Surprisingly different – BMW 218D GT

In BMW on November 8, 2017 at 12:17 am

M4 2 GTThree hundred miles today in an Auto BMW 218D M Sport Grand Tourer.

Firstly well done Chandlers who were top notch when selling me my smaller 225xe Active Tourer, and equally good at 22,000 miles for my first service.

Today in heavy traffic, then heavy rain I had a 300 mile round trip to Bristol and Gloucestershire.

I’m not sure what my expectations were, but this is a remarkably different proposition to my 2 series.

Let’s run through the differences.

The most obvious? The size. My Active Tourer seats 5, the Grand Tourer seats 7.

What’s more the guys in the middle row have more legroom. My car and this both have the sports seats, with plenty of adjustment.  Mine seem harder, although there should be no difference.

Sat navAlthough both vehicles are of a virtually identical age this has no sat nav within the instrument binnacle, so a phone call wipes out any graphic indicator of one’s route.

The controls on the chunkier steering wheel are less easy to use. Today’s loan car came with a flappy paddles gearbox.

I tried them briefly, but this is more Monster Truck than sports car, and not what I’d consider useful.

Mine’s a “Luxury” and this is an M Sport.  What does that mean?

The blue car here has wider profile tyres, and a at slower speeds a less settled ride.

My 225xe is 4WD, petrol power up front (136 bhp) and up to 82 bhp battery power to the rear, the 218d has a 4 cylinder 2 litre 150 bhp diesel unit powering the front wheels alone.

You’d imagine this big blue machine would be lethargic, but in practice there’s plenty of shove.  Once on the move it’s more relaxing than my daily driver.

Which brings out another difference. Occasionally my rear wheels scrabble on our gravel track when I pull onto a busy road, but other than that it’s always well behaved.

The 2GT is nowhere near as refined on wet greasy road surfaces if you stamp on the loud pedal.  Attempt a quick get away in the wet and there are severe knocking sensations from the front end.

Once at 70 mph on the motorway the bigger car generally feels more secure, but once the roads were saturated the wide tyres seemed to aquaplane too easily.

Economy? Over 46 mpg on my hybrid, and only 41 mpg for the oil burning 218D auto, I was really surprised.

Bottom line.  Is the 218D Grand Tourer any good?

Absolutely. Although I’d rather have a sun roof than half the fancy M Sport features.  The screen on this one kept misting up.

One other unexpected bonus for the diesel, it was even quieter than my 3 cylinder petrol Active Tourer.  The only time the hybrid is less vocal being when the Active Tourer is in battery mode.




French Flair in N.I.

In Renault on October 21, 2017 at 2:06 pm

JumboMeet Dumbo the French SUV with big ears and smiley face.

After the patchy years of the Mk3 Laguna, hideous Mk1 Koleos, and bloated Scenic the Renault brand seems to be enjoying some sort of renaissance.

Hooking up with Nissan has given them access to a broader corporate parts bin, and they’ve made good use of the components to rustle up their very own version of the Qashqai.

On my recent trip to Northern Ireland I enjoyed three days behind the wheel of this Renault Kadjar 1.5 Dci Dynamique Nav with optional 19″ wheels.

“Mine” was a lovely deep shade of metallic blue, so it looked great on the outside.  The inside was less impressive.

For someone brought up on a diet of Renault, 16s, 20s, 30s, and the like I always miss the high quality cloth and velour of yesteryear.  It was way better than leather, and felt classy.

Up front the dashboard and controls were made of a reasonable grade of plastic, and I can’t say I missed the BMW wood veneers that I’m used to.

What did impress was slick gearbox, comfortable roomy cabin, and plethora of tech aids which are absent on my daily driver.

Somehow the illuminated leaves that configure a tree induced me to be more light-footed than the blue readouts that flicker on my 2 series.


When speed signs were clearly visible the dash displayed the speed limit to the right of a clear digital mph readout.

Very impressive.

Sadly the 1.5 diesel only pumps out 110 bhp, so in the words of Courtney Barnet this car was “Pedestrian at Best”.

If like me you’re a persistent “Drink Driver” you’ll also be disappointed with the provision of shallow “bottle holders” and door pockets that fail to cradle the obligatory sparkling water.

On the plus side the boot is far more accommodating, with a useful false floor.


Not so clever is the lack of an electronic opener. On wet days access via the low slung catch results in dirty fingers every time.

Once shut the back end looks smart.

BumThis shot shows the cumbersome the door mirrors, which block forward visibility at roundabouts and junctions.

In summary I was pleasantly surprised by this French take on the British built Nissan.

Would I buy one?

Quite possibly.

I’d prefer something with more power, but the autos are unavailable on anything with any poke.

Pick of the range?

1.2 Petrol Auto?

Quite possibly.







Stick or Twist?

In BMW, Renault on July 22, 2017 at 5:42 pm

BMW 125 JULY 17In the last 9 years we’ve had six BMW’s. Four have been very good, one indifferent, and one hugely disappointing.

The 125 M Sport has been with us for 4 years now, and it might be time to change.  There’s 43,000 miles on the clock, and thus far it’s been reliable.

Chopping it in may not seem logical, but we’re at the stage where it has started to cost money.   A new tyre recently set us back more than £200.

Both the front and rear bumpers have suffered buffs and bashes whilst the car has been parked. If we want to “stay together” we’d probably need an expensive warranty.

Do we stick with it for another year? Buy another new shape 1 series, or try something completely different?

The former would be quite costly, but a trade in and a moderate cash outlay could see us in something with a lengthy warranty.

I’ve ruled out the Yaris, but today we were pleasantly surprised by a Twingo GT.

There are only 10 available on Autotrader, most are bright orange.




But we drove the white demonstrator.


Which features orange detailing.


We arrived at Masters Beckenham with fairly low expectations, but the proof would be in the pudding.

Perhaps we might be surprised?

So we each took took a turn behind the wheel.


Travelling with the salesman meant that one of us ended up in the claustrophobic rear.

ClaustrophobiaThe seats remind me of those in our old Renault 12 TS, which also look like giant tomb stones.

Roz found them quite comfortable, but I’d say the seats in the seventies saloon were more supportive.

So how did it go?

Surprisingly well!  There is no auto option on this Twingo, despite the fact it’s cousin the Brabus Smart has no manual option.

Neither of us have had a manual car for years, but it wasn’t an issue.  Indeed the tactile metal gear knob, with a  very direct shift was a joy to “stir”.

In the back the turbocharged three cylinder gave off a delightful throbbing hum, encouraging upshifts.

When it was my turn I acclimatised myself with the radio (pretty good), Sat Nav (adequate) and rear parking camera (such fun).

Then I was off.

I liked it!

It felt like I was stepping back into an analogue world, my own hybrid car feels “remote” by comparison.

The cost to change is virtually nothing.

Should we stick or twist?

5 seats and a prestige badge v 4 seats in a French Box

We’ll sleep on it!

A tight turning circle, better economy, cheaper insurance v more of the same?

I’ll keep you posted.