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Lost in the Forester

The Subaru Forester is a great SUV, and of the few soft roaders to actually do well on the rough stuff. Now, along with the XV, the Forester has gone Hybrid: Let’s see how it stacks up.




The range consists of the E Boxer Sport, and the flagship E Boxer Premium featured here. The Sport kicks it off at $47,990, while the premium is $54,990. Both get the same 2L Boxer four-cylinder engine with 110kW and 196Nm of torque. This is mated to Subaru’s SLT transmission and of course, all-wheel drive.

Levels of kit are generous with heated door mirrors, steering responsive headlights, dual zone aircon, hill start assist, Rear Autonomous Braking, blind spot monitoring, keyless entry, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

You also get Subaru’s latest gen Eyesight safety technology. This contains autonomous braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, tyre pressure monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, high beam assist, and lane change assist.

The Premium also gets additional niceties like power boot, swish looking 18-inch alloys, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, premium Harmon/Kardon sound system, heated electric seats with leather trim and Subaru’s Driver Monitoring System.

You do sit quite high and everything is within easy reach. The interior itself is one of the Foresters biggest assets, as there is a tonne of space for driver and passengers. The same can be said of boot space, which at 345L is nothing to be sniffed at.

While there is no shortage of power when getting up to speed, it’s the Hybrid system which falls short. At 6.7L/100km, it is thirstier than we were first expecting when compared to its rivals. Also, Electric drive only really comes into play when you are stationary or easing off.

When you get going from a standstill, rather than a conventional hybrid system which stays in EV mode until it reaches a certain cruising speed, the petrol engine takes over instantly.

You can be as soft as you like on the gas, but the petrol engine starts pretty much from the get go, which is kind of annoying in a Hybrid.

On the plus side, ride comfort is very supple and comfortable. When electric and petrol power are working together, performance is decent, and like its petrol counterpart, you can still have plenty of joyous off-road frivolity thanks to Subaru’s X-Mode. With X-Mode in Snow/Dirt or Snow/Mud, not that there was any snow to devour, the Forester can still take it all in its stride with relative ease.

While the Subaru Forester E Boxer Hybrid is very competent off the beaten track, the price premium isn’t worth the minimal gains in economy.

Don’t get me wrong, the Forester in its regular petrol-powered guise is still a great car and well worth your time, but if you are after a Hybrid, there are better options out there.


Stress less, shine more: RO Jones Panelbeaters

A vehicle is often someone’s prized possession and it can be very distressing when it is damaged. Helping to take the stress out of dealing with this kind of situation are the panelbeating experts at RO Jones Panelbeaters.


“It is really important for customers’ peace of mind for them to have confidence in their panelbeater’s workmanship,” says Karl Stohr of RO Jones.

“It’s their vehicle and their choice of repairer. We have a long history of producing quality repairs from minor rust issues to major smash repairs. Exemplary customer service is also paramount for us.”

RO Jones does indeed go the extra mile. The company has thirteen loan cars available free of charge to keep customers on the road while repairs are being carried out.

There is even a loan van which is very handy for tradies and couriers. Before being returned to its owner each impeccably- repaired vehicle is washed and fully groomed, including a shining of its tyres. All the products used are eco-friendly, from the water-based paints to the cleaning products and polishes.

RO Jones workshop has been a landmark in the central city for some 30 years and has capacity to handle a large number of vehicles.

“We are conveniently located on St Asaph Street near Montreal, just pull into our driveway and we can assess your vehicle straightaway.”


Style personified

When it comes to style, BMW have been pulling my heart strings for years. It was my second car and there is just something special about every new design model that comes out. This year is seeing a plethora of change, a shift personified in the 2 Series Gran Coupé.

It is bold in character, stylish and refined all at the same time. I picked up the M 235i xDrive from Christchurch BMW and straight away noticed its agility, even in inner city driving.

M Performance means this car has a bit of bling: M sport brakes work stunningly, M sport seating in Dakota leather adds fit and comfort, and M sport steering handles with ease.

It really is the finer things. Not to mention, 0 to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds on an 8-speed automatic, four-cylinder engine. And a running torque at 45Nm.

I called it my little rocket ship, because that’s what it felt like driving up to Mount Somers for the weekend. The open road was sublime in sport mode.

You feel like you’re in a race car and that can be a problem as you look at the heads-up display and realise you should perhaps be going a bit slower.

“But you get lost in it; the smooth, effortless drive of an amazing performance vehicle.

After being couped up with Covid-19, getting on the road with the Coupé is the ultimate driving experience. With a cost of $91,400 its performance felt closer to $150,000.

I had it in the Seaside Blue hue, which was not everyone’s cup of tea but when we photographed it, you realise that that colour really does pop. But there are also nine other colours to choose from, just in case.

A phone app allows the car to automatically unlock when you exit or enter a prescribed unlocking zone.

Which may sound a bit silly, but this was one of my top features.

Did I lock the car? Who cares?! I never have to worry about that again!

Lastly, the panoramic sunroof makes it feel wide and open in the cabin. A stunning option to test drive.


Putting the car in care

I can be accused of being a bit of an automotive snob. Most of the time I’m reviewing high-powered style machines where we are looking at 0 to 100km/h in under six seconds. This is not one of those reviews.





As I sighed at the spec sheet that stated 58Kw and 102Nm torque as David Boyd from Mitsubishi on Moorhouse Avenue sat in the passenger seat giving me “highlights” I drifted back to the memory of the Mitsubishi Mirage of my youth.

It has been around for many a decade and I still remember the iconic shape of the late ‘80s. Introduce the new Mirage 2020 and what do we have?

The new facelift gives it a change from our last model, but the biggest changes lays in its rear bumper and front grill.

The 7-inch touch screen display is very functional and to be honest, I was quite surprised by the amount of bang you get for buck on this. Lane departure system and revision camera, 1.2L, 15-inch alloys and Apple Car Play with quite a comprehensive interaction.

I mean, I’m sitting in a car that comes in under $22,000 right? This has got systems cars twice its price struggle for. Hmmm, time to take the test drive.

The thing that really blew me away is I spent days driving it around the city and then took it to Hanmer Springs for the weekend. When it got near empty, I filled it up – for $60! That can’t be right, but it was.

This is not the usual rip-snorter high specification luxury car that I am used to driving and it is not aimed at me.

This is the great car that is reliable, cost effective and easy to drive, protecting you with features designed to keep others safe as well.

This is the car you want your kids to drive, your grandma or someone you want to look after. The protection and systems are built to look after people who want to get from A to B with little effort and cost.

It’s got enough room to do most things, but this is not an SUV or luxury sports car.

This is a car, plain and simple. For $21,990 plus on roads you’ve got a not just good, but a great, little get around vehicle.

My car snobbery put aside, this isn’t a car for me – this is a car for someone you care for.


Locked and loaded: Access Lock Specialists

The way we keep our cars locked up, secure, and still in our driveway has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Two men who know this better than most are Roger Barriball and Richard Nind, who established Access Lock Specialists Ltd in 2007.



At that time, laser cut transponder keys and keyless entry into vehicles were just starting to take off, but so many cars were yet to fully embrace the technology.

Today, just about every new car comes with these kinds of keys; where the car simply recognises you have your key with you to be start the car.

However, while this technology makes fumbling in our pockets for our car keys a thing of the past, it still can’t prevent keys being lost or stolen.

Access Lock Specialists know transponder keys and smart key fobs better than anyone and can help if you require a new smart key or spare for your car.

Able to programme and chip the required key to match your individual car’s on-board computer, Richard and Roger also recommend having two key fobs handy.

Operating from their showroom and workshop at 170 Waterloo Road, Hornby, the team will come to your rescue, not just for automotive keys, but also the supply, service and installation of safes as well as home and commercial locks.

For more information and their full list of services, visit their website.


Powering up the Mazda: Blackwells Motors Ltd

Mazda’s Skyactiv-X powertrain has been making headlines all over the motoring world. There is a good reason for this, as it has boldly gone where no internal combustion engine has gone before. We had a play with the new Mazda CX-30 Takami thanks to Blackwells Mazda.


The CX-30 is one of two models in Mazda’s range to benefit from Skyactiv-X, the other being the Mazda3 hatch.

So Skyactiv-X, what exactly is it? Well, the 2L four-cylinder petrol engine is world-first in commercial engine design, combining petrol power with all the benefits of a compression ignition you would find in a diesel. So you get high-end power, and all the low-down torque, resulting in the best of both petrol and diesel engines in one petrol unit.

Let’s break it down a bit further.

Mazda’s new Spark Plug Controlled Compression Injection, or SPCCI, allows the 2L Skyactiv-X petrol engine to get the right amount of fuel and air mixture into the combustion chamber during the intake stroke of each cylinder.

Petrol is then injected directly around the spark plug, creating a bigger bang.

This results in a richer and more immediate surge of power when the spark fires after combining the air and petrol, instead of the gradual build up you would get with a conventional petrol engine.

Skyactiv-X models like the CX-30 are also a mild hybrid thanks to Mazda’s new M Hybrid system.

This works by storing up electricity from the starter motor generator when you lift off the throttle. It then sends the electric drive to wherever it works best, meaning less stress on the petrol engine.

Put these two ground-breaking systems together, and you get a petrol car which produces less carbon emissions, 135g/km, and greater open road efficiency.

There is more power under the bonnet too, with the CX-30 Takami Skyactiv-X producing 132kW of grunt, 18kW more than the regular petrol CX-30.

Fuel consumption is less too, at a claimed 6L/100km.

While that is a bit to take in, one can safely say you notice the fruits of Mazda’s labour when one is at the helm. Moving off and you quickly notice the more immediate delivery of 224Nm of torque.

From idle to high in the rev range, the Skyactiv-X works its magic, providing you with crisp throttle response and top end power.

At cruising speed, there is no droning to speak of and if you keep it in the sweet spot of around 1800rpm around town, it’s almost electric quiet.

Plus, with Mazda’s G-Vectoring steering on hand, you can slice and dice through traffic too.

Also, being the range topping Takami, the CX-30 gets all the niceties like heated leather seats, premium Bose stereo, 360-degrees reversing camera, heated steering wheel, and power tailgate.

Also, everything you touch and operate has a very satisfying click to it.

The CX-30 Takami Skyactiv-X can be yours for $54,990 plus ORC, making it $4000 more than the regular petrol CX-30 Limited.

However, once you get a chance to experience just how clever this revolutionary new engine is, you would be hard pressed to go back to a regular petrol engine.

If this is the future evolution of internal combustion, then count us in.


In Focus

The team at Ford are always delivering a great range of vehicles to suit everyone’s needs. The Ford Ranger currently sits at number one in New Zealand, but now it’s time to drop the spotlight on the Ford Focus ST, a hatch with the exhilaration of a Mustang.


This is a multi-award winning car in AA New Zealand Car of the Year Awards.

Not only does it have multiple drive modes, it also ticks the aesthetic boxes.

A panoramic sunroof with visor; exceptional lines starting from the bonnet all the way to its hot rear; Porsche-style alloy rims in metallic grey just accentuate the great colour of ruby red. I just had to test drive.

Recaro sport seating was another brilliant feature with the wonderful white stitching on exquisite leather. Even the door panels were that little bit more lush.

Operationally, dial gear change is always a challenge for me as I have a manual as my personal car and I’m a bit of a control freak. Fumbling around to do three point turns on a busy Christchurch street can be a challenge. You can say it makes the interior “cleaner” – but I still love a gear lever!

You can change gears at your fingertips with the paddle shifters, which help when cornering, and it has got some real up and go.

With an eight-speed automatic, 206 kW and 420 Nm it doesn’t feel like a four cylinder, 2.3L – and you certainly need those front ventilated disc brakes!

There’s a heads-up display which makes you feel like a fighter pilot not taking your gaze off the road.

Combine that with all the added sports features and you’ve got a little rocket.

There’s also improved acceleration from the last model, and the very smooth gear changing made for a great test week.

Taking a trip on my favourite test road to the Sign of the Kiwi put it next to the VW Golf GTi as one of my favourite agile performance vehicles.

Hill start assist is also an asset, even though I’m old school on hill starts. And even though I really don’t need the satellite navigation system, I can imagine it’s a great addition for those that do.

The interior is tidy and very sporty with leather trim. There’s a lot of bang for buck with the price at $59,990 plus on road costs.

With the options on this, it would be hard to go past a test drive with Hemi Peek and the team out at Avon City Ford. It’s great hatchback at a great price.


Making love work: Honda Cars

Meet Shota and Tomoko, a young Japanese couple who both live and breathe all things Honda.



Both Shota and Tomoko have become familiar faces in the service department of Honda Cars Christchurch, though their experience with the Honda brand runs much deeper.

“I graduated from the Honda Technical College four years ago and was given the chance to do a Honda International Internship,” says Tomoko.

“I had the choice of Auckland or Christchurch but I chose Christchurch. The people here are so kind and there is far less traffic,” she laughs.

Shota met Tomoko while working at Honda Cars Saitama, before he came to work at Honda Cars Christchurch.

“After graduating from Honda’s Technical College, I joined a Honda dealership in Saitama, Japan as a mechanic. I spent five years there before I joined Tomoko in Christchurch,” says Shota.

“It was down to her that I got the job working with her at Honda Cars Christchurch,” he says.

As technicians, Tomoko and Shota cater for all Hondas past and present.

“We do servicing, diagnostics and repairs on every kind of Honda,” says Tomoko. Shota and Tomoko also have a huge passion for the Honda brand, with each owning at one-point, identical Civic Type Rs.

Expect to see both Shota and Tomoko working hard on your Honda for the foreseeable future.

“We love working at Honda. The atmosphere is great and we love the team,” says Tomoko. With Tomoko and Shota on hand, why take your Honda anywhere else?


Looks, power and performance: Christchurch European

The Porsche Boxster needs no introduction to the sports car faithful. Since the original was launched in 1996, so many in the premium sports car market have been playing catch up to this mid-engine German soft top adrenaline pump.


This 718 Boxster, on loan from the team at Christchurch European, is probably the most underrated Boxster in recent years.

The 718 namesake harks back to the iconic Porsche 718 RSK which competed at Le Mans and the Targa Florio.

The 718 Boxster is a looker, especially when viewed from the rear.

The 2L turbocharged 220kW flat four found in the 718 provides more than enough oomph. Also, the fact this example comes with Porsche’s delightful six-speed manual gearbox is icing on the cake.

Turn the key and the 718 growls into life. Lower the roof, aim that svelte nose at the nearest piece of bendy bitumen, and the summer fun begins.

In Sport mode, you can push the 718 as hard as you like while never being out of control.

Heel and toe gearchanges are a joy and with an even weight distribution, the 718 can be easily coaxed into every corner, with that turbo flat four beautifully on song.

Whether cruising to your local, or wringing its neck on your favourite coastal pass, the 718 Boxster provides you with a driving experience few premium sports cars can match.

For more information on this Porsche 718 Boxster and other European exotica, check out Christchurch European.


Conquering the road: Jeep Gladiator review

For 70 plus years, Jeep have known a thing or two about off-road adventure. Oh, and believe it or not, pickup trucks. The first of these was the 1947 Jeep 4X4, and the last offering was the Cherokee based Comanche, which was discontinued in 1992. Now, the pick-up Jeep is back, and available in New Zealand.



Called the Gladiator, it steps into the arena of our ever popular mid-sized ute segment.

Styling wise, the Gladiator is certainly not subtle, carrying the rough and ready fascia of all lifestyle Jeeps.

From the B-pillar forward is carried over from the Wrangler, the rear deck is bespoke, and means the Gladiator is 780mm longer than its sibling.

The deck itself can haul around 620kg of whatever with ease and get this, you can even drive with the doors removed, and the windscreen folded down.

The Gladiator is available in two spec levels, the Overland at $89,990 and the Rubicon at $92,990.

Under the bonnet sits Chrysler’s 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine producing 206kW and 327Nm married to an eight-speed ZF automatic.

The Rubicon also manages 12.4L/100km, and Overland 11.2L, which is adequate for a big truck like this, and so is its 2.7 tonnes towing capacity.

My Gladiator was the Rubicon, which came with Jeep’s Rock-Trac Active On-Demand 4X4 system with four stage low and high range set up with Tru-Lok locking differentials, and Off Road Plus, which allows the driver to select from multiple options to suit whatever terrain they are devouring.

Inside, Jeep’s fourth generation Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto makes a welcome appearance.

The Gladiator also gets a tonne of safety gizmos – like blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, electronic roll mitigation, and speed collision warning plus.

On the move, the Gladiator is surprisingly supple on the smooth tarmac of inner-city Christchurch, though it’s not a slick as some of its more conventional ute rivals. However, off road is another story.

With those diffs locked in place, the Gladiator Rubicon is a revelation off the beaten track. Despite its girth, it doesn’t muck around about mucking in.

The Pentastar V6 provides plenty of low-down torque and thanks to 286mm of ground clearance, its ability to crawl along rocks and other large obstacles is staggering.

Despite being a tad pricey, the Jeep Gladiator takes the ute segment and gives it extra bad-ass cred. Adrenaline fuelled adventure junkies take note, this one is a good‘un.