Tag Archive | "citroen DS3"

Rally Portugal This Weekend

After their foray over the ocean the World Rally teams are back in Europe for the Portuguese round of the Championship this coming weekend. Following their spectacular return to the sport Volkswagen have got off to a blistering start running second only in the manufacturers stakes to the mighty works team from Citroen. VW’s Sebastien Ogier heads the leader board for drivers after a string of successes in the early rounds, backed up by Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen, all driving Polo‘s.

Following the snow of Sweden and the rocks of Mexico the teams are back on more familiar territory with Portugal offering the traditional loose gravel stages. With a mixture of open roads and tight technical sections this event tests drivers to the max – especially when it rains, turning the surface into a slippery nightmare. The abrasive gravel takes a toll of tyres and the teams have to seriously factor this in when planning their campaigns.

The usual format applies except for this year there will be a marathon leg when teams will have to compete over four consecutive special stages without any service interval. This will push the cars to extremes and show up those whose preparations have been less than thorough.

Citroen are fielding three of their smart DS3 cars this time with Mikko Hirvonen and Danny Sordo being joined by new boy Khalid Al-Qassimi. Overall the event is fully subscribed with seventy two entries over the various categories. A star entrant is the Formula 1 star Robert Kubica making his debut in this event driving a DS3 RRC. There are 6 M-Sport Ford drivers, all piloting Fiestas. Ostberg, Novikov and Neuville are the rising stars and the ones to watch for a surprise result.

Last year’s Portugal Rally had it all. Thunder and lightning and fog, missed opportunities and unfortunate exits; most notably that of the great Seb Loeb who misunderstood a pace-note and turned left instead of right. This is not something you really want to do at high speed on a gravel surface!

Fans always hear about the drivers and it is a shame that the co-drivers remain the unsung heroes. They have a complex job to do interpreting pace-notes, reading the road and keeping everything on track and all whilst trying not to be riveted to the seat with fear. In-car TV coverage means that armchair rally stars can get a driver’s eye view of all the action. In the UK this means tuning into ITV4 on Thursday (18th) evening for the highlights show. This channel will be showing all the rallies but it looks as though they are being flexible about which night it will be on! Make the most of it anyway because in the UK that’s all we get!

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In Praise of Small Cars

As you probably know, it all started back in 1959 when the original Mini first burst onto the motoring scene. What a revelation it apparently was. Here was a car that could carry four, park on a sixpence (old coin – don’t worry about it) and be repaired using only Meccano and the interior parts of an old sofa.

It set the tone for the future of motoring and the more time has progressed the more compact cars have become. It’s interesting that, despite the many improvements in automotive technology, nobody has really bettered that old original car for sheer smallness. Some have tried and generally failed. The present iteration of the Mini is vast compared to that tiny predecessor, but in the main, manufacturers fit a great deal into small packages.

The Ford Fiesta is a case in point. It’s bigger than it used to be but contains vastly more technology than the original version. It is also more frugal and actually looks far more expensive than it actually is.

Meanwhile, over at Citroen, the DS3 is gaining popularity faster than Nicole Scherzinger when all the boys thought she’d left that Hamilton chap. This diminutive car has somehow developed a personality that appeals across the board. It can be configured in many ways and thus becomes all things to all buyers.

There are city cars that rival the Mini of old but because of the bewildering array on offer don’t somehow seem to have that same appeal. They are economic tools for town driving and public interest doesn’t really extend beyond that. Yet these little marvels are capable of much more. Most of them can hold their own on the motorway and are perfectly able to manage distance work. In short, they are underestimated because the manufacturers don’t really push all their virtues.

Polo’s, IQ’s, Swift’s, 500’s, i10’s, Fabia’s and even Granddad’s favourite, the Jazz, are all cracking cars in their own right. All manufacturers have a small car to call their own and now Vauxhall are getting in on the act with the funky new Adam. Ideally, they’d have a chosen a different name but that’s a matter of personal choice.

The Adam is likely to take the market by storm, given its modern chic looks. Build quality looks to be superb. The variation options are called Jam (trendy), Glam (luxury) and Slam (sporty); so presumably the names were chosen whilst under the influence of an hallucinogen. This small car is designed to rival the Mini and aims to really push the boat out as Vauxhall are claiming that it would be possible to order over one million trim and colour combinations, which seems excessive and is likely to inspire some weird and wonderful choices. Still, Vauxhall won’t concern themselves with resale values but they have promised to ensure that customers don’t go too mad. Illuminated starlight interior roof panel anyone?

So, overall, the small car is king. Long may it reign.

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Driving in Europe

Britain is separated from Europe by much more than La Manche. That’s French for sleeve, by the way. Apart from the fact that people on the continent resolutely continue to refuse to speak English as their first language, they also insist on driving on the right. Why, it’s downright perverse.

On the plus side, whilst we may moan and complain about all the motoring legislation designed to thwart our every turn, as it were, the poor old Europeans have it much worse than us. Take France – well we’ve done it before! No, sorry about that. Just a little joke, honest. We don’t do xenophobia here. France is a wonderful country with an interesting culture. It is also the place where the original Citroen DS was designed and that is an enduring thing of beauty.

Sadly, they are also very fond of bureaucracy. The latest wheeze from the French legislature is that it is illegal to carry a device – and this includes sat-navs – that give the locations of speed cameras. Not very sporting, is it? If that isn’t bad enough, the government is installing hundreds of new, unsigned speed cameras and removing signs warning of existing sites. Can you imagine the furore if that happened here?

From the 1st July 2012, drivers, including motorcyclists, must start carrying a breathalyser and this law will be fully enforced from November. It must conform to a standard and be replaced annually. They are not very expensive but it’s another cost to the poor, downtrodden motorist. How long before we all have to carry a full set of car parts?

The rules and regulations change from country to country. Driving in Greece, for example, is not for the faint-hearted and fines, as you might expect in this cash-strapped country, are high and enforced. Across Europe you will be generally expected to carry, variously, one or more high-visibility jackets, warning triangles, fire extinguishers, replacement bulb kits and so on. If you are visiting a specific country then always ensure you check the rules of the road before departure. If you’re touring then take the lot and hope for the best! And keep right! On roundabouts, give way to traffic coming from the left except in Italy where experience has shown that it makes no difference what you do. So the next time you complain about our rules think yourself lucky you don’t live ‘over there’.

Maybe the answer is not to take your car at all. Hiring cars can be a little bit chancy so go for a reputable firm, but at least the steering will be on the right, that is to say, the wrong side and the car will also include the accessories you need to have. Returning to France, if you rent yourself a nice new Citroen DS3, say, you can blend right in with the locals. Baguette optional.

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Citroën Pass The New Car Test

As motor technology and design have improved during the first ten years of this century, so drivers have become more discerning about the cars they buy. Citroen is a company that has always been at the forefront of interesting design. Aficionados still speak of the now legendary DS model which featured hydro-pneumatic self levelling suspension and also the ubiquitous 2CV, beloved of French families for over forty years.

Recently the company have produced some very good motors but, just lately, there seems to have been a renaissance in the design of their new cars that re-introduces the fabled DS name. This new premium range, which started with the instantly popular Citroen DS3 in 2010, features a new DS logo instead of the more familiar Citroen double chevron. The original logo now appears instead as part of the front grill design. Citroen’s multiple world champion Sebastian Loeb is presently campaigning this supermini at the highest level of the World Rally Championship. Sadly, the version he drives is not offered to the average motorist but there are more powerful models available for the sporting driver!

The company’s featured packed website includes details of their Citroen Select Approved used car scheme. This enables customers to buy thorough the dealer network with confidence, knowing that the chosen vehicle has been thoroughly checked. Each car also comes with a package of additional benefits. In the unlikely event of a problem – in these austere times when everything seems to cost too much – it’s also nice to know that Citroen offer fixed price repairs. Their promise is that the price you are quoted is the price you pay and that their technicians use only genuine Citroen parts.

The DS range has been augmented now with the larger DS4 which incorporates a dramatic four door coupé body on raised suspension.  The DS family resemblance is retained and, to complete the set, April 2012 will see the release of the family sized executive DS5. This car is especially interesting as it offers within the range a hybrid version. This 200bhp car will have a conventional engine coupled with an electric motor delivering performance, four wheel drive and, it appears, a road tax busting 99g/km emission figure. It certainly looks good; so much so that the brutally honest reviewers at Top Gear Magazine, who have always been fans of the DS3, have pronounced the DS5 their ‘family car of the year’. Praise indeed for a company that, in amongst the Euro-design cars, dares to be different.

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