Archive | January, 2014

What’s In A Name? The John Cooper Works Mini

Recently Motor Blogger had the chance to drive a fine selection of motors and they all pretty much had one thing in common – quality. Sometimes though, a car will come along which sparks the inner boy. In this case it was the car in the picture – the Mini John Cooper Works Paceman.

As a fan of the Mini from way back my opinion may be rose-tinted,  but I enjoyed my jaunt in this car hugely, grinning like an automotive Cheshire cat. Yes, there are faster and cheaper cars in this sector and in the Mini JCW range but on this occasion we’ll just let the heart rule the head.

The JCW Paceman is a big three door four-seater. We can’t really describe it as being in the hot hatch department because it kind of transcends that common tag. It is absolutely loaded to the roof with standard kit including all the infotainment and safety gear you’d expect.

The version pictured has many choice options fitted as well, including some glorious 19” ‘Cross Spoke Crusher’ alloys but at an additional £1130 you may prefer the standard eighteen inch hoops. In fact, it’s the price that is the only issue for me. The standard JCW Paceman costs nearly £30k OTR. With the twenty-two options on the featured car the cost is an eye-watering £37,580 but that’s still only equivalent to an Evoque.

Power comes from a 215bhp 1.6-litre twin-scroll turbocharger petrol engine. It’s not slow. It can accelerate to 62mph in 6.9 seconds and has a top speed of 140mph. Ride height on this version is 10mm lower than the standard Paceman, making it more fun when negotiating the sort of roads upon which  the Mini excels. The conditions were damp yet we found that the JCW has huge levels of traction thanks to the standard ALL4 all-wheel-drive system. This works brilliantly well and grip was never an issue. ‘Corners on rails’ is how it is usually described.

Mini reckon that this motor will achieve 38.2mpg on the combined figure. Not sure about that but thirty plus should be on the cards though.  Emissions aren’t overly bad at 172g/km; in fact for a performance car I think they’ve done pretty well on this green issue.

Now look, inside every man is a boy burning with testosterone. So just try and stop your inner boy reaching for the sport button once it has been established that by flicking it the engine is tweaked for responsiveness and crucially the soundtrack burbles and crackles, especially on lifting off from the accelerator. The Cheshire Cat is back.

If you select the optional automatic gearbox and you press the magical Sport Button not only will you get the sublime noise but it also quickens up the shift times. The optional six-speed automatic gearbox comes with a Steptronic function and steering wheel shift paddles are available. Thanks to some quality insulation tyre and wind noises are well suppressed allowing the driver to savour the vocal engine. The ride is firm but the seats are comfortable and well bolstered.

Leaving aside the fun aspects of this car, it is also a practical choice. Three passengers can be accommodated although the rear accommodations are a bit tight for full-sized occupants – in which case the JCW Countryman may be the better alternative. The boot can handle 330 litres but with the seats folded this increases to a capacious 1080 litres.

You either like the Mini or you don’t. This Paceman is costly but it’s huge fun and you won’t see that many about. Pretty soon this model will be superseded by the forthcoming 2014 Mini but, if we’re honest, we can’t see how the existing JCW Paceman can be bettered.

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What Makes the New Qashqai 2014 the World’s Most Parkable Car?

To help position the highly anticipated 2014 Qashqai as the ultimate urbanvehicle, Nissan has boldly branded it as the “world’s most parkable car” – but is it? We think so!

The model’s new advanced Park Assist System, which is an add-on for the Around View Monitor, has the unique ability to measure the size of the open parallel parking space and then steer the car carefully into it.

Spaces only need to be 80cm longer than the car itself, with the driver only required to move the car forward and back in order to position it into even the tightest city parking spots. The system is also able to pick up moving objects and provide the driver with a 360 degree view of the space around them. Even bay parking is a breeze when activating the ‘helicopter view’ mode of the Around View Monitoring, which can detect the white lines of parking bays to steadily steer the car into position.

In addition, the new Qashqai is fitted with a high pressure water jet and compressed air nozzle to keep the rear view camera clean and clear so that it can be used effectively at all times.

Earlier this month the 2014 Nissan Qashqai was crowned Best Car of the Year as well as Best Small SUV by What Car?, adding further to its highly acclaimed reputation of being one of the most impressive and awaited cars of this year so far. Easy on the eye and easy to park, there’s no wondering why the Qashqai is currently the best-selling Nissan in the UK.

The new range of models includes the Visia, Acenta, Acenta Premium and Tekna, with a choice of four turbocharged petrol and diesel engine options available withstop-start technology for improved fuel economy and low C02 emissions ratings.

The Smart Vision Pack can be added to the Visia and Acenta models and comes standard on Acenta Premium and Tekna models, featuring Traffic Sign Recognition, Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Assist and Front Collision Avoidance.

For more details and great deals on the new Nissan Qashqai, visit

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Overcoming battery problems in the winter

Car batteries can be temperamental at the best of times – especially in old cars – but during the winter months a flat battery is the biggest cause of breakdowns. There’s not a lot that’s more annoying than waking up on a dark, cold winter morning and having to defrost and then jump start your car because the battery’s died overnight.

Cold weather is really bad for your car’s battery because it slows down the chemical reactions that cause your engine to roar into life. Even though your vehicle’s battery is perfectly capable of functioning in all kinds of weather, sometimes the cold can degrade even the most high-quality batteries and render them useless.

However, this isn’t something that you have to put up with as there are a number of ways you can protect your battery against failure during the winter.

Battery age

Assessing the age of your car’s battery is really important before the really cold weather hits. Most car batteries will last between five and ten years so if your car is several years old and still running on the original battery, it might be an idea to have it checked and potentially changed before you find yourself late for work one morning.

You can easily get hold of the correct battery for your car by entering your vehicle’s details into sites like Euro Car Parts. Make sure you aren’t swayed by more powerful batteries and only choose one that’s suitable for your car because more power won’t necessarily equate to better starting.


Check your engine for corrosion as this can also prevent your car from starting. Corrosion around the battery can be caused by a fault that allows the battery acid to leak and corrode the areas that it touches. In order to avoid a problem like this, it’s essential to check the battery regularly, if there are any leakages then you need to make sure you clean away any corrosive residue and ensure that the battery compartment is correctly sealed.

Battery blanket

Installing a battery blanket is a great way to prevent the battery fluid from freezing. Open up the battery cover and wrap the blanket around the battery itself. There should be a cord with a plug at the end which can be plugged into a mains switch. This will help the blanket generate enough heat to prevent the battery from freezing and therefore ensuring it works the next morning.

Minimise in-car battery use

Starting the car with the heaters and radio on can take valuable power away from the engine, preventing it from being able to start. Using in-car accessories such as these when trying to start the car takes power away from the alternator which, on cold winter mornings, needs all of its energy to be concentrated on charging the battery.

Disconnect the battery

If you don’t use your car a lot and it’ll be in storage for the majority of the winter then it’s a good idea to disconnect the battery so that the cold weather doesn’t cause it to degrade. A lot of people don’t realise that useful in-car devices like clocks, temperature gauges and the alarm system continue to drain the battery of power so if you won’t be driving it enough to recharge the battery then it’s likely to be flat when you return to it. If this is likely to be the case over the winter then it’s a good idea to disconnect the battery in order to reserve its power before you put your car into storage.

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Employers who provide Employees with Motoring Insurance – The risks….!

Providing motoring insurance to your employees creates various responsibilities and risks.

Risks for the Company

If it’s a company car and the driver is stopped for driving without insurance the company (or an individual within the company) can get a summons for permitting them to drive without insurance. If the company is summonsed it’s a fine. If an individual is summonsed it’s a fine and 6-8 penalty points. If the car belongs to the employee it can result in the company being accused of causing them to drive without insurance.

If the employee is driving for business purposes then they need business use cover. Otherwise they are still driving without insurance if they only have social and domestic cover.

Risks for the Employee

The employee is relying on the company to get it right and make sure the insurance is correct. The driver gets 6-8 penalty points and a fine for using a vehicle without insurance if they get stopped.

Statutory Defence for Employees

If insurance is not in force, a statutory defence is available to an employee in accordance with S143(3) Road Traffic Act 1988 if it can be shown;

1. the vehicle did not belong to him,

2. it was being used in the course of his employment at the time of the offence

3. and he neither knew nor had reason to believe there was not in force in relation to the vehicle such a policy of insurance.

The individual has to prove the criteria on the balance of probabilities. If however he does not fulfil or prove all the above criteria, he will be convicted of driving without insurance.

Special Reasons Arguments

In these circumstances, a Special Reasons argument may be available if to both the employer and the employee if they can show that they genuinely and honestly believed there was insurance in place and that this belief was reasonable.

The full criteria for Special Reasons are set out in the case of R v Wickens (1958). Special Reasons is not a defence but if found, no penalty points will be imposed. The burden is on the defendant to prove on the balance of probabilities that it was reasonable for him to consider he was insured. If the Court does not consider the belief was reasonable, they will impose between 6 – 8 points.

An example of this would be a delivery driver, driving their own van but being employed by a company. Prior to them commencing work, they discuss insurance with their employer and are reassured that they are covered under the company’s trade policy. It transpires that this is only the case if the vehicle is named specifically on the policy. This did not happen, as the employer did not realise, and the police stop the employee for driving without insurance. This would amount to a good Special Reasons for the employee.

Causing An Employee To Drive Without Insurance

If employees do not have insurance, employers also risk between 6 – 8 points for causing or permitting their employee to drive without insurance. Equally, they may have a Special Reasons argument if they can show they genuinely believed insurance was in place. In the above example, the employer would have to show it was reasonable that they did not realise they needed to add the vehicle to the insurance policy. If it was a simple case of the employer not reading the paperwork correctly, the argument is unlikely to succeed, however if the employer was told otherwise by the insurance company for example, this would amount to a good argument.

Types of Insurance Cover

It is not sufficient for insurance just to be in place. The employee must be covered for the driving purpose in question. This depends on the business type and why the employee is driving the vehicle. Some employers for example will allow an employee to take the company vehicle home of an evening and drive back to work the next day. Commuting and business cover is therefore required but the employer would also have to stipulate whether the employee is authorised to drive the vehicle outside of business hours. If agreed, social domestic and pleasure cover is also required. If not, the employer needs to make it very clear that the employee does not have permission to drive the vehicle for this purpose. To avoid potential prosecution, it would be advisable for the employer to provide written confirmation of the position.

If you have any questions or problems in relation to this or any other Motoring Offence Issue then contact Patterson Law.

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The Pleasures And Differences Of Driving In France

The pleasures of driving are much more enjoyable across the Channel in France than they are in the UK. In the countryside roads can disappear arrow straight to the horizon and in the mountains there are ascents, hairpins and descents to test the handling of any motor. It is only in the large towns that things can become fraught.

There is a rule called Priorité à droite. This is a fiendish way to reduce average traffic speeds and keep a whole battalion of car body repairers in work. Basically it means any vehicle joining a road from the right (roads, driveways, fields, gates, anything you can think of) has priority. On main roads you can see the sign of a yellow diamond; this means you have right of way (unless Pierre has had a large liquid lunch. Which he has). If the diamond has a black bar diagonally across it means Priorité à droite, so stay alert and keep ‘em peeled!

The French Police look intimidating as they all carry guns, but those I have met had at least a few words of English. Your editor have been stopped a couple of times. Each time Les Flics were polite and asked for my ‘permis de conduire’ (driving licence) and insurance. Note: A gym membership card doesn’t work. Another time I was stopped and asked if I had consumed any alcohol. At 10am? ‘Café seulement’, I replied neglecting to add that a stiff drink would help with their stupid rules. Note: If you have motorists coming towards you flashing their headlights it is very likely there is a police patrol ahead they may be doing routine checks or have a radar speed trap set up.

Don’t plan on repairing your own car. DIY motoring is pretty rare, en France. There are few local motor shops and Motor Factors who supply garages and the like and are not used to dealing with the average motorist, especially if his knowledge of automotive technical French is nonexistent. If your French is competent though, they will supply the right part – and then you can do it yourself.

So remember: driving in France is great; plenty of open roads and many, many places to explore, but it’s another country and they do things differently there. You’ll need warning triangles, high-viz jackets (which must be accessible within the cabin) and even a pair of home breathalysers for self testing, although it’s fair to say that, although it is law, the police don’t seem overly concerned.

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The 2014 Model Year Jaguar XJ

In July 2009, the newly styled Jaguar XJ was unveiled and it has gone from strength to strength since. This is the car as limousine and it has now been updated once again. Enhanced luxury features in the rear cabin of the 2014 model year XJ, for example, add to the already luxurious status of Jaguar’s flagship saloon. The version featured has the V6 diesel in Premium Luxury trim and is, frankly, all the car you’ll ever need.

The model boasts a comprehensive range of engines: 2.0L turbocharged petrol, 3.0L V6 diesel and supercharged petrol and four 5.0L V8 petrol power plants – all of which enhance customer choice. All the engines in the 2014 XJ range – including the 2.0-litre i4 Ti 240 turbocharged – deliver their power through the smooth shifting eight-speed automatic transmission which offers a broad spread of ratios for a perfectly balanced combination of smooth-shifting, economy and driver control.

Intelligent All-Wheel Drive System, which monitors grip levels and driver input to provide maximum traction at all times, is available as an option on the XJ with 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine.

An even more spacious long-wheelbase version is available and a new Jaguar flagship sports saloon – the 550PS XJR – combines supercar performance and assertive looks with the XJ’s typically high levels of luxurious motoring. More on this version at a later date.

Inside, both front and rear passengers can enjoy the daylight through their own glass roof. The entertainment system has been enhanced with a Rear Seat Entertainment package featuring two hi-resolution touch-screens, and optional premium Meridian Reference Audio System (superb, incidentally) with Conversation Assist.XJin The 2014 Model Year Jaguar XJ

The 14MY XJ’s luxurious feel is underlined by the palette of materials used on the interior. This includes Bond grain, soft grain and semi-aniline leather, and a wide choice of veneers including Piano Black, Carbon Fibre, Gloss Burr Walnut and Satin Rosewood.

The diesel can whisk you comfortably to 62mph is a scant six seconds yet will return in excess of 40mpg under normal driving conditions, ably assisted by an unobtrusive stop/start system. For such a big, powerful car the emissions are a stingy 167g/km. That’s brilliant.

It isn’t just about the big picture though. It’s the little touches that please. An example is the digital dashboard dials. Both the odometer and the rev counter display the range in which the car is working. For example, if the car is doing forty miles per hour, the dial highlights the 30-50 range. This makes it so much easier to glean information at a glance.

Sadly perhaps, the car in the image costs £66,000. It is out of reach of most motorists yet is good value for money. One day, perhaps; one day.

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Search Used Cars For Sale In Derby

How To Find Cars

Over the last few years the way we search for the best deals on new or used cars has changed to match the times. No more dragging around car showrooms or poring over the small ads in the local paper to find the bargains, these days the canny car buyer searches online.

New Or Used
At the start of this New Year, as Spring approaches, many people will be toying with the idea that it might well be time to change that faithful old motor outside for a younger model. It’s an expensive decision and requires a good deal of research whilst ensuring that the head absolutely rules the heart. For starters, is it better to buy new and get an auto that is untouched by others, or is it better to buy used cars and avoid the depreciation issue? How far afield do you have to go to buy used cars?

A Site For Sore Eyes
A buyer who may only be looking, let’s say, for cars in Derby for sale or is prepared to travel further would no doubt find it be easier to go to a one-stop-shop that solves all the problems in a single step rather than be constantly browsing from site to site and getting eyestrain for their trouble. Let’s say the potential purchaser is looking for a good deal on used cars in Derby, for example. There’s absolutely no point in trawling the far reaches of the country to seek that that special motor when the solution is much closer to hand.

The sensible approach is to work out in advance how much money is available for purchase and what effect the running costs will have on the household budget. Having a figure in mind and searching online it is straightforward to, say, use the popular ‘slider’ method to set the parameters for the right choice of car. It’s easy to allocate maximum and minimum amounts and dictate if the car is diesel or petrol powered. The search can be further refined for hatchbacks or saloons as well. Even if the buyer’s search is confined to cheap cars, it doesn’t matter. Works the same for all budgets.

The Right Place To Go
It works both ways. Car dealers or motor companies looking to sell vehicles can advertise their wares in the same place; after all, this is where the customers are. Everybody wins in a single marketplace.

Then of course there’s the big question. Can you afford or do you need a new motor or would a used one make more sense? It’s a harder choice than you think. A new car is a wonderful thing – especially with the deals around just now – with its optional extras and so on but local dealers can usually satisfy most buying needs so the right car might yet still be available immediately on the forecourts. This is why one-stop-shopping works; the money is ready and burning the proverbial hole and a few clicks of the mouse on the local car website will tell clients about all the used cars for sale in Derby, the new bargains to be had in the local area or indeed at the other end of the country. The solution is one click away.

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The Petrol Pump Blues

In these days of economic gloom many drivers dread filling up at the pump. With petrol prices as high as they are right now, saving money whilst sustaining vehicle performance with the fuel we choose are about the only things that matter. We need to get the most out of our vehicles for the longest possible time, which essentially means maintaining properly rather than spending huge sums on costly repairs or a new vehicle.

In order to get the most out of their trusty wheels, some people tend to spend more by choosing a higher octane fuel rating because they assume that their car will perform better and they will as a consequence get better mileage. This is a falsehood. By understanding what fuel octane is and how it affects your engine, you can see that this is not necessarily the case and you can instantly save money at the pump by using cheaper petrol.

Octane ratings measure a fuel’s ability to resist engine knock. The numbers relate to the fuel’s octane rating. Most garages offer two octane grades: regular is usually 95RON in the UK and premium is usually 97, although some can be as high as 99RON. The higher the number, the slower the fuel burns. An internal combustion engine uses pistons to squeeze fuel until it explodes in the cylinder through spark ignition. With high octane fuel, the pistons need to put more pressure on the fuel to get it to ignite.

With the exception of a few high performance luxury vehicles and specially-designed engines, the majority of vehicles on the market are designed to use regular octane. High-compression engines in sports or luxury motors need premium grade to prevent knocking (also known as pre-ignition or ‘knock’). Your car’s manual will provide the answers.

So what exactly is engine knock? Well, it is defined as a rattling or pinging sound that results from premature ignition of the compressed fuel-air mixture in one or more cylinders. This means that the fuel is igniting too soon and may create too much pressure that the engine simply cannot sustain. When vehicles that are designed to use premium are filled with regular, problems like the latter can occur.

Some people believe that buying a higher-octane rated fuel will benefit their engine and that is simply not the case. Choosing a higher octane rating will not affect performance at all.

In most cases, using a higher-octane petrol than your vehicle manual recommends offers absolutely no benefit. It won’t make your car perform better, go faster, get better mileage or run cleaner. The answer to saving money on fuel is to drive smoothly and even more slowly and to ensure regular car maintenance.

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More People Are Choosing Greener Journeys (allegedly)

Have you ever had your views consulted by any Government Department? The answer to that question from virtually everybody is ‘No’. Yet according to the Department for Transport (DfT) efforts to make it easier for people to choose greener ways of travelling to and from public transport hubs are working, at least according to a new report. Wonder who they are asking?

The so-called ’door to door action plan’ published today by the DfT identifies the good work being ‘taken forward’ that will help make door-to-door journeys by public transport, cycling or walking the norm. Real life journeys on public transport tend to be more complicated than just a single trip on a train or three stops on the local bus. The Government say they want to make it as easy as possible for people to choose greener ways of getting between each mode of transport.

Since they launched this ’door to door strategy’ eight months ago, there have apparently already been significant improvements to integrate public transport. This action plan highlights where progress has been made but there is still more to be done.

Quoted examples of successes include a £14 million investment in two new state-of-the-art bus interchanges at Rochdale and Mansfield improving integration with rail as well as making it easier and safer for people to use sustainable transport. Additionally, a £14.5 million investment in cycle facilities at railway stations has been the major enabler in doubling the amount of cycle parking spaces at stations in the lifetime of this Parliament. This has contributed to the number of cycle-rail journeys increasing from 14 million in 2009 to an all time high of 39 million a year.

Last summer the Prime Minister announced plans for ‘cycle-proofing’ roads so that all new trunk roads and improvement schemes will be designed with cyclists as well as motorists in mind. As part of that, the Highways Agency is also spending £20 million to improve existing infrastructure for cyclists on the strategic roads network.

All these plans are all well and good but how many non-car users are truly receiving any form of benefit out of these grandiose pronouncements. Certainly nobody in rural areas that’s for sure. Until this country has a root and branch look at its transport infrastructure there will always be winners and losers. Statistics can say anything.

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