Steering column 02.10.09

First the good news

Despite my saying last week that Mazda’s new hot-hatch, the Mazda3 MPS, will only be available to buy at specialist dealers, it now turns out you will be able to pick one up through a local dealer.

There may or may not be a demonstrator available to try before you buy, but there will be every opportunity to order the car up here and make full use of the after-sales support including all the guarantee work, servicing and maintenance.

The MPS is a genuine road scorcher and it went on sale for the first time in the UK yesterday. Its turbo-charged 2.3-litre petrol eng­ine pumps 258bhp through a six-speed manual gearbox and a clever limited-slip differential to the wheels at the front. It will hit 62mph just 6.1 seconds from the off and its top speed is limited to 155mph.

It looks the business too with a gaping airscoop built into the bonnet, a wing on the roof at the back, and all round skirts to help it suck itself to the road at speed. It also has 18-inch alloy wheels on lowered suspension.

There is only one version available. It costs £21,500 and will give you 29.4 miles per gallon according to the official figures. The price is about right for the performance but the pictures suggest it’s an uncommonly good-looking little car. Form an orderly queue.

Truncated opulence

Not satisfied with making the world’s leading luxury car with genuine off-road ability and not content with producing a smaller, more sporty version of it for a younger market, Land Rover has now announced it is to build a new “small Range Rover”.

We’re told it will be based on the LRX concept vehicle that has been touring the car shows for a while, and if that’s the case we can look forward to a sleek, road-biased bullet of a car wearing an expression with about as much warmth and bonhomie as a bloodstained gladiatorial battle helmet.

There’s not much said just yet except it will debut next year and join the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport in 2011. It will be, we’re told “the smallest, lightest and most efficient vehicle the company has ever produced”. I find that extraordinarily hard to believe, since an old Series I looks almost like a toy car by modern standards . . . but I remain keen to be convinced.

The company’s design director Gerry McGovern says more details will be released next year, but the new car will be “true to the (Range Rover) concept and have many recognisable Range Rover design cues including the signature clamshell bonnet, the floating roof and the solid ‘wheel-at-each-corner’ stance”.

Passat times

And finally, those wise and sagely boffins at the internationally respected magazine What Car? have decreed the Volkswagen’s large family car, the Passat, is the best used car in the country.

More specifically, the 2006 1.9-litre TDI S has been voted Used Car of the Year in this year’s survey.

They decided that it had a good mix of value for money, reliability, driver involvement and high levels of comfort and safety features.

The company is naturally de­lighted. This kind of high-profile accolade from such a trusted con­sumer-focussed publication helps reassure buyers that they are making a safe investment when buying new as well as second-hand.

Mike Grundon


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