Archive for February, 2014|Monthly archive page

Never judge a book by ….

In BMW, Chrysler, Lancia on February 23, 2014 at 11:03 pm


My sister’s Peugeot 206 is a few weeks short of ten years old.

It has to go.

Most parts still function, but the necessary repairs will cost more than it’s worth.

We’ve been out road testing, and tyre kicking.

The next machine will (ideally) be more sporty than a 90bhp oil burner, but still has to be frugal, and hopefully still carry a decent warranty.

It could be new, but it’ll probably be lightly used.

Between us we’ve tried a VW EOS 2.0 litre with 197 bhp, a Kia Rio 1.4 derv, Mazda 2 in a snazzy aubergine colour, whilst also sitting in Hyundia i10s, i20s, and even a low mileage Renault Wind.


Yesterday I went “left field” and took out a 1.2 Chrysler Ypsilon.

I’ve never ben 100% sure of the looks, but the Fiat 500 mechanics on a little known marque might just possibly be just the job.

The boys at Horsham Car Centre were absolutely first class, knew all about the product and had the level of professionalism you’d expect from a BMW dealership.

We handed over our driving licences, and both got a decent drive in a car with just over 120 miles on the clock.

TBH the 1.2 is by no means rapid, but once up and running it does the job.

Maybe the seats were a tincy wincy bit too high, but other than it was all good.

Fantastic finish inside.  The steering wheel can adjust up and down, but but not in and out. Maybe that’s normal on a baby hatch?

Lovely leather steering wheel (nicer than the one in my 2014 BMW), funky dashboard with easy to read dials, in fact it was refreshingly different and definitely up market.


Lancia have done a good job with the design.  This car’s IS from the Fiat stable, but for some strange reason it has a yankee badge over here.

£9000 would set us up in a tasteful, economical hatch with a 60,000 mile and three year warranty.

It even has a port for the £200 Blue and Me Sat Nav, and bluetooth phone facility.

If it was my money I’d have handed over my debit card there and then.

The whole dealership and vehicle experience were first class.IMG_3763


Making a Splash

In BMW on February 1, 2014 at 11:24 am

IMG_2958Here’s my latest steer.

The long awaited 3 Series Touring.

We ordered it back in November, but it only arrived this week.

Its a 320D Efficient Dynamics Business Edition with a few tasteful extras.

I’ll write up a fuller report later, as I’ve only done 420 miles so far.

IMG_3393Now that I’ve driven over 1800 miles I’m qualified to reveal how this latest generation 3 Series performs.

Maybe I should give each of the key elements a score?

Design: 9 out of 10

Maybe I’m not being overly generous. The new 3 Series looks a bit sour, the lower aspect of the nose isn’t quite so appealing as either my old 335 cabrio, or Plane Jane 320 M Sport from 2007 and 2010 respectively.

In my haste I also chose a duff colour.  People in the motor trade would describe it as “Doom Blue”, i.e. it’s guaranteed to be glued to the forecourt of any used car dealer.  For my money the new shape 3 series looks best in Red or White, but I allowed the dealer to persuade me to take a metallic shade instead.

If I put the snout and colour aside the 3 series covers all the bases.  It’s a quantum leap from our old 320i, the only shortcomings are easily rectified by a further dip into the extensive options list.

I like the comfort access, and electrically operated rear tailgate.  The separate opening rear screen is a useful little extra.

Interior: 9 out of 10

My personal car lacks Sports Seats, which is no hardship as they still remain very comfortable.  They lack the pressuised air side bolsters but I’ve no intention of chucking a heavy estate around like a sports car, so who cares?

The tan coloured leather upholstery looks marvellous, although I might have preferred black floor mats had they been offered.

The big BMW pluses inside are the superb iDrive, which has a good Sat Nav, and excellent phone system.  It’s simply the best for your modern day rep.

Performance: 9 out of 10

In real world terms the performance is nigh on faultless.  The 320D Efficient Dynamics run’s a detuned version of the regular 320 diesels, but one doesn’t feel shortchanged.

On a few occasions I slip the throttle mapping from Eco Pro to Comfort, and very occasionally I hit the “Sport” option.  The only time the default EcoPro settings seems a bit limp are when the engine is cold or on steep hills on winding country lanes.

Ride and Handling: 8 out of 10

All the magazines bang on about the adaptive suspension option.  I did drive a 320D M Sport that came with this option, but my car’s doesn’t have huge alloys and it seems to ride our potholed roads with aplomb. So I stay pretty comfortable unless I hit the biggest hole, or a skyscraper sleeping policeman.

No doubt the ride will be a bit harder when I ditch the winter wheels (steel) and tyres for the summer alloys and standard rubber.

Handling?  The 3 series is rear wheel drive, which I guess keeps the steering free from torque steer, but I haven’t grabbed armfuls of opposite lock thus far.

MPG and Running Costs: 7 out of 10

Honest John in the Daily Telegraph got over 60 mpg from an ED saloon, but my Touring is only knocking out 50.3 mpg thus far. I dread to think what my “running costs” or company car and benefit in kind charges will be.  As the vehicle is supposed to be a tree hugger special I should be better off than most users of a mid-sized estate.  An eight speed auto helps the fuel economy, and I guess the six speed manual would be more juicy.

Verdict: 8.5 out of 10

If I’d gone for a better colour I might rate it at 9, but I didn’t so the “Feel Good Factor” leaves a bit to be desired.  Although I can’t imagine hooking up with an i40 again after renewing my blue propellor experience.

Price: A whisker over £34,000 after I’d added my options.

Update: April 2014

We’re getting 51.1 mpg, and averaging just under 40 mph during our first 6000 miles together.

After driving our 1 series this one feels somewhat inert, I’d put the car down as a plodder rather than “The Ultimate Driving Machine”.

GB03 Westford Grange

Today the winter wheels came off, and I now have a set of summer tyres and wheels in place.

It makes the car look ten times prettier.

Long Term View

We’ve been together 6 months now, and I’m in a better place to comment on living with the ever popular 3 series estate.

This oil burner is now average 52.8 mpg, and averaging 39.2 mph over that period.

That’s the facts and figures, but what’s my overall impression after 19,300 miles?

Sadly I’m disappointed.

My 320 may have a good sat nab, and plush interior, but it’s so dull.

I always welcome a chance to drive something else.

So what’s bugging me?

The efficient dynamics make me drive like a granny.

The standard “box” lacks flappy paddles, so I find myself having to brake for corners rather than flick down a few gears.

The suspension is lumpy at best, and the standard steering wheel is not in the least tactile.

The Sat Nav the best feature, although it often misguides me on roads I know.

Today it took me in a big 3 mile loop rather than just run to the most direct route.

Having said that it has always been good in unfamiliar regions.

I really appreciate the 600 + mile range which keeps me away from BP petrol stations.

Lastly the DAB radio coverage seems to have improved in the last few weeks, with far fewer dead zones in the UK.

I guess the option of 6 Music (Rad Mac) and Absolute Radio (Frank Skinner) and UCB  serve to keep me happy on the road.

Would I buy another?


I’d rather have a Skoda Superb.