Monday, 9 December 2013

COLUMN - December 2013

Here is another chance to see my December column from The Local Herald, and I still can't believe how quickly we've reached the end of another year! I have another two reviews featured this month. Firstly a mention of the Volvo V40 Cross Country, the third incarnation of the V40 I have tested. Also featured is the Kia pro_cee'd GT, a car which has been causing quite a buzz. As always full reviews for both of these can be found on the Reviews page. My next column will be for Christmas, so keep a look out for that one.

Well, here we are in December. And how quickly it’s come around. I will save all the festive niceties for the Christmas Herald which will be on your doorstep later this month. Instead I shall continue with the bank of reviews I have provided in 2013. And this month I have a treat for you, because I have one of the most exciting cars of the year to write about. I shall come to that in a short while.

I will start with the Volvo V40. I reviewed the regular model- in SE Nav spec- and thought it rather nice. I then reviewed the R-Design, and couldn’t find a single fault with it whatsoever. So it seemed only fair to review the final variant; the Cross-Country. The idea is a simple one- give the V40 a more rugged edge for those who would prefer this to the R-Design’s sporty edge.

Under the bonnet was the 2.0-litre diesel D4 engine. This means 177PS and 400Nm, which is plenty. 0-62mph takes 8.6 seconds and top speed is 130mph. To drive the V40 is excellent. I love the direct, weighty steering. The ride is comfortable but gives you enough feel on an A-road, and the cabin is quiet and comfortable.

Where I feel the Cross-Country lets itself down is the lack of an AWD variant. This would have been a great feature to have, and would have added even more to the rugged appearance on the outside. Whether or not this will feature in the future is unclear, but I definitely think it would be useful. The other thing you have to watch is the options list. The D4 V40 Cross-Country starts at £34,065 but my test model was up to £40,290 which is a bit steep, so choose wisely.

So now for the exciting bit. The Kia pro_cee’d GT may have a strangely-punctuated name, but it is definitely to be taken seriously. What you have here is a proper hot hatch for less than £20,000. It has the whole package, and that’s becoming a rarity these days. Take the styling. On the outside, it’s bold, aggressive lines make it imposing, and the ‘ice-cube’ LED daytime-running lights are superb. You get 18” alloys, red brake callipers, and chrome detailing to complete the look. On the inside there’s body-hugging Recaro’s, ‘GT’ badges, aluminium pedals, and you can change the speedometer to a sportier option with torque and turbo meters. Boxes firmly ticked.

As for how it drives, the Kia more than matches its image. The 1.6-litre, turbocharged engine produces 200PS and 265Nm, resulting in a 0-62mph dash of 7.4 seconds and a top speed of 143mph. Whilst this may not match up to rivals such as the Focus ST and Astra VXR, it’s certainly no slouch. The handling is superb, from the perfect driving position to the sharp steering, good throttle response and reassuring level of grip. The only thing that let the Kia down were the brakes. They just didn’t instil the same confidence that a nice set of Brembo’s would have. It seems a shame to have gone to such effort, and fall down on such a minor detail.

I really love this car, and it’s one of the few I’ve tested that I’d happily go out and buy myself. And for those who do, there’s a 7-year, 100,000-mile warranty to give you peace of mind as well. Wherever I went in the pro_cee’d GT, it got lots of attention, with everyone commenting how great it looked, and that takes some doing. Well done, Kia!

Dan

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