Campbell Spray: So slowly going round the Benz with irrational attitude to some cars I test from pedestrians
Are we getting angrier or does our preoccupation with mobile devices leave us unable to deal with...
Are we getting angrier or does our preoccupation with mobile devices leave us unable to deal with...
Recently I was over near Manchester visiting my daughter Laura, her husband Sam and my three grandchildren. Life is going good for them and Sam was on the cusp of taking a new job which, like his present one, has a good car attached.
Almost the best thing that can be said of the new Ford EcoSport, pictured right, which I was testing in ST line at the beginning of this month, is that it is better than the model which arrived on these...
My son and I had big plans around the new BMW X3. We were going to drive it on its launch back from Malaga in southern Spain to the BMW British...
'Even if this letter isn't published, thank you for reading it. It has done me a power of good to write it. Finally I have got that weight off my...
It probably wasn't - and isn't - a totally fair comparison but that's the way the cookie crumbles, or, in this case, how the test-drive schedule bookended two cars.
Taxi drivers can be annoying, especially if they start giving their opinions on everything from my nationality, accent or profession. Other times they can be a mine of knowledge and encapsulate a debate in one sentence.
The Hyundai Tucson is still the country's biggest seller this year, followed by the Volkswagen Golf, Nissan Qashqai, Skoda Octavia and Ford Focus. This is pretty much the sort of line-up there has been for a few years now, one or two family-sized SUVs, a saloon and a couple of smallish hatchbacks.
The wild weather last Monday curtailed my driving but did throw-up another factor in the move to electric debate. It is never a good idea to have all your eggs in one basket and I can only think of the incredible frustration of any driver who owns an electric car and was hit by the massive power outages, which for some people are still not over. It would definitely make me reconsider such a purchase and make the hybrid vehicle more of a no-brainer.
Although it was first attributed to George HW Bush in 1987, "the vision thing" is one of the more important metonyms used in political discourse, as a description for any politician's failure to incorporate a greater view in their actions.
The first car I advised my partner to buy was the Nissan Micra, a good dozen years or so ago. It never let us or her down and even took over the Christmas duties from a big BMW saloon which I had on test some years ago. The rear-wheel drive Beemer was useless in the snow, while the little...
I returned to Donegal for a few days' holiday at the end of last month, exactly a year after visiting the county for the first time as the guest of the Wild Atlantic Way marketing initiative.
It's less than 21 months since the news surfaced that one of the most trusted and popular car brands ever had deliberately misled millions of their customers. Faster, Higher, Farther: The Inside...
Sometimes there is such smugness about a Volkswagen Golf that it could incite you to violence.
A shiver goes down your back as you enter the first graveyard and see the simple tribute to an unknown man: "A soldier of the Great War".
My son and I had big plans around the new BMW X3. We were going to drive it on its launch back from Malaga in southern Spain to the BMW British headquarters near Farnborough.
Shortly after I had given back the BMW X3, I was testing the new Volkswagen T-Roc - one of the most eagerly awaited cars of the year.
Our Sundays tend to the predictable. Set the car up for the dog, drive for a coffee, head for the hills, go for a decent walk, more often than not pop into Avoca, and make our way back to north city Dublin, winding through Dalkey, Dun Laoghaire and Dublin city centre.
It was a strange mixture last Monday. A manufacturer hell-bent on selling as many as cars as possible tying up with the country's leading car-sharing company - which reckons that every car they put on their fleet replaces somewhere between 15-30 vehicles on the road.
So our dear Sam is dead. On the morning of December 8, vet Amy and nurse Lesley came to the house, knelt on the floor and tenderly put our beloved Labrador/collie cross out of the pain and anxiety that had plagued his last few weeks.
As much as I like tootling around with my partner and the dog on our Sundays in the Wicklow Mountains, occasionally it is good to get in a car and take it off for a week by myself and explore a part of the country that's new to me.
Citroen prides itself on style and innovation, but has let other marques get a foothold in the small SUV market which is becoming increasingly crowded and competitive.
There have been a lot of Fords on my test-drive schedule recently and I'm waiting for the new Fiesta later this month.
There's a lot of noise out there for people looking at changing their car, especially if they are thinking of buying new.
"I have fought the good fight… I have kept the faith." The Bible verse read at the Requiem Mass for Pat Comyn - revered long-time Motoring Editor and Assistant Editor with the Sunday Independent - who died last week aged 83, was most suitable in summing up his long career.
I think my days of driving coupes are coming to an end. That's especially so as Sam's arthritis begins to outpace my flexibility and even with ramp, towels, pillows and lots of bridge-building between seats, it's difficult to get him into the back of low-slung, two-door cars.
There is a sense of entitlement developing among cyclists which is not very nice at all.
The conversation in the office caught me a bit off balance. "Ah, you were spotted in that smart boy-racer of yours last Sunday," a friendly colleague and fierce motor-biker said as he accosted me at the water-cooler.
Even as the article last week about the rate of change in the car industry was being published, the pace picked up. Ford sacked its global chief executive after fewer than three years in the job to replace him with a recent entry to the industry as the company races to keep pace with the rapidly evolving push into the world of technology.
I'm nearly in agreement with the view of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors at their annual conference that fluorescent clothing and helmets for cyclists should be made mandatory.
When my son was over from London recently, he joked that I had neglected my fatherly duties by not giving him a certain skill. He now wanted me to make up for lost time and teach him how to easily and confidently parallel park.
Back in the 1960s, my parents ran a small hotel and pub in a little Cornish village on the south-western fringes of the UK.
My delight in picking my son up from the airport was matched by seeing his serious economist face dissolve into smiles as he whipped out his phone and took pictures of the car that would take him home.
In the middle of last month we were delighted with the weather forecast: snow on higher ground.
Valentine's Day was spent in Southern Spain testing the new BMW Five Series.
By their cup-holders ye shall know them. At one time, a cup-holder was the height of design for some cars. Then the fashion for drinking water the whole time took over and vehicles had to have a myriad of bottle holders along with a place for the cups.
As the upward spiral in the death toll on the roads continues with some horrific crashes last week, the usual warnings are rightly being issued for this Christmas period. Worryingly, drink-driving is coming back, probably because people don't think they are going to get caught. But drink isn't the only factor at play. Socialising this time of year can seriously affect both the amount and quality of sleep we get.
Christmas 2014 was going to be very special, just how special I wouldn't know until a few months later. Yet that Christmas needed more preparation than any other.
It was the guy in Kilmainham's Insomnia that made up my mind for me. He's there nearly every Sunday morning reading the papers when we stop on our way out to the Wicklow Hills to test the latest occupant of the Spray Towers garage.
Just as the election day polls were opening on the Eastern seaboard of the United States - a day which would end with the unexpected victory of Donald Trump - economist Jim Power's report for the Society of the Irish Motor Industry and DoneDeal was being launched dealing with the first nine months of the year.
I was most impressed with Ford coming out with a seven-year warranty offer last week. It should shake things up nicely.
A few weeks ago, looking forward to the day the clocks were going back, wasn't likely to be the most auspicious time to test a convertible. In fact I was on the point of changing the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet to something a bit more ordinary for the Bank Holiday weekend. But gosh, I'm pleased I didn't.
What better time to get out and explore all that Ireland has to offer - leave the Dublin Marathon to those who are addicted to such things - and take to the open road this bank holiday.
This column has been rather unashamed about its support for Hyundai cars in recent years - and the public has finally caught up with the sentiment, pushing the South Korean marque into the number-one spot for car sales so far this year.
Campbell Spray had never been to Donegal. Here, he concludes the second part of his travel series.
The big wage hikes for the Luas drivers in the capital - followed by the offer after a number of nasty strike days to Dublin Bus employees - won't be the end of the issues facing the nation's transport system. Far from it.
The vultures might be circling but Campbell Spray would almost be happy to settle for a Suzuki Baleno
Driving the latest version of the Hyundai Santa Fe you could not but be struck by the quality of the seven-seater SUV and it is easy to see why the company has soared to first place in the sales table this year.
The heat at the beginning of last week couldn't have come at a better time.
I was privileged to attend with many of my colleagues the funeral last Thursday of Mary Hedderman, the mother of Sunday Independent Copy Editor Philip Hedderman, who is also Motoring Editor of the Herald.
Campbell Spray takes his dog Sam on their first ever visit to Donegal. Better late than never...
The household is seriously beginning to think about the next car. In truth I would rather it be an old Saab, vintage Riley or that rather lovely Lagonda that seems to inhabit my dreams. But as always my way will not be got. The Hyundai i10, which is the house's main runabout and portable dog kennel, will be five-years-old next year, and we should start making preparations for when I won't be in the enviable position of having a host of lovely cars to test drive.
The nearest I have been to the United States for some time has been reading Richard Ford's latest Frank Bascombe book Let Me Be Frank With You.
It didn't take long, 20 seconds in fact, between getting into the powerful Ford Focus RS and beginning to receive waves, thumbs-up and a lot of appreciative glances.
While sales of new cars are not as good as hoped in the new 162 period, some importers have done well out of it - Hyundai in particular, with Tucson sales storming ahead.
It's just a hunch but I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't a fair bit of unsold stock on many importers' books over the next few months.
The full sun was up - just the moment for mad dogs and Englishmen to make their appearance, and we were staring at the dunes in front of us, massive and foreboding.
One of the issues in living so close to the city centre and this newspaper's office is that I hardly drive during the week.
Nostalgia has waved its friendly hand around my head over the last week.
One day Africa, the next day Dublin's Naas Road.
The two-year jail sentence for the driver who killed 31-year-old Olivia Dunne and seriously injured her then three-month-old baby Eabha in January 2014 when he mounted a footpath after probably falling asleep at the wheel may have seemed harsh in some quarters, but driver fatigue is a very real issue and must be dealt with.
I woke last Sunday preparing to drive the new Ford Mustang Convertible but felt that I had already spent the night with it. I had had this constant dream that we had roared up to our normal coffee stop and left Sam on the back seat. Nothing wrong there.
Heading west has always been the default position when faced with a few days off, just as going south into the Dublin and Wicklow mountains is our routine Sunday drive and car test. I remember more than 15 years ago, when testing the BMW Z4 and I was owed a couple of days' holiday. I had decided to go out to Howth but the steering wouldn't let me. The heart took over, the roof was down and instead of turning right, I went left and didn't stop until I reached Galway. It was glorious.
Living, as I do, the very unreal life of a motoring correspondent two days a week when the bike is put away and the desk job is over, I am allowed to pompously judge the merits of cars that will never be owned at Spray Towers.
Does it really matter what these affectionate people do - so long as they don't do it in the streets and frighten the horses! That famous reply by the actress Mrs Patrick Campbell, to a young female colleague who asserted that an older actor in a production showed too much affection for the leading man, came in to my mind while out driving last Sunday.
Sunday is our only joint day off, so my partner is very keen that we spend a fair bit of time together. I also need to give the car I am reviewing a really decent run.
I am a great believer that car-sharing, along with alternative technologies, is the way forward for motoring, so I was pleased to hear that GoCar, Ireland's only car-sharing initiative, announced further expansion of its operation by unveiling a new GoCar base at The Square, Tallaght, last week.
While my colleagues were salivating -or, in some cases, slobbering - over the premiere of super cars like the Bugatti Chiron at the Geneva Motor Show, I was at home being far more responsible and driving the latest version of the groundbreaking Toyota Prius.
It was a proud day for Sam and the Spray household last Monday when my partner's four-year old Hyundai i10 sailed through its first NCT.
For a week I smiled and it seemed the whole world was smiling with me.
I'm always pretty suspicious of surveys. By asking the right questions you can get the answer you want and if you ask the wrong people you can also get the answer that gives you a story but is pretty invalid.
There must have been some very happy faces among the Irish staff at the three Korean marques last week. Not only did mighty Hyundai storm to the overall lead of the car market here, heading towards 5,000 sales, but its sister Kia launched the fourth generation Sportage, which is likely to have sales of 3,500 this year.
The second Christmas after we moved in to our house in Phibsborough there was awful snow.
The conglomerate that took over the import of Citroen and DS cars here may well extend its profile of imported brands in the future. The UK-based IM group already has the franchise for Subaru and the Chinese brand Great Wall, whose Steed pick-up vehicle has just gone on the market here.
Oh, how I love this internet of things. My very intelligent and totally connected colleague, Adrian Weckler, was able to link his attendance at the CES, the world's biggest technology show, in Las Vegas to a rural pub in Kerry in one brilliant swoop. On the way, he was able to garner the support of local TD Michael Healy-Rae and the AA's director of consumer affairs, Conor Faughnan.
Timing is everything and last week as I was set to foreswear my curmudgeonly ways and write positively about the Audi A4 without mentioning the massive VW emissions scandal, I received news that changed everything.
Paulo Alves, the managing director of BMW Ireland, is a happy man. But it isn't just the boom in sales that is making the Portuguese native smile. He got married this year, has a new dog and travels on a motorbike to see the dealers whenever he can. His enthusiasm for biking is infectious.
The dividend from looking after your car well was spelled out for me by a taxi-driver on a very blustery Friday night. He was driving a 2005 Toyota Camry which was immaculate inside and out with lots of veneered wood and leather. He proudly told me that the big saloon, which Toyota no longer sells over here, had done 320,000 miles and never given him a moment's trouble. He put it down to an oil and filter change at least 11 times a year. Fuel consumption for the big petrol engine was great and the car sounded sweet.
It has been a strange year, dominated at the end by scandal, which has at last seen major breakthroughs on the alternative power front. Hybrids are especially taking off but even pure electric cars are beginning to get better ranges. Next year may not be the time to buy one, but by 2020 the variety of hybrids available will be amazing, taking in every size, style and cost of car.
Some coupe models look like a two-door version of their saloon sibling, but Mercedes Benz has carefully avoided the look-alike approach with the new C-Class Coupe. The new model is very much its own car on the exterior, only the wings and the bonnet line(which has been extended) are the visible carry-over from the stylish saloon.
Towards the end of the massive boom, whose bust we are just recovering from, something really horrible started to happen to some very elegant cars.
Often, like most people, we play a game when out driving past beautiful places. What if we won the lottery? We don't want Euromillions masses, just enough to do something exciting - like buying and giving a total refurbishment to the house and two cottages in Phoenix Park which Lisney was auctioning last Thursday.
Sometimes I wish I wasn't such a fan of the Hyundai marque. Yet it is difficult to be totally objective about a brand which you suggested to your partner, and that she puts her own money on the line for. Can you imagine the scene at home if it all went wrong? Life very much on the hard shoulder.
The distress of the sentencing judge was obvious, his voice "thickened and faded". No wonder Judge Keenan Johnson's "measured tones deserted him" when he recalled how in a blink of an eye on April 17, 2014 the beautiful family life of Ronan and Gillian Treacy was shattered for ever.
A little while ago I had some fun over the naming conventions in Skoda which gets it wrong quite often, if not as many times as it gets it right. The Rapid hatchback/saloon was exactly not that while the original Yeti gave a car with great personality just the amount of loveable ruggedness to score highly with both families and the outdoor brigade.
The last week has seen the big car companies falling over themselves to tell of their green credentials and how their future plans had less reliance on diesels.
In a way the Volkswagen scandal couldn't have come at a better time so that the end of diesel can be truly highlighted along with the massive developments that are being made in alternative fuel sources.
One of the worst side-effects of the rush to diesel in recent years was the pressure on many small-car owners to purchase oil-burners because of the lower road tax through "better" emissions (we will leave the killer ones for the moment!) and perceived fuel economy.
Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s Britain, the city streetscapes were still littered with the aftermath of the war.
This is going to be about cars and, in particular, the new Jaguar XE, a compact executive car which aims to do for the marque what its X-Type didn't as it was rather down-market and Ford-based. Yet there will be diversions on the way.
Last Tuesday I woke early in a hotel room a 20-minute train ride from the home of my eldest son in Leeds. It was Daniel's birthday.
So it was into the West we went at the beginning of the month for a much-needed break. It seemed a good idea to test the face-lifted Toyota Avensis as well.
Living in Dublin, towards the end of one of the big commuting routes, the widest range of cars pass our front garden. Taking the dog for a walk the other morning I was stunned by the beautiful lines, size and general confident build of a large saloon caught at the traffic lights.
'This is very smooth" and "it's really roomy" and "there's something about it"... these are the sort of comments I like to hear from my partner on our Sunday afternoon drive, as the dog snoozes on the back seat dreaming of his long mountain walk - and some ham afterwards.
UNWITTINGLY this has become a Crossover week. My colleague Geraldine beat me to the punch with her review of the Suzuki Vitara. I actually loved that car, my test one was in bright red and it made me smile every time I drove it - and, at the time, I needed a lot of cheering up. It immediately went on the shopping list.
IT isn't that surprising that a survey released last week found that 5.30pm is the most stressful time to drive on Irish roads, with one-in-five drivers saying that they feel most anxious behind the wheel around then.
Last weekend my daughter Laura and her two children came to visit from Manchester and, keen to be the pampering granddad, I collected them in the Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake which I was testing.
The lads from Kia warned me before I picked up the Sorento that the laneway beside my house would have to be widened before I got the big SUV up it.
It is just my luck that as this column was reviewing perhaps the most expensive car it will come across this year I was driving one of the cheapest. Maybe my colleagues think that is all I am fit for, and anyway Geraldine looks much better than me.
SINCE its launch 16 years ago the Ford Focus has sold more than 115,000 units here. That's double the number of new cars sold in 2009, and nearly as many as will leave the showrooms this year. It's some achievement, especially when there is such brand snobbery out there and there has been a massive onslaught on Ford - not only from traditional foes like Toyota, Opel and Volkswagen but now from Korea with Hyundai and Kia as well as from the premium sector above it.
The proposals for dealing with speed limits on rural roads and housing estates announced by Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe last week were a very mixed bag; well-intentioned in many ways but, as in so many areas, a bit of a fudge.
'Farewell to one of the greats of journalism" trumpeted the Irish Daily Mail across half its front page on Monday after Paul Drury had died the day before at the now absurdly young age of 57.
The man from Land Rover could hardly disguise his delight last Tuesday as he gave me a lift to the Luas after I had dropped back the Discovery Sport. The company was likely to sell some 1,500 vehicles this year, of which more than 300 would be the Disco, which might be replacing the Freelander but is more than that.
It's the big downsizing quandary: Do you celebrate that the children are off your hands and treat yourself to something special? Or do you swap years of running errands in Dad and Mum's Taxi for the rest of your life crammed in a washing machine on wheels with the personality of a gerbil?
As I have been driving a lot of Audis lately and if - and it's a big if - there's any truth in the joke comparing hedgehogs/porcupines with drivers of the four-ringed marque then I should be beginning to sprout quills.
Another move in the fast-developing world of car-sharing came last week when Sixt Leasing Ireland launched the first corporate service in Ireland.
Drivers will be passengers in their own cars by 2030, a British government report predicts. The UK is considering changes to the Highway Code to allow them to be used by the public.
In a way it was good that a family crisis kept me away from the Irish launch of the new Volkswagen Passat, in the Powerscourt Hotel, at the beginning of the month. My colleague, cub reporter Martin Brennan, was a more than adequate stand-in and his report is here on the right. The test car therefore came new to me, without the PR and marketing hype from the launch night, some of which would have been delivered by Paddy Comyn, son of the previous incumbent of this page, and who has often gone hunting with me and his pet stoat.
The first car I saw with a 151 plate was, fittingly enough, a Ford Mondeo.
I didn't intend to be rude and ignore him but, in truth, it is probably just as well I didn't see the managing director of Hyundai waving madly at me as we drove through Dalkey in the new i20 last Sunday. This column has praised the Korean company a lot in the recent past. Only last month the i10 was named our Car of the Year.
Many, many years ago I had a most pleasant relationship. We would meet for fun nights - dinner and drinks, that sometimes ended in breakfast, sometimes not. It was lovely and mutually beneficial. Later I moved to another country and my mutual friend came to stay. It didn't end well. The first night or two were fine but by the end of the week we were poles apart. She had rearranged my cupboards, tried to sort out my life and we had turned fun into complicated commitment.
SLOWLY but surely the motoring landscape is changing. Car sales may be very much on the up after some very poor years, but the mix in them is taking on a slightly-different complexion. Expect to see less of diesel and more petrol as better technology has made for some really super power units and definitely they should be the choice for the ordinary motorist mainly using small family cars around town. That's if they don't go electric or hybrid. And, at last, there seems to be real traction in this area.
Is there no end to our stupidity? The fact that more than 20pc of passengers and drivers killed on our roads recently were not wearing seatbelts and this number has been increasing, is very worrying.
Reputation is everything. When you lose your good name, it makes you "poor indeed". I may have mangled a bit of Othello but in the motor business once you start becoming a by-word for poor quality then it is almost impossible to get back into the market.
Despite what those annoying "message to my 30-something self" pension ads say, it is always good to stay in the present and not worry too much about what is around the corner. Especially when that could mean swapping the unrealities of a motoring correspondent's life for the mundane necessities of keeping your own car on the road. I was dwelling on this a bit recently when driving two very premium cars which seemed to suit me really well, but my wallet wouldn't get me within a long mile of.