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Audi A6 Saloon, Avant and A7 Sportback get new 40 TDI engine
Posted on Thursday August 16, 2018

Alex Ingram 2018-08-16 16:15

New mild-hybrid 40 TDI diesel marks the first time the Audi A7 has used a four-cylinder engine

Audi has added a new 40 TDI four-cylinder diesel engine to the A6 Saloon, A6 Avant and A7 Sportback ranges. It’s the first time that an engine with fewer than six cylinders has found its way under the bonnet of the A7.

The headline figures are a claimed 62.8mpg and 117g/km in an A6 Saloon riding on 18-inch alloy wheels - over 10mpg better than the most closely-matched BMW 520d. The A6 Avant and the A7 are slightly thirstier: both manage 60.1mpg, while the A6 Avant emits 124gkm of CO2 and the A7 122g/km.

New Audi A6 40 TDI review

Power comes from a 2.0-litre diesel engine producing 201bhp. As with the rest of the A6 and A7 ranges, the unit is mated to a mild hybrid system: a belt alternator starter that’s connected to the crankshaft. This boots fuel consumption by recovering up to 5kw of power when coasting or braking and reusing it under acceleration. It allows the 40 TDI-engined models to coast at idle between 34 and 99mph, storing the energy in a lithium ion battery located at the back of the car.

The A6 saloon is able to accelerate to 62mph from rest in 8.1 seconds and on to a top speed of 152mph. The Avant follows two tenths and 3mph behind respectively, while the A7 Sportback matches the A6 Avant’s 8.3 second 0-62mph time and the saloon’s 152mph top speed.

Each model is available in both Sport and S line trims, with equipment levels matching the larger-engined models in the range.

The A6 and A7 40 TDI models are available to order now, with deliveries due within the next couple of months. The A6 40 TDI saloon costs £38,640 in Sport and £42,000 in S line trim. The Avant costs £1,830 more in Sport trim and £2,100 more in S line. The A7 40 TDI Sport costs £47,140, and the S line is £50,040.

Click here for all the latest on the new Audi A6...

New 2019 Peugeot 2008 leads small SUV blitz
Posted on Thursday August 16, 2018

John McIlroy 2018-08-16 12:15

Exclusive image previews new Peugeot 2008 baby SUV, which is set to offer petrol, diesel and, eventually, mild-hybrid power

Peugeot 2008 - front (watermarked)

Peugeot has scored huge hits with its two most recent SUVs: the 3008 and 5008. And now the French firm is preparing a total overhaul of those cars’ baby brother, the 2008, which is due to be revealed in autumn 2019, ahead of sales starting the following year.

The 2008’s first appearance, probably at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2019, will be part of a logical roll-out of new chassis technology developed by Peugeot’s parent firm, PSA, and its Chinese partner DongFeng. Called CMP (Compact Modular Platform), the new architecture is specifically designed for smaller cars. It’s likely to make its debut on the new 208, which is expected to be seen at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show.

Best crossovers and small SUVs on sale

The new 2008 SUV should be slightly longer but usefully lighter than the outgoing model; the CMP chassis weighs around 40kg less than the ageing PF1 set-up that underpins the existing 208 and 2008 line-ups.

Peugeot has been working hard to nurture consistency and sophistication in its designs. So expect the next 2008 to have lots in common with the new 208, while our exclusive image previews how it will evolve the 3008’s looks.

Expect big changes in the cabin, with a hike in material quality and a totally redesigned dashboard featuring the latest evolutions in Peugeot’s i-Cockpit instrument panel. These may well extend to a fully digital display across the range, particularly in regions such as the UK, where Peugeot is pitching itself at the ‘upper end of mainstream’.

The engine line-up will be based around evolutions of the current 1.2-litre PureTech petrol motor, with power outputs ranging from around 85bhp up to 130bhp. The 2008 will also get PSA’s new generation of 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesels. An eight-speed automatic box should be offered on high-end variants, alongside a standard six-speed manual.

The 2008 will continue to be a road-focused SUV, too. The CMP platform is designed to be front-wheel drive only, regardless of powertrain.

Further down the line, probably in time for the next 2008’s mid-life facelift, we can expect 48V mild-hybrid powertrains to appear. PSA announced earlier this year that it’s working with a company called Punch Powertrain on a hybrid set-up – which is based on a dual-clutch gearbox and a 48-volt electric motor – and that it will introduce the technology on products from 2022.

In the meantime, Peugeot will also be able to offer the 2008 as a zero-emissions rival to the Hyundai Kona Electric. Speaking to Auto Express earlier this year, boss Jean-Philippe Imparato revealed he planned to offer pure-electric choices at the lower end of his range. “The rhythm of the transition (towards hybrids and EVs) will not be the same across the regions,” he said.

“The guys in Paris will be electric. The guys who do 100,000 miles per year will be diesel, and the average guy will be petrol. You will buy your Peugeot and you will choose your powertrain.”

The pure-electric 2008 should offer a 280-mile range, and arrive soon after the conventionally powered editions. PSA has promised it will deliver four EVs on CMP by 2021 – likely to be the 2008 and 208, plus the DS 3 and DS 3 Crossback.

What the new Peugeot 2008 has to beat 

Nissan Juke

Nissan Juke (watermarked) - front

Due: 2019

The car that started the small SUV invasion gets an all-new generation in 2019, and the next Juke will introduce Renault-Nissan’s latest CMF-B platform. Expect a more practical interior with upgraded infotainment and quality – but as our exclusive image previews, the styling will stay divisive.

Renault Captur

Due: Late 2019 

Recent spy shots of a test mule (above) showed how the next generation of Renault’s Captur is going to grow up when it arrives at the end of 2019. The new model is longer and wider than the current car, as Renault tries to deliver more family-car practicality from its baby SUV. 

Skoda Anuq

Skoda Vision X

Due: Late 2019

Skoda’s Vision X concept (above) is a good preview of the brand’s forthcoming small SUV, which is likely to be called Anuq. The newcomer will be large for the class, because it’s based on a longer version of the VW Group’s MBQ A0 platform. Hybrid technology could feature, too. 

Volkswagen T-Cross

Volkswagen T-Cross prototype - front

Due: 2019

The T-Cross will have been on sale for about a year before the next 2008 arrives, because the ‘Polo SUV’ will make its debut before the end of 2018. It’ll be more of an SUV than its sister car, the SEAT Arona, riding higher and featuring slightly inflated dimensions to boost practicality.

Which new small SUV are you looking forward to seeing? Let us know below...

Fitting AEB to all vans could cut accidents by 2,500 per year
Posted on Thursday August 16, 2018

Chris Rosamond 2018-08-16 10:35

Autonomous Emergency Braking installed on vans could save 1,000 lives and prevent 120,000 injuries over a ten-year period

VW Crafter 4motion - front quarter

Equipping all vans with Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) could save 350 lives each year in the UK, according to the latest analysis of Department of Transport (DoT) stats.

DoT figures on van accidents recorded over a 12-month period suggest that 2,496 accidents might have been avoided in vans weighing up to 3.5 tonnes, if, AEB had been fitted. Preventing, or at least reducing the severity of those 2,496 crashes could have saved 348 deaths and serious injuries.

What is AEB? Autonomous Emergency Braking systems explained

AEB has been described by the UK’s leading car safety research organisation Thatcham as the most significant advancement in car safety since the seatbelt. According to its estimates, AEB has the potential to save 1,000 lives and 120,000 injuries over a ten-year period, and reduce the incidence of accidents by 38 per cent.

Thatcham is funded by the insurance industry; as a result vehicles fitted with AEB benefit from 10 per cent insurance premium reduction on average compared to those without.

Currently, the only brand fitting AEB as standard to its commercial vans is Volkswagen. “Autonomous emergency braking systems mean safer vehicles, fewer accidents and therefore reduced downtime and lower costs for fleets – as well as the potential to save lives. These are vital goals for any vehicle manufacturer,” says Carl zu Dohna, Director of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

VW says the latest Crafter van is four groups lower when it comes to insurance, thanks to the inclusion of AEB.

In the market for a large panel van? Then take a look at the best models on sale.

‘The new BMW 3 Series will make saloons trendy again’
Posted on Thursday August 16, 2018

Steve Fowler 2018-08-16 08:45

Saloon cars have taken a back seat during the SUV sales boom, but not for much longer believes Steve Fowler…

Opinion - BMW 3 Series

With SUVs dominating more and more buyers’ thoughts these days, the good old saloon car has taken something of a back seat.

Sales of traditional ‘three-box’ cars have tumbled, with the D-segment that covers everything from the Ford Mondeo to the BMW 3 Series propped up by sexier five-door versions like the Audi A5 and 4 Series.

New BMW 3 Series prototype review

But the saloon car is about to make a comeback, and not only because of the arrival of an all-new 3 Series – still a crucial big-seller for BMW.

A couple of months ago I was at the unveiling of a new challenger to the 3 Series: Volvo’s S60 – a great-looking car in anybody’s eyes. While I was there I got some interesting insight into the future of the saloon car from Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson.

His view was that there was an increasing buzz around saloons from younger buyers. These were people who’d grown up with their parents buying SUVs. And, as he told me, most young people tend to avoid doing exactly what their parents did. That’s something I can totally understand.

It’s a similar story with hatchbacks. Witness the incredible reaction – especially among young people – to Honda’s Urban EV concept at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show. It’s a cute, but thoroughly modern, take on the three-door hatch; reaction was so good it’ll go on sale next year.

There are much more than just cyclical fashion trends at play here, though. As our first drive in a prototype 3 Series reveals, the amount of tech on board the new BMW is also likely to sway buyers. That and the fact that it’s still fantastic to drive.

What sticks out for me is the combination of a plush ride with sharp handling; the two used to be rare bedfellows. The fact you can now get both is great news for car buyers of all ages.

These are the best best executive cars on sale...

Diesel sales on the rise in second hand car market
Posted on Wednesday August 15, 2018

Chris Rosamond 2018-08-15 16:40

Despite falling new diesel car sales, demand for oil-burners remains high in the second hand car market

Used Volvo XC90 - front

While new car buyers are shunning diesel, it seems cost conscious drivers shopping for used cars are keeping faith with the once favoured fuel. New diesel car sales have dropped by 24 per cent in recent months, but far from sending residual values plummeting, demand for frugal diesel-fuelled motors is increasing on the second hand market.

Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders for the second quarter of 2018 show overall used car sales holding steady in the face of economic uncertainty.

Best diesel cars on sale

More than two million used cars were sold in Q2 this year, a drop of just 0.4 per cent compared to the same period in 2017.

Used diesel car sales rose by 3.2 per cent in the latest figures, accounting for 898,573 sales. Used petrol sales fell 3.3 per cent, but demand for alternative fuel and electric vehicles rose by more than a quarter. That said, total alternative fuel sales were still low at 26,832, reflecting limited availability of new powertrain tech in the used market.

“It’s great to see the used car sector remain in robust health as motorists take advantage of the exciting high-tech models filtering down from the new sector – including some of the latest low emission diesel and alternatively fuelled vehicles,” says SMMT chief exec Mike Hawes.

“However, with used sales so closely reflecting the new car market, some cooling is expected over the coming months. Given fleet renewal is the fastest way to improve air quality and reduce CO2, we need greater business and consumer confidence to keep both markets moving.

Would you buy a used diesel car? Let us know in the comments below...

Cyclists could face same punishments as drivers
Posted on Wednesday August 15, 2018

Chris Rosamond 2018-08-15 14:40

Motoring lawyer Nick Freeman calls for new penalties for cyclists, drawing terse response from Cycling UK

One of Britain’s top motoring lawyers is demanding new penalties for cyclists, as well as a controversial scheme to register the almost eight million cyclists who use Britain’s roads.

The scheme would mean bicycles being issued with number plates, or cyclists being forced to wear numbered tabards. It’s designed to enable the authorities to track rogue riders, and punish them with the same points and penalties faced by drivers.

The best bike racks of 2018

Nick Freeman, styled ‘Mr Loophole’ by the tabloid press, is better known for representing high profile celebrities such as David Beckham and Paddy McGuinness when facing driving charges. His latest intervention follows a government consultation on creating a new offence of ‘causing death by careless cycling’.

“Though every death is a terrible tragedy, the number of cases involving collisions between cyclists and pedestrians is minute. In contrast, there are countless situations every day in which thousands of cyclists recklessly cut red lights, ride on the pavement and generally use their bikes without due care or much worse,” Freeman told the Daily Express.

“As someone who travels 30,000-50,000 miles a year, I see this all the time. That’s why it isn’t enough just to tidy up bits of the statute. What the Government currently proposes is simply a headline grabbing vote-winner. In reality, it does nothing to address the real issue of road safety.”

The comments have attracted a pithy response from Cycling UK: "In 2014, after one of his clients was convicted of causing the death of an elderly rabbi by careless driving, Mr Freeman blamed the collision on the rabbi’s traditional dark clothing,” says the organisation’s Head of Campaigns Duncan Dollimore.

“Calling on the Government to require pedestrians to light up at night, he blamed the victim for failing to be more visible rather than his client for failing to look. His plans for road safety need to be considered in that context, and with due regard to the fact that he’s earned his fortune finding loopholes to help celebrity clients evade the road traffic laws that are designed to make our roads safer, even if they’re not always perfect."

Check out the 11 car safety systems that are set to become mandatory by 2021…

New 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante spied
Posted on Wednesday August 15, 2018

Jonathan Burn 2018-08-15 13:00

The convertible Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante has been spotted testing ahead of its release next year

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante spied - front

Aston Martin’s relentless new model rollout shows no sign of letting up, as engineers are busy putting the finishing touches to the new DSB Superleggera Volante.

Caught on camera by Auto Express reader James Blyth, the prototype was spotted close to Aston’s Gaydon HQ on the M40. This is our first sighting of the DBS Volante, which confirms the British brand will continue its tradition of fitting its drop top models with a folding fabric roof.

Best convertible cars on sale

When the DBS Volante arrives towards the back end of next year it will have no obvious rivals; Ferrari doesn’t offer a convertible version of the 812 Superfast, while development is still under way on the McLaren 720S Spider and Bentley Continental convertible.

The Volante will stick closely to the DNA of the coupe that launched earlier this year; under the bonnet will be Aston’s 716bhp 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12 engine, which will paired with an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox. 

To compensate for the loss of the roof the Volante will require additional body strengthening, that means around 100-120kg of added weight. As a result performance and economy will be affected; expect the Volante’s 0-62mph time to be around the 3.7-second mark – several tenths slower than the coupe.

Following the DBS Superleggera Volante will most likely be a track-focused AMR variant, as Aston Martin bosses look to strengthen the brand’s presence in that area of the market.

Read about our first drive of the new Aston Martin DBS Superleggera coupe here...

DVLA closure to make taxing cars impossible this weekend
Posted on Wednesday August 15, 2018

Chris Rosamond 2018-08-15 12:50

Scheduled website maintenance means car buyers will temporarily be unable to tax vehicles with the DVLA

The DVLA website and call centre will be closed for a systems upgrade this weekend, potentially causing problems for anyone buying a used car and who needs to drive it home.

A notice issued by the DVLA last Tuesday states most of its services – including the 24hr phone service and call centre – will be unavailable from 3pm on Friday 17 August until the following Monday morning. The website is scheduled to come back online at 6am, but the call centre won’t start working until 8am. Because Post Offices rely on the website too, you won’t even be able to tax your car over the counter.

VED road tax: everything you need to know

The DVLA notice includes a legal reminder: “Remember, it’s against the law to drive an untaxed vehicle on the road,” it says. “If you buy a car this weekend you won’t be able to tax it until 6am on Monday. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.”

While many motorists wrongly believe there’s a ‘grace period’ to get your car taxed, this hasn’t been true for years. Nowadays any outstanding vehicle excise duty paid for by a previous owner is cancelled the moment ownership is transferred. The new owner has a legal duty to pay VED before their new purchase turns a wheel on the road.

With the prevalence of Automatic Number Plate Recognition systems, car buyers who might be tempted to take a chance and drive untaxed for a couple of days risk automated fines. The maximum penalty for driving with no VED is a hefty £1,000.

The main risk of breaking the law applies to used car buyers, as many may not even be aware the service is closed until they try to tax a newly acquired vehicle at the point of sale – potentially even having travelled a significant distance to do so.

Automobile Association spokesman Jack Cousens suggests while there’s a need to be sanguine about the closure, drivers shouldn’t expect to get away with driving untaxed. “There’s never a good time for this sort of thing, but the DVLA has been absolutely clear there is no leniency for anyone caught with an untaxed car over the period of this closure,” he says. “So yes, it’s a nuisance, but our advice to anyone buying a used car is don’t do it this weekend!”

Steve Latham, chief of operations for the National Franchised Dealers Association, says the closure shouldn’t affect new car buyers as retailers had plenty of warning to tax cars in advance. “We were notified well in advance so it shouldn’t cause any problems for new car retailers,” he says, “although if the system isn’t back again Monday I’ll be expecting a lot of phone calls.”

Will you be affected by the planned DVLA website closure? Let us know in the comments section below…

Ford Fiesta ST vs MINI Cooper S vs Volkswagen Polo GTI
Posted on Wednesday August 15, 2018

2018-08-15 10:50

The new Ford Fiesta ST slugs it out with the MINI Cooper S and Volkswagen Polo GTI for the hot-hatch crown

Ford Fiesta ST vs MINI Cooper S vs Volkswagen Polo GTI - header

If you love cars, you’ll have been looking forward to this road test. The previous Ford Fiesta ST is one of the all-time great fast Fords, so the new one has a lot to live up to.

The standard Fiesta is the best car in its class, and a big reason for that is how much fun it is to drive, so the prospect of a more powerful performance version is exciting. It follows a similar formula to its predecessor: a potent turbocharged engine and a revised chassis tuned for fun. Can the Fiesta attain instant-classic status for a second time in a row?

Best hot hatchbacks on sale

There are two new contenders that will have something to say about that. The updated MINI Cooper S is up there with the Ford for delivering fun, while the Volkswagen Polo GTI is based on the latest German supermini, and promises to bring grown-up driving manners and a hi-tech cabin to the class. It matches the Ford for power, but, like the MINI, uses a larger engine to do so. Which car will take the hot supermini crown? 

Ford Fiesta ST

Model: Ford Fiesta ST-3
Price:  £21,495
Engine:  1.5-litre 3cyl petrol, 197bhp 
0-60mph:  7.1 seconds
Test economy:  33.8mpg/7.4mpl 
CO2:  136g/km
Annual road tax:  £140

Here we’re testing a three-door Ford Fiesta ST in ST-3 trim, which is the top-spec model and costs from £21,495. That means it matches these rivals on price, but the entry-level ST-1 costs £18,995.

As a driver’s car, the ST has a superb basis in the brilliant Ford Fiesta. By adding more power and upgrading the suspension, the company has again created a fantastic hot hatchback.

Most of the ST’s brilliance can be attributed to the chassis: it’s agile and adjustable, while still riding reasonably well over rough roads. It’s firm, but it remains nicely controlled. Clever damping builds plenty of confidence to corner hard, but it’s not so harsh over bumps that it upsets the car’s balance mid-bend; although of the three models here, the Ford’s ride is the hardest.

The front-wheel-drive Fiesta turns in with real enthusiasm, working both axles to rotate itself around each bend. It feels natural and fun, but is also serious enough to satisfy even the biggest driving enthusiasts.

Even better is the steering, which is quick and precise and offers the most information of the three cars here. There’s lots of traction out of corners as well, thanks to the optional limited-slip differential, although it avoids being so tied down as to lose some of the fun factor. 

Further, the six-speed gearbox is more precise and satisfying to use than in a normal 1.0-litre EcoBoost Fiesta, and is more involving than the MINI – just.

While the Fiesta’s chassis shines brightly, the engine under the bonnet doesn’t quite match its predecessor for character. The new three-cylinder unit doesn’t relish revs as much as the old four-cylinder motor did, or even the four-cylinder engine in the MINI here. Still, the Ford unit has plenty of pull: the low-down torque means real-world performance is very strong, and the new engine has an entertaining exhaust note.

The Fiesta was the fastest of our three contenders in each gear, going from 30-50mph in third and fourth and 50-70mph in fifth and sixth faster than either the MINI or Volkswagen. But it lagged behind the faster-shifting DSG Polo from 0-60mph, taking 7.1 seconds, compared with the VW’s 6.5-second time. 

Testers’ notes: “The Fiesta ST is more serious and focused than ever, but it retains a sense of fun that’s somewhat missing in the Volkswagen. The fun stems directly from its responsive controls and sorted chassis.” 

MINI Cooper S

Model: MINI Cooper S
Price:  £20,635
Engine:  2.0-litre 4cyl petrol, 189bhp 
0-60mph:  7.4 seconds
Test economy:  32.6mpg/7.2mpl 
CO2:  145g/km
Annual road tax:  £140

The MINI Cooper S is the hottest model in the facelifted MINI range until the John Cooper Works (JCW) arrives, but it’s the least powerful car of our trio here, producing 189bhp from its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. While the Cooper S is the cheapest of the three at £20,635, you’ll need to add plenty of options to match its rivals’ specifications.

AS there have only been a few changes to the latest Cooper S, it remains great fun to drive. The MINI’s direct steering and grippy chassis mean barreling down a twisty road is great fun. It responds to your inputs just as you want it to, so you’re able to tighten or open your line around a corner using the throttle as well as the steering. In fact, it’s right up there with the Fiesta ST in terms of B-road thrills.

The MINI’s driving position is also great, which helps with comfort, but the well-developed damping is a big plus for the MINI as well; it gives enough compliance to keep the car composed without feeling unsettled on rough roads.

The Cooper S is slightly more forgiving than the Ford, but isn’t as smooth as the Polo and ultimately is still quite firm – but we reckon it’s worth it for the superb handling.

The engine is less vocal than both rivals’ motors, but the MINI’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit is more characterful than the Polo’s, and smoother than the three-cylinder engine in the Ford. It’s down on power next to its rivals here, but only by a small amount and you won’t feel left behind in the British car. It doesn’t feel significantly slower on the road, but at the track the Cooper S did trail its rivals.

Despite the sunshine in our pictures, we carried out our track tests in mixed conditions, and the MINI took 7.4 seconds to accelerate from 0-60mph and 6.6 seconds to go through the gears from 30-70mph, the slowest here.

While the Ford was faster in gear, the Cooper S beat the Polo’s 4.2-second 30-50mph time in fourth by one tenth. It was also faster than the Volkswagen from 50-70mph in fifth and sixth.

The MINI’s gearchange isn’t as positive and enjoyable as the Ford’s. However, it’s still much more engaging and fun than the DSG auto in the Polo.

Testers’ notes: “Adaptive suspension is only £375 and is therefore worthwhile. There’s not a huge difference between modes, but Sport is subtly stiffer. The car has a good balance between ride and handling anyway.”

Volkswagen Polo GTI

Model: Volkswagen Polo GTI
Price:  £21,520
Engine:  197bhp
0-60mph:  6.5 seconds
Test economy:  33.5mpg/7.4mpl 
CO2:  134g/km
Annual road tax:  £140

The Volkswagen Polo GTI is more expensive than its rivals here, at £21,520 in base GTI spec, but it’s also a five-door only, and there’s no manual option yet: it’s DSG automatic only for now. That accounts for the price, but is the Polo able to take class honours in its first group test?

With a 197bhp engine and dual-clutch automatic gearbox, the Polo GTI is by far the easiest car here to extract performance from: just squeeze the throttle, the DSG drops down a few gears, and you’re off. With launch control the VW recorded an impressive 6.5-second 0-60mph time in our tests on a wet track, beating both rivals, and the automated shifts meant it was fastest through the gears from 30-70mph, too.

However, while the DSG box is brilliant at firing up through the gears in a straight line, it feels out of its depth on a twisty road. It’s not as quick to change gear after pulling one of the steering wheel-mounted paddles as we’d like, and often you’re left waiting for the change at a crucial moment pre or post-corner. In a small hot hatchback that’s very frustrating, because maintaining your flow down the road is a huge part of these cars’ appeal. The manual gearboxes in its rivals are so much more fun to use as well.

Still, the VW’s engine has the most torque of the three, with its 320Nm maximum arriving at just 1,500rpm. It’s flexible enough that you don’t always need to change down to make progress. Longer gearing meant that the Polo GTI was the slowest car from 50-70mph in top gear, though, taking 8.2 seconds, which was more than a second down on the MINI and two seconds adrift of the Ford.

However punchy it is, the engine is a bit flat and isn’t as enjoyable to use as the more characterful units in the Fiesta and Cooper S, despite VW engineering in some pops and bangs from the exhaust. The Ford does this, too, but its engine note is more pleasing.

It’s a similar story with the Polo GTI’s chassis: it’s effective but leaves us a bit cold. The upgraded suspension means there’s loads of grip and it’s agile, but the light steering and more neutral cornering stance ensure it’s not as lively as its rivals. The ride is the smoothest of all three, though, particularly at low speed, where the Ford in particular can start to feel a bit bouncy over small bumps and potholes.

At motorway speeds, the GTI is the quietest car inside, so it will be easy to live with day to day. While it will work for some people, the Polo misses out on the crucial fun factor we look for in hot hatches. 

Testers’ notes: “We can’t wait to try the manual version of the Polo, as an auto doesn’t make much sense here. It takes away from driver engagement and makes the car’s performance feel more detached than in its rivals.”

Verdict 

First place: Ford Fiesta ST

The Fiesta ST is still the best model in its class – and with it, one of the best cars on sale today. It’s fast, supremely fun to drive, usable every day and above all great value for money. Few sports cars are as much fun as the Fiesta ST on British roads, let alone hatchbacks. It’s just a shame the engine isn’t an all-time great, as this could have been a true fast Ford legend. 

Second place: MINI Cooper S

With all the praise being heaped on the Fiesta ST, it would be easy to dismiss the MINI Cooper S. But it’s nearly as much fun as the Ford, while the punchy 2.0-litre engine is brilliant as well. It loses out a little due to higher running costs and pricey option packs that reduce its value for money. It lacks practicality, but if you can afford one, the MINI is a great fun choice.

Third place: Volkswagen Polo GTI

If you’re looking for a hot hatch you can drive easily in comfort every day, the Polo is worth a look. It’s practical, fast and mature, but in pursuit of those goals, the Polo is missing a sense of humour that’s desperately needed in a car like this. The others are brilliant fun all of the time, while the Polo is refined and relaxed – but for us that misses the point of the supermini hot hatch. 

Other options for similar money... 

New: Renault Clio R.S.

Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy - front action

Price: £20,300
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 197bhp 

There aren’t many supermini hot hatches that feature auto boxes like the Polo here, but the Clio R.S. does without a manual. It’s a shame the dual-clutch unit is sluggish, although the Renault has plenty of power and fun handling. 

Used: Ford Fiesta ST 200

Ford Fiesta ST200 - front

Price: From £16,000
Engine: 1.6 4cyl, 197bhp

The previous Fiesta ST is an all-time great, and you can get a used version of the most powerful ST 200 run-out model for around £16,000. It’s stiffer than the new car, but has a more exciting engine and is just as much fun to drive.

Figures

Ford Fiesta ST-3 MINI Cooper S Volkswagen Polo GTI DSG
On the road price/total as tested £21,495/£24,515 20,635/£28,950 £21,520/£23,155
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) £9,043/42.1% £9,975/48.3% £9,185/42.7%
Depreciation £12,452 £10,660 £12,335
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £1,189/£2,378 £1,223/£2,445 £1,148/£2,296
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £2,095/£3,492 £2,172/£3,620 £2,114/£3,523
Insurance group/quote/road tax 28/£367/£140 28/£423/£140 26/£435/£140
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service £530 (3yrs) £299 (3yrs) £164/£329/£164
Length/wheelbase 4,068/2,493mm 3,850/2,495mm 4,067/2,549mm
Height/width 1,469/1,735mm 1,414/1,727mm 1,438/1,751mm
Engine 3cyl inline/1,497cc 4cyl inline/1,998cc 4cyl inline/1,984cc
Peak power/revs  197/6,000 bhp/rpm 189/4,700 bhp/rpm 197/N/A bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs  290/1,600 Nm/rpm 280/1,350 Nm/rpm 320/1,500 Nm/rpm
Transmission  6-speed man/fwd 6-speed man/fwd 6-spd DSG auto/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 42 litres/repair kit 44 litres/repair kit 40 litres/repair kit
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 311/1,093 litres 211/731 litres 305/1,079 litres
Kerbweight/payload 1,262/373kg 1,160/480kg 1,355/485kg
Turning circle 11.0 metres 10.8 metres 10.6 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (60,000)/1yr 3yrs (unlimited)/3yrs 3yrs (60,000)/1yr
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 16th/20th 19th/14th 5th/18th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars 87/84/64/60/5 (2017) 79/73/66/56/4 (2014) 96/85/76/59/5 (2017)
0-60/30-70mph 7.1/5.5 secs 7.4/6.6 secs 6.5/5.2 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 2.6/3.6 secs 3.2/4.1 secs 2.8/4.2 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th 5.0/6.3 secs 5.7/6.9 secs 5.8/8.2 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph  144mph/2,700rpm 146mph/2,500rpm 147mph/2,000rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph  51.2/37.0/11.5m 55.9/41.9/10.1m 58.4/37.6/12.1m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph  70/47/70/75dB 70/45/66/75dB 50/74/68/73dB
Auto Express econ. (mpg/mpl)/range 33.8/7.4/312 miles 32.6/7.2/316 miles 33.5/7.4/295 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined  37.2/55.4/47.1mpg 33.6/54.3/44.1mpg 36.7/57.6/47.9mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined  8.2/12.2/10.4mpl 7.4/11.9/9.7mpl 8.1/12.7/10.5mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 193/136g/km/28% 200/145g/km/30% 195/134g/km/27%
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/camera Six/yes/yes/yes Six/yes/£590/£255 Six/yes/yes/£250
Auto box/lane keep/blind spot/AEB  No/yes/£475/no £1,660/no/no/£800^ Yes/no/£255/yes
Clim ctrl/cruise/leather/heated seats Yes/yes/yes/yes £325/£185/£485/£250 £415/£285/n/£285^^
Metallic paint/LED lights/keyless go £745/£600/yes £525/yes/£215  £650/£850/£310
Nav/digi dash/DAB/connected apps Yes/no/yes/no £900*/no/yes/yes Yes/£325/yes/yes
Wireless charg/CarPlay/Android Auto £69/yes/yes £2,000**/£900*/no No/yes/yes

New BMW 3 Series prototype review
Posted on Wednesday August 15, 2018

New BMW 3 Series pre-production review - front
16 Aug, 2018 8:15am Sean Carson

We drive the new BMW 3 Series in prototype form ahead of its big reveal at the Paris Motor Show this autumn

We’ll see an all-new BMW 3 Series unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in October, but ahead of the car’s official launch in the autumn, Auto Express has already had a drive of a prototype next-generation 3 Series saloon.

To give you some insight into just how popular and important a model this is for BMW, the outgoing version (codenamed F30) enjoyed sales of more than 190,000 examples in its final full year in dealers, despite being due for replacement.

Best executive cars 2018

In fact, it’s the German firm’s best-selling product, and the UK accounts for a great chunk of that popularity (24,000 of those 190,000 cars in 2017). So its replacement has a lot to live up to, not least on what has traditionally been the 3 Series’ key selling point: how it drives.

On initial impressions the new 2018 3 Series doesn’t do anything to change that. In fact, BMW’s head of application driving dynamics, Jos van As, told us that he and his team wanted it to feel “like a typically old-school BMW” when it comes to perceptions from behind the wheel, and that this was key in outlining the goals for the new project.

Those targets have resulted in up to a 55kg weight saving over the outgoing car, thanks to the CLAR cluster architecture platform on which it’s based (this will also underpin a new Touring estate, 4 Series Coupé and M performance models), with BMW’s typical balance still preserved by 50:50 weight distribution.

The track is also 30mm wider than before, while that weight saving has helped lower the centre of gravity by 10mm. Go for the sports suspension and there’s also a 10mm reduction in ride height. These elements all contribute to a claimed improvement in agility – and the new car definitely delivers it.

There are a few more technological features as well. The new 3’s suspension dampers are sophisticated. Our test car was built to what van As called “the engineer’s spec”. That means passive dampers instead of adaptive versions and the equivalent of M Sport trim with the M Sport Plus pack; so it features 19-inch alloy wheels, variable Sport steering and four-piston front brakes.

The dampers feature hydraulic bump stops and clever stroke-dependent technology. This means when the car is empty and therefore at its lightest, the damping rate is softer. This is possible because it sits higher from the road and there is therefore more suspension travel available, so the damping doesn’t have to be quite as taut.

When it’s loaded up with luggage or people, the damping is firmer because there’s less ride height and therefore less suspension stroke is available.

“It’s the right way to get the comfort when the car is empty and control over challenging roads or when it’s full,” said van As. Adaptive dampers will still be available as an option, though.

For the first time on a non-M Division model you can now get an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. The hardware is the same as in the current M3 and M4, only with reprogrammed software to suit the new application here. And that’s where van As and his engineers have really pulled off a trick.

The integration of all this new tech is the real key and what gives this new 3 Series the potential to top its class.

On first impressions it seems to have what it takes, because BMW has nailed one key area where a 3 Series saloon should deliver: dynamics.

The Nürburgring is an industry-favourite testing ground and with two laps of the tough German track to try out the car, following van As in an M2, the control from the new 3’s clever dampers is notable. The car turns sweetly, is sharp to change direction and roll is well controlled. So is the body, and over some challenging surfaces on broken roads, as well as the track, the dampers strike a sweet balance between compliance and support. Importantly, the front and rear axle set-ups are also well matched and give a nice sense of symmetry, instilling confidence when you up the pace.

It’s on the firmer side, especially on our car’s 19-inch wheels, but the clever stroke-dependent technology definitely works. On the road, even over harsher surfaces and nasty cambers that could confuse some rivals’ suspension set-ups, the 3 Series filtered out harshness without removing its trademark connection to the road surface.

Used BMW 3 Series review

It’s not too severe a compromise to achieve the trademark response, because the damper tech means it rarely gets towards the end of its stroke – and when it does, those hydraulic bump stops reinforce the car’s plush, controlled feel. It’s fair to say it rides like a luxury car, but handles like a sports saloon should.

There are one or two drawbacks, though. While the chassis set-up is good, the steering doesn’t have that much life to it. The weight is nice in Comfort mode, but in Sport it feels a bit artificial, while the shortage of feedback is something common to pretty much all electric power steering systems. It’s an issue van As knows about and an area he and his team are working to improve before the new 3 Series is signed off.

There are no complaints about the car’s nimbleness, however. Better understanding of the alloy and steel CLAR platform has resulted in extra stiffness around the suspension top mounts, without having to add any weight into the car’s structure, which combines with redesigned suspension geometry to improve the direct feeling you get from the chassis.

The differential helps to boost agility on the way into corners and through direction changes as well, while the electronic control software means traction out of bends is also good.

Our 330i test car had plenty of power to exploit the benefits of the differential, too. Compared with its predecessor, there’s an extra 7bhp but an impressive 50Nm more torque from the 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo, so 256bhp and 400Nm in total. Thanks in part to the weight reduction, claimed fuel consumption is also improved by five per cent, although efficiency figures have yet to be confirmed.

The eight-speed auto works as well as it does in the larger 5 Series, and the 3 takes plenty of inspiration from its big brother, not least inside.

Although our camouflaged prototype didn’t have production-standard materials, we got a good idea of the cabin layout. It’s very similar to the 5 Series, with a large touchscreen placed in a great position on top of the dashboard, similar controls and features on the transmission tunnel (including iDrive) and a new digital dash panel that offers more configurability and information.

There’ll also be autonomous tech that subtly evolves what’s on offer in the 5 Series, we’re told, while the 3 inherits some of its sibling’s executive qualities as our autobahn tests showed. The car’s high-speed refinement is a clear step on from the outgoing 3 Series, while it’s resolutely stable, too.

There’s more space in the rear than before and it definitely feels roomier. While final dimensions haven’t been confirmed, a look in the boot indicated that it’ll be sized competitively, too.

The BMW 3 Series has long been the benchmark in this class for handling and dynamism. This new model promises to raise that bar even higher, yet at the same time a combination of clever chassis features, a higher-quality and more refined interior packed with more tech, and greater practicality will make it more comfortable and easier to live with. BMW’s junior executive saloon is set to take yet another step in maturity and the signs are positive indeed.
  • Model: BMW 330i M Sport
  • Price: £38,500 (est)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
  • Power/torque: 256bhp/400Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 5.5 seconds (est)
  • Top speed: 155mph (est)
  • Economy: 48mpg+ (est)
  • CO2: Less than 135g/km (est)
  • On sale: 2019

Fernando Alonso won’t race in F1 in 2019
Posted on Tuesday August 14, 2018

Joe Holding 2018-08-14 17:00

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso won’t feature on the F1 grid in 2019, but doesn’t rule out a return

Fernando Alonso will depart Formula 1 at the end of the 2018 season, the 37-year-old has confirmed.

The McLaren driver - who won world titles in 2005 and 2006 - is widely considered to be one of the best racers of his generation, but he has toiled in the years since his move to the Woking team in 2015.

Opinion: ‘Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault move is a gamble’

Alonso had hoped McLaren’s then new partnership with engine providers Honda would propel him to a third world championship, but severe unreliability proved fatal to that ambition.

A switch to Renault engines this year was expected to revive McLaren’s fortunes, but they remain off the pace of the frontrunners, leaving Alonso on the brink.

“After 17 wonderful years in this amazing sport, it’s time for me to make a change and move on,” he said in a statement. “I have enjoyed every single minute of those incredible seasons and I cannot thank enough the people who have contributed to make them all so special.

“I want to thank everyone at McLaren. My heart is with the team forever. I have built so many great relationships with many fantastic people at McLaren, and they have given me the opportunity to broaden my horizons and race in other categories. I feel I am a more complete driver now than ever.”

McLaren CEO Zak Brown echoed that sentiment, saying Alonso is “in the finest form of his career” and “an outstanding ambassador for McLaren”.

“There is a time for everyone to make a change and Fernando has decided the end of this season to be his,” Brown continued. “I know that the entire team joins me in paying tribute to Fernando’s enormous contribution to McLaren; he is a legend both for the championship and for the team.”

Departing F1 leaves Alonso free to contest the IndyCar series in the United States; he competed at the Indianapolis 500 last year in a bid to claim motorsport’s triple crown of blue riband events, the others being the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Alonso won the latter of those earlier this year, and now only needs the Indy 500 to complete a feat that has only been achieved once before, by Graham Hill in 1972.

However, while Alonso is now free to pursue other ambitions, he stopped short of calling his Formula 1 exit a retirement, suggesting he could return in the future.

“I know they [McLaren] will come back stronger and better in the future and it could be the right moment for me to be back in the series; that would make me really happy.

“Let’s see what the future brings.”

Take a look at the teams and drivers lining up on the F1 grid in 2018

In-car data: how the click of a switch shapes driving tech
Posted on Tuesday August 14, 2018

Martin Saarinen 2018-08-14 16:03

We look into the world of ‘connected cars’, where the very touch of a button creates opportunity for business

In-car data – header

The next time you turn on your windscreen wipers or switch radio station, consider the impact it has. If you’re in an old car, it’ll be minimal. If you’re in a new, ‘connected car’, this activity is likely to be noted by one of hundreds of sensors on board, sent to the maker which passes that info to a third party developing a driving app.

Big data is revolutionising the car industry, giving accurate traffic reports and cutting the emergency services’ accident response times. Yet drivers are leading this transition; they’re the ones generating all of this data. Auto Express spoke to one of the firms gathering and selling data generated by the latest cars to see how it works.

Best sat-nav apps for your phone

“To get an idea of the scale of things, consider the first space shuttle,” says Lisa Joy Rosner, chief marketing officer at tech start-up Otonomo. “It had 500,000 lines of code to break the sound barrier. In 2020 there will be cars that contain 100 million lines of code.” 

Models capable of warning owners of traffic jams ahead, service requirements and even alerting emergency services to accidents are already on the market. By 2021, experts suggest up to 98 per cent of new cars will be connected, so they’ll be transmitting data from hundreds of sensors in real time. But it’s what makers do with this information that is important for drivers to understand.

Otonomo is one of several start-ups specialising in gathering and selling data obtained from cars. Already working with 10 manufacturers, it receives real-time data from over two million cars globally. The Israeli start-up specialises in collecting, ‘cleaning’ and anonomysing this data and then selling it on for app developers and other third parties. 

The result is services such as on-demand refuelling, where parked cars are topped up with fuel by a specialist provider accessing their location and remotely unlocking the fuel cap. 

Interestingly, no brand or even model shares the same data language. “We’re the Rosetta Stone of connected car data,” Rosner tells Auto Express. “Each make and model has a different language. We unify that data so it’s one language and in one place for all manufacturers.” 

A single car can come with anywhere from five to 500 different data points that are of use to manufacturers and developers, each of which is valuable. Drivers turning on their windscreen wipers could act as a signal to weather stations in the future that it’s raining or snowing, and they can accurately change their forecasts. Changing a radio station can let broadcasters know which music is liked and disliked. 

On-demand fuel service will fill up your car at home

“In the same way, if a car gets into an accident in the future, emergency services and hospital emergency rooms will be alerted to the G-forces of the accident, which airbags were detonated, as well as where the accident took place,” explains Yael Rivkind, director of partnerships and strategic initiatives at Otonomo. “This will help them better prepare for any incoming casualties.”

But all this changes the way drivers should be perceived. As with users of services like Facebook or Instagram, they are now participating in what is called ‘productive consumption’. By driving, using the radio and even turning on windscreen wipers in the rain, drivers are creating value for other companies without being compensated for it. Otonomo counters that drivers will be offered more tailored services. 

Data privacy also lies at the heart of the debate. Before General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) gave citizens control over their data, drivers would sign over their rights when buying the car. “This was usually buried deep in the document,” says Rosner. “Now [with GDPR] the use of driver data must be front and explicitly stated in the contract.”

AA president Edmund King says drivers should still be the ones “who decide if they want to share” their data or not, and that simply agreeing to share it is not enough. Otonomo has already launched a Consent Management Hub that allows drivers to see which aspects of their data is shared with third parties, so they can choose which information is kept private. 

A Sunday drive may no longer be a solitary experience in the future. As with internet browsing, any push of a button will generate value somewhere.

What are your thoughts on sharing your driving data, are you for or against?

New Skoda Fabia 2018 facelift review
Posted on Tuesday August 14, 2018

Skoda Fabia - front
14 Aug, 2018 3:45pm Alex Ingram

The Skoda Fabia has been refreshed for 2018, but have the updates transformed it into a legitimate supermini contender?

This is the newly updated Skoda Fabia. It’s been given a quick nip and tuck for 2018, with a view to keeping it fresh against rivals like the Ford Fiesta and the Volkswagen Polo.

Even by usual facelift standards, Skoda’s designers have breathed upon the Fabia oh-so gently. The new car’s front grille is wider, the lights are slimmer, and there’s some new reflectors in the rear bumper. Top spec Monte Carlo models are now available with optional 18-inch alloy wheels, LED brake lights are standard (optional on the rest of the range) and full LED headlights are a £980 option.

Best superminis on sale

The fuel filler flap isn’t somewhere that most of us will inspect too closely, but the Fabia has a couple of neat features stuffed up its funnel. As before, there’s an ice scraper that doubles as a magnifying glass, only now it trebles as a tyre tread depth gauge too. Go for the estate-bodied Combi - a car which makes up around a quarter of UK Fabia sales - and it gets a boot light that doubles as a removable LED torch. There’s even a reversible mat with a wipe clean side.

Inside, the dashboard design is much the same as before. There are a couple of new interior trims and colours, mildly tweaked graphics for the dials and a couple of extra USB ports for the back seat passengers. It’s not the most exciting cabin to look at, but the layout is clear and functional. There aren’t any soft touch plastics like you get in a Polo, but it feels more than sturdy enough. The hatchback’s 330 litre boot is still one of the biggest in the class, too. 

Skoda has ditched the outgoing model’s 1.4-litre diesel from the updated engine lineup. The new petrol-only range is made up of three 1.0-litre three-cylinder units: two have turbos and make 94bhp and 108hp, and one doesn't and has 74bhp, while a less powerful non-turbo with 59bhp will be offered at a later date. They’ve all gained an exhaust particulate filter to reduce emissions.

Our first taste of the updated Fabia was behind the wheel of the 108bhp petrol model paired with a seven-speed automatic gearbox. The dual-clutch auto is set up with economy in mind, shifting up to high gears at the earliest opportunity making the little turbo triple feel more sluggish than it really is.

Nudging the lever into sport mode helps, but it remains very lethargic when moving off - not ideal when pulling out of junctions. Unless you really need an auto, save £1,000 and get the light, easy-to-use six-speed manual instead.

The engine itself is refined and relaxing, which makes it a fine match for a chassis that prioritises comfort over fun. Even the with the Monte Carlo’s firmer springs and 15mm lower ride height, it won’t put a smile on your face along a twisty B-road like a Ford Fiesta will. But it’s easy to drive, visibility is good, and the suspension irons out bumps while isolating noise admirably. In lesser trim levels with softer suspension, it’s among the most comfortable cars in the supermini segment. 

Throughout the rest of the Fabia range, every trim level has been reduced in price with the exception of the entry level S, which like-for-like costs around £600 more than before. It gets plenty more standard kit to compensate though, with LED daytime running lights, autonomous emergency braking, a multifunction trip computer and a 6.5-inch touchscreen with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto all included.

As before, beyond the S there’s SE, Colour Edition, SE L, and Monte Carlo trims, with the overall price drops relative to the outgoing car ranging from £55 to £355. Spec a Polo with an equivalent engine and trim level, and the Fabia is at least £1,000 cheaper than the VW - a huge amount in this class. One thing that the Polo offers is a sporty variant in the shape of the GTI. Sadly for you hot hatch fans, there aren’t any plans for a Skoda equivalent: a vRS version of this generation of Fabia won’t happen.

3.5
Updates to the Skoda Fabia haven’t transformed it into a world beater, but it remains a refined, sensible supermini. The Polo is marginally more comfortable and gets more advanced infotainment tech, but the Skoda counters with a lower purchase price. Unless you want the very latest infotainment tech that the VW Provides, the Fabia is still well worth considering.
  • Model: Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo 1.0 TSI DSG
  • Price: £18,435
  • Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl turbocharged petrol
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
  • Power/torque: 108bhp/200Nm
  • 0-62mph: 10.1 seconds
  • Top speed: 121mph
  • Economy/CO2: 61.4mpg/105g/km
  • On sale: Now

New 2019 BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe caught on camera
Posted on Tuesday August 14, 2018

Jonathan Burn 2018-08-14 12:15

The big four-door BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe has the Porsche Panamera in it sights

BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe - spyshot 3

The final piece of the new BMW 8 Series range has been caught on camera – the flagship Gran Coupe. The large four-door will face the like of the Porsche Panamera and Mercedes CLS when it arrives next year. 

Images of the Gran Coupe testing at the Nurburgring follow the completely undisguised shots of the 8 Series Convertible obtained by Auto Express last month. On this occasion the four-door prototype is fully disguised but the images give us a good idea of what to expect. 

New BMW 8 Series Coupe revealed

The Gran Coupe will sit at the top of the 8 Series line-up and will be the largest model in the range; the wheelbase and body have clearly been extended over the coupe and convertible variants to allow rear doors to be fitted. That longer body will mean much improved space inside for those sitting in the rear. 

BMW bosses have already confirmed that engines will be shared across the 8 Series range. That means two Gran Coupe models will be offered: the 840d and M850i.

The diesel will be the cheaper of the two and powered by a 320bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder, while the flagship petrol version will use a 530bhp 4.4-litre V8. Both will use an eight-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive. 

Later down the line BMW will also introduce a M8 Gran Coupe aimed at taking on the Porsche Panamera Turbo and Mercedes-AMG GT 4-door. Power from that model’s 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 is expect to rise beyond 625bhp.

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

Refreshed Honda HR-V SUV revealed for 2018
Posted on Monday August 13, 2018

James Brodie 2018-08-13 12:05

Honda's smallest SUV offering updated with a new look and claims of extra comfort and refinement

Honda HR-V 2018 facelift - front

Honda’s SUV line-up has been given a full makeover for 2018 with the arrival of a refreshed HR-V to sit underneath the all-new CR-V.

The facelift comprises of an exterior design refresh, changes in the cabin intended to enhance comfort, plus tweaks under the bonnet and in the bodywork aiming to improve the level of refinement served up by Honda's Nissan Juke and Peugeot 2008 rival.

Best small SUVs on sale 2018

The front end of the car changes with a new front bumper, headlight and grille assortment, based on the latest interpretation of Honda’s design language. The grille gains a chrome effect upper portion, while the front bumper gets larger air vents with rounded circular fog lights. The HR-V’s headlight signatures have been redesigned too, and LED daytime running lights are now standard fit on all cars.

Revisions at the back are subtler. A chrome strip connects the taillights, which also have new signatures and darker lenses. Higher-grade cars ride on fresh 17-inch alloy wheels, receive LED headlights and taillights and are finished with a chrome exhaust tip too.

In the cabin, Honda says it has redesigned the seats in a bid to make them more comfortable. The driver and front passenger get seats with new cushioning and a revised back rest, while the firm also claims that the standard fabric upholstery is of a higher quality now too. Range topping HR-Vs get full leather upholstery as standard. 

When the car arrives on sale in Britain this October only one engine will be available. The entry level 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol is a naturally aspirated unit developing 128bhp and 155Nm of torque, and it’ll be available paired either to a six-speed manual gearbox or a CVT transmission, both driving the front wheels. Honda says it has tweaked the engine with new friction reducing measures to reduce roughness and boost efficiency, while the new HR-V boasts further sound insulation around the car too. New Active Noise Cancellation technology is equipped for the first time as well.

Following the 1.5 i-VTEC petrol, a 1.5-litre VTEC-TURBO model with more power will arrive in spring 2019, plus a 1.6-litre diesel option. Prices should stay roughly in line with those of the current model, with only a very minor bump in price likely.  

Now read what we thought about the all-new 2018 Honda CR-V

Life saving road safety innovations investigated
Posted on Friday August 10, 2018

Martin Saarinen 2018-08-14 11:53

Ageing infrastructure causes road deaths, so we check out the cutting-edge road safety kit – from lamp posts to barriers for roadworkers

Road safety innovations – header image

Every now and then a practical demonstration has a far better impact than a highly detailed engineering report packed with facts. Ramming two cars into street lamps to show how a simple change of construction can save lives is an example of this.  

One of the lamp posts is a conventional steel design, found on roads and motorways around the UK; the other is an aluminium, passive safety post that’s slowly becoming more common across the network. 

In the first collision, with the original lamp, the driver and passengers would all have died, while in the other, they would have walked away unscathed with nothing but a dented bonnet to show for their impact with the new, safer, cutting-edge design. 

Safest cars on sale in the UK

Britain’s roadside infrastructure is heading towards a major upgrade in terms of tech and safety. To find out what highways agencies and various tech companies have in store for us, Auto Express visited the Traffex Seeing is Believing road safety conference at Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire.

The number of road fatalities is on the rise in the UK. In 2016, there were 1,792 people killed on our roads, a four per cent increase from the previous year and the highest number recorded by the Department for Transport since 2011.

While road accidents come in many forms, any mitigation and prevention is a step in the right direction. Upgrading lamp posts and street signs to ‘passive’ versions will help reduce fatalities and injuries from vehicles that have lost control.  

“Passive safety systems have been around for years. The first passive sign post was developed in Finland back in 2002,” says Ian McDonald, national sales manager at Pole Products. 

“We’re working closely with Highways England and Transport Scotland to drum up more support for passive safety technology. We’re already seeing it around high-speed roundabouts and some high-speed roads, but it’s important that local councils adopt this technology,” McDonald says. 

He goes on to explain the three stages of passive safety. The first is No Energy, which doesn’t slow the car down, but breaks on impact. The idea is that drivers will be able to bring the car to a stop themselves. 

The second is Low Energy, where the street lamp, post or road sign slows the car slightly, but still allows the driver to remain in control. The third, High Energy, is aimed at bringing the vehicle to an immediate stop by absorbing much of the energy of the crash. 

“Today, we’re showcasing the Low Energy lamp posts,” explains McDonald. “The aluminium construction allows the car to drive through the lamp post, helping the driver to maintain control.” The Low Energy post looks identical to a steel one, except the bottom has a plastic housing on which the post sits. When struck, the post will simply pop out of the housing, distributing the force of the crash elsewhere. 

As a comparison, a traditional steel lamp post has been lined up. A Jaguar S-Type is accelerated (remotely) towards the steel pole at 60mph and the impact is violent and noisy. The Jag half flips in the air while the pole bends and whips at its rear. The car then spins off the road, a total wreck. 

Traffic jams are costing the UK over £37 billion a year

On closer inspection, McDonald and his safety technicians conclude: “This would have definitely been fatal. The intrusion and crash damage is severe.” The roof is squashed and the interior mangled. 

Next up is the passive safety pole. Again, a vehicle is accelerated at 60mph towards the pole. This time, the Vauxhall Vectra simply drives through the pole. The lamp post flings into the air, snapping off from the plastic mount and landing on the ground, but the car continues in a straight line. 

“This is the impressive bit,” says McDonald. “As you can see, even without a driver the car maintained its course. Were there to be a driver in the car, he or she could have brought it to a standstill quickly.” The damage on the Vectra is minimal. But demonstrations like this hopefully drive the point home for councils to start investing in better roadside infrastructure.” 

It’s not just drivers who need protection, though. Roadworkers are at risk from aggressive, inattentive motorists. Highways England data shows from July to September 2017 there were 3,500 incidents involving vehicles and highway workers, 150 of them serious. Four roadworkers were injured, as were two drivers. 

There are even courses now teaching roadworkers conflict resolution management and self-defence. “One of the big dangers to roadworkers is exposure to traffic,” says Karl Simpson, in charge of innovation and business improvement at Kier Group – Highways. 

Any motorway works will have hundreds of cones lining off traffic, but these don’t do much to stop a car or lorry that’s out of control. Highways England has teamed up with Kier Highways to purchase two trucks featuring 60 feet sections to protect workers. Whether the truck is stationary or being driven at low speed, the three 20-foot metal blocks act as a barrier between the traffic and workers. Any potential impact would hit the lorry, which is built specifically to withstand crashes and guard the workers. “Each truck costs £350,000, but that’s nothing compared with a serious injury to a roadworker or a fatality,” says Simpson. 

Road workers face 300 abusive and dangerous incidents a week

One of the most hazardous jobs for roadworkers is placing temporary road markings. At present, two crew members do this on foot, with one tarring the markers and the other placing them on the road by hand. But British roadside construction firm WJ Group has created another truck to take the danger out of the task. 

“We spent millions developing this truck,” says WJ Group managing director Wayne Johnston. “It’s a prototype, but we hope to see it on the roads soon.” The truck features a hydraulic pressing machine that places the green studs on the road. All the operator has to do is to feed the machine, while the driver keeps a straight line and steady speed. “The operator is protected by a cage, so even if a car strikes the truck, they’ll be safe,” says Johnston. 

WJ Group is also innovating the central road markings. It’s created a new, dotted central reservation marking that’s not only more visible thanks to specialised reflective particles in the compound, but also grippier and less prone to aquaplaning. 

“Our central reservation markings are five times more visible than standard markings,” says Johnston. “The dotted pattern allows water to drain far quicker, instead of remaining on the surface. This makes them better and safer, especially for vulnerable road users like motorcyclists. They are also grippier.” The firm is said to be trialling the tech with Highways England. 

Drivers encouraged to throw trash from cars into new bins

Technology isn’t just automating putting out road markings, though; it’s also helping keep workers safe when picking up litter from the UK network. An incredible 550 sacks of rubbish are collected from the road and roadside each day, costing taxpayers £8million a year. To speed up the process, and keep workers off the road and out of harm’s way, cleaning specialist Barber has developed the Road Rake. 

This green machine is dragged behind a van on the roadside. As it goes over trash, bits of broken tyre and even debris from accidents, a system of conveyor belts and metal spinners gobbles up all of the rubbish. The Road Rake is still on trial for now, like most of these innovations, but as we’ve seen, if councils have the foresight to invest in them, they could radically improve safety on our roads and for our roadworkers.

Enjoyed this motoring feature? Then take a read of our "How have traffic police cuts hit the UK roads" article.

Tesla recruits British designer from Volvo
Posted on Friday August 10, 2018

John McIlroy 2018-08-10 17:02

Tesla pulls in Ian Kettle, the man behind the funky Volvo XC40 SUV

Tesla Ian Kettle

Tesla has secured the services of the young British designer behind the radical looks of the Volvo XC40, Auto Express can reveal.

Ian Kettle, a former Royal College of Art and Coventry University student, became one of the car industry’s hottest designers when he led the exterior design team on the well-received XC40. He named sci-fi movies and robots as his influences when finalising the shape of the small SUV.

However, Kettle’s online work biography suggests that he left his position at Volvo back in February, and sources at the Swedish brand confirm that he is no longer with the company. His current location is listed as ‘greater Los Angeles area’. 

Tesla to build a Golf rival within five years

Auto Express understands that Kettle started work as a senior designer with Tesla a few weeks ago - part of a team which ultimately reports into the American company’s design director, former Mazda man Franz Von Holzhausen. The move is a bold one for both parties; Tesla is likely to be hard at work on the next generation of its Model S (introduced back in 2012), as well as the smaller, more affordable model that the company’s boss Elon Musk has promised to deliver within the next five years.

Kettle, meanwhile, leaves Volvo during a strong period of growth for the brand, which is blossoming under the ownership of Chinese firm Geely. His appointment as senior designer means he’s likely to be handed overall responsibility for managing concept and production projects, although the final sign-off would still be Von Holzhausen’s.

Tesla declined to confirm the appointment and Kettle himself was unavailable for comment.

Take a closer look at the Volvo XC40 here...

Auto Express Weekend Car Quiz
Posted on Friday August 10, 2018

James Wilson 2018-08-13 15:00

Welcome to the Auto Express Weekend Car Quiz answers – see how you fared

Quiz – header

The working week is here and instead of worrying yourself about trivial things such as performance reviews, discipline hearings and generating any kind of revenue, you are itching to know the answers to the Auto Express Weekend Car Quiz. Well itch no more, as here they are.

Below are the 10 questions we asked you last week accompanied by their respective answers. There are also links to the relevant news stories, should you wish to learn more. If you got full marks, well done, but if you were less successful fear not, as we will return with a new roster of questions this coming Friday.

• All the latest car news

Read on to find out just how much of an automotive oricle you are…

Car quiz questions

Question 1: How much money is Lotus owner Geely considering investing in the sports car manufacturer?

Answer: Geely, the owner of Lotus, Volvo and the London Taxi Company, is considering investing £1.5 billion in the UK sports car manufacturer.

Read the full story here: http://aex.ae/2yx3srH

Question 2: What car is this?

Answer: This is the Lynk & Co 03, which will share its underpinnings with the upcoming Volvo S40 saloon and V40 estate. It is set to come as both a 1.5- and 2.0-litre hybrid, with the manufacturer claiming the 03 regularly achieves a pure EV range of 40 miles during testing.

Read the full story here: https://aex.ae/2APsQih

Question 3: When are the new, stricter WLTP emissions standards coming into force in the UK?

Answer: The new stricter emissions standards called the World Harmonised Light Vehicle Testing Procedure (WLTP for short) come into force from the September 1 this year, and is applicable to all new cars registered from then on. 

Read the full story here: https://aex.ae/2OTMdJV

Question 4: The upcoming Audi e-tron is set to come with a maximum power output of….?

Answer: The new Audi e-tron is set to come with a max power output of 402bhp, however that will only be possible for 8 seconds. Under normal operation it will develop 355bhp.

Read the full story here: http://aex.ae/2APePvS

Question 5: Which family of Volvo models has had a new 247bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine added to its lineups?

Answer: Volvo added the T5 petrol engine to its family of ‘90’ models, meaning the S90 saloon, V90 estate and XC90 SUV can be spec’d with the 247bhp four-cylinder petrol.

Read the full story here: https://aex.ae/2AKyKB6

Question 6: How much is the 641bhp ARES Panther expected to cost?

Answer: The ARES Panther – which is based on the Lamborghini Huracan – is anticipated to cost €515,000, roughly £461,000. This means it is more than double the cost of a fire-breathing Lamborghini Huracan Performante.

Read the full story here: https://aex.ae/2OSH4lj

Question 7: Which was the best selling SUV in the UK last month?

Answer: The best selling SUV last month was the Nissan Qashqai, selling 3,470 units. Sat above it were the Vauxhall Corsa (4th), Volkswagen Polo (3rd), Volkswagen Golf (2nd) and Ford Fiesta (1st).

Read the full story here: http://aex.ae/2E1gg0s

Question 8: Which car won our head-to-head of the Hyundai i30 Fastback and the Mazda 3 Fastback?

Answer: The Mazda 3 Fastback beat the Hyundai i30 Fastback in our recent twin test, with its superior driving experience, better comfort, nicer interior and lower price all helping it to take the victory.

Read the full story here:  https://aex.ae/2ARA5WS

Question 9: Which two cars are now available to buy with Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant software?

Answer: SEAT now offers Amazon Alexa technology on the new Leon and Ateca models, however you will need an android smartphone to make use of the feature.

Read the full story here: https://aex.ae/2AJBleG

Question 10: Which facelifted car is now on sale in the UK from £22,260?

Answer: Last week Kia revealed that the facelifted Optima will start from £22,260. The entry-level model comes in grade ‘2’ specification equipped with a new 1.6-litre diesel.

Read the full story here: https://aex.ae/2vsf5kj

Don’t forget to check in this coming Friday for the next Auto Express Weekend Car Quiz...

New Subaru Forester 2018 review
Posted on Friday August 10, 2018

Subaru Forester - front
11 Aug, 2018 9:00am Peter Lyon

The Subaru Forester SUV is rare on UK roads, but will the new model change that? We’ve been for an exclusive first drive to find out…

Enthusiasts may mourn the demise of Subaru’s World Rally exploits, but, globally at least, it hasn’t harmed the firm’s success. Now more family and safety focused, the Japanese manufacturer is forging ahead with its latest model onslaught.

Last year saw the debut of an all-new Impreza, and 2018 heralds a fresh Forester. While there’s no manual gearbox, no diesel and no XT Turbo in the line-up, there is hope for the revised SUV. The all-new 2019 model we drove near Tokyo promises to be better than its predecessor in almost every way, in fact.

Best 4x4s and SUVs on sale

Subaru claims the latest version is better to drive, more comfortable and, of course, more efficient. Making all that possible is the employment of the new Subaru Global Platform (SGP).

After the Impreza and new XV, the Forester SUV is the third model to incorporate this architecture – a structure that has the highest crash rating in its home market of Japan. Basically the same size as before but with an extra 35mm in the wheelbase, the platform has allowed the Forester’s designers to improve the amount of interior space, as well as leg and headroom.

With its boxy shape and strong edges, the outgoing model wasn’t pretty. But the Forester wasn’t designed to win any beauty awards. It was developed to get the job done, and the model is still a triumph of function over form.

There are two engines on offer this time around. The first is a revised, naturally aspirated 2.5-litre boxer unit, while a brand-new 2.0-litre four-cylinder hybrid – aptly called e-Boxer – will also feature. But the latter motor hasn’t yet been confirmed for Europe or the UK.

Linked to a CVT auto box, the 2.5-litre engine produces 180bhp and 239Nm of torque. It isn’t the most powerful car in its class (the new Honda CR-V uses a 1.5-litre turbo boasting 190bhp), and the engine feels adequate rather than urgent, delivering a strong burst of torque between 3,000 and 5,500rpm.

The CVT transmission has been improved and delivers more natural shifts, as well as less noise and fewer vibrations under load. Laden with five adults and their luggage, this is the engine you’d want for long trips or off-road driving. Needless to say, the latter remains one of the Forester’s fortes.

During our short test of this early pre-production model, it is clear the new Forester makes strides over the car it replaces. Thanks to the new platform, revised suspension, new steering rack  and the brand’s tried-and-tested all-wheel-drive system, the Forester resists body roll in corners and turns in with greater accuracy. The steering is well weighted, and helps make the car feel lighter and more agile on its feet than its predecessor, even with that modest non-turbo Boxer engine. The brakes have also been enhanced and deliver greater stopping power than before.

All Foresters come as standard with EyeSight technology. The brand’s safety system includes automatic pre-collision braking, lane departure warning, sway warning and adaptive cruise control.

But this time, the SUV also employs the firm’s new DriverFocus technology, a feature that uses facial recognition software to warn drivers who show signs of fatigue or get distracted behind the wheel. Once your driving position has been programmed, the car will use its dashboard-mounted camera to acknowledge drivers and automatically adjust the seats, mirrors and the air-conditioning system to suit the individual. According to Subaru, this is a first for a car at this price point.

Inside, the Forester employs higher- quality materials and plastics than the outgoing model. There is a plusher ambience and more supportive seats, as well as an intuitive dash layout and a big central touchscreen. It’s certainly preferable to the interface in a Toyota RAV4, although as specs haven’t been announced, it’s hard to draw definitive conclusions on how it stacks up against its rivals. Every UK-bound new Impreza does without sat-nav, for example.

3.5
Despite being relatively rare in the UK, the Forester is a big global seller. As such, the maker had no choice but to make the large SUV more relevant. It might not be as much fun to drive as rivals, but it’s a much-improved all-rounder. More comfortable, refined and safer, it deserves to succeed in a way its predecessor could not.
  • Model: Subaru Forester 2.5i
  • Price: From £27,000 (est)
  • Engine: 2.5-litre 4cyl petrol
  • Power/torque: 180bhp/239Nm
  • Transmission: CVT automatic, four-wheel drive
  • 0-60mph: 10.0 seconds (est)
  • Top speed: 120mph (est)
  • Economy/CO2: 39.7mpg/160g/km (est)
  • On sale: Autumn

Europe could get Chinese cars
Posted on Friday August 10, 2018

Jonathan Burn 2018-08-10 10:30

Bosses of Volkswagen and JLR predict models for the Chinese market will soon be sold in Europe

Chinese cars

Cars produced for the Chinese market could eventually be sold in Europe, according to senior figures from two of the continent’s largest makers.

China has been the world’s largest new car market for a number of years; in 2017 around 28.8 million vehicles were sold in the country, and one in four new cars built globally last year was made there.

Chinese electric cars: the £47bn quest for supremacy

Many of those cars, made by brands we know in Europe, are unique models for China. But that could change.

Speaking exclusively to Auto Express, Volkswagen’s sales and marketing boss Jürgen Stackmann said: “You will see cars from us in the next two years that will only be sold in China, but people elsewhere will also want them. The market size allows us to come up with larger sub-segmentation compared to regions like Europe, and we are looking at bringing cars from China into Europe.”

Jaguar Land Rover technical director Dr Wolfgang Zeibart told Auto Express: “There’s a very high chance China will be able to export its cars outside of the country – there is no reason why not.

“The market is growing too fast for it to happen now, but in the future I can see it. Production costs are lower and so are the components, and the quality is very good.”

Lynk & Co – owned by Chinese conglomerate Geely, along with Volvo and Lotus – will be the first brand to make a go of it in Europe. Vehicles will begin to arrive in the UK in 2020.

But rather than being imported from the firm’s new £1.4billion factory in Zhangjakou, China, models bound for Europe will be produced at Volvo’s plant in Ghent, Belgium. A Geely spokesman told Auto Express: “Zhejiang Geely Holding Group subsidiary factories are all built to Volvo Cars’ leading standards (or in case of Luqiao factory, directly managed by Volvo) and thus are capable of producing cars to global standards.”

Take a look at these unbelievable Chinese copycat cars....

 


#17 << Previous Page - Page #18 - Next Page >> #19


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