1981 Ford Cortina 2.0 GL roadtest

“The middle frontier ahead!” Archie Vicar, the well-known motoring scribe, has a closer look at the 1981 Ford Cortina 2.0 GL. This may be a verbatim transcript of an article which first appeared in Laker Airways in-flight magazine, July 1981.

1981 Ford Cortina 2.0 GL: Autocar July, 1981.

[The original photos were by Cosimo Villiers-Montreux. Due to the poor quality of the printed source, stock images have been used]

As sure as mustard, the market is happy to keep on buying front-engine, rear-drive cars in the middle range. With its assured sense of the market’s whims – and they are whimsical, ask Citroen! – Ford has made sure that the fifth in the Cortina series is a front-engine, rear-wheel drive car. It would seem that no matter how willing makers are to Continue reading “1981 Ford Cortina 2.0 GL roadtest”

Credit Where It’s Due

This review concludes a slow tour through the middle-market. It’s the Astra’s turn.

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2015 Opel Astra sports tourer in rental car drab.

DTW has tested the Ford Focus, Megane, the Golf and the Auris. That means I can put some of those reviews in perspective as well as offer some insights on the corresponding offering from Opel, the Astra. It’s quite handy that all the cars tested came from the same source, which eliminates variables like colour and engine specification. So, it’s quite a level playing field the Astra and its peers are playing on.

Continue reading “Credit Where It’s Due”

Act of Contrition – Citroen C6 (part two)

We drive a C6 and discover there’s nothing penitential about Citroën’s swansong big saloon.

Image: Car
Image: Car

On my return to Randle Engineering in November 2016, I re-introduced the subject of the C6, but this time with a more contrite tone. I ask Steve to tell me more about his example. By UK standards at least, Randle’s C6 has a virtually unique specification. It’s a 2007 C6 2.2 litre model with a six-speed manual transmission, one of 38 in the country. Continue reading “Act of Contrition – Citroen C6 (part two)”

Three Volumes in Three Parts: 2

In the first part I discussed the static qualities of the Lancia Trevi. In this part I will present my driving impressions.

1981 Lancia Trevi
1981 Lancia Trevi

Finally, it’s time to drive in the car. First off, we set off along some minor country roads, ones I have just driven in a modern car. Initially I am the passenger and from that position I realise that I can see nothing of the instruments from the passenger side. They are set in Bellini’s cylindrical recesses which are angled to the driver. This makes me look elsewhere – out, for example. Continue reading “Three Volumes in Three Parts: 2”

Three Volumes in Three Parts: 1

Don’t meet your heroes, they say. It’s bound to lead to disappointment. After stalking the Lancia Trevi for 26 years I finally got to drive one. So, you ask, how did that work out?

1981 Lancia Trevi 2000
1981 Lancia Trevi 2000

Very well indeed, thanks: I got to satisfy my curiosity and did so without my hopes being dashed. Much like my short trip to Italy in June, this experience has got me thinking. And re-thinking.

Before getting to the drive, let us

Continue reading “Three Volumes in Three Parts: 1”

Our Cars – Nissan Cube : End Of Year Update

Following his Final Report from 2015 and his subsequent Update from last April, here’s another one from Sean. Until the penultimate, absolute final update report he plans for late 2017 or thereabouts.

sm-cube
There was always the worry that, with time, the scales would fall from my eyes and I would see the Cube as the embarrassing and rather fatuous novelty that others see it as. Certain respected visitors to this site have made their abhorrence of the car apparent, and others have possibly implied it politely, by evading the subject entirely. However, for me, the satisfaction of ownership hasn’t worn off. Of course, city dwelling, and my rag-bag of alternative vehicles, means that I’ve only done about 7,000 miles in it over 18 months but, for me, it’s an excellent thing to have. Spacious inside, compact outside, good all round view. It’s perfect in town, and perfectly tolerable on long journeys. A hypothetical electric Cube might be preferable but, when I consider the alternatives actually available, I have no regrets. Continue reading “Our Cars – Nissan Cube : End Of Year Update”

Our Cars – Ford Fiesta Zetec S Red 1.0

One of the few positive things I could say about owning a RenaultSport Clio was it never left me short of things to write about.

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Keep a tight hold of that lever. (Image: DreamWorks)

From the way it demolished a corner to the way it demolished a gearbox, every journey was an anecdote. Owning the Clio was exciting in the same way that owning a live hand grenade would be exciting. By this yardstick, the Fiesta simply cannot compare. It is simply too smoothly competent to inspire easy prose. Go for a drive however and the Ford proves to be a capable story teller in its own right. Continue reading “Our Cars – Ford Fiesta Zetec S Red 1.0”

Today’s Random Nugget

Idly I wanted to know what John Simister is up to…

2014 MG3: source
2014 MG3: source

He wrote for the Independent and is a freelancer now. I remember him from his days writing for Car magazine (1995-1998). This review turned up, of the MG3. Since I don’t live in the UK, I never see these cars and had forgotten about them. This part of the review is a surprise: “Despite this, there is a precision, a deftness, a transparency to the MG3’s responses that are rare in a new, mass-market model. It steers beautifully, it rides smoothly over bumps, it flows in a way which just makes you feel good. You do have to work the engine hard, but it’s not too noisy and a tidy gear-change action helps get the best from it.”  Simister is known for his fondness for French cars so I read this as meaning the car drives like a Peugeot 205.

Corsa Revisited

As promised during the weekend here is a small reconsideration of the Opel Corsa, this time the 1.4 litre, 75 PS petrol five-door.

2015 Opel Corsa 1.4 Cosmo
2015 Opel Corsa 1.4 Cosmo

We had a short review of the 1.0 litre version in the summer of 2015 and decided it was okay. This time I have the 1.4 litre mid-spec version to try.

I can immediately say that the uprated interior decorations make for a much more festive feeling. The steering wheel looks like it’s the nice one from the Adam and so the upshot of this is that without wood and leather and shades of beige, it still makes for a comfortable and quite convivial driving environment. My notes, written up after a hard charging day at the wheel, list the nice steering, smooth uptake and HVAC controls that won’t cause you to Continue reading “Corsa Revisited”

Micropost: 2016 Opel Corsa

In the rental car lottery I drew the Corsa straw. There will be a short report on it before very long.

2015 Opel Corsa
2015 Opel Corsa (not the car tested).

The first thing I noticed related to the spec. They have Adamed this version so it has more of a feel-good factor than the one I rented in 2015. I drove off in the dark which somehow made me more aware of the delightfully light steering and also the fun way the dials do a test sweep of the car’s instrument faces. It’s a pleasant vehicle to drive around town and the city-steering makes it a breeze. The day’s mission is a four hour drive over motorways and country roads. We’ll see the car bears up in the course of the day…

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”

I’ll Second That

Automotive News has a timely editorial concerning the EV-1 which I once drove. Here are some of the photos.

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GM EV-1 (right) in 1997.

Prompted by AN, I took out my photos from 1997 and found the shots from the day I drove the EV-1 (top, right) in California. The salesman at the car dealership presented the EV-1 as a something for enthusiasts (which contrasted with the sludge I expect he was selling). The idea was that the EV-1 would appeal to people still interested in the technology and car-ness of cars. At the time I was a bit cynical about the GM car. 90 miles didn’t really seem that impressive although even today a 90 mile range would be very useful for most people’s daily needs. I got that wrong then. The Bolt has a 238 mile range.

Continue reading “I’ll Second That”

2014 Toyota Avensis (Part 2)

We looked at the extensive failings of the Avensis’ auxiliary controls this week. This article deals with the rest of the car.

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Toyota have been making this class of car for 50 years. The Avensis name has been attached to offerings in the middle market for 19 years. This version is third one to carry the name. They ought to be pretty good at this by now. So, we ask, what is it like to drive a vehicle aimed at a competitive and hard-fought and declining segment? Continue reading “2014 Toyota Avensis (Part 2)”

How Many Ergonomic Flaws Can One Car Have?

The Avensis tested here is now out of production. This appears to be a 2014-2015 model. The user-interface proved so troubling I had to make that aspect into a separate article. 

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2014 Toyota Avensis 1.8

The rest of the review comes later. The controls are divided into two sets, the driving controls and the auxiliaries. I will deal with the auxiliaries in this article. Overall, the Avensis is riddled with odd choices and evidence of poor decision-making. It exemplifies a number of user-interface principles, but negatively.

The problems started when I tried to Continue reading “How Many Ergonomic Flaws Can One Car Have?”

1975 Peugeot 604 Road Test

The only way to really know a car is take a test drive. Having long admired the 1975 Peugeot 604, I finally tracked one down and fired it up. What did I find?

1975 Peugeot 604: on sale here.
1975 Peugeot 604: on sale here.

[Republished with kind permission of Curbside Classic]

Before I get to my discoveries, let’s take a quick look at the background to the 604’s development. [A longer discussion can be found here]. The French know the period from 1945 to 1975 as “les trentes glorieuses” or “the glorious thirty”. The rising economic tide seemed to lift all boats: the average French worker’s salary rose 170% during that time. Customers could afford more. At precisely the end of this period, the beginning a protracted malaise, Peugeot launched their interpretation of the large, luxury car: the V6-powered, rear-drive 604. Many know the car as “the French Mercedes”, being as it is a clear response to Benz’s W-114 of 1968. Peugeot wanted to offer increasingly affluent customers a domestic product other than the beautiful but unorthodox Citroen DS which, in 1975, had reached two decades in production. Things didn’t work out for Peugeot and today most know the 604 only for being a bit of a glorious failure, despite the car receiving glowing reviews for its ability to Continue reading “1975 Peugeot 604 Road Test”

Objects In The Rear View Mirror

The first car I bought with my own money was a Mark One Ford Focus.

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There are many Foci in the world, but this one was mine.

Having decided that a Focus was going to be the car for me, I spent months scouring local dealerships, newspaper classifieds and Autotrader for the right car. Eventually a dealer called me with a candidate. And there it was: a sky blue three door in 2.0 Zetec trim. Despite spending five years gracing the surface of this planet whilst being blasted with wind, rain, road salt and solar radiation, the Focus looked as if it had rolled out of the Saarlouis factory just last week. An inspection and test drive confirmed my impressions: it was a peach. Continue reading “Objects In The Rear View Mirror”

DTW Summer Reissue: 2014 Ford Focus 1.6 CDTi Econetic Review

After discussing the dead centre of the car market, we take a visit there: the Ford Focus 1.6 CDTi Econetic. [First published May 11, 2014]

2012 Ford Focus rear 1This is the third generation Focus that I have tried. The Mk1 is a landmark and indeed a benchmark for many. It casts a long shadow over its successors. The Mk2 added refinement at the expense of driver enjoyment. Compared to the Mk1, the successor felt like being in a fat suit. So, what is the Mk 3 like now I have finally gotten behind the wheel? The main impressions are described below. Continue reading “DTW Summer Reissue: 2014 Ford Focus 1.6 CDTi Econetic Review”

Fiat Panda, As Seen in 1989

The Fiat Panda as described by one Russell Bulgin.

1983-2003 Fiat Panda 4x4
1983-2003 Fiat Panda 4×4. I can´t be more precise about the date. Anyone?

Not so very, very long ago I presented an excellent gallery of Fiat Pandas as seen on location somewhere in sunny Italy – (thanks to Sean for helping out with the technicalities on that). Since then, I found the article Russell Bulgin wrote about the Panda in 1989. I had been thinking of this article in June. For Autocar, Russell Bulgin wrote a series called the Bulgin Files (why the Bulgin Files?). The sub-header explained “Our angry young man is into his fourth week of driving bargain-basement superminis and now he auditions a Starlet and two Italian sisters, Fiat´s Uno and Panda.” Continue reading “Fiat Panda, As Seen in 1989”

2016 Citroen C1: Not Really a Road Test, Not Really a Drive

People judge the Sorrento-Amalfi coast road to be among the most beautiful in Europe and I drove it.  But…

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…night had fallen even before I got there. The last shred of daylight flickered out as I turned off the motorway for Sorrento. How did I leave it so late? The car rental process wasted a precious 40 minutes of my time and it took an hour to escape Naples. The walk from the terminal to the car rental bus-stop took a while. So two or more hours slipped through my fingers after touchdown. Continue reading “2016 Citroen C1: Not Really a Road Test, Not Really a Drive”

Not Your Regular Renault

DTW discovers how to jump the queue at your friendly Renault dealer.

Renault Badge

“Can you hear a whining noise”?

“Yes, I think so”

“I heard it a little while back, but it seems to be getting louder”

Hmm, the noise seems to rise and fall with engine revs more than speed, and it’s following us, so that means it is us. I pull off the road as soon as we see a parking area, and lift the rear hatch, casting my eyes and ears around the engine bay, trying to determine the source of the whine. It seems to be from the right hand side.

“Can you see a fine mist?” I ask. “Yes, down in the right corner” replies my wife. Not really what I wanted to hear, but it confirmed what I thought I could see – fine metal flakes emanating from the engine bay.

Bugger! Continue reading “Not Your Regular Renault”

2016 Toyota Auris 1.6 Valvematic 5-door Road Test

Recently DTW tested the arch-mainstream car, the VW Golf. This week we sample the joys of Toyota’s Auris and find out a little about how the two cars compare.

2016 Toyota Auris 1.6
2016 Toyota Auris 1.6

I don’t imagine that many people accept the keys of an Auris with much sense of excitement. However, I experienced a small burst of what many would call satisfaction when I found myself cupping the Auris’ keys in my hot little hand. A few weeks back I tested what many consider the benchmark C-class car, the VW Golf. Driving the Auris so soon after experiencing the Golf meant I had a good frame of reference for the Auris. I’ve also driven most of the other C-class cars, apart from the current Astra. That means I think I can offer this review with some sense of perspective. Continue reading “2016 Toyota Auris 1.6 Valvematic 5-door Road Test”

Out of the Comfort Zone – 2012 Citroën DS5 Hybrid4 Road Test

Seeking a scintilla of substance beneath the style, Driven to Write’s Swiss correspondent is not impressed.

The shape is OK – but too many details distract from it
The shape is OK – but too many details distract from it

As every year in springtime, my C6 recently got serviced and had its tyres changed for summer conditions. My dealer, while not exactly around the corner, is capable and friendly, and has grown up in a family of Citroën lovers, so shares my preferences in cars. As a bonus, I often get interesting courtesy cars while my car is being looked after. This time, I was surprised with a DS5. It has long been on my list of cars I wanted to drive, so I happily accepted and looked forward to a new experience. Continue reading “Out of the Comfort Zone – 2012 Citroën DS5 Hybrid4 Road Test”

When Words Collide

Recently we discussed the idea of a repository for automotive cliché. But in some cases, remove the offending phrases and the entire edifice collapses.

The result, right there in full colour. Image: Autocar
The result, right there in full colour. Image: Autocar

During the early years of the 20th Century, US politician, William McAdoo once waspishly said of President Warren Harding; “His speeches left the impression of an army of pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search of an idea.” As putdowns go, it’s rather a good one, but frankly as an opening line for an article (such as this one for example), it does leave an author open to the whiff of pretension. Continue reading “When Words Collide”

2016 VW Golf 1.4 TSI BlueMotion – Impressions

Between the choice of a Toyota Auris and a VW Golf, I went for the Wolfsburg car.

2016 VW Golf front interior door-handle.
2016 VW Golf front interior door-handle.

The Toyota would be too uninteresting, I thought.

It would be simpler if I didn’t write a review at all. Nobody needs to know I drove this and no-one need ever discover what a hard time I’ve had writing something intelligent about Europe’s favourite car.

What will I remember about the Golf? Two or three things. One, the interior door grip is squeeky. It’s made of two shells that don’t fit precisely. In counterpoint, there are two interior rear roof lights that don’t budge when you turn them on. They were well-secured to the roof, not the headliner. And you’re never sure you’ve turned them off. Two, the CD player is in the glovebox. Three, the boot is smaller than I liked. Lots of litres are wasted under the boot floor panel.  Continue reading “2016 VW Golf 1.4 TSI BlueMotion – Impressions”

Our cars: 2009 Renaultsport Clio 200 Cup

A little bit of what you like won’t hurt you. Except when it really, really does. Recently I have had a couple of reasons to consider the meaning of the idiom you can have too much of a good thing.

2015-10-07 10.21.27The first came, perhaps inevitably, with a trip to the hospital. A few weeks prior, my knees had swollen and become painful to the point I could hardly walk. A week at home sat on my backside bombed out on powerful prescription painkillers (the only circumstance by which daytime television becomes tolerable) saw off the worst, but nearly a month later I was still knock-kneed like an old beggar under a sack.

X-rays and blood tests confirmed the initial diagnosis: the inflammation was caused by uric acid crystallising in my joints. Yes, I have Gout. Continue reading “Our cars: 2009 Renaultsport Clio 200 Cup”

Road Test: 1972 Daf 66

This is what looks like another transcript from the archives of influential motoring writer, Archie Vicar. In this item he welcomes the new DAF 66, an article entitled originally “Everyone´s favourite Dutch marque”.

1972 Daf 66; source
1972 Daf 66, a challenge to Volvo, Ford and Autobianchi?: source

>[The article first appeared in the Ryton-on-Dunsmore Evening Echo, July 1972. Photographs by Edward Land-Windermere. Due to the poor quality of the photos stock images have been used.]

The Daf 66 is here, at long last. As Dutch as a daffodil soaked in Bols, the Daf 66 carries on the traditions of car building for which the people of Holland have been quite well-known since 1959. Simply put, the Daf 66 is a 55 with a new suspension layout, one which opens the possibilities of more powerful models. Continue reading “Road Test: 1972 Daf 66”

Theme : Values – 1973 Citroën SM (Very) Long Term Test

As the ever quotable Oscar Wilde wrote, a cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

SM Top View

As prices have escalated over the past three decades, that aphorism certainly applies to many contemporary classic car collectors. If you have an interesting looking car, people come up and talk to you about it. My Citroën SM is now entering my 21st year or ownership so, over the years, I’ve got reasonably used to this, though my social grace occasionally lets me down. Sometimes the speaker is highly informed and might tell you something you don’t know. Sometimes they are like-minded enthusiasts who just want to make a pleasant comment or know a bit more. Continue reading “Theme : Values – 1973 Citroën SM (Very) Long Term Test”

An Uncomfortable Truth: Jaguar XF 2.2d Premium Luxury

Your correspondent gets into a bit of a flap over ‘our’ Jag’s ride quality. Or lack thereof.

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Is it possible for one’s palate to remain untainted by daily servings of braised swan? It’s bound to have an effect over the long term – after all, too much of a good thing will skew anyone’s critical faculties. For instance it’s unlikely any mainstream motor journalist working today would place a premium on ride comfort above outright handling and roadholding, if only because there probably aren’t any old enough to remember when such qualities were not only valued, but were what set luxury cars apart from the mass-market hordes. Continue reading “An Uncomfortable Truth: Jaguar XF 2.2d Premium Luxury”

Our Cars: 2009 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup

A free-wheeling act of random charity leaves our correspondent flummoxed.

2015-10-07 10.19.13

A strange thing happened last Saturday. Gawping out of the lounge window in the semi-comatose state common to the domesticated house male, I clocked a silver Golf GTI driving slowly down the road. As it passed, I noticed that the driver was peering intently at my house. Odd, especially as I was not even performing naked star jumps in the bay window, which is usually what attracts the eye (and the ire) of passer’s by.

The GTI performed a three-point turn and pulled up in front of my house. The driver, a man whom I did not recognise, got out and walked up the drive. He then set about examining my Clio, which was parked in front of the garage. Continue reading “Our Cars: 2009 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup”

1977 Chrysler Sunbeam Road Test

The legendary motor journalist takes Petula at her word.

1977 Chrysler Sunbeam: source
1977 Chrysler Sunbeam: source

Due to the poor quality of the original photos, archive images have been used. The original photos were by Douglas Land-Windermere.

“The Rootes factory in Linwood is thrumming with activity. With the magnificent Imp a recent memory, and the stalwart Avenger in volume production, the factory now has a new task: Sunbeams, the building thereof”, wrote Archie Vicar in this review for the East Scotland Motoring Week in November, 1977.

The Sunbeam is a logical progression from the Imp. It’s a bit bigger, more refined and more spacious and it also offers the advantages of rear wheel drive but with the engine in the front. While other makers are caving in to demands of the bean-counters, Chrysler are staying true to rear-wheel drive with their new entrant to the small car market. Let’s take a short look at the fascinating history of the car before the usual test-drive. Continue reading “1977 Chrysler Sunbeam Road Test”

1977 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28 roadtest

This brief article, written for the short-lived “Sports Driver & Road Monthly”, is what looks like a transcription of Archie Vicar’s impressions of the 1977-and-a-half Chevrolet Camaro Z-28.

1978 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28: source
1978 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28: wikipedia.org

During the late 1970s the motoring correspondent Archie Vicar was in demand on both sides of the Atlantic. He would fly from Heathrow to New York on Concorde, do a test drive and fly back to his next assignment in the Midlands, six times a month.
Photos by Karl Olsensen
[Due the poor quality of the images stock photos have been used].

What is this then? A sporty Camaro? It sounds like a contradiction in terms but somehow Chevrolet have decided to have a go at making a Camaro that can negotiate bends in the road. It still looks brash and crudely assembled in the American style. There is nothing here to scare even the most careless assembly-line workers at British Leyland. The nose cone evidently comes from a different car and the rear bumper is made of a plastic as convincing as an amputee’s orthosis. Is it a kind of American XJ-S? Continue reading “1977 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28 roadtest”

Our Cars: 2009 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup

David and Goliath? This question springs to mind in this report of life with a RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup.

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The modern SUV. Image: thisiswhyimbroke.com

I once shared a university house with a man who studied Physics. He was tremendously good at it. As a lazy English student, I envied the clarity of his thought processes, of his ability to harness complex mathematics to make sense of the forces that shape our world. Meanwhile, I struggled to marshal the energy to make a toasted cheese sandwich. (And this despite me keeping a Breville sandwich toaster on my bedside table. And my bedside table being a mini fridge liberated from a caravan, filled with cheese and booze.) Continue reading “Our Cars: 2009 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup”

1972 Toyota Crown: What Did The Reviewers Think?

As promised, here is a small fillet of Motor (July 1972) who took the time and trouble almost 44 years ago to prepare a review of the Toyota Crown estate.

1972 Toyota Crown Estate: flickriver
1972 Toyota Crown Estate: flickriver

Images of this car are rather hard to come by and few of the cars remain. If you are aesthetically sensitive be careful searching for photos because for some reason a worrying number of them feature inappropriate wheels and a lowered ride-height.

What did Motor have to say in 1972? Continue reading “1972 Toyota Crown: What Did The Reviewers Think?”

2010 Chevrolet Epica 2.0 L6 Turbo diesel Review

BIG AND DUMB AND MUCH THE BETTER FOR IT. Driven To Write assesses an underdog.

2010 Chevrolet Epica
2010 Chevrolet Epica

Tinselly, crudely assembled and unattractive sums it up, but luckily that´s just the Chevrolet badge on the bootlid. The rest of the car surprised me by being vastly better than the reputation suggested. The Chevrolet Epica has ended its six year production run and perhaps its reputation needs a little burnishing. I´ll tell you why: there´s very little wrong with the Epica and a lot that´s right. Continue reading “2010 Chevrolet Epica 2.0 L6 Turbo diesel Review”

Critical Faculties: 2010 Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 5-door

DTW has a spin in a 2010 Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi. If you´re thinking of getting a used one it´s probably going to be one of these.

2010 Ford Mondeo TDCi
2010 Ford Mondeo TDCi

The Ford Mondeo: what do we really know about this car? I had a test drive and can report how an informed but not expert enthusiast experienced it.

Zetec trim adorned the vehicle and under the bonnet Ford had kindly installed their 2.0 litre TDCi engine. In many ways this car could be said to be the typical midranger and so is representative of the sort of Mondeo many people choose to live with for six or seven years of their lives.

My first impressions were of the remarkable size of the car. Between the driver´s seat and the front passenger an appreciable gap yawned. And the sense of the car´s exterior dimensions were also palpable. I have written elsewhere about the sad lack of large cars equivalent to the Granadas and Omegas of yesteryear. In some ways I can now see at first hand why these don´t exist any more. It´s because having something much larger than a Mondeo would mean an unfeasibly vast motor carriage. That said, I found the Mondeo quite easy to get used to and I had no problems punting it along ordinary streets or parking it. The only minor trouble I encountered involved gouging a 40 cm ravine on the bodyside. I had to do a two-point turn in a multi-story car park just so as to negotiate a corner on the down ramp. I was afraid of hitting the raised concrete rib separating the “up” from the “down” lanes so I kept left and ran the car along a nice pointy concrete edge just below the window line.

2010 Ford Mondeo Front

I don´t have any measurements to put some quantitative bones under the flesh of my qualitative assessment. That said I can report that at hundred miles an hour the car is quiet and relaxed. Only the fact that most other cars are disappearing into your rear view mirror gives a slight hint that you are in serious danger of gaining points on your licence. I can imagine Ford have spent some considerable trouble making a trip such as from Hamburg to Berlin one that the Mondeo executes with great ease. The car has a fine ride and muffles the craters found in the midlands´ roadsurfaces very well indeed.

This was my first time to sample a six speed gearbox. All the ratios changed easily with a well-defined action. In sixth the car was registering 2000 rpm at 90 miles per hour. I did sometimes find that selecting the right gear at lower speeds produced some unwelcome lurches but I feel this is my fault and not the car´s. I presume after a few more days at the wheel one quickly manages to do a better job of picking a ratio than I did during my brief fling.

Why don´t those seats fold entirely flat?
Why don´t those seats fold entirely flat?

As I said, I don´t know how quickly the car got from rest to too fast but I can say that I was pressed into my seat, the steering wheel did a torque-steer shimmy but settled almost instantly thereafter. The car zoomed into gaps in traffic and reacted in the way I wanted in the time allowed.

I could go on doing my best impression of a seasoned car journo. But I will stop there and change tack.

Given that many people don´t read car magazines and that they will buy a Mondeo without a test drive and that they will be trading up from a knackered 11-year old Astra or baggy Laguna…given all that, I have had a revelation. Most people will think this car (or any new car) is simply the best car they have ever driven. It will have met and exceeded by a long country mile their limited expectations. And what flaws the car does have will be entirely unnoticed.

The other realisation is that if a fairly standard Ford Mondeo is quite as excellent as I have found it then how much more astonishing is a BMW 535? Or, put it another way, can an ordinary consumer really detect a difference proportional to the price difference between a BMW and a Ford?

Here are the things I found wanting in the Ford Mondeo: in the version I tried the rear seats couldn´t be arranged to make a flat floor when folded down. Otherwise the boot was huge. There was a slight vibration of the bonnet when I was driving at a stupidly high rate of knots. I didn´t like the rear ashtray; it was flimsy and loose and unworthy of the ash of my Villiger. There are two small plastic panels left and right of the centre console that have no obvious function. The metal fillets that brighten the dashboard look insufficiently opulent. And that´s it. Apart from these trifles I found the car to be smooth, fast and comfortable and a pleasure to conduct.

My conclusion is that for most people the best car in the world is any new one. It doesn´t have to be one that has lapped the Nurburgring in the shortest possible time. The best car in the world is available to most of us in a mainstream dealer down the road and it needn´t cost more than £18,000. Isn´t that astonishing?

[First published elsewhere in March 2010]

Continue reading “Critical Faculties: 2010 Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 5-door”

Engineering as Marketing : 2010 Renault Megane Review

DTW tries on a little silver number from Renault.

2010 Renault Megane
2010 Renault Megane

The apparently irrelevant preamble
In all good faith, motoring writers tend to fixate on problems much as the princess fixated on the pea. For those of us interested in cars, that´s fine: we are also little picky princesses, to a man. Merely knowing that there is some small aspect of a vehicle that impedes its theoretical performance around Thruxton on a dry day is enough to earn a definitive seal of disapproval. That is even if the aspect is wholly unrelated to the intent of the vehicle in question. I´ve been guilty of this myself, as I´ve sat in a variety of cars and nit picked over all-but-invisible tool split lines on plastic trim in the boot or wondered whether that 1mm design solution under the bumper is at all acceptable on a car costing, ooh, twelve grand.  This long preamble is my way of saying this: I don´t want my previous cries of wolf to diminish the central message of this little essay. That point is: the Renault Megane is quite a noticeably bad car. Continue reading “Engineering as Marketing : 2010 Renault Megane Review”

Hasty & Superficial: Maserati Quattroporte GTS (2014)

A quick drive in Maserati’s ultimate saloon.

photoToday I had the chance to experience a car I consider to be among the most disappointing of recent years – the successor to the flawed yet glorious Quattroporte V. Gone is the lithe elegance of Ken Okuyama’s styling, making way for considerably more competitive technology, as well as simply gargantuan proportions.

It really is an ungainly-looking barge, trying to marry its enormous size with some stylistic nods to its predecessor. The result I’d consider something akin to Jaguar’s unfortunate X350 XJ – an ill-advised pastiche, borne by the misconception that certain cues are independent of scale and proportions. If I want a giant Maserati, I’d personally go for Giugiaro’s Mk III version instead, in all its Passat-on-steroids glory.

Continue reading “Hasty & Superficial: Maserati Quattroporte GTS (2014)”

2002 Lancia Thesis 3.0 V6 Review

Lovely and wrong: Richard Herriott assesses Lancia´s former flagship.

2002_1_Lancia Thesis profile

When the Thesis was launched in 2002, Lancia wanted a flagship to re-position the brand as a maker of convincing luxury cars, an Italian Mercedes if you like. The Thesis´predecessor, the Kappa, had been less successful than the Thema, despite receiving plaudits for its refinement, packaging and capable chassis. The Thesis was supposed to recover ground lost during the Kappa´s production run and also to re-affirm the company´s tradition of top-drawer refinement and visual elegance. Continue reading “2002 Lancia Thesis 3.0 V6 Review”

2014 Ford Focus 1.6 CDTi Econetic Review

After discussing the dead centre of the car market, we take a visit there: the Ford Focus 1.6 CDTi Econetic.

2012 Ford Focus rear 1

This is the third generation Focus that I have tried. The Mk1 is a landmark and indeed a benchmark for many. It casts a long shadow over its successors. The Mk2 added refinement at the expense of driver enjoyment. Compared to the Mk1, the successor felt like being in a fat suit. So, what is the Mk 3 like now I have finally gotten behind the wheel? The main impressions are described below. Continue reading “2014 Ford Focus 1.6 CDTi Econetic Review”