Top cars are on their way

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE - By NEIL DOWL­ING

HERE’S a look at my top five new cars for 2012.

MAZDA CX-5: This is a linch­pin car that marks an in­ter­sec­tion in cur­rent ve­hi­cle di­rec­tion, both from a styling view and from an en­gi­neer­ing point. It is an ex­ten­sion of the SUV craze — re­mark­ably still sweep­ing Aus­tralia — yet look closely and the CX-5 is more a cross-over ve­hi­cle with car-like fea­tures. It could be the sta­tion wagon tem­plate of the decade. More im­por­tant tech­ni­cally is that the CX-5 rep­re­sents the first ve­hi­cle that com­bines all the el­e­ments of Mazda’s Sky­ac­tiv tech­nol­ogy, ap­ply­ing it to the body, sus­pen­sion and driv­e­train. No­tably, it has evo­lu­tion­ary changes to the en­gine line-up that in­cludes a high-ef­fi­ciency petrol that doesn’t use an ex­pen­sive and com­plex tur­bocharger to de­liver per­for­mance, with a miserly fuel con­sump­tion. The pack­age is the right size, and hope­fully ap­pears in March at the right price.

HOLDEN VOLT: A game-changer for Holden that in­tro­duces the Volt sedan that can run en­tirely on its elec­tric mo­tor. It uses a clever three-way drive sys­tem (elec­tric; elec­tric with petrol en­gine; petrol en­gine) sim­i­lar to a Toy­ota Prius but has the ad­van­tage of be­ing able to iso­late the petrol en­gine and use it as a gen­er­a­tor to con­tin­u­ously charge the elec­tric mo­tor’s bat­ter­ies. The ad­van­tage is the abil­ity to drive for about 500km be­fore recharg­ing or re­fu­elling.

SUBARU BRZ: In the­ory, the BRZ’S close cousin — the Toy­ota 86 — should be here in the Top 5. But the nod to the Subaru ver­sion comes be­cause for the first time in 14 years, it has over­turned Subaru Aus­tralia’s en­forced man­date only to mar­ket all-wheel drive cars. The BRZ, as a reardrive car, changes all the rules. It will be more ex­pen­sive than the 86 but there will be a dif­fer­ent fo­cus on equip­ment lev­els and fea­tures. It will come in smaller numbers — about 50 a month max­i­mum — and so suit a more exclusive clien­tele. On top of that, the BRZ will share all the fun-fac­tor emo­tions of the 86’s front-mounted (Subaru) en­gine and rear drive, with six-speed auto or man­ual trans­mis­sions and seat-of-pants han­dling. Af­ford­able joy re­turns to your garage.

VW UP: The con­cept of a highly-ef­fi­cient small city car is hardly new to con­tem­po­rary mo­tor­ing and to Volk­swa­gen it­self. But Up gets a big tick be­cause it’s com­ing to Aus­tralia in Novem­ber, crys­tallis­ing the need for this coun­try to re­alise we’re city-fo­cused mo­torists who for per­sonal and global ef­fi­cien­cies, must start think­ing small. The Up steps fur­ther into the next gen­er­a­tion by be­ing the plat­form bod­ies such as the pro­posed re­born Kombi, the Bulli, to a small SUV, coupe and con­vert­ible. It will also house new driv­e­trains, start­ing with a one-litre three­cylin­der petrol or diesel and then mov­ing into full elec­tric mod­els with lithium-ion bat­tery packs.

NIS­SAN LEAF: Crit­ics have al­ready raved about the Leaf be­ing an al­l­elec­tric car that op­er­ates just like any other car. It has the per­for­mance, cabin space, com­fort, quiet­ness and style of a con­ven­tional petrol or diesel sedan, yet has run­ning costs of only a frac­tion and the abil­ity to ‘‘fill up’’ via the house­hold power point. Why is it so im­por­tant? Well it’s al­l­elec­tric and gets its juice from a plug. So it’s a dif­fer­ent an­i­mal from the Prius and Volt. You may pay about $50,000 for the Leaf, but it could be a city and sub­ur­ban car that could suit a lot of en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive and wal­let-aware fam­i­lies.

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