We drove the Kia Niro Hybrid: your smooth and stylish companion…

The second generation Kia Niro is succesfully restyled… Photo was taken here with the “vintage” Fujifilm Finepix 100fs: bought recently for merely 59 Euros…

With the second generation, the Kia Niro has decidedly come of age. It is altogether more stylish, and comes with all possible electrified drivetrain options: you can have it as a straightforward hybrid, like the Niro we tested here for you, or as a PHEV, and of course as a fully fledged EV. We impressed by the smoothness, space, comfort and user friendliness of this “pure” hybrid, which can be very frugal too… just read further.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Indeed, the Niro has gained in style. The C Pillar ends with nicely sculpted rear lights, curved like we see on Volvo’s, with a passage between the bodywork and the lamp cluster, to improve air flow along the side of the car.

Photo taken again with the “vintage” Fujifilm Finepixshowing excellent colour balance.

The C-pillar can also be had in contrasting colours. Also the front end has improved in stance and presence with a wide aluminium coloured rim around the hood and its big lights. The same goes for the interior. A sweeping design, good quality materials give you that premium feeling.

Photo here taken with the latest “flagship” Samsung S22 smartphone … wih heavy correction of colour balance and exposure.

The screen layout is very good, nice to toggle between climate and screen controls to get you swiftly to the commands you want. We like the round control knob to switch between D, N and R, with the P button right on top of it, it’s all very ergonomic and you wouldn’t want it to be otherwise once you are at behind the wheel of this Kia. Many ergonomic solutions and knobs are similar to the flagship EV6, and that’s only to be applauded.

Photo here taken with the latest “flagship” Samsung S22 smartphone

The seats are good, with even a relax mode in the front seats depending on the equipment version you choose. There is plenty of storage, and leg and headroom is also quite decent in the rear. The floor in the rear is completely flat, so even three adults can reasonably sit in comfort. Boot space is excellent with a good 450 liters, and there is a separate tray for sundry like spare wheel equipment etc.

Drivetrain: smoothness and efficiency first…

Photo here taken with the latest “flagship” Samsung S22 smartphone

The hybrid Niro has a 1,6 litre Turbo under the hood, Kia calls it its Smartstream 1.6-litre GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) gasoline engine. It is a 16 valve four cylinder, with a compression ratio of not less than 1:14, with Continuously Variable Intake and exhaust Valve Timing, or abbreviated CVVT. To improve torque and thermal efficiency in the mid rev range it is a long stroke unit, 72 x 97 mm, and you understand immediately that this is not the unit that likes to be trashed hard with corresponding high revs. Surprisingly however, it develops its maximum power of 105 PS @ a rather high 5,700 rpm, and its maximum torque of 147 Nm comes in @ 4,000 rpm.

Photo here taken with the latest “flagship” Samsung S22 smartphone. Not the frugal average consumption of 5 l/100 km.

But its torque curve is relatively flat, so indeed there is plenty of pulling power at low revs. It runs indeed very smoothly at low revs, remember, it runs on low-friction ball bearings(!) The hybrid version has a permanent magnet synchronous electric motor of 32 kW, but more importantly, developing a torque of 170 Nm, and that gives you the pleasant liveliness and delightful “EV feel” at low urban speeds. The Niro Hybrid is paired as standard with the brand’s second-generation six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (6DCT with gears optimized for transmission efficiency, and the removal of the reverse gear that saves a significant 2.3kg). This improves the overall consumption by 0.62%. Reverse drive comes indeed from the electric motor…

Photo here taken with the latest “flagship” Samsung S22 smartphone. When driving very slowly due to urban congestion, the hybrid relies on the electric motor, and shows its worth: merely 2,9 litres/100 km on the driven distance!

The Niro Hybrid shows its smooth qualities when driven with restraint and anticipation; the engine and transmission then behave supersmooth, and the Artifical Intelligence of the power train will choose the optimum balance between engine and battery power, and manages to achieve optimal efficiency, together with more than enough power combined with excellent acoustic comfort. Consumption even in the busiest of urban traffic will remain well below 6 litres/100 km, and that’s what it’s all about when we talk about environment conscious transport.

Photo taken with the Fujifilm Finepix S100fs again…

Of course, higher speeds on Autostradas will take their toll, but driving at the legal maximum speeds on our European motorways will not set you back unduly. Performance is all you could wish for: 0 to 100 km/h in 10,4 seconds, a top speed of 165 km/h, on 16 inch wheels… The manufacturer quotes an average fuel consumption between 4.4 – 4.7 litres/100 km, and CO2 emissions of 100-107 g/km according to the wheel dimension, i.e. 16 and 18 inch respectively. 

Photo here taken with the latest “flagship” Samsung S22 smartphone.

Predictable handling

The Niro uses Kia’s third-generation ‘K’ platform, conceived from the outset to support a mix of electrified powertrains and provide high levels of torsional rigidity. The Kia engineers have tuned the suspension and steering system with an eye to comfort, succeeding in also offering a responsive, confidence-inspiring driving experience.

Photo here taken with the latest “flagship” Samsung S22 smartphone.

State of the art driving aids and connectivity

The usual driving aids are found, like Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), Lane Following Assist (LFA), Highway Driving Assist (HDA), Driver Attention Warning (DAW), High Beam Assist (HBA), Navigation-based Smart Cruise Control-Curve (NSCC-C), Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (BCA), Rear View Monitor (RVM) and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA). The Niro’s front view camera and in-built navigation system integrate to display the current speed limit. The Intelligent Speed Limit Assist (ISLA) system will display the current speed limit and automatically change the set speed (after confirmation by the driver) by using the information detected through the front view camera.

Last but not least, a clear 10-inch head-up display (HUD) system projects vital driving information, including speed, ADAS data and navigation indications onto the front windscreen, very readable indeed.

Photo here taken with the Fujifilm Finepix S100fs

Conclusion

The current Niro family is Kia’s third best-seller in Europe. Did you know that of the previous generation, Kia has sold 350,000 Niro models (54% HEV, 15% PHEV and 31% EV). So Kia took utmost car to hone this important car for them to another level. It is also reflected in the prices, but then it offers style and top notch technology. It will prove to be a very pleasant and smooth companion, as we said in the title of this report, when you drive it with respect for the environment and the law… indeed, as hybrid cars are meant to be driven to show their sublime qualities…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Photographers’ notes: we used besides our state of the art Samsung S22 phone also the Fujifilm Finepix S100 fs, which proved a very creditable contender…

Opel Mokka and the best barista in the world…

On October 1, coffee aficionados around the world celebrated their favorite hot drink on International Coffee Day.

This was a reason of the dynamic Stellantis PR team to to let one of the best baristas in Belgium, Peter Hernou, show us how to serve a good coffee. Because let’s face it, a Mocha coffee in the morning is a day without worries. And with the award-winning Opel Mokka, Opel offers the perfect companion to further color the day.

So we went to the beautiful Pajottenland around Brussels to have a drive with the Mokka and meet Peter Hernou and enjoy his heavenly coffee.

By the way, Opel chose the name “Mokka” by analogy with the coffee/espresso beans that are “small but with a lot of character” or, like the car, “compact in size and big in character”.

It was a very enjoyable day, and we learned a lot about coffee making. The first and most important rule is to have fresh roasted coffee beans, ground just minutes before you make it.

Of course we also had a delightful drive at the wheel of the electric Mokka through the hills of Pajottenland.

Of course, the customer has ample choice, this subcompact SUV from Opel is available as a battery electric vehicle, or with petrol and diesel engines, – just as they would choose their favorite coffee….

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Nissan press conference 2023: more than ever offering clever and future-oriented electrification with a renewed range…

Nissan Belux was the first to hold a press conference prior to the Brussels Auto Show 2023, and organized it at the magnificent premises of Quartier Papier in Zaventem. On the photo below you see the Nissan Ariya, which according to Nissan, redefines E-Driving…

At the start of the conference, Jerôme Saigot, Managing Director of Nissan Belux, stated that with the Ariya, LEAF and Townstar EV models, Nissan has a very nice range of e-vehicles. But consumers are still not fully ready for a 100% electric range of cars. With the new Qashqai e-POWER and the X-Trail e-POWER, they can experience the pleasure of a 100% electric transmission without having to recharge the car via a socket, thanks to a second gasoline engine that produces electricity, he said. Indeed, Nissan goes a step further than the competition with new technologies such as e-POWER. So Nissan reaffirms its role in the fields of crossovers and electric cars. But read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Jerôme Saigot, Managing Director of Nissan Belux, presented the new Nissan electrified range and the environmental strategy of the brand towards 2030…

Nissan’s green strategy for 2030…

Jerôme Saigot also stressed that sustainability is at the core of Nissan’s long-term vision, Ambition 2030. Responding to critical environmental, societal and customer needs, this strategy sets out to deliver electrified models and technological innovation in key markets globally, empowering mobility and beyond. Ambition 2030 supports Nissan’s goal which is to be carbon neutral across the life cycle of its products and operations by 2050. 

Nissan JUKE Hybrid: new advanced powertrain offers efficiency and responsive performance

Indeed Nissan is embarking further on the 100 % electrification of its range. We have the Juke, the popular compact crossover, offered with hybrid technology. Key to the driving pleasure at the heart of the Nissan JUKE Hybrid is an advanced low friction multi modal gearbox, using  dog clutches instead of conventional synchronizer rings to shift the 4 “ICE” gears and 2 “EV” gears. Additionally, to reduce friction, this gearbox does not use a clutch. All vehicle starts are 100% electric, and the 2 EV motors are used in combination to synchronize the gears, delivering smooth and responsive acceleration. We will be keen to drive a hybrid Juke soon, and tell you about our driving experience with it.

A car which will please many is the Nissan Qashqai  e-Power, said Mervin Keuter, Communications Director at Nissan Belux, offering 100 % electric power without the need for recharging externally. Indeed, a combustion engine coupled to a generator provides the electricity. The e-POWER system consists of a high-output battery, complemented by a variable compression ratio 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo-charged petrol engine generating 156hp, a power generator, inverter and 140kW electric motor of similar size and power output as found in Nissan’s electric vehicles. The petrol engine generates electricity, which can be transmitted via the inverter to the battery pack, the electric motor or both, according to the driving scenario.

Melvin Keuter, Communications Director at Nissan Belux, highlighted the qualities of the Nissan Qashqai  e-Power…

What sets this powertrain apart is that the electric motor is the sole source of power for the wheels, so its response is instant and linear. Needless to say that also here we are looking forward to gets our hands on one to experience how all this actually works. It certainly is clever and responds certainly to what modern-day drivers want… we also want to see how economical and environment friendly all this still is.

The dashboard of the new Nissan X-Trail with e-POWER and e-4ORCE…

Another important novelty for Nissan is the revamped X-Trail with its e-4ORCE  system on X-Trail and fully electric Ariya. The innovative e-4ORCE all-wheel drive system was conceived for use on either Nissan’s pure electric powertrains or with its e-POWER system, mentioned above. In both cases, the driven wheels are powered purely by electric motors fed by the battery.

In the case of the X-Trail, the dual e-motor system has a total output of 157kW (213PS) with a 150kW front motor and a rear 100kW motor. This generates lively acceleration from 0-100km/h in 7 seconds. Nissan proudly announces that a rear electric motor has its advantages: it has a 10,000 times faster rear torque response than a mechanical 4WD system(!).

Rémy Le Gall, Marketing Director of Nissan Belux, commented also on the electrified Nissan range and last but not least dealer organisation and client approach, of which more later in a separate report!

Now, on the X-trail, you can also opt for the turbocharged 1.5-litre variable compression ratio powering the wheels in the traditional fashion. Generating 120kW (163PS) and 300Nm of torque, it will be offered only in two-wheel drive configuration, with power to the wheels being transmitted via Xtronic stepped continuously variable transmission. In driving scenarios with relaxed driving and light acceleration, the engine switches to high compression ratio for optimised fuel efficiency, while in situations where more performance is needed, the compression ratio is adjusted to a low level.

The powertrain is also equipped with 12v mild hybrid technology. The system provides torque assist, extended idle stop, quick restart and coasting stop, with benefits to both fuel economy and CO2 output.

The Nissan X-Trail e-4ORCE offers 100 % electric power without the need for recharging externally…

Driving the future: the Ariya

Staying true to Nissan’s heritage of fun-to-drive, exciting vehicles, the Ariya is built on the all-new Alliance-developed CMF-EV platform that’s optimized to deliver unparalleled performance.

The Ariya’s all-electric platform combines excellent power delivery, charging capabilities and range, with a carefully tuned balance between ride comfort and handling agility. Available in three versions (Ariya 2WD 63kWh, Ariya 2WD 87kWh, Ariya e-4ORCE AWD 87kWh) and a range of up to 533 km, Ariya can confidently meet a variety of customer needs.

The Ariya 87kWh can recover up to 350 kilometres with a 30-minute quick charge using a CCS charging system. The battery pack sits at the base of the chassis to ensure 50/50 weight distribution on the e-4ORCE version and near-equal weight distribution on the 2WD versions. During benchmarking, engineers placed great emphasis on striking the ideal balance between handling agility, secure feeling and ride comfort, something not all EV rivals are known for.

Subtle regional differences exist for Ariya, as well. For example, European consumers demand responsive steering and high manoeuvrability, but also require additional stability at higher speeds, so damping forces were increased to improve body control. Nissan Europe engineers also adjusted spring rates and retuned steering feedback to increase on-centre definition at higher speeds.

A timeless Japanese design language…

Incorporating Nissan’s Japanese DNA, Ariya’s striking exterior and interior reimagines EV potential by embodying Nissan’s Timeless Japanese Futurism philosophy of powerful design that fuses aesthetics with functionality while creating an upscale, open atmosphere.

The all-new EV platform and compact nature of powertrain components made it possible for Nissan to position Ariya’s climate-control system under the hood. This allowed designers to use the whole length of the cabin and create a flat, open floor with a lounge-like space inspired by premium futurism.

For the LCV market: the new Townstar…

The Townstar EV builds on the success of the e-NV200. Built on a shared CMF-C platform, the new vehicle will be manufactured at the Alliance centre of excellence for small vans in Maubeuge, France.

The fully electric version of the all-new Townstar EV features a powertrain optimised with intelligent energy management and battery thermal cooling. The Townstar EV is able to achieve a superior range autonomy of up to 300km (WLTP cycle). Delivering 122 PS and 245Nm of torque, the Townstar EV’s  45kWh battery can accept AC charging (11 kW or 22 kW) or DC quick charging (CCS format). The latter of which enables users to charge the battery from 15% to 80% in as little as 37 minutes.

Lots of interesting news from Nissan, keep posted for further Nissan news and driving reports of their interesting new cars!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Alfa Romeo Tonale Plug-In Hybrid Q4: the full story of a modern, electrified thoroughbred…

We drove the Alfa Romeo Plug-in Hybrid Q4 Veloce in the historic roads near Biella…

Alfa Romeo is at an important turning point of its long history. With the Tonale, this potent, 280 HP stylish compact SUV, it wants to make a fundamental transition. It is the first milestone on the way to zero emission(s) – within 5 years the brand wants to see all its Alfa’s electric. It makes us shiver, quite frankly, and hopefully not literally, when a cold winter will bite us all in conflict ridden Europe nowadays.

But indeed, a positive mind and hope should fulfill our hearts, and looking at the mechanics of this Tonale, there is still plenty to let it beat a bit faster.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

An excellent and very convincing thoroughbred hybrid.

The Tonale is conceived when the merger between FCA and PSA was not yet achieved, and this is one of the (main?) reasons we find a so-called FCA “GSE” or Global Small Engine, also marketed as Firefly, under the hood as its combustion engine. This is a family of engines produced by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles or (FCA) starting in 2016, and subsequently Stellantis.

The unit in the Alfa is also dubbed as the “FCA e-engine” and is to be seen in slightly different power versions now also in the Jeep Renegade 4xe, in the Jeep Compass 4xe. It is being produced in the Brazilian Betim plant, now the largest vehicle plant in Latin America and one of the largest in the world. It was the production unit with the largest capacity installed of the entire Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) group. The Tonale itself rolls of the production lines at the Stellantis plant in Italian Pomigliano d’Arco, a municipality of the Metropolitan City of Naples in Italy, located north of Mount Vesuvius.

Of course, this engine embodies the very latest state of the art technology. Indeed, this new generation MultiAir III, present in the GSE family, has even more flexible valve control. The new cam profile with pre-lift allows the opening of the suction valves during the exhaust phase, aiming at the realization of the internal EGR, with reduction of nitrogen oxides and increase of the efficiency of the engine in the partial load. Besides, the lifting profile of the MultiAir III intake valve is more extensive and makes it possible to manage the effective compression ratio of the engine, keeping the tendency to detonation under control regardless of the fuel used. Wow!

The unit produces 180 HP or 132 kW, and is coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission, which provides traction to the front axle. We must say that the unit is not only smooth and very willing, it also produces the unmistakable, typical throb of a classic Alfa; the sound engineers did truly excellent work!

But then, this is a fully fledged hybrid, and this Tonale Q4 has an electric motor capable of supplying 90kW of max peak power and 250 Nm of torque to the rear axle.

The battery at the centre and the electric motor and its battery junction control box at the rear warrant an excellent weight distribution…

The 306-volt, 15.5 kWh lithium-ion battery supplies an electric range of over 80 km in the urban cycle and more than 600 km of total range. It is also excellent in terms of sustainability thanks to the new hybrid drivetrain which reduces Co2 emissions to 26kg/km, bringing the range’s total emissions down by 40%. A reduction has also been made in fuel consumption, which has been brought down to 1.14 liters per 100 km in the WLTP cycle. Plus, with the aim of providing maximum efficiency, it takes less than 2.5 hours to fully charge the battery when the 7.4 kW onboard charger is in use.

Driving is believing…

We took the Tonale “Q4” -as we shorten its name here – on an interesting 102 km road circuit laid out by the Alfa people in the surroundings of the Balocco proving ground. It led us via an interesting picturesque city Ricetto di Candelo and its beautiful Castello di Castellengo towards Biella, then took us on a nice curvy stretch back to the Autostrada direction Balocco. Endearing is the precision of its steering, and the feedback of the road surface in your hands at the wheel. You can really place this Alfa on the ideal line and adopt some razor sharp driving, even in the “natural” or “N” mode. We found the steering a bit too light however, except in the “D” or Dynamic mode, where the steering is more direct, even more responsive and feels a bit heavier.

The gleaming row of Alfa’s ready for the road test, aligned in front of the Balocco Proving Ground headquarters…

But pleasure at the wheel is to be had every inch of the way, and we found the Alfa also display excellent neutral handling, also thanks to its ideal weight distribution. Icing on the cake was a stint on the curvy circuit section of the proving ground, behind a Giulia Quadrifoglio pace car. It gave us the opportunity to drive flat out and (safely) close to the limits of this endearing Tonale, and the car could prove its qualities masterfully. Remember, the four wheels are driven, the front wheels being powered by the internal combustion engine and the rear wheels driven by the electric motor. Your servant could thanks to the e-AWD system, enjoy the instantaneous deployment of 100% of available torque from the electric motor, with a rear axle responding as soon as one steps on the throttle, and this resulted in excellent and stable out of corner acceleration, truly exhilarating indeed!

The performance is of course nothing short of astonishing. On the short straights of the circuit speeds well over 170 km/h were easily achieved, with stopping power to match. The “Q4” Tonale shoots from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 6,2 seconds and hurtles further to a top speed of 206 km/h. On e-power alone, the Tonale can achieve 135 km/h.

The suspension is well calibrated. For technical buffs we tell you here that the Tonale, as a result of its development history, runs on the FCA Small Wide platform of the Jeep Compass of the second generation.

The D.N.A. selector at the centre of action…

You can drive this Alfa exactly how you feel. We already applauded its qualities in the Dynamic mode, and the subdued but sporting roar of the engine still rings in our ears. But then you can also enjoy the agility, responsiveness and nimbleness of the Alfa Tonale in a more refined, “zen” way, which Alfa calls “modern sportiness”. We do agree, as the transgression between engine and E-power is ever so smooth as to becoming completely imperceptible, and that is no small feat. So when you select “N” or “Natural” mode, it keeps hybrid driving to all-wheel drive to optimize performance. The use of combustion engine and electric motor is automatically managed and allows for energy and fuel savings without giving up on performance.

Last but not least there is the “Advance Efficiency” mode, calibrated to obtain maximum energy efficiency in full-electric driving mode. It is the ideal driving mode in urban traffic. When you lift the throttle, the car continues driving in “Sailing.” Meanwhile, when one is going downhill, the new eCoasting Descent Control is activated to maintain a constant speed of 50 km/h, which is however adjustable with a light dab on the throttle or brake. Specifically, “E-Save” allows one to recharge or maintain the battery level when the internal combustion engine is on, and there is also the regenerative braking system.

Premium comfort and safety

The Tonale is quite roomy, remember, it rolls on the second generation Jeep Compass platform. Sound insulation is also quite good, enhancing the “zen” driving experience. Moreover, on-board comfort is also ensured by dual-zone climate control, pleasing ambient light, a sophisticated Infotainment system, ventilated and heated front seats, and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.

It also includes ADAS systems for level 2 automatic driving, a hi-res camera which provides a 360° view of the car, a Blind-Spot Detector and Rear Cross-Path Detector, as well as superior structural and industrial quality which earned it a 5-star NCAP rating.

Software connectivity…

Amazon Alexa allows one to remain constantly updated on the state of the vehicle from the comfort of one’s home, as it provides useful information like the charge Tonale Plug-In’s battery. The built-in Infotainment system comes standard and offers contents, functionalities, and services which are constantly being updated via its customizable Android operating system and 4G connectivity with “Over The Air” (OTA) updates.

Thanks to a hi-res screen whose overall dimensions are 22.5”—a 12.3” totally digital screen and a 10.25” main touchscreen unit, the Tonale Plug-In ensures easy-to-use connection. The centre 10,25” screen is also seen by the way in the 500e. The Tonale Plug-in Hybrid Q4’s circular dials include ad-hoc upgrades like the electro-biscione in the lower part of the right dial which changes color based on the electric motor’s status (off, on, on and charging) and so provides all the information related to power and charging. Clever!

Four new functionalities of Alfa Connect Services make their debut on the Tonale Plug-in Hybrid Q4:

E-control: it allows the customer to control various functionalities based on the EV features—like charging and the climate control system—at a distance directly from the My Alfa Connect App, which you have to install on your phone.

Dynamic Range Mapping: it allows drivers to travel with peace of mind as it shows them the destination they can reach based on the battery charge both on the navigation system map and the My Alfa Connect app.

At the end of our 105,9 km road trip, the instruments tell the story: we drove 50,6 km on engine power, 55,2 km on batter e-power. This resulted in a consumption of 3,86 litres/100 km, but then with 8 km left in the battery, so we estimate some 14 kW consumed…

Charging Station Finder: it allows the customer to see the nearest public charging stations both on the navigation system map and the My Alfa Connect app.

My eCharge: it allows for the use of the My Alfa Connect app to directly access Free2Move eSolutions services to manage public and private charging. In fact, it is possible to locate the public charging stations, check the charging methods, make payments, visualize the charge history, manage one’s own Wallbox to decide how much electricity to use and even increase, decrease, suspend, and reactivate the charge.

Your Tonale has an NFT which lets you generate a certificate…

This means that specifically, based on the customer’s selection, the NFT generates a certificate which guarantees the identity and good maintenance of the vehicle, and thus supports its residual value. The NFT certificate provides a further source of credibility on the used car market and is even more valuable on the Tonale Plug-In Hybrid Q4 as it contains even more information.

A special “Edizione Speciale” at the launch…

The Tonale Plug-in Hybrid Q4 is the top-of-the-range model and is in line with the simplification and rationalization of Alfa Romeo’s lineup strategy. In fact, it can already be ordered in the exclusive EDIZIONE SPECIALE launch version and in the VELOCE trim which has been made to reach the most in terms of performance and sportiness.

The EDIZIONE SPECIALE offers inserts on the titanium body, a special badge on the fenders, and a “Tonale” black badge, 20” alloy wheels, metallic pedals, red Brembo brake calipers and aluminum shift paddles which are integrated into the steering column. Later on, customers will be able to order the Tonale Plug-In Hybrid Q4 in the Ti trim for a more elegant and distinctive character.

We have to wait a bit to get our hands on this remarkable Alfa for a more extended test, but stay tuned for more Alfa news soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Alfa Romeo Tonale Plug-In Hybrid Q4 in Balocco: the wonderful panache of today’s efficient sportiness…

The cars were lined up for us at the Bella Luigina farmhouse, centre and headquarters of the proving ground.

The world famous proving ground and high speed test circuit at Balocco, built in 1962 by Alfa Romeo to test the Giulia’s as well as the racing cars, was the setting for us to get a hands on driving experience of the brand new Tonale Plug-In Hybrid Q4. The Test Track was built at Balocco, in a strategic location between Turin and Milan.

It all proved to be absolutely epic. The handling and driving dynamics of the Tonale on the state of the art test circuit, with its plug-in hybrid 4 WD drivetrain which produces not less than 280 HP, was the stuff of legends to say the least.

In front of the stables of the Bella Luigina farmhouse – the former home of legendary Autodelta racing department –  stood these impressive Tonale’s, waiting for a test drive…

We had also a taste of what Alfa calls its “efficient sportiness” and what it understands this sportiness to be in our modern times. This Alfa Tonale indeed displays its formidable performance in a totally effortless, mechanically refined and predictable manner, which has to be experienced to be believed.

The important loan documents for a drive in this wonderful modern day Alfa, including the permission to have a go at (almost) racing speeds on the Balocco test track!

We will of course come back the coming days on this presentation of the Tonale Plug-In Hybrid Q4, a very important car in the new future strategy of Alfa Romeo.

More very soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

Jeep revealed at the Paris Motor Show its Jeep Avenger 4×4 Concept…

Externally, the 4×4 Concept features tow hooks, wider fenders and track, and is equipped with larger, exposed and more aggressive tires.

Indeed, at the finale of the Jeep brand press conference of the Paris show, Jeep announced its 4×4 Concept.

At the event, Jeep brand CEO Christian Meunier pointed out that the Avenger has been designed as a Jeep vehicle from the outset. Indeed, “the all-electric 4×2 model already offers some of the best-in-class capabilities that identify the Jeep brand”, he stated.

Of course, it was tempting to inject the Jeep brand’s four-wheel drive electrified capabilities into a compact package, while retaining the brand’s unique design language, capability and personality.

Externally, the 4×4 Concept features tow hooks, wider fenders and track, and is equipped with larger, exposed and more aggressive tires.

To further enhance the capability of the Jeep Avenger, the approach angle has been improved to 21 degrees, departure angle to 34 degrees and breakover angle to 20 degrees, thanks to the ground clearance which now exceeds 200mm.

The front end has additional protection, with thicker cladding and there are extra built-in flood lights to improve visibility when driving at night.

The Avenger 4×4 Concept also displays a new lightweight roof cargo system concept that, with a special belt system, compresses the luggage on the roof and has scratch-proof protection along its entire length. The whole package is completed by an anti-reflective hood sticker and anti-scratch grille treatment for additional peace of mind when driving off-road.

Concluding the unveiling, Meunier said: “Here in Paris, we have shown that we have a full portfolio of new all-electric 4×4 capable Jeep models just around the corner, with a clear goal in mind: to become the number one electrified SUV brand in the world as we continue our path towards achieving our mission of Zero Emission Freedom.”

The full-electric Avenger joins a portfolio of Jeep vehicles which are 100 percent electrified in continental Europe…

Just look at the photos for now, until the Avenger all electric 4×2 comes available for a test drive…and the 4×4 version will also hit our roads!  

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The iconic and ultra-exclusive Citroën My Ami Buggy in Brussels and Knokke…

The My Ami Buggy was presented to us at Brussels Tour & Taxis…

Friday 7 October we stood eye to eye in Tour & Taxis in Brussels with the “Buggy” version of Citroën’s celebrated My Ami. The original “Buggy” concept was presented in December 2021, and met right away with strong public demand. This led Citroën to produce a very small first series of merely 50 units.

It was originally only intended for the French market, and it was launched on June 21 via an online sales site. In 17 minutes 28 seconds, they were all sold out…

Your servant at the wheel of the Buggy…

We were therefore very pleased when Citroën Belux took the initiative to present this little gem to us at the premises of Tour & Taxis in Brussels,

where they also treated us to culinary delights in the Gare Maritime Food Market. Indeed, there you can discover the Belgian terroir with 10 new street food concepts, in market style format, presented by 8 top chefs in an iconic venue with a unique bar experience.

The “sustainable” style tables will carry delicious dishes from star chefs for you to enjoy…

But there is more of the “Buggy” to see in Knokke…

On the sidelines of the activities that will take place this weekend in the fashionable seaside resort of Knokke (Zoute Grand Prix, from October 6 to 9), the exclusive Citroën My Ami Buggy will, after a brief visit to Bruges at the beginning of the week, its first kilometers on our Belgian roads, to the delight of ‘carspotters’ always in search of original images.

My Ami Buggy with its adventurous look embodies the liberty of mobility and the holiday spirit with its totally open interior. The doors are being replaced by tubular metal gates. The roof has also disappeared in favor of a removable canvas to make the most of the great outdoors.

It looks also quite adventurous with its Khaki bodywork, its fender flares, its front and rear bumpers, its golden rims. It’s also hard to resist its yellow accessories as they are so inviting to be used…

So see you this weekend, Saturday October 8, when the My Ami Buggy will make its bold appearance in Knokke…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Citroën introduces a bold concept car for family electric mobility: less is more, thanks to the power of genius…

Right after having unveiled its new brand identity, Citroën stunned the international press last Friday, when it presented its OLI concept car in Paris.

You can judge yourself from the photos I took with my flagship Samsung S22 (I am getting increasingly used to it now) how completely groundbreaking the design and the whole concept of the car is actually.

I decided to bring the news of this concept car in different episodes, as thanks to the excellent PR people, I was able to have interviews with not only the CEO of Citroën, Vincent Cobée, but also with Laurence Hansen, Head of Citroën Product Development and Citroën’s Head of Design, Pierre Leclercq. I will bring this extensively in further reports, together with also a further interview with Laurent Barria, responsible for marketing.

So read on, and you can expect much more soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The oli concept car focuses on how more can be achieved with lesssays Citroën CEO Vincent Cobée

In the footsteps of the Ami…now for mobility of the whole family.

Citroën already showed with its Ami (in a few days, we will also attend in Brussels the introduction of the Ami Buggy) that it believes strongly in offering affordable mobility, and it builds further on this concept, taking ‘unconventional’ to a new level with this conceptual oli [all-ë].

The Citroën oli concept is designed to do the same for family mobility that Ami achieved for personal urban mobility. Significantly, oli acts as a precursor to the concepts and innovations that will be available in future Citroën electric models.

The oli concept car focuses on how more can be achieved with less, first and foremost with less weight, how the inventive use of responsible materials and a sustainable production process can lead to inexpensive yet desirable zero-emission vehicles that meet multiple lifestyles.

In his introduction speech, CEO Vincent Cobée  stated “Three societal conflicts are happening simultaneously – first is the value of and dependence on mobility, second is economic constraints and resource uncertainty, and third is our growing sense of desire for a responsible and optimistic future.”

Then he commented on the trend that cars are becoming bigger, heavier and more complex…

Styling language which is soon to be seen on new Citroën models…

“A typical mid-70s family car weighed around 800kg and was 3.7 m long and 1.6m wide.” He continued. Today’s equivalents have grown to more than 1200kg, are at least 4.3 m long and 1.8m wide. Some even weigh more than 2500kg. Legal and safety requirements have driven some of this, but if the trend continues and we carry on parking these vehicles 95% of each day and driving 80% of journeys with a single occupant, the conflict between the need to protect our planet and the future promise of sustainable, electrified mobility will not easily be resolved.”

He concluded: ““Citroën believes electrification should not mean extortion, and being eco-conscious should not be punitive by restricting our mobility or making vehicles less rewarding to live with.  We need to reverse the trends by making them lighter and less expensive and find inventive ways to maximize usage.”

So true we would say, and it is this unerring vision which inspired Citroën to build this concept car.

They focused instead on creating a pure, honest vehicle that is above all lighter, less complicated and truly affordable, as well as inventive and joyful.

With oli, Citroën is raising the stakes for future family mobility by re-thinking every detail to reduce resources and needed materials without compromising on quality or versatility.

A car conceived and built for a (very) long life

Laurence Hansen, Head of Citroën Product Developmentnow we choose a lifestyle, and the car which responds to it…

Who does not crave for a car which becomes your classic, beloved, (life)long companion? Well, that’s the beauty of it, the oli will be at your side, no matter what or how long. This conceptual multi-activity family vehicle has  sustainability at its heart and demonstrates how ‘best-in-class’ Life-Cycle-Assessment (LCA) can be achieved, from conception onwards with restrained, optimal use of lightweight and recycled materials, to sustainable production processes, and from durability for an extended ‘life in service’ to responsible end-of-life recyclability. The front and rear end parts can be easily changed, upgraded, customized, and the oli can within the family be passed from one generation to another…

 Thoughtful details…

Clever details are found throughout. The seats, for example, are simply constructed and use 80% less parts than a traditional seat. They are made of recycled materials and clever ‘mesh’ backrest designs enhance the natural light inside the vehicle.

They can also be easily upgraded or personalized to suit the taste of individual owners. It’s indeed the result of a chosen and adopted lifestyle, and the concept  car reflects that. Your servant also suggested to Citroën Head of Design Pierre Leclercq that in the aftermarket, a company like Ikea could offer their version of the seats to rejuvenate the interior after many years of use, for instance. Pierre Leclercq liked the idea…

Less weight means less power needed and more range…

 The oli offers reasonable, useable performance for many. Through the use of lightweight materials, oli can extend the range of the 40kWh battery on board to up to 248 miles between charges. Citroën has also limited the top speed of the oli to 68mph to maximise efficiency, while rapid charging capability ensures a charge from 20% to 80% takes just 23 minutes.

Extraordinary looks, harbinger of a total revolution…

The reasonable performance – read top speed – gave extra room for the designers to shape the concept car. Striking and clearly making a statement, oli’s unconventional stance and silhouette exude personality, productivity and positivity in a footprint similar to a compact SUV at 4.20m long, 1.65m high and 1.90m wide.

It defies traditional labelling. oli can be whatever it needs to be – family limo, urban explorer, adventure vehicle, workmate, or even an extension to the family home thanks to its ability to power everyday appliances.

The oli was presented in the stunning setting of a caserne de sapeurs pompiers in Paris…

Pierre Leclercq, believes oli embraces purity and geniality for families who don’t care for automotive status and stereotypes. I couldn’t agree more…

In the oli, the aesthetic approach has been deliberately exaggerated to reinforce functionality and versatility. And, like Ami, it is not afraid to show its simple and intuitive approach and distinguishes itself with its playful use of colour highlights, bright trim materials and vivacious patterns that advocate opportunities for personalisation.

Versatile

The oli truly threads new paths here. Oli’s flat bonnet, roof and rear ‘pick-up bed’ panels, as well as driving the vehicle’s unique silhouette, were chosen to meet the objectives for low weight, high strength and maximum durability.

Made from recycled corrugated cardboard formed into a honeycomb sandwich structure between fibreglass reinforcing panels, they have been co-created with partner BASF. They are coated in Elastoflex® Polyurethane resin covered in a protective layer of tough, textured Elastocoat®, which is often used on parking decks or loading ramps, and painted with innovative, waterborne BASF R-M Agilis® paint.

The panels are very rigid, light and strong – so strong that an adult can stand on them – and weight is reduced by 50 per cent when compared to an equivalent steel roof construction.

The roof is quite strong, as is amply demonstrated by Laurence Hansen, with Pierre Leclercq and CEO Vincent Cobée applauding…

Load carrying versatility is not compromised either, as roof rails each side of the roof panel allow owners to attach accessories like bicycle racks and roof boxes for family vacations, while below the bonnet panel are neatly detailed storage areas including compartments for charging cables plus personal and emergency items.

Not afraid to go vertical…

All of the key design elements on oli are perfectly horizontal or vertical, indeed, Citroën is looking for honesty and efficiency in the form language.

 The windscreen is vertical because it’s the shortest distance between top and bottom and uses the smallest amount of glass. As well as reducing weight and complexity, the smaller screen is less expensive to produce or replace.

To aid aerodynamic efficiency, oli features an experimental “Aero Duct” system between the front section of the bonnet and the flat top panel which blows air towards the screen, creating a curtain effect to smooth airflow over the roof.

The eye-catching windscreen frame is finished with a bright ‘infra-red’ wrap – a new signature colour Citroën will use in conjunction with its new brand identity.

The contrast between horizontal and vertical is evident in the rationally thought-through side panels and glass.

The front doors follow the example set by Ami and are identical on each side, though mounted differently. They are lighter, yet still strong, and much easier to make and assemble.

Reducing complexity and simplifying construction saves 20% in weight per door compared to a typical family hatchback. Half the number of components is required, and around 1.7kg per door is saved by the removal of the loudspeaker, soundproofing material and electrical wiring.

The external door panel is simpler to stamp and is designed to maximize interior storage. Gentle curvatures flow up the sides of the vehicle, and into the top of the side glass as it tumbles home to the roof.

Large, horizontal windows are tilted slightly towards the ground to help to reduce the effects of the sun, and manual, easy-to-operate “flip up” pantograph opening sections, similar to those used on Ami, provide fresh air ventilation.

The narrower rear doors are hinged at the rear of the vehicle and use vertical glass to give rear passengers more light and visibility. The change in form between the front and rear doors also gave an opportunity to add a passive air intake providing ventilation for rear seat passengers.

Access to the spacious cabin is wide, uncluttered and unhindered with both side doors open – ideal for when the driver needs to get straggling family members loaded efficiently.

Front and rear lighting modules are, again, uncomplicated but highly distinctive, and also play with the contrast between two horizontal lines and one vertical section. This approach will be evolved further as a distinctive Citroën lighting signature in future production vehicles.

A pick-up (load)bed in the boot…

Instead of a conventional boot, oli features an unexpected, inspired exercise in useful product design, and comes with a pick-up bed inside the boot for added practicality. The independent rear seat headrests pop up into the roof, the rear screen glass opens upwards, with the flat 994mm wide removable load bed expanding in length from 679mm to 1050mm.

The tailgate folds down and with the load bed panel removed there is up to 582 mm height between the vehicle floor and the rear glass. With the panel in place, 330 mm height of useful and secure trunk space is available below. The removable bed panel is light and flat, and made from the same recycled cardboard structure as the bonnet and roof panels.

But there is more, on the bodywork, the interior, the wheels and drivetrain. More soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A new DS3: elegance and refinement reigns…

The New DS 3 is the successor to DS 3 CROSSBACK, featuring new design and technology.

The New DS 3 styling developments are most obvious at the front. The design language of the rest of the DS Automobiles range is applied here with a redesigned grille, wider and enhanced with gloss black or chromed diamond tips depending on the model. The identifying DS WINGS have been tweaked to subtly join the grille and headlamps.

The new LED headlamps – standard across the range –give New DS 3 a sharper look with three feature modules emphasized with satin chrome. The DS MATRIX LED VISION, with intelligent control and automatic main beam for maximum comfort and safety are also offered as an option. The new daytime running lights feature two LED lines vertically arranged either side of the front for a distinctive and widening signature, consistent with the latest DS Automobiles design language.

New DS 3 has also evolved stylistically as well as technically. The new spoiler and grille have been totally redesigned to optimise the car’s aerodynamic performance. The aerofoils framing the lower air intake grille demonstrate this new efficiency.

The rear has been refined: the lights and the tailgate are tastefully emphasized with a lacquered black strip. This gets the “DS Automobiles” signature through a unique technology, the letters in polished stainless steel being divided and set one by one in the trim, as on New DS 7.

New DS 3 is offered with seven body colours, opaque, metallic and pearlescent, including two new pearlescent colours: Diva Red, a three-layer colour exclusive to New DS 3, and Lacquered Grey. Crystal Pearl, Platinum Grey, Artense Grey, Perla Nera Black and Polar White complete the offering with the option of creating bi-tone combinations with two variations of roof: Perla Black or the new Carat Grey.

The wheels introduce a completely new design for an increase in efficiency. Available in 17 and 18 inches, they are divided according to different themes and colours. In the 100% electric E-TENSE model, New DS 3 is available with new 18-inch TOULOUSE wheels shod with “Tall & Narrow Class A+” tyres.

AN INTERIOR INSPIRED BY THE BIGGEST NAMES IN FRENCH LUXURY

The leathers, particularly the Nappa Leather upholstery with the weathered Art Leather finish, Alcantara®, and details such as the “pearl” stitching or Clous de Paris embossed inserts show the uniqueness of DS Automobiles cockpits. This attention to detail, firmly rooted in the Brand’s DNA, is inside New DS 3 and represents a major point of difference.

The driving position has changed with the adoption of a new steering wheel, regrouping controls for driver aids and infotainment buttons and combined with gearshift paddles for the automatic gearboxes. A new 10.3-inch high definition central screen is now offered as standard, with the new DS IRIS SYSTEM infotainment system built in.

A RANGE OF MULTI-ENERGY DRIVETRAINS TOPPED BY A NEW 100% ELECTRIC E-TENSE MODEL

New DS 3 E-TENSE gets a completely new electric motor (assembled in Trémery-Metz), a reduction gear (produced in Valenciennes) and a new battery (assembled in Poissy) for increases in power and range.

The new hybrid synchronous motor (HSM) benefits from the expertise acquired in Formula E to demonstrate high efficiency. It offers 115 kW (156 horsepower) of power and 260 Nm of torque at a voltage of 400 Volts. The new 54 kWh battery (50.8 kWh usable) has thermal control through liquid circulation and a heat pump that enables rapid charging, better range and increased lifespan. As standard the onboard charger takes 100 kW in direct current (0 to 80% in 25 minutes) and 11 kW in alternating current (0-100% in 5 hours).

The 100% electric version, New DS 3 E-TENSE has a new 115 kW (156 horsepower) drivetrain and a new 54 kWh battery enabling it to reach a range of up to 402 km on the WLTP combined cycle.

New DS 3 is also being offered with two petrol drivetrains: PureTech 100 with 6-speed manual gearbox and PureTech 130 with 8-speed automatic gearbox. A Diesel BlueHDi 130 with an 8-speed automatic gearbox is also on offer. In these two guises, these engines comply with the most recent anti-pollution standards.

Post-production : Astuce Productions

FULL OF TECHNOLOGY INSIDE

New DS 3 gets a new infotainment system available via a large 10.3-inch high definition central screen with a redesigned gloss black surround. Connected navigation and intelligent voice recognition are offered by DS IRIS SYSTEM. The distinctive characteristic of this system is the ability for the user to personalize the central screen and the 7-inch instrument panel, complete with head up display that projects essential information in the driver’s eye line. The central screen is split into 12 squares and can accommodate varying sized widgets.

ESSENTIAL PARKING AIDS…

We personally find that proper parking aids are a “MUST” in every car with an urban vocation. The DS3 seems to have what it takes: Viewable on the large central screen, VISIO PARK 2 enriches the range of driver aids available on New DS 3 by offering parking help with 360° vision reproduced through new high resolution digital cameras. Well done!

MADE FOR MUSIC BUFFS…

By using the expertise of FOCAL, which is a benchmark in the world of premium audio systems, DS Automobiles has developed a unique system called FOCAL Electra. Twelve speakers including a subwoofer are fitted into the cockpit with great care and feature Bronze Belem colour metal grilles with a special finish. With a dedicated amplifier, this 515W audio system provides high performance acoustics for a rich sound and enormous purity. Sound spatialisation is optimised and consistent within the cockpit. Designed like an auditorium, New DS 3 offers an exceptionally immersive audio experience.

We know that France Musique streams magnificent baroque and classical as well as jazz music…for you to enjoy in the DS3!

A SIMPLIFIED RANGE

The new DS 3 range adopts the principal started by New DS 7. The new OPERA specification becomes the most exclusive. Equipment levels have been reimagined, enabling a smoother climb through the range. The number of options has been reduced, through re-equipping or the creation of option packs to make customer understanding easier. Prices for new DS 3 start from 30,100 euros with the PureTech 100 Manual in BASTILLE specification.

New DS 3 is built only at Poissy, in the Paris region, with, as said before, electric or internal combustion engine (petrol or diesel) versions. The engines as well as the new electric motor and the increased capacity battery are also all assembled in France.

We are of course anxious to lay our hands on this DS3 soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Bold and beautiful, angular and elegant: the new Peugeot 408 is a fastback with panache…

The new Peugeot 408 was presented in Belgium…

The new PEUGEOT 408 is different. Here PEUGEOT demonstrates the creativity of its teams by offering a new fastback silhouette at the top of the C segment. This new age PEUGEOT offers – this is how the company calls it – allure, as well as engineering excellence focused on efficiency and intelligent electrification. According to Peugeot, it awakens emotions, thanks to the cutting-edge technologies dedicated to driving pleasure and instinctive use.

We saw the car for the first time in the flesh, at a stationary presentation held in our country. It certainly has the looks, presented to us in a dramatic setting offered by elegant ladies on stilts and spectacular fairy-like uniforms.  See my YouTube short using the following link: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/hZVv01F0OgI

And also read further… Hans Knol ten Bensel

The unveiling was spectacular to say the least…

I must admit that the 408 has character, and its angular shapes certainly impress, exuding elegance as well as a bold presence. Peugeot calls it having “allure”.

Its lines are sharp, with remarkable styling details like the inverted cut-out of the rear bumper. We also liked the 20- inch rims feature an interesting geometric design. What I also personally liked was that the tyre rims bulge out over the alloy rims and thus protect them, so you cannot readily damage the beautiful wheels at the first stone kerb you meet, which modern architects now go to utmost lengths to build ever higher, in their foolisch anti-automobile philosophies. 

But even the narrow (Parisian) older parkings with their circular trottoir bordered entrées present no menace any more, which is a blessing…

In good Peugeot tradition it is comfortable and offers room. Remember, back in the mid fifties, the 403 ponton was dubbed with good reason “la Mercedes française” and indeed was built to offer comfort and refinement. With a length of 4.69m, based on a long wheelbase of 2.79m, the new PEUGEOT 408 continues the tradition and offers 188mm of legroom in the rear. The boot is also well sized, with a volume of 536 litres, which can be increased to 1.611 litres once the rear seats are folded down.

Emotion and excellence…

Besides “allure”, Peugeot marketing puts forward two other hallmarks of its products: they should provide driver’s emotion and let you enjoy engineering excellence.

Indeed, the PEUGEOT 408 offers the latest generation of the PEUGEOT i-Cockpit®, instantly recognisable by its compact steering wheel dedicated to driving pleasure and controlled agility.

In the cockpit, the emphasis is on quality and connectivity, and the very latest technologies make the driving and travelling experience more intuitive and rewarding.

Powered by 6 cameras and 9 radars, the driver assistance systems provide peace of mind and safety. They include:

Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go function,

Night Vision, which warns of animals, pedestrians or cyclists ahead before they appear in the high beam,

Long-range blind spot monitoring (75 metres),

Rear Traffic Alert, which warns of a potential hazard when reversing.

The typical Peugeot rear lights, representing separate three claws

Drivetrains: power, smoothness and efficiency…

The range of engines powering the PEUGEOT 408 includes two rechargeable hybrid versions with 180 and 225bhp, and a 130bhp petrol version. All three are paired with an 8-speed EAT8 automatic gearbox. An all-electric version will follow a few months later.

State of the art aerodynamics, like the deflectors at the rear end of the roof…

Efficiency was a key concern for the designers of the PEUGEOT 408, since the combination of efforts in terms of aerodynamics, weight reduction (from 1396kg) and low-emission engines means that the vehicle can now boast remarkably low average energy consumptions (under homologation), both for the hybrids as well as for the 130bhp petrol version.

The new PEUGEOT 408 will arrive on the market at the end of 2022. A car with a global ambition, it will be produced at first in Mulhouse, France, for the European market and then, soon afterwards, in the Chengdu factory in China for the local market.

Just have a look at the photos, and more news about this stylish 408 soon…

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

Photographers’ notes: this is the first time we used exclusively a smartphone, actually the flagship Samsung S22. Quite a change for your servant who has been using camera’s for ever, and it was quite a struggle geting used to it. But experience will soon help…

Three lenses, the S22 is up to the job…