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Subaru’s high spec sets it apart from the crowd

Subaru have long been one of my favourite cars but are not really appreciated in this country outside a few aficionados, one of whom was my late great friend the PR guru Jim Rowe who bought a Subaru Forester in 1999 to cope with life in rural Cavan. I was thinking of Jim and great days I had with him and his wife Evelyn and dogs and horses when I returned the latest version of the Subaru XV to the car’s small Irish HQ based on the National Vehicle Distribution site at Baldonnel.
I had taken the previous version of the XV up to Cavan six years ago where it appeared very modern compared to the Forester which Evelyn still had 10 years after Jim’s death. The XV is getting even better and is absolutely packed with spec including its revolutionary EyeSight system that uses two digital stereo cameras to monitor traffic movement to apply pre-collision braking as well as giving driving awareness systems, cruise controls and ability to keep in line with the car in front.
The car has great comfort – oodles of room for five, legendary off-road ability and a real feeling of being sturdily well-built.
It is let down by its powerful Boxer engines which sound a bit harsh and have heavy consumption. However, that is all going to change very soon. Subaru has long been in partnership with Toyota and is importing the latter’s hybrid system next year. So good is the Toyota system that the manufacturer’s outlets are complaining there’s not enough going wrong to keep their workshops busy.
Bringing in the hybrids could be a massive boost for Subaru. However, they are still very tasty and if you put the €33,495 starting price of the XV, or even the range topping €38,495 20i SE Premium Lineartronic CVT Automatic, against any of its competitors, you will be pleasantly surprised. It’s a marque that can be easily overlooked but definitely shouldn’t be. It offers prestige, style and sets you apart from the hordes.
When I was out at Subaru it was sad to hear that the Subaru chief in Ireland Neville Matthews is still very sick. Neville is a wonderful man, a true professional and amazingly good company. I have great memories of some brilliant times with him and his one-time Subaru sidekick Michael Kirby. I will raise a glass to Neville this weekend wishing him and his family all the very best.

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Why it’s stick or twist time for buyers of 181-reg cars

This can be a strange, slightly agonising time of the year for new car buyers. They are faced with a simple question, do they go for one of the many special April deals and get a 181-reg, or is it more prudent to hang on and wait until July for a sparkling new motor with a 182-plate?
Many people who can’t afford a new vehicle would say it is a nice problem to have.
But, at the same time, there could be hundreds of euro at stake.
Relatively speaking, the window to buy is narrow enough now – nearly mid-April – if you are going to get reasonable value from your purchase.
There are several pros and cons to be weighed up – every buyer’s case is different.
But here are a few of the more obvious reasons to stick or twist.
For buying now:
* There are some great deals and allowances in an extremely competitive market.
* The cost to change could be lower than in July if you get the right deal.
* Your own car – if you have a trade-in – is probably worth a bit more now than it might be in July because it will be a few months older.
* Dealers are under pressure to meet targets, so there may be a few extras to sweeten the deal. These all add up.
* You can plan your summer holidays with a key decision made. That is not meant to be funny. You would be surprised at how many people will not buy in July for that very reason.
* You get longer in an ’18’ reg than if you hold on. A minor matter but an influence for some, I’m told.
For buying later:
* There will inevitably be more scrappage deals and allowances announced, especially in the countdown to July as dealers make the most of what has become a tight selling aperture.
* Many of the 182-cars will have been boosted by additional equipment without major price hikes.
* Many will have been given a visual/technical overhaul as well. It was noticeable last year how many major revisions made it onto the market. While now strictly brand new cars, they are advances on existing models.
* You’ve got the long, free and (hopefully) warm evenings to sample and sift rather than rushing to do it on a wet Saturday in April.
The most important thing to do is shop around because there are lots of specific deals out there, and a little bit of research could save a tidy sum.

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Focus on VW Crafter

I only needed a van, not an apartment on wheels. Honestly, there was more room in the Volkswagen Crafter van I had for two bits of days to shift a few things than some of the one-bed apartments for sale or rent. Yes, I needed a fair bit of room, but what I loaded was dwarfed by the interior capacity.
Secondly, I take my woolly hat off (it was cold on one of the days) to the people who drive vans (or large vehicles of any kind for that matter) for a living. Especially within the thick traffic confines of towns and cities (where some equally thick people occupy our roads).
Now, I’ll drive anything and have chanced my arm at most vehicles over the years at home and abroad, but it’s a different world out there in the real world.
So many people in other non-commercial vehicles don’t give you an inch, as if they had priority. With a long wheelbase Crafter, for example, you need to swing a little wider than with a car so as not to hop off the corner of the footpath or skim a car parked close to a junction. Does anyone else care? Well, yes to be fair. Other van and truck drivers do, but men in their saloons and ladies in their SUVs didn’t.
It opened my eyes. I probably hadn’t given van drivers a second thought, up to now anyway. Now I’m watching for all the different shapes and sizes and reminding myself of the challenges they face daily.
I also should point out that their numbers and activity more accurately reflect the real, active economy and how it is faring than anything else on four wheels.
Even though my new 181-reg Crafter had long wheelbase and high roof (HR), giving the voluminous capacity, it wasn’t hard to manoeuvre at all (when given half a chance by others).
It’s long, for sure, but the double wing mirrors gave me great rear perspective (especially at how close some car drivers were tailgating).The lower segments of the mirrors were excellent whenever I was reversing in a gateway.
The driving position was exceptional (there are adjoining seats for two passengers/helpers too) and let me safely keep in lane on narrow roads. The seats were really as good as you’d get in a mainstream car, maybe better than some.
The dash was simple, straightforward and uncluttered, and spec even stretched to voice control.
There are lots of nooks and crannies, including overhead slots, in the cabin, and I lost count of lashing points in the cargo area.
But I have to repeat, the high driving position was something else. Even Range Rovers looked like dinky toys from my vantage point.
The sliding side door was handy for offloading, meaning I could pull up directly outside a drop zone. I used the two-piece rear doors – right to the roof – for loading. A simple step made lifting stuff a lot less of a huff-and-puff affair than I anticipated.
Speaking of puff, I did notice crosswinds on the motorway, though they have a side-wind compensation system.
I’m not going to go all technical because those who drive and own these vehicles know far more than I.
But I will say that if this Polish-built Crafter is a measure of what a van currently constitutes, then we have come a long way.
If only some of the other drivers had come as far. Please, give some thought to those making their living in commercials and trucks. The roads are not just reserved for cars and SUVs, you know.
Key facts
* Volkswagen Crafter, 2litre diesel
* My long wheelbase, high roof: 6,836mm; MWB high roof 5,986mm long
* Range starts €28,345 incl VAT. Price of 6spd manual model driven, €38,340. Road tax: €333; 7.6l/100km, 198g/kwrm.
* LWB HR 3,500kg; payload 1,344Kg
* Towing capacity 3,000kg
* 75-litre fuel tank
* composition media- touchscreen; mobile phone interface, 12v sockets, lashing rings for load restraint, hill start assist, sliding door, dual passenger seat. Options: Composition media with 8ins touchscreen, four 12-V outlets, full-width rear step, front fogs/cornering light

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