The Road Ahead : February March 2010
PHOTOS, FROM LEFT: MONDEO AND LIBERTY ARE BIG ON SPACE AND FUNCTIONALITY. MAKES YOUR DAY 49 FEB/MAR 2010 THE ROAD AHEAD ROAD TEST MOTORING standard. The Ford and Subaru also get a driver's knee bag. All have potentially life-saving anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake distribution (EBD), brake assist (BA), electronic stability control (ESC), traction control (TC) and front height-adjustable seatbelts with pretensioners. Little wonder they score a five (out of five) star ANCAP safety rating, except Skoda, which earns a still respectable four. Mondeo is alone in having a security alarm as standard, although the Liberty comes pre-wired for installation and Skoda offers it as an option. Our foursome is fitted with an immobiliser, but only Liberty can claim the Datadots ID system and stereo theft code protection. Ford provides locking wheel nuts. No one misses out on driver's footrest, tilt and reach steering and audio/cruise controls handily mounted on the steering wheel. All offer the driver a choice of manual sequential shift, but Liberty and Octavia also come with a wheel-mounted paddle shift. Comfort is another universal strength. The Skoda's front seats boast lumbar and height adjustment and their sporty design provides both comfort and support. It's possible for a driver to get well settled in the Ford, too, with power adjustment for height and slide. The seats are flatter and, while they come with lumbar adjustment, miss out on cushion tilt (as does the Mazda and Subaru). Subaru offers the best front and rear headroom, by a fair margin from the Ford, but it's line ball between the pair for most rear leg room. Skoda has the longest rear seat cushion, Mazda the widest. In cargo area, Ford is by far the longest, Subaru the widest and Skoda the best in height. But maximum dimensions tell only part of the story, as no cargo area or boot is perfectly symmetrical. The minimum dimensions largely determine practical load carrying capability and here Subaru wins on length, Ford on width and Skoda on height. For more cargo space, the rear seats on each can be split-folded 60/40 but only the Mazda folds completely flat without the inconvenience of adjusting head rests and the cushion. With seats down, the Subaru offers arguably the best load carrying solution. Mazda pips the others for practicality, primarily due to providing a full size spare tyre and the afore- mentioned flat-fold rear seats. All offer good access to the cargo area through the absence of internal load lip, except Skoda. But only the Czech mate boasts a 'ski port'. All are endowed with a flat cargo floor and come with tie-downs and coat hooks, seatback pockets and cargo blind, although just Mazda6 and Octavia provide a locking glovebox. All score multiple power outlets but only Skoda rear passengers get their own ventilation. Ford's under-floor storage trays in the cargo bay are a handy touch. None of the four misses out on lap/sash three- point seatbelts for all five occupants or a full complement of headrests, along with mounting points fitted for three child restraints. ON THE ROAD With easily the best power and torque outputs and being just 1 kg heavier than the lightest wagon (Liberty), the Octavia RS was always going to set the pace in performance. And so it proved, with the 2.0-litre turbo transverse four giving the others a 'towelling' in six of our track acceleration tests. There's no hint of turbo lag, and with the DSG gearbox providing blindingly fast and precise up shifts, the RS was in a class of its own among this field.Consistently second quickest, in all but 50-80 km/h, was the Liberty. This surprised our OUR THANKS TO VANRIET PTY LTD FOR MAKING THE NEW PINE RIVERS OFFICE PARK, BRENDALE, AVAILABLE FOR OUR PHOTO SHOOT.
December January 2010