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  • Motors Road Test Archive is Live!

    July 30, 2010 @ 2:48 pm | by Michael McAleer

    Our new road test archive is now live on our website, with over 440 road tests, spanning several hundred thousand miles of test driving.

    And how things have changed over the years. And in most cases for the better. Back in 2002, when we tested the Mercedes E-Class E270 CDi, a car with 177hp and 425Nm of torque, it cost €68,000 and €1,146 to tax each year. Which was fine if you were a developer at the start of the Celtic Tiger years. But some eight years later, the E220CDi comes with 170hp and 400Nm of torque and will cost you €24,575 less at €43,425 and will cost you just €156 to tax each year. That is quite a change in just eight years.

    We now talk about emissions rather than engine size and back then diesel cars were still in the minority, making up 17 percent of the market and now almost the reverse it true.

    And as you’ll find from the archive, we’re not afraid to tell it as it is, as our Nissan Tiida review shows. If we don’t like the car, we don’t mince our words.

    We have driven some amazing cars over the years, from the Bugatti Veyron to the Lamborghini Reventon and everything in between but it is the everyday cars which are still at the heart of the weekly road test and it is often as likely that we will take as much joy from a €25,000 hot hatch as a €250,000 supercar.

    My favourite car has been the Volkswagen Golf GTi, a car that for me has been the best all-rounder of the last few years and is still the only car that I really hate leaving back.

    This is the first time that there has been such extensive access to a road test archive anywhere in Ireland and it is free of charge, too. It will allow you to look back over different generations of models and will be particularly useful if you are buying a used car as you can get an idea of how much it cost when it was new and also what we thought of it back then.

  • Speed camera in UK face axe in cuts: But are they useful in the first place?

    July 29, 2010 @ 6:23 am | by Michael McAleer

    Thousands of speed cameras look set to be switched off in the UK after the Government there slashed the money to fund them.

    Minsters have pushed through 40 percent cuts to the funding given to councils for road safety. This in turn will limit the amount of money the councils can pass to the road safety partnership, which run the cameras. Oxfordshire are set to turn off their cameras this week and Buckinghamshire says it is likely to follow. There will also be no funding given for new speed cameras.

    UK Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said at the weekend that this cut – which specifically ends central funding for fixed speed cameras – was “another example of this government delivering on its pledge to end the war on the motorist”.

    There has been mixed reaction to this news across the UK, with motorists and motorist’s groups largely welcoming the measure, with such cameras often seen as merely revenue generators. Swindon Borough Council switched off all its fixed speed cameras a year ago, claiming that they weren’t an effective tool in cutting road traffic accidents as only 6 percent were caused by people speeding. In the first six months after the cameras were switched off accident numbers across their sites remained the same.

    However there has been evidence in the past of the effectiveness of speed cameras in other locations. A 2004 study by University College of London, “The National safety camera programme: three year evaluation report” showed that vehicle speeds at speed camera sites had dropped by 7 percent following the introduction of cameras. At new sites, there was a 32 percent reduction in vehicles breaking the speed limit. At fixed sites, there was a 71 percent reduction and at mobile sites there was a 21 percent reduction. Overall the proportion of vehicles speeding excessively fell by 80 percent at fixed camera sites. And perhaps more crucially, 40 percent fewer people were killed or seriously injured.

    The gap left by the absence of the fixed cameras is likely to be filled by the police force, which many commentators are saying will end up costing much more to fund.

    What do you think? Do you think that speed cameras, specifically fixed ones, are an effective deterrent in reducing road deaths? Are they located in the right areas and at this stage doesn’t everyone know where they are anyway?

  • Footage from the Audi A7 reveal

    July 28, 2010 @ 10:43 am | by Michael McAleer
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  • Live from the Opel EcoFlex Experience

    July 22, 2010 @ 4:53 pm | by Michael McAleer

    Friday July 23

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    17.28

    Ireland is starting the 20-lap final race in 16th place. This might sound bad but it is still all to play for and we could as yet climb back up the field.

    16.14pm

    Ok, best fun I have had all day is the Opel bicycle (sad I know) which is a hybrid, powered in part by your legs and part by an electric motor. When you pedal you can choose the amount of assistance you want and it literally goes like a rocket. I want one.

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    This Opel bicycle uses an electric motor to make it go faster. It is mental.

    12.18pm

    Szczepan has completed two of his tasks and all seems to be going well so far and you can of course read about the results in this Wednesday’s Motors, but suffice to say at the half way point I think Ireland is still well within the running.

    The first event was eight laps of a circuit within a given time, with the winner the one using the least fuel. The second task was to drive around a city course within 9 minutes, again using as little fuel as possible, with me as a co-driver. That went well too, so the afternoon session will see a 20-lap ”race’ where the cars have a minimal amount of fuel and whoever finishes 20 laps first is the winner.

    At the end of the day, there is first prize of an Opel Ampera, second prize is an Astra and third prize is an Opel Corsa. Not a bad set of prizes for being mean with your fuel.

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    05.43am

    It is Day 2 of the Opel EcoFlex Experience and before we left yesterday we got to see the task that the journalists would have as part of the event. I will accompany the driver on the Opel Corsa City Tour, which is a pretend city driving situation on the circuit, all to be done within 9 minutes, with as little fuel as possible. I’ve done a few of these things myself but I’m not going to be driving, but our competitor, Szczepan is learning fast. The most challenging of the events he will face will be the finale, which is a 20-lap race around the circuit with only a small amount of fuel in the car. More later.

    Thursday July 22

    16.00 Hello from Sweden where I’m here to follow the Opel EcoFlex Challenge, where Opel is offering the chance for one lucky winner to walk away the owner of the new Opel Ampera, a car we drove a few short weeks ago here in Motors.

    One of the Opel EcoFlex Astras that competitors will use in the competition

    The competition features 20 countries and a driver from each of these nations, who qualified through an online competition will do a series of challenges, all of them geared towards using the least amount of fuel as possible.

    Ireland’s winner was Polish-born Szczepan Sroka who has been working as a delivery driver in Ireland. It is taking place at the Sturup Raceway in Sweden but obviously going fast isn’t the main purpose of this event.

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  • The driver’s education debate

    July 20, 2010 @ 3:03 pm | by Michael McAleer

    The awful two weeks that we have had on Irish roads, between the horrific Donegal accident and the motorsport deaths both in rallying and road racing have once again brought road safety into the headlines.

    We can once again start talking about methods of preventing accidents and although what happened in Donegal with the tragic death of eight people is not directly linked to motorsport, they are all linked to risk.

    As we all know by now, the most vulnerable group is young male drivers and this doesn’t matter what country you examine, the statistics will show you that they are most at risk. We can debate for days about the reasons why, but the clear facts are this group are often less experienced, often way too confident and they are also more likely to take risks by nature of their gender, their hormones and their relationship with their peer groups.

    We don’t know yet, for sure, what happened in Donegal that night, but we know that the majority of those people who lost their lives belong to a group that need the most care and attention if we are to reduce our road deaths further than we already have.

    So how do we do that? Do we need to introduce driver’s education into the school system? Unfortunately there is a problem with that, in that in the US, where it has been in existance for decades the statisticians struggle to find any direct benefit to a class-based system and the saving of lives. The difficulty being, that in a country where you can start driving at 15 or 16 in many states, the risk of these often semi-mature drivers having an accident is dramatically increased. And perversely it has been found that training younger drivers without giving them proper road experience can make them more likely to have an accident.

    Traditional driver-training programs that aim to increase vehicle-handling and manoeuvring skills have previously been related, somewhat counter-intuitively, to an actual increase in the crash rate of young drivers. This is believed primarily to be due to associated increases in confidence that result in greater risk taking while driving.

    A new form of teaching, used quite often in Scandanavian countries, known as Insight Driver Training uses a different approach, working on attitudinal-motivational skills. The aim is to raise drivers’ awareness of factors that contribute to crashes and potential risks when driving.

    Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) is Australia’s largest injury prevention specialist. They were commissioned to evaluate a driver-training program that alternatively aimed to provide greater insight and awareness of potential risks when driving, thereby targeting issues of over-confidence rather than traditional advanced driving skills.

    An example of an insight-training program was provided by AAMI Insurance in their Skilled Drivers of Australia program for recently licensed drivers. The one-day program was developed for 18-25 year olds and is comprised of both theoretical and practical components. MUARC was commissioned to evaluate the program in relation to changes in road safety attitudes and behaviours, and perceptions of enforcement and crash risk factors.

    The results were good, showing that

    • overall confidence in personal driving ability did not increase, with male drivers reporting reduced confidence in their driving ability;
    • participants reported greater discomfort driving close behind another vehicle;
    • they were less likely to agree that driver-training was a waste of time;
    • participants’ belief that they were a better driver than others became stronger;
    • they tended to report increased confidence in their ability to manage possible hazards when driving, mostly true for females;
    • they reported low levels of dangerous driving behaviours, as measured by the Driving Behaviour Questionnaire, that did not increase over the survey period;
    • the sensitivity of participants to the possibility of having a crash increased; and
    • the tendency of the young males to drive over the speed limit was reduced, at least to the lower level reported by females.

    Positive effects of being enrolled in the driver-training program and waiting to take part were also evident. Those waiting to take part in the course:

    • tended to less strongly perceive themselves as better than other drivers;
    • more strongly agreed they could use more training;
    • reported reduced confidence in their driving ability; and
    • tended to report greater awareness of the risk of having a crash or near miss, and of failing to see a hazard. (Source: MUARC)

    Perhaps we need to look at this and a graduated driving licence system to encourage younger drivers to adopt different behaviours.

    But what do you think? Given that we know the nature of the problem and we know who is most at risk, how to we instill into the most vulnerable groups a greater sense of awareness of the dangers?

  • The Korean firms come on strong

    July 14, 2010 @ 6:45 pm | by Michael McAleer

    Wednesday July 14 Budapest

    We are at the launch of the new Kia Sportage in Budapest and figures from the brand show that Kia and Hyundai combined are now the 4th biggest selling brand in the world. They have sold more than 5,000,000 cars this year globally and now sell more cars than Ford annually.

    Kia’s new Sportage has been designed by Peter Schreyer, whose CV includes the Audi TT and all of a sudden the Korean brands need to be taken very seriously indeed. From a design point of view you can see the Audi influence in the new cars, in particular this new Sportage which almost looks like a mini Audi SUV.

    Peter Schreyer

    The new Sportage is the third generation of the SUV, with the first a rather basic budget model in 1996, replaced in 2004 by the hugely successful second-generation model which had a peak in sales in 2005, when it sold 36,000 units and made up 9 percent of Kia’s sales in Europe.

    Kia's new Sportage

    The new genertion model is coming to Ireland in October Kia’s new Sportage is coming to ireland in October. The new car, which we are test driving here in Budapest and you can read about in Wednesday’s Motors will be available with two diesel power units, a 115hp 1.7-litre and a 136hp 2.0-litre.

    The 1.7-litre is 2wd only, while the 2.0-litre comes with both 2wd and 4wd. The 1.7-litre falls in Band B with road tax of €156, while the 2.0-litre in both 2wd and 4wd falls into Band C. Kia Ireland will launch with the 2.0-litre diesel in October with the 1.7-litre diesel following in time for the January 2011 market. Local specs and pricing will be announced closer to launch date.

  • Live Event Blog: BMW Innovations Day

    July 5, 2010 @ 1:18 pm | by Michael McAleer

    13.41

    Project i will also deal with the intermodal forms of transport. Data transfer can happen when the car is charging. Users may in the future get access to a standard car if they require it for longer trips and emergencies.

    13.11

    Project i will be aimed primarily at the major cities of the world. Trials have shown that with the Mini E, that cars tend to be stopped for more than 5 hours when they are charging.

    11.16

    Hydrogen is still part of the plan for BMW, but it is in the far away future – Hybrid is today, Electric is tomorrow and Hydrogen it appears is still some time away.

    11.11

    It strikes me when you look at the cell, which when you stand beside it is actually quite big, means that this car will be about the size of a Mini Clubman and since we know that there is no b-pillar, then we can probably guess that it will have rearward facing ‘suicide’ doors like Mazda’s RX-8.

    10.16

    The Megacity is rear wheel drive, but it isn’t just to make it more fun to drive. It gives better interior space, turning circle and crash safety

    BMW Megacity Carbon Fibre Frame

    Tuesday 07.11

    Last night we got a chance to speak to some of the project leaders of Project i, the think tank which has come up with the Megacity and you can hear what they had to say in Wednesday’s Motors and it is fascinating stuff.

    Suffice to say, the Mini E and the BMW Active E projects appear to be ways of the brand seeing what works and what doesn’t in terms of electric vehicles and from there they have pretty much torn up the rule book and appear to be starting from scratch.

    Monday 16.20

    It is time for a chemistry lesson. CFRP or Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic has been used on parts of the BMW M3 and M6 and now it is going to be used on the new range of EVs in the future. It is 30 percent lighter than aluminium and 50 percent lighter than steel.

    This takes me back to Physics class in school. Nodding knowingly at the teacher when he looks at me. I don’ t have a clue what he is on about.

    Monday 15.34

    Just had a drive in the Mini E electric car, which was trialled in the US and in Europe. BMW are telling us more about this trial later and what they have learned from it. It is a remarkably fast car, but in 18km I used 20% of the battery.

    Mini E

    Monday 13.00 Munich

    Good afternoon from Munich where BMW are drip feeding us information about their new Megacity Electric Vehicle Programme. We know that this new car will herald a sub-brand of BMW, that will take care of their small electric vehicles and that they will use carbon passenger cells to offset t rather lardy batteries.

    We’ve had an introduction as to why BMW are set to get involved in electric cars, so we have the usual figures wheeled out about oil running out and how there will have to be a move towards electrification. So far, nothing new. In the afternoon we will get a drive of the Mini E to test the powertrain and then see the cell of the new Megacity.

  • BMW Megacity points towards new BMW sub-brand

    July 2, 2010 @ 7:55 pm | by Michael McAleer

    BMW has revealed that it will produce a new range of cars from 2013 and that these city-biased electric vehicles will feature carbon contruction to offset the added weight of electric vehicles.

    BMW Megacity

    BMW has been trialling their battery technology in cars such as the MINI E, which they don’t intend to go into mass production, but this range of cars is likely to be where they will feature.

    This Monday we will attend a press conference in Munich where we will learn more on this technology and we will blog from the event.


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