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(Real Life) Test Drive Experiences

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.

21 Likes

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:

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?

16 Likes

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

Alternate title suggestion: irlCSR

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.

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

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.

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.

9 Likes

Well looks like this thread is for my personal archives lol. There are a couple other cars I should add in the meanwhile, but today is all about the family cars of my fiancee: Toyota Prius, Toyota Prius, and Toyota Prius. I mean their fondness for the Prius is so entrenched the story about how her dad literally impulse bought another Prius while her mum was getting a coffee has achieved some notoriety.

lord help me

Anyway what this means is that I can run a comparison between the Prius my fiancee inherited, and the impulse buy Prius.


MY08 Toyota Prius XW20

ignore the plates this is a stock image

The Prius is a surprisingly popular car on this forum, which is to say I can think of at least 4 members who either own one or used to. Of them this appears to be the most prevalent. The XW20 is obviously getting long in the tooth and if driven regularly would doubtless have had its electrics refurbished by now, but as a Prius remains a symbolic bastion of Toyota’s commitment to a smarter driving experience. Has it aged well?

First Impressions

This generation, unlike the others, is characterised by rounded blobby shapes where the other generations are about funky lines and futuristic design cues. This is a benign blimp. It’s the car from the class of '08 voted least likely to start a punch-up in a bar. In every other way it also has characteristic Toyota stamped all over it, which I will detail in later sections. For this reason, it seems to have a reputation such that if you see one on the roads you get the hell out from behind it because most likely it will otherwise add 50% to your travel time (but as I have since discovered this is not strictly true… just largely true for reasons characteristic to the car).

Interior

It’s pure Toyota. The boot and door mechanisms, the interior materials, the UI format is all Toyota of the day (which doesn’t change a huge amount). It’s ergonomic, with no frills, except the frills that are supposed to improve ergonomics. The seats are firm. The plastic is hard. The storage compartment is angular. The boot has that weird parcel shelf apron thing that I couldn’t figure out and somehow managed to break trying to remove and put it back in (but at least there’s decent boot space). The glove compartment hatch feels a bit hollow. The sound system is adequate but also not particularly good. The steering wheel is that hard plastic narrow rim, and the Cruise Control stalk is the same one that’s been in their cars for like at least 30 years now (at least it feels that way).

But the real hallmark of the Prius is the layout of the information readouts. This would have been properly nerdy space age stuff with the way it charts drivetrain energy distribution, tracks fuel economy and so on and so forth. Also, touchscreen; a slow laggy one but it’s a touchscreen in a 2008 car where most cars of the day would still be using analogue dials.

Driving Civilly

The first gen was a proof of concept with a crashy ride and awful handling. This second gen is an improvement on the concept… but still with a crashy ride and awful handling. I assume part of this is to do with the torsion bar rear, and also to do with what seems like god-awful weight distribution which makes the car feel like a medieval battering ram. Why am I writing this in the normal and not fast driving section? Because it’s so bad all this is apparent when driving normally! Or at least, perhaps, normally in my (still) current 9th gen Civic which is the worst driving car of the Civics yet still feels like a race car compared to this.

One might even feel a bit proud of being able to keep up with other cars on a regular cruise at your local Cars and Coffee even though nobody breaks the posted speed limit, because it’s genuinely hard work guessing at what point those 195/65R15 Bridgestone Ecopias are going to let go entirely (hint: very early). This is because the ride, while kind of crashy, also somehow still manages to be afflicted by vague steering feel. Given the other Toyotas I’ve driven (read: '91 Solara, '16 Aurion, and the other Prius) I’m starting to think this is a Toyota thing, though I am going to assume this is not a feature of the 86 or the A90.

My fiancee is asking me to expunge the last two sections from the record because this is not the point of a Prius. It’s not. The whole car is geared towards smart energy delivery, and that it does. Not without rough edges, though: given start-stop was still a relatively new technology here the ICE is a bit rough when starting up and cutting out. And the CVT is a bit hyperactive causing the engine to rev (and drone) actually quite a bit more than I expected. Also, the regenerative braking system is a bit grabby and makes modulating difficult. But the boffins that calibrated the system did well to match the behaviour with the usual behaviour of metropolitan drivers: the average fuel consumption of this car after a good 11 years is 4.5L/100km.

It pays to note that the natural advantages of hybrid are completely lost if average speed goes much above 50km/h.

The only other thing I should add is that a common problem with these cars is that the console develops squeaks and rattles which cannot be diagnosed easily. This is very annoying when travelling on a road with a less than perfect surface, which, in Australia, means all the time.

Driving Not-So-Civilly

Don’t do it.

Synthesis

Pros

  • Really economical
  • Excellent all around visibility
  • Good practicality with decent passenger room and boot space

Cons

  • Some rough edges with the execution
  • Really not for drivers who like driving
  • Would have been a bit more on the expensive side for the interior fit and finish quality
  • The usual issue with having to refurbish the drivetrain

Verdict

The brainchild of an entire global movement has a lot to live up to and as of 2008, insofar as this car had to live up to expectations it mostly delivered to the point it still has a legion of slavishly devoted fans. However I anticipate its relevance will slowly dwindle alongside that of the ICE only cars as we move towards 2030. In terms of cost-effectiveness, were I to compare this to my own car, over the lifetime of the vehicle I would probably save about 4000L of petrol, which, seeing as my car uses 95RON minimum, translates to a saving of about 6000 dollars. In terms of dollars and cents that doesn’t quite add up to the price difference, but I should award a significant bonus for emissions reductions.

Nonetheless at the risk of my engagement dissolving, it is still my firm belief at this point that the Prius XW20 is better thought of as a figurehead than a car priced on its merits.

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Oh, I could add to this, as long as race cars are allowed :wink:
Quite a few cars I’ve driven that way.

Regarding the Clio you had been lent as a hire car while on holiday in Slovenia last year, despite having a well-sorted chassis, it was a case of downsizing taken too far - 0.9 litres doesn’t feel like enough for it. Had the Clio in question been fitted with a larger engine (such as the punchier 1.2), you would have looked upon it more favourably.

On the other hand, the other hire car you received - a Skoda Fabia that you drove in Britain (specifically, England and Wales) - had the opposite problem: the engine was more responsive, if still underpowered, but its chassis was hobbled by tiny eco tyres and total lack of steering feel. It was more civilized than the Clio, though.

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Please don’t. This thread is designed for production cars that other users may be thinking of driving themselves.


Now that my fiancee is reconsidering our intention to marry, I shall make amends by writing a favourably biased review forge on.


MY17 Toyota Prius XW50

Skip forward 2 generations, and now you get to the era where Toyota has decided to go bold. Controversial styling, increased driver engagement and of course, even more cleverness. Has it yet translated to the full package?

First Impressions

When I first looked at this I said “what was the designer smoking???” Two years on and the rear end has grown on me. The front… well I’ll sit on that for a while longer. Suffice to say that I applaud the daringness that Toyota has clearly exhibitied as of recently, but of course it doesn’t always work. I still feel a bit strange stepping into Darth Vader’s helmet and not just because my future father in-law is driving.

Nonetheless where it does work is that this design conveys a very clear declaration of intent from Toyota: stride towards the future and explore uncharted territory.

Interior

Where there were intimations of experience enhancements in the 2nd gen car, the 4th gen manifests them with technological advancements that allow it to do what I suspect it always wanted to do. Keyless entry is now complete simply by having the fob on your person somewhere and touching the door handle to unlock and lock. While this doesn’t mean the fancy flush pop-out door handles you find on a Tesla, it is far more intuitive (and reliable, and yes, I am speaking from first hand experience).

The interface is now busier than ever, but still purposeful and streamlined. Of note however the climate controls were modulated with rocker switches instead of the traditional dials. In this case this is actually intuitive because it allows that section to be more compact, a problem I forgot to mention in the XW20: the dials were so small they were actually difficult to see let alone grasp.

Furthermore the seats, while still firm, were appropriately bolstered and actually very comfortable. And the interior room if anything had improved up rear.

Driving Civilly

You know all those foibles and criticisms I had of the 2nd gen? The reason I mention them is mainly to remark on how much they’ve been ironed out here. Crashy ride? Gone. Now it’s best characterised by firm but pliant. Awful handling? No longer feels like it has a boulder under the bonnet. The steering is nowhere near as vague as it used to be. Weird CVT behaviour? Gone, at least, insofar as the adaptive logic is now more responsive and better at predicting. It only comes a bit unstuck when driving through undulating mountains so it eventually gets confused over how much engine brake to apply or not. Clunky stop-start? It’s now smooth as butter to the point I can barely notice even the engine noise. I don’t know how they do it but the whole driving experience is now more seamless.

The regenerative braking, however, is still grabby. There’s not much I can think to be done about that.

What the UI means for the driving experience is a greater ability to modulate the driver’s behaviour than ever before. In this case out comes the dreaded eco-driving gamification again. It’s a very similar system to that I found in the Renault: rates your take-off, cruise and braking out of 100 and aggregates this over your trip, but it also shows you your breakdowns every time you start, and then stop. Which means this is very much a car that assumes that you’re predominantly doing city driving, which would be a fairly accurate characterisation of its drivers. The nice part is that it actually shows you a line of the suggested amount of throttle to use when taking off and it’s a lot more than I expected, which I later understood to mean the car expects me to make the most use of the electric motor’s low-range advantage and then when at cruising velocity it can use the ICE to also regenerate the capacitor. This kind of system is executed in a far more intuitive and interactive way than I’ve previously experienced, and so again, the experience is more integrated and seamless.

The system doesn’t treat peak-hour kindly though, especially when you have to stop suddenly a lot due to fuckheads cutting you off, or lights turning on you at inconvenient times. But then peak hour isn’t good for hypermilers either. Despite this, the XW50 is averaging a frugal 3.7L/100km.

It’s also worth noting that the XW50 has updated safety features as of 2017, i.e. adaptive cruising, emergency stop warning and stopping (I think), and lane departure warning. The systems weren’t as intrusive as I expected, unlike, say, some experiences I’ve heard from new VW owners in which they sometimes could not literally exit their own driveway because it was partially blocked etc. The adaptive cruise modulation is pretty gentle, and the STOP NOW! warning did come on once when a car cut out directly in front of me, but it wasn’t so close that I got to find out whether the Prius does slam the brakes. A good thing, really. What it doesn’t have, however, are blind spot warnings for lane merging, or side mirror cameras, which is a bit of a shame as the A B and C pillar are considerably thicker and the rear tailgate visibility is also much worse than previous models, presumably in the name of improved head and side-intrusion protection.

Finally, the UI, as mentioned, is hugely busy. It is, fortunately, gradated so you can look at as little or as much information as you want, with the most relevant simple information reserved for the HUD which is projected onto the screen (works in most conditions except absolute direct sunlight pouring down onto the projector itself). Note that the SatNav directions and Cruise Control settings also show up on the HUD. Then there is the central console which has other essential information but also the economy statistics which obviously Toyota considers essential. And then there is the much larger touch screen down below which… is still a bit laggy and insensitive. Hm. Also the Sat Nav is a bit clunky to operate and wasn’t the best at giving directions.

Driving Not-So-Civilly

I can’t say a huge amount here. It’s unwise to thrash your future father-in-law’s car, and especially so when he’s sitting in the back seat.

But I did do a fair amount of country driving today, so I can say a few things.

First, a sign of Toyota’s increased commitment to driver engagement: there’s different driving modes. A button that had clearly never been pressed at all, I discovered allows switching between 3 modes: eco, normal, and POWER. Eco really smooths the throttle response down and makes everything terribly dull. But POWER, on the other hand… that allows you to quite rapidly open the taps. I switched it on for the purpose of on-ramp acceleration, and, well, it did the trick. Trashed my eco rating, of course.

Dynamically speaking, I did say the car was significantly improved. It is. I still wouldn’t throw it around too hard, as the suspension is still on the softer side, the body roll is still on the high side, and the tyres are still those 65 profile Ecopias. I involuntarily got to find the limits of traction and handling when encountering a sharp left-hander over a blind crest on a road signposted 90 and needless to say while the car kind of coped, the steering did vague out a bit and I also triggered the lane-departure warning, as well as the “father-in-law death stern glare” warning. So… probably don’t do it anyway?

Synthesis

Pros

  • Highly realised vision of economic driving ergonomics
  • Much more seamless experience overall
  • Much improved handling, steering feel and ride comfort

Cons

  • Reminder to self: “improved handling” still doesn’t mean “good handling”
  • The visibility has suffered somewhat

Verdict

A paean to the hybrid automotive era

As we move towards a brave new (dystopian) world as glimpsed through the prism of electric cars, particularly the approach Tesla has taken with involuntary automated software patches and (often misguided) attempts to implement autonomous driving modes, one wonders if there’ll be any more room in future for the Prius. My personal opinion is that it’s the symbol of an era and one that is now passing, so I am not sure that there would be any future generations. As it stands, therefore, this XW50 is close to the culmination of what Toyota can achieve with this technology and looking back on four generations, it has indeed achieved much and contributed much to the world of production cars. Thus, the impact of the Prius cannot be understated, and it is fitting that it has taken this form, a state of the art.

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Yes this is a necro. I didnt want to create a new thread for the news:

Almost exactly 2 years to the day that I first experienced it, I have officially ordered an FK8 Type R. I was very sure to wait for the MY21 model, for reasons I shall discuss. As it is still currently made to order in Swindon, it should arrive in January.

As part of sealing the deal, my dealership let me go for an unfettered run in the original model:

So what can I add to the original review at the top of this thread? Well it so turns out that thanks to social distancing measures the dealer isn’t allowed to sit in the car with the driver, so the sales guy (himself an enthusiast whose rap sheet includes a 911 and a tuned CR-X) said look do whatever you like, just don’t bend it around a tree or do anything messy insurance wise.

So I went looking for some quiet roads and gave it the absolute beans.

  • the UI is as bad as its notoriety suggests. I spent 15 minutes trying to figure out how to get my phone and navigation set up. I eventually gave up. That’ll be a battle for when I actually get the car LOL
  • Launching is as finnicky as everybody says. Dial in about 3500 and let the clutch out while ramping up the throttle such that the engine doesn’t fall out of boost and bog, but also that the wheels don’t spin. The road I did the pulls on was quite rough and bumpy so I think at best I was doing 5.7s to 100km/h
  • the LSD and the suspension setup does limit torque steer, but doesn’t eliminate it. If you hit a crest or a bump under throttle you’ll definitely feel it!
  • the joy of shifting in this car is different to the joy of the early models with higher revving lower torque. The torque in this thing is stupid hilarious but for that reason shifting is best done methodically with the right timing. Rushing feels wrong and actually disrupts the drive. For this reason the weighted shifter in the updated model is a welcome addition
  • the boost is addictive. Wheelspin galore when it arrives in first and second, makes you think “I reckon it’ll feel really good in 3rd”. So then 3rd comes and goes and you think “gee that was awesome I bet it’ll feel just as good in 4th” but then you realise you’re doing 170km/h on a shitty little B road and you’re out of road. EDIT: it’s worth adding that this car feels potent more than it feels frantic or rancorous in the way the wild analog hot hatches used to. The feel here is “c’mon I can do more you know you want to” rather than “oh god oh fuck if I wrong foot it here I’m dead”
  • the brakes are good in that they are confidence inspiring… But now I get why the MY21 update changed the rotors and the design: there’s a few mm of deadzone travel where the brake pedal feel is a touch softer than it should be in R mode. Reducing that play to almost zero would be a tangible improvement to the experience
  • the ride in comfort mode is good but with the increased refresh rate of the adaptive dampers it could be even better. Independent linkage does most of the work compared to my current mac and torsion which is just crashy
  • the sheer amount of grip and the steering feel is indeed the best out of any modern vehicle short of things well out of my price bracket. The immediacy of feedback is as good as any electric steering south of a Porsche (Some reviewers say equally good, I wouldn’t know). I do say electric because having ridden older analog and unassisted steering cars this is fundamentally different, but as we say that’s modern vehicles for you and I actually need a C seg with up to 1100L of boot space and more than 2 seats. Anyway, the steering. Over 1g on the skid pad was no lie. The levels of grip are ludicrous and encourage the driver to throw the car into a hairpin far faster than any vehicle has any right to. Longer corners and late apices take care because yes, get on the boost too hard and it will of course understeer
  • I think I’m going to have to turn off all the ESP etc. To properly Left foot brake. It didn’t like me applying both gas and brake together. The car is dynamically designed that you shouldn’t have to but old habits die hard, maybe I’ll look into what the real track drivers do later
  • the seats are almost perfection for all driving. The only criticism is that they don’t breathe which is bad news for sweaty people. But I have joined the chorus of voices that marvel how these Recaros have the perfect amount of holding without becoming intrusive
  • the fuel economy is not that bad. After a combination of 50% freeway 20% city traffic and 30% drag pulls, quarter miles, and frantic hilly driving, I came back with 10.7L/100km. I reckon my regular commute would return closer to 8.

I did try to record the drive but the phone fell out of the holder on the first corner lol. More to come when my own model arrives. In short, I can confirm that waiting for the refresh was absolutely the right thing to do (in theory) because the anal retentiveness of the Honda engineers closely resonates with mine and the concerns I had were almost exactly the same as what they addressed. I have been waiting to get in on the Type R legacy ever since I saw the DC2 Integra plastered all over billboards as a child. But as life stands, the FK8 is the one for me.

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Another necro, but I don’t see any newer version of this thread so here we go.

Presently, my FK8R is in the shop getting a stage 1 (cat downpipe, catback, ECU jailbreak and flash, dyno tune). In the meantime, I borrowed a car so you know what happens next!

2015 Nissan Pulsar (C12) ST CVT

Yeah, that’s right, this delightful POS. Came with 120000km on the clock and no major issues aside from some minor dings and the asshole who drove it last left barely any fuel in the tank.

First Impressions

This perky “tier 3 Automation designer” number came complete with plate proudly proclaiming that this was purchased from the place that sells the cheapest cars in town. This said, when new, this would have cost 22000 AUD, which, compared to the 23000 driveaway that I paid for my 2013 Civic, isn’t actually much cheaper, which just reflects what a weird place the Pulsar finds itself in. The lineage of the Pulsar has taken a beating in Australia for some good reasons and some dumb reasons, all Nissan things really. My impression of that is that it’s a far cry from their competitive models of old (the N series) and this is their first attempt at bringing something back (see: return of the SSS trim) when they no longer really how to do anything aside from SUVs and CUVs. But I’m not here to test the SSS trim, this is the basic bitch “this is the Nissan you will almost certainly get if you’ve sunk this low” ST.

Interior

Holy shit if not for the lack of pastel cloth seats, I’d think I was back in the 90s. I certainly didn’t expect anything fancy but all the dials, the fan, AC, radio etc. are all basic bitch analog. You get an AM/FM radio, that’s it. Not even a CD player, not even a cassette deck like 90s cars would get. The car reviewers said apparently you’re supposed to get Bluetooth connectivity but that’s rubbish, there is no shred of digital connectivity in this trim.

The seats are, well, tolerable. The seating position is, as is usual for this class, high and upright. There is actually a surprising amount of legroom in all directions, front and back, and I am genuinely impressed. Visibility is not fantastic, but it’s alright.

SItting in this, I think maybe I’ve been spoiled by the Hondas I own. So this is what basic/basic feels like :joy: Well, I’m just here to turn my brain off and get from A to B, rinse repeat, right?

Driving Civilly

First things first: you’ve probably heard all about the notorious Nissan CVT? Yeah. It’s all true. They’re fucking awful.

The main upside to this particular gearbox was that it hadn’t exploded. As for everything else, it can be summed up as “there is no logical or consistent relationship between throttle input and power at wheels”. Starting from the lights, the car did not budge until the pedal had been depressed past some arbitrary deadzone, at which point it would lurch to life and blast screaming off the line, at which point I would have to lift off slightly so I didn’t plow into the car in front, and the car would then stop accelerating. I tried to change my style and just when I thought I had got it to move smoothly I’d lose it again. It literally made me feel motion sick, not to mention now I know how Danny Ric feels in the McLaren.

Fortunately once the car is actually moving at a decent clip, say, past 50km/h or so, these lurching issues are far less prominent and the drive is actually smoother. The other problem is ridiculous amounts of rubber-banding. This can be mitigated by hitting the button on the shift selector that engages “SPORT” mode, at which point the CVT will then align to maximum torque mode. So either you dealt with an unpredictable, rubbery and lurchey mess, or you deal with no chill mode. Seems the latter was only supposed to be used sparingly.

The other problem with SPORT mode is that you actually hear the engine. It’s awful. It’s like listening to a diesel on full blast but also the gears are grinding. It caused me physical pain every time I tried to merge onto the freeway. The engine itself isn’t the worst thing, the 1.8L NA 4-pot producing 129hp and 174Nm (not dissimilar to the outputs from the CIvic’s R18Z1, though somewhat more spirited).

Combined with a much lighter kerb weight of 1220kg, lightest in class, this made for a facile city drive, giving plenty of impression that it could really dart about… when the gearbox let it. And this is where the car shone the most: for crappy eco tyres and a decidedly soft spring rate, this car really felt nimble. There was very little plow or understeer, it turned on a dime and felt like it had far more grip than the Ecopia eco tyres should have had in both wet/dry. Other reviewers agree: this is probably the highlight.

It’s therefore a shame that the brakes had a huge amount of deadzone and the feel extremely soft until about halfway through its abnormally long travel, meaning stopping was also an unpredictable mess to pair with the going, and the steering feel was beyond numb, it was also vague as hell thanks to some botched attempt at “speed adaptive steering” which meant that just like the gearbox AND the brakes, there was no way to really tell just how much lock you had applied until you had to adjust it mid-corner.

With all of the above, the only two saving graces are 1) the ride was comfy thanks to the soft spring rate 2) the car is pretty economical for an NA. On a combined cycle of peak hour work commute versus less busy highway and driving about 300km, I managed 5.6L/100km, confirming that I am generally lighter on the foot than the average Australian reviewer who only managed 6.9. This said, it was a bit fiddly to work out as the fuel range calculator seemed to calculate my remaining distance on the immediate average of consumption within the last 30 seconds, meaning that depending on whether I was starting, stopping, and the incline of the road, the estimate varied by a good 50%. I ended up ignoring it entirely.

Driving Not-So-Civilly

There’s no point. Aside from the superior handling, the potential is stifled by everything else robbing me of all confidence in my ability to place the car correctly, not bin it, roll it, or, due to the budget spec of the seat, fling myself out of position.

I mean this is the shit spec what would you expect LOL. All I can say is that past the first 50km/h, the CVT bore no advantage in acceleration and everything felt very flat and anaemic as you might expect, but then again I’d just been driving my type R so anything in this class is probably going to feel like that :joy:

Synthesis

Pros

  • Great handling
  • Comfy ride
  • Roomy cabin
  • Good fuel economy

Cons

  • Awful CVT
  • Awful steering feel
  • Awful brake feel
  • Awful engine noise
  • Awful to drive on a day to day basis in general
  • Worse than basic fittings and far behind most of the competition at this price point

Verdict

Could almost have been viable with a couple of fundamental improvements, but as it came, a confused mess rather than a return to form.

If you must, stick to the manual. But the steering and the brakes are still more than enough to be a deal-breaker. If you literally don’t care about the driving and you’re also deaf I suppose you could do worse, but why bother with that when there’s clearly better?

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