DriveLife New Zealand's Enthusiast Driven Motoring Publication, Automotive News, New Car Reviews and Used Car Reviews Sat, 07 Dec 2019 02:06:48 +1300 en-GB hourly 1 Audi SQ2 – Car Review – High-speed school run Sun, 08 Dec 2019 23:00:00 +0000

The Q2 is Audi’s crossover SUV, which I reviewed a couple of years ago and said it was good, but not great. Now Audi have given it the S treatment, adding more luxury, more toys, and of course more power. Would the SQ2 improve my opinion of Audi’s smallest SUV? I drove one for a weekend to find out.

The Range

I’ll just cover the spec of the SQ2 here as it’s a model to itself. Priced at $81,900.

The standard spec includes cylinder on demand, speed dependent power steering, Brake Force Energy Recuperation, stop/start, ESC with torque vectoring, Audi Pre-Sense City, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control with speed limiter, Park Assist, Side Assist, Active Lane Assist, rear view camera, 19″ alloys, LED headlights, heated and folding electric mirrors, electric tailgate, Nappa leather with “S” embossing, heated front seats, two-zone climate control, auto-dimming interior mirror, Audi Virtual Cockpit, wireless phone charging, keyless entry and start, and MMI Navigation Plus.

Colours are mostly subdued – metallic black, silver, white, two greys, flat black or white. Then there’s the rather splendid metallic Tango Red, and finally Ara Blue Crystal, a $1000 option seen here on our review car.

First Impressions
When I collected the SQ2 from the local Audi dealer there were a few Q2s around, and I thought to myself, “Please let it be the blue one!” Once I got closer and spotted the quad exhausts I realised it was indeed the blue one. The Ara Blue Crystal paint really suits the car, showing off its lines and creases nicely, and it really sparkles in the sunlight.

Add to that the 19” wheels – which look bigger and hiding red brake calipers, Quattro side decals and black RS grille and the complete package works really well. It’s smart but understated, as an Audi should be.

The Inside

Open the door and you’re met with quite a lot of grey – grey leather, grey carpet, grey headliner. There’s contrasting silver stitching on the seats, silver inserts and some other details to lift things a little. Brighter details can be optioned for the seats but they might be a little too in-your-face for the discerning Audi buyer. The seats, surprisingly in an $80k car, are manually adjusted on both sides. They’re very comfortable, with good-sized side bolsters to hold you in place when you’re making progress down that twisty country road.

The flat-bottomed steering wheel is trimmed in perforated leather on the sides where you hold it, and is chunky enough that it’s satisfying to hold. There are thumb buttons on the face for stereo and phone controls. Cruise control is operated with a third stalk at about 8 o’clock. Not something I’m a big fan of, I’d rather have buttons, but it’s easy to use without looking down, once you get the hang of it. The main driver’s display is Audi’s excellent fully digital system. It’s bright, clear and easy to use in all lights. The default display is a big central rev counter with digital speedo in the centre ,and other information to each side. This can be configured to various displays including a full-screen satnav map, which does look really cool. There’s no HUD as standard, it’s optional on the SQ2, which is a little disappointing.

In the centre of the dash is a big, widescreen main screen. Audi have gone for the tacked-on look rather than integrating it into the main dash, but it looks okay and I soon stopped noticing it. It’s a touch-screen but can also be operated using the click/jog wheel behind the gear shifter. One nice feature of the wheel is that it’s also a touch pad so when entering a destination for the sat nav you can write each letter on the top instead of having to select them on screen.

The screen resolution is very good, and it’s nice and clear for the reversing camera display, which has moving lines and lots of useful little aids to help you park. The controls on the dash are well laid out, not too many buttons, and a couple of knobs for the dual-zone climate. Lower down the centre console you get USB and power sockets and a wireless Qi phone charger.

The stereo is excellent, with great bass and clear sound. I’m happy to report that Bluetooth pairing went smoothly and it re-connects quickly and automatically each time.

The rear seats are 60/40 split folding, and are comfortable. Leg room is good for a car this size – not huge but enough that adults won’t feel too cramped. Rear seat passengers get a power socket and two USBs. 

Open the electric tailgate and you’ll find a good-sized 355-litre boot. There are tie-down loops, bag hooks in the sides and a little net to one side. A luggage net is also included. Under the boot floor you get a space saver spare with a subwoofer mounted in its centre.

The Drive

The big question is, can Audi take a solid but unexciting crossover SUV and turn it into a driver’s car? It certainly looks the part. Press the start button by the gear shifter and you get a lovely growl as it fires up. The noise is much more subtle once you’re on the move, as you’d expect with a modern sporty Audi, you don’t want to drive around making shouty noises all the time.

The 2-litre petrol-turbo engine makes an impressive 221kW, or 300bhp in old money, and 400Nm of torque. Combining that power with the quattro all-wheel-drive system means you can launch the car to 100kph in 4.8 seconds with no drama at all. It certainly is grin-inducing, and the S-tronic dual-clutch transmission is so fast and smooth that you can barely feel the shifts. Despite being a relatively small capacity turbo engine, you get an almost constant surge of acceleration all the way to the speed limit.

In normal driving, and in traffic, the SQ2 is much like the normal Q2 – civilised, comfortable, smooth, with great visibility. The (optional) smart cruise control works well and makes cruising in stop/start traffic a much more relaxing experience. Why it’s not standard on an $80k+ car I don’t know – but I was glad to have it in our review car. The ride is firm, but not harsh over bumps. Audi have done a great job of tuning the dampers to make them pliant enough to feel really smooth on normal New Zealand roads. 

Once you’re out of the traffic and get the chance to put your foot down a little, the SQ2 really starts to shine. Because it rides nicely and with the smooth, constant power delivery, it’s deceptively quick. You really do have to watch the speedo carefully, which is why a standard HUD would be a great addition. It handles really well too, to the point where you can easily forget that this is a (relatively) tall SUV. That combination of comfort and handling is impressive on non-adaptive dampers.

I covered a few hundred kms in the SQ2 with a pretty good combination of commuting, shorter trips and a few longer ones, and averaged 10.1l/100km. A bit above Audi’s claimed figure of 7.2, but not unreasonable considering the power on offer and the rather addictive acceleration which I may have taken advantage of a few times.

The Competition

Brand/ModelEnginePower/Torque kW/Nm0-100km/h, secondsBoot Space, LitresFuel, L/100kmPrice Highest to Lowest
Porsche Macan 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo185/3704.85008.9$105,900
BMW X2 M35i2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo225/4504.94707.4$89,900
Audi SQ22.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo221/4004.83557.2$81,900
Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo182/3506.54607.1$72,900

The pros and cons

QuickComfortableGreat handlingLooks the partAt this price point some features really should be standard, like smart cruise, a HUD, electric seats…

What we think

The whole package is fairly typical Audi S – it’s fast, handles well, comfortable, relatively luxurious, and feels like it will eat up any road you point it at. But is it a driver’s car? I’m not so sure. It’s a great daily driver, the acceleration and handling are smooth and satisfying, but it didn’t make me grin as much as I might have liked. But I think that’s exactly what this car’s target market want. Understated speed and competence. And it does that very well.

It has enough space for the shopping and the kids, some great safety and usability technology, it looks good on the school run, and on the way home you can take the long way and demolish some back roads. It’s a great all-rounder and if it had just a few more features I think it’d be really good value.

To answer my question above – yes it has changed my opinion of the Q2 for the better and it’s a certainly a car I’d consider very seriously. 

Rating – Chevron rating (4.5 out of 5)

2019 Audi SQ2

Vehicle TypeCompact SUV
Starting Price $81,900 plus on-road costs
Tested Price$87,650 plus on-road costsSQ2 Exterior Package $2700
Sports Package $1700
Ara Blue Crystal paint $1000
Electrically adjustable exterior mirrors, heated and folding, automatically dimming on both sides $350
Engine2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo
Power Kw / Torque Nm221/400
Transmission7-speed S Tronic
0 – 100 kph, seconds4.8
Spare WheelSpace Saver
Kerb Weight, Kg1510
Length x Width x Height, mm4210 x 1802 x 1524 
Cargo Capacity, litres355 seats up726 seats folded
Fuel Tank, litres55
Fuel Efficiency Advertised Spec – Combined – 7.2 L / 100kmReal World Test – Combined –  8.8 L / 100kmLow Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing750kg unbraked1400kg braked
Turning circleN/ASmall: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
WarrantyAudi Cover Assist 3 year cost free motoring
ANCAP RatingSQ2 not listed but Q2 has 5 stars

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2019 Hyundai Venue – launch Fri, 06 Dec 2019 19:00:00 +0000 Can the small New Zealand car market absorb yet another SUV? Hyundai New Zealand seems to think so, as we headed to the launch of their new compact SUV, the Venue. Unusual name aside, this model slots in under the Kona, making it Hyundai’s smallest SUV on sale.

After a quick reveal of the new car, Hyundai New Zealand gave us the latest low-down on the New Zealand market, and the Venue. Looking at the stats, passenger car sales are in a steady decline, and the reverse of this is sales of SUVs, climbing year on year. The SUV segment breakdown is interesting as well. As expected, Medium SUV is the biggest selling segment within SUVs, and for Hyundai that means the Tucson is the winner for them.

For the Compact SUV segment, it’s grown from just over 10,000 sales in 2016 to 18,000 year to date for 2019. Large SUV sales are declining, down 20% since 2016, with buyers moving into medium SUVs instead.

The Kona has 8.5% of the Compact SUV market, and sits in between the Nissan Qashqai and Honda HR-V. Within Compact SUV sales, 40% are to companies, and 60% private. It’s almost identical for light car buyers. Still in Compact SUV, genders are fairly equal with 59% female vs 41% male buyers.

We’re always going on about transmissions at DriveLife, and within Compact SUV, Hyundai gave us the break down, with 7% manual, CVT at 32%, and ‘normal’ automatic at 61%.


Compared to the i20 hatch, the Venue is 40mm shorter, 35mm wider, and 90mm higher. It has 24 litres more boot space than the i20 hatch, which is a good amount more in such a small car.

There’s just two models of Venue; Entry and Elite. In some respects, Hyundai have gone hard out with the features even the standard car has. Safety features are high on the list, with both models having Hyundai’s SmartSense package, that includes Forward Collision Avoidance, Lane Keep Assist, Driver Attention Warning, Hill Start Assist, and automatic high beams.

Mechanically, there’s just the one engine, a 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine, with a 6-speed automatic gearbox. Hyundai made it clear they did not want a CVT gearbox, purely for driveability reasons. The engine outputs 90Kw of power at 6,300rpm, and 151Nm of torque at 4,850rpm. They suggest a 0-100km/h time of 11.4 seconds, and fuel economy around 7.2L/100km.

There’s 11 colours available for the car, and a combination offering of up to 23 with a two-tone option at around $700, that is only available in the Elite models.

Love the two-tone option

The Venue is front-wheel drive only, but does have ‘Traction Mode’, that they suggest compensates for AWD grip by using electronic traction assistance. Along with three drive modes (Sport, Normal and Eco), there’s also some traction modes; Sand, Snow, and Mud.

We were told the target market for this car is young urban millennials. “Someone who is very energetic, determined to be successful, has lots of energy, explores what matters in their life, and love to perform their own role in multifarious fields.”

Gavin Young, Aftersales manager at Hyundai New Zealand, went through some of the other features of the new car.  There’s a three dimensional cascading grille at the front, and a fender garnish on the side. There’s also side character lines, coloured exterior highlights, a unique C pillar, and 17” alloy wheels on the Elite, while the Entry model gets 15” alloys. The rear has a wide stance and skid plate, to make it look and feel a bit tough.

On the inside, Gavin says that rear head room has been a key design feature for the car. There’s 6 airbags as standard, and the Elite model also gets Blind Spot Collision Warning. There’s an 8” central touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, dynamic guidelines for reversing, tyre pressure monitoring, and a 3.5” driver’s information display.

Air conditioning is manual in the Entry, and climate controlled in the Elite.

The Venue will work with Hyundai’s AutoLink Connect app, that allows you to lock or unlock the car, control the AC, start or stop the engine, check servicing, call roadside assist, check on driving stats and history, and check your vehicle status.

One omission is adaptive cruise control; both models are fitted only with ‘normal’ cruise control. The Elite model does have LED rear lights and Daytime Running Lights, rear traffic collision warning, and privacy glass.

The standard pricing for the Entry model is $29,990, and the Elite is $33,990. For a launch special, both models have been discounted, with the Entry at $27,990 and Elite at $31,990. There’s no indication yet on when the special will finish.

The car will be available in the first quarter of 2020.


Presentation over, it was time to head to the cars to hit the road, initially to the headquarters for the 49ers 2019 World Yachting Championships being held not too far away, in Mission Bay.

Before we left, I went to my assigned car for today. It was in an Elite model, finished in Fiery Red, and it looked excellent in that colour. The front design is certainly unique, but still shows the Hyundai family look. It does look very Kona-ish at the front, and that front design sure makes the car look bigger than it is.

I hopped inside to check out how they’ve done with the interior. Thankfully, Hyundai have taken the hint and the central touchscreen display is now almost integrated into the dash. It looks so much better than their current cars that have that ‘tacked on’ look. The infotainment system is familiar to anyone who’s been in a Hyundai recently, with no changes. Clarity is there, too.

Something I missed in the briefing was that the Elite models have a heated steering wheel, which is a nice touch. There’s quite a lot hard, black plastic used in the cabin, with little attention to different textures or padding of any sort. Still, the interior is nice and light, and feels quite spacious for the size of car.

It was interesting to see that after being told the car is targeted at urbanites and city dwellers, that Hyundai have fitted the car with an old-school manual park brake. It doesn’t worry me, but it does seem out of place with targeted buyers.

At last we headed out into Auckland’s traffic. So nice to have an automatic gearbox, and not a CVT. It’s only a 6-speed, but it feels perfect for the car. It’s not a dual-clutch unit either, so starting off from a stop is very smooth. A few times when I gunned it when needed, that 1.6-litre motor got a little vocal, but it’s generally smooth – but I’d been keen to see how it goes on the open road.

The ride for a small, light car is a stand-out; very smooth, even over speed bumps. Apparently the Venues New Zealand will receive benefit from a comprehensive Australian-specific chassis tune, and that’s always welcome.

On the way to the yachting championship headquarters, we stopped at Achilles Point for a bit of a view for the overseas visitors attending this launch, and that gave us some time to look again at the design of the car. I quite like the front; it’s modern, and I love the full-ring LED DRLs that are fitted to the Elite models. The base model doesn’t have the chrome-plastic finish on the grille that the Elite does, and it doesn’t look anywhere near as good. I wonder how many people would bother with the base model, especially with those 15” alloy wheels, that seem far too small for the car. The 17” alloys on the Elite are an excellent design, and suit the car perfectly.

Around the back of the car, this is where it doesn’t seem to gel – for me at least. There doesn’t seem to be the same cohesion from the front to the rear of the car, with the rear looking a little boring. There are some nicely designed taillights, and I noticed that the angled lines on the taillights match up with the angle of the upline on the rear bumper. But it seems like the rear design of the car is not as modern at the front. Again, that’s just my view. The exception here would be the two-tone car on today’s run – it looks great from all angles.

We left Achilles Point, and went to lunch. We had planned to go out on a racing yacht, but Auckland’s weather forced us to look at other plans. We all wanted to drive these cars on the open road, and since we’d be on Waiheke Island for the night, this seemed like the perfect time. Plans made, we headed very slowly towards the Harbour Bridge, with seemingly endless roadworks to get through. At last we broke through though, and headed up Highway 1, turned off at Constellation Drive and heading to Fabric Café for a coffee.

Thoughts on the drive so far were mixed. Traffic was bad all the way, so we didn’t get a chance to get a good feel for the Venue. The engine can be very quiet on the motorway, and not so quiet when passing. It can feel a little lethargic at times; there’s 91kW of power, and at certain points you wish it had more. Steering is very light, and the quality of the ride is still impressive.

I tried out Sport mode, and this certainly makes the car more responsive. It does hold on to the gears for quite a while though, and others commented on this as well. Eco mode is still usable, as it doesn’t seem to dampen performance down to unacceptable levels.

Post coffee, we headed back down Highway 16 to Auckland City, and the car ferry. Lining up 13 Venues took a while, but luckily for us the weather was now quite good, meaning a much smoother trip to the island.


A stunning day today on Waiheke Island, and after breakfast we all drove to EcoZip Adventures. I was now passenger in another Elite model, finished in Galactic Grey. At Eco Zip we’d do the three zip-line runs the owners have created, across a vineyard and then over native bush.

Venue finished in Galactic Grey

Half of the drive there would be over metal roads, with me as passenger. The car seemed to handle them well, with not too much shuddering over the rutted-out uphill corners. Those are a real test of a car, but the Venue seemed to do well.

Some social media influencers had joined us at this point, so it was a car park full of Venues, as everyone geared up and took the safety briefing. After doing zip lining over a part of the Grand Canyon in October, this actually felt faster, and maybe it was, as we hit 60km/h on the third and steepest run. It is an incredible adrenalin buzz, and highly recommended.

After zip lining, there’s a 25-minute walk through the bush to get back to the main building, and this in itself is a treat. It’s uphill at certain points, but maintained well and the gradient is never impossible. Just walking through the bush is excellent, as the shade helps keep you cool.

Stunning views from EcoZip Adventures

After this event, we headed to Man O’ War Winery for some lunch. The food was superb, and the view to die for. Waiheke Island showed itself to be a piece of paradise today, and it was a great time for the overseas guests.

Lunch over, it was time to head back to the car ferry, with me driving on the metal roads. While the Venue will be seen mainly as a city car, it does well on these roads. We did select the ‘Sand’ setting from the drive modes, although I’m not sure how much difference it made. With 13 Venues travelling together, there wasn’t much chance of letting the tail hang out a bit to test it.

A bunch of Venues lined up on Waiheke Island

After I got us lost, we made it back to the car ferry, and travelled back to Auckland City. Driving back to Hyundai’s head office, this is really where the Venue is at home. City streets, city traffic. It has good visibility all round, and feels fun to drive in town.

Now we wait for a test car to arrive, and see if it really has what it takes to do the Daily Drive for a week. Stay tuned.

Lined up for the ferry ride back to Auckland
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Jaguar I-Pace claims New Zealand Car of the Year 2019 Wed, 04 Dec 2019 19:28:53 +0000 The Jaguar I-PACE has been named the 2019 New Zealand Car of the Year – the first time a vehicle available only as a full battery electric vehicle has won the award.

The BMW i3 was the first plug-in to win the award in 2015, but at the time was offered with a range-extending petrol motor.

Members of the New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild reviewed and voted for the SUV throughout the year. Guild president Richard Edwards says the I-PACE’s innovative design and feature set led to its selection as this year’s overall winner. “We are delighted to name the Jaguar I-Pace as the 2019 New Zealand Car of the Year. With it already holding the 2019 World Car of the Year title, it is a real endorsement of our independent voting process.”

“The Jaguar I-Pace is an impressive car. Its unique design offers buyers the chance to have both a sports car and SUV at the same time, while also offering the latest in convenience and safety features.

The Seven Sharp team, along with Jaguar NZ General Manager Steve Kenchington (holding trophy) and New Zealand Motoring Writer’s Guild President, Richard Edwards

“The fact that it is all-electric with a very usable range is an absolute bonus. New Zealand is ideally placed with its huge share of renewable energy to make the most of the advancements in electric vehicles the new vehicle industry is providing us,” he says.

Jaguar NZ general manager Steve Kenchington says the award caps off an exceptional launch for the new model which has been a pioneer in the premium EV category. “The I-PACE won an unprecedented three awards at the World Car of the Year as well as more than 70 international awards including Car of the Year awards in more than a dozen countries – from Canada through to Germany since its global launch.

“The acknowledgement from New Zealand’s Motoring Writing Guild members, a highly experienced group who have reviewed hundreds of vehicles from almost every marque available on the market today, is particularly gratifying for the Jaguar team at a local level.“Today’s award is recognition of the hundreds of hours that have been invested by world-class engineers and designers in developing the technology behind the I-PACE,” he says.

The 21 voting members of the Guild evaluated the I-PACE against a range of criteria including how the vehicle performs its intended role; its styling, interior design and accommodation; fit, finish and quality; ride and refinement; performance; road-holding and handling; value for money; active and passive safety and environmental responsibility.

The Jaguar I-PACE beat out nine other finalists in the New Zealand Car of the Year awards, including two other EV’s to take the top honour. This year’s finalists were the Audi e-tron, Ford Focus, Holden Acadia, Hyundai Santa Fe, Jaguar I-Pace, Mazda 3, Mercedes GLE, Peugeot 508, Tesla Model 3 and Toyota RAV4.The New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild has named the New Zealand Car of the Year for over three decades, the I-PACE being the 32nd.

The award is open to all cars, SUVs and utes launched over a 12-month period. To be eligible for the award they must be driven by over two-thirds of the 21 voting members of the guild for at least 72 hours. Testing is undertaken in the member’s home environment, not on a track. This allows voting to be based on the same experience an owner would have, using the car in their day-to-day life.

The award itself is named the Peter Greenslade Award, after late member Peter Greenslade.

DriveLife reviewed the I-Pace earlier this year, and loved it, awarding it a full 5-Chevron rating.

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Hyundai’s NEXO – more information released Wed, 27 Nov 2019 20:01:00 +0000 This week Hyundai New Zealand’s first hydrogen powered SUV, NEXO, made its driving debut on one of the most breathtaking roads in New Zealand, Te Anau to Milford Sound, a fitting choice for the zero-emission vehicle. Following is a press release from Hyundai on the vehicle.

NEXO is the technological flagship of Hyundai’s growing eco-vehicle portfolio and marks Hyundai’s continued momentum with the industry’s most diverse SUV powertrain lineup.

NEXO spearheads Hyundai Motor’s plans to accelerate development of low emission vehicles, in line with Hyundai Motor Group’s renewed goal of introducing 18 eco-friendly models to global markets by 2025. This new development roadmap also represents the next step for Hyundai Motor toward realising the ultimate ambition of creating a cleaner environment through eco-friendly vehicles.

While NEXO is Hyundai’s second-generation of commercialised fuel cell electric vehicle, it is the first to be introduced to New Zealand. NEXO is currently available in select markets around the world. Improving on the acclaimed ix35 FCEV, the NEXO has an estimated driving range of 605km (WLTP), a range significantly further than its predecessor. Acceleration and power have increased to improve the overall performance.

It’s designed to handle extreme temperature and environments, and according to Hyundai NEXO testing has proven that the vehicle is capable of starting after being subject to overnight temperatures of -29 degrees celsius. NEXO boasts cold start capability within 30 seconds, an industry-leading achievement, and the fuel cell system warms up faster for maximum performance. NEXO also has excellent cooling performance on steep grades with temperatures exceeding 49-degree celsius. 

Improvements in the air supply system, performance at high altitudes and refueling times, along with overall efficiency and fuel economy put the NEXO in a class of its own. In addition, the NEXO has improved power density and durability comparable with a petrol-powered vehicle.

NEXO’s fuel cell electric powertrain offers the latest in fuel cell electric vehicle technology, with increased performance over its ix35 Fuel Cell predecessor. An on-board electric motor produces 120kW and a torque of 395 Nm, drawing power from an under-bonnet fuel cell stack, which combines oxygen from the surrounding air with hydrogen from NEXO’s high-pressure storage tanks. The result is electricity to power the motor and charge the battery, and water vapour, which harmlessly exits through the exhaust. With full tanks of hydrogen on board, NEXO is capable of travelling 605km (WLTP), before being able to refuel in under six minutes. 

Outside of its environmentally friendly powertrain, NEXO also has an advanced air purification system which filters 99.9% of very fine dust (PM2.5). The vehicle shows the exact amount of air purified on the display panel in the car. NEXO has also been independently awarded the UL Bio Environmental Seal for the use of bio fibres from sugar cane waste and vegetable plasticisers in the headliner and carpet areas, bio plastics from sugar cane and corn waste in door, seat, pillar and console trims and bio paint extracted from rapeseed and soybean oils for the dashboard and centre console.

Andy Sinclair, General Manager, Hyundai New Zealand, said: “NEXO is an exceptional by-product of Hyundai’s investment in Fuel Cell technology. It’s an advanced technological vehicle with only clean emissions, and provides us with another sustainable SUV to add to our future EV line up. Already we have seen much interest in NEXO since we revealed it in June.”

“The exact date for NEXO going to market in New Zealand ultimately depends on New Zealand’s ability to provide the infrastructure for the hydrogen fuelling stations. We are taking expressions of interest from commercial businesses that are investing in their own hydrogen infrastructure and who would like to be an early adopter of this technology.

“Hydrogen energy is the key to building a more sustainable future. We were one of the founding members and the first automotive manufacturer to join the NZ Hydrogen Association in 2018.”

NEXO was the first FCEV to achieve a maximum five-star overall rating in Euro NCAP’s safety test. In addition, Hyundai NEXO became the first hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) tested by the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), earning a TOP SAFETY PICK+ award. NEXO is the first such hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that IIHS has tested. A vehicle such as NEXO would not normally be included in the IIHS routine test schedule, but Hyundai nominated its own NEXO for early testing. Evaluating the NEXO was also beneficial to IIHS, by offering its first early opportunity to evaluate a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

Sinclair adds: “As well as pioneering future mobility, Hyundai’s cars are also among the safest. The 5-star Euro NCAP rating confirms Hyundai’s commitment to provide customers and other road users with the highest level of safety and innovative mobility solutions.”

NEXO features Hyundai’s Smart Sense safety suite (drive assistance technologies) and other smart tech features in the NEXO include smart parking assist and remote parking assist.

Dedicated Architecture

For the first time ever, Hyundai’s fuel cell vehicle is built with a dedicated vehicle architecture. This architecture has many benefits including:

  • Lighter weight
  • Improved power-to-weight ratio
  • Faster acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h than the ix35 FCEV
  • More cabin space
  • Allows the battery to be relocated to the trunk
  • Improved fuel cell system layout

NEXO vs. Tucson Fuel Cell System Architecture

  • NEXO’s fuel cell stack and battery have more net power to supply a more powerful motor
  • NEXO’s powertrain is lighter and has improved packaging

Increased hydrogen storage tanks capacity

Powertrain Improvements

  • NEXO’s powertrain is lighter and takes up less space compared with ix35 FCEV
  • More efficient
  • Better module integration
  • Smaller
  • Lighter


  • Peak acceleration is increased by 25 percent compared with ix35 FCEV
  • NEXO accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h 20 percent faster than ix35 FCEV
  • NEXO has more torque than the ix35 FCEV


  • NEXO has an estimated driving range of 605 km (WLTP)

Quiet and Comfortable Driving Characteristics

  • NEXO maintains the quiet and comfortable driving characteristics of the ix35 FCEV
  • All of the NEXO’s moving parts are inside the engine bay which isolates the noise to one area


  • NEXO has the same level of durability as internal combustion engine vehicles

Hydrogen Storage

  • EXO’s storage system is lighter than the ix35 FCEV
  • NEXO’s storage system has world-class storage density
  • Added multi-layer, 1” thick carbon fiber storage tanks \
  • NEXO can be refueled within six minutes at 700 bar maximum pressure

Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS)

NEXO offers a number of advanced driver assist systems, including Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), Lane Following Assist (LFA), Driver Attention Warning (DAW), High Beam Assist (HBA) and Remote Smart Parking Assist (RSPA).

Remote Smart Parking Assist (RSPA)

RSPA enables NEXO to either autonomously park or retrieve itself from either a parallel or perpendicular parking space with or without a driver in the vehicle. The RSPA system can even autonomously back NEXO into a parking spot with a touch of a key fob button by the driver. When faced with any challenging parking scenario, NEXO drivers will be able to park with complete confidence and reduced stress.

Lane Following Assist

LFA automatically assists steering to help keep NEXO more precisely centered in its current lane of travel. LFA can help keep NEXO centered in its lane at speeds between zero and 145 kilometers per hour on both highways and city streets. This advanced driving assistance feature is an additional aid helping drivers to traverse long distances with greater ease.

Blind-spot View Monitor (BVM) and Surround-view Monitors (SVM)

Hyundai’s Blind-spot View Monitor is an industry-first technology. It projects the side views of NEXO in the center cluster to the driver using cameras while changing lanes with the turn signal on. The system uses wide-angle Surround View Monitors (SVM) on each side of the vehicle to monitor areas that cannot be seen by a traditional rearview mirror and create various exterior vehicle perspective views. Hyundai is the first automaker to provide drivers with video footage from both sides of the vehicle with this feature.

Blind-spot Collision-Avoidance Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist

BCA and RCCA both utilize sensor technologies to help alert the NEXO driver of approaching vehicles in its intended path, whether changing lanes or when backing out of a parking spot. Blind-spot Collision-Avoidance may also provide steering correction assistance via mild braking to specific wheels when the turn signal is on and the system detects a vehicle in the blind spot area of NEXO.

Outstanding Range, Power and Efficiency

The NEXO has an estimated driving range of 605 km under the WLTP testing protocol.

In addition, NEXO refueling time can be achieved in as little as six minutes, allowing a consumer lifestyle very similar to a comparable petrol-powered SUV in terms of range and refueling speed. NEXO hydrogen storage uses three separate hydrogen tanks in the rear of the vehicle. These are configured to maximize overall interior volume, especially in the rear cargo area, increasing it by 164 litres over the ix35 Fuel Cell and allowing for a flatter load floor.

With 120 kW of peak power and 395 Nm. of torque, acceleration and power have also increased to improve NEXO overall performance compared with ix35 fuel cell.

Eco Materials

NEXO uses a number of ecological materials in its construction, including soybean-oil based polyurethane paint, bamboo-thread-based bio fabric, bio-plastic extracted from sugar cane and bio-carpet extracted from sugar cane. Bio-based materials were applied to 47 different parts and reduced CO2 emissions by 12 kg during the manufacturing process.

Advanced Aerodynamics

NEXO features a number of aerodynamic design features, including a D-pillar air tunnel, front wheel air curtains, aerodynamic wheel design, auto-flush door handles and hidden front wipers. These contribute to an overall Cd of 0.32, excellent for an SUV of this size.

Structure, Suspension and Handling

To achieve an ultra-rigid structure while maintaining a light weight, NEXO uses Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS). AHSS also reduces cabin NVH and gives the suspension a rigid structure from which to precisely articulate body movements.

NEXO utilizes a fully-independent McPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension for both sporty cornering feel and superior ride comfort. Steering uses a motor-driven system tuned for smoothness and responsiveness. Hankook® tyres are fitted to the 19-inch alloy wheels for excellent handling and good ride comfort.

Extreme Temperatures

Designed to handle extreme temperatures and environments, NEXO testing has proven that the vehicle is capable of starting after being subject to overnight temperatures of -20 degrees Fahrenheit. NEXO boasts cold-start capability within 30 seconds, an industry-leading benchmark, and the fuel cell system warms up quickly for maximum performance. The NEXO also has excellent cooling performance on steep grades with temperatures exceeding 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Improvements in the air supply system, performance at high altitudes and refueling times, along with overall efficiency and fuel economy, put the NEXO in a class all its own. In addition, NEXO has improved power density and durability comparable with gasoline-powered vehicles of a similar class.

Convenience and Audio

NEXO features a number of advanced comfort and convenience features, including a sunroof, electric parking brake, smart power tailgate, Qi wireless smartphone charging pad, Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto®, Text-to-Speech via Bluetooth®, heated and ventilated front seats and split-folding rear seats. For 2020, a newly-available cargo cover, front passenger window auto-up/down and rear privacy glass are now standard on Blue models. Audio and navigation display is via a large, high-resolution 12.3 inch touchscreen, while the center cluster supervision display is a full seven inches. Transmission control is via a push-button shift-by-wire design on a floating center-console bridge, freeing up valuable center console storage space directly below the control console.

NEXO features a high-performance audio system. This premium Krell® system features a 440-watt, eight-channel premium amplifier, premium Krell speakers and a custom-developed live dynamic algorithm for superior audio performance.

Trims and Color

NEXO is offered in a single high specific Limited trim. This Limited model includes 19-inch alloy wheels, sunroof, power lift gate and remote smart parking assist. NEXO colors include white pearl, cocoon silver, titanium gray matte, copper metallic and dusk blue. Interior environments include stone gray and meteor blue and use a vegan-based leatherette seating surface.

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Holden Equinox LTZ-V – revisited Mon, 25 Nov 2019 19:00:59 +0000 It’s a kiwi thing; the bach. Part of me believes it’s something to do with our geography – with so much coastline in a short distance from pretty much anywhere, it seems every man and his dog has a bach somewhere. Northland, the Coromandel, the Kapiti Coast, not to mention the hundreds of bays and inlets in the South Island, each having its own share of baches in varying states of repair, or disrepair.

Funny story: We were in Richmond, Virginia last month, and went to a ‘kiwi’ restaurant called Burger Bach. Apparently the owner (an American) went to New Zealand not so long ago, loved the food, and opened up this restaurant, using Angus beef imported from New Zealand, for example. There’s no freezers in the entire restaurant, as everything is fresh, and admittedly it tasted great. That in itself isn’t funny, but the staff were. “Welcome to Burger Bach!” they called as we walked in the door.

“Huh? Burger Bark?”

They had been pronouncing ‘bach’ wrong. We put them right, but I should have pushed for at least a free meal for our Kiwi lingo educational services. Funnily enough, this is mentioned on their website, but perhaps staff weren’t trained on pronounciation.

Back to baches. Although we live in Wellington, we used to live the Far North, in the hills well above Ahipara and 90 Mile Beach, west of Kaitaia. We still have land and a house there. Okay, it’s not a bach, but it is where we go now and then for a time out. The only trouble is, it’s 1,000km from Wellington. This means flying to Auckland or Kerikeri, and then hiring/borrowing/stealing a 4WD to actually get to our land, and then our house. It’s not absolutely rugged, but it is 4WD, or at least AWD territory.

Luckily, Holden came to the rescue for this trip, with an Equinox LTZ-V – so the top-spec model, with the 2.0-litre, turbo-petrol motor and nine-speed auto. This is the same drivetrain used in the Commodore. To be honest, I was hoping for the diesel, but I wasn’t going to turn down the offer.

Still plenty of room

A quick flight to Auckland, and we loaded up the Equinox. I forgot about the largish storage area above the space-saver spare (below floor level), handy for quite a few items. The cargo area too is more than enough, and I easily managed to keep our load below the level of the back seats.

I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time in Equinoxes (Equinii?), and they’re a great all-rounder – so I was looking forward to a week away testing it out, especially on the ‘road’ to our house.

A Kiwi going-to-the-bach tradition: getting ice creams, this one in Mangamuka township

On the trip to the Far North, I was reminded just how well the LTZ-V is kitted out. You aren’t left wanting for too much, with heated and cooled front and rear seats, automatic parking, a panoramic sunroof, an electric tailgate, a heated steering wheel, and Qi wireless phone charging, among other things. Unfortunately, with a case on it, my iPhone wouldn’t actually fit into the Qi wireless charging slot. But there’s two USB slots up front, and another two for rear passengers.

But there are some things I sorely miss, and primarily that would be adaptive cruise control. Yessiree Bob, even the top-spec model only has standard cruise control – and no speed limiter at all. I did use cruise control over the course of the week, but it really brings back to you how good adaptive cruise is. Surely on the next update to the car, this will be included.

There’s also no paddle shifters, and I find these handy for down shifting for some engine braking. In saying that, with a 9-speed gearbox, you have to go down 50 million gears to get some engine braking. Alright, slight exaggeration, but you get the point. But making up for this is that gearbox; it is so good. Perfect changes up and down, no hunting when exiting a corner, it simply does everything right. For me, this gearbox is a class-leader.

Well, maybe except for one thing. Nothing to do with the actual gear changes, but to move the gearbox into manual mode, you have to shift it into Low. This feels so wrong, when you are on the open road, expecting the car to start revving its guts out as you shift it down. But it doesn’t, and then you can control up and downshifts using the  ‘+/-‘ button on top of the shifter. But it’s not easy, as the shifter is quite far back, so using the +/- button means your wrist is at a weird angle. After a while, I give up using it. If only it was like other autos, where you simply shift the level to one side, then move the lever to change gears. There’s no drive modes in the Equinox either, but there is an AWD button, which will force the car to stay in AWD.

That panoramic sunroof is brilliant – its hugely long, and having the electric blind open lets in a load of natural light. I like it like that. Helping things along here is the light beige headlining. I don’t understand why some brands use a black headliner, when all that does is make the car feel cramped and small inside. With decent side windows, beige headlining and the full sunroof, the Equinox is as airy as you could want. It should save some kids in the back getting car-sick.

Made it to our bach

Performance-wise, the car goes so well. That turbo-four performs brilliantly, and has a little raspy note to the exhaust when you have to pass someone. Within 30 minutes of driving, I can sum up the engine easily: it has character. That’s something that’s understandably missing from many modern, efficient petrol engines, but the Equinox brings it all back. I love that exhaust note. Is this why the Police chose it over the V6 for their patrol cars? Unlikely, but part of me hopes it was a Car Guy from the Police doing the selection of engine, and heard that raspy note. Game over.

Comfort levels are pretty good in the cabin. We’ve got Apple CarPlay going for music and reading out any texts on the audio system, it’s hot so the vented seats are on, I’ve got the 2-way electric lumber adjust set just right, and the blind for the sunroof fully open. Cruising towards Kaitaia was effortless.

90 Mile Beach

Ride quality is more than acceptable, perhaps not on par with the Hyundai Santa Fe I just handed back before this trip, but I have no complaints about the ride on any surface.

Tyre noise does rear its head on coarse chip seal, but then this is a common occurrence for many cars. In the wet, it’s amplified, and this is an area where the Equinox needs some work, maybe just a change of tyre brand or type. Wind noise is well damped though, with just a slight whistle at motorway speeds.

After 5 hours, we got to Kaitaia, and fuel economy from Auckland was 7.8L/100km. Pretty good, when you consider the size of this car.

Heading west from Kaitaia, we got to Ahipara, and then started climbing the hills to our house. It’s another 20 minutes of driving, lots of it on metal roads. I’d already spent some time on metal roads in the Equinox in the past, and it does very well. It can feel a little light in the corners, but you always have the feeling of control. Sliding the car a bit on purpose yields no dramas, and it’s simple to bring it back into line again. The ride is good here too, and I’m surprised it doesn’t hop around on the many ruts we have going up the steeper hills, where other cars have chewed the road out. The car just gets it done with no drama.

It’s steeper than it looks in the photo…

At last, we get to our actual ‘road’. I’m confident we’ll be fine, but this is an AWD SUV that’s more suited to snow than mud. Currently our road is not too bad, mostly metaled, but with a few dodgy bits. Much to the annoyance of my wife, I stop on the steepest hill, to do a hill start and see how the car does from a standstill. On road tyres, it did start to wheel spin a bit, but then the electronics kicked in, and away we went. Over the next week, it was the same scenario every time the car lost traction; a little bit of a noise as the car sorted out which tyre/s had grip, then we were off. It did a whole lot better than I thought it would.

Far too quickly the week was over and it was time to head back to Auckland. Unfortunately, we had torrential rain for the entire trip. Heading up and over the Mangamukas, I still can’t get over how well this car handles. It’s hasn’t got the sophisticated GVC suspension of a Mazda CX-5, but still it does bloody well. There’s some body roll, sure, but like other driving aspects of the Equinox, it’s all so controllable and undramatic. My wife, who normally is the first person to tell me to slow down on the corners, says nothing. It’s easy to set this car up to go from apex to apex, and the Mangamukas are a real test of that.

Actually, I always use the high side. Saves scratches

I guess in some ways, the rain was a great test for the Equinox, and after Whangarei, it got even heavier. We’re down to 80km/h with some major pooling on the roads, the car sailed on through it all, and at no point did it feel like it was going to aquaplane. I did have the AWD turned on for full-time AWD, just to be safe. Regardless, the Equinox inspired confidence while driving, even in such atrocious conditions.

A few hours on, we got to Auckland, and Auckland’s traffic. Of course, that mean traffic jams and time to reflect on the trip. I wasn’t sore in the slightest, so the seats felt spot on, for me at least.

With the stop-start traffic, I did re-encounter one annoying aspect of the Equinox; the engine auto-stop system. First up – and not a biggie – the electric park brake button is on the left side of the gear shifter, no doubt a left-over from conversion in the USA. There’s no auto-hold function for the park brake, which I use every time. Hopefully this too will be added in the next update.

So it was down to using the electric park brake when we were stopped for a longish amount of time. So you’ve stopped, and the engine stops to save emissions and fuel. You put the park brake on, since you are going to be a while, and the car thinks you are moving off again (as you’ve released the footbrake) and the engine starts again. I know I keep saying this over and over, but it’s pointless. You’re trying to save fuel, but the engine keeps starting. A Holden engineer told me it was a safety feature, so that if you (for example) stopped in your garage, and the engine auto-stopped, then you got out, it would be a safety issue, since the engine would eventually start again, with no one in the car.

That’s certainly true, but there’s such a simple answer, Holden. You’ve already got it that the horn toots if you leave the key in the car and walk away, simply make it so that the horn toots if you walk away from the car and haven’t turned it off. So simple. You’re welcome.

Fuel economy over 1,000km with our light off-roading ended up at 9.5L/100km. Higher than the trip to Kaitaia, but slow going over rough terrain will always suck the gas, and there’s little you can do about it. I was happy with that number.

Other than the engine auto-off problem (that probably only I get annoyed about), and the lack of adaptive cruise control, the Equinox should be on your Must Drive list if you are looking for a midsize SUV. It ticks so many boxes, and I expect just one drive for some people would be enough to win them over. It’s a very underrated SUV.

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2019 Audi Q3 – launch Sun, 24 Nov 2019 19:00:37 +0000 I’m not sure how many times we’ve said it, but it’s a lot; there are some tough market segments out there. It’s very much the same for the luxury, compact SUV segment; lots of players and lots of juicy choices, all vying for a slice of a relatively small market. Audi has done well in the past with the Q3, as it’s been a popular choice amount buyer in this segment. It’s got the look and drives well.

Can Audi keep loyal buyers away from other brands, and into the next gen Q3? We headed to Auckland to find out.

First up was a catch up with Dean Sheed, General Manager of Audi in New Zealand, for an update on all things Audi. He went on to confirm that yes, the e-tron is sold out, but they are taking orders for February delivery. There’s a whole range of new Audi EVs coming out, and by the end of this month, all Audi dealerships in New Zealand will have a 50 kilo-watt (kW) EV charger installed, with three dealers having 175kW chargers.

The e-tron can take a max charge of 150kW, while most current EVs can only take 50kW max charge, he says. A new model to arrive, the e-tron GT, will be able to accept a humongous 350kW charge into its batteries. That’s incredible, by any standards.

On the petrol-powered front, the RSQ8 packing a huge 412kW will be in New Zealand next year, with “2020 being the year of EVs and Audi sport performance models” says Dean.

With that, it was time to do the first leg of today’s drive.


We grabbed a base-model 35 TSFI finished in white, which has the 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol motor. You can see just how much bigger this car looks than the previous model. Audi says it’s “all grown up”, and it sure looks that way. Higher, longer, wider. It looks so much wider, with those UR quattro-inspired blistered guards.

I got in as passenger, to check out the interior. It’s been improved no end. There was nothing wrong with the previous gen car, but this one looks a lot more modern, and airy. Our drive car was fitted with a panoramic sunroof, which made the interior look bigger. But it also feels bigger, with more shoulder room, and a good amount of leg room front and rear. There’s quite a bit of piano black up front, and as you’d expect, everything looks beautifully finished.

From the passenger’s seat, that little 1.4 turbo sounds eager, and sporty. After a run of Japanese and Korean four-cylinder motors, it was nice to hear a little rasp to the engine note when it goes over 3,000rpm.

We headed north of Auckland, towards Helensville and Warkworth, with a destination of Te Whai Bay Winery, in Mangawhai. Noise was well subdued, with a hint of tyre noise on coarse chip seal, and a small amount of wind noise. On the whole, the Q3 feels extremely refined for an SUV of this size.

One thing was clear; the Q3 was made for the windy backroads we were taking – and I could tell this just from being a passenger. It seems to sit beautifully on the roads we were on.

Time for a driver change. The engine can bog down some if you gun it off the mark, but with a few revs, it’s very willing. Basically it’s the 1.4 turbo motor we already know, and love. It sounds fantastic as you wind it out, and smoothness is key.

We moved onto some more twisty roads, with recommended speeds of between 30-55km/h depending on the corner. The Q3 did extremely well, with good levels of grip and a fun factor along with it. It feels like a blast on these sorts of roads, although you need to use the paddles quite a bit to keep the revs up. For a front-wheel drive, it can be chucked around quite nicely.

Soon, we were at our lunch venue – and time for more Audi news, including a breakdown on the Q3, and more updates on Audi in New Zealand.


Overall, it sounds like Audi is in a pretty good place, with October sales up 26% worldwide. In New Zealand, the premium market is up 6.4%, which is promising for brands like Audi. The Q2 is their biggest seller, following closely by the A1. Interestingly, Audi SUV sales in New Zealand are 62% of all Audi sales.

From 2020, there will be a “Product onslaught” says Head of Marketing, Chanelle McDonald, with 27 new models being launched in relatively quick succession.

Among those models will be:

  • The diesel-powered SQ8, later in November
  • A Q3 Sportback
  • The A1 Citycarver (similar to the VW Cross Polo)
  • A facelift of the RS4
  • The RS6 and RS7 (first quarter 2020)
  • A facelift of the RS8
  • The A6 Allroad, a turbo-diesel with an electric compressor engine
  • The new S8, Audi’s luxury flagship model
  • The RSQ8, which – for the first time in 25 of Audi RS models – will be a large SUV with genes of a high performance sports car for the road. This car is due mid-2020.

Chanelle gave us some more detailed info on the e-tron. She reminds us that New Zealand is the first market outside of America and Europe to get the e-tron, and to date they’ve delivered 83 units, so all New Zealand stock is sold.

They are taking orders for February though, and have recently announced the ‘e-tron 50’, that has less battery capacity than the e-tron 55, and is rated with WLTP (world harmonized light-duty vehicles test procedure) at 342Km. It’s slightly cheaper than the e-tron 55, at $134,900.

There’ll also be a new body style, called the e-tron Sportback, in Q3 or Q4 of 2020. There’s an e-tron S coming out in 2020 too, which will be the sporty version, with “neck snapping performance” according to Chanelle. This model will have 2 motors over the rear wheels, for a total of 3 motors for increased grip. It will be available in ‘normal’ and Sportback body styles. It’s expected in Q4 of 2020.


There’s three models available right now in the Q3 range;

  • Q3 35 TFSI Advanced 110kW engine with 18“alloys as standard ($60,900)
  • Q3 45 TFSI quattro Advanced 169kW engine with 18“alloys as standard ($74,900)
  • Q3 45 TFSI quattro S Line 169kW with 19“alloys as standard ($84,900)

Along with these models, there’s going to be a Q3 Sportback coming Q2 of 2020, and also a Q3 RS in SUV and Sportback body styles.

One of the most obvious differences in the design – other than being bigger – are the blistered guards, just like the original UR quattro. This is a design feature that will flow down to all Audi models.


There are synergies with the A6 and Q8, with a premium but clean, modern look. Audi’s MMI touch screen is an addition to the new Q3, and also added is Qi wireless phone charging on all models, and two USB ports in the front – one standard USB, and one for USB-C, to handle those new devices.

The interior and cargo area are larger, and the rear seat can slide up to 150mm – split one third and two thirds independently, to allow for a bigger cargo area, if needed. This equates to 530 litres with the rear seat slid fully back – up 70 litres on the previous model. You can also adjust the angle of the rear seat, which can extend the cargo area to 675 litres. The seats-down total is an excellent 1,525 litres.

There’s a hard parcel tray in the Q3, but it can be stored under the floor, over the space-saver spare – a nice touch.


The base model, the 35 TSFI, comes with a 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine, and outputs 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque. This model will get to 100km/h in 9.2 seconds. Moving up to the 2.0-litre turbo petrol 45 TSFI, power is now up to 169kW and torque an excellent 350Nm. That means 0-100 is now 6.3 seconds.

The base model runs a 7-speed S Tronic automatic transmission, while both 2.0-litre models run an 8-speed S Tronic.


This time, we’re in the mid-spec 45 TSFI, priced at $80,900 with some extras included. In both 2.0-litre models, there’s the quattro AWD system as standard, along with front and rear parking sensors, an electric park brake with auto hold, Audi Active Lane Assist, auto LED headlights, and lane departure warning. But for me, the 45 TSFI is all about the motor – 169kW (230 horsepower) of 2.0-litre turbo power. Again, I was passenger to start with, as my driver tested out the car on more windy roads. You can feel the extra power in the car, as it launches out of corners with a lot more verve than the 1.4.

I can hear more tyre noise in this model, I assume it’s from the change of wheel to 19”, and maybe a change of tyre. It’s still not bad or loud, just noticeably more than the base model.

Time for a drive. Yes, this is the model to get if you are a Driver. Instantly, you can feel the punch of this engine, along with a slightly more baritone exhaust note. It sounds delicious at revs. Passing is effortless, and on the motorway, it’s almost silent. I don’t get to test this one on any windy roads, but I know it’s going to be better, with a motor that supplies more instant torque.

Is it worth the extra cash over the base model? We’re going to have to wait to test both of them to find out.


There isn’t one. It seems to be a great-driving, well-finished compact SUV, and either drivetrain would do me just fine, really.

But as always, we’ll reserve any judgement until we spend a week behind the wheel – then all will be revealed.

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Mercedes-Benz EQC – pricing announced Sat, 23 Nov 2019 02:54:12 +0000 New Zealand’s first electric Mercedes-Benz production vehicle, the EQC, will arrive in local showrooms in January.

In a press release with our first details around New Zealand pricing, it’s obvious Mercedes-Benz have the Jaguar iPace and Audi e-tron set dead in their sights. Base-model pricing at $142,900 means that the EQC slots right in between those two cars.

According to Mercedes-Benz, the EQC 400 4MATIC, a family-size SUV, is the result of several years of research, development and testing to create a production-ready, all-electric vehicle delivering the performance, comfort, safety, luxury and practical ownership experience expected of a Mercedes-Benz vehicle.

The first of a new breed

The EQC is the first fully electric vehicle to be offered for sale from EQ, the division of Mercedes-Benz established to guide the company’s transition to electric mobility. EQ will offer a range of options including electrically boosted combustion engines, plug-in hybrids and fully electric models.

Mercedes-Benz New Zealand General Manager Lance Bennett said New Zealand would be among the first countries in the world to receive stock of the Mercedes-Benz EQC.

“Electric now has a Mercedes. The EQC changes the game in the electric vehicle market, adding a level of luxury and attention to detail that meets the exacting demands of our customers in every way.

“We’re not the first to market in the electric segment, we simply wanted to be the best. The EQC is a complete, user-friendly solution to future mobility, but it’s also a signpost to an exciting rollout of hybrid and all-electric vehicles from the EQ division over the next few years and beyond.

“New Zealanders have shown great enthusiasm as early adopters of electric
vehicles, and the arrival of the EQC heralds a maturing of this segment that further prises open the door for the EQ models that will follow.”

Apparently the Mercedes-Benz EQC incorporates the accumulated knowledge of more than a century of experience in mass vehicle production. It also harnesses cutting-edge thinking in the creation of a premium driving experience alongside an enticing ownership proposition.

Energy consumption for the EQC is rated at 21.4 kWh/100km. With a full charge on board, the EQC can travel between top-ups for up to 434 km (ADR).

When recharging is required, EQC owners have numerous choices. These include a growing number of public charging stations throughout New Zealand offering costeffective recharging options at shopping centres, car parks and other convenient locations. Mercedes-Benz EQC owners can also access a growing number of commercial pay-as-you-go fast-charging locations fitted with a Type 2 CCS plug.

This would on average provide extra range of approximately 100km from a 30-minute charge. EQC customers may also add a Mercedes-Benz Wallbox Home to their purchase, which can be installed on regular single-phase power to deliver up to 7.4kW, which is also the EQC’s maximum AC charging rate. At 7.4kW, the Mercedes-Benz Wallbox Home can add approximately 15km extra range in 30 minutes. The Wallbox Home can also be future-proofed with a supply of three-phase power to deliver approximately 22kW AC.

Alternatively, flexible charging is possible from any conventional domestic electrical outlet using a supplied trickle-charger with eight-metre cable.

Charger type EQC battery
Approx. range added in
30 mins*
240V AC – domestic outlet 2kW 4km
Mercedes-Benz Wallbox
Home AC
7.4kW 15km
DC fast charger 50kW 100km
DC ultra-rapid charger 110kW 220km

* Range may differ subject to variables including charging infrastructure, ambient temperature and battery state

Service and warranty
The EQC is fitted with a lithium-ion battery pack and comes with an eight-year, 160,000km warranty, while a three-year, unlimited kilometre vehicle warranty applies to all other items, with annual servicing intervals.

Owners may specify a cost-effective maintenance package or wear-and-tear
package as an option when purchasing, or benefit from three-year, capped-price servicing.

All servicing and mechanical repair work may be performed at any metropolitanbased Mercedes-Benz service centre. Any high-voltage repairs will be performed by specially trained technicians at designated EQ centres.

Power drivetrain details

Ample performance comes standard on the EQC 400 4MATIC, courtesy of two asynchronous 150 kW electric motors generating a total of 300 kW of power and 760 Nm of torque. Via a single-speed, fixed ratio transmission on each axle, and 4MATIC all-wheel-drive with dynamic torque distribution, the EQC 400 can sprint from standstill to 100km/h in a brisk 5.1 seconds. The 405-volt, 80kWh (usable) lithium-ion battery forms part of the EQC’s floor, providing a low centre of gravity.

A highlight of the interior is side-by-side 10.25-inch digital screens, including information displays and functions specific to the emerging EQ family of electric vehicles. This is augmented by the MBUX operating system, which allows voice-actuated control of dozens of common functions and also has the ability to ‘learn’ the driver’s habits and preferences.

EQC owners will enjoy all the connectivity benefits of Mercedes me Connect, the smartphone-based app that allows remote engine starting and door locking/unlocking, remote checking of vehicle status, geofencing and many more functions.

Standard trim, option packages

The Mercedes-Benz EQC can be ordered in any of seven standard metallic paint finishes from Polar White and Brilliant Blue to High-Tech Silver, Graphite Grey and Obsidian Black. Three ‘designo’ colours – Diamond White, Hyacinth Red and Selenite Grey Magno – can be added as an option. Open-pore black ash wood trim is standard on the EQC 400, while carbon-fibre-look trim and aluminium-look trim are no-cost options. Upholstery including seats is in AMG black leather, with ARTICO/DINAMICA microfibre able to be optioned at no cost, while other premium finishes such as Nappa leather are available as part of a wider package.

The Electric Art Line package ($5,900 MRRP) includes top-stitching in rose gold, dashboard with fine surface texture in metallic silver grey and topstitching in rose gold, the ENERIZING PACKAGE PLUS wellness program, AIR-BALANCE ioniser, multi-contour front seats featuring adjustable bolsters and massage function, climatised front seats, and a choice of leather finishes.

The Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 4MATIC is priced at $142,900 (MRRP). It will be on sale and available to view in EQ showrooms from January, with first customer deliveries to begin from early 2020.

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2019 Audi E-Tron 55 quattro – Car Review – the future of Audi Wed, 20 Nov 2019 23:00:48 +0000 As the ads say “Electric has gone Audi”. The E-Tron is Audi’s first purpose-built electric SUV. And it’s quite an impressive thing, as Fred found out at the New Zealand Launch. But how would it fare as a daily driver? And how would it compare to the Jaguar I-Pace? We drove one for a week to find out.

The Range

There are two specs available – the 55 quattro, priced at $148,500 and the Advanced 55 quattro tested here, at $157,000.

The spec for both cars includes a 95 kWh battery pack, giving a maximum quoted range of 417km. There’s 265kW of power and a huge 561Nm of torque, which combined with the quattro four-wheel drive system can launch the 2500+ kilo weight of the E-Tron to 100km/h in 6.6 seconds, or 5.7 if you slot it into Sport mode.

There’s ESC, ABS, EBD, alarm with interior surveillance, driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags, adaptive cruise control, lane assist, collision avoidance assist and turn assist, lane change assist, high beam assist, front and rear parking sensors, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and side mirrors, LED headlights, dual-zone aircon, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, Virtual Cockpit, keyless entry and start, heated, electric front seats with memory for driver seat, graphite grey inlays, satnav, twin leather upholstery.

The Advanced model adds rear side airbags, a 360-degree camera system, front cross traffic assist, head-up display, brushed aluminium inlays, gloss black buttons (rather than matt black), comfort front centre armrest, and Milano leather upholstery.

Our test car had the $5,800 Technology and Comfort Package, which adds ambient lighting, Matrix LED headlights, virtual mirrors, electric steering column adjust, comfort stationary aircon, door entrance LED projector lights, and the storage package.

There are plenty of other extras you can add if you want, which you can check out on Audi New Zealand’s website.

Colours available are white, two blacks, two greys, silver, beige, with Catalunya Red and Galaxy Blue being the only actual colours. Saying that, this is a car that suits the subdued, sensible shades.

First Impressions

Our review car was finished in Typhoon Grey Metallic, with gloss black details, and much as we like to criticise grey cars here at DriveLife, I have to say it looks great. Dark Grey does suit the chunky, solid-looking design of the E-Tron. It looks like a big Audi SUV, but unlike some it doesn’t feel the need to scream “I’m an EV!” in your face. There are small E-Tron badges on the front wings and that’s about it. Similarly with the multi-spoke 20” wheels – they look good but Audi haven’t made them look all eco-car crazy or add carbon fibre blades. I like it.

Obvious details that stand out to the more car-enthusiastic amongst us are the gloss black virtual mirror cameras replacing traditional mirrors, and of course the lack of exhausts poking out of the rear. I like the big red rear strip that lights up in a continuous line when braking, and of course sequential LED indicators, which always look cool and futuristic to me.

The Inside

Climbing into the driver’s seat of the E-Tron, the first thing you notice is the screens in the doors for the virtual mirrors. Set into the front top corner of the door trim, they are pretty eye-catching as an unusual feature. They are optional, as part of the $58,00 Technology and Comfort package. More on these later.

The interior is very much Audi, but with more screens than we’ve seen before in previous models, apart from the Q8. The driver’s main display is the latest version of Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit system which we’ve seen in several other models. It’s clear, bright and smooth, nicely laid out and configurable. The main centre display is a 10.1” touch screen which is used for the menus, stereo, 360-degree camera system and satnav. Underneath that there’s an 8.6” touch screen, which controls the aircon, heated seats, and other car systems, and can be set to default to one of several options as well as having a space to add favourite radio stations, contacts or controls. The lower screen has haptic feedback and needs to be pressed harder than the usual touch screen, giving a noticeable click as you do so. It feels a bit strange at first but you soon get used to it.

The centre console has neat foldable cup holders as well as a vertical slot with a wireless phone charger. There are USB and standard 12-volt power sockets as well.

Below that in the centre is the on/off button and gear shifter. The shifter is a bit different with a large hand rest and forward/back lever on the driver’s side. Like the haptic screen it’s a bit strange at first but It soon feels normal to use.

The seats are comfortable and look great in grey leather with a diamond pattern switched into the centres, matching the contrasting stitching on the cash and other trims. They’re heated, and electrically adjusted, with two memories for the driver’s seat. Rear seats are also comfortable and there’s a generous amount of leg room. Rear passengers also get their own climate vents, and four-zone climate is available as an option. The rear seats are 40/20/40 split and can be folded flat to expand the already generous 660-litre boot space up to a pretty huge 1725 litres.

One little feature I really liked is that the seatbelt sockets are all illuminated, making it really easy to find them in the dark.

The boot is well kitted out – there are side compartments with nets, tie-down loops, hooks, and an extra storage bin under the floor next to the pop-out space-saver spare tyre. At the back you get an electric tailgate which can be operated using the remote, door button, or a switch in the driver’s door. As well as the boot there’s an extra storage compartment under the bonnet with enough space to store the charging cables, with some room to spare. This is a nice neat solution as a lot of EVs have them in a bag in the boot, which takes up luggage space.

The Drive

Moving from a petrol car to an EV is always a bit of an adjustment for me. Sit in the car, press the start button and the screens all light up, sometimes there’s a little click or two, and the car is ready to go. It soon starts to feel normal of course, but while I’m getting used to it I almost wait for something else to happen, some noise.

The first job in any press car is of course phone pairing. In the E-Tron it was quick and seamless, and the car always re-connected quickly and resumed my music as you’d expect. This may seem basic but in some cars it can be an irritating experience. The stereo is very good, with a decent amount of bass, and clear sound.

Next – adjust the mirrors. Oh hang on, this car has virtual mirrors, so this will be a new experience. Adjusting them is easy – they are touch screens, so just slide the image to where you want and click save. Then click the icon to switch to the passenger side and repeat. All good so far! As you might expect, it takes a little adjustment to train yourself to look at the screens inside the doors rather than the position of the camera outside. It soon becomes habit to use the screens, and they are very clear, in both day and night conditions. They also have blind-spot warning integrated into them, so if a car is there, the mirror has a yellow border.

But I do have some issues with them. They can be distracting: a screen updating  in the corner of your eye is different to a normal mirror. If your passenger has a bag on their lap or is holding a phone, or puts their leg up a bit, it can completely block the driver’s view of that mirror because it’s lower than a normal mirror. And my biggest issue was a technical glitch where the driver’s side mirror dimmed into night mode in bright sunlight, making it unusable. Turning the car off and back on didn’t fix it, but when I next used the car a few hours later it was fixed. I can’t help feeling that virtual mirrors are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, almost tech for the sake of it, though Audi claim the reduction in wind resistance can add 5km to the total range.

Enough about mirrors, how does it drive? Well for a start it’s quiet, very quiet. Sound deadening is excellent and even on rougher road surfaces with those 20” wheels, it’s a very pleasant and relaxing place to be. It’s also pretty quick off the line, especially considering it weighs over 2.5 tons. 0-100 takes 6.6 seconds in normal mode or 5.7 in sport/boost mode thanks partly to the twin motor’s 265kW of power, but more so the 561Nm or torque, (664 in Sport mode). But when you do launch it, you can really feel that mass and inertia building. Good job the brakes are also excellent, and you can feel smug as you slow down and re-gain range.

The E-Tron has quite a different feel to the similarly-priced Jaguar I-Pace. The Jag feels less weighty, more sporty and has more of that addictive straight-line oomph. The Audi is a bigger, heavier and less powerful car for a start, but they have quite different characters.

The Audi feels big, solid, and gives a feeling of presence on the road. It’s fast but unlike the Jag I didn’t feel the urge to use the full power all of the time. I guess like its looks it feels more understated, more, well, ordinary I guess. And I mean this in a good way. It’s not showing off, not making the EV performance its party-piece, it’s just a good car to drive.

There are plenty of smart features to assist your driving, like smart cruise and lane assist, which work very well, with nice smooth acceleration and deceleration. But I had a couple of issues with these in morning stop/start traffic. On two occasions the car made a noise then all of the smart systems turned themselves off “due to local environmental conditions” and after 10-15 minutes allowed me to use them again. It wasn’t clear to me what had caused this and of course they are assists, not autonomous driving, but these are systems you have to be able to trust or they won’t be used.

The E-Tron had a couple of other glitchy things too – as with many cars the driver’s seat moves backwards when the car is switched off, to allow easy egress and entry. But it didn’t always remember to move forward again next time, so I had to keep adjusting my seat. And finally the boot tried to close itself on my head for no apparent reason – twice – it started beeping then motoring shut. The second time if I hadn’t stopped it with my hand it would have closed on my daughter. This is definitely a safety concern.

I feel like I’m going on a bit about the issues I had with the car, but they were unexpected on a new car, especially at this price level. That said, Fred had a different E-Tron on test a couple of weeks later and had no issues, so I may just have been unlucky with what I experienced.

It drives nicely, is comfortable and spacious, and has lots of nice features. But what about that old chestnut of EV ownership – range anxiety? Audi’s stated maximum range is just over 400km, which in normal use for me is probably about 9 days. I had the car for just over a week, and I did make a couple of longer trips, but I decided not to charge it at home. This was mainly because it’s awkward for me to park the car anywhere near a socket. Obviously if I owned an EV I would have a charge point installed to make this a simpler option. So it was public charge points for me. I found that once the range was under about 70km I started to feel a bit nervous even though I only had another 20km or so to travel that day, so I headed to the nearest charging point to my office after checking on the Charge Net app that it was available.

The charger is on Featherston Street in central Wellington in a small and quite tight side street. When I got there, not only was there a car blocking the street entrance but there was a local restaurant delivery driver’s car parked in the EV space. I persuaded the blocking driver to move so I could get to the next space and wait for the driver to return, chatting to a few passers by who were interested in the E-Tron. Finally after about ten minutes the delivery driver came back and the charge point was clear. I was met with a rude response when I pointed out that his 1990s Toyota Starlet wasn’t supposed to be in an EV charge space. But finally I could charge! Audi New Zealand had kindly provided a tag to activate the charger and pay for the electricity. I plugged in the E-Tron, scanned my tag and made sure the dash read charging, then walked back to the office to wait the 1 hour and 5 minutes the car said it needed.

What I didn’t realise is I had accepted the default of charging the car to 80%, so after about 40 minutes it stopped charging, so I rushed back to the car to move it, not wanting to hog the charger. This was my first time charging an EV so there were a few glitches, but I had a much smoother experience the second time I charged the E-Tron before returning it to Audi.

The Competition

Brand / ModelBattery /kWhPower kW/NmRange km0-100km/h, secondsBoot Capacity, litresPrice Highest to Lowest
Tesla Model X Long Range75270 / 4415054.6NA$156,500
Tesla Model S Long Range75270 / 4415903.7840$146,500
Audi E-tron 55 Quattro95300 / 6644176.6660$157,400
Jaguar I-Pace SE EV40090294 / 9694504.5656$154,000
BMW I3s42135 / 2702606.9260$85,900
Hyundai Kona EV Elite64150 / 3954497.9361$79,990
VW e-Golf28100 / 2902209.6380$68.490
KIA Niro EV40100 / 3952899.8451$67,990
Hyundai Ioniq EV Elite2888 / 2952006.9350$65,990

The pros and cons

Luxurious interior
So quiet
Looks great
Virtual mirrors
Electrical glitches

What we think

The E-Tron isn’t Audi’s first EV, but it’s the first one launched as EV-only. And they’ve done a good job. It’s spacious, very pleasant to be inside, has some impressive technology, though some of the optional features seem to be there more for the sake of technology than practicality.

It has enough performance to satisfy, good range, and is very quiet and relaxing to drive, so longer trips should be great, broken up by breaks for reasonable charging times.

I don’t usually like to say too much about problems but our car had several issues, and that is a bit of a concern. That said this is a new model and I’m sure Audi will be on top of this.

Rating – Chevron rating (4 out of 5)

2019 Audi E-Tron 55 quattro Advanced

Vehicle TypeLarge SUV EV
Starting Price $148,500
Tested Price $162,800 ($157,000 + $5,800 Technology and Comfort Package)
EngineTwin electric motors
Power kW / Torque Nm265/561 (664 in boost mode)
TransmissionTwo-stage planetary gearbox with single gear
0 – 100 kph, seconds6.6 (5.7 in boost mode)
Spare WheelPop-out space saver spare
Kerb Weight, Kg2490
Length x Width x Height, mm4901 x 1935 x 1629
Cargo Capacity, litres660 seats up1725 seats folded
Battery Capacity95 kWh (84 useable)Range up to 417km
Fuel Efficiency Advertised Spec – Combined –  26.4 kWh / 100kmReal World Test – Combined –  28.9 kWh / 100km
Towing750 kg unbraked1800 kg braked
Turning circle12.2mSmall: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
Warranty8 year battery warranty
ANCAP RatingNot yet tested
Euro NCAP 5 stars

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2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Elite 2.2 diesel – Car Review – excellence, at a price Sun, 17 Nov 2019 23:00:38 +0000 There’s some tough market segments out there, and large SUV is one of the toughest. With cars available like the Mazda CX-8, Toyota Highlander, Mitsubishi Outlander, Holden Trailblazer, and Skoda Kodiaq, the Santa Fe has some tough competition. Luckily for Hyundai, it seems Santa Fe buyers are a pretty loyal bunch.

DriveLife went to the launch of the new gen Hyundai Santa Fe, and came away impressed. Refined, an extremely capable chassis and superb looks were the takeaway from that event.

For some crazy reason, it’s taken over a year to get one for review, so we made the most of it, and added in a trip to Taupo and back to give the Santa Fe a hammering for a week.

It’s also Car Of The Year voting time, and the Santa Fe has made it into the top ten. Does it have what it takes to take the award out?

The Range

You get to choose from one of six models in the Santa Fe range; 3 models are petrol and 3 diesel. In each powertrain there’s three separate models; Entry, Elite, Limited.

All are 7 seats and all are AWD, so you need to take that into account when it comes to pricing.

They are all relatively well kitted out, with the Entry model having a 4-speaker audio system with two additional tweeters, Dual-zone climate AC, third row AC, a 7” colour driver’s information display (DID), ‘Auto Link’ smartphone app so you can connect to your car, forward collision avoidance, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot collision warning, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, driver attention alert, auto high beams, auto headlights, rear park assist, front park assist, a reversing camera, a first aid kit, electrically folding and heated side mirrors, LED DRLs, roof rails, a leather steering wheel and gear shift gaiter, split folding second and third row seats, keyless entry and start (proximity key), a 7” central touchscreen display, and also Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability.

Moving your budget to the Elite model means you also get an Infinity 10-speaker audio system, a cooled glovebox, Rear Occupant Alert, auto wipers, LED headlights, LED taillights, privacy glass, solar glass, satin chrome exterior trim, a full leather interior, premium cloth pillar and headlining, a 10-way electric driver’s seat, an 8-way electric passenger seat, front and second row heated seats, a heated steering wheel, Qi wireless phone charging, and an upgrade to an 8” central touchscreen display, with integrated SatNav.

Top of the tree is the Limited model, which then adds a 7.0” colour DID, Auto Link Premium which includes remote vehicle monitoring, with geo-fencing and Guard/valet modes. There’s also automated parking (parallel or perpendicular), a 360 degree camera system, a panoramic sunroof, an electric tailgate, adaptive headlights, a laminated acoustic windscreen, a 14-way electric driver’s seat with memory function, ventilated front seats, a heads-up display, and LED interior lighting.

Mechanically, there’s a 2.4-litre petrol engine, which was carried over from the previous generation. This engine puts out 138kW of power, and 241Nm of torque. The diesel is a new 2.2-litre, four cylinder that manages 147kW of power and a decent 440Nm of torque. Needless to say, Hyundai expects to sell a whole lot more diesels over petrol models. The petrol models run a 6-speed auto, while the diesel is an 8-speed.

Pricing? It’s right up there. The base model petrol kicks off at $59,990. For an Elite petrol you’ll pay $69,490 and a petrol Limited is $75,490.

The diesels up the price some more, with a base model at $66,990, an Elite $76,990, and the top-gun Limited diesel is $82,990. So the result is very well equipped cars, with a price that reflects that.

You can read more about the Santa Fe on Hyundai New Zealand’s website.

First Impressions

There’s no mistaking it; this is a great-looking SUV. At any angle, the lines are spot on, with nice cohesion between all the design elements. I love the look of this car.

Up front, it’s pretty busy with lots of angles and shapes, but it all works. The scalloping on the sides of the car look excellent and make the car seem longer than it is, and the wheels on our Elite test car suited it perfectly. Hyundai have really nailed the entire design of this car.

Our test car was finished in Earthy Bronze, which got mixed responses. I love any car that’s not silver or grey, so I was won over straight away. Many people considered it to be brown – even the label on the car’s key listed it as brown – but it’s more of a mix of champagne and bronze, in my eyes anyway.

The Inside

The interior of the car was a real déjà vu moment from the launch, for me – the textures used inside the car are amazing. Hyundai have really gone all-out here to make sure there’s almost no flat, black plastic anywhere. Quality, classy, stylish – pick your adjective. That’s not to say a Mazda CX-8 doesn’t have an equally impressive interior, but I think the Santa Fe takes the prize away from most others.

The doors have a diamond checked pattern, that is seen elsewhere in the cabin. In front of the passenger is a small shelf, which has the same diamond pattern on its base. It’s perfect for holding your cellphone, and you could probably fit 3 or 4 of them on there.

The interior of our test car was all black, but had a ‘knit’ grey headlining. This lifted the perceived quality of the car, and the grey colour also helped to keep it a bit lighter inside, since only the top-spec Limited model has a panoramic sunroof.

One thing that caught everyone’s eye were the two buttons on the top side of the front passenger’s seat. This adjust the backrest angle and fore/aft movement of the front passenger’s seat, and is intended to be used by either the driver or rear seat passengers, to move the passenger’s seat forward to give the rear passengers more room. That’s the theory, but I can honestly see a few bratty kids driving a parent crazy, making the seat go back and forth while they are sitting in it. Or maybe that’s just me. Funnily enough, I did use the buttons more than once myself, and found them quite handy.

Rear seat passengers shouldn’t be complaining about rear legroom, as there’s plenty of it back there. Understandably, the third row is not as endowed with legroom, but the second row can slide forward if needed. Cargo room is good too, and up a little on the previous generation of the car.

The Drive

Who doesn’t love a small, modern, turbo diesel motor? The 2.2-litre unit in the Santa Fe is bordering on excellent. It’s generally quiet, very smooth, but has that punch of torque you expect it to have. On the motorway, it’s almost inaudible, and it’s only around town and on the hills you’re reminded it’s a diesel. At idle it’s quiet too, and the smoothness overall is a stand-out.

All models of Santa Fe are AWD, which is a nice touch. As usual, there’s not too many options to play with the AWD system – a centre diff-lock button is welcome, as well as Hill Descent Control. The Driver’s Information Display can show you where the drive is going to at any time. This is also controlled by any of the drive modes, for example Eco mode will send 90% of the drive to the front wheels, while Sport mode sends 60% to the rear. I left the car in Smart mode, which allows it to choose what it’s going to do, and that’s fine with me. The Santa Fe should do well on the ski fields, or at the boat ramp.

The transmission is an all-new 8-speed unit, and it’s perfectly suited to the engine. Right gear, right time, every time. Smooth changes too, and it holds on to a gear nicely when going downhill.

The drive to Taupo and back really showed what the car is capable of. Leaving at 5am, no traffic and simply set the adaptive cruise control – time to sit back and enjoy the drive. Silence is pretty golden in the Santa Fe, very little wind noise, almost no suspension noise, and the engine is barely a whisper on the open road.

It’s not all roses though. I went to put the town name only into the built-in SatNav, but no go – you have to enter a physical address. Not the end of the world though, and the SatNav does at least give you turn-by-turn directions in the driver’s information display (DID). A shame though, that the DID is black and white; I had expected full colour at this price, but you have to move to the top-spec model to get the active, colour display.

There’s a digital speedo thankfully, among all the other options you can show on the DID. I was a little disappointed that the digital speedo was so small – it only takes up a third of the available space on the DID. Since we are told only speeding is dangerous, it would have been much better to have it take up all the space in the display.

There’s other niceties to help you on those long drives though, like the 2 USB ports up front, along with Qi wireless phone charging, an AUX port and a 12-volt socket. At near-on $76,000 I had expected all windows to be auto up/down, but only the driver’s window has this.

To make up for this, there’s heated seats front and rear (first and second rows), and a heated steering wheel, which I always use.

Other helpful long-trip amenities include a verbal warning of fixed speed cameras, and in addition to that you also get reminded verbally of what the current speed limit is. Nice touch. The steering wheel controls on the Santa Fe need a mention – they are near-on perfect. The tactile feel of them is excellent, and after only a few hours in the car, I barely needed to look down at them again. It was also nice – after moving from a Peugeot 508GT to the Santa Fe – that the audio controls are on the same side of the steering wheel. We’re seeing more and more cars that are splitting the audio volume/track controls to different sides of the wheel, and that makes my brain hurt.

As mentioned, you get Qi wireless phone charging in the Elite model, and although it’s a flat base, it’s nicely rubberised and your phone doesn’t slide around, and then stop charging. Very much a set and forget scenario for this.

The hours rolled by on the way to Taupo, and seat comfort came into play. The fronts are electrically adjustable, including 4-way electric lumbar adjust. They’re also spot on for padding – not too hard, not too soft. I barely noticed the seats, so to me that means they must be good.

Reasonable room with the 3rd row up

As the sun rose, I appreciated something that the Santa Fe has, that too many others don’t: sliding sun visors. I know it must be a money-saving thing, but having the visors so they slide to block out the sun better is a no-brainer. It’s simply safer. Unfortunately, it’s still a minority item.

At last, we got to the Desert Road, with its windy bits. I love this road, and I love those tight corners, especially the ones that are decreasing radius, as they really test out a car’s handling. After driving the cars on the launch, I knew the Santa Fe would be pretty good around those bends. But it was better than good; grip is superb, with those Continental ContiSport tyres at 235/55/19. They feel great, and along with AWD you can start feeling pretty comfortable chucking the car about. The lack of traffic at this hour also meant I could push the car a fair bit, and it was bordering on fun. Complete control in the bends, not flat but still good, and with an excellent ride. The chassis on this car is brilliant.

We stopped in Turangi to pick up another passenger, when I noticed it; we didn’t need to use the third row today, but I thought I’d take a look. A bit of a downer for the Santa Fe – while the second row is a 33/66 split, the 66% part of the seat is on the driver’s side. This isn’t as safe or as easy as having the larger part of the seat that flips forward, on the passenger’s (footpath side) of the car. The Holden Acadia is another car that comes to mind that has this same setup. But the Acadia is American, so you can understand why this is. I don’t know why this is the case in the Santa Fe.

I’ve mentioned that second row passengers get two USB ports, which is great. In the third row, there’s no USB but there is a 12-volt power socket. There’s also roof-mounted and side air con vents for the third row, and they have their own controller for this back there as well. Nice one, Hyundai. Second row passengers get two console-mounted vents for AC, controlled from the front of the car.

From Turangi, we got a few opportunities to do some overtaking maneuvers, now we had more traffic about. While the Santa Fe is great off the mark, it does lose some power at the top end. Still, the delivery is good, and we didn’t get into any trouble. It can really move it, for such a large, heavy SUV with a smallish 2.2-litre engine.

We’ve said it so many times before: when you go to a launch and love a car, it doesn’t mean you will love it after spending a decent amount of time behind the wheel. This was the case with the Santa Fe as well. One of those things was the Lane Keep Assist (LKA) – it’s too aggressive. I felt like I was fighting the wheel far too often, and that got tiring. So I turned it off. But then, when you get out of the car and back in again, it turns itself back on.

Second slightly annoying thing; I love the auto-hold feature for the park brake. Sit at the lights with your foot ready to go on the gas, since the car has auto hold working. But it’s the same deal as LKA – it turns itself off when you get out of the car. I’d at least like the option to do this (or not) from the menu settings in the infotainment system.

Speaking of which – that tacked-on central display, and more than one passenger remarked on it. It really looks like a total afterthought, and it always will. With other manufacturers now moving to more integrated displays, hopefully Hyundai will move the same way. Integrated looks so much better.

At times on our trip we had the audio cranked up a fair whack, and the quality is above average, with excellent separation. It is an upgraded option in the Elite model, over the standard model.

After a meeting, then the return trip, I didn’t feel too tired after a long day’s drive. No doubt the seats helped here, but overall the Santa Fe is a no-stress car, and does everything with little fuss. I can sure see why Hyundai Santa Fe owners are happy with their cars.

After a week’s driving and over 1,000km, I averaged 7.8L/100km of diesel. Not bad at all for such a heavy SUV, and Hyundai claims 7.5 on the combined rating.

The Competition

There’s only one model of Everest, and its Ford top-spec Titanium, but I’ve included it for comparison.

Brand/ModelEnginePower/TorquekW/NmNumber of seatsCargo capacity, litres (third row down)Towing capacity, unbraked/brakedFuel L/100kmBase Price – High to Low
Ford Everest Titanium2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel157/5007 1050 750/3,1007.0$79,990
Hyundai Santa Fe Elite diesel2.2-litre turbo diesel147/4407547750/2,0007.5$76,990
Kia Sorento GT Line2.2-litre turbo diesel147/4417605750/2,0006.5$66,990
Isuzu MU-X3.0-litre turbo diesel130/4307N/A750/3,0007.9$66,690
Mazda CX-82.2-litre turbo diesel140/4507742750/2,0006.0$64,195
Skoda Kodiaq TDI Style2.0-litre turbo diesel140/4007630NA/2,0005.7$63,490
Seat Tarraco Xcellence 4Drive2.0-litre turbo petrol140/3207700750/2,2507.3$59,990
Holden Trailblazer LT2.8-litre turbo diesel149/5007878750/3,0008.6$58,990
Toyota Fortuner GXL2.8-litre turbo diesel130/4507N/A750/2,8008.6$54,990
Mitsubishi Outlander VLS2.3-litre turbo diesel122/36671048750/2,0006.1$49,990
Ssangyong Rexton G4 TeamMate2.2-litre diesel133/4207NA750/3,5008.3$44,490

The Pros and Cons

Quality interior materials, and textures
Engine smoothness, quietness, performance
Build quality
Rear legroom
Steering wheel controls
Chassis brilliance
Driving dynamics
Aggressive Lane Keep Assist

The Verdict

This is an excellent SUV. I can’t imagine any Santa Fe buyer being unhappy with their purchase. It may seem like I got a bit picky with some things, but here’s the thing: they aren’t deal breakers, they are relatively little things. As a driver’s car, it’s excellent. It’s also practical, quiet, smooth, spacious, well equipped, and refined. And for me, that’s the one-word description of the 2019 Santa Fe: refined.

There is an elephant in the room I’ve mostly avoided; the cost of the Santa Fe. It’s right up there in the range, especially with the Limited model touching $83,000. That’s a whack of cash for a Korean SUV. Will this affect sales? No doubt, but I stand by my claim that it’d be hard to find an unhappy Santa Fe owner.

So, the Big Question: can it take out the 2019 Car Of The Year award? Only time will tell. I’m not going to give any spoilers on what car my vote will go to, but the Santa Fe totally deserves to be in the top ten list.


2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Elite 2.2d

4.5 Chevrons

Vehicle Type5 door, large all-wheel drive SUV
Starting Price$76,990
Price as Tested$76,990
Engine2.2-litre, 4-cylinder common-rail diesel turbo
Transmission8-speed automatic
Power, TorquekW/Nm147/440
Spare WheelSpace saver
Kerb Weight, Kg1,870
Length x Width x Height, mm4770x1890x1705
Cargo Capacity, litres547 (third row down)
1,625 (second and third row down)
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – combined – 7.5
Real World Test – combined – 7.8
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Fuel tank capacity, litres70
Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/braked750/2,000
Turning circle, metres11.4
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 Warranty3 years/100,000km mechanical
3 years/100,000km roadside assist
10 years/200,00km body warranty
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star
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The Audi e-tron 50 quattro Tue, 12 Nov 2019 06:21:23 +0000 • Audi releases the all-electric Audi e-tron 50 to sit alongside the Audi e-tron 55
• Two electric motors with total power of 230 kW and 540 Nm of torque
• Lithium-ion battery offers over 300km* range
• Arriving in New Zealand in March 2020, priced from $134,900.

We like the Audi e-tron, after going to the launch. Shortly, we’ll have a full review on the car. In big news for Audi, the e-tron has also made it onto the top ten list for Car Of The Year.

Hot on the heels of that news, Audi has relased a slightly cheaper version of the car, coming in at $134, 990. The next-cheapest version (the 55) comes in at $148,500.

The 100% electric model has two electric motors with an output
of 230 kW and 540 Nm of torque. With a gross energy content of 71 kWh, the battery provides a range of over 300 kilometres in the WLTP cycle.

Just like the model launched on the market earlier this year, the entry-level version also has an electric motor at the front and rear axles. With a combined total of 230 kW and 540 Nm of torque, they accelerate the electric SUV from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.0 seconds.

In order to achieve the highest efficiency, only the rear electric motor is active in most driving situations, while the front electric motor is activated predictively when needed.

“We are looking forward to adding the Audi e-tron 50 to the e-tron family. Like the e-tron 55 it’s infused with Audi’s legendary quattro DNA, delivering exhilarating performance and style.” said Audi New Zealand General Manager, Dean Sheed. “The Audi e-tron 50 with quattro technology
can conquer any terrain, leaving minimal footprint” he added.

The battery unit of the Audi e-tron 50 quattro comprises 324 prismatic cells combined in 27 modules. These store up to 71 kWh of energy – enough for a range of more than 300 kilometres in the WLTP cycle. The high efficiency can be attributed to the newly calibrated drivetrain and various optimisations to the high-voltage system. The lower gross weight, which also reduces running resistance, contributes to this as does the thermal management system with its standard thermal pump. This system regulates the temperature of the interior as well as the battery and cools the electric motors, the power electronics and the charger.

The Audi e-tron 50 quattro can be charged at public charging across the country with fast-charging available up to 120 kW at high-power charging station. This means that the electric SUV is all set for the next long-distance stretch of a journey in approximately 30 minutes. Audi also offers various charging options for at home or on the go. The vehicle’s mobile charging system can be used with a 230-volt household outlet or the recommended, 32-amp industrial plug via Audi’s home charging installation process.

Alternatively, the battery can be supplied with alternating current (AC) at a charging capacity up to 11 kW, which will take approximately seven hours.
Like the more powerful version of the electric SUV, the Audi e-tron 50 quattro also recuperates energy via its two electric motors, preferably the rear one, during more than 90 percent of all deceleration actions. This means that the energy from practically all normal braking manoeuvres
is recovered and fed back into the battery. The newly developed wheel brake system with electrohydraulic actuation is activated only above a deceleration of more than 0.3 g. According to Audi, this results in short braking distances in all situations. The standard efficiency assistant also helps the driver to adopt an economical driving style through automatic recuperation and predictive information in the Audi virtual cockpit. The system uses radar sensors, camera images, navigation data, and Carto-X information to detect the traffic environment and the route. In combination with the adaptive cruise assist, the efficiency assistant can also brake and accelerate the electric SUV predictively.

“The level of local customer interest for the Audi e-tron 55 has been outstanding, with our 2019 allocation already sold through” said Audi New Zealand, General Manager, Dean Sheed “We expect interest for the e-tron 50 model to follow in its big brothers’ footsteps” he added.

The Audi e-tron 50 quattro, which is being developed in the carbon-neutral plant in Brussels, can now be ordered in New Zealand, priced from $134,900, inclusive of a comprehensive 5-year / 150,000km manufacturer’s warranty, 3-year full motoring plan, plus 8-year/160,000km battery warranty all with transferability at the point of resale. This not only provides customers with absolute confidence in their Audi e-tron, but also peace of mind.

Additional information about the Audi e-tron 50 quattro is available at

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