The Nissan Micra gets brand new petrol engines…

The Citadela Art District in the posh coastal Portugese riviera town Cascais proved the proper setting for the Nissan Micra to present its new petrol engines… 

We drove the stylish Micra in scenic Lisbon and the winding roads historic Cascais to test the new generation of very impressive three cylinder petrol engines, which will give the Nissan Micra a high tech trump card in the B segment for years to come.

Central place is taken by a totally new developed 100 HP 1 litre unit which embodies all the engineering and production knowhow of the alliance Renault/Nissan/Mitsubishi, a smooth and frugal performer which can be mated to either a 5 speed manual or an excellent CVT auto box.

But there is more, as together with Mercedes a different version was developed using the same block, but adopting a different cylinder head with double overhead camshaft and centrally placed direct injection. See this photo here…

All this results in an altogether sportier engine delivering 117 HP. This engine is coupled exclusively to a 6 speed manual. More on the driving impressions of the Micra with these future proof petrol engines soon…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

We drove the Abarth 124 GT: Gran Turismo pure

What makes a two seater roadster a thoroughbred Gran Turismo? A difficult question for all of us, but the men at Abarth have the anwser. On the basis of the Mazda MX-5 they got to work, and added all the unique ingredients to make a sporting masterpiece.  It is built in Hiroshima, but finished in Turin, to give it that special Abarth zest and look, for all of us who love Italian four wheeled panache. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Abarth 124 GT: Gran Turismo pure”

We drove the new Fiat Tipo 1.4 MultiAir Turbo 120 hp: a world class car…

The latest generation Fiat Tipo is conquering our globe. Again Fiat shows with this world beater how much know it has acquired in creating and building compact five seaters with panache. Everything is “just right” about this Tipo, whether we talk about its proportions, timeless styling, drivetrain, platform and suspension, you name it.

Moreover, it offers excellent value for money. We drove here for you the smooth and frugal 120 hp petrol engine, coupled to a slick six speed manual gearbox. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the new Fiat Tipo 1.4 MultiAir Turbo 120 hp: a world class car…”

The Abarth 124 shines already in 2019 with a FIA R-GT Cup Win in the Monte Carlo Rally…

Whilst we are driving now the stunning and totally impressive Abarth 124 GT, the news reaches us that the 2019 racing season began with success for Abarth in the FIA R-GT Cup in the Monte Carlo Rally, where the Abarth 124 rally driven by Italians Enrico Brazzoli and Manuel Fenoli reached top position.

This makes the Abarth 124 rally again the GT to beat in its category, having won in 2018 with Frenchmen Raphael Astier and Frédéric Vauclare who can be considered the world championship of this category… Just read on and look at the photos!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “The Abarth 124 shines already in 2019 with a FIA R-GT Cup Win in the Monte Carlo Rally…”

The Fiat 500 is more popular than ever in Europe…

The cute, lovable, timelessly iconic “Cinquecento” conquers European car loving hearts ever more: last year, almost 194,000 units were registered in Europe: the best ever annual figure in an eleven-year lifetime.

This makes the 500 the best-seller in 11 European countries, and in the top three in another four.

One of the keys to its success are the more than 30 special series. Novelties for 2018 included the new special series: 500 Mirror, 500 Collezione “Primavera”, 500 Spiaggina ’58 and 500 Collezione “Autunno”. Not to forget of course the new Abarth 595 range, the evolution of the Scorpion brand’s famous 500.

The 500 sets another record for the best-selling car in its segment, where it has also achieved its second best ever share of about 15%.

“This sales record reminds us that the 500 is a real timeless automotive icon, and not just for the Fiat brand,” declares Luca Napolitano, Head of EMEA Fiat and Abarth brand.  “Over its 11-year lifetime, the 500 has never gone out of fashion, and has been successful everywhere as a symbol of Italian and design and manufacturing.

“Like its illustrious predecessor, the new 500 has “brightened up” the daily lives and streets of the whole world, becoming a cool solution to international urban mobility needs”, he continued.

“Today it is the most global Fiat car, sold in more than 100 countries worldwide and with 80% of volumes generated outside Italy. Overall, from 2007 to the present, more than 2 million 110 thousand Fiat 500 cars have been built, rising to more than 6 million when added to those of the model’s predecessor, produced from 1957 to 1977, making it one of the best-selling Fiat models of all time”.

 

Displayed now in the New York MoMa…

The Fiat 500 F series will officially go on public display from February 10, 2019, as part of The Museum of Modern Art’s “The Value of Good Design” exhibition in New York.

To crown the achievements of 2018, a truly wonderful year, last December it was announced that on 10 February, during the “The Value of Good Design”, exhibition, the historic Fiat 500 F series car purchased by the MoMA in New York, will be put on public display for the first time, confirming its symbolic importance on the global design scene.

Sales success also for the Abarth 595…

We ourselves just love the “Cinquecento”, and its many versions. We hope to present you soon with some of them, and last but not least there is the new Abarth 595 range.

In October, in fact, the Sicilian capital hosted the debut of this latest incarnation of the famous Scorpion 500, expressing the two sides of its personality: performance and style. The new Abarth 595 was unveiled to an audience of fans during the Classic re-evocation of the legendary “Targa Florio”, the world’s oldest motorsports race. As you all know, Karl Abarth was closely associated with the Targa Florio, starting right after the War, as Sicily’s winding roads seem to be tailor-made for showing off his racing cars’ qualities. So the Scorpion and the Targa share a close bond, and a history of racing successes and memorable anecdotes.

“With around 23,500 cars sold in Europe and an increase of 36.5%, Abarth is achieving the best result in 2018,” explains Luca Napolitano, responsible for Fiat and Abarth for the EMEA region. “The results were excellent for numerous markets, such as Great Britain, with 5,600 units sold, with a record increase of 26.8%, or even more Spain, with 1,450 sales (+ 26.6%). On the Belux market, the brand also achieved a brilliant performance in 2018, with 1,452 units sold, an increase of 27% compared to 2017!

We hope to seduce you when spring comes, to treat you with our driving impressions of this totally iconic and sporting 595 Abarth, and of course you will welcome with us a test drive of the other versions of this timelessly endearing “Cinquecento”…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

New Range Rover Evoque makes show debut in Brussels… and we speak with its designer.

There was news to be seen and admired on the Range Rover show stand at the Brussels Salon, with the sleek and clean Range Rover Evoque. The car has already been presented in London in November last year, but its show debut comes in Brussels.

A very refined car, with a pure styling language which we also find in the Velar. Indeed, a modernist exterior design, with an equally clean lined  technology-rich interior with new materials crafted from eucalyptus, wool and recycled plastics. (See the seat upholstery below…)

The Evoque is available with a range of efficient four-cylinder diesel and petrol engines and Land Rover’s first mild-hybrid electric technology (MHEV).

Exterior designer Jeremy Waterman at the presentation of the new Evoque in Brussels… 

The Evoque pioneered the luxury compact SUV market, with global sales of over 772,096 and more than 217 international awards, and the new Range Rover Evoque is a quite sophisticated evolution of the original.

Tech firsts include ‘see through bonnet’ technology and a rear-view mirror that turns into an HD screen displaying a camera feed of what’s behind the vehicle.

What we most admired was the clean design, and its purist simplicity and modernism. At the presentation, we had a short interview with Jeremy Waterman, Chief Designer, Exteriors Land Rover. Jeremy Waterman is a senior member of the exterior design team working under Massimo Frascella, Land Rover’s Creative Director for Exterior Design. In 2004 Jeremy moved to Land Rover Design in Warwickshire.

 

In his time at the Land Rover Design studios in Gaydon, Jeremy has been involved in a series of projects working as Exterior Designer on the 2008 LRX Concept and as Exterior Designer / Design Manager on both the 2011 Range Rover Evoque and 2013 Range Rover Sport models. More recently Jeremy has worked closely as part of the Range Rover Velar and Range Rover Evoque design team.

Standing besides the Evoque, I addressed a few questions to Jeremy:

HKTB: “The design language is much more pure, and it remembers me of the original Rover 2000, the simplicity and clean lines, also found then in the dashboard…”I commented.

The dashboard of the iconic car of the early sixties, the Rover 2000, here already with the Buick based V8 3,5 liter engine, found in many Range Rovers since. Its beautiful simplicity and clean lines were a styling benchmark… 

YW: “Yes, this is indeed this reductive journey we’re on, taking all the superfluous elements off the car, it does give you this simplicity and timeless quality, which is what we are trying to do. It also gives you that modernity feel, combined, we have to do all the precise detailing, we say that the more you pare the design back, the more you have to have the elements that are left back precise, so with our great engineers we worked very well together to get a very luxurious, modern and sophisticated product. But it still got the character of the original Evoque, the sideview and the proportions.

HKTB:“The car was a success”…

YW“Yes, we still love that car, but this one is more is more modern and sophisticated.”

HKTB: “Who actually had the idea originally to make the small window?”

YW: “Actually the design team, as a result of rising waist and falling roof, you end up with that very pillar-box rear window. But without it, it wouldn’t have that character. It made the car really, with that visual robustness and the wheel at each corner, you have to remember, it was a very different proportion when this Rover first came out, but as we know it just worked.”

Yeremy Waterman continued: “It also brought youth into the brand, and it gave the customers a platform to start into the larger vehicles, we are very proud of what that car did. This one equally is a step on, the technology and as you say the interior, more car, more sophisticated, and this with the technology and the increased legroom; when you see the ground view, the deletion of the bonnet with the cameras, it is just fantastic…”

HKTB: “Thank you very much”

YW: “Thank you very much, it was a pleasure to meet you!”

We show you here some photos of this elegant and refined Evoque, and needless to say we are very keen to lay our hands on one in the near future…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We collect our Lexus CT 200h…

Our Lexus CT200h stood shining in the showroom, and Dirk Kinot of GMAN Antwerp proudly handed us over the keys… 

It is always a big day when one gets a new car, even when we have driven so many. Last but not least because it will be our own mount, and we will use it for many years to come.

Just mount the license plates and hit the road…

We were again pleased to see its deep blue colour, shining after a careful valet cleaning by the people of Toyota GMAN at IJzerlaan 3 in Antwerp. GMAN had the car fully serviced prior to delivery with the 90.000 km scheduled inspection, and GMAN had installed for us a brand new 12 Volt battery and a new internal lining of the engine hood, as the original one was apparently eaten away at some places by ferrets or animals who apparently just love the fabric . We also received a 1 year, unlimited mileage guarantee.

In the documents, presented to us by Dirk Kinot, of GMAN Antwerp, the full service history was included. The car was regularly serviced by Lexus Waterloo. The car was obviously carefully maintained by its previous owner, and besides the service booklet, the full manual of the car was handed over to us in pristine condition.

These details make the joy of receiving a “new” pre-owned car even greater. The interior of our Lexus was carefully valeted and cleaned, and the textile beige upholstery looks and feels like new. The bodywork has some minute blemishes and scratches in the neighbourhood of the fuel filler cap, on the upper part of the left side rearview mirror, and a barely visible crack in the left outside rear light cluster. Some corrosion is seen on two alloy wheels. All this will soon be attended to… we want our Lexus to look top notch!

Dirk Kinot puts the licence plates on the Lexus… 

We were pleased to see that our Lexus was shod with Semperit M & S all weather tires, which makes our Lexus immediately fit for wintery conditions.

A very promising first drive…

The first meters with our Lexus proved satisfying indeed. We plunged the car straight away into Antwerp city traffic, and we enjoyed immediately the smoothness of its hybrid drivetrain, and on the urban cobblestones we appreciated the tautness of the body, the precision of the steering, which lets us clearly feel that this low-mileage example has never seen any rough treatment. We filled up the tank and will soon take it further through its paces… Stay tuned for more!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

 

We spoke with Charlie Cooper, the grandson of one of the founding fathers of modern motorsport…

If there is a man who played a pivotal role in the evolvement and development of Formula One and motorsports as we know it, then it is John Cooper, who founded the Cooper Car Company with his father Charles, just after the Second World War.  The company started regular production of rear-engined 500cc cars in 1948.

It was Moss’s victory in the 1958 Argentinean Grand Prix that would really put the company from Surbiton firmly on the map. Moss was contracted to the Vanwall team for that year, but delays in adapting their engines to run on new fuels caused them not enter the race. Moss accepted the offer from Rob Walker to drive his privately entered 2.0-liter Cooper in the event.

In the end, the small Cooper’s good handling and the driving skill of Moss, saw them finish ahead of Luigi Musso’s Ferrari by just 2.7 seconds after 80 laps of racing. The racing world was surprised, Ferrari and Maserati had been defeated!

We spoke with at the celebration of 60 year MINI at the BMW stand on the Brussels Show with Charles Cooper, and you can read here more about this great conversation we both had.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We spoke with Charlie Cooper, the grandson of one of the founding fathers of modern motorsport…”

MINI celebrates 60 years anniversary at the Brussels Motor Show 2019

The MINI stand at the Brussels Motor Show 2019 is dedicated entirely to an important anniversary. It is the scene of the world premiere of the MINI 60 Years Edition. 60 years on, MINI presents a model program to the Brussels Motor Show visitors from 19 to 27 January that offers a modern interpretation of the brand’s core properties. It ranges from the first MINI to feature an electric motor through to the extremely sporty John Cooper Works models.

Anniversary design model: the MINI 60 Years Edition.

With its exclusive design and equipment features, the MINI 60 Years Edition – to be shown in public for the first time in Brussels – authentically expresses the traditional sporting spirit and British origins of the brand.

A distinctive appearance is ensured by the body colour British Racing Green, a contrasting finish on the roof and exterior mirror caps, bonnet stripes in a specific anniversary design and 17-inch light alloy wheels in the version 60 Years Spoke 2-tone. The anniversary logo also appears on the side scuttles, door sill finishers, front headrests as well as in the LED logo projection on the driver’s side. In addition the exclusive design model has model-specific interior trim finishers.

The standard equipment of the edition vehicles also features a sports leather steering wheel as well as sports seats in the leather trim MINI Yours Leather Lounge 60 Years and the exclusive colour Dark Maroon. The MINI 60 Years Edition will be available from March 2019 onwards as a MINI 3 door and MINI 5 door, each with four engine variants.

But there is more, we also interviewed on the MINI stand in Brussels Charlie Coorper, the grandson of the famous founder of Cooper Car Company. Read further in these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

The many faces and talents of the Fiat Panda…

Fit for wintery weather: the award winning Panda Cross… 

Presently we are driving a smooth and refined 1,4 liter Fiat Tipo Hatchback, and are impressed by its many qualities. It makes you again clearly realize that FCA products are going from strength to strength in engineering excellence, workmanship and driving pleasure.

These thoughts just led us to focus here on the iconic Panda, which has been making its mark in the auto world for 30 years now. It has had some impressive firsts: it was the first city car to have 4WD technology, the first city car to reach an altitude of 5,200m and attain the Everest base camp, as well as being the first natural gas fuelled city car to be produced on a large scale.

Just recently the Fiat Panda Cross has once again won the Crossover category in this year’s 4×4 Magazine ‘4×4 of the Year 2019 awards’. Judges praised it for its lively engine, traction finding ability and fun factor, never failing to put a smile on their faces. Alan Kidd, editor of 4×4 Magazine, commented “I don’t think there is any vehicle that won its class so consistently down the years, as the Panda Cross. It has been wonderfully consistent in what it offers – while also getting better all the time.”

Green and versatile: the Panda CNG… emitting just 97 g / km CO². 

Dominique Fontiginies, the dynamic PR Manager of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Belgium, pointed out today in his press release that with more than 750,000 natural gas vehicles sold in Europe, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is the undisputed market leader in CNG technology. Rightly so, as one knows that the cars with CNG engine (operating on natural gas) are currently the most effective solution to reduce pollution in the city and to strongly reduce CO² emissions. Indeed, with this type of engine, CO2 emissions are as much as 23 percent lower than with petrol engines, while the emission of fine soot particles is virtually nil.

He presented in today’s release the merits of the Panda CNG, powered by a 900 cc two-cylinder turbo petrol engine with 70hp, emitting just 97 g / km CO². This four wheeled city hero is by no means Spartan: The Panda, equipped as standard with ABS brake system, ESP, 6 airbags and a tire pressure control system, also offers a very ergonomic seating comfort and equipment that includes Uconnect Bluetooth radio, central door locking with remote control, air conditioning and electric windows in front.

The Fiat Panda CNG is available on the network of official Fiat distributors from € 13,490 VATI (€ 13,044 in Luxembourg).

In this wintery weather, we would indeed like to drive the in February or March the cute and very able 4 x 4 Panda Cross, and drive into spring behind the wheel of a Panda CNG… and we join here above the sunny picture joined by Mr. Fontignies in his release!

Hans Knol ten Bensel