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If my reviews entertain, amuse or brighten your moment in any way, then my task is done! ++ A plea to fellow members, PLEASE don't rate members who never return the favour - just seen a Red Dot reviewer: 209 reviews published, THREE return reads!.++

Reviews written

since 20/06/2004


Fiat Abarth 595C Competizione 1.4 Tjet 30/07/2015


Fiat Abarth 595C Competizione 1.4 Tjet WHAT IS IT? The Abarth is a rather unusual, sporting variant of the tiny Fiat 500 Convertible. Why unusual? Well, contrary to Ciao’s cataloguing for this car - I did propose the category as “Other Manufacturers; Abarth” - it is not a Fiat. There are 500 and 500C badges to be found on it – but none of the branding, not the makers badges on the car, the advertising, or indeed the dedicated Abarth website carries the Fiat logo. It may well be the case that you have never heard of Abarth as a car manufacturer, indeed it is arguable as to them actually “manufacturing” this car as Fiat provide the basic body shells for Abarth to finish. You may be more familiar with the work of Alpina, who have a similar relationship with BMW. Founded by Carlo Abarth in 1949, this is a company steeped in motorsport heritage, bought out by Fiat in 1971, it has specialised in tuning their cars ever since. One could, arguably, look upon Abarth as the poor man’s Ferrari, although these days, Abarth is probably a rather more exclusive marque than that. WILL IT FIT YOUR GARAGE? At 3657mm, the Abarth 595 is 109mm longer than a standard Fiat 500, that accounted for by the re-styled bumpers, particularly the front one required to accommodate a larger than standard radiator. With the mirrors folded out it is the same width as an ordinary 500 at 1893mm. However you approach it, the Abarth 595 is, by modern standards, a tiny car – at 130 mph, a speed of which this car is easily capable, a frighteningly ...

Jaguar XJ 3.0 Luxury SWB 23/07/2015


Jaguar XJ 3.0 Luxury SWB WHAT IS IT? The XJ is a large, five seater, luxury salon, the flagship of the current Jaguar range. Launched in 2009, looking very radical by Jaguar standards, it however shared much of its aluminium body structure from the previous, far more traditional looking XJ model. The XJ heritage goes back to 1968 and, with the launch of the XJ6, was the last Jaguar to be over-seen by Sir William Lyons, Jaguar’s founder. WILL IT FIT YOUR GARAGE? Not ours it wouldn’t! I guess that if you purchase a car of this size you have a suitably commodious garage in which to house it. The current XJ is available in two different lengths, the one reviewed here being the SWB (short wheelbase) model at 5127mm long and 2105mm wide with the mirrors extended, the LWB (long wheelbase) version is 5247mm long. For a car of this size, the weight of the “SWB” model at 1775kg is remarkably trim; thank the aluminium structure for that. By comparison, an equivalent, bottom of the range S-Class Mercedes is 5116 long, 2130mm wide, and weighs in at 1955kg, whilst a BMW 7-Series is 5072mm x 2132mm and weighs 1710kg. WHICH SPECIFIC MODEL? The car that I am reviewing here is right at the bottom of the range, the £58,690, Jaguar XJ Luxury SWB 3.0 300PS Diesel. The range is topped off by the XJ-R LWB 5.0 Supercharged model at £99,350, in between sits the £76,365 3.0 V6 Supercharged petrol model IN WHAT CAPACITY AM I REVIEWING THIS CAR? Hands up, much as I may desire it to be so, this is not my own car, so, ... 16/07/2015


Volvo XC90 D5 11/07/2015


The Breakfast Club, Brighton 04/07/2015


The Breakfast Club, Brighton WHERE IN THE WORLD?...... ......Just for a change, in our home city of Brighton & Hove. This seaside city, located fifty miles south of Victoria Station in London – about fifty-five minutes by train - has over 400 eating places, competing for the custom of residents and visitors alike. We regard ourselves as being very lucky in that such a large choice brings keen competition, in terms of quality, variety and price. If you seek value for money above all else when you eat out here, in Brighton, Hove too, you will find it without looking too hard. Alternatively if you seek a different eating experience altogether, this eclectic city will offer you that too – but usually at a price! Only opened on 1st June 2015, The Breakfast Club’s Brighton branch is the very latest addition to this large and eclectic range of eateries. WHY DID WE CHOOSE THE BREAKFAST CLUB IN BRIGHTON? We got up on Sunday morning and fancied a new experience. Contrary to the weather forecast, the sun was shining brightly and, in fourteen years of marriage, we have never eaten “out” for breakfast in our own city. Be it lunch or dinner, I would have no problem in recommending any visitor to the city a suitable venue according to taste and budget, however, breakfast, on our own account, was a leap into the unknown. Having suggested to my wife Googling “Breakfast Brighton”, I suppose that, ultimately I have to take responsibility for where we ended up – i.e. at The Breakfast Club. WHO ARE / WHAT IS THE ...

Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE 2.0 TD4 27/06/2015


Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE 2.0 TD4 WHAT IS IT? The new Land Rover Discovery Sport is a replacement for Land Rover’s long running Freelander model, sold since 1997, the baby of their range. Whilst unloved in some quarters, the Freelander was successful from a sales point of view, and from pretty poor beginnings, evolved into a decent car when it entered Series 2 production in 2006. It ceased production in late 2014, to be replaced by this car, the Discovery Sport, launched at the beginning of 2015. The Land Rover Discovery Sport is what the Americans would refer to as a compact “SUV” i.e. Sport Utility Vehicle. It is a five door hatchback and has seven seats as standard equipment, the rear two folding flush into the boot floor. Currently all Discovery Sports are four wheel drive, following the Freelander and current Evoque, I foresee an identical looking front wheel drive version entering the market at a lower price point (and reduced CO2 emissions) in the none too far distant future. WILL IT FIT YOUR GARAGE? In all probability, yes – as one who garages his car, a definite plus for me that. The Freelander got us acclimatised to the idea of a modern, small Land Rover and although this one carries the Discovery badge, it is considerably smaller than that car. The Discovery Sport is 4599mm long and 2173mm wide (2069 with the door mirrors folded in). It is 1724mm high and weighs in at 1744kg unladen. With a car such as this, its class leading towing capacity of 2200kg may be a useful statistic for you. As ...

Jaguar XE 163PS Prestige 23/06/2015


Jaguar XE 163PS Prestige WHAT IS IT? For Jaguar, quite simply this is the “big one”. Not in terms of physical size, but in sales volume. The XE is the car that Jaguar are using to launch themselves into the major players league, they certainly have the image, but without being able to offer a compact executive saloon to compete with the class icon; the 3-Series BMW, Jaguar were always destined to finish as minnows in a big pond inhabited primarily by the German premium marques; Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz. There are other competitors here, Volvo, Lexus and Infiniti amongst them, but none have truly got a grip on the mass-produced premium brand, nor can they offer the serious threat to the establishment that Jaguar now do – if, and only if, they can carry off this car, the XE, successfully. There may be some reading this already raising an eyebrow that the X-Type Jaguar has not been mentioned. Whilst surprisingly popular in some quarters that, Ford Mondeo based, car was an embarrassment to Jaguar and comparing it to an XE would be akin to comparing a daisy to an orchid. The XE really is a totally fresh start for Jaguar in this marketplace. As a component supplier to the British motor industry for the last 75 years (my late, Great Uncle Bill started it back in the 1940’s) nobody could be rooting harder for the success of Jaguar than I, nor, as a keen driver of exactly this type and size of car, could I have more eagerly anticipated its launch. I have now been to two Jaguar XE launches, one a ...

Mielec, Poland 17/06/2015


Mielec, Poland WHERE IN THE WORLD? Mielec – pronounced Mielets – is a town situated in the Subcarpathian Voivodeship (Województwo Podkarpackie) which is located in the far south east of Poland. By road, Mielec is 95 miles (150km) to the east of Krakow, an easy enough hour and a half drive, mostly on motorway, and about five hours from Warsaw which is 165 miles (265km) to the north, travelling on much more challenging main roads. If flying, Rzeszów Airport, less than an hour to the south will be your most convenient destination, there are several flights, mostly Ryanair, from airports all over England and Ireland daily. The usual airport facilities, such as car hire, are available and you will find progress through the airport stress free compared to most. Mielec is the regional and administrative centre for the Mielec District (county). It is also the market town for a large area, dotted with many villages and hamlets, and, as such, where Mielec finishes and these ribbon developments – mostly along the main roads leading to it, start – can be hard to identify even when you know the place well. This is a largely flat, agricultural region which is bisected by the River Vistula, Poland’s arterial river. Flowing around, rather than through, Mielec is a major tributary of that river, the Wiswoka. WHY HAVE I PUT OFF FOR SO LONG REVIEWING THIS PLACE? This is a town which for many years I have had it in mind to review and a subject that has occupied more thought than probably any previous ...

Church of St. Bartholomew & John the Baptist, Kazimierz Dolny 06/06/2015


Church of St. Bartholomew & John the Baptist, Kazimierz Dolny BACKGROUND Whilst being brought up never to talk politics or religion, I have, maybe having been raised thus, always had a keen curiosity about both, that does not however make me a politico or religious activist. Both politics and religion are unavoidably bound up in history, particularly social history, the most tangible aspects of which have remained in the form of built heritage – public buildings, stately homes, castles and, probably best preserved of all, the world over; churches. Very recently I published a review about the fascinating riverside town of Kazimierz Dolny in central Poland, a throwaway line in which was that St. John the Baptist and St. Bartholomew the Apostle Parish Church was worth a review of its own…… ……well, here is that review. Being a long standing admirer of church architecture, it is telling that the only church that I have previously been moved to write about is the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool, a building of such totally different style and scale, not to mention facilities that, apart from their obvious purpose the two buildings may as well be chalk and cheese. WHERE IN THE WORLD? Kazimierz Dolny is located about 28 miles (45km) from the city of Lublin in central Poland. Having located the town, on the bank of the Vistula, Poland’s main arterial river, the parish church is highly visible from all over town, from the river, even from the vantage point of the Three Crosses which looks directly down on top of it. Kazimierz Dolny is not a ...

Kazimierz Dolny, Poland 30/05/2015


Kazimierz Dolny, Poland WHERE IN THE WORLD? Those unfamiliar with European, or more specifically Polish, geography will be unaware of the fact that Poland is cut, roughly, in half by its main river – the Vistula. It meanders 651 miles (1047km) from the Silesian Beskids – in the western Carpathian Mountains – to the Baltic Sea at Gdansk. I mention this as, along its route are important cities that you will undoubtedly have heard of: Krakow and Warsaw primarily, secondarily perhaps; Sandomierz (that one maybe even from a previous RICHADA review!), Plock, Torun and Bydgoszcz. Now I will add a further Vistula highlight for your information; Kazimierz Dolny. This is one town that any Polish guide book worthy of its name will bear reference to. At Kazimierz Dolny, the Vistula is about half way along its course from the mountains in southern, central Poland to the Baltic Sea. Kazimierz Dolny therefore is located in central, eastern, Poland on the right – eastern – bank of the river and is on the Lublin Upland region – Lublin is the closest major city and is approximately 45 kilometres by road. GETTING THERE….. …..Is somewhat easier said than done, dependant on your starting point. Once again, I am writing here about a major Polish tourist attraction which is nigh on impossible to reach by public transport. In this particular case that has more to do with the tricky topography of the immediate region caused by the course of the Vistula than this being an under-developed attraction in terms of ...

Baranow Sandomierski Castle, Baranow Sandomierski 27/05/2015


Baranow Sandomierski Castle, Baranow Sandomierski WHERE IN THE WORLD? Baranow Sandomierski is located in the south east of Poland on route 985 (an English equivalent “A” road), 26 kilometres north of Mielec, which itself is approximately 120km east of Krakow. By road Baranow is roughly a two hour drive from Krakow, most of which is covered on the new E40 motorway. From Warsaw the journey is far more arduous as you will be driving around 230km on mostly country roads, estimated journey time in that case would be five and a half hours – putting it well beyond the realms of a day trip from Warsaw. For the more adventurous traveller, public transport is slow and rather unpredictable in Poland, you would need to get to Tarnobrzeg (the nearest main town) by train and take a taxi the 9km south from there. Frankly a car, either your own, or hired, is the more practical solution – especially as any visit to Baranow should also find you exploring nearby Sandomierz (half an hour north by road), as well as Lancut Palace which is about an hour and a quarter drive to the south of here. Both of these highly recommended attractions I have previously reviewed, in seeing these three sites – plus the Blizna rocket site on the way – you will have seen the best that this region of Poland has to offer. Having now been travelling to Mielec for the last fourteen years, I know this region very well indeed – my wife was born here – Baranow is an annual visit, making it as familiar to me as many of our own local parks in Brighton. The reason that ...

Kärcher WV 50 Window Cleaning Vacuum 21/04/2015


Kärcher WV 50 Window Cleaning Vacuum THE PROBLEM(S) Since converting our two bedroom bungalow into a four bedroom house three years ago, we now live in a rather glassy house. With two conservatories, ok, one is a lean-to and used as a utility room, and two sets of French doors, we have rather more glass to keep clean than most. Due to the roof having been converted, our upstairs windows are also rather difficult to access from outside for cleaning purposes. We also now have two modern bathrooms, one with a curved glass (quadrant) shower cubicle, the other, a wet-room with a conventional, plain glass shower screen, both are fully tiled. Three of our new front windows are of the Velux type, mounted on sloping roof surfaces, they can only be cleaned from inside. The bathroom one is over the bath, so no issues there with a bucket and sponge, however, the other two are above pale blue grey carpet and an especially prized antique wooden cabinet, no margin for error as far as spills are concerned then. Downstairs, all of our front facing windows – and the opening fanlights on the side and rear ones too – are leaded lights, an absolute pain to clean properly as water always ends up trapped in the sharp corners. Many years ago I wrote a review on the dreaded Cillit Bang bathroom cleaning liquid, which was marketed as the end to our hardwater bathroom cleaning woes. The fact that it simply did not work and left pink residue in the grout between the tiles meant that I spent the following years scrubbing everything ...

Subaru Forester 2.0D XC Premium Lineartronic 11/04/2015


My 200th Review 09/04/2015


My 200th Review Thanks be to fellow Ciao member Simon - sirodar - for inspiring me to revisit this my 200th review - we share the Renault 5 as a first car - albeit in consecutive decades! 200 REVIEWS UP, AM I REALLY RICHADA THE CAR MAN? Talking to real-life fellow members several years ago at Ciao Meet in London, it became apparent to me that my reputation here is that of a member who “writes about cars”. Oddly enough, I have never really seen myself solely as a “car writer” and, always being very much aware that cars and car enthusiasts probably bore rigid at least 75% of the population, have from my earliest days on the site attempted to write on as many and varied subjects as I can. Looking at my review portfolio, of the ten reviews published prior to this one, three were cars, and of the previous 199 reviews, only 46, or 23% are actual car reviews. In short, I have done all that I can to make my review portfolio as varied as possible, but, ultimately, I guess cars are what I know best, and if my knowledge and experience in this area can be put to the greater good, then there are worse reputations that I could have than being a Ciao member who writes car reviews. After all, a car is the second most expensive purchase that you are likely to make in life, buying the wrong scented candle is hardly going to break the bank, saddling yourself with the wrong car could very easily do so. My 200th review however is NOT a car review. It is a series of personal reminiscences over the last 48 ...

Fiat 500 1.2 01/04/2015


Fiat 500 1.2 WHAT IS IT? The Fiat 500 is the Italian makers’ ever-popular retro-design city car. Based on the previous model five-door, utilitarian Fiat Panda, this incarnation of the 500 is currently in its final year of production. Sadly, from a conversation with our local Fiat dealer, its replacement will be a slightly larger car – presumably gaining weight too. Unlike the current model Panda, which is built in Naples, the Fiat 500 and the Ford Ka – essentially the same car under its far less cute body - is built alongside the 500 in the Fiat factory in Poland and also by Chrysler (a Fiat owned company) in Mexico. The simple answer to the ‘what is it question’ is that the current 500 is a small three door, four seater hatchback, the styling of which was inspired by the classic 1957 Dante Giacosa designed 500 Nuova. This is now the third, different, version of the Fiat 500 that I have reviewed, for reasons that will become obvious; it is also the version with which I am now the most familiar. WILL IT FIT YOUR GARAGE? Our garage feels so much bigger with the 500 parked in it, more customarily used to housing my five seater saloon car, at only 3546mm long and 1627mm wide, you would need to have a very small garage for it not to fit a 500 in. In my Fiat 500 Twin Air review I was musing about just how many times I have approached a parking space in my 4.7 metre long family saloon only to say ‘damn, if only we had a Fiat 500’ – small cars can be invaluable in a city like ours – well, ...
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