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Motoring

Five cars for Hong Kong school runs

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 May, 2016, 8:21pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 May, 2016, 10:41am

The VW Golf, safe and economical, is ideal for a school run in Hong Kong, and there are variants galore. A new 123-horsepower model has a starting price of HK$212,980; you could go green with an e-Golf (HK$369,980); or consider a Volkswagen Hong Kong-maintained option from the marque’s used-car shop, Das Welt­Auto.

Buying second-hand for school runs makes sense; its a passing phase so there’s arguably no point in spending on luxury. A white 2014 Golf Team Leather hatchback edition was recently advertised online with just 500km on the clock for HK$199,980, with Bi-Xenon headlights and Bluetooth connectivity. It could be everything you need.

Hong Kong’s roads are busier, parking is becoming increasingly competitive and petrol is still expensive, so the Golf’s 1.4-litre engine, seven-speed DSG gearbox and paddle shifts would do just fine for the jaunt to school, and then on to the office.

You might prefer a second-hand GTi, which it’s possible to get for under HK$300,000, or a 1.2-litre Polo for about HK$160,000. Whatever you choose, Golfs are generally reliable, have five-star crash-test safety ratings, and Volkswagen seems on “Extra Nice Assist” after last year’s emissions scandal.

The Smart ForTwo is a fine car for single parents. The three-cylinder, one-litre car’s 2.69m length enables drivers to turn in a 6.95-metre circle and squeeze into tight parking spots. The saloons are bright and the convertible versions literally open a child’s eyes to the potentially unforgettable sights and smells of Hong Kong on their way to school.

Some boys might say the Smart ForTwo a bit bright and girly, but most classmates might agree it has more than adequate leg room, and excellent Blue­tooth, music and smartphone connectivity. It’s With a steel safety cell, its Euro safety rating is four stars.

Other considerations are an economical fuel efficiency of 4.1 litres per 100 kilometres, and that fact it emits a very low 94 grams of CO2 per kilometre. Its latest trip computer monitors fuel consumption and offers an economy score.

Smart’s revived — but so far untested — FourFour might challenge the Golf, but the ForTwo makes sense in Hong Kong if you usually drive alone or with just one passenger. When you buy a car, you pay for space, so why buy a four- or five-seater, and run at 40-50 per cent occupancy. Critics might say that’s no different from piling your plate at a buffet, and then leaving half of it.

Any Abarth has rev credibility. Plus, the Fiat 500 is probably the most stylish and safe car in town after the Maserati Quattroporte, Ghibli and Porsche Cayman. The school’s car geeks should be more impressed by Scorpion-marque Abarth’s performance, however. It is the tuned equivalent of Mercedes-Benz’s AMG, and the Abarth 500 packs 135 horsepower from a tiny 1.4-litre engine. It was a delight at Fuji Speedway tests in Japan, where the models have a cult following.

The 180-horsepower Abarth Tributo Ferrari version is also arguably the biggest wolf in sheep’s clothing since the Volkswagen Golf R. It can reach 100km/h through five-speed paddle shifts in about seven seconds, topping at about 250km/h. It will have you rolling into school as cute as pie.

The 180-horsepower Abarth Tributo Ferrari version is also arguably the biggest wolf in sheep’s clothing since the Volkswagen Golf R. It can reach 100km/h through five-speed paddle shifts in about seven seconds, topping at about 250km/h. It will have you rolling into school as cute as pie.

 

The 1595cc, 122-horsepower Mercedes-Benz B-Class B180 sports tourer (HK$299,900) flaunts the marque’s star emblem and seats up to five people for about the price of an eight-seater Nissan Serena (from HK$299,800). With more than 350,000 sales since its launch in 2014, it’s been a hit with Hong Kong families, especially for its tight 11-metre turning circle and decent fuel economy: it runs on about 6.9 litres of petrol per 100 kilometres in urban driving.

The latest facelifted version keeps tabs on tired or erratic drivers with Attention Assist, and offers Keyless-Go, which allows owners to access, start and lock the car with a portable electronic key. There’s a 156-horsepower B200 version (HK$339,000) and a 211-horsepower, 1,991cc B250 (HK$399,000), but the basic version could suffice in Hong Kong. The Light and Sight package adds exit and warning lights for the front doors.

The B-Class also has 488 litres of luggage space that folds down to 1,547 litres, as well as bag hooks. Additionally, its easy steering mocks the “Big-Armed Southside Mothers” who buy too big and then hold up Tai Tam Road traffic in excruciating eight-point turns.

 

Many parents feel safer in the bulk of a sports utility vehicle, however. The new 4.48-metre, five-seater Kia Sportage compact SUV has a five-star European crash test safety rating, lots of hi-tech features, and attractive launch prices for the 2.4-litre Sportage EX (from HK$199,980) and Sportage EX Premium (from HK$278,000).

Made in Gwangju, South Korea, with design input from the marque’s Irvine, California and Frankfurt-based offices, both variants look as solid as their predecessors.

Local Sportage fans seem happy with the past models’ power steering, and rear and side visibility for parking. There are arguably more fuel-efficient SUVs in Hong Kong, but the Sportage offers more affordable protection from the city’s more erratic drivers.