Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rio? Ja!

The campsite

Here, as promised back in November, is the ‘warts-and-all’ update about Rio after half a year.

Beloved Wife made positive, albeit feminine, remarks along the lines of “Cute,” and expressed further unkind opinions involving hairdressers. But she had to acknowledge the efficacy with which Rio provided sufficient shoulder and elbow room, and carried three adults and their luggage. Rio is also easy to park, being only 4.1m long and with a 10m turning circle. Such a shame that after six months, she’s already showing wear and tear courtesy of inconsiderate sods who open their adjacent car doors with reckless abandon.

Rio, in bright red, looks not entirely unlike one of the Lekhwiya (Internal Security) cars that somehow shrank in the wash.

Around town, the automatic gearbox is prone to getting confused as it hunts for a suitable gear. Over the first thousand kilometres, while the Goat was under strict instructions not to exceed 4000rpm, this was less of an issue as he was being very gentle. Now that running her in is over and the first service has been completed, a less gentle right hoof has the 1500cc engine spinning thrashily away from the traffic lights. The important thing to remember is that the engine should be fully warmed up before doing anything stressful. This is the same advice given to motorcyclists, and with chain-driven DOHC and sixteen bucket-and-shim valves, the Terios engine is very like one from a Japanese motorcycle. Basically, warm it up first, don’t over-rev it, use decent oil and change it regularly, and the motor should be pretty much indestructible. The rather short gearing makes cruising at over 120km/h a rather noisy process, but not so that listening to the in-car entertainment or conversation actually becomes difficult. Especially at speed, the cabin is nowhere near as quiet as a BMW 528, but what is?

Around town, Rio can be a lot of fun. What is lost in outright performance is won back in roadholding. Full-time 4WD helps her to stick to the corners, even on rare wet occasions. The suspension is rather stiff and bouncy, especially when there’s no luggage on board, so bumpy corners can be a little bit interesting with Rio’s rather basic solid axle and Panhard rod rear suspension. One problem is that Rio stood in the showroom for over two years before purchase, and all four road tyres have developed flat spots that cause a vibration at 100km/h. Wheel balancing didn’t solve the problem, and when each wheel was on the balancing machine the wobbly tyres were obvious. If these don’t sort themselves out by the 5000km service, the Goat will be aiming for replacement tyres under warranty.

Fuel consumption is rather disappointing. Within Doha, the Goat generally achieves around 11 litres/100km (25 miles per imperial gallon). Extended stops at red traffic lights followed by harsh acceleration are largely responsible. On the open road, rather better 8 litres/100km (35mpg) is realistically achievable. Not that the Goat really gives a stuff about the cost of motor fuel. It’s 85 dirhams a litre; equivalent to UK 15p/litre or $0.88 per US gallon. Fuel consumption is only of interest when considering the tank range of between 450km and 625km.

The Goat reckons that the air conditioning could be better. Plenty of cold air gets squirted into the cabin, but it takes a while for the interior to cool after being parked in the sun for several hours. The black upholstery probably doesn’t help to keep the temperature down. But it does help to show the dirt.

There’s a reasonable number of whistles and bells to entertain the driver. The basic radio and CD player will only do one CD at a time, and there’s no short wave band and no cassette player. A useful socket provides a convenient place to jack in the iPod. Twin trip meters and clock, plus fuel computer and outside temperature are all available in the instrument panel. Unfortunately there’s no temperature gauge; just a blue light when the engine is cold and a red one if it overheats. Electric windows, central locking and keyless entry all come as standard, as does a pathetic, weight-saving 35dB mouse-fart horn. There’s fag-lighter socket in the front and another just inside the tailgate to power camping accessories. Maximum 120W, according to the owner’s handbook.

Desert Terios
Now on to the subject of camping, and the Goat went down to the Inland Sea last weekend. Rio performed very much as advertised, dancing on the sand despite being full of camping gear. The central differential is locked by punching a button on the dashboard, and a fair amount of revving is necessary to release all 105 ponies. She even successfully scaled a couple of steep dunes without fuss, where a younger and less experienced Goat sometimes used to have trouble in his old Galloper, Cherokee, and occasionally Patrol. The Goat suspects that this is the experience of years showing, rather than a Terios being the best dune car in this list. As the Goat actually arrived at the campsite after dark, he’s pleased to note that the headlights are excellent.

With both sides of the asymmetrical rear seat folded, the load bed looks cavernous. It’s significantly larger in all three dimensions than a Jeep Wrangler’s with the back seat removed.  Of course, the load area isn’t a patch on those in bigger 4x4s, but there was room for all the Goat’s camping gear and provisions and plenty of space left over.

Where the Terios falls down is in build quality. Everything fits, and everything works, but it all feels thin, plasticky, and apt to break if it’s Goathandled roughly. So “Gently, gently” is the motto. Gently with the interior fittings, and the Goat must remind himself that this tiny car, notwithstanding its delusions, is not a Land Cruiser.


1 comment:

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