Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Merdeka Eve....Stay Home...Merdeka Morning's much more like it!

As most of you who’ve read my blog will notice, there are no pictures in here. Unlike some other blogs that have pictures, diagrams and so on, mine is the basic, no frills blog space as I am actually too darn lazy and cheap to pay for a domain name or take pictures. I mean, if I write about a Mazda 6, you can find a photograph of it on the Mazda website or from some automotive related website somewhere on the web. I’m just here to tell you my point of view.

Right, on another note, tonight is Merdeka Eve and the roads of Kuala Lumpur will be jam packed with motorists of various sorts. We’re going to also see the emergency room in the Kuala Lumpur Hospital be jam packed with Mat Rempit related accident cases and also the usual alcohol related stuffs also. So, if you intend to celebrate the Malaysian Indepence Day, try going out to the neighbourhood mamak stall, pub, restaurant or a bistro in the suburbs. You may survive the outing and live another day. Furthermore, what’s the fun in driving your car through jam packed KL? You’ve suffered with jams the whole week and you actually want to face more jams at night?

So have you noticed that if you’ve actually gone out Merdeka year after year, and you’re around 30-40 years of age, you’d have noticed that you’ll never achieve the fun you had celebrating Merdeka when you were around 18-24years of age. This is the period when you and your friends just got your licence and were still in some college or university. You’d notice that as you get older, none of your friends got drunk so often, crashed their cars into the nearest monsoon drain or managed to bonk a girlfriend of two on Merdeka Eve. You’d also notice that you’ll be sitting in the pub chair or mamak chair reminiscing about old times and trying to act all cool and all with your as old as you are mates. Notice that the situation I’m describing is actually pretty boring. Like you’re about to get ready to retire or something like that.

Essentially, that’s just not the case; you must remember that at this age, you’re already either married, divorced, or single but, you have more money in your pocket than you have ever had compared to when you were 20, driving your mum’s hand-me down Honda Civic and trying to act cool. Actually that’s describing me, but you get the point. At 30 something, what is a Merdeka Eve holiday when you can afford to just spend obscene amounts of money (if you converted your Ringgit to Rupiah its an obscene figure) and go for a nice long drive, with or without your family in tow to some windy road on Merdeka Day itself. If you’re a car nut like me, that’s what I’d be doing. I’d go to bed at the usual time you’d sleep everyday, forget about watching fireworks, wake up, take the car I’d enjoy the most, go for a morning drive tomorrow and feel, “Boy, I am a lucky bastard!” Isn’t that just great? Isn’t that sort of freedom a more fulfilling vision of Independence than being stuck in a jam on Merdeka Eve? You tell me.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

THIS MONTH A SKODA FOR ALL....NEXT MONTH WE DO MAHINDRAS COZ WE'RE JOURNALISTS!

Ever notice how the same car makes its rounds through all the Malaysian Car magazines? Buy one magazine this month and also see the same car being tested by three other car magazines. The next month, see the same car being tested by another three local magazines. You’re better off just choosing one local magazine every two months or so. Look, its not like they’re testing the Ferrari 599gtb or anything like that. This month, they’re testing the Skoda Fabia. It’s a SKODA for Godsakes. There are a million things more interesting than a Skoda. It also shows you how sad and pathetic the local car industry is. Where every test drive is done with relish. I think one day there should be journalists who would say to certain car importers or manufacturers “No thanks, your car looks like a turnip. I’d pass.”

“But you get to stay in a hotel in Cherating? With lots of food and a belly dancer thrown in!”

“No, I’m not interested. Your car looks like a bag of potatos.”

“Oh okay. I’ll not invite your magazine ever to any of our new car launches!”

“That’s okay, I don’t like belly dancers anyway.”

See? Won’t Malaysia be a better place if some people just say No? This goes to same to all occasions. Politics, Social Functions and even University Inductions. Everyone should just say “NO” if they don’t like something. I mean, just because everyone’s doing it, you shouldn’t be doing it also.

So, if you suddenly decide to stop by a Skoda dealer thinking its a decent car like all the reviewers state in this next few months, DON’T LISTEN TO THEM. They are happy because they got free booze from somewhere, belly dancers, and a free car to trash. Of course they’d need to write nice things about it or even if the car is rubbish, they’d be politically correct as they WANT to get invited to the next free drinking session at a resort somewhere. If they tell you what I’m writing is not true, as they're committed journalists and are not in it for the money or perks then they should stop reviewing Skodas, Mahindras, Funny Chinese cars, trucks and busses. Would you review a car branded as Cherry? It's as bad as branding your car Strawberry or Raspberry or calling the car Nangka or Cempedak. You'd drive a Cempedak Type R wouldn't you? For a trip to Sheraton Langkawi, free booze and food, you'd try the Rambutan Electra Glide R-Type Continental, wouldn't you?

Monday, August 28, 2006

CAR NEWS TODAY

News flash.

Recently heard from a notable source that you can get a whopping RM7,000.00 discount off the price of the Toyota Vios and a huge Godzilla sized RM15,000.00 discount off the Toyota Camry at most of the Toyota dealers in town.

This discount is probably due to the fact that the passenger car market is on a downturn, which has affected both the new and used car markets. However, great deals can be made pretty soon, as we’re going to see another used car market recession like in 1997-1999 period. Hard times are ahead and its a buyer’s market with sellers suffering like crazy. We may see some other great deals soon.

Mugen Civic

I also heard that Honda Malaysia may launch a Mugen specified Civic 2.0 soon. It’ll be a manual with lots of goodies such as body kit, suspension etc. However, it’ll be a limited edition vehicle of 90 units with a higher than usual price. It may be something nice, but I’m worried about pricing which may be too high for most to buy and that of image, as hey, stop at a traffic light somewhere in Kuala Lumpur, there’s bound to be a Civic either in front of you or beside you. (Aside from Protons that is). Somehow, while the new Civic looks good with its futuristic cab forward design, it’s becoming too common for its own good. I don’t know whether it’s a bad thing or a good thing.

Kia Spectra

My friend’s wife has one and he tells her that its the best car in the world for around RM70,000.00. The only reason that its the best car in the world for RM70,000.00 is that when they test drove the car together it felt fine, supposedly better than the average Proton but it all went downhill after the purchase. He still tells his wife that the car is fantastic but tells everyone else that it is awful. Love is stronger than the truth. Don’t buy a Kia, you’d end up telling your wife, kids, parents, aunts that its a nice car, a powerful car, a superb car. Think of how many people you may have to lie to just to justify your ownership of that car. My friend is lucky, he only needs to tell his wife that lie.

Friday, August 25, 2006

MPVs everywhere and not a child in the 3rd row!

It occurred to me the other day as I was driving along Jalan Duta that most mornings, people in MPVs carried no one other than the driver himself (or herself). This is exactly the same as what I’m doing in my own reasonably sized 4-door saloon. Driving to work, feeling shitty, thinking how good is it to be on some tropical island sipping a nice cola or some funny named fruit punch with an umbrella stuck to it. However, the biggest difference is that I don’t take up the space of 3 Perodua Kancils. Even my car does not use up so much steel until the price of steel plate rises by 1 decimal point. It’s pretty pointless when you try to convince yourself that you’ve bought it because you’re married and have 2 kids and a maid to transport around. I mean, since when do you take your maid on an outing with the kids? The only time you’d do so is for the Aidilfitri celebrations or for the Chinese New Year when you have long breaks. I suppose you have tons of luggage to lug around also. But not all MPVs carry luggage if you were to load it up with seven people.

So, aside from those 2 occasions and maybe going home to your kampung because some relative passed away you hardly use the seats in the third row of your huge MPV. And that is why I see you driving all by your lonesome self in a barge most of the time around 8.30am to 9.30 am in the mornings, around lunchtime when you do go for lunch and the evening rush hour when you want to get home. This statement is quite true as I once counted 10 MPVs on my almost daily trip from Petaling Jaya to Ampang, of which only one MPV had more than one person in the vehicle.

It also tells me that you are about as cool as being dead. And putting that large TRD sticker on your Avanza does not mean that it can breathe fire. It only means that you actually want a 2 door AE86 but all you can own is a dumpy looking MPV.

Its not that I hate MPVs (I despise them actually). But how can you love anything that has 90% of the time no purpose to their existence? They are too big most of the time, too fuel hungry and most importantly, too empty most of the time. I think that if people those days managed fine having three kids, a wife and himself all nicely cosy in their Fiat 131s, their Ford Escorts, their pre-1990s Proton Saga, what is your problem of not buying a decent 4 door car?

Nowadays, I believe the thinking of some Malaysian is that if you are ABOUT to get married, you have to run and buy a Naza Ria. If your wife is expecting a child, you have to buy a Naza Ria. Those statements are absolute rubbish. Why do you need to go round in a curvy barn when a smaller MPV can do just about the same thing? If you wanted some style, although buying a stylish MPV that seats seven is impossible, you should at least be driving a Honda Stream or a Toyota Wish. (Which seats 6 fairly comfortably). I think why some Naza Ria (nee Kia Carnival) drivers drive like hooligans is that deep down inside, they yearn for a proper, decent car.

However if it were me, if God forbid, I needed an MPV, it’d be the Toyota Caldina GT4, as it looks pretty good, goes pretty fast but I think it only carries 5. Then again, it goes to show that I don’t need an MPV. No one needs an MPV.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The latest Protons don't fit me PROPERLY

Now Proton has been around since 1985. Started out basically assembling Mitsubishi Lancers throughout the 80s and the 90s. By 2001 the proudly Malaysian designed Waja came out and Proton proudly called it an "Asian BMW". Far from it actually, but an average, not a wastefull effort nonetheless. Ergonomic flaws abound, such as having a bit of plastic holding up the meter hood on the dash; which looked like a coin holder but couldn't hold anything shaped like a coin if it's existence depended on it. Of course the little piece of plastic was just there to hold up the meter hood on the dashboard as without it, the hood may drop off after a week's use. A design flaw in the dash that's still not corrected to this day. I wonder how the designer of the Waja's interior can sleep at night. However, at least the Waja had decent performance, albeit somewhat draggy in the automatic form, and had loads of space. But it looked as dull as a dishwasher.

Then came the Gen2, which didn't look as dull as a dishwasher. In fact it looked pretty good from the outside. Curves here, there everywhere. It looked great. Great enough for most people to have a go in it. Unfortunately when this happened, you found out that the driving position took you back to the days of Alfa Romeo in the 1970s. You sit low and outstretched with a steering wheel that it also too low to get comfortable with. Upon exiting the car, you'd find that the steering rake adjuster kept getting in the way of your left knee on the way out. One day, after 3 years of ownership, you'd realise that your left knee may have a large callous or that you'd decide to hammer that piece straight into the steering collumn after suffering from a soccer like knee injury caused by your good looking GEN2. Of course the GEN2 handled great. But you couldn't drive as fast as you wanted due to the ridiculous driving position and seats that gave you no support whatsoever. But it looked good, and that was enough for some Malaysians to come out and purchase this car.

The Savy however has a decent driving position, handles great but where ever did Proton find so much cheap plastic to build this car? There is no tactile feel to it at all. It just feels like hard plastic. And that isn't good.

However the Satria Neo did it in for me. It's a nice 3 door warm (not hot as there's no Satria GTI version yet) hatch that looks Ford Focus like from certain angles. You'd find it hard not to like the nicely haunched shape that tells you that it is something quite special. Something like the Gen2, it warrnats you to have a go at it. I wanted to have a go at it. So upon launching I walked down to the nearest Proton dealer (I was in Malacca at the time and the Proton showroom was within walking distance from the hotel I was staying) to have a look.

I couldn't fit in it properly. For some unknown reason Proton made it for hobbits and dwarves. The seat was perched high, the steering low, the door sill too close to the side. Then when I went again to the Proton Edar showroom in Mutiara Damansara for another look, to give it another feel of the car, I experienced the same.. The seat was perched high, the steering too low and the door sill too low. I even hit my head on the door sill comming out too fast from the Satria Neo. Note that no one in history has hit their head exiting the earlier Satria.

Let's list the flaws of the Satria Neo and the excuses given to date as stated in a local daily.
The Seat is too high.
According to the Motoring section of the New Straits Times on Sunday about three weeks back, Proton said that the earlier management wanted to keep the low roof. Yes, of course you can blame someone else, but the current management launched it. The blame is also theirs.
According to the Motoring section of the New Straits Times on Last Sunday, The Satria Neo's ECU is located under the driver's seat making it impossible to lower the seats. Now how big is the Neo's ECU? The size of an IBM SERVER? Could it be so large as to fill the entire cavity under the Neo's seat? As far as anyone knows, a vehicle's ECU is about the size of a personal computer's CD ROM drive and its not huge. Excuses are so unbecomming.

Note that when I sat in the Neo, I could'nt see anything when I put down the sun visor. I was perched too high up for it to actually help block out the sun. It actually helped block everything. I also note that if you went to your friendly heighbourhood accessory shop and ask them to put that strip of tinting on the front of the Neo you'd be looking through that strip before you see anything else. And some people put stickers there. He'd be bending down after putting it.

You also see above the top of the wiper sweep due to the high seats. That would help you get through a Malaysian thunderstorm. Not.

The list goes on and on. The plastics are at best, cheap , the steering like the Gen2 NEEDS to be shot and burnt, the air condition vents need some real tactile feel in them and the glove box is obscenely small. Yes, the argument is that at least it has one compared to the Gen2. Maybe Proton should move the ECU there instead of under the seat.

Now I heard that the Satria Neo is a stonkingly good drive. But how am I to drive it if it doesn't fit me properly? I already got turned off by the ridiculous driving position. The only time i'd drive it was if a friend bought it and I had to steal it from him to save him from the misery. Just imaging owning that car for 9 years and having to put up with the appaling driving position for so long. (9years is the maximum loan amount available to Malaysian buyers and some may own a car for that period of time). However, there is a disclaimer here. People under 5ft 6in may not suffer any of the pain described above. Hence the statement that the Neo is for dwarves and hobbits. I think the designer for this car is frodo baggins.

Its not that I don't like Protons. I just don't like badly designed cars. Period.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

This site was made because I was bored.

There. I've said it. The actual reason for this blog is that I'm utterly bored, and blogging about one's favourite pastime is the best thing to actually do other than the favourite pastime itself.

That being said, this site will be updated regularly (if I feel like it) and will contain thoughts and reviews about motoring in Malaysia, with a slightly performance related bias to it. Why? I like driving cars fast and enjoy outstation jaunts in my automobiles.

Speaking of automobiles, I have 3 vehicles registered under my name. A 1982reg Honda Civic, a 1998reg Proton Wira 1.6xli and a 2005reg Subaru Impreza 1.6ts which I am paying through my nose as its Malaysia, and no sensibly designed car is cheap. We shall get to that in my later postings.

I also enjoy playing only one game on the PS2 and that game is Gran Turismo 4.

I collect watches. But I won't describe anything about them yet.

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