DriveLife New Zealand's Enthusiast Driven Motoring Publication, Automotive News, New Car Reviews and Used Car Reviews Mon, 17 Jun 2019 02:32:47 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 2019 Jaguar I-Pace SE EV400 – Car Review – Tesla, hold my beer Sun, 16 Jun 2019 23:45:27 +0000 It’s not been long since Jaguar threw down the gauntlet at Tesla, if not to say you’ve had your time, now stand aside and let the professionals show you how it’s done. The internet is full of hype around Jaguar’s new I-Pace and the team at DriveLife were super excited to finally get some time behind the wheel.

Can the I-Pace live up to everything Jaguar claims, and can they really knock Tesla of the pedestal they put themselves upon?

The Range

The I-Pace is available in New Zealand in three different spec models. The range starts with the S (starting from $144,900) steps up to the SE (starting from $154,900) which we are testing and finishes with the top spec HSE (starting from $164,900).

Across the range, you also have the choice of roof types. You start with the standard aluminium body coloured roof, which can be changed to one of the other options; a black contrast roof or a fixed panoramic glass roof.

The standard list of features in the base model I-Pace S is huge, it would take too much room to cover all of them, so we will give you the highlights.

Exterior features include LED headlights automatic headlights, heated door mirrors with approach lights, flush exterior door handles, acoustic laminated windscreen and rain sensing wipers. Interior features include push-button start, two-zone climate control, ambient interior lighting, air quality sensors and Luxtec sport seats with 8-way semi-powered front seats.

Drivetrain and safety systems include all wheel drive, all surface progress control, hill launch assist, JaguarDrive control electric power-assisted steering, open differential with torque vectoring by braking, dynamic stability control, passive suspension, electric parking brake, low traction launch, enhanced brake regeneration, emergency braking, cruise control and speed limiter, driver condition monitor, traffic sign recognition and adaptive speed limiter, lane keep assist, rear camera park pack, 360° parking aid, rear traffic monitor and clear exit monitor, and park assist.

You also get Jaguar smart key system with keyless entry, electric cabin preconditioning, touch pro duo interactive driver display, navigation pro, Meridian sound system, 2 x 12V, 6 x USB. Told you it was a big list.

As we are testing the SE, here are some of its standard features in addition to what comes on the S variant. The SE gets 20″ 6-spoke gloss sparkle silver wheels, premium LED headlights with signature DRL, Headlight power wash, powered tailgate, auto-dimming, power folding and heated door mirrors with memory and approach lights, grained leather sport seats 10-way electric memory front seats and the Drive Pack consisting of Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go, High-speed Emergency Braking and Blind Spot Assist.

HSe gets Matrix LED headlights with signature DRL, Powered gesture tailgate, Windsor leather sport seats, 18-way heated and cooled memory front seats with heated rear seats and Meridian™ Surround Sound System.

Just as the price grows with each model, so to does the array of standard options available. If we even tried to cover them and additional options we may never get to the main review. For a full range of details on standard and additional options you can visit

First Impressions

Before seeing the car in person I had hoped that it would not feel like those weird eco cars of the past, something that looks like it’s trying too hard and that would be embarrassing to be seen in. Thankfully the Jaguar I-Pace does not follow this trend. It had a modern flair to it while retaining many of the styling aspects from the Jaguar line.

The overall look of the I-Pace is rather striking, with a strong powerful front face, sleek and streamlined body, and rather large rear end. Almost every angle of the I-Pace has an aerodynamic design, however, I couldn’t help feeling that the rear was more like a slab of steel than an effective design. I was also not one hundred percent sure about the black trim along with the doors with jaguar embossed on them. Overall I like the design, and this colour as it contrasted and highlighted many of its design features.

You can’t help but notice those wheels, this I-Pace was optioned with the massive 22″ 5 spoke wheel, gloss black inner wheels with contrast diamond cut front face and finished off with carbon fibre inserts. They are a $5,650 option, and I dread to think about what it would cost to repair if they get curbed.

The Inside

Before getting in, it’s hard to miss the popout door handles. Either with the key or touching the hand free button on each handle, they would pop out from the doors to show the vehicle is unlocked. They were a good size and they felt nice and strong, well built. It’s not something new, but it’s a cool feature nevertheless.

Inside the cabin of the I-Pace, you are hit with a strong modern and minimalist design, clean lines mixed with a wide range of LCD and touch screen displays. There are very few buttons in the cabin, with the only noticeable ones being the engine or battery start/stop button, radio on/off dial and the aircon/heated seat dials. Apart from knowing the I-Pace is a fully electric vehicle, there is nothing inside the cabin that indicates or advertises this. For all intents and purposes, the inside is a regular as any other combustion-powered vehicle. Normal except for the fact it has no gear stick, and the central console has four transmission buttons, D for Drive, N for Neutral and R for reverse, and just below that was the P for Park.

The main feature of the cabin is not the multitude of LCD displays, it’s the roof. The fixed full glass roof spans from front to back without single interfering support. Everyone that got in was instantly amazed by it. It’s probably one of the nicest glass roofs I have experienced. The great thing about it was that it was tinted, which means it does not bake the cabin interior on a hot day. The downside of this is that there is no cover if you want to not let any light in through the roof to the cabin.

The rest of the cabin is rather normal, nothing jumps out, no crazy features. Nice materials and it all oozes a sense of high quality. Space inside the cabin is noticeably roomy compared to other luxury fully EV vehicles. The floor is at the same height in the front as it is in the rear, so legroom is great all around. I was easily able to fit in the rear seat even behind my own tall driver seat position. For anyone sitting in the rear seats, they have the best view of the large panoramic glass roof.

Back in the driver’s seat is where all the action is, with a mixture of displays within arm’s reach, a large LCD driver’s display cluster. The cluster was clean and simplistic, split into two dials, left and right of the screen with an information area between them. The left dial displayed your speed, transmission mode currently selected and a handful of other small warning indicators. The right dial was a combination of the battery charge remaining, showing the range remaining and how the power was used. When standing still the needle sat in the middle, between charge and power. Once you moved away it moved towards power to indication a draw from the battery, and as soon as you let off or brake, it goes over to charge, where energy was being collected and stored back into the battery. In between both of these displays, you can display the map or other driver information options. If preferred you can select to have one central display with two side information areas. Both worked well, but I prefer using the two dial display over the single central one.

The central console has the Touch Pro Duo 10” and 5” touchscreens. Touch Pro could be an entire article to itself, there are so many features and options available. It, of course, covers the basics; media selection, phone, navigation, cameras for parking the parking assistant, climate controls displayed on the smaller 5” screen.  

The biggest addition with this Touch Pro system in the profile settings. Much like have settings linked to each key, this system goes one further. The profiles are linked to your phone and carry with them every aspect of how you like to have the I-Pace. From seat positions to which radio station you want to use. It also has the ability to learn from your patterns, for example, if you like the heated seats on in the morning on the way to work, and off on the way home. After a few days of this, it will just action these settings for you without any requests. That’s pretty cool.

The only aspect of Touch Pro that I did not like was how the parking system for the camera displayed. It used a really small area of the screen, which you can zoom in on, but it was just not as useful as many other systems on the market. It could have shown several different cameras at the same time as the top down, instead of a small overview and a big black screen. BMW’s parking assistant is light years ahead of this, easily the benchmark for everyone else to strive for.

The boot was surprisingly good; it’s been set up as more like a fastback with a large parcel shelf, which has many benefits. This space is 656 litres, and with the parcel shelf and the 60/40 split rear seats down, it opened up to 1,453 litres, which is within keeping of typical midsize SUVs. The boot floor was higher then I might have preferred, but I assume this was due to the chassis battery and onboard computer systems. Overall it’s a pretty normal space for a car of this size.

The Drive

Driving the I-Pace is about as eventful as a ride on lawn mower. It’s a super easy system to use, and it does everything you expect from it effortlessly, and since it’s so quiet, it does it in an undramatic fashion. You jump in, you press which transmission setting you want, and you move off in the desired direction. Using it is as normal as using any other car, the only real difference is that there is less sound and a lot more torque available from those motors if requested.

The range from the I-Pace was great, on a full charge it displayed over 500km, which is pretty similar to any combustion vehicles. This means you don’t have to worry about charging it each and every night, you can get a few days out of it without worrying about the remaining battery power.

As it was a review, I had to test all aspects which included standing still foot to the floor test. I am not sure what info this helps any buyer with, but it makes me feel we tested all aspects of the vehicle, which helps me sleep at night. When the foot hits the floor, your already moving, power comes on in one continuous powerful wave. Before you can really work out how fast you are going, the I-Pace will hit 100kmph in 4.5 seconds. That’s fast, real fast. For comparison, my 2009 Audi RS6 has a 5.0L twin-turbo V10 engine from a Lamborghini with almost 600hp, both cars weigh about the same, and the Audi also does 0-100kmph in 4.5 seconds. What requires a thunderous roar and several litres of petrol from my Audi, the Jaguar I-Pace can do in a much more civilized manner.

The handling from the I-Pace is not to be scoffed at, as all the weight is in the bottom of the vehicle. Thanks to all of those batteries, it means the centre of gravity is much lower than standard combustion vehicles. This means that even though it’s a bit of a crossover SUV-sized vehicle, when pushed it handles more like a sports car. Since I was fizzing from my standing start test, it would be unprofessional not to follow that up with a spirited drive around my review route. This car handles really well, so much better than you would expect it too, great control, hitting all the points you want it to in each and every corner. Well done, Jaguar.

The driver’s pedals felt like they were not placed right or a bit small or close together. It was an issue I have never come across in all the cars I had tested. I got used to it, but I am pretty sure the pedals are bunched too close together, which could be dangerous if you’re not aware of it.

Charging was simple, as it should be. The cables provided plug into your standard home outlet and then into the plug under the flap in the front left guard. I was about to say fuel flap, maybe charge flap is what we need to say for full EV’s. The charge cable has a power management box in the middle it, with one cable coming out of each side, standard plus on one side and the cable to the vehicle is bright green. At first, I thought this odd, but it makes sense, a good bright colour would highlight to all when parking and charging in a driveway that there is a cable to be mindful of.

Most nights I had the car parked off the street in my driveway, plug popping out from beneath my garage door to plug in the I-Pace. I never had any issues with it anytime I did it and every morning the car was ready and waiting at 100%. There was an additional cover under the charge flap, that allowed you to use the fast charge system, I, unfortunately, did not get a chance to use one during the review.

If you are interested to know more about charging and the types of EV, check our How-to Guide on EV Charging.

Oddly the I-Pace has height adjustable electronic suspension, and much like my own Land Rover Discovery’s air suspension system, it can adjust its body height to 3 different settings. The I-Pace has its normal running mode for everyday driving, which can be lowered to an access mode. This mode is only available at low speeds and designed to lower the body for easier access. The highest mode is targeted for offroading, which can provide up to 230mm clearance. The I-Pace looks totally ridiculous when it’s set to the highest mode, displaying an enormous gap between the top of the wheels and top of the wheel arches. At the New Zealand launch, they had time to go offroad, we didn’t make that event, but had heard that the I-Pace is a rather capable machine in the mud. Why anyone would want to get the I-Pace for even light offroading is beyond me, when there are many other more suitable options around.

What it’s up against

The fully electric vehicle market is still very small and the luxury EV market is even smaller. It won’t be for long until it grows. Tesla has the name, but right now they can’t seem to deliver cars to those who want them.

Fully Electric Cars

Brand / Model Battery /kWh Power kW/Nm Range km 0-100km/h, seconds Boot Capacity, litres Price Highest to Lowest
Tesla Model X Long Range 75 270 / 441 505 4.6 NA $156,500
Tesla Model S Long Range 75 270 / 441 590 3.7 840 $146,500
Audi E-tron 55 Quattro 95 300 / 664 417 6.6 660 $157,400
Jaguar I-Pace SE EV400 90 294 / 969 450 4.5 656 $154,000
BMW I3s 42 135 / 270 260 6.9 260 $85,900
Hyundai Kona EV Elite 64 150 / 395 449 7.9 361 $79,990
VW e-Golf 28 100 / 290 220 9.6 380 $68.490
KIA Niro EV 40 100 / 395 289 9.8 451 $67,990
Hyundai Ioniq EV Elite 28 88 / 295 200 6.9 350 $65.990

Pros Cons
  • Modern styling
  • Everyday useable design
  • Spacious cabin
  • Luxury interior
  • Eco-friendly with sporty performance
  • Modern technology
  • That glass roof
  • Price is not affordable for everyone
  • Small pedals, close together.
  • Parking camera display could use more of the screen space
  • Flat rear end

What do we think?

What makes a great EV car? Simple. The fact that it does not feel or require anything special to be an EV car. The I-Pace is as easy and familiar to use as any other petrol or diesel vehicle I have driven. It has a good range, nice power and even if you didn’t charge it every night you could give it a good charge once a week. It works and feels like an expensive luxury vehicle, which does not leave you asking why it costs so much.

My only gripe about this car are the foot pedals – they feel a bit small in width and close together. But that’s it and it’s not often that a car has so few issues. From a design point of view, I personally think the I-Pace should have been a shooting brake; the lines are set up nicely for it and would have given you a much larger boot space too.

The I-Pace is a big game changer, in the same way that Tesla was a game changer. Tesla showed us that it could be done: the world can have electric vehicles for everyday life. What Jaguar’s I-Pace showed us all, is how it should be done. The high price means high quality, something Tesla has yet to be able to offer or understand. The Jaguar I-Pace is the first glimpse of what is sure to be a long list of high-end luxury electric vehicles available on the market.

If I had to choose between the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X, the I-Pace would win hands down every time.

Rating – Chevron rating 5 out of 5


2019 Jaguar I-Pace SE EV400

Vehicle Type All-wheel drive fully electric vehicle
Starting Price $154,000
Price as Tested $172,650
Battery 90kWh
Power, Torque 294kW / 969Nm
Transmission Concentric single speed transmissions
Spare Wheel Space saver in boot
Kerb Weight, Kg 2133
Length x Width x Height, mm 4682 x 2011 x 1565
Cargo Capacity, litres 656
Consumption Advertised Spec – Combined – 22,0kWh/100km
Towing Capacity

Kg, unbraked/braked

Turning circle, metres 12

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+

Warranty Three-year manufacturer’s warranty and optional extended warranty.
ANCAP Safety Ratings 5 Star


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2019 Mazda MX-5 RF – New Car Review – More power=more fun? Thu, 13 Jun 2019 00:00:20 +0000 When we last reviewed the Mazda MX-5 RF (Retractable Fastback) in May, 2017, I loved it. What a driver’s car it was. I gave it a 4.5-Chevron rating, mentioning a few things that were ‘cons’ for me, but still loving the car.

One of those cons wasn’t the car needing more power – but Mazda felt it was due for a kick in the pants in the power department. So the car – while still retaining a 2-litre-four-cylinder engine, has gone from 118kW of power to 135kW. Okay, that’s not a massive leap, but remember that the MX-5 RF weighs in at just under 1100Kg. Torque has gone up slightly, from 200 to 205Nm.

This increase in power and torque is across both the 2-litre convertible and RF models.

Is this breaking the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mantra for the MX-5? Or is it simply going to improve the sheer driveability of the MX-5?

The Range

There’s an additional model since our last test – Mazda have added a base convertible (‘Roadster’) model fitted with a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder engine and with a 6-speed manual gearbox only. This non-turbo motor puts out 97kW of power and 152Nm of torque, and retails at $41,895. This is now the GSX model in the MX-5 range.

Next up is the Limited Roadster, with the more powerful 2-litre engine and in a manual gearbox only at $49,195.

Then there’s two RF models – manual or with a 6-speed auto, $53,745/$55,245.

Feature-wise, the GSX is fitted with a cloth soft-top, 16” black alloy wheels, LED DRLs, LED headlamps, black cloth seats, cruise control, a leather wrapped steering wheel, handbrake handle and gear shift knob, a trip computer, a 7” touchscreen central display, keyless entry and start, a reversing camera, hill start assist, a limited slip diff, a type pressure monitoring system, i-ACTIVSENSE safety technologies like Advanced Smart City Brake Support (Forward), Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. As options, there’s SatNav and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

Moving up to the Limited Roadster, it changes the wheels to 17” alloys, and adds auto headlights, heated exterior mirrors, auto wipers, black leather seating with red stitching, heated front seats, an auto dimming rear-view mirror, climate AC, a Premium Bose 203-watt sound system with 9 speakers, SatNav, proximity keyless entry, and rear parking sensors. You get more safety tech too, like Adaptive LED headlights, Lane Departure Warning, Smart City Brake Support (Reverse), Traffic Sign Recognition, and Driver Attention Alert.

The RF model of course has the power-retractable hard top, but all other features are the same as the convertible. Note the limited slip diff is only available with a manual transmission.

You can read more about the MX-5 range on Mazda New Zealand’s website.

First Impressions

Thank you Mazda, for sending me an MX-5 finished in Soul Red Crystal Metallic. This car in that colour looks bloody brilliant. The way Soul Red changes in the light is awesome. Only a blind person wouldn’t smile looking at the RF, from any angle.

It’s so low though. Not in a bad way at all, but parked next to a new Ford Ranger, it looks like a Tonka Toy.

Walking to the rear, you spot those Jaguar-ish taillights, the twin exhaust tips, the oh-so-stumpy rear end. It all just works.

The Inside

On opening the door, you’re first struck with the bright red paint on the tops of the doors. While our last test MX-5 had this too, because it was pearl white it didn’t stand out too much. In Soul Red? It looks fantastic. A real throwback to cars from the 1960s were painted door tops was all too common. The look really wallops you in the face when it’s this colour. Loved it.

Speaking of the doors, I had my notepad in hand, and remembered there’s no door pocket to put it on. Or glovebox. Or centre console cubby. Okay, that’s going a bit too far. You can (just) fit a smartphone in the centre console cubby, and there is another cubby behind that on the bulkhead – it actually fits an SLR camera – but that’s about it for storage. The MX-5 is not made to carry your crap around everywhere. That includes the car’s manual, which is stored in the boot.

Looking down into the car, we see black leather that’s complimented with red stitching on the seats, steering wheel gear shift gaiter, handbrake boot, and the doors. And yes, it also looks excellent.

It’s so low down in there, but I know there are rewards for getting behind the wheel. But first a quick check of the boot. Yup, it’s tiny, at just 127 litres. You could fit a medium-sized suitcase in there and a soft bag, but not too much more.

The Drive

Well, I don’t remember it being quite this low. It’s on dusk, and I look out the driver’s window to see car tyres at my head height. At just 1235mm high, to SUV drivers you are a speck on the road.

Driving out of the dealership, and it feels so torquey, even though torque has only gone up 5 Newton Metres. It seems a little quieter too; Mazda’s petrol engines aren’t known for their quietness (except for the CX-5 Takami we just tested), but this one seems better already.

Looking at the dash, there’s a big, fat rev counter sitting dead centre. No surprises here on what this car was meant to do. I cruised towards home, and feeling intimidated. Not by the car, but it feels like every silver SUV wants to ride right up the MX-5’s ass, to the point where I’m looking at a car’s badge in the rear view mirror, no grille to be seen. This was repeated over my week with the car. I’m not sure if it’s the car or the colour, or that people just want to get close to it to look down on me, but man it got annoying.

When I got home, the car told me my lawns needed doing, as I heard grass brushing against the floor pan. Yes, it’s that low. It’s funny, I wrote in my notes that it feels like you are driving in a C3 Corvette, as the guards stretch out and up in front of you, and the bonnet dips down. Then I read my 2017 review of the car, and had said the same thing there. I think this is even more pronounced with the colour of this MX-5.

And that colour. Soul Red Crystal Metallic. This is my favourite colour of any car on the market today. Photos will not do it any justice. Yes, it looks good on a CX-5 and great on an CX-9, but the MX-5 wins hands-down; this is THE COLOUR to get. Everywhere I went – everywhere – people stared, looked, turned their heads, or pointed. It may be a $300 option, but it’s so worth it. I have to say, my wife – who is a total introvert – did not like this about the MX-5.

And then there were the people that had to talk to me. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy talking to people about their cars, but it seemed every man and his dog who had owned an MX-5 before, or had even been in one, wanted to chat about it. I didn’t mind at all, but it sucked up a bit of time some days.

Heading out the next day, time to hit the motorway. A van’s tyres are above my head, but I don’t care – I’m starting to remember how much fun this little car is to drive, especially with that snick-snicketty 6-speed manual gearbox. It’s one of the better ones, very short throw, and decent indents. Very rarely did I miss a gear. The clutch was perfect too – light, but still with good feel. I see in the last test I mentioned how heavy the clutch was, so it looks like Mazda have done some work here.

I noticed that someone else had turned off Lane Departure Warning on the car, so I stuck it back on. But not for long. It’s a passive system, so only makes a noise, but the noise to does make if your tyres touch the white line is like something out of War of the Worlds. It’s a bit scary, and I turned off LDW too, and left it off.

There’s a small digital readout for what gear you are in inside the rev counter, but a shame there’s no digital speedo. It’s easy to get the MX-5 up to legal speed, and this is really needed for any car these days.

The MX-5 doesn’t do any rev matching like the Type R or i30N, but the pedals are perfectly placed for heel and toe gear changes. I did this every gear change for the whole week. Old habits die hard.

Next to the gear lever, there’s been no change to the handbrake. I’m sort of glad it hasn’t gone electronic in the MX-5, but it does take up a lot of room in that tiny cabin. And like the last test model, the handbrake is really on the wrong side of the gear lever, at times making gear changes a bit awkward. Still, it’s perfectly placed if handbrake slides are your thing. I imagine it does them quite well, with that super-short wheelbase.

A super short wheelbase will also mean a small cockpit, and it is tiny. I know that John from DriveLife, who is well over six foot, cannot change gears or lift his foot off the gas pedal enough to brake. Tricky stuff, and something to think about before going out and buying your significant other a surprise MX-5, if they are oversized.

The engine is definitely quieter than before, and feels like it has much more pep. An additional 30kW is 50 more horsepower. In a car weighing in at under 1100Kg, that’s a good increase to have. It seems a lot quicker off the mark, and it’s easier to get the rear wheels to spin without much effort at all. The previous model took 7.3 seconds to get to 100km/h; that’s down to 6.5 seconds now. That extra power and a little bit of extra torque has made the MX-5 a lot more tractable around town, taking corners in third gear with ease.

That’s not to say it doesn’t like to rev. It enjoys revving out to the 7,000rpm redline as much as it likes tootling around town in a higher gear. This also translates to an easier drive if you head to a twisty road. While the car we drove in 2017 handled amazingly well – as MX-5s are known to do – this new model makes it even easier, as you can leave the car in a higher gear on the corners too, and concentrate on steering the thing. Of course, if you want to keep it in a lower gear and rev it higher, it will happily do that, and you will happily drive it like that.

Like the last model, the MX-5 is a driver’s car; it handles incredibly well, sitting almost flat on the tightest of bends. The steering is oh-so-direct, and it is one car that truly feels like a go-kart, as you zoom along, feeling like you are in a go-kart you are so low down.

You can get some tyre scrubbing and understeer going on if you hit an off-camber corner too fast. It doesn’t matter too much, but on taking the MX-5 out on the same road I took the last RF model, this one did seem to do this more. Perhaps I was going faster with the extra power, I’m not sure.

There’s one thing here that still sticks in my mind for the MX-5; the ride. It should not ride this well. There’s not that much wheel travel, it’s a sports car, and yet even speed bumps are taken better than many cars I’ve driven. I still can’t get over the quality of the ride, especially when you consider how light the car is; it’s bloody hard to make a light car ride well, and Mazda have pulled a double-whammy here: it’s a light sports car that rides incredibly well. Total credit to Mazda for pulling this off.

I guess though lots of buyers/drivers of the MX-5 won’t care about the ride, but it’s a great bonus. But yes, handling is where the car excels, and the extra power (and torque) have only made it better.

Some things remain the same with the car, and some things change. The things that haven’t changed include the engine sound; there really isn’t a nice, grunty-car noise that it makes. It’s crying out to snap crackle and pop, or just sound better than it does. Maybe next time.

One more thing that hasn’t changed, is the wind noise when the top is down. Up by your ear, there’s an annoying whooshing noise, that could really get to you on a long trip. I expect taller drivers have it worse. Mind you, there was a cold spell while I had the car, so I didn’t have the top down too much. With the top up, it’s as quiet as a normal car, feeling very secure and tight.

I did put the top up and down a few times to remind myself what the RF is like. You can put it up or down, up to 10km/h. It’s a pretty quick system, and is a real party trick if you want to show the RF off.

Other things have definitely improved. It sounds quieter than before with the top up, and feels like and is quiet as a hard-top car. Top up or down, those rear buttresses will majorly block your vision to the side. There’s almost no point checking to the side if you are changing lanes, as all you can see is red. Luckily, the Blind Spot Monitoring works well, and also has an audible warning if you flick your indicator on and there’s a car or bike in the next lane. You really need this in the MX-5 RF.

Last time, I complained (nicely) that the MX-5 didn’t have a reversing camera – now it does. I also mentioned it didn’t have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, so at least those are options now.

One change is the final adaption of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Mazda have joined the rest of the world at last with this feature – hell, even Toyota has finally agreed to implement it – and it’s a welcome feature to have, even if it is an optional extra. Speaking of audio, no changes here; two USB ports in the centre console, along with an AUX port. Phone calls are diverted to the speakers inside the driver’s headrest, and it works brilliantly well, top up or down. It does feel a little strange to have your caller so close to your ears like that, but the quality is great.

Not that it matters, but what about fuel economy? For the last MX-5 RF, I got 6.7L/100km, which for the first time for any car, was better than the manufacturer’s claim. Over a 500km week, the new RF managed 7.1 L/100km. Mazda reckons it should average 6.9, so that’s pretty close.

I have to mention the amount of people who threw words around at me and the RF, like ‘hairdresser’s car’ and ‘mid-life crisis’. I want to squash these two things out, right now. Hairdresser’s car? Good on any hairdresser for buying an MX-5. I’m envious! Fantastic handling and looks, and people want to put them down for that? More fool them.

And so to mid-life crisis. I think we’ve got this the wrong way around. My thoughts on this are that it’s around that time when you can afford to go out and buy a new MX-5. Crisis? What crisis? Let’s call it ‘mid-life affordability’.

The Competition

Brand/Model Engine Power/Torque


Number of seats 0-100km/h, seconds Fuel L/100km Base Price – High to Low
Mazda MX-5 RF RWD 2-litre, 4-cylinder petrol 135/205 2 6.5 6.9 $53,745
Fiat Abarth 124 Spider RWD 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol 125/250 2 6.8 6.4 $52,990
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce FWD 1.7-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol 177/340 5 6.0 6.8 $49,990
Toyota GT86 RWD 2-litre, 4-cylinder petrol 152/212 4 7.4 8.4 $48,990

The Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
  • Ride
  • Handling
  • Steering
  • Design
  • Fuel Economy
  • A blast to drive
  • Gearbox
  • Red stitching
  • Wind noise with top down
  • Blind spot
  • Needs a decent exhaust note

The Verdict

Initially, I gave this version of the MX-5 a 4.5-chevron rating, the same as the last MX-5 RF. Then I re-read this review and decided it’s worthy of the full 5-chevron rating. Mazda have taken our slight criticisms of the car (no reversing camera, or CarPlay/Android Auto) and have fixed this, and added more power, without detracting from the total blast that the MX-5 is to drive. So I’ve changed my mind, and I’m happy – as any MX-5 RF driver would be.

The MX-5 is totally capable as a Daily Driver too – it did me just fine – and I severely doubt you’d ever see an MX-5 driver doing anything other than smiling.

The 2019 MX-5 RF is a brilliant driver’s car, if not one of the best.


2019 Mazda MX-5 RF

5.0 Chevrons

Vehicle Type 2-door retractable hardtop sports car
Starting Price $53,754
Price as Tested $53,754
Engine 2-litre, 4-cylinder petrol
Transmission 6-speed manual
Power, Torque


Spare Wheel Space saver
Kerb Weight, Kg 1,087
Length x Width x Height, mm 3915x1735x1235
Cargo Capacity, litres 127
Fuel Economy, L/100km Advertised Spec – combined – 6.9

Real World Test – combined – 7.1

Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+

Fuel tank capacity, litres 45
Towing Capacity

Kg, unbraked/braked

Turning circle, metres 9.4

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+

Warranty 5 years Mazdacare warranty unlimited km

5 years Roadside Assistance unlimited km

Mazda Servicing for 3 years/100,000km

ANCAP Safety Ratings 5 Star


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Hyundai introduces the Nexo – New Zealand’s first hydrogen-powered SUV Wed, 12 Jun 2019 00:14:16 +0000 Hyundai New Zealand today revealed the all-new NEXO, New Zealand’s first zero emissions hydrogen powered SUV. Whilst NEXO is Hyundai Motor Company’s second-generation of commercialised fuel cell electric vehicle, it’s a first for New Zealand.

Hyundai New Zealand General Manager Andy Sinclair says: “This is truly an incredible milestone for Hyundai New Zealand to be able to introduce NEXO, a culmination of our cutting-edge technologies and the flagship of our growing eco-vehicle portfolio. NEXO not only embodies our commitment to advanced eco-friendly vehicle development, it also reinforces our leadership in fuel cell electric vehicles.”

A milestone in the evolution of motoring, NEXO not only produces zero emissions but also has an advanced air purification system which filters 99.9% of very fine dust (PM2.5), emitting only water and clean air into the environment. The vehicle shows the exact amount of air purified on the display panel in the car.

An on-board electric motor produces 120kW and a torque of 395 Nm, drawing power from an under-bonnet fuel cell stack, which combines oxygen from the surrounding air with hydrogen from NEXO’s high-pressure storage tanks. The result is electricity to power the motor and charge the battery. With full tanks of hydrogen on board, NEXO is capable of traveling 605km (WLTP) before it needs to refuel, which Hyundai says takes just a few minutes.

“We are entering an exciting time in the evolution of motoring and we are proud to lead the charge in advancing fuel technologies globally and here in New Zealand. The exact date for NEXO going to market in New Zealand ultimately depends on New Zealand’s ability to provide the infrastructure for the hydrogen fuelling stations. New Zealand has an abundance of renewable electricity that could be used to produce hydrogen in a sustainable way so we are working closely with the NZ Hydrogen Association towards a solution,” adds Mr Sinclair.

Dr. Linda Wright, Chief Executive of the NZ Hydrogen Association says Hyundai New Zealand need to be congratulated for being the first company to bring hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to New Zealand, “it is clear that Hyundai New Zealand is committed to leading the charge in assisting New Zealand transition to a low emission future. The Hyundai brand is synonymous with sustainability and a zero-emission future and the fact that Hyundai New Zealand has managed to get the NEXO here is fantastic. I drove the NEXO in Korea last year and understand fully the global demand for Hyundai’s premium fuel cell passenger vehicle. Andy Sinclair would have had to wrestle this vehicle away from other larger markets”, she says. “It is also a sign that New Zealand’s potential to create a hydrogen economy from our renewable energy resources is attracting attention from countries like Korea and Japan.

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

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

Hyundai New Zealand was one of the founding members and the first automotive manufacturer to join the NZ Hydrogen Association in 2018.

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2019 Suzuki Jimny – Car Review – Tonka Toy Mon, 10 Jun 2019 00:00:07 +0000 Suzuki’s new Jimny has been getting a lot of attention online, mainly because of its looks. And it does look awesome. John has already had the chance to play with one off-road at the launch. But what is it like to drive daily? We drove one over the long Easter weekend to find out.

The Range

There are four options for the Jimny, but they’re all the same general spec, with the same 1.5-litre 4-cylinder 16-valve engine, making 75kW of power and 130Nm of Torque. The differences between the models are; 5-speed manual manual or 4-stage auto, single or two-tone paint. Starting at $25,990 for manual or $27,000 for auto. Add $500 to either for the two-tone paint.

The spec includes remote locking, cruise control with speed limiter, electric windows, rear privacy glass, satnav, Bluetooth head unit with Apple Carplay and Android Auto, climate control, LED projector headlamps with washers and auto high beam, 15-inch alloys, lane departure warning, weaving alert, ESP, ABS, EBD, brake assist, hill descent control, 6 airbags, front seatbelt pre-tensioners and force limiters, and LSD traction control.

The base version is available in dark green, black, white or silver. The two-tone in either beige or the rather lurid shade of yellow as tested, both with a black roof.

First Impressions

In this colour – Kinetic Yellow – the Jimny really knows how to make a first impression. People point at it, and it almost always raises a smile. I love it. I think the car looks fantastic in such a bright colour with the contrasting roof and arches. At first glance, in photos, it looks big and chunky. But when you see it in real life it’s tiny, at less than 3.5 metres long.

I think Suzuki have done a cracking job in styling this car.

The Inside

Inside, the Jimny is, er, utilitarian. The dash is all black plastic, and the whole cabin has that sparse Land-Rover type feel, with that high, square roof. But the plastics are chunky and feel strong enough to take some punishment.

You’re not short of mod-cons. There’s a 7-inch touch-screen head unit with Bluetooth, USB, satnav, Apple Carplay and Android Auto. Climate control is standard, controlled by chunky controls in the centre of the dash. The stereo sounds pretty good at low volumes, but crank it up and there’s a lot of distortion, and the bass rattles the metal around the speakers.

The driver’s display has two big analogue gauges for the speedo and rev counter – designed to look like they’re bolted in place in square mounts. In the centre is a digital display for the trip computer, fuel economy etc.

The steering wheel is leather-trimmed and has thumb controls for the stereo, phone and cruise control functions, which all fall nicely to hand.

The seats are trimmed in hard-wearing cloth and are comfortable enough. Likewise the rear seats are pretty comfy, and have a surprisingly large amount of legroom. You’d definitely get four adults in there. The passenger seat slides forward to allow access to the rear seats, and all of the adjusters are simple levers. Everything feels workmanlike and tough.

With the rear seats up there’s barely any room behind them but there is a box in the floor, giving a total of 85 litres of storage, or 377 litres with the seats folded flat. The rear seats split 50/50 and the backs are tough plastic so you can chuck your gear in there without worrying too much about dirtying them.

The boot door is pretty big, and swings outwards, and can be a little awkward depending on how you park, but it gives you a very easy-access space to cram the bigger stuff in.

The Drive

We’ve already talked about the Jimny’s off-road abilities in our launch article, so I decided to stay on the tarmac for the duration of this test. So what’s this little off-roader like as a daily drive?

The Jimny’s suspension is pretty soft, obviously set up for off-roading. Fire up that little 1.5-litre 4-cylinder and give it a rev, and the car rocks as you push the throttle. Like a V8 does. It made me grin every time. Looking out over that square bonnet, with the chunky arches and high driving position gives you a very similar feel to a big ute. Then you remember you’re in a tiny Jimny.

I’m happy to say that our review car came with the 5-speed manual, and it’s a good one, easy to shift and with a tight, satisfying feel. Given the fairly basic feel of the rest of the car, I didn’t expect the shift to be as good as it was. What about performance? The 1.5-litre 4-cylinder makes a respectable 75kW, but the Jimny is hardly quick. It’s not meant to be, but the high driving position and the noises it makes, make you feel like you’re going quicker than you are. What this adds up to is an enormously fun little car to drive. It put a grin on my face every time I drove it. You feel like you’re zipping around, rolling on corners, shifting up and down that great gearbox, when in reality you’re doing about 40. I absolutely loved it.

It can be a bit less fun on the motorway. It’s not bad noise-wise when travelling at the 100kph limit, but at one point I was driving along the Wellington motorway, and was caught by a gust of wind. It gave the car quite a wobble and you have to be ready for it! Less than 1100kg in a high-sided vehicle definitely makes it susceptible to winds.

But generally, driving this car was a pleasure. It’s small and easy to manoeuvre and park, visibility is great, it fits in small spaces. I was surprised it didn’t have a reversing camera as they are pretty much standard on everything these days. Not that it’s really needed but the spare wheel does take up a bit of your rear view, so a camera would be handy in some situations.

Suzuki quote a fuel efficiency rating of 6.4l/100km, and on longer trips I was averaging less than that. Most of my use was shorter journeys around town, so my overall average was 7.5 Still not bad, and it would definitely drop if you were doing a few more km than I was.

The Competition

This is a tough one. It’s hard to think of anything else in the same category as the Jimny. When it comes to SUVs, everything else is much more expensive and luxurious, so the Jimny seems to be in a class of its own.

Brand/Model Engine Power/Torque Fuel, L/100km Seats Boot Space, Litres Towing Capacity, Kg Price Highest to Lowest
Suzuki Jimny manual two-tone 1.4-litre 4-cylinder 75kW/130Nm 6.4 4 85 500/950 $26,490

The pros and cons

Pros Cons
  • Basic
  • A pleasure to zip around in
  • Roomy for 4
  • Easy to drive and park
  • Big truck feel!
  • Off-road ability
  • Great value
  • Basic
  • Tiny boot
  • Noisy
  • Stereo not great
  • Body roll

What we think

Lots of people asked me about this car, everyone was interested in it. People pointed at it, almost everyone smiled. It has something about its design that makes people like it.

It’s easy to find things to pick at with this car – it’s basic, quite noisy, rolls on corners, etc etc. But that would be missing the point, which is that it’s enormous fun to drive. Then consider that it has great off-road abilities with its four-wheel-drive, low-ratio gearbox, and a short wheelbase.

There’s nothing else close to it on the market in this price range, with these abilities. And it has some decent comfort and safety features included. I loved it.


Rating – Chevron rating (4.5 out of 5)

2019 Suzuki Jimny

Vehicle Type Compact SUV


Starting Price $25,990 plus on-road costs
Tested Price $26,490 plus on-road costs
Engine 1.5-litre 4-cylinder 16-valve
Power Kw / Torque Nm 75/140
Transmission 5-speed manual with low-ratio
0 – 100 kph, seconds N/A
Spare Wheel Full-sized
Kerb Weight, Kg 1095
Length x Width x Height, mm 3480 x 1645 x 1720
Cargo Capacity, litres 85 seats up

377 seats folded

Fuel Tank, litres 40
Fuel Efficiency Advertised Spec – Combined –  6.4L / 100km

Real World Test – Combined –  7.5L / 100km

Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+

Towing 500kg unbraked

950kg braked

Turning circle 9.8

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+

Warranty 5 year extensive warranty programme
ANCAP Rating 3 stars

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2019 Audi e-tron – first impressions Fri, 07 Jun 2019 20:00:39 +0000 There’s been a certain euro manufacturer lately that’s pretty much grabbed the spotlight by launching a small electric SUV. It’s never fun being the bridesmaid, but it does mean more development time.

Can the $148,500 Audi e-tron fend off the $144,900 Jaguar I-PACE? Is it a better car than the I-PACE, or are buyers going to be more the ‘loyal to Audi’ type, rather than those who might swing either way.

Shortly after the e-tron pricing was announced, Jaguar dropped its price of the I-PACE to lower than that of the Audi. If there ever was a sign that Jaguar was seeing the e-tron as a genuine threat, that was it.

Audi invited us to the New Zealand reveal of the e-tron in Auckland. First up would be some low-level tech talk, followed by a reveal of the car.

Day two would be a very short drive of the e-tron. Since the initial press cars are all left-hand drive, we’d be accompanied by a chaperone, and our ‘drive’ would only be for 20 minutes, so not really enough time to get a feel for the car, but enough for a first impression.


First up though, we heard from Dean Sheed, Audi NZ General Manager. He says by 2025, Audi will be selling 30 electrified cars (to some degree), with about 12 will being 100% EV. Locally, there will be four EV cars for sale by the end of 2021.

But what about the e-tron? This car was launched in San Francisco late last year, and is built in Belgium. This plant is the first to be globally 100% C02 neutral, with roof-mounted solar panels that span 5 football fields, or 137,000sq/m, and these solar panels power the entire plant.

Eight days after it was officially announced in New Zealand, the entire year’s production run for New Zealand was sold out. Dean smiled a lot when he said this – and who can blame him.

Currently there are four e-trons in country, and all are left-hand drive. Audi have been using these cars for training their techs around the country in understanding and repairing high-voltage electronics. Since the e-tron runs a 400-volt battery system, that’s pretty important.

We’re still 8 weeks away from the first delivery of right-hand drive e-trons, so that’s not too long to wait. In fact, New Zealand is the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to get the e-tron, so Audi New Zealand are pretty proud of that.

The four LHD e-trons have also been used for other things, like making sure the car fits in with the public charging infrastructure, and also to improve and design home charging options. One option that is available is via a partnership with Vector and HRV. HRV and Vector will assess your home, then provide you with an electric report showing your power household usage, and then specify and install a domestic charger.

With standard charging facilities at home, Dean suggests an overnight charge will get you around 180km of additional range.

The new e-tron is capable of accepting a very high 150-kilowatt charge – the first EV in the world to achieve this. Since many of New Zealand’s ‘Fast Chargers’ are 50kW, you can see this is a massive improvement. Some Audi dealerships will have the new chargers, with the odd one having 175kW chargers onsite. This reduces the charge time for the customer considerably.

Speaking of batteries and charging, one of Dean’s first statements was that the e-tron “obliterates the range debate”. According to Audi, the e-tron should do around 420km on a single charge. That’s on par with the I-PACE, but the e-tron does have the ability to tow up to 1.8 ton.

Still on batteries, Audi knows that too much heat and too much cold are bad for batteries, so the e-tron’s battery bank is encased in its own air-conditioned housing, to ensure a steady temperature at all times. The entire battery bank weighs in at 700kg, with 432 individual cells within the battery – and each cell is serviceable. Battery capacity is 95kW.

Mechanically, there is an electric motor front and rear, meaning the e-tron will be all-wheel drive. Power output is considerable at 300kW, and there’s a massive 660Nm of torque to call on. Mind you, with the car weighing just under 2.5 ton, it needs that torque. The e-tron will get to 100km/h in just over 5 seconds. Later on, there will be a performance version of the car.

Another world-first are the e-tron’s virtual mirrors. The key reason for these is to lower the drag coefficient to give you 30-35km of extra range per charge. Using fibre optic cables, cameras and OLED screens inside the doors, you can pinch and zoom the view on the screens. In AWD mode the car will show you the ground to see what you can’t see. Apparently there’s also digital processing of the image, so it’s much more ‘usable’ at night, and this processing can also remove raindrops from the image, should some get onto the camera lens.

Then, they pulled the covers off the two cars on display. Thankfully, Audi haven’t gone in the wrong direction and made the look weird or out of the ordinary. It looks similar in size and shape to a Q5, and I’m happy about that.

Audi have had a direction with the e-tron that it’s to be as ‘normal’ as possible. It still has the resemblance of a grille at the front, and looks the better for it. It can tow, it has five seats and a decent 660 litres of boot space with the second row up. The only few differences I could see over a petrol or diesel-engined car was the different gear selector, the opening panel for charging the car, and the slightly ugly wheels.

Otherwise it looks the same as any other Audi, one of the show cars even having a pod on the roof. Dean went to great pains to inform us that not only could the Audi take a roof rack, it can also take bikes on the roof, unlike a certain other EV.

While there is just the one charging point on the left side of the car at the moment, there are future plans to have a charging point on both sides of the e-tron.


The next day we turned up for our brief drive. It wasn’t a long drive, as Audi had a number of journalists and potential buyers lined up for drives. Although it rained off and on, it didn’t matter – a short drive was only going to be a taster.

We headed out of the showroom, and cruised through the suburbs of Kingsland, and eventually onto the motorway. As you’d expect, progress was silent, and driving the e-tron felt similar to the Q8. The whole dashboard/centre console is very Q8ish, except for that transmission selector. It looks pretty futuristic, but is simple to use.

Performance in Comfort mode wasn’t touchy or jerky. You could feel the performance potential, but with people lined up to drive the car, I wasn’t about to test out full-throttle acceleration. Performance can feel a little subdued in Comfort made, as that 2.4-ton weight comes into play. The paddle shifters allow you to increase or decrease the amount of regenerative braking, and the level of this can also be adjusted.

Both drive cars for today had standard mirrors, so there was no testing out of the virtual mirrors.

The e-tron is a nice drive and so far lives up to promises. Will it beat the popular I-PACE and the Mercedes-Benz EQC? We can’t wait to get one for a full review, then we can find out.

Initially, there will be two models available in New Zealand; e-tron 55 quattro and e-tron 55 quattro Advanced. The base model is priced at $148,500 and the Advanced model $157,000.

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2019 Ford Focus Active – launch Thu, 06 Jun 2019 00:00:49 +0000 There’s no denying the Focus is a strong seller for Ford New Zealand, with the ST-Line leading the pack in sales. While the Focus Trend is the base, the ST-Line makes for the sporty-looking model, and the top-spec Titanium grabs the luxury model moniker.

But is there something missing in the range? Ford NZ thinks so, and in October will be selling the new Active model, aimed at people with an active lifestyle.


We headed off to Byron Bay on the Gold Coast to check the Active out. The first part of the launch was a two-hour drive to lunch from the airport, in the new model. Sitting there in the car park, the height difference was obvious, as was the protective plastic skirting around the wheel arches. There’s different wheels too, unique to the Active model. Other than that it looks that same as the current gen Focus, launched in 2018. Our first drive car was finished in Ruby Red, and looked great.

Driving out of the airport as a passenger, the Focus still impresses with quietness, and the obvious performance potential with that sweet little 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder EcoBoost turbo engine. Driving on the motorway was almost serene, although if the driver floors it to pass a car, the engine takes on a nice growl to let you know it’s working harder.

We got to our lunch location, and it was time for a talk from Ford Australia’s marketing people on the changes to the car, and how it slots into the market.


Ford says the Active is not considered a crossover, but instead adds capability to the existing car. They feel car buyers are more informed and particular, and want to express themselves – and this includes the car they choose to drive, as it makes a statement of who they are, and who they want to be. That’s where the Focus Active aims to be.

Probably the biggest mechanical change in the car is the moving from a torsion beam rear suspension, to fully independent rear suspension. The front has been lifted 30mm, and the rear 34mm to give it some better capability for those with active lifestyles.

As mentioned, there’s unique 17” alloys with higher profile Hankook tyres, as well as unique springs and stabilisers bars, and revised suspension geometry.

Mechanically, there’s some extra drive modes; the Active adds the option of Trail, and Slippery. Trail helps maintain momentum on surfaces like mud and sand. Slippery mode is for snow, ice, grass or gravel, and reduces straight-ahead wheel spin.

Visually, there’s unique Active bumpers, a front grille and LED fog lights are fitted. Also as standard are roof rails. There’s special interior trim with Nordic Blue stitching, Active scuff plates, and Active door appliques.

Thankfully, Ford New Zealand have specced the single model they are going to sell here with adaptive cruise control (with Stop/Go function), autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and an 8” colour touch screen. There’s also SatNav at standard, with a Breadcrumbs feature. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also fitted as standard.

The New Zealand-spec cars will also have a Lane Centering function, as well as Road Edge Detection and a lane keeping aid, traffic sign recognition, and a 5-star ANCPA rating.

This is the Australian-spec model with different wheels and a panoramic sunroof.

Engine-wise there’s no change from the 1.5-litre EcoBoost motor, putting out 134kW of power and a decent 240Nm of torque. It also has cylinder deactivation to save fuel, which will disable the first cylinder, running the car on two cylinders when it can.

In New Zealand, the Active will cost $36,990 +ORC. Yep, it’s the same price as the delicious ST Line. For the time being, we’ll have just the one model and if there is demand, an up-spec model may be introduced later.

It will be available from October this year.


After lunch, we hit the road again for another two-hour drive to our night’s stay in Byron Bay. Again, the Focus Active impresses, as I take the wheel. It has the same rotary transmission shifter as the new Endura SUV, and it’s a bit of a love/hate thing.

The steering though – so direct, and although this car sits 30mm higher than the standard Focus, it still feels sporty as you chuck it around the bends. Helping things along here is that engine; with 240Nm of torque, it’s a real joy to drive and that growl it makes when you wind out a bit is bliss to the ears.

The ride is excellent over most surfaces, and some of the back roads we were sent on really hammered the car. We couldn’t believe the state of the roads we were going on, but the Active took them in its stride.

I kept thinking of how much different it handles than a standard Focus – or does it even handle differently? Yes, there is more body roll if you push it a bit too hard, but on the whole Ford have done well. With the increased height, it’s not that much different. Perhaps that’s the new independent rear suspension and revised suspension geometry doing their thing.

Wheel arch guards coming in handy on this road

The next day it’s a more direct drive back to the airport, but with a stop on the way for some light off-roading through some deep sand. One car did get stuck – not enough momentum – but the rest fair sailed through the sand without drama. No doubt the increased ground clearance of the car helped here.

Made it!

Didn’t make it

After that small drama, it was on to the airport via more back roads, suburbia and the Gold Coast’s motorway system.


Will the Active succeed against cars like the FWD version of the Mazda CX-3, and other front-wheel-drive small SUVs, taking buyers away to something as familiar as the Focus?

Own our verdict will need to wait until we get a test car for a week, then we can really see if it’s a worthy option for those seeking an active lifestyle.

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New Zealand debut of the Holden Colorado ROX Wed, 05 Jun 2019 20:00:44 +0000 Another week and another plane trip to Auckland, but this time it was different. I was on the way to the reveal of something called the Holden Colorado ROX. I had a look around for info, and found no news about this model, no global press information at all. All I knew was that it was being revealed by Holden New Zealand at Kauri Bay Boomrock in Auckland.

That in itself was pretty exciting, as 99% of all vehicles have been released to the world long before they get to us in New Zealand.

The event started at Holden HQ in Mangere. The weather was less than ideal with heavy rain and thunderstorms forecast for later in the day. The reveal was at Kauri Bay Boomrock and the team at Holden had put on a convoy to get us there. We had a selection of vehicles on from us, Holden Acadia, Holden Trax, Holden Colorado and Holden Equinox. All of these vehicles have been fully reviewed by our team and can be found by the links below.

2019 Holden Acadia LTZ-V – Car Review – Arriving like a Boss

2017 Holden Equinox LTZ-V – New Car Review – The Boy Racer SUV

2017 Holden Trax – Car Review – Small car, big change

2017 Holden Colorado LTZ – Car Review – Local Contender

Once we arrived at Boomrock, we were greeted with a large object under a black tarp. Under which was this so-called Colorado ROX. But before we got to see anything, we got the back story about the ROX.

The Colorado ROX is the brainchild of the Marc Ebolo, managing director of Holden New Zealand. Marc wanted to push the envelope further then it had been pushed before, going past the Holden accessory range and out into the custom parts market. He wanted a truck that was as big as the appetite New Zealand has for offroading, a truck ready for anything from the word go.

The goal was clear, the deadline was 10 weeks, and they couldn’t do it without some professional help. This is where family run team from RVE (Retro Vehicle Enhancement) came into the picture. Now they just had to make it happen in time for Fieldays, where the Colorado ROX would be centre stage.

“Once the ball was rolling our Marketing team, together with partners Retro Vehicle Enhancement (RVE), spent considerable time and effort bringing this concept to life – and I think they’ve smashed the project out of the park,” said Marc

Once revealed we saw what can only be described as a super-truck. It was huge, everything about it was big. The ROX features massive 35-inch Blackbear mud terrain tyres, with custom-made monster flares.  A six-inch suspension and body lift from standard, Rock Sliders’ with removable drop steps trying to make it as easy as getting in and out of a standard Colorado. A carbon fibre high-rise bonnet with the biggest air-scope ever seen, a hand-crafted bespoke front steel bumper, replicated at the back of the vehicle too. A rear deck cargo system and 500mm tray extender, together with an extended wrapping roof bar incorporating retractable lights and roof basket. The interior of the vehicle has been up-spec’d with the addition of front and rear RVE sports seats, complete with hand-made leather upholstery.

The reveal was just that, no one got to drive this beast, which was a big disappointment, as the day’s weather was for fit for the pigs. After Fieldays they plan to take the ROX on a roadshow of New Zealand which is planned across 12-18 months.

There was no talk around the cost, or if they even plan to sell them. Right now, it’s about dreaming big and seeing what you can do when you step outside the box. Hopefully, when it’s in Wellington we can get a bit of time behind the wheel to see what the ROX is all about in a full review.

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Holden New Zealand’s 65th Anniversary – The Chatham Islands Wed, 05 Jun 2019 00:00:33 +0000 A few weeks ago, DriveLife received an invitation from Holden along with a press release.

“It is claimed the Chatham Island rose from the sea 65-million years ago, so there is a great synergy with 2019 being the year Holden celebrates its 65th anniversary in New Zealand,”

Okay, bit of a tenuous link but I’ll go with it.

“We had a strong desire to make a real statement to mark this milestone so decided to venture where no other automotive brand has ever been before and sent a fleet of five new SUV models to Chatham Island.  By visiting this far-flung outcrop of New Zealand, it reaffirms our commitment to all Kiwis that Holden is very much here to stay and is an important part of the landscape. It also allows us to showcase our impressive new portfolio in an equally as impressive environment.”

This is sounding better and better, I thought, and put my hand up like a shot. I’m all for visiting far-flung places. And if cars are involved, even better!

Finally the day arrived, I packed up several layers of warm clothing and my gumboots, as advised by Holden, and set off to Wellington Airport. Air Chathams only fly to and from Wellington one day a week, so I was flying out via Christchurch, and back via Auckland. In Christchurch I met up with a group of my journalistic colleagues, where we were disappointed to see a two hour delay on the flight, which turned into four hours. We eventually found out that a component had failed on the landing system, so nothing important. As they only have one plane on that route, we had to wait for the part to be flown from Auckland. As this meant we wouldn’t be driving when we arrived, we retired to the pub. It’s a hard life sometimes.

Talking of the plane, it’s a Convair, built in 1953, one of the last of its type in passenger configuration, and it’s quite an experience to fly in compared to more modern planes. This plane has quite a history too. In 1955 it was seriously damaged by fire, dismantled, then re-built in the original factory. It belonged to various airlines around the world until in 1983 it hit a snow bank on landing, detaching the propeller blade, which entered the cabin, causing several injuries. It was repaired, re-commissioned, then later had the cargo door fitted before finally coming to Air Chathams in 1996.

It’s seriously old-school inside, and I have to admit I was nervous as we got on board. But the flight, though loud, was uneventful. We even got a hot drink and a Tim Tam. Finally we started descending, with no sign of any light outside apart from the wing markers, and it was a bit of a surprise when we touched down with a good thump.

We all piled into a minibus and headed out to the settlement of Waitangi, to Hotel Chatham. Driving through the blackness, with gravel from the road clanging and pinging up into the wheel arches, sacrificing the occasional possum that was too slow to dodge the bus.

We all set our devices forward 45 minutes to local time while we waited for our long-anticipated dinner of fresh blue cod, a Chathams speciality which was delicious.

After a good night’s sleep, with the sound of the waves lapping on the beach a few metres outside my window, I was up bright and early to see the sun rise over the harbour. Hotel Chatham is in a lovely spot, right on the beach, with a great view across the water.

After breakfast, we were heading out of Waitangi, for a little exploratory drive. First there was what our guide Toni described as the CBD tour. Blink and you missed it as there are only really three buildings. About 100m out of the town, the asphalt ended and it was gravel for the rest of the way. The whole island has just a few kilometres of sealed road around the main settlements and the airport. The rest is gravel, but we all commented on how well maintained and smooth the gravel roads were.

For the first drive of the day I had jumped into the Acadia. The keys were already in the cars – no-one seems to worry about locking their cars here. Then again where would someone go if they decided to steal a car on such a tiny island? They don’t worry too much about WoFs or rego either.

We headed out of town in convoy, and I got my first proper look at Chatham Island. It has the hallmarks of a remote and unforgiving place to live. It’s green with rocky outcrops, and narrow gravel roads winding through the fields and paddocks. There are farms and settlements dotted about, and the occasional abandoned car or farm vehicle slowly rusting away at the side of the road. It’s the sort of place where practicality overcomes aesthetics when it comes to buildings. But it’s also ruggedly beautiful, in some places desolate, in others majestic. While I was there it was constantly cloudy, with occasional quick rain showers, and rainbows in the distance almost constantly. At one point we passed a hilly paddock full of sheep, with a single rugby post at one end. Maybe they play a different game in the Chathams.

We carried on driving into the countryside, having a bit of fun, gradually building up more speed and confidence on the gravel surface, but never reaching the speed limit of 80kph. I don’t think there are many places on the island where you would want to, or could do so safely. The Acadia rode smoothly and felt solid and planted, handing the surface and corners well.

Eventually we came to a herd of sheep in the road, which seemed a good time to turn back towards the hotel.

After swapping into a Trailblazer back at the hotel, we headed out again, this time to the South East towards Manukau Point, where there’s a statue of Tame Horomona Rehe (known as Tommy Solomon) who was born in 1884 and died in 1933. He is recognised as the last pure blood Moriori.

Next was an outing onto a farm, through a few gates, and onto a gravel track past the Chathams’ attempt at adding some renewable energy to replace the diesel generators that currently provide their electricity. Unfortunately it was mothballed due to technical issues.

The track gradually disappeared and we were driving along a couple of ruts in a peaty field. All of the cars handled it well, even the 2WD Trax. The Trailblazer had no problems of course, even in 2WD mode. The track ended on top of some cliffs with a spectacular view, and across the sea we could just see Pitt Island in the distance. After a good blast in the wind at the top of the cliffs, we headed back in the direction of the hotel to collect our lunch, taking the back road, which was barely a track. This was our chance to see the famous Chatham Island Moa – there are emu running wild on the island after a failed attempt at farming them.

Our next outing was in the Trax, to see Helen Bint, a famous local personality. The Trax, being smaller, felt less refined and comfortable than the bigger cars on the rougher gravel. But it still handled the gravel well and was comfortable enough. We headed North towards Port Hutt, along a road with spectacular views, and constant rainbows out over the sea. We saw cows on the beaches, eating seaweed, and at one point one of the local Police trucks. We found out later that the day’s court case had finished so the Police took advantage of their free afternoon before flying out, by going fishing. On a quick detour, all of the cars easily climbed to the top of a hill, for a spectacular 360-degree view across the island.

Eventually we came to Helen’s driveway, which was a paddock with some vague tracks through it, and lots of livestock wandering about. We left the Commodore Tourer behind at this point as it didn’t have the ground clearance for some of the ruts, but the Trax managed it well, with hardly any scrapes.

Helen Bint lives in an isolated cottage on her own, 10km from her nearest neighbour, with no power or running water. And she likes it that way. She does have a few cats, a couple of dogs and some chickens to keep her company. Over our picnic lunch she regaled us with stories about shooting possums on her roof, driving cars at 100mph down the beach on avgas borrowed from a crashed plane, and the missionaries who built her house from the rock of the nearby cliffs. She’s a real character and a lovely woman, and it was all very entertaining.

Eventually we said our goodbyes to Helen and headed out to the coast to hunt for Paua for dinner. It didn’t take long before we had a bucket full of good-sized Paua, which we found in knee-deep water. Then it was back into the Acadia as we headed off to our last destination for the day – a meal at Admiral Gardens.

When we arrived, Ed from Holden got straight into shucking and cleaning the Paua ready for the barbecue. After a couple of weeks on the island and several of these trips, Ed was pretty much a local.

We dined on smoked blue cod wings, barbecued and curried paua, deep fried blue cod, steak, and an array of salads and vegetables, followed by a delicious raspberry trifle. All delicious and beautifully cooked. Finally we headed back out into the darkness to our hotel.

Our next morning it was an early start to fit in a delicious breakfast at the hotel before heading to the airport, for a full flight back to Auckland. I grabbed a window seat (they don’t allocate seats on this flight) and was treated with fantastic views of the island and the lagoon as we flew out.

The Holdens we drove will be heading back to the mainland by boat in the next few weeks.

Ed has gone native and decided to stay. Just kidding, he flew home the next day.

Thanks to Holden for this chance to experience their cars in such a remote and beautiful location. I think if I was living there, the diesel Trailblazer would be the logical choice of vehicle to own, especially as petrol is $1 a litre more than on the mainland. But I’m also a big fan of the Commodore Tourer, which handled the trip well and was seriously comfortable and composed on the gravel roads.

To celebrate their 65th Anniversary, Holden have some specials on their SUV range, available for June 2019 only. These include a saving of $6,000 on Equinox LS, $7,000 reduction on a Trax LS, $6,000 off a Tourer and $13,000 saving on the Trailblazer LTZ. Check out the details at

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USA Road Trip 2019 Part 2: The car selection narrows Sat, 01 Jun 2019 20:00:36 +0000 In the first article in this series, I talked about our upcoming road trip across the USA, following as much of Route 66 as we can – and as much of it that is actually left to drive on, up into Canada, then back into the New England states of the USA, New York, Philadelphia, then ship the car home.

I left you in the last article with us still trying to decide on:

1: What decade of car to look at

2: Then, what models to choose from

There’s been some slow progress on this. I’ve sort of decided I want something from either the 80s or 90s. I’ve already got a car from the 60s, so something in between that and our 2016 Dodge Challenger seems like a good fit. Our budget has been squeezed down so we’re now looking at cars only under US$10k. Crazy? Maybe, but looking on Craigslist, there are still some very juicy cars available for that sort of money.

Okay, so our budget has dropped – what can we get that fits our needs, for under ten grand? You’d be very surprised. Even though I’m not a huge fan of the looks, the Camaro and Firebird Trans Am WS6 from that era have still got me interested. The WS6 model has the extra hood scoops which makes it look a little meaner, as well as performance and handling improvements. Both cars run the GM LS1 motor, the same that was used in the Corvette. Rumour has it that GM stated that the Camaro put out less power than the Corvette in its advertising, as buyers were going to the Camaro since it was cheaper. The kicker is that the engine didn’t put out any less power – they just said it did.

But still, that Camaro looks a bit like a boat at the front. The Trans Am is not massively better. Initially I balked at the look of it, but now it’s growing on me. Both are 4 seaters too, so that’s a bonus over a Corvette from the same era.

So these two cars are still in the mix, and I’ve spotted the odd one I like, for example;


Okay, that isn’t the WS6 model, but that’s a lot of car for $3K – and it’s a manual.

That’s not to say I haven’t still been looking at cars from the 1970s, as these come up almost daily for sale in LA. How about this Caddy:

Since I’m still keen on a Corvette, I’ve also been browsing the C5 models, launched in 1997 and then replaced by the C6 in 2005. I love the C5 – it still has the pop-up headlights, and all (except the high-performance Z06 model) are fitted with the LS1 motor, which is a great engine.

My only problem is that the C5s in my price range all have higher miles on them, with most of them being over 100,000. Resale-wise in New Zealand, that’s too high. If I was interested in a higher mileage car, it’d have to be a manual, and they are harder to find.

Whatever car we buy, I’m really after a low-mileage, unmolested car. Unfortunately, that puts the C5 out of the picture. A shame though, as there are some great buys to be had in the C5 Corvette, like this 2004 manual for under $10K?

So it’s likely that the C5 Corvette is crossed off the list. Some may wonder why I haven’t included the C4 Corvette on my ‘possibles’ list. There’s an answer for that: I don’t know.

Forever, I’ve thought of the C4 Corvette as the one no one buys. It’s the black sheep, the ugly duckling, the elephant in the room. Why? Again, I have no idea. For years – decades – it has had this reputation, and I bought into it as well, walking past them at car shows with my nose up. C4 Corvette, ug.

Now, I’m wising up to the fact that these models of Corvette are way undervalued and also – shock horror – underrated, as far as I’m concerned.  In 1984, they had full aluminium suspension, plastic transverse mono-leaf springs front and rear, a completely digital dashboard, and a clamshell hood that opened up to reveal the entire engine and front suspension. Amazingly – for an American car – the gearbox is at the rear of the car for better weight distribution, and if it was a manual model, it had a Doug Nash 4+3 gearbox. I still remember – as a very young man then – this gearbox, which had 4 normal gears, then a button on top of the gear lever to give you access to an automatic overdrive on second, third and fourth gears. Wicked. That gearbox only lasted until 1988 though, when it was replaced with a standard 6-speed manual ‘box.

So for all these years, have I been poo-pooing the C4 unjustly? After reading car reviews of the day, and then watching Youtube clips of current-day reviews of the C4 Corvette, I think it’s time to apologise to those owners that I walked past and ignored their C4s.

Okay, it’s not the prettiest of the Corvettes, but it has the goods. The 1984 models had the L83 V8 (205hp), then the 1985-1990 models had the L98 motor, putting out around 230-250 horsepower. That’s not much for a 5.7-litre V8, but it’s a whole lot more than a standard, last model C3 at 185HP. The 1996 Corvette had the LT4 motor rated at a much better 330HP.

So the C4 has now been added to the list – ideally a late-model manual model (hard to find), but at minimum one that is low miles and unmolested, no matter what the year. A hard call? Probably, but we have time to be picky.

The search goes on!

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2019 BMW X2 M35i – New Car Review – Just like a real M car? Sat, 01 Jun 2019 00:00:29 +0000 We’ve previously tested the sDrive20i version of the BMW X2, and loved it. Then BMW sent us the sDrive18i model, which I thought would be a far less car than the 20i, since it ‘only’ has a 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder engine. But no – the little 3-pot was a great X2 as well, with an engine full of character.

Then BMW sent us the all-new M35i. So the reality is then that there’s only one question to answer: Is the X2 M35i worthy of an M badge, even if that badge represents an M Performance model and not the real ‘M’ deal?

The Range

The X2 range kicks off with the brilliant 1.5-litre, three-cylinder sDrive18i, fitted with a 7-speed automatic and putting out 103kW and 220Nm of torque. You can read our review on this car here. Next up is the sDrive20i, with a 2-litre twin-scroll turbo but with 141kW of power and 280Nm of torque. We tested this car out last year, and you can read the review here.

The all-wheel-drive version of the same model is next, the xDrive20i.

Lastly is the all-new M35i, with the most powerful four-cylinder engine BMW has put in a production car. Actually, it’s the first four-cylinder M car since the original M3, so there you go. With a single twin-scroll turbo and 2 litres, this engine manages a healthy 225 kW (306 horse power!) and 450Nm of torque.

The sDrive20i, xDrive20i and M35i all run with an 8-speed automatic gearbox.

For the base model’s money, you’ll get 18” alloy wheels, LED headlights with cornering lights, SatNav, Parking Assistant with rear-view camera, an electric tailgate, Driving Assistant, keyless entry and start, auto-parking electric mirrors, LED fog lights, auto wipers and lights, LED rear lights, lane departure warning, parking sensors, a 6.5” central display, ‘ConnectedDrive’ (Concierge Services, BMW Connected+, Intelligent Emergency Call, Real Time Traffic Information, Remote Services and TeleServices), 2-zone climate AC, and Sensatec upholstery.

Other than the bigger motor, the sDrive20i adds 19” alloys, Driving Assistant Plus with active cruise control, the M Sport X package, and heated front sports seats, and Alcantara trim.

Obviously for the extra $3,000, the xDrive20i gets AWD and a change to an 8-speed automatic.

The M35i adds in 20” M light alloy wheels, a heads-up display (HUD), DAB radio, a Harman Kardon sound system, the Lights package, M Performance features including M Sport brakes, M sports seats, M rear spoiler, M Sport suspension, M Sport exhaust system, Navigation plus with an 8.8” touch display, a panoramic sunroof, and memory settings for the front seats.

  •         BMW X2 sDrive18i $60,900
  •         BMW X2 sDrive20i $70,900
  •         BMW X2 xDrive20i $73,900
  •         BMW X2 M35i $89,900

Our test car was stock standard.

There are loads of options for the X2, including 12 types of wheels, 11 types of seat upholstery and 8 types of interior trims – to see more, check out BMW New Zealand’s website.

First Impressions

The M35i looks like any other X2; yes, different wheels, but visually there’s little else, and it sure doesn’t scream out, “I’m an M Performance car!”. There’s a small M badge on each of the front guards, and one on the boot. There’s no M badge on the front of the car at all, not even any subtle red and blue stripes on the grille to give the game away.

At the rear, there’s some pretty decently-sized exhaust tips, at 100mm each, and they look mean. Instead of going for your standard chrome tips, the M35i differentiates itself from other X2s with tips that are finished in Cerium Grey (as are the mirror caps and grille).

It’s taken me a while to learn to love the look of the X2 range, but I’m getting there. I go in waves of liking/not liking it, depending on the colour. I thought it was a bit too busy to start with, but now I think they look great, especially with that BMW badge up on the C pillar – a nice touch that differentiates the X2 models from the rest of the range.

The Inside

BMW haven’t done too much with the interior, other than some sportier seats and included a full-length panoramic sunroof with an electric blind.

Those front seats do look the part, with a fixed headrest and contrasting white stitching. This stitching is continued on the dash and doors, too. Surprisingly, the front seats don’t have an adjustment for the side bolsters. I would have thought in such a performance car this would be standard. I didn’t need any adjustments for my size, but I could see others finding this a bit of an issue.

The dash lights up with a nice M35i logo down the bottom-right. In your face, sure, but a reminder that you are driving something special.

Speaking of the dash, there’s a strip of fake carbon fibre on there and on the doors too, carried over from the xDrive20i model. A shame that this doesn’t have some texture to it; it’s flat, so feels like it could be a printed sticker.

It may be a smaller SUV, but it’s still practical. There’s a small cubby on the rear of the console that’s big enough to hold a wallet, and rear passengers get 2xUSB ports. The rear seat is a 40/20/40 split, with rake adjustable to 2 positions, something you don’t normally see on a smaller SUV. There’s also a small cubby to the right of the steering wheel, another handy place to put stuff in you will never use.

As always with BMWs, the fit and finish is near on perfect. The joins between materials is tight, and you can see it’s beautifully put together.

There’s no spare tyre in the X2, it uses run-flat tyres instead. The bonus of this is the extra storage space you gain under the floor in the rear.

The Drive

It may not scream out M Performance car visually, but there’s no mistaking this car when you start it. Simply starting the M35i is an aural treat, as you are rewarded with crackles and pops. I’m bringing this up first, because that was my biggest take-away from my time with the M35i. Comfort mode? Loud. Sport mode? Even louder.

Head out on the road, give it a bit of boot to pass another car and you’ll hear loud braps on the up-change. And this is in Comfort mode! There’s almost no getting away from the sound unless you are cruising at a steady speed. Out on the open road and more opportunities to give it some boot, and more noises.

It’s funny, as the 3 Series sedan I had just dropped off looked the part, but really needed to sound a bit louder. The M35i almost takes it to the other extreme. And the sound isn’t weak or limp-wristed; it has a real baritone feel to it, sounding deep and rich.

I’ve realised I’ve gone on for three paragraphs about the noise the M35i makes. That’s because this is the thing you and your passengers will experience the most. Well, there might be one other thing: the performance has to be mentioned. The M35i is no slouch, getting to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds. If you want to maximise your take-off, the M35i has Launch Control ready for you.

Again, even in Comfort mode, the car is so eager to please, wanting to leap ahead at any opportunity. Comfort mode is definitely where it’s at with the M35i – it’s a good combo of performance/driveability. In saying that, I actually used the car in Eco Pro mode quite a bit, because – believe it or not – the eagerness of the engine can get a bit wearing after a while.

There’s two sides to this, for me; it wants to go all the time, and I want to let it go. That’s not good for my driver’s license. The other thing is that yes, it can get a bit weary; it’s not jerky in Comfort mode, but at times it can feel like a squirrel that’s overdosed on coffee.

Then you switch it into Sport mode, and the car goes from hyper squirrel to Mental. A slight touch of the accelerator will see the car shooting forward. It may be all-wheel drive, but in the wet over 300 horsepower can lead to wheel-spin off the mark. I’ve got to say, it’s a whole heap of fun in Sport mode, but it’s not something you would want to use around town. It makes the car harder to drive smoothly at lower speeds.

I wrote in my notes one day, acceleration in sport mode is brutal. And it can be, sometimes becoming a whip-your-head-back moment if you give it too much gas and forget you are in Sport mode. Pocket Rocket is a term that really springs to mind for the M35i.

Mated to this, the most powerful four-cylinder engine BMW have ever made, is an 8-speed automatic gearbox. Like other BMW models, it’s faultless. Right gear at the right time, not much more needs to be said about the ‘box, other than the speed of changes. In Sport mode, the upshifts are so fast, you want to keep your foot down to hear them. It really reminds me of the C43 AMG.

So it sounds great, goes great – but what about the handling? This is another area we expect M Performance cars to shine. Overall, the X2 handles nicely, given the amount of power you have on tap. There is some body roll if you push on, but the grip is mostly there (again, unless it’s wet), and it’s a pretty easy car to chuck about on some twisty roads.  Turn-in is better than it should be for a small SUV, adding confidence to the driver to be able to push the car harder and harder.

The intelligent all-wheel-drive xDrive system has been coupled with the M Sport differential, a mechanical limited-slip differential fitted to the front axle to maximise front end grip and minimise torque steer.

You do need to be careful though; make no mistake, you can make the AWD M35i slide in the dry. But you’ll be going at a speed that means if you lose control, you are going to be going very fast. It may not end well.

I would have liked to get some more steering feel, but making up for this was the directness of the steering. I got out of the M35i and into another car, and thought the steering was broken. In the M35i, it’s a joy on just how direct the steering is. Hauling you up when you get into trouble – or preferably, before then – are the M Sport brakes, pulling the car up quickly and drama-free every time.

One thing I noted is coming out of a tight bend in Comfort mode, the car can bog down if you lose too many revs on the exit. You spend a second or so waiting for the turbo to spool up. You are much better off in Sport mode at times like this, so you have that instant performance, but I did find this bogging down could happen coming out of a roundabout. In the end, I used the paddles to come down a couple of gears before a tight roundabout, problem solved.

There’s a bit of an elephant in the room here, that needs to be talked about; the ride. It’s jiggly at best, and not just at low speeds. I could see this getting a little be weary after a while. I sort of got used to out while out driving, then I’d get out of the car and back in, and experience it all over again. As you’d expect, Sport mode makes it that bit harder riding over Comfort mode, but not hugely so.

Still, you don’t buy an M Performance car for a luxury ride. You’ve got to expect some noise (in a good way) and perhaps a ride that isn’t so smooth. So that pretty much negates all I’ve said. If you this X2, what I experienced is what you’d expect, so in that respect, the M35i is spot on.

Okay, I’ve got one more elephant; the heads-up display (HUD). I mentioned this in the review of the 3 Series sedan and also the X5 M50d I had before that – why no gear indicator shown in the HUD, especially when you are driving in Sport mode? So to the M35i; being an M Performance car, you would surely expect the HUD to show you what gear you are in? Nope, not even in Sport mode.

Not only that, but at least the 3 Series and X5 both have a too-small rev counter in the HUD (in Sport mode). On the M35i, you don’t even get that. This is a sports model and I’d like to know what gear the transmission is in and what revs the car is doing, right there on the windscreen, in the best and safest possible place.

Other than the jiggly ride and noise, can the M35i be used as a daily driver? No reason why not, although there are some good and not-so-good points for that. The M35i doesn’t have blind spot monitoring (BSM), and with that sexy side design, the rear doors sweep up high into the rear guard. Looks great, but cuts down in visibility. Also, the B pillar is really wide – I’ve never noticed this before, but I did this time around when I came to an intersection and the B pillar totally blocked my view of an approaching car.

The wheels look great on the M35i, but man are they hard to clean. I needed to wash the car for my photos, and even washing them didn’t clean them up properly, and then I resorted to Car Pro wheel clean from Detail Depot. Not even that got them properly clean. Likely there’s lots of brake dust from those huge brakes not helping things along.

The X2 M35i has an electric park brake, as you’d expect, but I long for an auto-hold function. I think all other new BMWs have auto hold for the park brake, except the X2. I really miss it, especially since I’d just finished reviewing two other BMWs with this feature.

And those two other BMWs had the latest version of BMW’s iDrive infotainment system, while the X2 does with the previous generation. You know what? It works just fine. I did get very used to the new one, but the X2’s works a treat, and is still intuitive to use.

While the new 3 Series and X5 both have BMW’s new Active Cockpit display, the X2 has two simple dials, and they are crystal clear in their readout. You don’t get any customisations or anything like that, but they work just fine and suit the performance side of this car perfectly.

Still on the daily drive, there’s no 360-degree camera here, just a reversing camera with radar warnings of obstacles. At least the media screen will show you which side and front/rear where you are closest to whatever you are about hit. This is the next best thing to a 360-degree camera.

One more slight negative is the tyre noise; run flat tyres are always going to be noisier than ‘normal’ tyres, and the M35i is no different. Of course, coarse-chip seal really brings it out, as it does in other cars. It could be a whole lot worse, but it could also be better.

The M35i is up-specced with a Harmon Kardon sound system, and it works just fine. It wasn’t as good as the HK system in the 3 Series, but still worthy of the daily drive.

You’d expect that fuel economy would be terrible, when the car wants to go so much and eggs you on. Actually, it wasn’t too bad. Over 1,100km and two weeks of mixed driving, I got 8.6l/100km. That’s reasonable for a 2-litre turbo, and excellent for one pumping out 225kW. BMW claims a combined rating of 7.4.

The Competition

Brand/Model Engine Power/Torque


0-100km/h, seconds Cargo capacity, litres Fuel L/100km Base Price – High to Low
Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 AWD 2-litre, turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol 280/475 4.4 421 7.5 $111,200
Lexus NX300 Limited AWD 2-litre, turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol 175/350 7.1 n/a 7.9 $94,800
BMW X2 M35i AWD 2-litre, turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol 225/450 4.9 470 7.4 $89,900
Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic SE AWD 2-litre, turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol 220/400 6.5 577 8.0 $89,900
Audi SQ2 AWD 2-litre, turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol 221/400 4.8 355 7.2 $81,900

The Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
  • Handling
  • Brakes
  • Interior quality
  • Sounds
  • Fun to drive
  • Steering
  • HUD
  • Relative fuel economy
  • No rev counter or gear indicator in HUD
  • Jiggly ride
  • Tyre noise
  • Blind spot/no BSM

The Verdict

Well, is it worthy of being called an M Performance car? I’m leaning more towards yes, than no. It has the fun factor, it definitely has the sounds, and the handling is acceptable.

I quite like that it’s also a bit of a Q car – minimal M badging is always good if you want to fly under the radar, and it can surprise people when you accelerate away from the lights, leaving them to only hear you depart.

Is it worth the extra over the xDrive20i? I don’t think anyone who wants this car will care; they will be after a smaller, performance SUV but one that’s got the badge to go with it – and the X2 ticks that box 100%.

2019 BMW X2 M35i


4.0 Chevrons

Vehicle Type Small, all-wheel-drive, 5-door SAC (Sport Activity Coupe)
Starting Price $89,900
Price as Tested $89,900
Engine 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder twin-scroll turbo petrol
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Power, Torque (kW/Nm) 225/450
0-100km/h, seconds 4.9
Spare Wheel None – run flats
Kerb Weight, Kg 1,580
Length x Width x Height, mm 4369x2098x1526
Cargo Capacity, litres 470
Fuel Economy, L/100km Advertised Spec – combined –  7.4

Real World Test – combined – 8.6

Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+

Fuel tank capacity, litres 61
Towing Capacity

Kg, unbraked/braked

Turning circle, metres N/A

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+

Warranty Five-year warranty

Three-year service inclusive programme

Five-year roadside assist

ANCAP Safety Ratings 5 Star


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