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In the News ...

Toyota and Suzuki join forces to develop green car tech
Posted on Friday May 25, 2018

Jake Weaver 2018-05-25 17:46

The two Japanese car makers will discuss vehicle production and technology development for the Indian market

Toyota badge

Toyota and Suzuki will begin talks over future collaborations in technological development, vehicle production and market development.

The talks are set to try and provide a joint supply of vehicles for the Indian market. Suzuki was one of the first companies to enter the Indian car market and has been instrumental in pushing India’s automotive technology forward.

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The topics of discussion between the two companies will include Toyota providing technical support for Suzuki’s compact, ultra-high-efficiency powertrain and the supply of models developed by Suzuki but produced by Toyota Kirloskar Motor Private Ltd for Indian, African and other developing markets.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda said: “As members of Indian society, Toyota, along with Suzuki, will do its best to enhance freedom and fun in a future mobility society and to make “Made in India” vehicles cherished in Africa and many countries around the world.”

Talks have been on-going since February 2017 after both companies agreed on a memorandum of understanding towards business partnership. Talks have now gone public with hopes of closing a deal in the near future.

Check out our verdict on the best plug-in hybrid cars on sale here...

Convertible Nissan Leaf Open Air uncovered
Posted on Friday May 25, 2018

Jake Weaver 2018-05-25 13:05

To celebrate 100,000 sales in Japan, Nissan has created the one-off convertible Leaf Open Air

Nissan Leaf Open Air - front

Nissan has celebrated 100,000 sales of the Leaf in Japan, by creating a one off convertible version, called the Leaf Open Car. It was unveiled in front of forum of 100 people in Tokyo, but there are no plans to put the convertible into production.

The Leaf was first launched in 2010 and is now in its second generation; over 300,000 examples have been sold worldwide since production started. The Leaf is a key part in Nissan's plan for an electric future with the aim of selling one million EV’s annually by 2022. Nissan’s luxury sub-brand Infiniti will also start adding electric vehicles to their line up in 2021.

Eight all new electric models have been promised by Nissan over the next five years, with four just for the Chinese market. One of those will be a new crossover SUV built on the same electric platform as the Leaf. Its design will be inspired by the IMx concept although it will be watered down slightly by the time it reaches production in 2020.

The new crossover SUV will use the Leaf’s lithium-ion battery but will be reengineered to give a range of up to 370 miles. It could use two electric motors, one on each axis, to offer four-wheel drive.

Would you buy a convertible Nissan Leaf if it ever went on sale?

Discover the Subaru Outback – the perfect long-distance companion (sponsored)
Posted on Friday May 25, 2018

2018-05-25 11:25

With a host of smart safety tech, the superbly-capable Subaru Outback is the perfect choice for those long journeys

Subaru Outback - header

A good family car needs to be able to fit into the routine of everyday use – but a great one also has the ability to take on the unexpected journeys and activities that crop up now and again. That’s where the Subaru Outback has come into its own for Tom and Annie, who live with their family on the outskirts of Warwick.

At least, Tom and Annie refer to it as the outskirts; their children don’t believe it’s as close to civilisation as that. “We’re only five miles from town,” says Tom, “but our son and daughter say it’s in the middle of nowhere! Either way, we need a car that’s capable in all conditions to make sure I can get to my work, and help us to keep up with our children’s social lives.”

Indeed, the Outback’s spacious interior has been put to use countless times as the teenagers have counted on mum and dad as a taxi service. And beyond the daily commute, Tom and Annie have driven the car the length and breadth of the country – from visiting their own parents in Cornwall to taking their daughter to football matches in the north-east.

“We chose the Outback because we knew we’d have plenty of longer journeys as well as the trips to work and school,” says Annie. “Now we’re getting ready to take our son to university in Southampton. We needed a car that was safe for the family, at all times. And the Outback has the maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating and a host of technology.”

Tom feels that the Subaru’s accident prevention skills are arguably even more important. “The safety kit I really like on the Outback is the blind spot monitoring,” he says. “When there is a hazard in your blind spot, a light illuminates in the mirror to tell you if a car’s there. It’s certainly saved me a few times.”

Annie is a big fan of EyeSight, the Subaru Outback’s camera-based suite of safety tech, which watches over the road to enable everything from adaptive cruise control to providing warnings or even braking assistance to help prevent a collision. “EyeSight is always looking out for you,” she says. “We cover long journeys when it’s easy to get tired. But if I turn on the adaptive cruise control, it’ll keep a safe distance to the car in front and do my braking and acceleration for me.” She also rates the pre-collision braking system, which gives warnings and can even provide braking assistance to help you avoid an impact.

The real genius of the Subaru’s safety kit and Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive is that they work constantly in the background, allowing Tom and Annie to just get on with their family life and enjoy spending time together as they travel across the country, regardless of the type of road or the prevailing weather. Tom rates the car’s cruising comfort, helped by the smooth refinement of its petrol engine, and Annie feels a sense of security every time she gets into the Outback, either as the driver or a passenger. “All of the features make you feel safe,” she says, “and it’s so capable it can take us wherever we want to go.”

To find out more about the Subaru Outback, visit the Subaru website...

Tesla launches UK mobile repair service with bespoke Model S fleet
Posted on Thursday May 24, 2018

James Wilson 2018-05-25 07:15

US EV manufacturer Tesla has begun rolling out its mobile repair vehicles to assist with customer car faults and maintenance

Tesla Model S repair - front

Tesla has introduced a mobile repair service to the UK, which aims to fix and maintain owners car’s without them having to set foot in a service centre. Using two specially converted Model S cars – which have been equipped with a range of workshop tools – Tesla technicians will visit customers at pre-arranged times and locations to carry out repairs. The flexible service can be called out to owners’ homes or places of work.

The mobile servicing fleet initially consists of just two bespoke Model S cars but will grow over the coming months to 20 vehicles – 10 Model S cars and 10 internal combustion engined vans. These will be available to assist all UK Tesla owners (new and old) with access to the scheme included under Tesla’s standard warranty. Work which falls outside of a customer’s warranty is done on a cost per job basis, rather than requiring a monthly subscription or annual fee. 

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Tesla claims the over-the-air diagnostics it uses on its vehicles enable it to identify around 90 per cent of issues before a technician even arrives at a customer’s car. What’s more, owners need not be present when a technician does arrive, as they can remotely unlock vehicles to allow access, helping minimise any inconvenience. However, should the customer be present, each repair vehicle is equipped with a miniature coffee machine to help keep them refreshed while work is carried out.

In the future, Tesla drivers will be able to schedule service and repair appointments via their car’s infotainment system and there are even plans to allow motorists to record strange noises their car is making and send them to a technician to help streamline fault finding.

Do you like the sound of Tesla’a mobile servicing? Let us know in the comments below…

Honda Civic Type R Pickup Truck Concept revealed
Posted on Thursday May 24, 2018

Jonathan Burn 2018-05-24 12:55

Honda marks one year anniversary of the Civic Type R hot hatch with Pickup Truck Concept

Honda Civic Type R Pickup Truck Concept - rear

This, according to Honda, is the fastest pickup on the road. The Civic Type R Pickup Truck Concept has been revealed to mark one year since the hot hatch was launched.  

Honda is quick to point out that there are no plans to put the pickup into production. The concept, codename Project P, was created by a team of engineers at Honda’s UK manufacturing facility in Swindon.

Honda Civic Type R GT long-term review

The concept is based on a pre-production version of the Type R and engineered into a pickup while retaining the road car’s iconic rear wing. It is moveable, however, allowing direct access into the load bay, which can snugly fit a couple of lawnmowers.

No changes have been made to the chassis or powertrain so the pickup stick with the standard Type R’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, which develops 316bhp and 400Nm of torque. Honda says it’ll cover 0-62mph in less than six seconds and hit 165mph flat out.

The Japanese firm is also considering taking the concept to the Nurburgring to try and set a lap record for the fastest front-wheel drive pickup.

Check out the best pick-up trucks on the market in 2018

DS 7 Crossback review
Posted on Wednesday May 23, 2018

For 
Stylish, well-built interior, smooth petrol power, practical and very spacious
Our Rating 
3
Against 
Inconsistent ride, expensive beyond entry level, dull to drive
DS 7 Crossback front tracking
2018

The DS 7 Crossback SUV offers a touch of French luxury to take on its established German rivals

The DS 7 Crossback enters a market sector that’s chock-full of talented rivals, but it doesn’t quite boast class leading qualities in enough areas to be considered a proper best-buy. It’s an interesting car with a well appointed, classy interior and plenty of eye-catching features. It’s spacious too, but it doesn’t drive anywhere near as sharply as many rivals, while the inconsistent ride means it fails to fulfil its brief as a supremely comfortable cruiser. Ambitious asking prices mean that there’s no financial advantage in picking the Crossback over the premium SUV establishment either.

23 May, 2018
3.8

As the first true DS product in its own right, the DS 7 Crossback shows us what the French firm’s design team can do when presented with a blank sheet of paper. It sits on the PSA Group’s EMP2 platform, shared with the Peugeot 5008 and the upcoming Citroen C5 Aircross

Compared to older DS cars and their tweaked, previous-generation Citroen designs, the DS 7 boasts a far less complicated look, and is much cleaner in image thanks to smoother surfacing.

At the front, the car cuts a very Audi Q5-like figure with its large hexagonal chrome grille and chrome trim elements bleeding into the headlights. The rest of the design is a little bit more distinctive though. The horizontal daytime running lights placed into the intricate front apron are standard on every model, while looking at the car’s side profile reveals a tall beltline mated to a rounded roof and rear window line. At the back, DS signature 3D style LED taillights are found, connected by a chrome strip spanning the width of the tailgate. Some chunky black cladding injects a bit of ruggedness into the otherwise delicate design.

The car’s interior is much more interesting. The cabin is dominated by a large centre console, which pours down seamlessly from the dashboard. Material quality is par for the premium SUV class at hand height, but you’ll be disappointed to see that the angular, metallic looking switchgear lining the centre console is plastic, not metal, and scratchier plastics can be found if you go looking for them. 

The Opera interior theme can be had with either black or brown leather seats, both finished with a watch strap chain-link like pattern. Pearl stitching features too, as do backlit door handles. This scheme is only available on the range topping Ultra Prestige car.

Rivoli is standard on that model and the regular Prestige version. It uses a quilted leather theme, applied to both the seats and the dashboard. Performance Line cars get Alcantara finished cabins, while the base DS 7 Crossback Elegance gets a scheme called Bastille, which uses black and bronze cloth upholstery. The B.R.M 180 timepiece is standard fit on Prestige cars upwards.

Entry-level Elegance models ride on 18-inch wheels as standard. Move one trim level up to Performance Line, and 19-inch wheels are introduced alongside subtle, sporty design tweaks such as the gloss black grille and exterior trim. Performance Line cars are equipped with the firm’s eye-catching Active LED headlights too. 20-inch wheels are standard fit on Ultra Prestige versions. 

Sat-nav, stereo & infotainment 

As standard, the Elegance model features an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment unit with DAB digital radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the conventional instruments are completed with a 3.5-inch TFT display for trip computer information. 

The infotainment package offered by default on Performance Line cars and above is more far reaching. The screen expands to 12-inches in size and features razor sharp graphics, but is slightly fiddly to use on the move due to the touch sensitive buttons supporting it. It does feature navigation as standard though. Some Performance Line DS 7 Crossback variants get a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster as standard, something which is fitted on every Prestige and Ultimate Prestige car.

3

DS Automobiles is building its brand on the original Citroen DS of 1955. That car was a technological masterpiece and one that Citroen quite rightly holds up as one of its greatest ever cars. One of its hallmarks was the way it drove and rode – there was nothing that could compete with its hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension, brakes, steering and clutch. 

DS makes great claims about the DS 7 Crossback reviving the original DS’s glory days of comfort and refinement, but you should be a little wary. Overall the DS 7 has a ride quality that is a touch more comfy than its rivals, but it’s nowhere near as luxurious as the firm might want you to believe. 

If you’re considering a DS 7, you should probably opt for one that comes with Active Scan Suspension. It’s a clever system similar to that usually found on high-end Mercedes models, for instance, and uses a camera that scans the road ahead and adjusts the damping accordingly.

Like many rivals, the DS 7 comes with a number of driving modes and the default mode is ‘Normal’. But if you want the Active Scan Suspension to actually work you’ll have to jab the diamond-shaped drive mode selector switch and change to ‘Comfort’. Do this and the DS 7 becomes far more comfortable (as you’d expect) – the camera does a good job of scanning the road and tweaking the damping at road speeds around 30-40mph, but the low speed ride remains noticeably inconsistent and picks up judders too frequently. It can feel a little wallowy at speed on motorways too. 

Flicking the car into Sport mode reveals that the DS 7 isn’t an SUV prepared to be driven swiftly, with sub-par body control and soft, lifeless steering. The the artificial engine sound actuation induced in Sport mode will quickly get on your nerves too.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

The sole engine offered in the basic DS 7 Crossback Elegance is the BlueHDi diesel 130 linked to a manual gearbox. This 1.5-litre unit is fairly sluggish though, taking 11.7 seconds to crack 62mph despite the 300M of torque on offer.

Instead, the engine most likely to find favour with buyers is the more potent BlueHDi 180 diesel. It’s still front wheel drive - the only all-wheel-drive DS 7 Crossback will be the plug-in hybrid arriving next year - but power climbs to 177bhp in line with an enlarged capacity of 2.0-litres. 0-62mph drops to 9.9 seconds and an automatic gearbox is standard. With torque climing to 400Nm it feels far punchier, while the eight speed-gearbox is smooth. It doesn’t do too badly for refinement, settling nicely while cruising but unfortunately revealing a trademark, coarse diesel growl when pushed. However, it’s still probably the best all-round choice.

Opt for a petrol DS 7 Crossback and the experience is even smoother. The range-topping 225 PureTech with 222bhp and 300Nm of torque on tap feels suitably brisk, sending the DS 7 Crossback to 62mph in 8.3 seconds and remaining very quiet under stress. We’ve yet to try the 180 PureTech model, but it’s the exact same unit but with less power and a smaller price tag, so we’d expect the refinement to remain, but with no significant fuel economy advantage and a noticeable dip in performance.

4

The DS 7 Crossback has run the Euro NCAP gauntlet and has emerged with a full five-star rating, notching up a 91 per cent score for adult occupants and 87 per cent for child occupant protection. A pedestrian safety rating of 73 per cent is impressive, while a decent amount of standard safety kit results in a 76 per cent score in that field too. 

Basic Elegance cars come equipped with driver, front passenger, front lateral and curtain airbags, while standard safety tech includes automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and a driver attention warning system, and LED headlights are standard. 

Standard convenience tech includes cruise control with a speed limiter function, traffic sign recognition, hill start assist and rear parking sensors. Performance Line adds adaptive LED headlights with high beam assist plus rear lateral and curtain airbags, while Prestige gets the Advanced Safety Pack. This includes blind spot detectors, lane keep assist, and an extended traffic sign recognition system as well. Front parking sensors and a reversing camera are added for convenience.

Ultra Prestige gets the DS Connected Pilot system, with adaptive cruise control with stop & go capability mated to lane keep assist. It’s optional further down the line-up, and enables semi-autonomous cruising on motorway-style roads, where the system detects it is safe to do so. 

Warranty 

The standard DS warranty lasts for two years with unlimited mileage, though it can be extended to three years for no fee - the additional year supplied by the dealer and limited to 60,000 miles. For another fee, the warranty can be extended to five years. A 12-year anti-perforation warranty is also included, alongside a three-year guarantee on the paint. All in all, it’s a fairly standard offering. 

Servicing 

DS offers a range of regular service plans, paid for monthly or in a lump sum. A two year, 30,000 mileage service plan costs £305, or £12,71 a month. Three-, four- and five-year plans are available too.

4

The DS 7 Crossback slips into the smaller end of the SUV market alongside the Audi Q3 and Volvo XC40. As such, the avant-garde cabin contains seats five and no more. The driving position feels nothing out of the ordinary, perching the driver high for a decent view of the road. Visibility front and sideways is good too, though as is the case with many of todays increasingly rakish SUVs, the rear window isn’t the largest when viewed in the rear view mirror. 

Though it’s clearly a design led SUV, Performance Line cars upwards come with roof rails as standard, and a tow bar is available on the options list.

Size 

Against the tape measure the DS 7 Crossback sizes up at 4,573mm long, 1,625mm high, 1,906mm wide and boasts a wheelbase of 2,738mm. That means it’s longer than the Volvo XC40, Jaguar E-Pace and Range Rover Evoque, boasting a lengthier wheelbase than those cars too. Both the Evoque and the E-Pace are a little wider, while the 1,625mm height means that the DS 7 Crossback is isn’t one of the tallest options in the pack. It is, of course, taller than more hatchback biased rivals such as the BMW X2 and Mercedes GLA. 

Leg room, head room & passenger space

Inside, the DS 7 Crossback’s level of kneeroom is decent, generous even, front and rear. The tall, rounded roof means headroom is good, but equipping the panoramic glass roof intrudes on this. In the back, the floor feels just ever so slightly shallow and could impact comfort for taller passengers, but the transmission tunnel is completely flat and doesn’t intrude on the middle seat where kneeroom is still excellent. 

Boot

Open the tailgate and a 555-litre boot is found, accessed by a wide and low opening. It’s a generous size for the class, roundly beating the Volvo XC40 and other SUVs with similar footprints such as the Audi Q3 and Range Rover Evoque. To put things into perspective, the 555-litre space even shades out the larger Audi Q5. The seats don’t fold completely flat, but lowering the back row opens up a large 1,752-litre cargo area. 

The £150 optional Modularity Pack introduces a variable boot floor, alongside lateral storage spaces and a 12v power socket too. Additionally, the boot sills are chromed. 

Towing

A manual tow bar can be fitted to the DS 7 Crossback and is available as an optional extra on every model, priced at £600. The volume seller - the BlueHDi 180 engined car - boasts an unbraked towing capacity of 750kg.

3.6

The DS 7 Crossback’s most frugal options will undoubtedly be the petrol variants coming to prop up either end of the line-up, with a frugal 128bhp three-cylinder option arriving at the opposite end of the range to the petrol plug-in hybrid model. 

For now, the DS 7 Crossback’s duo of diesels serve up are the best option from a running costs point-of-view. The entry level BlueHDi 130 boasts an impressive 72.4mpg on a combined run, while tailipipe emissions of 101g/km are low for a car the size of the DS 7 too. As noted before, it’ll feel sluggish and it’s only available with a six-speed manual gearbox.

The BlueHDi 180 automatic trades a bit of frugality for performance, but it’s still decent for fuel economy. DS claims 57.6mpg for this engine, but emissions climb to 128g/km, pushing it into the 27 per cent BIK band for company car buyers.

The 225 petrol still returns a respectable 48.7mpg, part in thanks to the fact that it is also front-wheel-drive. When the 180 petrol arrives soon, there will be no benefit to selecting this engine from a running costs perspective - DS claims the exact same 48.7mpg figure. 

The only DS 7 Crossback to sneak into the £165 first year VED band is the BlueHDi 130 - every other version on sale right now will cost £205 to tax for the first year.

Insurance groups

The most basic Elegance BlueHDi 130 car occupies insurance group 21, rising to 22 and 23 for the same engine in Performance Line or Prestige trim respectively. Our choice - the BlueHDi 180 in Performance Line trim, sits reasonably in group 29. Range topping Ultra Prestige cars sit in group 31. 

Depreciation

Predicted residual values aren’t too alarming but the most popular and in-demand versions of key rivals such as the Jaguar E-Pace and Audi Q3 make for better reading, and the DS 7 Crossback’s worth after three years lags behind the Volvo XC40. Values vary between 46 per cent and 52 per cent of the car’s original asking price depending on trim and engine, with the range topping 225 petrol in Ultra Prestige predicted to be the worst at retaining its value. The BlueHDi 180 Performance Line car should be worth 50 per cent of its list price after three years and 36,000 miles.

New Nissan Qashqai ProPilot 2018 review
Posted on Wednesday May 23, 2018

Nissan Qashqai ProPILOT - front
24 May, 2018 (All day) Richard Ingram

Nissan’s autonomous ProPilot features have been added to the Qashqai SUV as a £795 option on Tekna and Tekna+ models

Autonomous driving is a hot topic at the moment. Almost every manufacturer is investing heavily in self-driving tech, with the rate of development accelerating by the day.

Nissan is the latest manufacturer to launch its range of stress-depressing semi-autonomous technologies. First seen on the all-new Nissan Leaf earlier this year, the firm has now fitted its ProPilot features to the huge-selling Qashqai SUV.

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Launching initially on the dCi 130 XTronic, the ProPilot options will later be available across the Qashqai range. In addition, Nissan will also offer a tech-filled Pilot One Edition, with extra features and added kit.

Building on the well-equipped Tekna+ grade, the Pilot One Edition gets a full suite of autonomous tech. This includes Intelligent Cruise Control and Traffic Jam Pilot, as well as Lane Keep Assist and Intelligent Lane Change Intervention.

However, unlike rival systems – many of which have been available for several years – Nissan’s ProPilot tech is operated via a single button on the steering wheel. It activates each of the systems simultaneously, without the need for complicated sub-menus or convoluted installations.

Nissan says its Qashqai now has the “eyes, brain and muscles, which detect, analyse, activate and control car operation”. By using a series of cameras and radars in conjunction with the latest steering, brake and throttle systems, it can theoretically drive for hundreds of miles without human interruption.

The way ProPilot operates is, in essence, very similar to the standard Qashqai’s adaptive cruise control system. You select your desired speed, and the system will maintain a set distance from the car in front. Providing you are travelling at more than 60kmh (37mph), ProPilot will automatically keep you within your chosen lane – with small, subtle steering inputs.

On the surface, it doesn’t appear all that groundbreaking, but the biggest revelation is how smooth and well-integrated the technology is. While some set-ups grab the brakes when they detect a hazard, or panic when a car pulls in front, the Qashqai’s ProPilot system feels progressive and well resolved. By constantly scanning the road ahead, it slows the car gently with near-human levels of anticipation. It’s incredibly intuitive to use, in fact, meaning you end up switching it on every time you join a motorway.

It’s still a ‘hands on, eyes on’ system. As such, your hands must be on the wheel at all times – and if you remove them, the car will warn you first with chime before eventually braking to a controlled stop. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t a feature we tried on our test.

Nissan says this Pilot One Edition offers buyers £1,500 of added value versus the Tekna+ car on which it is based. As well as all the autonomous software, all cars get Storm White pearlescent paint, Plum Nappa leather trim, gloss silver door mirrors and bespoke door tread plates. Aluminium pedals and a chrome exterior pack are also included.

The ProPilot package is available on Tekna and Tekna+ cars for £795 – but only on those fitted with the XTronic automatic gearbox. Manual cars can be fitted with the Drive Assist Pack (£495), which does without the Traffic Jam Assist feature.

4
While far from groundbreaking, Nissan’s ProPilot semi-autonomous technology is smoother and better resolved than many systems on rival cars. It takes the stress out of long journeys, and if you spend a lot of time on the motorway the system could be worth its weight in gold. For now, however, those driving mainly on urban or rural roads are still better served by one of the well-equipped Tekna models.
  • Model: Nissan Qashqai Pilot One Edition 1.6 dCi 130 XTronic
  • Price: £33,425
  • Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl diesel
  • Power/torque: 128bhp/320Nm
  • Transmission: CVT auto, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 11.1 seconds
  • Top speed: 114mph
  • Economy/CO2: 60.1mpg, 122g/km
  • On sale: Now

Volvo V60 review
Posted on Wednesday May 23, 2018

For 
Most spacious boot in the class, good rear room, packed with tech, looks good
Our Rating 
4
Against 
Not as much fun to drive as 3 Series, best tech features are options, looks too similar to V90
Volvo V60 - front cornering
2018

The Volvo V60 is a spacious, stylish and well-made rival to the BMW 3 Series Touring, Audi A4 Avant and Mercedes C-Class Estate

The Volvo V60 cements Volvo’s place among premium car makers – it’s a high quality, tech-packed, spacious and stylish estate that offers a different take to the established BMW 3 Series Touring, Audi A4 Avant and Mercedes C-Class rivals.

Where the others focus on driver appeal, the V60 offers a more comfort-orientated approach. It rides well, even on the 19-inch wheels of our test car, and is super-quiet with laminated side glass on top-spec Inscription models. 

New Volvo V60 D4 Inscription review

Inside, there’s the typical Swedish laid-back approach with comfortable seats, lots of space in the back and the boot and an easy-to-use 9-inch touchscreen that dominates the dash. The design is brighter than in German rivals, and although quality is impressive, it’s not quite up to the latest imperious Audi standards.

23 May, 2018
4.7

Volvo has made a name for itself with some of the best-looking interiors in the business and the V60 is no different. In fact, it’s very much the same as the other SPA-platform cars (XC90 and XC60, plus S90 and V90) dominated by the excellent 9-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dash, with a few supporting buttons beneath. Only Tesla does it better.

Ahead of the driver sits a digital dashboard, with vertical air vents either side of the centre screen and a delightful ribbon of very Swedish veneer running the full width of the dash. Quality might not quite be up to the hewn-from-solid standards of the Audi A4, but we can’t believe anyone will be disappointed.

What you might be disappointed with is the number of headline grabbing tech items that are on the options list – Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for example.

The exterior takes the V90 theme and adds a little dynamism to it. So the front looks more athletic and the sides a little more swoopy and toned. The rear tailgate is more vertical than on the V90, too, helping towards those class best capacity figures.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

That nine-inch (well 9.3 to be precise) portrait touchscreen sets the class standard – not only for design, but ease of use too. Sat-nav comes as standard – just as well as you have to pay extra to be able to connect your Android or Apple smartphone to the car seemlessly.

The menu is intuitive and the screen responsive – and there are a few built-in apps for you to use, including music streaming service Spotify. To make the most of the music, we’d heartily recommend upgrading to the Bowers and Wilkins audio system – crafted by the British brand to produce one of the best in-car sound systems we’ve experienced.

4.1

Volvo has taken a different approach to rivals with the V60. Rather than go chasing the driving dynamics of the BMW 3 Series, the V60 takes a more relaxed approach. It’s quiet, comfortable and relaxed, riding over the Spanish roads of our test drive well, even on the optional 19-inch wheels of our top-spec test car.

The suspension isn’t as stiff as in some rivals’, which pays off in terms of ride comfort, but not so much when it comes to handling. It’ll stiffen slightly if you bother to delve into the various drive modes, but most people will (wisely) just leave it in the comfort setting.

The car corners safely and with confidence, but you don’t quite get the level of feel you get from the BMW or Audi through the steering wheel and suspension. For most people most of the time, though, they’ll enjoy the quiet calm of the Volvo, especially on the motorway where it’s an impressive cruiser.

It’s on the motorway where you’re most likely to use the Volvo’s excellent Pilot Assist autonomous features – the car will keep a set distance from the vehicle in front once you’ve set the speed you want to travel at (this is the same as other adaptive cruise control systems), but it will also keep you in lane and steer you around gentle corners. You have to keep your hands on the wheel at all times though, ready to take over if needs be – otherwise you’ll get beeped at by the safety systems. However, it really adds a degree of relaxation to longer journeys and the system works well.

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Visibility is good, making the V60 easy to pilot around town, while the auto gearbox of our test car did a good job of blurring shifts. If you do want to shift yourself, a manual box is available, while R-Design models will get paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. 

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed 

Performance from the 188bhp D4 diesel is strong if not stunning – it’ll get from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds with decent mid-range performance, too. It’s a relatively quiet unit other than at idle, surpressing diesel clatter well and adding to the general peace and quiet in the cabin.

4.8

It’s a Volvo so it’s going to be safe, right? Absolutely. Nobody takes safety more seriously and the V60 has the very latest safety kit on board to try and avoid a crash, then protect you if the worst happens.

The car will help you avoid head-on crashes if you stray out of your lane, it will detect pedestrians and animals in your path and prevent you from pulling out in front of oncoming traffic if you need to turn right across lanes. Then there’s the usual round of driver aids and speed limit warnings, airbags and ISOFIX mounts.

When it comes to keeping customers happy, Volvo finished a respectable 13th in our 2018 Driver Power survey, coming some way above Audi, Mercedes and BMW.

Warranty

All Volvos come with a three-year/60,000 mile warranty, which is about average for this class.

4.5

The V60 sets a practicality benchmark in the compact executive class. It’s a bigger car than key rivals and it makes the most of those sizable dimensions inside. Boot and passenger space are better than you’ll find elsewhere. 

Size

At 4,761mm long and 1,916mm wide, the V60 is longer and a touch wider than its rivals – and much larger than the model it replaces. It’s 180mm shorter than the V90, too. You also sit a bit lower in the V60 than the V90 – in keeping with Volvo saying this is its most dynamic car yet (although some way short of a BMW 3 Series on that score). 

Leg room, head room & passenger space

Space in the cabin is good, with a six-foot passenger able to sit comfortably behind a six foot driver with an inch or so to spare. Foot space is a little tight if the front seat is in its lowest position, while the centre tunnel further restricts things, especially if someone is sat in the middle seat. Here, shoulder room is okay, but you’ll struggle to adopt a knees together pose due to that tunnel running down the middle of the car.

As with all Volvos, there’s plenty of storage space in between the front seats, in the glovebox and door bins.

Boot

The more upright boot door in the V60 pays dividends when it comes to luggage space – at 529-litres (rising to 1,441 litres with the rear seats folded flat – a process that couldn’t be easier) it’s the biggest in the class and that’s achieved while retaining a pretty sleek looking exterior.

The rear seats fold electrically in some models and fold completely flat with headrests automatically tucking out of the way. And in true Volvo fashion, plenty of details have been thought through – like the fold up shopping area with elasticated strap to stop your groceries flying around the boot. That’s especially handy as it’s a long way to lean in to get any eggs that have rolled to the farthest reaches of the load bay.

4.1

The D4 diesel V60s claim an economy figure of 67.2mpg – a figure that’s pretty much on par with similarly-powered engines in rivals. CO2 emissions of 122g/km are reasonable, too, although we’d expect better figures from the lower-powered D3 diesel models, not to mention the plug-in hybrids. What used to be called Drive-e technologies in Volvo such as stop-start technology are all now incorporated in all Volvo’s four-cylinder engines as standard.

Ferrari SP38 one-off special revealed
Posted on Wednesday May 23, 2018

Jake Weaver 2018-05-23 15:20

Based on the 488 GTB, the SP38 has been unveiled at Fiorano for one of Ferrari’s most valued customers

Ferrari SP38 - front

Based on the Ferrari 488 GTB, the SP38 is the newest creation from Ferrari’s One-Off programme. Built for one of Ferrari’s most dedicated customers, the SP38 has been redesigned both inside and out to create a unique car.

The SP38 carries the same 3.9-litre turbocharged engine as the 488 GTB, and performance figures have remain unchanged by the new body, meaning 661bhp and a top speed of 205mph. The running gear and chassis have also been kept the same as the 488.

Best performance cars 2018

The exterior design however has been drastically changed from the 488 GTB, with Ferrari claiming inspiration from the legendary F40 – in particular at the rear end. The glass engine cover morphs into a slatted cover across the engine bay for additional cooling. The back end also boasts a small spoiler, which is another nod to the F40.

A new, sharper front end gives way to muscular wheel arches, creating a more aggressive stance. The headlights are designed to be as thin as possible and are joined by daytime running lights on the slim bumper lip.

The front bumper is designed to be reminiscent of the Ferrari 308 GTB, and the SP38 is finished in a new, three-layer metallic red paintjob.

Ferrari claims that a new tailor-made cabin is found inside, but hasn’t issued any pictures of the SP38’s cockpit.

The Ferrari One-Off programme’s SP38 follows an exclusive line of rare models, thanks in large part to the Special Projects division, which was launched back in 2007. Previous creations include the Ferrari SP12 EC, built for Eric Clapton, and the Ferrari 458 MM Speciale. Prices for the Special Projects are kept private between Ferrari and each customer, although speculation sees cars valued between £2 and £8 million.

The SP38 will be on public display at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este on Saturday 26th May 2018.

Check out the best performance cars currently on the market

‘Choice of apps could soon decide which car we buy’
Posted on Wednesday May 23, 2018

John McIlroy 2018-05-23 12:50

With autonomous vehicles on the horizon, in-car apps could soon be a key factor when buying models, writes John McIlroy

There’s a massive battle going on in the front of your car, and you may not even be aware of it. It’s the tussle for your data – and the right to turn it into money.

Conservative estimates suggest in-car data globally could be worth $750m (£555m) annually by as soon as 2020 – and that’s only the start.

Best driving apps for iPhone and Android

The theory goes that once autonomous tech really kicks in, we’ll all have much more time to ‘do things’ while we’re in the car. Those activities have potential profits – and that’s why established firms like Jaguar Land Rover and the VW Group are investing in start-ups who can come up with the sort of apps and services to prevent us all from just handing over our car’s infotainment screen to Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

Volvo is taking a completely different view, though. As its boss Hakan Samuelsson outlined in London last week, the firm is basing its next generation infotainment system on Android and integrating Google Assistant – so you’ll be able to interact with it and buy third-party apps for your car, much as you currently do for your smartphone.

Why give up the fight with the tech giants? Because, says Samuelsson, Volvo “isn’t clever enough” to compete. “You’ll have access to thousands of apps this way,” he says, “and they’ll all be better than the ones we would have written.”

It’s admirable, typical candour from the Swede. But it illustrates how this area of the cars we buy is going to become ever more diverse over the next five years. Indeed, it’s not a massive leap to consider a time, in the near future, where our choice of car could be as much down to which ‘app provider’ it gets us access to as it is our views on the engine, chassis or cabin.

Could in-car apps have a big effect on the best-sellers in the UK? Here is the top ten as it stands

Peugeot 108 updated with new colours and trim levels
Posted on Wednesday May 23, 2018

Jake Weaver 2018-05-23 11:50

Updated Peugeot 108 features two new colours and five trim levels, prices start at £9,225

Peugeot has mildly updated its 108 city car for 2018, following revisions for its two sister cars – the Toyota Aygo and Citroen C1. It’s on sale now from £9,225.

A new Euro 6.2 engine has been introduced to the line-up and is available in either 1.0-litre 72 or 1.0-litre 72 2-tronic guise. The Euro 6.2 engine is claimed to be more economical than the outgoing engines, with minor reductions in CO2 emissions too.

Best city cars to buy 2018

The Allure and Collection trim levels have two new metallic paint options, Green Fizz and Calvi Blue, while the Allure trim model also features a Raven Black roof and gloss black door mirrors. The 5 door Top! Cabrio trim model includes a Green Fizz electric retractable fabric roof.

Tech has been updated too, with an improved seven-inch colour touchscreen with Mirror Screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity topping the bill. The Mirror Screen function allows the driver to display compatible apps from their mobile device onto the car’s touchscreen and manage them using the vehicle’s controls. The seven-inch touchscreen is available as standard on Active trim level and above, and comes equipped with DAB digital radio, a USB/3.5mm jack for external audio devices, and a glossy black surround.

Peugeot says improvements have been made to the 108’s safety equipment, including the Active City Brake and Lane Departure Warning System options, which now feature traffic sign recognition functionality too. These safety features are available on the Allure and Collection trim levels as a £480 option.

Read our in-depth review of the Peugeot 108

BMW hackers rewarded for flagging security flaws
Posted on Wednesday May 23, 2018

Hugo Griffiths 2018-05-23 11:40

Security company uncovers vulnerabilities in several BMW models, enabling the marque to issue software patches

A team of ‘white hat’ hackers has uncovered 14 software and hardware vulnerabilities in a range of BMWs after carrying out what BMW says is the “most comprehensive and complex testing ever conducted” by a third-party company.

The hackers found a range of vulnerabilities in the BMW i3 and X1, as well as the previous-generation 5 Series and 7 Series. Eight of the flaws related to the cars’ infotainment systems, four were linked to their telematics units, and two concerned the vehicles’ on-board diagnostics’ gateway.

Car security: staying one step ahead of criminals

The Chinese cyber-security firm that uncovered the flaws, Tencent Keen Security Lab, said “these attack chains could be utilized by skilled attackers at a very low cost”, adding they would allow hackers to “trigger or control car functions over a wide-range distance”.

While nine of the attacks required a physical connection to be made between the cars and hacking equipment, five could be enacted remotely by exploiting weak points in Bluetooth and GSM connections, as well as BMW’s ConnectedDrive infotainment services.

After a year’s worth of research uncovering the flaws, Tencent Keen Security Lab alerted BMW to the vulnerabilities. The carmaker confirmed Tencent’s findings within two weeks, and subsequently announced it had addressed the vulnerabilities with “upgrades [that] were rolled out in the BMW Group backend and uploaded to the telematics control units via over the air connection.”

BMW was so impressed with the Tencent’s discoveries - calling its endeavours “outstanding research work” - that it awarded the company the first-ever BMW Group Digitalization and IT Research Award. The two firms are now “discussing options for joint in-depth research and development activities.”

How to avoid keyless car theft

BMW’s decision to reward and plan future projects with Tencent Keen echoes similar programmes employed by Silicon Valley tech companies. Facebook has paid out $6.3 million (approx £4.7 million) to white hat hackers for pointing out vulnerabilities since 2011, while Google has awarded $12 million (approx £9 million) since 2010.

With internet-connected cars becoming increasingly standard within the marketplace, and huge investment in autonomous cars from industry, manufacturers may turn to white hat hackers to unearth security flaws more frequently in the future. This practice could act as a safety net for vulnerable software, enabling weaknesses to be patched before being exploited.

Protect yourself against keyless car theft with these Faraday car key signal blockers

Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer GSi vs VW Passat Estate
Posted on Wednesday May 23, 2018

2018-05-23 10:15

The warm Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer GSi meets the VW Passat estate in a practical performance duel

Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer GSi vs Volkswagen Passat Estate - header

Vauxhall has delivered a blast from the past, dusting off its GSi badge 25 years after it first appeared on a Corsa and applying it to its Insignia Grand Sport family hatch and Insignia Sports Tourer estate. It’s the latter model we’re testing here in 2.0-litre turbodiesel form, although a 2.0-litre turbo petrol will be available later this year.

In standard guise the Insignia has won praise for its affordability, space and practicality, but in the transformation to this hotter GSi version, the price has been hiked significantly to the point where it’s more expensive than its rival in this test. So does the Vauxhall make sense with more power, or is the cheaper Volkswagen Passat a better bet? 

Head-to-head

Model: Vauxhall Insignia GSi Nav BiTurbo D 4x4 Sports Tourer Volkswagen Passat Estate 2.0 TDI 190 DSG R-Line
Price:  £34,915 £34,460
Engine:  2.0-litre 4cyl turbodiesel 2.0-litre 4cyl turbodiesel
Power/torque:  207bhp/480Nm 187bhp/400Nm
Transmission:  Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive  Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive 
0-62mph 7.4 seconds 7.9 seconds
Top speed: 144mph 145mph
Test economy:  36.4mpg 44.3mpg
CO2/tax:  187g/km/£140 122g/km/£140
Options:  Tri-coat premium paint (£725), panoramic roof (£960), Winter Pack Three (£150) 360-degree camera (£790), Dynamic Chassis Control (£735), Driver’s Assistance Pack (£1,135), electric seats (£965), Dynaudio stereo (£1,280), power tailgate (£380), trailer assist (£490)

Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer GSi

 

For: Strong engine, lots of connectivity and safety kit, four-wheel-drive traction.
Against: Firm ride, pricey, not as much luggage space as in the Passat 

This new GSi isn’t exactly a like-for-like replacement for the old Insignia VXR, but it’s currently the most potent version of Vauxhall’s versatile family vehicle, and the brand has gone to great lengths in reworking the model to deliver more engaging handling.

That means the car gets a ‘Sports chassis’ set-up with a 10mm lower ride height, as well as FlexRide adaptive dampers with a Competition mode as standard. However, even in the more comfortable Tour setting, riding on large 20-inch alloys, the GSi is firm. It crashes into bumps and is more unsettled on poorly surfaced roads, plus you feel that sitting in the sports bucket seats as you’re moved up and down more abruptly than in the Passat. Competition mode means these traits are even more obvious, so Tour is a better balance most of the time.

While the Vauxhall’s extra focus erodes some long-distance cruising comfort, it at least means the Insignia handles fairly well. The GSi-specific steering tune has a nice weight, but isn’t quite as direct as the VW’s. There’s a good level of grip to call on, and the firmer set-up means there’s stability to match in corners. But this is shattered by a mid-corner bump, because the Insignia occasionally feels brittle when contending with imperfections in the road.

Best estate cars on sale

The engine is punchy enough, and 0-62mph takes 7.4 seconds. Yet the car is 226kg heavier than the Passat, at 1,807kg, so although the 480Nm of torque produced from low down at just 1,500rpm is strong and gives plenty of flexibility, it’s not quite as quick as you’d expect.

This is hampered further by the more sluggish eight-speed automatic gearbox when compared with the VW’s sharper DSG unit. While it shifts smoothly enough most of the time, taking manual control using the steering wheel paddles doesn’t result in the same crisp shifts or sense of satisfaction as in the VW.

The gearbox sends power to all four wheels, unlike in the Passat (if you want four-wheel drive on the VW you have to step up to the 2.0 BiTDI 240 engine), so traction off the line and in slippery conditions is good. It means you can also lean on the car harder and make swifter, safer progress in the wet.

With so much kit as standard, the GSi makes everyday driving easy. Nav, Bluetooth, DAB and Vauxhall’s OnStar system are standard, as are leather bucket seats, climate and cruise control, lots of safety equipment and a Bose stereo.

Testers’ notes

  • • Infotainment: Eight-inch touchscreen offers nav and Vauxhall’s OnStar concierge system, plus a handy WiFi hotspot. But graphics aren’t as sharp as VW’s.
  • • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic box is sluggish and hampers your driving enjoyment in the GSi.
  • • Interior: Quality of cabin materials can’t match those in the Passat. The Vauxhall gets lots of kit, though. 

Volkswagen Passat Estate 

For: Material and build quality, technology, adequate performance mixed with good comfort, huge practicality.
Against: Engine can be noisy when revved, DSG jerky at low speeds, lower-powered diesel makes more sense.

Despite the furore surrounding its turbodiesel engines, Volkswagen’s TDIs are a known quantity. The 187bhp 2.0-litre version in this Passat Estate is no different, but, as with most diesels, its performance here comes more from the 400Nm of torque.

Even though the Volkswagen delivers 20bhp less power, a 0-62mph sprint time of 7.9 seconds isn’t far behind the Insignia GSi’s, helped by a lower kerbweight, and the Passat’s punch in the mid-range is strong, too. Combined with the dual-clutch gearbox, it means the VW has real under-the-radar overtaking potential.

Smooth and snappy gearshifts help here. Although the transmission is a little jerky when manoeuvring at low speed, like some other VW DSGs are, when you’re on more open roads the gearbox switches ratios with barely any fuss and very impressive haste for a diesel family estate.

This refinement is reflected at speed, because the Passat rides well and is a quiet cruiser. However, when you rev the engine hard it does emit a coarse sound, so although there’s plenty of performance on offer, tapping into it means you’ll hear the diesel drone.

Best family cars available

Our pictures show a GT model rather than the R-Line we’re testing. It was fitted with Volkswagen’s £735 Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive dampers, which broaden the car’s ability even further. This option gives a selection of variable suspension modes, allowing you to choose from Comfort, Normal or Sport settings.

In Comfort mode the lengthy wheelbase means it rides rolling surfaces sweetly, with a nice relaxed gait. You obviously feel larger bumps and ridges a little more, but the damping is still plush enough that it doesn’t disrupt comfort as much as in the firmer Insignia.

Sport mode tautens up the body control, but unless you’re attacking country roads there’s not really much point in selecting it, because the Passat feels a more complete car in Comfort.

That’s helped by a long list of equipment in R-Line trim. You get LED lights, a sportier bodykit to match the GSi’s enhanced looks, 18-inch alloys, bespoke R-Line trim inside, adaptive cruise and climate control.

Lots of safety tech is fitted, while the eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system comes with plenty of smartphone connectivity, sat-nav and Volkswagen’s advanced Active Info Display digital dials.

Testers’ notes:

  • • Instruments: VW’s 12.3-inch Active Info Display offers digital dials that can show nav functions, freeing up the infotainment touchscreen for other duties.
  • • Transmission: Dual-clutch seven-speed automatic box is the Passat’s secret weapon and helps boost the car’s performance.
  • • Cabin: Build quality is up to the usual VW standards, and the car provides a broad range of tech and safety kit. 

Verdict 

First place: Volkswagen Passat Estate

The Passat might not be as fast as the Insignia GSi, but its performance isn’t far away. That it’s cheaper to buy and run, more comfortable and even more practical outweighs a slight shortfall in speed as these cars need to cover many bases. The VW does so more effectively. 

Second place: Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer GSi

The GSi has strong pace and handles well, but it doesn’t balance this with comfort quite as effectively as the VW. It’ll also be pricier to buy and run, and it won’t be as practical. The Insignia makes most sense as lower-powered, less focused and cheaper family transport.

Subaru XV: The safest choice for families (sponsored)
Posted on Tuesday May 22, 2018

2018-05-25 09:00

See why the super-safe Subaru XV is the ideal car for families

Subaru XV - header

The SUV crossover is the ideal vehicle for life in town, mixing an elevated driving position and great styling with hatchback practicality. But you shouldn’t have to scrimp on safety, capability or reliability to get the body style you want – and with the Subaru XV, you don’t have to.

Lucy and Chris had safety at the top of their list when they chose the XV as their family car. With daughter Millie on board, they felt happier in a vehicle that was awarded Safest Small Family Car by the crash-test experts at Euro NCAP in 2017. They knew the car’s trademark Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive would keep them out of trouble on their frequent camping trips to the country, because sending power to all four wheels, all of the time, means no loss of traction when conditions get slippery. And they’re still confident that it has enough practicality to cope with Millie’s brother or sister, who’s due to arrive soon.

What has surprised them, though, is the way the Subaru has made their lives easier around town. It’s proof that the best safety systems, like the XV’s camera-based EyeSight tech, which actively tracks other vehicles and pedestrians, bring reassurance in everyday use as well as protecting against accidents. “The EyeSight system is always looking out for you,” says Chris. “It’s especially reassuring to know that it’s watching when the noise from Millie in the back seat becomes distracting.”

“The cameras are always looking at what is in front,” says Lucy, “and EyeSight will give you warnings or even apply the brakes to slow you down (or stop you completely) if there’s a risk of hitting something. It’s like a second set of eyes that are constantly looking at the road. In fact, the whole car is loaded with things that just make driving easier, all designed to keep you safe.”

Lucy also says the Subaru’s blind spot sensors have benefits beyond dual carriageways and motorways, where they flash up a warning if there’s an approaching car out of your own line of sight. “They keep a check not just when you’re changing lane but also for crossing traffic behind you when you’re reversing out of a parking space,” she says. “It’s definitely saved us a scrape in the supermarket car park.”

The XV’s in-car tech also helps with another potentially stressful task: keeping Millie amused during trips across town. “Our daughter loves listening to Roald Dahl audiobooks, which we can download and use thanks to the Apple CarPlay functionality,” says Lucy. “They’re brilliant for a quiet trip to the grandparents. And when I’m on my own in the car, I like listening to podcasts.”

In fact, the XV has reached the point where it’s pretty much secured a spot as the fourth member of Lucy and Chris’s expanding line-up. “Keeping us all safe on the road has to be our top priority and the XV does that,” says Chris. “There’s plenty of space for the buggy and bags too, and we need a car that won’t let us down, so Subaru’s reputation for reliability sealed the deal for us. It’s part of the family.”

To find out more about the Subaru XV, visit the Subaru website...

UK facing shortfall of electric car charging points
Posted on Tuesday May 22, 2018

Jake Weaver 2018-05-22 15:50

83,500 new electric charging points are needed as study predicts one million EVs will hit UK roads by 2020

Electric car charging in the UK - Chargemaster Ultracharge rapid charger

The UK needs a six-fold rise in electric vehicle charging points by 2020 if it wants to keep up with electric car demand, a new study has found.

The report, carried out by data company Emu Analytics, found that there is a significant shortfall in the amount of electric charging points across Britain.

Best electric cars 2018

Currently there are only 16,500 charging points in the UK, while a further 83,500 charging points will need to be built by 2020 to keep up with demand as plug in EVs become increasingly popular.

The report predicts that there will be over a million electric vehicles on the road by 2020, with 150,000 registered as of May 2018. However, due to the low amount of charging points, there are currently nine plug in EV’s for each charging point in the UK.

According to Emu Analytics, a pure electric vehicle’s battery range typically lies between 100 to 200 miles (even though real world figures are likely to be lower), meaning drivers will need plenty of chargers before battery range increases.

The report also highlighted the best and worst areas for charging, with Newcastle having one of the best EV charger ratios with 1.45 cars per charger. Meanwhile, Peterborough has the worst charger ratio with 485 cars per charger.

Oxford has announced that it will be banning all petrol and diesel cars from some city centre streets in 2020, and by 2035, a zero emissions zone will ban all petrol and diesel vehicles from the city centre, including buses and HGVs.

Although supermarkets are the preferred location for charging points, only 3 per cent of supermarkets currently operate a charging point, with ASDA offering the best coverage at 19 per cent of their stores. Tesco on the other hand only has just 0.4 per cent of stores fitted with EV chargers.

Service stations to gain EV charging points under Government plans

The Government has put £440 million aside to be spent on delivering a better charging infrastructure. It has also tasked 21 local authorities with investigating Clean Air Zones and develop Clean Air Plans by December 2018.

The rise of electric cars can be partly attributed to the Plug-In Car Grant that the Government set up back in 2011. There has been a 600 per cent increase in UK electric car sales between 2014 and 2017, with a 20 per cent rise between 2016 and 2017 alone.

CEO of Emu Analytics Richard Vilton said: “Ultimately the UK, by investing in the right way early, has the opportunity to be a global leader in Electric Vehicles, benefiting businesses, towns, cities and communities by preparing for a sustainable future.”

Read our guide to electric car charging in the UK

DS 7 Crossback Ultra Prestige petrol review
Posted on Tuesday May 22, 2018

DS 7 Crossback - front
22 May, 2018 12:45pm James Brodie

Petrol power makes the DS 7 a smooth cruiser on the motorway, but it still lacks the talent offered by the class leaders

The DS 7 Crossback has received a mixed reception since arriving as the upmarket brand’s hopeful breadwinner last year. As the firm’s first standalone model, it appears with quite an extensive brief. Not only tasked with leading DS away from Citroen, but spearheading what will be a charge of six all-new models. It has to beat plenty of established competition too, in what has become a seriously crowded patch.

With such an imposing to-do list, it isn’t too surprising to see that the DS 7 hasn’t quite ticked all the boxes. So far, we’ve found it to be distinct enough to turn heads, but not polished enough to really compete at the sharpest end of the posh SUV market.

DS 7 Crossback 2018 review

With sales well and truly underway, the amount of choice in DS showrooms has expanded, with petrol versions now slotting in alongside the existing diesel options. Driven here is the range-topping PureTech 225 – the most powerful DS 7 you can buy before the arrival of a 300bhp plug-in hybrid next year.

From a performance standpoint, the 222bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine is more than enough for the DS 7 Crossback. The 0-62mph dash is completed in a claimed 8.3 seconds and it feels just as quick as that figure suggests. Power is sent to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and is silky smooth in its delivery.

Refinement was one of the diesel DS 7’s undoings when we pitted it against the Volvo XC40 earlier this year, but things are much improved in this THP car. Ultimately, opting for petrol power over the diesel means running costs increase with fuel economy dipping to 48.7mpg, though that’s still a fair figure for a car of this size, thanks in part to the fact there is no 4x4 option.

There will be a second petrol option arriving later this year in the form of the (178bhp) PureTech 180, but it doesn’t serve up any fuel economy advantages. It’s only £1,500 cheaper on list price, too, meaning the differences on a monthly PCP finance deal are likely to prove minimal. Instead, buyers after more frugality would probably be better off waiting for the three-cylinder DS 7 Crossback models, which are coming towards the end of 2018.

Elsewhere, the package crafted by DS remains unchanged. In a bid to seek out comfort and refinement, the DS 7 misses the mark from a dynamic point of view; many rivals are much sharper to drive. Toggling Sport mode on the drive selector firms things up and adds a bit of weight to the steering, but it can’t hide its artificial feel, and it’s difficult to break into a confident flow on a series of sweeping bends.

Instead, we preferred the DS 7’s Comfort setting. It utilises the Active Scan suspension system and at around 40mph the camera-based set-up picks up imperfections in the road nicely, resulting in a supple ride. It’s inconsistent at other speeds though; on motorways the DS 7 can feel a little wallowy, while it’s just too prone to picking up bumps, shudders and shimmies around town.

It’s frustrating, as the inconsistent ride spoils what is a nice place to sit. The DS 7’s cabin feels like a classy affront to the harder German norm, and it’s very spacious for rear seat passengers. The 555-litre boot is generous too, and even pips the larger Audi Q5.

3
There’s no doubt DS has built an interesting car for its first model as a standalone brand, but the Crossback falls short of the class best in what is a red hot segment right now. Throw petrol power into the mix and it makes for a particularly smooth motorway cruiser, but the DS 7 still lacks the breadth of talent so many of its rivals possess.
  • Model: DS 7 Crossback Ultra Prestige PureTech 225
  • Price: £43,190
  • Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
  • Power/torque: 222bhp/300Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive
  • 0-62mph: 8.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 145mph
  • Economy: 48.7mpg
  • CO2: 137g/km
  • On sale: Now

New Lexus NX 300h Sport trim revealed
Posted on Tuesday May 22, 2018

Jake Weaver 2018-05-22 11:10

Racier new Lexus NX 300h Sport unveiled, priced from £36,500 and due on sale next month

Lexus NX 300h Sport - front

Lexus has introduced a new Sport spec for its NX 300h SUV, featuring mild styling tweaks and an exclusive interior. Prices will start from £36,500 when it goes on sale in June.

The new Sport version is the first new variant of the hybrid crossover since its introduction in 2015, and follows the same pattern as seen with the RX 450h Sport SUV and IS 300h Sport saloon.

Best SUVs on sale 2018

While there are no performance or mechanical alterations, the Sport does get new black exterior detailing for the Lexus family grille and door mirrors. Two-tone black and bronze 18-inch alloy wheels also help make the NX Sport stand out from the standard SUV.

The cabin has been given a selection of sporting touches to match the exterior – with the option of an all-black Tahara interior finish. Alternatively, customers can opt for the Tahara black with white contrasting accents on the seats and instrument panel, unique for the Sport version.

The Sport gets the same equipment specifications as the NX 300h SE, which means a 10.3-inch Lexus Premium Navigation display screen and Lexus Safety System+, as well as a 10-speaker audio system with DAB radio and a CD player. Other standard equipment includes rain-sensing windscreen wipers, eight-way power adjustable heated front seats, a reversing camera and dual-zone climate control. A Parking Pack with front and rear parking sensors can be chosen by customers as an optional extra.

The NX Sport will arrive in showrooms on 1 June, with customer deliveries expected from July.

Read our review of the facelifted Lexus NX

All-electric DS 3 Crossback set for the Paris Motor Show
Posted on Tuesday May 22, 2018

James Brodie 2018-05-22 09:05

DS will be raising its EV game in Paris with an all-electric DS 3 Crossback SUV

DS badge

DS will reveal an all-electric supermini-sized car at the Paris Motor Show in September. Possiby called the DS 3 Crossback, it will be the first car within the PSA group to use the new e-CMP platform technology.

The new car will play a starring role in DS' electrification strategy, which will see the young French premium brand exclusively sell plug-in hybrid and full electric cars from 2025 onwards.

Every DS car to be electrified by 2025

The decision to debut the all-electric e-CMP architecture on a DS rather than a Peugeot or Citroen stems from the DS brand's position in the group as the go-to marque for technology, according to DS vice president of product Eric Apode.

Precise technical details remain under wraps for now, but Apode promises that the new EV will be more than a boutique item and will be competitive alongside other contemporary EVs. If, as rumoured, the car does take DS3 Crossback form it’ll be a direct rival for the impressive Hyundai Kona EV.

Two years ago, PSA revealed that the all-electric version of the CMP platform would support smaller electric cars with maximum range targeted at 280 miles, thanks to battery packs of up to 50kWh in capacity being supported by the platform.

After the all-electric DS 3 arrives in 2019, fully electric versions of both the next Peugeot 208 and Vauxhall Corsa will follow, also using e-CMP.

What will the all-electric DS 3 Crossback have to beat? These are the best EVs currently on sale...

Peugeot 308 GTi production halted due to tightening emissions
Posted on Monday May 21, 2018

Alex Ingram 2018-05-21 15:45

Peugeot will pause 308 GTi production to reduce the model's emissions; sales will restart later in the year

Peugeot 308 GTi - front

Production of the Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport is to go on a four-month hiatus due to tightening emissions regulations. The latest Euro 6.2 rules have forced the French brand to reengineer its hot hatchback, with sales due to resume in October.

The latest regulations - which take the WLTP real world economy and emissions standards into account - mean that the Peugeot’s 1.6-litre turbocharged engine will need tweaking to stand up to the stricter guidelines. The same is expected with many high performance direct injection petrol units.

Best hot hatches on sale 2018

The addition of a petrol particulate filter should reduce the 308’s emission of fine soot particles - known to be a contributor to severe respiratory issues - by a significant amount. It’s a move that Volkswagen applied to all of its turbo petrol models last year in response to the ‘dieselgate’ emissions scandal.

Peugeot is confident that the 308 GTi’s 266bhp output won’t be affected by the emissions changes. The unit was co-developed with BMW for the previous generation MINI, and Peugeot Sport has since tweaked the unit to extract ever increasing power outputs.

Meanwhile, the next generation of the 208 supermini is expected to make its first public appearance at the Paris Motor Show in October. In the meantime, production of the three door versions of the current car has ceased, and the 208 GTi has finished with it. That means, for the time being, Peugeot offers no hot hatch variants in its lineup, but Peugeot officials have previously hinted that the GTi brand remains a vital part of its range.

Read our in-depth review of the Peugeot 308 GTi

Aston Martin growth spurt continues with £43m profit in Q1
Posted on Monday May 21, 2018

Jake Weaver 2018-05-21 15:00

Aston Martin has been named as the ‘world’s fastest growing auto brand’ having returned big profits in Q1 of 2018

Aston Martin DB11 - badge

Aston Martin has announced pre-tax profits of £43.7 million in the first quarter of 2018, leading to the British marque being named “the world’s fastest growing auto brand” by consultancy firm, Brand Finance.

The profit rise has been largely credited to the recently launched DB11 V8 Coupe and Volante models along with early interest in the new Vantage, even though it is still in its pre-production phase.

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante spied

Aston Martin also credits the rise in profits to the deliveries of limited edition models such as the Vanquish Zagato Volante, Vanquish Zagato Speedster and DB4 GT Continuation.

While profits may be up, the actual volume of vehicles produced has dropped slightly with only 963 units built, compared with 1,203 units in the first quarter of 2017. This is partly due to the average selling price of each vehicle rising by 11% to £160,000.

Volume is also down as Aston Martin prepares for production changeovers with the new DB11 Volante, the Vantage and the successor to Vanquish, the upcoming DBS Superleggera, all due to enter series production. Order books have been exceeding production capacity, too. Overseas production volumes have increased, however, as Aston prioritise the growing markets in the US, China and the Asia Pacific regions.

Investment has continued to increase, with £68million being invested in research and development at its new manufacturing facility in St Athan, Wales.

Dr Andy Palmer, Aston Martin President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “Aston Martin delivered another quarter of positive pre-tax profit, achieved in a period of significant planned investment in new products and manufacturing facilities. This is a good set of results during a quarter of planned model changeovers, during which orders have continued to grow for our exciting new models.”

With the unveil of the new Lagonda Vision Concept at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show and the finalised production of the Vantage, Aston Martin are predicting even larger profits in the second quarter of 2018.

Aston Martin is saying goodbye to the V12 Vantage with a run-out V600 variant

 


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