Steering Column 22.05.09

Sipping the juice

Vauxhall has launched what it’s describing as the most economical car in the company’s 106-year history. It is the Corsa ecoFLEX which has an official average fuel consumption of an amazing 70.6mpg.

On sale now, it’s not the slug you might imagine. It is powered by a four cylinder 1.25-litre diesel engine that can turn out 74bhp in power and a very useable 170Nm of torque. It will do the 0-62mph sprint in 13.5 seconds and run on to a top speed of 104mph too.

Only available as a three-door, the ecoFLEX has a very air-slippery design to cut drag, shorter ratio spacing between first and second gears to make it easier to run stress-free around town, and longer fourth and fifth gear ratios so that it gives better fuel economy at speed on longer journeys.

Narrow, low rolling-resistance tyres on lightweight steel wheels cut drag and weight too.

The engine pumps out 105g/km of carbon dioxide which means it’s eligible for the bargain basement £35 a year car tax.

The full price is £11,295, but if you have an old car to trade in you could now save yourself £2000 through the government’s new scrappage scheme.

Baby Cruiser

Here’s a tasty looking thing. If you fancy a four-wheel-drive Toy­ota but can’t afford the monstrous Land Cruiser or the mid-range RAV-4, you now have a new option. It’s called the Urban Cruiser and is now on sale.

You can get it with a 1.33-litre petrol engine coupled to a two-wheel-drive transmission, or with a 1.4-litre diesel engine that pushes torque through all four wheels.

Neither are what you would call cheap though – the 1.3 costs £14,500 and the diesel 1.4 is £16,400.

For those wanting economy in day-to-day driving, either one is probably going to be attractive. For those who also want all year round security on the road, the four-wheel-drive will probably be worth the extra £1900.

If you believe the guff, it’s got “chunky, go-anywhere styling” with a “contemporary twist”, benefiting from “state of the art Toyota packaging know-how” and built for customers who “combine an active lifestyle with a high level of environmental awareness but who are not willing to compromise on style”.

If you believe me, it’s probably a well put together car that will be reliable, flexible and comfy, but I’ll look forward to trying it out to see for myself. I’ll let you know. It looks nice though, I’ll give you that right now.

Clean lines

Volkswagen says its streamlining its range of large family cars known as the Passat, and as such is introducing a new model known as the R Line to take up the mid-range slack.

At the moment the equipment packages are labelled S, Highline, Sport and SEL in ascending order of magnitude. That is going to be replaced with the S, R Line and Highline.

The saintly BlueMotion option remains for those wanting maximum efficiency and clean running while the R36 is the fire-breathing devil at the other end of the spectrum.

I’m not sure how VW executives keep their faces straight when the describe cutting six options to five as a streamlining, but there you go.

The newly created R Line is built on the entry-level S model but costs £600 because it has more equipment . . . £2,470 worth of extra equipment according to the company, so that sounds like a bargain.

Key external differences will be 17-inch alloy wheels, skirts on the front, side and rear, and chrome slats in the grille. Inside there is cruise control, better front seats, a multifunction steering wheel and a built-in tyre pressure monitoring system.

Mike Grundon


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