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  • FIRST DRIVE: Nissan Almera Turbo – it’s a big leap

    Nissan has taken a right battering in recent years – its public image has been so shaken by scandals and poor financial results that us onlookers have every reason to worry about its future. And that’s before you take into account the situation in Malaysia, where an ageing lineup has allowed it fall even further adrift of rivals like Honda, Toyota and even Mazda.

    But the carmaker is digging its heels deep, with several fresh new models that are finally starting to filter into the market. On our shores, the offensive starts with the latest Almera, which at last looks set to take the fight to the all-conquering Honda City and Toyota Vios. It’s nothing if not ambitious – at between RM79,906 to RM91,310, it’s gone from being the cheapest in the segment to one of the most expensive.

    The B-segment sedan has more than a few tricks up its sleeve to tackle them head on, however. It’s got arguably the most handsome design of the lot, a completely revamped cabin and a head unit that no longer looks like it’s been pilfered from a Brothers catalogue (it’s even got Apple CarPlay).

    The Almera even has a bang up-to-date engine – a 1.0 litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine that is right on trend, making 100 PS and an impressive 158 Nm of torque. But the most impressive is the generational leap in safety, where the Almera goes from having a maximum of two airbags and ABS to featuring standard-fit autonomous emergency braking and stability control and up to six airbags.

    But what does all this mean in the real world? Can the new Almera live up to the weight of expectations placed on its dinky shoulders, and can the three-pot really deliver the oomph expected in the segment? Our man Hafriz Shah gets behind the wheel to answer all those questions and more, and you can watch his review in the video above. As usual, let us know what you think in the comments after the jump.

  • Government to provide another one-off RM500 assistance to 118,000 taxi, bus and ride-hailing drivers

    In his special address to the nation earlier today, prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin outlined further relief measures announced by the government under the Perlindungan Ekonomi dan Rakyat Malaysia (Permai) assistance package, which is worth RM15 billion.

    On the auto and transport front, there was mention of a one-off financial assistance of RM500 to 118,000 drivers of taxis, school buses, tour buses, rental cars and ride-hailing vehicles as well as 14,000 tourist guides, with an allocation of RM66 million set aside for this.

    This is an addition to a similar package announced last year under the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN) assistance programme, in which it was reported that 68,336 ride-hailing drivers received the one-off RM500 assistance, while 37,127 taxi and bus drivers received RM600.

    Another measure to aid taxi drivers was also announced. At present, the government provides an exemption from excise duty and sales tax for the purpose of the transfer, disposal and for the private use of taxis, provided the vehicle is owned for seven years. To further ease the burden on taxi drivers, the government is reducing the duration of necessary ownership to five years, effective from January 1 to December 31, 2021.

    Elsewhere, a bus and taxi hire-purchase rehabilitation scheme is being introduced, in which a 50% guarantee on financing from hire purchase and leasing companies will be provided for taxis as well as selected buses such as sightseeing buses. Through this, bus and taxi operators can restructure their financing and enjoy a 12-month moratorium and lower monthly repayments. The government says a guarantee of RM1 billion will be provided for this purpose.


  • Cuci engine with water hose – can you really do this?

    Once again we have found ourselves confined to the comfort of our own homes. We trust that you’ve managed to occupy some spare time to do meaningful things, be it reading, cleaning the house, play computer games, binge watching movies, or learning to cook. There’s more time now to cultivate new hobbies, but since this is an automotive website, we’ll keep the topic relevant.

    The subject pertains to car care, or more specifically, the not-so-delicate process of cleaning a car engine bay. Over the years, there have been multiple videos of car wash centres hosing down an engine bay with water, sometimes even with a pressure washer! Most of the time, these were met with a lot of flak from the community, but really, it has been going on for decades.

    Is it really okay to hose down an engine bay with running water? Will it damage any mechanical components, or will it cause some of the electrical circuitries to short? We reached out to Proton for official comments.

    Generally, Proton says it is not harmful to run a stream of water over the engine bay, provided you follow some basic but crucial dos and don’ts. What you don’t want to do is use a pressure washer, because the pressurised stream can find its way past gasket seals or plastic covers that protect sensitive components, usually electrical.

    Before you even consider cleaning your car’s engine bay, first make sure it is cool to the touch – never wash or clean while it’s hot. Hot metal expands and can crack in direct contact with cool water, and that’s just the least of your problems, really.

    You’ll also want to cover any electronic or electrical components, such as battery terminals and the fuse box with some form of protective film, like a cling wrap for example. Also be sure to close off any open air ducts, and seal the air filter cover tight.

    For an extra peace of mind, consider protecting your alternator as well. While it is designed to handle splashes of water from regular driving, it isn’t meant to handle large amounts of running water at one go. There have been many reports of alternator failures resulting from flooding the engine bay with water, so consider yourselves warned.

    Once you’re certain these conditions have been met, Proton recommends using a low pressure garden hose to remove loose dirt. Don’t be too generous with the stream of water, though, just use however much is required to get the job done. You may also go over stubborn grimes with a soft bristle brush. After that, remember to wipe things dry, and refrain from starting the engine immediately if you can (some drying time is recommended).

    There are other, much safer ways to go about cleaning the engine bay. There’s a myriad of dedicated cleaning products you can buy online, and all your car usually needs is a few microfibre towels and the good old elbow grease. A simple cleaning process takes around 15 minutes, so we much prefer going this route than flooding the heart of your vehicle with water.

    We’ll put together a simple do-it-yourself guide soon, so stay tuned for that. In the mean time, where do you stand on the matter? Have you had your engine bay cleaned, or God forbid, damaged with a stream of water? Let us know, below.

  • BMW Malaysia officially announces 2021 price lists – now with customisable warranty, service packages

    BMW Group Malaysia has officially announced new 2021 price lists for its BMW and MINI range of vehicles. As reported last week, the new pricing structure has lower recommended retail price (RRP) across the board, but if you want the same five-year warranty and maintenance package as before, you pay the same price as before.

    BMW Malaysia says that this new price structure is to enable greater customer personalisation of their ownership experience. It’s like optional equipment, just that in this case, the options are warranty (five years unlimited mileage warranty) and servicing (five years or 100,000km service package), and the fully-optioned car costs the same as before – no price hike.

    Customers can opt to purchase the car with either of the above, or the all-in combo, which is the “5 Years Unlimited Mileage Warranty with Free Scheduled Service” (also called the extended warranty and service package) that was previously standard, at no added cost. If you go for the base RRP (which is cheaper by RM12,190 to RM44,560, full price list below), you’ll get a two-year, unlimited mileage warranty.

    Examples of 2020 vs 2021 pricing for BMW and MINI – click to enlarge

    The same applies to MINI. One can buy a MINI with the same four-year unlimited mileage warranty plus free scheduled service (extended warranty and service package) at the same price as before. Choose either one (4 Years Unlimited Mileage Warranty Package or 4 Years/60,000 km Service Package) and you’ll pay a lower price. The base RRP comes with a two-year/unlimited-mileage warranty with no free service.

    “BMW Group Malaysia is now offering our dealers and customers greater flexibility in terms of customisable specifications and warranty on their BMW and MINI vehicles, all of which can be done on the new digital interfaces of BMW Shop Online and MINI Online Shop. This also enables a more direct interaction between our dealer network and their respective customers for a more personalised product offerings at attractive prices,” said Harald Hoelzl, MD of BMW Group Malaysia.

    New pricing/warranty structure aside, privileges such as the BMW and MINI roadside assistance and accident hotline, BMW Group Loyalty and Mobile App (BMW Privileges Card, MINI Black Card) and BMW and MINI Service Online remain unchanged. The full BMW and MINI 2021 price lists are below.

  • Banks will still offer repayment assistance, moratorium extension to borrowers – PM, banking associations

    Prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has reiterated that the targeted repayment assistance (TRA) scheme will continue to be made available to those who need it, including those affected by the reinstated movement control order (MCO). This was mentioned during his speech today, where he also announced a new round of aid under the Permai stimulus package, which is worth around RM15 billion.

    Muhyiddin also added that for states that were stricken by floods, 15 banks are currently offering the TRA to affected victims. Up until now, more than 1.3 million borrowers have requested for the TRA, with an approval rate of 95% for individuals and 99% for SMEs.

    Both the Association of Banks in Malaysia (ABM) and the Association of Islamic Banking and Financial Institutions Malaysia (AIBIM) also issued similar statements earlier today, as reported by The Edge.

    In terms of mechanics, the TRA hasn’t changed from what was announced previously. Individuals who have lost their jobs in 2020 or 2021 will be able to apply for a payment deferment (aka moratorium) for a period of three months any time on or before June 30, 2021, according to the associations, including those with existing moratoriums.

    Meanwhile, those who are still employed but experienced a reduction in income will be able to restructure their loans instead. This can involve a revision of their monthly instalment amount in exchange for an extension of their loan tenure.

    However, the exact terms differ from banks to banks, with some offering further deferment as well, so check with your bank to ensure you are properly informed. It was also revealed last year that the TRA scheme covers those in the M40 category, including Bantuan Prihatin National (BPN) recipients, although these individuals will need to make a self-declaration that their income has been affected to receive assistance.

    Specific to those in the B40 category, including Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) or Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat (BPR) recipients, and SMEs with approved loan amounts of up to RM150,000, they may request a three-month repayment deferment or a reduction of the instalment amount by half (50%) for six months.

    Both associations also noted that the TRA for B40, M40 and SMEs are applicable for loans/financing approved before October 1, 2020, and are not in arrears for more than 90 days on the date the request for the TRA is submitted to the bank.

    All other borrowers facing difficulties in repayment are welcomed to contact their respective banks to negotiate suitable assistance, depending on their situation. Any assistance approved during this period will not appear in the borrowers’ CCRIS records.

  • New Renault 5 EV won’t replace Clio or Zoe – report

    Renault caused quite a stir when it revealed its new “Renaulution” business plan, which also saw the debut of the rather lovely Renault 5 Prototype. Essentially a modern take on a classic, the show car is meant to preview an upcoming city car with an all-electric powertrain. However, Renault is adamant that the production version will not replace any existing models, particularly the pint-sized Clio and Zoe.

    “Now is the time to challenge what exists at this point. This isn’t meant to replace the Clio as such, but there are questions about the Clio and the Captur: what they stand for, what energy source they should use depending on the regulations of each country – and this is changing every month,” explained Gilles Vidal, design director at Renault, to Autocar UK.

    “You need to be able to adapt to whatever happens with your global product strategy and energy solutions. We don’t know for sure if this will replace anything, but if you look at the B-segment, there will be maybe too many at some point, so some will disappear. I can’t say which at this point,” he added.

    This sentiment was also conferred by Laurens van den Acker, executive vice-president of Groupe Renault, who reconfirmed the Zoe’s status. “Is it the end of the Zoe? The answer is no, because the Zoe is the best-selling EV in Europe. So, it would be silly to stop vehicles that are best-selling in their segment,” he said.

    Renault has yet to provide technical details of the production R5, but van den Acker says the company’s mission with the model “is to make the popular electric car of the future, and it really needs to be a popular car.” The Zoe entered its second generation back in 2019, so a renewal isn’t due anytime soon, while the latest, fifth-gen Clio also arrived in the same year.

    GALLLERY: Renault 5 Prototype

  • SPIED: Hurtan Grand Albaycin – Miata-based roadster

    Here’s a brand we don’t see, or hear about very often; Hurtan, founded by Juan Hurtado and based in Spain, is a maker of tailor-made vehicles with predominantly classic styling, and this roadster that has been sighted in Spain by our spy photographers appears on the Hurtan website to be the Grand Albaycin, which is slated for its unveiling later this week.

    According to our sources, the Grand Albaycin roadster is based on a Mazda platform, which means this will be based on the Mazda MX-5/Miata. Powertrain has been tipped to be either a 1.5 litre engine producing 132 hp, or a 2.0 litre engine producing 184 hp.

    This correlates with the powertrain in the recently updated ND-generation MX-5, which outputs 184 PS at 7,000 rpm and 205 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. The aforementioned 1.5 litre mill produces 132 PS and 152 Nm of torque in its native MX-5 application.

    The Grand Albaycin in development car form here appears to wear the classic front-engined roadster proportions of overhangs that are short in front and slightly longer at the back. Retro cues come courtesy of round headlamps and tail lamps, and the former betrays its MX-5 roots with the diagonal arrangement of LED daytime running lights evident from the Japanese original, as does the lower front bumper intake.

    The Spanish interpretation appears to use the folding hard-top arrangement of the MX-5 RF, as revealed by the upright rear screen flanked by buttresses. Here at its rear end, the Grand Albaycin embellishes the lower rear bumper section with quad exhaust tailpipes, whereas the MX-5 made do with one pair of dual outlets.

    The Spanish outfit isn’t the first outside Mazda to build its own take upon ND MX-5 underpinnings, of course; Fiat rolled out the 124 Spider towards the end of 2015 that packed a 160 hp/250 Nm 1.4 litre MultiAir turbocharged engine, followed by a more potent Abarth version with an extra 10 hp. Which is your favourite take on this roadster formula so far, dear readers? Spanish, Italian or the Japanese original?

  • Toyota’s Kinto One car-subscription service debuts in Malaysia – prices start from RM1,678 a month for Yaris

    UMW Toyota Motor and Toyota Capital Malaysia (TCM) have announced the introduction of the automaker’s Kinto car subscription-based service in the country. The mobility services brand was established by Toyota in 2019 to operate and manage car-subscription programmes globally, the idea being to offer consumers an alternative path to vehicle ownership.

    Making its local debut under the Kinto One label, the programme offers consumers the chance to drive a car without the hassles associated with the traditional hire purchase facility. As is the case with similar services, Kinto One works under an all-inclusive, fixed monthly payment, car subscription plan.

    The fixed monthly subscription covers registration of the vehicle, its annual comprehensive insurance and road tax, periodic as well as preventive maintenance, with items such tyres and battery replacement as well as 24-gour emergency assistance covered under the plan. The duration of a subscription is either two or three years.

    Once the subscription period is completed, all the customer has to do is return the car to the company, which will handle the rest. Essentially, the programme removes the worry of residual value of the car and the issue of selling it off after years of usage.

    Click to enlarge.

    Subscription to the service is available online via the Kinto One website. Here, customers can view the car models available, decide on a subscription plan that suits them and apply online. Currently, the website lists eight Toyota models (Vios, Yaris, Corolla, Camry, Innova, Avanza, Fortuner and Rush) and four Lexus models (the UX, NX, ES and RX) as being available for subscription.

    Prices start from RM1,678 per month for a Yaris 1.5J on a 36-month tenure, and selecting a 1.5G variant will increase that to RM1,928 a month. Meanwhile, a Corolla 1.8E will cost RM3,018 a month, while the 1.8G route adds on a bit more to the monthly payment, which is RM3,248.

    As for Lexus, prices start from RM7,658 for the UX 200 Luxury Urban, increasing to RM8,658 for the Luxury and RM9,068 if you opt for the F-Sport version of the SUV. Selecting a shorter 24-month subscription doesn’t really hike the monthly repayments by much – in the case of the UX 200 Urban, the monthly payment is RM7,848 per month on a 24-month tenure, which is RM190 more than that in a 36-month plan.

    Click to enlarge the images.

    The initial payment for all Kinto One plans consists of one month’s subscription fees and a refundable deposit (amounting to a month’s fees for the particular vehicle) as well as stamp duty. From there, subscribers will just have to follow on with the subsequent monthly charges, of which payment will be for the next 35 months in a three-year plan, and 23 months in a two-year plan.

    According to TCM president Thomas Chai, the service is aimed at companies and corporations wanting to be light in their assets but still require mobility for their personnel, and also at individual customers who are looking to use a vehicle without actually owning it. “Kinto One is a distinctly curated plan for the new generation seeking mobility. It is about the shift of consumer behavior from car ownership to car usership,” he said.

    For more info on the Kinto One programme and its subscription plans as well as pricing for individual model variants, visit the Kinto One website.

  • Third-generation Nissan Qashqai powertrains detailed – 160 PS/270 Nm range extender EV, 1.3L mild-hybrid

    Details regarding the third-generation Nissan Qashqai have been trickling through, beginning with the first teaser image that revealed part of its frontal silhouette, followed by a glimpse of its dashboard architecture. Now, Nissan has announced that its forthcoming crossover will be available in with a choice of two powertrain types when it goes on sale.

    The first of these is the 1.3 litre DiG-T turbocharged petrol engine with a 12-volt advanced lithium-ion battery system (ALiS) mild hybrid system that will be offered in 140 PS and 160 PS output levels. The 140 PS version will be paired with either a six-speed manual or Xtronic CVT, the latter being solely available on the higher output 160 PS version.

    Peak engine power arrives at 5,500 rpm, says Nissan, while its peak torque figure of 275 Nm is produced at 1,750 rpm on both manual transmission and CVT versions. The Xtronic CVT is claimed to offer the ‘best of both worlds’, offering seamless driving in urban conditions while giving directly connected behaviour during hard acceleration, says Nissan.

    The third-generation Qashqai will be offered in both 2WD and 4WD forms, the latter solely available on 160 PS CVT variants. A preliminary set of technical specifications for the forthcoming model also reveals that the Qashqai will measure 4,425 mm in overall length, and Nissan has previously said the new model will offer an additional 28 mm for rear occupant knee room and 15 mm more headroom front and rear.

    Click to enlarge

    The new 4WD control system and drive mode selector is more intuitive and intelligent in adapting to external conditions, according to the automaker, and the forthcoming model will have five modes – Standard, Eco, Sport, Snow and Off-road. In the event that loss of traction is detected, the 4WD system’s response times have been reduced to around 0.2 second.

    Next is the e-Power range extender petrol-electric powertrain, featuring a 1.5 litre 157 PS variable compression ratio petrol engine mated with a power generator, inverter and an electric motor, a combination which produces a final output of 140 kW (187 PS). The petrol internal combustion engine is used soles to generate electricity, while the front wheels are powered by electric drive.

    The e-Power variant of the Qashqai will also gain one-pedal operation courtesy of its e-Pedal, as on the fully electric Leaf, which enables drivers to accelerate and decelerate at up to 0.2 g using just the accelerator pedal, thus covering 90% of all driving scenarios according to Nissan.

    Earlier spyshots of the third-generation crossover also revealed parts of its digital instrumentation, which appeared to resemble the setup in the fourth-generation X-Trail comprised of a 12.3-inch instrument display panel and a nine-inch touchscreen infotainment unit.

    GALLERY: Third-generation Nissan Qashqai spyshots

  • United States to get own version of new Honda HR-V

    2019 Honda HR-V Sport

    Honda recently teased the imminent debut of the third-generation HR-V (also known as the Vezel in Japan), which will be revealed next month on February 18. We’ve seen plenty of spyshots of the upcoming B-segment crossover in the past, but that won’t be the version offered in the United States.

    According to reports by Motortrend and Motor1, the United States will still get a third-gen HR-V, although it won’t be the same as those in other regions. “The development of a successor to the Honda HR-V for the US market is underway,” American Honda Motor said in a statement.

    “This new HR-V will be designed to meet the distinct needs of US customers, and will differ from the Honda Vezel/HR-V that will be introduced in other regions. Honda will have more information to share regarding the next-generation Honda HR-V designed for the US market closer to launch,” it continued.

    In the US, Honda has discounted the third-gen Jazz (known as the Fit there), with reports also suggesting that the fourth-gen will be given a miss. Assuming the new HR-V uses the latest Jazz’s platform, it makes sense for a US-specific HR-V to be made, especially given the popularity of small SUVs and crossovers over there.

    As it stands, the current HR-V will continue to go on sale in the US through the 2021 model year, with the new version likely to debut as a 2022 model, so expect prototypes to begin appearing closer to then. This isn’t the first time that the US has received a US-specific model, as the current Odyssey differs from the one sold in Japan (and other international markets).


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Last Updated 16 Jan 2021


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