MINI: 2014 Cooper S hatch quick drive

September 16th, 2014 by Richard Edwards

At the same time as I had the keys to the latest Mini Cooper S in my pocket, I happened upon a documentary from Britain’s BBC as to why the German automotive industry was so much better than their own.

Among a number of obvious reasons – vehicle quality, labour relations, arrogant management – was that the Germans work heavily to develop, and then protect, their brands.

And that work is clearly evident in the history of the Mini. BMW have managed to take what was an iconic small vehicle decades ago, and turn it into a brand, which in the space of a decade has become so strong that they can stick it to a range of vehicles with little but come round headlights and cutesy styling nods to the past.

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Renault: 2014 Clio Expression TCe 120 quick drive

June 28th, 2014 by Robert Barry

DSC_0231When a lovely lady named Gail rang me from the Auckland Renault dealership to book a press drive of the new Clio hatch, she asked me what body colour I would like? Continue reading “Renault: 2014 Clio Expression TCe 120 quick drive” »

GM announces new Ecotec small engine development

October 14th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

General Motors has announced plans to completely overhaul it’s smallest engine range. This will involve replacing three engine families with a new modular Ecotec design.

Production of the more economical engines will begin around 2015 and it’s expected that by 2020 GM will be producing around two million of these motors per year.

The engines will be developed for global applications but GM hasn’t revealed what models are most likely to receive them. The displacements will range from 1.0-litres through to 1.5-litres in three- and four-cylinder formats. They will feature direct injection, a turbocharger and alternative fuel compatibility. There’s no word on specifications, but GM says the engines will deliver increased fuel efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions. Continue reading “GM announces new Ecotec small engine development” »

Next Honda Civic Type R may be turbocharged

October 6th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

The Civic Type-R has a loyal fan following. mostly by admirers of it’s naturally aspirated VTEC engine. So it will be with mixed feelings that fans receive reports that the next-generation of the hottest Civic will use a turbocharged engine for the first time ever.

While only a rumour at this stage, the unconfirmed reports claim that the 2013 Civic Type-R currently in development will use a Mugen-produced, 156kW 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engine. That’s only a small increase over the 148kW of power in the current model Type-R (pictured). The Honda fan boys who are left wondering why, can thank the strict European emissions regulations for the shift to forced induction. To salt the wounds the next Type-R will likely receive a stop-start system to reduce fuel consumption even further.

The good news is that the next-gen Type-R will come packing some neat tricks like a six-speed manual box with short-throw shifter, track-ready suspension set-up and all manner of aerodynamic aids. Expect 0-100 km/h times in the low six second bracket and a top speed of around 240 km/h. Continue reading “Next Honda Civic Type R may be turbocharged” »

HSV to use Cruze platform for 4-cylinder high performance model

September 29th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Holden Special Vehicles over the ditch has recently confirmed that it will be adding a 4-cylinder turbocharged model to join the beefy V8s in its range.

After discontinuing the Astra-based VXR, HSV has no models smaller than the Commodore and has decided to develop the Holden Cruze platform for much greater performance.

HSV’s big cheese Phil Harding confirmed that the company was investigating adding a performance-tuned Cruze to its line-up, but he wouldn’t offer any solid technical details on the forthcoming model.

Rumours are that HSV’s Cruze will be based on the locally-built model that’s set to enter production at Holden’s South Australian plant in 2010.

What isn’t known is if HSV’s small car offering will be based on the sedan or hatchback version of the Cruze (both of which will be built in Australia), but the sedan’s greater structural rigidity may see it go ahead. The hatchback (pictured in Chevrolet form), however, may look sharper and be more direct replacement for the now-discontinued Astra VXR.

In terms of engine and power there’s no official word yet but HSV is likely to draw from one of GM’s new breed of small-displacement direct-injection turbocharged engines, ranging from a 104kW 1.4-litre to a 200kW 2.0-litre. The Delta-platformed Astra VXR utilises a turbocharged 2.0 litre inline four developing 177kW, so there’s plenty of potential for decent power.

Suspension will be modified to improve handling, but HSV could stay with the Cruze’s rear beam axle set-up or shift to the Euro-market Astra’s independent rear suspension.

Styling will naturally be injected with more excitement for HSV’s Cruze, with new bumpers, larger wheels and body kits making it stand out.

A launch date hasn’t been announced, but with Australian production of the Holden Cruze scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2010, HSV’s small car may make an appearance mid to late next year.

Click here to read a Car and SUV review of the HSV VXR.

Click here to read a Car and SUV review of the Holden Cruze Sedan.

Dodge Neon SRT-4 2003

December 21st, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Dodge Neon SRT – extreme for everyday driving but unbeatable for the bucks