Driving Torque

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Archive for the tag “Clio”

Ford Fiesta 1.0l EcoBoost Zetec Powershift – Driven and Reviewed

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An automatic Ford Fiesta. My engrained reaction to this would usually be one of disdain, with just a splash of derision. Auto ‘boxes have traditionally been the reserve of the more senior driver and large, officious type vehicles, being driven by large, officious type people, in their large, officious type business suits, eating their large………you get the idea.

No more manual?

ford_fiesta_powershift_automatic_gearstickAll this could be about to change, though. Many people within the industry have referred to their crystal balls and predicted that the manual ‘box and it’s vice-like grip on the on the market may be coming to and end. Advances in gearbox technology such as double clutches like this one here, and CVT have seen the clutch pedal become slightly less common, even in Europe where we’ve subtly sniggered for years at the USA’s anxious aversion to ‘driving stick’.

If Ford have got it right, this ‘Powershift’ Fiesta should be as good as any more diminutive automatic car, then. The engine is their much-lauded EcoBoost three cylinder unit in 100PS guise; a power source that seemingly knows no bounds and marches on in its mission to change the world. The manual variant of this car is a world-beater; the Fiesta is Britain’s top-selling nameplate and with good reason (read the review here). Great place to start, then, but by taking away the need to change gear, have Ford lost anymore of the Fiesta’s appeal in the process? ford_fiesta_powershift_automatic_display

Refined and Smooth

The Powershift gearbox is refined enough; there’s no clunky, head-jarring up-changes, and it goes upwards from cog to cog with little fuss and in near silence. Higher gears are hung onto a touch too long when going back down through the range which takes a little of the fun out of cornering, but there is the option to change down yourself via a switch – this may detract from the point somewhat, though. Creeping slowly through traffic amplifies the nature of the three-cylinder engine, and there is a ‘put-put‘ feel under 5mph. Any quicker and the engine is as refined and characterful as usual, doing whatever’s asked of it dutifully. There’s even a ‘Sport’ mode available; select this and you’ll be amazed at how quickly 99bhp can propel what isn’t a tiny car anymore, whilst still giving a smooth ride.

Sounds Perfect!!……..

So, it’s business as usual with the trustworthy Fiesta, and you don’t even have to change gear yourself. Sounds too good to be true – surely every model will be this way from now on and the manual ‘box will soon become a thing of the past. Maybe not though – there are a couple of downsides to this added convenience.

………Oh

One age-old drawback of automatic ‘boxes was always the reduction in economy, and it still rings true here. Combined MPG drops from an impressive 65.7 to a slightly-less-so, 57.7, and CO2 rises from 99g/km to 114g/km. This, of course, takes the car into the realms of *shock-horror* paying VED, or road tax. Let’s put this into perspective here though; it’s still only in band C, which will lighten your purse by a measly £30 per annum, so nothing to lose any sleep over.

The addition of the auto ‘box isn’t the only reason for the Powershift’s drop in economy, though. The fact that it loses Stop/Start may not make that much of a difference in the real world, but it does affect things when the powers-that-be measure emissions. Ford themselves state that it’s not financially viable at this stage to add Stop/Start to the Fiesta but, for me, that’s not giving it a fighting chance. If the car proves popular enough, expect Stop/Start to suddenly appear further down the line.ford_fiesta_powershift_automatic_red_side

The other slight issue comes down to the price. With the manual ‘box, the Fiesta EcoBoost 5dr in Zetec trim is available from £14,195 at time of writing. Opt for this auto, and you’ll have to part with a slightly dizzying £15,445; that’s a very expensive gearbox, especially when it’ll also incur the extra running costs I mentioned earlier. It’s still cheaper than some of the competition such as the automatic Clio, but once you start adding extras to this Zetec trim, the price could easily get a little silly. ford_fiesta_powershift_automatic_red_rear

 

 

Automatic gearboxes are becoming more popular, there’s no doubt about it. For now, though, I feel that it comes at slightly too high a price in this Fiesta, both in terms of outlay and driver satisfaction. If you really need or want a smaller auto, this Fiesta is still a good proposition, but you’d have to really need or want one to forego the pretty-near-perfect manual.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Ford Fiesta 1.0l EcoBoost Zetec, Transmission – 6 speed automatic, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 99bhp, Torque – 170NM, Emissions – 114g/km CO2, Economy57.7mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 112 mph, Acceleration – 11.2s 0-62mph, Price – £15,795 OTR, £17,390 as tested

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

The Renault Twizy, Driven and Reviewed; A Wise Move or just a Clever Gimmick?

Renault Twizy being recharged

Renault Twizy – filling up

Earlier this year, Renault released upon the world what they hoped would be the start of a revolution in transport – the Twizy. Officially classed as a Quadricycle and powered solely by lithium-ion batteries, it’s a pocket eco-warrior with distinctive, space-age looks and a tandem layout that would struggle to gain anonymity on any road it graced. Not seen one on the road yet? Me neither. Come to think of it, I’ve not met anyone who’s seen one, nor have I met anyone who’s friend’s seen one and I think I may know why.

The conundrum with the Twizy in my opinion is just who Renault expect to buy one? When they collated the results from the inevitably extensive market research they commissioned, just how large was the pot of people who couldn’t possibly be happy without a Twizy in their lives?

Renault Twizy interior view from driver's seat

The view from a Twizy driver’s seat – fairly conventional really

The first and perhaps most obvious target audience are small car drivers who’s trips are invariably localised and who want these journeys to be as cheap as possible. With prices starting at just £6,690 for the base ‘Urban’ spec, it’s certainly cheap enough and has the added advantage of being exempt from VED due to being a zero emissions vehicle.  Parking doesn’t get much simpler and the transition from driving a car to a quadricycle is negligible due to the Twizy sporting a proper steering wheel and the switch- gear from a Clio. Doors don’t come as standard but for just £545.00 they can be added. Unfortunately though, they’re half-doors with no windows and therefore offer slightly less protection from the elements than a Sunday newspaper and this is where the whole idea falls down. Even the cheapest cars on sale today do a fairly impressive job of keeping their occupants dry and warm which, in this country at least, is one of the huge benefits of owning a car. Being forced to don deep-sea fishing apparel for every cloudy/chilly journey might just put some drivers off.

Renault Twizy with doors open

Twizy, complete with optional ‘demi-doors’

Are Renault looking to tempt riders off their motorcycles?; They’ve already got wet-weather gear and aren’t afraid to use it. Somehow I can’t see this plan working either though, no Ducati rider could possibly get his fix of adrenaline in a vehicle with 17hp and a top speed of 50mph. The advantage that bikes possess in stationary traffic would also be nullified as the Twizy is too wide to weave between cars.

Scooter riders could possibly be swayed but that zero road tax is only £16 cheaper than a 125cc and, oh yes, I may have forgotten to mention that when you buy a Twizy, it’s compulsory to also adopt a battery; this privilege will cost you £45 a month. Coupled with the fact that a Twizy can’t be stored in your average garden shed as many scooters are and all of a sudden it’s not a viable swap.

On a more positive note, the Twizy handles fantastically on its skinny rubber and the instant torque available from the 6kwH battery makes for an entertaining experience. Just don’t be tempted to have too much fun though; the 60 mile range is drastically reduced by spirited driving and although 881lb is light, one wouldn’t want to push it home and the alternative is to find an accessible plug socket and wait for the 3.5hr recharging cycle to complete.

Charging a Twizy is another conundrum I can’t quite fathom; if it’s left on the street attached to a domestic extension lead trailing from your front door, it’s surely only a matter of time before someone trips over the wire and sues you for negligence. If you’ve got a garage you can charge it in then you can probably afford a proper car with four seats that won’t contribute towards a bout of pneumonia. As long as you live or work in a major city centre, you’ll be able to top-up your Twizy at dedicated charge points. This is assuming that the optional anti-lift alarm you paid £170 for has sufficiently deterred any thieves from walking away with it.

So, is the Twizy a glimpse of the future and I need to move with the times? Possibly, but right here, right now this little electrical oddity seems to generate more questions than it answers.

By Ben Harrington

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