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Journeys : Dec Jan 2010
Best Mid-Size Car $30k-$50k VW Golf 118 TSI Comfortline, $32,990 Drivetrain: 7-speed DSG Fuel economy: 6.2 Safety features: DFSA, CA, KA, ESC, TCS, ABS ANCAP: GVG: The message is clear in this ultra-competitive class: persistence pays off. Volkswagen Golf TSI Comfortline has never been far from the front of the pack. With its combination of high-tech engines and transmissions, better-than-average depreciation, decent r unning and repair costs, and high levels of build quality and finish, it has been a consistent performer. But it could never crack it for a win, although the 'Golf with a boot', V W's Jetta sedan, is a past winner. Until now. The sixth-generation Golf launched earlier this year came with a host of mechanical changes housed in a cleaner-looking body. The most significant changes have been under the bon net, with new petrol engines that are smaller in capacity than the previous generation, yet more powerful and providing better fuel consumption. The excellent diesel engine has also been refined, and common-rail injection improves its fuel consumption figure by 7% over the old model. The 118TSi Comfortline uses a 1.4-litre petrol engine that puts out an impressive 118kW of power, with the twin-bonuses of turbo-charging and a supercharger combining to deliver an extra 15kW over the previous generation's 2.0-litre engine. But to be a winner in a class that has 49 entries, you need more than a great engine, and the Golf rates highly in the critically-weighted areas of safety, ergonomics and environment. These key areas have always been its strong suit, but Golf has added to its credentials with an improved set of on-road scores. Although smaller than its main rivals, the 118TSi Comfortline is never going to be out-muscled on the road. Limpet-like levels of grip and sharp, responsive steering that convey all the right messages to the driver take this Golf up a level, and it's almost as much fun to drive as its sporty GTi cousin. Where Comfortline is now better than its predecessor is the much- improved ride quality Hence its perfect 10s for ride and handling. With more than 26 million Golfs built in various factories around the world to date, it surpasses the iconic VW Beetle by a long way and has forged a name that symbolises the best in a mid-sized package in its own right. 2nd -- Volkswagen Jetta TDI 3rd -- Mazda6 Classic Best Large Car Toyota Aurion ATX, $35,490 Driveline: 3.5 litre, 6 cyl, 6-speed automatic Fuel economy: 9.9L/100km. ULP Safety features: DFSA, CA, ABS, TCS, ESC ANCAP: GVG: The family-sized Aurion sedan, like many of the passenger cars and commercial vehicles produced by Toyota, is a sound value-for-money package. Named Australia's Best Large Car in 2006 and 2007, it led the pack by offering high levels of safety equipment and standard features in an entry-level car, along with class-leading fuel economy. By 2008 the competition had matched its safety credentials, while this year the 3.0- litre Holden Commodore surpassed its fuel economy and yet the Aurion has reclaimed the Best Large Car crown from Ford Falcon by recording higher scores in more critical aspects of the 19 areas of assessment. Most notable though is Aurion's remarkable value for money. Starting with a list price well below its major rivals and with sound resale values, it beats all comers on pricing and depreciation values. Backed by Toyota's fixed-price servicing, it is also ahead of the competition for ow nership and operating cost and despite its size Aurion continues to deliver impressive fuel economy. Perhaps less obvious are its environmental credentials, which match the best in class. Aurion has a sophisticated V6 engine pulled from Toyota's lux ury division Lex us, which remains a standout for silky power and perfor mance, delivered via an equally slick six-speed autom atic transmission. While Aurion may not have the towing capacity of a Falcon or Commodore, it gives little away in ter ms of handling and chassis dynamics. By avoiding the steeply-angled front and rear windscreen pillars of some of its competitors, Aurion's cabin is easy to access and is spacious and airy. The front-wheel-drive configuration enhances rear-seat space, particularly when three are seated in the back, and an unencumbered boot ensures easy storage of large amounts of luggage. A full-size spare wheel also enhances the Aurion's practicality score. Safety remains a strong suit, with standard electronic stability control, six airbags plus ABS braking with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution. Like Commodore and Falcon, the Aurion gets a top five-star ANCAP safety score. Inside, Toyota's simple yet effective design takes the guesswork out of operating any of the controls. Everything is clear and precise and Toyota's much-vaunted high standard of build quality shows even in this base model AT-X. It could be easy for some to dismiss Aurion for simply being the older design among the locally-built large cars, which would fail to acknowledge Toyota's sustained efforts to keep it updated. Inherent space and practicality are complemented by a healthy swag of standard features, good driving dynamics, safety, fuel efficiency and low emissions, all at the lowest ow nership and operating costs in the class. 2nd -- Falcon FG XR6 3rd -- Holden Commodore Omega December 09 / January 10 39
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