Saturday – Difficult Second Album


I have to say, I never really know which cars Jessica is going to like and which ones she isn’t. I didn’t hold out much hope for the 208 but it appears to be a surprise hit, in a ‘difficult second album’ type way.

I’m still not sure myself. While the GTi is an absolute joy to drive, with a sweet six-speed gearbox and taut handling, the styling of the car is not completely in proportion. It looks top heavy and a little ‘heavy’ to be endearing.

I suppose my taste is coloured by the looks and feel of the original Peugeot 205 GTI. Small, compact and in perfect proportion, it made the Golf GTI look like an ugly duckling at the time.

Our test car is in my perfect colour – grey. So the fact it doesn’t make me swoon with envy when I see it every morning might speak volumes.

Wednesday – TB Or Not TB


Alfa Romeo might not thank me for saying so but secondhand Giulietta‘s look like great value to me. I would have opted for diesel every time if I was buying – until I tried out this white 1.4 TB petrol.

I’ve driven the Volkswagen Golf with a 1.4 TSI and despite being quick, it just doesn’t pack the excitement you want from a relatively small, high performance engine.

The difference is that DNA switch by the gearstick. In ‘Normal’ mode the Alfa is  Golf-like. Push the lever forward to ‘Dynamic’ and the Giulietta surges forward with an instant, unmistakable rush.

I honestly thought it was a gimmick when the car arrived. Then I realised it’s what sets the Alfa apart. Perhaps the only question is, why isn’t DNA active all the time?

The fuel gauge is almost on red now. We’ve been averaging 39mpg most of the week. Final thoughts on this great car tomorrow.



Sunday – Bride Or Prejudice


There are still a surprising number of  people who don’t know how to get in the back of a Giulietta. Sometimes you can see it coming… These are the people who opt to sit in the back, then open the front door and get cross because the driver’s seat doesn’t  roll forward enough!

There was a wedding at the White Lion in Aldeburgh last night and this morning, one of the guests tracked me down. Not because I had flirted with the bride but because he was on the verge of buying a VW Golf GTI and wanted to check out the competition. Naturally, I obliged.

While I complimented him on his choice of car, I was also keen to see what he thought of the Alfa, in a non prejudicial way. I think it was fair to say he was blown away. Once he had checked out the back seats, I took him for a drive for a few miles up the Suffolk coastline.

He played with all the buttons, loved the optional Bose sound system, cooed at the outrageously alternative dash and then gave me his verdict.

Class-leading hatchback with rock solid residuals (Golf) versus cool-looking Italian rock star car (Giulietta)? Naturally, he’s off to his Alfa dealer tomorrow…

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.


Friday – Sweden vs Germany


Jeremy There’s something endearing, likeable and rather ‘safe’ about the V40. Stepping into the cabin this morning was like getting reacquainted with an old friend. The last Volvo I owned was an 340, back in the 1980s. It was my father’s choice – he was paying – as the one car even I couldn’t get hurt in.

I traded the 340 in for an Alfa Romeo as quickly as possible and quickly regretted it. My student grant didn’t extend to major rust treatment on a monthly basis… Had that first flirtation with Volvo been a secondhand V40, I would probably still be driving it now.

V40 is the replacement model for the S40 and V50 and it needs to be good to beat the best of German. Well, it certainly has a more distinct look than a VW Golf, or the exceptional Audi A3. It probably holds it own about the BMW 1 Series too, although I have to say, I think the new Mercedes A-class might be the winner for best design.

From the rear, the V40 in R-Design trim looks amazing. The twin tailpipes and small rear screen tick lots of boxes. Nose on, it’s on a par with the German competition. Which begs the question, is the V40 good enough to tempt Audi/BMW/VW drivers away from their normal car purchase?

That could well come down to the driving experience and I shall give my verdict on that tomorrow…



Wednesday – Beetle Drive


Jeremy – It’s our last day with the Beetle, VW‘s answer to the retro Mini. But while the Mini has morphed into a variety of oddities, the Bug now looks better than ever.

The masculine, squat shape make the VW more purposeful than ever and there’s an exceptional interior that’s not only a pleasure to sit in but fairly practical too.

Sitting on the latest Golf platform, the Beetle is a better drive than the previous model, even though I would opt for the more refined 2.0-litre engine rather than the 1.4 we tried, which has to be worked exceptionally hard to prove enjoyable.

There’s just enough performance to make the high revving 1.4 fun. The steering is more precise and there is a surprising amount of grip on twisty roads. That said, somehow it doesn’t have the precision of the Golf through the bends.

If you want a roomy, practical hatchback for the family buy a Golf. For those who want something that turns a few heads and stands out from the crowd, the Beetle remains almost as cool as it was 40 years ago.

Friday – Fast & Fun!


Jeremy Just back from a Friday morning spin down some busy A-roads in the Swift Sport. I’m finding any excuse to drive it at the moment because this car has lashings of something so many of its competitors lack – fun.

The first time I drove a Golf GTI 30 years ago, I remember being blown away by the power and agility of was otherwise a standard family hatchback. It’s the same feeling with the Suzuki – except it doesn’t have quite same the level of performance on tap.

But don’t let that put you off, the Swift is so beautifully balanced, so agile on the corners that it just urges you to ‘make progress’ wherever possible.

Sure, the Swift isn’t turbocharged like many sporty hatchbacks these days but the normally aspirated, 1.6 petrol engine is gutsy. It’s not ‘hot’ from a standing start but keep the revs up and it flies!

For gentlemen of certain age, the Swift Sport will turn the clock back to great GTIs like the Golf, Peugeot 205 and Fiesta. Uncomplicated, forgiving and guaranteed to put a smile on your face.


Tuesday – Golfing Technology


Jeremy I’m ticking off the hours until they pick up the Golf today. We are not quite on first name terms but a bond has been established between us. It’s like having your best mate on standby for every eventuality.

Instantly recognisable as VW‘s iconic hatchback, under the skin, this new Mk VII version is fully equipped with technology that would have been unrecognisable when the first model was launched almost 40 years ago. It helps make an already great car even more desirable.

The vehicle selected as World Car of the Year cossets the driver with every conceivable aid in GTD form. Electronic handbrake, stop/start engine, a range of engine modes for different types of driving, front and rear parking sensors – none of these would have been even dreamt of in 1974.

So, far from meddling with a successful product to create the Mk VII, VW designers have just raised the bar for all other hatchbacks to follow. Smoother, faster, lighter and better equipped, the new Golf is everything you would expect it to be. You just wonder what they will do with the Mk VIII…


Sunday – Golf, Lights, Action…


Jeremy Eight months ago I went to buy a Mk VI Volkswagen Golf. I drove out of the dealership in a VW Beetle. Mid-life crisis? Maybe but in black, with a glass roof, cool wheels and the latest ‘squat’ look, I enjoyed a temporary moment of madness.

What really clinched the deal was the Beetle’s interior. Great seats, quality switchgear and illuminated door trim – neat lines of subtle light that ran along the length of the doors above the arm rests. A control on the dashboard could even change the colour ‘mood’ from blue, to red to white!

Last night, driving home in CarCouture’s Mk VII Golf was the first time I had taken the hatchback out in the dark. The cabin is a relaxed and refined place to be and VW has used the same door lighting fitted in the Beetle to brighten up the Golf interior.

Now, Golf drivers aren’t the sort of people who want to change their mood lighting at the flick of a switch – that would be a little racy for the benchmark hatchback. But the interior of the Golf is beautifully understated, supremely comfortable and, with features like the lighting system, you feel like you are travelling first class.



Saturday – Not Your Everyday Benchmark


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…