Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Honda Insight Tops Japanese Sales Charts


It may well be a sign of the times, but Honda would have to more than happy with the sales results of its Insight hybrid.

For the month of April, Honda’s new cut-price eco-warrior topped the sales charts in Japan. The success of the Insight marks a place in the history books for Honda, being the first hybrid vehicle to reach the number one sales spot, outselling petrol-powered rivals.


The sales figures as tracked by the Japan Automobile Dealer’s Association (JADA), show that Honda sold 10,481 Insights, bumping Honda’s own Fit (our Jazz) into second place and the Toyota Vitz (sold here as the Yaris) into third. (JADA’s figures don’t include sales of 660cc Kei cars however which would otherwise alter rankings slightly… maybe they classify them as ‘toys’.)

Coupled with the existing success of the Fit, which enjoyed best-seller status for 2008, Honda now holds the number one and two selling spots. The first time in its history it has done so.

The Insight’s nearest rival, the Toyota Pruis, finished the month in 21st place. With the third-generation Pruis just around the corner and a new aggressive pricing structure up its sleeve, you can bet Toyota will be aiming to displace the Insight on the sales charts.

2010 Lexus IS250C Launched In Japan


The Lexus brand, despite the origin of its parent company, has only been operating in the Japanese market since 2005. While initial sales in the motherland were lower than the company expected, the launch of the LS460 in Japan in late 2006, with orders several times greater than expected, saw the brand become a solid performer.

Now, three years later, the home islands are the first to see the new 2010 Lexus IS250C convertible roaming the roads.


To set it apart from its IS250 sibling, the IS250C features an electrically-operated aluminium alloy folding roof, with opening and closing times of 20 seconds each way.

Based on the Lexus L-finesse1 design language, Lexus says the IS250C portrays two distinct personalities: top-down, the high rear deck results in an “elegant flowing silhouette”, while putting the roof in place creates a “sporty coupe” look.


The Lexus IS250C features a reinforced body and under-floor bracing which, according to Lexus, results in one of the sturdiest convertibles on the market.

The windshield has been designed to reduce wind disturbance on occupants, while the air-conditioning system automatically adjusts cabin temperature to suit exterior temperatures and the amount of sunlight entering the vehicle.


Lexus’ new drop-top offers a fuel economy of 8.9 l/100km in the Japanese 10-15 test cycle, while emissions are 75 percent lower than Japan’s 2005 legal standards.

The IS250C has been designed to comfortably seat four adults without sacrificing storage – the boot will take a golf bag even with the roof stowed.

Five interior colour arrangements are available, trimmed in either leather or cloth. There are three two-tone colour combinations for the seats, as well as three stitching colours and three varieties of wood-grain panelling.


Nine body colours are available, including Cattleya Mica Metallic, added specifically for the IS250C range.

The Lexus IS250C is due for an Australian launch in the second half of 2009.

MAFF Unveils Muron Porsche Cayenne


There’s no mistaking the intent of the MAFF Muron Porsche Cayenne. With fibreglass and carbon-fibre evident from any angle, everywhere, MAFF has been busy.

The Porsche Cayenne has become a bit of a tuner favourite in the past year or so with efforts from 9ff, Gemballa, and edo Competition springing to mind.

The formula appears to be, one, make it look ‘unique’ and, two, make it go like stink. MAFF has definitely done that.


MAFF’s Muron wide body kit is available for the Cayenne range and includes front and rear spoilers, a front grille with daytime running lights, side skirts, a roof spoiler, bonnet scoops, and a boot lid spoiler among other things.

Inside the cabin there’s carbon-fibre and Alacantra everywhere and customers can fine tune the colour scheme and materials used as they see fit.

A beefed-up info-tainment system includes a retractable display that’s capable, MAFF claims, of playing any audio or video format.


It’s not all show though with a 74kW (100hp) increase in power available regardless of the engine being tuned, up to a maximum limit of 522kW (700hp).

Power increases are achieved by installing larger turbos, higher flowing exhaust and inlet systems, and reconfiguring the engine management.

To handle the increases in power, MAFF also modifies the factory suspension to lower the car by 8cm. Interestingly there’s no mention of improvements to the brakes…

GM CEO Fritz Henderson Chats With Consumers On Company Blog


New GM CEO Frederick ‘Fritz’ Henderson took part in an online chat with consumers on Monday morning (US time), and while nothing was revealed that the automotive world doesn’t already know, it’s interesting to read the CEO’s opinions and feelings on the future of the former ‘number 1′ manufacturer.

Henderson touched on a number of topics, with some of the more interesting responses coming from questions about GM’s overseas operations and the company’s hybrid vehicle projects.

Speaking of his history at GM, Henderson also touched on his expectations of a 2020 GM that is known for its design, fuel economy and ‘delighted’ customers.

Click through for the full transcript of the chat.

gm_fritz-henderson 10:15 Fritz Henderson: good morning. this is fritz henderson and thanks for joining us. first question from one of our reader comments.

10:15 GMBlogs: How does GM plan to win with higher CAFE standards in the coming years? -Robert Kubler

10:17 Fritz Henderson: it starts with fantastic cars well engineered, lighter, more aero, with segment leading fuel economy enabled but superb and highly efficient powertrains. next, we introduce advanced propulsion technology into our line up, for example the volt by end of 2010. we already have 8 hybrids in the market today, with more coming. finally, we continue with key research work to ensure that we are able to support promising technologies such as fuel cells. 100 on the road today with great feedback.

10:17 [Comment From John Heim ]
What will happen to the salaried pension fund In or out of bankrupsy—will it be turned over to the govt ?? or will G.M. continue to take care of it in the future ?? THANKS !!

10:19 Fritz Henderson: good question and understand natural concern. the answer is that it is premature today to speculate or get into this matter. IF and when we would need to file for chapter 11, we would identify at that time how we would handle pension funds more generally, including hourly and salaried.

10:19 [Comment From Dr. Ron McGarry ]
I know that shuttering popular brands is difficult, but as a former Pontiac owner and now with a Corvette, I am concerned about the whole Corvette/Bowling Green operation. Destroy this and it will be bad fro GM on a whole. Any hints on plans for Corvette?

10:20 Fritz Henderson: corvette remains a force within our product lineup. it is a superb high performance car, the equal or better car relative to cars
that sell for 3x the price. the corvette pays the rent in terms of profitability and cash flow and is one of our strongest (if not our strongest) nameplates in the entire gm lineup. we intend to keep this car fresh and in a segment leading position. I also own one and love it.

10:21 [Comment From BP ]
Is there a list of dealers who will be closed? Where can it be found?
10:21 Fritz Henderson: we plan to communicate later this week to dealers. such a list is not available today.


10:21 [Comment From Geoff Livingston ]
Can you tell us what’s next for your green efforts? Certainly the Saturn line and Volt initiatives have been well discussed. What’s next?

10:23 Fritz Henderson: the volt needs to be launched by year end 2010, which means we still have work in front of us. we have a separate team looking at gen II erev technologies while looking at other potential vehicle applications. alongside the volt we have a host of other technology initiatives underway, from second gen biofuels, to hybrids, etc.

10:24 [Comment From Sebert ]
R6P Camaro orders, there seems to be much confusion as to why some of the early order customers are Waiting for the cars while people can by them at dealers.

10:25 Fritz Henderson: the response to camaro by dealers and customers has been fantastic. we plan to continue to ramp up production at our oshawa complex and fill orders as soon as possible. in the meantime I suggest you continue to speak with your dealers regarding specific orders while we run fast to get production ramped.

10:26 [Comment From Tom Ludwick ]
Is GM really considering holding on to the Saab brand and allowing it to go into bankruptcy because the new 9-5 makes the brand worth keeping?


10:28 Fritz Henderson: re saab, we have 2 superb saabs (new 9-5 and 9-4x) in development, but we simply do not have the resources to continue as is. as such, saab entered into reorganization earlier this year and is looking at potential investors. as part of this, gm is open to supporting a buyer by finishing development of these cars, but I do not anticipate that we will be the owner of saab post reorg.

10:28 [Comment From Al Brown ]
Sir What update can you give us on the viability plan that we are supposed to give to the Govt. by the end of the month?

10:29 Fritz Henderson: we would plan to update by no later than the end of the month.

10:29 [Comment From JIm Mbongo ]
Do you really think that selling Opel is for GM a good thing to do?

10:30 Fritz Henderson: important to understand facts on the question of opel. given the business challenges in europe, our business needs funding. at the same time, we have a commitment to the US Treasury and to the US taxpayer that funding received in the US will not be used to support overseas ops. as such, we need to identify sources of funds for our european business.

10:31 [Comment From Thomas Ho ]
I have a first-generation Prius that needs to be replaced. WHY should I “wait” for the Volt?

10:32 Fritz Henderson: I would love to take you out of your prius! so why wait for the volt? the car will be beautiful, a great driving experience, and if you commute less than 40 miles per day, the car should deliver a totally electric experience to the owner without using any gas at all.

10:32 [Comment From David George ]
Why was GMC deemed to be one of the core brands when there seems to be so little difference between Chevy and GMC products?

10:33 Fritz Henderson: easy. very strong brand. very loyal customer base. very profitable. any further questions?

ev1 10:33 [Comment From Aaron ]
Did all of the technology that was used to produce the EV1 get thrown away like all of the car were.

10:34 Fritz Henderson: no. we retained people and the learnings from the car. technologies like regen braking, aero and power electronics are critical to hybrids, volt and many other such cars going forward.

10:35 [Comment From MPG ]
will “deeper and faster” involve additional US salaried employment level cuts, and if so, of what approximate magnitude?

10:37 Fritz Henderson: we are deeply appreciative of the support we have received from many fronts, most particularly our people. I understand the concern and quite bluntly fears that people have today.

we will need to take further measures in this area to lean out our management structure and simplify the work of our salaried work force, which will mean we need further moves. I anticipate communicating our plans in this regard by the end of this month.

10:37 [Comment From Lou Bilancio ]
I’m a huge fan of the new Equinox. I am also spreading the word to my friends about it. When will they begin to arrive at dealers? Thank you!

10:39 Fritz Henderson: fyi, I recently drove one, an ltz with 4cyl/6sp automatic, 32mpg on the highway. my family owned a first gen equinox and we loved it. this gen II equinox is a superb successor to this vehicle and I anticipate it will be on many shopping lists. coming to a chevrolet dealer in july-august timeframe.

10:39 [Comment From Gary ]
Oops. My last question was sent out prematurely darn tiny netbook keyboard!). There is a lot of negativity in the media. First of all, you’d think that everybody has Swine Flu. There is a lot of anti-domestic sentiment, especially in larger cities where people are “image conscious” and like imports. How goes GM propose to counteract this?

10:40 Fritz Henderson: images and brands move step by step, sometimes bigger steps, but take time. it begins and ends with great products supporting strong brands, with leadership listening to dealers and customers every single day.

10:41 [Comment From Michael ]
When can we expect to see the next round of plant closings announced?

10:42 Fritz Henderson: we are in dialogue with the uaw and do not expect to notify individual plants until we conclude such discussions.

10:42 [Comment From brian watters ]
what do you drive presently and what is your favorite gm vehicle?


10:43 Fritz Henderson: the henderson family fleet. my wife drives a cool 9-3 saab convertible. my baby is my corvette, I am also driving a camaro, and my daughter drives a malibu.

10:44 [Comment From dc ]
Where do you see GM in 10 years?

10:47 Fritz Henderson: final question and a good one. I have worked for gm 25 years, in many locations around the world. while proud of what we have accomplished in many respects, nobody (least of all me) can be happy with the current state of affairs. a really difficult situation that is tough on virtually all people that love the company.

so, my vision. a company known for superb cars and trucks. beautiful designs, segment leading fuel economy, and delighted customers. if we accomplish this, I am 100% confident that we will succeed as a business!

10:48 Fritz Henderson: thanks for your time today. happy to do this in the future. will answer many of the questions we were not able to get to (I can only type at 50 words per minute) via fastlane.

SEMCA F16 Begins Domination Of That ‘Europe’ Place


You’ve probably heard of this ‘Europe’ land, but reports of its actual existence are sketchy at best. Stories of ridiculously quick Ford hatches, of supercars washing up on our shores swearing they’ve come from a great land north of the equator… we know it’s all fairy tales and nonsense.

Still, this talk of the SEMCA F16 and its growing domination in Europe has us wondering if we’ve been wrong about all this.

If these images are anything to go by, the F16’s freakishly happy countenance would at least explain the ease with which it has swept through country after country ‘up there’… somewhere.


Already available in France since late 2008 and after being launched in the UK last month, the SEMCA F16 has now been launched into Germany like a ballistic Cheshire cat. (…what? – Ed)

Starting from €17,990 (AU$32,211), the F16 draws its power from a rear-mounted 1.6 litre Renault petrol engine developing 78kW (105hp), which is sent to the rear wheels via a five-speed manual transmission.


You won’t be breaking any land-speed records in the F16, and it’s not quite as quick as the fighter jet with which it shares its name, but with a weight of just 564kg (1243lb), it’s eager enough to move.

According to SEMCA, the demonically happy beach-buggy-looking F16 will pounce on 100km/h in 5.5 seconds, on its way to a 177km/h top speed.


We’re not likely to see the F16 on our fair shores, but if one crawls out of the surf gasping for life and speaking in riddles of this ‘Europe’ place, we’ll be ready.

2010 Holden Cruze Scores Five-Star ANCAP Rating

2009 Holden Cruze

Holden has announced that its upcoming small car, the Korean-sourced Cruze, has passed the Australasian New Car Assesment Program’s rigorous tests with flying colours, earning itself a five-star rating in the process.

The 2009 Holden Cruze scored 35.04 points out of a possible 37 under ANCAP’s recently revised testing regime, with its high level of passive and active safety features being instrumental in obtaining such a score.

Stability control and traction control are standard, as is ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist. Seat belt reminders and pretensioning seatbelts also work in the Cruze’s favour, while six airbags - front, side and curtain - help minimise injury in a collision.

2009 Holden Cruze

The Cruze’s steel passenger compartment is designed to disperse forces and offer a high level of cccupant protection in the event of a crash, and collapsing pedals do their bit to lower the risk of injury to the driver.

It’s an impressive amount of kit for a small car, let alone one from Australia’s own volume manufacturer. Small car buyers who were wary of the Cruze’s Korean origins may now find their views changing thanks to that strong ANCAP result, and that’s bound to please Holden.

“We know that today’s motorists want many things from a small car and that includes no compromises on safety,” Holden Chairman and Managing Director Mark Reuss said.

“Incredibly high benchmarks were set as the Cruze was being developed and the results show.”

The 2009 Holden Cruze goes on sale early next month in both petrol and diesel form. Pricing has yet to be announced.

2010 Alfa Romeo MiTo Arriving In Australia In July

Alfa Romeo MiTo

Alfa Romeo has announced that it’s purty-lookin’ MiTo hatch is coming our way, and will be on sale in Australia from July.

Pricing and exact specifications of the Australia-bound cars have yet to be revealed, but we do know that we’ll get the two most powerful engines on offer - an 88kW and a 114kW turbocharged 1.4 litre petrol four to be precise - and the cars will be available in two trim levels, one more sporty than the other.

Alfa Romeo MiTo

Appropriate given its sporting pretensions, a six-speed manual gearbox will be the only transmission available, while an electronic pseudo-LSD will enhance traction.

“The MiTo is enormously important to Alfa Romeo as it takes us into a whole new market sector,” said Edward Butler, General Manager for Alfa Romeo in Australia.

“It is focused totally on being a performance and style driven mini-Coupe, not compromised by things like having to have a five door version.”

Alfa Romeo MiTo

Alfa’s DNA system will also be standard fitment, and will allow the driver to switch between Dynamic, Normal and All-Weather settings. The system changes throttle mapping, brake response, steering feel and suspension characteristics, and is a fairly unique feature on a car of this size.

Pricing and full details of the Alfa Romeo MiTo will be revealed in July, so stay tuned for more.

Chevy Destined For Competitive Top Quality Future, Says Henderson


New GM CEO Fritz Henderson has declared that Chevrolet, in the next two years, will have repositioned itself as a competitive, top-quality brand.

Speaking with US mag AutoWeek, Henderson said he believes fresh new Chevy models like the Cruze (to be sold locally as the Holden Cruze) and the Spark will help the brand grow its position in the market, should fuel prices rise again.

The Cruze and Spark, along with the seven-seat Orlando people mover, are due to hit the US market in the 2011 model year.


Henderson also believes the Camaro is the perfect halo model for the legendary Chevrolet brand, reinvigorating the enthusiast spirit that the Corvette has since kept alive.

“I think that in the case of Chevrolet, we have the chance in the next year or two to really put the stake into it, with Cruze, with the Spark and with the next-generation vehicles we’re working on,” Henderson told AutoWeek.

“I mean, we have a chance to fully flesh out the Chevrolet lineup.”

The almost make-or-break Chevrolet Volt is due for production in 2010 as well, and according to GM’s new Global Product Development boss Tom Stephens, the hybrid is on track to meet that deadline.

With GM retiring the Pontiac brand and off-loading Opel, Saturn, Hummer and Saab, the Chevrolet brand will need to perform if the troubled automaker is to trade its way out of trouble.

On the other side of the coin, a Chapter 11 bankruptcy appears more and more likely for the company with each passing day. How Henderson’s vision for Chevrolet will be affected by such an outcome remains to be seen.

Canon Digital IXUS 100 IS Review

The Canon Digital IXUS 100 IS (also know as the Canon PowerShot SD780 IS) is the slimmest ever Canon compact camera, measuring a mere 18.4mm thick. This 12 megapixel model has a stylish ultra-slim metal body, 3x zoom lens with Optical Image Stabilizer , 2.5 inch LCD screen with optical viewfinder, and new Smart AUTO mode. Face Detection, Blink Detection plus Face Self-Timer and Auto Red-Eye Correction technologies promise to capture better people shots, and the Canon IXUS 100 also features a 720p HD Movie Mode with a built-in HDMI connector for playback on HD widescreen TVs. Available in black, red, silver or gold, the Canon Digital IXUS 100 IS officially retails for $279.99 / £299.00 / €349.00.

Ease of Use

Canon's point-and-shoot Digital IXUS range has consistently been as much about style as performance, and as such, coupled with a mainly metal build and rechargeable lithium ion batteries, they have tended to command a price premium over plainer plastic build PowerShot range models with similar headline specifications but AA batteries for power. Barely larger or fatter that your credit card at 18.4mm 'wide', Canon's latest Digital IXUS in the 100 IS ('Image Stabilised') sports a design, with its subtly soft lines and rounded off corners, to makes the eyes light up with anticipation.

The perfect travel camera, perhaps? Well, its manufacturer is claiming the camera as its slimmest ever IXUS, and resting it in your outstretched palm it certainly looks the cutest, with a choice of silver, black, orangey-gold or deep red finishes. However the Canon Digital IXUS 100 IS won't stay looking this pretty for long, the metallic finish of the front plate proving prone to scuffs and scratches over the two week period of our assessment.

Sure to appeal as much to teenage girls and young women searching for that all-important 'bling' as it is city bankers or lawyers looking magpie-like for an attractive accessory for their top pocket, the focus here is on beginner targeted user-friendliness. Thus the 12.1-megapixel model features the debut of what Canon is calling its Scene Detection/Smart Auto technology – which appears to be a very close relative of the Intelligent Auto functionality found in Panasonic's Lumix series.

Setting the 100 IS to Smart Auto mode, the Canon Digital IXUS 100 IS selects from one of 18 optimised choices depending on the scene and conditions it's presented with. It makes this selection, claims Canon, based on subject brightness, contrast, distance from the lens and overall hue. Keeping operation pulsing along is the inclusion of the latest Digic IV processor, as featured in Canon's latest DSLRs. This also powers handholding functions including Motion Detection, aiding capture of moving subjects whilst avoiding blur, plus iContrast, which lifts shadow areas of an image to even out exposures, face detection plus blink detection, face self timer and, as usually found on entry-level Canon models, auto red eye correction.

Less expected perhaps at this level is a feature also becoming increasingly ubiquitous among DSLRs, namely a built-in HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) port for connecting the camera up to a latest generation TV set, plus, here, the ability for the IXUS 100 IS to shoot widescreen ratio HD movie clips at a not-quite-Full HD resolution of 1280x720 pixels, but a smooth frame rate of 30 frames per second nonetheless (one of the major points of difference between this and the 95 IS model released alongside). Also welcome is the fact that users have access to the full extent of the image-stabilised 3x optical zoom (rather than just a digital variety) when shooting video.

Canon Digital IXUS 100 IS Canon Digital IXUS 100 IS
Front Rear

Despite its diminutive size the Canon Digital IXUS 100 IS camera additionally features an optical viewfinder window above its 2.5-inch 4:3 ratio LCD, giving users a choice for shot composition. All of the above goes some way to justifying the IXUS' £299 price tag, which, while not cheap, feels fair. With battery and required SD or SDHC media card loaded, the latest Canon snapshot feels reassuringly weighty in the palm and well-built too despite its near microcosmic dimensions, mixing metal and well-disguised plastic to winning effect.

So, with the above in mind, let's take a tour of the Canon Digital IXUS 100 IS's features and functions.

At the front the IXUS 100 is an exercise in minimalism, whilst at the same time recalling 'classic' IXUS designs from the series' original APS film incarnation – something to do with the concentric circles (here of brushed metal) surrounding the lens perhaps, and the inclusion of that optical viewfinder. Whatever, it looks like a camera should, whilst at the same time remaining pretty enough to be considered a fashion accessory thanks to the lens itself being hidden within the body when not in use.

Top right of the lens is a thin lozenge shaped sliver of a window housing a built-in flash bulb, whilst to the left is a porthole-shaped window housing the indicator light for the self timer/AF assist lamp. Next along is a tiny window for the optical viewfinder, whilst directly below, and barely visible – as it resembles a pinprick – is a porthole for the built-in microphone.

The top plate of the camera is similarly refined in appearance, controls set into a different coloured 'go faster' strip that runs around the exterior of the camera so that none of them actually protrude and spoil this IXUS' straight lines. Indeed the shutter release button has had one of its rounded corners tapered to 'fit'. It's encircled by a spring loaded zoom lever with a small lip protruding to the front where it falls handily under he forefinger for quick operation.

Moving to the left we find a similarly recessed and much smaller on/off power button, and, to the left again, a grouping of three holes for the built-in microphone. Press the power button and the 100 IS readies itself for the first shot in barely more than a second. While busy scenes can add confusion, it's equally quick to determine focus and exposure with a half press of the shutter release button. With a full press, full resolution still images are committed to memory in a fairly standard three seconds, the screen momentarily freezing and displaying the captured shot while this is taking place.

Canon Digital IXUS 100 IS Canon Digital IXUS 100 IS
Front Top

While the left hand side of the camera – if viewed from the back – is devoid of any features apart from small screws top and bottom, the right hand side adds merely a means of attaching a wrist strap.

Things get more interesting with an examination of the back plate, dominated as expected by that aforementioned 2.5-inch LCD monitor, with a teeny tiny window for the optical viewfinder ranged directly above, nestling alongside a pair of built-in indicator lights. Since the view delivered by the optical viewfinder is so small and murky it requires the user to squint, I can see most users quickly forgetting about its presence entirely.

The top right hand corner of the IXUS' back features a clever incorporation of A/V out, USB and HDMI connections; basically their flip-open plastic cover forms part of the back itself. Beneath this is a three-notch slider switch for the camera's various shooting modes that mirrors that provided on the simultaneously-released IXUS 110 IS. Running from top to bottom are the unit's 'smart' auto mode, regular program auto and, lastly, video mode.

Neatly mirroring the shape and size of this control, and ranged to the left, is a familiar playback button, while below is a four way directional control pad for tabbing through menu options and captured images, with a familiar function/set button at its centre. Press the latter when in basic auto mode and a L-shaped toolbar that will be immediately familiar to Canon compact users appears down the left hand side and across the bottom of the screen. In auto, all the user has access to from this is the ability to alter image size and ratio, from 12 megapixels down to 640x480 pixels, and from 4:3 ratio to a widescreen 16:9 with minimal drop in resolution to approximately nine megapixels.

Flip the shooting switch to program auto meanwhile and, via the same toolbar, the user additionally has access to pre-optimised scene settings (the standard portrait, night snapshot, kids & pets, indoor or sunset settings). Also available for manual selection are the camera's range of ISO settings, ranging from ISO 80 to 1600, white balance, the regular Canon 'My Colors' effects – including the ability to bias red, green or blue separately plus a custom option – plus evaluative, centre weighted or spot metering. Here too is the ability to switch from single to continuous shooting.

Canon Digital IXUS 100 IS Canon Digital IXUS 100 IS
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

The last capture option among the trio is for shooting movies as noted, which also – unusually for a video mode – provides access to manual white balance and 'My Colors' options. Crucially, there's the choice to adjust the capture quality from humble 320x240 pixels at 30fps, through the standard definition 640x480 pixels, and up to an HD 1280x720 pixels, at which points the black bands cropping each side of the view presented by the LCD screen (to provide a 4:3 ratio) drop away to present a 16:9 image. Though a 4x equivalent zoom is provided in video mode, unfortunately it's of the digital variety, so by using it you're compromising on quality.

Returning to the function pad and four-way directional controller. At north, south, east and west around this are, in that order, a means of leap-frogging bunches of images when in playback mode or adjusting exposure compensation (+/- 2EV) when in capture mode. Next, at the bottom of the pad, is a means of deleting duff images on the fly or selecting the self-timer options, whilst the ability to adjust the flash settings and switch focus from infinity to macro (and back) complete the package.

Below these are a self-explanatory final pairing of buttons – marked 'display' (with an initial press turning off the shooting icons littering the screen, and the second the LCD itself) and 'menu' respectively. Pressing the latter brings up two folders on-screen – the first containing the shooting menu, the second the more general purpose set up menu.The first folder contains the ability to activate the digital zoom, call up grid lines on screen, i-Contrast, image stabilisation modes (continuous, shoot only, active when panning, or off), plus face and blink detection. The second available folder contains the set up menu, offering the ability to tweak various sound and start up options – for once on a Canon compact, there's not an extraneous separate menu folder for doing this – plus format the SD or SDHC card in use.

The base of the camera meanwhile features a familiar screw thread for attaching this IXUS to a tripod, plus a sliding door protecting both the SD/SDHC card port (with no internal memory to fall back on) and slender rechargeable lithium ion battery, good for an underwhelming but not disastrous 210 shots from a single charge.

But how about the pictures themselves – do the results suggest that this is a camera that transcends its exterior good looks, and is, indeed, as cute where it counts? Let's find out…