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Honest John's Motoring Agony Column 29-12-2018 Part 1

Published 28 December 2018

This compendium of carnography contains climate change compromises, higher cars, a malignant Mercedes dealer, suspect surveys, and in Part 2 an amazing Mazda, a race for space, a long range forecast and enough to keep you going until 2019.

As usual, emails to Honest John should be addressed to:  Please try to keep them as short as possible.

Honda CR-V Hybrid 2019 10 F34 Off Road 

35 grand-parents 

We recently became grandparents, and would like to visit our granddaughter more frequently. Her parents also have a dog. We’d like to help with both. However, they live over 400 miles away. We don’t need or want something massive, and our total annual mileage probably doesn’t warrant a diesel. Our main criteria are it must be comfortable and reliable for long journeys, and be relatively economical. Our budget is around £35,000. Which medium sized SUV would you recommend?

RM, via email

A Peugeot 3008 1.2 Puretech 130 makes a lot of sense. You can order it with Grip Control that makes it better than a 4x4 in winter and it is also now available with an 8-speed torque converter automatic transmission. Mazda is now offering the CX-5 with a 2.0 litre petrol engine and automatic transmission. While the new Honda CR-V hybrid is an interesting option: /road-tests/honda/honda-cr-v-hybrid-2019-road-test/ A new Toyota RAV-4 and Peugeot 3008 hybrid are on the way.

Suzuki Vitara 2019 Side Static 

Pinin it down

Our 2005 Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin 3-door will soon need to be replaced. What is today’s equivalent nearly new or recent used car? Requirements are: small, manoeuvrable, high driving position and 4 wheel drive or good traction (shallow floods and snow on 1 in 10 gradient). Simple and basic required (prefer switches and knobs) Your advice would be appreciated.

RS, via email

The new Suzuki Jimny would be if it wasn't sold out for the next couple of years: /carbycar/suzuki/jimny-2019/ So the answer is probably a Suzuki Vitara S 1.4T Boosterjet 4WD. (I agree, Shogun Pinins were great little 4x4s.)



We own a 2011 Mercedes-Benz C180, which we have had since 2014 and has covered less than 40,000 miles. We have always serviced the car at our local MB dealer and the car went in for its MoT last week. The dealer called me to say that serious corrosion was found on the brake pipes and that the car had failed its MoT due to this “very serious corrosion issue”.  They quoted nearly £1,400 to do the work. I told them on the phone that there was no way I was paying this kind of money for a car that had done such little mileage and that is always kept garaged. He said he would “look at the figures”. 20 minutes later, another person from the dealership called me to tell me how much of a valued customer I am and as a very, very good price they would do the work for £750. By then I smelt a rat. I therefore contacted London Road Garage in Coalville (rated as top garage in Leicestershire by your own Good Garage Guide). I have known David Hill since 2008 and he always serviced the cars that we had previously. He is an honest, honourable man who I trust with my life. I took the car to London Road and they confirmed that there was some very minor surface corrosion where the clips were attached to the brake pipes. After cleaning this corrosion, the pipes underneath were as good as new. They charged me just for the MoT: a cut price £40. I contacted MB Customer Service (I have a service care plan) to ask them to work out the figures of cancelling this plan as I do not trust the dealer any more. I explained my reasons. They suggested I made a formal complaint, which I did. Today, I got a phone call from MB in Maastricht to say that the dealer is standing by his findings; that the corrosion was very serious, and so on. I would very much like to have the brake pipes inspected by a third party and have a report when I go to the dealer and discuss this face to face. How do you suggest that I proceed?

TN, Loughborough

You could have the brake pipes inspected by get a quotation first. This inspection and inspection report alone could run to £200 - £300.

Peugeot 3008 LT 2019 Rear V-Power 

Who’s fuelling who?

On yesterday's BBC programme, ‘Rip Off Britain’, it was shown that supermarket petrol is on average considerably cheaper than branded filling stations. This morning, in response to viewers' queries, the presenter said that there is no difference in the quality of the former, and the claim was backed up by Edmund King. You are always saying that is not the case, so I would be interested to know what evidence you have to back that up? I would add that I used to work (many years ago) for a filling station that sold cheap, unbranded petrol, and it just came from the same place as any other because the owner bought excess production from whatever petrol company had made too much. After all, petrol is a by-product of the manufacture of oil and aviation fuel. Personally, I take your advice and use Shell V-Power after doing some not very scientific tests that showed that I got at least enough extra mpg on my 6-speed FIAT Grande Punto to cover the extra cost. I also have a Shell Driver's Club card that used to give me enough points for a return flight to Italy once a year before I retired and my mileage reduced.

NH, via email

25 years of using Texaco Cleansystem 3, then Shell Optimax, then Shell V-Power and having absolutely no fuel system problems in any of hundreds of cars. Backed up by readers endorsement of my advice. These mindless “researchers” really get up my nose. They trot out their ‘findings’ without really knowing what they are talking about. That said, some filling stations have been taking the mick. Any that charge over £1.50 a litre for Super should be avoided.

KIA E -Niro 2019 F34 City Bush MINI (1)

Future prospects

You come highly recommended by my girlfriend's 80-year-old mother. My Mum is also an avid reader. It seems that current buyers of mid-price compact and mid-size SUVs are either having to spend their hard earned cash imprudently on petrol/diesel or more wisely with a very limited choice on an electric/hybrid. I have a tremendous, possibly time-limited opportunity, to invest in a new car to last me for the next 10-20 years and would like to take the plunge into an electric, or hybrid at least that offers me an element of excitement for once and a bit of kerb appeal without being too flash or extravagant. 

JH, via email

Mazda is working with Toyota towards future generations of petrol hybrids the petrol element of which will be Mazda's air supercharged Spark Controlled Compression Ignition Skyactiv X petrol engine and the hybrid element of which will be Toyotas. But these are some way off. Toyotas next generation hybrids are the TNGA based new Corolla, New RAV-4 and Lexus UX. Honda's new CR-V petrol hybrid is very good: /road-tests/honda/honda-cr-v-hybrid-2019-road-test/ Peugeot is about to spring a very quick 200HP 3008 twin engined petrol hybrid (next 'spring'). An awful lot of rubbish is being talked about electric cars. Because half of the UK's electricity is still generated by fossil fuels, the average electric care emits 50g/km CO2 in the generation of its electricity. Probably the most practical electric car is the £32,000 KIA eNiro, which has a 450 litre load area, a 282 mile range, and a 7.5 second 0 to 60: /road-tests/kia/kia-e-niro-2019-road-test/ But the only complete answer is a hydrogen car such as the Hyundai Nexo: /carbycar/hyundai/nexo/


Maggy may

Do you have any suggestions for disposing of old car magazines, apart from recycling? I have Motor Sport from 1947, Autocar from 1950 and London show reports.

ST, via email

You can advertise them FoC on the classics section of our website. Contact:

KIA Venga Side 700 

Bringing home baby

Having just had her first child, my daughter has had to part with her beloved BMW 1-Series and is looking for a car more suitable for this phase of life. The local Ford dealer has offered a 2017 Focus 1.0 Ecoboost with 5,000 miles on a PCP at around £195/month. She is looking for a car under one year old and suitable for the baby equipment that Mums now take with them. Is the current Ford offer reasonable? Would a personal bank loan be cheaper, and should she talk to another supplier? If so, which one?

RT, via email

Ford seems to be over its problems with the 1.0 Ecoboost, but £195 a month for a 2017 Focus seems like a lot to me. (Of course monthly payments alone don't indicate the actual cost of the car. You have to work that out by multiplying it by the term, then adding the deposit and the final payment.) A KIA Venga or a Hyundai ix20 is a little more upright for getting the baby in and out of the car and come with 7 or 5-year warranties.


Unexpected expense

I have a 2013 Skoda Yeti Elegance Diesel DSG, which I bought 18 months ago. I didn’t need it for the 4-wheel-drive function, but for ease of access and egress, as I am 69 yrs old. Also for the heated seats. Now, I am told, it needs a cambelt and water pump, the total bill being nearly £500, which to me is a lot of money. Also I was dismayed that the annual tax is more than my previous car, a Golf diesel. I am wondering if there is any other car that is just as easy to get into and out of that would be more economical to run. The Yeti does only 40mpg as long-term average. I would really like an electric/hybrid car, but cannot afford a new one. It would need to be at least 4 years old, high off the ground, with electric seats.

JH, via email

Maybe a Toyota Yaris hybrid: zero annual tax, but to get 70+mpg you will have to drive it distances. Self-charging hybrids are not particularly economical when used for repeated short runs from cold that do not charge the hybrid battery.

Sko Oct 06 Auction 700

Octing out

I’m currently running a 2005 Skoda Octavia diesel and the suspension has hardened over time and 223,094 miles, which is beginning to make the ride uncomfortable. I would like to replace it; ideally with a second-hand car with similar cabin space, but a higher driving position (similar to a Citroen Picasso or higher) and supple, absorbing suspension to absorb potholes and other road imperfections. I’ve been looking at SUV options to give me the seat height, but would also like something economical on consumption, annual tax and consumables and servicing. I’ll be going second hand with a budget of up to £15,000. Can you advise on some possible choices? I’d prefer diesel but my wife likes the idea of an eco option and I’m concerned that diesel vehicles may start to attract increasing penalties.  

JJ, via email

The best of these was the brilliantly supple and compliant second generation Mazda 5 on 16-inch wheels with 55 profile tyres. I ran one for a year. It came with either a 1.6 Ford diesel engine that has since proven to be unreliable with injector trouble, but it was also available with a 150HP 2.0 chain-cam Mazda petrol engine that seems to be totally reliable. You will have to travel to find one. Otherwise, if you want diesel economy, it probably has to be a Citroen C4 Picasso.

Audi A3 09 F34 Silver 700

Unhelpful answer

I bought a beautiful 8-year old Audi A3 s-line from a dealership. I test drove it, made all the usual checks and it seemed absolutely fine. I put down £3,000 and got the remaining £3,200 on finance. I have owned the car for 20 days and in that time the rear windscreen wiper and washers have failed, the car is now leaking coolant and I dread to think what further problems are going to arise. I’ve contacted the dealership and they are reluctant to help. Apart from spending hundreds to get these issues investigated and fixed, am I in a position to give the car back and terminate the agreement on the grounds of being sold a faulty car?

SB, via email

The dealer isn't allowed to be "reluctant to help". These are your rights: /faq/consumer-rights/ Try rejecting the car under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. If the dealer continues to be obstructive use Section 75 of the 1974 Consumer Credit Act to get the full price of the car back from the finance house.

Audi A4 B6 Avant Red F34 700

Chased-ending experience

Recently I was involved in an incident where my car was struck by a driver who was being pursued by Police. I have reported the incident and am waiting to hear back from the Police, but would appreciate any advice on my best options to proceed. My car is a 2003 A4 avant quattro and, although still driveable, has suffered fair damage to the area below the fuel tank and rear wheel arch on the driver’s side. As far as I can tell, the low value of the car prior to the crash (£1,000) and the fact that this is not a replaceable panel means that the car is likely to be written off. However, I'm more concerned that, even if the insurance company pays out for the car, the increased insurance premiums over the next couple of years, just for making a no fault claim will leave me out of pocket in the longer term. Can you advise me on the best way to proceed, and what the Police response is likely to be? Am I obliged to tell my insurance company at all? 

AL, via email

No way of not reporting it to your insurer because the police will have had to report it to their insurer, so it will be recorded centrally. If your insurer wants to write the car off, offer to buy it, then get it fixed yourself.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake R34 White

Tyre straits

My Jaguar XF 3.0 V6 Sportbrake is now getting its 3rd set of low profile tyres, having done only 27,000 miles over a five-year period. The cause of the failure of the tyres is cutting to the inside, near the wheel rim, in some cases down the cords. This, as far as I’m concerned, is a very serious safety issue. Normally, I would attribute it to under inflation, but after the first failure I have checked the tyre pressure almost every time I fill up and I know this is not the case. My dealer, Jaguar Land Rover Milton Keynes, having only checked the front wheel alignment, has decided that it is nothing to do with the car and is not their responsibility, even though those tyres have been selected and fitted by them. They have not checked the wheels for circularity, for sharp edges on the rims, for the correct tyre pressure instructions etc., etc. They seem more focussed on ensuring there’s no cost to them (I have never asked for repayment: my concern is the safety of my family). They have not cross-checked the wheels with other similar cars, or checked that the tyres have given problems elsewhere. All they offer is for me to change all four tyres and send the old ones to Dunlop to ascertain the cause.

SL, via email

The most common reason for severe wear on the inner shoulders of tyres, particularly low profile tyres, and the damage you describe is centring the car over speed cushions to lessen the jolt. This has the undesirable effect of 'squeeging' the tyres along the chamfered edges of the speed cushion leading to severe abrasion of the tyre shoulders and damage to the tyres along the inner rims.

Citroen Berlingo Multispace 2018 Door Open 

K9 version

Now that my husband and I have retired, we want to sell our two cars and buy a single new one to enjoy in our retirement. Years ago, we loved our Sharan-based Galaxy, so we are looking at something similar. As we have three large Irish Wolfhounds, we are looking for a vehicle with removable or fold into floor second and third row seats as well as 40 plus inches headroom. As well as looking at Sharans and Galaxys, are there any others you could suggest? It seems that the rear roofs of most SUVs dip down and reduce headroom so these don't suit big dogs.

SL, Birmingham

Depending the distances you will travel, probably a Citroen C4 Space Tourer 1.2 Puretech 130; or the new Peugeot Rifter/Citroen Berlingo/Vauxhall Combo Life which come in two lengths: /road-tests/peugeot/peugeot-rifter-2018-road-test/ (I have to warn you of the danger of carrying large, uncaged animals in a car without a substantial barrier between them and you.)

Citroen C4 Cactus Seat Cutaway 

Seating comfortably

My wife and I are in our 80s and she has had two operations on her spine so has to sit on a surgical cushion supplied by the NHS. We want a smallish, well-appointed, automatic car that is easy to drive and park with a very soft suspension to irons out all the bumps.  Citroens have been suggested but I have read that they are unreliable. What cars do you recommend?

CG. via email

I think you need the latest Citroen C4 Cactus with ‘Advanced Comfort Suspension’ and seats. You can get one with the 1.2 Puretech engine and EAT6 (or EAT8) torque converter automatic, but go for the smallest wheels and deepest profile tyres for the best ride comfort. No reliability fears. They are no less reliable than Volkswagens.

Renault Koleos LT F34 3 Mirrors Out

Van mail 

Having taken up caravanning this year, I’ve been using my 2012 Skoda Superb L&K 2.0 TSi estate as the towing vehicle. The van has a maximum running weight of 1,495kg and the Superb tows it well, plus it has all the space we need (we have two fairly large Bearded Collie dogs who take up all the boot space). However, the petrol engine is proving to be very thirsty, averaging less than 20mpg when towing and expensive 18-inch low profile tyres will need more frequent replacement, so I’m thinking of changing cars. I’m looking for a more economical tow vehicle that can take 4 adults and the dogs comfortably. A diesel would be the obvious choice, but I’m unsure if they have a future in terms of tax and residual value. What would you advise as the best car for my needs? Budget is around £20k plus trade in.

MH, via email

Take a look at the often forgotten and usually ignored Renault Koleos 2.0DCI Signature. You'll get a year old example for £20k - £25k. You might even get the one I recently handed back to Renault: /our-cars/renault-koleos/ . This really is an unsung hero. Vast inside. Very comfortable. 180PS and 380Nm torque. And nicely geared at around 33mph/1,000rpm in 6th which should be good for towing.

Renault Captur Dash Orange

Missed connection

My wife has a 2017 Renault Captur that has Bluetooth capability. However, try as we might it has been impossible to pair her iPod (about three years old) to the car although we have successfully paired my phone. We have asked Renault to try to resolve the issue but they have been unsuccessful. It is possible to play the iPod by plugging it into the slot in the centre of the dashboard but that means that there are wires hanging down and in direct contact with the gear lever that is not particularly safe or desirable. Have you or any readers found the same issue and found a way to resolve it. 

PH, via email

As far as I know, to play music from an iPod or even an iPhone in a car, it has to be plugged in. An iPhone certainly has to be plugged in for Apple CarPlay to bring up Google Maps or Waze. 

Click to Honest John’s Motoring Agony Column 29-12-2018 Part 2


PetrolFan    on 29 December 2018

"The only complete solution is a hydrogen car".
Oh yes?
Just wait a moment whilst I pluck a bagfull of hydrogen out of the air!
Hydrogen in the UK is available either from the steam reforming of natural gas or light fuel oil.
For large users it is available as liquid hydrogen manufactured in France for their rockets.
You can make it by electrolysis of water in "very" expensive plant, and that might happen in a big way if wind or solar power becomes really cheap, (or if steam reforming for fertiliser production is banned or taxed).
It really gets my goat when online reporters talk about hydrogen as if it's some carbon-free fuel.

WillZander    on 29 December 2018

Not all iPods have Bluetooth capability, and whilst the one "PH, via email" may have, they were not as advanced as the later bluetooth versions used in phones. There are different versions of bluetooth and some of the earlier versions were a bit flaky. The best option would be to copy all the music to the micro SD card on your phone and play from there. If your phone does not have a micro SD card, you bought the wrong phone.

doi209    on 29 December 2018

Who's fuelling who ?
OK HJ, 'Hundreds of cars' over '25 years'. Lets say 300 cars - that works out to be 12 per year or 1 per month. I would be very surprised if any fuel problems suddenly appear after 1 months motoring.
I read your comments and review your advice, but I take your answer with a very large pinch of salt based upon the figures you quote. Your long-term research is based upon your own experience which would be more believable if you didn't have so many cars !!

I have not had any fuelling issues after driving 14 cars over 45 years and many 000's of miles on a mixture of supermarket and branded fuel.

Slow Eddie    on 30 December 2018

Very well put, doi209!

HairyJones    on 1 January 2019

Honest John is not very honest. Indeed, I have not heard of any problems from millions of car owners for the past 20 odd years of supermarket fuel damaging their cars. Usually, any problems is because of "undue car and attention" through misfuelling, etc.

Don't believe Honest John. It is true that V-Power does provide slightly better performance and a small fuel economy improvement, but in my experience, it does not justify the price premium. I do use it but only periodically to help clean the engine.

jchinuk    on 30 December 2018

Re Who’s fuelling who? The programme (Rip Off Britain) was correct in that petrol, from any pump, mets the British Standard for fuel for that octane rating. As HJ often points out some fuels are better in some cars that others. I'm old enough to recall a 'scandal' when Shell introduced a premium fuel (I think in the 80s) which caused a lot of problems for some drivers, but many (mine included) were fine and got improved economy oand performance.
Oddly, I suspect modern cars, with electronic fuel injection and ignition can cope with a greater variety of fuels (within the British Standard) than in the days of carburetters and distributors.

PetrolFan    on 30 December 2018

Some news from refineries.
"petrol" is not petrol.
Crude oil comes from all over the world. The composition of crude depends on the types of sea creatures which died a billion tears ago to form oil and gas under ocean sediments. For example, many crudes are heavy in sulphur. Luckily North Sea crudes are very sweet i.e light in sulphur.
Refineries buy crude from "where-ever" in order to get a balance of products they an process in their units, and primarily what they can sell.
What they can sell varies by country and season, with the UK needing more heating fuel and LPG in the winter.
What goes into "petrol" is whatever is in the "gasoline pool". That pool is actually a storage tank taking a range of hydrocarbon molecular weights having suitable volatility and octane number, etc.
Petrol is not a particular chemical formula, not a particular molecular weight, or a particular compound.
Just like PROPANE lpg sold to industry in large cylinders. It burns like lpg and has high heat output, but mostly it's propylene from cat. crackers in refineries.
The upshot of this is that some gasoline pools make better "petrol" than others.
But it all meets the BS

misar    on 30 December 2018

Who’s fuelling who?

Unlike HJ I can't claim to have driven hundreds of cars but over the past 55 years I have driven and owned from new a variety of cars, all petrol and ranging from 1.6L Cortinas through a V6 Mondeo to my present 2L Mazda. All on bog standard 4 Star or Unleaded. Most of the time I have bought branded although I did go through a few years of supermarket with the Mondeo (it was lovely but very thirsty).

Like HJ I can claim to having absolutely no fuel system problems in any of my cars, all of which I probably kept for far longer than HJ kept most of his (the Mazda has not long passed 9 years).

RafflesNH    on 31 December 2018

Regrettably, (on cost grounds), I'm afraid I can't agree.

I have a 2008 3 litre 6 pot BMW which I have owned since 2014, and after running it for a year or so on supermarket fuel of the manufacturer recommended RON, I noticed the engine becoming lumpy on idle and the exhaust tips looked very sooty. After a main dealer service in which they also chucked a can of BMW branded fuel system cleaner into my tank at exorbitant cost and without my prior approval, I noticed the lumpiness disappear soon afterwards and the exhaust tips remained clean. I then discovered HJ's fuel recommendations and decided to give Shell V Power a go, and haven't needed to add any fuel cleaning additive to the tank ever since.

I should add that because my engine is a GDI petrol injected type without the added cleaning benefits of the fuel/air inlet valves found on both the older port injected, and some later dual injection engines, I cannot obviate the need in due course to have the inlet ports and valves cleaned by walnut blasting or similar. But I will hopefully be able to stave off the need for premature replacement of my very expensive High Pressure Fuel Pump and injectors.

Edited by RafflesNH on 31/12/2018 at 14:32

HairyJones    on 1 January 2019

Oh dear, your car's engine is not designed to run on RON95 fuel, but 98 or higher octane fuel. That is why it runs better on Shell V Power!

gordonbennet    on 30 December 2018

No fuel system problems here either, on fuel almost exclusively bought from supermarkets once they started supplying the stuff.

Though in the Diesels, i've now been running for some 35 years i've always added Millers Diesel Fuel additive ever since i discovered it, which must be well over 20 years now.

My experience means as much or as little as anyone else's, looking after your vehicle, servicing it properly (including fuel filter changes) and treating it with common sense mechanical sympathy might have more effect on long term durability than which retailer's pump the fuel comes out of.

misar    on 31 December 2018

Future prospects

Before disagreeing with HJ twice in one Agony Column I should say that I always find him very informative and do agree with much of what he writes!

I also like the idea of hydrogen power but HJ is wrong to criticise battery power due to the CO2 emission presently resulting from electricity generation then state that "the only complete answer is a hydrogen car". Unfortunately in most future scenarios for use of hydrogen it is produced by electrolysis of water - using electricity.

Edited by misar on 31/12/2018 at 18:30

SteveLee    on 1 January 2019

When I worked for Texaco, we supplied exactly the same fuel to Tesco Sainsburys and our own forecourts, I think they lost that contract a few years ago though, dunno who supplies the various supermarkets now.

HairyJones    on 1 January 2019

I agree. I believe Honest John has been ill informed. It is true that the premium fuels are indeed better, but standard petrol or diesel fuels are absolutely fine.

WillZander    on 5 January 2019

I agree. I believe Honest John has been ill informed. It is true that the premium fuels are indeed better, but standard petrol or diesel fuels are absolutely fine.

Yes but by your own admission premium fuels are better, better mpg, better cleaning of engines, better inclusion of additives. Plus for performance engines essential. I had a Cooper S once, the supercharged version, no matter how I drove I got 28mpg. Read Honest John's views and changed to premium, then got 31 to 31 mpg regularly.

doi209    on 2 January 2019

No response Honest John ?

Edited by doi209 on 02/01/2019 at 21:00

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