Steve Cropley Admiring Volvo’s solid build quality
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.
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.
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
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