Clever Clio RS: A Cute and Quick Renault

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YES YES YES oh YES: sexy inside and out, snappy performance, a brilliant drive

Oh dear me no: no manual, slightly slow EDC auto

What a cracker!

Once, Hot Hatches conjured images of fake Burberry set caps at jaunty angles, loud exhausts, and beards fashioned into faint outlines on a face. “Da Boyz” gathered like flocks of gulls in distant car parks comparing the sizes of their mods, and doing whatever “Da Boyz” do when they concentrate en masse . To make matters Clio R.S. 200 Sport gaycarboys (5)worse, their hatches were about as comfortable as riding a wooden toboggan over a cobbled street while being simultaneously whacked in the kidneys with both a cricket bat and a house brick. And, that was before “Da Boyz” got at them with their spanners. It was a hideous experience. Long trips necessitated frequent comfort stops, if only to allow a battered body short reprieves.

It is a different story now because the hot hatch went and got all posh and luxurious. As mad as it sounds, I see a touch of mid-century Italian in the Clio, and that’s not a bad thing by any means. If you don’t like a bit of Italian, there is something wrong with you.  I can imagine a short film clip with some 50’s music playing while the voice-over says “Just perfect”. There are blankets and baskets in the boot with a lightly chilled bottle of champers lovingly nestled on a lap. There are just 2 boys or 2 girls on board. All it needs is a huge sunshine roof.

The clever concealed rear door handles lend a coupe look to a 5 door hatch, and the black 18” wheels onClio R.S. 200 Sport gaycarboys (7) the Cup show the flashy racing style red brake callipers. There is no real need for the rear black diffuser and rectangular twin exhausts, but it lends a touch of “look at me” to the driving experience. Just the thing for driving up and down “the Strip”. The doors are deeply sculptured and deliciously curvaceous making the Clio look like a piece of artwork. The rump is pert and cheeky just the way I like them.

The Hot Hatch market is intensely completive and against the Clio, VW’s Polo GTi looks a little frumpy, and while Peugeot’s 208 GTi is drop-dead gorgeous, it is yet to prove itself. Clio RS has 147 kw as does the 208 with the Polo coming in at more conservative 132 kw. The Clio will take 95ron whereas the other two will have hissie fits if they aren’t given 98ron cocktails to sip. That’s a considerable saving at 20c a litre over the life of your ownership. Think how many rounds of drinks that is.

The Renault has a particularly clever Smart Key system. Like other brands, you secrete the key about your person and as you approach the car, the interior lights illuminate so you can check that nobody is hiding in the back seats (that you don’t want to be there). You can enter and start without having to use the key, but the clever part is when you leave. You simply walk away. The Clio knows you’re in a rush to get to happy hour, so she locks her doors for you with a reassuring “beep”. I like that feature very much and is common across the brand.

There is no hiding the bijou cabin’s diminutive dimensions. Still, if you don’t want a city car, don’t buy one. The rear seat is for short friends on short trips only. Some would argue that’s a good thing. It cuts down on free loaders.

Inside, everything is beautifully set out, but there are a few signs that she was originally a left hand drive. Clio R.S. 200 cup gaycarboysThe starter button is on the passenger side of the centre console and the blinkers are on the left hand side of the steering column. It doesn’t take long to get used to, and in the meanwhile you’ll have a smudged windscreen to enjoy. The bane of my life is French auxiliary control stalks mounted behind steering wheel. All 3 French car makers do it. They are impossible to use if you aren’t fully conversant with the functions. Unlike buttons mounted on the face of the steering wheel, those mounted on stalks are covered by the steering wheel itself. You could break a nail trying to get at them, and break your brain trying to remember what they buttons do. It’s not a total loass, there are still wheel mounted buttons to control the cruise control/speed limiter but there are not backlit. In a spasm of Frenchness, the on/off button for these functions in next to the hand brake. Why, just, why? The cup holders don’t hold man-sized cups either. They’re probably designed for nothing more than un espresso s’il vous plait.

I let out a “hallelujah” after jumping into the comfy driver’s seat. They were supportive without feeling like they were lovingly carved from granite, and finding the sweet spot was easy. It only took a jiff to get the driving position just right.

The infotainment system was brilliant, though I never managed to get the voice system to work. I’ve yet to meet a voice system that didn’t make me want to bang my head against the window. The touch screen is large enough, so is not to too fiddly. The system responds quickly to touch inputs except for the on/off button which needs a little think before performing either function. There were a few little quirks to get used to. The Frenchness only made me ranty-pants when, hopelessly lost, I tried to find a way to input an address into the Satnav. For the whole drive, the map had been proudly displaying our progress on the screen, but in order to get to the address screen, to first have to go back to the Home screen and select NAV. Why on earth couldn’t the little man in Paris put an “address” icon on the map screen?

Clio R.S. 200 Sport gaycarboysThere is a surprising amount of space in the boot and laying the split rear seats down is a one-touch process. Handy in some circumstances I would think. Unusually, I preferred the leather of the RS Cup but the “Sports Carbon” fabric in the base model was also very comfortable. If you like a bit of bling, you’ll probably bright red highlights and seatbelts, which is a particularly fun bit of campery.

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We spent 2 glorious weeks driving the RS and RS Cup back to back. When it comes to transmissions, I’m a “shift-em-yourself” kind of boy. It gives you the satisfaction selecting exactly the right gear for exactly the right occasion. All Clio RS models come exclusively with one of those 6 speed EDC double clutch jobbies. I didn’t like it at first. It felt slow and unresponsive, but like all things I got used to it. If a driver feels particularly aggrieved, there is the Paddle Shift option. If you’re feeling frisky you can select “sports” mode where the engine gets an extra kick. Pressing and holding the that same MODE button will select TRACK but this is only for the foolhardy of braindead. It deactivates your electronic nannies. Why on earth would you buy a new car then opt to relieve it of the burden of making your driving look good? I didn’t use the launch control as it tends to attract unwanted attention on public roads. I want to add that the manual paddles are attached to the steering column not the back of the wheel. This means the paddles are always where Clio R.S. 200 Sport gaycarboys (6)you left them, especially if you want to change gear mid corner. Unlike being on the steering wheel where you have to perform mental acrobatics when the paddles have swapped sides. Worse still, you have to quickly work out if the paddles have in fact switched sides.

Both cars come alive on tight bends. The ride feels sophisticated and subtle, but tenacious and surefooted. The Cup has a slightly tighter chassis but frankly I couldn’t tell the difference. Left in Sports Auto mode, the joy of changing direction can be your sole focus. There is very little torque steer so you are free to stick the boot in as you power out of a corner. Even nasty bumps mid corner fail to unsettle the Clio. The engine is as sweet as a nut and feels like it will happily rev on to destruction if you let it. Getting near redline elicits a loud beep and in manual mode is helpful and annoying in equal measure. It means it is time to hit a paddle.

The RS infotainment system has a veritable bevy of modes giving info only a bogan is going to want. It will tell you power, torque, turbo, steering geometry, gear selected and the gear preselected. Who, but a fake Burberry-cap-wearing “lad” is ever going to use it.

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As I said, the Cup has a racier chassis but most of us wouldn’t notice the difference. In fact both cars feel sharp as pins but importantly can be used as an everyday driver. You could comfortably drive 1,000 k’s on the Sydney Brisbane run and not feel like you’ve been on a torture rack. Enthusiastic driving has a dire effect on the fuel consumption but that’s to be expected, so save it for special occasions. The average driver is going to be very happy tootling about in Normal Auto mode. The front sensors and reversing cameras are not standard on all which Clios, is almost unforgivable. They should be standard on all cars, as should auto dimming rearview mirrors. However those few tiny misdemeanours didn’t blemish a fabulous drive.

Like it or not, people judge you by the car you drive. A classic car says class, a family car spells instant disaster, a convertible garners universal praise and a sports car says either “I love driving”. Sure there are knobs driving hot hatches, but who cares. Clio really is the perfect car during the week, and an amazing car on the weekend.

Clio is a car that warrants an extra long test drive. You simply can’t appreciate it on a 5 minute dawdle round the block. It doesn’t show her at her best. Find a corner, find a bump, find a hill and grab her by the scruff of the neck. Clio RS manages to sacred trinity of good looking, nippy and fun.

Would I buy one: Yes, without hesitation, they are perfection.

Engine/transmission: 4cyl turbo petrol, 147kw, 240Nm, sequential multi point injection, 6speed EDC

Fuel: 95/98ron, 45L tank, euro5, 6.3 L/100k

Performance: 6.7sec 0-100kph

Price: $33.240 – $41,990 drive away

Hey Good Looking; Style And Function Highlight Pro_cee’d GT Good Design Award



MY15 Kia pro_cee'd

Kia’s stunning pro_cee’d GT has stepped up to the mark to win an Australian Good Design Award in front of international design glitterati at a gala event in Sydney.

Having been elevated to the finals through the initial judging three weeks earlier, the stylishly eye-catching pro_cee’d GT took the next step by winning one of only two Good Design Awards allocated to mainstream cars.

The judges were taken by the pro_cee’d GT’s sharp styling _ “the designers have found an elegant balance between beauty and aggression in the overall styling, the end result is a car that looks fast even when standing still” _ its functionality _ “this car easily lives up to the GT nameplate, performance and handling is spot on for a car of this size and market positioning” _ and its quality _ “fit, finish and materials (both interior and exterior) exceed expectations”.

And a final accolade, not just for the pro_cee’d GT but for the brand: “Kia just keeps getting better and better at design – love this car.”

The 1.6-litre turbo, 150kW, 265Nm pro_cee’d GT was penned at Kia’s European Design Centre in Frankfurt under the guidance of head of design Peter Schreyer and is manufactured at the Zilina plant in Slovakia. Australia is the only market outside of Europe to have access to the pro_cee’d GT. It is available from $29,990 rrp.

The Good Design Awards is Australia’s longest standing national design award and promotion program, and one of the few forums for professional Industrial Designers and manufacturers to showcase their design expertise to national and international audiences.

As a result of more than 50 years of design benchmarking, the program has focused on progressively raising the standard of design and innovation in Australia.

Today, the Good Design Awards are highly regarded by business, industry, academia and government for their important role in setting a benchmark for the design profession and for driving competitiveness in Australian business. Internationally, the program is respected for its rigorous design assessment process.

A few Shots: A Day Out With The Jeep Freedom, a photo essay

Unedited and untouched. Prior to writing the story, this is what a day in a Jeep can be like. From city, to a country house mansion for a light tasty (but $32 for a pie and beer is a bit much) lunch. The Briars played host to our posse before heading down a track. All of this just a hop and a skip from Sydney.Jeep Freedom (5)

ABOVE: The Jeep Freedom on a lonely bush track

BELOW: The Briars Country House Hotel. Have a pie and beer for $32

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BELOW: A bush track in the recently burnt-out NSW Southern Highlands

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The NSW bush regenerating after a fire.

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Renault Floride Leads the 2014 Sydney’s Mardi Gras Parade

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Many of you will have seen the Mardi Gras parade recently. I’d like to express a big thanks to Renault Australia and to Northshore Renault for registering a Megane Floride Convertible for the occasion. We handed the car back still glittering from the night. The car carried some of the very marchers from the first protest march in 1978. I was chuffed to see the Renault as the first vehicle in the parade.

The Floride CC was originally destined for Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore and Alex Greenwich MP but when Mardi Gras asked us if we minded if the Megane led the parade, we said yes.

Thankfully the rain held off and once again Fred Nile was denied yet another mass wet Tshirt contest. Oh how he doesn’t see the irony.

I wanted to make a few observations of the Floride as our drive was limited:

The Good: 5 things

· Attractive retro interior

· Cvt smooth

· Smooth easy to use folding metal top

· Super comfy ride

· Comfy seats

The not so good: 5 things

· 103kw engine needs more power for such a heavy car

· some of the plastics didn’t feel quite right

· Steering wheel doesn’t adjust out far enough

· When wet roof opens, water tips into the boot

· Metal roof takes most of the boot (common with all metal folding roofs)

Renault floride cc

*1,997 cc 2.0 litres 4 cyl petrol

*Emission control level EU5, 187 (g/km) carbon dioxide level

*6.5 star greenhouse rating, 6.5 star air polution rating and 3.5 star GVG rating

*Fuel consumption : 10.8 (l/100km) urban/city, 6.5 (l/100km) country/highway, 8.1 (l/100km) combined and 741 km vehicle range.
*Power: 103 kW , @ 6,000 rpm; 195 Nm @ 3,750 rpm primary.

Price $45,990

Yes, the Sexy, Retro is Here : All-New Ford Mustang

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  • 5.0-litre V8 anchors the all-new Ford Mustang lineup with power and torque fit for the iconic brand
  • New 2.3-litre EcoBoost® brings turbocharging to Mustang with exceptional power and torque and projected class-leading fuel efficiency
  • Manual transmissions provide smoother shifting, automatic transmissions feature steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters

SYDNEY, Australia., Dec. 5, 2013 – The all-new Ford Mustang offers a choice of engines available with either manual or automatic transmissions that make it a great all-around performer no matter how you mix and match.

Less is more, EcoBoost comes to Mustang

The new 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine brings turbocharging to the Mustang powertrain lineup. Designed to meet the needs of drivers looking for outstanding performance and fuel efficiency, this EcoBoost engine has been developed specifically for Mustang. The intake manifold and turbocharger housing are optimized to provide better breathing and higher output in Mustang.

With a projected 227kW @ 5550 rpm (US spec) and 407Nm of torque(US spec), this EcoBoost engine fits the bill for a true Mustang powerplant.

“This EcoBoost engine delivers the healthy output that Mustang drivers expect regardless of the speed,” said Scott Makowksi, EcoBoost powertrain engineering manager. “This EcoBoost engine might be small in displacement, but it delivers where a Mustang driver expects it with a broad, flat torque curve and great driveability under any conditions.”

The newest member of Ford’s global family of EcoBoost engines, the 2.3-litre continues to take advantage of state-of-the-art technologies including direct fuel injection, twin independent variable camshaft timing and turbocharging to produce big-engine power and torque with improved fuel efficiency.

This is the first Ford engine to utilize a low-inertia twin-scroll turbocharger that provides quicker boost response while enabling lower emissions and improved efficiency. The cylinder head features an integrated exhaust manifold that separates the inner and outer pairs of cylinders into each inlet passage to the turbo.

Keeping the exhaust pulses separated from the next cylinder in the firing order eliminates mixing losses and maximizes pulse energy to the turbine wheel. The result is quicker torque delivery when the driver needs it for passing maneuvers and similar performance to a twin-turbocharger configuration.

The separated exhaust ports also enable the exhaust valves to stay open longer for reduced pumping losses that improve specific fuel consumption by about 1 percent.

With more than 227kW and 407Nm of torque pumped out from such a small engine, in a car where drivers are more inclined to use it, ensuring durability was critical. Enhancements to the Mustang EcoBoost engine to withstand the added stresses include:

  • Forged-steel crankshaft
  • Piston-cooling jets
  • Steel piston ring carriers
  • Premium bearing materials
  • Upgraded valve seat materials
  • Forged-steel connecting rods
  • High-pressure die-cast aluminum cylinder block with ladder-frame bearing caps
  • Deep-sump, die-cast aluminum oil pan

The beating heart of a pony

No Ford Mustang engine lineup would be complete without a great V8 engine at its core. The 5.0-litre V8 powers into a new generation with a host of upgrades that enable it to breathe better, especially at higher engine speeds. Many of these changes are derived from the lessons learned in developing the special edition 2013 Mustang Boss 302.

Getting air into the cylinders and exhaust out is the key to generating more power and torque from any engine, and that has been the focus of development on the V8, which features:

  • Larger intake valves
  • Larger exhaust valves
  • Revised intake camshafts
  • Revised exhaust camshafts
  • Stiffer valve springs – ensures that the valves close completely at high rpm
  • New cylinder-head casting – revised ports that provide a straighter path to the valves for less-restrictive intake and exhaust flow; combustion chamber modifications accommodate larger valves
  • Sinter forged connecting rods – lighter and more durable for high-rpm operation
  • Redesigned piston tops – deeper cutouts clear the new larger valves
  • Rebalanced forged crankshaft – supports higher-rpm operation

These upgrades are projected to generate more than 313kW @ 6500 rpm and 529Nm of torque (US spec).

A new intake manifold includes charge motion control valves to partially close off port flow at lower engine speeds. This increases the air charge tumble and swirl for improved air-fuel mixing. This results in better fuel economy, idle stability and lower emissions.

The variable camshaft timing on the intake side now has a greater range of adjustment available thanks to mid-lock phasers. This enables better optimized control of the valve timing over a broader range of engine speeds and loads for improved fuel economy and emissions


More than most drivers, Mustang owners like to take control and shift for themselves. Whether they select a fully manual gearbox or the updated automatic transmission, the experience will be better than in any previous pony.

The Getrag manual has a new shift linkage design for shorter throws and improved precision. The shift lever is now positioned closer to the driver and away from the cup-holders so the driver has a clear path for shifting.

Mustang blends outstanding all-around performance and everyday usability. Drivers who prefer to let the car handle the shifting during their daily work run, but still want to take control when the roads get twisty, will appreciate the new steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles with rev-matching downshifts that are now standard with the Select-Shift six-speed automatic transmission.

The automatic also features a redesigned case with cast-in ribs that help make it stiffer and reduce the weight. Internally clutches have been optimized and operating temperature has been increased to reduce friction. The output shaft is now supported by a ball-bearing that enables a top speed of 249 kph for Mustang GT.

With a choice of powertrains to match driving styles and lifestyles, the new Mustang has contemporary technology under the hood to match its modern design and remain quintessentially Mustang.

Cars Kill Cities (from progressive transport’s blog)


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OK, I’m finally getting a chance to make another post.  I have temporarily relocated to Mountain View, CA and have been up to my eyeballs in work, both ‘real’ work and research work.  It’s nice to get back to this blog.

Cars do not belong in cities.  A standard American sedan can comfortably hold 4+ adults w/ luggage, can travel in excess of 100 miles per hour, and can travel 300+ miles at a time without stopping to refuel.  These are all great things if you are traveling long distances between cities.  If you are going by yourself to pickup your dry cleaning, then cars are insanely over-engineered for the task.  It’s like hammering in a nail with a diesel-powered pile driver.   To achieve all these feats (high capacity, high speed, and long range driving), cars must be large and powered by fossil fuels.  So when you get a few hundred (or thousand) cars squeezed onto narrow city streets, you are left with snarled traffic and stifling smog.

Even if you ignore the pollution, cars simply take up too much space.   Next time you are stuck in traffic behind what seems like a million cars, try to imagine if all those cars where replaced by pedestrians or bike riders.  Suddenly, the congestion is gone.

60 Cars, 60 Bike Riders, and 60 Bus Passengers in Munster, Germany.

But why am I complaining about traffic?  Traffic only affects those stuck in it, right?  Once all cars go electric, essentially eliminating inter-city air pollution, then there will be no more problems for pedestrians, right?  Wrong!!  Probably the biggest problem with cars in cities is that they require huge amounts of land for storage (a.k.a. parking).  Here is a photo of Midtown Atlanta between 5th street and 12th street.  This is one of the densest and most pedestrian-friendly ares in the entire state of Georgia.  The red blocks indicate parcels of land that are 100% dedicated to car storage.

red marks amount of land taken up by parking in atlanta

Red Squares Indicate Land that is 100% Dedicated to Parking in Midtown Atlanta

Dedicating all this land to car storage basically reduces the density by about half, doubles the average distance between locations, and reduces walkability.  Throw in the 16-lane interstate and the 45+ mph traffic on most of these streets, it becomes exceedingly hard to believe that this is one of the most walkable areas in the entire state.  Such is life for pedestrians in a car-dominated city.

It wasn’t always this way.  Atlanta, like all cities, used to be walkable and people actually lived IN the city instead of commuting 50 miles every day.  But as more people moved away from the city, the more Atlanta had to become like a suburb, being retrofitted to handle all the automobile infrastructure required by a million 40 hour-a-week temporary citizens.  The result of this retrofit is a wasteland of asphalt and isolated neighborhoods, a slow decimation that has rolled along since the innovation of the automobile.

Contrary to how it may sound, I do not want to rid the earth of cars.  I just want to use them smarter.  Do you really need a 2-ton vehicle to pickup your dry-cleaning?  Probably not.  Although I do see the appeal in loading a family of 6 into an SUV and traveling to Florida for vacation.  That is a totally reasonable use of an automobile.  What I really want  is clean, walkable, safe, affordable, and family-friendly cities and towns.  In a strange way, I kind of want to live in Mayberry.

In the next post, I promise to discuss a few ideas that may get us a little closer to this goal