Steering Column 10.04.09

Slow burn

The Association of British Drivers is promoting a petition calling on the Government to abandon any plans it has to reduce the national speed limit from 60mph to 50mph.

What’s proposed is for the signs you see as you exit a speed limit – the black slash across a white circle – to mean the limit is now 50 rather than 60. It wouldn’t cost anything to implement and would make the roads safer and reduce harmful emissions.

The ABD, however, says it would serve no purpose whatsoever. It will reduce drivers’ attentiveness and encourage contempt for the law and more speeding, the organisation argues. It says the petition it has on the website of the Prime Minister already has over 20,000 signatures and is the fourth largest on the site.

Fast burn

Meanwhile back in the real world, Volkswagen is launching the sixth generation model of its archetypal hot hatch, the Golf GTI. Almost 36 years to the day after work began on the first prototype we’ll see the slickest, quickest and cleanest GTI ever taking to the road with a new two-litre TSI petrol engine.

You can order today but it won’t be available till late next month. Prices will range from £22,410 to £24,300 depending on whether you want it with three or five doors and a manual or DSG gearbox.

The Mk VI version turns out 208bhp, about 10bhp up on the outgoing Mk V. It’ll slip up to 62mph in just under seven seconds, it’ll do an average of almost 39 miles on a gallon of unleaded (up about 3.5mpg) and carbon dioxide emissions fall from 189g/km to 170.

Tweaks to the traction control and electronic stabilisation programme are designed to keep the power and the glory under control. The suspension is lowered slightly and, for the first time is pneu­matically damped. Alongside adjustable steering resistance and throttle control, this means the driver can switch between normal, comfort and sport modes depending on whether or not he or she has the mother-in-law, sister or squeeze in the passenger seat.

It looks pretty sharp outside and in, with Scirocco-like lights squinting out at the front, and the interior decked out in red and black. Of course, it’s the subtle little GTI badge that says more than anything else about style.

Sun burn

Mazda’s hugely popular open-top MX-5 sportscar is now in showrooms in 2009 specification with a slick facelift and tweaked engines that are more efficient and cleaner than ever.

The company says both the soft top and the Roadster Coupe with a folding hard-top now echo the design language now seen on the new Mazda3, RX-8 R3 and Mazda2. I say it’s sleeker and more bullet-like than ever before … and it was never a brick in any of its incarnations.

There are two engine options, both petrol. One’s a two-litre, 158bhp unit and there’s also a 1.8-litre, 125bhp unit that will do an average of just over 40 miles on a gallon of fuel. Gearshift comes via a five-cog manual box or a six-speed PowerShift unit with paddle shift under the steering wheel.

Prices for the soft top begin at £16,340 for the 1.8 manual and rise to £20,190 for a two-litre PowerShift. The folding hard-top adds 2k to the tags.

Mike Grundon


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