Driving Torque

Articles, reviews and opinions about cars and all things automotive

Archive for the month “November, 2014”

Audi Q3 TFSI S line – Driven and Reviewed

Audi_Q3_Sline_interiorUsual Audi interior quality

Anyone who’s ever sat in any breed of Audi, of any description, or who knows someone who has, will be well aware that they know a thing or two about making interior spaces comfortable and inviting, and this Q3 is no different. Taking something like a car’s dashboard for granted is an easy thing to do – it’s not something people usually talk about, but when you look at the way the Q3’s is sculpted and formed to be as user-friendly and attractive as possible, it gives a very good indication of just how much importance Audi place on their living spaces.

It doesn’t end with a few nice shapes though – the tactile element of the Q3’s cabin is just as satisfying; I’ve pointed out before how important the feel of a steering wheel should be to manufacturers – it’s the part of a car your hands will come into contact with most often, by far. Run your hands over an Audi steering wheel, especially an S Line one, and it just feels right – such an obvious detail, and yet one so often overlooked.

Audi_Q3_TFSI_Sline_front_lightLet there be light……

Audi have also set the pace recently regarding illumination; they were the first manufacturer to feature DRLs (daytime running lights) – for a while, bright LED light signatures on any car were referred to as “Audi lights”. Their expertise in the field is mirrored inside the car also. Combining the usual white lights with their trademark red creates an atmosphere and ambience that’s unparalleled. Any photographer or interior designer will tell you that light can be your best friend or your worst enemy – depending on how it’s used; Audi get on very well with light.

Audi_Q3_TFSI_Sline_frontPanoramic glass sunroofs are another great way of adding light to any car and can make any small space feel more generous. If you’re going to spend £1,100 on the Q3’s optional roof , I’d just be a bit wary if anyone driving it’s over 6 feet tall. I use this height as the limit because that’s how tall I am and I just about got away with it with the seat on its lowest setting – anyone any taller will curse the glass roof as it does steal a valuable couple of inches of headroom.

…….and sound

Speaking of options though, at £690, the BOSE surround sound system is an absolute must. I’ve driven cars with far more expensive systems from equally impressive stereo makers, and been left completely underwhelmed. Not so the BOSE – it is absolutely sublime and, I think, a bit of a bargain.

Audi_Q3_TFSI_Sline_sideUpdate due soon

The Q3 will be updated fairly soon with a bit of a facelift and slightly revised engines  – you can have a look here; http://www.audi.co.uk/new-cars/q3/q3.html – but they’ll still be instantly recognisable as Audi’s smallest SUV (until the rumoured Q2 comes out soon, at least). They’ll also still utilise VAG’s PQ35 platform – it may not be as modern and ubiquitous as the MQB platform, but it performs admirably on the Q3. It handles the road with the minimum of fuss, achieving the objective of performing more like an A3 than a big, wallowy SUV when the tarmac comes over all twisty, even without Audi’s much-lauded Quattro system driving all four wheels.

Part of the New Q3’s facelift will involve, quite literally, a facelift, with the dominant feature – the Darth Vader/Hannibal Lecter/Hoover Dam ‘mouth’ being remodelled into something more 3D and slightly more subtle – very much in the style of the original Q3 from 2011. This shape Q3 is slightly front-heavy in the looks department, but when you add the larger wheels and other highlights that come with the S-Line spec that’s on our test car, it all balances out very well.

Audi_Q3_TFSI_Sline_leatherSmaller is better

The New Q3 will also come with some updated engine technology, the most frugal being a very clever, cylinder deactivating variant of the 1.4 TFSI petrol we’ve got here. Audi expect around one fifth of sales to be powered by their smallest unit, I’m thinking it’ll be a little higher. At 137g/km it produces Diesel rivalling levels of CO2 and slots into tax band E, yet at the same time, it’s genuinely good fun to drive. Sub 10s 0-60 times aren’t anything to write home about, but the way this Q3 is geared, combined with that beautifully weighted chassis, makes for a hugely satisfying driving experience. An unexpected bonus is the fantastic burble from the exhausts when you hit 4000rpm; I really wasn’t expecting it but the tones that resonate through the cabin just add to the sense of fun.

If you still need convincing to swap a larger oil-burner for this TFSI petrol, can I just throw in the fact that it’ll cost a whopping £3,900 less than its nearest priced alternative. £4K is not to be sniffed at and it quite conveniently keeps the Q3 more wallet-friendly than some other manufacturer’s alternative, namely the Range Rover Evoque.

Audi_Q3_badgeWhat does it all add up to?

Sometimes, every once in a while, you put all the correct ingredients together and life has a really vexing way of messing the recipe up, with no explanation offered, leaving you with a right dog’s dinner where should have been a masterpiece.

Conversely, sometimes the opposite occurs and what, on paper, shouldn’t turn out to be anything particularly special is actually pretty wonderful.

I think it’s called equalling more than the sum of its partsand this fairly run-of-the-mill Audi Q3 is a superb example of such an occurrence.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Audi Q3 TFSI S line, Transmission – 6 spd manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 150Ps, Torque – 250Nm, Emissions – 137g/km CO2, Economy – 47.9 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 126mph, Acceleration – 9.2s 0-62mph, Price – £25,850 OTR, £32,770 as tested

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

New KIA Soul ‘Mixx’ – Driven and Reviewed

new_kia_soul_mixx_red_black_sideLet’s face it – the inherent shape and dimensions of the first Soul was ‘slightly boxy’ – if you’re being kind, and ‘a bread van’ – if you’re not. With this New Soul, KIA haven’t completely deserted their original concept, but it’s certainly been ‘jazzed up’ (excuse the music-based pun) a bit.

Look Familiar?…….

The New Soul is unashamedly aimed at the ultra-lucrative ‘want-a-4×4-but-don’t-want-the-running-costs‘ market. Gone is the slightly dopey face of the Mk1, in its place is a far more determined look and an elongated version of the all-important ‘tiger nose’. Coupled with its bulgier, muscular bodywork, the New Soul is a far more visually attractive proposition than its predecessor, especially in this eye-catching ‘Mixx’ spec we have on test. Parked side-by-side, I was really surprised at how similar the New Soul was to the MINI Countryman – they may have come at it from completely different angles, but it’s interesting to see how two polar-opposite manufacturers can come to very similar conclusions regarding what the public wants.

In the Mixx

It may retail at nearly £20K (£19,750), but this model doesn’t represent the top of the Soul range – that’d be the Maxx. I’d say that if it’s total domination of all possible attention that you’re after, though – this will be the one to go for. The dual-colour, contrasting roof option is a brave move but it really works on the New Soul and fits in well with its youthful persona. It is only available on the Mixx (see what they’ve done there), in fact – if you want a monochromatic Soul – you’ll have to opt for one of the other trim levels.

The New Soul’s interior is a well thought out, funky place to be seen, with a better standard of plastics and design than you’d expect from previous Korean efforts. This isn’t just a generic dash and fascia that could be found in any number of similar models, it’s fresh, new and some real thought’s obviously been put into making the New Soul’s ‘in’ as eye-catching and original as the ‘out’.

Infinity audio system

......meanwhile, in Area 51

……meanwhile, in Area 51

All but the two cheapest model Souls come equipped with an 8 speaker Infinity audio system, complete with its very own amp and subwoofer. I’d have given a minor body-part to have my car kitted-out with an Infinity sound system when I was younger, and the make still holds major weight in the ‘tunes’ market today. The flashing speakers are possibly a little OTT (that could just be my age, though), but the noise that your Infinity equipped New Soul will make is ‘absolutely bangin”(or whatever the cool-kids are saying these days). It may not matter to some, but I was really impressed with the way this Infinity multimedia system has been personalised with the ‘Soul’ font, rather than using the standard one it’s manufactured with. For me, it’s little bits of attention to detail like this that make a car stand out from the competition.

new_kia_soul_mixx_red_black_rearThere’s plenty of head and leg room for all inhabitants of the New Soul, and anyone with young children will be thankful for the spine-friendly seat height that makes getting said-children in and out less of a chore. The trade-off for this voluminous living space is a bit of a pokey boot that, at 354l, is surprisingly stingy considering the shape of the car. It will fit a decent sized supermarket shop in – I tested this personally, but getting a modern buggy in – and the other paraphernalia that young children come with these days, will require some manoeuvring and possibly putting a rear seat down.

1.6l or 1.6l

In the very near future, an electric Soul (EV) will be available to buy, if that takes your fancy, but for the moment, the New Soul comes with a choice of two 1.6l fossil-fuel burners. There’s a petrol or a Diesel, the latter being available with an auto ‘box in Connect, Connect Plus and Mixx specs. Equipped with a manual ‘box, they both produce near-identical levels of power and performance (126bhp & 130bhp, 0-60mph in 10.6 & 10.81s respectively). The petrol variant does represent a £1,600 saving over the equivalent Diesel, and that would take some time to recoup, but for my money, I’d opt for the Diesel manual New Soul, like our test car. The extra low-down grunt (260Nm vs 161Nm), coupled with the less frequent trips to the petrol station (56.5mpg combined vs 41.5mpg) just about edges it in favour of the Diesel.

new_kia_soul_mixx_red_black_frontOn the road, the New Soul is surprisingly civilised, especially on the motorway. The Diesel engine is barely audible from the inside and, speaking of noise, KIA have done an admirable job of keeping wind noise to an absolute minimum. With such a square shape and over-sized door mirrors, you’d expect a fair amount of buffeting and whistling, increasing to levels of annoyance at higher speeds – not so, the New Soul – it’s whisper quiet (apart from your bangin’ Infinity tunes, of course).

new_kia_soul_mixx_red_black_badgeJust love those wheels

The ride is also far more settled and smooth than you’d expect from this type of car, again, even at 60mph+. Anyone slightly scared by the effect on ride quality that the very-cool 18” wheels on our test car might have – fear not! There’s no banging or crashing over bumps, even with the low-profile tyres; they make the New Soul look absolutely brilliant on the move, too – I’d tick that option box every time!

One thing the New Soul isn’t made for is break-neck performance. In the Diesel, first and second gear are nice and friendly, and 30mph comes around quickly enough, it’s when you venture into the higher gears that the Soul seems to struggle and there’s a distinct lack of oomph. With either engine choice, it’ll keep up well enough with traffic but don’t expect to break any records around the ‘Ring – not until a Soul’s made available with the turbo engine from the pro_cee’d GT, anyway.

new_kia_soul_mixx_red_black_rear_lightAt £19,750, the New Soul ‘Mixx’ couldn’t really be described as ‘cheap as chips’, no matter how funky it is. If you want the Diesel variant, you can get in a New Soul for a more wallet-friendly £16,400, or if you prefer your fuel unleaded, there’s a Soul that’ll only cost £12,600. Neither of these will be as fun or smile-inducing as the higher-specced models, but it’s still a decent bit of family friendly kit and that 7 year warranty still comes as standard across the range.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; KIA Soul ‘Mixx’, Transmission – 6 spd manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 126bhp, Torque – 260Nm, Emissions – 132g/km CO2, Economy – 56.5 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 112mph, Acceleration – 10.8s 0-60mph, Price – £19,750 OTR

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

Hyundai Veloster Turbo – Driven and Reviewed

hyundai_veloster_turbo_front_sideBelieve it or not, the Hyundai Coupe (aka Tiburon/Tuscani) first landed on our shores nearly two decades ago, in 1996. Back then, it shocked and delighted in equal measure – Hyundais weren’t supposed to be sexy or daring, they were just, well, functional, a bit like a lump of coal. There were split opinions regarding whether this was just a temporary blip in an otherwise nondescript range, or if it really was a signal of Hyundai’s intent for the future.

hyundai_veloster_rearWell, back to the present day, and what we have here is the Coupe’s successor – the Veloster; a car that shares a slightly unusual name with an equally odd design feature. What Hyundai call a 1+2 door design is essentially a 2 door coupe, with one rear door……well, apart from the hatch, which also counts as a door, so it’s really a four door……..it’s probably best if you look at the pictures – this is definitely one of those instances where they paint a thousand, slightly rambling words.

hyundai_veloster_turbo_side_doorNon symmetrical portals aside, the Veloster’s looks are nothing if not dramatic, especially in this range-topping Turbo guise we have on test. We start off with an Audi-esque trapezoidal mouth that dominates the front end, sucking in enough air to keep the greediest engine satisfied. There are creases and slashes aplenty on the Veloster, from the bonnet, to the sides, all the way to the rear. They’re mainly for decoration and they fit the bill perfectly; there’s always something new to look at and the optional matt grey paint (£565) on our test car does nothing to detract from this.

hyundai_veloster_exhaustsThe Turbo’s rump is finished off with some purposeful looking twin exhaust pipes – a massive improvement over the slightly underwhelming efforts on the standard car. Adding a double-barrelled blunderbuss to the Veloster was always going to add menace, it’s just a shame that they’re rather ‘all mouth, no trousers’, as the tradition of Asian automotive politeness continues.

hyundai_veloster_turbo_rear_doorRight, that rear door then. Yes, it does spoil the otherwise pretty coupe’s lines slightly, but it’s only on the passenger side so as a driver, you don’t have to look at it that often. On the other hand though, Hyundai have been sensible enough to put it on the safe side for this country (we’re looking at you –  now thankfully defunct MINI Clubman). Speaking from a parent of two little girl’s point of view, it’s also incredibly handyThere is the option for them to put the driver’s seat forward like a traditional coupe if so required, but having that door there takes so much of the hassle associated with this genre of car out of the equation – far more than I expected if I’m honest.

hyundai_veloster_interiorInside the Veloster is far more conventional, with a Ford-style layout for the central control binnacle and black plastic aplenty. The seating position is low and flat, as you’d expect in a self-respecting coupe, but the seats are a tad unforgiving and I could imagine things getting slightly fidgety over long distances. The hand-brake lever is obviously still in the optimum location for LHD cars, as it’s far too close to the UK driver for comfort and, whilst I’m moaning, the way the stereo completely forgets your iPhone playback preferences after every journey gets a little tiresome.

door pulls - not usually something I get excited about.....

door pulls – not usually something I get excited about…..

On the plus side though, there’s some great little touches like the chunky, Incredible Hulk-hand friendly door pulls, and the 30mph marker on the speedo that’s otherwise marked in 20mph denominations (that should surely be law in a country with so many 30mph limits?). The rear visibility isn’t impeded at all by the split rear window, in contrast to the likes of Honda’s CR-Z which employs the use of guesswork due to a similar design.

'nuff said

’nuff said

One note of caution concerning the Veloster’s rear seats. They may have a nice friendly door providing access, but the seats are purely for passengers under 5ft in height. Anyone taller than this won’t just be a bit uncomfy, they’ll require a third-party to  unfold them to get back out – a point emphasised by the warning sticker on the boot hatch, highlighting the potential risk to loftier passengers when closing it.

hyundai_veloster_badgeThe Veloster Turbo is propelled by the same 1.6l T-GDi unit found in the KIA pro_cee’d GT we tested earlier this year, although, quite perversely, the hot-hatch is given the full-fat, 201bhp variant of the engine, whereas this ‘sports car’ makes do with 184bhp. Why they couldn’t share exactly the same engine is beyond me slightly – hopefully it’s to leave room for a fire-breathing ‘Turbo S’ variant further along the line.

Either way, the Veloster Turbo makes good use of its 184bhp and performance – although not ‘pants-on-fire’ quick, is steady and predictable throughout the gears, with no real lag or dips in torque. On dry tarmac, the car negotiates bends in a similar fashion, with no scary surprises lurking unseen, and any potential weight unbalance from the extra door goes pretty much unnoticed. Push the Turbo too enthusiastically on wet roads though, and the front wheels will claw and scrabble for grip, making the experience a touch hairy as the weight of the front end typically forces understeer.

Overall, the Veloster Turbo is quite a complete package and, for fear of repeating myself, that extra rear door is very handy. Would I buy one over a GT86 though? –  I don’t think so. The Veloster is more generously equipped for the money and it’s more economical. The GT86 though, is faster, better looking and ultimately,  more of a hoot to drive.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Hyundai Veloster Turbo, Transmission6 spd manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 184bhp, Torque – 265Nm, Emissions – 157g/km CO2, Economy – 40.9 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 133mph, Acceleration – 8.4s 0-62mph, Price – £22,000 OTR, £22,565 as tested.

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

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