Driving Torque

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Archive for the month “July, 2014”

KIA pro_cee’d GT – Driven and Reviewed

KIA pro_cee'd GT front and sideIt’s never easy being the new kid in school, trying to maintain your own identity within a well established peer group, and that’s just what Korea’s first hot-hatch  – the pro_cee’d GT is currently attempting to do. So just what have KIA done to gain the respect of the big boys – the likes of VW’s Golf Gti and Ford’s Focus ST?

KIA pro_cee'd GT side and rearWell, I think the way the GT looks is a good place to start – from any angle, it’s pretty stunning. Where the old-timers had a recipe to stick to and a look the public have come to expect, the designer of the GT – Peter Schreyer was only restricted to his own ‘Tiger nose’ design feature – the rest was a blank canvas. From certain perspectives there are hints of Fiesta ST, Astra GTC and Alfa Romeo Brera, but not enough of any-one to take away from the GT’s own identity. It’s sweeping lines, minimal glass-housing and deep side-strakes make the pro_cee’d GT stand out from the crowd and it all adds up to make a distinctive, attractive car that gets attention wherever it goes.

Could only be a pro_cee'd!!

Could only be a pro_cee’d GT!!

It’s impossible to talk about this car without mentioning its daytime running lights (DRL). Audi were the first to introduce LED DRLs, and for a while they were popularly referred to as ‘those Audi style lights’, but since then (and especially since DRLs became law on new models) they’ve become a common feature on many new cars and each manufacturer has strived to find their own lighting pattern to make them stand out. So, again, just how were KIA going to ensure that their debut performance car gets noticed amongst the sea of bright lights? – Well, with ice-cubes apparently. That’s what KIA themselves have christened this quad-bulb design, but whatever you call them, they’re surely a stroke of genius – if any other car were to be launched with this style of lighting, it’d permanently be referred to as ‘that car with the same lights as that fast KIA’. So they may be complete novices to this sector, but already they’ve stamped their mark and established a trademark feature, just by fashioning a cube of twinkling LEDs.

KIA pro_cee'd GT interiorThings are a little more orthodox inside the pro_cee’d GT. There’s the usual varying grades of plastics, dependent on how near the eye-line they are, but the ones you’ll see most are of admirable quality and feel more expensive than you’d warrant too. The leather and suede Recaro seats with their ‘GT’ logo were always going to impress prospective buyers in this segment, but how comfortable they are might surprise some. I’m not the widest bloke in the world but I’m increasingly finding that my shoulders don’t fit in-between the side bolsters on more sports-orientated seats, leaving my back suspended in mid-air. Not so with the GT. They provide sufficient support to stop the driver sliding around through the bends, whilst actually letting you settle in and feel cosseted.

KIA pro_cee'd displayThe rest of the surprisingly spacious cabin is a bit of a mixed bag really. The build quality tends to fall into one of three categories; there’s many parts that look solid and feel solid – some parts that look a bit cheap but feel solid enough, and a couple of parts (i.e. the overhead glasses compartment) that look cheap and feel like they might not survive the journey, but on the whole I think you’d be pleasantly surprised with the environment you’re sat in. No modern fascia would be complete without the usual splashes of piano-black plastic that are so de rigueur at the moment, but press the GT button on the steering wheel, and the electronic dash transforms into something that you’ve probably never seen before. On each side of the central pod a neon day-glow millipede appears and climbs up and down the display – these act as gauges to demonstrate the turbo pressure level and the amount of torque being created. Now, I’m inclined to think that the majority of drivers wouldn’t really know what to do with information pertaining to their generated torque levels, but either way, it looks impressive and, yet again, is a feature that can be associated with the pro_cee’d GT.

It may not seem like such a big deal, but I’m  getting a little irritated with certain manufacturer’s attempts to personalise steering wheels. Well, if you’re like me then you’ll be more than happy with the pro_cee’d GT and its perfectly shaped and sized, multi-functional, traditionally round effort. Whether it’s accidental or not is another matter, but as you grab hold and glance through to see the GT’s natty graphics flash up on entry and exit – there’s a real sense of pride in what KIA are trying to achieve here.

KIA's tiger-nose

KIA’s tiger-nose

For the time being at least, the pro_cee’d GT is available with just one engine – a turbocharged derivative of the 1.6l ‘Gamma’ engine that’s found its way into many KIAs and Hyundais. With 201bhp and 195lb ft of torque on offer, the figures are impressive enough without breaking any records in the super-competitive hot-hatch segment. 143mph and 7.4s to 60mph would have left everything else in its wake a few years ago, as would the 38.2 combined mpg, but with engine technology moving at unprecedented rates these days, the pro_cee’d GT struggles to match its peers and the whole driving experience feels somehow detached and distant.

In contrast, with independent Macpherson struts up front and independent multi-link suspension setups at the rear, the way the pro_cee’d GT navigates around turns doesn’t leave much to be desired at all. The ride feels rigid enough to let you know it means business, without making that fatal mistake found in some hot-hatches and leaving it nigh-on impossible to live with on our less than perfect roads. You’d really have to push the GT to get the nose pushing wide through corners and the whole car feels unflustered as you straighten up or change direction in a hurry.

KIA pro_cee'd GT sideWe all know that car makers are being increasingly constrained regarding how much noise they’re allowed to generate, and the likes of Ford have come up with clever systems that pipe engine noise into the cabin, keeping people like me who place such importance on the aural quality of a car happy. It might be to keep costs down, or it could be due to the Korean’s stereotypically polite nature, but the pro_cee’d GT doesn’t seem to place much importance in this area, and to be honest, they could do with turning the volume up a tad. Turbo-charged engines are always going to be muffled by their very nature, but inside the GT really is whisper quiet, and outside, the few pleasant burbles the engine makes could easily go unnoticed.

Mention KIA to anyone and they’ll probably want to talk about two things; the price and the warranty. I’ve not included them in this review yet as I prefer to judge a car on its merits as a car, not as an asset, but I don’t think I can go any further without bringing them into the conversation. First of all, that market-leading seven-year warranty; A confident move some might say, others could say it’s a little foolhardy. Well, looking at it purely subjectively, the seven-year warranty was introduced alongside the pro_cee’d’s sister car – the cee’d in 2007, exactly seven years ago. If the concept was flawed and the product wasn’t up to such a lengthy guarantee, KIA would be hemorrhaging money by the bucket-load by now, and the offer would have to be revised. Having had first-hand experience of the build quality of KIAs (some slightly flimsy interior features aside) I’d say that the pro_cee’d GT feels properly screwed together and capable of withstanding anything you’d care to throw at it.

KIA pro_cee'd GT badgeSo what about the cost? Is the £19,995 price-tag enough to tempt people out of their Gtis and STs? It might take a brave person to turn their back on the more established models and opt for the KIA, and the people who only know badges, not the car behind them might be impossible to convince just yet. But whichever may you look at it, the pro_cee’d GT offers a teasing saving of nearly £3K over the alternative Focus, and a massive £6K+ over a Golf Gti, and that’s before you add any extras or extended warranties.

So have KIA done enough to establish themselves amongst the hot-hatch hierarchy? I’m not completely naive and I’m not going to say that the pro_cee’d GT is better than the competition in every way, but I will say that in some aspects it’s better than its peers, in many ways it’s just as good, and in a few ways it’s got to try harder. But taken at face-value, this car is well-built, a lot of fun and undoubtedly belies it bargain-basement price-tag.

By Ben Harrington


Specifications; KIA pro_cee’d GT, Engine – 1.6l 4-cyl 16v turbo, Transmission – 6 speed manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 201bhp, Torque – 195lb ft, Emissions – 171g/km CO2, Economy – 38.2mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 143 mph, Acceleration – 7.4s 0-60mph, Price – £19,995 OTR, £19,995 as tested

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



Peugeot 108 & 308 SW First Drives at UK launch


Peugeot 108So, the second iteration of the C1/Aygo/108 has arrived. Toyota have unveiled a funky little thing with an X-Men style front end, Citroen’s styling has gone down the multi-level headlight route, similar to the Juke, and finally, here’s Peugeot‘s new 108.

Unsurprisingly it shares its range of 3-cylinder petrol engines with the C1, but the three cars are far more individualised than the original trio, with Peugeot’s styling being very different from the other two and their emphasis apparently being on personalisation, a theme that’s worked so well with the MINI and the Fiat 500.

Visually it’s fairly obvious that the front end of the 108 is towing the party line and it’s very similar to a 208 or 308, it’s just been scaled down a little. It’s full of features in a relatively small space, in a similar vein to the BMW i3 and even the Aston Martin Cygnet.

Peugeot have identified that 60% of 108 buyers will be women, presumably young ones (watch the new TV advert here -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuFgDpouNR8) and from this they’ve deduced that their target market will be attracted to the personalisation element on offer. Any top chef will tell you that a menu shouldn’t offer too much choice (Vauxhall Adam!!!) and thankfully Peugeot have limited the themes available on the 108 to 7 distinctive flavours, ranging from two-tone paint (Dual) to a barcode running the length of the car (Barcode).

108 Top! in Barcode theme

108 Top! in Barcode theme

The 108 also comes in a choice of 3 or 5 door, the usual Peugeot spec levels, and perhaps more pertinently, the option to have a full-length sunroof on models they’ve christened Top! Just one note of warning though – headroom in the rear on hardtop models is acceptable – opt for Top! and anyone over 5′ tall will find it cramped.

108 interior with very handy 7" touchscreen

108 interior with very handy 7″ touchscreen

3-cylinder engines are all the rage at the moment and I’m a big fan. The 108 comes with a choice of 1.0l (68bhp) or 1.2 (82bhp) with both engines coming in under the magical 100g/km CO2 mark, so no VED to pay. The 1 litre is slightly more economical than the 1.2 (52.3mpg vs 56.5), but if your budget will stretch to it, I’d opt for the 1.2 as the smaller engine does feel strained at higher speeds.

The 108’s wheelbase has been stretched compared to the 107, and you can tell. The handling feels more competent and bumps are absorbed much more readily, giving the 108 more grown-up road manners than its predecessor.

308 SW

48 - Peugeot 308 SWI was hugely impressed with the 308 when I reviewed it earlier this year so does it’s appeal continue when it’s stretched a little to give us the estate variant? I can’t deny that something’s lost in the looks department compared to the hatch – a car I still feel is probably the most attractive in its class. The wheelbase of the SW is extended by 11cm, and the rear overhang by 22cm, obviously this is to maximise load carrying capacity but the squat, purposeful look of the hatch is diluted somewhat by doing so.

35 - Peugeot 308 SWThe good news is that, not only is the loadspace it creates fairly vast (maximum 1,660 litres with seats folded flat), but the way the 308 SW handles is still impressive, just like its little brother. The diminutive steering wheel hasn’t gone – a feature I feel should be limited to sportier Peugeots, but the steering setup has been re-engineered on the SW to be less responsive – this is a good thing. I felt that the 308 hatch was a little twitchy for its own good and, personally, I think the whole range would benefit from the SW’s more relaxed manner.

The 108 is available from £8,245 and the 308 SW from £16,845 – full details at http://www.peugeot.co.uk

Cholmondeley Pageant of Power 2014

Cholmondeley CorvetteThe 13th – 16th of June once again saw the peace and quiet of the usually tranquil grounds of Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire shattered, as thousands of horsepower were unleashed on the ground, in the air and on the water, the Pageant of Power had returned.

Some of the Rally Car class

Some of the Rally Car class

Ticket sales were apparently up an impressive 30% on last year’s event and a record 67,000 people attended over the three days. Holding the event on the Father’s Day weekend could be very helpful in this department as it really is accessible motor sport that the whole family can enjoy.

Cholmondeley race carSporting an Italian theme this year partly due to the legendary motoring brand – Maserati celebrating their centenary, the organisers were kind enough to provide a giant screen for attendees to watch England vs Italy in the World Cup. The result was irrelevant.

Some of the Super Car class

Some of the Super Car class

The Saturday night entertainment is fast becoming one of the highlights of ‘CPOP‘ and this year the volume was cranked up a notch with the evergreen Status Quo providing the soundtrack. Possibly a good job that Cholmondeley’s nearest neighbours aren’t within earshot!

There were many new, previously unseen entrants in this year’s event, not least of which being the Formula Ford drivers Sam Brabham and Max Marshall who did what any 19 year olds would do given an empty track and a Ford GT – they made the most of it.

Classic BentleyAnyone who’s attended CPOP before would have recognised some familiar faces also; ‘Mavis’ the crowd-pleasing Bentley Packard is an ever-present at the event and those deafening, fire-spitting exhausts never disappoint.

Justin Law Jaguar XJ220LMOn the more serious side of things, the father/son combination of Don and Justin Law brought a couple of cars down for all to see, including the ultra-rare Lancia Delta Integrale Rally Car- possibly the ultimate car for getting around the tight, slippery Cholmondeley track. They also brought with them what was probably the star of the show for me – the painfully beautiful Jaguar XJ220 LM. Justin explained to me that the car was only 99% finished but that he and his father had worked around the clock to make sure it was prepared to compete at Cholmondeley (the finished result competed at the Goodwood FOS – if you want to have a look). No matter how many cars Don and Justin get involved with, their enthusiasm for motor sport is infectious. I was lucky enough to be a passenger in one of their other XJ220s a few years ago – these guys are serious about the brand and Justin never holds back when he’s behind the wheel.Jumping Jaguar XJ220

Overall winner of the weekend was once again Robbie Kerr in the Radical SR8 RX, who also won it in 2013. His time of 56.41 on the warm Saturday afternoon wasn’t enough to beat his own record of 55.29 set last year, but tightened chicanes and the usual Saturday night rain meant that he was unable to push the car to its limits on the Sunday.

Not forgetting the bikes........

Not forgetting the bikes……..

Once again, there was enough going on at the Pageant to keep everyone happy; here’ s to next year when it’ll hopefully be even bigger and better.

By Ben Harrington

For updates about 2015’s show and details on how to buy tickets, go to http://www.cpop.co.uk, follow them on Facebook or follow @PageantofPower on Twitter 


Porsche Cayman – Driven and Reviewed

Porsche Cayman front quarter I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon or anything here but, to be completely honest, I didn’t care much for the original Cayman. Visually I found it, well, a little half-baked – it’s slightly awkward lines were reminiscent of a convertible adorned with one of those domed, all-weather hard-tops – a Boxster with a hard-hat if you like.

Porsche badgeThe ethic of the Cayman could never be questioned though. The 911 will forever be Porsche’s icon, and quite rightly so, but it’s no secret that with the engine hanging over the back, it’s something of an engineering nightmare. With the Cayman, Porsche had a clean slate to design a true sports car with the engine in its ideal position – just behind the driver; no rear seats to worry about, and a roof to keep things as solid as possible – something obviously lacking in the Boxster.

So, it was just the disagreeable looks that let the Cayman down a tad then.

Porsche Cayman sideWhat we have here then is the latest model, and just look how the ugly duckling’s turned out. Porsche aren’t where they are today by getting things wrong (well, not often, anyway) and with a few tweaks here and a couple of bulges added there, they’ve created a truly attractive car whilst not straying away from the original ethos behind the project.

Porsche Cayman air scoopThere’s undeniably hints of the 918 Hyper-Porsche in the Cayman, most noticeably being the more severe air intake behind the doors – bigger air-scoops always add a touch of purpose, don’t you think? But it’s the remodelling of the whole silhouette that makes this latest Cayman succeed in the looks department where the previous model failed. Just look at the angle of the roof-line – note how the incline it follows is shallower, terminating at the very back of the body and flicking back up into a little duck-tail spoiler – Porsches always look good with duck-tails. Now compare this with the Mark 1 which had a roof that finished in the middle of the rear wheel arch, directly above the wheel-hub. I can see why Porsche might have been keen to avoid this shape in the first place as it’s definitely more 911 than it was before, but at the end of the day, it still differs just enough from its big brother to avoid poaching sales from the more expensive model, and it works.

Porsche Cayman rear quarterMuch has been written about the ‘S’ version of the Cayman, leaving this 2.7 litre model looking a little redundant. So just what can you expect from a sports car with a ‘measly’ 275bhp? Well, 0-62 comes in at 5.6 seconds and it’ll max out at 164mph which is surely enough for most, although it’s not performance to go singing from the roof-tops about. What is worthy of mention though is the claimed 36.7mpg it’ll return on the combined cycle, and the 180g/km CO2, meaning a year’s VED comes in at a paltry £220 (all of these figures are taken from a Cayman with Porsche’s PDK ‘box – more about that later) Admittedly, economy’s surely the most boring reason to buy a Cayman – what isn’t boring though, is that no matter which model you opt for, it comes with what’s possibly the most sorted chassis set up and engine position this side of a McLaren.

Alloys wouldn't be my choice but anything less than 19'' just isn't enough

Alloys wouldn’t be my choice but anything less than 19” just isn’t enough

Negotiate yourself over the door-sill and into the 911- based interior, and you’ll find a view out over the typically short bonnet between the raised wings that makes you just want to point the car and go, without the intimidating feeling that the nose is out of sight and could come unstuck at any moment. The sound deadening in the cabin is just enough to let the mechanical whirr of the Porsche flat-6 behind the seats permeate in when you press-on, and I assure you, you will press-on. It’s not often that cars are set up so well but Porsche have got it just right with the Cayman, making it handle every corner effortlessly without the need for granite-like suspension that’ll mean every other journey’s to the chiropractor as he repairs the powdery remains of your spine.

If I can find fault with the way the Cayman rides, its lack of weight over the front wheels sometimes means it loses its way over our typically undulating British roads; come off a roundabout too quickly and the lip that sometimes exists between roundabout and carriageway feels more like a stunt ramp.

So, it’s beautifully built, it handles superbly and goes well enough, and now it even looks pretty, and all of this for under £40K……….erm…….well…….yes. You can get all of this for under £40K, but I’d wager that you’d struggle to find a Cayman on the roads today that hadn’t had at least some extras added to perk it up a bit.

Porsche Cayman rear lipOur test car came with options that pushed the price up over ten grand to a not inconsiderable £50,603, but just how much of that extra 25% do you need to spend, and how much is just someone getting carried away with the online configurator? Well, there’s a couple of tech bits like parking sensors that you could probably live without – there’s £1K knocked off your bill straight away. Bi-xenon lights are another grand and they could probably be deleted, the silver paint isn’t standard but there are four perfectly good colours including black and white that come for free, so there’s another £558 – this is easy! Hmmm, ok, the wheels fitted to our test car wouldn’t be my choice personally but the Cayman undoubtedly needs at least 19” to fill the arches so I can justify that £1K hike. Nav’s £2k – that’s necessary, and I’d even say that climate control is expected in a car of this nature – there’s another £518. This isn’t looking so simple all of a sudden.

Porsche Cayman sports modes

Every car should have every one of these buttons……

What’s absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, unquestionably needed on the Cayman is Porsche’s excellent 7 speed Doppelkupplung (PDK) gearbox. I can’t quite believe I’m saying this as the demise of the manual ‘box causes me much heartache and this is one of the few driver focussed cars that still comes with one, but once you’ve experienced PDK, you’ll feel the same way too. The way it seamlessly changes gear into exactly the correct ratio for any given situation is hard to believe; it seems to instinctively know what to do, way before the chemicals in the driver’s brain have even got close to mixing together, weighing everything up and deciding on a gear. Approach a corner at speed and step on the brakes, and the ‘box immediately changes down, and down again, and down again if necessary, giving a delightful little blip on every change – leaving you feeling like a driving hero.

Porsche Cayman sport steering wheelI’d also feel I was missing out slightly if I didn’t opt for the sports steering wheel with paddle shift, the sports exhaust that adds a real rasp in the sound department (follow this link to experience that rasp for yourself; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8l_WTgJB0sk) and, perhaps most importantly – the sports chromo package. Sometimes these different driving modes are a little indistinguishable from one to the other – not so Porsche’s. Left in standard, the Cayman is placid enough to use every day without a second thought; crank it up a bit into sports mode and the instant increase in revs and noise will let you know the car’s ready for more serious business; go for the full-fat sport plus mode and all of a sudden, this ‘standard’ Cayman feels like a world-beating track monster, holding onto first and second gears like a particularly determined limpet. I don’t want to come across all liberal and boring here, but if you have been enjoying sport plus mode, I’d remember to deselect it when driving around town etc, as it really sounds like you’ve forgotten how to change gear, screaming and howling like something that really has no place on public roads.Porsche Cayman sport plus steering wheel

To conclude then, the Cayman in standard guise is sometimes forgotten these days, mainly because of the stunningly brilliant ‘S’ and ‘GTS’ models. It’s important to remember that you get the same fabulous driving experience and looks in this variant, all for under £40K – whether you decide to spend more is entirely up to you.

By Ben Harrington

Porsche Cayman name badgeSpecifications; Porsche Cayman, Engine – 2.7l flat 6 NA, Transmission – 7 speed PDK, LayoutMid engine, RWD, Power – 275bhp, Torque – 290NM, Emissions – 180g/km CO2, Economy – 36.7mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 164 mph, Acceleration – 5.6s 0-62mph, Price – £39,694 OTR, £50,603 as tested





p.s. – on a more practical note, £120 worth of grocery shopping does fit into the Cayman – here’s the photos to prove it:

Porsche Cayman front boot Porsche Cayman rear boot

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