Saturday, October 10, 2009

Suzuki SX4 Fuel Cell Vehicle to make debut in Tokyo

Along with the Swift Plug-In Hybrid Concept and the near-production, updated Alto, Suzuki will also unveil the SX4 Fuel Cell Vehicle at the Tokyo Motor Show. It has a General Motors-produced high performance fuel cell with a Suzuki developed high pressure hydrogen tank and a light and compact capacitor.

The capacitor helps to promote driving performance by recovering energy during braking and using it to reduce fuel cell loading under acceleration. The SX4 Fuel Cell Vehicle is currently under test on public roads in Japan. More juicy details will be released once the fuel cell car hits the stand at the event.

Volkswagen Golf R and Scirocco R

Can’t decide between a Scirocco R or a Mk6 Golf R? This promo video featuring both the cars won’t help you make that decision – both look equally good painted in the same blue colour scheme having a bit of fun on a race track.

Personally in terms of design I’m kinda leaning towards the Mk6 Golf R instead. How about you? That’s besides the fact of course that the Golf R actually has an all-wheel drive system while the Scirocco R still have to put everything through the front wheels.

With every generation there’s supposed to be improvements all-round but I think one definite part where the Mk5 R32 has an edge over the new Mk6 R is the fact that the R32 probably sounds so much better – there is just so far that a 4 pot can go. Wonder why they didn’t lump the 5-cylinder from the TT-RS into this baby instead.

source from paul yong

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Honda FR-V ?

The Honda FR-V (or Honda Edix as it is also sometimes known by) will cease production by August, ending a typical 5 year Japanese model run. It will not be replaced as Honda says other models are able to serve its customer base well, but the FR-V is really quite unique in the Honda range.

It’s a 3+3 seater (likely inspired by the Fiat Multipla), which means two rows but the ability to seat 6 as you can fit three in the front thanks to a seat in the middle. This seat can also be folded down to create a tray or arm rest. There are 32 different seating combinations, three ISOFIX points, lots of storage areas, so it makes quite a nice family vehicle.

In Malaysia, there are alot of people who buy the FR-V and pimp it up like it was a larger Honda Jazz. Looking rather sporty to begin with, it’s a good base for aesthetic mods.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mazda Speed 3 Turbo

The hot hatch version of the facelifted smiley Mazda 3 has been unveiled at the NYIAS, joining the many many other cars that have been unveiled there by other manufacturers. While Ford chose to go with Volvo inline-5 engines for the hot hatch versions of the technically similiar Focus, Mazda developed their own turbocharged 2.3 liter direct injection online-4 engine for the Mazda 3 and Mazda 6.

The new Mazdaspeed 3 (also called the Mazda 3 MPS) comes in the 5-door body, and its engine puts out 263 horses at 5,500rpm and 380Nm of torque at 3,000rpm, not quite up there with the ultra-quick spooling ability of Volkswagen and BMW turbo engines but somehow only the European marques seem to be able to achieve that.Read more: "New Mazdaspeed 3 for the US market unveiled!"
source from paultan.rog

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Scion IQ

The Toyota iQ will be making it onto American shores in the form of a Scion. A concept version of the Scion-badged car was shown at the New York International Auto Show 2009 this week. But it was no regular iQ - it was slapped on a bodykit penned by a Californian company called Five Axis, giving it an aggressive wide-body look. But looks are all the aggression the 3+1 seater is going to get as under the hood is only a 93 horsepower 1.3 liter VVT-i engine driving the front wheels. But it does get TEIN Super Street coilovers and 18 inch wheels wrapped with Yokohama tyres.Read more: "Scion iQ Concept with widebody kit at NYIAS 09" -

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Proton Exora

This is the other concept Proton Exora which Proton Design whipped up in conjunction with the Exora’s launch. The Proton Exora Prestige converts the Exora into a VIP chauffeured car with a lounge behind where one can either continue to work on the move or relax on the way home after a stressful day.

There is of course a bodykit which includes a double fin front bumper grill, warp-around chrome foglamp garnish, a front lip, side skirts, rear apron with integrated quad exhausts, a rear roof spoiler, chrome glass trimming, chrome side protector moulding, a customised smoked rear brake lamp, tinted glass, and 18 inch wheels with 224/40R18 tyres.Read more: "Proton Exora Prestige Concept"

In the interior, the first row is separated from the rest of the vehicle via a glass panel to give the boss at the back some privacy. The rear passenger can communicate with the driver via an intercom. This privacy glass panel includes a 19 inch LCD TV.
The VIP seats have electric adjustments, a massage system, and a built-in working table. Other creature comforts include a nice sound system including two 8 inch subwoofers to match the 5.1 channel DVD player, a stow-away footrest and a cooler box.Read more: "Proton Exora Prestige Concept"

source from

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Hyundai HED-6 ix-ONIC

he concept car you see here will toned down (especially the aggressive front bumper) for production as the replacement model for the next generation Hyundai Tucson SUV, or rather its expected new name, the Hyundai ix35. At the moment, it’s called the Hyundai HED-6 ix-ONIC concept, one that seats 5 and measures 4400mm long, 1850mm wide and 1650mm high.

The production car will be assembled in Slovakia next to the 2010 Kia Sportage, a vehicle which it shares a platform and a majority of technical components with. The Sportage is expected to be out in February 2010, but no release date was indicated for the Tucson/ix35.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Chery S18

Chinese auto manufacturer Chery claims the new Chery S18 (it’s not wrong for you to see a resemblance to the Suzuki Splash) to be Chery’s first self-developed electric car, capable of hitting a top sped of 120km/h and a maximum range of 150km on a full charge. The Chery S18 uses iron-phosphate-based lithium-ion batteries which can be charged in between 4 to 6 hours, and 80% charged in half an hour.

This makes Chery the 2nd Chinese manufacturer to unveil an electric car after BYD unveiled its plug-in hybrid BYD F3DM last year. Chery also demonstrated its hybrid systems as part of the Beijing Olympics fleet. Hybrid versions of the Chery A5 with electric motors and hybrid systems developed by supplier Ricardo were used as part of transportation arrangements. Its rival BYD on the other hand, has the confidence, support and investment of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Mazda 6 scores 5 Star in Euro NCAP 2009

The Mazda 6 (called the Atenza in Japan) has scored the 5-star maximum rating in the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) 2009 combined safety performance test. The 2009 performance test combines scores achieved in 4 areas - Adult Occupant Protection, Child Protection, Pedestrian Protection and Safety Assist and is more stringent compared to the tests of the previous years.

“Mazda6’s maximum safety rating from Euro NCAP is a reflection of the progress Mazda has made in harmonizing driving pleasure with safety and environmental performance under our Sustainable Zoom-Zoom plan. Going forward, we will strive to fulfill our corporate social responsibilities by further advancing Mazda’s eco-friendly and safety technologies,” said Seita Kanai, Mazda senior anaging executive officer in charge of R&D and Program Management.

Some other Mazda vehicles have also gone through Euro NCAP testing albeit the old version of the crash test framework. The Mazda 5 and Mazda 2 were tested in 2005 and 2007 respectively and both scored 5-stars for Adult Occupant Protection rating.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

B8 Audi A4

Here is an initial batch of 6 photos of the latest variant of the B8 Audi A4, the allroad quattro. Much like its larger sibling the A6 allroad quattro, the A4 allroad quattro is essentially an A4 avant that gets offroader styling, two tone flared wheel arches, underbody guards and a raised suspension.

The engine offering will be similiar to the rest of the A4 range, a varied bunch of excellent motors that range from the 211hp EA888 2.0 TFSI to a diesel V6 with 3.0 liters of displacement, putting out 240hp and a massive 500Nm of torque. All allroad models will have permanent quattro all-wheel drive to justify its offroader looks, but unlike Volkswagen who sticks with a 6-speed auto for its SUVs for better offroading capabilities, the A4 allroad quattro uses an S-Tronic dual clutch transmission.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Skoda Fabia

Skoda has released a set of 3 images of their new Skoda Fabia Scout, an alterative to the 5-door wagon variant if its B-segment Skoda Fabia hatchback. The two tone paintwork and roofrails lend the Fabia Scout a slight softroader look, and standard wheels are 16 inch alloy with the option for larger 17 inch ones, rather large for a B-segment hatch, which shows the Fabia Scout’s positioning is not too far from Volkswagen’s CrossPolo.

A few economical engines are available - a 1.4 liter 85 horsepower unit, a 1.6 liter 105hp unit, and two diesels - 1.4 liter unit with 80hp and a 1.9 liter unit with 105hp. The fuel consumption for the oil burners are both less than 5 liters per 100km, while the petrol units only manage 6.5 liters and 6.9 liters for the two engine sizes respectively, clearly showing the abilities of diesel engines to be extremely fuel efficient.

So when is our beloved Malaysian government going to bring our diesel standards below the current MS123 and proposed Euro 2 upgrade to something even better so that we can be assured of running these economical cars reliably?

source from:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Audi A5 and Audi S5

The Audi A5 Cabriolet and Audi S5 Cabriolet have already been unveiled back in early December last year, but here’s a mega photo update with tons of photos of both standard and warm versions of the car. No word of the RS5 yet though, and it’s not confirmed yet if the RS5 will be available in a Cabriolet body, but since there was an RS4 Cabriolet I don’t see why.

The A5 comes with your usual bunch of Audi/Volkswagen Group engines such as the 2.0 TFSI inline-4, the 3.2 FSI V6 and your usual plethora of TDI diesel engines. The S5 gets something more exciting, the second newest engine to be introduced by Audi, a 3.0 liter supercharged V6 with 333 horsepower and 440Nm of torque mated to a 7-speed S-Tronic twin clutch transmission. The honour of the newest engine is of course the 2.5 liter inline-5 turbo set to debut with the TT-RS.

Monday, February 23, 2009

240bhp Alfa Romoe MiTo GTA

Alfa Romeo has unveiled more details on the Alfa Romeo MiTo GTA. It’s still called a concept right now but I reckon it’s quite close to a production version. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Alfa Romeo nomenclature, GTA actually stands for Gran Turismo Alleggerito and is associated with mad and scary cars full of torque steer such as the 147 GTA.

Under the hood of the MiTo GTA is a 1.8 liter turbocharged engine with dual variable valve timing and direct fuel injection producing a nice 240 horsepower. Although torque figures were not given you can probably expect between 300 to 350Nm of torque. The MiTo GTA has been lowered by 20mm, and the front suspension uses new geometry for the aluminium leading arms, and all-new bushings for the rear suspension. The dampers also have active damper control for a better balance between handling and comfort.

source from:

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Third Generation Toyota Prius

The new third generation Toyota Prius is rated at 50mpg, but its sales may not be exceedingly spectacular during these (temporary) times of low oil prices. Prius sales dropped 45% in the end of 2008, and things are so bad across the product range that they’ve announced that they’re suspending all vehicle production in all 12 Japanese plants for 11 days over February and March.

Even if oil prices don’t rise in the near future, Toyota is hoping for the whole “greening” of America to boost Prius sales, fueled by demand from environmentally-conscious buyers, as long as they don’t find out how damaging to the environment the production of a Prius is, despite the Prius itself being a greener car than a regular sedan or hatchback.

Toyota says the new Prius is roomier, quieter, more advanced and has more equipment. It even has a moonroof equipped with a solar panel located over the rear seating area. As previously speculated, the solar panels only powers the air circulation fan for the air conditioning system, not even the whole air conditioning system! This fan can function while the car is unoccupied, which means it can keep the car’s interior cool while it is parked under the hot sun.

As for styling, the original shape has been retained since it has become iconic, defining what a hybrid should look like so much that even Honda was “inspired” by it for the new second generation Honda Insight. But it is larger, with the original shape stretched and moulded to its new proportions. The front headlamps have a unique shape to them, okay maybe not exactly unique, we recently saw the exact same thing on the new Nissan 370Z!

The Atkinson cycle engine under the hood is now larger and more powerful, clocking in at 1.8 liters on the displacement scale and putting out 98 horsepower at 5,200rpm and 142Nm of torque at 4,000rpm. The electric motor puts out 80hp and 208Nm of torque, but combined output of the two systems are 134 horsepower. Power from the two “engines” go through an electronically controlled CVT transmission. The hybrid battery pack is still a NiMH (no move to lithium ion yet). The Prius can run in 3 modes - EV, Eco and Power. EV is an electric-only mode (which can run for about 1.6km, good for short trips to the shop or mamak), while Eco and Power should be self explanatory.

There are a few engineering improvements in the new Prius over the old one, especially in teh area of the Hybrid Synergy Drive system. The transaxle is now lighter and reduces torque losses by as much as 20%. The inverter has a new direct cooling system which results in a smaller size and lighter weight. A new brake energy regeneration system has also been fitted. The system also uses exhaust gas heat to help warm up the engine during startup for improved emissions and performance. This exhaust gas heat is also used to heat up the passenger cabin more efficiently. The body uses aluminium in the hood, rear hatch, front suspension axle and brake caliper to reduce weight.

source from

Friday, January 30, 2009

Audi Sports 2009 Concept

Audi says the success of the Audi Sportback started with the Audi A3 Sportback. Sales of the 5-door wagonish model outperformed the 3-door hatchback version. They consider this a market trend so Audi wants to expand this Sportback brand with both a larger and a smaller model. We’ve previously seen the smaller model, the Audi A1 Sportback showed in concept form sometime last year. Now it’s time to take a look at the bigger car, the new Audi Sportback Concept which previews the future Audi A7 four-door.

Most of the styling elements have been derived from the A5 coupe, but the wavy shoulderline that made the A5 unique is missing. The front end has a new interpretation of Audi’s single frame grille which eliminates the vertical struts, leaving only the horizontal lines which like their counterparts on shirts make the car look wider. The outer countour of the single-frame grille is also an evolution of the one shown on the Audi A1 Sportback concept car.

The new Audi Sportback measures 4,950mm long, 1,930mm wide and 1,400mm tall, compared to the Audi A6 sedan’s 4,916mm length, 2,012mm width and 1,461mm height. So this vehicle is longer, wider but sits lower. It’s so long that it even exceeds the Audi A6 Avant’s 4,933mm length. But it is shorter than the Audi A8 SWB’s 5,051mm length. It’s quite a porker too, but understandable based on its size, weighing in at a massive 1,800kg.

Under the hood, and pretty unusual for an American debut until recently is the use of a 3.0 liter TDI V6 engine that is equipped with an AdBlue catalytic converter. AdBlue is an additive thats added to the exhaust stream to reduce harmful content in emissions. This engine makes 225 horsepower and 550Nm of torque, mated to a 7-speed S-Tronic transmission. The car also has quattro all-wheel drive to channel all that torque to four wheels effectively. The S-Tronic gearbox has a new feature in this concept car, it has transmission oil heating which helps it reach the optimum internal operating tempreature earlier for a lower level of internal friction.

More features that help it sip fuel include brake energy regeneration, low roll resistance tyres, an automatic start-stop system, and an electric power steering that only uses energy when cornering and not when the car is driven in a straight line. This helps it achieve an ECE fuel economy of 5.9 liters per 100km and 156g/km of emissions.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Proton Savvy Top 10 Car At Thailand

Thai business daily The Nation has picked the Proton Savvy as one of Thailand’s top 10 cars in 2008 as it has a cheap price, good acceleraton, and almost go-kart-like handling. That is some decent feedback. Other cars on the list include the Jaguar XF, the BMW 320d, the Volvo S80 3.2, the MINI Cooper S Clubman, the Honda City, the Honda Jazz, the Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi, the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and the Subaru Impreza STI.

The editors seem to love the WRX alot as it also appeared on their 2007 list, which consisted of the WRX STi, the Lexus LS460, the Mercedes-Benz CLS500, the Alfa Romeo 159, the MTM RS4 (tuner car), the Honda Accord, the Lamborghini Superleggera, the Toyota Prius, the Nissan Navara and the Chevrolet Captive diesel.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

BMW 116i

BMW has phased out its N45 inline-4 engine family, currently used in the BMW 116i. The N45 is a rather basic engine compared to the rest of the BMW line-up, it doesn’t even have Valvetronic, which these days is only absent on turbocharged BMW engines. The only other application has been in the limited edition BMW 320si, which used an N45 engine with displacement increased to 2.0 liters. That one produced 173 PS at 7,000 and 200Nm at 4,250rpm, but the N45B16 in the 116i only produced 122hp at 6,000rpm and 160Nm of torque at 4,300rpm.

From this year on, the 116i will be powered by the more advanced N46, which produces the same 122hp, but torque has been upped to 185Nm between 3,000 to 4,250rpm. This is because the new engine is actually the same 2.0 liter engine that’s found in the 118i and the 120i, only with different tuning. This engine also has Valvetronic, which provides variable valve lift and operates without using a throttle plate.

This is also happening with many other BMW models. The numbers on a vehicle’s badge doesn’t necessarily indicate the displacement of the engine under the hood anymore. Alot of the x25i cars around are now running with 3.0 liter engines, tuned to produce the same power and torque as a 2.5 liter but with torque over a wider spread of RPMs, to improve driveability. This would be a problem in Malaysia because of the displacement-tied road tax (as opposed to power output or emissions tied), so expect the 325i to continue to be offered with a 2.5 liter engine for the moment.

source from

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Racing Lancer and Lancer

Mitsubishi Motors has commissioned this interesting photoshoot featuring the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X and the Mitsubishi Racing Lancer MRX-09 side by side in static and action shots. Both are turbocharged and feature all-wheel drive, but they are totally different machines despite sharing the Lancer nameplate.

The Racing Lancer does not use the Lancer’s chassis, as you would already know looking at how much larger it is, or if you’ve been reading this blog’s previous coverage of the Racing Lancer. It’s actually built on a tube steel frame structure, with carbon fiber “skin” bolted on. It’s a hardcore rally machine that’s used as Mitsubishi’s entry in the Dakar 2009.

Powering it is not a variation of the 4B11T that powers the Lancer Evolution, nope. This one’s an oil burner! A 3.0 liter V6 mated to a Ricardo 5-speed sequential gearbox puts out 260 horsepower and a massive 650Nm of torque over a decent torque curve, or at least that’s what Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart’s driver Hiroshi Masuoka says. According to Hiroshi, the diesel engine outperforms its petrol-powered siblings in terms of controllability on a challenging terrain, and it also rushes faster out of corners and along straights.

One may wonder if Mitsubishi plans a “CrossLancer” by putting a higher suspension and offroader styling bits onto its Lancer hatchback by deriving the look from the Racing Lancer’s styling elements.

source from

Monday, January 19, 2009

2010 Ford Mustang

The 2010 Ford Mustang comes with either a 210 horsepower V6 or a 300 horsepower V8 engine, but for power freaks these options look rather anaemic compared to the 422hp 6.2 liter V8 in the new “Bumblebee” Camaro SS, or even the 375hp 3.7 liter HEMI V8 in the Dodge Challenger.

Here comes Ford’s SVT team to the rescue, with the new 2010 Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang that puts out 540 horsepower and 691Nm of torque, thanks to larger 5.4 liter V8 engine coupled with a supercharger and an intercooler. The classic Cobra snake badge has been moved from its traditional position to the other side of the grille in order to configure the cold air intake in its optimum position.

Whatever’s under the hood, it sure looks bloody fierce. Just look at the image above, and picture it coming up in your rear view mirror. Those large gaping air intakes could gobble a little Viva hogging the fast lane up anytime! There will surely be many who will pick this based on looks alone in markets where it’s offered.

There are other technical changes as well. The transmission’s final ratio has been changed from 3.31 to 3.55, and while gears 1 to 4 remain the same, the 5th and 6th gears have been changed from 0.80:1 to 0.74:1 and 0.63:1 to 0.50:1 respectively. This allows better performance in the first four gears thanks to the new final drive, but maintaining proper highway ratios for the last two gears for fuel economy. The gearbox’s twin-disc clutch has also been uprated (larger - 250mm vs 215mm diameter) for better driveability and NVH. Wheels are 19 inch forged aluminium alloys wrapped with 19 inch Goodyear F1 Supercar tyres.

source from

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Honda New Hatchback !

When Honda’s CEO Takeo Fukui delivered his 2008 year-end speech in mid-December last year, everyone went nuts over the announcement that the Japanese company was going to cancel its new NSX project and will be pulling out of Formula One. After all, didn’t Soichiro Honda say if Honda does not race, there is no Honda?

But what some people missed is the official acknowledgment by the Japan HQ that Honda will be entering the entry-level small car segment for the first time, out of Japan of course. This juicy piece of information was previously only communicated by Honda’s presence in India, Honda Siel Cars India. Honda has plenty of small cars in Japan (like the Honda Life), thanks to the city lifestyle and the Japanese government’s K-car tax bracket.

Details on the new car are sparse, but an introduction is expected within two to three years. The new small Honda will be an A-segment hatchback like the Suzuki Alto, the Hyundai i10 and the Kia Picanto. The car will be built with minimal reliance on expensive materials to minimize the impact of fluctuating and rising raw material prices. With so many people flocking to commodity-investment in the futures market, things are going to be tough in this department. Honda can easily adapt the recently launched Honda Life’s chassis for the new small car. The K-car’s size and wheelbase is roughly similiar to other A-segment hatches.

The same speech also confirmed what Honda Siel Cars India had revealed earlier, the development of a small displacement turbodiesel engine that will enable a diesel-powered Honda City, perhaps a 1.4 or 1.5 liter oil-burning motor producing power in various stages of tune ranging from about 60hp to 100hp?

Other juicy details in the speech include the possibility of Honda’s IMA hybrid system being added to medium and large models, that would mean the large vehicles in the Acura line-up and perhaps even the Honda Accord! Speaking of hybrids, the Honda CR-Z sports-hybrid will go on sale by end-2010, which is designed around the theme “the joy of driving”, which somehow these days also include the joy of watching the fuel gauge barely moving as you rack up the miles.

For those sticking to bikes, an all-new Honda Wave 100 for the ASEAN market with fuel injection will be introduced first in Thailand this month and subsequently other ASEAN markets. We should get it swiftly as Honda Japan has an official presence in the bike business here now. Another interesting piece of news is a new battery-powered electric motorcycle which will be launched in 2 years from now, somewhere in end-2010/2011. We already sort of knew this was coming, thanks to a teaser that was unveiled during the Honda Cub’s 50th anniversary.

And that’s about it, folks!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Proton MPV... launching soon?

The launch of the eagerly awaited Proton MPV has been postponed a month from its original March target launch date to April 2009, announced Proton managing director Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir without elaborating on the reasons why the launch was delayed. He also added that the first Proton MPVs for the export market will be shipped off in July 2009, three months after the Malaysian launch.

As far as the other projects are concerned, they’re still on track so far. There are CKD partnerships in China (Youngman) and Iran, while talks on CKD partnerships are underway in India, Egypt and Jordan. It’s still a mystery at this point who Proton’s Indian partner will be, though there was a rumour a few months ago about this partner being Argentum Motors.

Apparently there is also a project to develop a new fuel efficient engine (to replace the Campro?) that will bear fruit in 2 years. Let’s hope this is a small displacement low pressure turbo engine with strong low end torque for a relaxed city drive. Other things to look forward to include a facelift for the Proton Satria Neo, which has already been spotted on road tests.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Subarus to be seen in APRC 2009

Despite Fuji Heavy Industries’ decision to pull out of the World Rally Championship (WRC), Subaru fans in the region will still be able to see the brand contesting for honours on the Group N rally front.

That's because the Motor Image Rally Team (MIRT) will continue to compete in next season's Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) 2009.

Since its debut in 2007, the Singapore-based Motor Image Rally Team has been blazing the trail with rally driver Cody Crocker winning the APRC Driver’s Championship title and MIRT-Subaru winning the Manufacturer’s Title for two consecutive years.

For the 2009 season, MIRT will be back with a brand new assembled-in-Singapore Subaru Impreza STI GRB rally car and a new driver line-up to continue its APRC journey.

source from

Thursday, January 15, 2009

GM puts Volt engine plant on hold

General Motors, anxiously conserving cash so it can keep operating into 2009, said on Wed it would halt construction of a plant tied to one of its most important projects while the automaker awaits a Washington bailout.

GM said it is putting the brakes on the construction of a factory in Flint, Michigan, set to make 1.4l engines for the Chevrolet Cruze and the Chevy Volt plug-in electric car.

It's just one more effort by GM to hold on to every penny possible as it speeds closer to the day when the 100-year-old industrial giant won't be able to pay its bills.

The company has been scaling back just about everywhere - shutting down vehicle production, ending sports sponsorships, turning off escalators and even cutting back on office supplies - to stay afloat.

GM is seeking up to US$18bil in government loans as it tries to survive the worst US auto sales environment in 26 years. It says it needs US$4bil before this year runs out.

GM board member Kent Kresa told The Associated Press last week that the company might make it into the early part of the first quarter, depending on auto sales, yet GM has several billion dollars worth of supplier payments due shortly after the first of the year, and analysts have said the company probably doesn't have the cash to pay them.

GM announced plans in Sept for the new engine plant in Flint, 50 miles northwest of Detroit, and said production would begin in 2010. But the company is delaying the purchase of big-ticket items needed to build the factory, such as structural steel, spokeswoman Sharon Basel said.

The plant's engines will extend the range of the rechargeable Volt, GM's high-profile next-generation vehicle that will be able to travel 40 miles on electricity alone. They will also power the Cruze, GM's new small car that is supposed to get around 40mpg.

Basel said Volt and Cruze development will continue as scheduled and the company still plans to bring them to showrooms in 2010. The construction delay, she said, may be temporary until the company figures out its cash situation.

"Everything that involves heavy cash outlays obviously is under review," Basel said. "Our intent is to still go forward with a new facility bringing that engine to Flint."

Meanwhile, GM has held off many large expenditures, such as the steel for the Flint plant, Basel said."Those are huge cash outlays, and we don't have the cash," she said.

Basel said there is plenty of time to build the factory, install equipment and get it up and running in time to produce engines for the two new cars. The company already makes the 1.4l engine at a plant in Austria, she said, giving it another option for engines.

"We have lots of options. The construction of the new plant is not going to interrupt our plans for the Volt or Cruze," Basel said.

Work will continue as scheduled on the Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant, which will make the Cruze starting in mid-2010, said GM spokesman Chris Lee. The company has not formally announced where the Volt will be built, although the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant was identified in the 2007 contract with the United Auto Workers. Lee said Volt production remains on schedule for later in 2010.

GM said in Sept it would invest US$370mil in the new factory, which will employ 330 hourly and salaried workers and allow the company to double its global production of smaller engines by 2011. The plant will have 300 flexible work stations that will let GM build different four-cylinder engines without retooling.

The United Auto Workers union agreed that new hires for the plant would be paid US$14 per hour, about half the wages of a current UAW worker. It also agreed to a new flexible pact with GM that lets workers do multiple jobs.

The new factory brings the prospect of more jobs to an industrial city hard hit by auto job losses. GM's nearby Flint Engine North plant closed in Aug. - AP

source from

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

BMW 1 Series Review

The 1-Series coupe, on sale from late November 2007, is derived from the 1-Series hatchback, which arrived as a five-door in 2004 and gained a three-door version earlier in 07. But under the largely familiar skin, it's been re-engineered from the ground up. Three engines, two transmissions and three specification levels will be available in the rear-wheel-drive, 2+2-seat coupe, priced from £21,585 to £29,745. Only one of the three engines, the 120d, is familiar from the three- and five-door 1-Series. That's a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel with common-rail injection, now revised to make 174bhp and 258lb-ft of torque at 1,750-3,000rpm. The other diesel, the 123d, makes its debut in the Coupe but will also be available on the hatchback and other BMWs. Again, it's a 2.0-litre four with common-rail direct injection, but this time with variable twin turbos, both of which serve all four cylinders. A small, low-inertia turbo ensures instant pulling power at low revs, then at higher revs the larger turbo kicks in to provide more performance. It's the world's most powerful production 2.0-litre diesel engine.

The 123d produces 201bhp, 27bhp more than the 120d, and the maximum torque of 295lb-ft comes slightly higher up the rev range, at 2,000-2,250rpm. And then there's the real hotty, the 135i, using an engine that's a proven winner in other recent BMWs. It's a 3.0-litre straight six with direct injection and two turbochargers. Each one serves three cylinders, which enables them to be small and light, and thus quick to respond when engine revs rise. It peaks at 302bhp, with 295lb-ft of torque at 1,300-5,000rpm.

The Coupe's many new parts include a five-arm rear axle and - on the 135i - a new electronically controlled differential lock to control spin and aid traction during rapid driving. Despite the many changes to the bodywork and chassis, the Coupe retains the 50:50 front-rear weight distribution that BMW regards as being so important to its cars' beautifully balanced handling. The standard gearbox is a six-speed manual, with an automatic option on the 123d and, from spring 2008, a paddleshift auto available on the 135i.

Aside from the Alfa Romeo coupe duo, the and Brera, plus the Audi TT and Nissan 350Z, the competitors are hatchbacks. But arguably the real rival is BMW's own 3-Series Coupe, which in its current form is bigger, heavier and rather more expensive than many potential buyers would like; they now have a brilliant new alternative.

The 120d ES costs £21,585, the 120d SE is £23,025, the 120d M Sport is £24,705, the 123d SE costs £24,855, the 123d M Sport is £26,290 and the 135i M Sport tops the range at £29,745.

Reliability and Quality
Today's BMWs all feel solid and well put-together. Neither of the two 1-Series Coupes we've driven on a wide range of road surfaces rattled or squeaked, and everything is well finished inside and out.

On the Road
If you've driven a 1-Series hatchback with one of the better engines you'll have a good idea of what the Coupe is like to drive. You sit low, with your legs forward, and you very soon start to feel a psychic bond with the steering. The 135i's rack and pinion system is different from the diesels' electronic set-up, but the end result isn't very different. The Coupe's steering is precise, predictable, informative, and controlled by a small, thickly rimmed steering wheel.

The ride feels slightly firmer than the hatchback's, especially on the 18" wheels fitted as standard to the 135i, but it's not as firm as any of BMW's M cars. You could happily drive the Coupe all day without fearing for your teeth or your spine.

When you're outside the car it sounds very much like a diesel, but when you're inside you barely notice, apart from some vibration through the 123d's gearknob when the engine's idling. It does 0-62mph in 7.0 seconds, with a top speed of 148mph.

If the 123d was the only 1-Series Coupe engine we'd tried, we'd say it was smooth, revvy, responsive, lively, strong and very powerful. But step from the diesel into the petrol and you have to recalibrate your brain: the 135i is smoother, revvier, more responsive, livelier and faster - licence-losingly so. That said, it's a fast mini-GT, not a super-sharp sports car.

The 135i's peak torque of 295lb-ft comes low down the rev range and must get the credit for the 0-62mph time of 5.3 seconds. It's the quickest time of any BMW not carrying the M badge, and is 0.2 seconds quicker than the 335i. The 135i's top speed is electronically limited to 155mph.

We haven't driven the 120d, but we have driven the 320d, which has exactly the same single-turbo engine, and it's a very solid performer in that heavier saloon, which bodes well. It has a 0-62mph acceleration figure of 7.6 seconds and a top speed of 141mph.

Safety and Security
There are no Euro NCAP crash test results for the Coupe yet, but the 1-Series hatchback scored five stars for occupant safety, with three for child protection but only one star for pedestrian protection.

Six airbags are fitted as standard, along with traction and stability control. The 135i comes with a more advanced stability control system with extra features including Hill Start Assist, which holds the car on a slope for two seconds, and Brake Drying, which clears the film of water from the brake discs in wet weather.

Running Cost
The 1-Series Coupe is the first BMW to come with the full set of Efficient Dynamics attributes, including energy-saving electric power steering and ancillaries that operate only when required, such as the air con unit and water pump. There's also Auto Start Stop, which can turn the engine off in stationary traffic, and Brake Energy Regeneration, a system that recharges the battery when the car is slowing down but disconnects the alternator during acceleration, thus reducing the load on the engine so that power is increased and fuel use reduced. Not all versions get the complete set, though, with the 135i missing out on Brake Energy Regeneration, for instance.

The 120d achieves 58.9mpg on the combined cycle, and its CO2 emissions of 128g/km put it in band C for road tax. The 123d is also in band C, with a CO2 rating of 138g/m, and its fuel consumption is almost as impressive as the smaller diesel's at 54.3mpg. The 135i's figures reflect its scorching performance: 30.7mpg on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions of 220g/km.
BMW's servicing is relatively affordable for a premium brand, but insurance tends to be on the high side.

Comfort and Equipment
The ES specification level, which is available only with the 120d, is intended largely for business buyers, and BMW doesn't expect to sell many. Both diesels are offered in SE and M Sport spec, while the 135i is M Sport only. That involves more leather and aluminium in the cabin, sportier suspension, tweaked mechanicals and a unique bodykit. But even in basic SE spec, the 1-Series Coupe has more pronounced sills than the hatchback, giving the sides a bulging, muscular look.

Some elements of M Sport spec are different on the petrol-engined car, such as a tiny lip spoiler on the boot lid and uprated brakes with the BMW logo stamped on the calipers. How can you tell your 1-Series Coupes apart at a glance? From the front, the SE has rectangular foglights, the M Sport has round foglights, and the 135i M Sport doesn't have room for front foglights, because the air intakes are so big. At the back, the SE versions have a chrome tail pipe, the M Sport has a black chrome oval pipe and a diffuser, and the 135i M Sport has twin round black chrome pipes.
The 120d comes with 16" wheels, the 123d with 17s and the 135 with 18-inchers. Options include the iDrive multifunction control system, a USB interface, 'favourite' buttons (for radio stations, sat nav destinations, phone numbers and climate control settings), active steering and DAB digital radio.

Like the 1-Series hatchback, the Coupe has decent-sized rear seats whose usefulness is limited by the very poor rear leg room and foot room. If there's a six-footer in the front, there won't be room for a six-footer behind him or her. The head room is good, though. There are only two seats in the back, with an oddments tray in between. They split and fold to increase the boot space.

The boot is surprisingly big - much longer than it appears from the outside, although it's fairly shallow, and the underfloor space traditionally occupied by a spare wheel is here filled by the battery (it doesn't need a spare, as the tyres are run-flats).

Used Value
The 1-Series hatchback is one of the best-depreciating new cars in the segment, retaining around 50% of its original price after three years. The Coupe's rarity should help it hold its value: BMW GB expects to sell 3,500 in a full year, compared to 22,000 for the five-door and 8,600 three-doors.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Suzuki Kizashi

The media blitz about Suzuki canceling its D-segment Suzuki Kizashi earlier this week was fueled by Japanese business daily The Nikkei. Now it appears that the show will go on, and the Kizashi will go on as scheduled to make a production debut at the 2009 New York Auto Show in April 2009! As for when a showroom debut will happen, that will happen at the show in April.

The Nikkei’s sources must have made a mistake somewhere, but they’re not to blame for believing it’s true! During this time where the market is shifting towards smaller and fuel efficient cars, Suzuki who is an expert at building small cars wants to come up with a large car in a segment that it has absolutely no presence in. Will anyone take a chance to buy something so distant and unfamiliar in that range of cars in this time and day?

source from

Monday, January 12, 2009

Toyota Altis 2008

Saw a wierd car on the road... I thought that the Altis owner has put on the super ugly bodykit, and I am laughing my way that the altis trying to imitate the Lexus... or Mark X...

Opssss, when I saw more and more "modified bodykit" Altis on the road, then I realized that ... hmmm thats the new Altis....

Sigh, in my opinion, the exterior really ugly ... not natural and ... how shall I describe, is just like a Crown Taxi put on the bodykit.

Here's some review from website...

UMW Toyota Motor Sdn Bhd has unveiled the new 2008 Toyota Corolla Altis here in Malaysia. Read the rest of the article after the jump to find out more about the latest fully imported C-segment sedan to reach our local shores.

The new Toyota Corolla Altis is now a CBU unit from Thailand, just like its bigger brother the Camry. In terms of dimensions, the car is now 10mm longer than the outgoing Corolla Altis, but wheelbase remains the same at 2600mm, so underneath it all it is probably the same platform. A 2600mm wheelbase would make it just 50mm longer than the new Vios. The following are the wheelbase measurements of other C-Segment sedans in the Malaysian market: Proton Waja 2600mm, Mitsubishi Lancer 2635mm, Honda Civic 2700mm, Ford Focus 2640mm, Hyundai Elantra 2641mm.

The width has been increased by 55mm to 1760mm so this should also logically translate to a wider interior. Height has been reduced by 15mm. The car looks larger and more planted to the ground compared to the older design because of this wider and slightly lower stance. Front headlamps are of the reflector type and use normal halogen bulbs while the rear lamps use LEDs.

also retains the same design as the outgoing Altis - a MacPherson strut setup at the front and a torsion beam at the rear, which is beneficial for boot space and packaging reasons but considered by some motoring-savvy consumers as cost-cutting. The Altis target buyer would probably not care. Brakes are ventilated discs at the front and solid discs at the rear.

Toyota has designed the new body of the Toyota Corolla Altis to be more aerodynamic for better fuel efficiency, better high speed stability, as well as reduced wind noise. The shape of the A-pillars, windshield wipers, flush mounted windscreen glass all contribute to better aerodynamics.

The dash features a clever floating center stack similiar to a design pioneered by Volvos. There is a small storage compartment behind the floating center stack. The glovebox is two tiered despite there being a passenger airbag, a clever design feature. The 1.6E, 1.8E and 1.8E Sporty models gets a normal twin-dial meter panel while the top of the range 1.8G and 1.8G Sporty models get an Optitron display. The front center arm rest is set in a high position and slides fore and aft to match your elbow position. The 1.8E and 1.8G models get automatic climate control while the 1.6E gets manual air conditioning. The interior has a flat floor for the rear. The top of the line 1.8G model features an 8-way electrically adjustable power seat for the driver.

All models get a multi-info display which can show the following information: a) current fuel consumption in km/l b) average fuel consumption in km/l c) range to empty in km d) average speed in km/h e) elapsed time and f) outside temperature. The km/l unit can also be changed to liters per 100km. Changing the multi-info display modes is via buttons on the steering wheel, which is very handy indeed as I know of some cars with multi-info trip computers but they require awkwardly reaching a button sticking out of the meter panel typically shared with the trip reset function.

And now to the engines. The engines in the 1.6 and 1.8 liter variants are the same 1ZZ-FE and 3ZZ-FE DOHC 16 valve VVT-i engines as the outgoing model, with a few technical changes. For one, the 1.8 liter 1ZZ-FE complies with Euro 3 emissions standards now so there is a reduction in horsepower to 132 PS at 6,000rpm. Torque teaches its peak of 170Nm at 4,200rpm. The 1.6 liter 3ZZ-FE produces 109 PS at 6,000rpm and 145Nm of torque at 4,400rpm.

Despite being a 1.6 liter, this is exactly the same horsepower output as Toyota’s 1.5 liter 1NZ-FE in the Toyota Vios, but it makes slightly more torque compared to the 1NZ-FE’s 141Nm. The engines now use a drive by wire throttle. The power steering system now uses an Electric Power Steering system.

These engines are mated to a 4-speed auto with the same transmission ratios of 1st - 2.847, 2nd - 1.552, 3rd - 1.000, and 4th - 0.700 with a final drive of 4.237. Toyota says they have fiddled with the ratios a bit and the end result is a faster 0-100km/h time compared to the outgoing model. The 1.8 liter model has a gated shift with the option of sequential manual shifting, while the 1.6 liter model has a normal gated shift.

Safety systems that are standard across the model range from 1.6E to 1.8G include dual SRS airbags, anti-lock brakes, and brake assist. There is Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control System (TCS) available on the 1.8G and 1.8G Sporty models.

The following is a quick summary of the equipment level in the different models:
The baseline Toyota Corolla Altis 1.6E:

  • 1.6 liter 109 PS engine
  • 7-spoke 15 inch wheels wrapped with 195/65R15 tyres
  • Electrically adjustable and retractable wing mirrors with integrated turn signal
  • 4-spoke urethane steering wheel
  • Tilt and telescopic steering column
  • Single disc CD player with MP3 and WMA support
  • 4 speakers
  • Standard meter cluster with multi-info display
  • Silver finishing on centre console, dash and door panels
  • Fixed rear seat bench
  • Manual air conditioning
  • Front fog lamps
  • Dual SRS Airbags
  • ABS Brakes with EBD and Brake Assist
  • Body coloured side protection mould and door handles
  • Solar and security film (the kind that makes it harder to break your windows)
The Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8E adds:

  • 1.8 liter 132 PS engine
  • Variable intermittent wipers
  • 10-spoke 16 inch wheels wrapped with 205/55R16 tyres
  • Sequential manual shift
  • 4-spoke leather wrapped steering wheel
  • Steering wheel-mounted audio controls
  • Automatic climate control air conditioning
  • 60:40 split foldable rear seats

The Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8G adds:

  • Chrome side protection mould and door handles
  • 6-disc in-dash CD changer with MP3 and WMA support
  • 6 speakers
  • 4-spoke leather wrapped steering wheel with wood trim
  • 8-way electrically adjustable power driver’s seat
  • Wood grain finishing on centre console, dash and door panels
  • Vehicle Stability Control (VSC)
  • The 1.8E Sporty and 1.8G Sporty versions adds a bodykit which includes front and rear lips and side skirts. The Toyota Corolla Altis is available in 5 colours - Silver Metallic, Medium Silver Metallic, Black Mica, Beige Metallic and Greyish Blue Metallic.

The following is the price list for Peninsular Malaysia, individual private registration:

Toyota Corolla Altis 1.6E - RM102,900.00Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8E - RM109,900.00Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8E Sporty - RM112,250.00Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8G - RM117,900.00Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8G Sporty - RM120,250.00

Toyota targets sales of 800 units a month. Bookings had actually started being taken officially from the 7th of March 2008 onwards and up to yesterday evening there had been 798 bookings so far. It should have gone over 800 by today. Enjoy the rest of the photos shown below.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Alfa Romeo 159

The 159 was launched under short-reigning Alfa CEO Karl-Heinz Kalbfell, formerly of BMW and Rolls-Royce and a declared Italophile when it comes to cars. The design and engineering of this 156 replacement were almost finished when he arrived, but his arrival certainly concentrated Alfa's minds on making the 159 as good as possible. The 159 hasn't quite become the BMW 3-Series rival it was intended to be, but it is nonetheless desirable, and has uniquely Italian characteristics.

Built on an all-new platform, the 159 is bigger than the 156 - 105mm longer in the wheelbase - and appropriately roomier. The style is similar outside and in, if more solid and aggressive without the lightness of touch, but there are almost no carry-over parts from the 156. That means the front double-wishbone suspension is an all-new design and the former rear struts are ditched in favour of a sophisticated multi-link arrangement. Besides the four-door saloon, there is the Sportwagon estate - considerably roomier and more practical than the 156 Sportwagon, although the 156-based GT also remains on sale.

From late 2007 an automatic dubbed Q-tronic became available in the 159 range with the 150PS 1.9 JTDM, 2.4 JTDM and flagship 3.2 JTS V6. The Q-tronic is a £1500 option.
Reliability and Quality
Reliability and quality are vitally important qualities in themselves, but a decent dealer network can ease the pain if a car proves troublesome. The service offered by Alfa's dealers has been a weakness in the past, with any problems aggravated because they have not been resolved properly. However, the company has pledged to sort this out - and if its fine words are not backed up with action, there are a number of excellent independent Alfa specialists with a good reputation.

There's a strong sense of improved quality in the 159, though, with good panel fit, decent switchgear and trim and a reassuringly expensive-feeling facia. There's still the odd rattle or squeak in some of the cars tested, but what little hard plastic there is - most interior trim panels are padded - has a pleasing surface treatment.

Now let's see how that customer service turns out.
On The Road
If we're talking about the V6, this would be a five-star rating. The four-wheel drive transmission means there's none of the bad behaviour suffered by the 156 GTA, which aimed to channel 250bhp through its front wheels alone, and the V6 Q4's handling is a delight. It points like a rear-wheel drive car and corners quickly with a gentle tail-out stance, yet the front wheels pull it straight should too much be asked of the rears. Similarly, there's almost no understeer when entering a corner quickly, because the Torsen-C centre differential diverts torque rearwards if the front wheels have too much to cope with. That 47/53 torque split is just the starting point, alterable as needed. It all makes for a highly enjoyable, very fluid drive.

The steering is very quick to respond, high-geared like the 156's, but the action is more progressive now and the turning circle is no longer bus-like. It feels slower in the nose-heavy, front-drive version of the 2.4 JTD, and there's more understeer as you'd expect, but the 2.2 JTS has the agility of the V6 if not quite the flowing style. This four-cylinder car's steering is a little too light for its directness and accuracy, though. All variants driven so far are a generally responsive, eager drive, however.

All have a good driving position, too, with firm but comfortable seats and clear instrumentation. The handbrake, to the right of the centre tunnel, means that drivers of left-hand drive 159s will be stroking passengers' arms inadvertently: this is not noticeably awkward in the right-hand drive cars, but there's not a lot of elbow room in there.

Brakes are progressive in action and the gearchange is generally smooth and accurate, although the gearboxes in the low-mileage right-hand drive 159s tested so far have been a little sticky. They should loosen up after a few more miles.

All 159s have a separate starter button, operated after the 'key' is placed in a slot, so there's no conventional steering lock and ignition key to damage knees in an accident.

Clearly the V6 is fastest - it does 149mph and reaches 62mph in 7.0 seconds - and its flat torque curve makes the performance easy to exploit.

It sounds delicious, too, the usual Alfa V6 note reproduced convincingly on this all-new engine. The 2.2 JTS also sounds correctly Alfa-like, this time much like the old 2.0 Twin Spark, complete with crisp-edged exhaust note. It has rather more low-speed pull than that engine, though, while still reaching 62mph in 8.8 seconds and a maximum speed of 138mph.

The petrol engines' natural enthusiasm is one reason why you might favour them over a diesel, but the 2.4 JTD is as muscular and sonorous a unit as ever. It's very energetic, with its newly enhanced outputs of 200bhp and 295lb-ft able to reach 142mph and sprint to 62mph in 8.4sec - so it's notably quicker than the 2.2 JTS as well as more relaxed and more economical.
However, you're not going to feel short-changed in either the 160bhp 1.9 petrol or the 150bhp 1.9 JTD diesel: both of these engines retain all the enthusiasm and verve of their larger counterparts, with plenty of mid-range muscle and the ability to cruise comfortably at motorway speeds. The diesel's a little noisy at idle, but otherwise makes an appealing sound; it makes for a sensible real-world option.

Alfa Romeo isn't renowned for its self-shifting prowess, baggage it carries from helping pioneer the automated or roboticed manual with the 156 that suffered from jerkiness and poor reliability. Can the new Q-tronic further the cause?
Safety and Security
The 159 has scored the full five stars for occupant protection in the Euro NCAP crash tests, with a good four for child occupant protection - it's matched the latest BMW 3-Series here. There's only one star for pedestrian protection, though.

All the usual boxes are ticked here, with up to eight airbags (all 159s have at least seven), active front head restraints to reduce whiplash, and stability control - Alfa Romeo calls it VDC rather than ESP - as standard. This Vehicle Dynamic Control includes a hill-holder device acting on the brakes to stop rolling back on a hill start. Tyre-pressure monitors are standard.

The lack of a mechanical steering lock improves the safety of the driver's knees (there's also a knee airbag) and the fact that the lock is electronic improves security. The pedals are designed to collapse under heavy impact, too.
Running Cost
Servicing on current Alfas is required every year or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes first, and the 159 is likely to have similarly infrequent service visits.

As for fuel economy, the best bet is the 1.9 JTD 150 with a combined-cycle 47.1mpg and 157g/km CO2. The 2.2 JTS manages 30.1mpg and 221g/km, not a particularly impressive result (a kerb weight not far short of 1500kg is one reason why), while the V6 makes you pay for its pace and poise with 24.6mpg and taxman-pleasing 270g/km. And the 2.4 JTD? Fuel consumption is 41.5mpg, CO2 179g/km. It's the best pace/cost combination of the lot.
Comfort and Equipment
Here's an Alfa with, at last, a genuinely good ride. It doesn't run out of front suspension travel like the 156 did, it dives less under braking and its damping is better controlled. The taut, responsive handling isn't achieved at the expense of excessive firmness underfoot, and a sport suspension option is neither available nor necessary. Wheels can be up to 18-inch diameter, although 16in or 17in are usual and inevitably make for better absorption of small bumps. The smaller, lighter engines lead to a slightly more fidgety ride, so the 2.2 JTS proves less serene than, say, the 2.4 JTD and there's a hint of engine shake over ripply surfaces. But it's still a big improvement over the 156 and compares well with Audi and BMW rivals. Road and wind noise are low enough not to be an issue.

There's fair space in the cabin, even in the back, though it's not as large as some rivals and there's not a huge amount of headroom. The rear seats' backrests fold down in most versions to increase boot space. Be careful leaving the front passenger seat, though, because it's easy to catch a knee on the protruberant dashboard.

The Sportwagon estate is considerably roomier than its 156 equivalent (which actually had a boot smaller than the saloon); it's still not an out-and-out load-lugger, but it's much more practical than before. The rear seats fold flat to give a useful load bay, but they don't tumble forward.

Air-con is dual-zone as standard, triple-zone optionally, and there's an air-quality sensor. Other equipment, standard or optional, includes MP3 capability in the CD player, a Bose sound system, a built-in phone, Bluetooth compatibility, Connect telematics to go with a large sat-nav screen, and parking sensors. Seats can be trimmed in flock fabric, Alfatex, leather or soft-touch 'Frau' leather, or you can have a Sport interior with so-called Tibet leather.
Used Value
The 159 isn't expected to hold its value as well as a comparatively-priced German executive car, though at the moment, there are so few around second-hand that values remain strong. Longer-term, it's good news for used buyers because prices should come down.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Kia Soul Review

Financial crisis? What financial crisis? Kia is one of few carmakers to actually see its sales rise during 2008.

Offering long warranties, high equipment levels and a cost-effective ownership package, Kia is reeling in people who are downsizing from larger cars, trading down from more prestigious brands or buying a new-car for the first time.

The Soul is one of Kia's first models to be appealing on more than just cost grounds. Designed by Peter Schreyer, whose CV includes the original Audi TT, it's a high-riding, SUV-style mini-MPV with a tall roof and boxy outline. It's only four metres long, yet seats five tall adults happily and has room left over for luggage.

Highly customisable and urban-oriented, the Soul will appeal to young buyers in America and Japan, although in the UK it should attract older and more conservative drivers who normally favour the now-defunct Honda HR-V. These drivers will appreciate the Soul's high driving position, wide-opening doors and user-friendliness.

The Soul comes to the UK with a choice of 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines. A fuel-saving stop-start system will be fitted later in 2009. UK prices start from around £11,000.
Reliability and Quality
Until recently, Kia was let down by disappointing fit and finish, cheap interior plastics and so forth, but the Korean-built Soul is well up to European expectations for a car of this type and price.

Kia has long turned out mechanically tough, durable cars; its record for reliability and aftersales support from dealerships is reassuring.

The engines are tried and tested elsewhere in the Kia range, as are many of its components. And the Soul's electronic and electrical systems are relatively low-tech by modern standards; it's not overloaded with over-complex gadgetry that could go wrong.
On the Road
The Soul's natural environment is in the city. The high driving position inspires confidence and contributes to an excellent all-round view, with no nasty blind spots.

The light steering and small turning circle help out when parking and maneuvering in tight spaces. The Soul is also tall and imposing enough not to be bullied or pushed out of lane and is nippy enough to make a good getaway from traffic lights.

It's less impressive out of town. The over-assisted steering feels a little sticky and artificially-weighted at higher speeds. Though the suspension is taut, there is still plenty of lean and body roll on fast corners. The Soul has high ground clearance and thus a high centre of gravity - this is all too apparent if you try and drive it like a low-slung hatch.

The Soul picks up on crosswinds at motorway speeds and can feel a little unnerving when buffeted. There's also lots of intrusive wind and engine noise.

The 1.6-litre petrol unit (124bhp, 115lb-ft of torque) is lively from the get-go, doing 0-62mph in 11 seconds and onto 110mph. But it lacks mid-range strength; it runs out of puff on long inclines in particular.

The 1.6 diesel (128bhp, 192lb-ft) has altogether more in reserve, with much better overtaking capabilities. It does 0-62mph in 11.3 seconds and the top speed increases to 113mph.
Both versions could do with a six-speed manual gearbox, however. The standard five-speed 'box works well around town, but an extra top ratio would have lowered the revs - and thus engine noise - at cruising speeds.
Safety and Security
All European-market Souls come with six airbags, ABS, stability control and traction control, plus two Isofix child seat mounting points, three three-point rear seatbelts and the option of tyre pressure monitoring.

Options include a neat reversing camera - which projects an image onto the rear-view mirror - and reversing sensors with audible warnings.

All versions have central locking and an immobiliser, with most getting electronic keyless entry.
Running Cost
Kia offers a comprehensive ownership package - including a generous warranty - and costs for servicing and maintenance should be affordable.

The petrol engine isn't particularly fuel-efficient. Official figures claim 42.8mpg (combined), but you'll struggle to reach that in real-life driving, with high consumption in the city but also when out on the open road. Another reason to opt for the diesel, which returns a more realistically-achievable 55.4mpg.

Carbon dioxide emissions are 153g/km from the petrol (Band D, currently £145 a year) and 137g/km from the manual diesel (Band C, currently £120 a year). We've not tried the diesel auto yet, but Kia says it'll do 48.7mpg and emit 155g/m (Band D).
Comfort and Equipment
Interior space is excellent for such a small vehicle: the well-shaped rear bench seat provides loads of legroom and the high roof makes for good headroom. The relatively wide stance gives decent elbow-room and you can comfortably seat three in the back.

Yet there's still plenty of luggage space - a square 222 litres with the rear seats in place, and 700 litres with them folded flat.

Access to the cabin is particularly good, thanks to high-set seats and wide-opening doors - just what older and less agile owners like. The flat boot floor and low sill make loading easy. Kia hasn't firmed up UK specifications as yet, but expect all models to come with air conditioning, electric windows, a CD/MP3 player and all the basics.

Adding details such as tinted rear glass, body-coloured bumpers and alloy wheels push the price up, but they do look good. Various styling packs with spoilers and body kit are offered, plus accessories such as roof boxes, cycle carriers and tow bars. There's a wide range of colour and trim choices, some of them brighter and more luridly patterned than others...

Wheels up to 18" in diameter are available, but we wouldn't recommend these - the ride is hard even with 16" alloys, and the 17" ones give a crashing, unforgiving experience. Shame: the ride and the intrusive engine and wind noise spoil what is otherwise a comfortable, well-thought-out car.
Used Value
It's a practical, roomy little thing and such cars are always popular secondhand. And demand for quirky small cars will probably rise further in coming years.

While the Soul is unlikely to worry the Mini, it should prove desirable - especially if Kia sells it with the full seven-year warranty it offers with the Cee'd.

The Cee'd will return between 32% for the petrol and 37% for the diesel after three/years 36,000 miles, but because the Soul is more stylish and practical it could perform even better than the mid-sized hatchback.

Friday, January 09, 2009

2009 Hyundai Matrix

Hyundai has given its Hyundai Matrix a facelift for the 2009 model year and the mini-MPV now features Hyundai’s new corporate nose, similiar to the one on the new generation Hyundai i30. There are minimal changes on the rear.

Three engine choices are available - a 103 PS 1.6 liter from the Alpha family of engines, a 128 PS 1.8 liter from the Beta family of engines, and a 1.5 liter CRDi turbodiesel putting out 110 PS. The Malaysian Inokom Matrix is only available with the petrol engines.

source from:

Thursday, January 08, 2009

2009 Honda City

Honda Malaysia Sdn Bhd finally brought us the 2009 Honda City. For those that already know pretty much everything about the car thanks to this blog’s detailed coverage in the past, let’s quickly get down to what’s important, the price!

The 2009 Honda City comes in 2 variants, the Honda City 1.5S and the Honda City 1.5E. The 1.5S is the lower end variant, priced at RM84,980 OTR with insurance while the top of the line is the Honda City 1.5E priced at RM89,980 and includes full specs such as larger wheels and paddle shifters.

The City comes with a 3 year warranty and 6 months free servicing.

The City 1.5E and the City 1.5S are both powered by the new 1.5 liter SOHC i-VTEC engine producing 120 PS at 6,600rpm and 145Nm of torque at 4,800rpm. No manual option is available. The sole transmission is a 5-speed automatic with two overdrive ratios. Strangely, the Japanese engineers at the Honda City launch claims only one overdrive gear with no specific gear ratio data available, but a quick check from the specs in other countries shows the following gear ratios for the City: 1st - 2.995, 2nd - 1.678, 3rd - 1.066, 4th - 0.760, 5th - 0551. Perhaps they have a different definition of overdrive, or they’ve re-geared it for the Malaysian market.

Anyway, if the data I obtained is correct, the City has two overdrive ratios with an additional one designed to lower engine RPM at highway for a quieter and more economical cruise. This transmission is equipped with a paddle shift feature for the 1.5 E model which allows you to swap gears using the left side paddle for downshifts and the right side paddle for upshifts.

Unlike the previous City which differentiated the i-DSI and VTEC models on the interior via different colours, the new City has an all-black interior across the variant range. I love black dashes, and although the plastics on the interior aren’t really soft touch as expected in a B-segment car, it has a slight rough texture to it so it doesn’t really look or feel cheap until you decide to rub around the dashboard. It’s definitely better than some of its competitors (you should know what I’m referring to) so it isn’t the worst in class.

The City 1.5 S base model’s interior lacks some nice features that the 1.5 E has, such as the compartment under the rear seats (which Honda constantly suggests you put your umbrella there), 60:40 split rear seats with a reclining feature, a rear armrest with cupholder, and it only has fixed rear headrest. Both models have water repellent seats.

The audio system also only has 4 speakers compared to the 1.5 E model’s 6 speakers but both variants get the new audio system which features nearly every connectivity method you’d possibly want - CD with MP3 and WMA support, USB input with iPod control support, and an aux input. The only thing you could want is Bluetooth audio streaming.

For those who have seen the nice automatic climate control system that was shown on the European Honda City, unfortunately both variants are not available here in Malaysia. We get the three-knob control design which kind of cheapens the interior.

The meter panel is designed with a triple-gauge design and features a multi-information display that show various “vital statistics” of the car. The two most important features would be distance to empty, which shows you how many km more you can travel on the fuel remaining in your fuel tank, and real-time fuel consumption which shows you how many km you can go per liter of fuel according to your current driving style. You can use this meter to control your driving behavior as it shows you whether your current style is fuel economical or not in real time.

Interior storage includes a glovebox, a tray for small items under the handbrake, a storage area in the center armrest with a cardholder, a pocket for small items such as maybe your Touch N Go card under the air cond vent on the driver’s side, a coin pocket below that, a cup/bottleholder and a storage area in the front door pockets, a cupholder between the two front seats, a cupholder in front of the shift lever, and cupholders in the rear armrest. The boot is best in class with 506 liters of capacity.

The exterior between the two models can easily be differentiated by the front bumper and the alloy wheels. The 1.5 S has smaller 15 inch alloy wheels with 175/65R15 tyres while the 1.5 E has larger 16 inch alloy wheels with 185/55R16 tyres. The front bumper of the 1.5 E model has fog lamps while the 1.5 S does not. The 1.5 E also gains power retractable door mirrors (though both are electronically adjustable).

I believe that one of the City’s best advantages over its competitors is the telescopic feature of the steering wheel that is available on both the Honda City models in Malaysia. This allows the driving position to be optimum for tall people. I have always had a problem with finding a comfortable driving position in the City’s competitors. I am relatively tall but what makes it worse is that most of the height is thanks to long legs. Some B-segment sedans and even one C-segment sedan won’t even allow me to push the seat far back enough for me to reach the pedals comfortably. I had no problems in the City.

The telescopic steering allowed me to pull the steering towards me until my wrist could touch the top of the steering wheel, I was taught that if I could do this, the steering wheel was near enough to me for the best steering control. In another B-segment car, I was either stretching my arm out to the maximum to hold the steering wheel, or adjusting the backrest angle to a very straight and uncomfortable angle to get close enough to the steering wheel.

However note that when this blog’s regular contributor Harvinder Singh got into the car, his optimum driving position found his left knee sometimes hitting the dashboard (not sure why that part juts out unnecessarily), so be sure to check for these important details like whether you fit properly into the “cockpit” when you test drive the City. A comfortable driving position will allow you to control the car properly, and avoiding accidents is always better than relying on airbags and your seatbelt to save you when accidents happen.

Coming to the safety features point, both the models are equally equipped. Both the 1.5 E and the 1.5 S has dual SRS airbags for the front passenger and driver, ABS brakes, EBD, Brake Assist, and a driver’s window that automatically stops when something is in its path while it is winding up.
Only five colours are available, but sadly no white or red! I asked Honda why did they omit these colours as the red seems to be the new City’s flagship colour while white seems to be quite a popular choice lately, but they said according to customer surveys and the past Honda cars sales colour mix, red wasn’t very popular so they decided to leave it out. The five colours are: Deep Lapis Blue Metallic, Crystal Black Pearl, Polished Metal Metallic, Alabaster Silver Metallic, and Bold Beige Metallic.