Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Bloomberg names the 2012 Hyundai Veloster as "Best Economy Car"

The all-new 2012 Hyundai Veloster earned the title of “Best Economy Car” in Bloomberg’s recent “Best Drives of 2011.” The Veloster is an innovative compact coupe that features ground-breaking design, with a unique third door for easy rear-seat access, Hyundai’s Blue Link® telematics system, Pandora® internet radio with seven-inch touch-screen display and a new 1.6-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine that can be mated to either Hyundai’s first EcoShift™ dual-clutch transmission or a six-speed manual transmission. The Veloster is also one of four Hyundai vehicles that achieve 40 mpg on the highway, along with the Accent, Elantra and Sonata Hybrid.

In the third annual roundup of the year’s best vehicles compiled by Bloomberg, Veloster drew praise from the editors for “amenities like touch-screen navigation, automatic everything, Bluetooth and a rear-view camera.”

“Hyundai has four models which hit the 40 mpg mark, only one a hybrid. That’s progress for the people,” said Jason Harper, Bloomberg’s auto critic. “Most of us want a nice-driving, good-looking automobile that won’t sledgehammer us into debt.”

Joining the Veloster as “Best Drives of 2011” are the Range Rover Evoque, the Lamborghini Aventador, the BMW 1 Series M Coupe and the Overall 2011 Winner, the Audi A7.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

2012 Porsche 911 (series 991)

Here are some initial, undisguised pictures of the all-new Porsche 911, codenamed 991 for model year 2012.

Indications are that the base-model Carrera will be powered by a marginally downsized 3.4L boxer-6 (from current 3.6L) pushing about 350hp, while the Carrera S will sport a 3.8L lump good for some 400hp. To be carried over will be the 7-speed PDK dual-clutch auto tranny, while the manual will get an uprated, extra-cogged 7-speeder.

The most distinctive change from the outgoing 997 series - noticeable from these initial pics - is the rear clam shell engine cover (hood), altering this iconic sports coupe' butt perspective quite a fair bit, along with more-squinting LED rear lights cluster. Meanwhile, the almost 100mm increase in wheelbase doesn't seem to make a lumbering dolphin of the 2012 Porsche 911 - which is reported to enable a hybrid drivetrain and battery pack to be accommodated in this new 991 series of Porsche's most identifiable, iconic shape for the last five decades and still counting...

Expect the right-hand drive version of the all-new Porsche 911 Carrera and Carrera S to be in Malaysia by perhaps Q3 2012.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

2011 Naza-Kia Forte 2.0 tested

It has often been published that the Koreans are in a - vastly improved - league of their own with their newer generation automobiles for this new decade. Cheap (in relative terms, of course) doesn't mean nasty and low rent anymore. While some may loath at the very sight of a Korean automotive badge, there is no denying that the prime example that you see above has a lot more to offer under its sleeve. Especially in its upgraded form which has been available in our Malaysian market since early this year (2011).

I could still vividly remember how much likeable the Forte 1.6 EX/SX was in 2010 when I reviewed these lesser versions. Even the larger capacity 2.0SX paled quite miserably with its lifeless steering with a bubble-gummy feel just off-centre, being an electric-powered assisted rack. In the meantime, the 4-speed A/T was not geared to appreciably harness the added flexibility of a 2.0L lump.

Fast forward to the 2011 Forte 2.0 - with 6A/T - these bugbears are gone, especially the synthetic-feel steering. In fact, it's well weighted and tied down now, though a tad "artificially coloured" it may seem but heck, it's a vast improvement. It even hints you of that "Zoom Zoom" feedback or that premium "The Power of Dreams" feel.

At highway speed, tracking corners seem more brilliant with the suspension just nicely damped with incisive suspension rebound i.e. taut body control. No wallow, no pitching. Acceptable body roll should you gun it into bends. High speed stability around its tested Vmax of 200km/h was let's say, comforting, cosseting and confident. Wind noise and road noise level remained impressive for its class at that 'lofty' velocity as well.

Tractability going about in town or suburb traffic is much improved with the new 6-speeder while the implanted rear-view camera display proved more than just a gimmick. Though the display image was a wee bit constrained by the height of the central rear-view mirror dimension, it worked perfectly well for all the reversed parking I managed to execute.

However, all isn't rosy from this Korean camp C-segment offspring. For one, I fail to understand why there is the lack of external boot release handle/rubber-strip switch at the rear - usually recessed in the rear number plate upper frame/garnish. You simply must press the button on the remote fob, how so inconvenient for a key/fob-less entry enabled car! Or you must tug the boot release lever on the floor carpet below and to the right of the driver's seat. The other sore (eye) point is why their generic-looking engine cover(s) do not seem to greet you "Annyeonghaseyo" as friendly the others say "Konichiwa" or "Guten Tag", just to name a couple of established examples.

I do have to apologise for not observing its fuel economy (trip computer was displaying 12.0l to 13.0l/100km mostly!). In the new Forte 2.0, most of the time I was having fun stretching its legs on almost every trip out in this "budget" 2.0-litre sedan, which is convincingly far from looking, feeling or driving budget-y in nature.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Peugeot 308 Turbo retested (6-speed)

Time flies. I could still recall that I was somehow smitten by an early version of this Pug 308 turbo some two years ago. Though it had only 4-speed auto, the road holding and handling were sweet, albeit ride was a little firm. The value-for-money buy (at RM112k) had even gone on to handsomely win the 2009 Car of the Year title from New Straits Times (NST) .

All manufacturers improvise on their cars as years go by. The 'new' 308 turbo is no exception. The sampler that you see in white here has gained a Japanese slush 'box good for six forward ratios. All for the better, lower emissions and more importantly, better fuel economy. Admittedly, it is very smooth on the go now and the car tested licked 190 km/h with ease and the twin-scrolled blower found in this 1.6 engine is quite the lag-free deal, in the vein of BMW turbocharging these days . After all, it is a J-V offspring from BMW-Peugeot union.

However, in its quest for a more fancy panoramic roof (read: heavy), this Pug seems to have a more jello-wobbly suspension setting now, perhaps to offset the added higher mass, suspended above. This warm hatch now rolls, pitch and get busily wobbly with almost every bit of your steering input. Grip levels from those pricey Conti rubbers are still admirably good. Even the rack itself is overtly sensitive, even with input just that wee-bit off-centre.

In short, somehow, the whole package just don't gel. Not anymore. Not when even the driver gets carsick easily. And what's with the noisy A/C blower at full blast and neither hot-nor-cold mostly, climate control? Maybe I am being a bit harsh here with the steeply rake huge front windscreen and glass panoramic roof being untinted yet, in a new car. But it gets uncomfortably hot easily in this 308 with the A/C being stuffy or overwhelmingly noisy most of the time.

Hey, where's the nice good 'ol white face meters? The new "mono-chromed" amber on black is just cheaper-looking and a bore to look at. A lame attempt to mimic BMW items if that was the true intention.

After a few days with it, I have to admit that the latest 308 turbo isn't as desirable as before, not in this latest guise anyway. But it cannot be denied that the sticker price of RM118k is indeed still very tempting against the similarly-classed (RM156k) VW Golf 1.4 TSI. Such is the reality. A cheaper and slightly smaller VW Polo perhaps...anyone?

You may be compare this article with this:
Peugeot 308 Turbo tested (2009)

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Sharp looking 2012 BMW 1-series to herald a new design language for F30 3-series?

From the looks of it, BMW is on a roll again...after the sleek but understated F10...and now this...the all-new F20!
Bring on the 120d Sports soon BMW Malaysia!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Peugeot RCZ crosses the RM200k mark in Malaysia!

Nasim Sdn Bhd, the official importer and distributor for Peugeot vehicles in Malaysia has launched the absolutely modern, bubbly, compact-and-curvaceous RCZ 2+2 coupe recently. Two variants sporting different state of tune and transmission are available.

Powered by the all-familiar 1.6L twin-scroll turbocharged powerplant found in the Peugeot 308, 3008 and 5008 the 6-speed auto RCZ gets the standard combo of maximum power output of 156 bhp + 240Nm of torque. The Pearlescent White car that you see above a gets a stick shifter good for 6-forward ratios transmitting 200 bhp and 275 Nm to the front wheels. All from the same 4-pot 1.6L - albeit charged to a higher boost via a visibly larger intercooler up front - sitting just behind the bumper and a couple of seriously more robust-looking turbo hoses in the engine bay!

The manual RCZ also has larger disc brakes all around, larger alloy wheels (18") and stiffer springs to cope with the added grunt. Incidentally, the manual RCZ has a sportier (read: bassier) exhaust note to complement its higher performance positioning in the RCZ hierarchy.

Adding to visual enhancements as well as sporty performance are the double-bubble roof (which desperately needs dark tinting in our super-sunny and hot climate) and the active rear spoiler that deploys to two-stage at different higher speeds.

The in-car entertainment aspect is taken care of by a JBL hi-fi incorporating an amplifier punching 240 watts through 6-speakers. Also on offer are Bluetooth connectivity and auxiliary audio input capability.

For added safety, there is an active pyrotechnic bonnet system (at the front wing, just above and a little behind the wheel arch which "explodes" and propels forward during a forceful collision, acting somewhat like an external "airbag" to cushion and prevent intrusion of the front bulkhead into the driver's/passenger cabin.

The RCZ coupe is fully imported (CBU) from Magna Steyr's plant in Graz, Austria and retails for RM218,888 for the 6-speed auto version, while the 6-speed manual is priced at RM223,888.
For Wheels was told at the launch that some at 35 units were already called for, out of which the majority were manual versions, in a surprising reversal of trend for the Malaysian car-crazy-but-automatic-loving motorists.

Nasim hopes to deliver some 100 to 150 units of RCZ for the remaining months of 2011.
Wither the grey-imported used (reconditioned) Audi TT coupe?

*some pictures taken by Janus Mun

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

2011 Hyundai Elantra Makes WARD'S 10 Best Interiors List

The all-new 2011 Hyundai Elantra (Avante) with its modern design and numerous luxury features, was named to Ward’s 10 Best Interiors list. This honour further demonstrates that a car achieving 40 mpg standard highway fuel economy is not only practicable but fashionable as well. In one of the most competitive years for the award, Ward’s editors evaluated 51 vehicles that were all-new or featured significantly upgraded interiors. This year’s 10 Best Interiors list represents a broad cross section of the industry, from utility vehicles and minivans to small cars and high-end premium sedans.

“Proving economy cars ‘ain’t what they used to be,’ the Hyundai Elantra Limited delivers enough flair to suggest the South Korean automaker is finding its own unique interior design language,” said Drew Winter, editor-in-chief, Ward’s AutoWorld. “The instrument panel of the Elantra displays a curvaceous sensuality, with a belt drawn tightly around the climate controls; the center console then widens as it flows down to the gear shifter.”

The 2011 Elantra represents a modern approach to the traditional compact sedan segment featuring a sleek style, advanced safety features, “class above” interior volume and standard 40 mpg highway fuel economy. Inside the Elantra, customers find Hyundai’s expertise in interior packaging, lighting, leading-edge design and craftsmanship. This approach is visible in the clarity of the instruments and the tilt and telescopic steering wheel. The seats help fuel economy and the environment, being made of lightweight, environmentally friendly foam. Heated seats are available in the front and the rear, a segment first.

“The sophisticated interior of the Elantra is designed to bring new life to the compact car segment combined with the ultimate in functionality for the driver,” said Chris Zarlenga, design manger, Hyundai America Technical Center. “Being named to Ward’s 10 Best Interiors, alongside vehicles like the Audi A8 and BMW X3 xDrive35i, shows that compact cars can provide an engaging experience as well.”

Ward’s editors picked the winning interiors using the same methodology employed for the annual Ward’s 10 Best Engines program. Scoresheets are completed for each vehicle driven based on materials, ergonomics, safety, the human-machine interface, comfort, fit-and-finish, overall value and aesthetics. Following the evaluation, Ward’s editors have extensive discussions to determine the winners.

The Ward’s 10 Best Interiors competition takes the place of the Interior of the Year program that dates back well before 2005, when Ward’s acquired the Auto Interiors Conference. The 2011 interior winners will be honored in a special ceremony at this year’s conference May 17 at The Henry Ford hotel in Dearborn, Mich.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Nissan Teana 200XE tested

I thought I had resigned myself to just judging some cars for a highly notable publication's "Car of the Year (COTY) 2011 Awards" and not writing much reviews about them. Humbly, I do admit my lack of energy in penning a few paragraphs and to followers (if any few left) of my blog, my sincere apologies. Largely due to my clinical plus other domestic commitments et al. Also the Nissan Teana in 4-pot, 2.0-litre form that I sampled more than a few weekends ago didn't seem to excite my senses very much.

Imagine my awakening today when I stumbled upon my friend's blog - a hugely popular one - which featured the MMC (minimal model change) - that's facelift to you and me - new Honda Accord. I am not here to criticise the mid-cycle refreshed Honda. After all, I was quite a Honda fan owning the last-generation 2.0 Accord for a brief spell.

Well, let's just say that I am re-energised to share with you my brief flirtation with the latest D-segment offering from Nissan in Malaysia, after reading the post by another esteemed "colleague" on the new Accord.

Looks-wise, this Nissan has on-road presence, even while Honda still holds the measuring-tape champion title to being the longest, largest, widest etc in this sub-RM180K category which encompasses the Sinatra (Oops! Sonata I meant), the Camry, Mazda6 and of course the MMC (Mitsu Motor Corp?) Accord.

In a nutshell the new Teana is huge, soft-riding, comfy and looks the part of a towkay (big-boss) saloon. With its CVT drivetrain, it may be a bit disconcerting when you roll fast into corner but what the heck...it's a comfort-biased executive sedan not a BMW 5-series. The way I look at it, it's for fans of Camry's soft plush damping who don't want a Toyota and couldn't stand Accord's harder riding suspension settings. And a Mazda won't cut it because they don't want a brand that makes the world's sole rotary-powered sportscar.

Despite its bulk and size, the Teana's brakes are good and reassuring. Its interior looks and feel Infiniti-esque, though I suspect the V6s versions with more cow-leather plastered interiors and some steering control button/switches splattering would make this executive sedan feel decidedly more upmarket. It's so silent on the move that it makes you wonder whether there are low-pressure-near-vacuum-stretches on highway - almost devoid of wind noise - when you are doing, say 160 km/h.

So there you have it, another popular D-segment sedan for you to consider in Malaysia, apart from the perennial favourites of Camrys or Accords. Oh by the way, has Honda Malaysia solved the Accords (and likely Civics) brake judder issues due to premature-warping of front rotors? I hope these huge Nissans don't have such quality issues, not when it comes to brakes.

Admittedly, the Teana could do better with its instruments detailing though, because this isn't a Sunny, Latio or Sylphy for that matter. The rear end detailing, however - no need to buy Eagle-Eyes brand Taiwan-made aftermarket LED rear lights - is great though. In my strictly personal and humble opinion, the clean-design execution by Nissan here even leaves the new Mercedes-Benz W212 E-class' arse for dead. You can't win (or have) 'em all I suppose.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Lifestyle focus: Peugeot 308 CC

Many of us in the tropics and especially the equatorial hot-and-humid climate will shrug off the usability and practicality of a cabriolet - even with the advent of hardtop coupe-cabriolet in the last decade or so.

Admittedly, I was like that until I sampled a VW Eos over a weekend to the beach town of Port Dickson some three years ago. I had actually "owned" a Porsche Boxster for about a year and it was less convincing with its relatively fiddly and noisier soft-top.

Sadly, with excessive procrastination the VW Eos outing write-up didn't materialise on this blog. Which would have happened to the 308 CC launch story if some good friend of mine didn't whip my butt over this. I also tested the 207 CC sometime ago and you can read all about it here.
I am somewhat a fan of coupe-cabriolet but i am of the opinion that this will have top be your 3rd car or higher in vehicle ownership serials which is actually much an extravagance. In short, a pure lifestyle accessory in the automotive department.

With this in mind, Nasim started off their 2011 new models unveiling with the official launch of the Peugeot 308 CC, the first of four new models due for the Malaysian market this year.

A coupe-cabriolet in 2+2 guise, this topless Pug in THP 156 form, translates to a maximum output of 156 hp + 240 Nm, courtesy of BMW-Peugeot's Prince 1.6-litre complete with twin-scroll turbo and direct injection. The 308 CC comes with a standard six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic. Peugeot claims a 212 km/h top speed and a 0-100 km/h sprint time of 9.8 secs.

As with most Naza/Nasim automotive launches – the 308 CC is tagged at a rather attractive price i.e. RM186,888, on-the-road with insurance.

Some of the yummy goodies packaged together are the dynamic directional xenon headlamps with automatic height adjustment and washers, LED rear lights, 18-inch alloy wheels and a twin rear diffuser as part of the exterior parcel.

The interior of this gorgeous drop-top features dual zone air-conditioning, electric front seats (with memory settings for the driver's), cruise control, instrument dials with white backgrounds and a retractable high resolution 7-inch 16:9 LCD screen.

Safety kits which are standard include ESP, ABS, EBD, EBA, DSC and Anti-Skid Regulation (ASR) among others. Meanwhile, passive safety kit in the 5-Star Euro NCAP-rated vehicle includes a rear roll-over protection system – comprised of active extendable aluminum roll-over protection bars that pop up within 20-miliseconds in the event of a roll-over accident. Apart from these, there are six airbags, which include the world’s first side head airbags, housed in the seat and deployed laterally from the head restraint.

For in-car entertainment, there’s a CD player/MP3 head unit with Bluetooth connectivity, JBL Hi-Fi audio system with 10 speakers and a 240 watt amplifier. As for the two-piece electrically retractable hard-top roof, this one folds up and down within 20 seconds. For the occasional or avid golfer looking forward to driving to a Golf & Country Club, boot space volume is 465 litres with the top up, and 266 litres with the roof retracted and stowed away in boot.