2013 Nissan Micra Road Test

Nissan Micra road testDoing a full road test on a car the size of the Nissan Micra ST-L is not a lot of fun for anyone here at AussieMotoring HQ.

You see … we’re all tall and we’re not located in a capital city … in fact we’re about three to four hours drive from the city … and cars this size are usually not built for tall drivers on long trips.

So road testing something the size of the Nissan Micra is not very high on the list of cars we want to road test and we try to avoid them.

However, when one just magically appears in your driveway and you have to actually drive it somewhere to get it back to the person who left it there … well you can always fit in a quick road test can’t you?

The Nissan Micra ST-L that I drove was the latest 4-door manual sedan and it had just over 4,o00 km on the clock.

Overall Finish
The 2013 Micra ST-L comes to us from India … previous models were built in Indonesia … but the overall finish of the car I drove was excellent and the finish was equal to anything I’ve seen on Nissan’s coming from Japan.

There were however, two issues that I did notice about the car I drove. It had been thoroughly cleaned inside and out in Brisbane and yet, by the time it drove up the Bruce Highway to our location, there were quite noticeable signs of dust across the dashboard and on the instruments.

The second issue was the inset rubber mat on the driver’s side. The stitching that holds the mat to the carpet is inset by perhaps 10 millimetres from the edge of the mat and that allowed the edges of the mat to start rolling up. It made the floor in front of the driver’s seat look a little shabby.

The engine
The Nissan Micra is powered by a 1.2-litre 3-cylinder petrol engine that produces 56kW of power and 100Nm of torque. That was coupled to 5-speed manual transmission in the car I drove (a constant velocity auto transmission is available as an option).

I found the car surprisingly fun to drive with the manual transmission although the 1.2-litre engine quickly runs out of puff on any sort of hill when you’re in fifth gear. On the flat it’s fast … on the hill in any gear it becomes a little slower so expect to be busy with the gear lever in anything but flat terrain.

I can only guess at what it would be like to drive the automatic version of the Nissan Micra but I wouldn’t expect it to be a lot of high-adrenalin fun.

The clutch in the manual Nissan Micra caught me off guard too. It’s very … and I mean very … light and fortunately no one was around to watch as I backed out of the driveway and then tried to proceed in a forward direction.

If anyone had been around they would have seen the Micra I was driving trying to emulate a kangaroo and it’s been many a long year since I last managed to do that. By the first corner I had mastered the clutch … at least I thought so … but I did have a quite a few revs on and maybe I spun the wheels … just a bit.

I didn’t get to spend long enough in the car to get any useful fuel consumption figures but the economy gauge that’s part of the dashboard was telling me that I was running at about 8L/100k.

Nissan Micra ST-L

Handling
On good tar the ride was wonderful … smooth … comfortable … just what you would want on a town car. But city roads are a far cry from some of the main roads around here and I soon discovered that the ride of the Nissan Micra on the average bumpy road around here was somewhat choppy … and hard … and I didn’t like it.

Despite that the car handled well … you can point it into a curve or corner at a reasonable legal speed and know that it’s going to come out the other side still pointing in the right direction and your passenger won’t be looking for the escape hatch.

As you would expect in a vehicle this size, the turning circle is tight … just nine metres according to Nissan.

The body
I’m neutral about the body shape. It seems to me that the designers wanted to be just a little bit quirky with the look of the Nissan Micra but still have something that was conservative enough to appeal to older drivers … and let’s fact it … not every Nissan Micra is going to be sold to a trendy young thing.

Older city drivers are going to be interested in the Micra because of its price tag, it’s size and it’s fuel economy and Nissan wouldn’t want to scare them away with something that was too quirky.

Whether it’s quirky or not you do get good all-round vision from the driver’s seat and big rear-view mirrors let you see what’s behind you too.

nissan-micra-stl-dash

The interior
The Nissan Micra I drove was a 4-door so there’s not going to be a huge amount of legroom for the driver. When I jumped in the car I found that the seat was fairly upright and already set all the way back and even though I felt as though my knees were almost up around my ears I left it the way it was.

I wasn’t uncomfortable and the driver’s seat certainly supported me everywhere I needed it to but … for me … it’s definitely a city car. I would not take it on a long trip.

The dashboard layout is simple and easy to read. All the important gauges are right where you can see them and the fuel gauge is incorporated into the driving computer so it will even tell you when it’s time to fill up … and how many kilometres you’ve got left till you run out of fuel.

Don’t expect big things from the boot in the Nissan Micra … remember, this is a small car however it does hold a surprisingly large amount of stuff if you pack it correctly. The Micra I tested arrived with enough luggage for two adults for four nights … and it was all packed neatly in the boot.

If just two of you are travelling in the car you can always fold the back seats down for even more luggage space.

And tucked in a well under the boot is a full-size spare.

nissan-micra-boot

The bottom line
If I was getting on in years, didn’t do any driving outside of the city or town limits and I wanted a car that was both economical and cheap to buy then maybe I would look at the Nissan Micra … and if there was just a bit more legroom for the driver I might actually buy one.

By | December 1st, 2013|Featured, Nissan, Road Tests|0 Comments

2012 Series II Holden Captiva 7 LX Review

2012 Holden Captiva 7 LXThis is the second Holden Captiva we have had for review and I have to say that I approached it with some trepidation. The original Holden Captiva we tested was one of the first Captiva models to hit the market and to put it bluntly … we were not impressed.

It may have been the particular vehicle we had for the test but that first Captiva left us with some negative feelings about the vehicle that were definitely hard to shake off.

However the 2012 6-cylinder Series II Captiva 7 undid all those negative memories. That’s not to say that the Series II Captiva 7 is perfect … only one of the three drivers associated with Aussie Motoring that drove it was impressed … but in our estimation it is definitely a huge leap forward when compared to the first Captiva.

The vehicle we had for this test was the top of the range 6-cylinder Series II Holden Captiva 7 LX and the only option on the vehicle that we could identify was a factory-fitted towbar.

If you’re coming from a small car … one of our drivers regularly drives a Corolla … then the size of the Captiva 7 may catch you by surprise. It’s easy to think of this vehicle as being fairly compact … from the outside it does look that way … but once you’re in the driver’s seat you begin to realize that it’s a little bigger than you thought.

What we liked about the Captiva
All drivers were impressed by the visibility. You get such a good view from the driver’s seat that you tend to forget that the vehicle does have a nose that projects some way beyond the windscreen.

The sideview mirrors are big and they really do give you a good view of what’s on the left and right of the vehicle. The main rearview mirror also gives you a good view of what’s behind you and on the test vehicle it was fitted with auto-dimming so idiots with high-beam and/or fog lights aren’t as much of a nuisance as they might otherwise be.

The rear of the Series II Holden Captiva LX

The Series II Holden Captiva LX is also fitted with a reversing camera and it really does give you a great view of what’s behind you when you’re reversing. The image is displayed in the large screen at the top of the centre stack and that really does get a big tick of approval from me. I see no point in displaying a reversing camera image in the rearview mirror where light and reflection tend to make it hard to see.

The front seats that caused us so much discomfort in the first Captiva we tested were comfortable and provided plenty of adjustment. Tall drivers will have no problems … but you wouldn’t want to be a passenger in the second row of seats if the driver and passenger are tall. There’s not much legroom if the front seats are as far back as they can go.

Climbing into the third row of seats in the Series II Holden Captiva 7

The layout of the dashboard was also quite good and you’re not overwhelmed with irrelevant information. You get all the information you need and if you want more it’s not hard to find it but it’s just not there in your face.

With the third row of seats folded flat there’s 465 litres of luggage space and 930 litres with both rows of seats folded down.  There are also several places where you can tie down or secure anything you might be carrying in the back so some people might find that the Series II Captiva 7 could double as a delivery vehicle.

Pulling the third row of seats up after they have been folded flat was a breeze … it’s a pity the same thing couldn’t be said about the second row of seats.

Things we didn’t like about the Captiva
When are Australians going to lose their fascination with leather seats? All three drivers had the same opinion after driving the Captiva on relatively mild days up here in Queensland.

If you’ve got hemorrhoids there’s a quick way to get rid of them if you happen to own any vehicle that has leather seats. Go park it in the sun for a couple of hours and then sit on the leather seat and you’ll burn the hemorrhoids off … it might be bloody painful but it’s faster than the other option.

Fuel consumption figures for the Series II Holden Captiva 7

Scary urban fuel consumption figures

Fuel consumption was a major cause of unhappiness among the drivers. The 6-cylinder Series II Holden Captiva 7 has a 3.0-litre SIDI direct injection V6 engine coupled to a 6-speed auto transmission that on our vehicle had a truly frightening thirst. The transmission comes with a choice of standard or Eco mode and even though we spent most of our time driving it in Eco mode the fuel consumption figures were not good.

Fuel consumption figures for the Captiva 7 LX

The last highway fuel consumption figures we recorded. The figures from the first lot of highway driving were in the 11s

Holden says that you can expect to get 10.1L/100km on a combined cycle. Our best figures were in the mid to high 13s around town and the mid 10s on the highway no matter how conservatively we drove.

And to top that off we found the Captiva to be sluggish regardless of which mode we were operating in.  We did think that with a 6-cylinder engine the vehicle would have been fairly lively but that wasn’t the case in the text vehicle.

Gear changes in the auto box were good but the vehicle we tested seemed to have a noisy dislike for driving at a steady consistent speed when it was in Eco mode. There was plenty of whirring and whining coming from the transmission … although you probably wouldn’t hear it if you had the sound system running.

 

Holden Captiva 7 steering wheel

Two of the cruise control buttons are tucked away out of sight behind the buttons you can see on the right hand side

No one seemed to like the access to the third row of seats either. Of course that access is going require someone to fold part of the second row forward while people are climbing into the back but the second row of seats don’t slide forward so access is cramped and folding the second row back into position was not easy because the seats are heavy.

And then there are the proximity sensors … well not so much the sensors as the noise they make. The warning buzzer is on by default so every time you turn the ignition on in a crowded garage or parking area the buzzer will sound. Of course you can turn it off but as soon as you select reverse the buzzer is activated again.

One driver didn’t see that as much of a problem … perhaps her garage is neat and tidy … but that buzzer drove the other driver and me crazy.

Like all modern vehicles the Series II Holden Captiva has a number of controls on the steering wheel and most of them are quite visible and easy to use. However there are four controls … two on each side … that are actually mounted out of sight on the side/rear of the steering wheel and two of them are part of the cruise control.

Those controls were so out of sight that none of us ever engaged cruise control despite the fact that a lot of the distance we covered in the Captiva was highway driving.

The Series II Holden Captiva 7 comes with big screen satellite navigation system that’s easy to see and understand but sadly it’s years out of date for anything north of Brisbane. Speed limits were wrong … too high in some places and too low in others … and you wouldn’t want to rely on this system if you’re looking for a service station and thinking you might be able to get a little further before you had to stop for fuel.

The bottom line
One of our three drivers … a young professional thinking of starting a family … and looking for a new vehicle put this on her short list. The other two thought that for a vehicle worth in excess of $40k it was a little lacking.

 

plenty of luggage space in the Captiva 7 LX

A standard removalists packing carton can stand upright in the back of the Captiva 7 with only the third row of seats folded flat

Look around at other vehicles in the same category and you may find something better for less although you may not find anything better if you really do need that extra row of seats.

By | October 26th, 2012|Holden, Road Tests|Comments Off on 2012 Series II Holden Captiva 7 LX Review

Holden Series II Cruze Road Test

Imagine yourself sitting at a set of lights in a car that’s so new to you that you’ve only driven it for a block.

The lights turn green … you depress the accelerator … and for a moment nothing happens. Then … WHAM … you’re head snaps back as you’re hurled through the speed limit and into the arms of the first copper with a speed gun!

Fortunately there was no copper around with a speed gun on that occasion … or on a number of other occasions when the same thing happened during our test drive of the Holden Series II Cruze SRi-V … and it was just there to remind us that we were driving one hot little turbo-charged machine … even if it was only powered by a 1.4-litre petrol engine.

Did we enjoy the week we spent in the Series II Cruze Sri-V? Yes we did … but don’t get the wrong idea … we’re not about to say that the car is perfect because it’s not. There are some things that bugged us about this car but overall we think it’s pretty good!

The finish
One the things we rarely comment on in our reviews is the finish of the vehicle under review because press vehicles get a bit of a hammering and we have picked up vehicles in the past that have had bits hanging off them and once or twice we’ve seen body panels that don’t fit all that well … and that’s on overseas built cars.

Let’s face it Australian-made cars haven’t always had the best reputation for finish so I really should say something about the finish of the Series II Cruze … the Cruze that’s assembled in Australia. The finish on the car we drove was as good as you will see anywhere!

The panels fitted, there were no bits hanging off and even in the boot well … a place where poor workmanship is often most apparent the finish was good … all the joins were sealed … and we couldn’t fault it.

Even when we took it over about 20km of average Australian dirt road at a reasonable road speed there were no rattles and no dust got in anywhere. At the end of the trip on the dirt you could wipe your finger over the black dashboard and not see a trace of dust.

The engine
When we booked the car with the Holden press fleet in Brisbane I did wonder what it would be like to drive a car with an engine capacity of just 1.4-litres. Was it going to be a dog … and a very slow dog at that?

The Holden Series II Cruze Sri-V is fitted with a 1.4-litre, four-cylinder, 16 valve DOHC iTi turbo petrol engine. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on this vehicle but the vehicle we drove was fitted with the optional six-speed auto box with Active Select and I can tell you that ‘slow’ and ‘dog’ do not describe the performance you get from that combination.

Instead words such as ‘hot’, ‘sparkling’ and ‘nippy’ spring to mind when I think back on the week we spent in the vehicle.

Cruise control is standard on the auto and it worked well too. There was a little bit of lag when changing down for hills but I was prepared to live with that just to have something to help me keep the car under the speed limit. On the open road it wants to get a move on but I’m in no hurry to add to the Government’s income stream by speeding.

The one niggle that we had about engine/auto box combination was that Holden says that fuel consumption for the auto box with the 1.4-litre engine is 6.9L/100km. That was a figure we couldn’t get close to. The driving style of myself and the other tester here at AussieMotoring.com often seems to produce better fuel consumption figures than what manufacturers suggest but we really couldn’t get close to it with the Series II Cruze we tested.

We also noticed that by the time we returned the vehicle it had developed a slip between second and third gears and that was on a vehicle that had just under 8,000km on the clock.

Ride and handling
The Series II Cruze SRi and Sri-V both come Watts link performance suspension … and we loved it. We pointed our test vehicle into some of our favourite corners and curves at speeds that would normally induce at least some body roll in other vehicles but the test vehicle sat flat and on the dirt it was no different

Small cars on winding corrugated dirt and travelling at 80km/h or more usually don’t make for a good combination. The light weight combined with the poor road surface usually means that the car bounces around all over the place and on curves the rear of the car wants to overtake the front of the car … but not in our test vehicle.

There was never a hint that the rear of the car wanted to break out on curves and even over corrugation the car held its line. That 20 km of dirt road really sealed the deal for us as far as the quality of the car was concerned.

Apart from Watts link suspension there’s a full suite of control and handling programmes fitted as standard throughout the Cruze range.

Interior
I liked the layout of the dashboard and driver’s controls. They were all within easy reach and clearly labeled.

The onboard computer gives you more information than you could ever want and I expect that most drivers will rarely look at the most of the data that is available. The dials were easy to read and neither of us had any problems with glare or reflections in the dial coverings.

The air conditioning worked well and certainly kept the cabin cool in the early stages of another hot Queensland summer. The audio system was good too and it was handy to have the audio controls on the steering wheel.

The front seats were very comfortable and there’s plenty of back support if you need it. In the vehicle we tested the upholstery was black leather and the seats were heated but that’s not something we bothered testing … five minutes parked in the sun and the seats were more than hot enough for our liking.

Legroom for driver and front seat passenger is good too but if you’re tall don’t expect to be able to carry anyone but a dwarf in the back seat … there is just no legroom.

This is a car that would work well for you if you’re kids were still quite small … or had left home … but if they’re starting to grow and need some legroom then the Cruze is probably not the best choice for you or your family.

The Series II Cruze Sri-V comes with a touch-screen satellite navigation system as standard … and we thought that this was probably biggest mark against the Series II Cruze. Sat nav systems are not cheap and when you buy a new car with a system factory fitted you would expect to get the most up-to-date maps that included the most up-to-date data.

Sadly that’s not what came in the Cruze we were testing. The maps were four or five years out of date and were showing rail crossings that had been moved years ago, service stations that burnt down or closed years ago and other information that was just plain wrong or very out of date.

Access to the front and rear seats was quite good but access to the boot as limited. The Series II Cruze was a wonderfully big boot for the size of the car but because of the body shape you really do have to stretch in to get anything out of the back of the boot.

The shape of the rear passenger doors was painful for me too. I don’t know how many times I opened the door only to whack myself in the chest with the top corner of the door because I stood too close to it. By the end of the week I had begun to stand back from the door and so had the other tester.

Safety
Fortunately we can’t attest to the effectiveness of the safety equipment in the new Holden Series II Cruze because we didn’t have an accident but it’s nice to know that you’re protected by front and side-impact airbags as well as side curtain airbags.

The Series II Cruze is also fitted with auto headlights and, while that might be a safety feature that some drivers need, we found the system in the Cruze to be downright annoying for us and probably for some drivers around us too.

On a slightly overcast day the lights would come on every time we drove under a bridge and you can imagine how annoying that can get when there are a number of bridges in quick succession. (I just hope that burly truck driver didn’t think I was insulting him by flashing my lights at him.)

Of course you can turn that feature off … each time you drive the car … but the default setting is to have the auto headlight feature on.

The bottom line
The Holden Series II Cruze Sri-V is not a perfect car by any means but we loved it and we had fun in it … and somehow managed to pass every speed trap at a sedate speed.

By | January 16th, 2012|Holden, Road Tests|0 Comments

Commodore VE Series II SV6 Sportwagon Road Test

seriesII-sv6-sportwagonBack in September Holden launched the new Series II range of VE Commodores with a lot of talk about a new touch-screen infotainment centre.

At that time I was a bit of a smart-arse and wondered whether there was really anything that was really different between the first VE Commodores and the Series II if all Holden PR people could talk about was the infotainment system. You can read what I had to say here.

Way back in April of last year we road tested the Series I Holden Berlina Sportwagon and found that it was a good dependable vehicle. It was a Holden … it was reliable … you could get it fixed just about anywhere in Australia and that was about it. It was a nice drive but there was nothing to get too excited about

What we didn’t say was that both my partner and I found that the steering was a bit heavy and when you got behind the wheel you knew you were driving a big car.

Well now we’ve had a week in the Series II SV6 Sportwagon and I’ve got retract what I said when the Series II VE Commodores were first released. Sure there’s an infotainment centre in the car that’s interesting but we hadn’t driven a block in the new SV6 Sportwagon before we knew that the difference between the Series I and the Series II VE Commodore was like chalk and cheese.

The Series I was solid … dependable … and bit heavy while the Series II was just as solid … just as dependable … and it was light and responsive and just plain fun to drive. Oh … and it also had that infotainment centre that Holden made such a fuss about when they released the Series II.

seriesII-sv6-sportwagon-rear

The vehicle as tested
The vehicle we tested was the Series II VE Commodore SV6 Sportwagon that Holden is currently offering from $41,990 drive away. For that price you a 3.6-litre 210kW SIDI Direct Injection motor coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission (with Active Select) and a limited slip diff.

That set up returned a combined cycle fuel consumption of 9.9L/100km.

Standard equipment includes that much heralded touch-screen infotainment centre, sports suspension, a full suite of handling and braking programmes, six airbags, 18 inch alloy wheels, fog lamps, cruise control, rear park assist, dual-zone climate control, remote locking, 60/40 split rear seats that fold flat and more.

The vehicle we tested was optioned up with a full-size spare (standard according to the Holden website is a tyre sealant kit), satellite navigation and a reversing camera.

Where we tested
We covered over 1600km in the SV6 Sportwagon and that ranged from heavy city traffic around Brisbane, highway running on the Bruce Highway that varied from smooth four-lane cruising to rough goat track where we had to weave around potholes, and secondary road cruising (that was sometimes better than the highway … and sometimes worse) when we did the tourist thing and visited the Town of 1770 and Agnes Waters on the Discovery Coast here in Queensland.

We used the vehicle as if it were our own … we did the shopping … we did the usual running about that we do for my partner’s business … and we did the after-hours social things that we do … dining out and just generally having a good time.

seriesII-sv6-sportwagon-engine

The engine and transmission
It was responsive and the gear changes in the six-speed box were smooth and barely noticeable unless you really stamped on the accelerator. Then you dropped three gears and wondered how many orbits you would do before came back to earth again..

I used the Active Select option once or twice just to see how well it worked and it was fine but it’s not something that you’ll use all the time … or even occasionally for that matter. It’s just easier to slip the gear selector into D and let the automatic gear box do its thing.

Fuel consumption was certainly within the figures supplied by Holden and it seemed to take a lot of kilometres before the 71-litre fuel tank began to run short on fuel.

seriesII-sv6-sportwagon-side

Ride and handling
This was where we really noticed the difference between the Series I and the Series II Commodore. At slow speed the steering in the Series II Sportwagon was so much lighter than what it had been in the Series I that we tested.

Toni thought that there were times when the wagon got a little twitchy when she really had to weave through the potholes but I didn’t notice that when I was driving. For me the steering was always very predictable and well-behaved … even at high speed.

Ride was just as good as what we had found in the Series I but the sports suspension in the SV6 kept the wagon sitting flat on tight bends and through all that pothole weaving that I mentioned earlier. Why weave through those potholes? Well up here in Queensland they tend to be deep and they can destroy your suspension and shred a tyre in the blink of an eye.

seriesII-sv6-sportwagon-interior

Interior
If you read the Series I road test you will have noticed that one of the things that really bugged me was all the bells and whistles that Holden have for various events. Unfortunately they still have them all … and a few more if you have the satellite navigation option fitted.

Apart from that little annoyance the interior of the Series II SV6 Sportwagon is pretty good. There’s plenty of legroom front and back and the front seats provide plenty of support for the driver and passenger. We both have bad backs and a long trip in an uncomfortable seat can really hurt but we had no trouble with the seats in the Series II wagon.

seriesII-sv6-sportwagon-interior-3

The rear seats have the usual 60/40 split fold set up and laying them down flat is a very simple matter. Getting the rear seats set up again took very little time and you don’t have to be Hercules to get pull them back into position.

seriesII-sv6-sportwagon-boot

Even with the seats up in the normal position there’s plenty of room in the back of the vehicle and you could easily fit the week’s shopping plus a pram and some extra gear in the space available. There’s also plenty of storage hooks and handy little storage nets to hold small items and there’s a cargo blind as well for those times when you don’t want prying eyes to see what you’re carrying.

seriesII-sv6-sportwagon-boot-2

One unusual feature of the Series II Sportwagon is the placement of the vehicle’s battery. It’s not tucked away in the engine bay as you would expect … instead it’s in a compartment on the left-hand side of the luggage space.

seriesII-sv6-sportwagon-battery

The optional full-size spare sits under the floor of the luggage area along with the jack and associated bits and pieces. Personally this is an option that I would always choose to have. Maybe I’m a Luddite but I’d rather have a spare tyre than a can of sealant any day.

Driver’s controls
The dashboard is well set out and all the instruments are easy to read and understand. On the photos of the dashboard you will notice that there’s a reflection that shows up right across the front of the gauges. You’re unlikely to notice that when you’re driving the vehicle and I certainly didn’t see it until I was checking the photos I had taken.

seriesII-sv6-sportwagon-stackThe dual-zone air conditioning is easy to operate … as are all the controls on the dash, steering wheel and centre stack. The light switch is out of sight behind the steering wheel for most drivers but it always defaults to automatic mode so it’s unlikely that you will ever need to turn the lights on manually.

I didn’t like the idea that the lights stayed on at night for some time after you’ve switched off the ignition so I always turned the lights off manually but I had no trouble finding the switch.

Setting up the stereo and the radio wasn’t difficult and Holden left a great choice of music in the system. There was everything from classical to rock and it certainly showed just how good the sound system was.

The satellite navigation system was interesting and I have to admit that it’s the first time I’ve ever used one. It’s an option in the SV6 Sportwagon and it’s an option I would probably have fitted if I were buying a new Holden.

It wasn’t a hundred per cent accurate and when it showed speed limits they weren’t always the right one for the part of the road we were driving on. For example the highway to the north of the truck inspection station on the Bruce Highway just out of Caboolture is posted for 110km/h but the satnav system was sure that it was only 100km/h. The warning that kept flashing on the main dashboard and telling me that I was exceeding the speed limit got annoying after a while.

Directions weren’t always entirely accurate either and it took some convincing to get the system to believe that we really did know better than it did. On our first experiment to get the system to guide us from our place out onto the highway and to a small town on a back road on the way to Agnes Waters the system kept trying to send us on a route to the highway that was a long way off the real route.

Apart from that glitch the satnav worked quite well and you can set it to sound an alarm when you’re nearing certain locations such as railway crossings … schools … red-light cameras and even public toilets. Now don’t laugh … that’s a particularly useful feature if you’re a baby boomer on a long country trip or the parents of young kids who can only ever last from one toilet to the next.

The SV6 Sportwagon that we tested also had a reversing camera that displays on the centre stack when reverse gear is selected. We loved it! It gave a great view of what was behind us and it made getting out of shopping centre car parking spaces a breeze.

Personally we think that every vehicle on the road should have a reversing camera fitted and the display should always be somewhere on the dash and definitely not in the reversing mirror where the image is often lost in the glare.

seriesII-sv6-sportwagon-rear-2

Comfort
The seats were really comfortable and after several hours on the road our backs weren’t complaining at all. Noise levels in the cabin were very low. Of course you’re going to hear some noise when you hit a pothole but the general road noise didn’t intrude into the cabin at all.

We managed to do our travelling on some of the hottest and most humid days Queensland had experienced this summer and yet we never felt any discomfort till we got out of the wagon. The air conditioning was just outstanding and every time we got out of the car we couldn’t wait to get back in.

So you want to be noticed?
Then the SV6 Sportwagon … and more particularly the Red Hot version is the vehicle you should be driving. It has an obvious presence on the road and when people look at it they just know that it take off like a rocket.

It’s also a vehicle that stands out in the crowd and you certainly won’t lose it in a parking area.

seriesII-sv6-sportwagon-side-2

Overall
What can I say … we loved it! By comparison the SeriesI was a bit ho hum while the Series II was exciting and definitely fun to drive. We liked it so much that we really didn’t want to give it back and when that comes from a couple of confirmed SUV lovers that’s really saying something.

By | March 6th, 2011|Holden, Road Tests|3 Comments

Holden Captiva 5 – first impressions

holden-captiva-5We picked up our test vehicle – the 2.4-litre petrol five-speed automatic all-wheel-drive Captiva 5 in Brisbane and headed for the office. Now that might sound as though it’s a rather boring way to test a new vehicle but the Aussie Motoring office is at least a four hour drive north of Brisbane … and we were taking the long way back.

Hey if you’ve got a new vehicle to play with then you may as well give it a good workout on the way back to the office … and that’s what we did.

Sadly our first impressions were not what you might call … ‘good’. Sure the Catpiva 5 cruised quite comfortably on the motorways that take you out of Brisbane towards Ipswich but it was a bit slow off the mark and the engine was a bit noisy too.

holden-captiva-dash

Ok so I thought that we had somehow picked up a diesel and it wasn’t until we stopped the other side of Ipswich for a pit stop and I opened the petrol cap that I discovered that we really did have the 2.4-litre petrol engine under the bonnet.

It was about that time too that I discovered just how uncomfortable the driver’s seat really was. On the first part of the trip I’d sat in the passenger seat and played with all the knobs and buttons and my partner had driven but after the pit stop it was my turn to drive.

Instead of sitting comfortably as I had been in the passenger seat I found that I seemed to be sitting on two bars that ran down either side of the seat squab and their sole purpose seemed to be to dig into my backside and remind me that I’m not built like a racing ferret anymore.

No ... my backside does not extend across the outer edges of the seat. The part that made it so uncomfortable was about halfway down the raised edges on the side of the squab.

No ... my backside does not extend across the outer edges of the seat. The part that made it so uncomfortable was about halfway down the raised edges on the side of the squab.

Well at least the Captiva 5 cruised well and it continued to do so out through Fernvale and up to Somerset Dam. It really impressed me with the handling and I could point it into tight curves at a good speed and feel confident that we’d come out on the other side still pointing in the right direction.

But then there aren’t many hills on the main roads between Brisbane and Somerset Dam … the hills start on the other side of the dam and that’s when we discovered that the Captiva 5 with the five-speed auto gearbox really doesn’t like steep hills.

The auto box in the Captiva is fitted with what Holden calls “Active Select” … it’s the usual set up that you find in automatics these days where you can change gears manually by slipping the gear selector across into a separate gate that then allows you to change up or down simply by nudging the gear selector forward or back.

I’ve driven a lot of cars with that sort of gear selector and I don’t remember actually ever using it on the open road … but it got quite a workout in the Captiva. If I wanted to maintain a decent level of momentum up the hills coming out of Somerset Dam I had to use the gear selector to change down into a lower gear on almost every hill otherwise we might have hit the bottom of the hill at a fair pace but we’d be down to less than 60kph by the time we hit the top.

Once we did get back to the office we decided that we really needed to let the local Holden dealer look at the vehicle … the engine noise, the sluggish starts and lack of power on the hills could have all been signs of something majorly wrong so off to the dealer the Captiva and I went.

After a quick test-drive, a listen to the engine as I helt it at 2000rpm and a look at the engine oil it seemed that everything was all good. The foreman politely suggested that with only 6.7k on the clock I should expect some noise as the engine loosened up and ran itself in.

The sluggishness from a standing start … well the Captiva has an electronic throttle and if we had come straight from a vehicle with a throttle cable then we would think the Captiva was sluggish. In fact we had come from such a vehicle and by the next day we weren’t finding the Captiva as sluggish as we thought.

It’s certainly no rocket but now that we know how to drive a vehicle that doesn’t have the instant response you get with a throttle cable it’s not so bad. And as for the lack of power … well it does weigh 1.83 tonnes and it only has a 2.4-litre motor so maybe we were expecting too much … after all it’s not a sports car.

holden-captiva-rear

And that’s where we’ll leave you for now. We’ve got the Captiva 5 for a week and I have to admit that it is growing on us … and the driver’s seat is getting softer (or I’m getting thinner) … so maybe our full road test won’t be quite so negative about what really is a solid vehicle that we may just have taken some distance outside its comfort zone.

By | October 22nd, 2010|Holden, Road Tests|2 Comments

The Hyundai i30CW CRDi Road Test

hyundai-i30cw-crdiOur week in the diesel version of the Hyundai i30CW … that’s the wagon version of the very popular Hyundai i30 … came in the middle of a solid month of road testing everything from a Holden Sportwagon right through to the latest top-of-the-range Hyundai Santa Fe and included the just released Hyundai ix35.

We covered thousands of kilometers over all sorts of roads in those vehicles … we took photos … we compared notes as we bounced over dirt roads and zoomed around hairpin bends … we folded and unfolded seats … we came to grips with different dashboards that wanted to give us different information … we learnt what different sounds in different cars meant and we seemed to be in and out of new cars more frequently than we had hot dinners.

Last weekend when all the testing was over and we were back in our old banger Toni asked me which of those four vehicles stuck in my mind and the answer was this one … the Hyundai i30CW CRDi and surprisingly it was the one she remembered with the most fondness too.

Why did that one leave me with the positive impression? I’m blowed if I know but it did.

What I liked about it

  • It’s a simple car … there’s nothing complicated about the Hyundai i30CW and it doesn’t overwhelm you with information and a dashboard that makes you think you might need a pilot’s licence to fly it.
  • It’s economical … the cost of fuel is going up again and as I write this we’re paying more for fuel here in Australia than we have since the global financial crisis began.
  • It’s a wagon but it feels like a sports car … it’s turbo-charged and when you put your foot down it goes. It also handles like something more than a station wagon and it took our favorite left/right combination much faster than we could take it in either the ix35 or the Santa Fe.

What I didn’t like about it
If you have to put a baby capsule in the back seat you may just find that the front seat has to go quite a long way forward and a tall passenger may have problems..

Full review
There are five models in the i30CW lineup … three petrol and two diesels and the vehicle we tested was the SLX version of the diesel i30 wagon. If you look back at my first impressions of the Hyundai i30CW you’ll see that I wasn’t really looking forward to it but that had changed in the couple of hours it took to get from Hyundai’s Brisbane headquarters to our office in Hervey Bay.

From the time I got behind the wheel I felt comfortable. There was plenty of room for me to stretch out my long legs and the seats were firm and offered plenty of back support. The dash layout was easy to read … the controls were intuitive and within easy reach … and I wasn’t overwhelmed with information. Everything the driver needs to know is right there in front of them and you’re not getting overloaded with information or given the information in such a way that requires some thought.

i30CW-dashboard

For example the fuel gauge and temperature gauge are just simple dials … they’re easy to read and a quick glance is all you need to know exactly what they want to tell you. They’re not fancy meters that want to give you the information in bar graphs or some other way that requires more than just a quick glance.

i30CW-engine

The engine and transmission
The Hyundai i30CW CRDi is powered by a 1.6-litre diesel engine that comes with a variable-geometry turbo-charger. In layman’s terms it’s a diesel … it sounds like a diesel but it goes like a sports car. You put your foot down and it responds. It’s equally at home in town or country driving and it cruised effortlessly at 110km/h

The SLX CRDi comes with a four-speed automatic gearbox as standard. These days a four-speed auto box seems like a throw-back to the dark ages … until you drive it. Before we picked up the car I hadn’t had time to do my homework so all I knew was that the wagon we were picking up was an auto.

When I got behind the wheel I stuck the gear selector in ‘D’ and off we went. It took a while for me to realise that there were only four forward speeds in the gearbox. Throughout the week we drove the i30CW I never found it struggling to be in the ‘right’ gear for the conditions and gear changes were very smooth.

Cruise control worked well in this car too. Once you set the speed that was what the car traveled at and it didn’t let the car’s speed drop on steep hills while it thought about changing down to a lower gear.

Fuel consumption
With a four-speed box you could reasonably expect your fuel consumption to be a little on the high side … even if the motor is only a 1.6-litre diesel … and maybe it is if you consider 5.9L/100km to be high.

That’s the fuel consumption figure we achieved on the highway on the way back to our office. Around town it was certainly higher but 8.2L/100km (the worst consumption we got) is a whole lot less than most vehicles will give you in town and city driving.

Safety
The vehicle we tested comes with ABS and electronic brakeforce distribution, Electronic Stability Programme and traction control, reverse park sensors and front fog lamps. Front and side airbags are fitted for front seat occupants and there are side curtain airbags for front and rear seat occupants too.

Pretensioners and load limiters are fitted for front seat occupants and the front seatbelts are height-adjustable.

i30CW-front-seatInterior
If there’s one thing that small kids do well in cars it’s make a mess. They drop food, they vomit, they bring in mud on their shoes … they’re just plain messy. If that’s your family and you want to buy a small wagon then the Hyundai i30CW is going to be good for your family.

The floor coverings and the upholstery look like they can take quite a beating and clean up without a great deal of effort. I managed to get a fair bit of sand, grass and dirt into the driver’s footwell and after a minute with the industrial vacuum cleaner at the car wash all the mess had gone.

As I said before, the seats themselves are very comfortable and there’s plenty of back support as well as support under the backs of your legs. There’s plenty of legroom for front seat occupants but of course the further back you have the seats the less room there is for rear seat passengers.

If you have to fit a baby capsule then you’ll find three mounting points for the rear strap so that you can place the capsule anywhere you want on the back seat but realistically the only place it could go is behind the passenger … unless of course the driver is vertically challenged.

i30CW-rear-seatsInterior comfort
The climate control in the vehicle we tested was excellent and it will certainly keep the interior of the i30CW cool on hot days.

As with most small cars, it’s not perfectly quiet inside. Noise from outside does come in even if the windows are up and the sound of the diesel engine can be heard. But the sound levels are certainly not uncomfortable and you may not even notice it.

The sound system that’s fitted to the i30CW is perfectly adequate and the MP3 USB port located in the storage box between the front seats is a great idea. I don’t think we ever got to the end of all the music we have on one of our memory sticks.

The glovebox isn’t huge but it is cooled by the airconditioner. We love that idea and when we were heading out on a trip we’d toss a couple of chocolate bars in there to keep cool till we were ready to snack on them.

Luggage space
Most people who buy a station wagon are going to want to carry things and the Hyundai i30CW certainly gives you plenty of space for all that stuff you want to carry.

i30CW-luggage-space1

With the rear seats in the upright position there’s 415 litres of space and with the rear seats folded down that available space increases to 1395 litres. That compares quite favourably with other small wagons in this segment.

i30CW-luggage-space

The i30CW comes with a very sturdy cargo blind and the SLX also comes with a cargo net and there are plenty of anchor points for it around luggage area.

Storage compartments abound in the i30CW and you’ll see from the photo that shows the spare tyre that there are even a number of storage spaces tucked away under the luggage space floor.

There's lots of storage space for small items around the spare tyre

There's lots of storage space for small items around the spare tyre

Driving the i30CW
This is a car that’s easy to drive … there’s good all-round vision and it’s easy to park in confined spaces. The rear parking sensors certainly do help although the ones fitted to our test car did seem to be a little sensitive and often sounded when I passed over a very slight incline as I backed out of our driveway and onto the road.

The first time that happened I had to get out to make sure that I hadn’t just skittled the neighbour’s cat.

On the open road the i30CW cruises effortlessly and when you need to put your foot down to overtake the turbo-charged diesel is very responsive … you might even find it a little scary the first time you put your foot down and you discover just how quickly the wagon does accelerate. Although you’re driving a diesel and some of that distinctive noise does come back into the passenger compartment it’s certainly not overwhelming and the tyres that are factory fitted don’t seem to generate a lot of road noise.

i30CW-rear

Conclusion
The Hyundai i30CW CRDi was a vehicle that we approached with some trepidation … as I said in my first impressions of the i30CW neither tester here at AussieMotoring.com is a small-car person and we weren’t looking forward to a week in a small car. However, five minutes into the trip back to the office and we were beginning to change our minds.

After a week in this vehicle I can say that the Hyundai i30CW CRDi is a great little wagon and definitely worth buying if you’re in the market for a small station wagon or you need a small car with some extra capacity. Hyundai have certainly achieved what they set out to do when they brought out the station wagon version of their popular i30.

By | May 12th, 2010|Hyundai, Road Tests|1 Comment

Hyundai Santa Fe – first impressions

hyundai-santa-feThe Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander … we’ve had it for evaluation for just 24 hours so far and I have to say that I love it. It really does seem like an almost perfect fit for me whether I’m driving around town or out on the open road.

It’s comfortable … it’s 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine is very responsive … the six-speed automatic transmission is smooth … the ride and handling on tar is wonderful and what really tops the whole thing off for me is just how economical it is to operate.

Comfort
That’s not to say that the Hyundai Santa Fe is perfect … I don’t think any car is perfect … but this one ticked nearly all the right boxes for me and that was just on the five hour trip back to our office. On the other hand my partner found that, while the front passenger has plenty of leg-room, it’s a different matter in the driver’s seat.

Leather upholstery is standard equipment in the Santa Fe Highlander. If leather is important to you then you'll love these seats ... but they do get hot when the car is left sitting in the sun.

Leather upholstery is standard equipment in the Santa Fe Highlander. If leather is important to you then you'll love these seats ... but they do get hot when the car is left sitting in the sun.

If you’re tall then you may just find that it’s not all that comfortable for you behind the steering wheel.

If you leave leg-room out of the comfort equation then you’ll find that the front seats in the Santa Fe are very comfortable and the second row of seats is quite comfortable too. There is a third row of seats but that row is strictly for kids … the leg-room is very limited and I doubt that any adult would be comfortable back there.

The driver’s seat in the Highlander comes with lumbar support but the passenger seat doesn’t however you may not even notice that it’s missing … on the trip back to the office, when I was in the passenger seat I certainly had no problems with back support.

We actually took a detour on the trip back to the office and drove out to Ipswich to pick up our daughter and granddaughter to take them to lunch. The baby is still too small to travel in anything but a safety capsule and fitting it into the Santa Fe was no problem at all. There are three different mounting points across the back of the second row of seats so you can place the capsule anywhere that works for you and there’s still plenty of room for adults in the other two seating positions.

Legroom for passengers in the second row of seats is quite good but these seats are fixed so what you see is what you get.

Legroom for passengers in the second row of seats is quite good but these seats are fixed so what you see is what you get.

Ride and handling
That side trip to Ipswich gave us the chance to take a different (and longer) route home and if you want to know what the ride and handling of a car is like on the tar then there’s no better road to take than the back road from Esk to Kilcoy. In places it winds around the picturesque shores of Somerset Dam and you get a combination of everything from long straights to 40km/h bends and plenty of hills.

I won’t get carried away and say that the Santa Fe handled like a sports car but it went through some tight bends at legally high speeds with no body roll … no squealing tyres and certainly no understeer. Even on slight corrugation at the apex of the curve there was no sign that the Santa Fe wanted to get a little skittish and when I wanted to accelerate out of a curve the response was immediate and there was plenty of power in reserve.

And despite driving the Santa Fe hard on that back road we still managed to achieve a fuel consumption figure of 6.8L/100m on the trip back and that included Brisbane and Ipswich traffic, plenty of open road touring and running the second air conditioner for a while as well.

Yes the Santa Fe Highlander comes with two air conditioners and that’s not overkill up here in Queensland.

And that was my first 24 hours in the Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander. We’ve got a long weekend coming up here in Queensland and we’re going to use it to take the Santa Fe away on a few short trips over a variety of roads … including some fun in the forests just south of here.

hyundai-santa-fe-rear

By | May 2nd, 2010|Hyundai, Road Tests|3 Comments

Hyundai ix35 Road Test

hyundai-ix35Ok before I tell you what it’s like to spend an entire week in a Hyundai ix35 I should tell you … in the interests of full disclosure … that over the years I’ve owned three Hyundai vehicles but that does not mean I’m a Hyundai evangelist by any means.

We started of with a late-model Excel … moved on to a Sonata and then quickly went up to a Grandeur when the Sonata turned out to be a total lemon. And we moved on from Hyundai’s when we shifted to a country town where the local dealer’s idea of customer service was basically to insult your intelligence.

So now that I’ve given you that disclosure and you’re thinking that perhaps I can be objective when it comes to Hyundai vehicles I’m probably going to raise a big question mark in your mind when I tell you that I really do like the Hyundai ix35 … and the doubt will probably get worse next week when I write the review for the Hyundai i30CW because it’s a great vehicle too.

But for now let me tell you about the ix35. Our test vehicle was the ix35 Active … the two-wheel drive base model in the ix35 range. While there is a manual version available Hyundai gave us an ix35 fitted with the optional six-speed automatic gearbox.

What I liked about the vehicle:

  • It’s nippy and the engine and gearbox combination work perfectly whether you’re in the city or country
  • The seats are comfortable and the back support is wonderful. There’s plenty of legroom in the rear … just so long as the driver isn’t quite as tall as me.

What I didn’t like about the vehicle:

  • In her 24 hour review of the ix35 Toni mentioned the fact that all the doors lock when the vehicle reaches about 15km/h and stay locked until you stop and place the gear selector in ‘Park’. While the doors are locked from the outside they can be opened from the inside so it’s not quite what it seems.

    For me it took a little getting used to but after a while it stopped bothering me and a very experienced Paramedic that I talked to about the doors thought that it was a wonderful idea and certainly didn’t see it as the safety issue that Toni thought it might be.

The review
So let’s jump into the full review. As I said, we road tested the Hyundai ix35 Active … it’s the base model in a range of that also includes the Elite and the Highlander. The Active has a 2.0-litre petrol engine coupled to either a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic gearbox and the Active only comes with two-wheel drive.

hyundai-ix35-front

The Elite and the Highlander are both available with your choice of a 2.4-litre petrol or 2.0-litre diesel engine coupled to a six-speed automatic gearbox.

Engine and transmission
The combination of the 2.0-litre petrol engine and six-speed automatic box worked well in the test vehicle. Only once did I find it struggling to find the right gear it should be in and on hilly open roads there was no evidence of it trying to hunt through the gears

Acceleration was good and a quick stamp on the accelerator brought an immediate response. The cruise control was good too and held the car at the right speed up and down the hills. The highway patrol officer who tried to push Toni over the speed limit during part of one particular trip finally gave up and went looking for an easier target.

hyundai-ix35-engine

If you’ve looked into the engine compartment on just about any modern car these days and wondered how on earth a mechanic could ever work in there then the space under the bonnet on the ix35 will come as a bit of a surprise. It’s roomy and there looks like there’s plenty of access for servicing.

Fuel economy
Unlike some manufacturers Hyundai is fairly clear about the fuel economy that you can expect from the ix35 in city and country driving. Although we certainly tried our hardest we couldn’t replicate those fuel consumption figures but we did get very close to them.

Driver’s controls
The dashboard on the ix35 was clearly set out and quite easy to read. The shaping of the cowling around the dials means that the passenger can’t actually see the speedo so you may find that the level of backseat driving is diminished.

hyundai-ix35-dashboard

Hiding behind the ‘Trip’ is a number of different settings that can provide you with plenty of information. We chose to keep ours set to display the fuel consumption in litres/100km and this can be reset to zero simply by pushing the ‘Trip’ button in and holding it there for several seconds.

Comfort
What can I say about seats that really do support your back and provide plenty of support under the backs of your legs as well? As Toni pointed out in her first 24 hour report on the ix35 there are some manufacturers that could learn a thing or two about seat design from the seats fitted to this vehicle.

Look at the front cupholder between the seats - that's the ashtray sitting in there.

Look at the front cupholder between the seats - that's the ashtray sitting in there.

The driving position is good and you do sit in a slightly more upright position than you would in a normal car. I was certainly comfortable behind the wheel although Toni thought that she was sitting a little lower than what she would have liked.

Being the base model the ix35 Active doesn’t come with split-zone air conditioning but the air conditioner that is fitted to this model does an outstanding job of keeping the climate inside the vehicle at a very comfortable level.

There’s plenty of legroom for the driver and passenger in the front and it’s not bad for rear-seat passengers either … although whoever sits behind the driver could be a little cramped if the driver is tall. That’s also going to be a problem if you need to carry a baby capsule behind the driver because they take up a lot of room behind the driver and the driver’s seat will need to be well forward.

I’m not sure I could have driven the ix35 if we there had been a need to transport our granddaughter and her capsule … but then not everyone who is going to drive one of these is over 185cm tall.

Unlike some modern cars the ix35 still comes fitted with an ashtray but it’s not what you would normally expect an ashtray to look like. Check the photos and you’ll see it sitting between the front seats looking not unlike a coffee cup. If you don’t smoke take it out and you have two cupholders.

Safety
The Hyundai ix35 Active come fitted with ABS, ESP, Down Hill Brake Control, Hill Start Assist Control, rear fog lamps, 6 airbags, side-impact intrusion bars, seat belt pretensioners and load limiters. That’s everything you want in a vehicle like the ix35.

The view to the rear of the vehicle is very good and personally I thought that the view provided by the side mirrors was one of the best in any normal vehicle that I’ve driven. The ix35 Active does not come with reversing camera as standard but I believe that it is available as an accessory and if you have small children then it’s something you should really consider fitting.

hyundai-ix35-luggage-space

Luggage space
With the rear seats in the upright position there’s 730 litres of space and that’s certainly enough room to carry your average weekly grocery shopping. Fold the rear seats down and you more than double the carrying capacity of the ix35. You also have the usual 60/40 split seat option as well.

Folding the seats down is quite easy and there’s not a great deal of effort required to get them back into the upright position.

hyundai-ix35-luggage-space2

A sturdy cargo blind standard equipment in the base model and it’s quite a simple task to remove it if you want to carry something that sits higher than the blind.

Ride and handling
The ride around town was excellent and handling was all that you could hope for in any vehicle. It was easy to slip into tight parking spots and the great visibility that the driver has made it just as easy to get out of them.

Out of the city the combination of firm suspension and relatively short wheelbase can be a little uncomfortable if the road is rough but it’s certainly nothing like the rough choppy ride that the early short-wheelbase SUVs could give you.

The firm suspension is what you would expect in a good SUV that some people may want to take off-road. However, being a two-wheel drive I’m not sure that I would be too adventurous in the off-road conditions that I would take the ix35 Active into.

hyundai-ix35-rear

Overall
I really did like the ix35 … it was fun to drive and it was an easy vehicle to drive on short trips around town or out on the open road.

It certainly suited our lifestyle and I would recommend it to anyone who wants all the benefits of a small SUV.

It may not be the SUV for everyone but I was sorry to have to hand it back at the end of the week’s testing.

By | April 28th, 2010|Hyundai, Road Tests|Comments Off on Hyundai ix35 Road Test

Holden Berlina Sportwagon – the road test

berlina-sportwagon

The SeriesII Sportwagon road test is here

With almost monotonous regularity the Holden Commodore outsells every other car in Australia. During March 11,795 Commodores were sold to people across Australia and until last week I did wonder why.

Why is the Holden Commodore so popular? Well after spending a week behind the wheel of a Berlina Sportwagon I now begin to see why people continue to buy the Commodore.

It may not be as technologically advanced as some other vehicles out there … it may not have fantastic fuel economy around town … and it may have the ability to annoy the crap out of some people with it’s buzzers, bells and other warning signals but it feels like a vehicle should. You feel safe in it, it handles well on the tar and even if you’ll never take it off the black stuff you’re sure it will handle well in the dirt too. And you know that if something goes wrong out in the sticks there’s a mechanic in the next town who can fix it.

And I’m sure that’s why people buy the Holden Commodore … they’re buying reliability that’s both an image and a reality and it works for them.

berlina-sportwagon-rear

Does that mean that I would buy a Holden Commodore? Probably not but at least now I understand why others do.

So now that’s sorted let’s have a closer look at the Holden Berlina Sportwagon because it is an interesting vehicle. It’s a station wagon … but from some angles it doesn’t look like one. In fact from some angles it looks more like a hatch than a wagon.

It also looks sleek and sporty with those flares over 17 inch alloy wheels that make you think of muscle and the dual exhausts that encourages you to think of blowing everyone else off at the lights. It sits low to the ground too and that adds to the image of power and speed.

berlina-sportwagon-side

Yet the Berlina Sportwagon isn’t marketed as a sports wagon … Holden places the Berlina Sportwagon in the “Comfort” segment of the Sportwagon range and there are certainly some hotter versions of the Sportwagon further up the line. But that’s not going to stop buyers thinking of the Berlina as something rather sporty.

You won't find the battery under the bonnet ... it's tucked away in the luggage area.

You won't find the battery under the bonnet ... it's tucked away in the luggage area.

What I liked:

  • The ride and handling
  • The visual appeal
  • The relatively good fuel consumption
  • The dust-free interior

What I didn’t like:

  • The unnecessary warning bells, buzzers and alarms
  • The cruise control

Engine
There’s no doubt that you can wring a lot of power out of the 3.0-litre, six-cylinder SIDI engine that sits under the bonnet of the Berlina Sportwagon. The Holden website won’t tell you how long it will take you to hit 100km/h from a standing start … but it’s definitely not long and this is a vehicle that could get you into a lot of trouble every time you pass a hidden speed camera.

A six-speed auto gearbox is the only transmission offered with the Berlina Sportwagon and most people will find that it’s smooth and predictable. Our other tester had no problems with the gearbox but there were times when I seemed to be able to catch it in the wrong gear and I definitely did not like the cruise control on the test vehicle.

It seemed slow to react to changes in gradients and at the bottom of a hill it would drop 10km/h in speed before suddenly speeding up and wanting to race up the hill … much to the annoyance of people who had moved to the outside lane to overtake. To be fair the problem I was having may have just been unique to the vehicle I was driving and perhaps it could have been adjusted at the next service.

Fuel consumption
The Holden website suggests that the SIDI engine will return fuel consumption on combined cycle of 9.6L/100km but no mention is made of what you might expect in city or country driving. That doesn’t surprise me because around town this vehicle … like all vehicle … will use more fuel than it will on the open road and it will be especially noticeable if you do a lot of short trips.

Despite using more fuel in town and city driving I do think that the figure that Holden quotes for the combined cycle may be a little conservative. When we returned the vehicle at the end of the test the onboard computer was suggesting that we had achieved 8.2L/100km on the return trip and that included highway running as well as the usual stop/start driving through Brisbane.

Ride and Handling
The suspension on the Holden Berlina Sportwagon is firm and there’s definitely no wallowing on rough roads. The steering is light and direct and the Sportwagon doesn’t bounce around as you might expect from a station wagon.

In another life I spent a lot of time in Commodores and Falcons on rough dirt roads so I was interested to take the Berlina Sportwagon off the tar and onto some forestry roads just to see if the Commodore had lost its dirt-road capabilites.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the handling of the Berlina in the dirt. It was sure-footed and there were no heart-stopping moments when I began to wonder how I was going to explain to Holden why their press car was neatly folded around a tree.

That trip off the tar also revealed another good point for the Berlina Sportwagon … it’s well sealed. By the time we got back on the tar the wagon was covered in a coating of fine red dust … so thick you couldn’t see out the back window … but there was no dust inside the vehicle at all!

berlina-sportwagon-interior

Comfort and safety
The Sportwagon comes with six airbags as standard equipment and that means that both front and rear-seat passengers are covered.

There’s also Electronic Stability Control, Anti-locking Brake System, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Electronic Brake Assist and Traction Control and while those things are not what you’re likely to think about while you’re driving it is reassuring to know that you’re a lot safer in today’s Holden Commodore than in years gone by.

The seats in the Berlina were adequate and both front seats have great lumbar support but I don’t think that I had enough support under the backs of my legs. The Sportwagon’s seats are definitely a lot better than recent Falcon seats but in my opinion there’s still not enough support there.

There's plenty of room in the backseat of the Sportwagon too ... even when the driver's legs are as long as mine.

There's plenty of room in the backseat of the Sportwagon too ... even when the driver's legs are as long as mine.

The Berlina Sportwagon comes equipped with dual-zone air conditioning as standard and the air conditioner can certainly handle the hot and humid conditions that can envelope you in this part of Australia.

There’s a very good six-disc CD audio system with MP3 compatibility and auxiliary input jack with the audio controls are mounted on the steering wheel. There’s Bluetooth compatibility for mobile phones and there’s also Rear Park Assist but a rear view camera is only an option. While you may not need the camera it’s certainly worth the extra cost if you have small children around.

There’s also a multi-function trip display that can provide you with a large amount of important information. Interestingly that trip information is displayed across three different places on the dash. That may sound as though it might be a little too much information to take in as you drive but it’s actually quite easy to read and it works rather well.

Unfortunately the reflection on the right-hand side of the dash is there all the time.

Unfortunately the reflection on the right-hand side of the dash is there all the time.

Luggage space
While the Sportwagon does not have the biggest luggage space of the station wagons in its class it does have a very credible 2000 litres of space once the rear seats are folded down completely.

berlina-sportwagon-luggage2

The rear seat does have a 60/40 split or you can fold it right down and whichever option you choose you will find that folding the seats down is very easy. There’s no fiddling around trying to get the seatbelts out of the way of the back of the seat so getting to full carrying capacity is quick and easy.

Bringing the back of the rear seats back into the upright position is just as simple and the seat back isn’t heavy so even a child can get the rear seats set up without a struggle.

berlina-sportwagon-luggage

With the backseat in the upright position there is plenty of room for the luggage that an average family might want to take away with them. With the backseat folded down you can carry a lot of stuff to the tip … to the car boot sale or back from the hardware store. If you’re a sales rep it will carry everything you want to have with you to show your clients.

Annoyances
The Berlina Sportwagon is a great car to drive but it does have some annoying features. It chimes when you start it … it beeps when you select Reverse and if you want to insert a CD is scares the crap out of you with several warning sounds that will certainly wake the kids if you’re on a trip and they’ve dropped off to sleep.

Now surely if I select Reverse then I’m doing it because that’s what I want to select and I don’t need to be warned about it. If I were to select it by accident then what’s the point of warning me … if I’ve somehow managed to do that at speed then no amount of warning is going to save me from the consequences.

As for the CD’s … hey I’m only inserting a CD … I’m not taking the country to Defcon 3 so why do I need to get zapped with a warning every time I put a disc in or take it out.

I know … those are little fiddly bits in the grand scheme of things that is the Holden Berlina Sportwagon and they would probably fade into the background over time … but they sure didn’t in the week that we had the car.

So would I actually buy a Holden Berlina Sportwagon? Earlier I said that I probably wouldn’t and that’s because I just have no need for a large station wagon at this point in my life. But if I did have a need for one then this would certainly be my wagon of choice and I would certainly opt for the Berlina over others in the Sportwagon range.

It’s better appointed than the base-model Sportwagon and has everything that I would look for as far as comfort and luxury is concerned. It’s also got all the get-up-and-go that I would need and it’s got the sporty looks too.

By | April 20th, 2010|Holden, Road Tests|1 Comment

Holden Berlina Sportwagon – first impressions

holden-berlina-sportswaonWe picked up the Holden Berlina Sportwagon at lunchtime yesterday so as I write this we’ve had it for just 24 hours. In that time we’ve already put almost 400km on the clock … it helps to be have a four hour drive just to get any test vehicle back to our office.

So what are our first impressions?

Well for my part I am impressed. This is a solid vehicle that is easy to drive, comfortable to sit in for long distances and has a suspension that can handle some of the very rough surfaces that are called highways in this part of the country.

I wouldn’t exactly call this a sports wagon despite the name but it certainly has plenty of power and it handles tight curves well at full road speed. One of our favorite spots to check the handling of a vehicle is a section of main road that runs east from Gympie, the surface is good and the curves are fairly tight.

berlina-sports-wagon-side

The Berlina handled those curves at 100km an hour (the legal speed limit) with very little body roll and it wasn’t until I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw how far away the rear window was that I remembered that I was driving a wagon and not a sedan.

I was also impressed that despite having over 12,000km on the clock it was rattle free.

berlina-sports-wagon-luggage-space

As you can see from the photo of the luggage space it can certainly swallow quite a load when the rear seats are folded down. With those seats down it has 2,000 litres of space for you to fill up.

Folding down the rear seats in some vehicles can be quite a chore but the procedure to fold those seats in the Sportwagon has to be one of the easiest I have ever encountered. Push a button … a light tug on the back of the seat and it folds down flat. You don’t have to worry about getting seat belts out of the way or moving the front seats forward to achieve a flat fold … there’s just none of that.

Putting the seats back into the upright position is just as simple and just as easy and requires very little physical effort.

berlina-sports-wagon-rear

While the steering was a little heavier than our small SUV (as I expected that it would be) Toni thought that it was much lighter than the steering on the Falcon wagon we have down at the office … a vehicle I rarely if ever drive. Toni is recovering from shoulder surgery and had none of the trouble with the Sportwagon that she has when trying to park the Falcon in a car park.

The Holden Berlina Sportwagon is with us till next Thursday and we’ll back with our full reviews then.

By | April 9th, 2010|Holden, Road Tests|Comments Off on Holden Berlina Sportwagon – first impressions

Toyota Hybrid Camry – our full road test

toyota-hybrid-camryThe Short Hybrid Camry story
What I liked about it: Power – it’s got plenty of it and Toyota is happy to tell you that the Hybrid Camry is the most powerful Camry on the market.

Economy – On short trips down to the shops it’s not quite as impressive as you might hope for but in peak-hour traffic or on a long run in the country the Hybrid Camry is really going to impress you with just how little fuel it actually uses.

It’s quiet – you just won’t believe how quiet this car is. On the highway, unless you’re tackling a steep hill, the only noise you will hear is the sound of the tyres on the road.

Handling – the suspension has been specially tuned for Australian conditions and it handles the curves and corners very well.

What I didn’t like about it: Starting – It takes a while for the Hybrid Camry to actually start. You jump in and go through the start procedure and then you wait while the Hybrid Synergy Drive reaches the point where it’s ready to start. If you’re in a hurry to get your pregnant wife to the hospital at 3am on a cold winter’s morning the start time will seem like an eternity.

***UPDATE We have since been advised by a reader that the Hybrid Camry is ready to move on battery power as soon as the “Ready” light comes on.

The Cruise Control control – it’s tucked away under the steering wheel yet it’s part of the steering wheel. If you want to use it you have to take your eyes off the road and that’s dangerous. I really did not like it!

Our first impressions
Her thoughts on the Hybrid Camry

The full Hybrid Camry road test.
It’s unlikely that Toyota would have built the Hybrid Camry in Australia without the financial support that it received from the Australian Government. Fortunately for us that support was forthcoming and we now have a Hybrid Camry that is distinctly Australian.

toyota-hybrid-camry-rear

Whether or not that Australian flavour will appeal to the public is yet to be seen although sales in this town have certainly been better than what the local dealer was expecting. The stumbling point for many who will think about buying the Hybrid Camry is the fact that it’s more expensive that the normal Camry and some people may not see any real value in choosing the hybrid over the conventional model.

Of course Toyota is quick to tell you that the saving in fuel costs that the Hybrid Camry can give you is significant … and it is. It’s also obvious that there are more features in the Hybrid Camry that you don’t get in the standard Camrys but do those extra features and the savings in fuel balance out the higher cost of the car?

I sure hope it does because this car is a lot of fun to drive!

Under the bonnet
The Hybrid Camry is powered by an Australian built 2.4-litre petrol and an electric motor that gets its power from the battery pack that resides under the rear parcel shelf in the boot. Together they give the Hybrid Camry 140kW of power and you really feel that power when you put your foot down.

You won't see the standard 12 volt battery here in the engine compartment ... it's tucked away in a corner of the boot.

You won't see the standard 12 volt battery here in the engine compartment ... it's tucked away in a corner of the boot.

Engine noise is kept to a minimum and about the only time I really noticed the sound of the petrol engine was when I was accelerating hard up a steep hill. If you’re one of those drivers who likes to listen to the engine note you will certainly miss that but that’s a small price to pay for the acceleration and fuel economy you get from the Hybrid Camry.

Fuel Economy
AussieMotoring’s offices are located three to four hours drive north of Brisbane so when we pick a test car up we’ve already given it a pretty fair run by the time we get back to the office. We do that trip so often … both on business and privately … that we have a very good idea of how good the fuel consumption figures are going to be when we’re only an hour into the trip.

Right from the start we knew that the fuel consumption figures for the Hybrid Camry were going to be outstanding.

Toyota says that those people who buy a Hybrid Camry can expect to get a combined fuel consumption figure of 6.0L/100km and while we didn’t quite get it down to that low figure we certainly were under 7.0L/100km and I expect the figures would have been better if the car had done a few more kilometres than the 980 that were on the clock when we picked it up.

The Hybrid Camry Toyota comes equipped it with several different displays to help you alter your driving style so that you can achieve those great fuel consumption figures. But don’t look at any of them within the first kilometre or so of any journey. I’ve got a photo of one of those displays showing that we were running at 99.9L/100km and those are figures you don’t want to see.

In Toyota’s defence I should say that in the first few kilometers the petrol engine is not only powering the car but also charging the battery.

And don’t be alarmed if the motor seems to stop when you pull up at a set of lights because that’s exactly what it does … it stops. But it starts again the moment you put your foot on the accelerator when the lights turn green. It gives a reassuring little rumble and you’re away.

hybrid-camry-gear-selector

Transmission
Using an electric motor to help provide power for the car and tricky things like turning the petrol motor off when you’re stopped at lights is only part of the equation that Toyota used to produce the great fuel economy that you’ll get in the Hybrid Camry.

The other part of the equation is the transmission … or the parts of the transmission that are missing. You see, the Hybrid Camry doesn’t actually have a gearbox … or a torque converter … and you can’t buy a manual version of the Hybrid Camry.

Instead of a conventional gearbox the Hybrid Camry has two linked sets of planetary gears that are computer-controlled so there are none of the usual subtle (or not so subtle) gear changes that you would normally expect to feel in an automatic transmission.

Once again, if you like to know what gear your car is in by listening to the gear changes and the engine note you’re going to get a little confused because it’s always in the right gear no matter what you’re doing. It can take a little getting used to but after a while you just sit back and go with the flow.

Ride and Handling
Did I say that I loved the ride and handling? You bet I did … even over rough goat tracks that masquerade as highways in this part of Australia. On secondary roads that are much better than the highway the car sat flat with very little body roll as I pushed it through curves that would make lesser cars roll and squeal their tyres.

Driving Position and Controls
The driving position was good and the driver had a very clear view of the road ahead. The displays on the dashboard were clear and easy to read and some of them could be turned off if they were too distracting.

Note the horrible cruise control down below the Bluetooth controls

Note the horrible cruise control down below the Bluetooth controls

The Hybrid Camry has an Optitron vacuum fluorescent instrument cluster that ensures maximum visibility regardless of the ambient light. You might wonder if that isn’t just a little bit of over-kill but it was one of the first things I missed when I got back into my vehicle after returning the Camry.

The Hybrid Camry comes equipped with a reversing camera and rear parking sensors … even in the base model … and they are quite useful because the view to the rear is a bit limited.

Bluetooth and basic stereo controls are mounted on the steering wheel and that’s definitely a plus because flying the stereo system from the dashboard can be a bit involved.

Comfort and Safety
Wet weather and long road trips tend to play havoc with a back injury I’ve had for nearly 15 years and we just happened to have the Hybrid Camry during a very wet period in this part of Queensland and we did four long trips while we had it. I got out of the Hybrid Camry at the end of the test period with hardly a twinge.

toyota-hybrid-camry-driver

The front seats have great lumber support and you can adjust them in a variety of ways to suit your particular needs. There’s also plenty of legroom in both the front and the back and even someone as tall as me could ride comfortably in the back seats.

toyota-hybrid-camry-interiorThe air conditioning is a dual zone system for front seat passengers and it worked well even on some stinking hot days that were so bad we really didn’t want to get out of the car and face the heat. The air conditioning worked so well that we never took it out of economy mode.

The Hybrid Camry comes with all the usual safety features such as ABS, traction control (not once did I manage to set off the traction control alarm) electronically controlled braking and six airbags and it really does feel like a safe car to drive.

Of course the Hybrid Camry comes with Smart Entry and Smart Start and that may sound like something almost trivial but once you have driven a vehicle with those features you’ll miss them when you get into a car that doesn’t have them.

The Luxury model Hybrid Camry also comes with rain-sensing wipers and once you’ve driven a car with that feature fitted you’ll find it rather tedious going back to the old system where you actually have to turn the wipers on yourself.

Luggage space
This is one area where the Hybrid Camry is lacking when compared to the standard Camry models. You see, they had to put the electric battery somewhere so they put it in the boot and it does take up some space. It also means that the ‘60’ part of the 60/40 split rear seat is pretty useless because you can fold it down but the battery prevents you from slipping anything that’s long from the boot through into the backseat area.

hybrid-camry-test-boot

While the car is ideal for a family around town it might be a bit lacking in luggage space if you wanted to take the family away on a holiday.

The Hybrid Camry comes with a full-size spare and included in the kit you'll find with the spare is a towing hook that has to be attached before the vehicle can be towed with a strap.

The Hybrid Camry comes with a full-size spare and included in the kit you'll find with the spare is a towing hook that has to be attached before the vehicle can be towed with a strap.

Two models to choose from
There are two versions of the Toyota Hybrid Camry but there is no badging that distinguishes the Luxury Hybrid Camry from the base-model Hybrid Camry and that can cause some confusion.

Just ask our other reviewer who was sure she was driving the base-model Hybrid Camry when we were actually testing the Luxury version. It could have had something to do with the fact that she thought that the Luxury version came with a sat/nav system as standard and when the test vehicle didn’t she presumed we had the base model.

The satellite navigation system is actually an option on the both the standard and the Luxury models.

Pricing for the base-model Hybrid Camry starts at $36,990 plus dealer and on-road costs and the Luxury version of the Hybrid Camry starts at $39,990

As I said earlier, those prices may be a bit of a stumbling block for many buyers but the Hybrid Camry is certainly going to save you plenty when you pull up at the bowser and both the base-model and the Luxury version carry more extras than their equivalent petrol Camry models.

And then there’s the service and warranty. Obviously many potential buyers are going to see the Hybrid Camry as a vehicle that will cost far more when it comes to scheduled servicing but Toyota have said that:

Under Toyota Service Advantage, Hybrid Camry owners will pay just $130* for up to four standard scheduled services during the first three years or 60,000 kilometres driven (whichever comes first).

*Toyota Service Advantage pricing represents the maximum amount payable for standard scheduled servicing which is as per ‘maintenance for normal operating conditions’ outlined in the Warranty and Service Handbook service schedule. Toyota Service Advantage eligibility excludes Government vehicles, Rental vehicles, and Employee Family Vehicle Purchase vehicles. Certain other exclusions apply. Terms and conditions apply.

Toyota are also giving a warranty on the HV (Hybrid) Battery that is at the heart of the electrical propulsion system in the Hybrid Camry of 8 years or 160,000km.

Conclusion
So is the Hybrid Camry worth buying? I would certainly consider buying one and once you’ve test-driven one you’ll probably be hooked too.

By | March 18th, 2010|Road Tests, Toyota|8 Comments

Hybrid Camry Road Test – Her Thoughts After Driving it For a Week

hybrid-camry-testWhat I liked:
Very cheap on fuel … it’s bigger and more powerful than my own car but uses half the amount of petrol.

Easy to drive … it’s high-tech but you wouldn’t know it when you’re behind the wheel.

Automatic wipers … it’s the first car I’ve tested or driven that has them and I love them.

What I didn’t like:
The controls for the cruise control … the stalk is well below normal eye-level and it’s on the steering wheel yoke and not on the steering column so it moves as you turn the wheel and I didn’t want to take my eyes off the road to find it and set it.

First impressions of the Hybrid Camry
The full Hybrid Camry road test

The Australian Toyota Hybrid Camry was released in February and for the last six days we’ve been road testing the standard Luxury model. It’s been very interesting to road test the Hybrid Camry because this is basically a very high tech car that Toyota has had to make as simple as possible for the driver … and they have certainly achieved that.

Everything happens behind the scenes so that all the driver sees is what they would see and experience if they were driving a normal petrol-powered vehicle. So if the thought of driving a vehicle that mixes and matches electric and petrol propulsion, turns itself off when you stop at traffic lights and starts the instant you’re ready to move scares you then don’t be worried … you won’t see any of it and after a day or two you won’t even think about it!

If you like to be noticed then the Toyota Hybrid Camry does attract lots of interest.

If you like to be noticed then the Toyota Hybrid Camry does attract lots of interest.

What Toyota says you will see though is a lot more money in your wallet or purse because Toyota claims it will cut your fuel bills by around third and if our experience in testing the vehicle is anything to go on there will definitely be savings.

So with all the high-tech equipment is it hard to get used to?
Well it’s a little disconcerting to pull up at a set of traffic lights and feel the motor switch off but it really does start again the moment you touch the accelerator. And it is really very quiet inside the cabin. You can be cruising at 110km/h and all you can hear is the road-noise from the tyres.

There’s also the fact that the Toyota Hybrid Camry has no gearbox and that can take a little getting used to. I know Stuart had problems when we were climbing through the Blackall Ranges on one of the trips we did in it. It’s not that he was losing traction or acceleration … it was just that, with no gear changes the steady engine noise wasn’t what he was used to as he accelerated up the hills

Apart from that it’s just like driving any normal petrol powered vehicle. You put your foot on the accelerator and it goes … quickly … so you need to watch your speed. It’s the most powerful Camry there is and it really does want to use that power.

Safety and Comfort
There are plenty of safety features for your family. There are front and side airbags to keep your family safe in a crash along with pre-tensioners for the front seat belts. There are plenty of warning lights and alarms to warn you if things are about to go wrong or a door isn’t closed completely and there’s a reversing camera and rear parking sensors too.

The front seats are very comfortable and there’s plenty of lumbar support if you suffer from a bad back. The legroom for front seat passengers is outstanding and rear seat passengers get plenty of legroom too. There’s also plenty of room to strap children into the car seats in the rear of the car.

Both front seats are as far back as they will go in this photo

Both front seats are as far back as they will go in this photo

Front seat passengers enjoy dual-zone air conditioning that works very well. Once again our test period was during some very hot and humid weather and it was a pleasure to be inside the car where it was a steady 22C on my side and 24C on his side.

The Toyota Hybrid Camry has a Smart Entry and Smart Start system that means as long as you have the key in your pocket or handbag you will be able to unlock the doors and start the vehicle without taking the key out of wherever it’s hiding. I’ll talk about starting the vehicle a little later but right now let me tell you that the key includes a personal alarm button that I’m just not game enough to press. I’m sure it’s loud but I don’t want to press it to find out..

It’s impossible to lock the key in the car and the car will tell you if you’ve left the motor running and you’re trying to walk away from the car.

As I said earlier, I loved the automatic wipers … don’t laugh until you’ve tried them. With automatic wipers you don’t have to keep fiddling with the switch to get the intermittent speed right and you don’t have to keep turning them on and off … it’s all done for you.

Personally I think that automatic wipers are far more useful than automatic headlights. If you can’t remember to turn your lights on at the appropriate time when you’re driving then maybe you shouldn’t have a license.

Ride and Handling
It’s not a sports car and it’s certainly not an SUV but the ride in the car we tested was outstanding. The suspension was firm but not so firm that you would feel every pothole and bump in the road … just as well considering the state of the main highway that we have to travel over.

Cornering was exceptional and whizzing through some tight … almost hairpin … bends on the Blackall Ranges was amazing. There was no body roll and no tyre squeal … just some very surprised motorists as the Hybrid Camry passed them with ease.

The steering is light and the first time I drove it I was still wearing a sling after some shoulder surgery. There’s also a very convenient armrest on the driver’s door that certainly worked for my sore shoulder.

Fuel Consumption
On the motorway north of Brisbane we cruised at 110km/h while the onboard computer reported a fuel consumption of just 5.7L/100km. Through the Blackall Ranges and on the highway where the speed limit varied from 90km/h to 100km/h we were seeing 6.1 and 6.3L/100km

Toyota says that the car will return a combined city and highway consumption rate of 6.0L/100km but I’m not sure we saw that over the week we drove the Hybrid Camry. However the the car had less than 1000km on the clock when we picked it up and fuel consumption did seem to get better towards the end of the week.

The boot of the Toyota Hybrid Camry with the rear seat folded down

The boot of the Toyota Hybrid Camry with the rear seat folded down

Luggage Space
The available boot space in the Hybrid Camry is less than what you get with the conventional Camry models because the battery takes up some of the room right across the vehicle. The rear seat does fold down … on both sides … but only long articles can only be slipped into the boot and through into the rear passenger space on the driver’s side.

Folding down the rear seats is very easy and it takes little effort to put them back into place.

There’s certainly enough space in the boot for your grocery shopping and then some.

Servicing Costs
Servicing costs are one of the nasty little things that can creep up and bite you when you least expect it and you may think that the servicing costs for the Hybrid Camry will be very expensive. However Toyota have announced that Hybrid Camry Owners will pay a set rate for up to four standard scheduled services during the first three years or 60,000km.

That set rate is just $130.00 does not include the costs for fluids and oils that may be required.

The battery is also an obviously expensive piece of the car but Toyota wants you to feel comfortable about the battery too. That’s why the HV (Hybrid) Battery Warranty coverage on the Hybrid Camry is eight years or 160,000km … whichever comes first.

The cruise control can be seen at about 4 o'clock to the Toyota logo on the steering wheel

The cruise control can be seen at about 4 o'clock to the Toyota logo on the steering wheel

Starting the Hybrid Camry
The Hybrid Camry is powered by what Toyota calls a Hybrid Synergy Drive and that takes a little time to activate … even if the car has only been turned off for a few minutes.

So what you do when you start the Hybrid Camry is put your foot on the brake and leave it there. You also press the start button and then you wait … you don’t wait for a long time but you do wait longer than you would if you had a conventional vehicle.

As the Synergy Drive becomes active the gauges, the radio and the air conditioning come on line and a few seconds later there’s a slight rumble and you know the motor is running. It’s different and if you’re planning on a fast getaway then it’s not going to happen but you become accustomed to it.

***UPDATE We have since been advised by a reader that the Hybrid Camry is ready to move on battery power as soon as the “Ready” light comes on.

The Bottom Line
The Luxury model without any options … the one we tested … is currently available for $39,990 plus dealer delivery and on-road costs while the entry level Hybrid Camry is $36,990. Even Toyota agrees that price is quite a step up from the petrol Camry models but there are three things to consider here.

Both the base model Hybrid Camry and the Luxury version (yes that’s what it’s called) have a higher specification level than the petrol Camry. The Hybrid Camry … according to Toyota … uses slightly under a third less fuel than the petrol Camry and the emission levels are reduced.

Add those together and I think that the Hybrid Camry certainly does represent value for money for a family who want the convenience of a big car or for a business that might lease for a set period before replacing it for the obvious tax advantages.

Would I buy one? Well it certainly fits our lifestyle and it’s comfortable and cheap on fuel so it would have to be on our list if we were thinking about going back to a sedan.

By | March 1st, 2010|Road Tests, Toyota|2 Comments

We Road Test the Toyota Hybrid Camry – first impressions

hybrid-camry-bThere are times when I’m sure that the designers of high-tech motor cars do things just to embarrass wannabe motoring scribblers and there are times when they achieve that aim very effectively. I know that they certainly caught me with the new Toyota Hybrid Camry.

Let me just set the scene … it’s a stinking hot day at Toyota’s Acacia Ridge headquarters and Toni and I are there to pick up the new Toyota Hybrid Camry for a week’s road test. The people who handle the bookings for the Toyota press fleet have opened the security garage for me … given me the key … and gone back to the meeting that I’d interrupted … after all how hard can it be to start a car and back it out of a garage … I’m a motoring writer so I should know how to do it … right?

Meanwhile Toni is standing outside the garage … in the stinking hot sun … waiting for the car to appear and well … you know women … they don’t like to be kept waiting. And what’s happening inside the car inside the garage? I’m frantically reading the instruction manual to find out how to start it.

Sure it looks simple enough … the key is in my pocket … the green light is on the start button so all I have to do is press the button and it will start. What could be simpler?

But when I press it nothing happens … so I press it again and still nothing happens … another press … and another … and another … and I’m getting worried – the dashboard has woken up but the motor hasn’t.

Ok so it’s time to read the manual … and then I discover that I need to be a little patient … the new Hybrid Camry was never designed to be a getaway car … it needs a little time for the Synergy Drive to reach the point where it will actually start.

***UPDATE We have since been advised by a reader that the Hybrid Camry is ready to move on battery power as soon as the “Ready” light comes on.

How do you explain all that to an impatient woman and retain some street cred … especially when she sees the instruction manual sitting on the passenger seat as you finally back the car out of the garage?

Fortunately the new Toyota Hybrid Camry is essentially idiot proof or we might still be stuck somewhere down in Acacia Ridge.

Now you may think that producing a car that even I can cope with must mean that the Hybrid Camry is rather bland and all the fun of driving has been removed from it … but you would be wrong. This is still a car where the driver is in control and it is a lot of fun to drive.

All controls on the Toyota Hybrid Camry are within easy reach of the driver

All controls on the Toyota Hybrid Camry are within easy reach of the driver

We’ve had the car for two days now and we’ve crawled through heavy peak-hour traffic, we’ve rocked up the motorway north of Brisbane at 110km/h and we’ve driven over the worst piece of highway in the entire country and I’m impressed.

In a nutshell it’s quiet … so quiet that you often can’t hear anything but road noise … it accelerates quickly and it’s economical. Through peak-hour traffic in Brisbane and then up the Bruce Highway to Hervey Bay was done at an average fuel consumption of just 5.7L/100km and that equated to less than quarter of a tank of E10.

The Hybrid Camry is comfortable … there’s plenty of legroom … the driver’s and passenger’s seats offer plenty of support in all the right places. Visibility is good … there’s even a reversing camera and all the gauges and controls … with the exception of the cruise control… are easy to read and easy to use.

This is basically a very high-tech car that even someone like me has no trouble operating.

The handling over some of the roughest highway you could ever imagine was great … and to give you just some idea of how bad this piece of highway is let me tell you about the flashing sign just north of Gympie. It reads:

“Be alert for potholes between here and Maryborough”

And this is part of Australia’s main east coast highway system.

The crew here at AussieMotoring.com are definitely looking forward to the next five days of road testing the Hybrid Camry.

Her road test of the Hybrid Camry
His road test of the Hybrid Camry

The rear parcel shelf is taken up with this rather large vent ... below the vent is the battery.

The rear parcel shelf is taken up with this rather large vent ... below the vent is the battery.

By | February 25th, 2010|Road Tests, Toyota|2 Comments

Toyota Prado 3-Door – a Female View Pt2

prado-dirtThe week with the Toyota Prado 3-door SX wagon certainly went quickly and I had just a twinge of regret as we drove into the Toyota parking lot in Acacia Ridge yesterday.

If you read my first impressions of the Toyota Prado you may wonder why I felt any regret at handing the Prado back but after a week of driving it around town and out in the bush I have to say that I did enjoy being in it.

That’s not to say that I changed my mind about the things that bugged me about the Prado because I didn’t really. Towards the end of the week I was getting the hang of actually getting into the Prado but it still wasn’t elegant.

I was also still finding two doors to be a nuisance when I wanted to recover something from behind the front seats but then I wonder whether five-door version would have been as much fun to drive in the dirt.

I’m also still not convinced that you would want to take the Prado shopping – the light steering makes maneuvering in a shopping centre car park a breeze but it’s still big and those parking spacers are narrow …

The Toyota Prado is a great drive in the dirt

But then there was the handling in the dirt
Stuart had told me that it would stick to the road like glue when we hit the dirt and … well … maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration. It did get a bit skittish on the edges of some heavily rutted roads … but then that was usually on curves … and I was doing something more than 80km/h … and other vehicles on the road were bouncing all over the place.

If you’ve had very little experience of dirt-road driving then the Prado is the ideal vehicle for you. We took it over some rough forestry roads as well as some that were maintained by local councils and it really was very well-mannered … and you certainly don’t have to push it as hard as I was.

The ride on the dirt was good too (perhaps too good because I was having a blast) … even for the passenger. Of course you’re going to feel any potholes but the seats provide plenty of support and you won’t slide around in them.

Downhill control is excellent in the 3-door Toyota Prado

Going downhill in the dirt presents no dramas either. The automatic gearbox shifts down and holds and you can feel it. That’s a reassuring feeling when the bend ahead is tight … the grade is steep and you’ve let it get away from you just a little bit.

Fuel consumption
There’s one word to say here and that’s … outstanding.

Toyota says that the 3-door SX will return a combined consumption figure of 8.3L/100km and that may be so but according to the onboard computer I was achieving 8.2L/100km on the dirt and driving through Brisbane on the way back to Toyota the computer was telling me I was getting 7.0L/100km. I was driving at traffic speed and not using any special driving technique to get those figures.

With the crazy fuel prices that we’re experiencing here in Queensland at the moment and the fuel consumption figures that we achieved it means that the heavy Prado is cheaper to run than my relatively light 2000 Honda CR-V.

Luggage space in the Toyota Prado 3-door

Luggage space and rear seats
I have to say that there’s not a huge amount of space in the back if the rear seats are in the upright position. However it’s easy to tumble the back seats forward and that certainly does increase the space.

What I didn’t find easy was pulling those seats back to the upright position. It’s not impossible but it did take a lot of effort.

So would I buy one?
Even though I was really enjoying driving the Toyota Prado 3-door by the time it had to be returned there’s no doubt that it doesn’t fit my/our current lifestyle. However, if we were about to retire and wanted to go travelling the Toyota Prado SX would definitely be on our short list.

I don’t think I’d even be tempted to pay an extra $10,000 to upgrade to the top-of-the-range ZR three-door … the base-model SX does it all very nicely.

By | January 30th, 2010|Road Tests, Toyota|8 Comments

Toyota Prado 3-Door – a Female’s View

Toyota Prado three-door SXToni’s view of the Prado did change by the end of the week and you can find them here

OK so I’ve not driven a big four-wheel drive before but I wasn’t about to let that stop me from taking up Toyota’s offer of playing with a new three-door Toyota Prado for a whole week.

First impressions? ‘Wow this is big and Stuart wants me to drive this lumbering monster back through all that Brisbane traffic?’

Yes, that was my first impression when I clambered into the Toyota Prado 3-door SX that Toyota had just given us for a week’s evaluation. It certainly did seem big compared to our usual set of wheels … a 2000 model Honda CR-V

Sure it might have been the short-wheelbase version but it still looked big to me. I’m not short but when I stood next to it the roof seemed to be well-above my head.

However, I didn’t need to stress because once I had it moving I found that the steering was light, the throttle was responsive, the automatic gearbox was smooth and you sit way up high and have a good all-round view from the driver’s seat.

Toyota Prado short-wheelbase SX

There’s not a great view from the rear-view mirror but the side mirrors more than make up for it and you can really see the vehicles that are coming up from behind.

So I got us through the Brisbane traffic and enjoyed the experience … and if you were following us and saw the hazard lights come on for a few moments … well that was Stuart playing with the buttons like some big kid.

We picked the 3-door Prado up from Toyota’s old plant in Acacia Ridge and drove it back to Hervey Bay yesterday afternoon. On the trip home we travelled along the Bruce Highway as far as Gympie and then took a fairly rough back-road from Gympie to Maryborough and the Prado was great to drive on both surfaces.

It’s very quiet inside with hardly any road noise … in fact it’s so quiet that you almost forget you’re driving a diesel and the engine noise can be a bit of a surprise if you get out of the vehicle while the motor’s running.

The suspension is certainly firm but then this really is designed to be able to cope with off-road conditions so there’s a trade-off between comfort and a suspension that will get you over some rough country.

Stuart wondered whether the short-wheelbase would tend to affect the ride … he described it as ‘chop’ but there was none of that … even on the really rough sections of back-road we travelled over.

There was no body-roll either. Stuart’s a bit more aggressive on the open road than I am and he was pushing the Prado through some of the curves on that back road quite quickly but there was no hint of roll at all.

Things that bugged me
That was yesterday and now we’ve run it around town … done some shopping … visited a few clients of my web design business … and just generally treated it as we would our own vehicle I have to say that, while it’s nice to drive, the 3-door Prado has some less than stellar points and really doesn’t suit our lifestyle.

The first thing I noticed was that there’s just no elegant way of getting in or out of the vehicle. You do have to climb up into the seat and the best way to get out seems to be a controlled slide. I may yet find an easy way of getting in or out but at the moment … as I just said … it’s less than elegant.

Short-wheelbase Prado

The passenger’s seat doesn’t slide back as far as the driver’s seat does and that puts the knees of tall people very close to the dashboard. Those sexy knees in the photo belong to Stuart who is about 184cm tall … in an accident his knees could easily hit the dash and he can’t stretch his legs out as he can in other vehicles.

Two doors can be a pain
I don’t know about you but when we head off somewhere we often jump in the car and just toss things like my handbag, our cameras, laptops, folders onto the floor behind the front seats.

In a vehicle with front and rear doors it’s easy to recover them when you get to where you’re going but in a vehicle with only one set of doors getting your handbag out of the back can involve spending time folding the front seat down so you can reach in and grab what you want.

We’ve had the three-door Toyota Prado for just two days and I’ve already had to fold the front passenger seat down several times just so I could find my handbag.

Those back seats
If there’s no elegant way for me to get into the Prado’s front seats then there’s no way I’m even going to try and get into the rear seats. Stuart did today while we were taking a friend for a drive and it was just not a pretty site.

The back door
It’s big … if you’re parked on a slight upward slope it’s heavy to close and in a shopping centre car park it takes up a lot of room when you open it.

Big rear door on the Toyota Prado

And speaking of shopping centre car parks
I let Stuart drive when we went to do the hunting and gathering thing this morning and I’m glad I did. While you have a great all-round view from the front seats you don’t see much of the ground that’s close to the vehicle.

While some of the more optioned variants might come with a great camera system that may make parking easy the SX doesn’t and trying to fit between the lines and leave room to get out of the vehicle can be a challenge. Obviously the more you drive it the more proficient you may become at parking in car parks but expect to have some problems in the beginning.

So am I going to let Stuart do all the driving for the rest of the week? Absolutely not!

What did I like about the 3-door Prado?
After grumbling about all the things I don’t like you may think that there isn’t much I do like about it but that’s not true. I’ve already mentioned some features that really impressed me and now here are a few more.

The air conditioning is outstanding and even the base model comes with a dual zone control setup that really does work.

All the controls are well set out and those that might be a little hard to reach are repeated on the steering wheel. Even the SX comes with a hands-free system for mobile phones as standard and, for me, that’s outstanding.

The reversing camera and rear parking sensors are a great standard fitting too.

And I still can’t get over just how light the steering is. This is a big vehicle but it certainly doesn’t feel that way when you’re on the road so city or country driving is easy despite the size so don’t let that put you off.

The front seats are comfortable and supportive too. Both Stuart and I have back injuries and after the four-hour trip home from Brisbane we got out of the vehicle without a twinge so if you’ve got a back problem then the Prado could be the vehicle for you.

We’ve still got the three-door Toyota Prado SX for another five days so I’ll be back with more later in the week.

By | January 23rd, 2010|Road Tests, Toyota|6 Comments

Toyota Prado on Some Rough Trails

prado-testHere’s an interesting video from Toyota in Japan that wants to highlight the way the new Toyota Prado can handle some rough terrain … but there’s one slight problem … some of the terrain in this video isn’t all that rough.

Now I know that the new Toyota Prado can handle some very rough country because I’ve driven it over some … but I’d have no problems traversing some of the terrain you’ll see in this video in my Honda CR-V all-wheel drive.

So why doesn’t Toyota really show what the new Prado can really do?

Well from a marketing point of view you do need to show potential buyers what the vehicle can do … but you don’t want to scare them away by showing them too much of the extreme terrain the vehicle can handle.

And that’s what they’ve done with this video … it’s a nice mixture of some tough terrain and some that’s not so tough … and nothing that’s so extreme that you would really need all the computer-controlled terrain handling presets that the new Toyota Prado comes with..

By | January 16th, 2010|4WD, Road Tests, Toyota|Comments Off on Toyota Prado on Some Rough Trails

Mitsubishi 380 – Is It Too Little and Too Late

In a world where timing is everything Mitsubishi probably couldn’t have chosen a worse time to introduce a six cylinder car to a market that is coming to grips with increased and unstable fuel prices.

The situation is made even worse for the company by the fact that the company in Australia wii stand or fall on the success or otherwise of this vehicle. So what is the Mitsubishi 380 really like and can it save the company?

Mitsubishi 380

Well if you have seen the advertising on television you have probably realised that the 380 is a rather bland looking car that’s never going to stand out in a crowd. At a time when the company really needed an eye-catching design they have opted for something that is pure vanilla.

They have also retained the front-wheel drive format which in this writer’s humble opinion is not such a bad thing but many motoring writers hold a different view and feel that Mitsubishi have missed the opportunity to move their flagship to a rear wheel drive layout just like their competitors.

The 380 comes in five different versions ranging from the base model that the company describes as ‘well equipped’ to the 380GT that the company describes as the ultimate blend of sports and luxury. In between there are two more optioned versions of the basic sedan and a slightly cheaper version of the ultimate blend of sports and luxury.

All come equipped with a 3.8 litre V6 motor that certainly does develop some grunt. The V6 is coupled to a 5 speed manual transmission there is a 5 speed sequential transmission available as an option. The sequential box operates as an automatic but also allows manual changes up and down the range. However most drivers will set it in D and forget it.

A motor with a lot of grunt does come at a cost and the 380 is not going to be known for its great fuel consumption. Official figures suggest that 10.8 litres per 100 kilometres what you could expect from this car but that may be somewhat optimistic. Some writers report that 11.5 to 13.5 litres per 100 kilometres is going to be closer to the mark.

Those are not inspiring figures for a market place where fuel economy is becoming much more important.

Actual road handling seems to be adequate without being brilliant and at least one writer described the turning circle of the 380 as something close to the turning circle of an aircraft carrier.

Inside the car has a dashboard that could be better. It’s poorly lit and the some of the digital readouts are of little value. The trim on the cheaper versions of the 380 relies a lot on plastics and it’s obvious. At least one reviewer suggested that the standard of the fit-out inside the car was not up to the same standard as the Magna.

Visibility through the rear windscreen becomes a problem in heavy rain and the boot, while spacious, has a very small opening and getting anything as big as a pram into it could be awkward.

Standard equipment includes climate control/air conditioning, four airbags, ABS disc brakes, power windows and mirrors, cruise control, an alarm and six-speaker, single CD based sound system that is MP3 compatible and audio controls on the steering wheel.

Even though the price of the somewhat up market VRX comes in below that of it’s Holden and Ford competitors it doesn’t seem to be the car that is going to save Mitsubishi Australia.

You will find a full road test here

By | November 22nd, 2005|Mitsubishi, Road Tests|1 Comment