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Journeys : Dec Jan 2010
Best Small Car Ford Fiesta LX, $18,990 Driveline: 1.6-litre, 4-cyl, 5-speed manual Fuel economy: 6.1L/100km, ULP Safety features: DFSA, ABS, EBD ANCAP: GVG: At $18,990, the five-door 1.6-litre five-speed manual petrol Ford Fiesta LX, the latest iteration of Ford's volume seller among the range, is dearer than its prime challengers. The Mazda2 Neo, Toyota Yaris YRS, Honda Jazz 1.3 GLi, Suzuki Swift and Hyundai Getz SX -- all good, popular cars -- are cheaper by between $1600 and $2650 in what is a price-sensitive category. But dollars aren't everything and, in many other aspects, the challenger in the blue (oval) corner equals or outpoints the best of its classy opposition to be a worthy winner. In standard features, it represents value for money, boasting air-conditioning with pollen filter, steering that adjusts for tilt and reach, power steering, power mirrors and (tinted) windows, intermittent wipers, rear-screen wiper, cr uise control, split- fold rear seat, MP3 compatibility, Bluetooth and radio/CD player Ditto safety. The little Ford gets dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution and adjustable front/rear headrests. There are also height-adjustable front seatbelts with pretensioners/load limiters and reminders and a centre-rear lap/sash seatbelt. By not including electronic stability control (ESC) as standard, Fiesta gets only four (out of five) stars in its ANCAP safety rating (but it's not alone there). An optional safety pack, which includes side and curtain airbags, driver's knee airbag and ESC with brake assist and traction control, is recommended. Fiesta also scores well for security, featuring central locking with remote door opening, deadlocking (not found in many similar cars), plus stereo theft code protection. Interior space is about as good as it gets in a car of this size, and Fiesta stands out in the comfort stakes despite there being no lumbar support or cushion tilt to the front seats. A good practicality score could have been better had a full-sized (15-inch) alloy spare wheel been standard instead of a 14-inch temporary use item. Under the skin, Fiesta conforms to the category template of transverse in-line 16-valve, four-cylinder engine, front strut and rear torsion beam axle suspension, electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering and front-wheel-drive. Performance wise, it's a little powerhouse. Where many others run out of puff, Fiesta continues to pull away convincingly in fourth and fifth gears. Fiesta also impresses with crisp, fast steering and firm but compliant damping that eases out all but the most aggressive back road bumps, making for an accomplished ride. In fact, Fiesta LX is such an entertaining and rewarding drive that a Sport badge would not be out of place on its rump. And bigger section tyres enhance its braking ability, ensuring Fiesta has the whoa to match the go. One caution though: buyers taking up the four-speed automatic option ($1500) should note that, in this mode, Fiesta comes with a 1.4-litre engine, not the accomplished 1.6-litre unit available with the standard manual gearbox. 2nd -- Mazda2 Neo 3rd -- Honda Jazz GLi Best Small / Mid-size Car Hyundai i30 SX CRDi, $22,890 Driveline: 1.6-litre, 4-cyl, 5-speed manual Fuel economy: 4.7L/100km, diesel. Safety features: DFSA, CA, ABS, TCS, ESC ANCAP: GVG: In these post-financial crisis times, choice, quality and value for money have never been more important and in Australia's fastest-growing vehicle category Hyundai i30 SX has repeated last year's win, offering all of the above and more. Not prepared to admire one Australia's Best Cars trophy in the cabinet for the i30, Hyundai set about improving the car to stay ahead of the competition, which wouldn't have been easy considering it already punched above its weight in standard features and security. Last year's winning car had a smart safety package of electronic stability control, dual front airbags, electronic brakeforce distribution and traction control, although it missed out on side and curtain airbags. Through the advocacy of Australia's Best Cars, this year the base model SX has these additional airbags as standard, moving the entire i30 range to a five-star ANCAP safety rating, while rem aining at the budget end of the category. This is a significant win for consumers and adds pressure to other manufacturers to offer maximum occupant protection in base models. The diesel i30 was pipped by the petrol variant by just a few points last year. In 2009 the tables have turned, although it was still a close call. The diesel i30 hits home with top marks for fuel consumption with a combined cycle of 4.7L/100km (7.2L /100km for petrol). This is supported by class-leading r unning and repair costs and a generous five- year unlimited-kilometre warranty. At 1.6 litres, the diesel engine achieves peak power of 85kW at 4000rpm, which doesn't sound much, but with a thumping 255Nm of torque available in the meat of the rev range, hill climbing or highway cr uising is always effortless. The diesel is also extremely quiet and could teach a few valuable lessons to more expensive Euro manufacturers. Handling dynamics are solid if not outstanding, with the electrically assisted steering sometimes displaying a centre dead-spot, but in general there is good progressive steering feel and on-road compliance. On the roughest of dirt roads, the ride for all passengers was above average and well insulated from all but the biggest potholes. The i30 isn't a big car externally, but a surprisingly spacious interior awaits driver and passengers. Tilt and reach adjustment for the steering column allows the driver to find the perfect position in the comfortable and supportive seat. Rear-seat passengers aren't forgotten, with adequate comfort and space even for those growing teenagers. Interior controls are clear and straightforward and within easy reach of the driver. Standard features also include auxiliary and USB inputs allowing full iPod integration into the vehicle's MP3-capable single CD player. Build quality continues to be high and both interior and exterior styling still look fresh a couple of years into its model life. Hyundai i30 is still king of this class and has clearly thrown down the gauntlet to other manufacturers in this class to 'catch me if you can'. 2nd -- Volkswagen PoloTDI 3rd -- Mitsubishi Lancer ES December 09 / January 10 38
October November 2009
Feb March 2010