Car Products Tested http://carproductstested.com Your website for car product and gadget reviews Wed, 17 Sep 2014 14:39:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 2015 Land Rover Freelander 2 SD4 Metropolis Review – Final Send Off(Road) http://carproductstested.com/cars/2015-land-rover-freelander-2-sd4-metropolis-review-final-send-offroad/ http://carproductstested.com/cars/2015-land-rover-freelander-2-sd4-metropolis-review-final-send-offroad/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 19:56:51 +0000 http://carproductstested.com/?p=13924

A real off-roader amongst its rivals, great all-rounder, luxurious & practical interior, good looks

Slight top-heavy on-road drive, fuel economy not great, narrow boot floor space

Land Rover Freelander?

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It’s the end of an era for the Freelander, as by 2015 it will be replaced by the Discovery Sport. Seeing a gap in their line-up for a compact SUV, Land Rover introduced the Freelander in 1997, with a variety of engines and models available. The first generation Freelander – which ran from ’97 – ’06 –  sold well in both Europe and the USA, but at the time Land Rover itself was being bounced around and sold from one manufacturer to another (BMW>Ford), and as a consequence various parts and engines were used (including old, outdated Rover units) and by the time the first-gen version was coming to the end of its run, it looked and drove past its prime, with earlier versions plagued with reliability issues.

2006 saw the all-new Freelander 2 (LR2 in the States) arrive, which featured tougher looks, better off-road capabilities, stronger engines, and a more luxurious and comfortable interior. With the end of the Freelander 2 now in sight, in 2014 Land Rover says goodbye with a final version that has upgraded looks, equipment and a new engine. We were sent the flagship 2015 Land Rover Freelander 2 SD4 Metropolis to review as a final farewell to the model. Will it leave us with a bitter aftertaste, or fond future memories? Read on to find out…

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

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I never liked the exterior of the 1st generation Freelander, especially the earlier models. It was just weedy-looking, and a sort of neither here-nor-there crossover that didn’t look like it was really up to the job of tackling off-roading. There was even a ‘sport’ version, which was utterly pointless and looked like it was embarrassed at its lack of Landy-ness, the black plastic trim in front of the headlights giving it the appearance of crying; “You can’t take me off tarmac! I’ll get muddy! Boo hoo.”

Thankfully, the designers saw sense with the Freelander 2, and made it look more like its big brother, the Discovery. Gone was the chubby-ness, replaced with with a wholly more sturdy and tougher-looking exterior. For the last Freelanders (2013 onwards), Land Rover chose to overhaul and upgrade the looks further by adding Xeon LED lamps front and rear, brightwork on the front grille and fog lamps, plus a few more slight changes to the looks and 3 more more colour options have been added.

The stylish LED daytime running light sections of the headlampson the Metropolis version are particularly striking, as thin and shaped bars light up, and surround a round bank of 7 super-bright LEDs, giving the Freelander 2 a premium, classy edge. Up close the Freelander 2 is bigger than I expected, with a tall front end, a squared-off bonnet edge and large upper and lower grilles. Really, it’s a fairly fussy front, but it suits this Land Rover. Any more blingy and shiny bits though, and it’d start to look overly-urbanised.

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As a size comparison, the Freelander 2 is very similar in length and height to the Toyota RAV4, and in fact the wheelbase is exactly the same. Down the side of the Freelander 2, noticeable are the large windows in the door and side of the boot, which give a real sense of openness, the standard panoramic glass sections in the roof – which gives the front and rear their individual sunroofs – furthering that effect.

Around to the rear, and the boot features a high load-point with the traditional flat ‘seat’ integrated into the bumper. Tailgate lifted up, and sat on the bumper with a sarnie and a cup of tea from a flask, admiring the Yorkshire countryside a fair distance from any tarmac, I felt a sense of satisfaction somehow. I think it’s because this simple thing makes the Freelander feel more like a proper 4×4 than its rivals, and more than a ‘sports utility vehicle’ (I hate that Americanism!) too.

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I also love the cool, stylish light units at the back: they’re similar to the Discovery’s, albeit smaller-sized versions. The only thing I dislike about the Freelander 2 exterior is the rear exhaust backbox, which looks uncomfortably low to the ground, and whilst ground clearance is decent it looks like it’d be taking the brunt of the damage should you bottom out when off-roading. Aside from that, in summary I really like the look of the Feelander 2, as it blends premium looks with a decently rugged design that makes rivals look rather wimpy.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

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I say that buying the last run of a model being replaced by a manufacturer is a good idea. This is because they usually throw everything on it, as they usually can’t use it on the car replacing it, hence you’ll get a load of top-spec kit on at a good price. This is true of the Freelander 2 to a large extent, as Land Rover have upped the specs of the final models. The Freelander 2  now starts with an SE spec instead of the old S, meaning that as standard you get upgrades like full leather in a choice of three colours, and two trim variants.

The updated interior now looks more contemporary, with a new centre console, instrument panel that includes a 5-inch information screen, Terrain Response buttons instead of a dial, 7-day timed climate so you can have your car toasty warm as soon as you start the engine, a faster satellite navigation system, plus ‘say what you see’ voice activation. There’s also now the fantastic Meridian surround-sound system in 380-watt or 825W variants.

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That’s the new stuff out the way, so what’s this 2015 Freelander Metropolis like to live with? First off, this is a very nice-looking interior. The newer design is combines style and class with practicality, robustness and durability. In fact, it’s not far short of the Disco’s interior. It’s just a shrunken-down version, that’s all.

There’s piano black and satin silver trim used throughout the interior, and it’s really well made and the build quality is superb. Evidence of this is shown in features such as the to retractable lid on the storage box in centre console, which has the perfect degree of spring action on it. It just proves that much thought gone into it, and it’s not just thrown together hastily.

The switchgear is superbly well placed, with sizeable controls that are both user and glove-friendly. The heated steering wheel is grippy, comfortable to hold and just the right thickness too.

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Its front seats are very comfortable and supportive, if a little short on the legs. The can be lifted high up for a commanding view, and the driver’s 8-way adjustable seat can be gotten ‘just right’ for whoever’s driving. The adjustable armrests are definitely a good feature too, and worth spec’ing (they come as a package with heated/electrically-adjustable chairs) if you’re buying the SE or SE Tech.

In the rear, the seats are also decently comfortable  – even the centre one isn’t half bad – although I’d have preferred a slightly more raked backrest angle. Leg and head room is fine, and the thick door-card panels give a sense of class and solidity to the interior. As mentioned earlier, the cabin feels exceptionally airy thanks to the Freelander’s large windows and individual front/rear sunroofs. I like the fact the sunroof net blind (on the front ‘roof) stays in place when the glass is open so you’re still shaded.

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The 17-speaker, 825W Meridian sound system (standard on the Metropolis) is outstanding, and the touchscreen is the version used in newer Jaguar and Land Rover models, which I’ve reported as excellent in the past, and the sat nav is one of the best out there for ease of use and clear mapping.

Opening the tailgate, the Freelander 2 provides 755 litres behind the rear seats, and 1,670 with them down. That’s a large amount of space but I was trying to fathom why it didn’t appear to be any bigger than its competitor such as the Honda CR-V, Volkswagen Tiguan, Volvo XC60 and the Mitsubishi Outlander, when in actual fact it is. Then it dawned that the rear wheel arches take up a fair amount of floor space, thus hindering it to a degree. Aside from that, it’s a good amount of space.

Click to view slideshow.

Overall the Freelander’s interior is excellent, but a couple of things I picked up on are that the A pillars are thick at the base, impairing vision, and secondly that the front cup holders have rubber grips that are overly thick, and hold drinks in place too well. Bottles are fine, but should you buy a takeout coffee or soft drink, the holders grip them so tight that you can’t get them out without spilling the drink, or worse, tearing the cardboard cup – a very bad design indeed. A small point, but a worthy one.

Engine & gearbox

UK versions of the Freelander 2 now only come with a choice of two diesel engines: TD4 and SD4. Both are turbocharged 2.2 litre, 4-cylinder (in-line) units. The TD4 gets 148 bhp and 310 lb ft (420 Nm) of torque. The SD4 has the same torque but produces more power at 187 bhp. Speed-wise, the TD4 does the 0 – 60 mph run in 10.9 seconds and hits 112 mph at the top, while the SD4 take 8.7 and a has a max of 118 mph.

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There’s only a 6-speed manual gearbox – only available on the TD4 – and a 6-speed auto which can only be had on the SD4. Oh, and there’s no longer a 2-wheel-drive version available anymore, as the 4WD is standard. Good! Official UK mpg economy stats for the SD4 we tested are: urban: 35.2, extra urban: 48.7, combined: 40.4. The TD4 gets approximately 2 – 6 mpg more. Co2 emissions on the SD4 are 185 g/km.

Real-life fuel stats showed an average of 31.2 mpg over 120 motorway miles, and around 28 – 30 mpg average on mixed routes. Not exactly great then. At around 40 mph, the live reading did show a return of around 42 miles-per-gallon, so it does do okay if you’re very careful with the right foot.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

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For me, driving a decently rugged 4×4 gives a sense of satisfaction – it’s ready for almost anything you can throw at it on the road, and you can use it year-round without worry. The Freelander 2 gave me that same feeling from the moment I clunked shut the heavy driver’s door and fired the smooth SD4 diesel into life.

This thing will take you through the worst of the weather, and over roads that are more trail than tarmac. Whilst the Freelander 2 may be the baby of the family, when developing it Land Rover apparently put it through its paces – and then some. It was pushed to its limits by being driven in extreme temperatures (- 40˚C to +50˚C) and environments, such as a mooch about at 14,000 feet. So you can be assured that a drive down snow-covered country roads in -5˚, or one down a rough and boggy farm track, or simply a motorway trip when there’s standing water about, is barely testing the Freelander’s capabilities.

That’s great to know, and I’ll cover more about its 4×4 abilities in the next section. For now though, what’s it like to live with normally? For starters, it’s a very easy car to drive in the city. Let’s face it, many people driving the Freelander 2 will be doing just that. It offers good vision all-round, and the Freelander itself isn’t large enough to be intimidating to drive down say, narrow streets, or to park in tight spaces. A decent turning circle helps things too.

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The suspension set-up and all-round coil springs and on the Freelander are pleasantly supple over the bits of road the councils can’t be bothered to fix (which is almost all of it), and the comfortable seats soak up any extra roughness after that.

On a motorway run the Freelander 2 is a pleasant and fairly quiet place to be, as overall there’s good sound deadening from the wind and road. The one thing I noticed was that at higher speeds (around 70 mph) there was obvious road noise coming from the wheel arch at each side. It’s not overly intrusive, but it is there.

The Freelander cruises beautifully, and although it has the older 6-speed auto rather than the new 8, the ratios are well spaced and 6th is long enough to mean a relaxed engine. 70 mph @ approx. 1,800 rpm is fine by me.

The automatic transmission goes through the gears smoothly too, and I never had any issues whether I was gunning it hard or letting it do its own thing in city traffic. A country road blast showed the Freelander copes fine grip-wise, thanks to its permanent 4WD system, but it does feel slightly top-heavy, and there’s a little more roll than I’d have thought. However, I can forgive it that as the Freelander isn’t your average small SUV when it comes to off-roading. On that note…

AWD and off-road. Stuck or superb?

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Ah yes. 4×4-ing. Here at CarProductsTested, we love a good bit o’ off-roading, and since Land Rover have mucho faith in their vehicles in that department, they’re happy to let us have a play about in the mud with them. Let the fun begin.

As mentioned, the Land Rover Freelander 2 feels much more like a ‘real’ 4×4 than the average smaller SUV. You’re sat up really high and it offers good visibility all-round – aside from those thick A-pillars, that is – meaning that squeezing down narrow dirt tracks or placing the car where you want on a particularly testing bit of ground is easy. The huge wing mirrors also play their part in this.

We’ve tested and driven a whole host of 4x4s, and you know almost immediately whether one is built for the rough stuff or not. In this case, the Freelander 2 felt planted and solid as soon as I drove off-road and onto the rough stuff, like it’s at home over this sort of terrain and made for it, rather than it being designed just for the occasional venture off the tarmac.

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The Freelander 2 SD4 comes with Terrain Response which has three off-road settings: Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud & Ruts, and Sand. Selecting them is foolproof: simply press the arrow button until it lights up on the one you want, and that’s it. This then adjusts the powertrain and traction control system accordingly to ensure the best grip.

There’s also Hill Descent Control, which can be manually turned on, and Gradient Release Control to make sure the Freelander doesn’t run away with itself up or down steeply-angled routes. Still not convinced? There’s also a 500 mm wading depth and 210 mm of ground clearance.

Test time. Pulling off the road, the Freelander is immediately met with deep, dried ploughed sections of field, and I select ‘Mud Ruts’ on the Terrain Response to how it’ll combat them. This setting automatically switches on downhill descent, which works as the wheels dip in and out of the deep delves, keeping the Freelander moving forward at a slow-enough pace to avoid undercarriage damage. It tackles them with zero issues and we’re out the other side, down a dirt track and into an off-road area.

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A narrow waterlogged track is our next target, and the Land Rover deals with them no problem as well. At one end the central section between the ruts becomes too high for the Freelander’s undercarriage, and we need to get out. Climbing the sides of the ruts is no easy task on non-offroad tyres, but the Land Rover does it anyway after just a couple of attempts.

Once out, we head over to a section of water. We’ve been here before, and know that underneath it is a mixture of slime and slick mud. It’s not easy stuff to get through, especially as you’re also wading through fairly deep water. Again though, the Freelander takes it in its stride. The 500 mm wade depth was throughly tested several times over, and no water got into the cabin at all.

The only real negative I could find with the Freelander is that the rear exhaust back-box is slung low and will likely be the first thing to get dented or ripped off should you do anything more serious than what we did. If you were serious about your off-roading, an aftermarket system may offer a smaller alternative.

Price

(prices accurate August ’14). Priced between £27,700 – £35,000, the Land Rover Freelander 2 is not a cheap vehicle when compared with rivals. However, the build quality and overall finish of the car makes it feel worth every penny of that. You’re not just buying a small part-time-type SUV here, but one that is built to tackle the rough stuff, and it’s more proper 4×4 than anything else.

The competition consists of cars like the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross ALLGRIP, Mazda CX-5 AWD, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outlander and Kia Sportage. More in its price bracket are the Volkswagen Tiguan, Audi Q5, and Volvo XC60.

2015 Land Rover Freelander 2 SD4 Metropolis verdict & score

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I think it’s a real pity that Land Rover have decided to drop the Freelander 2. I thinks it’s a rather good all-rounder, and a great way to get entry into owning a Land Rover branded vehicle without too high-a-cost, and whilst there is the Evoque for that, I believe the Freelander had its own place in the line-up.

Whatever is said though, it’s going to be taken out of the range soon, but this is definitely one to go test drive if you’re in the market for that sort of sized SUV. I think you’ll love the quality and toughness of it, and becuase Land Rover are chucking everything on it before it finishes, the time to buy one is just before they end. So, bitter aftertaste, or fond future memories? The latter, for sure.

Do you own a Land Rover Freelander 2? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  8
Interior  8
Engine (SD4)  7.5
Gearbox  7.5
Price  6.5
Handling  6.5
Drive & Ride  7.5
AWD & off-road ability  8
Overall Score  7.5 / 10

Specs

Model (as tested)  2015 Land Rover Freelander 2 SD4 Metropolis
Spec includes  19″ alloy wheels, Xenon & LED headlights, front fog lamps, panoramic roof, cruise control, electric adjustable & heated wing mirrors, 7 airbags, ABS, DSC, ETC, EBA, EBD, CBC, Roll Stability Control, Hill Decent & Gradient Release Control, Terrain Response, 7″ touchscreen entertainment system with sat nav, bluetooth, rear-view camera etc, 825W Meridian sound system, See website for more info
Options you should spec  Privacy glass: £350
The Competition  Suzuki SX4 S-Cross ALLGRIPMazda CX-5 AWDSubaru ForesterToyota RAV4Honda CR-VMitsubishi OutlanderKia Sportage, Volkswagen Tiguan, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60.
Price  (April ’14) £27,700 – £35,000
Engine  Diesel, 2.0 litre, 4-cylinder in-line, turbocharged
Power, Torque  Power: 187 hp | Torque: 310 lb ft (420 Nm)
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Full-time 4-wheel-drive with Terrain Response | 6-speed automatic
Ground clearance, Wading depth,  Towing Capacity  Clearance: Minimum 210 mm (8.2″) | Wading: 500mm (19.7″) | Braked towing: 2,000 kg’s (4,409 lbs)
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 118 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 8.7 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: Adult: 5-stars (2007 model rating)
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 35.2, Extra urban: 48.7, Combined: 40.4 | | CO2: 185 g/km
Weight (kerb)  1,805 kg’s (3,979 lbs)
Websites  Land Rover UK, Land Rover USA, Land Rover Worldwide

Check out our other Land Rover reviews here

Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

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2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux review – Updated Swedish Exec Gets Greener http://carproductstested.com/cars/2015-volvo-s80-d4-geartronic-se-lux-review-updated-swedish-exec-gets-greener/ http://carproductstested.com/cars/2015-volvo-s80-d4-geartronic-se-lux-review-updated-swedish-exec-gets-greener/#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 16:11:24 +0000 http://carproductstested.com/?p=13991

Super-comfortable, luxurious and refined cabin, D4 engine is superb, lovely drive, safe & tough, well-priced

Exterior still dated, ridiculously-placed lumbar support controls

Volvo S80?

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The S80 was launched in 1998 and headed up Volvo’s range of cars as the leading executive model. It’s big, luxurious and safe and from the beginning sold well as an affordable luxury car. For 2015 the S80 benefits from a facelift and a more sophisticated look, plus two new engines added. We were sent the 2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux to review and find out if it’s as nice to drive with the all-new D4 diesel…

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

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The 2015 S80 exterior design continues on a very similar line to the original first-gen car, although more aerodynamic, less boxy and more sophisticated. There’s not huge amount of difference in appearance to the last version, and the updates are fairly subtle at first glance. Take another look though and you’ll see new bumpers front and rear, with wider upper and lower grilles, chunky styling sections each side of the front which house slivers of chrome trim, while a slatted lower grille holds new daytime running lights.

Aside from this there’s the same big, beefy front end as before. The S80 gives an impression of solidity and strength, and to extent it’s quite a muscular looking thing. For myself and others, the S80’s bulky and strong design emphasises its physical strength in terms of safety – and this is a very safe car. If you want todo a quick test of how solidly-built the S80 is, tap your knuckles against the panels and you’ll hear a much duller thud than most cars, which again reemphasises the fact you’re buying something very well built.

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The S80 actually looks best from a rear three-quarter angle. The wide rear has big, shapely (and super-bright) LED light clusters, a high boot lid and twin exhaust exits (on this version) for a sporty look.The C-pillar is massively thick, and a heavy shoulderline runs fully front to rear for a uniform appearance. On the subject of those rear LED lights, while it’s safe to have them nice and bright, I can tell you from the personal experience of being sat behind one in stop-start traffic – and the S80’s driver holding his foot on the brake the entire time – that they are ridiculously, unnecessarily glaring when you are sat a few feet behind. After 15 minutes of their brakes being on, my vision had red spots when I looked away, and I started with a headache. With all Volvo’s tech advancements, surely they can come up with a way limit their brightness when in nose-to-tail traffic?

I can’t describe the S80 as handsome, or particularly striking either, and in actual fact when comparing it with rivals like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Lexus GS, Infiniti Q50 or Audi A6 it’s really quite conservative. Whilst I realise that Volvo have their own unique and distinctive clearly identifying designs that run throughout the range, I also believe the S80’s exterior needs to be more modern, and perhaps less subtle than it is now.

Click to view slideshow.

In fairness the Volvo S80 looks better in the flesh than in photographs, and it certainly makes an impression as a big exec car when you’re next to it. To make the most of its looks, choose the colour wisely, and pay the extra for a set of the 18-inch wheels, as they make a world of difference to the appearance.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux review front seats and drivers controls

 

I’m almost always impressed by the cabins on modern Volvos, due to their good build quality, styling, and use of quality materials. The S80 is no different, with even the base D2 version getting beautiful full leather seats and milled aluminium trim as standard. Personally, I love the ‘Soft Beige’ (cream) coloured leather as it just adds that extra bit of class.

More standard kit includes electronic climate control with an air quality system and pollen filter, Sensus navigation system with Bluetooth, DAB radio, USB and aux inputs, plus a high performance sound audio system. So, even if you opt for the lowest S80 you’re still getting a great interior that looks identical to the higher models.

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Opening a door of the S80 and you’re struck by how nicely styled the interior is. Our test car had the optional walnut wood trim, and whilst it might not be to everyones taste there’s no denying it’s well done. The walnut is deep and rich, with a thick layer of lacker to keep it that way. The centre console is edged with beautiful satin-finished trim, and every button and knob presses or turns with such positivity that you can’t help feeling there’s much care and attention gone into almost every aspect of the S80’s cabin.

Only one thing caught my eye as being a little out of keeping and that was the slide-back lid of the storage compartment in the centre console, which in walnut looked like the roller-shutter on Seventies desk.

The steering wheel is just the right diameter, and is extremely comfortable, which may sound  like a strange thing to point out but if you used it, you’d know what I mean. The 11 controls on it are clearly marked and user-friendly – exactly how those controls should be. The aforementioned ‘floating’ centre console looks great but as I mention in our other Volvo reviews there are too many buttons on it and to a large degree it goes against Volvo’s push for having the safest cars on the road as it can be distracting finding what you want.

Back onto positive stuff, and the infotainment screen combines super-sharp, contemporary graphics with intuitive menus and a simple, yet brilliant idea: a digital car user-manual! Why is this not on more cars? The instrument panel features mainly digital gauges and info screens, which are well laid out and highly readable, and they’re also customisable too.

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Slide into either of the superb-looking front seats and you’ll let out a sigh of contentment. They’re are exceptionally comfortable yet supportive at the same time. Every passenger I had loved the front seats, and there’s only one rather stupid point that I can only see as a mistake by Volvo: the lumbar adjuster wheel is placed on the inner-side of the seats and mostly blocked by the centre armrest thus making using it an absolute pain to turn. Considering Volvo’s high attention to detail, this is a very strange thing to do.

Onto the rear seats, and they are also wonderfully comfortable and you sink into them in a very satisfactory way. The backrest is also reclined at an almost-perfect angle, and any passengers had nothing but positivity for them. Thoughtfully, there are variable air vents in each B pillar which seems like a small point, but it goes a long way to making the journey a more pleasant one for those in the back.

Click to view slideshow.

Viewing the car from the outside, you’d be forgiven for thinking boot space was large. However, this is a saloon and so while it’s fairly wide and long, vertically it’s lacking and therefore much limits what can go in. Picking two people up from the airport, their two large suitcases almost filled the boot, and I definitely wouldn’t have fitted a third in, even if it was a small one. The rear seats do drop down for more room but you’re still very much limited over a hatchback. One redeeming feature is the flip-up partition which stops shopping bags and other gear sliding all over the boot.

Click to view slideshow.

All said though, I still really like the S80’s interior. It’s clearly high quality throughout, there’s a lot of class about it, and even though it’s maybe not as modern-looking as some of the other executive models out there, it’s nicely styled and there’s a good degree of character about it, which is more than a few of the others can say. I believe it’d benefit from a touchscreen and doing away with a lot of the button on the floating console though.

Engine & gearbox

From 2014 onwards, Volvo’s are starting to go over to their new Drive-E engines. From now on, petrol and diesel engines will be the latest two-litre, 4-cylinder units. Two engines will replace the current eight available, but they will obviously also be available with more or less power. If you’re fearing tinny, gutless engines, fear not, as Vovlo reckon the supercharged and turbocharged petrol engine will be available with V8-like power, and it’ll also feel like a big naturally-aspirated engine. The diesels are also twin-turbo so there’ll be a heaps of smooth torque available too. Drive-E diesels will range from 120 to 230 horsepower, and petrol versions will start at 140 hp and go all the way up to 300+ bhp.

The new D4 diesel engine features world-first i-ART technology that helps to cut fuel consumption. With pressure feedback from each fuel injector instead of using a traditional single pressure sensor in the common rail, i-ART makes it possible to continuously monitor and adapt fuel injection per combustion in each of the four cylinders. The new 4-cylinder engines will be 50 kilograms lighter than a V6, and smaller too, whilst providing big power and torque throughout the rev range.

From the ground up, the 2014 onwards Drive-E engines (built at Volvo Car Group’s engine plant in Skövde, Sweden) are prepared for future electrification from the start. Key components, such as the Integrated Starter Generator, can be connected easily – and the compact size of the four-cylinder engines means that the electric motor can be fitted in the front or rear of the vehicle. The battery pack will be located in the centre of the car.

2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux review-8214

There’s also a new 8-speed gearbox available, and it’s a clever thing too. Above 40 mph (65 km/h) ‘Eco Coast’ mode kicks in, disconnecting the engine brake and allowing coasting. Less resistance means better economy, and not having to accelerate back up to speed as much as before. Neato. The S80 comes with three types of diesel engines: D2 & D4, which are 4-cylinder, and a 5-cylinder D5.Our tester had the D4 diesel with the 8-speed Geartronic ‘box, and the car is driven through the front wheels. Power is 181 hp at 4,250 and 295 lb ft (400 Nm) of torque at 1,700 – 2,500 rpm. 0 – 62 mph is completed in a respectful 8.4 seconds and it’ll go on to 140 mph v max.

Fuel economy (UK mpg) stats are: urban: 62.8, extra urban: 76.3, combined: 70.6.  CO2 emissions are an impressively low 113 g/km (104 with the manual ‘box), which equates to just £30 vehicle tax per year here in the UK currently (Aug. ’14), and £20 for the manual! Plenty of torque to play with then, and it’s rather decent at sipping fuel apparently. How’d it do on a real-life test though?

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

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If you buy an executive-type car, you’ll be expecting a few basics: comfort and luxury along with a refined ride and competent handling. Gone are the days of executive cars equalling a soft ride but wallow-mobile handling. Drivers now (rightfully) expect their luxury car to transport them to their destination in a deft manner without being thrown all over the cabin.

Whilst the Volvo S80 is in the mid-sector of exec cars, I still expected it to be better the average lower-priced family saloon in terms of cruising comfort and refined ride. The test car we had came with the optional new-for-2014 8-speed Geartronic transmission, which costs £1,550, and it also had the £1,000 Active Four-C Chassis (Continually Controlled Chassis Concept). The Four-C system was developed with Öhlins Racing AB, and each shock absorber is electronically regulated individually, damping from soft to hard in 1:25th of a second, working with the DSTC  (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control) and other sensors which read a massive 500 impulses per second to ensure the S80 is fully composed over bad road surfaces. It minimises body roll around corners and and keeps the body level with the road surface under heavy acceleration and braking, avoiding the nose and tail squatting or dipping.

It’s all good on paper, but let’s break it down in a real-life test. In front of the gear selector are three buttons for the Active Four-C system: Comfort, Sport, Advanced. Selecting Comfort mode, we drove down those type of old cobbled roads that’d rattle an old car and its occupants to pieces. Comfort mode soaked up the road remarkably well, and it’s also obviously worth using on a long motorway journey too. Sport worked as it sounds, firming up the suspension, and was best used on those type of country roads with long, winding bends that aren’t quite tight enough use Advanced mode, but where less body roll is welcome.

Pointing the front-wheel-drive S80 down some really tight and twisting roads, Advanced mode puts handling over comfort, firming up the suspension for the least body roll possible, and allowing sharper turn-ins. In any of the 3 modes though, the system will kick into action and react to emergency situations where heavy braking or turning is needed, and keeps the car from rolling around less and keep the tyres in contact with the road.

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While it does work decently enough, at £1,000 it is not a cheap option and for the vast majority of time we kept it in Comfort mode anyway, regardless of the road, only occasionally using Sport. You have to think, will the typical owner of an S80 really be blasting their car down twisting roads at high speed enough to warrant having a Sport or Advanced setting? I doubt it. I can see it being used on something more sporty and powerful like the V60 D6 Plug-In Hybrid or the V40 T5 R-Design, or even on Volvo’s XC60 and XC90 as SUV’s do tend to roll about more naturally. But on an S80? Unless they bring out a really powerful version, I reckon the standard suspension will suit just fine.

Put your foot down, and the D4’s 181 hp and 295 lb ft (400 Nm) of torque pushes the S80 down the road well. The torque kicks in low down, and you’ll ride a strong, smooth and steady wave of it throughout the rev range thanks to the twin turbo’s, meaning getting up to motorway speeds and overtaking requires surprisingly little effort. Power at high end rev-range of the rev range is also nicely accessible, with the engine revving easily and freely – and strangely more akin to a petrol than a diesel.

On a motorway run, the S80 turns into a great cruising machine, providing a reassuringly planted, quiet and refined ride at higher speeds, the engine entirely unstressed thanks to the 8-speed gearbox. On that note, whilst for the majority of the time that Geartronic transmission shifts smoothly, I did notice that a few times at lower city speeds that the changes were jerky and slightly hesitant, almost like it was deciding on which gear to select before accelerating again. A good ‘box overall, but there are a couple of gremlins that’ll perhaps be ironed out in future.

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The S80 Volvo provided for testing also included the optional £1,900 Driver Support Pack. Whilst this is not exactly a cheap box to tick when speccing your Volvo S80, I definitely believe it’s worth the extra as it takes the car from very safe to super-safe for both passengers and pedestrians. Why? It has Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake, Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, DAC (Driver Alert Control) with Active High Beam, BLIS (Blind Spot Information System), Lane Departure Warning, Road Sign Information Display, plus my favourite feature: ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control) and Distance Alert and Queue Assist (Automatic only).

The adaptive cruise control is one of the best out there, braking and accelerating both intelligently and fluidly, in a way that feels like it’s a really good driver doing it. Whilst the systems on some other cars are overly sensitive and not quick enough to react, the Volvo version inspires trust and confidence in the system. You can also use it in stop-start traffic by simply pressing a button on the steering wheel to get going again. Clever, and cool.

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Finally, the D4 engine is touted as being very fuel-frugal, and it is. The fuel gauge has 9 light bars, and after 212 miles it had only dropped off two of those, and at 355 miles we’d only used half a tank. Most of those were mixed driving routes, and without us particularly trying to be frugal. On the said mixed run of town traffic, short motorway hops and country road driving we were averaging 50 mpg, which I though good considering the horses were not spared. The S80 had less than a thousand miles on it when delivered, so I reckon it’ll get better as the engine beds itself in.

The stop/start system is worth a mention, as it’s extremely quick to re-start when setting off again, and you don’t need to move over a certain speed or drive a certain distance for it to cut the engine again, like some cars do.

Price

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(prices August ’14) I only checked out the price of the S80 after I’d had a day or so with it, and was surprised at the £33,770 asking price for our D4 Geartronic SE LUX. That seemed pretty damn cheap for a car that well built and that well-spec’d. Prices for the Volvo S80 start at £30,720 and go to £36,835 for the D5 Geartronic SE LUX.

However, it’s fairly easy to push that price much higher by ticking just a few option boxes: Driver Support Pack: £1,900, Security Pack: £750, 8-speed Geartronic Transmission with start/stop: £1,550, Active Four-C Chassis: £1,000. And the list goes one. In fact, our test car had just shy of £10,000 worth of options on it – a staggering amount on a mid-range car! Personally, my main ticked boxes would be the Driver Support Pack, Winter Pack with Active Bending Lights, the Security Pack, and perhaps the Harmon Kardon sound system if I was feeling flush.

Prices for similar rivals start from: Mercedes-Benz E-Class E 250 CDI: £36,000, Lexus GS 300h: £31,500, Infiniti Q50 2.2D: £28,000, BMW 520d SE: £32,000, Audi A6 S Line 2.0 TDI ultra: £32,000.

2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux verdict & score

I like the modern Volvos. They’re beginning to pull in a younger generation with cars being slightly cooler thanks to R-Design lines, stylish interiors and Polestar power upgrades. While it’s plain the S80 is aimed at a certain type of buyer – the ‘settled’, let’s say – I still think it’s waning against both rivals manufacturers offerings and its own range. The S60, for example, is more modern-looking and the interior as attractive as its bigger brother, and in the right spec looks executive enough.

The trouble is, the shape and design differs very little to when the second-gen 2006 version landed and it didn’t need another facelift – it needed an entirely overhauled and modernised design. However, on the positive the S80 is competitively priced, the luxurious and refined cabin uses high-quality materials, is very well made, is more stylish and interesting than most of its rivals, and it’s super-comfortable too. The new D4 engine has good torque, power, and economy, and aside from the couple of small hiccups we noticed the 8-speed gearbox is slick. Another factor is that this is a Volvo, and hence hugely strong and safe, thanks to their innovative and advanced tech.

Do you own a Volvo S80? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  6.5
Interior  8
Engine (D4)  8.5
Gearbox  7.5
Price  8
Handling  7.5
Drive & Ride  8
Overall Score  7.5 / 10

Specs

Model (as tested) 2015 Volvo S80 D4 Geartronic SE Lux
Spec includes  17″ alloy wheels, full leather seating, ABS, FBS, OHB, HBA RAB, DTSC, hill start assist, dual-stage front, SIPS side, and curtain airbags, electronic climate control with Air Quality System, Sensus nav system, Bluetooth, USB & Aux, See website for more info
Options you should spec  Driver Support Pack: £1,900, Winter pack: £350, Heated steering wheel: £200
The Competition  Mercedes-Benz E-Class E 250 CDI, Lexus GS 300h, Infiniti Q50 2.2D, BMW 520d SE, Audi A6 S Line 2.0 TDI ultra
Price  (Sept. 2014) £30,720 – £36,835
Engine  Diesel D4, 2.0 litre, 4-cylinder in-line, twin-turbos
Power, Torque  Power: 181 hp @ 4,250 | Torque: 295 lb ft (400 Nm) between 1,700 – 2,500 rpm.
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive | 8-speed automatic
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed (limited): 140 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 8.4 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: No current rating
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  urban: 62.8, extra urban: 76.3, combined: 70.6 | CO2: 113 g/km CO2 (104 g/km with manual)
Weight (kerb)  1,704 (3,756 lbs)
Websites  Volvo UK, Volvo USA, Volvo global

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

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2014 Citroen Grand C4 Picasso Exclusive+ Blue HDi 150 review – Overhauled MPV Now Even Better http://carproductstested.com/cars/2014-citroen-grand-c4-picasso-exclusive-blue-hdi-150-review-overhauled-mpv-now-even-better/ http://carproductstested.com/cars/2014-citroen-grand-c4-picasso-exclusive-blue-hdi-150-review-overhauled-mpv-now-even-better/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 21:13:27 +0000 http://carproductstested.com/?p=13929

Best-looking MPV on market, roomy, comfy, & versatile cabin, 5-star NCAP, decent MPG

Two screens good & bad, too many steering wheel controls

Citroen Grand C4 Picasso?

2014 Citroen Grand C4 Picasso Exclusive+ Blue HDi 150 auto review-

When 2007 arrived, you could chuck away your 5-seat Picasso and instead own the gigantic hold-all of the car world: the Grand C4 Picasso. Kids now 3+1? More mates treating you as their taxi driver? No problem. Yes, the Grand C4 Picasso landed as a 7-seater, and suddenly people – parents especially – discovered that Mary Poppins’ bag had morphed and existed in the real world, and was made by Citroen.

2013 saw a second generation version land, and this time there’s even more space inside, it’s lighter and it’s better on fuel. Oh, and it looks smarter too. We were sent the range-topping 2014 Citroen Grand C4 Picasso Exclusive+ to see if it’d appeal on all levels, or if it’s still simply just a decent family MPV.

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

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Walking out the door and up to the second-gen Grand C4 tester, I did a double take. The big Citroen appears to have gained a level of cool! To a large degree it’s very futuristic – from the front at least. And before you start shouting at the screen because you’ve seen one and think they’re not all that, I’m also well aware that getting the right colour and wheel combo on the Grand C4 Picasso can make a huge difference.

For instance, the lowest-spec VTR version has sixteen-inch wheels and those plus the Arctic Steel (silver) colour take much away from the Grand Picasso’s looks. Move up to either the Exclusive or Exclusive+ models and you’ve then got 17 and 18 inch alloys with decent styling, and which make a huge difference to the appearance overall.

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Our Exclusive+ tester came in Onyx black, 18-inch alloys and limo-black rear windows, and I must admit it looked the business – a properly smart thing. Let’s start at the front. This second-generation version is much less pointy than its predecessor, and is all the better for it. Instead, its nose is much stubbier, and the styling is aggressive and masculine. It’s a large, wide area perhaps made more prominent by the biggest Citroen ‘badge’ ever, which stretches the full width of the front and wraps around the blade-thin upper LED running lights.

Click to view slideshow.

Below the ‘daytime’ lights sit larger light clusters, which do look slightly weird as the right and left are so far apart from each other on that wide-boy front. Other than that it’s a fairly simplistic front. A feature I do love is the satin-finished trim piece that starts at the A pillars, runs along the roof edges and then sweeps down and back in on itself at the C pillars. A nice touch which gives the car a classy edge.

Down the side the thing that caught my eye was the sheer amount of glass. From a front three-quarter view you’ve got the enormous front windscreen – which, I jest not, is the sort of sized window you’d expect to see in the living room of a house – then in the A pillar there’s the largest piece of quarter panel glass I’ve seen on any car, and after that more massive windows in the doors and boot area.

Click to view slideshow.

These, plus the gargantuan panoramic glass roof and boot window mean the Grand C4 Picasso gives its passengers the sensation of being in a goldfish bowl. I joke, but one thing I do recommend is getting the rear windows heavily tinted to avoid the exterior looking like it is one. At the rear there are a pairs of ‘3D’ rear lights each side (which were in the Citroen DS3 before this), which look utterly awesome at night.

All said, the 2014 Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is a smart-looking MPV and – unusually for once of these types of cars – I wasn’t embarrassed to be seen driving it, and that’s gotta be a good thing.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

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Open any door of the Grand C4 Picasso and you’re immediately stuck at just how spacious and airy the cabin is. Citroen say they’re going for the uncluttered look, and that’s exactly how it is. The amount of light coming in through the many large windows is incredible, and it all makes for a pleasant passenger experience. A neat thing was that the front sun visors both slide backwards to reveal even more of the front ‘screen, making it a very panoramic experience, and a brilliant feature should you be driving through particularly beautiful scenery.

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The dash layout is virtually unlike any other car, as instead of controls (there are only a couple on the dash) there are two large screens, one above the other. The lower one is a 7-inch touchscreen for controlling just about every adjustable element of the car. It features excellent graphics, is decently ergonomic and includes controls for the heating, vehicle and audio settings, satellite navigation, Citroen ‘Multicity Connect’ app which includes a 3G connection to gain access to TripAdvisor, Wikipedia, traffic and weather news, social media sites, emails etc.

Click to view slideshow.

The upper screen is a massive 12-inch high definition system, and in digital shows all the dials and other information the driver needs to see, including the sat nav, reversing cameras, fuel economy info and other data. Viewing the sat nav in the upper HD screen is helpful, as it’s at eye level and the map very large, but also a little strange as it appears in both the screens at the same time, even if you just want it in the upper one.

The large screen has good and bad elements: it’s good for the fact it looks very cool and contemporary, has excellent graphics and almost shouldn’t be on a car this (relatively) cheap. It’s also bad because it can be very distracting to the driver. There are so many menus and options to mess about with – which can be controlled from the steering wheel – that you can easily find attention draw to it rather than the road ahead. While it’s okay saying you wouldn’t do that etc etc etc, it’s fairly hard not to end up playing with settings and screen views.

Click to view slideshow.

The Exclusive+ version we had came with a brilliant 360˚ camera system for parking and manoeuvring in tight spaces, giving you the choice of forward, rear or a birds-eye-view, which boggles the mind of many who look at it for the first time. It’s an exceptionally neat thing though, and I believe more cars should have it as it makes parking so much safer and easier. Something I did not like were the sheer amount of controls on the steering wheel, which I counted as 14 including four scroller wheels for menu-sifting. That’s a ridiculous amount, and again can be a distraction if you aren’t fully familiar with them.

The Exclusive+ comes with half-leather seating, and they’re pretty funky in both design and have slightly strange headrest which poke out at the sides. I couldn’t decide whether this was simply for looks or if they actually played a part should you crash, to stop your head whipping about from side to side. I found people either liked or disliked the offbeat design of the seats and trim, but the majority gave it the thumbs up for being cool. Our tester had the £2,000 optional Full Nappa Leather seating, and while it looked and felt nice, that’s a heck of a large chunk o’ money to fork out simply for nice leather seats in a sub £30,000 car.

Click to view slideshow.

That aside, the seats in the front are armchair-sized and as comfortable as the aforementioned, and on this model they’re heated and have a massage function (which is more of a gentle poke in the back then an actual massage) and the passenger side has an electrically-adjustable footrest for further comfort. Oh, and there are adjustable armrests too. The centre row of seat are individual, supportive, slide forwards and backwards, fold down flat individually and also tilt. The third row of seats hidden under the boot floor fold out in a fluid movement with just one pull of a cord, and while they’re not really suited to adults on long journeys, they’d be fine for shorter ones. A brilliant touch is that there’s air conditioning piped to both the middle and third row of seats, and the air flow can be adjusted there, which make the third row seats so much more bearable.

The Grand C4 Picasso entirely about practicality, and the main reason people buy them. This second-gen version doesn’t disappoint: there are masses of large storage areas dotted around the car, including a ventilated glovebox for keeping snacks and drinks cool. There are 12-volt sockets in the front, middle and boot area, fold-down trays with lighting for the middle row, plus retractable sunblinds in the windows too. There’s also a rechargeable torch in the boot, but it feels very cheap and weirdly uses a normal bulb instead of LEDs which means its less bright and uses way more power.

Click to view slideshow.

The boot area is absolutely gigantic, with 793 litres behind the middle row of seats, 2,181 with them folded flat, and there’s even 165 with the third row in place. For safety, the Citroen includes airbags in the front, front sides and curtain airbags for the front and centre rows. No airbags for the third row passengers though, which I thought was a little strange considering it’s quite a vulnerable area in a crash.

Click to view slideshow.

 

If you’re looking at buying the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso for it’s practicality, then you really can’t go wrong. Citroen’s have come on leaps and bound in terms on build quality in the last few years, and I found the cabin had good quality materials too. I’m highly impressed with the interior, especially when you consider it’s very competitively priced.

Engine & gearbox

The Grand C4 Picasso now comes with a whole range of engines to suit: two petrol, three diesel. Our tester had the most powerful offering – the BlueHDi 150 automatic. This is a 2.0 litre, inline 4-cylinder diesel with a high-pressure turbocharger mated, in this case, to a 6-speed torque converter automatic gearbox. The BlueHDi puts out 150 bhp at 4,000 rpm, 273 lb ft (370 Nm) of torque from 2,000 rpm, does 0 – 62 mph in 10.2 seconds and will reach 128 mph at the top end.

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Official UK mpg stats are: urban: 52.3, extra urban: 67.3, combined: 61.4. Real-life driving saw a motorway run return just over 53 mpg, and an average of 40 mpg overall. CO2 emissions read as 120 g/km, equivalent to just £30.00 tax per year currently (Aug. ’14).

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

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Firing the BlueHDi 150 engine into life, I was slightly baffled for a minute as I tried to locate to auto gearshifter. Lever in the centre console? Nope. Perhaps a dial like the Jag/Land Rovers use? No. Buttons, perhaps? Again, nothing. Then I noticed the selector stick behind the steering wheel. It’s a slightly strange thing to get used to, and I wasn’t exactly bowled over by the quality of it – a thin, flimsy stick that feels like it’d break a little too easily.

Pulling it into Drive, the seatbelt starts to tighten onto me as I set off. Bit of a strange feeling the first time it happened, but it’s simply part of the Active seatbelt safety system on the Exclusive+ model, and it’s getting a measure of your size in case it needs to tighten them should a collision occur. Actually, these work really well. At one point a car slammed on its brakes unexpectedly and I had to do the same quickly to avoid crashing into them. The moment I jammed on the brakes the belt pulled tight, hugging me into the seat in case I actually crashed. I imagine this’d save a fair amount of pain over a normal belt.

On with the drive: I’m not expecting a whole lot from the Grand C4 Picasso aside from wallowy, top-heavy handling and an unhurried drive. However, It’s much better than presumed and the Citroen accelerates decently enough for the type of car it is, and there’s plenty of evenly-spread torque throughout the rev range. It’s an easy and relaxed drive in the city, with the suspension soaking up the badly-maintained roads well (although oddly the suspension did bang noisily somewhat over the occasional heftier bump), whilst a good turning circle ensures decent manoeuvrability through traffic and into parking spaces.

The 6-speed automatic gearbox shifts smoothly enough, if somewhat sluggishly for a modern car, whilst the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel feel like they are placed too far inboard to reach comfortably. Another one of our test drivers mentioned he’d driven the Grand C4 Picasso with the ETG6 auto gearbox (available on the eHDi 90 and 115), and said it lurched into gear jerkily and sloppily and this one seems to be the much better ‘box of the two.

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On that point, the our tester had the option Park Assist pack (£450) which meant it would both parallel park and bay park too. Oh, and it also exited the spaces as well, ensuring no caught bumpers. The system works excellently, and it picks up on empty spaces quickly and parked itself almost perfectly in spaces I thought it’d never get into. It’s absolutely worth the extra money!

Back on the road, and a motorway stint shows the Citroen to be a decent cruiser, but I did notice there was a level of road noise coming into the cabin high enough to be noticeable as I talked to passengers in the back of the car. I’m suspecting it’s down to the low-profile tyres on the 18″ alloys, but either way it’s more than I’d have liked. Apparently it’s quieter than the last version due to a new 100 kilogram-saving ‘EMP2′ platform, and perhaps the 16″ wheel option may quieten it slightly more.

Our test car came with active cruise control, which means you simply set the speed you want, and the car keeps a set distance to the one in front, slowing if necessary. I found the system to be a too sensitive however, braking way too early and not reacting quick enough once the car in front moved over out of the way. I maintain the Volvo system is still probably the best on a car.

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Onto a winding country route, and the Grand C4 Picasso handles much more positively than I’d have guessed at. While it’s obviously going to roll more than, say, a family saloon car, it still went round corners respectably well at speed considering its size. Something that did irk after a while was the drivers active seatbelt. While I mentioned easier that they’re a good safety measure, with the Lane Departure Warning option on it quickly judders the belt annoyingly if you stray over the lines without indicating. It’s almost like an irritating backseat driver pulling it each time they think you’ve made a mistake. Nannying, is the word.

Other safety equipment (as standard) is ABS with EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) and EBA (Emergency Brake Assist), ECS (Stability control) and hill start assist.

Price

(figures correct Aug.’14) The Citroen Grand C4 Picasso starts at a shade over £19,200 and tops out at £27,855. Our tester came with a load of options (including that hefty £2k Nappa leather), pushing the price to almost £31,800. Still, I thought it a reasonable price considering that the amount of car you get, and that its looks and feels good quality with good cabin materials and is laden with mucho modern tech and gadgets, plus actual interesting interior styling over the usual bland grey/black offerings.

What’s the 7-seater competition priced like though? Kia Carens: £18,000 – £25,000, Mazda5: £20.5k – £21.8k, Seat Altea XL: around £20k, Renault Grand Scenic: £20.5k – £24.6k, Peugeot 5008: £19k – £24.4k, VW Sharan: £25k – £34.5k, Toyota Verso: £16k – £23.8k.

2014 Citroen Grand C4 Picasso Exclusive+ Blue HDi 150 verdict & score

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I’ll start with the negatives: Those two large screens I mentioned are both useful and a distraction for the driver at the same time, as there are so many menus and options to choose from. On a similar note, having a ridiculous 14 controls on the steering wheel has the same effect, and it’s irritating trying to remember what does what when you’re driving with a car full of noisy passengers and it’s nasty weather outside. In making the cabin uncluttered and free of dash buttons, Citroen have also created the problems above. Finally, while I mention further down that it’s a safe car, why aren’t there any airbags for the third row seating, which are usually taken up by kids? That needs addressing, surely?

Positives: There are plenty of good points about the 2014 Grand C4 Picasso, not least of all that it looks so much better than its predecessor, and it’s now at the stage where finally you can be free of wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses when driving an MPV for fear of mates seeing you. Actually, it’s one of the best-looking MPVs on the market, especially if you get the paint and alloy combination right.

Inside, Citroen have made the cabin comfortable, bright, airy, extremely roomy and versatile, as well as adding funky styling. Slightly quirky that may be, but better than the usual sea of bland greys and black trim. It’s also very contemporary, with the two large screens and their slick graphics. It’s drives fairly well, and fuel economy is good considering the size of this thing. Safety is high on the Grand C4, and it achieves a 5-star Euro NCAP rating.

Do you own a 2014 Citroen Grand C4 Picasso? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  8
Interior  7.5
Engine (HDi 150)  6.5
Gearbox  6.5
Price  7.5
Handling  6.5
Drive & Ride  7.5
Overall Score  7.0 / 10

Specs

Model (as tested) 2014 Citroen Grand C4 Picasso Exclusive+ Blue HDi 150 auto
Spec includes  18″ alloy wheels, panoramic roof, leather seating, ABS, EBD, EBA, ESC, hill start assist, front, front side and curtain airbags, active cruise control, climate control, 7″ touch screen & 12″ HD display, Bluetooth, USB & Aux, See website for more info
Options you should spec  Park Assist pack (£450)
The Competition  Kia Carens, Mazda5, Seat Altea XL, Renault Grand Scenic, Peugeot 5008, VW Sharan, Toyota Verso
Price  (Aug. 2014) £19,200 – £27,855
Engine  Diesel, 2.0 litre, 4-cylinder in-line, turbocharged
Power, Torque  Power: 150bhp @ 4,000 rpm | Torque: 273 lb ft (370 Nm) @ 2,000 rpm
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive | 6-speed automatic
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed (limited): 128 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 10.2 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: 5-stars
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 52.3, Extra urban: 67.3, Combined: 61.4 | CO2: 120 g/km CO2
Weight (kerb)  1,476 (3,254 lbs)
Websites  Citroen UK, Citroen France, Citroen global

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

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Quick Drive: 2014 Volkswagen Golf R 2.0 litre 300 PS manual http://carproductstested.com/cars/quick-drive-2014-volkswagen-golf-r-2-0-litre-300-ps-manual/ http://carproductstested.com/cars/quick-drive-2014-volkswagen-golf-r-2-0-litre-300-ps-manual/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 16:19:04 +0000 http://carproductstested.com/?p=14142 Volkswagen Golf R 2014 2.0 litre 300 PS manual quick drive-9367

A 40 minute drive of the 2014 Volkswagen Golf R is certainly not long enough to do our usual in-depth review from. So, here’s a taster of the Golf R from our (all-too) brief encounter with it.

Quick facts

  • Most powerful production Golf yet
  • Fastest-accelerating production Golf ever
  • Around 30 bhp more powerful than the previous version
  • 18% more fuel efficient than last Golf R
  • Around 45 kilograms lighter than before
  • New ESC-cancelling in ‘Race’ mode is a first for the Golf
  • 0 – 62 mph run quicker than last R
  • New exterior facelift

Exterior notes:

Click to view slideshow.

The VW Golf R is visually very striking. In the short test run, the R got plenty of attention from people of all ages. This thing combines a hard, focussed look that is altogether German, yet it is stylish enough to exude a degree of class. It’d fit in as easily at on the forecourt of a high class hotel as it would tearing up chunks of Autobahn. We love it!

This 2014 Golf R sports a new front bumper that houses massive air inlets, a modified radiator grille displaying the ‘R’ logo – just so you definitely  don’t mistake this for the GTI – and there are also integrated running lights housed within the bi-xenon light clusters. Matching sills and matt wing mirrors finish off the sides, whilst the rear has quad exhaust pipes to give you a clue that it’s a bit of a monster.

Interior notes

Pull open a door, and it’s obvious that some things haven’t changed with this new Golf R: it’s the usual no-nonsense, high quality interior that people have come to expect. There are large sections of piano black trim swathing various panels,and it gives the cabin a smart, contemporary look.

Click to view slideshow.

The front ‘bucket’ seats look great are extremely supportive and decently comfortable, but people on the erm… larger side, let’s say, may have trouble getting into them, or at least getting comfy if they do, as the side bolsters are deep and thick. The rear seats are also pleasant, and have decent legroom too. Thanks to reasonable headroom and large windows, it’s also non-claustrophobic back there considering this is a 2-door hatchback.

Highlights for me also include the (optional) large 8″ ‘Navigation Pro’ touchscreen system, which has superbly clear mapping, pinch-to-zoom/enlarge the routes, and a great sound system too.

Engine & gearbox

The 2014 Golf R has a newly-developed 2.0 litre, 4-cylinder, turbocharged TSI version of the one used in the latest GTI’s, albeit a rather modified of it to cope with all the extra power it produces. On that note, it puts out 296 bhp (300 PS) from 5,500 – 6,200 rpm, and 280 lbs ft (280 Nm) of torque from 1,800 to 5,500 rpm.

With the DSG transmission you’ll cover the 0 – 62 mph ( 0 – 100 km/h) run in an incredible 4.9 seconds, whilst the manual version does it in 5.1. That’s crazy-fast for a Golf! At the limited top end you’ll hit 155 miles-per-hour. Not bad at all. UK mpg stats are: urban: 30.1, extra urban: 47.9, combined: 39.8, and the DSG will give you an extra 2 mpg over the manual, apparently.

Drive and handling

Slide into the deep driver’s bucket seat, fire the engine into life, and you’re greeted by a low, deep tone. If you’re just pottering about only two of the exhausts will be working, but once you’re on it all four kick in. For the majority of my road test I can guarantee I kept ‘em all pushing gases through – after all, that’s exactly what the Golf R is all about.

This thing is a monster, and the soundtrack – which is partially artificial, boooooo – goes well with the car. Try to block out the faux-noise side of things by having the windows down, and as you accelerate hard you can plainly hear the turbo spooling up beautifully, and a roar from the quad ‘zorts. For me there were hints of my old Mk 2 Golf GTi in there as well. To say the least, it’s very satisfactory.

Volkswagen Golf R 2014 2.0 litre 300 PS manual quick drive-9371

 

Floor the Golf R and the rpm needle swings round quickly in any gear as the car builds its speed quickly and relentlessly even from low revs. Its engine gives a wonderful clean wave of power and torque right up to the rev limiter, and it feels more like a twin-turbo unit over a single. A trick high-power injection system makes sure the R has a constant feed of all the fuel it needs, which in turn also helps with the fuel economy too.

Around corners, the Golf R stuck to road like glue, the fifth generation Haldex 4MOTION four-wheel-drive system making sure the beast remains fully planted. Even when I really pushed it hard around the bends I was only rewarded with yet more confidence-inspiring grip and a minuscule amount of body roll, thanks partially to the optional Dynamic Chassis Control. Every single time I mashed the accelerator, the Golf R surged forward strongly and eagerly, and firing it out of a long flowing corner in the right gear gave me a huge rush.

Volkswagen Golf R 2014 2.0 litre 300 PS manual quick drive-9384

In the very short time I did some slow town driving, I noted the R’s suspension is liveable enough but still fairly firm even in Comfort mode. One final thing – whilst I’m a fan of manual gearboxes on sporty cars, the DSG ‘box is more suited to the Golf R. Heading hard around longer corners I really didn’t want to let go of the ‘wheel to change gear, and a set of paddle shifters would have been most welcome so my choice would be the DSG with optional paddles.

Any negatives? I noticed that at around 1,700 – 1,800 rpm the low exhaust tone reverberated unpleasantly in my ears. I’ve had people say they’ve experienced this from outside certain cars in the past (the Jaguar XKR-S being one), but this is a first for me.

All said though, the 40 minutes I had the Volkswagen Golf R were absolutely fun ones, but it was simply nowhere near long enough. More, I need more!

Do you own a 2014> VW Golf R? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Specs

Model (as tested)  2014 Volkswagen Golf R 2.0 TSI 300 PS 3dr 6-speed manual
Price  (Aug. 2014) £29,900
Engine  Petrol, 2.0 litre , 4-cylinder (in-line), 16-valve, turbocharged
Power, Torque  Power:  296 bhp (300 PS) @ 5,500 – 6,200 rpm | Torque: 280 lb ft (380 Nm) @ 1,800 – 5,500 rpm
Drive, Gears (as tested)  4 wheel drive (4Motion) | 6-speed manual
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed (limited): 155 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 5.1 (DSG: 4.9) seconds | Euro NCAP rating: 5-stars
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 32.1,  Extra urban: 47.9, Combined: 40.9 | CO2: 165 g/km CO2
Weight (kerb)  1,496 (3,298 lbs)
Websites  Volkswagen UK

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

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2014 Alfa Romeo MiTo 875cc TwinAir 105bhp Distinctive Review – Chic Italian with Two-Cylinders http://carproductstested.com/cars/2014-alfa-romeo-mito-875cc-twinair-105bhp-distinctive-review-chic-italian-with-two-cylinders/ http://carproductstested.com/cars/2014-alfa-romeo-mito-875cc-twinair-105bhp-distinctive-review-chic-italian-with-two-cylinders/#comments Sat, 09 Aug 2014 19:46:08 +0000 http://carproductstested.com/?p=13735

Mini-me 8C Competizione looks, tiny engine is sweet, neat & stylish interior, fun handling and drive, surprisingly good cruiser

Absurdly short 1st gear, rear feels claustrophobic

Alfa MiTo?

2014 Alfa Romeo MiTo 875cc TwinAir 105bhp Distinctive Review-7622

Launched in 2008, the little Alfa MiTo made its entrance amid a heap of motoring articles overly concerned with its moniker. Before it was officially launched Alfa Romeo ran a competition where the public had the chance to choose its name. The competition finished, and the winning name of Furiosa… not chosen. Instead, Alfa sacked it off and went with MiTo (Milano-Torino) because it was designed in Milan and built in Turin.

Anyhow, the MiTo is aimed to squeeze itself in the quickly-expanding supermini market place, competing with hugely popular sellers like the now well-established Mini and Audi A1, which itself has waiting lists at the dealers. To compete, as well as having good-looking Italian styling, Alfa are offering some innovative tech on the MiTo… and a tiny two-cylinder engine. So, what’s it like? We were sent the 2014 Alfa MiTo 875ccTB TwinAir 105bhp Distinctive to test for a week and find out…

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

2014 Alfa Romeo MiTo 875cc TwinAir 105bhp Distinctive Review-7636

Well of course the MiTo looks great. It’s an Alfa for goodness’ sake! There’s nothing I dislike about the design of this car. It combines soulful beauty with a modern sports sharpness that’ll make you go all doe-eyed and tug at your heart strings. Truly beautiful cars are a rarity today, unless you want to pay megabucks for a supercar, and in amongst a sea of aggressive-looking Euro hatches, Alfa Romeo have taken a step back and thrown out a rather lovely curveball that visually smacks you clear across the chops demands you look at it.

The MiTo looks like the designers were inspired by many prepossessing things before sketching out the MiTo: I like to think it was drawn on a napkin by a designer sipping espresso at mountainside restaurant on Lake Garda, bathed in the soft glow of a perfect sunset whilst perhaps a Riva Aquarama idles past below. C’mon, it’s possible. Whatever, this is a little stunner that takes styling cues heavily from the rather tasty 8C Competizione.

At the front, there’s a pronounced, muscular V in the bonnet which cuts its way to the recognisable Alfa Romeo slatted triangular grille. At the edges, there are chrome-edged headlights which take their look from Alfa’s of the Sixties, such as the Spider, Guilia TZ, and 33 Stradale. At the bottom there’s a spilt honeycomb-pattern grille with round fog lights housed in yet more triangular trim. It’s a superb frontal design spoilt slightly by the  stupid, ugly registration plate holder. Not Alfa’s fault, though, and the designers must tear their hair out in frustration after producing such a beauty and then having to slap a plastic box over it. Che macello!

2014 Alfa Romeo MiTo 875cc TwinAir 105bhp Distinctive review exterior details

From the side, the MiTo appears squat and brawny. The windscreen sweeps back to a low roofline, and the pillar-less door glass meets the window in the back almost seamlessly to create what looks like one piece of glass, plus there’s a high shoulder line and the side windows are narrow. Definitely a lot of the 8C Competizione mixed in there.

If you look at it from a rear three-quarter angle, you’ll see the MiTo starts narrow at the top, steps out at the shoulderline, and then kicks out again with hugely flared wheel arches. Filling these are either 17 or 18 inch wheels which are all nicely designed and have a typical Italian flair about them – the seventeen-inch ‘Quadrifoglio Verde Sports’ versions fitted to our ‘Distinctive’ spec MiTo being particularly chic.

Click to view slideshow.

Theres’s only one word to describe the MiTo’s rear, and that’s ‘cute’. Two big round rear tail lamps filled with LEDs and featuring a chrome surround stare out of the extreme edges of the C pillars. Sat between is a tiny boot lid with an unusually high lip – style over substance here – while the bottom half of the bare plastic is overly fussy with the saving grace of a small chrome oval exhaust tip poking out to liven things up.

All said, the MiTo is a oozes with wonderful Italian styling that grabs the eye. It’s a cute little thing and really it’s a lot like a mini-me 8C – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

2014 Alfa Romeo MiTo 875cc TwinAir 105bhp Distinctive Review-7602

Slide into the driver’s seat of the MiTo and you immediately get a sense this thing is full of personality. It’s got panache and great styling, and a while it’s definitely grown up enough to be an adults car, there’s also clearly something fun about it too. The ‘Distinctive’ spec model has no less than 11 different interior trims to choose from, and while it’s a £1,000 option, my goodness the natural (tan) leather seats look absolutely exquisite in the MiTo. Expensive, but a must-have in this car.

Our tester had the standard interior trim, with silver, red and black seats and a dash that faded red to black. It was a like/dislike split for passengers, with one stating the seat patterning looked a bit like an Eighties football shirt. He may be right there. Personally, I quite liked the dash colouring though – a bit kitsch, but at least it’s not dully dullard grey and black eh. Anyhow, that’s of little consequence as there are almost a dozen interiors to choose from, so take your pick.

Physically, it’s very nicely laid out and there’s lots of things that are pleasing to the eye, such as the metal pedals that look like they’ve been snatched directly from a supercar, or the chrome-ringed circular air vents, or the stubby gearstick, or the wonderful Alfa badge in centre of the steering wheel, or the satin-finished trim in front of both door handles. Lots of positives here, and it’s better put together than I thought it would be, and with decent materials too.

Up front, the seats are comfortable with lots of adjustment, and there’s even a fold-down armrest with a storage compartment (just big enough to hold a sunglasses case) – can’t be really be used unless you’re cruising as it gets in the way of the gear shifter. The seats need to have more bolstering though, as it’s a very chuck-able car and it would be nice to move about less when driving.

Front seats on the 2014 Alfa Romeo MiTo 875cc TwinAir 105bhp Distinctive

Rear seats on the 2014 Alfa Romeo MiTo 875cc TwinAir 105bhp Distinctive

The rear seats are also decent cushioned and soft, and while there’s not exactly a lot of legroom (as you’d expect), it’s not too much of a problem unless you’re really tall. Something I didn’t like was that the rear actually felt a little claustrophobic. I’m fine in almost any car normally, but two things made it feel this way: the sides of the MiTo angle in towards the top making it feel cramped, and the rear windows don’t even crack open to allow air in – if they did it would feel far less stuffy and close in the back.

If you want a few luxuries in the MiTo, it’s definitely worth spending a few hundred kitting it out. Our tester had dual-zone climate control (£450), which also allowed both driver and passenger to direct the flow of air separately too. A great idea! A 5-inch colour touchscreen came standard on the model, and it included voice recognition, Bluetooth plus USB and Aux-in ports. It’s a very ergonomic system, with good graphics and the sound system is pretty decent too. The optional (£550) integrated TomTom sat nav (which adds DAB too) worked okay direction-wise, but it was surprisingly slow to render the roads and maps when flicking between screens. Better to buy a separate system for 1/5th of the price.

Click to view slideshow.

Boot space is quoted as 270 litres with the seats up, which isn’t too bad, and with the rear seats folded there’s around 950 litres to fill. The problem is that the lip of the boot sits high up, and it’s also fairly narrow, meaning it can be tricky loading in something heavy or awkwardly-shaped. Safety-wise the Alfa is well-equipped, coming with 7 airbags altogether for front and rear passengers.

Click to view slideshow.

All said, if you buy a MiTo you’re getting an interior with that’s fun and with character, but still has a grown-up side to it and has plenty of decent equipment as standard. It’s comfortable in the front, but confined and almost claustrophobic in the back and while boot space is okay, it’s awkward getting heavy or bulky items in.

Engine & gearbox

2014 Alfa Romeo MiTo 875cc TwinAir 105bhp Distinctive Review-7607

The MiTo is available with three petrol and two diesel, all of which are turbocharged and have start&stop. Our MiTo tester came with the tiny turbocharged two-cylinder (yes, you read correctly – that’s 2 cylinders, in-line), 8-valve 875cc TB TwinAir, which has been improved for 2014 and now kicks out 20 horsepower more than the last version. The TwinAir produces 105 bhp at 5,500 rpm and 107 lb ft (145 Nm) of torque at a mere 2,000 rpm, driven through the front wheels.

2014 Alfa Romeo MiTo 875cc TwinAir 105bhp Distinctive Review-7609

The key shows just how tiny the turbo is on the Mito TwinAir

0 – 62 mph takes 11.4 seconds and you’ll hit the v max at a none-too-shabby 114 mph, while the gearbox is a 6-speed manual only for the TwinAir. Official UK mpg fuel stats are quoted as being: urban: 56.2, extra urban: 74.3, combined: 67.2, and CO2 emissions as 99 g/km which means you’ll be paying exactly zero tax (until the gov. shift the brackets again, which will happen at some point, no doubt). Real life fuel stats? On a run at 50 mph I managed to achieve 63.5 mpg, and around town in light traffic almost 48 mpg.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

2014 Alfa Romeo MiTo 875cc TwinAir 105bhp Distinctive Review-7699

I fully expected the two-cylinder TwinAir engine to be some embarrassing, farty, underpowered thing that’d have about as much go as a moped ridden by a sumo wrestler. Perhaps it’d sound just like the classic Fiat 500 engine from the Sixties too? Could it be seven whole days of pop-pop-pop embarrassment? Firing the engine into life though, I’m greeted with a unit that ticks over quietly and while it is obvious this isn’t a four-cylinder motor and there is a degree of lumpiness at idle, it’s much better than expected.

Into first gear, I pull away and… promptly hit the rev limiter. Surely it can’t have got there that quickly? Yes, it does. At the next set of lights I set off  and again the needle hits about 5,600 rpm whereupon power is lost and I scramble to select 2nd gear and get going again. First is so short, in fact, that you will hit the limiter in just 2.5 seconds and believe me even after you get used to this gearing you’ll still find it happening regularly.

2014 Alfa Romeo MiTo 875cc TwinAir 105bhp Distinctive Review-7718

At first I found this to be simply quirky and slightly funny, but after a while it becomes trying when you’re concentrating on finding a gap in heavy traffic at a junction, only to run out of steam barely after you’ve got out. If you try to jump the gun and change into 2nd gear too early, you’ll then find the car bogs down and lumbers along like in the aforementioned sumo-moped scenario. So, getting the balance just right becomes very much an art and a skill. Is it simply part of the character of the MiTo TwinAir, or something that needs looking at by Alfa Romeo? I’m undecided, but it errs on the side of being irritating at times.

Once you’re into second and upwards it’s all good though, with a light clutch and positive changes from the manual ‘box. The MiTo TwinAir is lots of fun to drive, and in fact reminded me of my 1975 Mini 1275 GT in many ways, except the MiTo will drive more than ten miles without breaking down or rust holes appearing in the floor. The chassis is decent, it handles smartly and you’re guaranteed smiles-a-plenty as you chuck it into a sharp bend, even at lower speeds. While it’s not an overly-stiff setup, the dampers are still noticeably firm over poor road surfaces. Not bad, but could be better.

Click to view slideshow.

Helping things along in this regards is Alfa’s D.N.A driving mode selector, which stands for Dynamic, Natural, All-Weather. The system is standard on all Alfa-Romeos, and adjusts throttle response, power delivery, power steering assistance, VDC stability control and braking Pre-Fill. In brief, Dynamic gives quicker throttle response and a massive 50% more torque in the first 10% of pedal travel, the brake lines are pre-filled for better braking, and the stability control systems (VDC, DST, ASR) loosen up. Natural is the normal setup, and All-Weather makes the VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) system more intrusive, plus the ASR (Anti-Slip Regulator) is lightened to allow the wheels to slip and gain traction.

This said, I left the MiTo in Dynamic mode for almost the entire test period. On motorway runs the motor quickly bogs down on even slight uphill sections, and selecting Dynamic means instantly the power is freed up and there’s way more on tap, giving it much better feel overall, regardless of when it’s used. The acceleration and power comes on in the form of a Nineties Jap sports car, huge turbo lag in other words. There’s nothing… nothing… nothing… HUGE surge… then run out of revs. It’s actually a lot of fun and seems to suit the MiTo really well. 3rd gear was most enjoyable for me, as you’ll hit the torque band at 40 mph and ride it strongly to 65 before having to change up again.

2014 Alfa Romeo MiTo 875cc TwinAir 105bhp Distinctive Review-7714

The exhaust note is worth a mention, as in Dynamic mode it’s fruity and raspy enough to grab attention from pedestrians and other drivers, and actually it’s rather nice that Alfa Romeo have put some thought into it.

While the zero to sixty mph time isn’t exactly mind-blowing, the MiTo TwinAir surprised me hugely by getting up to motorway speeds briskly and without any trouble. Not only that, but it’ll cruise at above 70 mph without issue, and it actually seems quite happy at those speeds. Remember, we are talking 875cc and two cylinders here, so this is mighty impressive stuff. Wind and engine noise are lower than expected, but there’s a fair amount of tyre noise getting into the cabin. However, with the comfortable front seats and cruise control you could do a long run pleasantly.

Price

(prices correct July ’14) The Alfa MiTo starts at £14,870 and tops out at £18,570. Our ‘Distinctive’ spec tester cost around £15.5k, but with a few option boxes ticked came out at £17,000. That seems like a fair old amount of cash for such a small car if I’m honest, and while it’s a lovely-looking thing and has a decent interior and good spec levels, there’s some fiercely-priced competition out there vying for your money, although let’s face it – none of them as anywhere near as pretty.

Rivals include the Kia Rio, Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, Peugeot 208, Citroen DS3, VW Polo, Renault Clio and Vauxhall Corsa.

2014 Alfa Romeo Mito 875ccTB TwinAir 105bhp Distinctive verdict & score

2014 Alfa Romeo MiTo 875cc TwinAir 105bhp Distinctive Review-7650

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Alfa Mito TwinAir. It’s a very fun car to drive, and it’ll have you smiling every time you take it out. There are plenty of positives for the interior, and of course there’s the utterly beautiful body too. The improved-for-2014 minuscule 875cc engine is sweet, and now has enough power to keep you happy on even a motorway journey.

While the rest of the gear ratios are decently-spaced, 1st is absurdly and overly short and clearly needs to be longer. The MiTo handles itself well and it loves being chucking around bends, but I found that it would benefit from being a little less firm for those low-speed, potholed city roads. I’d like to try the 1.4 MultiAir 170 bhp version of the MiTo to see which suits it more, but at the moment I’m rather impressed with just how well the wee TwinAir goes!

Do you own a 2014> Alfa MiTo? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  9
Interior  7.5
Engine (TwinAir)  8
Gearbox  5.5
Price  6
Handling & ride  7
Drive  8.5
Overall Score  7.5 / 10

Specs

Model (as tested)  2014 Alfa Romeo MiTo 875cc TwinAir 105bhp Distinctive
Spec includes  17″ alloy wheels, tinted rear windows, VDC, DST, ASR, Alfa D.N.A system, 7 airbags, start&stop system, cruise control, manual climate control, 5″ Uconnect touch screen , voice recognition, Bluetooth, USB & Aux, See website for more info
Options you should spec  Natural (tan) leather: £1,000, electric sunroof (more light & airy for rear passengers): £750
The Competition  Kia Rio, Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, Peugeot 208, Citroen DS3, VW Polo, Renault Clio and Vauxhall Corsa.
Price  (Aug. 2014) £14,870 – £18,570
Engine  Petrol,  875cc, 2-cylinder (in-line), 8-valve, turbocharged
Power, Torque  Power: 105 bhp @ 5,500 rpm | Torque: 107 lb ft (145 Nm) @ 2,000 rpm
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive | 6-speed manual
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed (limited): 114 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 11.4 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: Only 2008 version rated currently. New version not yet rated.
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 56.5, Extra urban: 74.3, Combined: 67.2 | CO2: 99 g/km CO2
Weight (kerb)  1,130 (2,491 lbs)
Websites  Alfa Romeo UK, Alfa Romeo Italy, Alfa Romeo global

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

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2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review – Ultra-Practical Stylish Estate http://carproductstested.com/cars/2014-honda-civic-tourer-1-8-i-vtec-sr-manual-review-ultra-practical-stylish-estate/ http://carproductstested.com/cars/2014-honda-civic-tourer-1-8-i-vtec-sr-manual-review-ultra-practical-stylish-estate/#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 10:34:24 +0000 http://carproductstested.com/?p=13660

Smart exterior design, plenty of innovative storage areas & a roomy boot, comfortable seating, superb reliability

Bland & uninspiring interior, 1.8 i-VTEC engine lacklustre

Honda Civic Tourer?

The Civic has been around for a staggering 40 years now, and they've always been practical and roomy - 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual

The Civic has been around for a staggering 40 years now, and they’ve always been practical and roomy. The first Civic Aero Deck (estate) landed in 1998, and was specifically designed for the European market. Today, this new 2014 Civic Tourer is built in Europe (Swindon, UK) specifically for European drivers and the unique road systems. It still adheres to Honda’s rule that it has to be versatile, practical and roomy whilst still being compact enough to be well manoeuvrable. We were sent the 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR manual to review and find out if it ticks all those boxes…

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

Honda wanted the Civic Tourer to 'have its own distinct identity... with a sophisticated design... and  sleek aerodynamics'.  - 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Rear Light Cluster

Honda wanted the Civic Tourer to ‘have its own distinct identity… with a sophisticated design… and  sleek aerodynamics‘. Distinct it is, certainly, and there’s nothing on the market that looks familiar to it, so Honda have accomplished that side of things. Unusually, instead of the flat bonnet most cars have, the Civic Tourer’s front is wedge-shaped.

The bonnet follows the sharply-raked windscreen, and the front is actually deceptively long. Viewed as an image in a photograph, from a front three-quater viewpoint the Civic Tourer’s bonnet looks short, almost stubby, but in reality the tip of the bumper is a long way from the driver. In this manner, the Tourer looks much more compact that it is.

The designers have given the car a surprisingly aggressive and sporty look, and its also very Japanese too. - 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review

2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review-7202

The designers have given the car a surprisingly aggressive and sporty look, and its also very Japanese too. The narrow upside-down triangle-shaped headlight clusters glare menacingly, and instead of the modern trend of huge grilles, the Tourer’s is compact. Below the lights the bodywork is structured with cheekbone-like pieces, and further down the ‘chin’ of the bumper appears to sit low to the ground, again deceptively so. Build into the lower grille are thin slits housing LEDs for the daytime running lights.

Personally, I believe the Tourer is a way better looking car than the hatchback version. From a side and rear three-quarter angle the bodywork flows superbly well. There are big, swooping swage lines that flow fluidly over the wheel arches whilst above that your eyes are drawn to the windows, which narrow severely from the C to D pillars, the boot area glass meeting with the boot window to create what almost looks like one piece of glass.

From a side and rear three-quarter angle the bodywork flows superbly well with big, swooping swage lines that flow fluidly over the wheel arches. 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review

Honda have done a good job with the design of this 2014 Civic Tourer. It's sharp, modern and different to anything out there. 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review

The rear doors don’t have door handles placed in the conventional area either and instead they’re in the very corner of the trim next to the window – exactly like they are in the Alfa Romeo 156. Around to the rear, and the design continues to be bold by using sharply-tipped light cluster that poke out, and a strip of red semi-opaque plastic connects the two clusters, harking back to Civics of old. It’s Eighties retro, and I like it.

Overall, I think Honda have done a good job with the design of this 2014 Civic Tourer. It’s sharp, modern and different to anything out there. It much more interesting than the Civic Hatchback, and I’d go so far as to say it’s actually a little bit cool – heck, there’s one being raced in the BTCC, so it must be! My advice would be to go for one of the optional colours to get the best out of its looks: Passion Red Pearl, Polished Metal Metallic, or Twilight Blue Metallic are all good.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review – Ultra-Practical Stylish Estate - front seats HDR 3

Honda interiors have lacked any sort of character, soul or flair on the majority of their models for a long time now. Sure, they’re solidly put together and are renowned for being robust but they are unfortunately, in a word, dull. Has that changed with this 2014 Tourer? Yes and no. You can’t describe the cabin of the Tourer as being ‘fun’ or characterful, but then I guess it’s not aimed at buyers with either of those things in mind.

Sit in the the driver’s seat, close the door and you’re immediately surrounded cockpit style. It’s quite cool, and I like the design and layout of the dash as it’s rather individual. Very much Honda in its execution everything is big and bold, from the three large and highly readable dials and the thick-set steering wheel, to the upper ‘heads-up’ display which stretches out wide across the driver’s part of the dash, and shows a digital readout of your speed in sizeable clear, legible figures.

2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review-7112

This upper display area is a good idea to a degree, but much like the Peugeot 308 – which has a similar system – I found the speed-reading blocked partially by the steering wheel, and the only way to see them fully is to drop the ‘wheel down and pump the seat up to a higher position. Not my ideal driving position, and I hate compromising on it unless it’s totally necessary.

Honda sent us the second-from-top ‘SR’ spec Tourer, which features leather seats (heated in the front), HDD navigation system with integrated Bluetooth, DAB radio, voice activation and a DVD with video jacks, reverse camera, plus dual-zone climate control. The touchscreen system is user-friendly and the sat nav straightforward with good directions and map graphics.

2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review touch screen

The trim includes a fair amount of soft-touch pieces and it’s all solidly built too. However, there are a few thing to consider: while this new wrap-around design is all good, the cabin still seems to be behind the competition with regards to the styling and materials used. Manufacturers with cars in the same price-range – and less-expensive, even – offer stylish and visually-pleasing trim finishes such piano black, satin and brushed faux aluminium, soft-touch or rubberised switchgear and more of the same sort of thing.

Heating and climate controls on the 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual

The non-driver-friendly controls for the heating and more, which are small, low-down and a bit of a pain to use.

Honda meanwhile, still insist on swathes of varying shades of dull grey, with only flicks of silver hints here and there and even then it’s almost as if Honda’s interior designers have begrudgingly used something other than grey. Something very un-Honda that I was surprised about were the non-driver-friendly controls for the heating and more, which are small, low-down and a bit of a pain to use when you’re trying to concentrate on the road ahead, especially if the weather is bad. It contradicts the handy heads-up type display, which is strange.

One more moan, and that’s the blanking plate over where the starter button is situated on the top model: it looks cheaply and lazily done and because of where it’s situated (just behind the steering wheel), it’s a constant reminder that you’ve brought the cheaper model. Blanking plates look ugly and Honda should’ve at least tried to make it look less flipping obvious.

Right, that’s the negatives out of the way and it’s onto the positives. The front seats are really comfortable, and any who sat in them noted this. The rear seating is a little firm, but I think it’ll get better the more it’s used. The main point I like about the Civic Tourer is the practicality of the car. Honda says the Tourer is aimed at families with you kids who are upgrading from a smaller-size car, and customers with children who’ve left home are are now downsizing their vehicle, but still expect a high level of equipment and comfort.

Front leather seats on the 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual

Rear leather seats on the 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual

Versatility and practicality are the Honda’s trump cards, and I love all the handy storage areas around the Tourer’s cabin. Two things stand out though: firstly, the boot is HUGE for a car of this segment, and indeed Honda say it has the largest in its category with 624 litres rear seats up (measured up to the boot cover), and a whopping 1,668 litres with the seats down (up to the roof lining).

Open the boot hatch, and you’ll see a large square lid. Pull this up, and a large compartment is revealed. Even with the lid back in place, you can stow a huge amount of gear in this – so much so that it was all I used during the entire test period! I put in a large dry-bag, a camera bag, a tripod, a pair of boots, a couple of jackets plus carrier bags with more equipment in them, and still had room to spare. You can fold the lid into the area and easily slot 3 large suitcases inside so they don’t slide about. A brilliant feature.

2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review boot space and safety net partition

The rear seat fold completely down to the floor, so when you’ve done this you’ve then got an entirely flat and cave-like storage area. Aside from that there are two places for a cargo net to be hooked into place (one behind the rear seats, and one behind the fronts), which is handy if you have a dog or want to stop your gear from sliding into the seating area. Finally, there are Honda’s famous and unique ‘Magic Seats’ too: the bench sections of the rear seating fold up, providing an extremely useful storage area behind the fronts.

2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual review magic seats hdr

Honda’s famous and unique ‘Magic Seats’ too: the bench sections of the rear seating fold up, providing an extremely useful storage area behind the fronts.

Something else to point out is that the Civic Tourer comes with a high level of safety tech as standard, such as front, side and curtain airbags front and rear. The Civic hatchback achieved a 5-star Euro NCAP rating, with adult and child occupancy areas scoring highly, as well as its safety assist systems.

All said, whilst I believe the Honda Civic Tourer offers a cabin that is devoid of character and rather dull thanks to an insistence on the designers using grey for everything, there’s a fairly funky cockpit surround for the driver, comfortable seating and huge practicality and versatility aspects to take into consideration.

Engine & gearbox

Honda offer the Civic Tourer with a choice of two 4-cylinder engines; 1.8 litre petrol i-VTEC with SOHC (single overhead cam) , or a 1.6 litre i-DTEC turbo-diesel with DOHC (double overhead cam). We were sent the 1.8 i-VTEC engine, and it was a rather underwhelming experience in all honesty, but I’ll talk more about that in the next section.

Firstly, here’s the low-down on the i-VTEC manual: 140 bhp @ 6,500 rpm, 128 lb ft (174 Nm) @ 4,300 rpm, 0 – 62 mph in 9.2  – 9.6 seconds depending on spec (auto: 10.9 – 11.4) and 130 mph at the top end. Fuel economy (UK mpg) stats read as: urban: 36.2, extra urban: 52.4, combined: 44.1, and 149 g/km CO2 (auto: 155).

2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review-7314

We were sent the 1.8 i-VTEC engine, but aside from the manual petrol being a few hundredths of a second faster in the 0 – 62 run (the auto is slower though), being 10 mph quicker at the top end, and having 18 bhp more, the 1.6 i-DTEC diesel beats the petrol in every other way. It’s way more frugal on fuel (by almost 30 mpg combined), produces considerably less CO2 emissions (2014 tax rates per year: i-VTEC:  £145.00, i-DTEC: £20.00!), and has a stonking 93 lb ft (126 Nm) more torque than the i-VTEC, so I guarantee in-gear acceleration from the i-DTEC will be significantly more punchy. Until Honda release a turbo’d version of the VTEC, the choice is overwhelmingly in favour of the diesel.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review-7280

Fire the 1.8 i-VTEC into life and you’re greeted with a very quiet engine. The in-line 4-cylinder VTEC has always been a smooth unit, producing low noise and vibration, and this version continues to be the same. A blip of the accelerator shows the same, with the rev counter rising and falling fluidly before settling onto a perfectly even idle. Ah yes, if there’s one thing Honda offer with their petrol engines it is that they have absolutely bombproof reliability.

You can have absolute peace of mind that each and every time you walk out the door and turn the key that your Honda will, without fail, start. You can leave one sat for months through the worst winter weather, go out to it after all that and (aside from perhaps a flat battery) it will fire up the first second you turn the key.

Driver's cockpit on the 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual

That’s great, but it’s just one element and there’s obviously the ride, handling and performance to look at. The manual gear shifter is precise and slick, and alongside a light clutch pedal makes for easy shifting up and down the six gears, and non-tiring in heavy stop-start traffic. On that note, the Civic Tourer manual comes standard with Idle Stop to save a bit of fuel. It works decently well but I did find a couple of times that as I rolled to a stop in neutral and the engine cut, and then the traffic starting moving as the engine stopped and I needed to get going again (pushing in the clutch re-starts it) that the system got a little confused, reusing to start, and I’d have jab at the clutch pedal again to get it going.

The naturally-aspirated 1.8 i-VTEC doesn’t add up to make the Tourer a quick car, and I found myself having to get the rpm needle up high to get any real speed up. To me the 1.8 litre petrol engine felt weedy, almost underpowered, and a little dated considering the sort of power, torque and low emissions many manufacturers are getting from small capacity engines now. It’s also not cheap on tax either, as the CO2 emissions are fairly high, especially if you go for the automatic where you’ll be paying a hefty £180 per year (correct: July ’14).

2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review-7256

Sure, the 1.8 i-VTEC pushes the Tourer up to motorway limits without any problem, but whenever I needed to join a fast-flowing section at any sort of decent speed, I found myself having to really push the engine hard to extract the the power needed to do so, and even then the acceleration left me unimpressed. Once up to speed the 1.8 petrol Civic Tourer cruises fine, but 6th gear felt short and the engine more unrelaxed than I’d like at 70+ mph. It’s decently quiet though, and the comfort level enough to do long distance driving without issue.

On that point, there’s an Adaptive Damper System on the Civic Tourer SR (optional on the SE Plus and SE Plus-T models), which automatically adjusts the rear suspension damping force stiffness, adapting to different driving conditions. Doing this through the rear shock absorbers is a world-first apparently. Honda’s explanation of how this system works: “The rear dampers are equipped with a solenoid valve which controls the oil flow in the damper, which controls the damping force… [and] the ECU control unit calculates body movement by using the signals from the integrated three-axis body sensor. In addition the ECU control unit uses the information supplied by the vehicle CAN bus system and controls the rear axle damping force – varying between soft and hard – by applying more or less current to the damper.’

 Very much Honda in its execution, everything on the driver's side is big and bold, from the three large and highly readable dials and the thick-set steering wheel, to the upper 'heads-up' display which stretches out wide across the driver's part of the dash - 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review

Very much Honda in its execution, everything on the driver’s side is big and bold, from the three large and highly readable dials and the thick-set steering wheel, to the upper ‘heads-up’ display which stretches out wide across the driver’s part of the dash.

There are three settings to choose from on the system: Comfort, Dynamic, Normal. Regardless of the setting selected though, the rear adaptive damper system will adjust the damping force according to driver input and driving conditions. Does it work effectively? In short, yes. Down a rough Victorian cobbled road we switched between the settings and Comfort took away a surprising amount of the heavy vibration, and a few runs down winding country roads saw the Dynamic setting providing a firmer ride with less roll – just don’t expect hot-hatch-like handling though, as 140 horsepower doesn’t exactly make for a thrilling run through the twisty sections.

There’s an ECON button to allow for more economical driving, and turning it on slows acceleration and shows how economically you’re driving through both the usual live mpg reading, but also a coloured display (green = good, blue = uneconomical) via the upper ‘Intelligent Multi Info Display’ (i-MID). This is okay for city driving, but should you need any type of decent acceleration up hills or to overtake, it’s best to switch it off.

Safety-wise, aside from top 5-star marks in the Euro NCAP testing, the Civic Tourer offers plenty as standard: front, front side and curtain airbags front and rear, ABS, EBD, EBA, VSA, ESS, hill-start, an Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure, plus optional safety packs that include active things like City-Brake Active, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning and more.

Overall, the 1.8 i-VTEC offers a decent ride quality, a comfortable, roomy and safe cabin, and some innovative driving tech. The manual gearbox is a decent thing with slick changes, but sixth gear needs to be longer for more relaxed motorway cruising. While the 1.8 i-VTEC petrol engine will no doubt be utterly reliable for the life of the car, I found it to be lacklustre and dull, surprisingly high CO2 emissions and in need of way more low-down power and torque.

Overall, the 1.8 i-VTEC offers a decent ride quality, a comfortable, roomy and safe cabin, and some innovative driving tech. - 2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review-7267

To keep up with other manufacturers who offer good-power, decent fuel returns and low-emissions from engines of a similar size (Volvo, for example), Honda need to update their 1.8 i-VTEC. Possibly, they already know this as the next Civic Type R comes as with a VTEC Turbo powerplant.

Whilst I’ve yet to test it, there’s a lot of praise for the 1.6 i-DTEC engine, which offers great torque and good miles per gallon, and it’s the engine that I’m going to recommend you choose as it makes so much more sense in the Civic Tourer. Good car, but for now I’m advising you test the diesel too if you’re looking at buying one.

Price

(figures correct July ’14) The 1.8 i-VTEC manual Civic Tourer is priced between £20,270 and £26,255. Expect to pay around £1,000 extra for the 1.6 i-DTEC and the automatic version of the i-VTEC. Our 1.8 petrol manual SR-spec test car was £24,855 including the £500 option for metallic paint.

If you’re not bothered about having the Adaptive Damper System, leather seating, or sat nav, my recommendation would be to go for the mid-spec SE Plus model with the 1.6 i-DTEC engine for £22,960, as it still features a good amount of tech and goodies such as dual-zone climate control, cruise control with speed limiter, front and rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, DAB radio, Bluetooth for calls and music and more.

2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR manual verdict & score

2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR Manual Review-7204

Let’s start with the stuff I did not like. Whilst the interior is a marked improvement over the previous-gen Civic’s, it still feels behind the competition with regards to styling and the materials used. They’re not cheap or badly-made, but they are bland and uninspiring. The small controls for the heating etc, are low down and harder to read than I’d like, which is frustrating while you’re trying to concentrate on the road ahead. The naturally-asirated 1.8 i-VTEC lacks low-down power and torque, and now feels almost outdated next to today’s standards of low-capacity, high-output, low-emissions offerings. Will Honda do a turbo version of the VTEC on their normal cars, and not just the Type R? Let’s hope so.

Positive stuff: I’m really liking the exterior design – it’s interesting and different to the usual estate styling, and ever-so-slightly cool somehow. The wrap-around dash and centre console for the driver is neat, as is the compact and comfortable steering wheel. The interior trim is solidly-built and of the usual long-lasting Honda build quality. The front seats are well designed and notably comfortable, regardless of the fact they lack lumbar adjustment of lower models. The Civic Tourer makes the best of the space available with well-executed and innovative storage areas, a low-load boot and the ever-impressive rear ‘magic’ seats. The touchscreen menus and sat nav are fool-proof, ergonomic and straightforward to use. The car rides and handles decently enough for the tyre of car you’re buying, but I recommend the i-DTEC diesel over the petrol engine.

Do you own a 2014> Honda Civic Tourer? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  7.5
Interior  6
Engine (i-VTEC)  5
Gearbox  6.5
Price  7.5
Handling & ride  6.5
Drive  5.5
Overall Score  6.5 / 10

Specs

Model (as tested)  2014 Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC SR manual
Spec includes  17″ alloy wheels, leather seats with heating in fronts, cruise control with limiter, dual-zone climate control, touch screen with sat nav, rear-view camera, voice activation, Bluetooth, DAB radio, USB & Aux, Adaptive Damper System, auto headlights and more. See website for more info
Options you should spec  Best-looking paint options: Passion Red Pearl, Polished Metal Metallic, or Twilight Blue Metallic (£500)
The Competition  Ford Focus estate , Skoda Rapid Spaceback, Toyota Auris Touring Sports, Kia CEE’D Sportswagon, Hyundai i30 Tourer, Peugeot 308 SW
Price  (July 2014) All models: £20,270 – £27,460
Engine  petrol, 1.8 i-VTEC, naturally-aspirated, 4-cylinders in-line
Power, Torque  140 bhp @ 6,500 rpm | 128 lb ft (174 Nm) @ 4,300 rpm
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive | 6-speed manual
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed (limited): 130 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 9.2 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: 5-stars
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 36.2, Extra urban: 52.4, Combined: 44.1 | CO2: 149 g/km CO2
Weight (kerb)  1,340 (2,954 lbs)
Websites  Honda UK, Honda GermanyHonda France, Honda global

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

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Gtechniq G-Wash Car Shampoo Review – Gentle But Effective Cleaner http://carproductstested.com/exterior-product-reviews/gtechniq-g-wash-car-shampoo-review-gentle-but-effective-cleaner-keeps-your-wax-on/ http://carproductstested.com/exterior-product-reviews/gtechniq-g-wash-car-shampoo-review-gentle-but-effective-cleaner-keeps-your-wax-on/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 22:08:09 +0000 http://carproductstested.com/?p=13941

Washes highly safely, slick & easy use, effectively removes dirt and traffic film, economical.

No negatives

Gtechniq G-Wash?

GTECHNIQ G WASH car shampoo product bottle

G-Wash car shampoo works alongside Gtechniq’s nanotechnology sealants, to ensure it not only gives a good, deep wash but also doesn’t impair the longevity of any sealants or wax previously applied to paintwork, glass, or exterior trim. Gtechniq state that G-Wash “produces a high-foam content which breaks the bond between the dirt film [and] paintwork… minimising surface abrasion.” In other words, it’ll clean deeply and leave a good shine whilst reducing scratching over a ‘normal’ car shampoo. Let’s see how it does.

Test time…

GTECHNIQ G Wash car shampoo review dilution rate mixing

The first thing we always do when receiving a product to test is to smell it. It’s just a force of habit really. The G-Wash rewards us with waft of marzipan scent, which becomes even more apparent when mixed into a bucket of warm water. While it’s not the be-all and end-all, it just makes the job of washing your car that little bit more pleasant. Gtechniq recommend 2 capfuls for light dirt, and 4 if it’s heavier. To put that into perspective a bit more, we used a syringe to measure how much a capful is and it came out at approximately 7-8 ml (0.23 fl oz). So, you’ll be using around 14 ml (0.47 fl oz)on a lightly dirty car and 28 ml (0.94 fl oz) if it’s really dirty. That’s up to 18 washes from the 250 ml bottle. 35 from the 500 ml, and 71 from the 1,000 ml.

The G-Wash shampoo itself has fairly thick texture, and it into the bucket as it fills with warm water quickly sees thick suds, and although we have seen other shampoos that sud-up better than this does not mean it’s a lesser shampoo by any means, as we’ve also tested others that barely give suds but still clean well and gently too. We recommend adding just a few ml to your wash mitt beforehand just to give it that extra bit of help when cleaning the car.

GTECHNIQ G WASH bottle car shampoo review-7376

Our test car was a late Nineties black Lexus LS 400, which had previously had sealant and wax applied to it a few months before. The dirt build-up from weeks of it sat parked up, and also grime from a drive down wet roads showed it as light-medium, and there were areas with watermarks too. From the moment we used the wash mitt the Gtechniq G-Wash helped the mitt slip across the paintwork beautifully, and it feels more slick and lubricated than the majority of shampoos we’ve used before. It’s almost a silky feel, and this made washing the dirt off the Lexus a supremely easy task, cutting through it with very little apparent effort.

Rinsing away the suds and then drying the bodywork with a Gtechinq MF1 ZeroR Microfibre Buff Cloth – which incidentally is highly absorbent – it was obvious the aforementioned stubborn watermarks were also ridden of surprisingly well, with the majority gone in just one quick wash. Impressive stuff. The paintwork itself was back to having a deep warm glow to it, and the G-wash seemed to have brought the water beading and sheeting quality back on par too.

GTECHNIQ G WASH car shampoo review test comparison.

Price-wise we worked out that buying the 250 ml bottle (and based on a two-capful wash) means a cost of 50p per wash, 37p per wash with the 500ml and 28p with the 1,000 ml bottle. So, if you are going to buy this shampoo, it’s obviously far more economical to buy the 1,000 ml version.

Gtechniq G-Wash Car Shampoo verdict & score

GTECHNIQ G WASH car shampoo review

G-Wash is actually a real pleasure to use, and the quality of the product is obvious. Gtechniq state that G-Wash contains no gloss enhancers or bulking agents, so this is a shampoo more suited to cars that have previously had wax or sealant applied, or that have new paintwork. G-Wash does its job of washing off dirt and grime well, and we couldn’t fail to be impressed by how quickly and easily it works.

What’s your favourite snow foam product or car shampoo? Let us know by commenting below! See more car spray wax/quick detailer spray reviews here.

Score & specs

How effective?  8.5
Usability  9
Finish  8.5
Value for money  9
Overall  9.0 / 10 

 

Product  Gtechniq G-Wash
Safe to use on…  Car bodywork, glass, exterior plastic trim
Not safe on…  N/A
Will remove…  Light – heavy dirt and grime
Stinky or scented?  Scented: Marzipan
Buy from?  If you’d like a link to your shop here, please contact us.
Price  250ml: 8.95 | 500ml: 12.95 | 1,000ml: £19.99 | 1 US Gal.: £34.96

Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

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CarPlan Demon Shine Spray Gun Shine Review http://carproductstested.com/exterior-product-reviews/carplan-demon-shine-spray-gun-shine-review/ http://carproductstested.com/exterior-product-reviews/carplan-demon-shine-spray-gun-shine-review/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:45:47 +0000 http://carproductstested.com/?p=13540

Quick ‘n’ easy usage, adds good shine & water beading

Need to use regularly, little longevity, can leave water marks if not wiped off quickly

CarPlan Demon Shine Spray Gun?

CarPlan Demon Spray Gun Shine Review-1899

Demon Shine has been out for a while now, and its quick ‘n’ simple application means it won car cleaning enthusiasts over. We’ve tested the straight-from-the-bottle Demon Shine in the past, and liked it, but now CarPlan have made an even more time-efficient product: CarPlan Demon Shine Spray Gun. It’s a plug and play product, which connects onto a hosepipe, and is then sprayed onto the car. We were sent one to test and see if it’s as easy to use as their adverts make out…

Test time…

CarPlan Demon Spray Gun Shine Review-3182

We were using the Demon Shine Spray Gun as part of CarPlan’s spray range, so we’d already washed the test car using CarPlan Demon Wash Snow Foam. CarPlan still still sell the original Demon Shine Pour On Shine and Spray On Shine, and having tested both of these we know they’re decent products and are easy to use too. However, if you’ve already got your hosepipe rigged up then it’s simply a matter of plugging the Demon Shine spray gun onto the end, twist the switch on the side and the nozzle unit does the water to product mixture itself.

From that point it’s just a matter of point and squirt. The nozzle gives a decently wide spray pattern but the distance is goes depends entirely on the water pressure in your area. For us, we have low water pressure so only got around 120 centimetres (47 inches) spray distance, whereas others are getting much more than this. Either way, it still covered the entire car with little effort.

CarPlan Demon Spray Gun Shine Review-3180

You can use it on any surface including the glass and exterior rubber or plastic trim, so there’s no need to be careful with it. It’s nicely scented as well, and you’ll get the smell of cherry and marzipan wafting about when using the product. To finish, use a soft microfibre and wipe over the entire car to remove the excess, especially on the glass and plastic trim pieces to avoid streaks and runs.

CarPlan Demon Spray Gun Shine verdict & score

CarPlan Demon Spray Gun Shine Review-3185

After using Carplan Demon Shine, water beads and sheets (runs off the paintwork) well.

Any drawbacks? A couple of negatives are that the tub is a little awkward to handle and can feel heavy if you’re holding it high up for more than a couple of minutes. Also, if the surfaces you’re spraying onto are hot the product will quickly dry and leave runs and spot marks behind, so get it off quickly. It’s not great on longevity, and will need regular top-ups to keep it shiny and protection going, although top-up bottles are available at a cheaper price than with the spray gun unit.

CarPlan Demon Spray Gun Shine Review-3215

We were pleasantly surprised with the results, as even on a car with no previous protection applied (wax or sealant) the Demon Shine does actually add a decent high shine to the paint, and water then beaded and sheeted on the surfaces that were previously ‘flat’ (no beading/sheeting). To get even better results, our advice would be to use a wax as a base and then use the Demon Shine once a week or every couple of weeks. For this matter we’d class this as a spray wax more than anything.

CarPlan Demon Spray Gun Shine Review-3171

All said, the Demon Shine Spray Gun is a very quick and easy way to give your car a ‘quick fix’ of shiny-ness, and when used alongside the CarPlan Demon Foam car shampoo spray-system it makes very good sense. You’ll find you don’t need much per wash either, as it’s just a matter of spraying a quick and even coverage over the car.

Price-wise you’re looking at just under £10.00 for the 2-litre spray gun and £7.50 for the top-up bottles of the same size.

What’s your favourite snow foam product or car shampoo? Let us know by commenting below! See more car spray wax/quick detailer spray reviews here.

Score & specs

How effective?  7
Usability  9
Finish  7
Value for money  7
Overall  7.5 / 10 

 

Product  CarPlan Demon Shine Spray Gun
Safe to use on…  Car bodywork, glass, exterior plastic trim
Not safe on…  N/A
Will remove…  N/A
Stinky or scented?  Scented: Cherry/marzipan
Buy from?  If you’d like a link to your shop here, please contact us.
Price  2 litre inc. foam gun: £9.99 | 2 litre refill (no gun): £7.49

Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

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2014 Skoda Octavia vRS Hatch 2.0 TDI 184PS Manual review – Fast-Hatch Offers Performance & Economy http://carproductstested.com/cars/2014-skoda-octavia-vrs-hatch-2-0-tdi-184ps-manual-review-fast-hatch-offers-performance-economy/ http://carproductstested.com/cars/2014-skoda-octavia-vrs-hatch-2-0-tdi-184ps-manual-review-fast-hatch-offers-performance-economy/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:27:34 +0000 http://carproductstested.com/?p=13635

Great economy, torque-a-plenty, punchy acceleration, sorted ride and handling, comfortable, well priced

Lacks personality, more standard equipment would be welcome

2014 Skoda Octavia vRS?

Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TDI 184PS 2014 review-6962

M, RS, AMG, STi. Seeing these inconspicuous badges on the front and rear of certain marques fire off little sparks of adrenaline through the veins of petrolheads, for they know that underneath that seemingly normal exterior is a car capable of making your heart thump in your chest at the mere prod of the accelerator.

Skoda’s own discreet badging for the smoking hot versions of their cars comes in the form of ‘vRS’, and for 2014 the third generation Octavia vRS comes with all-new engines offering high power and good fuel economy. We were sent the 2014 Skoda Octavia vRS Hatch 2.0 TDI 184PS manual to review and find out if a powerful diesel can offer as much fun as a petrol. Read on to find out if it does…

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

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Ooof. This 2014 Octavia vRS Hatch really is a mean-looking thing. It hides the fact its a sporty car about as convincingly as a tutu-wearing rhinoceros trying to pass as a ballet dancer. Yes, it’s immediately obvious that this particular Skoda Octavia is clearly not the standard version as preferred by taxi drivers and old men.

Even some of the colour choices for the Octavia vRS are as vivid and in-your-face as you like, with options like Sprint Yellow and Rallye Green making sure you’re seen a mile off, should that be your sort of thing. Our tester came in a less lurid colour of Race Blue, which although less glaring than the above-mentioned still makes a bold statement about the car.

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The Octavia vRS differs from the standard model by being given a lower stance and sporting twin stainless exhaust pipes, diffusers front and rear, a boot spoiler, and a range of bigger alloy wheels. The hard-as-nails look is all around the car, and from the front your eye is draw to the big black upper and lower grilles while jagged design slashes and cuts in the bumper catch and bounce the light. Above that narrow, glaring headlights stab your vision with their eye catching super-clear light sabre-like LED daytime running lights.

Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TDI 184PS 2014 review exterior multi

At the rear there are stylish twin stainless steel exhaust tips built into the boxy air diffuser to give you a clue that this isn’t just any old Octavia, while diagonal cuts into either side of the bonnet again catch the light and add an extra edginess to the design, and it’s all finished off with a low boot spoiler. Something cool I did notice is that there are no TDI or TSI badges to distinguish whether this is the petrol or diesel version. Keep ‘em guessing.

This 2014 Skoda Octavia vRS pull absolutely no punches with its brutal look. I’m certain I saw a few villagers run inside and slam close their window-shutters as I drove past their quaint countryside homes, the Octavia vRS’ tough looks putting fear in the eyes of the beholders. Okay, I exaggerate a little but it doesn’t hide the fact that this is a very tough-looking brute, and all the better for it.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TDI 184PS 2014 review-6937

Inside the Octavia vRS Hatch it’s all very serious – focussed, even – with an emphasis on a sports. In amongst a sea of grey and black trim, contrasting bright red stitching on the steering wheel, gear gaiter, seats and a few other places catches the eye. Up front, the deep half-leather bucket seats also have a thick band of red underlining ‘vRS’ lettering stamped into the headrests, while the rears get the same treatment.

I’ve got to say, not only does the front seating in the vRS look fantastic, but it is also absolutely comfortable and highly supportive, and whether you’re doing a bit of motorway trudging or hammering down your favourite bit of winding tarmac, the seats suit every occasion very well. The rear seats are also decent, with the sides giving good support thanks to their mini bolsters and (unusually) even the middle seat is flat enough to be comfortable on over longer journeys.

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Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TDi 2014 front seats side view HDR

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The driver’s binnacle is simply laid-out, with sharp dials that are analogue and ever-so-slightly old-school in their design. Between the two large dials sits an information screen that displays the usual: fuel eco stats, satellite navigation directions, plus a few menus for other settings. It’s fairly simplistic, and I like it for that.

The steering wheel felt surprisingly big for a sporty car, but I had just driven the Peugeot 308 with its minuscule ‘wheel so that likely had a bearing on this viewpoint. However, it’s comfortable, grippy and the controls on it were easy to use. What more can you ask for. Over to the centre console, and again it is straightforward in design. I like the fact the Octavia’s is uncomplicated and the switchgear is easy to fathom and remember. I can’t stand cars that throw a multitude of switchgear at the driver, and still expect them not to lose concentration trying to find the fan speed or rear-heated window or whatever.

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Standard on the Octavia vRS Hatch is a touchscreen system, and it’s a good one. The menus are highly readable and user-friendly, and it’s got slick, modern graphics too. You can even flick across through options in a smartphone/tablet style, and instead of being slow or stuttering when doing so, the graphics keep up well and flow smoothly. Cleverly, the screen remains ‘full’ and uncluttered until you put your hand near to it, upon which a proximity sensor detects it and brings up the rest of the menus. Our test car had the optional Amundsen touchscreen sat nav system (£550. June ’14), and while it’s a nice thing to use and works well, it’s a little expensive considering you can buy a top-flight sat nav for less than half that.

Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TDI 184PS 2014 review touch screen multi

Standard interior equipment on the Octavia vRS also includes dual-zone  air conditioning with humidity sensor, seven airbags, driver alert system (fatigue alert), driving mode selection, bluetooth, DAB radio and more. I expected more stuff as standard, such as heated front seats, keyless entry, a starter button etc. However, as talk about about later the Octavia vRS Hatch is very well-priced car and surprisingly cheap all things considered, and given that I wouldn’t begrudge paying a bit on top for a few options.

Opening the boot lid, I couldn’t quite believe just how large the storage space was beneath. This is an impressively big boot area, with 590 litres rear seats in place, and 1,580 litres with the backrests folded. To put it in context, the Octavia Estate has just 20 litres more space with the seats up, and 160 litres more with them down.

Overall, the Skoda Octavia vRS Hatch is decently-spec’d car, with comfortable and supportive seating up front, a well-designed cabin with a fairly simplistic yet modern look, and a cavernous boot that’ll swallow a huge amount of equipment. There was nothing I could find to complain about, and when you factor in the price of the car you’re getting a bit of a bargain.

Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TDI 184PS 2014 boot space 1

Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TDI 184PS 2014 boot space 2

Engine & gearbox

Skoda offer the Octavia vRS with a choice of either a two-litre petrol or diesel engine with 6-speed manual or DSG automatic transmissions. Both are in-line 4-cylinder units and turbo-charged. The 2.0 TSI petrol has 217 bhp and 258 lb ft (350 Nm) of torque, and the manual will do the 0 – 62 mph run in a respectable 6.8 seconds (7.1 for the DSG) and will hit 150 mph at the top end.

Our test car was the vRS with the diesel 2.0 TDI , which kicks out a 181 bhp at 3,500 rpm and 280 lb ft (380 Nm) of torque is produced at just 1,750 up to 3,500 rpm. It’ll get to 62 miles-per-hour from zero in 8.1 seconds and go on to 142 mph maximum. While it’s slower than the petrol, there a couple of things the diesel offers that make it a very tempting offer: firstly, thanks to it only producing 119 g/km of CO2, the UK tax per year for the manual diesel is just £30.oo per year currently! That’s an amazingly low figure for a car with whopping torque and a decent turn of speed.

Be careful though, as the TDI with the DSG ‘box jumps tax up to 129 g/km, which is another stage and you’ll be £130 per year lighter. Meanwhile, the vRS TSi will cost you £145 p/y. Secondly, the diesel is very fuel-frugal with UK mpg stats quoted as: urban: 49.6, extra urban: 72.4, combined: 61.4. That’s almost 20 miles-per-gallon more than the TSI extra urban, and 16 mpg on a combined run. Realistically? We achieved 54.4 mpg over 122 miles of motorway and a couple of sections of urban routes. That’s great-going considering we didn’t exactly hold back on pushing that accelerator down hard.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

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Back in t’ day (around 1999/2000), I remember the VAG (Volkswagen Group) diesel cars coming in varying degrees of horsepower, and if you had the 150 bhp version, you had something quite quick for a 1.9/2.0 litre diesel of the time. Back then, that was a respectable amount and they still achieved very good fuel economy too.

However, this new VAG Skoda Octavia vRS takes it to a new level, pumping out a very decent 181 bhp from its 2.0 litre engine while still giving you big miles to a tank of fuel. On a diesel though, it’s all about the torque and as mentioned the vRS TDI kicks out a chunky 280 lb ft (380 Nm) of it.

However, these are just figures on a screen and mean absolutely zero until I explain what it’s like out on the tarmac. Setting off, there’s a nice, light clutch pedal – good for those dreaded stop-start urban drives in rush-hour traffic. You’ll find changes from the 6-speed manual gearbox are satisfyingly precise and positive, and the ratios are nicely spread for both town and motorway driving.

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The vRS has a ‘Driving Mode Selection’, which can be used via the touchscreen. The different modes are Normal, Sport, Eco, and Individual. What these modes do is adapt the engine torque, accelerator sensitivity, power steering, headlight control (for if Adaptive Front Lighting is fitted), DSG transmission (if you have it), and air conditioning to suit the profile selected. Clever, and I often switched between them depending on the journey to either save fuel or get some speed up.

The 0 – 62 mph time of 8.1 seconds is decent enough, but with diesel cars it’s the rolling acceleration that really counts, and this 2014 Octavia vRS TDI has that by the bucket load. The pull from the torque on this car is absolutely superb, and highly addictive too. With the maximum kicking in at just 1,750 rpm, the response in any gear is brilliant, and there’s very little lag to speak of. Plant that accelerator and you’ll ride a powerful wave of torque that’ll see the speedometer climbing impressively quickly, whether you’re doing low or high speeds at the time.

There’s very much a feeling of relentlessness with the Octavia vRS TDI, and it pushes on incredibly well up to and beyond triple figures. It’s far better, in fact, than anything I expected. Count me as impressed with the turn of speed. The handling didn’t disappoint either. For starters, any of the dreaded torque steer that plagues some powerful front wheel drive cars has been dealt with by Skoda fitting an electronic differential lock (XDS), which is integrated into the stability control (ESC).

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The Octavia provides a good quality of low-speed ride when tackling Britain’s blighted roads, while still maintaining its posture when you’re really on it around some of the twisty stuff. It’s a commendable suspension set-up, and the XDS ensures you can have fun in confidence. The vRS also has good stopping power, and while the brakes are sharp they’re progressive and give good feedback, rather than being over-eager and throwing you through the front windscreen.

With regards to safety tech, the Octavia vRS has a huge list to keep you pointing in the right direction, and reads like some highly-educated scientist’s credentials: ESC with ABS, EBD, MSR, ASR, EDS, HBA, DSR and Pre-fill brakes. One that especially impressed me was the Automatic Post Collision Braking System, which brakes the Octavia automatically after an impact to prevent it from then going into oncoming traffic.

At higher cruising speeds, the vRS is quiet enough to enjoy the journey as wind, road and engine noise are dulled decently well, and it actually makes for a rather good long-distance driver.

Overall, the Octavia vRS TDI left me very much impressed with the drive, handling and comfort level. What strikes me is that this is a superb multi-purpose car. It’s economical and big enough to be a sorted family car, sporty and quick enough to make the petrol (or diesel) heads happy, and because of the low emissions, fuel-frugality and comfy-cruiser factor it’d also be a good company car too. Heck, I’ve even seen one being used as a taxi! A brilliant car, and it’s going to take a fair bit for me to be as impressed with the petrol vRS TSI version.

Price

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(prices correct June ’14) Prepare to go and test a Skoda Octavia vRS! You’ll possibly want to after reading the prices. The Octavia vRS Hatch TSI and TDI costs between just £23,750 and £25,400. That’s a crazily low amount for the car you’re getting, and an absolutely excellent deal in my humble opinion.

Our manual vRS TDI Hatch is priced at a smidgen over £24,000 minus any of the options, with the DSG version around £1,400 more. The petrol TSI costs a few hundred less than the diesel, but you’ll make that back in fuel costs over a year with the diesel anyway. For your information, the Estate vRS is £24,500 – £26,200.

Either way, Skoda are selling their Octavia vRS at an admirably low price and it’s certainly one too look out for as a brilliant all-rounder.

2014 Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TDI 184PS manual verdict & score

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As you’ve likely gathered, I love this car. I can’t find much to complain about, and if I’m honest it’s being picky to do so. Here goes anyway: the vRS doesn’t exactly exude personality or soul, and there’s a couple of things on the interior that I think should be standard (heated seats, electric folding mirrors), but they’re cheap enough options and you still get a lot for your money as standard.

So, the positive are great economy, low CO2 emissions (equals low tax), torque-a-plenty, punchy acceleration at just about any speed (within reason, obviously), a sorted ride and handling, aggressive styling and an interior that ‘s comfortable and decently spec’d with a cavernous boot space. Oh, and that very reasonable price tag. Genuinely, the Octavia vRS TDI is an excellent car and a brilliant all-rounder.

Do you own a 2014> Skoda Octavia vRS? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  8
Interior  7.5
Engine (TDI)  8.5
Gearbox  8
Price  8.5
Handling & ride  8
Drive  8
Overall Score  8.0 / 10

Specs

Model (as tested)  2014 Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TDI 184PS
Spec includes  18″ alloy wheels, leather seats with heating in fronts, cruise control with limiter, dual-zone climate control, touch screen with Bluetooth, DAB radio, USB & Aux, driving mode selection, driver alert system, Bi-Xenon with LED running lights,   ESC with ABS, EBV, MSR, ASR, EDS, HBA, DSR, hill hold See website for more info
Options you should spec  Race Blue metallic paint: £525.00
The Competition  Kia PRO_CEE’D GT, Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI 177PS, Mazda6 2.2l 175PS,
Price  (July 2014) TDI: £23,580
Engine  Turbo-diesel, 2.0 litre, 4-cylinders in-line, DOHC
Power, Torque  181 bhp @ 3,500 rpm | Torque: 280 lb ft (380 Nm) @ 1,750 – 3,500 rpm
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive | 6-speed manual
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed (limited): 142 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 8.1 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: 5-stars
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 49.6, Extra urban: 72.4, Combined: 61.4 | CO2: 119 g/km CO2
Weight (kerb)  1,395 (3,075 lbs)
Websites  Skoda UK, Skoda Germany, Skoda global

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies, Jake Thomas

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