Thursday, 22 May 2014

COLUMN - May 2014

Here is another chance to see my column from this month- as featured in The Local Herald. It's been a busy year so far, and that looks to continue, so this column is jam-packed full of reviews. There's a nod to the latest ASX from Mitsubishi, which features an automatic gearbox for the first time. Then I have two polar opposites; from the cheap city-car Citroen C1 to the luxurious saloon in the Kia Optima. So this one's definitely worth a read. As always full reviews can be found via the 'Reviews' page. Enjoy...

I’ve had yet another busy month, and have lots to talk about. I managed to get behind the wheel of another Mitsubishi ASX. This one is the first to get an automatic gearbox, and also has the 2.2-litre diesel engine from its big brother; the Outlander. I did rather like it, and having the extra torque worked well with the auto box. However it also seems to take away what was, for me, a major selling point of the ASX; economy. You see with the 1.8-litre diesel you could expect 50mpg+ but with the larger engine and auto box you’re looking at 40 or so in the real world. And that’s a shame because I love the ASX as a car.

I now have two very different cars to talk about. I shall start with the cheap-and-cheerful Citroen C1. It’s had a facelift recently to rejuvenate the looks ahead of the all new model coming in a few months. Aside from this the recipe has remained unchanged since launch. You get a 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder petrol engine, 4 seats, and either 3 or 5 doors depending on how often you want to use the back. And to be quite frank there’s not a lot else on offer.

This is your proper city car- it’s small, agile, economical, can be parked on a matchbox and turn on a 10pence piece. However, there was just one slight problem with my test car. The price. You see it was a ‘Platinum’ edition which means it has metallic grey mirrors, roof and rear spoiler. Tinted windows, half leather/alcantara seats, piano black trim, and alloy wheels. These are all lovely features, make no mistake, but push the cost up to £11,740. Which doesn’t make sense to me. A proper city car need only be basic and should cost no more than £10,000. That’s it.

The current C1 starts at £8,095 and the new one will start at £8,245. Considering underneath the engine and everything else is the same, I’d struggle to be able to justify £3,500 worth of extras. I love the C1 and would happily zip around town in one. But mine would be the £8-grander.

So from a small city car we go on to a large executive saloon car, in the shape of the Kia Optima. I wasn’t really sure what to expect; I haven’t seen many knocking about, and wanted to see one up close and personal. I cannot begin to tell you just how impressive it is. All you in your BM’s and Audi’s; listen up.

Now Kia have come a very long way in terms of their offerings, and the Optima epitomises that progress. First off, the styling. It’s truly superb. My test car was finished in a gorgeous pearlescent white, and coupled with some decent 18-inch alloys, smart daytime running lights and a rather aggressive stance, makes for a sight to behold.

Inside there is every conceivable gadget known to man. Electric memory front seats- which are also heated and air conditioned. Heated rear seats. Satellite navigation. Parallel park assist. Reversing camera. The list goes on. My only slight criticism was the 1.7-litre diesel engine, which at 136PS just lacks a bit of oomph. Having said that the economy made this engine shine, so to live with you wouldn’t mind. The rear legroom is incredible, and the Optima is extremely comfortable.

And the price for the top-of-the-range, Kia Optima 3 is £25,595 which represents considerable value for money. I was talking to a friend whose Audi A4 retails at £28,000 and doesn’t have half the tech. So what are you waiting for? Get down to see your local Kia dealer. Kia’s slogan is “The power to surprise”. They’re not wrong.

Dan

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