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

We drove the new Fiat 500 electric…an icon with e-power.

The iconic Fiat 500 is entering into the electric era, and it is doing this very convincingly with superb technology and style.

It even has the panache to add a third door to its well-shaped body, to set it apart from the rest.

And indeed, apart from the rest it is. It has a whole new body, and is six centimeters longer and 3 cm taller than the “normal” Cinquecento, yet it retains fully its ideal and iconic proportions.

We drove the “prima” Cinquecento, sprayed in very pleasing Rose Gold, and we liked very much its performance, ride and style, just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The New 500 3+1 “la Prima” has it all, and stands out with a range of exclusive details: full LED headlights with an ‘Infinity design”, two-tone 17” diamond-cut wheel rims and chrome-plated inserts on the windows and side panels.

In the interior, the pleasant ambiance continues: soft-touch seats studded with Fiat monograms, a two-tone steering wheel flattened at the bottom and an exclusive “la Prima” tag on the console. We also liked very much the finish of the dashboard panels on our test car.

Comfort is also paramount: six-way adjustable front seats, mats, an “electro chrome” internal rearview mirror and 360° ‘drone view’ parking sensors. The steering wheel is also adjustable in height and length over a wide range, so an ideal seating position is soon found. Add to this the spacious glove box, the wide door bins and trays on the center console, and you notice that this New Electric 500 is geared to make your daily life a lot rosier.

“Zen” electric driving is addictive…

But let’s turn now to driving this Torino-built electric icon of style. It is not only constantly pleasing to the eye, it is also a soothing, relaxing experience to move it from A to B.

Even if you are driving with kind smoothness, only caressing the right pedal, you feel its whispering power. All 118 HP or 87 kW of it, with 220 Nm of instant torque. Technically very refined, motor and drivetrain being vibrationless and totally inaudible over the whole speed range.

Zesty it is indeed. It will whisk you from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 9 seconds. And when pulling away from standstill, you reach 50 km/h in just 3.1 seconds. But it is the “Zen” character of e-driving which gets you sold, and puts a broad smile on your face.

No frantic revving, no jolts from clumsy gearchanges, just a smooth, utterly silent, silk smooth flow of power. You can fully concentrate on the traffic and everything around you, undisturbed, enjoying the purity and elegance of your progress. Only e-power can convey this feeling, and we have to admit it, it is addictive.

We caught ourselves cruising on urban boulevards even below the 50 km/h speed limit, just to enjoy the ride. Urban driving at the corresponding lower speeds delivers of course also excellent economy, and throughout our test the consumption was a very reasonable 8.1 km/kWh. We have to admit that we drove this “Elettrica” very smooth indeed. On a fully loaded battery, which has a capacity of 42 kWh, the TFT 7 inch instrument panel indicated a 260 km range, which is totally adequate for our country. The 500 Electric can be charged with a fast 85 kW charger, so you can recharge from a flat battery to 80% range in 35 minutes, or to 50 km – the average daily distance driven – in around 5 minutes.

We used the 11 kW standard charger, getting from 40 % to 80 % charge in about 3 hours. In our neighborhood, with only two charging points for a few thousand inhabitants, we are allowed to stay maximum 3,5 hours at the charging point, but this was luckily enough for us.

As everyone knows, the charging infrastructure in Belgium is completely below any standard, and will very probably remain so for considerable time to come. It is therefore almost essential in our country to have a private home and/or garage/driveway, if you want to call an fully electric car your own and use it regularly.

The electric 500 is about 300 kg heavier than its petrol engined counterpart, so the suspension setup is somewhat stiffer, without being uncomfortable however. Despite its 1,3 tons weight, the car still feels quite nimble and agile, and the excellent 9,7 m turning circle and super light steering make it your ideal partner in town.

On the open road, the electric 500 stands very well its own, with a regulated maximum speed of 150 km/h. It doesn’t feel fussy at all when driving at the legal maximum motorway speeds. Of course, look out for fast(er) charging points and plan your trip carefully…

One word about the driving modes. In the “normal” driving mode, the car will coast essentially when you lift the throttle, retaining the kinetic energy for you to use. In the “range” mode, the electric motor will use this kinetic energy to charge the battery, allowing you to use a “one pedal” driving style with ease, as the braking effect of the motor is quite marked. Last but not least there is the “sherpa” mode, where motor and battery are carefully governed to allow you to squeeze a maximum distance out of the remaining battery charge.

Infotainment and driving aids…

“La Prima” is equipped with the most advanced ADAS systems available:

What to think of Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control (iACC) and Lane Centering, Traffic Sign Recognition, Autonomous Emergency Brake with pedestrian and cyclist recognition, Intelligent Speed Assistant, Lane Control, High-resolution rear camera with dynamic grid, 360° parking and urban blind spot sensors, Automatic twilight and dazzle sensors, Emergency call and Electronic parking brake?

Last but not least it features automatic air conditioning…need we say more?

Connectivity is also hardly neglected.

This electric 500 has the new UConnect 5 infotainment system, which means a 7″ TFT Display, a 10.25″ Touch Screen With navigation, an excellent DAB Radio, Wireless CarPlay / Android Auto, the Uconnect Box (a telematic box enabling the connected services) and a wireless smartphone charger.

We were very impressed by the functionality and computing power of the central touchscreen, with excellent and fast graphics.

Practical

The third door, which can only be opened when the corresponding front door is opened, proved very practical, and allowed much easier access to the rear seats. The rear accommodation is essentially meant for kids or (very) small grown-ups. In a 500, noblesse oblige… this is a car with style. Nevertheless, it has a standard boot space of 185 liters, and of course the backrests of the rear seats can be folded.

Conclusion

The Cinquecento is alive more than ever, and the transplant with an electronic heart has succeeded masterfully. It was a very wise decision – also technically necessary of course to house the batteries in the chassis floor – to build an entirely new body for this car, and it was even more judicious to retain faithfully its iconic proportions too.

Technically, the car is totally mature, providing premium character smooth transport, assisted by driving aids and made to measure top notch infotainment.

If you are looking for attractively priced (urban) electric transport with iconic panache and style, take a long hard look at this car…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographer’s notes: for the photos of this test, we took our recently acquired Fujifilm X-A5 through its paces. We like the excellent contrast and contour sharpness of the Fujinon Apherical Zoom lens, delivering the fine definition you see here on these images. We used the TV or shutter priority mode set at 1/125 s, to avoid any eventual motion blur. We found the autofocus a bit on the slow side compared to our Nikon DSLR, but this was not much of an issue as the car was stationary anyway.

The Abarth Scorpioneoro revisited…

Faithful readers know that we have already enjoyed the panache and performance of the 595 Abarth Scorpioneoro. Just read at our test report on december 20 last year. Link: https://autoprova.be/2020/12/23/we-drove-the-fiat-abarth-595-scorpioneoro-a-golden-thoroughbred/.

The car we tested then had the five speed manual transmission, this time we enjoyed the sequential five speed box, which can be driven in automatic mode or manually controlled with the gearchange paddles at the steering wheel. But besides this the unique driving pleasure remained, and this was more than a good reason to put this Abarth again through its paces…

Just read further!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Abarths are built for those amongst us who enjoy driving. As we pointed out earlier, this does not mean that you have to be a true aficionado who knows and can repair every bolt on your “bolide.” Far from it. You just have to love cars, and enjoy to take the wheel.

Nor do you have to know also all the subtle secrets of inducing power slides and maintain oversteer by playing the throttle. You don’t have to pass a racing or car handling course, although this would certainly help. But it is not a conditio sine qua non to enjoy this Abarth. Its builders have seen to it that all the electronic driving aids keep you out of trouble, the only requirement is that you understand somehow the laws of physics and know their boundaries.

All in all, the masterfully set up sporting suspension teaches you to become a better driver. Day by day, step by step.

A formidable cockpit..

All the controls are in their proper place for the sporting driver. Even the central parts of the front seats have a special padded surface to keep you firmly in position. The steering wheel falls ideally in your hand, the gearchange paddles are always close to your finger tips.

A breeze to use them for those spirited shifts under acceleration. 165 HP warrant exhilarating performance. 0 to 100 km/h is reached in merely 7,3 seconds. The sequential gearbox is lightning fast and efficient. You can concentrate on the braking, the box will downchange for you, even when in manual mode.

But if you feel more lazy, or just want to admire the urban scenery when pottering down the streets, push the “A/M” button to select the auto mode and the transmission will do it all for you. Soon you learn to induce the gearchanges by lifting your right foot slightly. Smoothness is your reward.

Thoroughbred engine…

The 1,4 litre four cylinder is everything you want a truly sporting engine to be. Freely revving, ultra responsive, even more so in the “sport” mode, it delivers formidable punch, with a wonderful staccato when fully “on song”, combined with a characteristic burble at idling and low revs. You just get never tired of it. Never.

At the same time, this engine will not protest when you potter through urban streets and slow traffic for hours on end. It will not foul its plugs or start running unevenly. It will always run razor sharp and react immediately on the slightest blip of the throttle. This Abarth is totally fit for daily use, both by experts or novices, and this makes this “bolide” even more endearing.

Infotainment up to scratch…

Daily use is also made more pleasant with its excellent infotainment. As we told you already, the Abarth 595 Scorpioneoro offers the best infotainment currently available: the 7″ HD UconnectTM system fitted with Apple CarPlay and Google Android AutoTM* – a fast platform with high definition monitor, GPS and DAB digital radio – as well as the sophisticated BeatsAudio™ system with overall output of 480 W and a 8-channel digital speaker including a cutting-edge equalization algorithm capable of reproducing the full sonic spectrum of a recording studio. Need we say anything more?

Frugal, if you want it to be…

On fuel economy, this Abarth is of course as frugal or thirsty as you want it. All depends on your right foot here.

When you cruise along on the motorway at the legal limit, a consumption between 6 and 7 litres/100 km is totally normal, and if you drive along with the urban traffic flow, a city driving consumption of around 8 litres/100 km is also in the cards.

When it comes to service costs, all the drivetrain elements are well proven and reliable, so it will not be beyond what you expect from any normal compact car…

Conclusion

This Abarth is the endearing sporting thoroughbred which begs you to explore its panache, but will also be a pleasant and docile companion on your urban errands. This makes this Abarth so unique, for those who enjoy cars with character, but also want to live with it. And it will only mature further over the years, never lose an inch of its charisma. So you will cherish it, for years to come… maybe alongside a New 500 elettrica in your garage, who knows?

We drove the new Fiat Tipo Cross: the type of car your family needs…

To tell you right away, we have always liked the Tipo. Well styled, it offers lots of car for the money, and every inch of it shows the expertise and savoir faire of a world class car maker like Fiat. Not surprisingly, the Tipo has already carved itself a firm market share in its segment, and is further gaining in popularity. The latest facelift has made it even more attractive than ever, and we drove for you the well-equipped Cross version here. This Cross version is geared towards families which like crossovers, and want a car which brings more zest and emotions to their daily commute and weekend outings. We can tell you right away, this Tipo delivers and convinces– again.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A bolder stance and look…

The Tipo Cross is wider and taller, with a grille which now runs under the headlamps. Thanks to a new suspension and wheels taken from another crossover in the Fiat stable, the 500X, the Tipo Cross is now 4 cm higher. This Tipo is also 7 cm longer than the Tipo Life and has some exclusive styling details like bigger wheel arches, a protective front end decorative strip which is integrated into the front bumpers, as well as a protective bar which runs along the side skirts. Last but not least there is also a spoiler and roof bars which were hitherto reserved for the Station Wagon version.

A formidable 1 litre engine…

The Cross can be had with the 1,6 litre Multijet Turbodiesel, either 95 or 130 HP, but the more interesting engine is the new 1.0 GSE T3 FireFly petrol unit, developing 100 HP or 74 kW at 5000 rpm, which we found in our test car.

Compared to the previous 1,4 litre petrol engine, it is especially the pulling power in the lower and mid rev ranges which has been vastly improved. Instead of the previous 127 Nm developed at a high 4500 rpm, this new state of the art 3 cylinder delivers an impressive 190 Nm at merely 1500 rpm, and indeed, your servant had the initial impression that a potent 1,6 litre petrol engine was working under the hood. This ample pulling power gives the Cross plenty of zest, moreover as it is coupled to an ideally geared and very smooth 5 speed gearbox. In urban traffic, the unit is very flexible and smooth, and only a light foot on the throttle is needed to glide along at low revs with the boulevard traffic. This keeps also urban consumption within very reasonable levels, and it is possible to achieve anything between 7 and 8 litres/100 km in urban driving with ease, and even lower if you really concentrate on driving with anticipation.

The manufacturer quotes an average consumption of 5,7 litres/100 km, and less than that is very easily achieved on the open road. The Tipo Cross feels of course also at home on our Autoroutes, where the engine remains virtually inaudible at cruising speeds of say 130 km/h, corresponding with 3200 rpm.

When you put your foot down, the engine will rev up eagerly with a nice 3-cylinder staccato and pull you from 0 to 100 km/h in 12,2 seconds, then further to a top speed of 183 km/h, so you have all the performance you would ever need…  

CO2 emissions have also improved over the previous 1,4 litre engine, with 121 g/km (WLTP).

Digital instrumentation and state of the art infotainment…

An important improvement is also the 7 inch TFT digital instrument cluster, monitoring also the car’s status, multimedia and phone. This cluster is combined with the brand new Uconnect 5 infotainment system with a wide 10,25” touchscreen. This system was introduced in the new 500, and now also finds its way in this Tipo Cross. The Uconnect 5 system offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and so you have a wireless connection with your phone, showing its display on the touchscreen and having all its functions at your fingertips. It allows also for not less than 5 configurations.

Practical

Of course, this Tipo excels in sheer practicality. As a hatchback it offers 440 litres of standard luggage space, and the rear seat backrests can of course be folded backwards in split fashion to provide extra room. There is also an extra USB port in the back, with wireless charging of your phone and a 12 V connection also provided in the centre console at the front. Fiat has always offered much cabin and seating space in its cars for their size, and the Tipo is no exception. Even taller persons of say 1,80 m still have ample head- and legroom in the back. 

 

Conclusion

This Tipo Cross keeps its promises. Pleasing to look at, superbly equipped, zesty with state the art drivetrain technology and up to scratch infotainment, it offers a lot of car for the money.

In Belgium, the Tipo Cross can be had for €24.250, including VAT. If your family wants a Crossover which has it all, just take a long look at this one…

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

We drove the Subaru Outback: a refined go anywhere companion…

If we have to summarize our driving impressions of the new Subaru Outback after our test, the terms mechanical refinement, capability and space and comfort come first to our mind.

Well honed and refined, the latest version of the Outback certainly is. Technically extensively revamped and rolling on the Subaru Global Platform (SGP) for increased safety, driving performance and ride comfort, is has a super smooth engine and transmission, perfectly geared to glide around town in vibrationless silence, that is what this Subaru offers the urban dweller daily. But he or she can take the Outback elsewhere when nature calls. The legendary Subaru symmetrical AWD sees to that.

The new Outback is also on top of all that also more stylish and its interior has had a thorough makeover. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel


The Subaru Outback has a quite pleasing exterior, with fluent, stretched lines, with an excellent choice of paint colors too, as the photos amply show. When you step in, a posh cabin awaits you, certainly in the premium version we tested here for you. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the large centrally placed touch screen, which is a delight to use, with all the controls well placed and self explaining. Infotainment and connectivity is well cared for, as you will read further.

Seats are supportive and excellent, and soon a good position behind the wheel is found.


Drive train brought to perfection…

Pushing the starting knob one hears the trusted boxer engine coming to life. We said trusted, but it is good to know that the direct-injection 2.5-liter NA horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, has about 90% of its engine parts redesigned and boasts a higher compression ratio. Idling at 2000 rpm or thereabouts when cold, it soon drops to 1000 rpm when you shift the smooth CVT transmission in D or R. The Lineartronic CVT has been renewed with the gear ratio coverage expanded to a wide range equivalent to 8-AT. The hydraulic system has been revised and the oil viscosity lowered, which reduces horsepower loss by 22% compared to the previous model.  

So the result is that when you then are cautious with the throttle, this Subaru will smoothly pick up speed keeping revs down to just above idling speed, say 1200 rpm or so. The engine is inaudible and perfectly vibration free here, giving the impression one drives on E power. This enables you to drive at the now usual 30 km/h urban speed limit with utmost ease, also with very little fuel coming out if the injection ports. Driving in slow urban traffic in this relaxed manner cost us merely 7,3 to 7,8 liters/100 km, and this is no small feat.


The Subaru engineers did a very good job here, and it amply shows also what a good internal combustion engine coupled to a state of the art transmission can do nowadays. In our opinion, it again proves the point that a good petrol engined car has certainly not said its last word. Indeed, with the presently still abysmal state of the charging infrastructure in our country and also many other European countries too by the way, it is still a very attractive practical proposition indeed.

As said, we can only applaud the Subaru engineers here. Of course, hybrid and plug-in hybrid and full electric solutions will be on the cards in the coming years, as many (mega) cities will be imposing exclusively E-powered mobility in their inner city centers within not even a decade. Subaru wil soon have also a full EV vehicle, named the SOLTERRA.

This excellent economy is of course only reached when you adopt a relaxed and anticipative driving style. Putting the throttle deeper will result in higher revs, more power and more fuel consumed. The 169 HP/124 kW boxer engine guarantees zesty performance: 0 to 100 km/h is reached in 10,2 seconds, top speed is a good 189 km/h.
The manufacturer quotes 7,3 l/100 km as average consumption, with CO2 emissions being 166 g/km. The CVT transmission is very responsive as well as smooth, and will let run the engine in the ideal rev zones under full load, resulting in very brisk accelerations.

Predictable handling, with excellent comfort

The Outback with its symmetrical AWD is your ideal companion on wet and muddy roads, and the suspension is well laid out to cope with potholes and rough country roads. This means that well ridden urban pavés are also very well negotiated, and the Subaru is under every road condition a very comfortable car indeed. The Outback does not necessarily invite you to throw it around corners, but this said it responds well to spirited driving, and its handling is precise and predictable.

The standard S-AWD provides all-weather capability paired with a standard active torque vectoring for improved handling and cornering performance.

We mention here too that the Subaru is an excellent towing car, up to two Tonnes (!). It can then also throw in its excellent traction capacity, and is the preferred mount for horse owners who want to ferry their horses off and on the grounds at jumping events and the like.


When going off road or when negotiating slippery surfaces, the Outback driver has life made quite easy with a new X-Mode with dual functions of “snow/dirt” mode and “Snow/mud” mode for additional off-road capability.

It offers good road clearance for a wider range of activities, with an increased ground clearance of now 213mm, and an approach of 19.7° and of 22.6° departure angles (JIS) and ramp break over angle of 21.0°.

The new SGP platform brings significant enhancement to the body and chassis rigidity (front lateral flexural rigidity +90%, torsional rigidity +70%, front suspension rigidity +70%, rear sub frame rigidity +100%).

A rear view camera washer has been added so that the camera lens is always clear of dirt, mud and grime…

Practical



The Outback is a roomy station wagon, seating five with comfort. Luggage space is of course also leaving nothing to be desired. The cargo space opening width has been enlarged by almost 30mm, the space floor length is longer by 23.9mm, and the cargo capacity is increased with 10L, of now 522L (with the seats up). The Outback also offers standard roof rails with integrated and retractable cross bars, now enhanced with tie-down holes so ropes can be tied directly on the roof rails.

There is also plenty of stowage room in the door bins for large bottles and sundry. There are also several USB points, up to even 2,1 Amp charging power.

Safety first…

Indeed, safety is written very big at Subaru. We all now have become very familiar with Subaru’s safety vision, i.e. featuring the next generation EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, Subaru’s stereo camera prevention collision system, now with an expanded angle of view, nearly doubled, and new image recognition software, available with 11 safety functions, among which new ones were added:

Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering Function, Emergency Lane Keep Assist, Speed Sign Recognition with Intelligent Speed Limiter, Lane Departure Warning with steering wheel vibration, Lane Departure Prevention, recognizing also dividing line like grass or road edge and Pre-Collision Braking System with expanded support for collision avoidance at intersections.


The Subaru tells you also for instance to keep your eyes on the road as it is able to notice that you are looking sideways for a moment.
It also reminds you to take a look in the back seat just in case you would forget your (sleeping) toddler there…

Conclusion


This Subaru certainly merits your attention. It is refined, roomy, comfortable, at home on and off the beaten track, a reliable companion for work and pleasure, taking the whole family or your friends wherever they want to go.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic P 300e

On the Jaguar Media Drive Day we sampled driving impressions of the exhilarating E-PACE…

We told you earlier on our pages that we put the entire Jaguar Range (literally) through its paces, and it proved to be a unique experience indeed. (To read it, just click the link https://autoprova.be/2021/06/15/we-put-the-whole-range-of-jaguars-and-land-range-rovers-through-their-paces/)

We start our overview of the more detailed driving impressions with – in our opinion at least – one of the most interesting cars of the range: the E-Pace, here in the most dynamic version. We find this Jag good looking, of ideal dimensions, and of course wonderfully dynamic. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our (UK registered) test car came with the so-called “Black Pack”, with unique black mirror caps, panoramic roof, privacy glass and red brake calipers, which complement Satin Grey 19-inch alloy wheels. There is Gloss Black detailing to the front bumper and lower grille surround, main grille surround and grille tips. The side window surround and side vent – complete with the Jaguar leaper – also feature a Gloss Black finish, along with the Jaguar script and rear badging. The R-Dynamic Black is available with all E-PACE exterior colours, including new Ostuni White. Our test car came with the latter colour.

Also the interior is up to date with the curved 11.4-inch HD touchscreen integrated into the central instrument panel.

The large touchscreen operates the intuitive Pivi Pro infotainment system, which provides greater clarity and allows the driver to carry out 90 per cent of common tasks within two taps from the home screen thanks to its simplified menu structure.

But besides the good looks, there is of course state-of-art technology awaiting you.

Jaguar Land Rover’s Premium Transverse Architecture (PTA) ensures the E-PACE has the latest electrified powertrain technologies, as well as delivering improved ride comfort with the performance and handling agility Jaguar customers expect. Indeed, the handling and agility of the E-PACE is nothing short of superb, as we found out on the winding roads near Namur.

We drove the whole Jaguar Range on the scenic winding roads near Namur….on June 15, 2021 Press Day JLR Belgium

New engine mounts contribute to enhanced throttle response, while the suspension layout ensuring indeed a comfortable ride.

The Jaguar E-PACE is available with an efficient three-cylinder P300e PHEV powertrain, plus the most advanced four-cylinder petrol and diesel Ingenium engines, utilising MHEV technology to deliver enhanced performance, refinement and efficiency.

The current engine line-up includes:

Diesel

·163PS 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, six-speed manual, FWD

·163PS MHEV 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, nine-speed automatic, AWD

·204PS MHEV 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, nine-speed automatic, AWD

Petrol

·160PS MHEV 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo, eight-speed automatic, FWD

·200PS MHEV 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, nine-speed automatic, AWD

·249PS MHEV 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, nine-speed automatic, AWD

·300PS MHEV 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, nine-speed automatic, AWD

·309PS PHEV 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo, eight-speed automatic, AWD

The P300e PHEV powertrain of our test car combines a 200PS 1.5-litre three-cylinder Ingenium petrol engine and a 109PS (80kW) Electric Rear Axle Drive (ERAD) motor to deliver 0-60mph in 6.1 seconds (0-100km/h in 6.5 seconds) with CO2 emissions from 44g/km and fuel efficiency of up to 143.1mpg (2.0l/100km) (WLTP TEH combined).

We were indeed utterly impressed by the liveliness of this E-Pace.

The  P300e powertrain operates in one of three modes: Hybrid, EV or Save:

·HYBRID mode uses both the petrol engine and the electric motor in the most responsive and efficient way, intelligently switching between pure EV driving and using the petrol engine

·EV mode provides zero-emissions driving for up to 34 miles (55km)

·SAVE mode enables the driver to recover up to 85 per cent of battery charge, which can be deployed later in a journey, for example in urban areas.  

Enhanced connectivity

The latest E-PACE comes with even greater technology and connectivity options, with wireless Apple CarPlay® becoming available soon as standard*. Wireless Android Auto™ will also become available as standard at the same time,* with both available via a SOTA update for all Pivi and Pivi Pro equipped E-PACE models – seamlessly replicating the customer’s smartphone display on the central touchscreen and giving drivers multiple methods of controlling infotainment and phone functions. The E-PACE is also available with wireless device charging.

The Jaguar Range was neatly lined up on the Media Drive JLR Belgium

Jaguar’s advanced Pivi Pro infotainment system has a range of embedded apps, fast start-up from its own dedicated power source and dual-SIM technology so you can stream media and download updates simultaneously.

Pivi Pro technology is complemented by the 12.3-inch HD Interactive Driver Display that features enhanced graphics, a fully configurable layout with digital dials, media information, phone functions or full-screen mapping for the navigation system. With the optional Head-Up Display, the E-PACE’s interior technology ensures the driver is provided with numerous ways of configuring the set-up in the most convenient way possible.

Pure cabin ambiance…

The Cabin Air Purification system improves interior air quality through Nanoe technology.  The advanced system features PM2.5 filtration, which captures ultra-fine particles – including PM2.5 particulates – to improve occupant health and well being and is activated by pressing the ‘Purify’ button within the central touchscreen.

The latest enhancements ensure Auto High Beam Assist is fitted as standard on E-PACE S models, previously standard on SE and HSE derivatives, while the seating options have been simplified, ensuring customers can specify the perfect E-PACE with ease. High-quality Meridian Audio Sound is now standard from SE specification and memory functions for the door mirrors and seats are now standard on S models.

The E-PACE we drove on the sunny roads near Namur on the Media Drive JLR Belgium…

All R-Dynamic models feature Configurable Dynamics as standard, allowing drivers to hone detailed aspects of the E-PACE’s driving dynamics, including throttle and gearbox responses, as well as steering settings and suspension (where Adaptive Dynamics is specified) to tailor the driving characteristics to suit individual driver preferences. We just loved it!

More driving impressions of the Jaguar range to follow soon…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Experiencing E-mobility for all: we drove the new Citroën AMI in the streets of the Capital of Europe…

Citroën has always been THE brand for breakthrough mobility solutions. It responded this time to today’s challenges by offering 100 % electric mobility literally for all: a cute, roomy two seater with an 8 HP (6 kW) electric motor which can be charged in 3 hours on your home socket and which offers up to 75 km electric range in town or country/village roads. What’s more, since it is only 45 km fast, you don’t even need a drivers’ license for it. In France, 14 year old’s can drive it, in most European countries this is possible from 16 years onwards. But it is also excellent news for the (very) elderly, they have the ideal, roomy two seater which protects them from the elements, it is easy to step in and out of, has two wide opening doors and is the proverbial breeze to drive.

Citroën has done it, and we were delighted thanks to the dynamic PR team to experience the first kilometers behind its cute steering wheel in the streets, squares and boulevards of Brussels. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Light and roomy

Like the iconic 2 CV, this AMI is designed with nothing but practicality in mind. Its symmetrical body shape is unique, with a long roof and cabin, offering a sea of space for its two happy occupants. Only the driver’s seat can be moved fore and aft, the passenger’s seat is fixed, and therefore one sits normally a bit further back than the driver.

Room for a cabin space suitcase, and an elegant hook to hang your bag…

But she/he enjoys formidable legroom, and can actually stretch its legs fully. This means that seating with your legs in a normal position, there is even room for a cabin size suitcase in front of your feet! So there is always enough room for your errands, as besides in the cabin, the AMI has still an extra luggage space in the back.

Citroën has decided to make this long cabin as light and airy as possible. Therefore, a glass panoramic roof is fitted standard. So it is la Vie en Rose in your AMI. One gets in through the wide opening doors, which are identical and because of that opening in different directions. The driver’s door sways out in the front, making getting in and out super easy.

You can throw your pocket camera, bottle and sundry in one of the three customizable bins just behind the window, hang your city/handbag on the elegant hook provided on the passenger’s side, and get behind the wheel. The dashboard just reveals speed and battery charge level, indicating also the remaining range in km. Further, there is a switch for heating and fan. Next to it is a smartphone holder, so your phone can provide for navigation and music.

The row of knobs for “Drive”, “Reverse”, “Neutral” and “Park” sits on the left side of the driver’s seat. Just push “D” and off you go. Acceleration is lively, but don’t expect miracles from 8 HP moving a cute car with a total weight with battery of 485 kg, where one still has to add the weight of one or two passengers. But it is certainly enough to move along with the flow of urban traffic, and with some restraint one soon notices that a cruising speed of around 40 km/h needs just a push of 1 or 2 centimeters on the throttle. You don’t get any deceleration from the E-motor when you lift the throttle at speed, so adapt your driving style and drive with more anticipation as the distances to make good use the kinetic energy are longer. But it can be done, and soon you get the hang of it…

Driving in Brussels one soon notices that the indicated range is absolutely realistic, and that’s a big plus. Also remember, three hours is enough to fully (re)charge the AMI.

Brussels paves are ridden with potholes and ridges, but the AMI took it very well in its stride with a surprisingly comfortable suspension.

Make it your very personal AMI…

As said, life is good in this AMI. Typical and reminiscent of the 2CV are the side windows, which open by manually tilting upwards.

Citroën offers, in a “Do It Yourself” fashion, the possibility of creating the object that suits each customer’ tastes through a kit of accessories that can easily be installed yourself. This kit incorporates functional decorative items: a central separation net, a door storage net, mat, storage tray on the top of the dashboard, small hook for a handbag, smartphone clip, DAT@MI box (dongle device) connected to the My Citroën app to retrieve essential information from your Ami on the smartphone.

4 main shades are available for these accessory kits, costing 400 Euros: MY AMI GREY, MY AMI BLUE, MY AMI ORANGE, and MY AMI KHAKI.

2 characterful packs are available on AMI for even more customization. These 2 packs contain all the above decorative elements and large format stickers that cover the outside and thus give AMI its very own style.

– My Ami POP with Orange personalization and a fun, young and sporty look, with a rear spoiler, is available for €8,190 incl. VAT.

– My Ami VIBE in gray with a more upscale, chic and graphic design that integrates roof coverings in addition to the stickers, is available for € 8,690 incl. VAT.

The installation of these 2 personalization packs is entrusted to professionals before delivery.

The specific exterior body colour is neither too feminine nor too masculine and works with the different colour packs Citroën has developed (blue, white, khaki and orange).

So the Ami is a base that can become a completely customised object with exterior and interior accessories that are either pure style or offer real extra functionality, as well as stickers that give it a completely different characters, tells us Pierre Leclercq, Head of Citroën Style.

Prices…

AMI AMI: 7.290€ incl. VAT

MY AMI ORANGE, KHAKI, GREY, BLUE: 7.690€ incl. VAT

MY AMI POP: 8.190€ incl. VAT

MY AMI VIBE: 8.690€ incl. VAT

MY AMI CARGO : 7.690€ incl. VAT.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the MINI Countryman Cooper Northwood Edition: This MINI thinks BIG…

The MINI Countryman has grown to be a medium size SUV, like for instance the Audi Q2 or Nissan Qashqai, and has borrowed many mechanical elements of the BMW X1. But it also has retained all the quintessential styling elements of the MINI, its typical upright proportions, styling language and bodywork details, which it continues even more in the interior, where we find the big central round dial with the infotainment display, and the typical toggle switches, amongst others.

The MINI Countryman buyer has plenty of choice: in addition to plug-in hybrid drive, the new MINI Countryman is available with three petrol engines and three diesel engines featuring the latest MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology. But besides a wide array of drivetrains, the range of accessories has also been greatly expanded, and indeed, we saw also the launch of the fully equipped Northwood Edition. We told already more about it then in these columns, and you can read about it with the following link:  https://autoprova.be/2021/02/12/stylish-and-iconic-mini-launches-the-new-mini-countryman-northwood-edition/

We drove for you this fully loaded edition with the 100 kW/132 HP three-cylinder petrol engine and the 6-speed manual transmission. Plenty of zest and driving pleasure is guaranteed, we can already tell you here. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Northwood ambiente inside and out…

Our test car was certainly pleasing to the eye. Executed in a deep blue, it was shod with stylish black alloys, and compared to the previous model, it sports a newly designed radiator grille, with LED headlamps and LED fog lights now as standard.

The standard trim of the new MINI Countryman also includes LED fog lights, with a light band in the upper semicircle of each fog light serving as a parking light. The LED rear lights are now also in Union Jack design.

In the interior your eyes admire the new digital cockpit display with a 5-inch colour screen, and also the Piano Black interior surfaces for the cockpit and door bezels are putting you in a good mood.

We just love also the toggle switches, and find all commands easy at hand. The sports leather steering wheel also falls ideally in your hand. Only when your MINI has been standing in the sun, the wheel rim of the sports leather wheel can get very hot, and can be barely touched for the first few minutes without wearing gloves. Indeed, classic driving gloves are a necessary accessory in our ever-warmer summers now…

The Connected Media and Connected Navigation Plus options, available as an alternative to the basic configuration, each include an 8.8-inch colour screen with touchscreen function located in the central instrument that is typical of the brand. The circular control unit in the new MINI Countryman looks great, with the audio control panel and the buttons for hazard lights and driver assistance systems now integrated even better. Meanwhile touch-sensitive bookmark buttons and high-gloss Piano Black surfaces underscore the premium character of the central instrument.

Even the standard audio system offers audio streaming via a Bluetooth connection and a hands-free telephone system with USB interface. The Radio MINI Visual Boost and the digital instrument display form part of the optional equipment item Connected Media, while the Connected Navigation option makes a range of additional infotainment functions available in the new MINI Countryman in addition to providing a convenient route guidance system. This option also comprises wireless charging for compatible mobile phones and a second USB socket.

The new MINI Countryman is equipped with a SIM card that is permanently fitted in the car. This enables use of Intelligent Emergency Call with automatic detection of vehicle location and accident severity, as well as MINI TeleServices. The new MINI Countryman is always online, enabling seamless integration of the voice assistant Amazon Alexa.

This provides access to the Real Time Traffic Information service as well as the internet platform MINI Online and preparation for Apple CarPlay. MINI Connected can be used to send navigation destinations from the smartphone to the vehicle. The mobile phone connection also means that the vehicle’s navigation map is updated automatically.

Very willing engine…

MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology is used in the 3-cylinder petrol engines, and they are very responsive indeed. Throttle response is immediate and without any hesitation, from very low revs onwards. The exhaust manifold is integrated in the cylinder head along with turbo charging. Among other things, this ensures highly effective cooling of the exhaust gases and the turbocharging system. Also, the petrol engine direct injection system operates at a maximum pressure that has been increased from 200 to 350 bar. With this very willing engine, performance is rather brilliant, with an acceleration from 0 – 100 km/h in 9.7 seconds. Top speed is an impressive 205 km/h.

The six-speed gearbox is a delight to use, spoils you with precise, quick changes. The clutch is very smooth and progressive, the drivetrain copes wonderfully with all the pulling power, as it has been designed to cope with far more torque and power in the sportier models.

But the bare performance figures do not tell the whole story. The sheer effortlessness and smoothness when you use the full performance of this MINI has to be felt to be believed. It is indeed a very agile as well as smooth car in everyday use, and that makes a lot of the charm of this MINI.

With all this smooth and vibration free willingness, one is tempted to put the throttle somewhat deeper than originally intended, and this bout of extra enthusiasm translates also in the consumption figures. We clocked a test average of some 8 liters/100 km, using the performance more often than not. Constant speed economy is excellent, so when cruising at the legal limits the immediate consumption hovers between 5 and 6 liters and less. The manufacturer quotes 5.9 – 5.6 liters/100 km, with CO2 emissions being 135 – 129 g/km.

Masterful on the road…

The MINI Countryman has wonderful handling and road manners. Despite its more than 4-meter length, it feels nimble and agile, as indeed a true MINI should. It steers wonderfully precise, and invites you to take winding roads with spirit and zest. Straight line stability is of course also excellent, and this Countryman is also a perfect “Autobahnwunder”, capable of cruising at very high speeds indeed.

Practical

The new MINI Countryman has as the biggest MINI a versatile interior. Three fully-fledged seats are available at the rear. Alternatively, the second row of seats can also be used to expand transport capacity. By folding down the rear seat with a 40 : 20 : 40 split, storage space can be extended from 450 to up to 1 390 liters.

Conclusion

Providing character, unique panache, space in combination with mechanical excellence, superb handling and zesty performance, this is what the MINI Countryman is all about. The Northwood Edition spoils you with a full equipment, to keep you connected, amused, comfortable and happy.

This car is a true delight to use every day, and you will hardly get tired of it. We liked the version we tested, but there is – as we said – so much more, from E-power to full all wheel drive.

We hope to lay our hands soon on one of these more powerful (AWD) versions, not forgetting the electrified versions. Stay tuned on these columns…

Hans Knol ten Bensel