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BMW i3

Electrically charged: this little electric BMW is all powered up and ready to go

In 2011 BMW introduced its ‘i’ brand to incorporate all of its electric plug-in vehicles or hybrids. Last year I was fortunate enough to drive the exceptional i8. This month I was introduced to its zippy little cousin, the unique BMW i3.

BMW i3

 

The base model of the i-range, the i3 also has a bigger brother: the i3s. Looks-wise, it’s a bit like a ‘cube’, with unique suicide doors that open up, revealing no centre pillar and rear seats that can be laid flat to allow an amazing amount of storage space in the boot area. It also has a surprising amount of leg room and a large front windscreen.
It’s packed with loads of great details like the carbon fibre chassis and hemp interior panelling, making it not only light, but also a little bit greener.
The concierge system is a BMW service that allows you to connect with someone to assist you if you are lost or need assistance. Yes! Even if you’re looking for good Indian food in another city! Crazy, huh? The Li-ion battery is 33kWh and, although that doesn’t sound very powerful, I felt it was more than enough for getting around town.
And that’s really what this is; an easy to park, no petrol cost, rear view camera, turn cycle of 9.9 meters, town mobile. With petrol prices around $2.30 a litre, most of us are thinking of options. Charging from your garage wall socket, easy to use, a $77,200 starting price, all with a 200km range.

BMW i3Although comments about how it looked were not super complimentary, I found it cute with its 19-inch BMW i-light alloy wheels, turbine styling, easy connectivity and simplicity of use being great features. Its keyless entry and start were good, but the ignition switch, park and gear lever sit behind the steering wheel on what people would call a column shift.
That was a little annoying, I thought, though the reasoning I guess is so that you are constantly thinking about being on/off or driving so you don’t make the mistake of leaving it in drive and having it roll away. Unlike a fuel car, it doesn’t give you clues when you take your foot off the accelerator that it’s still in gear.
Charging time is not long but like your phone, you’re going to have to make sure it’s put on the charger at the end of the day. Even though it has regeneration power options when driving, you do have the option of quick charge and that takes about 15 minutes at locations that offer them. This is BMW’s mass production electronic offering for the day to day vehicle and in my opinion, it’s good! To take a test drive, go and see the wonderful Mary or Lorenzo at Christchurch BMW to try for yourself. Good driving.

Stingray

Chevrolet’s wild child: The Stingray

The man at the Rangiora Caltex was in awe. “Wow beautiful car mate! It’s a Stingray aye?” One could not fault him on his observation skills, for the car in my care for the day was a Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, one of the true giants of automotive Americana.

Stingray

The Corvette is the definitive all-American sports car. Having been in continuous production since 1953, very few people, petrolheads or not, haven’t heard of Chevrolet’s wild child. While countless variants have come and gone, each of which have their equal share of fans, the second-generation Corvette Stingray represents, for many, the Corvette’s finest hour.
This 67 Stingray, supplied by Waimak Classic Cars, has all the muscle and style of Muhammad Ali. Whether you take in the beefed up rear haunches, pop up headlights, shark gill like side air vents, text book long bonnet with sloping rear coupe lines, or the wrap around rear window (earlier models had a split rear screen), a Stingray is a car you can gawp at for hours.
Like Ali in the ring, the Stingray’s 5.2-litre 327 Cubic Inch V8 packs a punch. While many lust after the 427 Big-Block, the workhorse 327, in this writer’s opinion, provides more than enough grunt than is needed. Producing a claimed 300 hp, it’s mated to a three-speed automatic box, which happens to be silky smooth.
The Stingray’s cabin is one of simplicity. The wood rim wheel and simple white on black instruments stare at you, while the oversized analogue clock takes centre stage. Other options include a sideways mounted push button AM radio and electric windows.
Hold the brake pedal, turn the key and that delicious V8 triumphantly fires. At idle you can almost hear every single cylinder firing. Ah the grumbling bliss of a simple small block.
Once in drive and on the move, you quickly remember you are driving a fifty-year-old American car, and all which that implies. Steering is very vague and you won’t be coming to a stop quickly, but you forget all that the moment you give it stick.
Feed in the power and that muscular bonnet, which seems to stretch to the horizon, rises with ease. In the bends it actually tracks well despite the complete lack of steering feel and its prehistoric leaf spring suspension set up.
However, the Corvette comes into its own when out for a cruise. Whether rumbling around your local suburban stomping ground or at 100km/h along a straight North Canterbury road with one arm on the wheel and one out the window, the Stingray makes you giggle as it turns heads and devours the miles.
Then as soon as it arrived, it was gone. And, as this writer watched it rumble away, the words from the man at Caltex rang loud and clear, “What a beautiful car”. And the Corvette Stingray is just that. Beautiful.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

Resurrecting a classic: Mitsubishi brings back the Eclipse and our writer Ben Selby has given us the run-down on it

The last time we saw a Mitsubishi ‘Eclipse’ it was during early noughties and it was a soft, wallowy coupe built for the American market. Now though, like it did with the Mirage, Mitsubishi has resurrected the Eclipse brand to showcase its latest sports soft roader, the Eclipse Cross.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

For those after something smaller than an Outlander, yet bigger than an ASX, the Eclipse Cross fills a gap in an ever-growing niche market for the Japanese manufacturer.
Visually the Eclipse is the Marmite of the motoring world – its edgy styling won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the distinctive sharp angles and one of a kind tail section brings a real statement to the Mitsubishi family.
The range consists of four models, starting with the entry point 2WD XLS at $41,690 and finishes with our test car, the top of the range AWD VRX at $47,590.
All variants come standard with Mitsubishi’s infotainment system with seven-inch screen, Apple Car Play and Android Auto. All infotainment functions are controlled by a mousepad in easy reach of the driver, though it does require a frim press. Other standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, lane departure warning, and reversing camera.

Mitsubishi Eclipse CrossThe VRX we tested, thanks to its $5,900 premium, over-the-entry-level XLS, comes with adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, heated electric seats and a very clear and concise head-up display.
The interior itself, for driver and passengers, is a nice place to be. Leather chairs are very supportive and sitting upright makes for a good driving position. Rear passenger headroom is a tad restrictive due to the sloping roof line and 374 litres of boot space is modest at best. However, drop the 60-40 split rear seats and this increases to 653 litres.
All models also share Mitsubishi’s all-new 1.5-litre MIVEC turbo petrol engine with 112kW of power and 254Nm of torque. Mated to an eight-speed CVT auto, you will be returning fuel figures of 7.3L/100km.
On the move, power delivery from the MIVEC Turbo is linear and very smooth. Electric power steering does lack in feel but still manages to be sharp and precise. The high riding stance means you aren’t as planted in the bends and it does get a bit wobbly, but thanks to the AWD system, there is plenty of grip on hand to keep you out of the trees.
The Eclipse Cross shines best when cruising motorways and suburbia. On the former, simply set the adaptive cruise control at 100km/h and the engine just hums as you waft along on a wave of torque. Plus the addition of suspension and damper tweaks makes for a sublime ride.
All in all, thanks to a sweet power unit, good levels of equipment, and that love or hate styling, the all-new Eclipse Cross, despite a few niggles, is well-worth considering.

The Ford Endura

Automotive eye candy: Driving the Ford Endura through the Crown Range to Wanaka

The chance to drive the new Ford Endura range around Queenstown earlier this month was a great opportunity to put the five-seater, twin turbo, 2 L performance diesel through its paces on some great terrain.

The Ford Endura

Winding through the Crown Range to Wanaka, I got a real feel for how smooth the new generation platform will run in New Zealand conditions.
Called the ‘Edge’ in the northern hemisphere, the Endura is an SUV that can provide the power and torque needed for a great drive and will fill an important space in the Ford product range.
Refined and spacious, yet with a very capable boot space, I could see a strong resemblance to the Landover Discovery Sport in both looks and performance, with a price tag starting at $73,990.
The high profile of the bonnet and the 20-inch rims make for appealing eye candy but with an 154kW/450Nm engine and electronic stability program (ESP) that made cornering and drive through very pleasurable on such a challenging drive, it’s much more than just a good looker.
I was going to try it on the rough gravel road to Cardona ski field but was way laid at the Cardona Distillery, a must see when in Otago, testing the orange liqueur, vodka and gin. The silver-lining of this hold up was that I got the opportunity to find out what the passenger experience is like while my companion on the trip drove back.
Key features include leather trim and seating, Apple CarPlay, eight-inch colour touch screen, heated seats – great for those cold Queenstown mornings – and with a great satellite navigation system in such a quiet cabin, you hardly heard the drive. Overall the experience was brilliant; a worthy addition to the Ford line-up and a great option for someone looking for a quality SUV.

BMW X3 xdrive30i

Elegantly exceptional: our writer Nick Henare reviews the new BMW X3 xdrive30i

From the outside, the new BMW X3 xdrive30i is a good-looking BMW X3, but on the inside… spectacular! I opened the door to a combination of black and cream leather and trim with great lines and elegant features.

BMW X3 xdrive30i

The centre dashboard incorporates Apple Car play with an interactive media system which was easy to use and, combined with the Harman Kardon sound system, enjoyable.
I took it to Mount Somers and really got the feel of a solid driving vehicle – four cylinders with 185kW of torque; it’s sturdy with power right when you need it.
Driving a new car, I’m looking for outstanding features and, on the way back, I encountered one. An accident logo appeared on the screen on the trip computer. Sure enough, we discovered there had been an accident. The feature enables you to navigate around accidents and road works with its interactive online system.
Featuring gesture control, heads up display and driving assistant, it’s loaded with top of the line features. The sunroof is pleasant, and the automatic rear opening and closing is such a great feature for busy people getting family/work loaded and unloaded.
With so many bespoke options among the variant models, 10 different types of alloys alone, there’s an option for everyone. Now I’ve been a fan of BMW since the 1980s, so you’re preaching to the converted, but this has been a standout SUV based on its interior features and pure driving pleasure. It’s great to see and feel quality when you drive. The BMW is stocked right to the sunroof on all this.

Citroen C3

Return to form: Ben Selby reviews the 2018 Citroen C3

Ever since the 2CV, Citroen’s resume is filled to the brim with fun compact cars full of character. Being a former Citroen AX GT owner, I am happy to supply a reference for this. However in recent times, Citroen’s small C3 range, which began in 2002, began to slowly lose that ‘joie de vivre’ which made the line up unique. Now though, the all-new C3 is here with more tech, willing engines and, of course, plenty of character and style from $26,990.

Citroen C3

Whether you factor in the two tier light cluster coupled with thin LED daytime running lights, or the floating roof design, available in contrasting colours, the C3 is a funky visual return to form for the French manufacturer. This form is also functional, with the air bump panels on the driver and passenger doors, first seen on the C4 Cactus. This means that shopping mall car park door dings are a thing of the past.
The Puretech 1.2-litre turbocharged three cylinder engine is the C3’s sole engine choice, producing 81kW and 205Nm of torque. This coupled with a six speed automatic box gives you combined fuel figures of 4.9L/100km.
Inside we find a simplistic and stylish cabin. The luggage strap inspired door handles really stand out and the amount of head and legroom is certainly generous. The new C3 is 82 mm longer than its predecessor and bootspace has increased to 300 litres. The centre 7-inch touchscreen infotainment unit houses the controls for the climate control, media interface and Bluetooth, and is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Other tech includes Lane Departure Warning and Citroen’s optional ConnectedCam system. This utilises a HD wide angle camera with 16GB memory to take photos and record videos while on the move. Perfect to prove any accident you may have wasn’t your fault.

Citroen C3 On the move, the C3’s award winning turbo three cylinder engine is a real peach. Its raspy exhaust note sounds mechanical and alive above 3,000rpm. A sweet reminder you are driving a car, not a hairdryer. Power delivery is relatively brisk but not rapid by any means. That said, it comes alive when you give it a boot full while overtaking.
A bit of body roll in the bends shows the C3 is definitely geared more for ride comfort. Its soft suspension manages to soak up all the potholes and bumps you could imagine. Steering does possess a lack of driver feedback but is certainly quick and precise, ideal when negotiating those often treacherous multi storey car parks.
In summary, the 2018 Citroen C3 will not be everyone’s cup of tea. However it still manages to hold its own in a fiercely competitive market, providing a well-priced, spacious, refined, fun little package with all the zest and charm that small Citroens of recent times have been lacking. Put simply, Citroen is back.

Lexus NX

Hot property: The Lexus NX needs to go home with you

When Lexus launched the NX back in 2014, it very quickly became hot property for buyers in the luxury compact SUV market, with its groundbreaking design, quality and attention to detail. Fast forward to 2018 and the old favourite has been given new life by way of a few updates, so we went to find out exactly what’s what.

Lexus NX

Lexus has a unique design philosophy that couldn’t be more Japanese. The same striking Transformer like angles and curves carry on, but it offers an updated front end, accompanied by the trademark wide grill and LED headlights are fitted as standard.
There are four models that make up the revised NX range. The entry level NX300 in two-wheel drive, the NX300 in four-wheel drive, the F-Sport and the Limited spec, with the latter two available with an optional hybrid set up.
The NX300 AWD featured in our test, is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder engine producing 175kW of grunt and 350Nm of torque. Mated to a six speed automatic box, the AWD returns 5.7L/100km respectively. A 2.5 litre petrol engine works in conjunction with hybrid models and eco, normal and sport drive modes still make an appearance.
The major overhaul as far as tech is concerned is with driver safety, with all models now coming standard with adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam headlights, lane keep assist, lane departure alert, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.
The 7-inch infotainment screen, displaying sat nav, air con, media and other bits and bobs has grown to 10.3 inches, giving much more clarity. Plus the Mark Levinson sound system, which has been a regular feature in past models, makes a welcome return. All features can be controlled via Lexus’ laptop like touchpad, though this is not quite as cutting edge as I was expecting.
The sumptuous heated/air-conditioned leather chairs are perfect for slobbing out on the commute home. For rear seat passengers, head room can be a little restrictive however, this can be remedied by titling the electric reclining 60/40 split folding rear seats.
On the move, the turbo four pot pulls well, with most of its 175kW coming to life low in the rev range. The new NX range benefits from retuned suspension so cornering smoothly is an effortless pastime.
Select sport mode and flick down a paddle for the often mandatory overtake and the NX performs this task with ease. The NX’s coup de grace is ride quality, even the pothole-ravaged roads of Christchurch are hardly noticeable. Simply stick it in eco mode and waft away.
Prices for the 2018 NX range start at $82,400 and, after spending a week in its company, the Lexus NX’s little updates all add up to make a better all rounder and leaves little doubt that it’s future in this very competitive market is secure.

Mercedes A180

A sporty little number: Mercedes A180

I drove up to the film set of ‘Monster Man’ in the Mercedes A180, a film I play a pretty rough Maori fella in. Not quite the picture you get of a driver of this refined, elegant little vehicle is it?

Mercedes A180
Mercedes A180

Gumboots, unshaven with a Swanndri and beanie: quite the contrast to this 90kW, 200Nm 0-100 in 8.6 seconds, 5.8 litre athletic performer. However, I got the chance to drop gumboot on the accelerator all the way to the Hurunui and found it a pleasure to drive.
It’s a looker – like me, right! – with all the style you expect from Mercedes. A relatively affordable price, with entry level at $47,900. It’s a hatchback, but you wouldn’t know that from the front with its sleek grille. It was great on fuel consumption and even though I’m not a great fan of column shift, most other features make it a good all-rounder.
There’s room for school bags, groceries – and real estate signs! The sunroof gives an open cabin feeling and the black and silver interior creates a nice clean feel. Exterior lines and profile are nice too.
Things that get the tick? Sunroof, automatic tension adjusting seatbelts, interior, dash interaction, steering and acceleration controls, refined interior and iPad style display. It has its place in the Mercedes fleet: it’s a sporty number for around town and I liked the open road performance. Talk to the team at Armstrong Prestige about a test drive. If you’re after comfort, sportiness and safety features, you’re not wasting your time.

Mitsubishi 2018 ASX

Bang for your buck: Mitsubishi 2018 ASX review

This year’s new model Mitsubishi 2018 ASX was a real surprise to review. It’s a small SUV but what I discovered was the only small thing about it was the price, with a cost of only $26,000.

Mitsubishi 2018 ASX
Mitsubishi 2018 ASX: HOW THEY DO IT AT THAT PRICE I’LL NEVER KNOW!

For that price, one might expect low end features; the ASX was anything but. At 112 kW it had plenty of power to zip around in. It’s a 2L and seemed to be really good on the petrol too. It was a smooth all-wheel drive and plenty of room in the cabin for the kids and all their gear.
Interior seating has changed from a fabric version in last years to a funky stitching and leather trim. The rear has been upgraded too taking it from a rather ‘normal’ look to something a little bit more special. A nice set of alloys too, so overall the whole package was a pleasant surprise. iPhone integration on an easy to use 7” touch screen with two USB connection charger/audio ports left me thinking that the ASX has everything that the modern driver looks for. How they do it at that price I’ll never know!
Cargo room was enough for anything my family can throw at it. Yes, it doesn’t have the auto rear opening door like its more expensive competitors, but it would tick a lot of boxes on someone looking for an SUV and I still can’t get over the bang for buck you get from this vehicle. Good on you Mitsubishi ASX, go you good thing.

2018 Ford Mustang

A pop culture icon: 2018 Ford Mustang review

Last year’s Cup Week I was selected by Hertz as an Ambassador for the 2017 Ford Mustang. It was a great insight into the passion Ford owners have for the iconic motor vehicle. All week questions fired at me would have me running to Ford to fill the gaps of knowledge.

2018 Ford Mustang

There’s Facebook pages dedicated to owners, fun events and drives every month and a real respect amongst owners for different versions. From 1965 to the present, the Ford Mustang is a pop culture icon. The debate over what is was named after, the horse or the P51 plane, still rages on, but in the end it’s a work of art.
This year’s model is on the way and I can’t say I’m not excited to get back in the hot seat. Ford’s legendary 5.0-litre V8 engine has been thoroughly reworked, with more power and the ability to rev higher than any Mustang GT before.
The 2018 Mustang GT has 33kW more power than its predecessor, delivering a peak of 339kW – around 450 horsepower – as standard. This power increase has been achieved with the first application for Mustang of Ford’s new dual-fuel, high-pressure direct injection and low-pressure port fuel injection on a V8 engine.
The 5.0-litre Coyote V8 also packs 556Nm of torque, while the EcoBoost delivers 224kW with 441Nm torque. This made an impressive combination as I took last year’s model around Ruapuna. It’s a stable performer on handling, cornering and steering. This year’s model is out soon. Keep an eye out, you’ll notice it.