I have a problem with things that pretend to be something they are not. Cars with paddle shift gear change which are really family hatchbacks, 2+2 coupes that have no rear legroom at all, and seven-seat MPVs that are only suitable for elves, or very small mammals.
And then we come to cars that look like SUVs but actually have no off-road capability at all. It probably started with the Rover Streetwise and let’s hope it ends with the Volvo V40 Cross Country.
I have to admit, the V40 Cross Country fooled me. Even the Volvo website suggests 4×4 ability with the offer of all-wheel drive ‘available’ on this model. It is – but only on the top of the range petrol version for around £35,000. Are you going to pay that or opt for a two-year-old Range Rover Evoque I wonder?
You certainly can’t buy a diesel-powered all-wheel drive V40 – that won’t be available until around 2016 when the XC version is launched.
So, all that plastic trim to beef up the car’s image and make it look more robust is just for show – you are paying a £1000-plus premium for no off-road ability at all.
Volvo isn’t the only manufacturer to offer this, Nissan, Kia and several others all do the same. Which makes that secondhand Evoque look even more attractive…
Maybe we’re spoilt because the test cars that are delivered to Car Couture are generally top of the range, or well specified. Journalists are fickle creatures, after all, and easily persuaded by the allure of leather seats and bum warmers.
So driving the SE model of the IS300h has been slightly tainted by the lack of leather and, perhaps even more surprising, the heated seats that are conspicuous in their absence. We’ve just become so used to pressing a button and feeling the warmth filter up from our seats.
My grandfather was actually the man who invented heated seats – he used to park his backside on hot water bottle with the tiniest drop of hot water inside. He was brilliant my grandfather – we could have made a fortune if Ford had heard of it.
These days, cars like the Range Rover and expensive BMWs have a heated steering wheel as standard. My grandfather probably never thought about an invention for that one but it probably would have includes rags and Selotape.
The X1 has just been collected and it turned out to be a lot better than I had expected. I say that because I couldn’t see the point of a premium brand mini SUV – especially one without four-wheel drive like our test car.
Solid, classy, refined – but then you wouldn’t expect anything else from a BMW, would you? The X1 is another chip off the BMW block, although some of the plastics inside the cabin are a little below par for the German brand.
The X1 drives more like a hatchback than a sports utility vehicle, which will appeal to buyers who don’t want a high-seat position and ponderous body roll on cornering.
It’s very easy to live with and feels very safe too – no wonder it picked up a five-star NCAP rating. All X1s have six airbags, stability control and Cornering Brake Control.
I’m now wondering if I would actually opt for the xDrive, four-wheel drive model. The sDrive rear-wheel driver series we drove has exceptional fuel economy and feels surefooted enough.
That said, if you want something to cope with a snowy lane in winter, opt for the xDrive. Our test car might look like an off-roader but the sDrive is exactly the opposite! Choose your model carefully…
Yes, it’s true, I did. And it wasn’t in a bad way. Just a little white lie because I couldn’t own up to my rufty-tufty X1 NOT being a four-wheel drive.
I was filling up in Oxfordshire this morning when a woman in a Toyota RAV4 asked me if I liked my new BMW. She was looking for a replacement for her SUV and thought the X1 looked the perfect solution.
She lived on a smallholding near Chipping Norton and needed ‘something 4×4 for the lower field’ – whatever that means. Anyway, she wanted to know what the X1 was like on a muddy track and I just couldn’t own up to driving a car that looked like a four-wheel drive but actually wasn’t.
I advised her to avoid the two-wheel drive version (which is true!) for her muddy exploits and suggested the 4×4 model would be very suitable, if a little more thirsty.
I also raved about the driving experience, the beautifully crafted interior and a decent-sized boot. Which was all true too…
The X1 sits just a couple of inches higher than a 1 Series hatchback and it drives more car-like than SUV too. The steering is well weighted and precise (although some might find it heavy) – the brakes offer lots of feel and are reassuringly firm on the pedal.
I’ve been trying to find the X1’s Achilles Heel but I’m struggling to be honest. I can’t remember the last time I was disappointed by a BMW and the X1 is cut from the same cloth.
Everything inside the cabin is tasteful and beautifully laid out. Refinements to the rotary-controlled iDrive system mean there is no longer much need to reach for the handbook when you want to adjust the entertainment or sat nav system either.
For a small car with raised suspension, it’s remarkably comfortable. The seats are manually adjusted but with a bit of playing round you will find the perfect driving position, which leaves plenty of room for two passengers in the back as well.
Of course, all those extras fitted to our test car are expensive in a BMW – so choose you model and spec it up carefully. I can recommend the panoramic sunroof though.
It’s no surprise that BMW decided to cash in on the runaway success of the X3 and X5 with a smaller, beefed up version of the 1 Series. X1 has been around for four years now, although it hasn’t lived up to the acclaim of its bigger siblings.
The X1 on my driveway this morning is the entry level version. As you might expect for a car costing almost £24,000, it oozes BMW quality from every angle. The key problem with this mini SUV is that it just doesn’t quite look the part, like an X3 or X5.
The smaller dimensions don’t allow the designers much room for creativity and, consequently, the X1 doesn’t sit as squat and robust on the road as an SUV should. There’s an awful lot of bonnet but not much cabin, which means the X1 looks a little front heavy and awkward.
The goods news is that inside, the X1 is a masterclass in premium brand quality. From the ‘X’ embossed seats to the matt wood trim on the dashboard, it feels like a very classy vehicle indeed. And this is just the SE trim!
The best two words to sum up the Forester? Rugged and reliable. Yes, if you want chrome tailpipes and fancy stuff, go buy a Ford Kuga. You’ll regret it in the long run if you hanker for an SUV that actually does what it is meant to do.
There are times when I wish the Forester had a bit more style but I’d really rather go for substance when buying a four-wheel drive – especially one that is obviously built to withstand whatever you can throw at it.
The 2013 version is a little noisy when pushed hard under acceleration but we’re still managing 42mpg in everyday use. This is helped by the six-speed gearbox, which is surprisingly slick for a chunky estate.
OK, so it doesn’t go around a corner with the poise of a Honda CR-V but the chances are you will be carrying a large dog, or a couple of sheep in the back anyway.
And it’s all backed up by a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty too. What more could you want?
It’s lashing down in the Cotswolds – it must be to mark the arrival of our Subaru SUV. Summer ended last week and I’m mightily happy to be splashing through the ever-deepening puddles in the Forester.
This is definitely the sort of car that lives and breathes bad weather. You could say it looks better splattered in mud than clean – even the interior seems to have been designed for bad weather too!
There are loads of storage spaces and cubby boxes, many of them with practical rubber linings that are easy to clean. Our XC has fabric seats but any dirt seems to disappear easily enough. Not sure it’s worth going for the more expensive leather option.
The XC does have some luxurious, like the electric driver’s seat, a USB socket, 17-inch alloys and obviously air con.
In fact, I’d say there’s little point opting for a more expensive Forester, unless you want the leather and sat nav. This is one SUV that, rather like a Land Rover Defender, is better for being basic.
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.
The Trax, like a lot of cars these days has Stop-Start to boost fuel economy. I have been averaging around 48mpg, which I think is pretty decent for any SUV in everyday driving situations.
The Trax also has another stop-start system which I can’t quite work out. Over the last six days I have stalled it at least eight times. Which is eight more than I have stalled any other car this year.
It seems to happen at low speed, then the Chevrolet is winding down to a standstill. I Put my foot on the clutch as I brake and then, well, the engines dies!
No idea what is going on but it can be very disconcerting, especially if I have the DAB radio on and can’t hear the engine noise. Today I tried to pull away at a junction and absolutely nothing happened.
It’s the only black spot on a very willing, if rather noisy drivetrain.