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In the News ...

Honda to close Swindon factory: 3,500 jobs to go
Posted on Monday February 18, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-02-18 18:50

Honda will close the UK factory in Swindon where it builds the Honda Civic by 2022, according to reports

Honda's Swindon factory - production line

Honda is closing its Swindon plant where 3,500 people are employed building the new Honda Civic, reports indicate.

The Honda factory in Wiltshire is set to shut permanently in 2022, although the Japanese manufacturer will keep its European headquarters in Bracknell, while its Formula One racing team operations will remain in the UK as well, according to Sky News.

The Swindon plant is Honda’s only factory in the EU, and around 100,000 Civics are built there each year. The factory is currently the only location in the world that builds the Civic Hatch and in 2018, the Civic was the third best-selling UK-built car globally.

Brexit not a factor says MP

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

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

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

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

The news of the Honda Swindon closure is a development on the announcement last week that Honda would be axing around 500 temporary jobs at the factory.

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

A spokesperon for Honda told Auto Express: "At this point, we are not able to make any comments regarding the speculation. We take our responsibilities to our associates very seriously and will always communicate any significant news with them first."

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

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


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

James Stanbury 2019-02-18 12:36

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

Towbar mounted storage boxes - header

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

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

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

How we tested them

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

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


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

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

Bak-rak Bike-rak with Lightweight Box

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

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

Modula ReCargo Towbar Travel Box

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

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

Buy now from eBay

Buzz Rack Multi-Purpose Tow Ball Platform

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

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

Buy now from The Roof Box Company

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

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

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

Ginnell Fibreglass Products Dog Box

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

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

Buy now from Dog Box

Bak-rak Box-rak with Tumble Mount

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

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

Westfalia BC60 Tilting Two-Bicycle Carrier with Box and Platform

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

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

Buy now from Westfalia Automotive 

Thule BackSpace XT

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

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

Buy now from Amazon

Also tested
TowBox BoX V2

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

Buy now from Depor Village

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

Alex Ingram 2019-02-18 10:55

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

Volkswagen Touareg - front

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

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

Best SUVs and 4x4s 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15 Feb, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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

Leg room, head room & passenger space

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

Insurance groups

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


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

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

Alex Ingram 2019-02-15 15:55

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

Rivian R1S front

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

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

• New all-electric Rivian hatchback on the way

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

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

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

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

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

Dacia Duster review
Posted on Friday February 15, 2019

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

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

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

15 Feb, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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



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

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

Leg room, head room & passenger space

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Insurance groups

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

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

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

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

UK car insurance groups explained

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


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

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

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

Luke Wilkinson 2019-02-15 15:00

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

Fiat Tipo Street - front

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

Best hatchbacks on sale

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

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

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

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

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

2019-02-16 10:00

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

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

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

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

Best family cars 2019

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

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

Citroen C5 Aircross

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

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

Design & engineering

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Running costs

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

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

Testers’ notes

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

Kia Sportage

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

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

Design & engineering

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Running costs

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

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

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

Testers’ notes

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

Skoda Karoq

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

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

Design & engineering

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Running costs

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

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

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

Testers’ notes

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


First place: Skoda Karoq

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

Second place: Citroen C5 Aircross

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

Third place: Kia Sportage

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

Also consider...

New: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Icon

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

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

Used: Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.0D HSE

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

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


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

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

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

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

GB sticker

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

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

Driving abroad: everything you need to know 

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

Get your green card application in sooner rather than later

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

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

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

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

International driving permit: everything you need to know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Rutherford 2019-02-17 16:00

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

OPINION - Aston Martin Vantage

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

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

Best SUVs and 4x4s to buy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dean Gibson 2019-02-16 14:00

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

Quietest cars on sale - header

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

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

Best electric cars on sale

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

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

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

Best luxury cars available

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

The quietest cars on sale

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

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

Mercedes S-Class

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

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

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

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

Rolls-Royce Phantom

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

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

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

Range Rover PHEV P400e

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

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

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

Bentley Bentayga

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

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

Tesla Model S

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

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

Jaguar I-Pace

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

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

Audi A8

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

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

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

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

Volkswagen e-Golf

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

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

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

BMW 7 Series

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

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

Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Renault Kadjar GT Line review

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

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

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

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

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

• Best small SUVs and crossovers on sale

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

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

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

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

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

New Toyota Corolla Saloon 2019 review
Posted on Thursday February 14, 2019

Toyota Corolla saloon  - front cornering
15 Feb, 2019 3:15pm John McIlroy

We were impressed by the hatchback version, but does the Toyota Corolla Saloon work as well?

The new Toyota Corolla Saloon is a left-field offering from the Japanese brand, given how few cars of its kind are sold in the UK. But there’s method in the apparent madness.

It turns out that at the point when Toyota killed off its Avensis in 2018, it was still shifting around 4,000 examples to British buyers every year. Now the company hopes that the Corolla saloon can at least partially fill the void.

Best family cars 2019

It looks promising enough. The saloon sits on the longer of the two Corolla wheelbases, so it should offer the same slightly larger rear cabin as the Touring Sports estate. It’s the same price as the hatchback, to the penny, and in the UK at least, it’s available only as a hybrid - a powertrain never offered on the Avensis.

It does miss out, however, on the ‘built in Britain’ tag that will be no doubt plastered over the hatch and wagon in Toyota’s UK dealerships. That’s because the saloon, a car created predominantly for buyers in Russia and eastern Europe, is made not at Burnaston, but in Turkey.

It’s a neatly styled thing in any case, with different bumpers, headlights and tail-lights, and oddly, an extra shade in the colour palette (metallic grey, if you’re asking). It’s offered in the lower three of the Corolla range’s four trim levels - Icon, Icon Tech and Design - and the priciest version has a semi-purposeful stance on its larger 17-inch wheels.

There’s decent space up front for two adults, but while the wheelbase delivers decent knee and legroom for those in the rear seats, the swoopy roofline doesn’t do much for headroom. It’s here, perhaps, where the Corolla’s smaller origins are most cruelly exposed against larger family saloons like the Volkswagen Passat and Ford Mondeo.

The boot capacity is comfortably larger than the Corolla hatchback’s, however, at 471 litres. But, of course, the loading aperture is more compromised for larger items and there’s no scope to lower the rear seats to open up the load bay. It’s a decent space, though - enough for a couple of proper suitcases along with a pair of laptop bags.

The saloon, incidentally, is not being offered with the more powerful 2.0 hybrid that you can get in the hatchback and estate. But the latest version of Toyota’s 1.8-litre hybrid has 120bhp, and is enough to take the saloon from 0-62mph in 11 seconds; acceptable, but no more than that. Yet Toyota reckons that with a light approach to the throttle, the car could manage as much as half of its urban mileage without using any petrol at all - a factor that may have real appeal for minicab drivers.

On the official economy tests the saloon emits just 77g/km or 83g/km of CO2 on 16-inch and 17-inch wheels respectively, giving it a useful advantage on company car tax over the likes of the Mazda 3 Fastback, the Hyundai i30 Fastback or even the Audi A3 Saloon.

It is fair to say that the saloon rarely feels brisk, and hard acceleration requires patience, because a heavy right foot will kick the hybrid powertrain into emergency mode and send the revs (and noise) soaring. However, once you’re up to speed, the engine settles down pretty nicely; glance down at the rev counter at 70mph and you may be surprised, in fact, at how often the engine cuts out altogether.

On the flat, and at a steady motorway cruise, it seems happy enough at barely 1,000rpm – and at that, the engine is smooth enough to be barely noticeable at all. There’s a little wind noise from around the side mirrors, but the most noticeable factor at speed is probably the transference of tyre roar up through the chassis. It’s far from unbearable, though, making the Corolla saloon a relaxed cruiser.

The experience is less accomplished on twistier roads, but this is down to the hybrid powertrain more than deficiencies in the chassis. The Corolla stays pretty composed in corners, in fact, despite the extra metal beyond the rear axle. You’ll reach the limits of what the CVT gearbox is happy to do long before you tire of the car’s willingness to turn in and resist body roll. While it is composed, driver engagement is not this car’s strong point.

The cabin is pretty much identical to those of the hatchback and estate. That means a decent grade of finish on the facia, with soft-touch materials almost everywhere you’re likely to prod on a regular basis. Build quality feels more than up to three years of ownership abuse, too.

Sadly, the saloon also gets the same infotainment system as the hatch, which is clunky to use, prone to freezing altogether and devoid of the sort of smartphone connectivity (Android Auto or Apple CarPlay) that buyers find really useful.

The Toyota Corolla Saloon looks like a niche offering in a market in love with hatchbacks, estates and SUVs. But it is a coherent, well-resolved proposition that deserves to do well in its admittedly small class. Its generous kit list, strong refinement and hybrid running costs should attract plenty of existing Avensis owners, for starters - but we’ll be a little surprised if its price advantage over the Prius doesn’t stretch the Corolla’s reach beyond that minicab-heavy customer base.
  • Model: Toyota Corolla Saloon 1.8 Hybrid CVT Design
  • Price: £25,825
  • Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl petrol-electric hybrid
  • Power: 120bhp (total system power)
  • Transmission: CVT, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 11.0 seconds
  • Top speed: 112mph
  • Economy/CO2: 49.2mpg (WLTP)/83g/km (NEDC correlated)
  • On sale: Now

ABT readies modified VW e-Transporter for Geneva Motor Show
Posted on Thursday February 14, 2019

Dean Gibson 2019-02-15 08:00

Tuning company ABT celebrates electric van production with special edition VW Transporter

ABT e-Transporter Sportsline front

German tuning company ABT is revealing a modified version of the new VW e-Transporter at the Geneva Motor Show. The all-electric e-Transporter is due in Volkswagen showrooms late this year, but it's being developed by ABT rather than within VW (as the e-Crafter was), which is why the company has given this Geneva version a makeover with its styling additions.

There's the company's Aerokit bodykit, which adds skirts to the front and rear bumpers, a revised grille and rear wing. There are also special louvred tailpipe covers to hide the fact the e-Transporter doesn't have exhaust tips. At each corner there are 20-inch ABT Sport GR wheels with Continental tyres, while lowered suspension is also fitted.

• Electric van guide: can an EV van work for your business?

To complete the makeover, ABT has finished the white T6 e-Transporter with grey and green graphics, similar to those seen on its Audi RS 6-E shown at Geneva in 2018.

Under the skin, the suspension is the only thing that has been modified on the e-Transporter. That means this model has the same running gear as the versions shown at the Hannover Commercial Vehicle Show last September.

There's a 109bhp electric motor with 200Nm of torque, while the standard 37.3kWh battery offers a range of around 130 miles. However, the e-Transporter will also be offered with a 74.6kWh battery that delivers a range of around 250 miles. Plug into a 40kW fast charger, and the batteries can be charged to 80 per cent capacity in 49 minutes for the standard battery, and 98 minutes for the larger one.

One highlight of the e-Transporter is that it has the same cargo capacity as the standard T6 Transporter, at 6.7 cubic metres. In addition, because ABT converts vans from the VW production line, it means the electric drive can be added to any version of the T6, including the Caravelle executive shuttle and even the California camper van.

The e-Transporter will arrive in dealers towards the end of 2019. Before that, the ABT-produced e-Caddy small van (which will also be on show in Geneva) will hit Volkswagen Van Centres in the second half of 2019.

Do you drive an electric van? Let us know what you think of it in the comments below...

Swindon Powertrain announces its all-electric Classic Mini
Posted on Thursday February 14, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-02-14 17:01

Revealed at the London Classic Car Show, the electric Classic Mini has a claimed range of 125 miles

Swid E Classic Mini

The electric conversion specialist, Swindon Powertrain, has revealed its all-electric Classic Mini. Revealed today at the London Classic Car Show, prices for the Swind E Classic Mini start from an eye-watering £79,000.

To create an electric Classic Mini, Swindon Powertrain start by stripping out the car’s original A-Series engine, gearbox and fuel system. These are replaced with a 110bhp electric motor, a 24kWh battery pack and a charging socket in place of the fuel filler-cap.

Best electric cars to buy

The new drivetrain adds 80kg to Mini’s weight, taking its kerbside figure to 720kg. Despite this increase, Swindon Powertrain claims its electric Mini’s performance is reasonable, with a 0–60mph time of 9.2 seconds and a top speed of 80mph.

According to the firm, it’ll be more practical than the original Mini, too; the original fuel tank is no longer required so boot space has increased to 200 litres. However, range may be an issue, as the conversion only allows a maximum range of 125 miles.

To complement the new all-electric drivetrain, Swindon Powertrain has also upgraded the original Mini’s specification, adding an all-new suspension and braking system, a range of USB ports, underfloor heating, heated leather seats and a heated front and rear windscreen. Buyers can also choose from a range of six standard colours.

Optional extras include electric front windows, central locking, electric power steering, air-conditioning, a full-length electrically-operated sliding fabric roof and a modern infotainment system with support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Available to order now, production will be limited to just 100 units. Each model comes with an unlimited mileage one-year warranty, an MOT and, to combat the Classic Mini’s tendency to dissolve in wet weather, contemporary corrosion protection.

What are your thoughts of Swindon Powertrain’s all-electric Classic Mini? Let us know in the comments section below…


Scrappage scheme announced for London; rest of UK urged to follow suit
Posted on Thursday February 14, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-02-14 16:20

The Mayor of London has announced a £25m scrappage scheme to be launched later this year, as city leaders call for a nationwide rollout

Diesel smog, haze, pollution

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced plans for a £25 million car scrappage scheme to be launched later this year.

The scheme will take place in addition to a £23 million van scrappage fund, which is intended to help small businesses scrap vans that do not comply with the new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) standards, but which are driven into the central London on a regular basis.

2.5m vehicles a year to be hit by London’s new ULEZ charge

Combined, this equates to £48 million of funding to “help those who face serious financial pressure in upgrading to greener options”.

The announcement comes as Khan and a number of other city leaders joined UK100 – a network of local government leaders aiming to move their communities to 100 per cent clean energy by 2050 – in calling for the Government to launch a nationwide scrappage scheme to get older, more polluting, cars off the road.

Attendees at the National Clean Air Summit – organised in partnership with UK100 and Unicef UK – discussed their concerns directly with the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, and the Health Secretary, Matthew Hancock.

Khan was joined by other city leaders, including the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, the Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, the Mayor of the West of England and the Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, to ask for greater Government investment in clean air, the adoption of World Health Organisation air pollution recommended limits and the establishment of a £1.5 billion Government-funded vehicle upgrade programme.

The leaders said such a fund would help get drivers out of the most polluting diesel and petrol models on the road, and allow a network of new Low Emission Bus Zones to be set up across the UK.

According to UK100, a £1.5bn fund would pay for 488,647 dirty cars, vans and buses to be taken off the roads, while incentivising people and businesses to use low-emission vehicles and public transport.

London T-charge pollution zone has arrived and will grow in 2019

The city leaders are also calling for the Government’s new Environment Bill to be used as an opportunity to put in place ‘world-leading’ legislation on clean air in order to reduce road transport emissions, as well as tackle other sources of pollution.

Khan described the UK’s “filthy air” as a “national disgrace”. He said that ministers needed to match his commitment in order for the scheme to succeed, describing it as “vital and only fair” that the Government should fund a national scrappage scheme.

What do you think of the proposed scrappage scheme? Let us know in the comments below...

Porsche buyers to pay 10% more in event of no-deal Brexit
Posted on Thursday February 14, 2019

Hugo Griffiths 2019-02-14 13:00

Porsche asks buyers to sign document promising to pay 10 per cent over list price if hard Brexit brings fresh import tariffs

Porsche Macan - rear Porsche badge

Porsche customers are being asked to sign documents that will leave them liable to pay 10 per cent extra for their cars if the UK leaves the EU without a trade deal, and fresh import tariffs are imposed.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) warned as far back as November 2017 that a no-deal Brexit could lead to import tariffs pushing the cost of new cars up significantly, but Porsche’s request to new customers is the first concrete example of potential price hikes being passed directly on to customers.

Ford prepares to pull UK production after Brexit

If the UK leaves the EU without a trade deal in place, import tariffs of 10 per cent that have hitherto not existed will be applied to cars built in the EU. The SMMT warned that such a scenario would increase the cost of a new car by around £1,500 on average, but the list prices of Porches means buyers could be left having to pay as much as £20,000 more, depending model. Even an entry-level 718 Boxster would increase from around £46,000 to over £50,000, should the tariffs be applied.

A Porsche spokesman said that the company tries to keep customers “informed with as much information as possible”, and that this includes “any changes outside of our control that may affect the price of the car they’re interested in purchasing.”

The company stressed that while the charges are purely hypothetical at present, “there is a possibility that a duty of up to 10 per cent may be applied to cars imported into the UK by us after March 29”.

In light of this, Porsche has “chosen to inform customers whose cars are likely to arrive after Brexit occurs to warn them that they may be affected by this tariff – allowing them to be fully informed at the point of sale and, if they wish, to adjust their order accordingly.”

Customers who placed deposits before January 17 2019 will not be affected by the potential new charges.

Do you think Porsche should be charging more for their cars after Brexit? Tell us your thoughts in the comments...

New Jaguar F-Type Chequered Flag 2019 review
Posted on Thursday February 14, 2019

14 Feb, 2019 1:30pm Richard Ingram

We hit the road in the special edition Jaguar F-Type Chequered Flag, which arrives as part of the brand’s 2020 MY updates

 The Jaguar F-Type has always been a left-field choice alongside thoroughbred sports cars like the Porsche 911. What it lacked in outright precision it more than made up for in deep-chested character. 

As the F-Type approaches its sixth birthday, Jaguar has sprinkled its Coupe and Convertible models with a few 2020 MY updates, including parking sensors and cameras across the range, and suspension upgrades to the V8 R.

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In addition, Jaguar has also announced the F-Type Chequered Flag special edition. Production isn’t limited by numbers, but instead cars will be built to order for the duration of the model year. We’re now driving said special for the first time, in rear-wheel drive P380 Coupe guise.

The Chequered Flag badge has been applied to both the 2.0-litre four-cylinder and 3.0-litre V6 models to celebrate 70 years of Jaguar sports cars. The lineage started in 1948 with the legendary XK120 and stretches seven decades through D-Type, E-Type and XK150, as well as the seventies XJ-S and nineties XK8.

All F-Type Chequered Flag models feature 20-inch alloy wheels, red brake callipers and an SVO-spec body kit with bespoke badging. Together, it’s enough to give even the entry-level Ingenium models a whiff of flagship V8 style.

At £72,715, our car commands a premium of £5,760 over the equivalent P380 R-Dynamic model, which seems a little steep given the standard car’s generous kit list. There are just three paint colours to choose from, but if you rate the styling tweaks and extra exclusivity, it’s worth a look.

Inside there’s special Windsor leather, contrast stitching and black suede headlining, as well as a red 12 o’clock marker on the steering wheel. There’s some dark aluminium trim on the dash, but otherwise is standard F-Type fare.

That’s no bad thing. Even six years since it launched, the Jag Coupe feels well built inside. The infotainment system is a little laggy – and still lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity – but the way the cabin cocoons around you ensures you’re rarely distracted from the task in hand.

And the F-Type remains a car of unparalleled character – at least in V6 trim. The engine is raucous, and while it can’t match the almost anti-social V8 for noise, the constant underlying burble feels perfectly judged; fizzing away at idle and gargling purposefully around town. Find a piece of open road however and the engine comes alive, screaming to the redline with a soundtrack like no other. It’s addictive. 

A new (or old, for that matter) 911 is sharper to drive; the steering better judged and the chassis more compliant. But that doesn’t mean the F-Type feels aged or misjudged. It’s still a fantastic all-rounder, with an excellent eight-speed automatic gearbox and acceptable motorway refinement. 

We tried our rear-wheel-drive Coupe back-to-back with an all-wheel-drive Convertible, and the difference was night and day. The AWD system makes the F-Type a fantastic all-weather car; where the drop-top gripped with unflappable traction, its fixed-roof sibling displayed a keen propensity to step out with all the driver aids disabled.

While the latest sports cars topple the Jaguar F-Type for outright driver appeal, you can’t argue with the British bruiser’s emotional charm. It continues to tug at the heartstrings in a way the clinical Porsche 911 cannot. This Chequered Flag offers little more than an expensive aesthetic upgrade, however, so unless you value the bespoke sills and interior trim, the standard P380 R-Dynamic is a better buy.
  • Model: Jaguar F-Type Coupe Chequered Flag P380
  • Price: £72,715
  • Engine: 3.0-litre V6 supercharged petrol
  • Power/torque: 375bhp/460Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 4.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 171mph
  • Economy/ CO2: 28.8mpg/ 223g/km
  • On sale: Now

Tesla releases Dog Mode and Sentry Mode updates
Posted on Thursday February 14, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-02-14 12:45

The over-the-air Tesla updates add a dog-friendly cabin environment setting and a security monitoring system to help prevent car theft

Tesla dog mode

Tesla has added two new pieces of software to its range of vehicles, both of which are currently being rolled out globally via over-the-air updates. The updates add a dog-friendly cabin environment setting and a new security system tasked with preventing car theft.

Dog Mode was announced on Tesla’s Twitter account. The new software adds the option to set the cabin to a climate comfortable for dogs at the touch of a button. Designed to be used when an owner leaves their pets in the car, the update adjusts the interior temperature and provides a visual warning via the huge touchscreen to warn passing animal lovers that the dog’s wellbeing is not at risk.

The new Sentry Mode is a reactive update to recent federal statistics, estimating that a car was stolen in the United States roughly every 40 seconds in 2017. Sentry Mode will attempt to combat this by continuously monitoring the environment around the car when left unattended.

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When enabled, the system enters a 'standby' mode, like a home alarm system, scanning the immediate area for potential threats using the Tesla’s external cameras. An alert is triggered by any minimal threat, such as someone leaning on the car, activating a warning message on the touchscreen to inform bystanders that the vehicle’s cameras are recording.

A more serious threat, such as someone breaking a window, activates the Sentry Mode’s 'Alarm' state, which blares the car’s alarm, increases the brightness of the centre display and plays music from the car’s stereo at maximum volume. The system again records the incident and sends a notification to the owner’s smartphone, informing them of the attack.

Both software updates are currently being rolled out globally for all Tesla models built after 2017, starting in the States with the Model 3. Model S and Model X models are due to follow suit, with the updates reaching the UK by the end of the year.

What are you thoughts on Tesla’s latest software updates? Let us know in the comments section below…

BMW X4 review
Posted on Wednesday February 13, 2019

Ride and handling
First-class interior
Modern safety tech
Our Rating 
Divisive design
Compromised cabin
Price premium
BMW X4 - front

A compelling package with lots to offer, but little extra over its cheaper X3 sibling

With so many options to choose from in the SUV sector, creating a unique product is a challenge, which explains the coupe-SUV approach of the BMW X4. Compared to the conventional X3 on which it is based, the X4 trades some practicality for a more distinctive exterior design and increased driving pleasure.

Some aspects are a definite success; the X4 is one of the best-driving SUVs at any price and it delivers a strong premium feel. But the added expense and reduced practicality make it feel like an indulgence next to its more practical and almost as capable X3 stablemate.

13 Feb, 2019

The BMW X4 sets out to mix the design elements of an SUV with those of a coupe, and more than most cars only a potential owner can decide if it has been a success. The lower half of the body carries the bulk and toughness expected from an SUV, with the curved roofline of a coupe sitting on top of it. Anyone looking for something more conventional should find the X3 to their liking, but at the very least the X4 offers distinction in a crowded vehicle segment. Underneath the X4 lies the same platform as used in the X3, with the only significant changes being a wider rear track to increase cornering ability.

Inside the X4 is an unquestionable success, combining attractive design with quality materials to great effect. The interior is another element that is largely carried over from the X3, but in this instance that is good news; the layout is attractive but understated, easy to understand and adds to the sporty feel of the car. Where fitted, the leather is of a high quality, and the vast majority of the plastics in the cabin are soft and pleasing to touch.

X4 M Sport models and above benefit from a part-digital instrument display, although the crisply-designed analogue set-up in the Sport model is still attractive and easy to read. A full digital display is an option on X4 models and standard on the M40d and M40i.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

All X4 models come with satellite navigation and a DAB radio as standard. Sport models have a 6.5-inch display, but M Sport versions and above are fitted with BMW Professional Navigation which increases the screen size to 10.25-inches and includes a touchscreen facility to back up the i-Drive controller.

However you control the system, it responds quickly and accurately, and the display uses clear and attractive graphics. Gesture Control is also available as an option, allowing you to use hand movements to make basic inputs, although this system is still relatively new and limited in its scope. The system can be specified with Apple CarPlay, but Android Auto is not available.


Creating a car that handles with composure and a sense of fun is a challenge for manufacturers, but to do so from the starting point of a tall and relatively heavy SUV is even more taxing. Remarkably, the X4 is a sure-footed SUV that makes it easy to forget its size and shape from behind the wheel. While it’s based on the X3, it feels a little more sporty. That’s partly down to the view from the driver’s seat, but the X4 also has stiffer suspension and a wider rear track. The result is that the X4 handles with remarkable composure, and rarely feels like a tall vehicle considering the way it behaves through corners.

Despite the sporty handling, the X4 is a comfortable car to travel in. Even in M Sport guise the ride remains composed and avoids feeling too firm. Only the occasional large bump causes any discomfort in the cabin, but the optional adaptive dampers give even greater comfort when in their softest setting, so they’re a worthwhile upgrade. That gives the X4 the ability to cope with broken urban roads, motorways and challenging B-roads with equal ease, and even though the X4 is designed to provide a sporty driving experience, it retains good off-road ability too.

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The eight-speed automatic transmission, available as an option on xDrive20d models and standard across the rest of the range, is excellent in the X4. It shifts smoothly and quickly when in automatic mode, and the seperate drive modes means the gearbox changes its shift points depending on the setting for better performance or economy. Manual shifting is also possible, either by the paddles on the back of the steering wheel or by using the gearlever for full control.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

The 2.0-litre diesel unit found in the xDrive20d is likely to be the most popular choice, and it performs very well in a variety of circumstances. Although it is not as quiet as the equivalent four-cylinder Audi engine, it still offers good refinement, and balances decent performance, with a 0-62mph time of 8.0 seconds, with impressive fuel consumption of 52.3mpg combined.

Moving up to the xDrive30d brings the additional performance of the six-cylinder 3.0-litre diesel unit, with the further benefit of it being significantly smoother than the four-cylinder diesel. It turns the X4 into a genuine performance car yet only results in a small penalty in terms of increased fuel consumption. The M40d model is quicker still, with the twin-turbocharged unit pushing the X4 from 0-62mph in only 4.8 seconds and delivering rapid response to the driver’s inputs.

The only petrol engine currently available is the 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged unit in the M40i model, and is also biased towards performance. Its six-cylinder configuration means the engine is smooth even at high revs and provides impressive acceleration, although it is no faster from 0-62mph than the M40d model but has higher fuel consumption.

A high-performance BMW X4M is set to arrive later in 2019, powered by an uprated twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six with as much as 506bhp.


As the X4 is likely to be used as a family car, safety remains a priority, and this is reflected in the generous provision of safety systems. Autonomous emergency braking is fitted as standard across the range, and this can be supplemented with the optional fitment of active cruise control and lane-keeping assistance.

The optional Dynamic Safety system makes pre-emptive safety measures such as tightening the seatbelts if it determines that a crash is imminent, and can apply the brakes if an accident occurs. Euro NCAP is yet to test the BMW X4, and it’s more likely that the X3 will be tested first. In fact, the likeliest outcome is that the X4 will be covered by the X3’s score, as it’s essentially a body variation of that model like an estate compared to a hatchback.

In terms of reliability, both the X4 and X3 are too new to have featured in the 2018 Driver Power survey, so it is hard to draw any firm conclusions. However the brand as a whole had mixed results in the survey, finishing 21st place overall out of 26 brands and behind both Mercedes and Audi. Over 25% of owners reported a fault with their car in the first year of ownership, while both build quality and exterior design failed to receive much praise. Running costs, practicality and infotainment were plus points for survey respondents, but it remains to be seen how newer models like the X4 perform.


The X4 comes with a standard BMW warranty which is for three years from the date of first registration and unlimited mileage, which is the same as offered by Mercedes but superior to that of Audi, which is limited to 60,000 miles within the first three years.


Another significant factor in running costs of the X4 will be servicing and parts replacement. The BMW Service Inclusive cover is available for the X4 at a price of around £400, which should provide a saving, although this only covers a basic service and does not reduce the cost of consumable parts outside of the service schedule.


Anyone choosing the X4 over the X3 is making a conscious decision to sacrifice some practicality in favour of a sportier drive and more dynamic-looking exterior. But even allowing for that it still performs well in this respect. It is designed to seat four adults in comfort and can accommodate a fifth in a narrow seat for shorter journeys.

From the driver’s seat the view out is good, helped by the height of the body, although the view to the rear is somewhat reduced by the shallowness of the tailgate window. Oddment storage inside the cabin is impressive, with a generous glovebox, door pockets and a large central storage area between the seats. An optional extended storage pack is also available that adds features such as extra storage areas, 12v and USB sockets and the facility for securing loads in the boot.


As is common with premium German, products there is little difference between the X4 and rivals in terms of exterior dimensions. At 4,752mm in length, the X4 is longer than both the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe and BMW X3, but only by a matter of 20mm in the case of the Mercedes. The same goes for height and width, but the differences between the X4 and X3 are more clear, with the former being longer, lower and wider than its stablemate despite riding on the same platform with an identical wheelbase.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

Those sitting in the front are well catered for, with excellent head and legroom and a broad range of adjustment - supportive sports seats are fitted as standard on M Sport models and above. Those in the rear can also enjoy generous legroom, sufficient to sit taller adults in the rear. Where the X4 lags behind the X3 is in rear headroom, with those of six feet in height likely to find their heads making contact with the roof lining. The centre rear seat is also best used for shorter journeys, as it is narrower and lacks any kind of side bolstering. The transmission tunnel also eats into legroom for the central passenger.


From the outside it is hard to believe that the X4 offers much luggage space, but there’s 525 litres with the rear seats in place, and up to 1,430 litres with them folded. The rear bench can be split 40:20:40 for maximum flexibility and the powered tailgate is also a useful addition. In terms of volume the X4 is close to offering the load capacity of the X3, but the shape of the tailgate and the steeply-raked window means bulkier items will not fit and loading the vehicle is more of a challenge thanks to the smaller aperture.


The X4 can be specified with a towing package which includes an electrically folding tow bar and the addition of trailer stability control to the standard Dynamic Stability Control system. The maximum trailer load is 2,000kg depending on the engine, and although those wishing to tow might choose a different BMW model, it may be a useful option for some.


Despite the physical size and weight of the X4, as well as its impressive acceleration, most of the models in the range deliver impressive fuel consumption and emissions performance. The xDrive20d model is capable of over 50mpg when driven with restraint, but can still deliver brisk performance, while both versions of the 3.0-litre diesel can also manage over 40mpg, with similarly reasonable emissions performance.

The M40i model is inevitably the most thirsty, with an official combined figure of only 31.4mpg that will likely result in actual mid-20s in everyday driving conditions. The official emissions figure of 205g/km also means that the M40i will be costly in terms of Vehicle Excise Duty too. This is compounded by the fact that all BMW X4s are priced in excess of £40,000 which attracts an annual surcharge of £310 on top of the VED cost for the first five years you pay road tax.

Insurance groups

The least-expensive X4 xDrive20d model is in group 32 for insurance, which is broadly in line with its key rivals, but will result in above average premiums for most drivers and is also higher than the equivalent X3 model. The rest of the X4 range is rated between group 41 for the xDrive30d models, group 43 for the M40i and group 45 for the M40d, so insurance premiums will be a significant ongoing cost if you choose the higher-output models.


BMWs typically hold their value well compared to premium rivals, and premium SUVs are the new cars that tend to have the best residual values anywhere in the market. Helped by its relative scarcity, the X4 is expected to retain approximately 56 per cent of its value after three years, with the diesel models generally performing better than the M40i petrol.



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