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The Mercury Cars Guide : May 1st 2010
16--- Classifieds 62 300 400 • carsguide.com.au Saturday, May 1, 2010 Alfa seeks an Italian connection HERO: Alfa is pinning its hopes on the new Giulietta. ITALY wants to turn the Alfa Romeo Giulietta into its new Australian hero. The Italian brand has been looking for a showroom mag- net in recent years and, de- spite the introduction of the MiTo from $31,490, it has failed to find one. The Giulietta is newer, spor- tier and less quirky in its design, a combination that the local importer hopes will work if it can lock the car into its local lineup. ''Alfa Romeo is convinced Alfa will work. We want it to work,'' says the top man at Ateco Automotive, Neville Crichton. ''If we get the Giulietta at the right price, that brand should be doing 3000 to 4000 cars a year.'' Alfa has had an up-and- down run in Australia since the 1970s, when it won plenty of fans with the enthusiastic little Alfasud and the GTV sports coupe. But quality was patchy, rust was a global problem and Alfa sales dropped away once the company shut its direct fac- tory operation down under. Now Ateco has the brand as part of an Italian connection that includes Ferrari, Maserati and Fiat, and it is planning to build a future around the Giulietta. It currently sells the 1.4-litre MiTo, the 147 hatch and 159 sedan and station wagon, but knows it needs a true hero car to generate a showroom fol- lowing. ''We've been hamstrung be- cause we haven't had the product,'' Crichton says. He sees the Giulietta going head- to-head with the Volkswagen Golf GTi in the hot-hatch class and believes the Italian car will not be disgraced. ''They want us to have a serious go with it. It's prob- ably a little bit bigger than the Volkswagen and should be a better car.'' Crichton is blunt and honest on the recent troubles with Alfa, which centre on the cars' transmissions. It has yet to build a quality automatic and its manu-matic gearboxes were among the first and, apart from baulky shifts, also caused quality problems which hit owners. ''The 156 went well and then we had problems with the transmission. We were the first people in the world to have Selespeed,'' Crichton says. Lots of people liked it, but then we had troubles . . . PAUL GOVER Saab no longer a sexy seller THE Saab agency for Australia is almost worthless, says Neville Crichton. As the Swedish brand looks to rebuild from its sale by General Motors, the Ateco chief says GM Holden --- which was the local importer --- will struggle to find a new owner. We turned it down,'' he says bluntly. Crichton also reports that the new global tie- up between Fiat and Chrysler will not affect the two brands' operations in Australia, where they will remain separate. Fiat doesn't want anything to do with the Chrysler side of things,'' he said. SUPERMODEL: Hyundai puts the i' in impressive with its ix35 Highlander. Time to look again If you have not checked out a Hyundai showroom in recent years it is time you did. Neil McDonald reports The ix35 has nothing in common with the Tucson. It would be like comparing a supermodel like Miranda Kerr with a gymnast from the former East Germany. T HERE is a minor revolution occurring at Hyundai and it starts with the letter ''i''. We've seen the arrival of the competent i30 hatch and wagon, the iLoad and iMax load luggers and announcement of the Sonata mid-size sedan replacement, the i45, which is receiving rave reviews overseas. The latest Hyundai to get the ''i'' treatment is its newest compact off- roader, the ix35. The off-roader is the South Korean's replacement for the Tucson. Put them side-by-side and even a person with only a passing interest in cars will spot the differences. The ix35 has nothing in common with the Tucson. It would be like comparing a supermodel like Miran- da Kerr with a gymnast from the former East Germany. Gone is Tucson's bland, boxy styl- ing, replaced by what Hyundai refers to as ''fluidic sculpture'' styling that owes more than a passing nod to BMW's ''flame surfacing'' styling of a few years ago. It looks fresh and modern. The contemporary theme continues inside the cabin, particularly the dashboard with its classy blue backlighting. The ix35 is available in three trim levels, Active, Elite and top-of-the- range Highlander. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder Active is front-wheel drive only and its $26,990 entry point for the five-speed manual is chasing the small car segment. A six-speed automatic --- standard on the Elite and Highlander --- costs an extra $2000. Even as a budget buy, the Active comes well equipped with strong safety credentials and the expected audio enhancements like full iPod integration. There are six airbags, stability control, traction control and anti-skid brakes, hill descent control and hill start assist. Move further up the range and the Highlander gains a rear reversing camera, leather and panorama glass roof. Elite buyers get the choice of a 2.4-litre petrol or 2.0-litre R-series turbo diesel while the range-topper Highlander is diesel fare only. Both are all-wheel drive. It is a full- time electronic all-wheel drive that automatically controls power distri- bution to the wheels. In normal driving the system powers the front wheels to help lower fuel consumption. For off-roading or slippery con- ditions the system can be locked into all-wheel drive, with a 50/50 torque split between the front and rear wheels. Like the rest of the ''i'' cars, the ix35 should continue to lift the company's profile - and more importantly sales. Driving LIKE the i30, we seized the opportunity to drive the ix35 compact off-roader. It represents another step forward for a brand that gets better with each new model. Our range-topping Highlander arrived in the CarsGuide carpark after a thorough workout by one of the specialist magazines. However, the body was snug, the doors shut with confidence and the whole car felt rock solid. Few compact off-roaders match it for standard equipment. We also love the look but wonder how some of the curves will age with time. Like the outside, the cabin is a mix of flowing surfaces. The leather feels good but some of the hard plastics on the doors and dashboard show that Hyundai is still behind with soft- moulded plastics. There is plenty of luggage space and cabin storage but the ix misses out on the added versatility of flip-fold rear seat cushions that provide a flat load area with the rear seatbacks down. A full-size spare is a welcome addition when some of its more highly fancied rivals, like the VW Tiguan and now the Subaru Outback, make do with a spacesaver. The ix35's design, safety and equipment is a match for the Japan, but there is a big ''but'' when it comes the car's suspension and ride. Despite being tuned for Australian conditions, the suspension crashes over bumps, transmits too much noise to the cabin and generally feels underdone. The steering is light but could do with more feedback. In this respect, the ix lags behind rivals like the Mazda CX-7, VW Tiguan and Nissan X-Trail and even the latest Honda CR-V. However, what it loses in composure it makes up for in the engine department. The high-tech R-series turbo-diesel is smooth, quiet, powerful and out- torques its direct rivals. small torque Hyundai ix35 Highlander Price: $37,990 Engine: 2.0-litre common rail turbocharged diesel Power: 135kW at 4000 revs Torque: 392Nm from 1800-2500 revs Transmission: Six-speed sequential automatic Steering: Hydraulic power-assisted rack and pinion power steering Suspension: Independent MacPherson strut front; multi-link rear Fuel type: Diesel Fuel consumption: 7.5/100km combined Brakes: Anti-skid all-round discs Wheels: 16-inch alloys Tyres: 255/55 R18 Safety gear: Dual front, side, curtain and driver s airbags, electronic stability control, traction control, anti- skid brakes, hill-start assist, brake assist, front/rear foglights, rear-view camera, front seatbelt pretensioners CO2 emissions: 198g/km 78/100 The bottom line:Impressive equipment levels let down by average ride and handling.
April 24th 2010
May 8th 2010