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.