Andrex Extra Soft Blog Roll

It's all a load of bollocks, quite frankly

Fiat Punto Evo

The Fiat Grande Punto - Pretty car!

Looking young and keeping that way has become a bit a Hollywood based obsession. Nips and tucks here to make sure your face stays forever fresh, especially for those in the public eye constantly. You often find though that certain people who have their nips and tucks here and there really don’t need it and there are times when it goes horribly wrong.

It’s not limited to people either. Car manufacturers seem to think that constantly fiddling with their range of cars is indeed a good idea. For example, Fiat have a great tradition for making brilliant small cars. Cheap to buy, cheap to run, stylish, fun to drive and peppy. Their latest, until recently, was the Grande Punto which was just about the most stylish small hatchback on the market. Imagine a neat and tidy hatchback design with essentially the front end of a Maserati 3200 GT professionally grafted on to the rest of it and you’re all the way there.

It was a fantastic looking car, but it did have its faults. It wasn’t overly reliable, the lower powered petrol engines had as much performance as a tortoise giving a block of flats a lift and some of the interior was a bit iffy in places. On the whole though, it was a pretty neat little machine to drive if you had the T-jet engine or the diesels. It was cheap to buy, rode well and cornered well. However normally on a basic Fiat you have lots of pep for not much pop. This was somewhat lacking in the breathless 1.2 and 1.4 8 valve engines which powered the basic models. But above all many of the faults didn’t matter that much because you could forgive the car for the way it looked.

The Punto Evo. Now with a front end modelled on Steven Tyler

Unfortunately though, the styling team at Fiat decided that four years into the Grande Punto’s lifespan, it should be facelifted. In fact it was modified so much that Fiat gave it a new name – Punto Evo. Evo, brilliant! Evo, as in evolution! Do you see what they did there? We would be promised that some of the foibles of the outgoing Grande Punto would be rectified. True, the new Multiair engines as I’d driven previously in the Alfa Mito are cracking engines. But the lifeless base-spec engines remained. The interior has been upgraded with much better materials and a new layout similar to the larger Bravo and the options of dedicated TomTom sat navs are appealing. As are the bluetooth connectivity, MP3 compatibility and class leading NCAP safety ratings.

What wasn’t quite as appealing is the cheap Fiat supermini had become quite pricy. Even bigger than that though is how Fiat have managed to create such a gargantuan disaster of the Grande Punto’s styling. Obviously either blind, or high on some recreational drugs of sorts, what the designers have clearly thought is “whata da Puntoa a needs isa fronta enda datta looka likea datta blokea froma Aerosmith”. So that’s exactly what they’ve got, a reasonable looking family car with Steven Tyler’s pout glued to the front bumper. Fucking genius.

To say that I don’t like the styling of the Punto Evo is akin to saying I don’t like having my head smashed in with a potato peeler. Which is a shame, as underneath that grotesquely botoxed front end is a decent car trying to get out. I only drove the Punto Evo a short distance, which was enough to warrant not going any further in it. It drives no differently to a Grande Punto unless you drive those models powered by the excellent Multiair engines. I really cannot see the reasoning for changing a great looking and successful car. I also think Fiat are beginning to wonder as well, because Punto Evo hasn’t been anywhere as successful as Grande Punto. The only upshot of the Evo is the interior and the reasons for that are twofold. Firstly, it’s a nice place to be and far better than the Grande Punto. Secondly, whilst you are inside the car you don’t have to look at a front end of a car that is so horrifying it could scare young children.

Would I buy one? No, not if I had the choice to.

Best model to go for: Punto Evo Multiair Sporting (then crash it into a wall then make sure your bodyshop replaces all the front end with Grande Punto panels instead)


July 27, 2011 Posted by | Motoring | Leave a comment

Alfa Romeo GT

Some say that to be a true petrolhead, you must have owned an Alfa Romeo at some time in your life. I’ve never owned one, however class myself as a bona fide petrolhead. I have however, worked for a Fiat and Alfa Romeo dealership for nearly a decade can appreciate the cars without having to make the decision of buying one. However, now my days remaining at Alfa are fading fast due to a decision to move on, I thought I’d get a couple of road tests in first.

Alfa Romeos remain one of my biggest passion ever since I was a child. My first toy car was an Alfasud Sprint and I loved it. The first cars I really took an interest in were Alfas and it is Alfa more than anything that pretty much cememted my obsession with Italian motors.

One of my favourite Alfas of recent years is the smart, yet discreet Alfa GT, which launched in 2004 ended production earlier this year. A sleek, elegant and understated coupe that is a genuine four seater and has a fairly decent sized boot. But it’s a sports coupe and an Alfa, so really the practicality side of it means as much to me as a promise from Bono. What is important is what it looks like, what it sounds like and what it drives like. Engine choices when new were a choice of 1.8 or 2.0 petrol in-line fours, the glorious 3.2 V6 petrol and a 1.9 turbo diesel.

So let’s get started with the styling. I will accept no arguments here, it is a desperately pretty thing. From the front, side and rear end, I’m struggling to find a point on this car that I do not like aesthetically. Same thing with the interior. Open the pillarless doors and you are met with hugging leather sports seats and a wrap around dashboard with classic hooded dials. It all feels very driver focussed. Standard equipment on this car includes electric mirrors and windows, alarm, bluetooth connectivity, MP3 compatibility. It has got everything you need in there. And as mentioned before, it geuninely is a comfortable four seater. True, adults will feel cramped in the back over a long haul but there’s enough room in there.

I’ve driven about 40 or so different GTs and driven all the engine choices available, but today I’m driving the best all-rounder in the range. That would be the 1.9 diesel lump. The thoughts of a diesel Alfa, once thought to be sacrilege, is now common place with the Fiat Group producing some of the best diesel engines in the business. This particular unit is well suited to the GT and with 170bhp on tap provides impressive amounts of performance, pull and torque. In fact performs better than the four-cylinder petrol lumps. It’s also the pick up of the bunch for the overall driving experience. Based largely on the Alfa 156 chassis, handling is faily neutral and predictable with a good turn in from the sharp steering set up. Later models which had the Q2 limited slip diff, as fitted to this car, is certainly an improvement over earlier models providing far better traction whilst ploughing on in the bends.

So, we’ve established the 1.9JTD is the best all round model in the GT range. It is, however, the model I’m least likely to pick. I don’t mind diesels per se, but not in an Alfa sports coupe. And especially not with the V6 in the model line up.

For me, it has to be the 3.2 V6 model, for all its faults. Yes, having so much power going through the front wheels means occasionally it handles like a three-legged terrier if you put the power on where you really shouldn’t. It also becomes quite nose heavy. But you only have to turn the ignition key to wonder what all the fuss is about. One of the finest sounding engines ever built, and one of the highest regarded V6 units in the business. It’s not just the sound and performance from the engine, but you only just have to look at it. You’ll find polished chrome pipework, bright red scripture. The likes of which you simply won’t find in something from Dagenham or Bavaria. The engine is well proven and, providing cam belts and general maintenance are taken care of, these are bomb proof.

The GT is far from perfect. While it is an entertaining drive, there are others out there that will run rings around it. There are minor irritations such as interior build quality and in some places fit and finish. The car I drove literally had more rattles than Mothercare. There are more slight irritations that would put most people off in no time, but not me. It is an Alfa and Alfas never are perfect, and nor do I ever want them to be. However, give me a 3.2 V6 GT finished in Alfa red and you are getting as close to perfect for me. A glorious sight and sound, if you can hear the engine above the rattle from the dashboard. And the parcel shelf. And the door panel.


July 27, 2011 Posted by | Motoring | Leave a comment

Customer Satisfaction… Is it worth it?

I work in the wonderful world of customer service. Working as a service manager in a car dealership is not really an ideal job to do but someone has to do. No one volunteered and I got stuck with it. Which basically puts me in the firing line for every single customer that has a complaint or worry regarding their car. Which is great, but when a car is one of the most expensive purchases you will ever make, people get very personal when something goes wrong.

I’ve been sworn at, shouted at, threatened with bodily violence and even semi-propositioned many, many moons ago. He wasn’t even that good-looking! Yes, you did read that correctly, HE. Anyway, there are some funny moments that occur, because customers can be really stupid. People you would swear were normal, intelligent people come across as completely retarded motherfucking bastards. Anyone who reads this and is a Facebook friend of mine will recognise these as nothing more than my regurgitated Facebook statuses. I’m that comitted to being original, oh yes!

Firstly, when ordering parts for your car, wouldn’t you think it would be a good idea to know what car it is? Conversation over the phone with someone this morning went along the lines of:

“I need a CV boot for my Alfa Romeo”
“Ok sir, what Alfa is it?”
“Ah, don’t know. It’s petrol!”
“Do you have a registration or chassis number so I can look up the parts?”
“Uh, don’t know it….”

Only minutes before that I was greeted, in person, by what can only be described as a moron. His went like  this:

“I’ve got a warning light on in my car”
“Ok sir, which warning light is it?”
“Well, I don’t know, it’s not on at the moment”.

Last week I was greeted by this little gem: “Do you sell Alfas, yeah?” Now I would have to think about that one long and hard. There is a huge great Alfa Romeo sign outside the showroom. Lots of Alfa Romeo servicing posters in the windows. Lots of Alfa Romeos outside the showroom. Lots of Alfa Romeos inside the showroom. Lots of Alfa Romeo brochures. Lots more Alfa Romeo signage inside. Quite clearly, then, we are a Toyota dealership.

My favourite one, however, dates back some years. A scooter owner contacting me to get a progress update on his mopedy thing.

“Hello, it’s me, I’m calling about my bike!”
“Ok, you, which bike is yours?”
“Oh, erm, it’s an (insert bike manufacturer here)”
“Very good, sir, we are a (insert bike manufacturer here) dealer and have about 50 of those, which one is yours?”
“The blue one”
“Ok, sir, that narrows it down to 46”
“It’s got red on it as well”
“Ok, that’s 42”
“Got some sport decals on the side”
“Ok, still 42. What did the bike come in for?
“It was broken”
“Ok, so we’re down to 15”
“What is the vehicle registration number?”
“Don’t know”
“What is your name then?”
“And the surname?” and without word of a lie, there was a thirty second pause as if he had to try to think what his name was.

I will update with more when I think of them. Have a nice day!



July 11, 2011 Posted by | Rants | 1 Comment


%d bloggers like this: