Sunday, December 21, 2014

Toyota Prius-C [Short-take review]

Performance: The 1.5-liter four-cylinder produces 73hp but with electric motor the total output raises to 99hp. With these numbers the Prius-C isn’t a rocket between traffic lights, but it does get you to point B very efficiently.

Ride & handling: The steering doesn’t really offer much feedback which is typical in a Toyota. Ride is comfortable for the most part but the suspension is more aimed towards comfort so there will be plenty of body roll in corners and those eco-tires don’t offer much grip either on slippery surfaces. Thankfully ESP is standard because things would’ve been a lot worse.

After you’ve decided to not drive like a hooligan in a vehicle not designed to be driven that way. The Prius-C is quite comfortable commuter car but again there are cheaper rivals that are more engaging to drive and are as efficient; unless you have to have a hybrid look elsewhere.

Buying & owning: Pricey but it would work well if you do tons of driving and can make up for the purchase price. However, trying to get the best gas mileage means you’ll have to drive it a certain way which can be tricky. Luckily in eco-mode it helps you alter your driving habits, but again if highway driving is what you do the most of a diesel engine would suit you best.

Reliability: The interior feels a bit disappointing in some areas. You can tell there was some cost cutting in the plastics which feel cheap and drab. But at least you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that it will last forever thanks to Toyota’s rock solid reliability record.

Final Verdict: Picking this over a Ford Fiesta, Nissan Versa Note and even the Toyota Yaris is all a mere matter of taste. The rivals listed above may not offer hybrid tech but they feel more engaging to drive and are just as efficient. They are even cheaper to buy than the Prius-C which begs the question is it really worth considering? As a company car it is a quite compelling option which will do tons of miles a year. However, as a privately owned vehicle it’s quite hard to justify.

We want to like the hybrid but for the premium and the fuel advantage we’d rather stick with either a diesel engine or one of the many cheaper rivals that offer similar running costs and even a more compelling package for less cash.

 Likes: Hybrid tech at an affordable price, compact size yet offers plenty of practicality. Low running costs.

Dislikes: There are cheaper rivals that are just as efficient and more engaging to drive. Interior quality is a bit of a letdown. Exterior looks are on the bland side. You’ll have to climb all the way to the top of the range trim to get alloy wheels fitted standard.





Sunday, November 9, 2014

Subaru Outback review

If you wanted a car with all-wheel-drive you'd have to buy a bulky 4x4 that was inefficient and cumbersome to own. Now a days you can buy just about any car with all-wheel-drive and they come in array of shapes and sizes. The Subaru Outback should be on your short list though if you want all-wheel-drive on the cheap.

The 2.5-liter four-cylinder produces 175hp and is all you'll ever really need with the Outback. Even though it is nice that you can still option for the 3.6-liter six-cylinder which has 256hp on tap. Those looking for the best value and lowest running costs will be much happier with the 2.5 which is also our pick of the range.

Previous generations of the Outback weren't really known for their driving dynamics. It has always but utilitarian first and refinement last. But with this generation of the Outback you'll be surprised at how improved the on road dynamics have become. It still won't be as sharp to drive as the sedan couterpart but it is still engaging to drive and is quite frankly enough for what it is. Handling is secure and the steering offers decent feedback. You'll never hurl this thing into tight corners and bends so for the smooth ride it offers it exceeds our expectations.

The interior has been improved dramatically over the years. Now it controls and dials are attractively designed but are very user friendly. We do love how easy it is to navigate through the infotainment system without all the fussy dials some of its keen rivals have. The front seats are comfortable and offer plenty of support. Rear passengers won't feel short changed for legroom or headroom, both are very good. The boot is massive and when you fold the rear seats down there's even more space. If you run out of space with this you don't need a car you need a transit van.

The 2.5 premium trim is the pick of the range. It offers extra kit the standard 2.5 doesn't have and is still within reason in terms of pricing. Although all forms of the Outback offer decent kit but for our money we'd stay closer towards the middle which offers the best of both worlds. Air-con, CD-player, keyless entry and daytime running lamps are standard. Those wanting leather will have to pay extra or step up to the top of the range 3.6 engine.

Buying one shouldn't break the bank too much and resale value will be through the roof because most Subaru owners don't sell their vehicles as quick as other automakers making the second hand market for Subaru a small catalog to search through.

It's standard all-wheel-drive means that it can make nasty weather feel safe and secure. It handles with confidence and is one of those cars you'll love taking on a camping trip or to the ski resort. It really is a jack of all trade and is our top pick for all-wheel-drive vehicles on the cheap. No other car can blend utilitarian and functionality quite well like Subaru. With the new updated styling and improved quality. It may even be harder not to resist taking a closer look.

Likes: Vastly improved over previous generation. Cheap all-wheel-drive yet its functional, cheap to run thanks to a efficient power-train.

Dislikes: Overly sensitive headlights. The rest are nit picking so we decided not to even bother.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Part one of four: Cars that are best avoided.

Cars we feel are best avoided. Part one of four.

Jeep Compass

This little Jeep was dreadful to drive. The standard 2-liter engine is sluggish with the automatic, while the 2.4 offers a bit more oomph off the line. Interior plastics were cheap feeling and the overall package the Compass offers isn’t compelling enough in our eyes. Unless you get one of these heavily discounted, you’re better off paying extra for its much better rivals. We highly suggest looking elsewhere.

Nissan Versa

Nissan prides itself in having the most inexpensive new car you can buy with the biggest rear seat in class. We do applaud Nissan for the roomy rear seat and low running costs, but those two features don’t really make up for how unappealing the styling of the Versa is. The 1.6 offers decent pace around town but you’ll struggle with it on faster paced roads. The standard trim offers an antiquated four-speed automatic and the higher trims don’t even feel worth the price tag. Paying more than $16k for is a false economy.

Smart Fortwo

The Smart Fortwo actually isn’t a bad concept. A small two-seat vehicle with dent resistant body panels for tight urban areas. We really do like that idea, but the execution of the car is appalling even for standards set by Mercedes. The gearbox is the biggest let down. Up shifts are woefully slow and jerky unless you ease your foot off the accelerator pedal between each shift. Ride comfort is firm due to the small wheelbase and yet the handling is sloppy if you push it anywhere near its limits. Running costs aren’t low either because the engine requires premium fuel. We strongly suggest waiting for the next generation Fortwo which will get a proper gearbox and hopefully a smoother ride.

BMW 320i

We have nothing against the idea of a cheap BMW. In fact we love the idea of a cheap BMW but not when it comes in the package of a 320i. It’s not the engine that we dread because it’s smooth and flexible with decent running costs. It’s the standard kit list which disappoints. Bluetooth doesn’t even come standard. You’ll have to pay extra to remove the halogen headlights and of course it doesn’t come standard with real leather. Driving this without the adaptive M suspension is disappointing too and that option isn’t cheap either. Plus you’ll want to leave the stop/start system off because there is no smooth transition when the engine reengages. Unless you have to have the BMW badge we strongly suggest looking at its indirect rivals first because you get more money for similar money and maybe even less.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Devon test drives a Civic Si sedan

The Civic Si is a pocket rocket that so far has stayed true to the naturally aspirated engine opposed to the turbocharged engines of its rivals. Will the Si be able to lure those buyers away?

The 2.4-liter in-line four-cylinder produces 205hp and a modest 174lb-ft torque which is mated to a slick shifting six-speed manual gearbox. Around town the Si feels smooth and the gearbox isn’t a pain to live with. Take it on the highway and you’ll want to keep those revs high because that’s where most of the momentum happens. This is mainly due to the small amount of available torque and it is only kicks at 4,000rpm which means you’ll either keep the revs high to keep things moving quickly or you’ll run out of steam.

The Civic Si doesn’t feel as sharp to drive as the Volkswagen GTI. The chassis often feels flustered quickly if you want to drive spiritedly. The steering has decent feel and feedback but it isn’t great neither encouraging when you do want to push it through corners and bends. At least the manual gearbox shifts are crisp and smooth. Wind won’t be much of a problem but there will be some road noise from the larger alloys and depending on which tires you option for.

In the cabin you’ll be greeted by the same two dashboard design which some will love and others will loath. The futuristic design isn’t for everyone. At least the seven-inch display and touch screen infotainment system has a simplex design and is somewhat user friendly. There are controls for climate control too which aren’t fiddly to operate and clearly labeled. Front seats are comfortable and the rear seats are somewhat comfortable. There’s plenty of legroom but taller drivers may struggle to get comfortable because headroom is a bit cramped. Boot space is pretty good too but the trunk hinges eats into cargo space.

Bluetooth, rearview camera, USB audio interface and push button ignition system are all standard on the Si. There’s even a 7-inch touch screen infotainment system and Sequential Rev-limit indicator. You’ll have to pay extra for the navigation system.

The Si is overall cheaper than the GTI, but we’d pick the GTI because it’s much more fun to drive than the Si and the turbo engine gives more torque at low revs while you’ll be forced to keep the revs high in the Si. Running costs with the Si will be low and of course you can’t forget about Honda legendary reliability record which is much more appealing than Volkswagen. There plenty of safety aids to help you avoid a collision and if you do get in one Honda track record with safety is spot on good.

Overall: It’s a pocket rocket that’s cheap to buy and has low running costs. Not to mention excellent quality. If only it had more torque and better driving experience to match its keen rival the GTI.

Likes: The engine sweet spot is when the torque kicks in. Honda build quality and pocket rocket pace at an affordable price.

Dislikes: There’s virtually no torque unless you keep revs in 4,000rpm. The driving experience isn’t even close to that of a GTI and its rivals.

Devon test drives the 3-series coupe replacement

BMW wants to separate the coupes from the sedan. Thus the 3-series coupe is no longer the 3-series coupe it’s the 4-series coupe, with a new platform to separate it from the 3-series sedan. Has BMW achieved new feat?

The 428 uses the familiar turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder engine pumping out 240hp. Top of the range 435 trim uses a 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder pumping out 300hp. Pick of the range is the more sensible 428 trim. You can have both trims with all-wheel-drive but we only suggest adding this option if you really need the traction or live in snowy areas where rear-wheel-drive will be cumbersome.

Our biggest gripe with BMW is the optional adaptive M suspension which is only optional and not standard. With this option the 4-series drives the way it is supposed to, we still have yet to drive a BMW without this expensive option and we’ve been put under the impression that BMW doesn’t want you to either. But at least with this option everything feels right and with the suspension set at comfort the daily commute with this car is actually quite comfortable. Slip it into sport mode on tight corners and bends you’ll be treated to an amazing experience as long as the road isn’t too lumpy and bumpy. This will bring out the firmness of the suspension which is to be expected of course.

The driver’s seat offers plenty of support and adjustments. You’ll find a seating position that best fits you to a tee. The dashboard looks like it was taken from a 3-series sedan. This is not a bad thing, however sticking a 4-series badge on this coupe we were hoping BMW would jazz up the interior more since the price tag has been jazzed up. At least there’s plenty of ample space four two in the rear seat and the boot offers decent cargo space.

All three trims are equipped pretty much the same. The only real matter of picking between all four is if you want a faster engine and do you want it with or without all-wheel-drive. We were a bit appalled that Bluetooth isn’t even standard across the range. You can buy pretty much a ton of cars not even in the same price bracket with Bluetooth standard. The standard form doesn’t even get real leather seats. But at least you get bi-xenon headlamps, rain sensing wipes and iDrive on-board computer with 6.5 inch display.

Buying a 4-series won’t be a cheap proposition because most of the options that you’ll want aren’t cheap. Plus you’ll have to pay to make the 4-series drive and handle the way it supposed to. Discounts will be hard to come by too, but resale value will be strong as will all BMW vehicles plus you won’t really have to worry about safety because BMW has that sorted well.

The 4-series maybe sleeker than the 3-series sedan but we still aren’t convinced that it’s any different from the 3-series sedan. Dynamically they feel the same and interior wise they look the same. Some may not be ready to fully accept the 3-series coupe new replacement. On paper the 4-series is a great coupe but in reality there are a few short comings we would strongly look into first before fully making up your mind.

Likes: Styling is sleeker and slightly more appealing design than the 3-serie sedan. With the right options the 4-series is a dream to drive.

Dislikes: So many options and so many of them are expensive. Bluetooth not standard is absurd. Interior doesn’t look or feel any different from 3-series sedan.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Devon test drives a Ford Expedition EL

The large 4x4 still has appeal to drivers who want to tow a boat and/or ferry the family around. There are plenty of them to choose from, with that said the Ford Expedition EL should be on your short list when considering such massively large vehicles. Here’s why:

The sole engine choice is a 3.5-liter turbocharged six-cylinder which produces 365hp. You may think that the six-cylinder really won’t have the pep of the eight-cylinder. But you’ll be pleasantly surprised to hear that it can accelerate from zero to 60mph in under 7 seconds. Which means that this engine will give those eight-cylinder rivals a real go for their money. When you are not driving like a total lunatic this engine is smooth and responsive when needed thanks to direct fuel injection, turbo lag is pretty much nonexistent. The beefy 420lb-ft torque for a healthy 6,500lb towing rating and 9,200lbs with the optional heavy duty trailer towing package.

The Expedition EL is a pretty large and bulky vehicle. The sheer size of the vehicle means that navigating around town or in tight narrow parking spaces will be a chore. Steering can be quite heavy when getting up to speed but it does offer a decent amount of feedback. Not that you’ll be shoving this vehicle through bends and corners anyway. Wind noise won’t be much of a problem, even if the Expedition is as aerodynamic as a tower block. Road noise will be a problem with the larger alloys, especially with the 22-inch alloys.

In the cabin you won’t have any trouble seating up to eight people; although the eight people and their luggage trick may be a bit of a push even in a large vehicle such as this. You can however fold down the third row seat and double the boot space to a massive size; with the second row folded also you’ve got a cargo van. The dashboard seems pretty simple to navigate through with all the controls and dials easy to use and somewhat in reach of the driver’s hand. The sheer size of the Expedition EL means that you’ll need all the parking aids you can get. Luckily for you those parking aids are standard. You’ll only have to really pay extra for a parking assist for the front of the car for some trims. Visibility is pretty decent too but the blind spot warning system is a much needed option.

XLT trim offers reverse sensing system, 18-inch alloy wheels, power adjustable foot pedals. EL trim adds perforated leather seats, dual zone climate control, power folding third row seat and forward sensing system. King Ranch trim adds rear view camera, power lift gate, 20 inch alloy wheels while top of the range Platinum trim has all the same features as the King Ranch but instead you can option for HID headlights and a few other luxury bits. Our tester car was the Platinum trim which was pretty nicely kitted, but for our money we’d go with the Limited trim which makes the most sense financially. The price is still high but it’s not as expensive as the King Ranch and Platinum trims.

The Expedition EL has high running costs, a higher purchase price and is a chore to drive around. If you need seven seats and want to be able to tow a large boat or trailer. The Expedition EL should be on your short list, as there are many other rivals to pick from. But none of them have the smoothest six-cylinder engine on hand, and none of them look as flashy with the 22-inch alloys. It really is a great value all round and is our pick for large 4x4s.

Likes: Turbo engine is smooth and not one ounce underpowered. Can seat up to eight people and with all seats folded you’ve got a cargo van sized boot.

Dislikes: Sheer size makes it a chore to drive. Running costs will still be through the roof. Other than the towing ratings and eight seats, it’s pretty hard to justify buying one.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Devon test drives a BMW M4 Convertible

Looking for that open air driving experience but prefer the badge to be BMW? Fret not because the M4 convertible is finally here.

BMW has ditched the screaming 4-liter eight-cylinder engine in the M3 for a 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder which produces 425hp. Put your foot down and the M4 really does live up the M badge. It’s furiously fast yet easy to live with as a daily commuter car. The automatic transmission may have faster shift ratios but we’d still choose the manual any day.

On the road the M4 feels well composed and is eager to tackle any corner bend you toss at it. The front seats really do help keep you in place and the overall feel of the steering is pretty good, it does however lack the feedback we loved from the previous M3, but this really isn’t much of a deal breaker. Our M4 came equipped with the adaptive M suspension which is a very expensive option helps make the M4 drive the way it should but at this price point why is it optional and not standard?

The minimalistic approach to the cabin makes everything easy to navigate through without any complicated controls or dials. The iDrive interface is much easier to use. The front seats are superbly comfortable and have a neck warmer so you can drive with the top down on brisk spring and fall weather. There is plenty of room for two in the rear seat but as long as the passengers aren’t over six feet tall. The boot space shrinks with the top down and increases with the top up. This is due to the folding metal roof which does eat into precious cargo space.

Wanting to walk away with a decently kitted M4 is going to be a bit of a struggle. Even our tester car came ticked with nearly every option that was offered on its list. Pushing the price sky high, but these M vehicles aren’t just any ordinary vehicle. They are special vehicles and really do put a special kind of feeling inside when you drive them. Plus resale value will hold very well as with all BMW vehicles. The badge is what attracts people to them.

The M4 convertible is more of a cruiser type car. It’s wicked fast and can tackle corners perfectly, but you’ll have to pay for that option. Plus with the options added on this car can get crazily expensive very fast. But for those who crave the BMW badge and won’t settle for anything else this is the perfect car.

Likes: Wicked fast acceleration yet very easy to live with as a daily commuter car. Seats up to four and offers decent boot space with top up.

Dislikes: Add the options and watch the price jump sky high. We miss the hydraulic steering. Turbo six-cylinder doesn’t have the soundtrack of the previous eight-cylinder when revved hard.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Devon test drives niche BMW

Looking for a vehicle that is truly unique without having to pick a typical coupe or sedan? The 3-series GT fits the bill perfectly. But is it worth the premium though?

The standard 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder produces 240hp. You can step up to an optional 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder which produces 300hp. Both engines can only be had with all-wheel-drive. Pick of the range is a mere matter of taste here. The standard engine seems like a good deal until you compare it to the 3-series touring which is more versatile for similar money. The top of the range slowly enters into 5-series territory and only really makes sense if you want a 5-series with similar engine but don’t want to cough up the money.

On the road the 3-series GT is best had with the expensive adaptive M suspension. Without it the steering is heavy and the ride and handling are utterly disappointing. The adaptive M suspension lets you adjust the ride comfort for sporty and or comfort. We’d highly suggest leaving it in comfort mode because it really does help make the 3-series GT ride like a dream. In sport mode the ride is just too firm for our tastes.

The standard engine at idle sounds like a diesel engine, there’s just way too much clatter. The biggest disappointment is the stop/start system. When the engine reengages the whole car shutters. This is disappointing because the 3-series GT isn’t a cheap proposition to begin with. At least wind and road noise are well suppressed and with the adaptive M suspension the 3-series GT is a comfortable long distance cruiser.

This is where the 3-series GT and any other BMW becomes an expensive proposition, the options list. Standard form offers rain sensing windshield wipers, power tailgate, automatic climate control and HD radio. You’ll have to step up to the top of the range to add xenon headlamps, auto-dimming exterior mirrors with power fold feature and Bluetooth hands free connectivity for your mobile phone.

Buying a 3-series GT like any other BMW isn’t going to be cheap and discounts will be hard to come by. We aren’t even sure of resale value with the 3-series GT due to the fact that it is still far too new to really say. Reliability is iffy with BMW. Most owners complain of things going array after the warranty expires and the extended warranty is pretty expensive choice too. So picking it is again a mere matter of preference if you plan on keeping your 3-series GT long after the standard warranty expires.

The 3-series GT is for those who want to be different and are willing to pay the premium to have it. All others should look at the 3-series touring.

Likes: Both turbo engines are punchy and smooth. There’s plenty of space for five and the boot is of decent size. It’s very distinct looking.

Dislikes: It’s very distinct looking. Stingy standard kit, expensive options list. Stop/start system makes the whole car shutter when engine reengages.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Devon test drives a Nissan Versa Sedan

The Nissan Versa Sedan prides itself in having the roomiest rear seat. Lowest starting price and low running costs thanks to a fuel efficient engine, but is all these things really worth bragging rights?
The sole engine offered with the Versa sedan is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder producing 109hp. City driving will be where you’ll want to spend most of your time with the Versa. It feels smooth and offers decent flexibility. Outside of the city you’ll have to really work the engine hard to get decent pace from it. Plus the CVT transmission really can make the engine drone when the revs are high.
On the road the Versa doesn’t feel composed when you feel like driving a little spiritedly. There’s way too much body roll in corners and bends, plus the front wheels feel like they are going to lose grip. Steering feedback becomes numb at highway speeds with poor directional stability. This car would be a great long distance cruiser but it’s far too unrelaxed outside of the city limits for us to recommend. However the Versa does offer the biggest backseat and boot space for a small sedan in this price category.
S trim comes with air-con, Bluetooth and optional five-speed manual gearbox or 4-speed automatic. S Plus offers cruise control, rear spoiler and CVT transmission. SV adds USB connection port, front map light with key linked illuminated entry and 60/40 split folding rear seats. Top of the range SL trim adds 16-aluminum alloy wheels, five-inch color display audio system and integrated turn signals on exterior mirrors.
The Versa Sedan has an attractive starting price and the roomiest rear seat in its class. Reliability should be good too and running costs will be low. However this car is far from great. This car feels more at home around the city. Outside of those elements the Versa sedan becomes a chore to drive and you’ll have to really rev the engine hard on faster paced roads. A big backseat shouldn’t be the only reason to persuade you into the Versa. It does offer good value but it’s just not the best.

Likes: Low running costs coupled with low starting price and the largest backseat in the segment.

Dislikes: Both automatic transmissions are dreadful. It becomes a chore to drive outside of city limits. Not sure if it provides a convincing enough case to buy one other than the low price.

Devon’s Choice: The S-Plus trim adds cruise control, rear spoiler and a smoother CVT transmission. It’s not much but its way better than the four-speed automatic in the standard S trim. For those who choose the S trim should stick with the manual gearbox which is much smoother.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Devon test drives a VW CC sedan

Looking to spice up your company parking space? You have plenty of options from Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen. Yes Volkswagen wants a piece of the upscale sedan segment with the CC, but is buying one a false economy?
There are two engines to choose from with the CC. Standard 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder produces 200hp while the top of the range 3.6-liter six-cylinder produces 280hp. Pick of the bunch is a mere matter of taste. The standard 2-liter turbo four is our favorite. It's smooth, flexible and the more attractively priced form of the CC. The V6 is rather expensive and the performance doesn't really live up to the expectations of its more expensive rivals Audi and BMW. But you do get 4-motion all-wheel-drive standard which may appeal more to those who really need to extra traction in snow belt areas.

The CC feels right at home where most buyers will use them on the highway. The overall ride comfort is smooth and handling is safe and secure. The R-line offers the looks but falls short on the feel which matters the most. Steering feedback is a bit of a let down too. At least refinement is excellent thanks to low wind and road noise at highway speeds. Plus both engines sound smooth under heavy acceleration and relaxed speeds.

It's quite easy to get comfortable behind the wheel. The driver's seat offers plenty of adjustment and the steering also adjusts for reach and height. Most of the control layout is shared with the Passat which means it's pretty simple to navigate through. While front passengers will enjoy plenty of headroom, rear passengers may suffer a bit due to the slopping roofline. This will also take a toll on rearward visibility which is vastly reduced. But at least the boot offers decent space for a couple of golf bags.

2.0T Sport Trim offers Bi-xenon headlights, LED taillights, 17 inch alloy wheels, rearview parking camera and heated front seats standard. 2.0T Executive includes hands-free easy open trunk, 18-inch alloy wheels and full leather seating surfaces. R-line 2.0T adds 12-way adjustable front comfort seats, automatic climate control and a sports suspension. Top of the range V6 Executive 4-motion offers front and rear parking sensors, keyless start system, massage feature for driver's seat.

The CC is a great option for those who don't want to pay the premium associated with the its rivals Audi, BMW and Mercedes. It is classy in its own right and that's enough for buyers who want a nice step up from the Passat.

Likes: 2.0T engine is smooth and affordable. Standard kit is pretty decent too.

Dislikes: V6 is the only form with all-wheel-drive and its the most expensive CC of the range.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Devon test drives a BMW X1

The BMW X1 is the cheapest of the X-range, so does this mean you’re short changed of the BMW experience?
You can pick between two engines. The 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder produces 240hp and can be hand in either rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive and the top of the range 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder producing 300hp can only be had with all-wheel-drive. Our money goes to the xDrive28i which makes the most sense financially.
On the road the X1 is quite easy to drive thanks to its compact dimensions. Steering feels direct and offers plenty of feedback and the ride overall is good but could be better. Our biggest complaint is the stop/start system which sends shutters through the entire car when the engine reactivates. For a luxury brand this is just downright disappointing. The four-cylinder at idle sounds like a diesel engine with way too much clatter noise than we’d like.
In the cabin there is plenty of room for four, adding a fifth person is pushing it. The large transmission tunnel makes life for the middleman uncomfortable. Plus there really isn’t a lot of legroom in the back compared to some indirect competitors which offer more space. The dashboard is the typical minimalistic design. We however were disappointed with the overall quality of the materials used. Much of the plastics felt cheap and below the standards we’ve come to expect of BMW. The boot offers decent space but it’s far from class leading.
Automatic climate control, rain sensing windshield wipers and integrated roof rails come standard. You’ll have to step up to the top of the range to get xenon headlamps, 18-inch alloy wheels and Bluetooth connectivity.
If you have to have a compact crossover with a BMW badge the X1 is for you. Otherwise we highly suggest looking at its indirect competition which offers a more compelling package.
 Likes: Turbo engines offer plenty of pep when needed. Starting price is attractive too. Overall comfortable crossover that is classy thanks to the BMW badge.
Dislikes: Start/stop technology sends shutters through the cabin when engine reactivates. Typical BMW stingy with the standard features, the options can sky rocket price quickly too.
Xdrive28i is the pick of the range. If you stay clear of the options list and turn off the stop/start system it really isn’t a bad choice. However it isn’t great either.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Devon test drives a popular Toyota crossover

The Toyota Rav-4 was popular for a reason. If you wanted a to save a few miles on the gallon the four-cylinder was standard and very good one at that. Those who wanted power could opt for a silk smooth six-cylinder with sports car-like acceleration. With the new Rav-4 has Toyota lost that momentum by not offering the class rare six-cylinder engine?
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder producing 175hp will satisfy most buyers needs. It's smooth and offers a good turn of pace when needed. Owners of the previous generation six-cylinder will be disappointed to learn that engine didn't carry over into this generation.
On the road the Rav-4 is smooth and comfortable which is great for a compact crossover, but those who want a little fun behind the wheel won't find it here. Steering feedback is completely numb and any idea of spirited driving is thrown out the window by the softly sprung suspension which is aimed more towards comfort. One thing the Rav-4 is good for is ferrying the family around and is quite easy to drive around town too thanks to light steering.
It isn't hard getting comfortable behind the wheel. All the controls and dials are within easy reach of the driver's hand and the infotaiment system offers a no nonsense layout. Much of the controls and dials feel upscale like you'd expect and overall quality is top notch too just the way a Toyota is supposed to feel.
LE trim adds a back-up camera, eco/sport mode for the ransmission and auto-off headlights. XLE trim adds auto climate control, roof rails and a premium audio system with navigation. Top of the range Limited trim adds 8-way adjustable driver's seat, keyless start system and a power liftgate.
The Rav-4 may not be the most engaging to drive and it may not wow you with its styling. The one thing that it does well is offer comfort for five with plenty of space to ferry the family around and is the most comfortable to drive as daily commuter car. It may not be a jack of all trade like the previous generation, but it still is a great option for those who want a no nonsense compact crossover.
Likes: Decent running costs, comfortable to drive and live with. Plenty of features for the money.
Dislikes: Not very engaging to drive as some rivals.
XLE trim is the pick of the range. It offers all you'll really need with the Rav-4 without being overly expensive. Too bad you'll still have to pay extra for all-wheel-drive on all forms. But it's not really needed though.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Devon test drives a VW GTI

The GTI is the original hot hatch and still is one of the best that money can buy.
You can still have the GTI with that thumping turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder producing 210hp and 258lb-ft torque. This makes the GTI a lot easier to live with than the even hotter Focus ST. Standard six-speed manual gearbox is the best way to have the GTI. The shifts are smooth and slick, for those who prefer the automatic the six-speed DSG gearbox is just as good and offers clutchless manual shifting. Want a little bit more power? You can add an optional power pack which adds an additional 10hp for a total of 220hp which is still far cheaper than the A3 hatch.
On the road the GTI feels very comfortable to drive yet agile when you want to get a little aggressive in the corners. Steering weighs up nicely and offers plenty of feedback. Interior quality is what you'd expect of a Volkswagen. Much of the materials used are high quality with excellent fit and finish. The boot has even more space than the previous generation which is also very helpful for those who want to use this as their daily commuter vehicle.
S trim comes with LED foglights, 18-inch alloy wheels, touch screen sound system with 5.8 inch screen and heated front seats. SE trim comes with rain sensing windshield wipers, keyless start and rearview parking camera. Autobahn package offers climate control, leather seating surfaces, navigation system and automatic headlights. Most buyers will be satisfied with the SE trim which is the pick of the range. It offers just enough kit without being overly expensive.
The new GTI is a large improvement over the previous generation. The turbo engine is smooth with plenty of torque to help make it more easy to live with as a daily commuter car. No other hot hatch blends these well like the GTI and is our top pick for hot hatches.

Likes: Smooth turbo engine. Plenty of grip and is very easy to live with. Offers plenty of features for the money.
Dislikes: Can get expensive with options.
Some may say the Focus ST is a better buy because it has 252hp for the same price. However, the Focus ST isn't as comfortable or composed as a GTI and it doesn't feel as classy in the inside. It's a no brainer here the GTI is a great package.
SE trim is our pick of the range. It has all the kit you'll want a a price tag that is affordable.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Devon is impressed with the new VW Golf

Want the best small car that money can buy? Two words Volkwagen Golf.

The 2.5 in-line five-cylinder has been replaced with a smoother 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 170hp. While the 2-liter turbo-diesel produces 150hp. Pick of the range is a mere matter of taste. If you do tons of highway driving the diesel makes the most sense financially. However, most will pick the 1.8t engine which is just as sensible as the diesel and slightly cheaper.

The Golf won't disappoint at all when you take it on the road. Steering feedback is excellent and communicative. Handling is also a strong point too. It may not be as sharp as a GTI but most will be satisfied with its road holding manners. The ride comfort is the biggest compliment here. It feels like a much bigger vehicle and soaks up bumps very well. Some keen rivals can't even match the level of refinement the Golf has. With each generation it feels like Volkswagen pushes the enevlope even further.

Road and wind noise are so well suppressed you'd think you were in a luxury vehicle. There's barely any noise from the suspension over bumps and the engines are smooth and quite once at speed. The diesel produces a little clatter at idle, but this is expected from a diesel engine.

Interior quality has been improved dramatically from the previous generation. Many of the materials used feel upscale and soft touch. The dashboard is very user friendly and easy to navigate. With the optional touch screen display many of the menus are easy to navigate through and not distracting. Passengers will find comfort in both the front and rear, although the large transmission tunnel makes life for the middle man uncomfortable.

2-door 1.8T launch comes with Bluetooth, touchscreen sound system and heated side mirrors. 2-door/4-door 1.8T S comes with leatherette seating surfaces and multi-function steering wheel. 4-door 1.8T S w/ sunroof adds a panoramic sunroof and optional bi-xenon headlamps. 4-door 1.8T SE adds rearview camera, corner-illuminating foglights, heated front seats and Fender premium audio system. 4-door 1.8T SEL adds keyless access with push-button start, 12-way power driver's seat and dual-zone climate control. 4-door TDI in S, SE and SEL all offer simliar standard kit as the 1.8T trims. Top of the range 1.8T sport adds 17-inch alloy wheels, sporty body-kit and power tilting/sliding panoramic sunroof.

The Golf has always been a level higher than it's keen rivals and this is no exception with this new generation. Everything feels solid and long lasting. Reliability isn't the strongest point for Volkswagen but we can say that they have been improving dramatically over the years. So there should be no worry in this area.

The Volkswagen Golf is really a jack of all trade. It's a classy and pratical vehicle that proves you don't need a large vehicle to have luxury and refinement. Driving dynamics are spot on and the engine choices are both excellent. Combined with Volkswagen excellent engineering and build quality. It's no wonder we gave the Golf our top pick for small cars. It's just that good.

Likes: It's all the car you'll ever need. It's engaging to drive, classy and well put together. Both engines are flexible and smooth.

Dislikes: No more two-door TDI. Some trims can get expensive and still you'll have to add the options that should be standard.

Devon's Pick: The 4-door 1.8T S trim level makes the most sense finacially with the Golf. Alloy wheels, leatherette seating surfaces come standard as well as air-con, cd player and remote keyless entry. If you're looking for the best deal on the Golf look no further. The 4-door TDI S is the same price and has that excellent diesel engine in case you want the diesel.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Devon test drives a Hyundai Tucson

Looking for the best value for money? The Hyundai Tucson maybe one of those vehicles you'd want to consider. But with the Ford Escape and Nissan Rogue, Hyundai has a tough gig on its hands.

The standard 2-liter four-cylinder produces 164hp. It's a great engine but feels gutless when you want to really put your foot down. The 2.4 is a much better choice. It produces 182hp and is much more suitable for those who want that extra oomph on the highway. Both engines can be had with optional all-wheel-drive. But we think that it's best to have this with front-wheel-drive unless you really need the extra traction.

If you want fun to drive you best look at the Ford Escape or Volkswagen Tiguan. You won't really find too much thrills behind the wheel of the Tucson. The suspension is geared more towards comfort rather than handling so there's a bit more body roll than we'd like. But at least the ride is smooth and decent around town. Its sad that the suppleness of the ride fades away over rough surfaces. It's not as composed as the class best. The steering is overly light and lacks feedback. At least wind and road noise are well hidden in the cabin.

All the controls are within easy reach of the driver's hand and the driver's seat does offer plenty of support for drivers of all sizes. The rear seat offers ample room and has enough space for five if the passengers are willing to share out the space. Boot space is about average with rivals but its not class leading.

Standard GLS trim adds 17-inch alloy wheels, air-con, Bluetooth connectivity for your mobile phone, LED brake lights and six way adjustable driver's seat. You'll have to step up to the SE to get automatic headlights, roof rack, touch screen display and heated side mirrors. Top of the range Limted trim adds leather seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, push button ignition system and windshield wiper de-icer.
On paper the Tucson seems like a good deal. It's priced good and offers the longest warranty on any new car in America. But there are rivals that offer a more engaging driving experience plus resale value on them are much higher. However, if you prefer the peace of mind of a long warranty the Hyundai is a great choice. It's just not the best choice.

Likes: Long warranty. Decent amount of kit for a low asking price.

Dislikes: It's not engaging to drive and resale value should be a bit of a worry.

Devon's Pick: SE trim seems to offer everything that you'll ever really need without over paying. The engine offered is our favorite and the overall packaging is very compelling.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Devon test drives an Audi A3

If you acquire the taste of luxury but the price tag leaves you running for the hills. Fret not because the Audi A3 is here.

There are two engines to choose from. The standard 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder produces 170hp while the top of the range 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder produces 220hp. Picking between the two is all a mere matter of taste. The 1.8 only comes with front-wheel-drive and is our pick of the range. It makes the most sense financially and running costs are decent too. It’s nice though that you can have more power with the 2-liter turbo but you can only have it with all-wheel-drive. Both versions don’t even offer a manual gearbox, in both cases however you’ll have to go with the upcoming redesigned Volkswagen Golf/GTI to satisfy that desire.

Unless you’re downgrading from a Bentley, the interior won’t be as classy in comparison. However both are classy and both won’t disappoint. Audi's interior decors are some of the best in the industry. Even the optional infotainment display that sort of leaps out of the dash is a welcome touch; everything is within easy reach of the driver’s hand and the seats are comfortable with plenty of support. Rear passengers however may suffer a bit in legroom.

Premium trim offers leather seats, Xenon headlamps, dual zone climate control and a panoramic sunroof. Premium plus trim adds keyless start, 18-inch alloy wheels and heated front seats. You’ll have to step up to the Prestige trim to full LED headlights, 14 speaker 705watt sound system and voice control navigation system.

The A3 may seem expensive compared to indirect rivals such as the Mazda3 and even Volkswagen GTI. But for those who crave the Audi badge but can’t afford the A4 we strongly suggest sticking with the standard form and you’ll be fine. Resale value is too soon to call since the A3 is new to the market.

The A3 is a classy offering and is worth considering if you want a four-door sedan with premium image. However it’s just not as compelling to look at compared to the Mercedes CLA and it’s not as fun to drive as a BMW 2-series. It is the best between the two and we think it’s the top pick for those who want a classy well rounded sedan.

Likes: Both engines have strong pull. The standard kit is impressive for such a low asking price.

Dislikes: Bland exterior looks. There are so many indirect rivals that offer more for similar money.

Devon’s Choice: The A3 Premium 1.8t is where our money would go. It offers enough kit to satisfy most needs without being too expensive. Plus running costs are decent too.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Devon test drives a Mitsubishi Outlander

The Mitsubishi Outlander has a lot to prove in a heavily competitive crossover segment. There are some heavy hitters from Ford, Nissan and Toyota. Does Mitsubishi have what it takes to lure buyers away? Or is it all too late to save the ailing brand?
ES and SE trims both only come with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder which produces 166hp. The SE trim offers optional all-wheel-drive. While the top of the range GT offers a 3-liter six-cylinder producing 244hp. It’s nice that Mitsubishi offers the six-cylinder but we question if it is really needed. Unless you are looking at the more spec’d up versions of the Escape and Rogue, the SE trim is the pick of the range. It comes with just enough kit without being too expensive and offers all-wheel-drive optional.
The Outlander just doesn’t feel as composed to drive as a Ford Escape. The ride comfort however isn’t as firm as the Escape. But ride is too easily upset over some road surfaces, which causes the ride to feel bouncy especially at higher speeds on the highway. At least there’s plenty of grip, but the steering doesn’t really weight up at highway speeds. At least road and wind noise are well suppressed and you won’t really hear much from the engines at relaxed speeds.
There’s plenty of space for passengers to get comfortable. Drivers won’t struggle to find a comfortable seating position. All but the third row seat which is best left for children. With the third row seat folded down the boot space opens up and offers plenty of space. The dashboard is somewhat easy to navigate through. We dislike the fiddly to operate touch screen display which is too distracting to use on the go.
The ES trim comes with auto-off headlights, keyless entry, power windows and a hill start assist. Our favorite trim SE comes with climate control, alloy wheels, touch screen display with rearview camera, keyless start and an eco-mode switch. Top of the range GT trim adds HID headlights, all-wheel-drive and Sirius-XM satellite radio.
The Outlander is priced competitively among its keen rivals like the Ford Escape and Nissan Rogue.  Even though you get more kit than both vehicles, we think you’re better off picking one of the two. Running costs with the Outlander should be average but resale value should be a bit of a worry. Reliability is above average though.
The Outlander is a great option for those who want something with good value for the money. However the Outlander just isn’t as polished as its keen rivals and resale isn’t great. But if you want something a little different from its rivals and you really want seven seats at a discount this is your best option.

Likes: Seven seat crossover at a reasonable price, running costs with four-cylinder are decent. The kit level is very impressive at this price range

Dislikes: Resale value is questionable. Exterior design is on the bland side. This is not the halo car Mitsubishi desperately needs.

Devon’s Choice: SE trim offers optional all-wheel-drive, and comes standard with alloy wheels, keyless start and a rearview camera. It’s the only trim that makes the most sense without over paying for the GT trim.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Devon tries to find purpose for the BMW X6

Unless you really want the X6 and don’t mind paying the premium for it, the X5 is cheaper and much more practical. Here’s why:
The standard 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder producing 300hp already provides enough kick in your pants acceleration. So we question if the 4.4-liter turbocharged eight-cylinder producing 400hp is really worth paying the premium for. What separates the X6 from the X5 is the sweet handling and sharp steering. You’ll have to pay for the option to get the X6 to drive the way it should and at this price point it shouldn’t be an option. At least the engines are smooth in operation and are quite lovely to hear when under hard acceleration. Wind and road noise are very well hushed in the cabin.

BMW has a minimalistic approach to their interior designs, and the X6 is no exception. Everything is very easy to locate and everything is within easy reach of the driver’s hand. The new iDrive system is much more user-friendly. Drivers in the front will find comfort very easily while rear passengers may struggle for headroom and legroom. Plus the boot space is just down right disappointing. This is all due to the slopping roofline.
The X6 does come well equipped for the money. Keyless entry is standard, as well as iDrive infotainment system and Xenon Headlamps. Climate control and leather seats are also standard. One annoying thing about BMW is that you’ll have to pay for extra that should be standard. Such as heated front seats, keyless start and rearview parking camera, which you will need because rearward visibility is appalling!
 Buying an X6 isn’t a cheap proposition. But your investments should be well secured as BMW resale value is strong thanks to the badge. Running costs will be high unless you stick with the standard turbocharged six-cylinder which should be somewhat decent. Quality of the interior feels high class and well put together. Reliability should be good as with all BMW vehicles.

The X6 is aimed for those who seek something different. It’s quirky and odd way to be different too. It’s expensive too and you don’t get some premium features that should be standard. Plus you’ll have to pay the money to make it drive and handle the way that it should. Unless you really just have to have an X6 the X5 is cheaper and much more practical than the X6.

Likes: Handles and drives with the right options. It’s different and quirky yet holds its value well. Turbo engines both are powerful. iDrive system has been vastly improved.

Dislikes: Why does being different cost so much? You’ll pay an arm and leg to make the X6 drive the way it should, and some options at this price point shouldn’t be optional. You're better off with an X5.

Devon’s Choice: The standard 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder is all the engine you will ever need. It’s still expensive but running costs won’t be too bad.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Devon test drives a Toyota Yaris

The Toyota Yaris pins itself against cars like the Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio and Nissan Versa Note; it’s not hard deciding between them. It’s all a mere matter of taste. With the Toyota however you get the legendary build quality as well as decent fuel economy. But is it really worth considering when all its rivals seem to have passed it by?

Performance: The sole engine available for the Yaris is a 1.5-liter four-cylinder which produces 106hp. You can choose between a five-speed manual gearbox and a four-speed automatic. Sadly the manual gearbox which we prefer the most is only available on the 3-door L and 5-door SE trim. Most will have to deal with an antiquated four-speed automatic which seems to sap what little power the engine produces. Fuel economy is pretty good with both though.

On the road: The Yaris is very comfortable and smooth around town. Steering is light and makes life easy for maneuvering through tight spaces. On faster paced roads however the Yaris just doesn’t feel as composed as the Fiesta. Steering doesn’t really weigh up so it can often feel twitchy. Ride comfort is jittery on anything but the smoothest of surfaces. The top of the range SE with sports suspension doesn’t improve things at all in terms of ride comfort. Handling however is vastly improved. You won’t really hear much of a racket from the tiny four-cylinder. The manual gearbox is much better than the automatic which makes the car even more sluggish than it already feels. Road noise won’t be an issue. Wind noise will be a welcomed companion on the highway.

Behind the wheel: Most drivers will get comfortable behind the wheel of the Yaris. There’s plenty of adjustment for the driver’s seat and steering wheel. Taller drivers will have a harder time getting comfortable due to the limited adjustment of the steering wheel. The dashboard has a sensible logical design. It’s not particularly attractive. The touch screen infotainment system eliminates buttons on the dash but is overly complicated to use and can become hard to read in bright sunlight. There’s plenty of space for passengers in the front and rear seat. Rear headroom is a little on the tight side. Legroom is impressively roomy and the boot space is about average with its competitors.

Equipment: 3-door/5-doorL trim gets HD radio, power door locks and nine airbags and air-con. LE trim gets cruise control, remote keyless entry and split folding rear seat. You’ll have to step up to the top of the range SE to get unique body-kit, sports tuned suspension with 16 inch alloy wheels.

Buying & owning: The Yaris costs similar to its keen rivals. Running cost should be slightly better thanks to decent fuel economy. Resale value should be about average for class too.

Quality: Toyota’s reliability record is still strong standing so you’ll have few worries. Most of the interior is dressed in unattractive hard plastics which pushes itself even further behind its rivals. The Yaris comes well equipped for safety. Stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes as well as electronic brake force distribution come standard. Nine airbags with advanced front driver and front passenger side airbags and knee airbags are also standard.

The Toyota Yaris is one of those vehicles you either love or hate. It’s not as classy as the Fiesta and isn’t as fun to drive either. But if a dependable no nonsense vehicle is what you are after the Yaris fits the bill perfectly. However, its rivals can do the same thing but with more fun and for similar cash too.

Devon’s Pick: The SE trim seems to be the only trim that really does make sense in our eyes. For a few extra more than the LE trim you get a sporty body-kit, 16 inch alloy wheels and a sports tuned suspension which drastically improves handling. If the sporty trim doesn’t really appeal to you the LE is the next best thing. You get keyless entry and cruise control.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Devon test drives a Ford Fiesta ST

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.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Devon test drives a large Chevy SUV

Picking the Chevy Suburban means that you need space and lots of it. It offers seating up to nine and can tow up to 8,300lbs. The Suburban will put minivans and crossovers to shame. But with high running costs and bulky image will it be enough to justify buying one?

The sole engine on hand is a 5.3-liter Eco-Tec eight-cylinder which produces 355hp. Rear-wheel-drive is standard while four-wheel-drive is optional. We strongly suggest getting the four-wheel-drive which really does help out in snowy areas and adds a bit of traction in towing. But for those who won't need all-wheel-drive the rear-wheel-drive is just as capable. Acceleration is smooth and brisk but remember this is a large nine-seat sport utility vehilce so it's not going to be race car fast.
The sheer size of the Suburban makes it a chore to live with. Rear view vision camera really does come in handy when reversing out of parking spaces in the mall and in the city. But it's still tricky to navigate on anything but large Blvds and highways. Steering is okay but it feels rather heavy at times and the Suburban is about as aerodynamic as a tower block so wind noise will be an issue. Road noise is very well hidden though.
The Suburban can seat up to nine but we reckon that most will find that even the seven seat configuration is more than enough. With the third row in place the boot space is decent but it grows enormously with the third row seat folding down. Fold down the second row seat too and you've got a massively large boot. The LS trim is the way to go it's the cheapest of the range and offers enough for most buyers needs. Automatic climate control, rear view parking camera, remote start and rear park assist all come standard. You'll have to step up to the LT trim which adds leather seats, power tailgate and forward collision warning. Top of the range LTZ offers HID headlights with LED daytime running lamps, keyless start and 20 inch alloy wheels.
The Chevy Suburban isn't cheap to buy nor is it cheap to run. The large thirsty eight-cylinder engine will be a welcome visitor at the pump. Resale value should be good thanks the Suburban nameplate and the fact that people will always still buy these even if gas prices shoot past $6 per gallon.

The Chevy Suburban is a great workhorse of a vehicle. It can seat up to nine offers plenty of comfort for people and can tow up to 8,300lbs. It's a great vehicle if you stick with the standard form which is the cheapest. Paying more than the LT trim means you'll be entering territory with choices like the Mercedes GL which is an all round better option. The Chevy Suburban is a great family car for those who want big but there are premium rivals that do the same tricks better and save a few miles on the gallon too.

Likes: The sheer size of it intimidates other drivers. Lovely eight-cylinder rumble under heavy acceleration.

Dislikes: Sheer size makes it a chore to live with. Running costs are high. There's no diesel engine option. Top of the range trim is expensive and isn't as great as some rivals.

Devon's pick: LS trim is all the Suburban you'll ever really need. You'll have to pay extra for four-wheel-drive but rear view parking camera and rear parking assist are standard as well as automatic climate control and a remote start system. Most will be satisfied with those features.

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.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Devon test drives a Mini Hardtop

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.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Devon test drives a Volvo S80 sedan

The Volvo S80 may appeal to Volvo Fans, but the real challenge is can the S80 lure the Audi, BMW and Mercedes buyers away from their German Sedans?

The S80 offers two engines to pick from. The 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder produces 240hp while the 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder produces 300hp. Picking between the two is a mere matter of taste. Our money goes to the turbocharged six-cylinder. It's not that much more than the four-cylinder plus it offers standard all-wheel-drive which still manages to undercut all its German Rivals.
On the road the S80 offers secure handling. It isn't really as sharp to drive as a BMW 5-series but most won't ever push it to its limits. At least the cabin is classy and refined with very little wind and road noise. The ride however can be a bit firm over some bumps and poor road surfaces. It's far from being a deal breaker. Sadly steering is numb and lacks feedback that its German rivals have.

Volvo's floating dashboard has made its way into the S80 and it's classy. The infotainment system is simple and easy to use, all the controls are within reach of the drive'rs hand. The seats offer superb comfort with plenty of adjustments for all drivers of all sizes to get comfortable. There's plenty of space for five passengers with decent leg and headroom. The boot offers decent space too. Standard features include rain sensing windshield wipers, auto lights, power adjustable fronts seats and climate control. You'll have to step up to the T6 to get all-wheel-drive, navigation system and Xenon headlamps.

The S80 is much cheaper to buy than its German Rivals. Plus running costs are much lower too. However you'll be a little worried about resale value which isn't as strong as its German Rivals. Volvo is known for safety and you shouldn't have to worry too much with the S80. Stability control, anti-lock brakes and traction control are standard as well as curtian airbags. Anti-whiplash head restraints and anti-submarining seats are also standard. Security is just as good too with plenty of anti-theft aids to keep theft at away.

The S80 sedan is a classy offering that really does deserve a second look. It may not be as sharp to drive as a 5-series or hold its value as well. It's still cheaper to buy, offers more kit and is much more satisfying to own. We can't find any reason not to consider the S80.

Likes: Both engines are smooth and flexible. The standard kit list is pretty good for such a low asking price. It feels safe and secure on the road.

Dislikes: It's rather bland compared to German Rivals. Plus it doesn't hold its value well either.

Devon's Pick: T6 comes with all-wheel-drive and a smooth turbocharged six-cylinder. We have nothing agaisnt the four-cylinder which is just as smooth. But to get a 5-series with this type of horsepower and all-wheel-drive system you'll pay double the price. Plus the amount of kit really does pay for itself. What more can you ask for?