Tuesday – More Fuel For Thought

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Last week I heard from an old friend who I knew as a teenager in Ross-on-Wye. He used to service my father’s Citroen CX – a car so complex under the bonnet that not even Haynes sold a user manual!

The CX has a spinning ball speedometer, self-centering steering and was, quite frankly, bonkers. My  friend was brave enough to risk tinkering with crazy French engineering.

I just wonder what he would make of the X1 engine. Like every modern car, it’s so complex that filling the water bottle is about as far as most people go these days. Besides, it makes a mess of your warranty.

The 1.6 diesel in our X1 is a lot more lively than I thought it was going to be, at 11.5 seconds to 60mph. I’d probably opt for the 2.0d if I was buying an X1 but the 1.8 would be a good compromise.

We are currently averaging 43mpg, rather less than the 57.6mpg that BMW claim. However, I’m expecting over 550mpg from this tank of diesel, which is excellent. BMW claim 772 miles, which would be quite remarkable.

Saturday – McJimny

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Sometime ago in a previous century, I was driving in Scotland on the launch of a crazy little vehicle called a Suzuki Jimny. It was the smallest 4×4 since the arrival of the donkey and a pack of journalists from around the world were causing chaos in the Glens.

It was a slightly surreal moment seeing four Japanese writers squeezed in tiny Jimny. One had bought a kilt and wore it later at supper. While the new Suzuki was definitely flawed, it was also bloody good fun to drive and superb in the dirt – thanks to a short wheelbase and light weight.

I can see similarities with the Trax. It’s nowhere near as light as the Jimny of course and beautifully flawed too – but I can’t help but like it.  Why? Because although the Chevrolet is noisy at speed, jittery on the corners and not blessed with the most refined of diesel engines, it has bags of spirit.

Like all great flawed cars – think Alfa Romeo Alfasud, Renault Avantime, Citroen 2CV – you just can’t help but like a machine that puts a smile on your face. Winding the Trax up to speed involves a lot of leg and arm work through the gears, it rolls slightly alarmingly on corners and the ride is somewhat lacking but would I want one if I lived up a slightly muddy lane in the Trossachs? Yes.

 

Saturday – Not Your Everyday Benchmark

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Jeremy There’s nothing revolutionary about the design of the new, Mark VII Golf. Driving through Bath this morning, I followed a VII and a VI – tweaks to the light clusters, sharper angles and some minor moulding changes made them hard to separate.

VW has stuck to the philosophy of ‘if it ain’t broken, why fix it’ – an adage that has served them well for almost four decades with the Golf. The only problem for Volkswagen these days is that there are more rivals than ever looking to muscle in on the hatchback’s sales. The Kia Cee’d and the Hyundai i30 are but two…

What the Golf excels at is quality and refinement, blended with superb driving attributes and hassle-free mechanics. This is what has made the VW a benchmark for other hatchbacks to follow – the car against which all others are judged.

Sitting on the same platform as the brilliant Audi A3 and SEAT Leon, you know it will be an excellent drive. The diesel engine is noisy during hard acceleration and there is some body roll when the VW is turned hard into a corner. But as benchmarks go, this Golf is going to be hard to beat, for now at least…