Driving Torque

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Archive for the tag “Ka”

Citroën C1 Airscape – Driven and Reviewed




The ‘A’ segment of the car market is absolutely awash with choice at the moment, with some cars on offer being more ‘A’ than others. If we’re using size as the main gauge for pigeonholing cars, the triumvirate of Aygo/108 and what we have here – the 3466mm C1 could quite easily be the yardstick of ‘A-ness’ that all future cars are measured by.

Sibling rivalry - the Peugeot 108

Sibling rivalry – the Peugeot 108

Which one?

We drove the C1’s sister car – the New 108 at its UK launch back in July and were impressed with its good blend of driver satisfaction and funky, customisable styling. So why would you pick the C1 over the 108 or the Aygo, and pertinently, over the rest of the competition out there?

Well, if you’re male is as good a reason as any I suppose. The 108’s advertising has placed it unashamedly in the sights of the female of the species, and its styling is fairly effeminate too. The C1 takes some styling cues from Nissan’s Juke with its large, circular main headlights and slashed ‘eyebrow’ sidelights, but this also gives it a more aggressive, testosterone-ey feel that’ll go someway towards providing Jonny Teenager with a bit more street-cred, a bit less of a ‘Mum let me borrow the car for the evening’ vibe.

Citroen_C1_Airscape_rearAnd with which engine?

This C1 we have is the range-topping Flair model, complete with Airscape full-length fabric sunroof and power being provided by the most pokey engine in the range – the 82bhp, three-cylinder PureTech unit. It’s what you could call a ‘characterful’ little engine, and it’s instantly recognisable as a three-cylinder with surprising levels of grunt low down that’ll find the C1 being propelled up to 70mph quicker than one might expect.

It’s not all good though; Ford and Vauxhall are two of the major marques who’ve gone to great lengths to make the three-cylinder engine popular again, and they’ve done so by making them more refined, less Eastern Bloc. This PureTech engine is still a bit too lumpy; the car shakes at standstill and a smooth getaway requires some real concentration to coordinate clutch and throttle pedals perfectly. Coupled with the sound insulation that’s lost though the Airscape’s fabric roof, you could well find yourself wishing you’d gone for the less powerful VTi engine (68bhp); I drove this engine in the New 108 and it is far easier on the senses.

Apart from that folding roof which does rob a couple of inches of headroom in the rear, every possible bit of space is utilised to full effect in the C1. The shape might not be the sleekest in the world, but there’s good reason for that – it’s ultimately very practical. A whole four-piece family fit nicely on the surprisingly comfortable seats and, as long as no attempts are made to practice your golf swing, you don’t feel like you’re sat on top of each other.


The fact is though, this car isn’t really aimed at people who are looking for a car to ferry their 2.4 children around Europe in; it’s more for short distances with a solitary user who are probably either female or youthful, or both. The interior reflects this fact, it’s not exactly weighed down with buttons and knobs, but the central 7 inch multimedia system is very clever and it’s tablet-like appearance is no accident. It’s called Mirror Screen and it’s designed to do what it says on the tin – mirror your smart phone, so that functions such as navigation and music are downloaded to your phone and can then be used when you drive your car.

Citroen C1 Airscape roof openAs nice as a full-length opening roof and a few touches of chrome might be, at nearly £12K without options, this ‘Airspace’ model in ‘Flair’ spec has priced itself out of the market. For that kind of money, you’d at least expect your rear windows to open properly, not just be the hinged affairs usually found in 3 door cars. It might be a touch dour in comparison and more B segment than A, but you can buy the excellent Ford Fiesta for under £10K at the moment. Or if its visual impact you’re after, the Fiat 500 and even the Vauxhall Adam are similarly priced.

However, when you take the base model C1 which is priced at a far more tempting £8,245, and that’s before Citroën’s legendary discounts are taken into account, it becomes a different proposition altogether and is well worth a look.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Citroën C1 Airscape Flair, Transmission – 5 spd manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 82bhp, Torque – 116Nm, Emissions – 99g/km CO2, Economy – 65.7 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 106mph, Acceleration – 11.0s 0-62mph, Price – £11,785 OTR, £12,680 as tested

For full details, go to; http://www.citroen.co.uk/new-cars-and-vans/car-range/citroen-c1

Ford Ka Studio Connect – Driven and Reviewed

The Mk1 Ford Ka - an icon

The Mk1 Ford Ka – an icon

Rust issues aside, Ford‘s first generation Ka was a huge (if slightly unexpected) success story. It combined inexpensive costs with quirky looks and a fantastic driving experience, even spawning a hot-hatch and two-seater convertible versions in the guise of the nattily-named SportKa and StreetKa (why the latter was never sold as a ‘Desire’ special edition, I’ll never know!).

What we have here is the second generation Ka in Studio Connect guise, now built by Fiat alongside their 500 model, with which it shares many components. Ford recently announced  plans for the third generation Ka which appears to share nothing but a name with previous models, so what should they carry over from the existing Ka, and what should they ditch?

ka-image-1Sales of the 2nd gen Ka have been disappointing for Ford, and I can’t help but assume this is mainly due to the look of the thing. The original model arrived before the raft of quirky superminis that are on offer today, cars such as the Mini and Fiat 500, but even today, it’s different enough to be instantly recognisable in the crowd. Not so this generation. I spoke to scores of people about my test car and the I consistently heard the same thing – “I didn’t think Ford even made the Ka anymore”. Obviously incorrectly assumed extinction isn’t good news when trying to sell a car, but it’s just too anonymous and similar to it’s sister car  – the universally popular Fiesta. It’s not ugly, that would be unfair,  but in such a competitive market, it needs more individuality to appeal to its young, fashion conscious target audience.

ka-image-2When it comes down to  engines, the Ka comes with a selection of one. It’s called the 1.2 Duratec but in reality, it’s a renamed version of Fiat’s 1.2l unit. I can’t help but feel that the Ka is stuck between a rock and a hard place here – being built by Fiat, Ford’s excellent range of diminutive EcoBoost engines aren’t at their disposal. Unfortunately though, Fiat obviously weren’t prepared to offer their impressive TwinAir or Diesel engines for the Ka either, leaving it lumbered with this 69ps unit. This is an old-fashioned engine, and unfortunately it shows; It feels sluggish, lumpy and uninspiring in pretty much all situations, and it’s figures don’t compensate for this lack of performance either. 0-62mph in 13.4 seconds actually feels a tad optimistic ,and 115g/km Co2, coupled with 57.7mpg combined just don’t cut it when so many alternatives have been launched recently.

Things don’t get much better inside either, I’m afraid. I don’t expect high-grade plastics, or anything high-grade in this price bracket for that matter, but even when only paying the relatively meagre sum of £8-£10K, I’d be disappointed if I wasn’t provided with central locking and electric windows. The lack of standard equipment could possibly be forgiven if it weren’t for some other irritating features, such as the Fiat sourced indicator stalks that refuse to operate if the car’s being steered around certain bends, and if they do relent and perform the task they were invented for, they self cancel the second the steering wheel starts returning to straight ahead. Infuriating.

ka-image-6One aspect of the Ka that’s a pleasant surprise is the room you get inside. Yes, anyone on the loftier side of average will probably feel a little strained after a long journey behind the wheel, but that’s not really what the Ka is designed for. The rear seat space isn’t bad at all, even with the front seats inhabited, and the head-room on offer is a lot more spacious than you’d imagine. Boot space is an area often overlooked on cars in this segment, but this is one area where the Ka really shines. At 244 litres in 4 seat mode, it’ll fit quite a few shopping bags in without putting the rear seats down and when you consider that the New Mini’s boot is 30% larger than the previous model, and that’s still only 211 litres, you get the picture.

The all-new Ford Ka

The all-new Ford Ka

From the images we’ve seen so-far of the new Ka model, it’s unrecognisable next to all previous incarnations including this one, and it’s not hard to see why. The Ka seems to have fallen between two hugely lucrative stools in recent times; on one hand there’s the premium superminis – Mini, 500 etc – these are definitely more expensive than the Ka but they offer a driving experience and a customisable look that the Ford could only dream about. On the other hand, there are cars such as the Kia’s Picanto and Hyundai’s i10 – not only are they cheaper to purchase but the standard equipment they’re provided with puts the Ka to shame. Even similarly priced models such as the Citigo/Up!/Mii offer a certain personality that’s sadly missing in the Ka.

When you find a great recipe, as Ford did with the original Ka, it’s very tempting to drag it out, sometime beyond it’s shelf-life. Unfortunately though, when the competition’s products supersede your own, it’s time to move on. This is very much the case with the Ka and by the looks of the new model, Ford have come to this conclusion too.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Ford Ka Studio Connect, Engine – 1.2l Duratec petrol, Transmission – 5 speed manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 69bhp, Torque – 102Nm, Emissions – 115g/km CO2, Economy – 57.7 mpg, Maximum Speed – 99mph, Acceleration – 13.4s 0-62mph, Price – £9,925 OTR, £10,415 as tested


Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL

Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL

The last few weeks have been quite eventful for me in motoring terms. Firstly, the Audi has moved on to pastures new. It was a great car but, although neither of us wanted to say it, we both knew deep down that it was time to move on. Sometimes that just happens in relationships, no-one knows why. This of course left me car less (except for the other two cars in the house but they don’t really count) and after two unscrupulous individuals attempted to swap their lies for my cash, I decided to leave the hunt until my return from a well earned rest in Spain. Thankfully some very good friends of ours came to my rescue and offered me the loan of an S-class Mercedes that they happened to have lying around, as you do. For two weeks I stumbled from one petrol station to the next, trying desperately to satisfy the 4.3 litre V8’s insatiable appetite for fuel, groaning at the slightest incline as this would inevitably result in actually pressing the accelerator. A magnificent car, effortless to drive with blistering performance (so I’m led to believe!) but I don’t mind admitting that it was almost a relief when our time together came to a premature end as the car was required elsewhere.

Brutus at Cholmondeley

Brutus + Rain = Terrifying!!

On Sunday the 17th of July, I attended the final day of the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power. The rain was incessant but the action continued regardless with most drivers simply adjusting their driving to suit. The fastest run of the weekend went to Nikki Faulkner in his Lamborghini LP570-4 Performante, beating other modern day super-cars such as the Nissan GTR and the Lexus LFA. The thing is though, lovely as they are, it wasn’t this modern exotica that the crowds had come to see. Their times were impressive but it became apparent to me that it’s the romance of the purer, rawer cars that appeals. For me, the sound of a car is a major part of the attraction and manufacturers are so stifled by bureaucracy today that even Lamborghinis are practically silent. Huge thanks must again go to John Hanlon of Hansport for taking me on the rally stage in Hannu Mikkola’s actual Audi Quattro. Having previously had a ride in it on the press day, John assured me he’d give it 100%, ‘No holding back this time’. I’ve captured it on video but I’m not sure it does justice to the speed of this machine and the skill of it’s driver. One thing’s for sure though, he didn’t hold back!


Our Opel Combo Rental Car

The next day was holiday time and off the Harrington clan flew to sunnier climes in Spain. This brought about some motoring experiences in itself, starting with the stifled laughter of our rental car rep when he introduced me to our steed for the week. ‘Is it this Focus?’ I enquired cheerfully, a sensible guess as they had provided us with this exact car last year. ‘Oh no’ he replied, avoiding eye contact, ‘Yours is an Opel Combo’ I mulled this over for a minute, wondering if this was the Spanish name given to an Astra or an Insignia. The gentleman obviously noticed my confused expression and simply said in reassuring tones ‘It’s very big’. He wasn’t joking. Turns out we do have Opel Combos in Britain, they’re obviously called Vauxhall Combos and they are vans. My prior worries about luggage space evaporated instantly and to be honest I really grew fond of the Pope-mobile. It was nippy, efficient and most importantly of all, the air conditioning was ice-cold.

Buggy safari Marbella

Buggy Safari

My other motoring experience of our week away came about when my friend Mark and I went on a mini adventure, or more accurately, a buggy safari. This basically entails driving what consists of some scaffolding, a 260cc engine, two seats, four chunky tyres and a steering wheel over the dusty back roads and through the river beds of Marbella. You very rarely get much speed up, the brakes may as well not be there and our buggy cut out regularly but I can honestly say that the fun factor was immense. Point in case again being that you don’t need huge expense and modern technology to have fun on four wheels, simplicity is best. Huge thanks to Mark for organising it, hopefully same time next year.

Back in blighty and the hunt for a car is back on. My very generous friends who lent me the Merc mentioned that there was also a redundant Ford Ka on the driveway that I was welcome to use so this has bought me yet more time. I don’t remember ever driving a Ka before and I’m sure I would if I had as it’s just so much fun. I can honestly say that I wish I’d bypassed the S-class and gone straight for the blue oval. Yes, it would probably fit in the Mercedes’ boot but again, it’s beauty lies in it’s simplicity. The levels of grip are relentless and the feed back through the wheel is reminiscent of the 205 Gti I owned in the nineties, it really is that good.

So I’ve decided to make a sort of summer resolution, from now on, I’m going to be less blinded by big numbers and impressive performance stats and get back to the real thrill of driving, however slow or antiquated that may be. Oh yes, and I’m buying a Vespa………..

By Ben Harrington

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