Now we’re torquein’

Turbo adds much-needed twist to this Trax tale

ASH WESTERMAN

MENTION the term ‘torque steer’ around a chassis engineer and, unless they happened to be responsible for the Focus RS500, they’ll make the sign of the cross and start flicking holy water on you. It’s a front-drive chassis affliction that engineers go to great lengths to banish because, let’s face it, accelerating hard out of a tight left-hander and ending up in the outside lane staring into the wide eyes of a city-bound bus driver is not fun for anyone. So torque steer, like bump steer and even an old fashioned bum steer, is something no-one wants.

But here’s a curious thing: right now I’m loving a bit of torque steer. Yes, torque steer. And I could ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. The reason?

Because to have torque steer, you need to have torque, and after five months of driving the torque void that was my blue Trax 1.8, I finally have some. Not a huge amount, mind you – 200Nm is hardly going to twist the Earth off its axis – but the fact it’s turbocharged torque, delivered at usefully low-to-middling revs, means it transforms the Trax driving experience.

Flexing my right ankle from standstill now brings a proper, meaningful surge of acceleration, rather than a flare of revs and the sense of accelerative reticence that the atmo Trax delivered.

The 1.4 turbo is also way more aurally pleasing, which is to say not nearly as strained and thrashy sounding as the 1.8-litre lump. It’s actually quite a cheerful little worker and, because the six-speed auto upshifts just past 5200rpm in the early gears, it never has a chance to get all flustered at high revs.

flustered at high revs.

So far, so good, but the more useable torque curve of the 1.4 leaves me with one question: why isn’t there more of it? After all, the VW Group’s new 1.4-litre turbo four, found in Golf, A3, Octavia, etc, delivers a peak of 250Nm in regular tune, for a specific output of 179Nm per litre, leaving the Holden’s 147Nm per litre looking a little undercooked.

As for redressing the atmo Trax’s frankly woeful fuel consumption – I averaged 11.6L/100km in my time with it – the 1.4 Turbo is no shining star. The car arrived with the trip computer suggesting midsevens, but I can only assume that was achieved by some feather-footed fairy with a hurricane tailwind because my use quickly pushed it to high nines, only for my first full measured tank to reveal 10.1L/100km.

The optimist in me chooses to see it as a 15 percent improvement, rather than still pretty thirsty for a sub-compact SUV.

HOLDEN TRAX LTZ 1.4 TURBO

Date acquired: December 2014 Price as tested: $30,540 This month: 669km @ 10.1L/100km Overall: 669km @ 10.1L/100km acquired teste 6

Bowser bust

WE ALL know speedos are generally pre-set at the factory to fib a little – our GPS-based test gear says that most cars display around 103-105km/h at a genuine 100km/h – but what about the consumption function of trip computers? Seems they are not immune from fudging the truth in their own favour. The Trax claimed 9.8L/100km, but the bowser called bullshit – 10.1 it is. Only a three percent fudge, which is better than most fibbing trip computers, but still misleading.

PLEASURE BOOST

Despite minimal on-paper difference to the atmo 1.8, the 1.4 Turbo transforms the Trax’s tractability