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Great things come in small packages


Since Chinese firm SAIC resurrected MG, the British namesake has been increasing its New Zealand presence in a big way and the most popular MG on Kiwi streets right now is the MG3 Supermini.

 

At a seriously low starting price of $17,990, the MG3 offers astonishing value.

Under the bonnet sits a 1.5 litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 82kW, mated to a four-speed automatic gearbox.

It’s not the most refined engine and trans combo, but the power gets put down well enough for city driving.

Standard kit across the range includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, a four-speaker Yamaha Digital Sound system, reversing camera, cruise control and rear parking sensors.

Styling wise, the MG3 looks clean cut, but seems to mimic the style of its Japanese rivals.

However, touches like the 16-inch alloys, chrome bumper accents and rear spoiler on the top spec Excite, look good.

On the move, the steering is weighted well and in the twisty stuff, the MG3 can be a bit of a giggle.

Plus, while some interior plastics are quite hard, the MG3 still provides decent surroundings.

The MG3 shows real promise and manages to epitomise bang for your buck. All we need now is a sportier MG3 GT.


 

Chevrolet’s Latest Coup


When GM made the decision to pull out of all right-hand drive markets after the demise of the Holden brand, needless to say a few gearheads were less than overjoyed with the news. Therefore, there is a chance this facelift Chevrolet Camaro could be the last new GM product we get through HSV dealers in New Zealand. Oh, and it also happens to be a beast of a muscle car.

 

On the outside, the facelift Camaro 2SS has been given a stylistic nip and tuck.

A more pronounced mouth with the Chevy bowtie badge as the centre piece makes for a more aggressive front, and the revised taillight cluster and new alloys look the business.

Under the bonnet sits the hefty LT1 6.2L V8 with a fairly substantial 339kW of grunt and 617Nm of torque.

The biggest change mechanically is the addition of a new 10 speed automatic gearbox. It’s very good by the way, but more on that in a bit.

Inside you get a very driver-focused cabin, containing nods to Camaros of the past while still feeling up to date.

You sit very low and sports car like in the seat and the small steering wheel feels good clasped in your mitts.

Standard kit includes 20-inch alloys, Brembo brakes, LED running lights, Apple Car Play/Android Auto and dual zone climate control.

Fire up the LT1 V8 and you make everyone within a few 100 metres of you aware of your presence.

Blip the throttle and it bellows like a proper V8 road burner should. Touring mode allows you to cruise along in comfort with the V8 burble slightly subdued in the background.

The LT1 V8 also shuts down four cylinders if they aren’t needed, returning combined fuel consumption of 11.5L/100km.

Change up to Sport and things get racier and louder; put it in Track mode and the steering and throttle response sharpens up, plus the shifts on the 10 speed box become quicker.

In Track mode you can make mincemeat of bendy bitumen; a welcome sensation as Camaro’s of old were never that great at the twisty stuff.

The 2SS stays planted and gives you the confidence to push harder. Sure, you can cruise in the Camaro, the ride is comfortable too, but it feels more at home having its neck wrung.

Despite niggles like some excessive tyre roar and intrusive wing mirrors when turning at a junction, the 2SS Camaro is a damn fine continuation of a muscle car legend.

Fingers crossed it will stick around in the New Zealand market for some time yet.


 

A compelling package


When the all-new Mazda CX30 made its debut in New Zealand, it was launched online, thanks to COVID-19. However, after waiting patiently, we finally got a taster of Mazda’s new SUV. Mazda says the new CX30 slots perfectly between the CX3 and CX5 in its SUV line-up. However, with the CX3 and CX5 offering such a compelling small and mid-sized SUV package, do we really need an SUV in between?

 

 

The CX30 is essentially a raised version of the Mazda3 hatch.

However, despite looking almost identical to the more grounded 3, the CX30 has actually shrunk by 70mm and features an entirely new rear end.

Like the Mazda3, the CX30 is available in three trim levels, the GSX at $41,490, GTX at $44,990 and the top end Limited at $49,990.

The GTX featured here is, according to the team at Blackwells Mazda, the most popular model in the range.

The entry level GSX gets FWD and a 2.0L four-cylinder Skyactiv engine with 114kW/200Nm, but the GTX and Limited get the bigger 2.5L unit and AWD.

With 139kW/252Nm, it is nothing short of sublime. Plus, you will be sipping the juice at 6.8L/100km thanks to the aid of cylinder deactivation.

Toys are something the CX30 is very generous with.

All models get the i-Activsense safety package as standard kit, which gives you a plethora of gizmos keeping you on the straight and narrow.

These include lane-keep, active cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and active emergency braking.

The GTX also gets Intelligent Speed Assistance, front parking sensors and off-road mode.

The latter is down to the fact the GTX and Limited are AWD. The Limited also gives you leather trim and a thumping Bose stereo system.

Head and legroom are not as generous compared with the CX5 and, with 430L, neither is boot space.

That said, the seats themselves cocoon you like few others and the overall ambience of the CX30’s cabin feels like the car costs double its asking price.

Plus, all the switchgear actually feels satisfying to touch.

Once you are up and running, you quickly realise just what an utter peach that 2.5L Skyactiv engine really is.

Coupled with the uber slick six speed automatics transmission, cruising around suburbia has never been so refined in this price bracket.

Acceleration is not rapid thanks to the lack of a turbo, but from 2,000 to 4,000 rpm, you are able to waft forward at a considerable rate.

Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control steering allows you to have a sublimely comfortable ride without being wobbly in the bends. It really is the best of both worlds.

Despite the space niggles, the CX30 still manages to be a sublime all-rounder. The CX30 is the Mazda SUV we didn’t think we needed, but really glad it exists.


 

Top of its automotive game: Skoda Karoq


Skoda was founded in 1850 as an arms producer before later moving into transportation in 1895.

 

 

It was Skoda that produced the velocipede bicycle and the later Czech-designed Panzer 38(t) armored vehicle became one of the world’s best at the time.

The 1960s saw an increase in exporting from Czechoslovakia, with models like the Octavia Super and in the 70s and 80s it was the Rapid and Estelle that were the big sellers.

Today Skoda is one of the world’s best car developers, with revenue in the billions.

Now part of the Volkswagen family, Skoda is at the top of its automotive game.

The 2018 Superb was my personal car of the year with some outstanding features and ‘bang for buck’. It’s a theme that has continued with the new Skoda Karoq 110kW MY20.

With a price point of $44,990 for petrol and $50,990 for diesel, you can start going over the list of features and it’s got everything it takes to tick the box as a great value, strong performing family SUV.

Automatic tail gate opening is also a good start. The turbo petrol version seems to be quite economical on gas.

The 110kW provides enough power and 250 Nm, enough torque; 0-100 in 8.8 isn’t a Ferrari but it’s not meant to be one!

The cabin has a simple but elegant interior with lots of room and expansive windscreen and Apple car play and connectivity are downright easy.

The lines are so good, it took me a good five minutes to find the USB point hidden under a cover near the centre console.

With a five-year warranty up to 150,000km, it seems like a pretty simple buy.

Electric folding, heated side mirrors are great for the winter days and the Skoda carpet lighting on the doors allow you to look for the puddles when stepping out after a good rain.

Leather seating isn’t standard, but you can up spec the whole car including alloys and steering wheel for an extra $3,500.

The breaking assist is nice and gentle too, airbags, side assist and reversing camera are all there, so for the safety conscious, you get a lot for this low price point.

It’s simple and cost-effective and these days, simple and cost effective are very important. Check it out at Miles Continental for your own test drive.


 

Simple but elegant


When you’ve driven every Mitsubishi over the course of a year, one thing seems to be constant – simplicity, despite this simplicity, every vehicle from the Triton to the Pajero is packed to the brim with everything you need from a modern vehicle.

 

 

The Pajero Sport is no different.

This seven-seater has loads of room, quite the step up from its predecessor and that extends upwards, with my son Tom and I both gasping as we drove into the second floor of the Westfield Riccarton mall carparking building, convinced we were going to scrape the roof!

The Pajero Sports 20 MY’s power tail gate is always an asset and great for loading groceries, sports gear or school kit on a wet day.

A cool feature is you can use a smart phone app to open it too!

That same app can also be used as a vehicle locater, operation assist and vehicle information device.

How many times do you forget where you’re parked at said car park?

Front heated seats are good on the drive on the chilly mornings as well.

The new grille design gives the front end a little bit more polish and the lines on the vehicle have changed too.

It’s the wheel clearance on it that gives it such height and I’ll be honest, I took it for a little off-road test and it performed well, both in 4-wheel drive and 2-wheel drive.

There’s a 220-volt power plug in the back which means that if you take it off-road, you can power an electric pump for air beds or a little cooker or… whatever.

The 8-inch multi-functional display is adaptable for what you want to prioritise and, as always, Apple Car Play makes it easy on the iPhone user.

The sensor technology is also great, with a reversing camera and three-dimensional display so you know exactly where your car is in relation to curbs and obstacles.

There’s nothing worse than damaging your precious alloy wheels on curbs and this function will help you avoid this.

You’ll find 135kW of power and a whopping 437 Nm of torque on this beast, so towing the boat won’t ever be a problem.

Mitsubishi has a real knack for refining all the necessities into a simple but elegant package.

All that even comes at a good price, currently $59,000 plus on roads.

I could wax lyrical about the little details about the Pajero Sport but at the end of day, Mitsubishi really does have a version of the SUV/Utility vehicle for everyone.

What do YOU need?


 

A Sweet Set Up


The C-HR has been a mighty strong seller since Toyota lifted the lid on the first-generation compact SUV way back in 2017. The C-HR wowed us willing engines, levels of equipment and that edgy love it or hate it styling. For 2020, the C-HR has been enhanced to cope with its mid life crisis, so here is what’s what.

Available from a Toyota guaranteed price of $32,990, the C-HR still retains its 1.2 litre, 85kW, turbocharged petrol engine but also becomes the eighth model in Toyota’s family to be available with a hybrid powertrain.

The hybrid is a sweet set up, while the 1.2 petrol pulls well, the 1.8 petrol electric combo, also used in the Corolla Hybrid, is a peach, especially when returning fuel consumption figures of 4.3L/100km. Drive is channelled through a slick eight speed CVT gearbox.

You can also have your C-HR with AWD, but you need to go the whole hog and get the range-topping Limited spec.

Styling wise, it still retains its funky coupe lines, but now features revised LED head and taillights, a new front bumper design and new 17 or 18inch alloys, depending on the spec level.

The new C-HR comes with a gaggle of standard kit, including Toyota’s new eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system which at last incorporates Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Safety kit includes pre-collision warning, lane departure warning, radar cruise control, hill descent control, rear cross traffic alert, reversing camera and blind spot monitoring, to name a few.

Limited spec cars get the addition of heated leather seats, 360-degree rear camera and black gloss dash finish.

Rear seat passengers have average head and legroom and entry and exit are easy enough, just mind your head on the sloping roof line. Boot space is rated at 318L, not the biggest, but this is no wagon for lugging all in sundry around for days on end.

On the move in the hybrid, don’t expect a rapid response after giving it a boot full.

The C-HR is much more at home silently zipping along.

Minor tweaks to the suspension and dampers have resulted in the C-HR petrol and hybrid handling very well indeed.

Through the bends you can corner well with little effort required on your part to keep things level.

Parking is a doddle too, though rear visibility is average at best.

Also worth mentioning is ride comfort, it is quite frankly peerless.

After a couple of weeks with petrol and hybrid versions, one can say the little tweaks bestowed by Toyota really complement the C-HR well.

The one you want, in this writer’s opinion is the base Hybrid at $34,990 TGP.

With great levels of kit, silent running, comfort, refinement and the fact it can be quite fun to drive, the 2020 C-HR manages to do nearly everything very well indeed.


 

Staggering Superleggera


THE ASTON MARTIN DBS SUPERLEGGERA IS NOTHING SHORT OF STAGGERING. ASTON MARTIN’S NEW FLAGSHIP IS WINNING FANS EVERYWHERE, INCLUDING THIS WRITER AFTER A MERE TWO DAYS IN ITS COMPANY.

 

Aston Martin DBS | Photo: Drew Gibson

 

The DBS Superleggera is based on the same platform as the DB11, but don’t think for a moment it’s the same car.

The giveaway is in the name, Superleggera, which in Italian means Super Light.

The DBS weighs in at 1800kg, but thanks to lots of carbon fibre bits and bobs, it weighs 75kg less than the DB11.

Its textbook coupe lines are some of the most muscular and toned of any Super GT.

Think of the DBS as the car equivalent of Jason Statham in a Saville Row suit.

However, the handiwork of Aston Martin design guru Marek Reichman features function as well as form.

Side vents, which hark back to Aston design of yesteryear, channel air up over the wing mirrors, through gaps in the rear three quarter, and out through the lip spoiler at the rear.

This ‘Aeroblade’ system provides 180kg of downforce at speed.

Providing said speed is a 5.2L twin-turbo V12 and Aston’s slick ZF eight-speed auto box.

This engine and gearbox combo are an all-conquering powerhouse, with a gargantuan 533kW and 900Nm of torque.

You could attach that to your garage and still reach 100km/h in 3.4 seconds. Top speed? The far side of 330km/h!

Inside you still get Aston’s incredible quality and craftsmanship, and looking ahead you see that long muscular bonnet stretching to the horizon.

The switchgear is all previous gen Mercedes, which does the job fine, but feels a tad last week in a car costing $465,000.

On the flipside, once you fire up the DBS, the ensuing V12 bellow is nigh on one of the most primeval soundtracks of any car on sale today.

Around town it is incredibly docile, just watch the low nose on speedbumps, but when you hit the great wide open, you need to be awake.

To say the DBS is quick would be a severe understatement, all it takes is for you to stray above 2,000rpm, and you are fed the kind of acceleration capable of rearranging your fillings.

Each shift is crisp and you realise the car you wanted to overtake is now a spec in your rear-view mirror.

The carbon brakes slow you down with breath-taking precision and in Sport Plus, despite being a big Grand Tourer, you can eat up bendy bitumen with pinpoint accuracy.

The Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is lightyears ahead of its DB11 and Vantage counterparts in Aston Martin’s family of supercars. It might be too much oomph for some people, but those wanting the ultimate in refinement, luxury and earth-shattering speed, should look no further than what is very possibly, the greatest Aston Martin road car yet.

Aston Martin DBS | Photo: Drew Gibson

 

A luxury lifesaver


FORTUNATE TO HAVE THE MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER SPORT FOR TWO WEEKS, I REALLY GOT TO USE IT TO ITS FULL CAPACITY.

 

It’s one thing getting to drive something small and sporty, but when push comes to shove, the opportunity to take on a seven-seater with heaps of space ended up being a lifesaver.

Throw the seats down and you’ve got an extreme amount of space to carry everything you could possibly need.

Taking a group of friends to Diamond Harbour’s Sunday music festival, there was plenty of room for picnics and people.

That’s also where the 4×4 comes in handy, crossing paddocks and rough terrain with ease.

It’s also when you figure out how stable she stays fully loaded on the open road, just how pleasant the sunroof is, that the automatic boot is a godsend when trying to juggle picnic baskets and gear, and that power and simplicity of design make for a great experience, not just a good one.

Can you believe that all this comes in at under $39,900 without on-road costs?

I really pushed the boat out sharing the experience with family and friends, but it was such a good one, with the comments of those that joined me including “Oh this is nice” or “It feels great in the back!”

Now I’ve driven 7-seaters that cost four times as much in the last few months, but if you’re looking for a great looking seven-seater family option with class, you’ve found it here.


 

Pretty darn brisk


THE NEW AUDI SQ7 IS A POWERHOUSE OF AN SUV.
LET’S DIVE STRAIGHT INTO IT AND SEE HOW GOOD IT IS.

 

 

On the outside, the standard Q7 has been given a stylistic nip and tuck by Audi’s S department, giving you a more square-jawed looking front and rear, along with a set of blasting tailpipes. The HD Matrix LED headlights also look the business.

Under the bonnet lies a 4.0-litre V8 Bi-Turbo diesel engine with 320kW/900Nm of torque, mated to Audi’s excellent eight-speed Tiptronic box sending that epic grunt to all four wheels by quattro all-wheel drive.

Inside, Audi’s latest gen MMI infotainment system and virtual cockpit is just as slick as ever and the nav utilises Google Earth, which gives you accurate traffic reports.

The SQ7 is also a full seven-seater, with the rear seats folding away to reveal a cavernous boot.

You can raise and lower the car at will thanks to air suspension.

Having the 20-inch wheels over the optional 22s makes for a softer ride.

Audi’s ride comfort has certainly improved from previous generations, with the SQ7 soaking up all the bumps with considerable ease.

Plant boot and 900Nm of torque comes in one big lump above 1600rpm, resulting in this leather-clad cathedral reaching the national limit in 4.8 seconds, which is pretty darn brisk in anyone’s book.

There is a slight delay as the turbo pressure builds but if you leave it in sport, the power delivery is more seamless.

The V8 burble is torrent of symphonic bliss but somewhat subdued compared to the previous gen.

The SQ7 is a hefty fella, but despite the girth, it can corner and handle the bends very well indeed, thanks to four-wheel steering which comes into play while at speed.

The rear wheels turn in the same direction as those at the front, allowing you to eat up copious amounts of bendy bitumen, all with as little body roll as possible.

The SQ7 is also a peach when soaking up motorway miles; the level of quietness and refinement while cruising at the national limit is almost peerless.

Prices start at $184,900 and even in standard spec, the new SQ7 is a great all-rounder of a premium SUV, but the extra grunt and sportier edge takes a great package and runs with it, putting it squarely on anyone’s SUV shortlist.


 

Plenty of power


ONE COULD BE CONSIDERED LUCKY WHEN MERCEDES INVITES THEM TO ITS AUCKLAND OFFICE TO TEST DRIVE THE NEW MERCEDES GLS 400D 4MATIC.

 

Ushered into to the boardroom, we were given an extensive breakdown of the specifications.

It’s a seven-seat SUV with more spin than a very spinny thing! With a 3.0-litre six-cylinder, 243 kW and 700Nm, it also has plenty of power.

The Burmester surround sound system with 13 speakers blows your mind, with 590 watts of sound and ambient internal lighting in 64 shades, beautiful leather interior with oak wood trim and a sunroof for that wonderful open-air breeze.

To be honest, there is a hell of a lot of luxury packed into what doesn’t feel like a seven-seater.

Its increased size is more than made up for in the power and handling capabilities, but the increased room makes for a REAL seven-seater, not like most of the tiny rear two seats of other brands.

The test drivers were given the keys to take the vehicle for a drive to The Glass House, the home of Brick Bay Wines in Warkworth, north of Auckland, a stunning restaurant and the gateway to the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail.

With the Mercedes GLS 400D, you simply insert the location into the navigation system and away you go; very easy to use!

It was a hot day, making the seat cooling device with a back massage system a very welcome addition.

That’s right, passenger and driver get a back massage by using hand signals, so you can turn this function off and on without losing sight of the road.

After a couple of hours of driving, I felt better than when I got in the car!

It’s a very solid drive and you can actually get a variation with an increased suspension if you really want to go hardcore off-road.

The design features vents in the front grille which increases it aerodynamically and it’s got a lovely line for such a large SUV.

A standout feature for me was the one button push that folds all rear seats down electronically; and no, it has sensors so it won’t squash the kids in case of accidental ignition.

With all rear seats stowed away and loaded to the roof, the capacity reaches 2400 litres; that makes for a whole lot of options.

I said to Jarrod from Mercedes that I could put a mattress in the back and go camping.

He didn’t look impressed; the Mercedes GLS 400D is, after all, much too classy for such an endeavour.

It comes in at $166,700 before on road costs which isn’t everybody’s price point but if you want the ultimate luxury of Mercedes SUV, it’s hard to look at anything else.