Tag Archive | "citroen"

The Citroen DS3 – Fun In The Sun

The Citroen DS3 has been with us for a while now and very popular it is too. There’s one thing the French company has done well over the years – with one or two notable exceptions – and that’s car design. The funky and fun DS3 is proof of that and the design has percolated up through the entire DS range.

MB2 The Citroen DS3   Fun In The SunFull marks then for the DS3 hatchback; but our featured car is the cabriolet which has a simple and effective folding roof reminiscent of the less effective Pluriel and, of course, the legendary 2CV, beloved of hippies everywhere. Because of the soft top boot access is tricky. The lid slides neatly upwards and out of the way but the revealed opening is constrained by the design. You have to stoop to see what you’re doing.

Fortunately, the gripes stop there. This is a very good car. The version in the images is the lively DSport THP155 (HP) turbo-petrol model. On paper the rush to 62mph isn’t especially frantic at 8.2 seconds but, through the gears, the performance belies that figure.

Performance is punchy low down and this really excellent engine demands you keep the revs up and avoid the slight initial turbo lag. CO² is commendable at 137g/km and Citroen claim 47mpg. We saw numbers in the high thirties in mixed driving. More economical and less powerful engines are available and less power would not, I suspect, detract from the fun of driving this car. This model though is loaded with goodies and with the extra power would be hard to resist in the showroom.

Space in the front is impressive and three people can get cosy in the back although it would help if they familiar with each other. With the roof up headroom is limited for taller folk but the point of this car is have it open.

Wind noise is minor with the roof up, and with it down, buffeting isn’t too bad up to 70mph, a standard pop-up wind deflector at the top of the windscreen ensuring conversation volumes can remain at normal volume.

The roof can be opened or closed in sixteen seconds and at speeds of up to 75mph, although frankly we preferred to slow right down. It’s good that it worked so quickly because it was opened and closed more than a lift door, thanks to the Great British weather but we were determined to have some fun in sun – however fleetingly.MB3 The Citroen DS3   Fun In The Sun

It’s easy to get comfortable in the supportive driver’s seat and the dashboard is accessible and well laid out. All the connectivity buyers expect these days is on board as are the usual safety kit; ABS, EBA and EBD and airbags all round etc. The dramatic 17” Bellone Black alloys are standard fit on this model. The Cabriolet has poor rear visibility with the roof all the way back but the good news is that parking sensors are standard.

Out on the road it is a blast to drive. Citroen have got the suspension just right; stiff enough for handling, soft enough for comfort. The steering doesn’t impart much feedback but it is accurate. If provoked, the DS3 DSport THP155 will under-steer but in the real world nobody is going to notice this. Overall the DS3 Cabriolet is refined, fully featured and a cracking drive. All this for under £22k.

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Desirable DS4

Your editor is a great fan of Citroen. Don‘t ask me why, I can‘t tell you. That‘s just how it is. Prior to the arrival of the DS3 the company languished in the doldrums of the Xantia and  Xsara but now, with the imminent arrival of the on-trend Cactus, Citroen may very well be on a roll. For the most part Citroen’s designers can usually be relied upon to come up with stylish goods and such is the case with the DS4, a great car that seems to be virtually ignored in the UK.

The car in the pictures is the DS4 DSport HDI 160 with a six-speed auto ‘box. Essentially it is a high-riding five door hatchback based on the regular C4 but with the DS family facial features. As it is not an SUV it must be what they call a ‘crossover’. It‘s certainly very handsome wherever you stand to admire it. I like the way the roof-line sweeps down to the deep spoiler and the rounded haunches. The rear doors have ‘hidden’ handles for that sleek coupe look.

Specifications vary as ever but there are three trim options – DSign, DStyle and DSport – but additionally on this car there are some nice touches. The 19” Cairns alloys are gorgeous (more on those later though) and the panoramic windscreen is a delight, giving the interior a light and airy aspect. In the unlikely event of being subjected to the glare of the sun however the visors not only hinge in the usual manner but also slide down to narrow the screen. Genius. The lid of the central cubby slides forward to make a handy armrest for both front seats. It’s possible to fiddle about with the dashboard mood lighting too.MB2 Desirable DS4

The rest of the interior is tidy and uncluttered.  The comfortable seat are heated, have electric lumbar adjustment but, rather oddly, only manual adjustment for height, reach and rake. At this money I would like to see all-electric adjustment. Things are a bit tighter in the back but normal sized people can cope and kids will do fine.

Driving, then The first thing to mention is the gearbox. It’s a six speed automatic that’s smooth in operation, has a manual sequential shift option – though not paddles – but is otherwise as you‘d expect. The four cylinder 2.0L turbo-diesel on this option offers 163bhp, which is fine, and 251lb/ft of torque so progress can be brisk, reaching 62mph is just under ten seconds. Thanks to up-rated suspension, the Citroen DS4 offers a sharper feel and is more agile from behind the wheel.

Steering is nicely weighted and gives plenty of feel from the road with a precision that makes driving the DS4 a pleasure. However, on rough B roads and the like the ride was a bit unsettled. This might be due to the big 19” wheels. There’s an option to select smaller wheels which will help the ride although the 19’s are so good-looking you probably won’t.

MB really liked this car although the version you see costs £27,920, which included special paint and some other extras. Go for the standard model though and you will have a very good car that won’t be seen on every street corner.

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Citroen C4 Cactus – Are We Ready For This?

At Motor Blogger we’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Citroen cars. They may follow the mainstream field mechanically but there is always a certain flair with design that is appealing. They could never be accused of being Euro-boxes.

C4A Citroen C4 Cactus   Are We Ready For This?At some point though designers can get a bit above themselves so it will be interesting to see how the new Citroen C4 ‘Cactus’ will be received when it is launched in the middle of next year. This new model will have protective body cladding and sofa-style front seating as can be seen in the images.

The C4 Cactus will be the first car in Citroen’s new C-Line range, which positions the brand’s mainstream cars as affordable vehicles and emphasizing practicality, fuel efficiency and low ownership costs. The protective cladding, which Citroen calls Airbumps, appeared on the doors of the Cactus concept vehicle unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show last September.

The Airbumps have air capsules inside and are designed to resist scratches and reduce damage caused by small impacts. They will be a practical feature that will save owners the cost of expensive bodywork repairs. We’re not so sure. If the air bumps get damaged then there will still be damage repair needed, surely? Maybe replacing the ‘bumps’ will be cheaper than fixing metal. Also you have to wonder what this cladding will look like after a season or two of British weather.

Before the company gets too prickly (!) we should allow them their say: “The material used for the Airbumps is very resistant and durable. It is similar to what you find in the sole of a Nike Air shoe. The Airbumps will protect the bodywork from small impacts, such as a shopping trolley hitting it in a supermarket parking lot,” a spokesperson said. Apparently these Airbumps can be personalised by ordering black and white or multicolour variations.

The sofa-style seating of the Cactus concept will also appear in the production model. “Putting in a sofa instead of two standard front seats is more expensive but it will create a feeling of comfort,” it was explained.

Citroen’s C-line cars will have simple shapes and plain surfaces unlike many cars currently on the road that have aggressive styling. Citroen believe that customers are looking for simplicity and comfort in their cars. This kind of reinforces the point that our vehicles are becoming more like lifestyle trinkets.

The next C1 city car, the C3 sub-compact and the C5 large saloon will follow the C4 Cactus styling. Every car will have its own design but simplicity will be at the core of the range. We’re really quite looking forward to this although we remain to be convinced. Let us hope that Citroen have not shot themselves in the foot with this design.

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Concept Cars – Has The World Gone Mad?

Soon, very soon now, the motor show season will kick start the Autumn and Winter months, bringing some light into our damp darkness. One feature that is sure to be of interest this year is just how mad some of the concept cars will be.

Concepts – often the result of years of research – are a way of introducing styling changes and possible future developments to the waiting world. In reality, the final production models will not look much like them at all.

Car designers are allowed free rein to come up with new ideas and the copywriters will have sharpened their quills to ensure that the greatest amount of florid hyperbole can be written into the smallest spaces on the page. Vehicles that are futuristic, wacky and just plain bananas are usually the result. The Citroen Cactus (pictured) is a case in point. This concept has ‘air bumps’ on the side to help minimise damage in the event of a minor shunt.

CAC21 Concept Cars   Has The World Gone Mad?It is crucial that all concept cars are given daft names. Presumably there is a point to it but who knows what it is? When Citroen were questioned about calling a car Cactus they got a bit prickly about it. (Only kidding! Citroen people are very nice!). Also, in today’s environmentally friendly world, the cars have to be clean and efficient. The aforementioned Cactus has an Hybrid-Air system. This is an innovative combination of tried and tested technologies: a petrol engine, a unit to store energy in the form of compressed air, a hydraulic motor-pump assembly and an automatic transmission working with an epicyclic gear train. Well done if you understand that but this technology could well be featuring in the brand’s vehicles from 2016.

If manufacturers are prepared to spend a pretty penny developing these cars then they make sure they make as much of them as possible. This usually results in the motor being loaded to the roofline with the very latest techno-gadgets and safety features. They will be bursting with touch screen technology and the appalling named ‘infotainment centres’. Whatever happened to radios? Now it seems it is possible to connect with the entire world and probably NASA as well. Houston, we have a puncture.

No news yet on what advances the car makers are planning to stop children destroying the back seats of cars or of special cloaking devices which makes the cars invisible to traffic wardens. These are the answers that motorists want yet they remain a distant dream. And they call it progress.

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When Petrol Is Best

Say what you like about Citroens – and people often do – but you can’t say that they don’t make an attractive car. Their whole current range are refreshingly good looking with just the right balance of family resemblance and uniqueness of design.

Take the new C4 Picasso THP155 MPV to give it the full title. It will be launched in September and, for the top of the range petrol version, will cost around the £24K mark. The equivalent diesel version will be about £300 more. One of the best features of this car is the sheer practicality. As the family motor it is going to be pretty hard to beat. The boot is the biggest in its class and is extendable by sliding the third row of seats forward or folding them flat. All the rear seats are the same size which means the more fecund family can get three baby seats in a row. That’s good design.SEATS When Petrol Is Best

In this class of car diesel usually rules and Citroen don’t expect things to be any different this time with buyers choosing the 113bhp e-HDI version in preference; but it doesn’t always have to be about economy and running costs. If annual mileage is relatively low or the folding content of the wallet is relatively high, the canny new car purchaser might instead opt for the petrol model for that desirable increase in performance and driving pleasure.

This 153bhp version should achieve around 47mpg – at least according to the official figure, as against the diesel’s more miserly 70mpg. Fair enough, it’s a big difference but on the plus side the THP155 is a sprightly three seconds faster than the diesel in the traffic light sprint, arriving at 60mph in about nine seconds thanks to its turbo-charged engine

With a new and lighter chassis underneath the C4 Picasso is nippy and the engine is quiet, smooth and flexible with plentiful torque which means it won‘t be necessary to keep shifting gears to maintain speedy progress. On the go there’s a lot less body roll and the steering is more responsive than on the previous model – important if you like driving. The overall design ensures almost no wind noise at regular speeds which means that progress should be nice and comfortable in the up-market interior. The luxury of massage seats is even available. Soothing.

Obviously, there’s another price to pay in that this sporty engine emits 139g/km which means road tax is £100 more than the diesel alternative but, just for once, can we not be constantly on this parsimonious route to total economy and instead simply enjoy the drive of a very good car, just like we used to?

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WRC Argentina – It’s That Man Again!

World Rally Championship drivers are at the top of their sporting craft. These guys can do more things with a car than we mere mortals can do with a knife and fork. When the legendary Sebastien Loeb announced his semi-retirement the other drivers must have thought it was Christmas – now at last they had a chance of winning a rally!

This came to pass when Seb Ogier won in Portugal a few weeks ago in the exciting new VW Polo. Last weekend it was the turn of Rally Argentina – considered by many to be the toughest of the ‘gravel’ events. Guess who shows up with a Citroen DS3? That’s right; the wheelmeister returns, yawns, jumps into his car and proceeds to win Rally Argentina for the eighth time. Ogier came second and Jari-Matti Latvala came a creditable third in the other works Polo. Citroen’s official number one driver Miko Hirvonen was unplaced; he seems strangely out-of-sorts these days.

Rally Argentina has everything. The special stages feature water-splashes, tight hairpins and high-speed straights throughout the rocky back roads. It is well organised and the stages are absolutely packed with hardcore fans. Many drivers were caught out and clearly demonstrated the strength of their roll-cages. The amount of punishment these cars can take is incredible. Next stop Greece at the end of May.

This is an exciting sport. The mixture of aerial and roadside shots coupled with live in-car coverage makes for great viewing, but there’s a problem. We learn that the FIA’s chosen promoter, the Sportsman Media Group (jointly with Red Bull), believes that the WRC is ‘boring’. Apart from what follows you’ve got to wonder why they took it on. They must have known what it entailed surely? Basically, it’s a time trial. One competitor at a time, but it is most certainly not boring.

SMG seem reluctant to sell this ‘boring’ product to TV companies. In a bizarre turn they seem to think that the answer is to sell ‘live’ coverage – but only of the final power stages. Often, by this time, the overall result is decided. The situation is confused and the comments above only really hint at the colossal muck-up they are potentially making of this Championship.

What do you suppose the car manufacturers will think of all this? Citroen, Ford, new boys Volkswagen and next year’s entry from a works Hyundai team are all in it to boost car sales, simple as that. The FIA are not noted for making sensible decisions and SMG seem to be on a suicide mission. It‘s not looking good.

We’ll see if there’s any resolution when we get to the Greek event. Mr S Loeb won’t be there to show the others how it’s done so let us hope for an open and exciting rally that will demonstrate that the sport can transcend the stupidity of the organisers.

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Compressed Air Cars

Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? There is a fair bit of air about and by and large it is free – for now at least. Owning a car that runs on air would be the dream of every cash-strapped motorist and, in the past, some manufacturers have looked at this as a possible solution but without any meaningful success. The rise of the electric car and the various hybrid options means that other technology has rather gone on the back burner but over at Peugeot Citroen they haven’t given up.

The company have presented a new hybrid that uses compressed air instead of electricity as the secondary means of drive and they are getting pretty puffed up about it. It’s called Hybrid Air and could potentially allow a small hatchback to run with CO² emissions as low as 69g/km.

The set-up consists of a regular petrol engine linked to an epicyclical transmission. Apparently this uses gears that revolve around a central gear in the same manner as planets orbit around the sun. This in turn is assisted by an hydraulic motor running on compressed air. The air tank is slung underneath the car and is recharged by regenerative braking technology.

As with any other hybrid the car can run on petrol or air alone, or as a combination of the two. Air power alone would, of course, mean zero emissions and could be suitable for city driving for over fifty percent of the time.

Inevitably this extra equipment means extra weight but it isn’t as bad as the common petrol/electric versions, adding about one hundred kilos overall. The simplicity of the system coupled with the lack of battery packs means no expensive lithium-ion content and Peugeot Citroen reckon this will help promote the science to the greener motorist. It should also make the cars more affordable. They also believe that Hybrid Air will offer up to 45% improved fuel consumption over a regular car with benefits also in range.

The company will show Hybrid Air cars at this year’s Geneva Motor Show. Initially appearing in B and C segment cars using petrol engines between 80 and 110bhp they hope to start production in 2016. The ultimate aim is to be in a position to offer well over 100mpg by 2020. Nothing as yet on pricing but it is very encouraging that Peugeot Citroen are investing in technology that could make a real difference in the long run on the expense of car ownership and the health of the planet.

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The Monte Carlo Rally in the WRC

Once again, this most famous of motor sport events will, in a few short days, kick off the 2013 season of the World Rally Championship as befits its iconic status. It is the longest running competition of this type in the world and sees its origins go back to 1911 when entrants were encouraged to ‘rally’ – that is to say, meet – at this historic venue. Slightly longer than last year, there will be 468 competitive kilometres of adrenalin fuelled action, run over eighteen special stages. The high spot as ever are the runs up the dreaded Col de Turini (pictured) which include a night run. Memorable.

Famous for the twisting asphalt mountain roads and an unpredictable weather mix when ice and snow are never too far away means that this is not an event for the faint-hearted. It is made worse by fans to will deliberately throw extra snow onto clearing roads to ratchet up their excitement and the driver’s fear.

This will be an especially good year as aficionados will see a new World Champion begin to emerge from the bunch. Now that the legendary Sebastien Loeb is curtailing his rallying activities after successfully securing the world crown nine times, someone else will get a look in.

The otherwise successful M-Sport team will no longer have factory backing from Ford – who decided to pull out, although they are allegedly having second thoughts – but will still mount a full campaign thanks to funds from the Qatar organisation of Nasser al Attiyah. He is presently on Dakar Rally duties. This year they are going for youth with a very strong first team line-up of Mads Ostberg, Thierry Neuville and Evgeny Novikov, three stars of the future.

It is also good to see the return to the WRC of Volkswagen, who are fielding a full factory team of Polo’s with three experienced pilots – Jari-Matti Latvala, Andreas Mikkelsen and Sebastien Ogier. The car is unproven but Volkswagen’s commitment to the sport is unquestionable.

The experienced Citroen team will be back with last year’s runner-up Mikko Hirvonen and the talented Spaniard Dani Sordo. We may well also the first run out for the new Hyundai team who are intent on running a full factory team in 2014. It is good to see manufacturers coming back to this top echelon of rally sport and may well account for Ford’s second thoughts. This change of heart is however mostly down to the fact that the WRC have this year gained full sponsorship from the mighty Red Bull organisation.

All this renewed interest and high anticipation does not seem to have rubbed off on British television. At the time of writing there has been no announcements from any station about possible coverage, even though an experienced broadcast company will be covering all the events. It is very sad that this most exciting of motor sports does not get anything like the UK coverage it deserves, alas. Keep your eyes peeled on the TV schedules. This year we are in for a treat.

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WRC Gets Great New Promoters

Rally fans rejoice! The World Rally Championship – so disappointing in recent years – has at last hooked the right promoters to bring the sport back to the level it achieved in the old Group B days; but hopefully without all the tragedy.

After much unnecessary faffing about by the FIA, it has finally been announced that The Sportsman Media Group and Red Bull Media House have signed up to promote this great sport in 2013 and beyond. With a household name like Red Bull – no strangers to active sports promotion – on board there is every reason to hope that next year will see a massive resurgence in the popularity of this great motor sport.

This announcement has been enhanced by the further news that nine times World Champion Sebastian Loeb is to retire from active participation at the top level; although he will contest a few rounds next year for Citroen, he won’t be in contention for the title. This will be good news for every other driver as Loeb has dominated the sport for the last decade, establishing himself as, without argument, the greatest rally driver ever.

Alongside the new promoters come some rule changes. Basically, it will cost less for teams to compete which in turn means that there will hopefully be greater participation from manufacturers. Already Volkswagen have confirmed a full blown WRC Polo Team, probably headlined by rising French star Sebastian Ogier. Hyundai will make a belated return and field a rally version of its popular i20 (pictured) with the intention of full commitment by 2014.

Over the years fans have been increasingly starved of TV coverage as time has gone on. This hasn’t been helped by the total domination by the mighty Citroen / Loeb alliance. In 2012, with no real promoter other an the individual sponsors for each event, Motors TV have struggled on with ‘day after’ highlights of each events. The commentary from Colin Clarke and Julian Porter is terrific but this doesn’t make up for the paucity of media interest.

Although the in-car shots are great it would be good to see more use of the aerial helicopter coverage too. The manufacturers need top media coverage to promote their wares. The cars look like the ones we drive (on the outside at least) and the sport itself is a truly exciting spectacle.

Let’s hope that between the promoters, the FIA, the World Motor Sport Council and the car makers themselves, 2013 will be the year that the WRC once again reached the heights it has previously achieved. Let us also hope that it’s free-to-air viewing too!

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Small But Perfectly Formed

My Citroen C1 has just returned from rugged North Yorkshire en route to which and during its stay it encountered all sorts of roads, terrains and weather. It ran through the briars and it ran through the brambles. It ran through the places where the rabbits wouldn’t go. It ran so fast that a Hummer couldn’t catch it – all through the dales of Yorkshire and on to Scarboro’. This little car has performed faultlessly. It kept up with the big boys and went down lanes too narrow for them. And they call them city cars. Frankly, my car laughs in the face of such sobriquets.

The point is that these small cars are growing up. Sure, a motorway express is always going to be better for long journeys, no question, but what if you can’t afford one or indeed afford to run one now that motoring costs have risen out of all proportion? Motor companies are beginning to understand that tastes are changing. For some, it is because the drip – drip – drip of the green lobby has finally worn them down and for some, to be fair, it is because they are genuine believers. Either way, small modern cars are becoming increasingly popular for all the right reasons.

For some of the more unscrupulous in the halls of government this is a worrying trend. Revenue from fuel and road tax is falling. Expect any day now for the VED rates to be ‘re-aligned’ to bring healthy electric cars into the tax bands, even though they were supposed to be exempt. The Citroen C1 pays only £20pa now and sips petrol so don’t be surprised if the fuel price stays artificially high. Just to remind you – this is the party that castigated those labour chappies for their ‘war on motorists’. Ha!

If you keep the revs up the Citroen C1 has zippy performance, The same presumably goes for the Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 107 because they are, effectively, the same car. It can only be a matter of time, as drivers adjust to smaller vehicles, that manufacturers will start to offer hotter versions of their baby cars. In fact, it has started already with the news that both SEAT and Skoda have shown concept versions of a Mii FR and a Citigo Rally, respectively; both were revealed at the GTI Treffen Tuning Festival in Austria. It is suggested that the SEAT Mii FR will not have any chassis or tuning upgrades, just that it will look ‘the business’. No word yet on performance upgrades for the Skoda Citigo Rally but it does look like a miniature Fabia S2000 rally car (pictured above with optional accessory). Brilliant!

As far as most regular drivers on regular budgets are concerned, the larger car may well have had its day. In the not too distant future small city cars are going to be big.

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