Steering Column 03.10.08


THERE is yet another new kid on the four-door pick-up block.

Volkswagen has unveiled a pre-production version of a one-tonne four-wheel-drive truck it will be starting to build at the end of next year.

Only known so far as the “Pickup”, it will be built in Argentina and initially exported to Europe, the rest of South America, South Africa and Australia. It is the fourth model in the company’s commercial vehicle portfolio but it’s being flagged up as ideal for recreational or business use.

It will be powered by a series of new turbodiesel engines that will be designed to be powerful yet clean and efficient. Very few other details of much meaning have been released, but looking at the pictures of the concept vehicle, made up in some mythical coastal search and rescue livery, it looks fabulous. It’s clean but chunky, elegant and moody.

Let’s just hope that with tax changes due to hit 4x4s particularly hard, someone will be able to afford to keep one on the road.

The cee’d and the Soul

Kia is promising to introduce four new concept cars at this month’s Paris Motor Show, all of them so clean and green that they will be sporting haloes.

There will be a hybrid version of the chirpy little Soul that we’ll see in showrooms for the first time in the spring. There will also be a hybrid version of the cee’d hatchback and a cee’d that has an automatic engine cut-out when it’s stationary in traffic – something we’ll see for sale soon in the new year.

Topping the list is a Sportage 4×4 powered entirely by a fuel-cell electric engine. It’s actually a road-going test bed for new technology being developed by Kia.

The company has come a long way in the past few years and, if followed through quickly enough, these developments could help put it ahead of much of the opposition.

Eyes in the back of your car

Ford has done something with its new Kuga 4×4 which surprises me. It’s put a rear-view camera on the tailgate to help prevent drivers backing into hidden obstacles.

It’s not the technology that surprises me, it’s the fact that it’s taken so long for it to happen. This is amazingly enough, the first time Ford has put such a thing on a passenger car. It’s far from a new idea and others already have them.

According to Ford’s systems engineer, “many customers lack confidence when manoeuvring in tight spaces or hitching a caravan” but this miniature camera, mounted near the Ford badge in the tailgate will “help drivers to reverse safely and accurately”.

Put alongside the proximity alarms that warn when you’re reversing too close to the car behind you, that makes the Kuga one of the safest, easiest to reverse and insufferably smug cars on the market.

The Flashing Blade

To celebrate Steve Brogan’s British Superstock bike champion­ship title win this year, Honda is preparing to launch a special edition CBR1000R Fireblade in what will be his colour in the last race of the season – bright yellow.

There will be just 100 of them built and each one will be signed and numbered by Brogan himself. Selected Honda dealers around the country will have them available from the end of this month.

Despite the eye-catching colour and the exclusivity, they’ll only cost £9,321 each – that’s exactly the price of a standard Fireblade.

Mike Grundon


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