The Road Ahead : April May 2007
Renault Megane Privilege sedan Mazda3 MPS 5-door hatch Fiat Punto Dynamic JTD Kia Magentis EX-L 2.7 V6 French brand Renault is struggling, despite the launch last year of the new Megane hatch, sedan and coupe- cabriolet. Even the brand's superb safety, enhanced fur ther in Megane with electronic stability program (ESP) as standard, hasn't helped. Par t of the problem is the French love of manuals. Automatic transmissions are an after thought. Although the 2.0-litre engine is capable, the four-speed sequential auto is indecisive and rough. The electric power steering, while improved, is still vague. Noise levels are subdued, brakes are attributes and storage and passenger space are handy. Equipment levels are fine. Build quality, ergonomics, fuel consumption and comfor t are mid- field. Its RRP is on the high side. Chris Bishop Punto is the first Fiat passenger car in Australia in nearly 20 years. This Dynamic model, with turbo- diesel engine and five-speed manual transmission, claims a stunning 4.6 litres/100 km fuel consumption. However, the car's credentials are undermined by modest per formance, a clunky gearshift and dire low-speed tractability. It's better on the highway where, with turbo boost, it proves adequate. Watch the hills though, as it quickly runs out of puff. Punto handles capably and is well equipped, par ticularly in safety terms. It has a five-star EuroNCAP crash rating. There is some engine drone, while interior trims are a concern in an other wise well-built vehicle. The biggest question mark relates to value. Its price is high. Russell Manning It's hard to argue with the value- for-money of the Magentis EX- Luxur y. Most major safety features are provided as standard -- there's dual front, front side and full cur tain airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability/traction control, active head restraints. Power driver's seat, climate control and leather trim add a touch of luxur y, plus Kia provides a five-year/130,000 km warranty. The five-speed auto shifts smoothly, but a relatively small engine and largish body mean the 2.7-litre V6 can't deliver much per formance. The comfy ride and mediocre dynamics will meet many buyers' expectations. But more demanding drivers may find the steering and handling underdone. Braking distances for the Magentis are competitive, but the brakes don't hold up well to heavier use. John Ewing The MPS has benign looks for such a hot version of the Mazda3. It's an af fordable, little rocket-ship that raises the bar for hot-hatches. Under the lid, there's the 2.3-litre turbo, intercooled engine as used in the larger 6 MPS. With power and torque similar to a current model Falcon six and a significantly lighter body, per formance is impressive. But all that urge through the front wheels means torque steer rears its ugly head, despite Mazda's clever torque control system hosing down the worst of it. With a slick, six-speed manual gearbox, good brakes, a responsive chassis and plenty of grip from the 18", 45-series rubber, the 3 MPS is enter taining motoring. A functionally laid-out interior and good build quality enhance the package. John Ewing PRICE: $35,990 ENGINE: 2.0-litre, 4-cyl. POWER: 98 kW @ 5500 rpm TORQUE: 191 Nm @ 3750 rpm 0-100 km/h: 11.4 secs 80 km/h-STOP: 23.2 m FUEL (ADR FIGURE): 8.4 litres/100 km FOR: Safety, brakes, noise. AGAINST: Auto, steering, cost. PRICE: $22,990 ENGINE: 1.2-litre, 4-cyl. turbo-diesel POWER: 66 kW @ 4000 rpm TORQUE: 200Nm @ 1750 rpm 0-100 km/h: 13.3 secs 80 km/h-STOP: 24.6 m FUEL (ADR FIGURE): 4.6 litres/100 km FOR: Safety, fuel economy, features. AGAINST: Value, performance, trims. PRICE: $39,990 ENGINE: 2.3-litre, direct petrol injection, 4-cyl. POWER: 190 kW @ 5500 rpm TORQUE: 380 Nm @ 3000 rpm 0-100 km/h: 8.2 secs 80 km/h-STOP: 25.5 m FUEL (ADR FIGURE): 10.0 litres/100 km, PULP FOR: Per formance, finish, understated looks. AGAINST: Torque steer, tyre noise, spare tyre, ride. PRICE: $31,490 ENGINE: 2.7-litre, double overhead cam, V6 POWER: 138 kW @ 6000 rpm TORQUE: 247 Nm @ 4000 rpm 0-100 km/h: 10.2 secs 80 km/h-STOP: 25.7 m FUEL (ADR FIGURE): 9.3 litres/100 km FOR: Value, warranty, safety features. AGAINST: Per formance, dynamics, brakes.
June July 2007