Author: terjebjornstad

Fiat 500 in Vacation Mode

Never change a winning horse.

When the Fiat 500 got a facelift last year, I had expected more drastic changes. After all, this retro model has been in production for 10 years, and only minimal changes have been made along the way. The explanation is simple. The Fiat 500 sells better and better. You don’t change a winning horse!

I think the modern Fiat 500 is one of the most successful car designs ever. Last year’s facelift was a small one. I noticed a new horizontal chrome strip in the front and a new grill between the fog lights. I also noticed that the front lights, as well as the tail lights, are changed. Inside, an infotainment system with touch screen is in place. The panoramic glass roof allows a lot of light to flow into the cabin. It makes the cabin look spacier, but all the bright light from above makes the instruments sometimes hard to read.

The look of the Fiat 500 oozes class. It fits in everywhere. Curbside on dingy side streets, at downtown cafes between Italian Vespas, – or in the driveway of a luxury villa. At least it decorates my village in the South of France.

Bordeaux Opera is such a dark color that it sometimes appear as black.

“- I like the car”, my wife said. “But it looks tiny with you behind the wheel”. I do not feel like an elephant in a cage, but realize that she might have a point. You don’t expect to see a tall Nordic guy behind the wheel of a Fiat 500. However, it feels far from cramped inside.

In the South of France, mini cars like the Fiat 500, are more popular than in the Nordic countries. This is due to two things – insurance rules that make it impossible for young drivers to drive anything but the smallest cars, and that parking sometimes can be a challenge. A tall man driving a small car, does not create any negative attitudes, I believe. Everyone knows that a Fiat 500 may well come from a family with more than one vehicle in the garage. Maybe a Ferrari, or something similar?

I notice that the driver’s seat provides good thigh support when I jack it down, which is the only height adjustment option. I think if you have shorter legs than me, you may be forced to sit quite high – or close to the steering wheel – to reach the pedals. The wheel can be adjusted in height, but not in length. If you have short legs and long torso, you might find it difficult to find a good position – but these are only speculations. I’m sitting comfortably, but I find the pedals, especially the clutch pedal, a little too much to the right. There is simply no room at the left because of an intrusive wheel arch.

Retro inside as well.

I like the steering wheel and the controls. The interior colors are fresh, with white leather steering wheel, white center console and inserts in the dashboard. I love the way the interior has captured the car’s paint color. Everything feels chunky and solid. A couple of times I have pulled the seat height adjustment lever instead of the handbrake. The two “handles” are placed side by side.

The Fiat 500 runs like a regular, modern car. It was surprisingly steady on the highway. I have also taken it across a lot of mountain roads, some with rough surfaces, tight turns and steep climbs. I haven’t found anything wrong about the car’s ability to handle different surfaces under different conditions, given the fact that it is a mini car.

I could wish for a more powerful engine, though …

My Fiat 500 had the simplest engine option, a 1.2 liter engine (SMPI VVT) – 69 HP and a torque of 102 Nm / 3000. The engine is what it says on the paper. It seemed to hesitate a little when accelerating. I think it was because the car only had 1000 km on the counter, and that the air conditioner worked really hard to cope with outside temperatures of 35-38 degrees Celsius.

To keep up with the local traffic along the mountain roads, I had to accelerate and brake more than I was comfortable with. The 5-speed manual transmission was easy to work with. The gear lever is placed high up and close to the steering wheel, making it possible to shift quickly. But why hurry? In vacation mode, we chose to pull over frequently to let the the local cars pass by.

Surprisingly good space in the trunk.

The front room is good for two adults. The back seat has room for two. In fact surprisingly good space, since you sit quite upright in the front seats. Two tall people will hardly sit comfortably in the same longitudinal direction. You cannot expect that within three and a half meter. By the way, I’m pleasantly surprised by the trunk. It holds more than you would think, but requires that you stow smartly.

Safety

Fiat 500 is tested by NCAP. The results are not quite as good as competitors like Volkswagen Up! and Citroën C1. The Fiat 500 was punished because the dummies in the front seats were measured for severe retardation at their heads. Even though there were no physical damage to the heads, NCAP considers that there may be a risk that people inside the car may be subjected to internal head injuries. Sideways collisions and sideways to pole worked well.

Economy

Fiat 500 is considered relatively expensive cars for its class. It has been produced almost unchanged for 10 years, but still sought after in the secondhand market. Better than most other cars on the market. During the end of the 80s, the importer and dealer network in Norway was shut down due to bankruptcies. Fiat owners were left on their own with cars that had quite many quality issues at that time. This is something your dad would like to tell you about. But don’t worry! Today’s Polish-built Fiats have proven to be working well since the launch in 2007. Sales and after-market of Fiats are now taken care of by new enterprises.

I have not yet measured the fuel consumption in detail. So far, with driving on mountain roads and highways, our consumption seems to end up around 0.61 liter / 10 km. I don’t think that consumption will ruin anyone, but if you choose the TwinAir engine, you’ll probably get much better consumption figures.

Summary

The Fiat 500 blends well in everywhere you go. It has a great look. I am pleasantly surprised by the space and the comfort. There are no problems driving this car for hours on the highway. I have been driving my Fiat 500 a few days in southern France and feel lucky to spend a couple of days more with it. You might expect me to say that Fiat 500 1.2 liter may not be a good choice for keen drivers. But as it happens, I have already been more on the road with this little Fiat than many bigger cars I’ve had here …

Maybe it’s because I’m in vacation mode?

A new infotainment system is one of the novelties.

Intuitive climate panel. ASR means Stability Control.

A great design!

I like the design on the main instrument cluster, but not the quality of the digital center display. Very difficult to read in strong sunlight.

The fabric in the seats contributes to a premium car feeling.

The back seat has room for two…

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A Tribute to the VW Bus

In fact, all Volkswagen buses are great, especially the early models T1 and T2. Functional, simple and very beautiful. I’d like to emphasize the feeling of having huge space inside, despite the modest external dimensions. The comfort can be a little so-and-so. The seats are strictly functional. You are sitting pretty much upright. The sound level inside is not bad, due to the rear mounted engine. But a rear mounted, air cooled engine does not make the best foundation for heating up the cabin of a mini bus. Keeping the windows defrosted during the cold Nordic winters can be a challenge without the optional Ebersprächer heating system.

I remember the old VW buses from my own childhood. They were popular as commercial vans, family cars for large families and households who wanted a combined company car and passenger car. When they had finished their service, many were driven into the woods or on a ground where they were left to rust and slowly transformed to moss.

Even as rusty wrecks, the T1 and T2 are beautiful cars. Today, old wrecks are dragged out of the Nordic forests to be renovated and repaired on the Continent by people with plenty of time and money and a burning love for VW buses. It might be profitable, too, as vintage VW buses can be traded at ridiculous high prices. They are valued according to the number of windows. The more windows, the higher the price.

Every year, many of the world’s finest VW buses make a visit to VolksWorld at Sandown Park racecourse in Esher, Surrey. I was there last year and took the pictures in the gallery at the top of the page. In 2018 the event will be held 24-25 March. All green areas are transformed into a large camping area where owners of VW buses can stay overnight. Many of the visitors are coming over from the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany.

Ratlook, slammed, pristine – all are equally fine. I always take pictures of T1s and T2s, both at exhibitions and along the road. I have only one concern, though. I see a lot more buses than pickups. Where have all the VW pickups gone? I fear that many of them have ended up as donor cars for bus projects.

– Hope to see more VW pickups on VolksWorld 2018!

VolksWorld Show – Sandown Park – 24th & 25th March 2018.

Toyota Auris Hybrid – Real Consumption

EU Consumption Figures can be a bit misleading, especially for hybrid cars.

One of the main issues is the way the tests are performed. There are two different driving cycles. The urban driving cycle, – about 13 minutes and 4 kilometers of a prescripted urban driving behaviour. Then, 6 minutes and 40 seconds of extra urban driving, covering a theoretical distance of 7 kilometers. A good hybrid with fully charged batteries could easily pass the entire test more or less on battery power alone. In real life, batteries will be partly discharged and your fuel consumption will be a lot higher.

0.44 liters per 10 km (country roads)
MPG (US): 53
MPG (Imperial): 64
Outside temperature: 3°C
Inside temperature inside 21°C
Speed: 70-80 km / h
Distance: 56.7 km
Wind: Light air 1 m / s

0.53 liter per 10 km (highway)
MPG (US): 44
MPG (Imperial): 53
Outside temperature: 3° C
Inside temperature inside 21°C
Speed: 100-120 km / h
Distance: 42.8 km / h
Wind: Light air 1 m / s

The eco meter.

The only way you can charge batteries in a non-plugin hybrid car like Auris Hybrid, is by taking it on the road and drive it. It has regenerative braking. The brake energy is lead back into the batteries. The onboard system decides when and where to engage the electric motor. Everything happens automatically. Just drive as normal.

Toyota Auris Hybrid STW.

If you are looking for an affordable hybrid station wagon, you cannot overlook this car. There is one alternative: The 7-seat Prius+ Seven with the same motorization, – the 1.8 VVT-i Hybrid Advance where the 99 HK gasoline engine cooperates with an electric motor of 37 HP. There are simply no other hybrid competitors at the same price that can serve as an everyday family car.

Toyota Auris Hybrid is one of “my” cars. Not for real. Just rental cars I use for various transportation purposes. A typical everyday car. I dislike the CVT gearbox and the Eco driving mode. I might also add that I have never considered taking the long way home. Well, that is not quite true … On Sunday I took the car for a Sunday trip to measure fuel consumption and gain some more knowledge of Toyota’s hybrid concept.

First stage – The highway between Oslo and Drammen came to a complete stop about halfway. Someone had found that Sunday morning was such a fine time for carrying out some road work. In situations like this, the gasoline engine shuts itself down and leaves the rest to the batteries – that is, if they were charged. Dammit! Every time I pick up an Auris Hybrid, the batteries are completely empty. During 50 minutes of road block, the gasoline engine went almost continously at a high and somewhat irritating idle speed. Anyway, I was glad to keep the heater and the defroster alive. The weather outside was 3 degrees and light rain.

Dashboard view.

The batteries are recharged when you press the brake pedal – so called regenerative braking. By putting the gear lever in «B», you will get an engine brake that also has a regenerative braking effect. There is a long decent on the highway into Drammen. When I drive electric or hybrid vehicles, I normally use the engine brake to the full extend down the decents to give the batteries a real boost. In Auris, the engine brake is not particularly powerful. I heard the gasoline engine revved up as well, slowing down the speed, but with just moderate or no charge of the batteries. Shame on Toyota! It lets precious brake energy disappear through the exhaust pipe.

South of Drammen I took the old south-bound road to Holmestrand, a small village by the sea. The old road has a speed limit of 70 km / h. It is ideal for economical driving, and best of all, – it is not a toll road, like the new highway. Average consumption had shown 0.53 liters / 10 km on the highway. Even though I had reset the dashboard computer after the long decent. Still it seemed to be stuck at 0.50.

The gear lever. Reverse, Neutral, Drive and Brake (engine brake). Park is on a separate button.

I switched the gear lever between “D” and “B”. With the gear lever in “D” it is possible to let the car roll several hundred meters without any assistance from the gasoline engine. Almost no fuel is consumed, but unfortunately the batteries aren’t charged either. Sometimes I chose “B” to reduse speed or hold the car down the hills, and charging the batteries at the same time. I imagine that the hybrid concept works better when there is power in the batteries. The range in EV mode is not very good. It makes it barely possible to pass through 40 and 50 km / h zones. It is a good practice to accelerate carefully from standstill to let the electric motor bring the car up in speed before the gasoline engine takes over.

I was not particularly pleased with the average consumption when I turned into the harbor of Holmestrand. 0.52 liters per 10 km was way too high. I had driven at steady speed between 70-80 km / h. I had been very careful neither to press the accelerator too quick nor too hard, especially when picking up the rpm after rolling freely. If you press the pedal too quickly, the CVT gearbox revs up the engine more than necessary to maintain the pace. I think Toyota’s CVT gear box is too nervous. A double clutch gear box solution would have worked better. A lot better.

I parked beside another British car.

The ice-free harbor in Holmestrand is a terrific offer for boaters. It is nice to stroll along the harbor street. The northern wave breaker is shaped like a fishing pier, filled with recreational fishermen. The cod is delicious at this time of the year.

Fishermen side by side on the wave breaker.

Auris is a compact family car. The luggage space is not particulary large. The loading area is a little narrow, though. Compact cars nowadays are just as large as middle family cars were 10-15 years ago. On the road, the weight distribution feels good. Inside, there is enough space and comfort to call it a family car.

I reset the dashboard computer before I started my way home. Average consumption seemed to stabilize at 0.42 liters / 10 kilometers. For the first time, I chose to take the “long way” home with the Auris. I followed the coastal road from Sande via Svelvik to Drammen. This road is also speed-regulated, but more winding than the road I took on my way down. I stopped a few places to take some photos. I spotted other people doing the same. Some took selfies against the fjord in the gloomy and idyllic winter light.

Idyllic scenery looking across the fjord.

I noticed that the Auris automatically switched to electricity around the small coastal village Svelvik. I obviously had plenty of battery power. My “long” trip from Holmestrand to Drammen was conducted with an average consumption of 0.44 liters per 10 km. The highway between Drammen and Oslo at a constant speed of 100 km / h was traveled at 0.53 liters per 10 km. I think Toyota could achieve better consumption figures if the engine brake had better effect, and the gearbox did not let the engine rev so unnecessarily high. I think the hybrid power train of Volkswagen Golf GTE works better and is a lot more pleasant to drive, although real consumption figures are the same

Well, hybrid cars do not pollute when driven through urban areas. That is good, but the most important reason for me to choose a hybrid, is the fine torque you get when both the gasoline and the electric motor work together. It actually gives some driving pleasure, – assuming you do not touch the “Eco” button.

It will drain the last bit of fun out of the Auris.

A compact sized family car

toyota-auris-hybrid-stw-700-19

It looks good in black.

530 liters of luggage storage.

The trip is over and so is the coffee …

 

Air-cooled Beauties

There is something special about air-cooled Volkswagens and Porsches.

I think we all have memories from an air-cooled Volkswagen. Good memories. At least I have. My first ride in a Beetle was in ’64. A green split-window from 1953. I never forget.

Earlier this year, I took some pictures at an exhibition held by local owners of air-cooled Volkswagens and Porsches. The event was held at Oslo Folk Museum, a place where different time capsules are being kept authentic, like the 50’s and the 60’s, – the years when the air-cooled beauties were roaming the streets.

If you click on the picture gallery above, you will see 1959 Porsche 356, 1950 VW split-window Beetle, 1973 Porsche 911, 1973 VW 1303 S Cabrio and a couple of Beetles from the sixties.

Great Versatility

2016 Renault Captur 1.5 dCI

The orange and white paint made me think of old rainwear and lifejackets. Maybe that’s why someone got the idea to create a campaign model called “Helly Hansen”? Anyway, this is not the Helly Hansen variant. Just an urban crossover in a fancy color combination.

I think the Captur is somewhere between the Nissan Qashqai and the Citroen C3 Picasso, perhaps more like a Nissan Juke. It seems like a large car, rather tall and wide – but still based on a subcompact car à la Clio.

What does the Captur offer?

A lot of versatility. Large doors with large openings. Plenty of space to fasten toddlers safely into their child seats. Plenty of interior space. The glove compartment is a deep drawer. It reminds me of a modern kitchen drawer. Everything I see and touch, seems solid. The entire interior seems like it can take a beating, too. Should one of the kids get sick on board, it’s good to know that all seat covers are removable and can be cleaned.

But even inside a high-end model like this, there is no premium feel. It feels just like a reasonably priced car with a thoughtful design. The Captur is designed in France and manufactured in Spain. Prices begin at about NOK 220,000, making Captur only marginally more expensive than its brother – the Clio.

When I entered the car for the first time, I noticed that I was sitting in a typical Latin driving position – made for bodies with short legs. Thanks to the longitudinally adjustable steering wheel, I was able to find a superb driving position for Nordic guys, like me. I chose to sit a bit high to get a good overview of the narrow streets I was going to drive through.

Tall and wide. It looks bigger than a subcompact.

Tall and wide. It looks bigger than a subcompact.

On the road, the Captur drives like a large car. You are sitting quite high compared to conventional cars, and you hardly notice the speed, either. I had to keep a constant eye on the speedometer not to drive too fast in the speed-contolled 80-zones around Barcelona where I picked up the car. The top two gears in the 5-speed gearbox are both overdrive, and with Renaults fantastic 1.5 dCI engine, it felt like driving a rather powerful engine. I had to check that I had the 90 HP engine and not the 120 HP. Another factor contributing to the large car feeling, was the suspension. It is comfortable, but not like old times French cars. More like the Qashqai.

I am a bit skeptical to tall, lightweight vehicules when it comes to stability. Will they roll over under a critical evasive action, like when you are trying to avoid a wild animal on the road? I believe that the softer the suspension, the easier it is to feel the limit. A modern tall car may not give that feedback. Therefore, I chose to practice a little on an open part of the road to ensure that the Captur would not roll over too easily.

There is plenty of cubik for the luggage if you are able to stack it.

There is plenty of cubik for the luggage if you are able to stack it.

A large subcompact.

I enjoy the feeling of driving a tall car. I have a superb overview. I like the looks of the car. It looks like a fullsize family car, especially when driving around in the southern France, where family cars are a little downsized compared to family cars on Norwegian roads.

The Captur is in fact a subcompact. That shows when you open the trunk. It is no place for much more than a cabin suitcase and a couple of shopping bags. Just as large as in any subcompact car. The luggage compartment is however divided in two. With the separation plate removed, you get 377 liters – almost as large as in a Volkswagen Golf, – but it is high and shallow, and not as easy to utilize as in a Golf. In the Captur, it is possible to push the rear seats forward to expand the luggage capasity. Great versatility, but still a compromise. You cannot have it all in a car that is barely over 4 meters long.

The Renault 1.5 dCI engine is considered by many as the best turbodiesel ever. I don’t disagree. I am impressed by the lack of diesel sound. 90 HP makes no super acceleration, but the torque of 220 Nm in the RPM range of 1750 to 2500 is good.

Instead of the dCI engine, you may choose a 90 HP 0.9 liter petrol engine. I have not yet tested that engine. It is an interesting option, but I fear that with only 3 cylinders it won’t provide the same fine sound as the dCI engine gives.

Very easy to handle on French backroads.

Very easy to handle on French backroads.

Safety

The Renault Captur has marginally weaker security than the Nissan Qashqai, which also originates from Renault. Both have overall good results, but the NCAP report for Captur shows that front seat occupants run a high risk of getting whiplash injuries in rear-end collisions.

Economy

According to the factory figures, fuel consumption is as little as 0.40 liters per 10 kilometeres in urban and 0.34 on the highway. Very impressive. I am going to keep the car a few more days, so I have not measured the real consumption, but so far it looks positive.

The Captur is priced marginally above the equivalent Clio – and that means a lot of car for the money. I think trade-in values will be good, because I think there is a good market for tall-built, small family cars. However, trade-in prices for Renaults are not quite as good as current bestsellers like Toyota and Volkswagen.

Conclusion

I am using the Captur as a daily means of transport under some fine autumn days in the southern France. It stands out as exceptionally easy to drive. It works especially well in city driving. The light steering makes it easy to park. It also handles motorway speeds fine. The car’s appearance is appealing, but I would definitely not choose it in orange and white. While we are on the road, we discover several Capturs in other color combinations. My wife prefers a red version with black roof. My choice would be white with black roof.

– Which color would you choose?

Curb lights and LED daylights.

Curb lights and LED daylights.

Not very elegant, but solid and durable interior.

Not very elegant, but solid and durable interior.

Seat covers can easily be removed for cleaning.

Seat covers can easily be removed for cleaning.

The glove Box is big as a kitchen drawer.

The glove Box is big as a kitchen drawer.

An extra storage bin on top of the dashboard.

An extra storage bin on top of the Dashboard. The lid sometimes popped up by itself.

Parked at Cadaqués, Spain.

Parked at Cadaqués, Spain.

Manufacturing defects on T5 and A5

“Norwegian ambulances cannot handle emergencies” states VG.

Newspapers across Norway have reported problems with Volkswagen T5-based ambulances. Almost all of them have got their engines replaced. Some have had several engine replacements. The problems are associated with Volkswagen’s Common Rail diesel biturbo engine with engine code CFCA. It has 180 hp and a torque of 400 Nm at 1500-2000 rpm.

The Norwegian importer and dealership, Møller Bil, have replaced all the faulty engines completely free of charge to all hospitals involved in the scandal. The bills have probably been covered by The Volkswagen Group in Germany. Without such an effective follow-up, the engine issue might have escalated to larger dimensions. It might be known as a problem far beyond being a problem with some ambulances.

“The vehicles are too heavy for this type of engine,” claims a representative from Møllergruppen, the importer’s holding company. The bodywork is built in Finland and sold through VBK, a Norwegian coachbuilder. Somewhere else I have read that “… the ambulances work under much more critical conditions than ordinary vehicles.” This refers, among others, to the fact that many engines go straight from a cold start to full throttle. One press spokesman also claims that “just a few ambulances are affected.”

The scope is far greater.

The engine code CFCA is delivered to T5 Transporters and Caravelles across Europe. CFCA engines produced in 2010 and 2011 are involved. It is easy to verify this. Although the 180 PS engines were not particularly widespread in Norway during these years, I find an alarming high number of T5s for sale on the web based market place “Finn.no” where it clearly says that the engine has been replaced.

The problems are serious.

Volkswagen has not made any public announcements as to what may have caused the engine problems. On certain web forums, some involved technicians have explained that manufacturing defects have caused inferior alloy of the cylinder liners. There is also another recent theory that a faulty oil cooler has sent metal shavings into the oil stream. I think the first explanation is more plausible, because a defective oil cooler would have been far easier to spot and replace.

Anyway, it is a an error made at one of Volkswagen’s production plants. And the effects are the same. Excessive wear on the cylinder walls, pistons and piston rings. The first sign of damage is that oil consumption increases. As the wear increases, a number of subsequent damages may occur, as well.

The same fault may affect more than one engine type.

It is not unlikely that the same manufacturing error may affect other engines within the same corporation. If you own an Audi A5 2.0 TFSI 180 hp produced between 2010 and 2011 (engine code CDNB, possibly CDNC), you will sooner or later get the same problem as Norwegian ambulance drivers. We are talking about the same symptoms, – serious damage to the cylinder walls, pistons and piston rings and an excessive oil consumption.

The first thing you’ll notice, is high oil consumption.

According to Audi’s specifications, an oil consumption of 1 liter per 2000 kilometer is considered normal. It is only when the consumption exceeds this level that you can claim a warranty. In the US, Audi has admitted manufacturing defects, and granted extended warranty for affected owners up to 8 years or 80,000 miles (128,000 kilometer). In the UK, Audi has admitted some engine problems in the wake of a BBC program. In Norway, affected owners are followed up through their regular service programs. Owners with A5s who got their cars before the country specific 5-year warranty was introduced in 2011, have probably got their problems fixed even if they have fallen outside the old 3-year warranty period. It is nevertheless worth noting that Norwegian dealers follow a though justice regarding their responsibility. Only owners who have followed the service program meticulously, are supported. If you are unable to document one single oil change, or have had your car chip-tuned, you have lost all chances of being followed up.

I suppose the Norwegian importer, Møller Car, continues to follow up on T5 and A5 owners even after the regular warranty expires. But at some point in time their responsibility must expire as well. Then the owners are left to themselves. Perhaps secondary owners who have no idea that their cars had a serious hidden fault.

The problems are not related to what is called “Monday cars”, which only affects certain cars in production. It applies to all the aforementioned engines. The question is not “if”, but rather “when” problems arise. Owners spending few miles on the road, changing oil more frequently than Volkswagen/Audi’s longlife service program, using indoor parking – and driving carefully, may get their engines to last longer than average.

But for how long?

That’s the question you should ask yourself if you own one of the affected cars, or are considering buying one. Even if everything looks fine today, it is a considerable risk that the problem appear later in the car’s life time cycle. When you can no longer count on getting any support from the dealers?

VG June 14, 2016: Norwegian ambulances cannot handle emergencies. (Norwegian text)

Excerpts from ads posted on the Norwegian market place “Finn.no”:

Cylinders are drilled up at Oslo cylinder service, and Audi has dismantled and replaced all of the parts. (At 112,000 kilometers)

For those who know this engine in particular and wonder if pistons and rods are replaced, then the answer is “yes.” This was done by Audi Asker and Bærum at 53,000 kilometers.

Motor was exchanged at about 35,000 km due to high oil consumption, which has been a known problem for these engines.

Engine replaced by Volkswagen dealer at 110,000 km. Full documentation enclosed.

Engine recently replaced at Møller. 185,000 kilometers.

The engine is replaced on February 18, 2016 at 153,243 kilometers as a warranty issue …. (a known problem with Volkswagens).

Audi A3 TDI on Economy Class

2016 Audi A3 1.6 TDI 110 S-tronic Sportback Attraction

Last time I tested the TDI 110 HP engine, I was impressed with the low consumption.

Third generation A3 came in 2012.

Third generation A3 came in 2012.

Every major automaker has a couple of all-round engines – engines that recur in several models and become big sellers. I tested it two years ago in a Seat Leon. I was impressed with the low fuel consuption and predicted that this engine could well become Volkswagen Group’s new all-round engine. Little did I know that it should take two years before it appeared in the model lineup for Audi.

4Look-and-feel

basic Interior

basic Interior

I can’t remember last time I entered a basic version of Audi – just like this. The seats could at best be described as mediocre. The gray textile was unpleasant to touch. The same textile was found on the inner lining of the doors and on the center armrest. This Audi had very few of those options that create the basic feel-good I generally get inside an Audi.

Anyway, the S-tronic emblem on the gear knob, the control wheel on the console, the controls on the steering wheel and the infotainment screen that automatically popped up when I put the ignition on, gave me hints of premium class – albeit in the basic version.

On the outside, things looked a bit better. Chrome roof rails, 16-inch alloy wheels, Xenon Plus and separate daytime running lights. I think Audi A3 is a beautiful car.

This A3 looks great.

This A3 looks great.

4Driving

After leaving Barcelona Airport, we continued on to Ronda de Dalt on our way to Girona in north. It was not rush hours, still the traffic was dense and moving at about 80 km/h (50 mph). Several times we had to brake and accelerate rapidly to follow the traffic flow. I noticed that the A3 did not cope well with this. It was hard to make it shift down gently. The Fiat Panda behind us, passed us. Slightly annoyed, I had to tilt the shift lever over to the right to downshift manually. Maybe this happened because the car was brand new, or because the S-tronic was programmed to ignore driver’s attempt to drive uneconomically.

I am sure the busy city traffic must be a nightmare for intelligent gearboxes programmed for economy. The S-tronic does not have any “Eco” mode. It works in either “D” (normal) or “S” (sport). I think the “S” mode is too fussy. Eventually, after a couple of days, I found these situations happened less frequently. Maybe the brand new engine needed a few more kilometers to perform well? – Or perhaps my right foot got more familiar with the gearbox?

In fact, I am quite familiar with S-tronic as I drive another Audi S-tronic on regular basis.

However, at full throttle, everything worked as it should. I went from a standstill to 100 km/h (60 mph) a couple of times, and that happened effortlessly. I believe the factory figures are correct: 0-100 (0-60) in 10.7 seconds. This is actually very good.

The TDI’s high torque was with me from low revs. It gave me the feeling of driving a powerful engine. But at highway speeds, that feeling gradually faded away. So did the good feeling of being inside an Audi. I could not help thinking that this fine 110 HP engine might have worked even better in a Golf (Rabbit) with DSG.

The A3 was otherwise very stable on the road, even at highway speeds with strong winds. On the road the A3 felt like a mix between the Golf (Rabbit) and the A4.

Sportback is Audi's term for hatchback.

Sportback is Audi’s term for hatchback.

4Comfort

A profiled motor journalist once wrote that Audi’s standard seats were not meant to be used for real, as all customers would choose upgraded seats, anyway. If you’d like to sit comfortably in an Audi, you’ll have to order proper seats from the options list. Everyone knows that.

Even though the seats were a little dull-looking, they were quite comfortable. The cushions were a bit soft, with good lateral support. I prefer a low seating position, so I can rest my right arm on the center armrest. The only thing I really missed, was a little better thigh support.

I liked the sound from the TDI engine. With automatic transmission it sounded like a powerful and expensive driveline, especially when accelerating from low speeds. In the Seat Leon, I tested earlier, I could hardly hear the engine at all. I know that Audi has special engineers working with audio performance, and I imagine that such a fine sound had to be created by someone.

At highway speeds the sound from the engine got more and more influenced by the fact that it, after all, is a moderately motorized car. There is a limit to everything.

The space of a standard Golf, but no wagon.

The space of a standard Golf, but no wagon.

4Space

To me, the term Sportback indicates some sort of a wagon – at least in a light variant. The cabin felt quite spacious, but the trunk is no where near of being a wagon. It takes 380 liters of cargo. The sloping rear window steals any vertical space. By folding down the rear seats, you’ll get 1220 liters. This is virtually identical to the Volkswagen Golf (Rabbit), which the A3 shares its platform with.

Good breaking performance.

Good breaking performance.

4Safety

The ties to Golf (Rabbit) seems obvious also in the NCAP crash tests results. The A3 has almost identical results as Golf, and came in the top ten list the year it was tested.

Active safety is good, due to its safe handling. It feels very stable. Like the Golf, it’s designed to handle blunders drivers often do. I would particularly emphasize the good braking performance.

Nicely designed climate panel with a hint of retro style.

Nicely designed climate panel with a hint of retro style.

4Economy

I measured an average consumption of between 0.55 to 0.60 liters per 10 kilometers. My consumption figures were higher than I previously experienced with the same engine in Seat Leon. According to factory figures the consumption should have been 0.35 liters per 10 kilometers on country roads and 0.45 for urban use. I think my higher consumption figures could be explained by the fact that the car was brand new, and that most of my driving happened at highway speeds.

The list price of an A3 with TDI 110 HP S-tronic is NOK 323 600. No one actually buys a new Audi without adding additional equipment from the options list. What I missed the most in “my” A3, was upgraded seats, parking sensors and navigation. I would also pay for Adaptive Cruise Control (€ 340) and B & O sound (€ 930). Once you’ve got that installed, you don’t want anything else. We are talking about equipment packages at about NOK 40-50 000, but I believe that would be necessary in order to keep a nice trade-in value.

A simple, but stylish layout.

A simple, but stylish layout.

Conclusion

The TDI engine of 110 HP and a torque of 250 Nm gives the feeling of driving a bigger engine than the number of horsepower would imply, as long as you keep driving within the correct engine rev intervals. The S-tronic transmission, which is based on Volkswagen’s DSG, is still the world’s leading double-clutch automatic system. I think it did a good job of delivering forces to the road, although it sometimes tangled itself into some kind of eco mode.

Whichever way we look at it, this A3 has a moderately motorized driveline with ambitions of extremely low consumption figures. Perhaps the most sensible choise of A3 you can make today. In the 11 days I had the car, I spent the most time on French country roads, although most of the miles were covered on highways. I think the A3 loved the country roads at most …

… and I loved every trip I took.

positive1
• Low consumption.
• Stable and safe handling.

negative1
• Sometimes the S-tronic puts itself in eco mode.
• Audi’s basic seats does not look stylish as you’d expect in a premium car.

This TDI is not affected by VW's emission scandal.

This TDI is not affected by VW’s emission scandal.

Looks nice even though it is a lot of gray plastic.

Looks nice even though it is a lot of gray plastic.

Spring in Catalonia

What a beautyful spring in Catalonia.

Fête Americaine

This year was the 10th anniversary of Fête Americaine (American Party) on the beach outside the small French town of Argelès-sur-Mer. French people, who love American culture, get together once a year to enjoy American music, dancing, food, shows, performances, motorcycles and cars. We’ve been there and have taken snapshots among cowboy hats, Elvis look-a-likes, pin-ups in 50s style, and of course American cars.

This is France – but today it looks like Florida.

Plymouth Super Special

Plymouth Super Special

Everything is kept in the 50's style, even the pin-up on the quarter window.

Everything is kept in the 50’s style, even the pin-up on the quarter window.

What's better than going to the beach in a VW Bus?

What’s better than going to the beach in a VW Bus?

Bad Boy Beetle.

Bad Boy Beetle.

Hummer H3, also known as the Ladies' Hummer.

Hummer H3, also known as the Ladies’ Hummer.

Stylish logo, but far away from the original Humvee.

Stylish logo, but far away from the original Humvee.

A very nice car: The Buick Sedanette.

A very nice car: The Buick Sedanette.

The characteristic teeth of a 50's Buick.

The characteristic teeth of a 50’s Buick.

A hood ornament that could have been influenced by U.S. Air Force.

A hood ornament that could have been influenced by U.S. Air Force.

A Mustang is a true American symbol.

A Mustang is a true American symbol.

There were a lot of Ford Probes sold in Europe. Not my cup of tea...

There were a lot of Ford Probes sold in Europe. Not my cup of tea…

Look at the Indian motorcycle that passes just in front of the sixties' Beetle.

Look at the Indian motorcycle that passes just in front of the sixties’ Beetle.

A late seventies' T-bird.

A late seventies’ T-bird.

A '55 Chevy with toys in the grille.

A ’55 Chevy with toys in the grille.

Ford Mustang Shelby Cobra.

Ford Mustang Shelby Cobra.

Une voiture de mes rêves.

Une voiture de mes rêves.

This French Reanult 4CV from the late 50's was probably the most popular car on the stand.

This French Reanult 4CV from the late 50’s was probably the most popular car on the stand.

Looks like brand new inside.

Looks like brand new inside.

A very clean engine. I didn't like the red paint on the covers and the pulley.

A very clean engine. I didn’t like the red paint on the covers and the pulley, though.

With lots of patine. Still, the mechanics looked good.

With lots of patine. Still, the mechanics looked good.

Another American icon - the Chevy Corvette.

Another American icon – the Chevy Corvette.

A long bonnet which reveals a big and powerful engine.

The long bonnet which reveals a big and powerful engine.

Unmistakeably a Corvette.

Unmistakeably a Corvette.

Matra Murena (Simca/Talbot) from the late seventies is very rare today.

Matra Murenas (Simca/Talbot) from the late seventies are quite rare today, even though a total of 10,500 cars were made. Glasfibre body on galvanized steel frame.

It is just above 4 meters long and has 3 seats in front.

It is just above 4 meters long and has 3 seats in front.

A french car, but looks like something that could have been designed in the U.S.

A french car, but looks like something that could have been designed in the U.S.

That's all. Now, I'm looking forward to a hot summer.

5 000 visitors on a gray saturday with a little rain.

Now, I’m really looking forward to a hot summer.

A Brilliant Polo Engine

2015 Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI BMT 90 Advance

I’m sure the 1.2 TSI engine will be continued to the new Polo which is expected to come next year.

-Is Polo okay?

The man from the rental company smiled. The Polo costed a few euros more per day than the Opel Corsa which I had ordered a few days ago. I really wanted to try the brand new Opel Corsa. I have driven the Volkswagen Polo ever so many times before. Still, I couldn’t say no to an upgrade.

Soon, Volkswagen will present a new model. Its sister model, the Skoda Fabia, which shares the same platform, is already out on the market as a brand new model. The Polo got a small facelift two years ago, but there is no secret that a replacement is due. I am pretty sure that the new Polo will get the same fine 1.2 liter TSI engine which I tested here. It comes with respectively 90 and 110 HP.

Pictures taken by Lake Villeneuve-de-la-Raho, south of Perpignan, France.

Pictures taken by Lake Villeneuve-de-la-Raho, south of Perpignan, France.

Look-and-feel3

The upholstery is made of durable materials. It stands well against tear and wear, but does not look very elegant.

Only the rear part of the seat cushions can be jacked up and down. Adjustable steering wheel is standard on all models. All controls are where they should be. I noticed an upgraded radio with touch screen, and Volkswagen’s manual air conditioning, – which was not really necessary in the Catalan November weather.

On the exterior, I noticed the 15 inch alloy wheels. Nice. The pepper gray color (Urano Gray) suited the car fine, and highlighted the new horizontal line which divides the upper and lower part of the front. In fact, these are the most visible changes after the facelift.

-Dull, but practical, I thought. I give it a 4 on Look-and-feel.

Very plain and very simple instrument panel.

Very plain and very simple instrument panel.

Driving5

On the way from Barcelona, we went up along the C-32. The evening mist was seeping in from the ocean. The scenery along the coastline was beautiful, a lot nicer than the scenery along the highway we usually take, – the AP-7 which has a continuous stream of semitrailers all the way up to the French border. Unfortunately, the C-32 came unexpectedly to an end, so we had to take a simple back road to get onto the AP-7, Autopista del Mediterráneo.

I wasn’t prepared for the narrow and twisty back road. It was getting dark outside. The other cars on the road knew exactly where to slow down, – I did not. Sometimes, I misjudged a little, – had to brake hard in the middle of a turn, or change the course rapidly. That’s when you notice whether you have a good car. Polo is such a car. No surprises. It responded just the way I expected.

The engine delivers an almost flat torque curve from approximately 1400 to 4000 rpm. Upon rapid acceleration from a standstill, you can easily hear when the turbo is active. The good torque gave me a feeling of driving a bigger engine – at least larger than the 1.2 liter. During active driving, it is necessary to use the gear lever frequently to keep the engine where the good torque is. Therefore, under rapid accelerations, there is no point in dragging the engine to its full revs. The 5 speed transmission is precise and quick. I recon the 1.2 liter engine must be the best engine you can get in a Polo. It sure offers a lot of fun once you have become familiar with it.

Practical, durable, perhaps - but not very elegant.

Practical, durable, perhaps – but not very elegant.

Comfort4

polo-tsi-90-360-5The seating comfort is no way up to the Peugeot 208 we tested a few weeks ago. You need a bit of luck to find a decent seating position as the seat’s height adjustment just raises the rear part of the cushion. Still, I managed to find a good position.

I noticed that Volkswagen managed to reduce a lot of road noise from the cabin. The TSI engine makes a very pleasant sound, even when pressed, except from standstill. In the 1-2 seconds it takes for the turbo to kick in, the engine sounds a bit unhealthy, – like it’s not working on all four cylinders.

Talking about sound, I would like to mention the radio which I believe has been upgraded with the facelift, too. It had a very good sound and a very easy-to-use touch-screen.

Room for groceries from the supermarket.

Room for groceries from the supermarket.

Space5

As long as you don’t drive with straight arms and legs, 4 guys can easily fit into this car for a long journey. If you put 5 guys into the car, it will be a bit cramped inside, but may work fine on smaller trips. I am 1.88 meters (6 feet 7”) and was able to sit quite well in the backseat behind myself at the wheel.

With folded down seats, you get a large area for baggage, but with the seats upraised, you only have a total of 280 liters available. That is normal for its class, but not enough luggage space for 4 guys on a week’s trip.

I like the color - Urano Gray - and the wheels.

I like the color – Urano Gray – and the wheels.

Safety4

The Polo is probably one of the best in its class when it comes to active safety, the kind of safety that helps the driver avoid accidents. I would particularly emphasize the car’s good braking performance. This applies only to models with 90 or more HP, which have disc brakes both front and rear. The 3-cylinder models are equipped with simpler drum brakes on the rear wheels, probably to cut costs. I think it is unwise of Volkswagen to save money on brakes.

Polo scored high in NCAP when it was introduced in 2009 and still holds up with the latest cars. Deactivateable passenger airbag and ISOFIX for child seats. New models (after the facelift) can be ordered with Adaptive Cruise Control at only NOK 2,200.

Interior is practical and tidy - typical for a german car?

Interior is practical and tidy – typical for a german car?

Economy5

Our Polo with 90 horses costs NOK 212,800 in the Highline edition. That’s a lot of driving pleasure for the money. For NOK 7,000 more, you get the 110 HP engine. That engine has become quite popular in the Golf/Rabbit too.

If you are thinking of buying a Polo, I strongly recommend Volkswagens automatic transmission DSG. 1.2 TSI with DSG is a fantastic drivetrain, both with 90 and 110 HP.

I am sure it is possible to run well under half a liter per 10 kilometers on our test car. After 10 days of driving, I must admit that I never did any actual measurements. I experienced the fuel consumption as next to nothing all the time, and do not doubt the stated consumption figures: 0.60 (city) and 0.40 (highway). The fuel tank holds only 45 liters, but that still gives an OK range. Our car had engine stop & start, and a recuperation of energy generated from the brakes. The energy is transformed into electricity, so every time you use the brakes, the battery is being recharged.

If you buy a Polo today, you should expect a slightly higher loss of value the first years because of the new model. Prises on the outbound Polo seems very affordable right now, at least compared to its bigger brother, the Golf/Rabbit.

I should point out that Volkswagen’s emission scandal also may affect the TSI models.

Until the next scandal, I think the 1.2 TSI is a brilliant Polo engine …

positive1
⦁ The torque of the small engine
⦁ Very good and safe road handling
⦁ Low noise for a small car

negative1
⦁ Nothing special

Sunset at the Lake Villeneuve-de-la-Raho. You can take a nice walk around the lake.

Sunset at the Lake Villeneuve-de-la-Raho. You can take a nice walk around the lake.

Another picture taken on our way back to the Polo.

Another picture taken on our way back to the Polo.

BMW 530d – A straight six

2016 BMW 530d M Sport

BMW’s straight six engine has many followers. This weekend they got another one.

 
I once read an article in the British CAR Magazine about which cars you must drive before you die. A sort of “bucket list” for car enthusiasts. I have no doubt when I put BMW’s 3-liter straight six on that list. I had a 530d at my disposal for an extra long weekend to visit my daughter in the UK. The man at the car rental company saw an opportunity for additional sales to a loyal customer. For a few extra pounds I was given the keys to the finest rental car at Stansted Airport.

BMW's designers know how to create the perfect driving position.

BMW’s designers know how to create the perfect driving position.

Look-and-feel3

A BMW 5 Series with navigation and automatic transmission was all I knew about the car as I went looking for it. “Not bad! A fat BMW M Sport with 18 inch wheels”, I thought when I saw the sharp lines on the bonnet and the aggressive front with large air intakes. It reminded me a little of classic British cars, like the Jaguar and the Bentley.

The electric-powered M sports seats were adjusted in all possible ways to make a perfect seating position. Someone had put the iDrive system in Spanish. I realise that such systems are not designed for people in their fifties. Neither my wife nor I was able to figure out how to change the language. I knew that the iDrive system requires a bit of adaption to operate, so I didn’t waste any more time on it.

-Spanish works fine when you are on a weekend trip. The destination on the navigation system was set to our hotel in Colchester, an hour’s drive eastwards across the countryside. I knew well where the hotel was, but appreciated to be guided on the way. To drive a car in Essex requires a constant focus on the speed limits, as there are many speed ​​cameras along the road.

Once I started up the straight six engine, I got that foolish grin on my face. A grin I was unable to wipe off. As a car enthusiast, my head turns around every time I hear a speeding BMW straight six engine, and now I was the one behind the wheel. It is a very creamy sound, indeed.

The BMW 5 Series (F10) has been in production since late 2010, and facelifted from 2014. There are plenty of them on the roads, and the M Sport styling is popular. Yet, this particular car gave me a better first impression than most 5-series I’ve seen before. Strange, because you cannot see on the front that it’s a six under the bonnet. It must have been the color, “Moonstone metallic”, a color that belongs to BMW’s Individual Color Palette. See for yourselves. My pictures were taken in the lights of a warm sunset. What do you think?

M Sport with its large air intakes and aggressive look.

M Sport with its large air intakes and aggressive look.

Driving5

Early in March, in the evergreen Essex countryside, the farmland along the highway was about to turn green with young sprouts. Parks and gardens were planted with yellow daffodils. The roads were dry, and along the narrow country roads between the villages we could see small creeks full of water. To us, this was a nice contrast to the vertical snow-slush we had on out way to the airport back home.

The straight six engine delivers 258 horsepower. The torque, which is 560 Nm at 1500 rpm, is more than enough, to speak. 70 mph on the highway felt very calm. 0-100 kilometers per hour (60 mph) takes only 5.8 seconds. From where my daughter lives, there is a small ramp to the main road where the fast traffic comes abruptly over the hilltop. A tiny snarl of the engine and we were in motion. No stress. Only the driver’s foolish grin.

That’s what I like with a straight six. The power is delivered without stress of any kind. No noise, no vibrations and no harshness. I enjoy how the wide 245 millimeter tires grab hold to the tarmac when accelerating through the bends up the hills on narrow country roads. The automatic transmission is a conventional 8 speed type that adapts to the environment and the driving patterns. It can be shifted manually step by step by tilting the lever to the left. I don’t think the 530d can be equipped with any other transmission.

Inside the city, where our hotel from the 1700 Century was located, the streets were so narrow that we had to put two wheels up on the pavement and maneuver with a clearance of just a few inches. I noticed on a few occasions that my eyes deceived me slightly – the car was actually wider than I thought. I think the M Sport styling with the sharp profiles on the bonnet contributed to it. Luckily I knew well where the wheels were, and the parking sensors told the when obstacles came too close.

Both iDrive and the gear lever required some adaptation.

Both iDrive and the gear lever required some adaptation.

Comfort4

It is somewhat meaningless to describe the comfort of a car that is so well designed for the driver and passengers’ wellbeing. The comfy seats, the wonderful sound, and everything you see and touch, are first class. A good question here is wether the comfort killed the car’s sporty handling.

I had the dynamic damper control on “Comfort” the whole time. It suited us well wherever we drove, mainly on highways and narrow british countryside roads along hedges and stone fences, on partly worn asphalt with quite a few pot holes. None of the roads we drove on, were suited to push the limits of the car’s sporting characteristics. I’d had to take it on a closed track in order to put sportiness to the test.

With a total length of 490 cm (193") it feels like a spacious car.

With a total length of 490 cm (193″) it feels like a spacious car.

Space5

In the Nordic countries, a 530d would most likely be a Touring (stationwagon) with xDrive (4wd) ready to climb the roads up to some mountain cabin. Me, I like the fullsize sedans, and I’ve had the pleasure of owning several fine sedans over the years. I think the 530d sedan looks more elegant than the stationwagon, and much more like a classic British car, like the Jaguar. Anyway, I expect to have plenty of legroom in a sedan of 490 cm (193″), which we of course had.

Brakes can be decorative, as here.

Brakes can be decorative, as here.

Safety4

The European NCAP test of the 5 Series stretches all the way back to 2010 when the model was introduced. The results were actually pretty good, – the 5 Series ended in 3rd place that year. Still today, those results are slighly better than german competitors, like the Audi A6 and the Mercedes E-class, which was tested the year after.

The BMW’s good handling and the vehicles body size contribute of course also to the good active safety, – the kind of safety that prevents accidents from happen – and not least, the feeling of being inside a safe car.

Renting a fat BMW is a great way to reward yourself.

Renting a fat BMW is a great way to reward yourself.

Economy5

The start price of 530d is NOK 653,900. Our British model with the M Sport package and navigation would reach 756,800 before we had looked further on the equipment list. Cars in this class normally have extra equipment in the price range of NOK 100,000.

There aren’t any economic arguments behind the choice of a BMW with the straight 6 cylinder engine. The 4 cylinder 520d with 190 HP is NOK 150,000 cheaper, and still quite a decent car. The price difference is a result of Nordic import taxes. I am amazed of the official consumption figures. 0.46 liters per 10 kilometers on highway driving, and 0.60 on urban driving are no less than impressive. Since I didn’t know exactly how full the tank was when I got the car, I cannot give any exact consumption figures, but my diesel consumption was approximately – and probably no less than 0.70 liters per 10 kilometers. That’s not bad either.

The car had stop & start technology. I experienced that the system worked better in the BMW than in cars from Audi / VW. In the BMW, the car did not start until you released the brake completely, whereas the Audi / VW starts when the momentum on the brake changes slightly, which actually makes the car start and stop several times during the same halt. I noticed that the stop & start system did not turn itself off in steep uphills, – but I never considered that as a problem.

BMW straight six is ​​all about passion – Not sensible arguments.

positive1
⦁ Fantastic powertrain
⦁ Very good sports seats and seating position
⦁ High active safety.

negative1
⦁ High local taxes (Norway)

The M Sport styling makes the front very aggressive.

The M Sport styling makes the front very aggressive.

Instruments at daylight.

Instruments at daylight.

I am delighted that BMW still keepshass not gone away from the red instrument lighting which Audi unfortunately did

I am delighted that BMW still keeps the red instrument lighting which Audi unfortunately has left behind.

The George Hotel, Colchester.

The George Hotel, Colchester.

Colchester is the oldest town in the UK.

Colchester is the oldest town in the UK.

Daffodils in Castle Park, Colch.

Daffodils in Castle Park, Colchester.