Honest John's Motoring Agony Column 28-07-2018 Part 1

Published 27 July 2018

This week’s antagony involves retyrement plans, four-wheel motorbikes, unused cars and in Part 2 the unconvertible, histrionics, snow-drifts and more to educate, irritate and amuse.

As usual, emails to Honest John should be addressed to: letters@honestjohn.co.uk  Please try to keep them as short as possible. 


I have been reading your Saturday Telegraph section for at least 10 years and now have a question regarding the often-asked conundrum of alloy wheel size versus ride comfort, with an added twist. My father has a 2014 BMW X1 20d X-Drive M Sport with staggered alloys and runflats (225/45R18 on the front and 255/40R18 on the rear) and is finding the ride harsh. Non-runflats would soften the ride somewhat, but he was wondering if 225/50R17 non-runflats on new 17-inch alloys would be safe, given the car’s M Sport suspension and X-Drive being tuned for the staggered setup? They would be the preferred choice, but BMW say the car is tuned to be optimal on the M-Sport staggered setup. I really would appreciate your advice on this, as the tyres need changing due to wear and we could kill two birds with one stone if the 17-inch option is viable and safe for the car.

AW, Ottery St Mary

I don't believe that the car has to stay on these ridiculous wheels and tyres, the main purpose of which is to sell more tyres because they wear out in half the time of sensible tyres. 

Ariel Nomad F34 Orange 

Quad bikes 

After a near fatal collision last November I need to replace my Triumph Explorer 1200 motorcycle with a car. I want something with an open top to keep me connected to the surroundings; that drives well, will enjoy climbing the odd Alp and won't mind going up the occasional dirt track. I am 6’ 2” and my right leg no longer bends as well as it used to. I am considering an automatic with a left leg conversion if necessary. I had planned a Brexit tour of all 28 states before the final string was cut and covered the first 9 last summer. I may not make it in the original time scale but I would like to complete the tour. What can you recommend?

MM, via email

First choice, an Ariel Nomad (http://www.arielmotor.co.uk/nomad/overview/). Nothing gets closer to the brief than that. Open top, 'connected to the road': Mazda MX-5 2.0 Sport 6-speed. I think you can still get an automatic. But you probably won't fit and there's nor much room inside anyway. So better be a Porsche Boxster or an Audi TT roadster. If you want something that can go off road, then the answer is a Range Rover Evoque convertible with the SI4 250PS petrol engine. They're automatic anyway. Obviously not as 'connected to the road' because that and ‘off road’ are not compatible. Or you could wait for the next Jeep Wrangler. Putting the top up and down on the current one is like erecting a reluctant tent.


Lack of drive

I’m looking for a low mileage older BMW. There appear to be models advertised from between 10-14 years old with around 4,000 miles on the clock. In view of the age and mileage and in spite of being in excellent condition would you envisage problems?

FJF, via email 

You can check them all out here: http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar / For the used models you are seeking, scroll down to the orange banner and click on it. Always remember the golden rule: The more expensive a car was when new, the more expensive it will be to run 2nd hand. None of these aspirational cars are actually better built than Fords and most of them are worse than Toyotas, KIAs, Hyundais and Hondas.

Ford Mustang Convertible 2018 F34

American dream

We have just returned from another USA road trip. As usual, we hired a Mustang convertible (this as it seems to be the only open top with decent trunk space), but I was a bit disappointed on two counts: The latest Mk6 with the 2.3 Ecoboost engine seemed to be lacking much of the grunt of the V6s we had rented on our previous three visits. At Bonneville it barely managed 110mph. Fuel economy was on average 4mpg worse than the bigger V6 models. Not sure if this was because the latter trip was done at higher altitude (4,000 – 15,000 ft above sea level) than the previous three trips. All four trips were roughly the same distance of 5,000 miles. Otherwise the vehicle was very pleasant to drive. And very pretty to look at.

KR, Bath, Somerset

Was it auto? I guess so. I found the 2.3EcoBoost manual surprisingly pleasant with good steering feel and front-end response, probably due to the slightly lighter engine. The choice is between a 310HP 2.3 4-cylinder EcoBoost and a 460HP 5.0 litre V8. For 2018, the 300HP 3.7 Ti-VCT V6 available from 2015-2017 seems to have been dropped in the Mustang. The 3.5 V6 Ecoboost continues in the F150.

Google Maps On Smartphone 

Map app

Your reply to PK in the Telegraph of 2 June recommends that he spends £300 on TomTom or Garmin satnav that includes good current mapping and free updates. I would like to suggest a free and equally good (if not better) alternative. For several years now, I have used the Navigation facility of the Google Maps app, available for both Apple and Android. This is GPS enabled, and routes can be set up easily and for free using any wifi. It is regularly updated, and even advises of road works and traffic delays, estimates the delay time and suggests alternative routes. Provided it is set up under wifi, its use across the EU is completely free. I would not be without this app, and can't think of a reason why anyone would spend any money these days on buying a satnav device.

TW, Chickerell

Take your point. But, of course, the car has to have a decent size touch screen with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. It has to be set up under wifi so cannot provide live traffic updates while you are on the move (unless the car has wifi). And there has to be a good G4 signal.


Constantly variable

What are your views on the automatic Qashqai please? It is not a torque converter, but is it reliable and good?

MG, Wimborne

The original CVT in the Qashqai had a lot of problems: /carbycar/nissan/qashqai-2007/?section=good / It has since been revised and is now called xTronic: /carbycar/nissan/qashqai-2014/?section=good / Still having problems in the Juke: /carbycar/nissan/juke-2010/?section=good

LR RR Evoque 5dr 3 Side 2 SMMT 700 (1)

My car rimmeth over 

My Range Rover Evoque HSE Dynamic Lux, registered in July 2016 runs on standard 20-inch wheels and the only alternative size options from the brochure appear to be 17-inch or 19-inch. The ride is generally good and the car corners well. However the ride is a bit rough on poor road surfaces and I would like to know if the extra rubber gained by a 1-inch drop in wheel size to 19-inch would give much improvement in ride quality over the existing 20-inch wheels? My vehicle has standard suspension – not the ‘Magneride’ optional extra - so there would be no ‘adaptive dynamics’ attempting to regain the firmness of the suspension. I assume the 17-inch option would probably result in poor roadholding and not match the vehicle’s appearance. Am I right in this assumption?

HS, via email

Evoque wheel and tyre sizes are 17-inch wheels with 225/65 R17 tyres; 18-inch wheels with 235/60 R18 tyres (originally, anyway); 19-inch wheels with 235/55 R19 tyres; 20-inch wheels with 245/45 R20 tyres. My preference is for 18-inch with 235/60s, but 19-inch with 235/55s will make a difference.

Mazda 2 2017 Side Blue (1)

Maz exodus

I’m thinking of changing my 8-year old Ford Fiesta that has done 58,000 miles and is beginning to cost a lot in maintenance (new cambelt, as recommended by Ford, etc.). I’d like something a bit bigger and more restful to drive. I’ve looked a various cars, but it seems that the best deals are for a Mazda 3. Great specification and good discounts on new or very low mileage pre-registered cars. I’ve tried to find independent reviews but can’t. Is there something wrong with these cars that I should steer clear? I would appreciate your thoughts. I prefer petrol to diesel and am thinking of going for automatic. Thank you in advance for your help.

BR, Saffron Walden 

I think Mazda 3s are excellent. Good looking and drive brilliantly:  /road-tests/mazda/mazda-3-2017-road-test/ and /road-tests/mazda/mazda-3-2014-production-road-test/ Stunning New Mazda 3 next year: /carbycar/mazda/3-2019/

Audi A1 Prod Side 700

A1 Southbound

I bought a new Audi A1 in 2011, as encouraged by the government. It was supposed to be such a green vehicle that there were tax advantages for the self-employed to buy one. Then there was the emissions scandal. Each time the Audi garage phoned me to tell me of a sales event I said I did not appreciate being lied to and would not buy another. Finally my car was called in to the local Audi dealer to have something done to it as a result of the deliberate fabrication on the part of VW/Audi. It had been running well up to this point, doing both short and long journeys. About a month later, I gave the car to my son. He has had endless problems and expense with the car. He is told that as a result of doing mainly short journeys, a warning light comes on and this usually necessitates expensive work at the garage
I hear there is a class action against VW Audi, how can we get some recompense?

JH, Falmouth 

I presume by “encouraged by the government” you mean because of the lower CO2 emissions of a diesel engine? VAG has pledged to fix any faults consequential of the fix, so take it back. A diesel with a DPF is fundamentally unsuitable for repeated short runs from cold so is the wrong car for your son’s type of use. I don’t encourage readers to join the class actions.

Dacia Logan MCV II Side 

“Unable to log on” 

My Dacia Sandero has been fine since I bought it 4 years ago, but a bit more space would be useful, so last week I popped into my local dealer to enquire about a Logan estate. He informed me that they were “no longer being ordered”, presumably a euphemism for discontinued. He knew nothing more (he didn’t know anything about the new Duster either), but it seems strange to stop selling what has been quite a popular model. In the rush to ugly SUVs, there are precious few small estate cars left to choose from. Have you heard anything about this?

DJ, via email

A lot of model variations have been temporarily withdrawn because of the queue to get every single variation certificated to EU6d TEMP / WLTP before September. Any cars not certified to EU6d by that date cannot be sold. The new Duster 1.6SCe with 2WD is certified to EU6d TEMP / WLTP and I got 42.7mpg out of one over 150 miles.

Land Rover Discovery Sport 

“Refusal often offends”

My daughter is in the process of buying an 11-month old Land Rover Discovery Sport diesel with 6,600 miles on the clock from a LR dealer. It has been a demonstration car and she asked the salesman to include a service (oil change and filter) as it was nearing 1 year old. He refused, saying that its first service is at 2 yrs therefore it does not need doing. To me this seems a long time to wait for a first service; she will be covering about 9,000 miles this year. What do you think please?

JH, Warrington

Then don’t buy the car. An oil and filter change is essential because if these engines are switched off mid-active regeneration of the DPFs they dump a lot of diesel in to their sumps. Tell the salesman it's a deal breaker. Either he has the vehicle properly serviced or you walk away. And you want an extra £100 off the sale price simply because he tried to feed you a load of cobblers.

Volvo S90 F34 Speed

Private ire

I’d be interested in your view about buying a used Volvo S90 saloon.  Your newspaper’s road test of February 2017 when the car came out was very positive and it seems to compare well with the E-Class and the XF. However, in yesterday’s V60 review, Andrew English wrote “no-one buys an S90 saloon” and I’m sure he’s right as I’ve never seen one on the road. But, a year-old car (an ex-rental, I believe) with 10,000 miles on the clock is around £22k-£23k: surely a bargain for a high-£30k car that is so well equipped. I know they’re diesel, which is out of favour, but why else aren’t they selling/  

MW, Birchintton

Very nice, but just the 'wrong' car. Not even successful as a private hire car as the previous S80 used to. That market is owned by the Mercedes Benz E-Class. Nevertheless, we were all very impressed by the new V60 D4 diesel. Extremely relaxing to drive. And the judges were spot on to make the Volvo XC40 T5 European Car of the Year.

Hon Accord 03 Tour R34 700

Dishondarable discharge

Our Honda Accord 2.5 Auto Estate, first registered 2007, started to flatten its battery overnight a few weeks ago. Despite having the battery replaced the same thing happened repeatedly despite our local garage being unable to find any fault. On contacting an auto-electrical specialist we were advised that this is a well known problem with this vehicle and that Honda apparently will do nothing to correct the fault. In order to allow us to continue using our car the specialist fitted a relay and secret, external switch in order to power down the “body module” once the car is parked and locked up for the night. Have any of your other readers had this problem? If so, has Honda ever explained the fault or how to deal with it?

BMW, via email

Yes. It was a problem with Hondas and Toyotas. In the auction marshalling yards the cars with their bonnets up waiting for the battery booster cart were all Hondas and Toyotas. They seem to have fixed it now, but for an old car the only answer is a Body Control Module battery isolator such as the one your specialist fitted.

Volvo S60 D4 F34 

Injection of common sense 

I am starting to look for a new car and would like some advice please. I currently drive a 2012 SEAT Exeo 2.0 Diesel and have driven it for just over three and a half years without any issues. As there are now 75,000 miles on the clock, I am starting to look for a newer car. I have looked at a Volvo S60 2.0 Diesel, a Skoda Superb 2.0 Diesel SEL Executive and a Volkswagen Passat 2.0 Diesel SE Business. All the models I have looked at have been 2016 or 2017 cars and have been Saloons. I would appreciate your advice on what car you would recommend or if there are other cars that you would recommend. I do 18,500 per year, favour a Diesel car and have a total budget of £16,000 which is made up of an estimated trade in value of £4500 for my car and I will make up the difference. 

CB, via email

I averaged nearly 60mpg in a Volvo S60 D4 190 over 9,000 miles (/our-cars/volvo-s60/), but you must run it on Superdiesel or you could have trouble with the very finely tuned injectors. A Mazda 6 2.2 Skyactiv D is a better drive, and chain cam, but a bit less economical. The current Skoda Superb is an excellent car but better with a petrol engine under the bonnet. A Passat 2.0TDI 150 works well enough, but I'm always uneasy about VAG long-term reliability.


Damage control

I parked my car in Morrisons car park on Friday, and when I returned  it had scratches down one side. The car next to me (space was empty when I parked) had scratches on the bumper, which coincided with the marks on my car. I took photos and went back into the store to ask them to call the owner. After about 10 minutes no one had appeared, so I left leaving my phone number for the store to contact me with any developments. In the afternoon I received a call from the other driver. This woman claimed that she had not scraped my car, and the marks on her car had been there for ages and a friend could verify it. I have had the damage repair estimated at £1,150 and with an excess from my insurance company of £650. Should I pursue this through the insurance, or pay for it myself? I would appreciate your advice.

IG, via email

If the damage does not prevent you from using the car, sue the woman for the damage using your evidence in the Small Claims track of the County Court: https://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money / You have her phone number because she phoned you. Use it to tell her that if she does not pay for the damage you will see her in court and remind her of the penalty for perjury. If you don't have her address, or she won't give it to you, use the registration of her car to obtain it from DVLA using the reason of Just Cause: https://www.gov.uk/request-information-from-dvla /

Toyota Urban Cruiser Side 

Urban worrier 

I purchased a 2010/60 reg Toyota Urban Cruiser last year from a dealer last year. The car came with a year's warranty. Soon after  purchase a warning light kept appearing on the dashboard. The manual advised that the light indicated that the oil needed changing.  I knew this wasn't the case as the car had undergone a full service prior to purchase. I read how to reset the dashboard to turn off the warning light, which was successful. However, the light kept reappearing more frequently, so I decided to return the car to the dealer under the warranty. They kept the car for a day and confirmed that there was a fault with it. They explained that the cause of the warning light is that sometimes engine oil is bypassing the cylinders and going back into the oil tank and therefore it can build up and the sensor thinks there is too much oil. They are aware that this is a possible fault with Urban Cruisers and have a technical bulletin (60 pages long) explaining the fault. They explained that they had argued with the warranty insurer, who won't cover the problem unless the garage can prove that this is happening. They would need to remove the engine  and show where the fault is happening, but they say they could do this and still not show enough evidence to satisfy the warranty company. They would then have the task of putting the engine back and they would have to argue that the work would be under warranty. If the warranty company refuse to accept liability, the work would have to be at my expense. If accepted by the warranty insurer, the dealer would replace the engine with modified parts to stop the problem recurring. They told me the ball is in my court. They are happy to go ahead but it's down to me to take the risk. Surely if the car is under warranty, and this is a known fault, it should be repaired for me? I would appreciate your advice.

LG, via email

If you bought the car within 6 months then the dealer is wholly responsible for any fault that could have been present or developing on date of sale. If you bought it more than 6 months ago then for the dealer to be liable you would have to prove that the fault was present or developing on date of sale and could invoke Clegg v Olle Andersson (trading as Nordic Marine) House of Lords, 2003. See: /faq/consumer-rights/ If this is a 1.4D-4D and is fitted with a DPF, then the problem is probably with the diesel post-injection system to actively regenerate the DPF. Switching off the engine mid-active regeneration leaves the post injected diesel to drain into the sump, raising its level.

Mercedes -Benz CLS 2018 F34 

Marquet trader

I would like to buy myself a nice car for my retirement. Nothing outrageous, just a decent marque with a bit of pace, grace and space and maybe a bit of rakish style thrown in. The car I fancy is a new Mercedes CLS 350 Coupe, which has a 3-litre, straight six BlueTec Diesel engine. Although this engine qualifies for Euro 6, and some, and is quite economical on fuel, I am wondering if, in the current anti-Diesel climate, if it would be a wise purchase? At the Mercedes dealers, most of the cars for sale, even the new models, seem to be Diesel so they are still making them and, presumably, expect to sell them but for a 2 yr old car, I will have to pay the thick end of £30k, am I throwing good money down the drain? I would appreciate your opinion.

TN, via email

You won’t get this engine in a 2-year old. It is a new straight six that is gradually replacing MB's 3.0 litre V6 diesel. I think the reason is that with a straight six, especially one with an integrated exhaust manifold, the DPF can be close-coupled to the engine where it heats up far more effectively to passively regenerate. I think this is an EU6d / TEMP WLTP engine in advance of the requirement from September 2018. A colleague who has driven one some distance reckons it does 45mpg plus, which is good news.


Paintful decision

I have a BMW 320d Sport Touring auto first registered in Sept. 2016, which I purchased in July 2017 from a BMW franchise. I have driven approx 6,000 miles, making a total of 12,000 miles. The colour is sparkly metallic Mediterranean Blue, and it also has Supaguard protection applied by the dealer at a cost in excess of £300. Today I noticed that a patch of the paintwork on the bonnet, irregular in shape but roughly 20mm x 30mm is missing, exposing matt grey undercoat. There is a stone chip on the edge of the defect. I am very conscientious about cleaning the car, and this can only have happened in the last few days, otherwise I would have noticed it sooner. I visited the franchise today for their examination of the car and they stated that it is not a warranty issue. I can accept that repair costs for stone chips are my problem, but for the lacquer and body colour to disappear I think is BMW's responsibility? Also, when I purchased the car there were a few very minor stone chips elsewhere which they had repaired using touch-up paint, and which I could accept given the price that I paid compared with new. I'm very concerned that those repairs could result in similar delamination and I will end up with a worthless warranty for the bodywork and a patchy car. If a stone chip can cause the paint and lacquer to delaminate, then a serious health warning should be issued by BMW. What is your advice please?

GC, Banbury

Get the paint checked at an independent car bodyshop. Find out if it is the original paint or not. If not, it's down to the dealer you bought the car from. If it is then check the detail of the BMW paint warranty that should be for 3 years.

Click to Honest John’s Motoring Agony Column 28-07-2018 Part 2


Max Gomila    on 27 July 2018

'Paintful decision'

That is one of the risks when buying a second hand car.

The paintwork warranty and the corrosion warranty can be invalidated if the inspections haven't been done on time or if the repairs haven't been done on time or to the manufacturer's specified standards.

Jonathan Guy Rawson    on 28 July 2018

"Staggered" is there not an insurance issue if run flats are replaced with normal tyres, due to claims of the handling may be compremised due to the sidewalls not being as stiff?

"Damage Control" the supermarket will probably have cctv and could check to see if there was contact. My local Tesco did this when the trolley guy lost control and they smashed into the rear of my car.

Jonathan Guy Rawson    on 28 July 2018

DPF / Regeneration, this whole issue is getting crazy Having a system that does not tell you when it is active via the dash board so you must not turn the engine off is utter madness.
So you have a system that you don't know is running, stop using your vehicle as normal but risk causing an issue with the engine/exhaust system.

Soon Diesels will be coming with warnings not to be driven for short journey's,

wightvanman    on 28 July 2018

Re Staggering
We also have an X1 and find it noisy and a little harsh on its run flats...the same as you 225/45/18 but ours are not staggered..front and rear the same
We got new alloys and winter tyres from our local BMW dealer 225/50/17 They are noticeably quieter. And a better ride. We paid £800 . We are back on our summer tyres now and we much prefer our winter tyres.
We were careful to ensure that BMW approved the new Tyre size
If you do some internet research, there are good websites which enable you to calculate which tyre sizes can be used safely, but your BM dealer should do it for you

aufdermaur    on 28 July 2018

re map app

> Take your point. But, of course, the car has to have a decent size touch screen with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto

No it doesn't, my mobile phone sits in a simple clip bracket attached to the centre air vents on my dashboard. Live traffic updates come over my 4g connection. Very few people will own a smartphone that doesn't have a data package and Gmaps uses very minimal data anyway.

Evangelos Gkougkousis    on 28 July 2018

I find Waze even better. I have not used Satnav for years. I use google when walking

Captain-Cretin    on 29 July 2018

I have used Navmii to navigate around Europe for several years, the data used for traffic updates is minimal, so no real cost to have 4G enabled.

Unlike Google Maps, the map is stored on your phone, so you dont need a constant 4G connection.

In the first few years I used an 8" tablet connected to my phone via blue tooth, nowadays I have a 5.5" screen on my phone and find it large enough.

A moveable screen mount is also preferable to a centre console display, as you can set the screen to be viewable while you still have your eyes on the road; I have mine set lowish, and to the right of the steering wheel, where my vision is blocked by the "A" pillar anyway.

In-car Satnav is all well and good, but you often have to take your eyes off the road to look at them; and a friend was quoted £800 to update the maps on his Audi A4, when he enquired about driving in Europe.

Edited by Captain-Cretin on 29/07/2018 at 12:26

expertad    on 4 August 2018

How can it be £800? you can get a new SD card that covers Europe for about £100.And I work for Audi.............

Engineer Andy    on 30 July 2018

Even my 'ancient' Nokia 620 (I have a REALLY old 3410 dumb phone as a free voicemail service [the battery lasts for several days, unlike a smart phone's]) with Here maps (still can be updated) is perfectly fine for live traffic sat nav use - I just used in on holiday in the West Country and it was decent - all at no charge and with a relatively small size screen.

A nice touch with the optional speed limit warning bongs (no camera warning, but the alternative is reasonable). Car manufacturers still haven't got phone/sat nav integration and ease of use right yet - better than a few years ago, but still a long way to go.

The one thing I didn't like when using Google Maps (on my then [larger] work phone) was that the live traffic levels weren't as accurate or up-to-date as my Here Maps service and often wanted to route me on roads I could visually see were blocked. I think it needs a better algorithm to compare current information to historical data to give useful recommendations to change routes.

jchinuk    on 29 July 2018

Re Lack of Drive, "10-14 years old with around 4,000 miles", call me cynical, but that equates to around 25-30 miles driven per month, is that realistic? The cars have either hardly been driven or left unused for long periods.

Colin Thompson    on 30 July 2018

Had to be hypo.. 40k credible but lots of 10-14 yr old BMWs with 4k.. Don't think so, rare examples that are will be cherished and gradually heading for collectible status (at 25 miles per month)...

expertad    on 4 August 2018

I have one,a 9000 mile 530i sport BMW,no idea why you wouldn't use a car like that,mine is not a 'museum piece',I drive it on weekends.And much as I respect HJ's opinion,there is a LOT of difference in build quality between an E39 BMW 5 series and a Mondeo from the same year.Fast forward ten years,3 series and Mondeo,not much.So it depends what you are looking for.

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