Car Reviews: 2018 Subaru Liberty 3.6L and 2.5L.

Subaru‘s Liberty sedan continues to be a pillar of the Japanese brand’s sales success. The current three tier range has the 2.5L engine in the 2.5i and 2.5L Premium before a 3.6L flat six trim. AWT goes back to back with the Subaru Liberty 3.6L and 2.5L Premium.The Liberty range itself received a mild facelift in early 2018, with a change to the front lights and bar, the rear lights, and a freshen up inside. Software such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto was added to a touchscreen that was slightly larger than before, Lane Keeping Assist was added to the safety package, plus the Premium gains a updated safety package. Premium variants add a suite of Vision Assist features including: Steering Responsive Headlights, Adaptive Driving Beam, Side View Monitor, and Front View Monitor.Underneath there were changes to the suspension and drivetrain. There’s a smoother and more refined feel to both engines, and the seven speed CVT autos in both also feel crisper and smooth in the changes. However, in this driver’s opinion, the suspension is a backwards step, being floaty, soft, far too short in travel and banging quickly to the bumpstops on even the smaller speed inhibitors in shopping centres. There’s more noticeable skipping sideways as well, with a two and a half day trip to the Kiama and Illawarra region, south of Wollongong finding plenty of spots where the rear would suddenly move sideways and too easily on the Dunlop 225.50/16 rubber and alloys.The two different engines require, like all petrol engines, plenty of spin to see the maximum power. The 2.5L four sees 5800 rpm for 129 kW, and the bigger six 6000 rpm for 191 kW. However real driving relies on torque, and it’s here the six wins with 350 Nm at 4400 revs. The smaller donk has 235 Nm and 4000 revs, a still not inconsequential amount for its size. Both do a sterling job of pulling the 1577 and 1655 kilo machines around, however the four suffers in comparison on the uphill runs. There’s noticeable drop-off quicker which requires a firmer right foot. That relative lack of torque in a vehicle that weighs as it does sees a zero to one hundred time of 9.6 seconds, and a full 2.4 seconds quicker for the flat six in an eighty kilo heavier car.Economy on the 2.5L shows that it’s otherwise a brilliant highway performer, with the return figure from the Illawarra standing up at 6.4L of standard unleaded per 100 kilometres from the sixty litre tank. That’s on par with Subaru’s claimed 6.2L/100 km for the highway. The 3.6L is quoted as 7.5L per 100 km and driven in a more urban environment wasn’t far from the quoted combined figure of 9.9L/100 km. It’s the quoted figure of over fourteen litres for every hundred kilometres for the urban cycle that’s the concern.In profile it’s a handsome machine with a full 4800 mm length, and with the LED C shaped tail lights glowing at night, the auto swivelling headlights at work, and the white metallic paint glinting in the night, looks eye-catching and appealing. There’s also door mounted puddle lamps which cast a LED light over a broad area. Inside, the bigger touchscreen is easy to use, is well laid out, and features satnav, apps, and compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The powered seats are heated but not vented, and lack enough side bolstering for genuine comfort. There’s no shortage of shoulder or leg room though, thanks to a wheelbase of 2750 mm, width of 1840 mm overall, and a long but height shallow 493L boot. There piano black trim on the steering wheel looks and feels cheap and is at odds at the otherwise classy interior.There’s a good level of tech on board with Active Torque Vectoring, and the Premium & 3.6L feature the Vision Assist package which is Front View Monitor, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Side View Monitor, and Adaptive Driving Beam. Seven airbags including the driver’s knee bag means occupant safety is high. Height adjustable seat belts enhance that level. Reverse camera is standard across the range. But, and this is a big but, neither car had rear sensors and in an age where these are virtually mandatory this level of oversight is simply not good enough. What is good enough is Subaru’s Eyesight system. Stereo cameras mounted alongside the rear vision mirror, which is auto dimming by the way, rear the traffic ahead and are part of a safety bundle.Adaptive Cruise Control, Brake Light Recognition, Pre-collision Braking (which occasionally threw out some false positives), Pre-collision Brake Assist, Pre-collision Throttle Management, and Pre-collision Steering Assist work with the other driving aids to provide as much warning and support to drivers to avoid a crash as possible.But it’s the ride and handling that distinguishes this version compared to the previous and that’s not necessarily a good thing. It really does float, waft, and roll, and that suspension crash at low speeds just simply doesn’t feel good nor does it inspire confidence. It’s a chassis feel that a neighbour with a 2013 model Liberty said would turn him off from buying a new model. And it’s a chassis tune that feels aimed at more…mature drivers.

At The End Of The Drive.
Subaru’s list price for the 2.5L Premium is a reasonable $36,640. The six comes in at $43,140. Factor in on roads and those prices suddenly don’t look quite so attractive compared to the new Commodore and on a par with the Mazda 6 2.5L. The ride quality isn’t as good as expected, the lack of rear sensors may outweigh, in some buyer’s minds, the excellence of the EyeSight packagae, and the thirst around town of the six may also counter the positives. There’s always the Outback, though….Book a drive and make up your own mind, here: 2018 Subaru Liberty range

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Car Review: 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Exceed AWD and LS.

Mitsubishi have joined the ever growing band of car makers supplying a smaller mid sized SUV. The oddly named Eclipse Cross fits snugly between the Outlander and ASX in size yet packs a 1.5L turbocharged four cylinder and CVT. It’s a comfortable four seater, has a couple of nifty features inside, and comes with a cargo space big enough for a family of four’s weekend away luggage or a week’s shopping. It’s priced from the high $20K mark plus on-roads so it’s not a bankbuster either.The three model range has the LS 2WD, Exceed 2WD, and AWD. All three have the same 1.5 litre turbocharged four cylinder petrol engine that produces 110 kW at 5500 rpm and 250 Nm from 2000 to 3500 rpm, and CVT with eight steps. There’s a 60 litre tank that holds standard unleaded, and runs at a quoted fuel consumption figure of 7.7 litres per one hundred kilometres for the combined cycle. However, part of the dash display screen option list is expected range. On highway and freeway usage the range does extend and from pickup to home saw over two hundred kilometres being added.Exterior design is eyecatching; there’s Mitsubishi’s signature shield design for the front, free flowing sheetmetal for the wheel arches, and an angled scallop that reaches rearwards from the middle of the front doors that lines up the door handles. The rear is the question mark of the design but sets the Eclipse Cross apart from its competitors. It’s sharply angled from the arrow head tail lights to the roof in profile and both end lights are joined by a horizontal bar through the glass that also blocks some rearward vision. Rolling stock is standardised at 225/55/18 with rubber from Toyo being more dry land and tarmac oriented.An interior highlight for the range is the addition of a trackpad device located in the centre console. It’s intended to backup the seven inch touchscreen but in practical use, with a drag and slide and push down to enter, it’s not really that effective. The touchscreen and trackpad themselves seem to be Audi inspired, as the touchscreen is now housed in a pod that stands proud of the upper dash construction. The aircon controls are buried under a ledge that houses the centre airvents and a pair of USB ports.The Eclipse Cross Exceed AWD has a Bose speaker system that’s clean, crisp, punchy, and takes advantage of the DAB radio that’s fitted to all three variants. The touchscreen’s interface isn’t hard to use but sourcing stations in the digital realm was tricky and not intuitive. Naturally there’s apps that can be selected via the touchpad that include Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Alongside that is the variable information available on the driver’s dash display that gives you economy, trip, eco rating, but not speed.The cabin itself is spacious and airy in feel, thanks to an overall height of 1685 mm, a width of 1805 mm overall, and a wheelbase of 2760 mm inside the compact 4405 mm length. The black of the lower seat level section is contrasted by alloy plastic highlights, glossy piano black, and the roof lining in a cloth weave of an almost beige shade. The seats themselves are cloth with a sliver diamond motif in the LS and heated leather (no cooling, sigh) in the Exceed. The Exceed also has a Head Up Display that folds up from the binnacle. Although it’s easy to read and populates itself with information such as speed, crash alerts for the radar assisted cruise control, the screen itself is perhaps a couple of inches too low for ease of vision. Also, the rear tail gate in the Exceed AWD isn’t power operated, as expected. Cargo space is 341L to 448L and sits above a space saver spare. That capacity goes to 1136L with the seats folded.Where the Eclipse Cross claws back points is in the manners on road. The 1.5L needs a little bit of coaxing off the line when loaded up but once into its stride responds willingly enough. With one aboard it’s a sparkling performer, an adept handler, and a surefooted performer in ride quality. With four aboard and the cargo area full it’s less willing to get under way but still has some solid mid range urge. The multi-link rear feels tauter when not loaded up and the front is well balanced in comparison. Absorption of bumps and irregularities is smooth and progressive with even the short and sharp speed restrictors in shopping centres lessened in their crash into the cabin. Turn in is measured and precise, with no feeling of oversteer in the AWD and little understeer in the 2WD. Mass, or lack thereof, helps, as the LS and Exceed 2WD weigh 1490 kilos dry, the AWD 1555 kilos dry.The Eclipse Cross AWD was taken on a good country drive, from Sydney to Bega and surrounds and back, covering in all over 1600 kilometres. Some of that was through the soft, wet, coarse sand of a crossing at the Bega River. Although CVTs tend not to engage straight away when the accelerator is pushed, the development from Mitsubishi has lessened this to the point that engagement is quick and combined with the AWD system (which is switchable for Snow and Gravel) allowed safe, unhurried, and unconcerned crossings. Only rarely, too, did the 1.5L feel that more torque was required, and naturally this was moreso uphill and when overtaking. The CVT is smooth and well matched to the engine, and when the go pedal is pushed to the carpet, has a steady and progressive climb through the revs to 4000 where it plateaus.Safety is paramount here with seven airbags, Autonomous Emergency Braking and radar cruise control. This needs some work as the braking is far too harsh and sudden. Modulation down to a more progressive stop would make this a far better experience. A full set of parking sensors is complimented by the reverse camera, 360 degree view on the touchscreen, Lane Departure Warning, and Rear Cross Traffic alert.

At The End Of The Drive.
It’s somewhat of an oddity, the Eclipse Cross, both in name and looks. As a family car and a daily driver, it fits the bill. It’s fine for four but no more, isn’t unattractive, drives well enough to suit almost every application, and the AWD system is ok for some gentle soft-roading. But a few minor quibbles such as the way the HUD sits, the lack of showing speed in the driver’s display, and the compromised rear vision take some of the gloss away.

The LS is priced at the time of writing at %31,990 driveaway, with most of the paint options at $590. The gorgeous metallic red that Exceed AWD is clad in is $890 and tops out at $39,380 driveaway. Specifications for the 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross are available here: 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross specifications.

Car Review: 2018 Peugeot 208 GTi

Some say size isn’t important, and it’s how you use it. Clearly one of the world’s oldest car brands have this in mind with the 2018 Peugeot 208 GTi. With a starting price of a blink under $30K, it’s a pocket-sized road pounder with a smooth engine, slick six speed manual, and not a lot of real estate when it comes to the sheetmetal.Hiding under the thumbnail sized bonnet is a turbocharged 1.6L four cylinder petrol engine, punching out 208 horsepower or 153kW. There’s also 300 torques on tap at 3000 revs but plenty of twist on board below that. It doesn’t add up to be a rocketship but performance is nonetheless more than satisfactory. So is fuel consumption with a quoted combined 5.4L/100. AWT clocked 6.3L/100 km in a mainly urban drive environment.The clutch is light-ish and the pickup point isn’t entirely precise but there’s enough feedback from the clutch pedal travel to engage it smoothly. The six speed manual has more feel in the selector lever than Suzuki’s Swift Sport tested recently and is therefore more confidence inspiring. Once engaged there’s a minute hit of turbo lag before the torque comes in smoothly and allows the 208 to kick up its heels smartly. An 1160kg dry weight certainly aids this.Steering is well weighted via the flat bottomed, red striped, leather bound tiller. There’s some lack of connection dead on centre however lock either way has the steering become more communicative in regards to where the front wheels were going. Ride quality itself was firm, leaning towards hard, but with just enough initial give to not be completely uncomfortable. Out on the freeway, as a result, it was a flat, slightly taut feel to the chassis, and with the engine ticking over at around 2500 in sixth, right in the sweet spot for the waiting maximum torque. Changes of direction are lightning quick thanks to an overall length of 3973mm yet packs a 2538mm wheelbase. Front and rear track are almost identical at 1476mm and 1478mm respectively, also helping the rapid response handling.That gearing also made it pretty tidy around town, with fifth the preferred gear for most 80 km/h zones and sometimes needing a judicious heel and toe for lower velocities.Unfortunately, there was also more tyre rumble than expected on most road surfaces. The Michelin Pilot Sport 205/45/17 rubber is superbly grippy but that grip came the cost of the aural noise.Inside the 208 GTi features the i-Cockpit setup favoured by Peugeot, and one that receives mixed reactions from some. This has the driver’s dash binnacle sitting above the sightline of the steering wheel. For AWT this wasn’t an issue but it’s also easy to see just how the top of the wheel could impede vision of the dials. Thankfully the steering column is adjustable for both height and reach.The binnacle itself has a switch, which when activated, limns the binnacle in blood red, matching the stripe on the wheel.The cockpit itself is comfortable with red and black trimmed sports seating, which are fully manual in operation, soft touch materials throughout, and a seven inch touchscreen for satnav, reverse camera with guidelines, and six speaker audio. Apps are on board and using a USB connection has a smartphone connecting for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Other features include a tyre pressure monitoring system, folding power mirrors, six airbags, and Autonomous Emergency Braking. Outside there’s chromed exhaust tips, good looking alloys, cornering lamps, and rear spoiler. This sits over a cargo area that is, unsurprisingly, not big at 285L. That’s a little smaller than Ford’s Fiesta and quite a bit smaller than VW’s Polo. At night that’s overcome by the stunning claw tail lights.Peugeot offer a three year warranty or 100,000 kilometres and the Peugeot 208GTi comes with a five star ANCAP safety rating.At The End Of The Drive.
The 2018 Peugeot 208 GTi continues a solid heritage and builds nicely upon the small hot hatch history. Although not as quick off the line as expected, the mid range driveability makes it more a usable day to day proposition, especially for a single person or couple. It’s a sweet handler and will happily take you at speed through twisting roads whilst sporting a healthy grin.

Head to Peugeot Australia for more info.

Car Review: 2018 Suzuki Swift Sport Manual and Auto.

Suzuki has had a long history with small hatches that have sporting pretensions. Every iteration of the Swift is warmly received, warmly reviewed and leads to high expectations for the next model. And so it was for the 2018 version. The 2018 Suzuki Swift Sport also…sports…a couple of noticeable changes.Suzuki have gone to their parts bin and slotted in their poky 1.4L BoosterJet four cylinder petrol engine. With 103kW and 230Nm it doesn’t sound like there’s a lot of oomph, but remember it is just 1400cc in size. There’s the added extra of a six speed auto to back up the venerable six speed manual. In a car weighing around the 1000kg mark the engine and transmission combination adds up to be a sparkling performer. At $25490 and $27490 plus ORCs it’s well priced and comes with a decent range of standard equipment as well.The exterior of the Sport goes a step further than the already worked over Swift. There’s faux carbon fibre side skirts, a solid looking rear valance panel, and a jut jawed front end with more in your face attitude than the standard. Even the rear door handles are buried in radar absorbing black and mounted high in the C pillar. It’s about the same physical size as the previous model, with a total length of just 3890mm, width of 1735mm, and a petite 1495mm high, yet weighs less as well (970kg manual, 990kg auto). With a squat stance thanks to the low height and broad for its size track, the Swift Sport looks able to take on any tarmac surface.The Sport’s suspension is hard. Harder in the auto was the feeling, but not by much over the manual. It sometimes felt as if a rear corner was being raised when punted through some corners in both. However it also meant that on tight and twisting roads the Sport can be absolute thrown hard into them and will sit flat and confident. The steering is an extension of the driver’s arms too, with instant response and the front tracking almost like a military helmet and nose-gun system. The superb 195/45/17 rubber contributes to that utter adhesion too. Brakes? Like the steering, they’re an extension. Think how much stopping you want, press, and receive.If there’s a weak link in the drive train it is, unusually, the manual. The clutch pedal feels too soft, with no real resistance, and the gear selector is the same. It’s rubbery, doesn’t feel as if the gate mechanism has the schnick schnick expected. Oh, it does the job well enough if it’s not rushed, as unhurried, fluid, motions will select the gear all the time, every time. It simply doesn’t feel sporty.The auto, gawd help me, is the complete opposite. Decisive, clear in its intent, assertive, smooth, and delivering on every promise, the auto is pretty much everything a driver of a sports oriented hatch could want. The gear selector has no manual option too, that’s left up to the steering column mounted paddle shifts. Power down, and it’s bam bam bam. Just beautiful.Inside there’s a pair of snug sports seats up front, standard seats at the rear, devil red trim contrasting with the charcoal interior plastic. The driver’s dash dials are a bronzed hue and glow a deep red at night. Smartly, for a right hand drive market, Suzuki have fitted the Start/Stop button up on the right side of the dash and in clear view of the driver’s eye. The touchscreen is standard and comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.Being a small car it’s no surprise the cargo space is on the petite side at 265L, and with the rear seats folded, increases to a more useful but not huge 579L. There’s small numbers for the engine, but good small. Although the fuel thimble is just 37L the consumption stretches that size. AWT finished on 5.9L/100 km, and that’s just about on the money from Suzuki’s quoted fuel figure of 6.1L/100km combined.There’s a good safety package on board however there’s no driver’s kneebag, autonomous emergency braking, and NO parking sensors at all. Not a one. Nor is the Hill Start Assist in the manual yet the auto receives it. Ummm, ok then.At The End Of The Drive.
It’s truly rare, as a supporter and firm believer of a non-self shifter, that AWT will prefer the auto option. But here, in the 2018 Suzuki Swift Sport, it’s a no brainer. 2018 Suzuki Swift Sport specs is where to find out more.

2018 Kia Rio SLi: Car Review.

Kia‘s evergreen slightly bigger than small car, the Rio, has had a mild revamp inside and out for 2018. LED DRLs, digital radio, a reprofiled front bar are the obvious changes. And priced from $22,990 RRP plus $520 for premium paint, it’s not a bank buster either.It’s the solid, trusty, dependable 1.4L MPI petrol engine we’ve come to know and….love is far too strong a word. Like sounds fair. There’s 74kW of peak power and 133Nm of torque at 4000 rpm. On their own, they’re reasonable numbers from a non forced induction 1.4L. However there’s also the same four speed auto that continues to hold back the Rio. Surely by now there’d be something in the Kia/Hyundai parts bin to change to a five or preferably six speed auto. The fall-off between gears is just that little bit too much for a car in the late part of the 21st century’s second decade. In shorter words, it’s time to modernise.Although the engine itself is a willing revver, spinning easily through the range in Neutral, third and fourth showcase just how much they hold the 1.4L back, and also just how much more economy could be wrung out of it. Kia’s figures say 6.2L per 100 km from the 45L tank on regular ULP. With 110 km/h seeing 3000rpm on the tacho, those extra mid range cogs would could see the ratio in the final drive changed and drop the revs to a potentially more usable and frugal number, especially given the kerb weight of 1162kg for the auto. The auto will also tow up to 800 kilograms.That said it’s a lovely little driver with slightly heavy steering, a somewhat softish road ride which may have been down to the 195/55/16 Kumho rubber, however it’s stable enough in its handling. Freeway conditions have the petite 4065mm using its 2580mm wheelbase absorbing most of the irregularities and the well damped McPherson strut front is more than capable of dealing with anything that causes bump steer. But neither is it a sports car, and the slowish steering rack reflects that.The interior sees the information and entertainment seven inch touchscreen move from an integrated into the dash location to a standalone unit mounted high in the dash itself, much like the new Stinger. Charging for phones etc comes courtesy of a pair of 12V sockets up front, a USB port, and one for the rear seat passengers. There’s a sunroof , UV protected glass for the front passengers, alloy sports pedals, cloth covered seats with a higher grade material (man made leather with perforations) than the S and Si, and what Kia calls a “super vision instrument cluster”. Nup, neither do I.Dash plastics and trim are a blended mix of soft touch plastics and a gunmetal hue to the dashboard strips. If anything, it misses out on the current design ethos of a sweeping arch that brings the door trims into the dash as one curve. Bottle holders number four, one in each door, the touchscreen in the Si and SLi has DAB and satnav as standard, plus both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard across the three trim levels. Bluetooth is, of course, standard and there’s address book and media streaming capability.There’s plenty of room inside, with Kia’s typically efficient packaging providing space for four comfortably, enough front leg room for people up to six feet tall, however the rear seat leg room becomes tight when the seats are pushed back.Outside it’s a redesign for the front and rear, with the tail light cluster bringing in the neon light look. The front has a solid bar framed in chrome in the Schreyer nose grille, reprofiled headlights with circulat LED driving lights, globes in the lower corners, and the roofline has been flattened for a sharper look. The hatch door is more upright and allows access to a 325L or 980L cargo space with the rear 60/40 split fold seats down. The SLI has 16 inch wheels, with the S and Si rolling on 15s. The test car was clad in Signal Red, with Clear White, Silky Silver, Platinum Graphite, Aurora Black Pearl, Smoke Blue, and Mighty Yellow available.There’s Kia’s standard seven year warranty which is bolstered by a high standard of safety across the range. Hill Start Assist, reverse parking guidelines, and six airbags are standard but there’s no autonomous emergency braking or a driver’s kneebag. Kia also supply a space saver spare, not a full sizer.

At The End Of The Drive.
The Rio really is a car with pootential but that four speed auto is an anchor. With other manufacturers using a CVT or changing to a turbocharged three cylinder with a broader range of torque, the Rio, as good a car as it is, is in danger of being left behind. The update outside and in do refresh the Rio into a handsome looker however a savvy driver will overlook this. Details of Kia’s updated Rio are here: 2018 Kia Rio range

2018 Holden Equinox LTZ-V: Car Review

As Holden transitions from a builder to an importer, an important part of the plan to do so successfully is to increase and improve its model range. The new Commodore is being rolled out, the new Astra sedan and hatch is in showrooms and the long serving Captiva is slowly being wound back as the new nameplate for the mid sized SUV takes over. Here is the 2018 Holden Equinox LTZ-V.The five model range starts with the LS. With the  manual it kicks off the range at $27990 RRP (plus ORC). It’s $2000 for the auto. The LS+ is a $3000 premium over the LS and the first of the LT range at $36990. The LTZ/LTZ-V are $39990 and $46290 respectively. The AWD option on the LTZ is an extra $4300 however it’s standard on the LTZ-V and selected via a button in the front centre console.It’s a choice of two engines available. Both have a turbo and are a 1.5L or 2.0L capacity. A diesel is due later in 2018. The 1.5L will be found in the LS and LS+ with the 2.0L servicing the LT range. The LTs come with a nine speed auto as standard with the LS getting a six speed manual and auto.The auto has no paddle shifters nor side movement for manual changing. The selector in the LTZ-V has a + and – rocker switch on the top of the rather long throw selector. Holden say the Equinox should see the ton in around seven seconds. It’s slick and smooth under most driving situations however was caught out sometimes from start, with hesitant, jerking, unsure decisions initially.

The 2.0L produces 188kW and 353 torques  with that peak torque on tap between 2500 – 4500 rpm. The 1.5L isn’t far off with 127kW and 275Nm. The preferred tipple of the 2.0L is 95RON. Combined fuel consumption is quoted as 8.4L/100km from the 59L tank in the LTZ-V. It’s 55L in the others. Economy finished at 9.0L/100 km in the near 1700 kilo plus cargo machine..The LTZ-V gets plenty of high level tech and comes well loaded with standard equipment. However there’s really not that much to differentiate between it and the other LT models. A full length glass roof is one obvious difference. Driver friendly Advanced Park Assist in the LTZ and V is another. Auto levelling LED headlamps, LED tail lights, remote engine start (all LT models) and chrome roofrails complete that. The roof itself is moved via two tabs and they don’t have the same edge feel to know when you’ve got hold of them.The interior of the LTZ-V is a nice place with Heating AND venting for both leather front seats. They look a little slabby but aren’t noticeable in lacking support. Surprisingly, gratefully, they’re there for the rear leather clad seats too with rear seat passengers getting a pair of USB ports, a 12V socket, rear air vents and a 230V socket. It’s of a different configuration than the Aussie 240V sockets so a converter for anything like a portable fridge will be needed.Full colour LCD screens greet the driver and passengers in the LTZ-V and light up in vivid blue. It’s a dash mounted eight inch touchscreen with Holden’s MyLink system on board for apps and entertainment, including a Bose speaker system to complement the DAB audio and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. The layout is clean and usage is largely intuitive. The sound itself is as expected from Bose and the sensitivity of the DAB tuner is better than that found in Kia’s Stinger. The upper dash is also Euro influenced, with the sweeping arc that runs from door to door and stitched soft material look and feel. There’s even a notch in the front console for wireless smartphone charging for compatible handsets.

The smaller screen for the driver has info made available via the rubberised arrows on the right hand spoke of the heated steering well. It’s not as easy to navigate as the same found in say a Mitsubishi or Kia but does the job well enough.All four windows are auto down, however just the driver gets auto up, which in a top of the range vehicle is an odd decision. The tail gate is power operated and can be opened and closed from afar via the remote plus there’s a tailgate height dial in the driver’s door near the bottle holder. Foot operating openin is available however is intended for use when your hands are full. There’s 848L or cargo space, a hidden storage locker between the main floor and space saving spare, and increases to 1796L with the rear seats folded.

Safety levels are high across the range with Autonomous Braking from the LS+ upwards, Lane Keep Assist and Lane Departure Warning. Following Distance Indicator and Forward Collision Alert with Head Up Alert (flashing red lights) and a vibrating seat cushion that gets input from the parking sensors is there as well. There’s no driver’s kneebag however. It’s this level of tech and features that has a slightly confused feel for AWT about the range structure.Outside it’s a mix of corporate GM and hints at the Astra sedan as being the base sheetmetal, especially at the rear. The noticeable Vee shaped nose and grille structure leads to a bonnet with deep scallops either side, a crease line from the top of the front wheel arch which joins the door handles front and rear to the tail lights. There’s a difference at the rear windowline, much like Ford’s Territory, in that the thicker part of the rear window is the C pillar, where the rear door meets the end of the car, rather than above the tail lights.

It’s a good sized vehicle too at 4640 mm in length and 2725 mm in wheelbase. That allows for a very good 1040 mm and 1008 mm leg room front and rear. Shoulder room front and rear is also good with 1452 mm and 1410 mm. The tailgate opens up from a handy 740 mm above ground level.Ride and handling from the McPherson strut front and four link independent rear is on the slightly taut side. It was never harsh but noticeable in that smaller bumps transmitted more into the cabin. The steering has a weighty feel, with minimal understeer at speed, but somehow the steering translates into a wider than expected turning circle which makes parking and three point turns not as easy as expected. It’ll shift lanes well enough though and do so with minimal fuss.

Being a predominantly front wheel drive car there were also occasional chirps from the front tyres when launched. Corners at speed were despatched with indifference, straight line stability is spot on, and that taut suspension pays for itself when dealing with the varying surfaces of the roads travelled, with dips, wallows, undulations, almost unfelt.The rolling stock is a decent size, with 19 inch alloys wrapped in 235/50 Ventus Prime rubber from Hankook. Although city oriented they did a credible job getting through and over enough rock, sand, gravel, and mud to show some off road cred. With AWD selected, the gear selector moved into L, and Hill Descent mode engaged, the LTZ-V, although not a dedicated off roader, managed some parts of AWT’s test track with only a few moments of will it/won’t it.Warranty is starting to lag, with just three years or 100,000 kilometres on offer. There is however a choice of extended warranty, for 12/24/36 months. There’s also free roadside assist for the first year with another two for free if you get your car serviced by Holden.

At The End Of The Drive.
Holden is still in a period of shaking down what it will deliver to Australian car buyers. With the LT and LS+ to be reviewed separately, the Holden Equinox LTZ-V has made a solid enough impression. It’s the similarity of features in the LT level that may not though have many people opting for the V spec with the glass roof and AWD systems as standard. With over $7000 difference between the two these two features on their own may be seen as unnecessary enough for many to not spend that extra.

There’s no doubt though that the 2.0L engine, the transmission, and the general fit and finish is high enough to wipe away any lingering doubts. Certainly, compared to a Japanese brand that will be also reviewed separately, it’s far ahead of what that car has and in LT form will more than likely have both the features and price point that will meed customer expectations.
Here’s where to find more: 2018 Holden Equinox

2018 Kia Stinger Si V6 and GT-Line Turbo Four: Car Review

There’s been few cars released into the automotive market that have divided opinions as much as the new 2018  Kia Stinger. Available in three trim levels and with a choice of two engines mated to the single transmission offered, an eight speed auto, the Stinger spent a fortnight with A Wheel Thing, in V6 twin turbo Si and top of the range GT-Line turbo four.The Si sits in the middle of the V6 range and is priced at $55990 plus on roads and options. The GT-Line with the turbo four is the same price and came clad in a gorgeous $695 option Snow White Pearl paint. There’s the standard seven year warranty and capped price servicing over the seven years, with the V6 being a total of $221 over the turbo 4.The V6 is the driver’s pick and backing up the four straight after sees it suffer in comparison. The 3.3L capacity V6 has a peak power figure of 272 kW at 6000 rpm and a monstrous 510 Nm of torque from 1300 to 4500. The four in comparison is 182 kW at 6200 rpm, and maxes out a torque figure of 353 Nm between 1400 to 4000 rpm. Although the V6 has a tare weight of 1780 kilos versus the four’s 1693 kg, it gets away cleaner and quicker, overtakes quicker, and will comfortably beat the four to the ton. Surprisingly, the required fuel is standard ULP and comes from a 60L tank.

Consumption is quoted for the V6 as 10.2L/14.9L/7.5L per hundred for the combined/urban/highway. The four isn’t much better, at 8.8L/12.7L/6.5L. AWT’s final figure for the six was 11.6L/100 km and for the four a slightly more reasonable 9.3L. These figures are slightly disturbing, in all honesty, as they’re more or less line-ball with the V8 engine seen in Holden’s VF Commodore and over the slightly bigger naturally aspirated 3.6L V6.There is a trade-off for that consumption and in the case of the V6 it’s the extraordinary driveability it offers. Off the line, and bear in mind it does offer Launch Control, it’ll see the 100 kmh mark in a quoted 4.9 seconds. There’s absolutely no doubt in that claim apart from a possibility it’s conservative. On a 48 hour trip to Dubbo in the central west of New South Wales, those 510 torques were so very useable in overtaking, with times to get up and pass and doing so safely compressed thanks to that torque.By having such an amount available through so many revs makes general, every day, driving unbelievably easy, with such a docile nature it’ll happily potter around the suburbs as easily as it will stretch its legs out in the country. The throttle setup is responsive to a thought, and there’s a real sense of urgency in how it all happens. There’s a bi-modal exhaust and this cracks a valve in the rear pipes allowing a genuine crackle and snarl from over 2500. Otherwise it’s a vacuum cleaner like woofle that can become wearying very quickly.The four, as mentioned, suffers in comparison, lacking the outright flexibility the bigger engine has. Note: “in comparison”. On its own the 2.0L turbo four, as found in the Optima GT and the sibling Sonata from Hyundai, is a belter. Paired against the big brother 330 it is slightly slower, slightly less able, slightly less quick to get going from a good prod of the go pedal as it waits for the turbo to spool up. Overseas markets do get a diesel and this is potentially the engine that Kia should replace the petrol four with. As long, as long, as it offers comparable performance to the V6.

The eight speed auto in both cars is a simple joy to use. All of the words that mean slick and smooth can be used here. Changes are largely unfelt, rarely does the backside feel anything other than forward motion as the ratios change. And naturally there’s different drive modes. Comfort is the default with Eco, Sports, Custom (GT-Line) and Smart the others and accessed via a dial in the console. However, somewhat confusingly, you can access a menu via the seven or eight inch (trim level dependent) touchscreen and set the steering to Sports, engine/transmission to Sport, and suspension to Sport yet have the driver’s display show Comfort from the dial setting.In Sport, the transmission doesn’t change any more cleanly but will hold revs longer and feels as if the shift points themselves change. There’s no manual shift mode as such; what this means is that the gear selector doesn’t have a side push or buttons to do a manual change. There are paddle shifts and once used doesn’t stay in manual mode but reverts quickly back to auto. What this means for the driver is simple piece of mind and not having to worry which mode the transmission is still in.Roadholding and handling from both was nigh on nearly impeccable. BUT, and it’s an odd one, the V6’s mechanical limited slip differential rear had more of a propensity for skipping sideways even on flat and relatively settled surfaces. A slight bump, a ripple, and the rear would move just enough to alert you of it. The Stinger has a big footprint though, with a 2905mm wheelbase inside the 4830mm overall length.Track front and rear also helps at over 1650mm minimum, as do the offset tyres of 225/40 & 255/35 on 19s for the Si and GT-Line six and GT-Line four. The others have 225/45/18s. And it’s McPherson struts front matching the Aussie tuned multilink rear that provide the superb roadholding the Stinger exhibits. The steering is precise, well weighted, en pointe, and tells you exactly how the road is feeling.There’s Launch Control on board as well and it’s a fairly simple matter to engage. Traction control gets turned off, the car must be in Sports mode, AND the computer must be happy with the engine temperature. It’ll also limit the amounts of attempts. Brakes in the V6 come courtesy of Brembo, however seats of the pants says the brakes in the four cylinder equipped Stinger are just as able.Design wise the Stinger foreshadows and continues a coupe like look for a five door sedan or four door hatchback. It’s a long, flat, E-Type-ish bonnet that has two faux vents. Apart from aesthetic reasons they’re pointless. Why? Because there’s vents in the front bumber into the wheelwell and from the rear of the wheelwell that exits from vents in the front doors. The roofline tapers back in a gentle curve before terminating in a rear that’s a cross between an Audi A5 and Maserati. The rear lights themselves are Maserati and LED lit front and rear in the GT-Line. Inside there’s plenty of legroom in the rear, a slightly compromised cargo space at 406L due to the hatchback style, a power gate for the GT-Line, and a stylishly trimmed interior. Plastics, for the most part, look high quality, and the overall presence echoes something from Europe, perhaps Jaguar, in this case. The central upper dash mounted seven inch touchscreen that looks as if it rises and falls, ala Audi, for example. It’s mostly intuitive, clean to read and use, but sensitivity needs to be upped as sometimes two or three taps were required to activate a menu. There’s DAB radio and here there’s a minor hiccup.With other brands tested with a DAB tuner, in comparison the one used in the Stinger also lacked the sensitivity found in others, with dropouts in more areas in comparison. There’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus voice recognition, with the middle and top range Stingers having nine or fifteen speakers with under front seat subwoofers. Harman Kardon is the feature brand in the GT-Line. As an overall presentation is pretty damned good, yet there’s still a sense of, in the top of the range GT-Line especially, that it lacks a knockout punch, and doesn’t seem to visually say this is a premium vehicle.The menu system on the touchscreen includes safety options such as voice warning for school zones, merging lanes and such like. Although an eminently worthwhile feature it became tiresome very quickly. Thankfully the voice presentation can be deactivated. Extra safety comes in the form of a forward camera and 360 degree camera depending on the model. The 360 degree version superimposes a Stinger top down view into the picture on one side of the screen and shows whichever camera view selected in the other. It’s super clear and immensely handy for parking. Another Euro feature is the rocker and Park button design for the gear selector. Foot on brake, press a tab on the selector, rock forward for Reverse or back for Drive. Inexplicably, the GT-Line had more issues correctly selecting Reverse or Drive.Only the driver’s seat is electrically powered however both front seats are vented but only in the GT-Line (for the Australian market, this is a must) and heated. A slight redesign has these operated via simple console mounted rocker switch that lights blue for venting, red for heating. Across the range they’re supportive, comfortable, and do the job well enough, along with the ride quality, that you can do a good country drive and feel reasonably good at the break. The GT-Line also features two position memory seating and a pad for smartphone wireless charging for compatible smartphones. It’s a leather clad tiller and the GT-Line gets a flat bottomed one but the material felt cheap, as did the buttons under the three central airvents in comparison to the good looking interior design.Even the base model is well equipped for safety; there’s seven airbags for all models, front seatbelt pretensioning, pedestrian friendly AHLS or Active Hood Lift System before moving to Lane Keeping Assist and Advanced Smart Cruise Control (with forward collision alert and autonomous braking) in the V6 Si. The GT-Line gets Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, High Beam Assist, and Dynamic Bending Headlights.Naturally there’s Kia’s class leading seven year warranty and the fixed priced servicing. The turbo four is cheaper from start to finish, with a gap of just three dollars for the first, two for the second, before the third service opens it to fifty. The final service sits at $785 for the V6 and $696 for the four.

At The End Of The Drive.
The easiest way to consider this is that, as a first attempt, Kia have just about nailed it. Just about. It’s a big car, seats four beautifully, rides as good as one should expect, goes like a scared rabbit in the V6 and a not quite so scared rabbit in the turbo four, is well equipped, and is utterly competitive for the features on price. Its biggest sticking point is one that’s completely inescapable and has already caused derision and division. It’s this: KIA.

Far too many people have locked themselves into the thought process that says Korea can’t built a competitor for the outgoing Commodore or the fading from memory Falcon. Ironically, as many have pointed out, detractors will have typed their sneering comments on a Korean built phone or have a Korean built TV. It’s also not unexpected that those slinging arrows from afar won’t avail themselves of the opportunity to test drive. More fool them.

However, for a first attempt, like any first attempt, there’s room for improvement. A lift in presence to say more how the car should be perceived is one, and fuel efficiency needing a VAST improvement is another. The last one is something both Kia’s marketing gurus and Australia’s luddites need to work on. That’s that a Kia CAN be this damned good. The 2018 Kia Stinger is that damned good car.