Honest John's Motoring Agony Column 18-01-2020

Published 16 January 2020

Today’s roads to ruin include suspect supercars, transmission terrors, self-charging hybrids and in Part 2: we look at outstanding automatics, steering wheel security, insurance iniquities and considerably more.

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

Maserati 3200GT Historics Maurice 's Car

Too good to be true?

I stumbled across a wonderful-looking Maserati on line. My immediate question, full of suspicion – why is it so cheap? Any thoughts?

JD, Dedham, Essex

A friend of mine had one, slightly older with the 3200 biturbo engine and automatic transmission. He sold it at Historics auction in 2012, for about £9,000. There are certain specific and very expensive things that can go wrong: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/maserati/3200gt-2000/good/ And https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/maserati/42-v8-coupe-2002/good/ Here is my latest Historics report:  https://classics.honestjohn.co.uk/news/auction-news/2019-11/historics-auction-results-23rd-november-2013-at-mercedes-benz-world-brooklands/

Skoda DQ200 DSG Production At Vrchlai

Automatic fearbox?

I have just paid £3,500 for a new DSG transmission for my 2013 VW Golf, which has low mileage and is regularly serviced. I note that there has been concern for some years about this gearbox: why has there been no recall? Is there enough evidence to demand compensation? The garage in my small village has had 3 VW Golfs with the same problem in the last year and a local friend knows of 2 others. Is there any centralised site recording this issue - apart from you? And, if not, how do we know the incidence of this problem as evidence to give leverage to regulatory bodies? I love my car and it holds its value well but I may consider an alternative.

MCB, via email

Mainly honestjohn.co.ouk . Golf Mk VII: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/volkswagen/golf-vii-2013/good/ Golf Mk VI: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/volkswagen/golf-vi-2009/good/ And in the good/bad sections for every other VAG car. Hundreds of incidences altogether.

Honda Jazz 2020 2 Side

Jazz seller? 

I'm confused. My wife's Honda Jazz needs replacing. Honda is about to produce a self-charging hybrid Jazz, while Toyota produces the Yaris self-charging hybrid. Which is better?

BL, Edinburgh

Honda was first with the original Insight. Toyota is the most experienced. Honda got out of hybrids about 5 years ago, but is now back with its new CR-V Hybrid and new Jazz Hybrid due next year: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/honda/jazz-2020/ This road test of the CR-V explains how Honda's new system works: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/road-tests/honda/honda-cr-v-hybrid-2019-road-test/ And here's a road test of the most recent Yaris hybrid: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/road-tests/toyota/toyota-yaris-2017-range-road-test/

VW T-Cross 2019 R34 White Olive Tree

Width restrictions 

About 15 years ago you advised me to buy a Honda Shuttle to house my young family, which I did and it was amazing, except I damaged my hip gardening and could no longer get on with the armchair seats. I owned it for over 6 years. So now, 15 years later, after about six hip operations I’m driving a 2005 BMW116i. I have a parking problem and cannot have a car wider or longer than my trusty BMW. I’ve bought a warranty from Warranty Direct. They have been amazing and covered the most expensive breakdowns which I’m told are typically a problem with this car. Flywheel? Sorted. Now I’m thinking I should buy my forever car. I have a grim neighbour, so something a tad less wide would be great. Nothing Japanese else my elderly brother would no talk to me. He was in the war.

EF, via email

See if a VW T-Cross measures up. Small, tall and fairly narrow: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/road-tests/volkswagen/volkswagen-t-cross-2019-road-test/ Even smaller and narrower, a lot of people favour the Smart ForFour: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/smart/forfour-2014/

HJ Motoring Yearbooks

Page turners 

I read your column every week and have a couple of your books from the late 1990s. The books contain a lot of information and common sense, which is still relevant today. Do you have any plans to collate some of your more recent columns into a new book?

ML, Suffolk

Many thanks for your email. The answer is, sorry, no. The books took forever to compile, and they had stopped selling in the necessary numbers. Then, in December 1999, I found out about websites, so started one. All the information that was in the books, plus several hundred times more, is now to be found entirely free of charge. The advertising and accountable links pays for it all, so you don't have to.

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer F34

Ear rings 

Our 2017 BMW Active Tourer 220i Sport has 17-inch runflats as standard. Earlier this year I e-mailed you with my concern that a noise seemed to be emanating from the steering wheel area not unlike that of vibrating keys. You wondered if some loose plastic had found its way into the ventilation trunking. I subsequently arranged for a BMW technician from the supplying dealer to have a short test run. Like my wife, he could hear nothing. When I moved over to the passenger seat the noise moved with me to the glove box. At that point I realised that the car was fine but that I had acquired a form of Tinnitus. The Tinnitus is affected by the vibration set off by the car travelling over various road surfaces. On ultra-smooth surfaces, nothing is heard. As soon as tyre noise is set off so is the Tinnitus, increasing with road speed. Various surfaces produce higher or lower levels. This occurs in other cars as well as our own. This is not proving to be a huge problem; more of an inconvenience. Ideally I would like friction-less travel. Would air suspension be more vibration free? Do such vehicles exist? Would alternative run-flats provide a smoother ride? You often recommend all weather tyres but these are not runflats.

EW, West Drayton

This: https://www.wheel-size.com/size/bmw/2-series-active-tourer/2017/ says you can switch to 16-inch wheels with 205/60 R16 tyres or 196/65 R16 tyres. You can get Michelin Cross Climate 205/60 R16 96W ZP ('Zero Pressure' = "runflat") decibel rating 069db. They will be more compliant and should be less noisy. You will need to swap over the TPMS monitors to the new wheels and re-initialise them.

Mazda CX-5 2.0i Auto 2019 Brake Hold

Holding pattern 

At the end of February 2019, I purchased a 22,000 mile, 3-year old, VW Golf 1.4 TSI, 125 manual from a VW dealer. After 2 weeks there was an occasional staccato noise from the front of the car when cornering. I was able to demonstrate the noise to the dealer who, at your suggestion, eventually replaced the driveshaft universal joints, serviced the car, valeted it and filled it with petrol. The only problem now is that the auto-hold releases the brake before the clutch is fully engaged. Normally, not a problem unless you are trying to reversing out of a narrow parking space on a slope in a very busy motorway service area. The dealer has checked the car and said that the system is not showing any faults and the software is up to date. My wife and I were able to demonstrate the problem and were told to release the clutch without touching the accelerator. This seemed to work for a while, but not now. A neighbour with a SEAT Ateca has a similar problem and told me that she turns the auto-hold off. Is this the best approach? 

AM, via email

In that case, just don't use the auto-hold in that sort of situation. Use the full parking brake instead. Auto hold is only really intended to hold the car in traffic on a level surface so you don't have to keep on applying and releasing the parking brake.

Ford Focus 2014 F34 Blue

Getting an extension

I am considering buying a 2017/66 Ford Focus 1.0 Ecoboost from our local Ford dealer. It has 3 months of warranty left. I am being offered an extended warranty for 1, 2 or 3 years (cost £499, £699, £899). What is your advice please on the necessity of extended warranties for cars just coming out of their manufacturer's warranty period?

MB, via email

This model has been a bit special due to the turbo degas pipe debacle, though a 2016 should not be affected. See: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/ford/focus-2011/good/ And: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/ford/focus-2014/good/ I think I'd be a bit more comfortable with a couple of years extended warranty.

Skoda Octavia 2017 F34

Knock, knock, what’s there? 

I have an 18-month old Skoda Octavia 1.5 TSI that has done 19,873 miles. It is going in for a major service on Monday. There is a regular metallic tapping sound from the engine when idling. To me (old school) it sounds as if a hydraulic tappet has stuck. Would you agree? I remember you commenting on another letter that VW had issues with this engine but you didn’t cover tapping. Could you tell me what these issues are and would my tapping noise be one?

JD, via email

If this is the engine's first oil and filter change then the reason is probably some contaminant in the oil blocking an oilway to the engine's hydraulic valve lifters. The other problem was hesitation and kangarooing of the 1.5TSI at low revs when cold. That's covered in a news item here: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/news/new-cars/2019-08/audi-cures-15tsi-hesitation-with-48v-mild-hybrid-drivetrain/ General Octavia problem areas here: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/skoda/octavia-2013/

Volkswagen T-Roc F34

Roc star?

I’m thinking of changing my VW Tiguan for a T-Roc but they don’t seem to be very popular.  I’ve only seen one on the road. What is your opinion of them?

PU, via email

Good looking. Reasonable to drive. Usually fitted with the better DQ381 7-speed wert clutch DSG. The problem of hesitation and kangarooing of the 1.5TSI is now solved by a software fix. More: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/volkswagen/t-roc-2018/

Peugeot 3008 H4 3 Cutaway 700 

Parkers guide

I have a 2014 Lexus RX450 Hybrid and wish to change to a smaller vehicle, preferably a bit narrower to ease parking. I visited my local Jaguar Land Rover dealer and saw a fine collection of E-Pace, F-Pace, Evoque, Discovery Sport, etc. but none of the petrol versions could match the 35mpg of my large 3.5 litre Lexus. This also applies to the Macan and Volvo XC40. Sadly, the Lexus NX and UX are not generally well thought of. Where do I find a small quality SUV?

RH, via email

There are a lot more petrol hybrids on the way, including the new Peugeot 3008 and Vauxhall Grandland Hybrid4s that combine a petrol engine with two electric motors and a 13.2kWh battery emitting 29g/km CO2 and giving the cars up to 36 miles electric range. Meanwhile, I got 35mpg from the 250HP Volvo XC40 T5: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/road-tests/volvo/volvo-xc40-t5-2018-road-test/  I still rate it the most likable of this size of SUV. For 55mpg + economy you should also take a look at the new 2.0 litre Toyota C-HR hybrid: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/road-tests/toyota/toyota-c-hr-20-hybrid-2020-road-test/

Renault Koleos LT V-Power Barnsdale Bar Spare 

Putting on the carbs

I have noticed on line that there are many videos regarding carbon build-up on the inlet valves of direct injected petrol engines. These problems seem to be mainly in the USA. Will this be a problem in Europe, or is it caused by the quality of fuel in the USA? I run a Volvo XC40 with direct petrol injection.

JD, via email

Run the car on 99RON Shell V-Power. That is the petrol the engine is optimised to run on so that is what it runs most efficiently on, even though the fuel does not enter the combustion chamber via the valves. I got 34.6mpg from a V40 T5 on V-Power:  https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/road-tests/volvo/volvo-xc40-t5-2018-road-test/

Toyota C-HR 2020 F34 Oitavos Lead

Quality street

My wife is looking for a new, small to medium sized, comfortable, five door, hybrid. We would lean more towards the quality end of the market. Might you be so kind as to give a shortlist of four or five ones that you would recommend?

DH, Farningham

Toyota Corolla: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/toyota/corolla-2019/

Toyota Prius: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/toyota/prius-2016/

Toyota C-HR: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/toyota/c-hr-2016/

BMW 225xe Active Tourer: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/bmw/2-series-active-tourer/


Small and tall

We are thinking of purchasing a small SUV, with an automatic transmission. Those in mind are the T-Cross, Arona and Vitara. Do you have any preference, or would you recommend any other models to consider?

JB, via email

I like the T-Cross (2nd appearance today) because it offers height and class in a parkable size: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/road-tests/volkswagen/volkswagen-t-cross-2019-road-test/ The Arona is a cheaper (and cheaper looking) version of the same car: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/road-tests/seat/seat-arona-10-tsi-2018-road-test/ The Vitara is a bit bigger, with 4WD capability and the advantage of a 6-speed torque converter automatic  rather than a DSG: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/road-tests/suzuki/suzuki-vitara-10t-allgrip-2019-road-test/ And: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/road-tests/suzuki/suzuki-vitara-s-boosterjet-2015-road-test/ And: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/road-tests/suzuki/suzuki-vitara-16ddis-2015-road-test/

Triumph TR6 (3) 

Triumph of engine-erring 

I’m considering buying a Triumph TR6. I don’t have the facilities or knowledge to restore one, so it will have to be ready to drive. My questions are: What should I be looking out for, apart from rust? I believe that there were problems with the Lucas petrol pump. Where should I be looking to buy it? Owners club etc? What do you reckon would be a fair price for one?

CC, via email

Several in this auction report: https://classics.honestjohn.co.uk/news/auction-news/2019-09/historics-21st-september-classic-car-auction-provisional-results-1/ Our review of the TR6 here: https://classics.honestjohn.co.uk/reviews/triumph/tr6/ You’ll pay £10,000 for a TR6 needing work and £25,000 for a prime example. Yes, you're right about ethanol attacking parts of the fuel injection system. That can be countered with additives from Millers Oils, etc or running, expensively, on Aspen ethanol-free petrol from garden machinery specialists.

Honda Jazz 2009 Side 700

Grand gesture 

I am considering buying a car for my 18-year old Grand-daughter. I wish to buy a second-hand 5-door small Polo size car and spend approximately £7,500. It must have: a small petrol engine, manual transmission, and be economical to fuel, maintain and insure. Whilst the VW family has cars that would meet my requirements, they all require timing belt/tensioner/water pump replacement every 5 years or 60,000 miles. I would wish to know of  other models which do not have a major issue such as this and what models you would recommend?

GI, via email

A Honda Jazz makes a lot of sense: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/honda/jazz-2014/ and https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/honda/jazz-2008/ (Ours has done 130,000 miles) Or a Toyota Yaris: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/toyota/yaris-and-yaris-hybrid-2011/ Or a KIA Picanto: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/kia/picanto-2017/ Or a Hyundai i10: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/hyundai/i10-2014/ All chain cam. The Toyota originally came with a 5-year warranty, and the KIA with a 7-year warranty so there should be some of this left.

KIA Picanto 2017 Red F34 Lead Copy

Bin the Min 

My wife’s 17-year-old MINI has reached the end of the road. We are now octogenarians, but still drive confidently and would like to buy another small car. As our budget is a maximum £12,000, this would not enable us to buy a new MINI. Any recommendations please?

JL, via email

KIA Picanto. Perfect size. Chain cam engine. Long, 7-year warranty: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/kia/picanto-2017/ Road Test: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/road-tests/kia/kia-picanto-2017-road-test/

Click to Honest John's Motoring Agony Column 18-1-2020 Part 2



London calling    on 18 January 2020

Parker’s Guide- I looked at the XC40 but was put off by reports of it only doing the high 20’s mpg and as we travel to Southern Europe each year wanted something more economic so ended up buying a NX..
It has it’s faults (road noise and not the most powerful) but fully loaded it returned around 44mpg and that included mountainous regions..As said its not the most powerful so not a ‘driver’s car’ but it’s very comfortable and a relaxing drive..

misar    on 18 January 2020

Putting on the carbs

I don't think that USA fuel is necessarily lower quality. Confusion arises because they use a different octane rating ("pump") from Europe and much of the world ("RON"). Our 95 RON unleaded is roughly the same as their 91 pump.

MG66    on 20 January 2020

Parkers Guide

Subaru have released a mild hybrid version of their Forester SUV which might fit the bill

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