Honda Jazz 1.3S Sport 2011 Review

October 21st, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Although it still seems like a new model line for Honda, the popular Jazz has been around for 10 years already. To keep things fresh for Jazz fans, Honda has refreshed its sub-compact hatch with styling tweaks, new colours and extra equipment. When the second-generation Jazz reached NZ shores in early 2008 it had mums nationwide swooning and quite a few Grandmas too. The Jazz was affordable, practical and cute – healthy sales followed. But that was 2008, since then the Jazz has come up against some tough competition like updated version of the Ford Fiesta, VW Polo and the rampaging Suzuki Swift.  Will the 2011 facelift be able to maintain the Jazz’s place within the affections of NZ mums? Car and SUV belted into a 2011 Jazz 1.3S Sport to find out the answers.

While Honda’s facelifts are sometimes criticized for being too subtle the Jazz receives visual updates in a few key areas. At the front there’s a more modern bumper and a replacement grille that joins new headlights. It’s a similar situation at the rear where restyled taillights sit above a new bumper. The result of the changes is a hatch that not only looks sleeker but also is also more aerodynamic. Our 1.3S Sport model received some striking extra features like a sportier grille, rear hatch spoiler and a full body kit with deeper side skirting. 15-inch alloy wheels are standard and door handles and mirror caps are nicely colour-matched. Continue reading “Honda Jazz 1.3S Sport 2011 Review” »

Skoda Superb Combi 2010 Review

December 24th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

The word Superb is defined in the dictionary as “admirably fine or excellent”, so it’s a big call to apply it to a motor vehicle. But this hasn’t stopped Skoda from using the name and its ability to produce quality vehicles remains most evident in the current model Superb Sedan and Combi (wagon). But what exactly is so exceptional about this machine that it can embarrass more expensive competitors and change brand perception in a single bound. Car and SUV spent a week with the load lugging Superb Combi to find the answers.

Visually the Combi is conservatively styled but it isn’t boring and despite lengthy proportions, appears nicely balanced. Up front, chrome trim frames the broad Skoda grille and a large single-piece bumper houses head lights, air dam and fog lamps. A deeply creased bonnet pushes into a raked back windscreen and indicator lights are repeated on the wing mirrors. Along the flanks more chrome trim is used and an elegant roofline tappers away into the rear hatch. Finishing off the luxury look is handy integrated roof rails and smart 18-inch optional alloys on our tested TDI 125 model (17-inch is standard). Overall, it’s a very sleek looking wagon and the design hides its length (4.8m) well, the only clue being a long rear overhang.

Continue reading “Skoda Superb Combi 2010 Review” »

BMW X5 xDrive 40d 2011 Review

November 19th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

The first generation BMW arrived ready to party, and so it did. It partied like it was 1999, because it was. The good times didn’t end there either, and in the following years the X5 helped trailblaze what we now know as the luxury SUV category. Naturally it had its haters, those who said it had been beaten with the ugly stick and those who called it a “insert posh local area” tractor. But it proved resilient and broadly appealing and just recently clocked up a very impressive 1 million units sold worldwide. It was in 2006 that the X5 entered its second generation, while already well established it further built on the strengths of the first model. Now for 2010 the X5 has been given a visual refresh and a reworked engine line-up. Car and SUV spent a week with the new X5 xDrive40d to see exactly what’s new and find out if the big BMW has still got it.

Styling on the X5 has only been changed subtlety since the first-generation with the 2010 updates being a further tweak. Although the changes are minor they are effective and the X5 looks every bit as modern as competitors. The X5 nose hosts the most noticeable changes with a new front bumper sporting larger side intakes and repositioned fog lamps. There’s more colour coding in the sheet metal and LED tail lamps now feature a smart L-shaped design. Elsewhere it’s business as usual with clean, tidy lines and handsome styling that will offend very few. Our test vehicle looked particularly striking with its Alpine White hue maximizing the X5’s bulky dimensions and the optional aluminum running boards and 20-inch (19s as standard) alloy wheels.

Continue reading “BMW X5 xDrive 40d 2011 Review” »

Volkswagen Scirocco R 2010 Review

July 9th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Since Cain and Abel made the Holy Bible exciting with its first murder, stories of oppositional twin brothers have always proved popular. While that story was one of the first, one of the latest comes from Volkswagen where the iconic Golf now shares its platform with the coupe-bodied Scirocco. When the Golf R was built the Scirocco received similar treatment albeit with marginally less power and handling ability. Now as second in line to the Volkswagen throne the new Scirocco R has been given all the benefits of R-division development with none of the responsibilities of being the number one son. Car and SUV put the pedal to the metal on the Scirocco R to find out just how far it could go to step out from behind the Golf’s shadow.

While there is much going on under the sheet metal it’s the Scirocco’s styling that truly sets it apart. Aesthetically, the Golf has moved forward conservatively into its Mk VI shape, not wanting to disrupt a winning formula. The Scirocco however, has been splashed with movie star good looks and genuine ‘right now’ appeal. It’s a two-door coupe with a ‘shooting brake’ styled roofline and plenty of width at the rear. In R form it sits lower and appears wider than the standard Scirocco, thanks to a muscular body kit that extends the side skirting. A chunky bumper at the front leads the charge and incorporates three gaping air intakes and LED daytime running lights. At the rear a pumped out rear bumper sits above a black aero diffuser and twin chrome exhaust tips that hint at leery intent. Gloss black wing mirrors, subtle ‘R’ badging and standard 18-inch ‘Talladega’ wheels finish the purposeful look nicely. The Scirocco styling may be a touch ostentatious for some tastes, but it’s daring, eye-catching and unlike the Golf R has the visual bark to match its bite.

Continue reading “Volkswagen Scirocco R 2010 Review” »

Bing Navigation in Action

June 30th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Here’s a video of this morning’s Bing for Windows Mobile beta upgrade that adds free text-to-speech voice prompt navigation instructions.

Great Wall X240 2010 Review

February 26th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

As a nation China has presented the world with many great gifts. These include the compass, fireworks and Jackie Chan. But when it comes to the automotive realm China’s contributions have been limited, a fact that could be changing. There are currently over one hundred car manufacturers operating in China, a number that should prove too large even for a country of mammoth numbers. As these companies jostle for sales it was inevitable that the keen players would glance toward international markets and ultimately find their way down to NZ. One of the first to travel the waves and attempt to make them here is Great Wall Motors and one of its initial offerings is the X240 SUV. Car and SUV climbed aboard the X240 to see what this new vehicle is all about and just how well it stacks up against Japanese opposition.

The first questions most Kiwis ask about this pioneering Chinese vehicle is: How much does it cost and what do you get? The answers at first seem equally elementary. It costs $28,990, and you get loads of stuff. While that doesn’t tell the whole story, perceived value for money is the key to the Great Wall sales pitch and it’s the X240’s most defining characteristic.

The X240 is a compact 4WD SUV and with sub $30K pricing undercuts smaller 2WD SUV’s and is up to $20,000 cheaper than many rivals offering similar specification levels.

Continue reading “Great Wall X240 2010 Review” »

Volkswagen Polo 2010 Review

February 19th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

One of the best things about playing mini golf is that you get much of the pleasure of golf only condensed down into a simpler form. While the concept of mini golf works well as an activity for dating teen couples it hasn’t always worked so well for Volkswagen’s Polo. The Polo model has been around for 35 years making it only slightly younger than its Golf big brother. The Golf has gone on to be one of the most successful cars in history while the Polo has seen solid sales but has still shivered in its shadow as a smaller, less attractive substitute. Now, the Polo has entered its fifth-generation and unlike the Mark VI Golf is an all-new vehicle designed entirely from scratch.

The new Polo was created as a poster boy for VW to show its current focus on technology and simple modern design. It’s working well with the new Polo already winning the European Car of the Year Award for 2010. Car and SUV had some seat time in the latest Polo to see just what makes it so special.

Continue reading “Volkswagen Polo 2010 Review” »

Kia Cerato SX 2009 Review

August 18th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Ceratotherium isn’t a word you hear thrown around very often; it manages to avoid dinner party conversation and shop counter small talk. That’s because Ceratotherium is the scientific term for the White Rhino, from the Greek “cerato” meaning horn and “thorium” meaning wild beast. The new Kia Cerato also uses the term for horn, but is this naming significant in heralding in a new ideology for Kia or just a chance to blow its own trumpet? Whatever the case, Cerato is a fitting moniker because right now, Kia is head down and charging.

By offering more for less and helped by an increase in popularity for cheaper new cars the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group has recently overtaken Ford to become the World’s fourth largest carmaker.  Kia’s role in this achievement has been pivotal and just as the horn is vital for a Rhino the Cerato is an important new model for the Korean brand.

The C-segment is hotly contested but Kia’s design-focused tactics with the Cerato is a smart approach. What’s first noticed with the Cerato is an overall exterior aesthetic that’s very modern. It’s not 2007, not last year, but styled for right now. Lead from the front by Kia’s tiger-nose front grille, this fresh-faced look is being adopted on all Kia models to help further brand identity. The grille is flanked by squinting headlights that are matched at the rear by Euro style taillights sitting between a built in rear spoiler and a chunky two-tone bumper. Broad shoulders a high rear deck and thick C-pillars work in unison to give the Cerato a purposeful, wedge-like profile. The higher spec SX variant, as tested, receives additional chrome detailing and front and rear fog lamps. Overall, it’s a sharp looker with clean lines and practical dimensions including a 415-litre boot capacity.

Attention has also been lavished on the interior resulting in a spacious and well-equipped cabin. Head and legroom for both rows of seats is good and the seating is generally comfortable assisted by a height adjustable driver’s seat. The switchgear and small display screen is simple in its layout and very practical. It’s a usable and well-presented interior but not without some small faults. Although fit and finish has been markedly improved, some of the interior plastics are left wanting. The silver door trim particularly was already showing signs of significant wear on its top layer of clear coating in our test vehicle. The instrument cluster is well illuminated in red and easy to read but quite dated in its appearance and does let down an otherwise agreeable cabin.

What isn’t dated is the Cerato’s standard equipment list that includes a six-speaker CD stereo with iPod compatibility, steering wheel mounted cruise and audio control buttons, power windows, remote central locking, and a 60:40 split folding rear seat. The SX version adds a full leather interior including steering wheel, trip computer, 17-inch alloys, climate air-con and reverse parking sensors.

Under the Cerato’s sheet metal lays a 2-litre 4-cylinder heart producing a solid 116kW of power and 194Nm of torque force. This is a strong engine within the segment and makes use of continuous variable valve timing to improve power and fuel economy. It returns an impressive 7.9l/100km on the combined cycle a figure assisted by the Cerato’s slippery exterior styling creating a low co-efficient drag figure of just 0.29.  It’s a capable power plant round town or open road but taking 10.5 seconds to reach 100kph it’s no stampeding beast. That said, it revs up reasonably freely and the generous torque figure allows it ample flexibility.

Without a manual option available in NZ, the Cerato’s motor is teamed up to a four-speed automatic box that does the job but is the power train’s weakest point.  The four-speed unit suffers from being one gear ratio short and has a tendency to kick-down gears hastily. The changes are smooth enough and performance is only slightly blunted but a five- or six-speed transmission would have boosted overall drivability.

In handling terms the Cerato offers decent grip and changes direction with little fuss. If pushed it displays some controllable under steer but most Cerato owners won’t be so vigorous as to get into real trouble. Ride quality is good with its long-wheelbase and soft springs soaking up most bumps and divets in the tarmac. The cabin remains quiet during cruising with little engine and wind noise entering and tyre roar only becoming intrusive on coarse chip road surfaces.

Safety equipment is impressive as standard kit and includes six airbags (front, side and curtain), an Electronic Stability Program (incorporating ABS and Traction Control), front active headrests and seatbelt pretensioners.

Unlike its namesake animal the Cerato is no Land Rover crushing battering ram, but instead has elegance to its styling and a comfortable ride quality. The Cerato’s strength comes with what it can offer for the price; the equipment list is long, it’s roomy and quiet inside and has adequate power for most situations. There are some compromises in terms of some cheap interior trim and an antiquated automatic transmission but those sins are forgivable.

Kia is fighting a winning battle against badge snobbery by simply making better cars while minimising the cost to the consumer, this is backed up by an engaging new styling focus. The Cerato is the right instrument to push Kia sales even further ahead so if you’re hunting down a new 2-litre sedan be sure to get on the its trail.

Click through to the next page for a list of specifications

Price: from $28,990, SX from $33,990

What we like:

  • Modern styling
  • Spacious and comfortable
  • Improved fit and finish
  • Price

What we don’t like:

  • Four speed auto transmission
  • Interior trim quality

Words and Photos: Adam Mamo

Kia Cerato SX – Specifications


Engine type 2.0L DOHC CVVT
Petrol Displacement (cc) 1998 cc
Compression ratio 10.5
Max. power 115 kW @ 6200 rpm
Max. torque 194 Nm @ 4300 rpm
Fuel economy (combined cycle) 7.9L / 100km
Co2 emissions (g/km) 186


Gear Box 4 speed automatic with sequential sport shift


Front suspension MacPherson Strut
Rear suspension CTBA (Coupled Orison Beam Axle)


Tyres 215/45 R17
Braking system Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs
Alloy wheels 17″ alloy
Full size spare wheel and tyre


Steering system Power assisted rack & pinion
Minimum turning radius kerb to kerb (m) 5.16


Overall length 4530 mm
Overall width 1775 mm
Overall height 1460 mm
Wheelbase 2650 mm
Luggage capacity 495 litres
Kerb weight min. / max 1294 / 1359 kg
Fuel tank capacity 52 litres
Towing capacity – unbraked (kg) 400
Towing capacity – braked (kg) 1200

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