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  • 2019 Toyota Hiace debuts with new engines, safety kit

    Toyota has unveiled the completely redesigned Hiace, which now enters its sixth generation, and will first go on sale in Philippines before being gradually introduced in other countries.

    According to the company, the new Hiace is built on a platform specially developed for the model, with a semi-bonnet design that allows for new engines to be fitted. The van also offers a higher level of body rigidity compared to the outgoing model, along with an improved ride, Toyota says.

    In terms of what goes under the bonnet, the Hiace is powered by either a 1GD 2.8 litre four-cylinder turbodiesel or a 3.5 litre V6 petrol engine. No output figures were provided, but they should be similar to what you’ll get with the Hilux and Land Cruiser. A six-speed manual and automatic are the available transmissions.

    Click to enlarge

    The Hiace comes in two body types – Normal/Standard Roof and Long/High Roof – both with larger dimensions than what you’ll get with the fifth-generation model. The Normal/Standard Roof variant measures 5,265 mm long (+570 mm), 1,950 mm wide (+255 mm), 1,990 mm tall (+10 mm); with a 3,210 mm wheelbase (+640 mm).

    Meanwhile, the Long/High Roof version is 5,915 mm long (+535 mm), 1,950 mm wide (+70 mm), 2,280 mm tall (-5 mm); with 3,860 mm wheelbase (+750 mm). A variety of seating layouts are available (29 in total as listed by Toyota), divided into three distinct categories – Van, Tourism and Commuter – the last of the three can carry up to 17 people.

    The new packaging, particularly the semi-bonnet, results in a more pointed front-end compared to the previous Hiace, and is more aligned to other vans like the Ford Transit and Mercedes-Benz Vito. Other highlights of the new face are a larger front bumper with grated intakes, along with more angular headlamps.

    Along the sides, you’ll spot another consequence of the new packaging, as the front doors have a larger aperture and are no longer over the front wheels, while the cabin is pushed further back.

    The rest of the body is like what you’ll find on other panel/windowed vans, with different door arrangements depending on the selected seating layout. Around back, you’ll find a larger hatch due to the vehicle’s dimensions, plus more prominent taillights.

    As for the cabin, there’s a new dashboard layout and is made to look more upmarket. The air-conditioning controls are now placed closer to the media head unit, relieving more space beside the high-position gear lever. A new steering wheel and instrument cluster are also part of the update.

    Toyota is aiming for a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating with the new Hiace, and states that the Toyota Safety Sense suite of driver assistance systems will be part of the equipment list.

  • Cupra to debut all-new concept car on February 22

    Cupra, Seat’s newly-launched sub-brand, will be presenting a brand new concept car that will preview the brand’s own vision and direction. It will also showcase the firm’s design and technological perspective as it begins to distance away from parent company Seat.

    From the sole teaser photo above, it’s hard to tell what’s in store. However, Autocar recently reported that Cupra will be debuting its own standalone car that will take the form of an SUV coupe. Based on the shape and height of its rump, as well as the subtle “X” (which usually stands for crossover) lighting effect on the floor, the ambiguous photo may in fact be teasing the SUV coupe.

    Cupra says the vehicle, which is the very first developed specifically for the brand, combines the benefits of a performance car and an SUV. It even “melds a stunning look with a dynamic driving experience,” the automaker claims.

    Cupra CEO Wayne Griffiths said “this concept car is a synthesis of what Cupra stands for, a special and unique car with a striking and sculptural design, which expresses its performance and shows the energy that we have in Cupra to develop the next-generation of vehicles.”

    The Cupra concept car will be making its digital debut on February 22, before hitting the sacred floors of the Geneva Motor Show in March. Anyone looking forward to this?

  • Land Rover Discovery SVX also cancelled – report

    Another one bites the dust. The Land Rover Discovery SVX is no more, shortly after Land Rover confirmed that the Range Rover SV Coupe will also not make it to production, according to an Autocar report. The decision to terminate the Discovery SVX was separate from that of the Range Rover SV Coupe, it added.

    First seen at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Discovery SVX was originally planned for production by the end of 2018. Boasting the 5.0 litre supercharged V8 seen elsewhere in the Jaguar Land Rover portfolio, the unit in the beefed-up Discovery was rated at 525 PS and 625 Nm of torque, while the eight-speed automatic was strengthened and paired to a two-speed transfer case.

    A spokesperson told the magazine that the company will continue with the SVX badge, albeit on models unspecified. Previously, the company’s Special Vehicles Operations (SVO) division built another unique version of the SUV, the Red Cross Discovery, an emergency response vehicle culminating from an 18-month collaboration that was previewed by Project Hero which was showcased in 2017.

    Alongside future SVX models, Jaguar Land Rover will continue to develop models for the upmarket segment out of its SVO division, the company has previously said. On the Jaguar side, the F-Pace has also been given the SVO treatment, emerging as the 550 PS/680 Nm F-Pace SVR which does the century sprint in 4.3 seconds and top speed of 283 km/h.

    It’s been a month of bad news for JLR, after it revealed that it suffered its worst ever quarterly loss, amounting to a massive £3.4 billion (RM17.9 billion), in the fourth quarter of last year. Recently, it was reported that the group requires US$1 billion (RM4.07 billion) within 14 months to replace maturing bonds and channel money into electric vehicles – and as if it could not get any worse, it’s also been urged to improve its quality control after a spate of issues led to a drop in sales in China.

    GALLERY: Land Rover Discovery SVX

  • JLR told to raise product quality to win back clientele

    Jaguar Land Rover is putting the bulk of the blame on its worst quarterly loss on “challenging market conditions in China,” of which includes a rare decline in industrywide sales and the trade dispute between China and the United States.

    However, Automotive News Europe reports that those challenges are only part of the problem the automaker is facing. Instead, what has rattled JLR’s business in China is largely due to its cars’ reliability and dependability.

    On the whole, sales for brand new cars in China fell last year for the first time in the past 28 years. Despite the slump, the luxury car market continued to grow, with sales rising 8% to hit 2.8 million cars. Germany’s big three – Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz – as well as Cadillac, Lexus and Volvo all posted impressive sales growth in China last year.

    Meanwhile, sales for JLR slid 22%, down to 115,000 in China in 2018. The reason for this, the news portal says, is lax control on product quality. Weak product quality has long been a problem with JLR, the report states, adding that the problem has been around since the time when JLR was still in the hands of Ford. Tata Motors acquired the brand in 2008, but the problem remains.

    In 2014, JLR started production at a joint venture with Chery Automobile in the east China city of Changshu. From 2015 to 2017, five locally assembled products – the Evoque and Discovery, and the Jaguar XFL, XEL and E-Pace – were launched.

    Local production allowed JLR to modify vehicle interiors and exteriors to suit local tastes, and it also let buyers avoid paying the 25% tariff that Chinese customs levied on imported cars back then. As a result, JLR’s China sales surged to 146,399 in 2017, up from 92,474 in 2015.

    Yet, because product quality was never effectively addressed, the number of defects reported by owners increased in tandem. In China and the US, both brands (Jaguar and Land Rover) routinely rank well below the industry average for new and three-year-old vehicle quality and dependability, based on owner surveys conducted by J.D. Power and Associates.

    In 2017 alone, JLR carried out 13 recall exercises in China for defects with components ranging from engines, instrument panels and airbags to batteries. The recalls involved over 106,000 vehicles, which was equivalent to more than 70% of its local sales during the year.

    Since August last year, Jaguar and Land Rover owners have regularly protested in front of JLR’s China headquarters in Shanghai to bring attention to widespread quality problems they allege with their cars and SUVs.

    Local dealers, burdened with a 60-day or larger supply of unsold new vehicles, have offered steep discounts to ease inventory pressure. In fact, some dealers started selling imported Jaguar models at discounts of up to 30%. The move spurred the creation of a catchphrase – “Jaguar at 70% price.”

    The quality problems that now plague both brands have further dented their respective brand image, thus making them even less attractive to local customers. In June, JLR’s joint venture with Chery completed an expansion that raised annual production capacity from 130,000 to 200,000 vehicles. Over the next month, JLR’s China sales began a steady decline, forcing the joint venture to idle output.

    There are other challenges JLR needs to address as well. First, it must integrate sales and distribution of locally built products and imported models. It also needs to roll out more electrified vehicles to meet local regulatory requirements.

    JLR’s dealer network in China is also a work in progress. Currently, only 18% of its outlets are in tier-one cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, and more than one-third have been open for three years or less.

    The company says it’s also streamlining commercial policies to help compensate for retailers’ losses, and plans to launch extensive on-site training programmes to improve customer experience as well as operations.

    But the most pressing issue it has to tend to is product quality. After posting a quarterly loss of close to RM18 billion, JLR needs to raise US$1 billion (RM4.07 billion) within 14 months to service debt. Capital and debt reduction is indeed important for a cash-strapped company. But unless JLR can move fast to fix nagging product glitches, there is no guarantee the money will be well spent.

  • 2020 Hyundai Sonata to get bold styling, coupe look

    As more and more buyers continue to desert the humble sedan in favour of the crossover, carmakers have been left with a difficult choice to make – to ditch the three-box body style, or to soldier on and make it more attractive to customers. Ford and General Motors have gone ahead with the former, but with sales accounting for almost a sixth of the Hyundai’s total haul, the Sonata remains an integral part of the portfolio.

    The eighth-generation model will be unveiled at the New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) in April as one of 13 new vehicles coming to the Hyundai, Kia and Genesis brands this year, and it will sport a more progressive design that will aim to match the impact of the stunning sixth-gen Sonata.

    That’s according to head of the Hyundai Global Design Center SangYup Lee, in an interview with Motor Trend. “The new Sonata is quite challenging for us obviously just because we all know that market is shrinking and taken over by SUVs,” he said.

    The new Hyundai Sonata will hark back to the sixth generation’s pioneering four-door coupé look

    Lee was formerly a designer at General Motors and Bentley, most famous for designing the reborn Chevrolet Camaro that ended up becoming Bumblebee in the first Transformers movie. In fact, it was while designing the Camaro and the Corvette that he first saw the swooping Fluidic Sculpture design of the sixth-gen YF.

    “I was looking at it, and I was like, ‘Wow. That is something else. And it’s going to be a hit with this market,'” he said. “As soon as I saw it, I sensed it, and second thing is, ‘why didn’t I think of that?'”

    That’s the kind of impact that Hyundai is looking to top with the new Sonata, and to do that it will borrow styling cues from the Le Fil Rouge concept that debuted in Geneva last year. It will return to the YF’s four-door coupé look, which its more conservative successor, the LF, seemed to shy away from. “It’s almost like a four-door coupé style without compromising the usability inside,” Lee said.

    Hyundai wants to repeat the stylistic impact of the YF Sonata

    Despite being tipped to incorporate a few of Hyundai’s current design cues, such as the Cascading Grille, Lee said that the new Sonata’s front fascia will not be recognisably a Hyundai – the South Korean designer wants people to like it before taking a second look and identifying the brand.

    It appears the company is moving away from a one-size-fits-all corporate identity, instead giving each car a different character while maintaining a single unifying theme. The analogy given is this – rather than having a “Russian doll” look that some German carmakers can be accused of having, the goal is to have cars that act as chess pieces, each looking and behaving different but serving a clear role when put together.

    In other news, Lee confirmed that the Genesis GV80 SUV will arrive this year, and that the luxury offshoot is still working on the production version of the gorgeous Essentia sports car concept, which he said will be even better than the show car.

    GALLERY: 2020 Hyundai Sonata spyshots

    GALLERY: Hyundai Le Fil Rouge concept

  • Mercedes-Benz to expand plug-in hybrid offerings

    Mercedes-Benz will roll out a number of plug-in hybrid models this year, according to a report by Autocar UK. The move is part of the company’s multi-billion euro strategy to electrify its entire range by 2022, and will see a total of about 10 PHEV models get introduced in 2019.

    Currently, the company offers plug-in hybrid versions of the C-Class, E-Class and S-Class, with the latter set to be completely redesigned by 2020. Before that, the GLC and GLE SUVs are set to receive the powertrain, followed by the A-Class to take on the Audi A3 e-tron.

    The powertrain for the compact car range is said to use a 1.3 litre four-cylinder petrol engine paired with a 90 hp electric motor, which will also make its way into the latest B-Class and forthcoming GLB.

    Offering plug-in hybrid variants is just one way Mercedes-Benz plans to meet demanding CO2 regulations, with other technologies being its EQ Boost 48-volt mild hybrid and its EQ range of all-electric vehicles.

    Claus Ehlers, the company’s powertrain strategy boss, said plug-in hybrids were “an important step in the move towards e-mobility, because they enable the majority of customers to do many daily short drives without producing any local emissions.”

    He added that mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles were still relevant, as EV uptake among customers remained uncertain. To ensure rapid adaptability, the development of the company’s electric car architecture and powertrains allowed for EVs to be built on the same production line as cars with conventional combustion engines.

  • Ferrari V8 hybrid supercar to debut later this year

    Ferrari will be introducing a mid-engined V8 hybrid supercar this year, as revealed by CEO Louis Camilleri during an earnings call late last month, Automotive News reports.

    Camilleri said the car will not be a limited-edition model but a production model with a “regular lifecycle.” This was reiterated by a source familiar with the project, who said that the new model will be a V8 unit coupled with an electric motor. The source added that the new car will not be unveiled in Geneva next month, but will make its debut later this year at a specific event.

    Ferrari’s CTO Michael Leiters had said last year that the new offering, which will develop more power than the 488 Pista, will sit atop the automaker’s sports car range. Deliveries to customers are set to begin early next year.

    Camilleri also said that Ferrari is aiming for 60% of its product portfolio to have hybrid variants by 2022, and that a full-electric car will be launched after 2022. He added that reaction and response to the planned Purosangue SUV has been very positive.

    He said the company is projecting a positive outlook for 2019 as new launches begin their entry into the market. Among these are the “highly profitable” Monza SP1 and SP2 supercars, in which the first shipments will reach customers in the fourth quarter.

    In 2018, the automaker sold 9,251 vehicles, and Camilleri said that while the automaker “may cross” the 10,000 mark in 2019, it is set to focus on revenues and margins rather than higher volumes in the coming future. “I wouldn’t anticipate that the volume growth would continue at that sort of pace,” he explained.

  • 32,725 summons issued by JPJ during Chinese New Year – 19.52% reduction, 128,569 vehicles examined

    A total of 32,725 summons was issued by the Road Transport Department (JPJ) during Ops TBC held from 29 January to 12 February. 128,569 vehicles were examined during the operation held over the Chinese New Year holidays, said a JPJ statement.

    This represents a reduction of 19.52% in summons issued compared to the same period last year, when 40,660 summons were issued and 110,755 vehicles were checked by JPJ. “This shows an increase in road users who are obeying road rules and regulations. This operation is a continuous by the government to ensure road users have a pleasant journey during festive seasons, aside from ensuring laws are obeyed,” according to the statement.

    Meanwhile, JPJ issued 12,433 summons for infringements of the main offences – failing to obey traffic lights, overtaking on double line, using mobile phone, cutting queue, failure to wear seat belt, hogging the right-most lane and driving in the emergency lane – while 8,632 summons was issued to road users caught speeding by speed cameras.

    Amongst offences that attracted large numbers of summons were overloading with 1,472 summons, failure to stop at red light with 565, not wearing a seatbelt with 541 and overtaking on a double white line with 284. Mobile phone usage while operating a vehicle attracted 253 summons and failure to wear a motorcycle safety helmet garnered 280 summons.

    14 vehicles were seized by JPJ during Ops TBC while 39 notices were issued for failure to obey the ban on heavy vehicles on the highway during the holiday season from 2 to 4 February and 9 to 10 February. A total of 186 motorcycles were seized by authorities and 7,866 summons were issued to bikers with not having a license attracting 2,788 summons and riding with an expired license recording 1,751 summons.

  • JLR seeks US$1 billion in funding after shock losses

    Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), after revealing the figures for its worst quarterly loss in the fourth quarter of 2018, has said that it’s seeking alternative funding because conditions aren’t right for it to borrow from the bond market, reports Automotive News Europe.

    The luxury automaker needs to raise US$1 billion (RM4.07 billion) within 14 months to replace maturing bonds, and at the same time it has to funnel cash into a costly investment programme for electric cars. To support this, JLR could increase a receivables facility or turn to other bank financing, with other options including leasing assets and tapping export credit, treasurer Ben Birgbauer told the publication.

    JLR’s owner Tata Motors shocked investors when it recently revealed the extent of the problems its UK arm is having in China. Sales of Jaguar sports cars and Land Rover SUVs dropped 35% in the world’s biggest auto market in the nine months to December 31, 2018, sending the unit to a US$354 million (RM1.442 billion) loss and knocking as much as 30% off Tata stock.

    “Market conditions presently are less favourable in general and our bonds are trading below par, reflecting our recent financial performance,” Birgbauer said. “We have always said we monitor the debt market and look to issue debt when market conditions are more favourable.”

    JLR recently posted RM17.9 billion in quarterly loss after it took a big write-down in the value of its cars and plants. The move was also part of a steep decline in demand for the automaker’s newest models, and it will also be slashing 4,500 jobs (10% of its workforce) as it responds to slowing sales. That’s on top of the 1,500 people who left the company in 2018. The measures will trigger a one-off charge of US$258 million (over RM1 billion) in the current quarter.

    Several other factors contribute to its current predicament: a report by the UK business states that one major problem JLR faces in China is an ineffective dealer network. Only 18% of its outlets are in tier-one cities like Shanghai and Beijing, and more than one-third have been open for three years or less. The company now plans to overhaul the operation, cutting back on deliveries to reduce stock and investing in measures to boost its brand, logo and slogans.

    In a conference call with its investors, JLR executives said it’s not possible to predict when China volumes will begin to recover, citing international trade tensions and how much stimulus the state chooses to provide as determining factors. JLR says it can still grow global sales in fiscal 2020 with the help of other markets and the launch of the new Range Rover Evoque.

    Another factor concerning JLR’s weakening performance centred on the impact of Brexit, as well as government clampdown on diesel-powered vehicles in the UK, which is directly affecting sales of oil burner cars across brands in the market.

  • SPYSHOTS: W223 Mercedes-Benz S-Class spotted testing again – interior reveals large touchscreen

    Our spy photographers have provided us with more photos of the upcoming W223 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which includes an early look at its revamped cabin. There’re also a few shots of the sedan’s exterior too, revealing a little bit more than what we saw in previous spyshots.

    Focusing on the main topic at hand, the new S-Class appears to have ditched the W222’s Widescreen Cockpit, with the digital instrument cluster and main infotainment display now independent from one another. The former has a rather familiar look and should come with a myriad of customisation options like different screens and displayed information.

    However, the latter is completely new as it is a tablet-style touchscreen that takes up quite a bit of real estate. The apparent goal here is possibly to minimise button clutter, as a few of the car’s controls – Dynamic Select, parking assistance system, HVAC and media – are now parked at the base of the large screen. The Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) user interface will likely be deployed here as well.

    Elsewhere, we see a steering wheel design that is similar to the current W222, although the Touch Control looks to be different. The steering column-mounted gear selector is retained here, and the stalk has been made to appear more upmarket than before.

    From the outside, the reduced amount of camouflage allows us to spot the S-Class’ production lights, including what appears to be tri-band Multibeam LED units at the front, and taillights that are wider. Meanwhile, the front fascia is as we’ve seen on previous mules, with strong influences from the latest CLS and A-Class.

    The new S-Class will be built at the company’s Factory 56 facility, and should come with a range of six- and eight-cylinder engines. Hybrid variants should be included in the mix too, along with an all-electric version reportedly called the EQS. Reports indicate the standard S-Class models will ride on the MRA platform, while the EV gets the Modular Electric Architecture (MEA) instead.


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Last Updated 09 Feb 2019


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