Two Opels and a Citroen that made Xmas driving a pleasure, and got another motoring year off to a great start.

The OPEL GRANDLAND plug-in hybrid brought European technology and undeniable quality to our compact SUV party, plus a welcome dose of sporting flair in its design and handling. As mentioned earlier, this very pleasant device was with us all too briefly and didn’t deserve a cracked windscreen while out on motorway duties. No matter, because Opel generously supplied a hotter ASTRA GSe hatchback with the 1.6-litre petrol engine further tuned for 165kW and 360Nm, and coupled with the same electric motor as the Grandland. Sharp looks, sharper handling, and genuine pace cemented our impression of Opel being a brand of substance whose star is set to rise on our shores.

And then there was the CITROEN e-C4 SHINE, the quietest, smoothest, most relaxing car we’ve experienced in recent times and a motoring tonic when the summer heat hit and drivers’ patience wore thin in the holiday rush. We’ve previously detailed the merits of the petrol C4 but this all-electric variant offers greater appeal. An electric motor suits the car’s laid-back character and while the battery pack adds plenty of weight, the e-C4 remains lighter than most EVs and floats along rather sweetly. Most EVs are relaxing to drive but this is an especially relaxing car by EV standards. The exterior design is distinctive enough to please most eyes and the comfortable cabin is inviting and well-equipped without having quite enough flair to do the car justice. It won’t win awards for range, performance or dynamic ability either, and there may be more durable long-term options, but the e-C4 gets under your skin in short time. Some will find it as lovable as a well-groomed retriever. There are times when such a docile nature makes routine driving particularly rewarding and so it proved in our memorable week with the French favourite.




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