We drove the Kia ProCeed GT Shooting Brake: the power and the beauty…

When we first stood eye to eye with this Kia, we were convinced. This shooting brake has what it takes. Just look at the fluent lines of this Shooting Brake, which seems to move even when standing still. And then we say nothing about the dynamic 204 HP heart of this car, and the way it handles and rides.

Just some extra info here to complete the picture: the popular and very European Kia Ceed range has been designed in Kia’s European Design Centre in Frankfurt under the guidance of European Head of Design Gregory Guillaume and President of Design and Chief Design Officer Peter Schreyer, and is manufactured at the Zilina plant in Slovakia. It has sold 1,3 million cars in Europe since its début in 2006, and is indeed going from strength to strength. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Well proportioned and pleasing…

Indeed, the design team in Frankfurt know what they are doing. We rarely saw in this class – taking into account its wheelbase of 2.650 mm – a car which looks so sleek and elegant. Indeed, the ProCeed is only 5 mm longer than the Ceed, and shares its “K2” platform. No surprise that the ProCeed actually won the Australian Red Dot Design Award, and we must admit that in the black colour scheme which we found on our test car, this Kia has style and panache. The GT version we drove also runs on 18 inch alloys, which don’t hurt either.

The cabin follows through on the elegance shown outside. Matte chromed inserts, nice round dials, a well positioned “floating” 8 inch touchsreen above the heating / ventilation commands, all very inviting and intuitive. This is one of the cars where one is not overwhelmed by too much futurism and where one finds its way in seconds. The design and execution of the door panels is also showing excellent taste and has a distinct premium touch. The central fascia panel is now finished in a high quality, anti-scratch gloss black…

Driving is believing

A gentle push on the matte chromed starting button and “Drive” is soon selected on the excellent 7 speed dual clutch transmission. A docile 1,6 litre petrol engine hums to life.

But this is no sleeper, even when it sounds very refined and subtle when idling. This machine is the Hyundai Gamma GDI series unit, with four valves per cylinder and D-CVVT or dual continuous variable valve timing. Wow! Turbocharged, it delivers a solid 204 HP at 6000 rpm, and offers a healthy 265 Nm of torque over a wide rev range between 1500 and 4500 rpm. Yes, you understood. This means zest, and indeed it will shoot away from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 7,7 seconds, hurtling further to a top speed of 230 km/h. If this is not super car performance, it comes really close.

The GT pilot is treated to an even more sporting experience, not only with extra engine sound coming from the speakers, but also with the possibility to select different driving modes. In the “Sport” mode, steering response is different, and the gearbox will let rev the engine markedly higher. The ProCeed has in standard version already all what it takes to cling to the road. Electronic Stability Control, ESC is standard, as well as Kia’s Vehicle Stability Management (VSM). This means Torque Vectoring by Braking-technology can be included.

The ProCeed GT was developed under the guidance of Albert Biermann, President Vehicle Test & High-Performance Development for Hyundai-Kia. Six months of additional tests have improved the handling even further, and this really shows. Agile and precise, this ProCeed feels utterly at home on mountain passes, winding roads, city boulevards and Autobahnen. A true, well handling GT, with thoroughbred character and panache.

The handling does not come at the expense of comfort, and indeed this ProCeed handles even quite uneven roads without trouble. For spirited as well as long distance driving, the recaro-type front seats provide excellent support. Consumption is reasonable, and we stayed in the 7 to 8 liter/100 km range without effort.

Practical

The name shooting brake says it already. You can expect passenger and luggage space, and indeed, this ProCeed delivers. Luggage space is plenty, with 594 liter, and of course, the rear backrests can be folded in 40:20:40 fashion. Our test car came with the Smart Power Tailgate, and the loading floor is completely flat.

There is also a net for small luggage and a rail system. A last word about the infotainment system: combined with the 8 inch screen the navigation and Kia Connected Services are steered by TomTom®. The system has full smartphone-integration with Apple CarPlay™ (for the iPhone 5 and newer) and Android Auto™ (for Android-phones which run on version 5.0 (Lollipop) or higher).

Our test car was also equipped with a marvelous ‘Premium Sound System’ from JBL with the restoration technology Clari-Fi.

Conclusion

A very endearing, stylish shooting brake with a marvelously willing and pleasant drivetrain, which invites you for a very engaging drive as well as a smooth stroll on urban roads. The available space is quite sufficient, the styling, choice and quality of materials and sheer workmanship and finish are quite worthy of a premium segment car. When considering a roomy hatchback with a beautiful rear end, certainly do have a long look (and drive) of this one…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the new Mercedes B-Class 200d: a three star bestseller with a sporting and futuristic touch…

The B Class is everything a Mercedes stands for, and embodies it admirably: space, superb finish and workmanship, a high quality drivetrain, high level comfort and refinement for its class, longevity and economy.

It is quite versatile with its wide choice of drivetrains and engines, and has in its recent facelift received a sportier stance externally, combined with a futuristic dashboard makeover, sporting the latest trends in driving info, connectivity and (info)entertainment. 

The B Class stays also young at heart with new state of the art diesel and petrol engines, and this time we opted for diesel propulsion, and discover with you what it has to offer presently in terms of economy and environmental qualities. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

On the Widescreen you can even choose your experience worlds…

A new user experience in front of your eyes…

Besides the altered exterior, which is clearly more dynamic, and sporting, certainly in the AMG version, it is the new avant-garde interior makes for a unique feeling of space, with the distinctive design of the instrument panel. The intuitive user interface of the adaptive MBUX multimedia system is quite impressive, and its strong points include brilliant graphics, “Hey Mercedes” voice control, a standard touch screen and functions such as MBUX Augmented Reality.

The standard display…

The almost endless features and possibilities fitted in the premium, “chique” designed clusters and screens impressed us. Many features are taken from the S Class, and the user experience is quite stunning.

The sporting one…

The cutout in front of the driver houses the fully free-standing display unit, which comes in three different versions: with two 7-inch displays (17.78 cm), with one 7- and one 10.25-inch display (26 cm) and, in the Widescreen version, with two 10.25-inch displays. A head-up display is optionally available.

And the one who tells you how you have been driving…

We chose for our test driving the map display on the screen in front of us, with map/music info on the central screen. But a wide array of functions are available, last but not least the voice command. The system is called MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) multimedia system, its ability to learn thanks to Artificial Intelligence makes the system unique.

It can tell you every second the power developed by the engine…

It has touch screen control as standard as well as, depending on equipment, a high-resolution Widescreen cockpit, navigation display with Augmented Reality technology plus intelligent voice control with natural speech recognition, which is activated by saying “Hey Mercedes”. The touch screen is part of the integrated MBUX touch control concept – a trio consisting of touch screen, touchpad on the centre console (optional) and touch controls on the steering wheel.

A Blackberry feel…

The latter feel like your faithful old Blackberry or early Samsung smartphones, soon you get again used to this somewhat “vintage” touch.

You can play endlessly on the screens, and as the photos show, choose for example in which emotive environment or “theme world” you want to be in: to travel, to experience, drive economically and efficient, etc. You can check every instant of your drive how much power and torque your engine delivers, you can see in front of you your (city) driving score, choose your driving modes, Individual, sport, comfort or eco…

State of the art diesel power…

The transverse-mounted version of the two-litre OM 654q diesel engine with 110 kW and 140 kW celebrates a clean début: It is the first engine to fulfil the Euro 6d norm, which is only mandatory for new models as of 2020. It has an aluminium crankcase and stepped-bowl combustion process. It meets this Euro 6d standard thanks to extended exhaust after treatment with an additional underfloor SCR catalyst. With a cylinder spacing of just 90 mm instead of 94 mm, the new engine is more compact than its predecessor thus allowing the exhaust after treatment components to be installed directly on the engine, where the exhaust temperature is higher, making for more efficient after treatment.

It is a very smooth unit, unobtrusive also when cold, and offers not only utter docility, which is ideal in urban traffic, but also plenty of zest and power. It develops 110 kW/150 hp between 3400 and 4400 rpm, and has a healthy torque of 320 Nm between 1400 and 3200 rpm. Put it in the dynamic mode, and you will know what we mean. This B 200d is certainly no sluggard: 0 to 100 km/h is absolved in 8,3 seconds, and top speed is a very impressive 219 km/h.

The new B-Class is initially available exclusively with dual-clutch transmissions. New here is the eight-speed 8G-DCT, which is used in combination with the diesel engine. It is, in good Mercedes tradition, smooth, alert and efficient.

This translates also in very good (urban) consumption figures: the manufacturer quotes between 4,2 and 4,5 l/100 km combined, and we had no trouble to stay within the 5-6 l/100 km range. CO2 emissions are also quite reasonable with values between 112 and 119 g/km.

The pleasant high seating position make the B Class a very nice car to drive in town, and certainly female and older drivers appreciate it. It is of course also very well at home on the Autobahnen, an excellent Gran Turismo car it certainly is, with seating comfort also beyond reproach. If you are in a hurry on winding roads, the B-Class is also an excellent companion. Its chassis copes well with the kinetic forces of spirited driving, and handling is utterly stable and totally predictable.

In all versions of the new B-Class, the front wheels feature McPherson struts and forged-aluminium wishbones, to which are attached cast-aluminium steering knuckles. In combination with the more powerful engine variants or if the customer opts for one of the optional suspension systems, use is made of a sophisticated four-link rear axle.

The new B-Class comes as standard with extended Active Brake Assist, which can help mitigate the severity of rear-end collisions with slower-moving, stopping or stationary vehicles ahead – and now even with crossing pedestrians or cyclists – or prevent them altogether. Of course, a host of driving assistance modes and functions are available, last but not least our test car was equipped with park assist, for instance.

Practical

The rear seat backrest comes as standard with a 40:20:40 split. Depending on version, from mid-2019 it will be possible to slide the rear seats forward by 14 centimetres and to move the backrest into a more upright position to vary the capacity of the luggage compartment behind the rear seats between 455 and 705 litres. With the rear seat folded down and luggage loaded to the roof, the luggage compartment, which is flat thanks to the adjustable load compartment floor, can accommodate up to 1,540 litres behind the front seats.

It can also just show you the road…

Stylish sportiness

The B-Class is now also more dynamic on the outside. The slightly lowered roof line and larger, 16- to 19-inch wheels making for dynamic proportions. The relatively squat, progressive front end marks the second generation B-Class visually. Low-profile headlamps, the inside of which is already high-grade, detailed and precisely designed on the basic model with H7 headlamps and LED daytime running lights. When ordered with LED headlamps or higher, the B-Class comes with its own daytime running light signature in the form of a double torch.  

At the back, the width of the vehicle is accentuated by two-part lamps, reflectors integrated in the bumper and a distinctive black bumper bottom section. The large roof spoiler, along with high-gloss black spoilers at the sides of the rear window, add also an air of sportiness. We liked it!

Conclusion

The B-Class breathes harmony and indeed offers all the intrinsic superb qualities of a Mercedes. It brings you also the future world of infotainment, combined with the electronic cleverness and safety and comfort which we only expected from top range (S-Class) models of the brand.

Combine this with practicality, future proof economy and reliability, and you will agree that this B-Class is indeed the most clever choice you can make when you want to spend your motoring life behind a three pointed star. By the way, I bought the previous generation B-Class for my wife, two years ago. And it continues to put a broad smile on her face…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Mazda 6 Skyactiv-G 2.5, 194 HP: a flagship with style and panache

Mazda styling is reaching top levels nowadays, and the Mazda 6 clearly shows it. Just have a look at the fluent contours and the ideal proportions and balanced surfaces of this large sedan, and be convinced with us. The Mazda 6 body has recently been revised and has gained further in maturity and elegance, with also the interior having had a stylish make-over. Under the hood, the G 2,5 and other SKYACTIV powertrains have been further perfected, and driving dynamics have also been improved. We took this elegant sedan for a test, and it showed its many qualities. Just read on…

 Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Springtime in Geneva: a new open-top concept for the Lexus LC flagship coupe

Three years ago, Lexus caused a stir with the debut of the LC coupe at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. Since then, its design team has been exploring how the brand can evolve, leading to the creation of the new Lexus LC Convertible Concept, an appealing open-top roadster that makes its first European appearance at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show on 5 March.

The designers had one major goal for the concept, and that was ‘ultimate beauty’. From the rake of the windscreen to the smooth contours of the rear deck lid that houses the retractable top, every line was drawn to evoke an emotional response. The result is, as Lexus calls it,  a halo vehicle for the entire Lexus brand.

Retaining the styling language of the LC Coupe

“This concept takes the unmistakeable design of the LC coupe and interprets it as a future convertible,” said Tadao Mori, Chief Designer of the LC Convertible Concept. “It blends all the best aspects of the original coupe with the dynamic design of an open-air convertible.”

Long, low and lean, the LC Convertible Concept retains the LC coupe’s athletic proportions. The shape evolved naturally from the original LC design, yet it has its own, distinct identity.

More than just a grand tourer, the concept has a performance pedigree, its potential expressed in its short overhangs, 22-inch wheels and wide stance.

Beyond the visual appeal of the sheet metal, the cabin is an attractive space for driver and passengers alike. The tailored seats are upholstered in crisp white leather with yellow accents providing a splash of colour without disrupting the subtle elegance of the overall design.

The Lexus LC Convertible Concept measures 4,770mm long, 1,920mm wide and 1,340mm high, and has a 2,870mm wheelbase.

Just wait until March 5 to see it in the flesh!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

Kia takes a very bold look at its electric future…

The upcoming Geneva Salon is as always a festival of creativity, with car manufacturers pulling all the stops when it comes to design and new visions. So concept cars abound, and Kia is no exception. Its European branch has unveiled new images of its bold new all-electric concept car, which is to be presented on the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show.

Gregory Guillaume, Vice President of Design for Kia Motors Europe, comments his design here. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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A new benchmark in the C-segment: the new Toyota Corolla model range

Time goes fast: the iconic Corolla now rolls into its 12th generation…and this is again important news.

It will be a strong contender in the C-segment for two reasons: firstly, its newly adopted Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) GA-C platform not only equips it with very good driving dynamics and safety levels, but has also gave Toyota’s designers the freedom to give each body type a visually distinctive and individual look.

The all-new Corolla model line-up has a wider, lower stance with a more dynamic design which differentiates more strongly between the Hatchback, the sleek, the versatile Touring Sports and Sedan.

Secondly, the new Corolla model range further expands the brand’s hybrid line-up. The Hatchback and Touring Sports are the first models to offer a choice of two self-charging hybrid powertrains –an improved 1.8 litre with 122 DIN hp or a brand new 2.0 litre unit developing 180 DIN hp- marking the debut of Toyota’s dual hybrid strategy.

And for the first time, the Sedan is available with the 1.8 litre self-charging hybrid powertrain. Rightly so, as we have experienced in our Lexus CT200h how well engineered this hybrid drivetrain concept is, achieving top notch consumption figures…

Reflecting the brand’s continued focus on self-charging hybrid technology, all new Corolla models will offer customers just one conventional engine; a 114 DIN hp, 1.2 litre turbo petrol unit for Hatchback and Touring Sports models and a 132 DIN hp, 1.6 litre for the Sedan.

All new TNGA-based vehicles are of course prioritising high active and passive safety standards.

The new Corolla line-up meets of course the independent crash testing programmes and provides increased active safety levels through the  functions and systems of the latest Toyota Safety Sense technology.

We will soon tell you more in detail about the range, and the dynamic PR people also provided us with interview material of the designers and engineers and managers behind the new Corolla, so stay posted!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0 TB 280 HP: “La Superba…”

There is now a superb SUV which is stealing the heart of car lovers all over the world, and that is the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. The men and women of this iconic brand born in Milan have long waited to launch a SUV, and with good reason, as Alfa Romeo stands for a unique driving experience. The stunning “Giorgio” platform of the Giulia provided a sound basis for a SUV with extraordinary driving qualities, and the result is this Stelvio. Not only its name is synonymous for panache and character, the car itself scores, and how… Just read on further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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The Nissan Micra gets brand new petrol engines…

The Citadela Art District in the posh coastal Portugese riviera town Cascais proved the proper setting for the Nissan Micra to present its new petrol engines… 

We drove the stylish Micra in scenic Lisbon and the winding roads historic Cascais to test the new generation of very impressive three cylinder petrol engines, which will give the Nissan Micra a high tech trump card in the B segment for years to come.

Central place is taken by a totally new developed 100 HP 1 litre unit which embodies all the engineering and production knowhow of the alliance Renault/Nissan/Mitsubishi, a smooth and frugal performer which can be mated to either a 5 speed manual or an excellent CVT auto box.

But there is more, as together with Mercedes a different version was developed using the same block, but adopting a different cylinder head with double overhead camshaft and centrally placed direct injection. See this photo here…

All this results in an altogether sportier engine delivering 117 HP. This engine is coupled exclusively to a 6 speed manual. More on the driving impressions of the Micra with these future proof petrol engines soon…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

We drove the Abarth 124 GT: Gran Turismo pure

What makes a two seater roadster a thoroughbred Gran Turismo? A difficult question for all of us, but the men at Abarth have the anwser. On the basis of the Mazda MX-5 they got to work, and added all the unique ingredients to make a sporting masterpiece.  It is built in Hiroshima, but finished in Turin, to give it that special Abarth zest and look, for all of us who love Italian four wheeled panache. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the new Fiat Tipo 1.4 MultiAir Turbo 120 hp: a world class car…

The latest generation Fiat Tipo is conquering our globe. Again Fiat shows with this world beater how much know it has acquired in creating and building compact five seaters with panache. Everything is “just right” about this Tipo, whether we talk about its proportions, timeless styling, drivetrain, platform and suspension, you name it.

Moreover, it offers excellent value for money. We drove here for you the smooth and frugal 120 hp petrol engine, coupled to a slick six speed manual gearbox. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the new Fiat Tipo 1.4 MultiAir Turbo 120 hp: a world class car…”