We drove the Skoda Superb Scout 2.0 TSI 200 kW DSG 4×4: stylish panache and sportiness…

Whatever the wheater and road conditions, this Scout is your ideal companion…Shot with our second hand Olympus in bad light conditions, ISO 400, F 6,3, 1/125 sec.

Classic recipes will always stay superb. This top end Skoda literally embodies it, and its badge tells it all…

It was a unique and refreshing experience to sit behind the wheel of this well engineered break and enjoy to the full what a modern, state of the art combustion engine can accomplish in combination with an equally top notch DSG gearbox . Push the starting knob and your ears already enjoy the humming sound of this thoroughbred four. This engine excels in smooth refinement, panache, pulling power and efficiency.

The rest of the drivetrain is up to the mark. The DSG seven speed box is alert, smooth, and always puts judiciously the right gear forward. The 4 x 4 drive consists of the state of the art Haldex system. Typically, 96 % of the total power is directed to the front, improving fuel efficiency. Depending on the road conditions, the electronic sensors redirect power to the wheels that have sufficient traction. The Haldex AWD has been seen on the Octavia since about a decade, but this is the first time it is coupled to a DSG gearbox.

This Superb has personality…

OLYMPUS E-510, ISO 400, F 5,5, shot at remarkably low 1/15 of a sec at 70 mm equivalent, showing how the image stabilizer does an excellent job…

This is a car with character. Inviting you to experience its punch and performance, yet remaining docile and refined in urban driving. It will respond beautifully when you push your right foot a bit further down, but will not protest when you subject it to endless stop and go traffic.

OLYMPUS E-510 F 5,5, ISO 400, 1/10 sec and 54 mm equivalent. Amazing sharpness due to stabilizer…

Performance leaves nothing to be desired. 200 kW or 272 HP see to that. It sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 5,7 seconds, hurtling further to a top speed of 250 km/h. Pulling power is abundant over a very wide rev range, with 350 Nm being available between 2000 and 5400 rpm. Almost supercar performance, which is matched by excellent handling. This Superb will not protest when you decide to take it through its paces on winding roads, the judicious set up of the suspension clearly shows. Of course, the VW group and also even more Skoda borrows from a massive engineering and last but not least sporting rally experience of their cars, and they really know how to set up a decent handling car.

OLYMPUS E-510, ISO 400, F 4,9, 1/40 sec.

The straight line stability is also excellent, and high speed driving in this Superb is a relaxing affair.

Last but not least, the brakes are of course also up to the job.           

…and is immensely practical

Of course, fuel consumption is very much in function of how much power you use. Drive this Scout with some restraint, and it will quite naturally reward you with reasonable consumption figures.

OLYMPUS E-510, F 5,6, 1/20 sec at 65 mm equivalent. Image stabilizer working hard…

The manufacturer quotes 9 litres/100 km in urban driving, and this is easily surpassed in the region of 11-12 litres when the distances are very short and the engine has not reached its operating temperature. But keep the throttle openings small and the DSG will faithfully choose higher gears and keep the revs (very) low, and then this Scout will chalk up creditable figures. On the open road, the picture looks a lot brighter, with the manufacturer quoting 6 liters/100 km. On average, we reached 7,5 liters/100 km, with mostly relaxed driving.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But as said, this Superb Scout is immensely usable. Not afraid of open terrain, it will transport five and their luggage.

OLYMPUS E-510 CAMERA, ISO 400, F 3,7, 1/13 sec.

And, in the good Skoda tradition, boot space is plentiful. From 660 liters to 1950 liter. Head room and leg room for the rear passengers has also to be experienced to be believed.

OLYMPUS E 510 CAMERA, ISO 400, F 5,6, 1/50 sec.

Of course, driving assistance systems and infotainment are up to scratch. The central display can be ordered from 8 up to 9.2 inches, and the top of the range Columbus system, found in our test car, offers 3D navigation, Skoda connect, gesture control and Wi-Fi hotspot. We enjoyed the Canton sound system too…

OLYMPUS E 510 CAMERA, ISO 400, F 5,6, 1/80 sec.

Besides the usual driver assistance systems, like lane assist, adaptive cruise control, practical items include 2 USB ports in the front, 2 USB ports and 230 v socket in the rear, inductive charging of your phone, just to name a few. Then there is the cooled glove box, space for 1,5 liter bottles in all the doors, and space also for your coloured safety vest…

Conclusion

OLYMPUS E-510, ISO 400, F 5, 1/30 sec.

A formidable, sporting companion, this Scout, on all the roads you may take to any destination in this wide world. It has a formidable combustion engine, and one should not forget, this is what more than 90 pct of us all still drives. It certainly has its evident merits, if only one considers the CO2 footprint of making large(r) batteries, and depending on what car you need for your lifestyle and driving habits. It is beautifully built, solid and reliable, well equipped, offering tons of space. It looks (very) good too, and its sporting panache could put a (broad) smile on your face for a very long time…actually, every time you take its wheel, for years on end.

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

The Fiat Cinquecento enters the electric age…

The ever young 500 is now in its third generation, and incarnates as FCA’s fisrt fully electric car. It has more space, top notch E-technology, new styling but remaining a true Cinquecento.

Its range and charging times are what customers nowadays expect. The lithium-ion batteries with a capacity of 42 kWh give the New 500 a range of up to 320 km in the WLTP cycle.

Charging is indeed a breeze: the New 500 is standard equipped with an 85 kW fast charger system to charge the battery very quickly. For example, it takes only 5 minutes to build up a sufficient energy reserve to travel 50 kilometers, more than is needed for average daily use.

The fast charger can also charge the battery to 80% in just 35 minutes. The Combo 2 socket located on the rear right side panel of the car powers the fast charger, for both AC and DC charging.

Home charging solutions are also available. The launch edition of the new 500 includes the Easy Wallbox™, a home charging system that can be connected to a normal home outlet. ENGIE EPS developed this exclusively for FCA, and it will be marketed by Mopar in Europe to coincide with the launch of the model.

It is a simple, accessible “plug-and-charge” solution that can be managed easily via Bluetooth, letting you stabilize your energy load by charging your 500 immediately at home with up to 2.3 kW of charging power, with no need for any intervention by skilled personnel. Moreover, the Easy WallboxTM is ready for a power upgrade to 7.4 kW, providing a full charge at home in just over 6 hours. The model also comes with a Mode 3 cable for charging from the public mains.

A “sherpa” mode gets you home

The New 500 has three driving modes: Normal, Range and Sherpa, which can be selected to match your driving style. In particular, Sherpa mode optimizes the available resources to ensure that you will reach your destination. The “sherpa” mode adjusts various parameters: maximum speed, limited to 80 km/h; accelerator response, in order to reduce energy consumption; and deactivation of the climate control system and heated seats (the driver has the option of activating them at any time).

“Normal” mode is as close as possible to driving a vehicle with a normal combustion engine, while “Range” mode activates the “one-pedal-drive” function. By selecting this driving mode, you can practically drive the New 500 with the accelerator pedal alone.

Lots of (city) zest…  

The engine has an output of 87 kW, providing a maximum speed of 150 km/h (self-limited) and acceleration from 0-100 km/h in 9.0 seconds and 0-50 km/h in 3.1 seconds.

Level 2 autonomous driving and connectivity

The car of the future is not just an electric city car, but goes one step further: it literally goes to the next level by being the first car in its segment to offer level 2 autonomous driving, bringing all the associated benefits to urban mobility.

Front-facing camera monitoring technology monitors all areas of the car, both longitudinally and laterally. The intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control (iACC) system brakes or accelerates in response to anything: cars, cyclists, pedestrians. Lane Centering keeps the vehicle in the center of the lane when the markings are correctly identified.

Intelligent Speed Assist reads the speed limits and recommends applying them, while Urban Blind Spot uses ultrasonic sensors to monitor the blind spots and warn of any obstacles with a triangular warning light on the wing mirror. Then there is Attention Assist, which provides warnings on the display, recommending that you stop and take a break when you are tired. Finally, the 360° sensors provide a drone view to avoid any obstacles when parking or performing complex manoeuvres.

The third-generation 500 is the first FCA car equipped with the new UConnect 5 infotainment system. FCA uses the easy, intuitive and incredibly customizable Android Auto operating system. For example, you can use widgets to configure how functions and apps are displayed. Apple CarPlay is already available wirelessly. The system is also ready to offer the same functionality for Android Auto.

In short, the New 500 offers seamless integration with your smartphone, offering a 10.25” high-definition touchscreen, with a horizontal form factor that fits perfectly into the car dashboard, following its lines.

The launch version also boasts the Natural Language interface system, with advanced voice recognition, so you can talk to the car to control parameters, set the climate control and choose your favorite music.

Style, and then again

The New 500 has all the elements of style, just quieter, cleaner and crisper. The front is vertical as in the 1957 version, making it less elusive, almost facing the road, and the dynamic feel of the profile has been accentuated.

The substance of the new platform has given the third-generation 500 a strong presence: it is 6 cm wider and 6 cm longer, the wheelbase has been extended by 2 cm, and the wheels are larger and further apart, giving it a stronger personality and greater comfort despite its length remaining under four meters.

Inside, the electric 500 is completely new and elegant, with clear references to elements of the first generation. As for the Hybrid Fiat 500, including the electric version, some trim levels also have seats made using “Seaqual” yarn, derived from plastic recovered from the sea.

The new 500 debuts in the convertible version: the first open-air four-seater with zero emissions: all open, all electric, all silent. As an icon of La Dolce Vita, it had to be reborn to bring out all the charm of its forms and sounds. And on the subject of sounds, here is another unique feature of the new city car, which will become available later: the Acoustic Vehicle Alert System (AVAS), an acoustic warning for pedestrians that is mandatory at speeds up to 20 km/h; the chosen sound is not a common acoustic signal, but rather the music of Amarcord by Nino Rota, in pure Dolce vita style, an example of the most authentic Italian creativity.

The “la Prima” launch edition is available for pre-booking

A dream is coming true: the “la Prima” launch edition, a limited edition designed for the launch of the New 500, with its own distinct style, exclusivity, technology and connectivity.

From today, March 4, it can be ordered via an online pre-booking system on the http://www.fiat.com* website, by following a simple procedure of just three clicks.

To book the “la Prima” limited edition, simply browse to the http://www.fiat.com* website, and with just three clicks and a deposit of €500, you can become a part of the mobility of the future.

Needless to say that we are keen to get behind the wheel of this New 500, Corona virus protection measures permitting. The date is set, at the digital presentation: the 4th of July…

I will come back on the new 500 with a description of unique one-off versions created by Kartell, Bvlgari and Armani…

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

Volkswagen news to admire via webcast, and not in Geneva…



Ralf Brandstätter, Chief Operating Officer of the Volkswagen Brand, presents here the ID. CROZZ showcar

We are living in digital times. So even when the Corona virus limits (temporarily, as we all hope) our present mobility, and led to the cancellation of the Geneva Motor Show, we can still see all the automotive news via our PC’s, Phones, Tablets.

Volkswagen presents therefore its important news on a special webcast, for you to admire via the following link: https://www.volkswagen-newsroom.com/en/live-stream-5455.

Ralf Brandstätter, Chief Operating Officer of the Volkswagen Brand, presents here the ID. CROZZ showcar, which now evolves into its series production version, the ID.4.

Volkswagen is forging ahead with its electric mobility strategy by providing a detailed insight into the brand’s first all-electric SUV. The new ID.4 will be launched this year. Following in the tracks of the ID.3, the countdown has already begun for the second model based on the new modular electric drive matrix (MEB). “Just like the ID.3, the ID.4 will also come onto the market as a carbon-neutral vehicle”, explains Ralf Brandstätter, Chief Operating Officer of the Volkswagen brand. “We will produce and sell the ID.4 in Europe, China and the U.S..”

Just read on for more VW news…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The ID. 3 started production in Zwickau, the ID.4 now follows…

The ID.4 will initially be launched with rear-wheel drive, while an electric all-wheel drive version will be added to the portfolio at a later date. The high-voltage battery is positioned near the center of the underbody to create a low centre of gravity and an optimum in terms of driving dynamics, along with an extremely well-balanced axle load distribution.

Also new mild and plug-in hybrid drives…

For Volkswagen, the ID.4 and ID.3 represent important milestones in the brand’s bid to become entirely carbon-neutral by 2050 – in line with the Paris climate agreement. Plans have been put in place to reduce the Volkswagen fleet’s CO2-emissions by a third by as early as 2025.

Dr. Frank Welsch, Member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars Brand with responsibility for Technical Development, presents in the webcast the new Touareg R

Volkswagen is currently investing one billion euro to electrify its model range while also offering an increasing number of hybrid vehicles. This is based on the fact that, just like electric powertrains, new mild and plug-in hybrid drives in large-scale product lines such as the all-conquering Golf will significantly help to reduce fleet emissions in the future.

New Touareg R

This is why the company’s focus during the webcast is not only on ID. models, but also on new Volkswagen models with hybrid drive. Dr. Frank Welsch, Member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars Brand with responsibility for Technical Development, presents in the webcast the new Touareg R with plug-in hybrid technology and the the Golf GTE 2 for the very first time.

The Touareg R,the most powerful Volkswagen model will in future also be powered by an efficient plug-in hybrid system. The alliance between an electric drive motor generating 100 kW (136 PS) and a V6 turbocharged petrol engine (TSI) with an output of 250 kW (340 PS) develops a system output of 340 kW (462 PS). The battery capacity of the Touareg R with a top speed of 140 km/h in all-electric E-MODE has been designed so that most average daily commuting distances can be covered with zero emissions.

Golf GTE with stronger battery…

The same applies to the new Golf GTE – its plug-in hybrid drive has been geared towards performance and consists of an electric drive motor with 85 kW (115 PS) and a four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine (TSI) generating 110 kW (150 PS). As a unit, the electric drive motor and the TSI develop a system output of 180 kW (245 PS). The new Golf GTE’s top speed in all-electric mode is 130 km/h.

Further Volkswagen highlights include the new Golf GTD, which generates significantly lower nitrogen oxide emissions compared with its predecessor thanks to innovative twin dosing technology, plus the eighth generation of the Golf GTI, produced more than 2.3 million times. The most recent version is powered by a 180 kW (245 PS) 2.0-litre turbocharged direct injection engine. The maximum torque is 370 Nm. The four-cylinder engine is coupled with a 6-speed manual gearbox as standard.

Last but not least, the eight generation of the GTI takes the central stage, presented again by Ralf Brandstätter, Chief Operating Officer of the Volkswagen brand. It is a formidable performer, this GTI, and A 7-speed dual clutch gearbox (DSG) is optionally available.

Digital instruments for the GTI for maximum performance…

We include here some screenshots of the webcast, and stay tuned for more!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

ŠKODA OCTAVIA RS iV: sporting and “green”…

Skoda launches its first plug-in hybrid in the performance-oriented ŠKODA RS family.

The new ŠKODA OCTAVIA RS iV has been fitted with a 1.4 TSI petrol engine and an 85-kW electric motor delivering a combined power output of 180 kW (245 PS). Featuring black details on the bodywork, the OCTAVIA RS iV can immediately be recognised as sporty top-of-the-range variant of ŠKODA’s bestseller, now in its fourth generation.

The Czech car manufacturer will offer the new OCTAVIA in three other electrified versions as well. The OCTAVIA iV is a plug-in hybrid delivering 150 kW (204 PS) and is available in the Ambition and Style trims. Two e-TEC variants producing 81 kW (110 PS) and 110 kW (150 PS) make use of mild hybrid technology for the first time at ŠKODA.

Christian Strube, ŠKODA Board Member for Technical Development, said, “By introducing the OCTAVIA RS iV, we are starting a new chapter in the success story of our RS portfolio. We are using plug-in-hybrid drive in a sporty top-of-the-range model for the first time. In the new OCTAVIA RS iV, this both increases performance and reduces fuel consumption as well as CO2 emissions.”

ŠKODA has fitted the OCTAVIA RS iV with a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine (110 kW / 150 PS) and an 85-kW electric motor. Together, they have a combined power output of 180 kW (245 PS) and offer a maximum torque of 400 Nm, which is transferred to the front wheels via a 6-speed DSG. The car’s CO2 emissions are approximately 30 g/km in the WLTP cycle*, meaning it already complies with the new, stricter EU6d emissions standard for all newly registered vehicles in the EU, which will come into force from 1 January 2021.

The drivetrain is mostly the same as we have found in the hybrid Passat we tested for you. Just look alos in our columns.  

The high-voltage lithium-ion battery has a capacity of 37 Ah equating to 13 kWh, thereby giving the car an all-electric range of up to 60 km in the WLTP cycle*.

As the 330 Nm of torque provided by the electric motor are available straight away, the RS iV can pull away quickly. In Sport mode, which allows drivers to make use of the car’s full power output, the OCTAVIA RS iV accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in just 7.3 seconds. Its top speed is 225 km/h. The progressive steering that comes as standard and dynamic tuning of the sports suspension that is typical for the RS range cater to energetic driving styles.

Sporty black accents provide distinguishing visual features

The ŠKODA OCTAVIA RS iV has specific LED fog lights and black 18-inch alloy wheels as standard; the brake callipers in RS-typical red catch the eye. 19-inch alloys are available as an option. The ŠKODA grille, air curtains, diffuser on the RS-specific front apron, aeroflaps, diffuser on the rear apron and window frames all come in sporty black. The hatchback sports a black RS rear spoiler; in the estate, the roof spoiler matches the car colour.

Oliver Stefani, Head of ŠKODA Design, explained, “We have given the already dynamic shape of the new OCTAVIA an even sportier appearance using familiar RS insignias. With its numerous black design details, such as the ŠKODA grille, front apron, rear diffuser and alloy wheels, the car is immediately recognisable as a member of our RS family.”

Dynamic, RS-style interior

Looking inside the OCTAVIA RS iV, the predominantly black interior stands out. The three-spoke leather multifunction sports steering wheel bears a vRS logo and features paddles for operating the DSG. The front sports seats are upholstered in black fabric, whilst the optional Ergo seats come with Alcantara and leather upholstery as well as seat-depth adjustment. The seats are adorned by an RS logo and coloured decorative stitching in red or silver-grey, which can also be found on the leather steering wheel, on the armrests and on the Alcantara-covered dashboard. Decorative strips in an RS look and pedals with an aluminium design round off the sporty impression.

OCTAVIA iV plug-in hybrid delivering 204 PS

In addition to the RS variant of the OCTAVIA iV, ŠKODA is also offering plug-in-hybrid drive for the Ambition and Style trim levels. Here, the 1.4 TSI petrol engine and the 85-kW electric motor provide a power output of 150 kW (204 PS) and a maximum torque of 350 Nm. This plug-in-hybrid variant can also cover an electric range of up to 60 km in the WLTP cycle* and is fitted with a 6-speed DSG, operated using shift-by-wire technology. Its CO2 emissions are approximately 30 g/km*. The OCTAVIA iV also complies with the EU6d emissions standard.

The lithium-ion high-voltage battery, with a capacity of 37 Ah equating to 13 kWh, used in both iV models can be conveniently charged at home using a standard household plug socket or a wall box. The charging port is concealed in the driver’s side of the front bumper. A regular 12-volt battery is located in the boot, which has a capacity of 450 l in the hatchback and 490 l in the estate. The fuel tank can hold 40 l – just five litres less than in OCTAVIAs that are powered purely by a combustion engine.

Two eTEC engines boasting mild hybrid technology

The two eTEC versions of the OCTAVIA are making their ŠKODA debut. They will be the brand’s first production cars to feature mild hybrid technology when they start to roll off the line this summer. When combined with a 7-speed DSG, the three-cylinder 1.0 TSI producing 81 kW (110 PS) and the four-cylinder 1.5 TSI outputting 110 kW (150 PS) make use of a 48-volt belt-driven starter motor and a 48-volt lithium-ion battery that is located under the front passenger seat and has a capacity of 0.6 kWh. Both models can be identified by a specific badge on their tailgate.

Mild hybrid technology enables energy to be recovered when braking so that it can be stored in the 48-volt battery. This energy is used to support the combustion engine by providing it with an electrical boost of up to 50 Nm and, depending on the situation, makes it possible for the engine to switch off completely, letting the vehicle coast. As soon as engine power is required again, the motor restarts the engine in a fraction of a second. The stop/start function also works faster and more conveniently thanks to the use of the belt-driven starter motor. In addition, the engine generates less noise and vibrations when starting and the 48-volt battery is able to charge the regular 12-volt battery using a DC/DC converter. In total, the mild hybrid technology used for the two ŠKODA eTEC engines allows for savings of up to 0.4 l of fuel per 100 km.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Renault launches its electric offensive…

2020 – E-TECH Family: New Clio, Captur and Mégane Estate…

Renault has an ever wider choice of electric and electrified models in store now.

First of all the clever E-TECH, offering hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains on the new Clio, new Captur and new Mégane Estate. Renault drew on its vast Formula 1 experience as well as its know how in electrification to develop this E-TECH system. We will explain this very interesting system in a separate report.

2020 – Range E-TECH / Z.E.

There is also the new Twingo Z.E., also becoming 100% electric, and the new ZOE is now also available in a “Riviera” limited series.

Last but not least there is also A MORPHOZ electric concept car, of which more soon in a separate report. Renault announces here that it (re)invents the future of family mobility, with a car which adapts to the changing needs of everyday life and integrated into the electric ecosystem. Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Kia reveals first images of next-generation Sorento…

The concept of ‘refined boldness’ inspired Kia’s designers, and they came up with a more confident, mature and desirable exterior design. But that is not all. The cabin is also definitely upscale with premium material quality.

Of course, the new Sorento is crammed with progressive connectivity, driver assist and infotainment technologies. It makes its first public appearance at 2020 Geneva International Motor Show

More to come!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A new Citroën C3…

It is high time that we start talking in our columns about the iconic brand of the “Double Chevron”with some important news…

Citroën has very recently unveiled its New C3, marking a further evolution of the Brand’s best-seller worldwide, a real success with 750,000 sales achieved by the 3rd C3 generation since its launch at the end of 2016.

Did you know that the C3 is sold almost 4,5 million times since its launch? It is the best-seller of Citroën range, belongs to the top 5 in Europe in its segment at the end of December 2019 and the 3rd best-selling car in France.

The new C3 has a proper look. It doesn’t look like any other vehicle. It builds on its differences with a colourful personality and very good comfort. It now stands even more out with new LED headlights, 97 exterior possible combinations, 3 new roof stickers, 2 new wheel rims and 3 interior colour ambiences. It now has new Airbump® designs and up to 12 driving aids, with a lot of connected services: Connect Assist for the SOS assistance, Connect Nav with its 7 “ touch tablet and Connect Play for smartphone duplication. Equipment, completely in the tune of the times, which makes everyday life easier…

New C3 will arrive at dealerships starting in June 2020.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Fiat Panda Cross 4 x 4: your cute, compact companion on any road

Who doesn’t want a car which is the quintessence of  ” less is more “and takes you literally everywhere? Such a car is the Panda Cross we drove here for you. A car which embodies all the “savoir faire” of a great  manufacturer who is an absolute genius in making small cars. This Panda we drove is moreover full of unique panache, as it combines the clever two cylinder “TwinAir” petrol engine with a very comptetent 4 WD drivetrain.

This engine with its twin cylinder sound adds to the endearing character of this Panda, as it recalls the original sound of the (also) vertical twin of the fifties Cinquecento.

Of course, this is where the comparison with its iconic predecessor ends. Because the present day Panda has sufficient room for four grown ups, is light years further when it comes to high speed stability,  comfort and last but not least passive safety.

But before we take the wheel, just a few words here about the cute looks of this Cross Panda. The front of the car already tells the story. Fog lights are snugly set into the matte black grille, the skid plate suggests clearly that this Fiat is not afraid of hitting rougher terrain. Cute accents are further found alongside this Panda, with impressive side mouldings and further culminate in the rear end, where also a skid plate is found. It also has larger mountain snow tyres, which raises the ground clearance to 161 mm and increases wading depth to not less than 410 mm.

The cabin with its typical rounded contours in the iconic Panda styling language host clearly readable instruments and knobs.

Rediscover (off-road) pleasure…

What has remained in this iconic Panda over the years is the absolute driving fun. Sliding behind the wheel you will find immediately the right knobs and handles, the cute gearlever literally falls into your hand.

The pleasant throb of the eager TwinAir is music in your ears, as it revs up swiftly and gets you going with verve.

Of course, we live in energy conscious times. So you shouldn’t let your enthusiasm get the best of you, and refrain from higher revs.  Change up at 1700 rpm or so, which sounds way too low as your ears are used to the typical throb of a four cylinder. But rest assured, you are doing the right thing. You are also well advised to choose the “eco” mode, which shifts the engine management towards efficient combustion at lower revs and partial load. The rewards are impressive. Urban fuel consumption remains below 7 litres, with enough pulling power left for an active driving style. Drive it in “eco” mode on the open road, and the consumption is dwindling to around 5 litres. A remarkable feat for any 4WD! The manufacturer quotes 117 g/km as CO2 emissions.

But Panda driving is also about (re)discovering driving pleasure. If you are in the mood, forget the eco mode, let the thoroughbred twin sing full breasted, and every metre you travel is just epic. You accelerate faster than a 500 “esse esse” Abarth Corsa of yesteryear, as this TwinAir 875 cc unit has not less than 85 horsepower, and the hissing throb at higher revs and full throttle is just about the same as its famous ancestor. Your Panda sprints under your able hand (and foot) in under 15 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h, and soon you hit the top speed of around 160 km/h. The dapper Panda will cruise all day at 130 km/h and therefore is a perfect all rounder which, despite its initial urban and off-road vocation, is also a good companion on longer motorway trips.

Long distance comfort is greatly helped by the good suspension, which admirably swallows rough tarmac and pavés, and also the fine sound deadening and vibrationless drivetrain are just right here.

In our columns you can also read more about our driving impressions  of the “Mild Hybrid” version of the Panda and 500, which have a very docile 70 HP three cylinder engine under the hood.

A true master offroad…

Due to its low kerb weight (1090 kg), which gives it about the same power to weight ratio as a Diesel Range Rover and last but not least its compactness this Cross Panda is a formidable mount in snow buried mountain villages and pass roads. Not surprisingly it is an absolute favourite in these regions. The low first gear lets your Panda climb the steepest terrain hills, (Fiat says up to 70 % and slide slopes up to 55 %) and it also has a terrain control device, sitting on a round knob between the front seats. There are three settings. One is for normal road driving, and when the road is good, 98 % of the power will be sent to the front wheels. Then there is the option/position off road, and now the car’s differential locks to offer permanent four wheel drive, and the electronic stability control acts to brake the wheels that are slipping. Of course, you also have to come safely downhill, and that is where the third position, “hill descent”, comes in. This uses the car’s electronic stability and the ABS systems to maintain a constant speed.

Conclusion

The Panda is already endearing in its cute “cross” livery. But there is more. It reveals its pleasant character once you are behind the wheel, and it is not only fun in town, it also excels offroad, and in muddy terrain, it can be more than a match for heavier (Defender) Rovers and the like. Its low weight and nimble dimensions and above all short overhangs see to that.

So to get a truly go anywhere, well equipped, compact, frugal 4×4 for a price around € 17.000 Euro’s, which is already an icon among car enthusiasts, then this Panda is a steal!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Skoda Kamiq 150 HP 1,5 TSI DSG: the beauty of agile power…

Who does not dream about it? Owning and driving a compact and practical hatch with the power to weight ratio of an early Porsche 911? A car which comfortably seats four and has all the comfort, infotainment and driver assistance amenities we come to expect from modern mid-size cars, yet has the handling and agility of an early Audi TT?

A car which is well built and reliable, and besides all these qualities doesn’t break the bank? Well, such a car is this Skoda …

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Walking to and around the car, this Kamiq shows to you it’s a true Skoda. The angular contours of the bodywork are typical for the Skoda styling language, the overall body shape betrays the intention of the designers to offer excellent use of available space. They succeeded: its compact, 4241 mm long body, offers for four to five grown ups enough leg- and headroom, and there is not less than 400 – 1395 liters reserved for their luggage. Actually, did you know that the word KAMIQ comes from the language of the Inuit people living in northern Canada and Greenland?

It describes something that fits as perfectly as a second skin in every situation. Well this is certainly true for this Skoda…

The cabin is more than pleasant, albeit with a no nonsense Skoda flair, but being nevertheless far from spartan. On the centre of the well designed dashboard sits a large 9,2 inch touchscreen, offering all the modern state of the art infotainment one could wish for. Using the “Amundsen” navigation is a breeze, one can pinpoint a chosen destination with your fingertips, and pinch the map size with a brief finger movement. Ventilation, audio, hooking up your phone, everything is intuitive and immediate.

Driving assistance systems were in abundance present in our test car, such lane assist, ACC to name a few. It made driving this Kamiq both in town and the open road a totally “zen” and effortless experience. Driving at night is enhanced with Full LED headlights with curve illumination and dynamic indicators. Seats are excellent, and for long drives there is also Driver Activity Assistant, so it warns you when it detects any fatigue.  

Formidable engine and drivetrain

Good modern petrol engines coupled to superb automatic transmissions are still hard to beat when it comes to sheer performance and driving pleasure.

The smoothness and panache of the 150 HP 1,5 litre 16 valve direct injection petrol engine has to be experienced to be believed. It offers maximum its maximum power between 5 and 6000 rpm, its maximum torque of 250 Nm is delivered between 1500 and 3500 rpm. It revs beautifully with a smooth staccato up to 6500 rpm, and is marvelously coupled to a superb 7 speed DSG transmission, which marries alertness with velvety and fast changes.

The pulling power which unfolds immediately at the slightest hint of your right foot is abundant to say the least, and the objective performance figures amply show it: the sprint from 0 to 100 is swiftly done in 8,4 seconds, and top speed is an impressive 212 km/h. Needless to say that this Kamiq is a good companion on long, fast Autobahn trips as well as tours on curvy mountain and country roads.

But also town driving is a pleasure. Its compact dimensions, the ample torque, the smooth engine and superb transmission see to that. Of course it takes a very gentle right foot to keep consumption down in urban driving, but every soul knows that power costs money, and this is also true for E-cars, by the way. Average consumption is quoted at 5,1 liters/100 km, and it was no trouble at all for us to stay around the 6 litre mark and below it per 100 km. CO2 emissions are quoted at 116 g/km CO2.

Infotainment and driving aids…

The Kamiq in the tested Style equipment version has what it takes to keep you happy behind the wheel. As we said, you are looking at a 9,2 inch touchscreen with easy and very intuitive to handle and excellent “Amundsen” navigation.

Impressive for its class is also the digital instrumentation with a choice of different views, ŠKODA Sound System with 9 speakers, subwoofer and amplifier, DAB+ digital radio, just to name a few. We already mentioned the lane, park assist and Adaptative Cruise Control.

Conclusion

A compact but astonishingly roomy four/five seater, which handles beautifully, has with this 150 HP thoroughbred engine plenty of character and panache and offers tons of driving pleasure. On top of that it superbly built, timelessly styled and last but not least is reliable and offers very good value for money.

So of yo are looking for a practical car which drives like an agile “pur sang”, make this Skoda your own…

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

We drove the Panda and 500 Mild Hybrid: mildfullness gets you going…

One would indeed create a new “mildful” English word for it: the o so clever way Fiat sees hybrid propulsion as a mild mobility solution for everybody.

Mild for nature, and also gentle for your purse. The Fiat engineers found the simple, straightforward solution of using a Belt-integrated Starter Generator to capture the kinetic energy you want to reduce and give it back the moment you want to build it up again.

Indeed, in urban stop and go traffic, reducing and gaining speed is actually the main thing you do. And this is where Fiat helps you with mild cleverness.

We tested it all for you in the medieval city center of Bologna. And were convinced. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Gentle technology with a touch of genius.  

We heard it all at the presentation in Bologna. Carlo de Marino, global engineer of the Firefly Engine Family (see photo above) explained us in detail the merits of this 999 cc three cylinder engine and the hybrid system coupled to it.

First let’s focus on the hybrid system. The BSG (Belt-integrated Starter Generator) system is mounted directly on the engine (see photo above) and is operated by the belt that also drives the auxiliaries. The system recovers energy during braking and deceleration, stores it in a lithium battery with a capacity of 11 Ah, and uses it, at a peak power of 3,6 kW, to restart the engine in Stop&Start mode and to assist it during acceleration.

This technology allows the internal combustion engine to switch off, even at speeds below 30 km/h, simply by shifting into neutral (the dashboard, which displays information on the hybrid system, prompts the driver when to do so). In coasting mode, the lithium battery powers all services, ensuring the driver has full control of the vehicle.

The Mild Hybrid propulsion unit is combined with a 6-gear C514 manual transmission “evolution”, which has new low-friction bearings and gaskets, uses a specific high-efficiency lubricant. The gearbox sits 45 mm lower and is better supported, making for supersmooth gearchanges, which we indeed experienced during our drive.

The FireFly engine itself is tuned for utter docility, and develops 70 HP and 92 Nm of torque, the latter at a mild 3500 rpm. But as said, the starter generator helps at low revs when driving away and restarting. We drove the Panda Cross during most our test drive, keen to test out the hybrid system and get good photos of the car in the beautiful Bologna inner city, with a short stint behind the wheel of the Cinquecento.  

Indeed, we were impressed by the silence and velvety smoothness of this engine, and the slick gearbox where gearchanges could be done with your fingertips. The whole system also tempts you into adopting a fluent, quiet driving style, with the engine remaining totally vibrationless from 1200 rpm or so. The gearchange indicator also invites you to stay below 1700 rpm or thereabouts, and the driving experience is then one of silent mildness indeed.

When driving gently through city streets and boulevards, with the engine being barely audible both to bystanders and occupants, the instrumentation tells you about the merits of coasting, and indeed, shifting the slick gearchange lever into neutral will stop the engine and let you coast gently along, doing exactly what all the environmentally conscious tell you to do: recuperate kinetic energy by gently rolling to a stop, adopting good anticipation and judicious driving.

If you still have to use the brakes, it is then nice to see how the generator recuperates the energy, and gives it back when starting away again. Of course, this has its good results: Fiat claims a reduction of 30 % in your average fuel consumption, and indeed, it took no effort at all to reach values between 4 and 5 litres/100 km in the Bologna streets. Of course, it takes a fluent driving style at low revs, that goes without saying. The manufacturer quotes 3,9 l/100 km as average consumption , and emissions are as low as 89 g CO2/km.

Performance is more than adequate with a quoted top speed of 155 km/h and 14,7 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h.

Durability and low service costs…

The designers of the FCA Mild Hybrid System not only kept the Hybrid system efficient and simple, also the 3 cylinder “evergreen” FireFly engine underwent some changes to enhance serviceability. The unit has here a single overhead camshaft, two valves per cylinder with continuously variable timing and last but not least chain driven timing.  

Your servant with the Panda Hybrid in front of the stunning Eataly Fico Food Show Fair…

But also other aspects of running costs are kept low.

Customers also benefit from all the advantages of going hybrid (the car is Euro 6D Final-compliant, for instance), which, depending on local regulations, include freedom of access and movement in city centers, cheaper parking in town centers and tax breaks.

The philosophy of designing and building a Hybrid system for everybody is also reflected in the very moderate extra cost of the Hybrid system compared to the standard layout(s). Indeed, the Panda Mild Hybrid Launch Edition is available in our country for slightly over 13.000 Euros…  

A Hybrid Launch Edition with a distinct “green” touch…

The 500 and the Panda are today, for the first time, together in a single special series: the Hybrid Launch Edition.

The special series can be recognized by the “Hybrid” sign written on the rear and the exclusive “H” logo, formed by two leafs with dew drops, on the center panel. Dew – the symbol of the light of dawn and therefore of the beginning of a new era – has been used also as inspiration for the “Dewdrop Green” exterior on both cars.

Charles Fuster, EMEA region marketing manager explaining the Seaqual initiative…

On the inside, the seat upholstery is faithful to the sustainable philosophy of the entire project. The Launch Edition seats are the first in the automotive sector to be partly made with SEAQUAL® YARN, the weaving of which produces a special material, certified by SEAQUAL INITIATIVE, derived from recycled plastic: 10% of which originates from the sea and 90% from land.

This SEAQUAL® YARN is produced by transforming plastics collected from the sea into flakes of polyethylene terephthalate. These flakes are then used in the yarn from which the fabrics are made. In the weaving phase, marine polyester is mixed with other environmentally friendly, natural, recycled or recovered fibers. This green process is completed by the application of dyes and environment-friendly finishes based on the saving of water and energy. Fiat is collaborating with SEAQUAL INITIATIVE to support ocean clean-ups to take action against marine litter.

Conclusion

The philosophy of designing this Mild Hybrid System certainly took hold with us. It is clever, effective, smooth and last but not least comes at a very small extra cost. All this completely in line with the unique talent Fiat has well honed over decades: to build small, compact cars which are simply among the best in the world in their class.

They now take this art a “green” step further with these Mild Hybrids, and there is even more to come. Just watch out for the next Geneva Motor Show: it will see the birth of the first “full electric” 500…

Hans Knol ten Bensel