Today I had my first opportunity to see the 40 cars entered in this Sunday’s World Solar Challenge. It’s 35C in Darwin and there’s no shortage of sun – although it wasn’t a good session on the test track for our British team, Cambridge University Eco Racing.
Their unorthodox, slimline design was being touted as a potential contender in the 3000km race down to Adelaide, powered only by the rays of the sun. But after a crash on public roads earlier in the week, the UK’s only entry in the race rolled over during an early morning track session.
The ultra-light, teardrop-shaped car was damaged and taken away for repair. However, organisers say there are now genuine safety concerns over the stability of the vehicle. Will it be on the start line this Sunday? We’ll have to wait and see.
Earlier I enjoyed a more stable and entertaining ride in the remarkable Stella car, built by Dutch students. Capable of carrying four people, it’s the closest you will get to a conventional car in this technology packed event.
The Dutch machine built by students from Eindhoven University of Technology, can travel 420 miles on a sunny day and creates twice as much energy as it uses!
Just occasionally a car comes along that truly surprises. The Peugeot 2008 is just that. Even though it can only pretend to be a 4×4 with raised ground clearance, scuff plates and beefy looks, it has turned out to be a capable machine.
Crossover vehicles try to be all things to all people – which is what makes them so popular with family buyers. However, sometimes the good things get diluted in an attempt to tick all the boxes.
The 2008 has some faults, like the pointless light display integrated into the roof lining, an annoying handbrake design and a rather lifeless drive but overall, the good points far outweigh the bad.
Here is a small family estate that will easily achieve 68mpg in everyday driving, is cheap to tax, can carry five adults AND their bags, and still manages to look pretty stylish on the outside. For £17,245, our 1.6 diesel looks like a great buy.
One of the Australian branch of Jessica’s extensive family is in England at the moment. Young Freddie is a twentysomething chap who lives in Perth and works out his fuel economy in miles per kilometer. What better person to cast a youthful eye over the 2008?
I have to admit, I truly thought Freddie would dismiss the Peugeot at first glance – after all, he’s used to driving proper 4x4s and utility vehicles. But surprisingly, Freddie seemed to like the pseudo off-road image of the 2008.
Australian’s also aren’t used to stop-start engine technology, designed to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy. I suppose that’s because once you are out of an Australian city, you don’t have to stop very often.
Freddie was pretty amazed by the 67mpg we managed in the Peugeot today, although we couldn’t quite work out what it was in kilometres.
The 2008 is continuing to go up in my estimations too. It feels more comfortable on the road than the Nissan Juke and there is less wallow on fast corners. I think noise levels and general refinement would improve with a six-speed gearbox and the larger diesel engine – otherwise it should be on your list to test drive if you are searching for a crossover vehicle.
Freddie won’t be buying one though. He couldn’t fit his surfboards in the back.
If ever there was a British Bulldog of car design this is it. The Trax may be short on stature – 4.25 metres of it – but the front end looks like a mutt straining at the leash.
While the rest of the car is sculpted-out conventional SUV, that Chevrolet front end is what really bites you on the bottom. In fact, if you added a set of wider wheels and painted it black, the Trax would be a bruiser of a 4×4 to look at.
The only problem with having such a large front end is that wind noise can be quite intrusive at high speed – not helped by the elephant-sized door mirrors which are simply enormous!
However, the built quality is pretty rugged and robust. The doors shut with a reassuring thud and the interior is practical, with 1370 litres of space if you fold the rear seats flat (356 litres with the back seats in place).
Right now I’m thoroughly enjoying the 128bhp diesel engine. You have to work it hard, which might be tiresome in the long run but it’s simply great fun to drive.