The Marmot’s Second Worst Fear

In eight days in July I covered about 2000 kilometres in this car and I have to check now which model it was**.

You won’t be surprised to know I wanted an Astra estate. Sadly, on the July day in question Europcar in Flensburg offered me the choice to either
take the car shown or a VW Golf estate. “Perplexed” describes the look on the face of the Europcar rep when I answered immediately that I’d not be taking the Golf. I’d driven a Golf a while back and I didn’t want to repeat the experience, not over 8 days, not across the length of this lovely continent of ours.

When I look back at all the lovely places we drove to in the car, it is somewhat peculiar that I never got a chance or took the chance to photograph the car with a nice background. I kept forgetting to do this as other things seemed more fun to do.

For this review I won’t be consulting my notes. I don’t have any.

On the plus side, the car takes a pretty decent amount of luggage as the image below proves. Nothing had to be stowed in the passenger compartment. We even left the space under the false floor empty. I did miss storage space in the front of the car. My wallet and camera never truly found a comfortable perch. The front cupholders became a storage space which meant when I did have a cup of coffee the detritus had to move somewhere else (the floor).

Nothing stood out as being very bad. Normally I fly into fits of violent, unreasonable rage when the ergonomics are deficient. Now – note – the ergonomics did not please me. They did not displease me either. So, I dodged the Incredible Hulk moment easily.

Can I blame anyone for the lack of a CD player though? Are CDs so totally passé that they are not included? Nothing filled the freed space though, not even sat nav so I travelled Europe with a piece of paper and, at one point, a map of Germany at 1:10 scale (it seemed).

Nothing stood out as very good either. Of course, there was no rear centre arm-rest and no map pockets and no ashtray. Maybe they do that higher up the range. I’d call the seat comfort adequate and all the controls adequate as well. After getting out of the 406 we drove from mid Jutland to Flensburg, the brakes felt snatchy. I got used to them.

Ride? Fine, but not a patch on the twenty year old 406 with no great gain in handling to compensate. I have a photo of the car’s VIN plate because I could not find any other evidence of the engine size. It may have been a 1.4 because at autobahn speeds it needed 4000 rpm to keep up and we noticed the car demanded one more feed of petrol than we budgeted for.

I really wish I could have had the Astra.

((**For a fairer and much more positive review you can read this))

Author: richard herriott

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

13 thoughts on “The Marmot’s Second Worst Fear”

  1. I figure it must be a last generation C’eed SW (Estate).

    I am amused that you turned down the opportunity of a Golf Estate. I can only assume that you felt that there was nothing new to be learned from having one for 8 days.

    In the past 14 days I’ve had use of a new Polo (for a day as a courtesy car) and a Avensis (for a week whilst the Octavia was at the body-shop being mended). The latter was like going back in time (not i n a good way) and the former was not at all what I expected. I do love the hire/ coutesy car lottery!

    1. OK, so I flipped the coin and managed to get it wrong – it’s the i30 isn’t it?! The rear lamps didn’t look right but I obviously failed to take close note of the fine details.

  2. Good morning S.V. The Polo was not at all what you expected? That’s a pretty unusual experience for a VW group product, given their policy of careful evolution. I’d be very interested in heading why, particularly as I’m facing the same hire car lottery in Tenerife next week and a Polo might be one of the options.

    1. The car I drove was a basic feeling 1 litre, three cylinder turbo car. It had been optioned with an up-spec infotainment system and screen which seemed a little out of context with the rest of the car.

      In terms of ‘not what I expected’: there was an inconsistency to the weight of the controls – the clutch was feather-light, lighter than the throttle pedal and out of kilter with the weighting of the steering too. This mean that I felt the car was kind of lopsided towards the left side of the car (or at least, that I was leaning over to the left). Also, I thought the quality of the plastics, particularly on the doors was very cheap – the door caps were shiny, like they had already been worn shiny by use. The whole assembly between the two front seats was also like something from the 1980s and I guess I had expected better from a VW.

      That said, the upper dash is quite impressive, if over-sized for a car of that niche. So, I liked the sweep of the infotainment screen bleeding into the instrument binnacle and panel and it was nicely in one’s line of sight, but both the screen and the instruments themselves seemed huge – like they had been oddly magnified to make them easier to read – and loomed out towards the driver. I realise that’s a good thing from a legibility perspective, but it just seemed ill proportioned.

      Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice enough car and is easy to drive, etc., but it left me cold and I thought the points above spoke of a lack of attention to detail which one expects from a VW product (I certainly feel my Octavia – albeit it is a class above and more expensive) has a much more even and consistent feel.

  3. Interesting how Hyundai markets the i30 here in four flavours, none of which include an estate. They’re all called Elantra “something”. The saloon low mechanical spec with torsion beam rear suspension is just an Elantra “blank” (7 models); change it to a hatchback and it’s the Elantra GT (5 models); add turbo and rear multilink and the saloon is Elantra Sport (4 models); the hatchback becomes the Elantra GT Sport (3 models). Some have manual or automatic, your choice – 19 combinations of squidge not counting gearbox.

    But wait, there’s more! The new for 2019 Elantra saloon is being sold alongside the 2018s but with LED everywhere lighting, a new grille, and infotainment screen now in the dash instead of looking like a refugee iPad. A further 7 models. Pant, gasp, wheeze.

    The only upshot to all this is that when you pop your head in the dealer’s, there is a sea of grey Elantras milling around looking for the exit, shuffling abaht uncertainly, trying to elbow the bespectacled Kona, Ioniqs of all stripes and Veloster out of the way for the Great Escape. Freedom at last!

    Rather than confuse customers with the, from my perspective, excessive number of available engines available in Europe, here Elantras get two. Cheapies get a 2.0 litre Atkinson Hiccuper, Sports feature a 1.6 turbo.

    I have to thank this article for forcing me to gaze at the Hyundai Canada website, which demanded to know my place of residence so that Special Offers could be directed my way, just so that I could experience the out-of-body mind-space actual customers for this car must go through. Don’t want this one for $69 a week? We have one for $72.50! Lookit this baby! Turbo for $89! And the base is just $48, but we don’t stock them.

    Arghhhhhhhhhh ………

    Whether any of them are any good is beside the point. But probably not, the Genesis 2.0t AWD BMW 3 Series “fighter” I drove last Thursday seemed devoid of sport but majored in tyre noise and tramlining, plus my foot got stuck and I wrenched it getting out of the tiny back seat. Nasty. But very well made I must say – it made the pain easier, don’t you know. This is the Kia Stinger in short wheelbase disguise, which Stinger even the magazine C/D said had bad tyre noise. They’re not there yet, folks!

    I escaped for another drive of a Mazda6 turbo in the dealer next door. Whew, sanity at last! H-K seem to major in “features”, Mazda gets on with the driving while matching the features but not blowing their horn about it. Their new up-spec interior is just lovely with soft real-leather seats and tasteful lashings of ultrasuede and real wood; the rear seat area is similarly trimmed and has a giant plush centre armrest DOUBLE the usual width with two USB ports and legroom aplenty with toeroom made available by wide-mounted seat tracks, and the thing is blessedly quiet and comfy until you drop the hammer fully, when an enraged bull roar erupts from up front just to let you know they’re not fooling around as it departs for the horizon. A handsome vehicle besides, modelled in clay, and devoid of jet-air intake nostrils or other frippery. It is adult. The sliding doors over the mirrors in both front sun visors smoothly retract and turn on a light; the console has plump soft sides where your shins might touch them and rub harshly on the usual hard plastic demanded by accountants, the console also has a retractable cover of the roll-top desk variety instead of brutish cup holders in plain view. Now this is class for less than the “premium” makes.

    1. Good morning Bill. Your excellent contribution made me laugh and you make a good point about Mazda. The South Korean duo are on a steep learning curve and have improved rapidly over the past decade, but Mazda is still a significant step ahead in the depth of engineering and quality of their cars. There’s no substitute for experience.

    2. Thanks for that. I appreciate the attention paid to the rear centre arm-rest. It´s a pity about the tyre noise and tramlining. Is that fixable with a change of tyres?

    3. Richard, it’s not the Mazda6 which has the tyre noise or tramlining, it’s the Hyundai Genesis G70 which exhibited those traits on its Michelin run-flats. Since it’s only been out for a few months, there is no info on what other tyres do for it – I wanted to point out that it is the Stinger in disguise.

      It’s the Mazda which has the boffo centre rear armrest, and in which the rear compartment is as well turned out as the front, though both lack fag-end collectors of the type LJKS would have approved for his Sobranie castoffs.

    4. Bill: yes, thanks for the clarification though to reassure you I was clear which car had the noisy tyres and which had the lovey armrest.

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