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New Volkswagen Golf R Mountune M52 2019 Review
Posted on Sunday August 18, 2019

Mountune VW Golf R - front tracking
18 Aug, 2019 4:15pm Steve Sutcliffe

Mountune have extracted another level of performance out of the Volkswagen Golf R, but are the upgrades worth it?

There are many things that impress about the Mountune M52-upgraded Volkswagen Golf R. The way it looks, for example, and the way it rides, steers, stops, sounds and changes gear.

In all these aspects it gently improves on what the already fine Golf R achieves, feeling like a natural progression from the standard product, rather than a radical departure in a different direction.

Best performance cars to buy 2019

But what defines the M52 as something genuinely out of the ordinary, is its outrageous performance figures. Not that long ago, a 3.7-second sprint to 60mph would have been the exclusive preserve of exotic, highly expensive mid-engined supercars. Now, though, it’s available in a humble 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, five-door family hatchback. Extraordinary.

The increase in performance arrives courtesy of Mountune’s £795 Stage 1 power upgrade, which is essentially a ECU re-map of the standard Golf R’s 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. It can be controlled by a simple phone app; no laptop is needed, and you don’t need to spend any time in the garage altering the settings. 

To get the full beans output you’ll also need the High Flow induction system for another £399, plus a silicone induction hose (£115), plus what Mountune calls the ‘turbo muffler delete’ for a further £125. But with this lot in place the Golf R’s power output from 296bhp to 360bhp while its torque swells from 380Nm to a rousing 500Nm, hence the major increase in performance. The standard R does 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds – so we really are talking about a very different kind of acceleration.

And that’s just how it feels on the road. At anything above 2,000rpm the M52 surges forward in a way that no standard Golf R driver would ever recognise, with a series of demonic whooshes to signal that something fairly epic is occurring beneath the bonnet. At 3,800rpm the thing just goes berserk, as full boost fires you towards the horizon amid an outburst of energy that, on first acquaintance, can feel quite disturbing. Once you’ve sampled what the M52 can do under full acceleration just a couple of times, though, all you want to do is go back for more. The thrust it generates really is that addictive.

The good news is that the rest of the car is more than up to the job of harnessing all that energy. The part-time four wheel drive system does a lot more work than in the standard R, for sure, but it meters out the torque in a neat and manageable way.

The steering is also still clean and crisp, the uprated brakes (£1,090) feel strong and powerful underfoot, while the suspension kit (£215 for the springs and £450 for Mountune’s own uprated damper kit) also works well, tightening the body control without ruining the standard car’s excellent ride. As a result the M52 feels firmer than the regular R, but not in a crashy or inelegant way. Plus it has massive grip in the dry, thanks to its Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres.

The aftermarket “fifteen52” 19-inch wheels are a take it or leave it option that cost an additional £1,180. We’d say leave them, but understand there are those who will no doubt love their design and the way in which they alter the R’s otherwise quiet appearance. The new £195 paddle shifters, on the other hand, work a treat, making the gearshift feel snappier – despite no actual alterations to the transmission.

Best hot hatchbacks to buy 2019

So overall the Mountune M52 Golf R is a bit of a weapon. But, there is one downside to be aware of; none of the upgraded parts are covered under Volkswagen’s manufacturer warranty – nor are any of the parts they might affect.

As such, it makes more sense to fit these parts to an old car, whose warranty has already lapsed. Got a new Golf R buy can’t resist these bits? Don’t say you’ve not been warned.

With an extra 60bhp and a thumping 500Nm of torque courtesy of its Stage 1 power upgrade, the Mountune M52 Volkswagen Golf R is a genuine rocket ship, as its scorching performance figures clearly demonstrate. Be warned though – none of the upgraded parts, or the bits they might affect – are covered by VW’s manufacturer warranty.
  • Price: £35,954 (£3,539 upgrade)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
  • Power/torque: 360bhp/500Nm
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 3.7 seconds
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Economy/CO2: 32.8mpg/195g/km
  • On sale: Now

New Bugatti Centodieci revives spirit of iconic EB110
Posted on Friday August 16, 2019

James Batchelor 2019-08-16 22:45

Bugatti Chiron-based Centodieci harks back to forgotten EB110 supercar of the 1990s

Bugatti Centodieci - front Pebble Beach

Bugatti has revealed an exclusive new model that echoes one if its most forgotten cars. The Centodieci, launched at Pebble Beach, California, harks back to the EB110 of the nineties and celebrates 110 years of the French brand. Centodieci – which literally translates to one hundred and ten – is limited to 10 units with each car costing £9m.

Just like the £12m one-off Bugatti La Voiture Noire revealed at the Geneva Motor Show in March, the Centodieci uses the Chiron as its base.

• The best hypercars in the world

It also uses the Chiron’s 8.0-litre, quad-turbocharged W16 engine developing just shy of 1,578bhp, but the car weighs 20kg less. It’s in the styling department where the Centodieci really differs from the Chiron, though.

At the front the Centodieci harks back to the EB110 with a smaller horseshoe grille bookended by large slats, and slim LED headlights, while along the sides the Chiron’s c-shaped hoop is replaced by five circular holes in a diamond pattern.

The Centodieci also references the EB110’s rear-end with its LED light bar, but here there’s a more modern take on aero and especially cooling for the 8.0-litre W16 engine. The adjustable rear wing not only improves downforce but also looks back to the EB110 SS.

The EB110 was built in the mid-nineties when the Bugatti brand was owned Romano Artioli. The McLaren F1 rival was powered by a 550bhp, 3.5-litre quad-turbocharged V12 and was built on a carbonfibre chassis and featured active aerodynamics.

Despite being designed by the famed Lamborghini Muira designer Marcello Gandini, the EB110 was never a real success and the French marque was bought by the Volkswagen Group in 1998.

What do you think of the new Bugatti Centodieci? Let us know your thoughts below...

New open-top McLaren Ultimate Series hypercar confirmed
Posted on Friday August 16, 2019

James Brodie 2019-08-16 14:55

All-new hypercar could take on the McLaren GT Superlight name when it arrives in 2020

McLaren GT Superlight teaser

McLaren has confirmed that a new ‘Ultimate Series’ hypercar is in the works, which will make its full debut at some stage in 2020 and will be strictly limited to just 399 examples. 

Announced at Pebble Beach Concors d’Elegance, McLaren has also teased the design of newcomer in typically shadowy format. The roofless model is described as a ‘two-seat, open cockpit roadster’, sitting low with only a minor lip for a windscreen, and with noticeably contoured flanks. Dihedral doors will be fitted, too.

New 250mph McLaren Speedtail revealed

The new car, which could be called GTZ or more likely GT Superlight based on recent McLaren trademark applications, will sit between the Senna (£750,000) and upcoming Speedtail (£2.1m) in price.

The company is taking expressions of interest from current customers at the Pebble Beach gathering in San Francisco this weekend.

While the Senna has been designed for outright track performance, with the Speedtail an aerodynamic special majoring on outright top speed, the third Ultimate Series car will be a road-focused machine.

The engine has been confirmed as being the 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 used across the brand’s entire line-up. It’s likely to arrive with the same 789bhp figure as the Senna, sending drive to the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. 

It’ll still utilise McLaren’s carbon-fibre tub chassis, and the firm claims that it’ll be the lightest car the company has produced in the McLaren Automotive era (2010 onwards). To that extent, the bodywork will likely be all carbon-fibre too.

Click here for more info on the new McLaren GT by MSO revealed at Pebble Beach...

New Mitsubishi L200 2019 review
Posted on Friday August 16, 2019

Mitsubishi L200 - front tracking
16 Aug, 2019 12:15pm James Brodie

While pick-ups become more luxurious, we find out if the rugged new Mitsubishi L200 can become a segment leader

The UK is Europe’s largest pick-up market. It’s a fact not lost on Mitsubishi; around one in every three vehicles the Japanese marque sells in Britain is an L200. Striding through its 40th year on sale, a new version enters the fray – the sixth-generation L200 gets a bold new look, but it’s not a totally new truck. 

In short, it carries over elements of the Series 5 model’s chassis and interior, but receives a new, downsized engine, completely new suspension geometry and a host of new technology and driver assistance features. 

Best pick-ups to buy 2019

The load bed remains the same size: 1,520mm long and 1,470mm wide, meaning available space is par for the course, beating the cheaper SsangYong Musso but not quite sizing up to the Nissan Navara or Mercedes X-Class. However, the difference is almost irrelevant, with just a couple of centimeters in it. As ever, Mitsubishi offers a broad range of bed covers, hard tops and accessories, too.

A Club Cab version with seating for four and an extra long bed (stretching to 1,850mm) kickstarts a slightly revised line-up. We’re driving the larger, five-seat, Double Cab Barbarian X – it’s a new range topping model, equipped with a standard six-speed automatic gearbox and all of the L200’s latest toys. 

Among the new features is a blind spot warning system with lane change assist, lane departure warning, hill start assist, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and trailer stability assist. The new tech is all part of Mitsubishi’s efforts to make the L200 as car-like as possible to drive, and in the case of the Barbarian X model, the finish of the cabin reflects this too. 

The basics of the interior don’t change compared to the Series 5 truck, and while it doesn’t dazzle with its design, it feels robust and the switchgear is straightforward to operate. There’s plenty of room, too; for a pick-up truck it’s on the money. 

The touchscreen infotainment system doesn’t change, and it’s still a dimly lit, rudimentary set-up – though smartphone connectivity apps and a 360-degree camera system are standard. A new colour display is wedged between the two main dials though, and Barbarian X trucks feature some more luxurious touches. There’s a heated steering wheel, heated and electrically adjustable seats, and leather and Alcantara upholstery. It’s a comfortable place to sit. 

It impresses on the move, too. The mechanical underpinnings of pick-up trucks rarely lend themselves to a comfortable ride, but the L200 seems to avoid the worst of the harshness and pogoing encountered in an over-sprung pick-up with an empty bed. That can be put down to the stronger chassis, new springs and dampers with an increased spring rate on the front axle, and a more complex rear leaf spring set-up. The ride is certainly more than acceptable in the context of what the L200 is, in comparison with the Shogun Sport SUV.

The new 2.3-litre four-cylinder diesel engine makes its presence known, but not overly so – and though there’s only 148bhp to tug the two-tonne L200 along, the 400Nm of torque is easy to find. Getting up to speed is no hassle, and it’s a truck that cruises along the motorway very nicely and without undue wind noise, either. 

With the arrival of the new engine comes the requirement for Adblue. To make things as straightforward as possible, the new L200 comes with an enormous 21-litre Adblue tank – Mitsubishi claims it’ll only need refilling every 12,000 miles.

The new engine has been homologated under WLTP rules, with Mitsubishi claiming 32.1mpg for manual cars and 29.1mpg for six-speed automatic models – and by and large, they’re figures that should hold up. The L200 emits 206g/km of CO2 (NEDC correlated), though next April, when WLT figures become relevant to the tax man, it’ll jump up to 254g/km.

The steering is heavy and the rack is quite slow, so it’s not the most maneuverable pick-up to drive around town. The auto box isn’t the smoothest, which makes its changes feel a little notchy. But trucks like the L200 are hardly designed to be items of high precision, and overall it’s only slightly behind the Ford Ranger for sophistication behind the wheel.

With standard selectable four-wheel-drive, high and low-range gearing, a locking central differential, an enormous spread of off-road modes and hill descent control, it’s still an immensely capable pick-up truck away from the tarmac, too, even on standard road tyres. 

Best SUVs to buy 2019

As for payloads, the revised suspension and larger front brakes tip the maximum carrying capacity to 1,080kg. Towing capacity for all L200 modes stands at 3,500kg, though only with a three-axle trailer; for a two-axle trailer the threshold stands at 3,100kg. Anything above and you’ll void the warranty. 

The sixth-generation Mitsubishi L200 was launched a little too late to be considered in our 2019 New Car Awards, but it looks like it could be primed to take class honours from the fantastic Ford Ranger in 12 months time. The L200 combines the demands of pick-up life with impressive road manners, strong equipment levels and competitive pricing. Realistically, it’s a pick-up that buyers of more rugged SUVs could easily move into – and enjoy a VAT break at that.
  • Model: Mitsubishi L200 Double Cab Barbarian X
  • Price: £32,200 (ex VAT)
  • Engine: 2.3-litre 4cyl turbo diesel
  • Power/torque: 148bhp/400Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic. four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: TBC
  • Top Speed: 106mph
  • Economy/CO2: 29.1mpg/206g/km
  • On sale: Now

'£500million annual profit is not enough for car makers to survive'
Posted on Friday August 16, 2019

Mike Rutherford 2019-08-18 12:30

Making hundreds of millions in annual profit can no longer keep a car manufacturer afloat, says Mike Rutherford


Ever get the feeling that some corporations charge motorists too much for car-related products? That their profit margins are obscenely high? That they’d still be fabulously profitable, even if they seriously slashed their retail prices?

For emergency and other reasons, the mobile phone is essential for today’s car user, and the iPhone is among the best. But isn’t Apple taking the you know what by amassing an annual profit of almost $60billion (£49.5bn) from its customers? That’s well over £850million a week during its last financial year. Arch-rival Samsung Electronics (not to be confused with Samsung’s car arm and other divisions) is a tad less flush than Apple, settling for £33bn per annum.

Aston Martin announces £78.8 million loss

Some banks made more than £25bn apiece over the same 12-month period. Oil giants such as Shell and Exxon Mobil each enjoyed annual profits of £16bn-plus. All these firms are close to the top of the profitability premier league. But they’re comparative paupers alongside the little oil and gas outfit called Saudi Aramco. It occupies the top slot in the global table with a 2018 profit of £91bn – which was almost 50 per cent up on 2017. Nice work if you can get it.

This translates into a £1.7bn weekly profit, which is more than some leading vehicle firms earn in a year. Mazda and its world-beating MX-5 couldn’t even make a £500m profit for the whole of 2018. Despite the fact that Kia Motors has lately established itself as a credible, internationally recognised car designer and maker, it made a global profit of only £820m last year. Subaru had to settle for £1.15bn, while Hyundai Motor is on almost the same sum. Suzuki, the reigning World Urban Car champ, made £1.3bn.

Major international brands are often making only a fraction of what oil, mobile phone folk and bankers generate. If profits aren’t sufficiently high, there’s not enough wedge swimming around to invest in future models and tech. In view of the colossal investments most car giants put in, they’re just not getting enough back.

Toyota is an exception to this, with an annual figure of £14bn, which just let the Japanese giant creep into the global top 20 for profitability. The VW Group, on £11.5bn, is in the top 30. But everyone else is below the £8bn threshold. BMW and Mercedes still can’t break the $9bn (£7.4bn) barrier, GM is on £6.6bn, while Honda made nearly £5bn. Ford, Peugeot and Renault are all in sub-$4bn (£3.3bn) territory. Not bad, but not great – and, on the face of it, not enough for huge firms employing thousands of workers and contractors. Scandal-hit Nissan suffered an almost 60 per cent plummet in profits last year – to less than £2.5bn.

Each major car firm must invest billions, possibly scores of billions, in alternatively fuelled and/or self-driving vehicles for the near future. They can’t do that unless they’re healthily profitable. I’m especially worried about Mazda, because its $572million (£471m) annual profit isn’t nearly enough to take it forward. Toyota and Mazda already enjoy a sort of ‘partner’ relationship, but a full-blown marriage is beginning to look like a necessity. What better place for the wedding of the year than this autumn at the Tokyo Motor Show?

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below...

New Kia Niro Hybrid 2019 review
Posted on Friday August 16, 2019

New Kia Niro Hybrid - front
16 Aug, 2019 1:30pm Richard Ingram

The Kia Niro Hybrid has been treated to a mid-life refresh, but have the updates made it better than ever?

The Koreans, for whatever reason, don’t conform to the car industry’s standardised four-year product cycles. So, just three years after it launched, we find ourselves sat in the driver’s seat of a refreshed Kia Niro.

Revealed at the Geneva Motor Show in the spring, the Hybrid and Plug-in models get all the usual mid-life updates – including a fresh face, tweaked bumpers, and new wheel designs. There’s some new trim inside, as well as improved interior tech options, too.

Best hybrid cars on the market

While it’d be a stretch to suggest this car is instantly recognisable as the facelifted car, the styling is certainly sharper than before. The new LED daytime running lights give the Niro a better defined signature, while the updated rear light clusters offer a subtle improvement on the old car’s plainer design. Its SUV body continues to give it the edge over the polarising Toyota Prius, too.

It’s inside where prospective buyers will notice the biggest differences, however. The entry-level ‘2’ model gets a run-of-the-mill eight-inch display, but ‘3’ cars and above boast a slick new 10.25-inch touchscreen, which sits neatly in the middle of the dash. With our car’s new seven-inch digital instrument cluster, it’s the kind of set-up you’d expect in a top-spec BMW, rather than a sub-£30k Kia crossover. 

It all works really well; the central screen is clear and responsive to the touch, and with standard-fit Android and Apple connectivity it’s easy to use your smartphone’s functions on the move. The whole set-up feels beautifully integrated, though it’s a shame you can’t get the map to display within the dials – as you might in an Audi or even a Volkswagen

Overall, interior quality feels solid, with only a few cheap and scratchy plastics within easy reach. The kit list for our flagship 4-spec test car includes everything from heated and ventilated leather seats, to wireless phone charging and an eight-speaker JBL stereo. The things you touch most often are nicely screwed together, and visibility is decent – helped by the standard-fit reversing camera.

Also new on this revised Niro is Kia’s UVO Connect Services. Mimicking many premium manufacturers’ take on ‘live’ connected services, the Niro can now provide real-time information on things like the traffic and weather. There’s a downloadable smartphone app, too, allowing owners to check things like trip info – and remotely send destination information to their car’s sat-nav. 

The three powertrain choices (hybrid, plug-in and electric) remain – though due to the fact the EV only went on sale late last year, only the HEV and PHEV models have been tweaked for now.

It’s the standard Hybrid we’re driving here – though Kia has left everything under the skin well alone. That means it carries over the previous car’s 1.6-litre petrol engine and electric motor, which together produce 139bhp and 265Nm of torque. The car starts in its Eco setting by default; this works wonders for fuel economy, but hampers performance somewhat.

This is not a fast car, yet take things easy and it’ll sooth and relax its way up to the national speed limit without fuss. Around town it’s hushed, running for short distances on electric power alone. When the engine does kick in, it’s more intrusive than the set-up in the latest Toyota Prius – and we prefer that car’s CVT gearbox, too. 

Few buyers will ever care to hustle the Niro down a bendy back road, but those who do will find it handles neatly and predictably. Again, the Toyota’s chassis has the edge in this department, but the steering is direct and the brakes progressive – there’s none of the violent ‘regen’ found in the Hybrid model’s e-Niro electric stablemate. 

But arguably the biggest reason you buy a hybrid is for their low emissions and rock-bottom running costs – and while the Niro is among the cleanest SUVs on sale, it can’t come close to the penny-pinching Prius. Even the flashiest Toyota emits just 82g/km of CO2 – placing it one Benefit in Kind tax band lower than the Kia in top-spec trim.

The Kia Niro Hybrid has been treated to an early mid-life refresh and it’s all the better for it. Its technology and connectivity offerings are among the best in this class, and the hybrid drivetrain remains quiet and efficient around town. It’s still an entirely safe and predictable car to drive, and that’ll suit most of its potential buyers down to the ground.
  • Model: Kia Niro GDi HEV ‘4’ 6-speed DCT
  • Price: £29,270
  • Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl petrol hybrid
  • Power/torque: 139bhp/265Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 11.5 seconds
  • Top speed: 101mph
  • Economy/CO2: 54.3mpg/99g/km
  • On sale: Now

New McLaren GT by MSO to debut at Pebble Beach
Posted on Thursday August 15, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-08-15 16:00

McLaren says the GT by MSO special edition will showcase the GT’s customisation options, drawing inspiration from British architecture

Mclaren GT MSO - Front

McLaren Special Operations will bring a unique version of the new McLaren GT to this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance to showcase the grand tourer’s range of customisation options. Called the McLaren GT by MSO, it will feature on the event’s Concept Car Lawn on Sunday 18 August.

McLaren claims this specially commissioned GT draws inspiration from British architecture, with a colour palette and design features lifted from the London cityscape. The bodywork is finished in a newly developed MSO Defined Flux Silver, while the side skirts, front splitter, rear diffuser and wing mirrors are painted in a contrasting MSO Bespoke Satin Graphite.

New 2019 McLaren GT revealed to take on the Bentley Continental GT

Elsewhere, this unique McLaren GT features a set of satin graphite-coloured brake calipers, chrome window surrounds, a pair of polished titanium exhaust finishers and a set of gloss black diamond cut wheels.

Inside, the McLaren GT features a pair of carbon fibre shift paddles, leather upholstery, a set of MSO floor mats and an electrochromic roof. The seat backs, door cards, sun visors and armrests are also finished in MSO’s Bespoke Geoform Stitching, which McLaren claims is inspired by the geometric canopy design of the British Museum.

It’s powered by the same twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine as the standard McLaren GT, producing 612bhp and 630Nm of torque. Power is fed to the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic gearbox and McLaren claims a 0–62mph time of 3.2 seconds, a 0–124mph sprint of nine seconds flat and a top speed of 203mph.

Deliveries for the standard McLaren GT will commence this autumn, with prices starting from £163,000. As with all McLaren vehicles, owners will be given the option to outfit their GTs with a range of MSO options at the time of purchase.

What are your thoughts on the new McLaren GT by MSO? Let us know in the comments section below…

Dacia Duster gains new 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine
Posted on Thursday August 15, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-08-15 16:35

The Dacia Duster gains a new, more efficient entry-level TCe 100 engine, set to replace larger outgoing 1.6-litre petrol

Dacia Duster 1.0-litre

The Dacia Duster is now available with a new, entry-level TCe 100 turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine. Prices for the new engine start from £10,995 in base Access spec, £12,495 in the mid-range Essential version and £13,995 in the Comfort variant.

Dacia’s new 1.0-litre three-cylinder will soon completely replace the Duster’s naturally aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder SCe 115 unit – although the two remain on sale together for now. The new unit has less power than the outgoing engine (99bhp versus 113bhp), but torque is up 66 per cent to 260Nm. It can only be had with front-wheel drive and a five-speed manual gearbox.

Best small SUVs and crossovers on sale now

Despite its increased torque, the Duster’s new TCe 100 engine does not beat the old SCe 115 unit in performance terms. Its 0–62mph time stands at 12.5 seconds and top speed is 104mph – 0.6 seconds and 3mph slower than the old engine. However, thanks to that extra torque, Dacia claims the new engine is more responsive on the move.

To offset the reduced performance, Dacia’s new 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol offers improved economy and lower emissions than its predecessor. Dacia claims economy of 48.7mpg and emissions of 126g/km of CO2, compared to the old 1.6-litre engine’s 43.5mpg and 149g/km.

The Duster’s turbocharged TCe 130 and TCe 150 1.3-litre four-cylinder engines will remain on sale priced from £14,995 and £16,895 respectively. Dacia will also retain the Duster’s turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engine at its current starting price of £13,700.

Does Dacia’s more efficient three-cylinder engine encourage you to buy a Duster? Let us know in the comments section below…

Exclusive: Repairing car parts can save nearly £3,000 over replacement parts
Posted on Thursday August 15, 2019

Hugo Griffiths 2019-08-15 17:38

Research into out-of-warranty claims reveals motorists can save thousands by fitting reconditioned components instead of new ones

Mechanic working on car

Exclusive data has revealed that motorists whose cars develop faults could net some huge savings if they opt to have a broken part repaired by a specialist, or buy a reconditioned unit. That’s instead of having a brand-new item fitted by a manufacturer’s franchised dealership. 

The figures come from the database of aftermarket warranty firm Warrantywise. It searched its claims files for instances in which main dealers wanted to replace one or more broken parts, but it transpired that an independent repair would be a far more affordable and similarly effective solution.

How to cut your car service cost: cheaper servicing, MoTs and repairs

Some claims saw a reconditioned part, rather than a brand-new item fitted. But in most instances, a specialist was able to fix the part in question, saving some serious money, while also challenging the disposable reputation that modern car parts often have nowadays.

The examples given here are for specific models, but the principle of investigating whether an effective repair is available could net you huge savings in the event of something going wrong with your car.

Cars that are still covered by their original manufacturer warranties will need to be repaired with new parts. But owners of older, out-of-warranty models could reap the financial benefits offered by specialist technicians. You’ll need to do your research to find a trusted repairer, and your car might be off the road for longer than if you’d opted for a new part from the dealer. But even if you have to hire a car when this is happening, the savings on offer should more than makeup for this.

Commenting on the data, Warrantywise chief executive Lawrence Whittaker said: “Franchised main dealer garages will rarely offer you a repair option, as they prefer to replace with new parts. But with some investigation, cost savings can be dramatic. 

“At Warrantywise we only use reputable, recognised suppliers for specialist repairs, and we only repair when it is safe to do so. The fact is that some parts do need a complete replacement, but that isn’t always the case. Do your homework and bills for car repairs can be more affordable, but the repair just as effective.”

Here’s proof how motorists saved thousands on repairs

To demonstrate how much it’s possible to save by repairing a faulty part at an independent specialist, rather than buying a new one from a franchised dealer, Warrantywise gave us some examples from its claims records. 

The figures speak for themselves, with savings in excess of £1,000 being common. The data also shows the wide range of faulty parts that can be repaired rather than replaced, from complex mechanical components to advanced electronic systems. In addition, these savings can be made on models from a variety of different manufacturers. It’s worth stopping to check what your options are when something goes wrong, no matter which make of car you own.

Car Faulty part Dealer quote repair for new part cost Saving
2009 BMW 3 Series ECU £1,175 £300 £875
The faulty engine control unit on this 3 Series required replacement, according to
 the dealer. But Warrantywise was able to get it fixed for just £300.
2009 Mercedes CLS Instrument
£1,369.44 £300 £1,069.44
A new Mercedes CLS instrument cluster was quoted at well over £1,000,
but an effective repair put things right, saving more than £1,000 in the process.
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X Active Yaw
Control pump
£3,497.03 £645.22 £2,851.81
The cornering-enhancing Active Yaw Control pump failed on this 2009 Lancer Evo;
 a specialist repaired the part for a fraction of the £3,500 that Mitsubishi asked.
2012 Toyota Hilux Differential £1,598 £375.28 £1,222.72
Toyota’s commercial vehicles have a cast-iron reputation for reliability, but they can still go wrong. Choosing a reconditioned diff rather than a brand-new item saved more than £1,000.
2012 Volkswagen Touareg Propshaft £1,190.32 £438 £846.32
A Touareg propshaft would have cost over £1,000 from a VW dealer, but a reconditioned part was around a third the price of a new item.
2010 Land Rover Discovery Turbocharger £1,857 £794 £1,063
A reconditioned turbocharger for a Discovery was roughly £1,000 less than the brand-new item Land Rover would have fitted.
2013 Audi Q5 LED
£1,080 £165 £915
Audi wanted more than £1,000 for a replacement LED headlight unit, but the
part was repaired for almost 10 per cent of that cost by a specialist.
2015 Nissan X-Trail Infotainment
£3,349 £457 £2,892
Nissan wanted a whopping £3,349 for a new X-Trail infotainment system.
Going independent saved thousands. 
2010 Range Rover Gearbox £3,944.57 £2,601 £1,343.57
When this Range Rover’s gearbox gave up the ghost, rebuilding it was more than £1,000 cheaper than fitting a like-for-like replacement.

Have you been caught out paying extra for a replacement part? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below...

Illegal driving instructor complaints rarely result in conviction
Posted on Thursday August 15, 2019

Hugo Griffiths 2019-08-15 15:17

DVSA data reveals 961 complaints have been made about unqualified driving instructors since 2014, but just 18 convictions have been secured

learner driver

Just two per cent of complaints made about illegal driving instructors have resulted in a conviction over the last five years, official figures from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) have revealed. 

Driving instructors who take payment for lessons are legally required to have an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) qualification or be a Potential Driving Instructor (PDI) in the course of training.

• Practical driving test tips: how to prepare & pass first time

But data from the DVSA, which is responsible for administering the driving test and instructors, shows there were 961 complaints about unqualified instructors taking payment for lessons between the 2014/15 financial year and today, with these complaints resulting in just 18 convictions.

The data, obtained by car-finance company Hippo Leasing via a freedom of information request, shows that not a single prosecution was made for illegal driving instructors in the 2014/15 FY, despite the DVSA receiving 125 complaints from members of the public. 

The DVSA highlights that multiple complaints may have been about the same individual instructor, while there is no indication whether the complaints this data relates to were valid. But, since the 2018/19 financial year, the DVSA decided to make prosecutions for these offences itself, rather than rely on police and the Crown Prosecution Service, indicating the organisation may have been concerned about low conviction rates. 

Financial Year

Number of complaints

Number of police cautions

Number of convictions

Conviction rate


























The DVSA highlighted that there are 40,000 qualified driving instructors in the UK, adding: “We have stringent measures in place to detect fraud and bring offenders to justice...Obtaining co-operation and witness statements is a vital part of the evidence required to prevent illegal driving instructors from operating. Therefore DVSA encourages individuals to come forward and work with our investigators.”

Tom Preston, Managing Director of Hippo Leasing commented on the findings: “Due to the nature of driving lessons, learners are in a particularly vulnerable position, alone in a car with a stranger for long periods of time. If a driving instructor isn’t approved by the DVSA, there is no guarantee of personal or vehicle safety.”

Learners or their family members who are worried about an illegal driving instructor can contact the DVSA on 03001233248, or emailing

What do you make of the low number of convictions against illegal driving instructors? Let us know in the comments below...

New Porsche Panamera 2020 facelift caught on camera
Posted on Thursday August 15, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-08-15 12:40

An updated version of the Porsche Panamera has been snapped during its road assessment, sporting a mild design update

Porsche Panamera - spyshot 2

Porsche looks set to issue its second-generation Panamera with a minor mid-life facelift, as hinted by this latest batch of spy shots. The revised saloon will follow the all-new, all-electric Porsche Taycan into showrooms, with a planned UK launch in autumn 2020.

Design updates for this Panamera mule include a subtly reshaped front bumper with fresh LED daytime running lights, a mildly revised rear light bar with less complicated light pods, and a fresh rear diffuser with updated exhaust outlets. The headlights remain the same as the outgoing model, as do the front wings, bonnet and doors.

Porsche Taycan ride review

Judging by the car’s bright green ten-piston carbon ceramic brakes, we suspect this is the range-topping Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid model.

Porsche is yet to disclose any details on the Panamera’s technical revisions but, given the company’s recent focus on electrification, a more sophisticated hybrid system is expected, along with a larger capacity battery pack.

Porsche’s twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 and 4.0-litre V8 petrol engines (plus the associated hybrid models) will likely be retained across the facelifted range, with both powertrains receiving a handful of efficiency and performance tweaks. Currently, the most powerful V8-engined Panamera produces 542bhp and 770Nm of torque.

As mentioned, with Porsche’s focus currently set on the all-electric Taycan, it’s likely we won’t see a facelifted Panamera until later in 2020. Prices are expected to rise slightly from the current car’s £72,890 starting figure.

What are your thoughts on the facelifted Porsche Panamera? Let us know in the comments section below… 

Kia Ceed SW vs Renault Megane Sport Tourer vs Skoda Octavia Estate
Posted on Thursday August 15, 2019

2019-08-17 11:00

Family estate buyers have never had it so good. We test the Kia Ceed SW against the Renault Megane Sport Tourer and Skoda Octavia Estate

Kia Ceed SW vs Renault Megane Sport Tourer vs Skoda Octavia Estate - header

It sounds like stating the obvious that an affordable estate car needs to offer value for money and plenty of space. But even with the rise of the SUV, this kind of relatively low-priced family wagon has continued to develop to a point where, today, your choice is broader than ever.

We’ve assembled three great examples: the new Kia Ceed Sportswagon, the Renault Mégane Sport Tourer and the Skoda Octavia Estate. We’ve previously tested the Ceed in hatchback form, so we know how good this platform is, and now it’s the turn of the practical Ceed estate to earn its stripes. We’re testing it in popular mid-spec ‘3’ turbo petrol form. In fact, all three of these cars are covered by just £760, so they’re very closely matched on price.

Best estate cars on sale

The Mégane Sport Tourer certainly has the style to challenge the Ceed – as well as a new engine, with the TCe 140 unit we’re testing to match the Kia.

However, both will have to overcome the talents of the Skoda Octavia Estate. It’s fresh from yet another win at our Auto Express New Car Awards and boasts plenty of ability in all areas. This will be a tough test. 

Kia Ceed SW

Model: Kia Ceed Sportswagon 1.4 T-GDi 3
Price:  £22,810
Engine:  1.4-litre 4cyl turbo, 138bhp 
0-60mph:  8.8 seconds
Test economy:  36.4mpg/8.0mpl 
CO2:  132g/km  
Annual road tax:  £145

The Ceed has proved to be yet another big evolutionary step for Kia, and this Sportswagon estate promises to add competitive practicality in this affordable, small estate class.

Design & engineering

The first-generation Ceed made Kia mainstream, the second-generation model proved Kia could cut it and beat its rivals, and now this third generation promises to add yet more upmarket appeal, even at this car’s affordable price.

That’s because in £22,810 3 trim you get a good level of equipment. While the Kia is the most expensive car on test, it’s only £760 more than the Renault, yet you get more kit in 3 trim (our pictures show a First Edition, with the only differences down to equipment).

This includes parking sensors and a rear camera, standard autonomous braking, climate and cruise control, as well as nav, both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as part of Kia’s larger eight-inch infotainment set-up. Some of this kit is optional on the Renault, which would take its price to over £23,000 and therefore more than the Kia, so the Ceed SW is actually good value.

Quality is acceptable, too. None of these three cars gets leather, even as an option, but the plastics are the same throughout. As a result, there are some soft areas in the Kia, but also harder areas lower down. The main touch points are good, though.

All versions of the third-generation Ceed are based on Kia’s latest K2 platform, which means that there’s MacPherson strut suspension at the front and a multi-link set-up at the back – which is a more sophisticated arrangement than either the Renault or the Skoda offers.

The 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine here is a known quantity, too. It’s not the sweetest, but produces 138bhp and a maximum of 242Nm of torque, so in a package that weighs 1,352kg – splitting the lighter Skoda and heavier Renault – it should prove to be competitive in terms of performance.

The six-speed manual gearbox sends drive to the front wheels, but the big technical aspect to factor in here is the growth in body size over the previous Ceed estate. It’s 95mm longer, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s generated much more luggage space, while the improved packaging – as in the hatchback – has made it a more usable car, too.


All three cars were similarly matched for performance. The Kia just trailed the Skoda from 0-60mph, taking 8.8 seconds, but it recorded identical in-gear figures in all but our sixth-gear 50-70mph test, where it trailed the Octavia by 0.4 seconds. It shows that there’s a good level of pull, which will be beneficial when the Sportswagon is loaded up.

Of course, the Kia doesn’t feel all that fast and the engine doesn’t seem quite as eager as the Skoda’s, but refinement is okay and it cruises well, which makes the deficiencies with the ride all the more noticeable.

It never seems to settle down, jiggling gently on country roads. It’s better on the motorway, but still not quite as comfortable as either rival, and ride quality will be more important, given that these cars aren’t exactly about performance. The steering is acceptable, as is the grip, and while the manual gearchange is fine, it’s a notchy shift.


That growth in size means the Sportswagon actually trumps the Octavia for boot space with the seats up by 15 litres. The Octavia Estate is already one of the biggest cars in its class, so this is a big plus for the Ceed SW, with a total of 625 litres of luggage room.

It doesn’t come at the expense of legroom in the rear, either, because while the Kia can’t quite match the Skoda in this respect, it still offers more than enough. Both the Ceed and the Octavia have roomier cabins in the rear than the Renault.

Functionality is key to an estate, and the Kia succeeds, having decent cabin storage on top of the foundations laid by the big boot. Two cup-holders, a tray in front of the gearlever, good door bins and the central cubby aren’t quite a match for the Skoda (which bolsters its ability with its thoughtful Simply Clever touches), but they’re good enough.


With a seven-year/100,000-mile warranty on all its cars, it’s no surprise that Kia scored highly in our ownership satisfaction survey, finishing third in Driver Power 2019 – two above Skoda and 16 ahead of Renault.

Safety is strong, too. The Ceed earned a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, and in 3 trim it comes with autonomous braking, lane-keep assist and auto high beam as standard. However, you can’t add the extra safety tech that comes as standard on higher trim levels, such as blind-spot warning or cross-traffic alert, as an option, which is a shame.

Running costs

The Kia emits only 1g/km CO2 more than the Renault, at 132g/km, but both sit in the 30 per cent Benefit in Kind company car tax band. The Ceed is slightly pricier, so it’ll be the costlier company car: lower-rate earners will pay £1,353 a year, while it’s £1,307 on the Renault.

The Skoda emits much less, at 124g/km CO2, so comes in two BiK groups lower, rated at 28 per cent. As a result the same driver will only have to shell out £1,262 a year to run the Octavia Estate.

However, the Kia counters this by being cheapest for our sample driver to insure (partly due to its standard autonomous emergency braking), at £412 a year. The Mégane will cost £430, while 12 months’ cover on the Skoda is far steeper, at £723.

Testers’ notes: “The apostrophe was dropped from the Ceed name by Kia to improve internet search results, but would you buy a car online? Let us know on one of our social media channels.”

Renault Megane Sport Tourer

Model: Renault Mégane Sport Tourer TCe 140 GT Line
Price:  £22,050
Engine:  1.3-litre 4cyl turbo, 138bhp 
0-60mph:  9.2 seconds
Test economy:  36.2mpg/8.0mpl 
CO2:  131g/km
Annual road tax:  £145

Renault’s practical Mégane Sport Tourer gets a new turbo petrol engine to improve its appeal in a tough class. Here, we test the £22,050 GT Line model to see what it’s like.

Design & engineering

While the Mégane has been around for more than four years now, it still looks slick. So Renault hasn’t altered the styling but has addressed one of the areas where it wasn’t so strong: the petrol engine line-up.

The diesel range is good, but with a swing towards petrol, this new TCe 140 engine should help inject some fresh appeal into the French estate.

It’s a Renault-Nissan unit that appears in the updated Nissan Qashqai SUV. We enjoyed the improvements there, so are hoping for similar gains in a lighter car like the Mégane Sport Tourer.

The 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbo unit makes 138bhp – exactly the same as the Kia – and 240Nm of torque, so is only 2Nm down on its Korean rival. However, the Mégane is 67kg heavier.

The rest of the package is familiar mechanically, with a six-speed manual gearbox. All three cars are available with auto boxes, but we wouldn’t recommend spending the extra £1,000-plus.

There haven’t been any changes to the Mégane’s CMF-C/D platform, which is again shared with Nissan. That’s no bad thing, because the packaging is okay, thanks to the rear suspension layout used in the Renault. This isn’t quite as sophisticated as the multi-link set-up in the Kia, though. The trio here all use MacPherson struts at the front, which is conventional.

Like its exterior, the Mégane’s interior was a big step for Renault, but while the outside still looks great, some areas inside are showing their age.

Quality is acceptable though; there are a few more areas of hard plastic than in either the Skoda or the Kia, such as the glovebox lid, but then the Renault is the cheapest car and still gets a good level of kit.

GT Line trim sits towards the top of the Mégane range, whereas its rivals in the trims we’re testing sit nearer the middle of their respective line-ups.

The Renault gets an 8.7-inch portrait touchscreen tablet system with nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You get sports seats, 18-inch alloys, lane departure warning and a seven-inch digital dash panel – but this doesn’t display the sat-nav map. 


Despite having similar power and torque figures, the Renault was slower than its rivals in many of our in-gear tests. It was half a second behind the Octavia from 0-60mph, taking 9.2 seconds, but was quicker than both rivals from 30-50mph in third, at 3.9 seconds.

The TCe 140 engine is definitely an improvement, because despite the slight performance disadvantage it’s smooth and refined, so it clips along at motorway speeds well. There’s good torque for overtaking, too. However, the six-speed box’s shift is the most vague, with a less precise feeling to how it goes into gear.

Even in GT Line spec on 18-inch alloys the Renault rides well. It has a similar level of fluidity to the Skoda in how it deals with bumps, and the steering offers just a little more in the way of communication, too – not that it’s particularly important here.

However, body control is looser than in either the Kia or the Skoda, so as you increase the pace, the Renault just starts to lose control and wallow around a little on undulating roads. But we still think the benefit in ride quality due to this set-up is worth it.


While we wouldn’t say the Renault’s 521 litres of boot space is inadequate, it’s the only car in this trio that doesn’t break the 600-litre mark with its rear seats in place, so it loses points for practicality on sheer space compared with its rivals. At least the rear of the cabin is roomy enough and comfortable, which is helped by the ride.

There aren’t quite as many clever touches when it comes to storage, either. But it does have the usual trays, cup-holders and bins so there’s plenty of space to store items. The main downside is the rearward visibility, because the Sport Tourer’s shallow rear window hampers your view out of the back. Headroom is a little tighter than in the Skoda too, due to the raked roofline at the rear.


Renault’s performance in the eyes of owners is pretty poor compared to the two brands it faces here. It took 19th place overall, while its dealer network finished considerably lower, in 27th – that’s 16 and 20 places behind Kia in each sector.

Modern Renaults have been known for safety, but while the Mégane received a five-star rating when it was tested by Euro NCAP in 2015, autonomous braking is part of a £400 pack that also adds adaptive cruise and distance warning. Lane-departure warning and six airbags are standard.

Running costs

None of these models is particularly strong when it comes to their resistance to depreciation, but neither will they shed too much. Even so, for cash buyers the Mégane will be the most costly proposition.

That’s because our experts predict it will retain 40.7 per cent of its value, which equates to depreciation of £13,076 over three years or 36,000 miles. It’ll therefore be worth £8,974 after this period.

The Kia is a few percentage points higher, at a predicted 41.8 per cent, which means depreciation of £13,285 and a residual value of £9,525. But it’s the Skoda that’ll resist this best, with a claimed residual value of 43.4 per cent (£9,882), so will lose £12,883.

Testers’ notes: “The interior ambient lighting in the Renault means the cabin looks cool at night, but we’d trade that for LED lights or autonomous braking as standard in a family-oriented machine like this.”

Skoda Octavia Estate

Model: Skoda Octavia Estate 1.5 TSI 150 SE Drive
Price:  £22,765
Engine:  1.5-litre 4cyl turbo, 148bhp 
0-60mph:  8.7 seconds
Test economy:  37.8mpg/8.3mpl 
CO2:  124g/km
Annual road tax:  £145

After yet another win at our New Car Awards, the Skoda Octavia is our Estate Car of the Year. We’re testing the 1.5 TSI manual in mid-spec SE Drive trim (our pictures show Sportline), which costs £22,765, so is competitively priced.

Design & engineering

One of the most interesting but imperceptible technological features of the Skoda Octavia Estate centres around the 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that we’re testing here.

There’s nothing unusual about its output of 148bhp and 250Nm of torque. These figures are similar to its rivals – the latter more than either, while the Octavia weighs less, at 1,227kg.

Instead the tech focuses on the Active Cylinder Technology (ACT) system that shuts down two of four cylinders when you’re only lightly on the accelerator between 1,400 and 4,000rpm, which helps boost economy. The switch between two and four-cylinder mode isn’t noticeable, so doesn’t affect refinement.

This is a shared VW Group engine, and in some situations when mated to a DSG gearbox it can even switch the engine off when coasting. Here the Skoda uses a six-speed manual though, while its MQB chassis is also a common VW Group product.

Inside, the Octavia has a more upright feel than even the Renault’s cabin and its portrait-oriented centre console, but quality is good. The Skoda’s interior feels solid and practical, but without harming quality; the Octavia gives the best impression.

SE Drive trim gets a good level of kit. It doesn’t quite match the Kia with items like a reversing camera (£380) or AEB (£320), but it does get parking sensors, climate and cruise control, sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so it has a base level of equipment that you don’t really need to add to.

There are more safety and convenience features you can specify to make the Octavia easier to live with, but extras such as leather and a digital dash aren’t available – the latter does come as an option on some trim levels, but not here on SE Drive.


The Octavia offers the best balance of performance, handling and ride comfort of these three. It was the quickest from 0-60mph, at 8.7 seconds, which is plenty fast enough for this kind of car, while it backed this up with good flexibility thanks to its highest torque output.

It balances comfort and compliance with body control and composure, too, so it serves up the most relaxed ride as well as the most grip, which is a great combination.

The steering is also the most precise due to that grip, so it inspires more confidence if you need or want to drive a series of bends that bit quicker.

The 1.5 TSI engine is refined – you don’t notice it cutting out in ACT mode, and it revs smoothly on full throttle. It’s a bit noisier at higher revs, but certainly no worse than its rivals because the percussion from under the bonnet is fairly well suppressed.

It also has the nicest manual gearbox, although we have reported on juddering issues with this engine/and gearbox (Issue 1,586). It’s light and easy in town, helped by the car’s fine visibility. Of the three, it gives the best balance of the attributes a car like this needs. 


The Octavia’s boot is 15 litres down on the Kia’s, but the squarer tailgate means it’s just as usable; we don’t think you’ll notice that extra space with the seats up in 99.9 per cent of cases. With the seats down, the Skoda offers more total space, at 1,740 litres compared with 1,694 litres in the Kia. The Renault lags behind, with 521 and 1,433 litres with the seats up and down respectively.

Given that these cars will have to cope with family life, there’s more to practicality than just sheer boot space. The Octavia offers masses of legroom in the rear, too, and plenty of headroom. But there are also some very clever touches and options – little features such as a built-in ice scraper in the filler flap.

Storage is great in the front so the cabin is practical, with a more spacious feel and plenty of trinket areas. This is why it equals the Kia here.


As with Kia, Skoda is a company that usually puts in a great performance in our Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, but it couldn’t quite match the Korean brand in our most recent study.

It took fifth overall, and eighth in the dealer section, with Skoda ranked second for boot space and practicality by owners, plus fourth for reliability and build quality. Kia came third in both of these categories by way of comparison, while Renault ranked just 25th and 24th respectively, highlighting its much poorer result.

The Skoda doesn’t get as much standard safety tech as the Kia though, with autonomous braking only available as a £320 option. You can also add lane-keep assist for £460. Still, the Octavia scored a full five-star Euro NCAP rating. 

Running costs

The Skoda, Kia and Renault returned 37.8, 36.4 and 36.2mpg respectively, which means an annual fuel cost over 12,000 miles of £1,859, £1,930 and £1,941, so there won’t be much between all three at the pumps.

Skoda’s £342 two-year servicing package works out at £171 a year in maintenance, while the Renault’s annual servicing costs come in at £150. However, it’s the Kia’s £429 three-year up-front maintenance package that works out cheapest, at £143 per year.

Testers’ notes: “It’s a shame the Virtual Cockpit is only an option on SE L trim and above. Some extras we’d consider are heated seats (£255) and adaptive dampers; they’re pricey, at £880, but improve comfort.”


First place: Skoda Octavia Estate

Practicality is a given in the Octavia Estate; the boot and interior space are well matched and the cabin feels high in quality. But the level of comfort on offer is great, too, and when you add the slick infotainment system into the mix, then the Skoda is the most comprehensive and well rounded of the three machines here. That it’ll hold on to the most money and be cheaper to run than its rivals is a bonus.

Second place: Kia Ceed SW

The Kia’s extra boot space doesn’t translate into all that much more practicality, while the Ceed SW isn’t as quick, not as refined, and not as comfortable as the Skoda. The infotainment system and level of standard kit on offer are great, and boosted by the extra standard safety tech when compared with the Skoda. It’s still a very capable family estate car – but in nearly every area it just trails the Czech model.

Third place: Renault Megane Sport Tourer

Adding the TCe 140 engine means the Mégane Sport Tourer is much improved. It’s comfortable, too: a commodity that’s valuable in any family estate. However, it lacks the most important one: space. Even though the car looks great, it’s not as versatile as its two rivals. GT Line gets a good level of kit and should be economical to run, but in a few vital areas the Mégane can’t match either the Ceed or the Octavia.

Other options in this category...

Ford Focus Estate

Ford Focus Estate - front

Model: Ford Focus Estate 1.0T 140 ST-Line
Price: £22,915
Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 138bhp 

With 575 litres in its load bay, the Focus Estate offers more boot space than the Mégane ST, even if it trails the other two cars here. But the Focus is the most fun car to drive, so keen drivers should check it out. Sporty ST-Line gets good kit, too. 

Volkswagen Golf Estate

Volkswagen Golf Estate - front

Model: VW Golf Estate 1.0 TSI 115 Match
Price: £22,925
Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 113bhp

If you go for a VW Golf Estate, a similar budget to our test trio buys an Estate in Match trim. This gets a decent level of equipment, but you’ll have to sacrifice power; at this price it’s the smaller 1.0 TSI 115 engine. At least the 605-litre boot is big enough. 


Skoda Octavia Estate 1.5 TSI 150 SE Drive Kia Ceed Sportswagon 1.4 T-GDi 3 Renault Mégane Sport Tourer TCe 140 GT Line
On the road price/total as tested £22,765/£22,765 £22,810/£22,810 £22,050/£25,650
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) £9,882/43.4% £9,525/41.8% £8,974/40.7%
Depreciation £12,883 £13,285 £13,076
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £1,262/£2,525 £1,353/£2,705 £1,307/£2,614
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £1,859/£3,098 £1,930/£3,217 £1,941/£3,235
Ins. group/quote/VED 20/£723/£145 15/£412/£145 19/£430/£145
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service £342 (2yrs) £429 (3yrs) £449 (3yrs)
Length/wheelbase 4,667/2,686mm 4,600/2,650mm 4,626/2,712mm
Height/width 1,465/1,814mm 1,465/1,800mm 1,457/1,814mm
Engine 4cyl in-line/1,498cc 4-cyl in-line/1,353cc 4cyl in-line/1,332cc
Peak power/revs  148/5,000 bhp/rpm 138/6,000 bhp/rpm 138/5,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs  250/1,500 Nm/rpm 242/1,500 Nm/rpm 240/1,600 Nm/rpm
Transmission  6-spd man/fwd 6-spd man/fwd 6-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 50 litres/£150 50 litres/space saver 50 litres/£150
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 610/1,740 litres 625/1,694 litres 521/1,433 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,227/645/1,700kg 1,352/498/1,000kg 1,419/462/1,700kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient 10.4 metres N/A 11.4 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs 7yrs (100k)/1yr 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos 5th/8th 3rd/7th 19th/27th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars 93/86/66/66/5 (’13) 88/85/68/73/5 (’19) 88/87/71/71/5 (’15)
0-60/30-70mph 8.7/8.2 secs 8.8/8.5 secs 9.2/8.2 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 4.1/5.5 secs 4.1/5.5 secs 3.9/5.7 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th 7.4/9.2 secs 7.4/9.6 secs 8.1/10.3 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 134mph/2,500rpm 130mph/2,500rpm 127mph/2,400rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 48.1/35.4/9.3m 46.6/33.9/9.5m 51.4/37.2/9.7m
Auto Express economy/range 37.8/416 miles 36.4/400 miles 36.2/398 miles
WLTP economy min-max 40.4-44.8mpg 45.6mpg 42.8-45.6mpg
WLTP economy min-max 8.9-9.9mpl 10.0mpl 9.4-10.0mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 173/124g/km/28% 179/132g/km/30% 180/131g/km/30%
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/camera Seven/yes/yes/£380 Six/yes/yes/yes Six/yes/yes/£400*
Auto box/lane keep/blindspot/AEB £1,250/£460/no/£320 £1,100/yes/no/yes £1,360/n/£500*/£400*
Climate/cruise/leather/heated seats Yes/yes/no/£255 Yes/yes/no/no Yes/yes/no/no
Metallic/LEDs/keyless go/pwr tailgate £595/no/£410/£410 £570/no/no/no £550/£500/yes/no
Sat-nav/digi dash/DAB/connect serv Yes/no/yes/yes Yes/no/yes/yes Yes/no/yes/yes
Wireless charge/CarPlay/Android Auto No/yes/yes No/yes/yes No/yes/yes

New Rolls-Royce Ghost Zenith collector’s edition revealed
Posted on Wednesday August 14, 2019

James Brodie 2019-08-14 16:20

The Rolls-Royce Ghost Zenith arrives as a special limited edition run-out model, and will be limited to just 50 examples

Rolls-Royce has revealed a new run-out, special edition Ghost which the firm describes as the “apex” of its smaller limousine, which will be limited strictly to 50 examples. 

Called the Rolls-Royce Ghost Zenith, it follows the same convention set out by the 2016 Phantom Zenith - one of the last production batches of the reborn Phantom before the debut of the current flagship, the Phantom VIII, took place in summer 2017.

Best luxury cars on sale

As such, it’s easiest to think of the Ghost Zenith as being an ultimate edition of the Ghost, and Rolls-Royce claims it’s the most bespoke version of the model. The British brand claims that the Zenith wears plenty of new and unique design tweaks nodding towards the 2009 200EX concept, used a decade ago to preview the production model.

These include a commemorative, forged ingot crafted from the concept car’s Spirit of Ecstasy set into the centre console, while the Zenith itself gets a unique variation of Rolls’ iconic bonnet sculpture, engraved with the model’s name.

Similarly, the centre console is home to a complex engraving - a snapshot of the blueprints of the 200EX concept. Each of the 50 cars gets a different engraving, all of them abstract close-ups of an element of the concept’s original design sketches.

Elsewhere in the cabin, the Ghost Zenith gains a new, bespoke clock, illuminated door pockets lined with perforated leather and contrasting rear seats inspired by the 1907 Silver Ghost.

Both regular and extended wheelbase versions of the Ghost Zenith will be built, powered by the car’s usual 6.6-litre turbocharged V12 petrol engine. Prices for the run-out special should be far north of the regular car’s £200,000 base price.

Click here to read our in-depth Rolls-Royce Ghost review...

New Ford Fiesta ST M225 2019 review
Posted on Wednesday August 14, 2019

Ford Fiesta ST M225 - front
14 Aug, 2019 3:45pm Steve Sutcliffe

Mountune has once again worked its magic on the Ford Fiesta ST, but is the new 222bhp M225 worth the extra cash?

The current Ford Fiesta ST is already a very convincing hot hatchback; we know this having run one on our long-term test fleet earlier in the year. We liked it so much that at the time we thought it hard to improve upon for all-round driver appeal.

But tuner Mountune has done just that with its new Fiesta ST M225, which includes a range of well-judged options that attempt to expand on the regular ST’s repertoire, rather than taking it in a different direction altogether.

Best hot hatchbacks on sale

The full-beans upgrade costs a fairly steep £2,866 (above the £22,895 you’ll need for a basic ST), though for this you get a decent increase in power and torque – up from 197bhp to 222bhp and from 290Nm to 340Nm. There’s a brilliant new Quickshift gearchange with a bespoke new gear knob, slightly lower and stiffer suspension, beefier brakes, a new rear spoiler, bespoke Mountune embossed floor mats plus the Mountune stripe along the doors, too. So it’s a comprehensive level of extra kit for only a touch less than £3k.

Alternatively, you can cherry pick Mountune’s options and go for individual upgrades instead. The pokier engine map costs £795 and includes a new induction system as well. The whole lot is controlled by an app, so you can play around with the map settings via your phone. That means you don’t need to carry your laptop or visit a garage to alter the map. If you want the big brakes that’s another £1,175, while the Quickshift system costs just £150 – as do the shorter, stiffer springs.

One fairly major word of warning, however; according to Mountune, none of its products are currently supported by Ford’s warranty programme, which means you risk invalidating the manufacturer guarantee by fitting any of the kit listed above. It’s a shame, as many of Mountune’s upgrades for the previous ST were covered by Ford’s three-year, 60,000-mile new car warranty.

The car we tried had everything fitted, but was still in what Mountune describes as prototype specification. The engineers are playing around with the rear spring rates at the moment, which currently make the rear end feel, in their words, “quite lively” on turn-in. They’re not wrong – and the same is true for the ride quality.

Within 50 metres you can tell just how much stiffer the M225 feels compared with the regular ST, and that’s not necessarily a welcome realisation. The way the regular car breathes with the road so fluidly, while at the same time providing such crisp chassis response, is one of its strongest qualities. Yet the M225 – to begin with – feels overly stiff, frenetically so on less-than-perfect road surfaces.

But there is an upside, and it comes in the form of heroically sharp turn in, which soon transforms into full blown lift-off oversteer if you try a bit too hard. And this is why Mountune describes the current car as a prototype. Reading between the lines, the people behind this car’s creation know it’s a bit too fruity for the buying public, and will almost certainly de-tune it in the near future by softening the rear springs a touch.

The rest of the M225 is pretty impressive, though. The 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo engine feels and sounds a fair bit louder and stronger through the rev range. The ECU re-map hasn’t made it peaky, just more potent. The 0-60mph claim is 5.95 seconds, a tidy improvement over the standard car’s not-quite-comparable 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds.

The Quickshift set-up also adds an element of precision to the gearchange that isn’t quite there in the regular car. The bigger brakes feel like they could stop a tank, too. The pedal feel is just so much crisper.

As for the visual upgrades, you’ll either love them or loathe them, but fortunately these are optional too; if you’re in the latter group then you just go for the dynamic upgrades on their own. At this point you’ll have a proper Q-car on your hands – one that’s even better (in most ways) than the fine car on which it’s based.

A sensible set of upgrades for the already excellent Ford Fiesta ST, Mountune’s latest range of options enhance the car’s dynamics without drastically altering its personality. They make it even more fun to drive, although the ride quality does suffer. Beware, however, that some parts may affect your existing manufacturer warranty.
  • Model: Ford Fiesta ST M225
  • Price: £25,761
  • Engine: 1.5-litre 3cyl turbo petrol
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • Power/torque: 222bhp/340Nm (197/290)
  • 0-60mph: 5.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 144mph
  • Economy/CO2: 47.0mpg/136g/km
  • On sale: Now

Bosch developing next-generation 3D digital instrument panels
Posted on Wednesday August 14, 2019

Hugo Griffiths 2019-08-14 10:30

Bosch believes passive 3D display technology is the next step in in-car technology

German technology giant and key automotive industry supplier Bosch has revealed new technology that will underpin next-generation 3D digital displays, intended for use in cars. 

The firm says it has created a range of new products for automotive manufacturers, using passive 3D technology to create a “realistic” three-dimensional effect, allowing in-car displays to prioritise certain information and package more information into smaller screens.

Bosch reveals digital car key app

“The display’s depth of field means drivers can grasp important visual information faster, whether from an assistance system or a traffic-jam alert,” claims Dr. Steffen Berns, president of Bosch Car Multimedia.

Bosch also claims that 3D technology will drastically improve camera based driver assistance functions. For instance, a 3D reversing camera system could give drivers a better sense of depth and more realistic view of the space behind the vehicle. 

The firm says that the technology is ready and can be applied to displays of all shapes and sizes. However, Bosch is not the first in the industry to develop a 3D display for use in a vehicle. American automotive electronics supplier Visteon has already developed a 3D instrument cluster which will make its debut in the next Peugeot 208, relying on mirrors to create a holographic effect.

Bosch claims that its passive 3D technology is more true to form three-dimensional broadcasting via display technology, not requiring glasses or reflection for the 3D effect to be seen.

Do you think 3D digital instrument panels are a good idea? Let us know your thoughts below...

'The small car market is facing an ownership revolution'
Posted on Wednesday August 14, 2019

John McIlroy 2019-08-15 17:40

With small cars getting increasingly more expensive, owners are turning more to PCP deals to get the best value, says John McIIroy

OPINION Superminis

How much are you willing to pay for a small car? Right now, you can find new models from just under £10,000 – but there’s an ever-increasing amount of evidence that this is going to change, and soon.

As we reveal this week, the next Honda Jazz is going to get a radical rethink and hybrid powertrains across the range. And that means this pocket-sized practicality star is likely to be more expensive.

Best superminis to buy

It’s only part of a growing trend, though, for cars that are smaller but not necessarily much cheaper. That’s because the safety kit, refinement and efficiency required for regulations and customer tastes simply cannot be produced cheaply enough to deliver the same price tags that have existed for the past decade or more.

As if to prove this point, the early signs are that the next Hyundai i10 – an affordability champ since the days of scrappage – is likely to carry a list price hike of a few thousand pounds when it arrives at the end of the year. The Korean firm is promising funkier looks and a more premium cabin on its smallest offering – and if the speculation on the numbers is correct, it clearly believes it can charge more for them.

At least there will be another i10; some brands are getting out of the small-car market altogether, hoping to cover it off by selling larger superminis to some customers (often at roughly the same money) and leasing them to others. 

The trick, of course, will be to keep an eye on the ‘through the range’ sections of the Auto Express comparison tests and look beyond the big numbers. Because as long as the residual values of the new wave of small cars increase in line with the list prices, and interest rates remain low, then monthly PCP payments and three-year lease deals may not ultimately change all that much. It’s hard to believe, but it’s customers wanting to pay cash and buy outright who stand to take the biggest hit. 

Do you agree with John's comments about small cars? Click here to read through some of our other opinion columns...

Mazda 3 review
Posted on Tuesday August 13, 2019

Excellent to drive
High-quality interior
Generous equipment levels
Our Rating 
Not the most practical
Nor the most spacious
Limited engine range
Mazda 3 - front

The Mazda 3 looks fantastic, drives brilliantly and rides well, but some rivals are better all-rounders

The new Mazda 3 is a brilliant car and among the most desirable family hatchbacks you can buy. This is a car that you’ll never tire of driving, and it’s executed in a package that’s of immense quality for the money. Granted, it’s not the most practical option, and while the new SkyActiv-X petrol engine employs groundbreaking technology, you’ll struggle to detect it at work. But, if you can live with the minor downsides this will be a rewarding and exciting family car to live with.

13 Aug, 2019

The Mazda 3 is one of the best-looking family cars on sale; its aggressively sporty styling isn’t too far removed from the Kai concept car that first appeared at the 2017 Toyko Motor Show. As with other modern Mazda products like the CX-5 and MX-5, the 3 has been designed to look fast and powerful even at a standstill – the result is a family car that looks far sportier than its competition. It’s a handsome car that looks decidedly up-market.

The Mazda 3 also sets itself apart by feeling more driver-focused than its rivals; its chassis has been developed with an engaging drive in mind, while the car’s interior is built around the driver’s needs, with great ergonomics and a fantastic driving position. 

The 3 has a classy feel inside, with simple lines and a deliberate lack of buttons. The dashboard has a wrap-around feel and is topped with an infotainment screen that’s controlled by a rotary dial behind the gear lever. Simple heater controls fall easily to hand, while the analogue dials are refreshingly simple. Build quality is great and the materials used are top-notch, especially on higher-spec models – there’s very little to complain about inside the 3’s cabin. 

There’s no real options list as such, rather a collection of well-judged trim levels that each come with a good level of equipment. Even entry-level SE-L models get automatic LED headlights, rear parking sensors, 16-inch alloys and radar cruise control.

The 3 feels just as well-built as a Volkswagen Golf and is arguably more interesting to both look at and sit in. It may not have the same scope for personalisation, but Mazda’s more simplistic approach is welcome in this class. 

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

The Mazda’s 8.8-inch infotainment is a massive improvement over the previous model’s. The screen is sharp and the graphics are excellent; modern and classy-looking, yet intuitive and easy to use. That’s because the brand has opted for a rotary-dial control on the centre console rather than a touchscreen, so it’s more natural to use while driving than either of the rival systems.

It’s fitted with satellite navigation as standard, but you also have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay if you would rather use your smartphone’s mapping. The system works well, and although it’s a bit more cumbersome than the touchscreen versions found in rivals like the Volkswagen Golf, it’s an easier set-up to use on the move.

There’s a digital dial display of sorts, plus slick-looking traditional dials at either side. It’s standard kit, but isn’t as feature-rich as the VW’s optional Active Info display.


Mazda has carved a reputation for delivering family cars with a thrilling edge, and while the Mazda 3 lacks a true performance variant, it lives up to its reputation by feeling solid from behind the wheel. 

That’s apparent the moment you take a seat inside. The driving position is excellent and the ergonomics of the controls are perfect. The wheel is well sized and the rim is thin; ideal for exploiting the Mazda 3’s tidy handling and steering. There’s little in the way of feedback, but few mainstream cars supply this these days. At least the 3’s steering rack is weighted well and the speed of the steering motor is spot on, too, resisting the urge to re-centre too quickly like on a Ford Focus, but being snappier than a Golf in this regard. 

The six-speed manual gearbox is simply the best in class. The throw is short, while the action is tactile and mechanical feeling - it’s an absolute joy to use. The six-speed automatic isn’t quite as strong as other auto options out there. Mazda still uses a torque converter compared to the faster dual-clutch transmissions that have become popular in the segment – and even with wheel mounted paddles it’s just a shade too slow and unresponsive. 

The 3 is responsive on turn-in, and by family car standards it’s extremely composed. A lot of that can be put down to standard G-Vectoring technology, which detects wheel lock and reduces engine torque as necessary, shifting weight onto the front axle and pushing the nose of the car into the tarmac. It doesn’t corner totally flat – there is a little body roll – but it’s communicative, and you’ll quickly learn the limits of the car’s grip. 

However, perhaps more impressive is how the Mazda 3 manages to be fun to drive while retaining excellent ride quality. The firm’s engineers have struck a sweet spot between forgiving springing and damping and body control, and while a Golf is still the most comfortable family hatchback on sale, the Mazda manages its priorities better than the Ford Focus, by being just as fun from behind the wheel while riding better in the process.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

In contrast to its many rivals the Mazda 3 totally forgoes any turbocharged engine options.

Instead, both the basic petrol and diesel options are naturally aspirated (the 2.0-litre four-cylinder SkyActiv-G does come with 24v mild hybrid assistance) while the new SkyActiv-X petrol uses a supercharger, as it’s an essential element of the all-new spark controlled compression ignition technology this 2.0-litre petrol engine debuts. 

Starting with the basic 2.0-litre four-cylinder SkyActiv-G engine, power stands at 120bhp with peak torque of 213Nm delivered at 4,000rpm. Mazda claims 10.4 seconds from 0-62mph for manual cars, with automatic versions taking 10.8 seconds. Top speed stands at 122mph. Figures like these won’t trouble any of the torquier alternatives on the market, but in practice we’ve found the SkyActiv-G adds up to be a little more than the sum of its parts. On test against more powerful, turbo versions of the Golf (1.5 TSI 130) and Focus (1.0 EcoBoost 125), we clocked faster 0-60mph times, with the off-the-line pace boosted by the Mazda’s mild-hybrid system. 

However, in-gear acceleration lags behind, and the small amount of torque on offer exposes the 120bhp 2.0-litre petrol as a hampered overtaker. It is refined though, remaining hushed right through the rev band. In sixth at motorway speed it’s very quiet, pairing off nicely with the Mazda’s controlled wind noise and decent ride. 

The 1.8-litre four-cylinder diesel is a straightforward affair, developing 114bhp and 270Nm torque. Typically, some refinement is lost by virtue of the engine’s noisier combustion, and while the manual version matches the performance of the 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G petrol, the automatic dips significantly, taking 12.1 seconds to hit 62mph. 

In any case, the SkyActiv-X petrol is the engine to go for, developing 178bhp and 224Nm of torque. This 2.0-litre supercharged four-cylinder engine also uses mild-hybrid assistance mated with clever spark controlled compression ignition technology – a production vehicle world first. Mazda claims 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds and a top speed of 134mph for the manual variant, with the benchmark dash taking 8.5 seconds for automatic versions. 

Start the car and it idles like a petrol, but as the engine reaches mid-revs it begins to mimic the sound of a diesel. Keep it going up towards the 6,500rpm redline and the noise turns back to that of a conventional petrol engine. It’s not quite as refined as the SkyActiv-G engine, but it’s a much better performer and more than enough for day to day motoring. It’s great to finally have a little bit of performance to go hand in hand with the excellent chassis, too, making it our pick of the line-up.


The Mazda 3 was crash tested by Euro NCAP and was duly awarded a full five-star rating, with an impressive 98 per cent score for adult occupants and 87 per cent for child occupants. This puts it amongst the very safest family cars on sale.

Standard safety kit is generous: all models get nine airbags, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, hill-start assist, intelligent speed assist, lane-keep assist with lane departure warning and a driver attention alert system. There’s also an emergency calling system than can automatically alert the emergency services in the event of an accident.  

The latest Mazda 3 is too new to have featured in our 2019 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, but it’s safe to assume that the new car shouldn’t cause buyers too much trouble. Mazda itself finished in a strong fourth place out of 30 manufacturers; build quality, driving experience and servicing costs were all praised, while 16.3 per cent of owners reported experiencing an issue with their car.


All new Mazda models are covered by a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty. An unlimited-mileage paint and surface corrosion warranty applies over the same period regardless of mileage; a 12-year anti-perforation warranty is also included.

Mazda’s warranty matches that offered by most of its mainstream rivals, including Ford, Nissan and Peugeot – but it’s not as comprehensive as Toyota’s five-year, 100,000-mile coverage. Vauxhall, meanwhile, provides three years of coverage with no mileage limit in the first year.


Mazda offers fixed-price servicing plans to help spread the cost of maintenance for up to three years. The Mazda 3’s service intervals are every 12,500 miles or 12 months, whichever comes first. Mazda states that these intervals may reduce depending on driving style and conditions.


As is so often the case with swoopier car designs, the Mazda 3 can’t quite match its rivals in the practicality department. Its low roofline encroaches slightly on rear passenger space and the boot is not the largest, while small rear windows make the cabin feel a little dark and limit rearward visibility. Interior storage is good, with a large cubby ahead of the gear lever proving particularly useful.

Elsewhere, the great driving position is set low in the car and can be adjusted to feel almost sports-car-like. There is lots of steering wheel adjustment, too. The seats themselves are great, offering plenty of support and comfort over longer journeys. 

Those looking for a more practical Mazda 3 may be tempted by the saloon variant – a car that exists in a niche market that’s shared with cars like the Audi A3 Saloon and Mercedes A-Class Saloon. It offers a larger boot, albeit without the flexibility of a hatchback.

The Mazda 3 isn’t the best choice in this class if outright practicality is your priority – Skoda has that covered with its Scala and Octavia hatchbacks. However, the Mazda will still offer enough space for most, all the while offering a much sportier take on the traditional family hatchback recipe.


The Mazda 3 measures in at 4,460mm long, 1,795mm wide (or 2,028mm with mirrors) and 1,435mm tall. It’s around 200mm longer than a Volkswagen Golf, and slightly lower, too, helping it look and feel more sporty. That extra length seemingly accounts for the Mazda 3’s longer bonnet, as rear seat and boot space are not especially impressive.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

The Mazda 3’s rear seats are spacious enough; there’s more legroom than you’ll find in a Ford Focus, but not quite as much as in the class-leading Volkswagen Golf. There’s enough headroom for six-footers in the rear but entry and egress is made difficult by a low cant rail and small rear doors – something that could prove problematic for owners with small children. Kids might struggle to see out of the small rear windows, inevitably contributing to motion sickness.


There is 351 litres of boot space in the back of the 3 – less than you’ll find in the Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus. The space itself is well-shaped, however, with a usefully wide opening, but there’s a high lip to lift items over, with a drop on the other side to the low boot floor. The rear bench folds with a 60/40 split to reveal extra storage space, with no real lip between boot floor and seat back.


All Mazda 3 models are rated to tow a braked trailer of up to 1300kg; no unbraked figures are quoted.


We recorded a figure of 41.4mpg over 464 miles in the SkyActiv-G-engined manual Mazda 3 used in our most recent road test, which is a number very faithful to the 45.6-44.8mpg figure claimed by the manufacturer. It’s an impressive figure for a naturally aspirated engine, assisted not just by the standard mild-hybrid underpinnings but also by the long sixth gear. At a motorway cruise, the drivetrain isn’t at all stressed, which helps return those favourable numbers.

The SkyActiv-X petrol engine serves up the best combination of efficiency and performance, with Mazda claiming up to 51.4mpg in the front-wheel-drive manual specification car we’d recommend. In the real world, it’s little more economical than the SkyActiv-G, but it is a far better performer without any real trade off in fuel economy. Even the all-wheel-drive version is said to return a respectable 47.1mpg. 

• The best hatchbacks to buy now

The 1.8-litre SkyActiv-D diesel engine remains out front as the most frugal option of the bunch, capable of up to 56.5mpg in manual guise. 

Opt for an automatic Mazda 3 and naturally fuel economy takes a slight hit across all engine types. Economy drops to 43.5mpg (best case scenario) for the automatic SkyActiv-G model, and 45.6mpg for the front-wheel-drive SkyActiv-X. All-wheel-drive buyers can expect 42.8mpg, and automatic diesel buyers will see around 50.4mpg should Mazda’s figures be truthful. 

All SkyActiv-G versions of the Mazda 3 produce between 117-128g/km of CO2, and due to the mild-hybrid system, it commands an annual VED rating of £135 (after a year one payment of £170). Benefit in Kind rates for business buyers range from 27 to 29 per cent – on the money for this sort of car. The SkyActiv-X Mazda 3 is also a mild-hybrid, commanding the same £135 annual rate after year one. It’s easily the most tax friendly model both for private and fleet buyers, thanks to benefit in kind rates ranging from 24 to 29 per cent. 

Manual diesel models emit between 107-109g/km, and with the diesel surchage, Benefit in kind rates rise up to 33 per cent depending on specification and equipment, so fleet buyers need to work out if the tax they’ll pay will outweigh any potential fuel savings.

Insurance groups

The Mazda 3 occupies insurance groups 15, 16 and 17, with SE-L and GT Sport Tech models bookending the top and bottom of the range. This is more or less in-line with most rivals, although the broader engine ranges offered by the likes of SEAT and Volkswagen see their family offerings break into the 20s.


Our experts predict that the Mazda 3 will retain around 42 to 46 per cent of its value after three years and 36,000 miles. By contrast, the ever-popular Volkswagen Golf can’t quite match the Mazda in this area – its 36 to 44 per cent range isn’t quite as strong, which is interesting given that car’s punchy list prices.

Used BMW i8 review
Posted on Tuesday August 13, 2019

Used BMW i8 - front
13 Aug, 2019 4:15pm Richard Dredge

A full used buyer’s guide on the BMW i8 covering the i8 Mk1 (2014-date)

BMW has a reputation for building no-compromise cars, but when it unveiled the i8 concept in 2011, there were many who doubted the German brand would really put anything so outlandish into production.

Just three years later, however, we saw the road-ready i8 Coupé, which looked little different from that show car. With its futuristic design, cutting-edge technology and brilliant dynamics, the i8 was typically BMW, but this was a car with economy at its heart.

To that end, much of the available power came from a twin-turbo 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine tuned to give 228bhp. This drove the rear wheels, while the front wheels were powered by a 129bhp electric motor. The result was 357bhp, with CO2 emissions of just 49g/km and official fuel economy of more than 100mpg. Deeply impressive. 

Models covered

  • • BMW i8 Mk1 (2014-date) - Hi-tech flagship supercar offers stunning looks and outstanding economy.

BMW i8


The BMW i8 plug-in hybrid Coupé hit UK roads in July 2014, priced from £94,845 once the £5,000 Government grant had been deducted. There was one specification, with all cars featuring a 20Ah battery pack that allowed an electric range of up to 23 miles. Buyers could order an iWallbox charging system for just £315 (after a 75 per cent Government grant), which could charge the i8 from zero to 80 per cent in only two hours.

In January 2018 an upgraded i8 Coupé arrived, along with the i8 Roadster, costing £112,730 and £124,730 respectively. A new 34Ah battery pack gave an electric range of up to 33 miles and laser headlights joined the options list, at a hefty £5,100.

BMW i8 reviews

BMW i8 in-depth review
BMW i8 review
BMW i8 Roadster review

Which one should I buy?

All i8s are mechanically the same, aside from any updates already mentioned. Every one features an automatic transmission so it’s just a question of homing in on the best spec for your needs, and whether you want a Coupé or Roadster – bearing in mind the latter carries a significant price premium.

Predictably, all i8s get plenty of hi-tech and luxury kit, including adaptive cruise control, adaptive LED headlights, navigation, 20-inch alloy wheels, a head-up display, parking sensors front and rear, automatic lights and wipers, metallic paint and electrically adjustable heated front seats.

The options list isn’t all that extensive and consists mainly of different colours and finishes, but it’s worth pinning down what extras are fitted to any potential purchase; surround-view cameras and the upgraded Harman Kardon hi-fi are worth having.

Alternatives to the BMW i8

The i8’s closest rival is the Honda NSX, a petrol-electric supercar that costs more than the BMW; prices start at £100,000. The NSX has a twin-turbo V6 engine boosted by three electric motors, but only two seats; if you want more, the Tesla Model S provides plenty of thrills with brilliant packaging, and prices of used examples start at £35,000.

There are also plenty of conventional petrol-engined alternatives, not least the Porsche 911, which is in plentiful supply, brilliantly built and available with a wide variety of body and transmission options. Alternatively you could opt for a Jaguar F-Type, Aston Martin Vantage or Audi R8, all of which come in coupé or convertible forms.

What to look for

EV range

Early i8s can reach speeds of up to 75mph in EV mode and their range is officially 23 miles, but expect 10-15 miles in reality.


An eight-year warranty covers the i8’s battery pack, but so far there have been no reports of one needing to be replaced for any reason. 


LED lights come as standard, but considering the car’s price and performance, they don’t light the way as well as one might expect.


You can’t park in very tight spaces because the ‘butterfly’ doors open widely. Park too close to another car and you can’t get in or out.


The cabin is beautifully made and superbly designed, but it doesn’t feel as futuristic as you might expect. However, the upside to this is that it’s very easy to live with. There’s seating for four, but it’s very cramped in the second row. You’re better off using this space for carrying luggage – not least because the boot is actually smaller than a Volkswagen up!’s, with a capacity of just 154 litres.


You can buy a nearly new BMW i8 for between £46,000 and £82,950 on our sister site BuyaCar.

Running costs

Service intervals for the i8 are every two years or 18,000 miles, alternating between minor and major at £372 and £1,017 respectively. Until early 2018 all i8s came with a five-year maintenance package; it was first cut to three years, then BMW dispensed with it altogether.

Those costs are high, but they’re not outrageous for a car with the i8’s performance. The major service includes new gas struts for the doors (at £145) and a replacement drive belt at £444; this isn’t a timing belt because the engine is chain-driven. The use of long-life coolant means replacement isn’t necessary, while the brake fluid should be renewed every two years for £68.


The i8 has had three recalls. Cars built up to September 2014 suffered from potential fuel leaks; a new tank was needed. A power steering sensor issue led to a recall in December 2015; certain i8s built in the preceding two months needed recalibrating. Some i8s built between August and November 2016 have airbags that could fail to deploy correctly; faulty modules were replaced. 

Driver Power owner satisfaction

The i8 is too niche a vehicle to get into our Driver Power surveys, but BMW’s 25th position out of 30 car makers in our 2019 manufacturers’ survey is very disappointing for a premium marque. Scour the owners’ forums and you’ll find reports of a brilliant driving experience, excellent refinement and a high-quality cabin, with one or two buyers reporting isolated electrical glitches.

BMW didn’t cut any corners when it was developing the i8, and it’s because of this absolute focus that it has no serious rivals. The engineering that went into its design, the way it drives, the available performance combined with minimal fuel consumption make the i8 an extremely desirable car. Yes, you have to pay relatively heavily for the i8, yet it remains one of the most high-tech cars to ever hit the road. But while the i8 is expensive to buy, running costs are reasonable considering the performance. Also, it’s proving to be reliable, with very few significant faults reported.

New 2020 Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet fills gap in range
Posted on Tuesday August 13, 2019

James Brodie 2019-08-14 08:30

New Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet spells end for convertible Golf and will try to succeed where Range Rover Evoque Convertible did not

This is the brand new Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet, and in a world of ever more niche SUVs this could be the peak of the genre, being a drop-top compact crossover intended to make the T-Roc line-up one of the more versatile model lines in the VW stable.

It joins the new 302bhp T-Roc R as an offcut of the standard SUV, and it’s ready to make its public debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show next month, alongside the all-important, all-electric ID.3 hatchback.

Best convertible cars on sale

In the UK, it marks the return of a convertible to the VW line-up - final orders for the Beetle Cabriolet were taken last February, and no drop-top has been in the range since.

It’s a car with few direct ancestors to look back upon, the ill-fated Range Rover Evoque Convertible is the only recent compact SUV to go topless. However, while that car was a totally radical departure for Land Rover, the T-Roc Cabriolet can hang a little of its image and purpose on the likes of the Karmann Ghia, Mk1 Beetle Cabriolet and Golf Cabriolet. To that end, it’ll be produced at the same Osnabruck factory as those cars, continuing 70 years of convertible production at the facility.

It’s also a segment below the Evoque in size, something Volkswagen marketing and sales boss Jurgen Stackmann believes is vital to this car’s chances of mainstream acceptance - he thinks buyers won’t see this as a convertible SUV specifically, but simply, just a compact convertible car.

The T-Roc Cabriolet loses two side doors and the B-pillar makes way in order to make the folding fabric hood possible. The electrically folding arms and brackets for the roof are positioned in the bodywork either side of the second row of seats, squeezing the back bench down to just two spaces and turning the car into a strict four-seater.

At the press of a button the roof will fold away or reappear in nine seconds, and it can do this at speeds of up to 19mph. The mechanicals for the roof have been taken from the old Golf convertible, and the T-Roc uses the same platform as that car, called MQB.

To deal with enormous loss of stiffness due to the absent roof and B-pillar, the chassis has been strengthened with new crossbeams, and the A-pillar has been strengthened too. VW has not revealed how much heavier the newcomer is, but convention would suggest a few hundred kilogrammes has been added.

Every piece of bodywork from the front wheel arch onwards is new, and the T-Roc Cabriolet actually grows in size compared to the five-door SUV. The wheelbase is up 40mm to 2,630mm, while the body grows in length too, to 4,268mm. Of course, the folding roof mechanism means that boot space takes a hit to 284-litres, and the opening is more a chute than a wide hatch. The rear bench folds almost flat at the pull of a lever, however.

The roof will only be available in black fabric and it arches high and almost to the very end of the bootlid, to create as much headroom as possible. While the rear bench has been modified, up front the cabin environment does not change from the normal T-Roc, with an eight-inch touchscreen placed centrally. The module itself is the latest ‘MIB3’ unit, brought over from the latest Passat and including an integrated eSIM for online services. VW’s 11.7-inch Active Info Display digital instrument panel will be an optional extra.

As for engines, the entry level car will use a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder TSI petrol engine developing 113bhp and 200Nm torque, with a six-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels. A level up will be a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol with 148bhp and 250Nm, again linked to a six-speed manual transmission but with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic optional.

Volkswagen has not issued any performance or fuel economy figures, but given the additional weight the T-Roc Cabriolet carries, anticipate a hit to both.

Two versions have been confirmed. In the UK, the base model will inherit the mid-spec Design trim level of the regular T-Roc, riding on 17-inch wheels as standard and with partial leather upholstery optional. An R-Line car has also been readied, with a sporty bodykit, newly minted 17-inch wheels, sports seats, lowered sports suspension and progressive steering equipped as standard too. Both will receive driver aids such as city emergency braking and lane keep assist by default.

The T-Roc Cabriolet will be on UK roads in spring 2020 with both Design trimline cars and sporty R-Line versions coming to Britain. The former should start from around £25,000, but final UK specifications will be outlined a little closer to launch.

Q&A with Jurgen Stackmann

Member of the Board of Management Volkswagen Brand for Sales, Marketing & After Sales

Who are you targeting with this car?

The car itself has very few natural competitors in the market. So it lends to customers who want to express themselves, people who don’t have to make pure, rational choices. They want something very unique. 

Could competitors join you or do you think this is a segment you could be alone in?

I think so. You have to make three big decisions: do you want to invest in the cabriolet segment? Which is, a very small segment. Do you have a base car that actually allows you to create a cabriolet? We’ve seen one example where it didn’t really work. And thirdly, can it be affordable enough to sell it to a sufficient amount of people?

Could you look to build another convertible SUV?

There is no plan to do this with another SUV. We don’t have an SUV cabriolet range in our head. And I don’t think people will detect this as an SUV-cabriolet. I think they will look at the car and see a very strong, characterful car. 

Do you still need to do a Golf Cabriolet now that this exists? 

I don’t believe we will come to that decision. We took the decision to do the T-Roc Cabriolet as a team, and to be frank, we asked the team ‘show us the car. If we love it, we’ll give it a shot.’ We loved it. It will suit the line-up and it will be a good Volkswagen. I don’t think we need to take another cabriolet into what is a small market segment, so Golf, I don’t think will get a cabriolet.

If we do go for another open car it will be something radically different, so something like the ID. Buggy. That would be something very different. Different user group, different style group, but not another cabriolet.

Do you like the look of the new Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet? Let us know your thoughts below...

New 2020 BMW 4 Series spied at the Nurburgring
Posted on Tuesday August 13, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-08-13 11:40

The next BMW 4 Series coupe is on the way with a touch of 3 Series and 8 Series styling

BMW 4 Series - spyshot 2

The new BMW 4 Series Coupe has been caught on camera for the very first time, following a recent sighting of the next 4 Series Cabriolet that will join it on sale next year.

Sharing its mechanicals with the latest BMW 3 Series saloon, the new 4 Series will break cover next year. But with 2019 being a Frankfurt Motor Show year, don’t be surprised to see BMW preview its arrival in the coming weeks at Germany’s largest auto show.

New 2021 BMW M4 Cabriolet caught on camera

It’s still heavily hidden away, but the design of the next BMW 4 Series Coupe will draw heavily on its saloon bodied 3 Series sibling. We can just about make out that it shares the same sculpted bumpers, long bonnet and swept-back headlamps, as well as a matching flat rear-end, similarly shaped flanks and a near-identical set of LED tail lights. The strong shoulders over the rear wheels gives the 4 Series a touch of 8 Series Coupe presence too.

The Coupe’s interior will be carried over largely unchanged from the 3 Series, with only minor tweaks to make it suitable for the car’s two-door body style. BMW’s 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and 10.2-inch iDrive infotainment system will feature, along with a fresh rear bench seat, new door cards and Apple CarPlay connectivity.

Due to its sporty brief, we expect the new 4 Series Coupe will use only the 3 Series’s more powerful engines and will receive a sportier chassis tune by default. Entry-level variants will feature revised versions of the saloon’s four-cylinder petrol and diesel units, being badged as 420i and 420d respectively. Above these will sit the 430i and the six-cylinder 430d and 440i.

A new BMW M4 Coupe will sit at the top of the range, sharing the same, brand new ‘S58’ twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine as the forthcoming BMW M3 Saloon

The standard M4 will produce 480bhp, with the flagship Competition variant - likely the only one we’ll get in Britain - developing 510bhp. 

Lower-specced 4 Series models will send drive to the rear wheels only, with four-cylinder variants potentially being offered with a six-speed manual gearbox. The flagship M4 Coupe will feature a similar selectable four-wheel-drive system as the new M5, which offers drivers the option of sending all of the engine’s power to the rear wheels if desired.

What are your thoughts on the new BMW 4 Series Coupe? Let us know in the comments section below…


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