Martin Ward scours the globe for the week’s insider fleet intelligence
I’ve been using a Renault Laguna Sport Tourer and what a surprising car it is.
On paper, the 1.5-litre 110bhp diesel engine does appear to be underpowered, but this is not the case at all. It is smooth, responsive and extremely quiet, which makes the Laguna a good all-round estate car with loads of luggage space.
Speaking of the French, what is going on over the Channel?
A couple of weeks ago, their president was here praising the British and thanking us for things we have done in the past.
And then tonight I see lots of billboards around Leeds saying that the new Citroën C5 is “Unmistakeably German”.
What a strange strapline for them to use but it did get noticed, by me at least.
Admittedly, recent upper-medium sector cars from French manufacturers have improved dramatically in style, quality and image, but to insinuate that a French car is German is like saying Cheddar cheese is unmistakably Brie – they are both very good, but from different countries.
Went to Munich to drive the all-new Volkswagen Passat CC. It’s not, as the name suggests, a coupé-convertible but is a ‘comfort coupé’.
This is a four-seater, with no plans for a five-seater, which could be a mistake. Volkswagen says it has done this to distinguish it from the Passat saloon, but the exterior styling does this admirably – it is a great-looking car that will attract more attention than any other car in the sector.
After driving the very capable and refined 2.0 TDI we had a press conference and then, for the first time that I have been doing this job, we were invited into the hotel kitchen where we had to cook our own meal.
The CC is an interesting car as – being a four-door coupé – it doesn’t really have any competition.
Maybe it should have been called something different to Passat.
I understand there were many heated discussions within Volkswagen about the naming of this car, going from a completely new name to coupé, but the Americans didn’t like that so a compromise of CC was reached.
But Volkswagen has been brave with the design and has only 5,800 to sell in its first full year in the UK, so it should be a success.
As far as the four-seat only configuration is concerned, it doesn’t seem that long ago that Vauxhall told us that research proved that there was real demand for large four-seat cars.
It then showed us the Signum and the rest is history.
Somebody asked me how the Fiat 500 was selling after the initial blaze of publicity.
This got me thinking and, on reflection, I have not seen one on the road, other than the red one I had a few weeks ago.
A phone call to Fiat revealed that 2,700 have been registered since the end of January, with a current order bank of 3,300.
Fiat says that it will take around 10,000 sales before there is any real visibility.
Dealers have been delivering unique cars, with no two being the same colour or having the same spec and sticker choices.