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In the News ...

Tesla to axe 3,000 jobs in a bid to boost profits
Posted on Friday January 18, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-01-18 17:45

The American electric car firm will cut seven percent of its workforce, following its meagre profits in the second half of 2018

Tesla Factory Tour - production line

In a letter to his staff, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has announced that his company will be reducing its full-time workforce by seven per cent, retaining only the most critical temporary staff and contractors, in a bid to improve its revenue.

Tesla has suffered a string of financial setbacks, with a series of production bottlenecks limiting the number of cars sold. The company only managed to eke out a four per cent profit margin in Q3 of 2018. Q4 proved to be more financially taxing, with Musk confirming an even narrower profit margin.

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The EV manufacturer’s workforce was 45,000 employees-strong by the end of 2018 (growing by 30 percent over the previous year), which Musk says is more than the company can support. As a result, Tesla will trim 3,000 jobs.

In addition to the workforce cuts, Tesla will also increase the base-spec Model 3’s production rate, in an effort to lower its retail price. By increasing its scale of production, and automating more of its manufacture, Tesla hopes to finally reach the Model 3’s promised retail price of $35,000 (around £27,000), which it has failed to achieve since the model’s launch.

What are your thoughts on Tesla’s workforce cuts? Let us know in the comments section below…


Ford Transit Custom Nugget campervan pitches up
Posted on Friday January 18, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-01-18 17:09

Unveiled at the 2019 Brussels Motor Show, the Ford Transit Custom Nugget boasts an attic bedroom and its own indoor toilet

Ford Transit Custom Nugget - roof raised

This is the Ford Transit Custom Nugget. Converted by Ford’s specialist motorhome partner, Westfalia, the Nugget is available in either short or long wheelbase, and comes with its own kitchenette, a living and dining area and sleeping accommodation in its roof extension.

Standard amenities include a double-burner gas hob, a sink, a refrigerator, an outdoor shower, rear privacy glass with flip-out windows and an auxiliary heater for use when the camper is parked. The Nugget also has two 42-litre water-storage tanks for fresh and waste-water respectively.

• 2018 Ford Transit Custom review

Long wheel-base models are around 37cms longer than the standard camper, adding space for a larger wardrobe, an extra washbasin and a built-in toilet, situated at the rear of the vehicle.

The front two seats can swivel through 180 degrees to face the rear, allowing for up to five people to be seated around the Nugget’s table. Should you require more dining space, a fold-out table with two chairs provides extra space under the camper’s retractable awning.

In the cockpit, the Nugget comes with a healthy amount of storage space and an eight-inch infotainment system fitted with sat-nav and Ford SYNC 3, allowing support for voice and gesture control. Other features include adaptive cruise control, a rear-view camera and an optional premium sound system.

It’s powered by Ford’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder EcoBlue diesel engine. Available in two states of tune, customers can select either a 128bhp or a 168bhp unit, both of which are mated to a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. Ford also claim economy figures of up to 44.8mpg and emissions ratings of 165g/km of CO2.

UK prices for the Nugget are yet to be announced. However, Ford tells us that its looking to officially roll-out the Transit Custom-based camper shortly, following its research into the expanding campervan market in Britain. We’ll update you with pricing information as soon as it’s available.

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

Dacia Sandero and Logan MCV range updated with new Blue dCi 95 engine
Posted on Friday January 18, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-01-18 17:00

Dacia’s Sandero and Logan MCV ranges receive a lift with a new diesel engine and revised trim levels

Dacia has added its latest Blue dCi 95 diesel engine to the Sandero and Logan MCV ranges. On sale now, prices for the new engine start from £10,395 in the Sandero, £12,895 in the Logan MCV and £14,095 in the Logan MCV Stepway.

The new turbocharged four-cylinder diesel produces 94bhp and 220Nm of torque. In the Sandero, it’s capable of a 0-62mph time of 11.9 seconds and a top speed of 111mph. The Logan takes slightly longer to get from 0-62mph due to its added weight, with a time of 12.6 seconds. The top speed remains the same as the Sandero, though.

Best hatchbacks on sale in 2019

Dacia claims the new dCi engine will achieve between 58.8 - 62.7mpg in the Sandero and between 60.1 - 62.7mpg in the Logan. Emissions for both models stand at 98g/km of CO2 and both come fitted as standard with a five-speed manual gearbox.

Alongside the engine update, both the Sandero and Logan receive revised trim levels. The Sandero is available in Access, Essential and Comfort trim, with prices starting at £6,995 for the base model Sandero and £8,495 for the base model Logan. Both base models receive new “Tarkine” 15-inch wheels as part of the update.

Essential trim starts at £7,995 and £9,295 for the Sandero and Logan respectively, adding new 15-inch wheel-trims, air-conditioning, electric front windows, DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity. Comfort-spec models start at £8,795 and £10,295 respectively and include parking sensors, electric rear windows and a seven-inch infotainment system with sat-nav, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

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

New Nissan NV300 Concept van showcases mobile workshop tech
Posted on Friday January 18, 2019

Angus Martin 2019-01-18 16:30

The NV300 Concept-van features new Nissan Energy ROAM mobile battery technology along with other modifications

nissan nv300 concept

With generous warranty packages and a diverse model range, Nissan is certainly an interesting option in the LCV sector. This week, it’s shown plans to grow sales with an innovative range of accessories designed to create a fully-equipped working environment inside an NV300 panel van.

At the 2019 Brussels Motor Show, Nissan has revealed its new NV300 Concept-van which it dubs a “mobile workshop”. The new concept features a fully kitted out cargo area designed in conjunction with highly respected London design team Studio Hardie.

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The van’s cargo area looks like a modern home. It features a beautiful wooden interior, bright LED roof lighting, bespoke organised storage, an integrated touchscreen computer and a swivel seat on rails making for the ideal workspace.

The key element of the concept, however, is Nissan’s innovative “Energy ROAM” tech. The Nissan Energy ROAM is an all-in-one, weatherproof, portable battery pack providing emission-free power to workers. This will allow them to run their tools in an eco-friendly way.

The packs are made up of second-life batteries recovered from Nissan LEAF electric vehicles coming to the end of their life. Furthermore, a solar panel fitted to the roof of the Concept-van charges the batteries using renewable energy. The battery has a 700Wh capacity and a maximum output of 1kW making it the perfect hub for using power tools off-grid.

LCV Planning and Marketing Director for Nissan Europe, Francesco Giacalone says the Nissan NV300 Concept-van shows that Nissan is thinking about the future of the commercial vehicle. He also thinks Nissan Energy ROAM will be a “key differentiator for Nissan commercial vehicles”.

Previous versions of the Energy ROAM tech have been seen in the Nissan Navara Dark Sky and Nissan Navara EnGuard. These concepts were unveiled at the Hannover Motor Shows of 2018 and 2016 respectively. Nissan Energy ROAM technology will officially go on sale in European markets in Spring of 2019.

What do you think of this new NV300 cConcept van? Let us know in the comments…

Geely reveals new FY11 coupe SUV based on Volvo XC40 platform
Posted on Friday January 18, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-01-18 15:46

Volvo owner Geely claims the new FY11 SUV will be its “most driver orientated vehicle to date”

Geely FY11 - front 3/4

Chinese auto giant and Volvo owner Geely has revealed a new coupe-inspired SUV based on the underpinnings of Volvo’s smallest SUV: the XC40.

Codenamed the FY11, this coupe-inspired SUV is the third model announced this year by the Geely. Along with its recently announced all-electric saloon and new MPV, it will form part of the company’s strategic move into new segments.

Best SUVs and 4x4s to buy

The FY11 is built on the Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform underpinning the XC40. As such, it will be powered by the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol found in the Volvo XC40 T5, producing 235bhp and 350Nm of torque.

The FY11’s full specifications are as yet unreleased but, providing it doesn’t gain too much weight over its sibling the XC40 T5, its performance should be similar. That means a 0-62mph time of around six seconds, a top speed of 140mph, economy figures of around 40mpg and emissions ratings of roughly 160g/km of CO2.

The Chinese manufacturer also says that a choice of front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive models will be available, suggesting Volvo’s lower-spec T3 and D3 drivetrains may also be utilised.

Prices are yet to be confirmed, and whether or not the model will be coming to Europe is equally uncertain. However, if Geely’s global product mission for its new all-electric saloon is carried across its range, the FY11 could appear on European roads as soon as next year.

What are you thoughts on the Geely FY11? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…


The world’s most expensive Ford Mustang breaks its own record
Posted on Friday January 18, 2019

Angus Martin 2019-01-18 11:26

This 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake has nearly doubled its previous record as the most expensive Mustang ever sold at auction

Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Super Snake - front static

Having previously been sold for a record breaking $1.3 million, this one-of-one 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake recently changed hands once again at the Mecum Kissimmee auction in Florida. Predicted to reach an already eye watering $1.0-$1.2 million, the muscle car managed to smash its own record by reaching $2.2 million (around £1.55m).

The Shelby GT500 Super Snake is a concept car derived from the regular 1967 GT500 Mustang. However, as the standard 355bhp was obviously insufficient, the Super Snake was upgraded to a Shelby ‘427’ engine which is a very similar powerplant to that found in the 1966 Le Mans winning Ford GT40 Mk II. It includes the same “bundle of snakes” exhaust system as the champion GT40 and a power figure of 600bhp. 

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In addition, the Super Snake features stiffer shocks and springs along with performance focused braided brake lines and a remote oil filler. The Le Mans striping and chrome headlight surrounds visually set the car apart from its less extreme GT500 counterpart. 

Special whitewall Goodyear Thunderbolt tyres were fitted to the Super Snake as part of a promotional tyre test which originally brought the car to fruition. In fact, the project was the idea of Shelby’s American Sales Manager Don McCain after Carroll Shelby was asked to do a promotion with Goodyear. 

The aim of the event was to test the endurance of Goodyear’s new “Thunderbolt” economy tyres by driving at a constant 140mph for 500 miles. Built to run sustainably at 6,000rpm for racing, the ‘427’ engine was perfect for the job. 

Despite the huge power figure of the Super Snake, the test was a success as the tyres came back with over 97% of their original tread, achieving the goal of the event. It’s said that at the same event, Carroll Shelby reached 170mph during a top speed run whilst using the Super Snake.

Don McCain’s original plan was to sell 50 Super Snakes. However, the concept never hit the road due to the excessive price. In fact, if put on the market each car would have had to be sold at twice the price of a regular GT500.

Although the Shelby EXP 500 “Green Hornet” from 1968 reached a hefty $1.8 million when up for auction in 2013, that was not enough to reach the reserve price of the car and it remained unsold. Therefore, this Super Snake gets the title of “The World’s Most Expensive Mustang” for a while longer. It is well over twice the price of the second priciest pony.

Do you think the Shelby GT500 Super Snake was worth $1.3 million? Let us know what you think in the comments below...

New Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR 2019 review
Posted on Friday January 18, 2019

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR - front
18 Jan, 2019 10:45am Alex Ingram

Is the Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR the best GTI yet? We get behind the wheel of the 286bhp hot hatch to find out...

Motorsport tie-ins are commonplace in the performance car world. Some have worked better than others: the brilliant Mitsubishi Evo VI Makinen Edition is revered by enthusiasts in a way that a Fiat Seicento with Michael Schumacher’s name scrawled along its sides, to be blunt, is not.

Volkswagen is the latest brand to get in on the act with the GTI TCR. Those three letters, new to a VW road car, stand for Touring Car Racing - a motorsport series in which the Golf GTI has scooped numerous driver and team titles across a range of national and international championships.

Best hot hatchbacks on sale

They’re also attached to a car that can be considered a final flourish for the Mk7.5 Golf GTI before the new eighth-generation version appears later this year. So where does the TCR rank among the road racing specials, Golf GTIs and - perhaps most importantly - its current rivals?

As a category from which to draw a connection from race to road, TCR makes plenty of sense. To keep costs sensible, roughly 60-65 per cent of the racer’s parts are lifted directly from the road cars, and the engine is arguably the most significant of all. Of course, the race car engineers are allowed software, cooling and intake/exhaust tweaks to eke more power from the Golf’s 2.0-litre turbocharged 'EA888' unit, but the main block and internals are close to identical. Even the standard seven-speed DSG gearbox is used by some teams, as the rules allow a small weight break over the alternative race-spec sequential.

For the road-going TCR, the overall power output stands at 286bhp and 380Nm of torque. That’s 44bhp and 10Nm more than the existing Golf GTI Performance, if not quite a match for the racer’s 345bhp and 420Nm. In the road car, the result is a 0-62mph time of 5.6 seconds and a top speed limited to 155mph – or 162mph with the optional vMax derestriction.

The suspension and brakes are more focussed than in the existing GTI Performance, too. The TCR sits 5mm closer to the ground than the Performance, and the steering calibration has been refined to produce sharper turn-in and a more progressive feel. The brakes match the spec of those used by the limited-run Clubsport S: the drilled steel discs feature alloy centres to reduce rotating masses, and they’re gripped by heavier-duty pads.

A couple of option packs add further focus. The first swaps the standard 18-inch wheels for 19-inch rims, while the adaptive dampers gain a more aggressive tune regardless of driving mode. The second package adds lighter wheels wrapped in super-sticky Michelin Pilot Cup 2 tyres. All TCRs feature the same locking differential as the existing GTI.

These changes join forces to make the TCR devastatingly quick on track. The cars we sampled around Portimao Circuit were equipped with the grippier Cup 2 tyres, and they deliver a huge amount of grip. It’s most noticeable on the exit of a corner: where many rivals would be scrabbling for grip, the tyres and differential work together to sling you out of each second gear turn with no drama. It’s not as playful as the Honda Civic Type R, but it’s incredibly effective.

Out on the road – and on more road-biased tyres – the TCR is just as impressive. While much of our Portuguese test route was covered in smooth tarmac, what few bumps cropped up revealed a ride that, though firm, could never be described as uncomfortable. Switch the driving mode to Sport and the adaptive dampers tense up, yet remain compliant, producing comfort that’s more than adequate. Enthusiastic cornering causes the dampers to stiffen, delivering excellent body control.

The only gripe, and it’ll be a big one for some, is the lack of a manual gearbox. Yes, the DSG shifts quickly when you’re pressing on, but it lacks the satisfaction of a well-timed heel-and-toe downshift that makes most of the latest hot hatches so engaging.

Still, it’s one of the things that makes the TCR easy to live with – a quality that’s also helped by the huge range of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel. There's a generous kit list, too, including front assist, VW’s digital instruments and LED headlights as standard.

To hint at its extra ability, the GTI TCR gets a few cosmetic tweaks that separate it from the Performance. On the outside, this means a deeper front splitter, lower side sills, and an aggressive rear diffuser and wing. Special TCR badging can be found along the car’s flanks, while unique honeycomb graphics, first seen on the TCR concept at the Worthersee festival in 2018, are optional. The same goes for carbon door mirror covers (black items are standard) and a contrasting black roof. There’s four colours to choose from: Black, red, white, and - unique to the TCR - the gloss ‘Pure Grey’.

The TCR’s interior gets a new microfibre/cloth upholstery on the seats complete with a red and grey colour scheme, while the steering wheel features extra red touches like the 12 o’clock marker and leather stitching.

Prices are yet to be confirmed, but expect to pay around £34,000 when the car makes it to UK dealers in March. Unlike the Clubsport S, this won’t be a limited-run special, with production set to continue until the current Golf is superseeded by the new Mk8. Both three and five-door models will be offered.

So where does the GTI TCR stand in the current hot hatch hierarchy? Today’s benchmark is the Civic Type R which, thanks to a delightful manual gearbox, will, for many, add a level of interaction which the Golf can’t beat. However, the Golf is almost as sharp yet more comfortable, has a better infotainment system and styling that’s less divisive.

The Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR manages to take all of the things we love about the regular GTI Performance and lift them to the next level. While it might not quite feel as playful as the Honda Civic Type R - nor quite as fast - it’s a hugely capable machine that can thrill on road or track. Some might miss the lack of a manual gearbox, but it does make it easier to live with every day. Either way, this is absolutely the best Golf GTI you can buy right now.
  • Model: Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
  • Price: £34,000 (est)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo
  • Power/torque: 286bhp/380Nm
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 5.6 seconds
  • Top speed: 162mph
  • Economy/CO2: TBC
  • On sale: March

UK's favourite car colours: Grey overtakes black to claim 2018 top spot
Posted on Thursday January 17, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-01-18 00:01

Nearly 21 per cent of new cars sold in the UK 2018 were grey, as the colour knocked black off the top spot

Skoda Colour Concept system april fool

Grey was the UK’s favourite new car colour last year for the first time since records began, knocking black off the top spot. 

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that, of the new cars sold in 2018, some 495,127 – or 20.9 per cent – were grey, while 478,154 (20.2 per cent) were black and 432,207 (18.3 per cent) were white, meaning 59.4 per cent of all new cars registered last year were one of these three colours.

• Best car cleaning and car care tips

Grey actually saw a 1.1 per cent decrease in registrations compared with 2017, but this was enough to capitalise on black’s 7.3 per cent drop over the same period.

Demand for most colours in the top 10 list fell in line with market trend, with the exception of orange and beige, which increased 37 per cent and 28 per cent respectively. 

Cream was knocked off the top 10 list after seeing a drop of 34 per cent – the largest overall percentage decrease of any colour. Yellow also saw a 34 per cent fall, with 132,000 fewer new cars registered in the colour since its peak in 2015.

Drivers in Scotland bucked the national trend by having white as their top colour, while grey reigned supreme in Wales and Northern Ireland, and blue reached the podium in all three countries. 

Meanwhile, English motorists registered 116 of the 118 colours available on the market, while only 53 different colours were specified by consumers in Northern Ireland.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “There are more opportunities than ever to personalise your new car to your exact taste, and UK motorists have approached the challenge with gusto in 2018. 

“With around 80 new or upgraded models coming to market in 2019 equipped with the latest low and zero-emission powertrains, advanced safety tech and exciting comfort and convenience features, it’s great that buyers have so much to choose from.”

The UK's most popular car paint colours in 2018

Most popular colours by car 2018

These were the best-selling cars in the UK in 2018 - and here are the colours the car-buying public liked best...

How important is the colour when you're choosing a new car? Tell us in the comments below...

Hyundai Ioniq hybrid and Ioniq plug-in facelifted for 2019
Posted on Thursday January 17, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-01-17 18:00

The Hyundai Ioniq has been revised with a range of driver convenience features and technology borrowed from the Kona EV

Hyundai has facelifted the Ioniq range for 2019, updating the styling and adding a handful of tech features, some of which are borrowed from the Kona Electric.

Exterior additions include new front and rear bumpers, updated rear LED lights and three extra paint colours. The addition of Hyundai’s trademark grille also brings the Ioniq’s styling into line with the rest of Hyundai’s range.

• Best plug-in hybrid cars on the market

Inside, the Ioniq gets a new 10.25-inch infotainment system with voice recognition, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Elsewhere the heater and air-con controls have been reworked, ditching the previous model’s rotary dials in favour of a sleek touch screen panel.

The updated Ioniq also gets Hyundai’s SmartSense technology package as standard, which includes a front collision warning and avoidance system, lane keeping assist and a driver attention warning alert.

Other technology updates include a “Green-Zone Drive Mode,” which automatically switches the vehicle into electric-only mode in designated low-emissions zones. The Ioniq also borrows the Kona Electric’s smart regenerative braking, Eco+ driving mode (used to extend electric-only driving range) and a one-pedal driving function.

Pricing and full specifications are yet to be announced, as is the UK launch date, but expect a small price hike to accomodate for the added tech.

Click here for our review of the pre-facelifted Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid...

Land Rover Discovery Anniversary Edition revealed
Posted on Thursday January 17, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-01-17 17:45

Land Rover has released a limited edition Discovery, exclusive to the UK market, celebrating 30 years of the model’s production

Land Rover Discovery Anniversary

Land Rover has revealed an Anniversary Edition Discovery, based on the Discovery Sd6 SE, to celebrate the models 30th year in production. Along with the Discovery Sport, the model has racked up 1.7 million sales since its launch in 1989.

The Discovery Anniversary Edition will be built exclusively for the UK market. Limited to just 400 units, it features 22-inch alloy wheels, a fixed panoramic glass roof, rear privacy glass, a 380W Meridian sound system and a choice of four metallic paint colours (Santorini Black, Corris Grey, Loire Blue or Indus Silver).

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The only engine available for the Anniversary Edition Discovery is Land Rover’s 3.0-litre V6 diesel developing 302bhp and 700Nm of torque  Land Rover claims it will do 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds and a reach a top speed of 130mph.

Naturally, power is fed through an eight-speed automatic gearbox to all four wheels. Fuel economy stands at 31.6mpg, whilst emissions are rated at 202g/km of CO2. On sale now, prices for the Land Rover Discovery Anniversary Edition start at £59,995.

Now read our review of the standard Land Rover Discovery. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below...


Porsche 911 review
Posted on Thursday January 17, 2019

Performance and engagement
Improved flexibility
Advanced tech-laden interior
Our Rating 
Still could sound better
911 has lost its compact footprint
Porsche 911 - front

With the 992, Porsche has broadened the iconic 911’s everyday appeal with greater comfort while pushing the performance envelope further

In its maturation into its eighth (992) generation the Porsche 911 has grown, but that’s brought with it even more comfort and technology that means the iconic sports car is now also a better GT, offering more technology and practicality than ever.

However, it’s not at the expense of performance as today’s Porsche 911 is also faster and more agile than its predecessor. It still offers the package’s unique rear-engined dynamics but with that comes a friendly side that makes the 992-generation an even more exploitable sports car.

Of course, the price has risen as a result of all this extra tech and ability, but the 911 is still a stunning piece of engineering. Together with improved efficiency, these changes on the 992 mean it offers even more of what the 911 is famed for: comfort, usability and performance.

18 Jan, 2019

Whereas the last three generations of 911 have focused on a vertical centre stack in the cabin, this 992 returns to its older ancestor’s roots with a more classic horizontal design.

That’s been made possible by the new 10.9-inch landscape touchscreen Porsche Communication Management infotainment system. It’s clearly been inspired by the setup in the firm’s Panamera and Cayenne models, although it’s not quite as large here.

It’s just as advanced and easy to use though. The touchscreen is nicely integrated and with most functions operated by the panel, it has allowed Porsche’s designers to de-clutter the cabin. There are fewer buttons on the transmission tunnel, and the climate controls have been simplified.

The main screen is joined by a pair of seven-inch high-definition units either side of the central rev counter – again, a 911 trademark. This is now the only analogue dial in the binnacle, even though there are digital representations of the other four on the pair of screens.

Quality has taken yet another step up too. The surfaces are cleaner, the dash lined with leather and there are plush-feeling materials on the centre console where the new shift lever is located, for example.

Along with the retro inspired design Porsche has revived some more classic interior trim combinations, with wood veneers now available. It sets the cabin off nicely, while you can of course choose cool metal finishers and all manner of different leather colours to tailor your car’s cabin to your tastes.

The interior has had a rather simple but effective rethink, and that extends to storage. The door bins have been modified slightly and will take phones and wallets, while the glovebox is a decent size. There’s enough storage for a car of this type, which helps make the 911 the usable package it is.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment 

There’s even more in-car technology available – this is the most advanced and connected 911 ever. Online navigation fed by swarm data for traffic services is complimented by Apple CarPlay and a host of other functions that make the 911 easier to live with. There’s even a free track telemetry app that’ll record your laps and overlay data if you fancy venturing onto the circuit to explore the 911’s performance.

The latest PCM system is easy to manipulate on the move, while the twin screens that flank the rev counter are controlled by button clusters on either side of the steering wheel. The menus are logical and you quickly get the hang of navigating around the system.

You can also use the display to alter the driving mode – there’s an updated rotary drive mode selector on the steering wheel too, allowing you to select between the new Wet mode, Normal, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual (coming as part of the Sport Chrono pack). Using the touchscreen you can also toggle the sports exhaust, if it’s fitted, and the dampers.


A standard Carrera will arrive later, along with a manual option, but for now only the S-spec 3.0-litre turbocharged flat-six engine is available, mated to an eight-speed PDK automatic transmission.

Thanks to the PDK’s launch control, the 0-62mph sprint now takes just 3.7 seconds in the rear-wheel drive Carrera S. This drops by 0.2 seconds if you go for the Sport Chrono pack.

Go for the 4S and those times stand at 3.6 and 3.4 seconds respectively, while top speed is 191mph for the 2S and 190mph for the 4S. It feels every bit as quick as those numbers suggest too, helped by the new transmission’s rapid-fire shifts.

In fact, it feels at least as punchy as the previous 911 GTS, which boasted the same power output as this Carrera S, revving out here with ferocity and a fairly free-spinning feel at higher rpm for a turbo engine. With 530Nm of torque sustained from relatively low down at 2,300rpm all the way through to 5,000rpm, the mid-range punch is great too.

Four-wheel drive isn’t a necessity in our opinion as traction in the two-wheel drive car is so strong – a typical 911 trait that hasn’t been altered with this move to the 992-generation model.

This MMB platform, as Porsche calls it, features retuned PASM adaptive dampers that are more intelligent and now more adjustable on the move, monitoring the suspension’s state of travel up to 100 times per second and reacting to improve comfort.

But it’s not at the expense of handling. All the cars we tried were fitted with rear-axle steering, which boosts the agility of the car in slow corners. That wider front track means there simply isn’t an understeer problem on the road – the 911 turns, sticks and goes. But there’s a strong sense of communication with it.

Gone are the days where a 911’s steering moves with the road, but this electrically-assisted setup is faithful, consistent in its feel across the rack’s range of movement and quicker than its predecessor, which translates into an alert-feeling front end. You get an idea of the grip building up and ebbing away.

The more sophisticated suspension also means the car flows better on corkscrewing, poorly surfaced roads, but the level of control is still present. Its ability at each end of the spectrum appears to have been widened without compromising either trait.

PASM adaptive dampers and a 10mm chassis drop are worth it. In the softer mode the suspension is compliant, in Sport it feels stiffer vertically with a slight degradation to comfort and a tauter edge to the body control, but it’s not wince inducing. We’d still leave the suspension in its default mode most of the time though. 

In fact, that’s how we’d choose to drive the 911, as the gearbox is still quick enough to shift, the chassis more compliant and therefore comfortable and the steering weight and throttle response just about perfect for this type of car. 


Compared with its predecessor the engine has been tweaked dramatically to improve performance and efficiency.

New, larger and more efficient turbochargers are teamed with repositioned intercoolers (now on the top of the engine) that offer better cooling of the intake air. Along with Piezo injectors that operate at higher pressure and feature more injection pulses of fuel during the combustion cycle power is up to 444bhp while torque stands at 530Nm.

Much effort has been focused on small detail improvements throughout the engine, but they add up to a noticeable result.

Throttle response is strong for a turbo engine. There’s still the faintest hint of lag, but only on rare occasions; in the right gear at the right revs the new electric wastegates mean the pair of blowers spool up quickly, delivering a solid wall of torque that’ll hurl the 911 along at a not insignificant rate if you don’t feel like fully extending the motor. Efficiency is also part of the noticeable result, as we’ll see.

Performance is still the key though, and those turbos give the 911 incredible mid-range flexibility but do dampen the noise a little. However, we knew this from its predecessor and at least with the Sports exhaust engaged it’s still got a characterful enough sound signature that means it emits a noise like little else. It still produces the 911’s trademark bassy, raspy bark.

A detuned version of the 992 will arrive in time. Expect a similar 30bhp increase to the S model over its predecessor, so around 395bhp. However, for now, this Carrera S or 4S with PDK is your sole option.

A 911 Cabriolet has been shown and will join the range, while more potent and focused GTS, Turbo and motorsport-inspired track cars will appear in time, too.


Although there have been many tweaks to the engine, the basic architecture of this 3.0-litre flat-six is now powering its second generation of 911, and it’s already proved reliable so there’s no reason to think otherwise.

As much of the interior tech is related to that in Porsche’s SUVs and luxury cars, the same is true here. The screens are clearly powered by rapid processors as they respond quickly and almost never crash. Expect the same in the 911.

Safety has undergone a big improvement – while the body’s steel content is down from 66 per cent to 30 per cent, helping offset the weight gain from other areas like the new gearbox, it’s just as strong.

Plus, there are more technology and assistance systems, including autonomous braking with pedestrian detection. You can add to this with lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, night vision assist, adaptive cruise that now works down to a standstill and LED matrix headlights. Standard LED lights are included in the price.

It’s unlikely that Euro NCAP will test the 911, but we’d expect that with all this new tech it would receive a good score.

Another point that’s worth mentioning is the new Wet driving mode. Microphones in the 911’s wheel arches can pick up when you’re driving on a consistently wet surface rather than just through a puddle and will recommend you activate the setting.

This alters the settings of the ESP, the traction control, the Porsche Torque Vectoring system and a number of other functions to ensure the car stays as stable as possible on the power. It’s well integrated and the system’s action is smooth. We tried it on a wet track and it felt natural and safe.


Porsche’s warranty package is fairly standard. There’s three years’ unlimited mileage cover, which is pretty good for a high performance sports car.


Being a complex machine and a premium car servicing won’t be cheap. Porsche hasn’t released routine maintenance prices for the new 911 yet, but budget a similar amount – in the region of £500 for an intermediate service and around £700 for a major service. 

Service intervals are every 20,000 miles though, so they aren’t super short and mean you can genuinely use the 911 – averaged out over this period those service prices seem a little more affordable and will be competitive with performance rivals.


The 911 has grown, so there’s a little more room inside than before, yet it doesn’t feel too much larger to drive thanks to engineers adding even more agility. Parking will be a little trickier maybe due to the wider body, but there are tech options to help you here. 

Plus, visibility is great – a 911 trait – and with rear-axle steering giving it a relatively small turning circle, it’s still not as intimidating to manoeuvre as something like a Mercedes-AMG GT or Audi R8.

This was always the case, but now there’s more comfort on offer too. The 911 is a better GT car than ever, yet it doesn’t feel like it’s sacrificed its sports car credentials. 

The driving position is great – you can get low behind the wheel without compromising your forward visibility – and there’s plenty of storage. However, the split cup-holders (one behind the gear lever and one by the passenger door) are a retrograde step from the clever solution mounted in the dash of the 991-generation car.

Combined with the respectable efficiency it’s worth mentioning that the 64-litre fuel tank will give the 911 a decent cruising range. As it’s a more accomplished GT car this will be an important factor for many owners.


In its evolution to the 992 generation, the 911 has grown. It’s now 20mm longer with an engine that sits further forward, although the wheelbase hasn’t changed. Due to the single body width being offered, the car is also chunkier with wider front and rear tracks.

Plus, for the first time in a non GT 911, it uses different sized front and rear wheels. They are 20 inches at the front and 21-inches at the rear - the latter using huge 305-section tyres, which partly explains its great traction. The fact that the 911 rides so well on huge alloys like this is all the more impressive, too.

The 911 always felt like a compact car next to its rivals, and while it might have grown it’s still no larger than some of the mid-engined competition. In fact, it’s still much easier to drive on narrow roads than mid-engined cars like the Audi R8, while its front-engined rival from Mercedes-AMG and the Jaguar F-Type also feel like physically larger cars to drive, yet they’re more cramped inside. 

Leg room, head room & passenger space  

Cabin space in the front is good. There are no complaints here and the ergonomics are fundamentally sound as while Porsche has changed the cabin design, the layout is basically identical. This 911 is actually 4mm taller than its predecessor, so there’s actually a little more headroom too.

The trademark small rear seats mean this is a sports car that can easily carry a young family if your children are small. Not many rivals can do that.

There’s not much room back for adults, while access isn’t the easiest either, but the seats are fine for short journeys around the corner. The rear berths also double as extra luggage space should you need it but the 911 is actually relatively functional in that regard too.


Due to its rear-engined layout, the 911’s luggage space is in the nose – and there’s 132 litres available. This is slightly down on its two-wheel drive predecessor, but what you need to know is that there’s enough space for two bags and a few other items, so weekends away or a small shop won’t be a problem.

Of course, there are always those back seats to use if your bags spill over into the cabin. The back rests can be folded down to create a flat ledge that runs to the base of the tapered rear glass, while the space underneath the folded back rests can be packed with stuff too. Or you can just leave them in place.

The boot itself is easy to load as the nose is low, it’s a regular shape and access is simple. Beyond this, there isn’t much more to tell.


The 911’s new injectors give more power but also improve fuel consumption. With the help of a particulate filter in the exhaust, it’ll emit as little as 205g/km and return up to 31.7mpg. Impressive stats given the performance on offer.

Given the sphere the 911 occupies, it’s one of the more efficient sports cars on sale and should therefore be relatively affordable to run. The caveat, of course, being that it’s affordable for a circa £100,000 sports car that can crack 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds. 

Insurance groups 

It’s no surprise that with this level of performance on offer, the desirability and the price, that the 911 falls into the top group 50 insurance bracket no matter whether you go for the two or four-wheel drive option. That means it’ll not be a cheap car to insure, but then neither are its rivals at this level of the market.

For our sample driver – a 43-year-old male living in Oxfordshire with three points on their licence – expect to pay around £1,000. Of course, this could vary depending on your driving history, age, where you live and how many points you have.

The cars that hold their value best


911 used values are traditionally very strong. This car is so new that residual values are difficult to accurately predict, but based on the car it replaces – the 991.2 Carrera S PDK – it’ll hold onto plenty of its list price.

After three years or 36,000 miles that previous generation Porsche 911 would be worth 58.1 per cent of its new price, which is mightily impressive for an expensive car like this. Our experts predicted that the 991.2 Carrera 4S PDK would retain 57.7 per cent, so an equally strong showing

Ford Focus Estate vs Skoda Octavia Estate vs VW Golf Estate
Posted on Thursday January 17, 2019

2019-01-19 11:00

Not everyone wants an SUV, so we see if Ford’s practical new Focus Estate can chop down VW and Skoda rivals

ford focus estate vs skoda octavia estate vs vw golf estate header

With winter in full swing and poor weather inevitable on a daily basis for the next couple of months, it’s easy to assume that an SUV is the perfect kind of car to be driving at this time of year.

But this latest craze in the automotive world is not for everyone – not least because a raised-up crossover or off-roader tends to be more expensive to run than a family estate car. That’s where this trio comes in.

Best estate cars

For many buyers, a wagon will be the perfect choice of all-round transport and luckily, there’s a new model on the market: the Ford Focus Estate. As with the Focus hatchback we tested in the autumn, the Estate aims to offer more equipment, more space and a better balance of ride and handling than its predecessor – but that’s not the model it’s got to beat here.

The new Focus narrowly lost out to the Volkswagen Golf in our group test in Issue 1,541, so this time we’ve lined up the Golf Estate to see whether the load-lugging version of the Ford makes more sense.

The car both ultimately have to beat is our current favourite family wagon, the Skoda Octavia Estate. It was crowned Best Estate Car at the Auto Express New Car Awards in 2018, because it offers loads of space and kit at an affordable price. So can the new Ford drive away with a win?

Ford Focus Estate

Model: Ford Focus Estate 1.5 TDCi EcoBlue ST-Line
Price:  £23,950
Engine:  1.5-litre 4cyl diesel, 118bhp 
0-60mph:  10.8 seconds
Test economy:  52.3mpg/11.5mpl 
CO2:  97g/km  
Annual road tax:  £140

The previous Focus Estate wasn’t a class leader, but this new model addresses the old car’s issues. Here we’re testing the 118bhp 1.5-litre diesel model in ST-Line trim, which costs from £23,950.

Design & engineering

Just like the Mk4 hatch, the new Focus Estate is based on Ford’s latest C2 platform, which uses MacPherson struts for the front suspension, and the rear has a multi-link set-up here. While some lower-powered variants of the Focus hatch use a torsion beam at the back, all Estates feature this more sophisticated system. The wagon gets different dampers from the five-door as well, to help with the extra loads expected to be carried.

Our test car uses a 1.5-litre diesel engine with 118bhp, a little more than its test rivals, but the Focus is also heavier than the Skoda and VW. The Octavia and Golf are 118kg and 37kg lighter respectively than the 1,413kg Ford. Still, the Focus is the only car here with a six-speed gearbox; both of its competitors feature five-speed manuals.

The Estate model is also 290mm longer than the hatchback, and it’s also the longest car on test, although only by 1mm over the Skoda.

Inside, the Focus looks more upmarket than its predecessor, too, and while the design isn’t quite as classy as its rivals’, the materials are of good quality. The layout is similar to the smaller Fiesta’s, with the eight-inch infotainment screen on top of the dash.

The screen offers DAB radio, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard, while ST-Line trim also features 17-inch alloys, keyless operation, air-con and parking sensors. Sat-nav costs £350, though.


There’s little doubt once you get behind the wheel that the Focus Estate is the best driver’s car here. Not only is the driving position very good, the blend of ride and handling is also excellent. The Ford is comfortable even on rough roads, because the suspension soaks up bumps and ruts in the tarmac very well, especially at higher speeds. You certainly notice that rear suspension layout.

It gives you the confidence to drive the Focus Estate quickly on a typical B-road, where you can enjoy the well-weighted steering and nimble chassis. The Ford is no sports car, and still has some roll in corners, but it’s the most composed and controlled of the three models here, and the most fun to drive, too.

That’s true even though the slightly more powerful engine didn’t translate to better performance at the track. The car went from 0-60mph in 10.8 seconds, 0.8 seconds slower than the Skoda, but only 0.4 seconds behind the VW. The Focus is the heaviest choice of our trio, which partly explains this deficit.

It does feel gutless on the road, although it’s not much worse than its rivals, because all of these cars are focused on economy. The Ford fell in between its competitors from 30-50mph in fourth gear, taking 7.5 seconds, 0.2 seconds behind the Skoda, but 0.3 seconds ahead of the Golf.

The 1.5-litre diesel isn’t the most refined engine, but it’s certainly no harsher than the 1.6-litre TDI shared by the Skoda and VW. Thanks to its extra gear the Focus sits at lower revs at 70mph than the Octavia and Golf, so it’s slightly more relaxed on the motorway, if a little less responsive.


This is surely the most important aspect of these three models, and the Ford falls slightly behind its rivals for boot space. With the rear seats in place, the Focus offers a capacity of 575 litres. The Octavia has 610 litres and the Golf 605 litres, although the Ford is almost as usable day to day, plus a space-saver spare wheel adds peace of mind.

However, the fact that the Skoda’s wheelarches don’t cut into the boot space as much makes its load area more usable than the Focus’s when really testing carrying capacity, and in turn, the lower loading lip in the Ford means it’s easier to use than the Golf.

There’s also more rear legroom than in the Volkswagen, although both models are put to shame by the cavernous Octavia, which has by far the most space to stretch out your legs in.

If you go for Ford’s £750 Convenience Pack, you get a rearview camera and door-edge protectors that can help to prevent bumps and scrapes in tight car parks.


In our Driver Power 2018 owner satisfaction survey, Ford finished 16th out of 26 in the manufacturers section. This was some way behind VW, which ranked fifth, and Skoda in sixth place overall.

With autonomous braking as well as pedestrian and cyclist detection now standard, plus lane-keep assist and post-collision braking, safety is a strong point for the latest Focus. Euro NCAP awarded the new car its top five-star rating when it was tested in 2018, matching both of its competitors here.

Running costs

Low CO2 emissions of just 97g/km ensure the Focus is the cheapest model here for company car buyers to run.

It sits in the 24 per cent Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax bracket, so the Ford estate will cost lower-rate earners £1,140 per year in contributions.

The Skoda runs it close, however, because even though the same buyer will pay £1,335 a year in tax, it has more equipment that you might have to add as options on the Ford, such as sat-nav.

A lower-rate taxpayer will stump up £1,220 a year to run the Volkswagen, and it also comes with satellite navigation, so these three models are very evenly matched for business users.

Testers' notes: "This 1.5-litre diesel is frugal, but even with 118bhp it requires plenty of effort to get up to speed. Long gearing doesn't help, either, because you need to change down all the time to keep your momentum."

Skoda Octavia Estate

Model: Skoda Octavia Estate 1.6 TDI SE L
Price:  £24,990
Engine:  1.6-litre 4cyl diesel, 113bhp 
0-60mph:  10.0 seconds
Test economy:  57.5mpg/12.7mpl 
CO2:  111g/km  
Annual road tax:  £140

As our reigning Estate Car of the Year, the Skoda Octavia Estate is the model to beat in this test. While our pictures show a high-spec Laurin & Klement variant, we’re testing the £24,990 SE L version because it’s a closer match to the Ford on kit.

Design & engineering

The Octavia was updated in 2017, and is easy to spot thanks to its split headlight design. There weren’t too many changes under the skin, and the Skoda shares many of its mechanical parts with the Volkswagen Golf Estate.

That’s because both use the VW Group’s versatile MQB platform, with Skoda’s model proving how scaleable the architecture is, thanks to its 66mm longer wheelbase when compared with its sibling. The Octavia uses strut suspension at the front and a torsion beam at the rear, while 4x4 models feature a multi-link set-up.

A 1.6-litre diesel engine is shared between the Octavia and Golf, both with 113bhp and 250Nm of torque, which are slightly down on the Ford’s figures. But the Octavia is the lightest car of the three, which helps negate its small power deficit. However, while the Focus has a six-speed manual gearbox, the Skoda makes do with a five-speed transmission.

The Octavia’s interior design is more pragmatic and less interesting than the Ford’s, but it’s elegantly laid out and the materials used tread the line between quality and longevity well, especially with our SE L model’s standard half-leather seats. You get more for your money with the Skoda, because while this specification is more expensive to buy than its rivals, the smarter seats and infotainment give it a more upmarket feel for not much more cash.

SE L spec also brings an eight-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, smartphone connectivity, DAB and Bluetooth, plus 17-inch alloy wheels, LED lights, parking sensors and dual-zone climate control.


If you’re one of the many estate car buyers who value pragmatism above all else, the Octavia is pretty much spot-on. It’s very easy to drive, with light control weights and a light manual gearshift, while the comfortable ride means it’s very easy to live with.

It serves up strong fuel economy, too, and the icing on the cake is that the Skoda was also the strongest performer here in our track tests.

The Octavia was the fastest car from 0-60mph, taking 10.0 seconds, which was 0.8 seconds faster than the Ford and 0.4 seconds ahead of the VW. It was quickest from 30-70mph through the gears as well, although its 9.6-second time was only 0.1 seconds better than the Golf’s and 0.4 seconds up on the Focus.

All three models can feel slightly underpowered at times, so it’s good to know that the Skoda has a bit of extra firepower should you need it. The Octavia performed well in gear, too, so you don’t have to change ratios too frequently.

All of that contributes to the Czech car’s composed and relaxed feel. The Ford still deals with high-speed bumps better, but the Octavia is refined and quiet at motorway speed. It’s better at smoothing out potholes than the Golf, too, and because there’s enough grip, it’ll carry more corner speed than you might imagine. It’s not as good to drive as the Focus, though, because the steering feels more detached and the driving position is higher up.


Practicality is clearly what Skoda’s engineers were focused on when they designed the Octavia, and it remains the best car in its class in this area. For a start, it offers a huge level of boot space, with a total of 1,740 litres available. That puts it ahead of the Focus and Golf, both of which offer 1,620 litres.

But the wide boot opening, flat floor, square load bay and low loading lip all mean the Skoda is by far the most usable of the three cars here, especially in SE L trim, which features a variable-height boot floor as standard. It fulfils the family estate car brief brilliantly, with neat extras such as 12V power in the boot, wheelarch cubbies and luggage hooks.

Rear-seat passengers will find that there’s plenty of head and legroom as well, the most of our three test cars, so there’s no compromise here, either.


Skoda has been a consistently high scorer in our Driver Power satisfaction surveys over the years, but in 2018 it only managed sixth place, beaten by Volkswagen in fifth. Ford trailed both in 16th position out of 26 brands.

Still, in the dealer section of our poll, Skoda came eighth, with Volkswagen way down the list in 18th and Ford even further behind in 20th out of 28.

As with both rivals, the Octavia scored five stars in its Euro NCAP crash test, and SE L models come with seven airbags, parking sensors and autonomous emergency braking. Lane-keep assist costs £400 here, while blind spot assist at £400 is cheaper than in its rivals (£500 in the Ford and £1,120 as part of an option pack in the Volkswagen).

Running costs

The Skoda should be very cheap to run, because it returned the best fuel economy of our trio, at 57.5mpg, proving there is life left in clean diesel cars yet. That figure means you’ll spend £1,290 per year on fuel over an average of 12,000 miles annually.

The Ford and Volkswagen weren’t too far behind the Octavia, though. The Focus managed 52.3mpg and the Golf returned 51.4mpg during our time with them. Those figures mean you’ll spend £1,419 at the pumps with the Ford and £1,443 in the Volkswagen over the same 12-month period.

Testers' notes: “Dynamic chassis control costs £870 and adds adaptive dampers to the spec, but the Skoda’s standard set-up is comfy enough, making this nice to have rather than an essential option.”

Volkswagen Golf Estate

Model: Volkswagen Golf Estate 1.6 TDI SE Navigation
Price:  £23,710
Engine:  1.6-litre 4cyl diesel, 113bhp 
0-60mph:  10.4 seconds
Test economy:  51.4mpg/11.3mpl 
CO2:  108g/km  
Annual road tax:  £140 

The Volkswagen Golf is our favourite family hatchback, narrowly beating the Focus in its first test in 2018. Here we’ll find out if it makes as much sense in Estate form and in 1.6 TDI SE Navigation spec. It’s priced from £23,710.

Design & engineering

VW’s current Golf is classed as the Mk7.5. It was updated in 2017, as with the Octavia, but its exterior changes were minimal and the revisions were mainly centred on improving the model’s interior technology.

As with the Skoda, the Golf uses a torsion-beam rear axle, which is less sophisticated than the Focus’s multi-link rear set-up. All three cars here feature strut suspension at the front. Dynamic Chassis Control is available for £850; this adds adaptive suspension that can switch between Comfort, Normal and Sport modes, but as with the Skoda it’s not a must-have.

Also like the Skoda, which is based on the same MQB platform, the VW has a 1.6-litre diesel engine with 113bhp, sending power to the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox.

The Golf’s interior is arguably the best of the three cars here, because all the places you regularly touch are made from high-quality plastic, while the design is classier than the Ford’s, even though the Focus is much improved over the previous model.

Here we’re testing SE Navigation trim, which makes the VW the cheapest car of the trio, but it still comes with plenty of kit. Sat-nav is standard, along with an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system to match its rivals. A set of 16-inch alloys is also fitted, as are adaptive cruise control, some decent safety kit, parking sensors and smartphone connectivity, but not climate control or LED lights.


The Golf is very impressive from behind the wheel because it serves up a solid blend of ride comfort, body control and composure over bumps at high speed. In Estate form it isn’t quite as compliant as the Focus, but the Volkswagen runs the Ford close and is still more than comfortable enough, while also delivering enough grip to enjoy driving quickly.

Although the Skoda is also slightly softer over bumps than the VW, which will be of more interest to some buyers, the Golf has a great balance of ability. It sits in between its rivals on a scale that goes from the fun-to-drive Ford to the more relaxed Octavia.

The Golf’s steering could do with more feel, because it’s numb, but the weighting is good and it’s precise. The five-speed box has a light, slick shift, too, and the ratios are well spaced. That’s really noticeable next to the Ford, because although that car has a six-speed box, sometimes it can feel like you’re caught in between gears on medium-speed roads.

But while the transmission is good, the 1.6-litre TDI isn’t as refined as the engine in the Focus. Both have an unpleasant diesel grumble at idle and on the move, although the 1.6 is a particularly rattly motor.

At least it develops its maximum power and torque figures lower down in the rev range than the Ford’s 1.5-litre engine, which means changing up early and keeping the revs (and therefore noise) low is easy enough. The VW was well matched with the Ford in gear, because both took 4.6 seconds to go from 30-50mph in third, 0.2 seconds behind the Octavia. The Golf was slightly quicker from 0-60mph than the Ford in our tests, but both were beaten by the Skoda for outright pace.


With a capacity of 605 litres, the Golf’s boot trails the Skoda’s, but trumps the Ford’s by 30 litres when the rear seats are in place.

However, the Golf’s boot opening is higher and narrower than its competitors’, so loading big or heavy items will be a little bit harder. Still, there’s no loading lip and the load bay’s floor is flat.

While rear-seat space is plentiful, the VW falls behind the other cars for legroom. It’s brighter in the back of the Golf than in the back of the Ford, but both competitors are dwarfed by the Octavia for passenger space. At least there’s plenty of in-car storage in the Golf, although the central cup-holders block the gearshift if you have a big bottle or cup.


In the manufacturers’ chart of our Driver Power 2018 satisfaction survey, Volkswagen came an impressive fifth out of 26 brands, so there’s plenty of consumer confidence in the German brand.

As with both rivals, the Golf scored five stars in its Euro NCAP crash test, and with autonomous braking, parking sensors and seven airbags fitted as standard, it matches its rivals for safety kit.

However, safety options are pricier, with lane-keep assist costing £550, for example, when it’s £400 on the Octavia and comes as standard on the Focus. To get blind spot detection you’ll have to buy a £1,120 option pack, although lane-keep assist, traffic jam assist and traffic sign recognition are all included.

Running costs

The Golf is the cheapest car to buy in this test, and Volkswagen’s traditionally strong residual values mean it will lose the least money after three years or 36,000 miles.

Over that period our experts predict it will shed £13,484 (a residual value of 43.1 per cent), while the pricier Ford Focus Estate will lose a predicted £13,776, with a slightly lower residual value of 42.5 per cent.

The Skoda depreciates a little more than its competitors, losing an estimated £14,714 of its list price. Its residual value is predicted at 41.1 per cent.

Testers' notes: “An automatic gearbox is available on all three of our test models, but the manual versions represent much better value for money and all three are sweet to use.”


First place: Skoda Octavia Estate

The Octavia retains its crown as the best family estate car around. It could be the best estate you can buy, full stop. It offers great value because it comes with loads of standard kit and a huge level of space inside. The Skoda is also good to drive, comfortable and cheap to run. Its extra performance will help with carrying heavy loads, while the plentiful rear legroom will be a hit with kids.

Second place: Ford Focus Estate

Great to drive yet still comfortable and compliant: that’s the Focus Estate’s key strength. It’s also practical, with plenty of usable boot space, and will be almost as cheap as the Skoda to run. That’s especially true for company car buyers, thanks to the Ford’s very low emissions. It beats the Golf here for that reason, while its cabin is roomier, too.

Third place: Volkswagen Golf

VW’s Golf Estate doesn’t make as convincing a case as the hatch version, so it loses out to the Focus here. It’s not quite as good value as its rivals in this test despite being a little cheaper, especially because the options are pricey and it’s a little less practical. But the Golf still makes an excellent family car, because it’s comfy, refined and good to drive.

Also consider...

New: Renault Mégane Sport Tourer 1.5 dCi GT Line

Price: £22,875
Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl, 108bhp

The Renault Mégane is arguably the most stylish estate, which will be a big draw for many people. But it has substance, too, with an economical diesel engine, a big boot and a pleasant interior.

Used: Mercedes E 220 d SE Estate

Price: £22,999
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 191bhp

If you want more luxury and load space, you can do it on a modest budget. We found a 2017 Mercedes E-Class Estate with 15,000 miles for just under £23,000, which looks like great value.

Used BMW X6 review
Posted on Thursday January 17, 2019

Used BMW X6 - front
18 Jan, 2019 8:45am Richard Dredge

A full used buyer’s guide on the BMW X6 covering the X6 Mk2 (2015-date)

BMW introduced the original X6 to some sharp intakes of breath in 2008. Lots of people couldn’t understand the brand’s rationale for building a huge SUV (or SAC – Sports Activity Coupé in BMW parlance) that was less useful than the X5 on which it was based and, to many eyes, less handsome.

But these drawbacks didn’t stop the X6 selling like hot cakes, so in the end it wasn’t a big shock when, in 2015, a second take on the formula was launched. With more efficient engines and more hi-tech kit, plus extra interior and boot space, the X6 Mk2 has, unsurprisingly, proven another success.

Models covered

  • • BMW X6 Mk2 (2015-date) – Second-generation coupé-SUV’s looks aren’t to all tastes, but it’s a lot of car for the money.

BMW X6 Mk2


The second-generation BMW X6 went on sale in the UK in December 2014, priced from £51,150 for the 254bhp xDrive30d SE. Sitting above this was the £63,065, 444bhp xDrive50i, with the 376bhp M50d topping the range, at £66,920. By autumn 2015 there was also a 309bhp xDrive40d option.

In the meantime, in April 2015, the monstrous X6 M hit dealers; while it’s not a full-blown M car, with 567bhp on tap and a sub-five-second 0-62mph time, this has a turn of speed that belies its size and weight.

As standard all X6s came with an eight-speed automatic transmission; there’s no manual option. Buyers could choose Pure Extravagance packages for the interior (it brought two-tone leather with contrasting stitching) and exterior (alloy and gloss black highlights), plus soft-close doors, an electric glass sunroof and upgraded entertainment. 

BMW X6 Mk2 review

BMW X6 in-depth review
BMW X6 xDrive50i
BMW X6 M50d review
BMW X6 M review

Which one should I buy?

No X6 is cheap to buy or run, but the petrol-engined editions are especially expensive to own, which is why most of the X6s for sale are diesels. The 30d isn’t slow by any means, but a 40d feels noticeably more rapid and you won’t pay a big premium to upgrade.

At launch there was an SE trim available for entry-level models, but this was soon discontinued to leave only M Sport on offer. SE editions come with leather trim, gearshift paddles, satellite navigation via a 10.2-inch display, parking sensors front and rear, xenon headlights, electrically adjusted heated front seats, plus a full suite of driver assistance systems. M Sport spec adds adaptive suspension, adaptive cruise control, sports seats and sportier exterior design details. 

Alternatives to the BMW X6

The X6 had only one true rival for a long time, because until the likes of the Audi Q8 and Lamborghini Urus arrived, MercedesGLE Coupé was the only other full-sized coupé-SUV on the market.

However, the Range Rover Sport, Maserati Levante and Porsche Cayenne can give the BMW a run for its money when it comes to luxury, performance, image and build quality. The Audi Q7 is worthy of consideration; as a seven-seater this puts an emphasis on usability, although it’s also fast, well equipped and luxurious.

If you like the idea of an X6 but it just seems too big, unwieldy and costly, a BMW X4 might suit better; it’s a shrunken X6, so you’ll pay less to buy and run one.

What to look for 


The X6 is ideal for towing. Not only can it pull 3.5 tonnes, but trailer stability control also comes fitted as a standard feature. 


Know what you’re buying; the first-generation X6 was codenamed E71 by BMW, whereas its successor was referred to as F16. 


All models come with an excellent set of xenon headlights, but the adaptive LED system is an especially impressive set-up. 

Head-up display

Another worthwhile and sought-after option is the head-up display, which shows five pieces of information to the driver.


Shared with the X5, the X6’s interior is swathed in premium materials and well stocked with the latest kit. There’s lots of space up front, but headroom in the rear is somewhat restricted by the sloping roofline. All-round visibility isn’t great, either (although the optional Surround View system helps). Boot space expands from 580 to 1,525 litres; the latter figure trails the X5’s by 345 litres.


You can buy a nearly new BMW X6 Mk2 for between £28,990 and £73,000 on our sister site BuyaCar.

Running costs

Condition-based servicing flags up when the X6 needs a check-up and which parts are required. The longest a car can go between services is two years or 18,000 miles, with prices pegged at £217-£545 for the 30d and 40d, £219-£569 for a 50d, £261-£661 for a 50i and £223-£810 for an X6 M. Each of these lowest prices (which is for an oil change only) drops to £129 once an X6 is four years old. Look out for three-year/36,000-mile Service Inclusive packages. All engines are chain-driven. 


The original X6 was recalled eight times between 2009 and 2016 for problems including brake disc failure, electrical short circuits and failure of the steering power assistance. This latter issue also affected Mk2 cars built up to December 2015. These could suffer from contact failure, which could lead to a short circuit; as BMW put it, this could cause “a localised thermal event”.

Driver Power owner satisfaction

Neither the X6 nor its X5 sibling has appeared in our Driver Power satisfaction surveys in recent years, but it’s clear the owners who have responded are generally pleased with their purchases. The average owner’s score for the X6 on our sister title is 4.7 out of 5 (the X5 gets 4.4); a stiff ride for one driver is the only black mark on an otherwise clean sheet.

There’s a noticeable element of style over substance with the X6, but if ultimate carrying capacity isn’t your highest priority, then this is a car that’s surprisingly easy to recommend. That’s because, as you would expect of anything wearing that hallowed BMW badge, the X6 is genuinely enjoyable to drive, superbly put together and features all of the latest safety and luxury tech you could possibly ask for. It’s also supremely qualified for towing, so if you’ve got a large caravan, few vehicles will pull with such ease. Most of the cars for sale are still under warranty but, so far at least, reliability seems to be another of the X6’s trump cards, making this a relatively painless car to own.

New Audi TT Coupe 2019 review
Posted on Thursday January 17, 2019

Audi TT Coupe - front tracking
17 Jan, 2019 2:00pm James Brodie

Will a mild facelift do anything to dent the ever popular Audi TT's stylish appeal?

2019 marks 20 years of the Audi TT in Britain, and these shores have proven to be a welcoming place for the brand’s stylish sports car.

That’s because just over 142,000 of the 600,000 TTs sold globally across its two decades and three generations have found a home in the UK. There’s little doubt about it; Brits love this car.

Best sports cars to buy

Coinciding with the TT’s 20th anniversary is a facelift for the Mk3 car, that’s been on sale since December 2014. The new look changes the TT into something altogether more aggressive, and while Audi has also focused on new technology and standard equipment, there has been a reshuffle under the bonnet too. 

The base car – now badged the TT 40 TFSI under Audi’s somewhat convoluted new naming system – swaps out its 1.8-litre turbo engine for a new 2.0-litre turbo with more power, while the TT 45 TFSI driven here gets a bit of extra poke, with 242bhp now served up.

Front-wheel-drive TTs are still available with a six-speed manual gearbox, but quattro all-wheel-drive models are equipped with a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. A petrol particulate filter is also equipped, to ensure the TT performs well in the new WLTP emissions and economy tests.

You have to flick the TT 45 TFSI into its most potent ‘Dynamic’ setting on the drive mode selector to really unlock a turn of pace to worry the hot hatchback regulars. The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine feels like a fuss free powerplant with a strong mid-range. However, it does come across a little breathless towards the top of the rev-band, and the purposeful mid-range bark rapidly transforms into a synthesised note that’s doesn’t rank among the best sports car crescendos.

The 5.2-second 0-62mph dash Audi claims feels very realistic though. The first few ratios of the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission are pleasingly short and deliver a real sense of urgency when combined with snappy, on-demand shifts from the slightly cheap feeling wheel-mounted paddles. The real secret to the TT 45 TFSI’s impressive off-the-line and mid-range potency though is the quattro all-wheel-drive setup. It doesn’t feel like one drop of the 242bhp power or 370Nm torque escapes the tarmac. 

The TT’s quattro setup can transfer 100 per cent of the engine’s torque to the rear axle. However, in practice this doesn’t mean that the TT has a thrilling rear-biased character hidden up its sleeve. It’s still overwhelmingly neutral in corners, and booting the throttle mid-bend just exposes the TT’s ample reserves of grip.

The suspension errs towards the firmer side of things, but it doesn’t hinder the TT’s fluency down a B-road. It’s a very easy, if somewhat unspectacular coupe to drive fast. The only thing that’ll chip away at your confidence is the steering. It’s very sharp and aids the sense of agility, but it’s also too light and transmits almost no feedback from the road surface.

Audi’s ‘Progressive’ electric power steering is standard fit, which alters the steering ratio on the fly and makes low speed manoeuvring easier. Drive the TT fast, however, and the variable setup will leave keener drivers wanting more. At this price point a comparable BMW Z4 will deliver much more through the wheel, while speccing a few extra such as expensive optional wheel designs and the £1,495 technology pack puts the TT 45 TFSI quattro within touching distance of a basic Porsche 718 Cayman. At that sort of price, the Porsche will be pretty bare-bones, but certainly a step up dynamically. 

Away from the driving experience, the list of standard equipment on all TT models grows to include electrically folding mirrors, while S Line trim cars get upgraded sports seats. In the cabin nothing really changes, but it’s still a strong driving environment and uses the kind of quality materials you’d expect of the brand.

A central infotainment screen is not available in the TT. Instead, absolutely everything is broadcast through the standard Virtual Cockpit instrument display behind the steering wheel. This isn’t an issue, given that Audi’s digital dashboard setup is still possibly the most convincing on the market and can be configured to be as information rich or as un-obtrusive as you like. You can operate the display through button-mounted wheels, but a dedicated rotary dial still sits in the middle of the centre console.

The TT’s somewhat bulbous shape means that space doesn’t feel too constrained inside, while visibility is also pretty good. The Coupe is a 2+2, with a pair of very small seats tucked behind the main front row. While they aren’t all that usable, the boot is, sizing up at an impressive 305-litres for the class. Collapse the tiny rear row seats, and the TT fields an impressive, if slightly shallow, 712-litre cargo space.

The Audi TT Coupe is faster and better appointed than ever, and still a surprisingly practical choice in a traditionally tightly-squeezed class. It trades on the accessibility of its performance rather than being a true driver’s car. But ultimately, given the model’s mainstream popularity, that’s probably just what Audi intended.
  • Model: Audi TT Coupe 45 TSFI quattro S Line S Tronic
  • Price: £38,605
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
  • Power/Torque: 242bhp/370Nm
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive
  • 0-62mph: 5.2sec
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Economy/CO2: 34.9mpg/161g/km
  • On sale: Now

Saab’s owner gets major cash boost for NEVS 9-3 production
Posted on Thursday January 17, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-01-17 13:44

NEVS, the Swedish company’s financial saviour has received a fresh injection of cash from Chinese property giant, Evergrande

NEVS 9-3

National Electric Vehicles Sweden (NEVS), has announced that the Chinese property giant, Evergrande Group - a significant shareholder in electric car brand Faraday Future - has acquired a controlling interest in the company after buying a 51 per cent share of its holdings.

NEVS bought Saab Automobile’s remaining assets, following the Swedish car company’s 2012 financial collapse. Since then, NEVS has tried to revive Saab (at least in spirit), forming a series of partnerships with a range of Chinese and Japanese technology companies.

Best electric cars on sale

Spearheading this revival would be a Saab 9-3-based all-electric saloon called the 9-3 EV, plans for which first appeared in 2014. The company’s manufacturing plant in Tianjin, China was completed in 2017, tasked with building the 9-3 EV in a preliminary production run of 50,000 units, followed by a scaled-up run of 220,000 units.

However, it seems that NEVS has been struggling to meet its production targets, as the first 9-3 EVs are only due to reach their Chinese buyers later this year; two years after production officially commenced.

The recent cash injection, supplied by Evergrande Group, will be used to help increase production of the NEVS 9-3 EV and assist with the company’s research and development into autonomous cars. Following this, NEVS plans to expand its interest globally by commencing production of the 9-3 EV at its plant in Trollhättan, Sweden.

Don’t get too excited, though; the car’s European release will likely be a long way off as NEVS aims to first establish its foothold in the Chinese market before moving overseas. However, when it does arrive in Europe, NEVS assures us that 9-3 EV will retain its “Swedish” character, offering the same levels of safety, technology and driving dynamics for which Saabs are known.

Are you excited to see the (potential) return of Saab? Let us know in the comments section below…

Nio launches electric car battery-swap network
Posted on Thursday January 17, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-01-17 13:35

Installed on China’s G2 Expressway, Nio’s battery-swapping stations can exchange a flat battery for a fully-charged one in 3 minutes

NIO battery swap

Chinese electric car brand Nio has announced on Twitter that it has completed the roll-out of its battery-swapping infrastructure along the G2 Expressway between Beijing and Shanghai. Covering 732 miles, the series of eight battery-swap stations can exchange a flat electric car battery for a fully-charged one in three minutes.

This infrastructure should allow drivers to cover longer distances in their Nio EVs without worrying about range. Nio’s map also shows a second arm to the system, a series of battery-swappers running from Beijing to Shenzhen, suggesting an extension to the network is in the pipeline.

Best electric cars currently on sale

Currently, the battery-swappers are only compatible with the Nio ES8 electric car. Owners simply drive their vehicle into the battery-swapper and a series of automated rams and motors raise the car, unbolt and remove the flat battery, then replace it with a fully-charged one.

The battery-swappers store and recharge the battery packs, ready for their next use, while periodically checking their condition to ensure only the “healthiest” cells are supplied to drivers. The automated battery-swappers have a footprint of only three regular car parking spaces, which Nio says allows for battery-swapping locations to easily upscale.

In addition to this battery-swapping service, Nio provides a mobile recharging service called Nio “Power Mobile.” Designed for when drivers misjudge their car’s range, the scheme consists of fleet of van-mounted mobile power-banks, which can provide 100km (62 miles) of range in only 10 minutes; or enough to get the driver to the next battery-swapping station.

What are your thoughts on Nio’s electric car infrastructure? Would something like this work in the UK? Let us know in the comments section below…

Online car dealers: the future way to buy a car?
Posted on Thursday January 17, 2019

Hugo Griffiths 2019-01-17 13:30

Thanks to the latest tech, new car test drives are coming to your door. We take a look at some of the best online car dealers

Imagine a future in which you can order a test drive as easily as you can an Amazon delivery – or one where you can have a car delivered to your house without ever having seen it, let alone driven it. How about being able to put any model you like on your driveway, instantly?

If that sounds like a brave new world, we’ve news for you: the scenarios described above are all possible, and we’ve tried out some of the schemes currently available to see how they work. We’re talking about the dealership of the future; the dealership that comes to your house. 

Mazda MyWay

We start by asking for a car to be delivered to our home courtesy of Mazda’s MyWay. Set up in 2015 for customers who don’t live near a dealer, the internet-based scheme asks you to book a time slot online. Then, a gleaming Mazda 6 pulls up outside our house.

Senior MyWay brand champion Yaqub Begh starts off with a five-point tour of the 6, pointing out features introduced by the model’s recent facelift. He shows us the space in the rear seats and the boot, before opening the driver’s door for us to climb in.

Best new car deals available

The test drive is next, and when you’re motoring on familiar roads, you can concentrate more closely on the way a model behaves. We know, for example, how our personal car copes with a specific pothole; driving over the same imperfection in the 6 reveals its impressive ride.

Yaqub says his customers often have a similar experience. “When people have a relatively new car to part-exchange, they often say they had a five-minute drive, and didn’t realise how bad the seats are, or how firm the ride is,” he tells us.

Test drive over, we head inside to talk prices. MyWay has four supporting dealers around the periphery of London and, after a customer has specified their Mazda, those dealers bid on it, supplying quotes within an hour, and ultimately delivering a car to the customer.

“It’s a really easy platform,” Yaqub says, adding that vehicles are collected for annual servicing as part of the package. As MyWay brand champions aren’t commissioned, it’s a pressure-free experience, too.

MyWay originally focused on Mazda buyers in London, but 2,000 test drives and 400 sales later, the service has expanded to Tunbridge Wells in Kent, and an adapted version is to be offered in Greater Manchester.

Hyundai Click to Buy

Don’t live in one of the areas covered by MyWay? How about Hyundai’s nationwide Click to Buy programme?

Originally intended as an adjunct to Hyundai’s shopping-mall outlets, the Click to Buy initiative proved so popular that the company made it a standalone model.

Tony Whitehorn, Hyundai UK’s president, explains: “We thought everybody should be able to buy a car online without having to visit a dealership.”

A quick play around with Click to Buy reveals its simplicity. We input our own car’s details in the part-exchange section, receive a realistic valuation, set a budget for a new car and are presented with finance options for the i20 and the Kona Electric.

“A number of cars are price-pointed nationally,” Whitehorn tells us. “But if you click ‘see more cars’, you’ll see models available from local dealers, and can transact on any Hyundai car online.”

Not being able to resist the lure of an i30 N, we’re taken to a model page that lists our monthly payments and nearest dealer; then we have the option to either book a test drive or order the Hyundai hot hatch.

How many people, we ask, order without a test drive? “In our city stores, just 53 per cent of customers had a test drive before buying,” Whitehorn explains. “And 100 per cent of Kona Electric customers have bought without having one, because it’s only being sold online.”

How to buy a car online

Whitehorn stresses the Click to Buy service is not intended to replace the manufacturer’s garages. “You go to a dealer to pick the car up, or the dealer delivers it to you, and you cement a relationship,” he says.

The boss is keenly aware, though, that buying habits vary between generations. “My kids wouldn’t go into a dealership to buy a new car, but my parents wouldn’t buy a car online,” he explains.

The 700,000 visits Click to Buy saw in the first 10 months of the year may have only resulted in 652 sales, but Hyundai is confident those numbers will only increase as digitisation grows. “It takes time; I get it,” Whitehorn says. “When you’re at the vanguard of something, there’s always work to be done.” 


Another company at the vanguard of car sales is tech firm ZeroLight. It specialises in augmented reality, virtual reality and high-definition car visualisations, working with the likes of BMW, Pagani and Porsche, and recently developing a real-time 3D online configurator and virtual reality service for Audi.

The aim is to make car buying more immersive, accurate and engaging for would-be customers.

ZeroLight’s chief marketing officer, Francois de Bodinat, tells us that the sheer number of options and configuration possibilities available today makes it hard for buyers to get an accurate idea of what their car will really look like.

“When you change the wheels, the paint, the interior colour, have a roofbox, a bike rack, there are a massive number of configurations. There is no way that you can really see the final car before you buy it,” Francois says.

ZeroLight’s answer? Create a bespoke ‘digital twin’ of the car being configured, which displays every one of the options specified by a customer. This 3D model can then be consistently rendered on a 4K screen or virtual reality suite in a showroom, on an online configurator or, as we’re about to see, in customers’ homes.

Francois helps us design a Porsche Cayenne on a conceptual configurator. We specify white paint with a brown leather interior; then, after a couple of taps on the iPad, the Cayenne ‘appears’ on our kitchen table.

The effect is uncanny. On the tablet’s screen is a live-stream video of our table, together with a 3D Cayenne. So convincing is the visualisation that when we point the iPad at my son’s Playmobil Porsche 911 Targa, it’s hard to tell which model is real. But the show isn’t over yet: also displayed on the screen are an accelerator, brake pedal and steering wheel. These act as a remote control for the Cayenne, which is soon ‘driving’ all over the table.

We head outside next to see how the car would look on the road – the model’s size can be adjusted with pinch-to-zoom – and get a bit carried away. Wouldn’t an Audi RS 5 look nicer outside the house? No, wait, let’s go really high-end; how about a Pagani Huayra?

This augmented-reality app isn’t available to the public – yet – but the tech is ready and waiting for a car company to buy it. “There is no technical barrier to it,” Francois says.

MyWay, Click to Buy and ZeroLight offer something buyers have always put a huge price on: convenience, now bolstered by the limitless opportunities of the internet. While physical outlets remain the norm for the moment, the dealership of the future looks set to be moving into your home.

Online car sales are up by 50 per cent every year 

“For dedicated petrolheads, buying a car sight unseen may remain unthinkable, but our research shows that most drivers are open to cutting out the hassle of traipsing round dealerships and haggling,” says Austin Collins, MD of our sister site

“Online sales of new and used cars at have doubled annually since 2014, so it’s unsurprising that more firms see this as the future.

“Buyers can choose from tens of thousands of cars anywhere in the country (there’s a standard nationwide delivery charge), comparing finance quotes is easier than in a dealership and distance selling laws mean there’s a 14-day guarantee for online purchases. This applies whether you’re buying a car or socks from Amazon.”

Do you think buying a car online is a good idea? Let us know your thoughts below...

EVs cleaner than petrol or diesel cars, even when the electricity comes from coal
Posted on Thursday January 17, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-01-17 12:37

EVs emit less lifetime CO2 than cars with internal combustion engines, even in countries reliant on coal for electricity generation

Exhaust emissions

Electric vehicles (EVs) are better for the environment than internal combustion engine (ICE) models even when charged up with electricity generated by coal-fired power stations, according to new research.

Data from BloombergNEF (BNEF) shows CO2 emissions from EVs were about 40 per cent lower than those from ICE models in 2018. Furthermore, the UK saw the biggest difference in emissions between the two categories of car due to its large renewable energy industry.

• EU rules car CO2 emissions must reduce by 37.5% within 11 years

Even in countries like China, which are more reliant on coal-fired electricity, EVs were still found to be cleaner than ICE cars from the points of view of CO2 emissions.

The research helps clarify some of the details surrounding the lifetime emissions of EVs, which don’t pollute on the road but do consume electricity that’s often generated by fossil fuels.

As a result of the data, BNEF predicts EVs will become cleaner in the future as utilities companies ditch coal plants in favour of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar farms.

South-east Asia is the region most behind the rest of the world in converting to renewable energy, but the research forecasts China will make swift progress on this front as its renewable energy industry grows and takes a larger share in the country’s power generation market.

The BNEF says the widespread adoption of renewable energy will decrease average emissions by up to 90 per cent in the UK and over a third in Japan by 2040.

The organisation also predicts the global share of zero-carbon electricity generation will rise from 38 per cent in 2018 to 63 per cent by 2040, with emissions from ICE-powered cars falling roughly 1.9 per cent every year up to 2040 and pollution from EVs dropping by between three and 10 per cent annually in the same period of time.

• New car CO2 emissions reach five-year high

Colin McKerracher, transport analyst at BNEF, commented: “When an internal combustion vehicle rolls off the line, its emissions per km are set, but for an EV they keep falling every year as the grid gets cleaner.”

But while lifetime CO2 emissions may be lower for EVs, questions still remain over charging infrastructure, and sourcing methods for EV battery minerals, such as cobalt.

What are your thoughts about EVs being cleaner than ordinary ICE vehicles? Let us know in the comments below...

New Toyota RAV4 2019 review
Posted on Wednesday January 16, 2019

Toyota RAV4 - front
16 Jan, 2019 7:00pm John McIlroy

We get to grips with the latest version of the Toyota RAV4 compact SUV...

The Toyota RAV4 may be a relatively modest seller in the UK, but it is a model of global significance. Back in 2017, before the last generation started to be phased out, it was the fourth best-selling car on the planet – and the best-selling SUV of them all.

Over the 25 years since the original RAV4’s debut, though, a plethora of similar vehicles has arrived – to the point where Toyota’s offering has risked becoming ‘just another SUV’, swamped by dozens of rivals.

Best SUVs to buy now

So for this fifth generation of the RAV4, Toyota has ripped up its rulebook on conservative styling and come up with a sharp-edged, square-wheelarched creation that should stand out a mile compared with the likes of the Hyundai Tucson or the Volkswagen Tiguan. Will it be for everyone? No. But that’s the point; this is a car that will excite some and repel others, and that, for Toyota, is better than to provoke no reaction at all.

This individuality doesn’t stop at the styling either, because in the UK at least, the RAV4 is being offered as a hybrid only. Specifically, it’s called a ‘self-charging hybrid’, which is marketing-speak for an electrified vehicle that you can’t plug into a wall socket.

In the case of UK RAV4s, in fact, there is just a single powertrain on offer - referred to by those marketing bods (yes, them again) as a ‘Dynamic Force’ engine. In reality it’s a 2.5-litre four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle petrol engine paired up with an electric motor, offering 215bhp in front-wheel-drive RAV4s or 219bhp in 4x4 versions. And because this car is hybrid only, it is also automatic only - or rather, a CVT only. 

Under it all is yet another iteration of the Toyota New Generation Architecture (TNGA) platform - the same modular set of chassis components that has already impressed us beneath the C-HR, Prius and Corolla. The suspension configuration is familiar too, with MacPherson struts at the front and a double wishbone set-up at the rear.

The front-wheel-drive model takes 8.4 seconds to reach 62mph while the AWD edition, which has an extra motor on the back axle, trims three-tenths of a second off that figure. And CO2 emissions range from 102g/km to 105g/km - no higher.

Toyota is launching the car with four trim levels - although the cheapest of them, Icon, is only available with the front-wheel drive layout. Still, standard specs look decent enough. That entry model brings dual-zone air conditioning, rear parking sensors and camera, automatic headlights and wipers, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Step up to Design and along with the option of four-wheel drive, you get navigation built into the infotainment system, keyless entry and ignition, a powered tailgate, front parking sensors and 18-inch wheels.

Excel is next up, with leather upholstery, heated front seats with electric adjustment on the driver’s seat, a heated steering wheel, ambient cabin lighting and headlight washers. And then there’s Dynamic, which is roughly the same spec as Excel but gets styling add-ons including a different design of 18-inch alloys, a contrast gloss-black roof colour, sports seats and projection LED headlights.

All RAV4s, incidentally, get Toyota Safety Sense 2 as standard. It brings adaptive cruise control with lane departure warning and steering assist, a pre-collision system including pedestrian detection, automatic high beam headlights and road sign recognition.

On the road, the RAV4 is a curious mix. This generation’s body is 57 percent more rigid than the outgoing model’s, and this - coupled with the TNGA underpinnings - makes it a surprisingly capable performer on twisty roads. It shirks the worst body roll excesses that you find with SUVs, and the front end turns in crisply, with steering that’s direct and nicely weighted. Barring the worst hooliganism, it doesn’t suffer much from understeer, and it is admirably amenable to sudden changes of direction.

It’s comfortable, too. Our Dynamic test car was on the larger wheels but there’s more than enough compliancy on pock-marked roads. Indeed, we’d go as far as to say that the RAV4 has every bit as much sophistication to its ride as, say, the Skoda Kodiaq or VW Tiguan, and probably more than a SEAT Ateca or Ford Kuga.

These traits promise to reward the driver more than you might expect in such a tall vehicle, but Toyota’s hybrid powertrain isn’t quite willing to play its part in that. It’s not that it’s unrefined or inherently unsorted; it’s more that the Hybrid Drive principle of having an engine speed not entirely related to how fast you’re travelling, is a just an insurmountable obstacle to driver involvement.

Yes, you can use steering wheel-mounted paddles to play with the ‘stepped’ ratios in the system, particularly under braking, but it’s always going to ignore you and do what it thinks is best once you’re back on the throttle.

Recognise this fact and adopt a smooth, relaxed approach and you’ll find the 2.5-litre set-up fast enough for most situations, including around town. And there’s no doubt that the larger capacity and increased torque mean that when the CVT revs do go skywards - and yes, they still do, from time to time - they tend to be shorter blasts than you might experience in, say, an older Toyota Auris or Prius.

When you’re cruising on the flat at motorway speeds, you’re unlikely to hear much engine noise at all - although this is as much down to a fair bit of wind rush from the side mirrors as it is the refinement of the latest powertrain.

Most of our meaningful mileage was in a front-drive Dynamic but we also tried a four-wheel-drive edition on some pretty badly rutted and muddy terrain. It acquitted itself well - enough to persuade us that this RAV4 has more than enough ability off road for the type of person who’s going to buy one. There’s no discernible pay-off in on-road performance either.

Inside, a 30mm stretch in wheelbase over the old car means that there’s space for four adults – and five could travel in reasonable comfort for a decent length of time. The boot is pretty practical, too; there are is 580 litres on offer with the rear seats in place (79 litres more than in the Mk4 RAV4), and 1,690 litres available if you fold them down.

These figures look competitive enough against, say, the Nissan X-Trail, which musters 565 litres as standard. But the Toyota’s ultimate capacity is some way shy of the Nissan’s 1,996 litres total and on the whole, its loadspace isn’t a patch on what you can get in the (much cheaper) Skoda Kodiaq or the (similarly priced) VW Tiguan Allspace. Still, we wouldn’t argue with Toyota’s claim that the RAV4 can swallow a full-size mountain bike without taking the wheels off, so it should be more than spacious enough for most family uses.

The interior quality is hard to fault - the RAV4 feels well enough built to last beyond the natural three-year PCP cycle without any rattles or squeeks. But, as is often the case for Toyota, the finish is functional more than luxurious. There’s a smattering of double-stitching and soft-touch materials in the places that matter, at least. 

The layout is broadly functional, too, albeit with a few extra buttons low down between the steering wheel and the door that are hard to find without taking your eyes off the road. We like the chunky, heating controls, however, with their rubberised finish that makes them easy to grip with cold hands.

Our car had a panoramic rear-view mirror, which takes a feed from a camera just inside the rear hatch glass and shows it on a digital screen integrated into the usual mirror housing. It takes some getting used to, but ultimately shows a wider-angle image so we could see its benefits, in time.

It’s certainly more helpful than the eight-inch infotainment system, which is probably the single weakest point of the vehicle. In hardware terms the screen looks slightly lower-resolution than what you can get in a VW or even a Kuga. And the interface is classic Toyota, with a clunky approach.

Worst of all, the smartphone integration is lamentable in this day and age, with not even the option to add Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, so you can’t bypass the in-car system in the same way that you can with, say, a Honda CR-V. Toyota sources say engineers are “working on it” but this functionality - standard on most of the RAV4’s rivals and at least optional on pretty much all of them - will not be available at launch.

As a pure hybrid, of course, the RAV4 is pretty much in a class of one - and that makes price comparison tricky. On the face of it, an SUV of this size with a starting figure just shy of £30,000 looks pretty expensive compared with the likes of the Kodiaq.

But then you need to factor in the effect those low CO2 emissions have on Vehicle Excise Duty (£135 across the range) and, more importantly, Benefit-in-kind taxation for company car choosers. The entry point of the RAV4 range, that front-drive model, has BIK of just 21 percent – and every other version is 22 percent, regardless of how many driven wheels they have. Toyota reckons a RAV4 user-chooser will save more than £120 per month in tax over a comparable Tiguan petrol or diesel.

There’s much to like about the new Toyota RAV4 - an excellent chassis, decent practicality, impressive efficiency and strong BiK figures. It doesn’t deliver the last word in driver involvement but as comfortable family transport, it should find plenty of customers, particularly among those choosing their next company car. It falls down badly, though, in the sort of connectivity and smartphone integration that buyers are demanding in ever-increasing numbers. Fix that, Toyota, and an extra half-star is there for the taking.
  • Model: Toyota RAV4 Dynamic FWD
  • Price: £34,400
  • Engine: 2.5-litre 4cyl petrol-electric hybrid
  • Power (total system): 215bhp
  • Transmission: CVT, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph/Top speed: 8.5s/112mph
  • Economy/CO2: 49.2mpg/105g/km
  • On sale: April 2019

UK’s AFC Energy launches CH2ARGE - world’s first hydrogen fuel cell electric car charger
Posted on Wednesday January 16, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-01-17 07:00

Fresh take on EV charging sees hydrogen fuel cell used to replenish EV batteries; tech allows for off-grid charging

A UK firm has demonstrated what it claims is the world’s first electric vehicle (EV) charger based on hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Surrey-based AFC Energy’s CH2ARGE hydrogen-powered rapid chargers are capable of charging an average EV to 80 per cent capacity in less than an hour, all without having to tap into the National Grid.

Best electric cars to buy now

EV owners using the CH2ARGE system would only see a conventional-looking electric car charger, with much of the tech hidden in the background. Hydrogen for the chargers would be delivered via tanker and stored at the charging station in on-site tanks, before being converted into electricity by a hydrogen fuel cell.

Electricity generated by that fuel cell is then fed into a 40kW battery, from which EV owners draw the charge for their cars. Each CH2ARGE unit comprises two EV charge points, capable of dispensing around 140 full charges before the hydrogen tank requires refilling. 

AFC is currently in talks with a number of potential partners, and says it will be able to begin rolling the chargers out by the end of this year if a deal is struck soon.

The company does not currently envisage CH2ARGE as something for EV owners to have at home. The intention is for the chargers to be installed at motorway service stations, supermarkets, stadiums and other retail environments.

Electric car charging UK: everything you need to know

AFC claims the cost of using a CH2ARGE unit will be competitive with Tesla Superchargers rates, while the off-grid nature of the hydrogen chargers frees them from the limitations implicit in current charging tech. 

As well as being able to operate in remote areas, another advantage of the C2HARGE system is its ability to run on lower-purity hydrogen than is required by hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

AFC plans to source its hydrogen from steam methane reforming and electrolysis, but will “capitalise on new technologies” related to production of the gas, as they emerge. 

Adam Bond, CEO of AFC Energy, told Auto Express: “By 2030, it is estimated that there could be nine million electric vehicles on the roads of Britain, up from 90,000 today. 

“For this transition, we need charging stations to be embedded throughout the country, as well as seeking innovative solutions to overcome the severe limitations of centrally generated electricity.

“By developing and demonstrating the effectiveness of our hydrogen fuel cell in the application of EV charging, AFC Energy has shown it is ready to lead the way not only in solving the challenges of increased demand for electricity, but also doing so in a truly zero-emissions approach.”

How do hydrogen fuel cells work?

Auto Express was given a run through of how the hydrogen fuel cell works by the production team leader of AFC Energy, Chris Reynolds.

"Fuel cells work by producing an electrical current through a chemical reaction," he explained. "A fuel cell has two electrodes and a conducting medium – the electrolyte – which can be liquid or solid.

"Charged particles move from one electrode to another in the medium and when the electrodes are connected by a circuit, electrons move from one electrode to the other, causing a circuit.

"In AFC’s alkaline fuel cell, the reaction that causes this process occurs when hydrogen is fed into the fuel cell and reacts with the hydroxide chemical in the electrolyte, releasing energy and electrons whilst producing water."

Do you think the fuel cell electric car charger concept will work? Join the debate in the comments...



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