Tag Archives | road test

MG6 GT DTi-TECH SE diesel road test review by Oliver Hammond

Take one diesel engine developed by Chinese company SAIC, combine with a healthy dose of Brummy design, mix with a completely new chassis and garnish with an iconic badge. The result? A new MG6 diesel. Yes, at last, the new MG6 can attempt to target the fleet market now that the range includes a diesel powerplant. It’s fair to say you’ve probably not seen many new MG6s on the roads yet, but it’s a landmark model for MG, having risen from the ashes. What did I make of it, after its curtain-twitching arrival on the back of a truck?

MG6 GT DTi-TECH SE road test review by Oliver Hammond - photo - front 2


Manufacturers’ press packs and websites often spout off reams of fancy design terminology to describe every inch of their new models, some firms even delving into philosophy, harmony with nature and a synergy with animals and the human body. The MG6 diesel press pack does no such thing. What we do know is that the MG6’s design seeks to continue the brand’s sporty focus – and that the MG6 was designed by a bloke called Tony, at the MG European Design Centre in Birmingham.

[thethe-image-slider name=”MG6 Slider 1″]

I can’t deny it – the MG6 does look sporty, especially in Regal Red and with its turbine-esque alloy wheels. Although some may say it looks a bit cheerful, I quite like the design of the MG6’s face, with its purposeful stance, athletic lines and large lower grille. The side profile is decent enough, too, looking nicely proportioned, squat and purposeful. I’m not completely struck on the rear, but it does blend in well with the rest of the car. Perhaps the frosted light clusters make it look a little cheap and the rear window looks too small from dead-on. I wouldn’t advise you to poke around the car’s exterior too closely, as I was slightly taken aback by the poor panel gaps and fit and finish in places. But generally speaking, the new MG6 ‘fastback’ GT model is an attractive-enough family car, definitely not classy enough to punch outside its weight category, but offering an interesting alternative to MG’s main rivals the Skoda Rapid and Octavia, and also the Ford Focus segment the MG6 also straddles. Considering this is the first new MG for aeons, they could have Continue Reading →


2013 Mazda6 2.2d diesel manual 175PS Sport Nav Saloon road test review by Oliver Hammond

An all-new Mazda6 saloon isn’t the kind of news that gets everyone excited, but being a saloon lover I for one was really eager to spend a week with one after the very positive reaction it received around its very recent launch. The ‘large family’ and ‘compact executive’ car sectors are rammed full of quite viable choices, so it would be very interesting to see what impression the new ‘6’ made on me. Soon after it arrived, it was clear Sade would approve. Read on to find out what I’m out about and learn how Mazda really is boxing clever at the cutting edge these days.

2013 Mazda6 2-2 diesel Sport Nav 175PS manual saloon road test review by Oliver Hammond Simons Car Spots - photo side Princes


I’ve always believed that the best-looking cars are the ones which look like they’re moving, even when they’re stationary. Mazda think the same thing and this is partly what their ‘KODO’ design philosophy is all about. I guess the guy from Mazda is right when he passionately talks about animals (and in particular, racehorses), athletes, body lines which depict ‘leaping’, and strong hip muscles. The new Mazda6 does indeed look dynamic, athletic and sculpted – and I absolutely love it. It looks splendid from all angles but my personal favourites are the coupe-esque side profile with its sloping roofline down to the boot, and the front-three-quarters, with its bulging, purposeful wheel arches and chrome-accented grille, flanked with attractive LED daytime running lights.

[thethe-image-slider name=”Mazda6 One”]

The Mazda6 is classed as a large family car and in my view it therefore has the best styling in its class. Rivals such as the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia, Skoda Superb and Volkswagen Passat look far less exciting. With striking looks like these, the Mazda6 is capable of poaching a few sales from the executive saloon market and one of the biggest compliments I can pay it is that it Continue Reading →


Suzuki Jimny 1.3 SZ4 road test review by Oliver Hammond

Good grief – the last Suzuki Jimny experience I had was of the soft-top one we hired in Crete a few years ago! That brings back memories, including quite a few hair-raising moments on the country’s abundance of twisty and rocky country roads. Oh, and the beaches. Anyway, back to the point and here we have it, a facelifted Suzuki Jimny. No, you’re not the only one who thinks the Jimny has effectively remained unchanged for what feels like decades. But does it still carve any kind of place for itself in 2013?

2013 Suzuki Jimny 1-3 SZ4 road test review by Oliver Hammond SimonsCarSpots MyCarCoach Car Finder - photo front 34


It’s the most compact 4×4 ‘SUV’ – if you can call it that – on the market and yes, the Jimny hasn’t changed much at all over the decades it’s been knocking around. The Jimny genealogy goes back all the way to 1968 but it was in 1997 when the version familiar to almost everyone was introduced.

Hire Rental Suzuki Jimny Crete Greece

So what’s new now we’re in 2013? The Jimny’s lovable, cheery and characterful face has been mildly tweaked, with a groovy central air intake on the bonnet, a new grille and fog lights, plus alloy wheels. Yup, sorry to disappoint, but that really is about it as far as any styling updates on the outside. One day, I saw no less than eight Jimnys drive past me within 5 miles of leaving the house, so the Jimny’s army of cult followers are apparently still happy with its tried and tested styling.

[thethe-image-slider name=”Jimny 1″]

Taking it at face value, the Jimny does look quite cool, with its chunky wheels, rugged, contrasting bumpers, square silhouette and dinky little, round, beaming headlights, with the very basic, squat rear styling, side-hinged boot and spare tyre on the back giving it a mini-macho image. It would be great to see an all-new Jimny at some point in the near future – but for now, it seems Continue Reading →


2012 Ford Ranger Wildtrak 3.2 diesel automatic road test review by Oliver Hammond

Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love haute cuisine, umpteen-course taster menus and the like. But I’m equally at home with a good old, honest, supersized burger and chunky fries. In fact, I’m often a teeny bit envious of the guy who presents the TV show ‘Man vs Food’. In my case, ‘All things big or beautiful’ are the order of the day. Cue the 2012 model Ford Ranger. It’s certainly big. But is it any good?

2012 Ford Ranger Wildtrak 3-2 diesel automatic road test review by Oliver Hammond photo - front Ridge Hill 1


The new, 2012 model year Ford Ranger looks and indeed is much bigger than the previous model – which not only looked somewhat diminutive in comparison to some other pickup rivals of its day, but also looked rather Hillbilly-ish. Not so the new model, which completely dwarfs it and looks nothing but modern. Ford have done a marvellous job of styling the latest Ranger, which looks very American and will no doubt continue to go down a treat in the vehicle’s far-flung markets all around the globe, especially those in which big pickups are the norm.

[thethe-image-slider name=”Ford Ranger 1″]

Okay, the side profile and the rear of the new Ford Ranger look more or less like its equally massive main rivals, the Nissan Navara, Toyota Hilux and Isuzu D-Max. But then they’re all designed to accomplish the same tasks, so I’ve not got a problem with that. And in my view, the styling of the front of the new Ford Ranger, especially in range-topping Wildtrak guise as tested here, blows the competition out of the water. It looks amazing. You’ll certainly never lose your Wildtrak in a car park if you order it with this press vehicle’s bright orange paint job. Nor will you forget what model you own, as Ford have tastefully etched ‘Ranger’ above the front grille, as well as printed it in huge lettering on the back.

The Ford Ranger means business, which is apparent from the moment you set eyes on it. The gaping wheel arches, large tyres and chunky body panels ooze ruggedness. And the great thing about the new Ranger is that it doesn’t seem to attract the remotest bit of animosity. Neighbours, pedestrians and fellow road-users all looked at the Ranger admiringly and with respect. People realise that it shouldn’t be classed as part of the Chelsea Tractor brigade. The Ranger is, after all, a Continue Reading →


Alfa Romeo MiTo MultiAir Distinctive 1.4 Petrol 135BHP TCT road test review by Oliver Hammond

There’s something about Italian stuff. Most people seem to have the perception that anything from Italy is somehow better – everything from food, wine, fashion and women to history, culture, fancy coffee machines and of course, cars. So what did I personally make of the Alfa MiTo in aptly named ‘Alfa Red’, with its flappy-paddle automatic gearbox and its stop-start 135bhp petrol engine?

Alfa Romeo MiTo MultiAir Distinctive 1-4 Petrol 135BHP TCT road test review by Oliver Hammond - photo front 34b


To me, the MiTo looks like the lovechild of an Alfa Romeo 147 and the Italian firm’s drool-inducing beauty the 8C. The front light clusters are very similar to the 8C’s and partner the 147’s grille very well. The front fog lamps, air intakes, spoiler and other design features all work very well, too. Moving round the car, the side profile of the MiTo looks squat, purposeful and sporty, whilst at the back, the 8C-inspired LED light clusters, large Alfa badge which doubles as the boot release, the chrome exhaust tip and the mesh insert in which the parking sensors are sat, finish off the sexy little Italian’s styling nicely.

Okay, one couldn’t really miss this test MiTo in its bright red colour scheme, which perfectly reflects the spirit of Alfa Romeo. But it’s the little touches and details on the MiTo which really do make it a special object to own. The red brake callipers look great, as do the various flashes of chrome courtesy of the the wing mirrors, the bezels around the rear lights, and the door handles. Alfa Romeo cars have always oozed style and the MiTo is no exception, with its suitably distinctive alloys which look decidedly un-German. The MiTo’s design conveys the car’s sporty nature effectively, without being at all yobbish. Boy racers and chavs need not apply, when it comes to an Alfa Romeo Mito. Okay, a fair number of hairdressers and lettings agent types have subscribed to the MiTo philosophy in droves, but so have a decent number of genuine petrolheads from all walks of life, who love what Alfa Romeo stand for but don’t have the cash, the space or the conscience for a much larger Italian stallion.

[thethe-image-slider name=”MiTo Slider 1″]

Stood still, the MiTo looks great, and on the road, it’s always a pleasure to spot one. Although it did attract some very aggressive comments from one thug who, going by what he was shouting, had seemingly mistaken me for a banker, most other motorists and pedestrians who caught sight of the MiTo looked on appreciatively. It’s a shame the Continue Reading →


Fiat 500 1.3 Multijet diesel Lounge road test review by Oliver Hammond

Go on – admit it. The Fiat 500 is one cute car. Even if you share my preference for large cars, you can’t deny that this little chap looks delightful. Many of my regular readers kept excitedly asking me when the Fiat 500 was coming – such is the interest created by this chic, modern interpretation of an absolute classic. Two of my friends currently own white Fiat 500 hatchbacks and are absolutely smitten by them. Theirs are both Twinair models, though, so it would be interesting to see how I got on with the £15,355, 1.3 stop-start diesel version in top ‘Lounge’ spec. After my week with the car, did I think it was just all looks and no substance?

Fiat 500 1-3 diesel Multijet Lounge 3-door hatchback road test review by Oliver Hammond Simons Car Spots My Car Coach writer - photo - front 34 03


My aforementioned Fiat 500 Twinair-owning friends (one male, one female) are both aged under 40, so it was apt for me to gauge the opinions of slightly older folk, to see if the all-new retro version rekindled the spirit of the original. The Fiat 500 ‘cinquecento’ was born in 1957 to cater for people wanting a stylish, compact and economical car for daily life. In many ways, it was one of the very first city cars, perfect for Italy’s congested metropolises and maintained its position as an aesthetic revelation all through its life, notching up masses of sales all over Europe. Many people in the 50s, 60s and 70s craved a Fiat 500 as their coveted ‘first car’ – my dad included.

In a recent documentary plotting the success of X Factor contestants Jonathan Antoine and Charlotte Jaconelli, an original Fiat 500 passed them on an Italian street and Charlotte exclaimed that it was the most gorgeous car she’d ever seen and she simply had to have one. What about the all-new, retro-inspired Fiat 500? Does it still float the boat of people like my dad who grew up with the trend-setting original, whilst equally captivating nouveaux would-be buyers like Charlotte? In a word, yes. Just like the new MINI and new Beetle, the new Fiat 500 is larger than its ancestor. It attracted a huge amount of attention during my week with it and despite the new 500 not being an uncommon sight on UK roads, it turned a fair few heads, especially in red which is a rarer choice, not seen as often as white ones.

[thethe-image-slider name=”Fiat 500 Slider 1″]

Although the new Fiat 500 is larger, the silhouette and essence of the original remain intact and those lovable, circular headlights continue to recreate the cutesy face of the 50s version. The chrome handles, sporty chrome exhaust pipe, retro steering wheel and wheels positioned on the corners are all features which will both reach out to die-hard fans of the original and to those who don’t realise a previous model even existed. I love the ‘nose and whiskers’ design of the 500’s face, and the little details such as the Italian flag label on the floor mats. The sheer number of Fiat 500s on the roads is a testimony to the new model’s massive popularity. Most people I see driving new 500s are female and I definitely think in male terms that it appeals to the more flamboyant and confident, who are more conscious about how they look than other factors. But hey, as small cars go Continue Reading →


New Kia Rio 1.4 CRDi 3 EcoDynamics 3-door road test review by Oliver Hammond

The new Rio marks the fourth generation in the lineage of this popular model from Korean firm Kia. For the first time in the Rio’s history, a 3-door is available. The all-new Rio faces stiff opposition from the Fiesta, Clio, Corsa, 208 and Polo. We duly tested one for a week to see what it’s made of.

New Kia Rio 3 3-door 1-4 CRDi EcoDynamics diesel road test review by Oliver Hammond - photo - front grille


I’ve always viewed the design of previous generations of Kia as pedestrian and slightly bland. Not so the all-new Rio, which I think looks fantastic in both 5-door and 3-door guises. It looks conservatively sporty from every angle, which is a good start. Kia’s tiger nose family grille has now been given to the Rio and slightly reworked to flow nicely with the funky LED daytime running lights. The light clusters look suitably mean and the new Rio’s face is finished off nicely by the bumper and spoiler design, along with the fog lights.

Moving round to the side, which is one of the all-new Rio 3-door’s best angles in my view, and it strongly reminds me of the second generation Audi A3 3-door. Funny, that, as the latest Kia cars have all been designed under the jurisdiction of Peter Schreyer, who used to work at Audi. The sleek creases and coupe-like roofline flow really nicely into the solid-looking rear of the car, and the VAG-esque 17” alloy wheels look fabulous too. The all-new Rio 3-door looks poised and ready for action.

[thethe-image-slider name=”Kia Rio Slider 1″]

The rear three-quarters and flat-on angles look equally as attractive, with gorgeous LED brake lights and a generally very robust-looking, high quality appearance. My car came in handsome and discrete Graphite Metallic paint, but if you want something extra special, consider a Kia Rio in Electric Blue, which looks fantastic.

So on the outside, the brand new Kia Rio 3-door gets a thumbs-up from me. It might not be an obvious contender when it comes to a sporty supermini, but Continue Reading →


Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.4 Petrol Manual 5-door SZ5 road test review by Oliver Hammond

Have a guess how long the Suzuki Grand Vitara has been around? If I told you the answer is twenty four years, you couldn’t help but be impressed, right? Okay, it’s not quite as long as one of the other 4×4 stalwarts, the Mitsubishi Pajero/Shogun, but the survival of the Grand Vitara tells you Suzuki must have got something right. But in a world where SUVs have fast become fashion accessories for all kinds of different people and have become more and more blingy, is the Grand Vitara now a bit old hat?

Suzuki Grand Vitara 2-4 Petrol Manual SZ5 5-door road test review by Oliver Hammond photo - lead


Compared to the majority of the latest wave of SUVs and most notably to that ultra-sexy, chic and must-have one designed by one Mrs Victoria Beckham, the Suzuki Grand Vitara is unapologetically boxy. But despite being styled as excitingly as a fridge-freezer in the minds of many people, it does have something about it. Its chunky, utilitarian outline reminds people that this ain’t a soft-roader – it’s a proper 4×4 off-roader. ‘All mouth and no trousers’ doesn’t apply to the Grand Vitara, as it can genuinely venture into the rocky, muddy unknown, where many of the more trendily-styled rivals would flop. And to be fair, some buyers actually value anonymity, so the Grand Vitara’s unlikelihood to turn heads and drop jaws is a selling point in their view.

This latest Grand Vitara model comes with indicators integrated into the door mirrors, slight tweaks to the rear to make it more modern, chunky 18” alloy wheels, tinted windows and a more butch front grille and bumpers. The spare wheel carrier on the back has also now been dropped, to try and make the Suzuki appear less ‘UN peace keeping’ and more ‘cool urban warrior’. HID headlights finish off the minutely refreshed look.

[thethe-image-slider name=”Grand Vitara Slider 1″]

Exciting, it’s not – but the Grand Vitara has an enviably robust look about it. You know it’s been around a while, you know you won’t come a cropper off the beaten track, you know you can trust it owing to the firm’s reliable image, and you know it won’t attract much angst, if any, from anti-SUV sections of society. Although it could now do with an entirely new design, The Grand Vitara is Continue Reading →


Suzuki Kizashi road test review by Oliver Hammond

‘A what?’ seemed to be the general consensus. Indeed, the Suzuki Kizashi is a car not many people are aware of. Having seen a Kizashi on the Alpine Course at the Millbrook circuit a few months ago, I was itching to review one – and I’m glad I did!

Suzuki Kizashi road test review by Oliver Hammond - photo - front 34b


The Suzuki Kizashi is the Japanese firm’s new D-Segment offering, meaning it’s a mid-size family saloon – and a sporty one, at that. To me, the Kizashi looks great with its muscular, chiselled, sporty and rakish exterior design. From some angles, the Kizashi isn’t dissimilar to the IS and LS Lexus models, and some may suggest I should take a trip to Specsavers but I think it’s even got a whiff of Honda and Chrysler about it, too. It’s substantially more attractive to look at than the D-segment offerings from Volkswagen and Toyota. It’s a bit smaller than a Mondeo or Insignia and its design looks equally as eye-catching as theirs in my opinion, plus it will be a whole lot more individual due to Suzuki limiting Kizashi numbers in the UK to only Continue Reading →


New 2012 SEAT Ibiza 5dr FR 2.0 TDI 143PS road test review by Oliver Hammond

Having had a SEAT in our household fleet for over four years, my desire to put the Iberian firm’s new, revised Ibiza in range-topping FR guise through its paces was high – especially in light of the impressive headline figures of 143PS from its torquey 2-litre TDI engine and 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds, while supposedly averaging an eyebrow-raising 60.1mpg. Un caliente hatchback bueno?

New 2012 SEAT Ibiza 5dr FR 2-0 TDI 143PS road test review by Oliver Hammond - photo - Bolton Abbey Steam Railway front 34b

Under the wings of the Volkswagen Group, SEAT as a brand has come on leaps and bounds in the UK over the last few years and has just experienced its most successful annual sales to date, ever. I don’t know how much of it’s down to the car’s being named after one of the world’s top party islands, but the Ibiza still reigns as the top-selling SEAT around the world. SEAT is a confident brand on a one-way upward trend, so nobody can blame them for regularly twiddling with their range, gradually introducing elements from their snazzy concept cars and making other improvements. The SEAT Ibiza is amazingly now in its fourth generation and looks, well… read on!

Passionate Hispanic styling? Not half!

This is the facelifted Mk4 SEAT Ibiza, introduced in the UK only a few months ago – so think of it as the Mk4b, as it were. SEAT call their improvement programme ‘Enjoyneering’ and they’ve enjoyneered the Ibiza very well indeed. Granted, the FR version I drove for a week didn’t possess a drop of discretion in its daring, shouty (and very popular, I might add) Lima Green colour scheme. But that’s what many buyers want from a warm hatch – the ‘look at me!’ factor. And when you do look purposefully at the revised 2012 SEAT Ibiza, what do you see? A crisp, clean, aggressive and solid face, for starters, courtesy of SEAT’s ‘Arrow Design’ philosophy, with its facial features sculpted round a ‘V’ idea. SEAT’s design bods have sharpened and narrowed the trapezoidal grille, lowered the air intake, made the fog light bezels more angular and added a few effective creases to the front-end, under the watchful eyes of new Design Director Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos. The headlights on the Ibiza are new, too, and the swage line gives the car a muscular, confident stance.

New 2012 SEAT Ibiza 5dr FR 2-0 TDI 143PS road test review by Oliver Hammond - photo - Stalybridge arches 3

Face-on and from the front-three-quarters angle, the Ibiza FR looks great, dishing up enough sporty features to keep the warm hatch brigade happy without alienating more shy and retiring buyers who would go for the more conservative colours. It’s not in-yer-face design and perfectly blends Hispanic flair with Germanic quality and solidity. The FR badges on the front grille and boot let the more discerning admirers know that this is the ‘special’ model from the Ibiza range and the LED lights integrated into the swooping headlight clusters look fantastic.

[thethe-image-slider name=”SEAT Ibiza slider 1″]

The side profile of the new Ibiza 5-door FR doesn’t look bad either, the swage line, kicked-up rear window, privacy glass and side skirts catching one’s eye, with the optional 17” Tagus wheels filling the flared arches nicely. All the lines and creases incorporated into the Ibiza’s sides flow cohesively to the rear. Okay, the back isn’t quite as aggressive and sporty as the Ibiza FR’s new face but the FR logo, twin chrome exhaust, crisp light clusters and actually-quite-attractive black bumper finish the car off suitably well. As ever, the large SEAT logo on the back acts as the boot release. And the design of the rear comes alive in the dark, with beautiful strips of LEDs which form a ‘tick’ effect.

New 2012 SEAT Ibiza 5dr FR 2-0 TDI 143PS road test review by Oliver Hammond - photo - Stalybridge arches 4

The new SEAT Ibiza FR 5-door certainly does it for me in the design stakes and when you think about its realistic rivals like the Vauxhall Corsa, Ford Fiesta, Suzuki Swift, MINI, Peugeot 208, Renault Clio, Citroen C3, Fiat Punto and the Kia Rio, the Ibiza holds its head high with pride, looking equally as good as, if not slightly better than, the best of them.

Are you SEATed comfortably?

Has the solid quality associated with cars from the upper tiers of the Volkswagen Group trickled down to the SEAT range and this latest Ibiza? Yes, it has, from the thudding doors and tight panels to the sturdy if slightly sombre interior. The sports bucket seats were surprisingly brilliant, providing a lot of support but managing to not be overly hard either. The driver’s seat is handily height adjustable and the red stitching brought some sporty flair to the cabin. I just wish the seats were electrically adjustable. The flat-bottomed sports steering wheel bears an FR badge and red stitching and the FR spec’ also gives you a leather gearstick gaiter. But that’s where the sporty touches end, really. In the same ilk as Skoda vRS models, the Ibiza FR I drove was definitely conservative inside. No bad thing, though, unless you’re someone who likes flamboyant interiors like the Kia Soul Hunter’s tartan seats.

[thethe-image-slider name=”SEAT Ibiza slider 2″]

Space in the front was decent enough for a relatively small car, but oddment storage areas weren’t as plentiful as I would have liked, being mainly restricted to the glovebox and door bins. The handbrake and plastic area it’s seated on along with the 12V socket and cupholders were all rather cheap feeling – not flimsy, but not tactile. The grab handles weren’t damped, either. But all in all, the interior of the new SEAT Ibiza does feel like it will last and is on the whole of a good quality. The red hue to the instruments, climate control and central infotainment system provides a classy aura, the design of the air vents in the centre of the dashboard is attractive, SEAT have used soft touch materials across some of the dashboard and given the FR’s steering binnacle a glossy metallic look. The CD-radio system produced a very good sound indeed with no discernible distortion even when cranked right to the max’ and the digital climate control system worked efficiently, pumping out cool or warm air very promptly after I’d selected it.

New 2012 SEAT Ibiza 5dr FR 2-0 TDI 143PS road test review by Oliver Hammond - photo - front cockpit

I took three passengers on a 30-mile journey and the two tall rear passengers commented that although the headroom could have been slightly better, they found the back seats in the Ibiza FR very comfortable and supportive and they surprisingly had no complaints about legroom – but remember that it was a fairly short journey.

Forgetting the price for a moment, the specification of this 2012 Ibiza FR 5dr was pleasantly high, fitted with cruise control, light and rain sensors, an auto-dimming rear view mirror and auto-folding door mirrors courtesy of the ‘Technology Pack’. The Bluetooth Communications Pack came with USB and AUX sockets, handsfree phone connection with voice control and two dedicated speakers and an adaptor for full iPod integration. The Bluetooth wasn’t as easy to connect to as other systems I’ve used, ironically because it’s a rather more simple system and puts the onus on the phone handset, as the car ‘end’ is always on. A feature I always appreciate is Hill Hold Control, which this FR had, along with Bi-Xenon Adaptive headlights with washers and LED DRLs, which looked great and worked well. Other options fitted to this particular car included privacy glass, rear electric windows which I feel I should mention cost £155, a panoramic glass sunroof and a pre-installed TomTom sat nav which you could shove away in the glovebox whenever you park up or just don’t want to use it.

New 2012 SEAT Ibiza 5dr FR 2-0 TDI 143PS road test review by Oliver Hammond - photo - dashboard front stack

Practicality & Manoeuvrability

I wasn’t expecting the boot to be up to much, having made a few quick glances into it during the first few days. Then came the usual weekend supermarket shop test and to my pleasant surprise, the SEAT Ibiza 5dr’s boot swallowed our eight usual shopping bags comfortably. Thumbs up there, then – although you might struggle when it comes to fitting a family of four’s suitcases in the boot for a staycation or the like. The actual volume of the standard boot itself is 270 litres, expanding to 601 litres when the split-folding rear seats are flattened. This obviously allows you to carry much larger loads, minus any rear passengers of course – but bear in mind that there’s a pronounced boot lip hindering load-in somewhat, the wheel arches eat into some of the boot space and the exposed yellow foam undersides of the rear seats are a bit ugly. Generally speaking, it’s a good, old-fashioned, ‘does what it says on the tin’ kind of boot, with no fancy storage boxes in its walls, no bag hooks or the like, but is of a reasonably good size for a small warm hatch like this. Folding the back seats down is a doddle and a space saver tyre is stored under the boot floor.

[thethe-image-slider name=”SEAT Ibiza slider 3″]

Manoeuvring the 5dr SEAT Ibiza FR was aided by means of its good turning circle (10.48m to be precise), good visibility and compact dimensions. This press car wasn’t specified with parking sensors, but you can get by without them on a car like this. The steering was nicely weighted at slow, town-driving speeds, so it wasn’t an effort to thread the Ibiza FR in and out of tight spaces and the modestly-sized 45-litre fuel tank will see you through plenty of miles thanks to the car’s excellent fuel consumption. The Ibiza FR 5dr is therefore an ideal car for singletons, couples or small families.

New 2012 SEAT Ibiza 5dr FR 2-0 TDI 143PS road test review by Oliver Hammond - photo - boot luggage capacity

On the road

A warm hatch like the SEAT Ibiza FR, and especially one as daringly-coloured as this one, had better perform well. And fortunately for the latest FR 2.0 TDI, it does. The clutch and pedals were nicely positioned and had a good feel to them, which definitely helps for starters. The 2-litre, 143PS diesel engine isn’t the most muted out there, but if you’re at all familiar with VAG engines, you’ll have expected that like I did. The gearstick itself felt a bit flimsy but the actual gear changes and 6-speed gearbox were very smooth, which is something that can either make or break one’s bonding with a car. In this case, it helped make it. The gear ratios seemed sensibly programmed, too, whether I drove sportily or sedately. Gears one to four are set up for brisk progress, with the longer-ratio fifth and sixth gears reserved for achieving that excellent fuel economy on the open road.

New 2012 SEAT Ibiza 5dr FR 2-0 TDI 143PS road test review by Oliver Hammond - photo - Bolton Abbey Steam Railway rear 34b

What with the FR badges, more aggressive styling and ‘look at me’ colour, I just couldn’t help myself but push the Ibiza FR from the off. And I must say that considering a 2.0 TDI engine was providing the power, it was a positive experience. There is a bit of diesel clatter, yes, but the exhaust note’s reasonably decent at the same time – and boy, the engine was pretty punchy. Generous power was on tap in all the gears, allowing you to either sprint away from the lights, pull quite nicely to execute audacious overtaking moves on A-roads and motorways and climb steep gradients without having to worry too much about dropping down the gears. A lot of the Ibiza FR’s ability to pick up its skirts and build up speed nicely is down to the impressive 320Nm of torque from the 143PS engine, combined with the smooth 6-speed manual gearbox. The quoted 8.2 seconds to get to 62mph sounds and feels about right and the Ibiza FR will apparently do a top speed of 130mph.

[thethe-image-slider name=”SEAT Ibiza slider 4″]

The chunky sports steering wheel is attached to a well-balanced and weighted electro-mechanical, speed-sensitive steering setup which promotes confidence in you to chuck the Ibiza FR 5dr round bends. If you like pushing a car to its limits (or to the boundaries of your own limitations, more like) you’ll encounter a bit of understeer, but the majority of drivers won’t notice it, as the Ibiza FR 2.0 TDI dishes up a lot of fun even with driven a long way short of its capabilities. It’s the Ibiza range’s sporty offering so yes, the ride has been firmed up on the FR, but I honestly didn’t find it bone-shaking and thought the car tackled the UK’s pothole-ridden roads very well, not crashing into potholes with any annoying jarring, but biffing through them with confidence. The firm ride naturally works wonders on the twisty stuff, too, the FR sitting 15mm lower than other model variants and having a stiffer anti-roll bar fitted. I’ve driven several other hot or warm versions of various makes and models in recent months and was impressed by the Ibiza, which was more immediately engaging that the Fiesta Metal which really needed pushing hard to get any sporty satisfaction out of it, as did the Skoda Octavia vRS in fact. I didn’t find the Ibiza FR diesel quite as engaging and addictive as the Suzuki Swift Sport, but admittedly the SSS is a different kettle of fish – and what the Ibiza FR 2.0 TDI does bring to the table by way of USPs is frugality, punchiness and a sprinkling of Iberian individuality. Just ignore the gear change indicator and trust your own instincts, whilst realising that the Ibiza FR isn’t a rev-mad kind of car so there’s no gain to be had from pushing it into the red. Just let the mid-band torque do its thing and you’ll be happy.

New 2012 SEAT Ibiza 5dr FR 2-0 TDI 143PS road test review by Oliver Hammond - photo - Bolton Abbey Steam Railway side 34d

SEAT publish a combined fuel consumption figure of 60.1mpg and I was pleasantly surprised to have averaged 56.1mpg over the course of the week, which included a lot of spirited driving. The 45mpg I always saw on the display when tootling around town is equally close to SEAT’s official urban figure of 47.1mpg. CO2 emissions are fairly good at 123g/km, it sits in road tax band D so costs you nothing for the first year, servicing is every 12 months or 10,000 miles (and shouldn’t prove expensive, from my experience with SEAT main dealers) and BIK is 18%.

In Summary

The new SEAT Ibiza FR 2.0 TDI 5dr looks great, if not as sporty as its SC sibling nor indeed the new Cupra when it comes out. It offers the practicality of having decently-proportioned doors and reasonable amounts of space for rear passengers over short and medium journeys, combined with a more than ample boot. It’s let down a little by some poor interior plastics but does feel robust and is ergonomically sound with a good driving position and plenty of standard and optional kit. The 2-litre diesel engine is standard VAG fare but suits the small Ibiza well, giving it plenty of punchy torque and a fairly fun driving experience.

New 2012 SEAT Ibiza 5dr FR 2-0 TDI 143PS road test review by Oliver Hammond - photo - FR badge closeup

It’s definitely a warm hatch as opposed to a truly hot one, so it’s best not to compare it with the Clio RenaultSport nor any of the other hot hatch greats, leaving the Ibiza Cupra to tackle those boys. The £16,840 base price of the Ibiza FR 2.0 TDI 5dr I tested puts it at the top of price band for small warm hatches and the total price after options of just over £20,000 does make the Ibiza 5dr FR expensive, costing about £1,000-£1,500 more than rivals carrying the same options. But which of them offer a powerful 2-litre diesel engine putting out 143PS whilst returning a combined MPG figure of 60.1? Perhaps only the equivalent MINI, which costs slightly more. This sets the Ibiza FR 5dr diesel apart and certainly means it’s worth considering if you’ve got a child or two and do a lot of miles. Overall, a very good effort from SEAT.

© Oliver Hammond


Specification of the New SEAT Ibiza 5dr FR 2.0 TDI 143PS tested in this review

Engine: 1,968cc, 4-cylinder diesel
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Max Output: 143PS
Max Torque: 320NM
Top Speed: 130mph
0-60mph: 8.2 seconds
Combined fuel economy: 60.1mpg
Fuel tank capacity: 45 litres
CO2 Emissions: 123g/km
Gross Weight: 1,696kg
Max Towing Weight (braked): 1,200kg
Boot capacity: 270 litres (rear seats up), 601 litres (rear seats down, brimmed to the roof)
Dimensions: 4,082mm long, 1,693mm wide including mirrors, 1,441mm high

Standard Specification includes (but not limited to):

Height adjustable passenger and driver’s seats
12V accessory socket in centre console
Height and reach adjustable steering wheel
Illuminated boot
3 cupholders
Illuminated glovebox
Auxiliary input socket
Isofix system on outer rear seats
Body colour door handles, mirrors and bumpers
LED tail lights
Leather steering wheel and gear knob with red stitching
Child locks on rear doors and Deadlocks
MP3, AM/FM radio, (single) CD player, four speakers
Coming home lights
One touch electric windows (front)
Cruise control
Air conditioning with pollen filter
Rear wiper
Digital clock
Remote central locking
Driver and passenger airbags
SEAT logo boot release
Electric headlight adjustment
Electro-mechanical, speed-sensitive power steering
Electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors
Split folding rear seats
FR Sports seats
Sports suspension (15mm lower)
Audio controls mounted on steering wheel
Front seatback pockets
Trip computer
Front side airbags
Twin chrome exhaust pipes
Tyre repair kit
Volumetric alarm

Options fitted to this particular press vehicle:

17” Tagus alloy wheels £150
Space-saving spare wheel £95
Climate control £310

Technology Pack (cruise control, light sensor, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming rear view mirror, electric folding mirrors) £550

Bluetooth Communications Pack and USB/AUC port with handsfree phone connection, voice control and two additional speakers, plus adaptor for full iPod integration £410

Hill Hold Control and tyre pressure monitoring £50
Bi-Xenon headlights (Adaptive Front Lighting System – AFS) £765
Dark tinted windows £155
Rear electric windows £155
Panoramic glass sunroof £490
Navigation pre-installation for TomTom sat nav £40


Ford Fiesta Metal 1.6 TiVCT Duratec 134PS Road Test Review by Oliver Hammond

Think Ford and chances are that a lot of you may well think Fiesta. Since its launch in 1976 the Fiesta has enjoyed a fantastically successful life – and still does to this day. The year 1980 heralded the first ‘sport version’ of the Fiesta, in the form of the 1.3L Supersport, which paved the way for the eponymous XR2. My first Fiesta memories are of the third generation model in the late 80s/early 90s, on family holidays in the Algarve. Around this time, ‘Zetec’ became the sporty choice of Fiesta. Twenty years on and the Zetec name, now assigned to the sixth generation Fiesta model in Zetec S guise, is still considered one of the best hot superminis on the market. Until the seventh generation Fiesta arrives in 2013 with its range-topping ST variant, Ford released a special edition hot Fiesta in the form of the ‘Metal’. What did I make of it?

Ford Fiesta Metal 1-6 TiVCT Duratec 134PS Road Test Review by Oliver Hammond - Skipton castle 02

Panther Looks

Ford’s marketing material for the special edition ‘Metal’ Fiesta usually features one in the ‘Panther Black’ colour choice, so I was delighted when my press car arrived in said colour. I would forgive the Fiesta Metal if it suddenly developed a voice and told me it was feeling a little apprehensive, as the previous car I reviewed was another warm supermini – a very good one, in fact, in the form of the new Suzuki Swift Sport. But on first impressions in the looks department, the Fiesta Metal needn’t worry as it’s a stylish and attractive car with a very respected image. The Metal edition of this 3-door, fun-oriented favourite is usually set apart by its Panther Black 17” alloy wheels, but unfortunately they had become so badly scuffed that the Ford Press Office decided to send my car out with the shiny ‘normal’ versions. I wasn’t bothered, as they still looked great. Other tell-tale signs on the Fiesta Metal include the silver-painted front grille surround, aerofoil and fog light bezels, the stainless steel scuff plates and the tasty chrome twin exhaust pipes – oh, and the sizeable rear spoiler along with the reworked, sporty rear bumper skirt.

[thethe-image-slider name=”Fiesta Metal Review Slider 1″]

From the front, the Fiesta Metal looks sleek and menacing, in a cheeky kind of way. It looks classy in black, too, and the sweeping Halogen projector headlamps and chrome touches give it a kinetic appeal in line with Ford’s ‘jewel’ ethos for the Fiesta. Attention to detail can be implemented too strongly in some cases, but Ford have got the balance just right. Side-on, the doors are long, as you would expect from a 3-door hatch like this and all the lines flow nicely to the rear. The blacked-out privacy glass adds to the sporty appearance and at the rear, the light clusters are certainly attractive and trendy, including LED brake lights – and the aforementioned twin chrome exhausts let cars behind know that this is no ordinary Fiesta but a hot-ish one.


Inside the Fiesta Metal, everything really is rather nice. The first thing to catch my eye was the tasteful, elegant Ebony black leather sports-style seats with silver stitching. They looked fantastic and were very comfortable, but the side supports weren’t as cossetting as a Suzuki Swift Sport’s for example – so don’t expect to be hugged in quite as tightly around sharp corners.

The sporty edge to the Fiesta Metal is reinforced by the alloy aluminium pedals with non-slip rubber inserts, which proved very welcome during the abysmally wet week the Metal was in my custody. There’s also an attractive piano black finish to the centre stack, the air vent bezels and the door grabs. Other metallic-finish bits and pieces are dotted around the cabin, such as on the leather-trimmed gearstick, the handbrake and the 3-spoke steering wheel. The floor mats are finished off with silver piping and stainless steel scuff plates are integrated into the door sills.

[thethe-image-slider name=”Fiesta Metal Review Slider 2″]

Keyless entry and start is a welcome feature, saving faffing around with keys, and everything feels very well put together in the Fiesta Metal. Okay, some of the plastics aren’t from the upper echelons of Ford’s parts bin, but they all feel sturdy, long-lasting and tactile.
Some may think the centre stack looks a bit of a fussy affair, emblazoned with hordes of little buttons and I actually found some of the rotary controls and other less-obvious buttons a bit tricky to master on the first attempt. It was worth persevering, though, as the sound quality from the Sony DAB digital radio and CD audio system was very good, and Bluetooth connected with no bother at all.

Behind the Wheel

Before the Fiesta Metal came along, the Fiesta top dogs were the Zetec S and the limited edition S1600, which both had 118bhp in standard form. The Metal builds on the feisty 1.6-litre Zetec S/S1600 setup and brings 132bhp to the party, along with a close-ratio 5-speed gearbox, a reworked exhaust system and a new low-loss air intake configuration, to eke out as much power as possible. The Fiesta Metal was launched less than a year ago and Auto Express magazine impressively awarded it 7th place out of 30, in their hunt for the Performance Car of The Year 2011.

[thethe-image-slider name=”Fiesta Metal Review Slider 4″]

You already know I was impressed by its classy and well-built interior, but how did it perform on the road? The engine is refined and hushed if you’re gentle with your right foot, but push the Fiesta Metal hard and you’re in for a treat. One of the special little characteristics I loved about the Fiesta Metal was its exhaust note, which was surprisingly barky for a relatively modest and low-powered sports supermini like this. The Suzuki Swift Sport I drove last week had six gears, so it felt odd to me knowing that the Fiesta only had five – but having said that, it felt pretty refined on the motorway despite its lack of a sixth gear.

There was a fair bit of road noise at times, both at slow and fast speeds and especially over poor road surfaces, but despite the noise intrusion, the actual handling was very good indeed. The lowered sports suspension handled corners and uneven surfaces excellently, taking both in its stride. A car like this has got to be fun and the Fiesta certainly didn’t disappoint, its effective suspension, handling and nicely weighted steering contributing to its immense chuckability in corners. If driven with revs in mind, pushing it up into the 5-7,000RPM band when possible, the Fiesta Metal’s spritely, vocal little engine eggs the driver on, enhancing the engaging drive and resulting in punchy performance. Turn the wheel as sharply as you like and the Fiesta’s precise front end goes exactly where you point it, with very little body roll. The brakes, too, are nicely progressive once you get used to them.

A car for every day?

Whereas the Suzuki Swift Sport provided a good serving of sensations and smiles at low speeds even when one wasn’t particularly trying to induce them, the Fiesta Metal felt like it needed to be pushed hard to produce the same smiles. Perhaps it’s because the interior is so refined and polished. Whatever the case, it didn’t help the fuel economy. Ford quote 47.9MPG on the combined cycle. In the Suzuki Swift, I actually achieved its quoted figure, but not in the Fiesta Metal, averaging 37.5MPG. If you could stomach spending the £17,865 this particular car and spec would cost, whilst returning ten MPG less than the published figure, then you’ll like the Metal. Otherwise, perhaps look at one of the other models in the Fiesta range, offering a little less sporty behaviour but still presenting a refined, luxurious, feature-packed and great-handling package.

[thethe-image-slider name=”Fiesta Metal Review Slider 3″]

Up front, the Fiesta Metal 3-door was roomy and comfortable, but in the back, passengers struggled owing to the poor legroom. Unless Ronnie Corbett is driving, the Metal won’t prove great for long or even medium-length trips, but for short trips, it’ll do. The seatbelts for front occupants are situated quite far back, requiring a long, contorted stretch to grab hold of the buckle, and the long metal runner for the seatbelts spoils the car’s interior ever so slightly.

For such a highly-specified car jam-packed with all the latest features, it was odd to have to fold the wing mirrors manually. But having said that, the mirrors themselves were lovely and wide, with an attractive and aerodynamic design. Ford’s revered heated Quickclear windscreen did a brilliant job, too. The boot managed to swallow our weekly supermarket shopping, to my surprise, and the back seats split and fold (not perfectly flat, but not bad) to allow the carrying of larger loads. The metal strut left standing in the boot is a bit of an odd one, though, and could have been tidied up by the designers. Manoeuvring the Fiesta was easy due to its compact dimensions, but on full lock it felt like the track rod ends were iffy, and rear visibility could have been better – restricted somewhat by its raked rear-end design. So it was a saviour that Ford have fitted the Fiesta Metal with rear parking sensors and also a reversing camera, which is displayed on the rear view mirror. The last small car I drove which had a reversing camera display integrated into the rear view mirror was the Kia Soul – so well done to Ford for making this available in the Fiesta, albeit as a £475 option.

CO2 emissions from the Fiesta Metal at 139g/km are better than the Suzuki Swift Sport which puts out 147g/km. Annual road tax will cost you a modest £115 and the Fiesta Metal’s boot space of 211 litres with the rear seats up compares well to the Swift’s 211 litres, whilst the Fiesta Metal offers a relatively impressive 979 litres with its back seats folded down.

In Summary

With a limited run of just 1,000 having been unleashed throughout the UK, the Fiesta Metal should prove fairly scarce if you’re into your exclusivity. It’s a few grand dearer than the Suzuki Swift Sport and RenaultSport Twingo Cup, which are very similar cars in terms of their headline figures. The Fiesta Metal may sometimes leave you feeling it’s slightly underpowered and you do need to drive it hard to get the best out of it. Nevertheless, it’s a remarkably agile car with crisp handling and a nice rorty exhaust note. Rear space isn’t brilliant, but it seldom is in small cars like this, and what the Fiesta Metal does bring to the party is a very decent dose of luxury and a strong equipment list, combing well with its sinister-but-smart appearance, resulting in quite a sophisticated warm supermini definitely worth test driving before you plump for one.

© Oliver Hammond

Specification of the Ford Fiesta Metal 1.6 TiVCT Duratec (134PS) Stage V tested in this review

Power: 134 PS
Max Speed MPH: 121
0-62 MPH (secs): 8.7
Urban MPG: 35.3
Extra Urban MPG: 58.9
Combined MPG: 47.9
CO2 Emission: 139
Tyre Size (inches): 17

Key features of the ‘Metal’ model’s specification

17” 5-spoke Panther Black alloy wheels
3-spoke leather steering wheel
4 front speakers
Air conditioning
Alloy pedals
Body colour front and rear bumper skirts
Body colour rear sports spoiler
Chrome twin exhaust tailpipes
Ebony black leather sports-style seats with silver stitching
Lowered sports suspension
Perimeter alarm
Quickclear heated windscreen
Side skirts
Silver interior trim headlights
Silver surround grille, front aerofoil, front fog light bezels
Sports front seats

Optional Extras fitted to this press car

Keyless Start £200
Privacy Glass £75
Sony DAB Radio, Bluetooth & Voice control £475.00
Spare Wheel £95
Alloy (Silver)- 17″x 7″, 5-Spoke , 205/40 tyres £50
Rear camera-Inc Rear Parking Sensors, auto dim mirror, auto h/lights and wipers £475.00
Metallic Paint – Panther Black £495.00

Total on-the-road price of this press car: £17,865.00


Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TFSI Hatch Road Test Review by Oliver Hammond

In rather conspicuous but nevertheless gorgeous Storm Blue metallic paint and adorned with a sizeable boot spoiler, a gaping, aggressive front grille and chunky bumpers, shiny red brake callipers, sporty 18” Neptune alloy wheels and a few tasteful vRS badges dotted around the place, the Škoda Octavia vRS hatch certainly makes for an attention-grabbing package. But does it drive as well as it looks and how does it fare in general terms?

2012-06-16 Skoda Octavia vRS TFSI petrol 200PS hatch road test review by Oliver Hammond SimonsCarSpots - lead photo

Czech me out!

Having reviewed a whole stream of white-coloured press cars over recent weeks, I was delighted when my latest test car, the Škoda Octavia vRS hatch, rolled up in a wonderfully sporty, vivid and invigorating shade of electric blue. Red brake callipers make any decent car look even more meaningful, but spoilers can sometimes make or break a car. The Octavia vRS is well-respected without any hint of chaviness about it and I think the whole sport package is pulled off rather well, in a classy, desirable kind of way. In my view, it looks great from most angles, especially to the front and sides. This generation of the Octavia has been around since 2005 and was facelifted in 2009, but the rear could perhaps do with some fresh cosmetic work once again. This is the kind of sports hatch that can be appreciated by both younger sections of society and also the more mature. Obviously, if you want slightly more discretion, just opt for one of the more subtle colour choices. Size-wise, despite being quite large at 4.57m in length and just over 2m wide including wing mirrors, it’s a fairly easy car to drive, even without parking sensors. And being made by Škoda who are part of the Volkswagen Group (VAG), it has an exceptionally solid and reliable image to it. Although not perhaps quite as meticulously built as an Audi, the Octavia looks inarguably solid with nice tight panels. As with the rest of their current range in general, Škoda have given the Octavia Continue Reading →


Peugeot 3008 1.6 HDi 112 FAP Sportium Road Test Review by Oliver Hammond

A 5am start ahead of a 3-hour drive from Oldham in Lancashire down to Millbrook in Bedfordshire for the 2012 SMMT Test Day certainly provided a good opportunity to assess this limited edition Sportium version of Peugeot’s 3008 crossover. Read on to find out how this 1.6-litre diesel model fared on our Millbrook-bound road trip encompassing the windy, undulating Woodhead Pass and the good ol’ M1.

The car that wants to be everything

With the Nissan Qashqai and the surge of other crossovers set firmly in its sights, the Peugeot 3008 set out to combine style, safety, practicality, environmental friendliness, high quality comfort and desirability into one package. Blending the best of hatchback, SUV and MPV together, Peugeot also wanted the 3008 crossover to be enjoyable to drive – not just simply a lifeless family wagon.

Peugeot 3008 HDi 112 FAP Sportium road test review by Oliver Hammond SimonsCarSpots - front 34 photo lead

Aiming to tick the hatchback box with a comfortable driving position, decent handling and strong road-holding, the SUV box with its high-up driving position, split tailgate and rugged looks, and the MPV box by means of bags of interior space and practicality, the Peugeot 3008 crossover was certainly Continue Reading →


Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes