SEVILLE, and the new Mercedes Benz C-Class. It looks good, but drives even better. It has taken Merc five years to produce this car, and you can tell.
The attention to detail and its ride and handling are just what you would expect from a premium German manufacturer. The interior is back to how it should be, the quality is superb and fit and finish as good as you get.
Another winner from Merc, both as a new, and more importantly, a used car. The Sport, which replaces Avantgarde, is the one to have. What an improvement in name (nobody knew what Avantgarde stood for), styling and, hopefully, RVs.
CZECH Republic, and the new Skoda Fabia. It’s a significant improvement over the current ageing car, which was launched way back in 1999, so has had a long lifecycle.
It was extremely quiet and refined, and the 1.2 70hp petrol engine was remarkable – loads of power and it never ran out of steam. The current Fabia is making good money on the used market with the vRS diesel especially popular.
FRANKFURT, and the new Nissan X-Trail. It’s not a revolution like some of their more recent launches but more an evolution of an already successful model.
It’s still clearly an X-Trail, but has grown by 17cm, with all this space going to the boot area to address a criticism of the current model. Nissan says 4x4 sales in Europe will grow by 41% by 2011, so the current hype in Britain about supposed falling sales is not representative of the actual market situation.
Or is it, with Nissan’s product range heavily geared to 4x4s, just wishful thinking on their part? With all the new models coming, it’s easy to believe Nissan is right, but it is likely to be at the expense of C and D sectors.
PARIS, to see Keith Hawes, Renault UK fleet director. Keith had escorted a small group to Renault’s Technocentre to meet top bods and have an early view of forthcoming designs.
I can’t say any more due to Renault’s version of the Official Secrets Act. But what a place the Technocentre is. More than 12,000 people work there, including engineers, managers and technicians.
At the centre, they produce the drawings that eventually turn into finished products, and everything in between, including research, engineering, purchasing, testing, production techniques and more that somehow all comes together at their various factories.
Renault also has a test track near Paris that employs 1,000 people. It is set in dense woodland in 610 hectares, with 70,000 square metres of buildings, 30 miles of track, and 165 million euros invested since 1982.
HUDDERSFIELD, my house, feet up, thank goodness.