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The taste of Italy drives to town

It’s a well-known fact that some of the greatest and most beautiful cars ever produced hail from Italy. Brands like Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Fiat, Lamborghini and Iso are synonymous with the Italian’s penchant for art, design, engineering, and above all passion.



On February 20, fans of Italian cars will descend on Christchurch’s Art Centre Carpark off Worcester Boulevard for the biennial Belle Italiane Italian Car Festival.

Hosted by the Canterbury Fiat and Lancia Club, Belle Italiane has always been a must-see event for those with a deep love for Italian cars.

“The original idea came as a result of club members envisaging Italian cars and their owners getting together for an informal picnic in a relaxed environment,” says club president John Hayman.

“The plan was to get cars that we never really see out of garages and on display,” he says.

Lovers of Latin machinery would not want to miss this.


Marvellous, comfy ute

Mazda’s new BT50 is finally here. Available in 2WD and 4WD, the range starts with the double cab GSX and ends with my test car, the flagship 4WD double cab limited.



At $47,490 and $60,990, respectively, the price is up there yes, but this is somewhat justified when you step inside.

The minimalist cues of Mazda’s Kodo-design philosophy is riddled throughout the cabin.

Switchgear feels solid, and the level of tech on-board is very generous. The infotainment system is first rate and the leather seats are some of the most comfortable I have experienced in any ute.

All models come with a 3L turbodiesel four-cylinder engine with 140kW and 450Nm of torque mated to a six-speed auto box.

While it does require a firm boot to get going, it settles down to a quiet hum while on the move.

The steering is almost perfect, allowing you to coax it freely into each corner.

The BT50 doesn’t try to blind you with off road gizmos, but its simple 2H, 4H and 4L drive modes do their job well.

However, I would be somewhat wary of taking that svelte nose through a muddy riverbed every weekend.

The new Mazda BT50 is unlikely to appeal to the blood, toil and sweat of the farmyard or worksite.

Its unparalleled levels of comfort, refinement, and handsome lines will most likely appeal to someone wanting something which will tow and occasionally rough it if need be.

Either way, the BT50 is still a marvellous ute.


Mega motorcycles, mega service

For Dennis Charlett, motorcycles are a way of life, whether on a Saturday ride, or competing in the New Zealand Superbike Championship, of which he has multiple national titles under his belt.



Dennis knows the bike industry inside and out, which led to him purchasing Budget Motorcycles Spares Ltd, and transforming it into Mega Motorcycles Centre.

“I have been in the industry for a number of years, but I have always wanted to own my own motorcycle business,” he says.

“The opportunity came to buy Budget Motorcycle Spares, from there it evolved into Mega Motorcycle Centre.”

What started as a shop specialising in tyres, parts and riding accessories, is now a fully fledged motorcycle one stop shop.

“We still retain all the services of Budget Motorcycle Spares, like tyres, parts, helmets, riding gear and accessories. However, we are now a one stop shop with tuning, dyno testing, and other mechanical work.”

Dennis’ competitive nature on the track is also evident when it comes to giving his loyal customers the best experience and service possible, regardless of what they ride.

“My team and I always ensure our customers leave with what they want. It doesn’t matter what they are into, Harleys or Japanese Sports Bikes, we welcome any brand or style.”




New take on a sporty classic

It’s not the typical jump-in-and-go-get-Fish’n’chips, but you will soon spot Maserati’s new range like the Ghibli, Quattroporte and Levante around the place with a more unified look.



Maserati started producing cars in Bologna in 1914 with the iconic trident as its bonnet’s standard.

It’s a luxury car brand making 75,000 globally yearly. Now, the brand has confirmed substantial changes in styling to their entire range are in store.

First, we’ll see a new front grill and light cluster on the two sedans and SUV. Inside, there is a new generation Maserati Intelligent Assistant – I wonder if it will give you the best pick on Italian restaurants?

Based on Android and not the almighty Apple, the big question is how far will the enhanced driver assist technology go?

The Ghibli sports sedan is also coming in a hybrid, Maserati’s first go at electric.

But don’t fret – with a complete range including V6 and V8 petrol, four-cylinder hybrid and V6 diesel powerplants, with rear-wheel and four-wheel drive, there’s pretty much something for everyone.

Then there is the MC20, named China Performance Car of the Year 2021. The highly anticipated awards were officially announced recently in Guangzhou.

Closely followed by both industry insiders and consumers, the awards aim to promote the continuous improvement of China’s automotive industry and market.

A jury comprised of 41 authoritative judges from the automotive media measure each vehicle against overall and market performance, as well as other key factors.

The MC20 is a very sexy beast though and, like you, I would love to get behind the wheel to get the full experience.

Developed by the Maserati Innovation Lab and produced at the historic plant in Modena, MC20 is 100 percent made in Italy.

Its superb looks conceal an uncompromisingly sporty soul, with the new 630 horsepower V6 Nettuno engine that delivers 0 to 100km/h acceleration in under 2.9 seconds.

Let’s say that again, 2.9 seconds!

With a top speed over 325km/h, that’s Christchurch to Ashburton in 16 minutes. “Sorry officer, was I speeding?”

The patented engine has been developed, designed, and built entirely in-house. With the new super sports car MC20, the trident brand officially started a new era.

The more I look at the images, the more I think I have a Maserati sporty soul.



The perfect fit

The name Kamiq originates from the language of the Inuit people, native to Northern Canada and Greenland. It means, “something that fits perfectly”. And I think that says it all.



I live a pretty busy life, which means I need a car that is easy-to-use and equipped to deal with all my requirements for passengers and cargo.

When I went through the briefing of the Skoda Kamiq with the team at Miles Continental, the word “compact” kept getting used.

Now, compact means small but that’s not what the Kamiq felt like at all.

Comfortable and easy to drive, Skoda really do nail simplicity with style and at a very competitive price.

There are three variations in the range, starting with the Ambition at $30,990 with 85kW up to the Monte Carlo, at $42,990 with 110kW, which is what I
got to play with. It is a turbo petrol and has 250Nm of torque and a five-star safety rating – which is always a good thing.

My love started with my 2018 car of the year being the Superb, so adding another good car to the Skoda range makes sense.

What’s left to say if you’re hunting for a fun, compact SUV? This fits perfectly.


A sporting update

Lexus definitely thinks the saloon segment is not dead. I attended the exclusive launch of their new IS Saloon in Palmerston North, Taupo, and Hampton Downs. Here is the lowdown.



The new IS consists of seven different variants. The base IS300 and IS300h, moving to the higher spec IS300 and IS300H Limited, and on to the performance-charged IS00, IS300h and IS350F Sport.

Prices start at $70,900 for the entry level IS300 and finish with the IS350F Sport at $101,800.

In typical Lexus fashion, petrol and hybrid powertrains return, with the IS300 getting a 2L turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine mated to an eight-speed automatic box with 180kW/350Nm.

The IS300 Hybrid gets a 2.5L four cylinder with 164kW and combined torque figures of 521Nm. Fuel figures? Try 5.1L/100km. The IS350F Sport naturally gets the most grunt, with a 3.5L naturally aspirated V6 with 232kW and 380Nm.

Looks wise, the new IS Sports has an entirely new spindle grill, redesigned head and taillight cluster, and a more swooping coupe-like roofline.

For what is essentially a heavy facelift, the new IS certainly looks good, especially with the blacked-out accents and 19-inch BBS matt black alloys of the F-Sport.

Inside, you get a new 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard.

The leather seats are just as sublime, and all the switchgear feels so well put together.

Leaving Lexus New Zealand HQ in Palmerston North, we made our way to Taupo for our overnight stop at The Hilton.

First was the IS300 Limited Petrol, which performed well, but you did need to give it stick to make some brisk progress.

Steering was well weighted, and it felt very planted on the move.

Also, the 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system gets a big thumbs up. Next up was the IS300 Hybrid.

This is a much more engaging drive. The combination of petrol and electric power working in harmony resulted in a car which was livelier, and more fun to drive.

Leaving Taupo the next day, it was time for the IS350F Sport. However, the IS300H feels just as sporty on twisty roads heading for the Waikato. But, despite the larger alloys, improvements in ride comfort over the previous generation F-Sport was a nice surprise.

We then made our way to Hampton Downs Raceway, which this writer enjoyed at the wheel of the sublime LC500 Convertible.

What amazed me the most is the new IS can still thrill on track, then again, the new IS was the first Lexus to be developed on their new, Nurburgring inspired, Shimoyama Test Track.

Based on this taster, the IS300H just edges ahead of the F-Sport as being my top pick of the range.

I’m looking forward to putting the new Lexus IS through its paces on Canterbury roads over the coming months.


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.”


King of the water: King Water Craft

William King’s passion for boats started at an early age. Inspired by his grandfather’s naval career and round the world sailing expedition, at age 12, he put pencil to paper to design his first boat – a plywood dinghy.



With his father’s encouragement, he set about building it himself at the coastal family farm at Clarence River, in Marlborough.

His continued interest led him to study architectural design to further develop his technical design skills, and on completion, his love for the marine industry gave him the confidence to start his own business, King Watercraft.

He has spent a number of years developing rib (rigid inflatable boat) prototypes, each one taking him a step further in perfecting his designs and reputation for high quality, New Zealand-made tenders.

Today, King Watercraft manufactures jet and outboard ribs of bespoke design, and build high end tenders for recreational yachting and family fun on the water.

“King Watercraft give full interest and involvement to every client, to ensure their specifications are completely met in the design and build of their rib. Our business is about producing quality, not quantity,” says William.


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.