MOTO GUZZIS have long had a reputation for being crude and old-fashioned, the legacy of the marque’s decline over the past 25 years, lurching from crisis to crisis and with very little in the way of investment or new model development to help them on their way.
Afficionadoes of the Italian bikes will tell you that lumpy engines, neutral-ridden gearboxes and bouncy shaft drives give the machines character – which is true, up to a point. But since Guzzi’s basic engine and transmission design is now over 30-years old they’ve never been as refined as their competition.
The new Breva V 1100 changes all that. It’s the first Moto Guzzi to be produced under the reign of cash-rich scooter giant, Piaggio and has been throughly developed over the last three years by former owners Aprilia. Yes, believe it or not, this is a modern Moto Guzzi.
Riding the new machine around the sun-drenched Tuscan hills one thing immediately becomes clear – the extensively modified 1,064cc 90¡ V-twin motor is tremendously smooth. And that’s not just smooth compared to current or previous Guzzis – it’s every bit as refined as, say, a modern-day Ducati, for example.
And it needs to be because the Breva is designed to compete head-to-head with the BMW R1150R, a seriously sorted, if rather basic, modern motorcycle.
But if that iconic transversely-mounted V-twin is now considerably more refined, Guzzi fans will be pleased to hear that it still has Italian charm oozing from every cylinder fin.
You still get that pleasant thud-thud of those twin pistons surging up and down the bores, and at full throttle it’s even got the same, glorious, distinctive hard-edged growl from the airbox as a Ducati 916.
That should keep the traditionalists grinning. And, of course, there’s that badge on the tank: Moto Guzzi. Two words that are more evocative than, say, Kawasaki could ever be.
Moto Guzzi has had the good sense to price the Breva under the seven grand mark, making it more than £500 cheaper than the BMW R1150R it’s aimed at.
It’s also well built with a fair sprinkling of nice touches, such as decent Metzeler Roadtec tyres as standard, Brembo brakes – complete with steel braided brake lines, a remote pre-load knob adjuster, centre stand, and a gargantuan 23-litre tank for decent range.
Admittedly the market for this type of bike isn’t that big in the sportsbike-obsessed UK, so though the Breva 1100 is a big step forward in terms of refinement and performance it’s hard to imagine Guzzi will shift many examples here. In Europe, though, they should sell like hot cakes.
Instead, for the UK, what is truly exciting is what the Breva V 1100 indicates for Guzzi’s future. With this engine and transmission fitted in the up-and-coming Moto Guzzi Griso, it should make the funky ‘super naked’ bike a very exciting prospect indeed. And what about its sportsbike potential? It looks like we’ll be hearing a lot from Moto Guzzi in the future.
EVERY time you open the paper at the moment, there is yet more analysis of troubles in the financial markets. Property prices look shaky too and there is some talk of a recession. So it’s comforting to know that if you find yourself needing to make some cut backs, you can find reliable wheels for hardly any money.
I did another of my searches through the listings this morning and yet again I found three cars – an executive car, a family car and a city car – that are all just £1,000 but have MOT and Tax. Motoring doesn’t get cheaper than this:
Mazda 626 (1997-2002)
Dependable range of cars for less. Saloons, estates and hatchbacks that depreciate fast and offer great value for those who want practicality, not image.
Most economical: 2.0 TD – 54.3mpg
Best used buy: 2.0 GXi
Buy from: Car auctions, independent car dealers.
UsedCarExpert.com buyers checks to avoid faults: 13
Real car on the market: 1996 P Reg Mazda 626 1.8i Gxi, 42,000 miles, £1,000.
Rover 25 (1999-present)
Well-built and sensational value family hatch. Cramped in the back, rivals are better, but good to drive with some great engine options.
Most economical: 2.0D – 55.4mpg
Best used buy: 1.6 iL has ABS brakes.
Buy from: Ex-Rover dealers, private owners.
UsedCarExpert.com buyers checks to avoid faults: 16
Real car on the market: Rover 216Si, R reg. 54,000 miles £1,000.
Vauxhall Corsa (1993-2003)
Cheap to buy and run, easy to own. Much improved model from 2000 and because there are huge numbers around prices can be temptingly low.
Most economical: 1.7 Dti – 60.1mpg
Best used buy: 1.2 16 valve 5dr Elegance.
Buy from: Car auctions, car supermarkets, independent used car dealers.
UsedCarExpert.com buyers checks to avoid faults: 25
Real car on the market: 1999 Vauxhall Corse 1.2 Breeze, 39,000 miles £1,000.
WHEN driving along one of those long straight tree-lined French roads some years ago I could not help but gaze at a vision that was rapidly magnifying in my rear view mirror.
The low-slung nose with pop-up headlights looked a little like a Lotus Elan +2S but this car was much larger. As it flashed past me as though my Ford Mondeo was walking I noticed that it had four doors and a rear styling that would do justice to a Ferrari.
I was totally stumped as to what it was. After a lot of unsuccessful reference reading I was beginning to think I had been overtaken by the men in black in an alien-mobile or had had a strange view of a Studebaker Avanti. But a few weeks later, when thumbing through a book on French cars I saw it – a car called Monica.
This very rare model was named after the wife of its patron Jean Tastevin.
It is rare not only because it was very expensive, but because it was a victim of a very lengthy development period and very poor timing over its launch.
Powerful tycoon Tastevin made his money as a manufacturer of railway goods wagons but he had a dream of building a luxury car.
In the 1960s France was mourning the loss of its own luxury sports saloon, the Facel Vega which was a sort of French Lagonda. Tastevin saw an opening and recruited the famed British engineer Chris Lawrence to design and develop the project, which began in the mid ’60s and was originally to have used a race-bred 3.0-litre V8. But concerns about reliability and compatibility with automatic transmission led to the adoption of the trusted 5.6-litre Chrysler V8 instead.
On paper Monica had the lot.The chassis was of an advanced semi-spaceframe design with de Dion rear axle with self-levelling and inboard disc brakes.
Inside it was luxury all the way with leather seats, electric windows and power steering. There were even plans for a twin-speed transaxle.
Although there were several attempts at styling, the final version became one of the most beautiful four-door saloons of its day.
But although the car had the power, as far as the launch was concerned the brakes were definitely on.
Astonishingly the wraps were not thrown off until the 1973 Geneva Show which was one of the worst examples of automotive bad timing ever.
The launch co-incided with the 70s fuel crisis and the 150mph, £14,000, 13mpg Monica had most definitely missed the bus as demand for gas-guzzlers of the day bombed.
Production finished after just 35 cars – 25 of which were prototypes.
The Monica 560 weighed nearly two tons and was magnificent. Had it been launched earlier, there would have been many more on the road.
NEW MOTORS BOSSTHE Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has appointed the director of civil air transport and communications at the Society of British Aerospace Companies as its new chief executive.
Paul Everitt will take up his appointment in January 2008.
He currently has responsibility for environmental and safety issues as well as leading its media team and government relations programmes.
Before joining SBAC, Mr Everitt was head of communications, economics and policy at the SMMT. He played a major role in launching and developing the motor industry sustainability report, the annual CO2 report and took a lead on a range of high-profile policy campaigns including the End of Life Vehicle Directive, Block Exemption and the Climate Change Levy.
He says: “The SMMT has an essential role in creating the conditions for a successful UK automotive industry.
“The UK automotive industry has world-class companies and individuals working throughout the lifecycle of its products from design to disposal, from globally-competitive manufacture to leading-edge sales and service. I will do all I can to promote its achievements, create the conditions for further success and represent its interests in Whitehall, Brussels and beyond.”
HISTORIC HOTELAS it celebrates its first anniversary since opening, Mercedes-Benz World has announced its partner for the Brooklands Hotel project.
Delancey has successfully acquired a site of over two acres, located on the historic Brooklands motor racing circuit in Weybridge, Surrey. It has also secured planning consent for the development of a 120-bedroom hotel.
The freehold site has been acquired from DaimlerChrysler Retail and is located directly adjacent to Mercedes-Benz World, which is the largest brand experience centre of its kind in Europe.
The project provides Delancey with the opportunity to create a hotel on a site renowned as the birthplace of British aviation and motorsport.
HAMILTON’S NEW DRIVEFORMULA One race ace Lewis Hamilton is backing the drive to raise funds in association with Abbey for the Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity of the Year. He met patients on oncology wards, sharing stories from the 2007 racing season and taking a ride with the children in McLaren toy cars.
Abbey announced Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity as their first ever charity of the year for 2008. Over the next year 16,000 Abbey staff in 714 branches and five head office sites across the UK will be raising money through a variety of fundraising activities. Money raised will help fund research into the causes of childhood cancer, which is the biggest disease affecting children today.
Lewis Hamilton said: ‘Abbey and Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity have forged a strong relationship which I am really pleased to be supporting. I’m looking forward to helping them raise much needed funds.”
COOL CURECAR care company Comma has developed a product that forces rusted components apart by freezing them.
Frost Bite has been developed by Comma’s scientists and uses a minus 30¡C treatment to penetrate corrosion and release jammed components so they can be unscrewed.
The product works by using an aerosol to reduce the temperature of nuts, bolts and screws, causing them to contract. As they do so, any rust fixing them together will crack apart so that the components can be released.
SWIFT BY NAMETEAM Suzuki Swift has announced the signing of Pascal Leuret, Brad Anderson and “young-gun” Jake Nicholls.
The team says it will return stronger in 2008 with factory backing for Leuret in the World and British MX2 class and for the first time an entry into MX1 with Brad Anderson.
The new team line-up will debut at the Dirt Bike Show at Stoneleigh on December 8, with the bikes on display throughout the show.
HUGE HAMMERAUCTION company Manheim has announced that the launch programme of Europe’s first four-lane facility at its centre in Colchester will include the largest ever commercial vehicle sale. The new saleroom will be officially opened on Tuesday, November 6 with the commercial vehicle mega-auction the following day.
More than 700 vehicles from some of the UK’s largest fleets, leasing companies and motor manufacturers will be on sale.
The Colchester auction centre is the largest in Europe at 52 acres and the addition of the new four-lane development will increase its capacity to about 170,000 vehicles a year.
Consult The Car Doctor every week for answers to all your motoring problems and advice on car concerns.
Fixing the soft-topWhich products would you recommend for reconditioning the canvas hood of a convertible and for restoring transparency to a plastic rear screen? My New Year’s resolution is to restore my old soft-top to its former glory!
- AM, Gosforth
The Car Doctor says…I don’t know of any old-fashioned, ‘homemade’ solutions, though there are some effective products on the market.
Renovo offers a range of products for reconditioning and re-proofing soft-tops, including an Ultra Proofer, a Soft Top Dry Cleaner (canvas or mohair hoods only), and a Plastic Window Polish.
Prices range from £4.99 to £19.99. Autoglym also do a Hood Cleaner and Protector Kit for around £20, or you could pick up a Soft Top renovation kit and plastic window cleaning cream from Halfords for about the same price.
Passenger lanesIs it true that there will soon be some motorway lanes open only to cars carrying passengers?
- FD, Slough
The Car Doctor says…Yes, the Department for Transport is launching a High Vehicle Occupancy (HVO) scheme on the M1, between junctions 7 and 10, where there will be a lane open only for cars carrying one or more passengers.
Similar schemes have been implemented in other countries, where they have worked to reduce traffic and congestion.
Work on the M1 HVO lane will begin late 2005, and if successful will also be introduced to the M61 near Bolton and the M62 near Leeds.
Fog boundI’m a fairly experienced driver who is used to motorway driving and driving in bad conditions. Yet I still get nervous when driving in fog.
I’m also unsure of when I can switch my fog lights on – I’ve heard it’s illegal to have them switched on once visibility improves. Can you help?
- SH, Solihull
The Car Doctor says…As with all weather conditions that minimise visibility, driving in fog can be very dangerous, so drive slowly using dipped headlights. If you’re on the motorway, lower your speed according to any imposed limits.
Don’t tailgate the driver in front and don’t accelerate rapidly – you may suddenly find yourself in a patch of dense fog. Use fog lights if visibility is seriously reduced, but you must ensure you turn them off when visibility improves.
Legislation states that fog lights are only to be used in conditions where visibility is seriously impaired – generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet).
You may be issued with a fixed penalty fine of £30 if you leave your front fog lights on in clear conditions as they are so distracting to other drivers.
AN increasing number of people want tougher penalties for careless drivers who cause death or serious injury.
This is the finding of a poll by on-line insurer www.motorinsurance.co.uk.
Four in ten of those questioned said that drivers causing death or serious injury by careless driving should be treated as criminals and sent to jail.
A further 55 per cent said that anyone found guilty of careless driving, causing death or serious injury should be fined and only allowed behind the wheel of a vehicle again once re-trained and tested.
Just four per cent thought that careless driving is not deliberate and that penalties should not be increased.
The maximum penalty for careless driving is currently nine penalty points and a £2,500 fine. It does not include imprisonment or re-training. The charge of death by dangerous driving does carry a jail sentence.
In its Road Safety Bill, the Government plans to introduce a new offence of causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving. This will carry a maximum five-year jail sentence.
The findings of the poll follow some high-profile recent cases. One case in which a driver hit a mother of two in a head-on collision resulted in the driver admitting careless driving and receiving five penalty points and a £200 fine. In another a driver who admitted careless driving and who caused the death of an occupant of another vehicle was fined £1,000.
Punishments are considered by those polled to be too lenient in cases where death or serious injury is caused.
Paul Cosh, managing director of www.motorinsurance.co.uk, says: “Our poll demonstrates a demand from the British public for careless drivers to be given much harder penalties to reflect the severity of their offence. For careless driving causing serious injury or death, there was a strong call for prison sentences.
“From some of the recent cases it could be questioned whether a charge of careless driving is sufficient, considering they have led to death.
“Increasing the penalties to reflect the severity of the crime, whether financial or custodial, will hopefully make people drive more sensibly.”
WRONGLY inflated tyres are costing motorists more than £1billion a year in wasted fuel.
Research by Cooper Tire Europe found that, at any one time, 95 per cent of vehicles on the road have at least one tyre underinflated by 10 per cent.
This not only increases fuel consumption and reduces the life of the tyre but also increases the risk of accidents.
Cooper says that underinflated tyres increase fuel consumption by around 2.5 per cent.
With around 30 million passenger vehicles on the roads, and an average cost of 14.74 pence per mile for petrol cars and 12.81 pence per mile for diesel cars, drivers of affected vehicles are unwittingly shelling out an extra £44.22 per year each (£38.43 for diesel drivers) – a collective total of £1.26 billion.
Underinflated tyres also increase stopping distances and can be a contributory factor to road accidents.
Department for Transport data reveals that defective and underinflated tyres cause 1,000 serious injuries or fatalities every year.
‘Checking your tyre pressures is a mundane, but very simple, task,’ says Cooper Tire product manager, Malcolm Jones. ‘As the ‘credit crunch’ grips the country, it’s amazing that drivers aren’t bothering to do it, as it could save them money and, more importantly, keep them safe on the road.’
TRAFFIC queues can damage your health, according to a study by insurer Direct Line.
The impact of traffic on drivers’ report, which is co-authored by health psychologist David Moxon, identifies a new condition named Traffic Stress Syndrome (TSS), which is said to be a form of psychological anxiety that manifests itself in certain drivers while stuck in traffic.
According to the study, about one in three drivers or a million motorists, suffer from TSS and show symptoms of the condition after being held up in traffic for as little as three to five minutes.
One in five experience increased heart-rates and headaches and one in ten get sweaty palms. In more severe cases drivers report nausea, dizziness and stomach cramps.
Loss of concentration and hazardous driving brought about by the condition are claimed to have resulted in more than two million accidents for TSS drivers during or following traffic jams.
Other more common effects of the motoring condition include anxiety, irritation and heightened levels of anger.
Direct Line spokeswoman, Emma Holyer, says: “Driving has become more stressful, and as a result motorists are suffering. We would encourage drivers to take deep and slow breaths and try to think about other things than the jams when sitting in heavy traffic to avoid getting Traffic Stress Syndrome.”
Psychologist David Moxon, who was part of the research team, says: “TSS is a form of stress that manifests itself in frustrated drivers.
“There is evidence to suggest that chronic TSS can be detrimental to both the physical and mental health of the motorist.”
MAZDA’S ZOOM ZOOM SALESTHE first month of sales of the third generation Mazda MX-5, combined with the ongoing success of the rotary-engined RX-8, has given Mazda almost 40 per cent of the non-premium sports segment.
Total UK sales of the RX-8 have now reached 15,500 since its launch in October 2003. A further 460 motorists bought the new MX-5 this month via the pre-order website, which launched in August, including 300 special launch edition models that sold out by mid-October.
Top volume seller in October was the Mazda3 at just over 800 units. Mazda6 sales topped 500 and total Mazda sales for the month reached 2,635 resulting in a market share of 1.69 per cent for October and 1.92 per cent year to date.
FROM CONCEPT TO REALITYVAUXHALL’S Antara GTC concept vehicle has won an award even though the production version will not reach showrooms until late next year.
The striking Frankfurt Show car won the ‘Concept of the Year’ title in a UK motoring magazine’s awards. The annual ceremony recognises the best in the global car industry.
Autocar editor Rob Aherne says: “The Antara has raised the bar in terms of Vauxhall’s concept quality.
“Vauxhall are back on track with their design direction. There is no New Edge design or Flame Surfacing at their design centre, just a bunch of professionals designing some of the most attractive family cars of the moment.”
Vauxhall says that practicality played a key part in the Antara GTC’s design. The three-door body is accessed through door handles that glide out of the door electronically when the remote locking is activated. They conceal a four-seat cabin with large glass areas to give a feeling of space.
Unlike conventional seats, which are mounted on a pair of runners, the Antara GTC’s front seats have their own monorail to slide fore and aft. They also slide forward at the touch of a button to allow rear seat access.
It is a fully operational prototype powered by a 1.9-litre diesel engine with two turbochargers.
The road-going Antara will arrive in showrooms before the end of 2006.
ENGINE OF THE FUTURETHE Ricardo 2/4SIGHT petrol engine can deliver an improvement of up to 30 per cent in fuel economy and CO2 emissions together with class-leading performance.
It is based on an innovative design of combustion system combined with advanced valve train and control technologies, enabling automatic switching between two and four-stroke operation.
The savings are achieved by using a smaller, lighter engine operating at higher specific load.
A detailed two-litre V6 petrol engine design has now been completed that is intended to deliver levels of performance and driveability more usually associated with three to four-litre V8s.
Ricardo and its partners intend to build and test the first concept demonstrator engine next year.
A detailed cost and benefit study is also being carried out on a one-litre 2/4SIGHT engine for use in family cars as a replacement for current conventional 1.8-litre and two-litre petrol engines.
THREE-YEAR VEHICLE TAX PLANPLANS to introduce a three-year tax disc for fleet vehicles have been welcomed by The Association of Car Fleet Operators but only if the extended period is not mandatory.
ACFO director Stewart Whyte, says: “We would welcome the possibility of an optional three-year tax disc for fleet vehicles.
“While there are positive and negatives to any new initiative it is clear that such a move would reduce the administration burden associated with the annual renewal of the tax disc and save costs as VED rates typically increase annually.
“There is no doubt that the positives will outweigh the negatives for many fleets. However, because a three-year tax disc will not be suitable for all companies it is essential that any move to the new arrangement is voluntary and not compulsory.”
MINI JUST GETS BIGGERTHE Mini factory at Cowley, Oxford has built its 500,000th vehicle almost two years ahead of schedule.
Now the success story looks to continue with the unveiling of the Mini Traveller concept at this year’s Frankfurt motorshow, which is set for production.
Mini is now owned by BMW and generates more than 4,500 jobs in the UK with the cars being sold in more than 60 countries world-wide.
WITH driving rain affecting many parts of the country, motoring organisations are warning drivers to take extra care on the roads and to avoid flooded areas.
Weather warnings predict that the rain is going to be heavy and sometimes torrential with standing water and spray creating hazardous driving conditions.
The RAC is advising motorists to postpone journeys if possible or to follow these tips for driving in flooded areas:
If driving at more than 50mph surface water may not be dispersed by your tyres, which may cause you to aquaplane. This is when the tyres are riding on a film of water and are not in contact with the road.
If your steering suddenly feels light you are probably aquaplaning. To regain grip, ease off the accelerator, do not brake and allow your speed to reduce until you regain full control of the steering.
If you have to drive in a flooded area take care. Do not attempt to drive through water if you are unsure of the depth. If you have to drive through a flood try to drive in the highest section of the road if it is safe to do so.
Driving through floods at speed may be dangerous to other vehicles or pedestrian so drive only fast enough to create a small bow wave in front of the vehicle.
If a vehicle is travelling in the opposite direction wait before proceeding through the flood and never tailgate other vehicles by using their lights as a marker.
Once you’re through the flood you must test your brakes thoroughly.
If flooding has entered the passenger compartment suifficiently to wet the carpets and the vehicle is fitted with an airbag do not turn the ignition on. It is important to have the vehicle professionally examined because there is a risk of airbag deployment from water in the electrical system.
If the vehicle is not fitted with airbags, there may still be a risk of an electrical short circuit that can cause further damage. Again, do not turn the ignition on and have the vehicle professionally examined.
If the vehicle has only been in a flood for a short period, drive with extreme caution and take the car to be checked at the earliest opportunity.
BMW has revealed a concept for the sort of high-performance luxury coupe that could rival four-seat competitors from Mercedes-Benz and Aston Martin.
The German company is going back to the future with its use of the CS badge, which was the name of its previous generation of Grand Tourers of 30 years ago.
Although retaining the strong corporate BMW identity, the concept gets its own distinctive style, incorporating four doors despite its low roof line and sleek shape.
The blistered wheel arches house large-diameter 21-inch alloy wheels and there is a notably short overhang at the front.
According to BMW this is not just for show but the design allows the engine to be fitted behind the front suspension rather than in front of it, as is the case with some of its rivals.
BMW says that this arrangement creates a better balance and enhances handling at speed.
In the company’s official statement describing the concept car, the interior is said to be driver orientated, which suggests that most users will rarely carry passengers in the remaining three individual sports seats.
Nonetheless, for those with young children such a design has great advantages over conventional two-door sports models and BMW believes that it is a car that could be used occasionally for ferrying around youngsters to school or to leisure activities.
Although BMW has almost exhausted the new-technology bin with its latest models, the concept features one more innovation concerning the non-blinding lights.
Using the latest LED technology, the headlamps send their beams backwards to a reflector, which then sends them forwards to illuminate the road ahead.
The designers say that this not only intensifies the amount of light emitted but eliminates dazzle for oncoming drivers because they can not look directly at the initial light source.
The company insists that the concept is a design study only and there are no plans to put it into production, which usually means that it will be in showrooms within a couple of years at the latest.