The Hunt For A New Car

So after nine years and a bit, my Little Red Riding Hood, aka Honda Civic FD, is coming to the end of its life. Well the end of it's COE anyway, which means I can either cough up the money to renew this little piece of paper or explore new cars.

Given that I can get back almost 10k for this baby, it's really been giving me sterling service, and I should try to get another car.

So here comes the hunt:

I have set myself a budget of around 130k but if I can spend less, that will be even better. i.e, with my car thrown in, my outlay should not extend 120k.

First decision was to forgo renewing the COE.
Second one was whether I should go for a 2nd hand one. Given the high prices I see for 2nd hand examples, a first hand car seems to be the way to go.

What are the things I really need, and what are the niceties then?

Reliability is paramount. No 'characterful' cars, a euphemism for unreliable. So most likely a Jap car, that is actually made in Japan, maybe a Korean one, or perhaps a Merc if they are made in Germany and not somewhere else.

Not too low slung - I need easy enter and egress for my mum.

Versatile seats:
Folding rear seats, the ability to carry large objects will be very good.

Fuel economy:
Given the high oil prices, this will be a good thing.

Enough power to merge with traffic. I don't need a speedster, but I don't really want to worry about having a heart attack every time I need to join traffic and there's a rather steep slope outside my home and I need to merge with fast moving traffic there.

I also go on the North South Highway every now and then, so something that doesn't struggle on it will be nice.


Original leather seats
Red color
Quick turning radius
Low turn to turn ratio
SUV - high sitting position and hey, I haven't owned one before, but it was fun to drive

Front and back cameras
BT capability

So what have I identified:

Right at the top of my list right now is the Honda HRV, the authorised dealer (AD) version of the Vezel that has been taking the local market by storm.

What are the plus points:

- Jap made
- very creative interior
- SUV style
- low FC
- smart interior with decent soft touch materials abounding
- many charging points, USB and other touches

- not as solid feel as a conti car
- 130hp might not be enough compared to my older FD
- CVT transmission

So moving on, I have also tried a whole bunch of other cars. The main issue is that none, yes, none of the cars have everything I want. Each has their own pros and cons..

Mazda 3 & 6:

- nice Conti feel
- good handling
- conventional 6 speed auto
- soft touch materials abound
- Jap made

Heavy 3 combined with a 1.5l engine in the 3 doesn't help
can't help comfy in the 6 somehow
servicing can be an issue given that the new dealers aren't really setup for so many new customers
US long snout styling
? reliability
a little low slung
rear legroom

Corolla Altis

- Proven track record
- Borneo servicing
- Good FC
- Improved looks compared to the older one
- decent legroom
- solid bidding process

still looks bleah..
plastics aren't in the same league as the Mazda or Golf
not too many nice features inside

Hyundai Elantra

- sleek looks
- plenty of soft touch materials
- decent legroom
- lower price

- bidding tiers means you aren't so sure if you will get your car

Conti offers:



Solid build, lots of soft touch materials in the cabin
Good acceleration

Tight legroom at the back
Suspect gearbox

Audi A3 Sportback

An expensive version of the Golf, with similar pros and cons


The sedan is made in Hungary, and the Merc CLA is also made in the same country, and will cost 30-40k more than a Golf. It's hard to see how one can opt for this, even though most conti cars, especially the bigger brands are known for safety, and a solid metalwork. But servicing is not as easy, since these companies are much smaller than Borneo Motor or Kah, and the cost of repairs, spares and even basic servicing might be more.
The A3 is a value for money car. The A4 is significantly more costly. Almost got this car. The build quality is very solid, the engine is quite powerful, rear legroom is actually quite impressive.
It uses a more powerful 1.4t, has a bit more room and is made in Germany. It uses a wet clutch design.
The cabin has more features but it's about 20k more. The soft touch materials, the gear shift knob, oh so wonderful..
It's the cheapest of the three marques. A Merc Cla will cost another 20k more for example.

The big German brands are now more vague on the origin of their cars. For example, the popular C class Merc is made in South Africa, and not long ago, the previous model gave more issues than expect for this marquee brand.

BMW 216:
The 216d was IMO a better drive, more torque and instant response, greater urgency and the rear seats were sliding with a three fold capability. The cabin soft touch materials were also better.
The diesel is noisier but inside you hardly hear it.
The view out of the cabin was nice too as you sit higher.

But the 216d is about 10k more and I wonder about the reliability?

The CLA is made in Hungary, and the BMW 3 series is also made in South Africa.

The B Class was a solid build car with space, ergonomic and good safety features. The engine specs are also impressive, but it's about 30k more than the HRV.

Ideally a Honda HRV with a nice 1.8l engine or maybe that new 1.5 turbo will be superb! Even the hybrid version has enough ommph. Pity the authorised dealers aren't bringing it in.

Checklist when buying a car

COE Top-up
COE Rebate
Delivered By
Trade-in car value
Loan interest
Loan Amount
Loan Penalty
1st year insurance & fee
Engine/chassis ready?
Color availability
Delivered By
Keyless Entry?
LED Headlight
Leather seats
Steering Wheel Control
Floor mat
Boot cover/mat
HU unit (AVH-X2650BT)
Reverse Sensors/Camera
In-car camera
Solar films
Warranty (Years/Km)
Free Servicing
IU, reg plate, 6mths rd tax include?


Keyless Entry (Lock and unlock using remote) 
Manual Entry (Lock and unlock using key) 
Master Lock 
Individual Lock 
Alarm reset switch 


Power Windows(Check that the driver side auto window is working) 
Windows control Lock 

Electric Mirrors 

Electric Mirrors Control ( Up, Down, Left & Right ) 
Folding Mirrors(Check that the Mirrors can be retractable by either manual or electrical folding.) 


Engine Start Button (if any) 
Fan Speeds 
Rear Demister 
Radio/CD/DVD Player 
Reverse Camera (if any) 
Steering controls (if any) 


Directional Signals 
High Beam 
Hazard Lights 
Parking Lights 
Tail Lights 
Brake Lights 
Fog Lamps 
Interior light 
Wiper (Make sure each speed is correct) 
Wiper Spray 


Dashboard lights come on when headlights are on 
Information lights (eg. Parking brake ) are lit at relevant time 
Check that odometer does not display excessive mileage 

Transmission & Brakes 

Smooth Gearshift 
Automatic transmission 
Over Drive button 
Shift Lock button 

Things to look out for: 
Test auto-transmission for shock while engaging gear. 
Make sure that the brake has to be depressed to shift out of Park mode. 
Make sure that the car can only start in Neutral or Park mode. 

Other Interiors 

Steering wheel properly aligned 
Steering wheel adjusting lever 
Bonnet release lever 
Boot release lever 
Fuel tank release lever 
Check for stains and holes on seats 
Seat adjuster (Forward, backward, recline) 
Seat belts (Check that the Seat belts lock when pulled hard) 
Seat belts height adjuster 
Check for scratches and dents on the trims 
Rear Mirror 
Glove box 
Check for stains on carpets 
Air-con vents (Check that they are able to move freely) 
Moonroof (Opens and closes fully) 


Check that car plate is correct 
Check that body surface is free from dents and scratches. 
Check that windows and windscreens are free from stains and scratches 
Check that lights are clear and undamaged 
Check that door handles are working 
Check that tyres are free from holes and punctures 
Check that rims are free from scratches 
Check that the radio antenna is working 
Check that fuel cap is secured 

Under The Bonnet 

Engine Oil level 
Brake Fluid level 
Battery Water level 
Transmission Fluid level 
Coolant level 
Air-Conditioning gas level 
Check engine compartment with any obvious defects and damage 

Inside the Boot 

Base board 
Boot light 
Tool kit 
Spare tyre 


Road Tax Disc 
Vehicle log card 
Certificate of insurance 
Car owner manual 


Check tyres pressure 
Cruise control (if any) 
All goodies promised are given

Things to ask for when buying a new Vezel

Vezel : Standard Freebies:-
1) Leather seats
2) Entry level HU unit (eg AVH-X2650BT)
3) 3yrs warranty 100000 or 5yrs 120000
4) basic engine oil change servicing fixed below 150 including gst (cap viscosity at w30)
5) All models steering wheel volume etc button linked to HU.
6) Rebate level max 2k below last closing COE
7) Either no top up or to be fair to dealers, max cap 2k top up above last closing COE
8) reverse camera 2 sensors

Freebies To be firmly requested/demanded/negotiated:-
{especially if taking full allowable loan and max allowable tenure}
1) upgrade to high spec HU (eg AVH-X8650BT or Appradio 4)
2) 3-in-1 Anti UV, Anti infrared, Anti shatter solar films
3) wireless mirrorlink function included with HU to link iphone or android
4) 1-2yr 100% free servicing package -manufacture listed viscosity branded engine oil of choice
5) paint protection sealant or paint protection film
6) High spec front & rear recording camera
7) other body kits and accessories
8) reverse n front parking camera and 4 sensors front + 4 sensors rear

How To Refine Your Home Theatre calibration: things to do after the first calibration

So, you have done that Audyssey recalibration, and followed the checklist

It is also important to get the subwoofer position right, even before you run that Audyssey. So do read up on 'crawling for bass', before you even do your calibration.

And make sure your speaker positions follow the recommended guidelines as fas as possible.

This is a nice video to follow:

Well, the step is refinement. Audyssey is only the first step to getting that mix, where you feel totally immersed in the movie. This means setting the levels right in each channel, so when sound transverses from one channel to the next, you feel that the intensity, and the object is truly moving in space from one place to the next, as the movie maker intended.

The next stage is to measure the frequency response. Now this can seem daunting for the casual computer user, and I admit, that PCs are not my strong point, so I looked to friends to use this, and if you are handy with PCs, they promise that it isn't that hard.

Some guidelines I got from the net for Macs:

The REW software can be downloaded here:

And you can use the MiniDSP Umik:

Essentially this seems rather like rocket science to the average HT hobbyist, so feel free to skip this or better yet, get someone to help with this, but essentially if you are willing to go to this extra step, you will definitely gain a lot. Really, a lot.

Once you have your curve up, then you can see what are the parts that don't work so well.

Audyssey is suppose to smoothen out the curve and cut any bumps in frequency, but it does not always do a solid job.

For the bumps, you can rely on traps to try and smoothen out the frequencies, but for the dips, and the room nodes, it's a lot harder.

Some tricks you can do:

Play with the phase. Again even though Audyssey is supposed to help, in my case, a simple switch of the phase, from 0 to 180, immediately help.
Furthermore, in my case, I had two subs, which usually helps even out the frequencies, but there was a bass suckout right at my listening position at 33 hz. This is despite having one sub right next to my listening position. By switching the phase, we almost totally eliminated the dip.

As for getting that thump and rumble, well, it's all about the SPL. If you aren't prepared to play it louder, at 80-9-db or more, one may not get that tactile bass. In my case, I prefer saner levels, so I put up with less of the low end stuff.

Now in order to refine the levels, you have to get a test tone disc. There are many you can download off the net, and now, they will also cover all 11 channels used in Atmos or even DTS.

It is vital that you AVOID using the internal test tones, which will not give you the accurate levels after Audyssey calibrations!

Play with the various levels, see what level of immersion do you like. It's like cooking curry, some like it hotter, and so in setting the Atmos ceiling channels, some like to play those channels a little louder.

As always, your mileage may vary. YMMV.

Then play something that you like and are familiar with, that has a lot of sound transitions. I like to use the gunfight scene from the Book of Eli, when they bring out the Gatling sound and listen to the shots transiting from one speaker to the next, whilst there are bullets flying everywhere, and the sound of the house being destroyed around you.

Good luck!

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