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.