Test Drive

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…

Advertisements

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 …

 

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.

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.

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.

Volvo V60 D2

2015 Volvo V60 D2 Kinetic

I cannot say that the V60 is a premium car, – nor a roomy stationwagon. Nevertheless, it has some good Volvo qualities.

A weekend with a Volvo stationwagon is no bad weekend. I must admit that for a man who grew up with great Volvos like the PV and the Amazon, it feels a bit special to drive a Volvo. Though the V60 is anything but a retro design. It is a modern car that challenges the Audi A4 and BMW’s 3 Series.

Instruments are all digital like a computer screen.

Instruments are all digital like a computer screen.

Look-and-feel3
I lifted the seat a little, adjusted the angle of the seat cushion and raised the backrest a bit. The lumbar support was perfect. I expected nothing else than a perfect seating position. After all, this is a Nordic car built in the Torslanda plant in Gothenburg, Sweden, for tall and blonde guys like me.

Before I put the key into the ignition slot, I got the feeling of a slightly outdated cockpit. Somewhat small and deeply located instruments, and a center console with too many buttons? I think all that belongs to the past. It is more than 10 years since Volvo was awarded a prize for its special center console design. When I turned the ignition on, however, I discovered that the instruments were a digital screen – all digital like a computer. That raised my impression considerably.

Compared to its competitors, I would not describe the interior as premium class, – at least not in the basic version I drove, with fabric seats. Yet, there was something honest, solid and robust over it – in a typical Volvo manner.

The exterior design is also very Volvo. The V60 has continued the style of the V50, and got a front quite similar to the V70. I like the facelift made in 2014. I also like the rounded rear end. The designers have obviously put more emphasis on style than space.

When it comes to the overall impression, I’m left with mixed feelings. On standard 16″ wheels it looks a bit dull, and when parked along with other typical family cars, it looks kind of small. Yet, I cannot deny that I get a good feeling knowing that it’s a Volvo.

The V60 got a facelifted front in 2014.

The V60 got a facelifted front in 2014.

Driving5
A 1.6 liter turbodiesel with 114 horsepower and a torque of 270 Nm doesn’t sound much. But believe me, the high torque makes the small engine feel more powerful on the road than on the paper.

After a few kilometers, the Citroen C4 came on my mind – a car I have spent much time in, lately. The engine in my V60 is a result of a joint venture between the PSA Group (Peugeot and Citroen), Ford and BMW. It’s a legacy of the days when Ford used to own Volvo. For Volvo’s 2016 models, the D2 engine is now replaced with a new engine developed by Volvo. It has 120 horses, but on paper quite similar characteristics as the outgoing engine.

Volvo has chosen a six-speed manual transmission that is perfect for Nordic speed limits. You’ll have to use the shift lever a little to get the best out of the engine, but it pulls nicely in 6th gear from 80 km/h (50 mph) and up.

I noticed that the V60 felt more like a compact car than a fullsize car. Furthermore, I also noticed that the height difference between the throttle and brake felt somewhat higher than what I’m used to.

The center console, once praised, today outdated.

The center console, once praised, today outdated.

Comfort4

At once, I was not impressed by the comfort in V60. I knew that the seats are the car’s biggest asset. Well, it turned out that I could sit effortlessly behind the wheel for several hours without feeling any discomfort at all – something I would characterize as a kind of discrete comfort. The comfort is there alright, but you don’t think about it.

The sound inside the cabin was influenced by quite charmless engine noise. It got better from 80 and upwards with the sixth gear engaged. The suspension is a bit firm but far from uncomfortable. I think it must have been the suspension that made me feel that the V60 drove pretty much like a compact car.

Terrain-bikes fit in here, barely.

Terrain-bikes fit in here, barely.

Space5

I usually don’t focus much on on luggage space in the cars I come across, but I cannot write about a station wagon without touching this subject. The V60’s body style reveals that there is not too much luggage space. It is particularly the opening that might cause a problem when trying to load large items. I barely got room for my terrain bike with back seats folded down. The biggest problem was the width of the back door. It was actually easier to fit the bike in a Golf wagon/SportWagen.

The trunk is however easy to operate for more manageable objects. It’s easy to fold down the back seats to a complete flat floor. It is easy to secure the load from sliding forward, in typical Volvo fashion. I also liked that the window pillars were covered with washable hard plastic on the inside – and not fabrics. Then it looked fine inside, even after I had transported my terrain bike home after having used it in the mud.

Neat Nordic design on door trims.

Neat Nordic design on door trims.

Safety4

According to NCAP, the V60 is on the same level as the Audi A4 and the BMW 3 Series, – all placed in the top league when it comes to safety. You can order your new V60 with Lane Departure Warning and Blind Spot Alerts, but not Adaptive Cruise Control.

Economy5

Stylish rear lights.

Stylish rear lights.

With a starting price of NOK 360,800, the V60 is placed exactly in the same price range as its premium class competitors. Secondhand values are extremely good, even for models before the 2014 face lift. To ensure a good resale value, I would order my V60 with slightly larger wheels. I also recommend the extra equipment that were installed on my test car, like Parking Sensors, Towing Hitch, All-Digital Instruments and Automatic Lights.

The PSA turbodiesel engines have been around for a couple of years now, and they are well known for low consumption and durability. They can easily do 300,000 kilometers (187,500 miles) without major problems, not only in Volvos, but also in cars from Peugeot, Citroen and Ford.

I think Volvo’s D2-engine is the best choice in terms of economy.

The V60 is honest, simple and robust, – everything that we associate with Volvos.

positive1
• Ergonomic seats.
• Interior can stand heavy-duty use

negative1
• Small luggage to be a stationwagon

BMW i3

2015 BMW i3

When I lift off the throttle, the i3 goes “Zzzz” and stops right in front of the pedestrian crossing.

Look-and-feel3

– Futuristic, I thought. The frameless side window automatically drops down a little after opening the door. Clean lines, flat screens and electronics – an environment created for smart people in business suits with neat laptop computer bags. I found a decent seating position, but felt that the seats could have had a little more lateral support. The interior of this car is different from anything else I’ve seen. The colors are held in gray with blue accents emphasizing the EV theme.

You are not supposed to insert the key anywhere. You just need to have it nearby to use the Start/Stop button. If you press the Start button without keeping your foot on the brake, it turns the radio on. Put one foot on the brake, and try again, then the car is ready for take-off. I actually had to take a look in the owner’s manual to understand this. I did not find the unusual “park” position on the gear lever at once, either. As I’m sure everyone knows, BMW has a separate button for “Park”.

The feeling of not being quite familiar at once, makes a poor first time impression on me. Anyway, the quality of the buttons, the switches and the plastic felt good. Some parts of the dashboard and door lining are covered with a substance that looks pretty cool. It feels like cheap plastic, though, – something that might be easy to recycle the day everything ends up in the recycling press.

I liked the radio, the parking assistant and the navigation system. I also liked the car’s dark gray color. It blends in well against the many black panels on the car.

Different from any other car.

Different from any other car.

Driving5

170 horsepower to 1200 kg sounds prefect. The torque of 250 Nm is available from a standstill, and leaves everone else behind. The car is, – and feels – quick in city traffic. Nevertheless, I saw strikingly many MGIF-drivers out there (MGIF – Must Get In First). Obviously, many motorists don’t know about the i3’s potentials. Maybe BMW’s designer team should have given it a more aggressive look.

On the road I noticed that you sit quite high. I felt like I was looking down on ordinary cars, while high-built cars, such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, was on the same Level

EVs, like the i3, have remarkably high torques. I experienced that quite well as I was driving along a back road filled with professional cyclist teams where I had to make frequent accelerations from 30 km/h (19 mph) to pass groups of cyclists. I also felt that the i3 got very good grips along the winding roads. It felt like the suspension did everything possible to keep the car tight to the ground, making an optimal road grip. It felt safe.

Behind the wheel of the i3, you will especially notice two things: The power steering and the engine brake. The power steering gives a constant resistance through the bends. There are no auto correcting. You have to guide the car all the way through the bends with a steady hand. I liked the suspension, but the steering was a bit of left-down on the twisty country roads. Another unusual behaviour happens when you lift off the throttle. Then you get a pretty powerful engine braking, which is actually a recuperation function that automatically recharges the batteries. Once you lift slightly from the throttle, the charge meter shows that the batteries are being recharged. If you lift the foot suddenly, the engine will give a very strong brake effect. It does not take long to get used to driving with one single pedal which both accelerates and stops the car.

In VW e-Golf I could choose whether I wanted the engine brake, or just let the wheels run freely. I am convinced that experienced drivers can save energy by utilizing the freewheel effect optimally. BMW does not let you choose, and honestly, I don’t know how much it affects the range, either.

You may drive the i3 in three modes, “Comfort”, “Eco Pro” and “Eco Pro+.” I drove mostly in “Eco Pro” because I experienced little difference between “Eco Pro” and “Eco Pro+” except for the change in air conditioning and a self-imposed speed limit of 90 km/h. I hate to drive a car that cuts the engine at a certain speed limits.

I have not measured the total range, but after taking an easy drive of 81 kilometers (50 miles) in nice wheather, I had only spent a little over half the battery capacity. It’s not bad, but since I sometimes gets a little “range anxiety”, I’d prefer the New “i3 REx” (Range Extender) which has an auxiliary engine that charges the batteries while driving.

A very futuristic design

A very futuristic design

Comfort4

I do not think the term “premium car” fits the i3, but I still get a feeling of well-being behind the wheel. What I like best is the sound. I think the tires were less audible than in the e-Golf, but the i3 has a completely different, and odd tyre dimension, 155/70R19 which is pretty thin tyres with a lot of rubber to the ground. It was possible to hear a slight engine noise when accelerating, but the coolest sound of all, is when you release the throttle and let the car stop by itself, for example in front of pedestrians. It sounds like a real science fiction vehicle when it stops with a silent “Zzzz”.

The suspension is comfortable. It takes away small bumps and potholes in a nice way probably due to the tyres. Crossing bigger bumps, like speed bumps, makes the i3 a little bouncy, though.

It is more of a 2+2 than a 4 seater.

It is more of a 2+2 than a 4 seater.

Space5

In reality, the BMW i3 is just a 2 + 2 seater, ie 2 adults and 2 small seats for children. That is not class leading spacing, when considering that the car’s total length is 4 meters. I suspect that the batteries should take the blame. I feel that the designers did not focus so much on space, so you should not expect the i3 to be the number 1 family car. Actually, it does not look like a family car at all.

bmw-i3-700-2

Safety4

According to NCAP, i3 is somewhere between the small family cars and the so-called super minis. It did fairly well in the crash test, even though the latest security assistance programs were not available at the time of testing – like for instance, adaptive cruise control.

I fear the powerful engine brake could cause dangerous situations on winter roads, due to the powerful engine brake. On nordic winter roads, the engine brake might cause the rear wheels to block and cause the back-end of the car to loose grip. I hope the DSC (stability control) and the DCT (traction control) take over the control to prevent the rear end from sliding out.

Another security problem is the brake lights. Would the powerful engine braking come unaware to the drivers behind? I prefer to control the brake lights myself, knowing that early brake lights may prevent accidents. According to this video, brake lights are lit when the engine brake takes effect. Good to know.

A perfect user Interface.

A perfect user Interface.

Economy5

It makes good economy to buy electric cars because of the tax relief (in Norway only), high demand for secondhand EVs, and – not least – the fact that you fill your batteries at home for pocket money.

I recommend the comfort package with automatic climate control, etc. That brings the price tag to NOK 259,900.

The new i3 REx raises the price to NOK 359,900 for the same equipment. It is a pity that the Norwegian tax system does not provide benefits to such solutions, ie electric vehicle with gasoline-fueled charging motor.

On the down side for all EVs today comes the risk of new battery technology, like in the Tesla. A rapid product development, might reduce the demand for yesterday’s car.

The i3 is not an ordinary car that is converted into an EV. It is a brand new concept, telling everyone about a new trend of modern technology.

positive1
⦁ Powerful engine
⦁ Pleasant sound inside cabin

negative1
⦁ Require some time to get familiar with basic handles
⦁ Impractical back seats

Unusal tyre Dimension for a modern car.

Unusal tyre Dimension for a modern car.

The e-Golf – No scandals!

2015 Volkswagen e-Golf

It’s fun to drive, not only because it’s an electric vehicle – but also because it’s a Golf.

Look-and-feel3
Certainly a Golf, I thought the first time I sat behind the wheel. The first thing I noticed, was a new instrument for charging and consumption instead of the ordinary tachometer. Furthermore, there are a number of small decor details spinning on VW’s “blue line” theme, like the blue line in the grill, the blue luminescent sill protector list, the blue threads woven into the seat cover and the blue threads that stitch together the leather on the steering wheel and the gear lever cover.

I especially like the characteristic daylight running lights which are also visible from the side. On the list of standard equipment you’ll find adaptive cruise control, navigation, leather steering wheel and a bunch of decor touches. My test car had also automatic folding mirrors, tinted windows from the B pillar and parking sensors front and rear.

My passenger commented that the seats seemed a bit simple – and that the sound of the radio was a bit weak. The fact is that she had recently been driving in a more costly car. The seats and radio in the e-Golf were quite okay, but not premium class. But who would complain? After all, both front seats were equipped with height adjustment, lumbar support and heatable.

Notice the daylight running lights on the e-Golf.

Notice the daylight running lights on the e-Golf.

Driving5

You start the e-Golf as any Golf. One foot on the brake, turn the ignition key, release the hand brake, put the car in “drive” and off you go! E-Golf is very easy to drive. Since electric motors have a flat torque curve, the engine pulls off strongly from zero revs. Acceleration happens almost imperceptibly, with no engine noise.

You can run in three programs – “Normal”, “Eco” and “Eco+”. In “Normal” you’ll get 115 horsepower, torque like a diesel and a top speed of 140 km/h. There is plenty of power, even for a car that weights more than standard Golfs. In fact, it weighs the same as the Golf Alltrack wagon/SportWagen, but I recon that the e-Golf has a far better weight balance. It felt very close to 50:50. I also felt that the e-Golf is somewhat lowered compared to the standard Golf.

If you’re running in “Eco” mode, you’ll get the best of both range and performance – and a great portion of driving pleasure, too. In “Eco+” you’ll get less power from the engine and the air conditioning provides less heat or cold, but you’ll be able to follow the highway traffic as long as it doesn’t exceed 90 km/h (55 mph). Personally, I get a little panic every time the engine cuts. That’s why “Eco” is my favourite program.

From start, there are virtually no engine brake when you lift your foot off the throttle. But, by moving the gear lever to the left once, twice or three times, you select the recuperation level. The recuperation works like an engine brake. The higher recuperation, the more the engine brakes, and the more power are charged back to the batteries. It gives me a good feeling seeing the batteries being charged while driving. Of course, the batteries are also recharged by using the ordinary brakes.

I have not been able to determine how much the recuperation extends the range. I drove a distance of exactly 80 kilometers (50 miles) in temperatures of 14-15 degrees Celcius (59 F) and dry conditions. The range indicator’s kilometer reading matched the actual kilometres droven surprisingly well. On the beginning of the day, the range meter told me that I had 153 kilometers left. In the evening it said 71 kilometers. You can trust the range meter. Good to know for those who suffer from a bit of range anxiety, – myself included.

I wish the e-Golf had the same range as Tesla.

The instrumentation is a bit different from the standard Golf.

The instrumentation is a bit different from the standard Golf.

Comfort4

I’d like to point out that EVs like the e-Golf, give a special feeling of comfort during accelerations. It happens silently and almost imperceptible, – just like in a luxury limousine. The absence of engine noise is an advantage, but the very little sound you actually can hear, gets monotonous and soporific. I therefore recommend a good sound system.

On a nice september day, it was not possible to put the air conditioning on a proper test. Although most EVs produce satisfactory climate inside, I never want to utilize it to max extend in fear of loosing kilometers from the range – a consequence of my range anxiety.

Small design details emphasize the blue line theme.

Small design details emphasize the blue line theme.

Space5
At first glance, e-Golf’s cargo space seemed the same as the standard Golf. On paper, however, there is a difference of approximately 40 liters. In fact, less than expected, since the batteries are placed underneath the cargo compartment. Anyway, you also lose 100-150 kilogram (220-330 lb) of payload in the e-Golf, due to the extra weight of batteries.

Cargo Space is almost the same size as standard Golf.

Cargo Space is almost the same size as standard Golf.

Safety4
According to NCAP, electric vehicles are as safe as any other cars in terms of passive safety, ie those caused by collisions. Golf feels like a safe car to drive. I would particularly emphasize the braking performance. I would also mention that the e-Golf has adaptive cruise control as standard. The sensor is visible in the lower front air intake.

e-Golf on the road

e-Golf on the road

Economy5
At the moment, it’s good economy to drive an electric vehicle. You can fill your batteries 100% during the night for pocketmoney. Car buyers have never got more value for their money than today, and secondhand values are good. On the minus side is perhaps the danger of new battery technology. New technology means less demand for yesterday’s EVs.

If e-Golf had Tesla’s battery capasities, everyone could use it as their number one transport. Today, it is a typical car number 2.

Range is good compared to most, but still, I’d wish it was better.

    positive1
    ⦁ Easy to drive
    ⦁ Total absence of engine noise
    ⦁ The list of standard equipment

    negative1
    ⦁ None

    A separate room for cables and stuff.

    A separate room for cables and stuff.

    e-golf-360-5 e-golf-360-4 e-golf-360-3 e-golf-360-2 e-golf-360-1

    Getting around Tobago in an SX4

    2009 Suzuki SX4 – 4WD

    For someone from a Nordic country, Tobago is “Fantasy Island”. The cars, however, aren’t much to talk about …

    Tobago belongs to the West Indies and is a wonderful place for vacation. The island has many fine beaches where you can see flying fish on the water, hummingbirds in the trees and crabs at their burrows on the beach. Mango fruits are virtually dropping down on you as you relax in the shadow. At the beginning of September the water in the ocean keeps 30 degrees Celcius (86 F). You hardly notice as you walk into it.

    With only 300 square kilomtres land, you can drive all the roads in one day. Most roads are narrow, steep and winding, with a general speed limit of 50 km/h (30 miles per hour). Driving is on the left – a remnant from the time under British empiricism. Tobagonians are known to drive in the middle of the road. Many of the roads are in real bad shape, with pot holes big enough to rip a wheel off, or chrush the tyre instantly. The locals know exactly where to take it easy. We don’t…

    Most Tobagonian car buyers choose a white Nissan Tiida, Sunny, or a Toyota Corolla – small 4-door saloons (sedans) with automatic transmission, air conditioning and the smallest engine option. When these vehicles eventually are handed over to the younger generation, they get styled up with adhesive window film and fat Monster wheels. Since the cars here have low mileage and are not prone to rust, I’d expect to find some great vintage cars – but were unable to find any.

    Traffic on the main road. In the foreground: Nissan Almera (front), Nissan AD small affordable station wagons that are affordable and very popular here. They are also available in a more lavish version, called Nissan Wing Road Wagon.

    Traffic on the main road. In the foreground: Nissan Almera (front), Nissan AD small affordable station wagons that are very popular here. They are also available in a more lavish version, called Nissan Wing Road Wagon.

    None of the major rental car companies are established on the island. Yet it is safe to rent a car everywhere. Our tiny rental company had some pretty new Suzuki Jimny-jeeps. They blend well with rainforests and sandy beaches, but with four tall Norwegians they were unfourtunately a little too tight inside. We chose a 2009 Suzuki SX4 – 4WD, 1.6 petrol 107 hp with 4-speed automatic.

    Suzuki SX4 – “Grandma Duck’s car”

    SX4 is not a bad choise on the narrow, steep, winding roads through the rainforest. Inside, I felt quickly at home behind the wheel. I got a little 90’s feeling right away. The radio seemed to be retrofitted, perhaps stolen at one time. But the Clarion stereo gave surprisingly rich sound whenever the radio waves were with us.

    Suzuki SX4

    Suzuki SX4

    Performance-wise, I felt that the car behaved like a typical American compact. Comfortable for the class, but a little vaguer road feel than I recall from other Japanese cars from the same period, like the Nissan Sunny / Sentra / Almera and the Toyota Corolla. Around the sharp hairpin bends, visibility were almost blocked by the thick A-pillars. I had to lean over to the middle to get an overview. The combination steep slopes, 4 adults, 107 none-turbo-fed petrol-horses with a conventional type automatic did not leave much to driving pleasure. Ever so often, the transmission had to shift down to first gear in order to retrieve its breath. Anyway, everybody sat comfortably and had a nice view through the large glass surfaces. And, as I mentioned, there was plenty of power in the radio to fill the cabin with easy reggae-like rhythms.

    Back in Norway, I see that Suzuki dealers still have outgoing SX4 in their model program. If we replace tropical rainforests and beaches with Norwegian fjords and mountains, I think the SX4 still would do well. I believe SX4 “Classic” is a safe secondhand car, as well, preferably gasoline models with 120 hp or diesel. If you are lucky, you’ll find one with low mileage.

    Maybe Grandma Duck’s old car?

    Crab and dumpling - delicious!

    Crab and dumpling – delicious!

    Fantasy Island

    Fantasy Island