Test Drive

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.

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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

    Room for bits and pieces

    2015 Skoda Rapid Space Back 1.6 TDI / 105

    It looks like a Golf, but runs like a Fabia. The luggage compartment is nearly as big as a station wagon. Could it be the ultimate family compact?

    Sportsback-1
    Look-and-feel3
    The Spaceback looks good. It shares identity with “family members” like the new Golf, the Audi A3 Sportback and the facelifted Seat Leon. Alloy wheels and fog lights look nice. But a beautiful appearance cannot hide the dull interior of the basic equipment line. Plenty of plastic – cheap plastic. The only positive feeling you get when you enter the car, is a feeling of space. Plenty of space. This is a typical car for everyday transportation of kids, football-players and muddy dogs.

    Driving3
    As I take the car on the road, I understand at once that this is neither a Golf, A3, nor Leon. This car drives like a Fabia. A large Fabia. I checked on the Internet to find out that the Skoda Rapid is built on the front suspension of the Fabia, and has borrowed the Roomster’s rear axle. It’s not a bad car to drive, but does not live up to the Golf we tested a few weeks ago.

    We used the Rapid in connection with a relocation process, moving bits and pieces from an apartment to a small village house in the south of France, – close to the Spanish border. We drove a lot, both empty and loaded with furniture and household items. The Rapid has plenty of room. I felt it was more like a small “van” than a driving machine. Extra weight affects the performance in the same manner as it would in the smaller Fabia.

    One thing I really hated, was the location of the clutch pedal. It was located too far to the right. I got the feeling of sitting diagonally when I used the clutch. The pedal rubber was heavily worn on one side, despite the fact that the car was quite new. A sign that other drivers must have felt the same.

    The well-known TDI engine of 105 horsepower worked well. The 5-step manual transmission distributed the power as it should, and I did not feel any necessity for more gears.

    Comfort3
    I never managed to adjust the driver’s seat correctly. The height adjustment lever affects the rear end of the seat cushion, only. In order to get some lateral support, I had to jack the seat all the way down. But then I felt I sat too low (I’m 1.88 tall). Therefore, I had to seek a compromise. Apparently, Skoda has chosen to use standard Fabia seats, which do not fit this vehicle very well. If the seats had been placed a few centimeters higher, they would fit me much better.

    Another weakness of comfort is the relatively high noise level, especially from the TDI engine at slow speed. Since the engine worked well at low revs, it did not feel annoying. At motorway speed the noise did not seem that intrusive.

    I liked the leather steering wheel, the front armrest and the manual air conditioning worked fine, too.

    Space5
    The Spaceback has 415 liters of luggage capacity. With the back seats folded down, it is possible to carry 1370 liters. The Golf’s luggage capacities are respectively 380 and 1270 liters. In the Spaceback the trunk seems considerably larger and deeper than the Golf. Even inside does the Spaceback feel more spacious than the Golf, but I think that can be explained by the fact that the Skoda is equipped with rather small and low seats.

    If I was a salesman at Skoda, I would use “space” as the number one selling point.

    Safety4
    Skoda Rapid is one of the latest models from Skoda. Basically, it has almost the exact same level of security as Octavia – according to NCAP. But you cannot order it with the latest and most advanced safety equipment like BLIS (Blind Spot Info System) alerts, drowsiness detection system, lane change alerts and adaptive cruise control. Besides, do not expect the active safety to be at the same level as Golf. Braking distances, for example, are considerably higher in the Spaceback.

    Economy5
    The TDI engine with 105 horses is one of the market’s best engines when it comes to fuel consumption and economy. It is easy to find an economical driving style. A low price tag and an expected good resale value also contribute to a positive and healthy economy.

    It seems that Rapid is designed to fill the demand for cheap cars in Eastern Europe and countries in the Near East. Its main contestants are other typical cheap cars, such as Dacia and the Korean brands. In countries where there are high import taxes on cars, the price advantage gets less significant, and you might as well buy an Octavia or a Golf.

    The Rapid is not the ultimate family compact, but it did a respectful job as a removal van.

    positive1
    • Luggage capacity.
    • Low fuel consumption.

    negative1
    • Hard to find comfortable seating position.
    • The clutch pedal is too far to the right.
    • Noise from the engine

    sportsback-3

    The Spaceback

    sportsback-5

    Plenty of room

    sportsback-7

    This is the area we tested the Skoda

    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.

    Look-and-Feel4
    -“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”.

    Driving4
    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.

    Comfort4
    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.

    Space3
    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.

    Safety4
    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.

    Economy5
    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?

    positive1
    • Long wheelbase, good interior length and good road holding
    • Easy to find a comfortable driving position

    negative1
    • The engine sounds harsh and rough when being pushed.
    • The powertrain is a little wobbly and could be a little more silent.

    peugeot-208-13

    This is the landscape where the 208 was tested.