2015 Renault Clio RS200 – Hot hatch royalty returns

When we say hot hatch, a number of models should spring immediately to the mind. There's the Volkswagen Golf – a vehicle that has been at the pinnacle of the segment since its inception decades ago, and of course the Ford Fiesta ST – a vehicle that for all intents and purposes is a rally car for the road.

These are the two stalwarts of the modern era for this segment, one that is made up of small city cars that defy their often simple appearance with astounding performance. 

What makes an excellent hot hatch?

The key to a great hot hatch is accessible performance – they should be cars that put power back in the hands of the people. While we can't all drum up the change needed to purchase a speed demon like a Lamborghini, these hatchbacks provide a thrill to petrol heads on the tightest budgets. 

While this segment still exists in the vehicles detailed above, they aren't quite the same as the cars that started the golden era of hot hatches. Thanks to the relaxed safety criteria of the 80s, these cars were even smaller than their modern counterparts, existing as little more than oversized go-karts with roofs. 

Some of the classics of the era were even more mental than those on sale today. While the Volkswagen Golf played a starring role in the formation of this style of vehicle, it was the subject of this piece – Renault – which decided to strap a turbo to their offering and release it out into the wild. 

The Renault 5 Turbo eschewed some of the major trends of the era, resulting in a truly unique creation that turned the regular car on its head. The standard Renault 5 was front-wheel drive with the engine sitting in its normal position over the front wheels – the traditional layout for hatchbacks and their jumped-up siblings. 

At this time, the legalised insanity that was the Group B World Rally Championship was also taking place, Renault needed to make a road-going version of the car it wanted to race, and thus the Renault 5 Turbo was born. Unlike regular hot hatches, the 5 Turbo was mid-engined and rear-wheel drive (like a Ferrari). 

The point of this history lesson? Renault has always pushed the limits of the hot hatch formula, and now it's back…

Renault returns

Unfortunately for some, the 2005 Renault Clio RS200 is not quite as unwieldy as some of its predecessors. Even the older Clios received a mid-engined version – a recipe for disaster in many cases. 

Now, the French marque has returned with the operating philosophy of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' – mostly. It's back to the front-engined front-wheel drive layout and it's still based on the sensible Clio, but it sports a few additional touches to ensure it isn't mistaken for any old hatch back. 

The biggest problem with this approach is that it has put the Clio smack bang in the middle of the Golf's territory, an area that's been dominated by the superstar since its inception. With no outrageous characteristics to separate it from the rest of the hot hatch masters, the Clio RS200 must go toe-to-toe with the best. 

How is the RS different to the regular Clio?

As is standard with hot hatches, on the surface the RS200 variant appears as a regular Clio that's been made to look a little bit rowdier. 

Where the base Clio possesses refined features that sees it blend in with the other traffic on the road, the RS sports a design that would look more at home on the track. A wider, more aggressive grille files more air through to the 1.6 litre powerplant, and more attention-seeking rims replace the stock option. 

Even the rear end of the Clio RS200 has seen a race-ready redesign. Just like the Formula 1 cars Renault powers, this version has a rear diffuser, essential for keeping the back wheels stuck to the ground at high speed. It's also a great way to appeal to petrolheads – who's going to say no to race car parts?

Speaking of Formula 1 inspiration, the Clio RS200 comes complete with an option that could upset the purists. 

Older hot hatches were also about the purity of the experience, prioritising simplicity and analogue technology to connect drivers with the road. In this regard, the Clio RS200 brings with it a shocking twist – no manual option. 

No matter how much you plead, you'll be swapping cogs with F1 technology instead of a clutch and shifter. Like modern supercars and GT racers, the Renault Clio RS200 forces drivers to move through the gears with paddle shifters. At least you can still feel like a racing driver doing it. 

How does it perform?

Thanks to the combination of hot hatch DNA and modern race car technology, the Clio RS200 is more than ready to tackle the demands of the road. From city driving to spirited country road excursions, the chassis, engine and gearbox meld into an experience easily capable of rivalling the class-leading Golf. 

In fact, it's this demand for performance that necessitates the lack of a manual transmission option. While these options are generally the more satisfying experience, they're significantly slower. In case you need proof, just ask yourself, what are Formula 1 drivers currently using?

This is due to the fact they can be paired with a dual-clutch transmission, an option that greatly speeds up gear changes, meaning drivers can flick through the gears with the tips of their fingers. 

In Renault's case, the French marque's dual-clutch option is mated with a peppy 1.6 litre engine that – thanks to the joys of turbo charging – makes 200 horsepower. While it's a third of what has become standard for modern supercars, for a giant go-kart it's more than enough to put a smile on your face. 

Is it comfortable?

With all this talk of performance, you might be thinking the Clio RS200 is some sort of stripped-out racer for the road that compromises comfort for the sake of speed. Thankfully, this isn't the case, and the Clio is just as equipped in the comfort stakes as it is under the hood. 

However, in keeping with its aim of being a hot hatch, it also isn't overloaded with technology – these cars were founded on simplicity remember. 

In saying that, the Clio ​RS200 still does enough to keep up with what modern buyers expect from new cars. There's satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and automatic windscreen wipers. 

What keen-eyed buyers will notice, however, is that it still does as much as possible to put the control in the hands of the driver, meaning none of the features that are the precursors to fully autonomous vehicles make an appearance. 

How safe is the Clio RS200?

Naturally, the Clio comes packed with the kind of safety equipment that's has become standard in the modern era of motoring. Electronic stability control keeps the car pointed in a straight line no matter what, and electronic brake force distribution ensures any panicked attempts to stop the car occur safely. 

On top of this, the Clio RS200 still prioritises safety at low speeds too. A reversing camera combined with sensors means that drivers are never ensure of what could be lurking behind them – essential in busy car parks and in driveways. 

Is it the hot hatch for you?

If you're set on getting a hot hatch, there'll likely be number that have caught your eye by now, so why pick the Renault Clio RS200?

For one thing, this modern commitment to providing peak performance is backed by heritage that is hard to top. For a walk on the weird side, why not find out what else the Clio can offer?

2015 Ford Ranger – A ute for every occasion

Utes may be the most quintessentially Australian vehicles on sale at the moment. What else could survive the outback, get the kids to school, keep a business running and even go racing on the weekend?

As some sort of all-purpose miracle car, the ute has mobilised Australian tradies, miners and families for decades, becoming an icon of the country's transport and automotive manufacturing industries in the process. 

Naturally, the two manufacturers responsible for keeping this industry ticking over, Ford and Holden, have also always had a rivalry in this market. For years, both manufacturers produced ute versions of their most popular cars, the Falcon and the Commodore respectively. 

These battles weren't only fought on the construction site, with the V8 Utes series ensuring both marques could duke it out on the track as well. 

Aside from these ute variants of family sedans, Australian manufacturers have also always crafted purpose-built utes to tackle any terrain that comes their way. These vehicles are a little bit further away from traditional Aussie utes in terms of size and stature, and more closely resemble vehicles produced by the one other country that loves these vehicles – the USA. 

The most noticeable difference for these utes – or 'trucks' as our American brethren refer to them – is that they're closer to off-road vehicles, giving them further advantages when the going gets tough. 

With that in mind, it's time to turn our attention to Ford's latest offering in this segment, the 2015 Ranger. 

Tough done smarter

That's how Ford is describing its latest grown up ute, with the Ranger towering over the Falcon-based utes of yesteryear. 

The slogan wants drivers to stop judging the book by its cover, and Ford is determined to prove that just because the Ranger is a large off-road vehicle, this doesn't mean it can't include a certain degree of refinement that motorists expect from their vehicles. 

Because of this, the 2015 Ford Ranger is packed with all sorts of gadgets, gizmos and devices to surprise hardened tradies that are used to nothing more than a column-shifter and a tape deck. 

These aren't just for show however, and most of the technological wizardry Ford has packed into the Ranger will be of use to busy blue-collar professionals trying to run a business on the go. The updated SYNC 2 system is a communication device designed for the modern employee. 

By pairing your phone with it, SYNC 2 can make calls for you and even read text messages aloud – keeping you on the right side of the law. On top of this, the whole thing is voice-activated, allowing drivers to keep both hands on the wheel while taking calls and arranging jobs at the same time. 

Don't worry though, it's not just the boring stuff that's controlled in this way. Fancy changing tunes or radio station to drown out your calls on the drive home? Simply speak up, and the SYNC 2 will manage the rest. 

And yet, that still isn't the end of the fun you can have with it. The SatNav and climate control systems are also voice activated. Whether or not it can detect the phrase "maybe we should ask for directions" remains to be seen, however. 

Outsmart the wilderness

Back in the day, utes and other off-road vehicles had to conquer the wilderness with sheer power and brute strength. However, now that the Ranger is promising to be smarter, will it leave owners stranded in the outback?

As it turns out, this is far from the case, with the Ranger bringing technology in to the fight against nature.

Not only has the vehicle realised what it takes to survive, it knows what the modern human requires when it's forced out of its comfort zone. Unlike almost any other vehicle, the 2015 Ford Ranger has a 230 volt outlet installed in the cab, allowing people to charge phones and other electronic equipment to keep nature at bay. 

Continuing with the smart theme, the ute also sports both automatic wipers and headlamps, so you can keep your hands on the wheel when conditions take a turn for the worst. 

Power through…

Ute purists don't have to worry about the Ranger completely leaving tradition behind thankfully, as both engine options are still resolutely diesel to ensure it's capable of hauling the heaviest loads without breaking the bank. 

Builders on a budget will survive with the 2.2 litre turbo-diesel option that produces nearly 120 kilowatts of power and just under 400 newton-metres of torque. On the surface this seems capable enough, but, as always, there's a much more powerful option for those who they think they could do with the extra grunt. 

By blowing the engine out to 3.2 litres, Ford raises the power to just a smidge under the 150 Kw mark. While they aren't necessarily the highest power numbers in the world, it's the torque figure that really illustrates what the ranger is capable of. 

With the 3.2 litre turbo-diesel option, the Ford Ranger delivers what seems like just enough power to flatten Ayers Rock. The scientific result? 470 newton-metres of torque. 

There's not a lot that would hold you back with that amount of power, and it's hard to imagine needing to replace the Ranger as a work ute anytime soon if that's the amount of power it's outputting. 

…and around

Surely that's the end of it right? Ford have proven that a ute can have gadgets that rival a car and can outpower a good chunk of them. What else is there to prove?

Not content to provide an off-road vehicle that isn't fun to drive, Ford has matched the aggressive looks of its exterior with handling prowess. 

Like the new BMW M3 and various models in Porsche's range, the Ranger has electronically-assisted power-steering. If it's good enough for Stuttgart's finest, it'll be more than enough for Australia's tradies and adventurers to navigate the construction site. 

Of course, no modern off-road vehicle would be complete with fancy differentials. Unlike road cars, these machines have to contend with all manner of surfaces and inclines. In the past, mechanical know-how would be enough to shift the Raptor up and over tricky terrain. However, a 21st century problem demands 21st century solutions – technology. 

The new e-Locking Rear Differential takes the fuss out of these situations and puts the Ranger's computers in control. Hill descent control is added to these systems. Whether drivers are coming up or going down, the Ranger ensures these maneouvres are carried out quickly, safely and easily. 

Why is this the ultimate ute?

There are a number of reasons why the 2015 Ford Ranger can be considered the ultimate ute for the country's roads and construction sites, with the number of options meaning even the pickiest of car buyers can get the option they want. 

Whether it's dual cab or single, all-wheel drive or two-wheel drive, there's little that drivers can't change to suit their needs. It's this flexibility, along with Ford's promise of a tougher, smarter ute that's ready to embrace new technology that is tempting buyers. 

This alone separates the 2015 Ford Ranger from being just another ute. While spartan options such as the Hilux have succeeded in the past, new car buyers want technology, even in a vehicle designed to tame the great outdoors. 

These gadgets don't feel out of place in the Ranger either, with both in the interior and exterior design still managing to paint it as one of the more hardened vehicles on the market. 

Mercedes AMG GT – Should you sell your Porsche for one?

Certain automotive manufacturers have always ruled the roost in their respective sectors. For example, BMW has locked out the mid-size sedan market with its 3 Series for decades, few other hot hatches could touch the Volkswagen Golf and if you wanted a 2-door sports car, there was little reason to ignore the Porsche 911. 

These cars have always held a special place in the hearts of petrol heads, generally because the 911s have been available with almost every option under the sun. Whether you want the ultimate in luxury or a stripped out racing interior, a turbo charged or a normally aspirated engine, four-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, Porsche has been more then ready to accommodate a driver's needs. 

Naturally, the vehicle has always had rivals. Ferrari's flagship models such as the recent 458 have always positioned themselves in opposition, and the 'baby lambos' like the Gallardo and Huracan could provide a more flamboyant alternative to the 911's classic stature. 

Now, there's a new kid in town. Mercedes can't really be considered a fresh face on the supercar scene, but they also don't quite have the same expertise as marques such as the aforementioned trio. Sure the departing SLS has enough power to rip through the amount of tyres Pirelli produce in a day, but it never really took much away from more established alternatives. It did have gullwing doors though, which does give it extra points toward coolness. 

Mercedes also produced a vehicle with McLaren – the SLR. The car boasted a supercharged V8 and – of course – more ridiculous doors, ensuring no one could dispute its position as a supercar. After all, since the Lamborghini Countach in the '80s, supercars have always been judged as harshly by their potential as poster cars, along with their performance numbers. 

This leads into the AMG GT, a car built from the ground up to tackle the world's supercar elite. Despite this fact, it now has normal doors. Here's what sets it apart. 

The future is turbo charged

This is going to get – just a little bit – technical. But science is cool when it concerns turbos right? Right. 

No longer resigned to being little more than boy racer fodder, turbo charging is now here to save the environment. Soon, the only way to secure a screaming V12 supercar will be at a classic car auction, with the much-loved engine configuration swiftly and unfortunately becoming a dinosaur in an age of fuel saving. 

It's not all bad news, and it means turbo development has evolved rapidly. In the '80s, it existed for little more than making cars insane.

To use a well-publicised example, the BMW M12 engine used in Formula 1 throughout the '80s was only 1.5 litres in size, smaller than most current Corolla engines. With the addition of mammoth – and obscenely inefficient – turbos, the engine was able to churn out more than 1500 horsepower in qualifying trim.

The result? More power, sure, but instead of coming on smoothly as is usually desired, this early turbo technology simply dumped a whole heap of extra thrust at a certain rev range. It also meant that engines lasted no more than around four laps of a standard Grand Prix circuit. Nothing represents '80s excess more than throwing out an engine after barely 10 minutes of use. 

Thankfully, we now live in an age of refinement, where lag compensation efforts mean turbos aren't the definition of insanity they once were. While the biturbo V8 cranks out more than 500 horsepower and almost as much torque, it's packaged in a much more manageable format than turboed cars of old. 

There's also an important distinction to make regarding 'biturbo'. It's merely a marketing term for twin turbos, meaning the AMG GT's already competent engine receives double the boost. 

Balance of power

As mentioned above, the AMG GT's unofficial ancestor – the SLS – was bit of a handful, happy to dump its hundreds of horsepower with even the slightest press of the loud pedal.

With the AMG GT, Mercedes has realised that if it's to steal the Porsche's thunder, it needs to abandon a bit of the marque's trademark insanity. To achieve this, Mercedes has focused on balance and handling, gifting the AMG GT with perfect weight distribution and a rear-wheel drive powertrain to craft the ultimate in driving dynamics. 

It's not all function over form however, as the AMG GT is equipped with staggered wheel sizes. The rear end sports 20-inch tyres, while the front makes do with 19s. The result? A forward-leaning aggressive stance that signals the firm's performance-oriented intentions. 

Just in case that isn't aggressive enough for your tastes, Mercedes offers the option of having these rims painted matte black – a transformative feature that should be a choice with every new vehicle purchase. 

What are the technology options on the Mercedes AMG GT?

Mercedes has always been on the cutting-edge of innovation, with its S-Class series of cars existing as the ultimate in luxury sedans. The latest one even has night vision as a safety feature. How many other cars adopt military technology in the pursuit of saving lives? Not enough. 

In fact, the AMG GT is so committed to being at the forefront of developing technology that you can't even have a manual version. While it will be considered sacrilege by old-school purists, it simply comes down to the fact that these transmissions are too slow. 

In the world of supercars, performance figures are defined by milliseconds. Despite the fact that nothing promotes driver engagement more than a left foot on the clutch and a hand on the shifter, it's simply not fast enough. 

Instead, a 7-speed dual clutch transmission is fitted as standard to every AMG GT. However, flappy-paddle shifters means that drivers can still change gear when they want, bringing the car more in line to its GT3 racing brethren. 

This technology focus also enables the AMG GT to embrace fuel efficiency as well. The gearbox has three selectable modes, ensuring drivers don't have to drive around at the speed of sound draining all nearby petrol stations. 

Why not go racing?

The rivalry between the AMG GT and the Porsche 911 is not just limited to city streets. Mercedes is pursusing its German rival's racing crown as well, and keen customers will be able to purchase AMG GT GT3 racing cars. Nothing makes a vehicle look more enticing than race specification, and the AMG GT's predatory stance has been further augmented by these welcome additions. 

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However, the AMG GT has its work cut out if it thinks it can rival the Porsche on track. The 911 has been raced in GT3 configuration for decades, with all-Porsche categories serving as a stepping stone for budding race car drivers. 

Mercedes does have some successs to build on, as the SLS GT3s of the past few years did manage to secure some victories in the cutthroat events around the world, so they aren't coming at it completely blind. 

So, should you sell your Porsche?

It's a tough question, and we're sure every petrol head would love to make room in their garage for both, but the AMG GT is ready to give the 911 and all its variants a true run for their money. 

Ultimately, the choice is yours. V8 or flat 6? Power or precision? Either way, you'll drive away with a smile on your face.

The Toyota 86 – A sports classic reborn

Despite all of the pressure for automotive manufacturers to focus on a future of sustainability, reduced fuel consumption and safety technologies, most can't help but look backwards occasionally.

For those that have spent decades crafting a brand that speaks to a certain sector of the automotive world, there is value in celebrating heritage. After all, history is one of the key factors in any brand's establishment and is essential to keeping loyal followers interested in what it does next. 

One of the more interesting examples of a company reaching into the past to satiate its fans is Mazda. The Japanese marque has cultivated a die-hard cult following of rotary enthusiasts, a group that lives on despite the fact the unique engine configuration is no longer produced. 

On top of this, Mazda has even supplied world renowned drifter/professional hooligan Mad Mike Whiddett with factory backing to build a rotary-powered drift car – a far cry from the modern automotive world of sustainability and safety. 

Which leads us neatly to the Toyota 86, a car whose name signals its intentions right from the get-go. Those two numbers – 8 and 6 – combine to reference one of the most revered vehicles in underground car culture. 

To the uninitiated, it may seem like a reference to some sort of formidable sports car. In reality, it's a call back to a Toyota Corolla from the 80s. 

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Designated with the model number AE86, this was no normal Corolla. While the modern version we all know and love supports a grandma-friendly front-wheel drive layout, the AE86 was a whole different beast, with rear-wheel drive marking it as the budding drifter's first car of choice. 

As if its real-world shenanigans weren't enough to make it a legend, it was further immortalised in the anime and manga series Initial D that detailed the mountain-conquering exploits of Fujiwara Tofu Shop delivery boy Takumi. 

Now, with the history lesson done and dusted, what makes the current incarnation so special?

Modern reinvention of an 80s classic

Clearly, Toyota has proved it can make world-leading vehicles, but what happens when it teams up with another star of the Japanese motoring scene in Subaru? 

The answer is the all-new 86 – or BR-Z if you've bought the Subaru equivalent – a vehicle that represents a collaboration between two automotive powerhouses that is set to revolutionise the modern sports car segment. 

Not only is it a reference to a specific model from Japan's past, it brings a whole class of vehicle back from the dead. From the late 80s and through to the early 90s, cheap Japanese coupes ruled the automotive roost, with Nissan Silvias, Mazda MX-5s and Mitsubishi Starions finding favour among young drivers looking for affordable ways to go fast. 

The collaboration celebrates this trend by combining Toyota's expert chassis building with Subaru's stellar engine production. Toyota's rear-wheel drive platform is augmented by a boxer engine that has become the auditory calling card for Subaru, sporting an engine note no enthusiast could ignore. 

Capable on road or track

While the 86 certainly looks the part, it's reputation would be in tatters if it couldn't back this up on the track. With the prevalence of track days throughout Australia, there's every opportunity for 86 fans to replicate Takumi's exploits in a much safer environment. 

Toyota claims the 86 was born on the track, and further probing reveals its chassis and handling wasn't crafted on just any piece of road, but the famed Nurburgring Nordschleife – a race track so formidable it was nicknamed The Green Hell by Formula 1 champion Jackie Stewart. 

Those credentials alone are a testament to the rigorous development the 86 was put through, with the vehicle emerging as a race-bred coupe ready for confidently tackling any country back roads with ease. 

Toyota then returned the 86 to some of its spiritual breeding grounds, test driving the car around classic Japanese racing circuits such as Fuji International Speedway and Suzuka Circuit where its ancestors laid waste to competitors in previous decades. 

Naturally, the 86 is built with the type of techniques usually reserved for purpose-built racing cars and stripped out tuners, with a low centre of gravity a key part of Toyota's design philosophy. This drastically alters the vehicle's handling characteristics, resulting in a vehicle that is more nimble with aggressive levels of grip – ensuring no corner is too difficult for the 86 and its driver to master. Here's renowned automotive journalist Chris Harris taking it for a spin. 

A cockpit for drivers

If there's any one part of the Toyota 86 that signals its intent, it's the design of its interior. Where 99 per cent of other vehicles on the market are targeted at making the driver as comfortable as possible and showering them with gadgets and gizmos, the 86 eschews this design sensibility altogether. 

Where some motorists may call it spartan, Toyota has deemed it "Driver-Focused". This isn't a vehicle for taking business calls or playing with voice recognition systems – it's for driving, and driving only. 

Instead of focusing its attention finding new ways for drivers and passengers to control the radio and infotainments systems, Toyota used its research and development budget to encourage racing drivers to adjust the steering wheel. 

What's merely a holdover in other cars until our autonomous vehicle overlords can take over is a main point of focus for the 86. For example, it's the smallest steering wheel Toyota offers, making it easy for drivers to produce deft movements whether they're on road or track. 

These faster inputs are encouraged by a steering rack designed for quickness, enhancing the nimble nature inherent in the 86's chassis. Again, Toyota is positioning itself against other sports car manufacturers. Some, such as BMW and Porsche, are embracing electronically assisted power steering instead of traditional hydraulic options. 

Not only has Toyota stuck with fluid over electricity, it assures potential drivers that the assist only inputs a minimal amount of force. In an age where most other manufacturers are trying to artificially limit driver involvement, the 86 is a welcome response for petrolheads that were calling for more driver-focused vehicles. 

Is it safe?

With all these talks surrounding spartan interiors and driver involvement, you may be wondering how far Toyota has decided to push the retro aesthetic.

Thankfully, when it comes to safety, the Toyota 86 again begins to resemble a more modern car. After all, if amateur racing drivers are going to be pushing these things to the limit at track days, the car needs to back them up if it all turns pear-shaped. 

Ventilated disc brakes are standard on all models, and are backed up by Brake Assist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution technology. If you need to stop in a hurry, the 86 is more than prepared to help you do it safely. 

Added to these braking systems is electronic stability control, designed to step in and takeover in evasive manoeuvres. For a sports car, it's essential that these driving aids can step in when necessary. 

The 86's safety features are also bolstered by seven air bags designed to shield drivers and passengers in the event of an incident. 

Why do you need a Toyota 86?

Notice we haven't used the word 'want' in that question. Drivers who are used to cushy cabins and features that take cars closer to the autonomous realm will be pleasantly surprised by a vehicle that seeks to take the art of driving to a more human place. 

If you want – or need – to take control of your driving habits, the Toyota 86 is the car to open your world. 

How has car safety evolved and what comes next?

Manufacturers have a tough ask when it comes to bringing car safety features into their lineups. While their engineers are more than capable of creating solutions that do the job, they're pitching their ideas to a tough crowd.

For example, enthusiasts often aren't interested, and would prefer vehicles went back to the spartan days of classic sports cars, where even seat belts were often optional. Casual car-buyers, on the other hand, expect safety technologies as standard. 

With the battle to satisfy both parties, as well as the need to meet strict ANCAP guidelines for secure vehicles, technicians have rapidly evolved what it means to have a safe car over the years. What originally began as little more than stretching a belt across your person eventually morphed into airbags, stability control and now complex arrays of computers and sensors to let the car make its own choices. 

So, working from the seat belt to modern day computer wizardry, here are some of the most important safety developments that shaped the past, present and are now changing the future.

The seat belt, pride of Sweden

Believe it or not, what is now the subject of numerous road safety campaigns and second nature for modern drivers and passengers wasn't created until the 1930s. Even then, the devices consisted of little more than a lap belt, and were only a suggestion for manufacturers and motorists. 

It wasn't until 1958 that Nils Bohlin invented the three point seat belt that still adorns modern vehicles. Few will be surprised that Mr Bohlin worked for Volvo, the Swedish marque with a passion for making some of the safest vehicles on the planet, like the XC90 SUV – a car endorsed by Jeremy Clarkson himself. 

In fact, the company even once claimed that by 2020, no person would be killed in a Volvo due to an accident. It's a bold claim, and one the firm has since backed down from, but it doesn't diminish the intent. 

Obviously, seat belts are now compulsory for manufacturers to install and vehicle occupants to wear. While it's difficult to tell just how many lives Mr Bohlin has saved with such a simple piece of engineering, the seat belt is undoubtedly one of the most important design developments to make its way into vehicles.

Airbags, the key to impact protection

Airbags are an interesting invention, bursting out from within the car to catch and hold your head in an impact. It's certainly not a comfortable sensation, but it's infinitely better to be punched in the face with a bag of air than it is to hit your head on anything else in a car. 

Although the patents for these life-saving devices were originally filed in the early 50s, a working model wasn't patented until 1968 and it took a further three years for them to start appearing in cars thanks to General Motors. The Oldsmobile Toronado ended up being the first production vehicle to carry the invention, but these proved to do more harm than good.

By 1992, thanks to regulatory pressure from the US government, every vehicle manufactured for the US market came equipped with airbags, a milestone in driver safety.

Naturally, manufacturers soon saw the potential of airbags, realising they can be used for more than just protecting forward head movement in head-on accidents. In the mid-90s, side impact airbags started to make their way into vehicles as standard, keeping people safe in dangerous T-bone accidents as well. 

Soon, the number of airbags fitted to vehicles steadily began to climb, with front and rear passenger airbags joining the fray to keep occupants safe in any type of impact. 

Driver aids, prevention is better than a cure

While there's no disputing that the above developments saved plenty of lives over their years of evolution, engineers soon realised they could save even more lives if they reduced the likelihood of accidents happening. After all, airbags and seatbelts don't actually do anything to stop car crashes from occurring, they simply aim to mitigate their effects. 

The problem is that car control is not taught to all drivers. Sure, we can all make the car go, stop and turn safely, but when conditions begin to foul and we need to take evasive action, most of us turn into Mr Bean rather than Mr Peter Brock. 

During these adventurous manoeuvres, the skills, reactions and foresight needed to control a car safely goes beyond the realm of the casual motorist and into the domain of race car driver. Rather than try and teach the world's drivers how to deftly shift their Toyota Corolla into a perfect Scandinavian flick, manufacturers realised it was probably best just to let computers do the job. 

One of the first major developments to take the world by storm was traction control, a system that does exactly what it says on the tin. For motorists with a lead foot or a powerful car, it's easy to inadvertently lose grip, especially as conditions deteriorate and rain compromises stability. 

Traction control essentially takes your power to accelerate away from you if it detects you're misbehaving. Sensors monitor wheel speed, so if you're spinning one or both in a reckless manner, traction control systems will automatically reduce engine power. 

Electronic stability control (ESC) takes this further. Where traction control helps drivers retain control under power, ESC prevents vehicles from spinning out when changing direction, whether that's due to the need for evasive action or simply underestimating the road's conditions. 

While the car can't take control of the steering wheel for you – yet, autonomous cars are on their way – it can influence its direction in other ways. To straighten out a spinning car, ESC will change the brake pressure on certain wheels to reduce the severity of the moment. 

Autonomous emergency braking, the precursor to the future

As we said above, autonomous technology is on the rise in modern vehicles, simultaneously defining the present and the future of safety technology. Although government regulations still need to catch up with the technology to truly allow the computers to take over, manufacturers are slowly drip feeding the evolutions into modern vehicles. 

In particular, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) has been proven by ANCAP to make a noticeable difference in preventing rear-end collisions. The organisation published research that was produced in conjunction with the Australian Medical Association (AMA), using it to pilot the Avoid the crash, Avoid the trauma campaign. 

According to AMA President Professor Brian Owler, motorists can count on this technology to enhance safe driving behaviours. 

"Road safety and public health go hand in hand," he said. "Road trauma has an enormous impact on the lives of everyday Australians and our health system."

"We must do all we can to eliminate it, and governments have an important role to play, especially in working with the car industry to make cars safer, preferably by making life-saving technology like AEB standard features in all new cars."

ANCAP's figures show that AEB can reduce the chance of rear-end collisions by up to 38 per cent. Furthermore, nearly 90 per cent of all car accidents involve human error in some manner. By introducing technologies such as AEB, this risk is eliminated as computers can fill in the gaps of a driver's skill. 

Of course, this is only the start of autonomous safety developments, and the future is likely to bring further advancements. 

5 cars that evolved through motorsport

While some people will view motor racing as nothing more than a juvenile waste of the earth's natural resources, others will realise the significance the sport has played in creating, evolving and redefining a number of iconic vehicles over the past century.

The developments that came from these experiments over the years were not just about speed and handling either, as safety technology has changed with the times. Fuel efficiency is now also a key factor for manufacturers building race cars. World-leading series such as the World Endurance Championship and Formula 1 require cars to be powered by hybrid engines, shaping the future of road car evolution while providing entertainment for the masses. 

Of course, this doesn't quite mean you'll be able to buy a Formula 1 car for the road just yet, but there are plenty of other options for the buyer who wants a vehicle that has a history of success in the sport. Here are five that we think pass the test:

1. Holden Commodore SS VF

One of Australia's most iconic vehicles, the Holden Commodore has been a performance benchmark in the sedan category for decades now. The SS is one of the most sought after variants, combining the standard Australian soundtrack – the V8 – with rear wheel drive, purposeful looks and enough space to comfortably seat the whole family. But how did it do on the track?

Australia's V8 Supercar championship was traditionally defined by the rivalry between the Ford Falcon and the Holden Commodore. While there are other marques in the field now, there's little these new challengers can do to overthrow the old guard. 

The Commodore's reputation was forged on the roads of one of the world's toughest racetracks, with Holden achieving 29 wins across the range of models it tackled Bathurst with. 

2. BMW M3

While the 2015 BMW M3 has shed one of its defining features after becoming a sedan instead of a coupe, it is still one of the most recognisable names in performance motoring. Drivers who feel they need the coupe can opt for the M4, but the name doesn't ring with the same sense of authority as the class-defining M3. 

BMW has always had success in touring car racing, with both the 3 and 6 series finding their way to multiple championship wins from the 60s through to the 80s. This reached new heights in 1987, however, when the Munich manufacturer's Motorsports division created the first ever M3. 

That year, the car won touring car championships in Germany, Britain, Australia and Italy, culminating in a World Touring Car Championship victory. Although modern examples are further removed from their road-going counterparts than their predecessors were, the M3 is still a formidable performance car on road and track. 

3. Subaru Impreza WRX STI

No car ever achieved such a unique claim to fame as the Subaru Impreza WRX STI. While other cars are known for their motor racing exploits across multiple classes and series, the Impreza did one thing: rally. 

Whether it was going sideways on the gravel in Corsica, flying through beautiful Finnish air or braving the cold in Sweden, if you needed to go fast on tough surfaces, the Impreza was the rally car for you. 

The race car DNA translated perfectly to the road car as well. While the base Impreza attempts to blend in with other mid-size sedans, the WRX STI models turned the insanity dial up to 11 – adding wings, bodykits and turbos to provide a rally car for the road. 

The catalyst for all of this sideways excess is the car's four-wheel drive system, which helps drivers maintain grip in dangerous conditions. 

Ever since it's first WRC Championship win at the hands of the late Colin McRae, the Impreza has been a benchmark for performance sedans. 

4. Nissan R35 GT-R

Some cars are all about bragging rights, and none do it better than the R35 GT-R. Unofficially, it's the latest incarnation of Nissan's all-destroying Skyline lineage, a legacy that includes a vehicle that was so fast it was banned from competition in Australia, and shaped motorsport as we know it. 

At the hands of Jim Richards and Mark Skaife, the R32 GT-R demolished the competition in the 1992 Bathurst 1000. The R32 was dubbed "Godzilla" as its four-wheel drive system and turbocharged powerplant laid waste to the rest of the competition – including Australian staples such as the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore. 

The comprehensive victory indirectly led to the creation of the V8 Supercars Championship, where four-wheel drive and turbocharged engines were both banned. 

Naturally, these traits still exist in the R35 GT-R, along with a host of electronic wizardry designed to make even the most ham-fisted driver feel like they're replicating the exploits of their heroes. It too has tasted success at Bathurst, with the GT3 race car version taking top spot in this year's Bathurst 12-Hour Endurance race.

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5. Porsche 911

The gentleman's race car of choice, the Porsche 911 has been a feature of track days, GT racing and endurance endeavours since its inception decades ago. Its cause is helped by the immense factory support for the car's variants, resulting in most countries having their own race series especially for Porsche 911 GT3 cars. 

Porsche 911s have been dominant in all forms of racing, with countless GT3 wins and even a recent rally resurgence for the truly insane. For a car that was nicknamed the widowmaker, slinging a race-prepped version along gravel roads seems like a true test of bravery, but few cars would be as capable. 

The various road cars have continued to learn from their race car brethren, with versions like the GT2 and GT3 being all-but racing vehicles for the road. Some even exchange all creature comforts like carpets and radios for bits of roll cage and other lightweight adornments in the never ending pursuit of speed.

So, with five of the best race influenced road cars to choose from, which one will end up in your driveway?

Subaru Forester: Rally heritage, family future

Subaru used to be the odd ball of the Japanese car market. While other marques were making their names as providers of sensible vehicles, Subaru was releasing things like the Brat (a tiny ute) and the Justy (an equally tiny hatchback that for some reason sported a four-wheel drive option). 

Since then, the company has always embraced having a bit of personality. Even its four-door sedan – the Impreza – wasn't a normal car. While this is generally a realm of sensibility for other manufacturers, Subaru instead took the chance to create a rally icon, adding four-wheel drive and turbochargers to push it over the edge. 

Of course, the company couldn't sustain this level of madness, at least not in a world of five star safety ratings and emissions concerns anyway. Although the Impreza has survived – and been made more insane with the WRX and WRX STI options, the lineup has now been bolstered with more family-oriented designs. 

The more restrained Subaru Legacy pre-dates the Impreza, but the company had to further diversify its lineup to appeal to a wider range of consumers. Subaru had made a living appealing to rally mentalists with the Impreza, but what would fans of the brand drive as they got older and had kids?

On top of this, the Impreza was still a road car at heart. As the demand for SUVs grew, Subaru needed a vehicle that was capable in proper off-road environments, not just on gravel trails. 

Enter the Forester. Like most other Subarus it has a boxer engine (we'll get to that later) and four-wheel drive. Unlike other Subarus it's an SUV, which in this day and age paints it as a jack of all trades. It can be a daily family wagon, a weekend leisure vehicle or an off-roader. 

Here's how these features come together in the 2015 edition:

"Get more done. Have more fun"

Those aren't our words, that's how Subaru is promoting the latest Forester, as a combination of SUV practicality and standard Subaru madness. It's got a tough act to follow in the form of last year's model however, with Australia's Best Cars naming it the best four-wheel drive SUV under $45,000, a claim worth bragging about in a competitive market that includes the Mazda CX-5 and the Kia Sportage. The defining feature in the verdict? The capable four-wheel drive system, Subaru's specialty. 

Not only do consumers like cheap cars, they like cheap SUVs even more, so this is a bigger claim than what some people might give it credit for. 

This is not just a slogan either, it's a design philosophy. Subaru has ensured the Forester can walk the walk while its marketing team talks the talk. Drivers with the four-wheel drive version get 220mm of ground clearance, so if something gets in the way of your outdoor adventures you can almost definitely drive over it. 

The company has also realised that off-road driving is not as easy as it looks. While its machinery is almost certainly capable, the driver might not be. 

On uneven terrain, barreling up and over hills is a quick way to get into trouble, so Subaru has added a feature called X-Mode to keep the vehicle travelling safely. The technology is available on all variants with the CVT transmission, and offers descent control for tricky downhill sections and improved grip when the going gets tough. 

Rugged outside, luxurious inside

By now you might be thinking the 2015 Subaru Forester is all substance and no style, but you'd be wrong. Thanks to some minor miracle, Subaru's engineers have combined the company's outdoorsy attitude with the entertainment systems and luxury features that the modern consumer expects. 

Subaru describes it as the "ultimate in luxury interiors", so you'll want to be careful you don't get mud all over the leather seats after your off-road adventures. The leather isn't just for the seats either, Subaru has wrapped the steering wheel in it, so whether you're ploughing through the wilderness or driving the kids to school you're driving in total comfort. 

The Japanese marque has also realised that being the ultimate family off-roader is not all to do with seating capacity, it's about keeping the peace as well. Dual zone climate control means both the driver and the front passenger can have the air conditioning at different temperatures – a revolution for drivers with a picky significant other. 

What modern car would be complete without gadgets? The Forester has a 7 inch LCD monitor for displaying maps and other relevant information and even possess Pandora compatibility, so no matter how far you get from radio range you always have a good selection of tunes. 

What's a boxer engine and why should I care?

Dyed in the wool Subaru enthusiasts can probably skip this paragraph, as the distinctive note of the company's 4-cylinder boxer engine will have been ringing in their ears since the day they first heard it. 

It's been the soundtrack to many a rally victory, and now you can bring the noise home with you. While it has been toned down for the family-centric forester, it's just one aftermarket exhaust modification away from causing flashbacks for any rally tragics in a kilometre radius. 

So, why all the fuss over just another engine? Well, this isn't just another engine. Unlike all other motors, cylinders in the boxer variety are at 180 degrees to each other. So, in relation to the ground they sit at 90 degrees, punching outwards like, well, a boxer. 

Other terms would be a flat engine, and while the layout isn't unique to Subaru (Ferrari has raced flat-12 engines) the 4-cylinder boxer has become the company's calling card, and it's right at home in the Forester. 

Is it safe?

Thanks to its status as a family vehicle and an off-road explorer, the Subaru Forester has to be doubly safe. It's not a surprise then that the 2015 edition boasts a five start safety rating, letting drivers tackle the terrain of their choice with the utmost confidence. 

It's not enough now to just have airbags as standard, which is why Subaru has equipped the Forester with a number of driving aids on every model, no matter which option people choose. These include anti-lock brakes, electronic brake distribution (so brake force goes where it needs to in an emergency) and electronic stability control. 

Subaru's safety has also taken a step into the future, with new EyeSight technology utilising the power of technology to provide drivers with a second more powerful set of eyes. If the system detects something is is dangerous on the road ahead, it will set off visual and audio alarms to alert the driver and ensure appropriate action is taken. 

If the driver doesn't react in time, the 2015 Subaru Forester can actually brake by itself – an extra step in accident prevention. On top of this, the Forester ships with lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control to make it easier to stay focused on long drives on the open road. 

Is it your next SUV?

Whether you need a vehicle to help you conquer the outdoors or something safe to trundle around in with the family, chances are the 2015 Subaru Forester has you covered.

Sporting everything you could want from an SUV, the Forester combines unique brand value with a capable vehicle that's everything you need it to be. 

Hyundai Sonata – Korea’s flagship sedan on song again

While Japanese manufacturers got used to being the dominant force in the Asian automotive scene, other companies in the region have been preparing their responses in an attempt to bring competition back into the market. 

One of these marques is Hyundai, the largest automobile manufacturer in South Korea, not just in capacity, but market share as well. According to the firm, it had a 45 per cent market share in its home country while breaking the 3.6 million cars sold mark worldwide. 

Clearly, the company is becoming a force to be reckoned with, boasting a wide range of vehicles across nearly all corners of the market. Hyundai has also become more adventurous in its promotion and research and development activities as well, going so far as to field a factory-backed team in the World Rally Championship.

That doesn't mean its road vehicles have become unruly sports-oriented monsters however, as they've retained their mix of sporty undertones that are superbly balanced with refined exteriors. 

Which leads us nicely into the Hyundai Sonata, a brave entry into the medium-car market. After all, this segment is dominated by some of the motoring industry's most recognisable models, like the industry-defining BMW 3-series and Mercedes' masterful C-class. 

This hasn't deterred the Korean manufacturer, which is determined to hit a worldwide sales target of more than 8 million vehicles this year alone, according to a January 1 article from Reuters. This would mark a 2 per cent growth on its 2014 results and could cement their place as one of the world's leading manufacturers in the many segments it tackles. 

But we're not here to talk about the whole range, just the Sonata, the orchestration of Hyundai's many years in the medium-car market. So, what have they learnt?

"You'll be hooked" – Hyundai

Despite the aforementioned competition in the market, Hyundai is confident that its car is a worthy entry. After all, the car has been a staple in the South Korean marque's lineup since 1985. After decades of refinement, the results are plain to see. 

On the surface, it sports the design traits that have become synonymous with the medium-car market, with a confident and assertive stance making Hyundai's intentions clear. The firm outlines its design goals as a balancing act between the sophistication expected in its class and desire to give it a more purposeful appearance. 

The result is a vehicle that looks like it would be equally comfortable being valet parked as it would on the open road or carting the kids to soccer practice. It also looks to have the executive car market cornered, and wouldn't look out of place in a company's fleet. 

The Sonata has also been topped off with a few flashier features, like a panorama glassroof that adds a touch of class to proceedings. It is limited to the premium model unfortunately, but how could you not be tempted by an option that lets you drive under the night's stars without the hassle of removing the roof?

A car for you

According to Hyundai, the interior of the Sonata is designed for "you", as a comfortable space whether you're the passenger or the driver. The key to such a welcoming cabin space, because there is nothing worse than feeling cramped up in a car. In fact, Hyundai boasts that the Sonata can sear five adults in total comfort, a bonus for a car whose modus operandi is practicality. 

All of the switches, knobs, dials and buttons are designed and placed ergonomically as well, so you can reach the controls you need with minimal distraction and discomfort. 

Of course, the new Sonata has an infotainment system as well, practically standard throughout all car markets today. It comes equipped with a touchscreen satellite navigation system to make it easy to discover new places or find your way home. 

Hyundai has also proven the car is not just for you, but for your passengers as well, with dual-zone climate control allowing people in different areas of the cabin to select their own air-conditioning settings.

Those who spring for the premium variant get an extra set of options that's perfect if they're looking to share their Sonata with a partner or colleague. An integrated memory system remembers your exact seat settings, from the lumbar support to the cushion extension – a nice touch of luxury in what was already a capable executive car. 

Did your grandmother's Hyundai have a turbo?

Whether it's due to Hyundai's new found passion for rallying or because of cries for more efficient vehicles across the globe, the company has responded by fitting a turbocharger to the two litre petrol engine that powers the Sonata. 

While these were the realms of boy racers in the 90s, they've taken on a new lease on life in the fuel-efficient modern world. This is because of their ability to add a dollop of extra power to an engine without increasing its displacement, meaning manufacturers can focus on smaller, more economic engines then top up their power with boost.

The turbo option is unique to the two litre engine found in the Elite and Premium options, while the base model Active variant features a naturally-aspirated 2.4 litre 4 cylinder. 

Rather interestingly, there are no transmission options for the Sonata, as all variants come equipped with an automatic transmission augmented with manual shift technology. While it isn't the same as properly shifting gears, it's unlikely to matter to the Sonata's target audience. 

Is the 2015 Hyundai Sonata safe?

A car like this would lose all of its hard-earned reputation if it couldn't back up its impressive list of gadgets with market-leading safety features. 

Like all vehicles worth your time and attention, the Hyundai Sonata boasts a five star safety rating from ANCAP, with the organisation praising its impressive range of airbags as a defining feature. Unlike some other options in the market, the Sonata is equipped with curtain airbags designed to protect the head in a side-impact in both the first and second rows. 

As usual, all manner of driving aids are installed on the latest models, including traction and stability control and anti-lock brakes, so you can take evasive action safely and with confidence. 

Drivers aren't only protected at road speed either, as front and rear parking assist keeps your car and others around you safe during these delicate manoeuvres. 

Safety isn't just about keeping you safe, it's about ensuring the vehicle is protected at all times as well. For this reason, Hyundai has fitted a comprehensive range of security solutions to the Sonata, so you don't have to rush around securing aftermarket alarm systems to feel confident in your car. 

Is it the car for you?

If you're looking for a medium sedan that is a little different to other offerings on the market, the latest Sonata is definitely one to have your mind on. Possessing the same reliability cars from that part of the world are renowned for, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata is equipped for a number of varied purposes.

It's big enough to haul the family or be a capable vehicle for business fleets, yet it's not as ungainly as other vehicle classes and the classic sedan shape is certainly at home on the Australia's roads.

Hyundais have always been a bit of wildcard, but they're slowly finding their feet throughout fleets and driveways around Australia. Is it time for you to try something new?

How are green cars shaping the future?

It's probably difficult for some tried and true Australian petrol heads to manage, but the future lies in clean, green, energy efficient cars – not hulking V8s.

Even Australia's flagship motor racing series V8 Supercars has realised this, and will allow downsized engines and turbochargers back into the competition from 2017. For those still stuck in the past, it's blasphemy, but for the rest of us, it's progress.

The move has been influenced by demands from manufacturers that want their race cars to reflect their road offerings. In today's age, that means a combination of efficiency and power. 

So, with the days of the Holden Commodore numbered on track, consumers will have to turn to green cars. But what do they want from these vehicles?

Consumers share green car desires

Automotive manufacturers love to pair their futuristic engineering with styling that looks equally space-age. While this is great for impressing the media at car shows, it isn't necessarily going to win over consumers.

According to research from the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) in the US, consumers are interested in the financial benefits of these vehicles. Namely, fuel savings. 

However, it appears that convenience is also a prime motivator for these individuals, as petrol-electric hybrids – like the Toyota Prius – are the most popular option. Currently, 74 per cent of consumers are considering buying one. 

Interestingly, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and battery powered electric options ranked at the same level, with 58 per cent of consumers indicating they are a viable option despite the current lack of supporting infrastructure. 

How are manufacturers reacting?

Technology research specialist Frost & Sullivan found that these trends are greatly influencing the way automotive manufacturers approach research and development. In particular, the firm discovered that Japanese marques are having to introduce advanced technology into their internal combustion engines (ICEs) to produce figures on par with fuel-efficient options. 

Automotive & Transportation Research Analyst Muhammad Badrul noted that these firms are now in the tricky place of having to manage increased complexity and cost-effective design to keep consumers happy. 

"[Original equipment manufacturers (OEMS)] can overcome the cost and complexity challenges by improving current technologies, while gradually developing new, alternative technologies," he explained.

"Several OEMs will be implementing advanced robust valve train designs in the next five years, while many others are focusing on turbocharging and direct injection to support engine downsizing to reduce emissions."

For consumers, this race to create the most efficient engine option means that no matter which choice they make, they'll be saving money and the environment. 

3 energy efficient engines changing the automotive future

Back in what some Australian motorists will be referring to as 'the good old days', the difference in engines was measured in cylinders, with the V8 becoming a defining point of automotive culture for the country's car industry. 

Now, as modern consumers demand different results from their engines, the raw torque of a V8 and sudden horsepower of turbocharged powerplants has been replaced by more efficient options. 

Petrolheads shouldn't despair though, as this doesn't mean the excitement has been taken out of motoring. Instead, it's being defined by a constantly evolving set of rules. So instead of being stuck in history, we're now a part of it as the automotive landscape changes in front of us.

Key to these changes is a drive for lower emissions and engines that use significantly less fuel than their predecessors – or none at all. 

While the traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) hasn't quite had its day in the sun, its time is fading. Here are three potential successors that are beginning to find their feet amongst consumers:

1. Petrol-electric hybrid engines

Technically, this option is not a replacement engine, but it is redefining what it means to own an efficient vehicle. 

The reason it can't be considered a complete alternative is because hybrid powerplants still utilise an ICE – just in a limited capacity. The Toyota Prius was one of the earliest cars to bring this technology into the mainstream when it debuted for consumers in 1997. 

While it possessed an ICE, most of the time it was used to charge the electric powerplant that was responsible for driving the wheels. When extra power was required, the ICE could also activate and power the car in the traditional sense. This conditional approach to petrol use greatly reduced emissions and fuel consumption, sparking a minor revolution in the automotive world. 

Naturally, some traditionalists struggled with the popularity this car received as it seemed to go against the criteria that great cars were judged by. It didn't make a cool sound like an old V8 or look like a re-purposed jet plane that was built for nothing but speed. 

What it did do, however, was create a vehicle for the future that anyone could afford, setting the benchmark for today's cars. 

Of course, some manufacturers have since taken this technology to its logical extreme, creating engines that are not only fuel efficient, but fast as well. 

This trend has hit its peak in recent years, with a trio of hypercars taking this approach and testing it to its limits. The McLaren P1, Ferrari LaFerrari and Porsche 918 all used their own petrol-electric hybrid configuration to become cars that were faster than anything created before. 

On top of this, they were efficient too. Both the McLaren and Porsche varieties had the ability to run on electric power alone, just like the Prius did all those years ago. 

As if this wasn't extreme enough, Formula 1 cars are now forced to have engines of this type. Who would've thought the Toyota Prius would unwittingly become a Formula 1 prototype?

2. All electric engines

The next logical step here is to eliminate the part that's still producing emissions and using conventional fuel – the ICE. 

This is what a number of electric cars have already achieved, and while you can already see some on the roads – like the Nissan Leaf – they still need further development before they can become the dominant vehicle on the road. 

At the moment, there are two words defining consumer attitudes towards electric cars: range anxiety. There's no doubt that manufacturers are probably sick of hearing them, but they are still a cause for concern. 

In a petrol car, as we all know, when we're low on fuel we simply stop at a gas station – and there's no shortage of those. On the other hand, drivers of electric vehicles need to plan their journeys a little more carefully. These cars often can't travel as far on a full charge and there are fewer public places where they can recharge. 

While these are the cons, the pros go a fair way to outweighing them and are likely to develop further as consumer interest rises. These include the ability to 'refuel' (charge) your car at home and use free electricity for the same purpose from public charging stations. 

3. Hydrogen engines

While hybrid cars are a proven force and electric vehicles are slowly finding their feet, hydrogen-powered cars are somewhat of an unknown quantity. So far, there are none available for sale in Australia. Although this could change within the year as the production-ready Toyota Mirai is released overseas.

So, why bother with hydrogen? 

Well, there are still advantages this power unit has over electric vehicles, despite them producing a similar end result. Both vehicles are powered without the assistance of an ICE and both produce zero harmful emissions. We say harmful as hydrogen cars expel water in the propulsion process. 

How do they work then? Put simply, the same way as the petrol-electric hybrids described above, with a hydrogen system replacing the ICE. 

Through a complicated procedure we won't bore you with, hydrogen is converted into electricity, which then drives the wheels. 

The biggest advantage to this is the refuelling speed. While it's not a quick as your standard petrol refill, it's significantly quicker than recharging an electric vehicle. Where one of these can take hours, the estimate for hydrogen refills is closer to the 10 minute mark.

Again, unfortunately, the question of infrastructure rears it's ugly head. These vehicles need dedicated refuelling centres that are not only nonexistent in Australia, but in most of the world as well. Hence why the Mirai is being released in California first – it's one of the few places that has the infrastructure in place. 

These are the three automotive technologies shaping energy efficiency at the moment, but could something else be waiting to change the world? Only time will tell. 

Autonomous cars: How will they define the future?

The above headline is a little misleading. While it is important to think about the place autonomous cars hold in our future, an equally valid question is: how are autonomous cars defining 'now'?

For instance, a lot of the safety technologies now fitted to new vehicles can be classed as infant forms of autonomous technology. These prototypes of sorts allow the systems to be tested bit by bit, while the technology, infrastructure and regulations necessary for their integration develops around it. 

This doesn't mean to say you can buy an autonomous car just yet, but you can buy vehicles that have the building blocks of the necessary systems, one of which has recently received support from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).

Autonomous braking gets ANCAP support

While autonomous cars aren't yet experts in driving us around, they have mastered some pieces of the puzzle. Thanks to a complicated array of cameras, sensors and computers, vehicles equipped with this technology can detect potential collisions and then act on them well before human eyes, mind and limbs could begin to coordinate themselves. 

So far, this technology has been mastered at low speeds only, with ANCAP recently publishing the results of its investigation into autonomous emergency braking (AEB). 

In particular, this technology provided noticeable prevention of rear-end incidents, with the study revealing that it resulted in a 38 per cent reduction of real-world examples of these incidents. The speed these tests covered include a reasonable range that should result in tangible benefits for motorists protected by these systems.

The optimum operating range for them was between 30 and 50 km/h, perfect for eliminating the risk of nose-to-tail incidents on city streets or slow-moving highway traffic. 

ANCAP CEO Nicholas Clarke said the latest results were tangible proof that previous studies were on the right track. 

"Previous studies have predicted significant benefits from AEB technology in low-speed rear-end crashes and current research is now demonstrating its effectiveness," he said. 

"These findings strongly support ANCAP's push to have manufacturers fit AEB as standard across all new cars."

What happens next?

The next phase of development for autonomous cars is to produce one that can do everything a human can do behind the wheel, only safer and much more efficiently. 

While it may seem simple – after all, we already have cars that can brake by themselves – the challenge of creating an autonomous vehicles that can respond to varying traffic and weather conditions is much greater than it seems, and has prompted interest from a number of companies that previously existed outside the automotive sphere.

This includes a company that virtual drivers are more likely to recognise than real ones, with computer hardware developer Nvidia – well known among gamers for its graphics cards – taking steps into the industry. 

The company recently unveiled its DRIVE PX system, run by twin processors that deliver ridiculous computing power. We've seen supercomputers in vehicles before, but what make this option interesting is its overall goal – creating a car that can learn. 

After all, programming a car that react to anything and everything is a daunting process – and one that can be eliminated if the vehicle in question can learn as it drives. 

There are other contenders from the tech world as well, with the much publicised efforts of Google and widely-spread rumours of Apple's potential involvement keeping traditional automotive manufacturers on their toes.

However, while Google's entry has been undergoing comprehensive tests across the United States, there is still no clear word on when eager consumers can hope to get their hands on them. 

Toyota Corolla Ascent: The world’s most popular car, again

It doesn't have the style of an Alfa Romeo, the power of a Porsche, or the sex appeal of a Ferrari, yet it's been a rally racer, a touring car and mum's taxi. 

No other car can claim to have set records on the world's toughest rally stages and become a television drift icon all while also safely ferrying your grandmother from the rest home to Coles. It's every car to every person, it's the Toyota Corolla. 

The original Corolla joined the world in 1966 and nearly 50 years later it's still setting sales records, with Car Advice revealing that it was the most popular car in Australia in 2014, just edging out the young upstart Mazda 3. 

Naturally, such success hasn't been borne from complacency, and the humble Corolla has seen its fair share of updates, upgrades and revision. Some, like the bravely rear-wheel drive AE86 of the 1980s, have even become enthusiast cars, commanding ludicrous sums on the used vehicle market for what is essentially a sensible hatchback. 

These updates show no sign of slowing down, and the 2015 Corolla Ascent is testament to this. While in many ways it's nothing like the original, it still carries the same spirit – a car for the people. 

Here's what makes the new model tick:

Fully featured from the start

Just because the car is targeted at anyone and everyone doesn't mean Toyota have been stingy with the features. Even the base model looks like a spaceship inside and out compared to its ancestors from the 1960s. 

In every Toyota Corolla Ascent, you'll find a host of features designed to make it more comfortable than its rivals, while keeping the price of entry competitive. Luxuries in this model include Bluetooth connectivity for phone and music devices – essential in the modern vehicle – controlled by a 6.1 inch touchscreen, nicely bringing the Corolla up to modern standards. 

To ensure that all Corolla drivers can park safely, this variant also includes a reversing camera, allowing drivers a greater degree of visibility when moving backwards. 

This is a great start for the frugal buyer, but Toyota has also provided further options for drivers coming at the Corolla from a slightly different angle.

What if I watched too much rally as a kid?

There's always that one type of dad showing up to car dealers. Sure, he's in the market for a family car, but the faded team jacket from the 1990s and mud-specked gumboots suggest he has slightly different motives from other buyers. 

Yes, Toyota still caters for the daydream race car drivers among us, with the Ascent Sport Hatch adding a few racier features for drivers who never grew up. 

Instead of the steel wheels adorning the base model, the Ascent Sport Hatch offers 16 inch alloys, prompting a sportier outlook for the Corolla. Combined with what Toyota is calling a Premium 3-spoke steering wheel and you've got the same great car with extra additions to please the pickiest of drivers. 

Retro purist or stubborn futurist, there's a transmission for you

To cater to a wide audience as its predecessors always have, the Corolla Ascent still offers a six speed manual transmission. Toyota has attempted to make these options less imposing for new drivers too, with hill start assist hoping to reduce the pressure of one of the most daunting manual car manoeuvres.

On the other hand, we have the option that the majority of Corolla Ascent buyers will most likely be purchasing. A seven speed continuously variable transmission (CVT) makes up the automatic offering and should provide a smooth experience to drivers that choose it. 

For all intents and purposes, a CVT is still basically an automatic – drivers won't have to worry about changing gears or managing a clutch. The major difference is in the composition of the gearbox. Rather than using preset gears like a traditional automatic or even manual transmission, CVTs continuously adjust belts – in theory producing unlimited 'gears'. 

The result is an experience that is intended to be smoother and more fuel efficient, at the cost of the driver involvement manual advocates so adore. Either way, it's a capable package for anyone who hops behind the wheel. 

Sporty looks shape new intentions

In the late 1990s and early 2000s​, Corollas had their own distinct style; a friendly, wide-eyed look that saw them move through traffic without causing a stir. Recent styling trends throughout Toyota have seen this approach scrapped however, with the curves of the older models replaced with sharper angles and glaring expressions. 

Toyota itself describes it as a sportier approach to exterior styling, adding a sense of purpose to the lines of the car. What once looked happy to sit on a driveway now looks ready to pounce on any chance to hit the open road. 

In discussing this new approach, the Japanese marque uses the term "stance", suggesting the determined pose the vehicle strikes is no accident and an intentional departure from what defined the Corolla in the past decade. 

The exterior isn't all show and no go either, integrated into the menacing stare of the car's front are halogen headlamps that will light the way for drivers no matter what time they are out on the road.

Five star car, five star safety rating

Now a standard feature for any manufacturer looking to make a dent in the country's sales numbers – and all-but mandatory for a company like Toyota that has built its reputation on decades of safe, reliable and dependable vehicles – the Corolla possesses a five star ANCAP crash rating. 

That's not just the top-of-the-line model either, that's every brand new Corolla currently on the market. 

Consumers trust that these new vehicles have advanced their safety features along with the rest of their developments, and the Corolla Ascent is no exception, packing seven airbags into each model. 

Toyota has even spotted room for innovation in the brake lights that most manufacturers and consumers take for granted. The firm realised that no matter how hard drivers are braking, these lights always display the same static information. While this is perfectly acceptable in usual situations, in the event of an emergency it could be a life saver – and not just for you. 

If your Corolla Ascent detects unusually forceful braking, it flashes hazard lights as well, indicating to following traffic that you aren't braking normally. Ideally, this gives other traffic early warning of potential dangers up ahead and reduces the chance of rear-end collisions. 

As much as you think you're the perfect driver, the Corolla Ascent knows you're not. But don't take this personally, no human is up to the safety standards this vehicle holds for itself. 

For instance, it can tell if you're not braking hard enough to avoid a potential collision and can deploy extra brake pressure to – hopefully – prevent a collision. This doesn't mean it's blindly mashing the brake pedal either, intelligent braking systems ensure the stopping power is being dedicated to the wheels that need it most, allowing for controlled deceleration. 

You've bought one before, you'll buy one again

Millions of people across the world can't be wrong. The Corolla is a staple of the automotive world, and one that will continue to attract and retain both hardcore followers and new blood. 

You know what you're getting with the Corolla: a safe, dependable, reliable machine that has proven itself in nearly every capacity a car can. Next stop, your driveway. 

How to buy a car – A step-by-step process

Whether you're a dyed in the wool petrolhead or someone who just needs a vehicle to take them from A to B, buying a car is a serious series of decisions. 

You heard us right – deciding to buy a car is not a destination, rather, it's the first step on a journey full of choices. For some, the process couldn't be simpler. But, if you're not sure what you're after it can get very complicated, very quickly.

Thankfully, we're here to walk you through it. The following guide intends to outline the process in the most simple way possible, so you come out of it with a vehicle you've been waiting on for a price that won't break the bank. 

Step one – Set boundaries

Because all motorists want different things, all cars serve different purposes. Understandably, this can complicate some sectors, with competition and market saturation offering what can seem like too many options that are all too similar. 

In this case, it makes sense to start broad. One of the easiest distinctions you can make right off the bat is the purpose of your car. Generally, you should work out whether it's a family car or something for yourself, as they can both have their own requirements.

Eligible bachelors, for example, might not be after a Honda Odyssey people mover. Likewise, a mother with four children probably won't get too much use out of a two-door Toyota 86. Sure, it'll be fun on the weekends, but it certainly doesn't have room for the whole family. 

Those with petrol circulating in their veins may balk at the suggestion, but it pays to be sensible. So, here are some of the key points you should have in mind. 

How many people do you need to fit in it?

If you're only going to be driving yourself to and from work and aren't worried about ferrying a family around, it's safe to focus on sportier models. In the pursuit of speed and driving pleasure, these vehicles often ditch the weight of catering to four people in favour of light, small exteriors. Great for weekend drives, terrible for the school run. 

Unfortunately, wanting a family car greatly increases the options you need to wade through. Your standard nuclear family, for example, could feasibly get away with a sedan, a station wagon, a crossover SUV or even a hatchback. Thankfully, you're pretty safe to let personal preference take over here, as most options are more than capable. 

Will you also use it for work?

Not all jobs require specialist vehicles, but some – such as builders or other tradesman – will need something multipurpose. Large double-cab utes like the Ford Ranger provide space for the family, your tools, toys and whatever else you could possibly wish to transport. 

What's your budget?

This is possibly the most important decision to make. While it's advisable to keep an open mind, some things should be laid-out from the start – especially price. On the upside, this can make it easier to narrow down what you want. For example, searching for 'sedans less than $40,000' will turn up a more manageable search result than simply 'sedans'.

Step two – Do your research

Regardless of the vehicle you're looking to get, there are a number of broad concerns that apply to any and all options. These include things such as fuel consumption, reliability and safety features. While you might not be looking for them specifically, they'll have a noticeable influence over the course of your ownership. 

Before taking the next step before your purchase, it's worth considering the following: 

How much fuel does it use?

While the world that Mad Max prophesied isn't quite upon us yet, we are in an age of rising petrol prices and pressures to conserve precious fuel. Thankfully, environmentally-conscious consumers don't have to perform complicated arithmetic to work out consumption figures, as most manufacturers have cottoned on to these demands and publish them willingly. 

In fact, due to the demand for cars that are kind to Mother Earth, most companies have turned it into competition to see who can use the least fuel. 

What if you don't want to use any fuel? Believe it or not, that's an option too, thanks to electric cars

Is it reliable?

This can be trickier to judge, and could involve extensive combing of consumer reports. On top of this, some brands have earned a reputation for producing near-unbreakable machinery over the years, so it pays to ask questions. 

Regardless of your chosen marque's reputation, you should enquire about warranty and service options after your new car is delivered. Otherwise if something goes wrong, it could start to hurt your wallet. 

Is it safe?

Again, thanks to the wonders of modern engineering, chances are that it is. Manufacturers are rarely complacent about the sensible features of their vehicles, and it's not uncommon for whole ranges of cars to now possess five star safety ratings.

However, this is not simply due to new technology outpacing old design ideals. ANCAP recently revealed that it updates its criteria for each star rating, forcing brands to continue to innovate when it comes to keeping their customers safe. 

These cars don't only keep you safe in a crash either. ANCAP ratings now take into account passive technologies like traction and stability control, keeping drivers safe when they're forced to take evasive action. 

Step three – Approach a dealer

Now that you've done your research, you can embark on the final stage, contacting a dealer and test driving the vehicle of your choice. This is an important step too – just because a car looks good on paper doesn't mean it will gel with you on the road. 

Take the time to give your chosen vehicle a quick run at a dealer to ensure your hard-earned cash is being spent on the right set of wheels. 

Traditionally, approaching a car dealer would be your only option. These situations can be intimidating for some, especially when it comes to making and accepting an offer or negotiating a better deal. 

Now, there is another option. With online services such as Autogenie, this process is anonymous. Simply search for the vehicle you're after and a range of options will pop up from various authorised dealers. 

From there, you can submit your request, which will be sent to a network of dealers. They then have 24 hours to submit their best possible driveaway price. You then have up to a week to make a decision. 

Once you've picked the car you want, and the offer that you find fairest, you can take the final step – hitting accept. One of the best things about this service is that car is delivered to you. No pesky travelling or trying to locate a dealer, just one brand new car delivered straight to your driveway. 

Autogenie is about choice. The car you want, the price you want, from the dealer your want. You can even choose how to pay. Whether it's upfront or finance, you get the same result at the end of it. 

2015 Hyundai i40 – Medium car, maximum appeal

The medium car market is one of the hardest sectors for car manufacturers to break in to. Not only is there a wealth of new competition for vehicles of this size, but it has traditionally been dominated by a few select models. 

In fact, some people have deserted the family sedan and humble wagon altogether, lured away by crossovers and small SUVs. 

So, in a category with less potential buyers and increased rivalry from established automotive icons and new challengers, how can one car stand out? Hyundai has its own solution to the problem, boldly launching the i40 in two different variants to stake its claim on Australia's medium car market. 

Exterior class

Hyundai has taken an understated approach with the facelift version of its mid-size market entry. The Korean marque acknowledges the requirements of this specific sector of the market, with reserved yet direct styling often prioritised over sporty and aggressive looks. 

Simply put, medium-sized sedans are normally family cars, and promote substance without sacrificing a touch of style. While you won't see the type of agitated expressions you might on sports cars, the front of the i40 still possesses a look of determination, with Hyundai claiming to have been inspired by nature to craft the 2015 model's particular look. 

You can probably see the influence for yourself, but Hyundai details the "eagle-eye" headlights and "wing-shaped" fog lamps that add just enough of a predatory gaze to the i40 to stop it from blending in with its rivals. 

As with other modern cars, no panel is left bare, as design cues that begin at the front end are now carried the length of the vehicle. This is more than just a commitment to design motifs as well, with fuel efficiency concerns sparking an industry-wide interest in low-drag exteriors – terminology you used to only be able to hear in the pit garage of a Formula 1 team. 

These design trends influence the stance of the vehicle too, with the sweeping lines along the i40's doors indicating movement, far from the boxy exteriors that sedans used to call standard. 

Commitment to economy

The best thing about modern cars? Any option can be chosen without affecting the vehicle's power or fuel efficiency. In previous years, drivers would either have to smother their engines performance to save petrol or re-mortgage their house to pay the fuel bills for a more powerful option.

Now, the commitments manufacturers are making to the supposedly irrelevant internal combustion engine have seen them combine usable power with record fuel mileage. In an age where the future is set to be soundtracked by the whizzes of electric cars rather than the growls of petrol engines, companies like Hyundai are providing excellent arguments for internal combustion.

It's not like these companies have simply flipped a switch due to demands for less emissions and greater fuel efficiency either. Plenty of work has gone into developing petrol engines, spurred on by the competition provided by hybrid and electric alternatives. 

This is reflected by the engine configurations available to Australian motorists, with the petrol variant coming equipped with a 2 litre engine, the perfect size to balance power and economy. Hyundai has sacrificed 10kW for the i40's relaunch, an update made in the name of a 3 per cent increase in fuel economy, reaffirming the car's intentions. 

Hyundai's facelift i40 also caters for drivers who aren't looking for petrol power, with the diesel option providing its own unique brand of performance. 

The diesel engine is a little smaller than its petrol sibling, sporting a 1.7 litre capacity. However, like most diesels, this is one is equipped with a turbocharger to prompt extra power from the unit. While 104 kW doesn't seem like a massive amount of power for car of this size, the key to the diesel's performance is its torque figure.

With 340 Nm available to drivers who pick the diesel option, the i40 is capable highway cruiser that can tow up to 1500 kg with ease. 

Family cars can have dual clutch transmissions too

Diesel drivers have another little trick up their sleeve as well. On top of the superior torque figure – a hallmark of any good diesel engine – this variant is equipped with a dual clutch automatic transmission. This might not mean a lot to our more conservative readers, but it's essentially re-purposed race car technology – just one more fun fact to impress your neighbours with. 

Don't worry, this won't compromise the fuel efficiency the i40's engines are working so hard to achieve. In fact, they are actually a key component in this process. Also, if it can survive life on the track, it's more than capable when it comes to ferrying you to work or pottering around city streets. 

So, what makes this dual clutch offering so special? Basically, the secondary clutch – which is controlled automatically of course – allows the transmission to prepare for its next shift while staying in gear.

In layman's terms, you get silky smooth shifts that are faster than what a conventional automatic could manage in the past. 

How safe is it?

Hyundai is well aware that the above positives are useless if they aren't built on a safe platform, as drivers need to feel secure when they sit behind the wheel of these vehicles. 

Yet again, Hyundai can boast a five star ANCAP rating. This doesn't mean you're safe only in a crash either, as ANCAP continually adjusts its ranking system to keep up with developing standards of modern automobiles. 

This includes both active and passive safety features, so standard safety systems on the i40 like traction control, stability management and anti-lock brakes all contribute to the five star review. The result of this pressure for safer cars is that, despite having the same rating, five star cars from this year are better equipped than the five star cars of yesteryear.

What else does Hyundai class as active safety features? For starters, even the base model has front and rear park assist – indispensable when squeezing into tight spots. This is supplemented by a rear-view camera as well, eliminating the pressure of reverse parking while making it much safer at the same time. 

It even looks out for the simple tasks you might forget to complete when in a hurry, with dusk-sensing headlights switching themselves on at just the right time. This is great for commutes home or long drives in the evening, ensuring you have safe levels of visibility and other drivers can see you coming. 

Hyundai's passive safety systems are the kind of features we all hope we never have to use. Despite their serious nature, they're an essential facet of any good vehicle, as we are at the mercy of other drivers on the roads as well. 

The i40 boasts a comprehensive range of airbags to eliminate as much bodily risk from collisions as possible. Drivers even get airbags positioned to protect their knees, while side impact protection is a focus for the whole car. 

Large value in a medium car

Hyundai's renewed commitment to the medium car market has seen the company squeeze an amazing amount of features into a relatively compact package. And despite these vehicles often supplying a boring sense of normalcy, Hyundai has designed a car the delivers all the hallmarks of a sensible sedan, wrapped in a sleek modern design that separates in from other class competitors. 

Mazda CX-5 Akera – Practicality enhanced

Modern drivers want a lot out of their cars, with current consumer trends demanding space, affordability, safety, fuel efficiency – without sacrificing power – and reliability. 

For most manufacturers, the enormity of that task would have them scratching their heads for years, but not Mazda. The Japanese marque, well known for a range of automotive classics from the MX-5 to the RX-7, has responded to these demands with the CX-5, now taken to the next level with the Akera variant – just in case you thought its earlier attempts couldn't get any better. 

The CX-5 Akera is proof that all past stereotypes of SUVs – that they're lumbering and unsafe – are no longer relevant in a world where superior technology and practical engineering can easily overcome what once seemed like insurmountable boundaries. 

When we break it down, the CX-5 Akera is comprised of a number of innovative technologies, innovations, and good old mechanical engineering to create an SUV that Mazda describes as "uniquely athletic".

So, what makes this vehicle such an impressive addition to a lineup defined by its historical innovation and present-day success?

Soul in motion

Mazda's recent design philosophy means that great, millimetre perfect engineering no longer has to result in bland, uniform styling. The company has taken the chance to express the internal engineering with external flair, granting the CX-5 Akera the distinctive front end that all Mazdas now sport, along with flowing panels that mean there isn't a lifeless piece of bodywork on it. 

The brief for this construction comes from the design language KODO, which operates under the pretext of 'soul in motion' and is inspired by the muscles visible along the flanks of an animal before it pounces. 

Its aim is to create a sense of motion in these vehicles at all times, whether they're sports cars like the MX-5, or understated SUVs in the form of the CX-5 Akera. 

Of course, not all of the external features are simply for show. Along with the flat, low-drag wheel arches the CX-5 Akera is also adorned with LED headlamps to ensure perfect visibility no matter the conditions.

There's no potential for innovation in side mirrors, right? Simply bolt a reflective surface on the side and you're good to go? Wrong. Mazda has acknowledged that every part of a vehicle can be improved, even something that is normally taken for granted like wing mirrors.

On the CX-5 Akera, the wing mirrors come equipped with side view cameras that project an image on to the vehicles centre screen. With this technology, you'll never be at the mercy of a difficult parking space again.

Power through efficiency

Mazda is not about to let all of that design work go to waste with a lacklustre powertrain either. All the stops have been pulled to create a vehicle that is as capable on the inside as it appears on the outside.

The CX-5 Akera comes with the option of two different engines, with motorists given the choice of either a petrol or diesel version of Mazda's SKYACTIV engine platform. Drivers who choose the traditional petrol version receive a 2.5 litre inline 4-cylinder.

On the other hand, the diesel option comes in the same inline 4-cylinder configuration, this time in a condensed 2.2 litre offering.

Power is delivered the same way no matter which variant you decide upon, with a 6-speed automatic transmission smoothly dividing power among all four wheels, as is customary with the SUV platform. This does, however, separate it from crossover SUVs which have been offering the best of both worlds – eschewing the SUV four wheel drive system while retaining the high ride height.

The CX-5 doesn't offer compromises, meaning everything you expect from a modern SUV is present, including a four wheel drive system that is prepared to conquer any conditions. 

SKYACTIV Technology

Like most modern cars, the CX-5 Akera continues the miracle working that involves extracting more power than older models without decreasing efficiency. Mazda credits this seemingly impossible development to its SKYACTIV engine platform – an adaptable engineering philosophy that allows engines across the Mazda range to to emerge from the factory with less of a thirst than their ancestors.

So what characteristics are inherent in these engines? Don't worry, we'll convert the engineering wizardry into layman's terms. You'll just have to trust us when we describe these engines as revolutionary. 

These engines are the result of Mazda's pursuit for "ideal combustion". Just because the world is moving toward electric and hybrid engines doesn't mean there is no room left for improvement in internal combustion engines, especially as the infrastructure for electric vehicles is still developing.

The key to the SKYACTIV engine platform is the high compression ratio, with the engines developing a figure of 14:1 which Mazda claims is "unparalleled" when compared to other mass market production engines. With this higher air-fuel ratio, Mazda draws more energy from each drop of fuel than their competitors. Simple, right?

Mazda believes this results in a 15 per cent increase in fuel efficiency and torque production over its current rivals, a figure that extends to 20 per cent when the diesel engine is considered. 

Safety in numbers

The numbers here refer to the sheer amount of safety features the CX-5 Akera possesses to keep you, your family and other road users safe at all times and in any conditions. Gone are the days where some airbags and anti-lock brakes are considered safety technology. Now, complex computer systems and sensors combine to keep the car working with you at all times.

However, this doesn't mean to say that computers are the be-all and end-all for safety in the CX-5, with standard disc brakes starting it off on the right foot. Independent suspension contributes to crafting a safe chassis, giving each corner of the car the support it needs to grip the road in all weather and on any surface. 

This secure base chassis is then used as a springboard for the other safety enhancements that have become standard for any vehicle looking to stand out with consumers. Stability and traction control are both standard systems with every CX-5 variant, ensuring you can operate the vehicle with ease and confidence, even in adverse conditions. 

Mazda's commitment to safety and innovation knows no bounds either, with the company's anti-lock brake system also sporting some noteworthy upgrades. Each vehicle is equipped with Emergency Brake Assist which can detect the type of braking characteristics that signal accident avoidance, prompting the brakes to boost their power to avoid a collision. 

Long highway journeys are also supported with class-leading safety options, with blind spot monitoring and lane departure warnings helping you to obey the road markings at all times. 

Blind spot monitoring allows drivers to make lane changes and overtakes in the safest possible manner, while lane departure warnings can help keep the vehicle centred in tricky conditions that obscure visibility. 

These are all collected under the i-ACTIVSENSE umbrella as system that "literally looks out for you", as Mazda states. 

Secure yours today

It's hard to imagine a family oriented SUV that could offer drivers more, as the Mazda CX-5 Akera offers support, safety and power in without giving into the compromises that held previous SUVs back.

What's more, Mazda has achieved this while meeting the requirements that used to be outstanding that consumers now take for granted, like a five star ANCAP rating and a commitment to fuel efficiency that doesn't strangle an engine's power output.

With all of this in mind, what else could be stopping you?