Mid Week 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.
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.
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.