Driving Torque

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Mitsubishi Outlander GX5 Automatic – Driven and Reviewed

2013 Mitsubishi Outlander front corner lowIt may be perceived as a little contrary to begin a car review with its conclusion but I feel its important to get one thing straight from the off, no flim-flam, no messing about; This Mitsubishi Outlander is a VERY GOOD CAR. Obviously that’s not my review done and dusted and I’m going to give you a myriad of reasons to support my sweeping statement, but there’s something about the Outlander that compelled me to want to pass this nugget of information to all and sundry.

2013 Mitsubishi Outlander sideIt’s possibly a defence mechanism as, if not all, then definitely sundry seemed determined to pour scorn on this mid-sized 4×4, with their derogatory comments mainly directed towards the Outlander’s general appearance: talk about judging a book by its cover. Unfortunately though, everyone can’t be wrong and even I’m forced to admit that it’s not the prettiest car in the world. There are some pleasant features and even some, namely the front and rear headlights that are strangely reminiscent of the latest Range Rover – no bad thing I’m sure you’ll agree. Conversely, there are reflections of the original BMW X1 – a car rarely noted for its aesthetic qualities. I’m fairly sure it’s the Outlander’s apparently small wheelbase and large front and rear overhangs that are the crux of the issue but without that seemingly voluminous rear-end, it just wouldn’t be the same car – I’ll explain why later.

It's very fashionable - piano black all the way in here

It’s very fashionable – piano black all the way in here

Inside the cabin is a breath of fresh air due to it’s easy layout and use of modern, top quality materials. Some of Mitsubishi’s interiors could be described as anything other than contemporary but a lot of effort has obviously gone into the Outlander to ensure it’s a credible competitor in its class. Piano black seems to be the colour of choice this year when picking out cabin plastics and our Outlander was no stranger to this fashionable look. All of this hard work would be for nothing if, say, the switchgear etc. wasn’t positioned correctly as little niggles can rapidly turn into big deals when they’re tackled every day but I found everything to be user-friendly and tactile.

2013 Mitsubishi Outlander frontThe Outlander is only available with a 2.2l oil-burner (unless you opt for PHEV). This could be looked upon as a somewhat brave decision as if a potential buyer takes a dislike to it, that’s the end of the story and they’ll simply move onto a different manufacturer. Thankfully, there’s very little to dislike about it: it’s smooth and refined although things can get a little clattery around the 2k revs mark. There is some noticeable lag but this is only when setting off from standstill – on the go, it’s quick to respond and surprisingly eager to power through the rev range. Perhaps more importantly, it’s easy on the wallet too; the engine is capable of CO2 emissions of 138g/km and over 50mpg. This did suffer in our range-topping GX5 automatic though, with figures of 153g/km and 48mpg, due in part to the absence of stop/start technology on auto Outlanders.

2013 Mitsubishi Outlander rearMitsubishi have managed to shave 100kg from the kerb-weight of the outgoing model – no mean feat when modern safety regulations generally mean slimming down is nigh-on impossible. They’re also very proud of the Outlander’s multilink suspension set-up, with good reason in my opinion; You see, it’s the way the Outlander drives that really sets it apart from the crowd.

2013 Mitsubishi Outlander rear cornerThere are three modes for the 4WD system; Eco, which powers the front wheels and only engages the rear ones if necessary; Auto, which Mitsubishi refer to as the ‘normal mode’, with 4WD permanently engaged, offering optimum grip at each corner, all the time; Lock, for when the going gets tough and the system requires locked differentials to get you back on the straight and narrow. I alternated between ‘Eco’ and ‘Auto’ and, to be honest, the difference from the driver’s seat is barely detectable. Whichever mode the Outlander in, it performs the great trick of abandoning it’s SUV limitations and does a plausible impression of a regular car. In fact, not a regular car but a capable car with a sorted chassis that inspires confidence and, would you believe, fun?

Top marks for the Intelligent Motion, Mitsubishi

Top marks for the Intelligent Motion, Mitsubishi

This inspiring performance on the road is really what sets the Outlander apart from the competition. Mitsubishi appear to have used some of the guile that made the Lancer such fun, and translated it into this relatively tall 4×4, the result being the best of both worlds – useable space and useable driveability. The fact that Mitsubishi have opted to supply the Outlander shod with Toyo rubber – a brand renowned for its sticky characteristics, is, for me, a true indication of just which direction they wanted the Outlander to go in when it came down to on-road performance.

So, we’ve established that it’s driving experience is class-leading and, being a Mitsubishi, it’ll be sturdy and reliable to the point of obsession, but what else makes the Outlander worthy of my initial high praise?

To answer this, we need to go back to my previous point about it’s relatively large overhangs and just why they’re necessary: The Outlander has seven seats – nothing to write home about in this sector you may think, but there’s having a third row of seats, and having a third row of seats. Occupants six and seven are treated as unwanted guests in some vehicles – tolerated but not really welcome.

That third row of seats is easily accessible and surprisingly comfortable

That third row of seats is easily accessible and surprisingly comfortable

Not so in the Outlander. Mitsubishi have gone to great lengths to ensure they’re comfortable and relaxed; they’ve extending the leg-room available to them; they’ve eliminated the clambering in aspect sometimes associated with the rearmost seats by providing a second row that slides and tilts forwards properly; they’ve also provided two sprung, inviting seats – complete with headrests, not just a big bench that appears to have been lifted from your local park. The cherry on top of this increasingly tempting cake is that the Outlander has been engineered to offer some room for your luggage, even when crammed to bursting point with people. It’s not a lot of room, granted, but compared to some of the competition, it’s better than nothing.

2013 Mitsubishi Outlander front corner highSo, the Mitsubishi Outlander drives well, is thoughtfully made and offers hitherto unseen levels of useable space for cargo and livestock. There are some drawbacks, obviously, not least of which being the lane departure warning system (LDW) which has a minor panic attack if you dare to stray over the white lines. This is very useful on a long motorway journey and could possibly save lives but on a B-road, it just gets annoying. Salvation comes slightly in turning it off but, unfortunately, it’s default setting is on and it reactivates every time the start button is pressed. Minor irritations aside though, I can’t stress enough that the Mitsubishi Outlander is a VERY GOOD CAR.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Mitsubishi Outlander GX5 2.2l Automatic, Transmission – 6 spd automatic, Layout – Front engine, 4WD, Power – 150ps, Torque – 360Nm @ 1500 – 2750RPM, Emissions – 153g/km CO2, Economy – 48.7 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 118MPH, Acceleration – 11.7s 0-62mph, Price – £33,999 OTR.


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.

Preaching to the non converted

audi-R8-spyder in red

Audi R8 Spyder

In a recent episode of BBC’s Top Gear, Jeremy tested two of my favourite cars on sale at the moment, the Porsche 911 Turbo and the Audi R8 V10. They are both frighteningly fast, extremely expensive and combine exotic looks with build quality typical of the Fatherland. Unfortunately, both cars had been ruined before they even left the factory by one common problem – no roofs. Let me make myself clear here, I’m not against convertibles per se. I just feel that there is a certain type of car which lends itself beautifully to being scalped and others which, well, don’t.

I appreciate that the sensation of open top driving is pleasant, with the wind in your hair, the sun on your back and generally feeling closer to nature. But let’s be honest, a large proportion of convertible buyers are simply wanting to be seen by as many people as possible in their status symbol, posers in a word. One car which fits the bill for these people is the BMW 320Ci. It’s certainly not made to break records at the Nurburgring yet the image and the badge combine to make the perfect ‘look at me, I’ve got expendable income’ mobile.

This brings me on to my issue with the likes of the 911 Turbo cab and R8 cab. They are both designed in hard top form in order to push the boundaries. They must be the quickest, nimblest and shoutiest in their class otherwise they have failed miserably. Engineers work tirelessly to push output higher, weight lower and chassis’ stiffer. We adore seeing covert spy shots of the new models being pushed to their limits around ‘the Ring’, talking in hushed tones about rumoured performance figures. Buying the likes of these cars will hopefully provide a driving experience like no other, setting us aside as a true admirer of automotive engineering.

So what do you think it says about the person who opts for one of these exquisite cars and then chooses the one with no roof? I’ll tell you what it says, it says that the owner would like everyone to think that they are a driving god but when it actually comes down to the nitty gritty, they care more about being seen in the car than actually driving it. This therefore makes them not only a poser but a poser and a fake.

By Ben Harrington

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