Lit­tle choices count

We all know less can be more when it comes to cars, so we se­lect from five of the best

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Cover Story -

Kre­mas­tos, 62, are semi-re­tired builders whose chil­dren are now independent. They also see the ad­van­tages of a city run­about and were equally sur­prised by the list of fea­tures.

VALUE

Our field in­cludes high-spec au­to­mat­ics that vary in price from $29,990 for the Holden Cruze SRi-V to $32,590 for the Ford Fo­cus Ti­ta­nium.

The Cruze sedan cer­tainly doesn’t lack fea­tures with fog lights, rear park­ing sen­sors, colour sat­nav, USB/iPod/MP3 plug and play, 10GB mu­sic hard drive, DVD, leather seats, heated front seats, lit van­ity mir­rors and 12V sock­ets front and back. Our test car didn’t have Blue­tooth (stan­dard on the lat­est mod­els) or rain­sens­ing wipers, which all the oth­ers have.

The Fo­cus has the only au­to­matic self-park­ing sys­tem, power driver’s seat, rear park­ing sen­sors, Sony au­dio, dual-zone air­con, par­tial leather trim, Blue­tooth with au­dio stream­ing and fog­lights.

The old­est model here is the Mit­subishi Lancer VRX Sport­back ($32,490), due shortly for a mid-life model up­date. It fea­tures USB con­nec­tiv­ity, pollen fil­ter, Blue­tooth with au­dio stream­ing, front fog­lights, rain­sens­ing wipers, al­loy ped­als, pad­dle gear-shifters and a rock­ing Rock­ford-Fos­gate au­dio sys­tem. It has a tilt-only ad­justable steer­ing wheel while the oth­ers also ad­just for reach.

The Mazda3 is the cheap­est at $27,990 but ours had the $3000 Lux­ury Pack with bixenon head­lamps, slid­ing cen­tre arm­rest con­sole, leather, Bose 242-watt am­pli­fier and 10 speak­ers. Stan­dard kit in­cludes fog­lights, dual-zone air­con with pollen fil­ter and Blue­tooth with au­dio stream­ing.

The Golf TSI is the only model with front and rear fog­lights and day­time run­ning lights. It has dual-zone air­con with a dust and pollen fil­ter, stream­ing Blue­tooth, USB and a chill­able glove­box. There are no park­ing sen­sors. Rear cam­era and sen­sors are op­tional, as are a par­al­lel park­ing as­sis­tance sys­tem, iPod con­nec­tion and sat­nav.

The Golf and Mazda have stan­dard keys while the Lancer has key­less start and the Cruze and Fo­cus have prox­im­ity keys that also au­to­mat­i­cally un­lock the door. All mod­els come with cruise con­trol, steer­ing wheel con­trols and auto head­lights.

For value the Fo­cus wins with its high level of spec and auto park­ing trick.

TECH­NOL­OGY

All mod­els use petrol, with the Cruze and Golf hav­ing turbo en­gines. De­spite these, the nat­u­rally as­pi­rated Lancer and Fo­cus win the power game on pa­per, each with 125kW thanks to greater dis­place­ment. The Golf has 118kW, hence its model name 118, and the Cruze has the least, 103kW.

But these mean lit­tle in the real world. The turbo mod­els are the liveli­est, with a lit­tle turbo lag off idle. Tur­bos are not just about power. Hav­ing smaller ca­pac­ity en­gines, these cars sip fuel— the Golf 6.2L/100km, the Cruze 6.9L.

The just-up­dated Mazda3, with the new fuel-ef­fi­cient Sky­ac­tiv driv­e­train, equals the econ­omy of the Golf. It’s the only model with stop-start tech­nol­ogy.

The Lancer uses 8.9L/100km and no hint of im­prove­ment in next month’s model up­date.

If mu­sic, con­nec­tiv­ity and Blue­tooth are im­por­tant, most mod­els have a choice of sys­tems. The eas­i­est to use is Blue­tooth with au­dio stream­ing. How­ever, the Cruze has the most en­ter­tain­ment op­tions with DVD and a hard drive the oth­ers don’t have.

Trans­mis­sions are mainly six-speed au­tos. The Golf ad a sev­enth ra­tio in its twin­clutch set up and the Lancer uses a con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion.

Wheels vary from 16-inch al­loys (Mazda and VW) to 17 (Cruze) and 18s (Lancer and Fo­cus). All have a space-save spare re­stricted to 80km/h.

DE­SIGN

If the Lancer’s de­sign has sto the test of time, testers thoug the Golf bland’’. The winn is the mas­cu­line-look­ing Foc with its men­ac­ing grille. Bon de­clares: I’ma Holden ma but I like the look of the Fo­cus’’, while his wife pre­fer the curves and smi­ley face’ of the Mazda3.

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