Archive for the ‘MPV’ Category

Eighteen months ago the Greens declared war on the car and its first casualty was the Family.
You see, if you had more than two nippers and a dog or vise versa and couldn’t afford two cars, then a people carrier or MPV was the man for you.
It made so much sense that manufacturers worldwide invested billions, and after a couple of years, we started to warm to this new phenomena – and dare I say it, even like them.
Initially, critics and motoring hacks (myself included) dismissed them as being mini vans which drove, handled and were about as pleasant to be in as, erm, a mini van.
That mindset changed when Ford launched the C-Max in 2003 – which was basically a re-engineered Focus MK II – already a massive hit with Irish motorists catapulting the brand into the best sellers.
Fast forward to July 2008 and the tree-hugging, sandal-wearing, lentil-chomping saviours of the planet came up with a new tax regime which made all MPVs, and the family, Public Enemy Number 1.
The omissions-based VRT/road tax put buying a new MPV so expensive to buy and run that punters were looking at going back to the old two car-car scenario.
Thankfully, Ford have come to the rescue yet again … and this time they’ve brought reinforcements.
Yep, not only do we get a leaner, greener and meaner C-Max but it also get a big brother in the guise of the 7-seat Grand C-Max.
The boys over at the Blue Oval badge have left nothing to chance as the competition in this segment is savage.
They’ve learned that in these much leaner times, buyers, especially those with growing families, are the most diverse and complex.
It’s not a case of one size fits all and, just like the mums who’ll mainly drive them, it will have to be able to multi task.
This choice is not just a car or mode of transport – it’s practically a member of the family.
It will not only have to ferry the little darlings (and neighbours and pals) to school, to ballet, football, discos, it will also have to cope with baby seats, shopping/buggies, the kitchen sink etc.
The brief was simple; make it bigger, better and above all, cheaper.
The result?
Mission accomplished!
To be fair, they had a bulletproof template to build on.
The old model was a true drivers car thanks to its high driving position, great flexibility and of course, being a Focus clone, it was a rollicking good rided.
The same applies here except it’s even better.
The 5-seat C-Max handled like a dream on the winding mountain roads of Nice and she cruised like a luxury saloon on motorways.
Big brother, lost a little of the refined handling thankls to the longer chassis and even higher roof line, but what it lacked in agility it made up for in torque thanks to the 140bhp diesel engine.
But it is the simplicity of the design which will win over any doubters.
Functionality is the key word here.
Take the revamped floor plan in the 7-seater which is genius.
The 2 plus 2 plus 2 arrangement and fold away seventh seats is so much easier.
It also eradicated the old sibling squabble over who doesen’t want to sit in the middle.
Sliding doors on both sides makes parking and getting kids in and out easy peasy.
Seat belt sensors on all the rear buckles means you know all on board are safely secure.
Throw in a power operated tailgate – which at the touch of a button opens and close the boot and you’re in heaven.
One optional extra well worth checking out is the Active Park Assist.
This piece of kit (normally found on BMWs and Lexus) will scan a parking space and if large enough, will actually parallel park the car for you.
It’s a must considering it costs less than €800 and unlike other gadgets, you’ll use it more than once.
Only diesel versions will go on sale here with a 1.6L, 95bhp  proving the most popular as the C-Max in Band A and
Grand Band B. The 2.0L 140bhp are both in Band B while  a 115bhp automatic is in band C for both.
Standard spec on the Activ includes alloys heated windscreen electric windows, CD Rear parking sensors, folding mirrors and rear seatbelt minder.
Other driver assistance technologies include Blind Spot Information System, Speed Limiter and Hill Start Assist The new range will be in Irish showrooms later this month, just in time for the January rush  and Ford promise that  a full- and plug-in hybrid models will be here in 2013.
Priced at €23,600, its a bargain considering the outgoing model is the same price, but without all those goodies.

So you have two kids, a dog and all the associated equipment to keep both species happy but you can’t fit it all in the hatchback, MPV cars are too expensive for you, what do you do?
The solution is simple, buy a van and install some back seats. This may sound a little extreme but that’s exactly what Fiat have done to the Doblo. They found that there’s another market out there for vans, no longer does it have to be the exclusive of builders and couriers, now families can can have the big, slightly embarrassing box outside the front door too.
The mighty Doblo can solve all your problems, need to move five people and a couple of washing machine? If your answer is yes, then you need help, but if the answer is maybe the the Doblo is for you.
Yes there is something deeply uncool about driving around in a van but yet Fiat have done a good job on the looks, they haven’t tried to cover up the fact that you’re in a van, instead they have embraced it. The boot lid is one example, it’s huge, it’s so big you could land a small helicopter on it. The front is pleasant to look at, there is something cute about the whole package.

Looks aren’t the biggest concern when you’re buying a car like this, practicality is all that matters, the Doblo has that in spades. With all five seats in place there is a massive 790ltrs of boot space, if you fold the seats away there’s 3,200ltrs and that means I can lie down in the back of the car, or you can take most of Ikea home with you. The boot opening is square and tall so it can take any shape of item you like, there’s a boot cover that can take 70kgs of weight on it too. In the back seats there’s easily enough room for 3 adults.

In the front seats you get a decent amount of equipment, cruise control, blue & me, a place for a Tom Tom, climate control and some cup holders. There’s more than enough elbow and leg room in there for any body shape. I should say that Fiat can kit this car out for Disabled use, I think from the seating position it would make a great car for this purpose, the front doors are huge and open wide.

The 1.6 diesel 106bhp engine is very good, there’s very little turbo lag and it pulls well enough. It’s noisy during acceleration but most diesel units are. The 13.4 seconds it takes to get to 100kph is long enough but we are talking about a van here, it’s not meant to be fast. It handles well in the corners too thanks to stability control as standard. It’s on long hauls where this car comes into it’s own, it’s comfy and quiet at speed, in 6th gear at 120kph there’s little or no noise for the engine.

The big winner here is the end user, the model I drove was the Eleganza and it could be sitting on your driveway for €19,095 that’s a lot of car for that price. The Doblo is the most practical car I’ve seen in years, there is something cool about driving around in something so un-cool, it says I don’t care what you thing of what I’m driving, I can carry more stuff than you anyway.

I grew to love the might Doblo in the same way you love a naughty puppy, it’s a Swiss army knife of a car just not cool; yet.

Some of you have reported problems with viewing the video from you tube so here it is hosted on Vimeo

I have never really had a desire to own an MPV of any kind, the only one that ever tempted me into buying such a thing was an S-Max, they look cool while still being big. Other than that the rest of them could all vanish over night and I wouldn’t have noticed. So when I was offered a Renault Grand Scenic I was a little, to use internet speak, meh. But when I saw it I changed my mind somewhat, it’s still a big long car but it’s understated and dare I say it, a bit cool. The lower than usual nose and long head lights give it a puppy dog who’ll bite look, there’s a high roof line leading to boomerang shaped tail lights and a flat square tailgate, it’s a good look and it works. Speaking of things that work, the keyless entry is great, just keep the card in your pocket, when you pull any door handle the car opens, get into the drivers’ seat push the start button and off you go; you can even turn the lights on from the key card. When you get out and walk away the doors lock and the alarm is set, it’s a little strange at first because if you go back to check the doors actually locked they open again but you soon learn to trust it. The boot is perfect, at 702ltrs it’s huge. The square shape of the opening mixed with a low rear bumper means you’ll have no trouble getting anything you want in; with the 7 seats in place its 208ltr which isn’t very big but it’s enough for short journeys. Now if you really need some room you can fold all the rear seats away and get a whopping 2063ltrs of space, that’s bigger than some vans. There are also lots of cubby holes around the car, under the floor and drawers under the front seats, if you add them all together you get another 84ltrs of storage, in fact there’s so much storage it’s a bit easy to forget where you put something in the car.

It’s in the cabin where this car comes into it’s own, there’s plenty of light and space, in 5 seat mode there’s tonnes of room in the back for 3 adults, the three individual seats means you can even put two big child seats and adult in the back. Each of the seats move forward, flipped up, turned into a table or removed altogether. Also in the back you get two airline type tables that flip up from the back of the front seats, there’s a hole in each for a cup but I couldn’t find a cup that would fit into them, also on the rear of the front seats there’s pockets galore, two at the top and a bigger one down low. The drivers’ seat is a very comfortable place, all the useful controls are at hand, and the big TFT screen is bright and easy to read, it tells you all the things you need to know without being over complicated. The Tomtom sat nav sits right next to it, the controls for the sat nav are on the arm rest in the middle of the car and if I’m honest the control unit feels clumsy, the control wheel in the middle (which does most of the work) seems to lag behind the screen a bit meaning it’s hard to spell out the place you want to go. Once it’s set its great, lane warnings and an ability to fix mistakes in the maps means you won’t get lost. The sound from the stereo is exceptional, but the interface is difficult to use, scanning for a channel seems to take a couple of key presses and using an iPod with it needs a degree in engineering.

The biggest problem was turning the radio off, you see there’s a button to do it but that same button turns off the sat nav and Bluetooth hands free, fine you say just turn it down then, but that means turning down the sat nav voice too. It would have been much easier to put in a button for the radio separate from everything else. The fit and finish along with exceptional materials used gives a feeling of luxury, the whole car seems really well put together.
The 1.5dci engine struggles to give low down power, it’s 106bhp but all of that is at the top end of the rev range, but once you get it up to speed it’s very quiet and composed on the motorway. Speaking of motorways, I took the family down to Galway in the Scenic along the M6, my god what a boring drive that is, never in all my life have I wanted to have auto pilot on a car as when I drove down that road. Not only does nothing happen but there’s nothing to look at, still the car was great, I kept myself occupied with looking at the points of interest on the sat nav; there were none, even the kids fell asleep. I pulled over for a rest and a coffee, that’s when I found the drivers’ cup-holder, it’s on the floor of the car, it’s awkward to get at and if you slide the armrest forward it becomes impossible.
Around the town the car feels big and the rear suspension is bouncy over speed bumps. If you get onto the back roads the rear of the car wallows around a bit, that said there’s no sign of under steer, as big as the Scenic is the turn in is fine.
The Grand Scenic is a fantastically practical car that can be put to any use, it’s just not desirable but none of the MPV type cars are. The key factor of this car is price, with all the best equipment in the Tomtom edition the retail price is €30190 plus €450 for metallic paint, but with discounts and the scrappage scheme taken into account you could have this car for €26,140, that’s cheaper than some hatchbacks on the market! It’s even in tax band B, €156 a year tax. So if you need a huge 5 seat car or a decent size 7 seat then look no further. Contact your local Renault dealer for more details or you can see the car I drove on
Just incase you missed it, I did a video review of the Scenic, you can find it here.

Welcome to a brave new venture in Smokerspack Towers, we are now doing video reviews of your cars. This is a huge step up on the web site and if it’s successful we hope to bring you more and better reviews like this one.

What do you think of it? Please leave your comments or email

Citroen C4 Picasso 1.6HDI 2008

Posted: June 3, 2010 by smokerspack in MPV, Uncategorized

So the sun has come out to play, the rise in temperature makes everyone (apart from mad people and lizards) wear less clothing. All the folks trying to loose weight to get that summer body now have a chance of showing it off, even though the love handles are still hanging around. All the magazines scream about dieting and “lose 10 pounds in a week” mentality. Guess what? You’ll never be happy, as soon as you’ve lost that 10 pounds you’ll be able to see your feet and that means you’ll have to get your nails fixed and those cracked heels otherwise you won’t be able to wear those sandals you bought for summer. Then you’ll find none of your clothes fit you and you’ll get depressed. So depressed that you’ll start to eat some ice cream and put that 10 pounds back on. So begins the vicious cycle.

I’m of the belief that if you want to loose weight then you just eat less and move more. Sitting on the couch reading a book on how to loose weight isn’t going to help as much as walking to the swimming pool, doing a couple of lengths and walking home. You don’t need a guru, or a gym or any equipment for that matter. Just get out of your house, on foot. You never know you might meet someone interesting too. I’m not just saying this to be smug but using this method I’ve lost three and a half stone over the last few months, with thanks to fitness section too.

Believe it or not cars suffer from weight problems too. The kerb weight of a car has a terrible effect on everything from 0-60 times, handling and economy. Every time you turn on your air con you use a little more fuel, add that to the fact you have a hulking great fridge under your bonnet and you get the idea. Years ago cars had nothing in them, so 100 horse power was enough for most cars, the Carina back in 1997 had 106hp and still managed to get over 40mpg if driven carefully. So why can’t cars 13 years later do much better? Kerb weight, that’s why. Cars have gotten more and more equipment in them, even the most basic car on the market today has air bags, air conditioning, abs, electric windows, crumple zones and god knows what else.

So the Picasso, well the 1.6HDI engine puts out 110hp and that should be enough for any family car but somehow in the C4 it feels like 50hp have galloped away. Big heavy car and a small engine means you get a reported 46mpg, more like 35mpg in the real world.

This is undoubtedly the prettiest small MPV on the road, there’s nothing else comes close to how it looks. The interior is a pleasant place to be the slide back sun visor is a good touch, as is the positioning of the driver controls, most things the driver needs are placed on the right side of the steering wheel as well as the middle of the car. The seats are comfortable in a way only the French can do. There are 5 full seats, all of which are movable, so there’s any amount of possible combinations for you to play with, there’s a 7 seat version too. There are boxes everywhere, so there’s somewhere to put everything.

So what’s not to like? Well the steering for one, it’s too light and somehow doesn’t feel connected to the front wheels. The gearstick wobbles about, but that happens in all French cars. This is not a driver’s car; this is a very comfortable way of transporting you and your family around. If I was picking one to buy it would be the 2.0ltr diesel with air suspension, there’s better fuel economy and a bit more pulling power, plus you get some more toys to play with.

So if you want great styling in a big heavy car then the C4 Picasso is for you.

Renault Scenic 1.5dci 2007

Posted: May 29, 2010 by smokerspack in MPV

There comes a point in every young persons life when they think about getting off the bicycle and turning to a car. Some of them if they are lucky get their own car to hoon around in, and make no mistake they hoon from time to time, the rest of them look at Daddy’s car and wonder how they go about asking for a loan of it.

Then comes the worst conundrum of modern Fatherhood, how do you tell your son or daughter that if they scratch the car they will be killed? Or do you just say, ok take it but be careful? Knowing that your first born will be burning out your clutch or shredding your tyres on every roundabout. Well read on because I have a solution to all your car loaning problems.

Get an MPV, even if you don’t need it. There’s no 18 year old out there who wants to be seen driving in an MPV, the disgrace would be just too much, so they will just leave your car alone and go joy riding or some other youthful pass time.

That neatly brings me to today’s car, the Scenic has been around for some time now. It was the car that started the MPV market, it’s always been a good mix of practical and big. It’s not the kind of car you buy willingly, you buy it because you can’t keep your loins in check and there’s not enough room in the hatchback anymore. The thing to remember here is that you don’t get more seats in most MPV’s, just the standard 5 but you do get a taller and slightly wider car. That’s great with small kids and car seats. Sure some of them have neat seats that you can pull out of the floor, but that just gives you 5 and a bit real seats. Those extra seats a usually lost under all the crap you cart around in the boot for the kids anyway, making them effectively useless . Speaking of boot space, there’s plenty in the Scenic, and it’s a square shape so the pram and stroller will fit no problem.

There are some problems with the outgoing model though, the fuel gauge is one. It’s an led type one which has some bars on it so it’s a bit hard to know exactly how much fuel you have left. I mean does one bar mean your nearly empty? The fit and finish is good in a French sort of way, these kind of cars are all treated very hard so expect to see some missing plastic covers. All Renaults were made to disintegrate but the Scenic seems hardy enough. Most French cars get some strange electrical problems, on my test drive I get stuck behind a Megane, every time he touched the brakes the indicators came on. But that’s French.

The 1.5ltr Diesel engine is good for all kinds of driving, it will get you where you want to go. It’s the same engine in most of what Nissan do, really anywhere you see 1.5dci it’s that engine. So there you have it, a nice car all round just get it checked over before you buy.