We drove the Citroën C3 Aircross: a compact car with panache…

We have always loved Citroëns for their comfortable ride and indeed, their idiosyncrasies. In character and design, we found them always really stand out. Some models really oozed with pure panache, and we mean here of course the DS/ID and the 2 CV. But there were others, like the well styled GS with its air cooled four cylinder boxer engine and also the CX. Today then we are still totally smitten by the elegant C6.

This quest for originality we find back in all the models of the present range, notably the C3 Aircross which is the subject of our test here. The well rounded styling language stands out, and touches of character are added with the side cushions (Airbumps) which protect the bodywork from the rigors of modern urban life.

The Aircross has now a completely new grille and a revised light signature, as has been introduced on the 2020 C3. On the technical side, Citroën is – as could be expected – reaping the rewards of the Stellantis Group: the C3 shares its platform with the Opel Crossland X.

The dual tone paintwork adds extra panache, and also in the interior the dashboard architecture and air vents underline the original personality of this Citroën. We liked the instrumentation with its round dials, the judicious positioning of the new 9 inch infotainment screen and the look and finish of the seats. This Citroën is a car to live with and enjoy in daily life. Everything is well placed and easy to use.

Comfort comes first…

Like we said, Citroën means comfort, and this is immediately felt in this C3, right from the first metres you drive it. The suspension is pleasantly soft and copes very well with potholes and irregular pavés, although, as we said, it shares its platform with the Crossland X.

Sitting cozily in our seat, we moved the lever of the six speed automatic in “D” and basically left it there. The newly developed three cylinder 1199 cc engine develops a healthy 130 hp when coupled to the automatic transmission and this is more than enough to guarantee very lively performance for this 1150 kg heavy C3. It goes from 0 to 100 km/h in less than close to 10 seconds and its top speed is over 190 km/h.

But comfort is to be enjoyed here, and we did not adopt a too enthusiastic driving style with our test car. We just enjoyed the elegant and smooth progress. The C3 rewarded us also with low noise levels and very good economy when driven with restraint. The modern, direct injection three cylinder is silent, even under power, and when one adopts a more sedate driving style, the consumption stays close to 6 litres/100 km, even in urban driving. On the open road, cruising at legal speeds will deliver a consumption between 5 and 6 litres. CO2 emissions are quoted as some 116 g/km.

The automatic transmission is smooth and matches the engine characteristics very well.

The suspension is set up for comfort, and this means that the C3 will not really invite you to throw it around corners, although the handling is quite good. Remember it’s also the Crossland platform, it is just that body roll is more noticeable. In long, fast bends the C3 behaves wonderfully, as a “grande routière” befits.

But then the C3 treats you very well on urban pavés and frost ridden secondary roads. Straight line stability is excellent and the C3 is therefore well at home on autoroutes.

The Aircross version has some terrain capacities; we liked the driving aids like Grip Control and Hill descent Assist.

The seats are also very comfortable and have been further improved in this latest generation C3. Citroën calls them now “advanced comfort” seats, and are provided with extra 150 mm high density foam inserts. There is ample head and legroom for the front passengers. In the rear, seating conditions are a bit more cramped, but for children and smaller adults, everything is just fine.


Luggage space is good for its class with 410 litres, and this can be expanded to 520 litres when the rear seat is shifted forward. The seats can be folded in 40/60 split fashion, and when both are completely down, some 1289 liters are available. The rear sill is rather high, but not unduly so.

Our test car came with a 9 inch touch screen, and of course the screen of your Smartphone can be mirrored via Apple Carplay, Android Auto and Mirrorlink. The C3 also has an 120 degree camera built in the rear mirror, which can be actuated with a button or activates automatically in case of accident. You can even use an app to transfer the video to your Smartphone.

Not less than 12 driving aid systems are provided, and indeed, compared with the competition, the C3 is indeed lavishly equipped. On this Aircross version there is as we mentioned for instance grip control and hill assist descent control, and a coloured head display to top it all. It spoils you also with coffee break alert, rear view camera, hands free access and keyless starting, traffic sign recognition, active safety brake, automatic headlight dimming, park assist, lane departure warning, dead angle warning, driver attention alert and last but not least park assist.

Add to all this the panoramic roof, and you will agree that pleasure is to be had in the cabin of this C3.


The C3 is quite impressive in its class, with very good all round qualities and above all excellent comfort. You can take it as well for an extended urban (shopping) trip as on that long Gran Turismo tour along European motorways and winding mountain passes, it feels equally well at home in both!

It is sufficiently compact to be practical in our cities, yet offering enough room for a family of four including their luggage. With the 130 hp engine and the six speed automatic, there is more than enough zest to keep even de most demanding drivers happy, and they will also keep smiling at the pump. Add to all this the pleasant personality, with the Aircross version even the character of a compact SUV, and you will agree that this C3 deserves your attention when you are in the market for a compact car…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Zoute Grand Prix 2021: living now in everyone’s heart…

The Zoute Grand Prix inspired young and old to take out their beloved classics…

This year’s edition of the Zoute Grand Prix has been spreading over several Flemish cities now. Bruges and Ostend have stepped also in the game.

This year we were of course in Knokke, but decided to live the event through the public and bystander’s eye.

The Zoute Grand Prix has indeed grown into a formidable event with a very wide and large public impact. For Knokke Heist, it has become the busiest weekend of the year, with absolute record hotel bookings.

It raises the spirits of car lovers of all ages, and many are those who take out their beloved young- or oldtimer out for a spin on the Knokke streets during the event, and have their own very personal Grand Prix.

There are also a lot of new and very recent cars around, many of them with tuned exhaust to add some extra drama to their Knokke sortie.

Shops of every kind in Knokke had arranged their showrooms and added to their shop windows a specific touch referring to the theme of the event.

Even your daily(?) gin can be enjoyed – literally – in the spirit of the Zoute Grand Prix…

We just let you enjoy some of the snapshots we took on the Knokke streets, where, we must admit, no EV’s or electrified cars were to be seen for near or afar this weekend…

Classic racing cars can also run like clockwork…
Capelleschi Gallery, specializing in car paintings, added with a Ferrari flag to the theme…

We will report on the actual event, including the Bonham’s auction and the Concours d’Elegance in these columns soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Alfa Romeo Giulia GTAm, which Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi drove during the Belgian F1 GP, on display at the 2021 Zoute Grand Prix

Alfa Romeo will be present at the 2021 edition of the Zoute Grand Prix, which will take place in Knokke from 6 to 10 October. “I am delighted that the Alfa Romeo brand can once again participate in the Zoute Grand Prix this year, especially as we have been participating since the first edition in 2010,” said Patrice Duclos, General Manager of the Alfa Romeo brand for Belgium and Luxembourg.

This year Alfa Romeo will participate in the Zoute Grand Prix with a car with a special history: the latest Giulia GTAm, of which the limited edition of 500 cars has now been sold out. “The Giulia GTAm on the Alfa Romeo stand at the 2021 Zoute Grand Prix is ​​not only an exclusive car, but also of particular interest to us,” said Patrice Duclos. “This car was driven by our two drivers of the Alfa Romeo ORLEN Racing F1 team on the eve of the Belgian F1 Grand Prix last August. We can say that this model has a historical side that should interest car enthusiasts in our country!”

In all respects, the Giulia GTA/GTAm is a collector’s car. All 500 numbered units, introduced to the international press last May, have since been sold to customers worldwide, including a significant number in China, Japan and Australia, making the Giulia GTA an international commercial success.

RAIKKONEN Kimi (fin), Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN C41, GIOVINAZZI Antonio (ita), Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN C41, portrait during the Formula 1 Belgium Grand Prix, 12th round of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship from August 27 to 29, 2021 on the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, in Stavelot, near Liège, Belgium – Photo Florent Gooden / DPPI

An exclusive video

On the occasion of the 2021 Zoute Grand Prix, Alfa Romeo offers its fans a unique testimony about the Giulia GTAm, with a video in which Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi, the two official drivers of Alfa Romeo ORLEN Racing, take a seat in the car. They can be seen leaving the Hotel de la Source in Spa, right next to the Formula 1 circuit, to take the roads from Spa to the heights of Balmoral. This video can be viewed via the following link: https://we.tl/t-fcEfX7EsEm

First appearance of the new Alfa Romeo Stelvio 6C Villa d’Este

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio 6C Villa d’Este appears for the first time at the Zoute Grand Prix and is offered with the 210 hp 2.2 Turbo or the 280 hp 2.0 Turbo, both four-cylinder aluminum diesel engines with carbon fiber crankshaft, combined with an 8-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive (Q4). In addition to the exterior paintwork, the special series features chrome side window surrounds and 21″ five-hole alloy wheels.

This new limited edition is inspired in terms of colours and design elements by the elegance of the 6C 2500 SS Coupé produced by Alfa Romeo in the 1940s…

Come and see them in Knokke!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Jeep Wrangler 4xe: the iconic Jeep now comes with e-power…

The blue stripes on the hood show it: this Jeep runs also on E-power…

We drove the Jeep Wrangler in its authentic Rubicon livery in plug-in hybrid form, aptly called 4xe. We can tell you right away: this e-Jeep has lost strictly nothing of its legendary off-road capabilities, on the contrary even. In the meantime, the Jeep 4xe owner can now steer proudly into a green world: when using the plug-in function, one can enjoy the merits of e-motion, and this is both excellent for both environment and your wallet…

Just read further!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Every bit as authentic as it ever was…

Walking toward and around the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is already a feast for the eye and mind: this Jeep has got terrific looks, and we are certain you will continue to admire and cherish it for many years to come.

The Jeep styling people are indeed masters in the art of designing a car full of character and panache, and they succeeded in adding some “electrified” touches to its exterior just to suggest to the purist that this car also runs on e-power. Some blue touches betray this indeed, like the Electric Blue tow hooks at the front and rear, and the blue theme which we find in the Trail Rated badges and other graphics elements across the hood and body.

We like the subtle charging port mounted high on the front driver’s side fender, which does not disturb the Wrangler’s looks at all.

A superb, “vintage” cabin…

Stepping, or rather mounting high up behind the wheel of the Jeep Wrangler you enter into a unique, somewhat vintage world; the dashboard and steering wheel are rather close to your chest, with the windscreen not being far off either.

Round instruments are facing you, although the infotainment age has definitely also made its entrance here. We just love it, this tightly laid out dashboard and driver’s space. Jeep has been around for many decades now, and this you should feel and touch.

The electronic age has quetly ushered itself into this dashboard by three blue buttons which sit discreetly left to the steering column.

… with the choice of three driving modes

With these buttons, you can indeed select three ways the e-power of the battery is coming to the wheels.

Hybrid: The vehicle will switch between all-electric mode and hybrid, and the computer calculates out how to use the two in order to achieve the best possible fuel efficiency. Regardless of the mode selected, the 4xe operates as a hybrid once the battery nears its minimum state of charge.

Electric:  The 2-liter turbocharged 4 cylinder engine remains off unless the vehicle determines that extra power is required. It will then turn on the petrol engine to add power, or switch to hybrid mode when the battery is depleted.

E-Save: The 4xe operates as a hybrid and maintains the battery’s state of charge. There’s also an additional setting in this E-Save mode which allows you to actually charge the high voltage battery pack to a higher state of charge using the 4-cylinder engine. We liked this mode very much, as this is very future proof: on any longer highway or cross-country trip, you can charge the battery so you can use its power to get you beautifully around in a totally zero emissions town (up to some 50 km or thereabouts on a full battery), a situation we will encounter rather sooner than later if one sees how regulators all over the world are now taking measures to achieve a greener, low-emissions planet.

E-power to go…

Indeed, this Wrangler can act daily as your ideal electric vehicle. If you charge it regularly and drive everyday not more than some 40 kilometers that is. Then the power of the 17 kWh battery, of which approximately 15 kWh is usable, will get you around. Progress is silent, and the only thing we heard was the impressive rolling noise of the all-terrain tyres of our Rubicon. Remember, this is a true Jeep, and your ears should hear this…

Just flow along with the traffic, and the 4xe (pronounced “four-by-e”, like four-by-four) will reward you with a very useable e-range.

Fuel consumption depends greatly on how you mix electric with combustion power…

The fuel consumption or rather the overall economy you achieve with this (or any, for that matter) plug-in hybrid depends totally on how you use it. Short distances, frequent recharging and a relaxed driving style will deliver top notch economy, any amount of longer distances, infrequent recharging or heavier right foot will cost more energy and also more fuel. It is as simple as that. Physics have no miracles in store for you. Manufacturers will indicate the fuel consumption under the most ideal ratio between e-power and combustion engine, but, as said, this is a full-blown Jeep, which is also an absolute master off-road, so do not get over enthusiastic…

Stay in the “green” zone, using about 25 % of available power, and your consumption is very reasonable. Also, you enjoy your Wrangler at the wheel a bit longer every ride!

On our test, we drove the Rubicon in a rather restrained manner, taking into account that wind and road rolling resistance greatly rise when the speed builds up. So on longer trips, using mostly the engine power, we achieved averages between 8 and 8,5 litres/100 km, rolling along with the traffic flow. When we met very tight (urban) traffic conditions, we just relied fully on e-power. The manufacturer quotes a fuel consumption of around 3.5 liters/100 km in hybrid mode with CO2 emissions lower by almost 70% compared to the petrol version, all this according to the WLTP cycle.

Charging is also a rather easy operation, courtesy of specific public and home charging solutions with the easyWallbox – ensuring a full charge in less than 3 hours at 7.4 kWh – offered by Free2Move eSolutions (a joint venture between Stellantis – through its subsidiary FCA Italy S.p.A. – and Engie EPS) and Mopar®.

Retaining all the qualities of a true Jeep…

The 4xe is powered by Jeep’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, aided by a small starter/generator motor. It is similar in design and function to the eTorque mild-hybrid motor, though this one operates at 400 volts rather than 48.

Sandwiched between the gasoline engine and the standard eight-speed automatic transmission — replacing the torque converter — is the larger, main electric drive motor. A pair of clutches connect it to the gearbox and the gasoline powerplant, allowing the combustion engine to be completely decoupled from the wheels for full-electric driving.

Further on, there is the identical four-wheel-drive system, two-speed transfer case and locking differentials as the non-hybrid Wrangler.

Of course, the most important thing about the 4xe is that it’s still a Wrangler; it still must deliver on the go-anywhere capability that name commands. And this it does.

Don’t forget that this Rubicon has an impressive crawl ratio and relies of course on the excellent torque of its main electric motor. The 4xe’s PHEV extra motor and battery adds to the weight of the Wrangler, but the position of the battery actually improves weight distribution. It also lowers its centre of mass, making this Jeep even more sure footed.

Brilliant performance

Mind you, the Wrangler 4xe has 380 hp of maximum combined output and peak torque of 637 Nm. This means that the Wrangler 4xe accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.4 seconds…

All the infotainment and practical versatility you need…

The 4xe Wrangler includes standard the 8.4-inch Uconnect™ NAV system with touchscreen, comprehensive on-board connectivity with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration and Uconnect Services (for the monitoring of the vehicle’s parameters through the My Uconnect app).

Specific of the 4xe models’ is the 7-inch TFT display with information on battery charge levels and range (in electric and hybrid modes), 9-speaker Alpine audio system with 552-W subwoofer.

In terms of safety, the new Wrangler 4xe offers the most advanced ADAS systems, including standard Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Path Detection, rearview camera, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Electronic Roll Mitigation (ERM), front and rear Park Assist and Keyless Enter’n’Go™. Optional safety features include Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning Plus and new forward-facing camera (which is standard on the Rubicon).


The Jeep Wrangler in this 4xe version is now more versatile and future-oriented than ever. It has also retained all its iconic off-road qualities, looks and panache. So despite being an enthusiast’s car, it now is endowed with many practical qualities, which make it not only pleasant, but also eminently reasonable to use it every day. And a long life with this Wrangler is also made more interesting with the immense array of accessories which are available by the Mopar® brand: indeed you can select more than 100 accessories for your cherished Jeep…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the DS 4 in Chantilly…

Driving is believing, the saying goes, and this is especially so for the latest model of DS automobiles, which is built by the brand to be a benchmark in the C-Segment in terms of comfort and dynamic refinement.

We started our extended test drive with the E-TENSE plug-in hybrid version, combining exhilarating performance with smooth responsiveness and interesting economy. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The DS4 shows its elegance in front of the shops in Chantilly, the town of the horse…

This second generation DS4 is indeed geared to offer a maximum of creature comfort. It starts of course with a good position behind the wheel, and indeed for your 1,70 m servant an excellent driving position was soon found. We tested the Performance Line+ DS4 which came with very comfortable Alcantara/leather seats, and a very tasteful interior.

The overhead display proved also eminently visible. DS automobiles calls it “DS extended head up display”, and with the use of an optical illusion, data are displayed four metres ahead of the windscreen to follow the driver’s gaze diagonally at 21-inches. We found it very useful, and indeed, it kept our eyes on the road.

With a magnificently styled mode selector button (more about the interior design when we talk about the styling of this car in a separate report, incorporating then also the designer’s comments) you can choose your driving mode. We chose the modes “normal”, “comfort” and “sport”, to check the handling, comfort and steering precision of this DS4.

In all modes, we found that the comfort level remained top notch. It proved definitely very important for engineers and designers, and we can only applaud their choice. The DS4 ranks therefore with panache amongst the iconic “Grandes Routières”, totally in line with the tradition set in by the original DS. Steering is also very precise in all the chosen modes.

The DS4 runs on a new version of EMP2 platform and uses technical solutions such as bond-welding (almost 34 metres of adhesive bead and welding points used on the car’s body) as well as completely redesigned suspension and steering components. This indeed delivers driving comfort through optimal body rigidity with exceptional responsiveness and precision in the handling department.

The suspension has also been redesigned with the new platform version… but there is more.

The engineers have taken things even a step further by introducing the so-called DS ACTIVE SCAN SUSPENSION , which controls the damping by using a camera. It is positioned at the top of the windscreen, views and anticipates irregularities in the road surface and transmits the data to a computer. With the four attitude sensors and three accelerometers, the system controls each of the wheels independently. Using the information it receives, it makes the suspension harder or softer depending on what’s required. The result is indeed excellent comfort whatever kind of (winding) road you’re on. We were truly impressed by the overall dynamic serenity of the car, whatever the driven speed…

Smooth and powerful

In the E-TENSE version, a turbocharged 180 horsepower 4-cylinder engine is paired with a 110 horsepower electric motor and an EAT8 gearbox, for a combined 225 horsepower. As we said earlier in our first report, the combination is fed by a more efficient battery with new more compact and larger capacity cells. This battery is situated behind the deformable beam and providing a useable a range of more than 50 kilometres in zero emissions mode (WLTP combined cycle).

The drivetrain is supersmooth, and the transition from battery to engine power is not noticeable. When driven with restraint and anticipation, the system will use the kinetic energy to recharge the batteries while you drive, and indeed, in tight heavy and slow traffic we managed to recharge the battery from 14 % to a good 28 % just using the kinetic energy as much as we could, which of course asks for some concentration, but this is well rewarded! The system will regenerate the energy irrespective of the chosen driving mode, and we achieved these results in the “Sport” mode.

Depending how much E-power you use during your drive, fuel consumption will vary accordingly, and the manufacturer quotes a fuel consumption of 1,3 litre/100 km and CO2 emissions of 29 g/km on the combined WLTP cycle. Running on the petrol engine only will get you anything between 6-8,5 litres/100 km, greatly depending on your driving style.

On the second day of our extended test drive we drove the DS4 with top of the range “Rivoli” trim and the PureTech 225 HP petrol engine version with the same 8-speed automatic gearbox. Driving in normal or comfort mode delivered very much the same smoothness as the E-TENSE drivetrain, and we were surprised by the very low noise level of this engine, certainly when you are adopting a relaxed driving style. Putting your right foot down will let the engine rev harder, but this gets never obtrusive. When you want to add some smooth panache to your spirited driving style, it is best to use the gearchange paddles at the steering wheel, so you have better control over engine revs under heavy braking or acceleration. The DS4 takes a fast pace over curvy and undulating roads very well in its stride, as a “Grande Routière” befits.

The DS4 is a car designed to travel on long journeys, as well as performing comfortable city errands. It is build to cocoon you in relaxing and silent comfort. Indeed, its tire to road noise is also eminently filtered. The seats are just marvelous, and the soft padding of armrests and surfaces of centre console and dashboard just give you that sense of well-being which comes close to cocooning. The dashboard layout is just an icon of good taste, and its controls are soon learned… and are not overwhelming. It is advisable to take some time to get acquainted with your DS 4, it has a lot to offer.

Having said this, your servant is as a journalist always very cautious to give an opinion about the practicality of functions or controls, as we spend only a week or at a presentation even only a few days with a test car, whereas the owner will have months and years to learn all the functions. But he has to learn them, and in the beginning spend some useful time reading the manual, sitting behind the wheel and trying everything out, and repeating this! One never learns enough, and indeed note that bis repetita placet…

As a photographer, I still look at the manuals and YouTube films about the camera I use, be it compact or DSLR, and still learn…after months!

A host of useful functions…

Coming to the subject of functions, the DS4 has a lot of them, to make your journey safer and more relaxing.

First of all, we were much ten by the excellent ventilation It has been developed with very compact vents, positioned high up and fitted with invisible vanes.

The principle behind DS AIR is a flow of air that’s aimed by a cone giving the best possible direction upwards and downwards. All while operating like a classic vent. Thanks to its upright compactness, it appears discreet and tucked away which enables a purity of design in DS 4’s cockpit. Impressive and well done!

Then there is the DS IRIS SYSTEM can be controlled by voice and gesture. This System features a personal assistant capable of recognising what’s said to it so that the system can carry out requests.

For gestures, there is DS SMART TOUCH, located on the centre console, it is an elegant small screen below the big central screen, which you can command with your fingertips. Gesturing towards one of the pre-entered functions on the big screen is enough. The smaller screen also identifies normal movements such as zooming in, zooming out and has handwriting recognition. Just try it, it avoids having to reach out to the big screen, and soon enough you get he hang of it.

Level 2 automated driving also had a major update for DS 4 with DS DRIVE ASSIST 2.0.

This translates into the precise car positioning itself in the lane of the driver’s choice, supplemented by new functionality such as semi-automatic overtaking, speed adjustment for corners and anticipated speed recommendations from signposts.

DS DRIVE ASSIST 2.0 includes sensors that record everything that happens in and around the car to help the driver. It sports frontal radar, radar at the four corners of the car, and a camera at the top of the windscreen, DS 4 positions itself where its driver wants through artificial intelligence which analyses information gathered in real time.

DS NIGHT VISION: An infrared camera, located in the grille, spots pedestrians and animals up to 200 metres away at night and in poor light. The driver views the road in their digital instrument display and sees hazards appear as warnings in the DS EXTENDED HEAD UP DISPLAY enabling them to react.

Let there be light: the DS light signature

With a new generation of DS MATRIX LED VISION headlamps that are narrower and more modern, the Matrix Beam and Dynamic Bending Light technology have been combined in the same system.

The DS MATRIX LED VISION headlamps are still made up of three LED modules which are the DS Automobiles signature:

The inner module of the headlight is used for the dipped function.

The rotating central module can turn to an angle of 33.5°. It illuminates the sides of the road and follows where you’re looking in corners. The system adapts to traffic conditions, the angle of the steering wheel, speed and weather conditions with five pre-set modes: town, country, motorway, poor weather and fog. This is also a nod to the directional headlamps of the 1967 DS…

The outside Matrix Beam module turns on for driving, split into fifteen segments which turn on and off independently, depending on the driving conditions it senses.

The projector headlamps adapt to traffic conditions, steering wheel angle, speed and weather conditions with five preset modes: city, country, highway, harsh weather and fog. They enable you to drive constantly on main beam without ever dazzling other road users. Using the camera located in the top part of the windscreen, these intelligent headlamps adapt their light beam automatically with a reach of 300 metres, depending on traffic conditions, without ever dazzling others. Need we say more?

The DS MATRIX LED VISION headlamps are complemented by extended daytime running lights made up of 98 LEDs. As well as the recognisable vertical light signature, these daytime running lights perform a new high-technology welcome routine.

The first drive of this DS4 was impressive indeed, comfortable, relaxing, smooth, powerful, and full of style…

In these columns you will soon read more about the design of the car and the hand made craftsmanship it has been built. Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We had a first drive with the elegant DS 4: the (electrified) future has arrived at DS Automobiles…

At DS Automobiles, the art of designing and building the avant-garde automobile has been celebrated again since 2015, the birth of this unique premium brand.

In stylish Chantilly, we stood eye to eye with their latest creation, the DS 4. Stunning in style, gracious elegance and technology, this premium C segment car did not fail to impress your servant.

The DS 4 has eye-catching proportions. With a benchmark width of 1.83 metres and large diameter 720-millimetre wheels (alloys up to 20 inches, 19 inches as standard from TROCADERO and PERFORMANCE LINE up), for a compact length of 4.40 metres and a roof height of 1.47 metres, the dimensions are striking indeed.

Also the entire press presentation of this noble automobile was in line with its qualities: we were not only able to meet Mme Béatrice Foucher, the CEO of DS Automobiles personally at dinner, together with the communications people of the brand at lunch, we had also interesting workshops with the designers, engineers and last but not least the craftsmen and artists who make the DS 4 into the hand made four wheeled gem it is.

Mme Béatrice Foucher also presented the bold electrification strategy of the brand: in 2022-2023 it will increase the electrified mix with more E-TENSE sales, and from 2024 onwards it will only launch models which are battery only EV’s, with only electrified models presented for sale in Europe.

The designers also presented their drawings and a fully fledged clay model too, and the craftsmen presented their tools and unique hand made items of the car, of which much more later.

We were able to drive the entire range of the DS 4 on a 245 km circuit around scenic Chantilly, and we can tell you already that we were very taken by the plug-in hybrid version, the E-TENSE. Not surprisingly, as one knows that DS Automobiles puts great value on electrification, as does their avant-garde clientele, by the way.

For the DS4, a new version of the EMP2 platform was conceived to accommodate a new generation plug-in hybrid drive train without compromising cockpit space. It is important to note here that, being an important premium brand for Stellantis, the choices DS Automobiles are making in terms of proportions and styling of their cars and last but not least their technology are important signals for the engineers in the group wo develop the respective platforms. Noblesse oblige… Here you see the naked bodywork displayed on its platform.

The E-TENSE sports a turbocharged 180 horsepower PureTech 4-cylinder engine, which is paired with a 110 horsepower electric motor and an EAT8 gearbox, for a combined 225 horsepower.

The combination is fed by a more efficient 12,4 kW battery with new more compact and larger capacity cells situated behind the deformable beam and giving a range of 55 kilometres in zero emissions mode (WLTP combined cycle). The E-TENSE impressed your servant not only with its uncanny smoothness, it delivered also all the performance you could wish for: The 360Nm of torque enables 100km/h to be reached in 7.7 seconds with fuel consumption of just 1.3 litre/100km and emissions from 29g/km of CO2 on the WLTP combined cycle.

A wide range with a broad choice of interior equipment levels…  

We will tell you soon more about the driving impressions of this DS 4 in their different engine configurations, we just present here the model and equipment line-up. Besides the E-TECH, three petrol engine models, PureTech 130 Automatic, PureTech 180 Automatic and PureTech 225 Automatic plus a BlueHDi 130 Automatic Diesel will be offered.

In terms of body styles, the range is made up of three versions: DS 4, DS 4 CROSS et DS 4 PERFORMANCE LINE, with each version enjoying multiple trim levels:

– Four trim levels for the DS4: BASTILLE, BASTILLE +, TROCADERO and RIVOLI, as well as a Limited Edition “LA PREMIÈRE” for the launch, offering exclusive touches above and beyond the existing trims.

– For the DS 4 CROSS body version, we have the CROSS TROCADERO and CROSS RIVOLI trim levels,


More soon, stay tuned on these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A royal visit to the Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN F1 team…

HRH Princess Léa of Belgium in the F1 paddock with GIOVINAZZI Antonio on the left and RAIKKONEN Kimi on her right. receiving a racing suit and gloves for the benefit of the recent flood victims…

Her Royal Highness Princess Lea of Belgium came to the iconic circuit of Spa Francorchamps on Thursday August 26 to meet the drivers of Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN, Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovanazzi.

Responding to the wish of Princess Lea of Belgium to help the victims of the recent floodings in our country, both drivers agreed to donate a racing suit and gloves, bearing their personal signature of course. Timi donated his racing suit, Antionio his pair of gloves.

HRH Princess Léa of Belgium showing Kimi’s racing suit with Antonio Giovinazzi proudly showing his pair of gloves...

These items have been sold on Sunday August 29, and the proceeds will help the victims of the recent flooding disasters in Belgium.

HRH Princess Léa of Belgium in the F1 paddock gets the tehcnical highlights of the F1 Alfa’s explained…on the left, Dominique Fontignies, PR and Communications Director Stellantis Belux.

Like many members of the Belgian Royal family, Princess Lea is very keen on motorsport and she was delighted to meet the two racing drivers on the iconic Francorchamps circuit.

“Having discovered all the secrets of the racing cars of Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovanazzi, we will never look the same way again to the Belgian Grand Prix” she commented.

“I was very surprised to discover the very high level of technological sophistication which is built in these monoposto’s”, she said after visit.

Here posing in front of the Alfa GTAm, Antionio Giovanazzi on the left, Kimi Räikkönen on the right.

Technology which Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovanazzi also helped to transfer on the fastest road going car Alfa on the market, the brand-new Giulia GTAm. They worked Together with Sauber, who participated in the development of this model, to give the GTAm that special touch which makes this car – of which only 499 units are built – truly unique.

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.


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.


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.


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 Golf Alltrack 200 HP 2.0 TDI

The eighth generation of the iconic Golf has it all. This goes also for lovers of station wagons, as VW offers the Variant with a wide range of drivetrains, and on top of that the so-called Alltrack, which can be defined as a fully equipped of the Variant with AWD, a higher stance for mild offroad driving and a 147 kW/200 PS 2 litre Diesel engine coupled to a 7 speed DSG. The result is superb performance, handling, roominess, comfort, all in still a rather compact and very stylish package.

We drove this Moonstone coloured beauty, and were very impressed indeed…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Fast and frugal

Volkswagen defines the Golf Alltrack is a crossover of Golf Variant and SUV. Admittedly, it has a higher ground clearance, and it actually handles still a bit sharper than an SUV. On the motorway, it is also aerodynamic, and offers plenty of speed: not less than 229 km/h.

All this with very good overall economy, showing what modern diesels can do. NEDC fuel consumption is only 4.9 to 4.8 l/100 km. This means that ranges of around 1,000 kilometres are possible between two refuelling stops. Indeed, on our first motorway drive when collecting the car, we achieved without trouble an average consumption of 4,5 litres/100 km. CO2 emissions are quoted at 130 g/km.

Modern this engine truly is. This TDI engine (400 Nm torque) is one of the cleanest of its kind worldwide. This is achieved by the use of innovative twin-dosing technology: here, double AdBlue injection in two SCR catalytic converters arranged one after the other convert nitrogen oxides (NOx) into hydrogen and harmless nitrogen. What surprised us most was the utter silence and smoothness of this engine. Even when starting from cold, it is inaudible almost without the slightest hint of the usual diesel clatter. It just shows how perfect diesel engines have become.

Just wait friends, diesel fuel will still be around for a very, very long time. World trade is still powered by diesel trucks, and they will drive even when there is an electricity power collapse…

So it still makes sense to offer a Diesel engine in a do-all versatile 4WD compact like the Alltrack? It certainly does, and for the moment, it is offered even exclusively with a diesel engine, with its excellent towing capacity in mind. It seems however that for markets outside Germany petrol engined versions will be available with the Alltrack configuration.


As the flagship of the Golf Variant models, the Alltrack offers exclusive standard equipment that cannot be configured in this combination for other models in the product line. The all-round all-terrain cladding is finished in matt black. Accents in matt chrome look are also used on the side sills and in the front bumper. These visually match the alloy wheels and the silver roof railings. As the only Variant model, the Alltrack is also equipped as standard with an LED light strip in the radiator grille (between the LED Plus headlights) and LED fog lights in an X formation. Looks very nice indeed!

Fully equipped

The other standard equipment of the Golf Alltrack includes interior background lighting (adjustable in 30 colours), elegant interior accents (Nature Cross Brushed), the so-called “Discover Media”navigation system including App-Connect Wireless (smartphone integration) and DAB+ (digital radio reception), heated comfort seats at the front with Alltrack lettering in the backrests, a multifunction steering wheel in leather and stainless steel pedals.

Our test car was also equipped with a panoramic opening roof, which however stopped to function during our test, luckily in a tilted backward position, so the car was not too vulnerable to eventual pouring rain.

In addition, all Golf Variant models feature details such as the lane keeping system Lane Assist, Autonomous Emergency Braking Front Assist with City Emergency Braking System and Pedestrian Monitoring, an oncoming vehicle braking when turning function, Driver Alert System, the electronic differential lock XDS and the Car2X local warning system.

Also always on board: the Digital Cockpit Pro (digital instruments), the We Connect and We Connect Plus online services and functions, the Air Care Climatronic automatic air conditioner, the keyless comfort start function Keyless Start, a Bluetooth mobile phone interface, comfort seats as well as LED headlights and LED tail light clusters including automatic headlight control. Need we say more?

Driving impressions…

Behind the wheel, one is impressed by the premium feeling this Golf exudes. The engine and drivetrain are supersmooth as they are silent and powerful, the steering is precise, the handling is agile, with slightly more roll as the Alltrack stands 15 mm higher on its wheels.

The seating position is superb, with plenty of adjustment fore and aft, and one enjoys the excellent seats which give very good lateral support. Also in the back there is ample room for passengers and their luggage. Standard the boot size with the rear backrests up is already over 600 liters, and it is well over 1600 litres with both backrests folded down.

As we hinted earlier, the Alltrack is also quite useful as a towing vehicle: you can pull up to 2000 kg, and the 4WD comes in very fitting when pulling your trailer over offroad terrain.

All these excellent dynamic qualities put this Alltrack in a top position when compared to SUV’s, and it is quite judicious for VW to offer in the Golf range this versatile and usefully spacious Alltrack and Variant range.


A very impressive car indeed, with premium class performance, spaciousness, superb finish and equipment, and excellent agility and handling. It combines genuine driving pleasure with outstanding versatility, considering its excellent towing abilities and vast useable boot space.

Last but not least there is the excellent economy, with a state of the art and very “clean” diesel engine, which seems to have solved the NOx pollution problem. Who knows, these “clean” diesels might be still the proper (intermediate) answer in the rocky path towards zero emission mobility, as these diesels have lower CO2 emission values than their petrol engined counterparts, and on top of that, possess greater thermal efficiency…

Hans Knol ten Bensel