A regular reader with whom I share a passion for Saabs - mostly those 96 V4s of the 1970s - wrote recently and asked for advice about small SUVs/crossovers.
After consulting a colleague, Philip Hedderman, Motoring Editor of The Herald, who breathes petrol rather than air, we came firmly down on the side of the Seat Arona. That's not to say cars like the Hyundai Kona, Kia Stonic and the new Volkswagen T-Cross were dismissed lightly but the Arona comes in at a reasonable price, has surprisingly good space front and rear, is very well-built and has just enough pep in its small petrol engines to keep you interested. It will also hold its value well.
The Seat designers are much more adventurous than their colleagues in the wider Volkswagen group. I feel there is just a touch of the sportiness and style I loved about the old Saabs with the marque. Across the water, What Car? gives the Arona a very rare five stars, while Autocar puts it at the very summit of the small SUV/crossover category, with the latter's road test editor Matt Saunders saying it is a "polished, mature all-rounder (that) goes straight to the top of the class".
It's worth checking out. Remember your next petrol car could be your last, as the electric snowball is really going to start rolling down that hill.
Another small car with SUV pretensions is the Ford Fiesta Active, which I had been looking forward to driving, as the ordinary hatchback version is without doubt one of the best cars on the market for driving dynamics. With extra height and some bits of shoulder padding around the edges and a few driving options - but not full AWD - the Fiesta Active does make a nice bridge for people who want a bit more comfort and ease of access but without going the whole SUV gamut.
We certainly began to warm to it during the week-long test and when I saw that the well-equipped car was coming in at little over €21,000 - especially with its very impressive Frozen White paint job - I thought it was almost a contender for the Spray purse. The 1.0L EcoBoost 100PS petrol engine is lively enough and there are some nice touches around the cabin. Yet the car is let down by the very tight space in the back and a feeling that it is the first go at what will eventually be a very desirable car. At the moment, there is a bit of mish-mash of styles. I'll give it a few years and come back to it. However, I think the Fiesta, in this Active mode, will gradually take a larger share of the market.
I make rare enough visits to the tyre shops, but noticed that the rubber on the front wheels of our seven-year-old Hyundai i10 was beginning to show a lot of wear. Nothing illegal, but not enough tread to have total peace of mind for another year. Living in Phibsborough, it was only right that we went around to Dalymount Tyre Services. A small, but totally professional crew, gave good advice, a speedy service and I left feeling we had been well-treated and that we were safer.
In general, the country is very neglectful about the state of our tyres. They are the only things that keep us in contact with the road. Look after them and they will look after you.
You can't take risks with them, so buy from proper sources and beware of people offering second-hand tyres or very cheap deals. As with everything, if it seems too good to be true it usually is.