Top cars are on their way
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.