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2015 Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX: how easy is it to live with?

2015 Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX: how easy is it to live with?

2015 Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX: how easy is it to live with?

I’ve been driving the HR-V for almost a couple of months. Just like the bigger CR-V I ran for an extended period a couple of years ago, there’s something amazingly comforting about how instantly easy this HR-V is to live with. Jump in, press the start button and off you go.

2015 Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX: new arrival

Some will home in on the pointlessness of certain features. That button to start the car, rather than putting the key into the ignition. Keyless doors are standard on this top model, but I sense there’s antipathy growing towards this feature with the reported security implications on other cars. The handbrake is an electrical switch rather than a lever. I’ve still yet to work out what was wrong with a good old-fashioned handbrake.

Yet there’s something to be said even for this, because when you stop on a hill, the handbrake automatically stays on for a second as you move your foot from brake to accelerator, so you don’t need to manually operate the brake and go through a driving-test hill-start procedure.

Like most tall cars, the HR-V has firm suspension in order to stop the body leaning too much in corners. I’m quite happy with it, but my wife has noticed that is seems firmer than her Kia Sportage. I am sure she’ll get used to it.

2015 Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX: how easy is it to live with?

Leather seats are standard on the top model so seat heating becomes essential too, and the two-stage system fitted to the HR-V is powerful without being overwhelming. Just as well, because the diesel engine seems to take a good while to warm through.

An overlooked area of the HR-V’s design concerns the side windows. They don’t clear condensation from the outside when they are wound down. As autumn has set in that has meant walking around the car with a sponge cleaning the windows before driving off, which becomes irksome.

I love the cargo space. There’s plenty of stowage in the front, and a really massive boot, helped by the fact that there is no spare wheel, just a pack of tyre sealant. Shopping gets lost here, and tends to roll around. I must get some type of restraint system. Why don’t car manufacturers think of this themselves? It isn’t just Honda. It’s almost every brand you can think of.

The HR-V is going into hibernation for a few weeks as I head off to Australia. Before I go, I should tell you that the economy is wonderful. 58mpg gets you a range tantalisingly close to 600 miles before a garage visit.

Specification: 2015 Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX manual
Price (October 2015): £24,495
Price with options: £25,470 (metallic paint £525)
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power: 120hp
Torque: 221lb ft
0-62mph: 10.5 secs
Top speed: 119mph
MPG: 68.9
CO2: 104g/km

2015 Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX: new arrival

2015 Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX: new arrival

2015 Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX: new arrival

I have a bit of a fascination for “crossovers”. The bastardisation of a full-bloodied 4×4 with a family hatchback at first seems like a marketing man’s fantasy, but it actually does the business for an increasing number of car owners. So what’s the big deal?

It’s the combination of space and style that ticks the boxes for so many. Build your regular hatchback somewhat taller, and make it look like it’s capable of, if not climbing a mountain pass, at least pulling a horsebox out of a field, and you are onto a winner. By dispensing with four-wheel-drive the purchase price and the fuel economy are kept in check.

There’s now a host of what we’ll call compact crossovers. Alongside the new Honda HR-V sit cars like the Fiat 500X, Ford EcoSport, Mazda CX-3, Mini Countryman, Mitsubishi ASX, Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur, Ssangyong Tivoli, Suzuki SX4 and Vauxhall Mokka. And of course, the car that still sets the benchmark for outlandish styling, Nissan’s Juke.

Quite why anyone buys a Focus/Golf/Astra hatchback any more I am not really sure. The Honda HR-V is the newest kid on the block and it promises to match or better the interior space of these old-school cars while costing hardly any more. The HR-V looks especially good in my eyes, too.

HR-V model range

Honda has gone so far as to acknowledge that UK buyers aren’t really fussed about four-wheel-drive, as long as their car looks like it might have off-road ability. So it’s front-wheel-drive only, even though a 4×4 HR-V is available in other markets. Engine choice is simple, 1.6-litre diesel or 1.5 petrol, with only the latter available with automatic transmission. That’s a black mark against the HR-V immediately, for I like a diesel auto.

Still Honda is renowned for it’s brilliantly easy manual gearchanges, so it’s a manual diesel HR-V we’ve added to the MR test fleet. The diesel range starts at £19,745 for the S, rising to £25k for the 1.6 i-DTEC EX. The equivalent petrol models are around £1,750 cheaper, starting at £18k.

The EX probably won’t be the most popular HR-V, for the SE Navi is almost £3,000 less. You’ll miss out on the heated leather seats, rear-view camera, LED headlights and panoramic sunroof of the EX, but many will live with that for the saving. Automatic transmission adds £1,100 to the cost of the petrol HR-V.

Notepad

Roomy, easy to drive, amazing fuel economy are the positives so far. I am struggling with the integrated Garmin satellite navigation/ infotainment system at the moment, and I haven’t got a clue about “Aha” app integration. But there’s plenty of time to find out.

Specification: 2015 Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX manual

Price (October 2015): £24,495
Price with options: £25,470 (metallic paint £525)
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power: 120hp
Torque: 221lb ft
0-62mph: 10.5 secs
Top speed: 119mph
MPG: 68.9
CO2: 104g/km

2015 Ford C-Max 1.5 TDCI Titanium X: new arrival

2015 Ford C-Max 1.5 TDCI Titanium X: new arrival

2015 Ford C-Max 1.5 TDCI Titanium X: new arrival

Picture the scene. It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon, I’m driving home from a great day at the Beaulieu Autojumble and I’ve left enough time to take the scenic route up the A34 rather than around the M25. I’m in MR’s brand-spanking new long-termer, a Ford Focus C-Max 1.5 TDCI, and it’s bimbling along nicely returning silly MPG.

Dermot O’Leary is on top form on Radio 2, and the only thing that could make life better is a good cup of tea.

I pull off at Tot Hill services, near Newbury, and pop into McDonalds for a quick brew. On returning to the C-Max, I reach into my pocket for the keys, and they’re not there. I check the other pocket, nope. That feeling when you realise you’ve lost something very important? That.

The keys are definitely not upon my person. I retract my steps into McDonalds, and they’re not anywhere. I speak to the manager, who confirms they haven’t been handed in. In desperation, I borrow a set of gloves from the cleaner and rummage through the bins, just in case I’ve chucked them away. Nope, they’re not to be found.

2015 Ford C-Max 1.5 TDCI Titanium X: new arrival

Convinced I’ve somehow locked them in the car, I dial the AA. They turn up very promptly (within 20 minutes), and show how, despite all the modern safety systems, it’s still surprisingly easy to break into a new car with the right tools. As long as you don’t mind causing a scene with the Ford’s ultra-loud alarm.

The keys aren’t inside. We search the car park, again. I comb McDonalds. I plea with the manager, who is evidently bored of me and unwilling to help. They’ve disappeared off the face of the planet.

What follows is a lesson on how something so simple can ruin your day. The AA man and I disable the car to stop it being stolen overnight – pulling out various fuses and disconnecting injector leads does the job. And then he helpfully drops me off at Newbury railway station to get home – a simple three trains and a tube job on a Saturday evening. Wonderful.

You’re an idiot, but how’s the car?

2015 Ford C-Max 1.5 TDCI Titanium X: new arrival

I returned the next day with a spare key and was pleased to find the C-Max still in one piece and where I left it. Not only because it meant I didn’t have to explain to Ford just how I managed to lose their car, but also because I’d already started to bond with it.

It’s top spec Titanium X trim, meaning it’s got half-leather seats, cruise control and Ford’s SYNC 2 infotainment system. It’s also got just under £2,000 worth of extras of on it, including Ford’s clever blind spot information system with cross traffic alert (£400). When reversing out of a parking space, this detects traffic approaching and alerts you to vehicles you can’t see.

The new 1.5-litre diesel engine isn’t the most powerful unit – boasting just 120hp. But, on first impressions, that appears to be surprisingly plentiful for this MPV, despite an 11.3 second 0-62mph time.

What’s more impressive is the efficiency – a claimed 68.9mpg on the combined cycle, a figure we’ve already discovered is doable with some careful slipstreaming of HGVs. And it emits 105g/km CO2, resulting in £20 a year road tax.

The C-Max is set to be on the fleet for the next six months, so we’ll keep you updated about how we get on with it day to day. Hopefully the next six months won’t be quite so eventful.

1960 Saab 96: new arrival

1960 Saab 96: new arrival

1960 Saab 96: new arrival

For the first month after I bought it, almost everyone, including those who should know better, have asked me a) why I bought a Saab 96, and b) had I always wanted one?

No, I’d not always wanted one, but my friend John Simister has one and I’ve grown to admire it. Then that TV programme For the Love of Cars restored a Saab 96, and I went down to Coys for a look, pre-auction. And hence I got dragged along a well-trodden path that some will surely recognise.

The Coys car was in great condition, and had had stupid amounts of TV money spent on it. But it also sold for silly money. I missed the initial auction in January, when it went for an unprecedented £8,000. Then the buyer put it back into auction in April where it raised £15k, for charity. Add in Coys buyers fees and that’s almost £18,000. Crazy money.

1960 Saab 96: new arrival

Meanwhile Mr Simister had got the bit between his teeth and found a Saab 96 on a German website. This one had much to recommend it. It was a very early model, with the original “bull nose” rather than the less pleasing extended bonnet of later cars. And it had an original three-cylinder two-stroke engine, not the Ford V4 of the auction car.

I got in touch with Philip in Sweden who owned it, and his cousin Daniel in Germany who was looking after the car. They send over 80 pictures, half a dozen videos and I was smitten. Enough to book two one-way tickets to Stuttgart with my pal Ralph Morgan.

Mid-June we arrived in Stuttgart, got picked up, ate cake, gave the Saab a once over and a quick drive, then headed off on the 1000km trip back home. It was a great excuse for a road trip in a little car with no safety belts and a top speed of 100kph. Maybe faster, but we were cautious. The Saab has a semi-sporting exhaust, which is very fruity but important on a two-stroke where getting the gases out of the engine as easily as possible releases a few extra horsepower.

1960 Saab 96: new arrival

The Saab bats along surprisingly well, even though it has only three gears on the steering column-mounted change. At 30mph you can’t help reaching for 4th gear, but after a bit you simply get used to the engine smoothing out as the revs rise.

Then there’s the freewheel. As soon as you lift your foot off the throttle the engine drops back to idle and the Saab 96 simply coasts along until you re-engage drive by accelerating (being careful to avoid a transmission jolt).

The two-stroke side of things means there’s no sump for oil, but instead you simply pour a litre of two-stroke oil into the petrol tank before adding 30 litres of unleaded. It’s a piece of cake.

I am thoroughly enjoying the Saab, and have proved it can knock off hundreds of miles in one go with out any problems. Well only one. On a long downhill stretch, freewheeling, the engine has a tendency to get bored with idling and just stops altogether. We think it may be too much fuel pressure, so it’s getting a fuel regulator as the next step. And a touch of welding on a front upright. It is 55 years old, after all.

1960 Saab 96: new arrival

Vauxhall Corsa 1.0T 115 (July 2015): does it beat the Viva?

Vauxhall Corsa 1.0T 115 (July 2015): does it beat the Viva?

Vauxhall Corsa 1.0T 115 (July 2015): does it beat the Viva?

Just how many small cars does Vauxhall need? It’s got the fashionable Adam, the ‘sporty’ Corsa (their words), and now the sensible and conservative Viva.

There’s clearly a business case for it, though. The A-segment alone has doubled in size since 2005 and now accounts for 10% of new car registrations in the UK.

I recently headed to Vauxhall HQ in Luton for the launch of the Viva. Of course, it’d be rude not to grab the opportunity to drive our long-term Corsa ‘home’, so to speak.

As a result, I got to drive the Corsa and the new Viva back-to-back. They’re not clear rivals – the Viva starts at £7,995 while the Corsa will set you back £9,175 (or £14,460 in SRi VX-Line trim with the 1.0-litre turbo engine).

But, do buyers really stick strictly to segments? Is a Vauxhall salesman really doing his job if he doesn’t try to upsell a potential Viva buyer into the bigger (and pricier) Corsa?

It’s worth doing a quick, unscientific comparison, then.

For a start, the Viva and ‘my’ Corsa have the same 1.0-litre engine. In the Viva, it produces 75hp and accelerates to 62mph in 13.1 seconds. But in the Corsa, it’s turbocharged, producing 115hp and hitting 62mph in 10.3 seconds. It’s surprising what a big difference that 2.8 seconds makes.

Vauxhall Corsa 1.0T 115 (July 2015): does it beat the Viva?

After a period of driving the Corsa, it’s an odd sensation driving a Viva with the same engine without the turbo. It drives the same, until the revs rise, and you expect a turbo to kick in. But it doesn’t, and it feels a bit flat.

Vauxhall will tell you that Viva buyers won’t be bothered about its lack of go. And that’s true to a degree. But it gets tiring have to work the Viva quite so hard. If you’re a young person being bought a Viva as your first car, you might want to persuade your parents to dig a deeper for a Corsa.

Both cars have had their handling tuned for UK roads. The Corsa feels sportier – no doubt helped by the sports suspension fitted to our VX-Line model but the Viva rides extremely well.

It doesn’t enjoy being chucked around the same as the Corsa, but on urban streets its narrow dimensions definitely give it an advantage.

So to conclude? If you want a sensible, affordable city car, buy the Viva. If you want something slightly sportier and more enjoyable to drive, buy the Corsa. Er, exactly what Vauxhall said then…

1983 Austin Metro HLE: new arrival

1983 Austin Metro HLE: new arrival

1983 Austin Metro HLE: new arrival

I bumped into an acquaintance in Tesco. Having not seen him for a few years, conversation wasn’t forthcoming, so I excitedly told him about my latest purchase. “I’ve bought a Metro!” I said, showing him a few snaps on my phone.

“Oh,” he said. “Well it’s a set of wheels to get you from A to B.”

I looked for a hint of humour on his face, but it wasn’t there. He genuinely thought I’d fallen on hard times and resorted to BL’s ‘British car to beat the world’ as a way of getting about.

So why have I bought a Metro? Well, can you think of a more significant classic car I could have bought for less than £1,000? Significant for British Leyland, yes, but also significant for so many of us. We all know someone who owned a Metro. So many of us learnt to drive in a Metro. Many of us had Metros stolen back in the day.

Passing my test aged 17 in 2009, I missed out on Metro mania back in the 80s. But I still think it’s a culturally significant car that too many are happy to see go extinct because they were a bit rubbish.

But are they still rubbish? My latest purchase, bought unseen over the internet from the secretary/treasurer of the Metro Owners’ Club, is the HLE no less. That means it’s the economy model – with an extra long fourth gear (or ‘E’ as Austin called it) and various aids to aerodynamics. It’s the bigger 1,275cc, though – logic being that a bigger engine will be less strained at higher speeds.

1983 Austin Metro HLE: new arrival

And, having never driven a Austin Metro before, I’m surprised how fun it is. Not only does it keep up in traffic, I’ve even seen the speedo nudge 85mph on occasions. In the interests of preventing the comments light up with wannabe law enforcers, I should point out, 85mph on the Metro’s slightly erratic speedo is somewhere around a GPS-verified 70mph.

I’ve driven it 300 miles this weekend – doubling its mileage over the last couple of years according to the MOT history. And talking of history, there’s loads of it. With one lady owner from new, it’s been serviced yearly – sometimes with just a few hundred miles between services. It’s covered a total of 45,000 miles over its 32-year lifespan.

Plans? I’ve not got many. There’s a bit of rust (of course) that needs sorting. It’s only cosmetic – on the wings, mainly, but I’d like to get it seen to before it gets more serious.

Have I bought a dud or is it a genuine classic car that deserves saving? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us @_MRFleet.

1993 Mazda MX-5 S-Special: goodbye

1993 Mazda MX-5 S-Special: goodbye

1993 Mazda MX-5 S-Special: goodbye

Have you ever accidentally sold a car? Er, I have.

Just like I accidentally bought my Mazda MX-5, it has now gone to a new owner. That new owner is Bill. Bill is my neighbour and he has had his eye on ‘JOE’ since I bought it in January.

I had been considering selling the MX-5. I get bored easily (ahem, E34, Puma…), and I’d decided there was little point splashing out on upgrading the suspension to expensive coilovers and replacing the ditchfinder tyres when, chances are, something else would soon come up that took my fancy.

The plan was simple. Get it MOTed (it was due in August), give it a really good clean and then advertise it in the middle of summer for top money.

From Seicento to MX-5?

But then I bumped into Bill on the day he’d scrapped his trusty Fiat Seicento. After a good decade or so of use, it had succumbed to an issue that the local garage had deemed not worth fixing, and the scrap man had been to collect it.

“Would you like to buy an MX-5?” I joked, as you do in these situations. Bill didn’t take a great deal of persuasion to jump in the passenger seat and come out for a drive on the nice summer’s evening it was.

By the time we returned, a short test drive later, he was sold. “Can I give you some money?”

I wasn’t ready for selling the car yet. It needed MOTing, and I wasn’t planning to advertise it for a couple of months.

But Bill was insistent. Money needed to be exchanged as a sort of contract between the pair of us. He didn’t want me selling Joe to anyone else, despite my promise that that wouldn’t happen.

We agreed a rough figure, and I said I’d put it through an MOT before the deal happened. But that represented a challenge of its own…

Emissions trouble

1993 Mazda MX-5 S-Special: goodbye

I was confident the MX-5 would pass its MOT. Looking through its history, it had always sailed through. It really must have been one of the cleanest first-generation MX-5s left.

So I chucked it into the local branch of Kwik Fit, agreeing to pick it up an hour later with (hopefully) a clean sheet I could show Bill.

But it didn’t go to plan. The MX-5 failed on two things: the horn (irritating… I knew it could be temperamental but I’d tried it on the way to the test station and it had been fine); and emissions. Oh… that could be costlier to diagnose.

The second I got home with the disgraced MX-5, I did a search online and had a chat with a mate who works at a garage. It started to appear that actually, my MX-5 had been tested wrongly. You see, it’s not actually an MX-5, it’s a Eunos Japanese import. And going by the engine number, higher emission limits should be applied for a vehicle without a cat.

I returned straight to Kwik Fit with my findings. The man at the desk wasn’t satisfied and would do everything he could to prevent me speaking to the MOT tester. I gave up, went home, and researched some more. I discovered this document which said in black and white that an MX-5 with my engine code should be given more leniency.

I returned, again, by which time the MOT tester had gone home. He wouldn’t be back in until Tuesday (this was on a Saturday).

DVSA confirms (eventually): Kwik-Fit had it wrong

So I phoned the DVSA (formerly VOSA) to check. Even they took some persuasion. The first lady I spoke to would barely listen to my case, and when I pointed out the document mentioned above she trotted out the ‘I’ve been doing my job 20 odd years’ line. So I asked to speak to her manager. And he agreed with me.

A strongly worded email was sent to Kwik Fit head office was sent arguing my case. And it turned out to be a case of David and Goliath.

By Tuesday I had a phonecall from the MOT tester. He was very apologetic, and offered to re-test it in his lunch break if I could get it in. I did, and in the meantime I had bodged the horn. It passed.

I was open about the whole situation was Bill, and he was happy. The deal was done. Cash was handed over. The MX-5 is no longer mine.

So what’s going to replace it? Well, something’s lined up. I’ve not seen it yet, but the seller’s delivering it to my parents’ house tomorrow. I’ll be travelling up to Shropshire at the weekend to see it for the first time and bring it home to St Albans. Watch this space…