Driving Torque

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Archive for the tag “Audi”

Volvo V40 D2 Powershift SE LUX – Driven and Reviewed

Volvo's V40

Volvo’s V40

Volvo built their envied reputation on two things; safety and boxy, set-square inspired design features. Today, only one of these aspects remains true and a solitary glance at this V40 model will expose just which one it is.

With this mid-sized, 5 door hatch, Volvo are making a play for a highly sought after segment and are going for the jugular of some pretty stiff competition – including the Golf and 1 Series at one end of the spectrum and the Astra and the Focus, to name but a few, at the other.

Volvo V40 SidePriced at £23,870 (£28,095 as tested), this D2 Powershift SE LUX model is undoubtedly aiming its sights at the higher end of the market. The 1 Series BMW and Audi‘s A3 are already major players at this level and Mercedes’ complete rethink of where it’s A Class should sit has brought that into the fray too. Tough crowd.

Light clusters and piano- black panel add an individuality

Light clusters and piano- black panel add an individuality

Styling wise, it’s classy and understated, after-all, shouty just wouldn’t do on a Volvo. There are some natty features such as the rear light clusters and piano black boot panel which attempt to set it out from the crowd but the rest of the car shares many lines with Vauxhall’s Astra. I’m not saying that this is a particularly bad thing, I just like my Volvos to be unmistakably Volvos.

Floating console and squircles (it is a word) are all very pleasing on the eye

Floating console and squircles (it is a word) are all very pleasing on the eye

Get inside the V40 though, and the sheer emphasis on creating a class-leading cabin is blindingly obvious. There’s a recurring theme in here, stemming from Volvo’s characteristically rounded font and then translated into a smattering of squircles around the cabin. Themes have a habit of becoming tacky and irritating but the way Volvo have gone about utilising this most pleasing of shapes allows the V40’s living space to be both quirky and elegant, all in the same breath.

The quality of materials inside the V40 is also second to none. From the soft, faultless leather to the grade of plastics used, even the famously commendable Audi could learn a thing or two about automotive interiors. The story’s the same at way-below eye level – usually where attention to detail is found lacking. Not so in the V40 – even one’s knees are lucky enough to be treated to a pleasing view.

Volvo V40 noseThat’s not to say there’s no room for improvement inside the V40 – no-one’s perfect. The hand brake, for one, appears to have been designed for left hand drive cars, with the budget for right-hand-drive translation being unfortunately lost down the back of the sofa. It is seriously so close to the left hand seat that a few odd looks can ensue from any unsuspecting passenger as they could easily assume that their leg has become the object of your affections and that you’re brazenly going for a feel.

Safety is still a by-word for Volvos and the levels of standard equipment on the V40 are impressive. Euro 5 NCAP ratings are obviously a prerequisite for any of the brand’s models but Volvo are understandably keen to push the boundaries and leave potential customers in no doubt as to their continuing priorities.

Some safety features work on cars, and some just don’t. I admit that when cornering headlights were resurrected from Citroen’s original DS, I was initially cynical. I was wrong to be. The SE Lux package comes complete with these clever lights and if you take the V40 down a poorly lit B-road, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them as they intuitively illuminate your way. Couple this with the car’s optional active high beam system, which are so superior to previous models I’ve tried due to their ability to alternate between main beam and high beam at appropriate moments, and where once was dark, is light.

One safety element which is worthy of special mention is the collision avoidance system. These units are in their relative infancy and it’s no surprise that Volvo have grabbed the bull by the horns and started to utilise this potentially life-saving technology. It isn’t infallible though. Head into certain bends, in certain conditions and the system triggers, assuming that you’re continuing straight on into a car or tree. The result is all manner of warning lights – some fine tuning required here I feel.

Due to the inherent shape of the V40 and it’s oversized D pillars which are presumably packed full of safety, rearward visibility isn’t great. This is kind-of strange for a company such as Volvo who’s mantra is safety but, either way, it makes the V40’s blind spot sensors invaluable and also makes a good case for the £850 Park Assist Pilot option.

Volvo V40 frontOn the move, the V40 feels extremely planted and solid, more similar to a large saloon car than a mid-size hatch. This particular model was obviously made more for long-distance cruising than country-road attacks as this relatively small 1.6 Diesel tackles high-speed motorways with aplomb, yet can come unstuck when pushed around bends. The steering is highly assisted and, although it WILL find grip at the limits, there is a slight vagueness and lack of feedback through the wheel. That said, it is absolutely effortless when cruising at 60mph + and has an air of sophistication that you’d not really expect in this segment.

Possibly the best £100 option ever - Volvo's flexible load floor. It allows bags to be hung up safely - no more nasty takeaway stains

Possibly the best £100 option ever – Volvo’s flexible load floor. It allows bags to be hung up safely – no more nasty takeaway stains

One aspect of the V40 which must be specced properly is the gearbox. Our test car came complete with Volvo’s auto ‘box (Powershift) and it’s highly disappointing to say the least. Gear changes are sluggish and often occur at the most inopportune moments, with ‘Sport’ mode doing precisely nothing to alleviate the problem. Thankfully, there’s an easy solution and that’s to opt for changing gear oneself. Not only will it be a more satisfying drive, but the manual is quicker to 62mph, gains 11mpg over the auto and saves you a full £20 per annum due to it pulling the V40 below the magical 100g/km CO2 barrier (88g compared to 102g).

Volvo’s V40 is a highly competent hatch and if it’s safety and interior luxury that float your boat, it’s hard to beat. Just be careful when speccing your V40 though and tick the right boxes, as there’s a whole world of difference between making some wise choices and making some not-so-wise.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Volvo V40 D2 SE Lux Powershift, Transmission – 6 spd automatic, LayoutFront engine, FWD, Power – 115bhp, Torque – 270Nm, Emissions – 102g/km CO2, Economy – 72.4 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 118mph, Acceleration – 12.1s 0-62mph, Price – £23,870 OTR, £28,095 as tested.

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Peugeot RCZ GT THP 200 – Driven and Reviewed

Peugeot RCZ GT THP 200

Peugeot RCZ GT THP 200

Coupe. Once a term reserved exclusively for the type of car that set pulses racing, conjuring up images of sleek, swoopy lines and dramatic performance to do them justice. It may be fair to say that the coupe ideal has been somewhat diluted in recent times though, with manufacturers applying the moniker to anything with two doors and a roof. Two doors isn’t even a prerequisite though, with certain German manufacturers doing their best to cash in on the desirable, non-staid – coupe image by giving some large saloon cars ‘fastback’ lines and thereby transforming their silhouette from ‘3 dull boxes’ to ‘sculpted by artists’.

Note the new - non silly mouth

Note the new – non silly mouth

What we have here though is the real deal and it comes in the shape of Peugeot‘s RCZ, complete with new, non silly mouth. This is one of those cars that somehow makes the arduous journey from motor show concept to finished article, pretty much unscathed, and – oh my, pretty it certainly is.

Those lines are attractive, to say the least

Those lines are attractive, to say the least

Karmann Ghia seen on street in Faubourg Marign...

Karmann Ghia seen on street in Faubourg Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans. Side view. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lets get one thing clear though. Since its inception, the RCZ has drawn direct comparison with the ubiquitous TT, with certain corners even accusing Peugeot of a lack of imagination as their car simply apes the Audi. Even during my week with the car, many folk would glance over and dismissively state ‘oh yeah, it’s that Peugeot that looks like a TT’. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the TT and there are certainly worse cars to be accused of looking like, but if one actually compares the two, the similarities magically disappear before ones eyes. If anything, the RCZ’s squat stance and potent looking rear arches are more reminiscent of the achingly pretty Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. But personally, I think it’s only fair to let the RCZ  stand up on its own two feet, without any help from Bavaria, thank you very much!

Peugeot RCZ GT rear and side highThe RCZ is one of those cars that impressively achieves the difficult balance between grabbing ones attention with a plethora of pleasing features, without falling into the ‘so busy, my eyes don’t know what to look at first’ trap. The basic shape is pleasing by its very nature, with an apparent symmetry achieved between front and rear, and a living space that seems to fit into the ideal shape with minimal fuss or disruption, as though the designers refused to compromise their beautiful creation with something as inconvenient as room for seats. Or people.

Attempts to ignore this roof will be futile

Attempts to ignore this roof will be futile

It’s impossible to discuss the RCZ without being drawn to that ‘double bubble’ glass roof. Peugeot should be commended for their perseverance in seeing this pleasing yet – surely, vexatious feature all the way through to production. Mounds in roofs were originally provided on racing cars to enable any inhabitants to fit their helmets in and this purpose is still valid in the RCZ – not necessarily for helmets maybe, but the extra headroom the bubbles provide in the typical 2+2 rear seats is very welcome. Aside from this, it’s ‘wrap around’ nature aids the introduction of natural light and also eliminates around 80% of the C-post blind-spot which all too often takes away from the coupe experience when negotiating a tricky T-junction.

So, a big tick in the looks box, but what about the other, all important aspect of the coupe brand – the way it drives?

Peugeot RCZ GT front headlightThis particular flavour of RCZ – the GT THP 200, shares many of its oily bits with its stable-mate – the 208 GTi. The engine, gearbox and much of the running gear are the same and yet, the whole experience is somehow……better. That’s not to say faster though – the RCZ loses nearly a second to the 208 whilst dashing to your 62mph destination, but the journey is preferable in every way. The slinky, low nature of the RCZ must go someway towards enhancing the experience, as it’s hard to imagine anything less than a comprehensive RCZ victory in that particular race.

Peugeot RCZ GT front cornerIt’s whilst negotiating the twisty stuff that the similarities with the 208 really dissipate though. The set-up of the RCZ somehow swaps the driven wheels from front to rear – or that’s how it feels, anyway. There’s very little in the way of understeer, possibly due to the wise decision to restrict the role of the driven wheels to harnessing 200bhp, whilst also tackling their directional duties – any more than this and things usually come unstuck.

One of my particular bugbears with, not only the 208 GTi, but many modern performance cars is the lack of aural experience. I appreciate that the shackles of todays legislations are restrictive to say the least, but there are ways round them (see Fiesta ST). The RCZ GT is pleasantly satisfying in this department though. Push the needle past 4000rpm and there’s an initial thrum, followed by a resonating roar that enters the cabin and seemingly bounces off every internal surface with acoustic aplomb. It’s obviously no screaming F1 car from the outside but hey, I guess you can’t have everything.

Peugeot RCZ front and side lowPeugeot have been desperately trying to abandon their dull, lifeless image for a few years now and this RCZ, especially with its new face makes huge steps in this direction. That’s not to say its perfect – some nice interior touches (clock, leather dash etc), that you wouldn’t necessarily expect in a Pug are let down by some very low-grade cabin plastics, not to mention the generic, non-special steering wheel, and that’s a shame. It’s certainly not the end of the world though and shouldn’t put any potential buyer off, although the price tag of the higher specced models such as this GT (£26,635 OTR) could possibly justify greater attention to detail.

Peugeot have recently confirmed the future production of a 267bhp ‘R’ model, so if outright power’s your thing, that may be worth holding onto your money for. Less is very often more though, and if it’s understated beauty, useable power and poise that delight – this GT model is possibly more for you.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Peugeot RCZ GT THP 200, Transmission – 6 spd manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 200bhp, Torque – 275Nm, Emissions – 155g/km CO2, Economy – 42.2 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 146mph, Acceleration – 7.6s 0-62mph, Price – £26,635 OTR, £29,970 as tested.

Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC – Driven and Reviewed

Civic certainly couldn't be mistaken for anything else

Civic certainly couldn’t be mistaken for anything else

Within the last decade, Honda‘s ever-so-popular Civic has gone through something of a transformation, particularly in the identity department. It wasn’t so long ago that the Civic moniker was seemingly plonked on just about any size or shape of Honda, as if they’d actually exhausted the world’s supply of car names. Seriously – just Google ‘1990s Honda Civic‘ and the range of images that appear is strangely reminiscent of a bag of pick and mix – they may all be sweets, but no two are the same.

Not any more though. The modern-day Civic is definitely a mid-size hatchback in the Focus/Golf/Astra mould, which means it’s picking some pretty brave fights with some serious competition. This particular Civic is equipped with Honda’s much-lauded new 1.6 litre Diesel engine, dropping it right in the middle of what must surely be the bloodiest of fights, as families and businessmen alike strive to achieve as much bang for their buck as possible, either on the forecourt or in the tax office.

Exaggerated wheel- arches and hidden rear door handles add a certain sportiness

Exaggerated wheel- arches and hidden rear door handles add a certain sportiness

This generation of Civics has been with us for a while now and yet it still manages to stand out as something a little bit different. It could be said that it’s styling was deemed a little controversial upon launch and some of the previous generation’s charm had been sacrificed in favour of a flurry of awkward angles and design features. Personally, I find the Civic’s quasi-futuristic appearance and apparently absent rear door handles increasingly appealing, especially when set against the backdrop of some of its competition, many of which seem to be morphing into the same, staple shape.

Dual level instruments offer a slightly unusual sensation

Dual level instruments offer a slightly unusual driving experience

The theme continues inside the Civic with a multitude of eye-catching shapes and features that set the car apart from, well, anything else. Sit in the driver’s seat and the first detail of note is the two-stage digital dashboard, adorned with near day-glo illumination. This dual-height approach to the information one requires when driving could initially be described as a little unnerving; just as the perfect driving position is achieved and one feels very much ‘in’ the car, rather than ‘on’ it, a glance at the lowermost dials completely alters one’s perspective, encouraging more fettling of the seat and steering wheel to feel less upright. The answer is to overcome this urge to modify and stick with it, it doesn’t take long for the whole experience to feel completely natural with an engaging driving position.

Multimedia buttons are small and plentiful - strangely reminiscent of a Casio Calculator Watch

Multimedia buttons are small and plentiful – strangely reminiscent of a Casio Calculator Watch

An easy trap to fall into with the Civic’s interior, in particular it’s slightly lairy dashboard and Casio-calculator-watch-esque multimedia system, is to start wishing that the whole thing were a little more, well, German. This fondness for the subtle, understated approach to things, that certain manufacturers such as Audi have adopted is entirely understandable, if a tad unfair. Honda are proud to be Japanese and are quite rightly doing things their way. It’s good to see this approach every now and again as life would be so boring without individuality. I say – if you want a car with a Germanic approach to interior fittings, buy a German car.

This class of car simply wouldn’t work if its interior space were significantly inferior to the competition and this possibly explains the Civic’s expansion over the previous model. I felt comfortable and well accommodated in every seat, my only slight wish would be for a touch more headroom in the rear for long journeys.

Rear light cluster may look pretty but it does nothing to aid visibility

Rear light cluster may look pretty but it does nothing to aid visibility

Sit in the driver’s seat of the Civic and a glance in the rear view mirror presents something of a fly in the car’s ointment – a large bar dissecting your view of what’s being left behind. It may look pretty from the outside but the truth is that this dual-screen effect which Honda are so keen on utilising does, in reality, irritate. All but the lowest spec Civics come complete with a rear view camera and I’d say it’s almost essential to assist when reversing. Our top of the range EX test car was also blessed with parking sensors, I’d tick this option every time to counteract the compromised view and hopefully save a few trips to the bodyshop.

Civic is covered in fins - here's a sharky one.......

Civic is covered in fins – here’s a sharky one…….

So, that’s the living space covered, what about the oily bits? Honda’s new 1.6 Diesel engine has been received with much fanfare and is destined to find its way into as many Honda products as is reasonably possible. So what’s all the fuss about? Cold start-ups – traditionally the leveller of oil-burners due to unrefined rattles, present very little in the way of noise or vibration, even on the outside. Once thoroughly warmed however, you’d be hard pressed to hear which fuel you were burning, the noisiest aspect at civilised revs being the car’s air-conditioning fans.

The manual ‘box in the Civic is a joy and seems so well suited to the torquey nature of this Diesel lump. Changing gear can become something of a novelty, as the engine’s 300NM of torque pulls the car along across the entire rev-range with little complaint, even at lower revs where one might usually expect some labouring.

.........here's a not so sharky one

………here’s a not so sharky one

Honda claim that the Civic, when mated to the 1.6 Diesel will achieve 78.5mpg and 94g/km, making it VED exempt. These economy claims are sometimes unattainable though and history has taught us to take them with a sizable pinch of salt. Apparently not so in the Civic though; when brimmed with Diesel, the range is a predicted 650 miles. After two days of care-free driving with little thought for conserving fuel, the needle on the Civic’s fuel gauge was still stubbornly clinging onto ‘Full’ like a long, thin limpet, the range had also somehow crept UP to 850 miles. Have Honda secretly achieved perpetual motion? Hmmmmm…..

Handling in the Civic is civilised and reassuringly predictable. It flows through corners with constant communication through the steering wheel so that any understeer is expected and easily corrected. The power steering is massively assisted though, so don’t expect handling to be quite up to the standards of the eminently impressive Focus.

The engineering expertise that Honda are so renowned for simply screams out of the Civic in a way that belies its sub £20K starting prices. Driving one is a pleasure, with a sensation of quality that would put many, far more expensive products coming out of Bavaria to shame. All this, mated to Honda’s  excellent new engine and the usual extras found as standard, results in a package that’s very hard to argue against.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC EX, Transmission –  manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 120ps, Torque – 300Nm, Emissions – 94g/km CO2Economy – 78.5 mpg combined, Acceleration – 10.5s 0-62mph, Price – £23,175 OTR, £23,675 as tested.

My own MINI Adventure – how I rediscovered my idenity

No man is an island, as they say. Neither is any man a T-junction or dual carriageway, as no-one says. I’ve waxed lyrical in the past about the inextricable link between man and machine, in particular his/her chosen mode of transport and what this choice says about us to the onlooking world.

Audi A6 Avant

Audi A6 Avant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since selling my excellent Audi A6 Avant in June 2011, I’ve been without a ‘car’ of my own, but a couple of weeks ago I came in out of the cold (literally) and rejoined the rat-race – I bought a bona fide automobile. The effect this has had on my life is infinitely more than the mere convenience of owning another car, it’s had a huge impact in a more spiritual sense.

Some may argue that I never really went cold-turkey on the transport front as I would never sell Matilda, our beloved VW Type 2, I own a Vespa which I classed as my everyday transport and ultimately, I could use my wife’s Citroen whenever the need arose. So why the tangible shift in attitude, just what can a humble car bring to aid one’s wellbeing?

My Vespa - Not so useful in winter

My Vespa – Not so useful in winter

As a hopeless car addict who’s owned one in some shape or form since he was 16, through thick or thin, in good times and bad, I couldn’t possibly have predicted the effect that non-ownership would have on my life. As handy and, in many ways, more convenient as it is to switch from car to scooter, I just couldn’t bring myself to jump whole-heartedly into the two-wheeled camp. The sensation could only be described as treachery, as many people would ask ‘So, what’s replaced the Audi?’ and I’d point sheepishly at my pretty Vespa, quickly uttering some pathetic excuse, like ‘I’m in-between cars at the moment’ or ‘It’s so I can save up for something’. Like someone who’s covering up for recently being sacked, I just couldn’t face the fact that I didn’t actually possess an everyday car to call my own.

A huge part of how we view and judge each other is based on what we do, both professionally and for pleasure. It generally doesn’t take too long for perfect strangers to realise that cars are of substantial importance in my life, usually because I’ve bored them to death about it within half an hour of introduction. It was therefore acutely alien, not only to me, but to my friends and family, when I was without an automobile, like a yin without its yang, like Ant without Dec – you get the idea.

My dream car - temporarily put on hold

My dream car – temporarily put on hold

So, just what vehicle has brought me in from the wilderness, what’s ended the drought? Well, having made no secret of my desire to own a late 80’s Porsche 911, that was the plan, but then our Victorian house started falling down so that budget literally went up in smoke. An Oak Green 16v Mk2 Golf Gti was a slightly cheaper proposition, but they were mostly going the same was as my house – crumbly. The highly desirable E36 M3 Convertible in Estoril Blue was my next target but I was told one too many tales of astronomical running costs for one of those and the idea lost its appeal.

So……. just what ended up fitting the bill? Well, it’s built beautifully by BMW, it’s a very hot hatch with some of the usual practicalities this brings and it’s roughly as quick as an ’87 911…….. It’s a MINI!!! Not just any MINI though, it’s a Cooper S. Not just any Cooper S though, it’s a JCW Cooper S. Pushing out 210bhp through the front wheels, courtesy of a supercharger and various engine upgrades, performance is, shall we say, spirited, especially in this treacherous icy weather we’re currently enjoying.

2003 Mini JCW Cooper S

Our new baby – a JCW Cooper S

If anyone’s considering a Works MINI, just bear in mind that it’s fairly uncompromising in many ways. The suspension upgrades, coupled with 17” wheels make for a ride that eventually forces you to weave across your lane, avoiding the many pot-holes in an effort to preserve one’s spine. The trade-off is obviously limpet-like handling characteristics, just don’t expect to waft to one’s destination, it’s more of a trial than a waft.

By far the most characterful part of an early Cooper S is the supercharger and its unmistakable whine. To say this scream is addictive would be an understatement and the faster you go, the louder and more satisfying it gets. I’m currently achieving an average of 30mpg in my Works but if you suffer from a particularly addictive personality, or a heavy right foot, those economy figures could easily tumble, along with your bank balance as you constantly top up the tank with the 98 RON petrol it demands.

I seem to be painting a fairly negative picture of my new pocket rocket so far but I’m just getting the potentially bad bits out-of-the-way first. Having sorted the fiddly seating position to my liking, this car is evidently serious quality and gravely serious fun. It is so obviously a 0.5 series BMW, they just refused to put their moniker on it, partly because it’s front wheel drive, partly to preserve the MINI identity without linking it to the far more grown-up BMW range. Space inside is a lot more reasonable than I envisaged and my daughters find the rear seats palatial. One word of warning though, whichever way you look at it, THE BOOT IS SMALL. I presumed that a spindly single Maclaren buggy would squeeze in – I was wrong.

Having been generously specced at the factory, my MINI wants for nothing, neither do it’s occupants. Everything’s either heated or electric which gives the sensation of sitting in a little M3. The extra weight added by these luxuries may detract from the go-kart sensation a Works offers but they’re more than welcome if you like your creature comforts.

Like every good relationship, any initial doubts I may have harboured about my new acquisition are rapidly dissipating as the satisfaction of MINI ownership shines through. Perhaps more importantly though, I feel complete again.

By Ben Harrington

Cholmondeley Pageant of Power 2011 – Press Day

Bentley, Lotus and Lamborghini on Cholmondeley Start Line

An impressive line up at Cholmondeley Castle

Friday the 15th of July sees the start of this year’s Cholmondley Pageant of Power, held at Cholmondley Castle. For those of you unfamiliar with the event, it’s possibly best described as Cheshire’s answer to Goodwood’s Festival of Speed, only with a more generous variety of fast, loud attractions for lovers of machinery in general.Founded in 2008, the Pageant is now in its fourth year and this week I elected to attend the press day to find out what we can look forward to next month.

Following on from the success of previous years, this year’s event is a full 50% longer than ever due to the addition of a third day. The gates now open on Friday, not Saturday as has been the case at prior Pageants of Power. This will give even more people the opportunity to enjoy the action and the event organisers are keen to emphasise that the Friday will offer the same levels of excitement as the following two days.

Hannu Mikkola's Audi Quattro Rally Car

The actual Audi Quattro as used by Hannu Mikkola

Another new feature for 2011 will be the purpose built tarmac rally stage, specially designed to offer spectators optimum viewpoints at various positions. I was lucky enough to hitch a ride in John Hanlon’s works Audi Quattro Rally car and I can wholeheartedly confirm that these 350+ hp beasts are not to be missed. Over 30Lombard rally cars are expected and giving them their own natural habitat will surely provide even more of a spectacle.

Thundercats powerboats on the lake at Cholmondeley Castle

Thundercats on the lake

For those of a more nautical persuasion, the Castle’s own Deer Park Mere provides the setting for powerboats of all shapes and sizes including hydroplanes, monohulls and catamarans, some of which are capable of 125mph! Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing the wetbike from ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, but that’s just me.

Helicopter landing at Cholmondeley Castle

Helicopter landing at Cholmondeley Castle

Looking skywards, there will be aerobatic displays from, amongst others, the Breitling Wing Walkers and the Arbarth Aerobatic display team. A team from RAF Valley will also be putting on a marine search and rescue display (HRH Prince William will hopefully pop along for the day). The Pageant is actually Europe’s largest helicopter event so is undoubtedly a must for anyone with a passion for these amazing machines.

Sir Jackie Stewart and four time World Rally Champion, Juha Kankkunen are just two of the famous names attending the event this year, no doubt putting the rest of us to shame with their god-like driving abilities. With ticket sales already 40% up on last year, organisers are confident they can top the £75,000 they raised in 2010 for Help the Heroes, with this years chosen charity being Combat Stress.

With further attractions for both young and old on offer around the grounds and a little bit of luck with our ‘summer weather’, this year’s Pageant looks set to be bigger and better than ever. Anyone who’s never been should undoubtedly take the family down and I’m fairly certain that if you have been before, you won’t be able to resist this year’s show.

Full details and ticket sales can be found at www.cpop.co.uk

I’d like to thank both Thunder Cats UK (www.thundercatracing.co.uk) and Helicentre Liverpool (www.helicentre.com) for allowing me the unique experiences they kindly provided me.

Special thanks must go to John Hanlon and the rest of the HanSport team. A truly friendly bunch who allowed me to fulfil a boyhood dream – a high speed rally stage in an Audi Quattro!

By Ben Harrington

Anyone for Golf? Why Volkswagen’s Hatchback is truly a car for the people

Volkswagen Golf mks1 - 6

The Volkswagen Golf through the ages

Whenever anyone asks my advice regarding what car they should buy, I have a one size fits all answer. Without the need for any further questioning, I can almost guarantee that there is a car which in one of it’s many guises will suit your needs. It may come as no surprise to some of you that this seemingly magical automobile is, drum roll please, the humble Volkswagen Golf. I know, I know, surprise surprise I hear you chant but I truly believe that there’s a Golf to suit every need and I just can’t shake my own personal desire to own one.

I’ve recently decided that, excellent as it is, it’s time for the Audi to go. I can’t fault this truly amazing car but I’ve owned it two and a half years now and anyone who knows me will testify that this is the equivalent of nearly three decades in Ben’s car ownership years (it’s a little like dog years). As many men grow bored of perfectly fine women and play the field, I find a similar compulsion with cars. It’s a blessing really as changing your car undoubtedly results in miniscule financial and emotional suffering when compared to divorce.

Inevitably, one decision has spawned another question and that is which car to purchase as the Audi’s replacement? I’m fairly certain that I don’t need such cavernous proportions anymore, although reasonable storage is still necessary and five doors is still a must. I’ve made no secret of my desires to get away from diesel but a fairly frugal petrol engine is the only acceptable alternative. Having read many, many car reviews, I’m aware that the Ford Focus is an excellent all rounder, as is the Mondeo and oh my god, who am I kidding, all of this reasoning and weighing up is completely irrelevant because I just know that I’ll end up with a Golf.

I can only put this borderline-obsessive behaviour down to certain automotive perceptions developed during my formative years. As a young child, I was brought up on a strict diet of Jaguar and Ford but as my more opinionated teenage years loomed menacingly, the quality control departments at both marques were seemingly redundant. The German brands however were all conquering with their seemingly effortless cool and their reputation for indestructible build quality.

But what was the big deal about the Golf? On the surface it appeared to be an ordinary hatch like any other but we all knew that this couldn’t have been further from the truth. If you wanted ordinary, you bought an Astra or an Escort, buying a Golf simply screamed that even in an every day family hatch, you demanded excellence, and that was the fundamental difference.

Back to the present time, in my head I know that many of the Golf’s competitors are in many ways its equal, some have even surpassed it. Unfortunately though, we all know how events in our youth can leave an indelible impression upon us and for me at least, the Golf will always have a special place in my heart.

By Ben Harrington

Who’s an ugly duckling? The Aston Martin Cygnet

 

English: Aston Martin Cygnet at AutoRAI Amster...

English: Aston Martin Cygnet at AutoRAI Amsterdam 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many months ago, Aston Martin announced plans to produce a ‘luxury micro car’ in the UK and Europe, it’s based on the super frugal Toyota IQ, prices will start at around £30k and it will be called the Cygnet, not really a name to set the pulse racing, is it?

Having checked it wasn’t April 1st, I, like many others set about creating all manner of insults and jokes about what appeared to be the mother of all sell-out jobs. Of course, there had to be more than met the eye and there was. The EU in their infinite wisdom had invented a new set of emission regs to be enforced from 2012. They basically stated that each car manufacturer’s models in production must on average meet specified emission targets. The end of the supercar you may think but not necessarily. You see, marques such as Ferrari and Lamborghini are owned by parent companies i.e. Fiat and Audi and they produce economical little city cars in much higher numbers which will counter balance the likes of the 599 and the Gallardo, thus meeting the targets. This presented a minor problem for Aston though, no longer owned by Ford, they had no counter balance and were facing something of a dilemma.

I recently had the pleasure of a chat with a bona fide AM mechanic and inevitably the subject of the Cygnet came up. I expressed my disproval and he told me tales of the outright disgust many AM owners had displayed on the topic, many worried about  the brand being cheapened and some even contemplating abandoning Aston altogether. For some reason, this hit a nerve with me and I now feel an irresistible urge to defend the poor little thing.

It doesn’t take an expert to see that Aston Martin are reacting to an unwanted situation with this car. They’ve been backed into a corner by the EU and are coming out fighting, in my eyes, in a very clever way. The Cygnet is a necessary evil, a means to an end so why waste precious millions on it’s development when the same end can be achieved by sticking your badge on a product that someone else has thrown millions at? And don’t worry Mr Merchant Banker, the cleaning lady is unlikely to turn up in one as AM are only offering them to existing customers to allay your fears of the brand being irreparably cheapened

Unless they’ve been living on Mars for the last two years, even AM owners must have some inkling that the planet’s finances aren’t quite what they should be. In these days of cuts and deficits, ever increasing numbers of people will look upon the supercar as a vulgar, even grotesque display of opulence and wealth. That companies such as Porsche are posting record profits must only go further to nurture feelings of resentment against groups deemed responsible for the economic downturn i.e. bankers etc. I feel enraged that these people who are lucky enough to own the likes of AM are concerned about cheapening the brand when they should actually be thanking their lucky stars that these luxury car makers exist at all anymore.

So put simply Aston man, the Toyota IQ will sell itself, day in day out. Without some help from the Cygnet, your DB9’s, Rapides and Vantages will disappear forever. Think about it.

By Ben Harrington

Ben’s Cars

 

 

Austin Metro

Austin Metro

1. 1983 Mk1 Austin Metro 1.0L, Owned May1996 – Jan 1997

Colour – Stratos Blue

Purchase Price – ?- Sold For – ?

Although technically my first car, I tend to disregard my Metro as I never actually drove it on a public highway, legally. Bought for me by my dad, it was an MOT failure which needed plenty of bodywork and dad naively thought I would jump at the chance of learning to weld. Observations on handling and performance are obviously limited in spite of the hundreds of journeys made travelling up and down Mum’s 30ft driveway.

2. 1967 Volkswagen Beetle 1200, MNG 781E, Owned Feb 1997 – Jan 1998

Colour – Peppermint Green

1967 Volkswagen Beetle Lowered

1967 Volkswagen Beetle

Purchase Price – £1500 – Sold For £1000

The car I prefer to refer to as my first. In lurid green and slammed to the floor, subtle this car was not. Despite pedestrian performance, wayward handling and woeful unreliability, this little bug was my introduction to air-cooled VWs, a breed I’m still passionate about today.

3.  1990 Peugeot 205 1.9 Gti, H936 CPO, Owned Jan 1998 – Dec 1998

Colour – Cherry Red

86-peugeot-205-gti in red

Peugeot 205 Gti

Purchase Price – £3995 – Sold For – £3000

A combination of receiving my first regular income and still living at home meant I could afford the Pug, arguably the greatest hot hatch ever. Seemingly supercar performance and renowned go-kart like handling easily justified the insurance which was equal to over a third of the value of the car!

BMW 320i

BMW 320i

4. 1987 BMW 320i, Owned Dec 1998 – June 1999

Colour – Cirrus Blue

Purchase Price – £4200 – Sold For – £3900

From the days when the Germans were hell bent on over-engineering, this Beemer was heavy, and I mean heavy! So much so that despite the more desirable six pot engine nestling under the bonnet, it struggled to propel its own weight and the result was mpg to rival a Hummer. I admired this car but never truly grew to love it.

Volkswagen Golf Mk2

Volkswagen Golf Mk2

5. 1986 Volkswagen Golf 1.6L, Owned June 1999 – Jan 2000

Colour – Mars Red

Purchase Price – £1700 – Sold For – £1500

University meant my days of desirable motors were forced to go on hold and thriftiness was the order of the day. This Gti look-alike however, proved that little budget doesn’t have to mean little quality. The lack of outright power was overshadowed by the magnificent chassis, cocking the inner rear wheel when pushed. If nothing else, this car knew how to have fun.

Ford Sierra Sapphire

Ford Sierra Sapphire

6. 1988 Ford Sierra Sapphire 1.8L, Owned Jan 2000 – March 2000

Colour – Rosewood Red

Purchase Price – £500 – Sold For – £400

Some of the most honest, satisfying  cars I’ve owned have cost less than one thousand pounds, so have some of the worst. The Sapphire fell into the latter category. Built when quality control was becoming a foreign concept at Ford, its bodywork was unseasonably rusty although I’m fairly sure a bodged accident repair didn’t help matters. The previous owner had had a decent stab at replicating a Cosworth by pilfering a set of wheels from a Mk2 Escort RS2000 and they were definitely the highlight. I would say the worst aspect overall was the engine though. The car ran on petrol, the engine looked like a petrol engine, the logbook even stated petrol fuel was required and yet the rattling engine note wasn’t dissimilar to a tired London Taxi.

Mini Mayfair

Mini Mayfair

7. 1984 Austin Mini Mayfair (Auto) Owned March 2000 – May 2000

Colour – Ermine White

Purchase Price – £400 – Sold For – £200

As a rule, automatic ‘boxes aren’t really my thing, I prefer the pure driving experience of a manual. The lack of a clutch pedal in this Mini however only added to the joy it brought. The handling was so precise and accurate that being an auto enhanced the feeling of driving a go-kart on the road. There was no fluidity or smoothness to the box, rather a violent jolt with every change which, to me was pure rally car. Unfortunately, one two many jolts resulted in broken engine mounts and that was the end of my Mini adventure.

8.  1988 Renault 5 Campus, Owned May 2000 – January 2001

Colour – Avis Red

renault 5 campus in red

Renault 5 Campus

Purchase Price – £250 – Sold For – £250

I have very fond memories of my Five, for the simple reason that it did everything asked of it and it did it well. It suited my needs perfectly – it was cheap, reliable, did about a million mpg and, joy of joys was an absolute hoot to drive. The suspension was too comfortable to ever make handling precise but somehow you always knew where the limits were with no nasty, hedge bound surprises. Hailing from when French autos still had a sense of humour, even the dash was a design masterpiece with random levers sprouting from bizarre locations like a Dalek.s helmet.

9. 1987 Volvo 340 GL, E596 GOO, Owned January 2001 – November 2001

Colour –  Smoke Silver Metallic

Volvo 340

Volvo 340

Purchase Price – £400 – Sold For – £300

It may be purely psychological but I always find a Volvo a warm, cosseting environment to be in, like a great big steel hug. My Volvo really was a warm place to be in due to the fully functioning heated seats, a pleasure until the many occasions when I forgot they were on in mid summer resulting in a Swedish sauna effect. My friend and I were once waiting in traffic, heard a screech of tyres and felt a slight shunt from behind. We went to survey the damage and found an apologetic Punto driver clearly upset about his mangled front end. Damage to Volvo wasn’t even a scratch. Crumple zones – who needs them anyway?

10.  1985 Volkswagen Golf  1.3L, Owned November 2001 – November 2001

Colour – Mars Red

1985 vw golf mark 2 in red

Mark 2 Volkswagen Golf No.2

Purchase Price – £100 – Sold For – £100

Whilst possibly trying to rekindle my emotions for my first Golf, I stumbled upon this example, similar in many ways except for the smaller capacity engine. Like going back to a favourite holiday destination, I was destined for disappointment. This Golf was to put it mildly, knackered. A nightmare to start, when it did start it stopped again at every opportunity and when it didn’t stop it still felt as though it had due to the measly amount of power on tap. Thankfully my torture lasted but a week when a workmate needed extremely cheap transport and I saw my opportunity to end my misery.

From November 2001 to June 2002 I reverted back to car number 4, the BMW as I had sold it to my dad and he wasn’t using it anyway.

Volkswagen Golf GTi MK3

Volkswagen Golf GTi MK3

11. 1996 Volkswagen Golf Gti 8v, P383 KND, Owned June 2002 – September 2004

Colour – Dusty Mauve

Purchase Price – £4995 – Sold For – £3500

2002 was a big year for me. I met my future wife and started earning proper money again, life was good. Of course, more money meant a new car and I’d always wanted a Golf Gti so that was what I got. The Mk3 8v always gets bad reviews as being overweight and underpowered but after years of snail pace driving, it initially felt pretty spritely to me. Admittedly though, it wasn’t long before 115bhp started feeling a tad pedestrian but as is usual with VW, the car was greater than the sum of it’s parts and the Gti’s character and build quality shone through.

12. 1996 Ford Escort Si, P96 WBV, Owned May 2003 – February 2007

Colour – Metallic Panther Black

1996 Ford escort SI 16v panther black

Ford Escort Si 16V

Purchase Price – £2995 – Sold For – £ 750

In truth, my wife’s car but I ended up doing a lot of driving in it so it’s on the list. The Mk6 was doomed to fail from the start as its technology was outdated before production even began, poor safety levels and even poorer build quality didn’t help either. I always found this ‘warm hatch’ quite endearing though, the Zetec engine moved it along nicely and I don’t remember it breaking down. The interior was quite a pleasant place to be, that is until a cucumber was lost under the back seat for a month, resulting in an ungodly smell that never really seemed to dissipate.

Audi 90 Quattro

Audi 90 Quattro

13. 1988 Audi 90 Quattro 2.2, Owned April 2004 – May 2004

Colour – Lagos Metallic Blue

Purchase Price – £800 – Sold For – £300

I’d always fancied an Audi Quattro so when two of my friends bought Audi 90s, I decided to take the plunge. The theory was to sell the Golf and save some money by running a decidedly cheaper Audi. The engine had plenty of life left in it and the handling was excellent due to the 4wd system. Its first long run to the Lakes resulted in a strange knocking noise developing on the motorway. You can imagine my joviality when I discovered the wheel nuts had worked their way loose, a trick they continuously repeated. A disastrous MOT led to the car going, albeit at a huge loss. Thankfully, I’d never got round to selling the Golf so I jumped back in that and forgot the Audi ever happened.

14. 1974 Volkswagen Kombi, ANW 610M, Owned September 2004 – Present

Colour – Originally Alpine White, now BMW Jet Black & Antique white

1974 Volkswagen Camper

‘Matilda’

Purchase Price – £4750

Where to begin?! We originally went to a VW show to find a Karmann Ghia and came away with our hearts set on a camper. After viewing several rust buckets, we found a company who imported VW’s from Australia and went to have a look. We were shown a weather beaten, plain white van with no interior but more importantly with no rust or bodged repairs either; we fell in love and agreed on a price. Matilda, as we christened her was my daily drive for over a year – not much fun in winter with no heater! Having spent thousands on her, she sadly spends most of her time in my garage now but that’ll change once the kids are a bit older. My eldest loves her already – she should do really, she was conceived in her after all!

15. 1993 Volkswagen Corrado VR6, L479 VLA, Owned January 2006 – Sept 2007

Colour – Midnight Blue Pearl Effect

1993 Volkswagen Corrado VR6 in blue

Volkswagen Corrado VR6

Purchase Price – £3500 – Sold For – £6360

The only car I’ve ever bought by accident. I traipsed down to Brighton with a bag of cash to see this car but it was far from as advertised. It was low mileage and had potential but the owner wanted top money for it so I made my excuses and motioned to leave. After relentless pressure to make any offer, I came up with a meagre figure- less than half the asking price just to allow me to leave. Next thing I knew I was circling the M25 in a car I didn’t really intend to buy, luckily my gamble paid off though. Torque steer aside, it drove magnificently with an addictive soundtrack and after some more money and time were invested, yielded a healthy profit. I’d still have it today if it wasn’t for those pesky kids! (Sold following news of wife’s pregnancy – baby seats don’t fit in Corrados)

Fiat Punto

Fiat Punto

16.  2001 Fiat Punto ELX 16V, AP51 HMC, Owned January 2007 – January 2008

Colour – Metallic Gun Metal Grey

Purchase Price – £2995 – Sold for – £1400

Another of the wife’s cars technically, recommended by me after I walked away unscathed from a Punto that was involved in quite a serious accident. Sadly, a truly dreadful car however. Over lightened steering meant the driver could only marginally affect the direction of travel via the traditional steering wheel method and an iron maiden would embarrass the interior when comparing comfort levels. By far the worst aspect though was the build quality which sported rust levels previously unseen on a non seafaring vessel.

Volvo 460 GL

Volvo 460 GL

17. 1993 Volvo 460GL, Owned September 2007 – June 2008

Colour – White

Purchase Price – £200 – Sold for £100 (Scrap)

Finding myself in-between cars again meant a cheap solution be found quickly, resulting in a return to Sweden’s finest. Joy of joys, this one had heated seats too which more than made up for the rotten bodywork and various dents. Testament to the brand, this unloved shed got through a freezing winter without a hiccup. I almost felt guilty when the MOT ran out and I summoned the scrapper without even granting the opportunity to attempt a further twelve month stay of execution.

Citroen Xsara Picasso blue

Citroen Xsara Picasso

18. 2002 Citroen Xsara Picasso Sx, PE52 DFO, Owned January 2008 – Present

Colour – Mediterranean Blue

Purchase Price – £2995

Getting closer to two becoming three meant that the hateful Punto had to go in place of a larger, five door model. The price and family friendliness of these ubiquitous Gallic oddities does a good job of excusing their faults, i.e. build quality and driver satisfaction. Some nice little features inside that really feel like a helping hand after a long night with a screaming baby!

Subaru Impreza WRX

Subaru Impreza WRX

19. 2005 Subaru Impreza WRX SE PPP, AY05 MLO, Owned June 2008 – Dec 2008

Colour – Crystal Grey Metallic

Purchase Price – £9600 – Sold For £9000

I needed a family car by now and to me, having four doors meant the Scooby qualified perfectly, fulfilling a long term desire to own this road going rally car was merely a bonus! I didn’t want the attention the Sti brought with its pink badges and spoilers so I opted for the relatively subtle WRX SE with the Prodrive Performance Pack. This meant I got luxuries like leather interior combined with a 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds – supercar territory. By far the fastest car I’ve ever bought and also the most painful on the wallet with mpg averaging around 20 and already high insurance premiums reliant on a tracker. The expense combined with being surprisingly small inside meant after six months I wanted out and on Christmas eve my wish was granted with little depreciation. Time for a proper family car.

Audi A6 Avant

Audi A6 Avant

20. 2003 Audi A6 1.9Tdi SE Avant, KC03 HLG, owned Jan 2009 – August 2011

Colour – Crystal Blue Metallic

Purchase Price – £6000 – Sold For £5000

Without doubt the most complete car I have ever owned. Torquey, economical, beautifully built, absolutely reliable, cavernous inside, handsome and even cheap to tax. I really cannot fault this car for anyone with a young family. High mpg is appreciated whilst outgoings rise and incomes drop, the boot easily swallows buggies etc and if you go for the multitronic or auto, it’ll even change gear for you, leaving you free to consume precious coffee on the way to work. I’m even lucky enough to have an incredible stereo for when the kids aren’t in the car.

Piaggio Vespa PX125

Piaggio Vespa PX125

21. 2006 Piaggio Vespa PX125, YX06 LTZ, owned July 2011 – Present

Colour – Black with tan seat

Purchase Price – £1250

Fair enough – it’s not exactly a car. My first venture into motorbike ownership is represented by my beautiful black Vespa. I’ve desperately wanted a Vespa since I was 16, so this is really an ambition fulfilled, as well as a very cool, ultra economical piece of transportation. The fact that it’s iconic, black and air-cooled means that it fits in perfectly next to Matilda the VW and I’ve used my Italian scooter in all weathers without her missing a beat.

2003 Mini JCW Cooper S

JCW Cooper S

22. BMW MINI Cooper S JCW, CU53 UNB, owned October 2012 – August 2013 

Colour – Royal Grey

Purchase Price – £5650

Sold For – £5000

‘Buy a Cooper’, I said to myself. ‘You’ve driven the Cooper S and it’s too powerful, the Cooper is more fun’. I’ve got a track record of not listening to my own advice though, so, although I didn’t buy a Cooper S, I went the other way and bought the 210bhp John Cooper Works. Great fun over a perfectly flat road, not so much on the tarmac disgraces we call roads in Britain. Jarring ride aside, the performance was fabulous, especially with that supercharger constantly whirring away.

0534525-Saab-900-Cabriolet-900-SE-2.0i-Turbo-Cabriolet-199523. Saab 900 SE Turbo Convertible, R978 XON, owned August 2013 – November 2014

Colour – Midnight Blue

Purchase Price – £1060

Sold For – £995

I’d always admired Saab’s quirky nature and the 900 Turbo is an absolute icon. Having seen the upwards spiral that the early models’ prices had taken, I couldn’t resist this immaculate, low mileage ‘New Generation’ car. The body was about as rigid as cooked spaghetti, but that 2.0l Turbo Saab engine was a dream. Registered at the end of February 1998, I believe that my car was one of the last ever made before the arrival of the GM sourced 9-3, and I saw it as something of an investment. Unfortunately, it was getting enough use and when I was made the right offer, it had to go.

 

 

Fighting the Disiesel – Why I’ll remain a Petrolhead

Audi A6 C5

Audi A6 C5 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently did something I’ve not done in quite a while. Let me set the scene. It was a Friday afternoon, the sun was shining and I had one of my favourite albums on whilst driving home from work, looking forward to a rare night out. A feeling of euphoria swept over me as I whacked up the volume, turned off the air-con and wound down all the windows to let the summer breeze blow in. It was fantastic. Driving enthusiastically shall we say, down a country lane, I was reminded of care free days when my car was really my only passion in life and as long as I had enough cash for petrol, beer and fags, I’d be alright. Inevitably this all came to a grinding halt as I joined a line of near stationary traffic and life’s tedium started to resurface. Now, my car stereo is unfeasibly loud and at this point, passers by were drawn to whatever was broadcasting INXS to half of Cheshire. This got slightly embarrassing as I noticed more and more confused faces realise that it really was the family estate, complete with baby seats, doing a good impression of the main stage at Glastonbury, a position usually reserved for Chavvy Saxos driven by gormless mouth breathers. I persevered however, telling myself that I wouldn’t have cared in the past, so I’m not going to now. My carefree attitude was returning and I was even starting to lap up the attention, that is until I heard a noise that burst my proverbial bubble completely. I’ve already stated that the stereo in my Audi is loud, almost deafeningly so, and yet over the tunes I could still hear a vile, yet familiar noise – the clatter of a diesel engine, no, worse, the clatter of my diesel engine.

I actually felt ashamed. I don’t care what anyone says or what new technology comes out, diesels will always sound dreadful. The reason I’d never really noticed my own car’s tone before is because there’s so much insulation surrounding the engine it may actually be unsinkable.   I feel so strongly about this that I’ve come to one conclusion – the Audi’s got to go. Initially this might sound like an over-hasty knee-jerk reaction but I’ve given it a lot of thought and it’s time to move on.

Without wanting to contradict myself, my Audi A6 is fantastic, possibly the most complete all round car I’ve owned. For nearly two years now it has served my purposes ideally. Firstly there’s the size. The interior and boot space are cavernous which when your family grows from a couple to a quartet is invaluable. Secondly there are the running costs. It’s averaged over 40mpg, this combined with cheap tax, two year service intervals and unparalleled build quality has been very handy whilst Mrs H has been on maternity leave. Then there’s the little things. The aforementioned stereo has allowed me to still play music at the correct volume without waking aforementioned family up. Even the multitronic (auto) gearbox has proved a godsend when the morning drive to work after very little sleep seems a nigh-on impossible task without a constant supply of coffee.

Yet, all these positives could not persuade me to keep it. I love cars, that’s obvious, and one of the main attractions to cars for me is how they sound, be it a howling V8 or an air-cooled flat six, that sound says passion and power to me. All a diesel engine says to me is that the driver is more passionate about saving money than enjoying driving. It’s not just the sound though; it’s the whole driving experience. I know things have improved recently but when you want to accelerate quickly from standstill in my car, you press the loud pedal and it’s as though you’ve sent your request by mail with your answer eventually arriving the next day. Instant response is what you need when driving and not getting it quickly becomes very boring.

If anyone disagrees with me and feels they know of a car where the diesel model not only performs better but also sounds more appealing, I’d be delighted to hear from them and put them right. In the meantime, Mrs H goes back to work next month and I’m looking forward to becoming a true petrol-head again.

By Ben Harrington

Audi A1

Is it just me or does the new Audi A1 strike you as, well, just a little bit boring? I promise this is in no way a knee jerk reaction to the recent mauling of the England football team by Germany but the pictures I’ve seen from all angles aren’t exactly exciting. Audi seem proud that the A1 has the look and feel of a shrink wrapped A4 but that’s not exactly screaming charisma is it? When I consider this car’s direct competition i.e. obviously the Mini, the DS3, the Mito or even the relatively far cheaper Fiat 500, what they have in spades is character. Every time I look at a DS3, I notice a subtle design feature I’d previously overlooked. I’m still not bored of the ubiquitous Mini. The Germans rarely get things wrong (see world cup) and I doubt the A1 will flop but in my opinion, small cars should be fun, not simply functional.

By Ben Harrington

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