Tim Saunders


Tim Saunders is the former Business and Motoring Editor of the Bournemouth Echo in the UK. testdrives.biz

Most Recent Articles by Tim Saunders:

Motoring: Subaru Outback

Apr 6, 2018 — Tim Saunders

Subaru Outback 2.0D SE Premium Lineartronic AWD
“It’s too big, I can’t drive it,” says my wife when she tries to drive the Subaru Outback. True, it is a large vehicle. But if given the chance it exceeds expectations. Because here we have an estate that boasts a massive boot, large enough (once the retractable cover is removed) for all the stuff that the Saunders family regularly travels with: two pushchairs, travel cot, luggage and lots of food. And there’s still room to change my young son’s nappy. But the great thing is that when behind the wheel the driver forgets that it’s an estate car.


Travel - day out - Marwell Zoo

Apr 5, 2018 — Tim Saunders

Travel - day out - Marwell Zoo
Birds have four types of feathers. I never realised this until I visited Marwell Zoo in Hampshire. Wing feathers help the bird fly, tail feathers help to balance and steer, body feathers give protection as well as streamlining while down feathers keep the bird warm.

For me the sign of a good day out is walking away with a few interesting, useful facts like this. A nice sunny weekend is an ideal opportunity to visit this attraction, set in 140 acres of Hampshire countryside near Winchester. It’s home to 1,200 animals and there is an emphasis on African wildlife ranging from giraffes and zebras to rhinoceroses, pygmy hippopotamuses and meerkats as well as some colourful birds. Founded by John Knowles, who opened it in 1972, Marwell soon became a leading zoo in Europe to carry out important animal conservation work.


Motoring: Peugeot 3008

Jan 13, 2018 — Tim Saunders

Motoring: Peugeot 3008
When I take delivery of the Peugeot 3008 SUV (sports utility vehicle) I have a schedule planned. It is going to Chichester, only 30 minutes from home, down the M27 and after that a more gruelling trip to Cornwall, some 240 miles away. This should give me a good idea of what this vehicle is about. Throw into the mix a trio of trouble: Harriett (6), Heidi (4) and Henry (1).

My little rascals get really excited when a vehicle is delivered and when they see the 3008 their eyes light up. The burgundy finish gets a thumbs up and we all like the black roof and smattering of chrome. Looking closer the rear section reminds me of the Range Rover Evoque but there’s also a hint of the ‘70s about it with the way the panel under the glass swooshes up in a sort of curve. The chunky chrome exhausts at the rear and the black privacy glass, the large chrome grille at the front and the sizeable bonnet all help to give this mid range SUV character. And even some drivers of more expensive Land Rovers and Range Rovers double take, I notice. Inside it is dark due to the black roof fabric and dark interior trim. This is only really emphasised if, like me, you have been driving cars with large glass roofs. There’s a comfortable driving position and, as my son Henry makes me realise when he stands in front of it, it sits quite high up. Therefore, the driver enjoys a good view of the road ahead. All controls are close to hand and the finish of the 3008 is good although the bonnet feels a little tinny to me.


Isle of Wight and surrounding areas

Dec 29, 2017 — Tim Saunders

Isle of Wight and surrounding areas
A butterfly has a 12-week life cycle.

We learn this during a visit to Butterfly World at Newport on the Isle of Wight. It all starts with an egg, then the caterpillar, the chrysalis and then finally the adult butterfly; each a three week process. There are some magnificent butterflies and moths all under one roof. Next door Fountain World is home to a variety of koi fish, which don’t just make for an alternative investment – with some fetching up to £3,500 – but they can live for over 200 years.


Motoring: Fiat Tipo Station Wagon

Dec 12, 2017 — Tim Saunders

Motoring: Fiat Tipo Station Wagon
Design is becoming more thought provoking.

I notice this as I admire the new Fiat Tipo station wagon, parked on my driveway.

There’s barely a straight panel on it and that’s nothing to do with my driving! This has led me to cast my mind back to vehicles of the past. It seems that curves started to become fashionable in the ‘60s on the likes of the E-type Jaguar but many cars of that period were still boxy and this was the case right through to the ‘80s, even the ‘90s where straight lines still prevailed on the likes of the Vauxhall Cavalier. Of course this is a very general perception and there were exceptions to the rule such as TVR and the more specialist manufacturers. Over the next 20 years those straight lines were gradually rounded off, think of the Ford Granada and Vauxhall Omega. But we now live in a different era, one where manufacturers have gone back to the drawing board and created something that combines both straight lines and curves. The Fiat Tipo is a good example of this. The front wheel arches are a tasteful blend of slightly boxy curvaceousness which joins up with the equally well crafted bonnet. It looks chunkier from the side than head on. And it’s a good effect. This is offset by the two-tone 16-inch alloy wheels.


Sidmouth, Devon

Nov 2, 2017 — Tim Saunders

Sidmouth, Devon
On a trip to Sidmouth it becomes apparent that there is a huge amount of bed and breakfast accommodation available.

We experience two quite different offerings at Travelodge, Sampford Peverell Service Area, Sampford Peverell, M5 (Junction 27), near Tiverton and at The Barn and Pinn Cottage, near Sidmouth.


Motoring: Volvo V60 D4 Cross Country

Nov 2, 2017 — Tim Saunders

Motoring: Volvo V60 D4 Cross Country
“I delivered one of these the other day and the chap didn’t want to drive it,” says the delivery driver.

“Oh,” I reply, a little perplexed, admiring the finish of this particular model. “Couldn’t he drive?” I ask.

“He just sat and listened to the stereo.”

“Really? Was he all there?” I question.


A vehicle for America

Oct 2, 2017 — Tim Saunders

That is my opinion of the fourth generation Lexus RX450h Sport. Why? It’s the type of SUV (sports utility vehicle) the Americans like, ultra luxurious inside, large and its hybrid credentials help the driver feel that they are no depleting the earth’s resources, too much anyway. Its predecessors have been extremely popular in the States, which means that this one will go down extremely well, too. It is easy to imagine it cruising the large roads over there and being very much at home. The poor British motorist can but dream of large traffic free roads or embark on their journeys during incredibly anti-social hours.


Magnificent and a memorable family holiday awaits you at Tehidy

Oct 2, 2017 — Tim Saunders

Tehidy is a small village in Cornwall, near Portreath, St Ives and the coast. It is a magnificent part of the world and a memorable family holiday awaits you at Tehidy Holiday Park.

“I have ploughed everything I have made back into the holiday park,” explains director Richard Barnes, who purchased the five-acre site 10 years ago and runs it with his family. “It was pretty run down then and I set about updating it, even adding tarmac roads.” We speak during the height of the holiday season when he has 350 guests staying on site: camping, static caravans and in his selection of self-catering holiday cottages. “We keep being asked for larger cottages so we are renovating another one at the moment which will have all the bells and whistles.”


Motoring: Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo

Sep 4, 2017 — Tim Saunders

The city of Monte Carlo has had a long association with motorsport, ever since the Monaco Grand Prix was founded in 1929 using the city streets as part of the challenging circuit. A circuit that has seen some of Britain’s finest racing drivers clinching victory such as Graham Hill and more recently Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.

Why am I talking about this famous French Formula One race? Because I happen to be behind the wheel of a Skoda Fabia… Monte Carlo. It’s a racy little number that reminds me of a plush bachelor pad, as I cast my eyes over the striped seats. There’s definitely a hint of sportiness about this five-door family hatchback. There’s a liberal smattering of leather on the gearstick, handbrake and steering wheel. But somehow it’s more staid than a typical hot hatch.


Volkswagen Trendline

Jul 28, 2017 — Tim Saunders

It is necessary to adapt your driving style when behind the wheel of a vehicle that does not have a rear view mirror.

This becomes clear when I am sat in the Volkswagen Transporter Trendline 2.0 TDi Bluemotion. It is the white van man’s dream vehicle, tough and robust, fast and efficient. And although it very much does feel like a car to drive with fairly light steering and a good driving position, the fact remains that there are no windows at the rear and no rear view mirror.


Travelling to Hell and Back

Jul 4, 2017 — Tim Saunders

“It’s not a place where travellers first think of staying,” smiles Shige Takezoe, who with his wife Diana, owns Hell Barn Cottages in North Chideock.

“There are various stories about how this part of Chideock got its name. Some say Greeks came here and built a temple called Hellas but this is disputed by local historians who say the Greeks only got as far as Devon. Others believe that Christians visited on a pilgrimage and made their home here. Then of course there was the Black Death where corpses were buried in the tumuli. Basically nobody knows why it is called Hell but it’s a beautiful place,” says Shige, who purchased the holiday business with its three cottages in 1996. “It’s very much an international business with 20 per cent of holidaymakers coming from abroad as far away as India and many French and Germans regularly staying. It’s only a 12-hour drive from Munich.”


Few vehicles raise a smile in the way that a Range Rover does

Jul 4, 2017 — Tim Saunders

Few vehicles raise a smile in the way that a Range Rover does when you are behind the wheel, I find.

It’s always an absolute privilege to find yourself sitting in the high quality cabin and it is a fantastic experience. Imagine your favourite armchair and then add all the electronic gadgetry that you can conjure up and here is a seat that can be electrically adjusted to your heart’s content providing that ultimate driving position. Then of course there is the sheer height of this luxury off roader, which stands head and shoulders above most other vehicles apart from lorries. This means that the driver and front passenger have a marvellous view of the road ahead, which is perfect for overtaking. Despite its sheer size and weight this 4x4 is pretty quick off the mark and if the accelerator is pushed to the floor it makes safe light work of most opportunities that present themselves on the open road. Zero to 60mph is accomplished in a little over seven seconds, which is very impressive. There are so many luxuries fitted to this vehicle that it makes a Rolls Royce blush. Shut the door and the Range Rover ensures that the door is properly closed as you can see in the video at Testdrives.biz. The two section boot opens and closes at the push of a button. This is all well and good but ironically, after reading a newspaper article about how a woman lost her arm in the door of a neighbour’s car, I come close to trapping mine in the boot of the Range Rover but thankfully escape with a light bruise. It seems to shut and continues even if a hand is in the way. There needs to be a sensor to prevent this from happening.


VW Passat Estate

May 5, 2017 — Tim Saunders

We live in a materialistic world.

This fact becomes blatantly clear when I park the sleek Volkswagen Passat Bluemotion estate on the busy main road outside my house. The previous day I had done this with my own ageing mark 5 Ford Fiesta and had very quickly proceeded to be bibbed and tooted by a series of impatient motorists fed up with queuing to get passed me. Yet not a soul does this with the Passat, which is parked there at a much busier time of day for considerably longer. Now aside from this being an interesting study in human behaviour the large VW plays a vitally important role in my family’s move from our Victorian mid-terrace to a more family friendly detached property in a quieter location. Without doubt parking the VW outside our house increases the street’s credibility and there is no qualm about doing this because there are power folding wing mirrors so they cannot be knocked by frustrated drivers.


A slower pace of life can be found in Suffolk

Apr 13, 2017 — Tim Saunders

This comes as quite a surprise when you think that it is only 80 miles from London. In Suffolk there is great support for local produce and the independent trader. So much so that I am told even a well known supermarket chain has been unable to secure planning permission to build a store in Halesworth.

“The owner of the wine shop here has been trading for over 30 years,” one local entrepreneur, who has relocated from Surrey, tells me. “I was an accountant for BP for 30 years and every day as a commuter I used to leave my house in the dark and return in the dark and did not even know my next door neighbour. It’s different here; it takes me twice as long as it should to walk up the street in the morning because I’m talking to so many people.” In Suffolk there is plenty of farmland and house prices are comparatively low compared to the built up south of England, making homebuyers contemplate a move here.


Motoring: Honda HR-V

Apr 9, 2017 — Tim Saunders

When the Honda HR-V arrives on my doorstep (it’s a tough job being a motoring journalist) I am very pleasantly surprised. You see I remember the original HR-V in production from 1999 to 2006, which looked, frankly, strange. It was a quirky vehicle that didn’t really look comfortable in itself and quite boxy, too.

This second generation model is a veritable delight. It’s curvaceous and sexy and extremely youthful looking no doubt enhanced by its pearly white finish. First and foremost it is a sports utility vehicle (SUV) but I would go as far as saying that it is one of the most stylish I have had the pleasure of driving. Head on it looks fresh; I like the curvaceous front end and from the rear there is a hint of the frog about it thanks to its slightly arched back.


Travel: Wiltshire

Mar 4, 2017 — Tim Saunders

More of us are holidaying at home and this becomes apparent during a trip to Devizes, which is experiencing a booming tourism trade.

“We’ve already beaten last year’s bookings and we’re not even half way through the year,” reveals Michael Messam, volunteer at Kennet & Avon Canal Trust, which has just received the Queen’s Voluntary Award.


Motoring: Fiat 500x

Mar 4, 2017 — Tim Saunders

Teenagers standing by the roadside clapping and cheering.

Not something that I expect as I drive past in the Fiat 500x and at first I am oblivious but then slowly realise it’s the bright Amalfi yellow exterior - costing in excess of £1,000 - that’s really brought us to their attention.

Few vehicles on Britain’s roads have this effect and that alone makes you stand back and admire this characterful Italian.

Fiat has really achieved something special with this sports utility vehicle. It’s a difficult thing to do when considering the competition from the likes of the eye-catching Nissan Juke and Qashqai etc. etc.


ART NEWS: 1.3 tons of plasticine to be exhibited at Chelsea Flower Show

May 12, 2016 — Tim Saunders

Over a ton of plasticine would be any child’s delight.  But for Cambridge sculptor Edward Waites this is the first step in making a monumental horse head, which he will be exhibiting at the Chelsea Flower Show and Royal Ascot.


TRAVEL FEATURE: Sidmouth, Devon

May 9, 2016 — Tim Saunders

In 2009 over £1m was raised to save a dilapidated Regency mansion in the heart of Sidmouth.