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In the News ...

2019 Citroen Dispatch revealed with engine and kit upgrades
Posted on Thursday April 25, 2019

Dean Gibson 2019-04-25 13:30

Citroen's mid-sized Dispatch van adds new diesel engines and additional trim levels to the range

Citroen Dispatch - front

The 2019 model year Citroen Dispatch van has been revealed, with new emissions-compliant diesel engines and the addition of two more trim levels designed to bring more kit to the range.

The chief update is the replacement of the 1.6 BlueHDi with the PSA Group's latest 1.5 BlueHDi diesel. While it's smaller in capacity, power is up by 5bhp (badged BlueHDi 100), and more importantly it now meets the Euro 6.2 emissions legislation that all new vans will have to meet from September 2019.

• Best mid-sized panel vans

It's the same story with the 2.0 BlueHDi, which has also been updated to meet the new emissions legislation. This still comes in BlueHDi 120, 150 and 180 guises, while all engines feature stop-start to help efficiency. At the top of the range, the BlueHDi 180 still comes with an auto box, but the older 6-speed unit has been replaced by Citroen's EAT8 auto.

In terms of body size, cargo volume and payload, the Citroen Dispatch remains unchanged, with short wheelbase XS, standard M and long-body XL variants on offer, plus a Crew Van variant that is a stepping stone to the similar SpaceTourer MPV. However, the trim range for the van has been expanded, with X and Enterprise now joined by Worker and Driver versions. These names were introduced with the smaller Citroen Berlingo Van last year.

Worker models are designed with the building site in mind, and come with Citroen's Grip Control traction control system, a 20mm raised ride height and Mud & Snow tyres, in lieu of four-wheel drive being offered. Also included are the Moduwork thru-load bulkhead for packing longer items, and a fold-down middle seat that doubles as a table. The Dispatch Worker is only offered with BlueHDi 120 power in M and XL sizes, and starts from £27,495.

Driver models come with more luxuries designed to make the Dispatch appealing to long-distance users. So it gets improved sound insulation, the Driver Assist Pack which includes adaptive cruise, collision alert and active safety brake, plus the Safety Pack, which adds lane departure warning, speed limit detection with speed adaptation, auto main beam lights and a driver alert monitor. Also featuring are touchscreen navigation and front and rear parking sensors. Driver models add around £3,000 to the list price of Enterprise variants, starting from £27,615. It comes in M, XL and Crew Van body styles.

Prices for the revised Citroen Dispatch range start from £21,320 and rise to £34,035 for the top-spec Crew Van in Driver trim.

Click here for our in-depth review of the Citroen Dispatch van...

Ford reveals self-braking trolley to end supermarket collisions
Posted on Thursday April 25, 2019

Steve Walker 2019-04-25 12:05

Ford’s self-braking supermarket trolley uses sensor technology to detect and avoid everyday accidents

Ford reveals self-braking trolley

You might find it hard to believe but Ford has built a supermarket trolley equipped with self-braking technology. The prototype design uses similar autonomous safety tech to that found in Ford passenger cars, where it’s dubbed Pre-Collision Assist.

Data gathered from a sensor allows the trolley to detect obstacles and trigger the brakes when an imminent impact is detected, either in the aisles or in the car park. Ford also suggests it could help rein-in the kind of reckless piloting that often results when a parent’s back is turned and a child takes the trolley handle.

The trolley design forgoes traditional wire mesh in favour of an angular shape with plastic labels attached to a metal frame. There’s a chunky base to house the wheels, sensor and electronics but the actual basket section looks to be on the small side, so capacity may be a concern for anyone used to doing a ‘big shop’.

Everything you need to know about driverless cars

“Pre-Collision Assist technology can help our customers avoid accidents or mitigate the effects of being involved in a collision”, said Anthony Ireson, marketing communications director of Ford Europe. “We thought that showing how similar thinking could be applied to a shopping trolley would be a great way to highlight what can be a really useful technology for drivers.”

There’s no word on how much a supermarket trolley equipped with an advanced sensor and braking system might cost, or on whether the technology would prevent the shopping cart being flung into canals, but Ford insists the design is just a prototype for the time being, anyway. As a means of promoting Ford’s Pre-Collision Assist technology and giving supermarket shoppers a tantalising glimpse at what the future may hold, it does the job.

Could Ford’s self-braking trolley concept ever catch on? Let us know in the comments…

Volvo launches comprehensive online car-buying service
Posted on Thursday April 25, 2019

Hugo Griffiths 2019-04-25 12:00

Volvo Online allows customers to configure and finance a new Volvo in just 20 minutes; service will guarantee value of part exchanges

Volvo XC60

 Volvo is the latest company to embrace internet car sales, with the launch of Volvo Online allowing customers to configure and arrange finance for a new car in as little as 20 minutes – less time than it takes most people to do their weekly shop. The service will also allow buyers to part-exchange their old car online for a guaranteed value.

Customers heading to Volvo Online will be able to configure their new Volvo with the options and in the specification they desire, then choose whether to finance it via PCP, PCH, cash, or conditional sale.

How to buy a car online

The impact changes to trim levels, paint schemes and options have on monthly finance will be shown in real-time, while accessories such as dog harnesses can also be added during configuration. Trade-in values for part-exchanges will be guaranteed, even if the new Volvo being ordered has a long lead time due to being built to order.

Despite the process taking place solely online in as little as 20 minutes, Volvo dealers will remain involved in the process, with the company saying traditional retailers “will manage the process and help [customers] to choose the right car and finance package.” Volvo Online allows all models to be ordered, though the full online configurator is only available for the XC40 SUV initially, with other models' configurators following on 3 May.

The launch of Volvo Online follows similar efforts by Hyundai, whose Click to Buy service, which launched in 2016, and Peugeot, whose Order Online service went live in 2017. Volvo’s service promises to be more comprehensive than similar online sales portals, though, partly due to the greater levels of configurability available.

Volvo also promises Online will offer tight security thanks to the “multiple checks” that “have been built into the process at key points”, while payments will be confirmed via e-signature.

While Volvo Online promises to be a comprehensive one-stop shop for new car buying, this isn’t the first time the Swedish company has dipped its toe into the world of online shopping. In May last year a tie-up with Amazon Prime saw customers able to order a V40 for a home test drive, while American Volvo owners can have Amazon delivery packages securely placed into the boots of their cars thanks to digital keys.

Launching Volvo Online, Jon Wakefield, the company’s UK managing director, said: “Whether online or offline, the way people buy cars has changed. Customers now have much more control over the process, and Volvo Online helps them to take that one step further.

Wakefield  said the new services would make life “as easy as possible without compromising on choice or security”, and Volvo Online would let customers “drive the purchase process when it’s most convenient for them.”

Would you ever consider buying your next car online? Let us know in the comments below...

Ford and Rivian announce £380m deal to develop new electric Ford
Posted on Wednesday April 24, 2019

James Brodie 2019-04-24 15:00

Significant Ford investment sees industry giant gain access to Rivian’s new all-electric platform

Rivian R1S - charging

Ford and all-electric start-up Rivian have announced a $500m (£380m) deal that will see the two companies work together to develop a new, next-generation electric vehicle for the Ford brand.

Ford’s substantial investment in Rivian, which is also based in the US state of Michigan, will see the Blue Oval gain access to the newer company’s freshly developed, modular ‘skateboard’ electric platform.

Amazon leads $700 investement in Rivian

Rivian has already revealed two production vehicles using the architecture. The R1S is a chunky, large electric SUV, which made its introduction at the 2018 Los Angeles Motor Show with a claimed maximum range over 400 miles. When it arrives it’ll have a sister model in the form of the R1T pick-up truck. 

Company founder Robert Scaringe has told Auto Express that the firm is also planning a smaller, hatchback sized vehicle but with ‘rally car’ like ground clearance, staying true to the brand’s rugged, off-road focus.

The move to poach Rivian’s technology in return for investment co-exists with Ford’s existing plans to develop a range of electric vehicles using new in-house platforms. 

The industry giant previously announced that it will commit $11 billion towards the development of electric vehicles over the next few years, with the first car a 373-mile capable Mustang inspired crossover due on the roads in 2020. It’ll be followed in America by an electric version of the F150 pick-up truck.

Rivian will remain an independent company, but Ford executive Joe Hinrichs will join Rivian’s board.

Click here for our list of the best electric cars currently on sale...

‘Genesis is set to succeed where Infiniti has failed’
Posted on Wednesday April 24, 2019

Steve Fowler 2019-04-24 10:20

Hyundai's luxury brand Genesis is coming to Europe, and Steve Fowler thinks it will succeed where many others have failed

Opinion - Genesis

Ever heard of Genesis? If you haven’t already, you soon will. The luxury brand of the Hyundai Motor Group has dabbled in Europe with top-end Hyundais, but it’s set to launch a major assault on the UK and Europe to take on – deep breath – BMW, Audi and Mercedes.

So how can Genesis get it right where others, most notably Infiniti (which announced it’s giving up on Europe just a few weeks ago), have failed miserably?

Genesis Mint concept revealed in New York

My star of the 2019 New York Motor Show was the Genesis Mint concept. Its designer, former Bentley boy Sangyup Lee, told me he wanted to prove that luxury could come in the smallest of packages. And boy, was he right.

I caught up with Genesis boss Manfred Fitzgerald in New York, where he revealed that his brand could arrive in Europe sooner than many think. I asked whether we’d see it next year. “You’re not too far off,” he replied. “It won’t take three years.”

It won’t include dealers, either; Genesis will sell direct online and through luxurious “brand centres”.

Fitzgerald’s brand is already making waves in the US, so why Europe? “To be a relevant global brand you have to go into the lion’s den, which means Europe,” he explained.

We’ll see an all-new large saloon and SUV later this year, with another SUV shortly after and EVs coming, too. Then there’s the Mint concept. “It could be turned around in three to four years’ time,” said Fitzgerald.

He promises Genesis will be “audacious, progressive and distinctly Korean” yet, crucially, it will understand European needs. “There are certain Korean attributes I want people to understand and experience: a sense of humility and harmony, bringing things into balance. If people can experience that at every corner, I think that will deliver an alternative to what we have today,” he added.

With Fitzgerald and his global team, backed by Korean drive, desire and resources, I reckon Genesis will succeed where so many others have failed.

Are you looking forward to seeing Genesis in Europe? Let us know your thoughts below...

 

Ford and Amazon partner to develop connected and autonomous cars
Posted on Tuesday April 23, 2019

Hugo Griffiths 2019-04-23 20:35

Ford announces “multi-year, global agreement” with Amazon Web Services; partnership to pave the way for universal connected car systems

Ford Edge - Ford badge

Ford and Amazon have joined forces to create a universal cloud-based service for future connected and autonomous cars.

The partnership between Ford and Amazon Web Services (AWS) will see the two companies work together to produce “innovative mobility services and differentiated customer experiences”. While details of specific applications related to the partnership are thin on the ground at present, such connected vehicles could talk to each other to warn or hazardous road conditions, similar to the system recently announced by Volvo.

The deal will see Amazon Web Services run technology developed by Autonomic, a Ford-owned subsidiary that operates the world’s leading Transportation Mobility Cloud (TMC), which aims to connect “vehicles, mass transit, pedestrians, city infrastructure and service providers”. Ford has sunk millions of dollars into innovative modes of transport in the past, though some – such as the recently closed Chariot ride-hailing bus service – have proven less successful than others. 

• SEAT deploys Amazon Alexa tech in new cars

Nonetheless, a collaboration of two of the world’s largest companies gives a strong indication that carmakers are focused on planning for future transport systems that go beyond traditional concepts of individual car ownership and driving – a trend evidenced by Volkswagen’s launch of the MOIA mobility brand in 2016.

Ford says working with as large a scale company as Amazon will allow it to more easily develop “business opportunities for automakers, public transit operators, large-scale fleet operators, and software developers.” Ford also highlights that despite being owned by Ford Smart Mobility LLC, Autonomic TMC is “brand agnostic”, leaving the door open for other companies to benefit from the systems developed by the company. The deal could also help Amazon's push to establish a firm foothold in the automotive industry following on from its investment in electric car manufacturer Rivian.

Andy Jassy from Amazon Web Services said the deal “will help reimagine the future of the automobile industry.” Gavin Sherry, co-founder of Autonomic, echoed that sentiment, saying one of the “many” goals the two companies have in common is to “build a cohesive framework for vehicle makers and developers, allowing them to focus on creating some of the best experiences for customers who use our connectivity systems.”

What do you think of Amazon’s partnership with Ford? Let us know in the comments…

UK speed camera tolerances revealed: is your car's speedo accurate?
Posted on Tuesday April 23, 2019

Hugo Griffiths 2019-04-24 (All day)

We investigate the internet rumors surrounding UK speed camera tolerances and whether your car speedo can be trusted

Speed camera

At the start of 2019, rumours swept the internet that speed camera tolerances on certain motorways were so strict, they would issue tickets if drivers exceeded the 70mph limit by just 1mph.

Those stories turned out to be untrue and unfounded. But rather than allow misinformation about speed camera ‘thresholds’ to circulate unchecked, Auto Express asked the UK’s 45 police forces via Freedom of Information requests how strictly their 3,224 speed cameras enforce limits.

UK speed cameras explained

The majority of the forces that responded said their cameras would only activate when drivers exceed the speed limit by 10 per cent plus 2mph, in line with prosecution guidelines from the Association of Chief Police Officers. 

This means cameras won’t issue tickets until someone is driving at 35mph or more in a 30mph limit, or 79mph or more on the motorway, for example. 

The Metropolitan Police, which uses a less strict, 10 per cent plus 3mph threshold, say this is “a proportional response to the high volumes of traffic” in the capital. Lancashire Police also sets its cameras so that they activate at 10 per cent plus 3mph, and says that this has been done “to ensure greater tolerance or discretion”.

A number of forces wouldn’t tell us their camera thresholds, arguing that knowledge of these would encourage drivers to speed. All police forces that told us their thresholds said these applied to both fixed and average speed cameras.

Speed camera thresholds across the UK

Police force

Number of cameras

Camera activation threshold

Avon and Somerset 41 10% + 2mph
Bedfordshire 38 Would not reveal threshold
Cambridgeshire 32 Would not reveal threshold
Cheshire 15 10% + 2mph
Cleveland 4 10% + 2mph
Derbyshire 18 10% + 2mph
Devon and Cornwall 98 10% + 2mph
Durham 0 fixed 10% + 2mph
Essex 63 Don't use a standard threshold
Greater Manchester 235 Would not reveal threshold
Gwent 21 10% + 2mph
Hampshire 36 10% + 2mph
Hertfordshire 53 Would not reveal threshold
Kent 109 10% + 2mph
Lancashire 34 10% + 3mph
Leicestershire 30 10% + 2mph
Merseyside 18 10% + 2mph
Metropolitan Police/TfL 805 10% + 3mph
Norfolk 26 10% + 2mph
North Wales 28 10% + 2mph
Northumbria 55 10% + 2mph
Nottinghamshire 48
Refused to confirm if threshold exists
Police Service of Northern Ireland 12 10% + 2mph
Scotland 173
Refused to confirm if threshold exists
South Wales 137 10% + 2mph
South Yorkshire 25 10% + 2mph
Staffordshire 286 Would not reveal threshold
Suffolk 4 10% + 2mph
Thames Valley 294 10% + 2mph
Warwickshire 28 10% + 2mph
West Mercia 23 10% + 2mph
West Midlands 33 Would not reveal threshold
West Yorkshire 402 10% + 2mph

Can you trust your car speedo?

In addition to asking police how strictly their speed cameras enforce limits, we investigated how accurate the speedometers on 10 cars were. We did this by comparing how fast they said we were going with our actual speed, revealed by a VBox meter. 

Car speedometers are not allowed to ‘under-read’ – they can’t tell you you’re going more slowly than you really are – but they are allowed to over-read by up to 10 per cent plus 6.25mph. So they could read 50.25mph at 40mph. 


All the cars we assessed were well within legal limits, although some read with near-perfect accuracy, while others over-read by 3mph. This, with the different approaches police have to enforcing limits, means some variance will always remain around speeding. 

Commenting on our investigation, AA president Edmund King said it is “sensible to have some flexibility” with speed-limit enforcement, “as the last thing we need is drivers concentrating solely on the speedo and not the road”.

King added that, with speedometers becoming increasingly accurate, “Auto Express’s testing is a valid reminder to drivers not to gamble on their speedo perhaps providing some leeway”.

UK speeding fines and how to appeal them

Our speedo accuracy test explained 

The VBox is a clever piece of kit that uses a GPS signal to measure a car’s speed. It’s very accurate, gauging velocity to within 0.1km/h, so is perfect for assessing speedos.

We set our test cars to 30, 50, 60 and 70mph using the built-in speed limiter or cruise control to ensure a steady speed, then used the VBox to measure how fast we were going. This gave us a fair idea of the discrepancy between actual and indicated speed.

“Not many drivers have access to a VBox, but a separate smartphone app or sat-nav can give you an idea of how accurate your speedo is.

Model

True speed at indicated 30mph

True speed at indicated 50mph

True speed at indicated 60mph

True speed at indicated 70mph

Kia e-Niro First Edition 27mph 47mph 57mph 67mph
BMW i3s 28mph 48mph 58mph 68mph
SEAT Arona 1.0 TSI 115 29mph 49mph 60mph 69mph
SEAT Tarraco 2.0 TDI 150 manual 29mph 49mph 59mph 68mph
Skoda Kodiaq 2.0 TDI 150 manual 28mph 48mph 57mph 67mph
Peugeot 5008 BlueHDi 130 manual 28mph 48mph 57mph 68mph
Volvo XC40 D4 auto R-Design 30mph 49mph 59mph 69mph
Mazda MX-5 2.0 27mph 48mph 58mph 68mph
Dacia Duster dCi 115 28mph 48mph 58mph 68mph
BMW 330i M Sport 28mph 48mph 57mph 67mph

Do you think that UK speed camera tolerances are too strict? Let us know in the comments below...

New Renault K-ZE 2019 review
Posted on Tuesday April 23, 2019

Renault K-ZE - front tracking
23 Apr, 2019 3:00pm Thomas Geiger

The China-only Renault K-ZE has the potential to be the Dacia of the electric age, offering a 150-mile range for less than £13,000

Solid build quality at “shockingly affordable” prices: that’s how Renault made Dacia such a huge success around the world. Now, Renault is getting ready to repeat this coup with an all-new electric vehicle. In China, the French car maker has just presented the K-ZE, which will be built and sold in the world's largest EV market this summer – before being rolled out globally at a later date.

Groupe Renault CEO Thierry Bolloré told us: ”This is not a Chinese project. It is a global project”. And even if he won’t mention specific regions, there is no doubt Europe is near to the top of the firm’s list. Especially when conventional cars like the Clio will struggle to meet exacting emissions standards due in the coming years.

Best electric cars to buy

While most of the industry takes its aim at Tesla, the cheap and cheerful K-ZE is a breath of fresh air. At 3.73m-long, with four proper seats (with a fifth as a spare) and a 300-litre boot, this is a small car with big aspirations. Renault claims a reasonable 150-mile real-world electric range and all for a price of around £13,000 before the usual government subsidies.

During our first drive around the track of Renault’s Wuhan plant, chief engineer Jeremy Coiffier insists the K-ZE will be a car that offers European build quality for a Chinese price. The tiny EV feels grown up and mature; it handles well and even the tight corners at the end of the circuit aren’t cause for concern.

Despite packing a decent 26.8kWh battery, the K-ZE only weighs 921kg. That’s between 10 and 20 per cent less than the competition and still ahead of many petrol-powered city cars. And since Coiffier previously worked on the set-up of the fantastic Alpine A110, he clearly knows how to balance a car. You can feel that on every stretch of the track; despite costing half a much as its rivals, the K-ZE would have no trouble keeping up with Volkswagen’s e-Up! (£25,640 before grants) or a Smart EQ ForTwo (from £21,195).

Nevertheless, you can’t expect any miracles from the K-ZE - after all, it produces just 44bhp. If you set the rotary gearlever to D and floor the pedal, you’ll hit 60kmh (37mph) in less than seven seconds. But beyond that the K-ZE runs out of puff. High speed driving is tough and the top speed is limited to just 105kmh (65mph); that’s where the e-Up! takes the lead.

The Renault lacks anything in the way of energy recuperation, too, because that would cost too much money. The K-ZE simply rolls out when you take your foot off the accelerator pedal; if you want to brake properly, you have to hit the pedal yourself. Experienced EV drivers might find that strange, but those coming from a petrol car shouldn’t find it too much of a problem.

Range is stated at 271km (168 miles) on the older NEDC cycle, and driving on the track for an hour showed a reasonable 25 per cent dip on the car’s trip computer. If you stay below 60kmh, Renault claims the battery should be good for as much as 350km (217 miles), which should prove more than enough for most buyers. Besides, anyone who has been to Shanghai or Beijing – or indeed any major city around the world – will know that speeds of more than 40mph are incredibly rare indeed.

On a fast charge, the K-ZE can go from zero to 80 per cent full in 50 minutes, while a slow charge (on a three-pin plug, for example) will take four hours. That’s far from spectacular, but Renault says it is “totally adequate for fast-paced urban life”. Either way, it’s much faster than the VW, which will charge to full in nine hours on a domestic plug.

But inside is where the K-ZE shines. It might be cheap, but it doesn’t look or feel flimsy. Sure, the door panels and the dashboard are made from hard plastics, and the seats are fabric, but when you slam the doors you aren’t left with the impression that the whole car might fall apart. The materials look neat and the fittings are fine.

Standard equipment will need to improve if this car is to succeed in Europe, however. Our Chinese-spec test car had ABS, but no ESP and no side airbags. Yet away from expensive safety kit the K-ZE has a better base trim level than many upscale European city cars. Air-conditioning is standard, for example, as are electric windows. So is the big eight-inch central touchscreen; selling a Chinese a car without navigation, smartphone integration and hot-spot is “a no go”, according to Coiffier.

Yet there is another reason that the K-ZE may repeat the success of Dacia Sandero supermini & Duster SUV when it arrives in Europe: its project leader was none other than Gérard Detourbet, the man who invented the Dacia concept almost 20 years ago.

4
Decent electric range, reasonable performance and impressive quality standards – all at an affordable price. If Renault could add ESP and bring the K-ZE to the UK for less than £13,000, it could repeat the success it found with Dacia in the early 2000s. In fact, the K-ZE has the ability to surpass all other petrol-powered city cars, which due to upcoming emission standards, won’t be quite so affordable any more.
  • Model: Renault K-ZE
  • Price: £13,000 (est)
  • Engine: 26.8kWh electric motor
  • Power/torque: 44bhp/125Nm
  • Transmission: Single-speed automatic, front wheel drive
  • 0-37mph: 7.0 seconds
  • Top speed: 65mph
  • Range: 168 miles
  • CO2: 0g/km
  • On sale: Late 2020 (est)

Surge in drive-off petrol thefts forcing garages to close
Posted on Tuesday April 23, 2019

Hugo Griffiths 2019-04-23 13:17

Industry figures reveal number of motorists driving off without paying for fuel rose by over a fifth in the last financial quarter

petrol pump Citroen C4 HDi

 A surge in the number of motorists stealing petrol and diesel from UK forecourts is forcing petrol stations to close, according to industry leaders.

Figures from the British Oil Security Syndicate (BOSS) reveal the average amount lost by garages stood at £346 in the second quarter of 2018, but rose by 21.4 per cent to £420 per site in the third quarter of the year.

• New petrol pump labels to hit forecourts

BOSS says petrol thefts – or ‘drive-offs’ – are responsible for two-thirds of all forecourt crime, with the remainder coming from incidents where motorists don’t have the means to pay for fuel after filling up, and do not return to make good on their debt.

Kevin Eastwood, executive director of BOSS, said “escalating fuel prices are clearly tempting more motorists to evade payment”, and urged garage staff to remain “vigilant” against drive-offs.

Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), told The Times that the scale of fuel theft was one of the major drivers of forecourts closing. He accused police of “victim blaming” petrol retailers, with police saying garages “are bringing the problem upon ourselves by not forcing customers to pay at the pumps.” 

Chief Constable Simone Cole from the National Police Chief Council previously claimed petrol stations could “design out” drive-offs “in 30 seconds by making people pay up front, which is what they do in other countries.”

Cole’s comments were quickly rebuffed by the PRA, though, which highlighted retrofitting garages with pre-payment machines would cost £20,000 per forecourt, a cost smaller garages would find difficult to absorb. The PRA also stated garages make slim margins on petrol and diesel sales, so are reliant on shop purchases for their profits, something that would dry up or diminish if per-payment devices were installed on pumps.

Have you ever witnessed drivers not paying for fuel? Let us know in the comments below...

Rise in accidents follows motorway lights switch-off
Posted on Tuesday April 23, 2019

Hugo Griffiths 2019-04-23 12:45

Highways England data reveals 88.2 per cent increase in road casualties on sections of road that were previously lit

M11 Motorway

The number of accidents on sections of motorway and major A road that used to be lit but are now unlit has increased sharply over seven years, according to official accident statistics.

Research from Highways England – the government-owned company responsible for the UK’s 4,300-mile long motorway and strategic A road network – shows there was an 88.2 per cent increase in the number of casualties on “lighting unlit” sections of road – those with lights that were either switched off to reduce energy use, or weren’t illuminated due to malfunctions.

UK roads are safest in Europe

While there were only 175 casualties on “lighting unlit” sections of the strategic road network (SRN) in 2017, this was up from 93 in 2010. Furthermore, while casualties on lighting unlit sections of road increased over the time analysed by Highways England, casualties on the 1,433 miles of Highways England managed roads that were lit during darkness fell by 18.4 per cent, while the overall number of casualties on the SRN fell by 12.4 per cent, to 14,225, over the same period.

Edmund King, president of the AA, told The Times there should be a “full investigation into the real consequences of turning the lights off.”

Highways England has switched off lighting between the hours of midnight and 5am on a number of sections of road to reduce energy use and associated carbon emissions. Parts of the M2, M5 and M6, as well as the M54, have been subject to their lights being switched off.

Highways England’s head of road safety, Richard Leonard, said safety was the company’s “top priority”, adding: “we light what needs to be lit, and we know where those locations are. We have a greater understanding of where night-time collisions occur and the impact road lighting would have. This means we can target lighting where it is needed, rather than putting lights everywhere.”

Do you agree that accidents have risen following the motoring lights switch-off? Let us know in the comments below...

Renault Kangoo ZE Concept previews 2020 Kangoo
Posted on Tuesday April 23, 2019

Dean Gibson 2019-04-24 08:30

Urban and electric Kangoo ZE show car previews new small van, due to arrive in 2020

Renault Kangoo ZE Concept - show pic

This is the Renault Kangoo ZE Concept, an all-electric show car that previews the look of the next-generation Kangoo small van, which is scheduled to arrive in dealers in 2020.

In terms of design, the concept foregoes the ageing, boxy design of the current Kangoo in favour of a more sculpted car-like shape, although according to bosses this new design doesn't have an impact on the shape or size of the cargo area. In fact, a wider rear track boosts space in the back when compared to the current Kangoo van. And according to Renault design boss Laurens van den Acker, it's around 80% towards the production model.

Best small vans to buy now

There's a smooth Megane-style appearance to the concept's exterior, which is broken up by a two-bar grille and lower air vents in the front and rear bumpers with grilles inspired by those seen on computers, while the green detailing is borrowed from the EZ-Pro autonomous delivery concept, which was shown at the Hannover CV show last September.

Up front, there's a fully glazed and transparent 'grille' which showcases the C-shaped lights with a connecting light strip between them and framing Renault's diamond badge. There's also a green graphic that encircles the rear and sides of the concept, joining the boot logo, sliding door tracks and door handles.

As the name suggests, the Kangoo ZE is fully electric, although no details have been given about its drivetrain. We'll have to wait until the production Kangoo is revealed before we know the driving range and power of the electric transmission, although the Kangoo ZE is likely to make use of the running gear from the Nissan Leaf, so will exceed the 90-mile range possible in the current model.

As well as the Kangoo Concept, Renault also revealed a wooden electric bicycle to go with the van for deliveries in restricted areas. The bike was built in collaboration with Keim Cycles, which has also worked with Renault on the TreZor and Symbioz concept cars.

What do you think of the new Kangoo ZE concept? Let us know in the comments...

Renault Trafic van gets a new facelift for 2019
Posted on Tuesday April 23, 2019

Dean Gibson 2019-04-23 11:40

A new look and improved cabin quality are the highlights of the revised new Renault Trafic mid-sized panel van

Renault Trafic - front static

Renault has pulled the covers off the revised Trafic van. The new model, one of Europe's top-selling mid-sized van is getting an overhaul to keep it competitive in a sector which has seen the Vauxhall Vivaro switch from sharing tech with the Trafic to being based on the Citroen Dispatch and Peugeot Expert.

The revised Trafic gets a subtle new look with styling cues borrowed from the Renault passenger car range, with C-shaped daytime running lights and a new grille design, while top-spec models also benefit from full LED headlamps. Also available is a new 'Urban Grey' matte paint finish.

Best large panel vans to buy

Inside, there are new hard-wearing yet comfortable fabrics, chrome trim, dark chrome finishers and even the option of carbon fibre-effect finishes. Technology includes Renault's latest R-Link Evolution infotainment with Android Auto, while the Media Nav system also adds Apple CarPlay. There's plenty of storage on board, while the passenger seat folds in multiple directions for added versatility.

In the back, cargo volumes range from 3.2 to 8.6 cubic metres, while bright LED lighting and different door locking options are available for added security. There are also 18 anchor points, a thru-load facility to pass longer items into the cab and fully opening rear doors.

Under the bonnet, power comes from a new 2.0 dCi diesel with 118bhp, 143bhp or 168bhp, with the increase from 1.5 to 2.0-litre capacity designed to help the Trafic more easily meet new emissions legislation. Torque is up to 380Nm, while Renault's EDC twin-clutch auto is available with the most powerful motor. Emissions are reduced with the help of an SCR system, while fuel consumption is claimed to be improved, too.

As well as the Trafic van, Renault has upgraded the Traffic passenger versions, too. The top-spec Space Class gets a plusher cabin with more charging ports dotted around the interior.

The new Renault Trafic goes on sale in September, with prices likely to be similar to the current model. And while the Vauxhall Vivaro will no longer share parts with the Trafic, its sister models, the Nissan NV300 and Fiat Talento, will still be produced, and alliance partner Mitsubishi will build its own mid-sized van based on the Trafic.

Now here's our view on the best mid-sized anel vans on sale today...

New 2019 Renault Master revealed
Posted on Tuesday April 23, 2019

Dean Gibson 2019-04-23 12:30

Updated Renault Master panel van gets new look, engines and technology

Renault Master - show pic

Renault Vans has revealed the latest version of its big-selling Renault Master large van. There's a new look up front, more efficient engines and improved on board technology for drivers.

Styling changes on the new Master include a new nose design with C-shaped daytime running lights, similar to those found on the Megane hatch. Also added are a new upright grille and bonnet line with extra chrome trim, while Renault will offer a grey paint option as an alternative to the standard white.

Best large panel vans to buy now

Inside, the cabin has been overhauled to incorporate design touches from the passenger car line-up, while the position of the multimedia screen has been moved down to the dashboard, compared to the current van's screen which is located where the rear-view mirror would normally sit. There's more storage, including additional lidded storage and a pull-out tray within the dash above the glovebox (although this feature will not make it to RHD models), while wireless phone charging is also available.

In terms of kit, there's a full range of infotainment systems on offer, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while new safety tech includes Rear-View Assist, which uses a camera mounted above the back doors to project a view of the road behind on a screen in place of a rear-view mirror. Also included is Side Wind Assist for improved stability in high winds, front park assist and blind spot warning, while autonomous city braking and motorway brake assist is available on the options list.

Under the bonnet, a new-generation of 2.3 dCi twin-turbo diesel appears, with power of up to 178bhp and torque of up to 400Nm. These engines are fully emissions compliant thanks to SCR emissions reduction, while six-speed manual and auto gearboxes are offered. As before, the all-electric Master ZE is also available, with a 75bhp electric motor and a driving range of up to 120 miles.

The cargo area remains largely unchanged, so payload and cubic volumes will be similar to before, but Renault has added new LED lighting and grab handles to boost access. As before, there will be a panel van in four lengths and three heights, chassis cab, low-loader and crew cab variants on offer, while Renault Pro+ dealers will offer off-the-shelf conversions as it does now.

Prices for the updated Renault Master and Master ZE will be announced closer to their on-sale date, which is scheduled for September.

Get all the latest van news in the Auto Express van channel... 

New Porsche 911 Targa spied testing around the Nurburgring
Posted on Tuesday April 23, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-04-23 10:55

The latest Porsche 911 Targa has been caught on camera, completely undisguised, undergoing its handling assessment around the Nurburgring

Porsche 911 Targa spies - front 3/4

Porsche’s latest 911 Targa has been spotted testing at the Nurburgring. Like the previous model, the German firm’s new go-between for the 911 Coupe and 911 Cabriolet will feature an electrically-folding roof panel, inspired by the removable hardtop unit fitted to the original 1967 Porsche 911 Targa.

As the Porsche 911 Targa shares its body-in-white with the current-generation 911 Cabriolet, it means that Porsche could provide the new 911 Targa with a rear-wheel-drive layout for the first time since the 1960s, borrowing mechanicals from the latest 992 Carrera S.

New 992 Porsche 911 prototype ride review

It’s safe to assume that the new 911 Targa will also feature the same turbocharged 3.0-litre flat-six petrol engine as the 911 Cabriolet, producing 444bhp and 530Nm of torque. Power will be fed through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, allowing a 0–62mph time of around three-and-a-half to four seconds (depending on the drivetrain) and a top speed of 190mph.

Like the rest of the 911 line-up, the new Targa will be offered with a range of optional extras, including a sports exhaust system, ceramic brakes, rear-axle steering and LED Matrix headlights. Porsche’s Sport Chrono package will also feature, which adds active engine mounts, extra driving modes, launch control and a dash-mounted stopwatch.

Porsche has announced neither pricing nor a specific launch date for the new 911 Targa. However, given the previous model commanded a £10,000 premium over the standard 911 Coupe, we expect prices will start from around £100,000.

What are your thoughts on the new 911 Targa? Let us know in the comments section below…

Land Rover Defender reborn thanks to Land Serwis
Posted on Tuesday April 23, 2019

Alex Ingram 2019-04-23 15:20

The old Land Rover Defender gets a new lease of life from Polish tuner, which builds new and improved models from scratch

Land Serwis front tracking

It looked like the iconic Land Rover Defender was dead, but thanks to specialist tuner Land Serwis, it’s possible to order an all-new build of the classic 4x4.

The Polish firm is able to build new Defenders from scratch, as it has the tooling to build each component to the original specification. Some parts are even improved; the frame, for example, is stronger and thicker than the original, say Land Serwis, and the galvanized chassis is described as being ‘virtually eternal’.

New 2020 Land Rover Defender: everything you need to know

While Land Serwis can keep its Defenders faithful to the originals, customers can also build their car to bespoke specifications. Land Serwis suggests that this could include extra chassis bracing, additional metalwork to accommodate a mechanical winch or lift or even relocated mounting points for a new engine.

The first complete Land Serwis model is based on a crew cab and powered by the same Ford-derived ‘Puma’ 2.4-litre diesel engine found in later models. Reinforced 16-inch wheels and Goodyear Wrangler off-road tyres are suspended from custom SuperGaz suspension, which lifts the ride height by two inches.

Inspired by the Defender Heritage models, the show car is finished in Grasmere Green paint with a contrasting white roof. Inside, the seats are trimmed in brown leather, and below new headlining and carpets are liberal quantities of Dynamat soundproofing, which is said to reduce the noise and resonance transferred into the cabin of typical Defenders.

Each Land Serwis model will come with a three-year/100,000km (roughly 62,000-mile) warranty. As well as the double cab pickup body, 90, 110, and 130 wheelbase models are offered, with prices starting from 59,900 euros - that’s just under £52,000.

Let us know what you think of Land Serwis' take on the Land Rover Defender in the comments below...

New 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante breaks cover
Posted on Tuesday April 23, 2019

Alex Ingram 2019-04-24 11:10

The new 715bhp Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante is the fastest convertible in the brand’s history with a 211mph top speed

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante - front

The new drop-top Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante has been officially revealed, with a top speed of 211mph making it the fastest convertible in the British brand’s history. 

Closely related to the DBS Superleggera coupe, the Volante ditches the conventional fixed roof for an eight-layer folding fabric mechanism. The hood opens in 14 seconds and closes in 16, which can be operated either from the inside, or by the key within two metres of the car.

• Best convertibles on sale

The Volante’s engine matches that of the coupe: that means power comes from a 5.2-litre twin-turbocharged V12 with 715bhp and 900Nm of torque, mated to an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox.

Despite wearing a fabric hood in place of the coupe’s hard top - and the additional chassis strengthening required to compensate for the loss of the solid roof - the top speed remains the same. The 3.6-second 0-62mph time is 0.2 seconds slower, though, while it’ll accelerate from 50-100mph in fourth gear in 4.2 seconds.

Despite the truncated roof design of the Volante, the aerodynamic performance has barely altered from the coupe. At that 211mph top speed, the Volante produces 177kg of downforce - a drop of just 3kg compared to the hard top variant.

Inside, the cabin matches the design of the coupe, though buyers can choose from one of six finishes for the headlining.

Prices start from £247,500 - £22,500 more than the coupe - with first deliveries due in the third quarter of 2019. When it launches, its closest rival will come in the shape of the Bentley Continental GT Convertible, which is priced from £175,100.

Click here to read our review of the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera coupe...

'The ULEZ is nothing more than a cynical, money-grabbing scam'
Posted on Thursday April 18, 2019

Mike Rutherford 2019-04-21 12:30

The recently introduced ultra-low emission zone in London is just another money making scheme targeting motorists, says Mike Rutherford

OPINION London

I know a cynical, money-grabbing scam when I see one. And that’s exactly what millions of car drivers have been subjected to since 8 April, the day the 24/7 ULEZ (ultra-low emission zone) charge-cum-tax was dumped on us from above. 

For now, the £12.50-a-day rip-off fee only operates in central London and applies to pre-2015 diesels and pre-2006 petrol cars. But my fear is that the capital is merely serving as a test bed before modified versions of the scheme are rolled out across other towns and cities. After all, what happens in London today often repeats itself in different parts of the UK tomorrow. Keep all this in mind when next choosing a car.

ULEZ: everything you need to know

You’ve just got to bite the bullet, accept and deal with the fact that local and national governments largely loathe cars and the circa 50 million people who drive or ride in them. The stark reality is that politicians will continue to financially punish drivers of diesels, go a tad easier on users of petrol engines and – for now, at least – be less hostile to motorists in petrol-electric or, preferably, pure-electric vehicles

Although London’s Labour Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is the godfather of the lucrative ULEZ ruse, don’t rule out Conservative, Lib Dem and other councils adopting the same or similar get-rich-quick schemes for their greedy selves. Give it time and Mayor Khan’s just-introduced ULEZ charge/tax/fine racket could rake in billions of pounds. He justifies this money-raising exercise by attempting to tug at the heartstrings. For example, an advert for the ULEZ bearing his office’s name shows an image of children playing, alongside the words “every child in London is breathing toxic air”. Transport for London, meanwhile, adds that on Khan’s polluted patch, “air pollution is increasing people’s risk of heart and lung disease and asthma”. According to Khan, what we breathe in London is “lethal”.

His inferences are clear: it’s private motor cars that are the (alleged) villains here and that’s why their owners should, in effect, hand over daily charges/fines to Transport for London for daring to drive them. Put another way, the Mayor’s argument is that many – possibly most – cars and light vans are, via their exhaust pipes, causing serious or lethal injuries to his constituents. Yet as long as the drivers of such vehicles each stump up £12.50 a day, they can continue driving their ‘health-damaging’ motors.

If they’re as bad as Khan claims, why doesn’t he just ban them? Because he wants those £12.50-per-day fees. Just as he wants the additional £11.50-a-day Congestion Charge from the same drivers. And Mayor Khan would – for obvious reasons – rather have it than turn it away. The same goes for London parking fees of £5 an hour, or more, charged by the likes of Camden and Westminster councils. They’re far too profitable to abandon. 

Sadly, in 2019 there is no greater motoring rip-off than driving a car into London, then parking it. Think £12.50 (ULEZ), £11.50 (Congestion), £40 (to park eight hours) per day. That works out at £320 per five-day week, or around £16,000 a year. Don’t pay it or anything like it – in London or anywhere else.

Do you agree with Mike's views on the ULEZ? Let us know in the comments below...

Nissan Micra N-Sport vs SEAT Ibiza FR Sport vs Suzuki Swift Sport
Posted on Thursday April 18, 2019

2019-04-20 11:00

The new Nissan Micra N-Sport aims to turn up the heat in the warm hatch market. We test it against rivals from SEAT and Suzuki

Nissan Micra N-Sport vs SEAT Ibiza FR Sport vs Suzuki Swift Sport - header

Superminis have been topping sales charts in Britain for decades, and with good reason: they offer a brilliant balance between the most important features buyers look for in a new model at this price point.

They need to be affordable, yet most have room for a family and are cheap to run as well. There’s another reason that they are so popular, though; thanks to their light kerbweights, these small cars can be great fun to drive, too.

The hot hatch is the ultimate version of the modern supermini, and our current favourite is the Ford Fiesta ST. But models like that are more expensive to buy, run and insure – not to mention much more hardcore to drive – so some manufacturers offer warmed-up versions to better suit the majority of customers.

Nissan is the latest to do this, hoping to appeal to keen drivers by boosting its updated Micra range with an N-Sport model featuring a new 115bhp engine. But the car faces stiff competition from SEAT’s Ibiza FR, one of our favourite choices in this class.

Then there’s the Suzuki Swift Sport, which has an even more potent 1.4-litre engine and a chassis tweaked for fun, giving extra enthusiast appeal. The Swift is also cheaper. But which is the one to go for?

Nissan Micra N-Sport

Nissan Micra DIG-T 117 N-Sport
Price: £19,010
Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl petrol, 115bhp
0-60mph: 10.3 seconds
Test economy: 47.0mpg/10.3mpl
CO2: 114g/km
Annual road tax: £140

Nissan’s updated Micra was launched earlier in the year, and the range now includes this slightly fruitier N-Sport model, powered by a 115bhp 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. It costs £19,010.

Design & engineering

The Japanese brand has worked on improving areas that were lacking in the pre-facelift Micra, starting with the engine. This new 1.0-litre motor replaces the previous 0.9-litre unit, which left a lot to be desired, and in the N-Sport the engine produces a competitive 115bhp.

In addition, the company has fitted a fresh NissanConnect infotainment system, and cars with the latest motor feature 10mm lower suspension and revised steering to boot. However, the Micra hasn’t undergone a fundamental change. The basic suspension layout is the same, with MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion-beam layout at the rear. Still, N-Sport models do benefit from a firmer set-up that’s intended to improve the car’s handling.

The interior hasn’t received too many changes, either, and the design is pretty similar to its predecessor’s, despite the updated tech. There are soft-touch plastics used in a smattering of areas, but mostly material quality is average and it feels plasticky, even if everything seems solidly built. It’s a far cry from Micras of old, but the Ibiza still feels more upmarket with its classier look. There’s less cheap-looking plastic on display than in the Swift, though.

Standard equipment on the high-spec N-Sport model includes 17-inch alloy wheels, the new infotainment system that features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a rear-view camera, tinted windows, keyless go and part-Alcantara seats.

Driving

Despite its exterior styling, this warmed-up Micra doesn’t have the bite to back up its slightly more potent bark. The main problem is grip; this is one of the things that is lacking next to its competitors.

Push into a corner hard and the Nissan starts to understeer quite heavily and sooner than its rivals, yet if you back off it gets unsettled at the rear. It also doesn’t communicate to the driver what is going on; the steering is too numb, so the Micra can’t compete with the precision of the SEAT and Suzuki. Yet it’s not totally without merit, because the body control allows enough movement but not too much.

These cars aren’t all about entertaining their driver, because they also need to be comfortable enough to be used every day. While the Micra rides smoothly, it is only about on par with the much more fun-to-drive Swift Sport, while the Ibiza beats both of them for comfort.

Despite its larger engine than before, the Nissan still feels underpowered, because its power delivery is all in the mid-range. At low revs it feels very sluggish when you put your foot down and it struggles to add speed, while at the top end it’s lifeless, so there’s no fun to be had there, either. Also, the spongy gearchange isn’t as nice as either of its rivals’.

Both the Micra and Ibiza fell some way behind the more powerful Swift Sport in our performance tests, yet the Nissan was also slow next to the SEAT. It took 10.3 seconds to go from 0-60mph, while the Ibiza clocked 9.2 seconds. The Swift stormed away with a 7.7-second time. In top gear from 50-70mph, the Micra was three seconds slower than the Spanish model, while the Suzuki was nearly twice as quick as the Nissan. The new engine is certainly better than the old 0.9, but it still can’t match the Ibiza’s 1.0 TSI for smoothness, performance or entertainment.

Practicality

A 300-litre boot puts the Micra in between its rivals here. The SEAT has 355 litres, placing it among the more spacious cars in this class, while the Suzuki’s 265 litres is smaller than average. Still, for day-to-day tasks the Nissan should have enough room for most people; only long weekends away will really test it.

It’s a similar story when it comes to legroom, because the Micra has an average amount of space in the back, enough for all but tall adults to sit reasonably comfortably. Still, its Japanese rival is closer here, because even though the Swift is a little more compact, there is still an acceptable level of room for passengers.

Ownership

Nissan finished fourth in the makers’ chart of our Driver Power 2018 satisfaction survey, while SEAT was 14th and Suzuki 11th. In the dealer poll, Nissan and SEAT came 25th and 23rd respectively, which wasn’t great. Suzuki ranked fourth.

Safety equipment is a strong point on the Micra, though, with all models in the range featuring autonomous braking and lane-keep assist. You can also upgrade with the £600 Vision+ Pack, which adds a 360-degree camera with moving object detection and blind spot warning.

Running costs

The Micra managed 47.0mpg on test, which beat the Ibiza’s 44.4mpg and the Swift’s 42.8mpg results. That works out at £1,413 in annual fuel costs for the Nissan (over 12,000 miles), while the SEAT works out at £1,495 at the pumps and the Suzuki a little more, at £1,551.

Many people will buy these warm hatches due to the high insurance bills of a full-on hot hatch, and the Ibiza is the winner in that case. It will set our example driver back £385 a year, while the Micra and Swift will cost £390 and £478 respectively. Given the strong performance of the Suzuki – and the opposite in the Micra – the Nissan’s insurance premium looks a little high, but overall the car is pretty cheap to run.

Testers’ notes

“The Nissan’s driving position feels awkward. Its ergonomics aren’t great; the other cars feel more natural in this respect. We found it harder to get comfortable and the wheel position is too low.”

SEAT Ibiza FR Sport

SEAT Ibiza 1.0 TSI 115 FR Sport
Price: £19,320
Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl petrol, 113bhp
0-60mph: 9.2 seconds
Test economy: 44.4mpg/9.8mpl
CO2: 108g/km
Annual road tax: £140

The SEAT Ibiza is one of the best superminis around and this 113bhp version is a top choice within the range, offering a good combination of performance and economy. In FR Sport trim (the car in our pictures is an FR) it costs from £19,320.

Design & engineering

SEAT has built the Ibiza on the VW Group’s versatile MQB A0 platform, which uses clever packaging to maximise interior space, while providing an accomplished base chassis for the brand’s engineers to work from.

It has MacPherson-strut front suspension and a torsion beam at the rear, just like the Micra, and as with the Nissan, the FR Sport also has a stiffer set-up than other Ibiza models. This makes less difference to the ride and handling than you might imagine, however. The larger alloy wheels fitted to this version have more of an impact on the way the car drives compared with lesser Ibiza trim levels.

The 18-inch rims are standard, along with suede seats, sportier exterior styling, LED headlights, climate and cruise control, sat-nav and even a digital instrument cluster, which is excellent for this class. It’s a shame that parking sensors are a £225 option on the Ibiza, despite being standard on the Micra (the Swift doesn’t have them, but it does feature a reversing camera, which isn’t available on the SEAT).

Of the three cars on test, the Ibiza has the best interior, thanks to its plush and comfortable seats, a clean dash design and soft-touch materials in the right places to add perceived quality. It also helps that the infotainment system looks more modern and is easier to use than either of its rivals’ set-ups.

Driving

Like other MQB-based superminis, the Ibiza is very grown-up. There are a few reasons for this, the main one being how good it is on the motorway. Many superminis can feel out of their depth here, because they are built with cost-cutting in mind, resulting in reduced soundproofing, while their engines are small. But the SEAT is quiet at high speed.

The other cars are good in one way or another; the Micra’s engine is very quiet and the Swift has supportive seats that help on long trips, but the Ibiza is more refined and more comfortable than its rivals. While its relatively large alloy wheels can crash into potholes, which is unpleasant, on the whole it rides smoothly, with the harsher suspension movements better damped than in either of its competitors.

It also has the driver appeal we’re looking for in this test. While it might not be able to compete with the Swift’s astonishing pace, the 1.0-litre engine is great. It has a more even spread of power than the Micra’s motor, and the manual shift is slicker, too, although the Suzuki’s is more satisfying still.

The Ibiza was more than a second faster from 0-60mph than the Micra in our acceleration tests, and while it was 0.6 seconds slower from 30-50mph in fourth gear than the Nissan, it was 0.1 seconds quicker in the same exercise in third gear, even though the two cars produce the same 200Nm of torque.

Both were left trailing by the Swift Sport in every test. Its 230Nm output helped it go from 50-70mph in sixth in 6.6 seconds. The Ibiza clocked 11.0 seconds and the Micra took 14.0 seconds in this task.

The Ibiza’s steering could do with more life, but at least it’s accurate, and the chassis is more consistent than the Micra’s, which adds confidence. SEAT’s hatch has plenty of grip as well. All of these factors add to the grown-up feel. The only small weak spot was its performance for the price, because the Swift Sport put it to shame in every straight-line test.

Practicality

However, the Ibiza is much more practical, and the roomy cabin adds to its expensive feel. The SEAT’s 355-litre boot is the first indication of this, because it’s 55 litres up on the Micra’s and 90 litres larger than the Swift’s load capacity.

There’s enough room in the back seats for adults, although taller passengers might complain a little about legroom behind a lofty driver. It’s the same case in all three models, though, and since the Ibiza has such a big boot as well, it’s easily the most versatile of these hatches. There’s a large central cubby for your phone and good-sized door bins, too.

Ownership

SEAT ranked 14th in the makers’ chart of our Driver Power 2018 survey, which was 10 places behind Nissan and three behind Suzuki; the Japanese cars have the advantage for owner satisfaction. However, much of the Ibiza’s make-up is also used elsewhere in the SEAT range, where it’s considered proven technology.

Safety equipment includes six airbags and autonomous emergency braking, but the Ibiza is missing lane-keep assist, which is standard on both of its rival superminis here.

Running costs

Low CO2 emissions of 108g/km mean the Ibiza sits in the 25 per cent Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax bracket for company car drivers and will cost a lower-rate earner £956 a year in tax. Emissions of 114g/km place the Micra in the 26 per cent bracket and give a £977 annual company car tax bill. The Swift’s 29 per cent rating makes it the most expensive business choice here, with £1,060 annual BiK contributions.

The Ibiza sat in between its rivals for fuel economy, returning 44.4mpg during our test. All three models achieved respectable figures, though, because mid-40s is about what you should expect from a petrol supermini, or a bit higher if you do more motorway miles.

Testers’ notes

“The Ibiza has very light controls; the clutch pedal, gearshift and steering are all designed for ease of use. However, it doesn’t detract from the fun, because it’s fast and accurate enough to drive.”

Suzuki Swift Sport

Suzuki Swift Sport
Price: £17,499
Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl petrol, 138bhp
0-60mph: 7.7 seconds
Test economy: 42.8mpg/9.4mpl
CO2: 125g/km
Annual road tax: £140

The Swift Sport is a bit of an outsider in this test because it has extra power and a more focused chassis than its rivals. But thanks to a £1,000 discount currently on offer from Suzuki, it costs just £17,499. The Sport is its own model with no other trim levels.

Design & Engineering

While many superminis share platforms with other brands, the Swift stands alone, although its sister car, the Baleno, also uses Suzuki’s ‘Heartect’ architecture. This platform has a big focus on keeping weight down, and the cars that use it are consistently among the lightest models in their class – and it’s the same story here.

The Swift Sport differs from the standard car and its rivals here in a few key ways, the main one being a larger 1.4-litre BoosterJet turbo petrol engine. With 138bhp, it’s the most powerful model here by a big margin, and the Swift is also the lightest of the trio, at just 975kg; the others are more than 1,100kg. That means a high power-to-weight ratio and excellent performance, although we’ll discuss that more below.

Suzuki has also tweaked the suspension to reduce body roll in corners and increase agility, as well as fitting larger wheels, a bodykit and sports seats. The lurid Championship Yellow paint is an eye-catching option only for the Sport, too. It’s a no-cost extra, but many customers will be relieved that there are some subtler colours available as well.

The seats are joined by a few sporty styling add-ons on the standard equipment list, along with sat-nav, smartphone connectivity, adaptive cruise control, AEB and keyless go.

The Swift feels well built, but material quality is poor, especially compared with the SEAT. Hard plastics feature everywhere inside and even though the seats are supportive and quite comfortable, they look drab. At least Suzuki has added some visual flair to the dashboard for the Sport version with red and black detailing.

Driving

What the Swift lacks in maturity next to the grown-up Ibiza in particular, it makes up for by being good fun to drive. The most immediately impressive aspect of the Swift Sport is its engine, which is incredibly strong and feels more powerful than its modest 138bhp figure suggests. In our performance tests it managed a 0-60mph time of 7.7 seconds, which was well ahead of both competitors. It was similarly strong in gear, and was well over a second faster than both rivals in all of our tests.

It’s just a shame that the Suzuki’s engine isn’t more characterful, though. At least the transmission adds some personality, because you can enjoy going through the gears thanks to the slick, mechanical-feeling six-speed manual, which is the best box here.

The Swift is fun in corners, too, because it has lots of grip and is light on its feet, which means it’s responsive to inputs. The steering is a bit heavy and there’s not a lot of feel, although none of these models has a particularly engaging steering set-up.

That low kerbweight also has benefits for the quality of the ride, because despite its large wheels, the Swift is pretty comfortable. It deals with potholes better than the Micra and the Ibiza, although roads that are consistently rough do start to upset the Suzuki’s composure. Despite a few flaws, the Swift is much closer to being a proper hot hatch than its rivals, so it remains the enthusiast’s choice in this test.

Practicality

Part of why the Swift is so light is that it’s quite a bit smaller than most other superminis, at 3,890mm long by 1,735mm wide. The Micra and Ibiza are 3,999mm and 4,059mm long respectively, to give a sense of scale. While that means the Suzuki is easy to park, it does limit interior space and there’s less leg and headroom here than in both rivals.

Similarly, the boot is smaller than the others’ at 265 litres, and it’s a less useful shape as well. While it’s big enough for some shopping, it’s ultimately pretty small and dampens the car’s everyday appeal.

Ownership

Suzuki finished in an average 11th in our Driver Power 2018 makers’ table,but the Japanese brand does have a good reputation for building reliable models, so there’s no cause for concern with the Swift. A dealer ranking of fourth is good news as well.

Standard safety kit is the best in this test, with autonomous braking, adaptive cruise, high-beam assist and lane-keep assist all included as standard.

So even though the Swift scored lower than both of its rivals in its Euro NCAP crash test, at four stars, if you look closer at the ratings, the reason for this was that lower-spec models in Europe miss out on crucial kit that’s all present on the Sport. So in practice, the Suzuki should be just as safe.

Running costs

Depreciation isn’t a strong point for any of these models, but our experts predict that the Suzuki will lose the least value over three years, at £10,688.

However, because it’s the cheapest car to buy, it won’t be worth as much as the SEAT; the Swift has an estimated residual of £6,811, or 38.9 per cent, but the Ibiza is set to hold on to 40 per cent of its list price, losing £11,594, so it will be worth £7,726. The Micra loses £12,533 at 34.1 per cent, with a value of £6,477.

Given the performance on offer, the Swift’s 42.8mpg return is pretty reasonable and not that far behind its smaller-engined rivals’, but be aware that it will also cost quite a bit more to insure (nearly £100 a year more for our example driver).

Testers’ notes

“We wish the Swift Sport were livelier in corners. The previous model was more fun, despite being less powerful. But the chassis is capable and the gearchange sweet, even if the engine could be better.”

Verdict

First place: Seat Ibiza FR Sport

The Ibiza makes the most convincing case here. It’s a superb all-rounder and the best choice for most buyers. For a start, it’s the most practical car, but it’s also full of hi-tech equipment and is cheap to run. The engine is punchy and entertaining, and the grippy chassis and precise steering mean it’s also worthy of the FR Sport trim’s performance aspirations, despite not being a full hot hatch. The Ibiza delivers a decent level of comfort, too

Second place: Suzuki Swift Sport

If you’re looking for a hotter supermini on a budget, the Swift Sport ought to be on your shortlist. It really makes the most of its modest 138bhp, thanks to its low kerbweight, which also means the Suzuki is agile without being too unforgiving. It doesn’t have the wide appeal of the Ibiza, because it’s limited on practicality and isn’t as cheap to run, but it’s more fun than both of its rivals and has a charming character.

Third place: Nissan Micra N-Sport

Don’t let the N-Sport branding fool you, because the Micra’s 1.0-litre engine is a disappointment. It’s better than the previous 0.9, but is still slow and not much fun to exploit. The Nissan isn’t as enjoyable as either rival, nor as well equipped. It also trails the Ibiza for practicality and, despite good fuel economy, it will cost more to run, too. While it’s an improvement, the Micra still lags behind its rivals.

Also consider...

New: MINI Cooper

Model: MINI Cooper Classic five-door
Price: £18,330
Engine: 1.5-litre 3cyl, 136bhp

The MINI is among the most enjoyable superminis to drive and has plenty of performance, yet comes in within budget next to its rivals in this test. You’ll have to add optional extras to match them on kit, but whatever you spend, the MINI is brilliant fun.

Used: Ford Fiesta ST (2018)

Model: Ford Fiesta ST 
Price: £19,500  
Engine: 1.5-litre 3cyl, 197bhp

Buy used and a Ford Fiesta ST is within reach, even in top-spec ST-3 form. We found one from last year with just 2,600 miles for £19,500. That’s cheap for one of the best hot hatches ever. It’s rapid and handles well, but the ride is very firm.

Figures

SEAT Ibiza
1.0 TSI 115 FR Sport
Suzuki Swift Sport Nissan Micra
DIG-T 117 N-Sport
On the road price/total as tested £19,320/£19,320 £17,499/£17,499 £19,010/£19,010
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) £7,726/40.0% £6,811/38.9% £6,477/34.1%
Depreciation £11,594 £10,688 £12,533
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £956/£1,912 £1,060/£2,120 £977/£1,954
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £1,495/£2,492 £1,551/£2,585 £1,413/£2,354
Insurance group/quote/road tax cost 14/£385/£140 35/£478/£140 11/£390/£140
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service £324 (2yrs) £970 (3yrs) £199/£269/£199
Length/wheelbase 4,059/2,564mm 3,890/2,450mm 3,999/2,525mm
Height/width 1,444/1,780mm 1,495/1,735mm 1,455/1,743mm
Engine 3cyl in-line/999cc 4cyl in-line/1,373cc 3cyl in-line/999cc
Peak power/revs  113/5,000 bhp/rpm 138/5,500 bhp/rpm 115/5,250 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs  200/2,000 Nm/rpm 230/2,500 Nm/rpm 200/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission  6-speed man/fwd 6-speed man/fwd 6-speed man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 40 litres/repair kit 37 litres/repair kit 41 litres/repair kit
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 355/823 litres 265/947 litres 300/1,004 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,149/511/1,200kg 975/470kg/N/A 1,100/460/1,200kg
Turning circle 10.6 metres 10.2 metres 10 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (60,000)/2yrs 3yrs (60,000)/1yr 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 14th/23rd 11th/4th 4th/25th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars 95/77/76/60/5 (2017) 88/75/69/44/4 (2017) 91/79/79/72/5 (2017)
0-60/30-70mph 9.2/9.2 secs 7.7/6.1 secs 10.3/9.4 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 4.3/6.4 secs 3.1/4.4 secs 4.4/5.8 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th 8.1/11.0 secs 5.5/6.6 secs 7.9/14.0 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph  121mph/2,300rpm 130mph/2,500rpm 121mph/2,200rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph  50.3/36.7/9.2 metres 50.6/36.7/9.5 metres 51.0/38.6/9.9 metres
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph 71/43/65/75dB 62/46/69/77dB 72/43/66/76dB
Auto Express econ. (mpg/mpl)/range 44.4/9.8/391 miles 42.8/9.4/348 miles 47.0/10.3/424 miles
WLTP combined mpg 46.3-50.4mpg 47.1-47.1mpg 47.9-47.9mpg
WLTP combined mpl 10.2-11.1mpl 10.4-10.4mpl 10.5-10.5mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 147/108g/km/25% 152/125g/km/29% 139/114g/km/26%
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/camera Six/yes/£225/no Six/yes/no/yes Six/yes/yes/yes
Auto box/lane-keep/blind spot/AEB  £1,100/no/no/yes No/yes/no/yes No/yes/no/yes
Clim/cruise ctrl/leather/heated seats Yes/yes/suede/no Yes/adaptive/no/no A/C/yes/synthetic/no
Met paint/LEDs/keyless/power tailgate Yes/yes/no/no Yes/yes/yes/no £575/no/yes/no
Nav/digital dash/DAB/connected apps Yes/yes/yes/yes Yes/no/yes/no No/no/yes/no
Wireless charge/CarPlay/Android Auto No/yes/yes No/yes/yes No/yes/yes 

New Jaguar F-Pace SVR 2019 review
Posted on Thursday April 18, 2019

Jaguar F-Pace SVR - front
23 Apr, 2019 (All day)
Steve Sutcliffe

The hot 542bhp Jaguar F-Pace SVR SUV packs punch and price to take on the mighty Porsche Cayenne Turbo

The £75,335 Jaguar F-Pace SVR has arrived almost one year later than expected, after Jaguar delayed the launch of the original version due to quality issues. But does that mean it already feels out of date, even though in April 2019 it is still, in theory, brand new? No, not one bit.

Indeed, at £25,000 less than a Porsche Cayenne Turbo but with a fraction more power and performance, the 176mph F-Pace SVR looks like strangely good value.

Best fast family cars on sale

The basic four-wheel-drive F-Pace platform was a strong place to start when attempting to create an SUV with supercar performance, but to ensure the SVR version delivers the goods where it counts, Jaguar’s designers and engineers have turned the wick up in numerous different directions.

The aerodynamics have been improved by a pair of new bumpers front and rear, while the sills are lower on each side. As a result, says the manufacturer, drag is lower while lift has also been reduced.

At the same time, the styling has become meaner all round, with 21-inch wheels as standard and vast 22-inch rims, fitted to the car you see here, available as an option.

The 5.0-litre V8 supercharged engine and eight-speed ZF gearbox are familiar Jaguar Land Rover fare, albeit in their highest possible states of tune. With 542bhp and 680Nm of torque, the 2,070kg F-Pace SVR sprints from 0-62mph in just 4.3 seconds, and 0-100mph takes less than 10 seconds.

So although it’s a big vehicle, with luxuriant space in its bespoke back seats and a 650-litre boot, it’s also a massively rapid one. The chassis, brakes and steering have all been heavily modified, with stiffer springs, uprated dampers, an electronic differential at the back and huge new disc brakes at each corner.

And yet on the move the SVR still manages to retain many of the qualities that make the regular F-Pace such a civilised SUV. Its ride is firmer than standard, but not uncomfortably so. The responses from its steering, brakes, accelerator and gearbox are all more urgent, too, yet not to a point where the SVR feels horrendously compromised.

But the earthquake that occurs when you open the throttle properly for the first time on a quiet stretch of road is, it must be said, not for the faint of heart. Nor is the sound that accompanies the tidal wave of acceleration as the SVR fires you towards the horizon. It’s tremendous to experience an F-Pace SVR on full reheat, even if you can watch the fuel level dropping visibly when you use lots of throttle for more than five seconds. In the real world, don’t expect to get much more than 15-16mpg.

Then again, the Jaguar F-Pace SVR is an extrovert machine that will be bought by extrovert people, and in tiny numbers, so does it matter that in many ways it seems out of kilter with the way things are in 2019? For the fortunate few who can afford to buy and run it, the answer is probably no.

Far more important will be the excellent, I-Pace-inspired infotainment system, and the roomy pair of rear seats. Truth is, once you’re inside the Jaguar’s climate-controlled, well-equipped, high-grade, leather-lined cabin, the rest of the world fades away into insignificance. And that’s before you’ve even put your foot down in it, at which point the real magic starts. So while the SVR may be a dinosaur in some respects, as car enthusiasts we can’t help but embrace it, even if its thirst and emissions are a bit embarrassing at the same time.

4.5
As a cut-price alternative to a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, the 176mph Jaguar F-Pace SVR looks like seriously good value for money. It has more power than its German rival, costs 25 grand less and is similarly practical and well equipped. Best of all, the new Jag is every bit as good to drive as it looks, delivering shocking performance but retaining typical F-Pace usability. Although it’s almost a year later arriving than Jaguar intended, it was well worth the wait, and then some.
  • Model: Jaguar F-Pace SVR
  • Price: £75,335
  • Engine: 5.0-litre V8 supercharged petrol
  • Power/torque: 542bhp/680Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 4.3 seconds
  • Top speed : 176mph
  • Economy/CO2: 22.6mpg/272g/km
  • On sale: Now

New Toyota Proace City van revealed to rival Vauxhall Combo
Posted on Thursday April 18, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-04-18 10:42

The new Toyota Proace City van will make its world debut at this year’s Commercial Vehicle Show in Birmingham

Toyota Proace City van - front static

This is the Toyota Proace City van, the latest rival for the Vauxhall Combo that is available in short and long wheelbase form. It will make its debut at the Commercial Vehicle Show in Birmingham in September.

Full technical specifications are yet to be announced, but Toyota has confirmed that the new Proace City will feature a range of petrol and diesel powertrains, offering outputs between 74bhp and 128bhp. Buyers will also have the choice of either a five- or six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Best small vans on sale

Toyota is most keen to emphasise the new Proace City’s dimensions and carrying capacity. The short wheelbase model offers a maximum load volume of 3,300 litres and floor load length of 1,817mm, while the long wheelbase model offers figures of 3,900 litres and 2,167mm respectively. Both models have a maximum payload of 1,000kg.

Toyota’s “Smart Cargo” system is available as an optional extra, adding a folding outer passenger seat and a hatch in the rear bulkhead, providing an extra 400 litres of volume and a 1,300m increase to the Proace City’s load length. A range of storage points also feature throughout, ranging from coin and cup holders to an aircraft-style overhead storage locker.

In the cabin, the Proace City comes equipped with a head-up display, a wireless smartphone charger and an eight-inch touchscreen with support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Standard safety equipment includes a pre-collision system, road sign assist, lane keeping assist, cruise control and a “coffee cup warning” system.

As an optional extra, buyers can spec Toyota’s Smart Active Vision system. Consisting of a pair of dedicated cameras and a ceiling-mounted five-inch screen, it relays a real-time view behind and alongside the vehicle, which Toyota claims allows the driver to effectively “see through the metal panels.”

Toyota’s “Traction Select” system is also available as an optional extra, allowing the Proace City’s dynamics to be adapted to differing road conditions. Using a rotary controller, drivers can select from Normal, Snow, Sand and All-Terrain modes. Prices for the new Proace City haven’t been announced, but we expect they’ll follow shortly after its release at Birmingham.

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

 

 


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