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BulldogD
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Member since: 16.01.2008

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    • Kia Picanto / Car / 7 Readings / 7 Ratings
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      21.09.2012 13:13
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      Great small car for those with reasonable expectations

      This review refers to the Kia Picanto Chill (08)
      This is a great value small car. My wife and I both had cars. I had a clapped out Peugeot 406 and my wife drove a much loved Ford Ka. Between us we were racking up hundreds of pounds in MOTs, road tax, fuel and general garage and maintenance bills. At the time we were commuting 400 miles a week and with increasing fuel bills things were really beginning to take their toll on the household budget. The time came to trade in and downsize.
      I needed something small (my wife was comfortable driving a small car) reliable and low cost to run. It needed to handle our 400 mile a week commute (motorways and city driving) and work as a family car. Now, most folk would start thinking about a mid-sized family saloon at this point but our budget simply did not stretch to that. After much review reading we decided that the Picanto offered all we needed.
      We paid around £8k in all for a blue Picanto Chill. For that you get:
      5 doors (unusual on a car so small)
      1.1 litre petrol engine
      Driver and passenger air bags
      Air conditioning
      USB port for mp3 players
      CD/Radio
      And, well, that's pretty much it. But then it is cheap. More so now that this is established on the second hand market. Real bargains can be found.
      The doors close with a satisfying clunk and the interior finish is perfectly acceptable for the price range - no walnut or leather but functional plastic. The dials and controls are easy to read or access and the gear change is solid (unlike the rather loose and cheap feeling Peugeot gearbox). The exterior styling can be described as "cute". The new styling of the Kia is nicer but I quite like our model. I'm a man and have no trouble being seen in this car. If you measure your masculinity by the type of car you drive then this isn't the car for you.
      The engine is a bit thrashy at high revs and in the lower gears it's not as nippy as you'd hope. However, from 3rd gear onwards it is suitably responsive and it holds motorway speeds perfectly well. The ride is a little rough and noisy but if all you are doing is some urban driving then it is fine. Longer trips may require a few breaks to stretch your legs. You are not going to get Mercedes or BMW levels of driving comfort here.
      There are things that annoy me. The key has the central locking button on the edge of the key and this is a deeply flawed design that results in constant accidental locking and unlocking of the car. I understand the new keys avoid this.
      The rear view mirror does not provide a clear view out the back window due to the top brake light and the slope of the roof. This hasn't proven to be a safety problem but you need to use your wing mirrors more often.
      Accelerating uphill is a time consuming business. It just doesn't have the power.
      Fuel consumption is nowhere near the stated value. I get around 270 to 300 miles on a single tank. At current (September 2012) petrol prices it costs around £40 to fill her up from when the fuel light comes on.
      There is no spare tyre supplied. There is a wheel well in the boot that can accommodate a tyre but instead you get a repair kit. In my opinion this is useless and it is worth sourcing a spare wheel, tyre iron and a jack. I got a steel wheel from a scrap yard and a cheap jack from Halfords. In the 4 years I've owned the car I've needed to use this 3 times. Without it I would have needed to be recovered from the roadside and that's a huge inconvenience for something as straightforward as a flat tyre.
      Being a small car you are prone to getting bullied on the road. Expect to be cut up, tail gated and, somewhat alarmingly, appear to be completely invisible. I've often wondered whether a cloaking device was an added extra. This says more about the aggressive driving out there than the Kia though and with a good balance of awareness, defensive driving and confident driving you'll be fine. I think this goes for any small car though.
      Despite the above, I love this car. It is cheap to run and maintain, reliable and a tough little so and so. I've run this car up and down the M9 in Scotland through 2 of the worst winters we've had in decades. It's started on the coldest of cold dark mornings and it has dealt with snowy and icy roads better than some of the larger cars that I passed that were stuck in the snow or, in one case, perched neatly on top of the crash barrier on the M9.
      I have a daughter now and her safety seat fixes simply into the isofix brackets that come with the car. The boot is big enough to take her folding buggy and by using the back seat for storage we can all head out on the family shop. The back seats fold down giving you a surprisingly roomy space to transport larger items and we've squeezed a few IKEA things in the back in the past. There is also plenty of headroom despite its size. If you are really tall or have a family of 4 may struggle with space though. But this is a small hatchback not a 4x4 people carrying bus.
      The car is small enough to nip through those little gaps in traffic on busy rush hour commutes and on more than one occasion her small size has actually saved us from a scrape or bump.
      Cost wise a full service (every 10000 miles as per Kia's suggestion) is around £150. The timing belt was replaced at 60000 miles and cost around £400. A new tyre costs in the region of £40 to £55 depending on the make. Road tax is £30. As I mentioned, to fill a full tank (from when the light pops on) is about £40 at current prices. Headlight bulbs are fiddly (but not impossible) to change and a replacement brake light looks like it might be a bit of a challenge but it's just the bulb that needs replaced not an entire sealed light unit as some other makes of car require. My local garage has replaced bulbs in the past for £2 or £3 during an MOT so if you run into difficulties it's not a big or expensive job. Insurance is also relatively cheap as the car is in insurance group 10. I currently pay around £200 a year for fully comp but obviously this is dependent on my specific circumstances.
      Changing a tyre is simple. These are not big wheels and the process can be completed in about 10 minutes. Again, I highly recommend getting a spare tyre. The repair kit that it comes with relies on pumping latex into the tyre to temporarily plug the hole so you can then drive home on it. This will only work if the hole is small enough. A garage may also refuse to repair the hole and insist on a new tyre given the extra work involved in sloshing out the latex. Like I said - useless and I suspect almost impossible to do on a dark roadside in the rain.
      The oil filler cap, radiator fluid and screen wash reservoir are all easily accessible. Only the power steering fluid requires some sort of Kia specific product. The oil and coolant can be bought off the shelf.
      General reliability appears to be very good. I've only had to carry out the usual maintenance with new tyres, brake pads etc. The little engine has never missed a beat and, as I mentioned, it has started first time in harsh sub-zero (-12) temperatures after cold soaking overnight.
      I've had this car for 4 years now and unless my family expands I intend to keep it for several more years. She has done all we have asked of her and more. If you are prepared to compromise and have reasonable expectations then this is a great car for those on a tight budget.

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    • More +
      21.09.2012 09:29
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      Top notch online war fighting.

      War. What is it good for? Well, online multiplayer video games for a start. For the purposes of this review I will ignore the single player element (solid, fun but otherwise unremarkable) and focus on the online aspect.
      Graphics - You have to install the separate HD textures as part of the set up process. It somewhat detracts from the "shove disk in and play" aspect that attracts me to the console but it is a painless process. To be honest, I initially thought the graphics were a bit of a step down from Battlefield Bad Company 2. They felt slightly blockier and less refined. After playing for a while these concerns left me and I became immersed in the gameplay. The graphics are still good, don't get me wrong. This may just be down to personal preference and having been so used to BFBC2.
      The sound is great. Explosions shatter the air and bullets crack past your ear. In the midst of a game take a moment to lie down (something you couldn't do in BFBC2) and just listen to the battle raging around you.
      Gameplay - As important as they are graphics are only one element. Gameplay is, in my opinion, king and BF3 delivers great gameplay in spades. All the main game modes are here - Rush, Conquest, Team deathmatch etc. You can jump in for a quick game and be thrust into whatever server happens to come along first or you can spend some time preparing a server list with your preferred maps and settings and choose to go there.
      The game is, by and large, very balanced. Although weapon and equipment unlocks can take some time to achieve the progression is paced well and even players with the starting equipment are competitive and can contribute to a team.
      And it is the team or squad element that differentiated the BF series. You are part of a squad and although "lone wolf" actions are possible you will quickly find that operating well as a squad will reap the most benefits from the game. Going up against coordinated squads in a game becomes very apparent as the MCOMS fall one after the other and half your squad is continually sent into spawn limbo. Teamwork is the order of the day and it allows you to build in that extra layer of tactical gameplay that is missing from most other online shooters. But don't let that put you off getting the game if you have no friends to team up with. Teaming up with randoms is possible and can be just as much fun even if you can't directly communicate. Often you just know what you need to do - there is an unspoken bond with your new squad.
      There are 4 classes to choose from and they have been slightly re-jigged from BFBC2. Assault now carries the med packs, Support has the C4, Recon can set spawning beacons and Engineers do all the repairing and anti-tank/aircraft work.
      Vehicles are plentiful - some maps lend themselves more to vehicles than others - and the unlock progression is fairly balanced. Tanks are not too overpowered and there are shoulder launched anti-aircraft weapons available to help deal with the circling helos of death that could often kill a BFBC2 game. Bottling teams up in spawn points is still possible but much harder to do and will often be down to the bottled team being comprised of non-coordinated squads.
      Camping snipers are also easier to deal with as the designers have added in scope glare that can give away a sniper's position. This has been toned down as the game has been patched and it's not as obvious as it once was and I think they have achieved a good balance between keeping a sniper concealed but not so well hidden that he/she can continually frustrate the attacking team.
      Some maps are better than others but this will be down to personal preference. There is a good mix that caters for infantry or vehicle oriented players. New map packs have expanded on this. I personally find the best games to have a mix of vehicles and infantry.
      Large sections of the scenery are destructible. Not quite as much as there was in BFBC2 but enough to keep games interesting. Long conquest games really take their toll on the scenery with previously lush forests reduced to barren hillsides and buildings either missing large chunks of wall or completely flattened. It really adds to the immersion and gives you the feeling that you are slogging it out with a determined enemy.
      The gameplay is a joy and you keep coming back for more. There is so much variety on offer in terms of equipment and tactics that you may find yourself sitting at work wondering where the best place is to set up C4 or how you can't wait until you unlock the bipod for the M60 so you can pour destruction on the enemy.

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    • More +
      20.09.2012 14:02
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      Shun the orhtodoxy and take a trip back to the 1950's

      I turned my back on the orthodoxy. I recently moved from a flat to a house with a garden and a 2 lawns and I needed a lawnmower. EVERYONE I know has an electric hover mower. Even I had one when I had a garden in the house before my flat. So I merrily went off shopping for the cheapest hover I could find.

      But then I thought for a bit and remembered how much I hated the noise and weight of my old hover. Plus, wanting to improve my environmental credentials (and because I'm cheap) I fancied something a bit more old fashioned. I wasn't even sure they still made manual roller lawn mowers but indeed they do. Heck, even the Dooyoo description of this claims it's electrical. It isn't. It's human powered!

      Ok - I was sceptical but this mower does the job and does it well. It struggles a little with longer grass but once you are on top of things it's a breeze. the plastic grass catcher doesn't catch it all but gets most of the cuttings. It's also a little prone to falling off now and again but not to the point it enrages the user. The blade can be mannually adjusted with a spanner to the desired cutting height.

      This mower is also light and very portable. It makes a lovely cutting noise as you push - not that incessant loud droning noise that afflicts suburbia on sunny sunday afternoons. There is no electrical cable to tangle. You pick it up, fit the grass box and off you go.

      The build quality is generally good - some regulat oiling of the mechanism may be in order and perhaps the blades may need sharpened at some point - not sure how that would work. But to be honest these are small drawback for what is a terrific, old fashioned but practical peice of kit.

      In summary:

      easy to use, light and cuts the grass - it even gives you the striped lawn effect!

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      • Tesco JKRBP11 / Kettle / 9 Readings / 7 Ratings
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        20.09.2012 13:31
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        Great budget kettle

        Ok - what do you really want from a kettle anyway? Does it boil the water? Yes. Does it look good? Subjective but, in my opinion, yes. That's it surely? It's a rapid boil model but to be honest I'm not sure by which standard that is measured. It boils the water well within the timeframe expected for making some tea or coffee. At no point have I found myself screaming at it "come on - boil faster".

        There is a rather cool blue light that pops on when you clink the switch down. The fill marking on the side are clear and, well that's it really.

        In terms of reliability I've only had it for a couple of weeks and it's been faultless so far. The only criticism I could offer is that the lead to the base is perhaps a little too short. It's adequate for most users but if you have an odd power socket arrangement in your kitchen this may prove problematic.

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