Vol. V No. 23 - Saturday June 3, - June 9, 2006
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by Saichon Paewsoongnern



Is your car reliable?

Honda Accord

Automobile repairs are costly. Even in Thailand. Even if you help. In fact, a friend of mine in Australia had a sign on his workshop wall which read, “Labour charges: $20 per hour. If you watch $40 per hour. If you help $80 per hour.” Anyone who has worked in the repair industry would understand and agree with his sentiments!
Having accepted the fact that repairs are expensive, and many people do not want down-time with their vehicles, the automotive industry seemed to look at this concept in two ways. First, do nothing, as people only keep a car around three years, and not much goes wrong in that time, basically playing the percentage game; or deliberately engineer your products so that they have a longer life, extending into around 10 years before things go wrong.
The Japanese automakers chose the second alternative. The reason is simple. When a make becomes known for its reliability, new car buyers will go to that make. It very quickly got into the collective consciousness that Honda, Toyota and Nissan build reliable motor cars, so when it becomes time to select a new car, what will it be? For many, it is a Honda, Toyota or Nissan. Believe me when I tell you that ‘performance’, ‘road holding’ or multiple air bags do not get people to buy that brand. The perceived notion that this car will not break down is the crucial factor.
I came across some very interesting statistics the other day, where a company called Warranty Direct made available their data on the vehicles requiring the most amounts of time and money spent for repairs (a sum that Warranty Direct obviously underwrites). Turn that list upside down, and you have an indicator to which cars required the least amount of repairs and downtime. A fairly good index of reliability.
Number 1 went to Honda with the Accord, and wonder of wonders, the Japanese automotive industry supplied every car in the Top 10, and an amazing 16 of the Top 20. The highest placed non-Japanese model was the British built Jaguar X-Type in position 13 with the German automotive industry first appearance coming in at number 25.
Volvo’s S/V40 was the highest placed Swedish manufacturer in 15th, with the USA’s most popular manufacturer, Ford, delivering its best ranked model, the Ka, in 22nd. Hyundai’s Lantra was the pick of the Koreans at 24, and the Citroen Xsara was the best-placed French model at number 26. The Mercedes SLK split these two at 25. The higher purchase price apparently does not guarantee fewer breakdowns!
And what about Toyota? This company is well on the way to becoming the world’s number 1 and on the results of this survey, it fully deserves to get there. It scored as well as any other manufacturer in the top ten cars with two contenders, but also took eleventh spot with the Lexus IS 200, fourteenth with the Landcruiser, 19th with the Carina E, and 21st with the Lexus 400 - six cars in the top 21 represents a fantastic effort but a look down the list confirms what we’d always suspected - they have been building the most reliable cars for a long time - long product lines such as the Celica and Corolla are also there. Those cars have been produced for 30 years in vast numbers - it’s not just one very reliable model here and there. The collective consciousness is quite correct in its thinking.
According to Duncan McClure Fisher of Warranty Direct, “Used car buyers are considerably more cautious. Japanese models may not be the most charismatic but you’re unlikely to spend a great deal of money and time in the garage keeping it on the road.”
So here are the top 10 most reliable cars according to Warranty Direct, and their description of them:
1 - Honda Accord - A classy package, well put together and feels more special than the average family car. Superb engines and value for money. 2 - Subaru Forester - Not quite an off roader, much more than an estate with a sporty edge, making it the perfect combination. Great all round buy.
3 - Mazda MX-5 - Blueprint for the modern roadster with sweet handling and engines to match. Extremely easy to live with.
4 - Mitsubishi Carisma - Despite the name, not that interesting to look at or drive, but that’s not the point. Here is a no-nonsense hatchback that won’t let you down.
5 - Toyota Yaris - Superminis don’t come better. Bags of room and perky engines. Probably the best small car buy.
6 - Honda Civic - Solid build quality and good engines are just part of the appeal, the Civic is one of the most spacious small cars around. Great value.
7 - Nissan Almera - A dull package, but that’s no reason to dismiss the Almera which is practical and perfect for the smaller family who need a big boot and utter reliability.
8 - Honda CR-V - Proof that you don’t need an XXXL 4x4. Here is a four-wheel drive estate that is flexible, easy to drive and own.
9 - Toyota RAV4 - So few four-wheel drives are fun to drive. This car is suitably sporty, but very practical. Expensive used buy but worth it.
10 - Nissan Micra - The driving school favourite. Tough, fairly roomy, but with its light controls is easy to steer around town.
Some of those vehicles are not available in this country, but the majority are, and the public domain knowledge (or feelings) on reliability knows no national frontiers. Ask anyone about the Jaguar XJ6 and they will tell you that this was the car you needed two of, so that you had one to drive when the first one was being repaired. And that will be told you in all countries, and by people who have never owned one. Public opinion has a much greater impact than the automakers would like to admit to. The Japanese have won the top 10, and this is remembered.
So what about the rest? Look through this list and see if yours is mentioned. 11 Lexus IS 200, 12 Mazda 626, 13 Jaguar X-Type, 14 Toyota Landcruiser, 15 Volvo S/V40, 16 MINI (BMW), 17 Suzuki Vitara, 18 Mazda 323, 19 Toyota Carina E, 20 Saab 9-5, 21 Lexus LS400, 22 Ford Ka, 23 Rover 45, 24 Hyundai Lantra, 25 Mercedes SLK, 26 Citroen Xsara, 27 Ford Cougar, 28 Subaru Impreza, 29 Skoda Octavia, 30 Audi A4, 31 Nissan Primera, 32 Toyota Avensis, 33 Volvo 850, 34 Vauxhall Corsa, 35 Seat Toledo, 36 Volkswagen Golf, 37 Daewoo Lanos, 38 Fiat Brava, 39 Hyundai Coupe, 40 Mitsubishi Shogun, 41 Rover 2, 42 Mercedes CLK, 43 Fiat Marea, 44 Ford Focus, 45 Peugeot 106, 46 MG MG TF, 47 BMW Z3, 48 Hyundai Accent, 49 Volkswagen Polo, 50 Fiat Punto, 51 Vauxhall Zafira, 52 Mercedes C-class, 53 Volvo S60, 54 Toyota MR2, 55 Mazda Xedos 6, 56 Ford Puma, 57 Vauxhall Astra, 58 Vauxhall Omega, 59 Chrysler Neon, 60 Audi A2, 61 Ford Fiesta, 62 Ford Mondeo, 63 Vauxhall Corsa, 64 Citroen Saxo, 65 BMW 3 Series, 66 Vauxhall Vectra, 67 Isuzu Troope,r 68 Mercedes M-Class, 69 Subaru Legacy, 70 Rover 400, 71 Fiat Ulysse, 72 Mercedes E-Class, 73 Renault Clio, 74 Toyota Celica, 75 Peugeot 306, 76 Peugeot 406, 77 Volvo S70, 78 Rover 75, 79 Daewoo Matiz, 80 Peugeot 206, 81 Mazda MX-3, 82 Vauxhall Tigra, 83 Seat Ibiza, 84 Peugeot 106, 85 Renault Megane, 86 Peugeot 406, 87 Saab 9-3, 88 Audi A3, 89 BMW X5 90, Mercedes S-class, 91 Toyota Corolla, 92 Seat Alhambra, 93 BMW 5-series, 94 Daewoo Nubira, 95 Alfa Romeo 145, 96 Saab 900, 97 Mazda MX-6, 98 Jaguar S-Type, 99 Daewoo Leganza and 100 Porsche Boxster.
However, it should be remembered that this list covers vehicles with ‘standard’ manufacturer’s warranty, those with extended warranties are not properly represented, but the top 20 list looks pretty accurate to me.

BMW’s incredibly ugly Concept Mille Miglia

BMW 328 Mille Miglia Concept

The BMW 328 was one of the vehicles that conquered the legendary Mille Miglia, and at this year’s event, BMW unveiled a Mille Miglia concept, apparently based on the Z4 coupe, and embodying the lines of the pre-war 328.
GoAuto magazine asked if this the next-generation Z4 Coupe - or simply a flight of BMW’s fantasy as the German maker indulges in a nostalgic look back at its past?
Either way, BMW’s uncharacteristic move to reveal an all-new concept at the 2006 Mille Miglia – an annual rally resurrected in 1977 to celebrate one of the world’s great motor races – in Brescia, Italy on May 10 has certainly got tongues wagging.

Built on a modified version of the forthcoming Z4 M Coupe’s drivetrain and suspension, the BMW Concept Coupe Mille Miglia 2006 appears primarily to pay tribute to BMW’s legendary 328 Mille Miglia Touring Coupe, which became the first car to win both an original Mille Miglia race (in 1940) and a modern-day revival version (in 2004).The original 328 racer’s average speed of 166.7 km/h over the 1940 event’s 1000km remains a record today and the Concept Coupe pays homage to BMW’s Mille heroes, 22 of which have entered for the 2006 event.
It also takes styling cues from the Z4 Coupe – despite the fact it is 230 mm longer, 40 mm lower, rides on huge 20 inch alloy wheels with 245/40-section tyres and features a hinged hard-top roof.
The carbon-fibre reinforced plasticbodied concept features 328-echoing large circular LED headlights and BMW says the uninterrupted side and rear panels allow a turbulence-free flow of air up to the tail, where the airflow is separated.
Carbon-fibre underbody fins and front/rear bumper diffusers contribute to aerodynamics, while Z-shaped A-pillar air-intakes are said to extract hot air from the engine as well as produce downforce and reduce wheel housing turbulence.
While exhaust and inlet modifications aim to give the 252 kW 3.2-litre inline six-cylinder M engine even more of a “racing sound at both idle and full throttle”, the concept’s interior features thin stainless steel, untreated cowhides and Lycra fabric. Undoubtedly a “what the hell is that” sort of vehicle as it goes past, I still doubt whether I would want one in my driveway!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned a third race car to go into the harbour at Monaco, which was staged for the movie Grand Prix. I asked what was the movie race driver’s name, who played the part, and what was the car? It was when “Pete Aron” (James Garner) dunked his Jordan-BRM.
So to this week. I have mentioned Honda, so let’s stick with them. What was the first Honda model to be offered in two forms?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!