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The fleet's in..,

28th June 1980, Page 40
28th June 1980
Page 40
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Page 40, 28th June 1980 — The fleet's in..,
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Seven in all and -neyfe diesel-powered, but is -ne transpoi manager likely to go for -nem? Tim BlakemoR

repot on -nese potential fleet car

Audi's five-cylinder diesel engine is only available in this country in the five-door hatchback Avant model, not the saloon. This car combines a high level of comfort with a unique mechanical specification — a short drive confirms the former and a glance through the technical data confirms the latter.

How many other vehicles can boast a five-cylinder 2,144cc ohc diesel engine and frontwheel drive? The engine has the same stroke and cubic capacity (but a slightly shorter stroke) as its five-cylinder petrol counterpart but rather than being just a diesel version of it, it is in fact a development of the fourcylinder 1500cc Golf engine.

Compared to the 2.2carburettor Audi 100 or even the 1.6-litre version, the diesel Audi is slow, taking 18.5 seconds to reach 100 km/h (62mph), five seconds slower than the 1600cc machine; but in the diesel stakes the 100D's performance figures stand up well.

Both in London traffic and on motorways the Audi was well able to keep up with other traffic, but fast getaways from traffic lights were inhibited by a low first gear ratio. In fact on level ground with an unladen car it was much easier to start off in second gear, although this may not be recommended by AudiVW.

High speed motorway driving was a joy with the Audi. Once the engine was spinning fast all diesel noise disappeared, and at 70mph it was quieter than many comparable petrolengined cars. And diesel engines these days rev much faster than they used to — the two-litre unit develops its maximum power of 51kW (70bhp) at 4,800rpm (a road speed of 93mph).

An outstanding feature of the car at high speed was its stability, it would hold a line perfectly and was completely unaffected by side winds. I can think of no other car in which I've felt more secure at 70mph and above.

The power steering (standard on the diesel model) was superb at all speeds. Perhaps the highest praise that can be given to the steering is that it didn't feel like power steering at all, but like a good light manual one.

Even on frosty January mornings, starting from cold was always a straightforward if somewhat noisy affair. The five glow plugs (one per cylinder) are linked to a sensor in the cooling system and the length of time for which they are activated when the "ignition" key is turned to -position 2" depends upon the temperature of the


On the coldest morning if longest warm-up time we around 20 seconds, after whic the glow plug indicator Iig would go out and the engin would fire first time, albeit wit a tremendous clatter.

While testing the Audi it bi came apparent just how fe, people realise how many diesi cars are available these days. every garage I called at eac forecourt attendant couldn't bE lieve that such a sleek car coul be fitted with a "taxi engine id refused to switch on sel pump until he was con-iced I didn't want five-star trol.

Many of the latest dieseliwered cars (including the idi) have not yet been inided in the official list of fuel nsumption figures so it was rticularly interesting to calcue the mpg for the Avant.

The average over a thousand les was 9.42 lit/100km D.Omph). In the main this

-nprised motorway work and -don traffic — the worst con

ions for good fuel economy La realistic test for a transport inager's car.

At a steady 90km /h 3mph) and 120km /h

imph), Audi-VW claims con-nption figures of 6.2 lit/ Okm (45.5mph) and 8.5 lit/ Okm (33.2mph) respectively

be achieved.

In general, the diesel Audi med well suited to covering )e distances at fairly high leaving the driver tsically relaxed than,ks to the II designed, comfortable in or and mentally at ease bese his fuel bills are likely to y consistently low (depeng, of course, on the price for derv).

Dne mildly irritating point ; the wiper/washer action ch was designed in such a 1 that the washers could not )perated without at the same ?. putting the wipers through aur stroke cycle. It wasn't sible, therefore, to be sure of :ting the screen before iing it, with the potential ger of scratching the screen.

the The nearest you can get to a British diesel car (apart from BL's taxi) is the 2.1D Ford Granada. You may consider the Granada to be a British car even though it is assembled in West Germany, but the engine for Ford's only diesel saloon definitely isn't, for it comes from Peugeot.

It is a four-cylinder, 2112cc ohv unit rated at 47kW (63bhp) at 4,500rpm that gives the Granada a maximum speed of 85mph — very slow compared to the rest of the Granada range, all of which can achieve better than 100mph.

But the Ford is also slow by comparison with the other diesel CM tested, not just its maximum speed but also (and most noticeably) its acceleration.

This tends to spoil what in many other respects is a very' pleasing car to drive. The interior trim of the 2.1 D is similar to

1..variants with reclining front bucket seats and fabric seat trim — generally very comfortable but surprisingly a radio isn't fitted as standard to the diesel. Neither is power-assisted steering (though it was fitted to our test car) which I think is essential for anyone doing a lot of town driving.

Contrary to expectation, the diesel engine didn't make the Granada heavier, the 2.1D is the same weight as a 2.3L with a V6 petrol engine. Nevertheless, compared to the 2.3L, the steering is much better, not excessively light as had been the case with the petrol version.

It takes a long time to reach 70mph in the Granada (Ford quotes a 0-60mph time of 22.5secs), but once at that speed the car will cruise happily and quietly.

But overtaking on motorways at around 70mph was somewhat hazardous because of the car's lack of urgency. Even with the throttle pedal hard on the floor it seemed to take an age to accelerate from 70 to 75mph and this often surprised drivers of vehicles coming up behind who, seeing the Granada shape. presumably expected it to move faster.

If most of your car's mileage is clocked up on motorways, the extra cost of the diesel engine in the Granada can't be justified by fuel saved as a comparison of the official mpg figures will show.

At a steady 120km /h (75mph) the 2.1D can be expected to return 28.5mpg, only marginally better than the two litre's figure of 27.7mpg and not much better than the 2.3Iitre at 26.4mpg.

Urban driving is a very different matter, though, for under these conditions the diesel's consumption of 31mpg is around 40 per cent better than either of the comparable petrol versions. Our test car averaged 9.451it/100km (29.9mpg) in over 1,000 miles of varied motoring.

A 65-litre (14.3gal) fuel tank gave the Granada a useful range of over 400 miles, which more than compensated for the general scarcity of filling stations with diesel pumps.

The small size of the diesel car market in Britain is clearly indicated by Ford's UK sales figures for 1979 which show that only 554 diesel Granadas were sold compared to 865 in 1978, and the Ford is the bestselling large diesel car. Put an economical diesel engine together with a roomy estate body and you should end up with a practical and versatile company car, quite likely to appeal to a haulage company.

Opel, General Motor's German subsidiary, has done just this with the Rekord 2.30 Estate but the car's price tag will deter many companies.

At £7,309 it is almost £1,000 more expensive than the two-litre petrol version which has a similar price to that of the Ford Granada 2000L Estate, for example.

For a big car its average fuel consumption of 36.26mpg was creditable, though while being tested it was never laden to anywhere near its full capacity. What was even more peasing was the range of close to 500 miles that resulted from the combination of this good economy and a tank capacity of 64 litres (14 gallons).

The ability to drive from London to Glasgow without having to refuel is an attractive proposition in any fleet car. In the Rekord it was slightly marred by a low fuel warning light that came on unnecessarily — often when the tank was as much as half full and the fuel was thrown to one side of it when cornering.

The performance figures quoted by GM for the Rekord Diesel (0-60mph in 22 seconds and a maximum speed of 87mph) are not exactly recordshattering, but the car's actual performance seemed to belie them.

Maybe something of an illusion is created by the bodyhugging front seats and sports car-type near vertical steering wheel and stubby gear lever.

The racy image is further enhanced by the bulge in the centre of the bonnet, necessary to accommodate the camshaft cover of the relatively tall diesel engine.

Certainly, the Opel was never left behind either in fast-moving traffic or on motorways, and journey times to regular destinations were never longer than average.

, Without power assistance (an option that adds £336 to the (price), the steering was heavy at slow speeds and this made driving in heavy traffic and parking difficult.

In complete contrast, once on the open road the Rekord was a pleasure to drive. The vibration that was evident at low engine speeds disappeared above 50mph in top gear.

Changes to the Rekord were last made in 1978 when t 2260cc diesel engine replac the 2.1 litre and the revis body shape resulted in bet aerodynamics.

An extended roof line on 1 estate car resulted in a 30 cent increase in load spa compared to the previo model. With the back seat do) there looks to be as much • rip( in the Rekord as in a small v (in fact a van version is av able), and folding the rear sea simply done by releasing o catch.

The GM engine alwa seemed a little reluctant to st from cold, though it ne). actually failed to do so. T probable cause of this on t test car was a broken strip b ween the heater plugs of -t) cylinders. However, this did ( monstrate the value of the tv 44Ah batteries which alwa had the capacity to spin the ( gine briskly — even with a co pression ratio of 22 to 1.

Opel concentrates marketi effort for diesel cars on ott European coUntries where t lower cost of dery makes th( more attractive. A mere 1 diesel Rekords were regiqter in the UK in 1979. In 1979 Peugeot sold more diesel cars in the UK than any other company, registering 1944 units, 36.4 per cent of the total market of 5342. The French company is obviously intent on improving that market share in 1980, for January this year saw the launch in this country of the turbocharged 604D — adding to an already wide range.

Technically this car is particularly interesting as it is currently the only model available in Britain with a turbocharged diesel engine, but it is definitely a luxury motor car with a price of £9508 that puts it outside the volume fleet car sales.

It is worth noting that in France the turbocharged diesel version accounts for more than half of the total 604 sales. Here, the two Peugeot diesels most likely to catch the eye of a fleet buyer are the 505 and 305.

The 505 range of four-door ialoons was launched in the UK n October 1979 with SRD and 3RD diesel models powered by 3 2304cc four-cylinder engine xi the same design as that used n the 604D, but naturally ispirated.

S models differ from G nodels in having tinted glass, )lectric sunroof and front vindows, rev counter (except he diesel) and tweed upholitery, and these extras add over :500 to the price, making it :7537 for the SRD model ested (including car tax and 'at).

Not cheap, but then the i05SRD is a very well ippointed car. The body is lightly longer and wider than he 504, and there is a greater window area leading to better ision all round. Plush upholtery looks inviting and on long )urneys the driver's seat lives up to its promise of remaining comfortable.

Generally the finish of the Peugeot, both inside and out, is first class. All the controls operate smoothly and are well placed; the gearshift is slick and the standard power steering excellent.

One glaring exception to the high standard of finish is the chrome strip which runs around the car at bumper level. One of these chrome pieces began to peel off the offside rear door a few days after the car was delivered and closer examination revealed that the rest of them were likely to suffer the same fate for they are simply stuck on — the glue used clearly isn't up to the job.

Driving at night in the 505 is not the strain it is in some cars. The halogen headlamps have piercing beams and what is more an internal dashboardmounted adjuster allows the beams to be maintained at the optimum height no matter how the car is loaded.

Dashboard illumination is by a soft red glow found to be less distracting to the driver than other colours. I am told that the same type of illumination is used on Concorde's flight deck — vive l'entente cordiale.

A diesel car's performance shortcomings are generally most noticeable on A roads and hilly sections where it is not possible to pick up speed so quickly as with a faster-revving petrol engine.

On winding roads it is usually the engine's performance that limits the cornering speed rather than the car's suspension or steering. Not so with the lively 2.3-litre Peugeot engine.

Throttle response was good and while the 505 isn't as fast as a two-litre petrol saloon, it can live with most cars under 1600cc. Excellent road-holding and precise steering inspire confidence and encourage the driver to use the engine's full potential.

The average fuel consumption of . 9.20 lit/100km (30.7mpg) was about par for the course for a compression ignition engine of that size. Many of the 505's features indicate that its designer had the driver's comfort and convenience very much in mind.

For example, the gear lever fits snugly into the palm of the hand and none of the gears are difficult to select; the wiper control stalk on the right of the steering column provides enough wiper speeds and wash! wipe permutations to suit all weathers (and the washers can be operated independently); the positioning of the heater vents make it easy to get face-level fresh air and feet-level warm air at the same time; and the distinctive Peugeot heater controls with pictorial markings are easy

to understand (they are also illuminated at night — a point too often overlooked by manufacturers).

The Peugeot 305 diesel is different in many ways from its more expensive stablemate — hardly surprising since there is more than £2400 difference in price. At just over £5000 (£5122 including car tax and vat) the smaller Peugeot begs comparison with the VW Golf which is less expensive and more economical in fuel consumption, but less spacious and not quite so comfortable.

Transversely mounted, the 1548cc alloy Peugeot engine drives the front wheels and will take the car from rest to 60mph in around 22secs, four seconds slower than the Golf but fast enough even for London's unofficial race circuit — the North Circular Road.

A maximum speed of 84mph is a little low, but because I small Peugeot engine is cant' to sit at maximum revs, "on • governor", for long periods i not too great a handicap.

At around the legal maxim' speed the 305 is fairly noisy I since the noise was boomins probably originated from • transmission rather than the gine. Engine noise and ind( vibration were apparent at i speed and just above when sliding roof panel would of rattle.

Starting from cold was ne a problem — a pre-heat tim( around 14 seconds was fastest of the cars tested.

While not as luxurious as 505, the 305 is neverthel comfortable and roomy for a of its size. We used it to gc Edinburgh and back with th adults and there were few cs plaints.

But the plastic surrounds the front seats look cheap ; superfluous (one cracked ; fell off when I leaned on it) the dashboard layout could improved. Another car not generally considered to be a strong contender in the company car market, the Golf nevertheless is the lastest-selling Volkswagen ever Nith three million having been Produced in the five and a half tears since its introduction.

The Golf has probably clone nore to change the image of Piesel cars than any other, paricularly in America where any Prospective buyer will have to oin a long waiting list.

Apart from a clatter at idle ;peed, most pronounced when ;old, all unpleasant diesel quirks ;eem to have been eliminated in he marriage of a modern fastevving ohc diesel engine and a ,mail light body.

VW claims that the 1500cc liesel Golf has a similar perfornance to the 1100cc petrol nodel and that means it's no louch. A maximum speed of 40km /h (86mph) is quite resectable, the more so when the naximum can easily be naintained for long periods.

The gear ratios of the all ynchromesh four-speed earbox are slightly different in le diesel from those used on etrol versions, but are well latched to the engine's characmistics.

In stop/start conditions a iesel engine's fuel economy dvantage over a petrol equialent is most marked and this haracteristic, together with its mall exterior dimensions and ositive rack and pinion leering, made the Golf an most perfect car for London affic. Only "almost" because l-round vision (very necessary 'hen changing lanes in the ipital) was severely limited by le wide rear corner pillars.

In contrast to the Passat, the olf's dashboard is neat with just one clock, the speedometer, immediately in front of the steering wheel. There's no temperature gauge but instead a complicated warning-light system for the coolant temperature.

A yellow, light glows when the ignition is switched on if the engine is not at normal funning temperature and while this lamp is lit, the engine shouldn't be "raced or made to pull hard".

The lamp goes out when normal running temperature has been reached. A second, red, lamp flashes if the coolant temperature gets too high and comes on as an operational check' when the ignition is switched on. Wouldn't it be simpler to just have a temperature gauge?

If you regularly carry three passengers, the Golf probably isn't the car for your company. Because of the car's small overall size the room for rear seat passengers is very restricted, notwithstanding VW's proud boast that "there is more shoulder room in the back seat of a Golf than in a Daimler Sovereign".

Also I think a tall driver would have difficiilty in finding a comfortable driving position — even I had to adjust the seat to its rearmost position to accommodate my 5ft Sin frame.

Both Volkswagens fitted with the Golf diesel, engine used remarkably small quantities of fuel, whether running "flat out" or in stop/start conditions in town. Our average fuel consumption figure is probably close to the worst that would be achieved in normal service. Driven with fuel economy in mind, it should be possible to achieve better than 50 mpg from both the Passat and Golf. It would he very easy for a company to overlook the Volkswagen Passat when shopping around for an estate car. It certainly doesn't spring to mind as readily as the Cortina or Marina and even if it were considered, its relatively high price (the 1600LS is almost £1000 more than a Marina 1 700NL Estate) would probably exclude it from many people's shopping list.

A diesel-powered Passat first became available in the UK in October last year in the shape of an estate fitted with the same 1471cc engine as used in the Golf.

At £5784 the additional cost for the diesel engine is some £400, putting it beyond the budget of many companies. But the total cost of any vehicle consists of a lot more than simply its original purchase price, and when fuel consumption over, say, a two-year period is considered, suddenly the Passat diesel doesn't look quite so costly. Our test car was made to work hard in heavy traffic and at high Speeds on motorways, and the average fuel consumption over 1000 miles was a remark able 6.05 lit/100km (46.7mpg).

Assuming an average consumption figure for the petrol Passat of 27.5mpg and a cost per gallon for diesel and petrol of £1.35, then the additional cost of the diesel engine would be recovered in fuel cost saved after 20,000 miles — approximately one year's motoring for many fleet cars.

If it is assumed that the dery is bought in bulk at £1 a gallon then the break-even mileage drops to just over 14,000-miles. Using the same figures to compare a Cortina L Estate with the diesel VW, over 30,000 miles have to be covered before the additional cost is recovered.

Like the Golf, the Passat is a front-wheel drive but in the estate car the four-cylinder diesel engine isn't mounted transversely but runs fore and aft. The gearchange had none of the vagueness or notchiness of many front-wheel-drive cars but inevitably with the relatively weighty diesel engine and the transmission being over the front wheels the manual steering was on the heavy side.

Starting the Passat from cold wasn't quite so easy as with the Audi. A similar glow-plug sys tern is used to heat the prt combustion chambers and onc again glow-plug activation temperature-dependent. It controlled by a sensor in th cooling system, but there is alE a cold-start knob which shoul be pulled out to advance th injection timing of the rota' fuel-injection pump.

Trouble is, it's all too easy 1 forget this knob and leave pulled out unnecessarily aftt the engine has warmed up. warning light would be useful.

In common with all the dies cars CM tested, the Passat wt noticeably noisy only at id speed particularly when colt Once warmed up and workir above tick-over speed, the noit disappeared.

The estate car was a reaso ably quiet and comfortab 70mph cruiser. Althouc heavier than the Golf and co sequently having a less live acceleration, the Passat's ma mum speed of 88mph is slight faster than its little sister's b cause of better aerodynamic but like so many estate ca these same aerodynamic ch racteristics made the rear scre( get dirty very quickly in the. WE

The rear wiper and wash really are essential equipmer but the location of the rock switch controlling them — the nearside of the dashboar alongside the glove corn pa ment — is illogical and diffict to reach.

Generally, I wasn impressed with the dashboa design, the 'switches a somewhat scattered and son are push-button, some rock and one (heater blower) rota knob. For a car of this-price the is a minimum of instrument tion, but the absence of a r counter wasn't surprisin Manufacturers seem strange reluctant to fit these instrumer to any diesel car, no matter hc expensive.


People: Tim BlakemoR
Locations: Glasgow, London, Edinburgh

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