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The City of London is plotting a congestion charge, zero emission zone and 15mph speed limit
New transport strategy for London's business district plans to cut vehicle use by half, and introduce 15mph speed limit
The City of London is aiming to reduce motor traffic by half within the next 25 years and make the capital's financial centre Britain’s first large-scale zero emission zone.
The city and county, which is known as the Square Mile and contains the heart of London's business district, has developed its first long-term transport strategy as a plan for future investment following a public consultation process.
Chris Hayward, the City’s planning and transportation chief, said that the plan would “future-proof this world-class, growing business and culture centre.”
More than 500,000 people work in the area, and Hayward said that 93% commute in via public transport. The strategy therefore will put a priority on pedestrians, including the introduction of a City-wide 15mph speed limit, subject to the approval of the Department for Transport.
The plan is also intended to substantially reduce motor traffic, with the target of cutting traffic by 25% by 2030 and 50% by 2044. To do that, the City will introduce a range of measures, including a “congestion charge that’s fit for purpose”.
The City's aim to develop Britain’s first large-scale zero emission zone will begin with smaller-scale zero emission zones covering the Eastern City Cluster, and Barbican and Golden Lane areas.
No specifics on how either the congestion charge or the zero emission zone would work have been given yet. They would be separate from the current London Congestion Charge and Ultra-Low Emission Zone that are enforced by the London Assembly.
There are also plans to reduce the number of delivery vehicles in the area, through the introduction of timed access and loading restrictions, and the introduction of off-site consolidation areas, where deliveries are grouped together so they can be made in fewer trips.
Hayward said: “Once finalised, this Transport Strategy will be transformative in ensuring that the Square Mile remains a healthy, accessible and safe commercial and cultural centre and a great place to live, work, and visit in the years to come.”
The Strategy is still being finalised before a last consultation process begins. It could be approaved in early 2019.
The City of London is governed by the City of London Corporation, and the strategy will only apply within its 1.12 square mile area. It is one of the 33 districts that form Greater London, which is overseen by the Mayor of London and London Assembly.
We try Volvo's funky XC40 with the latest T4 four-cylinder petrol engine to see if it makes the compact SUV an even more appealing package
According to Volvo, this T4-engined XC40 is set to be the best-selling version of its funky compact SUV. Waning consumer interest in vehicles fuelled from the black pump at the service station means that their petrol-powered range-mates are commanding an ever increasing share of the sales mix - to the point where the T4 and recently-introduced T3, which we recently drove on UK roads, are expected to account for 50% of all XC40 sales.Where that entry-level three-cylinder T3 model is available exclusively with a combination of front-wheel-drive and six-speed manual transmission - for now, at least - the four-pot T4 comes as standard with an eight-speed auto 'box that sends drive to the wheels at both axles. In this iteration, the XC40’s all-aluminium Drive-E engine displaces 1969cc, and develops a modest 188bhp and 221lb ft of torque.Our test vehicle was an entry-level Momentum model, which is priced from ?32,070. Suspension is comprised of a MacPherson strut arrangement at the front axle, with a multi-link arrangement with coil springs at the rear. However, being a base model it goes without the stiffer spring rates, thicker anti-roll bars and monotube rear shock absorbers that work so well on pricier R-Design models.
Due to go on sale on 1 November, the BMW 4 Series rival is priced from ?38,800 for the base variant, which is equipped with kit such as front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, keyless entry, sat-nav and 18-inch alloys.
The mid-range F-Sport model introduces sportier bodywork and interior upgrades, alongside LED headlights and an adaptive suspension system. An optional Takumi pack adds a 17 speaker Mark Levinson sound system, a heated steering wheel and a sunroof for an extra ?2,000. Topping the range is the fully-loaded RC Takumi, priced at ?45,800.
In addition to minor styling alterations, Lexus has made aerodynamic tweaks to the RC, as well as revising the suspension with a view to improving ride quality. The steering has been re-engineered, with the company claiming it has improved the rack's road feel. The new RC is also lower to the ground and features a slightly wider track than before in a bid to improve handling.
The interior benefits from greater use of plusher materials, such as brushed metal for the heater and audio control panels, while the analogue clock from Lexus's flagship LC has been grafted onto the RC’s dashboard.
Outside, Lexus has incorporated LED daytime running lights into the light clusters, and new paint colours and alloy wheel designs are available. Lexus says the LC has been a considerable point of reference for the RC’s new design, although the brand's entry-level coup? has a less concept-like appearance than the comparatively wildly styled LC. .
At the heart of the changes is a new online sales and service channel that will allow Volkswagen to sell cars directly to customers as well as offer individual mobility services. The channel also lets it track customer driving habits and offer over-the-air software updates through a suite of new connectivity options to be made available on future models.
It will be supported by a network of city showrooms and pop-stores that have been conceived to bring Volkswagen closer to potential customers in a move aimed at making the German car maker’s sales organisation more flexible and efficient.
“We will learn more about our customers' needs and will be able to develop tailor-made offerings for each through intelligent data management,” said J?rgen Stackmann, the Volkswagen board member responsible for sales and marketing. With the reorganisation of its sales operations, Volkswagen says it hopes to reach up to five million new and existing customers through online means each year.
The new digital sales and service channel aims to provide around-the-clock sales support, with each customer receiving unique Volkswagen identification. It will handle the entire purchasing process, including financing, payment and also used car trade-in, allowing customers to complete their car purchase from a selected dealer, while providing access to services offered through the Volkswagen We digital eco-system, including We Park, We Deliver, We Connect and We Share.
Volkswagen’s existing dealership business model will be completely overhauled as part of the reorganisation. Together with city showrooms and pop-up stores, three further sales outlets are planned, including traditional dealerships, used car centres and service factories. Customers who prefer to opt out of the new online sales and service channel will still be able to maintain contact with their preferred dealership.
American-built Swedish sports saloon has the style, but is more a rival for the Mercedes-AMG C43 or the hardcore BMW M3?
Volvo needs this car to be good. More than good, in fact, because it doesn’t matter how many SUVs you can flog, if you choose to operate at the premium end of the mass market without a fighting-fit mid-size saloon, you’re headlining without a front man. Autocar readers – people who care about driving – are also unlikely to lend your brand much affection if you can’t successfully engineer such a timeless formula as a sports saloon, but that’s something we’ll come onto in a moment.So, the new S60. Despite the fact Volvo sold only 1276 examples of the outgoing model last year (more McLaren 720Ss left the showroom in 2017), it’s the most keenly anticipated car of its kind in recent memory. You might disagree with that, but there are several very good reasons why most won’t. Not least of which is that this – the first American-built Volvo – looks for all the world to finally provide us with a decent excuse to send money somewhere other than Stuttgart, Munich or Ingolstadt. Or, indeed, the Midlands.In this class it’s fresh and exciting – and, let’s face it, instantly desirable to behold – but the third-generation S60 nevertheless feels familiar. Volvo builds this car on the same Scalable Product Architecture that already underpins the S90, that model’s V90 estate sibling, the XC60 and XC90 SUVs and also the V60 to which this new saloon is so closely related (and which we like very much).As such it’s no surprise to find suspension consisting of double wishbones at the front and an integral link setup with a transverse, composite leaf spring at the rear. There are coil springs and adaptive dampers at each corner, and that’s your lot, because air suspension has yet to be democratised at this level. Something else is missing, though, and that’s diesel power. In line with plans to electrify every new car it launches from 2019, the brand’s Scandi-pure aura is increasingly built on its ecological conscientiousness. It means the S60 is the first modern Volvo offered exclusively with petrol engines. None displaces more than two litres via anything other than four cylinders, either, and if that sounds a bit dry, perhaps that’s because it is.So what are your options? For the T4 and T5 models most likely to reach the UK, power will come from turbocharging alone, with no less than about 190bhp on offer. Most likely we’ll also get ‘Twin Engine’ T6 and T8 models, which will have that first level of forced induction respectively supplemented by an Eaton-built supercharger and that same supercharger plus an electric motor. Is it any wonder Volvo's modular engine-building strategy is such an economic success when it can combine those three elements as it sees fit?The range-topping T8 sounds particularly tasty. It makes 385bhp and hits 62mph in under five seconds, though there is a way to go even faster in T8 S60 if you’ve prepared to spend a bit more, and we’ll come onto that shortly. Either way, it’s a car nipping at the heels of BMW’s M3 and rest of the super-saloon cohort when it comes to on-paper performance.
Skoda's China-built Kodiaq GT is revealed in full by leaked official shots ahead of its launch later this year
After Skoda released a series of sketches of its new Kodiaq GT earlier this week, official images appear to have been leaked online showing the car in full.
Pictures of the more rakish, coupe-like version of Skoda's family SUV have been published online by Dutch site AutoWeek, and are said to be official shots of the production model. They show the new model shares its front-end with its seven-seat sibling, but by losing the third row seating option a sloping roofline and squat rear-end has been introduced.
The Kodiaq GT is set to be Skoda’s flagship model in China, the only country in which it will be built and sold. It will be in Chinese dealerships before the end of the year, manufactured as part of a joint venture between local car maker SAIC and Skoda.
The SUV-coupe is based on the existing five-door Kodiaq, which is already built in China for the domestic market. The interior can be seen to share much with that car, but with a sportier seat design to reflect a more athletic identity.
The Kodiaq GT is new from the front doors backwards, the new car getting that sloping roofline, sleeker glasshouse, and a new, angular tailgate. In addition, there are new bumpers and tail lights, and the addition of a small rear spoiler.
There are no current plans to offer the five-seater for sale in Europe. Skoda’s European production is understood to be at capacity, and there is simply nowhere to build it. Skoda is reluctant to import from China and would instead prefer to concentrate its efforts on being a success in the car’s home market.
Skoda will look to achieve that at a lower price point, and is the latest car maker to offer a coupe-SUV in emerging markets soon after Renault revealed the Arkana for sale in Russia.
Previous information revealed to Chinese media on the car claimed it to be 4634mm long, 1883mm wide and 1649mm high, making it 63mm shorter, 1mm wider and 27mm lower than the regular model. Prices are set to start at around CNY220,000 (around ?24,500).
Two turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engines are set to be offered, with outputs of 186bhp and 220bhp, and are attached to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, driving either the front or all four wheels.
Meeke will return to the WRC with Toyota next season
Northern Irish star secures full-time return in Yaris WRC
Northern Irish rally star Kris Meeke will join the Toyota squad full-time for the World Rally Championship next year.
The career of the 39-year-old from Dungannon has been uncertain since he was dropped by Citro?n earlier this year, with the French squad releasing an extraordinary statement citing his “excessively high number of crashes".
But Meeke, a winner of five WRC events, has secured a top drive with Toyota, which currently leads the manufacturers’ championship.
Meeke will drive a works Yaris WRC, alongside title contender Ott Tanak and Jari-Matti Latvala. Meeke is known as one of the fastest drivers in the WRC – which has led to a number of accidents - and is also highly regarded for his skills as a test and development driver.
“The performance of the Yaris WRC speaks for itself, but the team spirit here is incredible at every level, along with the Japanese culture of honour and respect,” said Meeke, who held talks with Toyota several years ago before signing for Citro?n.
Meeke also noted that he claimed his first rally championship – as his brother’s co-driver on road rallies – in a Toyota Corolla.
Toyota chairman Akio Toyota issued a statement with a message to Meeke, saying: “I have great hopes that with your vast experience you will help make the Yaris WRC even better. Under the leadership of team principal Tommi Makinen, we will ensure the Yaris WRC can be driven with even greater peace of mind. I trust you will look forward to the start of next season with great excitement.”
Rising Finnish star Esapekka Lappi, who has driven for Toyota for the past two seasons, will switch to Citro?n next season. He will join five-time World Rally champion Sebastien Ogier, who will switch from the Cumbrian-based M-Sport privateer Ford team.
Seat's fourth-gen Ford Focus rival will be shown in concept form at the Geneva show next year prior to a summer release
Seat is set to reveal the new Leon in concept form next year, but spy photographers have caught a revealing prototype testing with much less disguise than before.
The fourth-generation of the Spanish brand's Ford Focus rival will be shown at next March's Geneva motor show before the production car arrives in the summer. Seat insiders have called the new car the biggest step forward in the model's history, with a significant improvement in cabin technology and the introduction of a variant with an electrified powertrain.
Despite claims of a radical new design direction beginning with the Mk4 Leon, the test mule shows an evolutionary look. Seat is gradually moving away from straight edges and sharp angles for future models, and this mule's curvier front-end demonstrates that. The rear-end shape is familiar, however.
The C-segment car will get a more advanced infotainment system - which can update maps, apps and functionality over the air - before any of its Volkswagen Group stable-mates. Seat gets the tech first to appeal to its customer base, which is the youngest of all the group's brands.
Seat research and development boss Matthias Rabe told Autocar at the Mobile World Congress tech show in Barcelona earlier this year that the system is "fantastic technology" with a "fantastic user interface".
Seat CEO Luca de Meo said: “For two years, we have been working on what will be the best infotainment system coming to market next year, starting with the Leon."
The user interface was highly praised in customer clinics, even above that of the Tesla Model X, Rabe said.
Seat is so confident about the usability of the tech that it will migrate many of the existing dash buttons over to the screen, including the heating controls. “It will have fewer buttons, more voice control and be much more coherent than today,” Rabe said. The Leon will also be available with the option of a second screen in place of the instrument dials.
Along with the new cabin tech, the fourth-generation Leon will also be available with Seat's first plug-in hybrid powertrain to offer improved fuel economy as well as limited zero-emissions running. The plug-in Leon is billed as the model to kick-start Seat’s electrification ambitions, which will gain pace when a standalone EV is launched in 2020.
To signify its big stride forward, the upcoming Leon’s look has been described by brand design boss Alejandro Mesonero as taking “a bigger step” than the company has taken since the relaunch of the brand with the current Leon in 2012. “Sometimes you need to take a bigger step so as not to be obsolete. We’re ready very soon for the next, bolder step in design,” he said.
Rabe has previously told Autocar that the design and packaging of the five-door car will “not be a typical hatch" and that “it will create some desire”.
The next Leon will use the VW Group’s MQB platform, shared with the Mk8 Golf, which is also due out in 2019.
The Leon will come in five-door hatch, estate and crossover forms. The latter, jacked-up version will sit below the Ateca SUV in the brand's range and be "more extreme" than the Allroad version of the Leon estate, according to Rabe. He added: “We talk about hatch and we talk about SUV. Why not make something in-between?”
Seat won’t drop diesels from the line-up, Rabe said, but the range will include one of the first mild-hybrid petrol options within the VW Group for those wanting levels of economy similar to those offered by oilburning engines. This is likely to use the 48V system mated to a 1.5-litre TSI engine, as used for this Golf prototype.
Kia has given the Optima a midlife revision, with a new diesel engine and a more comprehensive kit list. Is it still competitive?
A midlife revision to a car that passes many large family car buyers by - the Kia Optima. The Korean brand’s D-segment offering is hardly flavour of the month at the best of times, but with the introduction of the sharper, more exciting Stinger, it's looking increasingly unloved.It also finds itself in a segment that has seen significant decline over the past few years - even the Ford Mondeo’s future hangs in the balance. SUVs are all many buyers want to know about now, and even those who do plump for a traditional three-box model are far more likely to choose a nice monthly lease deal with one of the premium brands.But those who immediately dismiss the Optima, in particular the Sportswagon estate we have here, are missing out on a quietly competent, handsome and fuss-free family holdall that has only become more appealing with the latest revisions.Little has changed to the Optima’s exterior look, which is no black mark as it’s still one of Kia’s more visually successful designs. There is a redesigned grille, new lights front and rear, tweaked bumpers and additional black trim on top-spec cars. But only the most hardened family estate enthusiast would pick the facelifted car out of a line-up.Visual changes to the cabin don’t extend much beyond a new steering wheel and multi-colour ambient lighting, as Kia has instead chosen to bolster the kit tally. There’s now a driver attention warning system, autonomous braking with pedestrian detection and lane keep assist, along with auto high-beam full-LED headlights.Importantly, the rather rattly old 1.7-litre diesel engine has been replaced by a new 1.6, bringing with it a raft of new emissions reduction add-ons to help it meet the latest regulations. That's had an undesirable effect, however: power is down by 5bhp, while torque is also reduced by 15lb ft, while claimed economy is identical.
There are few cars are highly anticipated as a new Porsche 911, and the latest generation’s arrival is imminent. We take a ride in a prototype to find out whether the iconic sports cars should live up to the hype.
Talking of highly commended sports cars, what better to discover the breadth of the McLaren 600LT than on a road trip from Budapest to London? At the other end of the spectrum, there’s a dirty mega test of some of the top pick-ups on sale, including the Mercedes X-Class, Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux.
Steve Cropley takes us through his week in cars, regretting the demise of the Vauxhall Cascada and applauding the Volkswagen e-Golf’s ease of use. Matt Prior, meanwhile, discusses Scotland’s North Coast 500 tourist loop and why the limited few are spoiling fun for the masses.
This week we welcome the Kia Ceed to our long-term fleet. Can it raise the game enough to be a true, better-value Volkswagen Golf rival? The Ford Fiesta becomes a firm airport-run favourite and we put the supersized Ssangyong Rexton to the car-wash test.
Our used buying guide this week, John Evans tells us why the Mk7 Fiesta ST, is a wise buy for a used warm hatch. Bangernormics laments the end of the Mondeo while considering the best second-hand Mondeos to spend your pennies on.
Pictured here in production form for the first time ahead of a planned public debut at the Los Angeles show in November, the seven-seater is set for UK delivery next March at a price of ?72,155 for the entry-level X7 xDrive30d.
Conceived to provide BMW with a greater presence in the growing upper-luxury SUV market, the X7 aims to offer the comfort and opulence of a 7 Series with the versatility and off-road prowess of the new fourth-generation X5, with which it shares much of its mechanical and electrical architecture.
Key markets for the X7, which goes under the internal codename G06, are the US, China, Russia and the Middle East. To bolster growth in those luxury-driven markets, BMW is rumoured to be working on an even more exclusive X8 model.
Previewed by the Concept X7 at last year’s Frankfurt show, the X7’s key design elements include a large kidney grille in an upright front end, angular LED headlights with optional laser projectors, a heavily contoured bonnet, a tall glasshouse and a two-piece electric tailgate.
In keeping with its upmarket aspirations, the new model makes extensive use of chrome exterior accents and comes in two trim packages: a standard variant and the more style- focused M Sport alternative.
At 5151mm in length, the X7 is a considerable 230mm longer than the new X5 and just 89mm shorter than BMW’s longest production car, the existing long-wheelbase 7 Series. The width and height of the new BMW are 1990mm and 1805mm respectively, and it has a 3105mm wheelbase.
Inside, the X7 follows the same design theme as the latest X5, with a multi-layered dashboard that houses a digital instrument panel and a standard 12.3in touchscreen infotainment display.
Standard equipment on all models includes four-zone air conditioning, soft-close doors, a three-piece glass sunroof and a park assistant function with a reversing camera.
All three rows of seats have electric adjustment, and buyers can specify a six-seat option in a 2+2+2 configuration that includes individual second-row seats. The second row of seats are said to offer 90mm more leg room and 30mm more head room than the X5.
Luggage capacity varies from 326 litres with all seven seats in place to 740 litres with the two rearmost seats folded into the boot floor. With the second row seats stowed via a standard electric mechanism, the maximum load capacity rises to 2120 litres.
Four X7 models have been confirmed, although just three are destined for the UK. The expected volume-selling models include the X7 xDrive40i, which uses a turbocharged 3.0-litre straight- six petrol engine with 335bhp and a 0-62mph time of 6.1sec. It manages 32.5mpg combined and emits 198g/km of CO2.
The other predicted bestseller will be the xDrive30d, which uses a 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder diesel engine making 261bhp for a 0-62mph time of 7.0sec. Its CO2 emissions are pegged at 171g/km with 43mpg claimed.
The performance leader of the initial line-up is the X7 M50d. It uses a quad- turbocharged version of BMW’s 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder diesel engine that produces 394bhp and 561lb ft. This is sufficient to propel BMW’s largest and heaviest SUV to date from 0-62mph in a claimed 5.4sec and on to a limited top speed of 155mph. Its combined fuel consumption is 40mpg while CO2 emissions are rated at 185g/km.
All X7 models use an eight- speed automatic gearbox and BMW’s xDrive four-wheel-drive system, with the X7 M50d featuring an electronically controlled M Sport differential as part of its standard equipment. Also available is an optional Off-Road Package, which features four surface-specific driving modes.
Despite offering the new X5 with a plug-in hybrid option, BMW has not yet confirmed such a powertrain for the heavier X7 due to concerns about its electric range being below the 50-mile target stipulated by Chinese market regulations. It is understood that plans exist to modify the petrol-electric powertrain used by the X5 xDrive45e iPerformance with newer battery cell technology in order to bring the X7’s electric range closer to 60 miles.
The X7 is underpinned by a double-wishbone front and five-link rear suspension set-up featuring air springs, electronically controlled damping and standard 20in alloy wheels – a combination available at extra cost on the smaller X5. Optional features on the X7 include BMW’s Integral Active Steering rear-wheel steer system, an electric anti-roll system and 21in and 22in wheels.
VW Group brand 'accepts responsibility' for breaking emissions rules
Audi has been fined ˆ800 million (around ?700m) as part of a settlement with German prosecutors investigating breaches of diesel emissions rules.
The Munich II public prosecutor had been investigating the Volkswagen Group brand over claims that certain versions of the firm’s V6 and V8 diesel engines breached requirements relating to "emissions service" and "power engine approval". Prosecutors also said Audi “failed to discover” that its vehicles sold with the VW Group’s EA288 and EA189 diesel engines featured an impermissible software function to cheat emissions tests – unearthed in the Dieselgate scandal.
In a statement, Audi said that it “accepted the fine and it will not lodge an appeal against it. By doing so, Audi AG admits its responsibility for the deviations from regulatory requirements.”
The ˆ800m fine comprises the maximum ˆ5m penalty for ‘negligent regulatory offences’ and ˆ795m for ‘disgorgement of economic benefits’. A Volkswagen Group release noted the fine would impact its fincial targets for the 2018 financial year.
Former Audi boss Ruper Stadler, who is currently in prison awaiting trial in connection with the Dieselgate scandal, recently left the firm. While the Audi settlement ends the probe against the brand, cases remain against several over former VW Group executives, along with a number of lawsuits from car buyers in various countries.
Our Fiesta is equipped with the 10-speaker B&O Play premium sound system, which is a ?350 option. Apparently, B&O’s engineers spent a year developing the system to suit the Fiesta, listening to 5000 songs in the process. The sound quality is far superior to the tinny tones you’d expect from a small car’s sound system. Money well spent.
Our car meets a forebear, but are the family ties easy to spot? - 4th July 2018
I recently caught sight of a lovely old Ford Fiesta XR2 that is part of Ford UK’s Heritage fleet and resembles our Fiesta ST-Line longtermer. It’s red, sits on silver wheels, features beefed-up styling and looks decidedly purposeful for its size.
That got me thinking: is a 1980s hot hatch comparable to a modern warm hatch on the road too? Has Ford, perhaps by accident as much as design, created a modern incarnation of the XR2 with this most peppy version of its standard Fiesta? The numbers suggest so.
Our car, with the most powerful variant of Ford’s 998cc triple, troubles its front wheels with 138bhp – 42bhp more than the 1.6-litre Escort XR3-sourced four-pot under the XR2’s angular snout. But Ford Heritage’s 29-year-old machine weighs just 839kg, which means it’s 305kg lighter than the newcomer. Power-to-weight is, therefore, fairly close, with the XR2 offering 114bhp per tonne to the ST-Line’s 121bhp. That light weight should leave the XR2 feeling sprightlier on the road.
To test this theory, I headed to Ford’s Dagenham site, where the XR2 and other classics are let out from under their dust covers only on very rare occasions.
Hopping into the boxy XR2 was like stepping back in time. Whereas our new car’s cabin feels tough and protective, the old one’s is airy and offers even better visibility thanks to those frighteningly slim pillars. The XR2 vibrates when the engine fires into life and there’s a strong smell of unburned petrol during cold running. Ah, nostalgia.
On the road, the XR2 is hard work. There’s no power-assisted steering so low-speed manoeuvrability requires muscle, although once you’re moving, the large-diameter wheel offers plenty of feedback. The throttle-cable-connected engine also feels deliciously responsive, albeit not particularly potent, but it’s the brakes that really grab your attention because they require a heavy press of the middle pedal to have any impact.
Our Fiesta, by contrast, has highly assisted brakes typical of modern cars (bitey at the top of the pedal), an engine with lowdown lag and very light steering that only provides information as to how the tyres up front are getting on when you really load them up through a bend. But the new car, somehow, doesn’t feel any less fun for it.
When you wind the Ecoboost motor up, the ST-Line exudes energy. It does so in a very different way to the old Fiesta, and it doesn’t lean and buzz like that car as you drive enthusiastically, but it’s quick to respond to steering inputs – far more so than the XR2 – and pulls hard when you work it through the meat of its torque band (which peaks at 1500rpm).
Given that the thrummy engine is also hungry for revs – its bhp peaks at 6000rpm – and the ST-Line chassis, which is firmer than the standard set-up, feels well matched with a good balance of agility and comfort, I think my assumptions were correct: this Fiesta has much in common with one of Ford’s most-loved hot hatches. Averaging a decent 44mpg on the traffic-ridden drive home illustrated just how far cars have come.
EAGER ENGINE The Ecoboost three-cylinder sounds enthusiastic — like half a six, perhaps.
NO CRUISE CONTROL The lack of cruise control feels at odds with an otherwise well-equipped car.
Uprated stereo system makes all the difference - 27th June 2018
Having recently returned from a holiday in Ibiza, I was excited to step back into the Fiesta and enjoy its ?350 optional B&O Play sound system. Like the nightclubs of the White Isle, it provides surround sound to offer an audio experience detailed enough to satisfy fans of all music genres. To these ears, it’s the best system in this class.
You don’t need to head to a B-road to appreciate its classy chassis and willing engine - 13th June 2018
There’s a strangely satisfying feeling of driving a car with taut but well-controlled damping over broken street surfaces. Call it the silver lining of Britain’s poor roads.
In such a car, you remain fully aware of exactly what’s going on beneath you, and every crease and crack in the tarmac is communicated to you, but it’s done so delicately that at no point do you wince as bumpstops are hammered into or tense as suspension struts clang in pain.
I experience this sensation regularly on my commute to work in our Ford Fiesta. The car rides with a composure to rival that of premium saloons, rumbling over London’s pothole-ridden streets with the nonchalant demeanour of a model on a catwalk.
But as my work-bound route leaves the city streets and moves onto a twisting dual carriageway slip road, the Fiesta still feels eager to keep up momentum around the bend and have its nose angled steeply towards the inside.
I believe this enthusiasm helps to improve fuel efficiency: I can merge onto the dual carriageway without needing to power up to speed, unlike cars that have to coast around the slip road bend.
Now that it has settled in, the Fiesta averages a respectable 40mpg during rush hour, which is at least 10mpg better than I had achieved during its first few hundred miles. They say highly strung engines take more time to loosen up, and that’s true of the 1.0-litre Ecoboost, which produces a reasonable 138bhp.
Admittedly, some of the fuel economy improvement will have come from me learning how best to use the engine and its stop/start system. It’s impossible to drive like you’re wearing helium shoes in London: there are too many honking minicabs and weaving mopeds to contend with to safely allow such a technique. But you can significantly boost fuel economy by pre-empting changes ahead, such as coasting up to lights you know will have turned red by the time you get there.
The Fiesta’s motor switches itself off before you come to a complete halt so on busier stretches of road adds a good 10% (by my guess) to the time the engine is off. It restarts before you’ve depressed a centimetre of the clutch pedal, too, and feels as seamless as any other system I’ve used.
On the motorway, our 1400-mile-old car offers around 47mpg, which is well short of the claimed 62.8mpg according to the (optimistic) NEDC test. The engine never feels strained and offers good mid-range performance but, even with six speeds at its disposal, revs at around 2750rpm so can’t be as frugal with its sips of RON 95 as you might expect.
I suspect the extra torque of the Fiesta’s 1.5 TDCi diesel engine would be better suited to motorway work. That being said, our car is still fairly new, and there’s time for the motorway economy to creep up by a few miles to the gallon.
Plus the reward for having this petrol engine comes during almost all other scenarios of driving, such as when urban landscape is traded for B-road. At those times, its motivation to rev matches the keenness of the chassis. It’s a fine city warrior but is at its most enjoyable outside it.
THE SWEET SEATS The firm, supportive seats match the car’s good ride and, with flashes of red, they look the part as well.
NOT THE KEY’S KNEES Occasionally, the ‘no key detected’ message shows and won’t let me start the car until I switch the ignition off and on again.
A run-in engine means Fuel economy improvements - 30th May 2018
The Fiesta has gone through quite a transformation in its first 1100 miles. To begin with, the 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine felt rather tight, while also returning measly economy that barely surpassed 30mpg during my urban commute. But, gradually, that figure has crept up by 10mpg and the 138bhp triple up front has started to feel more eager to rev.
Welcoming the Fiesta ST-Line to the fleet - 16 May 2018
‘Something-Line’ models. You know the breed; they’re the sheep in wolf’s clothing, the converse of a Q-car. They wear the muscle of their most athletic cousins, but behind the spoiler and big wheels are the heart and lungs of the family accountant.
Say hello to our new Ford Fiesta ST-Line, which flexes biceps with metallic alloy wheels (ours are the optional 18in ones), beefier bumpers and an ST front grille, but beneath its bonnet lives a little 1.0-litre Ecoboost triple. Surely, the buying public will turn their back on such a poorly endowed fraudster?
Well, actually, no, they won’t. Turns out ST-Line is fast becoming the new Zetec. It is already the most popular trim for the Focus and now it’s climbing up the Fiesta’s popularity ladder.
ST-Line arrived in November, several months after Zetec and Titanium variants, yet it accounted for 23% of sales in 2017. Titanium was just 2% better than that. Although Zetec, the long-standing trim champion, represented 45% of demand, Ford thinks there’s a strong chance that’ll change this year.
So I should make the most of these early weeks, during which our red car is garnering appreciation from pedestrians as they wonder whether they’re seeing the new Fiesta ST months before it’s due to appear. Hopefully, these bystanders won’t feel like their glance is wasted on an ST-Line, because our car does at least come with the most potent version of the 1.0-litre Ecoboost on offer.
We could have opted for the 99bhp entry model or the 123bhp midfielder, but we’ve gone for the 138bhp version because it straddles a middle ground between the standard line-up of Fiesta derivatives and the full-blown ST. In 138bhp form, the Fiesta ST-Line’s starting price is ?17,945 — just ?1050 less than the opening figure for its upcoming hot hatch sibling.
Once you’ve added a few options — and our car is adorned with ?1550 worth of extra kit — you’ve exceeded the price of a full-bore ST. Tempting, but purchase price is only one part of the equation. If you take running costs into account, Ford’s turbocharged three-pot 1.0 engine should be much easier on my pocket.
Even in this peppiest form, the 1.0 triple is claimed to offer 62.8mpg (combined) and puff out 102g/km of CO2. So trips to the fuel station should be far less frequent than they would be in the ST, which also uses a three-cylinder but of 1.5-litre capacity and a 197bhp output. Our car should be notably cheaper to insure, too.
Ford has nailed the warm hatch formula with the Fiesta ST-Line. That front end hooks up so sweetly that it’s brilliant fun to really work the triple up front pic.twitter.com/1Q9Tjg9Ovp
Ford has upgraded the ST-Line’s chassis so it more deservedly sits between the standard line-up and the top variant than most ‘something-Line’ models. The underlying structure is 14% stiffer than the old car’s, thanks to the use of more bracing in key areas, but the ST-Line adds to this with suspension tuned to offer sportier handling than the standard car, achieved primarily through higher damper rates.
This sounds promising for a B-road jaunt, but there’s a chance that it could make the car tiresome on my urban commute across London. There’s no system to adjust the damping rates, either. In fact, there’s nothing to adjust the way the car is set up at all, unless you count the Eco button that, as far as I can tell, seems only to slacken the throttle’s responses.
But I like that there’s only the one character for this car. That trait suggests it could be like an old-school warm hatch. Not that it’s old-school inside.
Our Fiesta ST-Line has the optional B&O Play sound system, which includes 10 speakers and adds an 8.0in touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. That kit costs ?350.
The buttons and knobs on the dashboard feel of good quality, while the soft, squidgy plastic on the dashtop feels so nice that I’ve already developed an annoying habit of prodding it while stopped in traffic. If you rejoice at the sight of unpopped bubble wrap, you’ll understand the satisfaction.
Aside from the hard, scratchy plastic for the interior door pull handles, every surface you lay your hands, feet or bottom on feels premium. Take the steering wheel, which comes with soft perforated leather, or the gearknob, which is spherical with a chrome-finished top. The cloth-covered sports seats are very comfortable and supportive, too.
All in all, this is a car with plenty of potential. Our first drives in the Fiesta ST-Line suggest this could be quite the entry-level driver’s car so, rest assured, I’ll be venturing out of the Big Smoke and heading to the country to see how hard it is to cock an inside wheel in a car with a few miles on the clock. You can take a three-pot on a track day, too, right?
I loved the ST-Line version of the previous Fiesta. While the engine is much the same, the handling is somehow even sweeter and more accurate now, and the difference between the cars’ interiors is like that between a Travelodge and a Hilton.
Specs: Price new ?17,945; Price as tested: ?19,495; Options: ST-Line 18in wheels ?600, rear privacy glass ?250, rear parking distance sensors ?200, B&O Play premium sound system with 8.0in touchscreen ?350, Shadow Black roof and mirrors ?150
Test data: Engine 3 cyls in line, 998cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 123bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 125lb ft at 1400rpm; Top speed 121mph; 0-62mph 9.9sec; Claimed fuel economy 62.8mpg; Test fuel economy 35.4mpg; CO2 98g/km; Faults None; Expenses None
Ford makes engines at two plants in the UK, including Dagenham
Blue Oval's European boss says imposition of tariffs between UK and EU would be "pretty disastrous" for British industry
Ford’s European boss has warned that a no-deal Brexit would prompt the firm to review its future in the UK.
Steven Armstrong told the BBC that failure to reach a deal for Britain’s departure from the EU, which could lead to the imposition of World Trade Organization rules and tariffs, would be “pretty disastrous” for British industry.
Ford currently makes engines at its plants in Dagenham and Bridgend, and transmissions at Halewood. Those units are shipped to other plants to be installed in chassis.
Trading under a WTO arrangement, which would involve tariffs on parts shipped between Britain and the EU, would “put a significant amount of cost in our business", said Armstrong. He added: “It would certainly make us think long and hard about our future investment strategy [in the UK].”
Armstrong also cautioned against a proposed Brexit arrangement based on the EU’s deal with Canada, which would allow for tariff-free trade but still involve border checks. Armstrong said that “would upset the just-in-time delivery model used by the company in Europe”.
Ford is currently understood to be considering a major restructuring of its business due to falling profits, with analysts at Morgan Stanley suggesting the firm could cut 24,000 jobs in Europe. That report was dismissed by Ford as "pure speculation".
Big, bold new Rolls-Royce 4x4 begins a new era for the brand – and convinces both on-road and off of it
This is, in all senses, a big car. Rolls-Royce boss Torsten M?ller-?tv?s acknowledges the Cullinan, the company’s new 4x4 and a distinct diversion for the British luxury brand, is a controversial vehicle. I know: it’s only a car, right? But I guess there are two reasons. First – and let’s get it dealt with – are there not hints of The Simpsons' ‘Canyonero’ about the Cullinan’s appearance? Rolls has, like Porsche did with the first Cayenne, tried to put clear Rolls-Royce cues into the design. Maybe they just don’t translate to an SUV, or maybe we’re just not used to it yet. I think it probably grows on you, and that it won’t matter if it doesn’t: the Bentley Bentayga and original Cayenne discovered looks are unimportant. Two, is this a vehicle Rolls-Royce should be making? To which the answer is ‘obviously’, because buyers want a Rolls-Royce they can drive daily, take the family in, take skiing, shooting or replace a Range Rover with. Dealers are only just now receiving demonstrators but the order book’s already full for more than a year.So here we are. Rolls’s first SUV, although not the first Rolls-Royce to go routinely off-road, because its cars have been going everywhere since roads were rubbish. But it’s its first from the brand with four-wheel drive. The architecture is the bespoke aluminium spaceframe which arrived first in last year’s Phantom and will eventually underpin all Rolls-Royces, distancing the 'cheaper' cars – Ghost, Wraith, Dawn – from the BMW group architecture origins they currently share.It’s a (figuratively, not literally) flexible architecture that allows different lengths and heights and here it’s shorter (at 5341m) but taller (1835mm) than the Phantom, a hefty 2000mm wide and with revised air suspension that’s beefier, has less friction than the flagship saloon’s, and rises 40mm in off-road mode. There are double-wishbones at the front, a five-link setup at the rear, two front and one rear anti-roll bars, electrically active, and active rear-steer. The same 6.75-litre twin turbocharged V12 as in the Phantom sits at the front, making 563bhp and tweaked for the greater low-down urge fit for an SUV. There’s some 627lb ft of it from only 1600rpm.It drives through an eight-speed automatic gearbox on which you can’t select gears yourself – the sat-nav assists gear selection – to all four wheels via a derivative/development (select a word that doesn’t make Rolls engineers wince) of BMW’s xDrive 4WD system. There are stronger components than in a 4WD 3 Series but the principle is the same: an electronically controlled clutch behind the gearbox can let up to 100% of power to the rear axle, or divert up to 50% to the front via a shaft and differential beneath the engine. Both front and rear differentials are open, not locking, but there’s torque vectoring via braking to stop an individual wheel spinning, and in off-road mode, if you also switch the stability control off, it locks the car in 50:50 all-wheel drive. Unlike with, say, a Bentley Bentayga or Range Rover, there’s only one off-road mode, rather than options such as rock, crawl, sand and so on, because Rolls-Royce says it wants its cars to be easier of use. There’s no low-ratio transfer case for the gearbox, either. But there is that 627lb ft from 1600rpm, which should help. The towing limit is around 2600kg because that’s the limit of the optional deployable towbar; work is afoot to make it the 3500kg the chassis can already handle. There’s a two-piece electric tailgate, opening onto a 560-litre boot, and if you specify the standard three-person bench rear seat (as 70% of customers are), it splits and folds, though because rear-seat passengers sit higher than those in the front, and because the seats are opulent, when folded they don’t leave the boot floor totally flat. Instead there’s an electrically operated ramp between boot floor and folded seat, or you can leave a step if you want to prevent luggage sliding forwards (which begs the question as to why you’d have bothered dropping the seats).Alternatively, you can select two individual rear chairs, with a fridge/humidor/whatever else you want between them. Those seats recline, and are backed by a glass partition to the luggage bay, to reduce noise emanating from the rear wheelarches. It’s most popular in markets where owners have a driver. Either way, the rear-hinged back doors give great access to the rear cabin. All doors, big and heavy as they are, can be closed electrically, quickly and with a wicked thud.
We try Ford's film-inspired special-edition Mustang to see if it's a car Steve McQueen would be proud of
The revival of a movie car icon or a cynical marketing ploy, depending on your view. Before driving it, I found myself in the latter camp, but its funny how opinions can change just by taking the time to enjoy and appreciate something.As the name suggests, the Ford Mustang Bullitt has been built to mark the 50th anniversary of the film of the same name. The film itself was hardly a cinematic triumph, but is best known for an unforgettable car chase involving Steve McQueen at the wheel of a Highland Green Mustang GT390 Fastback chasing down two hitmen in a Dodge Charger through the streets of San Francisco. Of course, none of that should be news to an Autocar reader. Rebooting an automotive film star from the '60s is a risky business, particularly given today’s models usually bear almost no relation to the original. Thankfully, that’s not the case with today’s 'Stang.It may be bigger, heavier and, unlike the original, able to give you a fair chance of survival in a head-on collision, but it’s still familiar territory. There’s a shouty naturally aspirated V8 up front (albeit slightly smaller than the 6.4-litre GT390), while drive is sent through a manual gearbox and is put to the road via the rear wheels.This is no quick paint job and badge swap, either. The Bullitt benefits from an open air induction system nicked from the Shelby GT350, bigger throttle bodies and a new exhaust. The result is a modest 8bhp power boost to 453bhp (US market versions get more power thanks to our tough emissions regs), as well as improved responses and, crucially, more noise. Like the cars used in the original film, the suspension has been uprated with ‘heavy duty’ front springs and a stiffened-up rear anti-roll bar. A number of new features debut on the Bullitt and will transfer to the 2019-model-year Mustang, including a rev-matching system for the manual 'box, a 1000w B&O sound system and an active exhaust.
Our reporters empty their notebooks to round up this week's gossip from across the automotive industry
This week's snippets of automotive news include news on the Vinfast A2.0 saloon launch, the new Suzuki Jimny and Peugeot's chief executive on new WLTP emissions testing.
Peugeot's chief executive on WLTP:
Peugeot chief executive Jean-Philippe Imparato took a dig at other manufacturers’ homologation delays and unsold models due to the recently adopted Worldwide harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) emissions legislation. He said: “We didn’t have to stop production. We didn’t have to store stock. We didn’t have to buy airports to park loads of unsold cars in. We were ready.”
Vinfast A2.0 saloon launch:
Vietnamese car manufacturer Vinfast wheeled out David Beckham to launch its new A2.0 saloon and SA2.0 SUV at Paris – but we reckon they missed a trick. Given Kia got Robert de Niro to endorse the Kia e-Niro, surely Vinfast should have signed up actor Vin Diesel rather than the footballer?
Suzuki’s UK boss Dale Wyatt says it has had 4500 people sign up on its website as “interested” in the new Jimny, a first for the brand. That’s 150% of the previous model’s best annual volume. The problem for Suzuki is going to be the number it can build, because demand in Japan has been “staggering”. Wyatt is looking at 1100 cars in the first year and then 2000 per year thereafter.
Suzuki Alto: cheap, simple and reliable but not very nice
Our resident used car expert discusses the good, the bad and the ugly of how reliable different cars are
I would like to apologise for something or other I possibly wrote a few weeks ago. I can’t remember what the context was – I’m always saying and then writing down stupid things.
But in this case, Brian actually quoted back at me the following: “ Mitsubishis are well made and utterly reliable.” Brian snapped back: “No they are not!”
Obviously, Brian could support this with his fairly tragic Mitzi backstory. “I have a Colt CZC bought new eight years ago. The faults are as follows: both hydraulic boot struts failed after about five years. Broken anti-roll bar. Leaking sump gasket. Two failed electric window winders recently. Total mileage is less than 25,000. About 18 months ago, the rear discs and pads were worn out and replaced.”
Well, there is a bit of wear and tear there, I don’t know how Brian drives and all the Porsche Cayennes I looked at this year had busted struts, but I would agree it isn’t what you’d expect from something Japanese. Except that it isn’t: the badge implies ‘respected Far-Eastern brand’, but if you look at the ‘Made in...’ sticker, it says ‘the Netherlands’.
It was the same with the lowland-built Volvos – those small ones were never as well put together as the home-grown family-sized Swedes. So the country of actual physical origin is important. However, I don’t think that enough credit is ever given to UK-built Hondas, Nissans and Toyotas. They really are all well made and, as a rule, utterly reliable.
In recent years, Mazda having another crack with the rotary engine was the best idea of all. They didn’t all explode but they always used a lot of oil and, when they did break down, they cost a fortune to fix. I love the look and idea of them, but the last one I saw hadn’t moved in half a year, and the one before that was for sale at a dealer for ?599 with a heap of issues. Once out of warranty and out of the hands of a decent, caring owner, vehicles like the Mazda RX-8 deteriorate rapidly. A Toyota Corolla, or indeed a Mazda 626, is unlikely ever to have that problem.
Suzuki Altos come from India and are built down to a marginal rupee price. It is one the nastiest cars I’ve ever sat in. That doesn’t make it an unreliable car, just a really, really cheap one. Owners swear by their utter simplicity and dependability.
Talking Japanese means I’ve not had the time to go on about unreliable brands by nation, although the short version is that they’re usually French or Italian. If you haveany real-world expert reader input as far as reliability is concerned, then do tell us your worst. I’d be interested – and it might stop me making any rash statements in future.
What we almost bought this week:
Skoda Superb estate - Those after a car big enough to meet all the demands of a family while still being good to drive and comfortable to ride in should put the Skoda Superb on their shortlist. Few other cars offer so much space for the money, with prices starting from ?14,000. As all-round performers go, this is up there with the very best.
Tales from Ruppert’s garage:
Land Rover Series 3, mileage 29,298: Here you go – I went nuts. After mentioning it for what must be months, I knuckled down, got the wheel spanner out and just swapped one wheel nut for another of the locking variety. The important thing is to keep the spare nuts in a very safe place – that way, you’ll end up with a massive collection of random nuggets of metal which you’ll never pass onto the next owner. I found a bag of Triumph Dolomite ones, probably in better condition than the rest of the car is now, if it still lives.
A to Z bangerpedia:
S is for Kia Sedona: Large, spacious and versatile – or is it just a big lump of a van? In value for money terms, the Kia Sedona has always been a no-brainer. This much space and equipment has never been cheaper, and you get a full-size car for the cost of something much smaller.
There's a choice of large but smooth petrol V6 and a frugal diesel, which is probably the better buy. Inside, there’s no shortage of space and seats for seven, with a useful runway between the middle seats for easy all-round access and removable rear seats to let you create a massive amount of room for extra luggage. Just ?700 buys a 2.9 CRDi with 115,000 miles.
Q. My son wants a used EV but does a high mileage so is nervous about finding chargers when he needs them. He likes the idea of plug-in hybrids but they don’t go far before the engine cuts in. Are there any other ways? Mark Williams, via email
A. Your son could always consider a range-extender, such as the BMW i3 REx. In these cars, a small on-board petrol engine charges up the battery as and when it gets low. BMW is about to halt production of the i3 REx, but used ones can be had for about ?18,000. M
Q. I have an automatic Nissan Qashqai that has let us down on occasion. We would like another small-ish used SUV and another automatic but we’re worried they’re all unreliable. What would you recommend?John Nutting, via email
A. There have been a few issues reported with the Qashqai’s automatic gearbox, but don’t let that put you off buying autos altogether. Look at the Seat Ateca and the Skoda Karoq, both of which come with a neat dual-clutch automatic gearbox and both of which are now available to buy used. MP
Future models don't need to stand out like existing i3 and i8, according to design boss
The styling of BMW’s electric cars will become more toned down over time, compared to the styling showcased by the current i range, according to the firm’s design director Adrian van Hooydonk.
Reasoning that the current i3 hatchback and i8 sports car needed to stand out from the petrol-powered competition, using their design to draw attention to their innovative powertrains, van Hooydonk added that, as electric powertrains enter the mainstream, so the design of the cars will also start to confirm to more established trends.
“Electric mobility will spread through our entire vehicle range in quite a short space of time - to the point that electric or plug-in hybrid is just another option box you tick as you order the car,” said van Hooydonk.
“The fact is that BMW customers want a dynamic car, whether it is a battery-electric vehicle or not, and so there’s is increasingly less reason to make these kinds of cars look different.”
However, van Hooydonk stressed that this did not spell the end of innovatively designed BMWs. “The i brand stands for inspiration and innovation, and electrification is not the only area of our industry that marks a significant change,” he said. “It’s pretty clear that there will still be i cars, and that the designers will be able to search for different things.”
GTS will come in saloon and Sport Turismo estate bodystyles, priced from ?105,963 and arriving in the UK later this year
Porsche has revealed a new GTS variant of the Panamera and Panamera Sport Turismo estate. Priced from ?105,963 for the former and ?108,110 for the latter, both are due to go on sale in the UK later this year.
Like other GTS Porsches, the two Panameras receive unique styling upgrades including black trim for the front and rear-ends, 20-inch black alloy wheels and GTS badging. Inside, both are trimmed in black Alcantara with anodised aluminium highlights, as part of the usually optional Sport Design package.
A heated Alcantara steering wheel is standard, while an optional Interior GTS package brings customisable design elements. The GTS is also the first Panamera to receive a configurable head-up display, which will roll out on other models in the range.
Sitting below the Panamera Turbo in the lineup, the GTS features a detuned 454bhp version of that car’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 mated to an eight-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox and all-wheel drive. Producing 457lb ft of torque, it makes the two-tonne saloon and estate capable of 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds and on to a top speed of 181mph (180mph for the Sport Turismo).
This performance is partially assisted by the standard Sports Chrono pack, usually an option on lesser Panameras. Fuel economy is pegged at 27.4mpg for the saloon and 26.6mpg for the Sport Turismo, with CO2 emissions listed as 235g/km and 242g/km respectively. The Panamera GTS also features a petrol particulate filter, fitted on all Porsche models from September onwards.
Being a GTS, the Panamera’s chassis has been revised to offer what Porsche calls “outstanding lateral dynamics”. Adaptive three-chamber air suspension is standard, but lowered by 10mm over regular models, while the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system has been recalibrated for a sportier feel.
Rear-axle steering is optionally available to boost agility further, while the brakes are larger than a standard Panamera’s at 390mm for the fronts and 365mm for the rear.
Czech firm picks a Latin-based name for its Rapid replacement, which will be revealed later this year
Skoda’s new Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus rival, due to be revealed later this year, will be called the Scala.
The new car will effectively replace the Rapid hatchback in the Czech firm’s line-up. Scala is a Latin word that means ‘stairs’ or ‘ladder’, and company boss Bernhard Maier said that it represents Skoda’s next step forward in the compact segment. The Scala will also be the first Skoda to feature the brand’s name instead of the logo on the rear boot lid.
Maier said the Scala is “a completely new development that sets standards in terms of technology, safety and design in this class”.
The Scala is intended to be a more direct competitor than the Rapid to the big players in the volume hatchback segment, such as the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.
Skoda sales and marketing boss Alain Favey confirmed to Autocar earlier this year that the hatchback would not be called Rapid, instead taking a new name.
Favey said: “How should I put this? Our presence [in this segment] is very humble. With the current Rapid Spaceback, we didn’t manage to come through to convince people that we are a credible competitor in this segment.”
He added that the new car would have completely new styling and technology.
Skoda said the platform will allow the new hatchback to have “compact exterior dimensions and generous interior space”. It added that the car would use “numerous innovative assistance systems in that segment”.
It will also be the first Skoda to receive a next-generation infotainment system that will then be rolled out across the range. Favey has described it as “state of the art”.
The model will use a range of petrol and diesel engines, including the Volkswagen Group’s three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol with power from 84bhp to 109bhp, as well as a 1.5-litre petrol unit with up to 148bhp. No hybrid or electric versions are planned and are understood to be too expensive to implement in a car of this size and price.
The Rapid is Skoda’s second-biggest-selling car worldwide after the Octavia. In 2017, it sold 211,000 units. Favey predicts that sales will double for the new model.
Alongside its upcoming Taycan saloon, Porsche is planning a plethora of zero-emission models by 2022
Porsche is planning a battery-electric SUV and all-electric Boxster/ Cayman sports car, plus a Taycan Targa, for launch by 2022 as part of its investment in electrification.
Porsche finance director Lutz Meschke revealed the plan for a battery SUV and sports car at an event in Germany last week. "You can expect a SUV BEV [battery-electric vehicle] by 2022 at the latest,” he told journalists, without elaborating further.
Meschke also told journalists that “the Boxster and Cayman could be suitable for electrification”.
Departed Volkswagen Group CEO Matthias M?ller – previously Porsche’s boss – committed every group brand to having an electrified version of every model by 2023, and Porsche was no exception.
Meschke referred to the electric utility vehicle as a “big SUV”, which would indicate a Cayenne-sized car, but the Cayenne is just a year old and not due for replacement until 2024/25. It would make a natural rival for the Tesla Model X.
To get an electric SUV to market more rapidly, Porsche is likely to focus on the replacement for the mid-size Macan – which currently shares its platform with Audi’s Q5 – as it is due for replacement around 2021. However, there are at least three other possibilities: a variant of Audi’s new E-tron SUV, a re-engineered Cayenne, or a ground-up new Porsche all-electric SUV.
Porsche is moving fast in the direction of BEVs post-Dieselgate and the new Taycan four-door has been in development for four years and will be launched in late 2019.
This month, Porsche announced that it will drop diesel from its engine line-up. This will especially affect the Macan, one of its bestselling vehicles and sold with a rich mix of diesel engines.
Porsche is already working on a new, all-electric platform, called the PPE, jointly with Audi for a next generation of electric vehicles. The PPE is all-new, but includes learning from the J1 underpinning that’s the basis for the new four-door Taycan BEV, due on sale “by the end of 2019”.
The Taycan will become a family of models with further strong hints that the Cross Turismo, shown as a concept at Geneva this year, has a production future. “The Taycan derivatives have already been showcased,” said Meschke.
It has also emerged that the Zuffenhausen plant where the Taycan will be built is preparing for a Targa version, for launch in 2020/21. Details are scarce, but the Taycan Targa is most likely to feature a large glazed opening that slides down to the rear hatch area. The J1 underpinning could readily be adapted with a short wheelbase and two-door body as the basis of a new compact Porsche sports car. However, such a mod would reduce battery size, range and performance.
Preparing for more electric models after the Taycan, the new PPE architecture is in development in parallel with the Taycan and could be ready for market in 2022, when Porsche says its BEV SUV will be on sale.
It is unclear if the PPE platform is sufficiently flexible to underpin multiple powertrain layouts and firewall heights, but Porsche has already built an electric Boxster E prototype. A packaging prototype, it was also touted as a possible rival for the Tesla Roadster. But that was seven years ago, an age in electric car development.
The Boxster E had componentry borrowed from VW’s Golf blue-e motion and a 121bhp electric motor fed by a 340-cell lithium ion battery pack, all packaged in the space vacated by the flat-six combustion engine.
Porsche engineers learned a lot from that car, including concerns that the weight of the battery powertrain would affect performance and handling, the latter because the weight raised the centre of gravity. One told Autocar last year that “fully electrified sports cars would work well for longitudinal acceleration, but the weight disadvantage is in the handling”. Whether a future 911 will use solely battery power is also up for debate.
Meschke confirmed that the next 911, in its new 992 guise and due on sale later this year, will include a hybrid version.
The 911 hybrid won’t be available at launch, but is pencilled in to the plan as part of the new model electrification onslaught by 2022 – to fulfil the group strategic target of every model with an electrified version by 2023.
Porsche engineers have previously told Autocar that the packaging issues of a pure battery electric drivetrain were incompatible with the 911 as a fine handling sports car with everyday usable 2+2 seating.
Last year, an engineer told Autocar that next-generation solid state batteries, which are lighter and predicted to be able to be shaped to reduce package space, might be the required breakthrough to make a 911 BEV a reality. However, solid state technology may be a decade from production.
BMW's upcoming seven-seater will initially feature a naturally aspirated engine, rather than the hybrid powertrain of the X7 iPerformance. However, a hybrid variant will come later.
An X7 M50d M Performance, as well as xDrive40i, xDrive50i and xDrive30d variants will be available from launch, with the 3.0-litre diesel in 30d, 40d and 50d guises and the twin-turbo 4.4-litre petrol V8 from the X6 xDrive50i expected to make up the meat of the range.
It's not known if an upper M Performance model is will sit above the M50d M Performance - it's aimed at the US and Chinese markets - so an equivalent to the M760Li could act as the range-topper. X7 xDriveM60i badging could be used.
Sitting alongside the 7 Series at the top of BMW's line-up, the car is due on UK roads from February 2019. The X7 has been spotted testing several times in the past few months, having been in development since 2015, offering glimpses of the future SUV's design and scale. It will be the largest SUV yet by BMW.
Its dimensions remain similar to the concept. This means a length of 5020mm, 2020mm width and 1800mm in height, as well as a 3010mm wheelbase, while the car will be roughly 113mm longer, 82mm wider and 37mm higher than the X5, with a 76mm longer wheelbase.
It's around 110mm shorter and a little wider than the Mercedes-Benz GLS and around 30mm longer than the Range Rover.
It will have three rows of seats, making it a rival for the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator in the US and China – two core markets for the car.
Familiar design features such as halo daytime running lights and kidney grilles will appear. The light bar seen on the X7 iPerformance is not carried over to the production model.
While the seven-seat X7 is being developed with the US and Chinese markets in mind, it was confirmed for the UK by former BMW head of sales and marketing Ian Robertson in 2016.
Speaking to Autocar at the New York motor show that year, Robertson said: “We will have some versions that are top-end luxury, as well as more mainstream versions. I can’t talk about pricing now, but given that this car will have all the technology and luxury of the 7 Series, it gives you a pretty good idea of the price point we’re talking about.”
Previously, it was thought that the X7 would be built on an extended version of the X5’s underpinnings, but Robertson said many parts are actually bespoke. “If you put both cars next to each other, the resemblance is small in terms of wheelbase, etc. We’re not going to just extend the wheelbase; it’s a complete new panel cell.”
The X7 will be built at the company's plant at Spartanburg, USA.
Despite the project now running under a crew of just six, its administrator insists that this new court-sanctioned phase in its eventful history is not the end
Everyone at Bloodhound – including the remarkably positive-sounding administrator, Andrew Sheridan – insists that this new court-sanctioned phase in its eventful history is not the end.
Bloodhound has run out of money, and is currently being operated by a skeleton crew of six people rather than the usual 16. But its technical director, Mark Chapman, describes the project as “ready to go” to its purpose-built South African track in preparation for its first serious shakedown next year. And administrator Sheridan, whose firm recently found a new owner for the Force India F1 team, makes it clear he wouldn’t have taken this assignment had he not been confident of a good outcome.
So what went wrong? The problem boils down to financial uncertainties connected with the state of the world economy, and with Brexit. Promising leads have repeatedly evaporated. Global majors, usually public companies capable of financing this project to its three-to-four year, ?25 million, 1000mph climax, are proving reluctant to make medium-term commitments.
Another unwelcome thread is that, for all Bloodhound’s undoubted success at attracting the UK’s younger generation, especially school kids, to Stem subjects, a CO2-heavy land speed record car appeals less today to an electric-aware younger generation than it did even three years ago, and certainly when the project was mooted 11 years back.
Those of us who want success for Bloodhound must depend on the value of the massive global awareness the project has built for itself, and its appeal to the kind of commercial giant that invests in World Cup football or F1. As Sheridan eloquently puts it, the ?25m needed to achieve 1000mph is far less than it takes to run the slowest F1 team on the grid. Described that way, Bloodhound is a bargain.
The four-door has entered the second phase of prototype production, as Porsche prepares for its first electric model
The countdown to the launch of the electric-powered Porsche Taycan has begun in earnest with officials revealing the new four-door saloon has now entered the second phase of prototype production at the company’s Zuffenhausen headquarters on the outskirts of Stuttgart in Germany.
The first in an extended line-up of electric-powered models being developed in a programme budgeted to cost up to ?5.3 billion through to the end of 2022, the Taycan marks a radical departure from Porsche’s traditional line-up, bringing full-time zero local emission compatibility together with the promise of what the new car’s lead engineer, Stefan Weckbach, describes as a “typical Porsche driving experience”.
When it goes on sale in the UK following a planned public premiere at the Frankfurt motor show in September 2019, it will be positioned between the ?55,965 Cayenne and ?67,898 Panamera in a move that will set the scene for the introduction of other new battery-powered Porsche models, including an electric-powered mid-engined sports car in the mould of the existing Boxster and Cayman and an SUV similar in size to the recently facelifted Macan.
Autocar can confirm the Taycan, previewed by the original Mission E concept, will be offered in two distinct variants with the standard saloon depicted here in prototype guise planned for right-hand-drive delivery in Britain in early 2020 and a more ruggedly styled high-riding estate-cum-crossover model previewed by the Mission E Cross Turismo concept revealed at the Geneva motor show earlier this year scheduled to see local showrooms in 2022.
Among the key rivals for the new Porsche is the Tesla Model S – a car used as an initial benchmark during the early phases of the Taycan’s development. However, Weckbach acknowledges the new four-door will also compete against a host of other upcoming electric car offerings, including sister company Audi’s E-tron GT as well as the recently spied Mercedes-Benz EQ S.
As evidenced by the latest prototypes fitted with production-based bodywork, the styling of the Taycan draws heavily on the well-received Mission E concept first shown at the 2015 Frankfurt motor show. Although every detail and body panel has been altered on the way to production, it remains faithful in appearance and overall visual character and detailing to the earlier concept, whose design is credited to Porsche’s former head of exterior design Mitja Borkert, now head of design at Volkswagen sister company Lamborghini.
Taking full advantage of the packaging advantages inherent in its drivetrain layout, the initial low-slung four-door saloon model combines the fundamental short-nosed proportions of traditional rear- and mid-engine Porsche models at the front together with the stretched proportions of more modern front-engine models towards the rear, providing the Taycan with clear design links to existing Porsche models, most notably the 911 and Panamera.
One major departure from the earlier Mission E is the adoption of sturdy B-pillars and four front-hinged doors in a measure aimed at increasing body rigidity. At the rear, the Taycan also receives a short notchback-style boot lid housing a full-width light band that provides access to one of two luggage compartments; the other is sited up front and is claimed to boast a near-to-100-litre capacity.
Dimensionally, the new Porsche is around 4850mm in length and 1990m in width, making it 199mm shorter but 53mm wider than the second-generation Panamera. By comparison, the Tesla Model S stretches to 4975mm in length and 1965mm in width.
More than one bodystyle due for Taycan
The initial saloon and crossover are just two bodystyles created by Porsche designers for the Taycan. Others not yet revealed to the public include two-door coup? and cabriolet proposals, the likes of which insiders at the German car maker’s headquarters say could be added to the line-up at a later date when production capacity is freed up should demand warrant it.
The basis for the Taycan is the J1 platform – a high-strength steel, aluminium and carbonfibre structure designed to house battery modules of varying sizes as low as possible within the confines of a long wheelbase. As well as being used by the new Porsche, it is also planned to underpin the upcoming Audi E-tron GT in a move aimed at increasing economies of scale.
Significantly, the new platform has been conceived exclusively as a dedicated electric vehicle architecture with Weckbach confirming it does not accept a combustion engine. It does, however, form the basis of a more versatile structure being developed in an engineering programme between Porsche and Audi called the Premium Platform Electric (PPE).
The interior of the Taycan is described as providing a typical 911 style driving position up front with adequate rear seating on two individual seats in the rear. Prototype versions sighted by Autocar at Porsche’s Zuffenhausen factory reveal the otherwise entirely flat floorpan of the J1 platform structure receives two sizeable foot wells in the rear to increase rear-seat accommodation.
Technology behind the Taycan
As hinted to by the Mission E, the Taycan is powered by an electric drivetrain with a permanent magnet synchronous motor housed within each axle in a layout that provides it with four-wheel drive capability.
Porsche chose synchronous motors against the asynchronous motors favoured by Audi due to their ability to provide strong sustained performance at high energy density levels – characteristics it says are key to the new car’s development aims.
The electric motors are similar in design to the unit employed on the petrol-electric hybrid driveline used by the Le Mans-winning 919 Hybrid, with a solenoid coil featuring rectangular rather than round wiring.
This has enabled Porsche to package the copper wires within the solenoid coil more tightly together to make the electric motors smaller than they would be using more conventional round wires. A similar solenoid design is being considered by BMW for the motors to be used by the production version of its Vision iX3 concept car due out in 2020.
In a move aimed at imbuing the Taycan with the sort of rear-biased handling traits that have characterised Porsche models through the years, the two electric motors feature varying outputs, with the unit at the rear being more powerful than the one up front. A torque vectoring function on both axles also regulates the amount of drive sent to each individual wheel.
A rear-wheel-drive version of the electric-powered Porsche, featuring a single electric motor on the rear axle, is also currently undergoing production as part of a planned 200-strong fleet of prototypes and pre-production examples of the new saloon. Sighted by Autocar on the production line in Zuffenhausen last week, word is it will be offered from the start of sales as part of a multi-tiered line-up similar to that of other Porsche models.
The channelling of drive is handled by a two-speed gearbox - a choice that also differs from the single-speed gearboxes used by most electric car rivals. It has been chosen for its ability to provide a second gear for sustained high-speed performance, which Porsche considers crucial if its new electric car is to make a mark on typical Porsche customers.
Porsche plans to offer the Taycan with a number of different power outputs in a strategy not dissimilar to that of Telsa, whose Model S comes in 75D, 100D and P100D guises. Nothing is confirmed, but officials suggest variants with up to 300kW (402bhp), 350kW (469bhp), 400kW (536bhp) and, at the top of the range, 450kW (603bhp) are being developed, although it remains to be seen whether they will all be offered for sale over the car’s planned seven-year model cycle.
In top-of-the-line four-wheel-drive 450kW guise, the new Porsche is expected to eclipse the 0-62mph of 3.5sec announced at the unveiling of the Mission E, placing the Taycan on a similar performance plane to the 911 Turbo for outright accelerative ability. Although the new car’s top speed has yet to be announced, it is claimed to be “well over 200km/h (124mph)”.
One factor Porsche is pushing heavily in the lead-up to the launch of the Taycan is its ability to provide what it describes as reproducible performance.
“Drivers won’t need to worry about throttling performance,” said Weckbach. "The Mission E will offer reproducible performance and a top speed which can be maintained for long periods.”
Electrical energy used to run the electric motors is stored in a battery that uses cells supplied by Korean company LG. The capacity of the lithium ion unit has yet to be revealed, though Porsche is sticking to earlier claims that the Taycan will possess a range of up to 311 miles.
The Porsche Taycan's charging set-up
A retractable body element located behind the front wheel arch provides access to the charging port. Alternatively, Porsche is also working on providing its first electric-powered model with inductive charging, although it won’t be drawn on whether it will be available as an option from the start of sales.
Porsche has developed an 800V charging system for the Taycan to fulfil an early pledge that its first electric powered model will not only be fast to drive but also be fast to recharge.
"With the 800V technology, it can be recharged in just over 15 minutes for a range of around 400km, so it only takes about half as long compared to today's systems," said Weckbach.
As well as providing fast charging, the 800V system allows the Taycan to use a lighter and more compact wiring loom than if it had chosen a more widely used 400V system – all without any crucial safety concerns, according to Porsche. Despite this, the new four-door is still expected to tip the scales at over 2000kg.
Even so, Porsche is convinced the Taycan will bring lofty new dynamic qualities to the electric car ranks.
“The underfloor battery gives the Taycan a very low centre of gravity, even lower than with the 911. It drives like a Porsche, looks like a Porsche and feels like a Porsche; it just happens to have a different type of drive,” said Weckbach, who added that the new four-door also boasts a 50:50 front-to-rear weight distribution.
Although the new car isn’t expected to break the current N?rburgring electric car lap record currently held by the ultra-low-volume 1000kW (1341bhp) Nio EP9 at 6min 45.0sec, a good deal of recent prototype testing has taken place there as Porsche continues to engineer the Taycan to production maturity. Insiders say it should be good for a lap time at the legendary German circuit – still considered the ultimate test of any new car – of less than 8min.
As well as concentrating its engineering efforts on honing the Taycan to deliver the sort of steering feel and chassis characteristics of its more traditional combustion engine models, Weckbach said Porsche has also spent a lot of time on the programming the electric motors and brakes to deliver the response and feel it thinks buyers will expect of the car.
In a development brought over from Porsche’s more recent combustion engine models, the new saloon will use four-wheel steering as a means of balancing low-speed manoeuvrability around town and high-speed stability out on the open road.
Weckbach said: "We’ve been testing the prototypes for quite a while now. The very first vehicles, in an early phase of development, were already showing the driving characteristics you’d expect of a Porsche. They felt right at home from the beginning. And a lot has happened since then.”
Production of the Taycan is set to take place on a dedicated ?617 million site established at Porsche's Zuffenhausen manufacturing plant on the northern outskirts of Stuttgart – the same facility that has produced the 911 since 1963. Original sales estimates announced at the unveiling of the earlier Mission E concept car back in 2015 expected it to sell at around 20,000 units per year, or roughly 8% of Porsche’s total annual sales based on the 246,000 cars it sold in 2017.
Porsche confirmed production capacity for its first full electric model is set for between 20,000 and 25,000 per year on a two-shift basis, though it said volumes could be significantly increased if demand warrants it through the addition of a third shift and contingency plans that could also see the Taycan produced in other Volkswagen Group factories.
Citing a shortage of funds, the 1000mph land speed record project founded in 2007 has entered administration
Bloodhound, the 1000mph land speed record project founded in 2007 by previous record holder Richard Noble and current holder Andy Green, has entered administration, citing a shortage of funds since running the car at 200mph on Newquay Airport a year ago.
Team insiders say the project would need around ?5 million to run the car at 500-600mph under jet power on its already-prepared 18km track in South Africa, around ?15m to achieve 800mph and break the existing record, and around ?25m to reach its ultimate goal of lifting the record to 1000mph.
Despite the “ghastly” connotation attached to administration, the Bloodhound team insists this is far from the end for the project and may well be its means of survival. The FRP Advisory team taking the helm is the same group that recently found new owners and a stable future for the Force India Formula 1 team. Joint administrator Andrew Sheridan appears to share the optimism, describing Bloodhound as “a truly ground-breaking project that has built a global audience and helped inspire a new generation of STEM [science, technology, engineering, maths] talent in the UK”.
“We wouldn’t choose to be in this position,” says one Bloodhound insider, “but we’re greatly encouraged by the behaviour of the administrator. They recognise that we’re unique, and that we’ve already built a great deal of global exposure. They say they wouldn’t take us on if they weren’t confident of a good outcome. The dream scenario is that we’ll be in this state for a month or six weeks, then money will flow again and we can get back into action. We’re ready to go.”
Bloodhound bosses estimate the project would take about 10 months to get ready for its first South African runs, building the team up from the present five or six to around 15 people. For the full-on 1000mph record runs, they’d need closer to 40 people.
In an unusually bullish statement, Sheridan said he believes administration provides the team with “breathing space” to identify new investors. “While not an insignificant amount,” he said, “the ?25m Bloodhound requires to break the land speed record is a fraction of the cost of, for example, finishing last in an F1 season or running an America’s Cup team.
"This is an opportunity for the right investor to leave a lasting legacy. We are already in discussion with a number of potential investors and would encourage any other interested party to contact us without delay."
Take the humble hatchback, jack it up like it’s on stilts and apply some off-road-inspired design cues. Job done. The great British public has gone mad for SUV-themed superminis, and so manufacturers are sure to keep them coming to satisfy our thirst.
It’s an increasingly crowded corner of the market, so it pays to stand out, which is something the Citro?n C3 Aircross has no trouble doing. The Aircross replaces the MPV-inspired C3 Picasso in Citro?n’s line-up with the SUV styling du jour, resulting in a crossover that oozes quirky French charm inside and out. It gets Citro?n’s trademark focus on comfort, albeit in distilled form, and practicality that’s on par with the best in the class.
This might not be the most dynamic, most luxurious or most affordable car of its kind, but we reckon it’s probably the most interesting. And seeing how it’s already the company’s second-best-selling vehicle behind the C3 hatchback, after a little under ten months on sale, it would seem customers agree.
We called the design “instantly likeable” when we road tested the C3 Aircross, even if we determined it “wasn’t quite a match for the Seat Arona on performance or handling sophistication”. To find out if that matters for day-in, day-out driving, and to discover whether there’s more to like about the Aircross than its standout styling, we’ll be running one for the next six months.
Our long-term test car is powered by the PSA Group’s near-ubiquitous 1.2-litre turbocharged three-pot petrol. It’s an engine that can be found in everything from a crossover like this C3 Aircross all the way up to Peugeot’s 5008 SUV, and is seen here in its most potent form. Power and torque outputs of 128bhp and 170lb ft should be well-suited to a compact crossover, while the six-speed manual gearbox will hopefully be a better match for the short-geared, rev-happy motor than the five-speed ’box fitted to our road test car.
Combined fuel economy is quoted at 54.3mpg (NEDC), and while that figure would put it firmly among its peers, we’re expecting inner-city life and all the slow-speed driving that entails to make achieving such a target something of a struggle.
More than half of UK buyers opt for the top-spec Flair trim, so we’ve done the same. It builds on mid-spec Feel variants by adding 17in alloy wheels, along with keyless entry and start, a sliding rear bench for a temporary boost to boot space, climate control, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera. It also upgrades the 7.0in infotainment touchscreen with Citro?n Connect Navigation, although with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay both included as standard, Citro?n’s offering will need to impress if it is to replace the Waze app as our sat-nav system of choice.
We avoided loading our car with options, choosing only the blue paint and contrasting white roof (?520). The silver colour pack, a no-cost option, then added a further splash of colour to the wing mirrors, headlight surrounds and roof rails.
You can buy a C3 Aircross with Grip Control, a ?400 option that uses electronics to adjust the traction control in place of four-wheel drive for all-terrain driving, but seeing how few customers feel the need for it, we decided we could live without as well.
With no child seats to fit (in the immediate future, at any rate), we also declined to add the Family Pack (?490) and its fold-flat front passenger seat. We’ll have to wait and see if we’ll regret not ticking the box for the ?650 Techno HiFi pack, which adds wireless smartphone charging, a 3.5in colour instrument panel, uprated speaker system and colour heads-up display. As is, the instrument panel makes do with monochrome.
This brought the total cost to ?20,105, which is on par with a Seat Arona 1.0 TSI 115 in FR trim – in our view, still the best all-round compact crossover available today. The thing is, while the Seat may offer a better drive, it has a tenth of the Citro?n’s personality. That certainly translates into the cabin. Our test car’s mica grey interior is the most subdued colour option available, but the old-school dials and quirky shapes still make a good first impression.
Initial thoughts? The thrummy three-pot has a pleasant amount of shove around town, the high driving position gives a decent view of the road ahead, and there’s no shortage of space in the cabin. With the back seats in place there’s plenty of boot storage, but once the bench is folded flat there’s more room here than you’d find in a VW Golf. That should come in handy for a few of the road trips we have planned for the car.
It’s not all good news, though. The seats don’t have the high-density foam padding of those in the C4 Cactus (in which they’re part of Citro?n’s advanced comfort ethos). It might be an issue on longer journeys. Having the climate controls relegated to the touchscreen, instead of on dedicated buttons, makes changing temperatures on the move a bit fiddly, and the square gearknob is overly chunky and awkward to grip too.
Our time with the Aircross so far has mostly been spent in London’s stop-start traffic, where fuel economy has hovered in the mid-30mpg region. Our car won’t be resigned to the city life for long, though: it already has a spot on the Eurotunnel booked for later in the year to see how it performs as a long-distance tourer.
Driving the C3 Aircross straight after a C4 Cactus, I was disappointed to note the smaller car is more crashy around town. It smooths out at speed, but the Cactus’s hydraulic bump stops are sorely missed here. Another bugbear was the speed camera warning ‘bong’ interrupting the radio, taking a bit of the shine off an otherwise likeable car.
Specs: Price New ?19,585 Price as tested: ?20,105 Options: Breathing Blue paint ?520, silver colour pack ?0
Test Data: Engine 1,199cc, three-cylinder, turbocharged petrol Power 128bhp Torque 170lb ft Top speed 124mph 0-62mph 10.4sec Claimed fuel economy 54.3mpg Test fuel economy 34.1mpg CO2 119g/km Faults None Expenses None
With cars becoming ever smarter, you'd think a connected future is just around the corner - here's why that probably isn't the case
Can we talk about connected cars? They might not excite you but as far as the industry and lots of governments are concerned, they are a pretty big deal – or they’re going to be.
Not just yet, though, because connected cars – or co-operative intelligent transport systems (C-ITS) if you prefer – have hit a developmental crossroads.
The next step-change in advanced driver assist system (ADAS) technology and increasingly adept levels of autonomy will be made possible by the widespread adoption of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) and, as a handy catch-all, vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications.
Today’s ADAS functions and Level 2 autonomous systems, such as Tesla’s Autopilot and Audi’s Traffic Jam Pilot (whose Level 3 billing has been dialled back a notch in most countries for now) are limited by what the vehicle’s own sensors can detect, which currently extends to a useful forward range of 250-300 metres on a good day. V2V communication could expand on that massively by allowing cars to share data on relative speeds, positions, directions of travel and even driver control inputs. Mix all this together and it will be possible to create a much more detailed picture of the surrounding area and make driving safer. Or at least that’s the idea.
As an extension of V2V, V2I will add information from traffic lights and signals, variable speed limits and congestion monitors to enable a freer flow of traffic. Throw in V2P and V2X, including cloud-stored information on anything from the weather to the nearest available parking space, plus data sent via smartphones in people’s pockets, and we’re on our way to a fully autonomous, accident-free utopia. Or at least that’s the idea.
But for this to happen, the industry still needs to reach a consensus on how all of this data will be transmitted and shared.
Originally it looked like a system using an agreed wireless local area network standard known as IEEE 802.11p, commonly referred to as dedicated short-range communications, or DSRC, would win favour. DSRC would allow V2V communication and a V2I interface via roadside beacons (although it’s never been clear who would pay for, operate or maintain those). In the US a frequency was allocated for transport use as long ago as 1999, then it received approval for the same in Europe in 2008.
More recently the DSRC option has been overshadowed by C-V2X (‘C’ standing for cellular) C-V2X was originally conceived using the LTE 4G mobile phone network but has since evolved to encompass the almost-imminent 5G rollout. One of the appeals of C-V2X is that it introduces the possibility of adding pedestrian and cyclist data via smartphone integration, which DSRC wouldn’t allow. In terms of hardware and infrastructure, C-V2X’s LTE technology has no compatibility with DRSC – the two systems are mutually exclusive – “hence the dilemma,” says Colin Lee, Jaguar Land Rover’s V2X manager.
“The debate has rumbled on for some time and continues to do so,” says Lee. “At present, China have elected for C-V2X and are moving very quickly. They may soon be joined by the US, who are exploring C-V2X to share the Intelligent Transport System (ITS) spectrum, while they already have vehicles with 802.11p [DSRC] in the market.”
DSRC has its advantages. It’s a robust, cost-effective and proven technology but has little scope for growth in terms of its capabilities – something that C-V2X has in spades. The allocation of radio frequencies is a pretty big deal, though, and some quarters of the industry are reluctant to relinquish of control of the 75 MHz-wide band (in the 5.9 GHz region, if you’re interested) that has been ring-fenced for DSRC use.
Such is C-V2X’s appeal, though, that a significant number of car makers and tech firms have registered their support for it, a backing represented by the growing membership of the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA) that was formed late in 2016.
Much of C-V2X’s required technology already exists, including the in-vehicle cellular modems that will be at its heart, as does the supporting telecoms hardware, and the 5GAA said an event in Paris this July that C-V2X shows ‘commercial readiness for industry deployment as early as 2020’. In theory, yes, it might, but it would require everyone to sign up within the next five minutes or so for there to be a widespread rollout by then. In the meantime, the debate rumbles on.
The situation is by no means a disaster and a consensus will inevitably be reached, but the timescales remain up in the air. The debate is forcing industry players – and rivals – to work together on an almost unprecedented level, and the crossover with technology and telecoms firms is breaking new ground. But all this takes time. No matter what the decision is, we’re still a long way off from a world in which all of our vehicles, be they capable of Level 3, 4 or 5 autonomy, are chatting away to each other – and everything else – while we put our feet up on the drive to work.
The F360’s 3.6-litre flat-plane V8 makes a useful 390bhp
Ferrari’s 360 is the supercar you really can drive every day – as long as your pockets are deep enough
Interested in having a Ferrari 360 in your garage? Consider for a moment the owner of a Modena F1, who last April lavished ?9000 on servicing it.
With such cars, the ticket price (the dealer selling this one-owner 53-reg car with 39,000 miles is asking ?67,000) is only part of the story.
Not that we wish to put you off buying a 360. The model represented a new chapter in Maranello’s history, for the F360 – unlike Ferraris before it and in particular its immediate predecessor, the F355 – was a perfectly usable and reliable supercar, capable, even, of being a daily driver. It’s why so many have higher than usual mileages and why prices are less sensitive to the odometer reading than those of other Ferrari models. It was launched in 1999 and bowed out in 2005 when the F430 elbowed it aside, so you’ve only six years to choose from. There were just three versions: the Mondial coupe?, Spider convertible and track-focused Challenge Stradale, a model that deserves its own guide.
The Mondial and Spider, both offered with a choice of six-speed manual or F1 flappy-paddle automated manual, use a 3.6-litre mid-mounted V8 making 390bhp at 8500rpm. Its flat-plane crank – a main contributor to the exhaust’s delicious howl – vibrates enough to crack engine mountings after around 20,000 miles. The same vibes also weaken the timing tensioner bearings, so those three-yearly beltreplacements can’t be ignored.
But for a few issues, both gearboxes are strong and reliable. The F1 can feel a little jerky, so in 2003 Ferrari revised the gearbox control settings to smooth things out. The update is available for earlier cars.
The fully adjustable, double wishbone and coilover suspension system features Continuous Damper Control offering Normal and Sport modes. It’s a reliable set-up but the car does have an appetite for tie-rod ends and ball joints.
Ferrari’s first genuine daily driver was also its first production car with an all-aluminium body. It was light but immensely strong; more so in Spider form after Ferrari beefed up the sills and floorpan. Don’t think being aluminium makes it rust-free, though – you should still look for signs of bubbling under the paint.
The Spider’s folding roof is operated by powerful rams that can spring fluid leaks, so pause the roof halfway through its cycle and inspect the ram seals. There is a smart fix ( visit ferrarichat.com), otherwise you’re looking at thousands to fix it.
Power windows and leather trim were standard. Desirable options were xenon lights (aftermarket ones don’t have washers), carbonfibre seats and Challenge rear grille. If Ferrari wing shields are fitted, they should be recessed; aftermarket ones sit proud. Must-haves are a fully stamped service book and the original Ferrari toolkit (a replacement costs ?800). All present? Then get that garage spruced up.
How to get one in your garage:
An expert’s view:
SCOTT CHIVERS, SELF- TAUGHT FERRARI MECHANIC: “A 360 Modena F1 has been my daily driver for almost nine years. Using salvaged parts, I converted it to a Challenge Stradale: carbonfibre brakes, extra power, 100kg weight reduction, the lot. I bought the car with 21,000 miles and now it’s done 70,000 and never put a foot wrong. It’s even on the same clutch. I’ve got 355s but the 360 is a huge step forward in terms of usability and reliability. You have to drop the engine on the 355 to change the belts, but on the 360 you just remove a panel behind the seats. Some parts are expensive, though. For example, the wheel bearings are sealed in the hub, so you need new hubs – at ?800 a corner.”
ENGINE - Annual servicing is essential and timing belts must be changed every three years. Check for cam cover oil seal leaks and the engine undertray for waste oil. Ensure tappet rattles go as engine warms up. Feel for hesitation possibly caused by failing ignition coils. Check for leaky intake manifold gaskets and rattly intake butterflies. Check condition of engine mounts.
TRANSMISSION - Check gearbox mounts aren’t broken, allowing the ’box to hang and changes to crunch. On the F1, look for leaks from the hydraulic actuators and check the transmission control unit’s clutch wear record. On manuals, check for clutch slippage, a notchy change from third to second and that the linkage bush below the gearlever isn’t worn.
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES - Listen for noisy front ball joints. Wiggle the steering wheel to check tie-rod end play. Check both suspension modes work. Feel for wandering due to incorrect tyre pressures or geometry.
BODY - Feel for kerb scrapes under the nose. Look for aluminium corrosion bubbling up and behind the undertrays for corrosion and damage. Look for uneven panel gaps and wheel arch damage from track days. Check for worn boot and door seals, loose door handles, foggy lenses. On Spiders, check for hood creases and tears.
INTERIOR - Check window and locking module isn’t corroded and that rubberised trim isn’t sticky. Check door cards and that the instrument cluster lights up properly.
Also worth knowing:
OE parts are often recommended but dealers and enthusiasts often turn to Hill Engineering. Its re-engineered Ferrari parts are claimed to exceed OE quality.
How much to spend:
?49,000-?59,999 - Reasonable choice of coupe?s and Spiders with less than 50k miles and good service histories.
?60,000-?69,999 - Low-mile, one-owner cars, those with full Ferrari or respected independent dealer histories the most expensive.
?70,000-?84,999 - Mint, fully loaded cars with sub-40k mileages and watertight histories with all major work recently undertaken.
?85,000-?110,000 - Ultra-low-mileage Ferrari-approved main dealer cars, others at specialists.
?135,000 AND ABOVE - A few Challenge Stradales up to ?230k.
One we found:
FERRARI 360 MODENA F1, 2000, 37K MILES, ?59,980 This car stands out for its full service history, decent mileage, right colour combo (red with cream leather), recent clutch and belts job, Challenge rear grille and stainless exhaust. Badges on wings aren’t original but that’s a detail.
The Ceed plug-in will use the same powertrain as the Niro PHEV and is tipped to go on sale “in the second half of 2019”. With a 139bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine mated to a 59kW electric motor and 8.4kWh battery pack, a Ceed estate with the same powertrain should match, or even beat, the Niro’s 29g/km of CO2 and 217mpg of the outgoing NEDC economy standard.
“We are going to introduce it for the wagon, and then decide if it makes sense on other body-types,” says Kia Europe’s marketing chief Artur Martins.
Models that are likely receive plug-in powertrains in future include the Sportage and Sorento, while a new generation of Optima PHEV is also on the cards.
“We are going to need more electrification on other products in the future. We must get to a mix of around 25-30% electrified models to hit the CO2 targets,” added Martins.
Production will be localised at Kia’s Slovakia plant, the first plug-in it will build in Europe.
At November’s LA show, Kia will reveal a new Soul EV, destined for UK launch in spring next year as the sole model in a new Soul range.
The Soul BEV’s powerpack will mirror the e-Niro’s with a choice of either a 34 or 60kWhr battery, the latter promising a range of 300 miles. It will boost Kia’s range of BEVs to two models – alongside Tesla one of very few car-makers with multiple BEVs in its range.
According to Kia Europe COO Emilio Herrara demand for the e-Niro is expected to hit 20k units/yr by 2019/2020.
More radically, Kia is planning a fuel-cell model as a sister-vehicle to Hyundai’s ?60k Nexo, which goes on sale early next year. The Sorento SUV, whose higher price can justify the cost of the fuel cell power pack, is highly likely to be the beneficiary of a hydrogen-powered option. Kia already has a fuel cell car on sale in Korea, but in a model not sold in Europe.
“We are looking at a fuel cell, in the future, in a bigger car,” says Martins, “but it depends a little bit on how the European market goes. It works better on a bigger car because the customer is prepared to pay more on a bigger car.”
If the K900 was imported here officially, Kia UK would, as a ballpark figure...
It's known as the K9 in Korea but for now, its maker has no plans to bring this luxury saloon to the UK. We find out what we’re missing
A twin-turbocharged V6-powered Kia sports saloon developed by BMW M’s former chief engineer seemed like a fairly outrageous idea a few years ago, but the Stinger turned out to be so credible that you wouldn’t believe it was a first attempt from its maker.
In that context, a 5.1-metre-long, V8-powered, four-wheel-drive Kia luxury saloon to rival the Mercedes-Benz S-Class might not seem quite such absurd an idea as it once might have done. Perhaps more far-fetched, yes, but not completely a cause for spitting out your cornflakes.
And yet such a car is not an idea, but a reality – and one that has been a part of Kia’s range further afield for a few years now. The K900 (known as the K9 in Korea, but renamed for export for fairly obvious reasons) is indeed the manufacturer’s answer to the S-Class.
The car has now entered its second generation, having been launched in its home market this summer as a range-crowning technological tour de force. It has wider significance across the Hyundai Motor Groupas the first car to use a new rear-wheel-drive platform that will also underpin Hyundai’s new Genesis premium brand and its G80 saloon, a car that will have greater export appeal than the Kia and is destined for mainland Europe and the UK.
The K900, meanwhile, will be sold in the Middle East and US but not Europe, because the idea of a Kia rival to the S-Class is unlikely to be one to find much credibility no matter how good it might be or how much post-Stinger glory there is to bask in. We’re in Seoul to drive it but before we do, a chauffeur drives us.
K900s are mostly experienced from the back seat by their buyers. What do they experience? Plenty of space, that’s for sure. A big comfy chair with lots of adjustability, and a decent enough ride. The feel is less luxury, more premium, perhaps like an Audi A8 from a decade ago: it ticks all the right boxes on paper but you don’t really feel all that special. The chauffeur gets the really interesting job. From the driver’s seat you get to experience the V8. Powering the K900 is a 5.0-litre unit with 419bhp and 383lb ft, driving all four wheels through a very smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission.
It’s good for 0-62mph in 5.5sec. Yet this is no performance car. Instead, the V8 has been tuned the other way, to deliver effortless performance of the kind that quickly and effortlessly glides you through traffic, in a quiet, unassuming manner. There’s no bark or growl from the engine, rather a calming, reassuring presence.
We need to talk about the ride quality, though. From the driver’s seat, luxurious it is not. Although primary body control is fine, the way the car crashes over even the most innocuous-looking bump in the road is not. What’s strange is the contrast to how it feels in the back seat. Perhaps that’s where the chassis engineers spent most of their time. This car’s spec is that of a Korean domestic market car, with robust all- weather tyres and suspension tuned for negotiating Korea’s scarcely believable number of speed bumps. A different tune for the US and other markets is promised.
The uncomfortable ride up front is a shame, because the front cabin is a more interesting place than the back, with quilted Nappa leather and real wood (beech and ash trims are offered, among others). The wood feels like wood, the metal feels like metal, and everything is executed with a premium mindset. It even extends to the inside of the door bins, which are as nice to the touch as the rest of the cabin.
There’s some clever technology too. Indicate, and in the digital instrument binnacle appears a camera image of your blind spot. It’s a welcome and useful piece of safety kit. The infotainment screen is a nice one too. It’s quick to operate, even if the lack of perceived quality surfaces when you recognise the graphics from other Kias.
The K900 is really at its best at isolating you from the outside world. Seoul’s traffic isn’t for the faint-hearted, with lanes frequently swapped and aggressive stopping and starting that seems only to make the traffic run less smoothly. Yet in the K900 you’re rarely bothered or wound up by it, which is a key part of any luxury model’s brief.
The K9 isn’t really an illustration of Kia moving upmarket and becoming a full-blown luxury car maker; it’s more a reflection of it needing to offer a complete range of cars in a home market where dominance with group sibling Hyundai is almost absolute.
The world is no worse a place for this car, though. Ride quality aside, I rather like it. And it makes you ponder: might Kia ever get to the point where it could offer such a car as a genuine and credible alternative to the likes of the S-Class? Perhaps. Then again, perhaps not, badge snobbery being what it is, even when you consider the astonishing progress the brand has made in little over a decade. But then we said the same about the Stinger.
Located in a trendy part of Seoul among almost a dozen other flagship luxury car showrooms is the Salon de K9, where the K900 is on display.
Prospective buyers can drop in and learn about the car, feel the leather, touch the wood trim and listen to the sound system. But they can’t buy one: they must go to the more conventional-looking Kia dealer next door to do that.
This is a fashionable ‘brand space’, then, although it doesn’t feel overly premium. Crammed in are more than half a dozen K9s in different conservative body colours, Koreans apparently keen to see every option.
To see what it has to compete with, we've assembled quite the welcoming committe for the new arrival: eight hatchbacks from well-known volume brands we believe could give it some serious competition. Our task: to discover which is 2018’s best new family hatch, when gathered around a common ?22,000 price point, and propelled by similarly powerful petrol engines.
On to the sharp end of this exercise, then – to be contended by a couple of cars whose progression to this stage regular readers will have probably seen coming several miles off, but also a couple of cars whose presence might just surprise you.
Another surprise, at least as far as this tester is concerned, is that the Kia Ceed isn’t among them. When we road-tested the Kia just a few weeks ago, it felt like a car that had taken several big steps up and might hold its own in competition with the hatchback segment’s elite. But group-testing new cars will always confound you and challenge your preconceptions. And when it came to the crunch, the best of this bunch were just too good for the Kia – and not just for the Kia, it should be noted.
If you’re expecting this to descend into a couple of discrete twin tests rolled into one, don’t be so sure: the new Ford Focus, Mazda 3, Volkswagen Golf and Skoda Octavia aren’t so easily separated. Theseare cars which, over a day’s driving, gradually assemble an ownership case that’s quite different from each of the other’s, and one strong enough that it could easily make it the right buy for any Autocar reader.
Given that we’ve already ruled out so many decent market contenders, there’s no room for anything but very good cars in this final showdown.
Three of the four cars will be well-known to you - and I won’t pretend otherwise simply to build some phone sense of suspense that might keep you more interested, for the next thousand-and-a-bit words, than you would otherwise be. The questions we should turn our attention towards now, it seems to me, are as follows. First, does the new Focus still offer the most driver appeal in its class even on its most ordinary suspension configuration?
The answer to that is not to be taken for granted, with our Titanium X-trim test car not only doing without the lowered sport-tuned suspension of ST-Line versions, but also without the independent rear suspension and adaptive dampers that more expensive Focuses now have. And second, is it good enough in every other way that matters to seal the deal: to succeed where in last-generation from it failed, and supplant Europe’s bigger-selling VW Golf at the top of our class rankings as an all-round package?
First things first, then. We could tie ourselves in knots discussing how much driver appeal actually matters in a humble, workaday family five-door. But whether you take the view that I like to think is typical of an Autocar reader (that it matters quite a lot) or you don’t, you would have to admit that it matters in a Ford Focus. Would this car have been so popular with a more ordinary driving experience? We’ll never know, but Ford clearly doesn’t think so – hence the money spent on every subsequent generation to guarantee the preservation of its key selling point – and I don’t think so either.
A succession of back-to-back ten-minute stints in each of our four cars is all you need to find out which of the Focus’s rivals is most likely to challenge it in this respect. And, while it has masses of rational appeal and enough completeness as a product to conclusively dump the Honda Civic firmly out of this top-four contest, the Skoda Octavia isn’t much of a challenger on dynamism. Even with more power and torque than anything else in this showdown, it feels and drives like ‘Captain Sensible’ from bumper to bumper – now as much as it ever did.
The softness of the Octavia’s handling responses is what you expect to naturally follow, with a turn of that medium-weighted and moderately paced steering wheel, having noted the fairly gentle lope of the car’s quiet and well-isolated ride. It makes sense: this is a family saloon masquerading as a hatchback, really. It reminds you of that suspiciously grown-up kid you remember in your class at school, whose 21st birthday party you later went to a year before everyone else’s.
The car handles precisely enough as to be entirely easy to place, and has the body control to tolerate a brisker pace over a challenging road without really struggling. It’s refined too – more so than any other car in this top four – so it’s featuring at the business end of this test for very good reasons. But if a dose of added poise and verve in your everyday motoring is what you’re after, it doesn’t offer much.
VW’s 1.5-litre, 128bhp Golf offers more – mostly by apparent virtue of its size. The Golf is notably softer-sprung than both the Mazda 3 and the Focus, being more comfortable than both at town speeds, but keeping better control of its mass than the Octavia when cornering at speed and dealing with bigger lumps and bumps. The Golf pulls off that genius trick of feeling absolutely right-sized: big enough to accommodate a smallish family in comfort and some shopping – but absolutely no bigger, so that it feels light and agile and manoeuvrable, as a compact family car should. Now, as ever, the Golf feels like the epicentre of the hatchback’s planetary system: the fixed point around which every other car has to move.
But not because it’s brilliant to drive. You wouldn’t have said that about our test car, which was a little bit soft and short on outright grip when driven more quickly and, though nicely damped at town speeds, came up short on vertical body control at times. The Golf’s engine, meanwhile, didn’t quite share the Octavia’s levels of mechanical refinement and isolation: noisier at high revs than the Skoda, it also revved with less enthusiasm. All in all, in this specification at least, the Golf probably wasn’t a car a keener driver might pick.
But the Mazda 3 certainly was.
You couldn’t pick a tougher dynamic test for the Ford Focus than this naturally aspirated 2.0-litre Mazda, in fact – and, having spent a day trying, we should know. The car has pin-sharp throttle response, as well as beautifully weighted and feelsome controls; in both respects, it’s actually more than a match for the Ford. Meanwhile, a slightly busy-riding but honest-feeling, firmly sprung chassis gives the car plenty of cornering grip, flat body control, strong front-driven traction, and the ability to change direction sufficiently smartly and cleanly as to keep you fully interested in how it might tackle the next corner.
Does the Focus do all that? Does it have an answer to the Mazda’s every challenge? Not quite, but you wouldn’t argue that, through its own differing dynamic instruments, it provides an even more compelling driving experience; one that it’s as much a delight to find in an ordinary family hatchback today as it must have been 20 years ago, albeit perhaps less of a revelation.
You couldn’t anatomise the biggest lures of the Ford’s driving experience without giving equal billing to its superbly even-hauling and singularly willing 123bhp three-cylinder engine as to its balanced, incisive, absorbing handling. The Focus has always enjoyed one of these relative advantages over its peers, of course – but now it’s got both, and the relative appeal of both has been taken to even greater heights, I don’t know how anyone could deny the star quality of this car.
You might have reservations about the slightly elastic, compliant feel of the car’s new power steering; an awareness, perhaps, that for all its range and prickly enthusiasm, the car’s Ecoboost engine isn’t actually producing as much torque as it might be. But sample the keenness with which the Focus turns in; the tenacity with which it holds on mid-corner; the readiness it has to swing its hips into the action and swivel underneath you on a lifted throttle and the quite brilliant way in which it combines such eager responsiveness and close body control with supple overall bump absorption.
Now tell me you’re not convinced that the Focus is a cut above. And on this evidence, given that we’re dealing with a car in as ordinary a specification as it’s possible to get, quite possibly now by a wider margin than it’s had since 1998.
But is that enough? I could spend as long again as I just have on driving experiences detailing the difference between these four cars on cabin quality, boot space and relative passenger practicality – but in the end, all you need to know is that the answer’s yes. Leaving aside the Honda and Skoda, there isn’t a meaningfully more practical car in this whole exercise than the Ford. For cabin quality and apparent ambient classiness, meanwhile, the Focus has a slightly longer list of betters to acknowledge, among them the Golf, the 308 and probably the Octavia as well; but none do enough to recover the ground they gave up as driving machines.
The Focus remains an entirely ordinary and fairly workaday car in which to spend time. Its cabin doesn’t hide its cheaper materials as cleverly as the Octavia or Ceed, and its richer finishes are nowhere near as effective as those of the Golf. Its cabin is a bit monotone and plain; its fittings not creaky or wobbly like one or two in the Astra, but nothing to write home about either. But by being so ordinary in that sense, the Ford somehow only draws your attention elsewhere – to how it’s so special to drive.
Twenty years ago, the original Focus won both enormous critical acclaim and continued UK market dominance for its maker by comprehensively out-handling its every rival; today, with the public’s collective attention on crossovers, while EVs and autonomous tech hogs the limelight, you wonder if the fourth-generation version will do either. It certainly deserves to, though, because the king is back, and in better fettle than ever.
1st - Ford Focus 1.0T Ecoboost 125 Titanium X: Outstanding driver appeal and possibly even better versions still to test. Engine and chassis both brilliant
2nd - VW Golf 1.5 TSI 130 DSG SE Nav: Beats Focus on material class, desirability and tech, but soft handling and ordinary engine
3rd - Mazda 3 SkyActiv-G 120 Sport Nav: Better to drive, in some ways, than the Ford albeit at a greater cost to ride comfort
4th - Skoda Octavia 1.5 TSI 150 SE L: Too complete a product to ignore. Refined, cavernous, well-built and decent to drive
You’ll fall for the Focus, but it may not be love at first sight
An ordinary car with extraordinary driver appeal, can the Ford Focus reclaim its stranglehold on the family hatchback market? We pit the new one against eight rivals eager to thwart it
Ten years. That’s how long it’s been since the Ford Focus was Britain’s biggest-selling car over a full calendar year. That, to me at least, seems like ‘blink and you’ll miss a decade’ territory.
It seems like just a moment ago that Ford so memorably imposed such a reassuring state of order on the UK car market, at least to road testers like me – one that lasted a full decade. The Blue Oval created a family hatchback that was a much better drive than anything else like it: the original 1998 Focus. Britain had some of the best roads in Europe on which to demonstrate its qualities. And, sure enough, Britons responded. The Focus became this country’s biggest-selling car.
And still, even though for every calendar year since 2008 the car has been beaten by its little brother the Fiesta (and increasingly by one or two other big-hitters) in the UK’s annual registration charts, the launch of a new-generation Focus – this the fourth of them – feels like a big occasion.
So we’ve convened a welcoming committee: not quite every family hatchback in the class – just the ones from well-known volume brands that we believe could give it some serious competition. We’ve left out the ‘compact premium’ players, on the basis that doing so ought to make for a simpler, closer and more interesting contest. But among the cars we have included is the recently introduced Kia Ceed, fresh from an encouraging endorsement in the Autocar road test, albeit in diesel-engined form.
9th Peugeot 308: Given that this field might have swollen to something approaching 20 cars if we’d included every family hatchback on the market, ninth place isn’t such a terrible result for Peugeot’s four-year-old 308.
It made it into the starting blocks on the basis that’s it’s a handsome and desirable hatchback with a characterful engine and a pleasant, quietly ritzy interior, facts that none of our testing confounded.
So what damned this former European Car of the Year? The answers, simply put, are disappointing practicality, average real-world economy and soft, uninspiring handling.
The 308 has the least spacious second row of all the cars here; its boot may be of a good size, but the sense that the former has been sacrificed for the benefit of the latter is a compromise that none of the rest of our field asks you to accept.
This is a classic European-sized hatchback, however, and as such offers a compactness that you won’t find everywhere else in this group. Ought that to translate as greater handling nimbleness than the car actually has, though? We think so, because distinguishing agility is only present in the 308 driving experience up to a fairly superficial level.
Although Peugeot’s downsized steering wheel makes the car flit around car parks and busy junctions quite easily, when you corner at higher speeds you must contend with muted, over-assisted steering, and discouraging amounts of body roll that are enough to blunt the handling balance the chassis might otherwise have, and also to make the 308 understeer quite untidily at the limit of grip.
The standard sport suspension and bigger wheels of a higher trim level might have made for a more convincing dynamic showing here – but, as it was, we could rank the 308 no higher.
8th Vauxhall Astra: The Astra is the quickest-accelerating car in this test on paper. That’s not something you were expecting to read about a mid-range Vauxhall, I dare say. It’s roomy and well-equipped, too, and specialises in the sort of unambiguous value for money that Vauxhall appears to be claiming as its specialty, at least for its more conventional hatchbacks and saloons.
But none of that will prevent you from noting the distinctly unlovely rental-car vibe conjured by the car’s cheaper cabin materials (of which there are plenty), or the relative lack of dynamic finish that’s evident in the way it drives. The clutch pedal action feels woolly and imprecise, ride quality is slightly hollow and excitable in its shortage of wheel control, and steering is light and can be pendulous as you add lock, giving you very little impression at all of how hard the car’s front wheels are working.
The Astra’s 1.4-litre engine is quiet at cruising crankspeeds and makes decent torque, but it doesn’t feel like the most potent or vigorous motor here due to its gathering coarseness and breathlessness at high revs.
But for a shortness of footspace in the second row, there are few reasons to complain about practicality. Yet overall, having been presented with at least a glimmer of visual interest by the car’s exterior styling, you’re left with very few reasons to really want this Astra when all is said and done. And meat and potatoes, however competently cooked, can only take Vauxhall so far.
7th Seat Leon: Wondering if a bottom-half ranking looks a bit tough on the Seat Leon, a car that we’ve consistently rated highly in this model generation?
It was an unavoidable quirk of timing that this test had to happen just after Seat switched production of its hatchback into 2019-model-year specification – and from the Volkswagen Group’s 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engines to its newer, WLTP-emissions-compliant 1.5s.
The 1.5-litre motors powering the Golf and Octavia in this test only got added at Seat’s Martorell factory on 31 July; not soon enough, regrettably, for demonstrators to have arrived at Seat UK in time to be included here. So this slightly lowly ranking for the Leon is as much about the engine as the car.
This was an opportunity, however, to directly compare the 1.0-litre and 1.5-litre TSI petrol options available in the Leon, Octavia and Golf ranges – and the conclusion must be, if your budget allows, to plump for the full-fat, 148bhp 1.5-litre TSI Evo from the line-up of whichever model you’re considering it in.
The Leon’s 113bhp 1.0-litre felt every bit as relatively weedy as its vital statistics might suggest, but also quite rough at idle, and considerably less free-revving than some of the other downsized three-pots we tested. Meanwhile, our real-world fuel economy testing exercise revealed that it returns very creditable efficiency, but perhaps not significantly better than you might reasonably expect from the bigger VW Group engine in the same car.
There is much to recommend the rest of the Leon’s package: it rides and handles well, and would have done so even better on the bigger wheels and less economy-biased tyres that might have been included on a variant in like-for-like specification with most of the rest of our field. A more eye-catching exterior design still does plenty to add appeal too.
6th Kia Ceed: Kia doesn’t like to be talked of, or even thought of, as a budget brand any more. If only to save its blushes, then, whisper this bit under your breath if you like. The new Ceed is every bit as good a family hatchback as most of the cars here in a lot of the ways that will matter to those who’ll look at the ?3k to ?5k difference between its list price and that of some of its opponents, and then imagine what they could do with the saving.
We tested the Ceed in fairly low-rung ‘2’ model specification, so it missed some of the equipment to be found elsewhere. Though the car’s interior looked a little bit plain, though, it had consistently good material quality, was well laid out and felt more spacious than the class average.
The 1.0-litre engine delivered only passable outright performance and refinement, likewise failing to ram home much of an advantage in our fuel economy run. But it’s a viceless powertrain of decent flexibility that’s in tune with the rest of Ceed’s likeably humble and straightforward character.
The Ceed’s ride and handling are similarly straightforward. It’s competent, pleasant and predictable on the road, with decently isolated controls, and a strong enough hand on agility and ride finesse to bear comparison with most, if not the very best, cars in the class.
I’d want to be sure the car’s ?18k list price translated into a monthly finance quote that looked equally appealing next to what you might be offered on the cars ranked more highly in this test. But, with my homework done and showing parity on that score, I wouldn’t expect owning and driving this car to give me a moment’s regret on making a thrifty decision.
5th Honda Civic: It’s a funny car, the Honda Civic, but an increasingly good one. The upper trim level of our test car makes it look expensive next to its rivals but, compared on a like-for-like basis, it’s pretty competitive on price. And ever since Honda introduced the latest-generation model last year, it’s also had the uncomplicated practicality, the engines and the driving dynamics necessary to be considered a real contender by any hatchback buyer.
There’s no magic involved in delivering the practicality part of that equation, of course. The Civic has become a significantly larger car than the hatchback class average, and seems like it to drive. But it certainly makes a virtue of its ‘big car’ feel on the road: it’s comfy-riding (albeit having a rolling chassis that’s a touch noisier than it might be), and it has weighty and assured steering and good motorway-speed stability.
It’s just not as agile, or as crisp in its handling responses, as you might want a hatchback to be.
The Civic’s cabin offers abundant room both for passengers and cargo – and if it had perceived quality as good as its practicality, it might well have squeezed into consideration in the top-four shootout. The fact is, the cabin’s standard on material fit and finish leaves just enough to be desired to be off-putting – some ingredients seem solid and expensive, others oddly cheap – while the lack of easy usability about the car’s infotainment and trip computer systems isn’t likely to win it many fans, either.
The Civic’s 1.0-litre engine is impressively frugal and flexible, though, returning a better indicated fuel economy result on our short test than any other car here. It’s a strong component part of an all-round showing that’s a bit short on attention to detail, but is certainly good enough to win Honda a ‘best of the rest’ recommendation here, assuming you can abide those ‘Buck Rogers in the 25th Century’ movie-extra looks.
Tomorrow: We've narrowed the group down to a final four, so it's time to pick an overall winner
Race car has a wider track than the road car and gains a front splitter and rear wing
Electric Jaguar I-Pace racers will battle it out on street circuits in support of Formula E. We strap in for a drive
“Like having sensory deprivation” is how Bryan Sellers, one of the first drivers to have signed up for Jaguar’s forthcoming I-Pace eTrophy race series, describes driving an I-Pace electric race car.
The new one-make electric car championship will be the support race for next season’s Formula E electric race series, which starts in Saudi Arabia in December and visits at least 10 countries (two more to be confirmed) before finishing in New York in July.
Some 20 I-Pace race cars will provide the warm-up entertainment on the converted street circuits that comprise the Formula E championship. And, probably, they won’t prove all that much slower than the main event. Simulations estimate they’ll be a little over two seconds a lap slower than last season’s Formula E single-seaters on some circuits (although this season, new-look main event cars will be quicker).
Mechanically, then, how do you turn an I-Pace road car into a race car? Not dissimilarly to how you’d do an internal-combustion vehicle. The interior has been thrown out, with door cards and dashboard replaced by carbonfibre alternatives. A roll cage comes in, bolted to the very extremes of the car and thereby keeping the batteries (around 600kg of them), which lie beneath the cabin floor and take up most of the space between the wheels, within its confines.
The car’s track is widened, so there’s new bodywork to cover it, including 22in wheels running Michelin Pilot Sport road car rubber, with one set intended to last each competitor a race weekend. And then there’s some aero – some designed to reduce drag, the front splitter and big rear wing intended to induce downforce – although, at the lowish speeds of a Formula E street circuit, not much of it.
How much of the eTrophy race car’s design elements could find their way back onto an I-Pace SVR road car? “As much as we can get away with,” says Jaguar design studio director Wayne Burgess.
By throwing out the insides and fitting some new, lighter bodywork, around 300kg on each I-Pace was consigned to the skip. Putting in the cage and fire suppressant and so on puts around 75kg of that back in so, for a race car, the I-Pace is pretty heavy, at 1965kg, but still well over 200kg lighter than the road car.
With the car’s powertrain remaining the same, apart from an increased drivetrain cooling capacity by opening up the front grille and losing air-con for the occupant, the I-Pace race car should feel brisk, no? Actually, no.
It’s weird. You clamber in like you would into any modern racing saloon, seated low, strapped tight. Among the controls, the gear selector remains the same, but otherwise everything in here is bespoke. There are controls on the steering wheel to adjust the ABS, the power distribution (split 50:50 or 48:52 front to rear, with the latter providing better mid- corner rotation) and things that you know will remain unfathomable with such a brief acquaintance.
And then encouraged out onto Silverstone’s little Stowe circuit, the experience is accompanied by... nothing but acceleration that feels more glacial than it surely is.
I guess this is what Sellers means by sensory deprivation. Driving a race car – even a slow one – is generally accompanied by huge transmission whine, punctuated by revving engines and gearshifts.
An eTrophy I-Pace just accelerates as quickly as the road car, with 0-60mph in 4.5sec. But while that feels fast on the road because you’re frequently stepping off from standstill, pulling away from a corner on a race track where the eTrophy car is already capable of big lateral grip and carrying good speed, other things come to the fore: the braking, the turn-in, the little additional throttle steer allowed by pushing that extra 2% of power to the rear.
The steering is light, accurate but short on feel. Braking is terrific and backed, in the right circumstances, by switchable motor regeneration.
If the battery’s full, regen doesn’t work, and later in a race, the amount of power continuously coming in and out of the battery can overheat its capacity to take more in, so the brakes are uprated to stop the car well anyway. But eTrophy drivers have found in testing that they prefer the brake feel with it engaged.
There are, essentially, new things to learn with an electric race car. M-Sport is running the cars, at a cost of ?450,000 a season per car. The technical regs are nailed for three seasons, and you can lease a car for ?95,000 a year, or buy it for ?200,000. Even electric race cars aren’t cheap.
But given Formula E doesn’t have any paying drivers – all take a salary – it’s not a surprise that the eTrophy is attracting drivers who see it as a stepping stone to the main game: if you have experience of an electric race car, you have an edge on your rivals.
What’s striking about driving one, though, is how the absence of aural drama accentuates other things. It gives even an inexpert like me more time to think about lines, and braking, and even the chance to ponder how darned difficult it would be to overtake: 20 of these cars, one small street circuit, enclosed wheels and a performance level that you can get on top of? It wouldn’t surprise me if the races were more entertaining than the main event’s.
Previously known by its BP23 codename, the Speedtail will have a higher top speed than any McLaren ever produced. The company has yet to confirm an official maximum speed but is aiming for a figure beyond the F1's 243mph.
Only 106 Speedtail models will be produced - and all have already been reserved, at ?1.75 million (plus taxes) each. It will be officially revealed to owners in the coming weeks, with a public unveiling to follow on 26 October.
A teaser image showing the Speedtail's eponymous rear end suggets it will arrive with a distinctly different look from every other McLaren road car. With top speed being prioritised over lap times, it is unlikely to use the opinion-dividing additional aerodynamic upgrades found on the Senna hypercar.
McLaren said the name is “evocative of a peak speed higher than any McLaren yet and sinuous, highly streamlined design”. It also said that it will be “the most luxurious” McLaren so far.
The Speedtail is the third car in McLaren’s top-tier Ultimate Series, following the P1 and the recently launched Senna. This new model features a centrally mounted driving position flanked by two seats, an arrangement inspired by the F1 road car.
McLaren boss Mike Flewitt previously told Autocar that the Speedtail was “a long way along” in terms of its development: “We’re running the powertrain in a 720S mule. We haven’t got a full-body prototype yet.” Production will begin in late 2019 at the McLaren Production Centre.
The rebirth of a three-seat McLaren originated with a single customer request, which McLaren decided could be put into limited-series production.
Each Speedtail will be personalised by McLaren Special Operations, the bespoke engineering division.
Unlike with the Senna and P1 – which are more track-biased than the Speedtail grand tourer – a GTR version of the Speedtail is not expected.
Interestingly, Flewitt said earlier this year: “It would be fascinating to do a centre-seat track car. It would be perfect on a track, and easier to do as you need all sorts of legislation on the road. It’s not planned, or been asked for. We’re not planning one but it’s been thought of. I’m surprised someone hasn’t asked MSO.”
Speedtail speed and aerodynamics
McLaren confirmed at the Geneva motor show in March that the Speedtail will be the fastest McLaren made so far, exceeding the F1’s 243mph – at which point “it will still be accelerating”, said the car maker.
In 1998, the previous three-seat McLaren, the F1, became the world’s fastest production car when Le Mans winner (and now Bugatti test driver) Andy Wallace took the F1 along Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien test track in Germany and reached 242mph, exceeding the 231mph the F1 managed in 1993 at the Nardo high-speed bowl in Italy.
Andy Palmer, vehicle line director for McLaren’s Ultimate Series models, told Autocar at the time that the car’s advanced aerodynamics will help to “really move things on from an acceleration perspective”.
Unlike the Senna, however, the focus of the Speedtail won’t be on track performance. Instead, it will be pitched as a class-leading all-rounder in the hypercar segment.
If lap times aren’t the way McLaren will measure the Speedtail’s performance (and they’re not), that leaves acceleration or top speed as the two measures by which the Speedtail will be the fastest ever McLaren.
“It’s very powerful; more powerful than the [986bhp] P1 GTR,” Mike Flewitt told Autocar at the Geneva motor show. He also confirmed the car would be “easier to get into than an F1” and “feels very natural” when you drive it.
High power levels and the predicted high speeds don’t come without complications, though. Palmer admitted that McLaren is “pretty much at the limit of what tyres, as well as other systems, can do”.
The realities of running consistently at speeds approaching – or perhaps beyond – 250mph are a significant step onwards again from 200mph from a tyre, energy and aerodynamic perspective. Palmer revealed previously that the goal of this car is "to give customers the ability to have a high level of luxury, bespoke elements on the car, high performance, high speed – a very much road-focused grand tourer".
“The centre seat is an amazing thing,” Palmer told Autocar. “The attraction is not only the driving position, but you can take two passengers and luggage on a long journey. I’ve been sitting in the back and it’s not a bad place to be.
“Technology has moved on, particularly in carbon, and in our tub and monocell, and how we engineer that to accommodate three seats. It’s not without compromise – it’s not sitting in the back of a Mercedes S-Class – but it’s not a huddled or tight space.” Palmer and his colleagues say that entry and egress to the Speedtail is far easier than it was in the F1, too. Cameras might augment mirrors to increase visibility without compromising aerodynamics.
The dilemma of the Speedtail’s high-speed runs
Another of McLaren’s headaches, though, is deciding where to complete the Speedtail’s high-speed runs, which have already been planned into the development process. Using VW’s Ehra-Lessien test track – which has a five-mile main straight that you can enter off a curved bend at an easy triple-figure speed – is out of the question 20 years on from the F1, given VW has competing brands and it’s where the Bugatti Chiron will eventually prove its top speed.
High-speed test track ‘bowls’, meanwhile, even like the one at Nardo that scrubbed 10mph from the F1’s pace, prevent cars of the Speedtail’s potential from reaching their top speed. Palmer says he “would like to run on Tarmac”, but beyond some of the world’s longest runways, or some road race events where the safety of drivers becomes an issue should anything go wrong, McLaren might even have to look to salt flats such as those at Bonneville. Even there, though, tyres become an issue, because of the lower grip levels. And while Bugatti can use Ehra-Lessien for customer events, McLaren will have to think where its 106 Speedtail buyers can experience close to their car’s full potential.
Seat’s new stand-alone performance brand, Cupra, has revealed its 296bhp all-wheel-drive version of the Ateca
Hot Ateca launches Seat's stand-alone performance brand, with prices starting from ?35,900
Seat’s new stand-alone performance brand, Cupra, has announced pricing and spec details for its hot Ateca SUV. The all-wheel-drive performance model starts from ?35,900, with deliveries due early next year.
The headline price gets you a 296bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine mated exclusively to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Standard kit includes keyless entry and start, an 8.0in touchscreen navigation system, park assist and a wireless phone charger, while metallic paint with a choice of six shades is thrown in, too.
The price is inclusive of the Cupra Care service and maintenance package, including three years of servicing, European roadside assistance and the car's first MOT.
The Cupra Ateca is part of a broader offensive to offer Cupra versions of some Seat models as well as, eventually, Cupra-only cars. Seat is trying to copy the example of in-house performance divisions like Renault Sport. It will launch seven models by 2020 as part of aggressive growth plans.
The brand's sales and marketing boss Wayne Griffiths said that splitting from Seat was important for brand value. "In terms of positioning it adds more to go with a separate brand," he said. "If we kept it in the Seat world, there would always be compromises. We want to take it out of the Seat world to the race track. Most firms that have sporting brands take them out of heritage, like Abarth. But we want to look to the future.
Cupra models will be based on Seats – for the foreseeable future, at least – but with significantly higher performance, more customisation options and a separate sales channel. Only about one-fifth of Seat’s dealer network will be awarded Cupra sub-franchises and models are set to be sold by specialists from Cupra-only areas.
Autocar first reported on the plans last year, when a draft of the new logo was shown in trademark filings. Seat boss Luca de Meo later admitted that Cupra would “add another dimension” to Seat’s appeal.
“Cupra emerged not just as a business discussion," he said. "This is a declaration of love for motoring, in a society becoming a bit unfriendly to the sector.”
The Cupra Ateca is powered by a 296bhp version of the Volkswagen Group’s EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, although the torque peak of 295lb ft is higher than that produced by the similar engine in the Leon Cupra 300. Drive passes through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox – there are no plans for a manual version – with torque diverted rearwards when required by a part-time Haldex all-wheel drive system. Cupra claims a 5.2sec 0-62mph time and a 153mph top speed.
Although its components are almost all familiar from other members of the VW Group’s vast MQB-platform family, the Cupra Ateca is said to have been tuned to offer a substantially different driving experience from its Seat sibling.
The suspension height has changed only fractionally, with the Cupra sitting 20mm lower than the regular car, but spring rates have been substantially revised and suspension settings are far firmer. Adaptive dampers will be standard, allowing for a far more aggressive set-up when using the ‘Cupra’ setting, which has been added to the Ateca’s switchable driving modes.
The Cupra has also ditched the electronic sound symposer that normally augments engine noise in rortier MQB models. Standard brake discs will be 17in, but 18in Brembo units will be offered as an option.
Although badges have been changed from the Seat ‘S’ to Cupra’s new triangular logo, the exterior design builds on that of the regular Ateca rather than transforming it. Bumpers are bulkier and there is a small wing at the top of the tailgate.
The Cupra gets 19in diamond-cut alloy wheels as standard plus the option of several unique colours. There will also be external and internal carbonfibre trim packages. The interior uses lots of Alcantara and incorporates plenty of copper details – Cupra’s new corporate colour, a move away from the brasher orange with which the name was formerly associated. Other Cupra models will follow hard on the heels of this Ateca, with design concepts for Cupra versions of the Ibiza and Arona shown alongside it at the official launch. The company line is that these are to gauge reaction rather than indicate production intent and Seat’s R&D boss, Matthias Rabe, has indicated that the Leon will be the next production version.
Rabe also confirmed that Cupra’s birth as a brand will make it easier to produce limited-run models and higher-performance variants in the manner of the Leon Cupra R. No new diesel Cupras are expected, but there will be Cupras that use forthcoming mild-hybrid powertrains.
Rabe said it’s possible there will ultimately be a Cupra-only halo model, but there are no immediate plans for one. “In the first years, you will have derivatives,” he said. “If you are talking about a very special car only for Cupra, I could imagine a sports car or a spider or something like that but, to be honest, we don’t have that on the plan. It could be an aspiration for the longer term.” Seat sold fewer than 10,000 Cupra models last year and the aim is for the stand-alone Cupra brand to double those volumes within five years – a modest ambition given what will soon be a multi-model line-up.
At the Cupra launch event, a new Seat Leon Cupra R ST estate was shown (below). The all-wheel-drive machine is powered by a 2.0-litre 296bhp RSI engine, and sits alongside the existing Seat Leon Cupra R. For consistency, both models will retain Seat branding, although from now on they will feature a copper Seat logo and other special trim.
Cupra to make motorsport debut with TCR
Cupra has confirmed the Cupra TCR will be the first motorsport machine under its new brand remit. Heavily based on the 2017 Seat Leon TCR from last season, it will run in the new FIA World Touring Car Cup as well as in national-level TCR series.
Although the Leaf’s instrument panel is clear and the digital part is configurable, I don’t understand why it still has an analogue speedometer, which seems anachronistic in such a futuristic car. I have the digital screen set up to show a digital speed readout, which I much prefer. Surely a high-tech, fully digital display that does away with traditional dials would be more appropriate.
Have electric car. Will travel. Distance no object. (Rapid chargers permitting.) - 15th August 2018
Our Leaf has racked up a surprising number of miles in its first few weeks with us, immediately proving that it’s capable of much more than just pottering about in town – although it’s brilliant at that too.
Although 160-170 miles of indicated range doesn’t sound like enough to give you complete freedom, the rapid charging infrastructure at motorway services and other locations along major routes now seems to be good enough that longer runs can be relatively painless in an EV with the Leaf’s capability.
Once, I might have been deterred from attempting such trips by the prospect of having to wait for hours while the batteries recharge. But in reality, I won’t have to, because in those situations, the Leaf is rarely likely to need a 0-100% charge. In most cases, a strategic top-up from, say, 30% to 80% in 30 to 40 minutes is enough to allow me to complete each journey. That I can handle.
Admittedly, I’ve tried this quick-stop approach only a couple of times so far, but it appears that other EV drivers are doing likewise and, to me, it seems quite liberating. It not only reduces range anxiety (by not letting the battery pack get close to running dry) but also allows me to drive the Leaf at the speed I want to – by which I mean comfortably keeping up with most other traffic on motorways – as opposed to chugging along at snail’s pace, trying to eke out every last mile of range from each charge.
When it’s working properly, Ecotricity’s Electric Highway smartphone app seems like a neat way of connecting with the charging point, paying for the energy used and keeping tabs on progress. However, on one occasion the app went AWOL part-way through a top-up and refused to let me stop the process early, as planned. I had to phone Ecotricity to get them to do it remotely.
The only downside of pay-as-you-go chargers such as Ecotricity’s is that they’re relatively expensive compared with recharging at home. A 30-minute top-up, adding about 80 miles to the Leaf’s range, is roughly ?6 – probably three times the cost of a full overnight charge at home. You’re paying for the speed and convenience, though, and that figure still seems like a bargain next to the cost of the petrol or diesel you’d use to cover the same distance.
Meanwhile, as expected, the ability to drive the Leaf using just one pedal is proving indispensable – around town at least. The e-Pedal function is especially convenient in stop-start city traffic and on stretches of road with lots of sleeping policemen across them. It’s also wonderful when going down ramps in multi-storey car parks, controlling the speed of your descent perfectly without you really having to do a thing.
Of course, e-Pedal is only as good as your ability to accurately judge when to lift off the accelerator, especially if you want the car to come to a complete halt. It soon becomes second nature, though – and frankly, you don’t want to use the brake pedal unless you really have to because it feels horribly spongy at first and then very abrupt. The combined effect of the two braking systems results in an uncomfortable stop, with anything that might be sitting on the back seats slamming into the footwell.
Most of the time, though, the Leaf is proving to be a highly agreeable car to drive every day. With its perky performance, absorbent ride and reasonably quick, well-weighted steering, it’s exceptionally good for commuting and zipping around town in.
And if my strategy of making better use of motorway rapid chargers for quick battery top-ups pays off, I can easily see me being able to use the Leaf as my only car for the next six months.
REFINEMENT Noise levels are exceptionally low all round and the powertrain is silky smooth, as you’d expect of an electric motor
TAILGATE RELEASE Getting into the boot is trickier than I’d like. The button on the tailgate is awkward to locate and operate and there’s no other means of opening it
Taking charge of electric top-ups - 1st August 2018
I’ve had a Chargemaster wallbox installed in my garage for overnight recharging. I had to make do with a 3kW wallbox rather than a faster 7kW one, but it’s still better than plugging the car into a domestic socket. It has its own tethered cable, too, so there’s no need to faff around with the one that comes with the car. And it’s paid for by the government.
I have a theory about electric cars. As these things go, it hardly ranks up there with Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, but here it is anyway: I reckon EVs are good for your health.
I’m not just talking about the fact that they don’t produce any exhaust emissions, thereby contributing to an improvement in the quality of the air we breathe. I’m convinced that driving an EV is also a guaranteed way of reducing stress levels and blood pressure. Even the most humble of EVs are so relaxing to drive that I rarely feel any kind of aggression towards other road users or like I’m in a rush to get anywhere.
For that reason – plus the fact that petrol and diesel prices are creeping up to extortionate levels – I’m exceedingly happy to be back behind the wheel of another electric car (having previously run a Renault Twizy and a BMW i3) for the next six months.
The 40kWh battery pack can be recharged with a three-pin domestic socket (taking a tedious 21 hours), a seven-pin plug (seven and a half hours via a 7kW wall box) or a 50kW public rapid charger (40-60 minutes, to 80% capacity). With a subscription to Chargemaster’s Polar network, we’ll have access to more than 6500 public charging points in urban areas around the country.
For longer trips, I’ve also registered the car and a credit card with Ecotricity, which provides all of the rapid chargers at motorway services, so I’ll be able to access them and pay for each recharge via a smartphone app. However, previous experience suggests that the majority of the recharging will be done at home or the office, both of which are convenient for me.
Of the three trim levels available, mid-range N-Connecta gives you as much kit as you’re likely to need, but we’ve gone for range-topping Tekna, mainly because it opens the door to the full gamut of Nissan’s latest safety technology and driver aids. Standard equipment includes ProPilot (which combines active cruise control with lane-keeping assistance and blindspot monitors), as well as heated front and rear seats with leather and ‘ultrasuede’ upholstery, a surround-view monitor, a Bose premium audio system and full LED adaptive headlights.
On top of that, we’ve added ProPilot Park (?1090 with Tekna trim only), which is an almost fully automatic parking aid, and Spring Cloud Green metallic paint (?575).
I was never a fan of the previous Leaf’s interior or driving position, but the new one is a definite improvement, with a much more contemporary design and higher-quality materials. On first acquaintance, I still have some reservations about the driving position, mainly because the steering column doesn’t adjust for reach and I feel as though I’m perched on top of rather unsupportive seats. However, I’m not expecting this to be too much of an issue once I’ve settled in properly.
Practicality is a strong point for the Leaf, with plenty of space front and rear and a good-sized boot that’s hindered only slightly by the presence of a subwoofer on the floor. There’s a cargo net on either side of the boot for retaining the two charging cables – not as good as a separate compartment but hopefully convenient enough to prevent the boot from getting cluttered up with tangled cables.
Another piece of new technology for the Leaf is e-Pedal – a strong regenerative braking function that allows you to drive fairly easily most of the time without touching the brake pedal. I know from previous experience with the i3 that this ability to drive using just one pedal makes for exceptionally smooth progress, especially around town. There’s no creep in this mode, though, so it isn’t ideal for parking. In which case, you can switch it off, giving the same level of creep as you’d get in a normal automatic.
As you’d expect, the Leaf is wonderfully smooth and quiet when it’s rolling along, and its ride is remarkably comfortable, while the 148bhp electric motor provides lively, linear performance. The new car also feels more stable than its predecessor did, so I’m hopeful that it’ll be more assured on the motorway.
The big questions for me are ‘Has Nissan made a big enough step forward compared with the original Leaf and its contemporaries?’ and ‘Is the Leaf now usable enough to give it widespread appeal?’. No matter what the answers turn out to be, there are two things I can count on. One: my running costs are about to drop dramatically. And two: my doctor will be happy, as I’ll be in rude health.
Hats off to road tester Ricky Lane for tips on how to extract the best from the Leaf. If you’re willing to busily shuffle the gearknob between ‘D’, ‘B’ and even ‘N’ to suit the road and terrain, you can match or even beat Nissan’s claimed battery efficiency.
Specs: Price New ?28,390 (including ?4500 government grant); Price as tested: ?30,055; Options: ProPilot Park ?1090, metallic paint ?575
Test Data: Engine AC synchronous electric motor Power 148bhp at 3283-9795 rpm Torque 236lb ft at 0-3283rpm Kerb weight 1580kg Top speed 89mph 0-62mph 7.9sec Battery capacity 40kWhClaimed range 235 miles (NEDC) 168 miles (WLTP) Test energy consumption 0.25kWh/mile CO2 0g/km Faults None Expenses None
We run down the very best electric city cars, superminis, hatchbacks, saloons, crossovers and SUVs on sale in Britain today
Electric cars are more popular today than they have ever been. And why wouldn’t they be?
An electric vehicle (EV) lets you travel in silence and produces zero emissions. You don't have to pay road tax, London dwellers don’t need to worry about the Congestion Charge, and the government will even give you a grant to buy one. As the range between top-ups increases and the charging infrastructure improves, an EV is already a viable alternative to petrol- or diesel-fuelled models for a significant portion of British drivers.
However, the EV market is still very much in its infancy, and the level of choice is limited. That makes it difficult to compare like for like, with city-friendly superminis having to share a page with luxury saloons and SUVs.
This list runs down our favourite electric cars in alphabetical order, considering factors such as range, practicality, driving dynamics and price.
With the exception of Tesla and Jaguar, no other EV maker can match the i3 for premium desirability. As a strict four-seater with a relatively small boot, it’s not as practical as other electric hatchbacks, but the innovative styling makes the BMW stand out in ways cheaper rivals simply don’t. With the range-extender version now officially retired, this funky compact EV is pure-electric only, with a new 42.2kWh battery due in early 2019 set to address range shortcomings. It’s also available in more spirited i3 S guise, with larger wheels, a lower ride height and an even more engaging drive - an achievement given the standard i3 was already the best driver’s car in its class.
Available as a petrol-electric hybrid and plug-in hybrid as well as a pure-electric model, Hyundai’s Ioniq is nothing if not flexible. The EV version is slightly simpler, losing the independent multi-link suspension of its range-mates to make room for a 28kWh battery back. Real-world range is in the region of 120 miles, and although it isn’t the most engaging steer, it’s practical and good value, especially if you expect to make frequent use of the boot and rear seats.
As the first sub-?30,000 car to regularly manage 300 miles of electric range, the Kona 64kWh has made a big impact on the EV market. It has the accelerative performance to put other affordable electric cars to shame and can even live with the pace of some hot hatchbacks. The crossover bodystyle can’t match the practicality of a family hatchback, and the ride is compromised by its weight, but with more than 250 miles of motorway driving between charges, Kona Electric drivers shouldn’t have to concern themselves with range anxiety.
The first luxury electric car from a mainstream manufacturer to directly challenge Tesla at the high end, the I-Pace delivers on its brief with exceptional interior quality and a striking design that’s slightly more SUV than saloon. The lack of 100kW chargers dents its potential as a long-range tourer (although that will improve over time as infrastructure grows) and infotainment could be better, but it sets the standard for EV handling, and delivers ample performance from its twin 197bhp motors.
When it first arrived, the Leaf showed what affordable electric cars were capable of. Now in second-generation guise, it has received a 25% boost in battery capacity, for a WLTP-certified 168-mile range. Increases in power and torque over its predecessor help it feel more engaging to drive, and it is practical enough for small families to use as their main mode of transport. With the government plug-in car grant bringing the price down to that of mid-market conventional hatchbacks, it looks like even better value.
More microcar than city car, Renault’s smallest EV is even shorter than a Smart Fortwo, and six inches narrower. The 1+1 seating layout and central driving position are bike-like, and doors are optional, but a large motorcycle might actually have more storage space. Neither speed nor range are strong points, the 6.1kWh battery pack managing 43 miles between charges and taking a leisurely 8.4sec to get to 30mph with a passenger in the rear. Still, for commuters with short journeys (and a warm winter wardrobe) the Twizy is an inexpensive electric alternative to public transport.
As an entry-point to electric car ownership, the Zoe was already an appealing alternative to a conventional supermini - even if its limited real-world range made it impractical for anything other than short hops. That changed following a mid-life facelift, which delivered a larger, 41kWh battery capable of 150 miles of real-world use. Battery lease options make ownership more affordable, and the price includes a fast-charge port installation for your home.
Arguably the car that persuaded the world that electric motoring was a feasible replacement for combustion-engined travel at all levels, not just the most affordable. In its most potent form, the Model S can accelerate with the ferocity of a super-saloon, and all models have a futuristic-feeling cabin topped off by a mammoth touchscreen infotainment system. Tesla’s supercharger network also enables long-range driving.
Although we have yet to drive it in the UK, and Tesla has yet to confirm a price in British pounds, the company's most affordable electric car is still worthy of inclusion on this list. It isn't the perfect car but it handles well despite the weight associated with its electric powertrain, and the dominant touchscreen infotainment system that eschews physical buttons almost altogether is an early look at one possible motoring future. A genuine BMW 3 Series rival that runs on electricity, if one that's not quite as refined or engaging to drive.
Aside from a slightly smaller boot, on account of the underfloor lithium ion batteries, the e-Golf is every bit as practical, performative and engaging as the rest of the Golf range. It has handling that disguises its mass well, a 134bhp motor that’s well suited to town and city driving, and an NEDC range of up to 186 miles, although that works out to more like 120 miles in real-world use. It doesn’t stand out visually as an electric car so is a fine choice if you crave subtlety.
We try Vauxhall's family SUV with the PSA Group's latest four-cylinder diesel engine to see if it improves the package
Vauxhall's all-important Nissan Qashqai rival mated to a new, PSA-sourced diesel engine. Brought in primarily to ensure all PSA Group cars meet the most stringent emissions regulations, the new 1.5-litre unit officially replaced the 1.6-litre diesel back in May, but this is our first chance behind the wheel of it. We have, however, tried it in a few other PSA Group models, including the recently facelifted Peugeot 308.The new diesel engine, codenamed DV5R, is a bit ahead of the curve because it's already compliant with the tightest EU6c emission legislation, which won't be enforced until 2020. That legislation is specifically targeted at reducing NOx and particulate emissions in the real-world and not on an unrealistic laboratory test cycle.Its timing is crucial, with the hope of such engines putting pay to the rather unhealthy image diesel has been labelled with of late in many European countries. The 1.5 Turbo D makes use of the full suite of exhaust-cleaning tech, including the now-common AdBlue urea injection system and a particulate 'trap' filter.However, the new tech has some other effects: the 1.5-litre diesel produces 4g/km more CO2 officially than the old 1.6 and fuel economy is down by just under 2mpg. PSA is taking the lead in publishing more realistic figures, though, so that may be why. Power has risen by 10bhp, which alongside new internals and a different engine tune helps to reduce the 0-62 mph time by just under a second. The top speed is unchanged.
Jeep has promoted its old crossover to compact SUV status. Will the Compass and its blend of ruggedness and contemporary styling be a hit?
The Compass is Jeep’s assault on the lucrative compact SUV market.Their ranks are numerous, and led by the likes of the Volvo XC40 and Volkswagen Tiguan, but few do much to embrace the utilitarian principles their raised ride heights espouse.It shouldn’t therefore come as a surprise that a company with 70 years of off-roading know-how should seek to leverage its experience and appeal to drivers who might just want some substance to match the style. It’s why the Compass not only has a stylishly raked roofline but comes with a switchable, GKN-built all-terrain four-wheel drive, and why it matches a more luxuriously appointed interior with suspension hardware designed to provide proper wheel articulation.The gearbox is also fitted with a ‘crawl ratio’ capable of delivering maximum torque to either axle and yet amenities such as an electrically operated tailgate and 19in wheels are available as options. In terms of sheer versatility, very little else in this class comes close – at least on paper.That’s why we’re road-testing the Compass. Nobody should doubt the makers of the Wrangler – a veritable mountain goat of a machine with an enviable history – can deliver a robust and ruggedly capable compact SUV on a budget. But equally, merely cloaking such a car in an attractive body is no guarantee of satisfactory on-road manners.With unrefined engines and a chassis easily flustered on British roads, the previous Compass was testament to this. Can this latest iteration do any better?
Scrapping incentives for plug-in hybrid vehicles so early on will deal a sizeable blow to a segment just finding its feet
Barely a month goes by where there isn't blame being thrown at motorists for causing pollution problems in our towns and cities. The UK is also likely to miss its next CO2 reduction targets. So why has the government just scrapped the plug-in car grant for the majority of plug-in vehicles sold?
The changes come just as electrified vehicles are gaining a foothold in the market, and a small one at that. Up until September this year, PHEVs and EVs made up just 2.5% of all new cars sold in Britain. Yet the government claims the plug-in market is now "more established", and grants are not needed to support it.
That just doesn't add up, especially when consumers are supposed to be persuaded (rightly or wrongly) out of diesel cars.
Compare the UK's situation with Norway - an exception but one that proves the success of incentives. Over half of all new cars registered there last year were plug-in hybrids or BEVs, and two of the bestselling cars are fully electric.
That's unsurprising, because EVs are exempt from VAT, import and purchase taxes, can use many bus lanes, and even pay half-price fares for ferries. Granted, Norway has a massive sovereign wealth fund to make that sustainable – and generates most of its own electricity from hydroelectric plants – but it seems counterproductive for the UK to scrap its relatively modest grant so early on in the electric revolution.
The other side of the argument is that, regardless of incentives, car makers will be forced to sell electrified models in greater numbers in order to meet their fleet average CO2 targets. And it's likely that more advanced PHEVs in future will be eligible for the updated grant, with cars with more than 70 miles of zero-emission range eligible for the discount. But in the short term, the UK's EV revolution is in real danger of being stifled.
Fancy a used Renault Sport Spider for under ?29,000? These are the top bargain buys we've spotted for sale
All of us here at Autocar Towers admire the new Alpine A110, but some of us think its ?50k-plus price is a little steep.
Resorting to the used market for something as entertaining as the A110, but at half the price, brings us face to face with the ruthless Renault Sport Spider. Or wait: do we mean the roofless Renault Sport Spider?
This magnificently open confection was one of the first vehicles to issue from the Renault Sport portals and was built in the Alpine factory in Dieppe.
The Spider took its mid-mounted 148bhp 2.0-litre engine from the Clio Williams and, with just 920kg of car to propel, the performance was lively: think 0-60mph in 6.5sec and an eventual, and very windy, top speed of 131mph. It had a five-speed manual ’box driving the rear wheels, an industrial-strength extruded aluminium chassis, a composite body with scissor doors and double wishbones all round. It was fast, nimble and fun.
Today, it still doesn’t lack for visual drama or tactile pleasure. With those enormous side air intakes, its looks are head turning, and its quick-flick (but, like the brakes, unassisted) steering and immense grip areboth still delightful.
Search the web for a Spider and you’ll soon find one with legs. Once upon a time, you could buy one for a lot less than the one we found here, but only around 100 of them were imported to the UK so you have to accept this is now a collector’s car, and subject to the whims of the market. They cost ?25,950 new in 1996, so perhaps this 15,000-mile example’s asking price of ?28,995 isn’t so far-fetched. After all, it’s still nearly half the price of an A110.
The headline news here is that it’s still possible to buy a V12 Aston Martin for under ?20,000. And a manual one to boot. This DB7 Vantage might not be as sexy as some of the marque’s offerings, but it’s clean and looks to be in good nick, despite having 144,000 miles on the clock.
Polski-Fiat 126P, ?3195:
If you’re looking for a car so small that it can park in the cracks between the pavements, then this Polish-built version of the Fiat 126 might be for you. Its 24bhp 652cc engine and top speed of 65mph won’t set the world on fire, but you can drive it flat out everywhere and few cars have such character.
Stick a lively 247bhp 3.2-litre V6 under the bonnet of the neat 147 and you’ve got yourself an Italian stallion with a real kick: as in, 0-60mph in just 6.3sec. True, there are some issues with putting all that power down through just the front wheels, but at least you’ll have fun trying to keep it in a straight line.
Picture yourself wafting around in this opulent Lexus, a creamy engine purring beneath its elegant bonnet. It’s fully loaded, and the only possible drawback to owning this luxury limo is the recorded 153,000 miles.
Still, Lexus build quality and all that – it’ll probably go on forever.
Ferrari Mondial: Okay, so we all know the Mondial isn’t the most popular Ferrari of all time – a reputation those who have driven one might consider a little unfair – but this one made a mere ?19,000 at a recent auction and that’s about the least you’re going to pay for a roadworthy one in the UK. This one’s had quite a lot of work done, including an engine rebuild, full respray and fully restored cabin. It was even sold with a warrantied (and quite moderate) mileage of 78,000 and with a year’s MOT. The new owner will no doubt revel in that sweet V8, and he or she can even take the kids along for the ride.
Get it while you can:
Audi A6 2.0 TDI Price new ?33,925. Price now: ?22,380
The Audi A6 might have had the misfortune to be born into a class that included the ice-cool BMW 5 Series but, in recent years, its all-round competence and air of calm have made it one of our favourites regardless. Now, there’s a new model on the cusp of release, which means the old ones are a bit of a bargain. We found an immaculate 2017 2.0 TDI A6 with 5000 miles on the clock for over ?11,000 less than it cost new.
Clash of the classifieds:
Brief: Chaps, I hate pick-ups and the like, but we all need one occasionally. Find me something exciting for ?30k, please.
Style is all well and good, but what use is it when there’s no substance to back it up? This Ram certainly isn’t short on substance. There’s space for five, all the mod cons, and a dry, covered load bay suitable for all manner of stuff, making it more usable than Max’s pretty-boy pretender with its open teak deck. But really, this truck is all about its 8.3-litre Viper V10 – all 500bhp of it. They say there ain’t no replacement for displacement. In this instance, they’re right. Alex Robbins
‘Anti Freeze’ Ford F100: ?29,995
If you want to get noticed by buying an American truck, you could go by size as Alex has done. Or you could go for a resto-modded beauty in an obscenely vivid hue. It started out as a Ford F100 from 1954, then a 5.8-litre V8 was dumped in it with 390bhp (there’s your substance) and it was lovingly restored to the A1-grade show star you see here. One thing Alex has forgotten is that he’s got a covered bed, which limits practicality. In mine, you can stack stuff as high as you like. Max Adams
I like its looks. That it’s retro, with cues, colours, shape, name - very obviously - pulled from the 935/78 ‘Moby Dick’ race car from 1978. I like that it’s not just another ‘recreation’ of an old car. It’s new.
I also don’t like the new Porsche 935. Because it’s a 911 GT2 RS with a massive carbonfibre composite bodykit. That you can't drive on the road. Honestly, what’s the point?
The point is a celebration of Porsche’s 70 years, during which it has amassed a racing heritage like perhaps no other car maker on the planet. The 935 is among the most successful of its racing cars. This isn’t one of them. It’s a pastiche, a copy, an ornament. Literally claimed by its maker to be a ‘present to all motorsport fans’. It’s a bauble.
But what a bauble. There are few companies that you’d trust to put together an exquisitely finished limited-run production car like this, and one of them is Porsche. Standard production pieces have been carefully grafted and crafted around new, bespoke parts made by hand from unobtanium.
Which is why it costs an absurd ?750,000 after tax and they’re only going to make 77 of them, thus creating the worst kind of awful please-sir-me-sir consumptive bunfight among billionaire collectors apparently desperate to part with their money; the kind of awfulness that defines so much of what’s wrong with the world today.
None of that, though, is the fault of the car: it’s just a car. A cool-looking, fast car that is likely terrific to drive.
Not that anyone will ever know. Because it’s not a race car. Worse, it’s not a road car, either, and unlike some of those other gauche recreations, I doubt you’d get it through individual vehicle approval either, owing to the lack of headlights and all that.
Still, a regular 911 GT2 RS isn’t much of a road car either. Sure, you can use it to get from your house to a race circuit , and drive it quickly on the autobahn, and get a bit of feel out of the steering, but so ludicrous are its capabilities that you’ll never need its 690bhp performance on the road. It, and this, are track cars.
Yet the new 935 doesn’t even have any more power or capability than the GT2 RS. For ?750,000, they can’t even be bothered to turn up the wick on the 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged flat six, because that would require too much effort, despite the fact that this project will be worth about ?50 million in revenue.
Yes, the car will be beautifully put together, but they are taking the mickey. And yet they have the nerve, the audacity, the temerity, to label it as a ‘clubsport race car’, and a ‘single-seater near-standard non-homologated race car’, when it is actually no such thing.
But so what? What do I care? I’m not going to buy one anyway, and wouldn’t if I could. So what’s it got to do with me? Just appreciate it for what it is. It is, after all, just a car. Like it for being that. For being a 911 GT2 RS+ in Martini livery.
The feeling I can’t shift is that, for all that, there’s a cynicism to this project. The ambitious, celebrative customer limited-edition car I really want Porsche to make is a road-going 919 Evo.
JLR top brass are considering making all Jaguars electric-powered within the next decade
Jaguar Land Rover bosses are considering a plan to turn Jaguar into an EV-only brand within the next decade, Autocar has learned.
It is understood that company product planners have produced an outline strategy under which Jaguar’s conventional vehicle range would be phased out over the next five to seven years, to be replaced by fully electric vehicles.
Rethought as an electric vehicle, the new XJ will both play to the strengths of the 1967 original by offering segment-leading refinement and ride and look to the future by completely reinventing the classic Jaguar interior.
The thinking is that Jaguar will steal a march on rivals by building a true luxury EV in a segment that is probably the most environmentally minded and offers greater profitability per car than lower segments. EVs also fit in perfectly with the brief of a modern-day chauffeur of private hire driver, with excellent mechanical refinement and the ability to enter low-emission zones in cities without financial penalties.
Early internal estimates suggest that a four or five-model all-electric Jaguar line-up could sell as many as 300,000 units per year, benefiting from much higher retail prices and surfing a trend that is expected to see a sizeable chunk of the luxury vehicle market switching to battery power. Crucially, the move would also provide a big reduction in the average corporate fuel economy of JLR.
Under the scheme, Castle Bromwich could be redeveloped as JLR’s specialist EV factory, making vehicles based on the new all-wheel-drive MLA EV platform. Batteries for the MLA platform are expected to come from the new Coventry Hyperbat factory run by Williams Engineering and Unipart.
The electric vehicle proposal has received added impetus from the extremely strong reception for the new electric I-Pace and Jaguar’s continued involvement in Formula E — the new I-Type 3 Gen 2 single-seater racing car has also just been unveiled — giving the perfect introduction to revolutionising the brand, according to insiders.
Autocar understands that although the outline of a reinvention of Jaguar has reached a fairly advanced stage, the project still does not have the green light. JLR’s dramatic plans come against a background of mediocre sales for Jaguar’s three-model saloon car range, which has forced the company to introduce a three-day week for the rest of 2018 at its Castle Bromwich factory. Executives at Tata, Jaguar’s Indian parent company, are said to be extremely unhappy by the brand’s recent performance, given its extensive investment.
Although Jaguar sales have been hit by both concerns over the future of diesel and some Brexit uncertainties, the latest sales figures for the XE, XF and XJ – all of which are made in Castle Bromwich – show evidence that buyers are shunning Jaguar’s saloons.
The dilemma facing JLR senior management is clear. As product plans are laid for the company’s next generation of cars based on the MLA aluminium platform, can investment in three replacement Jaguar saloon models be justified? Indeed, is there any profitable future for conventional Jaguar saloon cars of any kind?
If the XE, XF and XJ models are dropped in their current forms after this generation, what future would there be for a Jaguar brand that amounted to, say, three crossovers? Dealers would probably be unable to thrive with such a small range and sources say that, at that point, the Jaguar brand would be difficult to support as a going concern.
All of these reasons are why the JLR board finds itself closely examining a plan that would result in an all-electric Jaguar line-up.
Another major advantage of an electric-only Jaguar range is that it would greatly help JLR drive down its corporate fuel economy figures. In turn, that would mean the future models from Land Rover’s three ‘brand pillars’ ( Range Rover, Discovery and Defender) could prosper with using just 48V hybrid technology.
Sources say that developing viable battery-powered Land Rover models is very difficult without diluting the brand’s values. Difficulties include the need to substantially change the styling to create a small frontal area and the complexity of making EVs safe in situations such as fording rivers.
Many in JLR believe that this radical plan is win-win. It gives Jaguar perhaps its last best chance to grow into a self- supporting brand; it ensures JLR has bespoke entries in the growing global market for luxury EVs; and, if successful, it reduces the company’s CO2 average, lessening the pressure on Land Rover to produce electric models that are not true to the brand.
Production numbers show Jag’s plight:
To get a proper scale of Jaguar’s troubles, you have to look at its Castle Bromwich factory’s output between January and August this year.
With the model-by-model build numbers outlined below, the factory’s output totalled 52,476 cars over eight months’ production.
XE and XF sales dropped significantly, down 25% and 17% respectively for the year.
Over the same period, 63,815 examples of the F-Pace and E-Pace were built outside of Castle Bromwich. Total Jaguar sales over the first eight months of 2018 were 116,849, including 588 I-Pace models.
Extrapolating to a full year of sales, Castle Bromwich output would be around 78,700 units and total Jaguar sales about 175,200. For a brand with three mainstream saloons and two mainstream SUVs, that figure is very low.
Even Jaguar’s SUVs are under the weather. Sales of the F-Pace dropped by 23% between January and August this year, although it is not built at Castle Bromwich.
The E-Pace has proven reasonably successful so far, but the profit margins for that car are relatively slim compared with the rest of Jaguar’s range.
The slump in sales has caused Jaguar to change Castle Bromwich to a three-day week production schedule, affecting 3000 staff. It contrasts sharply with Land Rover, which is on track to shift well over 300,000 vehicles in 2018. Sales of models such as the Discovery Sport and Range Rover Sport remain strong, despite their advancing years.
This is the XJ-based Limo Green, driven by an electric motor backed up by a Lotus-designed 1.2-litre engine
Given its history, the brand's interest in an all-EV line-up shouldn't be hugely surprising
If an all-EV Jaguar line-up sounds unlikely, then step back and take a look at the brand’s recent product launches, which show it has been surprisingly committed to battery propulsion.
Back in 2009, Jaguar built the XJ-based Limo Green, which was driven by an electric motor and had a small battery backed up by a Lotus-designed 1.2-litre engine that acted as a generator when the battery was exhausted.
More recently, the first Jaguar I-Type Formula E electric race car was unveiled in 2016, with the team unusually run out of its car factory. A third-generation version has just been revealed ahead of the 2018/19 season, and the company has also committed to a one-make eTrophy I-Pace support series.
Even earlier, there was the stillborn C-X75 hybrid two-seat sports car, which was originally conceived with tiny jet turbine power generators. Five working prototypes were built with a more conventional battery hybrid setup, with motors that would go on to influence the I-Pace.
The brand has also spent serious time and money designing an electric drivetrain for retrofitting into a classic E-Type. The E-Type Zero is on sale now via the company's Classic division.
Finally, the I-Pace electric crossover beat the German premium brands to the market by some distance. Not only has the car been rapturously received but it has finally broken the historic — and arguably dated — Jaguar style mould, inside and out.
The I-Pace points to a sustainable future for this much-loved brand that has never quite hit the big time.
The car was revealed at the 2016 Geneva motor show as part of a scheme to link Morgan’s history with that of the Selfridge’s department store, which opened the same year, 1909. An initial limited run of 19 cars was planned to begin in the third quarter of this year and would be sold exclusively through Selfridge’s, before the model went on general sale.
Morris said his company had taken the decision to shelve the EV3 because “our current EV powertrain supplier is no longer able to fulfil the project within the terms of the contract”.
Speaking for the aforementioned supplier, Surrey-based Frazer-Nash Energy Systems, managing director Noamaan Siddiqui said the deal had failed “for a number of contractual reasons”, while declaring that prototypes his company had built were “very promising”.
Morris insisted the EV3 is not dead, but will have to be re-evaluated. However, the company had learned from the experience, he said: “We had expected Frazer-Nash to deliver a turn-key powertrain for the EV3, but have since realised we need more EV know-how inside our Malvern headquarters. We are in the process of bolstering our EV team by bringing additional specialist resource in-house.”
More announcements about EV3 and other Morgan electric projects under development would be made “in due course”, Morris said.
Nissan Qashqai gets new engines and infotainment in bid to keep edge over rivals such as the Seat Ateca and Kia Sportage
There are few greater success stories in the automotive industry than the Nissan Qashqai. Nissan might not have invented the compact SUV segment, but it’s certainly the one responsible for launching it into the stratosphere.But as always with trailblazers, others follow – and in the case of compact SUVs, many, many others have followed – which means it’s imperative to hold your advantage.So far, the Qashqai is still doing brilliantly. It’s on its second-generation, had a facelift last year and, year-to-date, is the fourth biggest selling car in the UK. Its closest SUV contenders, the Ford Kuga and Kia Sportage, are in eighth and tenth place respectively.A third-generation Qashqai is on its way in 2020, but in the meantime, the car maker has introduced another update to keep things fresh. This time it’s a new 1.3-litre petrol engine with 138bhp or 158bhp outputs, replacing the existing petrol engines, and promising reduced fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions.A seven-speed dual clutch transmission also makes it debut on the 158bhp version.Despite the focus on refreshing petrol engines, Nissan is not giving up on diesel. A 1.5-litre 113bhp diesel launched in September and a 1.7-litre 158bhp diesel will arrive early next year. Qashqai’s sales mix is slightly biased towards petrol currently, but less so than the overall trend in the compact SUV segment.The other update is an all-important new infotainment system, Nissan Connect which the car maker says offers “seamless and intuitive integration of driver and vehicle”. The current Qashqai’s system is one of the most outdated features compared to rivals, so this a crucial area for Nissan to address.
From 9 November, only electric cars will be eligible for a ?3500 subsidy, ?1000 less than before
Mitsubishi UK's boss has called the government's decision to abolish the plug-in car grant, in place since 2011, for all vehicles other than pure-electric cars or those that can offer more than 70 miles of zero-emission range "hugely disappointing".
Currently, buyers of electric cars or those that can travel 70 miles on electric power (called Category 1) receive a ?4500 subsidy towards the cost of the vehicle. For Category 2 and 3 cars, typically plug-in hybrids, it is ?2500.
Under the revised system, which will begin on 9 November, owners of plug-in hybrids will no longer receive any support and the Category 1 subsidy will be reduced to ?3500. The government said the decrease reflected “the recent reductions in the price of electric vehicles”.
It said it would support the next 35,000 electric cars sold, but did not elaborate on longer-term plans to encourage ultra-low-emission vehicles.
In its announcement, the government said it “has helped the plug-in hybrid market become more established, and will now focus its support on zero-emission models like pure electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars”.
It claimed it has helped support the purchase of more than 160,000 cars since 2011.
The Outlander PHEV has consistently been one of the best-selling plug-in hybrids, and Mitsubishi has expressed "surprise and disappointment" at the government decision. In a statement, the firm said it was currently "the ideal time" to offer increased plug-in incentives, because "such technology forms the perfect segue between conventional petrol and diesel powered and full electric vehicles, particularly as the charging network is nowhere near evolved enough to support widespread full EV use."
The firm noted that under the new WLTP test regulations, only hybrids offering "real-world efficiency and a usable EV range" would qualify for the grant.
Mitsubishi Motors UK boss Rob Lindley said: “The decision to suddenly end grant support for some of the greenest vehicles on the road is extremely disappointing, but as segment leader for the past four years, we are confident despite the setback that people will still see the benefits of having a 220hp all-wheel-drive SUV that is also so efficient it attracts low VED, low benefit-in-kind rates for business users and offers huge real-world fuel cost savings compared to conventional petrol- and diesel-powered SUVs.”
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: “We understand the pressure on the public purse but, given the importance of environmental goals, it’s astounding that just three months after publishing its 'road to zero' strategy, government has reduced the incentive that gives consumers most encouragement to invest in ultra-low-emission vehicles.
“Removing the grant for plug-in hybrids is totally at odds with already challenging ambitions for CO2 reduction and sends yet more confusing signals to car buyers."
Hawes said plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) made up less than 2% of the UK car market, and noted that "as we’ve seen in other markets, prematurely removing up-front purchase grants can have a devastating impact on demand". He added: "Without world-class incentives, government’s world-class ambitions will not be delivered.”
Nicholas Lyes, the RAC’s head of roads policy, said the move was “a major blow to anyone hoping to go green with their next vehicle”.
He added: “With up-front costs still a huge barrier for those hoping to switch to an electric vehicle, this move from the government is a big step backwards and is in stark contrast to countries like Norway where generous tax incentives have meant that it has one of the highest ownership levels of ultra-low-emission vehicles of anywhere in the world.”
Previous test mules had greater amounts of camouflage, making this the first time the upcoming car's front end has been seen almost entirely undisguised - revealing an extra air intake between the headlights. This latest prototype also reveals the sizeable signature rear wing, and a similar rear LED light bar to the new 992-series 911 due to be shown at this year's Los Angeles motor show.
The next GT3 is expected to resign an illustrious line of race-bred naturally aspirated performance engines to the history books, according to sources close to the German car maker, who suggest it is due to adopt a twin-turbocharged powerplant.
The Stuttgart-based source, with direct links to Porsche Motorsport, contends plans are for the GT3 to adopt a heavily reworked version of the existing 911 Turbo’s twin-turbocharged, 3.8-litre horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine.
In the new 911 Turbo, due to be revealed during the latter half of next year, the revised engine is expected to kick out 572bhp, giving it the same output as the outgoing 911 Turbo S. However, suggestions are it could be tuned to deliver somewhere in the region of 513bhp for the new 911 GT3.
With the naturally aspirated 4.0-litre flat-six engine used by today’s 911 GT3 rated at 493bhp, the twin-turbocharged unit would undoubtedly have to the potential to not only lift the power output of its successor but also bring a wholesale increase in torque.
In today’s 911 Turbo, the twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre unit delivers 524lb ft between 2200rpm and 4000rpm, compared with the 339lb ft between 6000rpm and 9000rpm for the naturally aspirated 4.0-litre in the current 911 GT3.
Details remain scarce, though the new petrol-electric-powered 911 is expected to feature the upcoming Carrera’s turbocharged 3.0-litre horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine in combination with a 94bhp electric motor for a combined output of around 478bhp. Energy for the electric motor is rumoured to come from a 11kWh lithium ion battery.
British firm joins forces with Swiss race team for attack on German tin-top championship
Aston Martin will join the German-based DTM touring car championship, and could start racing as soon as next season.
The British firm will partner with R-Motorsport, which already runs Aston Martins in GT racing. The Swiss team has already begun work on a DTM version of the Vantage and says that it could compete as early as 2019 if development progresses as scheduled. The deal is largely a customer project, unlike Aston Martin's Prodrive-run Le Mans GTE team.
The DTM runs for high-tech silhouette-style touring cars, built on space frame chassis and with extensive aerodynamic modifications. All the cars must be rear-wheel drive and feature 4.0-litre V8 engines, which produce more than 500bhp. Although based in Germany, this year’s 10-round series included a number of overseas events, including a race at Brands Hatch in Kent.
“This decision of a luxury sports car manufacturer such as Aston Martin is a historic event for our series and a milestone for the international orientation of DTM,” said series boss and ex-Formula 1 driver Gerhard Berger.
Aston Martin will take on BMW and Audi in the DTM and will effectively replace Mercedes, which is quitting the series at the end of this season to focus on F1 and Formula E. R-Motorsport has secured a joint venture with HWA, a long-term DTM partner of Mercedes, to develop, build and run the cars.
The number of Vantages the team will enter and the indentities of the drivers will be announced at a later date.