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In the News ...

New transport laws could allow electric scooters on roads
Posted on Monday March 18, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-03-19 00:01

Electric scooters could be given green light as part of major transport review aimed at modernising the UK’s road network

A major UK transport review by the Government could see electric scooters being allowed on the UK’s public roads.

The Department for Transport’s (DfT) Future of Mobility: Urban Strategy will examine regulations concerning new types of vehicle, such as e-scooters and bicycle trailers. Stand-on electric scooters are classed as PLEVs (Personal Light Electric Vehicles) and, although they are growing in popularity, it’s currently only legal to use them on private land in the UK.

• Drivers face £700 annual road toll bill as EVs hit fuel duty revenue

The review will also consider how data-sharing can reduce congestion, as well as how planning and paying for journeys can be simplified. In addition, the Government will look at ways of modernising laws from as far back as the 19th century.

Part of the DfT review involves the launch of four Future Mobility Zones in towns and cities around the country. With a total investment of £90 million, these areas will be used to test new ideas for improving journeys.

Roughly 80 per cent of people in the UK now use smartphones, so the review will also involve examining mobile technology as a quick and convenient means payment for transport.

Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, welcomed the review’s potential to decrease congestion in urban areas, but warned: “Clearly, much needs to be thought through before electric scooters can be allowed to use UK roads legally.

“While improvements in technology are providing many new exciting transport possibilities, the key to gaining public acceptance must surely be demonstrating they can be used safely.”

Lyes went on to say that while electric scooters are convenient and affordable, the vulnerability of riders in the event of a collision is arguably even greater than that of those on bicycles.

He added: “Care needs to be taken to ensure the safety of all road users, including pedestrians and cyclists, as new modes of transport gain popularity.”

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: “The automotive industry is responding to perhaps the most significant change since the invention of the car.”

He said the strategy would give industry the necessary scope to “invest and innovate, developing exciting new services” and help “position the UK as a global leader in future mobility”.

What do you think of this new ruling? Let us know in the comments below... 

Volvo V60 Cross Country review
Posted on Monday March 18, 2019

For 
Very comfortable
Decent rough-road ability
Great infotainment
Our Rating 
4
Against 
Diesel power only (for now)
Some options should be standard
Not the sharpest drive
Volvo V60 Cross Country - front
2019

The Volvo V60 Cross Country is a classy, comfortable and capable alternative to the Audi A4 Allroad

The Volvo V60 Cross Country is hugely comfortable, well-built, relaxing to drive and as practical as a Volvo should be. Some cheaper rivals offer more standard equipment, however.

 

18 Mar, 2019
4.5

The arrival of the all-new XC90 SUV in 2014 heralded the start of push upmarket for Volvo as it took the fight to rivals Audi, BMW and Mercedes, aiming to match or better those brands for interior quality, exterior design and onboard technology.

Outside the Volvo V60 Cross Country is the latest model to offer the Swedish brands’ trademark sharp, unfussy design – albeit with added plastic cladding to protect against bumps and scrapes on rougher surfaces. The Cross Country rides 60mm higher than the standard V60, with its beefier suspension and larger wheels as contributing factors. Roof rails are standard, as are 18-inch alloy wheels.

Inside, the Cross Country matches its siblings with a focus on plush materials, simple ergonomics and strong infotainment. A minimalist design makes for a relaxing place to sit; the cabin feels especially airy when specced with lighter-coloured upholstery.

Standard equipment is good but you’ll need to delve into the options list to bring the spec up to the standard set by its closest rivals. The Subaru Outback, for example, comes as standard with front, side and rear view cameras, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus a full suite of driver assistance and active safety systems; V60 Cross Country buyers will need to select the majority of these features either as standalone options or as part of Volvo’s options packs.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

A 9.7-inch portrait touchscreen sits in the centre of the dash and is used to control most key functions, including ventilation controls. It sets the class standard for ease of use, but it’s disappointing that Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity is a £300 optional extra. Good-quality sat nav comes as standard, however.

Audiophiles benefit from the choice of two optional stereo upgrades over the standard 170-watt, 10-speaker system. A 600-watt, 13-speaker Harmon Kardon system is an £825 option, while a 1,100-watt, 15-speaker system by Bowers and Wilkins is available for £2,500; the latter is one of the best we’ve tested. A CD player does not feature as standard but can be added for £100.

3.8

Settle in behind the wheel of the V60 Cross Country and you can just about feel the additional 60mm of ride height, and the cabin feels ever so slightly elevated from the road surface. The difference is most evident when compared to the low slung, new R-Design version of the V60. It feels slightly taller than an Audi A4 Allroad too.

If the A4 Allroad is a sharp-to-drive take on the posh, propped up estate, the Volvo stays true to its colours with an emphasis on comfort. A decent amount of the 60mm increase in height can be put down to the larger profile tyres equipped as standard. Few sub-SUV cars on the road today get quite so much rubber, so immediately, the V60 Cross Country’s primary ride is strong, as the revised suspension setup gets plenty of cushion to work with.

At speed it’s soft, but not totally wafty. A lick of body control has been retained through a suspension setup not totally committed to being as pliant as possible. It means that small vibrations and a small degree of brittleness can be picked up on the move, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off, and this is still a very comfortable car.

The 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine sending power to the all-wheel-drive system is a straightforward affair. It’s a modest but well-judged amount of power, and the V60 Cross Country never feels short of grunt. The eight-speed transmission is smooth, and while it’s not totally foolproof, it doesn’t have to be razor sharp in action given the serene nature of the V60 Cross Country, and the way this car is likely to be driven. The same can be said of the steering, which is comfortably weighted but absent of any road feel.

Away from the tarmac, the raised suspension, all-wheel-drive, cladding, the specialised off-road setting for the traction control and hill descent control mean there’s a definite sense of ability off-road. It won’t venture as far as a proper SUV, but for green-landing and rutted tracks, the V60 Cross Country is more than capable.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

For now, there’s only one engine available in the Volvo V60 Cross Country – a turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel with 187bhp and 400Nm of torque. Four-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox are standard.

Performance is adequate if not particularly electrifying: 0-62mph takes 8.2 seconds and top seed is 130mph. There’s plenty of torque though, making for acceptable in-gear punch and good overtaking ability. It’s bound to help when towing or tackling difficult terrain, too.

4.2

The Volvo V60 was crash tested by Euro NCAP in 2018 and awarded a five-star overall rating, with impressive scores of 96 per cent and 84 per cent respectively for adult and child occupant protection. A 74 per cent score for vulnerable road user protection (including pedestrian impacts) is respectable, as is the 76 per cent safety assist score.

The Volvo V60 is too new to have been included in our Driver Power 2018 customer satisfaction survey, but Volvo itself finished in 13th place out of 26 manufacturers. The brand secured an impressive 5th-place finish for reliability – this should bode well for Cross Country buyers.

Warranty

The V60 Cross Country comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty as standard. This matches Audi’s standard warranty, but can’t compete with Mercedes’ unlimited mileage warranty. By contrast, the Volvo’s cheaper Subaru Outback rival boasts a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty as standard.

Servicing

Service intervals are quoted as 18,000 miles or 12 months, whichever comes first. Volvo offers a number of service plans that can help spread the cost and as part of its Volvo Service Promise will include 12 months free roadside assistance, a car wash and a courtesy car, all organised through a dedicated personal service contact.

Free software upgrades are also included for the car’s infotainment system, although it’s worth noting that this does not include sat nav map updates. 

4.2

As with all modern Volvo products, the V60 Cross Country majors on comfort. The V60 is slightly bigger than the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series estates, meaning there’s plenty of space inside for passengers and luggage.

From the driver’s seat you’ll just about notice the higher driving position offered by the raised ride height, but this is no tall-riding SUV. All-round visibility is still good, however.  

Size

The Volvo V60 Cross Country measures in at just under 4.8m long, just over 1.9m (a shade over 2m including mirrors) and one millimetre shy of 1.5m in height. It’s a little larger than conventional executive estates from Audi, Mercedes and BMW, but around the same size as the Subaru Outback – although the latter is around 100mm taller. The V60 has a greater focus on practicality than its stylish V90 sibling, featuring a tailgate that’s far less raked and therefore a boot with a more practical shape.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

Up front, you’ll find some of the best seats in the business – something of a Volvo hallmark – while the rears offer enough space to sit two six-foot adults in comfort. The rear floor isn’t flat, so legroom becomes an issue with three rear passengers – even if shoulder space is fine. It’s worth noting too that while rear legroom is okay, it can be hampered if the front seats are set to their lowest positions. There are Isofix points on each of the two outer rear seats.

Boot

The V60 Cross Country’s boot measures in at 529 litres – larger than that of the conventional Audi A4 Avant (504 litres) and BMW 3 Series Touring (495 litres), but trails the Subaru Outback’s 559 litres ever so slightly. The Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer is the biggest near-rival, with 560 litres. It’s interesting to note that the Cross Country does not lose out on space versus front-wheel drive versions of the V60.

Folding the seats flat can be made easier with the optional Convenience Pack (£500), which adds electrically folding rear seats amongst other practical luggage organisation features and extra power sockets. A total of 1,441-litres of space is available with the seats down.

Towing

The Volvo V60 can tow braked trailers of up to 2000kg when specified with the optional retractable tow bar at just over £1,000. This also brings Volvo’s ‘Trailer Stability Assist’ system, which can use the brakes to help regain control of a snaking trailer at speeds over 31mph.

 

3.7

Though not as cheap to run as its front-wheel drive counterpart with the same engine, the V60 Cross Country offers decent economy and acceptable emissions for a car of this type. Volvo quotes an average economy figure of 42.8-47.9mpg, measured on the latest WLTP test cycle that more accurately reflects real-world driving. By contrast, the same engine and gearbox combination in the standard V60 manages 47.9-55.4mpg.

The V60 Cross Country clearly beats its Subaru Outback rival in this department, whose 2.5-litre petrol engine only returns 33mpg on average (WLTP). In top-spec 2.0-litre BiTurbo D trim, the Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer returns 36.2mp, or between 41.5 and 42.2mpg in the lower-powered Turbo D. Until the Volkswagen Group models return to their respective ranges (Audi A4 Allroad, Skoda Octavia Scout and Volkswagen Passat Alltrack), the V60 Cross Country is most economical car of its type.

Emissions are good for a four-wheel drive estate car, with an official NEDC equivalent figure of 135g/km quoted. For company car users this means a Benefit in Kind percentage charge of 32% in 2018/19, 35% in 2019/20 and 36% in 2020/21. By contrast, the petrol-only Subaru Outback brings a 34% charge in 2018/19, climbing to the maximum 37% thereafter.

Road tax is £205 in the first year, followed by the standard yearly payment of £140. Once you’ve ticked a few options boxes you’ll easily push your V60 Cross Country over the government’s £40,000 threshold and incur a £310 surcharge on in years two to six of ownership, making for a total annual bill of £450. Rivals like the Insignia Country Tourer start around the £30,000 mark and so should avoid this.

Insurance groups

The Volvo V60 Cross Country sits in insurance group 31 – considerably higher than the groups 17 to 20 of the Subaru Outback. The Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer sits in group 20 or 24 depending on which engine is fitted.

Currently discontinued but available through dealer stock, the Audi A4 Allroad sits in insurance groups 26 to 39 depending on engine and specification.

All Volvo V60 models are fitted with an anti-theft alarm with an immobiliser, volume sensor and a level sensor. Volvo’s On Call system can also be used to track the vehicle if it is stolen.

Depreciation

Our experts predict that the V60 Cross Country will hold onto a shade over 41% of its original value come trade-in time after three years and 36,000 miles. An equivalent Audi A4 Allroad is predicted to retain around 48-50% by contrast, though the Subaru Outback falls behind both with a predicted 39% after three years.

Lexus ES review
Posted on Monday March 18, 2019

For 
Luxurious, comfortable cabin
Overall refinement
Low running costs
Our Rating 
4
Against 
Lack of driving excitement
Powertrain noise
Firm F Sport model
Lexus ES - front
2019

The Lexus ES is a supremely comfortable and refined executive saloon with impressively-low running costs

Almost all of the main rivals for the Lexus ES focus on a sporty driving experience, and judged on this criteria the executive saloon is significantly behind the competition. However, where the ES claws back ground is how comfortable it is, with a high-quality interior, low noise levels and a smooth ride - as long as you avoid the F Sport model. Add in that the ES has a very efficient hybrid powertrain, and it has a unique but strong appeal for those looking for a comfortable, discreet saloon that doesn’t skimp on luxuries. It also provides very low running costs alongside impressive emissions performance, which will be a big plus for business and private owners.

 

18 Mar, 2019
4.2

The exterior design of the ES is instantly recognisable as a Lexus, combining the distinctive grille shape and slim headlights with a curved rear roofline, giving a coupe-like feel. Despite the strong nose treatment, the ES is relatively conservative in its design, and is unlikely to put off many buyers as a result - in particular the strong metallic red paint option brings out the best of the shape.

Although a brand-new design, the layout of the ES follows the template set by the LS and previous GS models, with an unfussy design, a slim grouping of buttons on the dashboard with a large transmission tunnel housing the main controls for the infotainment system. The quality of the materials is impressive, if not quite as good as the best in the class, but the result is a cabin that is comfortable and soothing, and feels built to cope with many thousands of miles.

Standard equipment is generous across the range, with even the entry-level model coming with heated electric front seats and adaptive cruise control with level 2 autonomy – usually a cost option in this segment. The top-spec Takumi model brings a larger infotainment screen, a Mark Levinson audio system and a head-up display.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment 

The standard infotainment system provides an eight-inch screen, while Takumi models have a 12.3-inch display screen as standard, and other models can be upgraded to this. The display itself is clear and easy to read, but the input device is a touchpad which can be awkward to use and is less accurate than those offered by rivals. The ES can’t be specified with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, though, which will be a significant omission for some. The Mark Levinson audio system is a particular highlight, with speakers set at shoulder height around the cabin for superior sound quality.

3

As with much of the Lexus range, the ES puts comfort ahead of other considerations, and it’s this aspect that dominates the driving experience. All cabin occupants will enjoy the smooth ride that deals well with a variety of surfaces and remains composed on motorways or in town. This is helped by the excellent refinement of the powertrain, with the petrol engine and electric motor combining well to provide quiet, fuss-free motoring. This is particularly apparent when driving in traffic, where the car’s ability to operate on electric power only emphasises the sense of quiet within the cabin.

On more challenging roads, the ES retains its composure, and when driven at speed the steering responds well, with good feedback and accurate responses to the driver’s inputs. The Lexus ES also features a new type of suspension damper called a Swing Valve Shock Absorber, the idea being that a valve inside the system helps it to respond better to bumps in the road and cornering loads. The result is that the ES corners relatively flat for a car of this size and is largely untroubled by road imperfections. What the Lexus ES lacks is the sharpness offered by rivals such as the BMW 5 Series and is more biased towards comfort than the Mercedes E-Class, which manages to be relaxing and enjoyable to drive too.

Go for an F Sport model, and the standard adaptive suspension is firmer than the standard model. Combine this with the larger wheels that are also fitted, and the ES’s focus on comfort is lost somewhat.

The powertrain of the ES is also not best suited to enthusiastic driving. When driven in normal conditions it operates very well, with the engine and electric motor combining with the CVT automatic transmission to keep the engine dormant or at low revs as much as possible. Demand brisk acceleration however and the ES struggles somewhat, with the engine revving hard but delivering less performance than diesel rivals. 

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

The ES is available with a single powertrain option, a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine matched with an electric motor and battery pack, to give a total output of 215bhp. There’s a single gearbox option, too, a CVT automatic transmission. The ES accelerates from 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds, as much as a second slower than comparable rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, while its top speed is also a modest 112mph.

When driven at normal speeds the powertrain delivers smooth and quiet operation, with the gearbox operating with impressive efficiency. However, when strong acceleration is demanded, the four-cylinder unit shows some harshness as it sits at high revs, with only modest acceleration delivered. The CVT is an improvement on past Lexus models, though, so will be pleasing to use for existing Lexus owners.

3.5

While Lexus as a brand doesn’t promote the safety of its products as heavily as some manufacturers, the reality is that the ES has performed well under official testing procedures and comes with a broad range of safety equipment both as standard and optionally. 

The ES received a full five-star rating when it was tested by Euro NCAP in 2018, scoring 91% for adult occupant protection, 90% for vulnerable road user protection and 77% for its safety assist systems. As standard, all ES models come with the Lexus Safety System+ as standard, which includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, while there is also radar-guided cruise control and lane assist that provides Level 2 automated driver support. The Takumi model also adds a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert as standard. 

The ES is too new to have appeared in the 2018 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, but the Lexus brand as a whole has been a consistently strong performer over the years and was the best brand in the 2018 survey.

Warranty

The Lexus ES warranty covers a period of three years or 60,000 miles, which is broadly in line with its competitors in terms of the time period. However, some rivals offer unlimited mileage over the same period, although with its reputation for reliability this may be much less of an issue. Interestingly, parent firm Toyota offers a five-year warranty on its models.

Servicing

Lexus has yet to confirm service costs for the ES but it is likely to be in line with other models with the same powertrain, resulting in an intermediate cost of around £250 and the major services varying between £500 and £650 depending on the mileage interval. This is broadly in line with key rivals, but the bonus is that Lexus dealerships have scored very highly for customer satisfaction over the years in the Driver Power survey, so you’re unlikely to be disappointed with the level of service you experience.

The Lexus ES bucks the trend sent by its main rivals by being available in saloon-form only, something that may make it unsuitable for some buyers. However, space inside the cabin is generous for occupants both front and rear. An electrically adjustable steering column and seats on all models make it easy for the driver to find a suitable seating position, and the rear seat can accommodate a smaller adult or child in the central rear seat. 

Visibility is good forwards and to the sides, but rear visibility is slightly compromised by the sloping roofline which results in a narrow rear window. This is mitigated somewhat by the standard safety equipment, though, which includes a reversing camera as standard.

Size

At 4,975mm, the Lexus ES is one of the longest cars in the executive saloon car class, with 36mm additional length compared to the Audi A6. It also has the lowest roof height in the sector, but crucially it has the shortest wheelbase, which translates to a smaller cabin overall. In terms of width, the ES sits somewhere in the middle of the class at 1,865mm. That’s narrower than the Audi A6 and BMW 5-Series, but wider than a Mercedes E-Class.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

Although cabin space is smaller overall than its key rivals, the room on offer for its occupants is generally impressive. Legroom is good for both front and rear passengers, and while head room for front seat occupants is good, in the rear the sloping roofline impacts on the space available to the point where taller passengers may find it uncomfortable. Isofix points are fitted to the two outer seats in the rear.

Boot 

The Lexus ES has the smallest boot amongst its key rivals, measuring 454 litres. That’s 76 litres down on the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series and a massive 180 litres fewer than the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The boot space itself is accessed through a relatively narrow opening with a significant lip at its base, while the rear seat backs are fixed in place, so longer loads can’t be loaded through to the cabin.

4.5

Lexus has long followed the hybrid route, and in the UK at least the ES will only be available with a petrol-electric drive system. Depending on the model and the alloy wheels fitted, the ES is capable of between 48.7 mpg and 53.2mpg under WLTP testing protocols, giving it a theoretical range of almost 600 miles on a single tank of fuel. Emissions are rated at 100g/km NEDC for the entry-level ES version, rising to 106g/km for the F Sport model. That makes it an appealing prospect, as it manages to compete with diesel rivals, but using petrol power. For company car drivers it also means a lower Benefit in Kind band than for similarly priced diesel executives, because the ES isn’t subject to the 3% BiK surcharge on diesel models.

Road tax rates for the ES are competitive, although the price tag can affect this significantly. The entry-level ES model costs £130 per year at the current rates which is £10 less than a non-hybrid alternative, which is a modest saving. However the Takumi version has a list price over £40,000, which means it attracts the £310 surcharge for the first five years of ownership, while other models could quite easily be pushed over the £40,000 barrier with a few options added.

Electric range, battery life and charge time

Lexus doesn’t quote an official range for the ES when operating on electric power alone, because the system is set up to use the best combination of electric and petrol power for the driving conditions. Drive around town, and the ES has the potential to travel on battery power most of the time, with the petrol engine only engaging when faster acceleration is needed. Like other Lexus hybrids you can change the vehicle mode to save the battery for later in your journey and keep it fully charged. As the ES is what Lexus terms a ‘self-charging’ hybrid, power is returned to the battery by a combination of regeneration and engine power, so there is no need to plug it in.

Insurance groups

Insurance groups for the Lexus ES vary from group 33 for the standard model, 34 for the F Sport trim and 38 for the Takumi trim, which is broadly in line with rivals. Because there is no high performance version of the ES however, the highest group 38 model is lower than equivalents from Audi and BMW. 

Depreciation

The previous Lexus GS model retained between 37% and 44% of its value after three years, but the ES is slightly better, with a retained value of 41-46%. In comparison, the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6 are a couple of percentage points ahead of the ES – demonstrating that the German marques are still the popular ones in the sector.

New Skoda Scala vRS hot hatch could be a hybrid
Posted on Monday March 18, 2019

John McIlroy 2019-03-18 12:30

Skoda is planning to give its Scala hatch the vRS treatment and the hot hatch may use hybrid tech to keep emissions down

Skoda Scala vRS Avarvarii

Skoda is lining up its Scala family hatchback as the next model to get the vRS treatment, according to a senior official – and requirements on CO2 emissions could mean that it becomes the first hybrid performance vehicle from the company.

The Czech brand recently launched the Kodiaq vRS, its second hot model after the Octavia vRS. But the Scala – a conventional rival for the Ford Focus and VW Golf – would in theory be a more natural base for a ‘traditional’ hot hatch than the larger Octavia.

Best hot hatchbacks on sale now

Speaking at the Geneva Motor Show, Skoda’s board member with responsibility for sales and marketing, Alain Favey, admitted that such a vehicle is now being discussed. “Officially we have not decided anything,” Favey said, “but yes, we are considering a Scala vRS. As far as I am concerned, it would make sense for us to have one.

“The reality is that we have been extremely successful with the Octavia vRS. And early signs for the Kodiaq vRS are encouraging; it is hitting its targets and more. So even in a package which is not a conventional sports car, a sporty version makes a lot of sense.”

Our exclusive image previews how a Scala vRS could look, and Favey added: “On a personal level, I would love to have [it]. But it needs to make sense in terms of profitability and it has to exist in the context of the CO2 targets we have to achieve for next year. There are a number of elements that you have to take into consideration – more than there used to be some years ago.”

That concern about the impact of a Scala vRS on Skoda’s average fleet CO2 emissions – a target the firm has to meet to avoid European Union fines – could force Skoda to take a radical approach to the powertrain. 

The concept that previewed the Scala, the Skoda Vision RS, combined a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with a 101bhp electric motor to deliver a total of more than 240bhp. A set-up like this in production form could give the Scala performance to match more traditional 2.0-litre cars like the Golf GTI, but with a lower impact on Skoda’s fleet CO2 emissions average.

Skoda’s board member for technical development, Christian Strube, has been pushing the VW Group hard for a hybrid system. He declined to confirm this, or say whether such a move would be designed to support a Scala vRS, but he conceded:
“A performance version of the Scala is very interesting from an engineering perspective. It’s a type of car that I’m pushing for.”

Would a Skoda Scala vRS be an attractive alternative to a Golf GTI? Let us know your thoughts in the comments...

Fisker announces an affordable SUV rival for the Tesla Model Y
Posted on Monday March 18, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-03-18 12:09

The manufacturer responsible for the Fisker Karma will build an all-electric SUV from 2021, priced at $40,000

Fisker SUV teaser

American EV manufacturer Fisker has announced it will build a rival for the Tesla Model Y in late 2021, priced from $40,000. The new SUV forms part of Fisker’s three-pronged offensive on the all-electric market, with two more affordable EVs planned for the near future.

Fisker’s new SUV will be driven by two electric motors (one for the front axle and one for the rear), fed by an 80kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The firm anticipates a range of around 300 miles, placing the car in line with Tesla’s expectations for the upcoming Model Y.

New all-electric Fisker EMotion revealed at CES

Details on the SUV’s design are sparse, with further information expected to appear at the end of the year alongside a driveable prototype. For now, confirmed features include a grille-mounted radar, optional 22-inch wheels and the vaguely-named ‘extended open-air atmosphere’, which could be either a panoramic glass roof or a retractable soft-top.

Before its new SUV goes on sale, Fisker will release the EMotion. First unveiled at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, the limited-edition all-electric saloon will reach the US market in 2020, with a price tag of $129,000 (£95,000).

The EMotion will be the first Fisker to be powered by the firm’s patented solid-state battery technology, which promises increased energy density, a range of 500 miles and charge times of only 60 seconds. It will act as a rival to the Tesla Model S, with a claimed power figure of 769bhp and a 0-60mph time of around three seconds.

With its new SUV and saloon, as well as a third yet-to-be-confirmed model, Fisker aims to be one of the first manufacturers to deliver a range of affordable, desirable all-electric vehicles. The company will begin accepting deposits for its upcoming SUV closer to its launch date in 2021.

Would you rather have Fisker’s new SUV or the Tesla Model Y? Let us know in the comments section below…

 

Drivers face £700 annual road toll bill as EVs hit fuel duty revenue
Posted on Monday March 18, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-03-18 12:10

Researchers say a national network of tolls should be implemented to compensate for a loss in fuel duty caused by EVs

M6 motorway traffic

A national network of road tolls, costing drivers £700 a year on average, should be put in place to compensate for a large loss of income from fuel duty, researchers have said.

At present, fuel duty is charged at a rate of 57.95p per litre for petrol and diesel. The Treasury has been warned, though, that as electric cars become more prevalent, the Government could stand to lose more than £14billion by 2040.

UK petrol and diesel prices: February price rise ends three months of cuts

The study, which was conducted by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and reported by the Times, says that while the Government could try to compensate for this loss by increasing fuel duty on the remaining petrol and diesel cars, or impose higher surcharges on electricity, it would be more effective to abandon the tax altogether in favour of a mileage-based road-charging system.

The researchers have suggested a levy of 7.5p per mile be introduced by 2030, rising to 9.1p per mile by 2040. Other major countries, including the US, China and Germany, have also been advised to consider the concept.

Electric vehicles cheaper to own than petrol or diesel cars

Recent political history suggests, however, that such a scheme may not go down very well in the UK. Back in 2005, the ruling Labour Government announced plans for a road pricing policy that could have seen drivers pay up to £1.34 per mile to use motorways at peak times.

The plans were subject to a huge public backlash, including an online petition in 2007 that attracted more than 1.8 million signatures. As a result, the Government was forced to abandon the scheme.

What do you think about the proposed toll network? Let us know in the comments below...

New Ford Fiesta ST gets 222bhp thanks to more Mountune magic
Posted on Monday March 18, 2019

James Brodie 2019-03-18 11:03

Latest Mountune-tweaked Ford Fiesta ST comes with a smartphone app for selectable performance levels

Ford Fiesta ST Mountune - front tracking

The new Ford Fiesta ST has finally been given the once over by specialist tuner Mountune, with a new tuning package the firm hopes will be as popular as the one offered on the previous-generation hot hatch.

Called M225, the upgrade package takes total power up from 197bhp to 222bhp, while torque swells significantly, too, up to a maximum of 340Nm.

Best hot hatchbacks to buy

A new induction kit for the turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine is key to unlocking these new outputs. And as a result, Mountune claims that the Fiesta ST M225 is capable of 0-62mph in less than six seconds – 5.95 seconds to be precise – while a second has been cut from the car’s 31mph-62mph rolling dash. Mountune says it has altered the Fiesta ST’s torque curve, too, with torque delivered earlier and more consistently across the rev range.

Interestingly, the M225 upgrade is heavily linked to a new smartphone app called SMARTflash, and it’s a crucial part of the package.

Essentially, the app builds on the standard car’s selectable driving modes. Toggle the Performance calibration on SMARTflash, and the 222bhp and 340Nm of the M225 package is unleashed in full, alongside a more aggressive launch control function and what Mountune claims is a louder exhaust note.

Two more calibrations are part of SMARTflash: Stock and Anti-Theft. Stock returns the Fiesta ST to its factory power output and performance levels, while Anti-Theft fully immobilises the vehicle.

Elsewhere, buyers of the full kit get trademark Mountune badges, a Bluetooth adapter necessary to link the app directly to the car, and a zip-up case to keep the adapter in. The full M225 kit costs £662, but owners who have already upgraded their induction systems with Mountune parts can buy just the SMARTflash package and the driving modes as part of a light package for £479.

Do you think 222bhp is enough power for the Fiesta ST? Let us know in the comments below...

New Bentley Continental GT V8 unveiled ahead of UK launch next year
Posted on Monday March 18, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-03-18 15:00

The third-generation Bentley Continental GT V8 will reach the UK market in early 2020, with 542bhp and a top speed of 198mph

Bentley Continental GT V8 - coupe front tracking

Bentley has introduced a V8-powered Continental GT. Available as a coupe or convertible, the new model will go on sale first in the American market later this year, followed by a UK launch in early 2020.

The latest addition to the Bentley Continental GT range is powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine, producing 542bhp and 770Nm of torque. The sprint from 0–62mph takes a claimed four seconds for the coupe and 4.1 seconds for the convertible, and both models have a top speed of 198mph.

Best luxury cars on sale

Thanks to its cylinder deactivation technology (which can shut down four of the engine’s eight cylinders for fuel economy advantages) and the addition of a start-stop function, Bentley claims the new Continental GT V8 can cover 500 miles on a single tank.

Bentley’s latest Continental GT V8 also comes with an active all-wheel-drive system which varies the amount of torque between the front and rear axle, depending on the road conditions. According to Bentley, the Continental GT V8 is primarily rear-wheel-drive and only sends power to the front axle when absolutely necessary.

All V8-powered Continentals feature hollow anti-roll bars front and rear, air suspension, electric power steering and Bentley’s adaptive chassis control, which claims to improve ride comfort and reduce body roll. Buyers also have the choice of nine wheel designs in sizes measuring from 20-inch to 22-inch.

Inside, the V8 models get a walnut dash, a 10-speaker sound system and a pair of twenty-way electrically-adjustable leather seats, available in a range of colours. As an optional extra, buyers can spec Bentley’s ‘Rotating Display;’ a revolving unit behind the wheel which houses a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster as well as a trio of analogue clocks.

What are your thoughts on the new Bentley Continental GT V8? Let us know in the comments section below…

'All manufacturers missing from Geneva have lost customers and sales'
Posted on Friday March 15, 2019

Mike Rutherford 2019-03-18 07:30

Several manufacturers were missing from this year's Geneva Motor Show, and have all lost out on big sales, says Mike Rutherford

OPINION Geneva

A growing army of dissident manufacturers continues to blank car exhibitions. And if this commercially suicidal trend continues, prepare for some – maybe most – of these crucial events to vanish.

The buying public will have fewer motor shows to attend. Makers will lose priceless opportunities to build relationships with customers. An industry which already builds too many cars for too few buyers will shoot itself in both feet. How clever is that? 

Best cars from Geneva 2019 

Having attended more than 30 Geneva shows, believe me when I say the Swiss one is the best, most user-friendly car exhibition on the planet, with the added bonus of fabulously wealthy potential customers walking through the door, every day.

Yet despite its global No. 1 status, the likes of Ford, Jaguar, MINI and Volvo boycotted this month’s event. JLR was missing because it’s cash-strapped, which is fair enough, right? But why were the others MIA? 

Possibly it’s lethargy, or arrogance, or a bit of both, or maybe I’m being overly tough on them for skiving off. Perhaps it’s too much to expect companies to go to the trouble and expense of sending cars and staff to shows where they’ll come face to face with consumers on the front line? It’s easier for these professionals to languish in their offices, after all, feet on desks, as they idly let the vehicles sell themselves via the internet. 

Show me a car firm that repeatedly fails to attend and I’ll show you an ‘organisation’ so disorganised it’s turning its back on customers who are desperately needed like never before.

True, motor manufacturers can, depending on their size, spend millions or tens of millions a year attending car shows. But what’s the problem with this legitimate expense when so many of them rake in billions in annual profits? 

Show organisers can help by encouraging fewer static displays and more moving vehicles, and creating bigger retailing arenas for buying and selling on the day. So, if a motorist doesn’t whip out their credit card and order a new car on the spot, they might buy something car related – like a takeaway electric bike for the rear of the family SUV.

It’s significant – and a positive sign of the rapidly changing times – that at Geneva the embarrassing gaps left by major car firms were filled with specialist companies taking big money over the counter, via portable credit card machines, for everything from watches to high-end fashion, to automotive art, to historic vehicles. This proved that motor shows are about much, much more than factory-fresh cars.  

Having said that, this month JLR could’ve and should’ve taken cold, hard, much-needed cash from showgoers in Switzerland for exclusive ‘Geneva Edition’ all-new Evoques and Defenders. Only motorists in attendance would have earned the right to buy such limited-volume models, which would surely be wise investments.

As it turned out, consumers robbed of a JLR stand headed to Jeep’s display. How many potential Defender buyers ordered a Wrangler in Geneva instead? Plenty, I suspect. You’ve got to be in it to win it. And the fact is that Jeep was, while Land Rover was not.

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

Mercedes X-Class vs Volkswagen Amarok
Posted on Friday March 15, 2019

2019-03-15 17:35

It’s a posh pick-up showdown as the VW Amarok faces the new V6 Mercedes X-Class

mercedes x-class vs volkswagen amarok pick-up truck twin test header

The new Mercedes X-Class is making waves in the pick-up sector, as we found out in our first group test last May. It brought comfort levels more akin to an SUV, without sacrificing its workhorse credentials.

Now there’s a new model with even more grunt. This X 350 d has a powerful V6 and sits above the four-cylinder version we tested previously. To match it there’s also a new challenger from Volkswagen. The Amarok has been given a more potent V6 to match the Mercedes’.

Best pick-up trucks 2019

Both models have the same power output and cost more than £47,000, so are the priciest, most premium pick-ups around. But which monster truck is the better buy?

Head-to-head

Model: Mercedes X 350 d V6 4MATIC Power Volkswagen Amarok 3.0 V6 TDI 258PS 4MOTION Aventura
Price:  £47,412 (incl. VAT) £47,921 (incl. VAT)
Engine:  3.0-litre V6 diesel 3.0-litre V6 diesel
Power/torque:  254bhp/550Nm 254bhp/580Nm
Transmission:  Seven-speed automatic, four-wheel drive Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
0-60mph:  7.5 seconds 7.0 seconds
Top speed: 127mph 127mph
Test economy:  27.2mpg/6.0mpl 27.0mpg/5.9mpl
CO2/tax:  236g/km/£240 220g/km/£240
Options:  Metallic paint (£630), COMAND Online Nav (£2,748), Style package (£1,218), Parking package (£1,128), black leather (£1,098), diff lock (£612), increased ground clearance (£270), roof liner (£264), 19-inch alloys (£600), roll-top cover (£1,772), tow bar (£325), load bed liner (£300) Aventura-specific style pack, including metallic paint (£2,862)

Mercedes X-Class

For: Comfortable ride, powerful V6 engine, high-quality cabin is more car-like than rivals’
Against: New V6 engine is noisier than four-cylinder motor, transmission is lethargic, options are expensive

This new X-Class and the high-spec Amarok offer something a bit different to most other pick-up trucks. They are designed to appeal to buyers looking for a bit more luxury and quality, without sacrificing the versatility and practicality of a truck. This Mercedes X 350 d V6 adds to that appeal with effortless performance.

While the engine revs smoothly, it’s surprisingly noisy. The X-Class’s V6 makes less of a racket at idle, but the motor is actually louder than the Volkswagen’s on the move, particularly if the transmission shifts down and flares up the revs.

The new seven-speed automatic box is a weak point, too, because it’s slow to respond. This is most noticeable at a junction where you’ve slowed down and need to speed up again quickly. The gearbox takes much longer than the VW’s unit to change down, or to transmit power when pulling away.

With one fewer ratio than its rival, the Mercedes fell behind in our performance tests as well. It took four seconds to go from 30-50mph in fourth gear, 1.6 seconds behind the Volkswagen, and 9.7 seconds to cover 50-70mph in seventh, which was 3.3 seconds adrift of the Amarok.

That’s not to say it’s slow, however; both of these high-powered trucks deliver an impressive turn of speed, but it’s the in-gear torque which will be the biggest benefit when filled with a payload. We recorded a 0-60mph time of just 7.5 seconds in the X 350 d, half a second slower than the Amarok.

Trucks like these often struggle to control their weight because their suspension set-up is designed to maximise payload, but Mercedes has managed to provide a carrying capacity of 1,067kg without adversely affecting the quality of the ride.

It’s not night and day next to the Amarok, which is also among the better-riding trucks, but the X-Class certainly has the edge for comfort. It doesn’t skip and shuffle over bumps as much as the VW, and the rear end isn’t as juddery with an empty bed. The Mercedes is more car-like to drive than the Amarok, and the extra composure means it’s a refined cruiser. But neither model is that sharp to drive.

There are more soft-touch plastics on the dash top and doors of the X-Class than in the VW, along with metal-effect trim to make the inside look more like the brand’s car range. However, this stemmed from our test model’s pricey £1,098 leather interior package option, plus Mercedes’ 8.4-inch COMAND infotainment, at a steep £2,748.  Top-spec Power trim brings a reversing camera, cruise control, electric seats, climate control and man-made leather upholstery as standard.

Testers’ notes

  • Infotainment: Optional sat-nav system in X-Class comes from older-generation Mercedes cars. It looks a little dated, although so does the VW’s smaller set-up
  • Dashboard: Soft-touch plastics and metal-effect dash give the Mercedes a more upmarket look than the Volkswagen
  • Storage: There’s no obvious place to put your phone, other than in the cup-holder. It’s not ideal

Volkswagen Amarok

For: Strong performance, relatively refined, good level of equipment fitted as standard
Against: Lesser specs better value than expensive Aventura trim, not as comfortable as the Mercedes

As with the X-Class, the Amarok is only available as a double-cab truck, but unlike its rival, the Volkswagen comes exclusively with V6 engines. While there are three outputs, the Aventura is only offered with the most powerful 254bhp model we’re testing; this also exclusively features an eight-speed automatic gearbox and permanent four-wheel drive.

The transmission is as smooth as the Mercedes’ seven-speed in auto mode, yet it shifts up and down more quickly when needed. Thanks to the extra gear, VW was able to shorten each ratio in turn, which boosts the V6’s performance further. The 254bhp, 580Nm unit is incredible. It took the Amarok from 0-60mph in seven seconds, half a second faster than its rival (and, amazingly, quicker than a Ford Fiesta ST).

The VW clocked 2.5 seconds from 30-50mph in third gear, and in fourth gear it needed just 2.4 seconds to do the same sprint, which demonstrates just how torquey this engine is. That ability will help with pulling heavy loads, aiding flexibility. The X-Class took 3.0 and 4.0 seconds respectively.

On the move the VW’s V6 is quieter, too. It’s less harsh and you can keep it in a higher gear more of the time and make use of the low-down grunt. The Amarok has a traditional ladder chassis and leaf-spring rear suspension, so it tends to shudder and crash if you don’t have anything in the load bay. While the movement of the suspension is more noticeable on a country road than in its rival, the VW isn’t uncomfortable and it’s only a little behind the X-Class’s cruising refinement on the motorway.

It’s a bit easier to drive, too, because the Amarok has better forward visibility and lighter steering than the Mercedes. Also, since the VW’s box is more responsive, you’re not left waiting for it to catch up.

But while car-like ride comfort and an upmarket interior go some way to justifying the high price Mercedes asks for its new pick-up, the Amarok still seems like a working vehicle, even in top Aventura spec. The dash is made of hard plastic that hampers perceived quality next to the X 350 d. Still, the VW’s standard Nappa leather seats feel nice and are comfortable. This trim also gets LED lights, 20-inch alloy wheels and a ‘sports bar’ over the rear window.

A £306 differential lock is available to boost the Volkswagen’s rugged performance, and there is an off-road driving mode with automatic hill descent control. This was just as good as the Mercedes’ when going through deep mud off the beaten track.  

Aventura trim also comes with a 6.33-inch Discover Nav infotainment system that includes smartphone connectivity, parking sensors, a reversing camera and trailer stability control.

Testers’ notes

  • • Infotainment: Amarok features a 6.33-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto included as standard. Handy buttons around the edges make the system easier to use
  • • Gearbox: Eight-speed auto shifts more quickly in manual mode than the seven-speed in the X-Class
  • • Seats: Both cars feature leather seats, and they’re also electronically adjustable, which helps you find a good driving position

Verdict

First place: Volkswagen Amarok

The Amarok isn’t quite as comfortable or upmarket inside as the Mercedes, but it’s a better pick-up. It has more headroom, in-cab storage and load bay space, gets more standard kit and the engine and gearbox are a better fit, too. The motor is incredibly powerful, helping to justify the VW’s price.

Second place: Mercedes X-Class

There’s no question that the X-Class is the most luxurious truck around. But this V6 version suffers from a lazy box and noisy engine that detract from the appeal. It’s not as well equipped as the VW, and the option packs are pricey. Still, it’s surprisingly comfortable for a versatile workhorse.  

New legislation introduced to clamp down on private parking companies
Posted on Friday March 15, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-03-15 13:18

The Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2017-19 introduces new guidelines for private firms to follow and an independent appeals service

Car clamp

A new law is being introduced to regulate private parking companies and protect drivers from unfair fines.

The Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2017-19, which has been given Royal Assent, will see private parking companies subjected to a new Code of Practice which aims at making the industry more consistent, transparent and easy to understand.

Self-driving cars will lead to parking chaos

Private parking firms who breach the code could be punished by being barred from asking the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) for motorists’ details, making it much harder for them to enforce fines.

In addition, the Act will see the introduction of an independent appeals service, which drivers can use to challenge unjustified parking tickets.

Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak MP said: “For far too many drivers slapped with unjust fines, this largely unregulated industry feels like the Wild West.”

Sunak expressed his sympathy for drivers who face “awful treatment at the hands of dodgy parking firms”, condemning rogue companies for making “intimidating demands for payment” and having “baffling appeals processes”. He added that the act would “cut out rogue operators” and give drivers “greater protection”.

Councils plan to charge drivers up to £1,000 a year to park at work

Already, the Act has won the backing of a number of motoring groups, including the AA and RAC. These organisations will now help the Government write the Code of Practice.

Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, commented: “For too long, some unscrupulous private parking operators have made drivers’ lives a misery with some questionable practices, which sent levels of trust in the sector plummeting.

He added: “The code will create more consistent standards across the board, which should eliminate dubious practices and create a single, independent appeals process.”

Drivers fined £4.2m for parking in disabled bays

Andrew Pester, chief executive of the British Parking Association, said the Act would “enable greater consistency and consumer confidence”, adding that his organisation would work to provide “a fair outcome for motorists, landowners and parking operators alike”.

What do you make of this new legislation? Let us know in the comments below... 

Citroen Berlingo XL vs Vauxhall Combo Life XL vs Ford Grand Tourneo Connect
Posted on Friday March 15, 2019

2019-03-17 11:00

New van-based MPVs from Citroen and Vauxhall are more practical than ever. But do they leave their seven-seater rival from Ford all at sea?

Citroen Berlingo XL vs Vauxhall Combo Life XL vs Ford Grand Tourneo Connect header

Buyers looking for a spacious family car might consider a traditional MPV or, perhaps more likely these days, a big SUV. But there is a section of the market that offers more boot space than nearly any other car, room for seven people in the specifications we’re testing and all this at a price lower than most family hatchbacks.

These three people carriers are all based on vans, and it’s the newer Citroen Berlingo XL and Vauxhall Combo Life XL that are taking on the challenge of the Ford Grand Tourneo Connect. By adding some windows, extra seats and a few more creature comforts, manufacturers are able to offer cost-effective models that boast loads of space. So if you’re not too bothered about styling and need a practical car, one of these could be exactly what you’re looking for.

Best MPVs and people carriers

The Citroen Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo Life share a platform and use the same powertrain, but there are plenty of differences between them, while the Ford Tourneo Connect is based on the Transit Connect van.

All three have been launched or updated recently, but which one manages to blend practicality and value for money best? Read on as we load up to find out.

Citroen Berlingo XL

Model: Citroen Berlingo XL BlueHDi 100 Flair
Price:  £24,125
Engine:  1.5-litre 4cyl diesel, 101bhp
0-60mph:  14.5 seconds
Test economy:  46.4mpg/10.2mpl 
CO2:  115g/km
Annual road tax:  £140

The Citroen Berlingo name has been around since the mid-nineties, attached to vans and people carriers alike. This is an all-new version, and with the 101bhp 1.5-litre diesel engine and a manual gearbox, it costs £24,125 in top-spec Flair trim.

Design & engineering

The Berlingo is based on a commercial vehicle, but the platform is used very widely. It shares its architecture with the Vauxhall Combo Life in this test, plus Peugeot’s Rifter. In fact, this EMP2 set-up underpins a number of products across those three brands’ ranges.

Here we’re testing the long-wheelbase XL model with seven seats. It has sliding rear doors for access to the rear chairs, and a big tailgate at the back.

Our test car is powered by a 1.5-litre diesel engine with 101bhp. That’s a little more than the Ford’s 99bhp, but identical to the Vauxhall, because the two models have the same motor. Still, the Citroen (and the Vauxhall) make do with five-speed gearboxes, while the Ford has a six-speed transmission.

Temper your expectations and the Berlingo’s interior is pretty good. It’s nowhere near as stylish or interesting as the rest of the brand’s range, but at least there’s some personality, while the eight-inch infotainment system – standard on Flair – adds to its appeal. The dash is huge and made of robust plastic, which exposes the MPV’s commercial vehicle roots, yet it’s no worse than its rivals’.

Flair trim also brings sat-nav, smartphone connectivity, DAB radio, cruise control, parking sensors and autonomous emergency braking as standard. Our car was fitted with a wireless phone charger (£100) and head-up display (£400) as well.

Driving

You might expect that a people carrier based on a commercial vehicle with a 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel would be rather unrefined to drive, but that’s not quite the case here.

For a start, the engine is relatively hushed, and at idle and low speeds the Citroen is the quietest car of our trio. Once you gain some speed there’s quite a bit of wind and road noise, but it’s still quieter than you might expect on a motorway.

The Berlingo is also the most comfortable of the three models. It deals with smaller bumps better than the Tourneo, particularly at the rear axle, although bigger potholes do still crash into the cabin. The Vauxhall is very marginally worse, but it’s only noticeable after driving both in succession; these two are extremely similar from behind the wheel.

There’s very little feel or feedback in the Citroen, because its steering is very light and barely feels connected to the front wheels. Still, it is very easy to drive, with good visibility thanks to its high seating position and large door mirrors.

The five-speed gearbox actually offers one of the best shifts in any Citroen model, because it’s relatively precise and fairly smooth for a car that’s been adapted from a workhorse van. The Berlingo is never fun to drive, but there is some satisfaction to be had from making the most of the 1.5’s 250Nm of torque. You do have to stay on the ball in all of these cars, though, because the bulky bodies and relatively low-powered engines mean performance is a little sluggish. We managed 0-60mph in 14.5 seconds in the Berlingo, 0.1 seconds slower than the Combo Life but 0.7 seconds faster than the Tourneo. Each is good enough to keep up with traffic if you make sure you’re in the right gear. They require anticipation.

Practicality

Few cars are as practical as the Berlingo XL, let alone for less than £25,000. Open up the sliding rear doors, which give great access to the cabin, and there’s room for three adults. Shoulder room is a bit limited with three people sitting in the second row, but that’s true in all three cars.

Open up the tailgate and adults can easily hop into one of the two rearmost seats, something that’s a lot harder to do in the Tourneo because the seatbacks block access from the rear. In many cases folding the middle row is a better bet.

The Berlingo’s rearmost seats are also big enough for adults to sit in comfort, even though the floor is higher than it is in row two.

There’s a useful 322 litres of boot space with all seven seats in place (the same as its rivals’ in this test) and 1,538 litres as a five-seater. Fold the second row completely flat and remove the third row and a gigantic 2,693-litre load capacity is on offer.

The low centre console has no cup-holders or storage bins, but at least there’s lots of stowage overhead, and occupants in the second and third rows also have access to cup-holders and tray tables.

Ownership

Citroen finished 25th out of 26 brands in our Driver Power 2018 satisfaction survey, which was a poor result for the firm.

Yet safety is better because autonomous braking, lane-keep assist and parking sensors are standard on the Berlingo Flair, matching the Combo Life and Tourneo Connect as tested here. All three cars scored four out of five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests.

Running costs

Thanks to CO2 emissions of 115g/km, the Berlingo is the cheapest company car option. It sits in the 28 per cent Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax bracket, so will cost lower-rate earners £1,336 per year compared with £1,316 and £1,285 for the Vauxhall (115g/km or 28 per cent) and Ford (122g/km or 29 per cent) respectively.

The Citroen’s fuel economy of 46.4mpg was the best here, but don’t expect a high figure if you’re regularly carrying plenty of passengers.

Testers’ notes: “The 1.5-litre diesel produces its maximum torque output at 1,750rpm, which means there’s just about enough performance from low revs. Progress is sedate, but the motor is relatively flexible.”

Vauxhall Combo Life XL

Model: Vauxhall Combo Life XL 4.5 Turbo D 100 Energy 7-seater
Price:  £23,760
Engine:  1.5-litre 4cyl diesel, 101bhp
0-60mph:  14.4 seconds
Test economy:  39.5mpg/8.7mpl 
CO2:  115g/km
Annual road tax:  £140

The new Vauxhall Combo Life shares much with the Citroen, including its 1.5-litre diesel engine and five-speed manual transmission. In Energy trim it’s slightly cheaper, at £23,760.

Design & engineering

The Combo Life is based on the same EMP2 platform as the Berlingo and has an identical 101bhp 1.5 diesel and five-speed manual gearbox. So it’s no surprise that it feels very similar to its Citroen rival. Park the two cars side by side and the likeness is clear to see. The panel and door designs look identical, for example, and you can see how close the styling is in our pictures if you ignore the branded front ends on each model.

On the inside the similarities are even more striking. In the Vauxhall there’s a slightly different, cheaper-feeling steering wheel, using an alternative button layout, while the dials are also changed, but the cabin is otherwise the same as the Citroen’s.

The dashboard uses the same materials and buttons for the most part, too. That’s no bad thing because it’s a functional design and it works just as well in the Combo Life as it does in the Berlingo. It’s just a pity that the upholstery isn’t as interesting or the quality quite as strong as its French competitor’s.

There’s the same eight-inch touchscreen display screen inside, with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay included on Energy trim, but satellite navigation is an extra £450 here (it’s standard on the Berlingo).

At least you get 16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, lane-keep assist, AEB, cruise control and DAB radio all fitted as standard.

Driving

There’s no getting away from the fact that the Vauxhall Combo Life and Citroen Berlingo are near identical in design and engineering terms, so it stands to reason that this extends to the driving experience as well. The seating position is the same and the steering is just as light and lifeless as the Citroen’s, which is a contrast to the Ford’s nicely weighted rack.

The ride is similarly comfortable, too, although the front end of the Citroen is ever so slightly more forgiving than the Vauxhall’s over smaller bumps, probably due to the two cars having different alloy wheels fitted. Both models are slightly more supple than the Tourneo Connect, but there is still a bit of movement over bumps at the rear end when the Vauxhall has no passengers or luggage on board.

The Combo Life’s 101bhp 1.5-litre diesel engine is identical to the Berlingo’s, but it’s noisier in the Vauxhall. In our tests it was a decibel louder than the Citroen at idle, and it’s more obvious when driving at low speed around town, too, although again, both of these people carriers were quieter than the Ford at idle and both were louder at a 30mph cruise.

In our performance tests the Vauxhall and Citroen both took 16.5 seconds to accelerate from 30-50mph through the gears, which was half a second faster than the Tourneo. All of our in-gear tests saw the sibling models within 0.2 seconds of each other’s times and slightly ahead of the Ford’s, in fact.

Considering their size, all three cars also performed well in our braking tests. The Combo’s stopping distance of 46 metres exactly from 70mph was the best of the three contenders.

Practicality

The Combo Life’s seats are similar to the Berlingo’s, while the body is also the same, so interior space is identical. Citroen’s official brochure uses a different method of measuring space to Vauxhall’s, but we’ve compared all three models like for like to get accurate readings.

Line the two MPVs up next to each other, as we did, and you’ll see they’re the same. They deliver 322 litres of load volume in seven-seat form, 1,538 litres in five-seat configuration and a total of 2,693 litres with all the rear seats either folded or removed where applicable.

Both models are a little bigger inside than the Tourneo (which has a total of 2,620 litres when all its seats are folded) and access to the rearmost seats is easier. It’s more straightforward to clamber into the back of the Vauxhall and Citroen through the side doors and the boot.

It’s worth mentioning that the Combo Life and Berlingo’s seats need to be removed and stored to maximise their interior space, while the Ford’s rearmost seats fold down flat into the boot floor.

Ownership

Vauxhall finished in a disappointing 22nd place in the makers’ chart of our Driver Power 2018 satisfaction poll, although that was ahead of Citroen’s 25th out of 26 brands.

Ford was ranked 16th, but the firm’s dealerships fell behind in 20th place. Citroen’s network came in a decent 11th, while Vauxhall’s took 21st out of 28.

The Combo’s four-star Euro NCAP crash test result is on par with both rivals here, and six airbags, AEB, parking sensors and lane-keep assist are standard.

Running costs

While the Vauxhall is similar to the Citroen in terms of design, it fell behind its French rival for fuel economy, with a 39.5mpg return. That figure means you’ll spend £1,780 per year on fuel (over 12,000 miles).

The Citroen recorded 46.4mpg, which works out as £1,515 per year in diesel, and the Ford managed 42.6mpg on test, which equates to £1,651 a year.

Servicing costs are similar for the Berlingo and Combo Life; the former will cost £651 a year on a 36-month deal, while Vauxhall offers a £22-per-month plan (that works out at £792 over three years). There were no figures available for the Tourneo.

Testers’ notes: “The Vauxhall is rated to tow up to 1,250kg, but the Citroen can only pull 1,100kg. The Ford falls behind both, though, at 1,073kg. However, all three will feel sluggish if loaded up with passengers and a trailer.”

Ford Grand Tourneo Connect

Model: Ford Grand Tourneo Connect 1.5 TDCi EcoBlue 100 Zetec 7-seat
Price:  £22,410
Engine:  1.5-litre 4cyl diesel, 99bhp
0-60mph:  15.2 seconds
Test economy:  42.6mpg/9.4mpl 
CO2:  122g/km
Annual road tax:  £140

Ford revealed a facelifted version of its Transit Connect van last autumn, and the updates have also been applied to this Tourneo Connect people carrier. The ‘Grand’ version we’re testing features seven seats and a longer wheelbase. It costs £22,410 in Zetec trim with a 1.5-litre diesel engine.

Design & engineering

The Tourneo Connect comes in standard and long-wheelbase versions, with our Grand model having the biggest distance between its wheels of this group. That should mean it offers plenty of interior space.

As part of the range update last year, the Ford is now available with a set of more efficient engines, including the 99bhp 1.5-litre diesel in our test car.

The lighter kerbweight goes some way to offsetting this slightly lower figure, while the engine produces slightly less torque than its rivals, at 240Nm.

A six-speed manual gearbox means the Grand has an extra ratio over the others here, and an automatic is offered for an extra £1,750. An auto box is available on some versions of the Berlingo and Combo Life as well, but not with these 1.5-litre diesel models.

Material quality in the Ford is slightly better, but not by much, while the fussy dashboard design means it looks more old-fashioned than the others, with lots of buttons and switches. Although they boost usability, the layout certainly has room for improvement.

The Ford is cheaper than the Citroen and Vauxhall here, but it also comes with less standard kit. Add the £1,176 sat-nav and infotainment system option, for example, and the prices line up more closely.

However, you do get air-conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, DAB radio, Bluetooth, cruise control, lane-keep assist and a heated windscreen for quick defrosting on chilly mornings.

Driving

The first thing you notice when you climb aboard the Ford is how much lower the driving position is. That means there’s loads of headroom, of course, but also that it’s easier to get in and out of and is more comfortable, too, feeling less like a van.

Still, once you’re on the move the Ford loses out to its rivals, because those van roots do start to show through. The rear end is choppy when not loaded up, for example, and vibrations from the road surface come through into the cabin more as well.

It’s also not as quiet as the Citroen and Vauxhall. Although wind and road noise are about on par, the diesel engine in the Tourneo is very rattly and noisy, especially at idle. You have to rev it harder to get the same performance as its rivals, too, because it produces its power and torque at higher revs.

The six-speed box doesn’t come with shorter ratios to make the most of the extra gear available, either, and instead Ford has opted for long gearing to improve economy. That results in disappointing performance figures; it took 17.5 seconds to go from 50-70mph in fifth gear, two seconds more than the Vauxhall and 1.9 seconds adrift of the Citroen, highlighting a relative lack of flexibility.

But while this means you have to be in a lower gear and rev the engine harder to speed up quickly, the Ford compensates by being surprisingly good to drive. For example, its steering is very nicely weighted and you’re able to feel what the front wheels are doing, so you can drive with more confidence. Also, the slick gearshift is satisfying to use, so we didn’t mind too much going up and down through the gears often.

Practicality

Although the Tourneo Connect is the lowest of these three models, you sit lower in the cabin so headroom is still plentiful, and there’s overhead storage. Even the tallest people would fit into any one of these cars without a crooked neck.

And while the very tallest passengers might complain about legroom, for most occupants there should be plenty in each of these models. The Ford edges slightly ahead in terms of second-row room, because its seats are a little more accommodating, but the result is a compromised third row. The chairs are set into the floor and adults will find them harder to access, whereas the rearmost seats in the Citroen and Vauxhall are easily big enough for adults.

The Tourneo has the same boot space with all the seats in place as both rivals, at 322 litres, but it’s very slightly smaller when all the seats are folded. At least the sliding doors on all three cars make cabin access easier in tight spots and help when loading up.

Ownership

In the manufacturers’ poll of our Driver Power 2018 satisfaction survey, Ford came a less-than-impressive 16th. But that was still ahead of both Citroen and Vauxhall, which scored poorly out of the 26 brands ranked.

As with both rivals, the Tourneo scored four stars in its Euro NCAP crash test in 2018, and comes with AEB, lane-keep assist and six airbags, just like its competitors. But while parking sensors are fitted as standard on the other cars (a useful feature for these large MPVs), they’re a £240 option on the Ford.

Running costs

The Ford is the cheapest car here to buy, and has the strongest predicted residual values of the three, so it’s set to lose the least money after three years or 36,000 miles. Our experts estimate that it will hold on to 41.9 per cent of its list price, which means it will shed £13,020 in that time.

The Citroen and Vauxhall’s expected residual figures stand at 39.4 per cent and 38.9 per cent respectively. Those translate to depreciation costs of £14,620 for the Berlingo and £14,517 for the Combo Life.

Testers’ notes: “The Ford has a larger fuel tank than its rivals, so it will travel further on a fill-up. Our test return of 42.6mpg means a 562-mile range. The Citroen will manage 510 miles and the Vauxhall 434 miles.”

Verdict

First place: Citroen Berlingo XL

Practicality and value for money are key in this market, and the Berlingo has both. Its seven-seat layout is well considered and versatile, yet it still offers good luggage space. The Citroen rides well and is relatively quiet, plus performance is acceptable and it’s frugal, too. Sat-nav and smartphone connectivity are standard, which helps the Berlingo edge ahead in this test, and it also has the most interesting interior design.

Second place: Vauxhall Combo Life XL

The Combo Life has most of the same strengths as the Berlingo, so it’s still a fine choice, but it’s not as good value. It has less standard kit, feels dull and offers nothing more in terms of practicality or running costs. Still, the Vauxhall has an edge over the Ford on versatility and performance, while lower CO2 emissions and more standard kit, including the infotainment, secure it second place.

Third place: Ford Grand Tourneo Connect

The Tourneo Connect is still a fine choice, but its older roots are more apparent. While it’s cheaper, the expensive optional infotainment still isn’t as good. It emits more CO2 and doesn’t have the same level of flexible performance as its rivals, even if it’s the more enjoyable car to drive – although this is relative. At least it’ll be cheap to buy and run, and usefully practical, but its rivals are slightly more spacious.

Also consider...

NEW: Peugeot Rifter

Model: Peugeot Rifter
Price: £23,740
Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl, 101bhp

The Rifter is the third sibling in this EMP2 family and shares its chassis and powertrain with the Citroen and Vauxhall. It features Peugeot’s i-Cockpit interior design with digital dials, so has the edge for tech. It’s also refined and comfortable, like its siblings.

USED: Skoda Kodiaq

Model: Skoda Kodiaq 2.0 TDI SE L
Price: £22,995
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 148bhp

Skoda’s Kodiaq is our favourite seven-seat SUV, and a used model makes a great buy. We found a 2.0-litre TDI 150 with just 22,000 miles for less than £23,000. The Skoda is more comfortable and has some great tech, but it’s not as big or as practical.

Figures

Citroen Berlingo XL BlueHDi 100 Flair Vauxhall Combo Life XL 1.5 Turbo D 100 Energy 7st Ford Grand Tourneo Connect 1.5 TDCi EcoBlue 100 Zetec 7st
On the road price/total as tested £24,125/£26,120 £23,760/£25,010 £22,410/£25,542
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) £9,505/39.4% £9,243/38.9% £9,390/41.9%
Depreciation £14,620 £14,517 £13,020
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £1,336/£2,673 £1,316/£2,632 £1,285/£2,569
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £1,515/£2,526 £1,780/£2,967 £1,651/£2,751
Insurance group/quote/road tax cost 11/£397/£140 8/£422/£140 9/£503/£140
Servicing costs £651 (3 years) £22pm (3 years) N/A
Length/wheelbase 4,753/2,975mm 4,753/2,977mm 4,825/3,062mm
Height/width 1,849/1,848mm 1,880/1,921mm 1,820/1,835mm
Engine 4cyl in-line/1,499cc 4cyl in-line/1,499cc 4cyl in-line/1,498cc
Peak power/revs 101/3,500 bhp/rpm 101/3,500 bhp/rpm 99/3,750 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs 250/1,750 Nm/rpm 250/1,750 Nm/rpm 240/2,000 Nm/rpm
Transmission 5-speed man/fwd 5-speed man/fwd 6-speed man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 50 litres/full-size 50 litres/repair kit 60 litres/repair kit
Boot capacity (7/5/2-seat modes) 322/1,538/2,693 litres 322/1,538/2,693 litres 322/1,287/2,620 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,533/747/1,100kg 1,540/770/1,250kg 1,732/796/1,073kg
Turning circle 11.5 metres 11.8 metres 12.2 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (60,000)/1yr 3yrs (60,000)/1yr 3yrs (100,000)/1yr
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 25th/11th 22nd/21st 16th/20th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars 91/81/58/68/4 (2018) 91/81/58/68/4 (2018) 92/79/65/75/4 (2018)
0-60/30-70mph 14.5/16.5 secs 14.4/16.5 secs 15.2/17.0 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 5.5/9.1 secs 5.7/8.9 secs 6.6/10.8 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th 15.6 secs/N/A 15.5 secs/N/A 17.5/26.9 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 109mph/2,250rpm 106mph/2,250rpm 102mph/1,800rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 49.1/33.6/9.2m 46.0/35.5/8.9m 51.8/37.0/9.3m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph 71/45/63/73dB 72/46/64/73dB 71/48/62/73dB
Auto Express econ. (mpg/mpl)/range 46.4/10.2/510 miles 39.5/8.7/434 miles 42.6/9.4/562 miles
WLTP fuel consumption (med) 46.1mpg/10.1mpl 45.6mpg/10.0mpl 47.1mpg/10.4mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 163/115g/km/28% 192/115g/km/28% 178/122g/km/29%
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/camera Six/yes/yes/£500* Six/yes/yes/£400** Six/yes/£240/£390
Auto box/lane-keep/blind spot/AEB No/yes/£500*/yes No/yes/£400**/yes £1,750/yes/£510/yes
Clim/cruise ctrl/leather/heated seats £250/yes/no/no £200/yes/no/£200 £240/yes/no/£120
Met paint/LEDs/keyless/pwr tailgate £545/no/£250/no £565/no/no/no £600/no/£420/no
Nav/digi dash/DAB/connected apps Yes/no/yes/no £450/no/yes/no £1,176^/no/yes/no
Wireless charge/CarPlay/Android Auto £100/yes/yes £105/yes/yes £114/£1,176^/£1,176^

Tesla Model Y ride review
Posted on Friday March 15, 2019

2019-03-15 11:39

We take a passenger ride in the new Tesla Model Y SUV around the SpaceX headquarters in LA

Tesla Model Y

Elon Musk playfully declared on Thursday night that he’s “bringing sexy back” in reference to Tesla’s model line-up – S 3 X and, now, Y. Following the Model Y reveal at the company’s Los Angeles design studio Auto Express had the opportunity to take a ride around Musk’s SpaceX headquarters in LA.

The styling is largely borrowed from the Model 3 inside and out, just like its platform, but the higher proportions suit it well especially from the rear three-quarter view. The interior is a masterpiece of minimalism with the Model Y getting a 15-inch rectangular infotainment touchscreen perched upon a simple dash with strip of unvarnished wood breaking up the swathes of grey plastic. The panoramic glass roof adds to the natural ambiance, and the seats, made from vegan materials, are a nod to the brand’s sustainable purpose.

Best electric cars on sale now

It’s also Tardis-like; the front boot and rear, with the split seats down, enabling 1,900 litres of cargo space, according to Tesla, and the option of seating for seven. The car doesn’t require a key; instead, it connects to your smartphone for seamless entry and exit. It also talks to the Tesla Mobile app so you can autonomously summon the car, fix the temperature, track the car remotely.

Our brief ride around the SpaceX facility was in a Dual-Motor AWD version of the Model Y, which can hit 0-60mpg in a claimed 4.8 seconds. In the US that version will cost from $51,000. Thanks to the majority of mass being below the floor, where the batteries are lined, the handling appears class-leading for a mid-size SUV and the performance will satisfy point-and-squirt addicts. Slaloming past prototype versions of Musk’s Hyperloop and Falcon 9 booster rocket making for interesting if slightly unusual scenery. 

Musk says fun, space and safety are at the heart of the Model Y. “It has the functionality of an SUV, but it rides like a sports car. It’s really tight in the corners. It’s also going to be the safest car in its class.”

It’s expected that the Model Y will be built at Tesla’s Gigafactory in Reno, Nevada and, once it’s completed, the company’s new plant in Shanghai, China. Tesla has built 550,000 cars in 11 years, but Musk’s mission is to produce a million total in just 12 months’ time. The Model Y is set to take that eye-popping ambition further still and cement Tesla as a major mass-market manufacturer in the next few years.

Read the full story on the Tesla Model Y here...

New Lexus UX 250h 2019 review
Posted on Thursday March 14, 2019

Lexus UX - front tracking
14 Mar, 2019 5:00pm Alex Ingram

We drive the new Lexus UX 250h in the UK to see whether this small crossover can match its premium rivals from BMW and Audi

The new car market’s trend towards SUVs continues to gather pace, and the latest example comes in the distinctive shape of Lexus’s latest release, the UX. The brand’s compact BMW X2 and Audi Q2 rival looks set to poach sales from the ageing CT hatchback, if not directly replacing it altogether.

Lexus says that the UX is aimed at “modern urban motorists”. As the smallest of the brand’s three SUVs, and equipped with a petrol/electric hybrid system, it seems like a perfect candidate for town driving. But is it worth considering over its more established rivals?

Best small SUVs and crossovers to buy

The UX is the first Lexus to use Toyota's GA-C platform, the same one used by the current Prius, new Corolla and the car most closely related in terms of size and shape to the UX, the C-HR.

Under the skin, the UX’s hybrid system consists of a 2.0-litre petrol engine and battery assistance: front-wheel drive models get an electric motor up front, while ‘E-Four’ versions add a second to drive the rear axle.

The result is a maximum system output of 179bhp, and its 8.5-second 0-62mph time places performance on a par with the 1.5-litre turbo petrol Audi Q2. However, the electric motors make it feel much more sprightly than the Audi over the first few feet - perfect for darting in and out of gaps in traffic.

The petrol engine and electric motors have their own torque peaks - 190Nm for the combustion engine, 202Nm for the front E motor and 55Nm the one in the rear on 4x4 cars - but they don’t all arrive simultaneously, so Toyota doesn’t quote a combined figure.

As with the vast majority of the Toyota/Lexus hybrid family, drive is transferred to the road through a CVT automatic gearbox. While efficient, in the past this has come at the expense of refinement, causing the revs to rise unnaturally and noisily compared to a conventional automatic gearbox. The good news is that this is no longer an issue in the UX. There’s a little drone if you listen hard, but for the most part the combustion engine is so well isolated from the cabin that you don’t really notice.

It’s much more refined than the diesel alternatives other manufacturers offer in this class, especially when you consider that, for extended periods of coasting or gentle acceleration, the UX runs in hushed EV mode. It could be even more hushed, were it not for the fact that road noise isn’t particularly well isolated from the cabin. Ride comfort impresses overall, but at lower speeds the UX can jiggle around over smaller bumps.

That slight fidget is easy enough to forgive however, because the UX makes up for it in other areas. All of the cars based on the GA-C platform we’ve driven so far feel really engaging to drive, and the UX is no different. It’s more enjoyable from behind the wheel than the Q2 - if not quite up to the standards of the BMW X2 - and possesses a chassis that feels both secure and adjustable. The steering doesn’t have a huge amount of feel, but the weighing, consistency and precision are spot on.

Interior design is another area where Lexus traditionally scores highly, and the UX’s modern, simple look is another hit overall. The only minor gripe is with the row of piano-like switches for the air conditioning system. They’re similar to what you get in a Peugeot 3008, but not quite as nice to look at or touch. That aside, however, the quality is excellent and the style is unlike anything else in the class.

The infotainment system in the UX is another example of where Lexus chooses to go its own way, but probably one where it should really copy its rivals. The mousepad-like touch interface, though improved, remains frustrating to use. A click wheel, a touchscreen, or both would improve things greatly. Neither Apple CarPlay or Android Auto are available, either.

While rear passenger space is acceptable, the boot is tiny. A high floor results in a volume of 320 litres - that’s 150 litres less than a BMW X2. Go for a four-wheel drive model, and the extra rear-mounted motor drops that figure to 283 litres. A Ford Fiesta offers 292 litres.

But what of mpg figures? Well, keep to driving around town and the UX will easily beat conventional combustion-powered rivals - espect mid-to-high fifties mpg in the right conditions. However, at a steady 70mph you’d be lucky to hit 40mpg, so if you cover higher mileages, a diesel would be a much better option. Company car users will appreciate the 23 percent Benefit-in-Kind rate, which is three groups lower than the cleanest petrol BMW X2.

UX prices start from £29,900, which is similar to the BMW too, and all models get adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and road sign recognition as standard. However, climb up the range and prices soon spiral: the top spec four wheel drive Takumi model costs £40,350. For that, you could get a top spec X2 xDrive20d M Sport X - a car which is quicker and potentially more frugal in the real world - and £1,210 change.

3.5
If you do plenty of town driving and a compact SUV appeals to you, then the Lexus UX makes a strong case for itself. It’s easy to drive, rides and handles impressively and its electric-only running for short bursts makes it frugal and refined around town. It’s not without its flaws, however: infotainment and practicality lag well behind rivals, and fuel consumption at motorway speeds disappoints. Top spec models are extremely pricey, too, so we’d recommend sticking to the lower trim levels.
  • Model: Lexus UX 250h Premium Pack
  • Price: £32,100
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, twin electric motor
  • Transmission: CVT automatic, front-wheel drive
  • Power: 179bhp
  • 0-60mph: 8.5 seconds
  • Top speed: 110mph
  • Economy/CO2: 53.3mpg/97g/km
  • On sale: Now

New SEAT Leon Cupra R ST 2019 review
Posted on Thursday March 14, 2019

SEAT Leon Cupra R ST - front tracking
14 Mar, 2019 1:45pm Alex Ingram

It's a case of identity crisis with the new SEAT Leon Cupra R ST, which claims to be both a SEAT and a Cupra at the same time

This is the SEAT Leon Cupra R ST. Note that, unlike the hot version of its Ateca big brother, this Cupra still bears the SEAT ‘S’ on the nose. While Cupra has recently become its own standalone brand, the new copper-coloured logo - the one seemingly inspired by an evil conglomerate from a sci-fi movie - will only be applied to models developed as a Cupra from the start. So while you absolutely mustn't call a Cupra a SEAT, it’s okay to call this SEAT a Cupra.

So while the confirmation of the deed poll application is still in the post, the aim of Cupra models remains the same as ever: high-performance versions of the Spanish brand’s everyday hatchbacks, SUVs and, in the case of this Leon Cupra R ST, an estate.

Best estates to buy

Fast family wagons are a fairly niche class of car, with the Leon’s only real rival coming from within the Volkswagen Group. The VW Golf R Estate is considered by many to be all the performance car you’ll ever need, so does the SEAT deserve the same praise?

Well on paper, the two are extremely similar. Both share the MQB platform, both are powered by the same 296bhp 2.0-litre, four cylinder turbocharged ‘EA888’ engine, and both send their power to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox. Predictably then, the pair share an identical launch control-assisted 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mph.

The Leon does get some unique features to set it apart: new front suspension uprights increase camber by two degrees, while rear camber is revised, too. Adaptive dampers are fitted all round, suspending a set of 19-inch wheels wrapped in grippy Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. The front brakes, meanwhile, are by Brembo.

Elsewhere, not all of the Cupra R ST’s styling changes are just for show: the carbon fibre front splitter and rear diffuser, in addition to the extended rear wing, work together to produce a modest level of downforce.

Inside, the Cupra R ST gets the same space for five and big boot as the rest of the Leon range. The driver is greeted by a steering wheel wrapped in gorgeous alcantara, and sitting behind it is SEAT’s digital cockpit display. The copper coloured trim pieces surrounding the air vents look subtle, but the carbon-effect material on the door inserts is a bit naff.

But that doesn’t affect the way it drives, and the Cupra R ST is devastatingly capable on a twisty road. The lateral grip warranted by those suspension tweaks and the Cup 2 tyres is nothing short of immense, and traction is all but impossible to break in dry conditions. The 2.0-litre turbo delivers formidable straight line speed, sounds great, and it’s kept in check by those Brembo brakes, which are powerful and give the driver confidence to stop late and hard repeatedly.

It isn’t just a brutal tool to devour roads, though: the Leon feels adjustable, and the steering is wonderfully weighted. If anything, it feels more playful than a Golf R Estate - though we’d need to try the pair side-by-side to be sure.

The suspension tweaks don’t come at the expense of compliance either. What few bumps we found on the smooth Catalan roads of the launch were dealt with admirably, whether pushing hard along a twisty road, or when switching into ‘Comfort’ mode along a motorway.

In fact there’s only one weak link in the driving experience, and that’s the gearbox. Admittedly, the DSG system shifts quickly under hard acceleration, but it can be laggy in other situations, particularly when pulling away from lower speeds. Take manual control, and the mix of cheap, plasticy paddle shifters and a reluctance to select a lower gear when downshifting all conspire to detach you from the fun. While a manual ‘box wouldn’t be as quick, it’d be much more satisfying to use.

Despite this, the Leon Cupra R ST is a deeply capable car overall. You’d hope so, at £37,975, though. In its defence, a £1,140 premium over a Golf R Estate doesn’t sound too bad considering the Leon’s extras, and with just 150 examples coming to the UK, exclusivity is guaranteed, too.

SEAT has another trick up its sleeve to tempt you away from the VW, too. Thanks to a tie-in with tuning company ABT, a quick software tweak - fully manufacturer approved and warranty compliant - bumps up the power to 365bhp, slashing the 0-62mph time to just 4.5 seconds. And the best news of all? It costs just £500. You’d be mad not to.

4.5
The Leon Cupra R ST will be a rare sight, with just 150 coming to the UK. But those who take the plunge will be in for a treat: it’s a deeply engaging, entertaining and rapid estate car. It’s a little more expensive than its closest rival, the Volkswagen Golf R, but it’s a little more fun to drive and, should you stretch a further £500 for the optional ABT tuning package, it’s significantly faster, too.
  • Model: SEAT Leon Cupra R ST
  • Price: £37,975
  • Engine: 2.0-litre four cylinder turbo
  • Power/torque: 296bhp/400Nm
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 4.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Economy/CO2: 33.6mpg/164g/km
  • On sale: May

Reimagined Lister Knobbly confirmed for production
Posted on Thursday March 14, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-03-14 12:52

Tuning firm Lister has announced it will build a two-seat, open-top sports car which pays homage to the 1958 Lister ‘Knobbly’ racer

Lister Knobby

Lister has confirmed its plans to build an open-top two-seat sports car. Details about the new model are yet to be released but images released by the company reveal it will honour the famous 1958 Lister ‘Knobbly’ racer, driven by Stirling Moss.

The announcement was quietly made on Twitter by the company’s owner, Lawrence Whittaker. The illustrations preview a long bonnet and short rear overhang suggesting the Knobbly will feature a front-mid-engined layout and rear-wheel-drive. When it eventually reaches production, it will be the first Lister designed completely in-house in the company’s 65-year history.

Lister Thunder review

The drivetrain could be sourced from Lister’s current projects. The company is known for tuning Jaguars, so the new Knobbly could be powered by a version of the F-Type’s supercharged 5.0-litre V8 engine, that also features in the Lister Thunder.

The bodywork is inspired by the classic Knobbly racers, with ‘humped’ wheel arches and twin aero-fins behind the passenger and driver’s seats. It adds a range of modern design features, too, such as carbon fibre side skirts, a carbon fibre splitter, LED headlights, enormous alloy wheels and a squared-off, side-exit exhaust.

Lister’s current model portfolio is made up of the LFT-666 (previously known as the Thunder), a range of classic racers, a handful of performance packages for Jaguar F-Type and a tuned version of the Jaguar F-Pace, which the firm claims will become the world’s fastest SUV, with a claimed 0–62mph time of 3.5 seconds.

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

 

Toyota Prius named UK’s most accident-prone car
Posted on Thursday March 14, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-03-14 13:04

The Toyota Prius is involved in 111 crashes for every 10,000 Priuses on the road; Vauxhall is the most accident-prone brand

Used Toyota Prius - front

The Toyota Prius has been named the UK’s most accident-prone car, being involved in 111 crashes for every 10,000 examples of the model on the road.

Data from GoCompare shows there were around 71,000 Priuses registered in the UK in 2016, with 787 accidents in the same year involving the model.

No-deal Brexit could close up to 1,000 car repair companies

Second place went to the Citroen Saxo, which had an accident rate of 106 out of every 10,000 examples. The BMW 330d was third with 102 out of every 10,000 being involved in a crash.

In terms of brands as a whole, Vauxhall was the most accident-prone. There were around 3.6 million of the manufacturer’s models registered in the UK in 2016, with 22,490 accidents that year involving them – a rate of 62 out of every 10,000 examples.

Meanwhile, Daewoo and SEAT were in joint second-place, each with an accident rate of 60 out of every 10,000 of their models.

Although the youngest demographic of drivers are typically regarded as the most accident-prone, GoCompare’s data suggests that those aged between 26 and 35-years-old are actually involved in more crashes, with the age group being involved in 23.94 per cent of all incidents in 2016.

• Spike in road accidents during 10-minute evening period

London was the most dangerous region, with 101 of every 10,000 cars in the city being involved in a crash in 2016. The City of London was especially bad, with 1,200 of every 10,000 cars in the borough having an accident that year.

The second-worst overall region was Yorkshire and the Humber, with 47 accidents per 10,000 cars. As for roads, the A4 was the worst, with 705 crashes in 2016.

While you might expect higher speed limits to result in more accidents, that wasn’t the case. In 2016, there were 79,569 crashes in 30mph zones – nearly 10 times the number that occurred on roads with 70mph speed limits.

In fact, the closest runner-up to 30mph limits was 60mph zones, which saw 16,723 accidents in 2016.

Are you surprised by these findings? Let us know in the comments below...

JLR recalls 44,000 cars over “excessive” CO2 emissions
Posted on Wednesday March 13, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-03-13 17:40

Several Jaguar Land Rover models to be recalled after it emerged they emit more CO2 than recorded in original certification tests

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is recalling more than 44,000 cars following news that 10 models may be emitting more CO2 than was initially recorded when they were certified.

According to the European Commission’s rapid alert system, a number of JLR models fitted with 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engines “may emit excessive levels of CO2 and may not conform with the certified condition”. The system gives a list of affected models, including the Jaguar XE, XF, E-Pace, F-Pace and F-Type, as well as the Land Rover Discovery, Discovery Sport and Range Rover Sport, Evoque and Velar.

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The recall comes just weeks after the Land Rover Discovery TD6 actually outperformed a number of cars in independent real-world pollution tests thanks to its impressively low NOx emissions.

The problem was discovered by JLR and reviewed by the UK’s Vehicle Certification Agency. JLR then liaised with the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency), which handles recalls in the UK.

The repairs will be carried out for free and could include software updates or physical alterations. Some Range Rover Evoques will reportedly need new tyres.

New car CO2 emissions reach five-year high

In a statement, JLR said: “Affected vehicles are being rectified to ensure the correct CO2 performance is dependably achieved. The modifications made to affected vehicles will be made free of charge and every effort will be made to minimise inconvenience to the customer during the short time required for the work to be carried out.”

European car makers are being encouraged to reduce the average emissions of their ranges from 118.5g/km of CO2 to under 95g/km by 2021.

The news comes at a difficult time for JLR, with the British manufacturer reporting a record quarterly loss of £273m in February.

Do you drive a JLR vehicle? Let us know about it in our 2019 Driver Power survey...

Toyota blast off as they announce concept lunar vehicle
Posted on Wednesday March 13, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-03-13 17:01

The Japanese auto manufacturer has teamed up with JAXA to design a lunar rover with a cruising range of 10,000km

Toyota lunar vehicle - front 3/4

Toyota has joined forces with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), with the aim of producing a manned, pressurised lunar rover. Powered by a fuel cell electric drivetrain, the pair are targeting a total lunar-surface range of more than 10,000km (around 6,200 miles).

Should a physical version of the six-wheeled rover reach production, it’ll measure six metres long, five metres wide and almost four metres tall. As such, it would be twice as long, twice as wide and almost five times the height of the Moon Buggy used on the Apollo 15 mission.

Audi designs a concept lunar rover

Toyota claims its lunar rover could comfortably accommodate two astronauts (or four in emergency situations) in its 13-metre-squared living quarters. Other features include a huge retractable solar panel, air-less tyres and an array of communications equipment.

JAXA’s Vice President, Koichi Wakata, set out the firm’s plans for space exploration, stating: “Manned, pressurized rovers will be an important element supporting human lunar exploration, which we envision will take place in the 2030s. We aim at launching such a rover into space in 2029.

Toyota seems to have its sights set on a more terrestrial level, and is keen to see how its partnership with JAXA will advance battery-electric and fuel cell technology for its earthbound vehicles.

Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor Corporation, Shigeki Terashi, said: "Toyota believes that achieving a sustainable mobility society on Earth will involve the coexistence and widespread use of electrified vehicles, such as hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles, and fuel cell electric vehicles.

“Our joint studies with JAXA are a part of this effort. Being allowed to be a member of 'Team Japan', we would like to take up the challenge of space."

What are your thoughts on Toyota’s planned lunar rover? Let us know in the comments section below…

 

SEAT announces 365bhp Leon Cupra R ST
Posted on Wednesday March 13, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-03-13 15:10

The Spanish car manufacturer will offer a factory tuning upgrade for the limited edition Leon Cupra R ST, adding an extra 69bhp

seat leon cupra r st tracking front quarter

SEAT has unveiled the limited edition Leon Cupra R ST, which is set to be the fastest model from the brand to date. Sales begin in April, with only 150 examples allocated for the UK market, each priced from £37,975.

In standard format, the Leon Cupra R ST’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine produces 296bhp and 400Nm of torque. However, for an extra £500, SEAT will fit its optional Abt tuning pack, which boosts the power figure to 365bhp.

Best hot hatchbacks on sale in 2019

The VW Group-sourced engine sends its power to all four wheels via a seven-speed DSG transmission. With the optional tuning pack fitted, the Leon Cupra R ST will sprint from 0–62mph in 4.5 seconds; a 0.4 second improvement over the standard car. Top speed remains the same, though, at an electronically-limited 155mph.

To cope with the extra grunt, SEAT has also improved the Leon Cupra R ST’s chassis, adding Brembo brakes on all four corners, redesigned suspension uprights with increased negative camber and lighter 19-inch alloy wheels.

Styling updates over the regular SEAT Leon include a reworked front bumper with copper-coloured intakes, a carbon fibre splitter, a panoramic sunroof, a carbon fibre diffuser with quad exhaust tips, new side skirts and a large rear wing. Abt-tuned versions also get unique badging on the rear hatch.

Inside, the Cupra R ST gets a pair of bucket seats, an Alcantara steering wheel, re-upholstered door cards, an eight-inch touchscreen display, a digital instrument binnacle, keyless entry and copper-coloured trim for the climate control vents and centre console.

Now read our review of the new Cupra Ateca. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…

 

 


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