Author: terjebjornstad

About terjebjornstad

Har bakgrunn som IT-utvikler og rådgiver innenfor et bredt faglig og geografisk område. Har stor interesse for biler og driver "Terjes biler" på WordPress-plattformen.

A small steering wheel

2015 Peugeot 208 Style 1.2 / 82

All I knew about this car was that it was French and had a rather small steering wheel.

-“What a small car!”  That was the first thought that went through my mind as I picked up the 208, parked next to a bulbous Peugeot 3008. From the inside, the 208 felt quite spacious. Peugeot has managed to create extra room for the driver by pulling the A-pillars far forward and putting in a tiny steering wheel. Even though it is small, it feels solid. The instruments are gathered in one cluster above the steering wheel and a touchscreen is placed exactly where it should be, high up on the middle of the dashboard. The airconditioner controls are located further down on the center console. I would not call the interior elegant, but elements of chrome and soft plastic made a positive impression.

Tinted rear windows from the B-pillars and chromed side mirror housings, alloy wheels, fog lights, manual air conditioning, leather steering wheel, electric front windows and nice seat textures tell me that we are a few steps up on the equipment ladder. I like the paint as well, – “gray shark”.

Peugeot claims that a small steering wheel enhances the driving pleasure. It certainly made the car feel “handy” in the city. But on open roads, it did not make any difference whatsoever. We ran across some strong side winds. The 208 is not more sensitive than other cars in its class, but it felt a bit odd to correct for crosswind with such a tiny wheel.

Odd, but not unsafe.

I would say there are a few aspects of this car that could make it a ladies’ car. The first is the small wheel. Second, the pedals. I nearly got my foot stuck between the brake pedal and the accelerator, wearing my Danish Ecco-shoes size 46 (US: 13). The 208 really could have been a feminine, trendy, French car if it wasn’t for the gear lever. It is so big and clumsy that I guess it must have been designed for an 18-wheeler.

Nor did the 1.2-litre petrol engine feel particularly chic. The three cylinders gave an unusually rough sound when it was pushed, and I was forced to push it several times on the busy roads in the South of France. At cruising speed, the engine went ever so smoothly with a nice purr, but every time it was pushed, the harsh sound returned. According to specifications, the engine should deliver 82 HP, and I believe the figures are correct, but the rough sound gave me a feeling of having less power.

With approximately 8000 km on the counter I felt the powertrain a little wobbly when maneuvering through slow traffic and in parking houses. It is also possible to hear the transmission and powertrain quite well, as you do in most French cars. I like French cars, and the 208 is no exception. I might as well describe the noise from the powertrain as “charming”.

Let me also point out that the Peugeot had a very good road holding, as I would expect in any small French car, and indeed in a Peugeot.

It took me just a few seconds to find a comfortable seating position, despite the fact that only the rear part of the seat cushion can be lifted, and the seatbacks cannot be adjusted steplessly. I am 1.88 (6′ 3″). The other driver of 1.62 (5′ 4″) found a comfortable position, too, after just a few seconds. I give a “4” for comfort and the way the suspension handles road bumps – actually a lot better than many cars in the class above. The 208 has a long wheelbase for its class. 253 cm (99.6″) is actually longer than the first generation of the Saab 900.

The comfort is spoiled a little by the unpleasant sound from the engine under pressure, but the sound at cruising speed is fine.

The long wheelbase provides good length in the interior. Four adults are comfortably seated. With a fifth passenger it gets cramped, but it works alright over short distances. I used the car to transport a kitchen table. In order to get it into the extended boot, I had to push the seat far forward and put my seatback in a very upright position. Even then, I was amazed to find a pretty comfortable seating position.

The trunk is about the size of the Volkswagen Polo. It houses one large suitcase or two small. If you need more space, you have to fold down one of the rear seat backrests.

Safety in the 208 is at the same level as the Polo. The NCAP results show that the 208 have a bit better protection for children onboard, but poorer safety for pedestrians. The Peugeot group (PSA) has long remained in the top team with respect to safety.

I don’t know what impact it may have in case of a head-on collision, but the extra space in front of the driver provided by the downsized wheel and the forward A-pillars, gave a good safety feeling.

An important active safety feature that you can order with your 208, is “heads up display” where the most important information is projected onto the windshield. This was not installed on the car I tested.

According to the specifications, fuel consumption on mixed driving conditions should be 5.8 liters per 100 km (40 mpg) – on highway 3.9 (60 mpg). I did not manage to follow these figures during the the 14 days we drove the car. I like to drive economically, but I found it real hard to drive the 208 without pushing the engine. An E-HDI (diesel) would probably be a more desireable choice, but I’m not sure it can be justified from an economic point of view. A 92-HP 1.6-liter e-HDI engine puts € 2 550 on the price tag.

From the options list I would definately pick the automatic climate control and the “heads up display” option.

Modern Peugeots are reliable cars that can take high mileages. They are also far less prone to rust than their German competitors.

The PSA group’s most important car?

• Long wheelbase, good interior length and good road holding
• Easy to find a comfortable driving position

• The engine sounds harsh and rough when being pushed.
• The powertrain is a little wobbly and could be a little more silent.


This is the landscape where the 208 was tested.


Just Perfect!

2014 Volkswagen Golf 1.6 / 105 DSG BMT

If you are searching a modern compact car, there are plenty of reasons to consider the new Golf. This is the car that most Europeans have chosen for years and years – and years to come. I have tested the “seventh wonder” – Volkswagen Golf MkVII.

Put yourself behind the wheel. Everything is where it is supposed to be. Everything, – from the door handles to the seat adjustment handles – to the radio. You find yourself intuitively at home in a nice, firm, but comfy seat. The interior is simple, but stylish. Everything you put your hands on, feels solid and consistent. You get a good grip on the steering wheel. The DSG gear lever asks to be put in “Drive”. I want to give the new Golf a top score for look and feel, but realize that the “6” should be saved for real luxury cars. After all, the Golf is not a luxury car.

I wondered if I had picked a two-liter TDI, instead of the 1.6. I had not. A single exhaust pipe tells the world that this definitely is the 1.6 TDI, but it feels stronger. It is said that the DSG robotized automatic transmission shifts better than even the most experienced driver. I like the way it works. It works its way through the 7 gears extactly how I would shift myself. The DSG is actually a dual transmission, where the inboard computer prepares your next gear before you need it. The computer has to decide whether you are going to shift up or down. It made right decisions for me most of the times. There were a few conflicts between me and the technology, – but none that were inexplicable.
Anyway, the powertrain is absolutely fantastic for such a modest engine! And the Golf has a class-leading good handling, everywhere – on the highway, on winding mountain roads. It is remarkably easy to drive. It almost runs by itself.

The first drive took me two hours on the motorway, effortlessly at speeds around 130 km/h (80 mph). The noise level was low. I also had the pleasure to take the Golf on trips over mountain roads and backroads. What I especially like about driving the Golf is that it is firm and responsive, but comfortable at the same time. It’s a perfect match between the two.

On the outside, the Golf is slightly shorter than its competitors such as the Opel Astra and the Citroen C4, but it does not feel smaller on the inside. Still, this is not a real family car.

Passive safety is one of Golf’s best selling points. I also want to emphasize the car’s good active handling as well. On the road, few compact cars in this price segment feel so predictable and safe.

The first two hours in 130 km/h (80 mph) gave an average consumption of 4.5 litres per 100 km (52 US mpg). Not bad, although it can easily be matched by other competitors. But few can match the Golf’s resale value. Our test car had the Start & Stop where the engine turns itself off when you stop at traffic lights. This feature does not work well with DSG, the engine starts unexpectedly several times, just by changing the pressure on the brake pedal. I always turn it off.

My conclusion is that the TDI and the DSG is a perfect match.

• Excellent powertrain with the TDI and the DSG
• Low fuel consumption
• Comfortable noise level
• Safe and comfortable handling

• The Start & Stop feature does not work well with automatic transmissions

No Turbo? No Fun!

2014 Opel Astra 1.6 / 115 Active

It has been a while since I drove a new car in this class without turbo. A noisy engine that has to be revved hard, modest performance and heavy on the fuel, – brings me back to the nineties.

I have taken the Astra for a test trip to La Cite in Carcassonne, France. A place kept intact from European Middle Age. No Wonder it is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Astra looks good in white – Summit White. 17” alloy wheels with 10 double spokes. Leather steering wheel and fog lights are the only extras. The Astra looks and feels like a true German car, both from the outside and behind the wheel. It feels safe and solid. But nothing inside makes me think of a premium car. I really dislike the two gloomy orange displays. They are cheap. No armrest between the front seats, and the contourless seats doesn’t leave any good impressions, either. I also hate the jumble of buttons on the dashboard middle console.

The engine does feel a bit outdated when you drive it, but on paper it looks okay. The ECOTEC engine provides 115 horsepower and features VVT Technology (Variable Valve Openings). This is the entry-level motorisation. I strongly recommend to choose the new turbocharged 1.4-liter petrol engines at either 120 or 140 hp instead.

The problem with the test car’s engine is that it doesn’t have any punch unless you drive it hard, – or at least get the feeling that you are pushing it to the limit. The engine is noisy, and a lot of that noise enters into the cabin. I shift up to the fifth gear already at 60 km/h (40 mph) because of the noise. When I get to 80 (50) I get an urge to shift up, – but I can’t because there are no more gears.

With this engine you get the best torque around 4000 rpm. By that time the noise is real intrusive. But reality is still not so bad. At 3000 rpm in top gear, the speedometer shows respectfully 109 km/h (68 mph). On the motorway, in about 120 km/h (75 mph) and above, I get a better impression, however. The car feels very safe at motorway speeds – and it gives actually some driving pleasure. I think the Germans never would make a car that didn’t feel right on the Autobahn.

Aside from the engine, the car is good to drive. Suspension, steering and brakes are as I expect in a German car: Safe and responsive, – but not as responsive as the best in the class.

The seats in the test car are not as good as Opel’s sport seats, but not bad. They are one step up from the entry-level seats, because they seem to have some extra padding, and they seem very durable. The air conditioning with dual zone function worked fine.

The Astra has quite a long wheelbase for its class. That is the reason why the cabin feels spacious, and offers plenty of legroom. The trunk however is average for the class. It has a double floor that can be folded in, or possibly taken out completely.

The A-pillars look quite dominant, but they do not reduce visibility. At least not for me. I think they might feel dominant for drivers who like a low seat position. Astra’s A-pillars give me a good feeling of sitting in a steel cage.

All relevant safety equipment are in place. For more active safety, it is possible to order adaptive lights and adaptive cruise Control as extra features.

Basically, Astra is quite economical to own. Expect lower resale value than bestsellers like Volkswagen and Toyota. The fuel consumption on this car was pretty high compared to the 140 hp turbocharged engine tested previously. You can roughly calculate 50% higher consumption.

• Plenty of legroom
• Feels safe on the motorway

• Engine is noisy and not very powerful
• High fuel consumption
• Bad taste information displays
• Too many buttons on the dashboard’s center console

Incredible MPG!

2014 Seat Leon 1.6 TDI CR 110 Ecomotive SE

At first, I didn’t notice that I was driving a green car. Having been on the road for 4 hours, I started to wonder why the fuel gauge was still “Full”. I realized that this is the future: Fewer visits to the gas stations – and a greener world!

I have tested one of the greenest diesel cars on a trip to Essex (UK) where I enjoyed a superb afternoon tea at the Wivenhoe Hotel with a stay-over at the old George Hotel in Colchester. Did I mention that I prefer green tea?

The newest Common Rail TDI from Volkswagen Group has a fenomenal MPG. If you keep the car rolling steady at 60 mph, consumption can be as low as 3.3 l/100 km – or 71 mpg (US). This engine was actually first mass produced in this new Seat Leon MkIII.

In my opinion, all the Leons have beautiful designs. So too, our test car in Apollo Blue with the 16 inch factory mounted alloy wheels. Although it shares the chassis with the Golf, it seems much longer and wider, – but that turned out to be an illusion. On paper, it is only a few centimeters (an inch or two) separating it from the Golf. Compared to its predecessor, the MkIII has a sharper design and a more aggressive front. The LED headlights have a triangular shape and look fabulous. My test car had the standard reflectors, though.

Inside, it looks like any product from the Volkswagen Group. The interior does not belong in the premium class, but I like the classic contemporary layout. I especially like the solution with the two displays on the dashboard. One is centered and one is placed between the driver’s instruments. With the upgraded navigation/infotainment feature, the two displays work in combination to provide the driver with the most important information.

I also noticed that the seats are softer than I am used to. They remind me a little of French cars. However, they are quite comfortable. Leon does not use the electric handbrake solution we find in Volkswagen and Audi. I knew they had to cut the costs somewhere! I give it a “4” for Look-and-Feel, but I would definitely give it a “5” if it had the LED package and the upgraded Infotainment system.

The incredible low consumption did not have any influence on the driving pleasure. As with all TDI engines, it delivers a real good low-end torque, and 110 hp is plenty for this car. The 6-speed manual transmission worked very well. On the road, the Leon gave me the same feeling I get in Golf and Audi A3: Safe, comfortable, firm, a little sporty and responsive.

The first thing I noticed, is the absence of engine noise. I had to rev the engine quite hard to hear it. I wonder if this is a feature of the newly developed engine, or maybe the Leon now has got a very good sound insulation? I would also like to mention the comfortable seating, the easy-to-use infotainment system and the climate system.

There are plenty of legroom both in the front and the back. The luggage compartment of 380 liters is the same as in Golf. It is a bit too small for families with children, but Leon also comes in a very stylish station wagon (ST).

All relevant safety features are in place from Volkswagen Group. I noticed that Seat Leon has slightly better scores in the Euro NCAP than its cousin, the latest Golf.

The fuel economy is incredible, probably the best you can get in a compact car without Hybrid Technology. The engine has Start & Stop.

On the secondhand market, Seats are not as popular as Volkswagens. I am not sure, but it seems that Seats also are even less popular than Skodas. I have noticed that in Seat’s home city, Barcelona, taxi stands are totally dominated by Skodas, not Seat. Still, I think Leon with Volkswagens brand new Bluemotion engine is one of the best buys you can do from an economic perspective.

• Incredible MPG
• Good sound isolation

• None

2014-seat-leon-2 2014-seat-leon-3

Low tuned motorway cruiser

2010 Audi A4 2.0 TDI 120hp

This Audi A4 stands on Nordic winter tyres with 16” alloy wheels. The paint is Lava Gray Metallic.

In 2010 the 2.0 TDI was delivered in 4 variants – 120 hp, 136 hp, 140 hp and 170 hp. All engines shared the same mechanical components, but were electronically tuned to perform differently. The 120 hp is still in Audi’s TDI program as a special down-tuned model for high-tax countries, like Norway and Denmark. Low tuned engines can easily be “chipped” for more Power later.

The down-tuned engine is not a big problem as there is plenty of torque in the engine (290 Nm between 1750-2500 rpm). This car is lowered 2 cm (3/4”) from the factory and has the sport suspension. This, plus Audi’s good handling and aerodynamics makes this A4 a decent motorway-cruiser.

What’s wrong with Opel?


To be closed down later this year: Opel Bochum Plant (Photo: Google.maps)

Like many, I have owned several new Opels. The latter, an Astra, was purchased for over twenty years ago. Since then, I have bought several new cars, but never considered buying an Opel. I think I know why.

Opel’s market share in Norway has declined drastically, and is still falling. I think the trend is the same everywhere. What has happened to Opel since the great seventies, the eighties and the early nineties? I think the reason for the decline is that I – and many with me – no longer choose Opel when we buy a new car. The big question is:

Why do we not choose Opel?

I am browsing through a sales brochure for Opel 2013 made by Opel Norway AS. I browse, but I am not reading. Not at all. Even though all pictures are provided by Opel’s headquarter, there are nothing that catches my mind. To me, the booklet is as interesting as a brochure of kitchen appliances. Boring!

You may think that I don’t like Opel. That’s not true. I have recently driven a brand new Astra 1.4 Turbo, 140hp, 5-door, with the latest facelift. It has plenty of legroom. It runs very well – both on the motorway and in the city. It is comfortable. The wagon version is a full-fledged family car. I think, it will be difficult to find a more spacious, better equipped, better motorized and more pleasant car to drive for the same price.

When I parked the car on the curb, just behind a new Skoda Octavia, I kind I perceived what Opel’s problem is. Even with nice 17 inch alloy wheels and a dark gray pearl paint, the Astra seemed totally anonymous behind the Skoda. It almost seems that someone deliberately has tried to hide Opel’s brand identity. The lack of brand identity is also present behind the wheel of the Astra.

What really should keep Opel’s executives awake at night, is that the anonymous design affects you only when you want to buy a new car, not in everyday use. Anyone interested in cars, knows that Opel is a good car. In the brochure, however, – in the showroom and on the street, parked behind the Skoda, no one notices the Opel.

One of Opel’s historic slogans is “Look at Opel now!” Someone should really look at Opel now. Opel has lost its grip on their old, faithful customers. The enormous Bochum Plant is going to be closed down later this year. It is no doubt that the executives at Opel must know they are knee deep in shit. But what can they do?

I think, maybe Opel should let Opel die, and create a new car brand, for instance Lepo (Opel backwards). We know that the staff at Opel does a good job. That is for sure not the designers, nor the marketing department. They should be laid off immediately and replaced by people who know what the slogan “Wir leben Autos” really means.

Maybe someday Opel may change its slogan to:

Opel – The one you notice!


Blue Polo

2010 Volkswagen Polo 1.4 / 86 DSG Comfort 5 door

This Polo Mark V is finished in Shadow Blue metallic paint. The pictures are taken around midsummer in Oslo.

I don’t know if it’s supposed to be secret, but Polo comes in two sizes, – small and big. Although they look exactly the same on the outside, they are quite different underneath. The small Polo has a 3-cylinder engine. It runs on a quite soft suspension, stops with disc brakes on the front wheels and drum brakes (!) on the rear wheels. The big Polo has 4-cylinder engines, runs on a more firm and sporty suspension and has disc brakes all around. It also has wider tires. Believe me, the difference is very noticeable. The small Polo runs like a small car. The big Polo runs like a Golf.

The Polo on the gallery is a “big” Polo. With its 7-speed DSG automatic gear box, it is a pleasure to drive.

A wider smile

2013 Opel Astra 1.4 / 140 Turbo Excellence 5 door


The new Opel Astra is distinguished by the chrome portion of the grille. It now has a wider smile. And the Astra truly offers a smile. I like German cars. They feel safe and a bit heavy. So also the New Astra.

The last facelift added a little touch of elegance to the model. But although the Astra is quite modern and stylish, it really lacks character, compared to competitors like the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. Still, I can’t put my finger on anything specific.

Getting into the car, behind the wheel, gives me the kind of impression I expect in a German car. Sport seats in partial leather and fabrics. Leather steering wheel that gives a good grip.

As soon as I turn on the ignition, the nice quality impression was gone. Two small, horrible information displays on the dashboard. Red letters on an gloomy orange background is neither informative nor elegant. I am sure it is possible to tone down the brightness of the displays, but I would definitely have chosen an upgraded infotainment system.

I don’t like the many small buttons on the dashboard center panel, either. It looks stylish with many small buttons, especially in the dark – but the function level in new cars today requires better user interface. It should be possible to operate the radio and climate control without having to stop the car.

The chassis is a little sporty and works very well on the motorway. Steering and suspension feel safe and responsive, – but not as responsive as the best in the class. Still, it feels alright both in the city and on the motorway.

The new 1.4-liter gasoline turbo engine of 140 horsepower contributes to an absolutely nice driving pleasure. My test car was brand new, and I felt that it was a little hesitant when I tried to drive it sporty. I had to check to make sure I really had the 140 PS engine. Anyway, It is not a very zippy engine, but still feels powerful. Modern turbo-feeder gasoline engines have the same characteristics as turbo diesel engines – the same strong low-end torque and the same low frequent sound.

I sat quite firmly in the sport seats. At first, I felt them squeeze my butt and back a little, but this is typical for such seats. After two hours in the same seat, I felt good.

Although the suspension is a little sporty, it felt comfortable on the motorway. The sound level on the motorway is comfortable, as well.

The test car had the equipment level “Excellence” (equivalent to “Cosmo”) which includes comfort features like automatic lights, rain sensor, automatic dual-zone climate control, trip computer and more.

I am 1.88 meter (6’2”) and had plenty of room in the back behind a driver like myself. Three adults will be okay in the back seat for a while. Inside, it feels nearly as spacious as a car in the Mondeo class. The luggage compartment is quite normal for the class. It has a double floor where the cover can be folded in, or removed. Anyway, the trunk is too small for being a full family car, but the wagon will work fine as a family car.

Opel Astra has all relevant safety equipment in place, and the car feels very safe. I have heard that some drivers feel that the A-pillars block their sight a little, but I don’t feel the same. To me, they give a feeling of sitting in a steel cage. The new Astra is available with intelligent, adapting front lights. You can also order adaptive cruise control. This was not installed on my test car.

This car offers great fuel economy compared to the car’s size and motorization. Astra 1.4 140hp comes with a nice price tag, as well. I am a little uncertain about the resale value. Opel’s popularity has faded – and is still fading. Used Opels are not sought after.

• Powerful Engine
• Cabin Space

• Gloomy and ugly displays in the dashboard
• Too many buttons on the dashboard’s console



Ready to Go Automatic?


If you were considering buying a new car with automatic transmission 15 years ago, chances are that someone would warn you, like:

-You won’t be able to resell it.
-Automatic is for the disabled and old people.
-Automatic transmissions break down all the time.

This is Europe. In the United States everyone has been driving automatic for ages. Cars with “stick shifts” are for a handful of oddballs.

I have noticed that the demand for automatic cars in the Nordic countries is higher than ever before. New computer assisted transmission systems have made it technically possible to shift automatically without loss of power and without extra fuel consumption. Basically, there are 3 different transmission systems available. If you plan to choose an auto-shifter for your next car, make sure to pick the solution that suits you best.

• Conventional automatic transmission (hydraulic system with torque converter)
• Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT)
• Robotized shifting

Conventional Automatic Transmission
The power between the engine and the driveshaft is connected via hydraulics and not mechanically linked. That gives fabulous comfort because harsh vibrations from the shafts and gears do not find its way into the cabin. However, the solution absorbs some of the energy from the engine on its way out to the wheels. It affects fuel economy and performance negatively. Lately, conventional transmissions make extensive use of electronics to monitor the vehicle’s movements and driver’s response in order to make intelligent shifts – for better fuel economy and performance.

Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT) transfers power between the engine and the drive shafts via a metal chain that adjusts seamlessly. The solution provides almost no energy loss, and since the shifting is seamless, it is possible to keep the engine ticking constantly at a favorable speed for power and consumption. This is probably a good thing for the engine, but some profound drivers miss the entertainment of listening to an engine that works its way through the gears. A constant humming from the engine can be a bit boring. And what’s even worse: It brings memories about your first scooter …

Robotized Shifting is the solution that has had the greatest emergence in recent years. The system is based on a robot that operates the clutch and engages the gears according to an electronic analysis of the engine revs, the rolling speed, the up-hill and down-hill sensors, and whether the driver is braking, accelerating or keeping a steady pace. The problem with this system has been that the robot shifted a lot slower than a skilled driver. Today, there has been some major improvements to this solution. The most advanced system – the so-called dual clutch solution – uses two gear boxes. One of the gear boxes is being used, while the computer anticipates the next gear and engages it in advance in the other gear box. When it is time to shift, it happens instantly – clutch in – clutch out – done! By calculating the optimum gear change, both fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are reduced. Even the most experienced driver cannot do better.

Conventional automatic transmissions keep the car from rolling backwards more than a few inches, even when the driver takes off from a steep upwards hill. Inexperienced drivers never have to worry about the car rolling backwards. The other transmissions systems mentioned here, need a Hill-holder or Hill-start Assistant to effectively prevent the car from rolling backwards. However, no Hill-holders hold the car more than about 3 seconds, – just enough time to move the right leg from the brake pedal over to the accelerator.
Hill-holders are now standard also on many cars with manual transmissions.

Driving on Snow and Ice
Generally, there are no problems whatsoever about driving with automatic on snow and ice. I know that some of the first – and primitive – Robotized Shift solutions could be a challenge when driving in extreme snow and ice conditions. I think the first transmissions were not designed for Nordic driving conditions.

I have also heard that some CVT transmissions fail to operate smoothly when they get worn. I think similar things may happen to Conventional Automatic Transmissions as well.
To be able to drive well with automatic on snow and ice, you need a transmission that can do the following:

• Lock-into-gear, or manual selector.
• Shift rapidly
• Operate smoothly

The problems can be described in the following scenario:
You are about to drive up a steep slope full of snow. As you accelerate, the transmission shifts from the first gear into the second (good) … and, woops, it shifts to… third! Then, at the most critical point of the slope, the transmission decides to shift down to second gear, and the car loses traction …

Traffic Jams
In congested traffic all the 3 automatic transmission solutions have major advantages over manual cars when it comes to comfort and easiness. Instead of coordinating clutch and accelerator, you just hold the foot on the brake pedal and eases it as the traffic snails along.

When you drive a manual car in congested traffic you may get a lot of clutch wear. This is not a problem with Conventional Automatic Transmissions and CVT Solutions, since they do not use any clutch. A Robotized Gear Solutions, however, has a clutch and uses it extensively, just as much as in a manual car.

My Choice
I would prefer a robotized shifter from one of the major car manufacturer. It provides the most benefits and makes the driving more entertaining. If I can choose between a driveline with a Robotized System and CVT, I would take the Robotized System. I would probably never choose a Conventional Automatic Transmission unless I am choosing a very powerful engine at the high-end of the price list, – or I am searching for something very simple – at the very low end.

Here are some of the solutions available today:

S tronic or Multitronic
Robotized (S tronic), CVT (Multitronic)
Chevrolet (Korea)
Ford (DE)
PowerShift or conventional
Robotized (Powershift)
MMT or Multidrive
Robotized (MMT), CVT (Multidrive)
Geartronic or conventional
Robotized (Geartronic)

So You Want to Buy a Mini Car?


I promise, you will be pleasantly surprised how much space there is in a mini car. An overall length of 3.5 meters (140 inches) is not very impressive, but you will find all the modern safety equipment such as ABS, ESP and airbags exactly where they should be. And you get a brand new car for the price of a 3 year old Golf! The smallest cars on the market offer a number of obvious advantages, such as: – low price – low depreciation, – low fuel consumption – low maintenance costs – easy to park. Downtown, you can park along the curb on spaces too small for other cars – it does not fill up your garage – it is easy to drive – and convenient. Nevertheless, there are some critical limitations related to small cars that you should consider before you decide on a car in this segment.

Cabin Space
Cabin space is the most-prominent point for most buyers in this class. Do you need to bring a lot of luggage, like a full size travel bag, or a baby stroller? Then you will have to keep one of the rear seats folded down, converting the cabin into no more than a 3-seater, – no matter whether the car is a 4-seater or a 5-seater. In real life, a mini cannot carry more than 3 persons on a week-end trip.

Four adults weight a 300-350 kg (650-750 lbs) in total. In a mini this is close to the car’s maximum load capacity. Besides affecting the drivability, a fully loaded vehicle may cause excessive wear on the suspension and chassis parts. If you plan to use a mini car regularly with, say, 4 adults on board, you may run into some high maintenance costs.

Wheelbase and Track Width
These are factors that affect the car’s steadiness on the road. Image yourself a winding road full of bumps and potholes, – perhaps a lot of wind gusts as well. Driving on such conditions expose the vehicle to forces that affect its ability to maintain a steady course through the curves. A car which is running on a long wheelbase and a wide track width, is more capable to absorb these forces than a small car. What matters here, is not the outside dimensions of the car, but the dimensions underneath. For a mini, you really would want a car that is as large as possible underneath. That means the four wheels should be located as far apart as possible.

Engine Size and Extra Options
Do not pay too much attention to the number of horsepower, as it is “Horsepower per Ton” that really counts. Cars in this segment work well with small engines, because of their light weight. Remember that one of the best reasons for buying a mini car is the low price. If you choose a bigger engine and tick off a long list of “nice-to-have” extra options, you might just as well by a car in the Polo-Fiesta segment.

Obviously, size matters when it comes to safety. Larger vehicles are superior to smaller vehicles because of their weight and extra inches of steel. But there are more factors than weight and inches of steel that affect a car’s safety. New cars have far more built-in safety than just a few years ago. According to results from The European NCAP, small cars can be as safe as larger cars – as long as they hit stationary objects …

Respect in traffic
Based on everyday observations, some motorists seem to act more aggressively and less respectfully to small cars. If you drive a mini car, you may find them tailgating you without keeping a safe distance. They never give way for smaller cars, even when they are obliged to yield. They will always try to get in first before traffic lights – and so on. A typical aggressor is a male (40-60) driving a 5-10 years old Mondeo-sized family car.

The first sign of solid interior is the steering wheel. Does it give you a good grip? Does it feel chunky? How about the handles and controls on the dash? There are no reasons to create puny and cheap interior just because the car is small! The backrests of small cars are often made thin to give a few extra inches to rear seat passengers. However, you should feel that the backrests are stable and rigid.

Recommended Options and Accessories
It is important to ensure that all safety accessories are included. That include ABS, ESP (anti-skid), at least 6 air bags and Isofix mountings for child seats. Some of the cheapest models do not have all necessary safety equipment as standard. They are most likely to be found in the list of extra accessories. This is a trick to keep the price low. Don’t be fooled.

One of the reasons for buying a mini car, is its low price. In order to keep the price low, you should not be too generous about choosing accessories. The equipment you must have in a mini car, is a split foldable rear seat. Due to the limited storage capacity, you may have to fold down the rear seat more often than in a bigger car. If the rear seat is not split, your mini turns into a 2-seater every time you need to carry some luggage.

A Smart Tip
When you take the car for a test drive, make sure to park next to a well-known car model, such as the Volkswagen Golf. Step out of the car and compare “your” car with the well-known car model. Then you can a realistic look of its size. It is easy to be fooled when the cars are lined up at the dealer.