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:

Travel: Cheltenham - a family break

Feb 3, 2019 — Tim Saunders

Travel: Cheltenham - Gloucester Old SpotThe Regency and Victorian splendour of Cheltenham is only a couple of hours away from where we live, making it an extremely attractive place to visit.

Composer Gustav Holst was born in the spa town in 1874 and his father, Adolph von Holst was organist at All Saints’ Church, Pittville.

We stay at The Cheltenham Townhouse in Pittville Lawn; home to some of the finest examples of 19th century architecture. It has been owned by Jayne and Adam Lillywhite for the past 16 years. “We bought it when I was expecting my daughter,” recalls Jayne. “It was a nursing home. We have 22 bedrooms and four studios.”


Mitsubishi Eclipse Crossover

Jan 3, 2019 — Tim Saunders

Mitsubishi Eclipse Crossover
Like your favourite coat, a Mitsubishi always has a particular smell and feel, I find. And that’s very reassuring because you know what you’re getting. Always good build quality and a robust practical vehicle that’s satisfying to drive.

Its new Eclipse Cross is available in three options: 2, 3 or 4 and as either 2WD or 4WD. Prices start from just over £21,000 and rise to over £28,000 for the Cross 4 4WD. It is the latter that I test, complete with its twin glass roofs and helpful parking camera. It’s an attractive offering, with hardwearing leather seats and a plethora of luxury features including heated and powered front seats, power folding wing mirrors and air conditioning. Not to mention the touchpad and touchscreen. The children particularly enjoy locking and unlocking the car, which can be done via a small black button on the driver’s or front passenger’s door handle as long as the keyfob is present.


Skoda Karoq

Dec 26, 2018 — Tim Saunders

Skoda Karoq SE L 1.5 TSI 150PS
I don’t usually pay much attention to the weather but during my test of the Skoda Karoq I cannot help but notice it. I decide to take it on a trek to Hertfordshire and before long spitting rain turns into a torrential and persistent downpour that sees many motorists stranded. But not us and I am grateful because the Karoq, being an SUV, stands taller than those smaller run of the mill cars, like the usual Fiesta I drive. And I thank my lucky stars that I’m in the Karoq as I have to make my way through what seems to be a lake covering a country lane as we head towards Shaw’s Corner, playwright George Bernard Shaw’s retreat. Although the water level’s high it doesn’t pose a problem for the Skoda. Thank goodness. And as this downpour continues for a good hour my new friend has many similar challenges thrown at him. My only criticism during this time is that I could do with a faster speed for the windscreen wipers.


Travel: St Albans, Hertfordshire

Oct 4, 2018 — Tim Saunders


Verulamium was a Roman town in the city of St Albans in Hertfordshire.

We discover this during a two-night stay at The Straw House in Spicer Street in the historic cathedral quarter.

“Warner Bros has built studios quite nearby,” reveals owner Pamela, adding that Britain has the best lighting engineers but other talent has to be flown in. “Which means we get lots of stuntmen from Germany and elsewhere staying here.”


Day Out: Exbury Gardens

Jun 30, 2018 — Tim Saunders

Day Out: Exbury Gardens
Spending time with family is the way I enjoy marking a significant birthday. And for this milestone occasion we make our way to Exbury Gardens deep in the New Forest.
It has been persistently raining for the past week and it really is risky deciding to spend an entire day out with such questionable weather. The sky continues to be grey and threatening but we are blessed with absolutely no rain whatsoever during our trip.

Exbury boasts 200-acres of informal woodland gardens and it allows my wife Caroline and I to sort of relax while the children roam. But you can never truly relax. They seem incapable of sticking to the paths and much prefer stamping in puddles off the beaten track which results in Henry (2) quickly shouting “Help!” He is in water that is almost covering his boots and about to fall over. Thankfully we reach him in time. Some bushes do bear berries and again little ones have to be monitored so that they avoid picking them.


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.