2016 SMMT Press Day, York.

It was an exceptionally busy week here at Muddy Towers as a I had a few trade shows to attend plus a couple of vehicles launches, so this years Northern SMMT day was going to have to be a flying visit, as later on that afternoon I needed to be down in Wrexham for the launch of Suzuki’s latest S-Cross. 

There was a change of venue this year, instead of Wetherby Racecourse, we were instructed to make out way to York Racecourse where 27 motor manufactures were in attendance with 60 vehicles to play with.  

Arriving a little later than expected due to some numpty on the M62 causing an 8 mile tailback, the first thing I aimed for was the breakfast bar, a bacon butty and mug of coffee will always be the best way to start a day! Having always missed out on driving the popular Dacia (Da’chia) Duster at other press days, I decided that it would be our first vehicle of the day for us to play with… I mean test.

Jumping into the Duster Laureate dCI 110 4x4, my initial thoughts were that some of the buttons were in odd places, there was too much plastic, its seats are quite small (but comfy), its clutch was high and its engine was revvy and produced a lot of noise for not a lot of speed.  There was also an annoying ‘bing’ sound when it wants you to change gear, though I’m sure you’ll be able to turn it off. 

Being totally honest, I wasn’t impressed after our 20 minute drive, but having said that, I have to put things into perspective, as over the last month or 2 I’ve been driving 4x4’s that cost double and sometimes triple that of the Duster.

On a positive note, they have a huge boot, they’re cheap and have a large followings their owners seem to love them.  I would have to live with one for a week to get a better idea - and switch that bloody alarm off!

I have so much love for the Isuzu D-Max Arctic Truck AT35, giving it its full title, it’s awesome!  Over the years I’ve been in and driven quite a number of homemade lifted 4x4’s, some have felt solid whilst others, well, are best left rusting in a garage somewhere.  

I don’t want to say too much about the AT35 yet because I have one coming over Xmas and new year, so that’ll be fun.  What I will say is that it’s an easy truck to drive with very light steering, which surprised me.  Also, looking down the bonnet there’s no indication of how wide it is, glance in the door mirrors however and hello, how big are those arches?

The next car we took out was the Skoda Superb SE L Executive 2.0 TSI 280PS 4x4 DSG (and breathe). I say we, I was passenger.  Muddy Madam decided that she would drive the entire route as she loves her 2002 Skoda Fabia.  As a passenger the Superb was quiet and comfortable, and when Muddy Madam stood on the accelerator its power delivery was both instant and smooth.  

The Superb is a huge car, though it doesn’t look it from the outside, but inside there’s plenty of room for passengers, and let’s not even mention the boot.  Oh go on then, I will.  For some inexplicable reason, Muddy Madam had a desire to determine whether she could fit a body in the boot (should I be worried?), so in she clambered, all 5ft 11-3/4” of her.  The answer was, yes, quite easily.

Again, I’ve arranged for a Superb to be delivered just before Xmas for a weeks test, so I’ll be able to offer more feedback then, that’s if I can forcibly remove the keys from Muddy Madam’s mitts.

Just as we handed back the key for the Superb, the Octavia VRS became free, so it would have been rude for us not to have taken it out for a quickie.  If, for a moment, you can see past the colour, the VRS is a great looking 4-door family car, with AWD and 184PS of serious oomph.

Again, I didn’t even get a look in as Muddy Madam grabbed the keys and off she went.  To be fair, and no disrespect meant to the Octavia, but because we took the Superb out first the Octavia felt a little 2nd class, which it really isn’t.  Oh, and guess what?  Yup, I’ve arranged to have this car delivered to Muddy Towers too, so expect another full report soon.

Now, what can I say about the SMART Fortwo Cabrio Prime 90hp?  Nothing much, because as another one of Muddy Madams favourites, I didn’t drive this one either!

Although you could argue that SMART cars look like a silly Noddy car (I wouldn’t say that of course being a serious car reviewer), but once you get inside one they feel like you’ve just stepped into a normal saloon car.  As you can see by the pic (bottom right) Muddy Madam has quite a large area in front of her, granted, there’s not a lot of space behind her, but plenty up front.

Tootling around the bustling streets of York, as a passenger, I have to say that Mercedes have done a great good job with the ride, as you would expect something this small to pitch a lot, but it doesn’t.

Putting the roof down increased the SMART’s fun factor ten-fold, it wasn’t particularly noisier of draftier either.  I’d love to get hold of one for a week to see what they’re like to live with, especially for a 2-hour trip to Wales visiting Muddy Madam Senior, so watch this space.

What can I can say about the F-Type, except for that it’s awesome.  I know I’m totally biased about it, but that’s only because it’s such a brilliant sports car.  This model was the 5ltr V8 Supercharged version and was stupidly fast.  I couldn’t use its full potential of course as I have a rather special attachment with my driving licence, but the odd blast and regular blips of the throttle was enough to entertain me.

Again, I have a press F-Type booked, so you can expect an unbiased report of what I firmly believe to be the most beautiful sports car in the world soon!

By this time it was 3.30pm, and by my reckoning, if I left now I could get Muddy Madam home to Muddy Towers and be off to Wrexham in time for tea… and wine, which is exactly what I did!