We drove the Subaru XV e-Boxer facelift 2121: electrified on all roads…

Subaru is deservedly famous for its excellent engineering. It embraces 4WD and boxer engine technology, and sticks to it with an uncanny sense of tradition. Rightly so.

Comes of course the EV age, and Subaru makes with the e-Boxer range it first steps into this world. The e-Boxer drivetrain can best be described as a self-charging hybrid. It does the job, whilst retaining its unique Subaru character: the willing boxer engine, the excellent off-road capabilities, the well balanced and inspiring handling on tarmac, it is all still there.

We tested already the 2020 XV e-Boxer, just read our previous test report on these columns. We find our positive findings confirmed, and focus here also on the main topics of the facelift…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Bolder looks

The compact crossover has now a modified front, with an even tougher look. The front bumper was redesigned with a larger black plastic part, a new skid plate and L-shaped silver-grey inserts. The fog lamps received a new frame and the grille was tightened with a new mesh. The crossbar in the grille itself is now slightly wider, making the Subaru logo larger and more prominently visible. Finally, the design of the 17- and 18-inch alloy wheels has been revised.

The drivetrain becomes even more sophisticated

Let’s first look at the drivetrain, which it has of course in common with the other e-Boxer models in the Subaru range. The redesigned 2 litre boxer engine is coupled to a 12.3kW electric motor sitting on the CVT transmission and small 13.5kWh battery, and as we said, Subaru calls it a self-charging hybrid. Modest beginnings, but on the other hand this adds only some 167 kilo to the scale.

Does it work? Yes, it certainly does, that is if you hone your driving style, so the hybrid can function optimally. We indicated this already in our previous test report, and we can only repeat it here.

It will run on the electric motor at lower speeds, for shorter distances. The trick is to accelerate slowly and keep constant speeds in urban traffic. These driving conditions which will not prompt the boxer engine to set in, but let the 17 HP electric motor do its work as much as possible.

The CVT transmission will also choose higher ratio’s when you keep the throttle openings small. The result is lower revs, which will keep consumption very reasonable. Subaru did some very good detail work in setting up the CVT transmission, added an “Intelligent” setting which is ideal for constant speed boulevard drives and keeps revs close to 1000 rpm or so when touring in 30 km limit areas.

All this lets consumption drop to between 7 and 6.5 l/100 km even in tight urban driving conditions. All this also happens with uncanny smoothness, and this Subaru is a very refined automobile indeed.

As said, Subaru added with the facelift the so-called “I-Drive” as standard. The system has two settings, Sport (S) and Intelligent (I), each with their own character: thanks to the smooth power delivery, Intelligent mode is ideal for city driving, for long distances and for driving as efficiently as possible. Indeed, this setting keeps the revs down as much as possible. The Sport mode is a highly responsive mode and is well suited to all-round conditions thanks to its instant acceleration.

Of course in this Sport mode you cannot bend the laws of physics, and when the willing boxer engine delivers its 150 HP pulling power, the fuel consumption goes invariably up.

The manufacturer quotes 6,5 l/100 km as average consumption and mentions CO2 emissions of some 149 g/km. Performance is everything you could ever wish for: 0 to 100 km in 10,7 seconds and a top speed of 193 km/h.

Precise and inviting handling, on and off-road…

The Subaru XV runs on its new Global Platform, which delivers more safety and stiffness, as we said before, resulting in very good handling, and this XV is a pleasure to drive on winding stretches. Suspension comfort is also very good, both on tarmac as on (very) rough terrain. When it comes to safety, it is good to know that the XV has been awarded the maximum 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

Subaru’s Permanent Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive constantly shifts power to the wheels with the most traction, and the XV has not less than 220 mm ground clearance.

With X-MODE with Hill Descent Control, you negotiate steep inclines and descents as an expert. At the push of a button, it takes command of the engine, transmission, Symmetrical AWD, brakes and other components to help you navigate challenging terrain. Here the facelift has made things even better. Subaru also optimized this X-MODE. It is now equipped with a dual function that allows the driver to choose between “Snow / Dirt” and “Deep Snow / Mud”. X-MODE takes advantage of the high torque and fast response of the motor to prevent stalling in extremely poor surfaces

Living with the XV

The seating position is also very good, with fine, supportive seats.

We liked already in the previous test the dashboard layout and clear, the fine chrome finished round dials, which evoke a bit of pur-sang atmosphere which we like so much. Connectivity and driving aids are up to scratch, not to mention Subaru’s unique EyeSight.

This keeps you on a safe distance to cars in front of you, avoids front end collisions with cars and detects pedestrians in front of you. Of course infotainment is also top notch, with Android Auto and Google CarPlay provided for ideal connectivity.

Conclusion

Every bit a Subaru, this e-Boxer. But, if you drive it with intelligence, it will reward you with very interesting consumption figures. Subaru will soon have a full electric vehicle, so they also go up that path. In the meantime, in the remote outback, this is your ideal car to hit all the country roads in an electrified and environmentally conscious manner…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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

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

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

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

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

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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

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

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

“Zen” electric driving is addictive…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Infotainment and driving aids…

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

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

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

Connectivity is also hardly neglected.

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

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

Practical

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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

We drove the VW Tiguan 1.4 TSI eHybrid R-Line: an electrifying bestseller…

The VW Tiguan is Europe’s best-selling SUV since its launch, and VW wants obviously to continue this succes. As the competition has come to the market with plug-in hybrid versions, notably the Peugeot 3008 and the Opel Grandland X, VW decided to bolt the drivetrain of the Golf GTE on the Tiguan platform, which is actually still the one of the previous generation Golf. The result is a smooth and very frugal performer, which will convince many crossover buyers to take the step towards electrified transport. Indeed, this Tiguan plug-in Hybrid stole our hearts with its state-of-the-art technology, honed to perfection already on the Golf GTE. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Our stylish R version seduced us, both inside and out. The previous Tiguan generation had already good looks, and VW just brought the grille in line with the angular styling we see in the Golf 8. The front is bolder, the hood is a bit higher, the lower bumper has also been reorganized. Led lighting is now standard and includes now also the more tech style tail lamps.

Photographers’s note: we used besides the trusty Canon G9 X also our big digital Canon DSLR with an older generation Canon 35-80 zoom lens used on an analogue (film) Canon DSLR. We were astonished with the result. The contour sharpness is truly top notch. Canon does an excellent job, seeing that the older generation autofocus lenses are completely compatible with their newest generation digital DSLR camera’s…

In the interior the digital age has certainly made further headway. Virtually all the controls are now of the electronic slide and touch type. This takes some getting used to, but we already familiarized ourselves with these capacitive controls in the Golf Alltrack, and soon enough one starts to like it even.

Again taken with the older generation Canon 35-80 zoom…

It is a rather bold step for VW to introduce this type of touch commands, but it makes very much sense and indeed documents the readiness of VW to make their mark in this all electronic age. One also finds a new steering wheel, adopting also these capacitive buttons on the R equipment level of our test car, and it has now a flattened bottom.

On this R Line equipment level, the infotainment offered leaves nothing to be desired, as you can guess. Here we have the optional 9,2 inch screen in the center, with even gesture control. All the functions, down even climate control, can be controlled to the touch screen. Just familiarize yourself with it and a world opens for you.

Smooth and state-of-the-art drivetrain

The drivetrain of the eHybrid Tiguan is strictly similar to the GTE Golf. A 30 kWh battery is located in the platform floor ahead of the rear wheels, giving the Tiguan a pure electric range of about 50 km. We achieved some 45 km of mostly motorway driving on a full battery load. Alongside the 85 HP electric motor sits the well proven 150 HP 1,4 liter TSI petrol engine, resulting in a total system power of 245 HP or 180 kW. Both drive units together generate a maximum system torque of 400 newton meters.

This means brisk performance, with a 0 to 100 km/h acceleration time of 7,5 seconds. Top speed is also a rather impressive 205 km/h, far outclassing most of the pure EV’s. In pure electric mode, the top speed is still a very creditworthy 130 km/h.

On the center console, you can push the E mode button for pure electric driving, or push the same button again and shut it off, allowing you to enjoy optimal hybrid driving.

Last but not least you have the GTE mode button which gives maximum E assistance to achieve maximum performance. With all this avalanche of power, the front wheels will spin on wet tarmac, however soon brought under control by the electric driving aids.

When driving, you can select with the gear lever to be in “D” or “B” mode. In the “D” mode it will coast when you lift the throttle, in the “B” mode, it will recuperate the kinetic energy to charge the battery, and therefor decelerate more. This mode seems more logical, as you want usually to decelerate anyway when one lifts the throttle.

Frugal, when you want it to be…

Fuel/E-power consumption depends of course on how you use your Tiguan. When the battery is depleted, one reverts of course to using only the petrol engine, and average fuel consumption is rather around 7 litres/100 km. In hybrid mode, the drivetrain acts quite judiciously, and balances very well between E and petrol engine power. With some restraint in your driving style, you can achieve also about 7-8 liters/100 km in tight urban traffic with an empty battery. On a 100 km trip on the open road with very sedate driving, we achieved 5,8 l/100 km.

The Tiguan eHybrid will start its trip on ePower, giving you about 50 km range…

VW quotes the fuel consumption in l/100 km (NEDC) combined as 1.7–1.5, power consumption in kWh/100km: combined 14.1-13,5. CO2 emissions in g/km are quoted combined 33-38.

When your daily driving distance is less than 50 km and you charge your Tiguan regularly, it is actually used as an all-electric vehicle, and has all its advantages, not in the least its absolute “Zen” smoothness. It is fiscally also treated very well in our country, as it is 100 pct deductible…

A breeze to use daily…

Electric charging via the flap on the drivers’ side is 3,6 kW maximum. Charging speed is not such a big issue with this or any other hybrid, as most of it is done mostly overnight anyway. Charging time takes a few hours, but if you are in a hurry, you can simply interrupt it and drive away, as you have always the petrol engine to get you to your destination.

Again a shot with the older Canon lens…

All the creature comfort you could wish for…

Seating comfort has always been top notch in the Tiguan, and there is ample head and legroom, also for the rear passengers. There is very good stowing room in the doors, as there is also a fair amount of luggage space, to be further enlarged using the split foldable rear backrests. This Tiguan is a very practical companion in your busy and varied daily life, and its popularity has very good reasons indeed.

Predictable handling

In the R version, we enjoyed the adjustable suspension, giving either a very comfortable or sporty ride. Handling is everything you would expect from a modern SUV, and the older Golf platform still does a very good job here. Very sure footed and predictable, the front wheel drive Tiguan will hardly surprise its owner, also thanks to the electronic handling controls built in. Steering is sensitive, direct and precise, and a joy to use on winding roads.

Still the older 35-80 Canon zoom…

We were very impressed by the utter smoothness and progressivity of the ACC, or automated cruise control. It kept the distance to preceding traffic very smoothly, and was a joy to use. It has been honed to perfection, to say the least.

Conclusion

A stylish, mechanically very matured SUV or crossover, roomy, very well built, optimally prepared for an electrified future mobility. You can enjoy the restfulness of a pure EV when you drive short urban distances, which is the case for many of us anyway. Keep it charged overnight if you are so lucky to have a home E-socket on your driveway or private garage, and this Tiguan is an absolute E-dream.

Driving longer distances in hybrid mode with (intermittent) use of the smooth petrol engine is no punishment either.

Taking into account that a plug-in hybrid still enjoys very advantageous fiscal treatment in most European countries is an extra reason to take a long hard look at this eHybrid Tiguan, and make it soon your own…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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

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

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

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

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The current engine line-up includes:

Diesel

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

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

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

Petrol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enhanced connectivity

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

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

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

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

Pure cabin ambiance…

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

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

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

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

More driving impressions of the Jaguar range to follow soon…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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

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

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

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Light and roomy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make it your very personal AMI…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prices…

AMI AMI: 7.290€ incl. VAT

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

MY AMI POP: 8.190€ incl. VAT

MY AMI VIBE: 8.690€ incl. VAT

MY AMI CARGO : 7.690€ incl. VAT.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We spoke with Antonella Bruno: “we are electrifying Jeep for Europe and the world, whilst keeping its unique DNA..”

In our interview series of remarkable women and men in the automotive world, we had an interview with the first woman to lead Stellantis’ historic American brand in the old continent: Antonella Bruno, now Head of Jeep Brand for the Enlarged Europe region.

She has not less than 20 years experience in the automotive industry, and started her career at the company in 2007. Since then, she has held increasingly prestigious roles in the sales and marketing divisions, becoming Market Director Italy for the Lancia Brand in 2012, followed by a position as Head of Lancia Brand in 2013.  

From 2017, in addition to her role at Lancia, she served as Head of Network Development and Customer Experience, an interesting position which together with her new challenge at Jeep, were reasons enough for having this interview…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Antonella Bruno posing in front of the impressive Rubicon at the recent Jeep Media Drive…

Q1 My first question is, you had a long career in the automotive world, I think it has to do with what your father did, but could you tell me why you find the automotive sector so fascinating?

AB: As you rightly said, I grew up close to the automotive world, my father was leading one of the SKF plants, one of the subsidiaries, so after my degree it was natural to step into this sector. I got an opportunity to start working in MSF, and then on further, so it was a kind of natural path for me.

Q2: Why do you think the industry is so unique? What do you think about its future, about the energy transition… and the many mobility and environmental revolutions it is going through, like electrification among others. Do you have any comments on that?

AB:  Let’s say that the automotive industry is very magnetic because it is especially now evolving very rapidly, and electrification is one of the main topics in the future, so at Jeep we started last year with the launch of the Renegade and Compass 4Xe, our first two electrified models, and we are carrying on with that strategy, this will represent our future. We are also working to let the customer understand that buying or considering an electrified car is rather easy, and that the technology is user friendly.

At the recent Jeep 4Xe presentation, you see here the Jeep Wrangler 4Xe in the picture…

We also make clear that being electrified does not mean that they lose the core of Jeep. So for us electrification means catching new customers, with a less aggressive and more sustainable stance, but at the same time – and this is really crucial – it means also to stay true to our values and not really dilute our DNA.

Q3: It is indeed a balancing act for you, you have the customers who appreciate the authenticity of Jeep and go for the Wrangler Unlimited so to speak and at the other end of the spectrum you have new urban Jeep buyers who chose the Renegade and possibly opted for hybrid electrification. Indeed, you have to keep your DNA…

The Renegade has urban qualities…

AB: You are right in saying that we have a more urban clientele opting for the Renegade back in 2018 when it was launched, but also the whole current range of 4Xe models are a perfect example of what we mean in terms of balancing the sustainability and capability because the Wrangler (4Xe and plug-in hybrid) is now a car which you can use daily. If you drive the car, you will notice it performs even better off road thanks to the electrification and this balance I mentioned between sustainability and capability is crucial for a brand like Jeep.  

Q4: With the venue of the Renegade in the mass compact SUV segment, the market presence of the brand has widened considerably…

AB: Yes, as I was saying, before the Renegade the brand was rather more a kind of niche brand in Europe, but when the car was launched, we really grew in terms of volumes and we opened a new segment of (potential) customers.

But equally feels at home in the mountain snow…

Q5: My next question brings us a bit more to the personal side, focusing on the woman in the corporate world. I would like to ask you which skills, which talents did you hone and perfect during your long career and at the same time what would you advise young people and/or young women specifically when they enter the corporate world. What should they watch for, what should they study in terms of human relations, management?

AB As a woman I had the possibility of starting at Ford when I started the first part of my career, and let’s say I had to opportunity to grow a lot, and in terms of skills, I think that it is related to the way I am behaving outside work.

I am an ex-volleyball player so I am used to be very determined, passionate. But I have to be honest, I studied a lot, because when I was young, my first passion was reading, automotive magazines among others. I was very curious, and I used to listen to people who were more experienced than me. Because I think you need also at the beginning to be humble, indeed to be very curious but at the same time humble enough to listen to people who have more experience than you.

I did not experience any kind of difference between men and women, so I was very lucky, and for me it is not a matter of gender, it is a matter of being a professional, being skilled, and you need to keep studying along your career. You grow during your career, but you cannot ever consider that you have arrived, because each new role (re)defines your profile, and therefore at the same time requires you to keep studying. It is important to be a strong, skilled manager, and this goes for both men and women.

Q6: Do you think Corona has affected the position of women in the workplace?

AB: Corona has changed the way we are working in this sense that that now we are spending a lot of time working from home, and this requires a different kind of organization. It requires a kind of cooperation between men and women, let’s say within the family, because it is a new way of working. It depends therefore on the single situation whether this is to the disadvantage of women. It requires an important ability to organize your time.

Q7: If we come back to your new and first rather to your previous function, I was very intrigued that you were Head of Network Development and Customer Experience. Can you tell me more about it?  

AB: AB: As head of customer experience, I can tell you that it was a cross-brand function, and with Corona the digital experience became very relevant and even more so after the sanitary crisis.

So by making the digital experience more efficient, we provide our customer with the ability to order the car online, this is very relevant and it is the future. You have to provide additional content and the digital experience has to be very easy, because you know that 90% of the first research when you are interested in a car starts on the web. So this was the main activity before Corona.

Go anywhere with a Jeep… now also electrified…

Coming back to the network, I had the privilege of leading the network development, which is also very related to the customer experience. To reach the customer is the first mission, but in the final stage we need to explain and pass all the information on the product to the end customer, especially now that we are going through the electrification (of our range). Having said that, we need to offer the best professionalism from our sales staff and we also need to offer a real customer experience in line with our brands. We also need to help the customer to overcome anxiety when it comes to electrification. “

Q8 Can you tell a bit more about the markets in the Enlarged Europe region?

AB: In Europe, the most important market is Italy, representing almost 50 pct of volumes, and we need to keep growing in markets like Germany, which is the most important market in Europe when we talk about electrification. Also France is of key importance for our future.

Retaining Jeep’s unique DNA is our mission…

The high penetration in Italy is explained by the strong legacy with our network, and since June last year we are producing both Renegade and Compass at our factory in Melfi, so Italy is performing very well. I am sure that we will keep growing thanks to the electrification in the markets outside Italy.

HK: We thank you for this interview.

Rewriting the future of our cities: the CEO of Fiat and a world class architect shared their vision…

From left to right: Stefano Boeri, Silvia Boccardi and Olivier François

On World Environment Day, Olivier François, CEO of the Fiat brand and CMO at Stellantis, and the architect Stefano Boeri, whose firm is engaged in urban forestation projects all over the world, featured in a conversation for World Environment Day 2021 on the cities of the future.

They addressed the themes of urban mobility and sustainable architecture to make cities healthier and more livable, by improving air quality and therefore quality of life.

This focus on the future city, and more specifically this sharing of values of sustainability both for urban life and mobility started began over a year ago: in its vision of a utopian city, demonstrated and hinted at by Leonardo DiCaprio in the launch advert for the New 500, Fiat drew inspiration from the green architecture created by Boeri in several locations around the world.

Read all about it further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A new renaissance for (mega)cities…

At their meeting, François and Boeri analyzed the opportunities for a “New Renaissance”: they looked at photographs of the current situation in cities and even more so to the images of the ongoing changes. They also took a long hard look at the societal trends and the increasing interest of urban dwellers all over the world for environmental issues. Then they discussed the urgency of taking action, and the major opportunity of inspiring change.

That inspiration for change must be rooted in attention to aesthetics, in architectural beauty, but also inspired by the certainty of the need to improve the quality of the air we breathe and to reduce pollution levels in the cities we live in.

Boeri’s vertical forest in Milano.

Both men came to the conclusion that the combination of architecture like Boeri’s Vertical Forest – its 27,000 plants and millions of leaves contributing to clean the air by absorbing CO2 – and cars like the New 500 offering zero-emissions mobility can no doubt contribute to improving air quality in our cities.

The all electric 500 steps already in the new era…

In the words of Olivier François, Fiat CEO and Stellantis CMO: “The decision to launch the New 500 – electric and electric alone – was actually taken before Covid-19. Even then, we were already aware that the world could not take any more “compromises”.

In fact, lockdown was only the latest of the warnings we have received. At that time, we witnessed situations that would have been unimaginable until then, for example wild animals roaming the cities, proving nature was taking back what was rightfully hers. Plus, as if it had still been necessary, we were reminded of the urgency of taking action, of doing something for the planet Earth.

We have an icon, the 500. An icon always has its cause and the 500 is no exception: in the 1950s, it opened access to mobility for all. Nowadays, in this new scenario, it has a new mission – our mission – to create sustainable mobility for all.

It is our duty to bring to market electric cars that cost no more than vehicles with an internal combustion engine, as soon as we can in line with the falling costs of their batteries. We are exploring the territory of sustainable mobility for all: this is our greatest project.

Between 2025 and 2030, our product line-up will gradually become electric-only. This will be a radical change for Fiat.  Meanwhile, in the near future, only a few months from now, I am proud that we will see the conversion of the legendary track on the roof of the former Lingotto factory in Turin into the largest hanging gardens in Europe, hosting over 28,000 plants. A major, meaningful – and once again sustainable – project, due to revitalize the city of Turin, our home.”

Urban planning for the future…with more plants and trees.

Then Stefano Boeri, architect, urban planner and founder of the Stefano Boeri Architetti practice, gave also his views: If we consider that cities are responsible not only for the emission of over 70% of CO2, a phenomenon at the origin of global warming, but also for the emission of pollutants which are the main cause of diseases and mortality from respiratory problems, it is clear that cities are the first places to intervene with a profound change.

The Covid pandemic has shown us how fragile our lives and our bodies can be and highlighted the importance of improving the environment and above all the air of the cities in which we live.

“La Pista” 500, soon a reality on the rooftop of Lignotto, in place of the iconic oval track.

In addition to absorbing CO2, reducing energy consumption and urban heat, increasing the biodiversity of living species and making cities more attractive, trees drastically reduce fine dust pollution.

Let’s not forget: plants and trees are the only way we have to absorb the pollutants already emitted. I believe that the time has come to promote, with all our strength and resources, a great campaign to clean the polluted air of our cities, that microparticulate of substances harmful to the health of our lungs that has certainly accentuated in some particularly polluted urban areas the intensity of spread of the COVID 19 infection.

We already have several solutions available that can help us: protect and increase the permeable and green surfaces by creating new parks and gardens, in and around our cities; transform city roofs into lawns and vegetable gardens; promote community gardens and urban agriculture; use tree roots to decontaminate polluted soils; create a network of green corridors to connect parks, forests and green buildings. “

More electric mobility in the urban environment is imminent…

In Fiat’s vision, the penetration of electric mobility will rise, as more and more barriers are overcome. The topics under discussion in the talk included the need to improve access to electric cars, by means of innovation and new financial products that can lower the bar of entry; the need to increase the number of private charge points at apartment buildings, requiring a rethink of the infrastructure of the apartment buildings of the future, but most of all by adapting existing buildings; the need to raise visibility of charge points in cities and increase the penetration of fast charging stations.

That will entail a rethink of urban planning, a challenge that requires the involvement of a wider range of stakeholders. This is the stimulus and message Olivier François and Stefano Boeri wish to put out as their contribution to World Environment Day – held by the United Nations every June 5th, the message of which this year is “TOGETHER WE CAN BE #GENERATIONRESTORATION”.

Question time…

At the question time after the presentation, your servant asked CEO Olivier François to elaborate a bit more about the dialogue which existed between Fiat and these stakeholders in shaping the city of the future and its mobility.

Besides public bodies and municipalities, I was also keenly interested in how the dialogue unfolded with Fiat’s supplier firms like Bosch, Siemens, etc, who also perform extensive research in these fields. CEO Olivier François then trusted the answer to his colleague who maintains this dialogue with these external firms.

In his answer, he focused here mainly on the oil firms, which propose also future-oriented solutions, ranging from alternative “clean” fuel to renewables, and he saw the big oil companies also gradually transform themselves into suppliers of energy in all its forms, i.e. becoming “energy” supplying firms in the widest sense of the word. He pointed out that the boundaries between electricity suppliers and the oil firms will become increasingly blurred. The dialogue is indeed active and is indeed widened to all forms of energy. Energy supply and CO2 reduction remain the crux of the matter for all, he concluded his answer.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Renault Captur E-Tech Plug-in Hybrid: the compact SUV which has it all…

Renault has now also introduced its clever E-Tech Hybrid system in its Captur range, showing clearly that besides full electric propulsion, the hybrid solution has certainly its firm place in the Renault drivetrain strategy.

Having driven also the Mégane GrandTour with the same E-Tech technology, we were again very pleased with the refined qualities of the system, which also makes very efficient use of both electric and classic combustion engined propulsion. Indeed, provided you adopt a relaxed driving style, this Captur will spoil you with a close to 50 km range on its batteries, and an average fuel consumption in hybrid mode with (almost) depleted batteries still well below 6 liters/100 km. Add to this the “Zen” feeling of electric driving – the Captur will always drive away on E-power – and you will understand that we loved testing this good looking SUV. Just read further.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Elegant

The Captur is well styled and proportioned, and pleases to the eye from any angle. A strong selling point, and now the Captur is further enhanced by the equally well designed led head- and rear lamps.

The cabin is also vastly improved, the level of finish and the quality of the materials used is now top notch. We just loved again the tall upright 10,25 inch touchscreen, the easy to manipulate round knobs for heating and ventilation, the Renault typical audio control, the quality of infotainment, the easy and self-explaining choice of the different driving modes. Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity are also to be had. The Captur is practical too, with large doorbins to stow away the things you take along on a car ride and an adequate luggage space with split floor to accomodate the charging cables. (Indeed, there is one for domestic plugs and one type 2 charging cable.) The Captur will also seat five without too many problems.

The E-Tech drivetrain convinces…

After the Mégane, the E-Tech system in the Captur convinced us again. It transforms the Captur in a comfortable, smooth, relaxed performer. As said, the fact that you will always drive away on the 67 HP electric motor adds greatly to the premium feeling this Captur gives you. The acceleration in those first meters is not only smooth, it is also quite powerful, and be sure that the Captur is a quite lively car at traffic lights.

At the beginning of our test, we managed to drive 44,5 km on battery power, with the rest of the distance, 60,6 km, driven in “My Sense” mode, using both engine and battery power. Average fuel consumption was 1,1 liter/100 km, E-consumption 14,4 kW/100 km.

The E-Tech system has three engines: one 1,6 litre Atkinson cycle 91 HP combustion engine, the 67 HP electric motor and then a smaller second electric motor which serves as starter motor for the combustion engine and generator. Acceleration is especially good at lower speeds, but the 0 to 100 km/h sprint is still quite creditable with a time of 10,1 seconds.

With batteries (almost empty, we drove a stretch of 95 km on the open road, using mostly the combustion engine, staying in the “my sense” mode. Fuel consumption was a very creditable 5,3 l/100 km.

Top speed is also a very satisfactory 174 km/h, which makes this Captur a quite potent motorway cruiser.

When asking full performance, the combustion engine will step in verve and will of course be pushed to high revs, but soon one learns to be sensitive with the right foot: a slight lift off of the throttle will induce the gearbox to choose a higher gear, and the engine revs will immediately drop. The E-Tech drivetrain, as well as the Captur, are built for comfort and a relaxed driving style, rewarding you, as we pointed out in our introduction, with very good efficiency, both in liters and KWh /100 km.

Choice between driving modes…

One can opt for the “Sports” mode which makes a performance oriented choice between the electric motors and engine, but most will choose the “My Sense” mode, as we did during most of our test, and the inboard computers will make the smooth and efficient choices for you. We also drove the Captur with the stylish gear lever put in “B” position, which increases the regenerative function when you lift the throttle, and soon enough you will be able to drive the Captur as a “one pedal” E-car in urban traffic. Then you can choose the “Pure” function, which lets the Captur run solely on E-power, and select the “E-Save” function or mode when you want to save battery power for later.

Needless to say that this Captur is very much fun to drive in town, but thanks to the 158 HP hybrid drivetrain it is also well at home on the open road, and this over long distances.

The Captur has a 9,8 kWh battery pack, which is housed under the rear seat, but the interior space is hardly impaired at all, and the rear seat bench can even be shifted back and forth to gain either legroom or luggage space.

The stylish gear selector sits on a “floating” console…

The extra weight of the batteries made a somewhat stiffer suspension necessary, but this did not make the Captur uncomfortable. Handling is also still quite pleasing, the car  can be driven spiritedly over winding roads, but this being said, it will not invite you to throw it around corners. As we said before, the true vocation of this Captur is relaxed and comfortable touring, and to enjoy the “Zen” panache of electrified motoring.

Conclusion

Renault stepped into the hybrid arena, and convincingly so. With the plug-in facility, you have literally the best of both worlds. In our country though, one needs a home charger. But then again, if no charging points are available, you have the pleasant possibility of running on fuel, and the Captur proves here to be quite frugal too. So this go anywhere anytime electrified pleasant looking compact SUV has many cards upon its sleeve…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A woman tailoring the Fiat E-Ducato to your needs: Angelica Carapezza

Her vast experience, very good knowledge of the company and a well established large and well honed network were the keys for Angelica Carapezza to bring the complex E-Ducato pilot project towards customers to a succesful end.

At the first presentation of the E-Ducato in mid- 2019 we met up with some very remarkable people of Fiat Professional, notably with Angelica Carapezza, now responsible for managing and coordinating the implementation of the Ducato’s electrification programs at full scale.

Now with the E-Ducato “coming of age” as it were with its commercial launch, after having went through a very thorough process of profiling the customer and their needs, we were very intrigued how this process exactly went about. All the more reasons for a second interview. The first interview, where we told you more about Angelica Carapezza’s multi-faceted career, can of course also be read in our columns, by following the link https://autoprova.be/2019/09/15/women-behind-cars-angelica-carapezza/.

Just read our second interview with Mme Carapezza here below…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

HK: The Ducato has built up an enviable reputation of commercial success, so launching a fully electric version is quite a challenge, as the expectations of the market are high. What was your business philosophy here in positioning the E-Ducato into the market?

AC: We have a long 120-year history in the LCV market, and Fiat Professional has always been a Brand that “lets the facts speak for themselves”. It is down to earth, so to say, producing vehicles that are first and foremost an ideal tool for the small or big entrepreneur who wants to grow his business. With this approach throughout the years, we achieved an undisputed leadership position in the world of light commercial vehicles, as shown by the figures for the Ducato: over 5 million units produced since 1981 in the biggest plant in the world, having also conquered over 75% of volumes in the Caravan bases sector and, finally, having achieved the European Best Seller status in 2020.

HK: Being close to the customer, responding to its needs, how did this translate in the actual approach?

AC: We wanted the E-Ducato to be absolutely “tailor made”. I can refer here to the Press Statement recently released by Stellantis about our “Pilot Project” to tune the E-Ducato to the needs of our customers, but let me explain it also a bit more for you here how we went about.

We first started with gathering data. With a solid database, you know where you’re going. So we collected data for a whole year from 4,000 thermal Ducato vehicles, whose control units, connected in real time, allowed the different individual mission profiles of our customers to be identified in their real application on the road.

E-Ducato’s were delivered to corporate customers like Arcese to further fine tune them to their needs…and collect their experiences.

Then we started analyzing the collected data, and aggregated them. Now, and this is of course crucial, we had established ourselves a very good idea about the profile of daily missions which could be accomplished by an electric instead of a thermal vehicle without causing any business interruption for the customer: in this way we identified the market segment which is “ready to divert” from thermal to electric, based on their specific mission(s) or activity and the size of their fleet.

This analysis which well founded, as it was carried out after not less than 50 million km being traveled by connected vehicles. This confirms again how deep knowledge about customers and their needs is fundamental and conditio sine qua non for the successful sale of commercial vehicles.

HK: Based on your findings, you could now further develop and fine-tune the engineering of the E-Ducato…

AC: Indeed, but we wanted our customers also to test out right from the beginning our pre-production vehicles, and communicate to us their findings during further development of the E-Ducato. We wanted them to have “their” driving experience in the field, based on real life conditions. To achieve this, we launched a “Pilot Project” so complete and complex that it was unprecedented in the history of Fiat Professional. During this engineering development phase of the electric version of the Ducato, we produced a mini fleet of pre-series vehicles and then assigned them to strategic customers. This time it allowed us to sample further data in purely electric mode.

Briefly, each user is assigned a vehicle on free loan for a period of 4-6 weeks, depending on mission/s tested, geography, type of paths chosen, allowing each customer effectively and empirically to start “his” Ducato experience.

The final target is to identify “his” vehicle, which is the result of the combination of two key and indivisible elements: offer and demand. Fiat Ducato’s commercial offer covers more than 18.000 different versions of the same vehicle, available with either thermic or electric propulsion, so you may imagine how important is for us to provide always the right and the best solution to our customers. In other words, we find the right match between on one hand the customer’s specific needs (type of route, daily km, delivery times/shifts, working days, type of goods transported and charging profile) and on the other hand the “right” Ducato with its wide range of product combinations (battery size, body configuration, options).  

This allowed a “real life” customer profile to be established, and so we could tailor the E-Ducato not only ideally to its specific delivery tasks and missions, but also to the individual market-specific requirements and local conditions, with indeed the geography being another important key factor in the choice of the vehicles.  

HK: Very remarkable, this close cooperation with customers. Does it have a following?

AC: Right indeed, the collaboration with selected customers for the “Pilot Project” continues today and covers various communication channels: press, web, social, co-marketing, joint participation in events and promotion of new experimental business lines.

Furthermore, in terms of identification and visibility, it is worth emphasizing that the E-Ducato fleet bears the distinctive livery of the model, combined with that of the international partners who took part in the project, including Arcese, GLS, Lyreco, Mercitalia, EDF, Fraikin, CSB, Nippon Express and BT Fleet, and last but not least DHL: all leading companies in the market and devoted to innovation, which have shown that they want to combine the commercial side of their business with respect for the environment.

HK: Indeed, I understand, customers and manufacturers are working together towards eco-sustainable mobility…

AC: Absolutely. Respective expectations have the same target: to give a consistent contribution in achieving truly eco-sustainable mobility from the beginning, throughout the value chain, and this new mobility is now the result of two companies sharing a single major strategic goal. OEMs cannot any longer sell just vehicles; they have to sell a full mobility solution in a world that is constantly evolving and where customers need easy solutions to continue their daily mission. LCV customers make a purchase choice based on tangible elements: payload, volume, range; here there is no room for emotion like for passenger cars; our customers have a clear idea about what they want and need, they are very demanding, the vehicle is the business for them. With E-Ducato we are proud to state that we “emotionally sell product contents”.  

HK: The car industry is now on the threshold of major eco-conscious changes… with its customers changing too…

AC: The entry of Electric Mobility happens not only in the Automotive market per se, but especially also in the culture and education of the people, which is leading to an epochal change that will impact heavily on the customer’s commercial approach, making her/his choice a «choice of full Mobility»: the customer is a pro-active stakeholder of this process of a new behavior and approach to Mobility.

For the car industry this means not only making the switch from thermal to electric, but also and above all fostering the evolution from the simple sale of a vehicle to the sale of a complete sustainable mobility service, in which the customer’s knowledge and needs become essential elements of the sale itself. Once again, Fiat Professional becomes the protagonist of a cultural change through a concrete approach to the issue of sustainability, with our “tailor-made” E-Ducato.

HK: What were your personal experiences, findings and satisfactions in setting up and bringing to a good end this complex project, amid Corona times? Do you have a message here – as a woman with a career– to our readers?

Well, good question Hans! If you ask me to summarize all my experiences with only one adjective, I would tell you “complicated”, but let me add a second one: “satisfying”. However, as satisfying as all complicated and challenging tasks are, it was not a “promenade”, notwithstanding my 35 years of experience in the Automotive Sector and having clear idea how the “machine” runs.

The Corona virus played its part too in complicating easy things like meeting the customers, feed commercial relations, being on the field, have internal meetings with the team and speed up developments. In one stroke, all these tools were taken away by the Corona pandemic, and we had to cope with delays and only virtual experiences at all levels. But I would mention Einstein here, “in the middle of every difficulty lies an opportunity”, and the Corona virus gave us the opportunity to deal with in a new – and unpredictable – scenario, in finding new ways to establish the collaboration in each part of the long chain of automotive processes, where everybody gave her/his strong contribution to deliver the project.

To those people, my colleagues, go my special thanks for having supported me for each time I asked for something that was “never done before”. Whether you are a man or a woman, if you commit yourself first and you strongly believe in what you are asking for, the results come in.

HK: In more general terms, do you think that the Corona Pandemic has affected the position of women in the working place? What challenges in your opinion lie ahead for them?

AC: Well… a question which is not so easy to answer. Once more, statistical data show us that most of the women have lost their job. We can state generally that women belong indeed still to a weak professional category: they are always the first to pay any change.

I can consider my self – as all women in multinational companies- as a privileged person, since I had immediately the chance to continue my daily job. To avoid any disruption, the Company had made work from home immediately available to all its staff, but of course, everything became virtual. I did not lose my job, but I had to change the way of doing it.

Angelica Carapezza, second from left, seamlessly adapting her dress code to the occasion, delivering the E-Ducato to customer Lyreco…

HK: Did your function in the Company pose specific personal challenges for you?

AC: I’m a Senior Marketing Manager, I’m responsible of the E-Ducato Pilot Project: this job is based on relationships, both within the company as well as externally.  

This meant that, at the outbreak of the pandemic, we all had to rely on and capitalize as much as we could on the network we had build up so far. I can say that without a deep knowledge of the organization at all levels, If I would not have already known the thousands of people that work here and what they do, if I would not have built personal relations in the past, I would never have been able to deliver the Pilot Project as it is today.

Along with the network I built up, my professional experience also played an important role in this pandemic situation.

I think it must have been very difficult for young people who had just entered the organization prior to the pandemic. I keep asking myself, how have they worked from their homes without knowing the processes, the people, the organization flows, the fundamentals when you have to deal with an enormous organization? How could they develop that special feeling of “belonging to” the company if they could not experience it hands on and feel it on their skins?

HK: And to return to our first question, what were the extra challenges for women in general with this pandemic?  

If you ask me about the challenge… well the challenge was just even bigger now with the pandemic, if you consider a full working day for a woman.

From a personal point of view, I think we have to see both sides of the so-called “remote working opportunity”: what it appears to be and the everyday reality. At first sight it seems that from home you can better manage and organize your daily workload, which  – apparently –, leaves you more room to organize your life. But the truth is quite another matter.  

The reality is that from home, as women, we tripled our daily tasks and got more and more efficient being at  same time managers, mothers, housekeepers with no time limits!  

We, like our children who paid the most expensive cost of this pandemic, lost the human contact, everything is done behind the screen, everything is happening inside your house, and most of times you don’t perceive that it’s time to switch off the PC.

HK: The pandemic has affected us all…

The pandemic has affected us as human beings. We are not born to become home robots. As a woman, I want to go back to work, I need to put on a nice dress, have make-up, wear shoes and go out, before we all forget what is so fundamental for a human being: the interaction among us, the fact that we need to see each other into the eyes, to talk face to face, directly, to shake hands, to re-establish relationships. Human relationships: this makes us live.

HK: I thank you for this interview.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the 135 HP Renault ZOE 50: a bestseller with more punch and range…

The facelifted ZOE now has a more inviting front end too… and got LED headlamps standard.

Did you know that almost one out of five E-cars sold in Europe is a ZOE? Not surprisingly, as since its introduction back in 2012, the cute ZOE had the small EV market almost completely for itself. Now the competition is growing, with the Opel e-Corsa and the Peugeot e-208 coming to our markets. But Renault has revamped its ZOE on just the right points to make its baby still score very well in its segment: a bigger battery, a stronger engine, and a revamped interior indeed make the ZOE as attractive as ever… just read further!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The bigger 52kWh battery gives the ZOE an interesting range… The Z.E. symbol lights up blue when the car is charged…

Let’s start with the most interesting point: the bigger battery. Instead of the former 41 kW unit, the ZOE now has a 52 kWh battery, putting 326 kg on the scale, but more importantly, pushing the effective driving range just beyond the 400 km mark. Given of course the appropriate driving style.

Energy efficient…

When you set the cruise at 95 km/h or thereabouts, just to be a bit faster that the heavy trucks and lorries, the ZOE will consume 7 to 10 kW/h with the ZOE at these speeds, and yes, you can enjoy quite useful ranges, close to 400 km indeed.

This meant also using the clever “B” function by slipping the nicely designed gear-lever in this position, which lets the car regenerate the kinetic energy more intensely, effectively slowing the car more markedly when one lifts the throttle. Soon, one has learns to drive with more anticipation,  and soon you drive this ZOE as a one-pedal car. A delight in dense urban traffic.

We also clicked on the “ECO” driving mode, but this severely reduces the car’s liveliness, and in our opinion should only be used when “getting home” is crucial.

Of course, this nice range is markedly shortened when you use any airco/heating function, fans and windscreen wipers and other accessories. The effective range soon drops closer to maximum 300 km or thereabouts.

Lively performance

Having said this, the 100 kW or 136 HP motor, having also a healthy 245 Nm of torque, transforms the 1502 kg ZOE in a very lively performer. Low speed acceleration is excellent, going from 0 to 100 km/h costs merely 9,5 seconds. Top speed is limited to 140 km/h.

Given the still disastrous charging infrastructure in our country, a wallbox at your house is therefore a must for every (Belgian) EV owner, if he wants to use the dynamic qualities of your EV to the full without any further worries.

Renault’s 7 kW wallbox will charge the ZOE from empty to 100 pct in some 9,5 hours. The ZOE also supports 50 kW charging provided you choose this extra option. Then it costs only 1 hour and 15 minutes to charge up to 80 pct.

The rear lamp clusters are also neatly redesigned…

The joys of EV driving…

Let it be said here already: this ZOE is an absolute delight to drive in town. The electric motor is powerful and absolutely silent (up to 30 km/h an audible signal is sent for pedestrians, but this can be shut off). The “B” function lets you drive efficiently and smoothly, you can enjoy your favored tracks through the excellent Bose sound system, which was installed in our top-of-the-line ZOE.

On the open road, the 135 HP motor certainly gives the ZOE more than enough zest, and you can enjoy the silence of the car, as the ZOE sports besides the inaudible electric motor also a very good sound insulation.

Soothing comfort…

On top of all this comes also a very comfortable suspension, which is further enhanced by the soft sprung seats. All this guarantees relaxed, stress-free driving for hours on end, and indeed, the compact, barely 4 meters long ZOE is an excellent Gran Turismo, the only thing to watch out for are range and charging points…

The light steering is sufficiently precise to enjoy also spirited driving on winding roads, and indeed the ZOE is a perfectly balanced companion on winding and undulating “Nationales”, as not surprisingly, this Renault seems born for them.

Our test car was also equipped with the usual driving aids, lane assist, blind spot warning, etc, which makes the ZOE quite “grown up” on the motorway and multi-lane ring roads or urban “périferiques.”

A much-improved interior and infotainment…

The ZOE has inherited much of the instrumentation and screens from the latest Clio, and this seriously uplifts the car. In front of the driver sits now a digital 10-inch display, which is standard even in the basic version. The upright/portrait 9.3-inch touchscreen stems from the Clio, is standard on the top equipment line but can be had as an option in the other equipment levels. The screen sits relatively high, which makes it easy to reach and more pleasant to use.

The climate controls are neatly placed below the screen, a wise choice to put them indeed separately. Via the large round knobs, they are a breeze to use.

The quality of materials is also improved, and we liked the fabric covering of the dashboard panels. Of course, we drove the top equipment version, things might look different going down the line(s)…

The quality of the materials used in the interior has vastly improved…

The ZOE is practical too, with USB slots, phone charging, plenty of storage space in the front doors, foldable backrests, etc. Boot space is quite sufficient for a compact EV, the large and wide sill might be a drawback, but then passive safety has also its needs and necessities…

Conclusion

The ZOE has with its recent improvements grown out into a quite formidable contender, witch provides comfortable, “ZEN” transportation both in town as well as on open roads and Autoroutes. Eminently comfortable and silent for its size, it is a very “grown up” car, and holds very well its own in terms of range, performance, finish and cabin ambiance.

We expect this ZOE to be one of the absolute stars in its segment, and this for quite some time to come…

Hans Knol ten Bensel