Friday, 7 September 2007

For the Petrol-Heads – 2

During my work in South-West Queensland, I drive about 20000k annually on Western roads. I use cars from the Toowoomba District fleet, and rarely the same one twice (they’re assigned by the fleet coordinator). This provides a great opportunity to compare makes and models.

Toyota Camry – Solid and user-friendly, but dead boring. The four cylinder versions actually use more fuel than the sixes on bush roads. The ones we use have side air bags.

Toyota Avalon – Comfortable and easy to get in and out of. Also easy to see out of. Built like a brick dunny. Unfashionable, but probably my favourite as a work tool. Economical on a long trip.

Toyota Prius – Not user-friendly initially, but it doesn’t take long to get used to the eccentric controls. Phenomenal economy, but not suited to gravel roads in the bush. Surprisingly roomy. Drove one to Cunnamulla last year – was the first time locals had seen a hybrid.

Magna Wagon – There are two of these on the fleet. Refined and quiet, but pretty bland. I like the seats and the engine/transmission combination. I reckon they would be a very good purchase from a Q Fleet auction because of the warranty. Hard on tyres.

Commodore – Depends on which one you get. Wagons feel different from sedans. One is a real dog. The car itself is a reasonable piece of engineering, but they’re obviously slammed together. I prefer the older cast iron motor to the current alloy one – seems more torquey. Driven carefully on a trip the newer ones can return 9lit/100k.

Falcon – I own one, so feel at home. Great cruising car and economical on a trip. Steering and handling a cut above the Commodore IMHO. The one I use doesn’t have cruise control which is a bummer.

Subaru Forester – Recent acquisition, but I’ve already a done a few long trips in it. Easy to get in and out of, and vision is good. Well-finished and very practical. Handles the gravel with aplomb. Bit hard on fuel, but then it’s still a new car. Interior is very easy to live with.

Nissan Pulsar – Only used it once – hope I don’t get it again. Hard seats – asthmatic engine and poky interior. Only redeeming feature is small size. Probably OK around town. Feels cheap and nasty.

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