SgCarMart.com/MyCarForum feature

I don’t ordinarily ask for features on websites, but I’ve always loved Fai Ming’s photos and when he and a friend asked if they could do a feature on the 204, I was happy to oblige. See the photos and write-up here: http://www.mycarforum.com/blog/12/entry-3367-cream-of-the-crop/

Thank you chaps!

Fuel consumption milestone!

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Aimed for a lofty 400km figure on the trip computer for my full tank of fuel last week – and it did it! Well, almost, but it could most certainly have made the last kilometre and then some more. I’m not sure if it’s the Malaysian fuel or my more frugal driving these days, but it’s certainly good to know that a 320 bhp car can still return almost 400 km from a 50+L tank. Let’s see where the benchmark shifts again next…

Rubber can’t be that exciting… But it is

photo 4-1The Touran hasn’t received much love from perfectsteer of late, no doubt due to its almost exclusive tenure by another member of the household and its many shunts which brings up a sense of hopelessness in trying to keep it looking good. At least it runs well, having had its major 60k service done in November and the engine is as smooth and powerful as I remember it from its first day on the road.

The 1.4 TSI is a spectacular motor. 170bhp and 240Nm is more useful on the road than it is reading off the screen, and the low-end eagerness of the engine is truly astounding in something that can sit seven. It always surprises me pleasantly when I jump from my Subaru to this hulking boxy MPV, because it can show many cars a trick or two up its sleeve. I don’t think we’ll ever sell this workhorse.

After the 60k service the car started to need other services too, including new tyres, new wipers, a new rear light bulb, a new battery and a wheel alignment. The last of which is the most noticeable because I always have to drive the car with the wheels turned left which is quite annoying. I’m not quite sure how my sister lived with it for more than half a year.

The battery and lights got sorted first, which was a relief because the longer cranks were worrying every time the car needed to be started, especially in Malaysia.

The next things I did were the tyres and wheel alignment. After a recommendation and some research, I went ahead with Autokinetics for the tyre change.

Their service is excellent! I’ve never said that about any workshop in Singapore, and in my book 99% of workshops in Singapore give absolutely poor service while the 1% only mediocre. So when I had the owner of the shop explain to me the characteristics of the tyre and explaining professionally why he recommended it, I really appreciated the extra insight.

We decided on the Michelin Primacy 3s (thereby making the fleet a full Michelin-equipped garage with the PSS, PS3 and P3). I took a drive just now, but the roads were wet and the tyres still running in. Can’t say I’ve noticed any difference except perhaps more communicative steering (the previous Hankooks were really bald) for now, but I can’t to try them out when they’ve bedded in. Yes, the Touran is an MPV you can get excited about. It is that good.

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At the same time I also brought the S204 for its wheel alignment because I felt something was not quite right when going quick on the NSH. As it turns out my hunch was correct, with the rear toe and camber quite off.

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Unfortunately only the toe could be adjusted while the fixed camber arms prevented the camber from being adjusted. I’m not sure why this is so from the factory – if anyone reading this has any insight please do share!

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I also had a new horn fitted – c’mon Subaru, the standard horn is plain pussy cat – although the sad trade-off is a broken plastic piece caused by poor workmanship.

Thankfully the shop was gracious enough to waive the installation fee of the horn for this botch. Nonetheless I’m now inconvenienced to source for this part and retain the S204-specific mesh – sigh! See what I said about crappy workshops…

Thankfully the S204 feels better than ever, as we look forward to 2014′s road trip of the year in March (more details on that later)!

Sitting in one of them.

taxi-singaporeWhether they are hogging the road in front of you, or swerving unnervingly close to your car when you’re both straddling lanes, taxi drivers are a strange conundrum that is not easily explained.

Bad habits usually are simply just that – bad, but at many times harmless. But bad driving habits in taxi drivers are amplified many times over because they spend so many hours on the road with no true competent driver to tell them where they’ve gone wrong. So when wrongdoing festers, it mutates into something honestly ugly. That, is my theory anyway, why they have the strangest habits in the motoring world.

Today I got to see first-hand for myself what a typical taxi driver is like. I could finally see why they needed to take two lanes, why they road hog, and why they are so darn reckless. My taxi uncle was the driver equivalent of Buddha. His shiny forehead, hands which held to the steering wheel like a dainty handkerchief, ever-smiling face and laid back seating position all were tell-tale signs. I was going to experience some twisted sort of taxi nirvana. Finally, all the mysteries of taxi drivers solved.

Actually, I only solved it partially. I did find out why they take two lanes. That’s because they want to ‘stake their claim’ in two territories – the option of going forward, as well as the option to filter to the slower lane just to show that they’re considering it. It is no simplistic coincidence that they are right in the middle, purposely indecisive. They want to have everything and lose nothing – a typical Singaporean trait.

So why do they road hog? For the uncle in his retro sunglasses (therefore impeding his good vision to filter left), humble Hyundai (reduced high speed stability) and with 93.3 FM playing, 90km/h is plenty fast for him. He does not see the need for others to go any faster than that, or the hassle to change lanes for others. In other words, he’s just plain selfish, just like any human being. They are just less road aware and more self gratifying. Their satisfaction is all that matters to them. They fail to realise that the road is a public thoroughfare, not a private one.

The other mystery is the on-and-off throttle inputs, which make many a passenger dislodge their innards before the end of the journey. This I attribute to a fuel-saving measure in a bit to depress as little throttle as possible – much like running a tap on drips rather than as a flow. It doesn’t work though, I think, and taxes the automatic gearbox.

One new trait I noticed today is the dabbling of steering from left to right and back again. In a gentle swaying motion that does the car nor its passengers no good at all. This I cannot explain. This is just plain stupid. Just like putting the automatic transmission to neutral at the lights. Or braking in a series of jerks to preserve the brake pads. All stupid.

Like I said, bad habits become ingrained characteristics that don’t shed easily. Next time you see a taxi driver doing any of the above, do your nation a favour and educate them a little bit about motoring. It really helps, of course, if you ride in one to see one in action.

 

Goodbye old memories

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Today I drove through the new Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE), which reminded me very much of the freeways in the United States due to its massive lane count and big signs. I’ll have to hand it to the engineers; it feels like a very well-planned and built road and I have no complains about its smoothness or safety.

What I’m not so sanguine about is the downgrading of one of the most beautiful expressways in Singapore, the Benjamin Sheares part of the East Coast Parkway (ECP). Although it will still be around as a normal trunk road, it seems inevitable that the bridge would be, in the long term, be torn down to make way for more useful land in the CBD.

It was always quite a sight to climb the bridge from either the east or west,  but with the new Marina Bay Sands (MBS) structure the best view has to be the descent from the top of the flyover coming from the east. You get a stunning view of the city skyline, which looks especially beautiful at night time. I have always felt we never quite matched up to Hong Kong in terms of urban lighting and drama, but in the last 5 years we have did a very good job of creating a unique night setting. It was also a great test bed for cars, with some bumps that can throw out cars with poorly-tuned suspension setups and an incline that will necessitate a downshift (or two or three for slower cars). Sure, the speed camera just before the Ford Road exit was a nuisance, but that just made the climb up from the east that bit more exciting with a gradual increase in speed up slope.

This evening I entered the soulless MCE and just went through a lot of underground tunnels. Somehow it just doesn’t feel as good anymore, and the commute actually feels longer with no view to soak in. I’ll be missing the drive across the bridge, which is now shrouded in darkness. If they will tear it down I’ll need a couple of drives across it with some photos before it goes!