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Author: admin | Category: Car Loan Canada | Date: 08.01.2015

The words ‘design’ and ‘Toyota’ aren’t exactly the most natural bedfellows – the classic 2000 GT excepted – but nonetheless, here they are brought together on the range-topping Yaris specification. In an effort to emphasise the angry-looking front end treatment copied over from the Aygo, the Yaris Design is available with an Eclipse Black metallic ‘wrap-around roof’ finish.
Note the use of ‘available’ – it’s a ?795 option only offered in combination with Vermillion Red or Glacier Pearl White paint. Putting the Bi-Colour option to one side, all Design customers get a roof spoiler and 16-inch black alloys with machine-polished faces as standard. The little 1.33 doesn’t offer any particular objection to this – it’s a revvy thing, which commendably avoids sounding thrashy – but don’t equate such accommodation with performance.
The Toyota also suffers from a notchy gearshift action, slightly sticky steering weighting – though this is an improvement over the vacuous over-assisted feel of previous Yarii – and a busy ride. There’s no getting away from it: the Yaris’s interior is plasticky – in a much more plasticky way than, say, a Polo or even a Fiesta. Standard equipment is generous, with ‘Touch 2’ touchscreen, reversing camera, DAB radio, Bluetooth and cruise control amongst what’s included. The latest Yaris is by no means a bad car, and this combination of power unit and specification almost conspires to muster a little sparkle. It ought to make a no-nonsense, reliability-is-key used buy in about five years’ time, but if you’re looking for cheap thrills you should still head to Ford – just as those with delusions of grandeur remain best served by Volkswagen.
Make up your own mind on the gaudy styling, but there's no denying the serious engineering at the heart of the new 2015 Type R programme.
There's a good chunky sports steering wheel and the good-to-clasp aluminium gearknob is perfectly positioned. Thumb the starter button and the 2.0-litre four-pot fires into life with little excitement. But what sticks in the memory is how the Type R comes alive when you turn off the motoway and fling it through your favourite switchbacks. Clever damping keeps body sway in check and the control the chassis exhibits is remarkable.
Opinion is divided on the character of this engine; they've somehow kept a degree of switchover character, just like on Type Rs of old, but some testers miss the full-on, banshee VTEC effect. Prod the +R button and you can stiffen the dampers, sharpen the throttle response and beef up the steering further. The new Fiat Panda Cross is a tougher sibling to the already surprisingly tough little Fiat Panda 4x4.
Expect to pay around ?1650 more for a Panda Cross than you would for a regular Panda 4x4 at present.
On both petrol and diesel versions the intake ducts have gone up in the world to allow a deeper wading depth, steel underbody shields fend off damage from pointier bits of terrain and the tyres have been swapped for knobblier mud and snow rubber. Like the regular Panda 4x4, an electronic locking differential helps find traction on loose or slippery surfaces but the Cross also gets a few extra electronic tricks up its sleeve. A new ‘Terrain Control Selector’ – a rotary dial behind the gearlever – gives you a choice of three driving modes: Auto, Off-Road and Hill Descent Control.
Auto is the default setting, and makes its own decision as to whether the engine’s torque is sent to the front or rear axles. In Off-Road mode, all four wheels are driven all the time (up to 30mph, anyway – beyond that the car reverts to front-drive mode to save fuel, in case you forget to switch back to Auto mode), the locking diff is engaged and the stability control system brakes slipping wheels to help find traction on uneven or low-grip surfaces. Hill Descent Control safely controls the car’s speed down steep slopes – more on that in a bit. Both come with manual gearboxes, a five-speed for the diesel and six for the TwinAir, with an extra low first gear for off-road driving. We drove the Cross on the off-road course at Fiat’s Balocco proving ground where it scampered over some fairly severe obstacles.
We also crossed Balocco’s concrete mounds (imagine a sea of giant, solid bubble wrap) diagonally in Off-Road mode, where the microchips kept the car moving by taking power away from the wheels dangling in fresh air and directing it to the ones on terra firma. Fiat claims the Cross benefits from improved sound-proofing over the regular 4x4, but you wouldn’t think so after a drive in the gruff, boomy diesel. Although the diesel’s pleasant enough to drive with a more progressive, less laggy delivery than some derv motors, the TwinAir suits the Cross’s character better – it’s a fun engine for a fun car. An ordinary Panda 4x4 is cheaper, can manage nearly as well off-road and is more tolerable on it.
With an impressive line-up of Swifts to take on the Fiesta, and the Celerio on Up-baiting city car duties, we’d understand if Suzuki’s small car range left you baffled.
In fact, barrel into a corner with too much speed and you’ll feel the car’s heft shift markedly. It’ll rev smoothly from very low down the engine’s operating range, but it’s when you pass 2000rpm – and thus hit peak torque – that things really get going.
There’s still a good dollop of performance above that magic threshold, with peak power arriving at 5500rpm.
Since it’s positioned as a more grown-up proposition than the Swift, it’s also going to come to the UK very generously equipped. As will a set of 16-inch alloys, which we tested and considered a decent match for the suspension, though some fatter tyres might serve UK buyers better if potholes or speedbumps are a major issue. Well, there is a new platform based on that in service with the Espace and Talisman, which frees up more interior space, an iPad style centre console, far more handsome, muscular styling, distinctive LED wings for lights, a better quality cabin and for the range topping model (until Renaultsport goes really bonkers), four-wheel steering, launch control and an EDC gearbox that can handle multiple downshifts at once.
Presentationally, the GT certainly looks RS-ish, with angular 18 inch alloys, deep spoilers, the now-de rigueur fake diffuser, and twin exhausts.
A 202bhp 1.6-litre turbo delivering a 0-62mph time of just over seven seconds suggests some fun to be had, if not the sort of experience to leave you in a state of uncontained ecstasy.
Quick rather than outright fast, at full throttle the GT snaps up through the gears keenly enough.
So much so that it takes a few bends to really compute what’s going on, not least because if you commit really hard you often find yourself in a slightly odd false oversteer position, whereby you are winding off lock mid-bend. Then at speeds below about 50mph, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to help with agility, but especially if you pull away hard from a T junctions, it’s a bit like a being in a runaway shopping trolley, seesawing off down the road. The result is a car that is a strange concoction of tremendous fun at times and infuriating eccentricity at others, that character trait appearing mostly when it’s pushed very hard. As a car, the fourth generation Renault Megane is light years beyond the current range: classy, solidly built, good looking and surprisingly interesting in a sector hardly bursting with innovation.

The further Skoda travels away from its previous life as a purveyor of automotive jokes the more difficult it gets to assess its place in the market.
Actually we’d rather start from the seat behind the driver, which just happens to offer the most legroom, shoulder room and headroom this side of a Rolls Phantom. The steering’s numb but linear, the primary ride compliant enough, and a tendency to thunk clumsily into secondary craters only occasionally jars. The seats themselves are a bit flat, especially in the back (Alan Sugar wouldn’t swap his Phantom), and the whole interior atmos is a wee bit TOO VW – all don’t-touch plastics and funereal swathes.
To car buyers it still means a lot of car for the money, but the car tested here retails at ?22,790 and costs a consequential ?26,275 as tested. I remember, back in 2001 when they dusted off the Superb name (it dates back to 1934) it sounded like a very bad joke indeed, destined to haunt.
Yes, this car is called the Toyota Yaris Design; it replaces the preceding Yaris Sport, which was perhaps equally unlikely. Given the alternatives are a 1.4-litre diesel and the hybrid, it’s also the most appealing. This carries on the top of the scowl from the headlights, up the front wings and into the windscreen pillars. The steering is quite direct, it grips well and there’s not much body roll, all of which lends the Yaris an air of determination that we’re not often used to experiencing in Toyota’s run-of-the-mill machinery. This gets smoother as you go faster, but as soon as the surface deteriorates you’ll start to notice it again. There’s nothing especially wrong with the quality (the lack of rattles when dialling up the really rather decent stereo attests to that), but the oddly biological-looking design puts us rather too much in mind of a David Cronenberg film; the sinewy tops to the front door panels, for example, are just weird.
Our car was fitted with the optional Toyota Safety Sense package, including pre-collision alert, automatic high beam and lane departure warning – the sorts of things you’re dismayed to find fitted to a supermini, until you attempt to input an address into the equally optional satnav add-on to the fiddly touchscreen and the lane departure warning saves you from unintentionally inputting into a central reservation. The major secondary controls, such as those for the air conditioning, are a little pokey but easy to understand; less so the steering wheel buttons, which, in an oversight that left us feeling short-changed, lack any form of illumination. Unveiled at the Geneva motor show after interminable concept cars and prototype appetite-whetters, the car launches this summer.
The VTEC variable valve timing and lift remains, but it's now assisted by a large, single blower to ram more air into the 1996cc four-pot.
It's no shrinking violet, the new Honda hot hatch, and that impression continues inside as you settle into nicely upholstered, alcantara racing buckets.
We find the interior of the Civic a riot of trying-too-hard styles and schizophrenic design: there's a digital read-out high up in your line of sight, then a bunch of conventional dials low down, large touchscreen in the centre console and separate heating display lower down. Nought to 62mph takes a scant 5.7sec and top whack is a pleasingly politically incorrect 167mph.
In fact, the first few miles of our drive are on fast dual carriageways and the Type R proves a comfortable cruiser, with little hint of what's to follow.
The electrically assisted steering is lighter than you might expect, but it's accurate, direct and has a reasonably judged response.
This is one super-composed hot hatch, and the threat of near-300lb ft twisting the front tyres out of shape never materialises. It doesn't sound as industrial as certain rival 2.0 turbos, but can be boomy and annoying after a while. In a neat play on the eco colour-coding that beset the Honda CRZ and Insight hybrids, it also turns the dials red. We were worried they might've dropped the Type R ball in the wilderness years, but we shouldn't have. It can take a while to pinpoint the 2015 hatch's strengths and, while it's technically impressive, we occasionally found ourselves craving more fizz and interactivity. It’s not a new idea; just like the previous-generation Panda Cross of 2006, Fiat’s taken the Panda 4x4 and machoed it up with chunkier bumpers, plastic skid plates, red tow hooks and raised fog lights. Ground clearance has been bumped up, the springs are different and those reshaped bumpers make for more accommodating approach and departure angles – gradients as severe as 70% are possible, says Fiat. In normal driving conditions, 98% of torque goes to the front wheels but if the Panda loses traction the system is designed to direct up to 100% to the rear in a tenth of a second if necessary. Both have had a minor boost in power, so the diesel now puts out 89bhp and the TwinAir 79bhp. Climbing’s not a problem, and when you need to get down again Hill Descent Control can take care of things for you. The raised ride height means it sways like a swingometer on election night, and the body roll’s emphasised all the more because you sit so high up. It was a badge seldom seen on our roads, but look closely at the classifieds and you’ll spot the odd one for sale. It doesn’t elicit the sort of cheeky smile a Fiesta does on a B-road, its damping suited more to bump-absorption than lift-off oversteer.
You’re sat high in the cabin which means good visibility, but you’re feeling perched on rather than planted in the seats – so the tilt is amplified. The compressor comes online incredibly quickly, forcing huge gulps of air into the tiny combustion chambers and dramatically improving its character, both aurally and out on the road. You’ll only need to drop a cog for the most desperate of overtakes, even with the five-speed manual ’box doing its best to frustrate with a longer-than-necessary throw and cheap shift knob. The 7in touchscreen will get covered with fingerprints in seconds but looks the part, responds well to finger inputs (including smartphone-aping pinch-and-swipe operation) and is standard across the line-up – complete with Bluetooth, sat-nav and a reversing camera. The ride can be jolty, and will be more so if you fill the car with four adult passengers (possible in remarkable comfort thanks to excellent rear headroom) or make full use of the 355-litre boot. There’s a lot of promise here, especially from the wonderful engine, and pragmatically the space and kit look as good on paper as the running costs. The GT, according the chaps from Dieppe, is a car for those buyers not ready to go the full beans for a Renaultsport car. At full revs and full throttle it shifts cleanly enough, but in the mid-range it really can’t decide to stick or twist, sometimes holding for oddly long periods, other times adopting a more relaxed gear.
Renaultsport has developed a car for people who quite like driving, but aren’t especially skilled or committed to the more savage Meganes to come.
We also drove a 130 dCi diesel which proved to be extremely refined, rode well and without 4Control, which only comes on the GT, showed itself to be a entertaining and very decent day-to-day rattler.
The engine we’re trying here is the 1.6-litre turbodiesel, which offers its modest 118bhp in good faith, but is hamstrung by an offbeat power curve that eludes the best efforts of the manual gearbox to keep you in the zone.

Excellent body control and the lack of any true mid-range urge means you can corner as fast as you need to without understeer. They’ve rummaged around behind the seats and somehow found an extra 85 litres of luggage space to add to what were already truck-rivalling dimensions.
That it all works sublimely and is properly screwed and glued is the plus side of the VW equation, but I wish Skoda would have a bit more fun with it – take the odd risk here and there. Our SE gets 17in alloys, adaptive cruise, dual-zone climate and DAB as standard, to which they added keyless go, the so-called ‘virtual pedal’ which lets you open the boot by wafting your foot under the bumper, and ?1600-worth of sat-nav.
Chief designer Josef Kaban can bore for hours about what he was trying to achieve, but the result speaks for itself. Not peanuts, and in an age full of Koreans waving seven-year warranties about on equally impressive (and cheaper) machines it’s no longer a no-brainer (Skoda warranty is three years). It isn’t as joyous as a Fiesta, by any means, but you feel that you could easily keep pace with the Ford cross-country – assuming you’re prepared to get acquainted with the Toyota’s redline. That huge rear wing, side skirts, hilarious venting that thinks it's nabbed from a 991 GT3 RS. Even those swollen, cheesily tacked-on wheelarches are bespoke, crafted from aluminium to save 42% of heft compared with if they were fashioned from steel.
Raw figures are these: 306bhp at 6500rpm and 295lb ft of twist, developed in a broad smear from 2500-4500rpm. Some taller drivers found them a mite too high - despite being 20mm lower than in a shopping Civic - but most will find an immediately focused driving position.
A special shout goes out to the major driving controls, with a beautifully judged action to the pedals and gearchange.
The Civic turns and dives into the corner at your bidding but we'd like more outright feel; the best rivals are more tactile.
Yes, there's some turbo whistle - and plenty of wastegate chatter as you back off - but the thing just wants to rev to the 7000rpm redline and beyond with an insatiable appetite for revs. Be warned, though: the Sports setting was way too hard for us, and we much preferred the more compliant, softer set-up. The Type R is a brilliant hot hatch - one that's distinct from the existing competition, wild-looking and yet polished fun to drive. You wouldn’t call it pretty, but it’s got character by the bagful and a certain Tonka Toy appeal.
Stick it in neutral, keep your feet off the pedals and it’ll inch its way down the slope by itself. Thing is, you often feel you’re travelling faster than you are anyway as the mud and snow tyres squeal like you’re on a qualifying lap when in reality you’re meandering gently around a roundabout.
It’s genuinely capable off-road, great in the city (no speed bump too big, no multi-storey too steep, no parking space too small) but in all honesty a bit rubbish on the open road. It’s fractionally longer nose-to-tail and wider than the Swift; but more squat in its stance, better-equipped, and while prices have yet to be announced, it’s likely to be quite a lot more expensive.
Don’t expect much engagement through the steering wheel either, because the electronic assistance on offer sullies any sort of genuine feedback about what’s happening under the front wheels. It feels far quicker than its numbers suggest, because even fully specced-up this car’s kerb weight doesn’t reach a tonne. That’s a product of the Baleno’s surprisingly good NVH levels, meaning the cabin’s a relatively serene environment for a car of this size. That’s a whole 1,000 millilitres more than a Honda Jazz, incidentally, but it’s worth mentioning Honda’s clever stowing Magic Seats here: they make for a more versatile solution than the Baleno’s - which don’t even fold down flat. It’s the list price that’s likely to ruffle feathers, but don’t forget how many toys you’re getting for the cash. The four-wheel steering system, called 4Control, is supposed to bring a feel of RS agility without the extreme cornering commitment needed in those magical products, yet without sacrificing everyday practicality.
The new Megane cabin is on a whole new level compared to the dour environment of the previous car and nearly as high quality as a Peugeot 308. Turn-in is already fairly sharp, but the action of the rear wheels moving by a degree or so to point in the same direction of the fronts is stark.
Result is too much time spent too high in the rev range (not great for achieving the promised 67.3mpg). Seats down you can fit 1950 litres in there, which is 170 litres more than a Passat estate, 95 more than an E-class wagon, 345 more than a Mondeo estate… I could go on. You can go on adding to your heart’s content – Smartlink infotainment (with CarPlay or Android Auto), rear-seat remote control, tri-zone climate, adaptive cruise, traffic-sign recognition – but you might start to panic if signing for a ?40 grand Skoda.
The new front end pulls all the furniture closer to the road, creating a crisp, sharky look, the bold side crease lowers the profile and the car, while bigger inside, looks shorter by virtue of all four wheels being plonked nearer to the corners of VW Group’s ubiquitous MQB platform. If a rock-solid VW is the obvious sensible option and a budget Korean is the cheap-as-chips variety, in some ways, ironically, Skoda remains the quirky, leftfield choice – only now it wears a badge of honour rather than a rotating bow-tie. It's at once Max Power, OTT and brutal - and yet distinctive and an antidote to the sanitised Germanic polish that's gradually become the norm in GTI-ville. No dual-clutch trick 'boxes here; first impressions are of one of the finest manual gear actions around, with a pleasing snickety-snick to its action - just like on the S2000 before it.
From 3500rpm on, it charges to the redline - but watch out for gloopy turbo lag low down where little happens. But not quite, especially with the hard plastics around that big central screen and on the lower surfaces.
It tucks dramatically and fires round, refusing understeer and with tremendous grip and poise. I suggest you try the 2.0 TDI instead – 148bhp ought to be enough – and maybe the 7-speed DSG box in preference to this six-speed manual, too.
In short, can Honda still cut it in an arena beset by talented hot hatchbacks from Ford, Renault and Volkswagen? There's just 40mm between each cog selection, according to Honda; feels like a short-shift to us, although it misses the last n-th degree of slickness that the best Honda manuals enjoyed.

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