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In the News ...

Audi adds Black Edition and Vorsprung trim packages to its UK range
Posted on Tuesday February 19, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-02-19 17:25

The new trim levels add a range of exterior and interior updates, including larger wheels and improved infotainment systems

Audi TT Black edition

Audi has added two new option packages to its UK range. Called Black Edition and Vorsprung respectively, the trim levels are available for most of the cars in the firm’s range, with prices starting from £26,845 for the A3 Black Edition.

Audi’s new Black Edition trim level is available for the A3, S3, A4, A5, Q2, Q5, Q7 and TT. For the A5, Q2 and Q5, the package adds the choice of either 19-inch or 20-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, a flat-bottomed multi-functional steering wheel and Audi’s black styling pack, giving a choice of black paint finishes to the cars’ diffuser, air inlets and grille.

Best new car deals

The Vorsprung package can be specced with the A5, A7, Q3, Q5, Q7 and Q8. This trim level expands on the Black Edition adding Matrix LED headlights and the choice of either 20-inch, 21-inch or 22-inch alloy wheels (depending on the model).

Other upgrades included in the Vorsprung package include adaptive suspension for the A5, A7 Sportback and Q5, adaptive air suspension for the Q7 and Q8 and a range of assistance systems including parking assist, a gesture-controlled boot-lid active lane assist, cross traffic assist.

Interior upgrades for Vorsprung models include a panoramic glass sunroof, leather upholstery, Alcantara headlining, powered door closure, rear seat-heaters and the choice of either a BOSE or a Bang & Olufsen stereo system (depending on the model).

The Vorsprung range starts with the A5 Sportback 35 TFSI priced at £48,875, and climbs up the model range to the Q8 50 TDI quattro priced at £83,040.

Now read our review of the Audi A5. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…

Used Fiat Grande Punto review
Posted on Tuesday February 19, 2019

Used Fiat Grande Punto - front
19 Feb, 2019 4:15pm Richard Dredge

A full used buyer’s guide on the Fiat Grande Punto covering the Grande Punto Mk1 (2006-2018)

As soon as Fiat unveiled its Grande Punto in 2006, every rival looked a bit dull. Arguably the most stylish supermini of the decade, it proved a hit with Brits wanting a handsome small car at a bargain price.

The Grande Punto wasn’t just a pretty face, though; it was also good to drive and safe for its time, achieving a five-star adult Euro NCAP occupant rating. But the ensuing years haven’t been kind, with the safety body downgrading it to zero stars overall when the Punto was retested in 2017, partly because of a lack of safety assist features.

Fiat’s forté has always been small cars, but many Puntos have proven fragile, frustrating owners and damaging residual values. Despite this, the hatch can be a reasonable second-hand buy if you do your homework.

Models covered

  • Fiat Grande Punto Mk1 (2006-2018) - Stylish supermini can be a good buy if you do your homework.

Fiat Grande Punto

History

The Grande Punto arrived in January 2006, with 1.2 or 1.4-litre petrol engines, plus 1.3 or 1.9-litre diesels; a 120bhp 1.4 turbo petrol T-Jet 120 Sporting was added in August 2007. In July 2008 a refresh brought a revised grille and an updated interior with extra kit, plus GP trim was replaced by Active Sport. Another revamp in January 2010 saw the car renamed the Punto Evo, and get standard stop/start.

In March 2012 the original Punto badge was revived as part of a further update, while Fiat’s 875cc TwinAir petrol engine was introduced, the design was tweaked and extra kit added. The Abarth Punto hit the road in February 2008 with a 155bhp turbocharged 1.4-litre engine. This was boosted to 165bhp in March 2010, while the Supersport of 2012 had 180bhp. 

Fiat Punto reviews

Fiat Punto in-depth review
Fiat Punto TwinAir review

Which one should I buy?

Aim for at least an eight-valve 1.4-litre car; the 1.2-litre engine is underwhelming. The 16-valve 1.4 is noticeably better because it’s more muscular and refined, while the turbocharged 1.4 is excellent. The 1.3 diesel is also pretty good, but the 1.9 diesel is rare and best avoided; the same goes for the Dualogic clutchless manual transmission offered with the 1.4-litre 16-valve engine.

Entry-level models (badged Active) have a multifunction steering wheel, heated door mirrors, electric front windows and remote central locking; Dynamic trim adds air-con and split-folding rear seats. GP-spec Puntos feature 16-inch alloys and racier trim, while the Sporting has 17-inch wheels, cruise control and sports seats. Later cars were badged Pop, Easy, GBT and Lounge instead. 

Alternatives to the Fiat Grande Punto

Rivals to the Grande Punto include the post-2008 SEAT Ibiza and Skoda Fabia; they’re closely related to one another, and offer some great engines, capable dynamics and reasonable kit if you avoid entry-level cars.

If you want genuine fun behind the wheel, the Ford Fiesta is for you. But it’s not only the class’s most dynamically accomplished car; it’s also plentiful and cheap to buy.

The Vauxhall Corsa is another cheap and widely available choice that’s surprisingly practical, too. It was developed alongside the Fiat and shares some of its components.

If reliability is key, the Toyota Yaris should suit because it’s dependable, well built, safe and decently equipped, but not much fun to drive, and prices are higher than for the Punto. Other cheap superminis include the Renault Clio and Peugeot 208, while a more premium option is the Volkswagen Polo.

What to look for

Windows

If one or more electric windows doesn’t work, your first port of call for repairs should be the switch on the driver’s door.

Broken latch

A faulty tailgate latch is usually caused by the rear washer pipe coming adrift and soaking the lock mechanism. 

Horn

If the horn doesn’t work, it’s often because the electrical contacts need cleaning. The airbag’s fitment means this is a dealer-only job, however.

Heater

Be wary if the heater matrix leaks because replacing it means removing and refitting the dash; an expensive and time-consuming job. 

Interior

The Fiat’s cabin offers decent space for four and it’s well laid out, but too much of the trim feels flimsy. Given the age of its fundamental design, it should be no surprise that the Punto feels dated inside, too. Only top-spec cars have three rear head restraints; others get just two. Boot space is reasonable, at 275 litres when the rear are seats up and 1,030 litres with them down, but they don’t fold flat.

Prices

You can buy a nearly new Fiat Punto for between £4,699 and £8,469 on our sister site BuyaCar. 

Running costs

Diesels need check-ups every two years or 21,000 miles. For petrols built up to 2014, it’s every two years or 18,000 miles; for later ones it’s every 12 months or 9,000 miles.

Service packages can cover a car until it’s five, but these can vary between dealers. Most follow a three-tier system at £150, £280 and £350, but some are £129, £155 and £225. The timing belt needs replacing every 72,000 miles or eight years on petrol Puntos, while it’s every 210,000 miles or 10 years on the diesels; expect to pay £300. 

Recalls

The Punto was recalled a dozen times between 2007 and 2017. All but two were issued in the first five years.

Campaigns included the possibility of braking and steering power assistance failure, loss of steering, total brake failure, electrical short circuits and fuel leaks. Other actions covered defective airbags, faulty seatbelt pre-tensioners, potential fires and handbrake failure. 

Driver Power owner satisfaction

The Punto finished in 81st place in our Driver Power 2018 used car survey. To figure at all is good going considering its age, but there’s not much that owners rate highly. The low running costs and safety features were relative highlights, while comfort generated a decent enough score in our poll. In all other areas, unfortunately, the Punto was criticised by owners.

The Punto is an old design and was built to a price, so it may not be immediately appealing – but don’t be too dismissive. While it’s no class leader, you get a stylish supermini with a surprisingly roomy cabin and reasonable kit if you avoid entry-level models. It’s also quite a lot of fun to drive, especially in Abarth spec. So if you’re after a cheap runabout or a first car, a Punto could be a shrewd purchase, as long as you ensure it’s not full of faults.

Back to school: racing drivers take their advanced driving test
Posted on Tuesday February 19, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-02-19 12:10

Can up-and-coming racers learn anything about driving on the road from IAM Roadsmart’s instructors? We head to Silverstone to find out..

Anyone who is related to or friends with a petrolhead knows a track day makes the perfect present. Giving a keen motorist the chance to try their hand at driving, free from the shackles of traffic and constraints of the rules of the road, is certain to go down well. Learning how to drive on the track is bound to improve one’s ability to control a car on the road, too.

But that logic doesn’t work the other way round, does it? Surely professional racing drivers consider public roads mundane, and their expertise means they have little to learn from the world of merging in turn, giving way at roundabouts and keeping their distance from the car in front?

• Best track day cars

Well, IAM Roadsmart (formerly the Institute of Advanced Motorists) thinks differently, and has decided to put a group of 19 racing drivers through its advanced driving test. The aim is to highlight the transferable skills between track and road, and emphasise the importance of the advanced driving test, even for the most skilful motorists.

The drivers in question are all members of the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Stars programme, which recruits promising young racers in the hope they will go on to forge a successful career in motorsport.

We headed to Silverstone – the home of British motorsport – to witness this group of up-and-coming drivers sit their advanced driving tests, and to find out from them, as well as their instructors and assessors, what the road can teach those who spend the majority of their time on the track.

The day starts with these rising stars showing what they can do in their natural environment: setting lap times on a handling circuit in Caterham Sevens. It’s a thrilling experience to watch, and no doubt an exciting one to take part in, but doesn’t the advanced driving test seem somewhat tame by comparison?

We begin by asking this question of 24-year-old Max Coates, who competes in the Renault UK Clio Cup and is also a fully-qualified racing instructor. Coates admits he had some initial misgivings. “I expected to be told to ‘go slower’ and ‘don’t have fun’,” he says. “But it’s not been like that at all. The instructors are driving enthusiasts at heart as well, and encourage you to enjoy your driving.”

Coates’ observer, David Baverstock, helped him prepare for his advanced test, and tells us his on-road driving was far removed from his racetrack behaviour. “He was actually driving in a very reserved way,” Baverstock explains. “I imagine that was because he didn’t necessarily know what was expected.”

Despite some initial caution, Baverstock says Coates’ track instincts soon made themselves evident on the road. “He tended to turn in quite early, which you may well do on track to widen the cornering line as much as possible and make the most of the available grip,” Baverstock tells us. “But on the road, we tend to want to turn in quite late so we’ve got as much of the view round the corner as possible before we choose our line.”

• Nigel Mansell's driving tips: take a lesson from an F1 ace

Baverstock’s role was “to notice things about the way that the guys are driving and to suggest other approaches that they might try out”. He says Coates, and all the other racers he’d coached, are “really fast learners” who are “keen to consider all kinds of different ideas and approaches”.

While most people taking the advanced driving test need around seven observation sessions on average – with each one lasting roughly 90 minutes – these racers’ innate skills mean they are able to undertake a condensed one-day course, although they would go on to sit the same 45 to 60-minute test as other candidates. Observers such as Baverstock are responsible for preparing the racing drivers for their advanced test, but it falls to assessors to actually supervise that assessment and then award the final mark following the examination.

Coates’ assessor, Shaun Cronin, is one of IAM Roadsmart’s many former police officers, and explains the advanced driving test assesses candidates on 23 individual categories. These include areas one would expect a racing driver to excel in, such as overtaking and gearchanging skills, together with aspects not normally associated with the track, like eco driving and courtesy to other road users.

“They are very skilful drivers on the track,” Cronin says. “Our job is to take that skill set and put it into the road-based scenario.” He is convinced these skills are easily transferable, though, and adds: “Travelling at the right speed, with the right gear engaged, at the right place in the road is actually what they do on the racing circuit.”

There are similar parallels in cornering, Cronin explains. “As they’re approaching a bend, they’re going to get the car in the right position; we’re asking the same,” he says. “They’ll then get the speed right by brakes; we want the same. And then they will drive that car through the bend on the track; exactly the same on the road, at an appropriate speed.”

On a passenger ride with Coates and Cronin, we witness the sorts of things the advanced test assesses. Approaching the crest of a hill and seeing a bin lorry parked on the side of the road, for example, Coates slows down in anticipation of binmen in the road. It’s a small detail, sure, but it’s indicative of the kind of broad forward thinking the advanced test expects of those taking the examination.

“The test is going to make the roads a safer place because drivers’ observation, anticipation and planning is much better,” Cronin adds. “But they will also enjoy their driving more, and the trade-off will be most insurance companies offer a discount for people who have passed the test.”

• Intensive driving courses: the ultimate guide

But before considerations such as reduced premiums can be thought about, there’s the small matter of the test itself. As concentration, from candidate and assessor alike, is key to the test, we sit this one out as driver after driver heads out in one of a fleet of BMW 1 Series and MINIs, before coming back an hour or so later, test certificates in hand.

All the drivers taking their tests today have passed, and because the full results are read out in the BRDC clubhouse, Coates is no doubt one of the happiest people in the room. Not only has he achieved the fastest time in the Caterham challenge earlier on, but he has also passed his advanced driving test with a first – the highest grade on offer.

What is the key thing Coates has learned? “The importance of how far you look up the road,” he says. “We’re less likely to be involved in any incident and, if we get to a point where that looks more likely, having the skill set to avoid that will certainly minimise any risk.” After a pause, he adds: “What we’ve been taught definitely makes us more skilful in terms of road driving.”

And if a driver as highly trained as Coates can say that, it’s fair to say an advanced test is likely to make almost any motorist better, and safer on the road.

Taking you driving test soon? Click here for our top tips on how to pass first time...

New 2021 Aston Martin Project 003 hypercar teased
Posted on Tuesday February 19, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-02-20 00:01

The Aston Martin Project 003, which could be called Valhalla when it arrives in 2021, has been teased ahead of Geneva

Aston Martin Project 003 teaser

This is our first official look at Aston Martin’s third hypercar, codenamed Project 003. The McLaren P1 rival will bolster the upcoming Valkyrie and Valkyrie Pro range and is expected to reach the market by 2021, with production being strictly limited to 500 examples.

This new teaser image suggests Aston Martin’s Project 003, which called be called Valhalla, will adopt a mid-engined supercar layout, with high-exit exhausts and an active rear spoiler. Previous sketches and teaser images also hint that it will feature a jet-fighter-style canopy, with Aston Martin promising improved practicality over the Valkyrie. 

• Best supercars 2018

It’s likely that the British brand will debut a near-to-production version of the Project 003 at this year’s Geneva Motor Show. It will share the stage with new Valkyrie Pro and a new SUV from Aston Martin’s all-electric spin-off brand, Lagonda.

Aston Martin Project 003 - front (watermarked)

Should Aston’s recent trademark applications be believed, its new supercar will be called the Valhalla, marking its position below the Valkyrie. Both cars’ names are borrowed from Norse mythology, and both are part of strict hierarchy. Supposedly, Valhalla is the resting place of souls deemed worthy of the god Odin’s company, while Valkyries are the warrior spirits who police it. 

Project 003 will be built around a lightweight structure and powered by an all-new turbocharged petrol-hybrid V6 engine. Aston Martin has previously confirmed that the hybrid powertrain will be a KERS system, rather than an efficiency-focused range-extending system, focusing on performance rather than economy. 

It’s being built as a rival to the McLaren Senna and Ferrari LaFerrari and, as such, power should sit between the DBS Superleggera and Valkyrie, at around 1,000bhp. That should translate to a 0-62mph time of less than three seconds and a top speed upwards of 200mph. Technology will also be borrowed from the Valkyrie project, such as active aerodynamics and active suspension. 

Speaking exclusively to Auto Express, Aston boss Andy Palmer revealed that car is an additional part of his seven-year plan. “It falls into the category of a ‘special’,” Palmer told us. “It’s the connector, it’s the dot between the Valkyrie and the Ferrari 488 competitor [also under development]. Let’s put it as a LaFerrari competitor so it’s in that kind of realm, like the McLaren Senna and Porsche 918. As for power, it would more than compete with those.” 

The 003 is the latest in a long line of new models being developed by Aston. The next big launch from the British firm is its first SUV, while the Project 003 will follow shortly after Aston’s AM9 Ferrari 488 competitor.

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

New McLaren 600LT Spider 2019 review
Posted on Tuesday February 19, 2019

McLaren 600LT Spider - front
20 Feb, 2019 (All day) Steve Fowler

We drive the new McLaren 600LT Spider as the British sports car maker lifts the lid on the one of its finest ever cars

We know that the McLaren 600LT is an incredible car. Back in September we gave it a rare five-star rating, while our sister magazine evo named it Car of the Year. So along comes the convertible Spider version and it gets the same plaudits, surely? Well, let’s just talk through the differences before we give our verdict.

In terms of the 0-60mph time, the stat stays the same, at a swift 2.8 seconds, in spite of a 50kg weight gain due to the motorised roof. Top speed drops slightly to a still-scintillating 201mph, and all that comes at a price of £201,500 before options – up £16,000 on the fixed-roof 600LT.

• Best supercars on sale right now

So is it worth the extra outlay? You bet. The three-piece carbon-fibre roof folds back under its tonneau in just 15 seconds, getting you closer to the glorious rumble of the twin top-exit exhausts. You can raise the glass rear window to make it a little less blustery inside, but even at silly speeds you won’t be blown around too much. And if you must travel with the roof up, that window can still be lowered to boost the aural experience.

But it’s the 600LT driving experience that really gets you smiling – on the road or the track. As with the previous four Longtail models, the Spider has more power, less weight and tweaked aero with a more track-focused feel. Plus, as the name suggests, an extra 47mm in length over the 570S Spider.

McLaren chose the short and twisty Arizona Motorsports Park just outside Phoenix in the US to showcase the 600LT Spider’s talents – and what talents they are. As with the hard-top car, the Spider is phenomenal on track, with excellent throttle response, bags of power, sharp turn-in and plenty of grip. All highlights of the 600LT.

Not that the standard 570S is short of talent, but the Longtail ups it a sizeable notch. The forged aluminium double-wishbone suspension and stiffer anti-roll bars make the nose feel more responsive. With the car in its track setting, you turn in, aiming for the apex, and the car darts towards it like a terrier down a rabbit hole.

Then it’s hard on the throttle and those exhausts resonate with a bassy roar as the power comes in at pace. The bespoke Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres bite into the dusty tarmac and fire you off down the next short straight.

• Best convertible cars

Even though Track Mode allows more slip, the downforce through corners from the clever aero means you’ve got to be careless to break traction. This is a car that demands 100 per cent attention – not due to any wayward tendencies, but because of the sheer speed with which the next corner arrives.

Yet the combination of lightweight brake calipers, carbon-ceramic discs and a Senna-inspired brake booster means the LT sheds speed like few other road cars. It’s an intoxicating experience that leaves you craving more, with the Spider showing no discernible differences over the hard-top 600LT in terms of lap times.

But it’s not just about fun on the track; because its prowess and comfort on the road are impressive. You might not be able to explore the extremes of its performance, but you can still enjoy its power and poise.

It may not be the most suitable McLaren to be used every day, but you could do. Access is good (especially with the roof off), the cabin is comfortable and there’s space in the front boot for some shopping.

You may be frustrated by the laggy and tiresome infotainment system – and build quality isn’t exactly Germanic – but that’s not what this car is about. It serves up entertainment in a way that others cannot.

5
The McLaren 600LT Spider takes one of the world’s finest drivers’ cars and ditches the roof with no noticeable difference – other than magnifying what’s best about it. McLaren is producing some incredible machinery these days, blending power and poise in an ultra-desirable package that is usable every day. Things aren’t perfect; the infotainment system is frustrating and difficult to operate. But when it comes to sheer driving pleasure, this is one of McLaren’s best cars yet.
  • Model: McLaren 600LT Spider
  • Price: £201,500
  • Engine: 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8
  • Power/torque: 592bhp/620Nm
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 2.8 seconds
  • Top speed: 201mph
  • Economy/CO2: 23.2mpg/276g/km
  • On sale : Now

Audi A1 review
Posted on Tuesday February 19, 2019

For 
Sporty upmarket style
Premium cabin design
Very user-friendly
Our Rating 
4.5
Against 
Limited engine choices
MINI is more fun
Interior quality no better than Polo
Audi A1 - front
2018

The Audi A1 is a luxurious and sporty-looking small hatch that gives the MINI a run for its money

The latest Audi A1 certainly ups its game from a visual perspective, and with its wide grille similar to that of the R8 supercar, the luxurious supermini looks distinctly sporty. The reality is less exciting on the road, because although the A1 handles very competently and rides well, it doesn’t have the sporty responses of its key rival the MINI. It wins back ground when it comes to refinement though, as the A1 is almost as hushed and relaxed to ride in as a Mercedes C-Class.

The interior design looks very upmarket-Audi too, but closer inspection reveals very similar materials used to the much cheaper VW Polo. Engine choice is limited, but performance is satisfactory, and with only a roomy five-door body available it’s practical too.

19 Feb, 2019
4.5

The latest Audi A1’s design is not particularly radical by the standards of other manufacturers, but its style is pretty funky compared to the German marque’s usual fare. The old model was definitely looking a little dated, but this one is arguably one of the sportiest looking models in the Audi line-up. That’s obviously the look the marque was going for, as the large trapezoidal front grille with matching black air intakes either side, and those three slots under the leading edge of the bonnet, are all style cues lifted directly from the latest Audi R8 supercar.  

You need to be a bit more of an Audi-phile to pick up on some of the other design cues. For example the lines pressed into the bonnet and shoulders above the wheelarches are both supposed to evoke images of classic Audi Quattro rally cars. Contrasting paint on the roof and screen pillars of certain models adds to the visual interest too.

The Audi A1 is built at SEAT’s plant in Martorell, Spain, and shares it’s MBQ platform with the VW Polo and SEAT’s own Ibiza Mk 5. But aside from the common engineering, there’s not a lot to place the stablemates in the same family, either outside or in the A1’s impressive cabin.

The digital dashboard design is visually highly appealing, and very high-tech, with Audi’s ‘Virtual Cockpit’ display optional for all model variants. It sits in a wrap-around binnacle with everything slanted towards the driver, and there are shades of the A8 limousine’s cabin style, although you don’t get the twin central touchscreens of Audi’s more luxurious models and have to use ordinary buttons for controlling the climate control.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

The Audi A1 comes with an 8.8-inch infotainment screen, and an audio system with DAB and Audi’s Smartphone system which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A technology package upgrades the set-up to a 10.1-inch infotainment screen and the 10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit display in front of the driver.

4

The Audi A1 is very well resolved car to drive, and it copes well with the rigours of the UK’s desperately tired and potholed tarmac. At least the smaller-wheeled versions ride with a pleasing degree of compliance, but we’d recommend test driving the 18-inch options before you buy.

Some customers are likely to find the additional harshness they introduce to proceedings disappointing, although others will consider it a worthwhile trade-off for the extra style of the bigger wheels. The sports suspension set-up of the 2.0 TFSI is harsher too, to the extent that passengers may find longer journeys a bit of a chore.

Best superminis on sale

Steering is accurate and well weighted, and in standard guise the A1 resists excessive body roll effectively although it isn’t as responsive as the Ford Fiesta or MINI, both of which are more entertaining for the engaged driver. The A1 wins out for refinement though, as it feels as hushed as a premium saloon car two classes up.

The seven-speed S Tronic dual-clutch auto works very smoothly, and is likely to appeal more to most customers than the manual which is ever so slightly notchy in operation. The bigger 2.0 engine comes with an old-school six-speed auto which occasionally feels a little sluggardly on kickdown.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

With 114bhp under the bonnet, the launch phase 30 TFSI models can do 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds – although high gearing means it doesn’t feel quite as fast as it might from the driver’s seat. Top speed is 126mph.

The smaller 25 TFSI when it arrives will have 94bhp, and the 1.5-litre 35 TFSI will be 148bhp. The 2.0-litre 40 TFSI has a punchy 197bhp, but we don’t have performance figures yet and the car is let down by the lethargic feel of its auto box. It also comes with a system to play fake engine noises through the audio speakers, in a manner that we find a little unconvincing.

4.5

The Audi A1 hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP yet, but as part of the VW group supermini stable, anything less than a top-ranking five-star result would come as a big surprise. For starters it shares its platform with the VW Polo which scores highly in the Euro NCAP tests, and it’s also well equipped with features such as emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance. That said, you don’t get blind-spot monitoring or traffic sign recognition on the A1, which are two technologies that are finding their way down into the small car sector elsewhere.

The VW Group platform and technology sharing should also reassure buyers when it comes to reliability, with an engine line-up shared across the Polo and SEAT Ibiza ranges. Some of the more advanced stuff like the Virtual Cockpit display is perhaps less of a known quantity, but it has appeared widely higher up the Audi line-up.

Build quality appears impeccable too, notwithstanding the fact that some of the interior materials could feel a bit richer. It’s all screwed together impeccably, and the construction seems rock solid.

While it’s not necessarily a signifier of good future performance, the old A1 model performed pretty well in our Driver Power Customer Satisfaction Survey too. A relatively low 7.8 per cent of drivers reported any sort of fault in their first year of A1 ownership.

Warranty

The Audi A1 comes with the standard manufacturer warranty, which means you get three years and 60,000 miles of cover – the same as for a VW Polo. There are extended warranty options available at extra cost, but it’s not a particularly impressive offer. The MINI line-up comes with three years cover but the advantage of unlimited mileage.

Servicing

If you do a relatively low mileage, Audi recommends you use their annual service regime. If you’re going to drive over 10,000 miles a year, then there’s a ‘long life’ service schedule based on monitoring oil quality and sensors to tell you when a service is required. Audi also offers fixed price plans to help you budget for maintenance.

4.5

Now the three-door A1 variant has been dropped, and because the new generation is bigger than before, owners of the previous generation will find the latest Audi supermini is a lot more useful.

Five-doors means easy access to the rear for baby seats and the like, and the extra space inside means more adjustment for the driver’s seat so it will be easier for all shapes and sizes to get comfy. Forward visibility is fine too, although rear parking sensors will be a boon for some when reversing, as like many modern hatchbacks the rear view is hardly panoramic.

In other respects, the cabin is typical Audi, with decent glovebox, door pockets and storage in the centre console, plus cup-holders between the seats. Practicality is also enhanced by the application of so much tech. The optional Virtual Cockpit dash in particular offering up navigation info that’s easily assimilated by the driver.

Size

Although its sporty style is eye-catching, the Audi A1 is basically fairly boxy when you look beyond the decorative elements of the design. It’s also bigger than before, and so compares favourably to rivals for interior and boot space. It measures up at 4,029mm long and 1,740mm wide, which is, however, a little shorter than the VW Polo’s 4,053mm length.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

There’s plenty of room in the front seats, while two rear seats passengers are accommodated comfortably, without squashed knees or cricked necks. A third rear passenger will be a squeeze, but the same goes for all cars in the Audi A1’s supermini class. 

Boot

Compared to the old A1, there’s been a big boost in luggage capacity – up 65 litres to 335 litres in total. If you fold the rear seats, which don’t quite go flat, but are split 60:40, then total luggage space goes up to 1,090 litres.

4

We only know the fuel consumption figures for the launch engine so far, but the 114bhp three-pot is suitably parsimonious. Doubtless helped by the tall gearing of the six-speed manual gearbox, you should be able to eke 57.6mpg out of this engine. There are as yet no hybrid or ‘green’ powertrain options, but the efficiency of this launch model remains impressive.

We don’t have figures for the other engines, but we do know the 35 TFSI will have cylinder deactivation to improve its figures. By cutting off fuel to half the cylinders when they’re not under load, you can mimic the efficiency of a smaller engine.

But for now we’ve only got the 30 TFSI, which emits 111g/km of CO2 under the latest test regimes, so anyone using an A1 as a company perk will have to pay a Benefit-in-Kind tax bill of 23 per cent of the invoice cost. There are no diesel models mooted, but a mild-hybrid version is reportedly on the cards in the longer term.

In general terms, the Audi A1 shouldn’t cost any more to run than similarly high-spec supermini rivals, at least when it comes to filling up, insurance and road tax. However, maintenance costs could be a little higher than some, as you’ll be helping to play for all those swishy Audi showrooms.

Insurance groups

The only model you can currently buy, the 35 TFSI, has been awarded a Group 19 insurance rating. You’ll be able to save a bit on the 25 TFSI when it arrives, as that’s only Group 16. When the sportier models arrive the bills go up commensurately with performance, so the 35 TFSI is Group 25 and the 40 TFSI is Group 31.

Depreciation

The last Audi A1 was a star performer when it came to holding on to value, and we expect this one to do well too. Will it match the 56.9 per cent average residual value of the last model when it hits the three-year, 36,000-mile mark? We wouldn’t bet against it, but choosing lurid colours like the Python Yellow might be a bit of a liability in the long run.

Honda confirms Swindon factory closure with 3,500 job losses
Posted on Monday February 18, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-02-19 15:23

Honda sanctions the closure of its UK plant in Swindon, the home of the Honda Civic Hatch, making 3,500 employees jobless by 2021

Honda's Swindon factory - production line

Honda has confirmed it will permanently close its Swindon manufacturing plant by the end of the current Civic’s life cycle in the 2021. The plant currently produces around 150,000 cars per year and employs more than 3,500 workers, many of whom will be made redundant.

The Swindon plant is currently Honda’s only factory in the EU. It is also the only location globally that builds the Civic Hatch which, in 2018, was the third best-selling UK-built car in the world.

Best new car deals on the market now

According to Honda, its decision to close its UK manufacturing arm is a response to the current market push towards electrification, with the company undergoing a “global restructure” to cope with demand. Apparently, Swindon’s plant doesn’t meet the demands of this strategy.

Katsushi Inoue, President of Honda Europe, said: “In light of the unprecedented changes that are affecting our industry, it is vital that we accelerate our electrification strategy and restructure our global operations accordingly.

“As a result, we have had to take this difficult decision to consult our workforce on how we might prepare our manufacturing network for the future. This has not been taken lightly and we deeply regret how unsettling today’s announcement will be for our people.”

The news on Honda’s Swindon plant closure follows the company’s announcement from early February, confirming 500 temporary jobs would be axed from the same factory.


Honda Civic diesel automatic review header

Brexit not a factor, says MP

Conservative MP for North Swindon, Justin Tomlinson, told Auto Express that the Swindon plant’s closure was totally unrelated to Brexit, with Honda also apparently set to close its Turkish factory where it builds the Civic Saloon.

"This decision has been made because of global trends and is not related to Brexit," said Tomlinson. "The Turkey factory will also close as all European market production is being consolidated to Japan where the company is based.

"This consolidation is made easier by the new EU-Japan trade deal which will allow Honda to produce [its] cars in Japan and import them into the EU, rather than produce the cars in Europe.

"Honda have told us today that they will be consulting with all staff and there is not expected to be any job losses or change in production until 2021."

Japan-EU trade deal

On 1 February 2019, a new trade deal between the EU and Japan came into force. The deal will bring an end to the 10 per cent tariff currently applied to Japanese cars imported into the EU, although this change is being introduced gradually over a period of seven years in order to allow European carmakers to prepare.

Honda’s UK Manufacturing Director, Jason Smith, said: “We understand the impact this proposal will have on our associates, wider supplier base and the local community. We are committed to supporting associates to help them through this difficult time.”

Honda UK Manufacturing was founded in 1985 and production at the Swindon engine plant started in 1989. Over the years, Honda has invested a total of around £1.5 billion in the 370-acre site, with models such as the Accord, CR-V and Jazz all being produced there over the years.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, called Honda’s decision a “huge blow” to the UK’s automotive industry, and for Swindon’s “highly skilled and productive workforce”.

Hawes warned the “challenges facing Honda are not unique” and that the global automotive industry was facing “fundamental” changes related to technological, environmental and trade arrangements.

He added: “The UK should be at the forefront of these changes, championing its competitiveness and innovation, rather than having to focus resources on the need to avoid a catastrophic ‘no-deal’ Brexit.”

What do you think of the news regarding the Honda Swindon plant closure? Join the debate in the comments...

 

New Citroen AMI ONE concept revives the spirit of the 2CV
Posted on Monday February 18, 2019

John McIlroy 2019-02-19 07:50

New all-electric two-seater Citroen AMI ONE concept to be officially revealed at Geneva with a 60-mile range

Citroen AMI ONE concept - front

This is the Citroen AMI ONE, probably the slowest concept car to be revealed by a major manufacturer at the Geneva Motor Show, and certainly one of the smallest.

It’s a pure-electric two-seater that can, in theory, be driven by young people aged 16 and above. That’s because it fits into quadricycle regulations – the same formula used by several small-scale French manufacturers, plus Renault with its Twizy.

• Best electric cars on sale

The AMI ONE – so called because it references classic Citroens of old, incorporates the word ‘friend’ and suggests it will be the smallest model the firm will ever make – is, in effect, a design concept created on the brief of a modern-day 2CV.

Citroen’s interior design chief Jean-Arthur Madelaine told us: “When the 2CV was created for the people, they were living mainly in rural areas, so it was a car for the countryside. Now the trend for young people is that they are not really interested in cars at all, but they like the mobility, especially in the cities. This is the vision behind AMI ONE.”

It measures 2.5 metres long – so nearly 20cm shorter than even Smart’s tiny two-seat ForTwo. An electric motor drives the rear wheels and a lithium-ion battery pack is mounted across the floor. The Citroen weighs 425kg and can reach a top speed of 45kph (28mph); that means 16-year-olds can drive it without having to pass a full test. It can travel around 60 miles on a single charge.

Inside, the AMI ONE’s simple approach builds on the growing use of smartphones. There’s no conventional infotainment screen and barely an instrument panel; the user lays their phone in an area beyond the instrument display, and it’s reflected back towards the driver’s eyeline by a perspex panel, allowing interaction (via voice commands or steering wheel buttons) with a number of apps.

The rest of the cabin is small but functional. It’s also tight on boot space because, Citroen claims, city drivers tend to throw their possessions into the passenger seat instead of using the boot anyway.

The concept extends beyond the vehicle itself, though, with the firm proposing the AMI ONE as a vehicle that could be owned or rented for a wide variety of durations – for as little as five minutes, or several hours.

There are no immediate plans to make the AMI ONE available for purchase or rental; it’s just a concept for now. 
But Citroen product manager Sebastien Grandmougin told us that the vehicle is designed to be relevant within the next year or two, not in 2025.

“We don’t want to restrict this car to rental or purchase,” he explained. “It should be both.”

Click here for all the latest in the build-up to the 2019 Geneva Motor Show... 

Best hatchbacks to buy now 2019
Posted on Monday February 18, 2019

2019-02-19 14:49

We’ve selected our top ten best family hatchbacks from the seemingly endless range of models on offer so you don’t have to.

best hatchbacks header

Of all the cars on the road, family hatchbacks have one of the hardest jobs. They have to be reliable, spacious enough for a family, easy to park, cheap to run and buy, and have a great safety rating.

Yet, the best hatchbacks also need to cater for a range of drivers, often coming in a wide range of formats, including automatic, manual, petrol, diesel and, more recently, hybrid and all-electric configurations. Naturally, the selection of hatchbacks on offer is enormous, so we’ve rounded up our ten favourites.

Best family cars

While the latest  SUVs and crossovers may well steal the limelight these days, the traditional small family hatchback still makes up a large proportion of the UK new car sales. Evergreen favourites such as the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and VW Golf continue to sell in their thousands thanks to their clever combination of size, space, and price.

Below you’ll find the top 10 best family hatchbacks on sale today according to our team of seasoned reviewers. We've focused on the most popular sector of hatchbacked cars, the family hatch market, and we've picked the cars that deliver the best mix of kit, safety, running costs, fun driving and family-friendly features.

Top 10 best hatchbacks on sale now

  1. 1. Volkswagen Golf
  2. 2. Skoda Octavia
  3. 3. Ford Focus
  4. 4. Mercedes A-Class
  5. 5. Kia Ceed
  6. 6. Vauxhall Astra
  7. 7. Renault Megane
  8. 8. Honda Civic
  9. 9. Peugeot 308
  10. 10. Mazda 3

1. Volkswagen Golf

The Volkswagen Golf remains one of the best hatchbacks on sale

Volkswagen threw down the gauntlet to its rivals with the Golf Mk7, and has since given it an update to keep it fresh – not that it was really needed. However, with new infotainment options and an improved engine range, the Golf still defines the hatchback class. From its compact dimensions and evolutionary styling to its high-quality interior and brilliant engine range, it is a car without any serious flaws.

If you want something smart and stylish it ticks these boxes. Spacious and practical, too? Well, a generous interior and big 380-litre boot cover these concerns. The efficient BlueMotion model also promises excellent fuel economy.

All VW Golfs come well equipped, with features such as stop-start, Electronic Stability Control (ESP), Bluetooth and iPod connectivity and curtain airbags all fitted as standard. You even get the reassurance of a space-saver spare wheel – which is increasingly rare yet very desirable for family motorists. And this is all before you drive it. Then you can marvel at the refinement, comfort, capable handling and responsive controls of the new Golf first hand.

2. Skoda Octavia

The Skoda Octavia is a spacious alternative to the Volkswagen Golf

The Skoda Octavia is a family hatchback that uses the same basic platform as the Volkswagen Golf and SEAT Leon, but a longer body and clever packaging mean it offers more boot space than both, as well as a hugely practical interior and enough room for five. 

In fact, it's one of the biggest cars in its class, coming close to models such as the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat from the class above. It's available as either a five-door hatchback or more practical estate, though both offer plenty of space and identical levels of standard equipment. The 2017 facelift gave the Octavia a fresh look and added a bit of interest to a rather ordinary looking car.

While it doesn't offer the same exceptional value as Skodas of old, all current-generation Octavia models boast alloy wheels, automatic post-collision braking and DAB radio. Mid-range SE models are better still, while top-spec Elegance and L&K versions can rival sister company Audi for luxury.

3. Ford Focus

Ford’s perennial best-seller returns with more space and an emphasis on driving pleasure

If having fun behind the wheel is a priority, the latest Ford Focus should be high on your hatchback list. Keeping up the tradition of previous generations, the new Focus puts driving pleasure first with sharp handling and excellent body control. Although we’ll have to wait a while for the faster ST and RS hot hatch versions, the standard Focus still manages to be a real drivers’ car.

There’s a range of smooth and economical petrol and diesel engines on offer, and two different suspension configurations, both of which retain the car’s precise handling. ST-Line models are lowered to enhance their sporty styling, but every Focus in the range is sure to put a smile on even the most discerning enthusiast’s face.

The biggest criticism of the old Focus was its lack of interior space, but while its styling is proving to be rather divisive, the longer wheelbase on the new car means the cabin space has been vastly improved. There’s plenty of room for four adults and boot space has been increased too to make this a truly capable family car.

The interior quality is now up there with the VW Golf’s, and the clean modern design is uncluttered and well laid-out. The ‘floating tablet’ infotainment screen on higher spec models looks like a bit of an afterthought, but its position makes it easy to reach while driving, and Ford’s SYNC3 system is simple to use.

The entry-level Style model is fairly basic, but still comes with plenty of active safety equipment. It’s worth splashing out a bit more for a Zetec or Titanium models for the extra kit, but every car in the range is sure to entertain on the open road.

4. Mercedes A-Class

The Mercedes A-Class is a yardstick for all other hatchbacks when it comes to design, quality and tech

Even though the new Mercedes A-Class isn’t going to set the world alight when it comes to handling, it does offer motorists class-leading onboard tech and great refinement. Despite the continued success of the last generation A-Class, Mercedes went back to the drawing board with the latest car – revising the platform it uses, along with the interior, engines and tech.

The changes don't end there either, Mercedes claims that the aerodynamic alterations it has made to the exterior are equivalent to shaving 100kg from the kerbweight. However, all these improvements don’t come cheap, with the A-Class range starting at around £23k and going all the way up to over £34k for a top of the line A 35 AMG hot hatch.

The A-Class’ architecture has been engineered with electrification in mind, with the all-electric Mercedes EQ A hatchback expected to arrive at the turn of the decade. The new A-Class really shines on the motorway, where it is quiet, stable and composed – Mercedes bosses claim it offers C-Class levels of comfort.  

5. Kia Ceed

Well-priced, good to drive, and packed full of tech, the Kia Ceed is a hatchback front-runner

While it may have ditched the apostrophe in its name, the new Kia Ceed remains one of the best-value family hatches on the market. With every model loaded with equipment and an unbeatable 7-year warranty, the latest Ceed is aimed squarely at its core European rivals.

Rather confusingly, the range kicks off with the 2 trim level, but this entry-level car is generously specced with alloys, smartphone connectivity, and plenty of active safety tech. Higher spec models gain bigger alloys and more luxuries, while the top-spec 201bhp Ceed GT is the hottest performance model available, for now.

Sharing a platform with the Hyundai i30, the new Ceed gets a good range of engines, with three petrols to choose from with various outputs and a torquey 1.6-litre diesel. Ride and handling still aren’t quite on par with the Golf and the Focus, but they’re a great step up from the old model.

Like in the Ford Focus, the infotainment screen looks rather cumbersome, just stuck on top of the dash. The system is easy to use, though not quite as crisp as a VW Group unit. All models get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard and unlike many other manufacturers, Kia has kept the core controls for climate control and volume as easy-to-reach buttons.

The rest of the interior feels high-quality while boot space is up there with the Skoda Octavia. If you need even more space, Kia also offers the Sportswagon estate version and the rakish ProCeed shooting brake.

6. Vauxhall Astra

The latest Vauxhall Astra must be on any hatchback buyer's shortlist

The Vauxhall Astra has long been a high-performing regular fixture at the top of car sales charts, but it hasn't always had the substance to back up its popularity. 

That's all changed now, as the latest model has undergone a thorough overhaul and has consequently risen up the family hatchback ranks with its great blend of style, space, low running costs and kit list. 

Looks have always been on the Astra's side, and the current car is no different. With sharp lines, distinctive lights and an athletic stance, the Astra certainly looks the part. It's the same story on the inside, too. 

There's plenty of high-quality plastics and leather trim on the steering wheel and gearlever, plus an attractive dash design, incorporating a large touchscreen. There's plenty of room in the Astra and it's easy to get comfortable, while the boot is a decent size making it ideal for use as a family car. 

On the road, the Astra drives superbly, with a composed and compliant ride and good steering feedback. The engine range is comprehensive, and Vauxhall's latest raft of efficient diesel engines are impressive. The Astra has the substance to back up the style, meaning it well and truly deserves its place in our best hatchbacks list.

7. Renault Megane

The fourth-generation Renault Megane is a big improvement over its predecessor

The fourth generation Renault Megane, which arrived in 2016, is a serious contender in the hatchback class. It blends practicality, space, efficiency and comfort in a quality package.

The car boasts a selection of familiar petrol and diesel engines, a wide range of trim levels and looks good, with the brand’s distinctive diamond logo flanked by a pair of headlamps and the now-recognisable C-shaped LED running lights. The rear has eye-catching LED tail-lamps running almost the whole width of the bootlid.

Inside, the dash is modern and clutter free, while the 8.7-inch R-Link 2 Infotainment screen (an optional extra) groups together the sat-nav, driving modes and stereo controls in one clear display. 

It’s behind the wheel where the Megane is most attractive though as even a short drive is enough to know the Renault engineers have focused on comfort and refinement. The car rides well, noise levels are low and the range of engines offer impressive power delivery – although lower-powered models can feel a little lethargic at lower revs. All in all the Megane is an impressive addition to this list and definitely worth considering.

8. Honda Civic

Tenth-generation Civic puts British-built hatchback in the running

The Honda Civic has a history as long as the VW Golf, and over that time it has grown from a supermini to a full-size hatch. The latest model is the tenth generation, and it features arguably the most radical looks yet, and that's saying something after the space age Mk8.

There's almost a coupe-like profile to the car, while the angular panels mean the Civic still stands alone in the hatch class with its unique looks. While the looks are a step on from the last model, interior space is just as good. Honda's patented Magic Seats are no more, but the boot still has plenty of room, and passenger space is good, too.

Even better is the way the Civic drives. It has plenty of grip and corners keenly, while the engine line-up (both petrol and diesel available) delivers a decent mix of performance and economy. We'd go for the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo, as it has enough performance for most needs and adds a sporty exhaust note.

9. Peugeot 308

The award-winning Peugeot 308 is a great alternative to the mainstream family hatchbacks

The Peugeot 308 is a family hatchback aimed at mainstream cars like the Volkswagen GolfSEAT Leon and Ford Focus. It’s a massive step up over the old 307, and was even awarded European Car of the Year by an independent judging panel in 2014.

It looks great, has an upmarket interior and feels good to drive, and offers a really attractive ownership proposition thanks to its excellent fuel economy and fast-improving dealer service.

While you wouldn’t guess, it actually shares its underpinnings with the larger Citroen C4 SpaceTourer, but that means it benefits from the same lightweight construction. It’s up to 140kg lighter than the previous generation car, and capable of up to 80.7mpg, although back seat space could be better.

10. Mazda 3

Mazda's superb 3 will be replaced this year, but the outgoing model is still a worthy addition to this list

With its bold looks, sharp handling, solid build quality and upmarket interior, the Mazda 3 has really taken the fight to hatchback rivals such as the Volkswagen GolfFord Focus and SEAT Leon.

Mazda’s excellent SkyActiv technology is standard across the 3 range, bucking the downsizing trend that many other manufacturers are following. Instead, naturally-aspirated engines have been built with advanced engineering solutions in place to ensure the car is as efficient in real-world use as possible.

The engine range includes a 98bhp 1.5-litre petrol, a 2.0-litre petrol with 118bhp and a meaty 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel with the units offered across three well-equipped trim levels. Even entry-level models come with a decent roster of standard equipment.

The Mazda 3 is an engaging car to drive in nearly all conditions, with strong grip and nimble handling.

A new model is due later in 2019 so expect some good deals on this outgoing car.

  1. 1. Volkswagen Golf
  2. 2. Skoda Octavia
  3. 3. Ford Focus
  4. 4. Mercedes A-Class
  5. 5. Kia Ceed
  6. 6. Vauxhall Astra
  7. 7. Renault Megane
  8. 8. Honda Civic
  9. 9. Peugeot 308
  10. 10. Mazda 3

History of the hatchback

Hatchbacks, as we know them today, originated in the 1970s. The idea behind the design was similar to that of an estate – a top-hinged tailgate set at a jaunty angle to provide a stylish look but also more versatility than a saloon.

In the early days, some manufacturers did miss the mark with what a hatch should be, offering a saloon-style hinged section below the rear glass, but it was not long before all manufacturers were designing cars with the highly practical boot door which incorporated the rear window. The Renault 4, 5 and 16, Austin Maxi and Fiat 127 were all pioneers of the hatchback body style, and by the start of the 1980s, mainstream cars like the Ford Escort had moved from saloon to a hatch layout.

Today, the smallest hatchbacks are in the city car class, and models such as the Citroen C1 and Skoda Citigo feature a small rear hatch that's not much more than a reinforced pane of glass. This is a cheap way of making a hatch, and is pretty effective. Further up the size scale, the hatchback body is the default choice in the supermini class, and while some superminis are available as saloons in other regions, the hatchback overwhelmingly rules the roost in the UK.

Best hot hatchbacks

You have plenty of choice in the compact hatch class where the cars most regularly referred to as ‘hatchbacks’ reside. Starting with the likes of the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, and Peugeot 308, then moving up to the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series at the premium end of things. And if you want some performance with your practicality, there is a host of ‘hot hatch’ performance models based on cars in this class, such as the VW Golf GTI, Honda Civic Type R and Hyundai i30 N.   For the purposes of this page, it’s the ‘family hatchback’ cars in this class that we’re concentrating on but the actual hatchback boot door has spread far further.

Moving up in size, there are now hatch versions of the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia and BMW 3 Series, and even a racy-looking A5 Sportback from Audi. At the very top of the tree, the Audi A7 Sportback, Tesla Model S and Porsche Panamera are the most luxurious hatchbacks you can buy. SUVs use the hatchback boot style too.

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    Best towbar-mounted storage boxes
    Posted on Monday February 18, 2019

    James Stanbury 2019-02-18 12:36

    Looking for an alternative to roof boxes to stash loads? We test solutions that sit on your towbar

    Towbar mounted storage boxes - header

    Roof boxes are great for increasing your car’s load-lugging ability, but they’d be so much better if they weren’t so high up. Imagine not having to stretch to install, remove, fill and unload them.

    And wouldn’t it be a bonus if your fully laden car didn’t suffer increased wind noise, reduced economy, and problems with height-restricted car parks? Fortunately, towbar-mounted rear racks and boxes are a good alternative. Most models tilt to allow boot or hatchback access, while prices are dropping as more brands enter the market.

    So is it time to ditch roof bars and boxes? We loaded eight towbar units to find out.

    How we tested them

    All vehicles have a limit their tow bars can support. So while a box’s capacity and max loading limit are important, so is its weight; the lower the better, to allow more cargo. As most systems are built around a plain, or cycle, rack, we also appraised each product for its versatility. 

    Easily stored systems accumulated extra points and so did ease of use, security for the set-up and its contents, and the availability of a light board if the system obscures the vehicle’s rear lamps. The final factor we considered was the price of the products from online sources.

    Verdict 

    Bak-rak’s winning dual-purpose Bike-rak comes at an unbeatable price. Modula’s ReCargo is bigger and has a higher price, but is more user-friendly. Buzz Rack’s Platform is a great alternative to a small trailer. 

    1. 1. Bak-rak Bike-rak with Lightweight Box
    2. 2. Modula ReCargo Towbar Travel Box
    3. 3. Buzz Rack Multi-Purpose Tow Ball Platform

    Reviews
    Bak-rak Bike-rak with Lightweight Box

    Price: around £178
    Capacity: 185 litres
    Rating: 5/5

    With a 60kg load limit and weighing 10kg, this system is perfectly suited to the average car, where the towbar will probably have a load limit of 70 to 80kg. It’s very versatile, too. Create a four-bike carrier by unbolting the box and repositioning the crossbar and two supports through the top of the upright. The box can also be replaced by an optional tray (£29), allowing rack duties. Bak-rak has kept weight down by keeping things simple, but that means the bike-retaining system and towball coupling are less slick than some here.

    Modula ReCargo Towbar Travel Box

    Price: around £459.99
    Capacity: 400 litres
    Rating: 4.5/5

    Modula's ReCargo is the second-biggest box in this test and comes complete with rear lights and a number-plate holder. Security is offered by locks on the towbar coupling, box lid, and removable upright. With the box removed and the upright fitted, the large rack is well suited to transporting items that cannot go in the crate. A dedicated cycle rack is also available as an option. Although we like the simple lever-operated towball coupling, the combined rack and box weight is heavy, at 32kg. That means a very high towbar limit is needed to make use of the box’s 75kg maximum load capacity.

    Buy now from eBay

    Buzz Rack Multi-Purpose Tow Ball Platform

    Price: around £149.95
    Capacity: N/A
    Rating: 4.5/5

    Probably the most versatile product available. Thanks to an adjustable back bar, the rack’s front-to-back depth can be extended to almost 60cm. The horizontal bars on the upright section are adjustable vertically or laterally, and they can point up, down and forwards as required. Four two-piece straps, which use pull-through couplings and eight rack-mounted eyelets, make it easy to lash items securely to the platform, while the 75kg maximum load and the unit’s low 12.5kg weight maximise the rack’s carrying ability. The unit also packs down rapidly to an easily stored 104 x 63 x 25cm pile. 

    Buy now from The Roof Box Company

    Bak-rak G4 Base-rak with Large Ultra Heavy Duty Plastic Box

    Price: around £479
    Capacity: 450 litres
    Rating: 4/5

    Underpinned by Bak-rak’s bombproof stainless steel G4 Base-rak, this system’s hefty 120kg maximum load – and usefully low 14kg weight – make the product
    a serious contender for vehicles with a high towbar capacity. The box is made from tough high-density polyethylene and has a steel frame. It’s easy
    to load, too, thanks to a removable lid. Unbolt the box and the rack comes into its own: many roof bar cycle racks can be placed on it laterally, while optional extender bars are available that allow for simultaneous box and bike transportation. Other Bak-rak extras include a tough tray and rear uprights in various heights.

    Ginnell Fibreglass Products Dog Box

    Price: around 350 Euros (£306 approx)
    Capacity: 306 litres
    Rating: 4/5

    In Ireland, some of the working-dog fraternity transport their mud-caked canines in these boxes, rather than frequently cleaning out their car interiors. But specify a plain door rather than a vented one, and you’ll get a storage system that won’t have Fido quaking. The side door aids loading and unloading and makes it easy to use every cubic inch of the box. We like Bak-rak’s plated steel G3 rack underpinning the box, and the max 100kg loading. Less impressive is the 24kg unit weight and the fixed towbar coupling, which cannot be tilted to clear large bootlids. 

    Buy now from Dog Box

    Bak-rak Box-rak with Tumble Mount

    Price: around £184
    Capacity: 185 litres
    Rating: 4/5

    Box-rak is normally Bak-rak’s entry-level system, but the Tumble Mount fitted here raises the price by £35. Not that the mount is usually necessary unless a vehicle’s tailgate is large and opens downwards, such as a pick-up’s; Bak-rak’s tiltable towball coupling clears most tailgates. The tumble mount simply hinges the box at the rear, too, providing full clearance. Otherwise, this product is essentially the same as our Best Buy, minus the natty integral bike rack and the useful upright. The max load of 60kg remains, the unit weight improves to 9kg while replacing the box with a large tray-cum-rack is still an option.

    Westfalia BC60 Tilting Two-Bicycle Carrier with Box and Platform

    Price: around £599
    Capacity: 200 litres
    Rating: 3.5/5

    This is a slick design that begins as a folded two-cycle bike rack and measures just 64 x 59 x 20cm. Use the simple lever system to position the rack on the towball, and it takes seconds to unfold the bike supports and rear lightboard. Alternatively, you can slot either the storage box or the storage tray, on top instead. No tools are needed for fitting and the box even has wheels, should you want to mount it pre-loaded. The price is high for the modest capacity offered, and the rack and box weigh a portly 32.5kg, while the low 45kg maximum-box limit cost the Westfalia points.

    Buy now from Westfalia Automotive 

    Thule BackSpace XT

    Price: around £839
    Capacity: 300 litres
    Rating: 3/5

    Another system that starts as a two-bike cycle carrier. Unlike Westfalia’s BC60, though, there isn’t a tray option; this is either a storage box or a bike carrier, or, with an optional extra, a box, and single bike carrier. The box is actually a tray with a tough flexible upper, which is great for storage because it shrinks down to 136 x 43 x 24cm. While its drysuit-style zips and velcro flaps are weather resistant, they are fiddly compared with a conventional lid. The Thule’s high price,
    the 50kg maximum load and the 27.3kg unit weight are the main drawbacks.

    Buy now from Amazon

    Also tested
    TowBox BoX V2

    Price: around £699
    Capacity: 390 litres
    Rating: 2/5

    Buy now from Depor Village

    New V6 petrol engine to be added to Volkswagen Touareg range
    Posted on Monday February 18, 2019

    Alex Ingram 2019-02-18 10:55

    The Volkswagen Touareg will be offered with a 335bhp V6 petrol, due to arrive in the middle of 2019

    Volkswagen Touareg - front

    The Volkswagen Touareg SUV’s engine lineup is set to expand soon with the introduction of a new petrol engine.

    Growing the range beyond the two diesel options currently available will be 3.0-litre V6 unit producing 335bhp. That’s 53bhp up on the current range-topping V6 TDI, enough to deliver a 0-62 time which, at 5.9 seconds, makes the petrol two tenths quicker. Fuel emissions for the petrol stand at 203k/km - 30g/km more than the diesel pair.

    Best SUVs and 4x4s 2019

    Like the diesel alternatives, the new model will send its power through all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. A package which combines air suspension and rear-wheel steering - as used by VW Group cousins the Audi Q7 and Bentley Bentayga - is available as an option.

    The Touareg is offered in three trim levels: SE L, R-Line and R-Line tech. Standard equipment includes 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, heated front seats trimmed in leather all round, and adaptive cruise control. The ‘Innovision Cockpit’, which combines a 12-inch digital instrument panel with a huge 15-inch infotainment screen, is standard on the top-spec R-Line Tech and an option priced up to £2,510 on other models.

    The V6 petrol will go on sale in the first half of 2019, with deliveries due by the end of the year. While UK prices for the new petrol are yet to be announced, in the Dutch market VW has confirmed a starting figure of a few hundred Euros more than the 282bhp diesel, so expect to pay from around £52,000 here.

    Would you consider a petrol SUV? Let us know in the comments...

    Mercedes B-Class review
    Posted on Friday February 15, 2019

    For 
    Spacious cabin
    Large boot
    Good to drive
    Our Rating 
    3.5
    Against 
    Not a genuine MPV
    No hybrid option
    No seven-seat version
    Mercedes B-Class front
    2018

    It’s not a proper MPV, but the much-improved Mercedes B-Class boasts a spacious and classy cabin

    The Mercedes B-Class has evolved. Gone is the frumpy MPV of old, replaced by something that looks sharper, boasts a quality-rich and tech-laden interior and is surprisingly good to drive. It shares its underpinnings with the A-Class, but offers more room in the cabin, with the rear seats offering luxury saloon levels of space. But the lack of clear space between the B-Class and the A-Class means that it fails to offer a real unique selling point – it’s not flexible enough to be a true MPV, while the A-Class edges it in terms of style, image and dynamics. In isolation, it’s a very good car, it’s just that it isn’t entirely clear what it wants to be.

    15 Feb, 2019
    5

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and while it would be a stretch to call the new B-Class ‘beautiful’, it’s certainly more attractive than the old model. Gone is the frumpy, MPV-like exterior, replaced by something more cohesive and, dare we say it, sporty.

    That’s no surprise, given the fact that the designers were told to make the B-Class stand out from the minivans of the world. The result is a car that’s lower than before, graced with shorter overhangs and a face that’s 100 per cent A-Class.

    Which, in our book, is a good result. It’s 10mm wider than before, with this width accentuated by a pair of distinctive rear lights. Predictably, the B-Class looks at its best in AMG Line trim, thanks to a host of cosmetic trimmings, 18-inch alloy wheels and a distinctive chrome grille.

    The positive vibes continue on the inside, with an interior that’s lifted almost entirely from the A-Class. The key difference is in the design of the instrument panel, which in the B-Class is a single unit, rather than the split bodies of the A-Class.

    It’s dominated by five, high-quality, circular air vents and the display units (more on these in the next section). Standard equipment includes dual-zone climate control, front and rear armrests, multifunction steering wheel and an array of ambient lighting.

    The cabin vibe changes depending on whether you opt for Sport or AMG Line, with the latter offering the likes of stainless steel pedals, sports seats, flat-bottom steering wheel and AMG floor mats.

    Three equipment packs are available: Executive, Premium and Premium Plus. In Premium Plus guise, you get all three packs for £3,500, with the kit comprising multibeam LED headlights, memory seats, panoramic sunroof, mid-range sound system, keyless entry, 10.25-inch instrument cluster, heated front seats and a choice of 64 colours for the ambient lighting.

    Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

    The new Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system is fitted as standard and is a welcome addition to the range. In our opinion, it’s one of the best systems on the market.

    The MBUX system can be controlled via a touchpad on the centre console or via the buttons on the steering wheel, but more impressive is the voice control. It uses a “Hey Mercedes” command, in much the same way you might use Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa personal assistants.

    The majority of the infotainment functions can be accessed using voice control, including the sat-nav, phone calls or choice of music. You can even use indirect commands, such as “I feel cold” to adjust the heating. Over time, MBUX will adjust to your personal habits, such as your route to work and your favourite radio station.

    Two 7-inch screens come as standard on both the Sport and AMG Line models, but it’s possible to upgrade to a 10.25-inch infotainment screen as part of the Executive equipment pack (£1,400) and/or the 10.25-inch instrument cluster as part of the Premium equipment pack (£2,300). The Premium pack also includes a 225-watt mid-range sound system.

    3.5

    On the road, the Mercedes B-Class feels like a slightly top-heavy A-Class rather than a traditional MPV. In fact, it’s easy to forget you’re not driving the A-Class.

    You sit a little higher, which gives a commanding view of the road ahead, but this does create a slight feeling of detachment that you don’t get in the A-Class. However, this is a small price to pay for the additional practicality and space.

    There’s very little roll when cornering – body control is remarkably good for a car in this segment. A sophisticated multi-link rear suspension is fitted to the AMG Line models, which tightens things up even further and allows for hard cornering. In this configuration, the suspension is lowered by 15mm at the rear and 20mm at the front.

    Notably, the sports suspension has little effect on the ride quality, which remains composed and supple over rough roads, with only the very worst potholes sending shockwaves through the cabin. The steering is set-up for comfort rather than sporty driving, although the Sports Direct-Steer system on the AMG Line version improves agility and straight-line stability.

    Most models are fitted with a seven-speed DCT automatic transmission, although the B 200 and B 220 diesel versions get an eight-speed unit. The gearbox can feel a little hesitant at junctions and roundabouts, but is perfectly suited to the relaxed and smooth nature of the B-Class. A manual gearbox will be added to the range at a later date.

    Overall, the B-Class is a far more pleasant car to drive than the previous model. The majority of owners will appreciate its comfortable and untroubled qualities, but in AMG Line guise – and with a larger engine – there’s plenty to reward the keener driver.

    Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

    The B-Class is no slouch, especially if you opt for the 2.0-litre versions. The B 250 petrol will sprint to 62mph in just 6.4 seconds, before going on to reach a top speed limited to 155mph. The B 220 4 Matic is a tad slower, hitting 62mph in 7.1 seconds, but this version will have the advantage when conditions are less than ideal.

    Meanwhile, the 1.33-litre petrol versions offer more leisurely progress, with the 134bhp B 180 hitting 62mph in 9.0 seconds and the 161bhp B 200 in 8.2. The top speeds are 132mph and 139mph respectively.

    The pick of the diesel engines is the B 220d, which offers 187bhp and 400Nm of torque to deliver hot hatch levels of performance. The 0-62mph time is polished off in 7.2 seconds. while the top speed is 145mph.

    Opt for the 148bhp B 200d and the 0-62mph time increases to 8.3 seconds, while the Renault-sourced 1.5-litre diesel engine in the B 180d completes the sprint in a relaxed 10.7 seconds.

    4

    The B-Class hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP, but the A-Class scored incredibly well in 2018. A 96 per cent rating for adult occupant safety was second only to the Volvo XC40 and on a par with the S60/V60.

    Meanwhile, 91 per cent for child occupant safety was the joint-highest, while 92 per cent for pedestrian safety was the top mark. Even a score of 75 per cent for safety assist technologies does little to change our view that the B-Class will perform well when it is crash tested by Euro NCAP.

    There’s a generous level of standard safety equipment, while a Driving Assistance pack can be added for £1,700. This package includes blind spot assist, emergency braking, steering assist, adaptive cruise control and route-based speed adjustment.

    Mercedes finished a commendable third on the list of the most reliable car manufacturers in our 2018 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. Although the previous B-Class didn’t feature on the list of the best cars to own, the C-Class finished 27th and the A-Class 56th out of 75 vehicles, which suggests there’s room for improvement.

    Warranty

    The B-Class is covered by a three-year/unlimited mileage warranty, which puts it on a par with the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, but superior to Audi models, which are covered by three-year/60,000-mile warranties.

    Servicing

    The Mercedes Service Care package is available on the B-Class, which allows you to spread the cost of servicing. It costs £29 a month for both the Sport and AMG Line models.

    4

    The new B-Class is both wider and longer than the previous model, with an extra 30mm between the front and rear axles. It means that it feels very much like an ‘A-Class plus’, very much in the style of the Volkswagen Golf SV in comparison to the standard Golf hatchback.

    It’s not an MPV as such – Mercedes is keen to promote the improved dynamics of this new version – but the B-Class does deliver some of the benefits associated with a people-carrier. There’s a raised driving position, which makes it feel markedly different from the A-Class, while it’s also easier to enter and exit the vehicle.

    Size

    The new B-Class is 30mm longer than the old model, taking the overall length up to 4,419mm. It’s also 10mm wider, making the width 1,796mm, while the height is 1,562mm. The A-Class measures 1,440mm in height, so you can see why the cabin feels more expansive. The A-Class is as long and as wide as the B-Class.

    Leg room, head room & passenger space

    The shorter overhangs and the extra space between the front and rear axles have paid dividends on the inside. All five occupants will enjoy ample headroom and legroom, with passengers in the back free to stretch their legs in near-luxury saloon style.

    Boot

    At 455 litres, the boot is roughly the same size as the old B-Class, but a sliding rear seat will be added to the range in mid-2019, which will increase the luggage capacity to 705 litres when required.

    The at-present fixed rear bench splits and folds in three sections to a useful 40:20:40 ratio, and with all three folded flat, the boot extends to 1,540 litres of space. That’s 30 litres more than you’d find in the 2 Series Active Tourer, but the BMW is also offered as a longer-wheelbase Gran Tourer variant.

    From mid-2019, a folding backrest will be available for the front passenger seat, making the B-Class even more practical on those trips to Sweden’s most famous furniture store. An Easy-Pack electric tailgate is standard equipment,

    Towing

    The B 220 4Matic petrol is the best choice if you intend to do a little light towing, offering a braked towing capacity of 1,800kg. Other models offer between 1,400kg and 1,600kg depending on the engine size.

    3.5

    Unlike some of its rivals – most notably the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer – there’s no plug-in hybrid version of the B-Class, which means you’re restricted to conventional petrol and diesel engines. Not that this means anything other than impressive levels of fuel economy.

    The 1.5-litre diesel in the B 180 model is the eco-champion, delivering between 51.4mpg and 60.1mpg depending on the choice of wheels. The 2.0-litre diesel first seen in the E-Class isn’t too far behind, offering 51.4mpg to 57.7mpg in the B 200d and 50.4mpg to 56.5mpg in the B 220d.

    Predictably, the petrol engines aren’t as efficient, but these are the units to go for if you intend to do anything less than 12,000 miles in a year. The 1.33-litre in the B 180 is the most economical, delivering between 40.4mpg and 47.1mpg.

    This engine is also found in the more powerful B 200, but the economy drops to between 39.8mpg and 46.3mpg. Of the two 2.0-litre petrol variants, the B 250 is the most efficient, delivering 36.7mpg to 40.4mpg. Opt for the B 220 4Matic and this drops to between 34mpg and 38.7mpg.

    CO2 emissions range from 112g/km to 116g/km for the diesel variants and 125g/km to 153g/km for the petrol versions. All B-Class models will cost £140 per year in VED road tax, but go easy on the options if you want to avoid creeping through the £40,000 barrier, which would result in a £310 annual surcharge.

    Insurance groups

    The insurance groups haven’t been announced, but we’d expect the new B-Class to be a close match for the previous model. This would mean groups ranging from 12 for the B 180 Sport to 27 for the B 220 Sport.

    Depreciation

    The previous Mercedes B-Class held its value better than the majority of its mainstream rivals and we’d expect this new model to follow suit. In fact, with improved styling, keen dynamics and the very latest infotainment system, it’s likely to depreciate even slower.

    Amazon leads $700 million investment in Rivian
    Posted on Friday February 15, 2019

    Alex Ingram 2019-02-15 15:55

    Sales giant Amazon invest in electric start-up Rivian, which plans to release pick-up and seven-seat SUV by late 2020

    Rivian R1S front

    Rivian Automotive LLC has secured a $700 million (roughly £546 million) round of investment in its firm.

    Fundraising in the electric car manufacturer, which impressed with its R1T pick-up and R1S seven-seat SUV at the Los Angeles Motor Show towards the end of 2018, is led by Amazon, and should enable production for its two vehicles to begin towards the end of 2020 from its new factory based in Normal, Illinois.

    • New all-electric Rivian hatchback on the way

    Despite the significant injection of cash, Rivian stated that it will remain an independent company. Earlier investors, including Japan’s Sumitomo Corp and Saudi industrial group Abdul Latif Jameel Ltd, are also on board with the investment, although exact quantities have not been disclosed.

    Speaking at the announcement of the news, Rivian Founder and CEO RJ Scaringe said, “this investment is an important milestone for Rivian and the shift to sustainable mobility. Delivering on this vision requires the right partners, and we are excited to have Amazon with us on our journey to create products, technology and experiences that reset expectations of what is possible.”

    Rivian attracted plenty of attention at their public unveiling, showcasing a pair of electric vehicles showcasing fascinating tech and intricate attention to detail. Both the R1T and R1S feature a choice of three battery sizes offering a capacity between 105kWh and 180kWh, enabling ranges from 230 to 400 miles. Despite the hefty 2.6-tonne weight, the pickup’s four motor setup is claimed to deliver a 0-60mph time of around three second.

    The R1S, meanwhile, features much of the same tech under the skin, but offers a more conventional SUV body with seating for seven. The R1s is available to pre-order in the US now, with prices starting from around $65,000 (£51,000) after the US government’s EV tax rebate.

    Click here for our interview with Rivian founder and CEO Robert 'RJ' Scaringe...

    Dacia Duster review
    Posted on Friday February 15, 2019

    For 
    Spacious interior
    Excellent value for money
    4x4 versions good off-road
    Our Rating 
    4
    Against 
    Poor safety rating
    Average fuel economy
    Uninspiring interior
    Dacia Duster ford
    2018

    The new Dacia Duster is better than ever and is possibly the best value SUV you can buy

    The Dacia Duster offers such excellent value for money, you have to wonder why you’d ever spend the extra on a more expensive model. It’s not the most inspiring car to drive, and the interior is lacking in sparkle, but in just about every other respect the Duster is able to hold its own in an increasingly competitive market. For this second-generation model, the styling has been improved, the seats are more comfortable, and the diesel version is more economical. In fact, in diesel 4x4 guise, the Duster could be the best value proper off-road vehicle on the market.

    15 Feb, 2019
    3.5

    The second-generation Dacia Duster looks far more upmarket than its predecessor. It’s an evolution of the old car, albeit with a sharper, more muscular look, but not a single body panel has been carried over.

    It stands out from the glut of compact SUVs courtesy of neat three-section LED daytime running lights, natty four-section rear lights, and a sculpted bonnet. The Comfort and Prestige models are given more street appeal courtesy of contrasting front and rear skid plates and alloy wheels. On the Prestige model, the wheels are 17-inch ‘diamond-cut’.

    Things are much improved on the inside, too, with seats that are more comfortable than before, reduced cabin noise when on the move and a good range of hard-wearing plastics. It’s not what you’d call luxurious, but it’s hard to find fault with the build quality, especially considering the price point.

    Overall, the cabin design is more functional than it is inspiring, although the new ‘piano-style’ controls below the air vents is a nice touch. The infotainment screen sits 74mm higher than before, which makes it easier to view on the move.

    The entry-level Access model looks decidedly basic inside, although the cabin in the more expensive trim levels is lifted by accents around the centre console, chrome door handles and chrome vent surrounds. Perceived quality is enhanced on the Comfort and Prestige models courtesy of a chrome gear lever insert and a soft-feel steering wheel. Both models also feature improved upholstery.

    Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

    The Access model is either refreshingly basic or a little outmoded, depending on your point of view. There’s not even a radio as standard, although you do get pre-wiring for an aftermarket radio and speaker system of your choice. Given that units cost less than £100, this could be a good option if you want the cheapest Duster but couldn’t live without a radio.

    Moving up to the Essential trim level adds an FM/AM/DAB tuner with steering wheel controls, along with Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port for MP3 players.

    Only the Comfort and Prestige models come with Dacia’s familiar seven-inch MediaNav system, which features sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

    3.5

    The Dacia Duster doesn’t offer razor-sharp dynamics or strong performance, but that’s not really the point of this kind of vehicle. Besides, the Duster’s talents lie elsewhere.

    It sits on the same platform as the previous model: a stretched version of the Nissan Juke’s underpinnings. The combination of a fair bit of body roll and dull, lifeless steering combine to create a vague and detached driving experience. Inadequate soundproofing means it can be a tad noisy, especially when pushing the 1.6-litre petrol engine hard or when idling in the 1.5-litre diesel.

    But that’s where the problems end, because the light steering – which apparently requires 35 per cent less effort than before – makes it easy to manoeuvre around town, while the raised driving position gives a commanding view of the road ahead. Put simply, the Duster is no worse to drive than the vast majority of small SUVs, all of which are more expensive to buy.

    In 4x4 guise, the Duster presents itself as a capable and inexpensive off-roader, with up to 210mm of ground clearance and a wading depth of 350mm. It’s just a shame that you can’t order the ‘UN-spec’ Access trim as a 4x4.

    Overall, the Duster is a pleasant car to drive. A six-speed manual gearbox is fitted as standard to all but the petrol-engined 4x2 model, with 4x4 variants using a transmission with a shorter first gear better suited to off-road demands.

    Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

    The 1.5-litre dCi diesel engine is carried over from the old Duster, but Dacia has made a few tweaks to make it more powerful and efficient than before. There’s a modest 5bhp hike over the old diesel, with the new unit producing 113bhp. An overboost function delivers a torque increase, while an AdBlue system has cut emissions.

    Acceleration would be best described as adequate, with the Duster diesel 4x2 hitting 62mph in 10.5 seconds, or 12.1 seconds in the 4x4. The top speeds are 111mph and 108mph respectively.

    The 1.6-litre SCe 115 is an old-school petrol unit which feels a bit outmoded in a world of super-efficient and powerful turbocharged units. A more sophisticated turbocharged petrol engine will arrive in 2019.

    In the meantime, the 1.6-litre petrol produces 113bhp, which is enough for the Duster to hit 62mph in 11.9 seconds in 4x2 guise and a second slower in the 4x4. Top speed is 107mph in the 4x2 and 105mph in the 4x4.

    3

    With the budget price comes one or two compromises, but safety is something many buyers will be unwilling to sacrifice. In an age when many cars seem to receive a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, the new Dacia Duster can only muster three stars.

    Not only is this the same rating it received in 2011, but two of the scores have actually decreased in the six years between the two tests. Of course, the test has become tougher, but adult and child occupant protection scores of 71 per cent and 66 per cent respectively aren’t even close to class best. Scores of 57 per cent for pedestrian safety and 37 per cent for safety assist technology are nothing to write home about, either.

    Safety devices such as autonomous emergency braking and lane keeping assist simply aren’t available, while blind spot monitoring is only offered on the top-spec Prestige model.

    The news isn’t much better when it comes to customer satisfaction. Dacia finished 25th out of 27 on the list of the least reliable car manufacturers in our 2018 Driver Power survey, while Dacia dealers were ranked 26th out of 28. Owners criticised the availability of courtesy cars, dealer facilities, the standard of work and the courtesy of staff. More damning was the critical assessment of the value for money offered by Dacia Dusters – not good for a brand built around this proposition.

    Warranty

    The Duster’s three-year/60,000-mile warranty is merely adequate for this sector, especially considering Hyundai offers a comprehensive five-year warranty, while Kia and SsangYong offer seven years of protection.

    Still, at least the Duster is covered by an additional two-year paintwork warranty and six years of anti-corrosion cover. Extended warranties are available, providing cover for up to seven years or 100,000 miles. You’ll pay between £200 and £800, depending on the cover.

    Servicing

    Dacia recommends getting the Duster serviced every year or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes sooner. Service Plans range from £350 for a three-year/30,000-mile deal to £950 for a four-year/60,000 plan, although this also includes an extended warranty. Monthly plans start at just £5 per month.

    4

    Size

    At 4,341mm long and 1,804mm wide (without door mirrors), the Dacia Duster is just 53mm shorter and 2mm narrower than the Nissan Qashqai. The height varies depending on whether you opt for the 4x2 or 4x4 version – or indeed, if you fit roof bars – but even in its shortest guise (1,621mm), the Duster is taller than the Qashqai (1,595mm).

    This is one area in which the Duster excels, especially when you consider the size of its more conventional, and similarly priced, rivals. Another advantage is the 210mm ground clearance, which will be useful in the urban jungle.

    Leg room, head room & passenger space

    Those generous proportions translate into a good-size cabin. You step up into the Duster, rather than down like you do into a standard hatchback, which cements the SUV feel. Open the tall and wide doors to reveal a passenger compartment large enough to seat five adults.

    Head, leg and kneeroom are adequate regardless of where you’re sitting, while adults could sit three abreast in the rear without a problem. Be warned: the entry-level Duster doesn’t feature a height-adjustable driver’s seat, while the passenger seat doesn’t move up or down, regardless of trim level. This might be an issue for tall people. Thankfully, the outer rear seats feature Isofix points for child seats.

    Storage capacity is up 20 per cent over the previous Duster, with 28.6 litres of cabin storage available in 4x2 versions from the Comfort trim level. The 4x4 versions have to go without the under-seat storage.

    The door pockets are a decent size, with a cup-holder and storage tray in front of the chunky gearstick and another tray between the front seats. The size of the glovebox is little more than adequate, although you do get a handy tray running along the top of the dashboard in front of the passenger seat.

    Boot

    The Dacia Duster has a good size boot, offering far greater luggage capacity than you’d find in a hatchback of a similar price. For maximum volume, opt for the 4x2 model, which offers 445 litres with the rear seats in place or 1,623 litres with the seats folded down.

    In the 4x4 models, the capacity drops to 411 litres – or 376 litres with a spare wheel fitted. With the seats folded down, this space extends to 1,614 and 1,559 litres respectively. For context, the Nissan Qashqai offers a maximum of 1,585 litres.

    The rear bench splits 60:40 on all but the entry-level Access trim, so avoid this unless you can live with three rear seats that are either entirely up or entirely down. In all cases, the seats don’t fold entirely flat, which might be an issue when carrying long and bulky items.

    The loading lip is of a height you’d expect in an SUV, while the boot itself is well-proportioned, with no intrusion from the wheelarches. It’s a pretty basic boot, although a light is standard across the range.

    Towing

    The Duster will haul a maximum braked trailer weight of 1,400kg in 4x2 petrol guise and 1,500kg as a 4x4 or 4x2 diesel. Unbraked, it ranges from 615kg for the 1.6 petrol 4x2, up to 695kg for the 1.5 dCi 4x4.

    A tow bar costs £250, or you can upgrade to the Touring pack, which adds roof bars and a front armrest to the mix.

    4

    If you’re covering long distances or your commute to work involves motorways and dual carriageways, the Dacia Duster diesel is the best choice. A figure of 64.2mpg is mightily impressive for an SUV, and although it drops to 60.1mpg in the 4x4 version, it remains an economical proposition.

    In the petrol versions, the figure drops to 43.5mpg (4x2) and 40.4mpg (4x4), which might seem like a huge difference on paper, but the story isn’t as clear cut as that.

    The diesel versions cost £2,000 more than the petrol equivalents, so opting for a more fuel-efficient Duster might be a false economy. If you do fewer than 12,000 miles a year, we’d recommend a petrol version, unless you need the marginally improved towing capacity.

    First-year VED (road tax) is £205 for the majority of models, although petrol 4x4 versions cost £515. In all cases, the figure drops to £140 from year two.

    Insurance groups

    For an SUV, the Dacia Duster is surprisingly cheap to insure, but the groups vary according to the trim level, engine and whether you opt for two or four-wheel drive.

    Unsurprisingly, the entry-level Access model is the cheapest to insure, falling into group 9 (three groups higher than the old model), but you’ll also find the Essential and Prestige trim levels in the same group, assuming you opt for petrol and 4x4.

    From there, it gets a little confusing, as the petrol-engined 4x2 Essential and petrol-engined 4x4 Comfort are both in group 10. Meanwhile, the petrol-engined 4x2 Comfort and petrol-engined 4x2 Prestige are both group 11.

    All the diesel models fall into groups 14 and 15, with the more expensive hardware of the 4x4 versions outweighing the all-weather benefits to nudge them into the higher of the two groups.

    UK car insurance groups explained

    In all cases, the Duster will be cheaper to insure than many of its rivals. For example, the MINI Countryman starts from group 18, while the Nissan Qashqai kicks off in group 13.

    Depreciation

    Thanks to the Duster’s incredibly low list price, depreciation will be thousands less than comparable compact SUVs. After three years and 36,000 miles, you can expect the Duster to retain around 50 per cent of its value, which is more than some of its more expensive rivals.

    Some trim levels fare better than others, however. For example, the Access trim, while cheap to buy new, is less attractive to used car buyers who tend to demand a little more than solid white paint, no air conditioning, steel wheels and no radio. Thanks to its improved tech, the Comfort trim will be in demand, while the added extras of the Prestige will ensure it appeals to a wider range of buyers.

    New Fiat Tipo Street trim level announced
    Posted on Friday February 15, 2019

    Luke Wilkinson 2019-02-15 15:00

    The Fiat Tipo Street adds a host of exterior upgrades, including black alloys and LED daytime running lights, to the entry-level Easy model

    Fiat Tipo Street - front

    Fiat has announced a new Street trim level for its Tipo family hatch. The styling package adds a handful of exterior updates to the base-spec Easy model, with prices starting from £15,050.

    Best hatchbacks on sale

    Upgrades over the base model include a set of black 16-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, unique Street badging, tinted rear windows, black mirror caps, a black grille and black door handles inside and out.

    Standard equipment includes air conditioning, cruise control, electric front windows, a DAB radio with Bluetooth connectivity and a multi-function steering wheel. Optional extras include heated front seats (at £200), rear parking sensors (for £300), front fog lights (priced at £175) and electric rear windows (costing £240).

    The only powertrain available for the Fiat Tipo Street is a naturally-aspirated 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol, mated to a manual gearbox. The engine produces 93bhp and 127Nm of torque, with Fiat claiming a 0-62mph time of 12.4 seconds, a top speed of 113mph and economy figures of 37.2mpg under the WLTP regime.

    Now read our review of the Fiat Tipo. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…

    Citroen C5 Aircross vs Kia Sportage vs Skoda Karoq
    Posted on Friday February 15, 2019

    2019-02-16 10:00

    We see if the chunky new Citroen C5 Aircross SUV can offer anything different from the Kia Sportage and Skoda Karoq

    citroen c5 aircross vs kia sportage vs skoda karoq group test - header

    Like many brands, Citroen knows the importance of SUVs and is moving to incorporate many more into its line-up, with each wearing its ‘Aircross’ tag to signify the practical, higher-riding body style.

    The latest is the C5 Aircross. Following the supermini-based C3 Aircross SUV, it enters a class already packed with talented contenders, many of which are either also new or have recently been updated to keep them fresh. A recent test highlighted this perfectly, when we brought together the Nissan Qashqai – the car that kick-started this crossover revolution – with a new petrol engine against the Vauxhall Grandland X.

    Best family cars 2019

    Those cars show how important a small but strong turbo petrol engine is in this sector. So the updated Kia Sportage, which only comes with a naturally aspirated 1.6 petrol motor for comparable power, might face a tough challenge, even though it was tweaked last year to keep it up to date.

    Our third contender here, the Skoda Karoq, is already established in this market, and fresh from victory against the Nissan and Vauxhall, it’s moved through to this next round of competition against the all-new Citroen. Which car will take the spoils this time?

    Citroen C5 Aircross

    Model: Citroen C5 Aircross PureTech 130 Flair
    Price:  £25,325
    Engine:  1.2-litre 3cyl turbo, 128bhp
    0-60mph:  11.3 seconds
    Test economy:  40.1mpg/8.8mpl
    CO2:  121g/km  
    Annual road tax:  £140

    Following the success of its C3 Aircross compact SUV, Citroen has turned its attention to the even more lucrative mid-size market with the C5 Aircross. We’re testing the £25,325 PureTech 130 Flair version, which is bound to be a big seller.

    Design & engineering

    Unlike its smaller brother, the C5 Aircross is based on Citroen’s latest EMP2 platform, which is shared with sister brand Peugeot. It offers struts and a torsion beam to take care of suspension at the front and back.

    The chassis also features Citroen’s Progressive Hydraulic Cushion tech, which has been tuned to put the emphasis on comfort. It’s standard across the range and replaces a regular suspension bump stop with a secondary damper that slows body or wheel movement more softly when the damper gets close to the end of its stroke. This is part of the Advanced Comfort philosophy the firm has been developing for its latest cars. It also focuses on seat comfort, cabin refinement and a plush feel on the move.

    Elsewhere, the technology is familiar, with the brand’s 128bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine linked to a six-speed gearbox.

    The design uses many familiar Citroen cues, too, with narrow headlights, funky Airbumps on the doors and lots of plastic cladding. The rounded square motif is repeated inside on the chunky surfaces. There is a contrast in quality and texture between some panels. The cabin isn’t as strong as the Skoda’s, and is more on par with the Sportage’s for finish.

    It does get plenty of equipment in Flair trim, though. A digital dash with an eight-inch sat-nav system is included, and smartphone connectivity is impressive. There’s also part-leather upholstery, cruise and climate control, parking sensors and a reversing camera. You can add keyless entry and a powered tailgate as part of a £790 pack, but the core kit list is generous enough that, as with the Kia and Skoda, you don’t really need any extras.

    Driving

    Using downsized turbo engines like the Aircross’s has meant larger family SUVs have been able to turn back to petrol power. The 230Nm of torque doesn’t match the Skoda, but it easily has the naturally aspirated Kia covered, which meant plenty of flexibility on test.

    Take its performance between 30 and 50mph in third and fourth (4.6 and 6.0 seconds respectively) and its acceleration between 50 and 70mph in fifth and sixth gear (9.8 and 14.6 seconds); it matched the Skoda in the first test, but lagged by one second in fifth and 3.6 seconds in sixth. Even so, there’s enough urgency from low down that you don’t have to change gear to get the Aircross to go.

    This makes it relatively relaxing, and the ride just about manages to match the engine’s trait. The suspension feels very soft and the body control isn’t very tight, but it allows the car to pitch, roll and float to cosset occupants from small changes in surface or bumps quite nicely. But the UK’s road network is notoriously poor, so hit a rougher patch and the lack of control and soft set-up become a problem. The ride is inconsistent; sometimes it smothers bumps sweetly, sometimes a big depression will cause the wheels to clatter and knock the body off line.

    The extremely light steering can also cause the body to pitch over on the soft suspension if you’re too aggressive turning into corners. This means the Aircross clearly isn’t the most dynamic SUV, yet the Karoq is also more comfortable. Still, refinement is good and the gearshift is an improvement over other Citroens. The change still feels baggy, mind.

    Practicality

    Here’s where the Aircross picks up marks. It boasts flexible seating that slides back or forth to prioritise either cabin space in the rear or luggage room. It feels as if the Citroen trails just a little behind the Skoda on space in either configuration, because the Karoq’s rear is cavernous given its footprint. But the newcomer has the edge on boot space, with an impressive 580 litres in its smallest configuration, compared with 479 litres for the Czech model.

    Push both cars’ benches forward and they’ll reveal 720 and 588 litres respectively, so the Citroen’s advantage grows even further.

    While there’s enough space in the front, the gearlever location feels slightly awkward, and the row of controls tucked under the touch-sensitive buttons below the screen is partly concealed.

    Ownership

    Citroen finished 25th out of 26 brands in the makers’ chart of our Driver Power 2018 satisfaction survey and was routinely criticised in all categories. Its dealers ranked 11th out of 28 networks, but still the lowest of these three firms.

    Safety is stronger, but Euro NCAP has yet to test the Aircross. Autonomous braking, lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring are standard, as are auto high-beam headlights. With this tech and the EMP2 platform’s proven strength, we’d expect a decent rating.

    Running costs

    The Citroen is the cheapest of our trio to buy and emits the least CO2, at 121g/km, which places it in the 25 per cent Benefit-in-Kind tax bracket along with the 124g/km Skoda. As a result, it’ll be the cheapest company car option, with higher-rate earners having to contribute £2,511 per year. It’s £2,544 for the Skoda.

    Kia does without a more modern turbocharged engine like its rivals’, so it emits an uncompetitive 162g/km of CO2, and this puts it in the 33 per cent BiK band. It’ll cost higher-rate earners a much heftier £3,311 per year in tax contributions.

    Testers’ notes

    “The Aircross’s Airbumps have been designed to reduce car park dents on the doors, and are rapidly becoming a Citroen SUV design cue. You can choose the colour of the inserts, too."

    Kia Sportage

    Model: Kia Sportage 1.6 GDi 130 Edition 25
    Price:  £25,655
    Engine:  1.6-litre 4cyl, 130bhp
    0-60mph:  9.8 seconds
    Test economy:  31.4mpg/6.9mpl
    CO2:  162g/km  
    Annual road tax:  £140

    The Sportage was one of the models that really kick-started a revolution for Kia. The famous third generation blended sharp styling with practicality at an affordable price. This Mk4 version evolved that with a big design change, while a facelift last year revamped it to keep the car fresh.

    Design & engineering

    One of the things we really wanted from the refresh – a downsized turbo petrol engine with a moderate output – didn’t arrive. The lowest-powered turbo petrol you can get in the Kia is a 174bhp 1.6, so this 130bhp non-turbo 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol is the rival to the Aircross. In Edition 25 trim (our pictures show a 2) it costs £25,655. That naturally aspirated unit means only 162Nm of torque, and the 1,490kg Sportage is the heaviest car here.

    It does without the sort of clever comfort-focused dampers you get in the Citroen, while adaptive units aren’t available, unlike on the Skoda.

    You can order all-wheel drive, but not with this engine. If you want more off-road ability in the Citroen you’ll have to go for the £400 Grip Control, which gives selectable modes for the ESP for use on snow, mud and sand, but the C5 Aircross is front-wheel drive only. Four-wheel drive is offered on the 1.5 TSI Karoq, but most buyers will stick with the cheaper and more efficient two-wheel-drive models.

    The quality of the materials is good in the Kia and you can see how the brand has distilled much of what made the larger seven-seat Sorento SUV so likeable down into a smaller package. The plastics are soft and made to look like leather. Some of the materials are smoother and shinier, but on the whole it’s a good effort, even if it still falls short of the standards set by the Skoda for a similar price.

    It comes well equipped, though. You get an eight-inch touchscreen, which features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, while Edition 25 trim – introduced to mark the Sportage’s 25th anniversary – also brings sat-nav, a 360-degree camera, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive LED headlights, metallic paint, part-leather seats and loads of safety tech.

    Driving

    The Kia’s ride and handling are well judged and the car takes most surfaces in its stride, but it still gets disrupted by some. It feels pitched in between the Citroen and Skoda in terms of firmness, erring more towards the Karoq’s end of the scale.

    The steering is light and lifeless but direct enough to capitalise on the relatively well-controlled roll, while the ride at speed strikes a nice balance between control and comfort. Yet the chassis can’t make up for the engine’s shortfalls. Without a turbo to boost the output, the 1.6 unit has to be revved hard to match its rivals’ performance. This showed where the Kia lagged way behind during our in-gear tests, taking 7.5 seconds longer to accelerate from 50 to 70mph in top than the Skoda, at 18.5 seconds.

    Thankfully the six-speed transmission is pleasant enough to work, with a light action that has a good level of mechanical precision. It feels less restrictive than the Karoq’s shift and of much higher quality than the Citroen’s. But this impacts refinement because revving the engine to extract the performance means you hear the harsher tones. The Sportage turns 3,100rpm at 70mph, while its rivals are closer to 2,300rpm, yet the Kia doesn’t have the response or shove of its competitors at motorway speeds. It feels obviously a generation behind these cars.

    Practicality

    The Sportage also lacks the more adaptable seating arrangement of the Citroen or Skoda, but with 491 litres of luggage space with the bench in place, it still offers a decent balance between leg and luggage room; it just can’t match its rivals at either end of their respective windows of operation. Drop the seats and there are 1,480 litres, which is some way behind the other cars.

    Otherwise, the cabin is pleasing if a little dull. In the front there’s lots of storage with cup-holders, trays and cubbies, plus features like a rear USB charger make living with the car easy. Yet compared with its more spacious and versatile rivals that actually have a similar physical footprint, the Sportage obviously has its design roots in a previous generation.

    Ownership

    Kia’s excellent seven-year/100,000-mile warranty gives the car an edge here. Citroen and Skoda both only offer three-year/60,000-mile packages.

    Safety is strong, too, with a full five-star Euro NCAP rating from when the Sportage was new. Protection has only improved since then and this updated model’s extra safety tech will be a boon.

    Edition 25 trim gets autonomous braking with pedestrian warning, blind spot warning, lane-keep assist, a driver tiredness monitor and six airbags. Kia took a strong eighth-place finish in the makers’ chart of our Driver Power 2018 poll, two spots behind Skoda.

    Running costs

    With its older-style naturally aspirated engine, the Sportage returned only 31.4mpg fuel economy on test. This translates to an annual petrol bill of £2,081 based on 12,000 miles a year. That’s roughly 25 per cent more than you’d spend on the Skoda or Citroen.

    The Karoq’s solid 38.9mpg result means costs of £1,680, while you’ll spend £50 less than this per year at the pumps by running the C5 Aircross because it returned an even better 40.1mpg figure on test.

    While the Skoda and Citroen were close for fuel economy and will change a little with driving style and use, no amount of hypermiling will bring the Sportage close to its competitors here.

    Testers’ notes

    “The Sportage facelift focused on a tweaked look inside and out, upgraded infotainment and much-improved safety technology, as well as the addition of a mild-hybrid diesel engine.”

    Skoda Karoq

    Model: Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI 150 SE L
    Price:  £25,660
    Engine:  1.5-litre 4cyl turbo, 148bhp
    0-60mph:  9.2 seconds
    Test economy:  38.9mpg/8.6mpl
    CO2:  124g/km  
    Annual road tax:  £140

    Fresh from its recent victory against the new Nissan Qashqai 1.3 DIG-T, our favourite family SUV, the Skoda Karoq, is going back into battle against the C5 Aircross. We’re testing a 1.5 TSI 150 in SE L spec (although our pictures show a Sportline 4x4), but is it a better bet than the Citroen?

    Design & engineering

    A similarly flexible approach is used in the Skoda’s construction as in the C5 Aircross’s modular architecture. The Volkswagen Group’s offering is the MQB platform and is fitted with a 148bhp 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine here. It produces 20bhp and 20Nm more than the Citroen.

    Although four-wheel-drive cars get a different suspension layout (at the rear to help with sending drive to the back wheels), the set-up here with this two-wheel-drive model matches its test rivals.

    The Skoda’s damping is firmer than in either competitor, but that has benefits for handling, as we’ll see. However, it is also the only car of this trio that’s available with adaptive dampers. They cost £1,000, but they still aren’t essential.

    All three models are very close on price with just £330 separating the cheapest (the Aircross) and the most expensive (the Karoq). The Skoda is £5 more than the Kia, but it has a higher-quality finish.

    There are more soft materials, while the design is the most interesting and mature. Yet ergonomics and practicality are the best, especially compared with the Citroen, which has some strange cabin quirks.

    SE L trim gets an eight-inch infotainment system with sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s the best multimedia unit of these three, as we’ll see. You also get parking sensors and a reversing camera, autonomous braking, heated seats, adaptive cruise control, keyless operation and LED headlights.

    Driving

    Thanks to the Karoq’s stronger output, it was easily the quickest car on test. We’ve already seen how disappointing the Kia’s acceleration stats were, so it’s no surprise that it beat the Sportage, but the Skoda also eclipsed the C5 Aircross. It sprinted from 0-60mph 2.1 seconds faster than the Citroen, in 9.2 seconds.

    Interestingly, when it was revved hard, such as when accelerating from 0-60mph, the Kia was quicker than the Citroen, taking 9.8 seconds. It’s only when you ask it to pull from low down in gear where its much lower torque is shown up.

    There was no such problem for the Skoda. It was particularly impressive in fifth and sixth between 50 and 70mph, taking 8.7 and 11 seconds respectively, putting a clear margin between it and its rivals, even if the C5 Aircross matched it in the lower gears.

    On top of this straight-line advantage, the Skoda also has its competitors covered in corners. Its ride and handling balance is the best, with a set-up that’s on the firm side, but not uncomfortable. It controls roll well. The Kia is closer in ethos to the Skoda, although the Karoq’s steering is sharper.

    Despite this, the Skoda’s a forgiving car. Although it’s not as soft and floaty as the Aircross, it does a similarly good job of absorbing big bumps, because the body is kept more stable, while the ride and reaction to road imperfections are more consistent.

    Practicality

    In SE L trim the Karoq gets flexible rear seating, which means the 60:40-split bench slides to either prioritise load capacity or passenger room, just as it does in the C5 Aircross.

    But it doesn’t have quite as much boot space, with between 479 and 588 litres depending on the back bench position. While it’s ultimately not quite as practical as the Citroen, the Karoq realistically offers as much versatility as any family running this kind of SUV will need. It also feels roomier in the back than the Aircross. Both shade the Sportage for legroom.

    The Skoda really scores with its little touches. These ‘Simply Clever’ features might only seem small, but an umbrella under the passenger seat and an ice scraper in the fuel filler could come in useful. Cabin storage beats the Citroen’s, while the interior is more logically laid out and the ergonomics better; these things help the Karoq claw back points from the Aircross.

    Ownership

    Skoda usually performs well in our Driver Power surveys and its 2018 result was no different. It was sixth in the makers’ chart, pipping Kia by two places and Citroen by 19.

    The Czech and Korean brands were well matched in the dealer network poll, too; Skoda took eighth and Kia seventh, while Citroen finished 11th.

    Safety is also strong. The Karoq’s full five-star Euro NCAP rating is due to its seven airbags, plus standard autonomous braking, pedestrian detection and adaptive cruise. You can upgrade safety with blind spot monitoring and lane-keep assist for £860.

    Running costs

    Many people looking at this class will buy on PCP finance and the Skoda is competitive, but there will still be some cash buyers, so depreciation will be an important factor (this also has a bearing on PCP prices).

    Here the Skoda is clearly the class of this field, with a predicted residual value of 50.9 per cent. This means it’ll therefore lose £12,599 and be worth £13,061 after three years or 36,000 miles.

    The Citroen trails on a predicted 47.4 per cent, which equates to depreciation and a residual value of £13,326 and £11,999 respectively over the same period. The Kia is even further behind, probably because of the limited appeal of its non-turbo engine. An expected residual value of 45.2 per cent equates to depreciation of £14,054, so the Sportage will be worth £11,601.

    Testers’ notes

    “New £450 Virtual Cockpit digital dash option further enhances Skoda’s already impressive infotainment system, putting clear ground between it and rivals in this area.”

    Results

    First place: Skoda Karoq

    The Karoq takes yet another win. This shows just how many models there are in this class and how competitive a sector it is, so Skoda should be proud that its model held off newer competitors. That’s thanks to the car’s tempting blend of space, practicality, performance and comfort, combined with decent driving dynamics, a high-quality cabin and advanced tech at an affordable price.

    Second place: Citroen C5 Aircross

    Practicality is the Aircross’s big positive. It’s mostly comfortable and offers adequate performance, passenger space and quality, but a slower, more frustrating infotainment system holds it back against the hugely competent Karoq. Sister brand Peugeot’s 3008 uses similar mechanical underpinnings, but we feel it’s a higher-quality, better-executed SUV.

    Third place: Kia Sportage

    The updated Sportage is still a likeable car. It rides and handles well enough, while its infotainment and safety are competitive. But there are areas where it still feels a generation behind: the smaller boot and non-turbo petrol, for example. Kia desperately needs a lower-powered turbo to boost running costs and competitiveness. Until it has this, the Sportage won’t get a look in.

    Also consider...

    New: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Icon

    Price: £29,635
    Engine: 2.5-litre 4cyl/elec, 215bhp

    The latest RAV4 is pricier and more powerful, but offers similar practicality to the Karoq and the potential for strong efficiency, thanks to the hybrid powertrain. It means Toyota’s SUV could be back to its best. We’ll put it through a road test soon to find out.

    Used: Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.0D HSE

    Price: £25,000
    Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 178bhp

    For this budget on the second-hand market you could get a more premium product in the form of a Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.0-litre diesel with around 25,000 miles on the clock. It also brings 5+2 seating, so there’s even more practicality.

    Figures

    Citroen C5 Aircross PureTech 130 Flair Kia Sportage 1.6 GDi 130 Edition 25 Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI 150 SE L
    On the road price/total as tested £25,660/£28,180 £25,325/£27,650 £25,655/£25,655
    Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) £13,061/50.9% £11,999/47.4% £11,601/45.2%
    Depreciation £12,599 £13,326 £14,054
    Annual tax liability std/higher rate £1,272/£2,544 £1,255/£2,511 £1,656/£3,311
    Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £1,680/£2,800 £1,630/£2,716 £2,081/£3,469
    Insurance group/quote/VED 15/£437/£140 17/£480/£140 14/£478/£140
    Cost of servicing £342 (2 services) £751 (3 services) £269 (3 services)
    Length/wheelbase 4,382/2,638mm 4,500/2,730mm 4,485/2,670mm
    Height/width 1,603/1,841mm 1,670/1,859mm 1,645/1,855mm
    Engine 4cyl in-line/1,498cc 3cyl in-line/1,199cc 4cyl in-line/1,591cc
    Peak power/revs 148/5,000 bhp/rpm 128/5,500 bhp/rpm 130/6,300 bhp/rpm
    Peak torque/revs 250/1,500 Nm/rpm 230/1,750 Nm/rpm 161/4,850 Nm/rpm
    Transmission 6-speed man/fwd 6-speed man/fwd 6-speed man/fwd
    Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 50 litres/£150 53 litres/space saver 62 litres/repair kit
    Boot capacity (seats up/down) 479-588/1,810 litres 580-720/1,630 litres 491/1,480 litres
    Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,389/537/1,400kg 1,404/536/1,350kg 1,490/510/1,400kg
    Turning circle 10.2 metres 12.4 metres 11.0 metres
    Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs 3yrs (60,000)/1yr 7yrs (100,000)/1yr
    Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 6th/8th 25th/11th 8th/7th
    NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars 93/79/73/58/5 N/A 90/83/66/71/5
    0-60/30-70mph 9.2/12.2 secs 11.3/10.6 secs 9.8/13.1 secs
    30-50mph in 3rd/4th 4.6/6.1 secs 4.6/6.0 secs 6.2/9.3 secs
    50-70mph in 5th/6th 8.7/11.0 secs 9.8/14.6 secs 13.8/18.5 secs
    Top speed/rpm at 70mph 126mph/2,250rpm 117mph/2,300rpm 113mph/3,100rpm
    Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 48.0/35.0/9.1m 48.7/32.7/9.0m 47.0/33.8/9.7m
    Noise outside/idle/30/70mph 72/43/61/70dB 70/42/63/72dB 70/43/61/73dB
    Auto Express econ. (mpg/mpl)/range 38.9/8.6/428 miles 40.1/8.8/468 miles 31.4/6.9/428 miles
    Government combined economy 40.9mpg 39.9mpg 36.2mpg
    Government combined economy 9.0mpl 8.8mpl 8.0mpl
    Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 168/124g/km/25% 163/121g/km/25% 208/162g/km/33%
    Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/camera Seven/yes/yes/yes Eight/yes/yes/yes Six/yes/yes/yes
    Auto box/lane-keep/blind spot/AEB £1,540/£860*/£860*/y No/yes/yes/yes No/yes/yes/yes
    Clim/cruise ctrl/leather/heated seats Yes/adaptive/£250/y Yes/yes/part/no Yes/yes/part/yes
    Met paint/LEDs/keyless/pwr tailgate £595/yes/yes/£500 £545/no/£300/£790* Yes/yes/no/no
    Nav/digi dash/DAB/connected services Yes/£450/yes/yes Yes/yes/yes/yes Yes/no/yes/yes
    Wireless charge/CarPlay/Android Auto No/yes/yes £100/yes/yes No/yes/yesResults

    What is a car insurance ‘green card’ and will you need one post-Brexit?
    Posted on Friday February 15, 2019

    Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-02-15 16:16

    Once the UK leaves the EU, it’s likely motorists will need a car insurance 'green card' to drive in Europe – here’s how you can apply

    GB sticker

    Current EU car insurance rules make it easy for Brits to drive in Europe. While there are some countries that require you to carry proof of insurance cover with you, that can be your UK insurance certificate.

    After the UK leaves the EU, however, it’s highly likely that UK residents driving on the Continent will need an insurance green card.

    Driving abroad: everything you need to know 

    A motor insurance green card is a document produced by car insurers to prove that a driver has adequate insurance cover for driving abroad. Applying for one is a simple matter of contacting your insurer and asking but there are some important things you need to know. Below we’ve compiled a guide to the car insurance green card and how you can get one as quickly and easily as possible...

    Get your green card application in sooner rather than later

    After Brexit, there may well be more green card applications from UK motorists looking to drive in the EU. The administration process takes time this delay could grow with the increase in demand. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to get all your paperwork in order and contact your insurer as soon as possible, especially if you intend to drive in the EU soon after 29 March.

    Andy Morton, general manager at Herts Insurance Consultants, which offers dedicated green card insurance, says his company’s call centre has been “inundated” with enquiries about driving in Europe in recent months. Morton is concerned “there are motorists who aren’t aware of the extra paperwork and the administration that’s involved” in driving in the EU post-Brexit.

    It’s also worth noting you may need an International Driving Permit – which you can apply for at the Post Office – to go with your green card.

    The green card must be printed on green paper. Strange as it may seem, a green card must be printed on green paper in order to be valid.

    International driving permit: everything you need to know

    In order to save time, it’s not unusual for insurance companies to email the green card and supporting documents to the motorist.

    If you receive your green card in this manner, you must make sure you print it out on green paper, or else it won’t be valid when you go to use it at the border or are required to produce it by police.

    Make sure your green card is valid for the country you’re visiting

    UK motorists visiting more than one EU country will have to ensure that their green card covers them for all the countries they plan to visit. For example, if you’re driving through France and into Spain, you will need valid documentation for both countries.

    With some European road trips taking in a number of different countries with different regulations, make sure you do the research and comply with the rules everywhere you visit.

    The green card must have a minimum of 15 days’ cover left on it

    In the same way that a passport has to have at least six months’ left before its expiry date if you want to travel abroad with it, a green card must have a minimum of 15 days of cover left on it when you enter an EU country – even if you’re just on a day trip.

    If there is less than 15 days’ worth of cover left on the document, you will have to renew it before you travel.

    If you are planning a road trip to France, Italy or Spain then read our helpful guide here...

    'The UK car industry is still the best in the world for new cars'
    Posted on Friday February 15, 2019

    Mike Rutherford 2019-02-17 16:00

    Despite all the negativity about the UK car industry, Mike Rutherford thinks it's still better than its American and Japanese counterparts

    OPINION - Aston Martin Vantage

    After the first round of voting for the 2019 World Car Awards, the unexpected happened. Britain’s battered and bruised motor industry was, in effect, voted third on the planet for desirable, quality products that impress and satisfy the people who drive them. Or, to be more precise, four British cars – the Aston Martin Vantage, Jaguar’s E-Pace and I-Pace, plus the McLaren 720S – enabled the UK to proudly occupy that coveted third-place slot.

    We already knew these were world-class cars. Now more than 80 jurors – most of whom are non-Brits – have decided they should go through to the World Car Finals, with the first leg being played at the Geneva Motor Show next month, and the second and final one at the New York International Auto Show in April.

    Best SUVs and 4x4s to buy

    It’s in NYC where Jaguar could find itself in a win, win, win situation by picking up the World Car of the Year (WCOTY), World Car Design and World Green Car gongs for the I-Pace. Aston and McLaren will slug it out for the World Performance Car title, while the underdog E-Pace could steal that World Car Design crown. In terms of proportions, this is the finest, most underrated little SUV I’ve seen and driven in years. Don’t know how Jaguar does it for less than £30,000.

    Only Germany (with 11) and South Korea (six) have more World Car contenders than Britain. Japan and Sweden each have two, France, Spain and the US are on one apiece. With this in mind, the South Koreans and Brits have made the biggest gains, while the Japanese and Americans have dumped themselves in the mid-to-low table territory they really shouldn’t be bogged down in.

    Japan is seeing only the quirky Suzuki Jimny and comparatively bland Honda Clarity go through to the Finals. Significantly, no Lexus, Nissan, Toyota or Subaru contenders made the cut. And that’s sad and bad for those firms, plus Japan PLC. Ford is the only American-based firm to get through, with just one model – the Focus – which is more of a European car, and one its maker will not sell (wrongly, I think) in its US homeland.

    Who’d have thought it, eh? Little Britain boasting more World Car Finalists in 2019 than Japan and the US put together! More impressive still, South Korea has twice as many contenders on the shortlist as Japan and America combined.

    None of this was in the script. The belligerent Brits and upstart Koreans aren’t supposed to be designing and building better, more desirable cars than the respected Japanese and confident Americans. But that’s exactly what they’re doing, and have been recognised as doing by the World Car jurors, whose numbers, incidentally, include yours truly, as well as Auto Express’s editor-in-chief, Steve Fowler.

    To summarise, 2019 is the year when the Koreans have finally arrived on the world stage. At the same time, the Brits are back, taking on and often beating allegedly stronger rivals. Japan is down in the dumps, but will surely live to fight another day. The US continues its retreat into building trucks, pick-ups and utility vehicles for itself, rather than cars for the big, wide world. And that, God bless it, is where America has got it horribly wrong.

    What do you make of Mike's claim that the UK car industry is still thriving? Let us know in the comments below...

    The quietest cars on sale 2019
    Posted on Friday February 15, 2019

    Dean Gibson 2019-02-16 14:00

    Hushed refinement is the order of the day with our list of 10 of the quietest cars for sale in the UK in 2019

    Quietest cars on sale - header

    There are plenty of cars for sale that offer driving thrills and excitement, but what do you buy if you want to take things easy? Sometimes you don't want a car with raw responses and the kind driving most motorists do on our traffic-clogged, potholed roads is often more suited to the relaxed approach anyway. If you want the quietest experience possible when driving, you’ve come to the right place as we've picked 10 of the quietest cars for sale in the UK today.

    In the past, a quiet car meant you'd have to pay big money for the most refined and plush luxury cars on sale. Makers such as Rolls-Royce and Bentley have traded on their hushed opulence for decades, and it's a similar story for the ultimate Mercedes models. The company has promoted its luxury limousines, from the 600 Grosser all the way through its S-Class and Maybach derivatives, as the finest way to travel for those that could afford it. The same can be said for cars such as the Toyota Century limousine and top-spec Cadillac and Lincoln models in the US.

    Best electric cars on sale

    But with the onset of new technology, top level refined and truly quiet cars have become far easier to create on a smaller budget. One of the earliest technological innovations was double glazing to keep wind and road noise out, while there's far more sound insulation to be found in the doors and body panels of the latest new cars to help keep wind and tyre noise at bay.

    And then there are the hi-tech solutions. Some car makers now offer noise cancelling technology via a car's sound system. This deploys specific frequencies through a car's speakers that counter background noise that's coming into the car. There's also acoustic glass, which is a more economical alternative to double glazing. This adds a specially designed plastic layer sandwiched between two layers of glass that laminates it and helps to reduce wind and road noise.

    Under the skin, developments in technology have boosted refinement. Engines with multiple cylinders are generally smoother, but makers have added tech such as balancer shafts to help reduce vibration even further. The other option is to eliminate internal combustion completely in favour of the silent running offered by an electric car or plug-in hybrid.

    Best luxury cars available

    Then there are suspension systems that are designed to iron out bumps. Cars using airbags instead of springs are generally smoother, while higher quality bushings and other suspension components help with a smooth ride, and in luxury limos there's no expense spared when it comes to the quality of components. The latest tech even sees some cars adjusting their suspension according to the road ahead, taken from GPS data or sensors, to smooth things out even further.

    The quietest cars on sale

    Mercedes S-Class
    Rolls-Royce Phantom
    Range Rover PHEV P400e
    Bentley Bentayga
    Tesla Model S
    Jaguar I-Pace
    Audi A8
    Volkswagen e-Golf
    BMW 7 Series
    Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid

    Scroll down or click on the links above to read more about the quietest and most refined on sale…

    Mercedes S-Class

    S-Class means Sonderklasse in Germany, which translates into 'special', and the S-Class is certainly that. It's been Mercedes' ultimate luxury car since the S badge was introduced in 1972, although Mercedes has long had a history of large luxury cars dating back even further.

    The S-Class has been a showcase for Mercedes' latest tech, and much of this has been designed to offer the quietest and most refined drive possible. Innovations that have debuted on the S-Class over the years include air suspension, heated seats, climate control, double glazing, self-closing doors, ventilated seats, adaptive cruise control, massage seats and radar-controlled active suspension.

    The latter is available on the current S-Class, which also features a plush cabin covered in premium materials, including soft leather, thick carpets and plenty of wood trim. Luxury comes in the form of massage seats for all occupants, while the Individual Rear Seats package adds reclining seats that are fully adjustable with inflatable cushions that you can pump up (electrically of course) to get perfectly comfortable. Add-in air-suspension, acoustic glass, rear blinds and the most advanced rear entertainment systems available, and the S-Class is still a quiet and refined machine.

    For the most hushed performance, the new S 560e L EQ plug-in hybrid offers around 30 miles of silent running before the petrol engine cuts in.

    Rolls-Royce Phantom

    When it comes to quietness, bigger is better. And while the latest Phantom is lighter and less bulky than its predecessor, it's still a road-going giant packed with luxury. Power still comes from a big V12 engine, but there are twin turbos to help keep the noise down, and the 12-cylinder layout is a natural for smoothness - a basic requirement for any Rolls-Royce that's ever been built.

    The Phantom's sheer size means passengers in the back sit a long way from the engine, making it even more hushed, while the masses of sound deadening material makes it so quiet that you'll almost hear your brogues crushing the deep-pile carpet under your feet.

    And this silence will be heard whether you're stopped in traffic or are wafting along at 70mph. Wind noise is all but eliminated, while those huge tyres give barely a roar when you're up to speed.

    Range Rover PHEV P400e

    For the ultimate in quiet off-road running, the Range Rover still holds all the best cards. Air suspension helps to iron out the roughest of beaten tracks, and the plush interior has the measure of cars like the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series for upmarket appeal. Another benefit is that the upright cabin means there's more space inside, especially if you choose the long-wheelbase version.

    And there's another boon for buyers looking for a quiet car, because the Range Rover is now for sale as the P400e with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain that means you can travel in absolute silence on electric motor power alone for a claimed range of 30 miles.

    The electric motor is connected to a 2.0-litre Ingenium petrol engine, so it's hardly intrusive when it does eventually fire up, while the standard-fit air suspension and luxury fixtures in the cabin do their best to keep the cabin as quiet as possible, even when you're heading far off the beaten track.

    Bentley Bentayga

    The Bentley Bentayga marked the start of a new era for high-performance, ultra-luxury SUVs. With a 6.0-litre W12 under the bonnet, a 0-62mph time of 4.0 seconds is supercar quick, but the Bentayga has a suite of driver aids and settings that means you can dial everything back and relax in one of the quietest cabins we've ever tested.

    That big W12 barely ticks over at any speed, courtesy of the standard eight-speed automatic choosing the right ratio for ultimate refinement. The engine is super-smooth, too, courtesy of its unique layout, although the V8-powered model is virtually as refined. And like the Range Rover, the Bentayga will get a further boost in refinement when a plug-in hybrid version is introduced. This will offer around 30 miles of all electric range, as is the norm with most other plug-in hybrid models.

    Tesla Model S

    Electric drive has given car makers a new weapon in their battle to make cars as quiet as possible, and Tesla is a pioneer of electric drive. The Model S is its executive model, and while the top-spec P100D variants and ‘Ludicrous mode’ equipped versions grab headlines with their supercar baiting performance, all models offer a level of interior noise that any diesel executive will struggle to match at sensible speeds.

    Sure, there's plenty of road noise from the tyres at motorway speeds, especially cars fitted with 19 or 20-inch wheels, but this is offset by the virtual silence you experience when driving around town. That slippery shape means there's not a lot of wind noise, either, while driver and passenger can revel in the quietness of all-electric drive for longer in the Tesla than in any other electric car on sale.

    Jaguar I-Pace

    Jaguar's first all-electric car has been a sales smash, with demand far outstripping supply. And as is befitting of a premium electric SUV, it's a quiet place to spend time. Unlike with Tesla, there's just one electric drive system on offer, but it delivers the same amount of comfort and refinement and is arguably even more relaxing at higher speeds. Jag has paid real attention as to how the I-Pace rides and handles.

    The fringe benefit of this is that while the I-Pace is quiet, it's also relaxing, with a smooth ride leaving passengers unruffled, even on the car's biggest wheel options. And with the latest suite of electrical assistance systems on offer, the Jaguar is highly relaxing to drive as well.

    Audi A8

    There's nothing like a full-size limo to offer the ultimate in quiet and comfortable luxury, and the Audi A8 is one of the best in the business. Often overlooked when compared to the all-conquering Mercedes S-Class, the A8 still delivers the kind of comfort and quietness that captains of industry demand.

    One addition to the A8 is a 48-volt mild hybrid system. This allows you to come to a halt and pull away again in silence, as the electric system 'fills in' before the engine engages, and boosts low-speed refinement.

    As with the best limos, there are standard and long-wheelbase models, while Audi also offers a sporty S line version. This comes with bigger wheels, so isn't quite as comfortable as the standard model, and there's likely to be more road noise, too.

    Still, German limos are designed to storm along the autobahn, usually up to a regulated maximum of 155mph, and you can guarantee that the A8 has been created to deliver a hushed cabin experience even at three-figure speeds. trawling the UK's motorway network at 70mph will be a breeze for this Teutonic express.

    Volkswagen e-Golf

    Here's proof that electric drive boosts refinement even in the most humble of models. The e-Golf takes the best of the VW Golf hatchback - including the multi-link rear suspension of high-spec GTI and R models - sticks a battery pack under the floor and an electric motor under the bonnet to deliver a quiet and refined family hatch that's perfect for urban use.

    You'll get around 150 miles out of a full charge, which should be decent for a week of short trips, and the e-Golf's quiet and refined nature will take the strain out of every one.

    Other touches that VW has added to the Golf to boost its refinement include plenty of sound deadening in the doors and around the wheelarches, while even the door bins are flock lined to stop loose items rattling around in them.

    BMW 7 Series

    While the 7 Series has a sporty edge, it's still a refined luxury cruiser. V12 models have come and gone, but today the quietest model in the range will be the 745e plug-in hybrid. Like plug-in versions of the Mercedes S-Class and Range Rover, the big battery allows you to travel for up to 30 miles on electric drive alone. Ideal when you're in town, but the combination of electric and petrol power makes the 7 Series equally refined at higher speeds.

    Never one to avoid controversy, a recent facelift has once again given the 7 Series challenging looks that won't appeal to everyone. Still, if you're sitting in the back, that will be the last thing on your mind as BMW's biggest saloon wafts you along in near-silence.

    Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid

    While performance is the name of the game for Porsche's Panamera plug-in hybrid models - especially the flagship Turbo S - the addition of electric drive does give them the ability to move under battery power alone. Some would argue that this is a better combination than the pure electric drive of the Tesla Model S, giving you quiet running at low speeds, then the familiarly brutal acceleration and performance we've come to expect from Porsche.

    And while the E-Hybrid models carry extra weight over their petrol counterparts (remember Porsche has ditched diesel after a decade of dabbling), they still deliver the kind of engaging handling we've come to expect from the Stuttgart marque.

    Add-in the options of standard and long wheelbase Executive models, plus the option of hatchback or Sport Turismo shooting brake estate, and the Panamera is a quiet car that delivers plenty of versatility, too. It does come at a cost, but the Panamera is one of the most enjoyable executive machines to drive.

    What's the quietest car you've ever driven? Tell us all about it below...

    New Renault Kadjar S Edition 2019 review
    Posted on Friday February 15, 2019

    Renault Kadjar S Edition - front
    15 Feb, 2019 11:45am Alex Ingram

    The updated Renault Kadjar has gained a new trim level called S Edition. We drive it with the brand's new 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol unit

    The Renault Kadjar has been a popular choice within the family crossover class since its launch. Now, for 2019, the range has received a host of updates to keep it competitive against the likes of the Skoda Karoq and Nissan Qashqai

    There’s a tweaked design front and rear, minor cabin improvements, and the introduction of a new trim level. The Renault Kadjar S Edition sits between the existing Iconic and GT Line levels, neatly splitting the £3,000 price gap right down the middle.

    New Renault Kadjar GT Line review

    Every engine option in the range is either all-new or heavily revised. There’s an updated 1.5-litre diesel and a new 1.7-litre unit takes the place of the old 1.6 dCi. But the big seller is expected to be the 138bhp 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol unit we’re driving here. The engine was co-developed with Mercedes, and in varying states of tune finds service in the A-Class, B-Class, and the Qashqai, too.

    A more powerful 158bhp version is offered, too; the pair replace the previous 1.2 and 1.6-litre turbocharged units, and each provide similar or better performance while also increasing fuel efficiency. 

    As it turns out, the 138bhp version feels as if it’s all most buyers will ever need. It’s fairly smooth, accelerates enthusiastically, and in the real world doesn’t feel any slower than the more powerful option. If anything, in this iteration it sounds more refined than it does in the A-Class, too.

    As standard, the 1.3 turbo is paired with a six-speed manual gearbox. It isn’t as snappy as a Honda CR-V’s box, nor as slick as a Karoq’s, but it’s decent enough. A seven-speed automatic gearbox is offered for an extra £1,500, and it shifts smoothly, but is a little slow to respond when pulling away from a standstill.

    The Kadjar’s chassis settings stay much the same as they did before. In other words, the light steering makes it dead easy to drive around town, and it’s reasonably comfortable, even on 19-inch alloy wheels. It isn’t as fun to drive as, say, a SEAT Ateca, but that’s unlikely to be a big deal.

    • Best small SUVs and crossovers on sale

    What will matter, is the Renault’s dated infotainment system. Despite improvements for 2019, including a more responsive screen, quicker loading times, and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto throughout the range, it’s still let down by fussy graphics displayed on a small seven-inch screen. Overall, it’s not as intuitive as the SEAT’s set-up.

    Another update in the Kadjar’s largely unchanged cabin are the revised air conditioning controls. Three big dials each feature mini screens within them, displaying temperature and fan speed. They’re dead easy to use, and not only better than the fiddly buttons of the old Kadjar, but better than most rivals’ designs, too. Elsewhere, the Kadjar is roomy in the back, and the 472-litre boot is bigger than the Qashqai’s. 

    But what does the new trim level offer? Above the Iconic’s already generous kit list, the S Edition adds LED headlights and fog lights, extra bits of chrome trim, a panoramic glass roof, and a faux leather/fabric upholstery with contrasting blue stitching. It does seem a little mean that only the top spec GT-Line gets safety kit like autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and lane keeping assist as standard, though. 

    While we’d normally recommend the Iconic trim, Renault’s current finance offers for the Play make the entry-level model the most tempting. While it lacks the 19-inch alloy wheels, satellite navigation and front parking sensors of the Iconic, a current zero per cent PCP deal means that a Play TCe with the 1.3 turbo engine costs just £199 per month on a three-year deal. The rest of the range doesn’t offer the same zero per cent deal, so matching the £4,000-or-so deposit on Iconic trim will result in you spending an extra £42 per month. The S Edition, meanwhile, costs £261 per month.

    4
    Our first taste of the revised Renault Kadjar in the UK confirms that the new 1.3-litre turbocharged engine is the pick of the updated model range. The smooth, refined petrol engine is more frugal than the 1.2-litre unit it replaces, while elsewhere the Kadjar remains just as easy to drive and live with as before. The S Edition comes with plenty of equipment, but the cheaper Iconic offers pretty much everything you really need for £1,500 less.
    • Model: Renault Kadjar S Edition TCe 140
    • Price: £23,595
    • Engine: 1.3-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
    • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
    • Power/torque: 138bhp/240Nm
    • 0-62mph: 10.4 seconds
    • Top speed: 126mph
    • Economy/CO2: 44.1mpg/136g/km
    • On sale: Now

     

     


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