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In the News ...

Mike Manley replaces Sergio Marchionne as boss of Fiat Chrysler
Posted on Saturday July 21, 2018

Steve Fowler 2018-07-21 21:35

Briton Mike Manley steps up to CEO role due to worsening health of former FCA CEO following surgery

Mike Manley - Jeep

Briton Mike Manley has been appointed CEO of Fiat  Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) with immediate effect, following the worsening health of Sergio Marchionne.

A statement from FCA said: “Fiat Chrysler Automobiles communicates with profound sorrow that during the course of this week unexpected complications arose while Mr. Marchionne was recovering from surgery and that these have worsened significantly in recent hours. As a consequence, Mr. Marchionne will be unable to return to work.

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“The Board of Directors of FCA, meeting today, firstly expressed its closeness to Sergio Marchionne and his family and underlined the extraordinary contribution, both human and professional, that he has made to the Company in these years.

 “The Board resolved to accelerate the CEO transition process that has been proceeding over the past months and named Mike Manley as CEO.”

Mike Manley topped the Auto Express Brit List and was inducted into the Auto Express Hall of Fame in 2016. He’s been heading the Jeep brand since 2009 and has also been running RAM and FCA in the Asia Pacific region. 

Brought up in Bedfordshire, Manley’s career in the car industry started as a graduate trainee with Swan National, also working with Renault and Peugeot  dealers before moving to Lex Autosales.

That business was then sold to Daimler Chrysler where he stayed, all the way through to the purchase of the Chrysler businesses by Fiat. It was then that Manley was asked to take the reins at Jeep, since when he has overseen unprecedented growth in Jeep and RAM sales globally.

Marchionne was appointed CEO of Fiat in 2004 and orchestrated the shock takeover of Chrysler in 2009. Since then he’s built FCA into one of the powerhouses of the global automotive industry, spinning Ferrari off as a separate company, which he also chaired.

Louis Camilleri, a Ferrari board member has been named CEO of the sports car maker, while John Elkann, grandson of Gianni Agnelli and chairman of FCA, has been named as chairman of Ferrari.

Check out the 2018 Auto Express Brit List and discover the Brits who are making waves in the global car industry. Click here...

New Hyundai i30 Fastback N prototype review
Posted on Friday July 20, 2018

20 Jul, 2018 7:15pm Jonathan Burn

We drive a prototype version of the new Hyundai i30 Fastback N to see if it's just as good as its hatchback sibling

Hyundai’s newly formed N performance brand, headed up by former BMW M boss Albert Biermann, is wasting no time in getting its second model into showrooms. Following the successful launch of the i30 N hatchback, the Korean firm is applying the finishing touches to the new i30 Fastback N.

To see what’s in store, we were invited to drive a camouflaged version of the four-door coupe at the Nurburgring, before it arrives in showrooms early next year.

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While the standard i30 N clearly casts itself as a rival for the likes of Volkswagen’s prodigious Golf GTI and the Renault Megane RS, the Fastback sits in a rather more exclusive part of the market. The closest thing it has in terms of a direct rival is Skoda’s Octavia vRS, although the Hyundai is significantly more focused and packs more power.

The basic look and setup of the i30 Fastback N, as expected, shares much of its DNA with the hatch. The camouflage applied to the prototypes masks the detail changes but its clear Hyundai is continuing with a more modest approach to styling.

But the Fastback cuts a rather elegant shape; the cascading rear end tails off into a neat boot spoiler, while two oval tailpipes and rear diffuser give it the adequate amount of aggression required for a performance model.

In fact, Biermann says, the sleeker body of the Fastback is one of the main reasons why people will choose it. Initially, there was no plan to put the i30 Fastback N into production, but once the Biermann and his team saw the first clay models they had no choice but to build it.

Beneath the skin is much of the hardware you’ll find on the i30 N; a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine sits under the bonnet, paired exclusively to a six-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels. Like the hatch there are two setups available; a 248bhp entry model and, the car we’ve driving, the more powerful 276bhp Performance pack, which adds larger brakes, 19-inch wheels, Pirelli P Zero types and a limited-slip differential.

While the powertrain remains unchanged from the hatch, the Fastback has been given a “slightly softer setup” according to Beirmann. The springs and bump stops are a little softer; the German describes it as “more elegant” and “compliant”.  

We’re restricted to two laps of the Nurburgring, which isn’t a place known for being able to detect a car’s softer side. However, it’s clear the changes haven’t affected the N’s focused but well-rounded nature; within the first few corners you can immediately detect the i30 N’s well-balance chassis set-up.

The steering, like the hatch, remains slightly artificial in weight and gets progressively heavier when you begin to dial it up through Normal, Sport and N driving modes. However, the front end is always quick to react to steering inputs; the limited-slip differential helping slingshot you out of corners by effectively deploying the engine’s power. If you get a bit over enthusiastic with the throttle on the entry to a corner you are met with speed sapping understeer.

It feels significantly quicker than a Skoda Octavia vRS, but lacks the raw pace of some of the more established hot hatches such as the Honda Civic Type R and Megane RS. The engine delivers all it has by about 5,500rpm but that lack of overall grunt doesn’t linger for too long, as the Hyundai’s lovely balance through corners makes it a hugely enjoyable and rewarding car to drive quickly.

There’s a nice fluidity and composure to the way the Fastback N manages high-speed changes in direction, but you’re always aware of the N’s rather firm setup. In the most aggressive N mode it remains overly harsh; Sport mode slackens things off and makes for more comfortable progress.  

It feels very much at home on a track and Biermann promises the Fastback N will be even better on the road, particularly in the UK with our notoriously rutted tarmac. We’ll find out for sure in February, but on this evidence the Hyundai’s N brand is going from strength to strength.

It’s clear Hyundai’s new N brand isn’t resting on it laurels developing, on this evidence, another finely-tuned and competent performance car. It may lack the razor sharp responses of the more senior hot hatch competition, but factor in what should be an attainable price tag matched to a sleek five-door body, and the i30N Fastback is stacking up to be a promising proposition.
  • Model: Hyundai i30 Fastback N Performance pack
  • Price: £28,500 (est)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo
  • Transmission: Front-wheel drive, six-speed manual gearbox
  • Power/torque: 276bhp/378Nm
  • 0-62mph: 6.1 seconds (est)
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Economy/CO2: 39.0mpg (est)/165g/km (est)
  • On sale: Early 2019

New Volvo XC40 T3 2018 review
Posted on Friday July 20, 2018

Volvo XC40 T3 - front
21 Jul, 2018 3:00pm Alex Ingram

The Volvo XC40 is one of our favourite SUVs, but this entry-level petrol version doesn't get the best out of it

The Volvo XC40 is one of our favourite SUVs. Indeed, it scooped our Best Small Premium SUV gong at the 2018 Auto Express New Car Awards earlier this month. But will the T3 petrol – the latest engine to join the range – still be a class leader?

The T3 is the entry point to the XC40 range, being the smallest and most affordable engine on offer. Prices start from £27,610 in Momentum trim, which makes it £1,400 cheaper than the entry-level diesel.

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Standard kit includes 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, and a set of 12.3-inch digital dials. This Momentum Pro model adds bending headlights, folding door mirrors, a heated windscreen and an electric driver’s seat.

Onto the engine itself. It’s 1.5-litre, three-cylinder, direct injection turbocharged petrol unit making 154bhp, and is offered only with front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox. It’ll be paired with a plug-in hybrid eventually, but for now it works alone.

Although it’s the first time Volvo has produced a three-cylinder engine, it’s not completely unfamiliar: it’s closely related to the brand’s 2.0-litre four-pot unit - a modular configuration means that, in effect, it’s three-quarters of the existing engine.

While engineering the T3 won't have been anywhere near as straightforward as simply lopping off a cylinder, when you fire it up for the first time it sounds like that’s all that has happened. The rough, rattly noise at idle sounds unpleasant – to the point where you might mistake it for a diesel.

Fortunately, refinement improves considerably on the move. There’s maybe a little more whooshing and hissing from the turbo than you might expect, but the engine itself sounds smooth all the way to the red line, and there’s very little vibration through the pedals or steering wheel.

But from here, the engine begins to fall apart. Performance is fine if you’re willing to rev it out, but off-boost there’s almost no power at all. If you accelerate on a motorway from around 65mph in fifth or sixth, nothing really happens. Blame such long gearing - 2,000rpm at 70mph is good for refinement, but you’ll need to shift down at least two gears to make any sort of progress at all.

The problem is that, long gearing or not, fuel economy is poor. In a mix of urban, motorway and A-road driving, we calculated an average of just 29.3mpg. Sit at a constant 70mph, and you’ll be lucky to top 37mpg.

But is the gearbox any better? Well it’s reasonably precise, but a slightly notchy, springy action means that plenty of alternatives are more pleasant. The square gear knob isn’t nice to hold and, considering the manual V60 uses a rounder design, seems like an odd choice.

The one plus to this engine is weight. Compared to a four-wheel drive, diesel XC40 auto, the T3 weighs almost 150kg less. The lack of mass over the nose makes it feel noticeably more darty than the heftier models in the range. The soft damping and light steering means that it’s never truly fun to drive though. For an entertaining small SUV, you're better off in a BMW X1.

Spend an extra £1,500 on the Intellisafe Pro pack, and the XC40 comes equipped with Volvo’s semi-autonomous Pilot Assist system. It’s one of the very best set-ups of its type on the market, and its ability to steer between lanes autonomously for short periods makes it an incredibly relaxing companion for motorway driving. At least until you have to shift down a gear again.

But the driving enjoyment should only be a small consideration for a car like this, and elsewhere, the T3 remains the same brilliant XC40 that we’re familiar with. The funky, chunky exterior remains - even is this penguin-spec colour scheme isn’t perhaps the most flattering combination. Inside it’s even more attractive: the dashboard layout is clean, well-screwed together, and offers a breath of fresh air against the dowdy German alternatives in this class.

The nine-inch touchscreen infotainment system looks great, and on the whole works smoothly. An extra £300 for smartphone integration seems a bit stingy though, and the portrait-style touchscreen doesn’t lend itself well to displaying the landscape-oriented Android Auto and Apple CarPlay - their displays are forced into a very small area which makes them quite fiddly to use.

3.5
The XC40 is a brilliant SUV - funky on the outside, beautifully luxurious on the inside, and comfortable and relaxing to drive. However, this 1.5-litre petrol engine and manual gearbox mean the T3 is the weakest link in the range. This three-cylinder unit will eventually form the basis of a plug-in hybrid powertrain, and based on this encounter, an extra wallop of torque from a punchy electric motor is just what it needs.
  • Model: Volvo XC40 T3 Momentum Pro
  • Price: £29,160
  • Engine: 1.5-litre 3cyl turbo petrol
  • Power/torque: 154bhp/265Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 7.8 seconds
  • Top speed: 124mph
  • Economy/CO2: 40.4mpg/146g/km
  • On sale: Now

Jaguar E-Pace review
Posted on Friday July 20, 2018

For 
Good handling, sporty looks, plenty of configuration choices
Our Rating 
4
Against 
Interior doesn’t wow, frustrating infotainment, expensive to buy and run
Jaguar E-Pace - front
2018

The E-Pace, Jaguar’s second SUV, has its work cut out at the ultra-competitive smaller end of the market

If you’ve lusted after Jaguar’s F-Pace but wanted its essence bottled-up in a smaller package, then the Jaguar E-Pace isn’t quite that car. It’s still a competent member of the small premium SUV market, being decent enough to drive, smart enough to look at, and available in a dizzying number of configurations – 54 by our latest count – but it ultimately fails to stand out. Have a good long sit in one before you take the plunge, as the interior isn’t the most exciting place to be.

20 Jul, 2018
3.9

With one successful SUV already in the bag, you’d forgive Jaguar if it decided to spin the E-Pace off simply as a scaled down version of the popular F-Pace. However, that’s not quite what has happened from a design standpoint.

Look closer and you’ll see that the design language employed by the E-Pace is completely different. While the F-Pace takes after the firm’s established line-up of saloons, this smaller SUV takes its inspiration from the F-Type sports car, the shape of the grille and the headlights are a dead giveaway.

Elsewhere, the E-Pace’s bending roofline and kinked window line are much more aggressive than on the F-Pace, feeding into a chunky little hatch lid spoiler. The car’s overhangs are particularly short too, noticeably at the rear. Finally, there’s a more angular theme to the E-Pace’s tailgate and taillights than on any other Jaguar. All cars feature twin exhausts.

Styling differences between the regular E-Pace and the sportier E-Pace R-Dynamic are subtle. The R-Dynamic gets a revised front apron with larger, singular air intakes either side of the grille, front fog lamps plus a slightly different rear diffuser. Some of the black plastic exterior trim elements are transformed too, and become body painted. R-Dynamic cars ride on different alloy wheels too, and come with grilles finished in gloss black. Touches inside include bright metal pedals, metal treadplates, and sports seats. 

The interior feels much more conventional in design. The dashboard itself is long and flat, rather than upright, while the positioning of the vents, infotainment display and climate control settings is straightforward and at hand. It can feel a little conservative though, in a class where style and technology are becoming big selling factors.

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The metals and leathers used in the cabin feel good, and while the plastics are soft too the touch, it feels like Jaguar has leant a little too much on that material. The entirety of the dashboard surrounding the steering wheel and instruments is made from plastic, as is the area around the gear selector’s chrome housing. As such it can look a bit drab, depending on spec, but there are plenty of interior colour schemes to choose from.    

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

All Jaguar E-Pace models are equipped with a ten-inch touchscreen infotainment system called Touch Pro. It’s a system we’ve come across in plenty of JLR products before, and we’ve found it far from perfect. Running software known as InControl it’s a little slow to respond compared to the likes of BMW’s iDrive system or a Mercedes COMAND unit. Annoyingly, neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto is available, with Jaguar’s in-house smartphone mirroring software supplied instead.

All cars above S grade are equipped with navigation as standard. Maps are easy and clear enough to follow, and the screen resolution is decent too. However, the shallow angle of the dashboard means that the infotainment screen lies in a less than ideal position. 

A 12.3-inch fully digitalised instrument panel with configurable interfaces is standard fit on the fully stocked HSE car, and an option to consider on S and SE grade models.

3.8

Jaguar’s engineers have been hit with a demanding task for this car; how do you apply the Range Rover Evoque’s heavy D8 platform to an SUV which buyers will expect a degree of driver engagement from? 

Weighing in at 1,775kg at its very lightest, the E-Pace is actually heavier than its larger F-Pace sibling – the heaviest versions, all-wheel-drive D240 cars, tip the scales at very nearly two tonnes.

Despite this, The E-Pace hits back against its kerb weight with decent driving dynamics. Push on and you’ll feel the car’s weight for sure, more so than in a BMW X1 or X2, as the E-Pace picks up a smidgen of bodyroll and a weighty nose prone to washing out into understeer. It’s safe rather than fun, but at eight tenths it feels composed and could even be described as agile. Jaguar has equipped the E-Pace with a lovely power steering system too, which is well weighted, responsive and delivers good feedback considering it’s an electric system. It is a little weighty around town though.

All-wheel-drive models are kitted with Jaguar’s Active Driveline system enabling torque vectoring on the rear axle, though the difference it makes isn’t game changing. You’ll feel a little tug at the rear as the inside rear wheel is braked, and the outside is fed more power, with up to 100 per cent of the rear axle’s torque available in just one corner of the car. It’ll sharpen your line but won’t put a huge smile on your face, and the extra grip quickly gives way to understeer.

All but the entry level, front-wheel-drive D150 car are available or equipped with adaptive dampers. With these, you’ll be able to configure the E-Pace into a relatively comfortable SUV, though the Volvo XC40 remains softer and better at soaking up bumps.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

Kicking off what is an expansive E-Pace engine line-up is the D150 diesel. This two-litre four-cylinder unit serves up 150bhp and 380Nm of torque, and is available linked to a manual gearbox and front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive and a nine-speed automatic gearbox, depending on trim.

Despite being the smallest, least powerful option it doesn’t feel sluggish, and for many this might be all the performance you’ll need – a sub ten-second 0-62mph dash and a top speed of 124mph is respectable enough.

However, the real pick of the engine line-up is probably the more powerful D180 diesel. It’s the same four-cylinder unit, only with the wick turned up to 178bhp and 430Nm. It doesn’t wholly transform the level of performance on offer, taking 8.7 seconds to 62mph and topping out at 127mph, but all-wheel-drive and an automatic gearbox are standard fit. It’s respectably refined and smooth but the gearbox could be a little better. It’s Jaguar’s implementation of a ZF transmission, and it can get caught out from time to time. You’ll need an R-Dynamic car for steering wheel paddle shifters.

The third diesel option is the D240, again using a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine. With this unit equipped, the E-Pace moves from offering a respectable level of performance towards being a lot more pacey, thanks to a 7.4 second dash to 62mph and a top speed of 139mph. As nice as this is, we’d recommend saving cash and sticking with the D180, which will also be cheaper to run.

Petrol power in the E-Pace isn’t as popular, but there are three options nonetheless. The P200 is a relatively new addition to the line-up, and we’ve yet to drive it. This 2.0-litre turbocharged option serves up 197bhp with 62mph coming up in 7.7 seconds. The 246bhp P250 sits above it and is equipped with all-wheel-drive as standard.

The most powerful E-Pace you can buy is the 296bhp P300. 0-62mph comes up in 6.4 seconds and top speed stands at 151mph. We wouldn’t recommend it though. The highly-strung four-cylinder unit is pacey but not outrageously so, and it’s not particularly exciting either, producing a flat, uninspiring engine note. It’ll prove very costly to run, too.

3.8

Euro NCAP testing has resulted in a reassuring full five-star score for the E-Pace, which performed particularly strongly in pedestrian crash testing thanks to a standard pedestrian airbag. However, for adult occupants it still lags a little behind the safety benchmark for the class – the Volvo XC40. 

Across the line-up, the level of standard safety and assistance equipment is as you’d expect of a premium SUV. All Jaguar E-Paces are fitted with lane keep assist, driver monitoring systems, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors. Of course, a sophisticated automatic emergency braking system is included by default as well.

A wealth of other safety and assistance features can be specified. A Drive Pack includes adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, which can keep the vehicle moving in stop/start traffic with no input from the driver. Blind spot assistance is optional too. 

The E-Pace is too new to have featured in one of our Driver Power new car surveys, though Jaguar as a marque claimed a respectable 10th place finish in our 2018 edition. However, the British brand placed a less encouraging 20th out of 27 for reliability, with 28 per cent of Jaguar owners reporting having encountered an issue with their car. 

Warranty

Jaguar’s standard warranty package stands at three years with unlimited miles, which is more or less the industry standard. Customisable extended warranties are available too, with quotes available on request if you submit your vehicle’s age, condition and mileage online with Jaguar.

Servicing

Jaguar offers tailored servicing plans for the E-Pace, with plans up to five years in length available. A five-year/50,000-mile service plan costs £625 right now, for both petrol and diesel models.

3.8

You’ll find that despite the E-Pace’s dynamic and sporty focus, it remains a fairly practical and spacious small SUV. Forward and side visibility is good thanks to the short dashboard-to-axle ratio, though the rear window is a little small in the mirror. Thankfully, a reversing camera is standard kit on all cars. 

Overall, the E-Pace a fairly competitive package compared to many of its rivals on many fronts. You’ll find plenty of cubbyholes and storage spaces in the cabin, including a huge one in the central armrest. Two cupholders are present as well.

Size

Against the tape measure, the E-Pace sizes up at 4,411mm long, 1,649mm tall, and 1,900mm wide, with a wheelbase of 2,681mm. It means that compared to the car it’s closest to – the Range Rover Evoque – the Jag is a little longer and boasts a longer wheelbase, but is just as wide and a little lower at the same time. Overall the proportions are bang in line with the segment and with the Jag’s varied rivals, including the Volvo XC40 and Audi Q3, while it’s a little smaller than a DS 7 Crossback.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

Four adults should be able to get reasonably comfortable in the Jaguar, though carrying five is ever so slightly hampered by the raised transmission tunnel cutting into rear legroom for the middle seat. Some rivals boast better leg and headroom, but overall the E-Pace doesn’t let you down when it comes to passenger room.

Space up front for driver and front passenger isn’t tight at all, and the Jaguar’s driving position is very flexible, so you should be able find a comfortable spot to drive from with ease.

Boot

Jaguar claims a 577-litre boot, which is impressive on paper. In reality it’s good enough for families to live with. However, the space on offer isn’t completely accessible, and while that 577-litre figure means that officially it’s more practical than many of its rivals, day-to-day you’ll find that cars with better boot layouts, like the Volkswagen Tiguan and Volvo XC40, are more user friendly. The rear bench can’t do clever sliding tricks either, and folds down in a 60:40 split only.

Fold everything flat and you’ll get a 1,234-litre loading bay. In comparison, a BMW X1 sizes up at 1,550 litres.

3

A diesel E-Pace makes sense if running costs are a concern, and Jaguar claims some decent and competitive fuel economy and CO2 figures for these cars. For instance, the most basic E-Pace – the front-wheel-drive D150 equipped with a manual gearbox – claims 53.3mpg with tailpipe CO2 emissions of 141g/km. In real world conditions, you can probably expect this E-Pace to easily return over 40mpg. It occupies the 33 per cent Benefit-in-Kind (BIK) tax bracket for company car buyers, which is the lowest rate of any E-Pace. 

However, the overwhelming majority of buyers will specify an automatic gearbox and all-wheel-drive. In this regard, the D150 AWD Auto returns a still favourable 47.1mpg, but emissions climb to a fairly dirty 159g/km.

Buyers who step up to our pick – the D180 AWD Auto – will find that there is no fuel economy penalty. Officially, it returns the exact same 47.1mpg and 159g/km of CO2. The D240 can’t repeat the same trick however. It dips to 40.9mpg, while tailpipe emissions soar to a heady 175g/km. Your first year tax bill will be £830.

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Despite all being four-cylinder options, the petrols are thirsty. The basic P200 chalks up official fuel economy of 34.4mpg, while emissions stand at 186g/km. The E-Pace P250 claims the exact same figures.

Meanwhile the P300 dips further to 33.2mpg, while a CO2 figure of 194g/km means you’ll face a hefty first year tax bill. Of course, many of these higher-powered E-Pace models stray over £40,000 too, meaning your yearly rate after the first year rate will sit at £310 instead of £140. So far as trim is concerned, there are no differences in official fuel economy and CO2 between regular and R-Dynamic finished E-Paces.

Insurance groups

There’s no denying that the E-Pace occupies lofty insurance groups. The most basic and cheapest version sits in group 24, while our choice – the D180 – is in group 29. Compared to the Range Rover Evoque the Jaguar should theoretically be cheaper to insure, though it should be said that other rivals slip into lower groups. The Audi Q3, for instance, is lower across its entire line-up.

Depreciation

Residual values for the E-Pace look very good indeed, with values for both the D150 and D180 versions are predicted to remain strong over three years. Our pick – the D180 in S trim with an automatic gearbox – is predicted to retain 56 per cent of its worth, while higher spec models such as the HSE D180 approach keeping nearly 60 per cent of their value. Petrol versions are worse, and expect any given petrol powered E-Pace to be worth around 45 per cent what you paid for it three years down the line, if you stick around 10,000 miles a year on the car.

Hyundai confirms development of new ‘halo’ sports car
Posted on Friday July 20, 2018

Jonathan Burn 2018-07-20 12:40

A new halo model that will sit within Hyundai’s N division is in the pipeline

Hyundai RN30 Concept - front tracking

Hyundai’s new N performance brand will develop its own standalone vehicle, the company’s Vice President of high-performance and motorsport Thomas Schemera has confirmed. 

The launch of the i30 N hatch and fastback, along with the Velsoter N, which will not go on sale in the UK, is the “completion of the first phase of N vehicles,” according to Schemera.

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The next step in the development of the N brand is a bespoke, standalone model. Schemera added: “The whole idea is to strengthen the Hyundai brand, to bring more emotion. 

“I can tell you Albert Biermann [Hyundai engineering boss] and myself are interested in hot things and have some ideas in the pipeline for a halo model - rest assured we are coming up with something.”

Auto Express understands there is still an internal debate going on within the company as to what the ‘halo’ model should be; whether that takes form as a two-seater sports car or performance saloon like the Kia Stinger is still being discussed. The model, as a result, is still several years away from production.

Biermann has also spelled out plans to be involved with the development of new models from the very beginning so the process of engineering Hyundai’s core products into N models is streamlined. That process is expected to begin with the next-generation i20 supermini.

Hyundai launched the N brand with the RN30 concept (pictured) at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show.

Are you excited by the prospect of a halo N model from Hyundai? Let us know below...

Best summer cars 2018
Posted on Friday July 20, 2018

Dean Gibson 2018-07-21 11:00

With wall-to-wall sunshine, this year is turning into a hot one. Here we pick 10 hot cars to make the most of the summer months

Best summer cars header

Summer is the perfect time to get out on the road and enjoy your car to the full. There's nothing better than heading to your favourite stretch of Tarmac and going for a blast, whatever you drive, but you can make the fun levels even greater if you're behind the wheel of one of our best summer cars listed below!

These models are the ones that make the most of warm tarmac and hot weather. Yes, they're all open-topped machines, so it'll be a good idea to cover up in Factor 50, or wear a hat, because having the aural thrills to go with your driving only helps increase the fun points.

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Some of these cars are simply the best way of lapping up the summer sun in luxury, but the majority are also lots of fun to drive. We've picked a handful of four-seaters that allow you to enjoy the sun with your friends, but most are only two-seaters that focus on driving thrills more than anything else. From the spartan Caterham Seven and its laser-like focus on pure exhilaration for the driver, to the raucous and powerful Jaguar F-Type, these are the cars designed for a hot summer's day and a twisty back road as you take the long way home.

At the other extreme, cars like the Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet and Rolls-Royce Dawn are designed to waft along in refined cruising comfort, taking in the sights and sounds while keeping passengers unruffled by bumps in the road and the breeze from the open top.

Of course, a lot of these cars are at the dreamers end of the new car buying scale. But if a big lottery win came your way, what better way would there be to celebrate than to splash out on a bit of luxury and take a while to savour a hot summer's day at the wheel of a car that offers plenty of fun in the sun?

Best summer cars 2018

Caterham 7

There's nothing else like a Caterham for driving thrills, and these are best served in the summer, when you can take the roof and doors off to enjoy the full sensory overload of driving this back-to-basics British sports car.

You sit low to the ground in the car (although if you're tall we'd recommend going for the larger SV body so you can be comfortable at the wheel) and with the long bonnet, round headlights and upright windscreen in front of you, the view ahead is unlike that in any other car on the road.

The 7 at 60: celebrating the iconic Lotus and Caterham Seven

The steering reacts instantly to every input, although you're aware that the wheels are a long way forward in relation to where you're sitting. And once you've experienced the lightning reactions and the sensation of speed as the tarmac rushes past you, inches away from your elbows, no other sports car can match the sensations.

Caterham offers a variety of engine options, but even the most modest version is more than powerful enough to be entertaining. There's plenty to get used to, including the unassisted steering and cramped pedal box, if you have big feet. But once you're in tune with how a Seven drives, nothing touches it for driving fun.

Just watch out for summer storms, because the canvas roof and fabric doors take forever to reassemble – it might just be easier to keep the rain off by driving quickly than stopping to erect the scaffolding required to get the top back on.

Ferrari 488 Spider

With every generation of mid-engined Ferrari, the Italian company raises the bar in terms of performance. And in addition, whenever the convertible or Spider version follows, it delivers a driving experience that's ever-closer to the coupe in focus, resulting in an open-topped supercar that is a match for the hard top for driving thrills.

The latest 488 Spider has extra appeal, as you can lower the roof to help you hear the screaming twin-turbo V8 behind the cockpit. It's not that the standard hard-top isn't a thrilling place to spend time, it's just that the twin turbochargers have stifled the rev-hungry V8's bark a tad, so getting rid of the roof on the Spider makes up for the slightly muted engine sounds.

Ferrari has used its Formula One expertise to make the 488 Spider handle as sharply as the coupe, and special strengthening means the Spider has the same chassis stiffness as the hard-top version. Lightweight technology is used for what Ferrari calls the RHT, or Retractable Hard Top as it's known by everyone else. This takes 14 seconds to operate, and the two-part roof stows on top of the engine cover to allow occupants to drink in the sounds of the free-revving twin-turbo V8.

That 670bhp V8 gives the 488 Spider a 0-62mph time of three seconds flat, although you'll have to keep the roof up and find a closed course if you want to try and sample its 202mph top speed. That's not really what the 488 is about, though, the mid-engined chassis delivers super-sharp responses that allow it to carve up twisting back roads with ease.

MINI Convertible

Small drop tops fall into two categories – full convertibles and those that don’t offer much more than enlarged sunroof with a bit of canvas screwed into place. The latter works well for car manufacturer profit margins, but the former is the real deal for buyers wanting summer open-top motoring. And the MINI Convertible is pretty much in a field of its own as the only drop-top supermini on sale – if you want anything similar for the same price, your only other choices are the VW Beetle Cabrio or a two-seat roadster like the Mazda MX-5 or Fiat 124 Spider.

The MINI combines fun front-wheel-drive handling with its open-top appeal, and that roof can be opened in stages, so you can have a full convertible or a sunroof-style opening if the sun is getting a bit too overpowering.

Auto Express New Car Awards: best convertible

As it's a MINI, you can expect a few novelties, too. The last facelift added those controversial Union Flag tail-lights, while a similar design can be applied to the canvas roof, too. Inside, MINI offers the option of an 'Openometer' a timer that records how long you have the top down when you're driving. Basically, if you're not driving with the top down when it's not raining this summer, then you need to head back to your MINI dealer and trade your Convertible for a hatch.

While the soft top does introduce some twist to the MINI's chassis, it's still a fun car to drive, with sharp steering and a lively rear end that's willing to break loose if the desire overcomes you.

McLaren 570S Spider

Few cars deliver the driving experience of a McLaren. With performance in spades, a level of user-friendliness that even some city cars fail to match and head-turning looks, the Surrey firm's cars really make a statement. In reality, the 570 offers all the driving enjoyment you could ever need, and going for the 570S Spider only adds to the pleasure with its folding roof.

Power comes from the same 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 as the rest of the range, with 562bhp on tap giving it a 0-62mph time of 3.2 seconds. It's not quite as vocal as some rival power units, but there's no arguing with the way it delivers its power in a linear and user-friendly manner. Like the Ferrari 488 Spider, the McLaren has a two-part roof that stows on top of the engine cover, and it manages the conversion in 15 seconds, so if you're caught out by a summer shower, you should be quickly sheltered from the elements.

Thanks to McLaren's carbon fibre MonoCell II chassis, the Spider is just as rigid as the 570S coupe, and it only adds an extra 47kg of weight over its fixed-roof counterpart. The result is sharp handling that's just as engaging as the coupe, while the steering remains uncorrupted and alive with feedback.

Mercedes E-Class Convertiblle

When it's warm, sometimes you just want to take things easy, and the Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet is the drop-top motoring equivalent of a relaxing stroll on the sea front. It's a car that encourages you to let the world pass you by, with a range of unstressed petrol and diesel engines, plenty of luxury and technology in the cabin, and one of the plushest fabric roofs of any convertible on sale.

Of course, the E-Class is the open-top alternative to the E-Class Coupe, which in turn is based on the excellent E-Class saloon. That means the Cabrio features first-rate build quality, while the four-seater cabin is comfortable enough that a long-distance trip could easily be considered.

Once you've reached your sunny destination, you can cruise in comfort with the roof up or down, the latter helped no end by Merc's clever Aircap windscreen header rail. It looks pretty ugly, but when it's in place Aircap diverts air flow over the cabin leaving occupants as unruffled by air turbulence as they would be if the roof was up. Add in diesel engines that are far quieter than their predecessors, and the E-Class Cabrio is a relaxing and refined summer cruiser.

Even better is that the large fabric roof can be folded at speeds of up to 30mph, and when it's up, it's as quiet and refined as being at the wheel of the E-Class Coupe thanks to its multiple layers of acoustic-absorbing fabric.

Audi TT RS Roadster

If you want a rally car soundtrack to complement your summer driving, then the Audi TT RS Roadster will happily oblige. Sure, it's not the most focused or engaging drop-top in our top 10, but when that turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine is making noises reminiscent of an Audi Quattro Group B rally car, you kinda forgive it.

That familiar five-cylinder warble is accompanied by all sorts of pops and bangs from the exhaust, especially when you're accelerating through the gears and laying into full-throttle upshifts with the twin-clutch gearbox, and there's a substantial 395bhp for the quattro four-wheel-drive system to get to the tarmac.

Alpine A110 vs Audi TT RS vs Porsche 718 Cayman

That gives the TT RS Roadster a 0-62mph time of 3.7 seconds - identical to the Coupe and not far off the V10-powered R8 Spyder, another car that thrills owners with an addictive soundtrack.

We say that the TT RS isn't as engaging as some rivals, but it's still a lot of fun to drive, and the two seater cabin is a lesson in minimalist design and upmarket detailing. Audi's Virtual Cockpit is standard, and it's heavily cowled so that the display is still easy to see when the roof is down and the sun is blazing.

Abarth 124 Spider

When Fiat wanted to build a sports car flagship to lead its range, it turned to Mazda and the MX-5 as a starting point for its new model. While that may seem strange, the MX-5 is a modern take on the front-engine, rear-wheel drive formula – one that Fiat followed back in the 1970s with the original 124 Spider.

The modern 124 Spider offers different looks and motive power than the MX-5, with Fiat's own 1.4 MultiAir turbo petrol unit appearing under the bonnet. One big difference between new and old 124 Spiders is that the modern version is offered in fire-breathing Abarth spec. This version has 170bhp on tap, and it's accompanied by a suitably raucous soundtrack courtesy of the freer-breathing sports exhaust.

This extra power makes the most of the Spider's rear-drive chassis, and combined with the sharp steering and snickety six-speed gearbox, results in an involving drive that will put a smile on any driver's face.

The Abarth's looks won't be to all tastes if you go for the version with matt-black detailing, but the manual roof is a piece of cake to raise and lower – you could even manage it single-handed if you're dexterous enough – although you can still enjoy the soundtrack with the roof up thanks to the thin fabric top.

Porsche 718 Boxster

The entry point to Porsche ownership is in no way the poor man's choice, especially as prices start from £45k for the most basic version these days. The switch to four-cylinder turbocharged power in 2016 was greeted with raised eyebrows, but Porsche also took the opportunity to enhance the Boxster to make it the best-handling model yet.

There are 2.0 and 2.5-litre engines to choose from in Boxster and Boxster S/GTS models, and while these flat-fours don't have the same engaging engine note as the old flat-six models, there's still some sporty character on show. On the road, the Boxster delivers user-friendly performance, and has a level of ability that will make even the most ham-fisted driver feel like a star at the wheel.

The folding fabric roof opens and closes in around 10 seconds and at speeds of up to 20mph, and when it's closed, there's plenty of insulation to keep the cabin snug. But it's best when the top is down, so you can make the most of the Boxster's sporty character and revel in its fantastic handling.

Rolls-Royce Dawn

BMW has all bases covered when it comes to convertibles, although it has a lot of help from its British sub-brands. While MINI scoops up sales in the supermini sector, at the pinnacle of the new car market, the Rolls-Royce Dawn is the last word in open-top luxury.

The Dawn is a throwback to a time when luxury was hand-crafted and meant the very best materials and engineering were used to deliver a driving experience that was a cut above the norm. With a multi-layered roof and a wide variety of personalisation on offer for buyers, speccing up a Rolls-Royce Dawn is an experience in itself, well before you've got behind the wheel.

Bespoke cars: building your own Rolls-Royce

And when you do get there, you're rewarded with a unique driving experience that is like no other. The big-capacity V12 under the bonnet helps you to waft along in near-silence, yet it has enough performance for this huge four-seater to lift its skirts and bolt for the horizon at unbelievable speeds.

The handling is leisurely rather than razor sharp, but that means you can take time to drink in all the fabulous detailing. From the matching wood veneers and soft leather to the art deco dashboard design, there really isn't anything like a Rolls-Royce Dawn to deliver top-down motoring.

Jaguar F-Type

The successor to the E-Type was a long time coming, but the F-Type delivered the sporty handling and engaging driving experience to do its legendary ancestor justice. Engineers developed the F-Type as a convertible from the beginning, so the roadster version is as sharp to drive as the coupe, but also allows you to revel in the Jag's exhaust note.

Somebody in Jaguar's engineering department is clearly having a laugh, because no other sports car this side of a TVR delivers the kind of noises an F-Type does. There's an aggressive roar when you rev it, pops and bangs on the overrun, and even a special button on the dashboard to make everything even more vocal.

Inside Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works

It doesn't matter whether you go for supercharged V6 or V8 power, it's the same story, and even the Ingenium four-cylinder has a decent go at increasing the grin factor when you floor the throttle.

Even better is the fact the sharp chassis delivers engaging handling that balances with relatively good comfort. Even the top-spec four-wheel drive models have the ability to thrill, making the F-Type the quitessental open-top sports car for driving on a twisting country road on a hot summer's day.

Looking for something to take to the track this summer? Then take a read of our best track day cars page.

Low-carbon E10 petrol could be introduced at UK forecourts
Posted on Friday July 20, 2018

Hugo Griffiths 2018-07-20 11:55

Government launches public consultation on E10 petrol, which could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in new cars

A public consultation has been launched on introducing E10 petrol to the UK marketplace. The fuel, which contains 10 per cent bioethanol compared to the 5 per cent contained within current unleaded, is said to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2 per cent.

But while all new cars sold in the European Union from 2011 must be able to run on E10 petrol, the Government estimates it remains unsuitable for around a million UK cars. E10’s higher bioethanol content can dislodge deposits in older engines and fuel systems, causing blockages, and it can also cause some seals, gaskets, metals and plastics to corrode in unsuitable vehicles.

Petrol or diesel: which is best for your needs?

In recognition of this, the Department for Transport is investigating whether E10 should be introduced to UK petrol stations, and if so, how. Considerations such as labelling – both of E10 petrol and conventional E5 unleaded - are within the consultation’s scope, as is whether normal unleaded should be given a “protection grade”, to “ensure standard petrol remains available at an affordable price”.

However, the 2 per cent reduction in carbon emissions that a switch to E10 petrol would bring has to be taken into consideration alongside petrol consumption, as E10 is thought to decrease economy anywhere from 1.5 to 3 per cent.

Launching the consolation, transport minister Jesse Norman said the Government is “ambitiously” seeking to “cut carbon emissions from transport”, though he stressed “drivers of older vehicles should not be hit hard in the pocket”. Norman said the consultation aimed to “understand the impact of E10 on the UK market better, and to ensure that drivers are protected if any changes come into effect.” The consultation is open now, and closes on 16 September.

Back in 2016, the Energy Select Committee was told the only way for the UK to hit EU renewable energy targets was to introduce E10 petrol. At the time, Jonathan Murray from the Low Carbon Vehicles Partnership told MPs E10 would give the UK "a fighting chance of getting to the target".

Check out the best low emissions green cars on sale today

‘The time has come for car owners to take control of our roads’
Posted on Friday July 20, 2018

Mike Rutherford 2018-07-22 16:00

With the Government proving clueless over diesels, ULEVs and electric cars, we should take a stand, says Mike Rutherford…

Until very recently the Government enthused and incentivised consumers (via scrappage schemes and the like) to purchase diesels. We did exactly that.

Yet shortly after its declaration of fondness for diesel came the war against the fuel. By this stage of the unfunny game the politicians had become smitten with and desperately keen for us to buy relatively expensive 100 per cent-electric vehicles. But we didn’t. Or, to be more precise, we bought and still buy these pure-electric cars in desperately low numbers. Latest figures show 7,441 were registered in the first half of 2018 – fewer than in January-June 2017.

Best low-emissions cars on sale in 2018

Now the Government’s latest obsession is for what it describes as ultra-low-emission vehicles. According to a Gov website I eventually hunted down, ULEVs are “vehicles with pure-electric engines, plug-in hybrid engines or cars with CO2 emissions below 75g/km at tailpipe”.

Or, says the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, they’re vehicles “using low-carbon technologies; emitting less than 75g of CO2 from the tailpipe; capable of operating in zero-tailpipe-emission mode for at least 10 miles”.

Confused? You will be. The Government formally announced just last week that it’ll now settle for “at least 50 per cent” of new car sales being ultra low emission in 2030. But doesn’t that leave the door open for the other half to be medium or high-emission vehicles? And what about its 2040 ban on petrol and diesel? Seems it’s not now going to happen as our leaders have woken up to the fact that petrol-electrics (not pure-electrics) are growing in popularity/sales faster than any other category of vehicle.

Yet another over-ambitious promise our current rulers are set not to deliver is one of the newest that goes: “It’s our intention that all new homes should have a charge point.” Good luck with that when I see mostly tall blocks of flats being built with little or no parking. Presumably residents will need to park on their balconies or in their hanging baskets before plugging in to top up.

Should you buy a new diesel car?

Dafter still is another new Government proposal for “all new street lighting columns to include charging points”. Never mind that lamp posts often sit next to double yellow lines, in pedestrianised zones, on dangerous bends – where parking, not to mention time-consuming recharging, is out of the question.

This and previous Governments have repeatedly shown they just don’t care about cars, roads and drivers. Yet we, the daily vehicle users, do. The time has surely come for the reins to be handed from lethargic politicians to the vehicle owners and drivers who’ve paid for – and therefore own – the road network? We couldn’t be worse at running things than the clueless men and women in Westminster.

What is the UK’s plug-in car grant? Here’s everything you need to know about eligible cars and how much you’ll save

New 2019 BMW 8 Series Convertible spied undisguised
Posted on Friday July 20, 2018

James Brodie 2018-07-20 11:40

Exclusive spy shots show the new BMW 8 Series Convertible without camouflage on photo shoot in Scotland

BMW 8 Series Convertible - spyshot front

BMW’s all-new 8 Series Convertible isn’t due to be officially revealed until the middle of next year, but these exclusive spy shots obtained by Auto Express show the car in all its glory.

The German brand confirmed plans for a new 8 Series family last year; the Coupe was the first model to be shown at the Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race last month. These spy shots reveal that BMW is wasting no time in getting the next member of the 8 Series line-up into its showrooms.

Best convertible cars on sale

Eagle-eyed Auto Express reader Iain Pollo spotted the car being driven around Loch Assynt in Scotland. It’s not the first time the Convertible has been spied on the road, but it’s lost the camouflage used by prototypes in the past, so we can see every line and detail for the first time.

The images clearly show the drop-top version on a secret photo shoot, with the pictures likely to be used for marketing material ahead of the car’s launch.

Even though the Mercedes S-Class Cabriolet rival is around 12 months away from landing in showrooms, it’s clear from the photos that the design is complete and carries over many similarities from the 8 Series Coupe.

The large kidney grille, chiseled front bumper and slim LED headlamps have been lifted over unchanged, while at the back the wide tail-lights and gaping chrome exhausts also remain; those features indicate this particular model is in fact the range-topping M850i.

Previous spy shots have shown the hood is a fabric set-up, meaning folding hard-top roofs are fast becoming a thing of the past. The fabric roof saves weight – crucial given the weight gains due to extra strengthening along the flanks to make up for the reduced structural integrity brought about by the loss of the fixed roof. In all, the drop-top is likely to be around 100kg-125kg heavier than the Coupé, tipping it over the 2,000kg mark.

The M850i model pictured indicates that BMW is likely to mirror the engine line-up from the Coupe. The entry-level Convertible is expected to be the 840d, which will use the brand’s 320bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel motor.

Range-topping M850i variants will be powered by a 530bhp 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8, which, in the Coupe, is capable of delivering a 0-62mph sprint time of 3.7 seconds; that figure is likely to increase to around four seconds due to the additional weight of the Convertible.

All models will use BMW’s xDrive four-wheel-drive system and an eight-speed automatic gearbox; the M850i will also make use of active rear-wheel steering, a sports exhaust and a limited-slip differential on the rear axle.

In the future you can also expect to see a fully-fledged M8 Convertible arrive. The manufacturer has previously indicated there will be a full M version of each 8 Series bodystyle and these will be aimed directly at rival Mercedes-AMG’s line-up of S-Class models. The Convertible will also be followed by a larger and more practical four-door Gran Coupe further down the line.

Elsewhere at BMW, the German brand is undergoing one of the largest model offensives in its history. Before the 8 Series Convertible is officially revealed, the all-new 3 Series Saloon, Z4 roadster and X7 SUV will make their debuts.

Read our BMW 8 Series prototype drive right here...

Long-term test review: Suzuki Swift Sport
Posted on Thursday July 19, 2018

Suzuki Swift Sport long-term test - front
19 Jul, 2018 10:15am Alex Ingram

First report: the Suzuki Swift Sport hot hatch faces a tough interview as it joins our long-term fleet

Mileage: 1,593
Economy: 43.1mpg

A recent study stated that it takes a third of employers just 90 seconds to decide whether or not they’ll offer a candidate a job at an interview. I couldn’t find any specific research into whether the first impressions of a bright yellow Japanese hot hatch are as vital, but I’m sure the principles are much the same.

This is our new Suzuki Swift Sport, and I’ll be running it for the next few months. So has my first encounter left me with the desire to hire, or will I be showing the sporty supermini the door?

Suzuki Swift Sport 2018 review

Well, if its looks are equivalent to a well-crafted cover note, it’s already got my attention. A subtle bodykit, 17-inch alloy wheels and the retina-burning paintjob help an already-handsome car to stand out in a class where style means almost as much as substance.

Inside, the impressions are more mixed. You’re greeted by a pair of body-hugging sports seats which, lovely though they feel, are mounted too high. The steering wheel is nice enough to look at and to hold, but I’d like it to move slightly closer towards me.

In terms of design, the dashboard seems a generation behind other superminis, and thanks to the hard, unforgiving plastic used, it feels it as well. The infotainment system is poor, too: it looks like a cheap aftermarket job and is about as enjoyable to operate.

At five foot seven inches, I rarely make the most of a car’s headroom, but there’s plenty if you need it. Boot space is no match for a Volkswagen Polo’s, at 265 litres, but then the Suzuki is 13cm shorter.

The most important part of the interview process, however, comes in the drive. As with the looks, first impressions are positive; the steering feels well weighted and precise, the pedals are well positioned for heel-and-toe downshifts, and the gearbox, although not as snappy as it could be, is positive.

The Swift’s CV includes a recent road test against the Volkswagen up! GTI and Ford Fiesta ST-Line, where the Suzuki really held its own. Sure, it should feel more playful on the limit and it needs a fruitier exhaust, but our new hot hatch is otherwise very accomplished.

However, there are one or two quirks that are beginning to grate already. The over-reactive autonomous emergency braking system meant I quickly switched it off, but it turns back on again every time you restart the car.

Then there are the brakes: while they’re absolutely fine on the open road, they squeal loudly when I come to a gentle halt. You know, the sort of stop you do countless times during a slow-moving commute into the centre of town. My drive to work, in other words. Marvellous.

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

4
Minor niggles aside, our new Suzuki Swift Sport has flown through its job interview as it joins our fleet. So would we hire it? Absolutely. We’re looking forward to working with it over the coming months.
  • Model: Suzuki Swift Sport
  • On fleet since: June 2018
  • Price new: £17,999
  • Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl petrol, 138bhp
  • CO2/tax: 125g/km/£140
  • Options: None
  • Insurance*: Group: 35, Quote: £350
  • Mileage/economy: 1,593/43.1mpg
  • Any problems?: None so far

Used Volkswagen Scirocco review
Posted on Wednesday July 18, 2018

18 Jul, 2018 4:45pm Richard Dredge

A full used buyer’s guide on the Volkswagen Scirocco covering the Scirocco Mk3 (2008-2017)

Platform sharing is nothing new to Volkswagen. A few months after the Golf arrived in 1974, a stylish three-door alternative popped up: the Scirocco.

A restyled Scirocco was launched in 1981, but when production of that car ceased in 1992, VW mothballed the model. Sixteen years later the Scirocco was revived, based on the Golf Mk5 and looking as stylish as before.

It wasn’t just a pretty face; the car was great to drive, came with some fine engines and gearboxes, and featured VW’s legendary build quality. Brits would go on to buy more Sciroccos than drivers in any other country in Europe. 

Models covered

  • • Volkswagen Scirocco Mk3 (2008-2017) - Hatchback-cum-coupe makes a great sporty alternative to the Golf.

Volkswagen Scirocco Mk3

History

The Scirocco Mk3 arrived in September 2008 with a 197bhp 2.0 TSI petrol the only engine choice, plus manual or auto (DSG) boxes and range-topping GT trim.

Within a month there was a new,  unnamed entry-level spec along with a 158bhp 1.4 TSI petrol engine and a 138bhp 2.0 TDI diesel. A 168bhp 2.0 TDI 170 followed in May 2009, in GT trim only.

The 265bhp Scirocco R arrived in February 2010, alongside the new entry-level 120bhp 1.4 TSI 122. From November 2010 the 2.0 TSI engine got BlueMotion fuel-saving tech as standard. An R-Line trim was launched in April 2012, just as all cars got extra standard kit.

GTS models reached showrooms in January 2013, then a restyled Scirocco arrived in August 2014, with a new dash and more efficient engines.

Volkswagen Scirocco Mk3 reviews

Volkswagen Scirocco in-depth review
Volkswagen Scirocco 1.4 TSI review
Volkswagen Scirocco 2.0 TSI review
Volkswagen Scirocco 2.0 TDI review
Volkswagen Scirocco 2.0 TDI BlueMotion review
Volkswagen Scirocco R-Line review
Volkswagen Scirocco GTS review
Volkswagen Scirocco R in-depth review
Volkswagen Scirocco R review

Which one should I buy?

Diesels are the most frugal, but petrol engines aren’t thirsty (aside from the R) unless driven hard. The DSG box works brilliantly, as does the six-speed manual.

All Sciroccos are well equipped. Base-level cars feature 17-inch alloys, climate control, MP3 connectivity, touchscreen hi-fi, automatic wipers, electric windows and tyre pressure monitoring.

GT models add privacy glass, 18-inch rims and a multifunction steering wheel. Sciroccos with the 122PS 1.4 TSI engine forego Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC), while from late 2012, touchscreen sat-nav and a multifunction steering wheel became standard throughout the range.

The R-Line offers 19-inch wheels, nav, Nappa leather sports seats and a bodykit; the GTS brings a panoramic roof, leather trim and 18-inch alloys.

Alternatives to the Volkswagen Scirocco Mk3

As a cross between a hatchback and a coupe, the Scirocco has few rivals. The Alfa Romeo Brera is one of the closest, and it’s got more character than the VW, but is more flawed. The Audi TT is much more accomplished and focuses more on style than ultimate practicality, although the hatchback means this Golf-based coupe is still very usable.

If you want something that’s great to drive take a look at the BMW 1 Series, while the Peugeot RCZ offers style and usability for relatively little money.

What to look for 

Connectivity

Bluetooth can be awkward to set up, with some phones almost impossible to pair. 

Motor

The 1.4 TSI engine can misfire because of failed coil packs. If left this can lead to damaged pistons.

Electrics

Scirocco is generally reliable, but early cars can suffer glitches which are hard to fix; check everything. 

Moisture

The seals for the front and rear lights can fail, which leads to condensation building up in the housings.

Interior

Clear but lacking flair, the Scirocco’s dash and switchgear are easy to use and well made. The seats offer comfort and support, plus there’s a wide range of adjustment available, but the two rear seats have limited headroom. Boot space isn’t bad at 312 litres (expandable to 1,006 litres with the seats down), but the high lip doesn’t help when loading luggage in. 

Running costs

Buyers can pick from variable or fixed servicing. The former gives up to two years and 18,600 miles between checks; the latter is set at 12 months or 9,300 miles.

After three years services cost £164 (minor) and £329 (major). All Sciroccos, except the 1.4 TSI, need a new cambelt and water pump (£449) every five years; on the 2.0 TSI there’s a 112,000-mile limit and on the 2.0 TDI it’s 130,000 miles. The DSG box requires oil and filters (£179) every four years/40,000 miles.

Recalls

The Scirocco has been recalled four times. The first was in December 2009 for DSG drive-loss problems. Diesel fuel leaks led to a campaign in December 2011. In March 2017, faulty airbags brought a recall, and the most recent issue was in June 2017; the ABS and ESP could fail on cars built up to May 2010. Some Sciroccos were caught up in the diesel emissions recall; enter the reg into tinyurl.com/y7nhdtht to see if a potential buy is affected. 

Driver Power owner satisfaction

The Scirocco made its Driver Power debut in 2011, in 17th place; two years later it had dropped to 60th. Subsequent scores were 59th (in 2014) and 99th (2015) before it disappeared altogether. In that final appearance it was the handling and performance that owners loved the most; surprisingly, practicality was the low spot.

We reckoned that the Scirocco Mk3 was so good that we gave it a maximum five-star rating when we first drove it. We loved the driving position, looks, practicality and the flexible 2.0 TSI engine. If there was a downside it was the generic VW dash that led to some fans thinking that the Scirocco was little more than a dressed-up Golf. But that short-changed the car because it amounted to much more than that thanks to its classier interior, stand-out exterior design and much sharper driving experience. In the decade since it arrived, the Scirocco has also proven to be easy to own, and we reckon it’s still one of the best used sporting hatches you can buy.

DS X E-Tense concept review
Posted on Wednesday July 18, 2018

DS X E-Tense concept - front
18 Jul, 2018 4:00pm James Batchelor

We get behind the wheel of the DS X E-Tense concept in France

Concept cars fulfill an important role for any self respecting car manufacturer. Often they’re little more than a showcase for the type of design future models will be wearing, but the DS X E-Tense from DS Automobiles is a little different.

DS says the X E-Tense is a preview of the types of cars we may be buying in 2035; and it’s not just a static dream as the car actually drives. Keen to see what the future may be like in just 15 years time, Auto Express was invited to a secret military base in France to go for a spin.  

You’ll have noticed by now that the car looks a little bizarre. While most concepts are perfectly proportioned, the X E-Tense is asymmetrical. “We designed it like this because we wanted to emphasis the dual purpose nature,” DS’s design director, Thierry Metroz, tells us. “The X E-Tense is all-electric and it’s fully-autonomous too, but we think people will still want to drive.”

So, one half of the car is designed to be driven with a conventional steering wheel and pedals, but the other is a separate cocoon where you sit, maybe with a passenger thanks to a little fold-out seat, when you want to be driven. In the cocoon there’s an armchair-like seat trimmed in red leather and feathers, a coffee machine, a high-end Focal sound system, a B.R.M clock and a glass floor to see the road underneath. “I see autonomous driving as a way of letting us switch off and take pleasure from travelling, not as a chance to work on the move,” smiles Metroz. 

The styling may look slightly absurd in images, but in the metal it seems to work. Metroz tells us the idea was to make the X E-Tense look a little like a motorcycle and side-car, and while it is forward-looking, in true concept car style there are a few features that will feature on future DS models. 

The studded grille is set to appear on the next but one DS – likely to be the new DS 4 hatchback – and future models will have less chrome trim. “Chrome is over,” proclaims Metroz. “The DS 7 will be one of the last to have so much chrome. It’s not as premium-looking as it used to be, that’s why the X E-Tense just has little chrome wings on the grille.”

Along with the grille the X E-Tense’s headlight design will appear on future DSs too, likely to be within the next five years. Metroz calls it a ‘light veil’ and it’s made up of 1,500 LEDs spread over the lower part of the car. Day-running lights and indicators wash over the surface while at the bumper’s leading edge, five ultra bright LEDs act as the headlights. At the rear there’s a similar arrangement but those ‘veils’ also display the different energy-recovery phases.    

As it’s a glimpse into the future, there’s no supercharged V8 under the bodywork but an all-electric powertrain. In fact, it’s not just any normal powertrain but one pinched from this year’s DS Virgin Racing’s Formula E car, mounted in a bespoke, carbon fibre chassis and tweaked by DS Performance – the sporting arm of DS Automobiles.

DS claims the batteries and motors can spool up 540bhp in road use and 1,360 on the track. But the reality is on the day we tested the car, it had the same power output of the Formula E racer, so around 200bhp.

We’re not allowed to get behind the wheel but instead take to the passenger seat. There’s little time to get comfortable in the seat and pour a coffee though as the driver – unrecognisable thanks to a helmet that mimics the front of the car – takes full advantage of a closed-off runway and attacks a series of slaloms. Road holding is excellent with just a whiff of understeer and body roll, but the overriding sensation is speed.

Thanks to that Formula E powertrain, the X E-Tense is lightening fast off the mark, and the glass floor enhances the gut-wrenching acceleration. The sight of the road rushing between your feet emphasises the speed but also it’s the noise – it sounds part Star Wars, part Second World War air-raid siren.

We can return to this article in 15 years time and either sagely nod our heads at Metroz and his team’s foresight at motoring in the year 2035, or laugh at the ambitious absurdity of it all. Either way the DS X E-Tense is an interesting, smile-inducing car that, more than anything, adds a little fire to the fledgling DS Automobiles brand.

Is this really how we will be driving in 2035? Who knows? The DS X E-Tense is a fanciful vision of what cars could be like in the future. On a practical level the X E-Tense is a tangible link to DS’s efforts in the world of Formula E, as beneath the wacky concept it’s based on the firm’s Formula E racer. But on a simply amusing level, it’s a well-made, exciting idea of not just a car of the future, but also where the fledgling DS brand is heading.

New Maserati Levante 2018 review
Posted on Wednesday July 18, 2018

Maserati Levante - front
18 Jul, 2018 12:45pm Alex Ingram

The Maserati Levante is a well-rounded performance SUV, but this diesel is the weakest engine in the range…

The idea of an iconic Italian marque like Maserati building an SUV seemed horrifying as far back as… Well, mid-2016, when the Levante became a production reality.

But opinions have turned in favour of a market that Maserati simply couldn’t ignore. The 2019 Model Year brings the second round of updates since the Levante’s launch, but can the tweaks turn it into a Porsche Cayenne beater?

New Maserati Levante gains 346bhp V6 engine

The good news is that there’s more choice than ever. UK buyers had to make do with a rather un-Maserati-like V6 diesel at launch, but a 424bhp V6 petrol ‘S’ was introduced last year, and now a 345bhp petrol joins them. The new V6 twin-turbo costs from £61,425 - roughly £3k more than the diesel.

There’s also a pair of V8s: a 542bhp GTS and the flagship Trofeo, which packs an additional 40bhp and a 189mph top speed. While UK bosses are keen to offer the GTS, sales here are still unconfirmed. Electrification will feature in Maserati’s future, too.

The entry-level V6s are offered in three trim levels: Levante, GranLusso and GranSport. The GranSport gets new, more aggressive front and rear bumpers inspired by the Trofeo, and rides on 20-inch alloy wheels. The GranLusso is the more luxurious alternative, featuring more chrome trim and 19-inch wheels. LED Matrix lights are available for the first time, and there are two new paint colours. The dark blue shown in these pictures is one of them, and features a glass flake which gives a spectacular sparkle in sunlight.

Inside, there’s a new gear selector, tweaked switchgear, and new trim inserts. It’s nothing radical – so as before it’s a mix of the sublime and the ridiculous. The aluminium shift paddles, soft leather, and electrically adjustable pedals are wonderful, but things like the shonky cup holder lid let the side down.

The 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system has received attention, but the systems from BMW and Porsche look prettier and are easier to use. It does benefit from Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, though.

For a car that’s longer and wider than a Porsche Cayenne, it’s not as spacious as you’d expect, either - rear seat knee room and boot space lag well behind the Porsche. There’s no seven-seat option either, which leaves it trailing alongside flashier versions of the Land Rover Discovery and Audi Q7.

Little separates the latest Levante from the old one out on the road, and that’s a good thing. It may weigh comfortably over two tonnes, but that mass is kept in brilliant control; that it does so while maintaining such a soft, yielding ride makes it all the more impressive. The steering, though electrically assisted, is precise and well-weighted, and there’s loads of grip.  In normal driving, 100 per cent of the drive is sent to the back wheels, with power only sent to the fronts when slip is detected.

That slip is kept in check thanks to the introduction of Integrated Vehicle control. First seen on the Ghibli, it’s an ESP system that works proactively rather than reactively against a loss of grip, meaning intervention is so progressive it’s almost seamless. It’s a smart system, but one drivers will rarely benefit from on public roads.

The 3.0-litre diesel driven here remains unchanged. It delivers decent performance, and even sounds fairly smooth by diesel standards. Unfortunately, when against such wonderful Ferrari-developed V6 petrol alternatives - both faster and more tuneful - it’s tough to recommend.

Sure, the diesel is more frugal, but is that why you choose a Maserati? It’d be like pairing your hiking boots with a smart three piece suit – simply because those handcrafted Italian loafers wear out too quickly.

3
Desirable, great to drive and comfortable, the Levante is a well-rounded performance SUV. The expanding range is hitting its stride in its third year, but the introduction of a more affordable V6 petrol makes this diesel harder to recommend than ever. Unless you cover big distances on a regular basis, this is the weakest engine in the range.
  • Model: Maserati Levante Diesel GranLusso
  • Price: £66,315
  • Engine: 3.0-litre, turbocharged V6 diesel
  • Power/torque: 271bhp/600Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 6.8 seconds
  • Top speed: 143mph
  • Economy/CO2: 34.0mpg/207g/km

Volkswagen Golf R vs Honda Civic Type R
Posted on Wednesday July 18, 2018

2018-07-18 12:15

New Volkswagen Golf R Performance pack meets the class-leading Honda Civic Type R in a hot hatch battle

Volkswagen Golf R vs Honda Civic Type R - header

The current Volkswagen Golf R has been the hottest model in the accomplished hatchback range since it arrived in showrooms in 2014, but it’s just got even hotter with the addition of a new Performance pack, plus some fruitier options, such as a high-performance exhaust.

However, it’s only available on cars equipped with the DSG auto box. Also, the Performance pack costs £2,300 on top of the five-door Golf R’s £34,910 list price, so VW has a job on its hands to secure victory as the newcomer meets the current best hot hatch you can buy: Honda’s Civic Type R.

• Best hot hatchbacks on sale

As standard the Japanese model is more driver-focused than the Golf R, and it happens to be cheaper as well. So can the upgraded hot Golf beat the best car in its class? 

Head-to-head

Model: Volkswagen Golf R DSG Performance pack 5dr Honda Civic Type R GT
Price:  £37,210 (inc. £2,300 Performance pack) £33,525
Engine:  2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
Power/torque: 306bhp/400Nm 316bhp/400Nm
Transmission:  Seven-speed DSG automatic, four-wheel drive   Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive 
0-60mph: 4.6 seconds 5.9 seconds
Top speed: 166mph 169mph
Test economy: 31.0mpg 31.2mpg
CO2/tax:  163g/km/£140 176g/km/£140
Options:  Met. paint (£635), Akrapovic exhaust (£2,975), Dynaudio stereo (£550), keyless entry & go (£375), Dynamic Chassis Control (£850), Lane Assist Plus (£1,225) None

Volkswagen Golf R

For: Blistering performance, highly capable chassis, good to live with every day.
Against: Expensive, Performance pack doesn’t add enough, not as engaging to drive as the Civic.

The Golf R has been around since 2014, and was updated early in 2017 along with the rest of the Golf range. But this is the first time it’s been available with a Performance pack.

The option adds £2,300 to the price of the R, and brings new 19-inch alloys with wider tyres, bigger brakes and a boot spoiler that increases downforce. The pack also removes the Golf’s top-speed limiter, so it can now hit 166mph, although that’s obviously irrelevant on the road.

There’s no power upgrade, and the 2.0-litre 306bhp/400Nm engine remains unchanged. Its performance is still very impressive, and it feels brutally quick off the line thanks to its four-wheel-drive system and quick-shifting dual-clutch box.

It easily beat the Honda in our 0-60mph test, but in gear the Golf started to fall behind. From 30-50mph in fourth the two hot hatches were level, posting times of 3.4 seconds, while from 50-70mph in fifth the Golf was slightly slower.

The engine isn’t as exciting as the Honda’s revvier unit and produces its power and torque lower down in the rev range. That means it’s easy to access the performance without pushing the engine hard, but the Civic’s motor is more rewarding to use. That’s also down to the gearbox, which, while fast, is nowhere near as much fun as the sublime manual shift in the Honda.

Our test car’s titanium Akrapovic exhaust goes some way to adding excitement to the Golf’s less characterful engine, because it’s loud and has a racy tone. Yet it’s also a pricey option, at £2,975.

The VW’s steering is precise, but doesn’t have the quicker response rate of the Honda’s rack and feels a little light. Still, the plentiful grip from the chassis gives lots of confidence and the Golf is very easy to drive very fast. But unless you take it on track days often, the Performance pack doesn’t seem worth the extra cash. This car feels very similar to the normal Golf R on the road, although the upgraded brakes are strong.

The most important option to go for is the £850 Dynamic Chassis Control system. This allows you to change the suspension settings between Comfort, Normal and Sport modes.
In Comfort and Normal it’s still firm but compliant, so it’s just as usable as the Type R on British roads. Sport mode is still able to deal with harsh bumps without upsetting the chassis, and doesn’t feel as aggressive as the Civic’s +R mode.

Whatever driving mode you’re in, the Golf R feels planted to the road, and only when pushed hard will it start to skip over rough tarmac. 

Testers’ notes

  • • Display: Golf’s infotainment is among the best; it’s easy to use and looks modern. It comes as standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, too.
  • • Dashboard: Simple, clean layout looks upmarket and is really easy to use as well.
  • • Gearbox: Golf R Performance pack is DSG only; it’s a shame because the manual is more fun to drive. 

Honda Civic Type R

 

For: Sharp handling and engaging dynamics, strong practicality, beautiful gearbox.
Against: Poor infotainment, off-putting interior design, divisive exterior styling. 

The Honda Civic Type R name has been around for more than 20 years, but this latest version is arguably the best ever, despite missing out on the high-revving VTEC action found in older cars. While the current 2.0-litre turbo isn’t an all-time great, the motor produces 316bhp and 400Nm of torque, making this fastest Civic ever built incredibly quick.

The Type R took 5.9 seconds to reach 60mph from a standstill in our track tests, which was 1.3 seconds slower than the Golf. That’s down to the VW’s launch control system and four-wheel-drive powertrain,  which deliver a perfect getaway every time.

But the Civic went from 30-70mph through the gears in just 4.3 seconds – only three tenths behind the Golf, and again that’s down to the VW’s drivetrain – because its DSG gearbox shifts faster than it’s possible to with the manual in the Civic. There’s no doubt that you’ll have more fun in the Honda, though, because the Type R’s gearshift is slick, mechanical and feels great to use, involving you more.

In third gear the Type R took just 2.2 seconds to go from 30-50mph, two tenths faster than the Golf R, and it went from 50-70mph in fifth five tenths quicker than its rival as well. With a rolling start, the Honda’s higher power and lower weight mean it’s the quicker of the two.

Together with its brilliant limited-slip diff, the Civic’s acceleration out of corners is explosive. As you get on the power the Type R tightens its line, and the chassis can match what the engine offers. The Golf R’s electronic diff and four-wheel-
drive traction mean it also corners at incredible pace, but it’s not as engaging as the Honda. The Type R’s steering is more communicative, and it’s enjoyable to thread through corners, whether you’re pushing hard or driving more gently.

There’s more character from the Civic’s engine than the Golf’s flat but effective unit; the strong mid-range torque delivers incredible pull, and the motor’s frantic nature at high revs means it’s enjoyable to push right up to the red line, which is relatively rare for a turbocharged motor.

The Type R’s standard adaptive dampers offer Comfort, Sport and +R modes. There’s so little body roll in Sport that it’s not necessary to use the even stiffer +R mode on the road, but select this on track and the Civic resists roll even better. In Comfort it’s on par with the VW’s softer setting, with a quite surprising level of compliance that makes the Honda a genuinely usable hot hatch. 

Testers’ notes

  • • Infotainment: On-screen interface is confusing to use at best and can be hard to operate on the go; we prefer to use standard Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
  • • Gearbox: There’s no auto option, but manual’s shift action is close to perfect. It’s a link back to previous Type Rs, too.
  • • Seats: Supportive seats are sporty but comfortable. They add a racy feel to the interior. 

Verdict

First place: Honda Civic Type R

As an all-round proposition the Type R is the better hot hatch, and it’s cheaper than the VW. It’s quicker in gear, sharper, more capable and more involving in corners, plus it’s relatively comfortable and has better practicality. The only real drawback is its infotainment system.

Second place: Volkswagen Golf R

The Golf R Performance pack blends huge performance with usability and comfort in an everyday package – but so does the standard Golf R. The pack is pricey and doesn’t add enough to beat the Civic to hot hatch glory; the Honda is more practical and more fun to drive.

New VinFast SUV and saloon to launch at Paris Motor Show
Posted on Wednesday July 18, 2018

Hugo Griffiths 2018-07-18 11:45

Paris Motor Show to host brand-new Vietnamese carmaker, showcasing new Pininfarina-styled models to go on sale in 2019

VinFast, a brand-new Vietnamese car company, is to launch its first ever models at the Paris Motor Show in October.

The as-yet unnamed saloon and SUV will go on sale in Vietnam in September 2019, with the company planning to launch in other markets in the coming years.

2018 Paris Motor Show preview

Details of the models’ technical specifications are noticeably absent at present, but VinFast has commissioned Italian car design firm Pininfarina to style them. The images released by VinFast show both the SUV and saloon have distinctive radiator grilles, with a V-shaped motif formed by a pair of swooping LED running lights.

The computer-rendered images show the saloon (above) to have swollen rear arches reminiscent of the Maserati Ghibli, and a front end that echoes the Levante, while the SUV’s design (below) calls to mind models as diverse as the Volvo XC40, Subaru Tribeca and Citroen C5 Aircross.

Whatever their design cues may be, the two cars were developed following a vote by Vietnamese members of the public, who were given a range of models to choose from. VinFast hopes launching the two cars at Paris will “significantly raise the profile of the brand”.

VinFast says its SUV and saloon will offer “Vietnamese spirit, Italian design and German technology”, promising they will meet international standards for dynamics, in-car features and ownership.

The company is in the advanced stages of constructing a huge 898-acre factory in northern Vietnam. For scale, Ford’s Dagenham plant rests on 475 acres – though VW’s Wolfsburg plant covers 1,600 acres.

VinFast is a subsidiary of Vingroup, a Vietnamese real estate conglomerate with interests as diverse as healthcare, education, farming, shopping malls and holiday resorts. VinFast’s chief executive, James DeLuca, says the company has “the resources, scalability and commitment to become a significant new player in the global automotive industry”.

What do you think of the VinFast saloon and SUV? Tell us in the comments section below…

“Car makers haven’t forgotten how to keep us grinning”
Posted on Wednesday July 18, 2018

Steve Fowler 2018-07-18 11:30

Steve Fowler thinks that sprinkling a little RS, ST, GTI or Type R fun-dust on electric cars could mean happy days ahead

Hot hatches – opinion

Let's face it, this year hasn’t exactly been one that’s focused on what we love most about our cars; their ability to put a smile on our faces. So this week we’re delighted to have a fun-packed issue that proves the car makers haven’t forgotten how to keep us grinning behind the wheel.

And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing with some of the best hot hatchbacks we’ve ever driven. The joy of turning what is otherwise a run-of-the-mill hatch into something that can thrill on even the most mundane trip to the shops (and then handle the groceries when you get there, too) is something we Brits have been enjoying for years.

JLR doesn't know if it can remain British after a hard Brexit

So it’s great to finally get the latest Renault Sport Mégane on to UK roads against two of our current favourite hot hatches – Honda’s Civic Type R and the constantly surprising Hyundai i30 N

Like the cars on which they’re based, these cars offer more quality, tech and ability than ever before – at a higher price than ever before. Which is why we’ve also loved driving Ford’s Fiesta ST in the UK this week.

Ford has long been a master of affordable fun and the new ST is exactly that. It’s no less enjoyable than its more expensive brethren (arguably more so), but at a fraction of the price. It’s Ford at its best.

Even SUVs are getting in on the act, with the new BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupé proving that you can still have fun sitting a little higher up.

One of the most exciting revelations this week came from Skoda. We’ve loved its fast vRS models and there are more to come, along with the prospect of eRS all-electric models. Electric cars can be entertaining anyway; sprinkle a little RS, ST, GTI, Type R or N fun-dust on them and we’ve got more happy days ahead.

Are you excited about the prospect of driving an electric hot hatch? Let us know on the comments below...

New Audi TT S 2018 review
Posted on Wednesday July 18, 2018

Audi TT S - front
18 Jul, 2018 1:15pm Richard Ingram

The Audi TT S is fast, refined and beautifully built, but can it match the Porsche 718 Cayman or BMW M240i?

Near enough 20 years ago to the day, Audi launched the original TT at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The firm refers to it as an emblem of 20th century automotive design; it was an icon of its time, and still turns heads today.

Over the past two decades Audi has built more than 600,000 TTs. It still has a huge following in the UK and around the world – so four years after the third-generation car hit showrooms, Audi has given it a mid-life refresh.

Best sports cars 2018

The changes are predictably light. Save some new Matrix LED headlights, tweaked bumpers and OLED rear lamps on top-spec cars, the new TT is visually identical to the old one. Unless you opt for one of the three new colours, that is.

Inside, the updates are even harder to spot. There are new inlay options and a set of Super Sports seats on S line cars, but that’s about it. A new ‘TT 20 Years’ special edition has been launched, however, which adds Moccasin Brown leather trim. UK prices and specs will be announced when the range goes on sale in the autumn.

Elsewhere, the rapid decline of diesel in the coupe segment means there’s no longer the option of a TT TDI. The range now comprises a pair of TFSI petrols and the flagship (for now) TT S quattro. A five-cylinder 400bhp+ TT RS will arrive next year.

Our first drive opportunity came courtesy of the TT S – although with ‘just’ 302bhp, it’s not as potent as it was before. This is due to a new emissions-limiting petrol particulate filter. Torque is up 20Nm (now 400Nm), however, which helps cut the car’s 0-62mph by one tenth of a second.

But the way the TT S delivers its shove is quite typical of a fast Audi. While it’s undeniably quick, it never feels that urgent. Power is sent to the tarmac via the firm’s venerable quattro all-wheel drive system – delivering extraordinary grip on all surfaces and in all conditions.

New facelifted Audi TT revealed

It can’t match the outgoing TT RS for aural excitement, and it lacks the drama of a BMW M240i. A Porsche 718 Cayman is more rewarding, too, but despite the dip in power, the TT’s four-cylinder turbocharged engine and dual-clutch auto box are as effective as ever; this German coupe is an incredibly easy car to drive quickly.

While there isn’t much feel through the light steering, turn-in is sharp. It’s an amazingly agile car, in fact, and felt more than at home over the complex elevation, tight hairpins and sweeping bends of the Isle of Man TT course. This is helped by the exemplary body control, but the ride is firm – especially on our car’s 20-inch wheels.

Of course, alongside all this composure, you still get a carefully crafted and beautifully trimmed cabin. While the Virtual Cockpit set-up may not be to all tastes, it’s intuitive enough to use from the driver’s seat. Just don’t ask your passenger to change the radio station or sat-nav destination.

Those digital dials are now available with a new Sport display option. It’s standard on the TT S but an optional extra on TFSI cars – allowing the driver to prioritise core information such as power, torque and G-force. The centralised rev counter set-up is usually reserved for RS models, but works well here, too.

Anyone concerned with practicality shouldn’t immediately write off the TT, though. Adults will be understandably uncomfortable in the back, but there’s a decent boot with a tall hatchback opening. There are a couple of cubbies in the cabin and small door bins, too.

3.5
The Audi TT S is a fast, refined and beautifully built premium coupe – albeit one that ultimately lacks any kind of character. It’s not as exciting as a Porsche 718 Cayman or rewarding as a BMW M240i, instead sitting as a more style-focused and composed sports coupe. The TT S is hard to fault, but hard to recommend at this price; for that reason you may be better off with the cheaper 194bhp entry-level model.
  • Model: Audi TT S
  • Price: £45,000 (est)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
  • Power/torque: 302bhp/400Nm
  • Transmission: Seven-speed auto, four-wheel drive
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • 0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
  • Fuel economy/CO2: 40mpg (est), 165g/km (est)
  • On sale: Autumn

LEGO James Bond Aston Martin DB5 launches with ejector seat
Posted on Wednesday July 18, 2018

Hugo Griffiths 2018-07-18 10:07

LEGO pays homage to James Bond with one-eighth scale Goldfinger-inspired DB5; front machine guns and bullet-proof rear shield also feature

James Bond’s seminal Aston Martin DB5, featured in the film Goldfinger, is the latest car to get the LEGO treatment. 

The LEGO Creator Expert James Bond Aston Martin DB5, to give the model its full name, features many of the Goldfinger car’s gadget hallmarks. Once built, you’ll find a working ejector seat, revolving number plates, ‘tyre scythes’ that emerge from the wheels’ centre nuts, and a bullet-proof screen that rises from behind the rear windscreen.

• LEGO Technic Chiron revealed

The LEGO DB5’s bonnet, boot and doors open, while other details include a radar screen, wing-mounted machine guns and a hidden telephone.

Comprising 1,290 pieces, the Bond DB5 is 34cm long, 12cm wide, 10cm tall and wears the ‘Expert’ label from LEGO’s Creator range, itself designed to “evoke feelings of nostalgia, romance and adventure.”

The model is finished in the same ‘Silver Birch’ colour as Bond’s Aston, complete with lacquered front and rear bumpers and wire-wheel rim inserts. It’s billed as being an “authentic replica” with the same “smooth curves and sleek edges” as the original car.

LEGO has a history of linking up with high-end car makers. The recently-launched LEGO Technic Chiron, for example, features a moving 16-cylinder engine and eight-speed gearbox, while the Porsche 911 GT3 RS offers building fans similar levels of complexity.

To celebrate the model’s launch, LEGO is offering fans the chance to win a trip to the 007 Elements exhibition in Solden, Austria. Located 3,000 metres above sea level in a Bond villain-style lair built at the top of a snow-covered mountain, the 007 Elements show features a range of “high-tech, interactive galleries” evoking the atmosphere of a Bond film.

The LEGO Creator Expert James Bond Aston Martin DB5 is on sale now in LEGO stores and online, priced at £129.99.

Will you be buying the LEGO James Bond Aston Martin DB5? Let us know below...

New Mazda 6 2018 facelift review
Posted on Tuesday July 17, 2018

New Mazda 6 2018 facelift review front
17 Jul, 2018 7:15pm James Brodie

Mazda's 6 gets another refresh with cabin quality and tech boosts but it's still the sharp drive that stands out

The Mazda 6 has been around for a while now, so much so that this is actually the second time the Japanese firm’s flagship saloon has been updated in the UK following a mild facelift in 2015.

Despite its age relative to fresher competition like the Volkswagen Passat and Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport, it’s still a car we rate quite highly, thanks mostly to the fact that it’s still one of the best saloons to drive outside of the Audi, BMW and Mercedes premium benchmarks. 

Best family cars to buy now

Take a glance at the new Mazda 6 for 2018, and very little changes design wise from the outside. You’ll probably notice the new grille, which is deeper set and shinier than before with a new mesh, while updated headlights surrounded by a bit more chrome appear too. A few minor changes appear at the back in the form of a subtly redesigned rear bumper and bootlid, but the big news with this facelift is found in the cabin and under the bonnet – the interior has been refreshed again, while a new 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine joins the Mazda 6’s power roster. 

The fresh unit isn’t all that new, and is already equipped in the huge CX-9 SUV we don’t get in Britain, plus the smaller CX-5 in certain global markets. It seems to fly in the face of the current downsizing and turbocharging trends as well – 2.0 litres is as big as nearly all the Mazda’s four-cylinder rivals go. Given that this is a naturally aspirated engine too, there’s a definite old-school feel to the proposition.

What isn’t old-school is the cylinder-deactivation technology this engine is equipped with. Between 25mph and 50mph, two cylinders can drop out of operation to save fuel. It feels well executed, and you’ll struggle to notice the times when the engine is running at half its capacity. Claiming 42.2mpg on the combined cycle – about 34mpg in the real world– it isn’t actually that much thirstier than the smaller 2.0-litre petrol options Mazda offers as a result. 

We’d still probably opt for the smaller engine though. Despite having 191bhp on tap, this 2.5-litre unit musters up just 258Nm of torque – not a huge figure in these turbocharged times. Out of its peak spot around 4,000rpm it doesn’t feel significantly faster than the cheaper 163bhp, 213Nm 2.0-litre car, which revs out more sweetly too. Two turbocharged 2.2-litre diesel options will cater for buyers seeking pulling power. They’ll arrive in September, equipped with selective catalytic reduction via a tank of Adblue, with the most powerful version now developing 181bhp and 445Nm of torque.

The 2.5-litre is at least smooth and quiet when cruising along, only becoming vocal if you stand on the throttle. As such, it’s an easy car to live with on the motorway. The six-speed automatic equipped on our car didn’t seem slow-witted in any way, but the Mazda 6’s standard six-speed manual is slick to shift, and probably worth sticking with for most. 

Mazda has revised the steering and suspension on the updated car in a bid to keep it at the front of the pack for driving fun. You’d probably have to drive old and new back to back to find the difference, but regardless, the Mazda 6 is still a top saloon for drivers. Accomplished, sharp steering makes placing it around bends a joy, and while the suspension set-up is slightly firmer than rivals, costing it points for comfort around town, there’s a real fluency to the way this car flows down a B-road. 

In the cabin, a tiny redesign of the centre console layout, now with a smaller panel for climate control buttons, results in a decluttered environment. On high spec GT Sport Nav+ cars like ours it feels pretty premium in there too, solidly built and using nice materials including Nappa leather and real wood trim. Space for four adults is good, though the middle seat in the rear is tight and hampered by the transmission tunnel. With 480 litres of space there are more practical saloons out there, but it’s still big enough for daily life, and folding the rear bench to open up more room is simple.

Elsewhere, on high spec cars a seven-inch colour display is integrated into the instrument panel – lower down the range, cars stick with analogue dials. It’s not quite a system to rival the full width digital panels in rivals like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit set-up, but it’s sharp, and a welcome addition on the tech side of things. The infotainment display grows to eight inches with this facelift and it remains an easy system to use. It still crucially lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility but we’re told both will be available as options later. 

A head up display is now standard on all models though, and most versions are well equipped for the money. Mazda has increased the amount of safety and assistance features fitted by default too, with blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, radar cruise control, lane keep assist and autonomous emergency braking fitted across the range.

3.5
The refreshed Mazda 6 is still a fine family saloon, retaining its clear dynamic edge over the Volkswagen Passat. While being great to drive, it also takes the fight to the VW from a quality standpoint, thanks to its smartly updated and much more modern feeling cabin. This new 2.5-litre engine option isn’t our pick of the range though, and petrol buyers should stick to the more cost effective but sweeter 2.0-litre car instead. It's comfortably a four star car in the right spec.
  • Model: Mazda 6 Saloon 2.5 GT Sport Nav+ Automatic
  • Price: £30,795
  • Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol
  • Power/torque: 191bhp/258Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive
  • 0-62mph/Top speed: 8.1s/138mph
  • Economy/CO2: 42.2mpg/153g/km
  • On sale: Now

What is BMW iDrive?
Posted on Tuesday July 17, 2018

Dean Gibson 2018-07-17 17:16

BMW's iDrive in-car control and infotainment system explained: what it does and how to use it

BMW 5 Series long termer - first report iDrive

With in-car technology becoming more advanced, it's vital that the driver stays in control at all times. That's why BMW created iDrive, a control system designed to allow the driver to change a variety of settings without it becoming a distraction from the task of driving.

The iDrive controller has become synonymous with in-car control systems, and even though other car companies have created their own systems (Audi's MMI and Mercedes's COMAND systems are similar in their design), iDrive is starting to become the name people associate with these set-ups.

Infotainment systems reviewed

But what exactly does iDrive do? Well, when BMW first introduced iDrive on the 7 Series limo in 2001, it created a system that put all of the cabin control functions in one place. There's a central dashboard screen displaying information on navigation, audio and telephone settings, which is controlled via a control wheel that's located next to the gear lever. Over time, BMW has developed and enhanced the iDrive system, and today it's one of the most intuitive and user-friendly cabin controllers on the market.

Initially, iDrive itself was seen as too fiddly and a distraction from driving by many people, as it required the driver to look away from the road to ensure the controller was selecting the right menu or sub-menu on the screen. But as with any new technology, once you get used to how the system works, and as BMW has developed iDrive over time, it soon becomes second nature. On the whole, users of iDrive are likely to spend less time distracted by the system than they would with a touchscreen set-up.

In time, BMW developed the iDrive system to become more user-friendly, adding shortcut keys around the rotary controller, while voice control has added another level of user-friendliness to the system.

How does iDrive it work?

The latest version of BMW iDrive in its simplest form features a rotary controller that rotates clockwise and anti-clockwise, can be moved forwards, backwards, left and right, and presses down like a computer mouse to select an option. On more advanced versions of iDrive, the top of the control wheel also doubles as a touchpad for writing characters, although this only works well in a right hand-drive car if you're left-handed or dexterous enough to write characters clearly with your left hand – otherwise you might be better off with the voice control system instead.

As well as the rotary controller, there's a group of buttons at its base that are shortcut keys to sections of the iDrive system. These can send you straight to navigation, audio, telephone and car set-up screens without having to navigate back to the home screen – although there's also a shortcut to get you straight back there.

Next generation BMW iDrive infotainment revealed

Press these buttons, and the display on the centre console will switch to the selected option, allowing you to use the iDrive controller to scroll up and down to select your preferred option. Selecting these is likely to offer up more sub-menus, and while it might be easy to get lost within the menus, it's good to know the shortcut buttons are there to get you back to the start if necessary.

When you have the navigation selected, the iDrive controller allows you to zoom in and out of the map, while sliding the controller from side-to-side will allow you to look at your surroundings. It also allows you to easily change the point of view of the map, from 2D to 3D and perspective styles, while BMWs with a larger infotainment screen can even have a split-screen view that allows you to have detailed junction information alongside the standard map screen.

BMW 420d M Sport - front action

On more advanced models with 360-degree cameras, the iDrive system allows you to select which cameras you want to view, zoom in and out, and change from narrow to wide-angle views.

Ironically, BMW has now started offering touchscreen infotainment systems on some of its cars, although usually this comes in conjunction with an iDrive controller. However, we think the latest iDrive control system is the best yet, because once you've taken some time to familiarise yourself with the system, it's pretty easy to use. What's more, it doesn't leave grubby fingerprints on the screen.

iDrive problems

Of course, technology such as iDrive won't be to all tastes, but the latest systems should at least be reliable. Past versions of iDrive had problems with screens going blank, the sat-nav not functioning properly and the inability to read CDs. These faults were down to the connections between the car and the iDrive system, but later models use a different set-up that should be more reliable.

If you go to a BMW dealer, they will probably charge a small fortune to get an iDrive unit replaced if you're out of warranty. But there are a number of independent outlets that claim to be able to get your iDrive system working properly again through repair, although our advice is to only go to a recommended garage and preferably a BMW specialist, and only do so once your BMW is out of warranty.

New BMWs should be easier to fix if you're having problems, and you can expect your next BMW service to also include a software update to ensure all systems on board are working properly.

Which infotainment system do you rate the highest? Let us know in the comments below...

 


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