Tuesday, September 29, 2009

2011 Volkswagen Touareg Spied Testing


THE NEXT GENERATION Volkswagen Touareg, expected to land late next year as a 2011 model, has been spied testing on the roads of Germany this week.

The new 2011 Touareg will address the the current model’s lack of space for seven passengers, despite being slightly smaller in overall dimensions than the current outgoing model.


A range of new, more fuel-efficient engines will feature in the Touareg line-up, starting with a 208kW 3.2 litre V6 petrol engine, through to a range-topping 257kW 4.2 litre V8. A pair of diesel engines are expected to join the petrol engines, with 2.7 and 3.0 litre capacities.

The next generation Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7 models are expected to utilise the same platform, which will feature greater use of aluminium for weight reduction.

These new images follow reports of a Touareg test mule wearing a modified version of the current model’s body, with a widened rear bumper and a different intake system.


This latest batch of images reveals that Volkswagen has begun testing an actual prototype of the 2011 model.

While the heavy camouflaging gives away little, the new model is expected to take on a sportier look, drawing inspiration from the more recent Tiguan (see TMR’s 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan review here) and wearing Volkswagen’s new family face.

2010 Triumph Rocket III Roadster Announced For Australia


JOINING THE Rocket III Classic and Touring, Triumph has announced the Rocket III Roadster for the Australian market, arriving in February 2010.

Triumph describes the Rocket III Roadster as the ultimate muscle streetfighter, moving out of the cruiser territory occupied by its Classic and Touring siblings.

The 2010 Triumph Rocket III Roadster is powered by an upgraded version of Triumph’s three-cylinder 2297cc powerplant, now developing 224Nm of torque - 15 percent more than previously.


A sophisticated anti-lock braking system is fitted as standard - the first time for the Rocket III platform - helping bring the huge Roadster to a halt.

Triumph says the new features of the Roadster making it a hugely different riding experience.

The footrests are further back, lower down and more inboard than on the other Rocket III models, offering a riding position designed to be more comfortable to non-cruiser riders.


A plush new seat positions the rider higher and further forward, reducing the reach to the handlebars and making the Roadster easier to steer through corners.

New rear suspension units, designed for a more comfortable and controlled ride, bear a blacked-out look to emphasise the Roadster’s ‘bad boy’ image. Other components have gone black as well, including the forks, yokes, radiator shroud and rear springs.

Pricing is yet to be confirmed, but the Roadster will be available from official Triumph dealerships from February 2010.

2010 Kia Cerato Koup Road Test Review


MAKE YOURSELF a list of every attractive two-door coupe available now in Australia, brand new, for under $25,000. If you’ve got it right, it’s a list of one - you’ll see the 2010 Kia Cerato Koup there and, well, nothing else.

Stretch the dollars to $30,000 ($29,990 to be exact) and you’ll get the Citroen C4 VTS ‘coupe’. And that’s about where things end until you start getting into serious dollars.

With Toyota retiring the Celica line and Mitsubishi leaving the two-door option off the last few generations of the Lancer, competition for an affordable, stylish, entry-level coupe is very thin on the ground right now.

Kia knows it. That’s why it has responded to the Cerato Koup concept’s positive reception a little over a year ago by putting it into production. And it’s virtually unchanged (at least on the outside).

What better way to dominate a segment than to choose one that everyone else has vacated? Perhaps conservatively, Kia expects to sell around 600 to 800 Koups in its first year on the market.

Whatever the sales story, the thing about the Koup is its visual impact. Because here, Kia has a car with the looks to draw non-believers into showrooms, and have them stay long enough to discover that this Korean upstart can make an appealingly styled and engaging car.

Better than that, a good one.


The Cerato sedan, already one of the better looking cars in its segment, barely holds a candle to its two-door stablemate. In a way, the Cerato sedan is to the Koup as Mimi McPherson is to her supermodel sister: shapely, certainly, but… well… she’s no Elle.

The Cerato Koup, 60mm lower and 50mm shorter than the sedan, has a sporting style about it absent in the sedan (though smart enough in its own way)


Certain elements are common to both cars - one is clearly the two-door version of the other - but virtually every body panel is brand new and only the bonnet is shared.

While drawing a line between the styling of each car is easy enough - the tail-lights, the identical headlights and grille, the character line that follows the bottom sill of the side windows - the most noticeable point of difference (besides the two-door layout and coupe roofline) is that tougher-looking front bumper.

Styled wider and more purposeful, the Koup’s front bumper is dominated by a wide-open air dam, flanked either side by large foglight housings.


The gloss black touches up front, like the black-framed version of the Cerato ‘Schreyer-line’ grille, work well and give a distinctive style to the Koup’s nose.

From side-on, the funky C-pillar dominates the Koup’s lines, and it really is quite unique.

Unlike most modern coupes, the Koup is ‘booted’ - it’s not a hatch. This gives it an oddly square roofline and C-pillar, but the lines work remarkably well. Stylewise, Kia’s nicely balanced Koup seems to be all about the phrase “point of difference”.

Up back, the shorter tail is highlighted by a protruding rear bumper with faux diffuser and a pair of exhaust tips jutting from beneath.


Above the rear bumper, narrower versions of the regular Cerato’s tail-lights sit almost wing-like, featuring slightly re-styled lenses.

Speaking with TMR prior to the Koup’s launch, Kia’s National Marketing Manager Jonathan Fletcher said: “It’s unquestionably a car that we’re going to be very proud to offer. It will form an important part of the range, and its looks alone immediately stamp it as being something of a halo car for the brand.”

The Interior

Inside the Koup lies a largely unchanged but noticeably tweaked interior over the Cerato SLi sedan TMR has on long-term test. The Koup has come in for a number of small but significant changes.

The hard plastic of the 2009 Cerato’s dash has been partially trimmed in a more up-market soft vinyl. The centre stack now features a larger area of glossy piano-black plastic, surrounded by a darker, and classier, gunmetal version of the 2009 Cerato’s silver-finished trim panels.


The air vents either side of the centre stack, previously plain black plastic, are now also finished in the same gunmetal grey. It also features on the steering wheel, door grips and gear-knob and transmission housing.

The leather-wrapped steering wheel, lifted directly from the sedan, features red stitching for a slightly sportier look.

The stylish instrument cluster is large and easy to read, with a centrally-mounted speedometer flanked by the tachometer and fuel gauge. A central, single-colour LCD panel houses the trip multi-function computer display.

Seating is unchanged physically but for more obvious bolstering. It is also trimmed in a flattering suede or Alcantara-like material that is classier than the fabric seats of the 2009 sedan, but perhaps not as stylish as the leather options available in overseas markets. The same red stitching is featured here.

Overseas models can have their interiors optioned with splashes of red, but Kia Australia has opted to stick with a strictly black-on-black (on-gunmetal) look. A smart move, we reckon.

We will be switching our 2009 Cerato SLi for a 2010 model in the coming weeks, so we’ll know then which of these styling updates are unique to the Koup and which will carry over to the sedan.


Retaining the sedan’s 2650mm wheelbase, cabin space in the Koup is virtually identical to its four-door sibling. Rear leg space is only slightly smaller, but three adults will fit as comfortably across the Koup’s rear bench as in the sedan.

Headroom is slightly diminished, but thanks to the square-ish cut to the roof and the relatively steep C-pillar, rear passengers are not badly served. The Koup offers quite reasonable headspace here.

Boot space is an ample 358 litres, losing only 57 litres from the sedan’s 415 litres of storage space. As with the sedan, the rear seats can be dropped to open up more space (although Kia doesn’t specify the capacity with the rear seats down).

Equipment and Features

The 2010 Kia Cerato Koup, available in only one trim level, is fitted out to the same level as the top-of-the-line SLi sedan variant.

As with the SLi, the Koup features an easy-to-use and effective cruise control, climate control, multi-function trip computer, auto-on headlights and rear-parking sensors.

The Cerato Koup has yet to be tested for an ANCAP safety rating (the base sedan was awarded a respectable 4-Star rating), but nonetheless offers the same six airbag package and stability control as its SLi sedan sibling.

Kia Cerato Koup

ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control and stability control are all standard and each seat is equipped with three-point seatbelts. Pretensioners are fitted to the front row belts.

As with many Hyundai and Kia models, auxiliary and iPod/USB connectivity is featured, but Hyundai-Kia engineers have once again overlooked the difference between compatibility and integration when it comes to the iPod connectivity.

Motorists familiar with the iPod’s file management will know that once files are transferred to the device, they are given new, randomised names, and placed into similarly random folders.


As the Hyundai and Kia stereos only read files and not playlists, using an iPod via the Cerato Koup’s stereo means, essentially, having the ‘random’ function constantly in play.

Starting at $23,690 for the manual - less than a grand more than the equivalent SLi sedan - and offering virtually the same cabin and storage space in a very nice looking parcel, it’s difficult to argue against the value the well-specified Koup represents.

Mechanical Package

The 2010 Kia Cerato Koup is powered by the same 2.0 litre inline four-cylinder petrol engine as the sedan, developing a class-leading (still) 115kW at 6200rpm and 194Nm of torque at 4300rpm. It is a robust and proven unit with DOHC and electronic injection.

Fuel consumption is rated at 7.8 l/100km for the manual-equipped model (the one we tested) and 7.9 l/100km for the auto. Safe numbers too: the long peak-hour drive home from the Koup’s launch saw us comfortably sitting on a 7.5 l/100km average.

No revisions were made to the engine in its leap from a four-door to a two-door body, but that’s unlikely to put most Koup buyers off. While it lacks the sense of urgency and punch an enthusiast would expect from a genuine sports car, the Koup’s target buyer simply isn’t going to notice its absence.


While it might give away a degree of performance, the Koup’s in-line four is perfectly suited to everyday driving and highway cruising. It is in fact exactly what it’s designed to be: a stylish ‘daily-driver’ with a nice wide brush of visual flair.

Beating the 2010 Cerato sedan to market, the manual Koup gets a revised and improved transmission. Both the feel and the operation are a step-up from the previous model. Our 2009 SLi sedan ‘long-term tester’ is saddled with a clutch that, while easy enough to adapt to, is too sensitive on take-up and can be annoying in traffic.

The updated clutch of the same five-speed manual transmission is vastly improved in the Koup; now much more manageable and a great deal easier to live with. The action of the shift through the gate is slicker and more satisfying than previously, and with less chore-like clunkiness.

Things down below have also come in for some tweaking. While the Koup’s suspension is based on the sedan’s MacPherson strut/torsion beam setup, it gets stiffer damper valving, a thicker front sway bar and a 10mm lower ride height.

These changes have lead to a marginal but not insignificant improvement in the Koup’s handling. It now feels firmer but the ride is not too bad.


You need to keep the price in context here. While it might lack a little in sophistication, it goes about things pretty well. It is only over poorer secondary roads that it can jar a little; it is otherwise quite a reasonable and enjoyable steer.

The Koup’s brake package is more or less unchanged: 15-inch ventilated front discs and 14-inch solid discs at the rear. Some minor tweaks from Kia’s tech-heads has lead to slight braking performance improvement and shorter stopping distances (it certainly feels a little sharper than the sedan).

A sportier muffler offers a slightly sportier note, but it’s still a bit dull and enthusiasts certainly won’t be satisfied. This would be the first thing we’d attend to - some nice pipes and a throaty note.

The Drive

We mentioned the Koup’s sticker price above, and it’s this point that should remain at the front of your mind if you’re in the market for a sportscar. The simple fact is that the Koup is not one.

That said - and we recognise the minor dichotomy here - it is sporty. We hurled the thing through more than a few corners and were pleasantly surprised. It doesn’t have masses of power at its disposal but is reasonably well-balanced.

There is an expected tendency to understeer when really pressing on (which can be corrected by lifting off), but some performance tyres will likely transform things here.


The sedan, a respectable-enough handler in its own right, is outdone by the Koup’s modified suspension. The Koup can be worked a lot harder thanks its tighter underpinning.

The result, unexpectedly, is a Kia that sits a little flatter, corners with a little more determination, and will hold its line that little bit better - ‘a little bit’ is the key here, but it works for the Koup.

The trade-off is that things are a little harsher over broken surfaces than the sedan. But it’s no deal-breaker. With the tweaks being relatively minor, daily driving offers similar comfort as the four-door.


This was no doubt a specific goal for Kia’s engineers. And it’s a fair bet that most of the Koup’s buyers will spend a lot more time commuting than barrelling through the nearest set of curly roads.

Steering feels sharper and more communicative than the sedan - and with good reason, it gets a faster rack and re-engineered more-rigid steering linkages. Where the sedan’s steering feels somewhat light and vague, the Koup’s tiller feels a little more connected and certainly heavier - in an ‘old school’ sportscar way.

The Koup takes the 0-100km/h run at more of a canter than a gallop, hitting the ton in around 9.5 seconds.


Sure, an ‘enthusiast’ might choose to bypass the two-door Cerato. It is never going to be taking on a WRX nor even an older scorcher like the Integra Type R.

But, that said, we’re not about to damn it with faint praise.

Kia’s inexpensive little Koup is more than a reasonable steer for the money, and can be an entertaining and enjoyable drive if you’re prepared to keep the revs up.

The Verdict

The Koup is what it is: a sporting package - handsome certainly, and will win hearts on style alone - but not a performance car.

There are better drives around for the money: the Lancer for instance, or Ford’s sharp-handling Fiesta, even the i30. But the Koup is a coupe, and, at its price, is perfectly alone in a segment that has been all-but overlooked - or abandoned - by other manufacturers in this market.

But while it’s stylish, it’s not all looks and nothing else. It is quite nicely trimmed inside, well-finished, and is more than a half-decent drive.

It will sell well for Kia; it’s a sure bet we will see lots of them running around with some nice aftermarket pipes and wheels.

Kia’s Koup will win a lot of friends and it deserves to. It is a genuine good-value buy. The ’second Korean’ has pulled a rabbit out of the hat with the stylish Koup.


  • Newer, classier interior
  • Updated transmission
  • Sharp, purposeful sporting styling
  • Especially eye-catching in bright red


  • Looks great, doesn’t handle quite as well
  • Engine needs more poke
  • Seats could have better bolstering

Jaguar Considering Five-Door Coupe: Report


LITTLE MORE THAN a week ago, Jaguar’s chief engineer Mick Mohan admitted that the British luxury marque is exploring a range of new model options, including a more affordable coupe to take on the BMW 3 Series and Audi A5.

Now, according to US site Edmunds, Jaguar is believed to be looking at a five-door version of the coupe project, leaving the three-door idea out all together.


With the X-Type coming to its end this year, Jaguar will have no real contender in the compact premium sedan segment and is understandably eager to develop a vehicle for this market.

Based on the RD6 coupe concept revealed back in 2003, the new coupe - reportedly codenamed RD7 - is expected to be built on a shortened version of the steel body architecture that underpins the XF.

The RD6, powered by a 2.7 litre diesel V6, featured ’suicide’ rear doors and a side-hinged tailgate inspired by the XK-E coupe.

A source at Jaguar has reportedly said that the XE - Jaguar’s oft-rumoured upcoming small convertible - is on track for a 2012 market launch, with the five-door RD7 coupe likely to land a couple of years later.

Vectrix Files For Bankruptcy, Plans To Restructure And Continue Business

Vectrix 007

ELECTRIC VEHICLE Manufacturer Vectrix - the outfit behind the Vectrix electric scooter that TMR tested late last year - has officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US this week.

Vectrix is expected to follow the same path taken by GM, using bankruptcy protection to sell itself to New Vectrix LLC, a company based in Delaware and owned by GH Venture Partners LLC.

Vectrix 111

Founded in 1996, Vectrix spent nearly ten years developing the technology for its electric scooters before beginning production in 2007.

The company lost money on sales of its scooters and had to rely on equity finance to continue its operations.

Sales improved through 2008, but with the economic downturn causing the capital markets to dry up and banks reluctant to loan money to an emerging company in a difficult time, Vectrix’s future looked dim.

According to a statement issued by Vectrix, GH Venture Partners has entered the leading bid, offering a cash payment of US$1,750,000 and the assumption of up to US$3,306,000 in specified liabilities, for a total of up to $5,056,000.

As part of the deal, the sale will include patents, trademarks and licences for Vectrix’s electric scooter range.

The company has listed assets and debts in the range of US$10,000,000 to US$50,000,000.

Skoda Yeti Confirmed For 2010, FWD And AWD Variants Planned


SKODA AUSTRALIA has confirmed that the versatile Yeti crossover is on its way, and it’s gunning for a significant slice of the small softroader market.

The Yeti will be in Australian showrooms in mid to late 2010. Skoda expects to be able to offer it in both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive variants.

“Yeti is obviously a priority for us… we’ll be looking at (its arrival) sometime next year,” Head of Skoda Australia Matthew Wiesner said yesterday.


Engine choices for the local market have yet to be confirmed. But with the Yeti offering a 77kW 1.2 litre and a 118kW 1.8 litre petrol engine alongside three 2.0 litre turbo-diesels in Europe, the focus will undoubtedly be on frugality, not rock-hopping grunt.

The 1.2 TSI petrol is available only as a front-driver, as is the lower-spec 81kW 2.0 TDI. The rest of the Yeti range will be all-wheel-drive and, coupled with the crossover wagon’s tall ride height, should allow some limited off-road thrills.


The Yeti’s launch date is still too distant to speculate on pricing or trim levels, but Skoda Australia aims to offer a comprehensive level of standard equipment across the Yeti range.

A precise retail sticker price has not yet been decided, but Mr Weisner confirmed that the FWD Yeti line-up will start below $30,000.

The rest of the range will be priced similarly to the Volkswagen Tiguan, with which it shares much of its 4Motion all-wheel-drive underpinnings.

With its urban utility and genuine off-road ability, Skoda is optimistic that the Yeti will quickly become one of its best-selling models in Australia.

“We’ll probably do around 1000 Octavias this year,” Mr Weisner said in a recent interview with Carsguide.com.au.

“I think it will give a similar or greater contribution. It will give us a big lift in a relatively short period of time.”

WRC: Ford Release Pictures of Fiesta S2000


FORD IS FINALISING preparations for the introduction of its Fiesta rally car, releasing images from a test it conducted at an airfield in Cumbria.

The company is developing the car to replace the Focus as its World Rally Championship challenger in 2011, although an S2000 variant is expected to be run by customer teams in the WRC-aligned Super 2000 cup next year

Although exact details of the car’s specifications haven’t been revealed, S2000 rules permit four-wheel drive but ban supercharged engines, providing an insight into Fiesta’s final performance figures.

Ford M-Sport Technical Director Christian Loriaux has revealed the car is on track to be completed on schedule, stating he is delighted at the progress so far.

He said: “This is a totally new car and the entire design and engineering team here have been very focused on providing both a reliable and very competitive car for our customers.

“A brand new rally car involves thousands of parts and making sure that they are all designed, manufactured and delivered on time is an incredible achievement and takes a lot of team work.

“Our production and purchasing departments have done a great job in supporting the design team and ensuring the car was completed on time.”


Ford World Rally Team boss Malcolm Wilson said he was pleased with the development, stating the car will provide a strong platform for the company’s next WRC car.

“The production of a new rally car is always an exciting period for everyone at M-Sport and I’m pleased to see that Christian and his team have finished the build on schedule as planned,” he said.

“The important thing now is that we undertake a strong test and development campaign in order to provide our customers with the best possible S2000 package.”

A variant of the current Ford Fiesta has already competed at the elite level, contesting rounds of the FIA European Rallycross Championship.

The car, a wide-bodied race version of Ford’s baby hatchback, was produced by Swedish rally outfit MSE/Ford TeamRS and featured a 2.0 litre Duratec turbo four engine running on E85 ethanol fuel, producing 410kw (550hp) of power and 820Nm of torque at 6400rpm.

Premium Petrol Overpriced: NRMA


AUSTRALIAN MOTORISTS are being charged too much for premium petrol, according to insurer NRMA.

NRMA analysed the price of high-octane petrol between June 28, 2006 and September 13, 2009, finding that the price differential between premium and regular unleaded had risen to between three and four cents more than it should be.

“Clearly something is not right,” said NRMA President Wendy Machin.

“On July 29, 2007 the weekly average gap between regular and 98 octane petrol was around nine cents a litre, on August 30, 2009 the gap was almost 15 cents.

“We have taken the extra cost associated with refining high-grade fuels into consideration and there is still a considerable gap.”

The NRMA also found 95 octane unleaded now retails for 10 cents more than regular petrol - an important consideration for many new car buyers, considering some vehicles - like the Suzuki Alto - require 95 octane fuel to run optimally.


“Many motorists have no choice but to use high-grade fuels for their vehicles and it appears they are being overcharged,” Ms Machin said.

The NRMA has written to the ACCC’s Petrol Commissioner Joe Dimasi demanding an investigation into the widening price gap between regular and premium petrol be launched. Mr Dimasi has yet to issue an official response.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What you stand to lose if you don't pay credit card bills

You could face legal action, wage garnishment and property liens

By Sally Herigstad

To Her Credit
To Her Credit, Sally Herigstad
Sally Herigstad is a certified public accountant and the author of "Help! I Can't Pay My Bills: Surviving a Financial Crisis" (St. Martin's Press, 2006).

Ask a question.

To Her Credit archive

Question for the CreditCards.com expert

Dear To Her Credit,
What would be the legal issues if I cannot pay my credit card bill at all, not even the minimum payment? I am concerned about what the credit card company could legally do. Can they take my house or car? I just can't afford my payments.

I talked to the company and agreed to pay a certain amount a month for one year, but I can barely afford that. When the one year is over, my payments will go up, and then what will happen? -- Debbee

Answer for the CreditCards.com expert

Dear Debbee,
They can't do much -- at least in the short term. Credit card companies can send letters and call you, but they can't boot you out of your house or anything that drastic when you miss a few payments.

Missing payments is still not something you want to do, however. The bill collection process starts out gently and gets progressively more unpleasant from there. Here's what happens if you just stop paying your credit card bills:

1. You get overdue notices in the mail.

2. You start to receive phone calls. Some may sound helpful or merely inquiring; others may be downright nasty. Collectors may call repeatedly in one day. Some even call employers and relatives, which is illegal, or they lie and tell you they can take your house.

3. The banks report you to the credit bureaus. With even a few missed payments on your credit history, your credit score takes a dive. This makes it harder for you to get additional credit, move into an apartment or sometimes even get a job. If you can get credit with a bad score, it will probably be at a higher rate.

4. Your interest rates will go up, and you will incur late fees. There's also interest on the late fees, and then you have more late fees and over-the-limit fees. You can see how the balance can double or triple very quickly.

5. Eventually, you may face legal action. No, they can't put you in jail or freeze your bank account, but they can garnish your wages or place liens on your property.

People who have been far behind on their bills tell how they reached the point that they jumped whenever the phone rang, or they wished they could crawl out the back window when someone knocked on the front door. That's no way to live!

You need to find some other solution to your debt problem, and soon. You are on the right track in talking to the bank and getting in a reduced-payment hardship program. Next, you need more long-term solutions.

If you have most of a year before your payments go up, there's time for you to do something. Can you take some courses that might qualify you for a higher paying job? Can you increase the hours you work, find a better job or do some moonlighting?

If you're already making as much as you think you will be able to, consider ways to reduce your expenses. Go through your budget, and look for ways to cut back. Could you move someplace where the cost of living is much lower? I'd rather live someplace less desirable and be free of financial stress than live in a pricey area where everyone else seems to spend money like it's free!

I generally advise against selling your house to pay bills. That's because the selling costs are prohibitive, and it may be hard to get back into a home. In a desperate situation, however, you should keep your options open. You could even move into a small apartment and lease out your house. It's better to live in an apartment with peace and quiet than in a nice house with bill collectors calling all the time!

Although you see advertisements for bankruptcy everywhere, try to avoid thinking of it as an option if you can. Bankruptcy is a very, very last resort. It's certainly not the easy way out.

Use this one-year reprieve with the reduced credit card payments to make some changes. Don't give up -- you can take control of your finances and your life.

After a pause, credit card interest rates resume upward march

Increase shows that banks are still making moves in face of economic challenges

By Jeremy M. Simon

A boost in rates by a major card issuer lifted the national average APR on new credit card offers to 12.28 percent, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

That decision suggests banks continue to adjust to both ongoing economic challenges and new federal legislation aimed at curbing credit card abuses.

CreditCards.com's weekly rate average chart
Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 12.28% 12.14% 12.84%
Balance transfer 10.32% 10.14% 11.18%
Business 10.49% 11.07% 16.74%
Low interest 11.52% 10.62% 12.38%
Cash back
11.69% 11.77% 13.76%
Rewards 12.16% 12.16% 12.22%
Instant approval 13.32% 12.99% 11.29%
Airline 13.79% 13.48% 12.96%
Bad credit 14.29% 14.29% 12.77%
Student 14.45% 14.45% 15.79%
Methodology: The national average credit card APR is comprised of 95 of the most popular credit cards in the country, including cards from dozens of leading U.S. issuers and representing every card category listed above. (Introductory, or teaser, rates are not included in the calculation.)
Source: CreditCards.com
Updated: 9-10-2009

"We've definitely seen that slight upward tick" in APRs overall, says Andrew Davidson, senior vice president with Comperemedia in New York. "It's particularly interesting because prime is at such a low rate."

With the Fed content to leave its key lending rate unchanged for the time being, the prime rate remains at 3.25 percent. The central bank's federal funds rate is used to set banks' prime rates, to which the APRs for variable rate credit cards are generally tied.

The Fed has had a hands-off policy on changing rates since December 2008 in an effort to stimulate the economy. Once the economy recovers, the Fed will again begin raising rates, and when it does, it will impact the bulk of credit cards. "Almost all offers are variable-rate these days. The fixed-rate [cards] tend to be subprime," Davidson says.

For the time being, the Fed is expected to leave rates alone. Although there are signs of improvement, economic data continue to suggest challenges lie ahead. That includes a decline in the use of plastic. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve's "beige book" survey of its regional banks showed consumer spending generally remained soft and lending standards remained tight during July and August.

In July, that combination helped to drive credit card balances down for the 10th straight month, as indicated by the Fed's G.19 report on consumer credit. That report, released Sept. 8, showed revolving credit -- a loan category comprised almost entirely of credit card debt -- declined at an annualized rate of 8.0 percent in July, following a drop of 6.4 percent in June. Overall, revolving debt fell to $905.6 billion from a total of $911.7 billion in June.

APRs advance amid premium card focus
But even with the fed funds rate staying put, APRs are moving higher. Analysts say the increase stems from lenders' reaction to the economy as well as the recently introduced Credit CARD Act, which enacted sweeping credit card industry reforms. "As we've seen the CARD Act come into place, card issuers have been more cautious" in terms of pricing, Davidson says. That means higher APRs for cardholders. This week, it was an increase on a Chase credit card that lifted rates.

Specifically, banks are offering a greater number of premium cards and launching new products in that premium marketplace segment. "Premium cards do tend to have a higher go-to APR," says Davidson. Mintel Comperemedia data released Wednesday shows that in the second quarter, credit card issuers sent 28 percent more direct-mail marketing offers for premium cards than they did in the first three months of 2009, even as issuers reduced overall credit card offers by 8 percent.

Those offers are aimed at that segment of consumers with the highest credit scores and, therefore, the lowest risk of being unable to make payments. "These cards have high associated fees and low risk. Issuers see them as an excellent way to restore profitability in today's economy," Davidson says.

As consumers rely less on credit and focus on saving money, banks will have a tougher time convincing consumers to use their plastic. Against this increasingly competitive backdrop, issuers will push premium cards -- with all their unique perks -- in an effort to become "top of wallet" for consumers, or their first choice for charging. "We will see this 'shrinking national wallet,' and tapping into the premium market is the safe place to start doing that at the moment," he says.

In the longer term, an increase in premium offers could signal an eventual increase in credit offers for all segments of the borrowing public. "If we're starting to see growth in premium cards, the extrapolation is that may trickle down," Davidson says.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

2010 Ford Mondeo Facelift Spied


A CAMOUFLAGED MONDEO test mule has been spotted in Europe undergoing trials, indicating a facelifted model of Ford’s popular mid-size sedan is not far away.

It’s hard to discern any major details underneath the black cladding on this prototype’s nose, but it’s clear that the upper grille has been narrowed and the Mondeo’s trapezoidal lower grille extended upwards.


The rest of the car appears unchanged, however subtle tweaks to the rear bumper are expected. Sheetmetal will remain the same, but new LED taillights will likely feature on the new Mondeo.

Powertrain details are scant, however output and economy are expected to be improved. Ford’s newly-developed EcoBoost four-cylinder is a definite contender for the updated Mondeo, as is the 2.0 litre turbodiesel and 6-speed Powershift twin-clutch gearbox used by the Focus.

Market launch dates are still a secret, but expect the facelifted Ford Mondeo to surface at the Geneva Motor Show next March.

Alfa Romeo MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde To Debut With MultiAir Engine At Frankfurt


THE FOUR-LEAF CLOVER is set to make a return to the Alfa brand, this time on the side of a special version of the Alfa Romeo MiTo.

Dubbed the MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde, the special edition MiTo is powered by Alfa’s newest MultiAir engine, a 1.4 litre four-cylinder petrol engine developing 127kW.

By comparison, the MiTo Sport develops 114kW, while the regular MiTo produces a more sedate 88kW. The MiTo GTA, for which production has yet to be confirmed, tops the range with a 1.8 litre turbocharged engine developing 180kW.


Fiat launched its new MultiAir petrol engine technology earlier this year, which it claims can slash fuel consumption by up to 25 percent, reduce CO2 emissions by 10 percent and improve both power and torque output.

By using an electro-hydraulic tappet between the camshaft and the intake valves, the MultiAir system can vary valve lift profiles on-the-fly with precision and greater versatility that other variable cam systems.

The MultiAir engine is paired with the new-generation C635 six-speed manual transmission, developed by FPT in Italy and featuring what Alfa promises to be clean, swift changes with short shifts and vibration- and noise-free operation.


To set it apart from its more pedestrian siblings, the clover-emblazoned Mito Quadrifoglio Verde wears 17-inch alloy wheels on low-profile tyres, and features mirror housings finished in a dark satin silver.

A Magneti Marelli-tuned suspension is at work behind each wheel, which Alfa says provides “exceptional driveability and unparalleled safety”.

Three suspension modes are offered: “Normal”, combining agility with a higher level of comfort, “All Weather” for enhanced response from the Vehicle Dynamic Control stability system, and “Dynamic”, transforming the Quadrifoglio Verde into a sportier, more performance-oriented drive.

No official images have been released of the interior, but Alfa says a largely black trim scheme offset by white instruments features in the cabin.

No word has been given on production, numbers or distribution for the Quadrifoglio Verde, but more information is expected when the car appears at Frankfurt.

2011 Audi R8 Official Images Surface Online


FOLLOWING A GALLERY of spy photos posted in June of the production-ready Audi R8 Spider, official promotional images of the all-new convertible R8 have surfaced online.

The Spider features a number of aesthetic and functional design changes in its leap from hard-top to soft-top - the absence of the R8’s signature ‘blade’ panels and the new engine cover being perhaps the most obvious.


Audi has not revealed any technical details for the R8 Spider, but reports suggest that Audi has opted to pass on the 4.2 litre V8 that powers the regular hardtop R8, skipping straight to the 5.2 litre V10 that powers the R8 V10.

While lacking the outwardly-flared side intakes of the R8 V10, the intakes of the R8 Spider appear noticeably deeper than those of the ‘regular’ R8, indicating that a V10 may well be on the cards.

Other reports have suggested that Audi will skip Frankfurt for the R8 Spider’s unveiling, aiming instead at the Detroit Motor Show. With these official images surfacing so close to the Frankfurt event, however, it seems a German debut may not be out of the question.

Volkswagen Golf R Locked In For Frankfurt Show: Report

The 2010 Volkswagen Golf VI GTI, launching in Australia later this year.

The 2010 Volkswagen Golf VI GTI, launching in Australia later this year.

REPORTS ARE CIRCULATING that Volkswagen is preparing to unveil its most powerful Golf model yet at next week’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

Dubbed the Golf R, this new model will become the performance flagship of the Golf range, taking over from the outgoing R32 as the most powerful production Golf ever.

The Golf R is expected to drop the R32’s 3.2 litre V6 in favour of a highly-tuned version of the Golf GTI’s 2.0 litre turbocharged four. Output is expected to be around 208kW, and torque is likely to be north of 350Nm.

VW’s other hot hatch, the Scirocco R (below) currently uses a 195kW/350Nm version of the GTI’s 2.0 turbo four.

However, unlike the FWD Scirocco R, the Golf R is expected to take power to all four wheels via a Haldex AWD system similar to that used by the current R32.


The Golf R will also receive its own unique bumpers, wheels and exhaust system, and numerous styling changes will provide more differentiation between it and the Golf GTI.

Like the R32, the Golf R is anticipated to be offered in three and five-door guise.

Images and precise specifications of the Golf R have yet to be released, but expect the covers to drop on September 15, when the Frankfurt Motor Show opens its doors.

2010 Dodge Caliber Update On The Way


DODGE HAS GIVEN its Caliber small five-door hatchback a facelift and powertrain update for 2010, boosting power, lowering fuel consumption and improving refinement.

The Caliber, Dodge’s highest-selling vehicle outside of North America in 2008, now receives a 2.2 litre common-rail turbodiesel engine, replacing the current 2.0 litre CRD in the Caliber line-up.

Compared to the outgoing diesel, power is up 16 percent to 120kW, torque is up 3 percent to 320Nm and fuel consumption falls by 5 percent to 5.7 l/100km.


Drive is delivered to the front wheels by a six-speed manual transmission, and no automatic gearbox option exists for the range-topping diesel.

Vibration and noise from the diesel is reduced by twin balance shafts and the addition of more sound deadening material.

The base 1.8 litre petrol four is replaced by a 2.0 litre ‘World Engine’, which develops 115kW and 190Nm. A 2.4 litre petrol four cylinder engine sits in the middle of the Caliber’s revised powertrain line-up, producing 125kW and 220Nm.

Exterior styling changes are virtually non-existent, but more chrome in the front grille and the addition of 18-inch polished alloy wheels in an optional Sport Appearance pack add a little extra spice to the Caliber’s appearance.


Inside, it’s a different story. The dash, door cards and interior fittings have been completely revised for 2010, and a new design aesthetic and the use of more premium materials boosts interior quality.

More storage space is built into the 2010 Caliber’s cabin, and a refrigerated storage bin, iPod/auxillary input and voice-controlled sat-nav system still feature. Extra chrome and satin silver trim also dress up the interior.

The 2010 Dodge Caliber will be officially unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show on September 15, and Australian sales are expected to commence late next year.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

2010 Mazda CX-9 Arriving In September


FOLLOWING ITS UNVEILING at the New York Motor Show in April, Mazda Australia has announced the updated 2010 Mazda CX-9 will appear in local showrooms from later this month.

A new range-topping model, the Grand Touring, will join the Classic and Luxury models in the 2010 Mazda CX-9 line-up.

Powered by a refined version of the same 3.7 litre V6 DOHC petrol engine found in the 2009 model, the updated CX-9 offers 204kW and 367Nm of torque.

Thanks to the revised engine, fuel economy for the CX-9 has been improved, dropping to 12.2 l/100km, down from 13.0 litres.

Mazda’s Active Torque Split all-wheel-drive system is paired with a six-speed Activematic automatic transmission.

Pictured: US model.

Pictured: US model.

For styling updates, a five-pointed lower air dam, chrome-rimmed grille, fancier headlamp housings and rhomboid-like foglight bezels modernise the new CX-9’s nose.

Refreshed tail-lights, a new rear bumper and new 18-inch and 20-inch alloy wheels subtly update the rest of the car.

The wing mirror housings are larger and more aerodynamic, while an understated Dolphin Grey hue has been added to the CX-9’s colour palette.

Watch this space - pricing details are expected to be revealed in the next few weeks.

Monday, September 7, 2009

2010 BMW 760Li Pricing Announced For Australia

2010 BMW 760Li

BMW HAS TODAY announced pricing for its flagship 760Li, a car the German manufacturer describes as the most comprehensively equipped 7 Series model ever offered in Australia.

Developing 400kW and 750Nm through its brand-new 6.0 litre twin-turbocharged V12, BMW says the 760Li will leap to 100km/h happens in just 4.6 seconds - a time that was considered supercar-quick not so long ago.

BMW says the 760Li marks “a new standard of motoring refinement, dynamic performance and all-around efficiency in a vehicle with this kind of power and output,” a claim that carries a measure of substance, given the numbers accompanying the announcement.

BMW promises that despite its size, it will consume only 13 litres of petrol per 100km on the combined cycle - a rating BMW says is 5.1 percent better than the figures returned by the previous V12.

Direct-injection, variable intake and exhaust camshafts, an eight-speed automatic transmission and a torque curve that sees all 750Nm available from just 1500rpm help the 760Li keep fuel consumption to a minimum.

“The new 760Li will take over the top position within BMW’s model portfolio,” said Stavros Yallouridis, Managing Director of BMW Group Australia.

“[It] will raise the standard of maximum exclusivity and supremacy in the luxury class to an even higher level.”

Standard features, beyond those of the 750Li, include 20-inch double-spoke light-alloy wheels, Integral Active Steering, active front seats, leather finished instrument panel, ceramic surround for controls, fine-wood inlay leather steering wheel and a massage function in the rear-seat backrest.

BMW Individual rear-seat reading lights, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Change Warning, Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function, alcantara headliner, BMW Individual full ‘Merino’ leather trim and 8-speed automatic transmission continue the luxurious appointments of the 760Li.


Where the previous flagship 750Li started at $291,000, the new range-topping 760Li enters at $385,000 (manufacturer’s list price), plus on-road costs.