Friday, April 14, 2006


Having a website of my own (, this blog will serve as my temporary venue for updates, diaries and mode of creating webpages with just an internet connection (without a FTP or upload capability) Update (24th April 2006):- Just found out my domain is no longer active... hehehe... looks like I defaulted on the payment. Oh well, I guess that's it.... no longer going to upkeep the domain. Better to just stick to freebies on the net.... less hassle ... oh well, less 1 bill for me to remember.

Updates (May 2007)
Finally, bought a new home pc for about Rm2k. In fact, I nearly got it for free!! The story goes like this, I bought it from Computer War in Ss2. This place is always packed and #$^%& busy. Getting the staff to stop and ask questions is incredibly difficult, one has to be really thick skin to shout out your queries to them. Anyway, this was their downfall. When I collected the pc, as usual, everyone was running all over the place. Only one junior staff demo'ed my pc to show that it's working and everything in place. He carried it to my car and we said bye. While driving back, I just realised I didn't pay !!!?!!! My brain mechanics started spinning.... did I? Could I? Will they? I thought, maybe wait till next weekend to pay.... all this time, thinking will they report to police? But then again, they don't have any info of mine, except maybe the mobilephone no. on the invoice. Oh well, come next weekend, I went there holding on to the invoice, as usual, everyone was running around. I was expecting maybe one of them to shout "OI.... that's him... get him!!!" and jump on me. But nothing. It was just the usual busyness, ignoring me. So I stopped the boss Dennis and told him I haven't paid... he almost flipped and fainted, finding out that such a thing could happen. In fact, at that point, I was thinking, I could actually have gotten a free pc. 'Cos their practice was to collect money upon delivery. Pass that point, no one knows... really !! Anyway, one good turn deserves another, I was honest and guilt-ridden ... the boss knew that, and gave me discounts and discounts after. Who knows, maybe they will improve their service and attention .... or one day, I will get another free pc chance.... hehehe.

Here's what I got :-
Intel Core2Duo 1.8
Gigabyte N650SLI-DS4 motherboard
1GB DDR2 Corsair
250gb Seagate SATA2 HDD
17" Samsung 732N LCD (1280x1024, 5ms)
Graphics card: NVIDIA GEFORCE 7100GS (128MB / GDDR3 with DVI, Tv-out)
Casing: Trendsonic TS218-BB (Blacklight 400 watts)

And coupled with my old gear :-
300GB IDE Maxtor hdd / 250GB IDE WD hdd
Samsung DVD writer (Super-writemaster SH-S182D)
PSU: Cooler Master Extreme Power 430W ATX12V V2.01
Fans: ICUTE 80mm; COOLERMASTER 80mm; LYF RA9011 PCI fan
Modem : Zyxel adsl; Zyxel wireless router
Cambridge Soundworks 12v (2.1 speakers)

Updates (8th December 2006)
I'm a lucky man. I've been blessed with my second child, a son. Thank you god for your blessings and providence.

Updates (August 2006)
Back to KL. Back to boring routines and mundane lifestyles. Back to chores and chores.

Updates (30 April 2006)
Moved base to seoul, Korea for the remainder of the project.

Updates (September 2005)
Currently in Shanghai on a 6 months project..... expected to go to Korea from May to June for remainder of project. Some free time within the project timeline, managed to spruce up some updates in my blogs (check the right frame for links) eg. food, toys, travel secrets and dvd reviews.

Updates (November 2005)
F***ing prick of a malay couple..... banged my new car from the back on the way home from work at busy Jln Tun Razak (in front of Dewan Pustaka area). It was bumper to bumper traffic and these 2 motherf***ers can actually doze off while husband hit the gas.... BANG! Not just a love tap.... but probably a 20-40km/h BANG! No wonder there's accidents on highways (death casualties) ..... sleeping while driving is a whole new perspective for me..... FUCK drink driving... this is the new IN thing. Anyway, after negotiations... settlement is thru cash and quotation from Honda service center amounting to RM1077 for new bumper and workmanship.... .which btw is a fucking scam... worksmanship is off the head quote from mechanics (totally unrelated to Honda company policy... it was just agak agak estimates).... about RM500-RM600... .even more than the actual bumper.... fucking pricks. Anyway, they did a good job... fixed the spoiler brake light. But still, overall painful to my new car.

Updates (August 2005)
New second car for city travel.... Honday City V-tec.... at 90k all in (with spoiler and V-Kool). Additional Rm1k to remove the Honda front door speakers and add bigger speakers and 2 tweeters.... a world of difference to the sound.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

My second car...

Hmm... thought I wrote something about my 2nd car purchase a while ago... did I save it or was it in Notepad form somewhere? Sigh.

Anyway, back to reminiscense ... been in KL (no overseas work assignments) for about 1.5 years and commuting thru the horrendous KL traffic daily, I was looking around and always toying with the 2nd car idea. There were few options to choose from... from Proton Waja (cheap and economical) to BMW. As you can see, those are 2 extremes... either the cheap option which was practical and serves my daily purpose but yet can't help being in the lower end spectrum level of society ..... or the expensive option.. high class but no money in wallet at end of day (HA!). As enthusiasms build up, some test drives (tried Hyundai Tucson and latest Kembara) and some showroom visits.... the last test drive (Honda City) got me hooked. It was easy driving ... a world of difference to my Ford Escape (lighter and zippy) and was at a good price below 90k... discount of 2k. With a 2-4 weeks waiting period, I was sold... where do I sign? hehehe. Weeks later, zipping around traffic in my black CT.

For my reference, I've copied some articles and technical writeups of the car below....

  • Specs :-

    Type 4 door Sedan
    Engine type 4 cylinder in-line, SOHC, i-DSI (intelligent Dual and Sequential Ignition.
    Displacement 1497cc

    Transmission Automatic CVT
    Drive Layout FF (front engine, front drive)
    Power (hp) 88 @ 5500rpm
    Torque (Nm) 131 @ 2700rpm
    Fuel Consumption n/a
    Fuel Tank Capacity 42 litres

    Steering Rack and pinion, electrical power assist, 9.8m turning circle.
    Suspension Front independent McPherson struts with coil springs and stabilisers, rear H-shape torsion beam.
    Brakes Front discs, rear drums, ABS, EBD.

    Features Dual airbags.

    Curb Weight 1072kg
    Length 4310mm
    Wheelbase 2450mm
    Width 1690mm
    Height 1485mm
    Wheel 14 X 5.5 JJ
    Tyre 185/60 R 14


    The new Honda City is probably the most successful model marketed by Honda in the ASEAN region. It is a bold new model, featuring what many Honda fans considers a 'futuristic design' that is based largely on the platform of the highly successful Honda Fit/Jazz. Coming out of Honda R&D Asia in Thailand, it was originally launched in only 1 variant, what has now come to be called the 'City i-DSI' featuring the new L15A 1.5l i-DSI engine. I have reviewed the Honda City i-DSI extensively here on TOVA, it is an excellent vehicle with plenty of 'go' and superb fuel economy - a fine all-rounded vehicle. Early this year, Honda Asia launched a new variant, the Honda City 1.5l VTEC. This new VTEC variant turned the City range into a 2 variants line-up by adding the much eagerly awaited performance-oriented variant, what might be called a City 'sports sedan'. Launched first in Thailand as usual, for Malaysia it was launched back in late-July by Honda Malaysia, a very awaited event by Honda and City enthusiasts. A short while after attending the launching, around early August, I got the invitation to attend the City VTEC's media test-drive session to be held at the hill-top resort of Bukit Tinggi. It was a very interesting session where Honda Malaysia also brought in some engineers from Honda R&D who designed the City VTEC to participate.
    Timing-wise, the City VTEC launch and media preview was placed smack into the exciting and hectic period where Honda Malaysia was developing their MME Race Civic. Then there was the excitement of being able to cover the HMRT race from their pits at Sepang, the race report and finally the big scoop on the technical coverage of the MME Civics themselves. As a result, I had no time to cover the City VTEC launch at all. I had a number of readers especially in ASEAN impatiently asking me when I intend to review this new City VTEC. I think some might even have given up waiting for it. To everyone who were waiting, I do extend my sincere apologies. Now that I have time to catch up with my quite considerable backlog, here then is my review of the new Honda City 1.5l VTEC.

    Technical Coverage
    First of all, let's take a close look at the new City VTEC from the mechanical point of view. The obvious approach would be to compare it to the i-DSI version. In this comparison, the main differences between the i-DSI and the VTEC version centers on 3 main areas : engine-gearbox, suspension-brakes, and the rest of the car.

    On the new City VTEC, the star is undoubtedly the L15A VTEC engine. This is a 16V SOHC VTEC version of the L15A. It is rated for 110ps compared to 88ps of the i-DSI and has 4 extra valves and VTEC but without i-DSI, using the standard 1 spark-plug per cylinder. VTEC is implemented on the intake side only and it is a 12V-16V VTEC mechanism, implemented via a 2-rocker/2-cam lobe arrangement that is now more or less standard on Honda's intake-only VTEC engines, including the K-series. This mechanism was first used on the 1.5l D15B SOHC VTEC-E engine on the 1991-1995 EG8 Honda Civic ETi, an engine focussed for maximum fuel economy. However, associating this 2 rocker-2 camlobe system as a VTEC implementation solely for fuel economy would be wrong. On the current generation of K and L series engines, it is used for a balance of good power with good consumption (economy); the 12V mode targetting max possible fuel economy and the 16V mode targetting max possible power.
    The 2 rocker-arm mechanism is shown clearly on the photo on the right. This photo of the rocker-arm mechanism is taken from a real cutaway engine Honda Malaysia displayed at the Honda City VTEC launch event at the 1Utama shopping mall. On the 'VTEC off' mode, the two rocker arms works independently, driven by 2 separate cam lobes on the single camshaft. However, only 1 of the cam lobe has a profile that works the valve, the other is a flat ring that leaves its rocker arm motionless and the associated valve inactive. 'VTEC on' mode locks the 2 rocker arms together and now both rocker arm and both intake valves are driven by the working cam lobe.

    The L-series engines are of course designs which emphasize on fuel economy. The i-DSI dual spark system is designed to enhance combustion of the air-fuel mixture - for more complete combustion and thus get maximum mileage. The L15A VTEC engine is this same basic design but now re-spec'ed for maximum possible power output without sacrificing too much in fuel economy and most importantly with the engine still ULEV compliant. To see the level of tuning adopted for this 2 rocker/cam-lobe VTEC in the proper perspective, think of it as a 1-'wild' and 2-'wild' cams mode. In 'VTEC-off', there is 1 'wild' cam-lobe working 1 rocker arm and of course 1 of the intake valves. With VTEC 'on', both rocker arms are now being driven by the same cam-lobe and so effectively it's like 2 rocker arms both working with a 'wild' cam profile. While it is not totally possible, this mode do give a good approximation to doubling the amount of air-flow into the engine once VTEC activates both rocker arms. I asked the Honda R&D engineer in charge of the engine for the VTEC changeover point and was told it varies depending on the throttle position. The change points are 2,300rpm for full throttle and 3,400rpm if partial throttle.

    The camshaft-valvetrain is not the only change to the L15A to generate the extra 22ps. The intake manifold itself is different on the L15A-VTEC, having larger runners for more air-flow at higher-rpms. Internally, the engine also features some additional enhancements like aluminium roller-rocker arm assembles for lower operating friction and thus less power loss through internal friction. The exhaust system has been enlarged for a higher flow-rate to cater for the higher power delivery.

    Now in the absolute term, the 110ps of the City VTEC's L15A engine may not be a fantastic level of power output. But then, it is also important to have a sense of perspective. For the market segment at which the City i-DSI and City VTEC is targetted at, 110ps in relative terms is really very high power. The 1.5l DOHC VVT-i Toyota Vios with 109ps used to dominate this segment for max power but this new City VTEC is now right at the top of all cars available in the segment. In relation to the original City i-DSI, one needs to bear in mind that 110ps represents a 22ps increase and that is a massive 25% power increase ! So for the general choices available in this market segment, for e.g. the owners of the original City i-DSI who have been 'making do' with 'only' 88ps, 110ps is really a lot of power.

    Compared to the 88ps i-DSI engine, the VTEC engine delivers in the upper mid to high rpms. Indeed, at rpms below 3,000, the VTEC actually delivers less torque (i,e. less power) than the i-DSI, consistently 0.2kgm across the relevant rpm range. After 3,000rpm, the advantage offered by the VTEC mechanism really comes into the picture and while the torque of the i-DSI engine is now dropping steadily, the torque of the VTEC engine continues to rise, finally peaking at 14.6kgm at a high 4,800rpm, 1.2kgm more than the i-DSI. The redline of the two engines are slightly different as well, the L15A i-DSI redlining at 6000rpm while the new L15A VTEC redlines at 6,300rpm. This difference between the 2 engines' power characteristic can in fact be quite easily felt when 'dragging' in 7-speed mode, the VTEC being very revvy in the higher rpms. While the i-DSI engine strains to rev up beyond 4000 - 4500rpm, the VTEC charges steadily onwards to the 6300rpm redline and with plenty of aural entertainment. The engine note of the i-DSI is already surprisingly sporty but the VTEC brings the aural quality up one notch higher.

    For Malaysia, the City VTEC comes only with the excellent CVT-7 gearbox. This is mechanically identical to the one used on the City i-DSI but operates differently, controlled via the ECU, to exploit the characteristics of the VTEC engine and also to offer a more 'sporty' drive. This 'more sporty' drive is via a change in the operational characteristic of the gearbox in response to throttle input - i.e. a faster ramp up of engine rpm for the same throttle input with the result the car has higher pick-up for the same amount of pressure on the throttle. The engine now revs higher for the same throttle position and the engine sounds more rowdy (better relatively) and the idea is that for a (small) 'sporty sedan', one does not mind the more rowdy engine when one is indulging in some 'spirited' driving. 7speed mode is also available with the gearbox of course as is the steermatic steering wheel mounted shifters. The ratios for the 7 gears are identical between the i-DSI and VTEC versions.

    To cater for the more powerful engine and also the fact that the City 1.5l VTEC is now set-up as a 'sporty sedan', the suspension has been also tuned accordingly for more 'sporty' handling. The parts changed are the front damper, the rear spring and damper, and the rear stabilizer (anti-roll bar). The weight difference between the L15A i-DSI and L15A VTEC engines are similar enough that there is no drastic change in weight distribution on the car so the changes are all for delivering a better handling performance.
    The EPS is also said to have been re-tuned for 'more sporty' response. The steering ratio and the number of turns lock-to-lock is the same between the i-DSI and VTEC however, so the re-tuning is most probably for steering 'weight' or how heavy the steering feels. This is probably following some feedback received by owners of the i-DSI City over the light feel of the EPS but a re-tuning is also needed because the wheels for the City VTEC has upped to 15", the City VTEC using 185/55/R15 Goodyear Eagle NCT-5tyres on 15 X 6.0 JJ spec sport rims. Another important change for the City VTEC would be the use of disc for both front and rear brakes. The front is the standard ventilated disc while the rears for the City VTEC is now using solid discs.

    Of the rest of the car, the most notable would be the availability of a rear trunk spoiler for the City, a long overdue accessory really. The front grille is also slightly different. It is still the same basic design but is now more 'open' as shown on the photo. This will allow more air-flow into the engine bay. There are also other minor changes to various parts of the car, cosmetics as well as fittings (like an MP3 capable head unit for the audio system of the City VTEC), their primary target to fine-tune the City, both i-DSI and VTEC variants into an overall more complete car.

    Honda City VTEC : Burning Questions by the Enthusiasts
    The original City i-DSI was a run-away success from Honda's point of view. Even here in Malaysia alone, over 10,000 units were sold by the time the City VTEC was launched. So there were certainly a lot of attention on the new VTEC variant when it was launched, especially from current owners of the i-DSI as a number of them have been wishing for a bit more power than just 88ps from the L15A i-DSI. As a result, there were quite a number of discussions about whether it was possible for an enthusiast to build an L15A VTEC from the L15A i-DSI on the original City i-DSI. It is with this in mind that I asked a few rather 'pointed' questions to the Honda R&D engineers during the technical Q&A session at Bukit Tinggi. A few who were present in the session even had a good laugh at the strangeness of my questions but luckily the important people concerned, the Honda R&D engineers and most of the Honda Malaysia staff understood the background to asking the questions and that I had to ask them as a enthusiast. Here then are roughly the 4 questions that I asked. The responses are a combination of excerpts of answers from the Honda R&D engineer and additional infor of my own which are listed within brackets.

    Q : Is the main difference between the L15A i-DSI and the L15A VTEC engines just in the cylinder head ? Can I just drop an L15A VTEC cylinder head on the L15A i-DSI, and with a suitable change of ECU, build myself a home-made L15A VTEC engine ?
    R : There are quite a bit more differences between the L15A i-DSI and the L15A VTEC than just the cylinder head (I think the pistons are different as well). As to whether one can build a home-made L15A VTEC engine from the L15A i-DSI, it is of course technically possible but it would not be too practical as almost all components of the engine would have to be changed : head, intake, exhaust, wiring harness, etc. It will be a very elaborate project and you will more or less end up with a engine which has almost everything changed.
    Q : What is the power handling limit of the CVT-7 gearbox ? I.e. how much extra power can I squeeze out of the L15A engine (e.g. NOS, turbo) without worry about the CVT-7 gearbox breaking, especially the much talked danger of the CVT steel belt snapping ?
    R : The Honda R&D engineers do not know the value. They have not yet had a case where the CVT metal belt broke before and note that the CVT-7 gearbox first existed as the Multimatic gearbox in Japan way back in 1995, 9 years ago. (Also, the CVT-7 is being used on the JDM Honda Odyssey which uses the 2.4l K24A DOHC i-VTEC engine delivering 160ps and a lot of torque. So the power handling limit of the CVT-7 gearbox is quite high really. But note that the Odyssey's CVT-7 gearbox is fitted with a torque-converter, most probably for better take-off from standstill. Also, don't forget there are manual gearboxes for the City, available in Thailand versions.)
    Q : How many ECUs are there ? One for engine and one for CVT-7 or 1 for both
    R : There is only 1 ECU which controls both the ECU and the CVT-7 gearbox.
    Q : Can the rear disc brakes be simply taken from the City VTEC and bolted on to the City i-DSI ?
    R : No they can't. The rear axle beam also needs to be changed and the head R&D engineers can't confirm but he thinks additional components of the rear suspension might need to be changed as well. (In respect to this, one Honda dealer whom I know well, WEGRO HONDA, told me they actually tried to bolt just the rear disc assembly from the City VTEC onto the City i-DSI and they found that it won't fit.)
    These then are very briefly the 4 questions that caused quite a bit of stir at the Q&A session. While some present at the session did not understand why such questions had to be asked, I think readers of this article, who are true enthusiasts, would readily agree that they are most relevent questions. I also spent quite a bit of time with the Honda R&D engineers during the 'free and easy' periods, where the atmosphere was much more informal and relaxed. I was basically digging for infor on what I can do to my own Jazz 1.5VTEC of course and many R&D engineers I have met are car buffs themselves. We also discussed a bit on the questions I asked during the Q&A in those informal chats. In the end, my opinion and suggestion to City fans would be that if one already has a City i-DSI, that it is not practical to fuss over the engine eventhough the 22ps extra power is quite significant. For the trouble and expense of trying to build an L15A VTEC out of a L15A i-DSI, other things can be done that will be more cost effective. Similarly too for the rear disc brakes. The suspension items are quite interchangeable though and one can add them for an nice upgrade in handling. So, my recommendation would be for City i-DSI owners to enjoy their car as it is and to look for the tried and trusted routes to modifying for more performance instead of trying to build a VTEC L15A. For those who are considering a purchase of the City however, choose the City VTEC if you are a performance and handling buff but if you're a more casual driver, the City i-DSI would still give plenty of go with fantastic fuel economy as well. It might be seen as a canned recommendation but really for potential buyers in this market segment, one cannot go wrong with either variant as long as one takes careful steps to understand one's own requirements and expectations in the selection process.
    With the technical details taken care of, now is the time to cover my impressions from the test-drive.

    Honda City VTEC Test-Drive
    For the media session, Honda Malaysia had us starting from the Hyatt Saujana hotel at Subang, taking a mainly highway/expressway route through the NKVE and part of the middle ring road and then getting on to the East-West 'Karak' highway to head for the hill-top resort of Bukit Tinggi. The idea is to show-case the highway cruising ability of the new and more powerful City VTEC and the drive up the winding twisty road to the hill-top of Bukit Tinggi will also give us a chance to test the handling of the car as well as sample the more powerful engine and 'sporty'-tuned CVT gearbox. For this session, I was again happy to find that they have paired me with my friend YS. The 2 of us were to share a City VTEC, each driving part of the way, flagging off from Hyatt and all the way to the Bukit Tinggi resort.
    YS and I agreed to break the journey into 4 parts, 2 highway and 2 twisty roads so that both of us will be able to sample the City VTEC over both highway and twisty roads. I took the wheels first and we left the Hyatt hotel and made our way straight to the NKVE expressway toll entrance nearby. Halfway to the East-West highway though, YS' eyes lit up and he told me that nearby is a nice country back road, twisty but relatively lightly used, where he used to race back in his rally days. He then asked if I mind deviating from the route Honda gave us for a 'more interesting' alternate route. What would you think my answer was ? And so we exited the middle ring road and entered a village area. It was quite a while actually before we finally got onto the deserted part of the country road. It was a great route.

    In this stretch of road, I tried all four gearbox modes : D, S, 7speed and 7speed with manual shifting. In this low to medium speed, twisty environment, the best results - best speed and enjoyment - comes from 7speed mode with manual shifting. Traffic was pratically non existent and for most part, visibility of the road up ahead - and of incoming traffic was excellent. As a result I could take 'racing lines' whenever I wished to - cutting out to the opposite side of the road and then cutting across the apex of a tight corner and back out out to the opposite side again before finally swerving back into my own side of the road. 7speed manual mode allowed me to downshift into the correct gear as I enter the corners. Inside the corner, the gearbox won't shift gears if it is in 7speed manual mode so I could modulate the throttle for optimum cornering speed. On the exit, the gearbox automatically upshifts when I rev until the engine red-line so it turned out to be a nice convenience feature. I was consistently impressed by the poise of the City VTEC when taking tight corners at quite high speeds. For the corners where I stuck to my own lane throughout, I would brake early to ensure a slow entry speed (and mainly because I am not familiar with the roads). Then I could and would accelerate steadily out of the corners with relatively little sideways roll from the car. Being unfamiliar with the roads, I did not push the car hard enough to elicit much more than a muted squeal from the tyres in the corners. Then all too fast it was time to pass the car over to YS. I really didn't have my fill of fun yet but I suspected that YS was all ready to go a bit beserk since I could sense he was quite ready to relive his younger days doing professional rally-racing. Furthermore he is very familiar with the route. So I eagerly got into the front passenger seat for the 2nd part of the 'rally approved' detour of the test-drive.
    As I had suspected, YS did 'relive' his youth as a rally racer and he really let loose, power sliding the City VTEC through most corners. To induce the 'over-steer', YS used extended trail braking. What he did was to 'break the tail loose', i.e. force the rear tyres to lose traction before the front tyres. This is done by braking late and then steering the car into the corner while still braking hard. The weight transfer to the front wheels would lighten up the rear of the car, unloading the rear tyres enough so that it breaks traction and the tail would break loose and 'swing around'. Now a quick twist of the steering wheel to counter steer and simultaneously planting the right foot to rev up the engine, it was then possible to 'power slide' the City VTEC with the tail out and slight sideways around the corner, ala Initial-D style ! Personally I would be honest that while I do this at the Sepang track, I certainly didn't have the guts to do it with the City VTEC on the country road. But it's not because I don't trust the City VTEC but because I am not familar with the roads and I don't want to have to divide my attention between both learning about the City VTEC's handling limit and the road conditions at the same time. So it was a nice piece of fortune that YS knows the roads very well and was 'in the mood' for such fun during that detour. We took the turns at relatively high speeds - at times touching or even exceeding 100kph. To its credit, the City VTEC never felt like it was losing control even at the limits with its tyres screaming wildly around the tight corners. There was never an occasion where YS had to compensate or correct the steering when we straighten out after the corner exit.

    Eventually the fun ended when we exited the country roads and merge back into the main roads to get back onto the East-West highway. After paying the toll (have I ever mentioned in my articles that Malaysia probably has the highest ratio of toll-gates to roads in the world ?! :) ), it was broad sweeping corners mostly uphill but some downhill as well, YS seems to be interested in the top-speed of the City VTEC, most probably because he just had the Jazz 1.5VTEC for loan and so he wanted to compare the two. I remember we were just shy of the 190kph during this 'test' but I must highlight that the engine has barely exceeded the 1,000 km mileage and so is not really properly run-in yet for max performance.
    Next was the uphill stretch to get from the bottom to the top of the hills of Bukit Tinggi where the Colmar Tropicale French-themed resort is located. This access road is very twisty and there is also the danger of actually rolling off the road and down the side of the hill if one loses control. Both YS and I were eagerly waiting to test the City VTEC's performance in this section of the test route as it introduces the uphill element and so will put a premium on good engine power, or more specifically a wide power band characteristic. Both of us are quite a bit more restrained now. We both felt similarly that there's nothing to prove in test-drives and while we have a responsibility to check the performance of a car as accurately as we can, nothing is acheived if we get over enthusiastic and roll over and down the hill as a result. So this time even YS did not power slide into the corner. Both of us took racing lines when the road was clear or more usually simply kept to our side of the road and corner at the limit of what we felt the City VTEC was capable of. For the uphill climb, I have to say I found the 7speed mode to be not optimum. The ratios between 2nd and 3rd gears seemed to feel very different in terms of pulling power - downshift into 2nd and the car screams up the hill but once into 3rd gear, the engine seems to strain to gain rpm and speed. So sometimes when I thought I would try to use a higher gear into a corner fhe City VTEC would strain and I would end up with last minute downshifts. The placement of the shifters on the steering wheel makes it sometimes inconvenient too. Eventually I end up simply running the car in 'S' mode. Somehow the re-tuning of the CVT-7 gearbox for the VTEC engine is quite appropriate for the drive up Bukit Tinggi as the engine revs were quite nicely placed around the 4000rpm region when I was charging around the corners and the more immediate throttle response made it possible to power out of the corners. Again it seems too soon and suddenly we found ourselves up at the hill-top. As an indication of the amount of fun we had, we were the first car out of Hyatt and eventhough we took the detour and had to dilly our way for a few kilometers over village roads, we still ended up being the second car to arrive at the hill-top resort !

    Honda City VTEC : Conclusions

    I had a lot of fun driving the new City VTEC up to Bukit Tinggi during the media session. So my impressions are extremely positive about this new variant - it really is a preppy small sports-sedan. Used with sensible common-sense, it can be a very fast means of getting around in all sorts of roads and conditions including high-speed cruising. And for an auto, thanks especially to the 7speed mode, it was a lot of fun to drive especially on tight twisty roads ! Just keep a good perspective of its performance abilities in relation to its market segment and the City VTEC will deliver plenty of driving enjoyment. In the end, I think the only disadvantage of the new City VTEC is that it appeared just a bit too late on the market. At the moment, eventhough sales are pretty good, Honda Malaysia's original hope that it will help the City exceed the sales of the Toyota Vios are not acheived. This apparently is the same situation even in Thailand where it was originally designed and first released. Indeed I was told by a Honda staff that there was even an admission over there that it was a wrong marketing move to introduce the City i-DSI first, i.e. with retrospect, it would well be much better to first launch the City VTEC and to follow with the i-DSI variant as a more specialized fuel-miser variant. Nevertheless what has been done is done and I can only hope that Honda has learnt its lesson and will remember it well for the future.
    Because the media session takes us up to Bukit Tinggi, even though I had my GTECH PRO with me, there was just nowhere suitable for any standing start acceleration tests. So no such infor is available in this preview. At the moment, I am patiently waiting for the mainstream press and media to finish taking the car for test-drive and hopefully for the mileage to accumulate to a favourable figure. I did just this with the Jazz 1.5VTEC for which I recently completed the full suite of performance tests. It has just over 10,000km mileage accumulated and it was a huge pleasure to drive and delivered plenty of great surprises in the tests. Consequently, I think this new approach I am adopting will be the best and most appropriate to allow the cars to show their best potential : a report of the technical details and a quick impression from the media test-drive session, followed by a possibly extended period to wait for the test cars to accumulate hopefully 10,000km mileage before taking one out for a complete test. Actually for the City VTEC, it should not be that far away so stay tuned for the full performance test of this car from us in the near future.
    Wong KNOctober 2004© Temple of VTEC Asia

    Gearing up for the City (

    By Louis Cheang
    WHAT on earth does one do with seven gears? Cars with just five gears already feel very “lethargic” and “out of breath” when accelerating in the highest gear. So why does the new Honda City have seven gears? When would we ever get a chance to use the seventh gear? Wouldn’t the car run out of steam?

    Well, a recent test drive at Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan, organised by Honda Malaysia answered our questions. It seems the seven-speed transmission does not use the conventional gear driven system but an ingenious system known as Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT) instead. Pioneered by Dutch truck maker DAF, this system uses belts and, as we found out, makes it possible to use the seventh gear in normal driving conditions.

    As the name suggests, a system of belts and tubes does away with fixed gears to give a seamless and smooth take-up of power to the wheels. By moving forwards and backwards, the belts and tubes give variable ratios, depending on the load imposed on them. Steel belts have taken over from rubber belts, making the system more durable.

    Since it is a variable system, there are no real gears, so to speak. In effect, the gears are virtual, responding to the movement of the tubes that, in turn, respond to the load on them. The length of the gears comes from the maximum movement of the tubes.

    The British Rover Car Company, a former technical partner of Honda, was the first to use CVT in the mid-1990s in cars like the Rover 200 and the sporty MGF. Even the Lotus Elise is using CVT in one of their variants. The Fiat Punto is another that uses CVT; it, too, has up to seven gears.

    The new Honda City is the result of the brief: Is there a better way to build a compact saloon?

    The test drive route in and around Port Dickson, taking in Lukut and Sepang, was a combination of highway and twisty secondary roads that proved the ideal test for the new City. We tried both ways of using the CVT: automatically and with manual selection.

    Automatic selection simply meant choosing “D” for drive, then accelerating away, leaving the CVT to select the proper gears automatically.

    To switch to manual selection, which Honda calls Steer-Matic, we had to depress the master control lever. The gear the car was last in appeared on the instrument panel, indicating we were now in manual mode. Depressing the master control again selects automatic mode again; switching between the two modes is seamless and can be done repeatedly.

    The manual Steer-Matic mode allows one to shift belt ratios with fingertip ease right from the steering wheel a la Formula One style. There are two aluminium toggles with plus and minus signs, one on each of the spokes of the steering wheel, allowing one to go up (plus) and down (minus) sequentially through the gears.

    We found changing gears however and whenever we liked fun as each change was a smooth and seamless affair. At the same time, since the changes could only be sequential, there was no danger of over-revving the engine. Getting into reverse gear is by the usual method of shifting the main gear lever to the “R” position.

    Equally innovative is the new Low Emission Vehicle i-DSi (Dual and Sequential ignition) new generation ignition system that gives ultra-high fuel economy. The 1.5-litre engine features dual spark plugs that are fired sequentially for a more complete combustion to give improved exhaust emissions. Honda says that this, coupled with a slightly higher compression ratio, gives improved fuel efficiency to the tune of 20% making the City the best 1.5-litre car when it comes to fuel economy.

    The i-DSi ignition system gives ultra-high fuel economy.

    Another advantage of the DSi engine is its flexibility due to the improved combustion. This means it delivers more torque in the vital low- to mid-rpm range, which is, as we discovered, ideal for town driving conditions. It seems that the engine characteristics were matched to the new CVT transmission. That was why changing the virtual gears was so smooth.

    The new electrically controlled steering system gives a light feel at slow and parking speeds and a firmer feel at higher speeds. Fiat was the first to pioneer this system but more and more carmakers are adopting it.

    Surprisingly, even though the suspension is a combination of independent and rigid axle, the new City proved to be agile, eating up tight corners with ease. The front uses the familiar and proven MacPherson struts while the rear has a H-shaped beam axle. It has been tuned to give neutral handling at normal speeds and progressively understeer as the speed increases.

    Another reason for the beam axle is to free up more space in the rear for the “Ultra Seats” function that allows one to configure the rear seats in a number of ways. To provide even more space, the fuel tank has been moved from the traditional, behind-the-rear-seat location to just below the front seat.

    Kudos to the new City design team for the innovative rear seats. In the utility mode, one can fold the rear seats forward to create a huge, flat stowage area. The long mode allows the front passenger seat to fold right back and the corresponding rear seat to fold forward to enable long items to be loaded. And there is the tall mode that allows you to tip the rear seats up to create unprecedented floor-to-ceiling storage for tall loads, like potted plants, for example. Luggage space is noteworthy, with a cool 500 litres of trunk space – enough for, say, two sets of golf bags and their accompanying Boston bags.

    Honda’s fresh approach to chassis design, combined with a raised ceiling, lowered floor and expansive windows, provides generous headroom and a relaxing, open atmosphere.

    It’s obviously a design that appeals: there have been more than 4,000 solid bookings since the new City’s launch last month. What more can Honda Malaysia ask? Well, there is the question of production to meet all this demand. Even though Honda Malaysia is planning to up the pace from August, be prepared to wait for this popular car!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

My new mobilephone...

Updates about my new generation phone
These days, nothing is simple. Even phones can offer so much functionality and tweaking abilities. From day one I got the phone, I've been squeezing every last byte off the phone's capabilities. I explored and researched far and wide from the web. Started customising as much as possible eg. moving Operator name from display, increasing gain for volume, fiddling with ringing tones which vibrate at same time, adding continuous back light option, etc.. Downloaded hundreds of games and apps. This took me hours and nights. Bought 128MB SD t-flash card (RM100) for more storage. And to think people today buy the latest and most powerful phones only to use them as ....well... phones! Then why spend all that money for the power if you dun use it. Is it just vanity? Anyway, some key links to take note off are ....
Hacker bible
E398 FAQ
Customising E398
Freeware - java, wallpaper, vid
Howardforums - technical forum
Mobilereview forum - less technical forum

Updates (April 2005)
Trust my luck.... just saw a newspaper ad about Motorola and its alliance with some telco company regarding the launch of 3G in Malaysia. And guess which phone is the pilot.... E1000!! Still no indication when the phone will be launched officially, but at the moment they are looking for pilot testers, starting from June. I have submitted my application and hopefully I'll be picked so that I can keep the E1000 after the tests.

Fingers crossed.

Updates (later part of March 2005)
So sad... I had to return the phone as it didn 't work when I was in PJ area. Something to do with incompatibility with Maxis 3g test phase. I loved the phone so much... and to think of a alternative phone that could match its features, is going to be tough.

Eventually, I settled for the Motorola E398 which was the inferior version of the E1000. It's more compact, have stereo speakers but not as powerful as the E1000. Screen was smaller and overall not as cool. Oh well, at the price of Rm830, I think it should suffice at the moment. Who knows, how long it'd be till a phone like the E1000 will ever be launched in this backward country.

Review of the phone in GSMARENA
E398 specs :-
GSM 900 / GSM 1800 / GSM 1900
108 x 46 x 21 mm
108 g
Display type
TFT, 65K colors
176 x 220 pixels, 8 lines
Polyphonic (24 channels), MP3 (- 3D stereo speakers (16 mm, 22 Khz with vibration)
Composer, download, order now
1000 entries, Photo call
Call records
10 dialed, 10 received, 10 missed calls
Card slot
T-Flash, 64 MB card included
- 5 MB shared memory
Class 10 (4+1/3+2 slots)
Data speed
32 - 48 kbps
Infrared port
VGA, 640x480 pixels, flash
Other features
- Bluetooth- MP3 player- MPEG4 player - Java MIDP 2.0- WAP 2.0- iTAP- Voice dial- Calculator- Organizer- USB port
Standard, Li-Ion 830 mAh (BX610)
Up to 240 h
Talk time
Up to 7 h

March 2005
After much hesitation and resistance, I've finally purchased a new-generation-phone. The timing was right. My curiosity and interest was peaked, an offer was available of a new phone which is not yet available in Malaysia and price was reasonable (RM1651)... all contributed to my impulse buying.

Anyway, here's the phone specs and info from a motorola website.....

The theory that “good things come in small packages” is proven once again true with Motorola’s new mobile phenomenon – the model E1000. Big entertainment offerings abound in the new Motorola E1000, as sophisticated gamers, and entertainment enthusiasts alike will appreciate the latest in 3G capabilities. Fusing hi-tech mobile 3G communications with a compact package, you’ll have a hard time keeping the model E1000 in your pocket. An advanced multi-media machine packed with Bluetooth® wireless technology, AGPS and high quality video-conferencing capabilities, the Motorola E1000 brings style and substance to those who seek it.

Naturally Enhanced
Smarter than even the most advanced mobile phone, the model E1000 touts features such as streaming content and playback, image editing along with enhanced predictive-text entry and a built-in MP3 player. Push-to-talk functionality rounds out this coveted feature set by satisfying the user’s every whim with the ability to talk privately or in groups with the push of a button.

Say Cheese
Featuring a 1.2 megapixel integrated camera and QVGA display featuring up to 262K colors, the Motorola E1000 makes taking, sharing and showing pictures a snap. Assign pictures for each address entry with ease and leverage the model E1000’s expandable Transflash™ memory for more fun. The power is in your hands.

Look! No Hands!
Use the Bluetooth wireless technology-enabled Motorola E1000 to connect wirelessly to compatible headsets, car kits and more. Fast and convenient, Bluetooth wireless technology keeps you in the know while on the go.

Summary of Features

  • Vivid 16 bit TFT color screen
  • Integrated 1.2 megapixel digital camera for capturing mobile memories
  • Extreme entertainment via streaming video, playback and capture
  • Push-to-talk functionality enabling users to be connected at the push of a button
  • Life-like MP3 and MIDI musical ringtones and speakerphone capabilities
  • Compatibility with RealNetworks™ encoded media files
  • Advanced photo messaging with Multi-Media Messaging Service (MMS)
  • Connectivity: USB, Bluetooth wireless technology
  • Synchronization using optional Motorola MobilePhone Tools accessory software via integrated Bluetooth wireless technology or optional Motorola USB Data-Connectivity Kit Accessory
  • AGPS

The Motorola E1000 is expected to be available in the second half of 2004. For more information regarding pricing and product availability in your region, please check with your local Motorola representative.

And the following is taken from the lelong site which I bought from :-

1x Brand New Motorola E1000 3G phone
This is an advanced 3G phone, only exclusively released in certain European countries, Australia and Singapore. Be the first exclusive user in Malaysia by having this all-in-one multimedia rich phone.
The advanced features of this phone:
Huge 256k TFT color screen. With a screen size of 240x320, you can watch full screen videos in landscape mode.
1.2MP camera+video+3G conferencing. Both the front and rear cameras can be used for all three functions. This is the only phone that has the capabilities to do so.
Exteremely bright flash, allowing night time picture taking. The camera options are like any other professional cameras. It has condition settings, brightness and exposure. By playing with the exposure, you can actually take smooth running light and water.
3D surround (not only stereo) speaker that blows your mind away. Not even the stereo sound on E398 and E680 can match this phone.
Works like any other MP3 player and USB flash drive. Just plug in the headphones for your music needs and USB cable to transfer files. Expandable memory up to 1Gb using T-flash memory card.
Load up 3D java games and apps for your entertainment purposes.
Advanced phonebook allowing pic caller ID and personal ringtones for each individual name.
Powerful processor inside the phone. Extremely fast response with no lag at all in SMS'ing and exploring the menus.
Bluetooth connections with high-speed file transfer between BT devices.
3G and A-GPS functions allowing you to pinpoint location and download navigational maps. (using 3G network).

Phone specifications:
General: Network UMTS / GSM 900 / GSM 1800 / GSM 1900
Announced: 2004, 1Q
Status: Available
Size Dimensions: 114 x 52 x 23 mm, 105 cc
Weight: 140 g
Display: Type TFT, 256K colors
Size 240 x 320 pixels -
Downloadable screensavers, wallpapers and ringtones
Ringtones: Type Polyphonic, MP3
Vibration Yes
Memory: Phonebook Photo call
Call records 10 dialed, 10 received, 10 missed calls
Features: GPRS Class 10 (4+1/3+2 slots)
Data speed 32 - 48 kbps
Messaging SMS, EMS, MMS, Email, Instant Messaging
Clock Yes
Alarm Yes
Infrared port No
Games Yes
Camera 1.3 MP, 1280x960 pixels
- GPS function
- Java MIDP 2.0
- Bluetooth
- WAP 2.0
- MP3/AAC player
- Organizer
- Calculator
- T9
- Voice memo/dail
- Built-in handsfree
- USB port

The package includes:
1x brand new handset
Original battery and charger
Stereo headset
Manuals + Original box

1-year UK warranty.1-week personal warranty.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


Long overdue, I should have mentioned something about my 1st vehicle, Ford Escape. Bought in September 2001 and till today, have only clocked in 20,000+ km !!! Thanks to my frequent travels overseas, neglecting this baby many times ie. factory-delivered battery drained out on a long trip once... now I'll just disconnect the battery before leaving.

Type : 5 door SUV
Engine type : Zetec 4 cylinder, 4 valves per cylinder
Displacement : 1988cc

Transmission : Automatic 4-Speed
Drive Layout : F4 (front engine, 4WD)
Power (hp) : 130 @ 5400 rpm
Torque (Nm) : 183 @ 4500rpm
Fuel Consumption : n/a
Fuel Tank Capacity : 62 litres

Steering : Rack-and-pinion with power assistance
Suspension : Front MacPherson Strut Rear multi-link
Brakes : Front ventilated disc, rear drums, ABS, EBD (electronic brake force distribution)

Features : Driver's and front passenger's airbags.

Passive anti-theft system with rolling code containing 72 quadrillion possible combinations.

Curb Weight : 1470kg
Length : 4415mm
Wheelbase : 2620mm
Width : 1825mm
Height : 1770mm
Wheel : 15 inch alloy
Tyre : 225/70 R15

Ford Malaysia Sdn Bhd

Anyway, the following is a local review of the car as a heads-up :-

Tuesday, April 10, 2001
The Great Escape
By Paul Si
FORD has unveiled its vision of the future, and it has four-wheel-drive. The all-new Escape rolls in as the Telstar bows out, highlighting Ford Malaysia's move away from the traditional executive saloon and towards "lifestyle" vehicles.

"The 2.0 litre CKD (completely knocked down or locally-assembled) car segment is no longer viable in Malaysia," says Ford Malaysia managing director Richard Canny.

He cites figures - the 2.0l car market now accounts for only 5.4% of total volume, and non-national makes' share of this thin slice is 25% (down from 54% in 1997). The total number of non-national cars in this class sold in 2000 was 3,879, which means even a market share of 20% would add up to merely 700 to 800 cars a year.

At the same time, the passenger vehicle segment is fragmenting rapidly. Instead of just saloons, customers can now choose from among SUVs (sport utility vehicles), MUVs (multi-utility), MPVs (multi-purpose)s, MAVs (multi-activity), and PPVs (seriously, there is such a thing, and the acronym stands for 'plenty of people vehicle').

Anyone who has doubts as to which way the trend is heading has only to count the proportion of new Honda CR-Vs to Accords.

Hence, the Escape takes over as Ford's top-of-the-line model for locally-assembled products.

“Ford studied customer lifestyles, needs and tastes in everything from cars to trucks to clothes when putting the Escape design renderings on paper. We believe this has created the ultimate blend – a tough SUV that will suit active and urban lifestyles”, said Canny.

The phenomenally successful Ranger was Ford's first crossover product (from commercial to dual use) in Malaysia, said Canny, and the Escape would be their next crossover, from the sedan to the compact SUV.

Incidentally, Malaysia is the first country in Asean to assemble the Escape, in line with Ford's plans to capitalise on global consumer trend towards compact SUVs.

After letting a bunch of motoring writers loose on the East Coast last week with a fleet of six shiny Escapes to play with, Ford Malaysia personnel were on hand to take questions. How much will it cost, when will it be available, what colours, the usual stuff. But these were asked by a couple of journalists who were impressed enough to want to become customers.

Initial impressions are nearly all good. The Escape looks great - beautifully proportioned, clean lines and an overall macho air inherited from its bigger Built-Ford-Tough brethren like the Explorer, Expedition and Excursion. The test units were brought in completely built up (CBU) with bumpers and protective side panels in two shades of grey but Ford Malaysia is mulling whether the locally-assembled version should have these components painted the same colour as the rest of the vehicle.

Malaysians already familiar with the spaciousness of the Honda CR-V will not be surprised to find that the Escape is even more roomy, since Ford is coming to the compact SUV party relatively late, and has the CR-V as well as Toyota's RAV4 for comparison when drawing up the specifications. Escape's designers have achieved a best-in-class interior in terms of cabin space for occupants as well as luggage.

But the best part of the Escape is the way it handles on the road. This is the Focus of compact SUVs, with a stiff chassis mated to a well sorted out suspension and a precise rack-and-pinion steering system.

The supple springs soaked up bumps and holes in the trunk roads from Kelantan to Terengganu and Pahang with ease, leaving drivers and passengers surprisingly relaxed and fatigue-free after hours of travelling.

When charging hard into corners, the vehicle's higher centre of gravity will cause it to roll more than a car but it loads up progressively and predictably. The steering's accuracy and feel will be a revelation for many who believe that only sporty sedans and hatchbacks can be flung into sweeping bends with gusto.

Describing the Escape as a taller Focus with four-wheel-drive would not be too far off since it is powered by the Zetec 2.0l engine which is also used in the high end model of the multi-award-winning car.

The alloy 16-valve engine produces its maximum power of 134ps at 5,400 rpm and peak torque of 185Nm at 4,500rpm. It is well balanced and smooth in all driving conditions, which should be no surprise as the output matches the rule of thumb which states that an ideal petrol engine is optimised when its maximum power, measured in horsepower, is the same or close to the torque, measured in pound-feet. For the Zetec 2.0l, the figures are 132 and 136 respectively.

The one component that prevents the Escape's drivetrain from receiving full marks is the four-speed auto gearbox. Its operation and gear changes are smooth enough but the ratios are not ideal, with a fairly big gap between second and third gears. Under certain conditions, such as climbing a steep hill or trying to overtake at high speed, the third is too high while second is too low. This hole results in the Escape alternately struggling in the higher gear and revving hard in the lower. Having said that, the package is good enough most of the time.

The transmission shift lever is mounted on the steering to free up space for the centre console and storage box (it is huge) but I found the spindly arm less user-friendly the conventional floor shifter. However, as an automatic, it will probably be left in D most of the time anyway and so should not be too much of an issue.

The drive system is Ford's Control Trac II. Under most conditions, all torque is channelled to the front and the vehicle behaves like any front wheel-drive, enjoying the tradional good fuel economy of a FWD. The driver-friendly system automatically proportions more torque to the rear wheels when the front wheels begin to slip. The advantage of this advanced system is that it requires no intervention from the driver, who most likely will not even notice any changes.

For more adverse driving conditions, Escape has a 4WD lock-up feature that enhances performance when driving off-road or on especially treacherous or slippery surfaces. The lock-up feature is a seamless system that can be smoothly engaged, while the vehicle is moving, with the simple push of a button to the "4x4 Lock" position.

The advanced system is comparable to the "4x4 High" position found in rear-wheel-drive 4WDs. When engaged, it distributes torque equally between the front and rear wheels.

The 4WD system, jointly developed by Ford, Mazda and Dana Corporation, was designed so that more than 90% of customers more than 90% of the time could leave the Escape in the "4x4 auto" setting and just forget about it while the "4X4 Lock" takes care of the rest.

For the technically-inclined, one of the key parts of the system is a power takeoff unit (PTO) that attaches to the transmission. The PTO is a series of gears that transfers power to the rear axle through a two-piece drive shaft – a design that allowed engineers to have a lower floor without sacrificing passenger roominess or cargo space. The two-piece drive shaft also reduces noise and vibration in the vehicle.

The "brain" of the 4WD system is a rotary blade coupling (RBC) that governs the front/rear power proportioning. Pushing the button on the instrument panel to the "4x4 Lock" position automatically activates a solenoid to lock the RBC for a full-time 50/50 power split between the front and rear axles. This setting is not recommended on dry roads because it can cause some binding in the driveline during tight turns.

The RBC is located between the end of the drive shaft and the rear axle differential. It contains a clutch pack and hydraulic pump. The system can detect differences in the rotational speed of the front and rear wheels. As soon as any slippage is detected, the hydraulic pump generates pressure to engage the clutch pack and redirect power to the rear wheels.

To put all these to the test, we took the Escapes along a logging trail which led to a river and ended up having a splashing good time playing in the water. There was no perceptible difference in the vehicle's behaviour whether it was in 4X4 Auto or Lock, the reason for which became apparent when a Nissan Sunny and a Kancil passed by on the same track! The track had just too much traction for the system to shift torque around.

The front suspension features MacPherson struts, which attach to rearward facing L-shaped lower control arms for lateral stiffness and road impact isolation. The springs and shocks are separately mounted to a dual-path upper strut mount, further helping to isolate shock forces that would otherwise hamper suspension tuning and ride qualities. The rear suspension uses a semi-trailing arm with two lateral links and coil springs located between the trailing arm and the body, conceptually similar to the independent rear suspensions used in some sport sedans.

The suspension combines with the wide track (1,550mm front, 1,530mm rear) to give the Escape a wide, almost crouching, stance that accounts for its confidence in corners.

The rack-and-pinion steering gear is mounted to a cross member. To increase rigidity and produce a tighter, more responsive steering feel, the steering gear features widely spaced mounting locations.

The Escape come with anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic brake force distribution (EBD), which registers the relative speeds of the front and rear wheels and applies brake pressure accordingly.

Initial doubts about the rear brakes being drums were soon dispelled after a successful evasive and braking manoeuvre to avoid a straying kid (that's a young goat, not a child) on a rural road in Pahang, and a couple more close shaves with oncoming traffic. Those brakes work, and work very well indeed.

If they prove to be insufficient, the Escape protects its occupants with two airbags (driver and front passenger) as well as seatbelt pre-tensioners and anti-intrusion bars in the doors.

Security is an issue that Ford has paid close attention to, given the Ranger's popularity with thieves, as well as that of the Honda CR-V. The Escape's passive anti-theft system (PATS) engine immobiliser system is a standard feature on the Escape for added security. This rolling-code keyless entry system changes the code each time the transmitter is operated. With a staggering 72 quadillion combinations (that's 72 million billion, or 72,000,000,000,000,000), any thief who gets it right probably deserves to get away with it.

Without the proper key, the vehicle cannot be started. If an attempt is made to start the engine using a key other than the correct one, the PATS immobiliser system disables the ignition system, rendering the engine unusable. Challenge-and-response technology makes it extremely difficult to duplicate the key.

Cost of ownership has also been taken into account, and Ford claims that Escape's 10,000km service interval and lower prices for parts will mean savings of over RM3,390 (RM1,897.50 for Escape, RM5,290.20 for rival) over a five-year period, compared with its nearest competitor.

Escape demonstrators will arrive in Ford showrooms on April 23, and the 38 dealers nationwide will start taking orders the same day. Work on Job #1, the first locally-assembled unit, will commence in June and the first delivery to customers will begin in August.

Oh, the price. That's not finalised but Ford promises it will be below RM140,000, on the road, without insurance.