Driving Torque

Articles, reviews and opinions about cars and all things automotive

Archive for the month “May, 2014”

Citroën DS3 Cabrio DSport – Driven and Reviewed

Citroen DS3 Cabrio DSportCitroën’s DS3 has been on our roads for an almost unbelievable four years now, and this cabriolet version has been allowing us to maximise our enjoyment of the sporadic British sunshine since 2013. Just prior to this article being published, Citroën announced a slight midlife refresh of the model including new headlights and a few new, ultra-efficient engines, two of them being Diesels.

That news may encourage some buyers to hang on a while so that they can get the most bang for their buck, but the fact remains that if you like your DS3 Cabrio to perform and sound as well as it looks (I don’t believe in Diesel cabrios – it’s something of an oxymoron, IMO), and you’re not prepared to shell out the somewhat lofty sum of £30k for the DS3 Racing – this 155bhp petrol model is the one you’ll most likely opt for.

Gotta love the fin. Although I'd opt for a lighter body colour to make it stand out

Gotta love the fin. Although I’d opt for a lighter body colour to make it stand out

The DS3 might be four years old but the look is still very fresh and I challenge anyone to say that shark-fin doesn’t continue to raise a smile. Speaking of ‘the‘ fin – I was initially worried that the release of this cabrio model would do away with this most pleasing of features. Thankfully though, Citroën opted to give their soft-top just that – a soft top. This means that the roof frame stays in tact, as do the rear side windows and the cloth section simply slides rearwards, kind of like an enlarged sun-roof. Not only does this mean my favourite bit of the whole design stays in tact – yes, the dorsal – but the structural rigidity of the car only required a bit of strengthening where the parcel shelf used to be, in order to maintain the taut feeling of the hardtop. Kind of a win-win situation really as it only adds 25kg to the overall weight, too.

Citroen DS logoCitroën were always very keen to distance the DS sub brand from their mainstream models, even selling them in DS-only dealerships in some countries, and they’ve achieved this aim with aplomb. There are Citroën badges on the DS3, obviously, but they’re subtle and require some searching for. In their place are the modern, slightly cryptic DS logos that are splashed around the whole car in various formats. In fact, the only double chevron I found on the whole car that was actually combined with the Citroën name was a diminutive blanking piece in the cabin – it’s no accident that this could easily be missed.

It’s not just the look of the DS3 cabriolet that’s separate from the Citroën hoi polloi, though – the way the car drives and feels is quite different too. The flamboyance and character of the DS3 is quite French, in so many ways. Contrarily though, the soft, accommodating ride you’d normally associate with cars of this origin, especially Citroëns, is dismissed in favour of an altogether harder, more focused approach. This is obviously something of a double-edged sword as the DS3 Cabrio’s handling is precise, with hardly any roll to speak of, but when your primary concern isn’t kissing apexes, and you just want to get home in comfort after a tough day at work – the DS3 Cabrio’s ride could jar a little, especially over our typically pot-holed roads.

Citroen DS3 Cabrio interiorIt’s a tired old cliché that French cars aren’t built very well, and a tag that’s not as relevant as it used to be. If you need some convincing – just drive this DS3 Cabrio for a while – the build quality feels excellent and everything has a solid, chunky air about it. Put the roof up and the sensation of calm and quiet could easily embarrass some drop-heads that cost twice as much. You could of course argue that for nearly £20k, it shouldn’t be anything other than screwed together properly, but it’s not just money that’s been thrown at the DS3 Cabrio, the imagination and flair that’s especially evident in the cabin comes from ambition, not a chequebook.

Roof up......

Roof up……

.....going down.......

…..going down…….

.......and it's down

…….and it’s down

When discussing practicality, cabriolets often crop up in the same sentence, usually accompanied with the words ‘a distinct lack of’. Because of the way the DS3 Cabrio has been developed, the soft top doesn’t impinge on the boot space as such, it just leaves you with a letter-box style aperture to access said boot. But negotiate that and you can easily fit a decent sized fortnightly shop in – trust me, I did it. The counter balance to this, though, is that if you retract the two-stage roof all the way back, your rear-view is reduced slightly. Actually, it’s annihilated, it’s probably a better idea to keep the roof at its first stage which keeps the rear window in its correct position. The slight revamp of the model I mentioned earlier does include the option of a reversing camera – I think it’s a must if you go for the cab.

Not the best access, but at 245 litres, far bigger than the competition

Not the best access, but at 245 litres, far bigger than the competition

The DS3 Cabrio uses the four-cylinder, turbocharged engine that, until recently, was found in various MINIs. The fact that BMW have opted to go down the tri-cylinder route shouldn’t reflect badly on this Citroën developed engine as it’s still really rather good. Yes, it can be a tad frustrating and a little gutless at low revs, as you wait for the turbo to wake up and do its stuff, but once you get going, it’s a sweet unit that suits the DS3 well, especially with the clunky, satisfying gear changes from the six-speed ‘box. My only real complaint with this engine is that the turbos stifle the sound too much, but get the roof down and drive through your favourite tunnel and it’s just loud enough to keep you coming back to do it again.

The Citroen DS3 is one of those cars that remains affordable, whilst offering a certain element of quality to make it stand out from the crowd, much in the same way as the Fiat 500 and MINIs do. The difference with this, though, is that it’s not some retro-mobile, cashing in on past glories, it’s ultra modern and the first of its kind. This DS3 Cabrio model stands apart from the soft-top competition due to its increased levels of practicality and comfort. Opt for this 155bhp engine, and it’s a hoot to drive, too.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Citroën DS3 Cabrio DSport THP155, Engine1.6l petrol four cylinder turbocharged, Transmission6 speed manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 155bhp, Torque – 240Nm, Emissions – 137g/km CO2, Economy47.9mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 132 mph, Acceleration – 8.2s 0-62mph, Price – £19,845 OTR, £21,490 as tested.

For full details, go to: http://www.citroen.co.uk/DS3

Ford Fiesta Zetec 80PS – Driven and Reviewed

2014FordFiesta_1LiterThree cylinder engines seem to be the current craze amongst manufacturers in their pursuit of increasing mpg whilst leaving performance intact. Amongst others, Hyundai and the latest ‘New’ Minis have adopted the technology, but remember it was Ford and their EcoBoost units that really brought this asymmetrical technology back into the spotlight.

We tested the turbocharged 1.0l EcoBoost Fiesta back in 2013 and were impressed, not only with its peppy engine, but with the refined ride and sorted chassis that’s so willing to be thrown around, especially with this lightweight engine up front.

So, what happens when you take this great recipe and take something away, in this case the turbo? Well, you’d expect performance to suffer, obviously, with the trade-off being even more impressive mpg and even fewer visits to the pumps. Quite bizarrely, only some of this is true – and it’s not good news I’m afraid. This 80ps Fiesta feels laboured around town, unwilling to get up to acceptable speeds without the aid of forced induction, but the improved economy part of the deal seems to have gone amiss somehow.

Ford's EcoBoost engine

Ford’s EcoBoost engine

Both 80ps and 125ps Fiestas return a claimed 65.7mpg combined and emit 99g/km Co2, and I dare say that the stifled acceleration of the lower powered model will encourage drivers to push the engine harder, negating any potential petrol savings as they grow frustrated with travelling so slowly.

One aspect of the 80ps Fiesta’s performance that’s surprisingly good is at higher-speed, on motorways and the like. The lack of turbo is fairly irrelevant when 70mph is reached, and should the need arise, the EcoBoost engine responds admirably when pushed. It’s just a shame that this car was primarily designed with inner-city driving in mind, where it’s found lacking.

I suspect that the 80ps Fiesta will find its way into many homes as a first car for the inexperienced driver, and this is where it could really excel. Speaking as a parent, I’d personally welcome the loss of performance if it were my child’s steed, and you obviously still get all the advantages that come with every Fiesta, such as 5 Euro NCAP stars. It’s also the cheapest way into Fiesta ownership (£13,995), but not only this, its 6E insurance group is significantly lower than other models.

Fiesta 2012 1FordSync-580-90Standard equipment is still impressive for your £14K, but if the budget will extend a little, I’d opt for the Nav system with DAB radio and SYNC system at £700 – it’s not infallible but it’s still one of the best systems on the market.

We’ve grown to expect a lot of bang for our bucks with Ford’s multi-award winning EcoBoost engines. Taking away the turbo has resulted in a decline in the fun factor, but taken in its own right, this version of the much-hailed Fiesta still stands up to scrutiny against the competition, especially in the quality and appeal departments.


By Ben Harrington


Specifications; Ford Fiesta Zetec 80PSEngine –1.0l EcoBoost three cylinder na petrol, 5 speed manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power –  80ps, Torque – 105NM, Emissions – 99g/km CO2, Economy – 65.7mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 103 mph, Acceleration – 14.9s 0-62mph, Price – £13,995 OTR


For full details, go to http://www.ford.co.uk/Fiesta




Porsche Macan – First Drive

Porsche MacanBelieve it or not, Porsche‘s assault on the SUV market started over 12 years ago with the somewhat divisive Cayenne. This is the Macan (Ma-Caan), and what’s perhaps more pertinent with this model is that Porsche have been making sports cars pretty much since the genre was invented. Confused? This is the all-conquering marque’s latest model and their debut entry into the ever-expanding and highly lucrative compact SUV sector, but Porsche are very keen to stress that the Macan should be regarded as ‘less of a small Cayenne – more of a large 911’.

Initial evidence to back-up this claim is tenuous to say the least. It doesn’t take an expert to notice that it’s got five doors, a proper boot (500l – 1500l with rear seats down), and the engine isn’t stored in aforementioned boot – it’s in front of the steering-wheel, just behind the headlights.

That really is just about where the similarity to its larger sibling ends though.If I was to tell you that, in typical Porsche fashion, they’ve ditched the traditional copper for their battery wiring in favour of aluminium as it saves a whopping 3.6kg, you get some idea of what the Macan is about.

Macan Diesel  011

silhouette is very 911-based

Visually, the Macan has none of the awkward angles and lumps sometimes associated with cars in this class. It’s pure Porsche at the front, with the traditional clam-shell bonnet and raised wings. The basic silhouette is very much 911 based and there are hints of the iconic sports car found all around the Macan, combined with certain aspects of the 918, not least of which being the eye-catching 3D rear lights. Speaking of the rear, this is the angle I found most satisfying on the Macan – its shape is pleasing and well proportioned. Look closely and you’ll notice that the Macan’s tyres are wider at the rear than the front to aid traction and grip – that’s definitely more sports car than SUV – a set of exposed quad-exhausts does nothing to detract from the overall look, either.

There are three models available at launch – two petrols in ‘S'(340bhp) and ‘Turbo'(400bhp) guise, and one Diesel, ‘S Diesel'(258bhp), although there’s apparently scope to expand the range in the future.

Porsche macan rear

quad exhausts. Mmmmmmm….

What’s perhaps more important than the range of engines available, though, is the fact that the Macan comes as standard with Porsche’s excellent PDK ‘box across the range, as opposed to the Tiptronic system found in the Cayenne. Again, this decision is undoubtedly pointing more in the direction of performance, less towards gentle wafting.

Porsche were keen to emphasise the Macan’s sporting pedigree, to the point that it’s launch wasn’t held on some quasi-all-terrain test route, it was held at a race-track. And not just any race-track. It was held at Goodwood – a circuit renowned for its high speeds and lack of run-off points. Oh.

3D rear lights, design taken from 918

3D rear lights, design taken from 918

I drove both petrol variants around the Goodwood track, and what’s immediately evident is the lack of body-roll that goes hand in hand with the engines and gearboxes to give a planted, purposeful feel. You can opt to combine your steel-sprung suspension with Porsche’s Active Suspension Management system (standard on Turbo), or even plump for air suspension if you like. I guess it depends on what you plan to do with your Macan, but the way the car handled and reacted to changes in direction and camber was sublime in all three set-ups.

Lightweight battery cables or not, the Macan weighs in at nearly 1900kg, so I was quietly grateful for the reassuring stopping power on offer (Porsche engineer their models so that they can go from 60-0 mph in half the time it takes to go from 0-60), especially when approaching those run-off points. Or lack of.

Analogue clock is part of Sport Chrono package

Analogue clock is part of Sport Chrono package

I drove the Diesel on the roads around Goodwood and, lets face it, the road is where the vast majority of Macans will find themselves. Porsche are predicting a 60:20:20 split in the UK (S Diesel:Turbo:S), but I wouldn’t be surprised if the proportion of Diesel models bought was even higher. It really is that good. It may originally have been lifted from the Cayenne, but in the Macan the Diesel unit really comes alive, especially when combined with the ‘Sport’ mode that’s fitted in every Macan, or the really spicy, optional Sport Chrono package.

porsche macan dieselCouple this performance with 46mpg combined and the Diesel is even easy on both the conscience and the wallet. Scarcely believably meagre fuel consumption is another aspect the Macan shares with the 911, though. Even the Turbo model returns an average 30mpg, although I don’t think our test cars were quite achieving that around the track!

Porsche are understandably eager to grab their slice of the compact SUV market, so much so that, including expanding their Leipzig plant, they’ve invested  £1billion Euro to create what they call the first sports car in the class. On first impressions, they might have pulled it off.


By Ben Harrington


Specifications; Porsche Macan S, Engine – 3.0l V6 biturbo petrol, Transmission – 7 speed PDK, Layout – Front engine, 4WD, Power – 340bhp, Torque – 460Nm, Emissions – 212 – 204g/km CO2, Economy – 31.9mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 158mph, Acceleration – 5.4s 0-62mph, Price – £43,300 OTR

Specifications; Porsche Macan S Diesel, Engine – 3.0l V6 turbo Diesel, Transmission – 7 speed PDK, Layout – Front engine, 4WD, Power – 258bhp, Torque – 580Nm, Emissions – 164 – 159g/km CO2, Economy – 46mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 143mph, Acceleration – 6.3s 0-62mph, Price – £43,300 OTR

Specifications; Porsche Macan Turbo, Engine – 3.6l V6 biturbo petrol, Transmission – 7 speed PDK, Layout – Front engine, 4WD, Power – 400bhp, Torque – 550Nm, Emissions – 216 – 208g/km CO2, Economy – 30.7mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 165mph, Acceleration – 4.8s 0-62mph, Price – £59,300 OTR


For full details, go to http://www.porsche.com/uk/models/macan





New Generation Hyundai i10 – Driven and Reviewed

Hyundai i10 front 3-4The way Korean manufacturers have progressed in recent years is nothing less than a revelation. Everything from their dramatic makeover in the looks department, to their confidence inspiring, rest-of-the-market-worrying-warranties has come as something of a surprise and seen them go from the Japanese automotive giants’ poor relation, to flag-bearers of the Asian car making community.

And surprise is what this Hyundai i10 is all about. This second generation supermini had to follow on the previous model’s modus operandi of offering cheap, affordable, family motoring – but with far more competition on the scene than when the original i10 was introduced, it also had to stand out from the crowd.

So, gone are the toy-town, slab-sides of the original, in their place are some genuine styling features such as subtly flared wheel arches and daytime running lamp signature, adding contrast and interest to the previously dull shape. Think the C pillar looks familiar? – That’ll probably be because it’s switch-back shape is very similar to the original Mercedes A-Class’. The whole car is far more squat and purposeful than the original, too, hinting at another potential new string to the i10’s bow – driver satisfaction.

Hyundai i10 rearWhat’s important to remember with the new-gen i10 is that it’s still a cheap car – starting at £8,495 for the S model. You’d have to splash out a little extra (£9,995) for our range topping Premium model with its alloy wheels and mirror-mounted indicators, but this is one of those times where I think I’d take great delight in getting back to basics and opting for the cheapest model available. The interiors on all i10s are what you’d expect, with large amounts of wipe-clean plastics smattered liberally around the place, but this is where the i10 introduces one of its surprises – the cabin is a far more pleasant place to be than you’d warrant. There’s ample room for a whole family, a decent size boot (252 litres), and the textures and shapes used in the cabin are original and eye-catching, making journeys less tedious and adding a little air of quality. Knobs and dials are chunky and tactile, but if you want one of them to control the car’s air-con – you’d have to forego the S model in favour of a higher spec, as the S doesn’t have it.

There’s a choice of two petrol engines – a 1.0 3 cylinder or a 1.2, 16V 4 cylinder. Both are impressively frugal (unless you opt for the ill-advised automatic ‘box) and neither’s going to set the world on fire performance wise, so, again, I’d opt to save some cash and go for the 3 cylinder model that our test car was graced with. Not only is it more economical (go for the Blue Drive model and it’s even in the zero tax bracket), but you can also treat your ears to the hugely addictive thrum that the 3 cylinder engine emits.

Hyundai i10 cabinThere’s a feather-light feel to both the steering and gearbox on the new i10, especially around town where, lets face it, the i10 is going to spend most of its life. The motor-driven power steering makes manoeuvres as easy as it gets, even more so if you pay for rear parking sensors (£195). Gear changes are effortless and smooth, to the point that a well-aimed puff of breath could probably save you the effort of moving your left arm – it really is that easy. The only fly in the ointment here is that, for some reason, reverse has a habit of occasionally refusing to play-ball and can take a few clutch-in-clutch-out, waggle gearstick furiously kind of motions before agreeing to progress backwards.

Hyundai i10 sideAll of this city biased driver assistance would quite rightly prompt you to assume that this is where the i10 is happy and it all unravels on the more ‘fun’ rural style roads. But you’d be wrong. This is yet another of those surprise elements that the new i10 keeps producing – throw it around a few corners and it doesn’t feel like a fish out of water at all. Again, you have to stump up some extra cash for Premium spec if you want alloys as seen on our test car, and they usually make a difference to a car’s handling, but they are only 14” across so I wouldn’t expect a dire drop in grip if your i10’s on steels. I’m not for one minute suggesting the i10 is some track-day ‘Q’ car; feedback through the wheel is fairly minimal – as is the norm when electric motors are involved in the steering department. What I would say though, is that this car is what I call ‘honest’, providing decent handling and some cheap thrills when you want to press on.

Hyundai i10 frontWould I recommend an i10 then? Absolutely, yes, and not just because of its improvement over the previous model. There is unprecedented competition in this sector at the moment, but for this money, when you consider that you’re also getting a 5 year, unlimited mileage warranty,  the i10’s up there with the best.

By Ben Harrington


Specifications; Hyundai i10 Premium, Engine – 1.0l DOHC 3 Cylinder, Transmission – 5 speed manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 66ps, Torque – 95Nm, Emissions – 108g/km CO2, Economy – 60.1mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 96mph, Acceleration – 14.9s 0-62mph, Price – £9,995 OTR, £10,695 as tested (i10 is available from £8,495)

For full details, go to http://www.hyundai.co.uk






MG3 3Form Sport – Driven and Reviewed

MG badgeMG have come a long way since their launch in 1924. Various mergers and takeovers have taken them all the way from their Morris Garages roots, to a marque that’s presently owned by Chinese firm SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation), currently offering two models in the UK – the 6 and what we have here, the 3.

We could wax lyrical for hours about MG and its numerous ups and downs, but that’s for another time. What’s important is the here and now, and right now MG’s most recent offering is this rather natty looking 3 model, here for review in Form Sport guise.

MG 3Form Sport sideBeing owned by a Chinese firm, you’d expect MGs to be primarily focussed on offering value for money, and you’d be right. Walk into any of the 40+ dealerships across the UK and you can pick up a five door 3 for the paltry sum of £8399. But, for the meagre sum of £9549, you could have something that looks as good as this Form Sport model, and doesn’t it look good, too?

MG 3Form Sport frontSharing many of its lines with Skoda’s Fabia is no bad thing, but the basic shape is where the similarity ends. It may be more for form than function, but that forked front splitter and Venturi style rear splitter, along with the essential strings of LED running lights gives the 3 a real presence on the road. The 16” alloy wheels that come standard on the Sport model fill the arches neatly and make the gap between car and road appear diminutive to say the least.

MG 3Form Sport splitterA car of this nature just wouldn’t be complete without a multitude of graphic-based options to ensure that it stands out from the crowd, and the 3 is no different. Our test car was quite conservatively specced, but go onto the MG website – http://www.mg.co.uk, and one can opt for stripes, emoticons, or even a somewhat cheeky Union flag decal to add that touch of individuality.

MG 3Form Sport interiorInside the car is where the 3’s budget price tag is most obviously demonstrated – the plastics come in vast swathes and are what you’d expect in this price range. That said though, build quality seems to belie its roots and everything from the way the door shuts with a resounding thud, to the solid feel of the cabin feels reassuringly well screwed together.

So simple, yet so effective

So simple, yet so effective

There are few aspects of the 3’s cabin that aren’t just ‘ok for the money’ – they’re excellent. Call me easily impressed but MG’s deliciously simple phone holding solution, coupled with a set of display needles that flick around to maximum when the key’s turned in the ignition can go a long way to convincing you that you’ve invested in your sub £10K car wisely. The steering wheel is another item that deserves special mention; contrary to some of the 3’s plastics, the materials used feel quality and its shape and size are near perfect. This surely isn’t an accident – the wheel is obviously the most tactile part of any car’s interior and is closest to the driver’s eyes – make it stand out and you’re subliminally telling the driver that this is a car that’s had some love poured into it.

MG 3Form Sport front1The room in the 3’s cabin is a lot more voluminous than you might imagine. There’s genuinely plenty of leg and head space for five adults, and the boot isn’t too pokey either (285 litres). This may be considered a small car by modern standards, but when I parked the 3 next to a Mk1 Golf, it was genuinely shocking to see how the MG dwarfed the VW.

Love the dials, not keen on tiny gear change indicator though

Love the dials, not keen on tiny gear change indicator, though

The only real criticism I’ve got towards the 3’s interior is the minuscule gear change indicator. It’s so small that I’d say it could actually be dangerous to use it whilst driving, taking the driver’s attention away from the road for an inordinate amount of time. It’s not an essential item on a car of this class, so I’d say either make it useable or ditch it, as the one provided is neither use, nor ornament.

So far, so good then. The 3 is a pleasant place to be and this Sport spec looks far more expensive than it actually is, but what’s it like to drive? There’s one engine on offer across the range – a 1.5 litre, 4 cylinder affair, producing 106PS at 6000rpm. It’s not the most responsive engine in the world and needs a fair bit of coaxing to reach the top of its power band, but when it does get there its keen enough to move the fairly lightweight 3 from point to point quickly enough to keep one entertained. Producing 136g/km CO2 and managing a claimed 48.7 mpg combined, it’s obviously not the most cutting edge engine in the world, but it’s certainly acceptable at this price and I wouldn’t let it put anyone off, unless sky-high mpg is your absolute priority.

MG 3Form Sport rear 3-4All of this brings me onto what’s undoubtedly the MG’s secret weapon – the way it handles. It’s hard to state strongly enough just how satisfying the 3 is around corners, but a car that costs this little has no right to offer the thrills it does. The way it responds instantly to the slightest adjustment is sublime, the power steering being barely noticeable and not intruding at all into the purity of the driving sensation. I don’t say this lightly, but the way the 3 handles is comparable to the awesome Fiesta ST – it really is that good. The 3 does come shod with Goodyear’s much-lauded EfficientGrip tyres all round – they may not be the cheapest but if they’re contributing at all towards the excellent levels of grip – it’s worth it, especially in the wet when the car seems to lose nothing in terms of stickiness.

So, to conclude. If you’re in the market for a sub £10K car, there’s quite a lot of choice at the moment from a broad spectrum of manufacturers. If it were my money, I’d definitely be looking towards this characterful MG. Some aspects like the engine might be in-keeping with its price-tag, but the quality, combined with a ride that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face are streets ahead of the competition.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; MG 3Form Sport, Engine – 1.5l DOHC VTI-Tech, Transmission – 5 speed manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 106ps, Torque – 137Nm, Emissions – 136g/km CO2, Economy – 48.7mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 108mph, Acceleration – 10.4s 0-62mph, Price – £9,549 OTR, £10,165 as tested

For full details, go to http://www.mg.co.uk

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