Could Kia be the next Toyota?

The Corolla, Camry, Rav4 and Hilux. These cars are world-renowned and equally loved in New Zealand for their reliability, fuel efficiency and ability to just keep on going. These cars are everywhere, from ’96 models with over 300,000kms to brand new nippers fresh off the lot.
Their solid reputation holds prices high for new and older cars, turning some buyers towards cheaper options.

Kia have not been known for reliability. Some of their older models do not stand the test of time, but that appears to be changing.
Kia has topped the Initial Quality Study for two years running, with a 7% improvement from last year. Five of their cars won their categories with the Soul, Cerato, Cadenza, Niro and Sorento; whereas Toyota had just the trusty Camry and Lexus GS in 2017.

An unfavourable reputation can be hard to shake and the majority of New Zealanders aren’t buying brand new cars. However, as these new Kias enter the used car market, old favourites may be passed in favour of newer, lower km and cheaper models with a reputation for reliability.

The IQS surveys new cars after a short period of ownership, so overall reliability may not be properly representative over time, but it is clear that attitudes towards Kia are changing and that could result in a big shake up of the New Zealand fleet.

Tunnel Vision!

The Waterview Tunnel has been an exciting development in Auckland’s transport network. In fact, it is deemed the most significant change since the Harbour Bridge. It is expected to ease traffic flow although it is by no means going to fix the high density traffic problems for Auckland during peak times.

Open days for the tunnel were quickly booked out, but we managed to get some tickets and explore the new tunnel. Surprisingly packed for a Monday morning, the surrounding roads were a mess of double parked and pavement sprawling cars.
The efforts of Alice, the big boring machine and the 11,500 strong team who built the tunnel have been met with great public interest and rightly so.
The tunnel lead up is surprisingly aesthetic, with contemporary coloured walls and a lovely Māori inspired carving. Inside is spacious and futuristic with plenty of exits, deluge zones and even a loud speaker system. Despite being 40m below ground at some points, it feels very safe and well thought out. It will be great to see New Zealand’s longest tunnel up and running in the very near future.

Maintaining and upgrading road networks in an ever growing city is an integral part of keeping things moving. However, it does not fix the congestion problems and at what point does more roads discourage public transport commuting?
The tunnel does address this somewhat, with a shared path for cyclists and e-bikers to ride to work safely, but this won’t affect the majority of commuters.
Alongside these road upgrades we need to see concurrent public transport increases, too.
Car pooling efforts rarely succeed as few people really want strangers in their car and if you don’t get on well, that’s an awkward, very slow drive to have. But one car, one person commuting is very inefficient and the congestion shows it.

Public transport is seen as inconvenient, slow and uncomfortable and the cost effectiveness of bus fare compared to fuel and parking clearly does not outweigh these factors for most people.
Buses are not perfect but they can be convenient. Express buses at peak hours are exactly what we need more of – they are often far quicker than driving and more convenient for many commuters by only stopping at main stops. More buses, more frequently, with more stops alongside these road upgrades will reduce traffic jams far more and that requires a massive image shift to keep up with this ever expanding city.

They’re Alive! They’re Alive!

A few years ago, Autonomous Vehicles, or Self-driving cars became more than just a pipe-dream. With Google’s self-driving cars showing great potential, these controversial vehicles are getting smoother and smarter all the time.

Last month, a self-driving Nissan Leaf was trialed in London, on motorways, streets and in varying levels of traffic. This was partly due to England’s relative flexibility with AVs; allowing one insurance policy to cover both an autonomous and conventional driver.

In the States, Uber has resumed its AV road tests, after one of their AVs was involved in an accident. Another vehicle (driven by a human) failed to give way to the self-driving car, which caused the collision. If Uber continues with their AV fleet, customers may see cheaper and safer journeys in the future – perhaps another advantage over their Taxi competitors.

Closer to home, an Australian company has received a $2.2 million government grant to test their AV radar technology in South Adelaide’s CBD. Their radar could be of great benefit to autonomous vehicles, allowing them to ‘see’ around corners and is unaffected by adverse weather conditions.

With an estimated 23,000 traffic fatalities per week due to human error, self-driving cars seem like an excellent way to dramatically reduce accidents.

However, concerns about hacking and insurance are common.
These cars, like most modern cars rely on a lot of new tech and connections to various internet sources. This leaves the cars open to hijacking from remote hackers, able to cause accidents or deaths without leaving a trace. Though this is a worry for self-driving cars, any modern car with high-tech functioning is potentially at risk and so security measures need to be in place, whether the car is self-driving or not.

Another point is that although these vehicles will be less likely to cause an incident due to error, there will inevitably be some accidents caused. If both vehicles are in self-driving mode when the collision occurs, the question lies in who is to blame – the company or the owner of the vehicle at fault?

So, with rising interest in Autonomous Vehicles, what do you think? Are they a great invention to keep us safe? another danger due to technology? or perhaps an unsavoury addition to the 9-5 grind – why shouldn’t you work while your car drives for you?

Big News for Electric Vehicles!

For those keen on electric vehicles, but put off by the lack of charge stations, we have some good news!

After teaming up with ChargeNet, Z is installing 3 new fast chargers at their stations in Warkworth, Turangi and Taupo.  In 25 minutes, these chargers provide 120km worth of travel. ChargeNet is looking to provide New Zealanders with charge points between every 40-80kms. Reducing the range limitations that can affect EVs.

They look set to achieve this target due to a joint venture with BMW to install 100 rapid chargers across the country, to create an “electric highway”.

The Ministry of Transport is keen to see more Kiwis go green with electric vehicles, providing further funding to increase uptake of EVs, showcasing their viability for the everyday New Zealander. So far, businesses have been quick on the uptake, with electric postal vehicles, waste disposal trucks and even buses making their way onto New Zealand roads.

Last year, over 2500 new electric vehicles were registered, with over 500 registered this year, according to the Ministry of Transport.

With more EV models on the market than ever, with increased range and more charging spots around the nation, the cheaper to run and maintain vehicles may become the household staple in the not to distant future.

Those wanting to enjoy the cost-saving benefits of commuting with an Electric Vehicle, but worried about getting stranded may soon be in luck – especially if the Ministry of Transport allows EVs to use priority lanes!

Cleaner Greener Driving Machines!

Great news for tidy Kiwis! Electric vehicle use in New Zealand has risen over the last few years, particularly by companies such as Air New Zealand and Vector Energy. Over a two week period this month, until the 20th March, electric vehicles are allowed to use 5 of the priority lanes normally reserved for buses on Auckland motorways. This trial, which did not appear to be very publicly advertised has been designed to assess whether electric vehicles should be allowed to use priority lanes. Should this be accepted, electric vehicle users may find themselves zooming past the rush hour traffic and scoring the best parking spaces.

Electric vehicles are great for the consumer, with exemptions from Road User Charges until the electric vehicle fleet makes up 2% of the total, far cheaper maintenance and running costs. Though improvements to driving range need to be made, for a low-cost run around, these vehicles are  great choice.

In February this year, the first solar powered EV charge point opened in Tauranga. This neat charger is providing free power for the first year, with free parking for two hours. Great for EV using locals!

Moving away from the EV front, a new eco-friendly AC coolant will be making it’s way to New Zealand in the coming months. This new refrigerant has a ‘Global Warming Potential’ (GWP) of below 150, in accordance with a 2011 law from the EU. This is far below the current standard refrigerant with a GWP of over 1400!
This new coolant is expected to replace the standard coolant worldwide, with Honda, Subaru, Chrysler and GM as early adopters.

This is refreshing news amidst legal action taken against Audi by the Australian Competition Consumer Commission (ACCC) for allegedly using defeat devices in diesel vehicles to beat emission tests from 2011-2015. Mirroring the actions of parent company, Volkswagen and fellow subsidiary, Skoda.

Wet and Wild Weather, Drive Safe!

Lights on, wipers on full. It has not been the most summery of summers by far and it looks like more stormy weather to come. Just the other day, while driving home the torrential rain struck and I found myself asking the question – as rain pelted my windscreen so I could not see far ahead – should I pull over?

I continued on, craning my neck, heaters blasting the windscreen, wipers in a frenzy. Surface water brought everything to a slow drool with lanes indistinguishable, thankfully, everyone was careful to take it easy on the road.

We all want to get home quickly and sometimes we cannot wait for the rain to ease up as it just doesn’t. It looks like this weather is here to stay, so remember to drive safe:

  • Check your brakes and tread – Coming to a quick stop is hard in the rain, harder still if your tyres and breaks are worn!
  • Check those wiper blades – If they are leaving streaky smears or making that awful scratchy sound, it is time to replace them. Don’t put up with maddening noises and poor visibility!
  • Check your lights – Ever spot that silver car in the heavy rain without its lights on? It is pretty tricky. Give your rear and headlights a once over and make sure you are as visible as possible!
  • Keep away – Give a good amount of space between you and the car behind you. No one wants to be stuck in the rain waiting for a tow truck.

And remember your umbrella!

Tunnel Face and Other Fun Summer Stuff!

Buddha once famously said, “Happiness is a journey and not a destination”. I think it is safe to say that Buddha has never been driving with a car full of tired and restless kids!

If the usual car games have lost their value, fear not for we have some new novel games to try on your next adventure!

Tunnel Face

A favourite with the Rockstar Clan is the aptly named, ‘Tunnel Face’. Superbly simple, all you require are passengers and a tunnel or bridge. As you enter the tunnel or bridge, each passenger takes a deep breath, eyes wide with puffed out cheeks. This is the ‘tunnel face’. Whoever holds their breath for the whole tunnel (or for the longest if it is a really long tunnel!), or has the funniest tunnel face if there are multiple, wins.
A fun and engaging game that might even get you some peace and quiet, too!

Time Guessing

Another fun and simple game to get the kids involved is to guess the time you will arrive at the destination. Lock in everyone’s guesses (no changing answers!) and watch the excitement grow as you get closer and closer and see who wins!

The Number Plate Game

A great one for creativity and fun at all ages!
Pick a three letter number plate and take turns to create a sentence using the letters as the beginning of each word. Bonus points for coherence, creativity and long words!
For example, if you saw “KET832”, you could try ‘Koalas Eat Ti-tree’;  ‘Kites Excel Thoroughly,’ or maybe even ‘Kiwis Enjoy Tidying’!