April 17th, 2012 by Car and SUV
It’s been four years since we’ve had a Jimny Sierra to drive and it may be three grand more, but it’s still the best value-for-money off-roader you can buy.
I’ve always maintained that the Jimny is the perfect car to learn to drive in. It’s manual (although, you can get an auto ‘box if you want), and it doesn’t have unnecessary fluff to distract you from the task at hand. The sat nav is made of paper (it’s called a map book), the heat in the seats comes from your own buttocks, and the cruise control is your right foot. There’s hardly any power (62.5kW – notice how they put the .5 in there because 62 sounds just so low?) Torque isn’t much better at 110Nm and if you try to drive it at more than 100kph it Read the rest of this entry »
April 10th, 2012 by Car and SUV
It’s interesting driving the cars that you know are going to be coveted by the future generation of performance-hungry young drivers. Because of our fairly cheap insurance in New Zealand, people under 25 can afford to insure cars that would be uninsurable in many other countries. As we have a sister title, NZ Performance Car, I’m acutely aware of the type of cars that will be making their way to the next generation once they’re a few years old.
Mazda’s MPS is one of them. OK, it’s front-wheel drive, which makes it a bit annoying for drift kings and track day heroes, but it’s a hot hatch with enough Read the rest of this entry »
March 22nd, 2012 by Car and SUV
The spiritual successor to the ‘flying brick’ has had yet more corners chiseled away. It’s now like a brick that’s spent several years rolling around in the Muriwai surf. Of course, the bits that now bulge serve a purpose: they create deformable areas that assist with maintaining Volvo’s position at the top of the safety pile, along with a blizzard of available electronic aids (some of which are optional or only available on better specified models than the D3).
After I had digested the brochure’s waffle I took a good look around the V60. From the side you’ve got a strong swooping shoulder line. It’s handsome. At the back there are stretched high level taillights and at the front the headlights smear up the side of the sculpted bonnet. This is a car whose proportions work well.
Our test Volvo V60 didn’t come with a lot of the electronic driving aids that can impress your mates but it did come with a seat I would be quite happy to sit in non-stop for the full Read the rest of this entry »
March 15th, 2012 by Car and SUV
Aimed squarely at the urban tradesman, the Hilux was almost immediately pressed into service helping me move a large number of items from one storage place to another, including things like a ladder and garden tools. Our test Hilux had been fitted with a number of useful SR5 options such as a roof rack, security alarm, reversing sensors, nudge bars in stainless steel, rear corner protectors, side running boards, a custom cab, towbar, monsoon windows, alloys, a clear acrylic bonnet protector and more. These added significantly to the visual appearance of the Hilux, and added significantly to the price (see the table below).
If you don’t need four-wheel drive because your working life involves visiting the suburbs, you’ll benefit from the extra efficiency that not having to drive all four wheels gives you (8.1 litres per 100km as opposed to 8.3l/100km) and, if you’re like me, you’ll enjoy the five-speed manual gearbox and sense of connectedness with what’s going on that is often lacking in today’s vehicles.
The gearbox grabs the power from the 3-litre turbodiesel which sucks air into the intercooler via a bonnet scoop. It produces 126kW and 343Nm which gives it adequate acceleration for getting out of junctions in the city. A limited slip rear differential helps keep the power to the ground, but no Read the rest of this entry »
March 8th, 2012 by Car and SUV
It’s about time we got the Kuga, but I didn’t used to think that. To be honest, I was wondering whether we need yet another compact SUV. Now I’m certain we do. The Ford Kuga entered into my world last week, put a smile on my face within 30 seconds and now I want one.
It’s not something I say often about the cars we get to drive. A car is a personal decision and of all the cars I’ve driven (many hundreds) there are probably only 15-20 that I would consider based on performance/value/gut feeling. Notable examples include the Lotus Elise, the Audi S5 and FPV’s F6. They are cars which also made me smile, and the fun derived from the dollars spent comes in great surpluses.
Why is the Kuga favourable to me, then, given that I don’t need all five leather-clad seats (the front two of which have 5-stage heating), I only drive 3km to work on 50kph roads and with my child-free life I rarely need to carry anything more than some light shopping? It’s because Ford has captured some of the visceral essence of the fun of driving in a car that screams practicality.
Take the Read the rest of this entry »
February 29th, 2012 by Car and SUV
We reviewed the hatchback Barina back in December, so what’s the big deal with the new sedan version? Well, the big deal is the voluminous boot. It’s large enough for you to take up a career as a mafia hitman and not bother driving to the woods between targets. In fact, at a whopping 502 litres, it’s bigger than a Commodore’s boot by six litres.
Despite its new-found booty, it’s manoeuvrable, and easy to judge the corners. I had a gig at Cornwall Park on a very sunny day and I managed to park the Barina in a space 12 inches longer than the car (if that), even without parking sensors. The omission of parking sensors is annoying, though. All cars should have them these days.
Quite often when you take a hatchback and stick on a boot the result looks like you’ve taken the cutest little Maltese cross and strapped a beer fridge to its backside. This isn’t the case with the Barina. Aside from looking a little blunt at the front end, the lines work really well, with the rear window segueing nicely into the boot lid. The strong crease in the flank and the line across the boot combine with the stubby nose to give a sense of forward motion when standing still. The naked headlights give the Barina a styling edge and the whole aura of the car has gone from a definitely Read the rest of this entry »
February 21st, 2012 by Car and SUV
Fuel economy wasn’t a strong point in the outgoing Mazda3, something that’s been rectified in the new model. In fact, it’s a gigantic 25% more efficient than the previous version. That was a little on the thirsty side, so the changes to the 2-litre, 113kW motor, and the bits that are driven by it, are welcome.
The engine has been completely redesigned. Reductions in friction and weight, modifications to the cooling system to reduce resistance, better fuel atomization in the injectors, electrically operated sequential valve timing (S-TV) – these are the things that people that belong to car clubs talk about while standing around the open engine bay. But most of voluminous amount of private buyers of the Mazda3 (because it is the second-best selling compact car behind the Corolla) will want to simply spend less time queuing to pay for fuel, and subsequently ‘up-sizing’ their purchase with chocolate bars that are two for the price of one. The very fact that the Mazda requires fewer trips to the gas station could influence the Read the rest of this entry »
February 8th, 2012 by Car and SUV
We spent a very pleasant week which included a jaunt to Ruapuke and back for a Waitangi weekend camping trip. This was a great test for the Volvo – plenty of motorway driving, followed by some twisty blacktop and then gravel, all while laden down with the accoutrements of spending a couple of nights under canvas without decent toilet facilities.
The S60 T5 R-Design sits in a kind of middle ground between family sedan and luxury sports sedan. You could look at it two ways: it’s a safe and practical option for a sporty sedan, or it’s a car that stuck between those two markets and might not be big enough to be a family sedan or sporty enough to make your hairs stand on end.
It’s a Volvo so that means it comes with the aura of safety that is almost uniquely Volvo’s to emanate. That means it’s probably not going to appeal to young, affluent execs. No, despite the R-Design pack which gives you a sports-tuned chassis, a new grille and mirrors, a set of sports seats, floor mats, some stunning 5-spoke alloys, sat-nav and flashier gear knob, instruments and steering wheel, this is going to be a car which is bought by people who appreciate the sleek design and punchy overtaking power, but want it tempered with an air of sensibility and impregnable safety. Perhaps there’s a child, but no longer a ‘significant other’; perhaps it’s the need for an attractive corporate ride that’s a bit of a sleeper; perhaps it’s a couple whose children have flown the coupe [sic] so back seats are a mere convenience and not a necessity; perhaps they really just like Volvos but want something more exciting with better handling than an XC. Read the rest of this entry »