Welcome to the Cheap Seats

Or to put it another way, a week with an Aygo. How did we get on?

All images (c) Driven to Write

It began with a bump. Somebody reversed into the Jag, while it was innocently minding its own business. The damage while not great, will likely be expensive, given the manner in which cars such as the XF are constructed these days. Still, with the guilty party’s insurers footing the bill, such matters are perhaps somewhat academic. The upshot being that while the Jaguar is in for a course of rhinoplasty, we’ve been slumming it in a courtesy car.

I must dutifully point out that Toyota’s smallest offering is not exactly a stranger to DTW’s pages, our resident Mr. Herriott having already written at some length upon his experience with a conventional manual version, but the example we are considering today has been fitted with Toyota’s X-Shift automated manual transmission.

Employing a manual gearbox with an electronically automated clutch, it allows the driver to Continue reading “Welcome to the Cheap Seats”

Le Tour de Tours

It’s not every day we get our hands on a best-seller. A recent trip to the Loire however, garnered DTW a Renault Clio. What did we make of it?

All images (c) Driven to Write

It’s close to half past seven in the evening as the TGV eases into la Gare de Tours, terminating its one hour and eighteen minute journey from Paris-Montparnasse. The station, a grand edifice dating from 1898, and a designated monument historique, feels as though it’s winding down for the evening, as indeed does the historic city of Tours itself.

The Avis car rental office certainly has, the Chef de Gare being called upon to process our documentation and release our pre-booked hire car. It has been a diverting past time during the train journey to Continue reading “Le Tour de Tours”

Riding the Jet Bird

Autocar gets its hands on a Ford Thunderbird for a full road test. Its conclusions might surprise you.

Image credit: (c) momentcar

While the original 1955 Ford Thunderbird had proven a critical success, its sales were hampered by its two-seat layout and high price; a matter which was remedied in 1958 by the second-generation ‘Square Bird’, a bigger, more ornate looking four-seater personal luxury car.

With sales in the region of 200,000 over its three-year run, the ‘Square ‘Bird’ not only codified the T-Bird template, but became a sizeable profit earner. The third generation, dubbed ‘Bullet Bird’ was introduced in 1961. Its styling, said to have been the work of Alex Tremulis and based on jet fighter iconography and was chosen in favour of a rival design by Elwood Engel, which would itself go on to Continue reading “Riding the Jet Bird”

Ford Fiesta Red and Black 1.0 long term report

As Chris puts more miles on the Festie, both life and frost damage intervene.

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The wheel dropped into the pothole and my stomach followed. CLONNNNNNG, the Fiesta’s front driver’s side alloy rang out in the cold winter air like a dropped bell. The low profile tyre was no protection against Nottinghamshire’s homage to the Rift Valley, a hole both deep and wide running transversely across a join in the tarmac.

SHIT, SHIT, SHIT, I thought. Straight away I pulled into a garage forecourt to Continue reading “Ford Fiesta Red and Black 1.0 long term report”

Gilded Snail

Citroën’s 1961 Bijou, as road tested by Autocar.

Image credit: (c) picautos

The UK’s relationship with Citroën has traditionally not been vastly dissimilar to Britain’s somewhat ambivalent relations with the French nation itself. Especially so in the 1950s, when the motorists of Blighty, secure in the assumed and unchallenged superiority of their domestic Gods, snorted derisively at the 2CV’s rational asceticism.

Assembled, like its (equally shocking to British sensibilities) DS sibling by Citroën’s UK concessionaires, the 2CV was offered in the UK market throughout the 1950s, to ever decreasing circles of Continue reading “Gilded Snail”

The Grosse Borgward

Autocar’s 23 December issue of 1960 contained a comprehensive road test of a technically advanced offering from Bremen – the Grosser Borgward 2.3. What did they make of it?

Image credit: (c) Borgward.nl

Something of a technical novelty in the 1950s, air suspension had been offered by a number of US carmakers, including Buick, Rambler and Cadillac at the tail-end of the decade, before cost and complication saw its withdrawal, yet it remained a largely theoretical concept for European car buyers.

Across the Atlantic, while Mercedes-Benz were developing an air suspended system, the Swabians were comprehensively pipped to the market by Hanseatic upstarts, Carl F.W. Borgward GmbH in 1960. Having debuted their largest and most ambitious saloon at the previous year’s Frankfurt motor show, the P100 (or 2.3) was offered with the option of Continue reading “The Grosse Borgward”

I Really Thought You Said Sunday

Today I present a meta-review. I haven’t got around to having a chance to try to drive a 508 so instead I’ll report on two articles, one from Autocropley and the other from the Telegraph.

2019 Peugeot 508. Image: R Parazitas (the royalty’s in the post)

It goes without saying that I haven’t got an axe to grind for or against the 508. Like any car it deserves a fair judgement and something about these reviews suggests that whatever Peugeot does, the UK is a lost cause. If you read these reviews nothing would lead you to Continue reading “I Really Thought You Said Sunday”

Vive la France … Vive la Différence!

As well as sampling a 308 SW, our correspondent’s spring break in France also presented a chance to get the local perspective on how the indigenous competition measures up.

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Yes, I did just take a photo of the cover of the magazine lying on the carpet in our spare room.

When in France, I always take the chance to go to a Maison de la Presse and search through the car magazines. In recent years, this has allowed me to discover publications dedicated to ‘classic’ Citroëns, Panhards and other wonders, proving to myself and sceptical family members that there are others out there with a passion for the quirky and yet banal.

I usually also buy a more mainstream monthly, and more often than not it’s L’Automobile; on this occasion, I bought the March 2018 issue.

L’Automobile is, to my mind, the closest that France has to Continue reading “Vive la France … Vive la Différence!”

Ghost in the Machine: Peugeot 308 SW Drive Review

A spring break, (or to put it another way, a break in spring) leaves our correspondent in a mildly disturbed state of mind.

A glossy, brochure view of the 308 SW, showing larger alloys that help disguise the rear-end bulk. (source: Peugeot)

One of the many joys of going to the middle of France every spring is that we hire a car for the duration and it never ceases to provide a chance to sample something new from the automotive smorgasbord. This year, for once, we actually got what we expected; Hertz had promised either a 308 SW or a C-Max and we got the Pug.

I wasn’t convinced about the looks – the added bodywork of the SW over the 308 hatch can make the rear three quarters look bulky and like the basic structure is enveloped by rolls of flab, a look which demands larger diameter wheels in order to Continue reading “Ghost in the Machine: Peugeot 308 SW Drive Review”

Ashtrays: 2001 BMW 728 M-sport

After a bit of a hiatus, Driventowrite’s ashtray series is back. Today, how the decline in the popularity of cigar smoking made in-car satellite navigation possible.

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For this article, I had the pleasure taking a closer look at our Dublin correspondent, Mick’s BMW 728i. At the same time I had a chance for a small and very tame test drive, another one of those revelations that comes unexpectedly now and, to some extent, again.

First let’s Continue reading “Ashtrays: 2001 BMW 728 M-sport”

Quick Drive: Tesla Model S 75D

An opportunity to ‘have a go’ in a friendly colleague’s new Tesla provided me with a first experience of driving an EV.

Tesla Model S
This is not the actual car I drove, in case you were wondering (Source: Getaround)

I fully realise that it’s not that remarkable to have driven one of Elon Musk’s finest, but it’s a landmark in my longish and ever-lengthening motoring life and so I feel driven to write one of my usual streams of consciousness about the experience and the car itself.

One of the guys in my team has a flat black 75D on order and Tesla has lent him a white car to bridge the gap whilst his is being built / delivered, which is a nice touch. Knowing how much of a car nerd I am, he popped in yesterday to offer me a quick go. It turned out I was not the first that day; given he leads an IT department, a load of tech nerds had got there before me. Interesting that, the Tesla appeals to both car and tech enthusiasts … Continue reading “Quick Drive: Tesla Model S 75D”

Catching Up, Part 2

We continue our transcription of Stirling Moss’s review of the 1975 Porsche 911.

1974 Porsche 911 interior: source

“The Porsche is a two seat coupe which does have room in the back for extra token passengers, thanks to an ingenious pair of folding seats, but on anything but the shortest of journeys they would suffer. The front seats are, however, very comfortable, with high seat backs which offer plenty of support. They are beautifully finished and upholstered, and sensibly shaped and positioned, with good visibility all round: you can see both the front wings very clearly, so that pointing the car securely through corners and gaps becomes simplicity itself.

There are all kinds of pleasing little details, which show how much thought has gone into the original design and the improvements which have been added over the model’s lifetime. For instance, there is a knob under the dashboard which unfastens the petrol filler cap, but before the garage man can Continue reading “Catching Up, Part 2”

[Badge] Engineering Failure: VW

I realise it’s an old and oft-discussed issue, but I have experienced VW shooting itself in the badge.

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I was recently loaned a brand new VW Golf Estate for the day whilst my Octavia of similar form was in for its 10k oil-change. I have frequently read over the past few years how the differential between VW Group’s brands has blurred, but this is the first time I was presented with an opportunity to witness the phenomenon so directly. And, although I should not have been, I was a bit taken aback at the experience.

I’ve always kept the view that the Golf is a bit special. A cut above. Very cleverly set aside from Continue reading “[Badge] Engineering Failure: VW”

Rearview: 1987 Honda Integra EX16

Forgive me for insisting on writing about cars I have either driven or owned – I think it’s some kind of automotive catharsis. You may have noticed a taste for what could be described as the slightly offbeat, leftfield, or maybe just unloved. So, humour me as I bore you with the Honda Integra.

Integra Image
Sorry, it’s the best image I could find …. Source: Performance Car

Being precise for a moment, Wiki informs that the version to which I am referring is the AV Series which was built between 1985 and 1989. It was known in other territories as the Quint Integra and also, in Australia, was sold as a Rover 416 (all these years I have thought myself to be a bit of a BL/ ARG/ Rover Group/ MGR officianado and I never knew that until now).

As mentioned by others in previous pieces, Continue reading “Rearview: 1987 Honda Integra EX16”

LTT Reflections: Mazda3 2.2d SportNav Fastback

A few months after having left my now ex-go-to-work wheels in a Skoda dealer’s customer parking bay, I thought I should put a full-stop on the sporadic LTT that I sometimes provided on these pages.  

Mazda3 Fastback
Ex-machina – I liked the looks, even if the colour was less interesting than I had hoped.

Time and the opportunity to compare it with the Octavia which replaced it provide context and perspective on my views. I spent just over two years and 33,000 miles with my Titanium Flash Mica hued Mazda saloon. To recap, I bought the car with the original intent of swapping my C6 in for it, but instead, through the benevolence of my family, I was able to keep the slightly exotic and eccentric Citroen ‘for pleasure’ and have the Mazda to take the burden of my extended daily commute.

I bought the car pre-registered and was fortunate to find one in the spec and colour I wanted. My ultimate preference would have been to Continue reading “LTT Reflections: Mazda3 2.2d SportNav Fastback”

‘Car’, Car of the Year 1970

I recently purchased a reprint of Car’s Car of the Year 1970 feature (printed for publicity purposes for the UK distributor of a certain car company from the March 1971 issue by George Pulman and Sons Ltd Bletchley Bucks).  Almost (but not quite) as old as I am (what’s three years amongst friends?), it served to remind me what we are missing these days from motoring journalists.

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OK, so the cover rather gives the identity of the car and its manufacturer away, but I’m not here to write about either, honest!

First, I refuse to mention the main subject of the feature, the car which won this prestigious award in 1970, on the basis that we get complaints that the manufacturer of said winning car receives far too much coverage on this site. Second, it’s the quality of the journalism which has bewitched me, much as it was the featured car which captured my attention to said publication in the first place. Third, I’ve given up on Citroën these days in any case (damn!).

The first thing to note is Continue reading “‘Car’, Car of the Year 1970”

Pointless Road Test – FIAT 500 1.2l Lounge

There probably isn’t anything left on the keyboard that has not already been written about the FIAT 500, but that’s not going to stop DTW as recent ownership has permitted some real-world insights.

FIAT 500 1.2L Lounge in Pasodoble Red
So familiar, it’s invisible

The new-age FIAT 500 is a car I don’t want to like. It’s a cynical fraud for starters, sharing underpinnings with the previous generation FIAT Panda and Ford Ka. I like the Panda, having an especially fond soft spot for the 100HP which was the meaner spiritual successor to the Cinquecento Sporting that I so cherished in my early twenties.

I think I am also biased by Continue reading “Pointless Road Test – FIAT 500 1.2l Lounge”

Sons of the Silent Age – (2)

Part two: We briefly take the wheel

Image: Driven to Write

As Steve fires up the NSU’s power unit, it quickly settles into its distinctive buzz-saw rotary whine. I ask him how often he uses it? “Not as often as I should – I have too many cars. I don’t use it in the winter, but this summer it’s done about 1500 miles.” Mileage incidentally, which includes a trip to the recent 50th anniversary commemorations in Suffolk, where over 30 Ro80s converged. Among the attendees was an owner from Stuttgart who Continue reading “Sons of the Silent Age – (2)”

Sons of the Silent Age

Part one: Driven to Write meets (and briefly drives) one of its heroes.

Image: Driven to Write

A commonly espoused orthodoxy warns us that close proximity to our idols can only lead to disappointment. Some go further, suggesting that the renunciation of hero worship is the mark of a mature mind. This being the case, I can categorically claim not to have attained it. But surely it is preferable to Continue reading “Sons of the Silent Age”

Driving Range – 2009 Range Rover Vogue TDV8 : 2

In this concluding part, we delve further into the Range Rover’s dynamics.

All images: Driven to Write

One could be excused for expecting the Range Rover’s road behaviour to be ponderous and unresponsive, and while one never loses the sensation of driving something quite vast, the RR can cover ground with an alacrity and poise that is both satisfying and deeply impressive. Even on the narrow, meandering and frost-scarred roads of West Cork’s ‘Wild Atlantic Way’, the air suspension’s ability to Continue reading “Driving Range – 2009 Range Rover Vogue TDV8 : 2”

Driving Range – 2009 Range Rover Vogue TDV8

Part one: Driven to Write gets ideas above its station.

All images: Driven to Write

‘Above and Beyond’: As advertising taglines go, this one speaks to an essential truth. Because driving a Range Rover genuinely does suggest an altogether loftier plane, and it is this sense of elevation, otherwise the sole preserve of Rolls Royce owners, that is perhaps the car’s defining characteristic. Continue reading “Driving Range – 2009 Range Rover Vogue TDV8”

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.

1981 Ford Cortina 2.0 GL: Autocar July, 1981.

This may be a verbatim transcript of an article which first appeared in Laker Airways in-flight magazine, July 1981. Original photos 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.

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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 of 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”

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”

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”