Continue reading “Holden Captiva 5 LTZ 2013 – Review” »