New Car – with some SOTA influence

The 2WD Ford Territory was getting a bit long in the tooth and although it has been a great car that has been economical to maintain, it is a little on the thirsty side.  Recently on a SOTA trip, a  forest road was boggy and I ended up stuck in the mud on a slight uphill section.  As I lugged lumps of wood over to the car from a logging operation and jammed them in the bog, I wondered about an AWD replacement.

During SOTA activations, there have been the odd sections of light 4WD roads that an SUV would have passed that I had to leave alone.  I was looking to downsize the car a little while retaining mild off road capabilities, so the criteria was:

– reasonable fuel consumption
– ability to tow a camper trailer with ease (1100kg)
– reasonable ground clearance
– some hard points for antenna mounting
– AWD with AWD lock or equivalent
– Reasonable maintenance costs
– Low RPM torque (diesel)
– Auto transmission, at least 6 speed

Cars that were vaguely in this class were:

– Subaru Forester (very capable off road for class, example, VK3PF and VK3KAN)
– Toyota RAV4
– VW Tiguan
– Mazda CX5
– Subaru XV
– Hyundai I35
– Kia Sportage

So, 1 by 1, the above list were test driven and researched.  There is an interesting article comparing a few above vehicles on Carsguide.


Best ground clearance (220mm), higher maintenance at service 6 monthly 10,000km, no capped service. No auto on the diesel which seemed best for towing.  Drove a Subaru Outback diesel CVT auto, very nice but very expensive, even base model.  Not sure about CVT autos towing though.  Subaru AWD technology does not need diff lock.  Not much cargo space.  Would be good choice if off road performance is highest priority.

Toyota RAV4:

The latest model diesel has only a 550kg towing capacity which is odd as the petrol has 1500kg.  Update, they have just doubled it! Too late for me, although still a little light on.  It seems that Toyota are still evaluating the diesel in Australian conditions.  Wasn’t sure about the dash with the ledge.  Has AWD lock.  The spare tyre takes up a bit of the cargo space.  Ground clearance reduced in new model to 160mm.  As I wanted a diesel for towing, the reduced tow capacity is a deal breaker.  Capped servicing, 12 month.

Mazda CX5:

Car looks nice on the outside and has plenty of towing capacity (1800kg) with 2.2 diesel.  There have been reported problems with fuel getting into the oil though.  It doesn’t have an AWD lock and the cargo area is pretty small.  It felt a little strange driving compared to the rest, it felt high and narrow.  No capped servicing, 6 month service interval.  Liked trip instrumentation and 40/20/40 rear seat split.  Ground clearance is only 150mm, not too good.  Fuel enconomy best in class.

Subaru XV:

This car is just a bit smaller than the rest and has a reduced towing capacity and a CVT auto, so ruled out.

Hyundai IX35 and Kia Sportage:

Both Kia Sportage and IX35 utilise common running gear with a different body.  The Kia has Australian tuned suspension.  Both have a diesel option with 392Nm torque and can tow 1600 kg.  The Kia has a higher ball weight load.  Both have AWD lock and reasonable ground clearance.  Service prices are capped and interval 12 months 15,000km.  Warranty is 5 year unlimited km.  The cargo space was reasonable in both for that class.  Fuel economy is reasonable.  These brands have come a long way.

The Decision:

I chose the Kia Sportage Platinum diesel and optioned it with tow pack, nudge bar for antenna mounting and roof racks.  I don’t think it will be going anywhere rough and getting it dirty for a while though!  On half a tank so far it is doing about 7.9 litre/100km to work and school drop off.

There is a lot of space around the spare tyre well so I made a wooden mount for the IC706 transceiver that slots into a recess.  An Opek HVT-400 HF antenna fits on the nudge bar.  There is a fair voltage drop in the 12V outlet in the cargo area which limits TX power to 50W.  I may run a separate 12V feed directly to the battery, although running cables is a pain, the coax run took hours to do.  It might be better/easier to put a second battery in the tyre well.   The remote head for the radio is mounted at the forward end of the centre console under the heater controls.  20130601_112611

The remote head mount has 2 short pieces of 20mm diameter wooden dowel that fit into the two 12Vdc power outlets. The dowel pieces screw onto a flat plate that the head is mounted on.

Head Mount

Head Mount

Real radio

Real radio

I thought that a diesel would be better for electrical noise, I was wrong.  The noise from the injector solenoids is horrendous on HF at the front of the car.


Fuel economy best on 70km airport freeway trip

Fuel economy:
-freeway to airport (70km) 5.4l/100km
-SOTA trip to Talbot Peak 6.9l/100km
-general week travelling, school drop off and work 7.0-7.2l/100km.  Quite happy with fuel economy.

I opted for low profile 235/55 R18 tyres which give a nice tight ride on the bitumen. What I didn’t consider was bush track implications.  The tyres are easily damaged on potholes and more susceptible to punctures, and when you get one, you don’t feel it.  On a trip to Mt. Matlock, I did a tyre, an expensive exercise.  In hindsight, I should have opted for normal profile tyres.

DC Power Update: I had an auto electrician fit a Tekonsha brake controller to the car for towing the camper trailer.  I asked him to run a heavy duty DC feed to the trailer connector for powering the DC fridge in the camper.  This DC feed also goes into the rear boot storage area where the spare tyre is.  The radios are mounted in here onto a piece of 4×2 pine that fits into a slot on the side walls in this area.  The voltage drop at 100W is now negligible.  Must insert a photo here.

Towing Update: It tows our Jayco Eagle camper trailer very nicely.  It feels no less powered than the Ford Territory and the flatter torque range is very noticeable.  On a trip to Wilson’s Promontory (400km return) the fuel economy was a respectable 10.4 litres/100km.  The Ford was no better than 15-16 litres/100km on the same trip.

Fuel economy update 2015-03-01: Travelled from home to Queenscliff via freeways and highways (~120km) and the economy read 5.0 litres/100km or 56.5 miles/gallon, the best seen yet.  Two on board including driver and two suitcases.

All loaded up

All loaded up

Some minor annoyances: 
– From the steering wheel controls, the radio up down scans up and down, it doesn’t step through the pre programmed stations.
– If you are manually changing radio stations from the touch screen, its easy to accidentally press the hazard switch.
– Rear tyre clearance to the guard.  I would like a little more clearance from the top of the rear tyre to the guard, it would look a little better.
-USB outlet seems to only charge the Samgsung Galaxy slowly, the phone reports 300mA charge.
– Would be nice if you could display fuel economy and say, outside temp at the same time.
– A slightly bigger fuel tank for a really long range.  I guess it gets 700km best at moment.
– Don’t compare the luggage space with other cars based on Kia’s published litre volume.  They measure it differently, not to the standard.

Mild Off-road Capabilities
Approach angle 28.1 degrees Departure angle 28.2 degrees
Ramp over angle 17.7 degrees Roll over angle 45.0 degrees
Max climb angle 44.2 degrees

Improved Radio Control Head Mount
The previous remote head mount worked well, but it blocked access to the DC sockets as it used them for the mounting points.  A new mount was made that replaced one of the dowel plugs with a cigarette lighter DC plug which connects to a DC socket, see photo:



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