Archive for the ‘Small Car’ Category

Whenever I think of a French car the first thing into my mind is comfort, most French cars are comfortable cruisers or, as in this country, comfortable in traffic jams. The C3 fits this comfort segment very well, the suspension is soft and the seats are big, the cabin light and roomy. The cabin can be made even more light by sliding back half of the roof, the windscreen is huge even with the roof closed but when you open it you can see the sky. It’s a nice touch but on a sunny day it’s too bright, it does make a cool effect when it rains though, you can see the drops sliding up the glass as you drive along, obviously you shouldn’t be looking up when your driving but your passengers can. There’s Air conditioning as standard along with a host of safety equipment but handsfree is an option, it’s something I feel should be standard in all cars these days, let’s face it we all have mobiles. There is an Aux connector in the front which you can order USB should you want it, get USB that’s what everyone uses these now, even Apple.
The cabin layout is artistically spartan, there’s no temperature gauge just a little blue light to tell you the car is cold, a strip of chrome across the middle leads to a monochrome multiple function display. I like the layout, it’s simple and familiar.

Even though there’s no standard handsfree there is cruise control and speed limiter which is lovely along the motorway, for a small car it’s surprisingly good on motorways, the soft set up on the car suits it.
The exterior is grown up, it’s looks like an older brother to the old C3, there’s good Citroen quirks in the lines maybe the designers were let off the leash a bit with the outside, it shows through but I do think the door openings are a little on the small side.

On the road the 1.4HDI engine pulls well enough, it’s quiet too, actually the whole car on the move is silent. Once you reach cruising speed there’s no noise, you’ll struggle to hear the engine at 100kph. Fantastic sound deadening for a small car, around town the steering very light which is nice enough for tight manoeuvres but out on the road it’s too light for any feedback from the wheels, it’s not really a drivers car but it’s not meant to be, this is a family run about and it’s really good at that. I can easily get the two kids and all the normal stuff into the car.
When I got the car first I wasn’t sure about the really light steering and soft suspension but as the week went on I could see the point of this car, it’s a very decent run about, it will happily take the kids to the beach but just as happy about doing a weeks shopping. The C3 has fierce competition though, the b segment is one of the hardest to get right. Citroen have done a good job on the styling and town set up but it’s a little tight with standard equipment, I’d gladly trade the sliding roof for handsfree, rear electric windows and parking sensors.
Still I’ll miss the C3 when it goes back, it’s kind of become a part of the family, a great car for the city.

Prices for the C3 start at €14,900 for the VT. The model I drove starts at €17,900, see for more information


Here is the fastest little car that we’ve seen this year, and it can corner too! Have a look at the ultimate drivers car for under 25 grand

There isn’t many cars that are capable of making you smile from the moment you see them, in fact there isn’t many things in the world that can make you smile, let’s face it this country hasn’t got much to smile about, with tax, bank bail outs, job losses it’s not a happy place to be at all.

Well I found the solution to all these problems and it comes with a soft top, the little 500 has been around since 1957 when a post war Italy needed a small, cheap and economical car to get the country moving again. It was very successful, it lasted all the way to 1975 when it was replaced with the 127.

It made a return in 2007 with the new retro model that we see today, now Fiat have taken a can opener and taken the roof off and I promise it will put a smile on your face to see it coming down the road, but it will make you a happy person to drive it.

You see the 500 is no shrinking violet, in fact in the time I was driving it around I couldn’t have attracted more attention if I turned up in a pink Zonda! Even parking it meant that it was surrounded by people by the time I got back. There is a certain Italian style about the whole car but it’s not all mouth and no trousers. The cabin is made out of some great materials and there’s great attention to detail in the styling. The best part of the design is the speedo housing, there’s only one cowl so on the outer ring is all the warning lights, the next ring in is the speedo and inside that is the rev counter. It’s nice to watch the rev needle chase the speedo needle around, in the centre there’s an MFD that can tell you everything from radio channel to average fuel consumption, when the car is stopped you can get into the settings for disabling the air bag and hooking up your phone to the blue and me system, which can be controlled by voice, so you can tell the car to dial a number and I have to say it never got the number wrong even when I spoke very fast, smart system.

On the road the suspension is firm but I would expect that from a car that has the wheel base of a roller skate, the little 1.2ltr engine puts out 68bhp but it doesn’t matter because even when your going slow it feels quick, it’s the size of the car, a go-cart with a roof. It handles like a go-cart too, you point the nose and it goes there, it’s a fun car to drive.

The point of this car is to be different, it does that perfectly, it’s non threatening, cute and most important convertible. The peel back roof is fully electric and can be operated by two buttons near the rear view mirror or the key fob. When it’s fully open it’s breezy enough in the cabin, if you leave it 3/4 open it’s just nice, a diffuser pops up at the front to push the air over the car. On a warm day it’s a lovely place to be when you’re pootling around town, and you don’t have to stop to put the roof up, you can open or close the roof at up to 60kph. When it rains the cloth roof make you feel like your in a tent, the pitter-patter of rain drops is homely while the climate control gives a warm and fuzzy feeling.

In the week I had the car I met many people, there wasn’t one of them who didn’t like the little 500c, on Saturday I met the Druid bike club, even some of the hairiest men thought the car was cool, Sunday I went along to a drift track where people only think about smoking tyres, the 500c still got the nod of approval.

From the moment I saw the little Fiat I started to smile and that smile only went away when I had to give it back, this is the only car that managed to evict my Leon from the garage, I made room for the 500 to sleep. This car has personality, it’s become a member of the family, the kids love to drive along with the roof open looking out at the sky. Sure there are some compromises, size being the obvious one, but I still got both child seat and an adult into the car, ok one of the seats had to be put in via the roof but that’s now a talking point. This is a car that makes you interesting, it shows that your not afraid to drive something different, yes it has only 68bhp but it makes you feel like it’s a sports car and that’s the point; it makes you feel.

Lots of cars make you numb, in time you forget why you bought them, you might even forget what car you drive, but I guarantee you won’t forget the Fiat 500c.

Prices start at €16,195 in the Pop model and €18,145 for the Lounge. The car I drove had these options:


COLOUR: Funk White Pearlescent

INTERIOR: Red Leather (with matching Red Roof)


Pearlescent Paint

Leather Trim

Xenon Headlamps with washers

Vehicle Dynamic Control

Interscope HiFi System

Total cost of Fiat 500C  €22,600

Want to see the smokerspack test in video? Right here

For further details on the Fiat 500 range please see or visit your local dealer.

Here’s the video of the Fiat 500c, we are very proud of this video, yes we’re getting better….enjoy!

The sun has been shining all week, there is no more beautiful place on earth than Ireland on a sunny day, but all this sun can mean only one thing, the kids are back at school. Yes, whenever the people who make the most of the sun have to go into their rather dull dilapidated school buildings the sun comes out to play. I went to Japfest in Mondello Park on Sunday, it turned out to be a great day for everyone, there were loads of things to do and see, plenty of action on the track, the smell of tyre smoke hung in the air.
The car that took me there was the little Punto, it has been brilliantly styled by the Italians; it looks modern and above all cute. It seems to be an update of the Punto Grande, the Evo badge has nothing to do with performance, just that the car has evolved into….another car.
The interior is solid and really well built; all the surfaces that you touch are soft and plesent. The Drivers’ seat is a little on the short side for my legs and the upright of the seat is firm, that aside it is a comfy little car for the driver. The back seat is tight though, there’s just about room for two adults back there. One note for you, I couldn’t get a rear facing child seat in the back without moving the drivers’ seat forward, you can’t put the child seat in the front because there’s no way to turn off the airbag, not big problems but just something that annoyed me.
Something else that annoyed me greatly is the MP3 player, its part of the Blue&Me system. It won’t play from a Creative Labs Zen, or at least I couldn’t make it work, it seems to be iPod or USB stick only. What annoyed me is that it took ages for any song to start playing and when you got out of the car after listening to a few songs, when you start the car again it would start playing from the beginning of the song list again, also it would play a whole song and instead of going to the next song it would just play the same song again, it frustrated me enough that I just listened to the radio. If you have an iPod its fine, just plug and go. The rest of the Blue&Me is fine, the hands free and voice control work perfectly if a little slowly.

The engine in my test car is a 1.2 petrol 8 valve, it outs out 65bhp and it needs every one of them, it’s a tad underpowered. There’s a sporty feeling to the handling, there’s no hint of under steer when you’re on the back roads, but the lack of power from the engine means you won’t be going fast enough to worry about corners. Out on the motorway the steering becomes very light and I might say vague, even at low speeds the steering is light, but you can make it lighter with the city button on the dash. There’s also cornering lights, when you turn a corner with your head lamps on the spotlight on the relevant side comes on to light up a bit more of the road, it’s a good touch and useful too, the down side, it’s part of what Fiat call a style pack that gets you said lights, 15” alloys and metallic effect side mouldings and bumper inserts for €495.
It’s around town where this car comes into its own, the light steering, gearbox and clutch makes town or city driving very easy, there’s great visibility out of all sides and a flat rear makes it easy to park.
At the beginning of the week the Punto annoyed me, the lack of power and MP3 problems, but crucially by the end of the week the little Evo had won me over. It feels like it’s been made and styled by humans, the little quirks just serve to give it a bit of personality, it’s a fun little car that will give you something to talk about.
The Punto Evo range starts out at €13,959 and goes up to the Eleganza model at €18,095. The model I drove had the Style pack, metallic paint making it 15,915 but with scrappage and eco bonus you could pick it up for around €12,500. There’s plenty of competition out there for the Punto but none have quite the same personality.

Visit for further details, and check back for a video review of the Punto this week.

Small cars, by which I mean snack-box size have to be good at a number of things,
they need to handle like a house fly who just got the whiff of a bowl of sugar, enough
room for some shopping in the boot, be able to carry 4 people and be comfortable for
the driver. That to me is super-mini class, there’s more stuff you can ask of the small
car segment but if it can do my little list I’m happy.
The Clio is in this segment even though it’s gotten bigger over the years, it’s
borderline hatchback now, and if it gets any bigger Renault may do away with the
Megane altogether. Last week I was handed the keys of the little Clio and my first
thought when I saw it was “If that car was a woman, it would have a fat ass” which
was a strange thought to have about a car, but nonetheless around the rear of the car
there is a fat bit that sticks out at the bottom of the hatch. Don’t get me wrong here,
it’s a pretty car, but in the same way that once you see Jlo dancing you just can take
your eyes off her bottom, even though it makes her look a little out of proportion.
The Clio has grown up, both in terms of styling and use of materials, no longer does
the dashboard look like it’s made of bakelite and might just crumble at the next set of
traffic lights, now it seems to be made out of touchy feely materials, it’s really well
put together.

The drivers’ seat is very comfortable, the French know how to do comfort in a seat
and they have done it with the Clio, it didn’t seem to matter where I put the seat, I
still found it lovely. The back seats is a little on the tight side, but you’ll still get two
adults into it. The dash lay out is fairly ergonomic but Renault still use that overly
complicated radio, it’s just too fussy, having one button that simultaneously turns off
the power to the radio, sat nav and the blue tooth is just annoying.

The same can’t be said for the climate control, there’s three buttons that matter, Auto, hotter and colder
and it has them all right there in front of you, perfect. The radio and hands-free can
be controlled from a stalk on the right side of the steering wheel, the trouble with that
is you can’t see it when you drive in a straight line so you have to guess what button
does what, now I know you’ll get used to it but what’s so wrong with putting the
controls on the steering wheel? The USB/Aux connector meant that I could control
my Zen from the radio controls, and that my MP3 library gets displayed on the big
sat nav screen, which was nice. Other than some niggly points there’s nothing to
complain about in the cabin. The boot space is good too, 255ltrs but there’s a big lip
to get over, the up side is a deep boxy shape boot that can handle fairly big loads, if
you drop the seats you’ll get 1028ltrs and that’s a lot for a car this size.
The little 1.2ltr engine isn’t powerful, there’s only 75bhp but it is a fizzy little thing,
there’s a nice engine note when you rev it, it’s the kind of engine you push until
there’s little dents in the bonnet from the valves hitting the inside before you change
gear. If you drive it properly you’ll easily get over 40mpg, if you look at my video
here you’ll see me demonstrate that fact.

On open road the Clio is very quiet and pliant over all surfaces, the suspension set up
is just right for Irish roads, once you show it some corners the whole car comes alive.
The little engine roars what life it can give and I promise, on a dry road you would
think the car was on rails. There was no traction control on the Tom-Tom model I
drove, it is an option, to be honest I didn’t need it all week, there wasn’t a hint of
under or over steer the car passed all handling tests I could throw at it.
The Clio manages something that many other car makers would like to achieve, that

sense of style and substance all wrapped up in a little car that’s cheap to tax (€156 a
year), cheap to insure, cheap to buy and most important cheap to run. Gone are the
days of Papa and Nicole, this is a grown up super-mini with plenty to offer to the first

time buyer and the retired couple, let alone as a second car in the family. Go to your
local Renault dealer and get a test-drive, you might find that Gallic charm too.

Renault S.A. Logo

Image via Wikipedia

I wanted to find out if you can really achieve the figures that car makers put out with every new car, so I put one maker to the test, Renault…..

Fiat Panda 1.2 Dynamic Eco 2010

Posted: August 2, 2010 by smokerspack in city car, Hatchback, Small Car
Tags: , , ,

There are things in life that you can’t or won’t throw away, that pair of shoes that you’ve had for years for instance. They are falling to bits, they might even let a bit of water in on a wet day, but still when you put them on they give you comfort like no other shoe. I have such a pair, they are made by the skaters favourite Vans. I bought those years ago on a whim, you see they are very wide and I like that in a shoe, and it gives your foot room to breath. I washed them once, I stood looking at the washing machine like an expectant Father, hoping that the upper would stay attached to the sole, but all was well when they came out. They curled up a bit when they dried out, but once I’d put them back on my feet they soon went back into that same old shape, total comfort returned.

What seems like a million years ago I used to own a car like my Van’s, it was a Panda and I loved it because it was mine, bought with my own money. It didn’t matter that the name on the back was Fat and, the “I” was missing from Fiat and “P and a” from Panda, it was my “fat and”. To be fair it was brilliant little car, you could pile people in, put stuff in the boot and fix the inevitable break down with a hammer and some ladies tights. The body roll was terrible and the cabin would disintegrate when you drove over any bumps, but it was just like those old shoes; comforting.

This is what Fiat do well, make a small car that becomes like a little puppy, it almost gets a personally. People name their small Fiat’s, mine was called Angela because I once knew a very temperamental woman called Angela, and she has rusty bits too. Every few years Fiat brings out a car that everyone likes but only a few buy, people are somehow afraid of Fiat and there’s a reason for that. My self destructing Panda wasn’t alone, most Fiat’s from the 80’s fell to bits, they even marketed the car’s as “easy to repair” so even Fiat knew there was a shelf life on their cars. In the 90’s there was the Punto which was a bit of a “Friday car”, that means if you were unlucky you bought the last car Giuseppe made in his working week, lets say haphazardly. You could get a car that would go forever and not give any trouble, but just as easy be showered with bits of engine driving away from the dealer.

In recent years Fiat has gotten a lot better, you would be hard pressed to find a bad one, but still Irish people don’t trust the slightly mad little Italian cars.

The modern Panda bares little or no relation to the old war horse I once drove, it’s far better in all respects. The Panda has a great look; it manages to be tough and cute all at the same time, there’s a boxy exterior that leads to a flat tailgate. The boot space is 206ltrs with the seat up and 861ltrs, but you won’t find that information on any Fiat web site, I know I’ve tried, so treat the measurements as an estimate. Let’s just say the boot is small, it was hard enough to get a Mothercare push chair into the boot, with a bit of manly pressure it went in but it had to stick up above the rear seats. You must remember that this is a city car, built for pottering about the town; it was never going to be a load lugger. That said, there are only 4 seats, sure there’s a squab of sorts in the middle but I wouldn’t ask anyone to put their posterior on it. There are only 4 seat belts; the fifth can be added for €125 option. I set my drivers seat to where I like it and, I promise you, I would have to saw my legs off at the knees to get in the back.

On the road, the peppy little 1.2ltr engine is great, it’s the kind of engine you want to rev until you can see the pistons hitting the bonnet and then you change gear. From the drivers’ seat you would think you were in a bigger car, the dash is Spartan but it has all you need and no more, functional is a good word to describe the interior layout. There’s a little body roll in the corners but this is a tall car, surprisingly there’s very little under steer. If you drive it like a normal human being you will get great MPG, up around 40 or more mpg is normal enough.

Despite the problems, this is a city run about, no more no less. This is what Fiat does best, they should stick to small cars, if you’re willing to compromise on space or buy things specifically to fit the little Panda then you will wind up with a great little car that has something so many cars are missing, personality.

The car I drove is not for sale, but there are a few on Carzone so I’ve done the search for you here don’t say I never do anything for you.
Just for a laugh, watch the video, it’s funny

Mitsubishi Colt

Posted: May 16, 2010 by smokerspack in Small Car

Not so long ago, well the 80’s, very nearly every car on the road was dreary. Think Renault 12 with a beige interior, or a Vauxhaull Viva slowly disintegrating while you drove along trying not to look like the Flintstones. These were gray days indeed, but there was always light at the end of the tunnel. There were some great 80’s cars, the Delorean, the Fiat Spider even the Golf was great. The thing was, none of them worked for very long. Most cars in the 80’s were broken just after you signed on the dotted line for the 5 year payment plan, so you had to push your car home so the neighbours could come see your new lawn ornament.

Fast forward into this decade and you’ll find things are a little different. You would be hard pressed to find a bad car now, anything from the last 10 or so years is probably still on the road and going strong. Can you imagine any of the 80’s cars still going after that long? Sure there are still problems with todays cars, look at Toyota owners driving around nervously waiting for their car to career into the nearest wall, they don’t even have mats in their cars anymore.

So what of the Mitsubishi Colt, where does this little car fit into the grand scheme of the 80’s reminisce? Well it reminded me that a car can be a bit basic and still do a job. Make no mistake this is a small car, it’s billed as a city car and the 1.1ltr three pot I drove was making a terrible noise at anything over 100kph. Now admittedly the car I drove was a 2009 model, there was lots of miles on the clock too.

What really made me think of the 80’s when I drove the colt was the dash. It was just a swash of gray plastic, it would have been from a Renault if it was off- beige. But the dash aside, it was comfortable with nice (gray) seats and a good driving position, I also like the driving position in the Smart Four Four which which the Colt shares it’s underpinnings. The radio was useless unless you wanted to hear Gerry Ryan (RIP), there didn’t seem to be any other channels that would tune on it. The gear shift was sharp and direct, but you needed to push the engine to get anywhere. Around town it would be fine but at anything like motorway speeds there was a constant drone of the engine that seemed to get louder as I turned up the radio.

Not a bad looking car, you’re not going to get anything other than a toddler in the back if you’re 6 foot or over, and forget getting that pram into the boot, nothing but a pushchair will fit. But there is one thing, you can completely remove the back seats making a very small van.

All in all it was an OK package, nice for the first time driver. But if you’re looking for that car you can park in the city and drive in the country there’s far better out there, the Fiat 500 for one. A little lacklustre then just like the 80’s, the best driver out of the line is the 1.5 turbo, much more refined but you won’t get one in Ireland they didn’t sell much here.

A Plucky 5/10