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In the News ...

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 09:45

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Click here for all the latest on the new Aston Martin Varekai SUV...

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

Traffic

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...

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.

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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.

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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?

New Mazda CX-3 2018 facelift review
Posted on Wednesday September 19, 2018

Mazda CX-3 - front
19 Sep, 2018 2:45pm James Brodie

The Mazda CX-3 is the latest model from the brand to be updated for 2018. We take it for a spin to see what's changed...

Mazda hasn’t been slacking this year. Though the brand’s most important model will arrive at the LA Motor Show in December with the reveal of an all-new Mazda 3, four members of Mazda’s line-up have been updated over the previous nine months. 

Truth be told, the updates bestowed on those cars have been pretty minor with the exception of the more powerful MX-5, and it’s largely the same story here with the Mazda CX-3. That means lots of little changes to the design inside and out, plus revised steering, plus suspension and engine tweaks are the order of the day.

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From outside you’ll struggle to pick out the differences between old and new. The only major change is the introduction of a new grille, while the pillars are finished in a darker shade to emphasise the car’s floating roofline.

Step inside and more obvious changes creep in. The mechanical handbrake is gone, replaced by an electronic switch. The multimedia controller has been repositioned further up the centre console making it easier to reach, and a new padded armrest now sprouts between the driver and passenger seat. The rear middle seat now folds down to form an armrest with cupholders.

High-spec cars like ours are trimmed with a nice combination of leather and Alcantara. It’s a very pleasant environment, and overall interior quality impresses more than in a Volkswagen T-Roc. The infotainment system – now available with Apple CarPlay ­– and instrumentation, isn’t presented in the most modern fashion, however.

Buyers get the choice of a brand-new diesel engine, but it’s the 119bhp 2.0-litre petrol driven here that will remain the biggest seller. It’s not without change, mind, as internal revisions to the unit result in improved fuel economy of 45.5mpg.

The free-revving, linear nature of the engine goes well with the CX-3’s well-judged chassis, steering and snappy six-speed manual gearbox, which combine to place the Mazda right at the front of the crossover pack for pure driving enjoyment. However, the quoted 206Nm of torque doesn’t quite pull the car up to speed from low down with the kind of urgency of the CX-3’s numerous turbocharged rivals.

Even though this updated car receives more sound deadening, uphill slogs and overtakes do get noisy; you need to approach the final third of the rev band to make good progress. Though max torque is delivered at 2,800rpm, peak power doesn’t arrive until 6,000rpm. It doesn’t lend itself too well to economical driving, and downsized three-cylinder turbo rivals may work out cheaper to run for most buyers.

Things are quiet enough on the motorway but the CX-3 still suffers from a fair bit of road and wind noise at speed, with no thanks to its sizable mirrors. Opt for the more powerful 2.0-litre equipped with an automatic gearbox and things regress; be prepared for plenty of engine roar seeping into the cabin if you opt for this set-up. 

Mazda has tweaked the suspension, but by and large the CX-3 rides as it did before. It soaks up imperfections, all while displaying solid body control on twistier tarmac. Small inconsistencies can creep through, though, with some low-speed niggles and high-speed wobbles found either side of the car’s sweet spot.

A 350-litre boot places it bang in the middle of the pack when it comes to practicality, but the rear seats remain a little tight for passengers, and less rakish rivals will serve up more room.

You may find that rivals come a little higher stocked too. In order to keep the price of the CX-3 competitive, the range topping Sport Nav+ model leaves safety kit like a driver attention alert system, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive LED headlights and blind spot monitoring on the options list. These form part of a £650 pack, while full leather upholstery is a £1,000 option limited to this model. UK cars aren’t available with the radar controlled adaptive cruise control system added to European models, either.

3.5
The Mazda CX-3 still caters to small crossover buyers after something well built and fun to drive. However, the old-school charm of the naturally aspirated engines won’t be to all tastes, and there are plenty of more spacious and practical rivals out there.
  • Model: Mazda CX-3 Sport Nav+ 2.0 SKYACTIV-G 121PS Manual
  • Price: £21,695
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol
  • Power/torque: 119bhp/206Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel-drive
  • 0-62mph: 9.0 seconds
  • Top speed: 119mph
  • Economy/CO2: 45.5mpg/141g/km
  • On sale: Now

Toyota Aygo vs Kia Picanto
Posted on Wednesday September 19, 2018

2018-09-19 15:00

The updated Toyota Aygo takes on the Kia Picanto in a five-door city car shootout

Toyota Aygo vs Kia Picanto

Fighting through traffic jams, width restrictors and complex junctions and avoiding selfish driver are all part of commuting in a big city. The recently updated Toyota Aygo and Kia Picanto are built specifically for the task of dealing with daily city drives.

Best city cars to buy in 2018

City cars are truly built for the task, but they’re also great in many other ways. They’re cheap to buy and run, fun to drive and often have plenty of personality. They might be built down to a price, yet the best cars in this class have a wide range of ability, so its not just those who live in cities who love them. They’re a favourite with young drivers for their low insurance costs, but which of these two is better?

Head-to-head

Model: Toyota Aygo
1.0 VVT-I x-press
Kia Picanto
 1.0 Mpi '2'
Price: £12,630 £11,075
Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl petrol 1.0-litre 3cyl petrol
Power/Torque: 71bhp/93Nm 66bhp/96Nm
Transmission: Five-speed manual,
front-wheel drive
Five-speed manual,
front-wheel drive
0-60mph/Top Speed: 13.2 seconds/99mph 12.4 seconds/100mph
Test Economy: 53.2mpg/11.7mpl 49.8mpg/10.9mpl
CO2/Tax: 93g/km/£140 114g/km/£140
Options: Metallic paint (£515),
smartphone Integration (£200)
None

Kia Picanto

The latest Kia Picanto is the best version yet, having been redesigned to add more space, technology and a relatively wide range of engine options for a city car. It’s the 66bhp 1.0-litre model we’re testing here, which is the entry-level motor, aimed at those wishing to save on running costs and especially insurance premiums if they are young drivers.

The three-cylinder engine is smooth and fun to use, although it’s not as peppy as the Aygo’s 71bhp unit. However, shorter gearing means it is significantly more flexible than the Toyota.

In our performance tests the Kia was 0.8 seconds faster than the Aygo from 0-60mph, but it also performed strongly in gear. While its rival took a glacial 14.1 seconds to cover 30-50mph in fourth, the Picanto posted a more reasonable time of 9.5 seconds. Neither of these cars will set the tarmac alight with their performance potential, but the Picanto’s extra pace is very welcome here.

Long gearing in the Aygo helps improve official economy and keep the revs down at a cruise, but it wasn’t significantly more efficient than the Kia. And even though the Picanto sits at higher revs at 70mph than the Toyota, the Korean model is quite quiet inside at speed, too, so it’s the better choice for motorway trips.

It’s not just on high-speed roads that the Kia feels at home, since the comfortable ride soaks up potholes and poor surfaces at low speeds around town as well. It’s more refined than its competitor here in pretty much every situation. The steering isn’t quite as positive as the Toyota’s, but it is reasonably well weighted, and the Picanto is fun to drive as well. The gearchange is light and has a mechanical feel, so it’s satisfying if not really enjoyable to use.

Interior quality in the Kia is on par with that in the Toyota, but neither car is a class leader here. Both feature hard, cheap plastics in abundance, which is to be expected in this class. The pair has different takes on interior design, with the Kia’s being more restrained but a little classier as a result, while the Aygo has funkier styling; much like the exteriors of each car. The Kia is more reserved, the Aygo is more extroverted.

In ‘2’ trim the Kia Picanto comes with 14-inch alloy wheels, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with controls for the audio system, cruise control, air-conditioning and a monochrome radio display. There’s also Bluetooth included, but if you want a colour touchscreen you’ll have to upgrade to ‘3’ or X-Line specification.

Testers Notes

• Materials: Cheap materials are par for the course in the city car class, but at least both of these rivals feel well built and robust
Steering Wheel: Media controls on the wheel mean it’s easy to control while on the move. The steering itself is light and makes the car easy to drive
Technology: Picanto in ‘2’ trim comes with a USB port and Bluetooth, but no touchscreen. You will need to pick a more powerful engine variant to get this feature included as standard

Toyota Aygo

The first thing you’ll notice about the Toyota Aygo is its distinctive exterior design. It’s one of the best-looking cars in its class, and is much more visually interesting than the comparatively bland Kia. The recent facelift added LED daytime running lights and LED tail-lamps to give it an even more modern look. It’s a similar story on the inside, although some people will prefer the more grown-up and reserved design of the Picanto. 

An infotainment display is the biggest advantage the Toyota has over its rival. The Kia only has a tiny monochrome display in ‘2’ trim, but the Aygo x-press features a touchscreen system with Bluetooth, DAB and a reversing camera. You can add sat-nav for £400, too; this isn’t available unless you buy a higher trim level on the Kia. Go for x-press trim and you can add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality
as part of a £200 pack, something that’s been missing from Toyota’s products until recently (it’s also available on some Picanto models).

The Toyota is slightly more agile than its rival, with well-weighted steering, even if the damping doesn’t feel as sophisticated. You can hurl the Aygo into corners and feel it shuffle its weight on the road surface, which is at least good fun. Also, the engine has been updated with more power, so it now has 71bhp. It retains its engaging character, because it sounds characterful, even if it’s short on performance.

Hampering the Aygo’s keen engine are the tall ratios of the gearbox, and you’ll need to drop one or more gears to accelerate at all quickly. It took 10.2 seconds to go from 30-50mph in third, where the Kia only took 6.3 seconds.

That gives you an idea of its performance deficit; you’ll often be in third as you accelerate from a village out into a national speed limit zone or dual carriageway. The thrummy engine means it’s actually quite fun to accelerate in the Aygo, but there’s an extra element of frustration as you put your foot down and nothing much happens for several seconds while the revs build.

The sweet handling also has a trade-off in that the Aygo feels more brittle on the road than its rival. It’s fine once you’re up to speed, but doesn’t deal with potholes and broken surfaces quite as well as the Picanto. This means the car bounces around more on tight city streets. It’s a bit noisier on the motorway than the Kia, too, and the weak engine means you feel less confident with overtaking on fast roads.

Testers Notes

Colour: Painted panels are on show inside, which is ypical for many city cars. It adds extra colour to the cabin
Dashboard design: Aygo’s dashboard looks more interesting than Kia’s, but still feels cheap. While Picanto’s is more plain, it’s classier
Touchscreen: Screen on our test car included smartphone integration, a must-have for many city car buyers. It’s a welcome addition to the Toyota 

Verdict

First place: Kia Picanto

The Picanto is stronger in several key areas than its rival, so it’s the better buy. The Kia is more spacious inside, quieter and, thanks to its stronger performance, it’s more relaxing to drive. It rides well and is great value, both outright and on PCP finance, and boasts more usability.

Second place: Toyota Aygo

The Aygo is stylish, economical and fun to drive but loses out here. It’s more cramped, is less comfortable and its performance disappoints, even with more power than before. The facelift has improved its appeal, but not by enough to beat the more practical Kia.

‘PSA’s premium push is already paying off’
Posted on Wednesday September 19, 2018

Steve Fowler 2018-09-19 11:20

Peugeot Citroen's plan to delve into the premium market with its DS brand seems to be paying off, says Steve Fowler...

Opinion: DS3 Crossback

There were plenty of raised eyebrows back in 2014, when PSA boss Carlos Tavares announced plans to turn DS from a Citroen model line into a premium brand to rival Audi, BMW and Mercedes. It was all part of Tavares’ ‘Back in the Race’ strategy, which has already transformed the PSA business – financially and product-wise. It led to the ‘Push to Pass’ plan and more raised eyebrows as PSA bought Vauxhall and Opel from GM.

The jury’s still out on the Vauxhall/Opel deal, but from what we’ve seen so far from this new-look PSA, the signs are good. And from a DS perspective, it’s looking like another Tavares masterstroke. On the face of it, DS has always made complete sense. The French are rather good at luxury fare, so why not in the car game? The luxury goods sector has grown by 72 per cent in the past 12 years, while in the car market the growth among premium brands has massively outstripped mainstream makers’ growth. It’s not just about product, but that’s a good place to start.

Best crossovers to buy in 2018

The DS 7 Crossback is a decent enough first stab at an upmarket SUV, providing sufficient difference from more established German offerings to pick up quite a following. And having seen the new DS 3 Crossback (above) in the flesh, I’d say its proportions, price and quality will provide another compelling reason to choose something that’s a bit different from the norm. Product makes up just one of the three pillars that support the DS brand, with the network and customer experience backing it up.

They provide a strong opportunity to do something better than rivals – which in these cases, can’t be too hard. There’s far more to come from DS with four new cars in the next four years, and electrification, too. Maybe Tavares’ 20-year plan is a little pessimistic.

Get the full story on the new DS 3 Crossback here...

Only 3 stars for the Suzuki Jimny in the latest Euro NCAP results
Posted on Wednesday September 19, 2018

Alex Ingram 2018-09-19 11:10

Average rating for Suzuki's small SUV in latest safety tests, but Audi A6 and VW Touareg achieve excellent 5-star scores

Suzuki Jimny - side

The latest batch of Euro NCAP scores have been released. The Audi A6 and Volkswagen Touareg achieved the maximum five star rating, the Ford Tourneo Connect scored four, and the lowest score in the latest batch goes to the new Suzuki Jimny, which was awarded three stars.

The Jimny was marked down in several areas, including its adult occupant protection of 73 percent. The rating was caused both by a driver’s airbag which doesn’t quite inflate with enough pressure to stop the head from coming into contact with the steering wheel rim, and because of the potential for deformity around the front door pillars in the front offset impact test, which contributed to a weak rating for the driver’s torso. The front seats only offer marginal whiplash protection in the event of a rear impact.

The safest cars on sale now

Child occupant protection was good overall, with the Jimny scoring 84 percent; however marks were lost in the vulnerable road users category as a result of stiff windscreen pillars. It scored its lowest marks in the safety tech category. The 50 per cent rating was awarded due to the fact that the autonomous emergency braking system struggled to spot pedestrians in low light and was unable to detect cyclists, at all.

The Audi A6 was the strongest scorer in the most recent NCAP tests, achieving adult occupant protection of 93 percent and a vulnerable road users score of 81 percent. The Touareg slightly outscored the A6 in both the child protection and safety assist categories, making 86 and 81 percent respectively to the Audi’s 85 and 76 percent.

The facelifted Ford Tourneo Connect achieved an excellent adult occupant score of 92 percent, but it didn’t quite reach the full five stars because of a 65 per cent rating in the vulnerable road users category.

Find out more about the new Suzuki Jimny here...

Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept turns pick-up into mobile observatory
Posted on Wednesday September 19, 2018

Dean Gibson 2018-09-19 09:45

Dark Sky Concept adds a telescope to double cab pick-up for remote observation of the stars

Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept

Nissan has revealed its latest concept truck based on the Navara pick-up. The Dark Sky Concept is a chunky update of the double cab truck that adds a custom-built trailer featuring a telescope that turns the Navara into a mobile observatory. The concept has been designed in conjunction with the European Space Agency (ESA), and is designed to venture off-road to so-called 'Dark Sky' regions; places that aren't subject to the light pollution that urban areas throw up, making it easier to observe the stars and galaxies in the Milky Way.

Nissan has incorporated its Intelligent Mobility philosophy into the design of the Navara Dark Sky Concept, with an uprated suite of driver aids that have been modified to account for the four-metre long trailer that has been specially constructed for the Dark Sky Concept. Nissan's ProPILOT driving assistant, with adaptive cruise control and lane assist, is included, as is the 360-degree Around View camera system from the Navara Tekna. Blind spot monitoring and a self-hitching trailer system are also included.

Best pick-up trucks to buy now

Another highlight is an auxiliary power system that uses battery packs that are similar to those used in the Nissan Leaf EV. This ensures that power is available wherever the telescope is set up, even in the remotest of locations. Wi-fi, a UHF transmitter, laptop station and eight radar units around the truck help users to locate their position and transmit data.

The Navara itself is mechanically unchanged, but gets a custom paint job, bigger wheels and tyres, a raised ride height and custom roof rails and roll bar in the pick-up bed. Inside, there's dark blue leather with orange highlights, while red lights are fitted around the truck so that users can find their way in the dark without affecting their ability to use the telescope. 

The paint job and wheels are also applied to the temperature-controlled trailer, which is designed to keep the telescope at an optimal operating temperature. Mechanical covers open to reveal the 40cm PlaneWave telescope, which is powerful enough to pick out the rings of Saturn. The objective of the Dark Sky Concept is for scientists to back up observations made by the ESA's Gaia satellite telescope, and the Navara and its contents will be donated to the ESA to continue its research.

Read more van and pick-up news and reviews here...

Renault Megane R.S. review
Posted on Wednesday September 19, 2018

For 
Performance car looks
Affordable
Very agile
Our Rating 
4
Against 
Firm ride
Not as quick as rivals
Questionable interior plastics
Renault Megane RS - front
2018

The latest Renault Megane R.S. is the most sophisticated model yet and is a true hot hatch contender

Developing a first class hot hatch is arguably one of the hardest tasks in the car industry; not only does it have to be a riot to drive and look special, it needs to comfortably carry a family and their luggage too. The Renault Megane R.S. hits that brief, if perhaps not quite nailing it as well as some rivals. It’s utterly composed at speed and incredibly nimble but it feels like a car that has more to give; it lacks that last degree of aggression and engagement that the Honda Civic Type R delivers with aplomb.

19 Sep, 2018
4

Visually, the R.S. also cuts a striking shape on the road; it’s squat stance emphasised by bulging arches housing beautiful 19-inch alloy wheels. In our eyes it sits squarely between the GTI and Type R in terms of aesthetics, striking a perfect balance between aggression and subtlety.      

The cabin is a similar story; there are enough sporty Renault Sport flourishes, such as the Alcantara steering wheel and deep bucket seats, to give it a sense of occasion. Of course it’s not perfect, the fake carbon fibre effect fabric on the doors look like an aftermarket part and some of plastics on the dash and centre console feel rather cheap.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

The infotainment system – plucked from the standard Megane – still isn’t the easiest to navigate and the lack of haptic feedback from the screen often leaves you wondering if you selected the correct menu. There are also a lot of menus and sub-menus, meaning it’s easy to get lost in the system if you’re trying to use it while driving.

4

In Comfort or Normal mode you’d be hard pressed to tell the different between a standard Renault Megane and the R.S in terms of refinement. The hot hatch is quiet, smooth and incredibly compliant, even over rutted surfaces. 

As the road tightens and becomes faster toggling through Sport and Race modes sees everything become a little more aggressive. The engine note is synthetically enhanced by the cabin’s speakers, which sounds sub-optimal but is executed well and proves convincing, while crackles and bangs erupt from the exhaust when shifting down through the gears. For a four-cylinder turbo the Renault Megane R.S. sounds fantastic. 

The six-speed dual-clutch auto reacts immediately to your every command; the box is able to jump gears on the way down through the ratios if you pull and hold the left paddle in Sport or Race mode. It’s a shame the paddles don’t operate with a satisfying thud; instead the action feels a bit soft and mushy.

The steering isn’t brimming with feel but its accurate and combined with the Megane’s four-wheel steering means this hot hatch has gymnast levels of agility. Below 62mph in Race mode the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction the fronts to boost precision on the entry to corners; you can feel the rear end begin to swing round and the nose tuck tighter into a bend as you apply more lock.

Initially you find yourself recalibrating the amount of steering angle you need to apply because the Megane R.S. turns in so quickly it almost catches you off guard. Then, when you get on the throttle, because the Sport chassis only gets torque vectoring rather than a proper mechanical limited slip differential, you can feel the R.S. begin to scrabble away at the tarmac, hunting for grip. It’s a sign you’re being over enthusiastic with the right pedal.

Best hot hatchbacks on sale

Where the hot Megane really excels is its ability to cover bumpy and rutted ground at speed with real composure. The hydraulic compression stops fitted to all shock absorbers are the kind you’ll find on rally cars; it means the R.S. is able to absorb big compressions and road undulations without any fuss. The superb body control gives you huge confidence to hustle the car over poor roads at higher speeds.   

Like before there are two chassis setups available on the Renault Megane R.S. - Sport and Cup. You can spec either with a manual or automatic gearbox. The Sport chassis is the standard setup and kits the R.S. out with redesigned hydraulic compression stop shock absorbers and torque vectoring on the front axle to tame understeer. Opt for the Cup chassis, which will set you back around £1,500 to £2,000, and Renault throws in a mechanical limited slip differential and 10 per cent stiffer dampers.

Engines

The Renault Megane R.S. uses a 1.8-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that generates its 276bhp at 6,000rpm. Maximum torque of 390Nm is delivered to the front wheels at 4,800rpm and that’s enough to get the car from 0-62mph in 5.28s before it advances on to a 158mph top speed. 

At the end of the year Renault will launch a more potent Trophy version of the Megane R.S., which promises 296bhp and 400Nm of torque from the same 1.8-litre turbo powerplant.

4

A raft of safety kit such as cruise control, blind spot monitoring and lane keeping assist ensure the Megane R.S. will be safe on the road but from a owner satisfaction perspective, Renault has been less than impressive in the past. 

In the 2018 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey the French brand finished 24th out of 26 car firms. The biggest gripe with Renault customers was surrounding fit and finish with their vehicles.  

Warranty

Every Renault Megane is covered by Renault’s three-year/60,000 mile warranty. The French firm also throws in UK roadside assistance as part of that package.

Servicing

Renault advises that, as a specialist performance vehicle, the Megane R.S. is serviced annually, to ensure that it operates correctly. Being a performance car, you can expect to see more degradation to brakes and tyres compared to regular models and that replacements will be more expensive.

4

The Megane R.S. is now only available as a five-door model and the transition from standard hatchback to hot hatch hasn’t robbed the car of any of its practicality. So if you’re a keen driver with a family to transport around, the Renault Megane R.S. isn’t really much less suitable than a standard Megane model. 

Legroom, headroom 

Like the standard Megane, space inside is pretty good. There’s decent headroom for those in the back but the deep buckets seats steal a fair bit of knee room and space in the foot well so although you have the ability to sit three people across the back bench (unlike in the Honda Civic Type R, which only has two rear seats) you probably wouldn’t want to spend too much time back there. 

Boot 

The boot is unchanged from that of the standard hatchback at 384 litres, which is more than you’ll find in a Golf GTI. If you drop the rear bench the amount of space available increases to 1,247 litres.

3.9

The Megane R.S. is one of the cheaper hot hatches on the market to buy and run. The French firm says the Megane’s 1.8-litre engine will return over 40mpg on average, however, on test we have recorded a figure just below 30mpg – which isn’t bad for a 279bhp performance car. If you drive up to 12,000 miles per year it equates to around £2,377 per year in fuel alone.

CO2 emissions of 161g/km mean annual road tax will cost £140. For company car drivers the RS attracts a Benefit In Kind rating of 33 per cent, meaning the 20 and 40 per cent tax payer will have to pay out £1,876 and £3,752 annually respectively.

Insurance groups

As the Megane R.S. uses a smaller engine and is less powerful than some of its rivals, it sits in insurance group 35, which is between the Civic Type R in group 40 and the Golf GTI in group 33.

Depreciation

Over a three-year period and 36,000 miles the Megane RS will retain 41.4 per cent of its value. That means a top spec model with the Cup chassis will be worth around £12,000 when it comes to second hand value. It loses £16,994 of its value over that period.

Revealing the tech secrets of the Volkswagen Arteon (sponsored)
Posted on Wednesday September 19, 2018

2018-09-19 16:50

The Volkswagen Arteon incorporates some of the very latest technology, making driving safer, easier and more fun

These days it's almost impossible to keep technology out of your everyday life, so it's more important than ever that it helps rather than frustrates. Particularly in the car, you want technology that's straightforward and easy to use, as well as being cutting-edge.

In the Arteon, Volkswagen’s all-new five-door fastback, you get a wide range of functions and information at hand, without things becoming too confusing or overwhelming. Sit into the car and among the first features to catch your eye will probably be the Active Info Display, found where more traditional analogue dials are usually located. 

This is a multifunction screen that can be programmed to show key information right in front of you – from sat-nav direction to the current radio channel or your speed. It's all operated from controls located on the steering wheel, allowing you to maintain focus on the road.

Offering even more immediate information is the Head-up Display, an optional feature on the Arteon that places key information in your line of vision while driving, keeping you abreast of things like sat-nav directions, the current speed limit and your current speed without the need to shift your gaze from the road.

Your vision is taken care of when it gets dark, too, thanks to the Arteon's advanced lighting systems. Dynamic Light Assist, which is fitted as standard, ensures maximum illumination of the road ahead by taking automatic control of the main beam function. And another standard feature, Predictive Dynamic Cornering Lighting, illuminates corners ahead before you've even begun to turn the steering wheel.

Connectivity is all-important in cars these days and the Arteon uses this to full effect, taking care of numerous functions in the process. The Car-Net Security & Service function puts you in contact with the emergency services should you need it, as well as reminding you of the less urgent but still important servicing requirements for your car. Car-Net App-Connect, meanwhile, displays your smartphone's key functions on the Arteon's large central dashboard screen and is compatible with both Android and Apple devices.

Music streaming from your phone is also possible thanks to that system, and you can ensure the best possible listening experience by specifying the optional Dynaudio speakers for your Arteon. This Danish firm is known for supplying professional-grade speakers to top-end recording studios and has designed a bespoke system perfectly attuned to the Arteon's stylish interior, guaranteeing great sound quality as you travel. 

The boot of a car may not seem a likely candidate for technological improvements, but the Arteon makes life easier here, too. An optional easy-option function allows you to simply flick your foot under the rear bumper, while there's also a time-delayed easy-close feature that will close the boot securely once you've finished loading and unloading, too. 

Taken together, this impressive suite of cutting-edge technology makes living with the Volkswagen Arteon both simple and satisfying. Everyday stresses and strains are forgotten and travel becomes a relaxing experience to savour.

A new kind of executive fastback: the Volkswagen Arteon

A new kind of executive fastback: the Volkswagen Arteon (sponsored)
Posted on Wednesday September 19, 2018

2018-09-19 16:50

The Arteon sets pulses racing with its striking looks and engaging driving experience

Business is no longer a synonym for conservative, slow to change or old-fashioned. In the 21st century, dynamic executives are 'disrupting' industries and business models the world over, transforming the world in unexpected ways. And a similar transition is underway in the executive-car market. Customers have become more demanding: to the traditional requirements of comfort and space have been added the need for the car to stand out and make a statement – as well as being exciting to drive. 

The Volkswagen Arteon embodies this ideal perfectly. Its designer Klaus Bischoff has hailed it as "the start of a new era" for the German brand's design language, and it's not difficult to see why. The first thing that grabs your attention is the bold headlight and grille profile up front, then the coupe-like sweeping roofline, prominent wheelarches and crisp detailing down the side. At the back, there's a smart fastback shape – unlike many of the Arteon's rivals – as well as distinctive ARTEON lettering across the tailgate.

Styling is just as dynamic when you step inside, but convenience and comfort for driver and passengers alike hasn't been forgotten, either. The design is unobtrusive and sleek, with typically solid Volkswagen build quality throughout. Incorporated in this layout is the very latest in-car technology, displaying all the functions and information you need either on the Active Info Display behind the steering wheel, or the large touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard. 

It's a technological tour de force under the bonnet as well, where owners can choose from modern TSI petrol or TDI diesel engines, as well as six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG transmissions. Every combination promises a smooth and refined yet engaging driving experience in keeping with the Arteon's elegant and sophisticated nature. CO2 emissions and fuel economy are impressive, too, keeping tax bills and expenses nicely in line. 

So whether you're on your way to a meeting in the city, getting away from it all in the countryside or covering significant mileage on the motorway, the Arteon will keep you quietly cocooned from the bustling world outside, while also fully engaged with the drive in hand. It's definitely a new kind of executive fastback.

Revealing the tech secrets of the Volkswagen Arteon

Renault EZ-PRO concept van previews future delivery tech
Posted on Wednesday September 19, 2018

Dean Gibson 2018-09-19 08:45

Renault’s urban delivery design study features an autonomous lead vehicle that's followed by robotic 'pods'

Renault EZ-Pro - front

This is the Renault EZ-PRO Concept, a vision of urban delivery systems that could grace city streets in the future. It features a series of electric, autonomous pods which can be customised to deliver a wide range of goods and services in built-up areas. 

The study, which was revealed at the IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hannover, Germany, is designed to replace large vans and lorries in urban environments where zero emissions are desirable. However, while the concept looks at autonomous urban delivery, Renault's study still features human interaction in the form of a 'concierge', rather than a driver.

EZ-PRO consists of a ‘leader pod’, which is followed by fully automated ‘robo pods’ that can follow the leader, forming a kind of urban road train - although the robo pods aren't physically connected to the lead vehicle. The lead vehicle has seating for the human ‘concierge’, and it also features a joystick to allow manual control of the vehicle if necessary.

However, the leader pod is designed to operate autonomously, so that the concierge can focus on different tasks, such as route planning and personalised customer service, for example. 

The EZ-PRO is a concept that focuses on ‘last-mile’ deliveries – a growing sector of the market which makes up approximately 30 per cent of traffic in cities – with a view to replacing large diesel vans and lorries with smarter alternatives that produce zero emissions.

Unlike the Mercedes Urbanetic concept, which features interchangeable pods to cater for courier or passenger carrying requirements, the EZ-PRO is dedicated to business deliveries. As part of this, the concierge can program pods within the train to break away and travel independently to their final destination, before returning to the lead vehicle when delivery is complete.

Renault has tried to make the EZ-PRO look more appealing than simply being a box on wheels. The pods feature a smooth look that's designed to reduce the visual impact of the pods on their environment, while vertical opening doors boost access. The faired-in wheels feature four-wheel steering for extra manoeuvrability and the rear-drive electric motor makes zero emissions.

While this design study looks towards urban delivery systems in the year 2030, the autonomous tech systems are likely to make production in the nearer future - the all electric Renault Master Z.E. is already designed as a zero-emissions last-mile delivery vehicle, and it has similar telematics technology on board.

Take a look at Renault's last concept, the EX-GO, right here...

 

 


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