Soldier On Joins V8 Superlap Production Touring Cars

https://www.soldieron.org.au/ is an organisation that’s dedicated to helping and working with our returned armed services men and women. There’s a good reason why: there’s been more returned soldiers take their own life in a year than in the thirteen years Australia has had service personnel in the Middle East. It’s a tragic number and a tragic situation.

Depression. Physical wounds. Just two of the issues the soldiers must deal with and Soldier On is there to help.

But why mention them here? The V8 Superlaps Production Touring Cars Championship has formed an alliance with the organisation, with PTC President Gerry Murphy saying: “We are honoured to be able to craft this initiative with Tony Fraser and the Soldier On team, to afford us the opportunity to give back, to say thank you, to these brave men and women who have served Australia”.

Drivers from the PTC have already contributed to community support by taking special guests from the Make A Wish Foundation for laps at Sydney Motorsport Park. With members of the PTC already having strong links to the services, it’s a natural progression to form this alliance. Tony Fraser, Soldier On’s Sporting and Programs Manager, said:  “Opportunities such as the chance to volunteer with the V8 Superlaps Production Touring Car Championship are important because they provide our veterans with purpose and social connectedness. We believe these two things are fundamental in helping veterans re-integrate back into civilian life once they leave the Defence Force, and volunteering opportunities play an important role in our transition program. Soldier On thanks V8 Superlaps Production Touring Car Championship for their support and for helping our veterans.”

The official start date for the alliance will be the MoComm Endurance Race, to be held at Sydney Motorsport Park, in September. The event will also see members of the Soldier On family taking part in the event including managing the running of a car in the race, category management and media production with More Driven Media.

Major-General John Cantwell, a retired Major General and a wearer of the AO and DSC medals, who has completed multiple operational deployments and commanded all Australian forces in Afghanistan and the wider Middle East, also shared his views on the new deal.
“Many veterans are interested in motor racing and this is a fantastic opportunity for veterans to once again be part of a high-energy team, focused on winning in NSW Production Touring Cars”.

2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto: Car Review

2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto profileCity cars aren’t generally seen as a viable alternative to the medium and bigger cars here in Australia. There’s been attempts by big companies, such as the Mercedes-Benz backed smart car, which was more ridiculed than welcomed. There’s the slightly larger alternatives, such as the Mitsubishi Mirage and now Kia is now having a go, with a car called Picanto. In order to give the car a fighting chance, it’s been keenly priced at $14990 driveaway with metallic paint the only current option. There is a five speed manual available overseas.

It’s also been given some reasonable equipment in the sole specification model currently available, a good move given that it is due to be replaced by a newer model (it’s been available for five years overseas) in the next year and a half. You’ll get electric windows and mirrors, rear parking sensors, the full suite of airbags including curtain ‘bags, Hill Start Assist Control, Emergency Stop Signal (flashes the brake lights in a heavy or emergency stop) and halogen daytime running lights (DRL). It doesn’t get a reverse camera however.

A Wheel Thing’s test car came clad in the optionable metallic paint, a $540 ask. The colour? Honey Bee. An odd shade of yellow. Masculine, it is not. Neither are the archaic four speed auto, 1.25 litre petrol fueled four cylinder. The red backlit pixel screen radio display is another hint at age, as are also the simplistic dials in the dash and the red centre display.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto dashThe engine is covered by a bonnet about the size of a newspaper and is unadorned by the plastic shrouding so commonplace nowadays. It’s by no means a powerhouse but may actually be better served by connecting to a gearbox A Wheel Thing loathes. With just 63 kW and 120 Nm a CVT potentially would be better suited to the characteristics the soft drink bottle sized motor has.
Size wise, it’s right in the ball park for city cars and looks at the Mitsubishi Mirage, Suzuki Celerio and Holden’s Spark as competition.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto engineIt sits on a 2385mm wheelbase, huge given the overall length is 3595 mm. There’s 14 inch diameter steel wheels clad with plastic covers and wrapped in 160/65 tyres. Overall width is 1595 mm, making this a definite four seater only. You’ll also only get just a space saver wheel.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto front profileInside, the colour scheme is black, however that’s broken by an aluminuim look plastic swathe across the dash and the lower part of the steering wheel also has an insert, looking for all the world like a happy face. It certainly is a contrast yet doesn’t look out of place. What does, and showing that there are other models available, is the insert just above the driver’s right knee for a push button Start/Stop, as the model here is “old school” insert key and twist.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto front seatsBut there’s new school with USB/Auxiliary connections, placed in Kia’s tradition front and centre of the console. Said console lacks an arm rest, though. It’s not a deal breaker as many would prefer cup/bottle holders instead, but there is room enough for both.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto consoleThe radio is a simple push button and dial setup, along with the simplistic display, yet the sound quality is reasonable from the system. There’s no A pillar or door mounted tweeters but still manages to deliver a decent soundstage. Bass response though, was lacking, as was radio sensitivity in some areas whilst being driven around. Nice to see that the humble CD player was still included.

Although, not unexpectedly, the front seats lack electric adjustment, they’re easily sorted with the manual levers and are surprisingly comfortable. There’s black cloth covering them with what resembles an electrician’s diagram print woven in. It’s eye catching and breaks up the otherwise drab look nicely. The Picanto is a compact car with just enough leg room in the back for children or two slim adults, and the rear seats also well padded and supportive, however anyone with a wholesome figure would struggle to feel comfortable.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto rear seatsIt also means that rear cargo space is minimal, making the Picanto a more suitable car for single people or couples when it comes to a weekly shop. At least there’s folding rear seats to increase the available space to 918 litres, up from 292. Overall interior feel was positive, although there was a vibration from the sliding seat belt height adjusters under acceleration and on the rougher tarmac surfaces.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto cargoApart from the alloy look plastic insert, the steerer is traditional Kia, with user friendly toggles for audio and Bluetooth. It’s just thick enough to feel comfortable to the hands and connects the driver nicely to the front wheels. As such, there’s not much to report as the car’s chassis is competent without being overly engaging. The short overall size means, though, you can get it into gaps in traffic and car parking spaces that others may not, and the light weight means it’s fleet and easy to move on the road.

There’s a short travel suspension up front, meaning that there’s a solid thunk as the nose goes over and drops when doing the larger speedbumps at low speeds. The rear is less prone to interference, thankfully, and rides better than a competitor tested recently. There’s more stability and less tendency to skip around on curves and unsettled surfaces and hangs on well enough in twisty road situations. The tiller also provides enough feedback to get a good handle on what’s happening up front.2016 Kia Picanto Si Auto rearPeak torque is delivered at 4000 rpm, and with just the four ratios to play with, it takes a bit of time to get the 885 kilo car to…well…get up and go. But while you’re doing it you’ll be sipping unleaded fuel from the 35 litre tank at a quoted combined cycle figure of 5.3 litres per 100 kilometres. The urban cycle is 6.7 litres per 100 and highway at 4.5L/100 km. It’ll also emit just 125 grams of junk into the air for every kilometer travelled.

Make no mistake, though, even given the relative lack of oomph, the Picanto still climbs hilly roads well enough. In the lower Blue Mountains is a road called the Old Bathurst Road, a switchback with some tight corners. It’ll do this well enough, although it’s fair to say that having no cars in front make the job a bit easier. The transmission needs a bit more refinement as well, with a lack of smoothness in the changes, some jerkiness even on the flat road, plus the engine is somewhat thrashy when pushed…which is most of the time if not freeway cruising, where it’s then quiet enough.

As a new car buyer, you’ll get Kia’s seven year and unlimited kilometer warranty, plus the capped price servicing. There’s 15000 kilometre service gaps and you’ll see a highest service cost of $415 in year six.

At The End Of The Drive.
One of the true benefits of being an independent vehicle reviewer is being able to drive cars that wouldn’t be considered as being part of the household. For A Wheel Thing, the Picanto is a car that would not suit the household’s usage pattern. But it certainly would suit a single person, a young couple, or perhaps a retired couple.
It’s gentle to drive, perhaps a tad thirsty for the engine’s size, but that lack of torque and just four speeds are why. The colour on the test car is certainly not to A Wheel Thing’s taste but that is a personal choice. To make your own choice on the Picanto a reality, go here: Kia Picanto

2016 Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design Polestar Optimised: Car Review.

In an earlier test, A Wheel Thing had the then brand new Volvo XC90 up against Audi’s Q7, with the German narrowly taking the win. Since then, Volvo’s R-Design group have waved a wand over the XC90, an award winning car, with its 2.0L turbocharged and supercharged four cylinder 400 Nm/235 kW powerplant, adding some very stylish touches to the $101950 plus on roads and options behemoth. Here’s what you get.2016 Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design profileUp front, a glossy black grille insert, along with the standard multiple parking sensors. You’ll get colour matched sills below the door and bumpers, with the front and rear gaining sportier extensions to the lower extremities, shiny twin exhaust tips, 20 inch rolling stock in a five spoke design (with Michelin rubber) and a larger rear spoiler.2016 Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design rear2016 Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design wheelUnderneath the square acre of sheet metal that masquerades as a bonnet, there’s the aforementioned four cylinder petrol engine, not that you’ll know visually, hidden as it is under a plain black plastic shroud. There’s also the aforementioned 400 torques and 235 kilowatts….note the title. It says Polestar Optimised. In layman’s language that’s an extra eleven kilowatts, taking the total to 246 @ 6000, up from 5700. Torque increases to 440, at a peak rev point of 4500, compared to 400 between 2200 to 5400. Consumption?2016 Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design engineAmazingly, it stays the same at 9.8/7.0/8.0 litres per 100 kilometres for the urban/highway/combined cycles from the 71 litre tank whilst hauling the 1965 kgs (dry) to one hundred kmh in just over six seconds. Emissions sit at just 186 grams per kilometres and there’s auto stop/start tech attached. Transmission is a smoother than Belgian chocolate eight speed auto, with paddle shifts which look like proper metal, but are plastic.

Under any throttle application there’s no appreciable feeling of gear change, but you can hear the system double clutching, slurring through the ratios around town and when the slipper hits the go pedal with some extra urge, the XC90 surges forward, pinning you back in the Nappa leather seats and watching the needle on the digital screen’s tacho flick as each gear is picked up. It’s an amazing feeling, especially under rapid acceleration, to not feel anything change but knowing that it does. Also, it has to be pointed out that the Polestar upgrade is an option any XC90 owner can ask for to get the same feeling.2016 Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design front seatsInside, it’s an experience; you’re greeted and cossetted by a mix of that black leather, high quality tactile plastics, carbon fibre look finishes, a 12.3 inch portrait oriented touchscreen, subtle LED interior lighting including the door scuff plate having the R-Design logo, a B&W sound system (yeah, it’s ok…cough), seven seats, and space enough to fit a weekend’s shopping. From IKEA. With ALL seats up there’s still 436 litres of space at the rear.2016 Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design rear seatsYou’ll also enjoy Volvo’s CleanZone climate control system with separate controls (four zones) for the rear cabin, three memory positions for front seat passengers, with those seats gaining lumbar and extendable thigh support cushioning adjustments via toggle switches on the lower seat sides, and flat fold second & third row seating, providing 2427 litres of cargo space. 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design rear cargoThere’s the usual nooks and bottle/cup holders spread throughout the cabin. The front seats also have heating but that’s $650 option, an odd choice by Volvo to ask extra coin for that feature. The rear glass is also laminated and tinted, also an optionable pair of costings at $850 and $525.

Outside, there’s the “Bursting Blue” metallic paint (albeit a $1900 option), the black painted 20 inch alloys (which can be replaced by optionable 22 inchers at $3850 inchers…pass), LED headlights that swivel and housed in a design that harkens to Swedish folklore.2016 Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design indicator 12016 Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design indicator 2 Entitled “Hammer of Thor”, it’s a striking and eyecatching look at the front, balancing the tall vertical LED tail light cluster found at the rear. There’s also the soft touch powered tail gate opening up to that cavernous cargo section.

It looks big, and is. There’s the 4950 mm overall length, a 2008 mm width, which accounts for the interior space being as large as it is, and stands tall at 1776 mm on a 238 mm ride height. The fact that Volvo have kept the starting weight to below two tonnes is stupendous, as a result. Rubber is 275/45 at each end of the 2984 mm wheelbase, bookending 1665 mm and 1667 mm tracks front and rear.2016 Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design satnavBeing at the top end of the XC 90 range (which, by the way, starts at $89950 MRRP), there’s plenty of safety and technology to play with. The touchscreen gives you full control over the aircon, satnav, tells you what the seats are doing, shows the user manual and offers up AM/FM/Bluetooth but….no DAB. But it does attract fingerprints quite nicely.

However, there’s more safety systems than there are letters in the alphabet: airbags all around including driver’s kneebag, corner traction control, blind spot information system, roll stability control, drive mode settings (found via the chromed knurled dial in the centre console, which also houses the Star/Stop mechanism), hill start assist and hill descent control, understeer control, whiplash protection, cross traffic alert and rear collision warning, adaptive safety and more, with most covered by umbrella terms such as CitySafety and Intellisafe Surround.2016 Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design dashOn road, apart from horizon blurring and forcing eyeballs to the rear of heads, you’ll find one of the best rides out there, thanks in part to the electronic bewitchery underneath. It’s a suspension that’s tuned for sporty comfort, or comfy sportiness, depending on your wont, giving a beautiful and supple ride to start before firming up and smoothing all but the bumpiest of road surfaces. 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design rear airconUndulations become non existent, car park traffic bumps are nodded at, and the road holding prowess thanks to the track and the rubber’s width, not to mention the double wishbone front with coil srings and gas shocks and multi link rear, is so confidence inspiring you’d think you were in a smaller and lower Polestar badged vehicle….

Srvice and warranty are 12 months or fifteen thousand kilometres (you’ll be seeing the latter first) and three years with unlimited k’s.

At The End Of The Drive.
The XC90 R-Design Polestar fettled machine is missing two things. A fridge and a shower. There’s more than enough room inside to use it as a granny flat, with the added benefit of being able to motorvate in crisp, quiet, luxury. It’s a pearler drive, looks damned good in the blue and with the Hammer of Thor lights, with plenty of heads on swivelling stalks attesting to the visual appeal, sounds good inside and will whisk you to the next timezone in an eyeblink.
At a tick under $102000 plus on road costs and options, it’s a heckuva lotta machine for the kronor. But yes, it’s still up against the Germans, such as the Q7. Does this mean that the Swedish brand must put aside its neutrality in the battle against its fellow European based competitors?

Head to Volvo Cars Australia to check out the range and book a test drive to make up your own mind.

Tesla Australia To Open New Victorian Retail Store

Tesla Australia has announced that a new retail store will be opened in Chadstone Shopping Centre, Victoria. This will be the state’s first retail store, allowing prospective Tesla car buyers the opportunity to custom build their new vehicle. The expected opening date is in October, 2016.Tesla S 85 3There will be two vehicles housed in store, the forthcoming Model X and the current Model S. Visitors will also be able to choose from Tesla branded merchandise. The store will complement the stand alone retail facility opened in Sydney’s CBD, in Martin Place and the service and retail stores in Richmond and St Leonard’s, in Sydney’s lower north shore.Tesla 3
The retail part of the stores is intended to offer customers an in-house self design facility, with a hands on approach from buyers by directly having involvement in the final overall packaging, utilising Tesla’s proprietary Design Studio. The stores also have decor patches, providing a tactile experience as customers can then mix and match to find their ideal combination.

By being centrally located in a shopping centre environment, evaluating the cars by driving them in a normal everyday environment provides a buyer a more relatable experience to the final purchase. There will also be charging stations on site for current and new Tesla owners.

The store’s location is 1341 Dandenong Road, Chadstone.

Car Review: 2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD

2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD profileSuzuki’s Vitara range has been given some extra spice with the addition of the 1.4 litre BoosterJet turbocharged engine. Available in AllGrip 4WD or front wheel 2WD, it also comes in a range of eye catching colours and subtle differences to the standard Vitara range. A Wheel Thing gets intimate with a fiery metallic orange and black 2WD version of the Suzuki Vitara Turbo.2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD engineThink 1.4L engines and you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’d be less pull than oil on an iceblock. Instead there’s a surprisingly useful 220 torques from the BoosterJet powerplant, plus 103 kilowatts. You get a choice of one automatic transmission and that’s a six speed too. It’s a mostly well sorted drivetrain however there’s a couple of bumps: there is bump steer, a measure of torque steer but only if pushed, the transmission drops down gears too readily when descending hills and there is some indecision when it comes to finding a gear on upshifts on certain throttle settings.

When everything works together, it’s a smooth and linear acceleration, typical of turbo engines and the pace certain belies the engines relatively small size. However, the Vitara is not a heavy car at 1160 kilos (2WD, 1235 kg AllGrip) so it’s a fabulous torque to weight ratio. Final fuel consumption figures were 5.7 litres of unleaded for every one hundred kilometres, from the 42 litre tank. Suzuki quotes 5.9L/100 km for the combined cycle.

From standstill and asked gently, it’ll move away quietly but there’s some hesitation. Prod a bit harder and the shifts smoothen, becoming less noticeable and the speedo dial’s travel is seen with more alacrity. The torque steer is quickly brought under control and there’s further mitigation thanks to the limpet grip of the 225/55 Continental tyres on 17 inch black painted alloys.

As a result, steering response is rapid, with a good weight and in reality, very little understeer under most driving conditions. Suspension is the tried and true combo of MacPherson struts up front and torsion beam rear. Again there’s some rear end movement on bumps and curves, but again only momentarily noticeable. But it is noticeable.2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD frontOutside there’s minor but obvious changes to the trim compared to the “regular” Vitaras. There’s a different grille insert, with plenty of chrome and hexagonal print to the plastic but there’s no air intake in the grille. That’s left to a small slot at the base of the front bumper, allowing air to pass over the engine’s intercooler. There’s black shrouding along the sides which joins the black painted wheels and wraps around into a black and grey valance in the rear. There’s also a prominent, perhaps too overt, Turbo badge on the right side of the non powered tail gate plus parking sensors all around. The black roof is a $995 option, however Suzuki says 60% of the Vitaras coming to Australia will already have the black roof.

Inside it’s a mix of cloth and leather on the seats (driver and passenger non electric), flat and piano gloss black plastic on the dash, with noticeable upper console reflection into the windscreen, an aluminuim look plastic insert on the left side of the dash structure (which is an interchangeable option) and features the same Turbo badge as seen outside. Safety wise, there’s seven airbags included.2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD front seatsThere’s colour coding on the air conditioning vent surrounds and clock but disappointingly Suzuki hasn’t chosen to add some extra sparkle to the dash by placing a colour LCD info screen, instead keeping the same monochrome one as seen in other Suzuki cars. There are auto headlights as a positive, as are rainsensing wipers, but only a driver’s window Auto down as a negative. Bluetooth controls on the steering wheel are tucked away at the seven o’clock position and a push button is employed for the Start/Stop.2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD dashThere is the touchscreen though, mounted centrally in the dash, to add some extra colour appeal and has the four quarter home screen allowing a driver to easily access from the start the radio, satnav, app screen (with Apple CarPlay but not Android Auto) or Bluetooth menu. The satnav is simple to use but the audio completely blanks the radio when giving directions. The radio’s tuner is not as sensitive as some, with more noticeable dropout in some areas. I’d also like to see a proper centre console, not just the no elbow support/cup holder style.2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD cargoRear leg and cargo space (375 litres, seats up) is fine for a four passenger setup but three in the rear would be a touch squeezy. The cargo area itself is smartly designed, with two plastic pockets bracketing the lift up shelf, which access the space saver spare. They’re just big enough for cans of liquid refreshment by the half dozen and handily stop cans of pet food rolling around too.2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD wheelRoadwise, it’s a competent handler, with minimal body roll, sits flat on the road and is composed over mildly unsettled surfaces if going straight ahead. The Vitara Turbo has, as mentioned, that rear end skip and is also afflicted with the same, somewhat odd to feel, shorter suspension travel crash and bang and occasionally the front end felt as if the strut towers were about to fall out after coming off the larger speed reduction humps. Otherwise, a driver can expect a well sorted ride, a quiet ride and a responsive steerer.2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD rear seatsTransmission selection for the Sports or manual mode is unusual in that there’s no left or right movement of the lever, rather a further pull back to select M, then allowing the steering column mounted paddle shifters to be employed. On the dash screen, Suzuki has elected to show, next to the ratio, a dot if the computer says it’s the right gear or an arrow for upshift. It’s different but effective.

The brakes, interestingly, seemed to have more bite once the pads had warmed up. On downhill runs on a tight and windy road, behind some gently moving traffic, the brakes were applied with just a dab on the pedal here and there. Once out of this and on a flatter road, the grip was more noticeable on the discs.

At The End Of the Drive.
Priced at $28990 plus on roads for the 2WD (and $32990 plus on roads for the AllGrip), the Vitara Turbo 2WD offers surprisingly good performance from the engine. The transmission and ride quality deduct points though, but as a package and with the fuel consumption figures being so liveable with around town, they’re minor issues.
Along with Suzuki’s three year/one hundred thousand kilometer warranty, there’s the comfort of the cabin, with supportive seating, that user friendly touchscreen and decent audio. For further details, click here: 2016 Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD

Suzuki Goes Back To The Future For The Baleno.

Suzuki has resurrected a nameplate that, in its day, managed to sell solidly. The Baleno has returned, bringing with it both a familiar yet updated look and splashes of modern technology. There’s a two model range with a GL manual and auto and the range topping GLX Turbo.Baleno GL 1

Here’s the skinny on the revamped Baleno.

Key Features including Apple Carplay, Satellite Navigation, Reversing Camera and DRLs standard across all grades.
GLX Turbo with powerful 1.0L Boosterjet turbocharged engine, with 16” Alloys, HID Headlamps, Digital Climate Control & more.
Outstanding fuel economy of only 5.1L/100km (GL Manual).Baleno GL profile

Suzuki Australia is pleased to announce that the all new Baleno is officially on sale in Australia. Suzuki’s new small hatch competitor redefines great value compact motoring in Australia, with the Baleno GL Automatic starting from just $17,990 Drive Away.

The all new Baleno small hatch features more passenger space and legroom than the smaller Swift, whilst having a large cargo area with 355 litres of boot space, similar to a Corolla hatch boot and bigger than Mazda3 hatch’s boot.Baleno GLX bootThe stylish Baleno, with flowing lines customary of small segment hatchbacks, will also be available with Suzuki’s Boosterjet turbo engine. The Baleno GLX turbo boasts a better power to weight ratio than the Corolla, whilst returning outstanding fuel economy of just 5.2L/100km.

Suzuki is continuing its position as a leader in Satellite Navigation, with every Baleno in the line up fitted with the same multimedia unit as Vitara, including Satellite Navigation and Apple CarPlay.Baleno GLX interiorSuzuki Australia General Manager Automobiles, Andrew Moore stated:
“The new Baleno provides Suzuki with a Small Hatch competitor that offers outstanding value and great styling. And with the addition of Turbo, loads of driving excitement too.”

Core to the Baleno’s development, was ensuring the vehicle was not only stylish but also spacious, with a focus on usable cabin and cargo space.. Whilst the vehicle length is just under 4m, the increase in cabin space especially when compared to Swift is considerable including 87mm of additional length from accelerator pedal to rear seat hip point (more passenger space), and 124mm from the rear hip point to the back of the vehicle, increasing boot space. Length of the front was reduced, to make the vehicle shorter overall thus easier to park.Baleno GLX profile“Baleno is amazing value at just $17,990 drive away and with its passenger and boot space should be considered by anyone looking at small hatches like Corolla or i30. And with Sat Nav, Apple Carplay and a reversing camera standard, it’s the best value on tech too.”

“Suzuki Australia Pty Ltd’s average monthly sales have grown by 19% since 2014, with the successful launch of Vitara and with Baleno I have no doubt this growth will build even further”.Baleno GLX rearIt’s keenly priced too, with Suzuki placing the GL manual at $16990, auto $17990 and the GLX turbo at $22990. These are drive away prices as well, making the Baleno a sharp entrant into an already crowded market. The features, size, room, and Suzuki’s fuel economy should make the Baleno a serious consideration. Check out the range here:http://www.suzuki.com.au/vehicles/hatch/baleno
A Wheel Thing will bring you a review soon.Baleno GL interior

Car Review: 2016 Suzuki Swift GL Navigator.

2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator night profileUnder the Suzuki banner, Swift is a nameplate that has been a staple of the brand and was, once, shared by Holden as a Barina. Allegedly, Holden had the lowest warranty return of any of their vehicles when using that car as a source…In the latter half of the “noughties” Suzuki revamped the Swift, giving it a look not dissimilar to a couple of well known smaller cars. They even released a sports version, with a (then) grunty 1.6 litre engine and a six speed manual as the only transmission option.2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator profileSince then there’s been some slight bodywork changes, such as headlights and tail lights faired back into the sheetmetal. A Wheel Thing takes on the mid spec GL Swift in 2016, called the Navigator.2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator engineUp front is a non turbo 1.4 litre engine, with 70 kilowatts at 6000 rpm and a reasonable, for the engine’s size, 130 torques at 4000 rpm. Suzuki, however, hobble it by fitting a four speed automatic (there is a five speed manual as standard) to the test car. It’s here where either a five or six speed auto OR a properly calibrated CVT would be a better option, as to get anything resembling overtaking speed requires a solid press of the go pedal. It drops from fourth to second in order to get something happening. A better spread of gears would help, one should think.

At least, like all of the Suzukis tested by A Wheel Thing, you can wave an oily rag at one and cover a fair distance. The Swift is no different, sipping 5.5 litres of 91 RON per one hundred kilometres of distance driven for a combined cycle, from a 42 litre tank in the manual and a slightly higher yet no less worthwhile 6.2 for the auto, says Suzuki. A Wheel Thing was in a mainly urban environment and saw 400 klicks at a half tank used.2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator front seatsInside it’s a mix of textured and shiny black plastic on the dash (visibly reflecting in the windscreen), cloth covered seats in a dark grey and charcoal weave, no centre console as such but a couple of bottle/cup holders, cruise and audio controls on the tiller plus Bluetooth for the phone and audio. The Navigator gts its name due to the stylish seven inch touchscreen with (surprise) satellite navigation and CD. 2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator dashIt’s intuitive to use, looks good but has a really odd programming where the warning screen you need to touch to view everything else stays on until you touch it. All. Of. The. Time. It doesn’t auto switch off, unlike other brands, to display the satnav or radio screens, for example, it’ll stay there until you turn the car off.

The dash design has a couple of built in storage spots, which are open to the cabin and have no material inside to stop items from moving around, meaning a phone or coins and so on are free to shake, rattle and roll. Underneath the touchscreen is another indentation, this being the aircon controls which are manually operated dials. One highlight here is that on full heat, the cabin gets toasty warm very quickly. Again, too, Suzuki eschew auto headlights and only the driver gets an Auto option for the power windows, being downwards only. The tiller is only adjustable for tilt, with reach being reserved for the GLX Navigator.2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator bootBoot space isn’t huge at 210 litres (seats up) and is somewhat hampered, initially, by having what first appears to be a high mounted shelf. This, though, is removable, adding some vital extra space, but then the question is where to put that removable shelf. Back seat anyone? With the seats down this increases to a more usable 533 litres. The wheelbase and 1510 mm height work together to endow the Swift with an agreeable amount of interior space for driver, front and rear passengers with just enough rear leg room for children, although adults might feel a tad cramped…

Being a small car, safety would be a consideration for buyers of the car for their children and Suzuki don’t skimp here. There’s front, side, curtain AND driver’s knee ‘bags, the suite of electronic aids such as traction and stability control, electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist and hill hold control for the automatic equipped Swifts.2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator front quarterOutside there’s nothing new for the Swift in regards to looks; no LED driving lights (it does get globe lit driving lights), head and tail lights faired into the guards (a design change a few years ago), with stylish 16 inch alloys clad in 185/55 rubber. It’s a good looking car and after ten years with the same basic design (the rear window line was also modified a few years ago), still looks good on the road.2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator rear quarterSpeaking of on the road, it’s a surprising harsh and hard ride in the Swift. There’s bang, crash, thump enough to please a Batman episode from the 1960s, such is the lack of compliance. This came as a surprise, and not a welcome one. The lack of give also contributed to the rear end skipping around on unsettled surfaces, such as broken tarmac or bumps in turns. It’s choppy and intrusive, deadening an otherwise quite reasonable handling package from the MacPherson strut front/torsion beam rear suspended car. Yet, there seemed to be more give over shopping centre speed restrictors….odd. It’s quick enough in the steering too, allowing the driver to move the 3850 mm long machine into some tight spaces, aided by the 2430 mm wheelbase, pushing the wheels to all four corners.2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator wheelAs mentioned, the four speed auto restricts performance but in normal day to day driving, it’s adequate enough. In fact, when A Wheel Thing sold Suzuki vehicles, it was the auto Swift that was most demanded by parents as a first car for their children, because it was auto and not seen as either quick nor hard to drive. It’ll respond well enough when really pushed but as an around town car, it’ll do the job if you don’t expect it to do much more. Brakes are discs up front, drums at the rear and also do a good job of pulling in the lightweight Swift. It tips the scales at just 1035 kilos (kerb weight).2016 Suzuki Swift Navigator rear seats

At The End Of The Drive.

It’s a firm favourite with younger drivers, the Suzuki Swift, thanks to its pert good looks, swag of safety features and, for parents of new drivers, the comparitive lack of urge. It happily swallows a family of four but is a bit light on for luggage space. It’s cheap to run, comes with Suzuki’s standard three year/100000 kilometre warranty and the sat nav in the mid range GL is a sweetener too. With the GL Navigator introduced to the Aussie market at a $17490 price (the Swift range starts at $15990) it’s also easy on the bank balance to buy.
For further information on the 2016 Suzuki Swift range, go here:2016 Suzuki Swift range