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on the sidewalls review – Toyota GT86

Filed under: on the sidewalls review — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — onthesidewalls @ 21:36 01/06/2013

I have to avert my eyes whenever I see a Keep Calm and Carry On poster. Or tea towel. Or mug. Or key ring. Or strappy top. Especially when it’s worn by a divorcee in the throes of a style crisis. The charm of James May’s t-shirt from about 5 years ago has long gone.

Toyota GT86 rear

The same problem blights Toyota GT86 reviews. There are so many derivative chunks of sycophantic prose that they’re impossible to take seriously. A load of hyper-bollics. So we’re not going to add to it. The GT86 is low, pointy and flattering. It is a very naughty boy… but not quite the messiah.

Toyota GT86 front

In fact, there are some reasons why we reckon you’re better off sticking to a good-old-fashioned front wheel drive hot hatch. Like the tremendous new Golf GTI, for instance. Here’s why…

For a start, the Toyota is a clunky bugger at low speeds. The combination of a tall first gear, lack of low-rev torque and mechanical diff make it cumbersome to manoeuvre. Changing from 1st to 2nd gear needs a patient wrist too – a dose of double de-clutching is sometimes necessary when it’s cold. If you’re planning to mooch about town, get a Golf.

Toyota GT86 rear light

Secondly, it’s thirsty. Over 300 miles across town, country and motorway we averaged a heady 31mpg, without driving like we’d robbed a post office. We’ve only spent about 50 miles in the mk7 Golf GTI – and despite driving like we HAD robbed a post office, it matched the Toyota’s MPG. Head to head, the VW will be better on fuel.

Toyota GT86 badge

It’s iffy on a motorway too. For a start, despite famously wearing the same organically grown tyres as a Prius, it’s bloody noisy. And you know how the engine isn’t known for its low down torque? Well that’s fine when you’re in the mood for constantly buzzing the red line. But it’s not fine when you need to pull 4th gear to fend off the pleb trying to undertake you in his Peugeot 3008, and then don’t actually manage to keep up with him. That’s the opposite of fine. Sad petrolhead dads will constantly want to race you… and they’ll probably win.

Next, the interior. Actually, the interior’s fine. The bits you touch are good. And despite what car journos think, most people won’t scratch its gizzards with their fingernails, or thumb its instrument cowl to see how ‘soft touch’ it is. Plus, the new Golf GTI has some grotty materials too. Including a particularly gnarly bit that your knee hits round fast corners.

Toyota GT86 front 2

Finally, is the steering perfect? Well… not quite. Once you’re into a corner, it’s nicely weighted, progressive, reasonably good at telling you about front end grip and has a natural self-centring action. But. We reckon it’s a little TOO eager on the turn in. While darty and alert and things like that, it’s tuned so hyperactively that the rest of the car can feel left behind. You turn the wheel, the front instantly reacts… then, for just a millisecond, you’re left wondering when the rear will follow. Tiny gripe, but a gripe all the same. The Toyota’s more fun through a corner, but the Golf GTI goes into them with a more natural gait.

So. Should you buy a Toyota GT86? We’d love to. But don’t believe ALL of the hype. In some cases, it’s best to Keep Calm and Get a Golf GTI.

on the sidewalls review – SEAT Ibiza ST FR

Filed under: on the sidewalls review — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — onthesidewalls @ 20:24 17/01/2013

You join us at a VERY tricky moment. Our forehead’s prickling; sweat seeping out one molecule at a time.  Our right ankle’s twitching like Michael J Fox in a Mannheim bidding war. Our eyes are piercing space and time. The last time we felt a mental frenzy like this was 30 seconds before a fight in a Wetherspoon’s.

SEAT Ibiza FR ST front

But we’re not fighting. In fact, we’re not moving. We’re very definitely not moving. We’re in Worcestershire, stationary, trying to join the A435 (North) from Tanners Green Lane.

Up until now we’d been getting on reasonably well with SEAT’s face-lifted Ibiza FR. It looks less like an M&S handbag than the VW Polo with which it shares its gubbins. It also WON’T lead people to believe that you’re hiding a stash of Tena Lady in the glovebox – and you can’t say THAT about its other brother from the Veedub mother, the Skoda Fabia. Oh, and this “ST” version’s estate rear end is integrated so well that it might take you 4 full days to realise it’s an estate. Spotted it already? Just us then.

But here’s the catch. This particular car has an FR badge on it, which means the bonnet contains a 148bhp, 1.4 litre twin-charged petrol engine and a DSG gearbox. Unfortunately, combining these two things creates all sorts of bad mechanical alchemy. We’ll call it badchemy.

SEAT Ibiza FR badge

Let’s talk about throttle response. If you’re travelling at a speed the engine deems appropriate, and you’re in a gear that the transmission finds agreeable, there’s a reasonable chance of being propelled forward within a second or two of suggesting such a thing to the accelerator. But, if the box and motor have a disagreement during their leisurely exchange, they’ll put you on hold indefinitely. It’s like the bad old days of double lag in auto-boxed turbo-diesels. You may as well play Greensleeves and put a brew on.

Which is a shame. Because if you change gear yourself, CONCENTRATE on what the engine’s up to and ANTICIPATE what gear the transmission might fancy a few yards down the road, the Ibiza FR can shuffle along very well. But can most people be arsed with that, most of the time? Doubt it. They shouldn’t have to in a car they’ve paid £18k for.

The quick shuffle is exactly what has led us to the end of Tanners Green Lane, where Betty Swollocks is paying us a visit. We’re suffering the most obvious symptom of the badchemy created twixt engine and transmission. Traction. Or lack thereof.

SEAT Ibiza FR ST rear

Like many cars with DSG boxes, the Ibiza FR isn’t a fan of quick getaways. But it is very keen on axle tramp and trying to blow the bulb in its ESP light. It goes like this… you press the throttle, and very little happens because the engine hasn’t got the memo yet. So you press it harder. Then the engine finally receives the memo, possibly via messenger pigeon, thus jumping into action and immediately causing one of the front wheels to get flustered and break traction. Obviously the ESP won’t stand for any such ruffianism, so it cuts the power immediately. At this point, you’re doing 4mph with the car’s brain assuming the road is so slippy that the wheels can’t possibly deal with more than 20% of the engine’s power without liquefying themselves.

The 178bhp version of this engine, like what you get in Polo GTIs, Ibiza Cupras and Fabia vRS isn’t as peaky or laggy, has an easier-to-modulte throttle and… is better. In the FR, you quickly learn to never attempt quick getaways at all. Which, when you’re trying to join a damp A-road without any slip-road run-up, is quite frustrating.

And so, we’ll leave you to get on – because we’ve given up on the idea of riding on the A435 (North). We’re doing a three-point turn, heading back the long way and acting as mediator in a counselling session between two high-tech pieces of engineering.

on the sidewalls review – Porsche Cayman R

Filed under: on the sidewalls review — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — onthesidewalls @ 22:20 04/07/2011

Should be simple really. The Cayman is the best handling Porsche model, and the £52,000 Cayman R is a lower, sharper and more powerful version of it. So, therefore, the Cayman R is the best handling Porsche full stop.

And that simple deduction is 80% true. If you’re a ham-fisted loon, the Cayman R offers a glorious blend of flattery and excitement. Where a GT3 RS is a form of domestic abuse and the GT2 RS motoring euthanasia, the Cayman R does a roaring trade in coaxing, coaching and cajoling. When you’re giving it 100%, the car gives you 100% back.

The Cayman R is on your side. It turns humans into heroes… while the GT2 RS and GT3 RS would rather turn us into corpses.

But now for the but: the Cayman R only buzzes through your hands, ears and arse if you’re giving it full clobber – and if you back off, it loses interest. When you’re not pounding the tarmac like a storm chaser, the once witty Porsche becomes dismissive and disgruntled. It’s no longer on your side…it’s a sulky bastard.

As soon as the front tyres aren’t experiencing some slip, the steering gives you the cold shoulder. No feel, no chat, no fun. And when the engine isn’t ringing in your ears, it won’t send shivers down your spine. It twists well enough from low revs, but such reward is only a booby prize compared to the sting nearer the red line.

‘I’m the best handling Porsche you can manage fuckwit… now drive me properly’ it bellows with frustration. All of a sudden, you’re a useless piece of meat flapping at the wheel like Dr Zoidberg. A normal Cayman feels at home on the road – reactive, sharp, fast and fun. The Cayman R feels like its feet have been bound.

It is, without any doubt, an incredible driver’s car for people who feel under-qualified in the seat of a GT3 or GT2 RS. But I don’t think it’s gobby or exciting enough at road speeds to interest the type of lunatic who fancies a BMW 1M.

The New Kia Picanto… in a Limerick

Filed under: on the sidewalls review — Tags: , , , , , , — onthesidewalls @ 22:56 16/06/2011

Spent a bit of time sneaking around Bordeaux in the new Kia Picanto. Despite threatening to just be a slightly chinnier version of the Hyundai i10 with which it shares a chassis, the little critter has a charm all of its own. Comfy, nicely done out and easy to bop about in… it doesn’t try to be too sharp and is all the better for it. Naturally, we wrote a limerick about it:

Its interior is now very smart

And emissions the smallest of farts

Add to that comfy springs

Plus good boot space for things

The Picanto’s a neat shopping cart

Kia Picanto Geek Table

Model: Kia Picanto 1.0 ‘2’
Price: £9,595
Engine: 1.0 3-cyl
Power: 68bhp @ 6,200rpm
Torque: 70lb ft @ 3,500rpm
0-60mph: 13.9 secs
Max Speed: 95mph
Economy: 67.3mpg combined
CO2: 99g/km

Two Word Verdict – Mini Coupe

Filed under: Two Word Verdict — Tags: , , — onthesidewalls @ 22:30

Abercrombie Prick

Two Word Verdict – VW Golf Cabrio

Filed under: Two Word Verdict — Tags: , , , , , — onthesidewalls @ 22:19

Tena Lady

on the sidewalls review – Citroen DS4

Filed under: on the sidewalls review — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — onthesidewalls @ 23:06 02/06/2011

Let’s start off with a simple fact: the Citroen DS4 is NOT a pick-up truck. It’d be crap at taking rubble to the tip, it doesn’t lumber on leaf springs and people won’t think you’ve got a tattoo of a bear on your chest if you drive it. What it is though, is almost every other type of car in existence.

A hot hatch for starters. Quite a good one actually. Fitted with the same 200bhp petrol engine that nestles behind the recently-caught-trout-face of the Peugeot RCZ, the DS4 can parp and charge with all the passion of a violently farty bullock. It’ll rattle off the 0-62 run in less than 8 seconds and keep the needle nudging clockwise to 146mph.

Quite bafflingly, and despite its parpiness, the DS4 is also a crossover. The driving position is described by the vaguely pornographic term of ‘semi-command’ – meaning while you can’t see over other cars, you are just about high enough to implement a condescending stare. The ride height too, which is the car’s least convincing symptom of being a jack of all trades, makes the car look rufty tufty rather than lanky.

Yet, despite the wheel arch gaps, it’s also a surprisingly spikey coupe. The suspension is stiffer and sharper than the Arran-sweater wearing C4 on which it’s based, resulting in a little victory over the supposed effects of a high centre of gravity.

It changes direction well, grips like a leech on a fatty and possesses that rarest of qualities in a modern car – steering feel. The electro-hydraulic steering (instead of purely electric) and racy Michelin Pilot Sport tyres deserve thanks for this. Subtle rubbery granules pulsing through the palms… what a treat.

We’re not quite finished yet – the DS4 is a sensible hatchback too. When it goes on sale in Autumn 2011, the cheapest model will cost around £18,000 and be fitted with a 1.6HDi engine capable of 60mpg while emitting 122g/km of CO2. Spec the clicky flap EGS gearbox and the figures improve to 64mpg with 114g/km. And the 385 litre boot is actually slightly bigger than the supposedly more sensible C4’s. Ooooh.

Did we mention the interior has an authentic touch of luxury car about it? Well it has.

Of course, this melee of contradictory goodness has led to some less welcome quirks. For a starter, it’s the only five-door hatch we know where the rear windows don’t open. Citroen’s spin wizard quite nonchalantly explained that ‘it’s because the DS4 is a coupe and coupe’s don’t have opening rear windows do they?’. Err, it’s a hatchback and a lot of coupes do have hinged rear windows actually.

Secondly, the gap betwixt wheel and wheel arch looks daft. But that’s about it. The DS4 really has nailed the fast/fun/frugal/stylish/sporty/spacious/different/not too bloody weird combo incredibly well. Makes a Countryman look… well, like the first syllable of its name.

We started with a fact, so we’ll end with another: the Citroen DS4 is the least compromising compromise in motoring. And we like it a lot.

on the sidewalls review – Renault Twizy

Consider your reaction to the automotive atrocities grouped together by the word ‘quadricyle’. A cluster of cretins that includes the notorious G-Wiz – motoring’s equivalent of the electric chair, minus free supper and haircut. Feeling angry? Thought so.

Now meet the brand new £7,000 Renault Twizy – a battery powered, bug-eyed mode of 21st Century urban transport. That’s also a quadricycle.

While we hate to start with such an unpleasant subject, it’s an important one; because the Twizy’s classification as a quadricyle has serious consequences.

Firstly, it means it doesn’t qualify for the Government’s electric vehicle grant – so it costs a full £7,000, plus £45 a month to lease the battery. Secondly, the Twizy doesn’t go through any EuroNCAP safety tests, meaning despite its driver airbag and front crumple zone, it doesn’t have any coveted gold stars. Finally, it limits the Twizy’s weight to a maximum of 450kg excluding battery – which means Renault have been sparing with the body panels. Such as full size doors.

And our three main criticisms of the little leccy lunatic? It lacks the reassurance of EuroNCAP stars, it isn’t cheap enough compared to proper city cars like the Hyundai i10… and, most importantly, it doesn’t have any bloody doors. Three problems, all related to its quadricyle classification, that prevent the Twizy from being a genuinely revolutionary little whizzer – because in many ways, it’s absolutely brilliant.

If you were to design a city car from scratch, it’d probably drive very much like the Twizy. It would be under 4ft wide. You’d be able to see the front wheels from the driver’s seat. It would have a tiny 3.4m turning circle and the instant lights-turn-green-zip of an electric motor. It also wouldn’t have any exhaust emissions. And the range? You wouldn’t need much more than 60 miles from a 3.5-hour charge. Perfect.

The fact that it’s a reet old giggle to drive is just a bonus. At parking speeds, the unassisted steering might prove heavy for those with particularly emaciated arm muscles, but as soon as the Twizy gets a jog on, it lightens up and sparkles. Skinny 125 section tyres scrabble for grip, passing Morse code messages of their valiant efforts straight to your hands and arse. It’s like being on an adult-sized Legoland ride.

Even more surprising is what happens when you follow a fearless French test driver through sweeping corners. Top speed from the 15kw electric motor is quoted as 75kph, but we saw an indicated 87kph as we struggled to keep up. Its front tyres cling on for dear life and thanks to weight of the motor and 100kg battery under the tandem seats, it never feels like it could ‘do an A-Class’.

But that’s in the sunshine… in the rain, it would just be an expensive way to get nearly as wet as you would on a scooter.

So we’re back at the door thing again – a basic issue that the Twizy will never leave behind. On a sunny road, it feels safe and stable enough to let you forget its lack of EuroNCAP stars. It’s also fun and useful enough to be worth the price if your driving habits and charging points accommodate the usual demands of electric car ownership. In the sunshine, the Twizy makes sense.

But on a drizzly day, as you’re bombarded by spray from passing buses? Even the electric chair starts to look more appealing.

The Infiniti M30d… in a Limerick

Spent some time in the new Infiniti M30d – the first version of Infiniti’s Audi A6 rivalling saloon to come with a diesel engine. Other than being a few MPG short of class best, and perhaps being a little bit camp for some po-faced executive saloon buyers, it’s faultless. Wrote a limerick about it, obviously…

The Infiniti M30d
Is furnished by Liberace
But the engine is subtle
And the ride never rattles
I’d rather this than a lifeless Audi

Infiniti M30d Geek Table

Model: Infiniti M30d GT
Price: £40,190
Engine: 3.0 V6 turbodiesel
Power: 235bhp @ 3,750rpm
Torque: 405lb ft @ 1,750rpm
MPG: 37.7 combined
CO2: 199g/km
0-62mph: 6.9 secs
Top speed: 155mph

Top 5 Cut Price Wedding Cars

Filed under: A.O.B — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — onthesidewalls @ 22:43 29/04/2011

Our hearts have been melted, our cynicisms transformed into fuzzy-brained admiration and our TV screens burnt with the unforgettable shape of Pippa Middleton’s arse. But, couldn’t the wedding cars have been a bit cheaper? Yes. They could have been.

So, partly to help the Royal family save a few pennies during their next Big Day and partly to help you dear readers recreate your own bargain basement Royal Wedding, here’s our list of cut price wedding cars. The criteria for selection is simple – British badge, some regal swank and a surprisingly low price tag… so here we go, in ascending price order.

£500 – Rover 800

Don’t let Partridge put you off. The Rover 800, especially high class versions like the Stirling or Vitesse, carry some serious patriotic clout… yet cost just half a grand. For full wedding day impact, try to find one in British Racing green, add a chrome AA badge and chrome spotlights and finish off with the Bride and Groom’s names spelt out in shaving foam on the back window.

£1000 – Jaguar XJ8

For £1000, you will have to settle for the tarnished patriotism of a Ford era Jag, but the 1997-2003 XJ8s come with a regal V8 engine and were at least built in Coventry – the heart of the Queen’s automotive industry. Warn your bride to steer clear of overly puffy dresses though, as leg room is limited in the back of these Union Jack-on-wheels.

£5000 – Rolls Royce Silver Shadow

Costing a heady £6,700 on its release in 1965, the Silver Shadow has all the ingredients of a great wedding car – grace, hertiage and leg room. With a monocoque chassis, extensive use of aluminium plus a hulking great 6.2 V8 this gracious Grandma of motoring also has technology to back up its class – respect from petrolheads to ‘commoners’ is guaranteed.

£10,000 – Bentley Mulsanne

The type of car that will only accept passengers after a blue blood test – those lacking aristocratic DNA are simply not allowed. With a 6.75 litre V8 mated to an automatic gearbox with just 3 speeds, the Mulsanne has legs so long it could be a Middleton. And don’t think it’s an old relic – the chassis architecture was underneath the 21st Century Azure and the basics of the engine are still being used today.

£20,000 – Aston Martin DB7

Yes, OK. It doesn’t have proper back seats and the interior’s a bit grotty… but any self-respecting 4-star blooded Groom would want his bride to drive herself to the wedding. A girl, driving an Aston designed by Ian Callum? The ultimate aphrodisiac. With a supercharged straight-6 engine producing 335bhp, the glowing bride is easily capable of performing a few pre-ceremony donuts. Ideally to the sound of Billy Idol. Perfect

Growers – Mazda RX-8

Filed under: Growers — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — onthesidewalls @ 22:31 17/04/2011

And the award for ‘Most Gut-Wrenching Depreciation Suffered By An Early 2000s Sports Car’ goes to… the Mazda RX-8! Speech! Speech! Speeeeeech!

Oh, he’s gone to the bar for a top-up. The crazy bastard drinks like he’s at Shane McGowan’s wake.

Alcoholism aside (and partly thanks to the drink habit), the RX-8 thoroughly deserves its depreciation award. Because while £5,000 Honda S2000s and £6,000 Nissan 350Zs are wallet-twitchingly tempting, the Mazda RX-8’s value has dropped quicker than a D-lister’s knickers. You can now buy an RX-8 for LESS THAN £3,000. Why on earth wouldn’t you?

Well, inevitably, we’re back at fuel consumption. The RX-8’s fizzy Wankel engine might rev to the moon and give you the other-worldly thrill of not having pistons, but even driving sensibly on a middle-lane motorway run, you won’t break 30mpg – around town, you won’t even do 20. Even in Mazda’s own pictures, the RX-8 is barely a quarter full…

Its reputation for oil use is similarly deserved, although perhaps not as petrifying. As the oily bits of the engine aren’t separated from the exploding bits by piston rings or such rubber-sealy goodness, the oil gets burnt. It was all part of Mr Wankel’s design – and other than being annoying, is nothing to worry about. Check the level every-other time you fill up (so, quite often), and expect consumption of no more than 1 litre per 1,500 miles.

Anything else to be aware of? Well, yes. Mr Wankel’s rotary engine doesn’t like cold starts – the RX-8’s instruction manual even tells you to not switch off the engine unless it’s had time to reach temperature. While you’re all intelligent enough to follow this advice, previous owners may not have been – so cars with incredibly low mileage that never reached temperature aren’t necessarily good news. Make sure you ask the owner if they do lots of short trips.

At the other end of the spectrum, make sure the car starts when it’s warm – if it struggles, the problem could be anything from coil packs to spark plugs to a dodgy starter motor or low compression. Hot starting problem = not a good one.

But other than avoiding short journeys, tolerating the fuel consumption, checking the oil and making sure it starts when hot, the RX-8 handles and thrusts well enough to be a pleasure to own. If you can ignore the handbrake, which always looks like it needs adjusting and gets in the way when changing gear. Bloody RHD conversions.

Now you know the basics, you can choose between the 192 and 231bhp versions – and it’s not as simple as just going for the gruntier one. The 192bhp version actually has a smidge more torque (162lb ft versus 156) and a 5-speed gearbox to the pokier version’s 6-speed, giving it a slightly longer legged gait. It’s best to ignore the power and just buy on condition, history and the geeky enthusiasm of the owner.

So. The RX-8 does demand more of you than a barrel chested 350Z or ballet loving S2000, but handles just as well and costs over £2,000 less. It’s got to be the sportscar bargain of the year – and just think how many Nectar points you’ll get from your local BP.


Two Word Verdict – Jeep Compass

Filed under: A.O.B — Tags: , , , , — onthesidewalls @ 21:27

Frankie & Benny’s

Two Word Verdict – Mercedes CLS

Filed under: Two Word Verdict — Tags: , , , — onthesidewalls @ 21:20

Versus Predator

on the sidewalls review – VW Polo GTI

Filed under: on the sidewalls review — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — onthesidewalls @ 22:36 05/04/2011

Yes. We know. It’s mechanically indistinguishable from a SEAT Ibiza Cupra or Skoda Fabia vRS. Do you know quite how BORED the world is of that fact? Jaysus.

What The Most Repeated Car Fact of the 21st Century So Far neglects to mention is that the minutiae of a car’s execution is just as critical as its gearbox, engine and chassis. Which is why the Polo GTI is better than two cars that are the same as it.

The extra sheen of the Polo’s interior is just the start – the biggest difference between the three cars is on the road. Seriously.

A Fabia vRS feels like a cheap car with a very expensive engine – fast, but also a bit tall and imprecise. The Ibiza Cupra by comparison gives the impression that it’s trying too hard… all shouty, darty and hard without much charm or feel. Blame it on the height of their bodies, sound proofing and weight distribution.

In comparison, the Polo feels like a perfectly judged hot hatch marvel. It’s the last of the three to go on sale, but the GTI gives the impression that it was designed first – the ideal calibration of a shared platform that Skoda and SEAT had to cheapen and differentiate themselves from.

The ride is fractionally less busy… the induction noise slightly richer… the steering infinitesimally meatier… you’ve got to be a real hot-hatch loser hell-bent on finding tiny traces of tweaked tactility to feel the difference, but that’s what we are. Give us a good hot hatch in Wales over anything else on the road. And the Polo GTI is a very good hot hatch.

Blame it on witchcraft, blame it on mysterious mechanical alchemy… but we honestly think the difference is big enough to avoid blaming our own exaggerated memories of the other two cars.

And yes. We also know that the fizzy brilliance of a Renaultsport Clio makes praising the tactility of a Polo GTI sound a bit overwrought. The best of the three is still second best to the Renault.

on the sidewalls review – Nissan Murano

Filed under: on the sidewalls review — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — onthesidewalls @ 22:03 28/03/2011

Can you imagine having nearly £40,000 to spend on a brand new car? It’d be like waking up with two willies. Some of the finest cars on sale vying for your attention, luring you in with their glowing reviews. Porsche Boxster, BMW 525d Touring, Land Rover Discovery 4… the list of class leading stunners could coax up a chubby.

And for the same price, you could buy the updated Nissan Murano.

So, what does it do to tempt that £40,000 from your lucky-git fingers? Well, erm… I was always told that if I haven’t got anything nice to say I shouldn’t say anything at all. So here’s a picture.

As I haven’t got anything nice to say about the ride, handling, styling or performance, I won’t talk about them. Certainly won’t mention the steering. And I can’t really discuss the qualities of the new 2.5 turbodiesel engine either – because struggling to do 30mpg is only a nice thing when compared to the V6 petrol Murano… which struggled to do 20.

I can, however, comment on the high equipment levels, including side and rear parking cameras, a good sat nav, Bluetooth and heated seats. Probably shouldn’t go into how the driver’s seat looks and feels like a dentist’s chair though.  Can’t mention the rest of the interior either. Especially not the plastic around the lever of the standard 6-speed auto-box. Or the brightness controls for the dials. Or the electric mirror switches.

In fact, the nicest thing I can say about the Murano is how it should make us feel very lucky. The big Nissan isn’t dangerous or even anything worse than mediocre in every way – yet it’s about as wide of the mark as brand new cars get. So thanks, Murano. Thanks for reminding us just how excellent every other car on sale is.

Hyundai i10 Blue… in a Limerick

Filed under: A.O.B,on the sidewalls review — Tags: , , , , , , , , — onthesidewalls @ 22:21 07/03/2011

Spent some time thrumming about in Hyundai’s facelifted i10, complete with new 3-cylinder petrol engine. It’s a cracking little machine that dips below the magic VED/C-Charge CO2 barrier of 100g/km without resorting to diesel fuel or laptop batteries. Wrote a limerick about it, obviously…

With emissions that won’t hurt a flea

The Blue’s yearly tax disc is free

Add a chassis that’s quick

To a gearshift that’s slick

And city kicks you can guarantee

Hyundai i10 Blue Geek Table

Price: £9,195
Engine: 998cc 3-cylinder petrol
Power: 68bhp
Torque: 70lb ft
MPG: 67.3 combined (claimed)
CO2: 99g/km (claimed)
0-62mph: 14.8 seconds
Max speed: 93mph

Geneva 2011 – Hits and Misses

HIT – Lamborghini Aventador

A V12, 700hp supercar with a shape and details that can only have come from the mind of a hyperactive child on an Ribena drip. 0-62 in 2.9 seconds. A fantastic lunatic.

MISS – Skoda Vision D

Hmmm. Don’t get cocky, Skoda. Don’t blow your chance to run with your ‘People’s Champion’ baton. As well as revealing their new rather stern looking logo, Skoda showed off this equally stern, cold and featureless Octavia sized thing. Doesn’t look like as friendly or happy as the Skodas we’ve grown to love.

HIT – Alfa Romeo 4c

A horny looking coupe, which seemed to be painted in crushed red velvet. Likely to cost £40k and do a sub-5 second 0-62 bolt, it sounds like a TT and Cayman rival – but can Alfa really put together a tight enough drivetrain and chassis to even get near to the mark? Nah. Looks nice though.

MISS – Jaguar XKR-S

Yes, with 542bhp it does have more power than an Aston Martin V12 Vantage… but there’s no disguising the fact that the XK is ancient. A186mph top speed is enormously fast, but give the old girl some dignity. And by dignity we don’t mean a stupid paint job and fussy splitters.

HIT – Ford B-Max

A Fiesta sized mini-MPV with sliding doors and a range of turbocharged tiny engines? Without the overly fussy face of the Focus and the still slightly too Nursing Home friendly vibe of the C-Max? Yes please and thank you. On sale from next year… just don’t mention the word ‘Fusion’

MISS – Subaru Impreza Concept

Oh. Most people didn’t notice this appear at the LA show in November last year. Even less people will have noticed it at Geneva. How long can Subaru keep going?

HIT – Renault Captur

You’d never guess that Nissan and Renault are the best of friends. One has the Juke and the Qashqai, and the other has a Koleos. This ballsy, Juke sized Captur shows that Renault at least have ambitions of closing the style/desirability gap to their Nissan chums.

MISS – Aston Martin Virage

Evolution is a good thing. Part-sharing also fine. But Aston’s ‘new’ Virage, which features the same V12 and same chassis as the rest of their cars is a step too far. As a facelifted DB9, the Virage would be awesome – as a brand new car, it’s a disappointment.

HIT – Ferrari FF

Yes, we’ve seen the pictures already… but look how big the boot is! And it’s not some achingly clever hybrid, it’s just a hulking great 4WD chest wig with a V12 up front. Just so Ferrari’s customers can go skiing. Awesome.

MISS – Toyota FT-86 II

The thought of a rear wheel drive Scirocco rival is exciting. But Toyota have teased us with that thought for so long now that it’s now become boring. And it looks messier than a branch of WHSmith. After a robbery.

STILL NOT SURE – Pagani Huayra

The Huayra should leave us in awe. Reeling at its other-worldly face. But it still hasn’t… does that make it underwhelming? Does that suggest it’s going to be timeless? Nobody knows. But next to an Aventador, it looks like a miserable fish. Judgement is being reserved until we see it for real.


on the sidewalls review – BMW X3

Filed under: on the sidewalls review — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — onthesidewalls @ 23:05 28/02/2011

We can confidently report that the brand new BMW X3 is rather excellent. Not just excellent for a ‘pointless crossover’ either – it’s an excellent car full stop. In fact, it’s got an answer for every single knee-jerk crossover criticism known to man. Look, we’ll prove it…

Knee-jerk crossover criticism no.1: ‘Yeah but these gas guzzling SUVs are making Eskimos homeless’.

Nope. Not this one. Thanks to CO2 emissions of 149g/km and a combined mpg of 50.4, it’s cleaner than any Audi Q5 or Volvo XC60 – even the green leaved DRIVe version. It actually uses less fuel and emits less CO2 than a Fiat Panda 4×4… and nobody has ever called a Panda a planet killer.

Knee-jerk crossover criticism no.2: ‘Yeah, but it’ll topple over as soon as you go round a corner’

We drove for over 400 miles in our BMW X3 and not once did any of its wheels lift the ground – and the same can’t be said about the mk2 Golf GTi we used to drive on a daily basis.

Its vigilance around corners is actually just one facet of a generally rather suave and confident chassis. The X3 doesn’t iron out road roughness entirely, but instead smothers it in rubber-backed velvet… you can enjoy the texture of tarmac without being distracted by it.

Knee-jerk crossover criticism no.3: ‘Yeah but I bet despite it being massive outside it’s got no space inside’

Its boot is bigger than a Q5 or XC60’s and just 5 bottles of coke smaller than a 5 Series Touring. And even Angela Rippon’s leggy sister would enjoy folding herself into the maturely tailored cabin.

It’s also worth noting that those of Angela Rippon’s advanced years will appreciate that both the boot and seats are higher up and therefore more easily accessed than a 5 Series Touring.

Knee-jerk crossover criticism no.4: ‘Yeah but, Angela Rippon aside, you may as well get a normal estate car’

Guess what? Some people live in the countryside. Or go to car boot sales in boggy fields. Or live at the top of a hill where it snows. Or like seeing over hedges and traffic. Sometimes having twice the amount of driven wheels and a higher ride height compared to a normal estate car comes in handy. Also, at £31,135, the X3 is actually cheaper than a 5 Series Touring with an identical engine… and, like the 5, comes with leather seats and climate control as standard

If you actually want to go off-roading then a Land Rover Freelander 2 would be better… but the X3 is infinitely better on road. And, because you’re probably thinking it, a Discovery 4 is at least £5,000 more expensive so doesn’t really count.

So there you go – the BMW X3 is the best mid-sized crossover thing by far. So good that it’s actually just a bloody good car that should quite rightly tempt a few country dwelling 5 Series buyers.


Auto Exclamation! Volkswagen Sharan

Filed under: Auto Exclamation! — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — onthesidewalls @ 22:36 21/02/2011

Rhythm method fans rejoice! Volkswagen have birthed a new version of their 7 seat Sharan – and it’s better than ever! Auto Exclamation are the first in the world to drive it to a specific car park in Birmingham, and we’ve got exclusive renderings of exactly what it looks like there! It’s like this!

The headline about this car-creche is that it now comes with sliding doors! Compared to the last model’s old-fashioned apertures, these openings are super simple – they slide back and forth with all the ease of a fertile father’s clammy arse! And the greasy weasel door-holes aren’t the only reason the Sharan scores!

Fancy moving the rear-most seats about but don’t want to slip a disc? In some MPVs that’s a tall order… but the Sharan’s got your back! Its new EasyFold seating system is the best around, with the rear two seats shrinking down and rising up again like they’ve been spiked with tiny blue pills! These seat erections are the most impressive around!

And there’s more good news! If you expected the Sharan to have the noisy finesse of Mothercare on a Saturday, you’ll be pleasantly surprised – Volkswagen’s boffins have made it posh as well as practical!

The Sharan’s ride is soft, noise from the frugal 2.0 turbodiesel engine is low and even the best baby monitors would struggle to pick up any gurgles from the wind or tyres! The sprats’ll have no trouble sleeping in the back! Shame they won’t bloody sleep at bedtime because of it, isn’t that right mums!

So, any reasons not to fall in love with Sharan? Well, just one! She’s got a cut-price Spanish twin who isn’t named after a woman from Essex! It’s the SEAT Alhambra! With identical engines and gearboxes – inlcuding an excellent double-clutch system – as well as the same seats and sliding doors, the saucy Spaniard has all the VW’s best bits… for a smaller price tag! While our mid-spec Sharan costs £26,965, the same Alhambra costs £25,805!

But the badge on the pram is worth a lot – McLaren even make a supercar to prove the point! And that’s why we recommend the Volkswagen Sharan without hesitation! If you want your babies to understand life, you need to show them that grown-ups are silly enough to spend £1,000 on a posh badge! After all, what would you want to be seen in – Matalan or Mamas & Papas?! Exactly!

The McWait is Over. Now For the McVerdict.

Filed under: A.O.B — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — onthesidewalls @ 21:57 14/02/2011

The McStats have been released, the McEmbargo on McDriving-Opinions lifted (not that The Sunday Times or Mail on Sunday gave a rat’s hat about that) and the McFirst-Impressions published on the McInterweb. The McLaren MP4-12C, the McMostImportantSupercarThisCenturySoFar, is here. And? Well? AAAAANDD? COME ON??!! IS IT BETTER THAN THE FERRARI 458 ITALIA OR McBLOODY WHAT?

Well… dunno. There’s a misty fug of reservation hanging over the vast majority of first impression articles, and it’s quite frustrating.

Perhaps it’s because the lucky journos who attended the 12C’s launch event at Portimao didn’t have much time with the car. Perhaps it’s because they’re unwilling to deliver a conclusive opinion before performing some head-to-head tom-hoonery with the big red Fez. Quite right too. Perhaps, and we’ll whisper this quietly, perhaps the car’s befuddling scale of talent has actually caused even the most hyperbolic journos to be… how do I put this… lost for words.

From the cold stats, it’s quite clear that the 12C is an engineering masterpiece. A new, ruthlessly capable, mutli-talented breed of supercar. And a re-invention of the supercar deserves a re-invention of the language used to describe them. A new vocabulary. A new way of telling a story. Fresh syntax. Conventions chucked away. The very best car-explainers will no doubt rise to the challenge and make the 12C leap off a page with the ferocity the car itself leaps off a start-line.

Truth be told, I’m almost as excited about the prospect of reading superbly crafted MP4-12C  reviews as I am about the car itself. So come on car journos, don’t let us down… do like McLaren have done and burn the rulebook. And don’t you dare resort to putting the word ‘clinical’ in every paragraph.

MP4-12C Geek Table

Price: £168,500
Power: 592bhp @ 7,000rpm
Torque: 443lb ft @ 3.000 – 7,000rpm
0-62mph: 3.3 secs (3.1 secs with optional ‘Corsa’ tyres)
Max Speed: 205mph
Kerb Weight: 1434kg
Emissions: 279g/km of CO2
MPG: 24.2mpg combined

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