I went to Spain for the weekend and hired a Kia Picanto from the airport. The car had covered 28,000km, but looked and drove like it had done 128,000km.
The seat material was bagging, dents everywhere – it was a disgrace.
But it wasn’t until I was on the motorway that the car really showed its inabilities. Some of the inclines were just too much for it. At one stage I had to use second gear and turn off the air-con to keep going, while big smoky lorries thundered past me. This was not fit for purpose.
Rob Barnes, BMW contract hire account manger, visited us in Leeds to talk about new models and engines.
The two that really stuck out as winners were the 520d with the new 2.0-litre engine that produces 177bhp, up from the current 163bhp. CO2 emissions down to 136g/km puts it in Band C VED, which is supermini performance. The other is the introduction of a 635d – a diesel powered 6 Series, something BMW should have done years ago.
Despite its late arrival it will be very popular.
More BMW, this time in Pau, near the Pyrenees in France, to drive the all-new fourth generation M3 Coupe.
The first day we drove the car on motorways and country roads desperately trying to keep within the French speed limits – not easy in a car that has a 4.0-litre V8 engine producing 420bhp, but we did, as we were warned that the local Gendarmes were out in force waiting for us. In fact, one member of the group was caught, and got an instant E90 fine.
The second day was on the privately-owned test circuit near Pau, where there were professional drivers to show us what the M3 was really capable of. I now know what it is like to be one of those astronauts on the space shuttle.
It’s most powerful production M3 ever built, with handling and road holding to match its extraordinary power.
Down to Coleshill, north of Birmingham, to IM Group’s recently completed head office. IM is the UK importer of Subaru, Daihatsu and Isuzu.
After a quick look around the swish new offices we had a presentation on the all-new Subaru Impreza, and then a drive in one of only a few in the country. It is clear from talking to our hosts that they want to be a bit more mainstream with the new car.
Fleets will be targeted as they now have a sensibly-priced five-door hatch that looks acceptable, is priced right, and has four-wheel-drive as standard.