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In the News ...

Most dangerous A-roads targeted by new plan to cut 1,450 road casualties
Posted on Tuesday October 16, 2018

Tristan Shale-Hester 2018-10-16 11:23

Safety chiefs say Government’s £100 million scheme will dramatically cut road deaths and injuries over next 20 years

Accident Aftermath

Road safety bosses are aiming to prevent around 1,450 deaths and serious injuries over the next 20 years thanks to a Government scheme aimed at improving the most dangerous A-roads in England.

The Department for Transport’s £100 million Safer Roads Fund will target 436 miles of road, improving 300 dangerous bends, 225 junctions and 135 pedestrian crossings. A further 150 miles of road will be subject to new speed limits, while 290 miles of improved roadside shoulders will also be targeted.

World record beaking roads

The net effect of these improvements will be 1,450 fewer deaths and serious injuries, and savings to the public purse of £500 million thanks to less money being spent on accidents and treating injuries. This is the conclusion of the Road Safety Foundation (RSF) and the RAC Foundation after the two organisations undertook an analysis of the dozens of projects involved in the Government’s plans.

The Department for Transport’s Safer Roads Fund will allow for a range of re-engineering works to take place, such as the implementation of rumble strips, improvement of visibility at junctions and removing trees, poles or lighting columns.

The funding for the scheme in question has been allocated from the Department for Transport’s Safer Roads Fund and will allow for a range of re-engineering works to take place across 436 miles of road.

The work will be carried out on the 48 riskiest stretches of council-managed A-roads in England, which were identified by an RSF analysis in 2016. Of these 48, the ones expected to see the greatest casualty reductions are listed in the table below.

The UK's riskiest sections of A-road

Rank Area Road Local authority Estimated fatal and serious injuries prevented over the next 20 years
1 North-west A588: Lancaster to Skippool A585 Lancashire County Council (CC) 151
2 North-west A683: Lancaster to A65 Kirkby Lonsdale Lancashire CC 114
3 Yorkshire and Humber A18: Laceby A46 to Ludborough A16 North-east Lincolnshire Council 91
4 West Midlands A529: Hinstock A41 to Audlem A525 Shropshire CC 68
5 East Midlands A5012: A515 to A6 Cromford Derbyshire CC 58
6 North-west A684: Leeming to Sedbergh Cumbria and North Yorkshire CCs 55
7 South of England A4: Bath Road M4 J7 to M4 J5 Slough Borough Council 54
8 North-west A6: Lancaster to M6 J33 Lancashire CC 47
9 South of England A361 Banbury to Chipping Norton A44 Oxfordshire CC 46
10 = North-west A581: A59 Nr Rufford to A49 Euxton Lancashire CC 43
10 = East Midlands A631: Market Rasen to Louth A16 Lincolnshire CC 43

On top of the £100 million initial investment, the estimated ongoing cost is £25 million. However, the predicted benefit of the scheme is £550 million.

Safest cars on sale 2018

The RSF’s executive director, Dr Suzy Charman, is leading the project. She said: “Although we have seen reasonable road casualty reductions on British roads over the last two decades, 2017 saw the highest annual death toll since 2011. Finding the right funding mechanisms for safety improvements to our road infrastructure is absolutely essential if we are to break the current plateau in the number of people being killed on our roads.”

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, commented: “The real prize from this initiative will be the evidence generated about how effective these schemes turn out to be, and the consequent ability that this will give us, we hope, to proactively and systematically set about lowering the risk profile of our roads more widely.”

Do you think the new plan to invest in improving A-road safety is a good idea? Let us know what you think in the comments...

New 2018 Porsche Panamera GTS and Panamera GTS Sport Turismo revealed
Posted on Monday October 15, 2018

John McIlroy 2018-10-15 23:01

Porsche wheels out the driver-focused GTS version of its new Panamera and Panamera Sport Turismo estate

New 2018 Porsche Panamera GTS Sport Turismo

Porsche is adding a bit more focus to its sports saloon and estate with the new Panamera GTS and Panamera GTS Sport Turismo.

The new models get extra grunt from their 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine - now up to 453bhp and 620Nm of torque, a rise of 20bhp and 100Nm. The gains mean the GTS models can reach 62mph from rest in 4.1 seconds and top speeds of 292kph (Panamera) and 289kph (Sport Turismo).

Best estate cars to buy now

The previous Panamera was offered with a GTS trim level, but this is the first time that the version - which is designed to sit between the S and Turbo in the line-up - has been offered in the Sport Turismo configuration. As well as the engine mods, the GTS models get chassis modifications, with ride height lowered by 10mm compared with the regular Panameras, and a recalibrated version of the PASM active suspension system. The transmission is an eight-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic, transmitting the power through all four wheels.

The GTS badge also brings revised looks, because both cars get a Sport Design package as standard, including a number of black trim elements, especially around the front end. The new spec also includes 20in Panamera Design wheels, while the cabin gets a mixture of black Alcantara and anodised aluminium. The GTS models also both get a head-up display - a first for the Panamera range. 

A heated multi-function steering wheel, with gearshift paddles, is also part of the spec - and Porsche will also offer the Interior GTS package as an option, giving buyers the chance to customise cabin elements like the rev counter, stitching and logos.

The Panamera GTS and Panamera GTS Sport Turismo are available to order now. The Panamera GTS costs £105,963, while the Sport Turismo carries a premium of just over £2,000, at £108,110.

Read all the latest on the Porsche Taycan electric car here...

Why select Volvo Selekt? (sponsored)
Posted on Friday October 12, 2018

2018-10-16 12:09

Here's why you get ultimate peace of mind when you buy a Volvo Selekt Approved Used Car

volvo selekt

It can be daunting buying a used car – so much so that many of us would rather not consider it at all. But if you want your money to go as far as possible when searching for the right car for you, what's available secondhand is difficult to ignore.

You need to be on your guard, however, as there are pitfalls that can catch out the unwary.

We've all heard of cars with 'hidden histories' and may wonder whether a car we're considering buying has previously been damaged or conceals problems that could cost money down the line. But the Volvo Selekt Approved Used Car programme eliminates many of the possible issues linked with buying a secondhand car – so you can concentrate on picking the car that suits you best.

The programme takes care of the stressful task of examining each car for potential niggles. Before being offered for sale, every Volvo Selekt Approved Used Car undergoes an in-depth examination by fully trained Volvo technicians, including having the latest software updates uploaded to its computer systems.

Further peace of mind comes from the fact that every Volvo Selekt Approved Used Car is sold with 12 months’ Volvo Assistance breakdown cover, guaranteeing you assistance 24 hours a day in the UK or on the Continent should something go wrong. Accommodation, onward travel and replacement vehicle hire are all taken care of. Finding yourself stranded due to a breakdown is a nightmare scenario for most motorists, but it's not something you have to worry about with a Volvo Selekt Approved Used Car.

The other major worry associated with used cars is the unexpected financial blow if there are any issues with a car that's not covered by a warranty. Again, the Volvo Selekt Approved Used Car programme has you covered. For starters, every vehicle sold through the scheme will have undergone a rigorous 100-point check in accordance with Volvo's exacting standards before reaching the forecourt. And on top of that, all Volvo Selekt Approved Used Cars are supplied with a 12-month, unlimited-mileage warranty.

Volvo Selekt vehicles also boast MoT test cover, no matter how young or old they are. This ensures you're covered for most things that can possibly result in an MoT failure, at the next scheduled test, eliminating another source of potential stress and cost with the car.

The final guarantee of satisfaction for a Volvo Selekt Approved Used Car programme customer is the 30-day exchange promise. If you're not satisfied with what you've bought up to 1,500 miles or 30 days after taking delivery, the retailer can exchange the car for another one of equivalent value. With reassurance like that, you can purchase in total confidence.

Learn more about the Volvo Selekt Approved Used Car programme

Take our quick survey on cars for a chance to win 1 of 3  £50 John Lewis vouchers.

Why buy used? (sponsored)
Posted on Friday October 12, 2018

2018-10-16 12:03

A brand-new car is the default option for many people, but buying used can make sense, too. Here we spell out why.

The Volvo Selekt difference - (Sponsored)

For lots of people, the answer to the question 'why buy a used car?' is straightforward: a new one simply isn't within their budget. However, depending on what you need and exactly what you can afford, other factors can come into the decision. In some instances, a used car might work out a better long-term investment than a new one, while there's always the potential of driving a larger, sportier or more premium car than your budget would allow if buying brand-new.

In general, UK drivers are proud of their cars, keeping and maintaining them well. New-car sales have been buoyant for many years, too, and taken together these factors ensure the used car marketplace is full of good-quality vehicles of all makes and models, at a variety of price points. New cars are obviously still appealing, of course, especially with the competitive finance deals that abound these days, so what are the major advantages of going used?

Nearly-new cars

While the phrase 'secondhand car' may conjure up images of an old and battered vehicle with many previous owners, that's certainly not representative of the whole market. All cars shed value over time, but this process doesn't take place at a steady rate. Initially, there's quite a steep depreciation hit, and this means 'nearly-new cars' (a few months old) can be a great-value option for buyers. On occasion, high demand for a brand-new model can mean going nearly-new will get you behind the wheel of the car you want sooner (provided the specification and colour you want is available). Such cars are often offered through brands' approved used schemes – such as the Volvo Selekt Approved Used Car programme.

Approved used cars

Schemes like this don't just offer 'nearly new' cars, though – savvy customers will be pleased to know that older models can often be bought through these programmes, too. Choosing a car from an approved used programme removes many of the risks and unknowns associated with buying a secondhand car from a private seller or small independent garage, especially if you don't feel confident assessing the mechanical condition of a car yourself. In fact, you get a great deal of the peace of mind usually associated with buying new.

The Volvo Selekt difference - (Sponsored)

Cars on approved used programmes won't always be the least expensive on the market considering their age and mileage, but they will have gone through a thorough checking process by the manufacturer's skilled technicians, as well has having complete service records and the reassurance that they're not subject to outstanding finance. Certain manufacturers will even go as far as promising to exchange a vehicle for another of the same value, within defined time and mileage limits, if you're not totally happy with your purchase. Extended warranty cover and free roadside assistance often feature among the benefits included with such cars, so unanticipated expenses can be avoided.

Finance options

Car finance is no longer only applicable to new purchases these days. Third-party companies, banks and even car brands' own finance arms can often help with the purchase of approved used vehicles. The cost can therefore be spread over affordable monthly repayments, rather than having to dip into your savings or come up with a lump sum to buy.

Conclusion

The wide variety of options and offerings that secondhand buyers have available to them all mean that a used car can represent a fantastic choice. With detailed pre-sale inspections, comprehensive warranties and reassuring roadside assistance all thrown in – along with the option of financing your purchase – there's never been a better time to buy secondhand.

Learn more about the Volvo Selekt Approved Used Car programme.

Take our quick survey on cars for a chance to win 1 of 3  £50 John Lewis vouchers.

 

New Ford Mustang Bullitt review
Posted on Friday October 12, 2018

ford mustang bullitt tracking front
15 Oct, 2018 (All day) Steve Sutcliffe

The Bullitt Mustang takes Ford's standard V8 muscle car package to another level but is it worth the price premium?

On the surface, the Ford Mustang Bullitt doesn’t appear to offer a whole lot extra above and beyond what you get from a standard V8 GT.

Apart from its charismatic dark green paint, a few bits of chrome and some natty new 19-inch Tor-Thrust wheels, it would appear to be much the same car as the regular Mustang. Not that there’s an awful lot wrong with that.

Best muscle cars of all time

Look more closely, however, and there are aspects that differentiate it, the most obvious of which – apart from the paint job – is its new induction system. Internally, the 5.0-litre V8 remains in standard tune, but been allowed to breathe much more freely thanks to a huge new air filter, bigger throttle bodies and an all-new exhaust.

The result is a 14bhp hike in power (to 453bhp) plus a fulsome 529Nm of torque. But, the Bullitt’s V8 engine feels and sounds very different indeed. This almost makes the Bullitt worth the extra outlay on its own.

The upgrades don’t stop there. As well as extensive Bullitt badging on the steering wheel, sills and bootlid, you also get Ford’s new SYNC infotainment system, alongside Apple CarPlay and a B&O sound system. You also get a pair of Recaro seats and a white cue ball gear lever for the six speed manual transmission.

Ford has also uprated the brakes to big Brembos, while the gearbox features a new auto blip on downshifts. This works a treat, even if it means you no longer need to master the art of heel and toe because the electronics take care of that for you.

On the move, the Bullitt feels predictably meaty in its personality, with a fair bit of inertia to keep in check if and when you start to drive it quickly. But it is aided here by Ford’s optional new MagneRide system, which improves the body control while offering a ride that is decidedly more soothing than normal. This set-up is worth the £1,600 extra.

But the best bit about the Bullitt on the move is what it sounds like, especially when you reach the final 2,000rpm. On paper the improvement in acceleration is negligible, but subjectively it feels a lot sharper than the regular V8 – producing a monster sound to go with it.

The steering is good, too, albeit in a traditional, slightly old-school kind of way. It’s the sort of car that needs to be worked to be rewarding, but get it right and it’s very entertaining.

4
More than just a pretty face, the Ford Mustang Bullitt is a proper, if slightly old-school V8 sports car. Its engine breathes more freely and therefore sounds better than ever. It looks brilliant, and is even pretty good to drive – in a traditional, chest thumping kind of way. The £5,000 premium quite a bit to ask, however.
  • Model: Ford Mustang Bullitt
  • Price: £47,545
  • Engine: 5.0-litre V8 petrol
  • Power/torque: 453bhp/529Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph/155mph: 4.6s/155mph
  • Economy/CO2: 22.8mpg/277g/km
  • On sale: Now

"Peugeot is delivering the goods with confidence, but not an ounce of cockiness"
Posted on Friday October 12, 2018

Mike Rutherford 2018-10-14 13:00

Peugeot has been making electric vehicles for decades without an ounce of cockiness, says Mike Rutherford

Finally, Peugeot is realising its colossal potential as it struts its stuff on the global automotive stage, delivering the goods with quiet confidence, but not an ounce of cockiness.

The ‘Volkswagen of France’ just stole the Paris Motor Show (sorry Renault). And after designing and building gems such as the 3008 and 5008 of late, Peugeot is at last proving that it’s arrived as a world-class peddler of petrol and diesel vehicles which, incidentally, are being shipped to more corners of the globe than ever before.

Best electric cars to buy 2018

Germany’s got scandal-hit VW, plus its daughter companies, Audi, SEAT and Skoda. But France possesses scandal-free (well, almost) Peugeot, which is the dominant daddy of a rapidly expanding clan that includes Citroen, DS, Opel and Vauxhall.

While continuing to unapologetically build what I reckon are the finest, most frugal, least controversial mass-produced diesel engines on the planet, Peugeot has tricked some into thinking that the company isn’t ahead of the ‘electrified vehicle’ game. But nothing could be further from the truth.

A couple of decades ago, when the world was Nissan Leafless and Elon Musk was all short trousers, pimples and bum fluff, Peugeot was quietly running 100 per cent electric vehicles on Britain’s streets.

Back then it delivered an all-electric van to my home 25 miles from London before inviting me to drive it to the centre of the capital and back, which it comfortably did. That was then and this is almost 20 years later, when your Royal Mail postie will be delivering packages to your front door in similar, but more efficient pure-electric Peugeot vans.

UK electric car grants being cut

In Paris the company also hinted to me that although it sees a bright future for small all-electric cars in predominantly urban areas, the future is perhaps even brighter for medium-to-large petrol-electrics. So expect PHEV badges to feature heavily on more or most mid/big Peugeots from this point onwards.

Think of the firm as a 4x4 player, too. And with its long history of two and three-wheeled vehicle design and production, who is better placed than Peugeot to install tiny transport contraptions in your car or van for ‘last-leg’ journeys from car parks to shops or workplaces?

But the now is as important as the future. And, thankfully, Peugeot is selling state-of-the-art diesel cars that’ll do 60mpg in the real world. On my 626-mile trip to and from the Paris Motor Show last week, the 5008 I drove on free-flowing motorways and in traffic-choked cities returned an average 61.3mpg. Why kill off diesels when they’re so ridiculously efficient and cost-effective?

What do you think of Peugeot's recent performance? Is the French brand going places? Let us know in the comments...

More from Mike

 

New Nissan Qashqai 1.3 DiG-T Tekna review
Posted on Friday October 12, 2018

Nissan Qashqai - front tracking
12 Oct, 2018 10:45am Alex Ingram

We drive the Nissan Qashqai with its new, more efficient entry level 1.3 DiG-T engine

As success stories go, there’s not much in the automotive world that has hit the spot quite so sweetly as the Nissan Qashqai. The winner of the Auto Express Car of the Last 30 Years is still going strong 11 years after first-generation car made its debut, with buyers loving its mix of space, affordability and SUV looks.

The current model came out in 2013, and today it ranks as the fourth most popular new car in the UK; only the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Corsa sell in bigger numbers.

• Best crossovers on sale 2018

Not content with what it’s got, Nissan keeps tweaking the formula to keep the Qashqai competitive. It reckons the latest changes will make it better to drive, cheaper to run and easier to live with every day.

There’s a new infotainment system inside, but the biggest news comes under the bonnet. The previous 1.2 and 1.6-litre turbocharged petrols have been dropped in favour of a 1.3 turbo with a choice of two power outputs. It’s the same basic unit as you’ll find in a Mercedes A 200, and it’ll make its way into the Renault Kadjar in time, too. If you’d still prefer a diesel engine, then the recently updated 1.5-litre dCi unit is the only option currently, but a 1.7-litre with 148bhp will join the range next year.

The entry level 1.3 makes 138bhp and 240Nm; increases of 25bhp and 50Nm over the old 1.2-litre car. At 158bhp, the higher powered model is actually 3bhp down on the 1.6, but its 260Nm torque plateau is 10Nm higher.

Both are more efficient than the units they replace, and exhaust particulate filters help them to pass the latest stringent emissions testing procedures. Nissan says they’re cheaper to maintain too, as service intervals have jumped from 12,500 to 18,000 miles.

Drive is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. These are available to order now, while the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic driven here will be offered in November, at roughly £1,000 more than the higher-power manual. The auto is only available with the more potent engine, boosting torque to 270Nm in the process.

So what’s it like? Well on the move, it feels more than adequate enough for a car like this. The power feels smooth and linear and, though a little sluggish before the turbo kicks in, it feels no worse than the equivalent Volkswagen Tiguan in this area.

We gave this engine a bit of stick for sounding a little thrashy in the A-Class, but here it sounds sweeter, and it settles down nicely at a cruise. But perhaps you just can’t hear it because, as before, the huge, square door mirrors create plenty of wind noise at motorway speeds.

If there’s one issue with the high-powered model, it’s that the 138bhp car feels more than adequate in most situations, to the point that you won’t really notice any difference unless you’re carrying five passengers and a boot full of luggage. Unless you really need an auto, we’d save the £1,500 and spend it on a few choice extras.

Previously, auto buyers had to make do with a droney, noisy CVT auto; the new gearbox is much better. It shifts smoothly and it’s much more refined. It can be lethargic to move off, though – hence why it’s the best part of a second slower from 0-62mph than the manual.

Elsewhere, the Qashqai feels similar to drive. In other words, it’s not the sharpest car in its class, but ride comfort is up there with the best. The steering is precise and is light enough to make parking simple.

On the face of it, the interior is identical, too. The infotainment screen looks exactly the same, but the software is all new. While the old system felt like an eighties relic, the new set-up feels completely different. A quad-core processor results in fantastic loading times, and the capacitive screen reacts much quicker to the touch. It’ll now recognize pinch and swiping motions on the TomTom nav screen, too, and the home page can be customised with shortcuts and apps. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all but the base model.

It’s still not perfect though: the seven-inch display is still too dark, and it’s impossible to read when the sun shines on it because the matt finish gives off a big, diffuse glare. Still, it’s a huge leap forward over the old setup.

Nissan predicts class-leading residuals for the Qashqai, with many models holding just over half of their value over a three-year period. This means that finance deals are competitive: a zero per cent PCP package on the 138bhp Acenta Premium means that, with a £5,693 deposit, you’ll pay just £149 per month on a 36-month deal.

 

4
As ever, the Qashqai manages to get all of the sensible stuff right. Practical, well built and relaxing to drive, it’s everything a family car buyer could ask for. The infotainment system is massively improved, and the same goes for the new engines – even if the lower powered version renders the top spec version almost redundant. The dual-clutch gearbox means auto buyers will no longer need avoid the Qashqai because of a droney CVT, either. In short, the most popular car in the class has just got better.
  • Model: Nissan Qashqai Tekna 1.3 DiG-T DCT
  • Price: £29,600 (est)
  • Engine: 1.3-litre 4cyl petrol
  • Power/Torque: 158bhp/270Nm
  • Transmission: Seven-speed auto, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
  • Top Speed: 124mph
  • Economy/CO2 : 48.7mpg/131g/km
  • On Sale: November

New 992 Porsche 911 GT3 spied on road for the first time
Posted on Thursday October 11, 2018

James Brodie 2018-10-11 15:56

New hardcore 911 variant will appear next year after 992-gen 911 makes debut at Los Angeles motor show

992 Porsche 911 GT3 - Spied

A new Porsche 911 is just around the corner and is likely to be revealed at the Los Angeles motor show in November, and now our spy photogrraphers have caught what is likely the GT3 variant of the new 992 generation 911 on camera for the very first time.

The car spied here wears the same full-width LED taillight we’ve spotted previously on almost completely undisguised next-generation 911 mules, though with some quite obvious differences.

Chief among which is the huge wing equipped on the rear of this 911 mule, openly flaunting this particular model’s track intent. It’s joined by a pair of huge scoops underneath the rear window too, both ramming air towards the car’s rear-mounted engine. Underneath it all sits a huge pair of central exit tailpipes.

There’s little to pick out elsewhere, but at the front, the bonnet features new ventilation, while the wheelarches look flared compared to the regular 911 mules we’ve already seen plenty of, suggesting a wider track is equipped under this development car for the next 911 GT3.

As for what’s likely to power the car, it could continue to make use of a naturally aspirated flat-six, using a modified version of the 4.0-litre, 493bhp unit equipped in the current GT3.

We got the chance to ride in the passenger seat of a 992 Porsche 911 prototype, read our review about it here...

Skoda Fabia vs Ford Fiesta vs Citroen C3
Posted on Thursday October 11, 2018

2018-10-14 11:00

We put the new Skoda Fabia up against its supermini rivals from Ford and Citroen

Skoda Fabia vs Ford Fiesta vs Citroen C3 - Header

Superminis sell by the truckload in the UK, so to stay competitive manufacturers need to make sure their cars are facelifted frequently. And the latest brand to tick that box is Skoda, with this revamped Fabia

The range-wide updates comprisea new grille, tweaked headlights, a spec boost across the line-up that includes stronger safety tech, and LED running lights. Personalisation is a priority for buyers in this sector, too, so Skoda has also delivered more on this front, while it’s followed market trends by offering the updated Fabia with a line-up of three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engines.

• Best superminis to buy 2018

But of course, the competition is stiff, and the new Fabia is facing off against the king of the class, the Ford Fiesta. It boasts many of the features of this newer Skoda, so the fight will be tight. Price will naturally come into the equation as well, and we know the Ford is affordable on PCP finance, which is how most people buy in this class.

Finally, the Citroen C3 will give the Skoda a run for its money when it comes to practicality and comfort. So which is the star supermini?

Skoda Fabia

Model: Skoda Fabia 1.0
TSI 95 Colour Edition
Price: £15,395
Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl turbo, 94bhp
0-60mph: 10.3 seconds
Test Economy: 44.0mpg/9.7mpl
CO2: 106g/km
Annual Road Tax: £140

Even though a new 1.0 TSI engine joined the range last year, the Skoda Fabia has received another update, with subtly-tweaked styling and more kit throughout. How does the improved car fare against the competition? We’ll find out with this well-priced £15,395 1.0 TSI 95 Colour Edition.

Although the Fabia is around 100kg lighter than its competitors here, it’s slightly less powerful. It produces 94bhp and 160Nm of torque, with the latter figure down on both rivals. In our performance tests, the Skoda took 10.3 seconds to cover 0-60mph. It feels nippy, but a shortage of torque means it’s not quite as flexible, which counts double in a car that’ll spend a lot of its life in town. From 30-50mph in fourth it posted a time of 8.6 seconds, which was 1.8 seconds slower than the Fiesta and trailed the C3 by 1.1 seconds.

Between 50 and 70mph in fifth the Czech hatch took 11.8 seconds, 1.6 seconds behind the Ford and 0.8 seconds down on the Citroen, despite having shorter overall gearing, turning 2,800rpm at 70mph in top. Yet pulling more revs doesn’t hurt the Fabia’s cruising ability; the engine is quiet when revved
and the Skoda suppresses noise well on the move.

The damping feels forgiving, too, so there’s a decent level of comfort. It doesn’t tie the body down quite as well as the Ford, but it’s easily more composed than the Citroen, if not quite as comfortable as its French competitor. There’s a fair degree of compliance and a nice balance between ride quality and control, but the Fiesta offers similar attributes, too, with a more sporty focus. The Fabia is refined and isn’t deficient in any one area, but it doesn’t stand out in any, either.

Testers' Notes: “Compared with its VW Group stablemates, the Fabia feels a little short on tech, given that it doesn’t get the latest highlights from the MQB-platform cars. It’s a similar story against the Fiesta and C3, too.”

Ford Fiesta

Model: Ford Fiesta 1.0
EcoBoost 100 Zetec 5dr
Price: £16,465
Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl turbo, 99bhp
0-60mph: 9.8 seconds
Test Economy: 43.8 mpg/9.6mpl
CO2: 110g/km
Annual Road Tax: £140

The Ford Fiesta is Britain’s most popular car and routinely tops the chart of best sellers. It’s also our favourite supermini, so in every sense this is the model the new Fabia has to beat. We’re testing a 1.0 EcoBoost 100 version in five-door Zetec trim (although our pictures show a three-door ST-Line).

The Fiesta is still the best driver’s car in its class. It has the most communicative steering and a chassis that injects a sense of fun into the experience. The relatively peppy 99bhp 1.0-litre turbo engine revs sweetly and with a muted three-cylinder thrum.

There’s a good amount of torque, with 170Nm available. This is 10Nm more than in the lighter Skoda, but 35Nm down on the Citroen. However, due to its six-speed box covering a narrower speed range, the Fiesta actually had the advantage in gear.

It was 0.1 seconds slower than the C3 from 0-60mph, taking 9.8 seconds, but between 50 and 70mph in fifth it was 0.8 seconds quicker than the Citroen. Between 30 and 50mph in fourth, it was 1.1 seconds ahead of the French car and 1.8 seconds up on the Czech model.

It’s not necessarily about performance here, although the Ford offers more easily accessible speed. The Fiesta’s powertrain is the most refined, and so is the ride. It filters out corrugations you feel even in the softer Citroen, thanks to its high-quality damping, while harsher bumps don’t have the same impact because of the finesse with which the dampers control the wheels and the body.

This gives the car an incredible breadth of ability for a supermini. It’s the most comfortable, the most agile and the most engaging choice. It’s also faster and more fun to drive, yet also the most relaxing car when all you want to do is get from A to B at a cruise.

Testers' Notes: “The Fiesta has a slight practicality disadvantage over its rivals, but it’s not enough to stop you buying one, because it’s still incredibly versatile. Besides, it matches almost every other supermini for usability.”

Citroen C3

Model: Citroen C3
PureTech 110
Feel Nav Edition
Price: £16,750
Engine: 1.2-litre 3cyl turbo, 108bhp
0-60mph: 9.7 seconds
Test Economy: 43.3mpg/9.5mpl
CO2: 103g/km
Annual Road Tax: £140

The C3 fired Citroen towards the front of the supermini sector at launch, but while newer models have usurped its position, the car we’re testing is a relatively new trim level. With the PureTech 110 engine this Feel Nav costs £16,750 (our pictures show a Flair), so it’s the priciest choice here, but it gets lots of kit and is similar to the Skoda in many ways.

The C3’s 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo unit boasts the strongest output here, serving up 108bhp and a healthy 205Nm of torque from 1,500rpm; 45Nm more than the Fabia. It shows why the Citroen was the quickest car at our test track, just edging the Fiesta in the 0-60mph sprint, taking 9.7 seconds. That torque also meant there was good in-gear flexibility.

The box is one of the C3’s weak points, because the rubbery, notchy shift feels less precise than its rivals’. You don’t enjoy changing gear in the Citroen, so it’s a good job the engine pulls well from low revs.

The steering is light, but has a nice, natural weight, so it’s easy to drive in tight city streets, but the C3’s size makes it feel like the largest car on test. This is backed up by the least agile chassis, yet the benefit of the softer set-up is a good level of comfort.

As long as you avoid big potholes, the Citroen’s suspension moves with the road nicely, so it feels calm and relaxed, especially on motorways, where that extra torque comes in useful. Over bad bumps this control breaks down, because it lacks the finesse of the Ford’s suspension set-up, so the C3 is compliant up to a point, beyond which it becomes crashy.

It’s best to drive the Citroen using the punch lower down in the range. Rev it beyond 3,500rpm and the PureTech unit gets a little rougher, becoming more vocal and sending noticeable vibrations through the pedals. The car doesn’t like to be hustled, and although there’s a respectable level of grip on offer, you can’t lean on the chassis like you can in the Ford in particular. The C3 prefers a more relaxed approach, which fits with its character; that’s why the Citroen is a convincing supermini that delivers comfort, usability and decent performance.

Testers' Notes: "The Airbumps on the C3’s doors should help reduce parking dents, but they’re only standard on the top-spec Flair model. If you want this feature on the Feel Nav trim you’ll have to pay £290.”

Verdict

First place – Ford Fiesta

The Fiesta’s appealing blend of abilities means it rises to the top yet again. It drives brilliantly but doesn’t sacrifice comfort, yet it’s also practical enough. The infotainment is close to being the best in its class and there’s enough kit in Zetec trim. It’ll be cheap to run, too. These factors combined make it easy to see why the Ford Fiesta has been Britain’s best-selling car for so long.

Second place – Citroen C3

For most of the time the Citroen is comfortable, and this makes the C3 a relaxing hatch to drive. It’s also the pokiest, is roomy inside and offers a slice of individuality in a derivative market. However, while the infotainment is good, it’s also the priciest car here, and cabin quality doesn’t match the cost, even if there is a useful level of practicality on offer.

Third place – Skoda Fabia

The updates this revised Fabia brings are too subtle. Still, it’s undoubtedly practical and affordable, especially because most people buy on finance. New safety tech across the range is welcome, but the Skoda still feels older due to its infotainment. It’s comfortable and efficient, just not by a big enough margin to put it ahead. It doesn’t have the all-round ability of its rivals.

Rivals

Hyundai i20

Model: Hyundai i20 1.0 T-GDi SE
Price: £14,680
Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 99bhp

The updated Hyundai i20 gets more standard safety technology, as with the revised Skoda Fabia, but its infotainment is even better. It’s not the most exciting car to drive, but on offer at £14,680, it’s really well priced, too.

SEAT Ibiza 

Model: Seat Ibiza1.0 TSI 95 SE
Price: £15,595
Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 94bhp

Latest MQB chassis under the Ibiza’s skin shows what the Fabia is missing out on. The SEAT is even roomier as well. Its engine is the same as the Skoda’s, but SE trim gets a great level of standard equipment with better infotainment.

Figures

Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost 100 Zetec 5dr Citroen C3 PureTech 110 Feel Nav Edition Skoda Fabia 1.0 TSI 95 Colour Edition
On the road price/total as tested £16,465/£16,465 £16,750/£16,750 £15,395/£17,040
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) £6,393/38.8% £6,199/37.0% £6,026/39.1%
Depreciation £10,072 £10,551 £9,369
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £748/£1,496 £695/£1,390 £669/£1,337
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £1,637/£2,728 £1,655/£2,759 £1,629/£2,715
Insurance group/quote/VED 10/£355/£140 15/£529/£140 9/£381/£140
Servicing costs £340 (2yrs) £692 (3yrs) £279 (2yrs)
Length/wheelbase 4,040/2,493mm 3,996/2,539mm 3,997/2,470mm
Height/width 1,476/1,735mm 1,474/1,829mm 1,467/1,732mm
Engine 3cyl in-line/998cc 3cyl in-line/1,199cc 3cyl in-line/999cc
Peak power/revs  99/4,500 bhp/rpm 108/5,500 bhp/rpm 94/5,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs  170/1,500 Nm/rpm 205/1,500 Nm/rpm 160/1,800 Nm/rpm
Transmission  6-speed man/fwd 5-speed man/fwd 5-speed man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 42 litres/repair kit 45 litres/space saver 45 litres/£110
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 292/1,093 litres 300/922 litres 330/1,150 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,163/502/1,000kg 1,050/550/600kg 1,046/530/1,000kg
Turning circle 10.1 metres 10.9 metres 9.8 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (60,000)/1yr 3yrs (60,000)/1yr 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 16th/20th 25th/11th 6th/8th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars 87/84/64/60/5 (2017) 88/83/59/58/5 (2017) 81/81/69/69/5 (2014)
0-60/30-70mph 9.8/9.7 secs 9.7/10.5 secs 10.3/11.1 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 4.8/6.8 secs 4.6/7.7 secs 5.3/8.6 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th 10.2/13.5 secs 11.0 secs/N/A 11.8 secs/N/A
Top speed/rpm at 70mph  113mph/2,300rpm 117mph/2,500rpm 114mph/2,800rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph  45.1/33.7/9.8m 53.7/38.8/11.2m 51.1/38.7/9.0m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph 68/52/63/71dB 74/51/62/70dB 51/65/65/73dB
Auto Express econ. (mpg/mpl)/range 43.8/9.6/405 miles 43.3/9.5/429 miles 44.0/9.7/436 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined  48.7/68.9/58.9mpg 51.4/70.6/61.4mpg 51.4/68.9/61.4mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined  10.7/15.2/13.0mpl 11.3/15.5/13.5mpl 11.3/15.2/13.5mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 149/110g/km/23% 151/103g/km/21% 148/106g/km/22%
Airbags/Isofix/parking sensors/camera Six/yes/£350/£250 Six/yes/£250/no Six/yes/yes/£265
Auto box/lane keep/blind spot/AEB £1,330/yes/no/£400 No/no/no/£600 No/no/£390/yes
Clim ctrl/cruise/leather/heated seats Air-con/£400/n/£250 Yes/yes/no/no £305/yes/no/£250
Metallic paint/LEDs/keyless entry & go £495/no/no/no £495/no/no/no £595/£960/£325/no
Nav/digi dash/DAB/connected services £550/no/yes/yes Yes/no/yes/yes £570/no/yes/yes
Wireless charge/CarPlay/Android Auto £69/yes/yes No/yes/yes No/yes/yes

Citroen C4 to return with electric power
Posted on Thursday October 11, 2018

2018-10-13 10:00

Citroen’s new C4 electric car is set to rival VW’s new I.D but petrol and diesel power will be on offer too

New Citroen C4 exclusive image

The next-generation Citroen C4 hatchback will have a pure-electric option in 2020, Auto Express can reveal.

The old C4 was culled last year, with a toned-down C4 Cactus currently filling a dual role as a C-segment family hatch and crossover. Its replacement had been expected to use the same EMP2 platform as the Peugeot 308, but Citroen is instead planning a much more radical approach, which includes a pure-electric version of its family hatchback, as previewed in our exclusive image.

• Best electric cars on sale

At the Paris Motor Show, Citroen CEO Linda Jackson revealed that the new C4 is at the top of the firm’s agenda.

“We haven’t actually said when the C-segment hatchback is going to be, but given the strength of that segment, given the importance of it, clearly that’s going to be a priority for us,” she explained.

PSA Group engineering vice-president Gilles Le Borgne revealed that instead of EMP2, the next C4 will use the longest variant of the group’s new CMP platform. 

“We have a very important programme on C-segment that is based on CMP, the next-generation C4, for example,” Le Borgne told us. He also confirmed that an all-electric C4 using the e-CMP variant of the platform is planned.

PSA initially announced that e-CMP would support battery packs up to 50kWh in its supermini-sized EVs. However, Le Borgne hinted that this would open up the possibility of a bit more battery capacity for the new C4 electric in a longer-wheelbase car, still on e-CMP. That would, in essence, become Citroen’s Volkswagen I.D. rival.

“We could accommodate up to 60kWh,” said Le Borgne, with a range of up to 217 miles on a single charge recorded under the new, stricter WLTP standard. PSA believes this will be sufficient for buyers’ needs at the price the company intends to charge for the C4 EV. 

The new C4 will, of course, continue to be offered with combustion engines, too. Discussing Citroen’s EV plans earlier this year, Jackson told Auto Express: “When it comes there will be an electric version, but there will also be equivalent petrol and diesel models.”

Can the new Citroen C4 compete against the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Skoda's baby SUV: little brother to Karoq and Kodiaq due by 2020
Posted on Thursday October 11, 2018

Jonathan Burn 2018-10-12 08:00

Exclusive images preview the new baby crossover that will slot in below the Skoda Karoq and Kodiaq in Skoda's SUV line-up

Skoda baby SUV render front

Skoda’s forthcoming compact SUV will be on sale within 12 months and will be the most practical and spacious model in its class, according to the boss of the Czech firm, Bernhard Maier. The Nissan Juke rival and spiritual successor to the Yeti crossover will be revealed early next year, ahead of arriving in showrooms in the summer. It will be the third SUV in Skoda’s expanding range, slotting beneath the larger Karoq and Kodiaq models. 

Under the skin will be the VW Group’s new MQB A0 platform, but in its longest possible set-up. A 2,645mm wheelbase will give the car even more space inside than a VW T-Roc, a model that competes in a segment above. 

Best SUVs and 4x4s to buy now

This focus on practicality and space is what will mark the Skoda out against its nearest competitors, according to Maier. Speaking exclusively to Auto Express at the Paris Motor Show, he told us: “We always position our cars at the upper end of the segment, so we have a longer wheelbase, have a bigger boot and more space in the interior. 

“This is a segment which opened up a couple of years ago, and as we want to take part and have a piece of the cake, this car fits perfectly. This is why we presented the Vision X and, as always with our vision cars, it gives you a view of what it will look like,” the Skoda boss explained. 

The finished model, previewed by our exclusive images, will closely resemble the Vision X concept seen at March’s Geneva Motor Show. It will adopt more angular bodywork and sharper surfacing than the Karoq and Kodiaq, because it’s aimed at a younger, more style-conscious buyer. 

Maier added: “The car is following the needs of our customers. You have all the advantages of a big body, higher seating and more space, while not spending too much on the drivetrain, such as four-wheel drive.”

While the platform can adopt all-wheel drive, Skoda will not equip its baby SUV with the tech in a bid to keep costs down. It will be offered with the VW Group’s latest batch of engines, most of which will be versions of the 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol found in the Fabia and Octavia hatches. 

Two variants are likely to be available – 95bhp and 115bhp – while buyers wanting more power will have to go for the 148bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo. A 1.6-litre diesel will also be offered, but it’s highly unlikely that there will be a plug-in hybrid version, at least initially. 

The SUV arrives in the midst of the largest campaign of launches in Skoda’s history and into a segment that is the fastest growing in Europe; by 2020 SUVs are expected to account for 34 per cent of new cars sold in the region. 

“This is why we’re starting our biggest product offensive with the introduction of new SUV models,” Maier said. “We are offering 20 models by 2020 and nine will be electrified. Some of these are successors, some are new line-up and some are quite groundbreaking.”

New Skoda Rapid replacement: latest news

An all-new version of the Skoda Rapid, taking on a completely new name, will beat the baby SUV to showrooms, arriving by the end of the year. The VW Golf rival is also expected to spawn a fully-fledged vRS model, a car that will be Skoda’s first credible rival to the likes of the Peugeot 308 GTi and Renault Mégane R.S.

Next year sees the introduction of Skoda’s first electrified vehicle, the Superb plug-in hybrid. It will make use of a 242bhp powertrain comprising a 1.5-litre petrol engine and an electric motor, which will deliver 43 miles of all-electric range. Following it up will be the Citigo E, a fully-electric version of the Czech firm’s city car but with a much-extended range over the existing VW e-up!, at 186 miles. Seven further electrified models will be launched before 2020.

What do you think of the new small Skoda SUV? Let us know in the comments...

New Audi e-tron prototype review
Posted on Wednesday October 10, 2018

Audi e-tron Prototype review - front wheel cocked
10 Oct, 2018 11:00pm Thomas Geiger

Our first drive in Audi's electric SUV reveals real promise, the e-tron has the Jaguar I-Pace in its sights

It’s been in the news for more than two years now, but finally Audi has handed us the keys to its new, all-electric e-ton SUV. But even now the e-tron is not quite the finished article – we’re getting behind the wheel of a prototype in the Namibian desert to see how it’s shaping up.

On first inspection, everything looks pretty familiar. Once you enter the e-tron the cockpit is heavily inspired by the latest Audi Q8 – the same digital instruments and the same two, big touchscreens dominate the cabin. The only new elements are a gear lever that looks plucked from a spaceship, the big storage compartment behind it and two small screens in the doors that display the images captured by two ultra-slim video cameras replacing the rear view mirrors. 

• Best electric cars on sale in 2018

Cast an eye around the rest of the Audi e-tron and you’ll find a wealth of other nifty features; the “frunk”, that versatile storage compartment under the bonnet, is perfect for the charging cable and adds another 60 litres to the 600-litre rear boot. And even when you run out of juice you’ll never tire of recharging via the charging port that elegantly and electrically slides open behind the front wheel.

But as familiar as the e-tron looks, once you’re on the move it feels totally different. Silent and smooth but with an impressive punch, the electric crossover takes off in a way that belies its near 2.5 tonne kerb weight. It also performs pretty well in the corners – its low centre of gravity helping keep body roll in check. Although the dusty and broken surface we’re driving on doesn’t paint an accurate picture of its true handling characteristics. That’ll come in November when we get behind the wheel of a production model without the psychedelic body wrap.  

Propelling the e-tron, and giving it that nimble feeling, is a 95kWh battery, which feeds two electric motors delivering 402bhp and 664Nm of torque via an all-wheel drive system. More than any other competitor Audi is focussing on driving pleasure with its flagship electric car and has programmed no less than seven different drive profiles to choose from. 

The throttle response, steering and air suspension can all be tailored – the e-tron can raise itself by five centimetres to gain more ground clearance or lower itself by three centimetres to reduce drag and improve body control. The traction control and ESC vary from safe and secure to an extremely relaxed setup meaning that on our dusty trail route, endless slides can be proved thanks to the bundles of torque on offer. On the road, however, that’s unlikely to be of any use to anyone.   

On first impressions the e-tron does appear to have a broader range of abilities than the Tesla Model X - more agile in the dynamic mode and more comfortable when you’re taking it easy. However, the energy recuperation system when you lift off the throttle doesn’t appear to be as well executed as you‘ll find in the Jaguar I-Pace. It means driving with just one pedal is not the strongest skill of the e-tron.

A thorough assessment of the Audi e-tron will follow before the end of the year but our first hands-on experience with Audi’s first EV shows it’ll be a match for the Jaguar I-Pace when it comes to tech, space and ability - it’s just a shame it doesn’t look a bit more radical. Having said that, it is comfortable, quick and crammed with technology. We’ll just have to reserve final judgment when we get one on the road.

New 992 Porsche 911 prototype ride review
Posted on Wednesday October 10, 2018

porsche 11 992 prototype tracking
10 Oct, 2018 11:00pm Kyle Fortune

We take a passenger ride in the next Porsche 911, the 992.

In just a few weeks Porsche will pull the covers off its new 992-series 911, but we’ve been riding along as the development cars are signed off. Every new 911 is significant, but this one takes the rear-engined icon into the future, with new technology, revised drivetrain and driver aids, all the while retaining its signature driver appeal and usability.

The shape is obviously familiar, Porsche knowing better than to mess with its lines too much, but more of that shapely body will be constructed from aluminium in a bid to maintain the same weight as the outgoing car. That’s significant, because there have been a number of necessary changes to the engine, with European cars requiring exhaust filters which add weight to the rear. Ever-tougher fuel consumption and emissions regulations necessitate this, Porsche adding an all new intake system, new Piezo fuel injection and revised intercooling to the 911’s 3.0-litre turbocharged flat-six engine.

New Porsche 911 992: everything you need to know

The new 911 will be introduced in Carrera S coupe form at November’s LA Motor Show, with Porsche’s PDK twin-clutch automatic transmission. Significantly, the PDK transmission now has eight gears, this leaving some space in the gearbox casing for an electric motor. That gap will remain empty for now, August Achleitner, Vice President Product Line 911, saying: “The whole car in its layout, its structure, is prepared for any hybrid solution in the future. We do not do it right now, we will not introduce it in the next years, because we are not yet satisfied with the performance, especially of the batteries.”

In Carrera S form the 3.0-litre turbocharged flat-six will produce the same 450bhp as the outgoing GTS model, with torque of around 530Nm. That’ll be enough to allow it to reach 0-62mph in around four seconds, and move on to a top speed in excess of 190mph. The manual transmission, carried over in seven-speed form will join the PDK offering early next year, as will the standard Carrera - this anticipated to have around 385hp. 

In the Carrera S we’re riding in the interior is still largely covered but retains the large central rev-counter, that's now surrounded by a pair of configurable screens. The dash itself is now stepped, the centre gaining a touchscreen that’ll be familiar to Cayenne drivers. The cabin retains the 911’s signature usefulness, while refinement, especially relating to tyre noise from the front has been significantly improved, that's clear on the rough US highway surfaces.

With Achleitner driving on everything from city streets to mountain roads, it’s clear the 992 hasn’t lost any of the 911's agility or pace; the engine’s response appears even keener than that of the outgoing car, while the suspension rides with real control without harshness on more challenging surfaces. We’ll confirm how good the steering feel is when we drive it early next year, but the engineers are promising it’ll better that of the 991 before it. 

The cabriolet will also join the line-up in 2019, while Porsche will introduce Turbo, Turbo S and GT3/RS models in the next 12-18 months.

Filling the Carrera S’s arches are staggered wheel sizes, these featuring for the first time on non-GT models. In the S that means a 20-inch front wheel and a 21-inch rear wheel, which combined with a 40mm wide front track, improves stability and handing.

Also aiding stability in the wet is standard fitment of a new Wet mode to the familiar Normal, Sport, Sport+ and Individual driving choices. This safety system operates automatically, detecting wet surfaces via acoustic sensors in the front wheel arches and adjusting the stability, gearbox and angle of the rear wing accordingly. The driver is then able to select a further Wet mode setting should they want to maximise stability in poor conditions. 

It’s just one of a number of new driver aids being added to the 911, with the car also gaining the option of Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Night Vision. Convenience in all cars will be aided by keyless go, the door handles of the 992 popping out when you approach it.

Porsche has had to update its iconic 911 within ever tightening regulations, but it looks to have achieved this while retaining all the sporting character and usability that’s a 911 hallmark. We’ll find out for sure shortly, but our first impressions show huge promise, while the addition of a hybrid model is intriguing
  • Model: Porsche 992 911 Carrera S
  • Price: £90,000 (est)
  • Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged flat-six
  • Power/torque: 450hp/530Nm
  • Transmission: eight-speed twin-clutch automatic, rear- or four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph/Top speed: sub-4.0 seconds (est)/ 190+mph (est)
  • Economy/CO2: 30mpg (est)/200g/km (est)
  • On sale : Early 2019

New Mercedes A-Class Saloon 2018 review
Posted on Wednesday October 10, 2018

Mercedes A-Class Saloon - front
10 Oct, 2018 2:00pm Thomas Geiger

Can the new Mercedes A-Class saloon really fill the mini C-Class role?

There is a new entry to the Mercedes small car family. After the A-Class hatchback went on sale earlier this year and the high-roofed B-Class MPV was revealed at the Paris Motor Show, the German firm is preparing to launch the new A-Class Saloon in 2019. 

Despite being 130mm longer, the Saloon gets the same wheelbase as the hatch, as well as the same engines, the same trim structure and a similar design. It commands a premium of around £500 but gets a lidded boot, which despite offering a narrower opening, is 50 litres (420 litres) bigger. 

• Best hatchbacks on sale 2018

But it’s not only a bit more practical, it’s also a bit sleeker; Mercedes has been crafting it in the wind tunnel for so long that the drag coefficient drops to make the notchback the most streamlined production car on the market.

Ahead of the A-Class Saloon’s European launch, we were given the chance to try one of the first cars to roll out of Merc’s new facility in Mexico. This factory will serve the US market, before the maker’s Rastatt plant in Germany starts production for Europe. Long-wheelbase Chinese cars will be made in Beijing.

Since the platform and the powertrains are the same and the weight penalty is small, the Saloon drives almost exactly like the hatch. If you’re trying to pick the two apart, the biggest difference is in regard to refinement. Since the body is smoother, the wind works its way around the vehicle better, reducing drag and noise. That’s why it’s a bit quieter on board the A-Class Saloon, making it feel more like a little limousine.

Even the fancy widescreen cockpit with the MBUX infotainment system and the voice recognition is lifted almost unchanged – with the only visible difference being the 3D-generated small sedan that pops up when you switch between the car’s drive modes. It’s largely logical in its layout, with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay standard on all models.

While the last-generation A-Class was a hatch that compromised on comfort just to appeal to a younger generation, the new version is plusher and more mature. The Saloon will be offered with the same range of petrol and diesel engines, starting with the entry-level A 200. The most economical version is the A 180 d, while the range-topping A 250 packs 221bhp. Mercedes will also slot in an middling A 220 petrol, which is the very car we’re driving here.

In this guise, with 4MATIC all-wheel-drive (a £1,600 option) fitted, the small saloon compares favourably with the larger C-Class. It is as dynamic as its big brother and it’s just as comfortable, too. It certainly isn’t as firm as an Audi A3 Saloon or a BMW 2 Series Coupe.

The driving position is good and there’s loads of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel. Those sitting up front are spoiled with the fanciest cabin in the class – even the Audi can’t come close for quality or tech.

It’s a similarly pleasing story in the back; the Saloon appears a bit roomier than the hatch and feels a bit more relaxed from the rear seats. The roofline drops late enough not to limit headroom, and the big doors allow easy access. Furthermore, the slim pillars help offer a decent view out. But you mustn’t expect miracles: it’ll still be tight for three adults.

3.5
The new Mercedes A-Class Saloon is more than mature enough to serve its purpose as a mini-C-Class. The excellent cabin is lifted unchanged from the hatch, while the grown-up three-box body is practical enough for those in the rear. It remains to be seen how it’ll fit alongside the sleeker CLA next year, but Mercedes never has been one to shy away from a new niches.
  • Model: Mercedes A 220 4MATIC AMG Line Saloon
  • Price: £31,500 (est)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo
  • Power/Torque: 187bhp/300Nm
  • Transmission: Seven-speed auto, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 7.0 seconds
  • Top speed: 147mph
  • Economy/CO2: 43.5mpg/148g/km
  • On Sale: Early 2019

UK breakdown groups AA, RAC and Green Flag call for new road safety rule
Posted on Wednesday October 10, 2018

Tristan Shale-Hester 2018-10-11 00:01

The AA, RAC and Green Flag want to see enhanced road safety laws in the wake of three roadside technician deaths in 12 months

AA van crash

The UK’s three largest breakdown companies have put aside their rivalry to call for new road safety rules in the wake of three roadside technicians being killed in the space of 12 months.

The AA, RAC and Green Flag co-wrote a letter to road safety minister Jesse Norman MP asking for a new 'slow down, move over' rule to be implemented.

What is a smart motorway?

This would require drivers to reduce their speed and change their road position whenever they pass a broken-down car or a recovery vehicle with its flashing amber beacons turned on, reducing the risk of anyone standing at the roadside being injured. 

In addition, the groups want to see the Department for Transport sponsor a THINK! road safety campaign highlighting the dangers faced by both patrols and members of the public at roadside breakdowns. 

The most recent roadside technician death was that of 33-year-old David Stokes, who worked for the RAC and was killed on June 16 when he was hit by a car while repairing a vehicle on the A617 at Rainworth, Nottinghamshire. 

Two other roadside technicians also lost their lives in the previous 12 months and, additionally, the organisations report “numerous roadside incidents” having occurred over the course of the last year. 

What to do after a car crash

This is not the first time a letter such as this has been sent to Norman, with the AA having written to him on November 1, 2017 calling for changes to the Highway Code. However, the firm’s suggestions were not implemented. 

Edmund King, president of the AA, said: “Between our organisations. we have seen too many near misses and too many fatalities caused by this problem. That needs to change quickly. ‘Slow down, move over’ is not a difficult request, but this simple act of kindness will make a world of difference to vulnerable drivers, patrols and road workers alike.”

James Knight, chief operations officer at the RAC, commented: “In light of the recent fatalities, we now urgently need the government to work with us to raise awareness of the issue among drivers and to promote a ‘slow down, move over’ message. This must be backed by a high-profile publicity campaign and a change to the Highway Code.

Would you be happy to see a 'slow down, move over' rule implemented? Let us know your thoughts in the comments...

 

'Brexit frustration is changing bosses' tone'
Posted on Wednesday October 10, 2018

Steve Fowler 2018-10-10 15:15

The uncertainty over Brexit is causing concern for car manufacturers, says Steve Fowler

OPINION - Carlos Tavares

There has been a distinct change of tone from car industry bosses in their messages to our Government and EU negotiators over Brexit.

SMMT annouce 'Brexit Readiness Programme' in case of hard Brexit

PSA chief Carlos Tavares (above), responsible for Vauxhall and its Ellesmere Port and Luton plants, plus Peugeot, Citroen, DS and Opel, was blunt when I asked him what his thoughts were on the current situation. “My message to Mrs May and [EU chief negotiator] Monsieur Barnier is that no deal is unacceptable,” he said. “In the interests of British and EU citizens we must have a deal.”

No deal would also mean prices would rise and the number of available models reduce, says Tavares. JLR boss Dr Ralf Speth has been similarly
strident in recent weeks and he told me in Paris: “It’s becoming more and more difficult to justify further investment in the UK due to uncertainty. “Free and fair trade was the best solution 200 years ago – that’s the same now.”

Nissan warned that there would be “serious implications for British industry” if there is no trade deal, while Toyota and MINI have said they would halt production at UK plants to deal with the logistical issues that will ensue from a hard Brexit.

No news is bad news, and we’re currently heading towards a no-deal Brexit that will leave the UK’s car makers – and the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on them for their livelihoods – staring down the barrel of increased costs and job losses. The industry position has been clear throughout: free trade is essential to ensure parts reach factories, that cars reach customers and that prices don’t rise.

The clock is ticking and the industry must plan for our world post-29 March 2019. So instead of dancing across the stage at her party conference, the PM, and Monsieur Barnier, must end the uncertainty now.

For more opinionated articles, visit put dedicated opinion page...

Nissan Leaf electric car ad banned over ‘misleading’ charging claims
Posted on Wednesday October 10, 2018

Tristan Shale-Hester 2018-10-10 15:20

Advertising Standards Authority bans online ad for all-electric Leaf over charge-time claims

Nissan Leaf

An advertisement for the Nissan Leaf has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after complaints that claims made about the all-electric car’s charging times were “misleading”.

Three complainants questioned claims made by the ad, which appeared on Nissan’s UK website, that the Leaf could be charged up to 80 per cent capacity in 40 to 60 minutes.

Best electric cars on sale 2018

The commercial clarified that the quoted charging time was only achievable when the car was connected to a CHAdeMO rapid charger, while a footnote added charger type and condition, battery size and temperature and ambient temperature could all affect charging.

The complainants pointed out, however, that the Leaf can take longer than 60 minutes to fully charge, and is designed to only accept one rapid charge a day. They argued Nissan should provide evidence to back up the claim made in the advertisement.

Nissan defended the advert, arguing consumers could charge their Leafs to 80 per cent capacity in 60 minutes. The company also said the footnote explained the timescale was dependent on other factors, and the battery could technically receive more than one rapid charge a day.

The brand also updated the text on its website, changing the claim to say Leaf owners could charge their cars from 20 per cent to 80 per cent charge in “around 60 minutes” when using a CHAdeMO rapid charger, as well as adding information about the type of journeys the car is designed to support and how safeguards prevent repeated rapid charging sessions in a short period of time.

Electric car charging stations revealed

Despite these amendments, the ASA still saw fit to uphold the complaints and ban the ad altogether, ruling it was “likely to mislead”. The organisation ruled consumers would understand the claims as stating the Leaf could be charged up to 80 per cent in as little as 40 minutes.

The ASA also criticised how the linked information could only be found at the very bottom of the page, adding the advert would still be misleading for consumers even with the updates having been made.

Nissan was told the advertisement must not appear again as it had previously. The firm was also ordered to ensure future advertising made clear the degree of variability that can affect charging times.

Read our review of the Nissan Leaf electric car here...

The Volvo Selekt difference (sponsored)
Posted on Wednesday October 10, 2018

2018-10-16 12:14

Find out more about the Volvo Selekt Approved Used Car programme

The Volvo Selekt difference - (Sponsored)

There are always appealing cars available on the used market. High-performance or premium models especially look really temptingly priced when compared with what they cost brand new. Keen enthusiasts love to browse and buy these cars, but they can be off-putting to the rest of us, as any price savings could be wiped out by hidden costs or problems down the line.

But you can banish these worries with the Volvo Selekt Approved Used Car programme. It offers a wide range of cars, from a few years to just a few months old, backed up by the sort of aftersales peace of mind usually associated with buying new. So if you want an SUV, but thought you could only afford a hatchback, Volvo Selekt could make your dream a reality.

The programme can also allow those considering buying a brand new car to upgrade to something with a higher specification while staying within their budget. Either way, you're getting the satisfaction of a great-value price with the additional reassurance that the car has been inspected according to Volvo's exacting standards.

Taking one example, the current Volvo V40 range begins with the D2 diesel-engined Momentum model, priced at just over £23,000. For that same price, the Volvo Selekt Approved Used Car programme can offer a top-of-the-range V40 R-Design Pro, fitted with a more powerful engine and offering more standard equipment, plus sportier looks inside and out.


The Volvo Selekt difference - (Sponsored)

At the time of writing, we found three great examples of R-Design Pro V40s on the Volvo Selekt Approved Used Car website: a manual D3 diesel, an automatic D4 diesel and a T5 petrol, all 2017-registered and with only a few thousand miles on the clock. The R-Design Pro spec list includes sat nav, cruise control, leather-faced upholstery, rain-sensing wipers, R-Design exterior styling enhancement, 18-inch alloys, an adjustable front central armrest and sports seats.

As with all vehicles in the Volvo Selekt Approved Used Car programme, these V40 R-Designs will have gone through a comprehensive 100-point inspection, carried out by highly trained Volvo technical staff, before being put on sale. They also benefit from a 12-month unlimited-mileage warranty on mechanical and electrical parts, plus 12 months of Volvo Assistance breakdown cover (roadside and home) and MoT test cover. And, as an ultimate guarantee, if you're not satisfied with a Volvo Selekt Approved Used Car purchase, you can return it to the retailer to be exchanged for another car of equivalent value within 30 days or 1,500 miles' driving.

So, with a Volvo Selekt Approved Used Car, you can enjoy the best of both worlds: a more stylish and better equipped car than you might have been able to afford new, plus the peace of mind that comes with the programme's extensive list of benefits and guarantees.

Take our quick survey on cars for a chance to win 1 of 3  £50 John Lewis vouchers.

Find out more about the Volvo Selekt Approved Used Car programme.

Take our quick survey on cars for a chance to win 1 of 3 £50 John Lewis vouchers

Car industry launches plan to mitigate “devastating” impact of hard Brexit
Posted on Wednesday October 10, 2018

Hugo Griffiths 2018-10-10 07:40

SMMT announces ‘Brexit Readiness Programme’, offering support to industry for the “planning minefield” posed by a hard Brexit

MINI Plant Oxford - engine line

Britain’s automotive sector is preparing for a no-deal Brexit by launching a new Readiness Programme, and setting up a free Brexit telephone helpline for businesses involved in the industry. 

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) is primarily targeting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with the initiative, saying 69 per cent of companies involved in UK automotive supply chain employ fewer than 10 people. The SMMT considers such firms may not have the resources to adequately prepare for a hard Brexit, and its assistance programme will see big outfits like Deloitte and PwC offer advice and consultancy services.

Car industry urges Govt to rule out no-deal Brexit

The first phase of the programme will also help businesses plan for post-Brexit trade and tax arrangements, regulation changes related to chemicals, data protection, immigration rules and employment law.

Other difficulties potentially being faced by the Industry include calculating the value of goods for the purposes of trade tariffs, proving the country of origin of items made in the UK, and planning linked to the stockpiling parts; this latter issue may be made necessary by border bottlenecks and other import/export difficulties.

The frictionless trade European trade conferred upon the UK by its EU membership means such considerations have hitherto been unnecessary, but Brexit – and particularly a hard, no-deal Brexit – could force firms to rethink their trade arrangements.

• UK driving licences could be invalid in EU countries

The SMMT highlighted the Midlands as an area particularly at risk from the impacts of Brexit. Some 39 per cent of automotive jobs are in the area, while one in 11 UK-made cars is built in the city of Derby alone.

Commenting on the programme, Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said local supply chains form the “backbone” of manufacturing, and the UK car industry had “thrived” thanks to the frictionless trade made possible by EU membership. 

• Brexit offers "no advantages" for UK carmakers

Hawes added a no-deal Brexit could have “devastating” consequences for the industry, and that the SMMT’s new initiative “seeks to mitigate the threat of ‘no-deal’ by helping businesses navigate the complex trade realities of a post-Brexit landscape.”

Will a hard Brexit be as devistating for the car industry in the UK as the SMMT believes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments...

 

MINI to launch new Classic, Sport and Exclusive trims
Posted on Tuesday October 09, 2018

James Brodie 2018-10-10 00:01

New MINIs will no longer be classified based on engine, with three dedicated trim levels announced

MINI Classic, Sport and Exclusive trims - front

MINI has announced a line-up reshuffle for the UK effective from November. The change is made up of a five-step ordering process centred around three new basic trim styles, and will be available across most of the brand’s range.

Buyers pick a model, be it the 3-door hatchback, 5-door hatchback, the MINI Convertible, the Clubman estate or the Countryman SUV, and then select which engine they’d like.

This mean engines have now become engine choices in their own right, and no longer define the model line-up. Options still consist of the One badged 1.5-litre three-cylinder 101bhp petrol, the two Cooper units – the same three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol unit but with 134bhp and the 2.0-litre turbodiesel Cooper D with 148bhp – plus the range topping 189bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder Cooper S engine.

Specification across all models has been updated to include automatic headlights, MINI logo projectors under the doors, and selectable interior ambient lighting as part of the MINI Excitement Pack as standard. 

The three new exterior and interior ‘Styles’ are essentially MINI’s new trim lines. The Classic style is available with every engine, and cuts a restrained look using standard bodywork. It’s the basic trim level priced from £16,190 on the three-door hatch with the One engine, which represents a slight price increase of £285 over the outgoing MINI One 3-Door hatch due to the extra base kit included. 

On the hatchback models, Classic cars use the MINI Hatch’s regular bodykit, but with 15-inch steel wheels on cars equipped with the base One engine. Larger alloy wheels come as standard on Cooper and Cooper S cars, priced from £20,660 as a Cooper S Classic.

The Sport style consists of a John Cooper Works (JCW) bodykit and either 17-inch or 18-inch alloy wheels, plus a handful of JCW tweaks inside like a sports steering wheel and sports seats. Cruise control and sports suspension are both no cost options. 

Exclusive is the range-topping style and combines some of what you’d get with the Sport model with a little more in the way of luxury. The bodykit is updated with chrome accents and chrome trim elements are found in the cabin, alongside leather sports seats and a leather steering wheel.

There is no difference in price between Sport and Exclusive – both begin from £20,230 for a 3-door Hatch with the 134bhp Cooper engine and aren’t available with the 101bhp three-cylinder One engine option.

The number of optional extra packs on the MINI’s extras list shrinks. The Chilli Pack and the John Cooper Works Sport Pack both disappear as they’re essentially covered off by the new system. Instead, options are now limited to tech and driver assistance packages, with all cosmetic extras instead offered through the three new styles. 

Buyers can still select paint colours and wheel designs, however, with a selection to choose freely from depending on which Style is opted for.

The MINI Countryman Plug-In Hybrid remains on sale, but as a separate offering not part of the new style pack based ordering system.

Find out what happened when we tested the MINI Cooper against the SEAT Ibiza right here...

 

 


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