Friday – Volvo V40 Cross Country

47408_4_13

Planning to spend the festive season with distance relatives, who live up a muddy track in the middle of nowhere? Hmm, we’re not expecting a white Christmas but if we were, the V40 Cross Country would make a great companion.

A rival for the Audi Q3 and BMW X1, the Volvo is less in your face than the competition and more akin to a conventional hatchback. However, it’s been given plenty of butch styling cues to express its 4×4 abilities.

Our D4 model is loaded with an incredible list of safety features too, from a steering wheel that vibrates when you change carriageways without indicating, to a system that warns you of overtaking cars in your blind spot.

All these features, plus the Bluetooth sound system and sat nav, should give us plenty to talk about as we crisscross the country and Ireland over the next few weeks. More tomorrow…

 

Tuesday – Can You Park Without A Reverse Camera?

cropped-381572_k_2259.jpg

You might buy a car for the way it looks but the equipment list is pretty important too. We wouldn’t entertain a vehicle that doesn’t have Bluetooth and a DAB radio – others want leather trim and sat nav.

So our mid-range KX-3 is something of a mixed bag and will appeal to some drivers and not others. For example, it does have heated leather seats as standard but there is no satellite navigation system.

You have to pay extra for a nav upgrade that includes a rear-view reversing camera. Personally, I think if you can’t reverse a car without a camera to help you, then you shouldn’t be driving a one ton missile in the first place.

And while standard kit includes Bluetooth, privacy glass, sunroof and reversing sensors (why can’t people park these days!) there is no DAB radio. That means no Radio 5, no Test Match Special and no Radio 6 Music either.

So, as Chris Evans seems to have lost the plot on Radio 2 these days, it’s the sound of silence for me…

 

Tuesday – Locked Up

hghgh.jpgToday I’ve had what NASA might call a ‘technical hitch’ with the Mazda6. Nothing serious, just an annoying issue with the Bluetooth telephone system which comes down to the computer simply saying, ‘no’.

Having paired up my iPhone to the Mazda information unit, my next incoming phone call failed to register on the 6’s information screen. Well, actually it did but the screen locked and refused to accept the call.

Hmm… So what would you do? Well, I tried pressing a lot of buttons, turned the phone off and eventually admitted defeat, pulling over to investigate. Turning the engine off and on again, the system rebooted itself and the problem disappeared.

I’m not sure it’s a problem that will occur again but as Car Couture tries to give you a warts and all feel for every car we drive, it does merit a mention.

 

 

Sunday – No DABbling?

cropped-774052_261113-a-maz.jpgThere’s something missing from my Mazda6. It’s taken me a while to realise but as sport plays a large part in my life, I was rather disappointed the saloon isn’t kitted out with a DAB radio. That means terrible reception for Radio 5 on AM and no Radio 5 Live Extra at all!

I mention this because let’s face it, the 6 is going to be a weapon of choice for many a company car driver. Surely a DAB radio would be a ‘must have’ for that type of buyer?

The entertainment screen in the Mazda isn’t big but it’s adequate. What is less impressive are the size of the buttons on the steering column to operate it by remote control. Even the touchscreen buttons require some dexterity.

At least the sound quality is good and you can wire up your phone or iPod via an AUX input or a USB cable. Scrolling through the screen options to change artists is a slow process and distracting for the driver. Could do better Mazda…

 

 

Tuesday – Attention To Detail

cropped-porsche_911_cabriolet_28.jpg

Here are a few random reasons why the 911 Cabriolet is the best soft-top on the market. First, when you open the door after a rainstorm, the water doesn’t drip in to the cabin. Does your car do that?

Second, if it rains when the top is down, provided you don’t come to a grinding stop, you will stay dry. Such are the aerodynamics of this car.

Thirdly, there is a second sat nav screen that pops up in the instrument binnacle when you come to a navigation instruction. So, you have an overall map in the main dashboard that affords a general view – then the second explains graphically where you need to turn.

And finally, the wind deflector really is a work of art. Instead of manually pulling a deflector out of the boot and fighting to install it at the roadside, this one works beautifully. The frame pops up automatically, then the fabric material stretches over it.

You see, it’s the attention to detail that makes a great car…

Friday – Look At Me!

Porsche_911_Cabriolet_18

Just in case a 911 Cabriolet isn’t enough to get you noticed, Porsche has thoughtfully added the ‘Extrovert Button’. It’s right next to the gearstick and a quick press is guaranteed to turn every head in a 100 yard radius.

The sports exhaust system improves the car’s exhaust note by opening a flap in each of the twin exhaust system’s silencers. It turns the Cabriolet into a snarling beast – although why it’s not a standard feature on the latest 911 is rather surprising.

Shy, retiring types are unlikely to be driving a Porsche in the first place but having just returned from the Bath, I can tell you the 911 wouldn’t have been more conspicuous if I had Kate Moss siting naked next to me.

This latest version of the Cabriolet is around 60kg lighter than the old one and with a more powerful engine under the boot lid, it’s very fast indeed.

However, the best bit so far is the wind-blocker behind the driver’s seat. Wind-blockers are usually removed from a sports car and kept in the garage until the day you sell the car. In the 911, it pops up electronically from the hood well. Brilliant – and you can still hear yourself talking on the Bluetooth phone system at 65mph…

Monday – Lounging About

fhfhfc1.jpg

The original Fiat 500 was launched in 1957 – I think my father was involved in the Suez Crisis a few months before that! One of the crazy facts that resulted from the launch of the new 500 is that prices of the original have gone sky high. I recently saw one advertised for £7,000!

And while change isn’t always for the better, the new version has brakes that actually stop the car and airbags from all angles. It also boats hazard warning lights that are activated automatically when the brakes are applied hard. Clever.

I genuinely like the 500 and if I could find an excuse to to buy one as a city car it would beat the Mini and the Vauxhall Adam (also tested on this site). The styling and interior are just a cut above and give the 500 a genuine feel-good factor.

My choice would be the top-of-the-range Lounge version because it adds alloy wheels, glass roof and Bluetooth connectivity. The Colour Therapy has neither and even with air conditioning and electric windows, it does seem a little expensive compared to some other city cars out there.

An example? Well, if you can live with the styling, the brilliant new Hyundai i10 starts at around £8,200 and is superbly equipped. It just won’t put a smile on your face, that’s all…

 

 

Monday – Small High Tech

cropped-728672_9520705365_0fdc344501_o.jpg

Surprising at it might seem, £18,000 doesn’t buy you much new car these days. At first glance, the range-topping Trax LT might look expensive for a small SUV but there’s a lot more equipment than you would expect. It’s actually a fairly high-tech machine.

Top of the list is the MyLink screen, which connects to your smartphone and offers all kinds of possibilities apart from just music. For Trax buyers, the most practical is an app that you download onto your phone for about £50 which provides satellite navigation. That’s even cheaper than the most basic TomTom.

Connecting a phone via Bluetooth is super easy – and the screen also links up to a reversing camera. There’s a decent sound system and the seats are firm but comfortable.

I had a quick play around with the back seat today and it’s going to be tight squeezing three adults in the back. It’s fine for two grown ups with plenty of headroom too. The boots ok with the seats up – much better with the back seats down.

Oh, and the dashboard and controls maybe pure GM but in this case it looks good too.

Saturday – DABbling With The Radio

cropped-508_rxh_017_2.jpg

Jeremy A frustrating day aboard the RXH. Even with the air conditioning running, it wasn’t the best time to be sat in the driver’s seat for an hour trying to work out how to get the DAB radio working. I should have walked away after 30 minutes but it’s the only way I can hear England retained the Ashes on Radio Live Live Sport Extra!

Like other Peugeot‘s we have tested with a DAB radio, the 508 has a retro-fit key-fob thingy which operates the system. I guess it’s because the Pug is a French car where they don’t have digital broadcasting, so something had to be added for the British market. Despite an extra three pages of instructions on A4, I still only found the correct settings by accident.

On top of this, the sat nav had a meltdown in the heat. The map kept disappearing off the screen and I had to re-set the location several times. There’s also a constant squeak coming from somewhere near the back seats. It sounds like a pack of mice having a tea party.

On the plus side, I am still marvelling at the occasions when the electric motor kicks in to drive the car forward, making the diesel engine redundant. It’s usually only around town at low speed but it’s impossible not to feel slightly smug and virtuous. Shame the fuel consumption is nowhere like the 68mpg claimed. I’m getting 48mpg at best and that’s genuinely driving carefully….

 

 

 

Thursday – Space, As We Know It

CR-V - 5

Jeremy The CR-V has landed and I’ve just been giving it the once over. Push button start, huge glass roof and Bluetooth connected! The EX comes with all the extras you would expect in the most expensive version, including leather seats, navigation and DAB radio (a must for Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and the Ashes next week!).

What is remarkable about the interior is the amount of space – quite Tardis-like. Even with the rear seats in place, the boot measures almost 600-litres – more than enough for Malin the Hungarian Viszla and his best mate Humphrey. Those back seats also drop with the minimum of fuss using a single lever, freeing up 1600+ litres.

Some chunky rear pillars make over the shoulder vision is a bit tricky when reversing, although being an SUV, general visibility is excellent. The giant glass roof on the EX doesn’t open and to keep the sun out on hot days there is an automatic screen that closes smoothly from both the front and rear.

The dashboard is easy on the eye, fairly plain with quite a rash of buttons for the driver to understand. Electric seats on the EX are exceptionally comfortable, with masses of headroom both front and rear. The air conditioning really blasts it out too – good news as we are expecting a heatwave from this weekend…