Car Products Tested http://carproductstested.com Your website for car product and gadget reviews Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:46:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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…

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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?

Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TDI 184PS 2014 review-6982

 

Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TDI 184PS 2014 review-6968

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.

Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TDI 184PS 2014 review-6985

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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2014 Peugeot 308 5-Door Feline e-HDi 115 Review – Perception Changer http://carproductstested.com/cars/2014-peugeot-308-5-door-feline-e-hdi-115-review-perception-changer/ http://carproductstested.com/cars/2014-peugeot-308-5-door-feline-e-hdi-115-review-perception-changer/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 14:57:48 +0000 http://carproductstested.com/?p=13421

Good exterior looks, visually pleasing, comfortable & contemporary cabin, 115 engine good all-rounder

Small steering wheel partially blocks vision of instrument panel

2014 Peugeot 308?

The 2014 Peugeot 308 - A whole lot better looking than last year.

Compare the new 308 to its 2013 predecessor, and the difference is astounding. For myself, the old version was an ugly, nondescript-looking thing offering exactly zero in the way of desirability, and the interior lacked any sort of charisma or design flair. In short: it was entirely dull and lacklustre and exactly the sort of car you buy if you have no interest in cars at all.

For 2014 though, Peugeot seem to have turned the whole thing around. How? We were sent the 2014 Peugeot 308 Feline e-HDi 115 to take a look at and let you know just that…

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

Not a single doubt that this is a Peugeot! Peugeot 308 5-Door Feline e-HDi 115

Blimey. The Peugeot delivery guy seems to have dropped off the wrong vehicle, for sat on the driveway is a rather attractive car, and let’s be honest, few Peugeots of recent past can be described as that. This new 308 though, seems to have left all that behind in one fell swoop. There’s now an air of elegance about it, and it’s much more mature-looking than Peugeot’s previous efforts.

The front end is striking, especially the top two models (Allure, Feline) which feature full-LED headlights that lends them a classy, upmarket edge. Even the base 308 boasts daytime LED running lights, which is great. From a frontal viewpoint, there’s actually a fair amount going on and it’s bordering on fussy, for example, there’s a huge lower grille with fog lamps and their surrounds either side, then above that there’s another smaller grille, the involved all-LED headlight clusters and then the bonnet with numerous design lines across it.

Peugeot 308 5-Door Feline - The wheels have been pushed outwards for a wider track and in turn a more planted ride, but this also serves to make it look decently sporty, especially from the rear.

However, while it’s bordering on being overdone it’s still a very likeable and stylish looker. The top grille is chrome and features ‘Peugeot’ imprinted across the central section, which looks great next to those effective LED lights, and the bonnets lines make it look imposing and muscular.

While the 308 5-door hatch is a decent size, this is hidden so well that people assume it’s small inside, which it isn’t. The wheels have been pushed outwards for a wider track and in turn a more planted ride, but this also serves to make it look decently sporty, especially from the rear.

I really like the 2014 Peugeot 308 hatchback. Style-wise, they've really turned things around with their new models and I'm honestly glad they've made such a sorted-looking car.

There’s a fair amount of cars out there that superb from the front, but side on they’re just a slab of metal and glass with no thought gone into them. Thankfully, the new 308 has a couple of bold swage lines to keep things interesting and from above there’s a black panoramic glass roof (standard on the Feline), adding chic to the very reasonably-priced 308. Peugeot have even managed to make the rear look nice, with LED ‘claw effect’ lamps and a clean design.

Overall, I really like the 2014 Peugeot 308 hatchback. Style-wise, they’ve really turned things around with their new models and I’m honestly glad they’ve made such a sorted-looking car.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

Peugeot have moved almost everything over to fully digital, and you'll control almost everything off a large 9.7 inch colour touchscreen.

Peugeots from just a few years ago have notoriously shonky interiors. Bits of trim and switchgear would break or become loose and flap about randomly, and cheap knock-hard plastics coloured in the drabbest of hues adorned the cabin. Overall they were about as desirable as a punch in the face and as well built as a Soviet-era Skoda. Terrible stuff, and Peugeot now have the unenviable task of overcoming that reputation.

Well, I’m here to tell you that the 2014 Peugeot 308 is a very large leap forward – Astronaut-like, in fact. Peugeot are going for the clean, uncluttered look with their new 308, and while bottom of the range ‘Access’ model still has the usual buttons for controlling the heating and stereo settings, for all the models above save for just five switches Peugeot have moved almost everything over to fully digital, and you’ll control almost everything off a large 9.7 inch colour touchscreen. Even the most basic model comes well-equipped, and you’ll still get cruise control with speed limiter, air conditioning, DAB radio, a USB connector and Bluetooth.

Peugeot are calling this their i-cockpit, and say it consists of four integrated components: a compact steering wheel, a high-positioned 'head up' instrument panel, a enhancing high centre console and the large touch screen.

Peugeot are calling this their i-cockpit, and say it consists of four integrated components: a compact steering wheel, a high-positioned ‘head up’ instrument panel, a enhancing high centre console and the aforementioned large touch screen. Breaking those components down, the steering wheel is unusually small and any normal-sized version feels like you’re using one from a tractor. It’s comfortable though, and strangely it does give you more of a sense that you’re having more input when driving.

On this point though, I found with both this car and the 208 GTi that top of the small steering wheel blocks out some of the view of the instrument panel, and I found myself having to lower the ‘wheel down and heighten the seat to see the full panel properly. Okay, I’m not exactly on the tall side, but that doesn’t normally effect the view of the instrument panel in other cars and it did mean that I end up sat like I was driving an MPV; steering wheel almost in lap, seat up high.

The touchscreen itself is a really good system, and a little like using a built-in tablet. It has contemporary, smooth graphics, a simple and ergonomic layout for each menu.

The touchscreen itself is a really good system, and a little like using a built-in tablet. It has contemporary, smooth graphics, a simple and ergonomic layout for each menu, you can connect to WiFi through it should there be a signal in range, and there’s loads of ways to connect different devices to it for your music. You can even load photographs onto it via the USB, although I still can’t see the point in that to be honest. The sat nav is a good one, and again graphics are decent. The only slight negative I could find with the system overall is that occasionally when quickly switching between the menus down each side of the screen, things slowed down a little and I found myself pushing the button a couple of times before it switched over. Aside from that, it is a nice thing to use and I think it’s the way ahead for manufacturers.

The rest of the cabin is very upmarket, with big pieces of smart, angular satin-finished trim surrounds and sections of piano-black, plus lots of rubberised soft-touch panels. Even the manual gearstick is nice to look at and use, and there’s clearly been a lot of thought gone into it. The Feline-spec 308 gets a large panoramic glass roof  as well, and it finishes off an already-classy interior beautifully and makes for a very airy cabin space.

Peugeot 308 5-Door Feline Review - The rest of the cabin is very upmarket, with big pieces of smart, angular satin-finished trim surrounds and sections of piano-black, plus lots of rubberised soft-touch panels.

Sit in the driver’s seat, close the door and you’re fully surrounded thanks to a high centre console. This definitely makes the driving experience a more personal one, and I got the feeling I was more pilot than driver because of the high console, slick dash and cool instrument cluster.

Up front, the seats are comfortable, supportive with high bolsters, which make for a sung fit. Our ‘Feline’ spec tester had the option of Nappa leather seats fitted, which are heated and massage the lower back too. These seats are a £1,200 option (June ’14) and while they’re nice ‘n’ all the massage function isn’t really all that (more of a gentle push in the back really) and it’s a lot of money on a car costing under £22,000.

Front and rear seats on the Peugeot 308 5-Door Feline e-HDi 115

Rear passengers reported fairly decent legroom and comfortable seating, even in the middle which is unusual by todays standards, making for five real seats. Boot space is impressive, with just over 500 litres rear seats in place and over 1,300 litres with them down.

Peugeot 308 5-Door Feline e-HDi 115 Review - Boot space is impressive, with just over 500 litres rear seats in place and over 1,300 litres with them down. Peugeot 308 5-Door Feline e-HDi 115 Review - Boot space is impressive, with just over 500 litres rear seats in place and over 1,300 litres with them down.

All said, the Peugeot 308′s cabin really is a lovely space to be in. My recommendation though, is to find a few quid extra in your budget and spec your 308 above the basic Access model, as the interior then looks as I think Peugeot wanted it too; clean, uncluttered and refined. Well done Peugeot designers, I think you’ve cracked it with this one!

Engine & gearbox

The 308 is available with a good range of petrol and diesel engines, but we were sent the 1.6 litre e-HDi 115 turbo-diesel. This is a 4-cylinder, 8-valve unit putting out 115 bhp at 3,600 rpm and 200 lb ft (270 Nm) of torque at 1,750 rpm. 0 – 62 mph is done in a none-too-fast 11.9 seconds, and you’ll get to 118 mph max speed.

Official stats (UK mpg) read as: urban: 64.2, extra urban: 80.7, Combined: 74.3, and it puts out 100 g/km of CO2, which at the current rate (June ’14) means you’ll pay exactly zero tax per year. The gearbox is a 6-speed manual, with no automatic available with the 1.6 e-HDi.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

Peugeot 308 5-Door Feline e-HDi 115 Review-6766

Fire the 1.6 litre e-HDi into life using the satin-finished starter button behind the gearstick (standard on this Feline version), and it’s noticeably quiet. Yes, from the exterior there’s the familiar chug of a 4-cylinder diesel, but inside Peugeot have made sure there’s plenty of sound-deadening to keep you separated from this, and it adds to the overall refined feel of the 308.

The clutch is nice and light – perfect for driving in stop-start traffic – and gear changes from the six-speed ‘box are really positive too. With the maximum torque kicking in at just 1,750 rpm, the 1.6 turbo-diesel makes driving urban and tight country roads a breeze when you’re constantly having to slow and accelerate again. The Stop & Start system works well in that rather than you having to reach a certain speed again after cutting in, you can move forward slowly even for a just a couple of feet and the system will cut the engine again. Great for those long rush-hour traffic light queues.

I settled down very quickly into this Peugeot, and it really did feel good to drive. The suspension soaks up the nasty potholes and gouges in the tarmac well, making for a comfortable ride for both front and rear passengers, while still providing a stable and decently planted drive when you’re on a quick, winding road. The electric power steering suits the Peugeot 308, and it’s responsive enough to be happy with considering you’re not exactly going to buy this thing for its go-kart like handling prowess.

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The one-point-six e-HDi turbocharged diesel provides more pulling power than I expected, and while it’s not exactly the quickest car off the line, this car is more about rolling speed and you’ll find a smooth and strong wave of torque through the gears, getting you up to the motorway limit and beyond without any trouble, and thanks to a long 6th gear I found the 308 made long-distance cruising entirely undemanding. 80 mph sees the rpm needle sitting at just 2,000, and this also means you’ll be getting good fuel economy. Over a 160-mile motorway journey we managed 57.5 miles-per-gallon with the cruise set at around the limit for most of the way.

On that note, the Feline edition gets Dynamic Cruise Control, meaning it’ll slow and accelerate automatically without your input. Simply set the speed and the distance you want to travel to the car in front (from a one second gap upwards), and let it do its job. It’s an okay system, but nowhere near as seamless as the versions you get on Volvo’s or Jaguar’s. Still, it’s a respectable piece of kit for a car costing less than twenty-two grand.

Peugeot 308 5-Door Feline e-HDi 115 Review-6824

Safety-wise, the 308 has a good amount of tech on board and was awarded 5-stars by Euro NCAP. There’s front, front side, and curtain airbags, and helping to keep the car on the road are ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBFD), Emergency Braking Assist (EBA) plus an Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) with hill assist.  Standard on the Feline edition (optional on the Allure model) is emergency alert and braking too.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by just how decent the engine, ride, and drive was from the Peugeot 308 1.6 e-HDi. It’s much more refined that you’d expect from a car that starts at just over £17,000, and I’m won over by this particular Pug.

Price

(Prices correct June 2014) There are many variants of the Peugeot 308, so we’ll stick the 1.6 e-HDi manual version. It’s price of £17,245 to £21,745 is extremely competitive, and I think you’re getting a very well-spec’d car for the money. You’ll get the same quality of ride and drive regardless of which model you go for, and so it’s down to your budget and taste as to which spec you want.

My recommendation is to go for anything above the basic access model. The cabin looks so much better simplified and without all the extra switchgear, and for that alone it’s worth the cost. Without that layout, this is just another car and won’t feel special or unique.

Peugeot 308 5-Door Feline 1.6 e-HDi 115 verdict & score

Click to view slideshow.

If there’s a car to change the public perception of Peugeot’s being shoddily-built, tasteless, run-of-the-mill machines, then I believe the 308 is the answer to those critics. Certainly, it is for me. The cabin is airy and comfortable, and has a premium design and feel to it, made with well-chosen materials that are bolted together properly. The exterior is purposeful and attractive – especially with a set of the larger alloy wheels – and it looks more expensive than it is.

I genuinely liked my time with the Peugeot, and it’s actually a pleasurable thing to be in and drive. The Peugeot 308 1.6 e-HDi delivers well on almost every front and for the money, this is a very tempting car indeed!

Peugeot 308 5-Door Feline e-HDi 115 verdict & score

Do you own a 2014 Peugeot 308? 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  7.5
Gearbox  7.5
Price  8
Handling & ride  7.5
Drive  8
Overall Score  8.0 / 10

Specs

Model (as tested)  2014 Peugeot 308 5-Door Feline e-HDi 115
Spec includes  18″ alloy wheels, panoramic glass roof, half alcantara seats, keyless entry & ignition, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, emergency collision & braking system, 9.7″ touchscreen with sat nav, reverse camera, DAB radio & USB connection, full LED headlamps,  See website for more info
Options you should spec  Metallic paint (£525)
The Competition  Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Citroen C4, Kia CEE’D, Hyundai i30, Mazda 3, Toyota Auris,
Price  (June 2014): £22,695
Engine   1.6 litre in-line 4-cylinder, 8-valve, turbocharged diesel
Power, Torque  115 bhp @ 3,600 rpm and 200 lb ft | Torque: 200 lb ft (270 Nm) @ 1,750 rpm
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive | 6-speed manual
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed (limited): 118 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 11.9 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: 5 stars
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 64.2, Extra urban: 80.7, Combined: 74.3 | CO2: 100 g/km
Weight (kerb)  1,395 kg’s (3,075 lbs)
Websites  Peugeot UK, Peugeot France, Peugeot global

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

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2014 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe 2.0i Sport Venture Review – Fun Motoring Since 1989 http://carproductstested.com/cars/2014-mazda-mx-5-roadster-coupe-2-0i-sport-venture-fun-motoring-since-1989/ http://carproductstested.com/cars/2014-mazda-mx-5-roadster-coupe-2-0i-sport-venture-fun-motoring-since-1989/#comments Mon, 23 Jun 2014 13:08:02 +0000 http://carproductstested.com/?p=13349

An absolute joy to drive, brilliant handling, time-tested reliability, good price

High wind and road noise at motorway speeds, very little storage space

Mazda MX-5?

The Mazda MX-5 (or Mazda Miata in the USA, and Mazda Eunos Roadster in Japan) has now been on the go since 1989, and is officially the best-selling two-seater sportscar in the world.

The Mazda MX-5 (or Mazda Miata in the USA, and Mazda Eunos Roadster in Japan) has now been on the go since 1989, and is officially the best-selling two-seater sportscar in the world with an impressive 940,000 sold to date (May 2014). It’s easy to see why Mazda sell so many of their dinky sportscar;

just ask any owner of any model and they’ll happily tell you that not only is it one of the best-handling cars around, but that the engine is utterly reliable, they’re cheap to run and maintain and they’re also a bargain price too. We were sent the 2014 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe 2.0i Sport Venture to review and find out whether this little car is as good as they say…

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

MAZDA MX-5 Sport Venture Edition 2014 Review-9066

I’ve always liked the MX-5, and the first generation version is truly beautiful in form, with all the character and allure of a small Italian or British sportscar (albeit with reliability). The original dimensions were 3,970 mm (156″) in length, 1,675 mm (65.9″) in width, and 1,235 mm (48.6″) in height, and while many cars have bulked up massively since their original versions, Mazda had to be very careful when modernising their MX-5, as keeping the excellent power-to-weight ratio, near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution and loveable appearance was highly important.

MAZDA MX-5 Sport Venture Edition 2014 Review-9040

Sticking to the original design philosophy, even with this 2014 model, Mazda have added just 50 millimetres to its length, 45 mm to the width and 10 mm to its height so it’s still a very small car. For 2014, the MX-5 appears more powerful and muscular than the original, with flared wheel arches, a prominent power bulge in the bonnet, a wide, grinning grille and low chin spoiler plus bigger front light clusters.

My personal favourite angle of the MX-5 is side-on. Roof up it looks good, but drop the top and you can see it has absolutely perfect dimensions. While I really like the design overall, each and every time I see it from the side I go all misty-eyed; I am utterly smitten. Bellissima! The rear is still highly similar to the original though, and it’s a beautiful derrière from whichever angle you view it. It’s simple, uncluttered.

MAZDA MX-5 Sport Venture Edition 2014 Review-9002

We tested the Roadster Coupe version with the folding hard top, and as I’m not a huge fan of rag-top convertibles this version suits me just fine. You’ve the best of both worlds, as it’s likely to offer more rigidity to the frame than the fabric-roofed version, plus it’ll be quieter, safer if it turns over and finally you’re not going to get the dreaded jealously-driven vandal slashes in it. The Sport Venture edition MX-5 we tested gets its own colour choice (of two), 17-inch bright-finish alloy wheels and silver-coloured wing mirrors.

The 2014 Mazda MX-5 is a car with a true-blood sports design. It is enticing, and simply taking in its curves and lines conjures up visions of what it would actually be like to drive. In short: for myself, and many others, the MX-5 fully encompasses the essence of what a sports car should look like.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

MAZDA MX-5 Sport Venture Edition 2014 Review-9049

Peak inside the cabin of the MX-5, and you’ll notice there’s a sea of grey and black coloured trim to contend with. Aside from the occasional piece of satin-finished aluminium surrounding the air vents, door handles, driver’s instruments, gear gaiter, and a couple of controls, it’s very much dark in there. Strangely though, this look seems to suit the MX-5. After all, this is a drivers car through-and-through, and the less distraction the better. It’s almost like Mazda is stating that you don’t need blingy bits, as you should be staring out of the ‘screen at the road ahead.

While Japanese-designed car interiors tend to be utterly devoid of any soul, weirdly for all the slightly bland grey and black trim the MX-5′s cabin still managed to give me a warm, fuzzy feeling each time I slid behind the steering wheel. It’s a snug little place, but not claustrophobic or stifling and neither is it unlikable or bad to look at, regardless of the lack of colour. With the MX-5 Sport Venture Edition, you do get a little coloration though, in the form of some rather lovely-looking (and surprisingly comfortable) ‘Stone Leather’ seats which actually make the car appear more expensive than it is. Several people guessed well above the MX-5′s asking price, but more on that later.

MAZDA MX-5 Sport Venture Edition 2014 Review-6543

The layout of the interior has clearly had a good amount of thought put into it as all controls are driver-oriented, and within easy reach without getting distracted from the job at hand. Considering the very reasonable price of the MX-5 Sport Venture, it sports luxuries such as leather seats with 5-stage heating, air conditioning, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror plus heated electric side mirrors, a 6.1 inch touchscreen Mazda satellite navigation and multimedia system (which includes an auxiliary input and USB slot), as well as Bluetooth for calls and music – which sound good through the six speaker system.

The system is user-friendly and the satnav is decent, although the graphics for that looked slightly outdated.

MAZDA MX-5 Sport Venture Edition 2014 Review-6584

Although the cabin is only small and hence storage capacity limited, Mazda have been innovative with the room available by dotting handy little storage areas around the cabin, putting proper-sized cup holders in the doors and including a little cubby hole between the rear seats, which has enough space to hold a couple of baseball caps and a couple of pairs of sunglasses, which are needed once you drop the roof and the sun blazes down.

WIth just 150 litres of boot space, it doesn’t look like there’s a lot of room on inspection. However, it’s fairly deep and you tend to become an expert at packing gear in there, and it’s surprising how much stuff you can actually get in it. There’s certain space for a couple of large weekend bags or rucksacks plus a couple of pairs of hiking boots, and you may even be able to squeeze in a medium-large suitcase (on its own).

MAZDA MX-5 Sport Venture Edition 2014 Review-6594

Note-worthy is that every panel, trim piece and any switchgear was constructed really well. Nothing rattles or feels overly cheap or downmarket in the MX-5, and yes it may be a tad bland overall, but what you do get is an interior that’ll last the test of time very well. It all adds up to give confidence that Mazda have been through in making sure everything in the MX-5 cabin works exceptionally well each and every time.

Something I absolutely love are the exceptionally cool old-school silver-on-black analogue dials. A large rev counter and speedo dominate, with  three smaller dials for fuel, water temp and an oil pressure gauge at the top between the two larger ones, which flicks and dances merrily during times when you’re on and off the accelerator hard. Their simple design harks back to the days of classic sportcars, and they’re definitely my favourite feature in the MX-5 cabin.

MAZDA MX-5 Sport Venture Edition 2014 Review-6555

Dropping the roof of the Mazda is an easy affair:  pull a lever in the front centre of the roof to unlock it, then push a button on the dash and it’ll folds down into place in a quick 12 seconds. It’s an impressive display as an entire rear panel lifts directly up to allow the roof to pack itself in neatly, before dropping back into place to hide it all. My only wish is that it would do that whilst travelling, like the Jaguar F-Type Convertibles does, rather than having to stop completely.

MAZDA MX-5 Sport Venture Edition 2014 Review-6571

A final point: Safety-wise, the MX-5 features front and side airbags plus the body structure has Mazda Advanced Impact Distribution and Absorption System (MAIDAS) engineering, and on the exterior the MX-5 has an active bonnet system which rises on impact with a pedestrian to have a degree of cushioning and lower the severity of an injury. With the EU constantly throwing ever-more strict legislation at manufacturers regarding pedestrian safety, these types of systems show Mazda are already on the ball with it.

Engine & gearbox

The MX-5 is offered with two petrol engines: a 1.8 or 2.0 litre engine. Both are lightweight all-alloy units with four-cylinders (in-line), DOHC (double overhead cam) and are naturally-aspirated . The soft-top MX-5 is available only with the 1.8 version and a 5-speed manual transmission. Output is 126 horsepower at 6,500 rpm with 123 lb ft (167 Nm) of torque at 4,500 rpm and the 0 – 62 mph run is done in 9.9 seconds. While these aren’t exactly earth-shattering figures, the 1.8 is apparently an extremely fun car to drive thanks to the ability to thrash it hard without going anywhere near licence-losing speeds.

MAZDA MX-5 Sport Venture Edition 2014 Review-9079

The more powerful 2.0 litre ‘MZR’ engine in the Roader Coupe Sport Venture is the one we had, and boasts a load of techy engineering to achieve rev-happiness regularly without it breaking, including a ‘forged crankshaft, fully floating pistons with higher pin-boss reliability, revised valve springs that suppress valve high-rev bounce, and higher-durability materials for the connecting rod bearings‘. You can have the 2.0 litre MX-5 with either a 6-speed manual or six-speed ‘Powershift’ automatic with paddle shifters.

Power from the two litre unit is quoted as 160 bhp at 7,000 rpm, and 139 lb ft (188 Nm) of torque at 5,000 rpm, and you’ll hit 62 miles-per-hour from zero in a respectable 7.9 seconds before going on to 136 mph. Official EU Fuel consumption stats (in UK mpg) are: urban: 25.9, extra urban: 46.3 and combined: 36.2. CO2 emissions are 181 g/km, which is fairly high for a comparatively small-engined car with modern tech, but with Mazda rolling out their Skyactiv tech across the range soon, that figure will no doubt drop with the next model.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

MAZDA MX-5 Sport Venture Edition 2014 Review-6479

The Mazda MX-5 is all about the drive. And it drives brilliantly. Turn the key in the ignition (no push-button nonsense here) and the 2.0 litre engine fires into life without hesitation, ticking over quickly as it warms. The revs drop, I select first gear using the stubby shifter, release the light-but-positive clutch pedal and we’re off, the MX-5 instantly feeling eager and ready to play from the moment it pulls away.

I think the MX-5 made me smile quicker than any other cars I’ve tested, bar none, as by the time I’d got into third gear I was already grinning from ear to ear. For starters, shifting gears is a joy as the travel between them is short, and changes are precise and slick as you click from gear to gear. The ratios are short and looking back I thought you’d have to work the engine hard and shift gears a lot in city traffic to get anywhere, but the opposite is true. Thanks to the short ratios the car accelerates decently even at lower revs and it’s perfectly well behaved at low speeds, making travelling in heavier traffic no problem at all.

MAZDA MX-5 Sport Venture Edition 2014 Review-6517

Stuff the city. The MX-5′s stomping ground is out on country roads. It needs to breath some of that fresh country air and stretch its legs on narrow bands of winding tarmac. Accelerating out of the town limits I floor the accelerator and am greeted by that wonderful noise that only a naturally-aspirated car can produce. Mazda state that the ‘surge tank, intake ducts and the exhaust system [have been] engineered to act as sound-creating elements‘ plus other stuff to make the sound it sound sweet, but either way there’s the sound of many mechanical bits working hard as I push the MX-5, the rev counter climbing up and up, before I drop the clutch, shift up a gear and re-boot the accelerator to do it all again.

Looking at the speedometer you’ll see the acceleration isn’t exactly mind-boggling, but because you’re sat so low to the ground it actually feels much faster than reality – a bit like when you drive a classic Mini. While you may may be thinking that because it ‘only’ has 160 horsepower it’ll be slow, it’s actually not. Remember the Mazda is a small, light car with a kerb weight of just 1,173 kilograms (2,586 lbs) minus the driver, so there’s not a whole load of power needed to get the little thing moving at a decent pace.

MAZDA MX-5 Sport Venture Edition 2014 Review-6477

Fun only begins to describe the experience of driving the Mazda MX-5! Heck, we haven’t even described the handling yet. And what handling! The MX-5 feels utterly awesome through the bends. Because there’s not a huge amount of power, you can plant the accelerator hard without the fear that you’ll end up flying off into a ditch. The MX-5 sticks to the road like glue, and there’s the most glorious feeling as I aim the Mazda’s nose around a long corner, pushing the throttle further and further towards the floor, rewarded only with ultra-direct and accurate feedback from the steering wheel, and with the car gripping the road beautifully I fly out of the bend whooping with joy. Of every car I’ve tested, this humble little MX-5 is one of the most rewarding I have ever driven.

Why is it this good though? For starters there’s a perfect 50:50 weight distribution, alongside a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive setup that sports a limited slip differential. The chassis is super-stiff too, with framing in the transmission tunnel that forms a rigid connection between the transmission and rear differential, suppressing chassis deformation during hard driving. The double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension system is really well set up, and while of course there’s a degree of firmness over bad road surfaces, it flows well over humps and bumps while also allowing the MX-5 to be pushed hard through the bends.

MAZDA MX-5 Sport Venture Edition 2014 Review-6481

While having fun is what the Mazda MX-5 is focussed on, it also cruises well too. The seats are comfortable, there’s a decent stereo system and the engine doesn’t struggle at all with the higher speeds, the cruise control making long journeys even easier. My only gripe is that there’s quite a lot of wind and road noise at motorway speeds, but it’s nothing too unbearable and it’s a small price for such a great car. Should it rain hard, you’d be right to be concerned driving a rear-drive car, but the Mazda has some good computer tech to keep it pointing straight: ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), dynamic stability control (DSC) with traction control (TCS) are all included.

There’s nothing more to say about the way the Mazda MX-5 drives, other than it is absolutely outstanding. I don’t think it needs any more power or torque as the balance is spot-on, and whether you’re in slow city traffic, plodding down a motorway or charging down your favourite stretch of twisting tarmac the MX-5 does it all really well. ‘Nuff said? I think so.

Price

(Prices as of June ’14) The MX-5 starts at just less than £18,500 and goes up to £23,700 for the MX-5 Powershift. Strangely enough, the highly-spec’d Sport Venture 2.0i manual is well over a £1,000 less. Either way, whichever of the models you can afford you’ll still end up loving it, and I think it’s really well priced and you get a lot for your money. People who went in our Roadster Coupe Sport Venture version were guessing the price as £26,000+, showing that it doesn’t look or feel cheap inside or out.

The MX-5 doesn’t really have any convertible rivals within its price bracket.  The closest are the BMW Z4 Roadster starting at £27,700, and the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class for just over £33k for the base model.

Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe 2.0i Sport Venture verdict & score

MAZDA MX-5 Sport Venture Edition 2014 Review-6469

 

The MX-5 has earned its well-deserved stripes over the past twenty-five years as being one of the most pure and undiluted two-seat sports cars around. It’s survived the test of time well, and as well as hundreds of thousands of very happy owners who’ll happily praise the car to the max for its drive and handling, it also has a brilliant record for bulletproof reliability.

If you love driving in its purest form, and want a car that’ll give you the maximum of smiles per mile at a comparatively low price, then the Mazda MX-5 is what you’ll want. Personally, I love the MX-5 and it’ll take something rather special to beat its fun factor.

Do you own a Mazda MX-5? 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  6.5
Engine  7.5
Gearbox  8
Price  8
Handling & ride  9
Drive  8
Overall Score  8.0 / 10

Specs

Model (as tested)  2014 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe 2.0i Sport Venture
Spec includes  17″ alloy wheels, powered retractable roof, cruise control, climate control, stone leather 5-stage heated seats, front & side airbags, ABS EBD, TCS, DSC,  6.1″ Alpine touch-screen navigation with bluetooth. See website for more info
Options you should spec  Sebring sports exhaust: £411, rear diffuser: £212
The Competition  N/A
Price  (June 2014): £22,695
Engine  All-alloy 2.0i litre naturally-aspirated petrol, in-line 4-cylinder, DOHC
Power, Torque  160 bhp @ 7,000 rpm | 139 lb ft (188 Nm) @ 5,000 rpm
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Rear-wheel drive | 6-speed manual
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed (limited): 136 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 7.9 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: New model not tested yet
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 25.9, Extra urban: 46.3, Combined: 36.2 | CO2: 181 g/km
Weight (kerb)  (Includes 75kg driver) 1,248 kg’s (2,751 lbs)
Websites  Mazda UK, Mazda USA, Mazda global

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

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2014 Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi Manual Saloon Review – Modern Looks, Huge Spec, Great Price http://carproductstested.com/cars/2014-kia-optima-3-1-7-crdi-manual-saloon-review-modern-looks-huge-spec-great-price/ http://carproductstested.com/cars/2014-kia-optima-3-1-7-crdi-manual-saloon-review-modern-looks-huge-spec-great-price/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 20:52:03 +0000 http://carproductstested.com/?p=13214

Good looking & individual, impressive spec level, roomy & comfortable, well-priced, 7-year warrenty

Cumbersome manual gearbox & heavy clutch pedal (on our tester), diesel engine frugal but uninspiring, ‘damage-prone’ speaker in boot

2014 Kia Optima?

The 2014 Kia Optima is one of the best-looking saloons on the road today, regardless of price or marque  - KIA Optima 3 manual 1.7 CRDi Review

For whatever reason, you don’t see many Kia Optima’s on the road – at least in the U.K. – although they sell very well in other markets around the world, such as the U.S.A. However, you may well start seeing more now thanks to the latest 2014 upgrade with its new super-sharp design, which make it stand out well from the crowd of Vauxhall Insignia’s and Ford Mondeo’s that seem to dominate the lower-end of the company car market.

Actually, that’s exactly the market sector that Kia are aiming this new Optima at; the company car/sales-rep-mobile, and while there are plenty of the above-mentioned rivals buzzing around the roads, what’s this Kia got going for it that’d temp you away from them? We were sent the 2014 Kia Optima 3 manual to test and find out…

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

The super-sharp and aggressive front states it means business, the premium-looking front light clusters sport neat LED running lights at the upper edge - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review The '2' and '3' trim grades get the cool quad ice-cube type front fog lights seen on the Pro_Cee'd GT - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review

With styling cues taken from its brother the Kia Pro_Cee’d GT, the 2014 Optima saloon is an immediately-attractive car, rather than one that takes time to grow on you. Overall, the design is contemporary and physically the car looks high-end. The super-sharp and aggressive front states it means business, the premium-looking front light clusters sport neat LED running lights at the upper edge, and all models come standard with corning lights too, while the ’2′ and ’3′ trim grades get the cool quad ice-cube type front fog lights seen on the Pro_Cee’d GT, while all Optima’s have the modern cut-out sections just above the front fogs.
the back itself somehow looks tough, with bold, jutting edges and LED light clusters which look absolutely fantastic when lit up.  - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review Around to the rear, and the Optima continues to look good. A stubby boot lid with a high edge matches the side shoulder line - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review
From whatever angle you view the Optima, there’s something very planted and solid about its appearance and quality comes to mind when you look at the car. From the side, a high shoulder line, narrow side glass and nicely chosen 17 or 18 inch alloys wheels give the Kia a somewhat sporty look, and should you spec the highest grade Optima 3 you’ll get a contrasting gloss black roof as a twin panoramic glass sunroof comes with the car. We were sent the Optima 3 in the White Pearl colour, and with the black roof it looked very striking.

From the side, a high shoulder line, narrow side glass and nicely chosen 17 or 18 inch alloys wheels give the Kia a somewhat sporty look - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 We were sent the Optima 3 in the White Pearl colour, and with the black roof it looked very striking. - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review

Around to the rear, and the Optima continues to look good. A stubby boot lid with a high edge matches the side shoulder line, and the back itself somehow looks tough, with bold, jutting edges and LED light clusters which look absolutely fantastic when lit up. All said, the 2014 Kia Optima is one of the best-looking saloons on the road today, regardless of price or marque and if a cars design is a high priority when choosing your next rep-mobile, then you’ll want to seriously consider the really rather tasty Kia Optima.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

After testing all but a couple of the Kia range, I’ve now come to expect only good quality interiors on any of the new range and I’m happy to report that the Optima does not disappoint. I really like the interior on this new version, and if you like your cars loaded with gadgetry the fully-loaded Optima 3 we had on test is the one you’ll want to buy. if you like your cars loaded with gadgetry the fully-loaded Optima 3 we had on test is the one you'll want to buy.  - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review

Open a door to any spec of Optima, and I think you’ll be impressed on its design alone. While the ’1′ grade gets fabric seats, they’re not half bad lookin’ y’know, and while there’s no touchscreen in the dash, the stereo unit that replaces it is decent, and the rest of the dash is pretty much on par with the two higher-spec models. I’d describe the Optima’s cabin as very impressive regarding fit, finish and materials used.

The front seats are nice and wide, whilst still having enough bolstering to keep you from shuffling around too much in the twisty sections of road, and the rear seats are nicely angled for a good level of comfort, and again they’re wide whilst supportive – at least the side ones are, as for the most part manufacturers still seem to think it’s okay to say a car is a 5-seater when in reality the middle seat is only good for short journeys. Surprisingly, and considering it’s only a shade over £25,000, the Optima 3 has both heated and ventilated seats up front, as well as two-stage heated side seats in the back! That’s really impressive kit for a car this price.
The front seats are nice and wide, whilst still having enough bolstering to keep you from shuffling around too much in the twisty sections of road, and the rear seats are nicely angled for a good level of comfort - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review In the '3' there's a large panoramic sunroof in the front and one for the rear passengers too, both of which have automatic blinds on. - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review

Leg room is decent in the rear, and the cabin is a decent width so there’s good elbow room too. The only gripe rear passengers had was that because of the high shoulder line and narrow windows of the car, inwardly they felt it confined almost, regardless of the physical room you have. If you want it to be more light and airy, I’d go for the ’3′, as there’s a large panoramic sunroof in the front and one for the rear passengers too, both of which have automatic blinds on.

The 2 and 3 trim levels have lots of soft touch plastics and rubberised parts, plus high-gloss and satin-finished plastics give it a classy appearance. On the same trim levels, you also get an absolutely brilliant Infinity sound system tailored to the Optima’s cabin, and which is of really high quality. Included are 12 speakers with a large 4″ centre speaker, plus an 11-channel 550-watt amplifier and an 8″ subwoofer. It’s so powerful that the bass will vibrate the glass in the wing mirrors, should you want to. The 2 and 3 trim levels have lots of soft touch plastics and rubberised parts, plus high-gloss and satin-finished plastics give it a classy appearance. - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review

In the centre of the dash is a 7″ touchscreen system with sat nav, bluetooth with voice recognition and a reverse camera with decent definition. It’s certainly a well-thought-out and ergonomic system to use, regardless of whether you want to access the phonebook to call someone, change the audio settings, or use the satellite navigation.

However, two things irked me slightly. Firstly, a popular 40-minute route I and many other drivers use regularly simply would not come up as a route option on the sat nav, no matter how I tried to input it. It’s the shortest way to get to and from the destination by miles, but Kia’s navigation unit wouldn’t have it. Bizarre. Secondly, Kia chuck all this tech and gadgetry on the Optima and yet there is no DAB (digital) radio available on even the highest-spec model! I’ve not idea why this is, but it’s certainly a negative in a digital age.

In the centre of the dash is a 7" touchscreen system with sat nav, bluetooth with voice recognition and a reverse camera with decent definition. It's certainly a well-thought-out and easy system to use - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual review

The steering wheel and driver’s instrument panel are smartly-designed and laid-out. The leather-trimmed ‘wheel is thick and comfortable to hold, with an array of controls which at first look overwhelming to use as there are so many, but in actual fact they’re well-marked and well-placed. The dials are crystal-clear and nicely lit, and the 2 and 3 models have a TFT (Thin Film Transistor) screen too, featuring fuel stats and a menu for various settings.

While it’s hardly going to change a buyers mind there’s something that bugged me that it badly-placed on the Optima; the button for the PPAS (Parallel Park Assist System) – or the one that makes the Kia park itself – cannot be seen as it’s almost hidden behind the steering wheel, and I found getting to it is awkward. Not a great idea considering that often you need to press it while the car is still moving slowly. The steering wheel and driver's instrument panel are smartly-designed and laid-out. - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review

With 505 litres (rear seats up), luggage space is decent and – as is the norm – the rear seats also filled down to create more room. However, there’s a large rear speaker in the parcel shelf which is not boxed-in underneath, and therefore is susceptible to both taking damage itself should something solid be rammed into it, and to also damage an item pushed against the speaker and fittings.

Considering Kia go to great lengths to make sure their interiors are well-designed I’m surprised by a few basic oversights that Kia should not have missed; the lack of DAB radio, the badly-situated PPAS button, and the uncovered rear speaker protruding into the boot area, but overall the Kia Optima has an impressively high-end interior for a impressively low-end price. It looks the business, and it’s comfortable, roomy with plenty of useful tech too. With 505 litres (rear seats up), luggage space is decent - Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review

Engine & gearbox

For the UK, the Optima is offered with a choice of exactly one engine. Kia are obviously aiming the car at business users for the most part, and it’s both cost-effect for them and and by far the more popular choice of fuel for ‘company’ cars. The engine in question is the 1.7 CRDi and was developed in Germany. It’s fitted with a variable-geometry turbo for good power output throughout the rev range, and Kia say it’ll produce similar levels of power compared with a 2.0 litre engine from Japanese and European rivals.

The 1.7 CRDi has 124 bhp at 4,000 rpm, along with 269 lb ft (325Nm) of torque between 2,000 - 2,500 rpm. 0 - 60 mph is done in 10.2 seconds with the manual (one seconds more for the auto), and you’ll hit 125 mph at the top end. KIA Optima 3 2014 Review

The 1.7 CRDi has 124 bhp at 4,000 rpm, along with 269 lb ft (325Nm) of torque between 2,000 – 2,500 rpm. 0 – 60 mph is done in 10.2 seconds with the manual (one seconds more for the auto), and you’ll hit 125 mph at the top end.

With regards to official EU fuel economy tests, the manual version reads as follows: urban: 49.6, extra urban: 64.2, combined: 57.6 (UK mpg). CO2 emissions are fairly low at 128 g/km, and 158 g/km for the automatic. The Optima is available with either a manual or automatic gearbox, both 6-speed, aside from the ‘1’ spec, which is manual-only. The manual’s versions come with ISG (intelligent Stop & Go), while the auto’s have Drive Select Mode’s with an Eco setting.

Normally I don’t state company car specs as they bore me, but the Optima warrants it, so here goes: company car tax bands (BIK) are 20% for the manual, and 26% for the auto.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review-6336

Up to now, I’ve been happy with the drive of every Kia we’ve been sent for test, and I didn’t think the Optima would be any different. However, I was surprised to discover a couple issues with the car this time.

From the moment I took the 6-speed manual Optima out I noticed that gear changes are not slick or positive from first to third, in fact they’re notchy and awkward and at times 1st to 2nd was a real pain to select. Even going from third to second can be a messy and cumbersome process with botched changes a-plenty.

The clutch pedal is also noticeably heavy and several times I found myself grinding gears, which very rarely happens on any of the other manual cars we’ve tested. I’ve never had a problem with Kia’s manual gearboxes or the clutch before, so this was a strange. Actually, it was enough to make city driving more pain than pleasure; to the point where I was glad to get my destination and rest my weary left leg.

Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review-6285

Once you get up to motorway speeds and out of a situation where you’re changing gears at low speed constantly, the Optima becomes much more likeable. It’s a great cruiser and has plenty of torque at higher speeds, which is excellent for overtaking. Its long sixth gear makes for comfortable and relaxed cruising over long distances, and inside the cabin it’s a relaxing place to sit. Actually though, while wind noise is well deadened, sound from the tyres is still fairly obvious. Whilst not noisy per se, it’s also not as quiet as I expected either.

A positive for the Optima is its handling set-up, which allows for a comfortable ride across the typical terrible UK potholed road, but also surprised with more agility than I expected, making quick runs down winding routes decently fun as the Optima sticks to the tarmac well under pressure (from my right foot). Should things go awry, you’ll be glad that the Optima packs an array of computer wizardry to keep you on the straight and narrow as much as possible, including Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), stability control (ESC), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), brake assist, as well as ABS and emergency stop signalling (ESS).

Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review self parking system

This is how Kia’s Parallel Park Assist System (PPAS) parked the car in this space; perfectly and just centimetres from the kerb.

The Optima ’3′ has Kia’s Parallel Park Assist System (PPAS) system, and I actually found it rather handy on a few occasions. It’s completely easy to use (you control just the clutch and brake) and works superbly, usually parking within only a few inches of the kerb and gets into spaces you think it won’t. I tried it with a really tight space (see photo) where I honestly thought it wouldn’t have a chance of getting into, but it did, shuffling back and forth until it was sat perfectly between the two cars and close up to the verge. Impressive, and a bit of tech I really like.

For me, the Optima’s steering felt a little too disconnected and not as tight or accurate as I like, but then why compare it to something like a hot hatch when it’s a family saloon/company car. Let’s say the steering suits the car. If you want something more accurate, go have a play with the Kia Pro_Cee’d GT.

The Optima is nice car to drive overall, and the 1.7 CRDi engine gives okay torque and power while still returning respectable fuel economy. On the ride and handling side, Kia have done well in setting up the car and I can’t complain on that side of things. It does the job of cruising very well, but I found city driving to be a pain due to that clumsy manual gearbox and heavy clutch. If it was just the test car I was sent, fair enough but because of this I’m recommending you try a manual first and if it’s as rubbishy as I describe, go for the automatic version. Kia Optima 3 1.7 CRDi manual 2014 review-6323

Price

(Prices: May ’14) The 2014 Optima starts at £19,700 and goes up to just over £27,000 for the ’3′ automatic. The most popular model – and the one I recommend buying – will be the ’2′ spec Optima, as you still get a generous amount of kit for a shade over £22,600. A hefty saving over the ’3′ versions. I felt the car was worth the asking price, as the all-round quality and design both inside and out is of a very high standard.

Regarding rivals, the Vauxhall Insignia is between £18 – £24,000 for the diesel versions, while the Ford Mondeo goes for £20–£27,000. Going for the Optima is the aforementioned good overall quality, along with an attractive cabin and a cool, contemporary and sporty exterior design which easily out-styles the competition.

2014 Kia Optima ’3′ 1.7 CRDi manual verdict & score

The 2014 Kia Optima 3  - A lot cooler looking than the competition and appears more expensive than it actually is.

I really didn’t like the manual gearbox for its notchy and imprecise changes on first to third gears, plus the overly heavy clutch made it hard-going in city traffic. That may have been an issue with that particular car, so it’s worth a road test to see for yourself. Other than that, it’s a very good car to go for if you want high quality on a low(ish) budget. Personally, I’d like to see the Optima mated with a decently powerful petrol engine to go with the sporty looks, but there’s no plans for that in the UK at the moment.

The Optima has a lot going for it, especially if you’re looking at choosing one for your next company car. For a start, it’s a lot cooler looking than the competition and appears more expensive than it actually is. You also get that really nice cabin with lots of unexpected electronic goodies such as cooled and heated front seats, plus roomy and comfortable heated rear seating too (on the ’3′). Performance from the 1.7 CRDi engine won’t exactly set your heart racing, but it won’t struggle at higher speeds and the suspension setup makes for a comfortable ride – perfect for those long motorway slogs.

 

Do you own a Kia Optima? 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  6
Gearbox  6
Price  8
Handling & ride  6.5
Drive  6
Overall Score  7.0 / 10

Specs

Model (as tested)  2014 Kia Optima ’3′ 1.7 CRDi manual
Spec includes  18″ alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof, xenon headlights with LED running lights, parallel-park assist system, leather seating, heated & ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, ABS, EDB, BAS, ESC, VSM, ISG, hill-start assist, cruise control, climate control, 7″ touchscreen system with sat nav, 12-speaker Infinity Premium sound system. See website for more info
Options you should spec  Automatic gearbox
The Competition  Vauxhall Insignia, Ford Mondeo, Honda Accord,
Price  (June 2014): £24,495
Engine  1.7 CRDi turbo-diesel, in-line 4-cylinder, 16-valve
Power, Torque  124 bhp @ 4,000 rpm | 269 lb ft (325Nm) between 2,000 – 2,500 rpm
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front-wheel drive | 6-speed manual
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed (limited): 125 mph | 0 – 60 mph: 10.2 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: New model not tested yet
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2 Urban: 49.6, Extra urban: 64.2, Combined: 57.6 | CO2: 128 g/km
Weight (kerb)  (min) 1,559 kg’s (3,437 lbs)
Websites  Kia UK, Kia USA, Kia worldwide

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

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2014 Jaguar XF Saloon Premium Luxury 2.2 litre i4 163PS Turbo Diesel Review – Jag’s ‘Mid-Spec’ Car Makes Complete Sense http://carproductstested.com/cars/2014-jaguar-xf-saloon-premium-luxury-2-2-litre-i4-163ps-turbo-diesel-review-jags-mid-spec-car-makes-complete-sense/ http://carproductstested.com/cars/2014-jaguar-xf-saloon-premium-luxury-2-2-litre-i4-163ps-turbo-diesel-review-jags-mid-spec-car-makes-complete-sense/#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 11:05:57 +0000 http://carproductstested.com/?p=13092

Classy inside and out, 2.2 litre 163PS engine is excellent, very competitive price

Nothing to complain about

Jaguar XF?

Jaguar XF Saloon Premium Luxury 2.2 litre 163PS Review

Arriving in 2007 in concept form, the Jaguar XF instantly appealed to a new audience. The previous X-Type  and S-Type were just not ‘Jaguar’ enough for most, and from the exterior styling to the interior (many Ford parts being used), there was a definite lack of flair about them. With the arrival of the new range of Jaguar’s including the XF, Jag has returned to the days of great styling and classy interiors – thank goodness for that! However, what’s it like drive one with the lowest-powered diesel engine? Dull, surely? We were sent the mid-spec Jaguar XF Premium Luxury 2.2 163 turbo-diesel to review and find out…

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

Jaguar XF Saloon Premium Luxury 2.2 litre 163PS Review - With the arrival of the new range of Jaguar’s including the XF, Jag has returned to the days of great styling and classy interiors – thank goodness for that!

A while ago we reviewed the XF 3.0 V6 Supercharged - a car with looks to match the performance. The XF Premium Luxury with the 2.2 litre 163PS engine is still a good looking car, and aside from a few less pieces of styling trim and different-sized wheels, there’s not a huge difference between the higher and lower end XF models.

I’ve seen a lot of XFs on the road now, and they always strike me as being a handsome car with a good stance. They’re not ostentatious or showy, but still exude an air of class and there’s something very British about the XF, too, as they stand out from the droves of similarly-priced German rep-mobiles that dominate the motorways so heavily. Nothing against them, and they’re good cars in their own right, but if every time you look in your rear-view mirror to see yet another Audi A4 or A5, BMW 3-series or Mercedes C or E class looming fast and impatient, they become repetitive and blend into the sea of commuting traffic a little too easily.

Jaguar XF Saloon Premium Luxury 2.2 litre 163PS Review

An XF, on the other hand, gives you a sense of individuality. For this spec of XF, you get a colour choice of either black or white as standard. Up from there you can pay £650 for a range of other hues – all rather nice it must be said – or as our tester had, you can option one of the two heftily-priced £1,300 colour options. In this case Jaguar had chosen the striking Italian Racing Red Metallic, which is a really great colour for the car in my opinion. It highlights the XF’s curves and lines excellently, drawing your eye to the powerful lifted sections of the bonnet, the jutted vent behind the front wheels and the roofline which arcs gracefully to the rear.

I love the Jag’s large chrome grille and the conspicuous – yet beautifully detailed – Jaguar emblem. LED running light and lower chrome gills finish off what is an assertive-looking front overall. The rear of the XF is beautifully simple, giving off a sporty yet refined vibe.

I love the Jag's large chrome grille and the conspicuous - yet beautifully detailed - Jaguar emblem. - Jaguar XF Saloon Premium Luxury 2.2 litre 163PS Review

While the 17″ Ursa double-spoke alloy wheels themselves are not bad, I wasn’t a fan of the fat tyres that go with them as I think they take away from the XF’s design somewhat. On the configurator at least, you can’t spec the XF Premium Luxury with anything other than these wheels, aside from a Technical Grey finish option. If you don’t like that look either, my advice would be to visit the dealer and spec one of the many other designs available with the lower-profile tyres. The XF will look much better with these, although it may affect CO2 emissions and road noise adversely.

Besides the fatter tyres though, I can’t fault the XF in the looks department. From any angle this is undoubtedly a well-designed car that’ll age well. Buy one, and you’ll differ from the other upmarket cars that are now so common they’re no longer special or interesting.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

Even in the most basic sub-£30k SE Jaguar XF comes very well equipped and is highly luxurious. Before you even move up the ranks to the higher-spec XFs, you'll get real wood inlays in the dash, doors and centre console, plus big swathes of knurled aluminium and hints of chrome and satin-finished metal trim.

Even in the most basic sub-£30k SE Jaguar XF comes very well equipped and is highly luxurious. Before you even move up the ranks to the higher-spec XFs, you’ll get real wood inlays in the dash, doors and centre console, plus big swathes of knurled aluminium and hints of chrome and satin-finished metal trim. The leather used is from the finest suppliers in the UK and Italy too. From the moment I opened the heavy door of the XF before sliding into the beautifully soft driver’s seat, the car felt warm and welcoming and there’s something distinctly comforting about the cabin, and it takes exactly zero seconds to feel utterly at home in the Jaguar. 

Simply touching parts of the trim such as the cold but solid aluminium, the warmer wood, carbon or Piano Black veneer pieces, or the supple leather of the seats all give you solace that your hard-earned money has been very well spent on this car. - Jaguar XF Saloon Premium Luxury 2.2 litre 163PS Review

While it’s contemporary and stylish, there’s plenty of character about the XF’s interior and every surface feels like it’s manufactured and fitted to a really high standard. Even simply touching parts of the trim such as the cold but solid aluminium, the warmer wood, carbon or Piano Black veneer pieces, or the supple leather of the seats all give you solace that your hard-earned money has been very well spent on this car. The XF’s cabin is emanates class from every surface, and all are finished to a very high standard too. For instance; even clicking opening the little storage sections in the centre console shows them to have a nice action, and another very nice touch which never fails to impress is that the air vents in the dash open and close automatically whenever you start or stop the engine.

Up front the seats are really very comfortable with plenty of leg, head and elbow room to be had. The powered 8-way (on this model) adjustable seating allow you to get into the most comfortable sitting position with ease, and for longer journeys they are fantastic. The rear seats are also good, being angled nigh-on perfectly for the best level of comfort and again leg room is surprisingly ample.

Up front the seats are really very comfortable with plenty of leg, head and elbow room to be had. The powered 8-way (on this model) adjustable seating allow you to get into the most comfortable sitting position with ease, and for longer journeys they are fantastic - Jaguar XF Saloon Premium Luxury 2.2 litre 163PS Review front seats

 

The rear seats are also good, being angled nigh-on perfectly for the best level of comfort and again leg room is surprisingly ample. - Jaguar XF Saloon Premium Luxury 2.2 litre 163PS Review rear seats

Our test XF had the optional £990 (price: May ’14) 825W Meridian surround sound system,  Turn on the multimedia system in the XF S/C Portfolio, select your favourite driving music and you’ll be rewarded with a sound that is rich, one that makes you feel immersed in the music. The system packs in seventeen speakers throughout the car. A feature of the system I liked was the ultra-simplistic way to set up the sound you want, which meant selecting Bass, Treble, Sub(woofer) and 4 surround-type options. No need for complexities, and the sound is still amazing.

The touchscreen multimedia system also incorporates the rearview camera plus the settings for the heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel, satellite navigation (which is good, by the way), phone, bluetooth, DAB radio and voice controls, amongst other things. It’s an easy system to navigate through, and overall I enjoyed using it. In the centre console sits the beautiful milled aluminium JaguarDrive selector, which rises out of the console when the engine is started, and then lowers back into place flush when you turn off the ignition. Another smart feature and one that impresses all.

The touchscreen multimedia system incorporates the rearview camera plus the settings for the heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel, satellite navigation (which is good, by the way), phone, bluetooth, DAB radio and voice controls, amongst other things. - Jaguar XF Saloon Premium Luxury 2.2 litre 163PS Review

At 500 litres (or 540 with space-saver spare wheel), the XF saloon’s boot space is adequate enough for a few big bags or a couple of large suitcases, and I was surprised to find that the seats folded down 60/40, giving a decent 960 litres of room. The XF I tested came with the £260 ski-hatch option, which I can see being very handy if you’re into that. With the armrest down, a small compartment opens and a fold out bag made of durable material pulls out and will fit your ski’s inside, stopping dirt and water ruining the leather seats.

Jaguar XF Saloon Premium Luxury 2.2 litre 163PS Review boot trunk storage multi

Aside from the fact that the buttons for adjusting the power seats look a little cheap and out of place to me, I could not find anything to dislike or anything that even slightly bothered me about the XF’s interior, it really is that good! It is exactly the type of car you want to get into and drive home after a long day at work, or do some cross-country driving on the Continent in quiet and comfort. Overall, the XF has a truly fine and superlative cabin, regardless of the trim level you choose.

Engine and gearbox

The XF has a fair few engines and power options to choose from, but we were interested to see what the lowest-powered, most-fuel-frugal version was like. The engine in question is Jaguar’s 2.2 litre, 4-cylinder turbo-diesel, and while it may only make 160 bhp at 3,500 rpm, there’s a great dollop of low-down torque to play with; 295 lb ft (400Nm) at just 2,000 rpm.

The engine is Jaguar's 2.2 litre, 4-cylinder turbo-diesel, and while it may only make 160 bhp at 3,500 rpm, there's a great dollop of low-down torque to play with; 295 lb ft (400Nm) at just 2,000 rpm. - Jaguar XF Saloon Premium Luxury 2.2 litre 163PS Review Engine HDR

0 – 60 mph is done in 9.8 seconds, and it’ll hit max speed at 130 miles-per-hour. Official fuel consumption figures (in UK mpg) are very good; urban: 48.7, extra urban: 64.2, combined: 57.7. Generally these EU test figures are rather too optimistic, but I managed to achieve a 50.6 mpg average showing after a couple of hours down the motorway, and 44.7 mpg over 135 miles of varying roads (city, country and highway).

The CO2 emissions are just 129 g/km which at the current yearly tax rate (fig: May ’14) is just £110 per year! Impressive for a luxury car with a fairly hefty kerb weight of 1,735 kilograms (3,825 lbs). Jaguar’s 8-speed sequential-shift automatic transmission is in the XF, and it’s as silky-smooth and fine as they come, and suits the XF perfectly.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

Jaguar XF Saloon Premium Luxury 2.2 litre 163PS Review -6073

 

So, we’ve established the XF looks great and has a stunning interior, but what’s it like to drive? In short: yet again Jaguar have delivered on this front too. Fire up the 2.2 litre 136PS turbo-diesel and you’re greeted with a refined sound. There’s no lumpy clattering that a lot of the four-pot diesels produce even today, but instead it’s a much more refined noise; smoother and slicker than you’d expect.

Turn the selector to drive and the XF glides off. Instantly, I’m struck by just how polished this diesel Jaguar XF is to drive. The gear changes are almost unnoticeable, and with 295 lb ft of torque available at only 2,000 rpm the 2.2 litre 163PS XF accelerates strongly and seemingly with little effort. The steering is light while still very positive, and the XF weaves around tight bends, narrow streets and obstacles with a beautiful positivity, ease and gracefulness.

Jaguar XF Saloon Premium Luxury 2.2 litre 163PS Review -6089

The Jag’s ride is admirable, thanks to the Adaptive Dynamics system that controls electronic dampers. Over poor road surfaces full of pot holes, bad repairs and speed humps the XF soaks them up impressively well, and once you’re out onto a nice stretch of winding tarmac the XF swoops and glides in such a positive and well-balanced manner that you’d likely not have at by looking at the car. This is all down to the aforementioned Adaptive Dynamics system which ‘monitors and analyses speed, steering and body movement 500 times a second [making the]… electronic dampers constantly adjust to give you optimum suspension under any conditions’.

If you want more control over the car, the XF has paddle shifters and a sport mode which holds the gears for longer before changing. Actually, I was impressed by how controllable this is. On some automatic cars with paddle shifters, the system is so ultra-nannying that it’s barely worth having the shifters, by changing up gears when it thinks the revs are too high, or won’t let you downshift until the computer deem the revs are low enough. Very annoying. Happily there’s none of that nonsense with the XF, thanks to Jag engineers still believing in drivers making the decisions and not some cold, unfeeling computer brain, and you can happily redline the XF’s engine to your heart’s content.

Jaguar do sell the 2.2 diesel in a more powerful guise too, with around 35 horsepower and 27 ft lb (50 Nm) torque more than the 163PS version we had, but I can honestly say that while I’m usually all for more power, the 163PS diesel never disappointed me or made me think that it could do with any extra oomph. It slips up to motorway speeds (and much higher) with about as much effort and drama as it takes to pour yourself a glass of wine and cruises long distances beautifully, thanks to the 8-speed ‘box which sees the rpm needle sitting low at speed (approximately 1,900 rpm @ 80 mph), and inside the cabin there’s very little wind or road noise to be heard either.

Jaguar XF Saloon Premium Luxury 2.2 litre 163PS Review -6096

All said, I was completely won over by the XF’s 2.2 litre 163PS diesel engine. I really can’t fault it, and while more power is usually an agreeable thing, I simply can’t see why you’d need it unless you were towing a (shudder) caravan, which you wouldn’t do anyway if you were a sensible type of chap.

Price

The Jaguar XF starts out at £29,945 and goes all the way up to almost £80,000 for the completely mental XFR-S. Altogether there are 12 different types of spec to choose from and a variety of engines to go with them. With so many you’re spoilt for choice, and whatever your budget or level of luxury ‘need’, there’s a model to cover it. The XF Premium Luxury we had on test cost £35,800 (£42.6k with options), and it to me it felt like it was absolutely worth the asking price. In fact, it was so nice that makes you think this car should cost more than it actually does!

Personally, if I were going for the 2.2 litre 163PS engine to save on fuel and car tax, I’d be tempted by one of the lower-priced XF’s for around £30k – £33k as they still pack in loads of luxuries and they’ll be as nice as the higher priced version we had. Similarly-priced rivals include the BMW 5-series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Volvo S80, Audi A6 and the Lexus GS.

Jaguar XF Saloon Premium Luxury 2.2 litre 163PS verdict & score

 

Jaguar XF Saloon Premium Luxury 2.2 litre 163PS Review -6009

From testing Jaguar XFs with various different engines, I already knew the car itself was very good. The 2.2 litre 163PS model surprised me though, as I expected some noisy, underpowered diesel only built to appease the crowd who wanted good fuel economy and weren’t bothered about much else. What I discovered was a smooth and refined turbo-diesel that combined fuel frugality with a decent amount of power and easily enough torque to get the XF moving swiftly, plus ride and handling that makes every journey an enjoyable one. I’ve already said it, but I genuinely think the XF feels like it’s worth more than the asking price, and in a time where consumers want more for less, Jaguar are on to a winner with this car.

Do you own a Jaguar XF? 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  8.5
Engine  8
Gearbox  9
Price  8.5
Handling & ride  8.5
Drive  8
Overall Score  8.5 / 10

Specs

Model (as tested)  2014 Jaguar XF Saloon Premium Luxury 2.2 litre 163PS
Spec includes  17″ alloy wheels, Bi-function HID Xenon headlamps & LED running lights, EBA, EBD, TCS, DSC, intelligent stop/start, keyless entry, 7″ touch-screen with bluetooth, sat nav & DAB. See website for more info
Options you should spec  Heated Front Seats (£240), Reverse Park Camera (£500)
The Competition  BMW 5-series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Volvo S80, Audi A6, Lexus GS
Price  (May 2014): £35,795
Engine  2.2 litre, 4-cylinder turbo-diesel
Power, Torque  Power:160 bhp @ 3,500 rpm | Torque: 295 lb ft (400Nm) @ 2,000 rpm
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Rear-wheel drive | 8-speed ‘Jaguar Sequential Shift’ automatic
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed (limited): 130 mph | 0 – 60 mph: 9.8 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: 4 Stars
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 48.7, Extra urban: 64.2, Combined: 57.7 | CO2: 129 g/km
Weight (kerb)  1,735 kg’s (3,825 lbs)
Websites  Jaguar UK, Jaguar USA, Jaguar global

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

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Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible Review – Dynamic Drop-Top Jag Scarily Fast Yet Utterly Sublime http://carproductstested.com/cars/jaguar-f-type-v8-s-convertible-review-dynamic-drop-top-jag-scarily-fast-yet-utterly-sublime/ http://carproductstested.com/cars/jaguar-f-type-v8-s-convertible-review-dynamic-drop-top-jag-scarily-fast-yet-utterly-sublime/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 15:03:42 +0000 http://carproductstested.com/?p=13112

Aggressive supercar looks, awesome exhaust note, massively powerful V8, soul, beautiful cabin

Licence-losing V8S too powerful for small UK roads, tiny boot space

Jaguar F-Type?

Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible Review-5673-2

Unveiled at the 2012 Paris Auto Show, the Jaguar F-Type raised eyebrows and dropped jaws. This compact 2-seater was like nothing else out there, and its dynamic design and stance had the motoring world seriously revved up. A huge amount of hype surrounding a fresh model can be a good thing, or a bad thing. If it lives up to it, great, but if it’s a let-down the world is gonna know in double-quick time. Keeping that in mind, we were sent the top of the range Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible to test and find out…

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

Rounding the bend to where the F-Type was delivered, my pulse physically sped up as I spied the car, coloured Ultimate Black with 20" Turbine wheels in silver.

The answer to the above is obvious. I think it’s fairly safe to say that the majority people asked would agree that the Jaguar F-Type is utterly stunning. In fact, every single person that saw the car while we had it on test were absolutely enthralled by its looks. I saw the F-type in the flesh for the first time in early 2013 at a Jaguar Land Rover media day, and I was completely blown away. At that stage, they had just the one version to show us; we weren’t even allowed to start it, yet alone get in (although a decent PR chap fired it up once for us), and for the entire day it had people milling around it, desperate for a closer look.

The next time we saw it was at an SMMT (Society of Motoring Manufacturers & Traders) media driving day, and we were able to drive the V6 S version for a short time, which only made us want to test one thoroughly even more. A year and a half down the line and we’re fortunate enough that Jaguar sent us the F-Type V8 S Convertible.

Before driving it, I took in every line, angle, cut, flare and curve of its magnificent exterior. No doubt at all, the F-Type is an amazingly designed machine, and its designers should be over the moon with their creation.

Rounding the bend to where the Jaguar was delivered, my pulse sped up as I spied the car, coloured Ultimate Black with 20″ Turbine wheels in silver. I’d been genuinely excited about having a Jaguar F-Type for the week, as the shorter drive months ago in a V6 S had left me exhilarated, and jabbering on about it to whoever would listen to me for the next few days. To now be able to pour over and take in the F-Type thoroughly was a genuine thrill.

Before driving it, I took in every line, angle, cut, flare and curve of its magnificent exterior. No doubt at all, the F-Type is an amazingly designed machine, and its designers should be over the moon with their creation. The F-Type is one of the most muscular, hard-looking two-seater sports cars you can buy. From the front, it’s about as masculine and powerful as it gets with shark-gill type cut-outs in the front bumper feeding air into the engine, while super-modern front lights take on the appearance of a real jaguar’s eyes from certain angles. Back from that, the bonnet juts up and down sharply, while the windscreen is raked back at an extremely keen angle. From the front, it's about as masculine and powerful as it gets with shark-gill type cut-outs in the front bumper, feeding air into the engine, while super-modern front lights take on the appearance of a real Jaguar's eyes from certain angles.

While the front is brawny, from the side and rear the F-Type is beautiful. It is, in fact, quintessential of how a sports car should look. The convertible car looks way better with the roof down actually. It’s not a bad-looking fabric roof at all, but with it folded away the F-Type looks almost like a different animal.

Over the week that we had the F-Type V8 S, it drew a massive amount of attention both when driving and when it was parked – the monstrous pipes silent. On one occasion, I parked it in a fairly busy section of a small town, and then went for lunch. I could see the car from my table, and the number of people that stopped, stared,did a 360 circle around it, or cupped their hands to look in through the windows was crazy. Almost every passerby did so, and even when an Aston Martin V8 Vantage parked tail-to-tail with it, the Aston was largely ignored, with people preferring to get an eyeful of the Jag. While the front is brawny, from the side and rear the F-Type is beautiful. It is, in fact, quintessential of how a sports car should look. With the convertible version, it looks far better with the roof down than up.

Each day, from the moment I exited my house and walked towards the F-type, I’d smile, spontaneously get a spike of adrenaline and feel a quickening of the pulse. And I think that’s the point of having a fast sports car. Simply looking at the Jaguar F-Type evokes physical emotions and feelings before you’ve even started the engine. If it’s that impressive on the exterior, what’s it like inside?

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

I love all the recent Jag's interiors, and whichever model I've tested - including the XF and the XJ - I find it very hard to find anything I dislike.

I love all the recent Jag interiors, and whichever model I’ve tested - including the XF and the XJ - I find it very hard to find anything I dislike. It’s exactly the same with this F-Type V8 S too. Have someone open either one of the two doors, and the one first word that usually escapes their lips is ‘Wow’. And that’d be the correct term to use to sum it up. I could end this section here, and tell you to pop down to your local Jaguar dealership, poke your head into an F-Type and without fail you’d say the very same thing.

I’ll do the decent thing though, and try to explain just how nice it is in more than one word. I think one major factor that separate Jaguar’s cars from other marques is that somehow the designs have interwoven soul and character into the interiors. Attributes that the majority of luxury cars do not posses, no matter how expensive they are or what materials are used.

one major factor that separate Jaguar’s cars from other marques is that somehow the designs have interwoven soul and character into the interiors.

The F-Type V8 S Convertible interior is a delight. On opening the driver’s door, it could be mistaken that the cabin is cramped and tiny. Restrictive even. However, that is not the case. Slide into the driver’s low-slung seat, close the door, and rather than feeling uncomfortably confined, you’re encompassed and it feels very natural too. It’s like something in your mind tells you ‘This is exactly how it should feel in a sports car’. There’s plenty of leg, elbow, and head room, even for someone on the taller side.

The F-Type V8 S cabin is an especially driver-focussed place to sit. The triangular handle you see the on the passenger side of the centre console divider does two things. Firstly, it’s something for them to grip when you’re pushing hard around the bends – which is regularly. Secondly, it’s a dividing line between the passenger and the driver’s controls, and subconsciously it tells you the passenger to sit there, enjoy the ride and don’t touch anything. Slide into the driver’s low-slung seat, close the door, and rather than feeling uncomfortably confined, you’re encompassed and it feels very natural.

On the side of the divider that is the drivers territory is reminiscent of a cabin you’d find in one of those insanely-fast cigarette boats that are often used in erm… high profit criminal activity. While the centre console is extremely contemporary, I couldn’t help but think it’s somehow also got classic elements to it. That aside, the gear selector looks like it’s been taken directly out of some military stealth fighter, the Ignis-coloured starter button and dynamic/snow mode toggle switch adding to that effect.

Above those, there are more toggle switches for heating controls plus rubber-edged dials for temperature adjustment, which Jaguar added deliberately so you could be more hands-on with the controls, rather than it all being through the 7” touchscreen. On that note, it’s a great entertainment system, and the same one you get in the rest of the Jag range. Although the F-Type exhaust system sounds beautiful, I think it’s important to be able to blast out your music, too, for a truly awesome driving experience. The F-Type V8 S obliges with a standard 380 Watt Meridian sound system, which is excellent. If you want something that’ll make the wing mirrors rattle, you can also spec a 770W system if preferred. The gear selector looks like it’s been taken directly out of some military stealth fighter, the Ignis-coloured starter button and dynamic/snow mode toggle switch adding to the effect.

In the driver’s binnacle, there are two huge dials, the rev counter featuring bigger numerals than the speedometer. This is because you quickly get to the limiter in most of the 8 gears, while you may have slightly longer – but not much – to get it up to the 186 miles-per-hour top speed. In between the dials is a TFT (Thin Film Transistor) screen that displays loads of info, including sat nav directions, fuel level (this goes down quickly) and more. The dials also go red once you go into Dynamic Mode reminding you that, technically, you have unleashed the beast. In the driver’s binnacle there are two huge dials, the rev counter featuring bigger numerals than the speedometer. This is because you quickly get to the limiter in most of the 8 gears, while you may have slightly longer - but not much - to get it up to the 186 miles-per-hour top speed.

Every surface and section within natural reach feels beautiful to the touch. Whether it’s the soft dash-top, the satin-finished metals, the high quality switchgear or the thick leather steering wheel, this is the kind of well-crafted materials that make you feel like you’re driving a car worth the £80,000 asking price. Even just using using the central section of the top of the dash – which opens to reveal air vents, and rises and closes utterly silently – and the convertible top which folds down quickly, and then clunks back into place solidly (12 seconds each way at up to 30 mph), states absolute quality throughout the entire F-Type’s interior.

There’s only one drawback with the Jaguar F-Type Convertible, and that’s the lack of boot space. With just 196 litres, you’ll be lucky if you can squeeze a couple of weekend stayover bags in there. The F-Type Coupé does much better, with 407 litres, so that’s the one to go for if you want to do some cross-continent touring.

Engine & gearbox

There are two engine sizes with different power outputs for the F-Type, but we’re focussing on the V8 S. This is a monstrous 5.0 litre V8 petrol engine with a twin-vortex supercharger, and the while the power extracted from it is superb, it’s the way that it puts it down that is more impressive. 495 PS (488 bhp) is produced at 6,500 rpm, and there's 461 lb ft (625 Nm) of torque on tap from just 2,500 rpm and all the way up to 5,500 rpm. That's a staggering amount of torque from such a low rpm.

495 PS (488 bhp) is produced at 6,500 rpm, and there’s 461 lb ft (625 Nm) of torque on tap from just 2,500 rpm and all the way up to 5,500 rpm. That’s a staggering amount of torque from such a low rpm, and with the V8 engine being rev-happy you’ll hit that twenty-five-hundred mark faster than you can blink.

0 – 62 mph is undertaken in just 4.2 seconds and you’ll hit the max speed at a messy-haired limited 186 miles-per-hour, using the rather lovely 8-speed Quickshift auto gearbox. While you don’t buy the F-Type for its fuel economy, I’ll reel off the UK mpg stats anyway: urban: 17.8, extra-urban: 34.0, combined: 25.5. Whilst these are EU lab test figures (and as a result extremely optimistic), on a motorway run of an hour or so each way, I managed a staggering average of 30 mpg! In eighth gear at 70 mph the big V8′s only doing around 2,000 rpm, it actually makes a good cruiser and you won’t have to plan long journeys in fuel-pump to fuel-pump stages.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

The F-Type V8 S Convertible is an epic car to drive, and it's absolutely dramatic from the start to finish of any journey.

If you buy a Jaguar F-Type V8 S and only ever drive sedately then I am declaring that a criminal act (Cruelty to Cars), with a sentence that involves the car being taken away to a better home, and you being handed the keys to a bottom of the range VW Polo. A decent car, but not very quick – which will suit you perfectly.

The F-Type V8 S Convertible is an epic car to drive, and it’s absolutely dramatic from the start to finish of any journey. Slide behind the wheel, place your foot on brake pedal, push the starter button, and suddenly there’s an explosion of noise from behind the F-Type as the engine fires and revs once, before fast-idling for a while until the engine has warmed. It’s a beautiful sound, and you never tire of hearing that big V8 roar into life.

Camera used is the Action-Tek HD From Vision-Tek.co.uk

Our test car had the Switchable Active Sports Exhaust option (£350) fitted. If you buy an F-Type and don’t spec this, you officially have no soul whatsoever. As standard on F-Type S models – and optional on the F-Type – is an Active Sports Exhaust system which has valve that open as the revs rise, exiting gases on a quicker route through the system and producing sweet petrolhead music. However, push the Switchable Active Sports Exhaust button and these valves are permanently open.

For virtually the entire weeks testing, this button remained on – aside from a motorway journey. It is virtually irresistible to blip the throttle pedal whenever you’re at a standstill in the F-Type V8 S, as doing so means the Jaguar produces one of the best sounds you’ll hear from any car and it is LOUD. Really, there should be a warning sticker stating “Do not rev this car when the following people are in the area: old, frail, those with a nervous disposition, or those who’ve had a recent heart operation”. Yes, it really is that noisy and the first time you give the accelerator a hefty push you will startle yourself quite severely. Good! Our test car had the Switchable Active Sports Exhaust option (£350) fitted. If you buy an F-Type and don't spec this, you officially have no soul whatsoever.

How can I describe the sound best? On the up-rev, it’s like having a mixed bag of the world’s big cats roaring and growling, and coming down the revs there appear to be several large bags of firecrackers going off simultaneously. And that’s just at standstill. With the active exhaust switched on, once you’re moving the F-Type is never ever quiet even at low speeds and should you shift down the gears manually, you quickly learn where the sweet spot is for the F-Type to produce the best bangs and crackles. Wonderful stuff. I’ve gone on about the F-Type’s sound a bit, but it really does make up a fundamental part of the driving experience.

The F-Type V8 S' soundtrack is spot-on, matching the drive perfectly. Pull the sprung fighter plane joystick-type gear selector into D, and from the moment the Jag sets off you get the distinct feeling that you are behind the wheel of something decidedly potent .

The F-Type V8 S’ soundtrack is spot-on, matching the drive perfectly. Pull the sprung fighter plane joystick-type gear selector into D, and from the moment the Jag sets off you get the distinct feeling that you are behind the wheel of something decidedly potent – you control the F-Type and feel intrinsically part of the car, rather than simply driving it. The V8 S makes city driving an enjoyable experience, thanks to the smooth transmission and absolutely brilliant Adaptive Damping suspension which “assesses body motion and pitch rates 100 times per second [adjusting] each damper accordingly“. Considering how taut the F-Type’s chassis is and how well the car handles once you’re hard on the power, it’s pretty spectacular that you can ride over the nastier potholes and speed humps more comfortably than some saloons I’ve driven!

For all its potency, the V8 S is remarkably tame to drive in the city, and is as laid-back and easy-going as something like the Jag XF diesel. Changes from its 8-speed Quickshift ‘box are almost unnoticeable and while there’s power-a-plenty it is only aggressive when you want it to be. However, thanks to that massive 625 Nm of torque from 2,500 rpm the V8 S is permanently ready to fly should you need it to. How can I describe the sound best? On the up-rev, it's like having a mixed bag of the world's big cats roaring and growling, and coming down the revs there appear to be several large bags of firecrackers going off simultaneously.

When the opportunity arises and you floor the accelerator, it is akin to prodding a freshly-caught wild tiger through its cage before popping open the door. The release of energy from the supercharged V8 is instant, and extremely aggressive. There’s absolutely no pause before the power flows – just push the go pedal hard and the F-Type surges forward rapidly and so hard that it’ll pin your head back against the seat. The Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and traction control systems work well to keep the Jaguar in a straight line but it’s beautifully set up as well, allowing the rear end to break free for a decent amount of distance before reigning it in, giving confidence and it’s apt to make one feel a better driver than one may actually be. Turn the traction and stability systems off, and you’ll quickly realise just how much work they’re really doing to keep you from spinning off the road.

The incredible and relentless way the speed rises when you’re hard on the gas in the V8 S makes it very much a license-loser. Yes you can break speed limits in almost any car, but the V8 S F-Type is so fast – and will do it with such absurd ease – that actually it almost doesn’t make much sense to own the that version in the UK with its eight trillion speed cameras. Let me explain just how fast it is: as already mentioned it’ll hit sixty miles per hour in a shade over 4 seconds, but what makes the mind boggle is that it will go from 50 – 75 mph in just 2.5 seconds! From there you will go well into triple figures, apparently without the F-Type even breaking a sweat. The V8 S is limited to 186 mph too, and I’m intrigued to know what it can do with the limiter removed – I’d estimate it’ll nearly do the double-ton.

Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible Review-5659

Should you be on a familiar section of twisty tarmac, the F-Type handles beautifully. The steering and brakes feels sharp and super-precise, and the F-Type is superbly well balanced with a tight chassis alongside the trick Adaptive Damping suspension, making for a car that handles and drives so well you’d think it was coupé rather than a rag-top. On a hard, fast drive down a narrow, tightly-winding and heavily undulating country road – and with Dynamic mode selected to sharpen the handling and quicken gear changes – the F-Type convertible brought something back to me that I thought was long gone forever - proof that ‘motoring’ can still be fun!

If you do decide to blast cross-continent or undertake a long tedious motorway journey, the F-Type actually makes for a good cruising car. As I’ve said, it returns surprisingly good fuel economy and it’s also comfortable too. While it’s not overly noisy in the cabin with the roof up, road and wind noise at higher speeds are obviously notably higher than the coupé versions will be, but it’s not irritatingly or uncomfortably loud by any standard. With the roof down there’s far less air buffeting than I expected (possibly down to the optional wind deflector) and it’s a very enjoyable place to be with the sun shining and that amazing soundtrack from the quad exhausts playing behind you. With the roof down there's far less air buffeting than I expected (possibly down to the optional wind deflector) and it's a very enjoyable place to be with the sun shining and that amazing soundtrack from the quad exhausts playing behind you.

All said, the F-Type V8 S yearns and begs to be driven fast and with gusto each time you start that sweet engine. It’s an incredibly quick machine, but there are very few areas on our over-policed, speed-camera-saturated UK roads that you can fully use anywhere near the potential of this monster. While it’s truly excellent to know you’ve got that much power on tap, I’ll say the V8S is the car you can drive to the full more often without the fear of losing your license.

Price

The Jaguar F-Type Convertible ranges from (prices: May 2014) 58,500 to £80,000 minus any options. Start ticking those boxes however and the price quickly builds. For example; 20″ Blade wheels: £1,500, special paint hue: £1,250, Suedecloth performance seats and interior pack: £3,500, 770W Meridian sound system: £1,700, seat memory pack: £1,150, carbon fibre rear diffuser: £2,196. You get the idea, and with most of the options added I managed to get the cost up to an eye-watering £112,000 on Jag’s website configurator! At £85,000 though, all who asked and were told of the V8 S convertible’s price tag agreed it was worth the money. Should you part with your hard-earned cash for whichever F-Type you choose, I’d be highly surprised if you were disappointed. Rivals for similar cash? There’s the Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet starting at £92,000, or the less expensive  option of the Boxster GTS for around £53k. There’s also the Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster from £94k, or the Mercedes-Benz SL 500 for £80 thousand.

2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible verdict & score

Without fail, each and every trip in the V8 S Convertible came standard with its own rush of adrenaline, regardless of how fast or slow it was driven thanks to the exhausts producing one of the best soundtracks you'll hear from any car.

The F-Type V8 S Convertible is a truly outstanding sports car. This Jaguar managed to make me once again believe that it’s possible for even a short blast down the road to be fun, and for every waking minute I that I wasn’t in the F-Type while it was on test, I yearned to drive it. Without fail, each and every trip in the V8 S Convertible came standard with its own rush of adrenaline, regardless of how fast or slow it was driven, thanks to the exhausts producing one of the best soundtracks you’ll hear from any car.

The supercharged V8 is so tremendously quick from both a standing start and in-gear that it’s almost in the realm of supercar speed, and I never tired of the way it hurled itself towards the horizon with even a slight press of the accelerator. It’s magnificent handling prowess matched with the way it takes in the everyday bumps ‘n humps of city roads is hugely impressive, and with such a well-finished interior I’m finding it rather difficult to come up with any negatives about the Jaguar F-Type Convertible. The small boot space? I think I could live with that. The huge power? Great, but I still maintain you’ll get more satisfaction from pushing hard in the less powerful (read; less scary) F-Type V8 S on our small UK roads. On the continent or in the U.S., the V8 S will certainly suit better.

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

Exterior  9.5
Interior  9
Engine  9
Gearbox  9
Price  8.5
Handling  8.5
Drive  9
Overall Score  9 / 10

Specs

Model (as tested)  2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible
Spec includes 20″ Turbine wheels, electronic active diff, Adaptive dynamics sports suspension, Jaguar super performance braking system, EBA, EBD, TCS, DSC, intelligent stop/start, 8″ touch-screen with bluetooth, sat nav & DAB. See website for more info
Options you should spec  Switchable Active Sports Exhaust: £350, Configurable Dynamic Mode: £400, Wind deflector: £250
The Competition  Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet or Boxster GTS, Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster, Mercedes-Benz SL 500
Price  (May 2014) F-Type V8 S Convertible: £79,995
Engine  5.0 litre V8 petrol engine with Roots-type twin-vortex Supercharger
Power, Torque, CO2  Power: 495 PS (488 bhp) @ 6,500 rpm | Torque: 461 lb ft (625 Nm) @ 2,500 - 5,500rpm | CO2: 259 g/km
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Rear-wheel drive | 8-speed ‘Quickshift’ automatic
Ground clearance, Wading depth,  Towing Capacity  Clearance: Minimum 217mm (8.5″) | Wading: 700mm (27.5″) | Braked towing: 2,800 kg’s (6,170 lbs)
Top Speed, 0 – 62 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed (limited): 186 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 4.2 seconds | 50 – 75 mph: 2.5 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: Not yet tested
Fuel economy (UK mpg)  Urban: 17.8, Extra-urban: 34.0, Combined: 25.5
Weight (kerb)  1,665 kg’s (3,638 lbs)
Websites  Jaguar UK, Jaguar USA, Jaguar global

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

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Autodrive Car USB Memory Stick Review http://carproductstested.com/trip-travel-gear-guide/autodrive-car-usb-memory-stick-review/ http://carproductstested.com/trip-travel-gear-guide/autodrive-car-usb-memory-stick-review/#comments Fri, 02 May 2014 15:00:24 +0000 http://carproductstested.com/?p=12698 Autodrive Die cast model Car USB Memory Stick Land rover aston martin nascar-4063

If, like us, you are completely car-mad, you probably also enjoy everything surrounding them. Whether it’s reading a big hardback stuffed with high quality photographs of supercars, collecting and using various waxes and polishes on your pride and joy’s paintwork, or spending many happy hours building a model of something exotic with a V12, it’s all part of being a petrolhead.

Autodrive Die cast model Car USB Memory Stick Land rover aston martin nascar-4101

We’re always on the lookout for more car gear and came across something rather neat that you’ll also want to add to your pool of motoring-related stuff: USB flash drive cars. Sounds slightly dull, but they aren’t. They are, in fact, really very cool. AutoRegalia.co.uk offered to send us a couple to test, and with a wide choice that includes Aston Martin, Lotus, Audi, Maserati, Bentley, BMW, Mini, VW, Lamborghini, Ford, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz – it wasn’t easy to choose. These USB cars are not some cheap knock-off’s, but the real thing, officially licensed by the manufacturers and made of die-cast metal, so you know you’re buying a decent product.

 

Features

As mentioned, there’s absolutely loads of marques and models available, and if you weren’t told that these little 1:72 scale cars actually double as USB flash drives, you wouldn’t know unless you looked really closely – they simply look like a small model as the wheels even turn and feature soft rubber tyres. No, you can’t swap them for a stickier set of Michelins or Goodyears for better traction. Regarding size, at around 60 x 30 mm (2.3 x 1.2″) these are easily small enough to keep in your jeans pocket or one of those hidden compartments in a bag.

Autodrive Car USB Memory Stick Aston Martin V12 Vantage model

To use the car as a memory stick, there’s a button on the car’s undercarriage which you slide along to push out the USB section. You can then plug the car directly into any USB such as your computer or car radio. If you need it, there’s a high quality cable included in case it’s too awkward to connect the car into the port directly. Once plugged in, the car’s lights at the front or rear (depending on the model) then flash or go solid during data transfer.

In the end, we chose two from Autodrive; an Aston Martin V12 Vantage and a classic short-wheel-base Land Rover Defender. We also went for a Jimmie Johnson NASCAR-licensed version in 4Gb, which are slightly different in that the car splits in half to reveal the USB connector, and you also get a pretty cool NASCAR lanyard with it too! Memory capacity for the Autodrive versions includes 4, 8, 16 and 32 gb.

Autodrive Car USB Memory Stick Land Rover defender Model

Any issues? The NASCAR model comes pre-loaded with driver-specific videos, pictures and sounds, but these are just a bunch of low-resolution and grainy images, a very short film about the driver which was actually stretched and couldn’t be made into a normal ratio, and one very short sound bite of the cars being fired up before the race start. So, don’t buy one of the NASCAR sticks hoping for much info if you’re a fan. Best to delete all that and add your own photos on.

Price

Prices (correct April ’14) start at £12.99 for a 2Gb version, and go up to £31.99 for something like a VW Campervan or Beetle with 8Gb. The Land Rover Defender and Aston Martin V12 Vantage 8Gb are both priced at £23.99, while the NASCAR 4Gb is £19.99.

Our verdict

Autodrive Car USB Memory Stick Jimmie Johnson 48 Official Nascar model-2

Negatives first. Although the price is fair for the cars, we think they should have a higher capacity for the money as memory sticks now are cheap, and there are plenty to choose from with upwards of 32Gb for half the price of one of these car versions. Also, the pre-loaded data supplied with the NASCAR is very gimmicky and really needs updating and to be of way better quality for the true fans of the sport that’ll buy these.

Overall, these officially-licensed car USB memory sticks look great and are good quality too. If you want a fairly inexpensive gift for someone passionate about cars and motoring, you can’t go wrong with one of these.

Functions  Working LED headlights or tail lights (depending on model)
Works with  Windows 7, 98, 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, VISTA or Mac running OS/X
Marques available  Aston Martin, Bentley, Volkswagen, Lotus, Maserati, Lamborghini, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover & more
Bundle  4, 8, 16 or 32Gb capacity & USB cable (dependant on model)
Size  Approx. 60 x 30 mm (2.3 x 1.2″) (dependant on model)
Buy Now  Car Products Tested Shop
Website  AutoRegalia.co.uk
Price  £12.99 – £31.99

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

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2014 Toyota Hilux Invincible 3.0 D-4D Review – Resilient & Dependable Pick-Up Still Brilliant http://carproductstested.com/cars/2014-toyota-hilux-invincible-3-0-d-4d-review-resilient-dependable-pick-up-still-brilliant/ http://carproductstested.com/cars/2014-toyota-hilux-invincible-3-0-d-4d-review-resilient-dependable-pick-up-still-brilliant/#comments Mon, 28 Apr 2014 13:00:34 +0000 http://carproductstested.com/?p=13023

Time-tested über-reliability, tough, roomy & comfortable interior, torquey D-4D engine

Interior design and material quality fallen behind some rivals

Toyota Hilux?

Toyota Hilux Invincible 3.0 D-4D Manual Double-Cab Review-4717
If you’ve not heard of or seen a Toyota Hilux by now, you must have been living in a cave for your lifetime. Starting its life in 1968, the Hilux pick-up quickly became well-known for its robustness and reliability. The Hilux can be bought in almost every country in the world, and if you’ve not seen one in the flesh, without knowing it you’ll have seen one on the news bouncing over rough terrain in some war-torn country, or in a documentary about Australia or Africa, so some place isolated.

Now on its 6th generation, this pick-up is still massively popular. Why so appealing? We were sent a 2014 Toyota Hilux Invincible 3.0 D-4D to review and find out ourselves…

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

Toyota Hilux Invincible 3.0 D-4D Manual Double-Cab Review-4709

With a decent amount of pick-up trucks to choose from here in the UK, and most of them doing a similar job, I certainly think that looks go a long way towards a sale. With a facelift fairly recently, the Hilux is a good looking vehicle. The Toyota is available in a few forms; single cab, extra cab and double cab. The Invincible double-cab we were sent is the top of the range version, and the exterior benefits from 17″ alloy wheels, side steps, front fog lamps, chrome side mirrors plus a few other bits ‘n pieces.

Unlike a couple of the other pick-up trucks available here in the UK, the Hilux looks purposeful and tough, with strong stance that plainly states you could chuck a lot at it with little effect. While the Invincible has all the extra trimmings and shiny bits, there’s no getting away from the fact that its a big muscular beast, and should that large, wide grille fill your rearview mirror, you do rather feel like pulling over to let it past. While most Euro-spec pick-up’s are a similar length, the Hilux stands out with a high front end and a wide track width.

Toyota Hilux Invincible 3.0 D-4D Manual Double-Cab Review-4713

Its frontal area design is very modern, yet sticks to a fairly traditional look of being squared off and burly. Every part of it is substantial too; the headlights, the grille, the fog lamps and an air intake on the bonnet that’ll swallow a small dog, all make it as purposeful as can be. While the chrome side steps on the Invincible look good, personally I’d not have them as once you’re off road you’ll find them a hinderance should you want to crest the top of a sharp slope, or scramble over large boulders.

Most pick-up’s look the same, and the Hilux is no exception really, with the plus point that the rear window is large, and stretches almost to each pillar edge. Some manufacturers give their pick-up’s only a small section of glass at the rear, hampering visibility, but the Hilux’s is very good. All said, the Toyota Hilux is a decent lookin’ truck, which looks properly resilient.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

Toyota Hilux 2014 review front seats and dashboard 1

The Hilux’s interior is a fairly simple affair, and there’s not a huge amount to say about it. Manufacturers must have a bit of a hard time deciding on how to design the cabin of a pick-up. Buyers now demand more luxuries as standard, and they want decent room and a good level comfort too. But it also needs to be work-proof, as the majority of people using these will use them for exactly that.

The Hilux’s cabin isn’t quite as nicely styled or laid-out as the Mitsubishi L200′s, being more bland than bling, and it’s plain to see that Toyota have gone more for the durable and practical side of things. For instance, the dash top is almost a matt black and so there’s zero reflection in the windscreen. Helpful if you’re trying to navigate a narrow, rocky quarry road and the sun is harsh. The plastic of the dashboard is also extremely heavy-duty, which is is great as often guys will jump into a cab and chuck all sorts of gear onto it, such as tool belts, flasks, bits of sample materials, and many more very scratchy things.

Toyota Hilux Invincible 3.0 D-4D Manual Double-Cab Review-4692

Other practical stuff includes an array of big glove-friendly buttons and controls. Whenever I’ve worked on construction sites in the past, and you’ve been out in the freezing cold for hours on end, the last thing you want to do is to jump into your truck and grip an ice-cold steering wheel. So, gloves are usually kept on. Happily, the Hilux’s heating controls are large, chunky affairs, and are well-marked too.

Further to that, to get you toasty warm quicker in winter time, the Hilux features a Power Heat system. Push the button, and the Toyota’s revs rise to around 1,200 rpm, and warm air comes out the vents almost immediately. Apparently heater elements within the system provide warm air quicker than the car, and the higher revs also help heat the engine up quicker too. Brilliant bit of kit, and those of you working outside all day will appreciate this bit of tech. For summer, there’s air conditioning and all-electric windows.

Toyota Hilux Invincible 3.0 D-4D Manual Double-Cab Review-4702

Our Hilux Invincible tester also featured the multimedia system with sat nav, which has bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and music (the speakers are decent too), plus user-friendly sat nav that features up to date graphics, and there’s a good revering camera as well. Handy when you can’t see the end of the truck bed. The system also shows your fuel economy stats in a nicely readable format. Storage space is always important in a work vehicle, and the Hilux doesn’t disappoint, with a deep section under the armrest, plus a big glovebox and a tray under the rear seats.

The drivers instruments are all analogue and very traditional. Nothing special about these, but they’re easily readable and that’s all you need from a pick-up. The Invincible has fabric seats as standard, and in all honesty these are fine. The fabric pattern is nothing garish or outdated, and the material itself is hard-wearing. You can spec leather upholstery, but at £1,600 (April ’14) that’s a huge amount for seats that get freezing cold in winter and boiling hot in summer. Actually, I noticed there’s no heated seats in the Hilux, or even an option for them weirdly. Personally, I’d save myself the sixteen hundred pounds and stick with the fabric seats.

Toyota Hilux Invincible 3.0 D-4D Manual Double-Cab Review interior front rear seats

Comfort-wise, I had no problem with them. They’re decently supportive and comfortable in the front, and even the rears are at a good enough angle for passengers to enjoy even a longer journey. Leg space is also fine in the back as well, as is elbow and head room. Out of all the Hilux’s, the Invincible is the only one that – aside from the standard driver/front passenger airbags – also features front side and curtain airbags as well.

While there are other pick-up’s out there that have nicer-looking and more modern interiors, I believe the Toyota sticks firmly to its roots as a no-nonsense work vehicle. Sure, it’s comfortable and roomy enough to take mates or the family out if needed, but each time I climbed into the Hilux, I always got the sense that it’s been designed tough, for what it was built for – work.

Engine & gearbox

Toyota Hilux Invincible 3.0 D-4D Manual Double-Cab Review-4897

Two diesel engines are available with the Hilux; a 3.0 litre D-4D, or a 2.5 litre D-4D. Both are four-cylinder with a variable nozzle turbocharger bolted on. However, only the top of the range Invincible comes with the bigger three litre version. The 2.5 produces 142bhp and 253 lb ft (343 Nm) of torque, while the 3.0 puts out 169 bhp at 3,600 rpm, but the same torque as the two-point-five.

0 – 62 mph (0 – 100 km/h) is 12 seconds for the 3.0 D-4D, and 13.3 for the 2.5 D-4D, while the top speed remains the same at 106 mph (171 km/h), aside from the auto which is very slightly higher.

As well as a 5-speed manual gearbox, there’s a 5-speed automatic transmission too, but again, that’s only available on the Invincible. Our tester had the manual and it’s actually a rather good one. With each gear ratio being long – especially 5th – it’s got an excellent cruising capability with low rpm at motorway speeds, meaning a good fuel return figure.

Official UK miles-per-gallon consumption stats for the 3.0 D-4D are; urban: 29.7, extra urban: 42.2, combined: 36.7. The 2.5 D-4D gets approximately 2 – 3 mpg more. On a motorway run, I managed 29.5 miles-per-gallon, which is decent for a big, square pick-up truck. CO2 emissions read as 194 g/km for the 2.5 litre and 203 g/km for the 3.0 litre (227 g/km for the auto).

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

Toyota Hilux Invincible 3.0 D-4D Manual Double-Cab Review driving multi

Climb aboard the Toyota Hilux, and you’ll find a high, commanding seating position. Good for when you pull up next to normal cars and they’re having to strain their necks to look up at you. Firing up the 3.0 D-4D, I was immediately struck by how smooth and quiet an engine it is. In comparison with the diesel unit in the Mitsubishi L200 I tested not long before the Hilux, it’s positively hushed! The 3.0 D-4D pulls nicely in first to forth gear, while fifth is more for cruising. The nice thing about the 3.0 D-4d is that never really feels and sounds strained in any way, even at higher rpm. It makes for a relaxed drive, actually.

As I drive a city route, the 5-speed manual gearbox has noticably-long ratios. With a lot of modern manual transmissions on cars, you’re able to get into 5th at 30 mph with no trouble. Try that in the Hilux and you’ll find it’d buck and jump before stalling the engine. Third gear at 30 is right, as any higher and it’ll bog down. Onto a motorway and I assumed the 5-speed ‘box would mean high-revving noisiness, but it’s the opposite. The (very) long 5th means the Hilux is settled and the engine decently quiet. Actually, on that note, even at higher speeds I noticed the Toyota gives pleasant cruising capability as the cabin is well insulated from sound from the tyres, wind and engine.

The handling and ride isn’t as focussed, let’s say, as something like the aforementioned L200, but where it lacks in ‘car-like’ handling capability, it makes up for with a smooth ride over bad road surfaces, speed bumps and pot holes. The back end isn’t too skittish without a load, and the VSC (vehicle stability control) is nicely done, allowing a small amount of slip before cutting in gently.

I can’t stand it when traction and stability control systems are heavy-handed and overbearing, taking away almost all of your power and control. It makes it dangerous when accelerating out of a junction. Thankfully, the Toyota system is a great one and kerbs just the right amount of power when slippage occurs, and it’ll bring you back into line with a nice level of correction should the rear end kick out.

Toyota Hilux Invincible 3.0 D-4D Manual Double-Cab Review-4727

Braking is positive enough to be happy with for a pick-up truck, and the Hilux Invincible even features both EBD (electronic brakeforce distribution) and Brake Assist. It also has an impressive braked towing capacity of 2,800 kilograms (6,170 lbs), plus it’ll also carry up to 1,060 kg’s (2,337 lbs) in the load bed area. That’s easily enough to trailer a small digger and have something like a standard one tonne bag of sand or a pallet of bricks in the rear without issue. Note though, that the 2.5 D-4D engined versions don’t have the above electronics on – only the Invincible does.

It’s good to know for peace of mind that even if you’ve not physically engaged 4WD and are driving in 2WD, the Hilux has a ‘part-time’ four-wheel-drive system that kicks in if it detects slippage on-road, and which disconnects automatically once you’re rolling again, for better fuel economy. If you’re towing, or simply want more a more confidence-inspiring and assured drive when the bad weather closes in, you can change from two to four wheel drive at up to 50 mph. This isn’t as good as some, which can do the same at up to around 60 mph, but it’s still way better than having to stop to do it, of course.

Overall, I found the Toyota Hilux to be a pleasant beast to either drive or ride in. Around town, the suspension soaks up the bumps well, and on long journeys the engine takes distance and higher speeds in its stride. It’s also much quieter than you’d think, and noise into the cabin is suppressed very well considering this is basically a work vehicle. Whether you’re doing the daily grind and driving the Hilux for work purposes, or going away for the weekend with friends, I believe that you’ll actually driving the Toyota – whatever the capacity it’s being used in.

AWD and off-road. Stuck or superb?

Toyota Hilux Invincible 3.0 D-4D Manual Double-Cab Review-4768

Taking the Hilux onto some barren wasteland, the ground looked set and solid, but the surface was thin, and simply driving over it pulled away a crust of dried mud to reveal sludgy, slippery ground underneath. As we slowed to avoid rocks and obstacles, in 2WD (driven through the rears) the Hilux became stuck, the rear wheels spinning uselessly. However, from the moment I pushed the transfer lever into H4 (high ratio, 4 wheel drive) mode, the Toyota Hilux changed character. Physically, should you use this on-road due to bad weather, you’ll notice the drive feels more planted and certain of itself as all four wheels grip the tarmac. Should you forget to take it out of 4WD and are rolling down the road at higher speeds, the system automatically and mechanically decouples the front drive shafts, effectively making it 2WD and so preventing wind-up and understeer, and also saving fuel in the process. 

Off-road, as the 4WD system connects we’re able to drive away with zero slippage, and even on standard tyres the Hilux is sure-footed. Floor the accelerator, and the traction control system kicks into use almost straight away, sending power to whichever wheel it’s needed at. On the 2.5 D-4D, instead of the traction control system they get a rear-locking differential, which will still be very capable over the rough stuff. How much capability difference between the electronic system over the traditional locking diff setup? We’d have to test the two together. But that’s for another day, for now we’re going to see what the 3.0 D-4D Invincible is like up a steeply-angled, slippery slope.

Toyota Hilux Invincible 3.0 D-4D Manual Double-Cab Review off road driving multi-4

Toyota reckon that because their transmission is tuned for off-road and descents, it’s almost impossible to stall the Hilux. So, of course we put that to the test. Approaching the slope, I stop, select neutral, and push the transfer lever up into L4 (low ratio, 4WD) to give the best traction. Then it’s into 1st gear and let the clutch out slowly. The Hilux sets off at tickover, and starts to tackle to the slope. The engine rpm slow a little as the full weight of the two-tonne Hilux, and for a second I think it’s going to stall, but it simply carries on up the gradient, and over the crest with zero problems, the chrome side steps just clearing it.

Impressive, and back down the slope doing the same, the Hilux goes down gently and completely controlled. Over ruts and rocks, the Invincible is decent thanks to its (minimum) 217mm (8.5″) ground clearance, and if you’re thinking of fording some water, the Hilux has a substantial 700mm (27.5″) wading depth too. Like anything, if you need to be off-road regularly for whatever reason, its best to get the Hilux kitted out by stripping off those side steps, getting some decent off-road tyres and fitting a snorkel. Besides, it’ll look even more of a beast that way.

Toyota Hilux Invincible 3.0 D-4D Manual Double-Cab Review-4791

 

Price

The Toyota Hilux starts at just over £20,600 for the single cab ‘Active’, and goes up to a shade above £27,200 for the double-cab Invincible. In comparison, the Mitsubishi L200 starts at just over £20,000 and goes up to almost £28,500, the Ford Ranger £22.4k – £30,300, the Volkswagen Amarok £24.8 – £32,500, theIsuzu D-Max £23k – £27,000, and the Great Wall Steed £16,700 – £19,000. 

2014 Toyota Hilux Invincible 3.0 D-4D verdict & score

Toyota Hilux Invincible 3.0 D-4D Manual Double-Cab Review-4745

The Toyota Hilux is pick-up truck with an incredible reputation for reliability and toughness – the world around, in fact. That’s something no manufacturer can buy, only earn. I liked my time with the Hilux. It’s a big, imposing thing with true pick-up looks that may have been updated over time, but still err on the side of sturdy. The interior has fallen behind some rivals in terms of design and material quality, but it’s still comfortable and decently roomy, and above all, it’s going to last well.

The 3.0 litre D-4D engine is smooth and torquey, and it both cruises well at higher speeds and copes brilliantly off-road too. All said, with the Hilux now on its 6th generation, it continues to grow its legacy as a no-nonsense, resilient work-horse that’ll still be here in decades to come.

Do you own a Toyota Hilux? 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
Engine  8
Gearbox (man.)  7
Price  7.5
AWD & off-road ability  8
Drive  7
Overall Score  7.5 / 10

Specs

Model (as tested)  2014 Toyota Hilux Invincible 3.0 D-4D Double-Cab
Spec includes  17″ alloy wheels, front fog lamps, chrome side steps, headlight cleaners, all-power windows, cruise control, electric adjustable & heated wing mirrors, front, front side & curtain airbags, VSC, EBD, ABS, traction control, touchscreen entertainment system with sat nav, bluetooth, rear-view camera etc See website for more info
Options you should spec  Chrome Hi-over (rollover) bar: £772. Because it looks cool.
The Competition  Mitsubishi L200, Ford Ranger, Volkswagen Amarok, Isuzu D-MaxGreat Wall Steed, Nissan Navara
Price  (April ’14) £20,600 – £27,200
Engine  3.0 litre D-4D, 4-cylinder diesel with Variable Nozzle Turbo
Power, Torque, CO2  Power: 169 bhp @ 3,600 rpm | Torque: 253 lb ft (343 Nm) @ 1,400 – 3,400rpm | CO2: 203 g/km
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Rear-wheel drive with 4WD & Automatic Disconnecting Differential (ADD) | 5-speed manual
Ground clearance, Wading depth,  Towing Capacity  Clearance: Minimum 217mm (8.5″) | Wading: 700mm (27.5″) | Braked towing: 2,800 kg’s (6,170 lbs)
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 106 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 12 seconds | Euro NCAP rating( pre 2009): 4 stars (Adult occupants)
Fuel economy (UK mpg)  Urban: 29.7, Extra urban: 42.2, Combined: 36.7
Weight (kerb)  Approx. 2,000 kg’s (4,400 lbs)
Websites  Toyota UK, Toyota Australia, Toyota global

Check out our other car reviews here

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

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