I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and are starting 2018 with a sense of vigour and enthusiasm. I know I am: I spent the Christmas break redesigning my website. After many hours work it is ready, and I would urge you to take a look at it. You can also find us on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, so get following, liking and subscribing for more regular updates. Details can be found at the end of this column.
2018 is looking to be one of my best yet since I started gracing these pages with reviews. You see there are some absolutely fantastic cars on sale at the minute, and I’m hoping to put a few of them through their paces.
I will start with the Mitsubishi L200 SVP. Standing for ‘Special Vehicle Projects’, the SVP is a 250-strong limited run. It was created in homage to the one-off Project Swarm: the heavily modified vehicle designed in conjunction with Top Gear Magazine to take on the world’s biggest sand dune.
The road version is essentially an L200 Barbarian with some cosmetic upgrades. It’s available in either Electric Blue or Cosmos Black, and features a raft of black detailing: the grille, headlamp surrounds, wheel arches, roof rails and wheels. It even has BF Goodrich knobbly tyres.
The engine is not the most refined, getting rattly above 3,000rpm. The 5-speed automatic gearbox feels old fashioned, and kills fuel consumption. But this is a commercial vehicle after all. You have to allow for the bouncy ride and low-geared steering, because the SVP is set up to take a 1,050kg payload and to tow 3,100kg.
Prices for the SVP start from £29,330 plus VAT. Very expensive for private buyers, but also a very attractive proposition for company car drivers (it’s a fixed-rate taxable benefit) or for companies who can reclaim the VAT. And with such a bold image, you’ll certainly stand out from the crowd.
Which brings me neatly on to my next car: The DS 3 Performance Black. It’s finished in matte black, with a gold roof, mirrors and detailing. And on the outside it looks superb. The interior is graced with huge bucket seats (good) and a gold plastic dashboard (not good).
On paper, this car should be superb. It has a 1.6-litre, turbocharged petrol engine that puts out 208PS. It has a 6-speed manual gearbox and a Torsen limited-slip differential. The track is wider than a standard DS 3 and 4-piston, 323mm Brembo front brakes ensure you have plenty of stopping power.
But if I’m completely honest, the result is a little underwhelming. The steering is direct – no question – but it lacks weight. The clutch is a little on the light side too. To keep the steering wheel completely bare, there are two additional stalks behind it: one for the media and one for cruise control. But you can’t see either of them, so have to rely solely on telepathy. And whilst you get a little bit of noise from the exhaust, there isn’t much for the driver. If this car had a symposer of some kind, it would simply transform the driving experience.
The bottom line is that there were just too many niggles with the DS 3 to make it a properly great car. And that makes the price of £26,165 even harder to stomach. The all-new Fiesta ST is due out this year, and expected to be sub-£20,000. What’s even more perplexing is that the DS’s twin brother – the Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport – starts at £23,550. I might have to grab the latest one of those for comparison…