Tag Archives: car

Bitten by an iconic bug

This is no ordinary bug; it has a cult following of millions globally, its own movie, and was the beacon of the peace movement in the 1970s.   

Since its inception 76 years back, this German-born vehicle has accumulated its fair share of names across the globe. While some call it a turtle and others argue it is more of a ladybug, most have come to identity its distinct shape simply as a beetle.

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Yet, it is rather ironic that Volkswagen’s Beetle became an emblem of peace during the 1970s hippie movement, especially considering its close association with former German dictator Adolf Hitler, whose idea was to have an affordable car to be made available for every German family back then, hence it being labelled as the “people’s car”.

Designed by Ferdinand Porsche — founder of the Porsche car company – the two-door car is easily amongst the most instantly recognisable automobiles around the world today. While it has obviously come a long way since in terms of technology and features, it has kept true to its iconic exterior shape and original intent to be a reliable car for the masses.

Running on a front-placed turbocharged 4-cylinder direct petrol injection engine, the Beetle 1.2L TSI was a welcomed surprise for me in comparison to my subdued experience with its earlier larger and faster 1.4L variant, specifically when it comes to road handling and driveability.

Zipping around the city traffic and our ruthless weather-beaten road conditions, its impressive seven-speed direct shift gearbox built with innovative dual-clutch technology provides a well-controlled drive across all gear shifts. Considering the engine capacity and shape of the car, the anticipated drag never occurred.

Rather surprising bearing in mind its’ not perfectly aerodynamic-friendly bubble shape, the bug has a very responsive throttle from a static position. With the ability to accelerate from 0-100 km/hour in a decent 10.9 seconds, it effortlessly delivers a top speed of 180 km/hour. It seems to deliver on its promise to “drive you happy” via its ability to serve up a maximum output of 105ps at 5,000rpm and a maximum torque of 175Nm within the range of 1,550-4,100rpm; providing an almost instantaneous push from the start.

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Although it will clearly not outrun the field on the expressways, one thing that it does very well is in handling the tucks and turns along the urban roads. The pair of standard struts, tuned slightly on the soft side, comfortably makes its way through those pesky speed bumps.

Resting on two pairs of 215/60 R16 alloy wheels, it also boasts of electronically adjustable, foldable and heated exterior mirrors, halogen headlights, front fog lamps with static cornering light, front windshield wiper with intermittent control, as well as heat-insulating glass for side and rear windows.

On the inside, personally, I found the unadorned level dashboard particularly the front old-fashioned flip-up glove box – in addition to a second standard glove compartment — a nice sentimental touch to replicate the car’s predecessors’ styling.

The multi-adjustable steering column was a very thoughtful inclusion as this allows a flexible and comfortable driving position for everyone in the family. The leather seats provides firm support and keeps the driver in place during the turns, although the bucket-like seats at the back were not a favourite for the kids as they kept slipping backwards on the thrust. And I’m pretty sure Volkswagen’s remarkable designers will be able to sneak in a few more centimetres of legroom space at the back in its future releases.

Reflecting on its “people’s car” motto when it comes to fitting up the bug, interior features include the presence of two 12-volt sockets that allows for both front and rear passengers the added convenience of charging their phones and tablets. Other standard highlights include cruise control, foldable rear backrest, front centre armrest, front seats with height adjustment and a multi-function audio/systems display unit.

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To keep everyone safe, the Beetle is incorporated with anti-lock braking system, brake assist, hill-hold control, electronic stability control, rain sensor, park distance control, IsoFix child seat system, combined side and thorax airbags for front passengers, and anti-theft alarm system.

Okay, some may argue that it’s RM135,888 price tag may not exactly be for “everyone” as in accordance to Hilter’s initial intent, yet if compared to its current peers in terms of performance, it is definitely amongst the more cost effective option within its target market segment.

 


Sporting touch to city driving

By Christopher Tan.

With all kinds of hands-free contraptions on board this latest sports utility vehicle, it is hardly surprising that the driver will have time to comb through the mini refrigerator on board.  

FordEcoSport-sep2014-0001When the enthusiastic Sime Darby Auto Connexion’s representative pointed out the car’s hands-free phone call facility and hands-free music player, I merely responded with a polite nod while quietly countering: “Ok, nothing new here.”

Next, he mentioned that the system also comes with the ability to read out your mobile phone’s incoming text messages; I found myself paying a tad closer attention to his ongoing demonstration of car’s key features. But it was the “cool” air-conditioned glove box that finally captured my full interest to the car’s content.

Ford’s latest EcoSport is all about delivering convenience to the driver and passengers on board. What else can get more useful than having a few cans of chilled drinks readily available to four sun-drenched treasure hunters on a 400 kilometre drive?

I figure that this compact SUV’s interior designer would likely have been an outdoor person based on the inclusion of 20 storage compartments located throughout the car, which proved handy for our team’s storage of endless titbits, chocolate bars and caffeine-filled beverages.

The EcoSport aims to boost the American carmaker’s presence in the fast-growing B-segment crossover market, particularly in this part of the region. Designed on the same platform as its hugely popular Fiesta and rolled off from its production facility in Thailand, it is available in two variants – Trend and Titanium.

FordEcoSport-sep2014-0014Driven by a 1.5 litre Ti-VCT engine offering 142 Nm at 4,400 rpm, the Titanium proved to be an indispensable team member during a weekend treasure hunt adventure for this writer’s team of media personnel. As an automobile treasure hunt often requires plenty of stopping and restarting, the vehicle’s Powershift 6-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission was easily equal to the task, although I did find the gear ratio spread out slightly too far apart resulting in evident drag in between gear shifts.

Running on 16″ alloy wheels and a 52-litre fuel tank, it comes with the now common features in the likes of smart keyless entry, push-start ignition, rear parking sensors and hill launch assist, although it stands out somewhat from many of its peers with seven airbags (driver, passenger, sides, curtain and driver’s knee).

As the journey took us onto both fast four-lane expressway, curvaceous coastal roads and through congested small towns, the car’s traction control and an electronic stability program kept us firmly on the road, particularly when we were running late reaching our event’s final checkpoint.

Going through a downpour on the expressway and speeding gingerly right on the edge of the speed limit in order to meet our deadline, the car’s anti-lock braking system and electronic brake force distribution kept the ride stable and in constant control by reducing wheel spin and over or under-steering especially on the slippery stretches.

FordEcoSport-sep2014-0003This variant also gets the leather seat treatment, automatic climate control system, auto lights, rain sensor wipers and a power sunroof. Packaged in five exterior colours – candy red, mars red, winning blue, midnight sky and frozen white – the Ford EcoSport Trend is priced (on-the-road with insurance) at RM92,888 while the EcoSport Titanium goes for RM103,888.

While offering a nice overall buffet spread, there are some trifling concerns and notable ingredients missing from this scrumptious ride. Boasting a helpful 200mm ground clearance between passengers and the flood-prone Malaysian roads is a definite plus point, but with the surprisingly missing hand rail above the door frame for all doors, older folks and shorter passengers may find it an adventure by itself getting into the vehicle.

FordEcoSport-sep2014-0018Another aesthetic annoyance I had with this SUV was the old-styled spare wheel dreadfully placed at its tailgate door. In this age of smaller parking spots at shopping malls and narrow car porches in our homes, a bulky wheel protruding from the back of your car is the last thing you want to deal with.

Finally, where is the daytime running light? Possibly the most imperative feature of any automobile on today’s road, no car should be allowed to roll out of the factory without this gadget conceitedly beaming onto the rear mirror of the car in front.