Friday, 1 June 2018

Lamenting no more manual GTI? Try these

You might have read over the past few weeks that as of 2019 the option of buying a brand new manual transmission VW Golf GTI in Australia will be no more.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Original, the last manual Golf you can buy in Oz

The reasoning for VW doing this is obvious, nobody bought the three pedal option so why bother packing them on the boat from Germany? It's business and the Germans do it rather well. However as a part time motoring journo and car enthusiast I just need a moment to lament the death of one of the purest hot hatches you can buy new. Whilst knowing full well that the reason its gone is because people like me didn't put there money where there mouth was!

For someone like me, the manual transmission adds an extra layer of character to a car. It makes you work hard for that forward momentum and turns that sometimes tedious job of getting from A to B into something that bit more exciting. Yes I am that 1% who doesn't mind a manual in traffic. Rev matching a downshift on the way to stopping at red light actually gives me some excitement and I feel that driving a car which allows you to do that is just that bit more personable even if it is an econobox.

But a manual hot hatch, they are quite possibly the most personable and characterful cars money can buy. They are workaday hero's who nip at the heels of cars 3 or 4 times their price. A three pedal hot hatch eggs you on, makes you feel like a driving god and releases your inner hooligan, in a good way of course. And the Golf GTI was arguably the original. So the thought of no longer being able to buy one new makes me very sad indeed.

So in a bid to stop myself lamenting the loss of the three pedal GTI I've hit the classifieds to see what used hot hatch hero's you can buy with a H pattern sticking out the middle. And in the process doing the very thing that probably killed the Golf in the first place; buying used instead of new!

BMW 130i M Sport

My first pick is definitely one for a specific type of enthusiast, but wow what a car. The BMW 130i M Sport. A left field hot hatch if ever there was one. With a wopping great 3 litre straight six shoehorned under the bonnet sending 195kw of power rearwards the little 1 Series was highly regarded in period as one of the finest handling hatches available. That big 6 was of course mated to a crisp 6 speed manual that allowed BMW's hatch to be a smooth cruiser or a total hooligan.
BMW 130i M Sport

Despite its niche appeal there are a few 130i's on the market at the moment, priced from $13,000 up to $25,000 the little BM is holding its value 13 years after it first appeared, but I view this as a good thing, previous owners have most likely looked after their big engine wrapped in a little package.     

Audi S3 8P

BMW a bit too slidey for you? How about something with 4 wheel drive? The second generation S3 took VW's already excellent 2 litre turbo four, upped the boost and added Quattro to make it an unstoppable 188kw all weather back road blaster. For some it might be a little too clinical, but I urge you to consider it if you lust after a Germanic hot hatch with a manual.
Audi S3 8P

Prices for an S3 are slightly more palatable than the 1 Series and if you so choose an S3 can be had in ultra niche 3 door form, for that extra slice or hot hatch originality. Anything from $9000 to $20,000 should get you into one. I'd advise going mid teens for decent one.     

Kia Pro'ceed GT

My next pick is for someone who wants a car that almost nobody else has, which is odd given that it's a Kia. I present to you the Koreans first attempt at a mildly hot hatch, the Pro'ceed GT. A somewhat random but very welcome break from the norm that Kia billed as a halo car in Australia between 2014 and 2016. Powered by a 150kw 1.6 litre turbo the 3 door manual only Kia wasn't quite a fire breather when compared to some rivals in a straight line. But it made up for it in the corners with superb handing and a set of lovely Recaro bucketsto keep you snug. Also buy one of the last ones and you'll still have a chunk of Kia's 7 year warranty left too.
Kia Pro'Ceed GT

Prices have dropped well below $20,000 for Pro'Ceeds with low KMs, which given that the car is still pretty modern compared to the first 2 on my list seems like a very good deal. 

Peugeot 206 GTI 180

Everything else on my list proving too pricey? How about this little French rocket, from the makers of one of the godfathers of the hot hatch game (the 205 GTI) I give you the Peugeot 206 GTI 180. The recipe here is simple, take a small hatch, add a 2 litre 16 valve naturally aspirated engine, close ratio manual box, work some suspension wizardry and every time you get out you'll be smiling. That 180 denotes the bhp of the little Pug, that's 130kw by the way, in a car that weighs a little bit more than a bag of frozen peas.
Peugeot 206 GTI 180

Since the cars debuted in 2003 prices have plummeted as per most French cars Down Under. But although that might be bad for previous owners it means that hot hatch connoisseurs longing for back to basics thrills need only part with $5000 to get a good one. Happy hunting. 

The manual Golf GTI is going away, but please don't despair, the used market is a treasure trove of hot hatchery with 3 pedals. I hope that showcasing 4 here has helped ease some sadness. The cars mentioned are really just the tip of the iceberg if you lust after a proper hot hatch with great driving dynamics, I could go on and on and on reeling of alternatives, but I wont subject you to that.     


Friday, 11 August 2017

Car of the Week: Lexus IS200

I'm going to say something controversial; I think Alan Partridge might have been wrong when he called Lexus the Japanese Mercedes. Instead consider this, Lexus, particularly my car of the week is more the Japanese BMW. Ladies and gents I give you the Lexus IS200.
Lexus IS200

BMW DNA

It's all in the DNA of the IS200 that I reach my conclusion, attractive 3 box sedan, straight 6 up front, the option of a manual gearbox in the middle and power going exclusively to the rear wheels. All traditional BMW ingredients but wrapped up in a Lexus package the IS is cruelly overlooked, let me share with you it's merits.
Lexus IS200

Posh Toyota

First off we have excellent build quality, remember people Lexus is just a posh Toyota, makers of those "unbreakable" Hilux's and god forsaken Camry's. I harp on about European cars being reliable if you look after them, but with Toyota underpinnings a Lexus will probably just keep running in spite of you. And whereas a BMW might start to show some electrical niggles like dead switches by its 17th birthday you can bet an IS's rear passenger electric window button will just keep on going. Again not wanting to sound to hypocritical, I do believe in the affordable Euros, but a Lexus part is likely to cost you less come fixing time than a European one.
Lexus IS200 interior

Plastic fantastic (not)

Where the Lexus might not shine so greatly is the way the interior has aged, cheap feeling plastics and faux aluminium trim are a far cry form the quality of a contemporary E46 3 Series but a leather sports wheel and luxuries like duel zone climate control, cruise control and electrically adjustable everything might help lessen the blow. One thing you cannot escape though is the Lexus style rear lights, yup, the IS started the whole damn craze that still lingers in the modified car world to this day, they are dated and utterly naff, but at least you can have some sort of claim to fame.            

Lexus IS200

Its all about the 6

Driver appeal and genuine race car potential are more reasons to look the 200's way. It all comes back to that drive train, smooth revvy 6 cylinder up front and rear drive makes for a excellent base. And when mated to a 6 speed manual the deal is surely only sweetened. With direct steering, a composed, balanced ride and decent brakes the IS200 only gets better. With the inline 6 only displacing 2 litres the 200 is no rocket ship, making do with 114kw, revving it out is the only way to make real progress, no hardship of course, the VVTI likes a stretch. But if you do find it a little slow don't worry as being of Japanese origin means the IS is open to a whole range of modifications to make it faster. Watch here to see CarThrottle turn one into a track car and just listen to how good that engine sounds with an exhaust!
Lexus IS200 straight 6

Go get one 


 
I do like rarity in a car, being unique for me is part of the appeal and surprisingly a manual IS200 is rarer than an equivalent BMW E46 while still costing the same amount of coin. Prices range from $3000 for a rough high kilometer car to $10k for a modified one. Personally I'd go somewhere in the middle and a buy stock or just slightly modified example to give myself a blank canvas. The car I've chosen below is a good example and also happens to be the Sport LE version with a subtle body kit. Overlooked and underrated the IS200 is a hidden gem in Lexus's back catalogue, with an engaging nature and a drivetrain copied straight from the boys in Munich the 200 might just be the dynamic sedan you never knew you needed.

Lexus IS200 for sale


Friday, 2 June 2017

Shit cars that one day we'll all want: Vol 1

The Volkswagen Kombi, the Volkswagen Beetle, the Ford Escort and the Holden Gemini. These are just a mere few of the cars from our motoring past which were once so common people couldn't give them away. However nowadays they command such ludicrous prices it borders on insanity. As to the reason why? It certainly isn't because they were good cars. The Vdubs asthmatic aircooled lumps couldn't peel the skin of a bowl of custard, the Ford rusted in places no one ever thought possible and the Gemini TE looked dated the second it left the showroom floor.

Why?

This beard definitely wants a Kombi 
The reason of course is our fickle sentimentality that screams out for us to relive a misspent youth. Or in the case of the VW's a culture dictating that owning these cars makes you cooler than the most overtly bearded hipsters out there. And of course bulging bank accounts of that one time youth help too, willing to pay whatever for a memory. Now don't chastise me for these comments, I too would own many a shit box from my teens; bloated sorry excuse for a GTI that was the MK4 Golf anyone? Pick me! This nostalgia got me to thinking though, what recent cars, that we currently view as awful throw away items will we one day throw piles of money at to own? Here are 4 to get you thinking.
     


AU Ford Falcon (98-02)

Hard to comprehend that one day the droopy frog faced excuse of the big Aussie sedan might one day be collectable isn't it? But I bet your parents or grandparents thought the same of 1969's XW generation and try finding a decent one of them for under $20k now. Just today I spotted a dozen AU's and only one was mint, the others resembled rolling ash trays with the occasional miss matched chromey and sun burnt paint. Give it 10 more years and all the AU's you can buy for loose change will be gone, it definitely isn't the prettiest Falcon but is it worth playing the long game and buying one now? Time will tell.
AU Ford Falcon
A face only a mother could love
 


Hyundai Excel X3 (94-00)

Nope, I've not lost my mind, I really do wonder if the Koreans first big hit might be a future classic. Could it be Hyundai's Beetle? With woeful build quality and interior plastics similar in feel to those tubs you buy mushrooms in from the supermarket the Excel really wasn't that great, however generous standard equipment and a bargain basement price when new saw some 200,000 sold Down Under. So not surprisingly, Excels are everywhere providing cheap mobility to at least 2 generations of P plater's and budget conscious motorists from Broome to Byron Bay. I'd bet their attrition rate is probably at an all time high right now. Much like the Beetle does now for the middle age generation will we one day long for a mint Excel GX 3 door that reminds us of times gone by?

Hyundai Excel
Check out that spoiler, phwoar! 
   

Holden Cruze (09-16)

The rebadged Korean Chevy is similar in many ways to the Excel above, it's popularity can be largely put down to it's heavily discounted price when new, rather than it's actual abilities as a car. Deeply flawed when compared to European designed rivals like the Golf, Focus, 308 and even Holden's own Astra I cant help but feel the Cruze's of this world will drop and drop in price and numbers until there are very few left. If you've recently bought one of the last production run, keep it for a few decades and you might have an oddball collectors item on your hands.

Holden Cruze


Mazda 323 (98-03)

Blander than Tofu dunked in soy milk the 323 was thoroughly surpassed in all areas by its Mazda 3 successor in 2003. Does that mean they will disappear into the "also ran" category of our motoring history? I have a feeling that they might. Which is a shame given the SP20 variant was a semi decent steer. We might not know it now but the Mazda 323 SP20 could be the Escort RS2000 of the 2000's. Best hold onto one just in case.
Mazda 323
 

Tell me how wrong I am...

Yes this whole article has been wild speculation, so if you feel like adding your own cars to the list feel free. Lets all check back in 40 years and see if my predictions came true, in the meantime I suspect there are many more volumes in this series so I'll get to compiling another list.

photo credit

Monday, 15 May 2017

Buying new has never been cheaper

Inflation calculator Did you know that right now the Australian car buying public have never had it better? Not only is the choice of new cars simply staggering, ranging from a $13k Suzuki Celerio to a million dollar McLaren 675LT, but the price you pay is actually the lowest its every been. Comparatively speaking if you look at the performance, safety and standard equipment packed into cars today, you'll wonder how manufactures ever managed to sell cars in the 1990's. Let me share with you some like for like examples, with the 20 year currency inflation taken into account.

Let's begin with a Munich legend, a performance hero, the BMW M3. Back in 1997 an E36 generation car was yours to the tune of $131,750. Readjusted for inflation that works out at just under $215,000. Compare that to the cost of a brand new M3 today, roughly $150,000 and the legend begins to look almost like a bargain. Yes you still get a chassis tweaked by the geniuses at M division but now you also get 2 turbos, an extra 100kw of power and driver aids that can both make you go faster and stop you from having a crash. It's also going to be less temperamental and more reliable than 20 years ago. The fact BMW can do all this for less money than it has ever cost is astonishing. Jury's still out on whether it's owner will no what an indicator is though....
BMW E36 M3

BMW F90 M3

The same can be said for the M3's biggest rival, the Mercedes AMG C63. Back in the late 90's the C43 AMG was the halo car of the C-Class range and it was a rare beast, not a lot of Aussies shelled out the $155,000 to buy one, which when you consider that in today's money it works out at over $250,000 you can see why. Right now however Mercedes will sell you a brand new C63 for exactly the same as the C43 cost 20 years ago, not the inflation corrected price. The years might have passed but the price hasn't crept up with them. And whereas in the 90's you were lucky to get heated seats and a CD player today the C63 comes loaded with active safety tech, connectivity and enough performance to absolutely annihilate its grandfather in the traffic light grand prix.
Mercedes Benz AMG C43

Mercedes Benz C63 AMG
   

It is not just luxury manufacturers pulling off this trick of engineering far superior cars and selling them for less money. Take the humble Honda Civic, now in it's 10th generation and injected with some of the mojo it lost over the past few generations, a new VTI-S can be yours for a drive away just shy of $28,000. Roll the clock back and a new VTI sedan with an auto would have cost you $32,900 in 1997 (that is over $50k in today's money). Yes some dealers would have given you a saving, but ultimately today's Civic is substantially cheaper to buy and certainly a lot less likely to make people think you perform in the Sunday church choir.
Honda Civic sedan EK
Bland??

Honda Civic VTI-S FC
Spaceship!

Even at the budget end of the market new car buyers have it good, take the Suzuki Swift. In 97 around $12,000 got you behind the wheel. That's roughly $21,000 adjusted for inflation. Still not an unreasonable sum for a new city car today by any means. However when you consider the Swift of old had 3 items on its standard equipment list, those being a radio cassette, body coloured bumpers and a remote boot release, the drive away pricing right now on a 2017 Swift GL is looks like an absolute steal. With keyless entry, cruise control, bluetooth, and a 5 star safety rating for $15,990, millennials look like their getting a much much better deal.
Suzuki Swift
Check out those body coloured bumpers...

Suzuki Swift

Now in no way am I trying to butter up any manufacturers here, the 4 cars listed are totally random. In fact most car makers probably still get away with charging too much for some cars in their lineups. I do think however that time has been kind, the advancement in technologies and manufacturing techniques over the last 20 years means that today you get far more car for your money than ever before. It really couldn't be a better time to be alive when it comes to new cars!

Oh and on a final note, if like me you want to spend far too much time seeing how inflation can change the price of something head over to the Reserve Bank of Australia's calculator.             

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Trio of Mazda RX-7's go to auction

Originality is a lovely thing, it gets nerds like me all hot under the collar. So imagine the excitement when I heard not one but three early Mazda RX-7's are to be auctioned at Shannon's May 8th Sale.
Trio of Mazda RX-7's going up for auction

Aussie delivered

The cars are not just early but run in sequential model order too, Series 1, Series 2 and 3. To top it all off the cars will be offered with no reserve. Here are some details, firstly all three are manual and have low kilometres, they were also Australian delivered as new, no JDM importing here, this makes me even hotter under the collar!
Series 1 Mazda RX-7 up for auction
Series 1 RX-7

Unmodified 

It gets better though, all three cars have come from the same private collection, so despite having had little use they have been meticulously well looked after and ultimately kept locked up away from modifying hands. Yes that's right, all three have their Wankles intact with  not a hint of LS motor in sight! They even sit on their original alloy wheels. Inside the interiors are time warp, with factory spec'ed A/C and no sunroofs, not only does that make them that bit stiffer it's also one less place the RX-7's can rust from.
Series 2 Mazda RX-7 up for auction
Series 2 RX-7

 Collectable

Increasing collectable an early RX-7 is a good place to put some money, despite their lack of reserve the cars are likely to fetch strong money. Shannon's predict the silver Series 1 will go for $20-26k while the Series 2 and 3 are expected to fetch $14-18k each. Pricey but still a darn sight cheaper than many a European coupe of the same condition and vintage. If you want one get to Shannon's Melbourne Autumn Auction on the 8th of May, and should the Japanese coupes not take your fancy there are many other cars up for grabs too.
Series 3 Mazda RX-7 up for auction
Series 3 RX-7


     

Friday, 24 March 2017

Car of the week: Porsche Cayenne

It might be uglier than a bottom feeder fish that has been hit in the face with a frying pan but did you know that the Porsche Cayenne is now 15 years old? And nowadays they represent a rather good second hand buy, I mean you cant argue that you get a lot of excellent engineering for your money.


How much?

What sort of money am I talking? $20,000 will get you behind the wheel of a well serviced, cherished example. Meaning that this side of a 986 Boxster the Cayenne is the cheapest modern era Porsche you can buy. And its important to point out that the Cayenne isn't a hulking great whale in Porsche clothing either, the companies first SUV stunned the world by actually driving like a Porsche too, so your not just buying a badge.






Performance


Performance ranged from brisk in the base V6 engined Cayenne to properly absurd in the Turbo S. I'm talking a 0-100km/h of just over 7 seconds in the V6, not bad for something weighing over 2 tonnes. While the updated Turbo S cracked the same sprint in 4.7 seconds! In the twisties it was impossible for Porsche to totally disguise the cars bulk but direct steering, stiff suspension and all wheel drive grip do their bit to deliver a entertaining steer. Both manual and auto where available, although I'd bet almost everyone chose the latter when they splashed out the $130,000+ for a new one back in the day.


Interior

Inside things are suitably Porsche, with a familiar instrument cluster, steering wheel and lashings of leather. All finished to the very highest standards, it is a bit of a button frenzy inside though, as was the theme in the mid noughties.


Reliability

Now the burning question, I bet your all asking. Won't a 15 year old used Porsche just break? I argue that no, with proper regular maintenance the Cayenne is more reliable than you might imagine. From the outset the Cayenne was over engineered. And as a company Porsche regularly top reliability charts across the globe. Sure when something does go bang the repair costs will be high, but buy sensibly and you could get yourself a performance luxury bargain. For some proof check out the Everyday Driver Youtube channel, one of their hosts has been doing a video diary on his experience of used Cayenne ownership and concludes that it isn't too terrifying.


That whole gag of once your inside you don't have to see it definitely applies to the first generation Cayenne, I doubt even the very judgemental internet will argue with me there. However, if you are in the market for a luxury SUV for less coin than a new Korean hatchback please take one for a spin. Get inside past the bottom feeder face and revel in what is quite an achievement from a one time niche sports car maker.

2003 Porsche Cayenne S: $17,990

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Super Cheap Euro's: Vol 3

If you haven't read my previous super cheap euro pieces then let me give you a quick run down. I'm convinced that European cars need not be expensive things to own or at the very least buy in this country. This means that every so often I search online for a bunch of bargain euro's to give you guys out there some inspiration. A European car for under $2000, here are an eclectic mix I found earlier, what could possibly go wrong?

Fiat Regata

Do you want to own something that literally no one will have ever heard off? Coming complete with a slice of slab sided but oddly stylish 1980's Italian design flair I give you the Fiat Regata. As far as I can figure out Fiat did actually sell the Regata down under and I can only speculate they did not sell many. Making this car a rare survivor, especially given it's outstanding condition and the fact it's only recently run out of rego. For $1000 (if I was closer) I'd have it bought.
1987 Fiat Regata; $1000

Peugeot 306 Cab

From an Italian car to one that was designed by one of the countries finest design studios. The regular 306 is pretty thanks to the Pininfarina styling, but chopping its roof off only makes it better. Roof down, leather seats poking out the 306 convertible reminds me of a gorgeous Riva speedboat, only with the useful ability to drive on land and of course cost a fraction of the price. There are both phase 1 and 2 examples available, with the phase 1 just a little bit more angular in appearance. The car I've chosen is a phase 2, painted gold, because if your impersonating a luxury speedboat, why not?
1998 Peugeot 306 Cabriolet; $1800 


BMW 3 Series

Want to be part of BMW history for not a lot of money? Then the 3 Series is your answer. With over 10 million made you could buy into that staggering statistic. Of course they are popular for good reason. For years only BMW offered buyers the combination of luxury and driver involvement, wrapped up in a solid Teutonic looking package. With so many around it's no real surprise they are cheap however, it also means there is choice galore. I've picked a manual, it is a drivers car after all.
1993 BMW 318i; $1500


Citroen Xantia

It's not quite Fiat Regata weird but the Xantia exists in a similar "what the hell are you driving" realm. Classic wedge shape draws from it's Citroen DS ancestry, similarly the hydropneumatic suspension that debuted in the DS ensures all of our roads imperfections are ironed out. Now the car I've picked does need some work, but it is awfully cheap and has been advertised since October last year, someone buy it please.
1996 Citroen Xantia; $400





Saab 9000

To round off this eclectic mix of cars and guessing some of you may be laughing so hard at my suggestions already I thought why not include a car from a defunct manufacturer. Yes I give you the Saab 9000, however don't right the car off just because Saab does not exist anymore. The 9000 was one of the most over engineered cars of its time. Despite agreeing to platform share with Fiat/Lancia/Alfa to save money Saab engineers totally reworked their quarter of the foursome, making it stronger and re positioning things to make the 9000 one of the safest places to be should you happen to have a crash in the 1980's. The car soldiered on until 1998 however the example I've found comes from 1995. Being sold by what seems to be an honest dealer the 9000 is a trade in and has been given a mechanical once over. It's also a super rare manual car. The kms are high but that's probably why it's so cheap.
1995 Saab 9000; $1650     

Super cheap euro's volume 3, from Fiats to Saabs hopefully I have helped to showcase there really is a lot of choice for car enthusiasts in Australia.