Tag Archive | "used cars"

Goodbye Freelander, Hello Disco Sport

On the very day the Land Rover Freelander 2 featured here was delivered for review by Motor Blogger, the very first Discovery Sport – the replacement for the venerable compact all-rounder – rolled off the production line. This doesn’t mean that reviewing the out-going car is a waste of time though because it continues to have much to recommend it as a great used car buy.6 300x192 Goodbye Freelander, Hello Disco Sport

I wondered if the Evoque may have taken some of the sales share away from the older car – given that they share engines and some mechanicals – but this isn’t the case, according to Land Rover. Since the original Freelander first appeared in 1997, the company have sold almost a million worldwide as at the end of 2013.

Indeed, 13859 of them were purchased by UK customers during 2013 so clearly the demand for this practical and versatile car remains.

2 300x205 Goodbye Freelander, Hello Disco SportAs the Freelander exits through the gift shop over the next few months the range has been pared down accordingly. Our vehicle was in fully loaded Metropolis trim with Indus Silver paint, Windsor Leather Ebony Seats, Ebony interior with Grand Black Veneer all set off by some fetching 19” Alloy Diamond Turned wheels. Our car came with the optional full-sized spare wheel – a must have for peace of mind I think. At around £35,000, this is not a cheap car but it is a very complete and able one. Land Rover reckon 40mpg should be possible on the combined cycle and that seems reasonable after a week of mixed use.

The first thing you notice is how tall you sit in the saddle affording the driver with a clear all-round view. Certainly, there’s a degree of body roll and I felt the steering was over-light, but the car always feels safe and predictable, plus there’s plenty of grip from the permanent four-wheel drive. Power is derived from the torquey 188bhp 2.2L SD4 turbo diesel via an excellent auto gearbox that always seems to select the right gear. I didn’t feel the need to switch to the paddles.

The Freelander is about cruising comfort. It’s good to drive on road. The suspension easily smooths out our ruined roads, There’s a pared-down version of Land Rover’s Terrain Response system on board, which adjusts the traction control according to the conditions meaning that this car can handle all but the most difficult gnarly stuff with ease, which is why it scores well against the more road-oriented vehicles from other car makers.3 300x195 Goodbye Freelander, Hello Disco Sport

Inside, the Freelander has benefited from Land Rover’s overall upmarket trend. The dashboard is a high-quality affair, with soft-touch materials and metal trim. As mentioned there’s no Terrain Response dial like you’ll find in a Discovery; instead you get a pair of buttons which scroll through the various transmission settings, which is fine.

The interior benefits from deep door pockets, a decent-sized glove compartment and plenty of storage cubbies, so there’s no shortage of space. The boot is massive offering 755 litres of space, which expands to a cavernous 1,670 litres when the standard-fit split-fold seats are folded down flat. The lack of a seven-seat option does limit the Freelander 2’s flexibility and overall people-carrying ability compared to some but the brilliant existing Discovery fulfils that brief anyway.

Although in some ways it is starting to show its age I still think the Freelander laughs in the face of more trendy opposition secure in the knowledge that is part of a legendary heritage. Still a great choice.Land Rover Discovery Sport 2015 0051 300x184 Goodbye Freelander, Hello Disco Sport

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When Cars Were Simple

At the last count there are 8,176 original Minis rolling around on the ruined roads of Britain, whereas its unloved replacement, the Mini Metro – sold by the last vestiges of the Austin Rover disaster – has fared less well with just 3,262 left despite being produced later on.

The Mini continues to cast its spell fifty years on and the latest versions, great though they are, simply can’t match the simplicity and sheer fun of the original. Open the bonnet of the latest model and you will be none the wiser. Open the bonnet of an original Mini and you’ll find it is completely basic. Anyone can fix it.1 When Cars Were Simple

As with everything in life, we have to move forward but not necessarily when that which follows isn’t as good as that which has passed. This is why the ancient wrinkly rock bands of the Sixties and Seventies can still pull huge audiences today. The problem with the Metro was that it wasn’t introduced until 1980 and it arrived too late with too little. Also, it is generally agreed that the build quality was terrible.

This should have been obvious to the crumbling Austin Rover empire. Had they listened they would have heard – way back in 1971 – that a vessel bearing something called a Datsun was approaching our shores. Presumably they though it was one of those exotic new fruits and thought no more about it. They were wrong on so many levels.

Records show that there are thirty four different Austin Mini models remaining on our roads. Some models are the last of their kind; someone is driving around Britain in the last licensed Austin Mini ‘850 Van’ and there are just 3 Mini ‘SPL’ versions left.

Only 3,261 of the badly-built (thanks to the ruinous actions of Red Robbo and the total incompetence and lack of vision of the management) and unloved Austin and Rover Metros are left on the roads with an amazingly high 77 model versions. Some are facing total extinction; there is just one Austin Metro ‘HL’ left and two licensed Rover Metro ‘MG Turbo’ versions remaining, it seems.

BMW has been hugely successful worldwide with the modern massive Mini and there are nearly half a million registered for British roads. One stand-out fact is that there are 206 different modern Mini models registered thanks to the extremes of customisation now available. Some of these personalised cars are going to be hard to sell on the used car market. When the original Mini came out there wasn’t this problem. The choice was, in the beginning, a Mini, a Cooper and a Cooper S – that was it. Simple, effective and a hoot to drive, it remains today the iconic British car and, like the Rolling Stones and others, continues to appeal by doing exactly as it always has done.

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Use That Air-Con!

When proper air-conditioning arrived in cars it was like a sort of heaven. No more having to open windows only to find that the air outside was as hot as the air inside; no more getting blown to bits by the wind and no more encounters with massive, dangerous insects, like wasps.

Air-conditioning is great, but there’s a problem. Because of the expense of fuel and the fact that we are told – and it’s true – that cars use more juice when the air-con’s on, we have taken to minimising the use of that chilly blaster, especially in the winter when we don’t use it at all.

This is a bad thing for air-conditioner units. The system uses a refrigerant fluid that is compressed and decompressed within a sealed system, changing it from a liquid to a gas and back again. This process absorbs heat from the air, thus cooling the cabin. Loss of fluid means the system won’t work.

If the air-con remains unused for long periods the pipes and seals can begin to dry out and start to leak. Because many people never read their car handbooks they miss the manufacturers advice to run the air-conditioning system at least once or twice a week  for between ten and fifteen minutes – regardless of the weather.

If the system stops working because it has lost fluid for the above reason – and this happens a lot to bemused drivers, especially of older cars – the car manufacturer will probably deem this to be a consumable and therefore not covered by any warranty. It will be your fault and there’s nothing you can do about it except reach for the credit card and have the system re-gassed.

On a new or nearly new car this fault shouldn’t happen. If something does go wrong then it’s probably a real fault and will be covered at the manufacturers effect.

Solution? Always run your air-con regularly, all year round. You don’t have to suffer an icy blast because you’ll have the heater on. If fact, running the air-con will help freshen the air inside a heated muggy car. Also, always ensure the system is checked – and re-gassed if necessary – at every service. That way the air-conditioner will always be tip-top and ready for work.

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Is the Porsche Cayman Better Than the 911?

Routinely, The Porsche 911 will always have more power than the Cayman and Porsche won’t have it any other way because, in their world, the Cayman is an entry level car and it can’t be allowed to top its fire-breathing bigger brother and that’s that. Or is it?

The problem is, as anyone who has driven the 2014 Cayman S along a twisting country road will tell you, the story isn’t that simple. What it lacks in power it makes up with really truly fantastic mid-engine road holding and on UK roads that can make a difference when the jaw-dropping, shrieking performance of a 911 simply can’t be exercised.

CAY4 Is the Porsche Cayman Better Than the 911?The Porsche 911 is a prestige car with a price tag to match. It can be a bit of a status symbol. Certainly, there is a core group of enthusiasts who drive the 911 the way it was meant to be driven. But a high percentage of 911s will see more duty trundling in traffic than hurtling about on a track.

In some ways the 2014 Porsche Cayman sounds better than the 911. The Cayman’s mid-engine platform puts that wailing, high-revving 3.4L flat-6 directly behind your head, whereas the 911’s engine is right at the back, muffled by extra bodywork and the very small rear seats. Believe the hype; the sound of a Porsche is mesmerizing. And it’s that much better when the engine is literally inches from your ears. You can even specify the optional sport exhaust if you want an even more ear-assaulting soundtrack.

Porsche placed the Cayman’s engine in the correct location. With a 46/54 front/rear weight distribution, the Cayman is, at least in theory, a superior sports car platform. Not that there aren’t benefits to the 911’s rear-biased 39/61 setup. Astonishing straight-line traction, for one thing, which can be augmented by selecting the four-wheel drive option.

Early Porsche 911s were known for scary lift-throttle over-steer. It wasn’t uncommon for enthusiastic owners to find themselves travelling very quickly backward into a ditch. Over the years though Porsche have engineered away most of the 911’s evil tendencies, while still retaining its other abilities, which helps it turn in with a powerfully effective bit of rear rotation.

With the six-speed manual, the base Porsche Cayman is 69 kilos lighter than the base 911 with its seven-speed manual transmission. There aren’t gigantic differences, but as legendary Lotus boss, the late Colin Chapman, once said, “First add lightness”. That’s as true now as it has ever been. You can feel the difference and it also means you’ll spend less money on wear item like tyres, brake pads and clutches.

CAY3 Is the Porsche Cayman Better Than the 911?Both cars have their pros and cons, it’s just that, arguably, there are more cons with the 911. As we’ve seen, Porsche have no intention of letting the Cayman eclipse the 911 but, on the other hand, the Cayman is way cheaper to buy. That’s probably, on UK roads at least, the reason that the Cayman is the winner on points.

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What They Didn’t Tell Us About Automotive Aerodynamics

Once upon a time cars had all the aerodynamic properties of your average house brick. They cut through the air like a knife through concrete. Manufacturers considered this and realised that they could make their cars more attractive and more economic by looking at the design.

At first it was all about the dart shape; obvious but uninspiring. Now, of course, aerodynamics has come of age and most cars now have slippery, complex designs. What the car designers didn’t say though, in some cases at least, was how dirty the back of the car would get. This is especially true of hatchbacks.

air2 What They Didn’t Tell Us About Automotive AerodynamicsThe aero properties of the hatchback are different from a conventional saloon because the more abrupt cut-off at the rear-end causes the air passing over the car to swirl around at the back. This in turn creates a vortex which sucks airborne dirt and contaminants back towards to tailgate and rear window. The result is instant oily dirt.

Some hatchbacks are worse than others by dint of their shape. With saloon cars the air passing over the vehicle tends to flow away in a sort of teardrop pattern. This is why you rarely see a saloon with a rear window wiper and why the glass seems to remain clear even in heavy rain.

All hatchbacks have one of the aforementioned wipers and also the means to squirt some windscreen fluid onto the glass. This is fine as it goes but it doesn’t really shift the more oily contaminants and the as a consequence the glass smears. Meanwhile the rest of the back of the car gets filthy and invites the odd rascally finger to write disparaging remarks about automotive cleanliness. They don’t tell you this at the dealerships do they?

The answer of course – and it’s the only answer because designers are not going to change their mind – is to wash your car more often. The downside of this is that the rest of the car is unlikely to be as dirty as the back hatch. This means the unfortunate owner is doing more car cleaning than is strictly necessary and that’s a pain. The alternative therefore is to buy a saloon. You might be considered a square who is not prepared to keep up with the modern vibe but at least you won’t have to wash the car so often.

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Automotive Facts You Probably Don’t Know

If you love cars then you probably know a fair bit about them, one way or another. Even so, the car had been with us for well over a century now and there are many facts associated with it that have disappeared into the mists of time. A mystery history, you might say.

Did you know, for example, that the first car accident occurred in 1769. Now, I know what you’re thinking and you would be right, because it was not a car as we know it but it very much was an auto-mobile.

A Frenchman, one Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot by name, was an inventor and he is known (although it is disputed) to have built the first working self-propelled mechanical vehicle – the world’s first automobile in fact. He took a big cart called a fardier and successfully built and fitted a device that converted the reciprocating motion of a steam piston into rotary motion by means of a ratchet arrangement. A small version of his three-wheeled ‘steam dray’ ran in 1769. The second one crashed into the wall of the Paris Arsenal. It is not known if he got a ticket. Amazingly, that cart still exists in a Paris museum.

The facts keep on coming: There’s nothing new about hybrid cars; Porsche built one in 1902. It was called, cunningly, the ‘Mixte’. Do you see what they did there? Also, and unbelievably when you consider how long CDs have been with us, the last car to come with a cassette player was the Ford Crown Victoria in the USA, which offered the option up until 2011. You can buy this as a used car now. Still time to dig out those old Carpenters’ tapes!

And – to paraphrase a famous actor – not a lot of people know that the world’s first speeding ticket was issued in 1902. Presumably the issuer wrote it out whilst walking alongside the offending motor. Additionally, there is no point in blaming foreigners when you get stuck on a red light because the first traffic lights were launched in 1927 in Wolverhampton, so we‘ve only got ourselves to blame.

The Chinese have invented a solution to traffic jams. If you contact the right people they will send along a motorbike to take you to your destination whilst the arriving pillion passenger gets in your car and waits it out until he can ferry the motor to your destination. Now that’s enterprise.

There is reckon to be around a billion cars on the planet now so it’s just as well that the car is the most recycled product on earth.

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Buying A Car Gets More Complex

In these times of advanced technology, buying a car has become much easier. Or so you’d think. Back in the dark days before the internet the process was basic. For a new car you went to the nearest main dealer of your choice. For a used car you trawled the local press or the venerable Auto Trader until you found you heart’s desire and went to view it.

Now though, the internet has become so sophisticated that you can do it all sitting at your monitor; but wait – is it really that straightforward? It is reckoned now that there are possibly more than twenty ways we approach the process of finding our new wheels.

If uncertain about which brand or model the process starts at the dealer and/or manufacturer or OEM websites, accessed via search engines. We might listen to dealer ads on local radio or on the television. Most car makers and many, many magazines, bloggers and other third party sites offer videos of varying quality showing the cars in action. We might even follow relevant information or people on social platforms.

We look at reviews and consumer advice; we share with friends or like-minded individuals. To secure our dream we must locate and contact dealers, compare prices and specifications and all of this happens before we get up off of our backsides to go and view the things live.

Finally, there’s the essential test drive and inevitable negotiation. So, back in the pre-pc era it was, frankly, simple and easy to buy a car – it just involved more shoe-leather. Now we jump through virtual hoops and the real joke is that we think it is easier!

There is another way. We are seeing the rise of the one-stop motor car shop. There are now websites and great apps like I Want A Car where prospective buyers can trawl their local area – or even further afield – to find that special motor. Surely there can be no better way of finding a car than by getting someone else to do all the work. Perhaps there’s something in this internet car search stuff after all.

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Take The Safe Route To Europe

From time to time we at Motor Blogger like to offer some hints and tips to help you on your automotive way. We don’t profess to know better – we’re just trying to help. This time, because we know that some of you will be driving in foreign countries, possibly for the first time, we politely offer some tips for driving abroad. Remember, they do things differently over there.

The weather in the UK hasn’t been great but at the time of writing this piece it seems like British Summer has finally arrived. This is probably too late for you if you have booked to head for somewhere with guaranteed sun.

roam1 Take The Safe Route To EuropeFirst off – prepare your car beforehand. An easy way to do this is by taking your car in for a service, if it’s due, but there are also checks you can make yourself. Obviously you should be doing this routinely anyway but always check tyre pressures – you never know what tyre gauges will be like at your destination – and tread, as well as topping up oil and coolant.

Going on a touring holiday means that you will be using your vehicle for long periods of time, that’s a given; therefore there will be attendant additional wear and tear, as well as a build-up of dirt. Make sure you make daily checks of the tyres, windscreen, mirrors and lights.

Be sure to take a comfort break after every two hours of driving to combat fatigue. This is especially true because the changes in driving conditions and rules will increase your levels of concentration especially as you will be driving on the wrong (that is the right) side of the road.

You’ll need to take appropriate documentation to comply with requirements of immigration and customs: driving licence, driving licence counterpart, vehicle registration document (V5), insurance certificate and passports (for all those travelling). You must display a GB sign on your vehicle unless your number plates include the GB Euro-symbol, assuming you remain in the Union.

Most countries require drivers to carry reflective jackets and warning triangles. Don’t forget, if you’re driving through France you are obligated to carry not one but two breathalysers. The word is that French authorities are not enforcing this but you never can tell. If in doubt about what to take, have a trawl around the ‘net and see what is required for the countries you are visiting or just passing through. Also, don’t forget to reset your headlights or risk the wrath of continental drivers!

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Civilised Civic

At Motor Blogger we get to drive some great cars and that means when the chance to drive what you might think of as an everyday motor comes along there’s sometimes a sense of being a bit disinterested. So it is great to report that, despite misgivings, the 2014 Honda Civic is in fact a cracking car.

It has been refreshed – apparently after customer feedback was considered – and the original rather angular design has had the edges softened off a bit. Mostly though the changes are under the skin; specifically to the Civic’s steering and suspension. The result, thanks to lower spring rates and more sophisticated damping, means the hatchback has sharper handling and more stability at speed – and it works. The Civic is a very good drive.MB1 Civilised Civic

The model featured in our snaps has the Honda 1.6L turbo-diesel motor with 120PS and torque of 300Nm (221lb/ft). CO² emissions of just 94g/km make the combination very desirable with a mix of frugality and decent performance. It’s by no means a fast car but progress is sufficiently sprightly to make driving a pleasure.

There’s also the option of a large ECON button when economy is the watchword. When pressed it optimizes the vehicle’s operation to maximize fuel efficiency. It also provides a driver feedback system to encourage more efficient driving.

Inside the design follows the company’s theme but now also now has improved comfort. The seats are very supportive and easily adjusted to find that ideal position. There’s new seat stitching, piano-black highlights on the dashboard and steering wheel plus a thoughtful driver’s kneepad on the central console. Passenger space is perhaps a tad snug but the boot is large.

MB21 Civilised CivicThe layout of the centre console is straightforward and there was no problems working the navigation, heating and ‘infotainment’. The car is offered with climate, cruise etc and there’s a host of safety equipment some of which are standard like ABS and so on, whilst there’s also an optional safety pack that includes seven different safety features activated via cameras and radars. This adds nearly £800 to the price but would be money well spent. N fact, the Honda Civic I-DTEC in SR trim like this one costs £24,860 including the rather fetching pearlescent paint.

The new Civic then is a true contender in the family hatchback market. Now in its ninth incarnation it is refined, well packaged and well built. It meets all the standards expected these days and is very worthy of your consideration.

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Budget Buys

We all have dreams. Some are harmless fantasies others shouldn’t be written down at all. In the real world life shows us that dreams are just that and most of us have to live with the reality.

So it is with cars. If your unattainable object of desire is a Bugatti, or Maserati or, indeed, any car ending in ‘i’, don’t despair, because you can still enjoy your motoring in cars costing £500 or less.

There comes a point in a car’s life when it ceases to depreciate in value. Provided it is in generally good order there is no real reason why it shouldn’t go on providing reliable service. There’s plenty for sale on well known auction sites and apps like I Want A Car and there are even car sales sites specifically aimed at cars priced under £500.

How about the Audi 80? Built until 1996 with all the aero-dynamics of a house brick, it proved to be a reliable servant until superseded by the legendary A4. In fact, you can find early A4’s within this budget. Then there’s the Peugeot 306, which has always been the choice for people looking for an excellent car on a budget. Don’t forget the ubiquitous Clio and Corsa, the Fiesta and so many more. There’s loads of these little gems around. These compact cars have already developed a huge cult following due to their cheap-to-buy-and-run nature; and they are decent drivers too, once you get used to their peculiarities. With their cost-effective engines they are all decent economical choices. Be careful with your purchase and any of these, or similar, cars will do the job.

There are drawbacks of course. Aren’t there always? If you buy a cheap car don’t necessarily think the insurance will be cheap, so shop around. Undoubtedly, any car you buy for little money will have some niggles so it helps to have a bit of mechanical knowledge; but there is a lot an amateur can do with some borrowed tools, a Haynes manual and a bit of patience.

The point is that it is still possible to have the pleasure of car ownership when money’s tight. If you search diligently then hopefully you’ll find a clean example that you can wash and polish and take some pride in. You can of course, carry on dreaming but one day you are going to have to wake up.


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