peugeot

I’ll admit it – driving in Scotland is fun

David was able to enjoy Scotland safely in his Mazda MX-5

IT’S BEEN a while since I’ve had a pen pal but I seem to have picked one up at Classic Car Weekly. He doesn’t write often but the topic’s always the same – I’m apparently guilty of glamorising driving dangerously on rural roads.

So he’ll no doubt be writing in when he discovers I’ve just spent a weekend driving around the Scottish Highlands, not to visit a distant aunt in Fort William, but for fun. I’ll admit it; I did nearly 1000 miles over four days for no good reason other than to drive on great roads simply because I enjoy doing it.

We’ll start with the location. Pick up any of the glossy travel mags and they’ll tell you that the A82 between Glasgow and Glencoe is Europe’s best stretch of road but this simply isn’t true – you can’t enjoy driving it because you’ll be stuck behind a lorry winding its way up to Inverness, and you can’t stop to admire the view because all the laybys are full of Dutch motorhomes. But the A87 and the A887 are utterly wonderful. Set off from Southport tomorrow morning and you’ll be there by mid-afternoon, and because you’ll want to stay overnight you’ll be giving the Scottish economy a helping hand, too.

But the real joy is you can do all of this without going anywhere remotely near a speed limit. Yes, I’ll freely admit that there were far too many people up in the Highlands driving dangerously in BMW X5s and doing silly overtakes in Honda Civic Type-Rs, but that’s something you’re as likely to see in Parbold as you are in Pitlochry. The trick is to drive around in a car that thrills at real world speeds.

I spent the weekend up there in my Mazda MX-5 but you’d be just as happy in any MG, Caterham, Lotus or Alfa Spider – and if you do need something with an extra set of seats, anything vaguely old with a Peugeot, Ford or BMW badge up front should suit the bill. Some of the best drives I’ve ever done have been at the helm of a derv-driven Peugeot 306 and a 15-year-old Ford Mondeo, so don’t knock ‘em until you’ve tried them!

But the end result is always the same; you emerge with a smile on your face, the Highlands economy gets a boost, and – unless you really do drive like a berk – Police Scotland don’t have to deal with unnecessary paperwork. Drive sensibly of course, but freely admit that it’s something you enjoy, like playing a piano or going fishing.

I might even arrange for my pen pal to go up there and for there to be an Austin-Healey 3000 waiting at the other end. Chances are, I suspect he’ll enjoy it…

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Separated at birth – the story of two very different Peugeot hot hatches

Peugeot made one of the greatest hot hatches in the 205 GTI - but prices now can vary wildly

WILLY Russell fans might want to stick around for this week’s motoring musings. It’s essentially Blood Brothers in four-wheeled format, albeit starring a couple of old Peugeots rather than two Scousers separated at birth.

Our two protagonists both happen to 205 GTis, born in the same French factory and fitted with the same delightfully revvy 1.9-litre, 105bhp engine. They were even painted the same shade of Alpine White, and both were welcomed into a world where excitable road testers thought the 205 GTi was the best hot hatch ever made. With the exception of not quite having the same birthday – oh alright, one’s three years older than the other – they’re pretty much identical.

Except, as anyone familiar with Liverpudlian musicals will testify, they really aren’t.

Our two go-faster Peugeots, having led very different lives once they’d left the factory, both happened to go under the hammer at two separate auctions within 24 hours of each other recently. The younger of the two, which had done 103,000 miles but definitely wasn’t a shabby example, was yours for a shade under six grand. That’s a lot more than they used to fetch, but even in 2017 not exactly verging on unreasonable.

But then its older brother stepped into the spotlight. It was a 1988 car that had been given away in a competition – to a winner who couldn’t drive – and as a result still has fewer than 6000 miles on the clock. It’s also been wrapped up in cotton wool every night and doted on for the past five years by a Peugeot evangelist, so you’d expect it’d fetch a little bit more at auction.

It ended up selling for £38,480. That’s 15 grand more than you’ll pay for a brand new 208 GTi, which has airbags, traction control and a warranty.

Obviously just about everyone ended up fixated on what was a phenomenal result for a 29-year-old hot hatch, but if you live in the real world it’s the first price that’ll bear more relevance. Old cars with minimal mileages and unblemished panels come out of the woodwork every so often and go for some eyeball-grabbing price, but it doesn’t suddenly make that old Golf GTi rusting away at your mate’s garage worth a million quid. Only last weekend a Vauxhall Nova with a particularly exciting backstory sold online for £65,000 – that’s Porsche Cayman money – but it doesn’t mean the one you used to own is worth the same.

Blood Brothers ends of course with both protagonists getting shot – something which probably won’t happen to either of our elderly Peugeots. But if you believe the hype and spend over the odds on some vaguely trendy bit of 1980s motoring, you might end up shooting yourself. In the foot, of course…

The Government ban on petrol and diesel in 2040 will be fine for new cars. It’s the old ones I’m worried about

Cars like the BMW i3 have made zero emissions motoring more fashionable

APOLOGIES to Mark Twain’s estate for having to shamelessly pilfer one of his better-known quotes. Reports of the car’s death – which you’ve probably read over the past week or so – have been greatly exaggerated.

Chances are you’ll already be aware of the Government’s intention to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars as of 2040, which a million internet bores instantly took to mean the death knell for motoring fun as we know it. The party that Karl Benz and his pals threw back in 1886 is finally over, because we all overdid it and got drunk on AC Cobras and Range Rover Sports.

But calling it quits isn’t really doing us as a species, particularly those of who love cars, much credit. Ever since we figured out that we had opposable thumbs and could light fires we’ve been pretty good at working out answers to things, and even by the Government’s own prescription we have roughly 23 years to solve this one.

I’m not going to get into how we make the clean energy that propels a zero emissions car but the end result’s a lot better than it used to be. Seven years ago I drove an electric MINI that had a battery so huge it took up the back seats, a range of barely 100 miles and engine braking so severe you could pull up at roundabouts without touching the middle pedal. It only took another two years for the motor industry to invent an electric car that was fun to drive – take a bow, Renault Twizy – and fast forward to 2017 and the charging points at motorway service stations are crammed with Nissan Leafs and Teslas. If we’ve made it this far in seven years, you probably won’t need a diesel Golf as a new car in two decades’ time.

The bit I worry about is what happens with all the old ones. The more intelligent people at Westminster have already said that banning them isn’t the answer, partly because outlawing the MGB is a bit like banning Buckingham Palace and more importantly because the nation’s classic car hobby is worth £5.5 billion to the British economy (and it’s still growing). Horses have been old hat to commuters since the Austin Seven showed up, but they’re still allowed to use our roads.

But the thing with horses is that you only need straw, carrots and a decent vet to keep them going. If everyone else is driving electric cars in 2040 will there still be petrol stations to fill up the MGF or the Peugeot 205 GTI? Or places that can do a new battery for an Audi TT?

The car, I honestly reckon, will live on. It just might be a bit trickier than it used to be.

The Volkswagen Scirocco is part of a dying breed

The VW Scirocco is now part of a dying breed of car

I DON’T know if the car world has a Grim Reaper – I imagine he’d look a bit like The Stig in some black robes – but he must be rubbing his hands with glee at the moment.

Not long ago I wrote about the death knell being sounded for Skoda’s Yeti, but now an entire automotive species is facing extinction; the fun, affordable coupé. Rumour has it that once Volkswagen’s Scirocco is put out to pasture, it won’t be replaced. Which for a fan of small two-doors is a big deal, because it’s pretty much the only one left.

Cast your mind back to the days when Tony Blair was eyeing up Number Ten and you were spoilt for choice if you had roughly £20,000 and a generous fleet manager prepared to offer you something sleeker than a Mondeo. Ford had the trendy Puma, and was in the process of replacing the Probe with the Cougar. Smile at a Vauxhall salesman and he’d rustle up a Tigra or Calibra, and that’s before we get to all the sleek two-doors Peugeot, Fiat, Honda, Toyota and just about everyone else had to offer. There were 20 different coupés on offer, and they were all exciting in their own way.

But now there’s the Scirocco, and that’s about it. Sure, there are a couple of three-door hatchbacks flaunting the c-word on their bootlids – and they’re coupés in name only, really – but nowadays you have to venture more upmarket before you arrive at the Toyota GT86, Ford Mustang and BMW 4-series. Hardly the sort of affordable offerings that give Mr Family Man hope.

The world needs coupés as much now as it did when the Ford Capri and the Opel Manta were the top dogs. They offer a welcome injection of panache into a motoring landscape dominated by boring family hatchbacks and me-too off-roaders, but because their underpinnings are ordinary they’re affordable, reliable and easy to service. So what if they’re a bit cramped in the back?

Perhaps we should persuade Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn that as part of their election pledges there should be state-funded grants for people prepared to brighten up the landscape with two-door coupés.

Alternatively, just buy a Volkswagen Scirocco while you still can.

There are some amazing used car deals out there

Look carefully and there are plenty of great deals at nearby car dealerships

SAUSAGES, beer and the Mercedes-Benz 190E. It’s clear the Germans do some things brilliantly, but on the evidence I saw the other night motoring telly isn’t one of them.

While holed up in an Essen hotel room I ended up watching what can best be described as Germany’s answer to Wheeler Dealers. It involved slightly cocky petrolheads going out to some car dealers and trying to buy as much car as they can, but minus any of the messing around with welding machines or Top Gear-esque challenges afterwards (although there was a lot of sitting around with serious expressions and discussing things).

The programme was about as much as fun as reading a Dusseldorf railway timetable on a wet Wednesday morning (I should know – I tried it the following morning). But the show’s basic premise of finding as much motoring fun for about £15k at a nearby car dealer sounded like a laugh.

It turns out that the idea of scouring the region’s car dealerships translates perfectly well into English.

Within striking distance of The Champion’s offices I found all sorts of sub-£15k bargains, starting with a Bentley Eight with 29,000 miles on the clock and full service history. That’s 6.8-litres of craftsmanship for less than a mid-range Focus. Should you not fancy being bankrupted by a Bentley’s fuel bills there’s also a one-owner-from-new, 14-reg Golf GTI, a five-year-old BMW Z4 with just about every option imaginable thrown at it or a Jaguar XF with the 3.0-litre diesel that’s just about frugal enough to stop you weeping at filling stations after a long drive.

All of these cars, and all the Peugeot RCZ, MINI Cooper S and Volkswagen Scirocco deals I found while I was at it, all have one thing in common. They can all be found at car dealerships that are within half an hour’s drive of where you live. Play it right and you could pop out in the morning, have a look around some cars and end up with a shiny slice of petrolhead fun on your driveway that afternoon. Do your homework first, go in with a clear head and you’d be surprised at what you can find.

Unless you’re a German motoring telly presenter of course, in which case I’d recommend you spend it on sausages, beer and Mercedes-Benz 190Es instead.

Buying Vauxhall? Please don’t screw it up, Monsieur Peugeot

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THE TV news is full of doom ‘n’ gloom. The internet is creaking under the weight of patriotic complaint, and pundits everywhere reckon it’s all going to end in tears.

Nope, it’s not one of Donald Trump’s speeches, but the conclusion it’s all too easy to draw about what’s happening with Vauxhall at the moment. The Government is apparently keeping a close eye on talks some people from PSA – that’s Peugeot to you and me – are having with General Motors about whether it should flog off its European operations. In other words Opel over in Germany, and Vauxhall here in the UK.

There are two things to bear in mind straight away. Firstly, Vauxhall is as British as the Queen sat on a Range Rover’s lowered tailgate sipping Tetley – in other words, as British as a person of German descent drinking an Indian-owned beverage on an Indian-funded car. Vauxhall might still proudly manufacture its cars in the UK but anyone gasping in horror at the thought of it being taken over by a foreign firm should stick their Union Flags and Winston Churchill books back in their boxes. Last year I drove a Vauxhall T-type made way back in 1929, and even that had General Motors bits in it. Being foreign-owned, as Jaguar Land Rover can testify, is by no means a bad thing.

But that doesn’t make Peugeot the right parent. It’s stuck by Citroen for more than 40 years but the last British firm it snapped up – Chrysler Europe, which through lots of boring corporate takeovers had the rights to Sunbeam, Humber and all sorts of other wonderful names – vanished without trace. It also has form for closing down UK factories, calling quits on Ryton when it moved Peugeot 207 production to Slovakia.

I’d love to be proven wrong but I can’t help think Peugeot taking over Vauxhall is a bit like Manchester United being allowed to buy Liverpool FC – why would it be in the interests of one to allow one of its biggest rivals to thrive? Someone in France might have come up with some brilliant plan where the two brands compliment one another, in much the same way Peugeot already does with Citroen, but I have my doubts.

All this at a time when Vauxhall is making some genuinely good cars too; I understand entirely why Astra’s the current European Car of the Year, and the latest Insignia looks very promising. I might even forgive them the Mokka, because by and large it’s a decent range of cars that Brits rightly love.

If you are thinking of buying, Monsieur Peugeot, please don’t screw it up.

Farewell Peugeot 306 – you will be missed!

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WITH THE rain beating down on a 65mph motorway cruise the Peugeot chooses a prime moment for packing up its windscreen wipers. With only a few miles to go on my last journey with it, it decides to throw one final spanner in the works.

I limp the 306 through to the finishing post – the garage where I’m trading up for a bigger, more refined car. Clearly the Peugeot is peeved it’s being given up, but while it’s a firm goodbye it’s hardly good riddance.

Two years ago I picked it up for one of the in-laws as a prime piece of stopgap motoring until their much newer car arrived, and liked it so much I took on the reins myself a couple of months afterwards. My bargain basement 306 was rubbish in so many ways, but as an overall package it was absolutely brilliant.

As the months went on the rather agricultural clatter from the non-turbocharged 1.9 XUD diesel engine was joined by a persistent high-pitched whistle. The clutch was heavier than a night out with Lindsay Lohan, the central locking had a mind of its own, and towards the end of my ownership the offside rear window developed a nasty habit of opening of its own accord. It was also noisy, not especially quick and had no street cred whatsoever.

But it was still a Peugeot 306 – which meant it handled brilliantly. The bottom-of-the-range diesel might have been a long way off a Rallye or a GTI-6, but pit it against a country road and there were definite whiffs of hot hatch from the steering and suspension.

I loved its diesel-ness too. It never failed to deliver anything south of 50mpg, which meant after a few months the savings at the pumps effectively paid the car off. It even made up for its many failings by being a workhorse I could rely on, with a single breakdown over two years of motoring. Not bad for less than the price of a return train ticket to London.

But after 18 years and 175,000 miles of plodding on it was – and only just, I might add – starting to show signs of whatever motoring’s equivalent of senile dementia is. So rather than putting it through even more runs up and down the nation’s motorway network, I’ve allowed to take automotive retirement and let something more suited to motorway life take the strain.

It’s bigger, smoother but still a fine example of bangernomics at work. It’s also Japanese and a bit boring. Stay tuned to find out what I’ve bought…

Oooh la la! Big French cars just got interesting again

The current Renault Espace is far more exciting than its MPV rivals on sale here in the UK

IF SOUTHPORT really is the Paris of The North then I’d like to nominate it for an ambitious new automotive project. We should use the resort as a pilot scheme for reintroducing the Big French Car to Britain’s roads.

The Big French Car is a species not so much on life support in this country as completely dead and buried, consigned to a much earlier grave than the rest of Europe because we’re far more interested in what BMW, Audi and Mercedes have to offer. Citroen’s decision to can the C5 a few months ago is a case in point. It’s alive and well on the continent, but last year we Brits bought just 237 of them. Not a lot for what’s meant to be the Gallic answer to Ford’s Mondeo.

Yet if a business trip I’ve just taken to Normandy is anything to go by then we really ought to be slowly but surely reintroducing the endangered breed that is the Big French Car back to Britain. If the new Renault Espace is anything to go by, big wafty motors from the other side of the Channel started getting interesting the moment we bid them adieu.

In the course of a weekend I saw plenty of French families happily tootling around in something that no longer looks like a van with windows and suddenly has a rather rakish quality. Convert the French price into English and you’re looking at a £29k car – yes, that’s three grand more than Volkswagen’s Sharan but worth it something that looks like TGV high speed train rather than a minibus.

It’s the same story elsewhere in Renault’s range; the big new Talisman saloon looks fantastic and our French friends can have a neat estate version of the current Clio, but neither of these are available in the UK. Citroen, meanwhile, has announced a follow-up to its fabulous C6 luxury saloon, which is as likely to see a UK showroom as Boris Johnson is to see a friendly face in Brussels. Peugeot’s a little better, with a French range that roughly mirrors ours, but it’s clear there are plenty of wonderfully endearing cars we Brits should be getting but aren’t.

Which is why I think Southport, with its vaguely Parisian boulevard running right through its centre and al fresco dining areas alongside it, is somewhere vaguely French enough to support the reintroduction of big French cars. We should all be given new Renault Espaces and Citroen C6s so we can show the rest of Britain that cars other than bland crossovers and poverty-spec German saloons are available. The Big French Car deserves a reintroduction here, and with our historical connections to Paris we’re the ideal place to do it.

Just don’t mention depreciation or the whole idea’s ruined…