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


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

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


Brussels Salon drives into the future…

We will treat you in the coming days ans weeks to an extensive report on the Brussels Motor Show, with some notable (world) premieres like the Range Rover Evoque, for instance. We will also let you listen in with some interviews, notably of the designer of the Evoque, and also celebrate 60 years of Mini with further interesting encounters. Driving into the future autonomously on e-power is also very much in tht foreground, like this Smart Vision EQ fortwo you see here on the photo. It is designed with car sharing in mind, and takes its passengers whenever and wherever they want to go, and it doesn’t even have a steering wheel or any commands…

Stay tuned on these columns for more!

Hans Knol ten Bensel


European premiere in Brussels for the new 911 Carrera 2S and 911 Carrera 4S

In 2019, Porsche will once again be found in Palace 1 of Brussels Expo, exclusively reserved for the prestigious Dream Cars exhibition. This year this ‘expo-in-the-expo’ will be held throughout the Brussels Motor Show. After 2018, a commercially quite successful year with no less than 3,222 Porsches were registered in Belgium, Porsche presents the eighth generation of the mythical 911 in a European premiere.

Two versions are shown to the Belgian public: the 911 Carrera 2S and the 911 Carrera 4S. The impressive Porsche booth, 600 m2 in size, will undoubtedly become the main attraction of Palace 1.

11 cars on the stand

The three 911 type 992, undeniably the stars of the 97th Brussels Salon, are in good company.

The Panamera GTS and Sport Turismo are pinnacles of GT comfort, style and speed… 

Thanks to the 718 Boxster & 718 Cayman, Macan, Cayenne and Panamera, the entire Porsche range can be admired from 19 to 27 January.

Soon we tell you more about the magnificent 911 in our columns, so stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Lexus: hybrid premium class at the Brussels Motor Show

Lexus has always been synonymous with luxury and hybrid propulsion. But besides stunning technology and design, there is also reliability. This bodes well for our 2012 Lexus CT 200h which will soon join our stable and we will use with pleasure for years to come. But did you know that Lexus was chosen as the most reliable car brand in a survey of ‘Test Aankoop’ at no less than 9,000 Belgians and at the French consumer organization ‘Que Choisir’, which was based on a survey among 37,000 consumers?  The brand also came first again in the ‘J.D. Power 2018 Vehicle Dependability Study ‘of most reliable brands. It is also worth noting that 99.9% of all models that Lexus sells in Belgium are self-charging hybrids.

The elegant UX 250h, aiming  at the urban explorer, and a trendsetter in its class…

Lexus will present in Brussels the seventh generation Lexus ES 300 h as a European première. It has besides new styling also a completely revised and new GA-K (Global Architecture) platform, and has the 2,5 l engine mounted in its hybrid system. It is also elected by the Euro NCAP as Europe’s safest car in the Hybrid and electric cars/big sedans category. Its low CO2 emissions make it very interesting tax-wise.

The beautiful Lexus RC has some interior and dashboard refinements, introduced at the Paris Salon, and last but not least we will stand eye to eye with the UX 250h, aiming elegantly at the urban explorer. It is the first Lexus to use the GA-C or Global Architecture Compact platform.

It is all to see at the Palace 4 of the Brussels Motor Show, just take a look at the photos for now…

Hans Knol ten Bensel


We drove the Toyota Mirai: part 2

Driving is believing, the saying goes. And at first, we almost couldn’t believe it: this Mirai just drives as smoothly and zestfully as an electric car. Which, actually, it is. Only, it does not take its electricity from batteries, but from a fuel cell. That is indeed, the major difference. This means, that you can refuel it in minutes, and then drive for another 340 kilometers or so. Just like an ordinary petrol engined car. Only it emits water, and nothing else.

Driving it was a refined and thoroughly enjoyable experience, just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Toyota Mirai: part 2”

We drove the Toyota Mirai: the future has truly arrived…Part 1

What better automotive adventures than to spend the last days of the year behind the wheel of a Toyota Mirai? None, we would say. After having enjoyed the smooth and refined qualities of this Mirai – which is Japanese  (未来) for future-  we are truly convinced that Toyota has fully succeeded  to build a thoroughly stunning, reliable, useable fuel cell vehicle, which offers everyday practicality, comfort and a unique driving experience. In this first part, we show and explain its stunning technology.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Toyota Mirai: the future has truly arrived…Part 1”

We drove the Alpine A 110: The pinnacle of French sporting panache

Alpines have always been iconic cars for us. How we loved the Berlinette rally cars of the 60’s and 70’s with their fluent contours, their growling sound, their speed, indeed, their panache. Building a modern successor with the same look, qualities and character is no small challenge. But Alpine, conceived as a standalone business unit within Groupe Renault, has succeeded, and how…

We already enjoyed this formidable thoroughbred at the latest Zoute Grand Prix GT Tour, where your servant had the privilege to be invited by Anja Van der Borght to be her co-driver at this event. You can read about this exhilarating experience in our columns. You can easily imagine our delight when the dynamic PR people of  Renault Belux offered us a regular test drive in their French racing blue Alpine. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Alpine A 110: The pinnacle of French sporting panache”

We drove the VW Touareg Tiptronic III 3.0 V6 TDI: a very impressive flagship…

State of the art technology is more than ever the hallmark of Germany’s largest automaker. Its Touareg opened more than a decade ago the era of the luxury high performance SUV brimming with sophistication and avant-garde mechanics. VW wants to maintain this tradition, and indeed, its latest generation Touareg has what it takes to set again new standards in its segment. This new flagship is now amongst us, and it is a formidable car, sharing its platform with the Bentley Bentayga and the Lamborghini Urus… Need we say more?

We drove for you here the version with the supersmooth and velvety powerful 3 liter V6 diesel engine, which again proves brilliantly how good modern diesels have become. It is coupled to an equally superb 8 speed Tiptronic and features as standard equipment the 4MOTION all wheel drive. All this warrants a delightful driving experience, and indeed that’s what it proved to be… Just read on.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the VW Touareg Tiptronic III 3.0 V6 TDI: a very impressive flagship…”