3500 kays in the UK

Posted on January 19th, 2013 in diesel,Driving Emotion,Economy,hyundai by Julian Edgar

I’ve just come back from driving 3500 kilometres around the United Kingdom, done in 3 weeks.

The purpose was a family holiday, where we just happened to see as many engineering marvels as we could in that time and distance – something that was achieved, and will be covered in an upcoming AutoSpeed series.

A lot of the driving time was spent on the excellent freeway (“motorway”) system that exists in Britain. These roads are typically four or six lane highways – here in Australia, they’d all be marked (and enforced) at 110 km/h. And in the UK, the posted motorway limit is in fact 70 mph (113 km/h).

But the kicker is that people actually travel at 80 – 85 mph (about 135 km/h). Despite there being plenty of traffic sped cameras, and an occasional police car, the enforcement is set at a level where these speeds are fine.

And boy, does it ever make a difference to travel time when you can sit on 135 km/h in the right-hand lane!

The drivers are disciplined, courteous and aware – average for average, much better than drivers in Australia. In those 3 weeks, much of it in wet and windy weather conditions, I saw very few accidents and witnessed even fewer driving mistakes.

The Australian politicians who believe that any higher limit in (most of) Australia than 110 km/h would kill swathes of people – I wonder if any of them have driven overseas (as opposed to being chauffeured) while on their international ‘study trips’…

The car we had for the trip was a Hyundai i40 diesel ‘Blue’ wagon.


It was brand new, with only delivery kilometres on the odometer. Well-equipped in the guise we had it, it came with seat warmers, excellent navigation, dual climate control, leather, colour instruments LCD, parking sensors – and so on.

The diesel was coupled to a manual 6-speed box, that was slightly notchy when cold and always had an overly long throw. Not over-endowed with power, the car turned in a fuel economy in the low Fives in litres/100km – really excellent with the car heavily laden and often driven at speed.

Driving mostly on highways disguised one of the shortcomings of the engine – its off-boost performance (say up to 1500 rpm – and a low redline in a diesel, remember) was woeful, and the transition to on-boost torque sudden and lacking progression. In urban conditions, and especially where a sudden spurt of power was needed from a standstill, the car could border on dangerous.

Interior packaging was very good, with one exception – as with many current cars, the window sill line was too high, especially in the back. Even sitting on a booster seat, my 8-year-old son could only just see over the window line – stupid.

Ride and handling were also fine for our purpose. Grip levels weren’t huge (low rolling resistance tyres?) but with good stability control, there were no issues. Ride quality was excellent – but remember, that was with 3 people and lots of luggage. Less heavily laden, the ride would have been harsher.

I thought it a superb car for the purpose to which we put it. In fact, the Hyundai struck me as a very well built car coming from a maker with perhaps 50 years of designing and building cars behind them. Interesting, when even 5 years ago some Hyundais were dubious at best.

I’ve been shooting photos for publication for over 30 years, and I knew the trip would need lots of pics taken. However, I didn’t really want to lug around my digital Nikon SLR – so I bought a new camera. After much consideration and reading of reviews, I got a Canon G15.

What a superb little camera!

Its ability to shoot with high quality in very low light, often without flash, is exemplary. This ability comes from having a fast lens (unusual in pocket cameras), high lens quality at all apertures (again unusual in this class) and having sufficient modes to match the needs of a professional – or the rankest of amateurs. I particularly like having exposure compensation on an instant-access dial – I less like not being able to quickly modify flash output.

Especially in difficult, contrasty or low light conditions, the camera performed very well indeed.

10 Responses to '3500 kays in the UK'

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  1. Otto Au said,

    on January 22nd, 2013 at 6:39 am

    For the record was the hyundai a rental or a official loan car?

    Looking forward to your no doubt excellent story and photos


  2. Julian Edgar said,

    on January 22nd, 2013 at 12:10 pm


  3. Jack Herer said,

    on January 23rd, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    “The drivers are disciplined, courteous and aware”

    The grass is always greener on the other side…

    Your top photo shows a white van driving far too close to a small hatchback in the outside lane while the inside lane appears to be empty.

    “But the kicker is that people actually travel at 80 – 85 mph ”

    80-85 indicated on most cars speedometers is closer to 75-80 which is pretty much within the margin for error for both police in cars and speed cameras. In mainland Europe a lot of countries have 130KMH limits which is much more like it. And if you want to see truly courteous, skilful driving try Germany.

  4. MC said,

    on January 24th, 2013 at 6:33 am

    It’s always interesting to read an outsider’s point of view.

    There has been government talk (although it’s gone quiet of late) about raising the motorway limit to (a more rigorously-enforced 80mph, but even people here seem to think that it would cause immediate death to all, despite the fact that it would probably make almost no difference to traffic speeds, and slow it down in some places.

    I would agree that UK drivers are, on average, fairly law-abiding and more courteous than most other countries I’ve been to. That’s not to say that there isn’t too much tail-gating and not enough indicating BEFORE manoeuvring on motorways though.

    I have to say that despite everything I’ve seen a fair bit of inappropriate, aggressive, dodgy driving in Germany…. but as Jack Herer says,
    “The grass is always greener”.

  5. Hamish said,

    on January 24th, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Mirrors my own experiences in the UK a couple of years ago, overall a better place to drive with less repressive traffic rule enforcement. Also last time I checked, I’m pretty sure the road toll per capita, was similar, if not a bit better than ours, despite the often much worse weather they have to drive in.

  6. James said,

    on January 24th, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    The new Hyundais are definitely getting better all the time, but they have a ways to go. Suspension tuning is still their weak point.

    I drove the new Accent and found the rear suspension was very soft and dangerously underdamped.

    Going round a country bend at the posted 100km/h limit, I hit a surprise mid corner bump. In most other cars this would not be cause for concern but the rear of the Hyundai launched itself into the air and actually spun on its axis about 20 degrees, pivoting on the front tyres. It came back down to earth, with the front of the car pointing off the road. Some quick steering correction saved the day but this is truly unacceptable handling.

    Some better shocks, springs an a fatter rear ARB would make this car so much better, but I think the chance of that happening are almost zero.

  7. stewart Murray said,

    on January 25th, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    I absolutely agree.

    i drove a campervan on a 1600k trip from london to scotland and back and was impressed. i agree with Julians observations, but what impressed me most was the minimal, yet effective, signage.

    here in QLD there is so much useless signage/advertising/changeable signage that i get distracted. this coulped to the fact that thereis an arbitrary speed limit setting system (very simple speed limit rules in the uk regarding speed limits without using signs) makes driving itself a distraction for fear of non compliance! what pays for this useless signage? speeding fines i guess! Forcing people to take more responsibility on the roads cuts both ways, stop fining the commonsense out of people. road safety is about common sence, NOT compliance.

  8. Mark Gilchrist said,

    on January 26th, 2013 at 7:28 am

    Cheer up Jack!

    I spent 4 years in the UK and as a sales rep on the road I clocked up around 60,000 miles and I can only completely agree with Julian on this one. Head office was 550 miles from my home (I lived 5 mins from the pic of the Hyundai sitting at the Forth Rail Bridge, just outside of Edinburgh.) I lived on the road.

    When compared to Australia, Brisbane in particular, I found UK drivers are far better all round. Here’s some of the obvious ones to me:

    They don’t just sit in the far right lane. This drives me crazy in Brisbane.

    They don’t overtake on the left or anywhere they want.

    If you indicate to change lanes, a gap opens up and you get a flash of high beams to tell you it’s ok to come across – THAT’S courteous and unheard of in Brisbane.

    Wet weather doesn’t cause absolute chaos. People drive to the conditions – remarkable compared to the insanity I saw on the M1 here in Brisbane in the rain last night.

    And of course the speeds on the motorway just aren’t a problem. 85mph gets you places quickly, and it’s still safe.

    Here’s a cool statistic: British Motorways are five times safer per mile driven than the average road and eight times safer than urban ‘A’ roads. There were 9 crashes per 100 million vehicle kilometres on motorways in 2003, compared with 76 on urban ‘A’ roads.

    Says it all really.

  9. MC said,

    on January 28th, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    “People drive to the conditions ”

    Hmmm, I’m not convinced. It may be better than many other, even neighbouring, countries (It’s certainly not as bad as Belgium!), but there is a lot of driving too close and relying too heavily on the brakes in the UK. When it snows or is icy, there is chaos.

  10. Edward said,

    on January 30th, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Theory – I find the biggest influence promoting poor driver behaviour in Brisbane at least is the heat. Even with the aircon set to Artic, summer seems to be the time of aggressive, impatient and ‘me first’ driving. I’ve noticed cooler weather chills out the traffic… literally!