The Road Show #39
Jack Mortimer July 5, 2020
Amazing Show the effort jack throws at this is a real credit to him
We start on a serious note that affects all British motorists and that is the warning that from the 1st of August, your car needs an MOT once again. Now, if you remember back in March the UK Government said that, in order to help social distancing, all cars would be exempt for six months however with the easing of lockdown, Roads Minister Baroness Vere said ‘it is vital that motorists are able to keep their vehicles safe’. Naturally, the same exemptions on some cars, such as those over 40 years old, will still apply, but for many motorists, this means booking an MOT at some point during this month. What’s more, if you are self-isolating, then Baroness Vere stated that many garages and testing centres are currently offering pick-up services, meaning you wouldn’t have to leave your home to get your car tested.
And, continuing with the topic of serious news stories, Volvo this week have requested a recall of 2.1 million cars worldwide, 170,000 of which are in the UK. The issue affects the front seat belt fastenings in V70s, XC70s, S60s, V60s, S80s and XC60s made between 2007 and 2018. Over time these fastenings can get weaker meaning that, in the event of a collision, the seat belt wouldn’t be much use. Volvo has stated that this issue is extremely rare and so far no incidents relating to this have been reported, however they advise drivers of these cars to get in touch with Volvo via their website and put both front seatbelt fastenings in a vertical position to avoid it bending over the seat cushions when sitting down.
Now, this week we’ve been given a look at what the new Citroen C4 will look like. The last C4 model went out of production two years ago, with the Cactus being the company’s slightly unconventional flagship family car. Now, whilst being your everyday hatchback, the new C4 is styled to resemble both a coupe and an SUV to make it a little more interesting to consumers. Interestingly enough, the promotional video that Citroen have uploaded to YouTube briefly shows the new car alongside the 50 year old Citroen GS, another small car with an unconventional coupe-esque design. However, the new C4 certainly won’t have the GS’s air cooled flat four engine, instead you can choose between the 1.2 turbo petrol, the 1.5 diesel or, on the e-C4, a 134bhp motor connected to a 50kWh battery, a set up already used in the Peugeot e-2008. Being a Citroen, the new C4 will have an unconventional suspension setup, namely Progressive Hydraulic Cushions, like on the Cactus and the C5 Aircross, where many motoring journalists have praised it for giving these cars an incredibly soft ride. It’s believed the new C4 will be with us at some point next year, but sadly we don’t know how much one will set you back. We can assume, however, it’ll be around the same price as the current Cactus.
And also in the world of new and upcoming cars, how about a new and upcoming car brand? Well, over in Wales a new utilitarian 4×4 is being developed. It’s called the Ineos Grenadier and it bares quite a bit of resemblance to the old Land Rover Defender 110 that was discontinued back in 2016. Now of course the Defender has indeed been replaced with… well, the Defender, but it’s created a mixed reaction from drivers of the old model. And as such, according to the Ineos website, the Grenadier is said to be a ‘no-nonsense 4×4, engineered to overcome all conditions and withstand the daily punishment you put it through’. Ineos believe that they’ll be able to produce around 25,000 off roaders each year, uses the same tooling from Jaguar Land Rover and will be powered by a range of BMW petrol and diesel six-cylinder engines. Two factories are currently being built, one in Portugal where the chassis is going to be built and the other is in Bridgend, South Wales where the rest of the car will be built.
And finally, do you like personalised number plates? Well, even if you do want to have your own message on the front and the back of your car, you probably don’t like how much they tend to cost. Well, this week AutoCar published the top ten most expensive personalised number plates here in the UK. Typically it seems the smaller the number of characters (letters and numbers) on the plate, the more expensive it is. Most of the plates make references to cars such as ‘RR1’ being Rolls Royce 1 or F1, of course stands for Formula 1. Well, I’ll put you out of your misery, the most expensive personalised number plate that ever sold at auction is ‘25O’. Now, compared to RR1 or F1 that doesn’t sound relatable, but it actually relates to the Ferrari 250GTO, the most expensive car ever sold at auction at £30,750,300. Now, saying that phone number of a price tag is going to make the number plate’s cost seem miniscule, so what I will say is that 25O’s cost of £518,480, in Dacia logic, will buy you 74 brand new Sandero hatchbacks and about £800 for petrol meaning that you could actually put around 10 litres of fuel in each one.
Automotive Advice – Fuel Consumption
Right then, it’s time for another one of our Automotive Advice sections and today we’re talking about fuel consumption. Naturally, for many people this is a significant part of the reason people buy a particular car, but did you know that the figures you see in advertisements aren’t always the truth? In this segment we’ll be taking a look at how badly inflated these figures can be and how manufacturers test their car’s fuel economy.
So recently an article was put onto Practical Motor Mechanic’s website that cars are, on average, 5.5% less efficient than the so called official consumption figures. This figure was found out by WhatCar who recently tested 56 cars, a mix of petrols, diesels and hybrids in order to see how well the official figures compare to actually driving the cars. Well, their figures certainly differed, alarmingly so in some occasions. Interestingly enough, it seems that some particular brands overinflate their official figures more than others. As such, the top 10 biggest underperformers include three BMWs and four Volvos. The worst contender was the Volvo XC40 fitted with the T4 2.0 petrol engine. Whilst the official combined figure is 34.8mpg, the real world tests showed that the same car actually gets just 27.1mpg – a difference of 22.1%.
Amongst the top 10, three of the cars are hatchbacks, two are saloons, two are estates and three are SUVs, so really there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between any type of car and the manufacturers need to inflate the figures. And interestingly enough, it’s an even split between petrol and diesel cars. So it seems that some manufacturers will just generally over-inflate their models, rather than just cover one type.
But what was really interesting about the study is that some cars actually overachieved their own official test figures. Fascinatingly, the top 10 overachievers have a much more diverse mix of brands – the only one to come up twice is Skoda with their Karoq and Superb Estate. The best car tested was the Honda CR-V 2.0 i-MMD hybrid which has an official figure of 40.9mpg but actually gets an average of 47.4mpg – a difference of 15.9%. This is the only hybrid in the top 10, with the rest of the cars included being a mix of 6 petrol engines and 3 diesels.
So, it seems to be that the official figures often need to be taken with a pinch of salt. But what actually is the official testing process and why isn’t it particularly accurate? Well the idea of an official test figure came about in 1970 with what would eventually become NEDC (the New European Driving Cycle). It aimed to give drivers a better idea of how economical particular cars were. However, over time it proved to be very inaccurate. WhatCar tests of the time showed that on average, the figure was over 20% more optimistic when compared to real life driving conditions. And so in 2017, the current system was introduced – the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure or WLTP. As a system it’s mandatory for all cars and tests not only fuel consumption but electric ranges and emissions of carbon dioxide and various other pollutants.
The process is split up into three classes, all depending on the car’s power to weight ratio. Most cars will fall under Class 3, as they have a power to weight ratio of over 34W/kg, whilst the other two classes are more typically used for heavy goods vehicles such as trucks or buses. Anyway, the procedure features various tests which each represent the driving style of different roads, such as motorways, urban roads (those you’d find in towns) and extra urban towns (meaning built up city areas where you’d typically have to keep stopping and starting). The whole test lasts 30 minutes and typically covers a distance of around 15 miles (or 25km). Now, to me at least, that seems an incredibly short test, however it’s actually around 10 minutes longer than the old NEDC test and also has a higher average top speed, includes a wider range of test conditions, looks at steeper accelerations and decelerations and tests optional extras separately from the main tests. It’s also worth mentioning that these tests are conducted in a laboratory on the grounds that the tests can be repeated fairly for all vehicles.
Now, the purpose of this segment, isn’t for me to expose the testing process, nor is it for me to pass on my opinions to you, the listener. Instead, I hope that I’ve been able to give you an accurate and unbiased depiction of the testing procedure. However, the fact of the matter is that it isn’t always as realistic as you would expect. So if you’re interested in buying a new car and you’d like to find out an accurate fuel consumption figure, then a good idea would be to go to WhatCar’s website where you’ll find an MPG calculator. You simply enter the car in question and receive both the WLTP figure and either the true MPG figure (determined from a road test) or the Reader Reported MPG figure (an average taken from the figures sent in by actual drivers of that model).
But to finish off this segment, let’s take a quick look into how you can improve your fuel consumption figures. To start with, remember to check your tires regularly to see if they are set to the proper inflation. On average, your tires tend to lose around 1PSI each month, and that figure gets worse during the winter with the colder climate. What does this have to do with fuel consumption, you may ask? Well if your tyres aren’t inflated properly then you have extra rolling resistance. Now studies show that by neglecting this, you can actually worsen your fuel consumption by up to 3%, so it doesn’t do much harm to check the pressures every now and then when the tyres are cold with an accurate gauge. You can find the recommended tire pressures for your car in its owner’s manual or online.
If you’re feeling ambitious, also check to see if your air filter is dirty. This tells us that it’s clogged, most likely from driving on dusty roads, and can reduce the fuel consumption and also makes the car more likely to stall when it’s idling.
But it doesn’t just stop under the bonnet. Naturally, at the forecourts there are other tips to follow for better fuel economy. One such tip is to avoid letting your fuel levels drop to below a quarter full, as doing so puts stress on your fuel pump. Whilst you may find it easier to only fill up when you have to, maybe you’ll find it easier on your wallet as well. And whilst your there, you may find it pays to also add a synthetic oil additive as well. Fuel additives serve various purposes, but the general idea is that they help to keep your engine running smoothly. Naturally, this additive runs through the fuel system, keeping water out, cleaning the injectors and the combustion chamber. By keeping the system clean, you can improve your mileage, but given that if you’ve got a new car, chances are the fuel system is already clean and the additive is doing nothing. And naturally, you need to make sure that you’ve got the right additive for your car (be it petrol or diesel) so it’s best to check online before trying one.
There’s plenty more tips to give you about helping to get better MPG so perhaps we could revisit the topic in a future episode.
First Car: Renault 4
We haven’t taken a look at a first car in quite some time, so why don’t we return to the subject with a real classic? A car that sold for over thirty years, and one that is a true icon of the French. The Citroen 2CV, my all-time favourite car? No, no, I’m planning to cover that one on a special occasion, maybe I’ll even dedicate a full multi-segment story to it. Anyway, today we’re covering a model that sold more cars than the 2CV in a shorter amount of time – the Renault 4.
But, funnily enough, the Renault 4’s story does start with the Citroen 2CV, launched in 1948. As we all know it was an incredibly basic and cheap car that could put the working class into their own car. During the 50s Renault didn’t exactly have a competitor, instead they had more luxurious and stylish cars like the 4CV (no Citroen relation) or the more contemporary Dauphine. These cars sold very well but with Renault missing a gap in the market, and with the economy on the rise meaning more and more could afford to buy a car, Renault needed a new entry level car.
Being a little later to the party actually gave Renault the upper hand as it gave them the ability to take a look at the design of the 2CV and work out the good and bad parts. Between the 2CV’s design, which originated in the late 1930s, and the late 1950s the French road network had improved immensely – going from a structure of mostly uneven dirt roads to the new national autoroute system (the French equivalent of the motorway) – so the suspension didn’t need to be quite so soft. Also, they noted that the air cooled two cylinder engine was rather noisy so a more conventional water-cooled four cylinder engine that we’ll get onto in a minute. Finally, being a car released a decade ago and with no real facelifts or revisions, the 2CVs design looked incredibly dated, so the design of the 4 was to look more modern and stylish, perhaps to reflect the less austere times.
Now, I suppose in that description, I did make the Renault 4 sound like an incredibly luxurious family car but it most certainly wasn’t. The design, whilst more stylish than the 2CV’s, showed off its utilitarian nature. It was incredibly boxy to allow for a good deal of space in a small car, making it good for all the family and their luggage. The Renault 4 is often credited as being the first hatchback, the first small car with a tailgate that incorporates the rear windscreen. Now, whether or not it was the first hatchback is another matter. Personally, I believe that to be the Austin A40 Countryman which was released in 1959 but that doesn’t matter. Under the bonnet of the 4 was a 747cc 26bhp engine paired with a 3 speed gearbox which could catapult the car to a whopping 65mph. Now that doesn’t sound in any way fast but at the time the 2CV only had a 425cc engine which could only get to 43mph, so that 18mph more really did make a difference! It’s also worth mentioning that the 4 was the first Renault which front wheel drive.
And so the Renault 4 launched at the Paris Motor Show in July of 1961, but did you know that there was also a Renault 3 that launched alongside it? OK, sadly the R3 wasn’t exactly some Renault that time forgot, though, it was just an entry level 4. To start, the rear quarter windows were removed, the chrome bumpers were replaced with painted ones, the windscreen washer and passenger sun visor were removed, the interior was made more Spartan, the grille was pressed out of the bonnet (rather than being its own piece) and the engine was downsized to 603cc (or 21bhp). So, the Renault 3 seemed pretty rotten in comparison, however amazingly doing this meant that Renault could sell a car for 40 francs less than the 2CV.
However, interestingly enough, while the 2CV soldiered on, the Renault 3 struggled and, as a result, production ended by autumn of 1962. But, luckily for Renault, the 4 was doing considerably better, amazingly getting somewhat more upmarket. The Renault 4 Super was the top of the line model which, from 1963, came with a bigger 845cc engine, lifted from the Dauphine, along with full synchromesh. Meanwhile, the 4 was also finding its feet in the French army with an all-wheel drive variant, eventually released to the public in 1968 as the 4 Plein Air (or Open Air). The strange thing about this variant is that it didn’t have any doors, just a small chain that, supposedly, kept the passengers from falling out. Sadly, it didn’t catch on, so back to the standard 4.
For 1967 there was a facelift which gave it a new grille, new headlamps, new bumpers and, for the first time, a four speed gearbox – something critics said it needed from the start. At this point, the 4 was promoted as quite a rugged car for adventures, rather than just any economical family car and there was good reason for this. During the late 60s and the early 70s, two new small Renaults came on the scene – the Renault 6 of 1968 and the Renault 5 of 1972. Neither of these cars officially aimed to replace the 4, however in comparison it was looking rather aged.
Nevertheless, this wasn’t the end for the 4, with another mild facelift following shortly. Out went the chrome and in came black plastic. There was also a new bigger fuel tank and, more excitingly, a new model to reflect the rugged attitude the car was given – the Renault 4 Safari. Really, it wasn’t much new, just a lot more matte black painted panels and rubber trim. You could choose from a selection of bright and fun colours and you got some nice features as standard such as striped cloth interior, front headrests, a folding rear seat and extra storage compartments found in the dashboard.
By the mid-70s, and with the oil crisis sending the prices of fuel upwards, people loved the 4’s economy and it soon became a fun way to save money. However, if you really did want a more powerful version, the GTL had you covered. Being a mainstay in the range pretty much until the end, the 4GTL used the 1.1 engine that was widely popular in Renaults and even used by DAF, as we all know of course from our recent look at the range. Anyway, whilst the Safari was all about standing out, the GTL tried to fit in with more recent cars, so grey plastic was used, most notably on the sides to give some protection from low speed collisions and scrapes. You also had the luxury of opening rear windows for once.
But really, from this point on, the Renault 4 was on it’s way out. It proved to be a very popular car for Renault and it had a sizable fan base but by the turn of the 80s, the entry level Renault 5 was cheaper and more conventional. The 4 stayed in production, fittingly, until 1994 when it was replaced with the then new Renault Twingo, a story for another day.
Now, it’s obvious that the Renault 4 was a very successful car, but what most people don’t know is just how popular it was outside of France. As well as being made in the Billancourt factory, it was built in Algeria, Morocco, Mexico, Colombia, Portugal, Austria, the former Yugoslavia, Chile, Italy, Uruguay, Ireland, Argentina, Spain and Belgium. And with 8 million made, it’s clear to see it was loved the world over. So if you want to buy one and bring back some of that love, you’ll probably be pleased to know that there are currently 229 listed across Europe on AutoScout24 and decent examples can be picked up for under 3000 euros.
So, this week in Britain saw the official legalisation of e-scooters, but what is it and why was it illegal in the first place? Well, in this segment we’ll be diving into the world of two wheeled low speed light weight transportation to see for ourselves!
So let’s start by asking what actually is an e-scooter? Well, by scooter I don’t mean a little moped like a Lambretta, I mean the sort of scooter you probably had as a child, with two wheels, a handlebar and a platform to stand on. Naturally, e-scooters combine this lightweight vehicle with a small battery.
Now, to get to know what e-scooters are like, let’s take a look at one of the most popular models, the Xiaomi M365. It looks like your average scooter but it’s made from aerospace grade aluminium, weighing in at just 12.5kg (that’s 1 stone 13lb) and has air filled tyres like a bike. Its 250W motor connected to a 36 volt 7.8 amp battery gets it up to 15.5mph and lets it travel for an average of 13 miles or 21km in standard mode, or up to 18 miles, or 30km in eco mode. Fully charging it takes about 5 hours and the battery comes under a two year warranty. It comes with a disc break on the back and anti-lock brakes on the front for safety. Using the M365 is easy enough. Much like a normal scooter, the handlebar folds flat so it’s easier to fit in your car, it has a handy kickstand for when you need to park it and you can operate it with a pressure sensitive accelerator on the handlebar. You can also connect it to an app on your phone (whilst it’s in a phone mount of course) which gives you statistics about your journey and even give the scooter extra features such as cruise control. You can buy the Xiaomi M365 from many places including Halfords for about £450.
But if you were to buy an e-scooter over here in the UK, it would come with the heavy warning that it cannot be used on public roads or pedestrianised areas for legal reasons. Well, as of the 4th of July, that rule changed thanks to the government’s new legal framework. Now, you are able to ride one on the roads or in cycle lanes but with several conditions in place. The first, and probably the most severe, is that you need to rent one, you can’t just buy one and use it. The reason for this is it seen in the eyes of the law as a motorised vehicle and as such needs insurance. Now, that wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that currently nobody is offering insurance on electric scooters. Renting a motorised vehicle is a little different however as all you need is a full driving license to show that you can use one responsibly. As well as this, all e-scooters have a speed limit of 15mph and are still completely banned in pedestrianised areas in order to keep people safe.
Well, so far e-scooters seem rather civilised and a good way to reduce car usage for short journeys, it’s certainly clear that the British government are prioritising safety before anything else. However, some people are still concerned that they will cause havoc. Take, for instance, this article in the Daily Express from the 3rd of July: ‘Driving law introduced this weekend will be a nightmare as prosecutions may rise’, essentially stating that the number of accidents will rise thanks to their small and manoeuvrable nature and the fact that they are electric, and therefore quiet. Motoring lawyer Nick Freeman stated that ‘people who use them inevitably will nip in and out’ and that ‘motorists are not going to see them’.
Other articles, such as one in the London Evening Standard show concern about riders who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, stating that this has been an issue previously in Berlin where e-scooters have been legalised for quite some time.
What’s more, fatalities involving e-scooters have already occurred, most notably last year when Emily Hartridge, a YouTuber and television presenter crashed one into a bin-lorry. However, of course, that occurred before some restrictions were put in place and when anyone could use an e-scooter without any license.
But despite all the concerns, Britain was the last country in Europe to legalise e-scooters, with many other countries seeing them as a good way to combat climate change and reduce traffic in built up areas such as cities. What’s more, given the current situation we’re in, they make for an efficient alternative to using public transportation, meaning that social distancing becomes less of an issue.
So what do you think of electric scooters? Are they a good, clean way to get around town or a potential safety hazard to both pedestrians and motorists? I’d love to hear your opinions so please send me them over on our social media pages – The Road Show: Duggystone Radio on FaceBook or DStoneRoadShow on Instagram.