I won’t be coming to your wedding, Brian.

Sometimes you have to go in search of news. It won’t come looking for you. Read on to learn which of their cars Ford UK considers “large”.

1998 Infiniti Q45: source

Let’s get going! Honda UK announced that the four-door Civic is going to be sold in the UK and that it is made in Turkey. Eager customers must wait until August to get their hands on their own example. A single petrol version with  1.0 litre i-VTEC will vie with the 1.6 litre diesel for sales. The gear ratio race is now up to nine cogs at Honda and you can have such a set-up in either manual or CVT automatic form.

Because the saloon is wider, longer and lower it can take up the demand unsatisfied by the gaping Accord-shaped hole in Honda’s line-up. The payoff is a lot of room inside: “class leading,” claim Honda modestly.

Persist in reading this to find out which marque has the least up-to-date press release. Is it Toyota, Mitsubishi or someone else entirely? Plus, have Ford let the cat out of the bag regarding car sizes?

Toyota is keen to report that Esapekka Lappi piloted and then wrecked a Yaris to complete the sixth round of the FIA WRC in fifth position in Portugal at the weekend. Toyota’s UK Heritage collection is still in development and the teaser panel at the website is still pretty much a blank.

Autocar offered this year’s Issigonis Award to Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota. ”This is our highest accolade and our most prestigious and most personal award. It goes to Mr Toyoda in recognition of the quite incredible job he has done at the helm of Toyota and Lexus. He has been proved right on so many issues and it is inspiring to see him do such diverse things as lead the agenda on future powertrain technologies and bring back cars that appeal to the enthusiast, all while selling a vast amount of ever-more desirable cars,” explained Autocar.

1992 Infiniti J30: source

Nissan´s  latest bit of news is nothing to do with cars at all: “Nissan today announces the retail launch of its integrated home energy solution, Nissan Energy Solar. UK customers can now optimise the way their properties create, store and consume energy via the use of world-class integrated solar panels, battery storage (xStorage Home) and a home energy management system.”

To be serious, Nissan is serious about seeing EVs as part of an integrated solution as the Nissan Energy Solar package is conceived as part of the energy supply for its EV cars too. Quite conceivably people with little interest in a transport solution may be more likely to turn to Nissan for their next car if they find out how much they can save on both domestic energy costs and transport fuel costs.

2018 Infinti Q50: source

How about this: Lexus is adding black trim bits and some black leather plus 18 inch wheels to its NX range, on sale for a year now. The specifications are way too luxurious for me: “Equipment specifications match those of the NX 300h SE and include Lexus Premium Navigation with 10.3-inch display, Lexus

2018 Lexus NX interior: Lexus UK

Safety System+, 10-speaker audio system with DAB and single CD player, rain-sensing wipers, eight-way power adjustable heated front seats, reversing camera and dual-zone climate control. A Parking Pack with front and rear parking sensors is available as an accessory option”.

Autocropley give the NX three stars out five: The good news is that it’s not too big, 4.6 metres but weighs a bridge-busting 1900 kg. Autocropley concludes that it is “supremely quiet, strikingly handsome, nicely appointed, typically well equipped and – in hybrid form – efficient, especially in regard to the rising concern about NOx emissions”.

However, it has a choppy ride and costs too much. WhatCar???? reminds us the NX has a 2.5 litre petrol engine and also costs too much. Motor Trend are more forgiving and offer four stars out of five. The picture they paint is of a car that has “confident handling, a well-crafted interior and is efficient. They don’t like the looks or sluggish performance. So, yes, give me some more black bits and black leather, please, to dull the pain.

Mitsubishi’s last bit of news was dated May 14th and tells us that by selling just under 3000 units between January and April, their Outlander is Britain’s most popular PHEV.

Subaru’s main news in that their mix of niche cars is surviving a sales downturn in the UK: “With growth for the safety focused SUV brand, Subaru UK shows positive progress in a competitive new car market which sees the manufacturer grow by 5.5% compared to the first quarter of 2017. This shows a stark contrast to the industry as a whole, as sales fell by 12.4% in the first quarter.”

There were no items of news at Suzuki that I felt worth capturing and bringing back here alive.

With possibly the oldest entry among the marques looked at today, Mazda’s latest item is from February** and simply tells us that drivers still want internal combustion engines. “New Mazda Driver Project research reveals continued support for the development of the internal combustion engine,” it says baldly. Surely they could have offered a snippet about the new LX Eco Ultra Blue-Line trim spec on the Mazda 5?

My caption! It’s an Infiniti Q Inspiration

Infiniti is not far behind with a press release stating that it will be building electric cars in China (the second oldest item from April 19th). The most recent is from April 26th and is too obscure to summarise easily. What is odd about Infiniti’s press portal is that you choose a region e.g the EU and you get a load of non-EU news.

Canada gets a page of its own and the all the countries of the EU also get one page, despite Europe’s pre-eminence as the world’s most important and lovely continent and the one I will be holidaying in for the remainder of my active life. Weird.

The news page which one finds at the UK Infiniti site is equally poor but I did find some juicy vintage Infiniti images (see above). Infiniti have been around for 30 years. Did you know they have six different cars in their UK range? The Q30 costs around twenty thousand pounds which is the same as a Ford Focus (which Ford now calls a large car). While Infiniti might still be a small player, they seem to be quite serious about having a good range of cars and – gulp – the styling is growing on me. I rather like the Q50 very much.

In my next instalment I will go and see what MG is reporting.

** or “back in February” as we must always write. “Back in 1400 it was very common for peasant farmers to…”

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

20 thoughts on “I won’t be coming to your wedding, Brian.”

  1. “Back in” the 1990s nice to see Lancia’s kappa was doing something right, and a big thing wrong by not selling it in the right countries. But by 2018 it’s morphed into a BMW 5 1/2 series, a familiar story.

    Can’t see nine manual cogs doing well. Better to go full DAF and have a rubber band.

    Is this Nissan Energy Solar package available in other European countries, for those who don’t mind stumping up the big investment in having people stomping all over your roof for weeks? And the payoff period will surely only suit the well-heeled millenials. And in which countries is DAB a thing?

    The main Q “Inspiration” seems to be that with horrendously large wheels you can fleece buyers for far more cash than with ordinary sheet metal. Tyre makers will love it, though.

    I wonder what Tesla’s site has, after Musk’s anti-press outburst today.

    1. As I drove back to my local area on Monday night I saw a Lancia from about 350-500 m distance. The grass and plants hid the lower third of the car as it drove. Despite or because of its austere styling the Kappa is unmistakeable. The almost featureless flanks and angles of the bonnet and screens are enough to say “Lancia Kappa”. That was deeply impressive.
      I am not sure what the total cost of the Nissan Solar pack is but I believe these systems are pretty good at paying for themselves and installation is not that much of a big deal.
      About the nine gears: surely the optimum power band for each gear will be so low that driver´s will be more likely to get selection wrong. I´d have thought about five gears was the right balance of the ratios and the ease of selecting the right one most of the time. Precision is no use if one can´t reliably choose the correct option. Like a lot of engineering issues, the right solution turned up quite quickly and has been refined. Now it is being messed up in the name of marketing. The same goes for HVAC: the three rotary dial solution turned up early and is only being expunged because of non-engineering reasons. Audio controls are the same. I will have to think of other examples but I am thinking of a ground breaking article on the philosophy of car design (an overview) which I want to write.

    2. Nine manually selected gears are presumably presented in a sequential gearbox. Otherwise one would need a Unimog-like dashboard device indicating the gear lever position to find the right position.
      Nine mechanical gears most probably have a larger range than a CVT which in turn most probably has a larger range than six mechanical gears. A CVT theoretically offers a better chance to keep the engine in its most economical range. But CVTs invariably use friction locked torque transfer which is less efficient than form locked transfer offered by mechanical gears. That’s why Audi no longer uses their Multitronic CVT (which also had specific set of problems, not least short life expectancy).

    3. A nine-speed manual gear changer does not look like a 5 or 6 speed gear changer, I assume. Is it a little lever thing that clicks forward and back? Excuse my ignorance.
      I think of a nine speed box as analogous to having nine little pieces of cloth to cover an area instead of five pieces. I would guess you have an easier time of covering a given area with five large pieces than five small pieces? How much of the time is a driver with a 9 speeder in the wrong gear, even if it it not as wrong as the upper and lower range of a ratio in a six speed box.
      I have never thought about this before now.

    4. I don’t think is makes sense to have nine manual gears. I’d rather have an engine that is torquey enough in a wide band, it’s much more comfortable to drive. Even in the bicycle world the trend now goes back to a reasonable number of gears. The car industry might follow, eventually – at the latest when EVs become the norm which don’t need any gears at all.

    5. The Jag XF I occasionally drive has a ZF 8-speed auto. Its set up in drive defaults to the tallest possible gear ratio at the slowest possible speed, so that in urban conditions the engine is labouring in 7th or 8th and acceleration is glacial. All in the cause of economy and emissions, one assumes. One has to put the rotary selector in ‘sport’ (a misnomer if ever there was one) to lock out the higher ratios and prevent the gearbox from changing up so frequently. One can also manually select a chosen ratio using the paddle shifters, but quite frankly, if I wanted to shift my own gears I’d have chosen a car with a manual gearbox. It’s supposed to be a luxury saloon after all, not a sports car. This mania for additional gear ratios is driven by the cause of CO2 reduction, as far as I can tell.

      Regard bikes, I’m not so sure things are moving in the direction Simon suggests. A couple of years ago, component manufacturer, Campagnalo made a big play of its 11-speed groupset for road bikes and now I’m hearing that there are 12-speed versions being made available. I remain quite happy with my 10-speed Veloce groupset thanks.

    6. The gearshift mechanism can be considered as independent of the number of gears.

      A Unimog for example has eight gears and a conventional gearshift pattern resulting in the pattern being in form of a double-H. The result is an instrument in the dashboard that represents this double-H with a green LED for every position because otherwise it would be impossible for the driver to properly select a gearshift plane. But you can directly select any gear you like, which is very important in severe cross country driving which is what a Unimog is meant to do.
      The opposite is a sequential = motorcycle like mechanism like in some BMW Ms. There you push the lever forward to select the next lower gear and you pull it back to shift one gear up. To switch down three gears you push the lever forward three times – which takes some time.
      Manually operating this stuff with nine gears indeed seems not useful because a driver will be in the wrong gear most of the time – be it the wrong gear for maximum performance or the wrong gear for optimum economy.
      This is where a CVT excels because there is always an optimum gear available for any given circumstances. That’s why CVT equipped Audis use less fuel than those with conventional automatic gearboxes despite of the fact that the CVT is less efficient mechanically than a normal automatic.

      As for torquey engines: an old British motorcycle with steam engine like torque characteristics is happy with four gears as opposed to the five or mostly six of high revving Japanese engines with less torque.
      An old Alfa four with ample torque and five gears was heaven on earth for its time and thus a 1,600 cc Giulia could beat a 2002 BMW performance-wise.

    7. CVT’s have an infinite gear spread between two finite points, but the gear spread is actually usually narrower than a lot of traditional automatic or manual cars. To combat this, Nissan in particular, effectively uses a two-speed differential (High and Low) that gives it a greater range to choose from on certain models. (The US Versa and Sentra CVT cars have this)

    8. The gear spread of Audi’s CVT was around 7.2, their six speeders had around 6.2 and only their eight speeders are better than their CVT. Their LuK sourced CVT worked to a different principle than most Japanese CVTs. The Achilles heel of Audi’s CVT was its limited torque capacity of 320 Nm (the last versions could take 380 Nm) which was not enough for powerful Diesel engines.

  2. The Focus is a ‘large’ car? This coming from the firm that once churned out the Granada, Falcon, Thunderbird, LTD, Country Squire, Galaxie, Fairlane, et al?

    1. That’s how Ford UK has it on their website. The marketing people must have spent some time weighing it up. A possible advantage is that Ford can shape perceptions among buyers unaware of the Focus’ origins in the small class (Anglia) and medium class (Escort). Conceivably people under 29 might view the Ka as small, Fiesta as medium and Focus as large. The S-Max and Galaxy cover the former Granada class. The Kuga is another version of large.

    2. Funnily enough I saw what I thought was a Focus Mk2 saloon yesterday, which puzzled me at first as I couldn’t recall seing a booted version in this country before. Turns out it was a 10-yr old Mondeo (Mk4), which shows how much the Focus has expanded over the years.

  3. IKEA is even offering a solar array with battery back up, its the here and now addition for those driving EVs. As to the difficulty of panel installation the three man team that did mine were only on site for three hours and never more than one man on the roof, I couldn’t believe how quickly the installation was completed.
    Nissan along with Tesla are trailblazing with the integration of domestic and transport energy, a concept that stands to become widely adopted because of an increasing world population and evermore problematic “traditional”energy sources.
    Looking forward Im sure they will be seen as the forerunners of this trend of “closing the loop” between our domestic and transport needs with our move toward electrification.

    1. Yes, I expected that solar array installation is mostly no big deal: some clips and wires and time for a coffee and cigarette too. I discovered some interesting tidbits when ploughing around the websites!

    2. Glad to know it’s quick and painless.
      But I still want to know the payoff period.

  4. Vic I assume you must already calculate the payoff period on every purchase otherwise why question solar. We buy cars that depreciate while costing us untold amounts in maintenance, fuel, insurance (which may never be needed), and pollution to the environment so where is the payback there?
    Owning a solar array is no different than most purchases except it generates a monetary return (not gain) from day one that will eventually cover the purchase cost. Its better for our environment and by adding a powerwall plus drive an electric car one can go off grid with no fluctuating third party supplied monthly electric or fuel bills.
    Funding the purchase of panels outright is no different than financing a car except the panels can be considered an investment, the car depreciates!

    1. Good answer, DGatewood. My way of looking at is that the solar array will pay for itself whereas fuel never does. One is comparing a rate of return to a rate of loss and these are incomparable, despite economists´claims. People are rubbish at estimating discount rates.
      Say I will spend 400 euro every year on home fuel or spend 2000 euros now on a solar array that lasts 25 years.
      How do I meaningfully compare those two things? Am I really going to search out all the alternative ways of spending 1500 euros (the difference) that could earn more money than I will save if I spend it now on a solar array. Nobody thinks like this in real life. Most people just reason that they feel better with 1500 in the bank or don´t have the money to save money.

  5. Picking up on the introduction of the Civic saloon to the UK, I find this really welcome. Moreover, I think it’s much better looking (due to the proportions) than the hatch, to the extent that I wonder whether the saloon was the core product and the hatch came as a derivative. All of this is relative in that it’s still a fussy and overwrought design.

  6. Guys, the Civic has a SIX SPEED Manual. And a 9AT, depending on the engine (I think diesels get the 9AT ZF box that is also used in the Acura TLX and Accord 2.0T).

    The automatic 1.0T will likely get the CVT auto.

    1. Hi: The automatic has nine speeds, it says at Honda website. I wonder has it been re-written since I looked because the way it was phrased pointed in the direction of a nine speed manual or automatic. Now it clearly just says nine speed automatic.

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