Mini hot hatch makes for mighty fun
THE FACELIFTED Clio RS 200, in this case with the Cup chassis, is more fun than a cheap hatch has any right to be. Everything is essentially the same as the old version, though new chequered-flag headlights, or RS Vision, are new and now aim where you steer. Purists beware, though, itís still dualclutch-only. Fortunately, thatís easily made up for by the way the car handles. An excellent chassis proves very communicative, happy to let you know exactly how hard you can turn in to a corner. Even if you stuff up your entry, seemingly endless lift-off oversteer allows you to sharpen your line. Shifts can become quite sharp (and make a little Ďbrapí) when Race Mode is active, but there is a downside. Race automatically switches the Clioís traction and stability control off, and thereís no way around it. Inside, seats are heated, and visually it holds up well, especially at its price point. Itís also comfortable enough Ė just Ė around town thanks to 18-inch wheels, but its Sport brother is more softer, while the more powerful Trophy version is the track day pick. If you want a true daily proposition, thereís always the Polo GTI, but you wonít have nearly as much fun when Sunday rolls around.
Ė Chris Thompson
SPECS: 1.6T I4; 147kW @ 6050rpm; 260Nm @ 2000rpm; FWD; 1204kg; $32,490
Is Jagís wagon as sharp as it looks?
IF YOU EXPECT the XF Sportbrake to be a comfortable and superstylish wagon, youíre going to be fine. But if you want something thatíll get your heart pumping? Hmmm. Letís start with the engine. A 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 in the snout sounds good until you remember itís a diesel, and that it only pumps out 221kW. And it redlines just short of 4500rpm. Okay, itís got 700Nm and will get along just fine, hitting 100km/h in a claimed 6.6sec, but you wonít be pushed back into your comfortable leather seat. Itís also worth playing with the paddles, as the Jagís auto can be a little unpredictable when left to its own devices. If you do want to take it out for a drive, youíve got to be mindful of its weight. Its standard tyres can also struggle in the wet and it rides on 20-inch alloys which can make the otherwise comfortable ride quite brittle. It looks great Ė thereís a general consensus among staff here that it looks better than the XF sedan Ė However, the
F-Pace is cheaper by $20K, faster to 100km/h by 1.1s, only heavier by about 6kg, shares the same platform, and has a livelier supercharged petrol V6. Should you choose the SUV instead? Thatís up to you.
Ė Chris Thompson
SPECS: 3.0TD V6; 221kW @ 4000rpm; 700Nm @ 2000rpm; RWD; 1855kg;
Can the Germans out-Calais the Aussies?
HOW DOES THE new Calais-V compare with the outgoing VF? For a start, it makes an extra 25kW/31Nm, though it does need to be revved a bit harder to hit its peak potential. That extra grunt with all-paw grip makes the Calais-V capable, albeit not particularly exciting. The gearbox is smooth, but a few little oddities spring up here and there. Nine close gears make for a lot of paddling if youíre in manual mode Ė second and third are almost indistinguishable when accelerating. It became clear that the suspension had indeed been tuned to suit Australian conditions, as the only noticeable detriment to its ride along an rough road was the fact it rides on 20-inch wheels. The AWD also made getting along at high speeds easy, helped by sticky Continental Sport Contact 6s. Harsh bumps donít throw the Calais off at all. Itís still got hard plastics and inexpensive materials inside which disappoint, but the seats are comfortable and road noise can be drowned out by the superb Bose sound system. But while the Calais is more sorted (and cheaper) than a Stinger GT, the Kia is where fun-seekers should head for fast family hauler. Because fast the Calais is not.
Ė Chris Thompson
SPECS: 3.6 V6; 235kW @ 6800rpm; 381Nm @ 5200rpm; AWD; 1726kg; $51,990