Mid Week Mo­tor­ing

The Tribune (NZ) - - MOTORING -

TOO TRUCK­ING TOUGH

Ki­wis are trend­ing to­wards utes like the Ford Ranger be­cause they can do this. Even if many of us don’t ac­tu­ally do this.

Trucks are tough, and Ki­wis like that im­age. That’s ba­si­cally why the Ford Ranger ute was the best-sell­ing ve­hi­cle of any type in New Zealand in 2015. Of the top-five sell­ing ve­hi­cles, three were pickup trucks, the oth­ers be­ing the Toy­ota Hilux and Holden Colorado.

So heavy, thirsty, and un­wieldy on the high­way is in. And there is a race among ute-mak­ers to pro­duce up­mar­ket mod­els with lav­ish equip­ment specs and look-at-me styling.

Cou­pled with the fact that SUVs are the sin­gle most pop­u­lar type of ve­hi­cle in NZ, the con­clu­sion is that raised ride height, a ‘‘com­mand’’ driv­ing po­si­tion and some sem­blance of off-road im­age are givens for the ma­jor­ity of newve­hi­cle buy­ers.

But the ma­jor­ity of SUVs are no longer tough, so hence the rise of utes and ‘‘utes-with-boots’’ – or SUV wag­ons built on a pickup chas­sis. There is even a grow­ing trend for utes that have the ground clear­ance of 4WD but have 2WD pow­er­trains. Th­ese mod­els like the Ranger Hi-Rider and Hilux Pre-Run­ner now ac­count for 35 per cent of ute sales, and grow­ing.

ZAPPY ZOE

The Re­nault Zoe (front) and Kan­goo are two plug-in mod­els from Re­nault com­ing to NZ.

Elec­tric ve­hi­cles (EVs) may be strug­gling to gain a foothold in the NZ new-car mar­ket, but that’s not phas­ing Re­nault-Nis­san. The com­pany has plans to launch two pure-EVs this year. One is the Kan­goo van, an elec­tri­fied ver­sion of an ex­ist­ing model. The other is the be­spoke Zoe hatch­back, which can now travel over 200km on a sin­gle charge.

Th­ese will join the Nis­san Leaf as the only purely plug-in elec­tric cars on sale in New Zealand through of­fi­cial chan­nels.

VOLVO VA-VA-VOOM

The all-new S90 is the se­cond of Volvo’s new-gen­er­a­tion mod­els.

Volvo’s XC90 cross­over made a big im­pact last year with its style, qual­ity and tech. The com­pany’s same Scal­able Prod­uct Ar­chi­tec­ture (SPA) is be­ing used for the Chi­ne­se­owned Swedish mar­que’s new ex­ec­u­tive sedan, the S90.

If the XC90 was chopped and dropped you’d get the S90 with the same avant-garde styling, ‘Thor’s Ham­mer’ headlights and qual­ity in­te­rior de­sign, in­clud­ing a ver­ti­cal tablet-like touch-screen that re­places most phys­i­cal but­tons on the dash­board.

There’s also a V90 wagon to fol­low.

MORE FROM MAZDA

A larger-en­gined Lim­ited model of Mazda’s MX-5 is on its way

It was back to ba­sics for the fourth-gen­er­a­tion MX-5 launched late last year. The low weight, man­ual-only, en­try-level two-seater sported a tiny1.5-litre en­gine.

To come is a slightly heav­ier and more pow­er­ful Lim­ited model, with more lux­ury equip­ment and an au­to­matic-trans­mis­sion op­tion. It’ll be in­ter­est­ing to see if this is able to broaden the ap­peal of MX-5 with­out erod­ing that sub­lime sports-car ex­pe­ri­ence.

TRUCK­OME­TER ON TRACK

The eco­nomic wheels con­tinue to turn faster with lit­tle sign of a hol­i­day pit stop, ac­cord­ing to the ANZ Truck­ome­ter.The ANZ Heavy Traf­fic In­dex lifted 2.6 per cent in De­cem­ber, com­plet­ing a strongly per­form­ing quar­ter. An­nual growth in the in­dex con­tin­ues to rise and is now run­ning at 4.8 per cent. The Light Traf­fic In­dex, which leads growth in the econ­omy by six months, in­creased 1 per cent, bod­ing well for the longer haul.The non-dairy agri­cul­ture, con­struc­tion, hous­ing, ser­vices and tourism sec­tors – col­lec­tively a large pro­por­tion of the econ­omy – con­tinue to per­formwell.The ANZ Truck­ome­ter is a mea­sure of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity us­ing real-time traf­fic data from around New Zealand. It con­tains hard data on ac­tiv­ity as op­posed to mea­sur­ing eco­nomic sen­ti­ment. Traf­fic flows rose on ev­ery road in both the Heavy and Light Traf­fic In­dexes (11 and 10 roads re­spec­tively.

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