2014 Opel Zafira 2.0 CDti Ecoflex roadtest

The Opel Zafira Tourer went on sale in late 2011 as an addition to the Opel family, rather than a replacement for the existing Zafira. 

2014 Opel Zafira 2.0 CDti
2014 Opel Zafira 2.0 CDti

That remains on sale as a cheaper, smaller MPV, albeit in facelifted form. DTW gained access to a Zafira Tourer Ecoflex, with a 2.0 diesel engine fitted with stop/start technology. Read on for a short review…The Zafira does such a good job it is hard to write about the car´s demerits without seeming to make too much of rather small details. All the good points can fly past unnoticed since getting it right is often just a way to go unnoticed.

Continue reading “2014 Opel Zafira 2.0 CDti Ecoflex roadtest”

Superman In Milton Keynes

Almost three decades ago, a couple of cheapskate film producers believed they could whisk the quintessential American superhero to Buckinghamshire and people wouldn’t notice. Now Daimler AG is following their example. 

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Back in the late 1970s, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus were the undisputed moguls of Israeli cinema, thanks mainly to the success of their Lemon Popsicle series of raunchy comedies. By the early 1980s, they wanted to enter the big leagues, which meant entering the US market, big time. Golan/Globus invested serious amounts of money in order Continue reading “Superman In Milton Keynes”

Drawing Restraint

Audi has previewed its new styling direction. It looks a lot like the old styling direction.

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Image credit: car revs daily

Based on the cumulative reaction to Audi’s new design direction embodied by the recent Prologue concept, Marc Lichte and his designers may have considerably more work to do if Audi is not to Continue reading “Drawing Restraint”

What’s the Difference Between a Mercedes CLA and a Mercedes C-class?

How does £208 per litre sound? I’ve been looking through the spec sheets again.

2014 Mercedes saloon.
2014 Mercedes saloon.

We know that the CLA is a front-wheel drive vehicle, related to the A-class which is now essentially MB’s offering in the Golf/Focus/Astra sector. The C-class is a monument in the automotive firmament, with roots going back to the rear-wheel drive 190E of the ’80s. That car was the first sign that Mercedes was interested in capitalising on its prestige by bringing their quality down to a smaller class of car than they had been offering up to that point. Continue reading “What’s the Difference Between a Mercedes CLA and a Mercedes C-class?”

The Turning of Tables: European Car Sales Grow in Korea

DTW has often noted that the Koreans, in the form of Kia and Hyundai, have been selling very competitive products in Europe. But what is happening with European cars in the Korean market?

2014 Renault Samsung SM7: not big in Europe.
2014 Renault Samsung SM7: not big in Europe.

The New York Times reported that Koreans will soon be spending more on imported cars than they earn exporting vehicles. The situation is not symmetrical. While mainstream European brands have probably lost most to the Koreans’ competitive edge, in Korean it is the “prestige” brands that have thrived. The main reason for the change in the mix of cars sold in Korea is a trade agreement dating from 2011. Additionally, Koreans are less shy about buying foreign cars. In the past a major disincentive was that foreign cars were often vandalised. Continue reading “The Turning of Tables: European Car Sales Grow in Korea”

Hideous Hides

Now that even modest compact cars can be equipped with stitched leather look for almost every surface imaginable, the upper echelons have to up the cow skin ante – to, in some cases, dubious effect.

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The recent troubles at Aston Martin have almost overshadowed an event that has become a bit of a rarity in recent times: the unveiling of a rather attractive car coming from Gaydon. The automobile in question, the Lagonda Taraf, is – despite its lavish grille – the most restrained and, it could be argued, tasteful design coming from Gaydon’s most prestigious car maker.

The Taraf’s surfacing is uncluttered, its detailing not overwhelming and the overall proportions are spot-on. An unexpected, yet welcome surprise, one might conclude – before setting sights on the Lagonda’s interior. Continue reading “Hideous Hides”

Has the Sky Fallen in on Convertibles?

Sales of dropheads have halved. So is the convertible on the skids? 

vauxhall-cascada

Nothing says ‘I’m living the dream’ like driving a convertible. There is no rational or practical reason behind it other than to demonstrate to the world you have reached a point of affluence, crisis or sheer devil-may-care indifference that can only be manifested by driving into a roseate sunset with a piece of inappropriate headwear wedged in place to prevent your hair being ruined. As pointless indulgences go then, convertibles are right up there with chocolate teapots.  Continue reading “Has the Sky Fallen in on Convertibles?”

2016 Honda FCev Design Analysis

In 2013 Honda showed their highly aerodynamic FCev concept car. The production version has been revealed and is surprisingly close in feel to the ’13 car.

2015 Honda FCev
2015 Honda FCev

The objectives with the FCev are for a vehicle to produce 100kW from its fuel-cell stack and carry four adults. The aerodynamically creased body shell reduces the cD in an overt way we have not seen for two decades. This promises 300 miles of range, which is not so bad if you recall that the Citroen CX GTi got by with a 280 mile range. If you drive an Aston Martin hard you can get considerably less.  Continue reading “2016 Honda FCev Design Analysis”

Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 2)

Having looked at the issues besetting the mighty Volkswagen AG (VAG) recently in Part 1 – which can be read here – we can now try and shed some light on the depth of the problems and likely solutions. 

Today, the problem is that these cars are all on the verge of being replaced (or have already been replaced, in the Golf VI’s case). The new range taking their place will, even once the glitches related to MQB have been ironed out, not be as lucrative, with profit margins shrinking by as much as two thirds, compared with the Bernhard-era models. This should make future subsidising of models such as the Amarok pick-up (which is said to have a profit margin of -25%) with the Tiguan II’s yields considerably more difficult. Continue reading “Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 2)”

Shaping the Future 3: Narayan Subramaniam

DTW has approached another design student to find out what they think. This time we have put questions to Narayan Subramaniam who is a multiple-award winning design student, currently at work on his second MA in design at Umea, Sweden.

Ferrari Impulse Concept
Ferrari Impulse Concept

So, what sort of career has our subject had so far? In 2012 Narayan won the Michelin Design Challenge and his work was shown at the Detroit Motor show. Last year he won the First Moves award. In 2007 he claimed first prize in the All-India Engineering Competition for the best functional prototype. This list is much longer than this selection. Continue reading “Shaping the Future 3: Narayan Subramaniam”

Mercedes Rework Their Naming System… Again

Naming systems can be confusing. Mercedes Benz is having another bash at designating their bewildering array of vehicles. And other news. 

2002 Mercedes Vaneo
2002 Mercedes Vaneo: brand extension at its extendiest.

As we speak Cadillac is bringing in a 3-letter system; Lincoln is forgetting its long standing convention of Mk-cars. Who knows what a MKZ might be? And is a Mercedes GLA a G-class or an A-class? In philosophy classification has been a problem since Plato, or perhaps before. The difficulty lies in reducing the messy fuzziness of the universe to a few categories. A system needs to be simpler than reality. Continue reading “Mercedes Rework Their Naming System… Again”

Fiat Punto 1.3 “Alfa Romeo”- Edition, Engineered By Ferrari

How much can a brand be stretched? Should Alfa Romeos carry an ‘engineered by Ferrari’ badge? Or shouldn’t Alfa’s engineering speak for itself?

Image: thanks to Autocar. They seem to have put a huge card saying "Autocar" inside the test car.
Image: thanks to Autocar. They seem to have put a huge card saying “Autocar” inside the test car.

While trawling other news sites, I read at Autocar  that Alfa Romeo’s forthcoming SUV will be based upon the Maserati Ghibli. That bit doesn’t surprise me so much as the remark that “….there have also been unconfirmed rumours that the top of the range Alfa engines will feature ‘developed by Ferrari’ sub-branding.” This has all the hall marks of an idea designed to appeal to Sergio Marchionne. It also reminds me of Silvio Berlusconi’s idea that Fiat could sell more cars by badging them as Maseratis. You might as well Continue reading “Fiat Punto 1.3 “Alfa Romeo”- Edition, Engineered By Ferrari”

2014 Renault Twingo Review (Resumed)

Following on from DTW’s earlier impressions, we finally drive the Renault Twingo SCe70

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The first thought on driving the Twingo is Why? Had I never read about the car, and had you sat me in it, I might have driven for hours before I finally twigged that something was, mechanically speaking, different from its competitors. The engine starts and a quiet burble appears in the cabin. It is unobtrusive, for a small car, and comes from no particular direction. Continue reading “2014 Renault Twingo Review (Resumed)”

After the Great Leap Forward 2: Qoros Cars News Update

So, I presume you are all wondering how Qoros Automotive is doing? I was so I went and found out.

2015 Qoros screen shot

In March I wrote an article about the Israeli-Chinese firm Qoros. The latest news is that Qoros is running into difficulty, leading to reports of a split between the Israeli investors and the Chinese side of things. The Wall Street Journal reported it another way, saying major shareholder, Israel Corp have reiterated their support for the firm. This is as reassuring as saying out of the blue, “I won’t chop off your arm”, I think.

In a letter released to the Wall Street Journal, Israel Corp said they were “looking forward to Continue reading “After the Great Leap Forward 2: Qoros Cars News Update”

In Emergency Dial ‘F’

Sports models have kept Jaguar in business in the US market for decades, so what’s the matter with their saloons?

RANGEPAGE_4CARS_JNA_14MY_V2-device_desktop-1366x460_tcm97-32524_desktop_1366x460_tcm97-44272_desktop_1366x460
Photo: Jaguar Cars USA

At Driven to Write, we are constantly at pains to point out the repetitive nature of Jaguar’s history, much of which has to do with the marque’s frequent lapses into commercial and financial abysses. For example, during the mid-1960’s Jaguar’s sales in the US slumped dramatically on the back of the commercial failure of the MK 10 and S-Type saloons. Continue reading “In Emergency Dial ‘F’”

Death of a Carrozzeria

We bid a tearful adieu to one of the greats.

bertone504

This year, Bertone has joined the doleful list of recently deceased Italian styling houses, having held out against the inevitable longer than most. The quantity and quality of Bertone’s output had been in decline, particularly as commissions from major manufacturers began to dry up. The era of the great Italian styling houses is over and the centre of gravity has moved away from its traditional Italian heartland. Continue reading “Death of a Carrozzeria”

The Trident Sharpens Its Prongs

Maserati’s 2014 sales gain is astonishing, but is it a false dawn?

Maserati-range-2014

One of the reasons the motor industry continues to be such compelling subject matter is its almost limitless capacity to surprise. Last week, we looked at FCA’s decision to float off Ferrari as a stand-alone business – a move that surprised many – (if not ourselves). Now however, we are compelled to eat a portion of humble pie on the back of sales figures for Maserati that appear to demonstrate the storied brand’s continued growth to be no mirage, despite strong misgivings we expressed on the subject back in May.  Continue reading “The Trident Sharpens Its Prongs”

How to shape the future : 2

We ask a new-fledged car designer a few questions.

Byungyoon Min and the 2063 Porsche concept design
Byungyoon Min and the 2063 Porsche concept design

As I was interested to find out what was on the mind of some of the designers from Pforzheim University´s MA automotive course, I asked Byungyoon Min, a recent graduate, some questions. Min’s design was for a Porsche 911 for the year 2063. As of this month, Byungyoon Min is an exterior designer at Mercedes-Benz, Sindelfingen. Continue reading “How to shape the future : 2”

Trading the Bloodstock – Ferrari’s Shock Sell-Off

But just how shocking is it really?

f1-ferrari-f2007-launch-maranello-italy-2007-ferrari-logo

The world’s least influential motoring blog we may be, but that doesn’t prevent Driven To Write being ahead of the curve every once in a while. Back in May, we took a detailed look at Sergio Marchionne’s plan for FCA’s turnaround, offering a hypothesis regarding its likely success – or otherwise.

Continue reading “Trading the Bloodstock – Ferrari’s Shock Sell-Off”

Electric Dreams – Farewell Ampera

Was GM’s EV ever a contender?

Ampera Tunnel

Various things have recently caused me to think of things electric, though I admit that none of them involves me saving this or other planets. I had a mail the other week announcing a blanket 20mph limit in much of the area where I live, a process that is happening in many boroughs of London. Much of my driving in London is carried out in an old Audi S6, that burns both rubber and fuel with abandon, but gets me there no faster than anyone else. I dislike tube journeys. I can’t ride a pedal bike long distances without hurting my back. If I ride my motorcycle in wet weather I drip over people’s floors. I like silence. I want a new motoring experience. All these and more reasons make me think it would be nice to drive an electric car, or at least a part electric car.

Continue reading “Electric Dreams – Farewell Ampera”

Reasoning à la Marchionne

Not just since Luca di Montezemolo’s dismissal have arguments about the merits and demerits of FCA CEO, Sergio Marchionne’s style of conducting business been rather heated. And now we are being presented with a particularly poignant case in point.

Signore Marchionne undoubtedly knows his stuff when it comes to numbers and figures like few others in the business. Which is why nobody was surprised when he – somewhat proudly, it has to be said – explained that the series production Alfa Romeo 4C’s extremely ungainly headlights were his very own responsibility, as their decidedly cheap appearance helped lowering production costs by a few millions. Car buyers, he seemed to believe, don’t really care about details, even particularly blatant ones. Continue reading “Reasoning à la Marchionne”

2014 Toyota Aygo 1.1 VVTi Review – Part 3

This has turned into something of a long-term test. With a third chance to drive the car, DTW has some extra insight on living with Toyota’s second smallest car.

2014 Toyota Agyo 1.1 VVTi
2014 Toyota Agyo 1.1 VVTi

Perhaps the most illuminating aspect of adding another four days to the tally of six, is that a few important details have turned up, all of them bad. DTW conducted most of the original testing when the days were longer. This time, night driving in humid weather has shown up two details that might irritate or perhaps prove too grating to live with. Continue reading “2014 Toyota Aygo 1.1 VVTi Review – Part 3”

BMW’s Front Wheel Drive Hatchback

Just a few days ago I noted that we at DTW had not treated BMW to some of our ire. Here is some ire. Or something passing itself off as such.

2015 BMW hatchback
2015 BMW hatchback

The car above is the 2015 BMW 2-series “active tourer” which is a five-door, front-drive hatchback with a great deal in common with the 2011 Ford C-Max which is five-door, front-drive five seater hatchback (below) that sells for a lot less. And looks better. Continue reading “BMW’s Front Wheel Drive Hatchback”

JLR: The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand – Part 3

The limping cat: In this third part Driven to Write asks why Jaguar continues to under-perform in its most crucial market? 

xe_Thumbnail

Despite the improvements that took place under Ford ownership and enhanced resources provided by Tata, Jaguar continues to seriously under-perform globally. According to JLR, Jaguar sales rose 13% year-on-year, retailing 49,656 vehicles in the calendar year to date and 6,069 in the month of July alone*. However these figures belie several more troubling factors. Jaguar sales in the once vital American market keep falling. Continue reading “JLR: The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand – Part 3”

A glimpse of the future for the DS brand

Automotive News Europe has reported that PSA have launched a China-only vehicle, their second. It is the DS6 crossover.

2014 DS6
2014 DS6

The appearance is generic SUV while the grille and lights show China´s DS styling. From there back, it´s file under “Forget”.For a brand allegedly majoring in style this is a major puzzle. For a firm as indifferent to the meaning of DS, this entirely to be expected. And we can see this as sign of the future developments for DS, along with the possibility of the brand having its own dealerships, as it does in China. Continue reading “A glimpse of the future for the DS brand”

JLR: The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand – Part 2

In the second part of our examination of JLR, we look at Land-Rover’s market stratification, Ford’s powertrain legacy and their less than stellar reliability record.

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Land Rover’s confused offering
JLR’s strategy with Land Rover is to stratify the brand into three distinct levels. Land Rover at entry level, Discovery as median level and Range Rover as upper level. However, at the time of writing, this distinction remains insufficiently clear. The newly announced 2015 Discovery Sport is a good example of this – appearing a little too akin to its Range Rover derivative, and suggesting there is work to be done to put some discernible distance between the individual marques. Until a new generation Defender is available, this strategy will continue to confuse customers, with the added problem that JLR have nothing to offer buyers trading from the outgoing Freelander model – unless they are prepared to dig considerably deeper into their pockets.  Continue reading “JLR: The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand – Part 2”

JLR – The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand

Driven to Write examines the JLR success story.

f-type___rr_-_skyline_DesktopHero

Jaguar Land Rover’s commercial renaissance over the past five years has prompted a deluge of scepticism in some quarters, because on the surface of things at least, its rapid turnaround has stretched belief. When the Ford Motor Company sold the Jaguar and Land Rover brands to Indian industrial giant, Tata Group for £1.2bn in 2008, both businesses were loss makers – Jaguar in characteristically epic fashion. Continue reading “JLR – The Challenges Facing a Challenger Brand”

More Renault: 2015 Renault Avantime, Sorry, Espace

Renault have decided to abandon yet another category of car. This time they have given up on space-focused people movers.

2014 Renault Espace
2014 Renault Espace

The Renault Espace was a trend setter and for two decades ruled the roost in the MPV class. The original version is now three decades old and still has a tidy, neat appearance of purest industrial design. This sat well with Renault’s custom of quite rational cars. The last generation did not get out of the show room fast enough. It was luxurious, large, complex and not really the kind of car you really wanted babies to be sick in. Continue reading “More Renault: 2015 Renault Avantime, Sorry, Espace”

Theme : Concepts – Armchair Motorshow : 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 quarter

As we know, PSA has decided, in its wisdom, to divide its efforts no longer in two, but three. From hereon in (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). Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Armchair Motorshow : DS Divine”

Theme: Concepts – Renault’s Mixed Message

Look at the future as it was in 1995 and look at the future circa 2015. Are we going back in time? Sideways?

2015 Renault Laguna or Initiale or Safrane or something
2015 Renault Laguna or Initiale or Safrane or something

I was moved to write this when I saw a breathless announcement at French Cars In America that there was a new Renault Laguna on the way. They alleged that the car was going to be shown at the Paris Motor show (happening around now, if you reading this in 2016 sometime) They got their story from Auto Plus. While cross checking it I found that Auto Express had nothing to say on the matter at all. So, I don’t know if the car really will be sold or is just a Photoshop story.

Assuming the car looks a little like the one shown above we have another big, grey bloater with a high waistline and a busy front end. Renault have not really grasped what they might need to do to Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – Renault’s Mixed Message”

2011 Nissan Juke 1.6 Review

The received wisdom is that the Juke is an odd-looking vehicle with no obvious purpose. Is this true? I drove one in order to find out.

2011 Nissan Juke
2011 Nissan Juke

To avoid disappointing people I’ll get the driving stuff out of the way immediately. After three hours on a route that took me from Stansted Airport to almost exactly the dead centre of Britain I had covered every major road type available in England barring gravel and mud. On motorways the Juke in 1.6 litre flavour can keep up with traffic and proceed to license-losing speed and stay at that pace unbothered for as long as you care to Continue reading “2011 Nissan Juke 1.6 Review”

Cars I Can’t Write About – 2014 Volvo V40

In order to say why I can’t really write about this I had to do some research. It’s amazing what you don’t read in magazines. 

A hatchback
A hatchback

The V40 was introduced in 2012 for 2013 and all I noticed about it since then is the daft crease in the bodyside which is supposed to evoque the P1800. The V40 is a hatchback though Volvo describe it as an estate, I suppose. Whilst the designer of the 2004 S40 is probably only named in Auto&Design magazine, the V40 can claim Peter Horbury as its creator (cited at Wikipedia). Continue reading “Cars I Can’t Write About – 2014 Volvo V40”

Three Years Late to Market

The new Ford Mondeo will finally be on sale in 2015, just three long, long years after the launch of the car it was based on. 

2000 Ford Mondeo rear comparison

Above we see the 2000 Ford Mondeo, styled under the reign of Claude Lobo and Chris Bird. Then we have the 2006 version credited to Martin Smith but which is probably mostly a Chris Bird car. And finally, we have the 2015 car which I gather was designed in the US and has been sold as the Ford Fusion. The photos speak for themselves. Continue reading “Three Years Late to Market”

The Leopard Bows Out

As Luca di Montezemolo’s reign at Ferrari comes to an end, an entire chapter of Italy’s automotive industry – as well as culture – is being closed.

ferrari-resume-attack-on-fia-5184_1

“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change” proclaimed Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina in the seminal Il Gattopardo. He was, of course, referring to Sicily and the impending changes to country, people and his own dynasty. But such a statement could clearly have been made with regards to fellow nobleman, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo’s sacking from the post he had held for more than two decades. Only in this case, it would be untrue. Continue reading “The Leopard Bows Out”

Alfa’s Latest Offers: No Deposit Over Five Years, Have Another £750.

And other sales news too. Alfa are trying hard to fill the shop window. There are still three models on sale, if you’re interested. Read on to see what they thought they’d be selling by now.

Alfa UK´s hard sell (that is, it is hard to sell Alfas).
Alfa UK´s hard sell (that is, it is hard to sell Alfas).

Not so many hours after I made up a slogan for Alfa “We’re still in business! 25% off a 2014 Giulia for an unlimited period” it turns out this is not far from the truth. This Alfa UK home page (above) is full of activity but not so full of cars, pretty much as it was when I posted this item. Continue reading “Alfa’s Latest Offers: No Deposit Over Five Years, Have Another £750.”

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. Continue reading “2014 Citroen C4 Cactus – Test Drive”

2014 Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI Review

In search of family transport, DTW rents a Korean mid-ranger and exposes it to mud, apples and half a dish of aubergine parmesan gratin. 

2014 Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI
2014 Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI: Bore and stroke (mm) 77 x 85.44

Introduction

Welcome back to the dead centre of the car market. The Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI** is a Focus and Golf competitor but may gun most accurately for the likes of the Peugeot 308 and any other mid-market also-rans. This type of car is very hard to write about in isolation as most of what you experience verges on the bland. Only a spread-sheet analysis of the cost and features along with a back-to-back test would reveal the precise differences in the qualitative and quantitative elements between this car and its peers. Nonetheless, even on its own, there are aspects of the car which please and those which irritate. Continue reading “2014 Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI Review”

Bristol Returns: The 2015 Pinnacle

Bristol Cars’ new owners have announced the launch of the first wholly new vehicle since the Fighter of 2003.

2015 Bristol Pinnacle
2015 Bristol Pinnacle

Called the Pinnacle, the new car is to feature a combination of Bristol hallmarks and modern touches. Carried over are the customs of making the bodies by hand (Bristol require a panel beater) and using very high quality materials. New to Bristol will be the use of battery power and range extension technology. There might even be cup-holders.

Also new to Bristol is the notion of merchandising, which to spell it out, is the selling of non-automotive products branded with the Bristol logo. That’s done to promote the brand (something Bristol didn’t try hard to do) and to make money (something Bristol didn’t manage very well towards the end). Continue reading “Bristol Returns: The 2015 Pinnacle”

Saab – Dead Again…

Which is more than you can say about Bristol…

08_SAAB_logo.sized

Okay Saab, we know this is a difficult time for you right now, especially with you being dead and everything. Obviously we’re sorry for your trouble, but if we can be completely candid, this whole thing is starting to get a little unnerving.

How many funerals is it now? Last time I counted, I made it three. Look, I know you’re finding the whole afterlife business a little Continue reading “Saab – Dead Again…”

2014 Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVT-i Review

This week DTW has the new Toyota Aygo on test. Launched at the 2014 Geneva motor show, it’s only just arrived on the market. So, how did the car fare during a punishing three day investigation involving child-seats, sand and small pebbles?

2014 Toyota Aygo: it´s small but is it practical?
2014 Toyota Aygo: it’s small but is it practical?

The technicalities.
The engine is the 59 HP 1.0 VVTi in-line three pot. The “VVT” part stands for variable valve timing which has been around since 1996. The bore and stroke are 71 mm and 84 mm respectively. The Aygo comes with stop-start technology and this functioned well enough for me to learn to trust it. It can start the car faster than I could and this eliminated a lot of useless idling while waiting at lights. Continue reading “2014 Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVT-i Review”

Facelifts: the 2015 Opel Corsa

This week came more reports of the new Opel Corsa. What have they done, we ask, what have they done?

2015 Opel Corsa
2015 Opel Corsa

I didn’t expect two of these articles in one week. Yet here we find Opel having a “what have they done?” moment. Opel describe this as a new vehicle but we’d class this as a very comprehensive facelift. The main architecture of the car remains the same and, in my view, the addition of the black tab on the rear of the 3-door’s sideglass does not distract from this fact, and nor do the new front or rear forms. What else is different? Continue reading “Facelifts: the 2015 Opel Corsa”

Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 1)

After having gone from strength to strength in recent years, Volkswagen AG (VAG) all of a sudden appears to be in an awful lot of trouble. But appearances can be deceiving.

First in a series on the German automotive industry, seen from a German perspective.

In the not-too-distant past, it seemed as though it was just a matter of time before VAG chairman, Ferdinand Piëch – aided by his obliging CEO, Martin Winterkorn – could finally ascend the throne of the global automotive domain. There may have been the odd mumble regarding disappointing performance in the US market, but, by and large, everything seemed to be rosy in Volkswagenland. Continue reading “Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 1)”

2015 Skoda Fabia: Oh Dear.

Skoda’s Fabia appeared first on the market in 1999. Now it’s into its third generation. What have they done? What have they done?

2014 Skoda Fabia
2014 Skoda Fabia

This is the new Skoda Fabia. The previous two generations have been rather good interpretations of a difficult genre, the conservative but attractive small car. The first version displayed some nice automotive design tropes: the smooth flowing bonnet to a-pillar and neatly shaped vestigial boot. The rear graphics and sculpture worked very harmoniously, very much the work of designers who were unafraid to Continue reading “2015 Skoda Fabia: Oh Dear.”

2014 Honda Brio saloon

Here at DTW we like to find out about what’s on sale around the world. 

2014 Honda Brio: image courtesy of Honda (SA)
2014 Honda Brio: image courtesy of Honda (SA)

We’ve looked at some Japanese and Chinese market cars. Today we go to South Africa and peer at a Honda Brio, just to see. The Honda Brio is not on sale in Europe, being intended for emerging markets. It comes in two forms, hatchback and saloon. Since tiny saloons are held in almost complete contempt, we Continue reading “2014 Honda Brio saloon”

Theme : Engines – Ford, VW and Opel’s Engine Ranges

Who has the most engines to offer customers? DTW takes a close look at the state of play at VW, Opel and Ford.

This has a V6 under the hood.
This has a V6 under the hood.

The operating assumption behind this small study is that engines matter. More precisely, if a manufacturer can offer a decent range of engines for a given class of vehicles then they are very likely to have a better chance of selling something to someone. I’ll restrict my research to Ford, Opel and VW for this particular study.

I wanted to see the composition of the range of engines and also to find out the average age of the engine families. The second point was rather hard to ascertain and I failed to Continue reading “Theme : Engines – Ford, VW and Opel’s Engine Ranges”

The Sunday News: VW Golf Plus Nameplate Dropped Shock!!

Goodbye, VW Golf Plus, we’ll miss you. Hello, VW Sportsvan.

2014 VW Sportsvan
2014 VW Sportsvan: it’s  sporty and van-like

Some readers may have missed the news that VW’s much loved GolfPlus nameplate has been discontinued. The new name to watch is Sportsvan and doubtless it will win as much affection as the outgoing one. The replacement car was shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2013 and is now on sale. Continue reading “The Sunday News: VW Golf Plus Nameplate Dropped Shock!!”

Cars I Can’t Write About: Chryslers etc…

Chrysler: so what?

Don´t look any closer. There´s nothing to see.
Don´t look any closer. There´s nothing to see.

So far in this intermittent series I have picked on a forgotten supermini, a lavishly expensive sportscar and the VW Passat. Today I feel the need to declare that Chryslers and associated brands are vehicles about which I have nothing to say. Continue reading “Cars I Can’t Write About: Chryslers etc…”

Cross-Currents: From Tsingtao to Rüsselsheim to Michigan

How do we get from China to Warren, Michigan via Rüsselsheim? By Astra, of course.

2012 Buick Verano: engineered in Germany and the US and sold in China
2012 Buick Verano: engineered in Germany and the US and sold in China (in some form)

Why does Opel matter to GM? How about sales of 500,000 cars a year in China and continued survival of Buick in the US.

In the late 70s the science journalist James Burke had an engaging series of programmes called Connections. It traced the links, innovations and the important contingencies that led from the distant past to the technology that we take for granted around us, such as plastic, for example. Behind the invention of this material lay the story of how the 17th Century Dutch preferred not to Continue reading “Cross-Currents: From Tsingtao to Rüsselsheim to Michigan”

Death Has A Revolving Door 3: 2014 Daihatsu Copen

Daihatsu’s Japanese production declines for the first time in 8 months…

2014 Daihatsu Copen concept
2014 Daihatsu Copen concept

…but production overseas increased to compensate. And generally sales are down overall. Daihatsu gave up on Europe a few years back so the news that the Copen sportscar is to be revived may not do so very much to improve the sales picture. Still, it’s nice to imagine. What sort of a range does the Copen fit into? There is the Terios hatchback in five and seven seater guise, the Sirion hatchback and the Gran Max van which also comes as a pick-up. That make the Copen something of an outsider in a range of very practical vehicles, but it is still at least as small as the others. Continue reading “Death Has A Revolving Door 3: 2014 Daihatsu Copen”

1965 Ford Taunus Versus 2005 Ford Mondeo

Design Footnote: somewhere inside Ford, someone nodded quietly to the firm’s past.

2005 Ford Mondeo
2005 Ford Mondeo

A few months back, while studying the parked cars in my area, I noticed that there was something deeper to the design of late-model Ford Mondeo Mk2s. Not very many cars have a solution that avoids both a horizontal and a vertical wraparound at the front end. The 2005 Mondeo has a design where the strongest line runs down the edge of the wing, down the lights and then goes horizontal under the valence, requiring a twist from forward to sideways mediated by a vertical descent. Continue reading “1965 Ford Taunus Versus 2005 Ford Mondeo”