Test Drive

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.

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.


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.


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.

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.

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

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.

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

    ⦁ 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?

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    • Luggage capacity.
    • Low fuel consumption.

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


    The Spaceback


    Plenty of room


    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.

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

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

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

    Odd, but not unsafe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The PSA group’s most important car?

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

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


    This is the landscape where the 208 was tested.

    Just Perfect!

    2014 Volkswagen Golf 1.6 / 105 DSG BMT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    No Turbo? No Fun!

    2014 Opel Astra 1.6 / 115 Active

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Plenty of legroom
    • Feels safe on the motorway

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

    Incredible MPG!

    2014 Seat Leon 1.6 TDI CR 110 Ecomotive SE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Incredible MPG
    • Good sound isolation

    • None

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

    A wider smile

    2013 Opel Astra 1.4 / 140 Turbo Excellence 5 door


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Powerful Engine
    • Cabin Space

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