Car Buyers' Guide: A car to spice things up
If new or future vehicles were required to meet one identical design brief only, then life would be a lot easier for all the different manufacturers and their R&D teams around the globe.
Instead new vehicles, like the Spice Girls, are required to have a host of different personalities and design teams are expected to come up with versions of Scary, Sporty, Posh, Baby and Ginger to meet consumers' demands and needs.
Collectively all new vehicles must share some common goals such as providing the latest in safety technology.
Such is the diversity, we have decided to devote this week's Buyers' Guide column to providing readers with a snapshot of three different new vehicles provided to us by the respective new vehicle distributors as press drives over the last month.
Toyota Highlander AWD Limited ZR ($80,990)
Toyota Highlander AWD Limited ZR
The seven-seat Highlander model range includes both 2WD and All-Wheel-Drive options and a price variation which starts at $59,990 (GX) and over five models tops out at just over 80K (Limited ZR).
At 4.865m in length it's a grown-up SUV and takes up plenty of garage space while specification and build quality levels in the ZR especially are comparable to the more luxury targeted Lexus range.
Safety features include dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure and pre-crash warning systems. All back seat passengers can be entertained on long journeys by the ceiling mounted LCD display which plays both DVD and Blu-ray discs.
Third row seating leg room is generous and suitable for both children and adults of average build. There is only one engine on offer and it's a beauty. The 3.5-litre V6 is quiet, smooth, powerful (201kW) and economical (between 10.2 - 10.6l/100km) for its size. It may even win over some diesel buyers once all the additional extra costs of diesel ownership are factored in.
The Highlander is a great family vehicle, perfect for long trips, comfortable on the open road and easy to manoeuvre and park around town. If you need the extra space it's definitely worth a look. Just make sure the garage is big enough to accommodate it.
Subaru WRX STI (from $59,990)
Subaru WRX STI
From a driving perspective, there isn't much to dislike about the STI, with 221kW of power and 407Nm of torque from the 2.5-litre turbocharged engine. Even the fuel consumption is a reasonable 10.4l/100km (98 octane fuel recommended) for a high performance vehicle.
When driving, it's hard to take the smile off your face. But we would expect nothing less from this type of vehicle and, thankfully, there's a lot more to the STI than just aggressive looks, great handling and high performance. It's a safe vehicle with multiple airbags, electronic stability control plus loads of driver aids and comforts including climate A/C, navigation, cruise control, leather trim, rain sensing wipers, reverse camera, child seat mounting points and a great entertainment system.
A 6-speed manual is the only choice offered which may eventually become hard work in peak-hour, slow traffic. It is an enthusiast's vehicle only and often the downside in this market segment is the thrill is short-lived. Subaru has done a great job, however, of bringing to the market a vehicle designed to prolong the enjoyment and fun as long as possible. Being a standout from the crowd (especially with the large optional boot spoiler fitted) can have its downsides with little chance of not being seen or noticed at times.
Honda Jazz RS Sport 1.5l Manual ($27,000)
Honda Jazz RS Sport 1.5l Manual
The all-new Jazz is proving popular with those looking for a small, well-specced car with lots of usable interior space. When released to the market it quickly set the bench mark for standard kit in this model segment with navigation, touch screen, Wi-Fi capable internet browsing, hill start assist, leather trim all included in the initial retail price.
Not sure how many buyers will go for the RS manual option, with the auto CVT sure to offer better driving pleasure in heavy city traffic which the Jazz suits best.
The quality of the in-dash reverse camera is one big disappointment with this car and not helped by no rear parking sensors fitted to assist when parking. Fuel consumption is a strong point for the Sport, however, with a claimed combined figure of 5.26l/100km, but the dash indicates fuel consumption in kilometres per litre, so don't be alarmed when you see a figure of around 18 come up - that's good.
Who thought all cars were the same, then? What is consistent is new vehicles such as the Highlander, WRX STI and Jazz have never been safer, more environmentally friendly, better-specced and affordable as they are today.