Keyless entry makes for stressful situations, Peugeot 407 has classic looks, Audi's tiny A1 offers big-car luxury
Steve Cropley Autocar
10 August 2015

MONDAY - Disaster. Worse, a predictable disaster. Drove away from home on a routine mission to collect a car, with the Steering Committee assisting.

As is becoming increasingly common, we were in a ‘keyless’ car, its all-important fob in my 
pocket. You can guess the 
rest. We arrived at our destination and, engine still running, swapped seats. I got into the other car and drove 
off on a reporting job.

The Steering Committee then went to head for a different destination, at which point – 
of course – she discovered her car wouldn’t restart because its ignition controller was now some 30 miles away.

There ensued a flurry of phone calls, fuss and inconvenient dashes, during which both of us railed 
against this gigantic built-in drawback of keyless systems that makes any apparent advantage seem minuscule. 
I ‘get’ remote locking, but not the keyless thing. The convenience so often cited is illusory, especially since these systems have evidently also been aiding thefts of upmarket cars. Who wants one?

TUESDAY - Funny how your opinion of a car changes with time. When it was new, I thought of the Peugeot 407 (2004-2010) as an inoffensive car of no great merit, its plus points all but obscured by the better credentials of the Volkswagen Passat and Ford Mondeo.

Now I’m starting to see 407s as special because of the Ferrari-derived front-end styling that starts with the ‘mouth’, the rakish lights and the wide egg-crate grille.

All of a sudden it seems remarkable – and as history flows it will inevitably become more so – that a big-selling family model was styled to echo the best points of the Ferrari Daytona by a French designer (Gerard Welter) who simply could not disguise his admiration for the Italian supercar.

But then, Welter 
was very special himself. He was the only chief designer in history ever to run his own, private Le Mans team – Welter Racing – from workshops in 
his own back yard.

WEDNESDAY - I love little cars with little engines but still felt a tinge of apprehension at being dispatched on a 470-mile, day-long round trip in the five-door Audi A1 Sport powered by the latest 97bhp 1.0-litre turbo triple, which the tyre smokers have just had in for test. Perhaps, said my more traditional self, it’d have been better to tackle such a relentless journey with the quicker and more powerful 1.4 TFSI. Or even a nice Range Rover Sport?

Not for the first time, my inner traditionalist was wrong. Within five miles I discovered that this new A1 three-pot is not only beautifully smooth and quiet but also gives up its healthy 94bhp with the utmost willingness.

I revelled in the compactness of the car and its fine driving position but soon appreciated what I’d already been told by our testers: that the Sport’s stiffer suspension and bigger tyres promote a poorer ride with more road noise than the standard SE.

As a half-way house, you can order a Sport and delete the stiff suspension at no cost but keep the better-looking wheels. The A1’s big strength is the way it keeps its small-car advantages while offering a decent helping of big-car luxury.

FRIDAY - There are (at least) two things wrong with having friends in Wales. One is that it costs you £6.50 every time you want to visit them in a car, because that’s the iniquitous price you’re charged to cross either of the bridges that lead there.

The second is that you have to queue for 10 to 15 minutes for the privilege of paying the dosh.

I’m amazed residents across the Bristol Channel aren’t moved to more frequent protest. Compared with the new procedure attached to crossing the Thames Estuary at the other end of London – or even the system it superseded – this is a trip straight back to the 1950s.

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Comments
22

10 August 2015
The bit of info missing, @Steve Cropley, is the mpg you achieved for the 1.0T over that journey, given poor returns are an oft cited criticism of tiny turbo'd cars. I'll take a guess at 43. In contrast to those impressive Celerio figures.

10 August 2015
The father in law has a 407, what strikes me about it is that it feels very well built.

Take the bootlid for example, it has a wonderful cantilever mechanism that old 5 series BMWs used to have. Whereas my Saab, and indeed modern 3 series / A4s only use cost cutting gooseneck hinges which cut into the bootspace.

The coupe I've noticed is stunning, as is the Laguna coupe.

Though I think that the 407 saloon "4 door Ferrari" look doesn't work quite as well as the 4 door Daytona look of the Rover SD1, or the new Ford Mondeo which really looks quite elegant with the Aston Martin front end.

On a recent trip to Scotland, I was surprised to see that all bridges in and out of Fife are now free (Forth and Tay), whereas it used to cost (80p in the early 2000s) to enter the "kingdom".

10 August 2015
sirwiggum wrote:

On a recent trip to Scotland, I was surprised to see that all bridges in and out of Fife are now free (Forth and Tay), whereas it used to cost (80p in the early 2000s) to enter the "kingdom".

They abolished all the tolls around 7 years ago now. Can't wait the new bridge to open though

10 August 2015
Again I think Autocar needs writers who understand tech and not just 'non liner yaw rate understeer on the limit"! I've had three keyless cars and ALL of them beep and flash at you if the key is removed from the vehicle while it is running. So I guess Steve just ignored all the alarms on his dashboard.....

 

 

 

10 August 2015
A quick question to the forum re keyless, as I am somewhat clueless about this tech.... if you are (say) on a camping/caravan site and the key fob is in the tent/caravan next to the vehicle, how do you ensure the vehicle actually is locked, overnight for example? As an aside, my current car has a conventional "remote" key fob, but I have noticed there is no keyhole in either of the front doors, so presumably in the event the that the key fob battery fails, it is call out the "AA" to get going?

10 August 2015
You can pull the handle without touching the keyless sensor/button on the handle to check if it has locked, if you really want to (they still make a lock sound/clunk/beep/flash when you touch the door handle to lock them). My key has to be within about half a metre for it to operate.

Your car probably has a small slot under the drivers door handle where you can remove the plastic cover and use the mechanical key to open/start - also an option with keyless....

 

 

 

10 August 2015
Most helpful, both counts! Thanks. Just one other question, re keyless: with a standard fob you can open the car from a distance (e.g. It's raining/family run towards the car and want to get in first!). Is this possible with keyless?

10 August 2015
It sure is.

 

 

 

10 August 2015
Deputy wrote:

I've had three keyless cars and ALL of them beep and flash at you if the key is removed from the vehicle while it is running. So I guess Steve just ignored all the alarms on his dashboard.....

What good are alarms on the dashboard if you're outside the car? Wouldn't the alarm be more effective if it were on the key? Must admit I have a Focus Titanium which is keyless. I enter my drive way, get out the car with engine running, go open the garage door etc. The car doesn't object.

11 August 2015
Leaving the engine running while not in the car has its roots in the days of motoring where the only means to start the thing was by using a starting handle! Lol!

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