Sunday – It’s A Lockout

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Possibly my most embarrassing car moment of 2013… I noticed yesterday that the V40 wouldn’t lock when I pressed the key fob. `New car, broken key fob seemed unlikely but with Christmas shopping looming, it seemed wise to get it fixed.

After an hour of pointless fiddling under the bonnet and battling with a encyclopaedic manual, I called Volvo service. There was a nice man standing on my doorstep within 90 minutes.

His remedy, according to the Volvo Bible was to disconnect the car battery for 30 seconds, which should reboot the system. Failing that, it was off to nearest dealership for a diagnostic check-up. Painful.

The disconnect did nothing and I waved goodbye to my cheery chap envisaging a trip to the dealer. That was right up until the moment I set off for the garage and notice a rather discreet warning diagram on the dashboard that showed the boot was ajar.

The V40 is SUCH a super safe car, with every type of flashing warning light to tell me of impending doom. So, although it was my own fault for leaving the hatchback slightly open, why didn’t it give me a more audible, visual alert?

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Tuesday – Sour Milk

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Just how do you clean quilted, white leather seats? Not surprisingly, Malin the hound hasn’t had a spell riding shotgun in the Vanquish this week – not when the upgraded trim costs an extra £10,000.

One of the worst car trim disaster stories happened to a friend of mine many years ago. On the way back from the supermarket, he spilt a pint of milk on the seat of his prized Ford Escort.

In case you didn’t know, milk dries sour and the smell after a few days is just appalling. It’s impossible to get rid of but after lots of scrubbing, my friend thought he had just about managed it.

Right up to the point when he left the side window down, just wide enough for a neighbour’s cat to creep in and pee on the same spot as the milk. Imagine that in an Aston Martin…

Wednesday – News Flash

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Another Mazda6 driver flashed his lights at me today. Is there some Masonic bond going on with 6 drivers that I don’t know about it? Took me totally by surprise I can tell you!

I get fellow Land Rover drivers waving to me when I’m out in the Series III – that’s people in ‘proper’ Land Rover Defenders, not mums on the school run in a Discovery or Range Rover Sport.

I’d like to think that there was a special bond between Mazda6 drivers, if only because the saloon lacks any real character of its own. I’m going to Google Mazda 6 Owners’ Club in a moment and see what I’m missing.

It’s hard not to like the 6, it does everything it should. If only it had a little bit extra to send the pulse racing, apart from fuel economy and uber reliability…

Friday – Mazda6

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I’m just about to drive to Butlins at Minehead. Why, I hear you scream? Well, I’m playing darts with Adrian Lewis, a former double world champion who is the subject of a feature for the FT.

I mention this because after a day in the Mazda6, I already know I will see plenty of saloons shaped exactly same as mine during the 200-mile round trip.

Don’t get me wrong, from our short time together, it’s clear the Mazda6 is a very fine car. It will do exactly what you ask of it, cleans up nicely after a week hacking up and down the motorways of Britain, and the ‘mouth open’ front grille is attractive.

Then there’s the exceptional economy, a whisper quiet engine and super-low emissions to shame a BMW.

What’s not to like? Unfortunately, the Mazda6 seems to have been built to blend in with the crowd. It’s from the M&S range of fashionable cars – which means mass appeal but very little to talk about at your neighbour’s dinner party.

So, no Alfa Guilietta then. But does it have any remarkable redeeming features? Find out tomorrow

 

Thursday – Oversize And Over Here

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Jessica… The Camaro is the epitome of all the stereotypes we relate to America and Americans.

Its big, its shameless and it hasn’t even tried to pretend that burning fossil fuels has an environmental impact.  Who cares how much fuel you burns on the open road when everyone has the right to live the American dream?

All that is missing is a hand gun in the glove box…

We are, however, fascinated by the uncompromising and openly brash nature of the American psyche. Secretly, we would like to be part of that dream.

The Chevrolet is very hard to dislike. The seats are big and comfy and the interior is retro, without any soft lines or compromise to a softer, contemporary look.

The four-dial, clock style information unit (featuring information that you really don’t need!) is cool and takes you right back to the seventies.

The drive is as brash as the look, fast, with a firm foot required to slow down the vast engine, it’s miles away from the soft touch driving we have come to expect from modern high performance cars.

But left-hand driving aside, plus the fact that you have to be aware of being very wide on our bijoux country roads, the Camara is fun, ridiculous and very hard not to enjoy.

I did once own a giant Chevy Blazer. Again the idea was fun, the smell of old leather, the shift stick on the steering wheel, the throaty engine of huge gas guzzling proportions.

But the reality of driving it on English roads meant it did not stay long.  But for a while being part on an American stereotype was highly amusing, though impossible to keep up.

Wednesday – The Small Issues

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We’ve already highlighted some of the quirky features of the Camaro which owners are just going to have to live with. As the days have passed, a few more have come to light!

I thought the large screen infotainment system would include a sat nav system but apparently it doesn’t. Well, if it’s there, you are certainly going to struggle to find it.

The boot is huge for a convertible, except the opening hatch through to the space is tiny. The boot lid doesn’t feature a proper internal handle either, so on a wet November day in England, you will get your hands dirty.

Access to the rear two seats – little people only – looks straightforward enough, except the handle to lower the front seat forward is situated in the wrong place, so you have to reach right in to the car to find it.

And finally, it has tiny sun visors, which are fixed forward. That means if the sun is shining in from the side of the car, you will be left squinting.

Individually, these little things don’t add up to much but together, they might become a daily headache…

 

Monday – Cool Camaro

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It’s taken a few days but the muscle and character of the Camaro is finally beginning to win me over. Once I’d had the chance to drive it outside of the urban environment, the 6.0-ltre Chevy proved an absolute blast!

I swear the entire front end lifts up when you hit the accelerator and the roar from the twin exhaust pipes is just too tempting to ignore. I’ve finally mastered the head-up display now too, which flashes the speed and various other features just above the line of the bonnet, reflected on the inside of the windscreen. Cool.

While there is plenty of flex in the convertible’s body design – manifested in the odd squeak and rattle – the Camaro is actually a very comfortable and quiet drive. The front seats are vast, like your grandfather’s favourite armchair.

The one place you don’t want to be sitting in this car is the passenger seat on a country A-road. It’s not that my driving is so bad, just that the Camaro is so wide you really do have to keep your eye on your lane positioning.