Steve Cro­p­ley Ad­mir­ing Volvo’s solid build qual­ity

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - Steve Cro­p­ley

SATUR­DAY, SUN­DAY

I’ve been driv­ing the Volvo XC40, which has been a thor­oughly up­lift­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s a new ar­rival on our test fleet and what strikes me in­stantly – be­sides the re­fresh­ingly non-ger­man cock­pit and the way it drives like a big car while fit­ting small-car spa­ces – is that this is the first car I’ve driven for ages with­out any hint of a trim rat­tle. Not one. I can’t get over how good it feels to bump through lo­cal rail­way cross­ings in a car that feels – in the trim mount­ing sense – as if it’s made of gran­ite. Silent trim is one of those things, like per­fect panel gaps, that you’d never list as a pri­or­ity in a buyer sur­vey but your car-nut’s sub­con­scious val­ues highly.

TUES­DAY

De­pressed. Just read a Twit­ter com­ment from a well-known mo­tor­ing hack, diss­ing diesels. “I know as a UK car journo you’re sup­posed to say diesel is great,” he writes, “but it’s hor­ri­ble and I’m glad its dy­ing out.” I think it’s re­gret­table. First, a de­cent hack has dis­qual­i­fied him­self from ever pass­ing be­liev­able judg­ment on a diesel model again. Sec­ond, even ag­gres­sive leg­is­la­tors agree the lat­est diesels are as clean as petrol cars. That doesn’t make ei­ther per­fect, but both are equally le­gal and re­spectable. Third, car mak­ers have to go on sell­ing th­ese (clean com­bus­tion) cars so they can af­ford to make the new-tech mod­els wait­ing in the wings. With­out that, there’ll be no cars, no jobs and no in­dus­try.

WED­NES­DAY AM

Took a new Mer­cedes A180d on a very in­ter­est­ing round trip to Coven­try. I’ve been bust­ing for a de­cent go in this car since read­ing An­drew Frankel’s bullish re­view a month or two ago and dis­cov­ered that (of course) he was spot on. The A-class diesel is com­fort­able and re­fined, with sweet con­trols and spec­tac­u­lar econ­omy (my 210-mile re­turn trip net­ted 67mpg). Best of all, its three driv­ing modes seem per­fectly judged: Com­fort is in­deed com­fort­able with­out be­ing bouncy and Sport of­fers bet­ter body con­trol with­out be­ing knob­bly. How­ever, the real rev­e­la­tion is Econ­omy. I usu­ally hate th­ese set­tings, so of­ten de­signed to dull the re­sponses great en­gi­neers have spent years and mil­lions de­sign­ing in. But in the A180d, Econ­omy pre­serves the smooth­ness and in­nate re­spon­sive­ness of the pow­er­train while pleas­ingly us­ing the low-revs torque and adding about 2.5mpg (ac­cord­ing to my early es­ti­mate) to what­ever you achieve in other regimes.

Your car-nut’s sub­con­scious val­ues silent trim highly

WED­NES­DAY PM

It’s 11 years since I helped per­suade Coven­try Univer­sity to launch a mas­ters de­gree in au­to­mo­tive jour­nal­ism, and in that time about 80 peo­ple have grad­u­ated, 50-odd of whom have sub­se­quently found ca­reers in our busi­ness. Which means (com­mer­cial mes­sage alert) that do­ing this course gives the grad­u­ate bet­ter than half a chance of find­ing a job in a line of work that’s very dif­fi­cult to en­ter.

Harangu­ing a bunch of su­per-keen stu­dents (which I’m in­vited to do an­nu­ally, as vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor) is never a chore. In­deed, ex­plain­ing the pos­i­tives of some­thing you love im­proves your own ap­pre­ci­a­tion of it. Pressed by some­one to name the very best thing about our brand of jour­nal­ism, I found my­self cit­ing the way in­di­vid­ual ef­fort is val­ued and re­warded.

Puts me in mind of a rhyme prais­ing in­di­vid­ual ef­fort from David Ogilvy’s fa­mous tome, Ogilvy on Ad­ver­tis­ing: “Search through all our towns and cities; you’ll see no stat­ues of com­mit­tees.”

Volvo is go­ing in the right di­rec­tion in terms of XC40’S build qual­ity

Diesel Merc A-class was fun and fru­gal in equal mea­sure

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