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New Hyundai i30 Fastback N prototype review
Posted on Friday July 20, 2018

20 Jul, 2018 7:15pm Jonathan Burn

We drive a prototype version of the new Hyundai i30 Fastback N to see if it's just as good as its hatchback sibling

Hyundai’s newly formed N performance brand, headed up by former BMW M boss Albert Biermann, is wasting no time in getting its second model into showrooms. Following the successful launch of the i30 N hatchback, the Korean firm is applying the finishing touches to the new i30 Fastback N.

To see what’s in store, we were invited to drive a camouflaged version of the four-door coupe at the Nurburgring, before it arrives in showrooms early next year.

Best performance cars on sale

While the standard i30 N clearly casts itself as a rival for the likes of Volkswagen’s prodigious Golf GTI and the Renault Megane RS, the Fastback sits in a rather more exclusive part of the market. The closest thing it has in terms of a direct rival is Skoda’s Octavia vRS, although the Hyundai is significantly more focused and packs more power.

The basic look and setup of the i30 Fastback N, as expected, shares much of its DNA with the hatch. The camouflage applied to the prototypes masks the detail changes but its clear Hyundai is continuing with a more modest approach to styling.

But the Fastback cuts a rather elegant shape; the cascading rear end tails off into a neat boot spoiler, while two oval tailpipes and rear diffuser give it the adequate amount of aggression required for a performance model.

In fact, Biermann says, the sleeker body of the Fastback is one of the main reasons why people will choose it. Initially, there was no plan to put the i30 Fastback N into production, but once the Biermann and his team saw the first clay models they had no choice but to build it.

Beneath the skin is much of the hardware you’ll find on the i30 N; a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine sits under the bonnet, paired exclusively to a six-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels. Like the hatch there are two setups available; a 248bhp entry model and, the car we’ve driving, the more powerful 276bhp Performance pack, which adds larger brakes, 19-inch wheels, Pirelli P Zero types and a limited-slip differential.

While the powertrain remains unchanged from the hatch, the Fastback has been given a “slightly softer setup” according to Beirmann. The springs and bump stops are a little softer; the German describes it as “more elegant” and “compliant”.  

We’re restricted to two laps of the Nurburgring, which isn’t a place known for being able to detect a car’s softer side. However, it’s clear the changes haven’t affected the N’s focused but well-rounded nature; within the first few corners you can immediately detect the i30 N’s well-balance chassis set-up.

The steering, like the hatch, remains slightly artificial in weight and gets progressively heavier when you begin to dial it up through Normal, Sport and N driving modes. However, the front end is always quick to react to steering inputs; the limited-slip differential helping slingshot you out of corners by effectively deploying the engine’s power. If you get a bit over enthusiastic with the throttle on the entry to a corner you are met with speed sapping understeer.

It feels significantly quicker than a Skoda Octavia vRS, but lacks the raw pace of some of the more established hot hatches such as the Honda Civic Type R and Megane RS. The engine delivers all it has by about 5,500rpm but that lack of overall grunt doesn’t linger for too long, as the Hyundai’s lovely balance through corners makes it a hugely enjoyable and rewarding car to drive quickly.

There’s a nice fluidity and composure to the way the Fastback N manages high-speed changes in direction, but you’re always aware of the N’s rather firm setup. In the most aggressive N mode it remains overly harsh; Sport mode slackens things off and makes for more comfortable progress.  

It feels very much at home on a track and Biermann promises the Fastback N will be even better on the road, particularly in the UK with our notoriously rutted tarmac. We’ll find out for sure in February, but on this evidence the Hyundai’s N brand is going from strength to strength.

It’s clear Hyundai’s new N brand isn’t resting on it laurels developing, on this evidence, another finely-tuned and competent performance car. It may lack the razor sharp responses of the more senior hot hatch competition, but factor in what should be an attainable price tag matched to a sleek five-door body, and the i30N Fastback is stacking up to be a promising proposition.
  • Model: Hyundai i30 Fastback N Performance pack
  • Price: £28,500 (est)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo
  • Transmission: Front-wheel drive, six-speed manual gearbox
  • Power/torque: 276bhp/378Nm
  • 0-62mph: 6.1 seconds (est)
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Economy/CO2: 39.0mpg (est)/165g/km (est)
  • On sale: Early 2019

Jaguar E-Pace review
Posted on Friday July 20, 2018

For 
Good handling, sporty looks, plenty of configuration choices
Our Rating 
4
Against 
Interior doesn’t wow, frustrating infotainment, expensive to buy and run
Jaguar E-Pace - front
2018

The E-Pace, Jaguar’s second SUV, has its work cut out at the ultra-competitive smaller end of the market

If you’ve lusted after Jaguar’s F-Pace but wanted its essence bottled-up in a smaller package, then the Jaguar E-Pace isn’t quite that car. It’s still a competent member of the small premium SUV market, being decent enough to drive, smart enough to look at, and available in a dizzying number of configurations – 54 by our latest count – but it ultimately fails to stand out. Have a good long sit in one before you take the plunge, as the interior isn’t the most exciting place to be.

20 Jul, 2018
3.9

With one successful SUV already in the bag, you’d forgive Jaguar if it decided to spin the E-Pace off simply as a scaled down version of the popular F-Pace. However, that’s not quite what has happened from a design standpoint.

Look closer and you’ll see that the design language employed by the E-Pace is completely different. While the F-Pace takes after the firm’s established line-up of saloons, this smaller SUV takes its inspiration from the F-Type sports car, the shape of the grille and the headlights are a dead giveaway.

Elsewhere, the E-Pace’s bending roofline and kinked window line are much more aggressive than on the F-Pace, feeding into a chunky little hatch lid spoiler. The car’s overhangs are particularly short too, noticeably at the rear. Finally, there’s a more angular theme to the E-Pace’s tailgate and taillights than on any other Jaguar. All cars feature twin exhausts.

Styling differences between the regular E-Pace and the sportier E-Pace R-Dynamic are subtle. The R-Dynamic gets a revised front apron with larger, singular air intakes either side of the grille, front fog lamps plus a slightly different rear diffuser. Some of the black plastic exterior trim elements are transformed too, and become body painted. R-Dynamic cars ride on different alloy wheels too, and come with grilles finished in gloss black. Touches inside include bright metal pedals, metal treadplates, and sports seats. 

The interior feels much more conventional in design. The dashboard itself is long and flat, rather than upright, while the positioning of the vents, infotainment display and climate control settings is straightforward and at hand. It can feel a little conservative though, in a class where style and technology are becoming big selling factors.

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The metals and leathers used in the cabin feel good, and while the plastics are soft too the touch, it feels like Jaguar has leant a little too much on that material. The entirety of the dashboard surrounding the steering wheel and instruments is made from plastic, as is the area around the gear selector’s chrome housing. As such it can look a bit drab, depending on spec, but there are plenty of interior colour schemes to choose from.    

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

All Jaguar E-Pace models are equipped with a ten-inch touchscreen infotainment system called Touch Pro. It’s a system we’ve come across in plenty of JLR products before, and we’ve found it far from perfect. Running software known as InControl it’s a little slow to respond compared to the likes of BMW’s iDrive system or a Mercedes COMAND unit. Annoyingly, neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto is available, with Jaguar’s in-house smartphone mirroring software supplied instead.

All cars above S grade are equipped with navigation as standard. Maps are easy and clear enough to follow, and the screen resolution is decent too. However, the shallow angle of the dashboard means that the infotainment screen lies in a less than ideal position. 

A 12.3-inch fully digitalised instrument panel with configurable interfaces is standard fit on the fully stocked HSE car, and an option to consider on S and SE grade models.

3.8

Jaguar’s engineers have been hit with a demanding task for this car; how do you apply the Range Rover Evoque’s heavy D8 platform to an SUV which buyers will expect a degree of driver engagement from? 

Weighing in at 1,775kg at its very lightest, the E-Pace is actually heavier than its larger F-Pace sibling – the heaviest versions, all-wheel-drive D240 cars, tip the scales at very nearly two tonnes.

Despite this, The E-Pace hits back against its kerb weight with decent driving dynamics. Push on and you’ll feel the car’s weight for sure, more so than in a BMW X1 or X2, as the E-Pace picks up a smidgen of bodyroll and a weighty nose prone to washing out into understeer. It’s safe rather than fun, but at eight tenths it feels composed and could even be described as agile. Jaguar has equipped the E-Pace with a lovely power steering system too, which is well weighted, responsive and delivers good feedback considering it’s an electric system. It is a little weighty around town though.

All-wheel-drive models are kitted with Jaguar’s Active Driveline system enabling torque vectoring on the rear axle, though the difference it makes isn’t game changing. You’ll feel a little tug at the rear as the inside rear wheel is braked, and the outside is fed more power, with up to 100 per cent of the rear axle’s torque available in just one corner of the car. It’ll sharpen your line but won’t put a huge smile on your face, and the extra grip quickly gives way to understeer.

All but the entry level, front-wheel-drive D150 car are available or equipped with adaptive dampers. With these, you’ll be able to configure the E-Pace into a relatively comfortable SUV, though the Volvo XC40 remains softer and better at soaking up bumps.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

Kicking off what is an expansive E-Pace engine line-up is the D150 diesel. This two-litre four-cylinder unit serves up 150bhp and 380Nm of torque, and is available linked to a manual gearbox and front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive and a nine-speed automatic gearbox, depending on trim.

Despite being the smallest, least powerful option it doesn’t feel sluggish, and for many this might be all the performance you’ll need – a sub ten-second 0-62mph dash and a top speed of 124mph is respectable enough.

However, the real pick of the engine line-up is probably the more powerful D180 diesel. It’s the same four-cylinder unit, only with the wick turned up to 178bhp and 430Nm. It doesn’t wholly transform the level of performance on offer, taking 8.7 seconds to 62mph and topping out at 127mph, but all-wheel-drive and an automatic gearbox are standard fit. It’s respectably refined and smooth but the gearbox could be a little better. It’s Jaguar’s implementation of a ZF transmission, and it can get caught out from time to time. You’ll need an R-Dynamic car for steering wheel paddle shifters.

The third diesel option is the D240, again using a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine. With this unit equipped, the E-Pace moves from offering a respectable level of performance towards being a lot more pacey, thanks to a 7.4 second dash to 62mph and a top speed of 139mph. As nice as this is, we’d recommend saving cash and sticking with the D180, which will also be cheaper to run.

Petrol power in the E-Pace isn’t as popular, but there are three options nonetheless. The P200 is a relatively new addition to the line-up, and we’ve yet to drive it. This 2.0-litre turbocharged option serves up 197bhp with 62mph coming up in 7.7 seconds. The 246bhp P250 sits above it and is equipped with all-wheel-drive as standard.

The most powerful E-Pace you can buy is the 296bhp P300. 0-62mph comes up in 6.4 seconds and top speed stands at 151mph. We wouldn’t recommend it though. The highly-strung four-cylinder unit is pacey but not outrageously so, and it’s not particularly exciting either, producing a flat, uninspiring engine note. It’ll prove very costly to run, too.

3.8

Euro NCAP testing has resulted in a reassuring full five-star score for the E-Pace, which performed particularly strongly in pedestrian crash testing thanks to a standard pedestrian airbag. However, for adult occupants it still lags a little behind the safety benchmark for the class – the Volvo XC40. 

Across the line-up, the level of standard safety and assistance equipment is as you’d expect of a premium SUV. All Jaguar E-Paces are fitted with lane keep assist, driver monitoring systems, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors. Of course, a sophisticated automatic emergency braking system is included by default as well.

A wealth of other safety and assistance features can be specified. A Drive Pack includes adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, which can keep the vehicle moving in stop/start traffic with no input from the driver. Blind spot assistance is optional too. 

The E-Pace is too new to have featured in one of our Driver Power new car surveys, though Jaguar as a marque claimed a respectable 10th place finish in our 2018 edition. However, the British brand placed a less encouraging 20th out of 27 for reliability, with 28 per cent of Jaguar owners reporting having encountered an issue with their car. 

Warranty

Jaguar’s standard warranty package stands at three years with unlimited miles, which is more or less the industry standard. Customisable extended warranties are available too, with quotes available on request if you submit your vehicle’s age, condition and mileage online with Jaguar.

Servicing

Jaguar offers tailored servicing plans for the E-Pace, with plans up to five years in length available. A five-year/50,000-mile service plan costs £625 right now, for both petrol and diesel models.

3.8

You’ll find that despite the E-Pace’s dynamic and sporty focus, it remains a fairly practical and spacious small SUV. Forward and side visibility is good thanks to the short dashboard-to-axle ratio, though the rear window is a little small in the mirror. Thankfully, a reversing camera is standard kit on all cars. 

Overall, the E-Pace a fairly competitive package compared to many of its rivals on many fronts. You’ll find plenty of cubbyholes and storage spaces in the cabin, including a huge one in the central armrest. Two cupholders are present as well.

Size

Against the tape measure, the E-Pace sizes up at 4,411mm long, 1,649mm tall, and 1,900mm wide, with a wheelbase of 2,681mm. It means that compared to the car it’s closest to – the Range Rover Evoque – the Jag is a little longer and boasts a longer wheelbase, but is just as wide and a little lower at the same time. Overall the proportions are bang in line with the segment and with the Jag’s varied rivals, including the Volvo XC40 and Audi Q3, while it’s a little smaller than a DS 7 Crossback.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

Four adults should be able to get reasonably comfortable in the Jaguar, though carrying five is ever so slightly hampered by the raised transmission tunnel cutting into rear legroom for the middle seat. Some rivals boast better leg and headroom, but overall the E-Pace doesn’t let you down when it comes to passenger room.

Space up front for driver and front passenger isn’t tight at all, and the Jaguar’s driving position is very flexible, so you should be able find a comfortable spot to drive from with ease.

Boot

Jaguar claims a 577-litre boot, which is impressive on paper. In reality it’s good enough for families to live with. However, the space on offer isn’t completely accessible, and while that 577-litre figure means that officially it’s more practical than many of its rivals, day-to-day you’ll find that cars with better boot layouts, like the Volkswagen Tiguan and Volvo XC40, are more user friendly. The rear bench can’t do clever sliding tricks either, and folds down in a 60:40 split only.

Fold everything flat and you’ll get a 1,234-litre loading bay. In comparison, a BMW X1 sizes up at 1,550 litres.

3

A diesel E-Pace makes sense if running costs are a concern, and Jaguar claims some decent and competitive fuel economy and CO2 figures for these cars. For instance, the most basic E-Pace – the front-wheel-drive D150 equipped with a manual gearbox – claims 53.3mpg with tailpipe CO2 emissions of 141g/km. In real world conditions, you can probably expect this E-Pace to easily return over 40mpg. It occupies the 33 per cent Benefit-in-Kind (BIK) tax bracket for company car buyers, which is the lowest rate of any E-Pace. 

However, the overwhelming majority of buyers will specify an automatic gearbox and all-wheel-drive. In this regard, the D150 AWD Auto returns a still favourable 47.1mpg, but emissions climb to a fairly dirty 159g/km.

Buyers who step up to our pick – the D180 AWD Auto – will find that there is no fuel economy penalty. Officially, it returns the exact same 47.1mpg and 159g/km of CO2. The D240 can’t repeat the same trick however. It dips to 40.9mpg, while tailpipe emissions soar to a heady 175g/km. Your first year tax bill will be £830.

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Despite all being four-cylinder options, the petrols are thirsty. The basic P200 chalks up official fuel economy of 34.4mpg, while emissions stand at 186g/km. The E-Pace P250 claims the exact same figures.

Meanwhile the P300 dips further to 33.2mpg, while a CO2 figure of 194g/km means you’ll face a hefty first year tax bill. Of course, many of these higher-powered E-Pace models stray over £40,000 too, meaning your yearly rate after the first year rate will sit at £310 instead of £140. So far as trim is concerned, there are no differences in official fuel economy and CO2 between regular and R-Dynamic finished E-Paces.

Insurance groups

There’s no denying that the E-Pace occupies lofty insurance groups. The most basic and cheapest version sits in group 24, while our choice – the D180 – is in group 29. Compared to the Range Rover Evoque the Jaguar should theoretically be cheaper to insure, though it should be said that other rivals slip into lower groups. The Audi Q3, for instance, is lower across its entire line-up.

Depreciation

Residual values for the E-Pace look very good indeed, with values for both the D150 and D180 versions are predicted to remain strong over three years. Our pick – the D180 in S trim with an automatic gearbox – is predicted to retain 56 per cent of its worth, while higher spec models such as the HSE D180 approach keeping nearly 60 per cent of their value. Petrol versions are worse, and expect any given petrol powered E-Pace to be worth around 45 per cent what you paid for it three years down the line, if you stick around 10,000 miles a year on the car.

Hyundai confirms development of new ‘halo’ sports car
Posted on Friday July 20, 2018

Jonathan Burn 2018-07-20 12:40

A new halo model that will sit within Hyundai’s N division is in the pipeline

Hyundai RN30 Concept - front tracking

Hyundai’s new N performance brand will develop its own standalone vehicle, the company’s Vice President of high-performance and motorsport Thomas Schemera has confirmed. 

The launch of the i30 N hatch and fastback, along with the Velsoter N, which will not go on sale in the UK, is the “completion of the first phase of N vehicles,” according to Schemera.

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The next step in the development of the N brand is a bespoke, standalone model. Schemera added: “The whole idea is to strengthen the Hyundai brand, to bring more emotion. 

“I can tell you Albert Biermann [Hyundai engineering boss] and myself are interested in hot things and have some ideas in the pipeline for a halo model - rest assured we are coming up with something.”

Auto Express understands there is still an internal debate going on within the company as to what the ‘halo’ model should be; whether that takes form as a two-seater sports car or performance saloon like the Kia Stinger is still being discussed. The model, as a result, is still several years away from production.

Biermann has also spelled out plans to be involved with the development of new models from the very beginning so the process of engineering Hyundai’s core products into N models is streamlined. That process is expected to begin with the next-generation i20 supermini.

Hyundai launched the N brand with the RN30 concept (pictured) at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show.

Are you excited by the prospect of a halo N model from Hyundai? Let us know below...

Low-carbon E10 petrol could be introduced at UK forecourts
Posted on Friday July 20, 2018

Hugo Griffiths 2018-07-20 11:55

Government launches public consultation on E10 petrol, which could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in new cars

A public consultation has been launched on introducing E10 petrol to the UK marketplace. The fuel, which contains 10 per cent bioethanol compared to the 5 per cent contained within current unleaded, is said to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2 per cent.

But while all new cars sold in the European Union from 2011 must be able to run on E10 petrol, the Government estimates it remains unsuitable for around a million UK cars. E10’s higher bioethanol content can dislodge deposits in older engines and fuel systems, causing blockages, and it can also cause some seals, gaskets, metals and plastics to corrode in unsuitable vehicles.

Petrol or diesel: which is best for your needs?

In recognition of this, the Department for Transport is investigating whether E10 should be introduced to UK petrol stations, and if so, how. Considerations such as labelling – both of E10 petrol and conventional E5 unleaded - are within the consultation’s scope, as is whether normal unleaded should be given a “protection grade”, to “ensure standard petrol remains available at an affordable price”.

However, the 2 per cent reduction in carbon emissions that a switch to E10 petrol would bring has to be taken into consideration alongside petrol consumption, as E10 is thought to decrease economy anywhere from 1.5 to 3 per cent.

Launching the consolation, transport minister Jesse Norman said the Government is “ambitiously” seeking to “cut carbon emissions from transport”, though he stressed “drivers of older vehicles should not be hit hard in the pocket”. Norman said the consultation aimed to “understand the impact of E10 on the UK market better, and to ensure that drivers are protected if any changes come into effect.” The consultation is open now, and closes on 16 September.

Back in 2016, the Energy Select Committee was told the only way for the UK to hit EU renewable energy targets was to introduce E10 petrol. At the time, Jonathan Murray from the Low Carbon Vehicles Partnership told MPs E10 would give the UK "a fighting chance of getting to the target".

Check out the best low emissions green cars on sale today

New 2019 BMW 8 Series Convertible spied undisguised
Posted on Friday July 20, 2018

James Brodie 2018-07-20 11:40

Exclusive spy shots show the new BMW 8 Series Convertible without camouflage on photo shoot in Scotland

BMW 8 Series Convertible - spyshot front

BMW’s all-new 8 Series Convertible isn’t due to be officially revealed until the middle of next year, but these exclusive spy shots obtained by Auto Express show the car in all its glory.

The German brand confirmed plans for a new 8 Series family last year; the Coupe was the first model to be shown at the Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race last month. These spy shots reveal that BMW is wasting no time in getting the next member of the 8 Series line-up into its showrooms.

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Eagle-eyed Auto Express reader Iain Pollo spotted the car being driven around Loch Assynt in Scotland. It’s not the first time the Convertible has been spied on the road, but it’s lost the camouflage used by prototypes in the past, so we can see every line and detail for the first time.

The images clearly show the drop-top version on a secret photo shoot, with the pictures likely to be used for marketing material ahead of the car’s launch.

Even though the Mercedes S-Class Cabriolet rival is around 12 months away from landing in showrooms, it’s clear from the photos that the design is complete and carries over many similarities from the 8 Series Coupe.

The large kidney grille, chiseled front bumper and slim LED headlamps have been lifted over unchanged, while at the back the wide tail-lights and gaping chrome exhausts also remain; those features indicate this particular model is in fact the range-topping M850i.

Previous spy shots have shown the hood is a fabric set-up, meaning folding hard-top roofs are fast becoming a thing of the past. The fabric roof saves weight – crucial given the weight gains due to extra strengthening along the flanks to make up for the reduced structural integrity brought about by the loss of the fixed roof. In all, the drop-top is likely to be around 100kg-125kg heavier than the Coupé, tipping it over the 2,000kg mark.

The M850i model pictured indicates that BMW is likely to mirror the engine line-up from the Coupe. The entry-level Convertible is expected to be the 840d, which will use the brand’s 320bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel motor.

Range-topping M850i variants will be powered by a 530bhp 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8, which, in the Coupe, is capable of delivering a 0-62mph sprint time of 3.7 seconds; that figure is likely to increase to around four seconds due to the additional weight of the Convertible.

All models will use BMW’s xDrive four-wheel-drive system and an eight-speed automatic gearbox; the M850i will also make use of active rear-wheel steering, a sports exhaust and a limited-slip differential on the rear axle.

In the future you can also expect to see a fully-fledged M8 Convertible arrive. The manufacturer has previously indicated there will be a full M version of each 8 Series bodystyle and these will be aimed directly at rival Mercedes-AMG’s line-up of S-Class models. The Convertible will also be followed by a larger and more practical four-door Gran Coupe further down the line.

Elsewhere at BMW, the German brand is undergoing one of the largest model offensives in its history. Before the 8 Series Convertible is officially revealed, the all-new 3 Series Saloon, Z4 roadster and X7 SUV will make their debuts.

Read our BMW 8 Series prototype drive right here...

Long-term test review: Suzuki Swift Sport
Posted on Thursday July 19, 2018

Suzuki Swift Sport long-term test - front
19 Jul, 2018 10:15am Alex Ingram

First report: the Suzuki Swift Sport hot hatch faces a tough interview as it joins our long-term fleet

Mileage: 1,593
Economy: 43.1mpg

A recent study stated that it takes a third of employers just 90 seconds to decide whether or not they’ll offer a candidate a job at an interview. I couldn’t find any specific research into whether the first impressions of a bright yellow Japanese hot hatch are as vital, but I’m sure the principles are much the same.

This is our new Suzuki Swift Sport, and I’ll be running it for the next few months. So has my first encounter left me with the desire to hire, or will I be showing the sporty supermini the door?

Suzuki Swift Sport 2018 review

Well, if its looks are equivalent to a well-crafted cover note, it’s already got my attention. A subtle bodykit, 17-inch alloy wheels and the retina-burning paintjob help an already-handsome car to stand out in a class where style means almost as much as substance.

Inside, the impressions are more mixed. You’re greeted by a pair of body-hugging sports seats which, lovely though they feel, are mounted too high. The steering wheel is nice enough to look at and to hold, but I’d like it to move slightly closer towards me.

In terms of design, the dashboard seems a generation behind other superminis, and thanks to the hard, unforgiving plastic used, it feels it as well. The infotainment system is poor, too: it looks like a cheap aftermarket job and is about as enjoyable to operate.

At five foot seven inches, I rarely make the most of a car’s headroom, but there’s plenty if you need it. Boot space is no match for a Volkswagen Polo’s, at 265 litres, but then the Suzuki is 13cm shorter.

The most important part of the interview process, however, comes in the drive. As with the looks, first impressions are positive; the steering feels well weighted and precise, the pedals are well positioned for heel-and-toe downshifts, and the gearbox, although not as snappy as it could be, is positive.

The Swift’s CV includes a recent road test against the Volkswagen up! GTI and Ford Fiesta ST-Line, where the Suzuki really held its own. Sure, it should feel more playful on the limit and it needs a fruitier exhaust, but our new hot hatch is otherwise very accomplished.

However, there are one or two quirks that are beginning to grate already. The over-reactive autonomous emergency braking system meant I quickly switched it off, but it turns back on again every time you restart the car.

Then there are the brakes: while they’re absolutely fine on the open road, they squeal loudly when I come to a gentle halt. You know, the sort of stop you do countless times during a slow-moving commute into the centre of town. My drive to work, in other words. Marvellous.

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

4
Minor niggles aside, our new Suzuki Swift Sport has flown through its job interview as it joins our fleet. So would we hire it? Absolutely. We’re looking forward to working with it over the coming months.
  • Model: Suzuki Swift Sport
  • On fleet since: June 2018
  • Price new: £17,999
  • Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl petrol, 138bhp
  • CO2/tax: 125g/km/£140
  • Options: None
  • Insurance*: Group: 35, Quote: £350
  • Mileage/economy: 1,593/43.1mpg
  • Any problems?: None so far

Used Volkswagen Scirocco review
Posted on Wednesday July 18, 2018

18 Jul, 2018 4:45pm Richard Dredge

A full used buyer’s guide on the Volkswagen Scirocco covering the Scirocco Mk3 (2008-2017)

Platform sharing is nothing new to Volkswagen. A few months after the Golf arrived in 1974, a stylish three-door alternative popped up: the Scirocco.

A restyled Scirocco was launched in 1981, but when production of that car ceased in 1992, VW mothballed the model. Sixteen years later the Scirocco was revived, based on the Golf Mk5 and looking as stylish as before.

It wasn’t just a pretty face; the car was great to drive, came with some fine engines and gearboxes, and featured VW’s legendary build quality. Brits would go on to buy more Sciroccos than drivers in any other country in Europe. 

Models covered

  • • Volkswagen Scirocco Mk3 (2008-2017) - Hatchback-cum-coupe makes a great sporty alternative to the Golf.

Volkswagen Scirocco Mk3

History

The Scirocco Mk3 arrived in September 2008 with a 197bhp 2.0 TSI petrol the only engine choice, plus manual or auto (DSG) boxes and range-topping GT trim.

Within a month there was a new,  unnamed entry-level spec along with a 158bhp 1.4 TSI petrol engine and a 138bhp 2.0 TDI diesel. A 168bhp 2.0 TDI 170 followed in May 2009, in GT trim only.

The 265bhp Scirocco R arrived in February 2010, alongside the new entry-level 120bhp 1.4 TSI 122. From November 2010 the 2.0 TSI engine got BlueMotion fuel-saving tech as standard. An R-Line trim was launched in April 2012, just as all cars got extra standard kit.

GTS models reached showrooms in January 2013, then a restyled Scirocco arrived in August 2014, with a new dash and more efficient engines.

Volkswagen Scirocco Mk3 reviews

Volkswagen Scirocco in-depth review
Volkswagen Scirocco 1.4 TSI review
Volkswagen Scirocco 2.0 TSI review
Volkswagen Scirocco 2.0 TDI review
Volkswagen Scirocco 2.0 TDI BlueMotion review
Volkswagen Scirocco R-Line review
Volkswagen Scirocco GTS review
Volkswagen Scirocco R in-depth review
Volkswagen Scirocco R review

Which one should I buy?

Diesels are the most frugal, but petrol engines aren’t thirsty (aside from the R) unless driven hard. The DSG box works brilliantly, as does the six-speed manual.

All Sciroccos are well equipped. Base-level cars feature 17-inch alloys, climate control, MP3 connectivity, touchscreen hi-fi, automatic wipers, electric windows and tyre pressure monitoring.

GT models add privacy glass, 18-inch rims and a multifunction steering wheel. Sciroccos with the 122PS 1.4 TSI engine forego Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC), while from late 2012, touchscreen sat-nav and a multifunction steering wheel became standard throughout the range.

The R-Line offers 19-inch wheels, nav, Nappa leather sports seats and a bodykit; the GTS brings a panoramic roof, leather trim and 18-inch alloys.

Alternatives to the Volkswagen Scirocco Mk3

As a cross between a hatchback and a coupe, the Scirocco has few rivals. The Alfa Romeo Brera is one of the closest, and it’s got more character than the VW, but is more flawed. The Audi TT is much more accomplished and focuses more on style than ultimate practicality, although the hatchback means this Golf-based coupe is still very usable.

If you want something that’s great to drive take a look at the BMW 1 Series, while the Peugeot RCZ offers style and usability for relatively little money.

What to look for 

Connectivity

Bluetooth can be awkward to set up, with some phones almost impossible to pair. 

Motor

The 1.4 TSI engine can misfire because of failed coil packs. If left this can lead to damaged pistons.

Electrics

Scirocco is generally reliable, but early cars can suffer glitches which are hard to fix; check everything. 

Moisture

The seals for the front and rear lights can fail, which leads to condensation building up in the housings.

Interior

Clear but lacking flair, the Scirocco’s dash and switchgear are easy to use and well made. The seats offer comfort and support, plus there’s a wide range of adjustment available, but the two rear seats have limited headroom. Boot space isn’t bad at 312 litres (expandable to 1,006 litres with the seats down), but the high lip doesn’t help when loading luggage in. 

Running costs

Buyers can pick from variable or fixed servicing. The former gives up to two years and 18,600 miles between checks; the latter is set at 12 months or 9,300 miles.

After three years services cost £164 (minor) and £329 (major). All Sciroccos, except the 1.4 TSI, need a new cambelt and water pump (£449) every five years; on the 2.0 TSI there’s a 112,000-mile limit and on the 2.0 TDI it’s 130,000 miles. The DSG box requires oil and filters (£179) every four years/40,000 miles.

Recalls

The Scirocco has been recalled four times. The first was in December 2009 for DSG drive-loss problems. Diesel fuel leaks led to a campaign in December 2011. In March 2017, faulty airbags brought a recall, and the most recent issue was in June 2017; the ABS and ESP could fail on cars built up to May 2010. Some Sciroccos were caught up in the diesel emissions recall; enter the reg into tinyurl.com/y7nhdtht to see if a potential buy is affected. 

Driver Power owner satisfaction

The Scirocco made its Driver Power debut in 2011, in 17th place; two years later it had dropped to 60th. Subsequent scores were 59th (in 2014) and 99th (2015) before it disappeared altogether. In that final appearance it was the handling and performance that owners loved the most; surprisingly, practicality was the low spot.

We reckoned that the Scirocco Mk3 was so good that we gave it a maximum five-star rating when we first drove it. We loved the driving position, looks, practicality and the flexible 2.0 TSI engine. If there was a downside it was the generic VW dash that led to some fans thinking that the Scirocco was little more than a dressed-up Golf. But that short-changed the car because it amounted to much more than that thanks to its classier interior, stand-out exterior design and much sharper driving experience. In the decade since it arrived, the Scirocco has also proven to be easy to own, and we reckon it’s still one of the best used sporting hatches you can buy.

DS X E-Tense concept review
Posted on Wednesday July 18, 2018

DS X E-Tense concept - front
18 Jul, 2018 4:00pm James Batchelor

We get behind the wheel of the DS X E-Tense concept in France

Concept cars fulfill an important role for any self respecting car manufacturer. Often they’re little more than a showcase for the type of design future models will be wearing, but the DS X E-Tense from DS Automobiles is a little different.

DS says the X E-Tense is a preview of the types of cars we may be buying in 2035; and it’s not just a static dream as the car actually drives. Keen to see what the future may be like in just 15 years time, Auto Express was invited to a secret military base in France to go for a spin.  

You’ll have noticed by now that the car looks a little bizarre. While most concepts are perfectly proportioned, the X E-Tense is asymmetrical. “We designed it like this because we wanted to emphasis the dual purpose nature,” DS’s design director, Thierry Metroz, tells us. “The X E-Tense is all-electric and it’s fully-autonomous too, but we think people will still want to drive.”

So, one half of the car is designed to be driven with a conventional steering wheel and pedals, but the other is a separate cocoon where you sit, maybe with a passenger thanks to a little fold-out seat, when you want to be driven. In the cocoon there’s an armchair-like seat trimmed in red leather and feathers, a coffee machine, a high-end Focal sound system, a B.R.M clock and a glass floor to see the road underneath. “I see autonomous driving as a way of letting us switch off and take pleasure from travelling, not as a chance to work on the move,” smiles Metroz. 

The styling may look slightly absurd in images, but in the metal it seems to work. Metroz tells us the idea was to make the X E-Tense look a little like a motorcycle and side-car, and while it is forward-looking, in true concept car style there are a few features that will feature on future DS models. 

The studded grille is set to appear on the next but one DS – likely to be the new DS 4 hatchback – and future models will have less chrome trim. “Chrome is over,” proclaims Metroz. “The DS 7 will be one of the last to have so much chrome. It’s not as premium-looking as it used to be, that’s why the X E-Tense just has little chrome wings on the grille.”

Along with the grille the X E-Tense’s headlight design will appear on future DSs too, likely to be within the next five years. Metroz calls it a ‘light veil’ and it’s made up of 1,500 LEDs spread over the lower part of the car. Day-running lights and indicators wash over the surface while at the bumper’s leading edge, five ultra bright LEDs act as the headlights. At the rear there’s a similar arrangement but those ‘veils’ also display the different energy-recovery phases.    

As it’s a glimpse into the future, there’s no supercharged V8 under the bodywork but an all-electric powertrain. In fact, it’s not just any normal powertrain but one pinched from this year’s DS Virgin Racing’s Formula E car, mounted in a bespoke, carbon fibre chassis and tweaked by DS Performance – the sporting arm of DS Automobiles.

DS claims the batteries and motors can spool up 540bhp in road use and 1,360 on the track. But the reality is on the day we tested the car, it had the same power output of the Formula E racer, so around 200bhp.

We’re not allowed to get behind the wheel but instead take to the passenger seat. There’s little time to get comfortable in the seat and pour a coffee though as the driver – unrecognisable thanks to a helmet that mimics the front of the car – takes full advantage of a closed-off runway and attacks a series of slaloms. Road holding is excellent with just a whiff of understeer and body roll, but the overriding sensation is speed.

Thanks to that Formula E powertrain, the X E-Tense is lightening fast off the mark, and the glass floor enhances the gut-wrenching acceleration. The sight of the road rushing between your feet emphasises the speed but also it’s the noise – it sounds part Star Wars, part Second World War air-raid siren.

We can return to this article in 15 years time and either sagely nod our heads at Metroz and his team’s foresight at motoring in the year 2035, or laugh at the ambitious absurdity of it all. Either way the DS X E-Tense is an interesting, smile-inducing car that, more than anything, adds a little fire to the fledgling DS Automobiles brand.

Is this really how we will be driving in 2035? Who knows? The DS X E-Tense is a fanciful vision of what cars could be like in the future. On a practical level the X E-Tense is a tangible link to DS’s efforts in the world of Formula E, as beneath the wacky concept it’s based on the firm’s Formula E racer. But on a simply amusing level, it’s a well-made, exciting idea of not just a car of the future, but also where the fledgling DS brand is heading.

New Maserati Levante 2018 review
Posted on Wednesday July 18, 2018

Maserati Levante - front
18 Jul, 2018 12:45pm Alex Ingram

The Maserati Levante is a well-rounded performance SUV, but this diesel is the weakest engine in the range…

The idea of an iconic Italian marque like Maserati building an SUV seemed horrifying as far back as… Well, mid-2016, when the Levante became a production reality.

But opinions have turned in favour of a market that Maserati simply couldn’t ignore. The 2019 Model Year brings the second round of updates since the Levante’s launch, but can the tweaks turn it into a Porsche Cayenne beater?

New Maserati Levante gains 346bhp V6 engine

The good news is that there’s more choice than ever. UK buyers had to make do with a rather un-Maserati-like V6 diesel at launch, but a 424bhp V6 petrol ‘S’ was introduced last year, and now a 345bhp petrol joins them. The new V6 twin-turbo costs from £61,425 - roughly £3k more than the diesel.

There’s also a pair of V8s: a 542bhp GTS and the flagship Trofeo, which packs an additional 40bhp and a 189mph top speed. While UK bosses are keen to offer the GTS, sales here are still unconfirmed. Electrification will feature in Maserati’s future, too.

The entry-level V6s are offered in three trim levels: Levante, GranLusso and GranSport. The GranSport gets new, more aggressive front and rear bumpers inspired by the Trofeo, and rides on 20-inch alloy wheels. The GranLusso is the more luxurious alternative, featuring more chrome trim and 19-inch wheels. LED Matrix lights are available for the first time, and there are two new paint colours. The dark blue shown in these pictures is one of them, and features a glass flake which gives a spectacular sparkle in sunlight.

Inside, there’s a new gear selector, tweaked switchgear, and new trim inserts. It’s nothing radical – so as before it’s a mix of the sublime and the ridiculous. The aluminium shift paddles, soft leather, and electrically adjustable pedals are wonderful, but things like the shonky cup holder lid let the side down.

The 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system has received attention, but the systems from BMW and Porsche look prettier and are easier to use. It does benefit from Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, though.

For a car that’s longer and wider than a Porsche Cayenne, it’s not as spacious as you’d expect, either - rear seat knee room and boot space lag well behind the Porsche. There’s no seven-seat option either, which leaves it trailing alongside flashier versions of the Land Rover Discovery and Audi Q7.

Little separates the latest Levante from the old one out on the road, and that’s a good thing. It may weigh comfortably over two tonnes, but that mass is kept in brilliant control; that it does so while maintaining such a soft, yielding ride makes it all the more impressive. The steering, though electrically assisted, is precise and well-weighted, and there’s loads of grip.  In normal driving, 100 per cent of the drive is sent to the back wheels, with power only sent to the fronts when slip is detected.

That slip is kept in check thanks to the introduction of Integrated Vehicle control. First seen on the Ghibli, it’s an ESP system that works proactively rather than reactively against a loss of grip, meaning intervention is so progressive it’s almost seamless. It’s a smart system, but one drivers will rarely benefit from on public roads.

The 3.0-litre diesel driven here remains unchanged. It delivers decent performance, and even sounds fairly smooth by diesel standards. Unfortunately, when against such wonderful Ferrari-developed V6 petrol alternatives - both faster and more tuneful - it’s tough to recommend.

Sure, the diesel is more frugal, but is that why you choose a Maserati? It’d be like pairing your hiking boots with a smart three piece suit – simply because those handcrafted Italian loafers wear out too quickly.

3
Desirable, great to drive and comfortable, the Levante is a well-rounded performance SUV. The expanding range is hitting its stride in its third year, but the introduction of a more affordable V6 petrol makes this diesel harder to recommend than ever. Unless you cover big distances on a regular basis, this is the weakest engine in the range.
  • Model: Maserati Levante Diesel GranLusso
  • Price: £66,315
  • Engine: 3.0-litre, turbocharged V6 diesel
  • Power/torque: 271bhp/600Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 6.8 seconds
  • Top speed: 143mph
  • Economy/CO2: 34.0mpg/207g/km

Volkswagen Golf R vs Honda Civic Type R
Posted on Wednesday July 18, 2018

2018-07-18 12:15

New Volkswagen Golf R Performance pack meets the class-leading Honda Civic Type R in a hot hatch battle

Volkswagen Golf R vs Honda Civic Type R - header

The current Volkswagen Golf R has been the hottest model in the accomplished hatchback range since it arrived in showrooms in 2014, but it’s just got even hotter with the addition of a new Performance pack, plus some fruitier options, such as a high-performance exhaust.

However, it’s only available on cars equipped with the DSG auto box. Also, the Performance pack costs £2,300 on top of the five-door Golf R’s £34,910 list price, so VW has a job on its hands to secure victory as the newcomer meets the current best hot hatch you can buy: Honda’s Civic Type R.

• Best hot hatchbacks on sale

As standard the Japanese model is more driver-focused than the Golf R, and it happens to be cheaper as well. So can the upgraded hot Golf beat the best car in its class? 

Head-to-head

Model: Volkswagen Golf R DSG Performance pack 5dr Honda Civic Type R GT
Price:  £37,210 (inc. £2,300 Performance pack) £33,525
Engine:  2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
Power/torque: 306bhp/400Nm 316bhp/400Nm
Transmission:  Seven-speed DSG automatic, four-wheel drive   Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive 
0-60mph: 4.6 seconds 5.9 seconds
Top speed: 166mph 169mph
Test economy: 31.0mpg 31.2mpg
CO2/tax:  163g/km/£140 176g/km/£140
Options:  Met. paint (£635), Akrapovic exhaust (£2,975), Dynaudio stereo (£550), keyless entry & go (£375), Dynamic Chassis Control (£850), Lane Assist Plus (£1,225) None

Volkswagen Golf R

For: Blistering performance, highly capable chassis, good to live with every day.
Against: Expensive, Performance pack doesn’t add enough, not as engaging to drive as the Civic.

The Golf R has been around since 2014, and was updated early in 2017 along with the rest of the Golf range. But this is the first time it’s been available with a Performance pack.

The option adds £2,300 to the price of the R, and brings new 19-inch alloys with wider tyres, bigger brakes and a boot spoiler that increases downforce. The pack also removes the Golf’s top-speed limiter, so it can now hit 166mph, although that’s obviously irrelevant on the road.

There’s no power upgrade, and the 2.0-litre 306bhp/400Nm engine remains unchanged. Its performance is still very impressive, and it feels brutally quick off the line thanks to its four-wheel-drive system and quick-shifting dual-clutch box.

It easily beat the Honda in our 0-60mph test, but in gear the Golf started to fall behind. From 30-50mph in fourth the two hot hatches were level, posting times of 3.4 seconds, while from 50-70mph in fifth the Golf was slightly slower.

The engine isn’t as exciting as the Honda’s revvier unit and produces its power and torque lower down in the rev range. That means it’s easy to access the performance without pushing the engine hard, but the Civic’s motor is more rewarding to use. That’s also down to the gearbox, which, while fast, is nowhere near as much fun as the sublime manual shift in the Honda.

Our test car’s titanium Akrapovic exhaust goes some way to adding excitement to the Golf’s less characterful engine, because it’s loud and has a racy tone. Yet it’s also a pricey option, at £2,975.

The VW’s steering is precise, but doesn’t have the quicker response rate of the Honda’s rack and feels a little light. Still, the plentiful grip from the chassis gives lots of confidence and the Golf is very easy to drive very fast. But unless you take it on track days often, the Performance pack doesn’t seem worth the extra cash. This car feels very similar to the normal Golf R on the road, although the upgraded brakes are strong.

The most important option to go for is the £850 Dynamic Chassis Control system. This allows you to change the suspension settings between Comfort, Normal and Sport modes.
In Comfort and Normal it’s still firm but compliant, so it’s just as usable as the Type R on British roads. Sport mode is still able to deal with harsh bumps without upsetting the chassis, and doesn’t feel as aggressive as the Civic’s +R mode.

Whatever driving mode you’re in, the Golf R feels planted to the road, and only when pushed hard will it start to skip over rough tarmac. 

Testers’ notes

  • • Display: Golf’s infotainment is among the best; it’s easy to use and looks modern. It comes as standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, too.
  • • Dashboard: Simple, clean layout looks upmarket and is really easy to use as well.
  • • Gearbox: Golf R Performance pack is DSG only; it’s a shame because the manual is more fun to drive. 

Honda Civic Type R

 

For: Sharp handling and engaging dynamics, strong practicality, beautiful gearbox.
Against: Poor infotainment, off-putting interior design, divisive exterior styling. 

The Honda Civic Type R name has been around for more than 20 years, but this latest version is arguably the best ever, despite missing out on the high-revving VTEC action found in older cars. While the current 2.0-litre turbo isn’t an all-time great, the motor produces 316bhp and 400Nm of torque, making this fastest Civic ever built incredibly quick.

The Type R took 5.9 seconds to reach 60mph from a standstill in our track tests, which was 1.3 seconds slower than the Golf. That’s down to the VW’s launch control system and four-wheel-drive powertrain,  which deliver a perfect getaway every time.

But the Civic went from 30-70mph through the gears in just 4.3 seconds – only three tenths behind the Golf, and again that’s down to the VW’s drivetrain – because its DSG gearbox shifts faster than it’s possible to with the manual in the Civic. There’s no doubt that you’ll have more fun in the Honda, though, because the Type R’s gearshift is slick, mechanical and feels great to use, involving you more.

In third gear the Type R took just 2.2 seconds to go from 30-50mph, two tenths faster than the Golf R, and it went from 50-70mph in fifth five tenths quicker than its rival as well. With a rolling start, the Honda’s higher power and lower weight mean it’s the quicker of the two.

Together with its brilliant limited-slip diff, the Civic’s acceleration out of corners is explosive. As you get on the power the Type R tightens its line, and the chassis can match what the engine offers. The Golf R’s electronic diff and four-wheel-
drive traction mean it also corners at incredible pace, but it’s not as engaging as the Honda. The Type R’s steering is more communicative, and it’s enjoyable to thread through corners, whether you’re pushing hard or driving more gently.

There’s more character from the Civic’s engine than the Golf’s flat but effective unit; the strong mid-range torque delivers incredible pull, and the motor’s frantic nature at high revs means it’s enjoyable to push right up to the red line, which is relatively rare for a turbocharged motor.

The Type R’s standard adaptive dampers offer Comfort, Sport and +R modes. There’s so little body roll in Sport that it’s not necessary to use the even stiffer +R mode on the road, but select this on track and the Civic resists roll even better. In Comfort it’s on par with the VW’s softer setting, with a quite surprising level of compliance that makes the Honda a genuinely usable hot hatch. 

Testers’ notes

  • • Infotainment: On-screen interface is confusing to use at best and can be hard to operate on the go; we prefer to use standard Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
  • • Gearbox: There’s no auto option, but manual’s shift action is close to perfect. It’s a link back to previous Type Rs, too.
  • • Seats: Supportive seats are sporty but comfortable. They add a racy feel to the interior. 

Verdict

First place: Honda Civic Type R

As an all-round proposition the Type R is the better hot hatch, and it’s cheaper than the VW. It’s quicker in gear, sharper, more capable and more involving in corners, plus it’s relatively comfortable and has better practicality. The only real drawback is its infotainment system.

Second place: Volkswagen Golf R

The Golf R Performance pack blends huge performance with usability and comfort in an everyday package – but so does the standard Golf R. The pack is pricey and doesn’t add enough to beat the Civic to hot hatch glory; the Honda is more practical and more fun to drive.

New VinFast SUV and saloon to launch at Paris Motor Show
Posted on Wednesday July 18, 2018

Hugo Griffiths 2018-07-18 11:45

Paris Motor Show to host brand-new Vietnamese carmaker, showcasing new Pininfarina-styled models to go on sale in 2019

VinFast, a brand-new Vietnamese car company, is to launch its first ever models at the Paris Motor Show in October.

The as-yet unnamed saloon and SUV will go on sale in Vietnam in September 2019, with the company planning to launch in other markets in the coming years.

2018 Paris Motor Show preview

Details of the models’ technical specifications are noticeably absent at present, but VinFast has commissioned Italian car design firm Pininfarina to style them. The images released by VinFast show both the SUV and saloon have distinctive radiator grilles, with a V-shaped motif formed by a pair of swooping LED running lights.

The computer-rendered images show the saloon (above) to have swollen rear arches reminiscent of the Maserati Ghibli, and a front end that echoes the Levante, while the SUV’s design (below) calls to mind models as diverse as the Volvo XC40, Subaru Tribeca and Citroen C5 Aircross.

Whatever their design cues may be, the two cars were developed following a vote by Vietnamese members of the public, who were given a range of models to choose from. VinFast hopes launching the two cars at Paris will “significantly raise the profile of the brand”.

VinFast says its SUV and saloon will offer “Vietnamese spirit, Italian design and German technology”, promising they will meet international standards for dynamics, in-car features and ownership.

The company is in the advanced stages of constructing a huge 898-acre factory in northern Vietnam. For scale, Ford’s Dagenham plant rests on 475 acres – though VW’s Wolfsburg plant covers 1,600 acres.

VinFast is a subsidiary of Vingroup, a Vietnamese real estate conglomerate with interests as diverse as healthcare, education, farming, shopping malls and holiday resorts. VinFast’s chief executive, James DeLuca, says the company has “the resources, scalability and commitment to become a significant new player in the global automotive industry”.

What do you think of the VinFast saloon and SUV? Tell us in the comments section below…

“Car makers haven’t forgotten how to keep us grinning”
Posted on Wednesday July 18, 2018

Steve Fowler 2018-07-18 11:30

Steve Fowler thinks that sprinkling a little RS, ST, GTI or Type R fun-dust on electric cars could mean happy days ahead

Hot hatches – opinion

Let's face it, this year hasn’t exactly been one that’s focused on what we love most about our cars; their ability to put a smile on our faces. So this week we’re delighted to have a fun-packed issue that proves the car makers haven’t forgotten how to keep us grinning behind the wheel.

And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing with some of the best hot hatchbacks we’ve ever driven. The joy of turning what is otherwise a run-of-the-mill hatch into something that can thrill on even the most mundane trip to the shops (and then handle the groceries when you get there, too) is something we Brits have been enjoying for years.

JLR doesn't know if it can remain British after a hard Brexit

So it’s great to finally get the latest Renault Sport Mégane on to UK roads against two of our current favourite hot hatches – Honda’s Civic Type R and the constantly surprising Hyundai i30 N

Like the cars on which they’re based, these cars offer more quality, tech and ability than ever before – at a higher price than ever before. Which is why we’ve also loved driving Ford’s Fiesta ST in the UK this week.

Ford has long been a master of affordable fun and the new ST is exactly that. It’s no less enjoyable than its more expensive brethren (arguably more so), but at a fraction of the price. It’s Ford at its best.

Even SUVs are getting in on the act, with the new BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupé proving that you can still have fun sitting a little higher up.

One of the most exciting revelations this week came from Skoda. We’ve loved its fast vRS models and there are more to come, along with the prospect of eRS all-electric models. Electric cars can be entertaining anyway; sprinkle a little RS, ST, GTI, Type R or N fun-dust on them and we’ve got more happy days ahead.

Are you excited about the prospect of driving an electric hot hatch? Let us know on the comments below...

New Audi TT S 2018 review
Posted on Wednesday July 18, 2018

Audi TT S - front
18 Jul, 2018 1:15pm Richard Ingram

The Audi TT S is fast, refined and beautifully built, but can it match the Porsche 718 Cayman or BMW M240i?

Near enough 20 years ago to the day, Audi launched the original TT at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The firm refers to it as an emblem of 20th century automotive design; it was an icon of its time, and still turns heads today.

Over the past two decades Audi has built more than 600,000 TTs. It still has a huge following in the UK and around the world – so four years after the third-generation car hit showrooms, Audi has given it a mid-life refresh.

Best sports cars 2018

The changes are predictably light. Save some new Matrix LED headlights, tweaked bumpers and OLED rear lamps on top-spec cars, the new TT is visually identical to the old one. Unless you opt for one of the three new colours, that is.

Inside, the updates are even harder to spot. There are new inlay options and a set of Super Sports seats on S line cars, but that’s about it. A new ‘TT 20 Years’ special edition has been launched, however, which adds Moccasin Brown leather trim. UK prices and specs will be announced when the range goes on sale in the autumn.

Elsewhere, the rapid decline of diesel in the coupe segment means there’s no longer the option of a TT TDI. The range now comprises a pair of TFSI petrols and the flagship (for now) TT S quattro. A five-cylinder 400bhp+ TT RS will arrive next year.

Our first drive opportunity came courtesy of the TT S – although with ‘just’ 302bhp, it’s not as potent as it was before. This is due to a new emissions-limiting petrol particulate filter. Torque is up 20Nm (now 400Nm), however, which helps cut the car’s 0-62mph by one tenth of a second.

But the way the TT S delivers its shove is quite typical of a fast Audi. While it’s undeniably quick, it never feels that urgent. Power is sent to the tarmac via the firm’s venerable quattro all-wheel drive system – delivering extraordinary grip on all surfaces and in all conditions.

New facelifted Audi TT revealed

It can’t match the outgoing TT RS for aural excitement, and it lacks the drama of a BMW M240i. A Porsche 718 Cayman is more rewarding, too, but despite the dip in power, the TT’s four-cylinder turbocharged engine and dual-clutch auto box are as effective as ever; this German coupe is an incredibly easy car to drive quickly.

While there isn’t much feel through the light steering, turn-in is sharp. It’s an amazingly agile car, in fact, and felt more than at home over the complex elevation, tight hairpins and sweeping bends of the Isle of Man TT course. This is helped by the exemplary body control, but the ride is firm – especially on our car’s 20-inch wheels.

Of course, alongside all this composure, you still get a carefully crafted and beautifully trimmed cabin. While the Virtual Cockpit set-up may not be to all tastes, it’s intuitive enough to use from the driver’s seat. Just don’t ask your passenger to change the radio station or sat-nav destination.

Those digital dials are now available with a new Sport display option. It’s standard on the TT S but an optional extra on TFSI cars – allowing the driver to prioritise core information such as power, torque and G-force. The centralised rev counter set-up is usually reserved for RS models, but works well here, too.

Anyone concerned with practicality shouldn’t immediately write off the TT, though. Adults will be understandably uncomfortable in the back, but there’s a decent boot with a tall hatchback opening. There are a couple of cubbies in the cabin and small door bins, too.

3.5
The Audi TT S is a fast, refined and beautifully built premium coupe – albeit one that ultimately lacks any kind of character. It’s not as exciting as a Porsche 718 Cayman or rewarding as a BMW M240i, instead sitting as a more style-focused and composed sports coupe. The TT S is hard to fault, but hard to recommend at this price; for that reason you may be better off with the cheaper 194bhp entry-level model.
  • Model: Audi TT S
  • Price: £45,000 (est)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
  • Power/torque: 302bhp/400Nm
  • Transmission: Seven-speed auto, four-wheel drive
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • 0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
  • Fuel economy/CO2: 40mpg (est), 165g/km (est)
  • On sale: Autumn

LEGO James Bond Aston Martin DB5 launches with ejector seat
Posted on Wednesday July 18, 2018

Hugo Griffiths 2018-07-18 10:07

LEGO pays homage to James Bond with one-eighth scale Goldfinger-inspired DB5; front machine guns and bullet-proof rear shield also feature

James Bond’s seminal Aston Martin DB5, featured in the film Goldfinger, is the latest car to get the LEGO treatment. 

The LEGO Creator Expert James Bond Aston Martin DB5, to give the model its full name, features many of the Goldfinger car’s gadget hallmarks. Once built, you’ll find a working ejector seat, revolving number plates, ‘tyre scythes’ that emerge from the wheels’ centre nuts, and a bullet-proof screen that rises from behind the rear windscreen.

• LEGO Technic Chiron revealed

The LEGO DB5’s bonnet, boot and doors open, while other details include a radar screen, wing-mounted machine guns and a hidden telephone.

Comprising 1,290 pieces, the Bond DB5 is 34cm long, 12cm wide, 10cm tall and wears the ‘Expert’ label from LEGO’s Creator range, itself designed to “evoke feelings of nostalgia, romance and adventure.”

The model is finished in the same ‘Silver Birch’ colour as Bond’s Aston, complete with lacquered front and rear bumpers and wire-wheel rim inserts. It’s billed as being an “authentic replica” with the same “smooth curves and sleek edges” as the original car.

LEGO has a history of linking up with high-end car makers. The recently-launched LEGO Technic Chiron, for example, features a moving 16-cylinder engine and eight-speed gearbox, while the Porsche 911 GT3 RS offers building fans similar levels of complexity.

To celebrate the model’s launch, LEGO is offering fans the chance to win a trip to the 007 Elements exhibition in Solden, Austria. Located 3,000 metres above sea level in a Bond villain-style lair built at the top of a snow-covered mountain, the 007 Elements show features a range of “high-tech, interactive galleries” evoking the atmosphere of a Bond film.

The LEGO Creator Expert James Bond Aston Martin DB5 is on sale now in LEGO stores and online, priced at £129.99.

Will you be buying the LEGO James Bond Aston Martin DB5? Let us know below...

New Mazda 6 2018 facelift review
Posted on Tuesday July 17, 2018

New Mazda 6 2018 facelift review front
17 Jul, 2018 7:15pm James Brodie

Mazda's 6 gets another refresh with cabin quality and tech boosts but it's still the sharp drive that stands out

The Mazda 6 has been around for a while now, so much so that this is actually the second time the Japanese firm’s flagship saloon has been updated in the UK following a mild facelift in 2015.

Despite its age relative to fresher competition like the Volkswagen Passat and Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport, it’s still a car we rate quite highly, thanks mostly to the fact that it’s still one of the best saloons to drive outside of the Audi, BMW and Mercedes premium benchmarks. 

Best family cars to buy now

Take a glance at the new Mazda 6 for 2018, and very little changes design wise from the outside. You’ll probably notice the new grille, which is deeper set and shinier than before with a new mesh, while updated headlights surrounded by a bit more chrome appear too. A few minor changes appear at the back in the form of a subtly redesigned rear bumper and bootlid, but the big news with this facelift is found in the cabin and under the bonnet – the interior has been refreshed again, while a new 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine joins the Mazda 6’s power roster. 

The fresh unit isn’t all that new, and is already equipped in the huge CX-9 SUV we don’t get in Britain, plus the smaller CX-5 in certain global markets. It seems to fly in the face of the current downsizing and turbocharging trends as well – 2.0 litres is as big as nearly all the Mazda’s four-cylinder rivals go. Given that this is a naturally aspirated engine too, there’s a definite old-school feel to the proposition.

What isn’t old-school is the cylinder-deactivation technology this engine is equipped with. Between 25mph and 50mph, two cylinders can drop out of operation to save fuel. It feels well executed, and you’ll struggle to notice the times when the engine is running at half its capacity. Claiming 42.2mpg on the combined cycle – about 34mpg in the real world– it isn’t actually that much thirstier than the smaller 2.0-litre petrol options Mazda offers as a result. 

We’d still probably opt for the smaller engine though. Despite having 191bhp on tap, this 2.5-litre unit musters up just 258Nm of torque – not a huge figure in these turbocharged times. Out of its peak spot around 4,000rpm it doesn’t feel significantly faster than the cheaper 163bhp, 213Nm 2.0-litre car, which revs out more sweetly too. Two turbocharged 2.2-litre diesel options will cater for buyers seeking pulling power. They’ll arrive in September, equipped with selective catalytic reduction via a tank of Adblue, with the most powerful version now developing 181bhp and 445Nm of torque.

The 2.5-litre is at least smooth and quiet when cruising along, only becoming vocal if you stand on the throttle. As such, it’s an easy car to live with on the motorway. The six-speed automatic equipped on our car didn’t seem slow-witted in any way, but the Mazda 6’s standard six-speed manual is slick to shift, and probably worth sticking with for most. 

Mazda has revised the steering and suspension on the updated car in a bid to keep it at the front of the pack for driving fun. You’d probably have to drive old and new back to back to find the difference, but regardless, the Mazda 6 is still a top saloon for drivers. Accomplished, sharp steering makes placing it around bends a joy, and while the suspension set-up is slightly firmer than rivals, costing it points for comfort around town, there’s a real fluency to the way this car flows down a B-road. 

In the cabin, a tiny redesign of the centre console layout, now with a smaller panel for climate control buttons, results in a decluttered environment. On high spec GT Sport Nav+ cars like ours it feels pretty premium in there too, solidly built and using nice materials including Nappa leather and real wood trim. Space for four adults is good, though the middle seat in the rear is tight and hampered by the transmission tunnel. With 480 litres of space there are more practical saloons out there, but it’s still big enough for daily life, and folding the rear bench to open up more room is simple.

Elsewhere, on high spec cars a seven-inch colour display is integrated into the instrument panel – lower down the range, cars stick with analogue dials. It’s not quite a system to rival the full width digital panels in rivals like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit set-up, but it’s sharp, and a welcome addition on the tech side of things. The infotainment display grows to eight inches with this facelift and it remains an easy system to use. It still crucially lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility but we’re told both will be available as options later. 

A head up display is now standard on all models though, and most versions are well equipped for the money. Mazda has increased the amount of safety and assistance features fitted by default too, with blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, radar cruise control, lane keep assist and autonomous emergency braking fitted across the range.

3.5
The refreshed Mazda 6 is still a fine family saloon, retaining its clear dynamic edge over the Volkswagen Passat. While being great to drive, it also takes the fight to the VW from a quality standpoint, thanks to its smartly updated and much more modern feeling cabin. This new 2.5-litre engine option isn’t our pick of the range though, and petrol buyers should stick to the more cost effective but sweeter 2.0-litre car instead. It's comfortably a four star car in the right spec.
  • Model: Mazda 6 Saloon 2.5 GT Sport Nav+ Automatic
  • Price: £30,795
  • Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol
  • Power/torque: 191bhp/258Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive
  • 0-62mph/Top speed: 8.1s/138mph
  • Economy/CO2: 42.2mpg/153g/km
  • On sale: Now

What is BMW iDrive?
Posted on Tuesday July 17, 2018

Dean Gibson 2018-07-17 17:16

BMW's iDrive in-car control and infotainment system explained: what it does and how to use it

BMW 5 Series long termer - first report iDrive

With in-car technology becoming more advanced, it's vital that the driver stays in control at all times. That's why BMW created iDrive, a control system designed to allow the driver to change a variety of settings without it becoming a distraction from the task of driving.

The iDrive controller has become synonymous with in-car control systems, and even though other car companies have created their own systems (Audi's MMI and Mercedes's COMAND systems are similar in their design), iDrive is starting to become the name people associate with these set-ups.

Infotainment systems reviewed

But what exactly does iDrive do? Well, when BMW first introduced iDrive on the 7 Series limo in 2001, it created a system that put all of the cabin control functions in one place. There's a central dashboard screen displaying information on navigation, audio and telephone settings, which is controlled via a control wheel that's located next to the gear lever. Over time, BMW has developed and enhanced the iDrive system, and today it's one of the most intuitive and user-friendly cabin controllers on the market.

Initially, iDrive itself was seen as too fiddly and a distraction from driving by many people, as it required the driver to look away from the road to ensure the controller was selecting the right menu or sub-menu on the screen. But as with any new technology, once you get used to how the system works, and as BMW has developed iDrive over time, it soon becomes second nature. On the whole, users of iDrive are likely to spend less time distracted by the system than they would with a touchscreen set-up.

In time, BMW developed the iDrive system to become more user-friendly, adding shortcut keys around the rotary controller, while voice control has added another level of user-friendliness to the system.

How does iDrive it work?

The latest version of BMW iDrive in its simplest form features a rotary controller that rotates clockwise and anti-clockwise, can be moved forwards, backwards, left and right, and presses down like a computer mouse to select an option. On more advanced versions of iDrive, the top of the control wheel also doubles as a touchpad for writing characters, although this only works well in a right hand-drive car if you're left-handed or dexterous enough to write characters clearly with your left hand – otherwise you might be better off with the voice control system instead.

As well as the rotary controller, there's a group of buttons at its base that are shortcut keys to sections of the iDrive system. These can send you straight to navigation, audio, telephone and car set-up screens without having to navigate back to the home screen – although there's also a shortcut to get you straight back there.

Next generation BMW iDrive infotainment revealed

Press these buttons, and the display on the centre console will switch to the selected option, allowing you to use the iDrive controller to scroll up and down to select your preferred option. Selecting these is likely to offer up more sub-menus, and while it might be easy to get lost within the menus, it's good to know the shortcut buttons are there to get you back to the start if necessary.

When you have the navigation selected, the iDrive controller allows you to zoom in and out of the map, while sliding the controller from side-to-side will allow you to look at your surroundings. It also allows you to easily change the point of view of the map, from 2D to 3D and perspective styles, while BMWs with a larger infotainment screen can even have a split-screen view that allows you to have detailed junction information alongside the standard map screen.

BMW 420d M Sport - front action

On more advanced models with 360-degree cameras, the iDrive system allows you to select which cameras you want to view, zoom in and out, and change from narrow to wide-angle views.

Ironically, BMW has now started offering touchscreen infotainment systems on some of its cars, although usually this comes in conjunction with an iDrive controller. However, we think the latest iDrive control system is the best yet, because once you've taken some time to familiarise yourself with the system, it's pretty easy to use. What's more, it doesn't leave grubby fingerprints on the screen.

iDrive problems

Of course, technology such as iDrive won't be to all tastes, but the latest systems should at least be reliable. Past versions of iDrive had problems with screens going blank, the sat-nav not functioning properly and the inability to read CDs. These faults were down to the connections between the car and the iDrive system, but later models use a different set-up that should be more reliable.

If you go to a BMW dealer, they will probably charge a small fortune to get an iDrive unit replaced if you're out of warranty. But there are a number of independent outlets that claim to be able to get your iDrive system working properly again through repair, although our advice is to only go to a recommended garage and preferably a BMW specialist, and only do so once your BMW is out of warranty.

New BMWs should be easier to fix if you're having problems, and you can expect your next BMW service to also include a software update to ensure all systems on board are working properly.

Which infotainment system do you rate the highest? Let us know in the comments below...

MINI Classic electric 2018 review
Posted on Tuesday July 17, 2018

Mini Classic electric - front
17 Jul, 2018 1:30pm Jonathan Burn

The MINI Classic electric is a one-off take on a 20th century icon, as MINI gears up for a proper electric hatch in 2019

It’s no secret that MINI will launch an electric hatchback in 2019 and to fill the gap between now and the car landing in showrooms the British firm has created something rather unique. This is the Mini Classic electric, and as you may have guessed from the name, it’s a fully electric version of one of the world’s most iconic cars.

First revealed at the New York Motor Show earlier this year and built by German engineer Moritz Burmester the model is a strict one-off, but Auto Express has been behind the wheel to see if it has the potential to be more than an effective marketing tool.

Best electric cars on sale 2018

It may be a 59 year old piece of design but time has been kind to the Mini; parked up alongside its modern day equivalent at MINI’s plant in Oxford it’s impossible not to be won over by its elegant simplicity. Even though this particular model is radically different beneath the skin, on the surface almost nothing has been changed; its trademark white roof, bonnet stripes and spot lamps bolted to the grille all remain in place. The only differences are a blackened grille and headlamp surrounds.

Because of its pocket-sized proportions a 10kWh battery was the largest Burmester was able to install, which gives a total range of 65 miles. It sits on top of the rear bench, meaning the Mini electric is a strict two-seater. With a bit more time – the car was converted from petrol to electric in only six days – Burmester said a second larger battery could be installed in the boot to almost double the car’s range.

Climb in and with the exception of a small battery gauge on the dash, everything is as you’d expect in a classic Mini. You sit shoulder-to-shoulder with your passenger, your knees wrapped around your ears, while being greeted by a steering wheel that juts out from the dash almost horizontally. Ergonomically it’s appalling, but you make it work.

Despite being electric the Mini is anything but quiet; it retains its original four-speed manual gearbox and differential, and because of the amount of torque it generates, first and second gear aren’t necessary. Neither is the clutch: you simply slot it into third and hit the accelerator.

The rudimentary suspension means you bounce and skip your way down the road feeling every bump and crack in the tarmac. By modern day standards it’s awful, and about as comfortable as riding a bike down a cobbled street - but it’s all part of the Mini’s endearing charm.

Like the original this electric model is front wheel drive, and powered by one electric motor. It’s currently running at around 35bhp, but with a little more development time – the car has only been running for a total of 24 hours – Burmester says he could turn it up to around 60bhp.

Even with that modest power output the Mini remains surprisingly brisk; there are no performance figures, but when you’re so low to the ground Nissan Micras look like Range Rovers, and outright top speed doesn’t feel so important. On some faster stretches of road we hit an indicated 60mph, and in all honesty, we didn’t feel the need to go any quicker.

Weighing just over 750kg, Burmester has also managed to keep the weight of the Mini close to that of the original. That means it retains its famous darty nature with heavy but accurate steering and flat body control when cornering. The immediate hit of acceleration always making it feel nippy and alert. Sadly it remains a strict one-off, despite the levels of interest MINI has had from interested customers.

A wonderful take on an old classic that, sadly, you won’t be able to buy. If MINI can make its 21st century electric hatch as appealing and exciting as this, it’ll be on to a winner.

Higher motorway roadwork speed limits to be trialled
Posted on Tuesday July 17, 2018

Hugo Griffiths 2018-07-17 12:15

Highways England says speed limits could rise to 60mph when “less activity” is taking place on motorway roadworks

Motorway roadwork speed limits will be increased to 60mph as bosses assess if variable limits can be safely operated.

Highways England, which runs the UK’s motorway network, says it is “working hard to reduce drivers’ frustration” with roadworks, and will be conducting a trial to see if higher limits can be introduced during periods when less work is being carried out.

Variable speed limits under review

Current motorway roadworks where lanes are narrowed bring with them a speed limit of 50mph or lower, but Highways England is responding to driver feedback to see if limits can be raised to 55mph or 60mph, depending on how much activity is taking place.

Taking weekends as an example, Highways England says “the speed could be increased to 60mph on a Sunday if there is less activity taking place, and then brought back down to 50mph when road workers are working within a few feet of passing traffic.”

Weekday roadwork limits could also rise, with drivers commuting on one carriageway at 50mph, but returning home in the opposite direction at 60mph if “road workers are further away.”

Highways England says narrow lanes are typically installed during motorway upgrades in order to provide a “safe working environment for the workforce”, while also keeping as many lanes open as possible.

Previous figures show road workers face up to 300 abusive and dangerous incidents a week. And while the current thinking is that a 50mph limit is necessary to operate narrow lanes as safely as possible, the new trial of dynamic limits “will test whether it is safe to operate at 60mph in certain circumstances.” Specific aspects of the road environment - such as the width of the lanes and the nature of safety barriers - will be taken into account, although locations for the trials have yet been determined.

Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England’s chief executive, says while “people understand roadworks are necessary”, they are also “frustrated” by them. “That is why over the next 12 months we will test changes to the design and operation of roadworks,” he added.

These new trials will follow earlier pilot projects that saw motorway roadwork limits permanently raised to 55 and 60mph.

Read: most drivers believe motorway traffic is getting worse

Ford Fiesta Active review
Posted on Tuesday July 17, 2018

For 
Retains fun Fiesta driving experience, looks suitably chunky
Our Rating 
4
Against 
More expensive and less economical then a Fiesta hatch, base trim misses desirable kit
Ford Fiesta Active - front
2018

With a strong driving experience and trendy SUV styling, the Fiesta Active has a lot to recommend it – but the standard car is cheaper

Both the Ford Fiesta and SUVs are incredibly popular, so combining the two to make the Ford Fiesta Active must have seemed like a no-brainer for Ford. The company expects 15 per cent of the Fiestas it sells to be the Active variant, after all. But while some may have feared a taller Fiesta would lose the handling finesse Ford’s evergreen supermini has long been known for, in truth, the Fiesta Active is similarly enjoyable to drive. 

It is, to be fair, more expensive than a standard Fiesta, but the Active gets a plusher entry-level trim, so this isn’t felt quite as keenly as it might be. There’s room for five adults (at a push) inside, while the Fiesta Active gets the same well-designed cabin and up-to-date eight-inch Sync 3 infotainment system as the standard Fiesta – as long as you avoid that entry-level Active 1 car. As a bridge between supermini and full-on small SUV, with the impressive qualities of the Ford Fiesta thrown-in, it makes a lot of sense.

17 Jul, 2018
4

When the new Fiesta launched in 2017, its new interior put criticism of the outgoing model’s button-heavy cabin to rest – so it’s no surprise Ford has stuck with the same layout for the Active model. 

The driving position, naturally, is ever so slightly higher than it is in the standard Fiesta, but your feet and arms adopt an almost identical position, and you’d be hard pushed to tell much of a difference between the two cars from behind the wheel. This is a good thing, though, as it means the gearlever is where you instinctively reach for it and feels satisfyingly chunky, the steering wheel sits comfortably in your hands, and the pedal box can accommodate even larger feet.

Interior quality is decent enough. The Volkswagen Polo feels plusher, sure, but in general the Fiesta Active acquits itself well. Unique upholstery patterns help it stand out from the crowd. As is common in the supermini class, lower down in the dashboard there are scratchy plastics, but higher up things are more pleasant, and softer to the touch.

The range starts with the Fiesta Active 1. This includes a leather steering wheel, keyless entry and go, all-round electric windows, 17-inch alloy wheels, silver roof rails and a 6.5-inch version of Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system. 

Upgrade to B&O Play spec and you get a punchy B&O Play 10-speaker stereo, anodized yellow trim detailing, a 4.2-inch driver dashboard display, the eight-inch touchscreen, a front armrest, traffic sign recognition, auto-dipping headlights and cruise control – all for around £1,300. 

Top-spec Active X cars add power-fold mirrors, heated part-leather seats, an upgraded climate control system, a reversing camera, plus auto lights and wipers. Active X is a further £1,100 or so over B&O Play though, and we can’t help feeling the mind-range car offers most of what you want, without costing too much.

Individual options include an opening panoramic sunroof for £600 (note that this means you lose the roof rails), an adjustable boot floor for £75 (this probably should be standard), pop-out door-edge protectors for £100 (worth having) and a £200 driver assistance package. This last item can’t be added to the Active 1 model, but it’s good value if only because it includes adaptive cruise control.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system may not be the best in the business (Volkswagen offers slicker units, for example) but it still has a lot to recommend it. While it lacks physical shortcut buttons at its left and right edges to easily bring up the radio volume, for example, the central screen hosts large, easy-to-prod icons, and there are physical play/pause and skip buttons at the screen’s base. 

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included in the Sync 3 system, as is a physical knob for the volume and power – no prodding at a screen for these functions. Helpfully, there’s also a button that turns the screen off without shutting the entire system down – useful if you’re travelling at night and want to avoid screen glare while you listen to the radio.

Do note Active 1 trim gets a 6.5-inch screen and the Sync3 setup, though this does include a DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus you can upgrade to the bigger screen, complete with sat nav, for £300.

4.5

The battle car companies face when designing SUVs is that if they make a taller car, they tend to raise its centre of gravity. This, in turn, will lead to more body roll when cornering, which is an enemy of a fun driving experience – something that wouldn’t bode well with the Fiesta’s reputation. 

Ford must have been well aware of this when designing the Active, so while the car has rugged plastic wheel arches, roof rails and more sturdy-looking bumpers, it actually rides just 18mm taller than the Fiesta hatch. To further minimise the impact an SUV stance might otherwise have and to compensate for the slightly taller frame, the Active’s track has been widened by 10mm.

These design elements are worth knowing, because they mean that if you’ve driven the standard Fiesta, the Active doesn’t deviate too much from that car’s impressive handling characteristics. There is a fraction more body lean when cornering, but nowhere near enough to dent the Active’s overall handling prowess. It also has an almost identical – albeit marginally higher – driving position to the Fiesta, plus the same snickety gearbox and sharp steering. 

All models come with what Ford terms “rough road suspension” and a driving mode selector with Eco, Normal and Slippery settings. It’s unlikely the Fiesta Active will get you hugely far off the beaten track, but the slightly raised stance should make taking it into a field, for example, less nerve-racking than it would be in a conventional supermini. The car’s underside will also be that little bit further out of harm’s way when negotiating urban obstacles like speed humps and kerbs. 

Engines 

Ford only offers the active with a 1.5-litre diesel engine and a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit. The diesel is offered with 84 or 118bhp, while the petrol comes in 84, 99, 123 and 138bhp formats.

Choose one of the EcoBoost petrols and you’ll be getting an eager powerplant. The slightly gruff nature intrinsic to three-cylinder engines gives the EcoBoost a pleasing amount of character when accelerating, but once on a cruise it’s a hushed companion, and an all-round solid performer. Note the most powerful petrol isn’t available with the entry-level ‘1’ trim.

Performance, naturally, varies depending on which EcoBoost configuration you choose. The 84bhp version takes 12.7 seconds to go from 0-62mph, the 99bhp version shrinks this to 11.2 seconds, while the 123bhp and 138bhp engines do the same in 10.4 and 9.7 seconds. We’d argue the 99bhp unit is the one to go for though: it’s swift enough for most needs, and you can have fun wringing out its power, while staying on the right side of the law. A sweet-changing six-speed manual gearbox is standard across the range, with a six-speed auto offered as an option, but only with the 99bhp petrol engine.

Turning to diesel, the 84bhp 1.5-litre engine is only offered with ‘1’ trim, while the 118bhp isn’t available unless you upgrade to B&O Play. You’ll probably want the more powerful diesel though– the 84bhp unit takes 12.7 seconds to propel the Active from 0-62mph, with the 118bhp version reducing this to a more palatable 9.5 seconds. Either way, the 1.5-litre engine is refined for a diesel unit in a supermini, only really revealing a slightly gruff character under heavy acceleration. Go for the more powerful variant and you’ll have to do this less, though.   

3.8

The 2017 Ford Fiesta was awarded the full five stars for safety by Euro NCAP, and this should apply to the Active variant. Adult occupant protection was rated at 87 per cent, child protection was similarly strong at 84 per cent, and safety assist was given 60 per cent.

Go for the mid-range B&O Play model and you’ll get traffic sign recognition (helpful for sticking to the speed limit), auto-dipping headlights and fatigue detection. Blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert (this latter item warns you of objects in your path when reversing) are packaged, together with heated, power-fold wing mirrors, for £475. 

The Driver Assistance pack, meanwhile, bundles adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking (which operates at speeds up to 50mph) and fatigue detection. At £200, this kit is worth having. 

Reliability 

As a new model, judging the Fiesta Active’s reliability is more a question of providing background than concrete evidence. Ford as a company came 16th out of 26 car makers in our 2018 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, up from 19th in 2017. 

And when the Fiesta last put in an appearance in Driver Power, again in 2017, it scored 50th out of 75 cars – though an impressively low (4.7 per cent) proportion of Fiesta owners reported issues with their cars in the previous 12 months. This was for the previous-generation Fiesta, but it’s encouraging nonetheless. 

Warranty 

Ford’s three-year, 60,000-mile warranty is average for the industry, A number of other manufacturers, including Toyota, Kia and Hyundai, offer longer, more generous policies.

Servicing

Ford’s fixed-price service plans come in a number of flavours. A basic two-year plan covering one service is £260, and high-mileage drivers can opt for a two-year/two-service policy for £500. A three-year/two service policy is £530.

4.3

The latest Ford Fiesta has a more spacious cabin than its predecessor, and the Active continues to make the most of these gains. Although five adults will be a squash, this is true of most cars of a similar size, which tend not to be bought by drivers who regularly carry a full complement of passengers. 

Legroom, headroom and passenger space

As with similarly-sized cars, those in the rear of the Fiesta Active will be forced to adopt a relatively upright seating position, and front-seat occupants will have to be considerate of how far they have their seats forward if adults are behind them.

While the Fiesta Active makes a strong fist of the space its small dimensions provide, and young families should do well with it, if you want to maximise the amount of interior space your small car offers, look into the Honda Jazz– it’s the epitome of clever packaging.  

Boot 

At 311 litres with the rear seats up, boot space in the Fiesta Active is almost identical to the Fiesta hatch, which offers just eight litres fewer. Drop the seats in the Active and luggage space grows to 1,093 litres. These figures are reasonable, if nothing to write home about. The SEAT Arona, for comparison, offers 400 litres of luggage space with the rear seats up, while the Citroen C3 Aircross has 520 litres if you slide its rear seats forward. 

Towing

Ford will fit the Fiesta Active with a tow bar for £225 – though not in conjunction with the optional panoramic sunroof. So equipped, the Active will tow up to 1,000kg, and will do so most comfortably if you choose the 118bhp 1.5-litre diesel engine.

4.3

Remember those compromises we mentioned earlier about SUVs being less agile than more established body styles? The same theory applies to economy. Add size and you reduce efficiency – partly due to extra weight, and partly due to a taller car being less aerodynamic. 

Fortunately, because the Fiesta Active is only slightly larger than the Fiesta, and only weighs an extra 100kg or so, its efficiency losses are pretty minimal. Ford claims official economy of 64.2mpg for the 118bhp diesel and, while we saw a low 50mpg figure in our test drive, a diesel Fiesta Active will still be one of the more frugal small SUVs you can buy. For reference, opt for the 84bhp diesel and official economy climbs to 70.6mpg.

Specify your Active with the 1.0-litre petrol engine and official economy sticks around the mid-50s, with the 84 and 99bhp engines returning 56.5mpg, and the 138bhp version managing 54.3mpg.

Regardless of which fuel you choose, if you compare these figures to the Fiesta hatchback you’ll see a difference of between 3mpg and 5mpg. It’s noticeable, but hardly damning. 

The Active stands up pretty well to the competition where economy is concerned, too. The SEAT Arona officially manages 57.6mpg with the base 94bhp petrol engine, rising to 70.6bhp if you chose the equally powerful 1.6-litre TDI diesel.

As far as road tax is concerned, most models emit between 103 and 118g/km of CO2, so first-year road tax (which is typically included in on-the-road prices) will be £165 – though note that the automatic gearbox offered with the 99bhp EcoBoost engine emits 138g/km of CO2, so will be £205 for the first year. Subsequent years will see you taxed at £140, no matter which engine or gearbox you choose.

Insurance

Insurance for your Ford Fiesta Active should be cheap enough. Choose Active 1 trim with either the 84bhp petrol or the 84bhp diesel and you’ll be looking at group 7 out of 50, while the models most dimly viewed by the insurance industry (the 118bhp diesel and 138bhp diesel) sit in group 14; cover shouldn’t be expensive, either way, and should be slightly cheaper than it would be with the SEAT Arona, which sits in groups 8 to 18. 

If cheap insurance is the goal, though, bear in mind choosing a Fiesta hatchback instead of the Active will get you more affordable cover: the Fiesta Style sits in group 2 out of 50 – though only if you specify it with the unenthusiastic 69bhp petrol engine.

Depreciation

Our experts predict the Fiesta Active will retain an average of 42.56 per cent of its value after three years and 36,000 miles, which is roughly the same as the standard, Fiesta. Our choice, the B&O Play model with the 99bhp EcoBoost engine, should hold onto 36.5 per cent of its value, while the 118bhp and 138bhp petrols will be more resistant to depreciation - though they’ll cost you more to buy in the first place.

Updated Honda Civic Type R spied testing
Posted on Tuesday July 17, 2018

Jonathan Burn 2018-07-17 10:45

Honda Civic Type R hot hatch set for a range of cosmetic tweaks, and we've spotted it testing on the road

Honda Civic Type R facelift - 3

The Honda Civic Type R may have only launched 12 months ago but the Japanese firm appears to be working on an updated version of the hot hatch, according to the latest spy shots.

Honda Civic Type R vs Hyundai i30 N

Spotted testing on roads around the Nurburgring in Germany, updates to the Type R appear to be rather minor and limited to a new front and rear bumper. Closer inspection reveals a new set of winglets appears to have been added to the air intakes at the front and to the plastic cladding beneath the rear lamps.

Of course that doesn’t mean there aren’t further changes beneath the skin. Renault has openly admitted to chasing the Type R’s Nurburgring lap record with the new Megane RS, and Honda could be using the mild update as an opportunity to add some more power and make some chassis tweaks to help the Type R maintain its title as the world’s fastest front-wheel drive car. 

Aside from those minor visual changes little else appears to have been changed over the existing model, however the sighting of the updated Type R is tell tale sign that a range of updates for the standard Civic range is on the way. The latest hatchback launched back in 2016, and with Honda’s particularly short lifecycles that model is due a mid-life facelift. 

What are the best hot hatchbacks on sale right now? These are our top 10...

 


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