Automotive Blog

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross vs Nissan Qashqai – What will you choose as your next SUV?


As a young female professional and an owner of a Nissan Qashqai, I associate SUV’s with safe, sensible and slow cars - perfect for doing the school run and driving long distances. The older model Qashqai’s are particularly bland and lack any interior or exterior styling. Yet, they are practical, comfortable and affordable which is why they are the UK’s bestselling car in the small SUV market. Car manufacturers such as Toyota, Seat, Peugeot, Kia and Hyundai have all tried to emulate the success of the Qashqai, but not succeeded. With an ever-increasing demand for small and affordable SUVs, Mitsubishi are pinning their hopes on the new Eclipse Cross as a more ‘exclusive’ alternative.

The cars on test were the 4x4 automatic Eclipse Cross 4, finished in Bronze, with black leather interior and 18″ alloy wheels; and one of only 250 First Edition Eclipse Cross 6-speed manuals, finished in Diamond Red, 18″ alloy wheels and exclusive ‘First Edition’ styling. Currently, there is only one engine option available, with all versions powered by a newly developed ‘4B40’ 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine.

From the outside, the Eclipse Cross looks much bigger than the Qashqai, yet it’s only slightly larger in overall length (and fractionally smaller in width). The aggressive styling is far more appealing to the younger market, with its oversized front grille, muscular sides and distinctive sloping roofline. The split rear screen with LED lighting is ‘edgy’ and surprisingly doesn’t hinder vision once inside. The boot size is much smaller than the Qashqai even with the rear seat sliding adjustment - fitting four golf bags at standard position.

As you climb into the driver’s seat, you’ll notice the narrow door sills allowing you to enter and exit the car without getting your trousers dirty – a plus for any business man or woman! Once inside, you can feel the car wrap around you and cwtch you in. Space is good both front and rear, the seats moderately comfortable and the slim soft touch steering wheel not over cluttered with controls. Large manual-shift paddles sit behind the wheel in the automatic, with a clear instrument display. Piano-black trim adds a touch of class, interspersed with silver plastic making the interior lighter than in the Qashqai.

The 7” touch-screen infotainment system comes as standard, and is located in the middle of the dashboard. It includes a DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - but sadly no built-in sat-nav. Instead, smartphone users must use a navigation app, which is limited if you have no signal and not enough data! The touchpad in the centre console can also be used to control the system, but the location of the handbrake is awkwardly close to the driver seat, and restricts access to the touchpad controller. Perhaps with time this would become instinctive, but I personally found it unintuitive and more of a distraction - a problem eradicated in the automatic by an electronic handbrake. Overall, I prefer the built in system of the Qashqai as I find it more user-friendly.

Acceleration from 0-62mph ranges from 9.3 seconds in the automatic 2WD (4WD in 9.8 seconds) to 10.3 seconds in the 2WD manual to with a maximum speed of 127mph.  There was slight lag from standstill but once warmed up, the performance and handling through the city and country lanes was good. Brakes were responsive and the ride was comfortable. The panoramic roof, head-up display and premium Rockford 9 speaker system certainly added to my driving experience.

The pricing for the Eclipse Cross depends on trim level specification with either manual or automatic (2WD or 4WD) transmission. The entry-level 163bhp Eclipse Cross 2 (manual) starts at £21,275, increasing to £27,900 for those wanting the higher spec automatic Eclipse 4. For the First Edition, there are only two options available - the manual at £26,825 or the 4WD auto at £29,750.

Interestingly, this is the first car that Japan have released in Europe prior to their launch date in Japan. Perhaps a testament to Mitsubishi’s determination to become an SUV specialist. Do I think they can achieve this? We’ll have to wait and see…

Published on GirlRacer:

© Bethany Keenan (Words and Images)

Cardiff Racing Team's link to Welsh F1 Driver Tom Pryce

Cardiff University Racing Team have unveiled 'Nella' - their fastest and lightest ever race car to compete as one of 130 entrants at the annual Formula Student event in Silverstone. 

Students from all engineering disciplines are given the opportunity to design, build and race a single-seater car to compete in the worldwide student motorsport competition.  As a former member and engineering student at the University I know that traditionally each year the car is given a name.  So this year I was intrigued to hear the story behind why the car was named ‘Nella’ after Tom Pryce’s widow Fenella.  The team told me that they had successfully contacted Fenella who was clearly touched at the proposed name for the new prototype. 

Thomas Maldwyn Pryce, was the only Welshman to ever win a Formula 1 car event at the Brands Hatch Race of Champions in 1975 (see photo below).  In his two and a half year career, Pryce achieved nine top-six finishes and was fast becoming noticed for his ability to control the car, particularly in wet-weather conditions.  Racing alongside world champion drivers such as James Hunt and Niki Lauda, Tom Pryce looked set to have a promising F1 career.  

Motorsport in the 1970s was very dangerous.  Cars were extremely quick and powerful but lacked the advanced safety features that we see in todays Formula 1.

Pryce died aged just 27 years old during a fatal crash at the South African Grand Prix in 1977.  

Almost forty years on, the Cardiff team will race ‘Nella’ in memory of Tom Pryce at the Silverstone Circuit in Northamptonshire.  It is poignant also as it was here that Pryce won the Crusader Championships in 1970, and where he started on pole position at the British Grand Prix in 1975.

If you would like to track the teams progress then please visit their website or follow them on Twitter @Cardiff_Racing.  A 3D CAD video of how the car was built is also shown below.

Published on BBC news 14th July 2016

© Bethany Keenan (Words and Cardiff Racing Images), Tom Pryce image courtesy of Cahier Archive

Road Test - Maserati Ghibli

With its sporty glamour, aggressive front grille and dominating Maserati badge, the 2016 Ghibli doesn’t have to do much to capture your attention.

The Ghibli was first launched at the Turin motor show in 1966 as a two-seater coupé.  It has since transformed to a luxury executive four-door sedan - a smaller and less expensive version of the Maserati Quattroporte.

Maserati’s are renowned for being exclusive and expensive. Yet, surprisingly the Ghibli is reasonably priced (as far as owning a Maserati goes!).  The entry-level 274bhp Ghibli diesel starts at just £48,925, while the 330bhp Ghibli is £52,885, increasing to £63,805 for those wanting the sportier model, 410bhp Ghibli S. All three versions use the same eight-speed, ZF automatic transmission with identical gear ratios – making it effortless to make the most of the power in either automatic or manual mode.  Although, typically rear-wheel drive, there is also the option of a four-wheel-drive transmission called the Ghibli S Q4 but this is currently not available in the UK.

Interestingly, Maserati have opted to keep the same markings for both petrol and diesel models, with no additional ‘d badge’ on the engine or at the rear to indicate a diesel car.  The cars on test were the 3.0 V6 Ghibli in Blue Emozione with black leather interior and the Ghibli diesel in Grigrio with red leather…but should Maserati be making a diesel version Ghibli and do the Italians have the edge over their German competitors?

From the outside, the nose is long and low and the sharp LED headlamps wrap-around the car. The aluminium multi-spoke wheels are simply gorgeous, especially if you opt for the red brake callipers.  Inside, the soft-leather Italian seats were supremely comfortable and I found the car wrapped around me and it didn’t feel as big as it first appeared from the outside.

The leather-covered steering wheel is not cluttered with controls and just has audio and cruise controls to the left and right of the Trident symbol.  Large manual-shift paddles sit behind the wheel, with only one stork on the left (for indicating, windscreen washers etc).  This baffled me at first but once you’ve driven a Maserati, you’ll find yourself wondering why all cars don’t just have one!

To the right of the gear-shift lever you’ll find the sport mode button (my favourite!). This causes the by-pass valves and the exhaust to stay open and you can hear these delightful and distinct turbo huffs from the exhaust - adding to the fun and excitement of driving a Maserati.

Acceleration from 0-62mph was 5.6 seconds in the petrol Ghibli with a maximum speed of 163mph.  There was slight turbo lag from standstill but once warmed up, the performance and handling through the city and country lanes was effortless. Brakes were appropriately responsive and the ride was comfortable. 

By comparison, the Ghibli diesel accelerates 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds with a maximum speed of 155mph. This is largely due to the lower power (274bhp compared to 330bhp) and additional weight of the diesel model (1835kg compared to 1810kg).  Whilst Maserati have upped the torque of the diesel version to account for the loss of power, I personally felt it took away from the overall driving experience.  The turbodiesel didn’t quite sound the same as the petrol version and whilst (from the outside) it looks like the Ghibli, it very much feels like a diesel to drive.  That being said it was still a great car that has the advantage of being more fuel-efficient than its counterpart.

Overall, we achieved a fuel consumption of well over 30mpg in the petrol and 40mpg in the diesel…not bad when we were driving it hard and having fun!

So what makes the Ghibli unique? Well, it’s easy to forget that the Ghibli is not a sports car but a saloon car with a sporty edge.  It therefore looks and performs like a sports car but is comfortable to drive long distances or along broken roads. 

Ghibli’s V6 engines are designed by Maserati but built by Ferrari, further adding to its Italian charm. The most distinctive feature, however, is the traditional blue oval faced clock, which sits directly above the 8.4” touch control display.

With rivals such as Audi, Mercedes and BMW, the Ghibli is an interesting and unique alternative to other models in the luxury midsize sedan market. Both models exude badge appeal and you are sure to be noticed if you rock up to work in a Ghibli.  The diesel version allows for a fun and efficient car that is well built, balanced and grips the road well, but I can’t help but wonder why Maserati shy away from promoting the fact it’s a diesel…

For:   It’s a Maserati! Supreme Italian styling with badge appeal, Cheapest in the Maserati range, Vast boot space.
Against:  Fuel economy, not as fast as its rivals.

© Bethany Keenan (Words and Images)


Road Test - Range Rover Autobiography 2016

Wading depths of 900mm, towing up to 3,500kg and packing a generous 339bhp with 740Nm torque; the insane off-road capabilities make this LandRover Range Rover the SAS of cars! …Even the three distinct lines on the exterior are like its own personal ‘Cap Badge’.

So what makes the Range Rover so special? Well since the first model was released back in 1970, the iconic 4x4 SUV has moved up the ranks to secure its position in the luxury motoring market.  Now in its fourth generation, it competes against models such as the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and even the Bentley Bentayga.  Offering smooth, refined power from a selection of V6 and V8 petrol and diesel engines, it comfortably adapts to it’s surrounding, be it through the city, country lanes, off-road or at swanky venues.

Available in several different trim levels: Vogue, Vogue SE, Autobiography and SV-Autobiography (with the latter two also available in long-wheelbase).  The entry level Range Rover Vogue starts from £75,800 increasing to £149,800 for the SV-Autobiography so it really isn’t cheap!

The car on test was a premium-level Autobiography powered by the new twin-turbo diesel 4.4litre SDV8 engine. Finished in Waitomo Grey with Ebony interior trim and 21″ alloy wheels, the car certainly looked the part before I’d even started the engine.  On ignition, the flush rotary dial raised up from the centre console to present an eight-speed automatic gear lever – which really was a thing of beauty! The optional extras of a state of the art Meridian Audio system, heated steering wheel and seats, panoramic roof and head up display certainly added to my driving experience.

Performance on and off-road was effortless and the car responded according to the road surface and conditions.  This car has real road presence and commands attention. 

Despite the mass of the car, the acceleration from 0-62mph was surprisingly quick at 6.8 seconds with a maximum speed of 135mph.  During our road test, which included city, country and off-road driving, we managed a fuel consumption of 30mpg overall.

My favourite feature of all had to be the massaging front seats – yes that’s right… a car that actually massages you on the move! A particular useful feature if you’ve had a bad day or simply want to spoil yourself.

This car was built for adventure with unprecedented levels of luxury and whilst I will never actually be able to afford a Range Rover I would recommend this car to anyone who has £98,550 just lying around.

Finally, for those who desire extreme levels of protection then check out the Range Rover Sentinel!

For:  Effortless performance, Extensive off-road capabilities and supreme comfort.
Against: Very expensive, guzzles fuel (particularly for a diesel).

© Bethany Keenan (Words and Images)

Road Test - Audi TT 2.0 TFSI Quattro S Line

Unlike its predecessor, the Mk 3 Audi TT is a much more masculine car.  With its aggressive and angular shape it is a world away from the curvy ‘hairdresser’ car first introduced in 1998.

Available as a hardtop coupé or soft-top roadster, buyers have a choice of front-wheel or ‘quattro’ four-wheel drive; 6 speed manual or automatic gearboxes; and petrol or diesel engines. However, the diesel option is only available as a manual, front-wheel drive. The entry-level coupé starts from £27,150 increasing to £29,700 for the S Line trim (which adds 19-inch alloy wheels, all weather LED lighting and a more detailed body kit).

The interior of this 2.0 TFSI Quattro S-tronic test car was sophisticated yet sporty.  The black Alcantara leather seats were embossed with the S Line logo and were comfortable, easily adjustable and could be heated for an additional premium of £325.  The three-spoke flat bottomed steering wheel incorporated the paddle gear change levers and also featured the S Line logo, enhancing the ‘sportiness’ of the car.  The most distinctive feature of the Audi TT, however, is the ‘Virtual Cockpit’ - a hi-definition 12.3inch LCD display where normally the speedometer and tachometer would be.  It combines an advanced satellite navigation system, audio and media controls, various drive modes and trip information – although you will be disappointed to learn that the sat-nav only comes as part of the optional Technology package, costing £1795.  The Comfort and Sound pack also included on this test model came with a high-performance Bang & Olufsen sound system, rear parking sensors and carefully incorporated climate controls within the centre of the air vents (£1590). There are many additional internal and external options for the TT so be sure to keep a budget in mind as the extras will soon add up!

This mid-range test car accelerates 0-62 mph in 5.3 seconds with a maximum speed of 155 mph.  The car is very easy to drive and you can switch quickly between driver modes.  The sequential automatic transmission provides effortless gear changes and keeps the engine at the optimum revs.  For everyday driving, the automatic or economic mode works well, but the real fun begins when you select ‘dynamic’. The car suddenly transforms from being a domesticated cat into a swift and nimble cheetah, with the steering and suspension tightening and the exhaust rasping behind you.  You would never believe the power output of the car was only 227bhp! Whether you’re on country lanes, off-road or on the motorway, the car instills you with confidence as it continues to grips the road.  The brakes are responsive, yet progressive and you always feel that you are in control.  During our road test, which included city and country driving, we managed a fuel consumption of 34.7mpg overall.

Although this is sold as a 2+2 sports coupé, the rear seats are clearly not designed for people, and even a small child would struggle to feel comfortable in the back.  The rear seats are best used for shopping bags or dropped to extend the boot space.  The superior attention to detail from the TT branded fuel filler cap to the quirky heartbeat sound when the vehicle switches off will certainly put a smile on your face.

Don't be fooled by its past reputation, this car is classy, sporty and fun to drive.

For: brilliant handling, stunning interior, a sports car for everyday use at any age.
Against: rear seats are too small, sat-nav is not included in standard spec.

Published on Wheels Within Wales:

© Bethany Keenan (Words and Images)