Galleries

Air-cooled Beauties

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

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

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

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

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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.

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.

Look-and-Feel5
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.

Driving5
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.

Comfort5
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.

Space4
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.

Safety5
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.

Economy6
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.

positive1
• Excellent powertrain with the TDI and the DSG
• Low fuel consumption
• Comfortable noise level
• Safe and comfortable handling

negative1
• 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.

Look-and-Feel3
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.

Driving3
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.

Comfort3
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.

Space5
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.

Safety5
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.

Economy3
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.

positive1
• Plenty of legroom
• Feels safe on the motorway

negative1
• 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.

Look-and-Feel4
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.

Driving5
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.

Comfort5
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.

Space4
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).

Safety5
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.

Economy5
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 Taxis in Seats home city, Barcelona, 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.

positive1
• Incredible MPG
• Good sound isolation

negative1
• None

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

Low tuned motorway cruiser

2010 Audi A4 2.0 TDI 120hp

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

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

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

Blue Polo

2010 Volkswagen Polo 1.4 / 86 DSG Comfort 5 door

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

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

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