Steering Column

Chirpy Auris

Do you remember that gladly optimistic, chirpy little smile of affection that Frodo Baggins regularly gives Sam in the Lord of the Rings films? Well you can now buy a car wearing that very expression.

Toyota has revised the looks of its Auris family hatchback and in line with some other manufacturers, it’s leaning away from the narrow-eyed, focused look across the front and towards a friendlier, more sympathetic expression.

Good news says I, and it’s nice to know the car seems to be pretty friendly to your senses, your wallet and the environment too as we’re told the engines give a “class leading combination of power, fuel efficiency and low emissions”.

There are changes to the metalwork, the interior softwork and the inside illumination, but although it looks like a totally new car, it actually retains the current range of petrol and diesel engines, as well as the six-speed manual and automatic gearboxes.

Although the performance remains unchanged, the suspension has been fine tuned in response to customer feedback to give “stable high-speed driving performance with secure handling and greater ride comfort”.

Prices range from £14,463 for the basic T2 grade car with a 1.33-litre petrol engine and a six-speed manual gearbox, to £17,745 for a TR model with the 1.4 turbo-diesel engine and an automatic gearbox. There’s also going to be a new sporty model aimed at younger buyers called the SR with the 1.6-litre petrol engine, the manual gearbox and a price tag of £16,495.

Something new from Suzuki

Suzuki is upgrading its five-door hatchback known as the SX4. The company admits there are only minor changes to the styling inside and out, but there are some important changes to the mechanicals for 2010.

The most important change is the addition of a new cleaner and more powerful 1.6-litre petrol engine. The company says it has a 10 per cent increase in power over the outgoing equivalent engine, and a 10 per cent reduction in fuel consumption. Emissions have been cut by 12 per cent.

It will turn out 118bhp in power and 115lb.ft. of torque. With two-wheel-drive and a manual transmission it’ll reach 62mph 10.7 seconds after take-off. Put on an automatic gearbox and it increases to 12.3 seconds. The popular four-wheel-drive option doesn’t slow it down much, reaching 62mph in 11.5 seconds. The new version of the all-wheel-drive petrol model will be available in April.

The diesel option remains the 1.6-litre turbocharged Peugeot unit turning out 89bhp and 159lb.ft. of torque. It’s not much slower than its petrol-powered sister despite that drop in power, reaching 62mph in 12.2 seconds with the manual box. The great joy is at the pump though where it’ll give you an average 57.6 miles per gallon of diesel. The great disappointment is it’s not available with four-wheel-drive.

Ka Tweaks

Ah, the pace of change these days. The latest version of Ford’s baby hatchback, the Ka, is only one year old but the company’s celebrating by revising the model line-up.

Don’t panic though. There’s nothing here to scare the horses. It’s keeping the existing 1.2-litre petrol and 1.3-litre diesel engines, but the packages of extra add-on equipment are being tweaked.

Without going into mind-numbing detail, the changes involve the addition of rear headrests here, air conditioning there, a bit of leather at key points and new cubby holes in the cabin.

Look out for special option packs with … er … interesting names. You can look up the details yourself but be prepared to be confronted with body-kit and equipment packages with names like the Grand Prix, Digital, Tattoo and Tattoo Premium. Don’t ask me how they came up with the names. None are racing cars, none are specially endowed with new technology and none of them have an arrow-pierced heart engraved on the side.

Mike Grundon


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