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In the News ...

No-deal Brexit will require drivers to carry insurance ‘Green Cards’ in Europe
Posted on Monday September 24, 2018

Hugo Griffiths 2018-09-24 18:00

Government’s contingency planning flags insurance issue; motoring body warns of “restrictions that go straight back to the 1960s”

Car insurance policy laptop

The Department for Transport has warned that motorists will have to carry an insurance ‘Green Card’ to drive in Europe if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Current arrangements mean UK drivers are able to drive in EU countries with no additional documentation – only a driving licence and passport are required. That’s thanks to the ‘Green Card-free circulation area’, which saw the abolishment of Green Card checks at EU countries’ borders.

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But those arrangements will cease if a hard Brexit occurs, and British drivers heading to the continent will require a Green Card from their insurance company to prove they have third party insurance – the legal minimum level of cover. This echoes warnings that UK driving licences could also become invalid in the EU if a no-deal Brexit occurs.

While obtaining a Green Card should involve nothing more than a phone call to your insurance company, the Department for Transport (DfT) has warned “providers can decide to reflect production and handling costs in a small increase to their administration fees.”

Andorra, Serbia and Switzerland have signed up to the Green Card-free circulation area, along with all EU countries. The DfT cautions that drivers “should expect documentation checks to be carried out when entering these countries”, with fines or other “punitive measures” possible for those neglecting to carry a Green Card.

The DfT says similar arrangements would apply for EU drivers, who would have to obtain a Green Card to drive in the UK.

Motoring organisations were quick to criticise the potential Green Card arrangements, with the AA saying if a hard Brexit occurs, “Britain faces travel restrictions that go straight back to the 1960s”.

Best car insurance companies 2018

Janet Connor, the AA’s director of insurance, warned: “Drivers would need to remember to obtain their green card from their insurer prior to their departure, otherwise they run the risk of picking up a fine.”

Connor also cautioned the reciprocal arrangements, which would see EU drivers require a Green Card in the UK, could be difficult to enforce: “The Government has made it clear that they will not check items at the border, so it needs to declare who will check them and where.”

Connor considered a no-deal Brexit will “mean more hassle than the current arrangements”, adding the AA hopes “a deal can be struck to avoid this potential red tape.”

Check out our guide to getting cheaper car insurance here...

New DS 7 Crossback E-Tense 4x4 revealed
Posted on Monday September 24, 2018

Alex Ingram 2018-09-24 16:11

Plug-in hybrid version of French brand's premium SUV promises 6.5-second 0-62mph time and 128mpg

DS 7 Crossback E-Tense header

This is the DS 7 Crossback E-Tense 4x4: a plug-in hybrid premium SUV that’ll cover 31 miles on pure electric power, and returns 128mpg in official tests.

Those numbers are achieved by a mix of petrol and battery power; the former comes in the shape of a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder producing 197bhp. While the latter comes as two electric motors – one driving the front wheels, the other the rears – each produce 108bhp, resulting in a total output of 296bhp and 450nm of torque.

DS 7 Crossback review

Transmitted to the road via an eight-speed automatic gearbox and all four wheels, it’s power is enough for the E-Tense to cover the 0-62mph sprint in 6.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 136mph. Leave the car in Zero Emission mode – one of four available – and its top speed is reduced to 83mph.

The motors draw their energy from a 13.2kWh lithium-ion battery, which can be recharged in two hours through a 32A, 6.6 kW charger or eight hours using a regular three-pin plug. Alternatively, the batteries can gain a minor top-up on the move, through regenerative coasting and braking systems or the the petrol engine itself.

In addition to the Zero Emission mode, the driver can select from a Sport mode, which maximises power output, a Hybrid mode, which mixes both petrol and electric systems, a four-wheel drive mode for off-road excursions, and E-Save mode, which retains up to 12 miles or so of charge for the end of a journey – ideal if your destination is in a busy city.

These functions can be controlled in real time through the car’s touchscreen infotainment system. The new menus are one of only two changes to the car’s interior relative to the non-hybrid DS 7; the other being a subtle ‘E’ embossed onto the gear selector. Boot space remains the same 555 litres as the standard car, as the batteries don’t intrude into the cargo area. From the outside, there’s a set of 19-inch alloy wheels and a new ‘Crystal Grey’ paint finish.

The DS 7 Crossback E-Tense is the first DS to feature electrification, in a move that will soon see every car in the French brand’s range following suit. Prices have yet to be confirmed, but the new model is due to reach showrooms in 2019.

For more electrified French car news, see the recently revealed hybrid Peugeot 508 and 3008 SUV... 

New Kia Ceed Sportswagon 2018 review
Posted on Monday September 24, 2018

Kia Ceed SW - front
24 Sep, 2018 2:45pm Shane O’Donoghue

We've been impressed by the new Kia Ceed hatch, but is the Sportswagon estate just as good? We find out...

As we’ve already discovered from our first drives in the all-new Kia Ceed hatchback, the third-generation Korean car has taken a useful step forward in its bid to take on the class leaders such as the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Skoda Octavia.

Now it’s time to assess the Ceed Sportswagon estate version, which follows the same formula as before, but with more boot space than ever. Given that the previous Sportswagon accounted for as many as 40 per cent of Ceed sales, this is an important model for the brand.

Best estate cars on the market

Unsurprisingly, the front of the Ceed Sportswagon (SW for short) is identical to that of the Kia Stinger-inspired hatch, featuring distinctive ‘ice-cube’ LED daytime running lights across the range. The estate gets a longer rear overhang (a significant 115mm longer than its predecessor’s) to match the elongated roofline, though Kia’s designers attempted to disguise that by the use of standard-fit roof rails and a tacky looking fake vent behind the rear wheels.

It’s certainly not the sharpest-looking car in its class; an opinion emphasised somewhat if you go for the weedy looking 16-inch wheels of our 2-spec test car. Nonetheless, the Ceed SW gets a modern design at the back thanks to a set of new LED lights, and fresh ‘Ceed’ scripture without the previous generation’s bizarre apostrophe. 

More importantly to C-segment estate buyers is the fact that Kia has managed to offer more boot space than before. The new car holds 600 litres with the rear seats in place – putting it within a few litres of all the Focus Estate, Golf Estate and Octavia Estate. Kia has also lowered the lip height so it’s a little easier to get heavy items in.

The rear seat backs split 60:40 in the Ceed ‘2’ and fold down to create a completely flat floor. In higher-spec versions the split is 40:20:40, however, and the operation is eased from the rear of the car by using levers in the boot. Under the floor itself is an extra hidden storage area, while range-topping First Edition models also come with a useful luggage rail system.

Back in the main cabin, the Ceed SW is no different to the hatch, which is to say that it’s made of top-quality materials and its controls are as good to touch and use as any in the sector. Even the entry-level seven-inch touchscreen is intuitive to operate and sensibly laid out, plus it allows access to Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay ­– all with decent voice control. The eight-inch version fitted to cars above level ‘2’ includes sat-nav and the new Kia Connected Services system. A clear reversing camera is standard throughout.

On the road, the Ceed SW feels as stable and grippy as the hatch, with no obvious penalty from the longer rear and extra weight. A chance to try the estate on the basic 16-inch wheels revealed that it does indeed improve ride comfort; the harsher set-up was one of our few bugbears with the Ceed when fitted with 17-inch alloys. Saying that, there’s more road noise coming from the back of the SW estate on certain surfaces, especially if the retracting luggage cover is left open. A thought worth remembering for longer motorway journeys.

And while those that spend most of their driving on the motorway may be advised to go for the 1.6-litre CRDi diesel model, we favour the turbo petrol alternatives. Kia reckons the best-seller will be the new 138bhp 1.4 T-GDi engine, which is also available with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

However, for mostly urban driving, without a car full of passengers and luggage, the 1.0-litre T-GDi option is well worth a look. It’s a three-cylinder turbo petrol unit, but is far smoother and quieter than most rival units. Those who enjoy strong acceleration won’t be enamoured by this engine, but it’s faster than you’d expect, and keeps costs down with a notably low insurance rating and £19,295 starting price.

Speaking of costs, the Ceed SW isn’t the conspicuous bargain it once was, but it’s well-equipped across the board and, of course, features Kia’s impressive seven-year warranty.

4
The third-generation Kia Ceed hatchback has now spawned a spacious and high-quality Sportswagon estate. It inherits the standard car’s modern look, but doesn’t compromise on boot space – making it a great family option for those who need loads of room in the back.
  • Model: Kia Ceed Sportswagon '2' 1.0 T-GDi ISG
  • Price: £19,295
  • Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl petrol
  • Power/torque: 118bhp/172Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-60mph: 10.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 118mph
  • Economy/CO2: 54.3mpg/120g/km
  • On sale: Now

New Peugeot 508 and 3008 plug-in hybrids revealed
Posted on Monday September 24, 2018

James Brodie 2018-09-24 11:20

New Peugeot 508 lands with 222bhp plug-in hybrid option, with a 296bhp all-wheel-drive variant for the 3008 SUV

Peugeot 508 3008 hybrid shot

Peugeot has revealed two new plug-in hybrid models in the form of electrified versions of the 3008 SUV and the new 508 saloon, but you’ll have to wait to see them in showrooms – they won’t go on sale until next autumn.

The drivetrain equipped on both the 508 and 508 SW estate makes use of a 178bhp PureTech four-cylinder petrol engine and a 108bhp electric motor, both sending power to the front axle. Combined, power doesn’t quite emerge as the sum total of both petrol and electric motor, with the 508 Hybrid developing 222bhp overall. Drive is sent to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and while Peugeot has not announced any performance or fuel economy figures, it claims 49g/km CO2.

The 508 gets a lithium-ion battery pack 11.8kWh in size, which Peugeot says enables an official range of 30 miles on electric power only when the battery is fully charged.

Best plug-in hybrids on sale

The plug-in 3008 uses a slightly different and more powerful all-wheel-drive setup called HYBRID4. Two electric motors are equipped, and total system output is rated at 296bhp. Peugeot claims 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds, while it too has an official maximum electric range of 30 miles.

The 222bhp front-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid system will be made available in the 3008 a few months after the debut of the HYBRID4 version. All can be recharged in less than two hours using a 6.6kW wallbox, and all get digital i-Cockpit instrumentation unique for hybrid models. 

Prices have not yet been announced, but the plug-in hybrids will be the flagship variants of the 3008 and 508.

Read our UK review of the new Peugeot 508 here. 

New Tesla Model 3 Dual Motor Performance review
Posted on Monday September 24, 2018

Tesla Model 3 Performance - front action
24 Sep, 2018 10:30am Steve Fowler

Range-topping Tesla Model 3 Performance sports saloon offers M3-beating performance and best-in-class tech

Never mind the Cheshire Cat, the Tesla Model 3 – in Dual Motor Performance spec – will put a smile on your face wider than the USA itself. So there we go: job done, review over.

Of course, there’s much more to a sports saloon than that, so how does this Model 3 stack up against, let’s call them more established, competitors wearing M, RS and AMG badges.

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We’re well used to Teslas in Europe these days, but the Model 3 is smaller, cuter and arguably better resolved – certainly proportionally. The sleek headlights on the stubby bonnet look like stickers, while the short overhangs front and rear add a pertness to the design that we’ve not seen from a Tesla before.

You unlock the car using a slim credit card-style piece of plastic waved against the B-pillar – or more likely with your phone, which works just like Tesla’s normal key by opening and closing the car as you approach.

You have to access the flush door handles yourself – they don’t pop out for you on the Model 3 – and then you swing open the doors to reveal an interior that’s other-worldly.

Let’s start in the back – you can wait for the best bit… Space is pretty similar to that in a 3 Series, so knee room isn’t too generous, but okay. There’s the added bonus of a flat floor with no transmission hump, but it’s comfy enough, the view out is good and the doors open wide enough to get in and out comfortably.

You’ve got a choice of front or rear boots – we can’t help but call the front boot a ‘froot’ – with a combined 425-litres of space. Access to the back is a bit letterbox-style, but the rear seats split and fold.

Then there’s the front. Slide into the rather comfy seats – our car had premium seating – and the optional all-white interior shows how well minimalism can work in a car.

The dash is dominated by a screen, of course – in this case a slim 15-inch monitor that sits landscape style. And when we say it controls everything, we mean everything – the only controls in front of you are a steering wheel, pedals and stalks (now bespoke, not Mercedes hand-me-downs) for the drive selector and wipers. Even the doors are opened via a push button.

Across the slim, white dash is a single wide air vent. Air flow is controlled via the screen, too, and you even open the glovebox by prodding a virtual button on the display.

There are clever charging points for your phone, plus deep-lidded storage and cup holders all between the seats. It’s a triumph of realising what you do and don’t need in your car, making the inside clean, comfortable and spacious. And as architect Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “Space is the breath of art.” 

You may think that having everything on the screen could be problematic, and although Tesla has put the more important driver information as close to the driver as possible, you do have to look further away from the road to check your speed than you would usually. A head-up display would be a nice touch.

Otherwise, it all quickly becomes intuitive and you soon learn to use the two (yes, just two) buttons on the steering wheel to control the audio or standard autonomous tech to good effect.

On board Google navigation on the big screen works well, while the Performance model gets a standard sound system upgrade that’s pretty punchy.

Much has been mentioned about Tesla quality, but we were impressed with the quality of our test car and with that of two other Model 3 cars we met by chance on our test around the hills and highways near Tesla’s Freemont factory.

Whether the car is built by Americans in baseball caps and T-shirts in a ‘tent’ in  the factory parking lot or bearded artisans wearing thick leather aprons in a mountainside chalet, quality is perfectly good enough. Audi good? No. But not far off and we had no extraneous squeaks or rattles.

Of the many options in the menus in the touchscreen, we decided to opt for Sport rather than Chill in the drive mode, and set off to enjoy the sort of instant acceleration that makes any internal combustion-engined car feel tardy.

Tesla says this sportiest Model 3 will get from 0-60mph in 3.5 seconds – in reality it feels slightly quicker than that and not far off what the quickest Model S will do.

But what’s most enjoyable is that the slightest tickle of the throttle from any speed – especially standstill – will shove you back into your seat with a ferocity to rival the fiercest rollercoaster, with a fun factor to match. You’ll never tire of it and will look for every opportunity to do it.

Fun isn’t just about acceleration, though, as the Model 3’s rivals prove. They have a delicious dexterity that the neigh sayers will claim only internal combustion engine-cars can have due to an EV’s battery weight.

Fastest electric cars in the world

Sure enough, the Model 3 feels different; heavy even. Yet it grips well, turns in sharply and has very little body roll. You can feel the extra weight of the car – it must weigh over 1,800kg – pull the car down into the road, but it’ll stick steadfastly to its line with a different, but no less enjoyable feel to what you might be used to.

The steering isn’t quite as alert or tactile as that of a BMW M3, but it’s accurate enough, while sudden changes of direction don’t leave you rueing that sizeable battery pack sitting in the chassis.

True, it’s not quite as delicate to drive as an M3 or C63 can be – in spite of their power. It’s different – and you only need to flex your right foot to get the biggest grin back on your face.

We’re still about a year away from first Model 3 deliveries in the UK, but if you fancy one, then £1,000 deposits are still being taken with UK deliveries expected some time next year – probably the latter half.

The Model 3 comes in limited flavours: standard and long range – with a choice of rear or all-wheel drive – plus this Performance version with only the 4x4 option.

Performance also drops the ride height slightly and tweaks the motors to up the power from the 75kWh battery to around 450bhp. The range jumps up to a claimed  310 miles (and we did our best to dent that, but it appears pretty realistic), while you get a few cosmetic boosts, including the cute, carbon-fibre rear spoiler.

This model doesn’t come cheap – but then neither do its rivals. In the US the base price is $64,000. The premium interior upgrade is included in that price, but you’ll have to pay extra for every paint colour except for black, the wonderful white interior costs $1,500, while the ‘enhanced auto pilot’ (which is better than anything anyone else can currently offer) costs $5,000. If you want to ensure full-self driving capability in the future, that’ll be another $3,000. Our car topped out at $71,000 - Tesla has certainly learnt a trick or two about options from its rivals.

When it arrives in the UK, we’d expect prices to be pretty much pound for dollar – maybe a little less. It would be nice if a base price was around £60,000, which would still look pretty good up against its ‘old tech’ rivals.

5
Among a of sea of legends, the Tesla Model 3 stacks up as one of America’s greatest cars. Like them, it’s not quite perfect, but it offers something exciting and enticing – notably tech and performance - that you can’t get anywhere else. With a realistic range around the 300-mile mark, it proves that living with an EV is perfectly do-able, too – you’ll get a similar range to that of ICE rivals.
  • Model: Tesla Model 3 Dual Motor Performance
  • Price: £60,000 (est)
  • Power: dual electric motor, four-wheel drive
  • 0-60mph: 3.5 seconds
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Range: 310 miles
  • Equipment: 15” touchscreen, level 2 autonomous driving, premium audio system, on-board wifi
  • On sale: 2019

New Kia e-Niro 2018 review
Posted on Monday September 24, 2018

24 Sep, 2018 10:00am Andreas May

With a range of over 300 miles, the pure-electric Kia e-Niro SUV shows real promise

We already know how good the Koreans are getting at building electric vehicles; Hyundai’s Kona Electric is our Affordable Electric Car of the Year, after all. But the firm’s sister brand Kia has also been preparing a new pure EV – and we’ve had a chance to test the new e-Niro in South Korea.

The car we’re driving is a domestic-market-specification vehicle, but the electrical make-up isn’t likely to change much by the time the e-Niro arrives in Europe early next year.

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That means some pretty impressive raw specs, with a 64kWh battery and a 150kW (201bhp) electric motor driving the front wheels (these numbers are the same as the Kona Electric’s, wouldn’t you know). There’s also a more basic version (again, as with the Kona) with 134bhp and a 39kWh battery.

But we’re driving the flagship here, and even at this early stage, it feels almost as impressive as the Kona. Kia says the e-Niro can manage 485km (301 miles) and that may be a tad optimistic,  but after 60 miles, our car was still predicting that we had nearly 200 miles remaining. This EV feels like it wouldn’t need to be the second car in the family.

However, we’re less convinced by the dynamics, although they will be sharpened for non-Korean markets. Even so, we’re duty bound to report that the steering feels synthetic and the suspension set-up is too soft.

There’s no arguing with the e-Niro’s credentials as a family car, though. There’s space inside for four adults and the boot, while 52 litres down on the capacity of the brand’s Sportage, is still a commendable 451 litres.

Inside, the cabin has a finish that’s better described as functional rather than luxurious, but there’s useful tech fitted, including a linked-up navigation system that analyses the route and can tell you when to take your foot off the throttle pedal to maximise the range.

Use the most aggressive brake energy recuperation in town, meanwhile, and Kia claims up to 615km (382 miles) of travel between charges is feasible.

4.5
The Kia e-Niro feels every bit as worthy a challenger for the title of ‘people’s Tesla’ as the Hyundai Kona Electric. It’s not exactly fun to drive – although we’d expect European versions to be more involving behind the wheel – but it offers real-world usability and practicality, too. The pricing is almost certain to be keen. It’s definitely one to watch.
  • Model: Kia e-Niro
  • Price: £30,000 (est)
  • Engine: Single electric motor
  • Power/torque: 201bhp/395Nm
  • Transmission: Single-speed auto, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 7.8 seconds
  • Top speed: 104mph (est)
  • Range: 301 miles (WLTP)
  • CO2: 0g/km
  • On sale: Late autumn

Emergency vehicles could go electric and autonomous
Posted on Friday September 21, 2018

Hugo Griffiths 2018-09-21 10:14

Health body says organisations should choose low-emission vehicles, while Motorola files patent for self-driving police cars-cum-courtroom

Autonomous emergency vehicles

The EV revolution may be starting to gain ground on the retail market, but emergency service vehicles such as ambulances should switch to electric or hybrid propulsion, according to the UK’s leading public health body.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published draft guidance recommending public-sector organisations “should make low vehicle emissions one of the key criteria when making routine procurement decisions. This could include selecting low-emission vehicles, including electric vehicles.” 

Unmarked police trucks to clamp down on distracted drivers

NICE says the public sector fleet includes “various vehicle types, some of which are highly polluting.” Nice recommends when organisations replace these vehicles, they should “consider low-emission car[s], vans and lorries.”

The publically funded health body also says employees should be trained in emission-improving techniques such as smooth acceleration and braking and efficient gear changing. They should also be taught to keep their vehicles’ tyres correctly inflated, and not to leave their vehicles idling unnecessary. 

Autonomous police car courtrooms

As well as being low-emission, police cars could become autonomous courtrooms in the future, after telecommunications company Motorola filed a patent for a self-driving law enforcement vehicle.

The application, submitted to the US Patent and Trademark Office, describes a self-driving “mobile law enforcement communication system and method”. This would provide a “remote judge and attorney for real-time mobile adjudication of the detainee”, allowing prisoners to be processed on-the-move

The proposed system would see a suspect placed in the vehicle by a police officer. Suspects would be automatically identified using facial recognition before being read their rights, and questioned via video link – all on their way to an “approved location”. They could then consult with their lawyer, and receive judgement via video link. 

As well as allowing for suspects to be remotely processed, the vehicle would also allow them to pay any fines they are issued thanks to “an automated payment processing device”. If offered bail, the system could contact a bail bond company, take payment, and release the prisoner at their home.

Motorola’s patent explains that the mandatory confidentiality between suspects and their lawyers would no be compromised, as data from these conversations would not be stored by the vehicle. 

Interested in more police motoring news? Then take a look at plans for a new roadside eye tests for drivers.

'Roadside police shouldn't be able to revoke a driver’s licence’
Posted on Friday September 21, 2018

Mike Rutherford 2018-09-24 12:03

It seems humble front-line cops have been given the OK to snatch licences from drivers, says Mike Rutherford

OPINION - eyesight

Imagine a Britain in which someone called a “policing officer” is given the power to stop Brits and non-Brits in the street, before immediately and cruelly revoking the passports, ID cards and other essential documents those citizens legally hold, whether they’ve committed crimes or not. 

It shouldn’t, couldn’t and wouldn’t happen, of course. Yet it seems humble front-line cops on public highways (not to be confused with more powerful magistrates and judges in court rooms) have been given the legal OK to snatch back driving licences from some drivers who’ve held them for years, if not decades. This I do not like the sound of.

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Brake, the road safety pressure group, is excited it’s “teaming up with police forces in Thames Valley, Hampshire and West Midlands to run a month-long campaign on driver vision, revoking the licences of those who don’t pass the 20-metre number plate test”.

Can cops do that? Really? Act as on-the-spot judges, jurors and executioners? Apparently so.

“Anyone stopped by road policing officers in these areas will be required to take the 20m number plate test,” Brake insists. Those failing will have their licence “immediately revoked”.

I passionately believe prevention is better, wiser and healthier than cure, and support (via the Marcus Rutherford Foundation) the idea of annual health checks – to include sight tests – for rich and poor, young and old, drivers and non-drivers.

But surely these tests must only be carried out by experienced and qualified practitioners in, for example, the NHS, the private healthcare sector plus the giant, easily-accessible optometrist industry? So if a yearly eye test is the thing to do – and it is – let it be done in controlled, stress-free circumstances by specialists at your local high-street optician, GP surgery, healthcare centre or hospital.

Let’s not dump the problem on already-stretched front-line cops and expect them to do the work better-qualified professionals should be doing. And, equally important, if the vision of a driver has sadly deteriorated so seriously they have formally been declared unfit to drive, let that life-changing news be gently delivered to them by a doctor in a quiet surgery, not by a PC on a noisy street.

Brake’s claim it “joins forces with police to rid roads of defective driver vision” is plain wrong. A handful of randomly chosen drivers having their eyesight crudely checked by a few cops on a comparatively small number of streets will hardly “rid” Britain of defective driver (and rider and pedestrian) vision. Quick, convenient, cost-effective, yearly health checks and eye tests for all UK citizens will. Think of ’em as annual MoTs – for people.

Now read our news story 'Police to start roadside eye tests for drivers'

State of local roads top motorists’ concerns
Posted on Friday September 21, 2018

Hugo Griffiths 2018-09-21 08:57

Condition of local roads rated most significant issue for drivers, as motoring organisation calls for “sustained long-term investment”

Britain’s motorists are more worried about the perilous state of local roads than any other single issue, new research has revealed.

The RAC’s annual Report On Motoring surveyed almost 2,000 drivers, looking into subjects such as congestion, traffic laws and other drivers’ behaviour. But it was the condition of local roads that was felt to be the most pressing issue, with 42 per cent putting it at the top of their list of concerns – up from 33 per cent in 2017. This year, 78 per cent said the UK’s roads are generally in poor condition. 

A fifth of drivers say speed bumps have damaged their cars

Looking more deeply into which aspect of road condition caused these judgements, some 98 per cent of respondents said the quality of the surface of local roads is the biggest condition-related concern, with a further 82 per cent saying the same about motorways. Drilling down further still reveals litter as the next biggest worry surrounding road condition.

Previous pothole-related research has shown one in eight local roads face closure due to their condition, with local councils paying out £43 million in compensation to drivers after pothole strikes, and drivers themselves shelling out £1 million a month to repair cars damaged by pockmarked roads.

After road condition worries, drivers using a handheld phone behind the wheel was the second largest concern for motorists, with 38 per cent citing this issue. Yet 40 per cent put phone use at the top of their list of concerns last year, echoing figures that show offending rates are in decline. This in itself follows a doubling of the penalty for using a phone when driving, which now stands at six points and a £200 fine.

The cost of fuel comes next on drivers’ list of woes – hardly surprising given the cost of a tank of petrol has gone up £7 over the last year. Aggressive drivers follows as the fourth biggest concern, while drink and drug drivers comes fifth.

Commenting on the survey, Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “At a time when car usage is on the rise, motorists believe there has been a clear deterioration in the condition of the UK’s roads. This is an issue that urgently needs to be addressed.” Meanwhile, Theo De Pencier, from Transport Focus, said it was time local and central government “got to grips” the state of the UK’s roads.

Are your local roads in a state of disrepair? Let us know in the comments below...

Exclusive: Andy Palmer on apprenticeships, Ferrari, James Bond and Aston Martin going public
Posted on Friday September 21, 2018

Steve Fowler 2018-09-21 10:15

We speak to Aston Martin's President and CEO, getting his views on the new Palmer Foundation, Brexit, upcoming models and much, much more

In our exclusive interview with Aston Martin President and CEO Andy Palmer he talks about the launch of the Palmer Foundation, the company’s upcoming IPO, the new Project 003 hypercar, Lagonda luxury models, Brexit and, of course, James Bond.

You’ve just announced a new charitable project dealing with a subject that’s very close to your heart – apprenticeships. What will the Palmer Foundation aim to achieve?

As the company IPOs, I do okay as a result of growing the company. I got there on the back of an apprenticeship.

I don’t know what would have happened to me if I didn’t get that opportunity of an apprenticeship at 16 – I didn’t like school, I was bored and I didn’t know what I wanted to do other than work in cars.

I’m not sure I would’ve got through the university system, but the apprenticeship system gave me a wonderful opportunity as a working class lad with no family money behind him. I’ve been able to do what I’ve been able to do and I’ve loved every minute of it.

It really hurts me that the British car industry, when I joined it, was the biggest in the world. But we don’t own anything anymore (bar, hopefully, Aston Martin). In losing that the intellectual property is largely done outside of the country – there are exceptions, like Jaguar Land Rover. So the idea that Aston can provide a route in for kids is great.

The problem is that normally to get on to an apprenticeship you’ve got to have your parents sitting behind and pushing you and helping you. You’re normally in a nice school with a careers teacher telling you how to present yourself nicely and giving you some coaching.

That doesn’t exist for some of the kids in deprived areas – they don’t know how to prepare themselves for interviews, and the unpolished way in which they present themselves means they don’t get the chances that I had.

Aston Martin feature -

The Foundation is all about helping under-privileged kids and giving them a bit of an advantage compared to their peer group, to get them onto the system.

Exactly how it ends up depends on how successful it is. The idea is for a technical apprenticeship for under-privileged kids – we’ll give them the first two years of training, and beyond that they can go into Aston or JLR or into the supply base.

If I can make that work, maybe mix with other companies, sponsoring and using the apprenticeship levy, I can find a way of capturing 14 year-olds before they become disillusioned with the school system. I reckon that’s 60 per cent of the population potentially, and there are going to be potential leaders among that group. I want to get these guys before they end up doing something below their capability.

We want to capture them when they’re choosing their subjects for their GCSEs, encourage them to take some of the sciences – even though it might not be popular. Then allowing them to see a pathway through that to a paid apprenticeship that would probably support them for two of the four years. I think that between 16 and 18 is where they’re losing out.

• New Aston Martin DBS Superleggera review

It's compensating for the disadvantage these guys and girls had because of their background and because of their education.

We’ve got my donation and some of my management team and we’re up to half a million pounds in terms of primary donations and you can do a lot of good with half a million quid!

My wife is really keen too, she’s always been into homeless charities and that’s at the other end of the scale – what could happen if you don’t capture them early. It’s difficult to turn those guys, but if we can capture those kids earlier maybe we’ll have fewer homeless.

From my perspective, what a great legacy – even greater than the Aston legacy.

How’s the IPO process going?

We’re on a two-week roadshow [before a price for the stock is announced] talking to potential investors, and the interest is extraordinary. I’ve learnt a tremendous amount – good and bad – about how business functions at the treasury level, which you need to understand. The bankers and the investors, they control your destiny and you have to understand what makes them tick – you do that by spending time with them. It’s an awful long way from the 16-year old apprentice, but it’s incredibly stimulating. It’s a few weeks of very well invested time.

Has the process improved areas of the business?

Yes, it’s interesting to see what comes into focus and how an outside entity perceives you. What becomes important to them becomes important to us.

You see with our business that it's a business of the future – it has the potential to be Ferrari and more. It isn’t there today, but what makes the difference is things like our specials and DBX. Ferrari did a great job of their investor day – but what they did was essentially abdicate China and the SUV to us. They’ve delayed that, it’s much later in the market, so we’ve got two years to get market leadership in China and we can build on that with DBX. 

You always reference Ferrari, is that who you look at?

They’re the only people we can look at – everybody else is part of a big group. Most of our customers have an Aston and Ferrari in their garage, so we compete perhaps for a share of their wallets, but we don’t directly compete.

In the future we might. If Portofino spawns a GT as it seemingly will, then yes we’ll compete. As we spawn a mid-engined series of cars then we will compete, but at the moment we don’t compete. It’s the closest competitor we’ve got. 

How will the new ownership structure affect the business?

I must be the only CEO looking forward to going into public ownership.

One of the things that went wrong in the past is that we had billionaires buying us then selling us and we had no stability. If I’ve been trying to achieve one thing for the past four years and working for the next four or five years, I hope that my legacy is that the business will continue to grow after I retire.

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera - front

That can’t happen in private ownership - you need the protective bubble of public ownership and the schematic governance of public ownership to ensure it becomes more about the company and less about the individual.

New Aston Martin DB11 AMR review

I came here to create the only British car company – the only one on the FTSE index. So for me my vocation has always been to rebuild part of the British car industry and have the opportunity to train apprentices in the same way I was.  Then you go forth and create an infrastructure for the whole country – it’s a big dream and my little part in it.

What public ownership means is that when I step away finally, that will continue. 

How does heading up a public company change your role?

Penny, our non-executive Chairman is very much into the governance of the business, ensuring we comply. It's a part of the business that doesn’t turn me on much, it’s all about policies and procedures – she’s really good at it, I’m not so good at it, therefore we’re quite complementary.

For me the opportunity to concentrate on building the brand, thinking about the next generation of cars, looking at some pretty funky projects; I’ve got more time to do what I really, really love. 

We knew about your seven in seven strategy, but Project OO3 is something outside that…

It falls into the category of a special, but I grant you it’s getting up there in terms of volume. It's the connector, it’s the dot between the Valkyrie and the 488 competitor and it’s basically about squirting the DNA down to the next version.

Aston Martin 003 - sketch

If you go from Valkyrie to a 488, from £2.5million to £200,000, probably that jump isn’t enough to give you the view of the mother and the father.

When you see the design language for 003, it’s really interesting. We’re designing 003 and what we call AM9 [488 competitor] side by side so you see that bloodline.

You’ve spoken before about a ‘carry over and carry across’ engineering strategy, what are the similarities here?

Yes there are similarities, starting with the engine - it’s a V6. In the Valkyrie it’s a naturally aspirated V12, and in the 003 it’s a turbocharged V6. There will be hybrid power in there, but very much tuned from a KERS perspective than a normal hybridisation perspective – think of it as race tuned.

Obviously it’s a new engine, designed by Aston Martin, so we’re demonstrating that in that V12 arena we have mastery, so V12 and V6 is obviously closely related. 

Is it a £1million car?

Let’s put it as a LaFerrari competitor so it’s in that kind of realm – like the McLaren Senna and Porsche 918. As for power it would more than compete with those competitors. 

Have Red Bull Racing and Adrian Newey been involved at all?

They will be involved, I think. To be frank, we’ve got them nose to the grindstone at the moment working on 001 and 002 [Valkyrie and Valkyrie AMR] but the technology and thinking process rolls through to 003 so I imagine that they will be involved.

How has the reaction been to Lagonda as a standalone brand since the unveil at Geneva?

I’ve never been more sure about something.

• New Lagonda SUV teased

The consensuses was that you can’t break into the duopoly (Rolls-Royce and Bentley], but what I’m more and more convinced with is that we don’t want to break into the duopoly.

Aston Martin Lagonda Vision concept - front

What you’ve got with Gen Y and Gen Z and tech start-up entrepreneurs is that they don’t want to be seen in a V12 Rolls-Royce. What they want to be seen in is a really, really cool limousine. We’re providing to an unmet need, which is a bunch of guys and girls that can’t be in anything more luxurious than a Tesla Model S – that’s where I think the future is.

Brexit – you haven’t been as vocal as others. Do you have less to worry about?

Yes, I’ve got less to worry about. I don’t commentate on big picture politics, so I can only talk about the impact of Brexit on Aston.

We’re pretty well insulated – 25% of our sales go to the EU, 30% go to the UK. If you put a tariff barrier in place, we lose a bit of market share, but Ferrari and Lamborghini do, too.

The effect of Brexit probably crashes the pound. And while I’m sure that a weak pound is bad for the economy, it’s good for exporters – it helps our profitability.

There are other issues like parts supply through the border, but net, net I think it’s about neutral for us. Not for the country, but for us. 

With Cary Joji Fukunaga just announced as directing the next James Bond movie, will James Bond still be driving an Aston Martin?

Who knows? We have a great relationship with EON. We’ve just announced the DB5 Goldfinger, so the relationship with EON is very current. We don’t take for granted the James Bond connection – it’s something that’s important to us, but we don’t buy it. I personally think that the best James Bond movies have always included an Aston and long may it be so.

Vote for your favourite James Bond car that isn't an Aston Martin on our sister site Carbuyer... 

Dependence on cars reaches six-year high
Posted on Thursday September 20, 2018

Tristan Shale-Hester 2018-09-21 00:01

Reliance on cars increases for first time since 2012, with majority of drivers say better public transport would encourage them off the road

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Motorists are more dependent on their cars than at any point since 2012, according to new research, while some 33 per cent of drivers report being either much more or a little more dependent on their cars this year than they were in 2017. 

The data, which comes from a survey of 1,808 people by the RAC, also shows 27 per cent of motorists are using their cars more than they did last year, compared with the 20 per cent who are using them less.

This is a significant contrast to 2017, when 20 per cent said they were using their cars more than in 2016 and 24 per cent were using them less – equating to a 12 per cent shift from more to less car use.

'Public transport prices amount to legalised theft'

Reasons given by respondents for using cars more included greater need to transport family members (34 per cent), longer commutes (32 per cent), and friends and family moving further away (27 per cent). 

A further 24 per cent attributed the need to use their cars more to deterioration in public transport, with 44 per cent blaming reliability, 39 per cent condemned higher fares and 33 per cent pointed the finger at cuts in local services. 

Of those surveyed, 59 per cent said they would use their car less if public transport were better – a figure which increased dramatically just after the turn of the millennium, but hasn’t changed hugely in the last decade or so.

In addition, 75 per cent of people admitted they would have difficulty living without a car. Of these, 61 per cent said a car is essential for transporting people and going shopping, while 49 per cent felt they need one for visiting people far away and 23 per cent argued there is no other way of getting around where they live. 

Furthermore, 51 per cent of respondents agreed that they are frustrated by the lack of feasible alternatives to using a car for short journeys.

David Bizley, chief engineer at the RAC, commented: “At a time when there is so much effort being put into tackling air quality issues and congestion, it is alarming to see that dependency on the car is actually the highest we have ever seen.

“There is a definite willingness among motorists to use public transport more if only it were better. Consequently, people end up driving by default, as they feel public transport is either too expensive, non-existent or just doesn’t go where or when they need it to.

“We must make it easier for public transport to be used on the journeys that the majority of people make most often.”

Do you think you are dependent on your car? Let us know below...

Ford Focus vs Vauxhall Astra vs Volkswagen Golf
Posted on Thursday September 20, 2018

2018-09-22 11:00

Latest version of Ford’s big-selling Focus faces the Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf in one of this year’s most crucial tests

Ford Focus vs Vauxhall Astra vs Volkswagen Golf

SUVS might be all the rage, but if you take a look at the list of top 10 best-selling new cars in the UK, it still routinely includes this trio of five-door family hatchbacks.

This fourth-generation Ford Focus promises what every successor does: more technology, greater refinement, even sharper driving dynamics and stronger practicality. But entering into a class as competitive as this means this new Focus is facing challenging opposition.

• Best family hatchbacks to buy in 2018

That comes here in the form of our reigning favourite family hatchback, the Volkswagen Golf. This car has set the benchmark in this market in recent years, and in Mk7.5 guise is one of the models the Ford will have to overpower if it wants to win. The other is the British-built Vauxhall Astra. It’s fitted with a downsized 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine here, just like its competitors, and arguably the Astra evolved this sector when it was launched in 2015, with key innovations in technology and space. That’s what the Ford will have to deliver as well. So which of the three is our hatchback hero?

Ford Focus

Model: Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost
125 Titanium
Price: £21,550
Engine  1.0-litre 3cyl turbo, 123bhp 
0-60mph:  9.9 seconds
Test economy:  36.9mpg/8.1mpl 
CO2: 108g/km 
Annual Road Tax: £140

This fourth-generation Focus promises to address the Mk3’s packaging and infotainment flaws. We’re testing the £21,550 1.0 EcoBoost 125 in Titanium trim, which is likely to be a big seller.

As with the original, the Focus excels once you get it on the road. The ride and handling balance is a big part of that, because the Ford’s chassis delivers plenty of comfort despite its driver-focused set-up, thanks to the dampers’ ability to take the harshness off the majority of bumps. It means you can carry good speed down a rucked road without fear of wincing when you come to a particularly torn patch.

Despite this refinement to the ride, the Focus retains its trademark driver involvement and
fun factor. In fact, it’s better than ever. The steering weight is just right for a car in this class and it responds quickly to your inputs, with a keen sense of agility for what is a conventional family hatch. The damping plays a part here, too, because there’s just enough roll to relay some feedback from the chassis (the steering is the most communicative of the trio as well), while there’s control to match, so the Focus feels the most composed car of the three at higher speeds.

However, despite its power advantage, the Ford wasn’t as fast as the Golf in our performance tests. It sprinted from 0-60mph in 9.9 seconds, 0.3 seconds slower than the VW, but 0.6 seconds up on the Astra. Yet this performance gap is difficult to sense as you increase speed through the ratios; what is more palpable is the disparity in gear.

The Ford took 10 seconds exactly to accelerate between 50 and 70mph in fifth, which was 1.9 seconds slower than the Golf. Still, while the Focus might not quite match the VW against the stopwatch, the performance it offers is adequate, with the torque helping flexibility on motorways.

At all speed ranges the engine is remarkably refined and matches the mature feel to the ride, so the Focus is an easy car to live with.

Testers' Notes: “This latest Focus has gone back to its roots. It’s the best-driving car in this company and the family hatchback class as a whole. But will this be enough for it to rise to the top of the sector overall?”

Vauxhall Astra

Model: Vauxhall Astra 1.0i
Turbo Sri Nav
Price: £21,910
Engine 1.0-litre 3cyl turbo, 104bhp 
0-60mph: 10.5 seconds
Test economy: 42.1mpg/9.3mpl 
CO2: 110g/km
Annual Road Tax: £140

The Vauxhall Astra is one of the most versatile family hatchbacks on sale, and when we last tested this 1.0-litre turbo variant we’ve got here (£21,910 in SRi Nav trim), it beat its rivals. So it’s in with a strong shout against the Focus and Golf, two cars it’s been battling with for years.

Despite that weight saving over its rivals, the Astra’s engine is outgunned for both power and torque. And when you factor in a five-speed gearbox that offers fewer ratios to cover a similar speed range, the Vauxhall’s performance was the most sluggish. However, this is relative, because in isolation the Astra’s 12.5-second 50 to 70mph time in top gear is similar to the Ford’s, so it still delivers a decent degree of flexibility.

In the lower ratios between 30 and 50mph there was no hiding from the stopwatch; in fourth in particular the Vauxhall’s 7.6-second effort was two seconds adrift of the Golf’s. At least the British hatch is refined on the move at higher speeds, even if the gearshift action isn’t as nice as its rivals’.

Where the Astra catches up is for ride and agility. It doesn’t have the Ford’s precision, nor can it match the Golf’s sense of solidity, but it does blend these attributes with ride comfort in a package that feels well matched. The suspension set-up is composed over all but the worst surfaces, and because it doesn’t offer as direct a connection between car and driver as you get in the Ford or the VW, it does at least mean it’s quite forgiving.

There’s plenty of vertical movement in the suspension, so it doesn’t feel as rigid as the Focus in particular. The Vauxhall delivers softer, looser control, and a good degree of comfort as a result. This does serve to highlight just how plush the Ford’s damping feels, though, because it easily matches the Astra in this respect but is much sharper with greater body control. The Golf is a close second. 

Testers' Notes: “SRi Nav gets sports seats, while the driver’s chair is specially designed to boost comfort. The Astra’s driving position isn’t the best, but over plenty of miles we had no complaints for comfort.”

Volkswagen Golf

Model: Volkswagen Golf 1.0
 TSI SE Nav 5dr
Price: £21,025
Engine  1.0-litre 3cyl turbo, 108bhp 
0-60mph:  9.6 seconds
Test economy:  38.5mpg/8.5mpl 
CO2:  109g/km  
Annual Road Tax: £140

Volkswagen’s famous Golf is our current favourite family hatch, so the Focus is going up against the best. In 1.0 TSI SE Nav trim we’re testing here – a direct rival to the Ford – the Golf costs from £21,025, so is slightly cheaper. Does the Volkswagen offer more for less?

The MQB set-up is instantly recognisable once you’re under way. It gives the Golf a reassuring solidity to the way it drives. The damping isn’t quite as taut as the Ford’s, but the VW can match its control right up until the last high-speed bump on a quicker drive.

Not that these cars will routinely be driven like this; they’ll spend more time in town and on the motorway, where the Golf’s refinement comes into its own. It’s a match for the Ford here, and while the steering doesn’t have as much communication, it is just as pointy. It’s slightly heavier, but not quite as fast.

Although the Volkswagen doesn’t quite grip as hard, it offers more than enough dynamism and that rear suspension set-up doesn’t disturb the ride comfort. In fact, the Golf’s front-to-rear balance, down to its lovely plush damping, means it smothers typically cracked and marked UK roads. It’s much closer to the Focus in terms of comfort and composure.

The engine is just as refined as the chassis, too, and the Golf proved quicker at our test track, even though its performance trailed the Ford’s on paper. It was the fastest car from 0-60mph, taking 9.6 seconds – 0.3 seconds quicker than the Focus and 0.9 seconds up on the Astra – while despite its taller gearing it was also more flexible in gear. It was one second quicker than the Ford from 30 to 50mph in fourth, and two seconds faster than the Vauxhall over the same test. The Volkswagen is an accomplished all-rounder on the road, and this extends to the level of practicality it delivers.

Testers' Notes: “Equipment could swing this: VW offers more options than Ford on respective trims here. A reversing camera is £340. It’s part of a £500 package on the Focus and £750 on the Astra.”

Verdict

First place: Volkswagen Golf

The Golf just shades the Focus. It doesn’t drive quite as well, but in this class that counts for less. The VW’s practicality, lower running costs, higher-quality finish and affordability are decisive in this test. It nearly matches the Ford for comfort, while its infotainment is the best here and edges it ahead. The VW has retained its crown, but only just – rivals are getting closer.

Second place: Ford Focus

If you value the fun of driving in a usable, affordable but well-equipped package, the Ford is the car for you. It lacks a little of the VW’s versatility and still can’t match its premium appeal, but the Focus will be cost-effective to run and the engineering integrity here runs deep. You can feel it, and this makes it the most fun car in its class, so it gets a deserved commendation.

Third place: Vauxhall Astra

Three years since its launch, the Astra is still a great family hatch – and for the same reasons that initially made it a class leader. But newer rivals have emerged, and it trails the Ford and VW in too many areas. While it’s efficient, the Vauxhall doesn’t offer the performance, quality or space that the Focus and Golf do, which is why it comes third. We’d still recommend one, though.

Coming Soon

Mazda 3

Model: Mazda 3 2.0 SE-L Nav
Due: 2019 
Price: £21,500 (est)
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 118bhp

The new Mazda 3 will introduce some clever engine tech. With sharp styling, updated interior features and traditionally strong driver appeal, it will be the Focus’s closest rival when it arrives in 2019.

Figures

Volkswagen Golf
1.0 TSI SE Nav 5dr
Ford Focus
 1.0 EcoBoost 125
 Titanium
Vauxhall Astra
1.0i Turbo SRi Nav
On the road price/total as tested: £21,025/£27,000 £21,550/£23,175 £21,910/£25,245
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) £9,062/43.1% £7,424/34.5% £6,750/30.8%
Depreciation £11,963 £14,126 £15,160
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £916/£1,833 £939/£1,879 £999/£1,997
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £1,842/£3,070 £1,922/£3,203 £1,685/£2,808
Insurance group/quote/VED 12/£344/£140 12/£389/£140 10/£363/£140
Cost of servicing £297 (2yrs) £390 (2yrs) £750 (5yrs)
Length/wheelbase 4,258/2,620mm 4,378/2,700mm 4,370/2,662mm
Height/width 1,492/1,799mm 1,452/1,825mm 1,485/1,809mm
Engine 3cyl in-line/999cc 3cyl in-line/999cc 3cyl in-line/999cc
Peak power/revs  108/5,000 bhp/rpm 123/6,000 bhp/rpm 104/5,500 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs  200/2,000 Nm/rpm 200/1,400 Nm/rpm 170/1,800 Nm/rpm
Transmission  6-spd man/fwd 6-spd man/fwd 5-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 50 litres/space saver 52 litres/repair kit 48 litres/£110
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 380/1,270 litres 375/1,354 litres 370/1,210 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,216/579/1,300kg 1,322/533/1,100kg 1,188/592/1,220kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient 10.9 metres/N/A 11.0 metres/0.27 Cd 11.1 metres/0.29Cd
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (60,000)/1yr 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs 3yrs (60,000)/1yr
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 5th/18th 16th/20th 22nd/21st
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars 94/89/65/71/5 85/87/72/75/5 68/84/83/75/5
0-60/30-70mph 9.6/8.9 secs 9.9/10.2 secs 10.5/10.7 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 4.1/5.6 secs 4.8/6.7 secs 5.2/7.6 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th 8.1/10.2 secs 10.0/12.7 secs 12.5 secs/N/A
Top speed/rpm at 70mph  122mph/2,400rpm 123mph/2,500rpm 121mph/2,900rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph  49.1/35.0/10.3m 46.1/34.1/8.5m 44.0/34.4/9.7m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph 70/52/64/71dB 72/44/62/72dB 62/51/70/74dB
Auto Express econ. (mpg/mpl)/range 38.5/8.5/423 miles 36.9/8.1/422 miles 42.1/9.3/445 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined  47.9/68.9/58.9mpg 47.9/67.2/58.8mpg 49.6/65.7/58.9mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined  10.5/15.2/13.0mpl 10.5/14.8/12.9mpl 10.9/14.5/13.0mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 170/109g/km/22% 177/108g/km/22% 155/110g/km/23%
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/camera Seven/yes/yes/£340 Six/yes/yes/£500* Six/yes/£465/£750*
Auto box/lane-keep/blind spot/AEB £1,415/£550*/£1,120*/y £1,230/yes/£400/yes No/yes/yes/yes
Clim ctrl/cruise/leather/heated seats £425/ad./£2,115*/£400* Yes/yes/no/yes £405/yes/no/£355
Metallic/LEDs/keyless/power tailgate £575/£995/£375/no £525/no/yes/no £575/£1,250/£405/n
Nav/digi dash/DAB/connected services Yes/£495/yes/yes Yes/no/yes/yes Yes/no/yes/yes
Wireless charge/CarPlay/Android Auto £360/yes/yes £100/yes/yes No/yes/yes

New AC Cobra 378 review
Posted on Thursday September 20, 2018

AC Cobra 378 - front
20 Sep, 2018 2:45pm Steve Sutcliffe

With a 6.2-litre GM engine at its heart, the new 378 is arguably the best AC Cobra ever

The AC Cobra might not be the most obvious new sports car of 2018. But with a 6.2-litre General Motors V8 in its engine bay plus a whole host of other modifications, the ‘378’ you see here is quite unlike any other AC Cobra so far.

At £90,000 it’s not cheap, but then the moment you set eyes on the 378, the price almost becomes inconsequential. AC will only make around 40 cars a year and they will all find homes, we’re told. Deservingly so, if the quality of this pearl white test car is anything to go by.

Best sports cars currently on sale 

Made in Port Elizabeth in South Africa, then exported globally in exclusive numbers, the 378 is a suitably high-end piece of machinery. Granted, its ladder frame chassis is rather rudimentary – and its multi-link front and rear suspension not exactly at the cutting edge – but the composite bodyshell is beautifully finished. As is the paint, with panel gaps as tight and consistent as any mass-produced modern supercar.

There’s more space inside the cabin, plus power steering to take the strain from your arms and shoulders. The 378 is the easiest Cobra in history to drive, with a clutch that’s equally un-macho in its weighting. The manual gearbox slices smoothly between its six forward ratios, too.

Purists will no doubt recoil at the fact it’s powered by a GM engine instead of a Ford V8, but the moment they drive the 378, most of them will surely agree it doesn’t matter which badge is on the rocker covers. Propulsion is strong and the soundtrack utterly soul-stirring.

The only mild disappointment is the sight that greets you when you lift the exquisitely finished bonnet. There’s a big, modern, rather cold looking black plastic cover on top of the engine – rather than eight silver induction trumpets pointing at the sky. Beyond this, however, there is much to admire about the 378.

It’s quick, too, with AC claiming 0-60mph in “under four seconds”, with 0-100mph in “less than 10 seconds”. Those are good numbers but, in reality, it feels faster than that. Consider the car weighs only a fraction over 1,100kg and, as you’d expect, it flies. 

Put your foot down in any of the first four gears, and the 378 thunders forward with genuine muscle. Yet thanks to its fat rear tyres and a fairly soft rear suspension, traction is phenomenal – even when you nail it wide open in second gear. The noise it makes is perfectly in keeping with the Cobra nameplate, too.

As advertised, the new power steering is a welcome addition, even if it isn’t what you’d call seminal in its accuracy or response. Guide the 378 through a series of bends and, give or take an inch or two here and there, it goes pretty much where you want it to. The same is true of the handling; it’s tidy enough, with a surprisingly decent ride to go with it. 

But the best thing about it is the way it looks. To all intents and purposes, the 378 appears identical to a Cobra of old; a modern day interpretation of what the original MkIV ‘427’ Cobra was like way back in the 1960s. It gets enthusiastic approval from just about anyone who enters its orbit.

4
Easier to drive than any AC Cobra in history – and powered by a 6.2-litre GM engine rather than a Ford V8 – the 378 adds a touch of modernity to an endearing old-world sports car. Expensive, yes, but on the road it looks and sounds a million dollars.
  • Model: AC Cobra 378
  • Price: £90,000
  • Engine: 6.2-litre V8 petrol
  • Power/torque: 440bhp/600Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: Sub-4.0 secs (est)
  • Top speed: 140mph-plus (est)
  • Economy/CO2: N/A
  • On sale: Now

A fifth of drivers say speed bumps have damaged their cars
Posted on Thursday September 20, 2018

Tristan Shale-Hester 2018-09-21 00:01

One in five UK motorists have damaged their car on speed bumps, with councils paying out £35,000 in compensation between 2015 and 2017

Speed bump

More than a fifth of drivers say their cars have been damaged after driving over a speed bump, new research has revealed. 

Local councils have paid out £35,000 in compensation over two years as a result of damage caused by speed bumps, even though they are not classed as a ‘road defect’, making it difficult for drivers to claim. However, there are limitations on how big they are allowed to be.

A poll of 2,000 people has found that 22 per cent report driving over one of the UK’s 29,000 speed bumps has damaged their car, with an average repair cost of £141. Of these incidents, 48 per cent were tyre-related, while 33 per cent affected suspension. The data also revealed 41 per cent of motorists believe speed bumps cause “too much” damage to cars.

• Speed humps: should they stay or should they go?

Furthermore, 17 per cent of respondents admitted they were confused why councils often choose road humps over other traffic calming measures, and 27 per cent believe they are altogether ‘ineffective’ at reducing speed.

In addition, 28 per cent want road markings and signage for speed bumps to be made clearer, as they currently find road humps hard to spot – increasing the risk of driving over them too quickly and damaging their car. 

The research comes from comparison website Confused.com who, in addition to surveying 2,000 adults, made a series of Freedom of Information requests to councils. These revealed local authorities paid out around £35,000 between 2015 and 2017, to compensate drivers whose cars had been damaged by speed bumps.

London stood out as a particularly badly affected region, with £15,717 being paid out in the same period to compensate for damage caused by the city’s 8,516 speed bumps. 

And while speed bumps may be installed to slow motorists down, 29 per cent of respondents said they sped up in between bumps, while 19 per cent don’t slow down for them at all. 

Some 27 per cent of motorists believe speed bumps cause disruptions to traffic flow, while 23 per cent avoid driving down roads that have road humps on. A further 58 per cent believe speed bumps should be made lower.

Smart speed bumps to check tyre tread depth

There’s also the matter of pollution, with 22 per cent opposing speed bumps because of the constant change of speed they cause being bad for the environment, and 23 per cent saying they should be removed entirely to improve air quality.

In contrast, around half of those polled said they think speed bumps protect pedestrians, while 44 per cent said they improve road safety.

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused, commented: “With 22 per cent of drivers having experienced damage to their car as a result of speed humps, perhaps markings on speed humps could be made clearer to avoid any bumpy surprises.

“We urge drivers to approach them carefully and slowly, in order to minimise any damage. Motorists who think they have damaged their car while driving at a reasonable speed should check the height – if and when it is safe to do so – to see if they would be eligible for compensation.”

Have you ever damaged your car on a speed bump? Let us know your story below...

Aston Martin confirms mid-engined ‘Project 003’ hypercar for 2021
Posted on Thursday September 20, 2018

James Brodie 2018-09-20 13:05

The Project 003 will be the third Aston hypercar, and will slot in beneath the Valkyrie as a McLaren Senna rival

Aston Martin 003 - sketch

A third Aston Martin hypercar to compliment the Valkyrie and Valkyrie AMR Pro has been confirmed by the British brand. No official name has been announced, but it is currently being developed under the codename Project 003.

The project is still in an embryotic state - Aston says that the new model will arrive on sale late in 2021, and while both right-hand-drive and left-hand-drive production is planned the new model will be limited to 500 examples globally.

• New Aston Martin supercar to rival Ferrari 488

That means that the Valkyrie – limited to 175 units – will be more exclusive, so we expect this new model to slot in beneath the road and track versions of Aston’s 2020 hypercar, which is being developed in conjunction with the Red Bull Formula 1 team. As such, the 003 will be less of an adversary for the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE, but more a 2021 contemporary for the likes of the McLaren Senna.

Aston says that Project 003 will be mid-engined, built around a lightweight structure and road legal. A turbocharged petrol-electric hybrid engine will provide power, though Aston has yet to detail the exact make-up of the powertrain. Power should sit somewhere between that of the DBS Superleggera and Valkyrie, at around 900bhp maximum. Technology will be borrowed from the Valkyrie project, such as active aerodynamics and active suspension. 

A single sketch teases the design of the new model, hinting at a wild aerodynamic profile and a jet gather style canopy. Despite this, Aston promises that Project 003 is being designed to be a more practical offering than the Valkyrie, with space for luggage.

• Best hypercars on the planet

Aston Martin boss, Dr. Andy Palmer said: “It was also vital to us that Valkyrie would create a legacy: a direct descendent that would also set new standards within its own area of the hypercar market, creating a bloodline of highly specialised, limited production machines that can exist in parallel with Aston Martin’s series production models.

“I’m thrilled to announce that this car is the Project ‘003’, and our next step into a dynamic and exacting arena.”

It's not the only new mid-engined Aston in the pipeline. The brand is planning a proper Ferrari 488 rival which will be positioned as a flagship supercar, sitting at the top end of what will be a core line-up of seven models. 

Click here for all the latest on the 2019 Aston Martin Valkyrie...

Suzuki Jimny review
Posted on Thursday September 20, 2018

For 
Unflappable off-road ability
Compact dimensions
Retro-4x4 styling
Our Rating 
3
Against 
Vague steering and soft handling
Noisy engine at speed
Tiny boot
Suzuki Jimny - cornering
2018

Comprehensive changes bring the Suzuki Jimny into the 21st Century. It isn’t perfect, but it’s full to the brim with quirky charm

The Suzuki Jimny remains a niche player in a market dominated by refined and capable crossovers. If you want a fine-handling SUV, this is not the car for you. However, if you’re after an unstoppable small 4x4 with impressive off-road ability, little else comes close. It offers loads of retro charm inside and out, with sharp styling and a durable interior. Our final verdict will hinge heavily on exact prices and representative finance examples – as that will be the difference between a quirky car and one with genuine appeal to buyers. The first UK cars will arrive in January 2019.

20 Sep, 2018
3.5

The latest Suzuki Jimny is a rugged 4x4 that has been redesigned for the 21st Century. It’d be fair to say there are hints of Land Rover Defender, Jeep Wrangler and Mercedes G-Class in the design, but despite its rudimentary ladder-frame chassis, it’s better to drive and more comfortable than before. 

Inside, the exterior’s square theme continues, with plenty of straight lines and harsh edges. Quality is on par with rivals like the Dacia Duster, with scratchy plastics on the dash and doors; the Jimny is built to stand the test of time rather than feel particularly luxurious.

This being a Suzuki, most of the kit you’d want comes as standard on SZ5 cars. However, the firm is hoping to offer a selection of customisation options ­– including styling tweaks, roof racks and different front grilles. There are lots of vibrant colours to choose from, too, including Kinetic Yellow, Brisk Blue and Chiffon Ivory.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

Only top-spec Suzuki Jimny SZ5 models benefit from a touchscreen as standard. Basic SZ4 cars get a CD player, Bluetooth connectivity and DAB radio, but make do with a simple screen and manual air-conditioning. 

Here, we’ll focus on the SZ5’s infotainment set-up. It’s a system we are familiar with from various other Suzuki models such as the Swift, S-Cross and Vitara. It’s not the most responsive unit, but there’s loads of functionality – including sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The main menu consists of four easily distinguished shortcut squares, which allow easy access to things like the radio and phone settings.

Unsurprisingly, there are no digital dials or fancy night vision settings, but the dash is easy to navigate and intuitive to use. There’s a small screen in between the speedo and rev counter – providing trip information like fuel economy and predicted range.

2.5

Built to cope with some of the most challenging off-road routes, deepest streams and highest mountains, the new Suzuki Jimny simply can’t match the best crossovers for on-road handling.

All versions come with ALLGRIP Pro all-wheel drive as standard, with three settings: 2H, 4H and 4L. In normal driving, the Jimny is driven via the rear wheels only but, in case you wondering, this is no sports car. While it feels much more secure than the old Jimny, it still rolls through the corners, shimmying over rough tarmac and potholes. 

Out on the motorway, the Jimny’s struggles are even more apparent. The standard-fit five-speed manual box and short gearing mean the engine is quite noisy at 70mph, while the limited power ensures you’ll need to plan your overtakes more carefully than you might in one of the Suzuki’s turbocharged rivals. Still, road noise and wind noise are well suppressed, so keep things below 50mph and it’s a relatively refined place to be. It’s difficult at this stage to comment on ride comfort, as our road route across Germany was confined to smooth, ripple-free tarmac.

Given its small size, you’d expect the Suzuki Jimny to be well suited to town driving. However, the steering is slow and vague, which makes parking and low speed manoeuvres quite tricky; if you don’t wind the lock off quickly, you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of the road.

Where the Suzuki Jimny really shows its worth, is off road. We completed a relatively challenging course in a private forest in Germany, and were blown away by how easy it was to drive. There’s loads of ground clearance and plenty of grip, while the low range gearbox setting, hill hold and hill descent control systems make light work of rougher ground and steeper slopes. Yes, the soft suspension throws you around, but there’s very little that can stop the terrifyingly tough Jimny out in the wild.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

The Suzuki Jimny is offered with just one engine option – and things are likely to stay that way for some time. The sole 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol produces 100bhp and 130Nm of torque, which is good for 0-62mph in around 13 seconds. Official acceleration times and top speeds haven’t been revealed.

Due to the car’s low kerbweight, it feels sprightly enough. There are two gearbox options: a five-speed manual and a four-speed auto. We’ve only tried the manual model for the time being, and while it is responsive enough in the lower gears, the short fifth cog means it is noisy at motorway speeds. A sixth gear would improve things in this regard.

3.6

It’s tricky to comment on reliability given the Suzuki Jimny is so new. However, the company finished 11th overall in our latest 2018 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, suggesting most customers are happy with the service of their supplying dealer and the reliability of their cars.

Certainly, on our test drive, the new Jimny felt solidly built and designed to withstand truly tough off-roading. As a result, we’ve no reason to believe the little 4x4 will be anything other than bulletproof should you choose to buy one.

With regards to safety, Euro NCAP recently announced a disappointing three-star verdict for the Jimny. Although it performed admirably in the Adult (73 per cent) and Child (84 per cent) Occupant protection categories, it scored poorly for Safety Assist (50 per cent) and Pedestrian Protection (52 per cent). The Dacia Duster was also granted three stars, however, with poorer scores in all but the Pedestrian protection category. 

The latest Jimny is loaded with more kit than ever, however, including Dual Sensor Brake Support (DSBS), Lane Departure Warning and traffic sign recognition. There are six airbags, too.

Warranty

Every new Suzuki, including the Jimny, comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty. It’s competitive but far from class leading; Toyota offers a free five-year guarantee on all of its cars, for example. Still, it’s easy and fairly cost-effective to extend the standard Suzuki warranty with a choice of ‘Basic’, ‘Select’ and ‘Comprehensive’ cover options.

Servicing 

The Suzuki Jimny’s service schedule hasn’t been revealed yet, but we’re expecting it to be made available with all the same service payment plans on offer across the rest of the range. The company’s dealer packages fix the prices for parts and labour for up to three years, using only Suzuki-trained technicians and certified spare parts.

 

3

The Suzuki Jimny’s tiny footprint means it isn’t the most practical car. There’s enough room inside for four passengers to sit relatively comfortably – albeit without any luggage whatsoever. The boot is positively minuscule, in fact - even with the seats lowered. Still, if your idea of practicality is a small SUV that can go almost anywhere, the Jimny could be the car for you.

Size 

At less than 3.5m-long, the latest Suzuki Jimny is shorter than all its main rivals. It’s 30mm shorter than the car it replaces, in fact, making it easy to park and manoeuvre; or at least, it would be if the steering wasn’t so slow to react.

Sitting 20mm taller and 45mm wider makes it bigger inside, but doesn’t drastically change the way the car feels on the road. The short front and rear overhangs help make it one of the most capable cars on sale when it comes to off-roading, too. 

Leg room, head room & passenger space

Despite its dinky dimensions, the Suzuki Jimny is surprisingly accommodating for front and rear passengers. There’s enough room for taller adults up front – although a lack of reach adjustment on the steering wheel can make for a slightly awkward driving position. 

Clambering into the back is no mean feat, but once you’re there you’ll find adequate head and knee room for a six-foot adult. The seats recline for extra comfort, but those with longer legs may find the floor a little high.

There are only two seats in the back, but both feature ISOFIX child seat mounts. Each of the rear seats is easily raised and/or folded from the boot, too.

Boot

By providing adequate rear seat space, Suzuki has sacrificed the Jimny’s boot to a great extent. With just 85 litres on offer with the rear seats in place, there’s more luggage space in a Mazda MX-5. You’ll find enough room for a laptop bag or soft rucksack, but carrying anything more requires you to fold the two back seats. You can’t even blame a bulky spare wheel, as that’s fitted to the back door like before. 

Handily, the back seats split 50:50 and fold down to reveal a completely flat 377-litre load bay; almost as much as you get in a Volkswagen Golf with the rear seats in place. The Jimny is hardly the most practical car for carrying cumbersome kit, then.

That said, Suzuki will offer a optional fold-flat passenger seat, which should help when carrying longer items. Roof racks are available, and Suzuki even thought to reposition the aerial, to allow easy transportation of surfboards or top boxes.

Towing 

Despite its rugged looks and capable 4x4 system, the tiny Suzuki Jimny is only capable of towing a 1,300kg braked trailer. Fix an unbraked load to the back of the car and you’re limited to just 350kg.

Being a back-to-basics no frills SUV, there are no fancy tow assist features. It’s unclear whether Suzuki will offer a reversing camera on the options list either.

3.1

Don’t be fooled: despite the new Suzuki Jimny’s lightweight construction and dinky dimensions, it’s unlikely to be a cheap car to run. Especially if you often drive off-road in 4x4 mode.

Official fuel consumption (NEDC figures) ranges from 37.7mpg to 41.5mpg depending on spec – with those cars on bigger wheels likely to be slightly less efficient. CO2 emissions start at 154g/km and rise to 170g/km on some models. There is no super-frugal diesel model.

For comparison, a Dacia Duster (in petrol guise) will emit between 145g/km and 158g/km, while diesel versions reduce this to as little as 115g/km. The most efficient front-wheel drive versions can return as much as 64.2mpg.

Insurance groups 

New Suzuki Jimny insurance groups haven’t been announced, but they’re likely to rise significantly over those of the old car. Basic models sat in insurance group 13, while top-spec SZ4 and Adventure models were group 15. For comparison’s sake, the Dacia Duster sits between group 8 and group 12.

Depreciation 

As official pricing hasn’t been announced, there is currently no depreciation data for the new Suzuki Jimny. However, a quick glance at official numbers for the old model suggests the latest car should hold its value remarkably well. A higher list price could harm these numbers, however.

Despite launching way back in 1998, even now the old Jimny will retain up to 53 per cent of its value after three years or 36,000 miles. A Dacia Duster is similarly competitive, but crossover rivals like the Renault Captur and Nissan Juke fall some way short.

New Peugeot 508 GT 1.6 turbo UK review
Posted on Wednesday September 19, 2018

New Peugeot 508 GT 1.6 turbo UK review – header
19 Sep, 2018 5:30pm Alex Ingram

We drive the new Peugeot 508 petrol in the UK to find out if the class leaders have anything to worry about...

The mid-size family car segment has diminished almost to the point of extinction. With so many buyers skipping the traditional three-box options for a chunky crossover, cars like the Peugeot 508 have morphed into something a bit more interesting.

And one look at the latest 508 makes you wonder why anyone would give a compact SUV a second glance. Distinctive, sleek, and from the rear three-quarter angle, downright pretty. It’s a car that makes not only the car it replaces look dowdy and tired, but most of its current rivals, too.

Best executive cars on sale

Limited-run First Edition model aside, there are four trim levels to choose from. Active models wear 17-inch alloy wheels and get an eight-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, while the Allure adds a larger 10-inch screen and heated seats. The GT-Line comes with 18-inch alloys, LED headlights and part faux-leather seats.

The top spec GT, tested here, gets full leather, a FOCAL hi-fi and 19-inch wheels, among other desirable extras. There are some pretty cool features on the options list, too: the £1,300 night vision system can detect pedestrians and animals up to 200m ahead. It’s a first in this segment.

In a welcome break from almost all other current manufacturers, the 508 has actually shrunk compared to its predecessor - and it’s lighter too. It’s now 13mm shorter and 70mm lower than a Volkswagen Passat.

Up front, it makes the likes of the Passat (and arguably the BMW 3 Series) look dull. The dashboard design is all swoops and curves, the centre console is set high for a coupe-like feel, and Peugeot’s i-Cockpit, which places 12.3-inch digital dials above a small-diameter steering wheel, offers enough adjustment that most people won’t have any trouble getting comfy. The 508’s perceived quality gives little to nothing away to its German rivals either.

It’s a shame the 508 is fairly cramped in the back though. The Passat, Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport – and particularly the Skoda Superb – are more spacious, especially for headroom. In fact, anyone who’s six foot-plus will be brushing their head against the 508’s roof lining. Boot space is down on the VW too, but there’s slightly more room than a 3 Series, and the hatchback opening is very easy to access.

The 508 rides on the same platform as the 3008 SUV, and shares a similarly plush ride. Minor low speed fidget aside, even on the 19-inch wheels it’s smooth and relaxing. Yet this doesn’t come at the expense of handling; the steering is light and precise, and although it isn’t as agile as a BMW, it’s still more fun to drive than an Insignia or Passat.

There are five engines to choose from: three diesel and two petrol, while a plug-in hybrid model is due in late 2019. The 222bhp 1.6-litre turbo tops the range – and it’s a revvy, enthusiastic, and strong performer. However, it’s only available in GT trim, and at £35,975 it’s a little too pricey to justify.

For a car that will likely be bought by high mileage drivers (Peugeot predicts 80 per cent of sales will go to fleet users), it’s likely that the the diesels will be most popular. The tried-and-tested 128bhp 1.5-litre BlueHDi unit is hushed enough and dips below the 10-second mark for the 0-62mph sprint.

While the 1.5 is available with a six-speed manual gearbox, the rest of the range is auto only. The eight-speed unit shifts smoothly and responds well in manual mode via the steering wheel-mounted paddles. But it can be just a bit jerky when coming to a stop.

Prices start from £25,000, which makes the closest equivalent Passat 1.6 TDI around £800 cheaper. However, the Peugeot is the better equipped of the pair, is more powerful and, at 74.3mpg, returns better fuel economy (by around 4mpg) in official tests. Fuel consumption is a strength throughout the 508 range, actually: both 2.0-litre diesel models hit over 60mpg, and even the most potent petrol is claimed to achieve 49.6mpg.

Peugeot claims class-leading residual values for the 508, which helps contribute towards the £298.98 per month quoted for a four-year PCP on an Active 1.5 diesel manual. However, Volkswagen currently offers a significant £4,000 deposit contribution for its Passat, which means on a similar monthly rate you’ll be saving £2,300 up front if you go for the VW.

3.5
Handsome, frugal and good to drive, the Peugeot 508 offers plenty to the large family car class. There are rivals that are more spacious, but little comes close in terms of style. We’d avoid this top-spec petrol GT model, though; as nice as it is, there are more affordable yet well-equipped options lower down the range.
  • Model: 508 GT 225PS Auto
  • Price: £35,975
  • Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
  • Power/torque: 222bhp/300Nm
  • 0-62mph: 7.3 seconds
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Economy: 49.6mpg
  • CO2: 131g/km
  • On sale: Now

New 2019 Mercedes-AMG Project ONE production model teased
Posted on Wednesday September 19, 2018

Alex Ingram 2018-09-20 07:50

The Mercedes-AMG Project ONE will be the closest thing to a Formula 1 car for the road, and it's undergoing testing ahead of a 2019 release

Mercedes-AMG Project ONE - teaser front

Following on from the reveal of the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2017, the full production model has been teased while undergoing testing before its official 2019 release. 

The closest thing we’ll possibly ever see to a Formula 1 car for the road is undergoing testing at Millbrook Proving Ground. The camouflaged mule isn’t quite a final production spec model - the bonnet air intake and tail lights aren’t the final items, for example - but even through the camouflaged body, the overall shape looks near-identical to the model we saw last year.

This revolutionary hypercar is driven by a contemporary F1 power unit. It uses a version of the 1.6-litre turbocharged hybrid V6 that has propelled the Mercedes team to every Formula 1 drivers and constructors world championship since 2014, and it’s assembled in the same Mercedes High Performance Powertrains plant in Brixworth.

The V6’s 11,000rpm rev limit is lower than the race cars’ (they’re mandated to a 15,000rpm red line, though rarely go beyond 13,000rpm in reality), but the Project ONE’s plug-in hybrid system - four electric motors in total - makes up for that by delivering a greater electrical output. 

One of the electric motors forms part of an electronic turbocharger in a bid to reduce turbo lag, while the other is linked to the crankcase to augment the 1.6-litre engine’s output with an additional 161bhp, feeding off excess energy from the turbo system. Two more 161bhp motors drive the front wheels to turn the Project ONE into a four-wheel-drive hybrid hypercar.

Best hypercars in the world

Mercedes says that the Project ONE’s power unit is good for 986bhp. In terms of outright performance, a top speed in excess of 217mph is promised, and while there’s no 0-62mph time, the Project ONE can dash to 124mph in under six seconds.

The lithium-ion battery packs, how they are arranged and the system used to cool them are the same as that found in the Mercedes F1 car, but the Project ONE boasts far more cells to unlock an all-electric driving mode – the firm claims you’ll be able to drive around 15.5 miles on battery power alone. The charging voltage is rated at 800 volts, which Mercedes says the charging system allows space saving by reducing cable diameters. The battery system lies on the floor behind the front axle.

With the front axle motors, Mercedes says that up to 80 per cent of the braking energy dispelled during normal driving can be recuperated into the battery pack, while independent acceleration and braking mean that they can act as a torque vectoring system. The rear wheels are fed power via a brand-new eight-speed gearbox, which can be operated via shift paddles on the steering wheel.

As well as being able to operate as a pure EV, the driving modes range include a ‘highly dynamic’ mode, which Mercedes says uses similar settings used by the Formula 1 car during qualifying laps. In some driving modes, the car can automatically switch from electric power to coaxing the turbocharged 1.6-litre engine into action, while lifting off the throttle to coast switches the car back to electric drive. The Project ONE’s combustion engine will be able to cover the equivalent of over a quarter of an F1 season before it needs servicing.

In terms of design, the Project ONE avoids contemporary Mercedes styling cues in its racing car-inspired shape. Huge vents on the front apron and beneath the windscreen dominate the car’s front end, while a pair of flat LED headlights are sunk into the bonnet. Naked carbon aerodynamic flaps are pinned to the car’s sculpted sides, while an air intake perched on the roof is hard to miss.

Around the back, an F1-style shark fin sits above the engine compartment and divides the rear end, while a huge rear diffuser and retractable rear spoiler are also present to provide plenty of downforce. Active aero is found at the front too, with an extending front splitter and movable flaps positioned over the front wheels. The body itself is a carbon-fibre monocoque, but Mercedes has not revealed how much the Project ONE concept weighs.

Under the skin, the car makes use of adjustable coil-over suspension with push-rod spring struts, carbon ceramic brakes, and the traction control system is three-way adjustable – at start-up the system is switched on completely, but a ‘Sport Handling Mode’ raises the threshold before computer assistance steps it. The traction control system can be switched off entirely, too.

Mercedes describes the cabin as ‘Formula 1 for two'. Deep bucket seats with adjustable backrests are present, while the square steering wheel is noticeably F1 inspired. The skinny, uncluttered carbon-fibre dashboard is home to two 10-inch displays – one placed behind the steering wheel, and the other sprouting from the centre console and angled towards the driver. A third screen acts as a rear-view mirror and is linked to a camera at the back of the car.

While it’s intended as an eye-catching performance flagship, Mercedes says that findings from the project will drip down into future hybrid AMG models. If you want to buy a Project ONE, you'll need around £2.4million.

Is £2.4million a bargain for a Formula 1 car for the road? Let us know your thoughts below...

Volkswagen reveals I.D. Buzz Cargo van
Posted on Wednesday September 19, 2018

Dean Gibson 2018-09-19 16:00

Electric concept leads German firm's wave of vehicles presented at Hannover Commercial Vehicle Show

VW ID Buzz Cargo van

Volkswagen has revealed another all-electric I.D. concept at the IAA Commercial Vehicle show in Hannover, with the debut of the I.D. Buzz Cargo. The new concept is a panel van version of the I.D. Buzz people carrier, but the back seats have been replaced by a racking system that has been tailor made for the Cargo model. The automated racks slide electrically and their contents are checked automatically via a tablet. Also included is a 230-Volt plug socket, which allows users to connect tools and power them via the van's battery pack, rather than needing supplementary power.

But the I.D. Buzz Cargo was just one of five new vehicles unveiled by VW Commercial Vehicles in Hannover. At the smaller end of the spectrum, the Cargo e-Bike is a more traditional alternative to the Renault Twizy. This electrically assisted tricycle has a 250 Watt motor and can travel at speeds of up to 15mph. It's designed as a  more appealing 'last-mile' delivery vehicle, and can carry a 0.5 cubic metre box on the front pallet, which remains upright when the e-Bike is cornering.

Best medium panel vans to buy 2018

Of more significance was the unveiling of the production-ready e-Caddy and e-Transporter vans. These two models have been developed in conjunction with Formula E racing team Abt, and feature a 110bhp electric motor. The 37.3kWh battery in the e-Caddy gives it a quoted range of 137 miles, while the 4,2 cubic metres of load space in the back mean it will be one of the most versatile EVs on sale. VW revealed the e-Caddy and e-Transporter in German taxi spec, as they are both expected to be popular with private hire users.

The e-Transporter completes the electric VW van range, slotting in between the new e-Caddy and existing e-Crafter. Again Abt is involved in the van's development, but this time there are two variants on offer - one with a 37.3 kWh battery, and one with a 74.6 kWh battery. This means there's a driving range of 130 or 250 miles respectively, although the scalable battery tech on board means other capacities can be included. Also revealed was a 48-volt mild hybrid Transporter, designed to save fuel through everyday driving by giving electrical assistance in certain situations.

Finally, the Crafter HyMotion is a hydrogen fuel cell version of the e-Crafter large van which adds integrated a 7.5kg hydrogen tank. This gives the e-Crafter a range of 311 miles, while charging the tank should only take as long as it would filling a conventional diesel Crafter.

Read our review of the VW Crafter van here...

Peugeot e-LEGEND concept brings 504 Coupe into the modern world
Posted on Wednesday September 19, 2018

James Brodie 2018-09-20 08:00

The Peugeot e-LEGEND concept, which blends retro with the future, is set to star at the 2018 Paris Motor Show

Peugeot e-LEGEND - front

Peugeot has a new concept car for the Paris Motor Show, which is an all-electric, autonomous, modern evocation of the iconic 504 Coupe.

Called e-LEGEND, the retro-futuristic design takes its profile from the 504 Coupe and blends it with some of the firm’s more contemporary design elements to create a traditional three box coupe, with what Peugeot says are “realistic” proportions.

All the latest in the build-up to the 2018 Paris Motor Show

Unlike many modern show cars, the overall profile of the e-LEGEND is less radical and far more showroom friendly, with properly sized windows, no unrealistic overhangs and even very production car like 19-inch wheels. Against the tape measure, it sizes up at 4,650mm long, 1,930mm wide and 1,370mm tall – nothing out of the ordinary for a modern coupe.

The front end interpretation of the 504 Coupe uses double lighting modules to hark back to the original car’s four-piece headlights, though the units are broken up with more modern looking Peugeot triple “claw” lighting signatures, mirroring the car’s taillights.

The square front end boasts a faux grille inspired by the past, but it wears an illuminated Peugeot badge front and centre. Wheel arches carved into the bodywork are a modern take on old-school plastic trim arches. Protruding aluminium beams finished in black, intended to hark back to classic car bumpers, protect both the front and rear ends of the car. 

Those bumpers are something Peugeot design boss Gilles Vidal tells he wants to explore for future production models. With front and rear bumpers getting more intricate, it’s becoming more difficult to package vehicles for maximum safety.

“You need a certain length of material to absorb shocks. As the regulations grow harder, and harder for the good reasons of safety, it means the front overhangs of cars grow bigger and bigger. It’s a very modern and contemporary reason to use this kind of touch. 

“It would be amazing, but probably hard to achieve. It is an idea we want to explore”, he explains. 

Elsewhere on the car’s exterior, more futuristic touches are found in the form of side cameras over side mirrors, and small displays placed at the base of each C-pillar, used to display a welcome message upon unlocking the car and charge status.

With such real-world proportions it’s easy to see how the e-LEGEND could easily transform into a car not out of place on the road, but Vidal tells us: “It’s not in our plans for now”, given the tiny size of the coupe segment in Europe. 

“You can always make something like this economically viable but it’s always then the question of how much money do you put on the table for how much gain afterwards. There is an obvious gain in terms of brand image, but it’s a tricky question for the top management of the company. Positive feedback helps, but it doesn’t wrap up the decision”.

The cabin mixes next-generation infotainment technology with classic materials. It’s hard to miss the mix of rich silk velvet on the seats and 60s style wood all around the cabin, but the main infotainment display sits in the front foot well. The curved screen measures up at 49-inches in size, but it’s not the only display found inside. 

There’s a digital instrument display behind the wheel, plus a pair of 29-inch screens acting as door cards and two more 12-inch displays hidden in each sun visor. It’s all controlled through either voice activation or a six-inch touchscreen branching out between the two front seats, complete with a rotary dial.

The e-LEGEND uses a bespoke electric platform with an all-wheel-drive powertrain fed by a 100kWh battery pack. Power is rated at 456bhp, with 800Nm of torque on tap too. Peugeot claims such a setup would be capable of propelling the concept from 0-62mph in less than four seconds and on to a top speed of 137mph. Range is rated at 373 miles under WLTP, while rapid charging tech means an 80 per cent top up can be achieved in 25 minutes. It’s hypothetical for now, but Peugeot says figures like this are a “realistic vision” of what’s around the corner for EVs, and a target for 2025. 

The e-LEGEND isn’t just about showcasing future design and battery tech either – autonomous driving capabilities form a large part of the concept’s character. It features two separate autonomous modes, one pairing back the amount of information shown on the car’s numerous displays for more laid back autonomous journeys, the other unleashing the full arsenal of connectivity features. The steering wheel folds away into the dashboard when the car is driving autonomously, and the front seats recline too.

What do you think of the Peugeot e-LEGEND concept? Would you like to see it make production?

 

 


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