Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hyundai i45

It seems we are having a Korean cars festival on the ACC. First Ssanyong's prehistoric technology, Kia's only good car, and now Hyundai, with just about the worst priced car in the entire world.

Value for money. It's what defines a bargain. You get something for much less than you thought. Korean cars are generally about value for money (though that is stretching the definition of "value") and when you buy a Korean car which has been manufactured by emotionless robots to make money, as opposed to lovingly crafted by skilled people to realise a dream, you don't want to part with too much of your hard earned cash.

At the other end of the scale, is the rip-off. When you get pretty much nothing for an outrageous price. Bottled water, printer cartridges and other expendables are right in this category. And so are many cars. Including today's automotive abomination. The ludicrously overpriced Hyundai i45 2.4L "Elite".

This cement salesman's runabout is priced at NZ$53,000! Yes, your eyes are working correctly (if not, please adjust your monitor) This car is slow, ugly, has a stupidly small engine, and that worthless Hyundai badge, yet Hyundai think its funny to give this godawful donk a near NZ$55,000 price tag. I was scouring their website to try and find anything that would justify the price, and there was nothing. In fact, it even listed three point seat-belts as one of the safety features.

The number of alternative drives is so large, the i45 is at the bottom of the list. Take the excellent Ford Mondeo XR5 Turbo. This has a 2.5L 5 cylinder engine with turbocharging making it way ahead of the Hyundai, even before I mention that fact that it has styling you may actually want to look at, and that its made in Belgium, meaning it won't fall apart. There's no contest; especially when its NZ$7,000 cheaper.
If you don't need a new car, you could settle for a 2 year old BMW 330i, for around NZ$35,000. This has a 3L V6 engine, and a BMW badge, making even an old car worse than the brand new Hyundai.

In order to justify the stupid price tag, Hyundai can only do one thing. Place a 5.2L V10 engine under the bonnet, and put it on sale. Without changing the price. 

The Rip-Off

The Bargain

Monday, January 31, 2011

Kia Cerato Koup

As I outlined in my previous post about the horrid Ssanyong Rexton, Korean cars are generally low on power, ugly in looks, and surprisingly low tech considering the century that we are now in. They also suffer from one of the most pitiful features a car can have. Deathly dullness. Apart from Ssanyong's comical ads and ridicoulous styling, most other Korean car manufacturers tend to churn out cars with less passion and flair than a bare white wall. I saw a Hyundai Sonata drive by the other day, and even though it ran a red light (normally a rather exiting road event) I was overcome with the urge to fall asleep.

The worst thing about Hyundai, is not the dreary crud that comes into the country, but it's the blatently untruthful and downright laughable advertising that gets drilled into the New Zealand people every day on the TV and on massive billboard across the country. A billboard near Wellington airport (which Hyundai sadly owns, meaning it will always be draped in crappy slogans and ugly cars) was showing a huge quote from a National Business Review "executive" The quote read-"By 2013 Hyundai will be NZ's number one brand"
This quote is not only a white lie, but an expensive one for Hyundai. You can just hear the wad of $100 bills falling neatly into the executive's account.

But despite the dreary cars and pointless advertising, Korea (or more specifically, Kia) recently designed the first ever Korean car that you may actually want to part with cash for. The Kia Cerato on which it's based, is actually not bad looking. I do not however recommend purchasing a standard Cerato, as people will still know that you are driving a Kia. But the Koup is a work of art.

The front of the standard Cerato is very well proportioned. The grille and the headlights all fit together in one neat package. But the looks are sadly weighed down by the upright sedan body. Rather like a supermodel having to model clothes whilst constanly wearing a bulletproof suit. But lose the sedan body and replace it with a fastback, two door body and the results are fantastic. The square and rigid looking doors on the sedan are replaced with two sleek pillar-less doors, which neatly round off the flowing body and forward design.

For a decent Cerato Koup with all of the available features (which is how I would buy a car) the value for money is immense. The top spec model only costs around NZ$33,000. Sadly, the only available engine for the Koup is a 2.0 litre four pot, which really doesn't do justice to the well designed body. But if you are prepared to sacrifice power for looks and value for money, the Cerato Koup is for you. Let's hope Kia puts a V6 in it! 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ssanyong Rexton

When one decides to buy a new consumer good, be it a computer, a
table, book, anything; one usually expects to take some features of
that good for granted. for example: when you buy a table, it is highly
unlikely that in the advert for it, the retailer is boasting about how
it comes with legs as standard. Or in the case of a book, how it comes
with "pages made of paper"

But I was reading through my local newspaper, and I saw an ad for two
Ssanyong cars. They actually called them offroaders, but even my
mother doubted that they could even attempt to drive over something as
troublesome as a crack in the road. In the ad for their Actyon ute,
they listed the usual features such as air-con and the supposedly
powerful diesel engine, (which was the world's first attempt at
calling an engine which produced less than 200 kW "powerful")
As I read down the list, however, my trust for the car (which was
already pretty thin) vanished completely. The ad boasted that the car
had four wheel disc brakes. Now, I don't know what the brake
technology is in Korea, but judging by the ad, it's clearly very old.
No car manufacturer since around the 1980s has ever boasted about their automotive
creation having such a commonplace feature.
And if you think it couldn't get any worse, you are sadly wrong. I
scanned my eyes across the page and saw the lost of features for their
Rexton model. This car was advertised as having three point seatbelts!
I haven't seen any car ad in my entire life with three point seatbelts
advertised as a feature. This shows Korea's level of automotive
crappyness as being off the charts. In other words, avoid any car from
Ssanyong at all costs. You may find that a feature on one of their
crappier models is doors and a roof.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


It's quite common for graphic designers to borrow ideas, shapes or lines from nature. It's also common for inventors to do the same thing. It's clear that the shape of the humble wing fitted to every plane ever made, was taken from the wing of every bird ever born. The same goes for the inventor of the articulated or 'bendy' bus. He or she must have seen a snake and, rather than running away in fear, decided to notice that long things that bend in the middle can go round corners a lot more easily than rigid things.

Sadly, time has a habit of ruining trends or fashions. Designers and inventors decided to use science and maths to base their ideas on, rather than nature. But when the designers at BMW decided to revive the 6 series, they looked at nature. Or, to put it more accurately, decided to visit the shark tank at their local aquarium. They saw that the shark had a very hydrodynamic shape, and that this would help their new car go fast. But no matter how shapely or hydrodynamic the car is, it isn't going to go fast without power.

The 630ci and the 645ci, with 3 litre and 4.5 litre engines respectively, are not going to set one's trousers on fire, with extreme speed. It's the M6 that does the trouser burning. The Jaws inspired frontal styling on the less sporty models was toned down for the golf club car park. But the M6 has frontal styling turned up for the racetrack. The huge chin spoiler, the flared wheel arches and the trademark BMW double grilles are all from the meat-eating shark. But no shark has ever come with a 5 litre V10 engine under it's leathery hide. 

Even though the V10 is also used in the M5 sedan, the M6 is faster, simply because there is a lot less weight to pull around. But there are a few areas in which the M6 becomes a land beast, as opposed to a fast, underwater carnivore. The styling at the back is more obese duvet, than sleek sea-creature. There are way too many settings for the interior seats and the iDrive computer. There is an insanely complicated gearbox with 11 settings, and there are three power settings for the engine. Why? Can't it be on permanent 507 maximum horsepower mode? There are also 3 settings for the differential, which will mean many trips to the BMW dealer for costly repairs. But apart from these setbacks, the M6 is a true monster. But only when set up correctly.  

Monday, August 2, 2010

Porsche 959

For some reason, or other, most people in the 1980's were thinking about, for, sometimes against, and even inside the humble square. This kind of thinking showed up in many features of society, such as everyday items, buildings, and even cars. Two of the boxiest cars in the world, the Volvo 760 and the Audi 5000 were both cars of this cubular decade. No one really knows what started this square hell, but there aren't many upsides to the square. It doesn't look nice, isn't interesting, and it certainly has no aerodynamic upsides either.

But there was another 80's car with lovely aerodynamic curves and an equally lovely badge. The Porsche 959 (dubbed as a formula one car for the road) looked as though it was designed during a ruler shortage at the head bodywork design centre at Porsche. All these curves made it fast. The top speed was 317kph, which blew many other supercars into the weeds. And these were supercars with twice as many cylinders, and three times the engine capacity!

The 959 had a tiny 2.8 litre flat-six engine, which produced a whopping 450 bhp. This shows how fine tuning and patience can lead to great things. The Americans of the time must have been absolutely gob-smacked, when they were only making cars with huge 5 litre V8s, that produced less than 100 bhp. And the Americans would have been equally amazed at the cornering. To help the 959 around the tight racetrack bends it would inevitably face, it had four wheel drive, and complicated suspension, to make sure it didn't lean during hard cornering.

This also led the 959 to the Paris-Dakar Rally in 1986, which is strange really, considering Porsche didn't dabble in off road vehicles until the Cayenne of 2003. Getting your hands on a 959 was very difficult indeed. For a kick-off, you had to be an existing Porsche owner, and there were only 200 cars to choose from. And some of these were the sports models, with no back seats, no real interior, and no adjustable suspension (making the ride permanently harsh)

The 959 is one great Porsche. The only super-Porsche to follow it, is the amazing Carrera GT, with an equally curvy body. Which means that at least Porsche were thinking outside the box in the 1980's. I'm glad they did.      

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Smart Roadster-Coupe

Remember those little pedal cars that you may or may not have had as a small child? I certainly do, seeing as I spent about 1/3rd of my childhood on one. The pedal car in question wasn't actually mine. It used to belong to my cousin, and it didn't belong at my house either. My Grandmother kept it at her house in Napier, NZ, and whenever we went up there for a family holiday, I would literally spend hours on this little yellow car, screaming around the perimeter of my Nan's house, at what I believed to be huge speeds (but were probably closer to slow walking speeds) The car was very basic: It had a simple yellow steel frame, a pair of square hoops to put your feet into (the pedals), two tiny front wheels and two chunky back wheels (only one of which actually turned when you pedaled) This car was so basic, it actually had two little handles rather than a steering wheel.

Sadly, two things ended my joy of driving this car around the place. Firstly, as time went by, I became too tall to fit in the small seat. Secondly, because I loved to crash into pot-plants, pillars and sometimes my dad's car, the wheels eventually decided to fall off. And no bolts or screws could hold them on this time. The car now sits in my Nan's shed, (full of all the other bikes and scooters I've broken over the years) and one day I'll bring it out again, to remind myself of the fun I had with it.

There is one car, that also reminds me of the fun I had with my pedal car. The Smart Roadster. It may be seven years old now, but it still remains the ultimate car to have fun in. It has a tiny 700cc three cylinder engine, two seats and a great looking plastic body. Because the Smart is so light, 700cc is plenty to power this car along. The roof arrangement was brilliant too. You had a canvas electric roof which folded away in seconds, and two small roof rails which were stowed in the boot.

But this is where the only problem of the Roadster shows up. The boot may be the width and length of the car, but it was only 15cm deep. It could hold...air. But this is where the word 'Coupe' comes to the rescue. The Smart Roadster-Coupe has glass side windows and a sort of hatchback bootlid thing where the boot is, meaning you can carry actual objects. This makes the Roadster very practical. 

I would give anything to be able to shrink down in size, so that I can fit back into my old pedal car. I would also give anything to be able to fix the wheels back on. While I can't shrink or fix the wheels, I can do something very similar. I can buy a Smart Roadster Coupe. Although I will take care not to crash into pot plants or pillars.   

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mercedes E-Class Convertible

Yes, it's July, and Wellington just recorded a temperature of 2 degrees C last night, and even then it only got up to 8 degrees C by lunchtime the same day. This begs the question, what on Earth are we doing discussing cars that are strictly summer-only? Surely I should be reviewing the VW Phaeton, a car with central heating, rather than a car that would turn your face into an ice sculpture if you so much as opened the window fully.

Contrary to what you (Wellingtonians especially) may believe, July and August are the best months to start thinking about buying an open top car. The Winter solstice has packed it's bags and headed north, so the days are getting longer. Spring is on it's way (hopefully) and eventually Summer will be upon us. Convertible buying is like booking a plane ticket. You have to be in early to get the best options, otherwise they'll all be gone by summer. 

Luckily, there are many cars that the manufacturers have decided to take a hacksaw to. There are plenty of great BMWs, Peugeots, Audis and even Bugatti has decided to make a convertible version of their Veyron. But just where the money to purchase the latter is going to come from, is another dilemma entirely. Mercedes has launched an open top version of their very stylish E-class coupe. Almost identical to the hard top car, except without a roof of course.

But I myself would urge caution to those who have seen the photo at the bottom of the page and have already decided to place an order. You see, I went to the Mercedes website a few weeks ago, to check up on their latest offerings, and slap-bang on the first page of the international website, is a picture of an E-class convertible parked outside a nightclub, with the heading "Sex and the City 2" I'm so sorry (especially to fans of the film) but this just turns the E-class cabriolet into a car with such a tiny amount of class, that you would have to be a colossal idiot to buy one.

On the other end of the scale, however, if you enjoy posing in your current convertible, and you need a replacement, then go and buy one tomorrow. And that is another reason why the E-class has no style, elegance or taste. You could say that it's just a disco ball on wheels (especially with the number of chromed surfaces on the bodywork) Interestingly, the old Mercedes C63 AMG suffered from the same discoballitis, but it made up for that, with it's hugely exciting 6.2 litre V8 engine. But here, there's nothing to give the E-class convertible any style, elegance or excitement. It's just a car for posers.

The new BMW 3 series convertible is on it's way soon, but do you really want to look like you're off to the golf course all the time? I recommend the new Audi S5 cabriolet. This has a huge V8 engine, a beautifully crafted canvas roof, and because it's an Audi it has acres of style and elegance. The chances of this car being used to ferry drunks from one nightclub to the next, are nil. 

And that's why I would have the Audi. You can't really pose in this car because it's so quietly styled. People on Oriental Bay in Wellington won't look at you as you drive along with the top down. They won't see the S5 parked up on Lambton Quay and immediately think-'drug dealers car' The Audi is just so composed, and it handles well too, thanks to the Quattro four-wheel-drive system that the Mercedes doesn't have. 
So when you come around to deciding what open top car to buy, think of the classy Four Ringed logo, rather than the posing three-point star.  

  The car for Summer
The car for posers