Steering Column 28.11.08

Veil falls from a beauty

MAZDA has chosen the Bologna Motor Show to unveil the new five-door hatchback version of the Mazda3.

It is the second generation of the five-door and comes on the heels of the saloon that has just been launched in Los Angeles. It carries the new corporate expression on its face, all sleek, tapered and bullet-like with squinting lights either side of a sweeping airscoop radiator grille. In short – it’s gorgeous.

There will be a good variety of engines to choose from including a new 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine that we’ve already seen in the bigger Mazda6. It’s a unit that comes in two versions, the most powerful of which will have an output of 183bhp and the lesser a still very useful 148bhp. We are told it’s cleaner and more efficient than the outgoing two-litre unit.

The balance of the engine line up comprises a 1.6-litre diesel and 1.6 and two-litre petrol engines.

Kleen Kia

Kia is once again showing the world it’s at the sharp end of car development.

The company has taken the wraps off an SUV styled car that is powered by electricity through a hydrogen fuel cell engine. It’s no hairdryer either.

The new Borrego, powered by a fuel cell stack with a super capacitor, turns out 154hp, can accelerate up to 60mph in 12.8 seconds and go on to a top speed of 100mph. It has a range of 426 miles thanks to a 202 litre hydrogen tank hidden under the floor and fuel economy up at 54mpg.

Kia wants to build fuel cell electric vehicles in higher volumes and at lower cost for proper on-the-road fleet testing. This Borrego comes on the heels of the similarly powered Sportage FCEV. How can you fault the plan? You can produce hydrogen by wind power and pump out only moisture as emissions. To coin a phrase – one day all cars should be run like this.

Motoring money matters

Just in case you missed it in the chancellor’s pre-budget statement this week, the plans to radically change the car tax set up next year have been temporarily shelved. Many of us will be breathing a bit easier at the news.

Suggestions that in April car tax could rise for some drivers to the dizzying level of £230 have thankfully been put on hold. Any rises will be capped to just £5 for the most polluting cars. In April 2010 the increase will be no more than £30 we’re told. Some of the cleanest cars will actually see a cut of up to £30.

Anyone still planning to buy a so-called gas-guzzler brand new, however, better get it in before April 2010 because after that there will be a huge “first year” rate, designed to try and steer us towards cleaner vehicles – and why not?

The worst offenders, cars pumping out carbon dioxide at a rate over 255g/km, will pay a first year car tax of £950 – the standard rate each year after that will be £435.

Meanwhile, we can expect a 2p increase in fuel tax from Monday, but because VAT is dropping on the same day from 17.5 per cent to 15 per cent, the prices at the pumps should actually fall.

It is also generally accepted that with big, expensive buys like cars, the drop in VAT is going to put a substantial amount of money back in the buyer’s pocket. With the continued slowdown in car sales making some good deals already available, this could be a very good time to buy a car.

Mike Grundon


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