Tuesday, October 30, 2007

MPVs and SUVs as well as the beloved Volvo Brick

Recently I have been spreading my belief on the uselessness of MPV ownership to a few friends and acquaintances. I’ve been telling them that those who buy an MPV yet only use its large volume of carry space once every Hari Raya or school holidays are actually people who are killing the environment more than those of us who drive tuned cars. If you have been following my blog for some time, you’d know that I have something against these vehicles. Now another reason for why I don’t like MPVs is that they actually cost more to manufacture in terms of energy. Imagine this; a Toyota Wish has 8 large glass panels and a sunroof, which is a lot of extra glass area that costs more than the energy used to power a lightbulb or three for a few days. 

A normal 4 door car would have less glass panels and basically cost slightly cheaper than a MPV. They are larger than a normal family car which means that the energy expanded to fabricate a MPV chassis is at least 50% more than a normal car. Hence, these vehicles actually take up more of earth’s valuable resources than is needed.They also take up so much more space (up to ½ a car extra) on the roads than a normal car and is not used for anything other than transporting the driver to and from his office in downtown Kuala Lumpur. This has got to stop. Malaysia should ban all MPVs that are large and cumbersome or legislate some sort of laws that allows the JPJ to evaluate the need of an individual to purchase such a form of transport. Basically JPJ should allow those who actually have 1 wife, 4 kids and a maid as well as 2 cats or a dog before they are allowed to buy such a large vehicle. Then upon buying such a vehicle, the MPV has sensors on the passenger seats which will immobilise the engine if there are less than 3 people aside from the driver in the MPV.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cars Recently Launched In Malaysia, The Lancer -Civic Comparo ...And The Winner IS.....

Yes, I’ve been pretty busy and haven’t posted anything here recently yet there have been tons of new cars on the market. Maybe I just don’t really care about those new launchings. Actually I did care, but was too swamped due to work commitments and outside projects. One of these projects was the assistance I provided to help set up an Audi auto dealership located at the Jaya 33 Shopping Centre, Section 13, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. It has started two weeks ago and hopefully all goes well and if any of you readers (the 2 or 3 of you) ever have the cash to go buy Audis, you know where to look for. The First free plug just made over here!

Now, the Kia Optima and Kia Spectra 5, Honda Civic Type R as well as the very much anticipated Mitsubishi Lancer 2.0GT and the Proton Persona was launched within a span of a few days or weeks from each other. The Kia Spectra 5 effectively replaces the older Spectra sedan which was the favourite of most Malaysians who did not want to buy Protons but wanted the same shitty rubbish standard as the Protons at a slightly more expensive price. NAZA was and NAZA with this new car will still be laughing all the way to the bank due to gullible Malaysian consumers. But I must admit that the new Kia would not be a piece of rubbish as most new cars from Korea improves by leaps and bounds. If you looked at the Kia Picanto, their best attempt at a mini with cheery looks and decent build quality you’d know what I am jabbering about.

The Kia Optima is as usual value for money. A large new 2.0liter Accord sized car at a price slightly higher than RM100,000 with traction control, an Infinity Sound system and leather seats. Expect lots of bookings for those who want space and not so much class. The old model sold extremely well despite a really horrid interior. It was a class of its own. It was so cheap for a large 2.0liter car but so large that many Malaysians bought them. It was also ridiculously cheap in the UK where it was called the Magentis and sold at prices on par with the Proton Waja. Imagine a big car at small car prices. However, I have never felt or seen so much cheap grey plastic everywhere inside that previous model in any post 1995 car aside from maybe the Proton Saga which was first built when Tunku Abdul Rahman shouted Merdeka 7 times. But I hear the new one’s so much better. Kia is moving in leaps and bounds with all those new models and concept cars displayed at International motorshows recently. Not that I would buy one in the first place unless I suddenly decide that I like the large executive barge looks of a Honda Accord or a Toyota Camry but I like to pay Toyota Corolla Altis prices. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s certainly not a good thing either.

The Honda Type R for slightly below RM200K is another good buy. 225bhp in a Civic chassis is all you actually need. You get space and handling to match. Coupled with the anonymity of blending in with another ten thousand Civics will give you the ultimate Q car, Malaysian wise. Why? I’d imagine lots of normal 1.8 and 2.0 Civic owners painting their Civics white and slapping those Type R stickers left right and centre creating a hundred thousand replica TypeR without actually buying one. No that it’s a bad thing, but if you want looks, find it elsewhere but if you’re actually buying one for its performance and handling, go ahead. Actually, that futuristic and really advanced looking 4 door family sedan body is pretty huge but Honda has made it out handle and out drive the 2 door Honda Integra DC5 at Tsukuba is an achievement. Amazing what Honda can do nowadays. Amazing that you will notice that Honda has no 2 door all out sports cars on sale at any market at this very moment. They’re like Toyota, with no Supra replacement, Celica replacement or an MR2 replacement model. The UK Civic Type R hatchback aside and the dumpy Accord coupe in the States don’t count. They’re not pure sports coupes. This is what’s lacking in the Honda current lineup. A replacement for the CRX or the NSX is long overdue. So the Civic Type R is around. Things are certainly improving in the Malaysian car industry.

The Proton Persona. When I first saw it and then heard that there were 16,000 people who put money down for the car I was happy for Proton. They finally realised that people were looking for large cars from Proton and not hatchbacks. Why did they launch the Gen2, Savvy and the Satria Neo before this car I’d fail to fathom. The problem with Proton is now that the Persona is a refined car with all the stupid problems of the Gen2 sorted out that’s affordable to the general public; who will buy the Waja? It has the same wheelbase, interior space and only slightly better plastics. Proton somehow likes to steal from its own cake first, which is the problem with Proton in the first place. I hope they come out with a Perdana replacement soon and think on how to improve the Waja too (the last facelift wasn’t anything special, more needs to be done).

The new shark nosed aggressive looking Mitsubishi Lancer is another new car that’s selling like hotcakes here in Malaysia. This is because it looks good; exactly like an Evolution X with the exception of wider arches and a larger rear spoiler and light years away from the previous model. Its also outrageously low price of around RM118,000 amazes me and a whole lot of other motor journalists from what I can read in the local publications. How Mitsubishi priced it that low is a feat on its own. But all the better to the ones who wish to purchase it.

I’ve actually driven this car recently some after its official launch which I had the pleasure of attending (It had nice food, nice lady usherettes in dresses which Mitsubishi Malaysia will not ask them to go out with for free even if you bought a Lancer that day). I have to say that as a car with the GT badge stuck on its rear end it needs more grunt. It has a wheelbase as long as the Galant Eterna based Proton Perdana (2635mm) and heavier by 60kgs. It is larger than an Audi A4. It is a huge car that somehow has a small family sedan name stuck on it. Maybe that is why Mitsubishi is selling it as the Galant Fortis in Japan. It also got me thinking whether Mitsubishi pulled out the plans of the Eterna, strengthened the chassis with new manufacturing techniques, added the latest suspension geometry (utilising McPherson struts instead of a costly double wishbone style front suspension) and soundproofing to create this new car. Cars nowadays are confirmed to be getting larger and maybe in some cases too large for their own good. This Lancer is proof if this.

Back to driving this Lancer then. It handles marvellously. When I drove it in the wet around Glenmarie there was no sign on any understeer even when braking last minute and being aggressive on the steering (which had a nice feel to it). It could be down to the car being a little heavy (1395kg) and the 215/45/18 ADVAN tires that it was running on (this is another really expensive tire and size which would kill unsuspecting buyers who are cheap). The power was not as exciting as you’d expect from a 2.0liter 150bhp engine. The low end pull was lacking for 150bhp. I suppose it was bogged down by the weight of the car (which is a bane to all new models of cars as they seem to be getting heavier – I have to add again) and buy the CVT transmission power drain. The CVT may shift sportily (and feels like an ordinary auto box with its preset ratios especially when you downshift), but like most CVTs it may attribute some drivetrain power loss. But I think it needs at least about 25 more horses to actually deserve using that GT badge. These are small details actually as its mid-range pull is pretty good, it cruises well and it handles excellently overall.

I don’t like the interior though; they may have used nappa leather for the seats, steering and side door panels, but the plastics used are still too second grade for my liking with too much hard plastics. The rear seats are alright, but there’s a plastic squab on the floor which is the covering for the front seat mounts that I will always step on if I sat behind the driver’s side which irritates me a little. The older Lancer seat mounting is totally different from this newer design and somehow works better. Space wise, it somehow is large on the outside, but cozy on the inside. I also have the notion that the previous Lancer (been in a few EVO VII and the basic 1.6 Lancer) feels it has more legroom and is roomier. It must be down to the extra usage of padding in this new car. Boot space is helped by using gas struts to hold up the boot, but this is offset by the large multi-link rear suspension
This is a nice car, but I think if you’re not into driving really sportily and want a total package, buy the Honda Civic, it actually does everything well overall with better build quality, futuristic looking body, decent ride and handling as well as interior space. If you can’t afford the 2.0 at RM128,000, there’s always the 1.8 which does the same with some little exceptions. In short, compared to the Civic which would score an average rating of 7.5/10 for ride, handling, design, equipment, performance and brakes, the Lancer would score a 9/10 for handling, a 7.5/10 for design (I’d rate the Civic higher here due to its forward thinking design) but a disappointing 4/10 for interior due to cheap feeling plastics in the door handle and the usage of a lot of hard plastic in the design as well as lacking the airy feel of the Honda and a 5/10 for the MIVEC engine that’s surprisingly lacking in low down torque. There’s a certain maturity that Honda has while building the Civic which Mitsubishi haven’t yet reached. This is the most obvious difference.

As a complete small family sedan that does everything decently, competently and without fuss, buy the Civic even if it is slightly soulless (due to doing things too competently maybe) and even if there are a million of the on the road, but if you’re solely into handling (which I like) and aggressive looks as well as having slightly more soul (only the Type R Civic would have tons of soul), buy the Lancer then. This then is the actual problem faced by individuals when purchasing something. Do they go with their head or their heart? In comparing the Civic and the Lancer, I’ve decided that the Civic is the better all rounder, but the Lancer is the more engaging car thus better to own. Therefore, the Lancer wins! However, I’ve decided yet again! Go buy a Mazda 3 2.0 hatchback in white. I seem to like that even more.