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Hyundai i30 Fastback N vs Skoda Octavia vRS Challenge
Posted on Tuesday June 18, 2019

2019-06-18 11:40

The Hyundai i30 Fastback N and Skoda Octavia vRS Challenge major on both practicality and performance, but which hot hatch does it best?

Hyundai i30 Fastback N vs Skoda Octavia vRS Challenge - header

Hyundai launched its i30 N hot hatch in 2017 and the car immediately made a splash, upsetting the status quo and ruffling the feathers of models such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Peugeot 308 GTi.

In top Performance spec, however, the Korean hot hatch is undoubtedly a hardcore car, so with the addition of this longer, sleeker i30 Fastback N, the company has softened it off slightly to make it easier to live with. The new bodystyle puts it squarely in the firing line of the Skoda Octavia vRS Challenge – a big hatchback with plenty of performance to rival the Hyundai.

Both match up on price, with only £105 difference in the Hyundai’s favour. However, the i30 N also performs a little better on paper. Let’s find out which is the best all-rounder.

Head-to-head

Model: Hyundai i30 Fastback N Performance Skoda Octavia vRS Challenge
Price: £29,995 £30,100
Engine:  2.0-litre 4cyl turbo 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo
Power/torque: 271bhp/378Nm  242bhp/370Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive, electronic limited-slip differential Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive, electronic limited-slip differential
0-60mph: 6.3 seconds 6.8 seconds
Top speed: 155mph 155mph
Test economy:  33.9mpg 35.5mpg
CO2/tax:  178g/km/£150 152g/km/£150
Options: None  Virtual Cockpit (£450), space-saver spare wheel (£150)

Hyundai i30 Fastback N

For: Slightly softer character makes i30 easier to live with – but it’s not lost its edge, performance for the price.
Against: Quality could be a little better, suspension is still too firm in some situations.

We’ll start with the elements that are new here. While the set-up has been softened, the Fastback’s bodyshell is around seven per cent stiffer, which makes the platform more rigid. This gives the suspension a better, less corrupted basis to work from, allowing Hyundai to reduce the size of the front anti-roll bar and soften the bushes to take the edge off the harsh ride. Make no mistake, this car hasn’t gone soft, and it’s still skewed towards the firm end of the scale, but it’s crucially a little more usable.

While this setting still means the i30 N feels alert, in the Fastback the change is palpable; the car is now a little less edgy. However, it’s also nicer to drive quickly, because you don’t feel like you have to be quite as on top of the steering to forcefully guide the i30 where you want it to go. There are still some quirks to the set-up, which feels too heavy and artificial in its weightiest mode, but it’s a little easier and less draining to drive fast.

And you will drive the i30 quickly, due to all that power. Unlike the five-door there’s no ‘lesser’ version of the N Fastback; it comes only in Performance trim. With 271bhp and 378Nm of torque on overboost, against the Skoda’s 242bhp and 370Nm, it’s rapid. We coaxed a 6.3-second 0-60mph time from the i30, while this model, with its extra power and torque, was also quicker than the Skoda in-gear; its 3.4 seconds from 30-50mph in fourth – relative to the Skoda’s 4.1 seconds – shows how much grunt it has.

In N mode with the exhaust in its sportiest setting, there’s a loud rally car-style burble that gets even noisier with revs. It’ll pop and bang, too, and while this might seem contrived to some, just as many people will love it. Because the powertrain is the same as before, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. What is more interesting, though, is that things feel a little more fluid, although the change seems slight in Normal mode. The car has not really lost anything when it comes to body control; rather the slightly more relaxed set-up makes it feel more composed over bumpy tarmac.

The steering is quicker and more engaging than the Skoda’s, and the car feels better balanced, with a more neutral stance in corners. The diff helps, and in N mode you can feel it locking up more aggressively to find more traction and better deploy the power.

Apart from the bodystyle change, the cabin stays the same. The quality of the materials isn’t quite up to the Octavia’s standard, but the level of tech on offer is strong. There’s eight-inch infotainment with nav, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and connected services. Bluetooth, cruise control, DAB, wireless charging and safety systems are also all present. 

Testers’ notes

  • • Tech: Eight-inch infotainment comes complete with satellite-navigation.
  • • Transmission: Positive-shifting, six-speed box means it’s easy to make the most of i30’s rabid engine.
  • • Interior: Cabin is almost identical to hatch’s – which means slightly lower quality than Skoda’s.

Skoda Octavia vRS Challenge

For: Huge practicality, high-quality cabin and good technology, mature image.
Against: Not as fast, capable or fun to drive as the i30 Fastback N, ride still crashy sometimes.

As with the i30 Fastback N, the Skoda vRS shares its DNA with other sporty models – in this case, the Volkswagen Golf GTI. They both use the same MQB chassis, but the platform is longer and larger here, meaning the vRS offers plenty of usability. It’s a more pragmatic solution to the problem of combining performance with practicality.

The former comes from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo, but this kicks out less power and torque than the Hyundai, at 242bhp and 370Nm. Although the Skoda is lighter at 1,365kg, this wasn’t enough to offset its power deficit in our tests: the Octavia managed 0-60mph in 6.8 seconds. It’s still quick, but half-a-second slower than the Hyundai. There’s more than enough grunt, though: its 30-70mph time of 5.5 seconds through the gears is impressive, even if the i30 did it in 5.3 seconds.

It’s an enjoyable process, too, because the gearshift is sweet. It’s not the most mechanical or satisfying action (the i30’s feels more positive and slightly less reluctant to go into gear), but the weight is good. Changes still slip home sweet enough in the Skoda.

However, the Octavia feels flatter to drive, without the effervescent zip the Hyundai has from its raucous engine. By contrast, the Skoda’s motor feels much more muted. There are fewer aspects that you can configure, but as with the Hyundai the standard-fit adaptive dampers, the engine and the steering can be tweaked individually or using pre-set modes for a softer or more racy drive.

Even though the Hyundai has been softened off, the Skoda’s damping in Comfort mode is gentler still. It feels like the vRS has a narrower spread between the two extremes of its damping scale, and that the window over which it operates is skewed slightly more towards comfort than in the i30.

While the Hyundai’s steering hardly brims with life, the Octavia’s is light and even less engaging. The car is as agile and almost as grippy as the i30, but even though it’s virtually as technically competent, it doesn’t feel as much fun. These models are all about enjoyment, so this makes up a big part of the experience, and here the i30 scores higher than the Skoda due to its stronger character.

However, such cars also have to deliver ability in many other areas, and the vRS definitely does this when it comes to quality and kit. In top-spec Challenge trim the Octavia gets 19-inch alloys, heated Alcantara sports seats, front and rear parking sensors, keyless operation, adaptive dampers, an electronic limited-slip diff, sat-nav, autonomous braking, cruise and climate control, phone connectivity plus a lot of safety tech.

Testers’ notes

  • • Infotainment: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, nav and a WiFi hotspot are included, while graphics are sharper than i30’s and fewer steps are needed for certain functions.
  • • Transmission: Gearshift is sweet, even if it doesn’t have the most satisfying action.
  • • Interior: Cabin quality and kit impress, especially in top-spec Challenge trim with its heated Alcantara seats, cruise and climate control plus that phone connectivity. 

Verdict 

First place: Hyundai i30 Fastback N

The i30 N is subtly easier to live with in Fastback form, and more practical than the hatchback. It loses out to the Skoda for usability but offers more fun, which is what these cars should prioritise. The Hyundai will be pricier to run, but you get a great level of kit with the i30 N. 

Second place: Skoda Octavia vRS Challenge

The vRS is more usable, higher quality and cheaper to run than the i30. But for similar money you don’t get as much clout under the bonnet, nor is it as involving. The Hyundai closes the gap to the Skoda for practicality, while it’ll also be more fun and more capable to drive more of the time.

BMW M won’t prioritise Mercedes A45 S, Audi RS3 rival
Posted on Tuesday June 18, 2019

James Brodie 2019-06-18 10:41

A high-performance BMW 1 Series to rival the Mercedes-AMG A45 S and Audi RS3 looks unlikely according to BMW bosses

New BMW M135i 2019 1 Series tracking

The new BMW 1 Series looks unlikely to go after the likes of the upcoming, 415bhp Mercedes-AMG A45 S and the next-generation Audi RS3, which arrives in 2020.

That’s according to BMW M product boss Carsten Pries, who hinted to Auto Express that the M brand needed to target creating performance cars with ‘global’ relevance and proven popular models.

Best hot hatchbacks to buy

“If you look at the relevance of performance hatchbacks, they are not global things,” explained Pries.

Hot versions of the 1 Series have always occupied a unique spot in the hot hatchback world, using revvy six-cylinder engines and rear-wheel-drive to carve out a niche and ducking the need to beat rivals on pure performance alone to appeal to enthusiasts.

However, with the launch of the new third-generation 1 Series, BMW has adopted the front-wheel-drive platform underpinning the likes of the MINI Cooper Hatch and the X1 and X2 SUVs. It means that the new, already revealed M135i uses a turbocharged four-cylinder engine sending power to an all-wheel-drive system, and will now face off directly with the Volkswagen Golf R and the Mercedes-AMG A35.

Asked if BMW could push the M135i further up into the ranks of upcoming mega-hatches from other German brands, Pries said: If you put something like an ‘M1’ on top of it, working title of course, you would have to increase the price again because you put more substance into it. But whether this would then be a smart business proposition is not something I would answer with an immediate yes”.

New BMW M135i 2019 1 Series rear tracking

Pries confirmed that hits like the M2 Coupe and traditional M-cars like the M3 and M5 would remain the brand’s core, global performance cars, while more SUVs look in line for M-division treatment, including the new, full-size X7.

“We had a customer from the US I had lunch with recently, and I asked him ‘to your eyes, what is the size of the X7?’ For us it is huge in Europe. He said ‘it’s normal’. That shows you it is always dependent on the perspective that you look at things from”, he explained.

Would you like to see a hot BMW 1 Series 'M' car? Let us know in the comments below...

Beware of the hedgehog: new road signs to warn of small animals on road
Posted on Tuesday June 18, 2019

Hugo Griffiths 2019-06-18 09:45

Department for Transport says the new road signs will help protect wildlife, while also keeping road users safe

Small animal road signs

Hedgehogs are the latest animal to join the UK’s road-sign landscape, after the Department for Transport (DfT) unveiled new warning signs intended to alert drivers of the potential for small animals to be on the road. 

The hedgehog signs, while distinctive, are not intended to warn drivers just of our prickly friends, but are also designed to signify the possible presence of all types of small wild mammals, such as squirrels, otters and badgers. The hedgehogs join deer, cows, sheep, horses, toads and ducks in the UK’s road-sign menagerie. Hedgehogs have been singled out for special treatment partly because their numbers have halved in the last two decades, and now stand at just a million or so animals.

Pointless and confusing road signs to be removed

As well as protecting wildlife, however, the signs are intended to keep road users safe. In 2017 alone, the DfT says 629 people were injured and four killed in accidents involving animals other than horses. And the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, said the signs would not only “help to reduce the number of people killed and injured”, but would also help “our precious small wild mammal population to flourish.” Grayling called on local authorities to identify wildlife and accident hotspots where the signs should be situated.

Motorcyclists can be particularly vulnerable to collisions with small animals and Tony Campbell, chief executive of the Motorcycle Industry Association, said his organisation was “pleased to welcome these new signs that will help everyone, including those on 2 wheels or 4 legs, complete their journeys more safely.”

Do you really know your road signs?

But while the UK’s road signs may be being updated to reflect our smaller wildlife population, driving laws still only require motorists to report hitting dogs, horses, cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, donkeys and mules. No action must be taken if a driver runs over a cat, or other smaller animal, and performing an emergency stop for a small animal may not be considered reasonable if the action results in an accident with other road users.

What do you think of the new road signs? Let us know your thoughts below...

New BMW X4 M 2019 review
Posted on Monday June 17, 2019

BMW X4 M Competition - front tracking
17 Jun, 2019 4:00pm James Brodie

Does the BMW X4 M Competition offer anymore thrills with its coupe body over its full SUV shaped sibling, the X3 M?

It’s not just the X3 BMW M’s engineers have managed to their hands on: The X4 coupe-SUV has also been fettled by the Munich brand’s performance wing and is also on sale in Britain now ahead of hitting the roads in September.

Although you’re quite unlikely to see one. The X3 M Competition itself is bound to be a rare spot on the UK’s roads, but the X4 version even more so. BMW predicts that just around 150 Brits will take the plunge on the brand’s £80,110 rival for the Mercedes GLC 63 S Coupe in its first year on sale.

Best SUVs to buy

The redesigned body results in some predictable alterations on paper. At 4,658mm from nose to tail, it’s marginally longer, while the roofline sits 49mm lower at its tallest peak too. Additionally, the rear track is a little wider. The nipped rear end results in a boot sizing up at 525 litres with the rear bench in place, which is only a 25-litre drop on the X3 M Competition. Fold the rear bench flat and the 1,430-litre room on offer is a little more down on the hot X3’s 1,600 litres.

But that’s about it. Everywhere else this car is a direct match for the X3 M Competition, with the same 4.1-second 0-62mph dash and 155mph limited top speed, with the option of having the limiter lifted to 174mph for a fee.

Key to producing those figures is arguably the X4 M Competition’s most important ingredient: the engine. It’s a 3.0-litre, turbocharged straight-six, box-fresh from BMW M and developed with an emphasis on lightness and an instinctive free-revving nature.

It’s not a total step back to the best straight-sixes from M cars of old, but it’s certainly progress, and it’s impressive how BMW’s engineers have managed to tailor this turbo unit. It’s also the engine due under the bonnet of the next M3. In truth, in both the X3 and X4 M Competition you get the sense that the unit’s ultimate performance has been capped a little so that the next hot 3 Series can land in 2020 with even more power up its sleeve.

It’s no coincidence that the 503bhp power output is what you’ll get from the V8 powered Mercedes GLC 63 S and the slightly deeper, 2.9-litre V6 turbocharged Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. But cars like this really don’t need more power.

4.1 seconds to 62mph from standstill is absurd in a near two tonne SUV, and the way the X4 M Competition surges forwards under full throttle really doesn’t leave the performance aspect of this car to question. The adaptive M Sport exhaust system is standard kit on the Competition, and by and large you can wring out a sweet yelp from the 3.0-litre unit as it heads towards its redline. Throttle response is nice and linear too. There’s less of the boom and bust nature of the Mercedes GLC 63 S’s 4.0-litre V8, even if that is an engine which overwhelms with its presence compared to the BMW’s more focussed straight-six. The 542bhp, supercharged Jaguar F-Pace SVR is probably sillier still.

Ultimately, a fun, unhinged edge is probably this car’s most auspicious absence, given that’s the characteristic many of the X4 Competition, and indeed the X3 Competition’s rivals offer in the bucket load. It’s just as fast but far more serious in the face of the competition, which probably goes some way to explaining the totally uncompromised, rock hard low and medium speed ride quality. Even in Comfort mode the X4 M Competition will have you whimpering over potholes, and though you can alter the damping you really don’t need to explore the Sport and Sport Plus options, as there’s very little difference between the various modes.

Again, like the adaptive suspension, the different steering modes you can flick through feel fairly fruitless, only injecting unnecessary and artificial weight. Keep the wheel set in comfort and you’ll probably get the best blend of resistance, weight and sensitive feedback that feels on the money for a modern M division product. It’s on the money for a performance SUV that’s decently agile given its weight too, but the smaller, skimpier, and since-departed Porsche Macan Turbo Performance Package would probably leave the X3 M or X4 M behind on a B-road. We’ll have to wait to see what the next hot Macan is capable of when it arrives soon.

Unlike the xDrive system used on the M5, the ‘rear-biased’ X4 M Competition’s setup doesn’t feature a strict rear-wheel-drive mode. As such, row back on the traction control settings and the front axle will always be there to step in if the back becomes unhooked under power. Perhaps it’s not as fun as it could be, but on track you can quickly get up to speed given the grip on offer and the fine body control too. Vented 395mm disks at the front and 370mm units at the rear provide great and controlled stopping power.

Elsewhere, the interior feels well built and appears classy, using the previous-generation BMW dashboard layout - not a bad thing at all - while subtle M-branded badges, switches and sports seats separate the X4 M Competition from the rest of the X4 range.

3.5
The new X4 M Competition is a performance BMW that’ll you’ll rarely spot in the wild. It’s a niche stacked on top of another niche. But of course, it drives almost exactly the same as the X3 M Competition. That means an assured all-wheel-drive system that does well to control and allow you to play a little with the weight, precise steering, a likeable, indulgent six-cylinder powertrain but a ride that’s rock hard. If you’re in the minority that prefers the look, the £3,000 premium you need to pay over the X3 isn’t too bad to stomach.
  • Model: BMW X4 M Competition
  • Price: £80,110
  • Engine: 3.0-litre 6cyl petrol turbo
  • Power/torque: 503bhp/600Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive
  • 0-62mph: 4.1sec
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Economy/CO2: 26.7mpg/239g/km
  • On sale: Now

Extreme Porsche 718 Spyder joins line-up
Posted on Monday June 17, 2019

John McIlroy 2019-06-17 23:01

The new Porsche 718 Spyder uses the same underpinnings as the Cayman GT4, with a 4.0-litre straight-six lifted from the 911

Porsche 718 Boxster Spyder - front

This is the new Porsche 718 Spyder, a more hardcore version of the popular Boxster that uses the uprated powerplant from the latest Cayman GT4 to deliver even more open-topped thrills.

As with previous Spyders, the new model has a removable roof that has to be stored, instead of a set-up that folds away easily. Porsche says there’s pre-assigned space for the lid under the front bonnet.

Best convertible cars on sale

Like the Cayman GT4, the new Spyder gets a 4.0-litre normally aspirated six-cylinder engine - in effect, a development of the turbocharged 3.0-litre unit that features in the latest 992-generation 911. In Spyder form it produces 414bhp, a gain of more than 40bhp over the previous iteration of the Spyder. Peak torque of 420Nm is produced between 5,000rpm and 6,800rpm, and the engine will rev right through to 8,000rpm. Just one transmission is available: a six-speed manual.

Porsche claims a 0-62mph time of 4.4 seconds for the Spyder, and while its top speed is slightly lower than the Cayman GT4’s, at 187mph, this still cracks the magic 300kph barrier.

The rest of the Spyder’s package mirrors that of the Cayman, so it gets 30mm lower ride height than a conventional Boxster, aluminium monoblock brakes (with the option of ceramic composite), a mechanical locking rear differential and reprofiled Porsche Stability Management and Porsche Torque Vectoring. The drop-top does without the coupe’s fixed rear wing, though, sticking with a rear spoiler that deploys automatically at 120kph (75mph).

The 718 Spyder is on sale now. It carries a suitably hefty price premium over the four-cylinder Boxster S, because it costs nearly £20,000 more - at £73,405.

Do you like the look of the new Porsche 718 Spyder? Let us know your thoughts below...

New Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 revealed, and it’s got a flat-six
Posted on Monday June 17, 2019

John McIlroy 2019-06-18 08:40

Six-cylinder power is back as the new Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 arrives with 414bhp

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 - front

The current Porsche 718 Cayman has taken some criticism for the character of its four-cylinder ‘boxer’ engine – but the German sports car is reverting back to six-cylinder power for its most extreme version yet, the 718 Cayman GT4.

The fresh range-topper gets a new 4.0-litre motor that is derived from the engine seen in the latest Porsche 911, but without the turbochargers. In the smaller car, it delivers 414bhp, a gain of 35bhp over the previous Cayman GT4, along with 420Nm of torque between 5,000 and 6,800rpm. The rev limit is 8,000rpm.

Best sports cars on sale

That’s enough to take the GT4, equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox, to a top speed of 189mph (more than 300kph) and from 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds. Porsche also claims that the 718 Cayman GT4 can lap the Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit in Germany more than 10 seconds faster than its predecessor.

The new engine can shut down two cylinders under light throttle loads to save fuel, and Porsche says that the 718 Cayman GT4 manages 26mpg under the older NEDC efficiency test. That should equate to about 22mpg under the tougher WLTP regime.

The 718 GT4 also benefits from various aerodynamic tweaks. Porsche claims up to 50 per cent more downforce, with no adverse effect on drag. There’s a new design of exhaust, which allows for a rear diffuser that delivers around 30 per cent of the rear downforce. And the fixed rear wing produces around a fifth more downforce compared with the previous generation.

The chassis incorporates 30mm lower suspension than a standard Cayman’s, a locking mechanical rear differential and, as an option, a Clubsport package that adds a rear roll bar, a fire extinguisher and a six-point seatbelt for the driver’s seat.

The 718 Cayman GT4 is priced at £75,348, with first deliveries expected in the autumn.

Are you pleased to see Porsche return to six-cylinder power for the Cayman GT4? Let us know your thoughts below...

Mayor of London announces plan for more EV charging points
Posted on Monday June 17, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-06-17 15:41

London will have between 2,300 and 4,100 EV rapid charging points and 33,700 to 47,500 normal charging points by 2025

Kia e-Niro charging

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced further plans for more public electric car charging points in the capital, citing central London's “lack of infrastructure” for drivers of electric vehicles.

London is currently on course to hit its target of 200 to 400 rapid charging points and 3,400 to 4,700 slow to fast charging points by 2020, in order to support the anticipated 45,000 EVs on the capital's streets by next year.

Exclusive: Mayor of London urges motorists to lobby for national diesel scrappage scheme

The plan now is to have a total of 2,300 to 4,100 rapid charging points and 33,700 to 47,500 slow to fast charging points in the city by 2025, when it’s predicted there could be around 330,000 EVs in London.

At present 25 per cent of all of the UK’s EV charging points are in London, with 2,400 of them spread across 1,200 locations.

This will be bolstered both by the new charging points that are to be installed all over the city, but also by the installation of ultra-rapid chargers at petrol stations and five flagship charging hubs, the first of which will be set up in the City of London’s Square Mile before the end of 2019.

The plan will also see the launch of a new “one-stop-shop" for Londoners to request new charging infrastructure from their local authority and an expansion of electric car clubs.

New LEVC van revealed with 80-mile electric-only range

Speaking exclusively to Auto Express, Mr Khan said: “One the biggest obstacles [to EV ownership] that people tell me [about] is the lack of infrastructure, the lack of enough rapid charging points, the lack of enough charging points and so what we’ve announced today is a delivery plan to how we get there.

“We have in London now more rapid charging points than any major city in the world, but we need more and this is a plan to get more. We have in London now more than 2,400 normal charging points; over the last four months alone we’ve had more than 1,100 being rolled out – we need more.”

The Mayor of London has also called for a new diesel scrappage scheme. Find out more here.

Exclusive: Mayor of London urges motorists to lobby for national diesel scrappage scheme
Posted on Monday June 17, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-06-17 13:12

Drivers who bought diesels on previous Government advice should lobby for a national diesel scrappage scheme, says Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan

The Mayor of London has called on motorists across the country to “lobby the Government for a national diesel scrappage scheme.”

In an exclusive Auto Express interview, Sadiq Khan said drivers who had diesel bought cars in good faith under previous tax regimes “did the right thing”, but that it was now time to switch from diesel to electric. “What I don’t want you to do is go back to petrol”, Khan added, “so help me lobby the Government for a national diesel scrappage scheme.”

Scrappage scheme announced for London; rest of UK urged to follow suit

Back in 2001, the Labour Government of the time introduced a road tax regime that saw cars with low CO2 emissions benefit from lower tax, effectively encouraging drivers to buy diesel cars, which emit less CO2 than their petrol counterparts.

“One of the things that I’ve been lobbying this Government to do over the last few years is to recognise that poor families, small businesses and charities listened to the advice given by previous Governments and previous experts to buy diesel. Why? Because it produced less carbon than petrol”, the Mayor said.

“What we now know is that may be true”, Khan explained, “but they emit more particulate matter and NOx, which is dangerous to health, so I’m saying to the Government, help these drivers with a national diesel scrappage scheme, because many poor-income families and small businesses can’t do so.”

The capital’s Mayor added that it is a “consequence of poor air quality coming from transport primarily that we’ve got thousands of premature deaths in our city”.

• London ULEZ: the Ultra Low Emissions Zone explained

Khan claimed the capital “isn’t becoming an anti-car city”, despite drivers having to pay up to £24 a day to drive in the centre at peak times, but insisted “London’s becoming a city that’s scrapping with the issue of a climate emergency”.

The Mayor added he wanted to make it easier for people to move towards electric or hydrogen power, as well as walk, cycle and use public transport.

Do you agree with the Mayor that there should be a new scrappage scheme? Let us know in the comments below...

New Polestar 1 prototype review
Posted on Monday June 17, 2019

Polestar 1 - front
17 Jun, 2019 1:00pm John McIlroy

We went to Sweden to try out a prototype version of the new 599bhp Polestar 1, the first model from Volvo's new sub-brand

As a launch vehicle for a new brand, the Polestar 1 is quite the statement: concept-car looks, a 599bhp hybrid powertrain, carbon-fibre bodywork, four-wheel drive and a price tag of £139,000.

In fact, the new 2+2 coupe is the first and only vehicle from Volvo’s offshoot to feature a combustion engine (a four-cylinder turbo and supercharged unit with 304bhp). From the next model – the Polestar 2 hatchback – all of the brand’s cars will be purely electric.

• Best performance cars on sale

The first deliveries of the Polestar 1 (left-hand drive only) aren’t due until the final quarter of 2019. But we’ve been allowed a quick spin in a verification-prototype vehicle on damp Swedish roads, as well as around Volvo’s test track in Hällered.

On the outside, the car sticks closely to the original looks of Volvo’s Concept Coupe, revealed in 2013. There’s muscle over the rear arches, although the front still carries the Volvo look. Inside is where the Polestar struggles most to escape its connections; the steering wheel is the same as an XC40 SUV’s, except for the badge, and the portrait infotainment system is familiar as well. So are the heating and ventilation controls.

Still, there are neat touches that will help the Polestar stand out. The sturdy-looking connectors for the car’s electrical systems are not just visible, but actively showcased behind a screen in the boot – celebrating the powertrain instead of masking it.

And the Ohlins dampers can be manually adjusted by clicking small dials at either side of the bonnet and above the rear wheels. It’s too fiddly a process to perform regularly, but it will allow customers to adjust the stiffness of their individual vehicle through nine separate stages.

Our car was in roughly the middle of the damper parameters, in what Polestar will recommend as ‘Sport’ settings to buyers. But even on the standard 21-inch wheels, the coupe – which is based on Volvo’s larger SPA platform – feels pretty assured and comfortable as we escape Gothenburg traffic to find some empty country roads.

This is a 2.3-tonne car – a 34kWh battery more than blunts the weight savings made by the carbon-fibre bodywork. But the powertrain has, in theory, enough shove to take it from 0-62mph in a whisker over four seconds. That’s because the engine is assisted not only by an integrated starter-generator (67bhp), but also by two electric motors at the rear that add an additional 228bhp. The total system output is 599bhp, along with a whopping 1,000Nm of torque.

Soaking-wet conditions mean we’re unable to test the claimed standing-start figure, but even so, the powertrain feels more than comfortable with the 1’s mass. It stops short of delivering the stomach-churning shove you get in a Tesla Model S, but torque vectoring through the rear axle allows us to push hard at the drenched test track, with aggressive inputs bringing increased speed rather than understeer.

If anything, it’s the 1’s assured nature that impresses most; it disguises its bulk well as you throw it around, resisting body roll and responding neatly to steering that’s short on feel but reassuringly precise. The brake modulation – always a big challenge for a hybrid – is nicely resolved, too.

Even on pockmarked back roads, there doesn’t appear to be a massive trade-off for this agility. There’s a bit of tyre roar from those wheels and a firmness at lower speeds, but in the main, the overall ride is comfortable enough for a mid-sized GT car.

There’s little noise – not only when in ‘Pure’ electric-only mode, under which the car can run for up to 80-odd miles and keep pace with motorway traffic – but also in the settings that call on the engine. If you favour a throaty soundtrack over the potential for pure-EV miles, then save yourself £10k and buy an Aston Martin Vantage or Mercedes-AMG S 63.

4
The Polestar 1 isn’t cheap, and its design does little to hide its Volvo connections. But there’s not much currently on sale that can match its combination of fast cruising pace and emissions-free running. Its wealthy early adopters will get a stylish, well-finished grand tourer that’s swift, capable and comfortable. If anything, though, the coupe could be too good a commercial for an accomplished hybrid powertrain that Polestar has no further plans to use.
  • Model: Polestar 1
  • Price: £139,000
  • Engine: 2.0 4cyl petrol-electric hybrid
  • Power/torque: 599bhp/1,000Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 4.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 155mph (est)
  • Economy/CO2: 135mpg/40g/km (est)
  • On sale: Now

New BMW X3 M 2019 review
Posted on Monday June 17, 2019

BMW X3 M Competition - front
17 Jun, 2019 10:45am James Brodie

Is the new 503bhp BMW X3 M Competition a serious rival for the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio and Mercedes-AMG GLC 63? We find out...

The BMW X3 M has been a question of when, not if, for several years now. With more and more buyers turning away from traditional performance-oriented segments, this is very much an M car of the times.

Purists may scoff at that, but perhaps that’s why it’s taken BMW so long to provide us with a rival for the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63. It could also be why this newcomer, in one key way, serves up an early preview of the M division’s next big thing to get the crowds interested.

New BMW X3 M40i review

Under the suitably angular and sporty metal is a new engine – essentially a totally redeveloped version of BMW’s 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six that’ll make its way into the new M3 sometime next year.

In Competition spec (the regular, 474bhp car isn’t coming to Britain), the X3 M serves up 503bhp and 600Nm of torque sent to an xDrive four-wheel drive set-up, which BMW’s engineers have injected with as much rear-biased DNA as possible.

That power figure gives the X3 M Competition the same output as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio and the V8-engined Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S. Yet the lack of bark is no dent in the BMW’s character; the new engine is the most powerful straight-six ever concocted for an M car, enabling 0-62mph in just 4.1 seconds.

But it’s the way it delivers that performance that makes this engine a real alternative to the thunderous Merc. For a turbocharged unit, it exhibits some naturally aspirated traits. It’s fairly linear in its delivery, and with the active exhaust valves open it’s a joy to string out right up to a heady 7,200rpm redline. At the opposite end of the rev band it’s deep, purposeful and prone to spitting and crackling, too. It has loads more character than the slightly droning, mid-range surge of the 3.0-litre in the outgoing M3, and it feels more flexible.

Unsurprisingly, given the huge power and torque on offer, a prolonged squeeze of the throttle hauls the X3 M closer to its 155mph limited top speed with relentless ferocity. It could go much, much faster than this; BMW will up the cap to 174mph on request.

For all there is to like about the new straight-six, many will still find the Merc’s V8 more exciting and more suitable in these heaviest of performance cars. The more guttural Stelvio outpaces the newcomer on paper, too. It bodes well for the next M3, however, demonstrating a breadth to its abilities that should make the new supersaloon a very talented car. With the exhaust closed it’s unobtrusive, and the eight-speed transmission works well.

The gearbox is configurable; you can leave it in auto, or utilise the Drivelogic system first found in the M5. This allows the driver to alter the characteristics of the shifts in both manual and automatic mode, with three levels to choose from.

It presents a minor problem for the X3 M’s otherwise impressive drivetrain. Left in its least aggressive setting it’s just too lazy for the motor it’s attached to. Ramp it up and you finally get the crisp, swift shifts you’d expect, but you’ll have to jump on the paddles to stop it from holding on to for too long.

Best fast family cars available

The X3 M Competition tips the scales at 1,970kg, but while that’s something you’ll be aware of when driving, it’s controllable. The steering is like any other contemporary M-badged BMW – it’s accurate, sensitive and sensible, but lacks the ultimate heft of old M cars.

What tames the X3 M Competition and gives you confidence to press on is the xDrive set-up. BMW claims that the all-wheel drive system features a rear bias, and while there’s definitely truth in that, if you ease the traction settings back and begin to explore the car’s edges, the safety net is obvious. This means you can pin the throttle pretty early out of corners, more so than in the slightly more playful Alfa. The M1 and M2 settings on the wheel can be configured to your desires, but the defaults bundled by BMW feel like rounded set-ups few will tinker with.

There’s no escaping that at low speeds the X3 M Competition is rock hard. It features adjustable, electronically controlled dampers. But the set-up, even in its slackest setting, feels like it has been engineered to smother jolts and imperfections at pace. Faster roads unearth a more pliant side, which makes the X3 a good car to hustle cross country on faster roads and motorways. Everywhere else, you’ll feel its firm edge bite. A cliche, but a very black and white case of it.

Inside, there’s a load of M-badged trinkets, alongside electronically adjustable sports seats. There’s no doubting the quality of the interior, easily outflanking the Alfa Stelvio QV and better integrated than the mix of old and new found in the facelifted GLC. Only the Porsche Macan can pip this for a driver-oriented, well-trimmed interior.

3.5
If the SUV is ever to be fully accepted into the performance car fraternity, then BMW certainly needs to make the case for it. This new X3 M Competition is what you’d expect, given its target audience, blending a user-friendly all-wheel-drive system with steering and suspension that do well to disguise the heft. The new engine is likeable too, but for this money it’s impossible to ignore the pull of the epic V8-engined Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S. The X3 M is fast, but maybe lacking a little flair.
  • Model: BMW X3 M Competition
  • Price: £77,190
  • Engine: 3.0-litre 6cyl turbo petrol
  • Power/torque: 503bhp/600Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive
  • 0-62mph: 4.1 seconds
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Economy/CO2: 26.9mpg/239g/km
  • On sale: Now

New BMW Vision M NEXT concept sports car teased
Posted on Friday June 14, 2019

Alex Ingram 2019-06-14 15:45

The BMW Vision M NEXT concept is set to be revealed at the end of the month, and it could preview a replacement for the i8

BMW Vision M NEXT concept - teaser

BMW has released several teaser images of the Vision M NEXT: a new concept that, according to the brand, will demonstrate how “intelligent technologies will enhance driving pleasure.”

Details on one of the abstract images appears to show the concept’s C Pillar, which flows into a rear vent just behind the side window and just above the rear wheel arch. The angle of the roofline - and the need for ventilation at the rear - suggests that the Vision M NEXT is a mid-engined coupe; perhaps previewing a replacement for the i8.

New BMW Vision I NEXT infotainment system teased

The images themselves are not of the car itself, but are close-up photos of artworks created by Thomas Demand. However, the shapes and colours shown in the pictures are based on those of the actual concept. They’re bold contrasting shades which we wouldn’t expect to see should it make production.

Another teaser shot, which seems to be taken from a slightly higher viewpoint of the rear pillar, appears to show the bright red portion of the bodywork wrapping around the rear of the car.

Beyond the cryptic images, BMW is yet to reveal any information about potential powertrain configurations. BMW’s current mid-engined car, the i8, mixes a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine with an electric motor to deliver a total of 369bhp and 570Nm of torque. While the i8 isn’t positioned as a full-on performance model, the ‘M’ in this concept’s name suggests this may become a hotter performance car.

The full reveal of the BMW Vision M NEXT concept is due to take place in Munich later this month.

Do you think it's about time BMW revelead a replacement for the BMW i8? If so, how powerful do you think it should be? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below...

New laws needed for hands-free in-car phone calls, says expert
Posted on Friday June 14, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-06-14 12:49

The TRL’s chief scientist told MPs that the law surrounding hands-free systems in cars needs to be revisited

Van mobile phone

Making hands-free phone calls when driving is dangerous and the laws around the practice should be revisited, according to a leading road safety expert.

At a meeting of the Transport Select Committee earlier this week, chief scientist at the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) Dr Shaun Helman was asked how strongly he felt the “notion of hands-free” should be revisited with regards to the law.

Police to trial mobile phone detectors for drivers

He responded: “Pretty strongly. The evidence is, I think, pretty compelling. I think it’s also worth remembering there are other hands-free functions – such as voice activation – that are going to be more common, so it’s about keeping people’s hands on the vehicle, but also their eyes and their mind on the road, not on something else.”

Helman said previous studies had shown any sort of mobile phone use behind the wheel, including a hands-free conversation, had a negative impact on drivers’ abilities, effectively reducing experienced motorists to the level of “novices”.

“If you’re talking on the phone, you’re more likely to be focussed on the road ahead, rather than scanning more widely for hazards in the driving environment,” he said.

Helman also quoted a study from 2002, which had suggested that making a hands-free phone call had just as much of a negative impact on your driving ability, or even a slightly worse one, than being at the legal UK limit for alcohol blood level.

• Van drivers risking fines for phone use

It is Helman’s belief that the Government should take a lead on the issue by implementing a policy where anyone driving any of its fleet of vehicles on official business is not allowed to make any hands-free phone calls.

The hands-free problem goes much further than phone calls, though, with Helman also pointing the finger at car manufacturers for all creating different systems that work in different ways, rather than all agreeing on one safe, universal operating method.

“The human-machine interface needs to be well-designed, and often in cars it’s not,” he said. “If I say ‘I’m too cold, turn up the heating,’ and the system is not particularly good at understanding my voice or it asks me a follow-up question of ‘What temperature do you want?’ and it’s just poorly designed, it then becomes a more onerous task than just doing this [using analogue controls].”

Do you think new laws are needed for hands-free systems in cars? Let us know in the comments below...

Two new Mazda MX-5 tuning packages launched by BBR
Posted on Friday June 14, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-06-14 12:13

The BBR kits are available for Mazda’s latest 2.0-litre Skyactiv-G engine, with the most aggressive offering a maximum of 221bhp

BBR Mazda MX-5

Following the success of its 2016 MX-5 tuning kits, the British tuning company BBR has launched a pair of new performance packages for the 2019 Mazda MX-5. Called the Super 200 and the Super 220, the kits include a range of mechanical and software upgrades capable of extracting up to 221bhp from the car’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder Skyactiv-G engine.

BBR’s Super 200 package includes a four-into-one stainless steel exhaust manifold, a cold air intake system, a K&N high flow air filter and an engine management system remap. It provides the Mazda MX-5 with 202bhp and 224Nm of torque, or 18bhp and 14Nm more than the engine’s standard tune.

BBR Super 190 Mazda MX-5 review

The Super 200 package is available as a “drive-in, drive-out” conversion (which includes a dyno test for verification) at the BBR’s Brackley headquarters. Prices for the service start from £1,445 excluding VAT, although a discount is available for customers wishing to install it themselves bringing the cost down to £1,245.

BBR also offers a more potent tuning kit, called the Super 220. It adds to the Super 200 package, with a set of re-profiled camshafts and uprated valve springs and retainers. It provides an extra 36bhp and 15Nm over the MX-5’s standard tune, with figures of 221bhp and 225Nm of torque.

Like the firm’s lesser-powered tune, the Super 220 package can be installed in a day and comes with a dyno test for validation. It’s priced at £2,895 to have the package fitted by the BBR team, while a self-install package is also available for £2,235. Both prices exclude VAT.

The tuning firm also offers a range of brake and chassis upgrades for the new Mazda MX-5, including a set of own-brand high-performance springs and dampers (£695), a set of Ohlins adjustable coilovers (£1,695), six-piston calipers (£895) and a pair of Eibach anti roll bars (£312.25). All prices exclude VAT and fitting costs.

Now read our review of the BBR Super 190 Mazda MX-5. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…

‘Are saloon cars dead? Don’t be daft. They’re very much alive’
Posted on Friday June 14, 2019

Mike Rutherford 2019-06-16 16:00

Mike Rutherford thinks the archetypal saloon-type car is suffering an identity crisis, but will still be around for decades to come

Opinion - Volvo S60

Are brand-new, state-of-the-art saloon cars dead in the water? Don’t be daft. They’re very much alive – and will be for decades to come.

Lately in Detroit, firms such as Ford and GM have hinted that it’s game over for the saloon (or sedan). But this is wishful thinking from a pair of US-based, increasingly insular companies. The reality is that they’re no longer as keen on such cars because they can’t design and build ’em as well as their rivals.

Best family cars on sale

German, British, Swedish, Japanese and, more recently, South Korean companies now wipe the floor with Ford and GM when it comes to saloons. The Americans have been thrashed at what was once their own game, and forced to throw in the towel, leaving the Europeans and Asians to corner the still-important and profitable saloon-car market pretty much for themselves. That wasn’t smart, America.

Having said all that, this is a shrinking sector; SUVs are now the undisputed No. 1 showroom products. But small-to-medium-sized hatchbacks are almost as popular, followed by MPVs, pick-up trucks, executive/luxury cars, and vans, with sports cars sitting at the bottom of the pile.

In Britain last year, almost 800,000 superminis and sub-superminis were sold – yet only 8,000 luxury saloons. That’s largely because the former are far cheaper to buy, run and park than the latter. But the archetypal saloon-type model is suffering an identity crisis at the moment. Too many buyers just don’t want to be associated with cars that business tycoons or politicians ride in, that chauffeurs drive, that management types get as part of their job packages, or that their dad drove when they were a kid.

It’s for these and associated reasons – including the war on internal-combustion engines (ICE) – that saloons are struggling to attract enough attention from buyers. This was brought home last month at The London Motor Show where, over four busy days, I witnessed thousands of showgoers queuing to get up close and personal with the World Car Award-winning McLaren 720S, Jaguar I-Pace and Suzuki Jimny, while almost blanking the more traditional Audi A7 (another winner) and Volvo S60 (runner-up).

And let’s not forget that Jaguar has just announced that it’s halting its XJ production line – although the word is that the car will be reborn soon... minus the traditional ICE.

If you don’t have the thousands needed for an expensive, brand-new, mid-sized to large saloon, why should you care about any of this? Because today’s fresh £50,000-£100,000 Jag, Mercedes, BMW or Audi saloon is the car you can buy not many years down the line for about £10,000, or less if you’re brave enough to go for an older, higher-mileage example.

I’ve bought such luxury barges at these low prices, not least because they represent the best-value second-hand models that sensible money can buy. The icing on the cake is that there’s something strangely satisfying about gliding down the road in a high-quality car that cost the best part of £100,000 new, but well under 10 grand when deliciously used. Worry not. Like motor shows and ICEs, the saloon car won’t disappear anytime soon.

Do you think there's still life in the saloon car? Let us know your thoughts below...

All ministerial cars to be electric by 2030
Posted on Thursday June 13, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-06-13 14:30

A quarter of the Government Car Service’s vehicles will be fully electric by 2022, with the entire fleet being EV-only by 2030

All of the UK central Government’s ministerial cars will be fully electric by 2030, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced.

At present, electric vehicles (EVs) make up 23 per cent of the DfT-managed Government Car Service’s fleet, the purpose of which is to provide transport for ministers of state. This figure will reach 25 per cent by 2022, with the entire fleet set to be made up of EVs by 2030.

Petrol and diesel car ban should be moved to 2030, say Government advisers

The DfT says every Government department has been given detailed guidance on how they can drive this transition in their respective fleets and have been asked to publish annual progress reports. The move builds on the Government’s £1.5 billion Road to Zero strategy, which is supporting research and development, infrastructure and grants to get more people into ultra-low emission and zero emission vehicles.

Current Government policy is to ban the sale of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040, while investing in hybrid trains, cycling, walking and urban public transport.

UK electric cars will require twice the world’s supply of cobalt

Transport secretary Chris Grayling welcomed the move, but said that all Government-controlled fleets need to go fully electric, not just the Government Car Service.

He said: “We want the UK to be the best place in the world to own an ultra-low emission vehicle, and as a Government we have to lead by example. I am pleased with the change we are making to the Government car service, but this now needs to be reflected in all fleets that are controlled by Government.

“The Prime Minister [has] made the bold commitment that the UK will end its net contribution to climate change by 2050. It is absolutely vital that all parts of Government play their part in delivering this ambitious target.”

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

Toyota Camry vs Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport vs Skoda Superb
Posted on Thursday June 13, 2019

2019-06-15 10:00

We pit the new Toyota Camry against the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport and Skoda Superb to find out if the Camry is a welcomed return

Toyota Camry vs Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport vs Skoda Superb - header

Family saloons used to be at the very heart of the automotive industry, but fashions change and now everyone wants an SUV instead.

The new Toyota Camry – a big family four-door car that’s also reintroducing the Japanese brand’s famous nameplate back into the UK after a 15-year break – is offering an alternative, though, and it’s no surprise this new Toyota is a hybrid.

Best executive cars to buy

Diesel used to dominate this sector, but a rapid change in policy has seen a switch to petrol, so even since the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport was launched, diesel sales have died off. However, there’s no hybrid option with the British brand’s hatch, so to line up on price, it’s the 1.6 Turbo 200 model we’re testing. This offers similar power to the Camry as well. 

Similar money only buys a 1.5-litre TSI petrol version of the Skoda Superb with 148bhp, although the kit stacks up, which is key for these motors that’ll mostly be run by business users.

Alongside equipment and efficiency, running costs, ride comfort and refinement, technology and usability will be key components that the best in the business will have to combine here, so let’s see which model blends those attributes to greatest effect in our group test.

Toyota Camry

Model:  Toyota Camry 2.5 Hybrid Design
Price: 
£29,995
Engine:  2.5-litre 4cyl plus electric motor, 215bhp
0-60mph:  7.7 seconds
Test economy:  37.9mpg/8.3mpl
CO2:  98g/km  
Annual road tax:  £130

There are just two Camry models to choose from: the top-spec Excel and this entry-level Design trim, which costs £29,995. Both versions have the same engine, so the choice will only really come down to how much equipment you need.

Design & engineering

Design spec may be the lower of the trims, but it offers plenty of kit. Basically, everything is standard, including adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, some solid safety tech, a rear-view camera, Bluetooth, sat-nav, heated leather seats, keyless operation and LED lights.

It’s short on connectivity, but then the Excel doesn’t improve on this, either. The top-spec car doesn’t really bring a higher-quality feel; while the materials are acceptable, they’re not as nice as those in the Skoda, and trail the Vauxhall’s, too.

The cabin design is functional and therefore fairly practical, but there’s very little in the way of sparkle or excitement. It’s all, well, a bit boring; you can see why people are moving to more stylish SUVs.

At least there’s more interest when it comes to the powertrain because it’s a fairly familiar but still relatively technologically advanced installation.

It teams a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor to help boost performance, instead of its rivals’ turbos. Both forms of propulsion drive the front wheels through a CVT automatic box.

The engine produces 176bhp, while the electric motor tops this up to a total of 215bhp, so the Toyota is the most powerful car here. However, it’s also the heaviest, due to the old-school nickel-metal hydride battery; the Camry weighs in at 1,595kg, which is around 200kg heavier than the Skoda, for example.

Still, the Toyota New Global Architecture platform can cope with the weight and uses MacPherson-strut front and double-wishbone rear suspension, which is quite a sophisticated layout.

Overall, the Japanese model is well equipped for the cash, offering loads of standard features, but it just doesn’t feel as upmarket and the quality isn’t on par with even its mainstream rivals here.

Driving

With every iteration of its hybrid powertrains, Toyota is improving performance, feel and refinement, and the Camry shows how good integration of engine, motor and chassis can make a hybrid aimed at fleet customers and business users an enticing prospect.

That’s because the torque fill from the electric motor means you don’t have to rev the Camry too hard,but this is only if you’re not bothered about getting anywhere quickly. Otherwise, you have to stretch the petrol engine more. Do so and, while refinement takes a dip, the performance is more acceptable. The Camry accelerated from 0-60mph in 7.7 seconds, which was only 0.2 seconds behind the lighter and similarly powerful Vauxhall.

We couldn’t record in-gear figures due to the CVT, but there’s enough mid-speed performance here. Plus the gearbox has less of the typical surging feel CVTs used to be known for. You have a more direct connection with the powertrain than before, which is a positive, but like the steering, it never really excites when you’re behind the wheel. It’s acceptable but not as dynamic as the two cars it’s up against.

That new platform does mean it’s comfortable, though, riding bumps well and with a softer edge to the body control. It’s only towards the Camry’s limits that it starts to float and wallow, but the car’s character encourages a more easy-going, eco-focused style. Roll back the revs and it’s a relaxing way to get around.

Practicality

The Camry is the only saloon here – the other two cars have huge hatchbacks – so while the boot opening is a little more restrictive for loading bulkier items, it edges ahead of the Vauxhall with 524 litres of luggage space. It’s still some way behind the cavernous Skoda, however.

You sit quite high, so visibility is good, but despite the car’s size, the front of the cabin feels like there’s lots of plastic and seems a little short on storage. The Superb offers the most space for oddments. All three have all-round parking sensors, but the Toyota is the only one with a rear-view camera as standard.

Ownership

Toyota is traditionally a strong performer in our Driver Power satisfaction survey, but it only finished 10th in our 2019 makers’ table. It was some way ahead of 29th-placed Vauxhall, yet Skoda took fifth place.

Camrys get a five-year unlimited mileage warranty, which is good for business users because it shows the brand’s confidence in its hybrid tech. It’s been perfecting this for years and the set-up is very reliable.

Euro NCAP hasn’t crash-tested the Toyota yet, but safety kit is good, with all models offering autonomous braking with pedestrian detection and collision warning, adaptive cruise, lane departure alert and auto high beam. You’ll have to go for Excel spec to get cross-traffic alert and blind spot monitoring. 

Running costs

Toyota reckons 80 per cent of users will be from the fleet market, so it’s fair to say company car tax is a big issue. With the hybrid system helping reduce CO2 emissions to 98g/km, the Camry has the lowest tax bill, at £2,743 for higher-rate earners, despite being the priciest car, thanks to a 23 per cent Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rating.

The 153g/km Vauxhall is in the 34 per cent bracket, so you’ll pay a whopping £1,208 more per year in company car tax, while the Skoda’s cleaner 123g/km unit means a rating of 28 per cent and a tax bill of only £399 more than the Camry. But you obviously get less power with the Superb, too.

Testers' notes

“While there’s less capability for all-electric running than with a plug-in hybrid, there’s the performance, comfort and practicality of a big-engined car with the emissions and running costs of a much smaller model.”

Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport

Model:  Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport 1.6 Turbo 200 auto SRi VX-Line Nav
Price: 
£29,635
Engine:  1.6-litre 4cyl turbo, 197bhp
0-60mph:  7.5 seconds
Test economy:  35.3mpg/7.8mpl
CO2:  153g/km
Annual road tax:  £140

The Insignia Grand Sport is our favourite big family car, but are the traits that make it a winner still present with this 1.6 Turbo petrol auto powertrain? In SRi VX-Line Nav spec it comes in at £29,635, just a little less than the Toyota.

Design & engineering

Under the skin is Vauxhall’s E2XX platform, which was designed for the Insignia. Features such as a longer wheelbase were key to boosting practicality, while as with many other cars in its range – such as the Astra and the upcoming Corsa – Vauxhall focused heavily on weight reduction here, too.

The Insignia is therefore up to 175kg lighter than its predecessor, which helps in every area, including agility, efficiency and comfort. As much as 60kg of that saving has come from the body, while lightweight components for the suspension and in other areas have helped to keep the mass down, too.

Vauxhall chose suspension technology that is conventional enough for this class, but differs from the Toyota’s set-up slightly, with MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link rear axle. Adaptive dampers are available on this model as well.

SRi VX-Line Nav cars use a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, which has a similar capacity to the Skoda’s, but is more powerful, kicking out 197bhp and 300Nm of torque. It’s closer on paper to the Camry’s petrol-electric hybrid combination.

Unlike the Toyota, the British hatchback features a six-speed automatic transmission rather than a CVT, although it does still drive the front wheels.

It broadly matches the Camry Design for kit, too, pegging it in key areas with features such as sat-nav, climate control, front and rear parking sensors, some core safety kit, DAB radio and LED lights as standard.

While it loses out on factors such as a reversing camera (a £275 option) and heated seats (part of a £510 pack on the Insignia), it does get much stronger connectivity as standard, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-included.

Quality is slightly stronger than with the Camry. The hard plastics in the Vauxhall’s cabin are more forgiving than the Toyota’s, while the softer areas of the interior also feel just a little more premium.

Driving

In SRi Nav VX-Line spec the Vauxhall gets standard 20-inch alloy wheels, which look good but corrupt the usually compliant-feeling Insignia’s ride a little. However, this trim level also brings Vauxhall’s FlexRide adaptive dampers with this 197bhp 1.6 turbo engine. Select the softer Tour mode and it loosens the chassis up again to the point where the car rides rifts in the road with the compliance you’d want.

We’d generally always select this setting because body control is still good and you don’t sacrifice any precision in the steering, which is light and seems quicker than the Toyota’s. The Grand Sport feels much more agile due to its far lower kerbweight, too.

That also helped its performance, with the Insignia 0.2 seconds quicker than the Toyota from 0-60mph, taking 7.5 seconds. It was also 0.1 seconds faster going from 30 to 70mph through the gears (or kickdown in the Camry), taking 6.7 seconds, so performance is even between the two cars.

Yet the Vauxhall is more refined when pushed harder. It’s as comfortable and quiet as the Toyota on a motorway, which allied to its adequate six-speed auto, means it’s a fine cruiser. That it balances performance and a hint of driving enjoyment with these traits makes it easy to live with every day and is a real strong point.

Practicality

Unlike the Camry, the Insignia Grand Sport is a hatchback rather than a saloon, so although it offers less boot space, at 490 litres, access is easier thanks to that big void. It should also be able to stow bulkier items, while the level of space should be enough for most owners.

The cabin is cavernous in the back, and the sloping roofline doesn’t impact headroom. There’s lots of space, while legroom is great. It’s a bit tighter in the front, where the dashboard and centre console seem to impinge on space a little, but storage is fine and the ergonomics are a match for the Camry’s.

Ownership

Vauxhall finished way down the order in our Driver Power 2019 poll, taking 29th spot out of 30 makers. It’s not a great result, but at least safety should be better.

The Insignia received a full five-star Euro NCAP rating when it was crash-tested in 2017, and that’s thanks to this SRi VX-Line Nav model’s standard autonomous braking and lane-keep assist. You have to pay £650 extra for blind spot assist as part of the Driving Assistance Pack Four, but this also adds a rear-view camera and cross traffic alert.

Running costs

The Insignia lags behind on predicted residual values. Our experts estimate it’ll hold onto 36.1 per cent of its original price, compared with 39.7 per cent for the Skoda and a more impressive 45.3 per cent for the Toyota.

This means the three cars will be worth £10,704, £11,227 and £13,600 respectively after a typical three-year/36,000-mile ownership period. Yet as many people will buy as company cars, this might be less important. Fuel economy could therefore swing it.

The Vauxhall returned a respectable 35.3mpg given its performance, for an annual fuel bill of £1,978. The less powerful Skoda just trumped it with 35.9mpg and an annual cost of £1,945. But the hybrid Toyota offered 37.9mpg and a fuel bill of £1,842 per year. If you’re after economy, though, a diesel version of the other two models is likely to be much better again.

Testers’ notes

“This powertrain doesn’t make the most sense. For efficiency to match the Camry Hybrid, go for a diesel. You’ll pay more company car tax due to higher CO2, but there’s more choice and much better economy.”

Skoda Superb

Model:  Skoda Superb 1.5 TSI 150 DSG ACT SE L Executive
Price:  £28,280
Engine:  1.5-litre 4cyl turbo, 148bhp
0-60mph:  9.1 seconds
Test economy:  35.9mpg/7.9mpl
CO2:  123g/km
Annual road tax:  £140

The Superb is one of the best Skodas on sale and it’s a former Auto Express award winner. It’s not hard to see why, given the car’s blend of talents that we’ll go into, but competition is close in this class, so can the Superb 1.5 TSI 150 DSG in SE L Executive trim match the Camry and Insignia?

Design & engineering

At £28,280, the Skoda undercuts the Toyota by £1,715 and the Vauxhall by £1,355. There are some important distinctions to make, though. The first is that for this price you only get a 148bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine linked to a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox; if you want a pokier petrol Superb, the next rung up the ladder is the 268bhp 2.0 TSI SportLine model, which is significantly more powerful and a lot pricier, at £35,130.

Superbs use the MQB platform adopted by Skoda as part of the VW Group family. This is a modular set-up that’s been stretched to pretty much as long as it can go. While the body isn’t quite as long as the Vauxhall’s, its wheelbase is the largest of this trio.

The cabin is also the most premium. The materials are the plushest, the layout the most logical and the tech the slickest-operating, so it beats the Camry and Insignia by a small but significant margin here.

SE L Executive trim also features plenty of kit, with front and rear parking sensors, autonomous braking, adaptive cruise and climate control included in that slightly lower purchase price. There are also heated seats, LED lights, keyless operation, nav and decent phone connectivity.

However, you do have to pay £355 for a reversing camera, which might be useful, given the Superb’s size. Aside from this, there’s little to complain about inside the SE L Executive model.

Driving

That’s not quite the same once you get under way. Straight away the powertrain comes in for questioning, because the DSG gearbox’s clutch take-up is strange, sometimes surging or lagging and then moving off aggressively. It’s not the smoothest way to make progress, while some of the shifts at lower revs when coming to a standstill are also a little clunky. These points affect the Superb’s low-speed driveability.

It also doesn’t feel as flexible as either rival, due to that lower power output. Less torque in a big car like this (250Nm compared with 300Nm in the Vauxhall) means you have to work that 1.5-litre TSI engine harder than you might like to.

As a result, the transmission hangs on to gears a little longer than we’d like, which just takes the shine off the otherwise fairly decent refinement. This is helped by the ride comfort; it’s not quite as good as the Camry or the Insignia in its Tour mode, but the damping is smooth and the platform feels stable, allowing you to work the light, quick steering fairly aggressively and change direction fast if you need to. There’s also a decent degree of grip.

However, that power shortfall showed during our acceleration tests, where the Skoda lagged 1.4 and 1.6 seconds behind the Camry and Insignia respectively from 0-60mph. Despite an extra ratio in its box, it also wasn’t as quick in gear as the Vauxhall, while from 30 to 70mph, simulating acceleration over a wider range, the Toyota had the measure of it, too.

The Skoda’s chassis is accomplished but the powertrain is merely adequate, which is where it loses marks to the Vauxhall. Even the Camry, with its improved CVT transmission, performs better in some areas, and that’s still far from a perfect solution.

Practicality

The Superb claws back points for practicality, though. This is the Skoda’s domain, and thanks to the simply huge 625-litre boot it’s easily the most versatile car. Drop the seats and it retains its advantage, because there are 1,760 litres on offer. There are a maximum of 1,450 litres in the Insignia Grand Sport.

SE L Executive trim also offers a powered tailgate as standard, so it won’t be difficult to close that large hatchback. This isn’t by any means a necessity, but it’s still a nice feature to have.

It shows the thoughtfulness with which the Superb has been designed; Skoda’s Simply Clever features – such as an ice scraper in the fuel filler door and a slot for your car park ticket – are surprising and delightful touches that come in useful.

But it’s the interior space that makes it. This is the roomiest car of the three – not by much over the Vauxhall (there’s a bit more head and legroom) and by the same again compared with the Toyota.

Ownership

Skoda finished closest to the top of our manufacturers’ table in Driver Power 2019, taking fifth place. It backs up this reputation for reliability with safety; the Superb comes with Skoda’s Front Assist autonomous braking system as standard. Blind spot warning is also included, while you can upgrade with a £495 pack that also adds lane-keep assist.

Seven airbags and a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating mean it matches its rivals here for protection, so all three models will be solid family transport.

Running costs

Skoda’s £342 two-year servicing pack offers fairly good value, because the Vauxhall will cost £408 for two check-ups. Prices for the Camry haven’t been announced yet.

Given all three cars get a similar level of safety kit, insurance costs are fairly close as well, but it’ll be the Skoda that’s cheapest for our example driver to cover, at £463 per year. The Vauxhall will only cost £5 more, while the Toyota comes in at £644 for a year’s cover.

Testers’ notes

“The 1.5 TSI engine uses some clever technology the 2.0 TSI unit doesn’t feature, because it can shut down two of the four cylinders on the move under light loads to help boost fuel economy.”

Results

First place: Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport

As with the Skoda, the Vauxhall is better with a diesel engine and in a lower trim, but the same ride and handling balance, plus mix of performance, practicality and affordability sees it just take the win here. Efficiency is okay, while the level of kit on offer is competitive, but the Grand Sport is at its best with either the less powerful 1.5 petrol or a diesel model that many drivers covering high mileages will benefit from.

Second place: Toyota Camry

The Camry just pips the Superb because it offers very low company car tax costs, which many people buying in this class will prioritise. The new platform means the Toyota also rides well, while it’s refined, comes very well equipped and should be affordable to run. However, it’s incredibly dull and the technology on offer is poor. The Camry is back on merit, but a diesel Skoda Superb is still a better bet.

Third place: Skoda Superb

This 1.5 TSI isn’t the sweet spot of the Superb range because the car makes much more sense as a diesel, where it offers stronger performance and economy for not much more cash. We’d go for a manual, too, because the DSG box isn’t the best. Yet there is absolutely no faulting the Skoda’s quality, technology, practicality or ability. We hope the upcoming facelift addresses the petrol’s powertrain problems.

Coming soon

Model: Volkswagen Passat GTE
Due: Late 2019
Price: £34k (est)
Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl, 215bhp

A new, bigger 13kWh battery pack for the updated Passat GTE plug-in means an all-electric range of 35 miles, while power stays the same. Expect lower CO2 emissions than the Camry and great running costs.

Figures

Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport
 1.6 Turbo 200 auto
SRi VX-Line Nav
Toyota Camry
2.5 Hybrid Design
Skoda Superb
1.5 TSI 150 DSG ACT SE L Executive
On the road price/total as tested £29,635/£32,515 £29,995/£29,995 £28,280/£30,105
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) £10,704/36.1% £13,600/45.3% £11,227/39.7%
Depreciation £18,931 £16,395 £17,053
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £1,975/£3,951 £1,372/£2,743 £1,571/£3,142
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £1,978/£3,297 £1,842/£3,071 £1,945/£3,242
Insurance group/quote/VED 25/£468/£140 31/£644/£130 20/£463/£ 140
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service £159/£249/£159 TBC £342 (2yrs)
Length/wheelbase 4,897/2,829mm 4,885/2,825mm 4,861/2,841mm
Height/width 1,455/1,863mm 1,445/1,840mm 1,468/1,864mm
Engine 4cyl in-line/1,598cc 4cyl + e-motor/2,487cc 4cyl in-line/1,498cc
Peak power/revs  197/4,700 bhp/rpm 215/5,700 bhp/rpm 148/5,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs  300/1,700 Nm/rpm 221/3,600 Nm/rpm^ 250/1,500 Nm/rpm
Transmission  6-speed auto/fwd CVT auto/fwd 7-speed DSG/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 62 litres/repair kit 50 litres/space saver 66 litres/£150
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 490/1,450 litres 524 litres/N/A 625/1,760 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,366/596/1,410kg 1,595/505kg/N/A 1,392/648/1,900kg
Turning circle 11.2 metres 12.4 metres 11.1 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (60,000)/1yr 5yrs (unlimited)/3yrs 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 29th/21st* 10th/3rd* 5th/8th*
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars 93/85/78/69/5 (2017) TBC 86/86/71/76/5 (2015)
0-60/30-70mph 7.5/6.7 secs 7.7/6.8 secs 9.1/8.5 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 3.6/5.6 secs 2.7 secs^^ 3.7/5.2 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th/8th 7.7/11.3 secs 4.0 secs^^ 7.8/10.2/12.7 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph  144mph/1,800rpm 112mph/N/A 134mph/1,900rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph  45.4/34.8/10.2m 47.9/35.5/10.6m 48.4/33.9/8.6m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph 67/42/63/72dB N/A/N/A/62/71dB 68/43/63/72dB
Auto Express econ. (mpg/mpl)/range 35.3/7.8/481 miles 37.9/8.3/417 miles 35.9/7.9/521 miles
Combined WLTP (mpg) 36.7-39.2mpg 50.4-53.3mpg 36.7-40.9mpg
Combined WLTP (mpl) 8.1-8.6mpl 11.1-11.7mpl 8.1-9.0mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 185/153g/km/34% 172/98g/km/23% 182/123g/km/28%
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/camera Six/yes/F&R/£275 Seven/yes/F&R/yes Seven/yes/F&R/£355
Auto box/lane-keep/blind spot/AEB Yes/yes/£650**/yes Yes/yes/no/yes Yes/£495**/yes/yes
Clim/cruise ctrl/leather/heated seats Yes/yes/no/£510** Yes/adaptive/yes/yes Yes/adaptive/yes/yes
Met paint/LEDs/keyless/pwr tailgate £605/£1,295/£300/n Yes/yes/yes/no £595/no/yes/yes
Nav/digi dash/DAB/connect services Yes/no/yes/yes Yes/no/yes/yes Yes/£450/yes/yes
Wireless charge/CarPlay/Android Auto £160/yes/yes No/no/no No/yes/yes

Volkswagen California Ocean: long-term test review
Posted on Thursday June 13, 2019

Volkswagen California Ocean long termer - first report header
16 Jun, 2019 12:00pm Richard Ingram

First report: reviews and features editor Rich fulfils a childhood dream with his very own Hotel California

Mileage: 1,889
Economy: 32.9mpg

I’ve always been a bit of a fair-weather camper. The prospect of setting up a tent in the pouring rain, or traipsing up a mountain in the biting wind, isn’t my idea of fun. Having somewhere warm and dry to retreat to is a top priority, so visiting pubs is a particularly pleasing pastime of mine.

The concept of a camper van had always seemed like an ideal solution. While I’d never been able to explore the idea of owning one, you can trace back the obsession to my childhood bedroom, where a sixties VW Type 2 money box nestled itself among a vast array of 1:18-scale diecast supercars.

New Volkswagen Grand California review

I’ve still got the model, and while it isn’t as full of cold, hard cash as you’d hope after 20 years of saving, I can finally claim the dream has become reality – albeit with a little help from Volkswagen.

That’s right, I’ve just picked up the keys to my very own VW California. I’ll be running it for the next six months or so, to see if that boyhood fantasy is as rosy in real life, or whether I should stick to surfing the south coast with my sopping wet tent.

There are currently two models to choose from: the California Beach or the California Ocean. We’re testing the latter, which is the more expensive of the two, thanks to the addition of a sink, fridge and two-ring gas hob. It’s beautifully laid out, with cupboards and drawers running the length of the van.

Even after a few weeks and a long weekend away in Wales, my wife Anna and I are still discovering hidden treasures, such as the picnic seats in the tailgate, or the small mirror in the wardrobe. Every window has a built-in blind, and the front chairs swivel 180 degrees to accommodate four people around the table.

Not only will it seat two couples, the California Ocean will also sleep four people. The roof raises electronically in around 30 seconds to reveal a raised bed up top; the rear seats then fold flat to provide space for your friends. We’ve yet to discover quite how tight it is with four on board; Anna and I shamelessly forced my brother-in-law and his pregnant wife into an adjoining tent during our Bank Holiday trip to Fishguard.

Our van isn’t cheap, but for a smidge over £60k you get an equipment list to rival the latest luxury SUVs. Fit and finish isn’t quite on par, but this is a functional vehicle designed to withstand years of abuse from impatient children and mucky dogs. We’ve got a set of waterproof seat covers in the drawer under the back seats, but luckily we’ve not had to use them yet.

Every California Ocean gets 17-inch alloys, automatic lights, three-zone climate control, heated seats, Bluetooth and USB connectivity and a five-inch touchscreen. The kitchen and associated gubbins are included, of course.

We added a few options to our van, the most expensive of which is the eye-catching two-tone paint. We couldn’t resist speccing our camper in Auto Express red and white, despite the hefty £2,604 bill. Elsewhere, we went for the more accomplished Discover Media Nav system (£1,602), Adaptive Cruise Control (£414) and front and rear parking sensors with a camera (£714).

Our van has the VW Group’s 2.0-litre TDI diesel which, due to WLTP constraints, now produces 196bhp. It’s linked to the tried-and-tested seven-speed DSG gearbox, which works wonders on fuel economy, thanks to a clever coasting function. Given the van’s bluff shape and the power on offer, I’m not too disappointed by a 32.9mpg average over the first 1,900 miles. As the engine loosens, there’s a very real possibility that figure will improve.

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

4.5
We’ve loved the first six weeks in our Volkswagen California Ocean camper. With various trips already in the calendar and a longer European excursion on the horizon, the VW looks to have a tough summer ahead of it. A boyhood dream come true? You bet.
  • Model: Volkswagen California Ocean 2.0 TDI 199PS DSG
  • On fleet since: April 2019
  • Price new: £61,882
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl diesel, 196bhp
  • CO2/tax: 195g/km/£450
  • Options: Cupboard in Dark Wood with outdoor shower connection (£306), Awning rail and housing in silver (£654), Adaptive Cruise Control (£414), Green Heat-Insulating Glass (£342), Discover Media Nav (£1,602), Removable towbar (£672)
  • Optons cont.: Front and rear parking sensors with camera (£714), Candy White/Cherry Red paint (£2,604)
  • Insurance*: Group: 3/Quote: £922
  • Mileage: 1,889
  • Economy: 32.9mpg
  • Any problems?: None so far

The best TV and movie vans of all time
Posted on Thursday June 13, 2019

Alastair Crooks 2019-06-13 09:40

Vans aren’t often given a starting role on screen but when they are, they tend to carve out a place in our hearts...

Best movie vans

Vans usually have to play second fiddle to cars. Think of a famous mode of transport from TV or movies and you might come up with  a time-travelling DeLorean or gadget-laden Aston Martin but commercial vehicles will be in much sorter supply. Vans lack the glamour, romance and style of cars so when they do end up on the big screen, they're usually in the background - ignored and forgettable.

But just sometimes, a van isn’t merely cast as an extra and moves into the limelight to take a starring role. In recognition of these attention grabbing load carriers, we ran a poll asking you to decide what is the greatest van to hit our TV or film screens of all time.

Latest van news and reviews

These vans may not be flashy, they might not even be real, but they’ve earned a place in the hearts of viewers around the world thanks to their memorable roles in popular fiction. All of these vans have character and to many of you, characters are exactly what they became.

Without further ado, here are the greatest TV and film vans as voted by you, in reverse order...

7th: Wolfmobile - Teenwolf

Despite having a relatively small budget of less than £1million, Teenwolf enjoyed huge commercial success and even spawned a TV spin-off series. The 1985 film starred Michael J. Fox as, unsurprisingly, a teen wolf. A key scene of the film saw the main character dancing and doing backflips on the Wolfmobile, a converted US-style delivery van. The results of this poll won’t have Teenwolf fans dancing, however, as the Wolfmobile comes in dead last.

6th: Fleetwood Bounder RV - Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad may have been an award-winning phenomenon which grew a massive and loyal fanbase but the vehicles that featured were deliberately woeful. A Pontiac Aztek was the car of choice for the main character, Walter White. But thanks to the show’s widespread success, Azteks have actually gained a cult following.

Best big panel vans to buy 2019

It was inside the humble Fleetwood Bounder RV, however, where the show’s plot developed and gradually became darker. Okay, so it may be a motorhome and not technically a van, but considering Breaking Bad’s giant fanbase, it’s a surprise to see the Bounder rank so low on our poll.

5th: Ford Econoline ‘Mutts Cutts’ van - Dumb and Dumber

Clinching fifth spot is the ‘Mutts Cutts’ van from the 1994 comedy film, Dumb and Dumber. While the heavily modified Ford Econoline probably breaks hundreds of road rules thanks to its tongue, nose and fur clad exterior, it also became an unforgettable part of the film. The mobile dog cleaning van is questionably swapped for a minibike by the main characters, but eventually makes a return in the 2014 sequel - Dumb and Dumber To.

4th: Postman Pat’s van - Postman Pat

While Postman Pat’s van may not technically be real, for 8 per cent of voters the little red van was real enough to get their vote. The van itself is based on a 1980 Lambretta Voiturette, but the engine noise is recorded from a 1922 Morris Cowley ‘Bullnose’. While the ingredients to create Postman Pat’s van may have been obscure, the van pootled into the mainstream of children’s TV and is still going strong on the streets of Greendale today.

3rd: The Mystery Machine - Scooby Doo

Like most vans on our list, the Mystery Machine was an integral part of the storyline - in this case, the storylines of the Scooby Doo cartoons.

Capturing hearts, minds and bad guys since 1969 (hence the psychedelic colours and flower power imagery), the Mystery Machine became real in 2002 when the first Scooby Doo film was made. Based on a 1972 Ford Econoline, the movie van was painted in the customary green, orange a blue and helped introduce the Mystery Machine to a wider audience. The Mystery Machine has been at the forefront of one of the most popular kid’s cartoons for 50 years now and perhaps thanks to this longevity, it earns a solid third place.

2nd: GMC Vandura - The A-Team

You can already hear the theme music can’t you? The 1983 GMC Vandura comes a close second here and rightfully so. An iconic van which has spawned countless replica tributes, the ‘A-Team van’ had a starring role in one of the most popular action series of all time.

The red stripe, red accents, and blacked out windows and trim suggest some sportiness but in reality the 6.2-litre diesel V8 was dreadfully slow. The lack of speed didn’t dent the A-Team van’s image however as it became one of the first truly cool vans in history.

1st: Reliant Regal Supervan - Only Fools and Horses

Despite being recognisable enough to come in first in our poll, the three-wheeled van is often misidentified as a Reliant Robin. The name ‘Supervan’ may be a bit optimistic on Reliant’s part but its tiny load capacity and funny looks were a perfect fit for its comedic role as the Trotter family’s transport of choice in the Only Fools and Horses comedy series.

With the important role of taking Del Boy’s dubiously-sourced goods to market, the Supervan may never have been particularly cool but with 36 per cent of the vote, it’s your winner as the greatest TV or movie van ever to grace our screens.

Which van would get your vote? Tell us in the comments or find out what the best ever movie cars are here...

Future Hyundais to report crash injuries to emergency services
Posted on Wednesday June 12, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-06-12 14:19

Hyundai is working with MDGo to create a raft of advanced safety systems for its future autonomous vehicles

Hyundai Kona Premium SE 2017 - hyundai badge

Hyundai’s future autonomous cars could be able to predict what injuries their occupants may have sustained in a crash and inform the emergency services within seven seconds.

The South Korean manufacturer has teamed up with medical AI (artificial intelligence) start-up MDGo to develop a raft of advanced vehicle safety systems.

BMW, Ford, Mercedes and Volvo to share live road safety data car-to-car

MDGo has created an intelligent injury analysis system that is able to monitor vehicle occupants in real time and alert medical services of any potential injuries in the event of a road traffic collision.

Combining this system with an array of sensors in its future cars, Hyundai will be able to provide emergency services with various pieces of information, such as how badly passengers have been injured and which vehicle safety systems have been activated, all within seven seconds of an accident occurring.

The system will enable the emergency services to better determine in advance what the scale of their response should be and how quickly they need to reach the scene of the accident.

Renault showcases autonomous transport system on university campus

Meanwhile, Hyundai will be able to use any new data obtained to improve the active and passive safety capabilities of its vehicles by bolstering crash structures and integrating new technology.

Youngcho Chi, president and chief innovation officer at Hyundai Motor Group, said: “MDGo possesses exceptional AI analysis technology optimized for driver safety.

“Through this technology, we expect a significant improvement in the emergency medical services of vehicles in the short-term, while our long-term goal is to provide innovations in the passenger experience of vehicle safety, utilising new technology that enables real-time physical monitoring.”

What do you think of the new Hyundai AI technology? Let us know in the comments...

Diesel cars could be banned from Bristol city centre
Posted on Wednesday June 12, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-06-12 12:22

Bristol City Council will discuss a proposed ‘Clean Air Plan,’ which suggests banning diesel cars the city centre to combat emissions

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Bristol City Council will present two potential Clean Air Zone options to the Bristol Cabinet, one of which, if implemented, would see a ban on diesel cars in Bristol city centre.

With the aim of meeting Government-set targets for air quality, ‘Option 1’ suggests implementing an emissions charging zone for all but private motorists, while ‘Option 2’ suggests a diesel ban.

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As well as an emissions charging zone, Option 1 also suggests improving Bristol’s bus and taxi fleets to meet Euro 6 regulations, providing diversions for bus and taxi routes in the city’s most polluted areas and issuing a targeted diesel ban for the highway which runs past the Bristol Royal Infirmary and Children’s Hospital.

A charging scheme for non-compliant buses, taxis and HGVs is also included in the Option 1 proposal, along with the construction of a new bus lane on the M32 and a local scrappage scheme grant for drivers of older, non-compliant vehicles.

Option 2 proposes banning diesel cars from entering a “specific central area” of the city between the hours of 7am and 3pm. It also suggests banning HGVs from using specific, highly polluted routes, providing bus priority measures and either replacing or upgrading all non-compliant buses and taxis to meet Euro emissions regulations.

Bristol City Council will launch a six-week public consultation programme from 1 July, giving locals the chance to voice their opinion on the proposal. Following the consultation, the public’s preferred option will be presented to the Cabinet in September.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “These options will allow us to meet Government air quality improvement targets, but we must and will do more to improve the air quality in our city for all citizens. I look forward to sharing a wider environmental plan soon, where we will commit to working in partnership with city partners for the benefit of all.”

What are your thoughts on Bristol’s proposed ‘Clean Air Plan?’ Let us know in the comments section below…

 


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