Mercedes-Benz C220 CDI Estate SE
Report: March, July '09
The Merc was due its first service at 15,000 miles, so off it went to my local dealer, Mercedes-Benz of Salisbury (01722 411555). I'm glad it did: the car was collected and returned on time, it was cleaned and a loose piece of window trim was fixed.
The work cost me 218, and the service was excellent but for two points. First, the service book wasn't stamped (it was later collected, stamped and returned the same day).
Second, I was charged 12 for two bottles of screenwash (one of them winter wash in May!), when the tank was already full.
Citron C5 Tourer 2.7 HDi Exclusive auto
Reports: Jan, March, June '09
It's funny how little things can make such a difference.
In some estate cars, closing and opening the load cover can be a bit fiddly. In the C5 Tourer, however, it's simplicity itself: the hand slot you use to draw the cover into place is also its release. Just press it, as directed, and the cover retracts instantly. Simple.
Suzuki Splash 1.3 DDiS
Reports: Nov '08, Feb, May '09
The Splash is surprisingly fun to drive for a city car, so it's a pity the gearshift lets the side down.
It's always been rather notchy, but it's now so stiff that I almost need a friend to help me change gear. Incidentally, the petrol Splash run by our sister magazine, Autocar, had exactly the same problem.
Ford Fiesta 1.6 Ti-VCT Zetec S
Report: May '09
I managed to wrestle the Fiesta's key from regular keeper Euan Doig for the weekend recently.
It's a great little car: brisk, refined and brilliant fun to drive. It's also fairly practical. Fold the rear seats and the boot takes a surprising amount, including the huge cardboard box from my new patio furniture.
Nissan 350Z Coupe GT
Reports: April, July '09
In some respects, the Nissan's stereo is just like the car: loud, powerful and a little old-school.
My 350Z GT model has an upgraded Bose 240-Watt system as standard, with sub-woofer and six-CD multichanger. It packs a punch, but it's better suited to louder tunes rather than subtle classical pieces, which get drowned out by engine and road noise.
The CD multichanger is great, but it doesn't play MP3 discs and there's no iPod point. It has an old-school tape deck, though.
Renault Laguna Sport Tourer 2.0 dCi GT
Report: February, March, July '09
Just when the Laguna's dodgy front seat backs and the broken cubbyhole panel in the boot have been replaced, the automatic unlocking system starts playing up.
It seems to happen whenever my hands are full: even if I get right up to the car's sensors with the key card in my pocket, it still doesn't unlock sometimes and leaves me fumbling to do it myself. Because the problem is intermittent, you can bet it won't happen when I take it to the dealership.
Audi A4 1.8 TFSI 160 S line
Reports: February, April, July '09
Surely the iPod connector has to be the next piece of kit that works its way onto the 'as standard' list of all new cars.
Why couldn't I live without mine? My two-year-old daughter requires either Incy Wincy Spider on repeat for the duration of any journey, or wants her entire repertoire of nursery rhymes in one jaunt to the shops. Using the iPod, I don't have to faff around with CDs and wait for the changer to select the next disc, and I've one contented child.
BMW 320d Convertible M Sport
Reports: April, July '09
Two bits of bad news this month: the wonderful weather means my car keys keep going missing.
Too many people are enjoying the 3 Series at its best top down on a twisty road. There isn't a four-seat convertible that's as good to drive, yet lets you take three friends along for the ride.
The other bad news is that our acting deputy editor, Euan Doig, gave my car a go, and promptly broke the wind deflector. Ooh, my hair!
Nissan Qashqai +2 2.0 dCi Tekna 4WD
Reports: June '09
Back in February, the Qashqai played superhero, rescuing cars from deep snow. Then, a couple of months later, it was hauling along caravans in our annual Towcar Awards.
The optional tow bar is proving good value for the 491 (plus fitting) it cost. The Qashqai's not a proper off-roader, but the Towcar judges were impressed with the four-wheel-drive Nissan's stability when towing a 'van.