The new Renault Clio is voted VAB Family Car of the Year 2020

After the Renault Scénic in 2017 and Renault Grand Scénic in 2018, the new Renault Clio has been elected “VAB family car of the year 2020”. New Renault Clio wins the win in the category up to 20,000 €. VAB is the Flemish Automobile Club, and it organizes yearly a very coveted contest of best family cars in the different categories.  

Now for the third year in a row, Renault has distinguished itself as the top VAB Family Car. In 2016, Renault ZOE won in the “electric” category. Renault Scénic and Renault Grand Scénic won respectively in 2017 and 2018 the first place in the category up to € 29,500.

A closer look at the winner: the Renault Clio TCe 100

The winner of this 33rd edition is the Renault Clio Intens TCe 100. We drove it recently for you, and a test report will follow soon. Needless to say that this Cleo greatly impressed us, and this award hardly comes as a surprise to us.

This is the fifth generation of the Renault Clio.  This latest generation has been designed according to the double principle “Evolution & Revolution”.

On the one hand, it inherits from its predecessor the design that inspired the entire Renault range.

On the other hand, the revolution is mainly in the cabin that is inspired by the upper segments both in terms of quality and available technology.

This year, the winner is equipped with the 1.0 TCe three-cylinder engine. Just as out test car.

This unit is new in the Renault range, offering the latest technologies, such as a turbocharger with electrically controlled relief valve, an exhaust manifold partially integrated with the cylinder head, a double variable hydraulic timing of the distribution and a specific steel coating of cylinders (Bore Spray Coating).

With a power output of 100 hp and a torque of 160 Nm, this new generation engine gains 10 hp and 20 Nm over the TCe 90 it replaces, while reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

In Belgium, Renault Clio is the second best-selling vehicle, all segments combined, after the VW Golf. In addition, Renault Clio occupies the top spot in the B segment for retail sales…

Read out test report soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the Subaru Forester 2.0i: your companion in the woods of life…

The truth is now known to us all: to save our planet we need a lot more trees. We would add, we also need a good car to go with it: and this could very well be the clever and superbly built Subaru Forester…

It is a car which continues to surprise and amaze us. The engineering is top notch, it performs like a dream, has terrific 4WD, gets you wherever you want to go, in all seasons, in all circumstances and weather conditions, is indestructible and getting ever more frugal too.

We drove it for you, and here are our findings…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Panama wheels…

We recently made a holiday trip to the Carribean, and visited both Curaçao and Panama. Car lovers as we are, a keen look for the car traffic over there and which cars one sees on the Caribbean roads is a must. We share here with you our interesting findings. 

Korean and Japanese brands galore…

Front licence plates are not required in Panama…

Reliability combined with low service requirements are of course an absolute must on these shores, so it comes as no surprise that masters in the art like Hyundai, Kia and Japanese brands such as Toyota, Honda and Suzuki are having a strong market presence over there. The world wide trend towards SUV’s is also seen here clearly, with however classic sedans being also very much in favor.

Interesting to see small taxis and official vehicles in the shape of Sedan versions of the compact Hyundai i10 for instance. 

Premium playground in Panama City 

Panama city is of course also the playground of the European premium brands, and BMW, Lexus, Mercedes and last but not least Audi are seen frequently as well as their posh and stylish dealerships. A flourishing second hand market for the far eastern brands is maintained by mostly Pakistani dealers…

Many roadside service stations flourish, offering electronic diagnosis, regular service and mostly airco repair...

The Caribbean climate is no easy ride when it comes to corrosion, as it is both (very) hot and humid. Chromed bar chairs in your home will rust dark brown if you don’t keep them polished and protected regularly, so it is no small compliment for the far eastern brands that they remain mostly rust free.  Indeed, your trusted Nissan or Toyota Land Cruiser pickup or Suzuki Vitara will stand the test of time. 

This is what is left of a fifties Jeep, a garden ornament…

Classics have had a hard time fighting corrosion, and the survivors in the shape of 50’s Jeeps are few and far between. We discovered in the garden of one of the Panama mansions the grille of a ’50s Jeep, and a lovingly kept example underneath a nice self made garage roof. 

This one is more lucky and lovingly kept, although still fairly exposed to the elements…

Kawasaki 4×4 power has struck on the beaches and idyllic island paths. 

Motorization is now on every corner of our beloved globe, and the local inhabitants of the idyllic islands like Taboga for instance are not hauling their food and sundry’s by foot anymore.

The classic scooter, bike or Vespa tricycle is also history. The typical housewife now carts her children to the school proudly behind the wheel of a short wheelbase Kawasaki 4×4, mostly in the two seater pickup version so the beloved husband can haul drinks, building materials, luggage for hotel guests, anything along the narrow and sometimes barely existing island roads. 

More well to do residents opt for the bigger four/five seater version, and indeed, it is excellent transport in these tropical temperatures, where the totally open framed structure offers you that sweet breeze when you are humming along. It has of course a low gear mode so even the steepest hills reaching those beautifully situated residences with panoramic views are totally easy to tackle. 

Green power is few and far between…

Of course, with these low gasoline prices in the region of around 70 dollar cents per liter there is little room for alternative propulsion, and only Lexus and Toyota hybrids add a green touch to the total picture, and are to be applauded for that. Steep hills on the islands make powerful propulsion a bare necessity, and this leaves little room for battery fed energy, especially when beach car like vehicles such as these Kawasaki quads are infrequently used.

Electricity is also more often than not scarce on these remote places, as they are produced by generators. Residents also use old faithful’s like 17 year old Suzuki Vitara’s to haul their shopping groceries and luggage to their mountain top villas, and these Suzuki’s are coveted indeed… 

On our whole trip, we never saw ONE electric car… Except those used on the Panama golf courses…. 

Hans Knol ten Bensel 

We drove the Dacia Duster TCe 125: your true friend on all roads…

We all love a car which is a faithful companion to all places you want to go in this magnificent world. A car which fulfills your dream of mobility no matter where or what. Without costing you an arm and a leg, giving you rather the freedom to spend your money on those long voyages and travels you always wanted to do, of course with your four wheeled companion.

Well, such a car is the Duster, now in its second generation, aptly named Duster 2. It now comes in a most attractive package, as it has been expertly restyled, undergoing also a state of the art makeover of the mechanics. We took it through its paces for you here. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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A genial Fiat engine designer turned French: Walter Becchia

He was born in Casale Monferrato, in the Italian Piemonte region, and soon developed a keen interest in anything mechanic, with his main interest being engines. Soon enough, he was enrolled by Fiat and his first major feat was to develop the racing engine for the Fiat 804. In 1922, he was spotted by Louis Coatalen, technical director of Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq

In those roaring twenties, many automotive brands were rising and falling, and one of them was Talbot, resulting from the consortium Clément-Talbot, born out of the merger of the British businesses of Adolphe Clément and the count Schrewsbury and Talbot.

Becchia designed the  iconic T120 short wheelbase Talbot-Lago “Baby Sport” 

This brand Talbot had a British arm in London, and a French one in Suresnes. The Talbots built in Suresnes were sold as Darracqs on the British market.

The French division Talbot Suresnes was then led by two young talented engine designers, Vincenzo Bertarione and Walter Becchia, and they created in 1923 the 1500 Talbot 4 cylinder, followed by the 8 cylinder in line 1,5 liter engine in 1926.

The same Talbot-Lago T120 seen from the rear… 

While Becchia stayed at Talbot, he would concentrate on combustion technology, and he developed further the design the use of hemispherical combustion chambers with the valves angled in V, actuated through overhead camshafts. In this design work, he was actually inspired by the pioneering constructions and designs of… Belgian car builder Pipe(!).

The upcoming regime of Mussolini was not to the liking of Walter Becchia, and in 1926 he decided to become a French citizen. He continued to work at Talbot, also when the firm had been bought by the venetian engineer Antonio Lago, with the reorganized company continuing as Talbot-Lago.

The Talbot-Lago T 150 C which was built from 1937 to 1939 remains one of the most stunning automobiles ever… 

He became legendary as an engineer, capable of creating and designing an engine in detail within just a few days. In 1935, he designed the iconic T120 short wheelbase Talbot-Lago “Baby Sport” and of course his engine designs were even more famous. The V16 engines, both in 3 litre and 1,5 litre form, are from his hand.

 

The designer of the 2 CV engine…

In 1939, Citroën was eying to his design talents for good reason: Pierre Boulanger and his team were working on the development of the revolutionary “Bauhaus” principle 2CV, the minimalist people’s car. He hesitated for two years, and in 1941 finally took the decision to join them, and to succeed engine designer Maurice Sainturat, who had retired. His first major feat was to fully redesign the engine of the prototype, and rebuild it from scratch. The Citroën engineers and designers had used motorcycle engines for their prototypes, and history has it that Walter Becchia was inspired by the twin cylinder boxer BMW R12 owned by Citroën stylist Flaminio Bertoni. The result is known to all: the iconic and famous air cooled two cylinder boxer engine of the 2 CV.

Sainturat had drawn the outlines for a 375-cc twin-cylinder engine before he retired, and Becchia used this as the basis for his own design. Becchia first switched Sainturat’s design from water cooling to air cooling, with an eye on saving both weight and complexity. He added a fourth gear to the integrated transmission that Boulanger had first designed for the car. Becchia took things a step further, adopting light alloy for the engine block, making it very light.

This was one of the most important postwar engines that anyone developed, anywhere. It took Becchia all of a week to get it done.

A thoroughly modern engine, which it remains right until this day. Of course, without electronically controlled fuel injection, it could not meet the emission standards from the ‘90s, and that was the end of this formidable engine.

Becchia and the Citroën DS…

When designing the DS, Michel Lefebvre and his team originally aimed at building a flat six, which would be mounted ahead of the front axle. Walter Becchia built both an air and water cooled 1,8 liter six cylinder boxer engine. With the air cooled version, Becchia and his assistant, Corner, ran into cooling problems with the middle cylinders, and the engine also made simply too much noise, certainly when cold, with the whine of the fan certainly not helping things. The laws of physics cannot be escaped: everyone knows for example that an early Porsche 911 is not a very silent, albeit melodious machine either…

The water cooled flat six 1.8 litre engtine designed by Becchia never made it into production: too noisy, too expensive and developing insufficient power … 

The problem that the water-cooled six cylinders was not developed further for the DS is mainly the cost. For these reasons, the block of the Traction four cylinder was retained, with Walter Becchia and his assistant Poillot coming up in very short time (some speak of as little as eight days) with a new cylinder head to be fitted on the old block. The design of the cylinder head was based on the same principles Becchia had used at Talbot: pushrods operating the inlet and exhaust valves inclined under a V angle to give hemispherical crossflow combustion chambers.

Becchia designed further milestones at Citroën. In the ‘60s, Walter Becchia would still design a 3 liter V6 engine, but alas, also that engine never went into production. He kept working of course also on the CX, the SM’s, retiring only in 1968 at the age of 76!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

The genius who designed the D Type Auto Union: Robert Eberan von Eberhorst

We treat you this time, dear reader, on a following story about famous men who changed motorsport and/or made such an important contribution to the development of the automobile, that the automotive world has never been the same again since then. Such a man was the Austrian nobleman Robert Eberan von Eberhorst. He made his mark as a formidable engineer not only before WW2, but also throughout the war and also in the fifties, and one of his post-war creations, the Aston Martin DB3 sports racing car, is still raced in historic sporting events, right until this day…

But there is so much more, just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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With their new 8 series coupé, BMW redefines sportiness…

With this BMW the Bavarian brand enters the luxury segment with a broad premium model initiative. This new coupé opens a new chapter in what sporting driving is all about for BMW: a superb combination of luxury, inspiring sportiness and last but not least Gran Turismo comfort.

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Citroën sells 41% more in China, and launches in Beijing a new C4 Aircross SUV…

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A new C4 Aircross for the Chinese market…

Car lovers like me vividly remember the publicity photos where little red painted AX Citroëns drove on the Chinese wall, amply showing that the brand with the double chevron always had a heart for the Chinese market. It seems this love does not remain unanswered: Citroën chalked up an impressive sales gain in this continent, and China is now its second biggest market, after France(!).

Citroen AX op muur

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the new VW T-Roc 1.0 TSI 115 HP Style: A car standing out like a rock…

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VW has an enviable reputation of building rock solid cars, which truly stand the test of time. They just launched another one here, aptly named T-ROC. Standing strong on its longer legs, it carries state of the art 3-cylinder petrol engine technology, together with a host of very clever infotainment and other electronics. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Good Mazda news at the Geneva Show…

New-Mazda6_Exterior_Update

The 88th Geneva International Motor Show will see also a fair amount of Mazda news. Indeed, the new Mazda6 Wagon (see photo here above) will make its world debut, and there is also the European debut of the new Mazda6 Sedan, alongside with two stunning concept vehicles -the Mazda VISION COUPE and Mazda KAI CONCEPT.

For the technology buffs, it is good to know that Mazda will show its SKYACTIV-X next-generation gasoline engine. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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