22 March 2024

Ask the expert

| Paul Gover
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Mazda CX-60

The CX-60 is Mazda’s first plug-in hybrid. Photo: File.

Q: I have just bought a Nissan Qashqai ST+, which I love, but it says to use premium unleaded petrol only. Since premium unleaded is about 12 cents a litre more expensive than regular unleaded, I was wondering if it is absolutely necessary to use it in my car.


A: There are premium and premium, depending on the carmaker. You need to check in the owner’s manual, and on the sticker under the fuel cap, which gives the exact octane rating required. Australia has three grades of fuel – 91, 94-95 and 98 – with only the 91-octane regarded as ”standard”. The mid-grade usually contains ethanol and is often known as E10. If your car lists 94-95′, then it’s fine to go with the mid-grade fuel, but if it says 98 it usually means it has the latest in small-capacity turbocharged development and needs 98 to prevent damage, particularly in hot weather.

Q: I’m very careful how I wash my car and accidentally got wax put on in the drive-through high-pressure wash. Now I have wax streaks all over my windows. How do I get it off? Also, how do you rate the limited-edition Skoda Kamiq? I have a 2021 model, which I find great, but just wanted any advice on what could go wrong with this car.

Angela Schoenfeld

A: If Windex with newspaper won’t move the wax, then go to a car detailer and get something more specialised. The Kamiq is a top-class compact SUV with a good reputation for quality and reliability.

Q: I am looking at purchasing a new or demonstrator small to mid-sized SUV. I have looked at the Subaru Crosstrek, Mazda CX-5, Mercedes and BMW with a reasonable budget. Do you have a standout in this price range?

Lynette Wood

A: If you’re looking in the prestige class, then test-drive the Genesis GV70. Genesis is the upmarket division of Hyundai, similar to Lexus and Toyota, and makes some great cars. If your budget is tighter, look at the latest Honda CR-V as it has a prestige feel at a lower price.

Q: My Isuzu D-Max is showing signs of excessive front-tyre wear, and a mate has a similar problem with his ute. Is Isuzu doing anything to get on top of the problem?

Glenn McGrath

A: The official reply from Isuzu Australia is: “We are aware of some feedback from customers regarding uneven tyre wear. We would encourage owners with any concerns of uneven tyre wear on their vehicle to contact their local authorise Isuzu UTE Dealership for assessment. Upon assessment, if uneven wear is apparent, and the tyre meets the criteria and is within the designated tyre lifespan, a wheel alignment will be carried out and dependent on the remaining tread depth, the wheels either rotated or tyres replaced, at no cost to the owner.”

Q: I have a 2021 Tesla 3 Standard Range Plus. Over the last year, the air conditioner has been really weak. On a day when it’s even like 20 or 21 degrees, I have to run the AC at 10, maximum, and the cabin does not cool down. About two weeks ago, Tesla service took the car in for two days and, after all that, they said they found absolutely nothing wrong with it. I have read online that many Tesla 3 owners have the same problem. Can you help me?

Sharona Zaks

A: It’s not unusual for electric cars to have relatively weak aircon, because it is electric and does not have the grunt of an engine-driven compressor in a piston-powered car. You should take a test drive in a similar new car and compare like-for-like on the same day with the same weather. Then, if yours is still sub-standard, push for a proper fix.

Q: My car has a squeaking noise when reversing but the Toyota dealership said this is normal. My neighbours have been telling us they hear the sound in the morning when we drive out to buy the paper. I was told I have to pay a fee to have it diagnostically checked, but I’m not sure if this is correct. My other concern was peeling leather on the steering wheel. This they said would probably be replaced.

Annie Bosak

A: The squeaking is most likely from the brakes and if it’s only when reversing it’s not affecting the safety. Most likely when they check the brake wear as part of an annual service, you will get an answer, so do not pay to have it assessed. As for the steering wheel, push hard and register the problem with Toyota Australia. Lots of dealers try to fob people off when it comes to the crunch, as it can be considered ”wear and tear” and not covered under warranty.

Q: I’m looking for some advice about whether it is worthwhile shopping around for an upgraded four-wheel drive now, in light of the government regulations that I believe will push up prices of these vehicles. I currently use a 2017 Mazda BT50 for work, but mainly for pulling my off-road caravan around the country. In 2022, my wife and I travelled around the country (yes, the big lap) and the Mazda didn’t miss a beat. However, I was frequently disappointed with the interactive display and entertainment system. The maps would not load, the radio continually jumps off the station, and the phone application is very clunky and dangerous to operate when moving. So, should I be looking to upgrade now to another big towing car (minimum 3.5 tonnes) before prices skyrocket? Is the new-model BT50 a good option, or should I be looking at different makes such as the Toyota LandCruiser, Isuzu D-Max, etc?

Pete Wright

A: No-one knows the exact impact of the Vehicle Efficiency Standard but it is likely to increase prices in 2025. The best of the pick-ups are the Ford Ranger and D-Max, with the Isuzu having a great reputation for towing. Best to test-drive both.

Q: Which electric car would you recommend? I am looking at maybe a Kia EV6 GT Line, or is it best to wait a couple more years?

Gary Nevill

A: You will struggle to get an EV6 as supply is very limited. Electric cars are improving rapidly at the moment, so if you’re not an ”early adopter” going for a rapid-fire switch, it would probably be best to wait a while.

Q: Could you please advise me on which car to focus on as a first car? I’m looking at a Hyundai i30, Kia Cerato, Mitsubishi ASX, Suzuki Swift and Toyota Corolla, but it is expensive.


A: Before you even look at cars, the safety priority is proper training with a company such as Driver Dynamics – https://driverdynamics.com – and then avoid the ASX as a mid-sized SUV is a poor choice for someone learning the trials and tribulations of driving. And fuel will be costly. The Kia Cerato is the smart choice, followed by the Suzuki Swift, as they are both compact and cheap to own and run.

Q: We have a motorhome, an Iveco Jayco Optimum, currently flat-towing (all wheels on the ground) a manual Suzuki Vitara. We are looking to update to a Jeep Wrangler automatic to flat-tow behind the motorhome and on Jeep’s American website, they say this is achievable. We would just like to make sure that the right-hand Australian conversion hasn’t affected anything.

Mavis and Bill

A: The answer from Jeep Australia is not good news for you. “It’s not possible to flat-tow a Wrangler in Australia as we have an electronic steering lock which will need to remain unlocked without the ignition on,” the company spokesperson said. Luckily, the Suzuki Vitara is still around.

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