Driven: 15 cars in one day

We had the opportunity to head to a secret test facility at a village called Millbrook just off the A428 near Bedford for the annual SMMT Test Day, where manufacturers lay on a massive fleet of cars for us to hurl around private roads. It’s a tough job.

The event as a whole is really a networking day, building relationships with people you may not have seen since the previous year’s event, but obviously with all those cars available it would be rude to ignore them.

So yesterday I sat behind the wheel of 14 cars (and one bike), some of which will be getting a full review at a later date. For now here’s a Twitter friendly one sentence review of each model…

  • Chevrolet Corvette: This car really upset me, as it rendered my own Corvette redundant. Brilliant car.
  • Citroen DS3: Great interior with white leather dash. Oddly cramped footwell, rear end a bit jittery. Looks good though.
  • Fiat 500c TwinAir: I invented the new word of ‘thrumbling’ for the engine. Good fun and really lively. Surprisingly, still useable at 100mph with the roof down.
  • Honda Civic: Slick gearchange made the hill route more fun than it should have been. Still looks different which is good.
  • Hyundai Veloster: Better than expected. Opinion dividing styling but good to drive. Needs more power and shorter gearing.
  • Jeep Wrangler: OH MY GOD, IT’S TRYING TO KILL ME!
  • Kia Optima: Genuinely impressed with this slick Mondeo rival. Not much headroom though and steering wheel overloaded with buttons.
  • Lexus IS-F: That noise! Refined yet supremely capable continent buster. Put your foot down it sounds like an angry mountain.
  • Mercedes B-Class: BlueEfficiency & Sport on the same badge – do they not cancel each other out? Practical, spacious but dynamically lacking. Quality top notch.
  • Mitsubishi ASX: Somehow the most fun I had all day. Surprisingly capable car, well balanced, but needs more power.
  • Renault Twizy: Disappointing, but expectations were high. Not as nippy as it should have been, didn’t handle well, and really does needs doors.
  • Skoda Citigo: This tiny car generated big smiles. Fun to drive, cheap to run, rorty exhaust note. Unsure about iPod-like dashboard panel.
  • Smart Electric Bike: Fantastic electrically assisted pushbike. High speeds achievable with medium effort. Want one, but £2,500!
  • SsangYong Korando: Light years from models of old. The quality of fit and finish is good, and it’s light and easy to drive at low speeds. Traction control is a bit over the top.
  • Suzuki Kizashi: Impressive car, but CVT noise becomes tiresome. Great interior! Could be great mainstream car but only 2.4 petrol.

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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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