The Late Film: Mistaken Identity

Another thinly disguised excuse to write about a car that I like and used to own (yes, another one). This is my singular experience of going Italian, and very gratifying it was too. And, reliable.

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The mighty FIAT Cinquecento Sporting (source Retro 02)

I remember falling in love with the FIAT Cinquecento Sporting at first sight (and read, it was an article in Car – by Andrew Frankel, I think – entitled “Eeenie Weenie, Teenie Weenie, Yellow Hotted Up Machinie”, or something very similar). The little FIAT had everything I liked at the time. Continue reading “The Late Film: Mistaken Identity”

Something Working in Denmark: Citroën CX 25 Prestige Automatic

Something rather wonderful in Copenhagen

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The recent announcement of the CXPERIENCE (Auto Express wrote it thus in capitals, who am I to argue?) and the various speculative articles about the future or otherwise of a car like it to fill the gap being left by the C5 (assuming it is still being produced?), reminded me that I had ‘snapped’ this recently. Continue reading “Something Working in Denmark: Citroën CX 25 Prestige Automatic”

Theme – Film: The Mystery of Inspector Morse’s Car

OK, so this relates to a TV series translated from a collection of detective books, but I’m hoping readers will allow me a little latitude.

morse-jag
If that were my car, I would not be happy with even John Thaw placing his foot on the number plate.

For a moment there, this opening was like a game of charades for the ‘visually impaired’ …

I think most people know that (Chief) Inspector Morse was originally the owner and driver of a Lancia, not a Jaguar Mk2 (or was that really a Daimler?). Having read most of the books by Colin Dexter many years ago on the back of viewing a few of the TV episodes (pre-kids, one had time to waste like that), a few thoughts were stimulated by the changes wrought by the TV production company in its adaptations from the books. Continue reading “Theme – Film: The Mystery of Inspector Morse’s Car”

Theme: Film – Incognito

I am sure that this has been the title of some film at some point, but I have a broader point to make.

bdinttss
Benedict Cumberbatch in 70’s cool, upstaged (again?) by his co-star

My one-time step father used to work for the Met Police and frequently came home in squad cars of an incredibly nondescript nature – a brown Hillman Avenger, a yellowy beige Morris Marina, etc. You may be getting my drift (incidentally, having been Hendon trained, he was quite adept at creating his own drifts, but that is another story). Continue reading “Theme: Film – Incognito”

Long Term Test – Mazda 3 Fastback 2.2 diesel SportNav

Pre-facelift Mazda 3 and Post-facelift Mazda 3: spot the difference!

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The Mazda 3 has been featuring in UK-based car magazines recently, partly as one of the weeklies has been running one as a LTT car (a Fastback 1.5L Diesel SportNav) and also because the 3 has just been given an very mild facelift and tech update. I thought I’d use this as an excuse to impart the news on the facelifted car and also throw in an update on how my own car has been running. Continue reading “Long Term Test – Mazda 3 Fastback 2.2 diesel SportNav”

Theme of Last Month: Values – Head over heart?

A quick game of word association around the kitchen table with select members of my tribe provided a 100% consistent response: I say, ‘values’ – tribe members respond, ‘family’. Looks like I’ll be writing about our family car, then. 

2006 Citroen Xsara Picasso: source
2006 Citroen Xsara Picasso: source

Ladies (out of interest, does DTW have any female readers?) and gentlemen, I give you the Citroen Xsara Picasso. By the end of this September, we will have owned our Xsara Picasso for 10 years. This is a record for me. It’s almost certainly down to the fact that my wife uses it more than I and she’s perfectly happy with it. My wife appreciates my passion for automobiles, but does not really share in it, so the Picasso is a utility which causes little or no grief and performs its function without fuss – ergo, why get rid? Continue reading “Theme of Last Month: Values – Head over heart?”

Theme: Japan – Subaru Legacy Saloon (BL), 3.0R Spec B

I’ve been fighting this for a while, but have given in to myself and written up some fond memories I have of the fourth generation (BL), 2004 to 2009, Subaru Legacy 3.0R Spec B.

Subaru Legacy Spec.B - Image:betterparts
Subaru Legacy Spec.B – Image: betterparts

Feel free not to read this piece, it’s pure self-indulgence. This is the car that, in many respects, I wish I had never sold, but I did for the love of the idea of owning a big, oleopneumatically suspended Citroen. In fact, I bought two – one after the other – which was stupid in itself, but I was overcome with a childish desire to have what seemed to be, and indeed was, an upgraded and improved version of a car that I already loved.

Oh dear, this article is already reading like a therapy session. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – Subaru Legacy Saloon (BL), 3.0R Spec B”

Theme: Japan – 1991 Honda Beat

The Beat was an early nineties sensation – a Kei car NSX. It’s concept and execution were admirable. Whatever happened to Honda’s genius for creating cars which got so much so right?

1991-1996 Honda Beat: source
1991-1996 Honda Beat: source

The Beat was introduced in 1991 and was much admired by the press and public alike. It recalled the fabulous Suzuki “Whizz-Kid”, but Honda seemed to go one better by achieving daintiness alongside purpose and robust-looking proportions. The stance is balanced, the zebrano-clothed interior daring yet cheery, and the alloys just lovely. It was another grey import into the UK, and a very rare sight these days, more is the pity. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – 1991 Honda Beat”

Theme: Japan – 1989 Nissan S-Cargo

I mentioned this car in a thread to an earlier article (this has been such an excellent theme, hasn’t it?), and felt the need to show some pictures and make a comment or two.

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The S-Cargo was launched in 1988 at the Tokyo Motor Show. It was one of a series of limited edition cars from what was known as the Pike Factory section at Nissan. I remember the instant like I had for what I saw and it has never faded.

The S-Cargo is clearly a homage to the classic 2CV van which was popular as an import to Japan in that era. Inside there are strong 2CV themes – minimalist features, strictly functional styling, and a dash mounted gear control enabling the two front seats to be set together.

One of the things that I admire about it is the fact that, whilst this likeness is clear in a number of styling themes, the car has an identity and character of its own. This differentiates it from, say, the current FIAT 500, or any of the BMW MINIs – it’s more like what Rover achieved with the Spiritual concepts that could have been. It was never officially imported to the UK, but some grey imports were achieved. To see one now is a rare treat.

[Image sources: exterior, interior.]

Theme: Japan – 2015 Mazda3 Fastback, 2.2L Diesel SportNav

In recognition of this month’s theme, I thought I would provide a short update on progress with my current car: it’s Japanese.

Mazda3 Fastback - brochure pic

I have now completed over 12,500 miles in the 3. It had its first service just over a week ago, which set me back just a little under £200, most of which went on labour (the going hourly rate is high around here), oil and filters. The car had an engine software upgrade, which apparently was part of a recall that never found its way to my post-box. This was described as a “rough idle recall”, which was not a problem that I ever noticed. It does seem to have improved the fuel economy of the car (the last two tanks-full have averaged just over 60 MPG – up from about 57). It’s amazing what the power of the media can do, because I could not prevent my mind from thinking “I wonder if it’s either Mazda’s equivalent of the VW diesel cheat device, or over-writing the cheat device that would have been installed in the first place?”. Surely a Japanese maker would have too much honour to stoop so low? Anyhow – the service was well executed, the car came back to me in a couple of hours washed and vac’d, and the people in the very local dealership could not have been more professional or more friendly. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – 2015 Mazda3 Fastback, 2.2L Diesel SportNav”

Theme: Japan – The Best Ever Toyota Design?

Toyota made their reputation (and the bulk of their profits) on serious (if sometimes dull) cars. The Yaris however was different. 

My favourite aspect - that bold pressing-line from the rear window down to the side indicator repeater (source: HonestJohn)
My favourite aspect – that bold pressing-line from the rear window down to the side indicator repeater (source: HonestJohn)

This month’s theme has brought to mind, for the first time, that I don’t really think about the nationality of the cars that I buy – with the possible exception of German ones (I seem to pathologically avoid them for being too obvious a choice). I arrived at this via the realisation that, in the S.V. Robinson car buying nationality stakes, Japan stands second only to France. And I found myself rather discombobulated at this. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – The Best Ever Toyota Design?”

Theme : Special – Ford Fiesta Finesse

Here’s a Special Edition that was real class – middle class, that is.

Fiesta Finesse
Fiesta Finesse. Image: fiesta-mk1.co.uk

The Fiesta Finesse holds a very specific place in my memories. It helped me to understand that I was of the middle class. It also taught me that minor details can matter inordinately in people’s perception of things, and, in particular, cars. The car itself was introduced in 1983 as part of Ford’s ‘special edition model programme’, according to a press announcement made at the time. Looking back, this programme featured models (also including the Cortina) that just happened to be at the end of their life and so were in need of a little marketing boost to support sales. The Finesse in question was based on a Mk1, although the label appeared again on subsequent iterations. The Mk2, which was in fact a major facelift, was just around the corner. Continue reading “Theme : Special – Ford Fiesta Finesse”

Theme: Special – 1988 MG Maestro Turbo

“Special” might not be a term that many would use in its positive sense to describe a Maestro of any kind, but I think this one deserves a mention as part of this month’s thematic celebration of that word.

1989 MG Maestro: source
1989 MG Maestro: source

I like to think that this was a car marketed with a twinkle in the eye of those involved. It was as if they knew that the public and journalists in particular would scoff at the very notion of it, and so they just added a little wry smile to the way that it was presented to the market. Continue reading “Theme: Special – 1988 MG Maestro Turbo”

Theme: Special – Citroen AX K.Way

On scraping the back of my mind as to why this particular special had held a certain fascination for me, I think it was the very fact that, come to think of it, I could not detect what exactly was so special about this edition.

  • DTW looks at a Special Edition that was remarkable for its ordinariness.
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1988-1990 Citroen AX K-way: source

I feel duty bound to contribute something on the above theme, having agitated for it a couple of themes ago. I mentioned then a particular special edition that lodged itself in my mind, kind of like a piece of apple-peel between two molars: the AX K.Way. On scraping the back of my mind as to why this particular special had held a certain fascination for me, I think it was the very fact that, come to think of it, I could not detect what exactly was so special about this edition.

In the scholastic year ’90-’91, I was a very English student attending a very French university in Paris. A direct consequence of deciding to pursue this opportunity was that I gave up ownership of a beloved AX which I had purchased and owned from new. I recall a pining for said Alpine (?) White 11RE (4-speed – I have always regretted not paying the extra for 5, in spite of being a poor-ish student) and, hence, noticing these similarly attired cars that were quite prevalent on the streets of the City of Light. Continue reading “Theme: Special – Citroen AX K.Way”

The Superb Skoda – a Mixed Blessing

The latest Superb from Skoda is a very nice thing, but I’m concerned that it lacks the essence of … Skoda

It looks rather nice from afar but is it a car to ever really love, asks SV Robinson.

2015 Skoda Superb.jpeg
20105 Skoda Suberb: newdaypost

The other morning I had the pleasure of parking up at Milton Keynes Central Station car park early, and was struck by the profile and form of the two cars between which I had inserted my C6 (I still can’t drive a manual, which is no significant hardship really, but now I’m threatened once again with immobility as the Citroen’s power steering is definitely on the blink – there always seems to Continue reading “The Superb Skoda – a Mixed Blessing”

Theme : Disappointment : BMW 335d X-Drive Touring

DTW is Underwhelmed by the Overwhelming

335d Touring

I was recently treated to a lift in my boss’s 15-plate (actually, he has a personal plate on it), 335d X-Drive Touring (car model names are so stressful and exhausting these days), which he has had “chipped” by DMS to deliver an unfathomable amount of BHP and torque.

To be too honest, I had long had the green-eyed monster over this car. In saloon form, or, moreover, the Gran Coupe mode, this really is my kind of car. I can even claim to Continue reading “Theme : Disappointment : BMW 335d X-Drive Touring”

Being Driven: A Romantic Notion or A Disappointment?

I think that society in general has a romantic notion about how nice it is to be driven – by a chauffeur in particular.  Recent experiences have led me to feel that it’s rather a disappointment.

chauffeur driven
It’s not all glamour and mafiosi

Forgive me if this comes across as just a ruse to write about a problem I have been dealing with recently, but I feel it is worth a few lines.  Six weeks ago, I ruptured by Achilles tendon (proof, if anyone reading needs it, that exercise is potentially harmful to you!), and I face another 5 weeks at least with my left lower leg in an Air Cast boot (a rather marvelous innovation, if not one you ever really want to have to experience).  The consultant looking after me signed me off from driving for six weeks, which created a logistical and potential financial problem when I work 65 miles from home and public transport offers little as an alternative solution.  My employer, which, unusually, is a family-owned Financial Services company, has been superb about it and put an Executive Car/ Driver service at my disposal – hence, twice or three times a week I have been chauffeured to work and back. Continue reading “Being Driven: A Romantic Notion or A Disappointment?”

Spotted – Honda Mobilio

Whilst enjoying a genteel weekend away on the Suffolk coast, I spotted one of these:

Having Richard's "grown-up" Daihatsu in mind made it register with me.
Having Richard’s “grown-up” Daihatsu in mind made it register with me.

I was very much interested and taken by it as an overtly practical piece of design.  Closer inspection revealed it to be a Mobilio, a name I recognised, but could not for the life of me place …. Continue reading “Spotted – Honda Mobilio”

Theme – Wheels: BMW E60 5 Series 19 inch

This month’s theme provides the opportunity for a mild personal indulgence, a chance to get a slightly geeky obsession with a specific detail out of my system – I hope nobody minds.

Lovely Bowlies - as Bulgin used to write
Lovely Bowlies – as Bulgin used to write

I rarely feel very strongly about wheel design, but this particular alloy wheel struck me from the outset as being really well suited to, and integrated with, this version of the 5 Series.  The way in which the spokes are dished inwards around the hub and wheel nuts for the first 7” or 8” and then continue on a flat plane to the rim is in sympathy with the surfacing of the body panelling. Continue reading “Theme – Wheels: BMW E60 5 Series 19 inch”

Long Term Test: Mazda3 Fastback 2.2d Sport Nav – The View from the Back Seat

In this third instalment, I thought I’d provide my views on some of the more practical aspects of the Mazda3.

View from the rear-seat of the Mazda3 - dark and de-contented.
View from the rear-seat of the Mazda3 – dark and de-contented.

I’ve previously alluded to the fact that the 3 is not as popular with my family members as it is with me.  In fact, the mood during the test drive we all went on together chilled the atmosphere in the car more than the air-con will ever manage.  This resulted in pressure to consider various larger (new Mondeo), more expensive (A3 Saloon) and mainstream (Passat) alternatives from those in the rear in particular.  My 15 year old son was particularly vociferous, although I suspected that the fact that he really wanted me to buy an S3 Saloon was a fair proportion of the motivation behind his whinge.  More convincing were the complaints of on 12 year old daughter, who quite evidently had trouble seeing out of the rear side windows.  I resisted, ultimately, by reminding everyone of the purpose of the purchase (i.e. reliable, economical, comfortable and enjoyable transport for my daily 130 mile round-trip commute) and that the car would rarely be taken into service for all-family trips.  In a weird reversal of what one might have expected in response, I had the added bonus of being “allowed” to go ahead with the purchase only on the basis that I also kept the C6!  Nevertheless, I admit that, even today, their views espoused on that trip put a dampener on my enthusiasm for the car overall.

Continue reading “Long Term Test: Mazda3 Fastback 2.2d Sport Nav – The View from the Back Seat”

Long Term Test: Mazda3 Fastback 2.2d Sport Nav – Drive

In this instalment of the Mazda3 LTT, SV Robinson focuses on how he is finding the car to drive.

In this second instalment, I thought I’d provide my views on how the Mazda3 drives.

Mazda3 - view from the driver's seat
Mazda3 – view from the driver’s seat

I count myself as someone who is normally immune to whatever slogan/ brand strap-line nonsense a company’s marketing team and/ or agency throws at a product or service that they are trying to sell. Actually, that’s not quite correct as a statement; normally such nonsense prejudices me against whatever is being advertised, promoted or sold. I may be showing my bias towards my new purchase, or just indulging in a little subconscious post-purchase decision re-enforcement, but, after recent drives in the 3, I have twice found myself trying to recall marketing messages in the various pieces of Mazda brochure-ware I have lately consumed. One of these is “Jinba Ittai” which, apparently, means, “horse and rider becoming one” in Japanese, and has been used by Mazda in its messaging relating to the incoming MX-5. Re-reading it on the screen, I am almost squirming with embarrassment, but the Mazda3 is a very driver-orientated car; indeed, almost too much so. Hence, slap me, but I’m beginning to believe some of that hype.

Continue reading “Long Term Test: Mazda3 Fastback 2.2d Sport Nav – Drive”

Long Term Test – Mazda3 Fastback 2.2d Sport Nav

The other day I wrote as a comment to someone else’s blog something bemoaning the fact that car magazines don’t write truly long term tests anymore. This morning, I realised on my drive into work that I had the perfect opportunity to right that wrong. So, change of working circumstance (and those of this website!?) aside, here’s my statement of intent – to write an irregular progress report on my new Mazda for as long as I keep it.

Mazda 3 Fastback - SVR photo
Mazda 3 Fastback – SVR photo

I bought the car as a means by which I get to work and back 3-4 days per week. I live 65 miles away from my place of work, over a mix of the M1, A43 and B4525 (otherwise known as the” Welsh Lanes”). This journey will form the bulk of the miles that I cover in the new car, but there will be exceptions. Previously, this had been the work of my other means of transport, the much referenced Citroen C6, which has become a little too inconsistent of recent months. Following a pitiful valuation and much encouragement from my family, I have kept “the QE2” as it is known at home, at least for the time being. It feels very decadent and almost ridiculous to me to Continue reading “Long Term Test – Mazda3 Fastback 2.2d Sport Nav”

Theme: Secondhand – MINI

You may have to forgive me for the somewhat tenuous link to this month’s theme, and I should have probably offered these thoughts whilst we were discussing “retro” (thanks to Richard), but a recent article on another site made me reflect on the plight of Mini, or should that be MINI?

4 generations of Mini/ MINI
Four generations of Mini/ MINI: http://www.caricos.com

I’ll dive straight in and state immediately that I abhor what BMW has done to the design of the Mini. If ever there was a lesson as to what can go wrong with second-hand design, this has to be it. When I see one of the latest generation 3 door hatches (to mention the 5 door would be more gratuitous, but unfair because there never was a 5 door version of Issigonis’s original) something stirs within me, and it’s not nice. Everything about this car’s design is Continue reading “Theme: Secondhand – MINI”

Theme: Roads – Central France

A recent trip to La Belle France served only to remind me of just how dire are our UK roads, and to wonder at how the French can afford to keep theirs in such good condition.

Frech Road signsDuring the Easter period, my family spent 10 days tooling around roads in the very centre of France. There was a real mix of roads: Autoroutes, dual-track roads, main roads (we’d call them A roads), as well as single track stuff and streets around towns and villages. All this was in a new-ish, but humble Megane 1.5dCi hire car. Our base was a pretty (but not fancy) little town called Argenton-sur-Creuse, but we ventured as far as La Rochelle, and in and around La Brenne. It’s fabulously rural (La Rochelle excepted), but the state of the roads is anything but that.

Continue reading “Theme: Roads – Central France”

Benchmarks: Peugeot 306 to 307 = Immediate Loss of Status

In these days, it is usually described as a loss of “mojo”, although I’ve never been certain of what that word actually means. In terms of the launch of the 307, I’d prefer to describe it as a fall from grace. I suppose I could also have picked the transition from 205 to 206 from the same stable, but I think it less obvious and memorable for me.

Peugeot 307 - image from caroftheyear.org
Peugeot 307 – image from caroftheyear.org

I think I need to become instantly more specific. The 306 was the chassis benchmark in its class. It was also one of the more lovely looking mid-range hatches of its time, but I think aesthetics are much harder to benchmark, and I am certainly less comfortable opining on the way a car looks under such a heading. As a chassis benchmark, in UK tests at least, the 306 was praised – lauded, even – time and time again. Obviously, this was most prominent for the GTi and S-16 versions of the car, but even lowly 1.4 litre, basic versions were blessed with a deft balance between fun handling and a supple ride. Then, when the more contemporary (but less lithe) looking 307 turned up, something went amiss.

Peugeot-306
I feel able to comment on this transition as I was a regular renter of hire cars at the time this occurred. More precisely, the company I worked for was prepared to Continue reading “Benchmarks: Peugeot 306 to 307 = Immediate Loss of Status”

Jaguar XKR Dynamic Convertible 2014 – Road Test

Is the Dynamic the run-out model that the Jaguar XK deserves?

I had the pleasure of a quick drive in my friend’s new XKR Dynamic.  The Dynamic is one of two “run-out” special editions of the XK, and in this instance came in black, with black alloys, a black roof and boot-lid spoiler (you guessed it, also in black).

XKR Dynamic

I can see the attraction for many of the look of the car in this format, but it is not subtle and, to my eyes, ages what is a fundamentally alluring car – I suspect that that spoiler is the main spoiler here. Continue reading “Jaguar XKR Dynamic Convertible 2014 – Road Test”

Theme: Dashboards – Citroen Visa

Driven to Write uses a Visa to explore the mysteries of the Lunules

There is a strong risk that this piece will just become a rosy-spectacled trip down memory lane from this contributor, but hey, it’s the festive season, so indulge me …

Visadrawing

Given this month’s theme, I wanted to write about something Citroen from the days when the company had decided that (almost) everyone else had got it wrong about pretty well everything.  Citroen seemed to believe that the essential concept when designing a dashboard was to place every control within finger-tip reach of the driver, assuming that the hands to which they were attached should be kept on the rim of the steering wheel.  This resulted in some pretty fantastic creations, with buttons, rocker switches, sliders and knobs extending from a variety of appendages either side of the steering wheel.  Continue reading “Theme: Dashboards – Citroen Visa”

2014 Citroen DS3 – Quick Review

The 3 was the first of the new DS line – does consideration of it now give any clues to the new marque’s future?

The silver lining to having a car that spends more time than one would like “being serviced” is that one usually gets a courtesy car to try whilst one’s (un)faithful steed is being restored to full health. 

 DS3ext

Previously, I’ve written about how a “lowly” Ford Fiesta provided in such circumstances proved to be one of the nicest drives that I have ever experienced; today it is the turn of the DS3. Continue reading “2014 Citroen DS3 – Quick Review”

Armchair Motorshow – Concept: DS Divine

What is to be made of the DS Divine concept car? Is it a Good Thing that PSA now has Peugeot, Citroen and the DS brands to manage?

2014 DS Divine concept front three quarterAs we know, PSA has decided, in its wisdom, to divide its efforts no longer in two, but three. From hereonin (or, at least until PSA has gone to the hereafter), the Sino-French giant will furnish the market with Peugeots, Citroens and DSs (the latter to be shorn of the Citroen moniker sometime next year, in the UK at least, so it is reported). One can assume that the thinking here is that: a) it gives the opportunity to spread capital investment in new platforms across three brands and, therefore, potentially, more cars sold; and, b) that PSA can charge a premium for those sold under the DS badge. To be fair, it seems that Continue reading “Armchair Motorshow – Concept: DS Divine”

2014 Citroen C4 Cactus – Test Drive

I became the first person at the dealership near to where I work to test drive a Cactus, to the extent that the car itself was in a pre-pre-delivery state and had 1 mile on the clock when we set off in it. 

2014 Citroen Cactus
2014 Citroen Cactus

The salesman (like policemen, they all look young to me these days) seemed bemused that the owner of a C6 might be thinking about “downsizing” to a Cactus (which I suppose is understandable), but he humoured me, nevertheless.

Seeing the Cactus in the context of the showroom emphasised some things about its size and proportions. It’s not a tall car (the C3 and C4 alongside it were both taller), and yet it has raised ground clearance.  It’s a small car – much smaller than it looks on paper/ screen – and has a nice stance.  However, Continue reading “2014 Citroen C4 Cactus – Test Drive”

Crushed by a German Faux-SUV

SV on an SUV.

vw-tiguan-facelift-new-photos-and-details_19

I seem to have had a few opportunities recently to drive different cars for shortish periods, enabling some rare insight into them as ownership opportunities.  Previously I commented on the pleasant surprise that was a lowly latest gen Fiesta; now it’s the turn of a 2WD VW Tiguan that I hired whilst on holiday in France.  Continue reading “Crushed by a German Faux-SUV”

Viva Fiesta

content_ford-fiesta-frozen-white-styleeco

I had the opportunity to drive a basic (plastic wheel covers), new shape Fiesta with the “old” (these things are relative these days, I find) 1.25 4 cylinder engine the other week.  I’m not going to comment on the styling inside or out, because I’m not a big fan of either and it’s got nothing to do with the point here.  Continue reading “Viva Fiesta”