zaterdag 30 juli 2011

What makes a good car? – The hardly definitive guide

Petrolheads all over must have been asked this question at some point. Because people assume you know a lot about cars they ask for your infinite knowledge, your philosophical view of what car they should buy. Yet mostly they don't get an answer more extensive than 'Buy Japanese' or something in that direction. This is because a good car can't be defined in a short answer, or at least before the other gets lost in a maze of DSG-gearboxes and multi-link suspensions. But I am determined to give an answer to this life-determining question, at least what I would define as a good car. Feel free to contribute, I am up for constructive criticism.

First and most importantly, you should feel at home in your car. When you buy a car, you shouldn't be annoyed by a badly positioned switch, or that the car responds slower than you want it to. If Barney Stinson were a car journalist, he'd say it has to fit you like a suit. Also, do you actually like it? The car doesn't actually have to be a head-turner, neither should you be slightly ashamed of the badge on the front. If you don't feel like the car represents you or presents you well, turn it down.

Second, your wants and needs. Hatchbacks might in theory fit five people, but practice tells a different story (own experience kicks in here). Don't expect your three lovely kids to fit in anymore as soon as they hit puberty. The middle seat in the back makes a hatchback more of a 4+1 than a five seater. Estates are not only invented to fit a labrador, but the larger exterior gives more space to those inside without necessarily letting down in looks.

Third, the ride. No, you can't expect a Golf Diesel to fly round the N├╝rburgring in 8. something minutes, or to take a twisty uphill road like Sebastien Loeb does. Though it should be satisfying and solid during normal use (and a bit beyond that). Part of this will be affected by the tyres supplied by your dealership, the standard Ecotyres you get with a Prius will make you save a glass full of petrol every 1000km, as well as send you into a tree when you encounter some slippery conditions.

Fourth (still important), reliability and build quality. Sure, your Citro├źn DS3 may have stunning looks, but how do you look when you've got to pay the bills? Factory guarantee might not be interesting when you buy a new microwave, but in cars a seven year guarantee on your Kia might eventually pay off. One other note is that brand new models will have some bugs that take one or two years to be filtered out (hence the facelifts of models).

Fifth, clever engineering. This might be a personal judgement by me as I love things that are developed well and thoughtfully, but I think everybody agrees to some extent on this one. Surely, nobody will be impressed by the lower suspension and closed grille on the Bluemotion/Ecoboost/DrivE like models, but those things work without any serious drawbacks. Or seats that fold without having to pull your wrist out, all this shows that a car has been thought true by the right people, lovely.

Sixth, the balance between eco and driving, it's a thin line between saving fuel and sportivity. Take in account that the majority of the time you'll be doing trips which don't require a rumbling V8, yet to much eco stuff on your car can ruin things. An example of this is Electrc Power Steering, it saves you 0.2 liter every 100 kilometres, and also prevents you from any accurate steering input.

At the bottom of the list we find the extras you get in a car, God forbid you don't choose a car on the base of its extras. A rubbish stereo might be a valid argument to turn down a car, but don't judge a car for the fact it has only 8 speakers instead of 12. Seats with built-in vibrators and carpets made from Brazilian badger fur are not only useless features but also horrible subjects at dinner parties.

woensdag 13 juli 2011

Car #1: The Volvo 440

That Cars Blog kicks off with not the most exciting car in history, but possibly, and in accordance with what my internal 5 year old is telling me, the most exciting car my dad ever owned.

Most of you will remember the Volvo 440 as an ordinary saloon car (although Volvo descirbed it as a hatchback). It was safe like all Volvo's and had an array of lights to tell you it was safe. Further, it had Daytime Running Lights which is the most useless safety feature ever invented.

Old-skool Top Gear described it as: "The motoring equivalent of a Temazepam trip. Compared to a Mondeo or a Vectra it hasn't got a hope. Be particularly careful of the CVT Auto because it sounds like a Bison with a Migraine." (Quentin Wilson)

The 440 had an engine range which ran from a 1.6 (79HP) to a 2 liter (110HP) petrol and a 1.9 Turbo Diesel with 89 HP. Though for me there was another party piece: the 1.7 liter Renault engine combined with a Turbocharger and intercooler, it was boasting out a biblical 122HP.

That Volvo 440 Turbo had the 'Holy Trinity' for the 5 year old me (still has), on the small boot there was a styleful spoiler like a racecar. Inside there was an analog clock unlike the crappy digital ones I saw before. And under the bonnet, though I never saw it apart from the badge on the boot, was a Turbo. Turbo was for me like chocolate is for women, everything is better with a Turbo.

The 440 made me forget the previous 480 we owned ever so quickly, the pop up head lamps, armrest in the back and phoney Turbo badge on the 480 were no match to the real deal in the 440. I believe it also drove better, it once claimed to have done 215kph on the counter and also managed a four-wheel jump over a bump that turned out to be bigger and more fun than expected.

After the two Volvo's my dad got company cars, all diesels, first an '99 A3 (1.9, 140HP), than a '04 Megane (2.0, upgraded to 170HP), than in '08 a Seat Leon FR which gave me my first drive and at some point managed 225HP, until some idiot in a Zafira drove into it... Now it's the five of us crammed into a newer A3, of which the steering is vague (Electric), the ride neither comfy or sporty and the only party piece is Torque, which nobody understands really.

Lucky for me, I've got my own fun now, a '95 1.3i Ford Fiesta with an mindboggeling 60 Horsepower. Yeah!

Binnenkort / Soon

Nee we leven nog, maar dit blogje ga ik anders aanpakken. Voor mijn dagelijkse belevenissen is twitter toch meer geschikt (@martijn_kosters). Daar ik toch wat stof tekort kwam om goed over te bloggen schakel ik over (^^) naar een all-time passie: Auto's!

Dus binnenkort verschijnt hier: That Cars Blog.

Stay Tuned!

No, we're still hear, but this little blog will see some changes. For my daily adventures twitter is more suitable (@martijn_kosters). And as I had few things to blog about I shift (^^) to an all-time passion: Cars!

Soon this blog will be known as: That Cars Blog.

You could've figure that last line anyway