On the right track
I saw your story about driving the new Mazda MX-5 in Scotland and, as I’m looking to put an order in, which engine would you recommend? The 1.5 or the 2-litre? I currently own a MX5 NA 1.8 Clubman set up for track days/club sprints so I like their driving experience. Craig Langford, email For road use I’d be happy with the 1.5 but, since you’re going to be hitting racetracks, I’d definitely get the “big banger” 2-litre engine as it will be more rewarding to drive in those conditions.
X60’S A GOOD CHOICE
I am about to buy a 20142015 new or demo Volvo XC60. So, two questions: is it a good car and should I get a 2.5-litre diesel or 3litre petrol? I mostly do city driving but do a long trip each month, and my husband wants me to mention the boat he tows maybe eight times a year. Di, email First, the XC60 is a very good car. Second, a diesel engine only makes economic sense if you travel more than 30,000km a year, but it would give you better torque for those boat runs.
ALFA’S SHOOTING STARS
I had to smile when Tom suggested in last week’s Roadside Assist that you were prejudiced against Alfas and that perhaps you should take some guidance from Clarkson and others. Now the 4C appears as a great, Ferrari-like, car and Jeremy Clarkson, in his inimitable style, ranks it as a six on a five-point scale. But if one was thinking of buying the car he ranked it as a two. One star for the stereo and one for the economy. This view seems to accord with your thoughts. Hugh Wilkinson, email I was hoping someone would come to my rescue on the review of the 4C, which was harsh but fair. Thanks.
PRICE HARD TO BEAT
My son almost has his sights on a new manual Toyota Yaris, advertised at $15,999 drive-away. You have mentioned in your column about bargaining with dealers and, since this will be a cash sale, can you offer some tips about the best way to bargain and whether or not being a cash buyer gives you much leverage? Peter Mitchell, email In this case, Toyota has already done the bargaining with a price that is hard to beat. There’s not much margin in the deal, but you might get some free floor mats.
NO NEWS IS NO NEWS
Do you know when or if a new Toyota Yaris sedan might appear, as Toyota dealers don’t seem to know? Unfortunately the light sedan is an unloved class these days and the replacement SUVs can’t fit four people and their luggage. I am also suspicious that their large frontal area will mean a poor drag coefficient and their big wheels a high rolling resistance leading to poor economy compared with a light sedan. I am looking for a shrunk version of the new Corolla, as it is getting too big. I have a 2008 Yaris manual sedan which I have driven on many long trips and found to be super
reliable and economical but, in the current world, now extremely dated.
Jeff Vessey, email The Yaris sedan is not likely to get a hatch-style update this year, just as the Corolla sedan lagged more than a year behind the hatch. Officially, Toyota spokesman Steve Coughlan replies: “We have no announcement to make. The Yaris sedan is currently available and remains available”.
UGLY FISH FACE
I notice most cars have adopted the “gasping groper” — of the fish kind — frontal treatment. Is this styling fashion, follow-theleader, or a genuine need for a considerable flow of fresh air into the engine bay for copious cooling of the engine and gearbox? For the most part, I think it does little as a fashion statement and often quite the reverse.
Jim Collins, Moorebank NSW It’s all about brands trying to create a corporate “face” that identifies their cars. In fact, smaller openings are better for economy and some companies now have active blanking panels that close to cut high-speed drag.
WARRANTY IS KEY
In response to a person looking to spend $10,000 on a reliable, safe, energy and cost-efficient smallish second-hand car you very clearly recommended a Mazda3 or Suzuki Swift over a VW Golf. After looking online, there are many 2009 Golfs around with less than 100,000km for that money, including even a later 2011. While I agree with your recommendation, the reality is that just about everything out there is better than buying a second-hand VW with more than about 80,000 on the clock. Just about weekly you say that 2015 products from the VW fold — Skoda, Audi and VW — are at least equal best in class. But you don’t say that history shows they will be less reliable and cost a lot more to keep on the road than all the Japanese and Korean-based makes.
Ian Wallace, Brisbane We regularly report the class of Volkswagen cars but also say we’d not own one beyond the factory warranty period.
NO GOLF IN RETIREMENT
I am thinking of buying a new VW Golf Mark 7, a Highline 103TSI Auto. As I am retired it will probably be my last car and I have concerns about the long term-reliability with DSG etc. I’m also looking at a Mazda3 GT, Audi A3 ambition 1.8 TFSI, Benz A200 and A250.
Ralph Perta, email The Golf is great but questionable beyond the warranty, which rules it out for you. The A3 is a Golf under the skin, so that makes the Mazda3 the safe choice but you should also crunch the numbers on an A-Class and test drive to see if it makes you feel more special than the Mazda for your retirement.
Mazzda MX--5:: Biiggerr iiss
betttterr on tthe ttrraacck
Great value: there’s not much margin in Toyota’s $15,990 deal for a manual Yaris