We drove the Citroën C3 Aircross: a compact car with panache…

We have always loved Citroëns for their comfortable ride and indeed, their idiosyncrasies. In character and design, we found them always really stand out. Some models really oozed with pure panache, and we mean here of course the DS/ID and the 2 CV. But there were others, like the well styled GS with its air cooled four cylinder boxer engine and also the CX. Today then we are still totally smitten by the elegant C6.

This quest for originality we find back in all the models of the present range, notably the C3 Aircross which is the subject of our test here. The well rounded styling language stands out, and touches of character are added with the side cushions (Airbumps) which protect the bodywork from the rigors of modern urban life.

The Aircross has now a completely new grille and a revised light signature, as has been introduced on the 2020 C3. On the technical side, Citroën is – as could be expected – reaping the rewards of the Stellantis Group: the C3 shares its platform with the Opel Crossland X.

The dual tone paintwork adds extra panache, and also in the interior the dashboard architecture and air vents underline the original personality of this Citroën. We liked the instrumentation with its round dials, the judicious positioning of the new 9 inch infotainment screen and the look and finish of the seats. This Citroën is a car to live with and enjoy in daily life. Everything is well placed and easy to use.

Comfort comes first…

Like we said, Citroën means comfort, and this is immediately felt in this C3, right from the first metres you drive it. The suspension is pleasantly soft and copes very well with potholes and irregular pavés, although, as we said, it shares its platform with the Crossland X.

Sitting cozily in our seat, we moved the lever of the six speed automatic in “D” and basically left it there. The newly developed three cylinder 1199 cc engine develops a healthy 130 hp when coupled to the automatic transmission and this is more than enough to guarantee very lively performance for this 1150 kg heavy C3. It goes from 0 to 100 km/h in less than close to 10 seconds and its top speed is over 190 km/h.

But comfort is to be enjoyed here, and we did not adopt a too enthusiastic driving style with our test car. We just enjoyed the elegant and smooth progress. The C3 rewarded us also with low noise levels and very good economy when driven with restraint. The modern, direct injection three cylinder is silent, even under power, and when one adopts a more sedate driving style, the consumption stays close to 6 litres/100 km, even in urban driving. On the open road, cruising at legal speeds will deliver a consumption between 5 and 6 litres. CO2 emissions are quoted as some 116 g/km.

The automatic transmission is smooth and matches the engine characteristics very well.

The suspension is set up for comfort, and this means that the C3 will not really invite you to throw it around corners, although the handling is quite good. Remember it’s also the Crossland platform, it is just that body roll is more noticeable. In long, fast bends the C3 behaves wonderfully, as a “grande routière” befits.

But then the C3 treats you very well on urban pavés and frost ridden secondary roads. Straight line stability is excellent and the C3 is therefore well at home on autoroutes.

The Aircross version has some terrain capacities; we liked the driving aids like Grip Control and Hill descent Assist.

The seats are also very comfortable and have been further improved in this latest generation C3. Citroën calls them now “advanced comfort” seats, and are provided with extra 150 mm high density foam inserts. There is ample head and legroom for the front passengers. In the rear, seating conditions are a bit more cramped, but for children and smaller adults, everything is just fine.

Practical

Luggage space is good for its class with 410 litres, and this can be expanded to 520 litres when the rear seat is shifted forward. The seats can be folded in 40/60 split fashion, and when both are completely down, some 1289 liters are available. The rear sill is rather high, but not unduly so.

Our test car came with a 9 inch touch screen, and of course the screen of your Smartphone can be mirrored via Apple Carplay, Android Auto and Mirrorlink. The C3 also has an 120 degree camera built in the rear mirror, which can be actuated with a button or activates automatically in case of accident. You can even use an app to transfer the video to your Smartphone.

Not less than 12 driving aid systems are provided, and indeed, compared with the competition, the C3 is indeed lavishly equipped. On this Aircross version there is as we mentioned for instance grip control and hill assist descent control, and a coloured head display to top it all. It spoils you also with coffee break alert, rear view camera, hands free access and keyless starting, traffic sign recognition, active safety brake, automatic headlight dimming, park assist, lane departure warning, dead angle warning, driver attention alert and last but not least park assist.

Add to all this the panoramic roof, and you will agree that pleasure is to be had in the cabin of this C3.

Conclusion

The C3 is quite impressive in its class, with very good all round qualities and above all excellent comfort. You can take it as well for an extended urban (shopping) trip as on that long Gran Turismo tour along European motorways and winding mountain passes, it feels equally well at home in both!

It is sufficiently compact to be practical in our cities, yet offering enough room for a family of four including their luggage. With the 130 hp engine and the six speed automatic, there is more than enough zest to keep even de most demanding drivers happy, and they will also keep smiling at the pump. Add to all this the pleasant personality, with the Aircross version even the character of a compact SUV, and you will agree that this C3 deserves your attention when you are in the market for a compact car…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our BMW Z3 is still going strong… but with a rocking driver’s seat!

Our Z3 passed again with flying colours the technical control… except for a rocking driver’s seat!

Unfortunately we missed with our pristine 1997 built Z3 the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the Z3. Too bad. We would have liked to participate, but alas were not invited nor warned of the event.

Otherwise our Z3 is proving utterly reliable and a pleasure to use and drive. We put it now through the (in Belgium) annual technical control, and everything proved top notch. Except for the driver’s seat, which showed to have some rocking play in its rails. It’s an electronically adjustable seat, and it moves freely without any trouble in its rails, but it has some fore and aft play. We expected the repair to be rather straightforward, so we made first an appointment with our local garage. Then we discovered one needs new shims or bushings to eliminate the play, parts which a local garage doesn’t have readily at hand.

There are some YouTube videos on the subject, one is part 1 of the BMW Z3 Seat Shift Fix, and you find it with the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DM4KSnA58EI, and there is a Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRxrPelM9G0, and even a part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fdDHzykwOo.

Another You Tube film is titled “How to Fix BMW Z3 Rocking Sliding Seat in Under Five Minutes Bushing Rails Bushes Replace”with the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3lmAyYGZvM

The last video I want to mention is BMW Z3 Z3M Seat Rail Track Runner Sub Frame Mechanism Bushes Bushings Rocking Repair Kit. The link is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6PsUywdt74

Finally, there is a film in German, “BMW Z3 Sitz entwackeln”, with the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyfI28Spizg

It already starts with the seat removed, but otherwise it’s the same as the previous films.

Our Z3 got checked on a very wet autumn day, but the bodywork is well waxed to withstand the rain…

Anyway, the flaw of the slightly rocking chair has indeed been going on for quite some time now, and we have to repair I for safety’s sake. Since we don’t have the room nor the tools available and last but not least not (even) the parts available, we contacted our BMW dealer Jorssen Zuid to have the drivers’ seat repaired. The repair is rather intricate as the exact location of the seat attachment with its two bushes needs to be meticulously maintained, therefore it is of utmost important to measure and determine its location before dismantling. Otherwise the seat will be out of alignment in its rails and will pull sideways, leading to overcharging the electric motor, even with the slightest misalignment.  

We will keep you posted on the repair!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Zoute Grand Prix 2021: living now in everyone’s heart…

The Zoute Grand Prix inspired young and old to take out their beloved classics…

This year’s edition of the Zoute Grand Prix has been spreading over several Flemish cities now. Bruges and Ostend have stepped also in the game.

This year we were of course in Knokke, but decided to live the event through the public and bystander’s eye.

The Zoute Grand Prix has indeed grown into a formidable event with a very wide and large public impact. For Knokke Heist, it has become the busiest weekend of the year, with absolute record hotel bookings.

It raises the spirits of car lovers of all ages, and many are those who take out their beloved young- or oldtimer out for a spin on the Knokke streets during the event, and have their own very personal Grand Prix.

There are also a lot of new and very recent cars around, many of them with tuned exhaust to add some extra drama to their Knokke sortie.

Shops of every kind in Knokke had arranged their showrooms and added to their shop windows a specific touch referring to the theme of the event.

Even your daily(?) gin can be enjoyed – literally – in the spirit of the Zoute Grand Prix…

We just let you enjoy some of the snapshots we took on the Knokke streets, where, we must admit, no EV’s or electrified cars were to be seen for near or afar this weekend…

Classic racing cars can also run like clockwork…
Capelleschi Gallery, specializing in car paintings, added with a Ferrari flag to the theme…

We will report on the actual event, including the Bonham’s auction and the Concours d’Elegance in these columns soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Subaru XV e-Boxer facelift 2121: electrified on all roads…

Subaru is deservedly famous for its excellent engineering. It embraces 4WD and boxer engine technology, and sticks to it with an uncanny sense of tradition. Rightly so.

Comes of course the EV age, and Subaru makes with the e-Boxer range it first steps into this world. The e-Boxer drivetrain can best be described as a self-charging hybrid. It does the job, whilst retaining its unique Subaru character: the willing boxer engine, the excellent off-road capabilities, the well balanced and inspiring handling on tarmac, it is all still there.

We tested already the 2020 XV e-Boxer, just read our previous test report on these columns. We find our positive findings confirmed, and focus here also on the main topics of the facelift…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Bolder looks

The compact crossover has now a modified front, with an even tougher look. The front bumper was redesigned with a larger black plastic part, a new skid plate and L-shaped silver-grey inserts. The fog lamps received a new frame and the grille was tightened with a new mesh. The crossbar in the grille itself is now slightly wider, making the Subaru logo larger and more prominently visible. Finally, the design of the 17- and 18-inch alloy wheels has been revised.

The drivetrain becomes even more sophisticated

Let’s first look at the drivetrain, which it has of course in common with the other e-Boxer models in the Subaru range. The redesigned 2 litre boxer engine is coupled to a 12.3kW electric motor sitting on the CVT transmission and small 13.5kWh battery, and as we said, Subaru calls it a self-charging hybrid. Modest beginnings, but on the other hand this adds only some 167 kilo to the scale.

Does it work? Yes, it certainly does, that is if you hone your driving style, so the hybrid can function optimally. We indicated this already in our previous test report, and we can only repeat it here.

It will run on the electric motor at lower speeds, for shorter distances. The trick is to accelerate slowly and keep constant speeds in urban traffic. These driving conditions which will not prompt the boxer engine to set in, but let the 17 HP electric motor do its work as much as possible.

The CVT transmission will also choose higher ratio’s when you keep the throttle openings small. The result is lower revs, which will keep consumption very reasonable. Subaru did some very good detail work in setting up the CVT transmission, added an “Intelligent” setting which is ideal for constant speed boulevard drives and keeps revs close to 1000 rpm or so when touring in 30 km limit areas.

All this lets consumption drop to between 7 and 6.5 l/100 km even in tight urban driving conditions. All this also happens with uncanny smoothness, and this Subaru is a very refined automobile indeed.

As said, Subaru added with the facelift the so-called “I-Drive” as standard. The system has two settings, Sport (S) and Intelligent (I), each with their own character: thanks to the smooth power delivery, Intelligent mode is ideal for city driving, for long distances and for driving as efficiently as possible. Indeed, this setting keeps the revs down as much as possible. The Sport mode is a highly responsive mode and is well suited to all-round conditions thanks to its instant acceleration.

Of course in this Sport mode you cannot bend the laws of physics, and when the willing boxer engine delivers its 150 HP pulling power, the fuel consumption goes invariably up.

The manufacturer quotes 6,5 l/100 km as average consumption and mentions CO2 emissions of some 149 g/km. Performance is everything you could ever wish for: 0 to 100 km in 10,7 seconds and a top speed of 193 km/h.

Precise and inviting handling, on and off-road…

The Subaru XV runs on its new Global Platform, which delivers more safety and stiffness, as we said before, resulting in very good handling, and this XV is a pleasure to drive on winding stretches. Suspension comfort is also very good, both on tarmac as on (very) rough terrain. When it comes to safety, it is good to know that the XV has been awarded the maximum 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

Subaru’s Permanent Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive constantly shifts power to the wheels with the most traction, and the XV has not less than 220 mm ground clearance.

With X-MODE with Hill Descent Control, you negotiate steep inclines and descents as an expert. At the push of a button, it takes command of the engine, transmission, Symmetrical AWD, brakes and other components to help you navigate challenging terrain. Here the facelift has made things even better. Subaru also optimized this X-MODE. It is now equipped with a dual function that allows the driver to choose between “Snow / Dirt” and “Deep Snow / Mud”. X-MODE takes advantage of the high torque and fast response of the motor to prevent stalling in extremely poor surfaces

Living with the XV

The seating position is also very good, with fine, supportive seats.

We liked already in the previous test the dashboard layout and clear, the fine chrome finished round dials, which evoke a bit of pur-sang atmosphere which we like so much. Connectivity and driving aids are up to scratch, not to mention Subaru’s unique EyeSight.

This keeps you on a safe distance to cars in front of you, avoids front end collisions with cars and detects pedestrians in front of you. Of course infotainment is also top notch, with Android Auto and Google CarPlay provided for ideal connectivity.

Conclusion

Every bit a Subaru, this e-Boxer. But, if you drive it with intelligence, it will reward you with very interesting consumption figures. Subaru will soon have a full electric vehicle, so they also go up that path. In the meantime, in the remote outback, this is your ideal car to hit all the country roads in an electrified and environmentally conscious manner…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Alfa Romeo Giulia GTAm, which Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi drove during the Belgian F1 GP, on display at the 2021 Zoute Grand Prix

Alfa Romeo will be present at the 2021 edition of the Zoute Grand Prix, which will take place in Knokke from 6 to 10 October. “I am delighted that the Alfa Romeo brand can once again participate in the Zoute Grand Prix this year, especially as we have been participating since the first edition in 2010,” said Patrice Duclos, General Manager of the Alfa Romeo brand for Belgium and Luxembourg.

This year Alfa Romeo will participate in the Zoute Grand Prix with a car with a special history: the latest Giulia GTAm, of which the limited edition of 500 cars has now been sold out. “The Giulia GTAm on the Alfa Romeo stand at the 2021 Zoute Grand Prix is ​​not only an exclusive car, but also of particular interest to us,” said Patrice Duclos. “This car was driven by our two drivers of the Alfa Romeo ORLEN Racing F1 team on the eve of the Belgian F1 Grand Prix last August. We can say that this model has a historical side that should interest car enthusiasts in our country!”

In all respects, the Giulia GTA/GTAm is a collector’s car. All 500 numbered units, introduced to the international press last May, have since been sold to customers worldwide, including a significant number in China, Japan and Australia, making the Giulia GTA an international commercial success.

RAIKKONEN Kimi (fin), Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN C41, GIOVINAZZI Antonio (ita), Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN C41, portrait during the Formula 1 Belgium Grand Prix, 12th round of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship from August 27 to 29, 2021 on the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, in Stavelot, near Liège, Belgium – Photo Florent Gooden / DPPI

An exclusive video

On the occasion of the 2021 Zoute Grand Prix, Alfa Romeo offers its fans a unique testimony about the Giulia GTAm, with a video in which Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi, the two official drivers of Alfa Romeo ORLEN Racing, take a seat in the car. They can be seen leaving the Hotel de la Source in Spa, right next to the Formula 1 circuit, to take the roads from Spa to the heights of Balmoral. This video can be viewed via the following link: https://we.tl/t-fcEfX7EsEm

First appearance of the new Alfa Romeo Stelvio 6C Villa d’Este

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio 6C Villa d’Este appears for the first time at the Zoute Grand Prix and is offered with the 210 hp 2.2 Turbo or the 280 hp 2.0 Turbo, both four-cylinder aluminum diesel engines with carbon fiber crankshaft, combined with an 8-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive (Q4). In addition to the exterior paintwork, the special series features chrome side window surrounds and 21″ five-hole alloy wheels.

This new limited edition is inspired in terms of colours and design elements by the elegance of the 6C 2500 SS Coupé produced by Alfa Romeo in the 1940s…

Come and see them in Knokke!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Jeep Wrangler 4xe: the iconic Jeep now comes with e-power…

The blue stripes on the hood show it: this Jeep runs also on E-power…

We drove the Jeep Wrangler in its authentic Rubicon livery in plug-in hybrid form, aptly called 4xe. We can tell you right away: this e-Jeep has lost strictly nothing of its legendary off-road capabilities, on the contrary even. In the meantime, the Jeep 4xe owner can now steer proudly into a green world: when using the plug-in function, one can enjoy the merits of e-motion, and this is both excellent for both environment and your wallet…

Just read further!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Every bit as authentic as it ever was…

Walking toward and around the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is already a feast for the eye and mind: this Jeep has got terrific looks, and we are certain you will continue to admire and cherish it for many years to come.

The Jeep styling people are indeed masters in the art of designing a car full of character and panache, and they succeeded in adding some “electrified” touches to its exterior just to suggest to the purist that this car also runs on e-power. Some blue touches betray this indeed, like the Electric Blue tow hooks at the front and rear, and the blue theme which we find in the Trail Rated badges and other graphics elements across the hood and body.

We like the subtle charging port mounted high on the front driver’s side fender, which does not disturb the Wrangler’s looks at all.

A superb, “vintage” cabin…

Stepping, or rather mounting high up behind the wheel of the Jeep Wrangler you enter into a unique, somewhat vintage world; the dashboard and steering wheel are rather close to your chest, with the windscreen not being far off either.

Round instruments are facing you, although the infotainment age has definitely also made its entrance here. We just love it, this tightly laid out dashboard and driver’s space. Jeep has been around for many decades now, and this you should feel and touch.

The electronic age has quetly ushered itself into this dashboard by three blue buttons which sit discreetly left to the steering column.

… with the choice of three driving modes

With these buttons, you can indeed select three ways the e-power of the battery is coming to the wheels.

Hybrid: The vehicle will switch between all-electric mode and hybrid, and the computer calculates out how to use the two in order to achieve the best possible fuel efficiency. Regardless of the mode selected, the 4xe operates as a hybrid once the battery nears its minimum state of charge.

Electric:  The 2-liter turbocharged 4 cylinder engine remains off unless the vehicle determines that extra power is required. It will then turn on the petrol engine to add power, or switch to hybrid mode when the battery is depleted.

E-Save: The 4xe operates as a hybrid and maintains the battery’s state of charge. There’s also an additional setting in this E-Save mode which allows you to actually charge the high voltage battery pack to a higher state of charge using the 4-cylinder engine. We liked this mode very much, as this is very future proof: on any longer highway or cross-country trip, you can charge the battery so you can use its power to get you beautifully around in a totally zero emissions town (up to some 50 km or thereabouts on a full battery), a situation we will encounter rather sooner than later if one sees how regulators all over the world are now taking measures to achieve a greener, low-emissions planet.

E-power to go…

Indeed, this Wrangler can act daily as your ideal electric vehicle. If you charge it regularly and drive everyday not more than some 40 kilometers that is. Then the power of the 17 kWh battery, of which approximately 15 kWh is usable, will get you around. Progress is silent, and the only thing we heard was the impressive rolling noise of the all-terrain tyres of our Rubicon. Remember, this is a true Jeep, and your ears should hear this…

Just flow along with the traffic, and the 4xe (pronounced “four-by-e”, like four-by-four) will reward you with a very useable e-range.

Fuel consumption depends greatly on how you mix electric with combustion power…

The fuel consumption or rather the overall economy you achieve with this (or any, for that matter) plug-in hybrid depends totally on how you use it. Short distances, frequent recharging and a relaxed driving style will deliver top notch economy, any amount of longer distances, infrequent recharging or heavier right foot will cost more energy and also more fuel. It is as simple as that. Physics have no miracles in store for you. Manufacturers will indicate the fuel consumption under the most ideal ratio between e-power and combustion engine, but, as said, this is a full-blown Jeep, which is also an absolute master off-road, so do not get over enthusiastic…

Stay in the “green” zone, using about 25 % of available power, and your consumption is very reasonable. Also, you enjoy your Wrangler at the wheel a bit longer every ride!

On our test, we drove the Rubicon in a rather restrained manner, taking into account that wind and road rolling resistance greatly rise when the speed builds up. So on longer trips, using mostly the engine power, we achieved averages between 8 and 8,5 litres/100 km, rolling along with the traffic flow. When we met very tight (urban) traffic conditions, we just relied fully on e-power. The manufacturer quotes a fuel consumption of around 3.5 liters/100 km in hybrid mode with CO2 emissions lower by almost 70% compared to the petrol version, all this according to the WLTP cycle.

Charging is also a rather easy operation, courtesy of specific public and home charging solutions with the easyWallbox – ensuring a full charge in less than 3 hours at 7.4 kWh – offered by Free2Move eSolutions (a joint venture between Stellantis – through its subsidiary FCA Italy S.p.A. – and Engie EPS) and Mopar®.

Retaining all the qualities of a true Jeep…

The 4xe is powered by Jeep’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, aided by a small starter/generator motor. It is similar in design and function to the eTorque mild-hybrid motor, though this one operates at 400 volts rather than 48.

Sandwiched between the gasoline engine and the standard eight-speed automatic transmission — replacing the torque converter — is the larger, main electric drive motor. A pair of clutches connect it to the gearbox and the gasoline powerplant, allowing the combustion engine to be completely decoupled from the wheels for full-electric driving.

Further on, there is the identical four-wheel-drive system, two-speed transfer case and locking differentials as the non-hybrid Wrangler.

Of course, the most important thing about the 4xe is that it’s still a Wrangler; it still must deliver on the go-anywhere capability that name commands. And this it does.

Don’t forget that this Rubicon has an impressive crawl ratio and relies of course on the excellent torque of its main electric motor. The 4xe’s PHEV extra motor and battery adds to the weight of the Wrangler, but the position of the battery actually improves weight distribution. It also lowers its centre of mass, making this Jeep even more sure footed.

Brilliant performance

Mind you, the Wrangler 4xe has 380 hp of maximum combined output and peak torque of 637 Nm. This means that the Wrangler 4xe accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.4 seconds…

All the infotainment and practical versatility you need…

The 4xe Wrangler includes standard the 8.4-inch Uconnect™ NAV system with touchscreen, comprehensive on-board connectivity with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration and Uconnect Services (for the monitoring of the vehicle’s parameters through the My Uconnect app).

Specific of the 4xe models’ is the 7-inch TFT display with information on battery charge levels and range (in electric and hybrid modes), 9-speaker Alpine audio system with 552-W subwoofer.

In terms of safety, the new Wrangler 4xe offers the most advanced ADAS systems, including standard Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Path Detection, rearview camera, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Electronic Roll Mitigation (ERM), front and rear Park Assist and Keyless Enter’n’Go™. Optional safety features include Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning Plus and new forward-facing camera (which is standard on the Rubicon).

Conclusion

The Jeep Wrangler in this 4xe version is now more versatile and future-oriented than ever. It has also retained all its iconic off-road qualities, looks and panache. So despite being an enthusiast’s car, it now is endowed with many practical qualities, which make it not only pleasant, but also eminently reasonable to use it every day. And a long life with this Wrangler is also made more interesting with the immense array of accessories which are available by the Mopar® brand: indeed you can select more than 100 accessories for your cherished Jeep…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Citroën set to conquer India and strengthen in South America with a totally new C3…designed and built in and for these markets…

Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares has bold plans for Citroën and its role within the group. The iconic brand is set to sharpen up its international strategy, and therefore unveiled on September 16 a totally new C3, according to Citroën “a versatile hatchback measuring less than 4m in length”. It will enable the brand to expand in India and consolidate its presence in South America.

This new C3 is very important: not in the least because it is the first model in a family of three vehicles aimed at the international market. It is developed and produced in India and South America and which will exclusively sold in those two regions over the next three years.

New C3 is conceived as a modern hatchback designed to meet the needs and road conditions of the two regions, offering comfort and connectivity to progressive customers in search of peace of mind and prestige.

Does this mean that Citroën, which since many decades has developed a tradition of providing affordable and reliable mobility (one has only to think of the iconic 2CV…) through ingenuity and excellent engineering focusing on effective solutions, will use its design and engineering experience in India and SA to strengthen and refine its acumen and expertise as manufacturer of affordable transport in our markets?

What Citroën CEO Vincent Cobée has to say about the brand and its international strategy…

The dynamic Stellantis PR department in Belgium offered us to participate in a media roundtable conference with Vincent Cobée, and of course the abovementioned question was burning in our minds.

Here follows what Mr. Cobée answered:

“Citroën is about innovation, well-being and you can call that humanism, you can call that audacity, you can call that a bit of a militant brand. We will remain like this, translated into the Indian ecosystem. We are not a petrolhead brand (although, we should note here, that Citroën played a favorite role in international rallies…) but we will be true to our global DNA. We will be competitive in India, which means developed, manufactured and distributed in India.

Having said this, we have entered in Europe in the car industry in Europe a rather complex period, where the technological requirements imposed by the European legislation are going to make the cars more expensive, and this at a time where there is an economic crisis looming, and at the same time the availability of freedom of movement is going to become more and more important with the pandemic which we have been living for the last year or so.

If you put those three things together, there will be an aggravated tension into affordable mobility.

So Citroën, as a social progressive, innovative brand, has a role to play here. The environment is obviously different from what we see in India or Brazil and those represent different challenges, but the spirit of maintaining and enhancing the freedom of mobility in an environment where there is a mismatch between the (consumer) appetite and the regulatory cost, this is something that we will address with ambition.

So every lesson that we can learn from our development in fast going markets outside of Europe will be helpful and indeed used…

Inspired by SUV architecture…

Now let’s turn to the new C3. It is built for international markets, where roads are not always in top condition. So this Citroën adapts to the terrain by drawing inspiration from SUVs for its ground clearance, high bonnet and elevated driver position.

In addition to Citroën’s trademark comfort and market-leading spaciousness, its clever design meets the wishes of a young, tech-savvy public, grown up with smartphones, which are totally integrated and connected to an XXL 10” touchscreen.

But that is not all. Set to be launched in the first half of 2022, New C3 will also offer an unprecedented customer experience, including innovative services and the opening of a dedicated sales website in certain markets.

India is both promising and (very) important…

India is a rather new market for Citroën and one with significant potential that will soon be the third largest in the world.

The brand announced its arrival in 2019 and launched its first import model at the start of 2021: C5 Aircross. As a new market player, Citroën is initially focusing on large metropolitan areas. As said here earlier, it offers a top level customer experience.

Citroën products are positioned at the forefront of the Indian market, thanks to a strategy of high-level local integration (more than 90%) based on the two joint venture agreements between the Stellantis Group and the companies in the CK Birla Group (car assembly and distribution and power-train manufacturing).

The automotive market in India is growing rapidly and is expected to reach over four million cars sold annually by 2025. B-segment hatchbacks represent nearly 23% of this market.

The new C3 is meant to appeal to customers for whom their car is a reflection of their personality. A car that they can customize however they wish, which is a strong expectation on the Indian market.

In addition, the compactness (less than 4m to fall into a lower tax band), agility, versatility, on-board space, comfort and connectivity will improve the experience of traffic conditions which can sometimes be difficult, while adapting to each individual’s lifestyle.

This new C3, which will be produced in Chennai, will be aimed at new married consumers in their thirties, from the emerging middle class, with a comfortable income, who will be attentive to the value offered by a product that represents a significant outgoing and which needs to be robust and practical to maintain. It must be attractive, modern with innovative options for connecting to the family’s smartphones, while reflecting their tastes and their personality.

A stronger position in South America…

Citroën’s presence in South America is much older, dating back to the 1960s. Citroën’s objective today is to gain a firmer foothold in this market with modern products, in step with customer aspirations. The C4 Cactus is produced in the Porto Real plant and embodies Citroën’s positioning in Argentina and Brazil with its original and bold styling as well as comfort.

Produced in Porto Real in Brazil, the New C3 symbolizes a real renewal in the region, with its modern styling, its connectivity and the experience of its on-board comfort. The B-Hatch segment accounts for almost 30% of the total market in Brazil and almost 26% in Argentina (data FY 2020).

The versatility and positioning of New C3 will ensure greater coverage of the segment (in Brazil, New C3 will cover 90% of the segment’s needs, compared to 40% for the former model, while that coverage rate in Argentina is set to increase from 50% to 75%).

It will be aimed at active couples in their forties, married and with two children, looking for a prestigious, versatile and spacious car for their short everyday journeys and also weekend getaways.

It will also appeal to independent and active single people in their thirties, living in cities and with a slightly higher-than-average monthly income, looking for a vehicle that is elegant (for modernity and status), robust and safe.

We show you here some photos of this new C3, and tell you here also that soon we will test the Citroën C3 Crossback and the C4… stay tuned on these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the DS 4 in Chantilly…

Driving is believing, the saying goes, and this is especially so for the latest model of DS automobiles, which is built by the brand to be a benchmark in the C-Segment in terms of comfort and dynamic refinement.

We started our extended test drive with the E-TENSE plug-in hybrid version, combining exhilarating performance with smooth responsiveness and interesting economy. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The DS4 shows its elegance in front of the shops in Chantilly, the town of the horse…

This second generation DS4 is indeed geared to offer a maximum of creature comfort. It starts of course with a good position behind the wheel, and indeed for your 1,70 m servant an excellent driving position was soon found. We tested the Performance Line+ DS4 which came with very comfortable Alcantara/leather seats, and a very tasteful interior.

The overhead display proved also eminently visible. DS automobiles calls it “DS extended head up display”, and with the use of an optical illusion, data are displayed four metres ahead of the windscreen to follow the driver’s gaze diagonally at 21-inches. We found it very useful, and indeed, it kept our eyes on the road.

With a magnificently styled mode selector button (more about the interior design when we talk about the styling of this car in a separate report, incorporating then also the designer’s comments) you can choose your driving mode. We chose the modes “normal”, “comfort” and “sport”, to check the handling, comfort and steering precision of this DS4.

In all modes, we found that the comfort level remained top notch. It proved definitely very important for engineers and designers, and we can only applaud their choice. The DS4 ranks therefore with panache amongst the iconic “Grandes Routières”, totally in line with the tradition set in by the original DS. Steering is also very precise in all the chosen modes.

The DS4 runs on a new version of EMP2 platform and uses technical solutions such as bond-welding (almost 34 metres of adhesive bead and welding points used on the car’s body) as well as completely redesigned suspension and steering components. This indeed delivers driving comfort through optimal body rigidity with exceptional responsiveness and precision in the handling department.

The suspension has also been redesigned with the new platform version… but there is more.

The engineers have taken things even a step further by introducing the so-called DS ACTIVE SCAN SUSPENSION , which controls the damping by using a camera. It is positioned at the top of the windscreen, views and anticipates irregularities in the road surface and transmits the data to a computer. With the four attitude sensors and three accelerometers, the system controls each of the wheels independently. Using the information it receives, it makes the suspension harder or softer depending on what’s required. The result is indeed excellent comfort whatever kind of (winding) road you’re on. We were truly impressed by the overall dynamic serenity of the car, whatever the driven speed…

Smooth and powerful

In the E-TENSE version, a turbocharged 180 horsepower 4-cylinder engine is paired with a 110 horsepower electric motor and an EAT8 gearbox, for a combined 225 horsepower. As we said earlier in our first report, the combination is fed by a more efficient battery with new more compact and larger capacity cells. This battery is situated behind the deformable beam and providing a useable a range of more than 50 kilometres in zero emissions mode (WLTP combined cycle).

The drivetrain is supersmooth, and the transition from battery to engine power is not noticeable. When driven with restraint and anticipation, the system will use the kinetic energy to recharge the batteries while you drive, and indeed, in tight heavy and slow traffic we managed to recharge the battery from 14 % to a good 28 % just using the kinetic energy as much as we could, which of course asks for some concentration, but this is well rewarded! The system will regenerate the energy irrespective of the chosen driving mode, and we achieved these results in the “Sport” mode.

Depending how much E-power you use during your drive, fuel consumption will vary accordingly, and the manufacturer quotes a fuel consumption of 1,3 litre/100 km and CO2 emissions of 29 g/km on the combined WLTP cycle. Running on the petrol engine only will get you anything between 6-8,5 litres/100 km, greatly depending on your driving style.

On the second day of our extended test drive we drove the DS4 with top of the range “Rivoli” trim and the PureTech 225 HP petrol engine version with the same 8-speed automatic gearbox. Driving in normal or comfort mode delivered very much the same smoothness as the E-TENSE drivetrain, and we were surprised by the very low noise level of this engine, certainly when you are adopting a relaxed driving style. Putting your right foot down will let the engine rev harder, but this gets never obtrusive. When you want to add some smooth panache to your spirited driving style, it is best to use the gearchange paddles at the steering wheel, so you have better control over engine revs under heavy braking or acceleration. The DS4 takes a fast pace over curvy and undulating roads very well in its stride, as a “Grande Routière” befits.

The DS4 is a car designed to travel on long journeys, as well as performing comfortable city errands. It is build to cocoon you in relaxing and silent comfort. Indeed, its tire to road noise is also eminently filtered. The seats are just marvelous, and the soft padding of armrests and surfaces of centre console and dashboard just give you that sense of well-being which comes close to cocooning. The dashboard layout is just an icon of good taste, and its controls are soon learned… and are not overwhelming. It is advisable to take some time to get acquainted with your DS 4, it has a lot to offer.

Having said this, your servant is as a journalist always very cautious to give an opinion about the practicality of functions or controls, as we spend only a week or at a presentation even only a few days with a test car, whereas the owner will have months and years to learn all the functions. But he has to learn them, and in the beginning spend some useful time reading the manual, sitting behind the wheel and trying everything out, and repeating this! One never learns enough, and indeed note that bis repetita placet…

As a photographer, I still look at the manuals and YouTube films about the camera I use, be it compact or DSLR, and still learn…after months!

A host of useful functions…

Coming to the subject of functions, the DS4 has a lot of them, to make your journey safer and more relaxing.

First of all, we were much ten by the excellent ventilation It has been developed with very compact vents, positioned high up and fitted with invisible vanes.

The principle behind DS AIR is a flow of air that’s aimed by a cone giving the best possible direction upwards and downwards. All while operating like a classic vent. Thanks to its upright compactness, it appears discreet and tucked away which enables a purity of design in DS 4’s cockpit. Impressive and well done!

Then there is the DS IRIS SYSTEM can be controlled by voice and gesture. This System features a personal assistant capable of recognising what’s said to it so that the system can carry out requests.

For gestures, there is DS SMART TOUCH, located on the centre console, it is an elegant small screen below the big central screen, which you can command with your fingertips. Gesturing towards one of the pre-entered functions on the big screen is enough. The smaller screen also identifies normal movements such as zooming in, zooming out and has handwriting recognition. Just try it, it avoids having to reach out to the big screen, and soon enough you get he hang of it.

Level 2 automated driving also had a major update for DS 4 with DS DRIVE ASSIST 2.0.

This translates into the precise car positioning itself in the lane of the driver’s choice, supplemented by new functionality such as semi-automatic overtaking, speed adjustment for corners and anticipated speed recommendations from signposts.

DS DRIVE ASSIST 2.0 includes sensors that record everything that happens in and around the car to help the driver. It sports frontal radar, radar at the four corners of the car, and a camera at the top of the windscreen, DS 4 positions itself where its driver wants through artificial intelligence which analyses information gathered in real time.

DS NIGHT VISION: An infrared camera, located in the grille, spots pedestrians and animals up to 200 metres away at night and in poor light. The driver views the road in their digital instrument display and sees hazards appear as warnings in the DS EXTENDED HEAD UP DISPLAY enabling them to react.

Let there be light: the DS light signature

With a new generation of DS MATRIX LED VISION headlamps that are narrower and more modern, the Matrix Beam and Dynamic Bending Light technology have been combined in the same system.

The DS MATRIX LED VISION headlamps are still made up of three LED modules which are the DS Automobiles signature:

The inner module of the headlight is used for the dipped function.

The rotating central module can turn to an angle of 33.5°. It illuminates the sides of the road and follows where you’re looking in corners. The system adapts to traffic conditions, the angle of the steering wheel, speed and weather conditions with five pre-set modes: town, country, motorway, poor weather and fog. This is also a nod to the directional headlamps of the 1967 DS…

The outside Matrix Beam module turns on for driving, split into fifteen segments which turn on and off independently, depending on the driving conditions it senses.

The projector headlamps adapt to traffic conditions, steering wheel angle, speed and weather conditions with five preset modes: city, country, highway, harsh weather and fog. They enable you to drive constantly on main beam without ever dazzling other road users. Using the camera located in the top part of the windscreen, these intelligent headlamps adapt their light beam automatically with a reach of 300 metres, depending on traffic conditions, without ever dazzling others. Need we say more?

The DS MATRIX LED VISION headlamps are complemented by extended daytime running lights made up of 98 LEDs. As well as the recognisable vertical light signature, these daytime running lights perform a new high-technology welcome routine.

The first drive of this DS4 was impressive indeed, comfortable, relaxing, smooth, powerful, and full of style…

In these columns you will soon read more about the design of the car and the hand made craftsmanship it has been built. Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We had a first drive with the elegant DS 4: the (electrified) future has arrived at DS Automobiles…

At DS Automobiles, the art of designing and building the avant-garde automobile has been celebrated again since 2015, the birth of this unique premium brand.

In stylish Chantilly, we stood eye to eye with their latest creation, the DS 4. Stunning in style, gracious elegance and technology, this premium C segment car did not fail to impress your servant.

The DS 4 has eye-catching proportions. With a benchmark width of 1.83 metres and large diameter 720-millimetre wheels (alloys up to 20 inches, 19 inches as standard from TROCADERO and PERFORMANCE LINE up), for a compact length of 4.40 metres and a roof height of 1.47 metres, the dimensions are striking indeed.

Also the entire press presentation of this noble automobile was in line with its qualities: we were not only able to meet Mme Béatrice Foucher, the CEO of DS Automobiles personally at dinner, together with the communications people of the brand at lunch, we had also interesting workshops with the designers, engineers and last but not least the craftsmen and artists who make the DS 4 into the hand made four wheeled gem it is.

Mme Béatrice Foucher also presented the bold electrification strategy of the brand: in 2022-2023 it will increase the electrified mix with more E-TENSE sales, and from 2024 onwards it will only launch models which are battery only EV’s, with only electrified models presented for sale in Europe.

The designers also presented their drawings and a fully fledged clay model too, and the craftsmen presented their tools and unique hand made items of the car, of which much more later.

We were able to drive the entire range of the DS 4 on a 245 km circuit around scenic Chantilly, and we can tell you already that we were very taken by the plug-in hybrid version, the E-TENSE. Not surprisingly, as one knows that DS Automobiles puts great value on electrification, as does their avant-garde clientele, by the way.

For the DS4, a new version of the EMP2 platform was conceived to accommodate a new generation plug-in hybrid drive train without compromising cockpit space. It is important to note here that, being an important premium brand for Stellantis, the choices DS Automobiles are making in terms of proportions and styling of their cars and last but not least their technology are important signals for the engineers in the group wo develop the respective platforms. Noblesse oblige… Here you see the naked bodywork displayed on its platform.

The E-TENSE sports a turbocharged 180 horsepower PureTech 4-cylinder engine, which is paired with a 110 horsepower electric motor and an EAT8 gearbox, for a combined 225 horsepower.

The combination is fed by a more efficient 12,4 kW battery with new more compact and larger capacity cells situated behind the deformable beam and giving a range of 55 kilometres in zero emissions mode (WLTP combined cycle). The E-TENSE impressed your servant not only with its uncanny smoothness, it delivered also all the performance you could wish for: The 360Nm of torque enables 100km/h to be reached in 7.7 seconds with fuel consumption of just 1.3 litre/100km and emissions from 29g/km of CO2 on the WLTP combined cycle.

A wide range with a broad choice of interior equipment levels…  

We will tell you soon more about the driving impressions of this DS 4 in their different engine configurations, we just present here the model and equipment line-up. Besides the E-TECH, three petrol engine models, PureTech 130 Automatic, PureTech 180 Automatic and PureTech 225 Automatic plus a BlueHDi 130 Automatic Diesel will be offered.

In terms of body styles, the range is made up of three versions: DS 4, DS 4 CROSS et DS 4 PERFORMANCE LINE, with each version enjoying multiple trim levels:

– Four trim levels for the DS4: BASTILLE, BASTILLE +, TROCADERO and RIVOLI, as well as a Limited Edition “LA PREMIÈRE” for the launch, offering exclusive touches above and beyond the existing trims.

– For the DS 4 CROSS body version, we have the CROSS TROCADERO and CROSS RIVOLI trim levels,

– PERFORMANCE LINE and PERFORMANCE LINE + trims for the DS 4 PERFORMANCE LINE.

More soon, stay tuned on these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A royal visit to the Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN F1 team…

HRH Princess Léa of Belgium in the F1 paddock with GIOVINAZZI Antonio on the left and RAIKKONEN Kimi on her right. receiving a racing suit and gloves for the benefit of the recent flood victims…

Her Royal Highness Princess Lea of Belgium came to the iconic circuit of Spa Francorchamps on Thursday August 26 to meet the drivers of Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN, Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovanazzi.

Responding to the wish of Princess Lea of Belgium to help the victims of the recent floodings in our country, both drivers agreed to donate a racing suit and gloves, bearing their personal signature of course. Timi donated his racing suit, Antionio his pair of gloves.

HRH Princess Léa of Belgium showing Kimi’s racing suit with Antonio Giovinazzi proudly showing his pair of gloves...

These items have been sold on Sunday August 29, and the proceeds will help the victims of the recent flooding disasters in Belgium.

HRH Princess Léa of Belgium in the F1 paddock gets the tehcnical highlights of the F1 Alfa’s explained…on the left, Dominique Fontignies, PR and Communications Director Stellantis Belux.

Like many members of the Belgian Royal family, Princess Lea is very keen on motorsport and she was delighted to meet the two racing drivers on the iconic Francorchamps circuit.

“Having discovered all the secrets of the racing cars of Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovanazzi, we will never look the same way again to the Belgian Grand Prix” she commented.

“I was very surprised to discover the very high level of technological sophistication which is built in these monoposto’s”, she said after visit.

Here posing in front of the Alfa GTAm, Antionio Giovanazzi on the left, Kimi Räikkönen on the right.

Technology which Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovanazzi also helped to transfer on the fastest road going car Alfa on the market, the brand-new Giulia GTAm. They worked Together with Sauber, who participated in the development of this model, to give the GTAm that special touch which makes this car – of which only 499 units are built – truly unique.

Hans Knol ten Bensel