Kia Pro_cee’d GT announced

Set to debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March, Kia have today released details of the new Pro_cee’d GT and looking past the silly name I reckon it’s one of the best looking cars to be released in a long time!

ImageThe GT looks very well proportioned with some great lines and interesting details.  It should have the speed to match its looks too with just over 200 bhp available from a turbocharged 1.6 litre engine, 62 mph arrives in 7.9 seconds. The interior shots only give small hints as to what the inside will be like but there will be Recaro seats and by the looks of things some nice leather trimming.

ImagePrice and specification will be announced closer to the on-sale date (middle of 2013) and I suspect these will have an enormous impact on how successful the Pro_cee’d GT is.  I’ll be looking forward to finding out more because if the GT turns out to be as good as it looks then it has the potential to be a great alternative hot hatch.

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End of year fleet update

Thanks to a combination of new job and a house move I’ve got a bit behind on the blogging over the last couple of months but it’s now time to get back into it and try and make the updates a bit more regular during 2013. Since this blog is supposed to be about hot hatches I thought I’d do an end of year fleet update about my little duo. Both cars have been written about on PetrolBlog this year but this article will give a few highs and lows about the Fabia and the 106 from the last few months.

1994 Peugeot 106 Rallye

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Since buying the little Pug back in April I’ve probably spent as much on it as the purchase price of the car itself but fortunately it was a bit of a bargain to buy! As cars go it is a long way from being perfect with dents and scrapes on various panels, a nasty crunch into 2nd gear and dodgy slider on the drivers seat. However, once you get in and drive the thing you can forgive it’s faults, putting your foot down from 30mph in 2nd gear and watching it scream round to its 7k rpm red line just never gets old! Once you’re on the move the car is surprisingly torquey and happily cruises with modern traffic, the steering is light and precise and it’s only really the performance of the brakes that let it down.

I’ve had some great drives in the 106 over the last few months including a couple of runs across the A4069 in the Brecon Beacons, although the last drive a few days ago resulted in the exhaust falling off and the car is now confined to the garage until I can sort a new one. It’ll also be MOT time in a couple of months which is a bit scary as there a couple of things which I suspect could cause a problem. Although, all in all, I have enjoyed owning the Pug and would certainly recommend one as long as you know what you are letting yourself in for which is ultimately a noisy, rattly, flimsy little hatch back!

I don’t tend to keep a precise record of what I’ve spent on my cars but some of the headline costs for the Pug since I bought it are as follows:

  • New coil pack & crank sensor – £120 
  • 4 x Vredestein Hi-Trac tyres & new wheel bolts – £250
  • Paint and assorted kit to ‘refurbish’ the steel wheels – £100+
  • Parcel shelf – £10
  • Service inc. cambelt, engine mount, and a couple of other parts – £300
  • Various other small parts and consumables – £100

Once all the costs are put together it does look a bit scary but before I bought the car it hadn’t run for 4 years so I was anticipating some recommissioning costs and factored this into my purchase price.  The failed coil pack & crank sensor was the only time the car had failed to start and the tyres weren’t strictly necessary as it had acceptable tyres on a set of 205 GTI alloys when I bought it but I wanted to get it back on the steels!

 

2005 Fabia VRS

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The Fabia has now been my daily driver for almost 3 years and despite a few issues in late 2012 I really have no idea what I would replace it with if I had to change it! The above picture was taken on my first track day with it at Blyton Park in October where it performed very well, especially for a car which isn’t the last word in handling and outright performance.

In addition to completing its first track day the Fabia now gets asked to do a 70 mile daily commute on some pretty poor Welsh roads and while it hasn’t let me down it hasn’t been feeling at its best recently and has needed a fair bit of money spending on it! Some of the work has been routine whilst other issues have proved difficult to resolve, it developed an odd vibration a few weeks ago that initially felt like it was coming through the chassis and the garage suspected that it may be the DMF.  However the vibration is now more pronounced through the brakes and steering so I’m hoping it just needs new front discs and this will be looked into in the new year.  During 2012 I’ll have notched up getting on for 20k miles in the Fabia and despite a few large bills this year I have to say it still copes very well for a car coming up to 8 years old with nearly 100k miles on the clock.  I’m hopeful that the few issues it’s had recently will be ironed out early in 2013 and it’ll be back on form ready for a lot of miles and hopefully some more track days.

A few of the major costs for the Fabia in 2012 are here:

  • Major service – £180
  • Minor service – £80
  • 4 x Uniroyal Rainsport 2s – £300
  • Rear discs & pads – £190
  • Investigative work, tracking, alignment etc – £150

Both cars have had their ups and downs this year but I’m still very fond of the pair of them.  The 106 is probably most at risk of sale simply because of the additional cost of running 2 cars but I’ll see what 2013 brings before making a decision. If anyone is considering purchasing a 106 or a Fabia I’m always happy to give honest ownership experiences ..feel free to comment on here or find me on Twitter @willp1987.

Thank’s to everyone who has read this blog in 2012 and I hope to get it updated a bit more regularly next year!

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Vauxhall Insignia VXR Supersport – 170 mph for under £30k!

Following on from my article about the new SEAT Ibiza Cupra, a car which in my view represents very good value for money, Vauxhall have now gone and announced a 170 mph super saloon priced at under £30k, the new Insignia VXR Supersport.

Looks the part!

Now, £30k is more than I have to spend on a car and more than many people have to spend on a car but if you are in the market for a serious performance saloon the Supersport does seem a bit of a bargain, especially when you start to consider that it includes Vauxhall’s ‘Lifetime Warranty’. In terms of specifications and statistics, here is the key information:

  • 2.8 litre V6 turbo
  • 325 PS
  • 0-60 in 5.6 seconds
  • Top Speed of 170 mph
  • All wheel drive
  • HiPerStrut front suspension
  • Adaptive damping system

To me, that all stacks up to create quite an appealing package. The HiPerStrut suspension has received very good reviews on other models and there is no denying that it is a quick car (although admittedly 170 mph isn’t that useful in the UK and you’d have to take a spin across to a German Autobahn if you wanted to stretch its legs). Couple this with a price that’s more than £3,500 less than the outgoing Insigina VXR and the ‘Lifetime Warranty’ and the Supersport starts to look pretty good.

In their Press Release Vauxhall talk about the links this car has back to their early performance models such as the 30-98, but for me the real grandfather of the Supersport is the Lotus Carlton and since it is such a fantastic looking car, I though it was worth sticking a picture in, enjoy!

Just look at it! 176 mph in 1989, awesome…

Of course, if you are feeling a bit mental and the fast saloon thing doesn’t do it for you, Vauxhall also import the Maloo VXR which has a 0-60 time of 4.9 seconds, and judging by the press photo is available in yellow…excellent!

Errm…

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SEAT unveils new Ibiza Cupra

SEAT has today announced the new Ibiza Cupra which will be available in the UK from January 2013 with prices starting at £18,825.

The first Ibiza Cupra made its début in the UK in 1996 and was available in the unforgettable Kiwi Green.  Never shy of bold colours or designs, SEATs latest Cupra  doesn’t disappoint in the looks department. At the front there is a deep grill with aggressive headlights, while the rear sports a centre exit exhaust flanked by large vents on the bumper. The Ibiza promises to deliver in the performance stakes too with 62 mph arriving in just 6.9 seconds and a top speed of 142 mph. This performance comes courtesy of the now widely used 1.4 TSI engine which produces an impressive 180 PS and 250 Nm and should deliver some aural pleasure thanks to the sound actuator in the exhaust system. As usual, this engine is mated to the 7 speed DSG box which can be left in full-auto mode or operated by paddles on the steering wheel. The most impressive stat however, is the 47.9mpg average that SEAT claims the Cupra will return.

The merits of the DSG box over a traditional manual have been discussed at length elsewhere so I won’t go into that in detail here. However, SEAT describe the Cupra as a ‘compelling day-to-day performance car’ and frankly I’m pretty sure it will be! I have driven the previous Ibiza Cupra with the TSI/DSG set up and the Skoda Fabia vRS which shares the same combination and both cars are excellent. The 1.4 engine has tremendous power for such a small unit and pulls extremely hard and while the DSG doesn’t have the same type of involvement as a manual there is still a lot of pleasure to be had from shifting with the paddles and the changes themselves are rapid and crisp. Where the DSG also proves its worth is in traffic, simply pop it into auto and cruise along, perfect!

The Ibiza offers generous levels of standard kit including Climate Control, rain-sensing automatic wipers, bi-xenon headlamps, XDS and ESP and a variety of styling upgrades over the Ibiza FR. SEAT have also incorporated their portable media system into the Cupra, a very handy bit of kit! Oh, and if you want to add a bit of extra stopping power to your Ibiza, there is an AP Performance Braking system available.

With the price of new cars rising rapidly the Ibiza Cupra represents very good value for money and offers excellent performance with genuine day-to-day practicality. If you are after a hot hatch, the SEAT Ibiza Cupra is definitely worth a look!

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Fabia vRS goes on track

My first ever outing on a track was at the Nurburgring a couple of years ago, and my second was at the Nurburgring this year! After having a great time but scaring myself silly on the Green Hell I decided it was time to give a UK track day a go. Back in September the opportunity arose to have some tuition at Blyton Park in a Rallycross prepared Suzuki Swift courtesy of Swift Rallycross. Since I had learned the lines and braking points at Blyton Park I decided that it was the perfect place for my first track day and a couple of weeks ago I found myself and my Fabia on a Javelin track day.

With a 106 Rallye on the drive you may be wondering why I took the Fabia vRS instead! There are a couple of reasons behind this, the principal one being that I fear I am fighting a losing battle against fitting in the 106, at well over 6′ I’m genuinely not sure that I will fit with a helmet on! The second major issue being that the brakes on the Pug are errm…limited, and so it was that I found myself on a cold October morning at Blyton Park in the Fabia. In the run up to the track day I had made all the important checks to the car including brakes, tyres and fluids but with it being a standard road car there was little else to prepare. I did fit the front towing eye just to be on the safe side but am pleased to say that this wasn’t required!

Upon arrival I was confronted with a huge array of machinery from Caterhams and highly tuned Evos arriving on trailers to tatty 106s and diesel Mondeos.  However, the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed with the day seeming well organised. After signing on it was time for the safety briefing which was clear and fairly strict and it was then back to the car to prepare for the sighting laps.  Having been out at Blyton Park previously I was familiar with the layout but it was nice to have a bit of a refresher. Once the three sighting laps were done and dusted, all of the more serious track cars underwent various tweaks and checks while I sat in the car waiting for the track to open. There were few takers when the track initially opened so I decided that it would be a good chance to get out and get a few laps in and before I knew it I was throwing my ‘warm’ diesel hatch into the first corner at Blyton Park. For the first few laps everything went well and I was remembering the lines and braking points and enjoying the space on track. Then, about 4 laps in, there was a smell, an odd burning smell! I initially put this down to the M3 and MX5 that had just gone past but on my next lap round, whilst driving in clear air, the smell remained and was getting stronger so I pulled off to check it out and was confronted by a massive heat haze from the front brakes and substantial amounts of smoke! I was a little alarmed initially so left the brakes to cool down for a while and the smoking stopped after a few minutes.  After my second stint the smell returned with a little bit of smoke but by the third stint the smoking had stopped altogether…phew!

I had been worried about how well the car would cope compared to the others on track and while it was undoubtedly one of the slower cars there it didn’t disgrace itself and on the straights was quicker than a number of other cars. With standard brakes it was under braking and during cornering that the Fabia lost out, but trying to maintain momentum and hit the right lines was very enjoyable. One of the reasons I had put off doing a track day was that I had worried about the risk of an accident but was pleased to find that the standard of driving was generally very good. I rarely felt under pressure from other cars and by moving aside as early as possible to let faster cars by I found I could relax more and enjoy my time when I was in clear air. The usual suspects like the Evos were blisteringly quick but the two surprises of the day were a MK1 Clio and MK2 Corsa, these two clearly didn’t have their standard engines and had been on the receiving end of some serious track preparation and were enormously quick as a result, at one stage a 911 GT3 RS moved aside to allow the Clio to pass!

The atmosphere throughout the day proved very relaxed and I got chatting to a few other drivers and even received a couple of complements on how well the Fabia was going from a guy in a lovely MK1 MX5 Turbo and another in a Civic Type R, which was nice to hear given that I wasn’t sure what reception a standard diesel road car would get. To top the day off, I got to have a go in a DC2 Integra Type R. This car probably attracted more attention than any other car there and I had got chatting to the owner whilst the track was closed to clean up an oil spill, and out of the blue he asked if I wanted to take it for spin! I didn’t need to be asked twice and we were soon off for a quick blast around the Lincolnshire countryside. The ITR was outstanding and undoubtedly one of the best cars I have ever driven, the combination of screaming VTEC, precise gear change and incredible cornering ability made for a very appealing package (now a serious contender to succeed the Pug)!

After the outing in the Integra the track opened for the final 20 minutes of the day and I was off out again. This final session was a lot of fun as many people had packed up and left while the track was closed so the few of us remaining enjoyed a nice quiet session. All in all I had probably put in around 60 laps of the track which wasn’t a huge amount across the day but it meant that I hadn’t taken too much out of the brakes and tyres of what is ultimately my daily driver and I had been able to relax and enjoy the day and just go out for a session as and when I felt like it thanks to the open pit lane format. The Blyton Park track is extremely enjoyable with a mixture of both sweeping and tight, technical corners which are highly rewarding when you get them right. The tarmac is beautifully smooth so you can be confident of not hitting any bumps or rough patches and to cap it off, with it being an old airfield, there is plenty of run off should you happen to push a bit hard and run wide.

So, a great track, a great day and a lot of fun in what is essentially a pretty basic warm hatch. I would have no hesitation in taking the Fabia on track again and I hope to now get along to plenty more track days!

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Supercar Experience Days: What to expect

A few weeks ago I ‘inherited’ a driving experience day from my brother.  His girlfriend had bought it for him for his birthday but being somewhat disorganised he had forgotten to use the voucher and realised that it would run out whilst he was out of the country for a month. His loss was my gain and I went to drive a Lamborghini Gallardo at Elvington Airfield today! This was my first time at an ‘experience day’ so I thought I’d do a bit of a summary for anyone else thinking of attending one or buying one as a gift.

The Build Up

My drive was booked for 4:30pm and I was asked to arrive an hour prior to this in order to get signed in.  On arrival I was surprised at just how busy it was, there were dozens of people milling around and waiting for their drives and there were about 7 or 8 cars on track at the same time. In my case though it wasn’t necessary to arrive an hour early as it took all of 5 minutes to register including listening to the staff trying to sell me additional insurance, photo packages, video packages etc! After standing around on the windy airfield for a while the first trip out onto the track was as a passenger in an Octavia VRS where we were shown the layout and lines for the circuit, this was helpful but on a totally new circuit not really enough to fully appreciate all the turn-in and braking points. After the trip out in the Octy (which, slightly worryingly, was running on cheap non-branded tyres) it was back to waiting before being put into a group and shown which car we would be driving. I’d had my eye on the green Gallardo but instead we were ushered across to an orange convertible and given a quick run down of the spec and some of the features. As it turned out I was last on the list from our group so headed off to do a bit more standing around (I was getting very good at standing around by this stage). Finally my time arrived and I made my way across the ‘paddock’ to the car for my first ever drive in a Lamborghini.

Some slightly ropey Octavias to start with

The Car

Dropping down into the low seat the cabin of the Gallardo felt snug but had a nice seating position. My instructor recapped some of the basics and within a couple of minutes we were off so there wasn’t much time to appreciate any of the features or design of the Gallardo interior. Heading out onto the main straight the instructor was telling me to ‘change up’ and it became clear that I wasn’t going to be getting anywhere near the redline of the V10 engine. The instructor was a bit more generous with corner speed and allowed and even encouraged me to keep the speed up through the corners, here the Gallardo felt very planted and despite the short shifts it still pulled well out onto the straights. The gear change was a flappy paddle job which meant keeping the accelerator pinned to the floor while shifting and while it was nice not having to worry about a clutch I was surprised that the changes did feel a little on the slow side. After 3 laps (well, one out lap, one flying lap and one in lap) I was  cruising back into the pits and it was all over!

Lamborghini Gallardo…horrid colour…fortunately not the one I drove

Post Drive

After the drive there was a quick debrief from the instructor and it was off for a hot passenger lap in a Mitsubishi Evo. Despite being brought up in rural Wales, where there is huge love for the Evo and Imprezas I have never actually been in one. The Evo was awesomely quick and generated huge grip in the corners, I have always liked the looks but I now fully understand the appeal, and there can’t be many cars that go as quickly for the money. After the passenger lap there was the option to go and purchase photographs and videos of the afternoon but I decided I didn’t wan’t to be relieved of huge sums of cash so headed off home.

Evo & Atom

Conclusion

So, what to make of the day overall? We’ll, all in all I enjoyed the afternoon and I’m glad I’ve now had a go in a Lamborghini. I just wish that the drive had lasted a little longer, 3 laps really wasn’t enough to get a feel for the car and while it felt fairly quick, short shifting meant that you didn’t get to exploit anywhere near the full 520bhp. For anyone who has a keen interest in supercars it makes for a good day out and is a great opportunity to get behind the wheel of cars that you simply wouldn’t have the opportunity to drive otherwise. However, if you enjoy pushing cars to their limits and trying to extract the available performance it isn’t ideal, although I can understand the need to keep a tight control on proceedings in order to make sure everyone enjoys their day in a safe environment! Ultimately, if I was bought an experience day as a gift I certainly wouldn’t be ungrateful for it, but if it was my own money I think I’d prefer to put it towards the type of tuition which might help me to improve as a driver and extract the maximum performance safely and effectively from my own cars.

MP4-12C

Atom

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Brief Drive: VW up!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about an ‘open drive’ event at my local VW dealer where I had a quick go in a wonderful MK5 Golf GTI but on the same trip I had the opportunity to try something from the other end of the Volkswagen range, the diminutive up! which is available from just £7,995.

The model I drove was the up! Black which starts at £11,300, it had various extras over the lower spec models including the removable ‘infotainment’ system and leather-look seats but given the short test I didn’t have the opportunity to test our many of the gadgets.  Sliding in to the the comfortable seats the up! felt immediately familiar with the typical high quality VW feel and clear layout of all the controls.  You sit quite high in the car but the amount of space available in the cabin is outstanding, at 6’5″, I often have difficulty fitting in small cars (yes, I do look very stupid in my 106) but didn’t have any such problems in the up!.

After getting comfortable we set off for a brief drive, the first thing that struck me was the amusing off-beat noise from the 1 litre 3 pot, a pleasant surprise to hear a small city car with a nice soundtrack. The car I tested was the more powerful 75ps version and it was certainly eager and brisk but by no means outright fast. I was able to test the up! on a few inner city and suburban roads where it felt right at home with light but precise controls and great visibility.  I was particularly keen on the gear change which had a nice slick action and a short throw. The last part of the drive was a a few miles of dual carriageway where the up! was surprisingly competent, it was quickly up to speed and more than happy to cruise along at 70mph, couple this with the spacious and comfortable interior and the up! would be an ideal partner for far more than just running around the city.

After my brief test in the up! I was very impressed, it is certainly a far more complete and accomplished package than the Fox that it replaces and the quality and feel of the car for something ultimately at the lower end of the range is excellent.  It may not have the quirky retro feel of the Fiat 500 or be as small as the Smart For Two but it is a genuine four seat small car which will be capable of far more than just running about in the city.

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