DriveLife New Zealand's Enthusiast Driven Motoring Publication, Automotive News, New Car Reviews and Used Car Reviews Mon, 20 Jan 2020 02:44:30 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 DriveLife 2019 Car of the Year Awards Sat, 18 Jan 2020 23:00:00 +0000 2019 was another great year, with DriveLife bringing you yet more cars to consider, each with a full-length review. You know we don’t do things in halves; each car gets a solid number of words written about it, so you know if it will be the car for you, or not. We have over 350 reviews currently, and we are looking forward to breaking through the 400 mark as soon as we can. 

This year’s DriveLife Car of the Year awards has a list of 48 vehicles to choose from. They’re divided across 11 award categories, each with their own criteria which we will cover as we move through each one.

It may seem strange to be awarding these in January, but here at DriveLife, good things take time. We like to mull over our choices more to make sure we are 100% certain we are voting for the correct car. We also feel that the year should be finished before we can award 2019 Car of the Year, as you never know when that special vehicle may come along.

As per last year, the system of eligibility is simple; vehicles can only be considered if they have been supplied by the manufacturer/distributor and fully reviewed in New Zealand by at least one member of the DriveLife team, and the vehicle must also be driven between January 1st and December 31st of that awards year.

Each category has to reflect how DriveLife’s team felt about the cars and their segments. We all agreed that rating vehicles based on the class would not work for us, as we take in-depth reviews on each vehicle we drive. We also felt that many cross the boundaries of their market segments when it comes to nominations. That was the stance we took last year, and it works for us, so we aren’t changing it.

Since we wanted awards that embodied what the DriveLife team was all about, we continue with the following categories, the same as last year:

  • Driver’s Car of the Year
  • Best Value Car of the Year
  • Hottest Car of the Year
  • Luxury Car of the Year
  • Toughest Car of the Year
  • Coolest Gadget of the Year
  • Family Car of the Year
  • Unexpected Car of the Year
  • Best Sounding Car of the Year
  • Eco Warrior Car of the Year;

and the main award of 

  • Car of the Year

So let’s get into it and run through each category, list the candidates and what we were looking for, followed by the winner and an honourable mention for the runner-up.

2019 Driver’s Car of the Year
This award goes beyond you grinning when you approach the car, eager to get behind the wheel. To be eligible for this award, the driver has to be grinning about the drive, without even seeing the car; that’s the sign of a true driver’s car. 

Final Candidates for 2019

WINNER – 2019 Driver’s Car of the Year – Hyundai i30N

The i30N absolutely satisfies the above criteria for our driver’s car of 2019. Press that N button and everything about the drive is grin-inducing and satisfying, but for me the icing on the cake are the thoroughly rude noises it makes. Those growls, whistles, pops and crackles satisfy the inner child and help make the i30N a worthy winner.


For me, this was a close call. I drove the i30N, and it blew me away. Then came along the 2019 MX5-RF, with a little more power than the 2018 MX-5, and finished in Soul Red. I could have cried. With a road height similar to a go-kart and handling to match, I can never see the MX-5 not being in the top 3 for this award. From the short-shift gear change, to the looks, to the feel. Runner-up yes, but an incredible drive every time.

2019 Best Value Car of the Year

The value for money award is a subjective thing, but sometimes overlooked. Regardless of cost, this award represents excellent value in technology, performance, safety – or just features – compared to their competitors.

Final Candidates for 2019

WINNER – 2019 Best Value Car of the Year – Suzuki Jimny

This is the second year in a row that Suzuki have won our Best Value award, with the Swift Sport being last year’s winner. It’s well deserved, the Jimny is an awesome little off-roader which is great fun to drive on the road too. And at a little over $26k there’s really no competition.

RUNNER UP – Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

While the Jimny is a great little car, and great value for a 4WD, for the average family it’s hard to go past the Outlander PHEV. Okay, it’s only 5 seats compared to the ‘normal’ Outlander’s 7, but still, add in that PHEV system that gets you around 50km of range on battery, and for $52,490? Bargain.

2019 Eco Warrior Car of the Year

This award is for the vehicle that just wanted to stick it to the oil companies of the world. It’s all about reducing the running costs while doing your bit to save the planet.

Final Candidates for 2019

WINNER –  2019 Eco Warrior Car of the Year – Jaguar I-PACE

The Jaguar I-Pace is a Jaguar at heart, with futuristic flare. A very easy car to live with, and the I-Pace would be top of our list if we were in the market for a fully electric car.

Note: No Teslas were reviewed in time for our 2019 awards, so cannot be considered for this or any other category.

RUNNER UP – Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

When we test an EV, the first thing people ask is, “but how far can I drive it?”, as if they drive 500km every single day. For those who are a bit tentative about dipping their toes fully into the EV world, the Outlander PHEV is a great option. Hell, it won this category last year. From the driveability, to the PHEV system, to the price – the Outlander PHEV is an excellent all-round package.

2019 Luxury Car of the Year

The Luxury award represents the pinnacle of what manufacturers can offer in terms of comfort, quality and style.

Final Candidates for 2019

WINNER –  2019 Luxury Car of the Year – Audi Q8

It’s hard to go past a high-spec BMW or Mercedes-Benz for luxury, but this year, the Audi Q8 takes the award out. There’s something about the entire SUV that exudes luxury. The (optional) 22” rims looked amazing – still the best rims I’ve ever seen – and opening the door opens your eyes to what is obviously a luxury car. The split centre screens, the leather, the finish. We doubt Audi were aiming for luxury when they designed the Q8, but it hits this category on the head. 

The mix of frameless doors, piano black, suede, and leather combine to make the Audi Q8 this year’s winner in this category.


With three Mercedes-Benz in the finals, Runner Up was going to be difficult. But for me, the X5 M50d was the choice. And believe me, it wasn’t down to the ‘Clarity Glass Package’ that the M50d comes with; you may remember this includes a glass gear shifter, but I did not like it at all. But the rest of the car? Awesomely luxurious. 

2019 Hottest Car of the Year

This award is all about looks. Which vehicle would create the best bedroom poster, desktop or phone background?

Final Candidates for 2019

WINNER –  2019 Hottest Car of the Year – HSV Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

There is not much more to say about the HSV Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Everything about it has been dialed to 11; the engine, the driving experience and the styling. It’s a clear winner in our eyes as the Hottest Car of 2019.

RUNNER UP – BMW M2 Competition

The BMW M2 Competition is a beautiful car, but it’s not that much different from the regular M2. Only the true fanatics would notice the difference, leaving it just short of the top spot this year.

2019 Toughest Car of the Year

This award is about the rough and tough. Which vehicle would take you over the toughest terrain while trying to survive a zombie apocalypse?

Final Candidates for 2019

WINNER –  2019 DriveLife’s Toughest Car of the Year – Mitsubishi Triton VRX 4WD

The Mitsubishi Triton is a savage beast, a take anywhere, do anything and just keep going to work truck. Not only is it great value for money, it’s a great looking truck too.

Compared to some other utes, the tough Triton felt just right, like your favourite work boots.

RUNNER UP – Suzuki Jimny

Despite being tiny and one of the cheapest 4WD cars available, the Jimny still has that rough and tough feel. Its interior is designed to take some abuse and be easily cleanable, it’s great off road and does give you the sense that you could drive pretty much anywhere.

2019 Family Car of the Year

This award is all about practicality, and if you could only have one car, then which would be the best all-round vehicle for the family of today. Long family on a road trip? Space for everything? Can it take knocks from unruly kids? And the dog in the back?

Final Candidates for 2019

WINNER –  2019 Family Car of the Year – Hyundai Santa Fe Elite 2.2 diesel

I was in Mahia over the Christmas break, staying at the campground, which was packed. The most common SUV there? Hyundai’s Santa Fe. Some old, some new, but there in abundance. There’s a good reason for this; the Santa Fe has a loyal following. It seems once you buy one, there’s no going back.

I loved my week in this car. Highly equipped, great design, fantastic chassis dynamics, and a smooth, sweet little diesel-turbo to push it along.

It’s in a tough group here, and for me, this was probably the award that was hardest to decide on. But at the end of the day, the Hyundai Santa Fe Elite diesel would be an excellent family wagon.

RUNNER UP – Holden Acadia LTZ-V

It was a close one, it had all the same tick boxes as the winner. A great car and very well equipped for family life. For size it’s hard to beat, packed with toys, however with only one engine option it lost by a nose to the Santa Fe diesel.

2019 Unexpected Car of the Year

This award is for the vehicle that turned out to be a big surprise compared to our unjustified expectations.

Final Candidates for 2019

WINNER –  2019 Unexpected Car of the Year – Ford Endura Titanium AWD

The Ford Endura was a blank slate to me. I expected it to be like other mainstream SUV’s, ticking a list of boxes without any real drama or excitement. However the Endura had stepped outside the box; it is very different, very funky, an all-round great SUV. When I dropped it back, I was blown away by how good it was. If it’s in your price range, go check it out.

RUNNER UP – Mitsubishi Outlander VRX diesel

Admittedly I didn’t expect much from the Outlander. I hadn’t driven one for ages, and honestly I’d already written it off as a boring car before I got behind the wheel.

Now, I’ve driven all of the Outlander range, and each is excellent in its own right. I love the PHEV, but if you need 7 seats and the ability to tow a decent weight, it’s hard to go past the VRX diesel. Great looks, great price, great driveability. 

2019 Coolest Gadget of the Year

This award is for the coolest feature or technology advancement, the one that feels like it comes from Q’s lab waiting for James Bond to arrive.

Final Candidates for 2019

WINNER –  2019 Coolest Gadget of the Year Holden Acadia – haptic seat

This year’s coolest gadget won because of the increased focus of safety it delivered to the driver. The Holden Acadia’s haptic driver’s seat is a simple yet brilliant idea. Sometimes there are far too many sounds in the cabin of a family car, having alerts that vibrate in the seat could be the deciding factor of a safe trip home.

RUNNER UP – Audi e-tron 55 quattro – Virtual Mirrors

Audi are the first to put a system like this into a production model, and though it has some quirks, their Virtual Mirror system is undeniably cool. Cameras on the sides are linked to screens in the doors, which have integrated blind spot warnings, and automatically adjust to give better night vision. The reduced drag over traditional mirrors also gives the e-tron a small amount of extra range.

2019 Best Sounding Car of the Year

This award is all about sound, amazing glorious sound. It’s all about that feeling it gives you when you hear it, and what can sometimes lift an average car into an amazing car. All those things that make a petrolhead grin every time the throttle is pressed.

Final Candidates for 2019

WINNER –  2019 Best Sounding Car of the Year – Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG S Estate

Sound is a very personal thing, some might think the ZL1 should have won, but I didn’t like the sound from the Supercharger. But the roar from the mighty V8 in the C63 has always been hard to beat – a thunderous sound that lets the world know this car means business.


I think most people would have put money against a diesel being anywhere near the top two in this category – me included. But the quad-turbo M50d is a mind-blowing drive. The sound it makes reminds me of an old 3-litre straight-six BMW petrol engine – I kid you not. It’s so good, I had to ask BMW what electronic anhancements they had made to the engine. The anwer? None. It just sound awesome, all by itself.

2019 Car of the Year

This award is for the best Car of the year. This category is only open to those vehicles that we gave a Five Chevron rating to in our reviews. We take lots of things into account to award our Car of the Year; so it’s not focused on just one aspect.

Final Candidates for 2019

WINNER –  2019 Car of the Year – Holden Acadia LTZ-V

The Holden Acadia has not received the credit that it’s due in a market that’s dominated by SUV’s. It’s big, luxurious, spacious, full of toys and rolls like a car that’s twice the price. I didn’t think I would like it or even expect much from it. However, I was pretty blown away by what you can get for your money.

After my time behind the wheel, I was disappointed to let it go. Hands down the Holden Acadia LTZ-V did everything the market wanted from it, while being delivered at a great price. It’s a clear winner for the DriveLife 2019 Car of The Year.  

RUNNER UP – Mazda CX-5 Takami

The CX-5 is one of those cars that seems to do nothing wrong. When I tested a mid-range GSX model in 2018, the review was titled ‘Still the medium-SUV King’. The diesel was always the one to go for though, as the performance of the 2.5-litre petrol engine was always down on the torquey diesel. Then Mazda chucked a turbo on, effectively giving you the same engine as in the much bigger CX-9. This has made the CX-5 even better, and now it’s an impossibly tough choice between the petrol or diesel engines.

Either is excellent – as long as it’s the Takami petrol model.

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Ford Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo lands, now with pricing Fri, 17 Jan 2020 21:12:29 +0000 Ford Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo Special Edition joins MY2020.25 line up with smart, distinctive identity, and offered in either 4WD or 2WD

  • The return of the Ranger FX4 to the line-up, now with the Bi-Turbo powertrain as standard, brings customers a Ranger that combines upgrades with greater enhancement and individualisation for a more striking special-edition model
  • New Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo features include a unique Ebony Black finish mesh grille, darkened Bi-LED High Performance Lighting System, exclusive 18-inch mesh alloy wheels and FX4-specific extended sports bar for greater visual presence
  • Specific FX4 leather-accented seating sees Race Red stitching that’s also used on the FX4’s steering wheel, gear selector and padded, premium soft-touch instrument panel, providing a contrast with the cabin’s darker interior finishes
  • The Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo is backed by Ford’s five-year or 150,000 kilometre factory warranty

The Ford Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo Special Edition will be offered as part of the 2020.25MY Ford Ranger line-up. Based on the volume-selling Ranger XLT double-cab, the return of the FX4 nameplate brings with it an even more distinctive identity, with unique design elements inside and out for a fresh take on Ranger’s versatility.  

“We are excited to be able to offer our customers the new FX4 with the Bi-Turbo engine alongside the class-leading ten speed automatic transmission.  To have the addition of both a 4WD and 2WD Ranger FX4 really steps things up for them and it is the first time we have offered the Bi-Turbo/10-Speed combination in a 2WD Ranger,” said Simon Rutherford, Managing Director, Ford New Zealand. “And it’s all wrapped in its very own design elements and features, to offer customers a Ranger with a genuine identity as a stand-alone model.”

The Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo sits between the Ranger XLT and Ranger Wildtrak models.

Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo
The Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo brings a host of new – and unique – features to the Ranger customer, which are apparent from first glance. The Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo has a unique front mesh grille, finished in Ebony Black, flanked by darkened versions of the Bi-LED High Performance Headlights introduced for Ranger XLT, Wildtrak and Ranger Raptor. The front-end view also brings an Ebony Black lower valence and mirror caps.

New FX4 specific 18-inch alloy wheels, an inch larger than the Ranger XLT’s 17-inch alloys, continue the black detailing, with black DLO, door handles and front guard fender feature contrasting the red ‘FX4’ lower front door and tailgate decals, all with a 3D effect.

Completing the look, the FX4’s tray hosts a protective bed liner and an extended black-finish sports bar.

The extensive black treatment applied to the outside, and there are five exterior colour choices for Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo, which consist of Shadow Black, Arctic White, True Red, Meteor Grey and Aluminium Metallic.

To summarise the Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo exterior enhancements:

  • Darkened Bi-LED High Performance headlights
  • FX4 mesh front grille in Ebony Black finish
  • 18-inch FX4 alloy wheels
  • 3D effect FX4 front door decal in distinctive red
  • 3D effect FX4 tailgate decal
  • Black-finished FX4 extended sports bar
  • Ebony Black exterior mirrors, door/tailgate handles and fender features

Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo interior
The Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo’s cabin hits the right notes with specific FX4 front seating. The sports bucket seats are leather-accented with a special pattern design, and are embossed with red FX4 logos on the seatbacks. These compliment the contrasting Race Red stitching that’s been applied to the gear selector, handbrake boot and the Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo’s steering wheel, door trim and special FX4-branded floor mats.

Bolstering the overall effect is the Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo’s premium black ‘soft top’ instrument panel, inspired by Ranger Wildtrak, while the door tops are finished in Tinted Graphite to further bring out the Race Red detailing throughout the cabin.

Specific interior treatments for the Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo:

  • FX4-designed front-row leather-accented seating with contrasting Race Red stitching and embossed FX4 logos
  • Leather-appointed second-row seating with FX4 Race Red stitching detail
  • FX4 carpet mats in both front and second rows
  • Premium soft-touch instrument panel top
  • Tinted Graphite accents on instrument panel and door trim
  • Race Red contrasting stitching on instrument panel, steering wheel, gear selector, centre console

In addition to the FX4-specific appointments, the Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo brings standard cabin features including SYNC 3 with voice-activated sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility, a full-colour reversing camera and digital instrumentation.

5 Star Safety & Driver Assist Technologies standard

Driver Assist Technology standard on Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo includes Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Keeping Aid (LKA) with Lane Departure Warning and Driver Alert, Traffic Sign Recognition and Automatic High-beam headlights. The current Ford Ranger line-up has been rated at five-stars by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).

Under the bonnet
For the first time, Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo is offered with the latest generation 2.0 litre Bi-Turbo, 10-speed powertrain as standard on either the 4WD or 2WD.

With 157kW/500Nm, the Bi-Turbo powertrain was first introduced on the Ford Performance Ranger Raptor and is fitted with the specifically tuned, new generation 10-speed paddle shift automatic. The 10-speed automatic includes a lock-out feature to hold specific gears when towing, giving the Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo a towing capacity of 3500Kg braked. In addition to the highly capable towing, the Bi-Turbo brings a fuel efficiency figure of 6.7 litres/100km combined for the 2WD and 7.4 litres/100km combined on the 4WD, showing the depth of its capabilities. 

The Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo Special Edition is now available alongside the full 2020.25MY Ford Ranger line-up in Ford Dealerships.

RRP (GST inclusive):
2WD FX4 BiTurbo Double Cab: $ 55,390 +ORC
4WD FX4 BiTurbo Double Cab: $ 67,890 +ORC

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Škoda Superb gets an update for 2020 Thu, 16 Jan 2020 19:00:32 +0000 Škoda Superb upgraded with new technologies, refined design and new model line-up

Drivelife is a fan of the Skoda Superb – a highly-respected car by any standrds. We tested it last in in 2016 in a wagon, and rated it a full five-chevron car. It really is that good.

Now, three and a half years after the launch of the third generation Škoda Superb, the brand’s flagship has been comprehensively upgraded and modernised. What’s more, Škoda’s top model is for the first time available as a Superb Scout.

Technological highlights such as full LED Matrix headlights and an even wider range of innovative assistance systems make the Škoda Superb one of the safest and most comfortable cars in its segment, according to Skoda.

Škoda has further refined its flagship’s dynamic and elegant design. An enlarged radiator grille and new front bumper lengthen the Superb by 8mm and the Superb Wagon by 6mm.

Boasting a generous amount of interior space and a boot capacity of 625L in the Škoda Superb and 660L in the Škoda Superb Wagon, it continues to set the benchmark in its segment. The rear section is characterised by a chrome trim and as was established with the recent arrival of Škoda Scala, it includes ‘ŠKODA’ branding in block lettering. Apparently, the new Škoda Superb Scout sports rugged body enhancements to exude off-road flair.

The upgraded Superb also sees all-new engine versions make their Škoda debut. The 2.0TSI outputting 140kW and 200kW is the first petrol engine in Superb to feature the new, 7-speed DSG gearbox. The more powerful engine comes with all-wheel drive as standard. The new Škoda Superb Scout is exclusively available with the top-of-the-range 200kW engine and all-wheel drive.

A highlight of the new Škoda Superb is its full LED Matrix headlights. Škoda’s flagship is the manufacturer’s first production model to offer this technology. The system generates a light beam consisting of several segments, which are controlled individually. This allows drivers to have the high beam on at all times without dazzling other road users. The intelligent technology uses the camera on the windscreen to detect oncoming traffic and vehicles driving in front of the car as well as people and objects reflecting the light. The control unit then immediately turns off individual segments of the light beam to effectively prevent others from being dazzled. The animated Coming/Leaving Home function adds a special visual touch. It automatically turns parts of the headlights and tail lights on and off in a specified sequence when getting into or out of the car.

In addition to the full optional LED Matrix headlights, the revised Škoda Superb also features numerous other assistance systems that support the driver, some of which have worked their way into the mid-size car category from higher vehicle segments. Predictive Cruise Control and the new Emergency Assist for multi-lane roads (available from mid-2020) are both making their Škoda debut in the new Superb.

The interior of the Škoda Superb has new chrome highlights on the door handles as well as levers, coupled with ambient lighting on the dashboard. Ambient lighting illuminates the storage compartments below the armrests as well as the front and rear footwells.
Using the new version keyless vehicle entry system (KESSY), now any one of the car’s four doors can be opened first.

SMARTLINK+ allows passengers to access via Škoda ONEAPP, real-time driving data, driving stats, logbook and other features when paired via the Wi-Fi hotspot. The Virtual Cockpit allows the driver to choose between various displays for the instrument panel and is now standard on the top-level model the Škoda Superb Sportline 200kW 4×4.

For the first time, Škoda is offering its top model as a Superb Scout. It is exclusively available as a wagon and, just like the Octavia Scout, exudes off-road flair – boasting 18-inch ‘Braga’ alloys, a Rough-Road package
providing 15mm more ground clearance and all-wheel drive. New front and rear bumpers with aluminium-effect underbody protection as well as plastic trims for the wheel arches, side sills and the lower part of the door to protect the bodywork and create a striking off-road appearance. The radiator grille features black double slats framed by a chrome trim, while the roof rails and window frames are also chrome-plated. There are special Scout badges on the wings and it features an exclusive paint colour of ‘Tangerine Orange’.

For the Škoda Superb Sportline, the frame of the black radiator grille and the horizontal strip between the standard full LED tail lights are both gloss black; in addition, this model is available in an exclusive ‘Dragon Skin’ paint finish. The Sportline is fitted with a 15-mm-lower sports chassis and full LED Matrix headlights as standard. The honeycomb texture on the remodeled front underlines the car’s dynamic design, while the unique 19-inch ‘Vega’ alloys complete the aggressive look.

Rodney Gillard, Škoda General Manager commented; “The multifunctional Škoda Superb is truly a model that transcends across either fleet / business use or is equally as adept in family homes from Cape Reinga to Bluff. What Kiwis love most about the Superb is its generous amount of space, versatility and exceptional value for money. In particular, the new Superb Scout will help us tap into a new buying demographic, as it very much suits our Kiwi cultural backbone of getting the most from our down-time as we get out and explore New Zealand. This is such an exciting new model for us, and we believe it will make a terrific addition to the current Superb and full Škoda model range in NZ”.

ŠKODA New Zealand Pricing
Superb Sedan ‘Style’
1.8L TSI 7-speed 140kW from $52,990
2.0L TSI 6-speed 4×4 200kW from $66,990
Note: ‘Style’ Wagon available on indent order $3,000 premium over Sedan

Superb Wagon ‘Sportline’
1.8L TSI 140kW 7-speed DSG from $59,990
2.0L TDI 4×4 140kW 7-speed DSG from $67,990
2.0L TSI 4×4 200kW 7-speed DSG from $71,990
Note: ‘Sportline’ Sedan available on indent order $3,000 price reduction from Wagon

Superb Scout
2.0L TSI 4×4 200kW 7-speed DSG from $64,990
Note: Not available in Sedan

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2019 Ford Focus Active – Car Review – EcoBoost Ecstasy Fri, 10 Jan 2020 23:00:00 +0000 DriveLife went to the launch of the 2019 Ford Focus Active, and found it to be an enjoyable extension of the normal Focus. A great chassis, that sweet-sounding 1.5-litre Ecoboost engine, a well finished interior. There wasn’t too much not to like.

But that was just for a few days. What happens when you spend a few weeks with the Focus Active? Will it be a long-term love, or will it end in, “it’s not you, it’s me”?

The Range

There’s 5 models in the Focus range. At the base is the Trend, available in a hatchback (with Ford’s 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine) or a Trend Wagon, that comes with a 2.0-litre turbo diesel. The petrol motor manages 134kW of power and 240Nm of torque, while the diesel rates 110kW and 370Nm.

Then there’s the ST-Line in the middle of the range, followed by the Active and then the Titanium. Those three models also use the same EcoBoost motor, and all petrol models are fitted with an all-new 8-speed automatic transmission.

The diesel wagon runs a 6-speed automatic.

On the safety side of things, all models get hill start assist, automated emergency braking, forward collision warning with pre-collision assist, rear parking sensors, Dynamic Brake Support and Post Impact Braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping aid, rear parking sensors, and a 180-degree reversing camera. There’s also 16” alloys, a rear spoiler, tinted glass, cruise control, front adaptive fog lights, LED daytime running lights, dual zone AC, an electronic park brake, a leather steering wheel, an 8” touchscreen display, 6-speaker audio, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capability.

If you move up to the ST-Line or Active, you get added adaptive cruise control, Evasive Steer Assistance, Lane Centring Assist and Distance, Alert, keyless entry and start, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, a sports body kit, sports tuned exhaust, front adaptive LED front fog lights, Follow Me Home headlights, an auto-dimming rear view mirror, auto wipers, power folding mirrors, and aluminium pedals.

The top of the range Titanium includes fully automated parking, a heads-up display, front parking sensors, a panoramic sunroof, LED tail lights, illuminated footwells, and heated front seats.

  • Trend hatchback: $31,990
  • Trend Wagon: $37,990
  • ST-Line: $36,990
  • Active: $36,990
  • Titanium: $41,990

There’s five colour options for this car; Metropolis White, Blue Metallic, Magnetic (grey), Ruby Red, and Moondust Silver.

You can read more about the Active on Ford New Zealand’s website.

First Impressions

This is a good-looking car. The Focus has always had some nice, crisp lines, and this model looks even better with the slightly higher profile, and the plastic wheel arch mouldings make it look that little bit tougher on the side view.

Dual exhaust tips give it a sporty look at the rear, rounding off the lines coming in from the sides. Those wheels are unique to the Active, and look great.

Our test car was finished Blue Metallic, and it looked great in that colour – I got lots of positive comments on the car during my time with it.

The Interior

The first thing everyone notices first off, is the rotary gear knob – the same as in the Endura. No, you are not in a Jaguar. Ford have gone the rotary knob route, and I can see why; it looks cool, it’s different from the pack, and it saves centre console real estate. There’s your usual cup holders in the centre console, and being a Ford, these are illuminated so you can find your coffee at night.

Inside, there’s quite a lot of hard plastic, although there’s some different textures used here and there to break it up. Actually the whole interior is very well finished, and should impress. A nice touch are the lined door pockets. We’re seeing more of this now, and it’s very welcome. It looks better than solid plastic, and it stops drink bottles from rattling around while you are driving.

Thankfully the headlining is a light beige, so keeps things nice and light inside, and hopefully keeps the dreaded car sickness away from the kids.

For a change for a test car, the Active model has cloth seats, with some added ‘A’s in the seats to make it a bit different from the standard Focus. They look stylish, with that contrasting stitching giving them a classier feel.

In the rear, things are good. The Focus has a surprising amount of legroom for the size of the car. There’s no rear USB ports, but there is a 12-volt socket there for your passengers.

Opening the boot is surprising too – it’s a lot deeper than you expect it to be, and is a reasonable size at 443 litres.

The Drive

Let’s get it out there right now; Ford’s 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine is a gem. Oh-so torquey, smooth, quiet, and that engine note…at last, an engine that has character. The sound is one of the best for any small-capacity engine. With the windows down at idle, there’s a deep baritone rumble coming from under the car. It sounds delicious. Giving the car the beans only makes that 3-cylinder turbo motor sound even better.

Smoothness comes in a close second to engine note, probably dead even with quietness. On the motorway at a steady throttle, there’s no engine noise to be heard, and it’s so freaking smooth. Without a doubt, the motor is a highlight of this car. I love this engine.

But then, what about the all-new 8-speed automatic with the rotary dial? This is where the Focus falls down a bit. Quite a bit. The gearbox is jerky and is very slow to engage a gear. I’m not sure if it’s the rotary selector knob or the gearbox itself, but it can take a second or two for the Focus to actually go in gear. May not seem like a big deal, but it is at certain times when driving. For me, one of those times was when I was doing a three-point turn. There was traffic coming, but I had time. I went forward, stopped, and selected reverse. And waited…then the car when into reverse. By now traffic had arrived and was waiting for me. So I stopped the reversing part of the manoeuvre, then selected Drive, and waited…the traffic was waiting too. I hope Ford sorts this out soon, and for me this was almost the only negative aspect of the car.

It’s a shame about the gearbox, as overall the car is extremely refined. It’s quiet, smooth, nice to drive. Wind noise on the motorway is almost non-existent, as is road and tyre noise. The overall refinement of this car will blow some people away, except for that gearbox.

There is a manual mode for the automatic, selected by the ‘M’ button on the rotary knob. Once selected, steering wheel paddles are used for changing gear. Not far from the gear knob is the drive mode button; Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, Trail. Eco mode is actually pretty usable, and doesn’t impair performance too much. With all that torque at hand, Eco mode is just fine for daily driving. As you’d expect, Sport mode gets the car quicker off the line, and increases performance at all speeds. In Normal mode, midrange acceleration is very good, and in Sport mode, even better.

The Focus has a reputation for having a sweet little chassis, and it’s a deserved reputation. It rides beautifully, it corners well, steering feel is good and so are the brakes. You’d think that with the extra ride height of the Active model, it’d roll a lot more in the corners. It does roll a little more, but it still sticks and handles. With that engine and chassis, the Focus Active is a fun car to chuck around, end of story.

Still on the Daily Drive, the Focus is a top choice. There’s good visibility all round, and of course blind spot monitoring to keep you safe. On the visibility side of things, the rear doors extend quite far back to give you that little bit of extra side view on the motorway. One small drawback of this is when you open a rear door to get into the car, the quarter window sticks so far back, you end up stepping back a bit to let the door open up. Not a biggie, but catches you out the first time.

Adaptive cruise control is standard in the Active, and it works perfectly, including bringing you to a full stop, and starting off again with a touch of the gas pedal. When adaptive cruise control is on, you have the option of using Lane Centring, which does an admirable job of almost self-steering the car. It was good to see Ford have a separate button for cruise control and speed limiter – at times, having them on the same button can be confusing to some.

Satnav is included in this model, and gives you some nice clear turn-by-turn instructions in the driver’s information display (DID). Only one small gripe, you can’t get your passenger to enter a destination, as you have to be stopped to do this.

On a very positive note, the Active has an electric park brake along with brake auto-hold. And – hallelujah! – the auto-hold function stays on when you stop the car, and then start it again. At last, a main-stream car that does it right. Not only that, but the auto-stop feature of the engine doesn’t restart the engine when you take your foot off the brake when you are at the lights. Thank you, Ford.

Steering wheel controls are well done, and are mostly a never-look-down scenario after a few hours in the car. The audio controls are split, so that volume is on the left side of the wheel, and track/station change on the right. I still struggle with this – or at least, my brain does – and after two weeks in the Focus my fingers still went to the wrong side of the wheel. I’m sure after a few months, it’d be second nature. The wheel itself is leather, and feels excellent in your hands.

There’s a reasonably-sized cubby in the centre console, that can fit an SLR camera and a wallet, and I love that it’s got a sliding lid. I wish more manufacturers would do this.

Ford’s Sync3 infotainment is still a good one – simple to operate, big and clear. It’s definitely one of the easier ones to use. The system is quick to respond too, which saves some frustrations over other systems that lag. A shame that the display itself has stuck with the tacked-on look; hopefully in a future update, Ford will integrate it into the dash.

Audio quality is above average, with nice and clear higher frequencies. I don’t see teenagers complaining too much about it. With bass turned up, there can be some pounding from the speakers in the doors, but probably no more so than other cars in this segment.

The seats are worthy of a mention. The comfort level is spot on, with nice side support and just the right amount of padding. Even after a reasonable amount of time in the car, they still fall into the Cinderella range.

So – is there a big difference from the Active to the normal Focus? One of the key mechanical differences is the change from torsion beam rear suspension to fully independent. The front is 30mm higher and the rear 34mm higher. You also get the extra drive modes, unique bumpers, Active scuff plates and other trim changes. But is it better? By all accounts, it should be better if you take it into conditions where you need that little bit of extra grip, or height. I didn’t get to test the Active out on roads like that, but manufacturers can do some pretty tricky things with electronics these days. Could it be an alternative car to take to the snow fields instead of an SUV, or say a Subaru XV? Sure it could, but keep in mind it is two wheel-drive.

Ford suggest that an average rating for fuel consumption for this car should be 6.4L/100km. I managed 7.5 over 600km of driving, and in the scheme of these measurements, that’s pretty close.

The Competition

Brand/ModelEnginePower/TorquekW/NmCargo capacity, litres0-100km/h, secondsFuel L/100kmBase Price – High to Low
Subaru XV Premium AWD 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder petrol115/19631010.57.0$39,990
Honda HR-V Sport NT FWD1.8-litre, 4-cylinder petrol105/172437NA6.9$39,990
Toyota C-HR FWD1.2-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol85/185318NA6.4$36,990
Ford Focus Active FWD1.5-litre, 3-cylinder turbo petrol134/240443NA6.4$36,990
Citroen C4 Cactus Shine FWD1.2-litre, 3-cylinder turbo petrol81/20535810.95.3$35,990
Suzuki S-Cross FWD1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol103/2204408.75.9$33,990

The Pros and Cons

Performance for a 3-cylinder
Engine smoothness, quietness
Leg room in the rear
Brake auto-hold and engine auto-off functionality
Boot space
Ride quality
Jerky gearbox at low speeds
Gearbox slow to engage gear 

The Verdict

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Focus Active. On almost all accounts, it’s a fantastic Daily Driver, with the added bonus of having some sort of light off-roading capability.

And that engine…I’m going to miss it. Up until now, Suzuki’s BoosterJet has been my benchmark for small capacity turbo petrol motors, but there’s a new king now; Ford’s EcoBoost is bloody brilliant. Smooth, quiet when you want it to be, and growly when you need it to be. Torquey, torquey, torquey. It’s 3 cylinders of fun.

I don’t really want to add a ‘but’, but that gearbox. I know it’s new from the ground up, but the delay in engaging a gear when you select one is a bit painful. Not a deal breaker, but a little annoying.

The chassis is excellent, and any fears of it being worse from a ‘normal’ Focus, with the suspension changes to the Active go unfounded. It handles great, and rides superbly. You can’t ask for more than that.

In our launch article, we noted that the Active is the same price as the ST-Line, itself a very nice car. Is the Active better? Really, I don’t think that an ST-Line buyer is going to be the same as an Active buyer.

Our verdict? If you are looking for an active lifestyle car, add the Focus Active to your Must Drive list. It’s a hell of a fun drive. If it wasn’t for that gearbox, I wouldn’t hesitate to award it a full 5-chevron rating.


2019 Ford Focus Active
4.5 Chevrons

Vehicle TypeMedium sized 5-door hatchback
Starting Price$36,990
Price as Tested$36,990
Engine1.5 litre, 12 valve, turbo-petrol with Active Grille Shutter
Transmission8-speed automatic
Power, Torque (kW/Nm)134/240
Spare WheelSpace saver
Kerb Weight (Kg)1,404
Length x Width x Height (mm)4398x1825x1502
Cargo Capacity (litres)443/1320
Fuel Economy (L/100km)Advertised Spec – combined – 6.4
Real World Test – combined – 7.5
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Fuel tank capacity (litres)52
Towing Capacity (Kg)
Turning circle (metres)11.0
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 Warranty5 years, unlimited km
3 years Roadside Assistance
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star
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2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure – Car Review – this is not the RAV4 you’re looking for Wed, 18 Dec 2019 23:00:00 +0000 A mainstay of Toyota SUVs, the RAV4 has now hit its fifth generation. After 25 years, we get an all-new from the ground-up car.

Built on the Toyota New Global Architecture platform, this is the first hybrid Toyota SUV, although we got sent a 2.5-litre non-hybrid to test out. Hopefully we’ll get a hybrid at a later date.

Toyota must be pleased though – the RAV4 made it onto the top ten list for the Car of The Year.

Is the hybrid the only one to get, or is this Adventure model a good option? Time to spend a week behind the wheel.

The Range

There’s a total of eight models in the RAV4 range; three are 2.0-litre petrol models, two are 2.5-litre petrol, and there’s three 2.5-litre hybrid models.

The 2.0-litre models come as GX (base), GXL or Limited. You can get the 2.5-litre as a GLX or Adventure (tested here), and the hybrids are GX, GXL and Limited.

If you opt for the 2.0-litre, that motor will give you 127kW of power and 203Nm of torque. These models are fitted with a CVT automatic with a mechanical start-off gear. All 2.0-litre RAV4s are front wheel-drive only.

Both the new ‘Dynamic Force’ 2.5-litre petrol models are AWD and come with an 8-speed automatic gearbox. That engine manages 152kW of power, and 243Nm of torque.

All hybrids are also AWD, run the same 2.5-litre motor and have an electronic CVT transmission, but no mechanical start-off gear. Power is down now to 131kW for the engine and 221Nm of torque. But with the hybrid system added in, your total power available is 163kW. Towing capacity is worth mentioning here. Normally hybrids tow little weight, but the hybrid RAV4 manages 1,500Kg. It’s not an SUV, but in comparison the hybrid Camry can only tow up to 300Kg.

Toyota have loaded the RAV4 with a pretty decent equipment list. As standard, all models have Toyota’s Safety Sense. This includes ACC, pre collision system with autonomous emergency braking (including pedestrian & cyclist detection), road sign assist lane tracing assist and automatic high beams. Also included is blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, a reversing camera, and front and rear parking sensors.

SatNav with SNUA traffic updates is also standard, as is an 8” touchscreen display, 7 airbags, an electric park brake, 6-speaker audio, all windows auto up/down, LED auto-levelling headlights, automatic headlights, fog lamps, LED DRLs, LED taillights, auto wipers, 17” alloy wheels, and an acoustic front windscreen.

If you go for the GXL model (hybrid or non-hybrid), that adds 18” alloys, dynamic guidelines for the reversing camera, keyless entry and start, a leather steering wheel, leather gearshift gaiter, climate dual-zone AC, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and privacy glass.

The Limited model adds yet more, so there’s now 19” alloys, a panoramic view monitor, a 9-speaker JBL audio system, leather seats, a 10-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, a 7” colour driver’s display, extra interior illumination, and an electric tailgate.

The Adventure model has heated and cooled front seats, and some added functionality around the AWD system, with extra drive modes like snow, mud, rock. The Adventure is noted for its, larger over-fenders, more aggressive bumper, grille design and fog light surrounds. Its 19-inch, five-spoke wheels with matte-black accents are exclusive to the Adventure model, as is a Safari Green colour option.

All RAV4s also include Trailer Sway Control which integrates braking of individual wheels and engine torque control to help quickly bring a swaying trailer back under control. While Trailer Sway Control is operating, the stop lights will automatically switch on to warn following vehicles to reduce speed.

The RAV4 is available in nine exterior colours, including the three new colours, Safari Green (available only on the Adventure), Deep Sea Blue (available on GX, GXL and Limited) and Eclectic Blue.


  • RAV4 GX 2.0 Petrol SUV FWD CVT $35,490
  • RAV4 GXL 2.0 Petrol SUV FWD CVT $38,490
  • RAV4 Limited 2.0 Petrol SUV FWD CVT $45,490
  • RAV4 GXL 2.5 Petrol SUV AWD $42,490
  • RAV4 Adventure 2.5 Petrol SUV AWD $49,990
  • RAV4 GX 2.5 Hybrid SUV AWD ECVT $41,990
  • RAV4 GXL 2.5 Hybrid SUV AWD ECVT $44,990
  • RAV4 Limited 2.5 Hybrid SUV AWD ECVT $51,990

You can read more about the RAV4 on Toyota New Zealand’s website.

First Impressions

Unmistakably a RAV4, but refreshed and more modern. There’s not much to dislike about the design of the RAV4, especially in the Ruby Red that our test car came in.

It’s got that chunky big-truck look going up front, and Toyota has pulled it off. This can backfire on a car’s design, but on the RAV4 the proportions are just right. Toyota says the new gen RAV4 has a “more adventurous exterior”. I’m not sure about that, but I’m happy with the look.

Side on, those huge plastic guards over the wheel arches catch your eye instantly. Interestingly, on the same day I had someone tell me they hated them, and then another person loved them. The car does look a little Subaru XV-ish side on, but I still like it. Those wheels look great, and are unique to the Adventure model.

Around the back, it’s still looking like a RAV4, with dual exhausts setting the rear off nicely.

The Inside

Orange is order of the day in the interior of the RAV4 Adventure. It grabs your eyes instantly; there’s orange stitching on the dash, doors and all seats. There’s orange drink holders, an orange cellphone shelf for the front seat passenger, an orange Qi wireless phone charger and the driver has an orange cubby to the right of the steering wheel. It’s not too garish though, and sure fits in with the projected funkiness of the RAV4. I liked it, some didn’t.

The seats are all black leather, but there’s the huge panoramic sunroof (with an electric blind) to keep it all light and airy inside. A beige headlining also helps in this department.

There’s quite a lot of hard plastics to be seen and felt, but this seemed to be in keeping with the RAV4’s image of at least being a little bit tough.

The new model has a higher road height and a longer wheelbase, which means more rear space and a larger opening rear door angle. The rear legroom is very good, and the cargo area at 542 litres is great for this size of SUV.

Under the floor you’ll find a space saver spare wheel, and a small amount of storage space for other junk you carry around.

The Drive

Instant thought? The engine is a little too noisy. At idle, inside the car, it makes itself known. Moving off, I still hear it, and this is an everlasting thought throughout the week. Hitting the motorway and sitting at a steady speed, it’s quiet and subdued, but hit any hills and that all-new ‘Dynamic Force’ 2.5-litre, 4-cylinder is not the quietest engine on the block. Even my wife, who is totally not a car person, mentioned how noisy it was.

I was happy initially that the Adventure model doesn’t have a CVT gearbox. I’m not a fan – they aren’t a gearbox for drivers in my view, but the Adventure has an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The problem is the jerkiness of the transmission. When you are moving, it’s not bad, but you can really feel it change gear, as the revs drop and it changes up. But this is a ‘normal’ gearbox with a torque convertor, not a dual-clutch (‘DSG’) gearbox, so it shouldn’t be like that. All changes should be smooth. But the worst part of the gearbox comes out at low speeds. Let’s say you get to a Give Way sign, so slow down almost to a crawl, then accelerate away again without stopping. There’s a pause as the gearbox decides what it’s going to do, and then almost a shunt, as it picks a gear and you accelerate away. I was really surprised by this behaviour, as this is common to DSG gearboxes, but not ‘torque converter’ automatic gearboxes like this model of RAV4 has.

Being the rough ‘n tough model, the Adventure does have some nice tools at hand if you want to do a little off-roading. There’s a 4WD mode for Mud/Sand, and Rock/Dirt, selectable using a knob. Then there’s buttons for Snow mode and Hill Descent Control. The rugged Adventure also features a Toyota first – Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD – to help you in the rough stuff.

Of course, we all aren’t driving our RAV4s off road all the time. I’m pretty sure most of the use will be around town, with the occasional trip to the ski fields. So what’s it like on the Daily Drive? Great to see adaptive cruise control as standard across all models, and here’s hoping we see more of this in other brands and models. Thankfully too, cruise control is operated from the steering wheel, and not Toyota’s default position, a stalk. Everyone I know prefers steering wheel controls. It’s all very simple to use from the wheel, and good to see that when using traffic sign recognition, if your speed limit changes, you can hold the speed-up or speed-down button (depending on the change) and cruise control will automatically switch to the new speed limit. Excellent stuff.

Another bonus for cruise control is that it will bring you to a full stop, and then start off again with a touch of the gas pedal or a touch of the set/resume button on the steering wheel. There’s still some new cars out there that don’t do this.

Not so great on the cruise control front is downhill speed. Incredibly, when using adaptive cruise control the RAV4 doesn’t brake down a hill, unless there’s a car in front of you.  In the manual, it simply says, “Vehicle speed may exceed the set speed when driving down a hill.” It sure does. This can cause a few issues; simplest of all, you could get a speeding ticket. If there is a car in front of you, the RAV4 will slow down of course, but if there’s no cars, you have to be very careful. I can only remember one other car that did this, the Nissan Pathfinder. Please Toyota, sort it out.

The are some great things about the RAV4 for the Daily Drive. With big side windows, big exterior mirrors and blind spot monitoring, visibility and safety are excellent. The chassis is excellent too – the ride is spot on, steering feel is very good and if you want to push the car around some twisty corners, it will do just fine. The steering wheel feels nice too – it’s leather of course, and just the right size for the car. I’ve got mixed feelings on the steering wheel controls. As mentioned, the cruise control ones do fine, but like some other cars we’ve had lately, Toyota have split the audio controls left and right. So on the left you have volume, and on the right is track/station forward/reverse. I’m sure I’d get used to I eventually, but I kept finding that I wanted to change the volume, and my fingers would go to the right, and ditto for changing a track, but to the left side. A little frustrating, but I’m sure over time it would become second nature.

With the panoramic sunroof, you’d think that would make a heck of a racket with it open on the motorway. But there’s a nicely-sized pop-up wind deflector up there, and it does a great job of reducing wind buffeting and noise with the sunroof open.

Brakes are up to the mark as well, nicely progressive and with excellent feeling – they inspire confidence when you need to brake hard.

On the motorway commute, things are pretty good overall. SatNav with SUNA traffic updates is standard across all models, so good on Toyota for adding this. The central display makes good use for SatNav, with a split screen when the map is up – you get an overview of your journey on the left side, and then the right is used to zoom into roundabouts, or motorway lane changes. It’s perfectly done, and of course you get turn by turn directions in the Driver’s Information Display (DID) as well.

But now we’ve broached another touchy subject – the touchscreen central display. The resolution is very low compared to others in this segment, and Toyota’s menu system feels clunky, and out of date. It’s well overdue for a change here. It’s not bad, but it’s been left behind by others. On that note, the Adventure model has a 360-degree camera, which is good news – there aren’t many who don’t love this feature. But again, the resolution is pretty low. You can still make objects out, but it pales into comparison of other systems. On the plus side, there is an ‘auto’ feature, so the 360-degree camera comes automatically on at low speeds, and that I love.

Still on the plus side for the touchscreen, is the Home page. At least it has one, and it’s always useful, instead of simply having only media, or the map showing. With the RAV4, you can customise the screen so you can pick what’s on the top left, bottom left, and the rest of the screen on the right. This is excellent, and I hope Toyota doesn’t change it. The display itself is sticking with the tacked-on look, which is a shame, as other manufacturers make an effort to integrate their displays into the dashboard.

The RAV4 has brake auto-hold, and as I’ve said many times, I love this feature. It makes driving a lot safer – if you remember to turn it on. I’m not sure why, but many manufacturers have brake auto hold go off with the ignition. Euro cars do it right – auto hold comes back on when you start the car again. It can be dangerous if it doesn’t, as I found out; we were getting some drive-through coffees, and I had forgotten we had stopped the car previously – so auto-hold was off. We ordered coffee, I let my foot off the brake, knowing that auto-hold would keep me there. But it wasn’t on. Luckily, forward emergency braking stopped me touching the car in front – phew! – but I wish this could be optioned in the menus, so it always came back on with the car, if you had it on when you got out. I live in hope. It was a good test of forward emergency braking, at least.

Still on the Daily Drive, all windows are auto up/down, so that’s a bonus. The cubby at the rear of the centre console is a good size, easily fitting in an SLR camera with room to spare. There’s 2 USB ports in there too, as well as another 2 up front, along with a 12-volt power socket.

I made the most of the heated and cooled front seats, and I see it’s only the Adventure model that gets these. A bonus here is that the RAV4 remembers the setting you had when you got out of the car. A small touch, but brilliant. In fact, the Adventure model is pretty well equipped, for the price. I think the only thing missing was a heads-up display, so I had to make do with the gauges. On that front, there’s no speedo dial in the RAV4 – you only get a digital speedo in the top part of the DID. That doesn’t worry me on the whole, but the digital speedo is too small; these days, when apparently only your speed matters for road safety, the digital speedo needs to be twice the size it is.

The DID itself is huge, and takes up massive real-estate in front of the driver’s eyes. You can pick from the usual info there, and I generally left it on the drivetrain page, so I could see where the drive was going. I don’t normally worry about this too much, but in the Adventure model you can see not only front/rear drive, but left and right. It was cool that as you went around say a left-hand bend, drive on the left-rear wheel would drop to nothing, but increase on the right-rear, because that’s where the grip is.

I mentioned the 2.5-litre motor is a fair bit noisy, but what about performance? It’s just okay. I was expecting more from a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder, it doesn’t really get up and go like you’d expect it to. Maximum torque comes in between 4000 and 5000rpm, so you really have to wind this engine out to get it to perform. And due to the noise, it doesn’t feel right to do that. Apparently in the back seat, the engine actually sounds quite nice, but up in front, it’s a different story. Even in Sport mode, it never feels punchy, and that’s a shame. One day we were driving up Wainui Hill, and I had my foot flat down, waiting for acceleration. It never came. Sure, it’s a steep hill, and I could have pushed the accelerator down more quickly to make it change down a gear or two, but a 2.5-litre motor should be able to grunt up hills without doing that. It gets from rest to 100km/h in 8.5 seconds, which is reasonable.

In a win for the engine is fuel economy. I averaged 8.2L/100Km in my week and almost 500km of mixed driving. That’s pretty darn good for a 2.5, and is very good compared to the 9.6 I got from the 2.5-litre Subaru Outback (another slowish 2.5-litre car). Toyota suggests the combined rating should be 6.8L/100Km.

The Competition

Competition, anyone? There’s a lot of players in this segment…

Brand/ModelEnginePower/TorquekW/NmNumber of seatsCargo capacity, litresTowing capacity, unbraked/brakedFuel L/100kmBase Price – High to Low
Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo130/2655488750/16007.7$59,990
Renault Koleos Sport AWD2.5-litre, 4-cylinder126/2265458750/20008.3$56,990
Mazda CX-5 Limited AWD2.5-litre, 4-cylinder140/2525455750/20007.4$55,995
Holden Equinox LTZ AWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo188/3535846750/20008.2$52,990
Skoda Karoq TSI Sportline AWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo140/3205521NA/1500 7.6$52,990
Kia Sportage GT Line AWD2.4-litre, 4-cylinder135/2375466750/15008.5$51,990
Peugeot 3008 GT Line FWD1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbo121/2405591NA7.3$51,990
Toyota RAV4 Adventure AWD2.5-litre, 4-cylinder152/2435542750/15006.8$49,990
Ford Escape ST-Line AWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo178/3455406750/15008.6$49,495
Honda CR-V Sport Sensing AWD1.5-litre, 4-cylinder turbo140/2405522NA7.4$48,990
Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace TSI Comforline AWD1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbo110/2507615NA7.0$47,990
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross VRX AWD1.5-litre, 4-cylinder turbo112/2545374750/20007.7$47,590
Subaru Forester Premium AWD2.5-litre, 4-cylinder136/239549815007.4$47,490
Nissan X-Trail ST-L AWD2.5-litre, 4-cylinder126/2265565NA8.3$47,490
Foton Sauvana AWD2.8-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-diesel130/3657NANA8.9$43,990
Suzuki Grand Vitara SE AWD2.4-litre, 4-cylinder122/2255375600/12009.9$38,990
MG ZS Essence X FWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo162/3505359500/NA9.6$37,990
Mahindra XUV500 AWD2.2-litre, 4-cylinder turbo103/3207NANA11.0$36,500

The Pros and Cons

Ride quality
Fuel economy
Cargo space
Rear leg room
Lots of features
Safety features
Airy interior
Low res central display
Gearbox can be jerky
Engine noise
Cruise control doesn’t brake downhill

The Verdict

I didn’t really like the 2.5-litre RAV4 Adventure. It’s got some great points, and it’s beautifully put together, but the engine noise, lack of performance and jerkiness of the transmission put me right off.

It is reasonable value, and Toyota have filled it with usable features.

Previously to this generation car, I would have said, “but people will buy it anyway”. But now, they don’t have to; forget this model – unless you really want the Adventure pack – and go straight to the hybrid version. Smoother, quieter, quicker, and only a couple of grand more. It’s a no-brainer.


2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure

3.5 Chevrons

Vehicle Type5 door, medium-sized, all-wheel-drive SUV
Starting Price$49,990
Price as Tested$49,990
Engine2.5-litre, 4-cylinder petrol
Transmission8-speed automatic
Power, TorquekW/Nm152/243
Spare WheelSpace saver
Kerb Weight, Kg1,595
Length x Width x Height, mm4610x1865x1690
Cargo Capacity, litres542
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – combined – 6.8
Real World Test – combined – 8.2
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Fuel tank capacity, litres55
Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/braked780/1500
Turning circle, metres12.2
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 Warranty3 years, 100,000km
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star
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2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG A35 4Matic – Car Review – Perfect Ying and Yang Tue, 17 Dec 2019 06:00:00 +0000 Back in 2016, we got a chance to test the bonkers A45 AMG, 2016 Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG – Car Review – Track Focused Breeding. To say that hot hatch was a hardcore vehicle was putting it lightly. In light of this and hearing the news that the A45 would be replaced with the A35, I was keen to see what it would be like. It was hard to think about where you could go from the A45, with backwards being the only option.

Considering how hardcore the A45 was, backwards may not be a bad idea for the new A35. As many say, less can sometimes be more.

The Range
Since the review of the A200 last year, 2018 Mercedes Benz A200 – Car Review – A better class of hatchback?. The range has grown considerably from only one variant which was the A200, to six variants. The range now starts with the A180 ($55,100), A200 ($60,900, existing stock only), A250 ($63,700), A250 4MATIC “Limited Edition” ($63,900), A250 4MATIC ($69,600) and AMG A35 4MATIC ($85,800). 

Both the A180 and A200 feature the 1.3-litre 4-cylinder turbo engine driving the front wheels via a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. The A250 4MATIC and AMG A35 4MATIC share the 1.9-litre 4-cylinder turbo engine, driving all wheels via a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission except for the front-wheel-drive A250.

There are now ten colours available; red, white, black and yellow are all standard colours available. The additional whites, black, blue, and three silvers are a $1,190 option. 

Standard features across the range include 225W sound system with 9 speakers and a sub, ambient lighting, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, climate control, satnav, wireless phone charging, directional indicators, keyless start, reversing camera with dynamic guidelines, auto wipers, 18-inch alloys, Active Parking Assist, cruise control, heated electric mirrors, LED headlamps auto lights, parking sensors (front and rear), Active Brake Assist with semi-autonomous braking function, adaptive high-beam assist, brake drying function and Hill Start Assist, 9 airbags, ABS, Blind Spot Assist, Brake Assist System, Crosswind Assist, ESP with ASR, Lane Keep Assist (active), and Traffic Sign Assist.

The AMG gets all the options from the models below it, a full list can be found on Mercedes-Benz New Zealand website. It’s standard options include ENERGIZING Comfort Control, AMG drive unit, AMG leather package, AMG performance steering wheel, sport seats, TIREFIT with electric pump and pressure loss warning system, AMG exhaust system, AMG performance brakes, AMG night package and AMG ride control.

First Impressions
I was really hoping that the car would be in the yellow launch colours, but it was white. Even so, it looks slick, streamlined and sporty. You can tell it’s not a base model, nice shape lines, big brakes and exhausts, front bumper diffuser and a cheeky lip tail on the boot. This was a very hot looking hot hatch indeed. If like me you loved the huge wing from the A45, you can option it on to the A35 too.

The Inside
Wow, that’s where I will start. The inside of the new A-class was nice, but the A35 is amazing. The moment you’re inside it feels like a $200,000 car. The high tech twin LCD screens, minimalist and functional dash design, performance steering wheel. Stainless steel trim panels with a splash of red on the seats to scream sporty. It’s so nice that I am surprised to say that I have been in alot more expensive cars and was not excited about it.

I really linked how minimal the generic string of buttons under the central vents was. Small slim buttons that are not centre stage, but easily accessible. It really made the entire cabin feel clutter-free. Same too with the centre console, the touchpad and surround buttons were low profile sleek design, all to make the cabin feel more spacious.

The steering wheel is straight out of the S-Class, so it’s already a serious bit of kit. Easy to use swipe buttons and toggles, all wrapped up in a two pattern sporty leather number. 

The driver’s dash was one of those cherries on top features. You could have the normal two dial displays, or you can switch to a rather sporty and Tron-like futuristic. It was the kind of display that made you want to interact with it, watching the gears change, the peak of the RPM and the climbing speed. I just loved how it was not the norm and still functional.

One thing that never seems to but subpar is the audio systems. Every A-Class has the advanced sound system from Mercedes-Benz. Its got a total output of 225W, featuring 9 loudspeakers, 1 subwoofer & 1 booster amplifier. Clarity is suburb, and the overall range and positioning of the speakers engulf’s you perfectly.

The seats are never a cause for concern in a Mercedes. However in saying that I did find the seats in the A45 a bit too hard, the only Merc I ever had that issue with. These seats were more what I was used to from AMG; firm, supportive, well-shaped, comfortable and stylish.

The back seats were just as good, both visually and for comfort. Space was a bit tighter for tall folk, with knees right up against the back of the front seats. I never tested it, but I could visually see that the rear-facing baby seat we were using last year for our daughter would have a tough time in this car. The passenger front seat would have to go forward a bit more than expected.

The boot is a surprisingly good size at 360 litres. It also has a larger opening compared to the previous A-Class generation. There are two handy pockets with bungee cords on each side, to stop those smaller loose items rolling around the boot.

The Drive
I do enjoy driving hot hatches, of course, they have to be packaged just right, they can be exhilarating. The steering, driver feedback, performance and sound all have to be just right, something that never takes long to figure out when testing these vehicles. The interior was right on point, I just hoped the driving experience would match up to the interior.

It did not take long behind the wheel to realise that the A35 was a cheeky little thing. It has a peep in its step, and a twinkle in its headlights, as to say “Let’s do this”. Even in Comfort mode, the A35 was quick on its feet, light, nimble and accurate. The engine note also hinted at the possibility of additional performance lurking under the hood. I really liked how the car handled in Comfort mode, mainly to do with it actually being comfortable, as in many performance cars Comfort mode can still be rather stiff for day to day driving.

As it was there, I tried the ECO dynamic select driving mode. Normally I wouldn’t spend that much time on the mode as they normally make the car sluggish, forcing you to limit the throttle control. But I didn’t notice any difference to Comfort mode, which somewhat surprised me. I couldn’t even feel a difference with the engine, which made me wonder whether it was able to be more ECO than Comfort mode. This is an AMG, so econamy driving is not really its target market.

Sport and Sport+ are where the fun begins. Normally I find Sport is the mode you can use on everyday roads, as it’s not setup as hard as Sport+. With the A35, this was not the case. When in Sport mode, I found myself going straight to Sport+ on the steering wheel controller. The engine puffed up its chest, the suspension got a bit stiff, steering sharper and the noise was louder. The A35 had woken up.

Anywhere the opportunity presented itself, I switch to Sport+. Which is the true sign of an exciting, fun vehicle. The car created a cheeky smile when you drove it with purpose. Carving up the twisty back roads, accurately placing it in each corner, jumping up and down the gears as if you were some motorsport driver on a Targa stage. The feeling was amazing, and the sound was perfect. I could not fault this car during my time in it. I even kept comparing it to the VW Golf GTI 40th Edition, one of my favourite hot hatches. It did everything it could do, and a little bit more. 

The Competition
You can’t keep a good hot hatch down, and the market is full of them. Many floats around the $50k price tag, leaving you a lot to choose from. There are however a small number of high-spec performance hatches on the market too, right where the AMG A35 sits. Many of these hatches are good, but only some are great. 

Brand/ModelEnginePower/Torque0-100kph, secondsFuel, L/100kmSeatsBoot Capacity,litresPrice Highest to Lowest
Mercedes-Benz AMG A351.9-Litre 4-cylinder Turbo 225kW/400Nm 4.77.65360$85,900
BMW M135i1.9-Litre 4-cylinder Turbo 225kW/450Nm 4.87.55380$83,500
Audi S31.9-Litre 4-cylinder Turbo 228kW/400Nm 4.66.55340$82,900
Volkswagen Golf R1.9-Litre 4-cylinder Turbo 228kW/400Nm 4.67.25340$72,990
Mini Clubmanr  JC Works1.9-Litre 4-cylinder Turbo 225kW/450Nm 4.97.75360$67,900
Honda Civic Type-R2.0l 4 cylinder turbo228kW/400Nm 5.78.8 4420$59,900

The Pros and Cons

Stunning looks
LCD dash, so cool
Amazing interior
Exhaust note
Sports seats
Performance Handling
Punchy sound system
An exciting everyday hot hatch
Cramped in the back for tall people
Tight for rear-facing baby seat

The Verdict
At first, I did not know what to expect, I had always been on the fence about the AMG A45, but it was too much to live with on a daily basis. 

The A35 was packed with gadgets and the latest tech, making it feel special. The interior is perfect, the right level of sporty feel and luxury, the goldilocks zone. 

Thankfully, I can say that the AMG A35 has filled the void that I never knew was there. It packs a punch, sounds great, handles like a performance car while being fun and everyday practical. 

The balance is perfect for a hot hatch package. I just loved it.

5.0 Chevrons


2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG A35 4Matic

Vehicle TypeHigh-performance Hatchback
Starting Price$85,900
Price as Tested$85,900
Engine1.9-litre, turbo inline 4 cylinder petrol
Transmission7-speed AMG Speedshift automatic
Power, Torque225kW/400Nm
0-100km/h, seconds4.7
Spare Wheeln/a
Kerb Weight, Kg n/a
Length x Width x Height, mm4419x19922x1440
Cargo Capacity, litres 360
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – combined – 7.6Real World Test – combined – 9.2Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Fuel tank capacity, litres 51
Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/braked n/a
Turning circle, metres11.54mSmall: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 WarrantyThree year, unlimited kilometre, Owner Protection Plan
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star
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All-new Hyundai i30 Fastback N Sat, 14 Dec 2019 06:58:36 +0000 We tested the Hyundai i30N this year and loved it. Not quite as raw as the Honda Civic Type R, but still a barrel of fun.

Now Hyundai New Zealand has extended its N range with the all-new Hyundai i30 Fastback N. This new design of the i30 Fastback combines the performance and fun-to-drive features of the i30 N five-door.

“The all-new i30 Fastback N is the stylish variant of the i30 N five-door, made to deliver maximum driving fun to our customers in a sophisticated design,” says Hyundai New Zealand General Manager Andy Sinclair. “It’s the first five-door hot coupe in its segment and the newest performance-oriented model in our N range, looking to attract more new customers and let them feel the N feeling.”

Apparently Hyundai has developed the N range according to the same philosophy as for its racing cars. The name ‘N’ represents two important components. First, Hyundai Motor’s global R&D Centre in South Korea’s Namyang district, where the idea was born. Second, the Nürburgring, one of the most challenging racetracks in the world and home of Hyundai’s Testing Centre, where the N models are honed.

The N logo itself symbolises a chicane, the ultimate corner where the high-performance N models have been further developed and tested. Since its inception in 2015, the N range has performed at the highest level, succeeding in the Nürburgring’s VLN series, the TCR International Series, the Pirelli World Challenge, and the gruelling Nürburgring 24-hour endurance race.

As part of Hyundai’s i30 range, the latest model is the next fun-to-drive car for enthusiasts available to order now from the Hyundai dealer network.

It sports unique high-performance design features, such as the front bumper, well known from the i30 N five-door, a rear spoiler with glossy black colouring, a unique rear bumper including the triangular-shaped rear fog lamp, alloy wheels as well as the N side sill. Besides all these design elements which appeal to the driver’s eye, the engine accelerates in line with the driver’s heartbeat. The power output of 202kW will bring a smile, the N Grin, to the customer’s face when seated behind the i30 Fastback N’s steering wheel.

Sophisticated design with powerful intent

Hyundai says the new car is characterised by its performance-focused appearance. It incorporates the body type of the i30 Fastback with its strong stance, charismatic front and sleek, teardrop-shaped cabin. To create the first hot five-door coupe in its segment, the all-new i30 Fastback N comprises N model-specific performance design features – introduced with the i30 N five-door.

Distinguishing elements which underline the N look are the unique front bumper, coupled with the prominent Cascading Grille. The family’s identity shows clearly where the model originates. At the front, the new model expresses its hot and sporty appearance through the black bezel of the LED headlights as well as through the red-coloured character line which contrasts visually with the bodywork.

At the rear, it is again the dynamic-looking bumper that immediately catches the eye, supporting the car’s strong shoulders. On its lower part, the rear bumper is underlined by an elegantly shaped character line reflecting in red. Moreover, its generously arched rear spoiler integrated into the tailgate is accentuated with a glossy black line. To complete the car’s impression, the triangular rear fog lamp is integrated into the section between the dual twin mufflers, a dedicated design element of Hyundai’s high-performance range.

Finally, the All-new i30 Fastback N’s profile underlines the performance-oriented character of the car. An elegant sloping roofline, a long bonnet and a muscular body with wide wheel arches define the sports coupe’s dynamic proportions. At the car’s side, the N appearance is picked up again with the 19-inch wheels’ exceptional N design and the black side sill of the lowered body.

The latest model does not compromise on interior roominess for its sporty and elegant exterior design. With a generous luggage capacity of up to 450 litres and a maximum of 1,351 litres with the seats folded flat, the car offers a good day-to-day usability.

According to Hyundai. the vehicle’s interior is equally focused on true performance features. The centrepiece of the interior is the exclusive ‘N’ sports steering wheel, which ensures the driver is in 100 percent control of all driving performance features directly by hand. It is manufactured with a red-coloured stitching. Pushing the characteristic dark metal painted N button with a chequered flag icon on the right side allows direct access to the N mode. In addition, the N mode can be accessed via customised settings which become visible on the navigation screen. On the left, drivers can select three standard drive modes: Normal, Sport and Eco. Above the N button, drivers can activate the rev button to use the Rev matching control system for better engine control. The N logo is positioned on the base of the steering wheel.

The gear shift also features red stitching in line with the coherent colour design and is finished with glossy red metal paint. The air vents continue the sporty look with red-coloured trims.

The interior is available with a colour combination of Black and Red Point. The Red Point trim sets red colour accents to create a sporty and subtle look inside the car, for example on the seats, which are available in cloth or optionally in a combination of suede and leather. Both combinations feature red stitching. The seat belts and headliner are designed in an elegant, sophisticated Black.

The All-new i30 Fastback N is available in a number of exterior colours, allowing customers to further express themselves by choosing colours such as the mature Shadow Grey, the new model’s exclusive colouring. In addition, the range includes Polar White, Phantom Black, Engine Red, Performance Blue and Micron Grey.

With a width of 1,795mm and a length of 4,455mm, the new car has the same dimensions as the i30 Fastback. The height is 1,417mm thus 8mm lower than the i30 Fastback (overall height 1,425mm), further supporting the car’s powerful stance and dynamic appearance.

Powerful performance to ‘feel the N feeling’

Performance and practicality for both urban commuting and track driving are well balanced in the All-new i30 Fastback N. Its high-performance technology delivers fun to drive every day, making the driver’s heart beat faster when seated behind the wheel. It leads to full precision, control, safety and durability. State-of-the-art high-performance features can be effectively combined to provide a smooth and controlled ride. The high-performance configuration can be set individually by the driver, depending on the driving mood.

This is why the Hyundai N models have been equipped with the N Grin Control system. It allows drivers to choose from five different drive modes by using the dedicated buttons on the steering wheel. The different settings – Eco, Normal, Sport, N and N Custom – change the character of the car, adjusting various driving parameters. N custom mode allows drivers to personalise their drive experience with up to 1944 combinations available.

The new vehicle is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, which a maximum power output of 202kW (fuel consumption combined: 8.0 l/100 km; CO2 combined: 186 g/km*).

The car has an overboost function which is activated as soon as maximum torque (353Nm) is achieved, enabling the torque to be further increased up to 378Nm. The hot five-door coupe accelerates to 100km/h in 6.1 seconds, reaching a maximum speed of 250km/h.

Shifting is achieved by the six-speed manual transmission, that has a reduced stroke over the previous model.

True driving enthusiasts will enjoy the N Corner Carving Differential, which stands for the Electronically Controlled Limited Slip Differential (e-LSD) device, which guarantees exceptional traction. By increasing the cornering speed, it provides a unique carving feeling when the driver accelerates the car through a curve. In addition, it reduces wheel slip and understeering in specific conditions.

The Variable Exhaust Valve System enables the driver to select different exhaust sounds depending on the drive mode. A more powerful sound makes the driving experience even more emotional. By using this system, drivers are able to actively control the exhaust valve as the sound differs with the size of the valve opening.

Drivers can easily activate the rev-matching function with a single touch of a button mounted on the steering wheel. The system enhances driving pleasure by supporting downshifts. It synchronises the engine’s speed to the input shaft speed for the next gear during the shift process, thus enabling smoother and sportier downshifts.

The Electronic Controlled Suspension (ECS) further adjusts the performance according to the requirements during cornering, accelerating and braking. Four variable dampers, mounted on the independent four wheels and operated by the use of a solenoid valve, guarantee a precise and immediate damping force control. As a result, the ride and handling are improved as well as the vehicle’s overall stability on the track.

Good control of the brakes is crucial for a high-performance car. The i30 Fastback N is equipped with floating brake callipers, designed in the distinctive red N look, allowing the driver to lock the brake before cornering as late as possible. It is less sensitive than a fixed calliper system and prevents early brake fade. Air curtains located at the front cool the brakes.

Smart connectivity features and top standard active safety

A standard factory 8” satellite navigation system comes with an integrated dynamic rear-view camera, DAB+ digital radio and Bluetooth connectivity.

For drivers who wish to connect their smartphones with the infotainment systems, Hyundai provides both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Both systems enable users to connect their devices to deliver and control music, telephone or navigation functions on-screen. Seamless connectivity allows drivers and passengers to stay connected while remaining focused on the road.

To ensure that occupants’ phones are always charged, the new model also provides a wireless inductive charging pad (Qi standard) for mobile phones and a USB port located in the centre console. The specific N mode screen menu also offers customisable settings for the engine, Rev matching, exhaust sound and Performance Package settings.

To comply with the highest safety standards the i30 Fastback N features Hyundai SmartSense active safety and driving assistance technologies: Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), Driver Attention Warning (DAW), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), High Beam Assist (HBA) and Intelligent Speed Limit Warning.

With a high percentage of Advanced High Strength Steel, the new car benefits from high rigidity, high impact energy absorption and minimised distortion in order to protect passengers in the event of a collision.

A total of up to seven airbags are installed around the interior. Besides the six standard airbags (two front airbags, two side airbags and two curtain airbags from first to second row protecting both driver and passengers), the knee airbag is an additional safety feature for the driver in the event of a frontal collision.

Technical Data and Dimensions

Type THETA 2.0 T-GDI, 16-valve MLA, DOHC E-CVVT
Capacity 1,998 cc
Bore x stroke 86.0 x 86.0 mm
Compression ratio 9.5
Power 202 kW) @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 353 Nm @ 1,450 – 4,700 rpm
(378 Nm with Overboost Function)
Maximum speed (km/h) 250
0-100 km/h (seconds) 6.1
CO2 combined (g/km)* 178
Fuel consumption combined* 8.0 l/100 km
Fuel consumption urban* 10.6 l/100 km
Fuel consumption extra-urban* 6.1 l/100 km
Front McPherson Strut
Rear Multi-Link
Type R-MDPS (rack type motor driven power steering)
General Rack & pinion
Overall steering gear ratio 12.31 (@360°)
Steering wheel turns (lock to lock) 2.14
Min. turning radius (m) 5.8
Front Disc Type, 18″
Rear Disc Type, 17″
Master cylinder Φ23.81
Booster size 10″
Size 8.0Jx19
Tyres 235/35R19
Exterior Dimensions (mm)**
Overall length 4,455
Overall width 1,795
Overall height 1,417 (Standard)/ 1,419 (Performance Package)
Wheelbase 2,650
Front overhang 905
Rear overhang 900
Ground clearance 132
Fuel tank (litres) 50
Luggage space (litres) Minimum 450 (436 with rear stiffness bar) Maximum 1,351 (1,337 with rear stiffness bar)

* CO2 emissions and fuel consumption under current WLTP testing converted to NEDC.

** Technical data are tentative, hence subject to changes


Engine Transmission Fastback N
2.0 T-GDI petrol 6-speed manual $59,990
Fastback N 2.0L Petrol
Key specifications:
7 airbags Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) with City / Urban (camera) Pirelli P Zero HN tyres
Electronic Stability Control (ESC) Rain sensing wipers
Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) Driver Attention Warning (DAW) 4.2” TFT-LCD cluster
Auto dusk sensing headlights Lane Keep Assist (LKA) Climate control w/auto defog function
LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL) Cruise control w/ manual speed limiter Heated exterior mirrors
Rear view camera w/dynamic guidelines Parking Distance Warning-Forward (PDW-F) Sports bucket seats
Parking Distance Warning-Reverse (PDW-R) 18” alloy wheels Leather appointed s/wheel & gear knob
8” multimedia system w/ 6 speakers Passenger seat back pocket
Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) Android Auto / Apple CarPlay compatibility 8” Navigation w/ digital radio (DAB+)
Wireless charging pad (Qi standard) Heated front seats Heated steering wheel
Power driver’s seat – 8 way Power passenger seat – 8 way Driver memory seat system
LED headlights LED taillights – stop/tail Sport grille / side skirts / spoiler /diffuser
Leather/suede seats Sunroof with power operated blind Rear strut bar
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2019 Hyundai i30N-Line – Car Review – the poor man’s i30N? Wed, 11 Dec 2019 23:00:00 +0000 We loved the Hyundai i30N when we tested it. A little raw, exciting, 202kW of power, and a manual gearbox – there wasn’t much not to love.

At $54,990, the i30N is hot on the heels of the Honda Type R, which retails at $59,990. Is there a market for a less-powered, i30N wannabe? Hyundai thinks so, and has launched the $43,990 i30N-Line. In the place of a 2-litre engine is a 150kW 1.6-litre, but still turbo of course. It’s not as outlandish in looks as the i30N, but some buyers may prefer that.

There’s another reason to look at a less powerful model – keeping your driver’s licence. With 202kW, there’s always the temptation to push the i30N hard, and drive it like you stole it. It’s just that kind of car. Perhaps that’s where the N-Line can slot in?

Will the i30N-Line take sales from that other brilliant, small sports hatch – the 103kW (but far lighter) Suzuki Swift Sport? And more importantly, can the i30N-Line keep performance and sports-hatch buyers happy, and still give you a decent grin factor?

The Range

You can read about the range on Rob’s review of the i30 1.6 Turbo Limited here. This i30N-Line is pretty much the newer version of that car.

Externally, the i30 N-Line gets aggressive front and rear bumpers inspired by the existing i30 model, along with 18-inch alloy wheels equipped with performance-based Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres and ‘N-Line’ badging. The interior, meanwhile, gets model-specific front sports seats with carbon-look trim, sports steering wheel, sports gear knob, red highlights (including seatbelts), along with a black headliner.

Under the skin, the N-Line model features a unique sports suspension tune compared to existing i30 models. Remaining specification is very similar to the i30 Limited and includes features like a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, and an 8” touchscreen with satellite navigation.

Other standard equipment for this model is adaptive cruise control.

Hyundai’s Connected Car Service ‘AutoLink Premium’ is also compatible with the i30 N-Line which provides an overview of vehicle data, including real-time diagnostics, tyre pressure monitoring, driving history statistics, parking management, easy service booking, automatic access to roadside assistance and remote vehicle functions.

There’s no manual option for the i30N-Line – standard is a 7-speed DSG gearbox. The engine is a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbo-petrol motor, which manages 150kW of power, and 265Nm of torque, delivered between a very usable 1,500-4,500rpm.

You can read more about the i30N-Line on Hyundai New Zealand’s website.

First Impressions

I’m not 100% sure how Hyundai have done it, as the N-Line looks so much like an i30, but so different at the same time. It’s more aggressive, and those N-Line wheels set the car off beautifully. They almost look too big for the car, but the reality is they are spot-on.

Our car was finished in Fiery Red, and that made it all the better. There’s something about this shape in that colour, that nails the whole design.

Not as extroverted as the i30N, sure, but still a great looking car from any angle.

The Inside

It’s much the same on the inside – less extroverted than the i30N. You still get red seat belts, alloy pedals, but the only other slightly racy feature is the red stitching on the steering wheel, gear shift gaiter, seats, and console.

In saying that, there’s some almost-classy red anodised front vent surrounds and the single rear one that catches your eye.

Unfortunately, sitting in the driver’s seat, your hands fall to lots of flat, black plastic. It seems to be everywhere, but luckily it’s mostly the red stitching that catches your eyes instead. The gear shifter also goes for a racy design, with a funky red line running down it. It’s all very tasteful, and not in your face like the i30N or Type R.

Our test car had black headlining, but thankfully the i30N-Line comes with a huge panoramic sunroof complete with an electric blind, making the interior a much more pleasant place.

Rear leg room is surprisingly generous. Actually, the whole car feels bigger than it really is, probably due to that huge sunroof.

The boot is standard i30, so that means plenty of space at 395 litres with the rear seats up. Under the floor you’ll find a space-saver spare. It’s always nice to see in the boot of a Hyundai, as there is a high-vis vest and a first aid kit included.

The Drive

As soon as I drove off, I could tell this was a refined engine. Then you put your foot down a bit, and the car lurches forward. Yes, 150kW in such a small car can move it quickly. It’s no i30N, but it can still pull. And pull it does, with 265Nm of torque, it’s not so much the power that’s hauling you around as the dollops of torque available from just 1,500rpm.

Admittedly, the engine doesn’t have much character, simply sounding like a four-cylinder Korean motor, and that’s pretty much it. A shame, as I was starting to feel this is a worthy alternative to the i30N. But still, it’s early days in the car.

Looking around, I’m struck by how well equipped the N-Line is. This is a small hatchback, and yet there’s Qi wireless phone charging, SatNav, heated and cooled front seats, and adaptive cruise control – not to mention that huge panoramic sunroof.

Up front, there’s a 12-volt socket next to the Qi wireless charging, as well as a single USB and AUX port. At the rear of the centre console, there’s a small cubby that will just fit an SLR camera, and there’s another 12-volt socket in there too.

The glovebox is bordering on enormous, for the size of the car. Add in great visibility all round (although there’s no blind spot monitoring), an electric park brake with auto hold, and you have a car that has the potential to be an excellent Daily Driver, with the option of a bit of back-road excitement in its pocket.

The SatNav, true to Hyundai, is well done. On the motorway, it becomes a split-screen, so you get a large, clear, almost 3D image of any motorway interchanges. Of course, instructions are also shown in the driver’s information display. Others do the same sort of thing with SatNav, but Hyundai seems to nail it.

Funnily though, it’s motorway driving where the N-Line seems to excel. With adaptive cruise on and great visibility, it’s well at home on the daily commute. Mid-range performance is excellent, and punching the gas pedal when you need to on the motorway will bring satisfying acceleration. You can even keep the sunroof open on the motorway – buffeting is reduced hugely with the little pop-up wind deflector, much like the Santa Fe we had a few weeks ago. Road and tyre noise are well damped, there’s some wind noise but on the whole it’s a refined little car.

In most ways, anyway. Readers will know my thoughts on CVT gearboxes – I’m not a fan. It was disappointing that the N-Line doesn’t have a manual gearbox option, but at least it’s a 7-speed automatic and not a CVT – but it is a dual clutch (DSG) gearbox. And unfortunately, that means it’s jerky at low speeds. Pulling up to a Give Way sign and not quite stopping, then accelerating away will see the car think about what gear to go in, then select it, then give you a small shunt as you take off. On my driveway it’s bad too, as the driveway has a slight slope. As I’m waiting for traffic to clear, any touch of the gas pedal will see the car slip the clutch, off and on, while it waits to get moving. It’s the biggest problem with the car, as it makes slow speed driving a bit painful.

With the DSG, gear changes on the move are generally much faster, and much smoother and it’s the same case with the i30N-Line. It reminded me exactly of the Toyota RAV4 Adventure we recently tested, and behaves exactly the same way.

The ride is mostly good, although it can get jiggly at low speeds. It’s pretty firm overall, but you’ve got to expect that in a car that’s designed as a younger sibling to the i30N.

Like the Santa Fe, the steering wheel controls are superb. After thirty minutes of driving, there’s simply no need to look down at the buttons again. Hyundai have really excelled in this part of their cars. Let’s hope they don’t change it. Also like the Santa Fe, if you are approaching a fixed speed camera, you’ll get an audible warning, and a reminder of the current speed limit. It’s little touches like this that make you appreciate a car a bit more.

After nearly a week with the car, I decided it was time to drive it like it was designed, so headed to my Favourite Handling Road to test out the car’s capabilities. I’d taken the i30N on this road too, so it was going to be an interesting comparison.

First up, Sport mode on. Instantly the steering got heavier, and not just that – it actually gained feeling. I was suitably impressed, as often when switching a car to Sport mode, the steering gets heavier, and that’s it. So far, so good.

As I started to push the car a bit more, I noticed the side bolsters on the seats. Great around town, but not quite tight enough for spirited driving. But that was about my only complaint, when driving the i30N-Line on a twisty road. The brakes – fantastic. The pedal felt a little soft, but the feel coming through them was perfect.

I was really now starting to enjoy this car, and then I opened the sunroof and windows. It may sound like a sewing machine on the inside when it’s closed up, but the sound coming through from the exhaust was spot on, with an almost baritone note from the exhaust hitting my ears. No crackling and popping like the i30N, but much nicer than with all the windows up.

There’s more body roll than I had expected, but I was pushing on a bit on this road. Tight corners will see the inside front wheel spin, but it’s all manageable and, well, fun. The torque of the engine helped lots on this road; I could simply leave it in third gear, and just run the car between 3,000 and 7,000 rpm, and let the torque do the work.

Even the gearbox, not nice at low speeds, starts to work its magic, with nice snappy changes, and rev matching on the downshift. It can be a little jerky when you upshift at 7,000rpm, but that’s to be expected.

For a front-wheel drive car, it’s a lot of fun, and has an extremely capable chassis. Turn in is excellent – it was hard to fault it, other than the body roll, which in all honesty is not that bad. All the time on that road, it reminded me of the Suzuki Swift Sport, and that’s no bad thing. I pulled over to take some notes, and the smell of brakes wafted in through the open windows. I wrote in my notes, “it picks up and goes”. There is a whole lot of acceleration to be had from a car this size with 150kW on tap. Compare this to the 104kW Swift Sport – that’s a huge difference. It’s no 202kW i30N, but hey, it’s still a grin-maker.

You would think that like the i30N, full-throttle acceleration with 50kW less is still going to lead to lots of wheel spin and axle tramp. Surprisingly, it doesn’t. From a standstill, there’s some spinning at the front but it only lasts a second, and then you’re off. It’s far better than the i30N and miles better than the Honda Civic Type R. One thing it does give you on full throttle acceleration is that lovely exhaust note – if the windows are down.

Fuel economy? A reasonable 8.4, over 500km of mixed driving. It’s a bit high for a 1.6-litre car, but for one with 150kW, it’s about spot on.

In the interests of complete transparency, I did have a mechanical issue with the car. At one point in my week, performance dropped off radically, and every time the turbo spooled up there was a wooshing noise that shouldn’t have been there. A trip to the Hyundai dealer, and it was sorted in ten minutes – a hose clamp had come loose, and a pipe had fallen off the turbo. Unusual for us to strike any problem in a new car, and this surely was a one-off.

The Competition

Brand/ModelEnginePower/TorquekW/NmCargo capacity, litres0-100km/h, secondsFuel L/100kmBase Price – High to Low
Mini Clubman Cooper S2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo141/2804057.37.1$51,990
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce Hatchback1.7-litre, 4-cylinder turbo177/3403506.06.8$49,990
Peugeot 308 GT Hatchback1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbo165/3004357.45.7$46,990
Volkwagen Golf TSI R-Line1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbo110/2503418.25.2$44,490
Hyundai i30N-Line1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbo150/2653957.27.5$43,990
Honda Civic RS Sport Turbo1.5-litre, 4-cylinder turbo127/220414NA6.0$40,990
Holden Astra RS-V1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbo147/2803608.26.3$38,490
Ford Focus ST Line1.5-litre, 4-cylinder turbo134/2404437.85.9$36,990
Suzuki Swift Sport1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbo130/2032658.06.1$29,990

The Pros and Cons

Engine smoothness, quietness
Steering feel in Sport mode
Steering wheel controls
Engine noise in Sport mode
Rear legroom
Chassis brilliance
Jerky gearbox at low speeds
Engine noise when not in Sport mode

The Verdict

I was pretty unsure about the N-Line before I picked it up. After the I30N and all it is, would anything else trying to be an N be a waste of time?

The i30N-Line is no waste of time; it’s a fun car, has a great chassis and looks brilliant. Generally, I loved driving it.

Are you waiting for the ‘but…’?

But, there’s a few things I’m struggling with. The DSG gearbox is no fun at low speeds, and causes your passengers to think you are a rookie driver. Number two has to be the price. For another six grand, I can have a Giulietta?

For an amazing $14,000 less, the Suzuki Swift will always be there, nipping at the heels of the i30N-Line like a little terrier, trying to be noticed. Hell, the Swift Sport nips at the heels of pretty much anything.

So should you buy one? I would. Even with the gearbox, this is a whole lot of fun in an attractive design, well finished and is spacious for what it is. Would I buy one over a Suzuki Swift Sport? That’s a harder question. The Suzuki, with almost 50Kw less power, weighs around 400kg less, and that’s a huge amount of weight. That makes the Swift Sport more fun, and it’s so much cheaper. Tough call, and one I’m glad I’m not making.


2019 Hyundai i30N-Line
4.0 Chevrons

Vehicle TypeSmall, 5-door performance hatchback
Starting Price$43,990
Price as Tested$43,990
Engine1.6 litre 16 valve twin overhead cam with gasoline direct fuel injection with VGT (Variable Geometry Turbo)
Transmission7-speed, dual-clutch automatic
Power, TorquekW/Nm150/265
Spare WheelSpace saver
Kerb Weight, Kg1,344
Length x Width x Height, mm4340x1795x1455
Cargo Capacity, litres395/1301
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – combined – 7.5
Real World Test – combined – 8.4
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Fuel tank capacity, litres50
Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/braked600/1300
Turning circle, metresNA
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 Warranty3 years, 100,00kilometres
3 years Roadside Assistance
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star
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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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