2016 Kia Rio S Premium: A Wheel Thing Car Review.

The small car market is populated with some pretty good cars and therefore is hotly contested in that segment. Kia’s entry, the Rio, has been an entrant since 2000 in the small car class and has undergone a few body style changes, with a five and three door once available. It offers a four speed auto with the 1.4L along with a six speed manual however the 1.6L is auto only. A Wheel Thing spent a week with the 1.4L, four speed auto, S Premium and came away more than a little surprised.It’s a compact, almost boxy body, with the current iteration sitting on a 2570 mm wheelbase and is just 4045 mm in length. Toss in a 1220 kilo weight with driver and Kia’s claims of 5.7L (manual) and 6.3L (auto) of unleaded for the combined cycles from a 43 litre tank seem feasible, with A Wheel Thing finishing on 6.9L, not far off (8.2L/100km highway, 5.2L/100 km highway).The 1.4L engine pumps out just 79 kW at 6300 revs and a seemingly undertorqued figure of 135 Nm (4200 revs). That light weight makes the difference but a four speed auto simply dulls it down to a lacklustre feel. Acceleration, overtaking, aren’t measured in seconds but by calendars.It’s not an unattractive car, with the review car in plain white; there’s the signature Kia “tiger” grille, somewhat goggle eyed headlights, plastic inserts at the front bumper extremities (driving lights get fitted in the Sports model) and, in profile, the nose rises gently to meet the A pillars in an almost constant line, with a couple of subtle crease lines joining front and rear.The roofline rolls off nicely to a vertical and pert backside. Considering the overall size of the Rio, it’s a pleasant surprise to find a very usable 288L of cargo space available with the 60/40 split fold rear seats up, which increases to 923L when they’re laid flat. Wheelwise, the Rio S Premium sits on 15 inch alloy wheels and they’re clad in 185/65 rubber. Forward motion is hauled in by 256 mm vented front discs and 263 mm solid rears, with surprisingly competent brake feel.The interior in the S Premium (model tested, there’s an S below and Si/SLi/Sport above) is spacious enough however lacks an amount of pop and sizzle. It’s a standard steering wheel nowadays with audio controls but does include Bluetooth and cruise, seats are manually adjusted and there’s more a sitting on than in sensation. The centre console is bare and the radio screen is old school, with red dot matrix lighting, sitting above some delightfully simple aircon dials and aircraft style flick switches.The dash dials housed in the binnacle are as basic as they come, with two large ones for speed and revs with fuel and temperature housed in two separate, small sections to the right of the speedo, which houses a similarly red matrix display. No auto headlights is also a no-no nowadays and only the driver’s window is auto up and down. There’s some class, with piano black surrounds for the audio and ventilation controls, some alloy look highlights for the gear selector and steering wheel and tasteful shades of charcoal and off white for the rest of the cabin.Driving the Rio S Premium turned out to be a mix of fun and frustration, erring on the fun side, showing you sometimes don’t need power or speed to enjoy a car. Hamstrung, as it was, by a comparatively underpowered and undertorqued engine, it still managed to raise a smile with sheer grit and tenacity. How? By exhibiting life, character, verve in its handling. It’s not surefooted, it’s not well planted, it’ll rebound a few times in freeway undulations, it’ll kick the rear around and get unsettled easily but it involves the driver in the driving, not isolating you and leaving you six inches away from the tiller.There’s bump steer (and the steering tends towards understeer), needing instant attention, some body roll and a bit of sponginess, yes, but it brings you, the driver, into its world and asks you to be part of it. Absolutely, you need a water bottle, a cut lunch and a calendar if you’re thinking of overtaking but that’s the fun, the involvement because the driver is no longer waiting on the expectation of the car to do what you think it will do. There’s planning, calculation involved and that can only be a good thing.

Once the engine is wound up, there’s a bit of a rasp, a sense of rortiness, from the front, as the speedo does its impression of global warming by moving glacially at first then starts to pick up speed. The gearbox is smooth enough under normal driving but the hole between first and second is noticeable as the revs fall right off and you have to start again.

It might be a small car, but it doesn’t scrimp on safety, with a full array of airbags across the range, hill start assist is also standard but only the SLi gets rear parking sensors. There is ISOFIX child seat mounting points and pretensioning seatbelts as standard in all models.

The Wrap.
The car provided was listed as $19690 plus $520 for the metallic paint, totalling $20210, with the S Premium starting from $16990 (manual). Compared to cars it’s not in direct competition with, that’s a fair amount of coin to ask and A Wheel Thing struggles somewhat to reconcile that figure with what is delivered. Not everyone will see the fun factor the Rio has however the economy will be a strong point in its favour. Lacking a more modern looking dash, again, may not faze some, but that’s no excuse to offer something that the 1980’s quickly forgot about.

For pricing and more details, click here: 2016 Kia Rio range

2016 Holden Insignia VXR: A Wheel Thing Car Review.

Holden’s manufacturing will cease in 2017 and to ease into the transition period Holden will increase the number of cars it will import. One of those is a true bahn stormer, the potent and stylish (Opel) Holden Insignia VXR V6 turbo, released in 2015.

It’s an eyecatcher, the Insignia VXR. Lithe, curvy, assertive, bigger than it looks at 4830 mm in length, with flanks that have a distinctive scallop and with the test colour coated in a metallic grey-green, it would reflect light at different angles. There’s huge 20 inch diameter grey painted alloys wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero rubber that provide superglue road holding and an outstanding all wheel drive system that transfers torque on demand to where it’s needed and a sophisticated electronic limited slip diff at the rear. All of these are mated to a sensational twin scroll turbo V6. It’s “just” 2.8L in capacity however delivers 239 kilowatts and an outstanding 435 torques. Both come at 5250 but the engine delivers somewhere around 90 percent of that peak from around 2000. It’s tractable, flexible, unbelievably potent and sees triple digits from a standing start in under six seconds.Adding to the firepower is the three mode drive system. You can choose from Touring, Sports, or VXR. Think a small ham and pineapple pizza, a large Supreme, and a family meal with free drinks and delivery thrown in. Touring has a slightly softer ride quality although you’re not left in any doubts as to the potential underneath. Sports firms up the FlexRide suspension and changes the settings in the gearbox, holding gears a little longer and allowing the driver to further explore the ability of the engine. Even the steering firms up, feeling tighter and requiring more effort to move the wheel.

Under normal driving the transmission is fluid if sometimes reticent to change when you feel it should. Stoke the fire and it becomes a totally different beast. Crisp, sharp changes are on tap, matching the rasp from the exhaust as the electronic tacho rises and falls in unison. Select Sport or VXR and the eight inch LCD screen also changes, offering up a range of information and a somewhat gimmicky looking g-force display. You do, though, get a screen where that is minimised and housed inside a silver themed speedomoeter. It’s visually impressive and sharp looking.Inside the Insignia is a welcoming and snug set of seats for the driver and front passenger. You have to lower yourself down into them but once in they’re supportive and wrap around the body. The rear seats are less so and are somewhat compromised in regards to leg room. Thankfully, Opel has fitted the seats with eight way power adjustment and both heating and venting, a godsend in Sydney’s late year variable weather. There’s some chromed trim in the front, which does add some visual class but unfortunately also reflected sunlight directly into the driver’s eyes.The dash design itself mirrors that found in Jaguar, with a swooping curve from door to door and around the base of the windscreen. The door grabhandles mirror that design, to a point, but feel somewhat too far back in the door ergonomically. The tiller has a chunky feel to it, with a soft touch texture and houses all of the now commonplace controls, plus has a pair of paddles fitted to the rear. Sadly, the texture here is of a lesser quality than the rest of the cabin. Also a touch questionable is the touch required to adjust the aircon temperature, requiring sometimes a stab or three in order for a finger to register, meaning the eyes aren’t focused on the road. The General’s MyLink system is on board, with DAB radio (bliss) and housed in a clean and uncluttered console. There’s Pandora and phone projection via Apple CarPlay. The voice command system makes for a high technology presence and for safer driving.When the Insignia VXR is on the road and everything is warmed up and ready to play, one can be assured assured that a most excellent driving experience is waiting to be delivered. Rolling acceleration is stupendous, ride quality of the 2737 mm wheelbase only jiggly on the most unsettled of surfaces such as the gravel ring road surrounding Sydney Motorsport Park, belying the 35 series profile of the tyres. Otherwise it’s well damped, following undulations and curves as if glued to the road and imparting a feeling of real confidence as you punch out of corners. All this while the electronics work faithfully and unnoticed in the background. What isn’t unnoticed is that powerplant and exhaust. Built in Australia, there’s a leonine roar when pushed, a rumble with a fine metallic edge on idle. You’ll pay at the pump though, with a 70 litre tank only swallowing 98 RON and consumption equivalent to a dockside pub full of workers after Friday knockoff.

To back up the performance capability, there’s Brembo brakes up front and vented & drilled discs brakes. The brakes will haul up the 1800 kilo machine time and again but there’s just a tad too much dead pedal to start with and lacks real feedback. There’s collision avoidance radar, blind spot warnings, adaptive cruise control plus auto emergency braking. Up front, there’s the standard LED driving lights but you’ll get adaptive lighting that adjusts to your speed plus auto high beam on and off. Holden offers a standard three year or 100,000 kilometre warranty plus Lifetime Capped Price Servicing to boot. Speaking of boots, there’s a capcious 500 litres available behind the 60/40 splitfold seats. To put that into perspective, that’s more than the Commodore.At The End Of The Drive.
The Holden Insignia VXR is a rare beast in that it’s a performance sedan, a big car, not a V8, offers outstanding grip levels and a beautiful ride, all wrapped in a pretty and stylish body. It’s also a car that seems to have slipped under the radar of buyers, with a low recognition level shown by the amount of swivelling heads on pedestrians. Priced at not much over $50K, it’s a hidden performance bargain and one that would be even more enjoyable if the Insignia was found to be sans a couple of hundred kilos. There’s a high level of tech onboard, unusual at the price point as well, but the real attraction for a driver that thrives on sheer back bending ability is that firecracker engine up front.
For a comprehensive look at the Holden Insignia VXR, go here: Holden Insignia Information

2016 Kia Carnival Platinum petrol: A Wheel Thing Car review.

The people mover…movement…is alive and well here in Australia. Kia’s Carnival has been part of it for some time and the current model that stems from 2015 is regarded as one of the best around. A Wheel Thing takes on the Kia Carnival Platinum petrol engined edition.Kia’s design team have done the remarkable; they have taken a box and made it not only attractive, but pretty. Although it looks like a box with a snout in profile, there’s enough subtle curves to have you thinking it’s smooth, rounded, not fat and edgy. The design of the tail lights goes a long way to helping that perception, with gently smoothed off edges, the now familiar neon light look at night that Kia has for them, plus the swooping eagle eye headlight and LED driving lights (which give a seriously bad arsed impression from a distance), with the Platinum getting halogen glode lights in each front corner.Kia’s pulled out the stops with the tech; on the keyfob and in two other locations, there’s buttons for there’s remote powered sliding doors. Yes, powered sliding doors. In an overhead position in the cockpit, ala an aircraft, and in the column where the leading edge of the doors meet the cabin are where the buttons lay and they genuinely make entry and exit so much easier. There did appear to be a glitch, in that when the doors were opening before the car started, they would then close upon ignition being engaged. It goes without saying that the rear door is also powered.Driving wise there’s Blind Spot Detection, Forward Collision Avoidance, Lane Departure Warning System, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Hill Start Assist Control plus there’s LED cabin lighting, Blutooth music streaming, Smart Cruise Control, DVD player (dash only, oddly, as there’s no glass roof to stop a roof mounted screen) and tri-zone aircon, with the front being dual and with separate controls for the rest of the vehicle. Toss in a 360 degree camera system and an LED rear cabin light that doubles as a torch and it’s clear just how smartly thought out this family oriented vehicle is.Motorvation comes from Kia’s 3.3L V6 petrol. It’s a pokey beast, with 206 kilowatts at 6000 revs but peak torque of 336 Nm is at 5200 rpm. Although the engine has torque aplenty below in order to get the two tonne machine up and running, it also means that consumption suffers because of the need for a heavier than neccessary right foot. Consumption around town is a tick below 16 litres of dino juice per 100 kilometres from the huge 80L tank…Consider, as well, a 2000 kilogram towing capacity.Kia fitted 19 inch chrome plated alloys, which complemented the deep metallic black paint on the test vehicle ideally, with 235/55 rubber. Although seemingly a lowish profile, there was enough give in the sidewalls and a touch of extra compliance in the suspension to provide a welcomed plush ride. Body roll was negligible and there was more than enough grip but a touch of understeer in turns, perhaps more to do with the steering rack ratio. On certain road bumps that provide an ideal suspension test, the Carnival refused to bottom out and pogoed only briefly before settling and continuing to waft along.

There’s enough grunt through the front wheels for the Carnival to “chirp” when vigourously launched, even on dry tarmac. Bearing mind its weight, there’s plenty of stopping power, too, with 320 mm vented discs up front and 324 mm solids at the rear. The overall feel of the braking system is fantastic, with plenty of feel and a beautifully weighted pedal, shading its sibling, the Sorento Platinum. Acceleration with a full load? Not leisurely but not rapid and watch the tank drain if you continually fang it.Sitting on a massive 3060 mm wheelbase, it comes as no surprise that there’s more than enough interior room. It’s a full house eight seater, with tilt and slide centre and second row rear seats. Cargo is considerable; even with all seats up there’s 960 L and 2220 L with the third row folded. Kia says there’s a mammoth 4022 litres with the rear seats folded and the centre row centre section removed. Staying with the interior, it’s the high quality we’ve come to expect from Korea, with a pleasing colour mix inside, subtle variations in the texture of the plastics, 3 USB and 12V sockets, a seven inch colour dash display with mechanical dials, drink holders aplenty (ten!! cups and four bottles) although, oddly, a cooling vent in the glovebox but not, logically, in the uppermost storage which was big enough to hold a one litre or so bottle.

There was a huge centre console storage locker as well, which also could have been fitted with cooling. There’s eight way power adjustment for the driver and passenger seats, heating and ventilation (yay!!) PLUS a heated steering wheel…unfortunately, the insert in the wheel itself holds heat from the sun so driving gloves may be an option in some parts of Australia.

Satnav and infotainment is accessed via an eight inch touchscreen; the system itself is user friendly and includes adjustments for the sound system. This one sounded far better than the diesel Carnival reviewed twelve months ago.

At The End Of The Drive.
The Kia Carnival Platinum tested was priced at $63304 driveaway, with the metallic paint paint a $695 option. The range starts at just over $45700. As an option to SUV’s, it stands up admirably. In fact, it is, perhaps, the most complete family car that isn’t a SUV that you can buy. Given the Carnival won drive.com.au’s 2015 People Mover of the Year and has garnered accolades here and overseas, combined with the driving experience, the look and feel, the feature list, the incredibly flexible and capacious interior, and Kia’s unrivalled seven year warranty, put the Carnival Platinum firmly into your list of cars to consider.

Go here: Kia Carnival range for your information on the brilliant alternative to SUV’s.Behind the Wheel - widget ad finalPrivate Fleet LogoBid My Car

2016 Peugeot 508 Active: Car Review.

It was a chalk and cheese moment for A Wheel Thing to hop out of the razor sharp 308 GTi five door hatch and drop into the four door saloon that is the 508 Active. Here’s why.It’s a big car, the 508, at 4830 mm long. However, the wheelbase isn’t that much bigger, at 2817 mm (the GTi is 2620) meaning there’s a bit of overhang. It’s powered by a four cylinder turboed petrol, with 121 kW and 240 Nm of torque. The Active weighs 1410 kilos, meaning the torque is already up against it in regards to moving the 508. The six speed auto is ok, it’s not the smoothest nor the roughest auto around. Using the paddle shifts to have it drop down a gear during hill descents was required, as the transmissions held third or fourth without human intervention.The 508 also suffers from an accelerator pedal that feels as if nothing happens for the first inch or so of downwards travel and then suddenly enages all of the kilowatts available, rather than smoothly counting by the numbers. It has the disconcerting effect of lurching the 508 forward with an appreciable time frame between pressing and motion also apparent. When paused at an intersection this can make all the difference between a safe passage and a pucker moment. There’s Stop/Start tech on board, with the button to disable this in the 508 oddly hidden in the driver’s right knee area…Actual acceleration is smooth once over that hump, with a linear delivery as the 508 sees the ton in 8.9 seconds. For all that, you’ll expect consumption of under 5.0 litres per 100 km for the highway from the large 72L tank. Around town, Peugeot quotes 7.5L/100 km.The brakes have nowhere near the grip expected nor does the pedal have the response. Again, there’s appreciable travel before any sense of bite exists and retardation begins. Even the steering is numb and wooly, with a less than communicative feel to it. The 508’s nose consistently ran wide in T-Junction turns, indicating the ratio for steering isn’t quite ideal.This was noted in traffic, with a softish feel, a spongy feel, and not a lot of feedback. The ride on the 17 inch alloys, with 215/55 Michelin rubber (of course!), is soft, with  no leaning towarsd a sporting style, however the damping is finely tuned so there’s no ongoing wallowing once through a series of road ripples.Although it’s the entry level model, with the Allure and GT being both diesel powered, there’s a fair swag of kit on board. Naturally there’s airbags all around, collapsible steering column and brake pedal, cruise control, speed sensitive power steering, rear sensors (no front on the Active), reverse camera, and heated exterior mirrors. There’s even a rear window sunblind, clipped manually to two anchor points in the roof. It misses out on Blind Spot Alert, Hill Start Assist, electric parking brake and four zone climate control.As mentioned, it’s a big car. There’s an 11.9 metre turning circle thanks to the 2817 mm wheelbase, a tidy 1828 mm width (sans mirrors) and stands 1456 mm high. Boot space is huge, at 497 litres, rising to over 1530 litres when the rear seats are lowered. Peugeot’s “claw” tail lights are a standout, bracketing a somewhat too narrow boot load lip, and there’s nicely integrated LED driving lights up front.At The End Of The Drive.
In a way, the 508 suffers from being in the same family as the 308 GTi. Compared back to back after experiencing the lightning fast in response, punchy as a Cassius Clay, five door hatch, the big sedan comes up short in the important of driving a car. The driving part. Yes, there’s a good array of standard features in the sole petrol powered entry in the three tier range but the lack of overall road manners brings the 508’s shortcomings into sharp focus.
To make up your own mind, click here: 2016 Peugeot 508 range

2016 Peugeot 308 GTi: Car Review.

Hot Hatch. Two words that belong to some, are linked to many, but come from just one. Peugeot. The latest iteration of a hot hatch from the French car maker is the 308 GTi. Take a sweetly curved five door hatchback body, insert a grunty 1.6 litre turbo and bolt in a slick shifting six speed manual and there’s the basis of what is one of the most complete cars of its kind going. peugeot-308-gti-270-profilePeugeot have two GTi versions available, the full house 200 kilowatt (GTi 270) or slightly less manic 184 kilowatt engine (GTi 250). Torque is a level headed 330 Nm spread across nearly 3000 revs. There’s a 53 litre tank on board, however, which makes the quoted 8.1L/100 km around town equte to something like 650 kilometres in range if drivien to achieve that number. Combined it’s 6.0L/100 and for holidaying call it 5.0L/100.peugeot-308-gti-engineThese merge to provide a seamless mix of acceleration and driveability, aided by one of the best balanced clutch and gear selectors you can find. There’s plenty of pressure on the pedal, yet not so much that you need a leg of a body builder. The pickup point for the engagement of the gear is roughly mid travel but is balanced so it’s progressive from top to bottom, so there’s feedback all the way. The selector itself has just enough heft, enough spring pressure, to tell the driver there’s something alive there. It’s not loose or floppy nor is it rigid and inflexible or tough that strong arming the change is needed. It’ll ratchet through, a satisfying snick accompanying the movement and, importantly, the gate is so well defined that a racing change gets you to the next slot every time.peugeot-308-gti-cabinPeugeot quotes 6.2 and 6.0 seconds for the run to 100 kmh, depending on the engine spec. When given space to do so, the GTi eyeballs the horizon, tells the driver not to blink and then launches the 1200 kilo mass as if a solid rocket booster has been lit. That fluid combination of clutch and gear shift work so wonderfully well as first becomes second becomes third. There’s an enthralling, engaging note from the front and a rasp from the twin exhaust. Hit the Sports button and that changes, with a wider note that adds a harder edge to the sound. It’s a bit of trickery as that extra sensation is fed into the cabin via the sound system…The ride of the GTi is superb; again, Peugeot have found that balance between tight and taut as the car holds on to every ripple and curve in the road without sending messages of warning to the driver. Imagine riding a push bike over mildly unsettled surfaces and having the wheels roll over everything without any bumps banging and crashing through. Having said that, although the GTi is forgiving, it doesn’t tolerate rutted surfaces or broken tarmac. The dampers don’t respond quickly enough and the 308 gets skatey, wriggly as opposed to the flat and normally limpet like grip otherwise exhibited. The 235/35/19 rubber and alloys go a long way to helping that ride and handling mix in the GTi 270 or 225/40/18s on the GTi 250.
The steering is razor sharp, responding to the slightest movement of the smallish steering wheel. Given the average steering stetup is geared towards understeer, it’s a pleasant surprise and defines the market the GTi is looking for. A 2620 mm wheelbase inside the overall 4253 mm length aids the nimbleness of the car.peugeot-308-gti-front-profileThe brakes are the same. So quick is the response to the lightest touch on the brake pedal, it is almost an unreal feeling and defies expectation. There’s a real and instant feeling of slowing, rather than a soft press and a half inch of travel before there’s a semblance of bite. Here, the GTi lets you know straight away that the brakes from Brembo are engaged and that the harder you press the quicker you’ll stop or that if wish just a touch of slowing, a gentle touch is all that’s needed. the GTi 250 gets 330 x 30 mm discs up front, 268 x 12 at the rear. The GTi 270 takes it up a notch, gaining 380 x 32 for the front with the rear staying at 268 x 12.peugeot-308-gti-badgeInside it’s sports seats, a dash that glows red when Sports is selected, touchscreen and Bluetooth tech, a somewhat tame looking colour scheme that belies the ability of the engine. The seats are a measured mix of leather and charcoal cloth with brightwork in the cabin provided by chrome look surrounds for the centre console, binnacle and air vents. The tiller is a combination of vented leather look and non vented, with a red stripe sewn in to mark the twelve o’clock position. You’ll be protected by curtain, side and front airbags, side impact absorbing material in the doors, a collapsible steering column and pretensioning seatbelts.For comfort and cargo there’s auto windows all round, reverse camera, chromatic (auto dimming) rear vision mirror, parking sensors front and rear plus the driver gets an information screen when Sports is selected. For those that choose to buy the five door hatch and carry a little person or two around, there’s ISOFIX mounts for two. A pair of 12V sockets are in place front and rear also. There’s a handy 470 litres of cargo with seats up, increasing to over 1300L when all seats are lowered. Design wise outside it’s a sedate look, with LED driving lights, “claw” tail lights and a GTi specific grille as standard. There’s bespoke sill inserts for the door jambs, a sports diffuser at the rear that houses the twin tipped exhaust and bespoke GTi badging.peugeot-308-gti-rear-profile

At The End Of The Drive.
Mid November 2016 sees driveaway pricing for the GTi 250 at just under $50K. That’s a hefty ask as is the just sub $55K ask for the GTi 270. There’s an enticing eight year warranty for any 2015 model purchased to sweeten the deal though. As a car, the 308 GTi is an outstanding package, almost a complete driver’s car and that’s the strongest point the car makes. It’s a DRIVER’S car, involving the organic element of driving to a level unlike so many road cars. The rapidity of response, the level of response, the feeling of being the final component of a computer that makes it all just work when the final slot is filled and power is turned on brings the driver into play across all levels of ability the Peugeot 308 GTi has.
Drop by this link for more: Peugeot 308 GTi information

2016 Citroën Picasso: Car Review

Citroën first released the Picasso in 2009 and have released two updated models in 2015, the Picasso (five seater) and Grand Picasso (seven seater). Rebodied, revamped, and re-engined, A Wheel Thing wonders why there’s not more of them on the road.The version tested, the five seat version, came with a 1.6 litre tubo four, with peak power of 121 kilowatts, albeit at a high 6000 rpm. What’s important is the torques, all 240 of ’em, at 1400 rpm, driving a six speed auto. It endows the the Picasso with useable driveability, just what you need in a five seater family mover. It’s fitted with Stop/Star tech, which is a thing that doesn’t really float A Wheel Thing’s boat, as it has a tendency to add a vital second to getting the car under way. What Citroën says it does is give the Picasso a 5.6L per 100 kilometre fuel economy (combined cycle). The gearbox itself is slick, shifting smoothly under light load and giving a sportsman like performance when pushed. The downside? Where the selector lever has been placed. Think old style column shift where the lever was on the dash and that’s where Citroën have placed it. It’s on the upper right quadrant of the steering wheel mounted dash (the actual driver’s binnacle is centre mounted) and when moving the lever for the wipers it was all too easy to hit the gear selector as well.It’s a pretty interior, it must be said. It’s light, bright, airy, spacy, with a cool mix of black and beige leather, an option over the standard black and grey cloth or the other optional black cloth/grey leather. Don’t think it doesn’t look good because the dreaded word “beige” is mentioned, because it suits the car admirably.
The driver and passenger seats have fold out tables in the back (part of the “Lounge” option pack), along with a cargo net storage section below, and there’s massage functions fitted as well. Yes, they work, but wouldn’t be advised for tired drivers. The rear seats are individually mounted, allowing superb personalisation and flexibility.Citroën being Citroën, they throw in a quirk or two and it’s the location of the dash display. It’s in the centre of the dash, and is a LCD screen of 12 inches in size. It’s a touch screen, housing satnav, information such as guidelines when reversing, an unusual look in that there’s an almost window pane style at times and, thankfully, it all works well. Just underneath is a seven inch screen, housing the audio and thankfully again, there’s DAB or digital radio. I say thankfully because the range of stations you suddenly find yourself presented with makes for an interesting drive when cycling through all the options for tunes…

The Picasso also gets a full glass roof. It adds to the feeling of spaciousness and adds an extra element to the ambience when it’s raining. There’s a translucent material that rolls back and forth at the touch of a roof mounted jog dial, giving wannabe pilots a semblance of being in a cabin by reaching up, instead of pressing a dash button.Outside, the Picasso draws clear design cues from the C4 upon which it is based. There’s a huge glass area all around, including ahead of the driver and passenger to the right and left. There’s a bluff nose which transmutes quickly into a steeply sloping windscreen and a curvaceous roofline that tapers, when seen from above, towards the tail in an almost teardrop line. It’d stylish, chic and lends the Picasso to having a real visual presence. The LED running lights sited above the headlights enhance that further, as do the LED tail lights in the powered tailgate.Citroën have done a sensational job in the packaging; the Picasso is just 4428 mm in total length, rolls on a 2785 mm wheelbase (and 205/55/17s as standard, with 225/45/18s as an option) plus has a rear overhang of 764 mm from the rear axle line, providing 630 litres of cargo that increases to 1851 when all seats are flat. Speaking of seats, the headrests shy away from the tradition flat pack cushion style, instead opting for a sports seats style, wrapping around the noggin.One of the joyous things about the Picasso is its ride. Naturally biased towards comfort, it’s nevertheless not so soft that it ever feels spongy or wallowy. It’s in fact quite the opposite, with a suspension tune that somehow almost seems sporty without the tight and taut characteristics. You can hustle the Picasso around as if it’s a smaller and more nimble car without it feeling as if it’s top heavy. You can press the go pedal and have only a moment’s hesitation before you get under way and the brakes are the same, with just a touch of travel at the top of the pedal before it tells you the grip is gentle and will tighten the harder you press. Hit a bump and there’s a fall and rise and settle, there’s no ongoing movement but an acknowledgement of an intrusion that is dispatched immediately.At The End Of The Drive.
At the time of writing, November 2016, there’s a driveaway price of $39990, identical to a price in 2010 when A Wheel Thing was also a vehicle salesman. Then it was good value, but with the complimentary Tech Pack which is worth a cool five thousand large, (Xenon headlights, Electric tailgate, Adaptive cruise control, Electrochrome rear view mirror, Lane departure warning, Smart beam function, Collision avoidance alert and Active seat belts) it’s sensational value now. With room aplenty, a poky engine and a fluid chassis, it really is a wonder why there’s not more of the Picassos around.
For more info, a pricing calculator and a test drive link, go here: 2016 Citroen Picasso

2017 Suzuki Baleno GLX Turbo: Car Review.

Suzuki has brought back a name from the past, the Baleno, and there’s two models to play with. The GL and GLX Turbo are what you can buy. A Wheel Thing took home the GLX Turbo.Both models are physically identical in dimensions, with a compact 3995 mm overall length. Inside that is a 2520 mm wheelbase, providing a spacious cabin and an engine bay to hold the 1.0L Boosterjet turbo three cylinder engine. Yep, a turboed three potter. It’s got an unusual and engaging thrum, this little banger, pumping out a handy 82 kilowatts at 5500 rpm. More impressively, there’s 160 torques from 1500 through to 4000, via a six speed auto and will haul the 975 kg (kerb) charmer along without stress. Along the way, it’ll average a nice 5.2L per 100 km from the 37 litre tank.The Baleno GLX Turbo’s strength is that engine. It’s a delight to listen to and begs to be revved hard on the freeways. Around town it’s flexible, willing, and responsive to the questions a driver asks. The auto is slightly less compliant, with some hesitation on upchanges. It’ll also hold ratios on downhill runs and will willingly slip from sixth to fifth to fourth before staying there without any driver involvement. Oddly, there’s no manual mode and, as a result, no steering column paddle shifts.The interior is the weak point of what could and should be a sporty themed car, given the verve of the engine. Flat, slabby, unsupportive seats, cheap and tacky looking silvered plastic trim and lurid red backlighting contrast with the cobalt blue dash lighting on a 4.2 inch LCD screen and the almost coronal look the dials have with that lighting. Although the switchgear is reasonably laid out, the low budget look for the interior disappoints.There’s also far too much road noise from the 185/55/16 rubber, regardless of road surface. The smoothest roads have the noise level as marginal at best, and coarse chip roads make radio listening and cabin conversations almost impossible. Again, given the aural appeal of the three banger and the sheer enjoyment in the drive of it that the engine imbues, it’s a disappointment.To sharpen the edge, Suzuki do offer a good range of standard equipment, including dusk sensing HID projector headlights, Hill Hold Control, satnav via a touchscreen, voice command and Apple CarPlay. CD Player? Why, no sir, get with the times, as today’s modern lad or ladette stream music via Bluetooth. The touchscreen is the same as found in the Vitara, for example, and it’s a simple, easy, intuitive setup. The leather clad steerer has a good heft and feel, houses Bluetooth and cruise, plus has a quick enough steering rack ratio to imbue enough of a sporty feel that it backs up the driveline and chassis.It’s a tried and true combo, the MacPherson strut/torsion beam mix. The spring rates are such that there’s minimal body roll, a generous level of compliance and comfort tuned in, an easily controllable amount of understeer in a sharp turn by using the throttle judiciously, feathering power into the front wheels. But to give the Baleno GLX its head is a delight; that throaty warble from the three cylinder matches up with the surprising acceleration, combining to delight the senses and the soul of a true driver. It’ll hunker down, it feels, and exhibit some handling traits that are engaging and, frankly, fun to have.Outside, the Baleno both harkens back to the original and brings along its own sense of style. A smooth, fluidic, and elegant profile hides a sensible and usable 355 litres of cargo (with a space saver spare) that increases to 756 Lwhen you fold the rear pews. With a smooth mix of angles and curves at the front, including DRLs whilst the rear also tags the memory with largish tail lights it’s an attractive looking prospect. Inside and out you’ll find six airbags (both cars miss out on a seemingly mandatory nowadays kneebag), Electronic Stability Control (that’s well balanced with only the occasional feel of the electronics tugging the car back into line), keyless Start/Stop and reverse camera as standard. However, there’s no rain sensing wipers nor, surprisingly, do you get parking sensors, front or rear.It’s surprising how much room Suzuki have engineered in, given the compact size. It’s under four metres in length (3995 mm), has an overall width of 1745 mm and rolls on a 2520 mm wheelbase. Although Suzuki haven’t quoted interior dimensions, be assured that for four adults it’s fine.At The End Of The Drive.
Suzuki’s badly needed renaissance continues with the dual Baleno range and the GLX Turbo stands as an example of how the brand has reinvented itself so successfully. Against competitors such as the Cerato, i30 or Corolla, it’s better than a worthy contender as a driver’s car. However, the ride noise and the iffish interior (except for that eyecatching dash dial colour mix) unfortunately bring the Baleno’s overall allure down a notch. A three year/100K kiloemtre warranty is also standard but also behind some competitors. However, the range does start at $16990 driveaway and thats definitely worthy of checking out. For more info and to book a test drive, go here:2016 Suzuki Baleno range and info