Toyota: 2015 Prius v review

September 25th, 2015 by Darren Cottingham

If you love having kids but also caring for the environment, the Toyota Prius v is worth checking out. With seven seats and a fuel economy the envy of many much smaller cars (4.4 litres per 100km combined is quoted) it’s a practical and less guilty alternative to buying a lumbering SUV or even a large station wagon. Continue reading “Toyota: 2015 Prius v review” »

Honda: 2015 CR-Z Sport review

December 22nd, 2014 by Darren Cottingham

The Honda CR-Z is a hybrid sports hatchback that harks back to the original CR-X which was built from 1983-91. The flat back and split rear windscreen are the signature elements, and it retains its two-door design with rear seats simply there for show as opposed to being able to fit anyone in them. Continue reading “Honda: 2015 CR-Z Sport review” »

Lexus: 2014 CT200h Limited vs F Sport review

August 12th, 2014 by Darren Cottingham

The road from Whatipu to Titirangi is narrow, bumpy and changes direction like a gazelle trying to outrun a cheetah. We were in the CT200h F Sport and my partner said to me that she was feeling sleepy, and the problem was with my ‘smooth driving’, the comfortable seats and the lack of noise from the Lexus. This Lexus makes your driving seem better than it is: the thing it excels at is turning the road into a muffled silk ribbon like I am the world’s best chauffeur. Continue reading “Lexus: 2014 CT200h Limited vs F Sport review” »

Lexus GS300 F Sport 2014 Review

April 28th, 2014 by Darren Cottingham

lexus-gs300-f-sport-2014-frontLexus is consistently turning out vehicles that are setting the bar for comfortable cruising. The majority of the range doesn’t set the world on fire in terms of outright sprinting and high-speed manoeuvring capability, but when it comes to pleasing your posterior on a long trip, there’s not much that will match it. Continue reading “Lexus GS300 F Sport 2014 Review” »

Lexus IS300h F Sport and Lexus IS350 2013 Review

October 5th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

Look closely at the front grille and air splitter and you see the types of curves and air inlets that you expect on an F1 car. And it doesn’t stop there because there are vanes and little details all over the place like on the side of the rear lights. This is the IS300h F Sport, a 2.5-litre hybrid IS-series Lexus with all the fruit. That’s probably what the F stands for: Fruit.

Lexus-IS350-2013-fqBut for similar money you could have the base model IS350 (shown on the left – the remainder of the images in the article are the IS300h). The purpose of this article is to tell you which one to go for: the lesser-powered IS300h plus the trimmings or the brawny but more basic IS350 which will smoke the tyres and give you grins with its 3.5-litre V6. The IS300h F Sport weighs in at $91,995, whereas the IS350 is $94,995 – barely a difference at this kind of money.

Lexus-IS300h-f-sport-2013-rear-quarterA beautiful line ascends gracefully from the side skirt through an imaginary chord across the rear wheel, along a panel intersection and into the rear light cluster. It’s one of the best executions of this design trick that I’ve seen and it draws your eye up around the rear of the car which is a perfectly executed tail that looks both executive and sporty.

Drop yourself into the bucket seat and it wraps itself around you. The seats are both supportive and comfortable, and a great balance between gripping you enough and not restricting your movement.

Lexus-IS300h-f-sport-2013-rangeIn the F Sport a central circular dial dominates the centre of the instrument cluster and in normal or eco mode it contains a gauge that measures how economically you’re driving and how much power is either being directed to the battery or drawn from it. Either side of the dial are information displays for the trip computer. Switch the Lexus into Sport or Sport+ mode and this centre ring slides to the right giving a larger screen area to the left. This will now show all manner of information ranging from what is playing via Bluetooth from your phone through to servicing information in an interface that is well-designed.

Look inside the IS350 and you get a more standard-looking set of dials without the fancy graphics that accompany the change in driving mode – they’re a bit too Camry-ish in my opinion. The IS350 only gets three modes (eco, normal and sport) whereas the IS300h F Sport adds a Sport+. Continue reading “Lexus IS300h F Sport and Lexus IS350 2013 Review” »

Honda Jazz Hybrid 2013 Review

August 17th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

As a piano player I’ve often used the excuse of ‘play a mistake, play it again, call it jazz.’ In fact, Miles Davis said “If you’re not making a mistake, it’s a mistake.” So, will Jazz Hybrid ownership provide you a lilting and harmonious melody, or a seething pit of arrhythmic dissonance?


You can only get the Jazz Hybrid with a 72kW 1.3-litre IMA i-VTEC engine. It’s full of ‘economy-enhancing technology’ like VCM (variable cylinder management) for optimising power and efficiency, and drive-by-wire electronic throttle control, according to Honda. And, of course, it’s connected to the hybrid-y electric bits.


The engine is accompanied by a CVT gearbox, as is becoming popular. This is quite noisy under full acceleration. The Jazz is destined to be a town car driven shorter distances, so a CVT is the sensible choice with its superior fuel economy on the urban runs. You can expect your fuel economy to sit in the 5-6l/100km range. I achieved 5.3l/100km driving from Ponsonby to Arkles Bay and back into Whangaparaoa (about 40km of urban and motorway driving), without trying to drive economically, and without having the eco switch turned on. That’s not bad, but Honda claims 4.5l/100km, so obviously I’m a leadfoot.

You can’t instruct it to drive under just battery power. Instead, the Jazz turns off the engine as you’re coasting to a stop, and thus saves petrol when you’d ordinarily be burning it at the lights, plus it will provide some power during cruising by managing the petrol engine. Continue reading “Honda Jazz Hybrid 2013 Review” »

Lexus LS600hL 2013 – Review

July 9th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

Lexus has set out to build a world-class luxury saloon car, and it has succeeded. Should you add one to your already luxurious life?

lexus-ls600hl-2013-rqBack in 1989, I was still too young to drive, but I remember when the first Lexus was launched. The culmination of six years of work by the Toyota subsidiary resulted in a car that laid waste to the competition in terms of build quality and performance. Its only problem at the time was brand cachet.

lexus-ls600hl-2013-front-interiorThat’s long gone, though, and Lexus is truly recognised as a luxury brand. As the flagship model in Lexus’s line-up, the LS600hL acquits itself with aplomb because the interior is spectacularly comfortable. The driving experience is Continue reading “Lexus LS600hL 2013 – Review” »

Toyota Prius v S-Tech 2012 Review

November 9th, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

Whether it’s by happy accident or you’ve planned it, your four or more children put you in a small minority in New Zealand. Strictly speaking, having lots of children isn’t the most environmentally friendly thing you could do. Fortunately Toyota has created a seven-seat Prius v that will help atone your ecological transgressions.

Typically you’d choose an SUV, like a Toyota Land Cruiser or Holden Captiva 7, or a minivan to transport your kids. Universally, though, these will Continue reading “Toyota Prius v S-Tech 2012 Review” »

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