Monday, September 26, 2011

Devon hops in the smallest minivan you can buy

The Mazda 5 is living proof that you don't need a large 4x4 to carry a family around in comfort. It's dinky size means that it's a easy to park and good on gas. All while offering a clever six passenger configuration. In the land of the large 4x4, can Mazda convince buyers going small is all the rage?

Likes: Decent amount of space in the cabin, tons of equipment standard for such a low asking price, low running costs and impressive handling.

Dislikes: Firm ride over some surfaces, interior plastics don't feel up to par, may prove to be too small for some families.

Performance: The Mazda 5 comes with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 160hp. It does a good job of pulling the 5 around town and on the motorway. Fuel economy is decent too. It's not the sportiest engine, and you'll have to rev it hard to get up to speed with the automatic. We'd stick with the base trim for the manual gearbox.

Ride & Handling: The 5 can handle pretty well for a car of its size and weight. However, the trade-off is the ride is a little too firm for some taste. The pay off is solid body control, which is combined with impressive grip and quick steering. This makes the 5 more engaging to drive than other MPVs.

Refinement: The 2.4-liter engine operates very smoothly. There's some wind noise when you pick up speed on the motorway, road noise however is pretty much subdued. All six passengers will love how refined the cabin feels. It's airy and comfortable on long journeys.

Behind the wheel: There's plenty of adjustments for the steering wheel and front seats, so drivers can get comfortable easily. All-round visibility is pretty good thanks to a high driving position, and many functions that can be controlled by the buttons on the steering wheel. The stereo controls on the dash are a bit confusing.

Space & Practicality: The 5 can carry six passengers in somewhat comfort. The second row passengers will feel comfortable, while third row passengers will feel a bit cramped. Plus the boot isn't massive with all the seats up. You'll have to fold down the third row seat to carry anything more than a few suit cases. Headroom and legroom is generous to all but the third row. Which should be left to the kids.

Equipment: The Mazda 5 comes well equipped. Even the base model will satisfy most buyers. Alloy wheels, climate control, stability control and six speaker sound system come standard. Top of the range adds Xenon headlamps, rain sensing wipers, heated front seats and moonroof.

Buying & Owning: The Mazda 5 comes with a low asking price. You'll have to step up to the higher trims to really get the toys that you want. Resale value is strong so your investments will be well protected. Discounts are available, but aren't anything to brag about. Running costs should be low thanks to decent fuel economy.

Quality & Reliability: Mazda's record on mechanical reliability is pretty impressive. So you shouldn't have any worries on that score. The cabin has a solid feel that inspires confidence that the car will last. While many rivals offer classy, soft touch plastics. The 5's is hard, scratchy and rather dour.

Safety & Security: The Mazda 5 comes with advanced front, side impact airbags and side-impact curtain airbags. Traction control, and stability program are standard as well as sophisticated braking system to help you avoid trouble. On the security, all 5's come with both alarm and engine immobilizer.

The Mazda 5 doesn't look like your conventional minivan. It's smaller than a conventional minivan, but that doesn't mean it's not as good. You get a six passenger seating configuration, sliding doors and a long list of features that justify the low asking price. Although the 5 maybe too small for some families, its still a great MPV all round. With responsive handling and low running cost takes the sting out of owning one. Helping the Mazda 5 one attractive offer too good not to consider.

Devon M 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Devon goes Italian Retro

Likes: Decent fuel economy, fun to drive around town, stylish inside out, small size means parking is a breeze.

Dislikes: The ride is jittery and handling isn't up to par with the Mini Cooper, limited boot space and no turbo engine yet available.

Urban city cars are becoming more and more trendy. There's the Smart Fortwo, Mini Cooper and now the Fiat 500. A retro throwback of the original 500. It's small, dinky and cheeky looking. But is that enough to win over hipsters and fashionettes?

Performance: There's only one engine available for the 500 and that's a 1.4-liter four-cylinder with 100hp. It may not seem like a lot, but the 500 is small. So there's plenty of pep around town. On the highway you may struggle to get up to speed, and the automatic gearbox hesitates off line. Making power delivery not as smooth as you'd expect.

Ride & handling: The 500 is a doddle to drive. It's nimble and quite fun to toss around in urban areas. The steering is light, and makes parking a breeze. Outside of the city limits, the 500 doesn't feel as composed as a Mini. Handling isn't as sharp, and the ride feels jittery.

Refinement: Living with the 500 won't be too tiresome. Although wind and road noise is evident when you pick up speed. However, it never gets to an irritating level. The engine is smooth and the transmission once up to speed works seamlessly with the engine.

Behind the wheel: There's no reach adjustments for the steering wheel, but there is height adjustments to help you get comfortable. The simple design of the dash means its easy to use than a knife and fork, and there's all the style you could ever ask for. Look down, and some of the retro appeal goes away. Some of the plastics look cheap, and cost cutting. But you can customize the interior color and styling combinations to suit you.

Space & Practicality: The 500 is smaller than the Mini and it has a bigger boot, but the Mini can fit four more comfortably than the 500. Those in the front seat will be comfortable. There's plenty of head and legroom for front passengers, while the rear seats are best left for kids.

Equipment: Entry-level 500s get air-con, cd-player and electric mirrors. You'll have to step up to the sport trim to get alloy wheels and sports suspension. Top of the range offers glass roof, leather wrapped steering wheel and handsfree Bluetooth connectivity for your mobile device.

Buying & Owning: The 500 seems well priced among its rival the Mini Cooper. Even though the turbo form isn't available yet, you can still get a nice 500 for a decent price. Fuel economy is good, so your running costs will be low. Discounts are hard to come-by due to limited supply. Resale value will be high, as the demand for the 500 has exceeded Fiat's expectations.

Quality & Reliability: The plastics used in the cabin feel upscale. They feel sturdy, and match the retro look. Fiat doesn't enjoy the best reliability record, and the 500 has been rated a mere average by JD Power Customer satisfaction survey. With many complaints of the Blue&Me hands-free system and windscreen wipers malfunctioning.

Safety & Security: The 500 comes with front, side, curtain airbags as well as knee airbags. Traction control, anti-lock-brakes all come standard across the range. Deadlocks and alarm system come standard as well to keep theft at bay.

The 500 is trendy and stylish. It's small size makes it a doddle to drive around urban areas. Venture outside of the city limits and the 500 struggles to stay composed. The Mini is a better car all round. It's stylish, fun to drive and a hoot to kick into corners thanks to the BMW tuned suspension. Unlike the Mini, the 500 is cheaper to buy and offers more boot space in a tiny package. If your driving evolves mostly around the city the 500 is for you. Anything more, we'd say stick with the Mini.

Devon M 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Devon test drives a 5-series with split personality

The 5-series Gran Turismo is supposed to be a real Jack of all trade. It's a hatchback with 4x4 driving position and executive saloon interior space. Not to mention the splash of BMW dynamics, but in the times with gas prices rising will BMW be able to convince buyers to consider one?

Likes: Luxurious interior, plenty of space for four, clever tailgate design, effortless engines.

Dislikes: Quite expensive to buy and running costs are high, not as sharp to drive as a BMW should be.

Performance: There are two engines available for the 5-series GT. A 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder with 300hp and a 4-liter turbocharged eignt cylinder with 400hp. Both engines offer effortless pace and are loads of fun to drive. Picking between the two however depends on the depths of your wallet. All-wheel-drive is optional, too.

Ride & Handling: The 5-series has a smooth ride, but handling isn't as sharp as you'd expect from a BMW. Steering is sharp and the response is great. Both engines provide a high degree of passing power. Put your foot down and you'll feel the turbo kick in. It feels like the 5-series GT is better suited for motorway driving than twisty narrow roads.

Refinement: Wind and road noise are both well suppressed. You'll enjoy a smooth quiet drive in the city and on the motorway. Both engines are hushed at most speeds, the eight-cylinder engine has a lovely grunt when revved hard.

Behind the wheel: There's no doubt that you'll find a driving position that suits you best. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and height, as well as the driver's seat. The dashboard is your typical minimalistic BMW design. Everything feels high quality, but is user friendly and easy to nagivate. However, the fidly iDrive is best avoided.

Space & Practicality: The 5-series GT is strictly a four-seater vehicle. The driver and front passenger will get comfortable easily, and so will rear passengers. The boot isn't massive, but it offers a quirky trick up its sleeve. The trunk can be opened like a saloon, or a hatchback for added versatility. For the price however, we don't think it's really worth paying the premium.

Equipment: The 5-series GT comse well equipped. Even the base model comes with Xenon-headlamps, panorama glass roof, keyless start and parking sensors. You'll need the parking sensors because of the small rear windscreen. This leaves you with big blind spots for merging and parking.

Buying & Owning: The high asking price says it all. It's not cheap, and you'll need deep pockets for the running costs. The turbo six-cylinder returns 30 miles to the gallon on the highway. Discounts are available but not huge, and resale value should prove to be strong.

Quality & Reliability: The interior feels classy and well put together. The materials used feel sturdy and have a long lasting look and feel. Reliability should be good as with all BMWs. However, reliability of the electronics long-term should be a bit of a worry.

Safety & Security: The 5-series GT comes with side-curtain airbags, side impact airbags, traction control and anti-lock-brakes all standard across the range. An engine immobiliser and deadlocks are standard, however an alarm system is optional.

The 5-series GT is like no other car on the road. You may be a little disappointed at its on road dynamics. It doesn't really feel as sharp as a BMW should, and the price is quite high for what it is. There are luxury 4x4s that are cheaper to buy and cheaper to run. So is it a real Jack of all trades? Well it offers decent space for four passengers, and the boot is clever in design. But it fails to be a real luxury 4x4 alternate, and the price is just too high to justify.

Devon M 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Devon figures out the Cube of Nissan

The Nissan Cube is a funky little hatchback that's been sold in Japan for years. It's not the most stylish of Nissan cars, but it surely does stand out. With rivals from Kia and Scion, will the Nissan Cube manage to keep up? Or will it be another case of all style and no substance?

Likes: Roomy interior, generous kit, low running costs, distinctly designed inside out.

Dislikes: Sloppy handling, sluggish engine, odd-ball styling, too much wind noise on the motorway.

Performance: There's only one engine available for the Cube. It's a 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 122hp, although the engine is fuel efficient. It doesn't feel up for the job. It offers decent pace around town, but on faster paced roads you'll struggle to get up to speed. The CVT-transmission really does bring the buzz out of the engine, and often robs you off valuable revs when you need it most.

Ride & handling: The Cube feels comfortable because the suspension is set towards comfort, so there's plenty of body-roll in corners. You'll think the car wasn't attached to its chassis. On the motorway, you'll often feel like you're being blown about by cross winds due to the tall body.

Refinement: The cabin is roomy and airy, with very little road noise. Wind noise however will be an issue. The Cube's tall body makes it as aerodynamic as a tower block. So wind noise rushes into the cabin at high levels. The CVT transmission brings the buzz out of the engine. This makes long distance driving a bit tiresome.

Behind the wheel: The front seats are comfortable, but they lack lateral support. The dashboard is easy to navigate. Everything feels user friendly. Forward and rear visibility will be an issue. You'll feel like the windscreen is miles away from you, and those thick B-pillars create massive blind spots.

Space & Practicality: There's plenty of head and legroom in both the front seats and the rear seats. The tall body does give you an airy feel in the cabin. The seats fold down 60/40 to increase cargo space. While the boot isn't massive, it's awkward shape makes getting things in and out a breeze.

Equipment: The Nissan Cube comes well equipped. The base trim comes with air-con, cd-player, 6-way adjustable driver seat and a nifty trip computer. Top of the range models add automatic headlamps, sporty body-kit, and navigation system.

Buying & Owning: The Nissan Cube comes with a low asking price. It's not the most stylish car on the block, but it does offer loads of kit for the money. Discounts are available, and resale value should be good. Running costs are low too, thanks to decent fuel economy.

Quality & reliability: The interior feels well put together. Many plastics feel sturdy and long lasting. Nissan has a solid reliability record. The Nissan Cube should prove to be just as reliable.

Safety & Security: The Cube offers side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control all standard, even on the base trim. Deadlocks, engine immobiliser and an alarm are standard across the range to keep theft at bay.

The Nissan Cube isn't the most stylish car on the block. The interior is roomy, and the kit is generous for the money. However, the Cube's handling is sloppy. The engine isn't really up for the job, and there's too much wind noise on the motorway. It may seem like the Cube is all style and no substance. Even with all the negatives, the Cube still has a market for those who want something out side of the box. Before you consider a Cube however, we highly suggest you look at its rivals first. They're priced the same, but exceed in what the Cube falls short in.

Devon M 

Devon test drives a Mazda family car

When the Mazda 6 was first introduced, it was seen as the sports sedan among family cars. It was stylish, sporty and still had the ability of carrying a small family and their luggage. The new Mazda 6 is bigger, roomier and more practical than the previous generation. Does this mean the Mazda 6 has finally grown up?

Likes: More fun to drive than rivals, roomy interior with a massive boot, large equipment level and sporty exterior looks.

Dislikes: Not as sporty as previous form, some interior trim bits feel cheap, no more wagon option.

Performance: There are two engines available for the Mazda 6. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 170hp, and a 3.7-liter six-cylinder with 272hp. Pick of the bunch is the base four-cylinder engine. It's fuel efficient and is very flexible. The six-cylinder is smooth, but commands a premium price.

Ride & Handling: The Mazda 6 has grown a few inches in length, but the sporty nature is still there. The 6 grips really well, and the steering is light yet precise. The ride isn't as comfortable as you might expect, but it's far from uncomfortable.

Refinement: The 6 is a relaxed quiet cruiser. Refinement isn't class-leading, but it's far from cheap. You'll notice a bit of wind noise around the door mirrors, and there's some road noise over rough surfaces. The engines are both very smooth.

Behind the wheel: The 6's cabin feels sporty thanks to the circular air vents and splashes of metallic trim. The dash is user-friendly, although the heater controls are separated from the panel that display their settings. Forward visibility is good, and both the driver seat and steering wheel adjust for reach and height.

Space & Practicality: Front passengers will find the 6 is quite massive. Rear passengers will also feel the same way. There's plenty of head and leg room to go round. The boot also offers tons of space, and the rear seat folds down flat to offer even more space.

Equipment: The base trim comes well equipped. You'll get central locking, air-con, cruise control and traction control. Top of the range trims offer xenon headlamps, back-up camera, dual-zone climate control and blind spot monitoring system.

Buying & Owning: The 6 is priced well among its rivals. You get plenty of kit for the money, and your fuel bill will be low if you stick with the four-cylinder engine. Resale value is strong, and discounts is offered but not anything fantastic.

Quality & reliability: The interior feels like a mixed bag, some plastics look stylish and hardwearing. In some areas though, the plastics feel cheap to the touch. Reliability shouldn't be a worry, as Mazda's reliability record is spotless and the 6 has been rated high in its class.

Safety & Security: Six-airbags, traction control, and anti-lock brakes are all standard across the range. Deadlocks, engine immobiliser and a top-notch alarm make life difficult for thieves.

The Mazda 6 feels like a family car. The sporty dynamics are still there, but the appeal is more grown up. This isn't a bad thing however, the 6 has to compete with the likings of Honda and Toyota. Both offer cars that are popular in the the mid-sized family sedan segment. However, if you want a splash of sportiness, refinement and a more engaging drive. The Mazda 6 is the perfect car for you. It's low base price, large kit level and roomy interior volume makes it a car well worth every cent.