Long term report: Peugeot 208
But the first task handed to me on my appointment as News Editor at AOL far exceeded any of the aforementioned tests of willpower as I was handed the keys to our latest long-termer, the Peugeot 208 and forced to pilot the little Pug from the deepest bowels of Gosport on the south coast (where I work) to the even deeper bowels of Essex (where I live, for now)... during the worst snowstorms this country has seen in years.
Now, the little 1.2-litre VTI city car looked great in its Oasis Blue colour scheme but the 82bhp on tap and front-wheel-drive layout became more and more unappealing as the deluge of frozen precipitation continued to fall from the sky.
"Please let the trains be running," I prayed as I continued to watch the white stuff consume everything outside of the warm office.
Of course the trains weren't running, so it was the Peugeot or a very long, very cold walk home.
The little Peugeot's interior is a very nice place to be, especially if you've just marched a few hundred metres through a blizzard to get to it.
The cheap plastics of previous models have been replaced with soft touch material where possible and the piano black highlights are very pleasing to the eye. The seats are extremely comfortable and the space in front and rear is surprising.
It's such a shame, then, that the infotainment system was so damn fiddly. Plugging in postcodes using the touch screen display was infuriating and as the mercury continued to drop, the unit seemed to misbehave more.
The car had only covered a few hundred miles and already it was flashing up failure warnings.
The drive, on the other hand, was a lot better. The steering sharp and the gearbox super-slick. The 1.2 engine pulled well and overtaking was fairly effortless considering it only produces 118 nm of torque, but it doesn't half make a racket. We're hoping the powerplant becomes more refined as the miles tick over.
Amazingly, the Peugeot and I completed the journey with little more than the occasional heart-in-mouth moment as even gritted roads proved perilous.
I was impressed with the engine at cruising speed; it made less of a commotion when settled at a few thousand rpm. Wind noise was almost non-existent and there were no rattles or bangs from outside the cabin.
The Peugeot is clearly a well-constructed piece of kit.
My one major gripe was the performance of the heaters. I know this was supposed to be an intimidating challenge to test my mettle but I almost suffered double pneumonia during the first fifteen minutes of every chilly journey as I waited for the pathetic blowers to defrost my kidneys.
We will have more to report in a few weeks when it warms up a bit and we can drive the car without the risk of internal organs freezing.
Joined fleet: December
Run by: Leon Poultney
Price: £14,550 (as tested)
Engine: 1.2-litre, petrol
Power: 82bhp, 118Nm
Max speed: 109mph
MPG: 65.7 (combined)
Mileage this month: 600
Our MPG: 40 (average)
Costs this month: £0