Sunday – The Dog’s Do Das


I don’t think I’ve ever driven a car as small as the Fiat 500. That’s small on the outside because inside, it seems to stretch to accomodate all you can throw at it. The back seats would certainly take two toddlers, or a couple of young teenagers.

Jessica and I managed to pack weekend bags, coats and assorted wet eather gear into the boot easily. Our backseat was a more than comfortable platform for a large, brown Vizsla who accompanied us to the Pembroke Arms in Wilton, near Salisbury.

Fitting Malin into an assortment of cars can be a test of nerve and ingenuity. I feared the worst with the 500 but he seems happier in it than most cars.

It’s either because he can sit upright with plenty of headroom, or because he read the blurb for the Pembroke Arms, which provided him with a dog bed, his own canine menu (steak, saugages – can you believe it!) and some biscuit treats as part of the deal.

You have to accept a few idiosyncracies with the Fiat interior. It’s tricky to find the slot for the safety belt, the white steering wheel and headrests are going to get grubby pretty quickly and the 500 really should have steering columns controls for the music system.

But I still sit very comfortably on the wide fabric seats and there’s a tremendous ambience about the cabin. If colour, form and function affect your driving mood, you really need to try a Colour Therapy.

Thursday – Another Lingering Goodbye


The last Alfa Romeo I waved goodbye to was welded to my father’s driveway. The 1971 GT Junior came from an era when Italian cars had more rust holes than Swiss cheese. It was lifted onto a scrap lorry and never seen again…

There was a hint of the same feeling when the driver arrived to collect the Giulietta this afternoon. Some cars just get under your skin – some cars don’t. You have to be passionate about driving to own an Alfa, or you may as well buy a Ford and talk about fuel economy.

Yes, it’s not perfect – our earlier reports warned drivers of the perils of tiny, Italianate foot pedals. Then there are the niggly little things, like a sun visor that is either up or down, with no stopping in-between.

Jessica found an rather wicked blind spot on the driver’s side, I loathe the ‘beep-beep’ alarm warning that is so 1980s and the seats that require you to supply your own padding.

But hey, this is an Alfa Romeo and you just learn to live with it – and enjoy a family hatchback that looks like no other, is powered by a remarkable 1.4 petrol engine and puts a little passion back into your daily drive to the office.

Thursday – What Does This Button Do?


Motoring journalists don’t often admit to stuff like this but I will. After six days in the Chevrolet Trax, today I noticed a little button I hadn’t used before. It was hidden away at the bottom of the centre console and read ‘ECO’.

Hmm. No idea why Jessica or I hadn’t spotted it but it’s certainly easy to miss, below the level of the knob on the gearstick.

We’ve already found the 1.7 VCDi engine has plenty of torque and lively performance but with the ECO button turned off, well, the Trax is even more fun than it was before. I’d recommend driving with ECO off around town and along A-roads – then press it in for high-speed motorway journeys.

I’ve read some fairly uncomplimentary reviews of this Chevrolet SUV but as an overall package, I’m still a fan. It might bounce over potholes and lean into corners but there is plenty of fun to be had.

You will need to ignore the wind and tyre noise, especially at higher speeds, some of the interior trim is also a little on the cheap side too.

Trax remains a lot of car for the money. It has lots of storage compartments (I stopped counting at 19) and with the rear seats folded it can carry more than a Skoda Yeti or a Nissan Juke.

All the engines in the range are from the General Motors stable, so are well proven in Vauxhall and other Chevrolet models. Everything is backed up by a 100,000-mile, five year warranty.

Trax is also one of the few cars we have handed back lately with fuel in it – perhaps not surprising when you learn it is capable of 55+mpg on motorway trips.

So, if you like the styling and wants something a little different, an SUV that isn’t faultless but bags of fun, the Trax must be on your shopping list.






Thursday – Last Throws of Summer?


Jessica and I have been discussing the Cascada a lot this week. It would be easy to just compare the Vauxhall to premium brand cabriolets from the likes of BMW and Audi.

However, at £24,000, the Cascada is a much cheaper alternative and for the money, it does provide comfortable soft-top motoring for four people.

We have been blessed with great weather over the last seven days but in the depths of winter, I wonder if the Cascada would prove to be equally as likeable? I suspect not.

If you are an ‘enthusiastic’ driver, then there is no doubt you should be looking to spend your wages elsewhere because the 1.4 engine and notchy gearbox are disappointing.

It’s sadly a poor relation to the VW Golf Cabriolet but the Cascada should be on your test drive list if you are already looking at cars like the Peugeot 308 CC, or the Renault Megane C-C.


Saturday – Cold Comfort


Jeremy The ‘lost in space’ mobile phone drama continued today as O2 tried everything in their power to make giving me a replacement as difficult as possible. Thank you, O2.

I won’t bore you with the details but it has been trying! I had to have a final search through the Discovery and only found the optional toolbox in the centre armrest this time. Worth every penny in the hot spell I’d say.

While the Land Rover has a heated front screen for fast demisting, I have one complaint with the ventilation system. It is almost impossible to turn the fan down to a comfortable level. The temperature is fine – it’s just that even on the lowest setting, it blows very hard.

Despite a week of fiddling, I can’t say that either Jessica or I have got to the bottom of it. And why when we have the temperature turned up high does it still blow icy cold air of out the vents?

Everything else on the Discovery is straightforward and intuitive.  The air con is not.

Thursday – Unique But Not Different Enough


Jeremy We arrived back from London in the early hours after a quick dash up to meet some friends in Shepherd Market. Relieved of £26 for parking the RXH for three hours, earlier it had taken me almost four hours to drive up from Bath because of a minor accident on the M4.

Sat in stationary traffic, it was a good moment to try and get to grips with the DAB radio again. Sadly, I had to give up and accept I was doomed to suffer FM for the final day in the Peugeot. It’s not just me, a couple of other people had a go too and failed in frustration.

Life with the RXH has had its ups and down. Which I can only applaud Peugeot for the diesel hybrid technology, in reality this version of the 508 is an acquired taste. The sluggish gear change, heavy steering and various rattles have been a constant source of annoyance.

Fuel economy has been a respectable 44.5mpg, although this is much less than the 68mpg claimed – and I haven’t been driving the car hard either. Jessica has also found the seats very hard, to the point that she has suffered pins and needles whilst nearing the end of a 90 minute journey!

So, if you are after a lesser-spotted hybrid estate car with genuine four-wheel drive ability, the RXH couple be for you. In the real world of depreciation and marque image, I imagine most people would opt for an Audi allroad instead.



Tuesday – Knickerbocker Glory


Jessica I know it isn’t all about colour or indeed size, however, a Range Rover in cherry red that looks like it should be proudly sitting on top of a Knickerbocker Glory is somewhat of an anomaly.

Colour does matter and how the colour ranges are put together for any car manufacturer is a mystery to me, colour has its own visual language and interpretations, it speaks volumes.

Driving around in a red Range Rover Evoque was a little disconcerting, I didn’t feel a proud moment when I met it for the first time at the station en route to (rainy) Cornwall, I wanted to get in quickly and drive away before anyone would stop and wonder what I had been thinking when I chose that colour for that car.

Colour aside what does the Evoque evoke, what is it trying to be, is what I found myself asking.

Well, it’s sporty in an urban, I want a four wheel drive way, the lines are stylish and it does say Range Rover on the bonnet!  The price tag suggests a deep pocket so I found myself wondering on the target demographic …
Too small to fit a family and their luggage, too urban to warrant having one if you lived in a rural area where winters are a problem.  So that leaves a school run car for a 2.2 family or a weekend run around for a professional person or professional couple who want to play at sporty country pursuits (not polo as you would have trouble fitting the kit in!) still not really sure as the week comes to a close.
Either way it leaves me wishing that the handling on the motorway was more refined, although it drives well in town and on B roads, but the exterior does not fit with the driving experience for me and I would be prepared to bet that professional sporty types might want a more refined motorway experience too.
There was a rather strange rubberised covering on the dash area and sorry to mention colour again but red perforated leather look seats (not matching the exterior colour ) which although comfortable were looking a little worse for wear after only one week of use.
Overall, because the Evoque looks good so I  was very much looking forward to a dash down to Cornwall, despite the colour,  but for the £40,000 I found this Range Rover a little disappointing.

Friday – Conflict of Interest

593863_P90102781_highResJessica There are a range of contrasting emotions evoked by the Mini GP ….

On one hand, it sits there looking the epitome of a boy racer toy, something that a young lad would aspire to which, as a parent, would fill me with cold dread. On the other hand, it is a Mini and it does look rather dashing with its sporty flashes of red and matching mini spoiler with gimmicky wheels (move over Herbie).

Does that make me a secret boy racer? Or have Mini managed to make a ridiculous car appealing to a wide range of speed merchant tpyes?

Once inside, I feel a little mutton dressed as lamb. Especially as I strap myself in with the racing red seat belt and see the vast Mini centre display with red stitch detail around every part of the dashboard, presumably to make me feel it is worth spending £29,000 on a little car.

It certainly takes me back to friends of my youth, who had old Minis as first cars. I seem to remember then that everything seemed fast and they certainly did not have anything like the power of this little monster.

I must say though that driving it does bring a smile to the face. It is remarkably like driving a go-kart (in a great deal more comfort) with super responsive steering and handling. Yes it is fun, I could not keep the grin off my face … The great thing is it feels like you are going fast without breaking the law, so there is little need to test the impressive speed available.

Ultimately, I feel I should be a disapproving parent but the GP is fun. I should also be a little over the hill to be enjoying the frivolity of it all but ridiculous though the car may seem on first viewing, it is a little gem. I’m rather sad I did not have my enough time for own Mini GP adventure with it this week, a missed opportunity…

Thursday – Swapping the XC60 For A Bobsleigh


Jeremy This isn’t some new dealer incentive but a chance to go very fast down an icy tube with my eyes shut. Volvo has invited Car Couture to take part in the British Bobsleigh Championships in Innsbruck this weekend. Jessica was suddenly ‘otherwise engaged’ and so I’m scribbling this from Gatwick Airport. Hopefully, I won’t do a John Noakes flip the thing over – but I’m pretty sure I will have my eyes shut. Volvo sponsors British bobsleighing and, at the moment, the UK No. 1 team is fifth in the world.

The XC60 has just averaged 47mpg on the run down from Wiltshire, which I think is more than respectable for an SUV. And those blind spot warning lights on the doors are proving very useful – especially with kamikaze courier motorcyclists on the M25. Now Saab is no more, I’m also give my ‘Most Comfortable Seat’ award to the R-Design set in our XC60. Let’s hope the bobsleigh is equally as relaxing…