Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Marked improvement

In Skoda, Travel on January 4, 2014 at 10:02 am

IMG_2647 IMG_2649The third Generation Skoda Octavia seemed likely to be the ideal machine for my high mileage day job.

Lots of toys as standard, much better looks and what seemed like greater engine refinement.

But my test drive only lasted 15 minutes.  I’d already decided something was wrong by the time I’d hit 50 mph, and done less than two miles.

The problem.

Wind noise.  Even on a day when it wasn’t windy.

The car zipped up to sixty in no time, even in standard 140 bhp spec but I expected more.

So I’ll end up with a car that costs nearly £10,000 more just so I can have a bit of peace and quiet on the motorway.

So this new chiselled look Octavia merits a giant leap forward, but will only suit folk who aren’t car savvy.

People who think being deafened on a dual carriageway is de rigeur.

I also noted that the fab pricing isn’t quite that clever.  A lot of what I wanted on my next car came as cost options.

Be careful to Czech this out before signing on the dotted line.

In case your interested.  Yes it was well put together, and is quite comfortable. You might want more.


Volvo C30 T5 R Design Geartronic

In Travel, Volvo on November 1, 2012 at 10:55 pm
Volvo C30 T5 R Design Geartronic at Westfield - Straford

Volvo C30 T5 R Design Geartronic at Westfield – Stratford

Perhaps the greatest car of all time is the Porsche 911.  What started out as reasonable efficient 2.0 litre sports car, with a lively rear end was gradually developed into an icon.

Ponder this though.  Ford replace the much loved Cortina with the revolutionary Sierra, and it was pretty dismal.  It looked wrong, it alienated die hard Ford fanatics, but did the Blue Oval give up?  Not at all they honed into one of their best ever sellers.

Which brings me to another less well documented “success story”.  The C30. I always liked the looks of the original, but despite it being the slowest depreciating car we ever owned I really never liked our 2007 C30 D5 Geartronic.  The ride was hard, the fuel consumption rather disappointing, and it didn’t communicate with the driver.

So two years after we “got rid of our D5 C30” we’ve now bought a T5 C30.  Why?

Firstly I wanted a comfortable car with an integrated SatNav, and proper Bluetooth phone set up. Secondly I didn’t want a boring diesel, and thirdly I wanted a 500 Abarth.  Darn, the latter despite being great value simply doesn’t come with a good sat nav.

So what’s small and quick and once got good reviews in Evo magazine?  Yup, the updated C30 T5.  It has a new chassis, quicker steering, active headlights and a warbly 230 bhp 5 cylinder soundtrack. It’s very undramatic when you are cruising, almost effortless in fact.

In a week I’ve done a thousand miles, and it’s way better than the early C30s.  The seats are even better than before, still the same shape but now in a lovely leather.  The lights are much better for quick thraps down country lanes, and fuel economy hovers around 27 mpg.  Not bad for a 4 seat hot hatch.

I’ll keep you posted on how we gel.

I’ve now done 2000 miles since buying the T5.  On the whole we’re getting on fine.  I’m sure there’s “stepping” on the tyres, which induces a whole lot of road noise (especially on smooth surfaces), but thankfully once we get over 50 mph you can’t notice it.

Yesterday the car had it’s first M.O.T., and it went through with no problem, which is a relief.

I’s hoped the bendy headlights would be as good as they were on my old 335i cabriolet.  They aren’t, but after driving a Hyundai i30 this week without bi-xenons I now realise they aren’ that bad at all.

nice bum!

The load cover for the boot is neat, but just as frustrating as the loose plastic item on our D5.  Yes it’s prettier and easier to use, but it allows very little access to the load area. I think I’ll just revert to no cover, and a travel rug instead.

One thing that really stands out is the terrific composure through bends, and absence of squat or dive under acceleration or braking.  It’s head and shoulders above our old Sonata in that department.

I’m slowly getting tuned in to the controls, and the phone is loud and clear when I use the bluetooth.

The sound system is good, but if I use the the iPlayer to listen to 6 Music a phone call knocks out the reception, and you can’t be fiddling with re-loading the page at 60mph on a motorway.

Small quibbles really. I’m getting around 27 mpg most of the time, which isn’t too bad.

I think I’ve made a good choice.

MARCH 2013

Now that I’ve had the T5 for a few months I thought I’d an update.

Something that’s really surprised me is just how much the car stand’s out in the crowd.

I’ve never believed a fast car is for plodding.

In fact I’m very happy to use the LOUD pedal, but despite having owned much faster cars this is the first one which has got me into repeated trouble with “The Old Bill”.

These occasions weren’t that bad, nobody threw their toys out the pram and I still possess “the right to roam”, but perhaps a bland silver wouldn’t stick out so much.

Then there’s the tyres.  They don’t seem to be wearing out very quickly even after I’ve done 10,000 pretty hard miles, but the road noise is such that I’m on the verge of replacing all four so that I don’t have to drown out the din with the radio.

Lastly there’s the ride.

Having driven 190 miles in our 2010 BMW 320 today I’m now beginning to appreciate just what a great job Volvo have done with the chassis. Where the BMW crashes and bangs the C30 just absorbs and glides.

Who’d have thought a Volvo would out perform a BMW on the twists and turns of British asphalt?

Not me.

October 2013 – I said goodbye to my Passion Red C30. Having just landed my first “job” in 13 years I couldn’t justify opting out of the company car scheme.

One day the taxman will catch up with me and clobber me for £4000 a year, but this lovely machine cost me over £5000 in depreciation over the same term.

In 5000 miles I haven’t really “enjoyed” my BMW, and this little rocket is sorely missed.

Follow that

In BMW, Hyundai, Travel on December 28, 2011 at 9:30 am

I know I’ve neglected this BLOG, but I haven’t forgotten how to buy a “new” car. As you’ll see from a previous post I was quite taken by my last purchase, a Hyundai Sonata 2.4 auto.

For all you badge snobs out there I can show you I really mean what I say.  I bought the 2.4 and ran it for a month until my son popped down to take official ownership.

The nett result was I was left with my Renault Wind, and as a main car I’m afraid it was found wanting.  All that road and wind noise finally took its toll.  After a long run to Belgium and back I decided to look for something more relaxing.

This is it.

Another Hyundai Sonata. Except this one has a 3.3 litre V6 and a 5 speed auto box.  Other useful toys include a chromatic dimming rear view mirror, nice sun roof and upgraded stereo with a 6 stack CD player in the dash and joy of joys a cassette player!  Driven gently it will turn in over 32 mpg, but using the power will see that figure drop to just 22!  That a very big “Ouch!” when you rock up at the pumps.

It still features a rather dreamy cruise control, which only works reliably on the felt or up hill.  So trips through specs cameras need to be watched with caution.

The boot is slightly smaller than on the 2.4 courtesy of a massive bass speaker in the back parcel shelf, and it also lacks the anti car jacking handle inside.  Mind you I’ve never been bundled into a boot by a car thief or kidnapper so that shouldn’t be a problem.

I really miss the integrated phone & i.pod system that was in the Renault.  And a map is not half as effective as our BMW 3 series integrated Sat Nav, but I am delighted by the “new” Sonata. It glides over speed bumps, howls when the accelerator s squeezed and has carried me over 3000 trouble free miles in our first month together.

In fact I’d have the lusty V6 Sonata rather than the allegedly frugal 2010 3 series every time.

More pictures to follow.

Oh, and I forgot to mention.  That was 4 cars purchased in a 12 month period!

Now we’re into 2012 it might be worth mentioning a few interesting developments.

1: I’ve now added winter tyres to the Sonata. Michelins up front, and Pirellis at the back.  They set me back £810, but allowed me to stay legal during early February in Scandinavia and Germany.

2: The grip they provided on icy lanes in Sweden, and fresh snow in Denmark and Germany was sensational.

3: I have fallen in love with the Autobahn, with a shallow downward slope the Sat Nav clocked me at 149 mph (whilst the speedo claimed 150 +).

Oh, and I averaged about 27.5 mpg on my Swedish jaunt.  Ferries & bridges cost me dear. The Severn Bridge into Wales cost about £8, but the bridge from Malmo to Copenhagen cost over £50!

Thinking about getting a BMW 335i SE Coupe I’ve seen up in Newport, but after doing 240 high speed miles in relaxed comfort today not sure I need to.  Mind you 22 mpg isn’t very good, must squeeze the pedal more gently in future.


Wince-some Rocket

In BMW, Travel on June 2, 2011 at 7:44 pm

The folk at westerly BMW loaned their release edition 135 when I was looking for a serious coupe.

I remember hammering it up to Bideford and just being amazed at what it could do. lazy cruiser, brilliant sat nav which could be closed whilst driving and then flipped up about a mile before the next turning point.

The Devon A Roads were smooth, and traffic free.  It seemed just the thing, and it offered 4 seats and the possibility of over 30 mpg.


It was only offered as a manual.  The clutch was heavy.

After a mile on my second test drive I was stuck in traffic, my leg started to ache.  I aborted the run, did a 3 point turn and saved myself £36,000.

A little later the nation hit a recession. BMW hater Clarkson had a run in of these and pronounced it to be a fine car.  Indeed BMW were actually offering a flappy paddle auto.  Sadly the automotive punters were staying away in droves.  BMW GB released 6 pre-built high spec cars to the dealer network.  None had more than 20 miles on the clock.

Hey presto we were now looking at a £36,000 car for £26,000! Kerching.  Williams BMW did a deal on my 2007model year  335 cabriolet, and I had the car I “always” wanted.

Day 1 – Why did I buy this?  It seemed like there was no suspension travel at all.  Oh, and I did miss the folding roof, even in January.  Oh dear.

Day 2 – Why is the steering so vague compared to a BMW 3 series.  I noticed it on those earlier test drives, but mine felt even worse.

Day 3 – Day 680 – Why, oh why do I have to wince every time I hit a small pot hole?  In Exeter one such hole broke the wheel, whilst the run flat tyre escaped unscathed.  I alter learnt this was a common for M Sport drivers.

My regular jaunt up the A303 would often leave me in doubt that I’d hit a bump or pot hole and must surely have broken yet another wheel.  These trips were often at night, and the standard (non Xenon) lights were particularly hopeless at affording a good view of the road surface.

On a smooth road, and even with 4 up and all their luggage the 135 was a rapid beast.

I am a bit of a continental traveller, and though I never hit the 155mph speed limiter I can report a 135 can do 150 mph without much drama, but you do need one and half lanes of a dual carriage way where a 335 would run straight as a dye on one lane.

I even managed to hit 150 in torrential rain, which was exciting (the road was deserted).

Friends like it.

Best of all in 24000 miles I lost only £3,500.

Why did I get rid of it?

The suspension, and the rock hard run flats.  The 135 just needed a better set up to be simply awesome.  It had a life time average of 27 mpg on regular unleaded.  I think that’s pretty good.