We drove the Peugeot 508 SW Sport Engineered: your passionate Lion…

There are cars which make the life of a car journalist truly wonderful. This time it’s being behind the weel of the “Sport Engineered” Peugeot  508. What is this? You might ask. Well, there is since decades an active high performance division at Peugeot, called PEUGEOT SPORT ENGINEERED. Over recent years, this department has acquired considerable experience in marrying the power and performance of combustion engines with the unique characteristics of e-power. They have proven themselves time and time again: in international competitions such as the WRC (World RallyChampionship), DAKAR, Pikes Peak or the WEC (Word EnduranceChampionship), with the development of the 208 FE concept in 2013 (46 g CO2/km – 0/100in 8.2s) and the 308 R HYbrid in 2015 (500 bhp – 720 Nm – 0/100 in 4.0s).

At the same time as the launch of this SPORT ENGINEERED label, PEUGEOT is announcing its return to the World Endurance Championship (WEC) in the LMH (Le MansHypercar) top category this year.

So the 508 sedan and SW – the version which we tested here – is their first technical showcase and indeed their first chapter in series production under its new label.

With these cars, with a newfound alliance between sportiness and technology, PEUGEOT is – so they say – reinventing the codes for renewed performance, a responsible performance: they call it “Neo-Performance.” The signature of this new line with 3 Kryptonite claws refers to PEUGEOT SPORT’s new identity, to the light signatures of the production models and is drawing inspiration from the brand’s heritage with the rear lights from the iconic PEUGEOT 504 Coupé.

But let’s now have a closer look at this 508. It’s the most powerful production car ever built by PEUGEOT.

The powertrain can reach 360 hp and 520 Nm of torque by combining thermal and electrical energy.  This level of performance is unprecedented for the brand:  0 to 100 km/h in merely 5.2s, 1000 m DA in 24.5s, 80 to 120 km/h in 3s, finally last but not least a maximum speed of 250 km/h (electronically controlled). Need we say more?

Indeed, there are two electric motors besides the 1,6 liter combustion engine, making this 508 also a 4WD. The combustion engine – the well proven 1.6-litre PureTech turbo petrol unit – produces 197bhp, the front motor adds 108bhp, while the rear electric motor is good for 111bhp.

We can tell you, power comes totally unfussy, smooth and plentiful through the 8 speed transmission, and makes this 508 a truly superb car. Of course the gentlemen engineers at Peugeot took also proper care of the handling. These SPORT ENGINEERING series 508’s have an optimized chassis.

They fine tuned first and for all the variable shock absorber setups (Comfort/Hybrid/Sport), the springs are 50 per cent stiffer compared with the 508 Hybrid. They  widened the tracks by 24 mm at the front and 12 mm at the rear. For extra stopping power, they fitted 380 mm diameter front brake discs and fixed four-piston calipers, the 20-inch diameter alloys are shod with Michelin© Pilot Sport 4S tires.

The result is dynamic, precise, predictable handling. You can really throw this 508 around, and it displays up to the limit uncanny stability. What a wonderful Gran Turismo this car truly is.

Does this car move boundaries when it comes to combining efficiently super performance with docility and refined smoothness? It certainly does. But there is more…

Efficient and versatile…

Indeed, that is not all. It is also very versatile in combining e-power in various ways with the panache of a high performance combustion engine. Just note that the 8-speed automatic transmission controls the engine and the front e-motor.

With a mode selector on the centre console, and this lets you choose between 5 driving modes:

Electric: for smooth 100% electric driving in total silence, with a range of 42 km according to WLTP. This makes your 508 future proof, giving you access to the green zones in urban areas. But the sweetness of e-power is well known: it provides instant acceleration thanks to the ample and immediate pulling power of the electric engines fore and aft, and this from 0 km/h to 140 km/h.

Comfort: this is the hybrid mode with softened suspensions for sedate, restful “high comfort”driving.

Hybrid: this mode mode automatically selects combustion or electric power depending on the circumstances with a distinct bias towards optimized consumption.

Sport: maximum power of 360 hp for ultimate driving pleasure! This mode also affects steering, shock absorption, accelerator pedal mapping and adjusts digitally engine responsiveness and torque characteristics. The combustion engine also keeps the battery charged for maximum power at all times.

 4WD: maximum traction for slippery grip situations.

So the 508 ideally suits your driving moods… and is indeed literally very transporting when driven in “sport” mode. It then leaves very little to be desired, and the extra pulling power of the electric motors delivers rather formidable intermediate accelerations. We already mentioned it: you will sprint from 80 to 120 km/h in merely 3 seconds… Ok, your ears are not enjoying the sound of a high revving straight six, but all the performance is there!

Indeed, this 508 SW we drove literally stormed uphill and from one sharp bend to another, well reined by excellent brakes and a responsive suspension and chassis.

In addition to its 4-wheel drive, the 508 SPORT ENGINEERED comes with all the driving aids available within the PEUGEOT 508 range: night vision, adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function, lane departure warning system, automatic emergency braking.

Sporting accents inside and out

That you are driving a very special 508 should also be noticed, and indeed it does:  the aerodynamic design of the bodywork is further enhanced with a sharp grille, rakish front bumper, scoops and Kryptonite monogram. In the sides of the car you find also the three foils with specific decorative elements, the three claws again on the front wing on the SW.

At the rear you will find electrolytic treated black exhaust outlets, black gloss central diffuser, last but not least 20-inch wheels fitted with MICHELIN© Pilot Sport 4S tires, with yellow painted PEUGEOT SPORT Kryptonite front brake calipers.

The PEUGEOT i-Cockpit® comes into its own with a compact steering wheel featuring the three Kryptonite claws, and a 100% digital head-up display. We just loved the compact steering wheel, adding greatly to the zest and personality of the car when you are behind the wheel.

The i-Cockpit® graphic animations and the central 10″ HD screen have adopted the label’s signature too.

The upholstery of the “comfort-fit” seats also has a distinctive look we liked very much with a tasteful and photogenic mix of leather, 3D mesh and Alcantara©. The passenger compartment is decorated with double Tramontane grey and Kryptonite stitching. The FOCAL® Hi-Fi audio system, which is certainly a delight to listen to, is also supplied as standard.

Conclusion

An elegant car with loads of panache, yet delivering this almost supercar performance with a hint of understatement. This Peugeot is comfortable and practical too, able also to shine in everyday use. You have good seating comfort and room also at the rear, and 530 litres of luggage space in the standard configuration.

As the graph clearly shows, this high performance estate can also be quite frugal… max 6 l/100 km in relaxed driving conditions!

On top of that this Peugeot goes through daily life as a hybrid, with all the consumption and tax advantages that entails. The Peugeot Sport Engineering also is quite original, and its e-efficiency is a good argument to win you over…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Touring in central France with the Jeep Compass: enjoying authentic driving pleasure and Gran Turismo comfort…

Where do Jeep drivers go in France? Of course to the Château du Clos de Vougeot in the very heart of Burgundy’s vineyards…

The Jeep Compass, launched last year, has been the first new Jeep model since it joined the Stellantis Group, and is one of its most important bestsellers. In Europe, it accounts for 40 % of total Jeep sales.

More than reason enough to put it through its paces: we drove the 96 kW/130 HP petrol engined version with the 6 speed manual transmission, all the way through France, on many autoroutes, routes nationales and départementales, to find out what a modern, petrol engined car in this day and age (still) has to offer. We were truly surprised how refined, powerful and frugal this Compass really is. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Jeep is compact enough to feel ideally at home on Cévenne country roads…

Well proportioned …

The new Compass combines the typical Jeep styling cues with well proportioned modernism, and indeed it pleases from any angle. Its dimensions are indeed “just right” for those customers who seek space and comfort, as we found out when we drove it on the narrow mountain and village roads in the Massif Central and Alpes Maritimes. Visibility of the edges of the car is greatly helped by the panoramic camera’s fore and aft, and one needs them indeed when maneuvering in narrow spaces.

The interior has been completely redesigned. The central horizontal dashboard panel looks elegant, with ultra-slim air intakes that almost disappear into its layered structure. The controls are easy to reach, as is the connectivity touchscreen that dominates the middle of the dashboard, now in a higher and more ergonomic position. We liked this. The fact that this Compass now has the new Uconnect 5 system with a more powerful, higher-performance processor with a five times better responsiveness than the previous generation, made selecting your route or favorite music the proverbial breeze.

By using an Android operating system and 4G connectivity with Over-the-Air (OTA) updates, the Uconnect 5 brings flexibility and the possibility to offer continuously new content, features and services. On longer trips, not only excellent and clear route and map info is important, but also a state-of-the-art sound system. This Compass offered both…

The controls are logical, intuitive, and soon we were cruising happily along…

The driving info from the digital instruments is also to the point: we focused on relaxed economical driving, and to monitor our driving exploits, it proved ideal. Indeed, it shows you at a glance your instant consumption, and graphically shows with an illuminated arc how this relates to the average consumption. It also shows you when to change up to achieve most economical driving. Truly excellent! For the rest, it limits itself to rev counter and large digital speed indicator.

Of course you can select on the steering wheel another display which gives you info about the oil and water temperature, oil pressure and battery charge…for the technical buffs amongst us, and the Jeep drivers who really want to KNOW.

For our long French drive, the seats proved very comfortable, and here we also want to put a good word about the excellent sound insulation. Road and tire noise as well as wind noise are almost totally absent, and also the engine is inaudible at cruising speeds. So listening to the conversations and interviews on France Culture is effortless, and you or your passenger can also speak totally normally. A factor which is so important to relaxed driving, but is rarely mentioned…

Engine: zesty, quiet, flexible and willing…

Under the hood purrs a 1332 cc 4 cylinder petrol engine, developing 130 HP (96 kW) @ 4750 rpm, with a very healthy pulling power. Indeed, 270 Nm is available already @ 1560 rpm. Understandable as one knows that this is a long stroke unit with 70 mm bore and 86,5 mm stroke. It is turbo fed and has a Multi Air III GDI – Third Generation Gasoline Direct Injection, is indeed totally docile and will pull readily from 1200 rpm onwards; this excellent torque greatly helped our relaxed and economical driving, and we enjoyed the totally silent, vibration free pulling power in the 1200 to 2000 rpm range, delivering power comfort totally akin to an electrical power unit. So indeed, change up the gears as soon as possible, flow with the traffic and enjoy!

Driveability is somewhat hesitant in bottom gear at smaller throttle openings, so one learns to change into second as soon as possible when one is not in a hurry and want the smoothest getaway. Modern automatic transmissions take care of this beautifully, so, despite our love for manuals, we would prefer the excellent 8 speed auto box here to enjoy your Compass even more in stop and go traffic. This option is however coupled to a 150 HP version of this engine.

Of course, when put through its paces, good performance is there. Acceleration from 0-100 km/h takes 10,3 seconds, top speed is 192 km/h. More than we ever used on our touring trip.

The manufacturer quotes fuel consumption – combined cycle (l/100km) at 6.6 – 6.9 l, we achieved an average of 6,6 liters during our test, which besides Autoroutes  and Nationales  included also many villages, cities and mountain roads and winding  Départementales. CO2 emissions – combined cycle (g/km) lies between 152 – 158.

Of course, with a kerb weight of 1,505 kg including driver, it is very important to conserve kinetic energy as much as possible and certainly in urban driving an anticipative driving style will be rewarded.

The practical advantages of petrol engined propulsion do not have to be further underlined here. A beautiful useable range of over 800 km on a full 55 litre tank, with the plentiful availability of gas stations and of course no recharging times to reckon with. For example at Vougeot, in the midst of the Burgundy vineyards we would be (very) hard pressed to find a recharging station in the village… nearby our hotel, if any! There was just ONE, with 4 charging posts at the hotel Clos de la Vouge, which was about 400 m from our hotel. It was of course occupied by the own hotel guests. It was run by Shell Recharge, and it was – according to internet info – not powered by renewable energy.

On top of that, with an average consumption of 6,6 litres/100 km, the well to wheel figure will compare rather well with a similar EV, which would weigh an additional 500 kg because if its batteries… 

This amply shows that the charging infrastructure in Europe has still a long way to go, to enjoy carefree EV mobility everywhere, and a petrol engined car still remains in the present material circumstances a viable proposition…

If you would ever consider holiday travelling with an EV through France, you MUST have first a look at https://www.electricfelix.com/france. It is interesting and full of very valuable tips! Consulting https://chargemap.com will also put you (literally) on the good path.

Comfortable

We drove the Compass in the Limited edition, and this includes accessories like the motion controlled automatic rear boot lid. It proved indeed a very practical option on any Gran Turismo trip. We mentioned already the total ease of use and practicality of the Compass, and we also should mention that the Uconnect 5 system with a 10.1-inch touchscreen and integrated TomTom navigation also boasts the natural language interface system with advanced voice recognition, so you can talk to the car to control its settings, program the air conditioning and choose your favorite music. This feature is integrated into vehicles with Tom-tom navigation and can be activated hands-free with the wake word “Hey Jeep!”.

Boot space is standard with seats up some 438 litres, with seats folded 1,387 litres.

The suspension gives a good feedback of the road surfaces and is overall quite comfortable. The Compass version we drove has only front wheel drive, but with its ample ground clearance of 198 mm we steered it with utter confidence on unhardened country roads, and enjoyed urban and (mountainous) rural France to the full.

Conclusion

The Jeep Compass proved to be a well-balanced, ideal Gran Turismo car, an absolute joy to take on a long(er) trip.

It also made very clear that a modern petrol engined car still is a very reasonable and above all practical means of transport, with excellent economy combined with smooth and refined performance. On top of that comes the typical panache of Jeep, growing ever more into an iconic brand, with a very fitting styling language. So if you have a heart for (even the slightest) adventure and appreciate motoring which character, take the road of (this) Jeep…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Kia EV6: a top EV car with lots of panache…

Soon after the elegant Ioniq 5, we could take the Kia EV6 for an extended test drive, and as both cars ride on the same E-GMP or Electric-Global Modular Platform, a comparison between the two cars is inevitable. Let it be said, also this EV6 scores very high indeed, and has the same excellent qualities and futuristic aura than its four wheeled sister, albeit altogether a bit sportier.

We drove the EV6 GT Line, pleasing the eye with its 20 inch alloys, its snow white pearl paint and black interior with white and aluminum accents and alcantara/leather seats.

Our test car was the rear wheel drive version with 168 kW/229 Hp motor and the 77,4 kWh battery. More than enough for exhilarating performance and an impressive range…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

More rounded, organic styling…

The Kia distinguishes itself from the angular lines of the Ioniq 5 by offering more fluent lines, reminiscent of the last Saab, Jaguar I Pace, and the likes. The rear end with the built in spoiler and the tail light running across the car is reminiscent of Porsches, with the curves of the rear lid shaped as a spoiler being even more outspoken. The panache of the whole car varies with the paint color chosen, and we like the pearl white finish of our car here, although we think the car looks even more stunning in a matte grey finish. A beautiful, well proportioned car it certainly is.

In the interior one has the same two big screens with identical digital instrumentation and infotainment layout, and we enjoyed also the same excellent head up display we found in the Ioniq 5.

But the shape of the centre console is different, has more curves and is a bit more adventurous. You have lots of space for your drinks, bottles and sundry, and a round selector knob for Drive, Neutral and Reverse instead of the rotating stick in the steering column in the Ioniq 5.

The car and its touch screens is simple and intuitive to use, and typical for Kia is the well designed centre console, where you can toggle between heating/ventilation or audio controls. You find your way in a breeze.

The seats are excellent; the front seats also fully recline as in the Ioniq 5, so you can have a (short) nap when you recharge the car. The rear seat backrests are also adjustable.

With a 2,9 meter wheelbase, there is plenty of legroom both in the front and especially in the rear, with slightly less headroom for the rear passengers than the Ioniq 5, but this is still more than enough if you are less than 1,90 m tall. Standard boot space is 520 litres, extendable to 1300 litres.    

Our test car came with the drive assist pack, which included the autonomous parking aid, the 360 ° camera view and as said the very easy to read head up display. The large and wide EV6 is therefore a pleasure to drive and park in town. The additional cameras are necessary, as the overall visibility of the bodywork is not so good, especially to the rear.  

Impressive performance and handling…

The 229 HP EV6 delivers punchy performance: it sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 7,3 seconds, and quite frankly, who needs more? The top speed is limited to 185 km/h. You have the choice between three driving modes, from “Eco” to “Sport”, and with the paddles on the steering column you can choose the amount of energy recuperation and also opt for automatic braking to standstill.  The brakes are sensitive and progressive.  

The suspension of the EV6 is sportier and firmer than the Ionic 5. The EV6 is slightly less comfortable, but never harsh, and has less body roll when driven with verve on winding roads. The car is neutral with an understeer bias, is very stable in fast corners and has excellent straight line stability up to its top speed.      

You would like even more performance? The EV6 can also be had with an extra motor driving the front wheels, and total power in this 4WD layout is 239 kW/325 PS. If you want nothing less than supercar performance, it is good to know that in autumn, Kia will present a GT version with some 430 kW/585 PS. This results in an acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 3,5 seconds, with a top speed of not less than 260 km/h…

With a very big range, up to a good 500 km…

Our test car came also with a heat pump, costing less energy to heat and cool things. The EV6 is remarkably frugal, and it is no effort at all to achieve an average consumption of around 18-19 kWh per 100 km. This means that in practice, this EV6 has indeed a useable range of some 500 km, and that is no small feat! According to the WLTP norm, the distance is 528 km.

The EV6 runs – like the Ioniq 5 – on a 800 V system, and this means not only the possibility of using thinner cables and therefore gaining weight, but it also means larger load capacities and shorter recharging times. Even in less than ideal circumstances, you can recharge your EV6 in about 30 minutes to run another 380 kilometers.

 Like the Ionic 5, the EV6 has also a Vehicle-to-load-Function, which means an extra external plug to power lamps, microwaves, cookers when you are camping out, and you could even charge (with patience) another EV with it! You just need the small adapter which I housed in the front luggage bin, (called “Frunk”) under the engine cover lid, which contains some 52 liters of luggage space.

Conclusion

The EV6 is a top class EV, certainly when one considers its price tag. Our test car in the GT Line equipment level came with the Drive Assist Pack and the Premium pack, which included a 14 speaker Meridian Sound System together with the Head-Up display. It also had a panoramic sunroof, heat pump (1200 Euros extra) and 20-inch alloy wheels. The total price including VAT was 59.990 Euros. On top of that it is roomy, has stunning looks and offers sportiness. Last but not least, the range is superb and thanks to the 800 V system its recharging times are short. Indeed, also this Kia EV6 paves the way to a bright EV future…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Hyundai Ioniq 5: an EV beyond your expectations…  

The Ioniq 5 is elegant with its retro-futuristic style…

There are cars which make a mark in history. Such a car is certainly also the Ioniq 5. In the EV-segment, its retro-futuristic style make it really stand out. This also goes for the interior. Brimming with superb and clever solutions, the Ioniq 5 is nothing less than a game changer. It is the first car for me where you really get the feeling of driving a car of the future, and this is already by just looking at the graphics of the instruments in front of you.

Behind the wheel, the future smiles at you

And then we have said nothing about the way you sit in it, what space you have and how it drives, handles and performs…and how much it (only) costs.  It moves boundaries, for sure. Just read on.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Hyundai created for its electric cars a proper sub-brand: Ioniq. Now it has created the car which can justifiably be called the iconic ambassador of this brand: de Ioniq 5. This uniquely styled car (we truly love it) is classified as a CUV, or Crossover Utility Vehicle.

It runs on a totally new, dedicated platform, which Hyundai has specially developed for its electric cars. The so-called Electric Global Modular Platform or E-GMP. This platform comprises the chassis of the vehicle including the battery, motor and power electric system, and its scalable wheelbase allows it to form the backbone of many different vehicles. Indeed, Hyundai has great plans with it: it will underpin the Ioniq 6, which will be launched in the middle of this year. This will be an electric sports limousine. Then followed in 2024 by the Ioniq 7, a “classic” large SUV.

When it comes to EV’s, Hyundai is ambitious. It wants to have a technological top position in the EV-market by 2025. All this doesn’t seem to be unrealistic. The Hyundai Kona already impresses with impressive EV efficiency.

The electronic architecture of this platform also sets new benchmarks. Its 800V charging capability enables super-fast charging. In just five minutes the battery can charge enough for a range of 100km, and that is one of the very strong points of this Ioniq. With a 350-kW charger, the IONIQ 5 can charge from 10% to 80% in just 18 minutes.

But there are more advantages offered by this platform. It enables total freedom in vehicle design. Designed exclusively for BEV’s, it has no transmission tunnel at all. A completely flat floor is an ideal playground for (interior) designers. So explains Vice President of design, Haksoo Ha: “The innovative platform means we can design for greater productivity in transit,” and “Seats reclining to a near-horizontal will provide a ‘zero gravity’ experience and will open up endless configuration opportunities.”

Indeed, the front seats convert into first class sleeping seats. Ideal when on a longer evening trip you can take a power nap when your Ioniq is quickly recharging to bring you home…  

There is no transmission tunnel, the front centre console can be moved backward, so front legroom is also limitless sideways.

Also in the back there is ample legroom, last but not least because of the Ioniq’s long 3 meter wheelbase. With the absence of the transmission tunnel, it seats three grownups relatively comfortable at the rear. The back seat can also be inclined and moved fore and aft! Indeed, the well proportioned and elegant Ioniq is big. It is 4,64 meters long, and 1,89 meter wide. Its boot offers 531 l space in standard setup, and with the rear backrests down, a maximum space of 1591 l is available.

Under the front hood, above the electric motor, you find a neat box with its lid having the appearance of an engine cover. When you drive the two wheel version of the Ioniq 5, this box offers 57 liters, with the 4WD version this is “only” 24 liters.

But let’s turn to the stylish dashboard. Notwithstanding its futuristic clean architecture with two wide screens, it is surprisingly intuitive to use, and you really don’t need an instruction manual to put all its functions to work. Beneath the central touchscreen you find the heating/ventilation functions, with classic buttons and controls.

Under the hood…

The E-GMP platform allows a wide choice of drivetrain combinations. The Ioniq 5 can be had with one or two electric motors, resulting in rear wheel drive or 4WD as the second motor drives the front wheels, and two battery capacities, 58 or 72,6 kW respectively.

Total available power ranges from 125 kW/170 HP to 225 kW/, with the top version accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in 5,2 seconds. Top speed is for all the power versions limited to 185 km/h.

Our test car had the 160 kW/217 HP engine, developing 350 Nm of torque. This resulted in an acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 7,4 seconds, coupled with the 72,6 kW battery. Consumption according to WLTP standards is 16,8 kWh/100 km, with a range of some 481 km. Range anxiety is in the light of the fast recharging capacities a thing of the past…

On a 101 km triip with dense traffic at varying speeds, we clocked a consumption of 16,1 kWh…

The larger battery also allows you to tow greater loads, up to 1600 kg for our test car…

Did you know that the Ioniq 5 also has a 230 V external plug adapter? It’s so-called “V2L” function in the car can also supply up to 3.6 kW of power. So when you are out in the open, and want to charge your laptop or use a spot light or portable fridge or recharge the battery of your electric bike, the Ioniq 5 helps you out…

The Ioniq 5 has of course the usual driving modes, from Eco to sport, and you have also two paddles at the steering wheel which allow you to choose the degree of E-recuperation when you lift the throttle. During our test, we used mostly the level 3 position, which we felt delivered the right deceleration, and with some experience, we managed to drive around town and on the open road without ever touching the brake pad pedal at all…

Driving is (again) believing…

Driving with the Ioniq 5 is nothing short of delightful. Twist the ring on the selector stick a click forward in “D” and there you go. The Head-up-Display with Augmented-Reality-Function is ultra visible and shows what you need to know. Progress is silent and smooth. The suspension is also quite comfortable, and the Ioniq seems literally to float over the road surface. Body roll is virtually absent and the suspension is not too soft either, but copes rather well with potholes and ridges.

This is your ideal mount for long urban and/or Gran Turismo trips. Handling is also much more precise and nimble than one would expect from a two-tonne car, but the low gravity point of the battery package results in impeccable and stable cornering. We found also the lane assist functioning very smoothly, and we liked also the electronic displays of blind spots when you operate the left or right indicator. A wonderful solution!

The Ioniq 5 is large, but just be surprised with us, this Ioniq offers distance parking! Just press the symbol on the key, and the Ioniq 5 will sweetly drive itself into or out of a narrow parking space. 

The superb smoothness and acoustic refinement of the Ioniq is further enhanced with a superb Bose audio system, and Classic Music and Jazz buffs as we are, our ears also enjoyed every ride…

Conclusion

Style, grace, space, this Ioniq has it all; add to this the panache in the design details of headlamps and rear lights, in ’80 retro futuristic fashion. It really stands out.

Also the 20 inch alloys are elegant and aerodynamically efficient. This Hyundai has been carefully thought out, is wonderfully designed with no detail being overlooked. Add to this the efficient motors, the impressive recharging capacity, the generous space, and you understand our enthusiasm. You will also be smiling when you see the price of the Ioniq 5 in whatever version you choose.

Hard to beat? We should think so. Except maybe by the Kia EV6, running on the same platform and using the same technology, which we are driving at the moment of writing, and of which you will also read our driving impressions soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel    

We drove the Opel Grandland Plug-in Hybrid: electrified with style and punch…

In the stormy February days, the new Opel Grandland stood admirably its ground against the elements…

My love affair with Opel really dates a long time back. To 1968, to be exact. As a university student studying law and economics, I replaced my father on a press trip in the South of France to test the sleek Opel 1900 GT fastback two seater. It was designed by Opel stylist Erhard Schnell, who had taken the ’67 Corvette as a model, and had the 1,9 litre single overhead cam four cylinder under its long bonnet. I remember driving it with verve over the twisty roads of the Massif de l’Estérel, as I did now with the DS9. It was bullet fast and nimble to me, as I remember it.

The Opels then had already plenty of panache and character. Then came the Commodore GS Coupés, the Manta’s, even the big Admirals and V8 Diplomats. They were appealing, rock solid and fast. All this good qualities came back at the wheel of the Opel Grandland Hybrid.

The “Blitz” or lightning still adorns the Opel emblem…

Stylish, with the new Opel Vizor front grille, the Opel has a distinctive and very clean, contemporary character. The dashboard and infotainment displays are an example of less is more, and indeed are just “right” for everyday driving. It also embodies the no nonsense approach of Opel. But it is mostly in the way this Grandland steers and drives that my good Opel memories came back. It invites you to adopt an active driving style, due to its overall responsiveness and handling. Again the car also feels solid and well built, for years to come, is roomy and has this unmistakable Opel “no nonsense” character.  But just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Dual tone paintwork and the glass panorama roof on our test car add panache…

The elegant Grandland rolls of the Opel assembly lines in Eisenach, and certainly pleases from any angle. Your servant liked especially the dual tone paintwork, also a typical hallmark of the Grandland…

The stylish Vizor front grille houses high-tech, such as the adaptive IntelliLux LED® Pixel Light. The light focus is adapted to every bend and corner, the beam has always the optimum range and cuts out uncoming traffic in seconds. While we are talking about the electronic wizardry in this Opel, let’s continue a bit on this subject.

The Vizor front grille houses the adaptive IntelliLux LED® Pixel Light.

Indeed, this Opel also includes Night Vision. This system is found amongst others also on the DS4. The system’s infrared camera detects people and animals up to 100 metres ahead of the Grandland in the direction of travel, based on their temperature difference from the surroundings. Night Vision warns the driver and shows the position of pedestrians, for example, in the digital Driver Info Center in the new “Pure Panel.” See also how the system works on YouTube, link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djieXHE9iBM&list=RDCMUCSr5PuKiJ5Zi00zfsiT-7jA&index=1

Also new in combination with 8-speed automatic transmission is Highway Integration Assist. The adaptive cruise control will brake to a standstill if necessary. Thanks to “Stop & Go”, the Grandland with Highway Integration Assist will also automatically resume driving from this standstill.

Intuitive and relaxing: The Opel Pure Panel cockpit.

The customizable screen in front of the driver gives you to the point information…

Two wide screens in a single unit form the Opel Pure Panel. There is the so called “Driver info Center”, a 12 inch screen right in front of you, and a 10 inch central touchscreen which is also turned towards the driver. Of course, the two screens can be personalized to your taste. In the driver’s central field of vision, there are now menu entries for the new Night Vision camera as well as for drowsiness warning, oil temperature and on-board computer settings.

The centre display can show the energy flow, but also the eSave function and charging as well as consumption statistics…

Further details on audio or navigation, which were previously only displayed on the infotainment system monitor, can now also be selected via the Driver Info Center, and on the Hybrid version we tested, the display of the energy flow can also be seen on the display straight ahead of you.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible multimedia infotainment systems up to Multimedia Navi Pro is of course also available.

We loved the “less is more” approach in the screen layouts, and the intuitive way everything could be used.

Behind the wheel…

A smooth 8 speed auto box and the choice between three drive modes: “Electric”, “Hybrid”, “Sport”

Stepping into the Grandland SUV is a breeze as it sits a bit higher, and you are welcomed in ergonomic active seats for drivers and front passengers certified by the “Aktion Gesunder Rücken e.V.” (campaign for healthy backs). Indeed, they support you very well, and offer a wide range of adjustments, from electric seat tilt to electro-pneumatic lumbar support. They offer heating and in the leather trim even ventilation.

The Hybrid Grandland has, as we said, the same 8 speed auto box we find in the DS E-Tense versions for example, and this is a smooth one indeed. It is mated here to the also familiar four cylinder 1598 cc engine we find back in other Stellantis Group models, delivering here an impressive 133 kW/180 hp at a sporty 6000 rpm.

A total system power of 165 kW…

But of course, the Hybrid is assisted by an electric motor driving the front wheels, developing 81.2 kW/110 hp @ 2500 rpm. Total system power is 165 kW/224 hp, which is even 15 hp more than the 1964 3,4 litre six cylinder Jaguar Mk II which I now own for almost 40 years. You can understand that the performance is nothing short of exhilarating: 0 to 100 km/h is absolved in 8,9 seconds, top speed is 225 km/h, with 135 km/h reached on the electric motor alone.

Overall liveliness is however even more the result from the massive torque the Opel driver has at his or her disposal: the 1,6 litre direct injection turbo engine is already good for 300 Nm at 3000 rpm, but it is of course the electric motor developing 320 Nm over a broad range between 500 and 2500 rpm which makes all the difference. This pulling power is smoothly transferred to the front wheels by the automatic transmission, and this makes this Opel an absolute joy to drive, whether in tight urban traffic or on open winding roads. We rediscovered the Opel DNA, and absolutely loved it. The engine is barealy audible, only a subdued sporty roar is heard when one is pushing (very) hard.

Driving this 1,8 tonne car enthusiastically in “sport” mode costs energy, and therefore the test consumption suffered somewhat. Making rather dynamic (urban) errands cost us some 8 litres/100 km, topped with some extra kW’s in the process, but suffice to say that the consumption of a plug-in Hybrid depends greatly how you use it and recharge it, we said this already so many times. You can of course choose between different driving modes (“Electric”, “Hybrid”, “Sport”), and when you frequently recharge your Grandland, you will hardly consume any fuel at all. If the driver shifts the automatic transmission to drive mode B, this recuperation and the braking torque are further intensified, and there is also an “E-save” function which allows you to save the battery power to use it later when driving/entering in town areas.  The function can be set via the colour touchscreen of the infotainment system.

According to WLTP, the fuel consumption is 1.8-1.3 l/100 km, kWh consumption lies between 17.5-15.0. The E-range varies between 64-53 km. CO2 emisisions vary between 41-29 g/km. The Hybrid version has a lithium-ion battery with 13.2 kWh capacity. Charging time at an AC household socket with mode 2 cable is some 7 h 30 min.

The suspension is taut without being uncomfortable, conveying this typical “German car” feel, or, shall we say “Opel” character? It is quite busy on our bad Belgian and Flemish roads, which manage to have much pore potholes, ridges and irregularities than (many) other European countries. The result of the rather firm setup is that this Opel steers precise, and invites you to a dynamic driving style. On motorways the Opel Grandland is masterfully stable, and really feels in its element.

Practical

Opels are made to excel in daily (family) use, and offer the roominess to do it. Boot capacity varies between 390-1528 litres. You can order a sensor-controlled tailgate that can be opened and closed by a movement of the foot under the rear bumper. Here, too, the unlocking settings and opening angle of the power tailgate can be customised via the corresponding menus in the colour touchscreen. Doorbins are large, and also the central console offers good stowaway possibilities.

The Opel Grandland is elegant with a clean, contemporary styling language…

Conclusion

The Grandland PHEV has all the good, iconic Opel qualities. Very practical and simple to use, it is inviting in its responsiveness and agility, giving you genuine driving pleasure every time you take the wheel. The performance is impressive, but altogether smooth and effortless. The Grandland feels taut and stable, the finish and quality of the materials used is impeccable, the car is practical, has this unique no nonsense character, and is on top of all that is very stylish indeed.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Škoda Kamiq Monte Carlo 1,5 TSI: a crossover with urban panache…

Škoda has a wonderful sporting history in the world famous Monte Carlo Rally. Already 85 years ago, the ŠKODA RAPID delivers an excellent performance from Palermo to Monaco; fair play here was more important to the driver team than the chance of achieving a second place.  

To celebrate this success, the POPULAR MONTE CARLO made its debut in 1936; it was a stylish two seater coupé; Look at the story we made about this beautiful and interesting car in our columns, with the following link: https://autoprova.be/2017/10/19/a-1937-skoda-steals-the-jurys-hearts-at-the-zoute-concours-delegance/.

Your servant made even two You Tube films about it. See one video of ing. Michal Velebný, https://youtu.be/TQ4aoKGVIMk , introducing himself, and another video telling us more about this Skoda Popular Coupé, https://youtu.be/Ad_XPM_Ej8s. In the Monte Rally, it was second in its class up to 1500 cc(!)

Since 2011, the MONTE CARLO equipment line has commemorated the brand’s legendary motorsport successes, and this adorns also this compact crossover, which indeed impressed us also greatly with its agility and zesty performance.

Not that Škoda has since then rested on its laurels: the FABIA Rally2 evo won the WRC2 category at the Monte Carlo Rally in 2021!

But now let’s turn to our test car. Its angular and sharp edged styling language pleases, and the proportions of this Kamiq are exactly what a compact crossover/SUV should be. Typical for Škoda is the excellent use of available space; Also here the Kamiq (comes from the language of the Inuit people, living in northern Canada and Greenland. It describes something that fits as perfectly as a second skin in every situation) has not stolen its name. It is indeed like a second skin enveloping passengers and luggage. Not losing one inch between them. Be it in the front or in the back, there is more than ample room for four adults, and Škoda boasts that the Kamiq offers more rear legroom than… the Octavia!   

The overall finish is very good, dashboard and front doors have soft padded panels, the fit of the external body panels is also precise and accurate, the paint finish is quite good. Indeed, one smells and feels quality in this Škoda. Speaking of room, the luggage space is 265 liter, not too much, when you use the available standard space up to the roof, it becomes 390 liter; When you fold everything down, the maximum available space is 1145 liters.

Behind the wheel…

Indeed, let’s get going in this Škoda. We just loved the digital instrumentation, which offers various displays. We always preferred the layout where the rev counter takes centre place, right in your line of vision. The steering wheel can be adjusted over a very wide range, so an ideal seating position is soon found. The central more than nine inch infotainment display screen is a breeze to use, and offers CarPlay, Android Auto, amongst others in this Monte Carlo Line version. Fortunately the ventilation/heating controls are separate, with round knobs and buttons for intuitive and easy everyday use.

The seats – in the Monte Carlo version – have sporting looks with integrated headrest, and are electronically adjustable. They wrap beautifully around you and give excellent support. Indeed, inviting to have a go…

We also liked the ambiance in  the cabin, thanks also to the wide opening panoramic roof.

Excellent performance paired with accurate, lively handling.   

This Škoda has the 1498 cc 4 cylinder petrol engine developing not less than 150 HP or 110 kW at 5000 rpm. Torque is also very impressive with 250 Nm at merely 1500 rpm. With a kerb weight of 1277 kg, this means 8,5 kg/hp, and indeed, this is synonymous for excellent performance. What to think of a 0 to 100 acceleration time of 8,3 seconds to 100 km? To put everything in perspective, a 1970 Porsche 2,2 litre 911 T needed 9,5 seconds to reach 100 km/h. Its top speed was 211 km/h, the Škoda reaches 215 km/h…

So you understand that we drove this Škoda with the rev counter in front of us. Faster than a 2,2 litre six cylinder classic Porsche…wow!  The 150 HP engine was coupled in our test car to an excellent seven speed DCT transmission, which provided smooth gearchanges. It takes however a rather gentle right foot when you want a supersmooth getaway from the traffic light. The engine can react rather abruptly with the gearbox hesitating somewhat, which can result in some jerkiness in the first meters. But soon your right foot will learn to bring all this ample torque smoothly on the tarmac.  

Thanks to its pulling power, this Kamiq is wonderfully lively. Even if you just leave the gearlever in the “D” position, the Kamiq will nevertheless sprint from 60 to 100 km/h in less than 5 seconds… take that!

Wind and tire roar is also well insulated from the cabin at speed, and this Škoda reveals itself as a very talented high speed cruising machine. It is a true compact GT, with excellent long distance qualities. The seventh gear is also laid out pleasantly high, with some 2400 rpm at 130 km/h for instance. The engine itself remains rather silent, with only a sporting roar when pushed to the limit. The Kamiq is of course als well prepared for night driving. It has LED headlamps as standard equipment.  

Let’s now focus on the handling. It’s very good indeed, with also the electromagnetic steering light and precise. You can steer with verve into corners; the Kamiq remains undisturbed and stable, with only some noticeable body roll. With all this, the Kamiq remains comfortable.

As it was so tempting to adopt a rather engaged driving style during our test, the consumption tended to suffer somewhat; We averaged 6,6 liters, while according to the WLTP cycle standards, the Kamiq should reach a figure of 6 l/100 km. CO2 emissions are quoted as 128 according to the WLTP norm.

Besides the good dynamic qualities, the rather high stance of this compact SUV and its nimble size make it fun to drive in town.

Brakes are also excellent, nicely progressive and responsive.

Conclusion

The Kamiq has excellent all round qualities, and in fact offers everything you would want from a car. It is roomy, compact in town, well finished, built to last, comfortable with excellent performance and dynamic qualities, which makes it an outstanding GT for long European (holiday) trips.

Of course, this Kamiq doesn’t come (very) cheap.. Škoda however offers for your money an excellent car, which will give you years of motoring pleasure… and yes, the performance and panache of a (classic) Porsche… at least in this well equipped top of the line Monte Carlo 150 HP version.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Renault Arkana E-Tech 145: when hybrid meets elegance…  

Renault is a brand which moves boundaries now and then. It brought a new definition of a roomy and timeless city car with the Twingo, built the legendary 4L and the “Cinq”, its Espace brought nothing less than a revolution in car concepts and design: the “space” car was born.

Then we don’t forget the Avantime. A car which was truly totally ahead of its time. We drove it at its introduction in the streets of modern, united Berlin. When you saw it on the road, you would expect a V6 formula 1 turbo engine under the hood, running on hydrogen of course, with a sweet voice softly telling you what the history is of the street and buildings you driving through, in the language of your choice. That car made us dream. Its stylish panache and the promise it embodied still has to be equalled.

Then Renault embarked on the E-path, opening it up to the masses with the ZOE and recently also putting a very clever full hybrid on the road, culminating in the E-Tech family of cars. Affordable with a touch of genius. And then we don’t forget Dacia…

Now its talented designer Laurens van den Acker took a long hard look at the BMW 4X and brings the stylish silhouette of the iconic fastback SUV to the wider public. The Arkana, a name derived from the Latin Arcanum, meaning secret, first made its entry in the Russian market, based on the Dacia Duster B0 platform. This allows the Russian built Arkana to offer 4WD, a must for the Russian market.

But this is not the E-Tech Arkana we meet on our shores. Renault needed here a platform which allowed electrification. Just read further!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

So “our” Arkana started life in South Korea in January 2020 as the… Renault Samsung XM3, and we find this again a fascinating story in itself, showing how cleverly big groups are combining talents and allocating resources found in their world wide organisations. Showing that they are truly unifying the world, having learned to work, cooperate and thrive across boundaries.

So Renault Samsung Motors is a reality, and they build the Arkana for us in their South Korean factory in Busan.

Renault is maybe also teaching politicians a lesson nowadays: the “Russian” Arkana is built both in Moscow by Renault Russia as well as in… Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, in South eastern Ukraine, at ZAZ, the most important (former) Russian Automobile Manufacturer.

The European Arkana runs on the more modern CMF-B platform, which we find also for the Clio V and the Captur II.

Stylish

Approaching the Arkana and walking around it, one is pleased by its excellent proportions and shape, from any angle. We liked also that it stands boldly on its wheels, with a ground clearance of not less than 20 centimeters. This allows you to negotiate sleeping policemen’s with ease of mind, as their dimensions always differ greatly from borough to borough, if not from street to street. The fact that this is not unified on a European scale, let alone not even on a national scale is utterly ridiculous. But the Arkana copes with all that, marvelous!

We found also the level of finish and paint quality of the bodywork top notch. The same can be said of the fit, look and feel of the panels in dashboard and cabin.

The layout is similar to what we find in the ZOE and Clio. The seating position is excellent, everything is logically within reach. Also the infotainment system with the large screen on the centre console is a breeze to use, and quite intuitive. Of course instrumentation is digital, and you can have also the road indications right in line with your eyesight if you prefer this.

The Arkana E-Tech is frugal: on the open road merely 4,7 l/100 km…

The learning curve to get acquainted with infotainment in this car is wonderfully short, and it is also very practical and wise to let the heating/airco ventilation system be controlled through three big round manual knobs.

A fully fledged hybrid…

The Renault Arkana uses the Renault “E-Tech” hybrid solution, consisting of a petrol engine delivering 94 HP, a starter generator which delivers 20 HP or15 kW, and last but not least an electric motor incorporated in the transmission, which is good for another 49 HP or 36 kW.

The gearbox has four speeds in store for the combustion engine, and reserves two speeds for the electric motors. These are no synchro rings or clutches, the electric motor within the gearbox synchronises everything. This uniquely clever system is derived from Formula 1 technology, Renault says.

It works wonderfully. Driving away is always on E-power for the first meters at least, the electric motor in the gearbox with its close to 50 HP has more than sufficient zest for its task. If the small 1,2 kW battery runs out of power, the engine sets in smoothly, helps to power the car further forward, and also charges the battery. Total system power is 143 HP.

Depending on the chosen driving mode, the system will also keep the battery more or less constantly charged, and so it happens more than often that when having accelerated on E-power to say a cruising speed of 70 km/h, the petrol suddenly engine starts up and gets eagerly to work recharging the battery. It does this at relatively high revs, and the recharging time is therefore rather short.

The higher revs seem to be a bit out of place, but soon one gets used to it, even more so because everything happens smoothly as the revs between gearbox and engine are exactly matched and you understand why this is happening.

We noticed that in city driving the Arkana runs often on E-power, and indeed, the consumption during our test hovered around the 5 litres/100 km. Performance is more than adequate for everyday driving, with a 0 to 100 sprint in 10,8 seconds and a top speed of 178 km/h.

Comfortable and well balanced

The suspension of the Arkana has a rather firm undertone, but is very well balanced and comfortable, and will never show any hint of harshness. On winding roads, the car stays flat with very little body roll despite its 20 cm ground clearance. Steering is responsive and pleasant. Indeed, the Arkana is an excellent Gran Turismo with also very good urban qualities, and a pleasure to steer and drive.

There is sufficient head- and legroom for the rear passengers, and the E-Tech configuration only costs some 33 liters of luggage space, which remains at 480 to 1263 liters, more than adequate we would say. Living with the Arkana is truly nice…

Conclusion

A stylish, frugal, future oriented Renault, roomy, well finished, easy to use and pleasant to drive in everyday life. It offers good interior space despite its elegant coupé silhouette. Indeed, Renault sets again new standards in offering to many car buyers the panache and zest of a modern four dour coupé combined with some distinct SUV touches. And it can be had as a hybrid, which is a strong selling point for today’s environmentally conscious buyers…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the DS9 E-Tense 225: French elegance and panache…

In the hearts of many, the longing for a sleek, timelessly beautiful French limousine never fades. So when DS Automobiles was born, such a car was a must. The tradition of the original DS, serving as the true “voiture présidentielle” has also to be kept. So here she awakens again, as the noble “savoir vivre” alternative to the established German competition. The DS9. We tested the plug-in-hybrid version of course, fitting to this time and age…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

This DS9 is indeed elegant. With a regal wheelbase of 2,9 meters and a total length of 4,93 meters, the stylists were able to draw fluent lines and contours of an uncanny noblesse. The added details are reminiscent of its iconic predecessors, like the position lights close to the roof line.

This regal panache continues in the cabin. Noblesse oblige. Your eyes meet the superb clock in the middle of the dashboard, with the lozenge shaped start/stop button right below it.

You can select also this lozenge theme for the dials in the electronic screen ahead of you, to add a bit of Art Déco atmosphere to it all. Your servant just loved this, as well as the finely chiseled surfaces of the rotating knobs on the steering wheel and the centre console. We love this tension between rounded shapes and rakish angularity. Voisin also used this in his magnificent automobiles.

The cabin is beautifully finished, with the seats not only looking opulent, but also cocooning you in soothing armchair comfort. Leg room at the rear is of course nothing short of presidential.

The infotainment is top notch, the expertise of the former PSA and now even larger Stellantis group sees to that. Embedded in this now world wide group, for DS automobiles, further future oriented electrification and revolutionary system/software platforms are in the cards. As one knows and has been written already in these columns, DS is very ambitious when it comes to future electrification.

Smooth hybrid power

We tested the E-Tense 225 version, with the 181 HP 1,6 litre petrol engine coupled via an 8 speed automatic transmission to a 110 HP electric motor, resulting in a total system power of 225 HP. Sounds familiar? Indeed it does, as we found the same drivetrain on the DS4 E-Tense.

We already applauded the good qualities of this drivetrain, the prompt and vigorous accelerations, the overall smoothness. As the DS9 is somewhat heavier than the DS4 with its 1914 kg, the 0 to 100 km/h acceleration time is slighty slower, some 8,7 seconds, but on the other hand the top speed due to the more slippery limousine bodywork is a solid 240 km/h.

The DS9 will however rather invite you to some leisurely cruising, inspired as you are by the comfortable suspension which like in the higher end versions of the DS4 electronically scans the road surface ahead of you and adapts the active suspension accordingly. DS Automobiles calls it DS ACTIVE SCAN SUSPENSION, and we described it already in our columns.

Sound insulation is magnificent, remember that the doors have not less than three rubber seals to insulate the cabin from its surroundings, and double glazed windows. Needless to say that one truly enjoys the excellent sound system, and can listen delightfully to French chanson or baroque music.

Our test car had an electric radius of about 50 kilometers, thanks to its 11,9 kW battery. In our columns you could already read that there’s now a DS 9 E-TENSE 250 in the showrooms, featuring a 200 hp 4-cylinder PureTech engine, accompanied by the same 80 kW (110 hp) electric motor. The car has a new 15.6 kWh (total capacity) battery, with an unchanged number of cells, delivering now up to 70 kilometers on the WLTP city cycle (EAER City) or 61 kilometers on the WLTP combined cycle with an unchanged vehicle weight. The 7.4 kW on-board charger also allows charging from 0-100% in merely 2 hours and 23 minutes. See our article with the following link: https://autoprova.be/2021/12/03/the-ds-9-e-tense-gets-an-increased-e-range-and-extra-power/

Built in China…

I find it always fascinating to read how the present large automotive groups go about manufacturing their products on a global scale. The DS9 is also typical example. The DS9 runs on the EMP2 modular technical platform of the PSA group, and is built in the Chinese city of Shenzhen by the Baoneng group.

Related (bigger) cars built on this EMP2 platform are the Peugeot 508 and the… Donfeng FengshenA9, an executive sedan produced by the Dongfeng Motor Corporation under the Dongfeng Fengshen sub-brand, until 2019.

Citroën sells a new car named C6 in China on this platform since the end of 2016 and apparently until now, also as an executive saloon. All these cars have the same 2,9 meter wheelbase. This C6 is built in Wuhan, of all places…

Frugal… depending on how you use it.

With PHEV’s it is always the same story. Consumption depends on how you use it. Frequent recharging and short distances will enable you to run it on E-power, if you let the petrol engine do all the work, then it depends on the efficiency of the engine and your driving style. The manufacturer quotes a minimum consumption of 1,5 l/100 km and CO2 emissions of 34 g/km.

Practical

The DS9 is first of all a comfortable limousine, and your excellent companion on long distances or a posh urban drive to restaurant or opera. Boot space is sufficient with 355 litres, as you can fold the rear backrests back to enlarge cargo space to 825 litres.

For the rear passengers, there is a wide central armrest with lots of space for drinking glasses and sundry.

Conclusion

This sleek executive saloon makes a statement in the Executive segment, with its stylish panache and focus on ultimate comfort. It represents a true alternative in design and concept, and its lavish standard equipment makes it also stand out versus the competition.

So we repeat what we said about the DS4, if you want to take a different path in luxurious and refined motoring, grab the leather stitched wheel of this one…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the DS4 Rivoli E Tense 225: the goddess enters the C segment…

The new DS4 is styled to make its mark in the competitive C segment, to bring a touch of French refinement and panache in its class.

Already at the first presentation of the DS4 in Chantilly, we were impressed. We now had the chance to drive this elegant Crossover SUV on our roads for a longer test, and we must admit that it was a very convincing experience indeed. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Seeing the new DS4 and walking around it, one has to admit: this is a well proportioned, timelessly styled car, with unique contours and styling elements, clearly showing that its designer wanted this DS4 to really stand out.

The volumes are carefully balanced, front, side or rear, the DS4 shows character and elegance. The grille and sidelights at the front, the elegantly chiseled rear lights, the flush door handles, popping up when one approaches, the up to 20 inch wheels, this DS4 has the elegant and refined shapes which are appealing. The DS4 recently won also accolades for its styling…

This French couture-like “savoir faire” continues in the interior. Dashboard, centre console and seats breathe distinction, with styling never interfering with functionality.

The higher waistline of the whole car, being a crossover SUV, results also in cabin proportions which invariably invite you to cocoon in its interior, with the DS (and Citroën) extra thick foam-padded seats enveloping you.

The well finished panels of the dashboard and console awake your senses, and you invariably enjoy the refinement of it all, finding it a pleasure to touch and look at.

Take your time to familiarize yourself with its sculpted controls, from the lozenge shaped starting button to the writing pad above the gear selector, and of course the latest generation infotainment which the Stellantis group now offers in its cars.

Besides the clean and to the point driving information displayed by the instrument panel in front of the driver, our test car came in its posh Rivoli equipment level also with an informative and well to read overhead display with augmented reality.

Refined power…

The E-Tense PHEV drivetrain is nothing less than top notch. Shared with other brands and models within the Stellantis Group, it impresses with its smooth, feline power. Driving the front wheels through an 8 speed automatic is a 1,6 petrol engine combined with an electric motor. Total system power is more than enough, with not less than 165 kW/225 PS and maximum torque of 360 Nm. This results in very lively performance: accelerating from standstill is quite powerful, and 100 km/h is thanks to the assistance of the electric motor effortlessly reached in just 7,7 seconds.

Delightful indeed, and the fun doesn’t stop there, as this DS4 is also quite formidable on the motorway: it top speed is not less than 233 km/h.

But besides all this power, it is also the smoothness and the overall silence and refinement of the drivetrain which really stands out. Your servant also considers this to be far more important than outright performance in our modern everyday traffic, and found it a strong point that the DS4 also delivers in this respect.

The combination of performance with the refined charms of electrification and on top of that the absence of any lengthy refueling worries will make me opt for the hybrid solution for the time being, considering the present state of the charging infrastructure on our shores. The DS4 proved again to be a case in point.

DS Automobiles, or rather Stellantis Group for that matter, succeeded in developing a drivetrain with a very smooth and fluent power delivery, with imperceptible gear changes, instant responsiveness and overall very good mechanical quietness. Just when the battery is almost depleted and in kick-down situations, the pleasant roar of the high performance four cylinder is briefly heard, being not obtrusive at all.

Consumption of this PHEV is totally determined by how you use it. Frequent recharging of its 12,4 kW battery via plug-in and driving frequently short distances will of course let you drive with E-power most of the time, with fuel consumption consequently dropping below 2 litres/100 km. Driving briskly with a depleted battery will push the consumption to the other hand of the scale, as the petrol engine is doing almost all the work. Suffice to say that sitting snugly in the comfortable DS, driving with restraint and enjoying fully the good sound insulation of this refined car and its silent drivetrain, we achieved typically a consumption between 5 and 6 litres/100 km.

Divine comfort

The forte of the DS4 is of course its comfort. It will come as no surprise to you that we drove our test car in the comfort mode most of the time. The DS scans the road ahead for irregularities with a camera, and adapts the active suspension accordingly. Impressive to say the least, and we enjoyed the resulting comfort indeed. It is not so soft as the legendary hydropneumatic suspension of the DS 19, but it doesn’t have to be.

This is an active suspension, and it combines a more dynamic setup, necessary to contain the impressive power and torque, with nevertheless stunning “souplesse” and comfort, which makes this DS also the long legged cruiser able to maintain high speeds completely effortlessly on miserable, wet roads.

The steering is light, well insulated from road irregularities and the steering wheel is also a delight to touch, delicately covered by hand stitched leader. We saw one of the craftsmen at work at the DS4 inaugural presentation at Chantilly, and it was truly stunning to see.

I could not resist to show you a photo of this demonstration here. The DS philosophy behind it is right: the steering wheel is what your hands feel and touch; it is your main contact with the car, so it better be a work of art and craftsmanship…

Seating comfort is excellent fore and aft, (very) tall persons will find leg- and headroom in the rear somewhat restricted. If more limousine space is wanted, the DS lover can opt for the majestic DS9, which we drove too, and we will tell you our impressions also soon…

The DS4 will offer you all the thinkable driving aids, and of course also the necessary camera’s to safely maneuver the car. Boot space is still a useable 390 liters in the PHEV version, and of course the backrests of the rear seats can be folded back, so the trip to the “antiquaire” can be crowned with success.

Conclusion

The DS4 has all the endearing French style, character and panache to win your car loving heart. Well designed with lots of “génie Francais”, it is expertly built in German Rüsselsheim.

It has the soothing comfort and road manners of its iconic and legendary DS19 predecessor, which in my eyes makes it even more attractive. It is also timelessly styled, and will be your elegant companion for years to come.

So you want to make a statement in the C segment? Slide behind the hand stitched wheel of this electrified goddess…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the new Nissan Qashqai: better looks, upgraded cabin, smooth performance…

The Qashqai is a very important car for Nissan, and it enters now its third generation. Consequently, the engineers and designers pulled all the stops. Keeping the car very recognisable as a Qashqai, the designers gave the car nevertheless a contemporary look with headlights stretching all to the sides, emphasising the familiar “V” pattern on the grille, putting some clean, sharp styling accents on the sides, and finishing it all in a very well proportioned rear end.

The suspension has also been redesigned and the drivetrains have been reworked too. You will not see a Diesel engine anymore in this Qashqai, only 1,3 liter petrol engines with mild electrification, awaiting a full hybrid version around the middle of this year.

We found this latest generation Qashqai elegant, refined, and convincing with nice upmarket touches, just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Gained in panache and elegance, but not so much in size…

The new Qashqai grew hardly bigger: it grew only 3,5 cm longer and a good 3 cm larger. But the wheelbase gained some 2 centimeters, which gives you more legroom in the rear. As we said, the elegant presence and stylish proportions of the car have been greatly improved. Luggage space varies between 436 and 504 liters, depending how you use the boot panels, which can make a level luggage floor,or not. Indeed, two panels are available to make a continuous flat floor, and these panels can also be used to divide up the luggage space to prevent things from sliding around. Nissan also lowered the luggage floor for easier loading.

Interior and dashboard with premium touches…

Instrumentation is fully digital in the top equipment version we tested, and the design of the dash with its curvacious stitched leather surfaces is decidedly elegant and upmarket. Also the seats in our test car had a premium look and feel with their nice stitching on the seat cushions and backrests.

One finds quite improved soft padding and materials in the dashboard and interior, and one is happy to see a good array of knobs, which make this Qashqai intuitive to use.

Indeed, the heating/ventilation can still be set with thse classic knobs, and below the touchscreen one finds a nice array of knobs too. Also the tactile feeling of these knobs and functions, indeed everything you feel and press, feels solid and well finished.

The infotainment system coming with the higher equipment levels is outstanding, also the digital instruments read well and are elegant. What to think of the 9 inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay, etc. There are also two sorts of USB ports for connectivity, USB C-type and the classic ones, and these are provided in the front as well as in the back.

The Qashqai has practical touches too: the rear doors open to almost 90 degrees actually, which is excellent for loading baby seats, toddlers…

We also liked very much the very legible head up display, and many will also appreciate that Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa can be connected to the Nissan system.

Map information can now also be updated “Over the Air”. Of course, all the usual assistance systems are on board. It even uses map information in the cruise control modus, and will slow you down in bends…

Smooth 1,3 litre petrol engines.

There are no diesel engines available anymore for the new Qashqai. Only supersmooth 1,3 litre petrol engines, developing 140 or 158 HP. Both engines are assisted by an integrated starter generator. The Qashqai is therefore a mild hybrid so to say. The Qashqai cannot move on pure electric power, but its engine is assisted by the starter/generator motor, and one feels clearly the extra push when driving away from standstill.

Only the 158 HP engine is offered when you opt for the X-Tronic automatic transmission. This is a CVT type box, but its artificial seven gears prevent the engine from revving too high under full throttle. Even under spirited driving, the Qashqai remains quiet and subdued. The electronic motor assistance sets in harmoniously from standstill, by the way. The drivetrain is very refined indeed, enhancing the premium feel of this Qashqai.

The revised suspension also pleased us. Comfortable, it coped quite well with uneven urban pavés, staying still a bit firm at slower speeds, but for an SUV quite comfortable nonetheless. The steering is light and also now more direct. This Qashqai is even more relaxing to drive than its predecessor.

Good performance

Performance is smooth and leaves nothing to be desired. 0 to 100 km/h is absolved in 9,2 seconds and top speed is 199 km/h. Driving leisurely with this 1468 kg Qashqai will let you reach consumption levels between 6 and 7 liters, but as soon as you move with more zest, the consumption goes up by one liter. According to WLTP norm, the average consumption is 6,4 liter/100 km.

Full hybrid “E-Power”fro the Qashqai will be expected around the middle of this year. Then a 154 HP 1,5 litre petrol engine will be coupled to a quite zesty 140 kW electric motor. The front wheels will exclusively be driven by this electric motor, the petrol engine will only generate the electricity.

This will allow the petrol engine to operate always in ideal conditions, and the Qashqai will accelerate and have the pleasant responsiveness of a “pure” EV. We will be keen to drive this car as soon as it arrives, of course…

Conclusion

The Qashqai has decidedly carved a nice niche for itself in the European compact SUV market. The third generation is even more mature, stylish and refined. The finish and the equipment in the higher level versions is decidedly upmarket, the infotainment is lavish and future proof. The Qashqai is comfortable, practical and also a lively performer, relaxing to drive and supersmooth.  All the good qualities of a bestseller, which it will continue to be…

Hans Knol ten Bensel