Tue, Feb 8, 2022 4:00 PM

So, you want to buy a car?



Country Motoring with Ken Strungnell

Sales of new vehicles have soared into the stratosphere, well almost, as last year just over 165,000 new cars found a home away from the dealer’s yard.

That’s up from 141,000 in 2020 already a record up from 129,00 in 2019. Not so long ago we only bought 87,000-90,000 new autos a year and the car companies claimed they were in the doldrums.

Add to that the Japanese imports and used cars sold of around 380,000 annually, proves we like to buy and upgrade our vehicles. But stubbornly our average age of the fleet is still over 13 years old.

That means old technology lack of safety features in turn leading to low 3-4 star ANCAP safety ratings. So our Christmas road toll while an aberration compared to the previous year is not surprising.

What is of real concern to motoring bodies like the AA, is this Government’s predilection to being safe from disease and paying out many more benefits while ignoring the parlous state of many of our roads?

Worse still is the lack of foresight in cancelling much needed upgrades or new roading projects in favour of cycle lanes or a bridge thankfully now cancelled over the Auckland harbour for cyclists. Cancelled but not without costs incurred to date of a conservative $51 million, with nothing to show for it.

I drove the picturesque Blenheim to Nelson road recently, finding a trip I used to really enjoy has become a frustrating slalom of ever-changing speed limits.

60km/hr to 80 km/hr seem to be the norm, without the open road speed beckoning at all. Trucks and many cars are actually more economical at closer to 100km/hr, than restricted to 60 where most don’t even reach the top ratio or two in their gearboxes.

With more strategic spending on this route and many others, instead of 10,000 new bureaucrats on absurd salaries inhabiting the ever burgeoning Public Service in Wellington, how much nicer and safer to drive our roads would become.

We have more cars on our roads today and particularly over the holidays, as we are restricted to internal travel only, on a roading network designed in most of the urban and SH routes for just over half the number of vehicles.

OK I started off with the question about buying a ‘new’ car. In reality the new I was referring to was new to you.

I get many requests for advice on which car to buy from people all over the country. I often get asked to speak to groups about the best to buy vehicles and of course write for several publications and media outlets.

Recently I found many more contacts asking about used vehicles. After 25 years as a motoring journalist I’ve amassed a huge database of information about the ‘latest’ new car. Those same cars now inhabit the used market.

Sadly I have little information on used Japanese imports as the spec level engines, transmission, suspension and interior seldom match NZ new models.

For the rural sector the most often requested is a large car, with a good tow rating, economical, seats 5 or up to 7 with plenty of boot space.

Safety is also a major requirement as are interior niceties like sat nav, reverse camera, leather seats and ease of parking.

The other key concern is cost, or the cheaper the better!.

Well, late model Holden’s and Fords around 5-7 years old meet most of the needs and can be had for less than $30,000. The hardest to accommodate is towing as most of that is now done by utes or big 4WD SUV’s and none of them come within the cost and age parameters.

Two vehicles stand out  and as a bonus are available with all wheel drive AWD.

The short lived Holden Adventurer, though long in the tooth perhaps, in 6 cylinder petrol form(a powerful V8 was an option) is a great choice with good ground clearance and a very good long distance tourer.

However the last of them was sold in 2013 as the new model and last of the true Commodores, the VF was launched without the Adventurer.

The Ford Territory on the other hand, launched with a 4 litre straight six petrol motor in 2004 and relaunched with the same petrol engine as an option to a 2.7 litre V6 turbo diesel was launched in 2011 and sold until 2017.

Remarkably the Titanium version, seven seat, AWD or 2WD, diesel can be had for as little as $15,000 with over 200,000 kms clocked, or for around $30k there is a good selection of under 100,000 km models. There are TX and TS lower spec models also at even sharper asking prices.

They are all able to tow 2.7 tonnes braked with 175mm of ground clearance and an 11.4m turning circle. The Titanium comes with 7 leather seats in the [drivers electric with 3 memory positions] and privacy glass in the rear windows and tailgate with a split opening facility. A full compliment of 7 airbags [driver’s knee included] and electric power steer, EPS, trailer sway control and traction control add to its value.

The 18 year old design is still a very good looking vehicle with sat nav and a clear rear view camera, AM/FM Bluetooth streaming and phone connection plus USB charging and connectivity along with cool air to the 2nd row seats also with either USB or 12 volt plug and 60/40 split fold flat seats.

What might still surprise is the Titanium’s 10 inch fold down DVD screen player with twin cordless headphones. Ideal if you still have ankle biters AND DVDs. I’m told they can be set up to use a USB stick too.

Most users report high 7s through to high 8s l/100km fuel burn and service intervals of 15,000 km. The well sorted chassis and engine that’s been used extensively by Ford when it had its PAG [Premium Auto Group] group, Jaguar Land Rover and Range Rover marques in its stable suits the Territory. Delivering 140kW/440Nm power, makes it still very competitive in today’s market. Until you drive one the creamy smoothness of the V6, compared to the 4 cylinder, makes it very difficult to pick it’s a diesel and as a bonus it’s quicker than its petrol sibling.

Ford got it right with the Territory, so if you are looking for a large used vehicle that’s easy on the go juice, yet quick, quite and spacious, with 5 Star ANCAP safety, it’s my current answer to the question

I’m currently driving the latest Nissan Navara in ST and STX variants and next up is the new Subaru Forester, so look forward to normal transmission being resumed next month in this column.

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