Tag Archive | "Ford"

Small, Clean, Green And Capable

In a time, long ago, 4×4’s were a breed apart. They were usually massive with thirsty growling engines that breathed out noxious fumes like enormous dragons with halitosis and an attitude problem. They were loathed by people of the green persuasion and were only acceptable if the driver was a farmer, a vet or a Chelsea mummy. Well, not any more.

With the technical improvements in diesel (especially the common rail direct fuel injection systems) and petrol engines, the motors in these all-purpose vehicles are much cleaner than before and considerably more economical too. What’s more, some models are much more compact and targeted very much at the family market rather than for, say, agricultural use. The manufacturers haven’t been slow in bringing to market some compact 4×4’s which, they claim, significantly reduce emissions and achieve in excess of 40mpg. Not bad for cars that should be able to handle general off-road conditions well. They’re not really full blown mud-pluggers but how many of us really needs that?

Take the Fiat Panda 4×4. The previous model was capable but a bit of an ugly duckling; the new one introduced in 2012 is not only very capable on and off road but is also good looking and a decent drive. It’s the only 4×4 city car, effectively, so if you’re an urban dweller who feels the call of the wild from time to time then this is the car for you, especially with emissions of just 125g/km.

No consideration of any type of car, large or small, can be complete without a BMW in the list and it should therefore come as no surprise that this German company has something that fit’s the small off-roader bill in the guise of the X3. The latest model is a great improvement on the old one (even BMW can get it wrong sometimes); it drives well on the tarmac and is quite capable of tackling more difficult terrain. It only comes with diesel options but a claimed 50mpg is a pleasant surprise and, coupled with CO² emissions of just 149g/km, makes this all-rounder a quality and stylish choice.

For something a little different how about a Hyundai? They used to make a leviathan called the Tucson but that has now be superseded by the much more acceptable ix35 (pictured). This car is a massive stride forward for Hyundai – its build quality and design make it a truly premium product. Buy it in the gutsy 2.0L diesel 4×4 version and you’ll be delighted with the low CO² and decent fuel economy.

There’s plenty of choice in this small 4×4 sector with cars like the popular Ford Kuga and Nissan’s excellent Qashqai competing with models from VW, Toyota and Honda. Although the gas-guzzling behemoths of old are frowned upon these days you can still have useful off-road ability that won’t shame you on the streets.

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Paris Motor Show

Ahh, Paris. City of dreams; and never more so when the prestigious motor show comes to town and reveals our Autumn automotive surprises.

There has been talk for some time of a long-awaited replacement for the iconic E-Type Jaguar. Well, finally, it’s here. That’s it in the picture and boy, does it look good. To be honest there’s not much there to remind us of the legendary predecessor but it most certainly is a Jaguar. If the performance matches the looks then we’re in for a treat. The company are competing well on price too as this will cost from under £60k up to just shy of the £80k mark. For this market and against the known competition this appears to be good value.

The Paris Motor Show isn’t just a chance for car makers to unveil their super cars; it is also a market place for the more run-of-the-mill cars that most of us buy and there’s plenty of exciting new developments in this sector too.

Hyundai have really pushed the boat out with not one but three launches. There’s a three-door i30, a rally ready i20 – which heralds the brand’s return to the World Rally Championship in 2013 – and also a really exciting eco-car which successfully counters the range anxiety problem with EVs. It’s called the ix35 Fuel Cell. Powered by a lithium-polymer battery and a 100kW hydrogen fuel stack, this car should be good for 365 miles according to the company blurb. It is due to commence production late this year and initially will be available to fleet operators.

As ever, Ford are pitching some great new cars including a new version of the well received Kuga, a hybrid Mondeo and the B-Max. FIAT, SEAT and those new dynamos of automotive industry Dacia are all previewing new vehicles. Dacia, in particular, are showing the Sandero – so beloved by James May – the Logan (a family sized car) and the slightly odd Sandero Stepway which is described as a ‘charismatic adventurer’. Rugged.

There is much to appeal to all budgets at this years show. Manufacturers are pulling out all the stops to revive the ailing car industry by building cars that are featuring all the latest technology and safety devices as well as stunningly good design.

For those that like to dream though; as well as the Jag, there is also the Maserati Grancabrio MC, a car so beautiful it will make you fall in love with anyone standing near it, and another version of the Porsche Panamera – a car we are growing to like despite it’s unusual looks.

So, something for everyone then. If you can afford to buy a new car this year then you are definitely spoilt for choice.

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Do Not Touch That Button

How much do you want other people to make decisions for you in the interests of road safety? Do you regard yourself to be a good driver, capable of making up your own mind as circumstances dictate? At the start of our driving lives we are obliged to take a test of our competence which would appear to indicate that society thinks we are safe to be let out on our own in a motor.

Increasingly, it seems that our cars are going to make decisions for us. The latest wheeze is from Ford with their – and this isn’t made up – Driver Workload Estimator System. Car makers seem to be increasingly pre-occupied with finding ways to take our matters into their hands. Ford’s new technology will apparently monitor several factors, the purpose being to decide whether or not you should receive a phone call.

For example: if the accelerator is being pressed, the indicators are on or there is movement on the steering wheel, any incoming calls will be blocked. So even with Bluetooth or a hands-free kit, if you are thought to be effecting a manoeuvre, it will be assumed that you are too busy to press a button. If the car is travelling in a straight line at a constant speed then the system will put the call through. And you thought some secretaries were tough to get past.

There’s something perverse going on here. The Ford system is being tested in America where authorities have called for a ban on all in-car distractions. Presumably that must include music or radio. In the UK, although it’s illegal to use a hand-held mobile, there are no rules governing hands-free. Yet. Why bother going to the trouble of inventing stuff and putting it in our cars, if, further down the road, health and safety officials are going to ban it?

Road safety obviously must have its place and statistics show that accident figures have been going up after ten years of decline. Driving, if not done with absolute care is a potentially dangerous occupation. The thing is, we all know this. Even the legendary Damon Hill has spoken up for a blanket 55mph speed limit in the UK on the basis, he believes, that most drivers aren’t capable above that speed yet, not so many years ago, we were free to drive our cars – without many of the safety aids we take for granted today – without interference. It is clear that the days of driving for pleasure are long gone. A car is now just an adjunct of your social life and like other areas of your social life is set to be controlled by other people whether you like it or not.

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Are We Nearly There Yet? (Part Two)

When it comes to buying a new car, or a used car come to that, the car that we want is the car that we want, right? Wrong. The car that we really want is the car that that we need. For most of us this is the financial reality in today’s economic situation when just the one motor is your limit. This obviously isn’t so much of a problem if you are single and fancy free but the family man has to have a different set of priorities.

Having children is a strangely anomalous state. It is wonderful, terrifying, frustrating and hugely annoying in pretty much equal measures and has a major and lifelong effect on your existence. Children in cars are often responsible for the hugely annoying bit, as we have seen earlier on Motor Blogger. So what sort of car is it that parents can happily buy in the certain knowledge that your children, at least, will be moderately content?

Clearly, you’ll need to satisfy yourself on the basics – economy, performance, optional extras and the like but then you’ve got to factor in the ankle-biters. The AA, bless them, have supplied a list of downloadable fun and games online to keep children amused at least for some of the duration of a long journey. They’re good too, but we’re also concerned with practical aspects.

The average family would probably favour a hatchback over a saloon for obvious reasons but what about the back seats? Naturally, you would go for a five door and it is useful if the back doors open wide – which implies a larger vehicle, like an SUV or MPV. Loading small ones into difficult to access child seats is not a lot of fun. This is where sliding rear doors come into their own. The 7 seat Ford Grand C-Max (pictured), for example, has sliding doors and a variable rear seat layout for maximum child effectiveness.

Some manufacturers also supply so-called ‘stadium seating’ – the rear seats are higher than the fronts – which gives kids a better forward view and is alleged to reduce travel sickness. And speaking of projectile vomiting, don’t worry about leather seats as they are a lot easier to swab down! It might be a good idea to avoid beige.

A twelve volt socket is a must, for plugging in hand-held games or, if you can afford the option, how about seat-back DVD screens for the more discerning square-eyed child. The average family car also requires more storage space than Cheryl Cole’s (né e Tweedy, for the purists) dressing room. It wasn’t so many years ago that we marvelled at the advent of the cup-holder. How naïve we must have been back then.

Most car makers have suitable offerings so it’s worth doing your homework first. The outcome is unlikely to be the sexiest option but both you and your children will be happier and that’s the important thing.

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New Car Bonanza

The next eighteen months or so will see the release of a bumper crop of new cars from around the world. Space is far too limited to list them all here but there are some standout choices. This spring Pagani will begin sales of it’s Zonda replacement, the Huayra, which is a lot easier to type than say. It’ll cost you a cool million, give or take, and sports a 700bhp V12, so if the petrol price crisis is getting you down then it’s probably best not to order one just now. Back on Planet Earth, Vauxhall are rather belatedly introducing a small SUV called the Mokka that is meant to take on the likes of Nissan’s popular Juke. It’s an attractive car with the usual suspects on offer for the engine bay.

Hot hatch fans will be delighted to learn, if they haven’t already placed their orders, that Ford’s 248bhp Focus ST will soon start rolling off the production line. This is a consistently popular model – rightly so – and now it is more efficient too. Renaultsport are craftily releasing their Megane 265 in April to try and steal some of the ST’s thunder. Peugeot are a bit behind in the hot hatch game as the new and highly regarded 208GTi won’t be available until much later this year.

In July, Toyota will add to their hybrid fleet with what looks like the cheapest petrol / electric car on the market – the £15000 Yaris, featuring the technology that’s been tried and tested in the Prius. These cars are beginning to demonstrate some appeal and for true city dwellers who don’t want to be doing with garage forecourts, the Mia Electric microbus is on sale now. It’s only got 24bhp on offer but makes up for it with a five hour charging time, 96 mile range and practical sliding doors. Pricy though.

Later this year Fiat will replace their weird but rather good Multipla with the 500L. The L stands for Large, so it’s the size of its predecessor but takes its styling cues from the dinky 500 and is built on an enlarged Panda platform. The usual options, including 4WD, are offered on this interesting motor. The lower roofline of the Range Rover Evoque has set a bit of a trend with, amongst others, Hyundai Velostar Turbo with which they hope to compete with the Golf.

Looking even further ahead, watch out for an Evoque Convertible (2013) look-alike from Ssangyong – the cunningly named XIV-2 – which features a fabric roof that folds back like the Fiat 500C. 2013 will also see a new old vehicle, as it were, the Plus E! That’s right; if you have a fondness for handlebar moustaches and string-backed driving gloves then prepare to be horrified by an electric sports car from that last bastion of Englishness – Morgan! Whatever next in the rush for new technology?

This is just a taster. Whatever happens to fuel prices or battery technology in the future then rest assured the motor manufacturers are working hard to keep motoring interesting. Keep an eye on Motor Blogger for more.

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How Sportscar And Endurance Racing Could Take F1’s Crown

Sportscar and endurance racing has always been a brilliant breeding ground for road car technology. The cauldron of battle that is round the clock racing breeds performance with the necessity of reliability.

Disc brakes, double-clutch gearboxes, variable turbine turbo geometry, carbon-fibre brake discs and direct injection petrol engines are but a few inventions pioneered through endurance racing.

As manufacturers look to tighten their belts and the outlay for a full calendar of racing in the F1 circus carries on rising unabated, sportscar racing for many looks appealing.

With a direct link from racecar to road car there’s real benefit for the manufacturer, too. And then there’s the fans, the all important fans.

Without fans there’d be no motorsport, so with ticket prices for a Grand Prix almost prohibitively expensive and a full week’s ticket for five days worth of action, including a full 24 hours at the twice-round-the-clock French classic in Le Mans, sportscars really could steal F1’s crown.

It could rival it for on track action too. With BMW, Lamborghini, Corvette, Aston Martin, Porsche, Ferrari, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Audi, Peugeot, Ford and other bespoke racecar manufacturers like Oreca and Zytek confirmed for the new 2012 World Endurance Championship – set up after the settling of a feud between the ACO (the organisers of the Le Mans 24 hours) and the FIA – sonorous sounding automotive exotica lapping within tenths of a second of each other would surely draw crowds. And at a fraction of the cost.

It’s close racing that makes good viewing, not one team with the most money – thanks to backing by a certain Austrian energy drink – waltzing of into the distance unchallenged. With sportscar racing you get that.

After 24 hours of racing at the 2011 24 hours of Le Mans, less than 13 seconds separated the eventual winner and the second place car – now that’s close racing.

Formula 1 is definitely the pinnacle of on-track motorsport – no question. But big-cube V8 Corvettes rumbling by, shaking your chest cavity making it difficult to breathe, and wailing Aston Martin V12s screaming past blurring your vision they’re engine notes are that piercing, proves there is more than one way to skin the proverbial.

The new World Endurance Championship will hopefully bring with it more fans, meaning more money, meaning more manufacturers, creating a self-perpetuating cycle.


With all that high-powered metal on show, we can’t wait to see how the inaugural season pans out.

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