We drove the Lexus NX300h: where bold styling meets ingenuity…

The Lexus NX is quite popular in its segment, and is one of its bestsellers in the European market. It has been facelifted twice now since its introduction in 2014. Its futuristic styling and angular contours make it stand out from its rivals, and for some this is also the reason to buy one. It carries of course the perfected and well honed hybrid technology the Japanese lucury brand has been well known for, and that is one of the more rational reasons to take this car among your favorites…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Kia Niro HEV revisited … and as frugal and refined as ever!

Recently we tested again the latest edition of the Kia Niro HEV, and were impressed again by its style, refinement and practicality.

Modern day hybrids are certainly here to stay, chalking up very impressive consumption figures. To tell you right away, the Kia 1,6 GDI “Kappa” engine in combination with the 6 speed Double Clutch transmission and a 32 kW electric engine delivered on a long drive in the Dutch countryside on secondary roads with lots of roundabouts an astonishing 4,6 liters/100 km, with quite a bit of stop and go dense holiday traffic thrown in too.

It is of course not only the economy which counts, it is also the way this performance is achieved, or rather the effortless and very refined way this performance is delivered. Especially slowing down for roundabouts and accelerating away from them is an exercise in which this hybrid due to its technical layout truly excels. Under moderate braking, the batteries are charged, and the Niro accelerates then subsequently under the assistance of e-power. Smooth, vibrationless, silent.

The combined power of the driveline is 141 HP, with 265 Nm of torque. This is virtually equal to the low end pulling power of a normally aspirated three liter engine, to put everything in perspective.

All this pulling power is available at the slightest blip of the throttle, and that is the beauty of it. Flat out acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h is done in 11,5 seconds, top speed is 162 km/h.

When maneuvering and parking, the e-engine does the work, and this makes it of course a very restful exercise.

A few words about the transmission: Kia developed the so-called Transmission-Mounted Electric Device (TMED), to optimize the cooperation between the engine and the e-motor, which makes it possible to transmit the full power of both units parallel through the transmission, with minimal power loss.

Style and practicality

We already commented earlier on the very pleasing contours of the Niro, and the car is styled in both styling centers in California and Namyang in Korea. The wheelbase is quite long with 2.700 mm, and the battery pack is lodged under the rear seat. This gives the Niro a standard luggage volume of 427 liter, which can be enlarged to 1425 liter.

Infotainment with Kia Connected Services, Android Auto™ and Apple CarPlay™.

We enjoyed the top of the range sound system with 8 JBL speakers and a 320 watt amplifier. The car was equipped with the DAB+ radio, and came also with Android Auto™, suited for Android devices with Lollipop 5 steering systems and higher. Users can also stream music through Google Play Music™.

Apple CarPlay™ will make complete voice control possible through Siri for several functions and apps, enable navigation with Apple-maps, and also make dictating text possible. Apple CarPlay™ supports also audio-apps, like music streaming and audio books which passengers have downloaded on their i-phone.

Needless to say we were spoiled again, and certainly enjoyed our “zen” drive with the Niro, listening in the quiet cabin to the beautiful semi-finals and finals of the Queen Elisabeth Competition for classic song and bel canto…

Conclusion

This second acquaintance convinced us one more of the uncanny mechanical refinement, style, practicality and last but not least economy of this Kia Niro. Add to this the low maintenance costs and expected longevity, with a 7 year/150.000 km guarantee thrown in, and you will agree with us that this Niro has a lot of good arrows on its bow…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

We drove the Skoda Karoq 2.0 TDI 150 HP 4×4 automatic: the Yeti successor gets a classic look…and is better than ever.

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When it comes to compact and bigger SUV’s, Skoda has some formidable cards up its sleeve. Its SUV’s all look pleasing and well proportioned, and are strong contenders in their respective segments. For the successor of the Yeti, Skoda opted for more mainstream styling, to win the hearts of ever more followers. It also offers even more room. Our test car came with the trusty two litre diesel engine, cleverly coupled to the 7-speed 4×4 DSG transmission. Clearly showing us again how smooth, powerful and thrifty modern powertrains have become…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the Tiguan Allspace 1.4 TSI DSG: the beauty of space…

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The Tiguan is an absolute bestseller in its home country, and VW decided to widen its appeal by offering a longer version, which allows it to be a 7 seater, or rather 5+2 as VW calls it, as the extra two seats are meant for smaller kids. The Tiguan has gained in stance and elegance with this elongated body, and it was also for us an opportunity to drive the latest generation Tiguan, and again be amazed by its chassis, suspension and the state of the art petrol engined drivetrain…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the Seat Arona Excellence 1.6 TDI 95 HP and 1.0 TSI 115 HP: it does your thing…the right way!

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Compact SUV and crossovers are all the rage nowadays, and the VW Group has many irons in the fire in this segment. Under the Seat brand it offers in the B segment the well styled Arona, which not only pleased us with its pure, angular contours, but also with the way it drives, handles and performs, and offers lots of pleasure to the whole family.

This test drive also amply showed us the high level of engineering and well honed workmanship which went into this Arona, and last but not least how good modern day diesel and petrol engines have become…

Just read further!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the Renault Espace 160 dCi EDC Initale Paris: your noble transport.

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French diplomats and heads of state use it for ceremonies and their daily business: indeed, this car has earned its marks amongst people which matter. And rightly so. Laurens van den Acker and his styling people succeeded in giving the latest generation of the Renault flagship people carrier this style and panache which sets it out from the crowd. But the latest Renault Grand Espace does not only please the eye. It also has qualities which make it enviable to own and drive. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the Mazda MX-5 1.5 SKYACTIV-G SkyCruise: the purest joy of roadster driving.

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Never mind the season: this MX-5 teaches you what car driving is all about, and it is the ultimate four wheeled pleasure, whatever the weather, whatever the road. Many people have seen the light, and have bought an MX-5, and therefore it is the most sold open two seater sportscar in the world, actually more than a million of it have already hit the road. About seeing the light, did you know that Mazda is an ancient Iranian god of light?

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The fourth generation of the MX-5, called the ND series, was presented for the European market on the Paris Motor Show in September 2014. The RF (Retractable Fastback) version came late 2016.  A lot of detailed and clever engineering has gone into the car to improve it even more. We drove the roadster for this test over French wintery roads, and are totally smitten. It is surprisingly comfortable, yet has lost nothing of its agility and handling, together with a masterfully willing engine and delightful manual 6 speed gearbox. Pure joy remains built in. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the Renault Alaskan 190 HP dCi auto: a sturdy gallic companion for all your roads…

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Pickups are all the rage, and they have already inspired entire nations, like the USA for instance. They evoke the lure of wide open spaces, and also Europeans find this ever more attractive. Therefore, it is only logical that Renault uses the opportunities of its alliance with Nissan to add a formidable pickup to its range which bears many similarities with the Nissan Navara NP 300. This Alaskan was initially unveiled in Colombia in 2016 and is already a success in Latin America’s long-standing pick-up market, the Renault Alaskan went on sale in Europe in September 2017. We drove it for you with the powerful 190 HP 2,3 liter diesel engine. Making a strong statement wherever you go…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the new Nissan Leaf: more power, more range, and more style.

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The Leaf has certainly come of age, and this amply shows. The new Leaf has a more dynamic shape, with more sleek lines and bolder profiles. But that is not all. Advanced technologies, as Nissan calls it, have also been built in this new Leaf. Like an e-Pedal and ProPILOT autonomous drive technology, which is further enhanced with ProPILOT Park. We could extensively test it all at the presentation held by the dynamic people of Nissan BeNeLux recently.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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We drove the Renault Mégane Grandtour DCi 130 hp: a smooth and stylish operator…

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Renaults now really stand out in style, thanks to the creativity and talents of Laurens Van den Acker and his team. Renaults have now a bold and characteristic styling language and identity. Moreover, they have timeless and excellent proportions, and this Grandtour version of the Mégane amply proves the point. On top of all that, there is mechanical refinement to be enjoyed, and indeed, during the test of this diesel engined, lively Renault, we more than often had broad smiles on our face…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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