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(Real Life) Test Drive Experiences


#1

As some of you know I’ve been contemplating upgrading the ole slushbox Civic to something a bit more… more. So I’ve started doing the homework. But I figured this could be a thread where people could actually review their experiences of real test drives to collate data.

Basically just relate your experience of a car you’ve test driven. It doesn’t have to be new, it can be a second hand, but just be clear which is what.

For example:


MY18 Honda Civic Type-R (AUS spec)

The hot hatch market has been going nuts lately, everybody knows that. If you want to stick FWD, this is probably the nuttiest you can get from the factory. Having been reviewed favourably against the competition in terms of its capability, is that enough to offset its inconveniences in the pursuit of being a honed weapon, and significantly higher costs?

The Dealership

I went to my local strip, which has a pretty big range: Ford, GM/Holden/Opel, VAG (VW/Skoda/Audi), FIAT, Alfa, Hyundai, KIA, Toyota, Mazda, Honda, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover. Of these, I never dress upmarket enough to warrant a second look from the posh guys. Of the rest, the Honda dealership offers the best experience. It’s smaller (so are the sales volumes), but the crew never miss a beat.

Disclaimer: I get my Civic exclusively serviced at this particular dealership and have a perfect service record, so they probably offer me slightly more attention than a standard looky-loo. Honda boast high retention rates and they’re likely keen to keep this track record. The review is probably favourably biased as a result.

First Impressions

It’s a factory rice rocket. There is zero escaping this. None of its competitors are quite as in-your-face. Honda swears that everything is functional, but the fake vents do say otherwise, so they must mean all the extra stuff. I know it’s controversial. I’m a pretty loud person stylistically, so this is no problem for me. I could daily this without a second thought.

Interior

Unlike the 9th gen where the fuel tank was literally under the front seats, the seating position is low and sporty. Despite this, getting in and out isn’t much harder than usual. The bucket seats are fantastic. Everything feels quite cosy but in fact this 10th gen Civic has the best interior room in the class all around. That cosiness is really just the fact the seat is nice and firm which I’m going to need later on. Storage compartments galore, and a good elbow position, which is apparently a problem in the Focus RS. Loud red trim lining everywhere, which, again, is something I am perfectly fine with but I don’t know about you. I just love the feel of the steering wheel, the materials, the size, the heft. Buttons on it are a little loose and finnicky though. It’ll take some getting used to. The media center does support iPlay etc. and has all the necessary cables and aux ports. The touch screen is a bit smaller than competitors and it is a bit laggy and the interface is nearly as confusing as the M6’s iDrive. I’m used to the 9th Gen’s billion levels of redundancy so this isn’t a big problem but folks who want their convenience and like their iPhones that could get annoying. One reviewer said the materials felt cheap and nasty compared to cheaper competitors but I don’t know what they were smoking.

Driving Civilly

Suspension and electric steering has come a long way since the start of this decade. Namely, electronic dampers are some magical shit. The Type R allows for Comfort, Sport and R mode. The steering was criticised as being a bit too light in Comfort mode but it does make for very easy driving, without much sacrifice in driver engagement (important). The damping is good enough to make light work of Australia’s shitty back street roads. Honestly I was a bit concerned about the 30 profile (wtf!?!?) tyres but you can’t even tell, it’s that comfy. Well, comfy compared to the slightly crashy ride of my current daily driver anyway. You know there’s bumps but it’s not like it’s going to wear you out after a few hours (I hear that’s more of a problem with the Renault and the Peugeot, hopefully will find out later). I suspect a lot of the family car crowd will still think it’s a bit firm but they’re not me.

Next, the shifting. With this being the first big torque turbo Honda made, everything is a little stiffer and gruntier compared to the Hondas of legend but the shifter is still delightfully light and quick. Simple and direct: it’s just an alloy knob on a real short stick. It slides between gates like a knife through hot butter. No stupid locking mechanism to engage R, the shift protection is in the box itself. It shifts beautifully when you drive slow, it shifts beautifully when you drive not so slow. Driving fast… we’ll come to that. The clutch too is as precise as ever. It’s all part and parcel of a driving experience that is always engaging no matter if you want it easy or you want a workout, and that’s probably to me the one marvel about this car above all else.

Type Rs automatically come with all the safety doodads and lane assist and emergency stop and all that jazz. If i’m going to pay 58k AUD non-negotiable for a C segment hatch, it better.

Driving Not-So-Civilly

Let’s face it, the Type R isn’t a street racer. Well, it can be but only if you do some seriously illegal shit, and I’m not into that. By the time you get from OH SHIT OH LORDY to the actual proper racing range of the Type R you’re probably doing anywhere between 50-100km/h over any posted speed limit.

That didn’t stop the dealer from encouraging me to give it the beans on a nice empty stretch of road. At this point I’m going to go on a tangent to say some reviewers criticised the “flat exhaust note” of the Type R. Yeah, it is flat, but screw that. That’s not even worth a footnote compared to how you feel when you pull R mode, drop into first and give it the beans.

“Automation turbos” are pretty 80s. The Type R is a far more modern thing, and you can just feel the growling potential even at low RPMs and the sheer eagerness with which the car accelerates even at street speeds. But hit 3k in comes ALL THE POWER and you will get instant wheelspin and the dash will light up like a Christmas tree as you bang off the rev limiter. Shift into second at 60 and floor it again and you’ll instantly redline as well. The TCS will let you go for a bit, and surprisingly, the E diff does its thing so deftly that you won’t feel too much torque steer.

Handling in the Type R is, if you want, weaponised. It grips and grips and grips and if you unsettle it… it can get a little tail happy, which caught me by surprised as I was expecting the fronts to let go first. But no, Honda opted for virtually no understeer whatsoever and then tuned their ECS to give you some kind of controllable tail sliding just for extra nose in. Point, blast off (within reason). It’s probably a real bugger in the wet. Also the R mode dampers are too stiff for anything other than a perfectly surfaced road. Not that it’s uncomfortable, it’s just to the point sudden direction changes are a bit compromised. Dialing in “super heavy steering” isn’t a remedy: it just reminds me of my brother’s Aurion in which the steering is heavy because the thing’s a damn bus and can’t turn for nuts. The main thing that bothers me about this is that Honda doesn’t let the driver configure that setting, otherwise I’d have stuck to sport steering and sport dampers and it would have been perfect.

Synthesis

Pros

  • Best interior room space and boot in class by a pretty big margin
  • Drives really damn nice whether you’re doing slow or fast
  • Full safety equipment

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not that economical either
  • Actually only seats 4, not 5
  • Who the hell makes 245/30R20 tyres!?
  • Rice rocket looks all day all night
  • Can’t configure R mode

Verdict

This is pretty much me in car form, so I’m biased. Honda are confident that their car is worth the money they’re asking (edit: that’s 58K AUD), and they’re probably right. I drive less than the average Australian by a margin so the extra fuel costs won’t hit me too hard. I can’t pretend that I don’t really really want one, so I’ll just declare that this definitely is the one to beat.


#2

Now time for the BMW fanboy to chime in

M140i is RWD (very much pro in my books :smile:) 330 HP and available in a manual.
Also bimmers depreciate super fast so you’ll probably find one pretty cheap secondhand.

Why can’t BMW bring some hatchback love to the US? :unamused:


#3

And the reason I made this thread is because I happened to test drive another car today, so here it is:


MY18 Hyundai i30N (standard)

At near the other end of the spectrum sits Hyundai’s new hope, the much anticipated debut of the N series, the i30N. Slated by countless reviewers as “the value for money” choice. How exactly does that feel?

The Dealership

Please let me know if you find otherwise, but I’ve had a few people the world around comment that Hyundai dealerships just can’t get their shit together. That was certainly the case for me. Despite a swish new showroom and a host of awards sitting on their shelf, it actually took three attempts booking via their system over one month to actually land a proper date when the car was actually there and available. And actually, it wasn’t. And the guy who I spoke to when I rocked up got shitty at me asking “why are you even test driving when you’re not thinking of buying until next year won’t you forget how it feels?” Well then. Fortunately, after they realised I had actually been trying to book in for a few weeks now, they pulled some strings and I found myself behind the wheel of the boss’s company test driver i30N in performance blue (have you seen the colour names? Who the hell came up with them?)

First Impressions

It’s an i30, but, with the little red and black accents, it’s sporty, but also classy and understated and you can immediately tell, if you’re a bit in the know, that this is something more. Nice. I like the moderately sculpted look that didn’t go super edgelord cough Kona cough. I’d daresay I wouldn’t bother with any other colour than Performance Blue, but then again I’m also that guy who drives a mica yellow-green car so maybe you don’t want my opinion on car colours :joy:

Interior

Sitting in this car is more ergonomic and, perhaps, a touch less intimidating (or rather “not a huge step up from the original”. There’s obvious touches like the different steering wheel and the dash has fancier lights but it’s still basically i30. The seat also has a bit more wiggle room and it’s appreciably easier to get in and out (almost like any other normal ecobox in fact).

My ass did sit down on some regular cloth seats. I’m okay with this, but it’s like this scratchy stuff, not the nice plush faux-suede that I have in my Civic that I got for half the price. Maybe I’m just spoilt. I’m told you can get the suede stuff plus some other stuff if you get either the Performance Pack or the Luxury Pack (which also gets you stop holding for those pesky hillstarts, more on that later) but that costs extra. A lot extra.

There’s quite a bit of hard plastic. The steering wheel has it too, and it doesn’t really feel that nice. On the plus side, there are nice big blue buttons on the steering wheel that allow you to cycle through drivers modes… the left one cycles through Eco, Normal, and Sport, and the right one puts you straight into N mode… and if you hold it down it brings up the N+ Custom menu which is the part I’m interested in. I’m going to assume that’s a proper Biermann touch: someone who prioritises that kind of driver control and engagement in the experience. In the Honda these controls are on the central console, which left me scratching my head a bit because it was just fussy.

Also, handbrake. Tick. I don’t like these newfangled switches.

Touch screen is big and responsive and you don’t have to mash it furiously. Also tick. Built in sat nav. I mean I don’t care for that, but it’s there. I’d probably have to dig through about 3 layers of menus to turn off the blasted “speed camera” warning so I got the dealer to do that so I don’t have to listen to incessant bong-bonging because there are a million speed cameras in 'straya.

Driving Civilly

I was a bit surprised when it came time to start the car and I had to turn the key. Turns out that you only get push-button start in the Performance Pack.

Confession: I stalled the damn car 5 times. That’s more than I ever stalled any other car even when I was a stick noob. How is this possible, you ask? Well, turns out you need to put about 3 times as much throttle than in any other manual car I’ve driven when disengaging the clutch, which, given that the engine’s pretty hefty, makes life a bit interesting. Compare this to the Honda, where I disengage the clutch with no throttle and the car starts rolling.

My other beef with the shifter is that it has this ring on it that you have to tug in order to engage R, which is in the same position as 1st. As I mentioned previously, I don’t want none of that, but there you go. I think I was just spoilt when I drove the Honda, which does have a reputation for the best stick shift in the business for a reason. In terms of smoothness and ease of use of the clutch and shifter, if Honda was a 10 this would be a 7 or an 8. Actually it could be a lot worse, so it’s more like this is a 8-9/10 where Honda is an 11, ha. Really, aside from getting off the line, which just took some getting used to, there were no real issues elsewhere and everything was precise and predictable. The rev matching in N mode also worked perfectly, and I didn’t have the confidence to start mashing heel-toe in the boss’s car right off the bat when I was still working out the throttle input.

Interior noise is well damped. The ride is firm-ish, but pliant. Also extremely well sorted, with an appreciable suitability for rough roads in Normal and Eco modes, but more responsiveness and progressively heavier steering in Sport and N modes. This is a very easy car to drive gently, though it certainly has hints of potency waiting for you to drop a couple of gears and overtake, for example. In fact, if not for the fact it’s one of the rare manuals in 'straya you’d almost mistake it for a plush trim of a regular hatch, so to contrast it again from the Honda, it’s more of “this is a nice version of the regular thing with more go”, as opposed to “this is surprisingly pliant and liveable for such a rocket”. One may have more wow factor, but this is a difference in philosophy.

I do believe that there’s most of the safety doodads in the i30N but I didn’t see a lane change assist camera. Not that I feel that I need it, but it’s not there.

Driving Not-So-Civilly

Most reviewers say that the N is not about being a honed weapon so much as showing all its quirks and foibles as part of the “driver engagement” experience. This is well manifest in how it likes to scrub, squiggle and shake when pushed hard. I probably should have disabled the TCS before dialing up a few kay and dropping the clutch at the dealer’s encouragement, because the TCS freaked out and this time it cut me off completely :joy: Turns out that it’s far more intrusive and doesn’t like letting you play around, even in N mode. Even with that intervention and being down 30-40Nm, the torque steer was quite appreciable too. Biermann probably didn’t want to mask its natural characteristics too much.

Piling hard into the corner, the front wheels scrubbed into a progressive understeer. The extra weight (like 1530kg, or nearly as much as a 2013 Aurion!!!) is appreciable in the handling and the performance. It’s far less visceral, more subtle and getting on the boost is also a far more progressive affair. There’s also the matter that if you want all the power the N is supposed to get, you have to a) pay more for the performance pack b) engage “overboost mode” which just sounds dicey to me.

In addition, N mode steering isn’t excessively heavy. I’m a skeptic when it comes to the extra value in the experience of selectable sound modes but opening the vents so you can hear the lift-off crackles and pops is indeed a nice thing. I am also skeptical about this because I can’t help but think to myself that the damping of the interior is quite good already and the whole thing is pretty soft and un-raucous… how raucous can you actually get or want to get?

Synthesis

Pros

  • Indeed excellent value for money (to start)
  • Good interior and daily experience if you don’t want to wade out of your comfort zone
  • Nice tasteful looks (again, if you don’t want to wade out of your comfort zone)
  • Biermann has made good on his promise to prioritise driver involvement

Cons

  • It’s kinda fat and slow in this class
  • Requires an unusual amount of throttle to get moving from standstill
  • If you want the good stuff you actually have to pay heaps more so is it really that good value for money???

Verdict

It’s nice, which I suppose in this environment is faintly damning praise. The difference in pricing (44K at base, 4K for performance pack, more for the luxury pack) is roughly commensurate. It’s really more for people who don’t fancy themselves being gripped by a hand of god, crushed and shaken and tossed out and just want a nice weekend on the road to have a bit of fun. In this day and age we’re in a transition point and there’s a lot of tension and pensive nostalgia so I can see why the exhaust thing is quite the drawcard. I guess I’m just not sophisticated enough for that, ha.

Ultimately you’d go for this if you’re not actually interested in wringing out the best from yourself and your performance machine, and what you actually wanted was a regular car that had a bit (or a fair bit– gotta differentiate from getting a “lukewarm” trim instead haha) extra. Oh, and I suppose if you couldn’t afford the pricier competitors like the VW.


@Watermelon3878 yes actually a used M140i would be a very solid 2nd hand alternative. If I could get over the whole “BMW reliability” thing and also the frequently shitty service horror stories, it’d be worth considering. One has to wonder… why do Bimmers depreciate so badly?


#4

Is the Veloster Turbo available in AUS? You should take a real look at it, if it is.


#5

Alternate title suggestion: irlCSR


#6

Dealer’s response: “IF we get it it’ll be next year. But we don’t know if we’re getting it.”

On the plus side sales of the i30N are strong. But Veloster sales have never been quite.


#7

The Type R’s exhausts are the too much for me… The massive spoiler makes it look like a ricer, but still is stylish.


#8

Ik this sounds like some kid is saying it :b but my parents have been driving 2 cars with N55’s (2014 X5 x35i and 2012 535i) and they have been getting great reliabilty throughout their 80-105K mile lifespans. Only engine-related maintainance was a valve cover gasket at 103K.

As for service though, make sure you double check the “real” price on the internet. :b

EDIT: I know the M140i doesn’t have an N55 but a B58, which is an update of the N55.


#9

Been a while but I actually drove a couple of other cars while away on holiday, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to share the experience here.

Disclaimer: Both cars driven were hire cars. They were relatively new with low mileage but I’ll include the relevant information.

3rd Gen (Typ NJ) Škoda Fabia SE

Probably from 2017. Came with 12500 miles on the odo. I drove about 260 miles

image

Picked this one up in Cardiff. Drove around town mostly at first, then on the motorway before going B road through Dorset and Surrey over the course of a few days, before re-emerging to battle the M3 to drop it off at Heathrow. It may have stolen my knitted beanie, the bastard.

First Impressions

It’s basically budget VAG right? Why don’t more people go for this when it’s not overpriced like Audi? I guess like certain other brands it doesn’t exactly shout prestige. And that’s why I’m driving this on the cheap as a hire car. My expectations are not high, though I note in 2015 it was good enough to win some awards. It’s just the competition moves fast in this sector.

Interior

Clean, simple, mostly ergonomic and fairly spacious. The boot even fit both me and my gf’s suitcases (mine was the big one, because I had to pack work stuff) and my carry-on. Not bad at all. The dials tell me what I need to know. The steering wheel lets me adjust my LCD display. Annoyingly, I can only find a speed limiter and not a cruise control. I can’t tell whether that’s by design or just me being a div. After about half an hour of the M4 I realise there is this inconveniently placed strip on my (basic interior) seat which constantly reminds me of its presence because it sure as hell isn’t lumbar support. Why?

On the plus side the materials in this cabin, if mostly black, are decently nice. That soft plastic stuff. I wasn’t expecting that to be honest.

Also on the plus side, the touch screen is pretty lag-free, but they also didn’t entirely dispense with the analog dials, thank god. On the minus side, the dials feel pretty crummy. Can’t have everything I guess.

Driving Civilly

Everything is very light. For an eco car designed presumably for an ease of running around town, this is fantastic. The clutch is light, the shifter, if a bit long, is a fairly smooth action and the gates feel well spaced. Pretty satisfying actually. The steering is pretty numb and feels like i could turn the whole wheel with my pinky but if it’s just around town then well it’s okay I guess. And besides, parking is an absolute breeze, with the ability to magically squeeze into just about anything. The parking sensors do help, if only a little.

The engine was almost silent below 3krpm, and throttle response was better than expected, though it does its best work when you can hear it. Road noise isn’t too bad at highway speeds, though of course this car wasn’t really designed with going over 50 in mind. I’m trying to follow the heroes in the right lane doing 80 and well, everything’s struggling a little bit. Best to kick back and relax and put on the Classic Radio station and have a truly grand ole time.

One thing I noticed that I wasn’t quite expecting: the front sensor and braking assist system. I never had it intrude on me which was interesting, because when rude fuckers in BMWs cut me off with no warning (a common occurrence) it would only inform me that my following distance was too short but nothing else.

Driving Not-So-Civilly

Forget it. It’s not the 15s 0-100km/h time that bothers me. It’s the 185 wide 65 profile eco plastic tyres combined with zero steering feel. The moment I tried to perform anything less chill than The Blue Danube the car gave up.

Synthesis

Pros

  • Quite civilised
  • Nice shifting action
  • Rather economical

Cons

  • Some counterintuitive interface
  • Struggles to maintain real highway speeds
  • Completely numb steering and awful handling if driven anywhere above a stately stroll

Verdict

Perfectly good for a hire car and pretty versatile. I’m aware that you can get quite a bit more for not much more these days, which essentially means there’s no compelling reason to actually buy one of these.


2018 Renault Clio TCE90

almost brand new, not even 1000ks on the clock. I added 400.

Picked this one up from Ljubljana, Slovenia. I drove it to Lake Bled, the Postojna Caves (in godawful weather), past Bled again and to Lake Bohinj, caned the hell out of it on a mountain pass (see the Guilty Car Pleasure thread), then back to Ljublana.

First Impressions

This is the time before Renault went full send on the ugly controversial styling. I have always had a bit of a soft spot for the idea of the Clio, but when I hear “Renault” I immediately assume “there are going to be loose bits and rough edges”. This however does look sharp and peppy and purposeful.

Interior

This is supposed to be a larger car than the Fabia and yet there is not much rear legroom. Good thing I don’t give a fig for that as all I’m doing with the rear seats is putting the shopping there lol. Also I can tell I’m going to need some distraction from the feel of these seats before too long. And despite the ability to adjust the steering column quite well, I found the seating position to be invariably awkward and had to compromise for one with my knees almost banging the wheel. Is that a French thing or something?

There is a certain standard to the dashboard and controls and in this regard the Clio seems to do alright. The touchscreen interface seems quick and simple enough to navigate (but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have Apple carplay etc.) and this came with in-built Sat Nav which was great because since I can’t read Slovenian, given how convoluted the back roads got I could have been in some serious shit in the areas I had no signal (which was many). This model DID come with cruise control but for some strange reason the button was below the shifter, next to the ECO mode button. Okay then.

Driving Civilly

I don’t think it liked being driven nicely. There was virtually no throttle response whatsoever in the low end, but unlike the Škoda it also filled the cabin with grumbling and droning, particularly in the 1000-1500rpm range. Which was where Renault’s Eco Drive system insisted on keeping it. Also while I almost didn’t notice the milk-carton displacement of the Fabia, this one felt properly anaemic. After looking at my eco analysis and getting insulted at its many admonishments, I thought I’d try the ECO button and instantly regretted it as it killed off my throttle and almost made the car stall. Do car makers still think that anybody drives like they do in the economy testing??? Fuck you Renault, if you really believe in economy then maybe don’t give me an engine that requires me to sink the boot in just to move anywhere!

It probably didn’t help that the shifting experience wasn’t particularly pleasant. How can something so light feel notchy and vague? I will definitely qualify this by saying I drive RHD and this was a LHD car so I will not blame it for when I accidentally money-shifted from 5th to 2nd on the highway (fortunately clutching in before the engine went way over the redline), but the action itself is far from optimal.

I will definitely give this car plus points for its dynamic stability, though. There were puddles everywhere on the highway one particularly rainy day and while it was a bit nervewracking blasting through them at 130km/h with little 195 wide eco tyres, the Clio performed with aplomb and I didn’t crash and die.

Finally, hillstart assist as a standard feature was a very nice touch, though it was so easy to catch the clutch that it was almost unnecessary. But welcome.

Driving Not-So-Civilly

It was on my helter-skelter rush through 40km of mountains that I finally reached an understanding with the Clio. This was where it shone: being wrestled and thrown about with great gusto and a touch of madness. This was no delicate flower or genteel machine. Rather, the DNA of this car and its lineage has always been to chuck it down a hill with lots of bends and use all necessary energy to make it stick*. Here, I actually discovered it had a decent steering feel, better-than-expected grip and the pedals were decently placed to do the pedal dance, switching between heel-toe and left-foot braking even shod in my clunky hiking boots. The engine finally came alive past 3krpm, but never really felt comfortable going all out. Downhill, however, was where it was all at. By the time I was done I felt more alive than ever, and not just because of staring death in the face in the form of a lorry coming the opposite direction around a hairpin on a road barely wide enough for me.

My main gripe would be the massively sloping A-pillar which blocked about half my view looking around every corner, so I had to crane my head way to the centre to spot the apex. Also, as I said, the seats sucked but I assumed that in a car like the Clio you’re expected to move with it lol.

Synthesis

Pros

  • Engaging and fun if you have tight twisty roads and the stones to attack them hard
  • Some pleasant equipment surprises as standard

Cons

  • Awful to drive normally
  • Virtually zero throttle response below 2500rpm
  • Paradoxical expectations from the system and the car’s hardware
  • Awkward seating position

Verdict

There’s such a thing as right-sizing, and this isn’t it. If the manufacturers knew the real-world conditions where these cars are going to, they probably should have stuck with a 1.2 or even 1.4. Other than this, it is up to you whether you can sufficiently unlock the potential of the excellent chassis and whether this outweighs the plethora of quirks and annoyances, particularly the sub-par gearbox.

*note, previous experience with the Clio was sitting shotgun in a 2001 RS while my brother banged it around. Hella tight and lots of character. Great stuff.