The weekly segment where I answer your car question (and give it to a couple of nuts)

This week's questions

Go back to Mail Sack 2 <<

Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk certainly has the off-road goods

Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk certainly has the off-road goods


The Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk or the Mazda CX-5 Akera? - Tony

Bottom line here, the Mazda CX-5 Akera is simply the best on-road performer with an incredible array of hi-tech inclusions (adaptive cruise, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot warning, etc.) The Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is designed for serious off-road performance, and can't match the Mazda on-road or in terms of hi-tech inclusions for normal driving. The other historic problem with Jeep is frustration factor thanks to poor reliability and high consequential operating costs. 

More information:


You always talk about direct injection on your website. I thought all cars were fuel injected. What gives? - Alex

Good question, Alex. Full answer in this report: What is direct injection? >> Briefly it's a case of where the fuel enters the engine. With direct injection the fuel enters through an injector in the combustion chamber, using high-pressure common-rail injection similar to a diesel engine. The result is better performance and efficiency, with all other things being equal.


Historically you’ve never recommended the Honda Civic. I’m thinking about buying the 2015 Civic VTi-S Hatch, and I’m wondering if this updated Honda has changed your opinion? - David

Essentially, no. Honda has the gall to use the following words on its website in relation to the new Civic. “Evolved, re-vamped and re-styled with advanced technology.” It's a Himalaya of horsehit. Essentially:

  • No direct injection in the 1.8-litre engine (see above) - so it's using old tech there.
  • Same performance as the Hyundai i30/Kia Cerato 1.8 - but the Hyundai-Kia engine manages to achieve those outputs on 91 RON petrol while the Civic needs 95 RON premium.
  • Civic has a five-speed auto - virtually a museum exhibit.
  • Civic has a 3yr/100,000km warranty and 6mth/10,000km (Hyundai and Mitsubishi both offer 5yr warranties and 12mth/15,000km service intervals.

So, plenty of marketing hype and a funky new shape - but not too much evidence of actual advanced technology from the world's largest manufacturer of internal combustion engines...


My son is just getting his licence - what car should I buy him to keep him safe? - Sharon

In a nutshell, the three main things are:

  • Put your son in a car with a five-star ANCAP safety rating. More info at ANCAP >>
  • Minimise the times at which he drives with his mates in the car. This minimises peer group pressure and consequential intentional risk taking
  • Put both hands on the wheel, at 9 and 3 o'clock - essential for swerve, avoid and recover manoeuvers
  • Drop back from the car in front (buys you time if the car in front stops suddenly)
  • Look as far down the road as possible (also buys you time)


Boxers or briefs? - Bruce

Good to see someone keeping it real, Bruce. The rules of etiquette are quite clear on this point, and well documented. Boxers with a lounge suit or anything requiring smart casual attire. Briefs for anything active. The exceptions: Black tie, boardies or tracky daks - freebagging is permitted there. I’m generally wearing tracky daks, in case you're interested. 

The Navstar Satellite Constellation

The Navstar Satellite Constellation


My CR-V has a problem with the GPS - it freezes and at times won’t re-boot, even after re-starting the car. After trying to repair it numerous times, Honda now tells me this is normal. What should I do? - Carol

Honda's response to Carol: “I note your feedback where the Satellite navigation system froze during a recent trip. I also understand you have been advised on several occasions that it is not unusual for the Satellite navigation system to lose contact with a satellite and potentially freeze. While in most cases the GPS will reconnect there will however be situations where the system needs to be rebooted as you have recently experienced.”

In my view Honda has cleverly crafted this response in order to frame the debate in such a way as to lay off the blame for the problem on the satellite system. It's epic bullshit. GPS does not rely on your receiver locking on to "a satellite". Four are required for accurate navigation, but three will do. The system has been operational since the first Gulf War and is designed (by actual rocket scientists) around 24 satellites in the Navstar Satellite Constellation. It's cleverly arranged so that the 24 satellites are split into groups of four satellites, and each four are in a common orbital plane. There are six orbital planes (inclined at 55 degrees to the equator and evenly spaced in longitude). The upshot is that this arrangement delivers a minimum of six satellites above the horizon 24/7 from everywhere on the surface of the earth.

Since 2014 there have been not 24, but 32, Navstar satellites aloft. So there are generally many more than six satellites visible from any point on the planet at any time.

So, the options are: Maybe the GPS system, which has operated flawlessly since the 1990s is in some way defective, or prone to being hard to communicate with (unlikely), or Honda's CR-V GPS is just a poor execution of an in-car receiver. I'm running with option 2, because there are many reports of CR-V GPS units failing.

Three strikes, Honda: 1) Designing a dodgy system, 2) Failing to fix it, and 3) Treating the public like we’re all dickheads in the formulation of a bullshit explanation of convenience.

Probably the wrong way to run in a new car...

Probably the wrong way to run in a new car...


How should I run in a new car? - Peter

Basically, just drive it normally. I'd take it a little easy in the first 1000 kilometres, but drive it in a range of conditions (traffic + freeway) and at a range of revs and loads. I'd warm it up for a couple of minutes in the driveway before driving off, and maybe get the oil changed after 1000km, which might be like chicken soup when you have a cold. (Makes you feel better and can't hurt.)