Archive | May, 2014

Viva Vauxhall!

A very long time ago, in days when men wore hats and jackets with leather patches on the elbows, Vauxhall motors made a car called the Viva. That’s a version of the 1963 original in our image. It was designed to compete against the Ford Anglia and the Minor from Morris Motors and very popular it was too, right from the word go.

New car buyers were struck by its modern (for the time) looks which made the competition look dowdy and old fashioned. It was to mature in two new versions over the following sixteen years, following the design fashions of the time and influenced by the upstart imports from Japan.

Those who remember the car look back with fondness whilst viewing their memories through rose-tinted glasses. More down-to-earth folk don’t recall it being that good. It has to be remembered that the British car industry was in freefall at the time and nothing special was being produced anywhere so buyers took what they could get.

Vauxhall have clearly been thinking about this car from another age and have decided that enough time has passed to resurrect the name so let’s hear a hearty ‘viva!’ for the new Vauxhall Viva. After all, other companies have brought back iconic names like Mini or Fiat 500, so why not?

Vauxhall has long since been a part of the mighty General motors empire and the emphasis now is on the idea of ‘world cars’. Vehicles that can sell around the globe with little or no revision. The plan then is to make the new Viva a city car; an automotive  sector that is booming just now.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely to be a new car from the ground up but rather a rebadged version of something already in the company’s range – the Chevrolet Spark, perhaps. This is interesting because GM have already said they are withdrawing the Chevrolet brand from Europe owing to poor sales. So it would appear to be a plan to keep selling cars – in the UK at least – by revisiting an old British name.

GM/Vauxhall believe that the Viva name will work because it was a long time ago and ‘nobody will remember it’. Well, here’s the news – we do remember it and not especially fondly. This rebadged relaunch might not be as popular as they think.

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Feeling Your Pulsar

For a long time now the car makers of the world have looked at arguably the most popular hatchback in the world (clue: it comes from Germany) and wondered how on earth they can better it. There have been several attempts recently, especially from the Far East, but all have fallen short of the iconic automotive benchmark.

Now it is Nissan’s turn. Riding high on the surge of popularity of the Qashqai and Juke crossovers they have decided to pitch into this market with the new Pulsar hatchback. It will be interesting to see more of this attractive looking vehicle when it is unleashed upon us in November.

pulse2 Feeling Your PulsarClearly, the company have put the memory of their last effort – the uninspiring Almera – behind them and are coming at the opposition with a new car allegedly packed with innovation and technology.

The suggestion is that they intend to price the new car very aggressively. The rumour mill is saying the difference could be as much as fifteen hundred pounds at base price level. That’s confidence – but is it wise?

People who buy that German car do so precisely because it is so good. They do not baulk at the price differential between it and the rival offerings. So the question has to be asked: can the Pulsar steal the limelight based on price alone? It seems unlikely.

Nissan are pinning their hopes on what they describe as ‘exciting new technology’. For example, the Pulsar will feature Google ‘Send To Car’. This apparently allows owners to send addresses to the car’s navigation device remotely via an app from their mobile devices. Quite how often anyone will actually do this remains to be seen.

Nissan say that their new hatchback will be powered by a four pot turbo-charged 1.2L petrol engine or a similar 1.5L diesel. Later they will introduce a 1.6L turbo-petrol presumably in a hotter version. Nissan also say that the 1.2L turbo-petrol will be capable of 67mpg which, although good, is hardly new territory.

Will it be enough to tempt buyers away from the German favourite? We’ll have to wait and see.

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A PHEV Of Fresh Air From Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi have recently launched the vehicle that they describe as ‘game-changing’ – the all new Outlander PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) in their biggest advertising campaign to date. The campaign for this new car comes after the news that Mitsubishi were the fastest growing mainstream brand in the UK during 2013.

PHEV1 A PHEV Of Fresh Air From MitsubishiAmazingly, it is five years since the company last advertised on TV and not just content with promoting the new SUV in this way, they are also sponsoring TV documentaries. They are launching the Outlander as not just another car but rather as a paradigm shift for motoring and an important moment in history.

The campaign shows the vehicle coming to life and driving along a futuristic timeline. It passes major inventions and discoveries in history such as the wheel, electricity and environmentalism before taking its rightful place at the head of the timeline. This is rather a vaunting claim and it remains to be seen as to whether the Outlander is truly that ‘game-changing’.

Effectively, Mitsubishi has laid down a gauntlet to the entire car industry with the Outlander PHEV by pricing it at the same level as the diesel. The result is huge tax savings for company car drives and realistic running costs for fleets. Motor Blogger had the chance to drive it recently as you’ll find out below.

It is powered by both a 2.0L petrol engine and two electric motors, the second of which powers the rear wheels thus giving four-wheel drive capability. You can plug the PHEV in, charge it and use electric power only for short trips, and then rely on the petrol engine to take you on longer trips. The official figure says the PHEV is capable of 148mpg, but even Mitsubishi reckon this is unrealistic. Real-world mpg is still pretty impressive, however.PHEV2 A PHEV Of Fresh Air From Mitsubishi

The PHEV will be ideal for anyone who does mainly shorter trips, with the occasional longer journey thrown in. Anyone who regularly travels loner distances will, we suspect, be better off with the standard diesel Outlander. Out on the road this big motor turns out to be supremely comfortable. With the batteries low down in the body, the corner roll that afflicts these high vehicles is controlled.

The best way to drive the PHEV is to simply stick it in Drive, and let the car sort out the electric/petrol ratio. Either way, it is very quiet. There is a gauge to monitor how the hybrid is using it’s juice.

Drivers can also press a button that forces the PHEV to hold its charge for a more appropriate time – useful, say, when you need to do a motorway jaunt before going to the city. It is possible to use the petrol engine to top the battery up to 70%. You can even determine the level of brake regeneration, which boosts battery power.

We enjoyed our short spin but it has to be said that the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is never going to get your pulses racing but the market for big economical five seat SUV’s is strong so it should do well.

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Driving The Mazda 3 Fastback

This year Mazda have been keen to push the merits of their 2014 range and, it has to be said, with ample reason. They have matured into very good cars indeed. In particular, their tried and tested SkyActiv technology – which Mazda say redefines everything, every major part of their cars, from the engine to chassis and from the body to transmissions – has spread more or less throughout the range.

Under the bonnet, engine output is increased and emission levels are reduced. These technologies include high compression ratio petrol engines that, unlike the competition, do without turbochargers for a more immediate response and, conversely, diesels with reduced compression coupled with a new 2-stage turbo design. The company matches these engines with highly efficient automatic transmissions, lighter weight manual transmissions, lightweight body designs and electric power steering.

The Mazda 3 is now in its third generation and is available in a total of no less than 36 variants, spread across five trim levels and priced, depending, between £16,695 to £23,345. The list of options is vast as usual and far too much to list here but contains all you’d expect, plus some new safety features like Smart City Brake Support and secondary Collision Reduction.

There are so many diesels these days that Motor Blogger opted to drive a petrol engine for a change and tried the Fastback version. A  Sport-Nav version, the Fastback was powered by a 2.0L 120PS engine with Stop/Start and achieving the 62mph target in under nine seconds.

FB1 Driving The Mazda 3 FastbackArguably the stylish Fastback is better looking than the regular hatch with a roofline that sweeps elegantly down to the boot-lid spoiler. We are all used to the convenience of hatchbacks and it is fair to say that a regular boot is less useful, but the rear seats of the Fastback still fold so it is fine for most applications.

Upon starting the car a small, unobtrusive ‘head’s up’ opaque panel rises on top of the instrument binnacle and shows the car’s speed. This means that it is the rev counter that takes pride of place amongst the driver instruments with just a supplementary display of the mph. With navigation in use, the ‘heads-up’ also shows a direction finder. This works very well and, importantly, is not affected by direct in-coming sunlight.

Inside the quality leather interior even the most misshapen of motorists will have no trouble getting comfortable. Mazda have an option of two-tone leather seats which, IMHO, are a must-have. There’s a usefully wide range of adjustment to the driver’s seat and steering wheel, and there’s plenty of leg, head and shoulder space for all. The dashboard layout is tidy and logical, with clearly labelled buttons and dials for the air-conditioning and easy-to-read instrument dials. Various functions can be accessed using the 7” colour touchscreen that sits in pride of place on top of the dashboard.

No longer the poor relation, Mazda have put their new cars properly into the limelight. They have clearly worked hard on the interiors which are smart, comfortable and well equipped and the instant response from the SkyActiv tech makes for enjoyable driving.

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The Dancing Man – DCT


Honda launched their first Dual Clutch Transmission motorcycle (the VFR12ooF) back in May of 2010, since then it’s popularity has grown with over 12,500 customers purchasing the technology in Europe alone.

In 2012 4 more models were released (the Integra*, NC700X, NC700S and Crosstourer) and in 2013 an additional 2 model (CTX700 and CTX700N) were added again.

So to show how much better 2 is compared to 1, Honda have released ‘The Dancing Man’ campaign to demonstration how much fun 2 can work together and how well they can perform.

The video is catchy so don’t worry if you watch it more then once, with some great gallery images and more info video’s connected to the ad, make sure you click through to find out more on this great technology and the models you can get it on.

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Watch Out, Les Flics Are About

Yes, it’s that time of year again when our minds turn to thoughts of a summer holiday. It may be that you decide to take a nice motoring trip across the channel on the mysterious continent. Be warned though; they do things differently there.

In Europe since 2013, national police forces and the relevant government departments regularly share the details of motorists who break the rules of the road in other countries. This means that the offended nation can chase offenders, metaphorically speaking, across borders. Thus the personal details of the offender can be requested by foreign agencies.

The UK government decided to opt out of this EU agreement which meant that British motorists who committed a traffic violation in a European country would not get their details passed on by the DVLA, should they be requested based on licence plate data.

All this is about to change. The European Court of Justice has ruled that the bill was incorrectly drafted and should have been included under the road safety directive and not the policing directive. You can see what’s coming can’t you? That’s right – Britain has no opt out of the road safety directive.

This means that British miscreants who offend local laws (no matter how innocently or inadvertently – it‘s the same the whole world over. Guilty regardless.) and are caught on camera can be pursued to their home addresses because the DVLA will slavishly hand over your personal stats. You see, in Europe the car owner is responsible even if they were a hundred miles away. In the UK, the driver at the time is responsible.

This no longer cuts any ice with the Euro-grandees. Offenders will receive a letter – in English – demanding that the penalty demand be answered and the fine paid. Our government will go along with this of course and at least it does have one positive side. Foreign drivers who commit offences here can also be pursued.

Of course, there is no legal UK obligation for drivers to pay. It can simply be ignored but be warned – if you turn up for your summer holiday in the same country where you may have committed an offence previously they will look for you, they will fine and they will impound your car until you cough up the readies. You have been duly warned. Drive safely and carefully in Europe.

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The Streets Of San Francisco

With the news that our government is considering making some of our streets 15mph, no-overtaking zones where the car will play second fiddle to the bicycle it would not be unreasonable for British drivers to cry, ‘Why is it always us?’

Well, if it makes you feel any better, it isn’t. The motorists of San Francisco, in the USA, are also under the sanctimonious cosh of the car-hating fraternity. Unlike British motorists however who protest meekly and then shrug, our American friends are not going down without a fight.

In this Californian city drivers have become, in their view, totally marginalised by their authorities in favour of the bicycle and there is now a burgeoning backlash from motorists. In fact, there is now in fact a growing political movement being mobilised to fight for drivers’ rights. Why, they even have a manifesto.

Basically they are sick of having roads narrowed to allow for cycle lanes and the loss of parking spaces to make cycle routes and pavements wider. They have also complained vociferously that while drivers are being penalised for breaking the rules of the road, bike riders are getting away with it without penalty. One rule for them and one for us, would seem to be the motto.

This organised protest has produced a list of demands under the less than catchy title of ‘Restoring Transportation Balance in San Francisco’. These demands have been presented to the City Attorney and have caused a community-splitting stir in the city that bought us the greatest car chase ever in the movie Bullit.

One embittered driver even went on to say, “The sleeping giant has awakened. Making the roads more congested for cars… by taking out parking spaces and removing lanes increases greenhouse gas emissions and pollution… If biking is such a great alternative, why are so many of them so surly?”

It is not the place of Motor Blogger to take sides. Our view is that it should be ‘fair play for all’. Nevertheless it has become a very contentious issue in the USA – more so even than here. With our typical British reserve we may not go to these lengths but it may well be time for drivers to speak up before the car is totally marginalised.

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Range Rover Evoque – Something Special

The Evoque is the glamorous junior member of the Land Rover family of prestige SUV‘s. The gauges on our car featured ‘crystal’ effect markers that turned red in dynamic mode. Your editor was a little uneasy about this at first as being a bit OTT but otherwise there isn’t even a hint of tanning salon about it.

Ev1 Range Rover Evoque   Something SpecialThe model featured in the image is in five door Prestige trim with a splendid two-tone paint job and a smart interior. Although this car came with some luxury accoutrements and elegant on-road manners it was perfectly capable of a serious foray onto the rough stuff.

The Evoque has been one of the most successful Land Rover vehicles ever made. It helps that the car loaned to Motor Blogger costs just over £40,000 basic plus, in this case, around £10k’s worth of options that buyers will actually want. A good deal given what you get for the money, especially considering the baby Range Rover has made further leaps forward with the introduction of a host of new technologies. These enhancements lower fuel consumption by up to 11.4 percent and reduce CO2 emissions by up to 9.5 percent – depending on model – and bring a range of new comfort, convenience and connectivity features.

Customers ordering vehicles from the 2014 range, will benefit from some new features, including a  truly brilliant new 9-speed automatic transmission that delivers improved economy, reduced emissions, enhanced performance. First shown at the Geneva Motor Show last year, the ZF-9HP automatic transmission is among the world’s first 9-speed units fitted to a passenger car. It has an ultra-fast response time and an adaptive shift programme that quickly matches the driving style.

The Evoque comes in four trim levels all of which are available in both 5-door and Coupe versions. As alluded to above, you have to add a bundle of additional cash to get the desirable extras. On this car these included the Intelligent Pack for £700 which features Water-wade sensing, Lane Departure Warning, Traffic Sign Recognition and  Headlamps  with Automatic High Beam Assist. By way of an extra flex of the plastic, buyers can also have the Lux Pack for a healthy £4,650. This offers a powered tailgate, fixed panoramic roof and a rather good 825w Meridian sound system.

The pack also includes a dual view touchscreen and digital television plus a surround camera system with tow assist, blind spot monitor, keyless entry, parallel parking and good old climate control. That should be enough to keep everyone occupied.

The driver though will not be thinking about any of this because he will be having too good a time driving the thing. This is because the Evoque can, in true Range Rover fashion, be set up to cope with a variety of terrain and surfaces but, importantly, it also has a ‘dynamic’ mode which offers car-like handling and driving characteristics for day to day motoring.

There’s the option of a powerful 240hp 2.0L petrol engine but most buyers will want either the eco eD4 150PS version of the 2.2L diesel for best economy or the perfect compromise, the same engine in SD4 mode with 190PS and auto stop-start which is the best choice. By avoiding a tendency to go heavy with the right foot drivers could well see 40mpg from this big car.

As you would expect, the interior is superb. Leather – obviously – with very comfortable and multi-adjustable seats and steering wheel. As can be seen from the image the centre consul is well laid out with most functions accessed through the touch screen. Drive is chosen from the now familiar rising selector. This is a very special car indeed and worthy of consideration – if you can afford it.

Ev2 Range Rover Evoque   Something Special

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Electric Car Gets Green Grant

Nothing unusual about that you would think, but what happens if that car is for sale on the millionaire’s aisle at the car supermarket? That’s right; courtesy of BMW and it’s new i8 sports car, buyers can avail themselves of this opportunity.

Drivers who proffer the required one hundred thousand pounds will qualify for the five thousand pound green grant refund. This is because the car can run on battery power.

The new BMW i8 is a part electric, part petrol engine hybrid sports car. With both power sources combined the car delivers 357bhp and 420 of your actual torques. Utilising this power the i8 will get to the magical 62mph mark in just 4.4 seconds which is, you’ll agree, pretty quick. Driven carefully, it is possible to drive 22 miles on electric power only before the petrol engine clicks in. For some, this would mean that a local daily commute is well within the capacity of this vehicle, especially with on-site charging being available at the workplace.

B11 Electric Car Gets Green GrantThe top speed is 155 mph and, as the car only emit’s a 49g/km of the nasty stuff, is free of road tax. In it, you will also be able to thwart Boris’s congestion charge police up in the big city. Thus it is possible for wealthy sporting motorists – the people who can afford it the most – to avoid paying the same taxes as the rest of us. Ironic, no?

The BMW i8 is a great looking car. It is broad and low and has dihedral doors that swing out and up like the wings of a flying insect. BMW insist that, in other ways, the car is ‘sustainable’ and recycled materials are used but they are being a bit disingenuous, we suspect. Still, you can’t blame them – they are in the business of selling new cars.

So if the buyers can afford to purchase this supercar then why not. The Government is set to top up the grant funding so this perk for rich drivers is still on the table. It goes without saying that in petty little Britain there are some voices calling for this practice to be stopped for buyers of the more exclusive cars.

But that’s just sour grapes, isn’t it? It is legal and above board and you can’t blame the car company for wanting to satisfy its clientele. Obviously, the scheme was originally intended for small cars; the idea being to get motorists out of higher polluting vehicles. The fact is however that this hybrid fit’s the stated criteria.

So why not treat yourself to a BMW i8. Sure, it costs just shy of £100k but remember; you get five grand of that back and you are helping to reduce pollution. It’s win-win.

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5 Great British Drives

Britain is a nation of car and travel lovers and, unsurprisingly, we are always on the lookout for new places to discover. This article will take a look into 5 of the best roads to explore in the whole country and, naturally, they are all located far from the everyday rush hour locations.

1. Buttertubs Pass – Yorkshire Dales:

Not one for the faint of heart, the Buttertubs Pass was once described by Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson as England’s ‘one spectacular road’ and we can see what he means. There are a number of steep cliffs which offer up stunning panoramic views, in addition to enough twists and turns that might make you feel like you’re driving through Monaco. The whole pass takes around 10 minutes to drive and is a shade over 5 miles in length and will be used in the 2014 Tour de France. It is definitely not one to leave you disappointed with its interestingcraggy landscape, though caution is advised particularly around some of the bends.

2. A537: Cat ‘n’ Fiddle

The so-called ‘cat ‘n’ fiddle’ road is another tricky, but beautiful road that begs to be driven. Located slightly south of the Buttertubs Pass, in Derbyshire, this has been named one of the most dangerous roads in the country, due to the sheer number of bends. A firm favouriteamong classic car owners, what could be better than a lazy sunny Sunday afternoon cruising around the corners in a best of British car such as a Bentley rental or an Aston Martin?

3. A272:

Heading south to the beautiful drive between Horsham and Winchester is probably the best drive for those living in one of the most populated areas of the country. On a quiet Sunday morning, you can really appreciate the large stretch of road in front of you and enjoy the surrounding Hampshire countryside. There are plenty of interesting bends and long straight stretches, whilst another highlight of this 1 hour 15 minute drive is that you pass the South Downs National Park, among the most beautiful nature spots in the whole country. One final advantage of this road compared to some of the others on this list is that there are plenty of market towns to stop off and visit.

4. Black Mountain Road: A4069

This is Wales’ offering in this list, and what a stunning road to experience. During low season this offers one of the best driving opportunities in the world, with little to no traffic and just an open, winding road in front of you. The quieter periods also allow you time to sit and admire the landscapes, including the flat top of Black Mountain itself. The A4069 is again around the 5 mile length and should be number one on anybody’s list if they are heading to Wales this year. In the winter months it is generally a quiet road and provides a great driving experience, although it is perhaps advisable to take a vehicle which can handle the British weather. A Range Rover would be the perfect example of this.

5. A896: Pass of the Cattle

To finish off this list, it is only natural to add a Scottish road into the equation. Perhaps the best place in Britain to drive is Scotland, given that away from the major cities there is simply more space to explore. The A896 is one road which simply begs to be explored, with fantastic bends which lead down to beautiful lochs, there is plenty to see. It also has the added advantage of being in the Scottish highlands, so it is unlikely that you will encounter too many other road users unless you go in July or August.

These are simply five of the many enjoyable roads to explore in Great Britain and whilst it is sometimes difficult to imagine a pleasant drive when you are stuck in traffic at 7.30 in the morning, it is good to know that there still remain some roads on which we can have a bit more fun.

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