Friday, November 27, 2020


As children we have all heard the fable of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Now, for adults, there is the Emperor’s new dual-cab ute.


The story is so popular that the best of the breed, the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux, routinely top the monthly showroom sales totals in Australia. Yet the ute is as useful for most jobs, beyond lightweight utility work, as the Emperor’s glad rags.


A dual-cab ute is not a genuine 4WD off-roader.

 A dual-cab ute is not a family car.


A dual-cab is not a full-service pick-up truck.


And a dual-cab ute is definitely not the best choice to go towing into the Outback.

Yet tens and tens of thousands of 21st century Aussies have convinced themselves that it’s perfect as one, or two, or all of those things.


After sampling two of the latest HiLux models, the basic-base Workmate cab-chassis and a mid-level SR extra-cab, I’m convinced people have fallen into an awful trap with these things.


And I write this as the owner of an honest, hard-working 2002 HiLux. Mine sits low on road tyres, it has two seats, only the rear wheels are driven, but the tray on the back is long enough for a motorcycle, and house renovations, and any number of trips to the garbage dump.


The latest HiLux has just had a mid-life tickle with some locally-developed styling changes and engineering upgrades to make the ute less, well, ute-like. That means snappier steering, more power and a sharper six-speed automatic shift, as well as suspension that rides more gently without a load. And yet.


The Workmate is what it says on the label. It is for work. The ride is awful, the driving position is ordinary and, by modern standards, the equipment is very basic. It doesn’t even have a reversing camera. Yet it still costs $39,520.


If you want the HiLux SR then it’s a $46,250 spend.

The SLR boasts a lot more equipment, and it rides less badly than the Workmate, but I wouldn’t want to be driving from Sydney to Melbourne in one. And the ‘extra cab’ space only has thin pads - like the cushions on your kitchen stools - to sit on.


If this is reading like I’m against utes, I’m not. They are a unique Australian invention, tracking back to Ford in the 1920s, the 1950s Holden FJ and 1960s Ford Falcon utes, which were ripper things that did double-duty work, with the comfort of a regular passenger car and a practical back.

But the explosion in 'ute world' means you can now spend more than $70,000 if you want to convince yourself you could win the Dakar Rally or conquer the Big Red sand dune on the outskirts of Birdsville, or just to impress your mates who have snorkels and winches and bull-bars and giant LED light bars on their utes.

It’s easy to spend more than $20,000 on dress-up gear, or the suspension upgrades and big wheels and tyres that are needed for serious off-road work. But, I guess that's no different from the people who spend big to make their Subaru WRX or Toyota 86 faster and more enjoyable.


Ford Ranger (top), Isuzu D-Max, VW Amarok
So, it’s easy to understand why people want a dual-cab ute. They are escape machines, in dreams if not reality.


The best of the utes, and the HiLux is in the front rank with the Ford Ranger and the latest Isuzu D-Max, and the Volkswagen Amarok - which is the most car-like for me - are not completely horrible. They are even getting the same sort of active-safety systems fitted to passenger cars, and the performance - and tow-ability - is pretty good.


But even Toyota describes the HiLux as a commercial vehicle, and people should see it that way when they go shopping for their next new car.

Paul Gover


Better known as ‘Frenchy’, the boy from tiny Millaa Millaa (west of Innisfail, in Queensland), John French had an illustrious motor racing record for over 20 years starting in the early 60s. In 1962 he won the Australian GT Championship in the Centaur-Waggott – a Holden-engined special, with a Waggott-designed twin-cam cylinder head!

But, that was just the start of his career.


In the early years he was famous behind the wheel of a Mini Cooper S, racing on tracks all over Australia, but also in 1966 when Mini Coopers swept the field, and dominated the Bathurst 1000.


John French has just turned 90, and is as sharp as you would expect for an ‘old racer’ – and many of his close friends in Queensland (we’re under Covid Lockdown remember) got together for a very happy celebration of his birthday at the brand-new Gold Coast Motor Museum, just west of Coomera, on the Gold Coast.

John French was an unusual race driver. He was tenacious, patient, consistently fast, and determined – but at no time was he boring, aggressive, domineering, nor a pain in the backside. Everyone loved his company, his racing personality, and his thorough gentlemanly behaviour towards his competitors.


Off the track he was jovial, convivial and helpful to anyone who needed a favour.


The birthday event was a coming together for not only his ‘old mates’, like former teammates Dick Johnson and Kevin Bartlett, but also younger personalities including one the sport’s most popular couples and accomplished ambassadors for motor sport, Craig and Lara Lowndes.

As much as the tour of the new Gold Coast Motor Museum was interesting, the birthday party was a chance for genial fraternity renewing old friendships among a social group, for which John French is actually a beacon. Championship racing drivers are a special breed, a unique combination of talent and intelligence, and John French stands tall in this pantheon of famous Australian racing drivers.


John French has two great victories on his bio – he partnered with Allan Moffat to win the Sandown 500 in 1969 in a Falcon GTHO.

But, his biggest success was partnering with Dick Johnson in a Falcon at Bathurst in 1981.

The race was marred, and stopped, after a horrific pileup on top of Mount Panorama, and at that point Johnson and French were declared the winners as they were leading at the time.

The race-winning car (bottom), now owned by enthusiast collector, David Bowden, was on loan for the birthday party.

I first met John French at the Surfers Paradise International Raceway in April 1966, and throughout his racing career met him many times at circuits throughout Australia. He always greets everyone he meets as an old friend, and you were rewarded with genuine warmth and friendship.

John French is a man to admire, and I certainly do, for his achievements and his geniality. Happy 90th Frenchy.

I must also say that the Gold Coast Motor Museum, brand new, just opened last month, at 107 Kriedeman Road, Upper Coomera is definately worth a look.

It's a treasure trove of automotive memories and a really varied collection of stuff on wheels.
Even a few oddities you may not expect to see in the Gold Coast Hinterland, like this snazzy little BMW Isetta. That's one of my best mates standing next to it. It's Bill Gates, fellow former DJ, and a very decent driver on the race track. He's in this shot to emphasise that even his six foot-plus frame will fit in this tiny city car.

John Crawford

Tuesday, November 24, 2020


Yes, that was a Lambo legally flashing down the autostrada at 235 km/h! If you were travelling north on the E35 earlier this month, the pale blue Lamborghini Huracan filled your rear vision mirror, and then disappeared from view seconds later.

The reason the speed was 'street-legal' was because the Huracan is one of five Lamborghinis used by the Italian Strada Polizia for regular traffic duty, but in this case it was delivering a donor kidney from Roma to Padua, via Firenze and Bologna.

The officers made the 490km journey in just over two hours, with the kidney residing in a special refrigerated compartment in the 'frunk', handing it over to specialists at the Gemelli University Hospital. Just for the record, travelling at the maximum speed limits, that's usually a five and a half hour trip.

It could ONLY happen in Italy!

John Crawford

Saturday, November 21, 2020


November 21, 2020 (Published by THE WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN)

The electric car industry is elated by the prospect of an incoming Biden administration, because it promises to extend and increase electric car subsidies to ‘fix’ climate change. 

Similarly, leaders of wealthy countries promise lavish carrots along with sticks to outlaw petrol cars. This week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. Unfortunately, electric cars will achieve only tiny emissions savings at a very high price.

Electric cars are certainly fun, but almost everywhere cost more across their lifetime (cradle-to-the-grave) than their petrol counterparts. That is why large subsidies are needed. And consumers are still anxious because of the short range and long recharging times. 

Despite the US handing out up to USD$10,000 (AUD$13,700) for each electric car, less than 0.5 per cent of its cars are battery electric. And almost all the support goes to the rich. Ninety per cent of electric car owners also have a fossil fuel driven car that they drive farther. Indeed, electric vehicles are mostly a second car used for shorter trips and virtue signalling. 

If you subsidise the electric car enough, people will buy it. Almost 10 per cent of all Norwayʼs passenger cars are electric because of incredibly generous policies that waive most costs, from taxes to tolls, parking and congestion. 

Across its lifetime, a USD$30,000 car might receive benefits worth more than USD$26,000. But this approach is unsustainable for most nations. Even super-rich Norway is starting to worry, losing more than $1bn every year from exempt drivers. 

Technological innovation will eventually make electric cars economical even without subsidies, but concerns over range anxiety, and slow recharging times will remain. That is why most scientific prognoses show that electric cars will increase in sales, but not take over the world. A new study shows that by 2030, just 13 per cent of new cars will be battery electric. 

When governments suggest prohibiting fossil fuel cars by then, they essentially are forbidding 87% of consumers from buying the cars they want. It is difficult to imagine that could be politically viable. 

The International Energy Agency estimates that by 2030, if all countries live up to their promises, the world will have 140 million electric cars on the road, about 7 per cent of the global vehicle fleet. Yet this would not make a significant impact on emissions for two reasons. 

First, electric cars require large batteries, often produced in China using coal power. Just producing the battery for an electric car can emit almost as much as a quarter of the greenhouse gases emitted from a petrol car across its entire lifetime. 

Second, the electric car is recharged on electricity that almost everywhere is significantly fossil-fuel-based.

Together, this means that a long-range electric car will emit more CO2 for its first 60,000km. This is why having a second electric car for short trips could mean higher overall emissions. 

Comparing the electric and petrol car, the IEA estimates the electric car will save six tonnes of CO2 across its lifetime, assuming global average electricity emissions. Even if the electric car has short range and its battery is made in Europe mostly using renewable energy, its savings will be at most 10 tonnes. 

Indeed, if the whole world follows through and gets to 140 million electric cars by 2030, the IEA estimates it will reduce emissions by just 190 million tonnes of CO2 — a mere 0.4% of global emissions. In the words of IEA executive director Fatih Birol: “If you think you can save the climate with electric cars, youʼre completely wrong.” 

We need a reality check. First, politicians should stop writing huge cheques just because they believe electric cars are a major climate solution. 

Uh-Oh, where's the charger?
Second, there is a much better and simpler solution. The hybrid car, such as the Toyota Prius, saves about the same amount of CO2 as an electric car across its lifetime. Moreover, it is competitive to today’s petrol-driven cars already, even without subsidies. And crucially, it has none of the electric car downsides, needing no new infrastructure, no range anxiety and quick refill. 

Third, climate change doesnʼt care about where CO2 comes from. Personal cars are only about 7 per cent of global emissions and electric cars will help only a little. Instead, we should focus on the big emitters of heating and electricity production. If we could drive research and development of green energy in these areas to become cheaper than fossil fuels, this would be a game changer. 

Right now electric car subsidies are something wealthy countries can afford to give rich elites to show virtue. But if we want to fix climate, we need to focus on the big emitters and drive innovation to create better low-CO2 energy from fusion, fission, geothermal, wind, solar and many other possible ways forward. 

Innovations that will make just one of them cheaper than fossil fuels means not just well-meaning rich people changing a bit, but everyone, including China, India and nations in Africa and Latin America, switching large parts of their energy consumption towards zero emissions.

John Crawford Postrscript: Whilst Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs), which only emit water vapour, may appear to be the ‘silver bullet’, the manufacturing of hydrogen gas (to fuel FCEVs) demands HUGE amounts of electricity, so touting FCEVs as the answer could only be the case if the electricity required to produce hydrogen gas is made totally by renewable energy sources.

Bjorn Lomborg (right) is president of the Copenhagen Consensus and visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His new book is False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020


The day is getting closer when battery-electric motoring will be a realistic deal in Australia and, surprisingly, MG is leading the way.

Its MG ZS EV has dropped the entry point to AUD$43,990 drive-away, and is promising to drop it below AUD$40,000 inside two-years with a Corolla-sized city hatchback.

For now, the ZS is a compact five-seater crossover, with plug-in battery power and a promised range that can stretch beyond 370 kilometres with city-suburban running to boost the battery through regenerative braking.

On the electric front, the MG comfortably undercuts the Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Ioniq on price, although it’s not as flashy. It looks just like the petrol-powered ZS, although not the latest face-lifted model, and comes with a single trim level, including everything from 17-inch alloys to a huge panoramic glass sunroof, plus an 8-inch infotainment screen, satnav, and full smartphone integration.


There is also an EV-only colour, called ‘Clipper Blue’.

“We’re looking to create a movement. We will fast-track EV adoption,” says MG Australia’s director of marketing and product development, Danny Lenartic.

“It is a dynamic urban SUV. It fits into the life of everyday Australians. It’s our first, but definitely not our last.”


The package for the ZS EV includes the standard five-year unlimited-kilometre MG warranty, with five years of roadside assist, and 12-month service intervals, but eight years and 160,000-kilometre coverage for the battery.


Slightly unusually, MG Australia has not chosen an energy partner for its electrification and is not planning any sort of packaging of a home (wall-mounted) charger, a significant contrast to most other companies on the electrification road.


The electrification of the ZS takes a predictable course, with a giant rectangular battery pack laid over the floor of the chassis and the operational parts of the package at opposite ends and taking advantage of the traditional engine bay.

The plug-in port, which is the standard European CCS2 design, is located behind a fold-up panel in the grille and not in the rear guards like many of the latest plug-in hybrids.

The changeover to electric concentrates weight very low in the chassis, a bonus for safety, and the battery itself is mounted in a steel safety cage. It is also made by SAIC in China, one of only three carmakers that is currently producing its own batteries.


MG Australia says it expects the EV to achieve the same 5-star NCAP safety rating it gets in Europe, thanks to the battery cage, but it has loaded the full MG Pilot package into the car. It runs to lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and speed assist.


The ZS EV is plug-and-play without many of the ‘bells and whistles’ of other electrified cars, such as a display panel so the driver - and passengers - can watch in real-time what is happening in the system. It’s a minimalist approach that means there is a single rotary controller in the centre console, identical to the selector for a regular automatic, and a couple of switches that set the (3) drive modes, (3) levels of regenerative braking, and the instant display of the battery condition.


The dials incorporate a distance-to-flat number, although it’s very small, and instead of a tachometer there is - a bit like a Rolls-Royce - a readout for the percentage of power being used.


Some brands re-purpose their flappy gearshift paddles for regen control, but there are none in the MG.


The headline numbers for the ZS are good, with a claimed 0-100km/h time of 8.2 seconds and a range of 263 kilometres (According to Europe’s WLTP test cycle), with MG Australia claiming more than 370km in stop-start city running, where the regen makes a significant contribution to an extension of the range.


The electric motor is good for 105 kiloWatts and 353 Newton-metres and the battery has 44.5 kiloWatt-hours, all with SAIC proprietary technology. It only adds 50 kilograms to the weight of the internal-combustion ZS. 


The sparky starts from stoplights are typical for an electric car, and so too is the quietness in the EV compared with the piston-powered ZS. What comes as a surprise, and a big one, is the extra compliance in the ride and the enjoyable cornering performance. The EV is much happier to turn in, and gives better feedback than the regular ZS, probably partly because of the low-set battery location. But there is more to it than that, as Chinese engineers have done more tweaking on the EV than the other ZS models.


It’s easy to spend time with the MG without thinking about the electric update, unless - like me - you enjoy the new driving challenge of maximising the battery range and using the regen system instead of the conventional brakes. My big question mark is the standard glass sunroof, which made the car too hot for me, and means the car will need lots of power-draining aircon use.

There are no real compromises from the internal-combustion ZS, not even in boot space, and I was truly surprised to find Peugeot-style suspension on the same roads where I drove the latest 2008 SUV last week. The cornering grip is also impressive and, with the regen on max, it’s easy to flow along and enjoy proper driving roads.


The bottom line, of course, is the price and MG has done a great job of re-setting the bar and opening a discussion with a lot more potential converts.

Paul Gover

Tuesday, November 17, 2020


My recent exposure to photos of BMW's new EV has pushed me to my limits of acceptance of radical styling. In no particular order, here are three new SUV concepts from internationally-acclaimed designers Ian Callum, Marek Reichman and Andrew Smith. A Scotsman, a Brit, and an Aussie - proving good design knows no boundaries.

It's the Jaguar i-Pace; Aston Martin DBX; Cadillac Lyriq. All exemplify sophisticated surfacing, style lines, and beautifully-proportioned shapes.

And then, there's this - the BMW iX, without doubt one of the ugliest cars to emanate from the four-cylinder building in München, and for one of the few times in my life - words fail me.

John Crawford

Sunday, November 15, 2020

BMW iX - DESIGN TOUR-DE-FAULT by John Crawford

Earlier in the month I poked fun at the ghastly design by the Tucker Car Company back in 1946, with its 'Torpedo'.

Now it's BMW's turn under the spotlight. Can there be an uglier EV out there right now? I think not.

John Crawford

Saturday, November 14, 2020


As if the demise of locally-manufactured Holdens isn’t enough to give Australian Holden loyalists the irrits, then the saga of the Holden Cruze is a story bordering on tragedy, albeit with some bright spots along the way.

The tale involves currency exchange issues; dithering management of marketing; polarising styling, and GM’s poor global product management.

Let me say right here that it’s my opinion that the Cruze was the right car for its time; it was an excellent combination of space, comfort and quality; it was well-made (once local assembly began in 2011), but it was tragically mis-managed, and poorly marketed. Most of the downsides for the Cruze were caused by fumbles from GM USA.


Between 1997 and 2005, if you didn’t want a full-size car like Commodore, Holden’s D-segment compact offering was the Holden (nee Vauxhall) Vectra. On paper the Vectra looked the goods, but it was launched into a diminishing market segment; and on the road it was stodgy, and the styling was ‘blah’ (aka ‘bland’).


In 2007 GM’s HQ in Detroit came up with the idea for a new compact car for Chevrolet (badged as the Cruze), and David Lyon (below), who was Executive Director of Design for Asia-Pacific (based at GM Korea), was assigned the project to design and package the new car.

As Holden was in need of a compact car positioned below Commodore, GM decided Australia would also take the Korean-built Chevy Cruze.


The car was launched in Australia in 2009 to mixed reviews. Even the Australian design team at Holden admitted they were under-whelmed by the styling. Most reviews were impressed by the size, handling and interior packaging, but just about every review said it was gutless.

The Opel-sourced 1.8L 4cylinder offered no drag-race potential, because the petrol version’s 6T40 automatic had been calibrated to achieve better fuel consumption for the Korean market, at the expense of the performance demanded by Australian buyers.


Around this time Toyota’s (E120) Corolla hatch was fast becoming Australia’s default family car. Launched in 2004 it quickly developed sales momentum on the basis of compact size, hatchback flexibility, performance and fuel economy. It’s interesting that the E120 Corolla, was also designed by an American, John McLeod, in Toyota’s Californian studio.


But, here we need a short history revision to trace the path of Holden’s involvement in the C-segment market.


In 1984, the Australian federal government’s Button Car Plan (which forced manufacturers to ‘share’ models) resulted in Holden introducing a new nameplate, the Astra. The first generation (until 1995) was based on the Nissan Pulsar, then a re-badged Toyota Corolla, the Holden Nova, was sold between 1989 and 1996.


(Holden Astras-TR/TS/AH)
After the Button Car Plan imploded, Holden turned to sourcing the Opel Astra (TR & TS) from Germany from 1998, which for a short time almost became Australia’s top-selling small car – however, its potential dominance was limited by a high ex-factory pricetag, and its competitors’ better dynamics.

It lasted until 2004, when it was replaced by the (AH) Opel, sold until 2009.

By 2005 Corolla was again dominating the Australian family car segment, so the Cruze introduction couldn’t happen soon enough for Holden.


As a comparator, by 2006 Holden Astra (AH) sales were 19,681, compared to Corolla at 46,256. In 2007 Toyota introduced a major upgrade, including a brand-new platform, and Corolla sales took off again.


But, back to the Cruze. In its launch year (2009) Holden managed to sell almost 13,000 cars, and in 2010 sales more than doubled, to 28,334. There was definitely a ‘buzz’ among Holden buyers, and fast-growing demand for the compact Cruze.


In product terms there were big changes in design and equipment, to make the model more competitive – and for a while it looked like Holden really understood Cruze’s potential. Cruze’s biggest sales year was 2011 – 33,784 cars.


The Holden design team wanted to make some styling changes, to the nose of the car. Design was led by Richard Ferlazzo (left), and the aim was to change what the Aussie designers thought of as a rather plain approach to the integration of the grille, lamps and surrounding body panels.

Ferlazzo felt the original design had ‘presence’ thanks to proportion, stance and wide wheel arches, but the grille and surrounds did not match what he thought was the potential to make a bolder, more sophisticated design statement.

The Holden team created a design which had the headlamps ‘flush’ with the bodywork, because the then Chairman, Mark Reuss, wanted a unique look for the Australian Cruze – compared to its Chevy counterparts.

Here are the key changes developed by Richard Ferlazzo and his team to differentiate the Aussie-built Cruze.

Ferlazzo’s team also styled specific bumper treatments for the Sri and Sri-V Sport variants. In addition, the Holden design team was assigned the task of developing the five-door Cruze hatch for all global markets.

Despite selling almost 34,000 Cruze in 2011, the model began a slow decline in sales, and the reasons for that are obvious to anyone with a close knowledge of the internal financial tensions within GM USA.

Cruze had been riding high, but Holden was beginning to see deterioration in Commodore sales, and as its main revenue earner Holden's focus switched almost completely to funding new Commodore models, with added equipment, new design and more marketing budget, to move cars on which sales had begun a decline which led to its eventual death. 


In the USA, after GM’s Bankruptcy, brought on by the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), the restructuring of the Corporation ushered in wholesale change to how projects were funded and developed.


GM bean counters, and more importantly, new Directors who came from ‘outside’ the auto industry began reprofiling how funding decisions were made.


Post-bankruptcy internal budgets were controlled very tightly for every aspect of the business (product development, marketing etc) and were allocated as a fixed proportion of projected corporate annual revenue.

Unlike before bankruptcy, no incremental increases in budget were granted even if a positive business case was created


This meant that functional and program teams had to prioritise their spending to only those activities that added the most value to the bottom line, rather than simply any value to the bottom line.


Truly global architectures and powertrain families would obviously rise to the top rather than unique local market variants - we've seen that thinking continue with decisions over the last 5 years to axe passenger car lines to free up capital for higher margin SUVs and Trucks (both Ford and GM), also the axing of most global manufacturing and assembly operations in Africa, India, Australia and Asia, to focus on the Americas and China.


Before the GFC, GM’s profit margins were half the industry benchmark, forcing the ‘new’ Board to take tough decisions to ensure margins grew. This set GM on a new and different path with, as stated, everything (production/labour/marketing) becoming a fixed percentage of revenue. This tough stance impacted a number of models, many (especially passenger cars) simply disappearing.


Needless to say, under this new dictum, as far as Cruze was concerned, Holden completely switched its full attention to ‘saving’ Commodore. Marketing budgets for Cruze evaporated and the car which had the potential to ‘bolster’ both Holden’s status and revenue was left to founder, with Cruze sales in 2014 falling to just 18,554.


Production ended in 2016, and the final JH Series II Cruze was replaced temporarily by Cruze sourced from Korea (below). On that model the front headlamp and surrounding sheet metal reverted to the original profiles.

Cruze was finally replaced by the German-sourced Opel Astra hatch, and the Korean-sourced Astra sedan, which nonetheless boasted a unique Australian-designed front fascia.

Holden Cruze was a good car, bordering on a ‘great’ car, and its later performance improvements thanks to the introduction of the 1.4 turbo engine, and lighter 6T30 automatic transmission, ensured it was possible to retain a competitive place in the Australian market - but not after the marketing money tap was turned off. Farewell to the Cruze.

However, rather than leave you with the impression that the J300 Cruze was a 'dud' - by April 2016 Cruze had cumulative worldwide sales of 14 million units - a significant commercial success.


John Crawford



This was the first 'teaser' shot of the forthcoming Seltos compact SUV - now of course we all know the production car will not look anything like the designer's charcoal sketches, right?

In this case, I think the finished product looks pretty neat, and I think lots and lots of people will want a car like the Kia Seltos in 2020.

It’s a compact, affordable, classy little SUV that can do most jobs for most people.

The Seltos was one of the hits of 2019 and helped Kia to grow its sales in Australia when the whole business, including its bigger South Korean brother Hyundai, was going backwards.

Hyundai got going first with its compact SUV, the Kona, but Kia has moved things up a gear by using the same mechanical package while increasing the available space to set the standard in the class.

The Seltos is longer overall with a longer wheelbase than the Kona, which means plenty of luggage space and a cabin that can genuinely cope with a family of five.

Lined up against something like the Mazda CX-3 it’s a no-brainer. The Seltos scores, big time. Pricing starts at $24,990 but it’s always worth spending the $1000 extra for the optional safety pack, and the top-end pricing goes up to $40,400 with a turbocharged engine, premium seats and all-wheel drive.

Perhaps few people will really need more than the basic 2-litre engine and front-wheel drive, although there are four equipment grades from S up to GT-Line. That’s why Kia Australia is predicting up to 80 per cent of deliveries will be with the most affordable model.

The Seltos has distinctive looks, with a typically-bold SUV frontal treatment, and inside it matches the class standards and shows – again – that Kia knows how to build good cars. There is plenty of storage space, including bottle holders, as well as USB ports.

The only major shortcoming is the infotainment screen in the base model, which is small and only black-and-white. Moving up the Seltos grades brings a 10.25-inch tablet display in full colour with standard satnav. In every case there is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Interior space and boot capacity, always the bugbear in the compact class, is surprisingly good. It’s a car that will work for families and even 30-something adventurers and retirees who like golf.

The basic Seltos is no fireball, but the 2-litre engine works well enough with the CVT transmission to deliver acceptable performance with good fuel economy. Moving up to the 1.6-litre turbo is a significant boost, helped by a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. This makes the GT line a pretty obvious choice if you want all the goodies, including turbocharged performance.

Kia has plenty of experience in tuning its suspension for Australia, thanks to former Toyota expert Graeme Gambold, and the result in the Seltos is a car with compliant suspension, good cornering grip, and an absence of road noise.

It’s not a sports car, but is fine for the class and its job. And, as always, there is the seven-year warranty to back the value package across the various drivetrains and models.

And that’s the story with the Seltos, which will only be held back in Australia by limited supplies from Korea.