23 October 2023

Ask the expert

| Paul Gover
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A compact city crossover Hyundai Venue in a street in Uttar Pradesh, India, last year. Photo: File.

Q: I’m looking purchasing an SUV but I am a manual driver and ideally I would like to stay as that.

So, do you know of any cars that still come in a manual?

Eerin Stoneham

A: More than 90 per cent of the new vehicles sold in Australia are now delivered with an automatic transmission. One of the few remaining manuals is the Hyundai Venue and it’s also a great little city SUV that gets The Tick from me.

Q: I have had a 2004 Mercedes CLK since new and, as I’m 65 and it’s starting to deteriorate, I’m looking at new cars.

With a small luxury SUV in mind, I first looked at Mercedes GLA and BMW X1, but neither has a spare wheel (which I feel is essential).

I’ve now landed on the Volvo XC40 Ultimate mild hybrid, so would appreciate your thoughts.


A: Far too many companies overlook a spare for Australia. The XC40 is a terrific car and highly under-rated. It definitely gets The Tick from me.

Q: Some friends and mechanics have suggested that CVT is a potential problem in Subarus or Nissans.

They suggest Mazdas or Toyotas are more reliable cars.

I would like to buy a new Subaru Forester for my wife and a new Outback for me.

Patrick Bennett

A: Your friends are likely talking about the response and sound of a CVT in operation, not the reliability. They work fine but are a fuel-economy choice by Japanese carmakers and are significantly different from a ’traditional’ automatic gearbox, which has a series of gears and not a drive system which is constantly adjusting to keep the engine in its most efficient operating range. The latest Subaru models, both Forester and Outback, are very impressive.

Q: I just bought a RAM 1500.

The dealer told me it’s fine to run on 91 RON fuel, with no need to put in 98 RON.
I just wanted your thoughts.

Andrew Damyon

A: You don’t need my thoughts, you need the owner’s manual. Never trust the dealer, always rely on the manufacturer as their engineers will have set the fuel standard for the car. Besides, it’s a good chance to go for a bit of an ‘explore’ in the manual. You never know what you might find.

Q: Do you have any insight as to when the new model Volkswagen Touareg diesel will hit Australia next year?

I can see it on the internet, but no-one can give me any updates.

Gerry Fernandez

A: The word from Volkswagen headquarters in Sydney is that it will be in showrooms from late March or early April.

Q: I was wondering if you had any info on when the five-door Suzuki Jimny would be available in Australia?

Dave Cooper

A: I’m told by Suzuki they should be in showrooms late in the first quarter next year.

Q: I have a 14-year-old 2009 Mazda MX-5 with around 110,000 kilometres that I love driving.

I am a fit 69-year-old so I am still able to get in and out easily enough and don’t do many kilometres, plus don’t have the need for many passengers as my wife has a Mazda CX-5 for grandkids.

Wondering if I should still keep the MX-5 given the mileage and my age as I have this notion that after 100,000 km major things start going wrong, or should I consider something else like a Volkswagen Golf?

I have always serviced it at the dealership where I bought it, without any complaints except that it is costly, but recently tried one of the ‘Autoplus’ chains due to a recommendation from a friend. So should I have kept servicing it at a Mazda specialist or do you think Autoplus is just as good?

Nazario Vocale

A: Keep it. Love it. Enjoy it. It should have a lot of trouble-free kilometres ahead. It’s fine to save money and service away from the dealer, just make sure it’s with factory-standard parts.

Q: We ordered a Jungle Green Kia Sportage in August LAST YEAR through Lease Plan.

We have consistently received emails from Lease Plan delaying its arrival until the end of this month.

But after speaking with the specific dealer today they advised that Kia have not built the Jungle Green.

Is this a likely scenario as I feel like we are not being told the full story.

Apparently a blue one is available next week and black/silver is on the ship although, given the port issues, their advice on arrival could be dubious.

I’d appreciate any pearls of wisdom.

Jill Phillips

A: Unfortunately, Kia has some of the longest waiting lists and your experience is not unusual. You can check with Kia Australia in Sydney about the latest delays, but if you can get a vehicle – even if it’s not your preferred colour – it’s probably best to jump on it.

Q: I have a 2006 BMW 325i which has been regularly serviced but I’m concerned the brakes feel ’spongy’.

I have to depress the brake pedal more than normal but the dealer tells me there is nothing to worry about because all looks fine.

Please recommend a place so I can get the brakes checked.

Nathan Rosen

A: You need to get the brakes measured for wear to pads and discs, then have them ‘bled’, to remote any air from the system. That’s usually what causes the spongy feeling. It can be done anywhere, but perhaps an AC Delco service centre near you will be good value.

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Ann Southern5:05 pm 06 Nov 23

I am looking at purchasing a SUV new or used (<2 yo) for towing a double horse float. Have a budget $45-48000. Considering Isuzu MUX, LDV D90, Mitsubishi pajero/sport. What's your thoughts? or can you suggest another better option. So confusing.

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