Driving Torque

Articles, reviews and opinions about cars and all things automotive

Archive for the month “August, 2014”

Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC – Driven and Reviewed

Honda Civic Tourer sideCars in this mould come with a variety of monikers; there’s the good old ‘estate’, the glamour of the ‘shooting brake’, the Clark W Griswold American-ness of the ‘station wagon’, and in the case of the enlarged Civic we have here – the ‘tourer’.

Colour scheme is £200 option..........it's not really

Colour scheme is a £200 option……….it’s not really

Now, it might be down to the clever use of this shape for the factory Honda team’s current BTCC car, (albeit with a few less spoilers and stickers) but I’m inclined to think that this is one of those occasions that the darling of new parents and dog owners alike has more to offer in the looks department than the hatchback from which it was spawned. The way the roof-line seemingly dives down towards the D-pillar (it doesn’t, it’s just cleverly made to look that way), thus creating a sail shaped rearmost side window, is very reminiscent of both the Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake and the Jaguar XF Sportbrake – neither of which are renowned for their hideousness.

The rest of the Civic Tourer looks exactly the same as its hatchback sister, even down to the hidden rear door handles which enhance that sportier ‘shooting brake’ image that’s so desired in this sector. Perhaps more pertinently then, what does the enlarged rump have to offer in the practicality department?

Honda Civic Tourer bootHonda Civic Tourer underboot storageQuite a lot it would seem. The Civic hatch uses clever cubby-holes and techniques such as moving the fuel tank towards the centre of the car to optimise its load-lugging abilities and the Tourer takes it up a notch. Doing away with the spare wheel means that the cavern-like under-floor storage compartment in the boot is honestly more spacious than some car’s whole luggage area. Add this to some clever seats and the Civic Tourer provides a class-leading 624 litres of boot space with the rear seats in place, and a whopping 1,668l maximum with them down.

Honda civic tourer rear lights

Tourer’s rear visibility is far superior to hatch’s

One other aspect of the Civic Tourer that deserves mention here is the added bonus of where the rear light-bar is positioned. One of my gripes with the Civic hatch was the way they dissected the rear windscreen, creating a dual-screen effect and not really inspiring confidence when you wanted to see what was lurking behind. With the Tourer this issue has gone. It admittedly may not look quite as nifty and original as the hatch, but the need to put the lights on a near-vertical boot-lid has resulted in a more conventional approach which, when coupled with the extra glass around the boot, makes seeing out of the Tourer far less of a chore.

Inside the Tourer, it’s the usual Civic high standards again, just with a slightly lighter, more airy feel thanks to the added windows and extra space to swing a cat around in, if that’s your thing. The leather seats in our SR spec car added a feel of luxuriousness that you just don’t get with cloth and they were easy to manipulate into whichever position you feel comfortable in. Like the hatch, there’s the multi-screen, dual-level dashboard effect going on. It does take a bit of getting used to at first, but I’ve always admired its originality – I just wish that the colours and fonts used on one of the fascia’s four gauges and screens would match at least one of the other’s.

When we tested the Civic hatchback in September 2013, it was equipped with Honda’s 1.6 i-DTEC Diesel unit, and it’s fair to say that we were pretty much blown away. The Tourer we have here is powered by their 1.8 i-VTEC petrol and, as much as it pains me to say it, you’d have to be pretty adamantly against Diesel to opt for this engine.

There’s nothing wrong with it per se, in fact it’s so smooth and quiet that it’s almost impossible to notice when the stop/start technology is doing its stuff, even with the slight ‘boom box’ effect that estate cars usually suffer with.

Anyone opting for the petrol would also save over £1,200 on the list price over the Diesel unit – not a figure to be sniffed at, but when you delve further into resale values and running costs, I can’t help but feel that that financial saving would soon be swallowed up. It’s a simple numbers game, you see; the equivalent SR spec Diesel Civic qualifies in tax band B (£20), whereas this petrol emits 149g/km CO2 and is therefore all the way up in tax band F (£145).

Honda Civic Tourer frontIf you’re not covering many miles, you may decide to go for the petrol’s added refinement over the Diesel, but if you’re quite keen to keep visits to the pumps as minimal as possible, it’s worth noting that this petrol variant achieves a claimed 44.1 mpg combined, compared to the Diesel’s 72.4 – and having driven it, I can verify that the 1.6l oil burner really is as economical as they claim.

The petrol Civic also achieves the 0-62mph sprint quicker than its counterpart (9.6s vs 10.5), but that’s presuming you haven’t activated ‘Eco’ mode to make your economy figures more respectable. Doing this will make the engine less thirsty, admittedly, but the way its stunts the car’s performance  takes away from an otherwise fun driving experience, especially around town or on long motorway hills where you might find yourself changing down a gear a little more often than you’d expect.

Honda Civic Tourer rear and sideIf you opt for the SR or EX spec Civic, you get their new rear Adaptive Damper System included in the price (it’s a £500 option on SE Plus and SE Plus-T models), and it really does make a difference to the whole driving experience. The Tourer shares the hatch’s feather light gear-changes and steering feel that could do with a touch more feedback from the road but, also like the hatch, it actually sticks to the tarmac very well. Switch the dampers to ‘dynamic’ and you could argue that it’s rather fun – it’s never going to be a Lotus, obviously, but you can certainly feel an improvement in how the car responds and reacts to any changes in direction. Just don’t try throwing it around in Eco mode – the responsiveness of the ‘dynamic’ dampers and the listlessness of Eco mode are worlds apart in their aspirations. At the other end of the spectrum – ‘Comfort’ mode is so well suited to a long motorway schlep. It transformed the Civic Tourer and seemingly ironed out our less than perfect roads, making journeys of any real distance more relaxing – usually the preserve of far larger cars.

To conclude, then. The Civic Tourer, is beautifully built like most Hondas, is class leading in many aspects including interior space and, in my opinion, looks great. As is usual with Japanese cars – the standard equipment is plentiful, even on base models, but I would be inclined to either pay for the Adaptive Damper System or go for a model that comes with it included as it’s a very clever piece of kit. Having driven both engines available in the Tourer – I’d advise you forego the petrol engine we have here and go for Honda’s excellent 1.6 Diesel – it’s just too good to overlook.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications;  Honda Civic Tourer SR, Engine 1.8 i-VTEC, Transmission – 6 speed manual, Layout – Front Engine, FWD, Power – 140bhp, Acceleration – 0-62mph – 9.6s, Maximum Speed – 130mph, Torque174Nm, Economy44.1mpg combined, Emissions – 149g/km CO2, Price – £24,355 OTR, £24,855 as tested

for full details, go to: http://www.honda.co.uk

Range Rover Sport HSE Dynamic – Driven and Reviewed

Range Rover Sport HSE front and sideIt’s never a nice feeling; you’re pootling along in a press car, weighing up all the apparent pros and cons to be mentioned in your review, and you notice something wrong. I’m not talking about a design element that’s not quite to your taste, or a material in the cabin that cheapens the setting somewhat – I mean a flaw, a blemish, a defect. Having driven the new Range Rover Sport for over 100 miles, I was quite definite that I’d be breaking some bad news to the engineers at Land Rover about the sturdiness of one of their products, thus generating embarrassment and uncomfortable silences all round; the digital fuel gauge was undoubtedly broken.

It just didn’t seem feasible that a 4×4 weighing over two tonnes, with nearly 290 bhp coming from a 3 litre lump would be able to cover this distance without even awakening the digital fuel gauge from its slumber. Oh, and did I mention that this RR Sport, in HSE Dynamic guise will hit 60 mph in a Golf Gti worrying – 6.8 seconds?

Range Rover Sport HSE sideBut then, it moved. Gone was the impending threat of awkwardness, in its place was a sensation of disbelief. Borrowing a fuel cell from one of the now defunct NASA space shuttles would, of course, extend the range a bit, but the clever people at RR have instead opted to keep the much more practical 80 litre tank. So, this thing just couldn’t be that economical, could it? Well yes, it could. Scrolling through the information available on the dash, I found that I was apparently averaging nearly 30mpg, and I hadn’t been anywhere near a motorway – this was all from driving around those fuel guzzling towns and B-roads.

Range Rover Sport HSE rear and sideIt turns out that this new-found eco-friendliness is down to heavy metal, or not-so heavy metal in this case. By ditching the Discovery’s chassis in favour of the full-blown Range Rover’s, they’re now utilising a material that actually was used on the space shuttle – aluminium, instead of conventional steel. By doing this, the Sport’s lost a hefty 420kg from its kerb-weight, mirroring the relatively svelte Range Rover flagship model.

The 545 bhp Range Rover Sport SVR

The 545 bhp Range Rover Sport SVR

The big news coming from the Range Rover camp at the moment may be their ridiculously quick SVR model, with its 545bhp supercharged petrol engine, but this ‘base model’ 3.0 TDV6 remains the one to go for. There’s a bigger diesel available, also a 507 bhp variant of the petrol unit found in the SVR, and even a hybrid, but they can only be had if you opt for the pricier ‘Autobiography Dynamic’ spec. I say save your money and go for the base HSE or the HSE Dynamic we’ve got here; the 4.4l diesel is only marginally quicker than the 3.o and the supercharged petrol has a massive drinking problem. The hybrid might be worth a punt but that’s a different kettle of fish altogether. That said, this model isn’t perfect either; to achieve those impressive economy stats, there’s the inevitable stop/start technology which, for me, is a little too keen to kick in. When the stop’s over and it’s time for start again, the power steering needs a touch longer than the engine to get up to speed and if you try to turn too quickly, the wheel kicks back at you until it’s got itself together.

Range Rover Sport HSE logo badgeThe TDV6 isn’t just the thrifty choice of engine either. The more lightweight nature of the V6 compliments the efforts made to slim-down the new Sport when it comes down to performance and handling too. That 6.8 second sprint to 60mph is impressive enough, but put enough power into any vehicle and it’ll respond accordingly; what’ll really put a smile on your face is the way this large 4×4 negotiates the inevitable twisty bits you’ll come across, and possibly a little sooner than expected. The brakes are obviously under a lot of pressure to calm things down slightly, but instead of that sinking feeling you sometimes get in weightier cars, as the body squirms under braking and you find yourself wishing they’d fitted some discs more similar in size to bin-lids, less like compact-discs, the Sport confidently reins things in with minimal fuss.

Range Rover Sport HSE side ventCome to a bend and the Sport really shows off what it’s all about. I’m always amused when I read a review of the latest 4×4 and its handling characteristics are criticised as they’re ‘just not enough like a normal car’ – I’ve never seen a Focus being besmirched for its inability to drive unaided up Ben Nevis. There are many large 4x4s on the market that were made for tarmac, that’s no secret, but a Range Rover must be able to cut it off-road, or it ain’t gonna get to wear that Land Rover badge. The way the Sport goes around bends isn’t just ‘quite good, considering its off-road capabilities’ – it’s really excellent. The leading corner dips ever-so-slightly on turn in, but then the dynamic chassis levels the whole car out and the torque vectoring system brings the rear wheels into play, giving the feeling that they’re pushing the car around, rather than the front wheels scrambling to pull. There is of course a trade-off for all this on-road fun, and in Dynamic mode especially, you will feel the bumps and potholes a little more than you’d expect in a Range Rover.

Locking diffs - the new Sport is still a serious piece of off-road kit

Locking diffs – the new Sport is still a serious piece of off-road kit

The silky-smooth, eight speed ZF ‘box that’s found its way into so many JLR products recently is once again present in the new Sport, and it’d be hard to argue against. Providing a vehicle of this size with a ‘sport’ mode on the gearbox does seem slightly akin to entering a shire horse into the Grand National, but it would be a little daft to delete this option when the car itself is called ‘Sport’. And besides, when the Sport handles as well as it does, it seems fitting to have a ‘box to match the performance. You can change gear yourself, either via the F-Type style trigger gear-lever or some paddles behind the wheel, but, to be honest, when a ‘box works as well as this one, I suspect you’ll end up just leaving it to its own devices.

Range Rover Sport HSE bonnet ventOne aspect I’ve not mentioned yet is how the new Sport looks. I wasn’t keen at all on the first gen Sport; I thought it was too squat and chunky for its own good and I was (possibly irrationally) irritated by the fact that the spare wheel was visible –  too Land Rover, not enough Range Rover, and it looked as if a body panel was missing. This new model is different though. Both the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport have taken styling cues from their hugely popular stable-mate – the Evoque, and they’re all the better for it. There’s rounded corners and sweeping lights, cleverly adopted without losing that all-important Range Rover image. Gone is the exposed spare wheel, too, in its place is a under-tray like panel that sweeps up to meet the rear bumper, just like the Evoque’s does.

Using larger Range Rover chassis means much more room inside than first gen Sport.

Using larger Range Rover chassis means much more room inside than first gen Sport.

The fact that I didn’t actually fit into the first gen Sport’s rear seats without the aid of a chiropractor was the final straw for me, I found that truly ridiculous. Not so the new model though. By using the larger Range Rover’s chassis, they’ve increased the room inside significantly, and I now fit into all five seats.

New Range Rover Sport comes with standard phone connectivity

New Range Rover Sport comes as standard with phone connectivity

At £64,995 on the road, the Sport certainly isn’t the cheapest, but you also get a lot of toys and luxuries for that money that you’d pay a premium for elsewhere. What you also undoubtedly get is one of the most comfortable, stylish ways of transporting people or cargo over large distances, and as it’s a Range Rover – those distances don’t necessarily have to be on-road.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Range Rover Sport HSE Dynamic, Engine – 3.0l TDV6, Transmission – 8 speed ZF Auto, Layout – Front Engine, 4WD, Power – 288bhp, Acceleration – 0-60mph – 6.8s, Maximum Speed – 130mph, Torque – 600Nm, Economy – 37.7mpg combined, Emissions – 199g/km CO2, Price – £64,995 OTR, £78,595 as tested

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


Car-Fest North 2014

Welcome to my party, everybody!!!!

Welcome to my party, everybody!!!!

Food. Music. Cars. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that just about everyone is going to be an ardent fan of at least one of these topics, and that’s exactly what Car-Fest has to offer – all three and more.

Paul Hollywood states his case in Cakes vs Pies

Paul Hollywood states his case in Cakes vs Pies


I’m one of those people that’s passionate about them all, but as much as I enjoyed the annual ‘Cakes vs Pies’ competition, and the live performances by the likes of Simple Minds and Seasick Steve, this is a site about cars, so that’s what I’m going to concentrate on.

Some very valuable noses on display - just some of the Magnificent 7

Some very valuable noses on display – just some of the Magnificent 7

Now in its third year (second to be based at Oulton Park), Car-Fest North is unique in its approach to getting the maximum enjoyment out of petrol and what it propels. It’s easy to draw comparison to the likes of The Goodwood Festival Of Speed – the quality and quantity of cars on-site is genuinely breathtaking, but you’ll not find any competition or racing at Car-Fest – that’s just not in the spirit of the event.



The whole point is to make high-performance and achingly beautiful cars as accessible as possible to everyone present, showing off just what they’re capable of, including their sometimes blisteringly quick performance and how quickly it can decimate tyres,  whilst maintaining an atmosphere that even the youngest festival-goers will feel at home in.

Lower than a snake's belly

Lower than a snake’s belly

Using Oulton Park to host the event may take away some of the garden-party spirit that Chris Evans is keen to offer at his Car-Fest events (CF South is held in Jody Scheckter’s back garden), but I personally feel that the advantages of having a professional grade racing track for the drivers to show off on, including its run-off areas, barriers and pits, far outweigh anything that might be lost by not using a quaint driveway and some pretty fields.

Previous owner: Mr. A Senna

Previous owner: Mr. A Senna

Anyway, back to the cars. As I said, there’s no timing or racing to report on so I can’t give you any results, but this doesn’t detract from Car-Fest in the slightest. It sometimes seems as if Chris Evans has flicked through his address book, selected his utmost petroleum-loving mates and invited them to his party to unashamedly show-off their most treasured cars. And what’s wrong with that?

Almost priceless Ferrari on a racetrack - not for the faint-hearted owner

Almost priceless Ferrari on a racetrack – not for the faint-hearted owner

Nick Mason of Pink Floyd is an ever-present at Car-Fest, this year bringing his Ferrari 250 GTO – a car regularly described as the most beautiful ever made, and recently estimated at being worth between £30 – £50 million. You wouldn’t blame Mr Mason for leaving the car on static display with a barrier around it, regardless of how much he’s worth, but does he? Does he heck – it was out there on the track doing what it was made for – being driven on the edge.

Nick Mason and Paul Hollywood; "My Ferrari's shinier"  - "No, my Ferrari's shinier"

Nick Mason and Paul Hollywood; “My Ferrari’s shinier” – “No, my Ferrari’s shinier”

Various other TV stars including Paul Hollywood and Edd China can be found propelling their pride and joys around the track and, in-keeping with the whole accessible spirit of the show, they’re more than happy to chat and have pictures taken with the public once the driving’s finished and it’s safe to open the paddock up.

5th gear's Jonny Smith in his 'retired moonshine runner' Dodge Charger

5th gear’s Jonny Smith in his ‘retired moonshine runner’ Dodge Charger

The unique atmosphere of Car-Fest truly has a magical element about it, probably due to both its insistence that nothing is taken too seriously, and the fact that it’s all to raise money for The BBC’s Children in Need. If you weren’t fortunate enough to get tickets this year, I can’t implore you enough to try again next year. Chris Evans gives regular updates on ticket sales via his Radio 2 breakfast show, or you can go to http://www.carfest.org to keep abreast of things.

Ready for takeoff!!

Ready for takeoff!!

Seasick Steve

Yes – that guitar has just one string…..

To all those going to the sold-out Car-Fest South event at the end of August – have fun!

By Ben Harrington


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