Friday – Estate That Thinks It’s An SUV


The Passat estate is the surprise car of the year so far. Last time I drove one of these it was a poor second to the Ford Mondeo – now Volkswagen’s family mover is a seriously refined machine.

Okay, that may be because this is the top-of-the-range Alltrack version that costs as much as a decent SUV. However, with 4Motion four-wheel drive it is equally as capable and sports a much bigger load area in the boot.

In fact, it’s hard to see why anybody would want a cumbersome 4×4 when you could opt for the Alltrack. It may lack a little extra ground clearance but let’s face it, how many SUV owners really put their cars to the test in anything more than a muddy field?

It also drives in a more car-like manner – which means no body roll on the corners and better handling all round. What’s not to like about this Passat, apart from the high price?

Thursday – VW Passat Alltrack


The Alltrack is one of those cars that slips under the radar. Typical Volkswagen styling means that it looks like a ‘normal’ Passat estate and hasn’t been overcooked by the design department.

What’s the betting that any other manufacturer building a four-wheel drive estate car would have opted for plastic side mouldings and a rash of 4×4 stickers to emphasis the off-road ability?

As such, the Alltrack blends in with the rest of the Passat family when it really does have a good deal more to shout about.  It isn’t cheap at £32,000 but it drives beautifully, especially on corners where most SUVs wallow and moan.

While the bodywork has been raised 3cm to give better ground clearance and it boasts 4Motion all-wheel drive, this is really an estate car build for the road. Join us this week to see how week get on…

Wednesday – Contents of a Cheap Cracker


The original MG Magnette was a stylish saloon that became a common sight on British roads during the 1950s and 60s. With a special two-tone paint job it was rather pretty too.

Today is our last day with the 2014 MG6 Magnette. As you will have gathered by now, it’s not been a happy week. As I walked back to the car park in Stow-on-the-Wold, I eyed it from every angle and tried to conjure up some enthusiasm.

The MG6 isn’t a pretty car. The design has little to recommend it, although the front-end view is probably the most appealing. Otherwise, it’s as charismatic as a old Mitsubishi Carisma. And that might be insulting to a Carisma owner.

Unlike the original Magnette, this isn’t a sport saloon by any stretch of the imagination. It may be loaded with a lot of standard equipment but the basic car is deeply flawed in the way it drives, the cheap interior, poor engines and, need I go on?

Suffice to say, the final straw came when I came to pull the plastic key unit out of the dashboard for the last time. It looks and feels like something you might find in a cheap cracker.

As the engine grumbled to a halt, I suddenly found myself holding just the leather key fob and an empty keyring. The key unit had come apart, with the majority of it staying in the dashboard.

So tomorrow I will console myself in a modest Volkswagen Passat  and feel very pleased for myself – because I can’t get rid of the MG6 fast enough.

Tuesday – The Best & Worst of Times…


I feel like I’m counting down the hours until the next test car arrives at Car Couture. I keep expecting a moment of guilt that I haven’t found an awful lot I like about the MG6 but it hasn’t happened yet.

Three questions people always ask when they find out you are a motoring writer. What’s Clarkson really like (no comment), what’s the best car you have ever driven (Aston Martin Vanquish Volante) and what’s the worst (Rover Metro Vanden Plas – with electric front windows).

After 26 years of testing cars, the luxurious VP version (with electric front windows) of the little Metro was by far the worst. Fitted with an automatic transmission and 63bhp of power, it actually died going up a hill with four people on board and still cost £11k – a lot of money in the 1980s.

The Metro VP (with electric front windows) was an absolute dog of a car. Sadly, and I truly mean this, the MG6 is only a small skip’s length behind in second place. And it costs almost twice as much…

Monday – Jag-Powered London Taxi


If the MG6 parked outside cost £12,000 new then it could be argued as a much more viable proposition. Our top spec diesel model is £21,000 and, admittedly, it is packed with kit. Cruise control, auto dimming rear-view mirror, rear parking camera – the list goes on and on.

Unfortunately, the unavoidable truth is that while the car might be a winner for an aspirational family in China where it is manufactured, it falls woefully short of what we have come to expect in the UK.

The MG6 reminds me of the Skoda Estelle – an absolute dog of a car that was the butt of endless jokes in the 1980s. They tried adding all manner of equipment to the Skoda to make it sell here but it was like putting a Jaguar engine in a London taxi.

I can only hope for MG’s sake that they can ‘do a Skoda’ and one day build cars that compete head on with the likes of Hyundai, Mazda and Ford. Until then, a ‘basic’ BMW 3 Series saloon starts at around £23,000 and is light years ahead in every area, apart from equipment levels.

Sunday – MG6, Cigar Cutter As Standard


A car should wrap around you when you sit in the driver’s seat. Every control, button and driving operation should be intuitive. Sit in a new Skoda, Volvo, BMW and you feel instantly at home – like you have been driving the car for years.

Before you can push the keyless starter into the dashboard of an MG6, you have to check the car is in neutral, press the clutch and the brake at the same time and then wait for the pre-heaters in the diesel engine to kick in. Usually, it doesn’t work and it’s infuriating.

I started the car on five occasions today and four times it stalled. If the revs aren’t high enough, the MG6 refuses to move. Just me you think? Well, I had a quick Google and came across somebody called Jeremy Clarkson who suffered exactly the same problem when he drove the car.

And then there’s the handbrake. A lot of cars don’t have manual handbrakes these days but I actually prefer it, like the MG6. Except the release button for the brake is underneath the lever on the MG and not on the end, like just about every other car I’ve ever driven.

I’m sure I could get used to this but because the lever lowers into a neat slot, I promise you your thumb will get trapped time and time again! It bloody hurts and I curse the designer who put that idea onto paper. A cigar cutter couldn’t have been more effective. Band Aid please…




Saturday – MG6


I’ve been an MG fan since I was 17. I’ve owned three, crashed one and cried when somebody stole my beloved BGT GT (Reg. MUD 100E in case you spot it somewhere!).

Since then I’ve read the terrible reviews for the MG6 and couldn’t quite believe that it might be that bad. So when the day came for delivery, I was pretty excited at the prospect of seeing the MG badge parked on the driveway again.

Now it’s here I’m desperately try to find something good to write about it. I want the MG6 to be a great car that lives up to the reputation of one of the world’s greatest marques.

First impression aren’t good I’m afraid. A cheap cabin, dated noisy engine and total lack of refinement. The styling reminds me of an ancient Nissan Primera, the ride is all over the place and the whole car reeks of failure.

More tomorrow after I’ve had a lie down…

Friday – Refined Not Raw


It’s quite incredible how the colour of  car can affect the way you perceive it. I once came close to buying a Saab and when the dealership wasn’t able to offer me the paintwork I wanted, the salesmen said in desperation, ‘well, you won’t see the colour when you are driving…’.

Surprisingly, the Renaultsport Clio is unmissable and not for the right reason. I just can’t get my head around why anybody would want a car in yellow, or mustard or call it what you will.

The Renaultsport Clio is a great car but it somehow lacks the excitement and raw edge of past Clio hot hatches, like the 172 Cup and the Williams. It’s more refined, more forgiving and probably less of a buzz than the class-leading Ford Fiesta ST, which is lighter and more agile.

Fun? Yes of course, but gentlemen of a certain age will remember driving previous Clios and possibly be a little disappointed.




Thursday – Sensible Shoes


You don’t buy a Renaultsport for practical reasons but considering it is based on the multi-talented Clio then it should have a lot to recommend it – right?

Well, yes it does. Once you have located the hidden rear door handles, the back seat is more than capable of coping with two full-size adults. There’s an OK boot that can be extended quickly with some easy-drop rear seats too.

The dashboard is functional rather than creative – the Clio is a modest supermini after all – but there are lots of cabin bins for wallets, gloves and so on. And the door pockets are even big enough to take my sunglasses case. You would be amazed how many cars bigger than this don’t.

Grumbles? Well, the tailgate grip for shutting the boot down is awkward to grip, as are those rear door handles. Headroom is restricted in the back and I recommend sensible shoes if you are planning to thrash the Renaultsport – those aluminium pedals are not designed for big boots!

Wednesday – Some Might Say…


Rumour has it The Stig burnt out the brakes and trashed the tyres on the Renaultsport Clio tested by Top Gear.

Now, some might say that’s ridiculous and rather stupid but the fact is there is only one place to enjoy the 200 to the full and that’s on the race track.

There’s so much power scrabbling through the front wheels that believe me, this Clio needs to be treated with the greatest respect. You really do need a circuit to get the most out of it.

What’s remarkable about the Clio is that you can drive it modestly most of the time – then it turns into beast when you hit the EDC button behind the automatic gear changer.

Two very different cars, which will suit some people who can only drive in the real world and don’t have access to a racetrack…