by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
The Mercury Cars Guide : May 22nd 2010
6--- Classifieds 62 300 400 • carsguide.com.au Saturday, May 22, 2010 Car lovers wake up to Lil Suzie The latest round of light cars are smaller --- and more popular --- than ever. CarsGuide puts four of the best through their paces. Neil McDonald reports IMPRESSED: Nathan Mawby with his Kia Rio (also below), Kathryn Firkin with her Proton S16 (also left), Fiona Hudson with her Fiesta CL, and Neil McDonald with his Suzuki Alto, are all loving the latest economical small car offerings. Suzuki Alto GL Driven by NEIL McDONALD IT'S almost cheap enough to put on a credit card. So noted a forthright female friend when I mentioned the Alto costs only $11,790 for the starter GL model. She did cringe when I pulled up to head out on the town though, expecting something larger than our modest Alto. But as she settled in, elbow to elbow, the little Suzie won her over with its bright red paint scheme and bug-eyed headlights. As it whipped through the inner-city traffic she was even more startled by the quality of its ride, composure and zip. Most people who have driven or been ferried around in Suzuki's little car warm to it. It's winning over friends everywhere. There are two reasons why --- fuel economy and ease of parking. The five-speed manual Alto sips fuel at the rate of 4.8 litres of petrol every 100km, allowing a reasonable range from its 35-litre tank before you have to duck into a servo. It's the ideal city car. The diminutive 1.0-litre three-cylinder is surprisingly capable around town and the five-speed is a breeze. Being a three-cylinder it does tend to throb like a heartbeat at idle, but this quirky characteristic only adds to its charm. It comes into its own in crowded supermarket carparks. You can manoeuvre the Alto into the tiniest spaces, duck in to grab the groceries and be on your way while some drivers are still reversing their juggernaut off-roaders into place. The $12,490 GLX manual we drove has a few tasty must-haves such as electronic stability control but also nice alloys, foglights, tachometer, four-speaker stereo and height- adjustable driver's seat. The only thing we really missed in the spec sheet was electrically adjustable exterior mirrors. However, adjusting the passenger's mirror is reasonably easy because the car's so compact. The GLX has all the goodies, but even the base GL does not skimp. It has six airbags, anti-skid brakes, airconditioning, CD stereo with MP3 input and remote central locking. What really surprises people about the Alto is its big-car-like ride. The suspension is firm but rides the bumps well and the steering is direct and well weighted. The front seats too, which are based on those in the bigger Swift, are comfortable. Small children will fit in the back, but it's tight for adults and the boot is relatively small. One person we know who owns one keeps the rear seats flipped forward all the time to carry gear. Since it went on sale 10 months ago Suzuki Australia has been struggling to keep up with demand. We can understand why. Likes: Parking is a breeze Dislikes: No electric exterior mirrors Proton S16 Driven by KATHERINE FIRKIN I T'S easy to be impressed when you start with rock-bottom expectations, but this car has definitely surprised me. It's hard not to feel underwhelmed when you're told you'll be testing Australia's cheapest car, but The Proton S16, one of Australia's cheapest car, has been a winner from the start. The lack of luxuries aside --- because let's face it, there are none --- this car is great to drive. It's a lovely change driving off in a new car without feeling like you first need to read a manual. Everything is simple and easy to use, and there are no nasty surprises. The car comes with power steering and is easy to handle. Ducking in and out of busy city traffic is a breeze and even the horn is surprisingly powerful. Space inside the car is also impressive. Unlike many of its cheap counterparts, the Proton S16 won't cause too many cramped legs or squabbles over who gets to ride in the front passenger seat. Having said that, you probably also won't have friends queue up to go for a ride with you. It's also unlikely to raise your social status, impress prospective dates or intimidate that jerk who cut you off. But the car has character, despite being basic. It's biggest downside is the single driver's- side airbag. Unfortunately that's a pretty big downside in my books. Another shortcoming is the sound quality of the stereo. With just two speakers, music lovers will be wanting to upgrade their stereos straight away. For a small --- and cheap --- car, the Proton S16 is surprisingly powerful and reaches 100km/h relatively effortlessly. It is also fairly fuel efficient, with an economy of 6.3litres every 100km. So should you buy one? As a basic, daily commuter car the Proton S16 is great value. But as a family car, or people mover, the safety features are not really good enough. Likes: Easy manoeuvrability; visibility; fuel use. Dislikes: Lack of passenger side airbag; sound quality; lack of compartment space. Kia Rio Driven by NATHAN MAWBY O NCE upon a time ''cheap and cheerful'' meant a Datsun 120Y with a smiley face painted on. Thankfully, a few decades on, the Kia Rio is in the picture. You could go for the ultra-cheap base model for $12,990. Spring for the four-speed auto for about $17,400 drive away and you'll be a lot more cheerful than those who cheaped out on a base model when you inevitably get stuck in traffic. But the Rio doesn't stop at being cheap --- it goes out of its way to save you money. Even with the 1.6-litre four cylinder engine, speeding tickets will be the last thing on your mind. That's because you'll start to feel sorry for it at about 6000 revs --- at which point you'll be doing between 40 and 50km/h. It can handle 100km/h, just give it time to get there and don't be shy about putting the foot down on hills. But you're not buying a cheap car to break the sound barrier. A small engine saves money on petrol. Who could fault fuel economy of 6.8 litres/100km? The Rio will suit those who want a car to go from A to B. It ranges from average to brilliant on this front. But when you're finished bargain hunting with all the money you've saved buying a cheap car the small size will come back to haunt you as the tiny boot mocks any attempt to squeeze your new 42'' plasma into it. Add groceries, a few bags of clothes and you'll be inching the front seats forward before coughing up a bus fare for your passengers. On the plus side, that means you'll be able to choose what you listen to on the way home. Which is important when you have a set of Tweeter speakers hooked up to an equaliser that tailors the car's sound system to your favourite tunes. A Bluetooth system and iPod and MP3 connectivity will help steer young drivers away from using their phone or iPod with earbuds. That's a potentially life-saving feature. But with a base model ANCAP rating of three stars you may feel like you're putting your bank balance ahead of your life. Budget-car buyers on a budget and retirees looking to down size will like what the Rio offers --- but avoid freeways. Likes: industrial-strength heating, headroom and vision, particularly side mirrors Dislikes: Lack of power, an uninspired exterior, poor use of space (particularly the boot). Ford Fiesta Driven by FIONA HUDSON F IRST, an admission: there are quite a few unworn items hanging forlornly up one end of my wardrobe, with sale tags still attached. Pristine pieces include a shirt bought at such a discount that burnt-orange and brown stripes seemed an attractive combo, and jeans so cheap I kidded myself dropping two sizes would be easy. Yep, I am a total sucker for an apparent bargain. So a declaration I was absolutely smitten with the Ford Fiesta CL prompted knowing nods from my partner, who assumed its low price coloured my judgment. There's no disputing this little ripper is value for money. The base model includes airconditioning, CD sound system, power steering, electric windows, two airbags, anti- skid brakes and remote locking. More importantly, though, the Fiesta is a great drive. The peppy 1.6-litre engine made buzzing around inner-city op shops and vintage stores even more of a joy than usual. The CL accelerates brilliantly, corners neatly, and has a particularly nifty gearbox. It's slim shape slips into the squeeziest of parking spots, making me wish I could do the same in those useless skinny jeans! As well as being practical, this beauty is more stylish than its boxy competitors, with modern curves inside and out. The dashboard is perhaps a bit too space-age --- I struggled to figure out the radio toggle and an off-putting sprawl of other buttons, but Gen Y would probably get it. The cheap fabric seat coverings and some plastic fittings on the trim are minor quibbles, however, there's absolutely no danger this little number will sit unloved in the driveway of any bargain hunter --- even if you do opt for the hideous green colour they call ''Squeeze''. Likes: Frugal; well equipped; handles beautifully. Dislikes: A full set of airbags and electronic stability control are $1000 extra; nasty seat covers; airconditioning is a bit limp.
May 15th 2010
May 29th 2010