Friday, 3 October 2014

COLUMN - October 2014

Here is my column from the October edition of The Local Herald. Continuing the busy year I've had, there are three more reviews for you. From the enormous Mitsubishi Shogun, to the all-new Kia Soul and Subaru BRZ there's certainly going to be something for everyone. I enjoyed them all in their own right, and it certainly kept me on my toes going from a 4x4 to a rear-wheel-drive sports car. As always full reviews can be found via the Reviews page. See you next month!

I just cannot believe where this year has gone. The Christmas spirit is creeping up on us, and it doesn’t seem long ago at all I was wishing you a Happy New Year. With professional exams, a wedding and a house move, it’s been a busy twelve months. But we resume normal service this month, with a few reviews of very different cars.

I will start with the Mitsubishi Shogun, a luxurious 4x4 that may not immediately spring to mind. I tested the top-of-the-range SG4 long-wheelbase version, and when it arrived in Diamond Black, with privacy glass and 20-inch alloys, it certainly looked the part. Until you stand next to one in the flesh you really can’t appreciate how imposing the Shogun is.

Step inside and there is a host of gadgetry, including rear-seat entertainment for the kids. It’s all very nice actually. I’m not a fan of the wood-effect trim (we’re not in the 90’s anymore, Mitsubishi!) but other than that the finish is inoffensive and good quality. There’s seven proper seats too, although the rear-most ones may not be suitable for adults on a long journey. Fold them away though and the boot space is cavernous.

To drive the Shogun was pleasant; the 3.2-litre diesel engine providing ample power to allow effortless momentum. It’s a smooth motor, working well with the 6-speed automatic gearbox to make driving enjoyably easy. The Shogun SG4 is £36,799 but everything is included; no need for options lists here. For what you get that’s not bad value at all.

Next I went green- literally- with a Kia Soul Connect Plus. Finished in Acid Green, my test car has left me sitting on the fence with the exterior styling; it is a bit box like but did grow on me as the week progressed. Inside the Soul completely blew me away. The quality and materials were top-draw, and the green stitching and mood-lit front speakers created a wonderful ambiance. Everyone who set foot in the Soul was impressed, and that’s credit to Kia’s current focus on quality and style.

The engine was a 1.6-litre diesel which is an absolute gem. It gets a 6-speed manual gearbox and is pretty efficient too. From city driving to motorway cruising, the Soul was a delight. The Connect Plus is a good spec with plenty of goodies including reversing camera, satellite navigation system, Bluetooth hands-free and an 8-speaker audio system.

The price for this model is £17,500 and you can’t argue with the value for money in that. Throw in the Kia 7-year, 100,000 mile warranty and you can enjoy some trouble-free motoring. It’s practical too, with a decent sized boot and plenty of cabin space for all occupants. I strongly urge you to go out there and have a look at one… I’d avoid the Acid Green though.

Finally a brief word on the Subaru BRZ. You can now get one even cheaper; with the SE model starting at £22,495. Considering this is a proper 2-door, rear-wheel-drive sports car, that seems rather good value. I had a brief spell in one last year but managed to secure one for a full week to give it a proper test.

What I can say is that to drive, it’s epic fun. This is a simple yet effective formula, with enough power to get you into mischief but not enough to really go mad. It’s good on fuel, and not as uncomfortable as you’d expect. However the firm ride becomes noticeable on longer drives, and the clutch makes city driving less enjoyable. A great toy for the weekend, but I can think of better everyday drives.

Dan

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