Saturday, September 30, 2017

We enjoy the Ford Fiesta ST

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The Ford Fiesta ST is best pocket rocket that money can buy.

The 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder produces 197hp and is mated to a super slick six-speed manual gearbox. You desire oomph this engine won’t disappoint. Acceleration is more than just brisk it’s downright bonkers on the highway. Even when you are not driving like a total hooligan the Fiesta ST is still a refined enough for daily commutes. Steering and handling are among its sweet spots. You can hurl it into a corner and feel virtually no torque steer. The engine exhaust is contagious and wants you to keep the revs high and demands to be pushed harder. Wind noise won’t be an issue, road noise will thanks to the low profile tires. But it’s far from annoying.

Interior space is decent with plenty of space for both front and rear passengers. Taller passengers in the rear seats will find legroom and headroom slightly cramped. The boot offers decent space too. The dashboard is just too fiddly to navigate through at glimpse. There’s just way too many similar looking buttons and the SYNC MYFORD touch screen display is just too confusing to navigate through. 17 inch alloy wheels, blind spot warning system and temperature control all come standard. You’ll have to pay extra for a sunroof, navigation system and heated front seats. For the money though the Fiesta ST is well equipped.

The Ford Fiesta ST is worth every single penny. Unless you want to have the few add on options we strongly suggest sticking with the standard kit because you’ll be pretty satisfied with what you get. What makes the ST even more appealing is it still offers decent running costs and strong resale value. However it won’t be as strong of a Mini Cooper S but it should be strong thanks to popular demand of this vehicle.

The Fiesta ST is a great all round hatchback with plenty of zip for very little money. If you want to most fun to drive hatchback for very little cash the Ford Fiesta is the most compelling option you can have. It may not be a Mini Cooper S but it does what it’s designed for better plus it’s more practical than the Mini.

Likes: Thumping turbo engine and excellent chassis makes this Fiesta a win-win.

Dislikes: Fiddly infotainment system but that’s just nitpicking.

Jaguar XF is a great Jag

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You've suddenly outgrown your BMW 3-series and well the next step logically would be to climb into the 5-series. However, what if the new promotion allows you to sort of treat yourself to something even nicer. You'd think a nice 7-series would tickle your fancy? How about a Jaguar XF? You won't regret it one bit.

20d trim comes with or without all-wheel-drive and a decent four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. 180Hp for many many not sound like much but it is enough for most buyers who desire luxury and also somewhat respectable running costs. The new 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 247hp is a sweet spot in the range. It has plenty of torque at low revs and feels so much more flexible when you want it the most. What's a Jag without the option of a six-cylinder engine? Well you get two of them to choose from, both 3-liter supercharged with 340hp and 380hp. Our tester car wasn't any of the gasoline engines, we had the diesel engine with all-wheel-drive and a R-Sport package. Exterior styling is great and well the larger alloys seem to compliment the XF style more. Driving the diesel engine in the XF isn't like what you'd expect because we surely expected a smoother engine. It's not all bad just not as smooth as it should be, but at relaxed speeds it's fine. Besides, most people aren't going to flat out flog it at every given opportunity and with the low running costs you get with this car it's a home run. Diesel fueling stations are hard to come by but if you find one and you desire this particular XF we'd say go for it. You won't find a Mercedes E-class diesel until 2018 and you also won't find a 5-series diesel anywhere either. Jaguar pretty much owns this segment.

Long gone are the days when you'd say Jags are for those who are more into luxury and very little sport. The new XF has steering feedback that was sent from the gods and the chassis can pretty much handle every twist and turn tossed at it. You'll appreciate that the diesel engine doesn't have much horsepower because you can really see what the car is capable of achieving without feeling like you're going to overpower each turn and flog it when it isn't needed. 319Lb-ft torque at only 1750rpm is a lot. Road noise is decently suppressed as well as wind noise. The engine does have more clatter than we'd like, but we still would choose this happily over the 2-liter turbo four.

The interior has a minimalistic feel to it. Most would feel there should be buttons where there are none at all and well we are fine with that. It makes you appreciate the space that you have around you and the attention to details is stellar. We just wish that it had a bit more spice to it, more refinement in certain areas where you'll be greeted with cheap plastics. They do feel sturdy and long lasting but for the price that our tester car had we were expecting a bit more. The front seats do offer decent comfort but some may find the seats are a bit narrow and the cabin is also feels narrower than a 5-series. The rear seat can seat four comfortably but a fifth person will find themselves straddling the center transmission hump and sharing out the foot space.

Out tester car came kitted with every single option that you could possibly ask for. Adaptive Xenon-headlamps, lane keep assist, 825 watt sound system and 20-inch alloy wheels. You'll have to pay extra for ventilated leather front seats, upgraded infotainment screen and 360 view camera. These features all came with our tester car and yes while it is nice, many of them we hadn't had the chance to try them due to time. One feature that our tester car didn't come kitted with was the Adaptive Dynamics Package which we did find a bit strange.

The Jaguar XF is a great sedan that you should short list if you aren't impressed with the latest Audi, BMW and Mercedes offerings. Driving dynamics are spot on excellent and you won't regret the diesel engine for it's low running costs. Everyone else will find the 2-liter turbo four offers good flexibility. Power hungry will be very satisfied with the supercharged six-cylinders offered. The only letdown that Jaguar still needs to work on is reliability.

Likes: The XF was sent from the gods. It's dynamically the best sedan we've ever driven. Classic British luxury inside out. Diesel engine has low running costs. There's an XF for everyone.

Dislikes: Jaguar isn't known for having reliable products. Resale value is a bit scary. Be careful with the options as it may induce sticker shock, our tester car certainly did.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Volkswagen products we wish were sold here

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Volkswagen Polo
What is it? The VW Polo is a small hatchback about similar in size to the Ford Fiesta.
Why should it be sold here? It should be sold here as an alternate to the Ford Fiesta and Mini 5-door hardtop. The Fiesta ST doesn’t have a proper rival other than the Mini and that one is pretty expensive in the Cooper-S trim, so Ford pretty much dominates it because of its horsepower to price ratio. Also, this would be a great way to have a volume seller for dealer lots and move the Golf upmarket slightly.
Engine choices: A turbocharged 1.4 from the Jetta detuned between 130hp – 145hp would be a great start for the more mainstream forms while the GTI should push at least 200hp from the same 1.4 turbo. Pricing should be similar to the Ford Fiesta’s.
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Volkswagen Golf SV
What is it? Just think of the Golf SV as a roomier more practical version of the Golf without being as large as a Golf wagon.
Why should it be sold here? The TDI Emissions scandal really did give a huge blow to Volkswagen’s green image. Hybrids are the next option for them and a Ford C-Max rival would be a great start. Many people want minivan-like space but in a smaller package. This would be a great space for VW to enter using the old-Jetta Hybrid powertrain. Maybe update it to offer plug-in feature and improved fuel economy.
Engine choices: 1.4tsi with plug-in technology to improve fuel consumption and lower emissions. Pricing should be on point with the Ford C-Max.
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Volkswagen Passat Alltrack
What is it? It’s been on sale in Europe for a while now and it is a lifted version of the Passat wagon (just think German Subaru Outback). It would be a great option for anyone considering the Subaru Outback or even Volvo V60 CC. It’s much more spacious than the Golf Alltrack and it is a crossover. Crossovers are red hot right now and this could give VW some extra showroom traffic and leap into Subaru territory with the outdoorsy types who may want a more premium vehicle without having to pay the premium price. If VW can keep this under $40k it would be a great option.
Engine choices: The 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder from the GTI would be a great engine option and/or an optional six-cylinder from the Passat would be a nice addition. It may tiptoe a little into Audi Allroad territory but the price points would keep people from cross-shopping the two.
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VW Beetle Dune (4-motion)
What is it? The Beetle Dune is a lifted version of the standard Beetle with off-road appearance package. It would be nice if VW offered 4-motion all-wheel-drive or a cheaper application to the Beetle Dune to rival the upcoming X2 and or even just provide a niche vehicle for those who love the way the Beetle looks and add light off-roading capabilities. Rememeber VW crossovers are red hot these days and you do want as much showroom traffic as you can get. This one may not happen however because 4-motion application would make the Beetle Dune even more expensive and will fail to catch on when Audi is pretty much almost the next step up.
Engine options: Since we’re still dreaming of an AWD Beetle Dune, the 2-liter turbo four found in the standard Beetle would be good or even an upgraded form from the GTI would be great. Heck since we are on the subject of the Beetle, a R version of the Beetle would even be great. Add some spice to the Beetle line-up and become a real poor man’s Porsche.

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VW Gol Sedan or Polo sedan 
What is it? Chevy Sonic, Toyota iA sedan look at your possible new rival that could make them both run for their money. We’d love to see the Gol sedan here even if it has just one engine and is priced below $18K. The same engine from the base Jetta would be perfect for the sedan; also the Gol could add some showroom traffic seeing that Americans love their sedans. Best part is the Gol is built in Mexico so this would make it far cheaper than the Polo, if costs are a concern for VW (TDI Emissions Scandal).
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VW Scirocco
What is it? Look at it as a two-door GTI that everyone has been begging for here. We don’t have a two-door Golf or GTI anymore, why not just bring the Scirocco here offer both 1.8t and 2.0t engines and spice up the line-up? I don’t see how this would catch on here in the U.S. It would go perfect toe to toe with the Toyota GT86 even though it would be front-wheel drive instead of rear-wheel drive, also the upcoming Civic Si coupe would have some stiff competition as well.
Engine: 1.8t 170hp, 2.0t 210hp/220hp would be great and even a R version with 300hp from the S3.

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VW Phideon
What is it: Just think of this as the ultimate Passat, it could even be a long-wheelbase version of the Passat? We just want it sold here case closed. It would be a great alternate for the Toyota Avalon and even Nissan Maxima. VW should price it at least $35k - $40k to make it more appealing in that segment and offer a hybrid option also to entice those away from Toyota and improve VW’s shattered image. Plus with the most legroom in its class it would be even more appealing than most BMWs and even Audis out there.
Engine: 3.6-liter VR6 280hp with standard all-wheel-drive. It should provide a valid reason to consider one other than style.
It’s kind of sad that VW gave up on the Phaeton which was such a great vehicle, just a tad overpriced. This could redeem the Phaeton and provide a more affordable alternate to the more classy and expensive. VW really should consider this one.

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VW Cross-Polo
What is it? A crossover version of the Polo hatch (that we wish were here). This version doesn’t come with all-wheel-drive but it would be a nice feature to add. The Cross-Polo could bring in much wanted buyers who are considering small crossovers such as the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V. Most in this segment don’t care too much for all-wheel-drive but desire the raised driving position and low running costs. This would fare well as a soft-roader for those who want the looks but don’t care about the off-road prowl.
Engine: I know we keep using the 1.4 turbo engine from the Jetta but this would be a good engine for a base form of many new products here in the U.S. Mate it to VW’s amazing DSG gearbox and the Cross-Polo could be a winning formula. Price it well and it will be a hit.

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VW Caddy

What is it? Look at it as a Ford Transit Connect rival and you’ll get the picture. Ford pretty much owns this segment and again why not offer something to rival that and compete in that field? VW doesn’t need to put any fancy engines in so the 1.4turbo and 1.8turbo engines would be enough. Optional all-wheel-drive could entice the deal even more. We don’t know much about the cargo van or even just a seven seat wagon option; it would be perfect for our ever increasing desire to downsize. Mercedes jumped into this with the Sprinter so maybe VW should consider an offering as well. I mean come on Europe has several options in the commercial van segment. 

Devon goes Italian Retro (Used)

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Likes: Decent fuel economy, fun to drive around town, stylish inside out, small size means parking is a breeze.

Dislikes: The ride is jittery and handling isn't up to par with the Mini Cooper, limited boot space and no turbo engine yet available.

Urban city cars are becoming more and more trendy. There's the Smart Fortwo, Mini Cooper and now the Fiat 500. A retro throwback of the original 500. It's small, dinky and cheeky looking. But is that enough to win over hipsters and fashionettes?

Performance: There's only one engine available for the 500 and that's a 1.4-liter four-cylinder with 100hp. It may not seem like a lot, but the 500 is small. So there's plenty of pep around town. On the highway you may struggle to get up to speed, and the automatic gearbox hesitates off line. Making power delivery not as smooth as you'd expect.

Ride & handling: The 500 is a doddle to drive. It's nimble and quite fun to toss around in urban areas. The steering is light, and makes parking a breeze. Outside of the city limits, the 500 doesn't feel as composed as a Mini. Handling isn't as sharp, and the ride feels jittery.

Refinement: Living with the 500 won't be too tiresome. Although wind and road noise is evident when you pick up speed. However, it never gets to an irritating level. The engine is smooth and the transmission once up to speed works seamlessly with the engine.

Behind the wheel: There's no reach adjustments for the steering wheel, but there is height adjustments to help you get comfortable. The simple design of the dash means its easy to use than a knife and fork, and there's all the style you could ever ask for. Look down, and some of the retro appeal goes away. Some of the plastics look cheap, and cost cutting. But you can customize the interior color and styling combinations to suit you.

Space & Practicality: The 500 is smaller than the Mini and it has a bigger boot, but the Mini can fit four more comfortably than the 500. Those in the front seat will be comfortable. There's plenty of head and legroom for front passengers, while the rear seats are best left for kids.

Equipment: Entry-level 500s get air-con, cd-player and electric mirrors. You'll have to step up to the sport trim to get alloy wheels and sports suspension. Top of the range offers glass roof, leather wrapped steering wheel and handsfree Bluetooth connectivity for your mobile device.

Buying & Owning: The 500 seems well priced among its rival the Mini Cooper. Even though the turbo form isn't available yet, you can still get a nice 500 for a decent price. Fuel economy is good, so your running costs will be low. Discounts are hard to come-by due to limited supply. Resale value will be high, as the demand for the 500 has exceeded Fiat's expectations.

Quality & Reliability: The plastics used in the cabin feel upscale. They feel sturdy, and match the retro look. Fiat doesn't enjoy the best reliability record, and the 500 has been rated a mere average by JD Power Customer satisfaction survey. With many complaints of the Blue&Me hands-free system and windscreen wipers malfunctioning.

Safety & Security: The 500 comes with front, side, curtain airbags as well as knee airbags. Traction control, anti-lock-brakes all come standard across the range. Deadlocks and alarm system come standard as well to keep theft at bay.

The 500 is trendy and stylish. It's small size makes it a doddle to drive around urban areas. Venture outside of the city limits and the 500 struggles to stay composed. The Mini is a better car all round. It's stylish, fun to drive and a hoot to kick into corners thanks to the BMW tuned suspension. Unlike the Mini, the 500 is cheaper to buy and offers more boot space in a tiny package. If your driving evolves mostly around the city the 500 is for you. Anything more, we'd say stick with the Mini.

Devon M 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Devon test drives a Mini Hardtop

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The Mini Hardtop is our favorite of the entire Mini Range. It's retro styling and fun to drive nature makes it the best small car to own. Plus its resale value will stomp any small car and leave it in its dust. But is the Mini all the car you'll ever really need?

The previous generation Mini Hardtop we really didn’t care too much for the all style no functionality approach for the interior. The toggle switches were fiddly to operate and felt cheap. This generation Mini Hardtop has somewhat changed it but some switchgear remain the same. At least they are much easier to use and navigate through. Plus the infotainment system is the best fitted in any small car. Those in the front seats will enjoy the space while rear passengers will struggle to find comfort. It’s still cramped but not as cramped as before. The boot space is decent but not great.

Alloy wheels are standard on both the Cooper and Cooper S trim. You also get keyless entry and push button start. Bluetooth, a digital radio and air-con are also standard. LED headlights are optional as well as parking sensors and power folding exterior rearview mirrors. Picking one of the several packages will reduce costs of several options but we strongly suggest keeping options light because it pushes the Mini Hardtop price very steep quickly.

The 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder powering the Cooper is a real gem of an engine. It is also the pick of the range. It’s still affordable and has the lowest running costs all while being as fun to drive as a Mini should. The Cooper S offers a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 189hp. It’s faster and much more fun to drive. The manual gearbox with both is the best way to enjoy the driving experience. The auto gearbox is smooth too but it’s not as fun.

Steering and handling are what you’d expect of a Mini. Standard suspension is fine but if you want the sweet handling that Mini can offer we strongly suggest opting for the sports suspension. Only tradeoff is that you’ll have to deal with an overly firm ride which can be unforgiving at times. Steering is very fluid and direct but tends to follow the groves in the road.

If you are looking for a small car that’s fun to drive offers low running costs and is cheeky looking. The Mini Hardtop is the way to go. If you stay clear of the options list you can walk away with a decently priced Mini. However its small size may count against it. There are better options out there but none of them have the charm of a Mini.

Likes: Most fun to drive small car you can own. Resale value is strong too. Dashboard design isn’t as fiddly as previous generations.

Dislikes: Options can sky rocket the price quickly. There are so many other cars that are more practical for similar money.

Devon’s Pick: The Cooper trim offers decent performance with decent running costs at a decent price. It’s really hard not to consider one unless you just have to have the more powerful Cooper S. The Cooper trim is the way to go.

Devon test drives a Volvo wagon

It was a sad day when Volvo decided the only wagon it was going to offer here in the U.S. was the XC70 which was more of a crossover rather than a wagon. Now those days are long gone and the new V60 is here. Can Volvo bring the popularity back of the wagon?

There are three engines to choose from. Drive-E trim uses a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 240hp. T5 AWD gets a 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder producing 250hp while top of the range T6 uses a 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder producing 325hp. Pick of the range is the T5 AWD. All-wheel-drive is standard and it's not really that much more than the T5 Drive-E trim. Plus it's still less expensive than the 3-series touring.

Sadly the V60 just isn't as much fun to drive as a 3-series touring. Body control and handling are good but not great. The ride can be firm a bit on some road surfaces, but this is far from annoying. We strongly suggest avoiding the top of the range T6 trim with sports suspension. It really does make the V60 feel more sporty but the ride comfort is way too firm. Steering is often vague and leaves us wanting a little more especially in corners where we find ourselves re-adjusting. Wind and road noise won't be an issue with the V60. It's quiet and smooth even on the highway. The turbo engines are smooth at relaxed speeds around town and on the highway.

Volvo knows a thing or two about interior decor. The floating center console is classy and well designed. Plus all the controls are logically laid out and very user friendly. The seats offer plenty of support and comfort with plenty of adjustment for the steering wheel. Some could say Volvo seats are the best in the industry. Passengers in the rear will have plenty of space too. Although the middleman will find it rather cramped for foot space due to the large transmission tunnel. The boot space is decent too but trades space for style.

At least all V60s come a nice array of standard kit. Alloy-wheels, cruise control, climate control and Bluetooth are standard. Automatic headlights and wipers are standard as well. You'll have to step up the the top of the range trim which adds body-kit unique exterior styling and interior treatment. You'll find yourself wondering is the V60 worth paying for when you can buy cheaper crossovers? The answer is simple, if you want something more engaging to drive and really don't want to pay the running costs associate with most crossovers. The V60 is the way to go plus resale value should be decent too as Volvo has been on an upswing in popularity.

It's classy and well crafted. Plus it's the best form of a Volvo you can buy. The Volvo V60 has it all. It may not be as engaging to drive as the 3-series touring but it really does offer a convincing case. It's cheaper, offers more kit and arguably the better buy. Volvo does know a thing or two about wagons and it's great to see the wagon is back in the U.S.

Likes: Array of turbo engines to choose from. Safety is top priority. Swedish excellence inside and out.

Dislikes: Steering feedback is on the numb side.

Devon's Choice: The T5 AWD is the best pick. The standard all-wheel-drive and turbocharged five-cylinder offer an compelling reason to consider this. Plus its price makes it hard for us not to pick this one.

Devon takes a look at an overlooked compact sedan (Used)


The Mitsubishi Lancer EVO has a strong cult following with it's rally bred heritage and amazing all-wheel-drive system. But for those who can't afford the premium of an EVO can choose from the more mainstream Lancer. But with more heavy hitters in the compact sedan segment can Mitsubishi still provide a valid reason to consider the aging Lancer?

Performance: There are four trim levels and three engines to choose from. Standard ES comes with a 2-liter four-cylinder producing 148hp. GT and SE AWC comes equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder producing 168hp. Top of the range Ralliart comes with a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 237hp. Pick of the range is the GT which makes the most sense. It has all the features you'll want and has the sporty looks that are hard to ignore.

On the road: The Lancer is very entertaining to drive as long as you stick with the GT trim or Ralliart. Both make the Lancer feel as engaging to drive as it's keen rivals the Ford Focus and Mazda3. However it isn't as sharp or poshed as both. Steering feel is decent and overall response of the 2.4 makes it well worth spending the extra cash for. While those who couldn't afford the EVO will be satisfied with the Ralliart. The CVT transmission feels like it saps the engine power leaving you cold when you need it most and overpowering when you don't need it. Thus the manual gearbox we feel is the safest way to go. Disappointingly the Ralliart does not offer a manual transmission. Wind and road noise are at acceptable levels.

Behind the wheel: There's plenty of adjustments for the driver's seat but sadly the steering wheel doesn't adjust for reach. Interior quality doesn't feel up to par with it's competition. The touch screen display feels dated and not as refined as we would like. Passenger space all round is decent and the boot offers enough space to satisfy most buyers needs.

Equipment: Standard ES trim offers keyless entry with anti-theft security system, cd-player power windows and an AUX input for your MP3 player. SE AWC offers heated front seats, digital HD radio and electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system. GT trim adds 18 inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler and Bluetooth connectivity for your mobile phone. Range topping Ralliart offers a sportier exterior trim, full time all-wheel-drive system and a twin-clutch auto gearbox.

Buying & Owning: The standard Lancer seems like a good deal but we highly suggest going for the GT with the sporty looks and added features such as touch screen display and 18 inch alloy wheels. The premium isn't too much and overall impressions of it are good. The SE AWC is best avoided unless you just have to have the traction. Lancer running costs should be about average among its competition but resale value is something to consider.

Quality: Mitsubishi has good quality cars. Reliability isn't going to be much of an issue. Only real issue here is locating a Mitsubishi dealership for repairs if you do come across such a problem. Interior quality isn't great although it does feel sturdy and long lasting. There are rivals that offer the best of both worlds and you really don't have to pick between the two.

Safety: Front and side curtain airbags come standard. As well as a traction control, anti-lock brakes with brake force distribution to help reduce braking distance in the case of an emergancy braking situation. Also a host of anti-theft aids come standard to keep theft away.

The Lancer is an attractive sedan that is often over looked by competition. It does offer an compelling package and is priced right with the heavy hitters such as the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra. However the styling inside out is dated and there's quite a few short comings with the Lancer that others seem to have mastered. If you want the Lancer for it's generous kit and reasonable price then this is the car for you. However keen rivals have all passed it by and it seems that the only logical reason to buy one is for the discounts.

Likes: Stylish exterior looks. Ralliart is just as good as the EVO but cheaper! Generous standard kit.

Dislikes: Overdue for a redesign. Not sure if the Lancer offers an compelling enough reason to consider over the already better competitors.

Devon's pick: The GT form has the looks and is just as fun to drive as the Ralliart minus the turbo engine. This isn't a bad thing because running costs will be slightly improved and you won't have to pay the premium for the Ralliart.