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In the News ...

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

Mike Rutherford 2019-04-21 12:30

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


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

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

ULEZ: everything you need to know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019-04-20 11:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nissan Micra N-Sport

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

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

Design & engineering

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Running costs

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

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

Testers’ notes

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

SEAT Ibiza FR Sport

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

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

Design & engineering

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Running costs

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

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

Testers’ notes

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

Suzuki Swift Sport

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

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

Design & Engineering

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Running costs

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

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

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

Testers’ notes

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


First place: Seat Ibiza FR Sport

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

Second place: Suzuki Swift Sport

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

Third place: Nissan Micra N-Sport

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

Also consider...

New: MINI Cooper

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

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

Used: Ford Fiesta ST (2018)

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

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


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

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

Luke Wilkinson 2019-04-18 10:42

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

Toyota Proace City van - front static

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

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

Best small vans on sale

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mercedes-AMG GLS on the way and Mercedes-Maybach version could follow
Posted on Thursday April 18, 2019

Steve Fowler 2019-04-18 09:15

Mercedes bosses confirm the hot AMG GLS will arrive and a super-luxury Maybach GLS is on the cards. But there’ll be no electric model.

Mercedes GLS - grey front action

Mercedes bosses have confirmed that an AMG version of the new GLS will arrive. Speaking to Auto Express, Mercedes-AMG boss Tobias Moers said, “The markets have fed back to us to say they would like an AMG version out of the GLS.”

Dr Andreas Zygan, Head of SUV Development for Mercedes went a step further, saying, “We have a lot of customers for AMG, so it would make sense to make an AMG version of this car, but we cannot talk about the timeline or market introduction of this car, but there will be, of course.”

Best SUVs to buy now

A luxury Mercedes-Maybach version of the GLS is also on the cards, with Zygan telling us: “There is no decision we have taken, but what you see in the exquisite GLS is that we’ve developed a lot of things – the comfort and surroundings we’ve focused on – so the car has the possibility of a further project, but it’s not official. 

“We’re looking closely and if we’re convinced, it would not take so long to make a decision.”

What Zygan did definitely rule out, though, was an electrified version of the GLS telling us that the platform was not designed for electrification and that demand would be too small anyway.

He did reveal that the GLS-based Vision Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury concept, first shown at the Beijing Motor Show in 2018, could still become reality. “Why not?” he told us.

“At the end it is clear that it’s down to demands of customers – such a car is driven by customer demand and we need enough numbers. We have a very intensive discussion about this, but right now in the near future there won’t be such a concept.”

If the car does get the green light, it’s likely to be built alongside the GLS at Mercedes’ plant in Alabama in the USA.

What do you think about the prospect of the Mercedes-AMG GLS performance SUV? Have your say in the comments...

‘Why should we be excited about Lotus? One word: Geely’
Posted on Thursday April 18, 2019

Steve Fowler 2019-04-18 09:05

With an electric hypercar and a 911 rival on the way, Steve Fowler thinks the future of Lotus looks bright under Geely’s leadership

Opinion - Lotus

Lotus has always had a special place in my heart – as it has for many car fans. A 1990 Lotus Elan SE once sat on my driveway – and still sits on my wall – and I’ve hankered after another Elan ever since (although prices seem to be rising fast).

It’s fair to say that Lotus has built some of the finest-handling cars we’ve ever driven – and it still does. But it’s a brand that has never fulfilled its true promise and never had the investment that, I’ve always felt, could propel it to real and sustained superstar levels.

New Lotus sports car to arrive in 2020

So why am I so excited about Lotus now and how can you be convinced that this isn’t just another dose of dewy-eyed romanticism? One word: Geely.

The Chinese giant now owns 51 per cent of the British company – the biggest bonus of its buy-in to Proton, Lotus’s previous owner and the last in a line of potential great saviours. Just to remind you, Geely also owns Volvo – and it’s done a pretty good job there – as well as up-and-coming Lynk & Co and Polestar, plus LEVC, which makes the all-electric London taxi and is about to launch into the growing commercial vehicle sector. Oh, and Geely has just announced a new, global electric car brand: Geometry.

Geely is busy doing two things with Lotus. Most importantly, it’s investing in the right management team to come up with a sustainable plan and implement it. Then it’s providing these people with the cash to do it – just as it has done, so successfully, with Volvo.

The company is now led by Phil Popham, formerly boss of Land Rover, who also did a fine job transforming luxury yacht business Sunseeker. Now he’s got to transform Lotus into a proper luxury sports car maker. It starts with news of a multi-million-pound all-electric hypercar, but it’s the whispers of a hybrid 911 rival next year that are most exciting. Let’s hope this is the beginning of a Lotus story we’ve wanted to tell for years.

Are you excited about the future of Lotus? Let us know your thoughts below...

New 2022 Mercedes SL to be developed by AMG
Posted on Thursday April 18, 2019

Steve Fowler 2019-04-18 08:35

Performance division AMG is leading the development of the next Mercedes SL, which will feature hybrid engines when it arrives in 2022

Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 - AMG badge

Mercedes’ performance division AMG has been tasked with developing the next generation of SL-Class, alongside the next Mercedes-AMG GT.

Speaking to Auto Express at the New York Motor Show, Tobias Moers, Chairman of the Board of Management of Mercedes-AMG, revealed that development work on the new SL was well underway, that it will feature hybrid engines and that we’ll see prototypes out and about later this year.

New Mercedes GLS revealed in New York

“Handing over the SL for the next generation to AMG, as a performance and sports car brand, is great,” said Moers. “There’s lots of responsibility behind that, maybe honour. It shows that we’re not doing such a bad job!

“This is a programme that’s really intense. The new SL aligned with maybe the next generation of GT – that’s an intense programme. You’re going to see prototypes later this year.”

Moers also revealed that the next SL will be a more dynamically-focused car, as with SLs of old. “The SL in the past was a really important car for us,” he told us.

“In 2002/03 when we brought out the V8 Kompresser engine… it was a handful! Driving it today, and I did that just recently, I thought ‘was that our driving dynamics back in the days?’

“I think it’s time to change a little bit the attitude of SL and bring back a bit of the history of this touring DNA of SL; make it sportier, and other things.” 

“The key is that we will have the perfect compromise between driving dynamics and comfort, because it’s still kind of a cruiser and we know that.”

The new SL will be available only as a roadster, with Mercedes-AMG also feeding into the look of the new car. “We made things happen that maybe were not achievable if it would not be in our hands – we are always stretching the boundaries,” said Moers.

“If Gorden [Wagener, Mercedes’ Chief Design Officer] comes up with an idea, we always try to make it happen – it’s up to us both to sort it out and find a compromise.”

This isn’t the first time that Mercedes-AMG has led a Mercedes project, as Moers explained: “We designed everything for the G-Wagen, the whole suspension, axles, everything was done by AMG.”

Moers also revealed that the new SL will feature electrified powertrains, although the new GT 4-door will be the first AMG model to arrive as a plug-in hybrid

“Beyond '21 there will be no car from AMG that will not have an electrified powertrain – hybrid will become more and more important,” he said.

“How can the performance car segment survive in the future if you’re not going to use electrified powertrains? I think the share of high voltage electrified powertrains in the performance segment is higher than in other segments  – then we have purely electric sports cars, too.”

Moers also revealed that Mercedes-AMG plug-ins are likely to use their electric motors continually to boost power. “What we’ll do with our performance hybrids is have a different attitude,” he said.

“We have to make sure our we must have an always on strategy – it’s a combined situation, we must always have the combustion engine and electric power otherwise the car is not having its full potential.”

With the SL-Class traditionally having slightly longer life cycles than other cars in the Mercedes model range, we wouldn’t expect a new car to arrive much before 2022, with its Mercedes-AMG GT sister car following shortly after.

Are you looking forward to seeing the next Mercedes SL? Let us know your thoughts below...

New Mercedes EQC Edition 1886 unveiled at New York
Posted on Wednesday April 17, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-04-17 15:40

New special Mercedes EQC Edition 1886 honours the iconic Benz Patent Motorwagen, and features an extensive range of extras

Mercedes EQC Edition 1886 - front

Mercedes has unveiled a special edition version of its all-electric SUV at this year’s New York Motor Show. Called the EQC Edition 1886, it’s named to honour the Benz Patent Motorwagen, combining a range of interior and exterior upgrades with a customer-friendly service package and an extensive warranty. 

The new special edition EQC is available exclusively in metallic silver. Styling revisions include a reworked gloss black radiator grille, redesigned badging, new mudguards and a set of unique 20-inch alloy wheels. Mercedes has also reupholstered the car’s interior in leather and suede, and fitted a range of “EQC Edition 1886” badges.

Mercedes EQC ride review

The EQC Edition 1886 also has a range of extras as standard, such as electrically adjustable front seats, a Burmester premium audio system and the firm’s ‘Energising package’. The latter combines control over a range of different interior functions, such as lighting, climate control and music, which the German firm claims will improve the driver’s well-being on long-distance journeys.

Like the standard EQC, the Edition 1886 is powered by a pair of asynchronous electric motors, which send 396bhp and 700Nm of torque to all four wheels. Mercedes claims a top speed of 112mph and a 0–62mph sprint of 5.1 seconds, while its 80kWh lithium-ion battery pack offers a claimed range of 277 miles.

An extensive range of service packages are included in the cost of the EQC Edition 1886, designed to make workshop visits as convenient as possible. The packages comprise a 150,000km (around 93,000 miles) maintenance package, along with an eight-year extended warranty package and a pick-up and delivery service. 

What are your thoughts on the Mercedes EQC Edition 1886? Let us know in the comments section below…

Renault EZ-FLEX all-electric van to enter real-world testing
Posted on Wednesday April 17, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-04-17 15:15

12 all-electric Renault EZ-FLEX concept vans will be loaned to European businesses to test their performance in real-life working conditions

Renault EZ-FLEX - front

Following on from the EZ-PRO Concept revealed at the IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hannover last year, Renault has shown-off another futuristic all-electric light commercial vehicle called the EZ-FLEX. Designed to cope with congested urban delivery driving, it features a tight turning circle, an optimally-sized load bay in comparison to its footprint and simple, functional controls. 

Renault says the number of transported goods is expected to quadruple by 2050, while the number of people living in urban environments will rise to 60 per cent of the population by 2030. The EZ-FLEX is offered as a solution to the rapidity of modern urban deliveries, accelerated in recent years due to the growth of online purchasing.

2018 Renault EZ-PRO Concept

The EZ-FLEX has a claimed all-electric range of 100km (62 miles), making it suitable for use in low-emission environments. Renault insists this range will be adequate for an urban delivery vehicle, a category of van which it claims covers only around 30 miles a day on average. The load bay will also be configurable, allowing it to meet the different needs of each profession that might use the van.

Renault plans to lend 12 examples of the EZ-FLEX to a range of European businesses, cities and municipalities, to test its performance under real-world working conditions. The EZ-FLEX will enter its experimental research and development stage shortly, with Renault’s first partner for the programme due to be announced in May.

Each test van will be fitted with a range of sensors, recording the van’s location, mileage, range, speed, delivery frequency and cargo bay use. This data, along with the drivers’ feedback, will allow Renault’s engineers to better understand the EZ-FLEX’s use and tailor development targets more accurately around its shortcomings. 

What are your thoughts on the Renault EZ-FLEX? Let us know in the comments section below…

Cupra Ateca vs Audi SQ2
Posted on Wednesday April 17, 2019

2019-04-17 17:40

Cupra Ateca squares up to the new Audi SQ2 in a performance SUV shootout

Cupra Ateca vs Audi SQ2 - header

SUVs have become mainstream fodder for families wanting practical and stylish transport, and now there’s a new niche emerging out of this group of vehicles.

Until now performance SUVs have sat right at the top of the marketplace – just look at the likes of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Lamborghini Urus – but now cars such as the new Cupra Ateca are helping to democratise this style and speed in more affordable performance-focused packages. However, it’s got competition.

That comes in the form of the Audi SQ2. This car takes the German brand’s S model know-how and downscales it for this hottest of Q2s. So can the new Spanish marque and its first product, the hot Ateca, overcome the SQ2’s challenge in this new market niche?


Model Cupra Ateca Audi SQ2
Price £35,900 £36,815
Engine 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol turbo 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol turbo
Power/torque 296bhp/400Nm 296bhp/400Nm
Transmission Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, four-wheel drive Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, four-wheel drive
0-60mph 4.7 seconds 4.5 seconds
Top speed 153mph 155mph
Test economy 27.9mpg/6.1mpl 26.8mpg/5.9mpl
CO2/tax 168g/km/£140 159/km/£140
Options Comfort and Sound pack (£1,930), Design pack (£3,345) Technology Pack (£1,395), Bang & Olufsen stereo (£700), Driver Assistance Pack Advanced (£1,200), rear-view camera (£350), Advanced key (£350), heated seats (£300)

Cupra Ateca

For: Cheaper and larger, so more usable than the Audi, well equipped and good tech
Against: Ride and handling are compromised by the Ateca’s ride height – but so are the SQ2’s

Cupra always used to be SEAT’s sporty sub-brand – think of it like Mercedes-AMG or BMW M – but now the Volkswagen-owned company has been spun off into a manufacturer in its own right.

So, this is Cupra’s first ever standalone car and it’s chosen an SUV to mark its debut. It’s based on the standard SEAT Ateca family crossover, and Cupra’s aim is to combine all of the model’s practicality with the trademark performance for which the Cupra badge is known.

That means there’s a potent 2.0-litre turbo engine under the bonnet, a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and four-wheel drive, plus plenty of chassis tweaks to improve the handling and agility.

This hot Ateca is Cupra’s first standalone car, but despite the fresh badge the formula is familiar, because the standard SEAT Ateca’s MQB chassis is the base for this more powerful model.

There’s MacPherson-strut suspension at the front and a multi-link rear axle due to the 4Drive four-wheel-drive system. The chassis has been tweaked so it sits 20mm lower than the SEAT donor and has firmer springs. These changes have been made to offset the SUVs taller ride height compared with a hot hatch and help it handle more sharply.

Adaptive dampers are standard, with Comfort and Cupra settings at each end of the scale. The Ateca’s ride is still compromised, though. Our car also had the Comfort and Sound pack, as well as the Design package, adding £5,275 to the price. All models sit on 19-inch wheels, but even in the suspension’s softest setting the ride is firm and busy. At best it’s passable, at worst it throws the body around on its springs and dampers, which frustrates.

Select Cupra mode, which really firms up the dampers, and the Ateca feels rock solid. It cuts roll noticeably, while bumps that mildly corrupt the car in Comfort feel like full-on kicks in Cupra. But at least the handling benefits can be felt on smooth roads, because the weightier steering has a good degree of precision for a higher-riding SUV, no doubt helped by the grippier tyres. Even so, there’s still little in the way of communication from the steering – or the chassis – because the price you pay for the image of a performance SUV is a drop in ability compared with a similar hot hatch. 

That’s only when the road gets twisty – and even then four-wheel drive still means the Ateca makes effective progress thanks to strong traction.

In a straight line it feels hot-hatch quick, despite its bulkier size and chunkier kerbweight. Our test figures backed this up, because with launch control the Cupra clocked 0-60mph in 4.7 seconds. This was 0.2 seconds down on the smaller, lighter SQ2, but it’s not enough to make a noticeable difference on the road – besides, the Ateca’s in-gear times were mostly a match for the Audi’s (5.3 seconds between 50 and 70mph in fifth compared with 5.1, for example).

The new seven-speed box swaps ratios smoothly, but has the same foibles as the similar unit in the SQ2: mainly that downshifts feel sluggish when you really want them to be snappy.

Given the Ateca is £915 cheaper than the SQ2 we’ve got no qualms over the kit you get. LED lights, a digital dash, smartphone connectivity, keyless operation, climate and cruise control, nav, adaptive dampers and a 360-degree camera are all included.

Testers’ Notes

Infotainment: Easy-to-use display features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and sat-nav. The graphics could be sharper, but digital dials are standard

Transmission: Seven-speed auto changes gear smoothly. Downshifts can feel sluggish, however

Interior: Bigger bodyshell and longer wheelbase mean there is more space in the Ateca’s cabin than the SQ2’s for occupants 

Audi SQ2 

For: Slightly quicker than Cupra, lower CO2 emissions, premium badge and image
Against: Not up to usual Audi levels of quality, smaller and less practical, pricier

The recipe these two cars conform to is very similar. That’s not a surprise given Audi and Cupra fall under the Volkswagen Group umbrella and use similar underpinnings, engines and gearboxes.

There are a few key differences, however. One is that the Audi is £915 more expensive, but it’s also the smaller car, so along with price, practicality could be an issue in the verdict. Performance shouldn’t be, though, because the 2.0-litre turbo petrol motor should deliver a potent punch while the quattro four-wheel-drive system and DSG auto transmission should ensure it’s easy to exploit and deploy this performance. Let’s find out how it fares compared with the Cupra.

Audi’s SQ2 is based on the same platform as the Cupra Ateca, but it’s the smaller of these two performance machines. The SQ2’s MQB chassis does without adaptive dampers, while they’re standard on the Cupra. As a result it’s firm and feels unforgiving on rutted roads, where the Ateca offers a little more compliance. The suspension set-up’s trade-off for a small but sporty SUV is still acceptable, but the SQ2 feels more compromised more of the time than the Cupra.

It too sits 20mm lower than its standard Audi Q2 counterpart and you can feel the firmer tune to the springs and dampers. Hit a bump mid-corner and the shorter-wheelbase SQ2 feels less stable than the Ateca, bouncing more off line with less control to the damping. The steering in both cars doesn’t relay much information to the driver, but is sharp in its responses, only with the SQ2’s taller ride height there’s still some roll. It’s not an involving driving experience, and isn’t that comfortable or luxurious.

For a fairly heavy SUV, it is blisteringly quick – although at 1,435kg it’s 105kg lighter than the larger Ateca, despite possessing the same 296bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, seven-speed DSG dual-clutch box and four-wheel-drive system.

Alongside that power figure there’s 400Nm of torque – the same as in the Cupra – produced from an identical 2,000rpm. In our tests the SQ2 covered 0-60mph in just 4.5 seconds, while its 5.1-second time between 50 and 70mph in fifth shows just how much flexibility the muscular motor gives.

The Cupra was only a few tenths behind in most cases, so you’d hardly call it out of touch with the Audi, yet it rides better in its Comfort setting and feels a match for the SQ2 when it comes to grip and agility. The motor’s note is similarly flat from the exhaust, with subtle coughs, but sounds more enhanced in Dynamic mode.

Given the Audi’s price, however, we’re less than enamoured with the quality on offer. The sports seats are nice and lots of the dash is covered in softer plastic, but the basic design is now looking like a last-generation set-up, while the material on the doors jars with the price tag.

Tech is also a little behind the Cupra, and you get less of it as standard. A 12.3-inch digital dash is part of the £1,395 Technology Package that brings an 8.3-inch screen (a seven-inch unit is standard) and wireless charging, too, while keyless operation and a rear-view camera cost £350 each. Metallic paint is a £575 option, but parking sensors, autonomous braking with pedestrian detection, cruise and climate control, plus sat-nav are all included.

Tester’s Notes

Infotainment: Audi’s MMI system works well and has Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and nav. Bigger 8.3-inch screen and digital dials are an option

Transmission: Seven-speed auto box is similar to the Ateca’s and shares its sluggish nature when it comes to downshifts

Interior: Cabin is smaller than the Cupra’s and the quality of the interior isn’t what we’d expect at this price


First Place: Cupra Ateca

The Cupra Ateca is still a compromised car, but it nails the brief better than the SQ2. It’s more usable, pretty much matches the Audi’s performance, is more comfy, and gets more standard kit and practicality. It’s a better, more affordable attempt at offering performance SUVs to a wider audience. 

Second place: Audi SQ2

The SQ2 is faster than the Ateca, but not by enough to offset the lack of space and flexibility. Performance SUVs like these are meant to deliver across the board, and the Audi is just too compromised in too many areas to beat the Cupra – these include price, usability, standard kit and comfort.

New Kia Habaniro Concept hints at next-generation Niro
Posted on Wednesday April 17, 2019

Steve Fowler 2019-04-17 18:55

The Kia Habaniro concept has been revealed at the New York Motor Show, previewing the look of the next Kia Niro due in 2021

Let’s be honest, the Kia Habaniro Concept’s name gives the game away – this chunky new SUV is a thinly disguised nod towards to the next Kia Niro, which we’ll see in UK showrooms in 2021.

Kia refers to the Habaniro, launched at the New York Motor Show, as an ECEV: an Everything Car Electric Vehicle – a commuter, crossover, sport utility, technology workroom and adventure vehicle.

• All the latest from the 2019 New York Motor Show

Although the Habaniro concept features four butterfly-wing doors that won’t make production, the shape will carry over to the next five-door Niro. Even the contrasting dark grey cladding at the front and the ‘Lava Red’ C-pillar that stretches across the roof could make it to production according to Kurt Kahl, senior design manager at Kia's Californian design centre, and the man responsible for the look of the Habaniro. "It is possible," Kahl told us. "There are certain things in the design that have to stay."

The slim interpretation of Kia’s tiger nose grille, the smooth surfacing and the squarer proportions are also expected to make it onto showroom cars, all helping to differentiate the Niro from Kia’s rapidly growing range of SUVs that also includes Stonic, Soul, Sportage and Sorento as well as the up-and-coming XCeed. The ‘heartbeat’ LED daytime running lights should also feature. "It's a new idea for signature DRLs for the brand," explained Kahl. "The heartbeat represents a humanistic feel to the car."

The fully electric Habaniro also shows that the next-generation Niro will continue to lead Kia’s electric push. There’ll continue to be three variants: a fully electric version as well as plug-in hybrid and full hybrid models for the production car.

The concept claims a range of over 300 miles on electric power, but there’s no word on battery size, just that the Habaniro features four-wheel drive with electric motors on the front and rear axles.

Its length of 4,430mm is 75mm longer than the Niro, while it’s also wider and taller than the current car. The wheelbase has also been stretched, from 2,700mm to 2,830mm, liberating more space for passengers than in the current car. "We've worked on the profile with its speedy upper and rugged lower," says Kahl. "The shark nose front end with its sharp attack angle sets up the shoulder line nicely. Also we didn't want a long hood, but it has to be a certain length - people aren't comfortable with really short hoods although, being an EV, this car could have had one."

As is usually the case with concepts, the wacky interior features are less likely to make it to production. Habaniro does without traditional screens, knobs and buttons, instead projecting information onto a high-definition head-up display that stretches the full width of the windscreen.

A concave instrument panel sits on the dash and acts as a large touchpad using Sensory Light Feedback allowing users to swipe back and forwards to move displays between driver and passenger and to 'throw' them on to the head-up display. "HUDs are moving fast with the technology and we could see some of this make production," said Kahl.

Even the heating and ventilation system is futuristic, evenly distributing air around the cabin, while a soft ambient light is emitted through the geometrically patterned floor.

Habaniro also features what Kia calls a Real-time Emotive Adaptive Driving (READ) system that monitors the driver’s state using bio-signal recognition and Artificial Intelligence to tailor the cabin environment.

It will even sense when the driver wants to see what’s happening behind them and automatically activate a 180-degree rear view display, doing away with the need for rear-view mirrors.

Not that the driver needs to be doing anything other than watching a movie anyway. Habaniro comes with full level five autonomous driving, during which the steering wheel and instrument panel retract to give the driver and front passenger more room.

Kia chose the New York Motor Show to give Habaniro its debut because the car was designed in Kia’s US design studio in California. Kia’s US boss, former Kia UK boss Brit Michael Cole, described the car as, “a genius work of skill and imagination.

“Not only does its beautiful design incorporate the needs of future mobility, but its engineering and technology anticipate the way people will want to move in the near future.”

What do you think of the Kia Habaniro concept? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below...

New Nissan GT-R 50th Anniversary Edition debuts in New York
Posted on Wednesday April 17, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-04-17 14:20

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Nissan GT-R, the brand has unveiled a commemorative version of its range-topping sports car

Nissan GT-R 50th Anniversary Edition - New York front

The Nissan GT-R 50th Anniversary Edition has broken cover, featuring a handful of cosmetic revisions and slightly tweaked mechanicals. It joined a special edition version of the Nissan 370Z and a new GT-R NISMO on the firm’s 2019 New York Motor Show stand, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the GT-R and Z nameplates. 

Nissan’s latest special edition GT-R marks the return of the firm’s famed “Bayside Blue” paint colour, which was retired in 2002 having last featured on the legendary R34. Other updates include a fresh set of alloys, a reworked braking system, updated suspension, a full-length racing stripe and a range of “50th Anniversary Edition” badges. 

Best performance cars on sale

Inside, the Nissan GT-R 50th Anniversary Edition gets a re-upholstered grey leather interior, an Alcantara headliner and Alcantara-wrapped sunvisors, as well as unique trim for the steering wheel and shift knob.

In addition to this special edition model, Nissan has updated the entire GT-R range, with fresh editions of the standard GT-R and GT-R Track Edition due for launch in 2020. Both models are powered by a revised version of the firm’s 3.8-litre V6 engine, fitted with new turbochargers, updated exhaust manifolds and a fresh titanium exhaust system.

The engine comes in two states of tune, with the standard version producing 557bhp and 633Nm of torque. The more focused Track Edition uses the same tune as the recently updated GT-R NISMO, producing 592bhp and 652Nm of torque.

Both engines feed their power through all four wheels via a revised edition of Nissan’s six-speed dual-clutch transmission, with a refined “R Mode.” The software update features more aggressive downshifts, with gear selection occurring during ABS engagement. Nissan claims this update reduces understeer and increases corner exit speeds.

Now read all the latest news from the 2019 New York Motor Show

New Nissan GT-R NISMO hits New York
Posted on Wednesday April 17, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-04-17 14:30

The refreshed Nissan GT-R NISMO has been revealed at the 2019 New York Motor Show, with race car-inspired cosmetic upgrades and more power

Nissan GT-R NISMO - New York front

The new Nissan GT-R NISMO made its debut at this year’s New York Motor Show, featuring a range of performance upgrades, a redesigned exterior and slightly tweaked interior. The upgrades slash more than 30kg from the GT-R’s kerb weight, with Nissan promising improved performance and better engine response.

It’s powered by a tuned version of the standard GT-R’s boosted 3.8-litre V6 engine, with an exclusive turbocharger design borrowed directly from the GT-R GT3 racer. Performance figures stand at 592bhp and 652Nm of torque, all of which is sent through a six-speed dual-clutch transmission to all four wheels. 

Best performance cars on sale

To cope with the extra performance, Nissan has fitted the GT-R NISMO with a set of carbon ceramic disc brakes, Brembo calipers and an updated suspension system. A set of newly-designed Dunlop tyres also come as standard featuring a wider tread and fewer grooves, which Nissan claims improves cornering stability and steering response.

Exterior updates include an exclusive set of 20-inch RAYS alloy wheels, a titanium exhaust system and carbon fibre replacements for the bumpers, side-skirts, bonnet, roof and boot-lid. The front wings feature scalloped vents, like those on the firm’s GT-R GT3 race, which Nissan claims both funnels hot air out of the engine bay and improves downforce.

To complement the revised exterior, Nissan has fitted the new GT-R NISMO with a fresh pair of leather-and-Alcantara trimmed sports seats. The seats have wider shoulder pads and thicker bolstering, designed to better support the driver under hard cornering. 

Nissan’s new GT-R NISMO was unveiled at the New York Motor Show, showcased alongside the firm’s 50th Anniversary Edition 370Z and GT-R.

Click here for all the latest from the 2019 New York Motor Show...

Audi S5 gets a new 342bhp mild-hybrid V6 diesel
Posted on Wednesday April 17, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-04-17 12:55

The Audi S5 is now available with a new diesel mild-hybrid powertrain, offering both improved performance and efficiency

Audi S5 Coupe - front

Like the recently launched Audi S6 and S7 Sportback, the German manufacturer has introduced a new V6 diesel mild-hybrid powertrain for the Audi S5

The new 3.0-litre diesel engine produces 342bhp and 700Nm of torque, with power being fed to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. As a result, both the S5 Coupe and S5 Sportback will reach an electronically limited top speed of 155mph, and hit 0–62mph in 4.8 seconds and 4.9 seconds respectively. 

Best executive cars to buy

The engine uses a large turbo, which is partly driven by a small electric compressor, as well as exhaust gases. Audi claims it offsets the effects of turbo lag, with the system being automatically activated whenever the requested engine load exceeds the capabilities of the turbocharger. Under normal driving conditions, the electric compressor is bypassed with a valve.

The S5’s new mild-hybrid system comprises a 48-volt belt-driven alternator starter, a 0.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack and an energy recuperation system. Audi claims improved fuel economy, thanks to a revised engine control unit which shuts off the combustion engine when coasting at speeds between 34mph and 99mph. 

To complement the new powertrain, Audi provides a host of chassis upgrades for the S5 range, including progressive steering, sport suspension and a revised electronic chassis platform, which controls the car’s four-wheel-drive system and throttle response. Audi also offers optional adaptive dampers and a sport differential. 

Styling updates include S-Line front and rear bumpers, aluminium-look mirror caps, a revised diffuser, an updated honeycomb grille and a new exhaust system with dual-chrome tailpipes. LED headlights and tail lights are fitted as standard, as are a pair of leather-trimmed sports seats, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and an 8.3-inch infotainment system.

Now read our review of the standard Audi A5. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…

New Ford Mustang High Performance Package launched with 325bhp
Posted on Wednesday April 17, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-04-17 09:50

Ford has launched a High Performance Package for its four-cylinder Mustang, adding bigger brakes, revised aerodynamics and new suspension

Ford Mustang High Performance Package - front action

The four-cylinder Ford Mustang is now available with the firm’s new High Performance package. Released to coincide with the model’s 55th anniversary, the package adds a range of track-focused chassis upgrades, slightly tweaked exterior styling and more power. For 2020, all new Mustangs will also feature FordPass Connect as standard.

Revisions affecting the Mustang's driving experience extend to a set of larger disc brakes with four-piston calipers, a front strut brace, larger anti-roll bars, uprated dampers and a Torsen limited-slip differential. A set of wider 19-inch alloy wheels also feature, wrapped in Pirelli P Zero tyres, along with a revised body kit borrowed from the Mustang GT Performance Package.

Top 10 best muscle cars ever

The package is only available with a tuned version of Ford’s turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost engine. Upgrades over the standard engine include a bigger turbocharger, a larger radiator, a reworked exhaust system, an improved cylinder head and a recalibrated ECU.

Ford claims these engine revisions make the Mustang High Performance Package the most powerful American-made four-cylinder sports car on sale. It produces 325bhp and 475Nm of torque, all of which is sent to the rear wheels via either a six-speed manual or a 10-speed automatic gearbox, with the former offering a 0–60mph time of around four seconds and a top speed of 155mph.

Like all 2020 Mustangs, the High Performance version comes with FordPass Connect, allowing drivers to interact with their vehicles via their smartphone. Using Ford’s integrated application, owners can locate their car, lock and unlock it and even check its oil level, fuel level and maintenance alerts.

The Mustang High Performance package won’t make it to Europe, but Ford expects that the four-cylinder UK model will receive the same hike in power by October this year (pending WLTP homologation), with performance increasing from 286bhp to the 325bhp. Prices are yet to be announced, but we’ll update you when they’re available.

Now read our review of the Ford Mustang Convertible. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…

All-electric Genesis Mint Concept revealed in New York
Posted on Tuesday April 16, 2019

Richard Ingram 2019-04-17 07:35

New ‘luxury’ Genesis Mint city car unveiled at the New York Motor Show, previewing a rival for the forthcoming all-electric MINI

Genesis Mint Concept - New York front

Hyundai’s luxury brand has unveiled a new electric small car at the New York Motor Show. The Genesis Mint Concept is a ‘luxury car for the city’, created as in collaboration with the firm’s European, US and Korean design studios. 

Genesis claims the Mint is ‘highly manoeuvrable and exhilarating to drive’, though it’s just a concept for the time being. There’s no detail on the supermini’s powertrain, but it’s suggested that the car’s high-density battery will be capable of 200 miles on a single charge. It supports 350kW fast charging, too.

• Best electric cars currently on sale

While the Hyundai-badged Genesis saloon was dropped for the UK market back in 2017, the brand lives on in foreign markets like the US. Styling-wise, the Mint looks quite unlike anything in the company’s current product range, with a low, squat stance, long wheelbase and wide track.

Being an electric car, there is no front grille. The headlights mimic the winged Genesis badge, reflected in the bumper’s lower creases and air inlets designed to help cool the batteries. There are plenty of intricate details along the lower edges and sills, while at the rear there is a pronounced deck and light bar stretching left to right. 

The innovative four-door body features a pair of conventional doors at the front, with a set of rear-hinged scissor-style openings at the rear. Despite this, the Mint is a strict two-seater, with a completely flat floor and a bench that extends the entire width of the cabin.

Genesis executive vice president of design Luc Donckerwolke, said: “The Mint Concept is a new urban icon that marries classic proportions with forward-looking, minimalist design.

“The Mint Concept finds purpose and meaning in the city, just as so many people call the world’s most densely-populated metropolises home.”

The exterior detailing is mirrored inside, with sharp lines and plenty of chrome trim. The dashboard is suitably minimalist, however, with no central screen; all the critical information is presented within a single monitor fitted within the steering wheel – though it’s flanked by six smaller displays offering access to things like mobile connectivity, navigation instructions and drive modes. 

Other details include a full-length glass roof, and a luggage rack behind the front seats. Bizarrely, the supermini appears to have three pedals, despite the fact the Mint Concept is fully electric and powered by a single-speed transmission. 

There is no word on whether the Genesis Mint Concept previews a future production model, but with the MINI Cooper S E due for release later this year it’d make sense for the Korean brand to be put serious consideration into a fully-electric luxury small car.

Click here for all the latest from the 2019 New York Motor Show...

New Mercedes CLA 2019 review
Posted on Tuesday April 16, 2019

Mercedes CLA - front
16 Apr, 2019 11:00pm
Richard Ingram

Sleek new Mercedes CLA four-door coupe impresses as we get behind the wheel

The Mercedes CLA first arrived in 2013, immediately cementing its place as the A-Class’s cooler cousin. But the original wasn’t without its flaws – so instead of producing another rebodied hatch, the German firm has made some bigger changes to the CLA this time around.

As well as designing a sleeker, more stylish shell, Mercedes has widened the CLA’s track front and rear in an effort to boost engagement. It should also help engineer some clean air between the car you see here and the forthcoming A-Class Saloon.

• Best sports cars and coupes on sale

While you may not think that widening the track by 63mm at the front and 55mm at the rear would make much difference, the new CLA feels tangibly sharper on the road. It responds directly to your inputs, with very little body roll through corners.

Our first experiences of the model came courtesy of the CLA 220 d, which goes on sale shortly after the petrol variants arrive in late April. Every UK car will come in high-spec AMG Line trim, with no cheaper SE or Sport models available for the time being.

The diesel engine is strong, with a great surge of torque available from low revs. The eight-speed automatic transmission (lesser CLAs get a seven-speed auto) is responsive and smooth, too, meaning there’s little requirement to take charge using the steering wheel-mounted paddles.

We also tried the CLA 200 petrol in not-for-UK ‘Progressive’ trim, because it’s likely this engine – along with the cheaper CLA 180 – will prove popular with British buyers. Just as it does in the A-Class, the 1.3-litre turbo feels punchy, with enough performance to handle both town and motorway journeys.

That slippery shape makes for excellent refinement. As with its predecessor, the new CLA is the most aerodynamic car in its class, allowing it to scythe through the air with little in the way of wind or road noise. In petrol guise, the CLA is just as refined, if not more so, than the larger C-Class. It rides nicely, too. Every UK car will get lowered comfort suspension, and while we were unable to try an exact replica of this set-up on the European launch, on adaptive dampers the CLA remained largely unfazed. Even on our car’s larger wheels, the four-door coupe sets a high benchmark for long-distance comfort and composure.

Elsewhere, the CLA carries over the A-Class hatch’s fantastically plush interior, and due to this car’s generous standard kit list, the wider central screen comes as standard. You’ll need to upgrade to AMG Line Premium (£1,495) to get the larger dials, which create the illusion of a single pane of glass spanning right to left. Every new CLA gets LED lights, privacy glass, leather sports seats and two-zone climate control, however, as well as keyless go, sat-nav and wireless phone charging.

So far, the CLA seems to have justified its £3,170 premium over the A-Class. But when it comes to practicality, the hatch claws back some of the ground lost to its stylish sibling. Climb into the back and it won’t take a particularly tall adult to note that headroom is rather restricted thanks to the roofline.

Likewise, the boot is bigger on paper, but isn’t as usable. The 460-litre load bay is a decent size – and the rear seats fold in a 40:20:40 formation – but the narrow opening and saloon-style bootlid mean it’s just not as versatile in daily use.

Mercedes has confirmed the CLA 180 will cost from £30,550, but Benefit-in-Kind rates and PCP figures will be calculated when prices are announced in full in May.

The latest Mercedes CLA is so much more than a rebodied A-Class hatch. Its wider track means it’s genuinely engaging to drive, while its achingly cool design should turn plenty of heads in the company car park. Available only in AMG Line trim, this new four-door coupé is expensive, but its glorious interior and mini-CLS shape more than make up for any shortcomings in practicality. But we prefer the CLA 200 petrol model, because it costs less to buy, is decently economical and even quieter on a run.
  • Model: Mercedes CLA 220 d AMG Line DCT
  • Price: £34,750 (est)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl diesel
  • Power/torque: 187bhp/400Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 7.0 seconds (est)
  • Top speed: 140mph (est)
  • Economy/CO2: 52mpg (est)/114g/km (est)
  • On sale : May

New 2019 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 breaks cover
Posted on Tuesday April 16, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-04-17 19:00

The updated Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 is available with 469bhp or 503bhp, with the latter claiming the Nurburgring lap record for SUVs

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe - New York front

This is the updated Mercedes-AMG GLC 63, the world’s fastest SUV around the Nurburgring, which has been revealed at the 2019 New York Motor Show. The Porsche Macan rival features a 4.0-litre V8 engine and a tweaked exterior, with prices starting from around £80,000 when it reaches the UK market in summer this year.

The new AMG GLC 63 receives a substantial redesign over the standard model with 20-inch alloy wheels, new LED headlights, more aggressive front and rear bumpers, deeper side skirts, a wide rear diffuser and trapezoidal exhaust tips. Buyers can also opt for larger 21-inch alloys.

2019 Mercedes GLC 250 review

It’s powered by a 4.0-litre V8 biturbo engine, available in two states of tune. The entry-level model produces 469bhp and 650Nm of torque, while the more powerful S version pushes out 503bhp and 700Nm of torque.

Both engines feed their power through a nine-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels, with the most potent model offering a 0–62mph sprint of 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 174mph.

To cope with the extra grunt, Mercedes-AMG has revised the GLC’s platform with adaptive dampers, uprated air suspension, six-piston brakes and an electronically-controlled locking differential. The GLC’s four-wheel-drive system has also been reworked with a new torque-splitting control unit, allowing the SUV to transition automatically between rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive, depending on road conditions.

Inside, the GLC gets the usual crop of AMG upgrades, with a pair of heavily-bolstered sports seats, an AMG multifunction steering wheel and a re-trimmed dashboard. The firm’s dual-screen MBUX infotainment system also receives an update with a range of AMG-specific menus, displaying information such as engine data, lap times and G-force.

As an optional extra, buyers can spec Mercedes’s ‘Energising’ package. The system networks a range of different interior functions, such as lighting, climate control and music, which Mercedes claims will improve the driver’s well-being on long-distance journeys.

What are your thoughts on the new Mercedes-AMG GLC 63? Let us know in the comments section below…

All-new Toyota Yaris spied testing for the first time
Posted on Tuesday April 16, 2019

Richard Ingram 2019-04-16 13:42

The next-generation Toyota Yaris has been spotted for the first time, sporting a stretched wheelbase and a GRMN-style disguise

Toyota Yaris spies - front tracking

The all-new Toyota Yaris has been spotted testing for the very first time, ahead of a launch scheduled towards the end of next year. The supermini will move to Toyota’s tried and tested TNGA platform, which also underpins the Prius, C-HR and Camry hybrids.

Spied testing at the Nurburgring race track in Germany, the new Yaris looks set to gain a lengthened wheelbase, which will make it more spacious inside than the current car. But don't be fooled by the familiar styling – the design will differ, too, despite the fact that this mule appears to use a modified version of the existing model’s bodywork.

Best hatchbacks to buy

Using Toyota’s TNGA platform should make the new Yaris better to drive than before. It’ll also provide access to a wide range of hybrid powertrains, though it’s not yet clear whether it’ll be offered as a pure EV. Going by Toyota’s ‘right car, right time’ mantra, it’s highly likely that an electric variant will appear at some point in the car’s lifecycle.

The car in these pictures, however, looks to be the sportier Yaris GR variant, which will bridge the gap between the hybrid-only GR Sport and full-fat GRMN hot hatch. The middling GR will rival cars such as Vauxhall’s Corsa GSI, with around 140bhp and a selection of high-performance chassis tweaks. A Toyota spokesperson suggested the next-generation GRMN would be “quite nutty” suggesting a more hardcore rival to the latest Ford Fiesta ST

The new Yaris will make its domestic market debut at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, but that car will differ slightly to the European model we’ll get in the UK. That version isn’t due for reveal until later in 2020, with a launch date pencilled in for early the following year.

Are you excited about the forthcoming Toyota Yaris? Let us know in the comments below...

Driverless cars will require one billion lines of code, says JLR
Posted on Tuesday April 16, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-04-16 14:52

Jaguar Land Rover says autonomous vehicles will need 1,000 times more computer code than Apollo 11

Self-driving cars will need around one billion lines of computer code – nearly 1,000 times more than the 145,000 NASA needed to land Apollo 11 on the moon.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) gave the estimated figure to illustrate the seriousness of the need for more people to become qualified coders in order to help deliver connected and autonomous vehicles in the future.

Jaguar Land Rover develops “trustworthy” autonomous cars

The British manufacturer says it wanted to “inspire the next generation of software engineers” via the Land Rover 4x4 In Schools Technology Challenge – an educational initiative designed to encourage teenagers to aspire towards STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine) careers.

In the world finals this year, participants were given 30 minutes to write 200 lines of computer code to enable a scale model Range Rover Evoque to navigate a 5.7-metre circuit.

The programme that the challenge is part of has allowed JLR to reach more than four million young people since 2000, with 110 students from 14 different countries qualifying for the world finals this year, which were held at Warwick University and won by the NewGen Motors team from Greece, following two days of competition.

Britain's autonomous car network - using 5G tech to drive the future of motoring

This year, JLR is also launching a Digital Skills Apprenticeship programme in order to attract computer engineers to help code its next generation of electric, connected and autonomous vehicles, as well as support the firm’s factories in the future.

Last year, there were 23 million software developers in the world, with this figure expected to grow to 27.7 million by 2023. Research by the World Economic Forum suggests around 65 per cent of today’s students will end up working in jobs that don’t exist at present.

Nick Rogers, executive director of product engineering at JLR, said computer engineering and software skills are “more important than ever”. He added: “The UK will need 1.2 million more people with specialist digital skills by 2022.”

Would you ever buy a driverless car? Let us know in the comments below...

New Mercedes E 300 de 2019 review
Posted on Tuesday April 16, 2019

Mercedes E 300 de- front tracking
16 Apr, 2019 12:00pm Richard Ingram

We drive the new Mercedes 300 de to see if the diesel-electric hybrid works just as well as its petrol-electric sibling...

Mercedes certainly isn’t holding back on electrification. The company’s pure-electric EQ sub-brand is only a few months away from launching its first model. And stalwarts in the regular line-up are getting more volts too; we recently tried the E 300 e petrol-electric hybrid in the UK, and now it’s time for us to sample its diesel sister, the E 300 de.

The mechanical make-up is a mixture of proven engines and new electric tech. The E 300 de’s combustion engine is the same 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit that you’ll find in an E 220 d; it delivers 191bhp and 400Nm of torque. But alongside it, there’s an electric motor bringing an additional 121bhp and 440Nm.

• Best plug-in hybrids to buy

Together, the two units combine to produce a system maximum output of 302bhp and 700Nm; the peak power outputs of the units are not delivered at the same time.

The car’s 13.5kWh battery has big enough reserves, Mercedes claims, for the E 300 de to travel up to 34 miles on electric power alone, and at decent speeds too. On one of the faster 7.4kW household points, a full recharge takes less than two hours. So it’s feasible that someone with a modest commute could plug their car in every night - or every other night - and not use a drop of fuel during the working week. Incidentally, you can have the E 300 de as an estate - but your electric-only range will take a slight hit, dropping to 32 miles.

These numbers - and official CO2 emissions of as little as 41g/km, even on the tougher WLTP cycle - make for attractive reading when they’re translated into a Benefit-in-kind tax rate of just 13 per cent. And while lots of petrol-electric hybrids fall short of their promise on the open road, the E 300 de keeps its word more effectively.

That’s mainly due to the diesel engine, which has enough low-down shove in its own right to cope with a car of the E-Class’s size. This means that, even with the extra weight of the batteries on board, you can cruise along using nothing but the diesel engine and happily return north of 50mpg.

While you’re doing this, you can use the E 300 de’s mode switch to maintain the level of charge in the batteries (or to replenish it, if so required). And then when you do get to the end of the motorway and enter a city centre, you can flick the switch to run on electricity alone.

It’s a shame, of course, that the car isn’t quite intelligent enough to work this out for itself. Hybrid mode still improves on the diesel-only economy, of course, and the transition between electrical assistance and combustion engine is managed with impressive smoothness – helped by the well-integrated nine-speed automatic transmission.

Frankly, you could leave it in this setting all day long and not be that aware that you’re driving a plug-in hybrid at all. Some of those who choose the E 300 de for its company car tax breaks may do exactly that - although they’ll be missing out on some potentially stellar running costs as a result. It’s a doddle to plug the E 300 de in, too, thanks to a neat charging socket integrated into the rear bumper. 

Hybrid buttons aside, there’s little in the cabin to set the E 300 de apart from its conventionally powered stablemates. But that still means you get a pleasing mix of premium finishes and materials, as well as one of the best infotainment systems in the business - and an extravagant widescreen display in the fascia.

There’s room on board for four grown-ups to travel long distances in comfort, too - and the E 300 de’s relaxed chassis settings should help with this. The car’s extra weight has resulted in a slightly firmer ride, but in the most part this remains a car gloriously focused on comfort, not handling agility. If you want a hybrid executive saloon to thread down a B-road, a (petrol-electric) BMW 530e will still be a better companion. But with only really sharp imperfections getting through to the E 300 de’s cabin, it seems very well suited to that mixture of urban EV running and diesel long-leggedness.

You do pay a penalty in boot capacity, of course; there’s a step in the floor that restricts the height of items that you’re able to slide ride into the load bay, and you lose more than 100 litres compared with a normal E-Class. But for most uses, even this compromised set-up should be fine, with enough space for a couple of decent-sized suitcases and an overnight bag.

The E 300 de is a very worthy alternative to the petrol-electric E 300 e. It matches that car’s Benefit-in-kind company car tax rate, but while the petrol hybrid is a slightly better option around town, the E 300 de mixes similar pure-electric capacity with the long-distance cruising strengths of a diesel. We suspect it’ll be more economical in the real world as a result, bringing down running costs to really appealing levels.
  • Model: Mercedes E 300 de EQ Power AMG Line
  • Price: £49,480
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl diesel-electric hybrid
  • Power/Torque: 302bhp/700Nm
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 5.9 secs
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Economy/C02: 166mpg/41g/km
  • On sale: Now


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II Stone & Bug Deflector (1996-2002) Auto Ventshade 25139 Toyota FJ Cruiser Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (2007-2014) Auto Ventshade 25146 Nissan Pathfinder Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (2000-2004) Auto Ventshade 25148 Chevy Trailblazer Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (2002-2009) Auto Ventshade 25205 Lincoln Navigator Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (2003-2006) Auto Ventshade 25226 GMC Envoy & Isuzu Ascender Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (2002-2009) Auto Ventshade 25228 Ford Full-Size Van Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (1992-2007) Auto Ventshade 25246 Dodge Caravan & Plymouth Voyager Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (1996-2000) Auto Ventshade 25329 Chevy Equinox Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (2005-2009) Auto Ventshade 25347 Chevy Silverado Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (2005-2007) Auto Ventshade 25402 Nissan Armada Pathfinder & Titan Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (2004-2014) Auto Ventshade 25439 Ford Bronco F-Series Pick-Up Pick-Up Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (1987-1991) Auto Ventshade 25448 Chevy Blazer C/K & Suburban and GMC C/K & Jimmy Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (1981-1991) Auto Ventshade 25457 Chevy Avalanche Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (2002-2006) Auto Ventshade 25502 Jeep Grand Cherokee Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (1999-2004) Auto Ventshade 25513 Ford F-150 F-250 & Expedition Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (1997-2003) Auto Ventshade 25519 Nissan Frontier & Pathfinder Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (2005-2007) Auto Ventshade 25558 Ford Explorer & Mercury Mountaineer Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (1995-2001) Auto Ventshade 25623 Ford Windstar Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (1999-2003) Auto Ventshade 25627 Ford Expedition Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (2003-2005) Auto Ventshade 25631 Chevy C/K Blazer Suburban & Tahoe and GMC C/K & Yukon Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (1988-2000) Auto Ventshade 25654 Mitsubishi Montero Sport Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (1997-2004) Auto Ventshade 25707 Chevy Express & GMC Savana Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (2003-2014) Auto Ventshade 25708 Chrysler Aspen & Dodge Durango Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (2007-2010) Auto Ventshade 25720 Chevy Silverado HD Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (2001-2002) Auto Ventshade 25738 Ford Bronco F-Series Pick-Up F250 & F350 Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (1992-1998) Auto Ventshade 25751 Mercury Villager & Nissan Quest Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (1999-2004) Auto Ventshade 25823 Honda Ridgeline Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (2006-2014) Auto Ventshade 25833 Dodge Ram Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (1994-2002) Auto Ventshade 25844 Honda Odyssey Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (1999-2004) Auto Ventshade 25902 Chevy Silverado Suburban & Tahoe Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (1999-2006) Auto Ventshade 25903 Ford Explorer Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (2002-2005) Auto Ventshade 25908 Toyota Sienna Bugflector II Stone & Bug Deflector (1998-2003)

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