Apologies for a rather drawn out lul in preceedings since my last musings. Whats happened of late, in my world of transport? Well, let’s bring you up to speed.

Firstly, I’m still enjoying the remap on the HDI engine. Like an OEM upgrade, it’s only caused goodness and joy to sprout forth. So I’d recommend that for anyone with an HDI lump.

Secondly, the front Michelins were dead, down to the wear indicators. So I purchased a pair of rather oddly named Toyo Proxies (odd name, too close to Poxy?), mainly because I was curious to the difference to Michelins which I had sworn allegiance to several years ago after buying the Synergie. They seem almost as good, but I reckon I can tell there not quite up to the Michelins. Ho hum. The £40.00 I’ve saved seems laughable when you’re going to live with a pair of tires for 30,000 miles or more.

Thirdly, and in preparation for a ten day family jolly in Brittany, our first long trip in the 806, I asked my local garage to undertake an engine flush and oil & filter change on the old girl. I always seem to imagine a slight improvement in performance after I’ve treated the car to an engine flush – which is no doubt a crazy mind game of mine. It makes no difference. But it imagine it’s like giving cat treats to your favourite moggy. You get to feel all benevolent and the cat’s chuffed as heck.

Et voila. The 806 is now happily back on French soil (after a bumpy crossing to Le Havre), and it looks absolutely 100% in its element here. Ten minutes behind the wheel tells me the French love-affair with the MPV is as strong as ever. New Picassos, C4s and 5008s are everywhere. I also notice a distinct lack of those classic black number plates. There’s an odd one or two hanging onto the occassional early 205 and Renault 5, but everyone else has made the switch to Euro White plates with a blue F for France flag.

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We were probably two thirds from fully loaded en route to our campsite near Pont L’Abbe. With tire pressures up to 40psi all round, and on the new Toyo’s up front, the 806 behaved in true French form – floating and ambling with box-shaped grace over Brittany’s sweeping D-roads, quietly maintaining 60mph. The most uncomfortable thing was piloting her around roundabouts what felt like the wrong way round. Eugh.

We’ve spotted lots of 806’s and Synergie’s around Brittany, but one particular one stood out. It’s possibly the most unloved 806 I’ve ever seen. Have a look at this:

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I managed to buy one of the first O-Car head units for my MPV – prices seem to be currently fixed around £250.00. I’m a pretty regular Dad, with regular requirements – the main one being I need a car stereo which runs from my iPhone,charges it, and bluetooths the business phone calls. Simple! So you might like to read about my findings.

To keep it short, it’s a good unit but with some fundamental flaws. Sound is perfectly acceptable once adjusted using the sound app provided (which you download from the Apple app store), certainly comparable with an entry-level Sony unit it replaced.

It’s certainly an ingenious solution to use the iPhone 3G or iPhone4 as the head unit, and seemed like pure logic to me on paper. Transitions between playing music on ipod setting to a phone call are seamless, handled by a microphone supplied and the units Bluetooth. Using satnav apps is also fine, but here some cracks appear. I popped in a postcode to my clients address into Navmii’s excellent Navfree app, double clicked to turn on the radio app (the second app you download from app store) only to discover that the radio app can’t multi-task!

Our latest purchase, a Peugeot 806

Our latest purchase, a Peugeot 806 Quiksilver

So putting talk of a UK MPV owners club aside, I wanted to tell you about my latest purchase, which has taken 5 months of searching to find – a low mileage Peugeot 806 Quiksilver. Yay! The Citroen Synergie has now been sold, after serving us brilliantly for 7 years, to be replaced with, an almost identical model!

Key factors in my selection process where: start at a lower mileage than last time (bought Synergie at 91k), must be newer, better condition, comprehensive history and most importantly, CRUISE CONTROL. I do a fair amount of motorway driving over a year, and this felt like it would make a big difference to my driving.

I set some ‘Alerts’ to email me as soon as anything came up on either EBay or Autotrader. So that when the actual car appeared online on AutoTrader, I was told immediately, and went to see it in Wales pretty much the same day. It had been PX’d, and was in very nice condition. The previous owner had fitted some aftermarket alloys which I got rid of, as on a test drive of the car they totally mucked up the car’s handling.

I’ve been driving it now for a few months, and there are some small differences between this one and the Synergie before it. The main one was that the HDI power was delivered in a slightly different way on the Citroen, and I’d gotten very used to it over the last 7 years. So I’ve had the 806 remapped after looking on a lot of forums, taking the output from 110bhp to 130bhp or thereabouts, but with a it’s torques pleasantly increased.

My brother’s Citroen Synergie has had a problem ever since first buying his 2001 plate HDI.

Although the car seemed normal to him, a quick test drive from yours truly revealed it to be severely lacking in low-down power between 1000rpm and 2500rpm. So much so that the car required a lot of revving to get it to move, which has also had the nasty effect of killing his clutch.

Well, if you’re suffering a similar problem with your 110bhp HDI engine, we may be able to offer you some hope.

We recently found a solution for this after paying for diagnosis from a main dealer. And the part to fix it only costs £17.71!

The problem was traced to something called a swirl valve diagram. It is a small part which allows the valves to all work effectively, but if it’s got a leak or split, it means you could be running on only 4 valves instead of 8. The symptoms I’ve described aren’t always picked up though, as the car doesn’t throw up a warning light for this error, will still cruise at 80mph, and may seem fine. But if you feel your car is flat as a pancake performance wise, this could be your answer.

Description and part number (from a Peugeot dealer, but should be the same for Fiat/Peugeot/Citroen) on our bill was:
P0000036394 DIAPHRAGME £17.71 EACH

Labour was roughly 1.5hrs on the job, and as he had it diagnosed and fitted by a main dealer we have no idea how it was replaced or what it looks like.

Good luck with yours, and let us know if you’ve suffered or sorted the same problem.

To welcome us into 2011, here’s a Mk1 Citroen Synergie with a fantastic 2 berth camper conversion spotted on eBay this morning, advertised for £3500 (Item number: 120665718325). Congratulations to the owner for having the foresight to imagine and complete what looks like a really professional conversion.

I’m going to contact the current owner to see if he’d write and describe how he made it, what sort of reactions he gets from owning it, and what it’s like to use a car as a camper. Watch this space.

UPDATE:

Colin the owner has replied in short, and is planning to send us a bit more info on how he made it. Here’s his reply:

Hi Tim,
Cheers for that. It’s been a great conversion for us. I will try and source some more pics for you.
Happy new year.
Regards, Colin

Here’s an excerpt from his advert:

“This is the best of both worlds for those who want to travel around as either a regular people carrier or mini campervan.

When not being used as a campervan the it has 5 seats. The three back seats are ‘rock-n-roll’ (easy locking in or removing) and two front fully rotatable seats. It can be parked anywhere without any height restrictions like most campervans.

When using it as a campervan, the rear seats are removed in one easy movement leaving ample space for a fold out table. At the very back of the van the hidden double bed is in the style of a couch that folds out again with an easy movement. I am 6ft 2 and I was always comfortably in this. The front drivers and passengers seat rotates and moves back to the dashboard giving more room.

The bed has a foam based mattress that doubles as seating when not being used. There is storage space under the bed where we keep the fold up table, very long mains hook up cable and heavy duty window covers for all the windows 360. The window covers were specifically made to fit the car and produce an almost black out effect at night which is ideal..

On the length of the right hand side has a built in gas hob ( 2 ring), electric fridge and electric pump sink and basin. The water container is 20L and the pressure is amazing. (forgot to attach tap in picture) All along the length there is great storage space for pot/pan etc to keep it out of sight.

The awning shown is set up using telescopic tent poles and no word of a lie its up in under 10 mins and trust me I am no boyscott 🙂 It attached to the open sliding doorway of the car and is secured on both side of the car. You can actually drive away leaving it in tact and close the open side with it pegged. This was fantastic when we were in France and had to nip in to the nearest village a couple of Km away to get supplies. It has 2 side windows which allows you eat and sit in or out depending on the weather.”

…you buy a 1/42 scale model of a Peugeot 806 off eBay, along with a metal plaque with a illustration of a Citroen Synergie circa 1997!

The little model made by ‘Starter’ needed a spot of super glue on arrival at the MPVcar headquarters to return it’s steering wheel to it’s rightful position. Now I’m pondering whether it could withstand fixing to my dashboard somehow, or whether it should suffice as a desktop ornament.

The plaque is surely destined for the garage wall, as a trophy.

It’s official. According to this month’s Top Gear magazine, in which journalist Vijay Pattni reviews Volkswagen’s 2010 Sharan, MPVs (multi purpose vehicles) are described as dinosaurs. A breed destined for extinction. Or a steady loss in population, for sure.

And the sales figures for MPVs within the UK confirm a decline in popularity. According to official figures, sales of MPVs had been steadily growing since 2000 – peaking in 2007. After which, a decline set in. Why? I’ve documented my thoughts below, but you may your own conclusions.

http://www.smmt.co.uk/downloads/MotorIndustryFacts.pdf

Fashion no doubt plays a big part for car buyers. Is it purely fashion that leads buyers to reject an entire genre of car? As buyers were wooed by the stronger more masculine stance of a new breed of big cars – BMW X5, with the now flourishing 7 seater 4×4 market (from Volvo, BMW X5).

Historically, other genres of car have lost favour with the public. In the UK during the early 1970s, an oil shortage in the USA led to a sharp rise in fuel prices. Buyers of large and uneconomical executive saloon cars nose dived, whereas sales of small economical cars snowballed. So a whole genre or segment of vehicle can be driven down by economic factors to such an extent that buyers flatly stop buying them.

But MPVs are not gas guzzling behemoths of the dark ages of motoring. This modern breed of MPVs are incredibly fuel efficient, relatively inexpensive (particularly on the used market) and immensely adaptable. MPVs are capable of changing their stance from van to office to people carrier to weekend surf bus, all at the whim of the owner, what’s not to like?

Heres a theory: MPVs represent an area that’s just not fashionable – people carrying. I’m seeing a lot of middle class buyers now choosing the new and very stylish VW T5 Transporters, perhaps where they would have bought an MPV before. The VW brand has great power in the UK, perhaps more than is credible.

People just don’t want to own an MPV, shunning them for their size, bulk or lack of driveability. But somehow, they DO want a van.