Archive | SMMT Test Day

01 June 2012 ~ 0 Comments

Brief drive: Škoda Citigo Elegance GreenTech

2012 Škoda Citigo Elegance GreenTech

On the day that one of the most important new models in the history of Škoda goes on sale, we bring you our first impressions of the company’s new city car, the Citigo. The sixth model in the Czech company’s award-winning line-up, the Citigo combines all the modern touches expected of a 21st century car, allied to the traditional Škoda strength of value for money. Kicking off at £7630 for the three-door 1.0-litre 59bhp S, the range extends through SE trim, topping off with Elegance models. A wide range of desirable factory and dealer-fit options is available, as are five-door models, costing £350 over the equivalent three-door cars. One technological highlight of the Citigo is the Personal Infotainment Device (PID), a dashboard-mounted touch-screen information unit.

A sister car to the Volkswagen Up and SEAT Mii, the Citigo is most definitely the more ‘honest’ car, when compared to the pricier VW. All three are (for now) only available with three-cylinder, 1.0-litre engines in 59 and 74bhp tune. We tested the range-topping Elegance car, in 74bhp, GreenTech guise, available at £9860. Sounding gruff at first, the characterful three-pot is ideally suited to the town tiddler, thrumming away under high loads, but always smooth, making for easy and fun progress. The 13.2-second time to 62mph is more than acceptable for a car of this type, while the 70lb ft of torque the higher-powered engine produces is shared with its 59bhp sister. And while it does feel slightly more relaxed, there’s not a lot in it. Claimed combined mpg is 67.3, while Škoda quotes a magic 100g/km-busting emissions figure of 98g/km. Maximum speed is 107mph.

Our drive was limited to a couple of laps of the Millbrook Proving Ground ‘Hill Route’, and although not ideal for steep gradients and tight corners, the tiny Citigo coped admirably, with agile, but not sparkling handling. The ride is excellent (thank the 2.5m wheelbase for that), while you can quite believe Škoda’s claim that the Citigo (and therefore its Volkswagen Group cousins) sets new city car class standards for comfort, environmental considerations and technical sophistication. ‘GreenTech’ terminology means fuel-saving technologies including stop/start and brake energy recuperation, and lowered suspension. Elegance trim cars come with 14-inch ‘Apus’ alloy wheels, detachable PID, heated front seats, leather steering wheel, and front fog lights. Our car featured an entertainment pack, safety pack, and convenience pack, bringing the total price to £10,450.

While that’s Polo (or Fabia) money, the Citigo makes you smile, isn’t actually too much smaller, and is a much better proposition than the old Volkswagen Group city cars, the Lupo and Arosa. Yes, if we’re picky, the interior isn’t as nice as its German Up cousin, with lots of black plastic on show in our test car, but what there is, is well-built, the chunky three-spoke steering wheel feeling particularly nice. The most recent VW Group city car, the Volkswagen Fox was, although charming in a basic sort of a way at times, almost bland to the point of boring. You certainly can’t level that criticism at the Citigo. And, with ‘on the road’ prices around £500 less than the equivalent Volkswagen Up, its no-nonsense, not-quite ‘back to basics’ nature actually makes a lot of sense. Affordable, characterful, fun and neatly-styled, the Citigo should be a popular weapon in Škoda’s sales cannon.

Price: £9860
Engine: 1.0-litre three cylinder
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Power/torque: 74bhp/70lb ft @ 3000rpm
0-62mph: 13.2 seconds
Top speed: 107mph
Economy/CO2: 67.3mpg/98g/km
Equipment: 14” ‘Apus’ alloy wheels, PID, heated front seats, front fog lights
On sale: Now
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29 May 2012 ~ 0 Comments

SMMT Test Day 2012

SMMT Test Day 2012

An automotive pick and mix (or ‘Pic ‘n’ Mix’ in Woolworths speak) – that’s the SMMT Test Day. Staged annually at Millbrook Proving Ground, Bedfordshire, it’s a one-day gathering for over 300 UK-based motoring journalists to test around 140 cars, provided by 33 car manufacturers and importers. Also a chance to meet the PR staff from the car makers and to meet and make contact with fellow writers and bloggers, we went along this year, after receiving an invite from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) who have organised the event for over 25 years. And for starstruck wannabe motoring writers like ourselves, SMMT Test Day also lets you get up close and personal with your writing heroes.

Millbrook is the ideal place for testing anything with wheels, be they two or four. Built in the 1960s by Vauxhall, it boasts a three-section, progressive-gradient and tight-corner Hill Route to represent alpine driving roads; outer and inner-handling courses (used on SMMT Test Day as the ‘City Course’); and the High-Speed Bowl, a two-mile circular banked circuit which is used, as the name implies, for high-speed testing. The facility is well-known, having been featured in numerous challenges for BBC’s Top Gear; it is used for tests in the UK motoring programme Fifth Gear; and has played a starring role in the James Bond film Casino Royale. Though well-known, the venue isn’t open to the public, as camouflaged prototypes of as yet unreleased cars can often be seen pounding the enclosed routes, undergoing final testing.

So, the perfect venue. And with 140 cars available to grab the keys of, it was recommended to make a shortlist to use Millbrook to the full. With around 30 cars that appealed, our shortlist was a hopeless one, being more of a ‘longlist’, so as the day progressed, we plumped for models from inside the Volkswagen Group, with some notable Polo-based models included for healthy in-house competition. With our list, Audi A1s followed in the tyre tracks of SEAT Ibizas and Volkswagen Ups, and in the end, only 12 cars made the final ‘tested’ list, some 18 short of our initial plan! But, it was our first year in attendance, and we still had a fantastic day meeting up with some fellow tweeters, putting faces to names and testing a variety of models. We’ll publish brief drives from last week’s event over the next few days.

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