An Epic In The Making?

August 25, 2007

 


Chevrolet Epica 2.5L, originally uploaded by Zerstorer.


The Epica is the quiet, new face at the party. Not particularly dashing, yet possessing a cool refined manner that seems more appealing with each passing minute… Time for the other boys to take heed. Unlike its pinifarina styled stablemate the Optra, the Epica has been entirely designed in house and yet does not seem worse for it. Its lengthy proportions give it the appearance of a larger car, yet its sleek subtle bodylines avoids any garish overtures of loudness. Side-mirror mounted signal indicators and both front and rear fog-lamps help give it a hint of sportiness with the most distinctive feature being the eagle-eye headlamps which adds a touch of aggression and lends it a regal bearing. Though not particularly striking in appearance, it comes across looking modern and attractive in an understated manner.

On the inside, the Epica shows how far Chevrolet has come in its interior finishing.Pampering the driver are a full set of motorized seat adjustment controls within easy reach of your fingertips. The supportive seats are upholstered in fine leather which extends to even the door panels, which adds to the luxurious feel. The dashboard and central instrument cluster has a clean minimalist look similar to most continental designs and is finished in good quality hard plastics. The instruments are lit up in fresh shade of green which looks quite pleasing apart for some differences in hue between components. The large leather wrapped steering is equipped with audio controls as standard while the 2.5L version gets the additional cruise controls on the right, a sunroof as well as chromed exterior door handles. The central instrument cluster has displays which indicate climate set temperature, ambient temperature, fuel economy and trip counters and even a digital compass. Temperatures are kept cool by the automatic climate control, though rear passengers may wish it had rear vents as well. Looking up at the cabin roof, I was surprised to find dated looking plastic fixtures which seemed at odds with the rest of the well designed interior. Rear passenger legroom was average compared to the ample room up front while avid golfers might be very pleased with the long cavernous boot in the rear.

The Epica proved to be a quiet, relaxing drive on the roads, aided by its 5-speed auto-transmission and new inline 6-cylinder engines that gave a smooth refined engine note and linear power delivery. Both engines provided purposeful acceleration that allowed for easy overtaking with the 2.5L offering a stronger midband pull.. Bumps and road imperfections were smoothly eased out by the comfort biased suspension which seemed a touch bouncy on large humps. The handling was surprisingly good with predictable bodyroll in spite of its soft springs and there was a reassuring stability even when cornering at higher speeds although the steering felt numb and lifeless. Traction control is standard across both models and is active by default unless overridden. However, it never activated even under moderately enthusiastic driving, perhaps a testament to the decent driving dynamics of the base chassis. The brakes were a pleasant surprise, being progressive yet firm and were extremely effective in bringing its 1500kg mass to a sudden stop when needed. Another plus point was the fuel economy of both models. The onboard fuel computer gives an FC reading based on the last 50km travelled. I chalked up approximately 200km on each car and noted surprisingly good figures of 7.5-8.3L/100km and 9-9.5L/100km for the 2.0L and 2.5L models respectively. Frankly I find it a bit optimistic but I’ll just report it as it is.

At a price of $79888-$85888 the Epica might is nicely priced to fill a niche within the market. With an almost $10000 price advantage over the Camry, it gives away a little interior refinement but is otherwise similar in many other ways. Against budget models such as the Sonata and Magentis, it offers classier, modern styling and better interior refinement with an added allure of exclusivity, at least for now. With its attractive feature set and sensible pricing, the Epica proves to be a worthy consideration for buyers looking for a large executive sedan and will spearhead Chevrolet’s entry into the luxury car market. Given a little more refinement and creature comforts, it may well evolve into a strong contender in the market.

Specifications (2.0L version / 2.5L version)

  • Engine: 1993cc/2492cc 24valve 6 Cylinder Inline DOHC
  • Compression Ratio: 10.2:1 / 9.8:1
  • Transmission: 5-Speed Auto
  • Max Power: 144hp@6300rpm / 156hp@5600rpm
  • Max Torque: 195Nm@4600rpm / 237Nm@4000rpm
  • Max Speed : 199km/h / 208km/h
  • Acceleration 0-100km/h : 11.8s / 9.9s
  • Kerb Weight: 1555kg

For:

  • Fuel Economy
  • Smooth linear engine
  • Decent handling
  • Spacious boot
  • Subtle styling

Against:

  • Some dated plastic fittings
  • Numb Steering

2L vs 2.5L

The 2.5L has the addition of 17” rims, cruise controls, chromed handles, sunroof and slightly better low-to-mid torque and pickup. However, given how adequately the 2.0L engine performed on the Epica, it might prove to be the better value of the 2, taking into consideration current petrol prices.

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New Cat on the Block, the Peugeot 207

July 27, 2007


Peugeot 207, originally uploaded by Zerstorer.

One look at the new Peugeot 207 and you cannot help but to be reminded of a grinning Cheshire cat. Slanted feline eye-like headlamps and a huge gaping frontal grille mouth all serve to conjure up that impression of the proverbial Alice-in-wonderland cat. The styling is still in line with the elegance of its 206 predecessor, being cut much from the same cloth. However, the new car shows off its proud lineage by looking bolder, brasher and louder with stronger more muscular curves and a more distinctive front visage. The angular side mirrors are spiced up with signal indicators near the base while the rear lights are jazzed up with a multi-faceted combination light that gives it a distinctive look.

On the inside, the same bold styling again dominates, with dashes of chrome on the instrument panels and prominent projected curves all round that ooze sensuality. Interior plastics and trimmings look and feel good as expected from a car of its class with excellent semi-bucket leather seats that seem to fit perfectly, offering good side support that encourages spirited driving. The wide sloped windscreen gives an clear view of the road and an illusion of expansiveness, but one is soon reminded that this is still a hatch when you take stock of the above average of legroom both front and rear. Storage compartments are notably sparse in this car and even the glove-box barely stores anything larger than a spectacle case;The French might have something to learn from the Japs in this respect. The rear-seats come with Iso-fix mountings and when folded down, the rear opens up to reveal an pleasantly sized boot. Even with the rear seats up, the boot seems capable of carrying 2 medium golfbags or a few cartons of beer which can come in pretty useful at times. The overall build quality is robust and inspires confidence with doors that open and close with a solid thud, no doubt due to its 1229kg kerb weight. Cabin noise insulation is surprisingly good for a car of this class, keeping in mind that its a hatchback. Potential owners may also be pleased to know that the 207 comes with safety features such as EBD(Electric Brake-force Distribution), EBA(Emergency Brake Assist), 2 frontal airbags and has also been awarded a 5-Star EuroNCAP crash safety rating.

The Peugeot is well equipped when it comes to things relating to the drive. Auto-headlamps and wipers add a fine ergonomic touch, with the dual-climate control air-con and component speaker stereo setup helping to keep you cool and jazzy on the road. The steering is well-weighted and precise, offering a good feel of the road unlike the numb, detached feeling of other electric setups. The 207 has a slightly perky character, aided by its torquey 160Nm, 120hp, 1.6l 11:1 compression powerplant which delivers good low-end pull that makes it appear faster than what its rated 12.7s 0-100km/h timing would suggest. The 4-speed tiptronic gear-box will no doubt be popular with control freaks, while lazier drivers would be pleased to know that there is a sports mode option for a more responsive ride when needed. Putting the car through its paces revealed its fine handling characteristics and capable suspension. There is minimal bodyroll and hardly any perceptible flex even in tight corners, with traction breaking in a linear predictable manner if you really push it. The suspension tends towards sportiness and allows you a feel of the road even on the 195/55/r16 stock CPC2s. However, it still manages to give a relatively comfortable and civilized ride when called for.

For $71900, the Peugeot 207 costs a bit more than faster hatches such as the Mitsubishi ColtPlus Ralliart or the Suzuki Swift Sport. However, it makes up for it with its sexy distinctive styling, solid build quality and reassuring safety rating. If one is out for a sporty-looking hatch with a touch of class, the Peugeot 207 would have to be a prime contender. Buyers with deeper pockets who desire even more style or substance out of the 207 would be delighted to know that Peugeot has also the 207CC convertible and 207GTi hot-hatch to satisfy all your desires. It appears that Peugeot might have a winning line-up with the new 207 family and we look forward to bringing you an update on it in future.

Specifications

  • · Engine: VVT 1598cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke DOHC 16valve 4 cylinder
  • · Compression Ratio: 11:1
  • · Max Power: 120hp@6000rpm
  • · Max Torque: 160Nm@4250rpm
  • · Transmission: 4-speed tiptronic autmatic w/ Sports mode and manual override
  • · Max Speed: 195km/h
  • · Acceleration(0-100km/h): 12.7s
  • · Fuel Economy: 14.2km/l (Mixed Rural/Urban)

For:

Strong distinctive styling, Build quality, Responsive and nimble handling

Against:

Meager internal storage compartments

Fireworks….

July 7, 2007


 


 

Colleagues and Friends

June 2, 2007

When is a colleague considered a friend? Are good colleagues automatically considered friends or is there some fine line that must be crossed? Someone posed me this question recently which led me thinking of how I would define it.

You may encounter some really nice colleagues at work, people whom you enjoy working with and have good communication and teamwork. You may even talk to them often and share a common degree of understanding. From all the signs they could potentially be good friends so would be the identifiers that separate friends from merely good colleagues?

1)A significant component of your conversations should deviate from work/workplace related issues.

If you find yourself engaged in long conversations bitching about work, bitching about other colleagues, bitching about bosses but little else, then this person is most likely just a good colleague. To me, a friend is someone whom you would converse on topics unrelated to work like for instance share your interest, passions and other aspects of your personal life.

2)Meet for activities unrelated to work.

No matter how good a working relationship, a person is just a colleague if you would hardly ever meet them out of a working environment. This is all part of the socializing aspect of being a friend where you spend your free time to do activities together. These things are what normal friends would do.

Often circumstances may not be conducive for colleagues to cross over the threshold to being a friend perhaps due to long working hours or a hectic schedule that leaves precious little time for anything else, but somehow if the person is suited as a friend, such hurdles are easily overcome. Having thought about all this, it appears to me that while one can have many good colleagues at work, few ever cross the threshold into being a friend. For it needs effort, sincerity and perhaps both time and opportunity for a good working relationship to ‘graduate’ to the next level.

All this brings to mind a much publicized incident reported in the media years ago, when Fann Wong uttered that she and Zoe Tay were “Just colleagues not friends”. It was blown up to be some indicator of a rivalry brewing between the 2 of them and Fann was criticised for being too blunt. However, in retrospect, poor Fann might have been maligned for an innocent remark.

Perhaps she simply had a strict definition of what constitutes a friend.:)

The verdict is out…

April 19, 2007

Final bid came and passed. Bid entered $9892, Quota Premium $14601 Status:UNSUCCESSFUL.

I was prepared for this result and had already made a few test drives of other makes over the past few weekends. However, I was shocked to learn that some others who had chosen to topup $2500 this final round had also failed to get their COE because the dealer put in a bid of $14093 and didn’t bother to revise it. This doesn’t make any sense, is $508 more important than company image?

A colleague offered a possible explanation for this situation; The dealer might be having difficulty in procuring enough cars to meet current backlog of orders, hence they chose to giveup those older orders with lesser margins and reserve the stock for new orders that were made at the revised prices.

Sounds plausible, but nevertheless, its does not speak well of their attitude in fulfilling orders nor keeping customers. This matter has only strengthened my resolve to boycott dealers who adopt such practices; afterall, who knows when a similar event might happen in future if you ever make a booking with them. No matter how sweet the deal, you can be severely inconvenienced and still not get your car EVEN if you agree to their top-up demands. You would then suffer the opportunity costs of being unable to get a car from another dealer before the prices increase.

If a dealer is so obsessed with profit margins and doesn’t value their customers, then I feel that consumers should only reciprocate likewise and totally avoid such dealers in future.

Hence, its goodbye to Axela, hello Avante.

18-04-2007

April 12, 2007

18-04-2007 will be the day of reckoning.

A day when hopes are either fulfilled or dashed…

A day when decisions will have to be made…

A day of either celebration or despair…..

Ok I exaggerate. It’s just the day of the final bidding for my COE. Sad to say, my car-buying experience hasn’t been entirely pleasant nor smooth. When I made my booking on the 3rd of March, not once did it cross my mind that I would encounter so many complications and uncertainties. I readily agreed to the $10500 booking deposit, despite it being higher than the norm elsewhere simply because I wanted to just get it over and done with and hoped that putting up more money upfront would help grease things a little. I distinctly remember questioning my Sales Rep before signing on the dotted line..”so what happens if the COE rebounds back to the previous levels or higher? Will this still be the agreed price as in will I be asked to topup?” to which she replied that the price would be as agreed. “This is a 4 bid agreement, what are the chances of me not getting a COE after 4 bids?” “oh, thats extremely unlikely…I say you have a 99% chance of getting your COE…don’t worry about this.” was her reassuring answer….

I guess I was naive to believe that.

7th March: I eagerly logged on to Onemotoring.com to check the bidding results $12000+……strange, I don’t see any bids under my name listed despite my SE telling me that I would be in the bidding just that morning. Later I was told that the bidding was unsuccesful and they would try again.In the days after, I read in forums to learn that others who have made bookings for the same car during my time have been given an option to topup 2K to secure their COE the next bidding. I was pleased that I was not asked to topup and assumed that perhaps I was lucky…..I was wrong.

17th March: I received a sms from my SE asking me to consider topping up $4k so that they would bid $15500 for me the following bidding. I was flabbergasted….others have only been asked to topup $2000 and yet I’m asked to topup $4000. I decided to send a sms questioning why there was a discrepancy and demanded to know why a bid was not put in the previous time despite them saying they would. I received no direct reply to my query. I decided to let the transgressions pass and see what would happen next.

21st March: 2nd bidding came and went. COE shot up to $13500 again no bids entered.

SE subsequently called and asked for $2500 topup so that they would place bid up to $14000, if not they would at most bid $10000. I was getting rather pissed at the antics so my decision was no.

I’m pretty confident that car dealers are very much aware that the COE prices would rebound strongly after the $5200 COE on Feb 14. The sure number of bookings made that week made it obvious to anyone remotely in touch with the trends. So why reduce prices during the COE drop only to ask for topups later when COE prices rebound? I guess it boils down to the old bait and switch. Lure buyers in with lower prices and then ask for topups later when you already hold their deposits and have the bookings. Its probably easier to secure bookings with a lower advertised price and then ask buyers to topup in order to secure their COEs as majority of buyers are naturally anxious to get their cars as soon as possible. This way, a dealer is effectively selling the car at a higher price, while still achieving higher booking rates due to a lower advertised price.

Sad to say, there is little to protect a consumer from such antics as most sales contracts are for for non-guaranteed COE bidding based on a certain number of bid cycles…e.g 2-6 bids. This and the practice of only dropping prices marginally when COE prices plummet and yet raising prices tightly pegged to COE increases ensures that dealers will always have a reasonably stable profit margin, regardless of COE movements. Even if they are ever caught, there is always their “COE topup” wildcard which never fails to work.

I’ll just say that I’m pretty miffed at my dealer. I’ve calculated that even if they secure a COE for me without any topup at the current $14000 rate, they would still have a gross profit of approximately $7000. To my chagrin I’ve learnt of cases of other car buyers amongst my friends and colleagues whose dealers secured COEs for them at similar or lesser margins. I find it myopic for dealers to attempt to maintain their margins without regard to the fact that they can potentially gain much goodwill by willingly lowering their margins and closing the deals.

As such I’ve elected to exercise my consumer power and say NO to such practices. I’ve refused to topup, even for my final bid. If I don’t get my car, so be it.

Although this car has been my first choice, I’ve done sufficient research to know of other alternatives which have not had any substantial price increases so I’ll not have to pay any substantially higher price now than if I’ve made a different choice in the first place.

This has been a difficult decision, but sometimes, one must know when to draw the line.

Labrador Sunset

March 1, 2007

Labrador Sunset

Dazzling streams of golden rays
Glisten upon the azure waves
Final throes of a fiery day
As Night awakens, its time to play “

A picture I took 3 years back and the poem that I wrote for it.

Perhaps I’ll find a day to take another shot more worthy of these lines.

That little something extra…

February 27, 2007

In the course of our work, we get all sorts of assignments. Some stories are sensational by nature while the majority may be somewhat mundane or down-to-earth. Often, a catchy headline alone might not be enough to draw readers into a story and a striking photo may just determine whether the article is read or simply passed over. I was called upon to do a feature shoot on a 45 year old lawyer who takes part in marathons to raise funds for the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. Not only should he be lauded for his compassionate efforts for charity, the fact that he is running despite being both flatfooted and asthmatic makes it all the more commendable.

The interview was conducted in his office at Standard Chartered building, afterwhich we headed outside along boat quay for the photoshoot. I felt that a normal portrait of him wouldn’t do him justice and sought to find a way to protray the magnanimity of his actions and to render him somewhat larger than life.

I decided to frame him against the outline of his office building. The afternoon sun shining through a crack between the office towers created a flare effect in the shot that helped to suggest an air of “divinity”. All that was need was for me to position an off-camera flash to highlight his face and yet give a certain degree of sculpting to his features. This I managed to achieve with a borrowed flash from ST photog Bryan who was also around for the interview.

And this is the resulting image, I hope it works for you guys.


Best Feature Photo for the month of December, SPH Chinese Newspapers Division.

Sunday Morning Manly Fun…

November 8, 2006

Caught it!, originally uploaded by Zerstorer.

I’ve never once watched a full rugby match, let alone shoot one. Having gotten wind of the SCC Rugby 7s being held over the weekend, I decided to drag myself out of bed early sunday morning and headed down to see if I could snag a few good shots…and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Rugby is certainly my idea of good sunday morning entertainment. Each bone crunching tackle elicited a “OOOO” from the crowd along with racuous laughter and applause. Of course the experience was not complete without the ample beer and spirits served by attractive ladies. I had no hesitation downing a couple of Heinekens to cool off in the hot afternoon sun.

Sunday outing for the alpha male…*grunt!*

Lijiang Impressions

September 24, 2006

Lijiang Impressions, originally uploaded by Zerstorer.

It’s coming to 3 months since I first started work as a photojournalist at MYPAPER and the days seem to pass in a flash. Working hours tend to be long, but that’s to be expected as we are a small team where each and every member has an important part to play.

It seems not too long ago that I was still holidaying in China, enjoying the fresh mountain air and taking in the scenic vistas that surrounded me. Let me kickstart this blog by posting a photo that I took a couple of months back when I was holidaying in Yunnan. This was a more reflective shot taken in “ancient” town of Lijiang. It turned out that the there was nothing really ancient there apart from the general appearance, for much of it has actually been rebuilt after it was destroyed in a quake. Moreover, the whole town was filled with pubs, alfresco dining and drunken revelry from hordes of tourists flocking there as a stopover point in their Yunnan tour. Hardly the rustic, laidback town one would expect.:)