By Richard Berry
While we loved the Territory for the way it drove, its practicality and because it was made by Aussies, as an SUV it couldn’t do everything everybody wanted. Being based on the Falcon platform limited the Territory’s off-road and towing ability.
Enter the Everest in 2015 – a seven-seat hardcore off-road SUV. Problem solved, right?. Well no, not really, see while it’s a total genius over tough terrain it’s not the most dynamic or agile SUV on the road, and is priced more like a Prado than logical rivals like the Fortuner and Pajero Sport.
Now a rear-wheel drive version of the mid-spec Everest Trend has been introduced. So what’s the point? Isn’t this the SUV equivalent of clipping a bird’s wings? Or is this the SUV you’ve been waiting years for?
Like its all-paw brother the rear-wheel drive is 4892mm end-to-end, 2180mm wide, has a wheelbase of 2850mm and stands 1837mm tall. It also has the same 225mm ground clearance as the four-wheel drive, so even with just rear-wheel drive you’ll be able to cross some fairly rough terrain. The rear-wheel drive also has the same 800mm wading depth. For now, the rear-wheel drive Everest only comes in the Trend grade. The cabin is stylish, but not luxurious with cloth seats and some hard plastics.
The Everest is big, but at 191cm I have more legroom in a Toyota Corolla when I sit behind by driving position. Still there’s a couple of fingers' width of space between my knees and the seatback. The third row is a bit tight for me but it’s impressively spacious and comfortable back there for a seven seater. Headroom throughout the entire cabin is excellent. Storage is also great with two cup holders up front, two in the fold-down armrest in the second row and another two in back seats. There’s also bottle holders in all the doors. Under the boot floor are more storage areas, there’s also a large bin under the armrest in the front big enough for three 500ml bottles.
The rear-wheel drive Everest has the same 143kW/470Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel and six speed automatic transmission as the rest of the line-up, but in the case of the rear-wheel drive power is sent to just the rear wheels. Unlike the Ranger ute which the Everest is based on there is no six-speed manual gearbox.
Ford claims the average combined fuel consumption of the rear-wheel drive Everest is 8.4L/100km which is just 0.1L/100km less than the four-wheel drive. It all adds up though and over time this should see you save a little bit of money at the pump.
The real benefit of the rear-wheel drive Everest is an improvement in ride, handling and steering on the road. We’re not talking sports car performance or even the same level of drivability of a car-based SUV such as the Territory, that’s just not physically possible for a vehicle that has a ladder frame chassis and was originally built for hardcore off-roading. In the case of the Everest much of that weight hung out past the front axle. Picture yourself pushing a shopping trolley with your mate hanging off the front of it – as hilarious as it might seem at 3am it’s much easier to steer without the drongo on there. Same thing with the Everest, it’s now feels better balanced and less nose heavy. The conversion to rear-wheel drive also meant the steering had to be retuned, too. The steering is light, quick and accurate. Along with better balance, being rear wheel drive means there’s no torque steer either.
The overall result is impressive. The Everest feels more car-like to drive – sure you’re still high up on stilts but coming into my first roundabout for a right-hand turn with the type of speed that would have had had the four-wheel drive wanting to continue straight on revealed the rear-wheel drive could change direction far more easily.
As with the rest of Everest line-up the seating position is quite upright, but pedal feel is great and visibility is also good. There wasn’t an opportunity during the launch to take the rear-wheel drive Everest off-road, but that’s okay seeing as most of its buyers won’t be doing any heavy duty bush bashing. At the same time thanks to its good ground clearance and ladder frame the rear-wheel drive Everest will go where soft roaders can’t.
The rear-wheel drive Everest has been given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating. Along with seven airbags, including curtain airbags which extend all the way to the third row, the Trend grade adds adaptive cruise control with auto braking and forward collision alert. There’s also a lane keeping system which will steer you back into your lane if you stray out of it and an emergency assistance call function which will ring the emergency services if a significant collision is detected.
For child seats the second row has two ISOFIX mounts on the outside and three top-tether anchor points, while the third row as two top tethers.
The rear-wheel drive Everest is not a rival for the Toyota Kluger or Mazda CX-9. It’s hugely tougher than these soft roaders and far more capable off the beaten track, but it doesn’t have their refined ride and more adept handling. Yet, the rear wheel drive Everest is the SUV many people have been waiting for – its 225mm ground clearance, the ladder frame chassis and 3000kg braked towing capacity makes it perfect for Australians who caravan, camp and go boating but don’t need four-wheel drive. And with better balance, ride and handling the Everest will make touring this giant land of ours a more comfortable experience.
As it becomes clear they're swimming in a shrinking pool, fish instinctively take up the struggle for available space and oxygen. Suddenly, all bets are off and only the strongest and most competitive manage to rise above an increasingly agitated pack to fight another day.
And so it goes in the Australian new car ecosystem. The 'light' category is still one of the largest in market, where the likes of Hyundai's Accent, the Mazda2, and Toyota's evergreen Yaris live. But the line on the sales chart is ever so consistently heading south.
Year-to-date sales for light cars under $25k are down no less than 20 per cent, and that's on the back of 16 per cent drop over the course of 2016. Meanwhile, medium SUVs are up close to 10 per cent.
Enter Kia's Rio hatch, the brand's global best-seller, with claimed annual sales "approaching 500,000", which is undoubtedly a big number. But in Australia, the Rio is a middle order player in a light car field of around 15 determined competitors.
Which means the new fourth generation Rio, launched here in January this year, is critical to Kia's chances of grabbing a larger slice of the rapidly diminishing light car pie.
Not surprising then, that the entry-level S model boasts upgraded multimedia connectivity and enhanced safety tech, not to mention improved dynamics and more space. Sounds good, but is it enough to get a jump on the light car big guns?
Is there anything interesting about its design?
The architect of Kia's recent styling revolution is Peter Schreyer, a gifted designer that raised automotive eyebrows around the world when he upped stumps at Volkswagen Group in 2006 to join the Korean carmaker.
Under his watch, the Kia design team has internationalised and unified the look of the entire range, from the tiny Picanto to the jumbo-size Carnival people mover.
A signature element across the line-up is the tabbed 'Tiger Nose' grille, and the new Rio proudly wears a sleek and neatly refined version of it, with distinctive, raked headlights sitting either side.
From there though, the overall look is pretty much hatch by-the-numbers. Inoffensive but uninspiring, with a generic approach to the profile and rear treatment.
An odd touch is a pronounced handle on the rear hatch door. Flying in the face of the current trend towards low-key integration of this type of function, it looks like a clumsy throwback to the 1980s.
Inside, the dash is cool and clean, with the central 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen standing proud of the main fascia. Key controls are clear and simple, while the soft-form instrument binnacle houses a large speedo and tachometer, with a multi-function LCD display (including a digital speed read-out) between them.
The Rio S interior colour palette ranges all the way from grey to dark grey, with tightly woven and subtly textured cloth trim on the seats.
One small whinge relates to the four button blanks in the console. Yes, the S is the base model, but blanks in place of controls for 'stuff' fitted to higher variants really rams the fact home.
How practical is the space inside?
Measuring just over 4.0m long, 1.7m wide, and 1.45m high, the Rio fits the light car template to a tee. Its 2.6m wheelbase plants the wheels close to each corner to maximise interior space, and the result is surprisingly generous accommodation.
Plenty of space up front, with two cupholders (of different sizes) in the centre console and bottle bins (big enough for 1.5-litre bottles) in the doors. There's also a storage box between the front seats and a decent glovebox.
For powering and connecting purposes you'll find a 12 volt outlet, an auxiliary line-in socket, a USB port, as well as a drop-down sunglasses box in the roof. And if you're on the gaspers, there's even a cigarette lighter (the ashtray is removable).
Swings and roundabouts in the back, with a handy amount of head and legroom (for this 183cm tester) offset by the lack of controllable air vents, central armrest or cupholders.
Three adults across the back will be uncomfortably tight for anything other than short journeys, but there's a 12 volt power socket, USB port, a map pocket on the back of the front passenger seat (only), and (500ml) bottle bins in the doors.
Open the rear hatch and you're greeted with 325 litres of cargo space with the 60/40 split fold rear seat upright. That's enough to hold our three piece suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres), or the CarsGuide pram, albeit in an awkwardly side-on position.
Fold the rear seats down (flat) and the load space increases to a substantial 980 litres. As well as the main cargo area, there's a handy storage bin on the passenger side, a light, parcel hooks, and four tie down anchor points. The spare is a space saver.
Towing capacity is understandably limited, with 450kg allowed for an unbraked trailer and 1000kg for a braked trailer.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
The Rio S manual wears a $16,990 price tag (before on-road costs) which positions it more than 10 per cent above entry-level offerings from key segment players like the Hyundai Accent Active, Mazda2 Neo, and Toyota Yaris Ascent.
For that money you'll be on the receiving end of standard features including remote central locking (with keyless entry), the 7.0-inch multimedia screen managing a six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth connectivity as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, (manual) air conditioning, auto headlights, and reverse parking sensors.
Not bad for a five-door hatch at the budget end of the spectrum, but forget cruise control, sat nav or alloy wheels. For those you'll need to step up to the Si at $21,490, and if your heart's set on rain-sensing wipers, climate control air and a sunroof, the top-spec SLi is your only choice at $22,990.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
The single Rio engine option is the 'Kappa' 1.4-litre, naturally aspirated petrol four cylinder, producing a modest 74kW at a peaky 6000rpm, and 133Nm at a relatively high 4000rpm.
It's an all-alloy, overhead cam, 16-valve design, featuring variable valve timing (inlet and exhaust). It drives the front wheels through a six-speed manual (as tested here) or four speed automatic transmission.
How much fuel does it consume?
Kia quotes combined (urban/extra urban) fuel economy of 5.6L/100km for the six-speed manual Rio S, emitting 129g/km of CO2 in the process.
That's a pretty handy number, and the other good news is the engine is tuned to run on regular 91 unleaded. At that rate, the tank's 45-litre capacity equates to a theoretical range of around 800km.
Over roughly 350km of city, suburban and freeway running, we recorded 8.4L/100km (courtesy of the on-board computer), which still converts to a handy 535 kays between fills.
What's it like to drive?
Kia claims the new Rio's bodyshell is stiffer than the outgoing model's, which has allowed a more compliant (strut front, torsion beam rear) suspension set-up, and like every other Kia model offered in Australia, the Rio's underpinnings have been comprehensively revised and tweaked by local tuning guru Graeme Gambold.
The results are impressive, with a balance between ride comfort, body control and dynamic response cars costing at least twice as much would be proud to call their own.
With just 74kW on hand to shift 1.1 tonnes of hatchback, and that peak number arriving at a lofty 6000rpm, you'd hope for some low down torque to help with step-off acceleration and mid-range kick.
But no such luck. Torque is less than mega, and with the peak arriving way up at 4000rpm, when you need some extra urge for a snappy lane change or overtaking there's simply nobody home.
In terms of the driving environment, while the interior looks good, the feel bit doesn't exactly measure up. The plastics used around the dash, doors and console are so hard, it's like driving a Tuppaware container on wheels. In fact, those trusty, air-tight receptacles are probably more forgiving than the Rio's main cabin surfaces.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
7 years / unlimited km warranty
The oversize ace up the Rio's sleeve is Kia's industry-leading seven year/unlimited km warranty, which includes seven years roadside assist and seven years capped price servicing. Whoa.
Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 15,000km (whichever comes first), and the cost of each of those services is detailed on Kia Australia's website, including detail on everything that's replaced, inspected or otherwise checked each time. Cue applause...
For the record, (guide) costs over those seven years are - $226, $382, $277, $561, $255, $470, and $270.
The 2017 Hyundai i30 SR Premium gives you 150kW of power and a load of standard features that belie its modest $34k price. It begs the question: how much hot hatch do you really need?
You are looking at the flagship of Hyundai's hyped third-generation i30 range. It's called the SR Premium, and it's designed to make prospective Volkswagen Golf GTI buyers pause.
On paper the Korean contender looks the goods. It's quick, has thoroughly reworked suspension and standard features that belie its $33,950 before on-road costs list price.
The argument: It's not quite as fast or potent as the German, but it is about 10 grand cheaper and not a million miles removed. So how much hot hatch do you really need?
Rivals trying to do exactly the same thing include the Ford Focus Titanium, Holden Astra RS-V, Honda Civic RS, Mazda 3 SP25 Astina and Renault Megane GT-Line.
Let's break this down. Under the bonnet is the same 1.6-litre GDi turbocharged petrol engine used in the Elantra SR, making 150kW of power and 265Nm of torque, the latter from 1500rpm.
This engine sends its power to the front wheels via a standard DCT seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox with paddles - only the base $25,950 i30 SR with less equipment gets a six-speed manual option.
Listen to the 2017 Hyundai i30 SR from 0-100km/h.
By Top Gear
The Prius gets better in the areas it needed to. Fresh-feeling cabin, urban economy, powertrain.
By Adil Khan
For decades, people have been speculating on topics ranging from car colour affecting insurance premiums to outlandish service intervals. You might ask yourself why these misconceptions exist and where these myths come from. It’s partially due to the lack of transparency in the industry itself as well as the fact that most people find the world of cars to be a little confusing. Whatever the reason, we’re debunking five of the silliest misconceptions about cars, once and for all.
By Craig Jamieson
Ah, the Skyline. Against a skyline. Nice.
The Skyline, in our opinion, is the car that made Nissan.
Never mind that it was actually invented by Prince – no, not the ‘Purple Rain’ one, the Japanese car manufacturer, which merged with Nissan in the 1960s. Nissan kept the excellent ‘Skyline’ name – and the somewhat suspect ‘Gloria’, but we digress.
The Skyline nameplate dates all the way back to the late 1950s, but it’s the 1989 R32 Skyline GTR that really put Nissan on the map. Even though there had been quite a few highlights in the range over the years – the original 1969 GTR, for instance, and the R31 GTS-R – the R32 left an indelible mark, both on the road and in motorsport.
Families have moved on from the family sedan.
Looking at sales trends, soccer fields and school drop-off lines it’s clear that today’s family car is actually an SUV. And the family-friendliest vehicle of them all, the minivan, continues to appeal with its purpose-built practicality.
As SUVs have grown more comfortable and more efficient over the years, families and car shoppers in general have demonstrated an increasing preference for the elevated driving position, superior cargo versatility and higher profile of SUVs. Whether it’s the sliding doors and cavernous interior of a minivan or the high-riding nature and available all-wheel drive of an SUV, each of these vehicles is simply more functional as a family car than a traditional sedan.
~ Best 2-Row SUVs for Families
2017 Honda CR-V
Totally redesigned for 2017, the CR-V is the best-selling SUV in the country and one of our most awarded cars every year.
By Robert Liwanag
Motor Company's futurist shares six automotive trends that will shape the car
industry this year.
By Reader’s Digest
The Internet is a great tool to research and shop for used cars. Here's how to use online resources to your greatest advantage as a used car buyer.
The all-new 2018 Range Rover Velar has been revealed, filling the space between the smaller Evoque and larger Sport in the British marque’s line-up, and will land in Australia later this year, in the Summer. Pitched as the “avant garde Range Rover“, the Velar is claimed to offer new levels of refinement and technology for the brand, and is set to go on sale in Europe later this year.
When the Velar goes on sale in Australia, pricing will range from $70,300 to $135,400 before on-road costs. A special ‘First Edition’ variant will also be offered at launch, priced from $167,600 – again before on-road costs are applied.
Although full Australian details are still to be revealed, headline features in the Velar include the debut of the new Touch Pro Duo infotainment system with two high-definition 10-inch touchscreens, along with Matrix Laser-LED headlights, Jaguar and Aston Martin-esque flush deployable door handles, and a minimalistic design approach.