Posts Tagged UK
The Renault Megane 225 is a premium-quality easy to drive hatchback. The standard Mégane hatchback is an odd looking car, specially the rear end of the Mégane looks awkward.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged, four-cylinder engine. Considerable work has been done to boost its power, with changes to the crankshaft and pistons as well as the twin-scroll turbocharger. The Renault Megane 225 is powered by a 222bhp at 5500rpm and a sturdy 221lb ft at only 3000rpm – 90 per cent of which is available from 2000-6000rpm. Drive is fed to the front wheels through a six-speed gearbox.
The Megane 225 got quite modern looking interior. It uses a ‘keycard’ system. The keycard is slotted into the centre console and then you hit the starter button. There is no key. A spacious five-seat interior provides enough room to stretch out.
Independent steering-axis front suspension guarantees precise and efficient handling, while body movement is minimized by a 20mm-diameter anti-roll bar. The front suspension has also been tuned. Spring stiffness and damper settings are consequently specific to this diesel version.
The rear suspension is based around a programmed-deflection flexible beam, the torsional stiffness of which is equivalent to that of the Cup chassis version of Mégane Renault Sport 2.0 T .
As standard safety features Renault Mégane is fitted with a dynamic electronic stability programme which has also been set up to suit the car’s particular characteristics. Passive safety features are the same as those on any other Mégane.
Tt’s frugal, relatively affordable, easy to drive, and remarkably powerful.
Cadillac CTS shares its mechanical bits with the saloon.However the Coupe’s architecture has been redesigned to create a pleasingly short rear overhang and kicked-up rear. So, despite appearances, it’s pretty much all-new. The rear wheels have been pushed out an extra inch either side and the roofline has been lowered by two inches. So it squats a little lower on the road. With 556bhp and 561lb of torque, you know your petrol is being used well.
The interior flags this dualability in its mix of equipment.
The optional Recaro seats bearhug you into place and are perfect for stopping you going one way when the car is going another. But there’s also lashings of suede, a large, easy-to-use navigation / entertainment screen and all the other toys you would expect to find on a range-topping luxury coupe.
Even with the fantastic spread of power, and whatever mode you have it in, it takes its own sweet time to find and mesh with the gear you want.At first, it feels like there might be something up with the throttle or fuel management, the car’s otherwise torpedo-like progress being temporarily delayed between each shift.
But we know it’s the gearbox, as it was exactly the same story in the CTS-V saloon.
Cadillac has just been newly-branded in the US – for the umpteenth time in the last few years as the company searches for a tagline that resonates with the public – and now runs under the banner “The new standard for the world”.
Performance: 0-60mph in 4.0secs, max speed 178mph, 15mpg
Tech: 6162cc, V8, RWD, 556bhp, 561lb ft, 1933kg, n/a g/km CO2
The IS, claims Lexus, is the most refined car in its class: less wind noise, more boot space
and leg room than the competition, posh shoulder heaters, aircon that adjusts temperature depending on roof position, no sporting pretensions.
Out on the road, under soft blue skies, winding through the snaky passes behind Nice, the IS certainly feels refined. Roof down, front seat passengers are nicely ensconced from the wind, while roof up it’s near silent. But jeez, they weren’t kidding about the not-sporty bit. With a 202bhp, 2.5-litre V6 driving the wheels through a six-speed auto box – no other engines or transmissions will reach the UK – to call it pedestrian would do pedestrians a disservice. It’s a heavy bugger, the IS – in a largely successful bid to limit scuttle shake and chassis flex, the Toyota
engineers have packed it with structural reinforcement, making it some 100kg heavier than the saloon at 1,730kg – and it’ll unwillingly reach 60mph in nine seconds. The BMW 325i convertible, similarly powered by a 2.5-litre six-pot, manages it in 7.6 seconds. Even in sport mode, the auto’ box won’t kick down unless you pin your entire bodyweight on the throttle.
But chill out and you’ll find there’s a nice weight to the steering and brakes and a soft but sophisticated ride. It all fits together in a pleasingly soporific harmony, an insistence that you’re going to take things easy. The IS would be right at home on the Californian coast, cruising down a wide, straight boulevard with The Eagles on backing.
In truth, the IS isn’t quite as posh as it thinks it is. With its 1980s- digital-watch-style clock and Toyota Auris-borrowed buttons, it suffers from Lexus’s strangely piecemeal approach to cabin design: the Audi A5 has a smarter, more coherent interior. And the engine, though smooth and quiet, feels a bit last-century too. Lexus quotes 30mpg on combined economy, though we couldn’t top 20mpg in a day of gentle driving. That 325i will return 37.2mpg, and emit far less CO2, too.
And – though these things are subjective – isn’t the IS a bit big in the arse and small in the wheels? On the Nice seafront, we passed an Infiniti G37 convertible, the folding hard-top from Nissan’s luxury brand, set to arrive in the UK this autumn with a similar price tag and a whole lot more sleekness. It looked great. If your only concern is refinement, the IS 250C does a good job, but its rivals are more capable all-rounders.
Because the petrol-powered Mitsubishi i is
a proper car, so’s the electrified one, called i-MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle, if you must). Crash-tested, it’s a full four-seater with aircon and what motor traders call ‘all amenities’.
Compared with the standard i, the rear engine, transmission and fuel tank have been removed, replaced by the motor and electronics. A thin bank of lithium ion batteries is under the floor. It’s all properly production-tested, so you can drive through deep water unharmed.
We are fans of the i for its design and packaging. The electric one compromises nothing on the space, but is more fun to drive. It’s nippy off the mark, as electric vehicles tend to be, and there’s a simple one-speed transmission. As the added battery
Those slim batteries are supposed to give a range approaching 100 miles, implying a 50-mile commute and recharging at home. Hmmm. It ran out for me at 50 miles total, mainly because it was a cold day, which batteries don’t like. So you’d have to trickle-charge at the office, or commute just 25 miles. Which is actually all most city-dwellers do.
A standard mains socket will charge it overnight – if you have a garage. Can’t go trailing an extension lead up the street, can you? Which emphasises that until charging points are built into a proportion of parking bays, widespread EV use is but a dream.
Mitsubishi’s fast charger will do 80 per cent of a charge in 20 minutes. But it needs three-phase electricity, and is the size of a big fridge-freezer. It’d be useful for fleets, though.
So this is, for now, a car mainly for those who want to look green and will pay big to do so. It’ll likely cost about £30k, or £863 a month to lease, when it comes to the UK this summer. But in the next two years, Mitsubishi plans to scale i-MiEV production up to 20,000 a year, cutting a third or more off the price. No one else has EV plans as big and as soon as that.
Jeep’s latest package is noticeably bolstered by the inclusion of a totally new 218bhp Mercedes-sourced three-litre V6 diesel thatreplaces the previous incarnation’s ropey old 2.7 CRD. Expected to account for around 85% of UK sales, it’s this diesel unit that warrants attention here.
There is a 5.7-litre Hemi V8 on offer as some sort of white-knuckle flagship,
but with a hefty price tag, less torque than the diesel and eye-watering fuel returns, it doesn’t make an enormous amount of sense.
The 3.0 CRD Limited, at £32,895, is a decent punt at an on/off-road Jack-of-all-trades. It doesn’t handle quite with the confidence of BMW’s X5, but it’s over £3,000 cheaper and would give the German a bloody good hiding away from the asphalt.
There is a catch, though. Jeep’s budget has undoubtedly gone on striking this delicate balance between on-the-road and on-the-range, and the cabin is discernibly down on quality as a result. Dash plastics are immediately cheap to the eye and most sound pretty hollow to the touch.
Disappointing contact points like the wobbly handbrake
Still, if your idea of a weekend away involves pumping the Arkansas air full of lead and filling the hose-down boot with still-twitching carcasses, then you probably already have a Grand on order. It’ll be hard to make your case to UK buyers, who have the seven-seat Discovery and nearly £4k change in their pockets, but this is a car that ably fulfills its purpose.
This, as you’ve already gathered, is the new Altea
XL, a car based on the Altea compact MPV, only this time with a bigger boot.
But doesn’t the Toledo already do the same thing, albeit with an uglier protrusion at the back? And then there’s the Leon, only this time with a slightly smaller boot. Seat claims that the XL is the family car of the range, so where does that leave the Altea?
The one thing that is clear is that the XL does have a bigger boot. The car is 187mm longer than the normal Altea, most of which has been targeted at the rear. So you now get 532 litres of loadspace with all the seats in place (up from 409 in the Altea),
The rear bench also slides, as it does in the Altea, but there’s 20mm more movement to the rear, which gives more legroom. Slide that rear bench fully forward and you get 635 litres, which, Seat reckons, is the largest in the class.
The flipside is that you’ll chop your children’s legs off by doing this.
One aspect that should be applauded is the styling. Whereas the Toledo looks like it’s developed elephantitis, the XL’s shape seems unaffected by growth.
From B-pillar forward, it’s the same as the Altea, but the tail gets distinctive lights and roof rails are standard. The cabin is also identical to the Altea, so quality and layout are fine.
Where there is a slight variety for the moment is in the engine line-up. You can only get a 1.6-litre petrol, 1.9-litre TDI and two-litre 140 TDI. Others will join in, such as a new 1.8-litre turbo petrol, but the 1.9-litre oil burner will be the most popular in the UK.
This is a fairly old engine now, but once you’re on the move it’s refined and you can’t argue with the claimed 52.6mpg. It isn’t that quick, though, 0-62mph passing in 12.6 seconds, and you’ll need to be peddling hard to get that sort of figure. Treat it more as a relaxed Sunday drive and you’ll get on better.
In isolation, the Altea XL is fine. But look at the rest of the range and this just smacks of creating a new car on the cheap – no clever features, just cynical marketing.
And yet I’m finding it very hard to give it the kicking you’d
The iQ Gazoo Racing Tuned By MN has an interesting background. Gazoo Racing is the outfit that took the Lexus LF-A to the Nürburgring 24-hour race. Two of the drivers were not-very-mysterious characters called Morizo, and Hiromu Naruse, Toyota’s chief test driver who is, by all accounts, a certified turbo nutter. They’re the M and the N in the car’s absurdly long name. Morizo is actually Akio Toyoda, another full-on petrolhead, in the moments when he’s not being the sober-suited CEO of this, the world’s biggest car company. He uses the pseudonym, he says, because then he’s free to be rude about Toyota’s duller cars on the Gazoo blog.
Gazoo itself is a giant Japanese Toyota owners’ community website.
“Gazoo Racing,” Toyoda told me earnestly but mildly obliquely, “is not a racing team. It’s all about providing a forum where people can talk about cars, and share the love. It’s about increasing the number of car-loving people.”
And so far, the iQ GR MN is little more than a conversation piece. The production run is only 100, it’s for Japan only, and they’re all sold. Even odder, the one element a performance car needs – performance – has simply been ignored. A body kit does not a faster car make. The iQ GR MN has a bog-standard iQ drivetrain. Its 1.3-litre engine feels lazy, hampered by gearing so ridiculously long that you hit top speed in fourth, with two more still to go.
Now the fun: the wheels are no bigger than standard, but they have sticky tyres, and with new springs and dampers and bushes, you suddenly get a car that just loves to dive into corners. Not much roll, just directness and quite a bit of feel. It’s made all the more hilarious by the fact that it’s so utterly unlikely. And if you brake while you turn, the diddy wheelbase means the back begins to squirm before the ESP kicks in. And oddly enough, the ride, though its frequency is shorter than normal, doesn’t feel too bad. The fun is in thrashing it. I had even more funin a leftover 1.0-litre prototype they let me try, because the smaller engine is lighter and sweeter and happier to be pasted.
Toyota’s UK boss, another gearhead, told me to say it needs a turbo. It does. And it might get one. Morizo has already done an (experi)mental turbo Yaris.
Billed by BMW as the most powerful hybrid car in the
world – a claim that’s going to have several car makers reaching for their spec sheets – the impressively complicated but also quiet and swift ActiveHybrid X6 just wouldn’t make any sense in the UK. Quite apart from the fact that this version will cost the same as the X6 M in the US, and over 40 per cent more when it hits European markets next year, it really doesn’t do anything usefully better than the oil-burner, other than being a hybrid.
See pics of the BMW X6 ActiveHybrid
OK, it’s appreciably quicker to 60mph, shaving almost three seconds off the 3.5-litre diesel’s time. But it has the same top speed of 130mph, almost identical mid-range performance and appreciably worse
fuel consumption. BMW reckons it will return an average of 28.5mpg, compared with 34.4mpg for the 3.5 diesel, but on our relatively sedate test route the X6 we drove knocked back a gallon of premium every 20 miles.
So why go to all this trouble to make such a car? Diesel-hating, hybrid-obsessed west coast America, that’s why. In places like Los Angeles, where appearances are more important than sense or facts, and petrol costs less than two quid a gallon, the roads are clogged with Priuses and Lexuses. For these people the ActiveHybrid X6 will be the new must-have car. Because not only is it a hybrid and an SUV (of sorts), it’s also got a massive V8 – every American’s birthright – under the bonnet.
It’s the same 400bhp twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre lump that powers the 5.0 petrol X6, but with the hybrid technology stacked on top of it; there’s so much new stuff they had to make an extra bulge in the bonnet to accommodate it all. Then there are a couple of electric motors in the gearbox, one for high speed the other for low-speed assistance, which produce 91bhp and 86bhp apiece. They also capture energy generated while braking and send it back to the 2.4 kWh nickel metal hydride battery that sits in the spare-wheel well.
The battery is quite a small unit, but it still allows the car to be driven in all-electric mode up to 37mph. The only problem is that it runs out of charge after 1.4miles, so it’s all about boosting rather than replacing the petrol engine’s efforts. Efforts which, smooth and seamless as they are, are not better than a simpler, cheaper, lighter, more economical diesel.
Find an open road, use all that throttle and it’s in a different
league to everything bar a 599. Here in the UK, you’ve got to watch your speed – 100mph is far too easy. The supercharger whine is the dominant noise below 3,000rpm, but surge past that point and a valve opens in the exhaust to let the V8 dominate – and sets your giggles loose. It’s a power trip, a V8 endorphin pill.
For those that need facts to validate the feelings, no problem: 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds with 100mph flashing past in 7.0 dead. Top whack is 205mph. Enough.
All this is courtesy of the 6.2-litre V8 engine that’s the same size as in the C6 ‘Vette, but this time with a supercharger hoiking the power up to 638bhp and
the torque to 604lb ft (from 430bhp and 424lb ft). The weight has been kept down a reasonable 1,500kg, so those are some mightily frightening figures. A standing start will see you fry the rears in first, second and even a little bit of third. And that’s on a dry road, with rear tyres that are twice as wide as a Golf’s.
In an odd way, this is almost a wolf in sheep’s clothing simply because the ZR-1 looks so similar to the basic C6, bar that perspex panel in the bonnet. Don’t confuse that with a lack of tech on the ZR-1 though. The chassis has been totally re-engineered, so instead of a steel chassis and plastic panels, you get an aluminium and magnesium frame with carbon clothes. That keeps the weight down and where a lot of your £106,605 goes.
It certainly didn’t go into the cabin, as this is still clichéd-Americana. Lots of leather, yes, but little in the way of actual sophistication. And there’s not a huge amount of headroom, either.
But don’t be Euro-snobbish about the transverse leaf spring suspension – it works brilliantly with the Magnetic Selective Ride Control on UK roads. It’s genuinely surprising how well it rides and how well it maintains grip – even in Sport there’s a compliance and maturity to the ride that’ll widen your eyes. Hard cornering is flat and predictable and even though its a wide car and only available in left-hand drive, it’s not intimidating to drive quickly because there’s enough feel through the seat and steering wheel. It’s brilliant. Buy this, chuck the Prozac away.
Here it is,
and there’s a new 2.0-litre multijet diesel under the bonnet – a bored-out version of the old 1.9, with more poke. Fiat is rather good at diesels, and supplies them to Vauxhall en-masse, so this one will soon find a home in the new Astra, providing there is a new Astra. It has enough torque to blow away the equivalent Golfs, Focuses and Meganes of this world, and the Bravo is cheaper than all of them, making it the class leader when it comes to bang-for-buck. You could argue that it looks better, too.
It feels quick, but sadly it’s just too loud. Whereas a Focus manages to isolate you from diesel chatter, the Bravo hurls it straight into your
ears. It’s not just the engine – you can even hear linkages working as you change gear, and the fan whirs so loudly you’d think it was coming from the bus in front. It makes quieter rivals feel like a brief return to the womb.
The range tops out at £17,650 for this poshest ‘Sport’ model. That’s a whopping £2,645 less than an equivalent Focus, so it’s worth a look. And ear plugs only cost 50 pence a pair.