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Nissan’s last Primera was a symbol of a company losing its way. Although it emerged after Nissan’s rescue by Renault and the triggering of new boss Carlos Ghosn’s masterful turnaround plan, its bones were formed before its maker’s near-extinction and recovery. The last-generation Primera was the third iteration of a model specifically designed to appeal to European tastes. But by the time it was launched in 2001, we pesky Euros were aiming our buying power elsewhere, mainly in Germany’s direction.
This was the era of what motor industry marketing types described as 'the flight to premium'. Buyers were fast discovering the delights of Audi, BMW and Mercedes, whose cars were (usually) better made, decidedly more prestigious and, perversely, cost less on a lease because they depreciated more slowly. All of which meant that mainstream manufacturers had to fight harder to tempt customers into a sale. Most cars in the excitingly labelled D-segment in which the Primera played were mostly sold into fleets, whose managers allowed their colleagues far more choice than in the days when they were issued with a Ford Cortina, like it or not.
For user-choosers, as those offered a selection of company cars became known, the Primera would have been an increasingly hard sell against a car with a double-kidney grille. The original 1990 Primera did reasonably well – certainly better than the potato-stodge Bluebird that it replaced – with its shapelier style and a remarkably good chassis. Nissan ripped off a couple of BMW design cues, including the Hofmeister kink (curved rear side window) and badge-flanking twin grilles, and for the second-gen Primera, BMW’s design policy of consistent, incremental change was also followed. The result was to turn the blandly European style of the 1990 P10-series original into the slightly tidier Euro-bland look of the 1996 P11 follow-up. A P11 facelift in 1999 introduced Nissan’s 'flying wing' twin grilles, which were still more redolent of a BMW. Like the P10, the P11 handled well, and its way with corners was underlined by British Touring Car Championship wins in 1998 and 1999.
However, laurel-festooned exploits on the track were not enough to tempt would-be BMW buyers, and for the third, P12 Primera, Nissan abandoned its BMW-ish design strategy and aimed for the bold. The design programme was led by the photogenic Stephane Schwarz, who even starred in a TV ad for the car, too. His aim was to apply a coupé silhouette to a family car without sabotaging its space and flexibility. Whereas the earlier Primeras had been offered as saloon, hatchback and estate, this one came only as a hatch or a wagon. Its sizeable tailgate revealed a boot big enough for a spot of flatpack hell and the cabin was large enough for backbenchers to lounge and wonder at the Primera’s spacecraft dashboard architecture.
A Primera pilot now faced the same featureless grained plastic moulding as the passenger, topped with the graceful arc of a binnacle housing centrally arrayed instruments. Beneath these were a big screen, and below that a near horizontal deck of knobs and buttons, also arranged in an arc. Back in 2001, this was novel, as was the Nissan’s provision of kit. The aim was to tempt those premium brand flirts not only with fresh design but plenty of high-tech equipment, too. The Primera was one of the very first D-segment cars to have a reversing camera – and on almost every version, too – and three of its five trim grades provided sat-nav. Rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, hands-free phone capability and a sub-woofer came with all bar the base model as well.
Nissan’s mission was to woo with a feast of electronic kit, a quest it continues to this day. But for the Primera, this wasn’t enough, and nor was its brave-for-the-day styling. That it didn’t handle as sharply as its dynamically fine-tuned predecessors didn’t explain the decline: it was that flight to premium. Nissan needed to do something different, as slow sales of its smaller, thoughtfully dull Almera painfully underlined.
And it did. A massive offensive of intelligently interpreted market research created the brief for the market-mashing Qashqai, whose design would again be lead by Schwarz. As we all know, this trailblazing crossover was wildly successful. The last high-tech Primera, however, is almost completely forgotten.
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The Ioniq 6, Hyundai's second bespoke electric car, has been spotted out on the road for the first time, but reports from Korea suggest the final design will change substantially.
According to the Korean Economic Daily, the launch of the Ioniq 6 has been pushed back to mid-2022 to allow the body to be lengthened by 20mm, the bumpers and lights to be restyled and the battery to be upsized from 72.6kWh to 77.4kWh.
The design changes should mean the electric saloon more closely resembles the striking Prophecy concept, which made its public debut at the recent Munich motor show. The prototype spotted here has much more conventional headlights and a more upright silhouette than the concept, although gaps in the camouflage show a similar pixel-style rear light bar design.
The EV's belated launch has also been attributed to a delayed overhaul of the Asan factory where it will be produced. That site currently builds the combustion-engined Sonata saloon and needs refitting to build cars based on the E-GMP platform.
Technically, the Ioniq 6 will be broadly identical to the Ioniq 5, with which it shares the new E-GMP architecture. That means 800V charging hardware will feature and the saloon is likely to be offered with a choice of single- and dual-motor powertrains.
However, a battery capacity of 77.4kWh would just edge the 5's 73kWh pack, which, along with the 6's more overt focus on aerodynamic efficiency, is likely to push the saloon's maximum range beyond 300 miles.
It remains unconfirmed whether the Ioniq 5's smaller 58kWh battery will be an option.
The 77kWh battery pack is already available in sibling brand Kia's new EV6 crossover, which suggests the Ioniq 6 could be more closely related to that car technically, in line with its performance billing. That means the rear-wheel-drive version is likely to use a 226bhp motor, while four-wheel-drive cars will produce either 321bhp or – in top-rung N trim - match the EV6 GT's 577bhp.
Having been at the forefront of the automotive industry for the best part of five decades, Gordon Murray will provide an expert eye as one of the judges across the three categories that make up Drivers of Change: Technology, Digital and Retail.
We join him at his UK factory to find out more about what he’s looking for from this year’s entrants.
For a chance to win £5000, click here to enter the competition.
Why would you spend some of your extremely valuable time getting involved in a competition like this?
GM "Well, we always try to encourage new talent into the industry. But also, it's a bit more personal than that, because I got given a break back in 1970, with the Brabham Formula 1 team. And I've always been keen to encourage young talent back into the business. For example, in this company, we have apprenticeship schemes and we have graduate schemes. And we do very well at introducing very young talent into the car industry."
Why should people want to work in the automotive industry?
GM "I think the automotive industry right now is probably at its most exciting point. And I think it's a great time to join it at whatever level, actually, in whatever discipline, because the change we're going through - not just in design and powertrain, of course, but in the whole way we own cars, use cars, service cars - it's all changing. So the opportunities for people coming in right now are probably greater than they've ever been."
Do you think that the demand for talent is going to rise as we come out of Covid?
GM "Trying to find people for the business is something we find quite difficult at the moment, as we come out of Covid. We're growing at a massive rate. Here in the Gordon Murray group, we've gone from 108 people at the beginning of Covid to 204 as we stand today. We thought it would be quite easy but actually we've found it quite difficult to find people, which is once again why we try and encourage new talent. And we have training programmes to bring people along in, in the business."
Eventually, the people who enter this competition will have to stand up and make a presentation to you and the other judges. There must have been a time in your youth when you had to stand up and make a presentation to people who didn't necessarily know you. What was it like?
GM "It's something that you acquire the capability of as you do more. And as you grow in your own business, and you get more knowledge, you get much more comfortable with doing presentations or talks or lectures or whatever. But when I was relatively unknown at Brabham - I think I'd only been there two years, was a bit of a long-haired hippie - and I got invited to one of our top, top public schools to go and do a talk to the students. And I was terrified. I didn't know what to expect, thinking that I'd have to keep the talk at a fairly low level. I was absolutely amazed at the reception and the questions, plus how technical they were and how in depth they were. And that was sort of a baptism of fire for me. But after that you learn very quickly, the more you do."
You’re famous for good ideas that other people have never thought of. How do ideas come to you?
GM "I think it varies with people, with the personalities of people. I think you get two types of engineers: you get developers and you get innovators, and I think I fall into the second category. And then the ideas come to you pretty much out of the blue, literally the hot bath type of thing. But also, they come out of necessity. So in Formula 1, for example, you're staring at the regulations book all the time, and trying to find a way to have an unfair advantage and to be quicker and better. And I think that's where the innovation comes from.
"Even in the normal automotive industry, everybody's always trying to beat everybody else. It's a little bit like a watered-down Formula 1 situation. So, there are innovators and there are also people that develop existing ideas. And, of course, we're always after the innovators. And that's what this competition is all about, which is what I find really exciting."
In the past, this competition has tended to encourage people to come up with a gadget or widget. But what we’re trying to do this time is widen it and for people to think about digital and marketing processes. I know you’re an engineer, but give us a flavour of the way the wider industry uses people of other talents.
GM "I think a lot of people look into the automotive sector and they see the obvious things like design, styling or engineering. But actually some of the more interesting areas are behind the scenes. The change we're going through now in marketing and sales - the way cars are sold now and in the future, and owned or not, and the way we look after the cars and service them - means the automotive industry has such a broad array of opportunities for people. And I think, going forward, there will be just as much growth and opportunity in the other areas, as in engineering and styling."
Our entrants will have to explain their ideas. What lights your fuse?
GM "I think a lot of people stumble straight into what they've come up with. And I think that's a mistake. The first thing you need to get across is what the problem was in the first place. Because the real innovations are solving a problem that is rarely there. A lot of people think of an idea and then try and think of a problem it could solve. That's very common. And actually, it's really important to look around in the industry and see where the real problem areas are, and come up with something that is a genuine step forward in that particular discipline or area."
How do you assess people?
GM “I always look at the character of the person as well. It's not just the idea and how they present it. I look a little bit beyond that. I look at the type of person they are. Are they practical? Have they got their hands dirty in the process of coming up with the idea? Because what we're looking for are all-round people, rather than somebody that's very pigeonholed.
“And just on the pure theoretical side, the advice I always give to young people who write to me from school or university is to get your hands dirty and to go and do some real work. I think the practical side is often forgotten these days, with too much emphasis on academia. So when somebody is sitting in front of me presenting themselves or an idea, I look beyond that idea.
“And I look into whether this is a one-off. Or is this a sort of character that can continue to innovate, and continue to grow and become part of a team, which is really important.”
Give us a few tips about what not to do?
GM “Well, I think the classic one was back in Brabham, there were just 17 of us. And when I finally decided I needed another designer to look into aerodynamics, we actually advertised for the first time or put the word out that we needed an aerodynamicist to help. I had 50-odd applicants, mostly graduates, apply. So I asked them all: what else do you do, apart from the academic side? What do you do in your spare time? And some of them said they played darts, or went down to the pub. It wasn’t the answer I was looking for. I was looking for somebody to say I go and help my friend with his Formula Ford every weekend. Or I’ve just rebuilt this car, or I'm really trying to build my own model wind tunnel or something.”
The Drivers of Change initiative seeks to promote talent interested in entering three exciting areas of the automotive industry: technology, digital and retail. It is being delivered in partnership with executive search specialists Ennis & Co, with the goal of energising the industry through innovative thinking.
Each category winner will receive £5000 as well as the opportunity to attend the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) dinner, the UK's biggest automotive industry event of the year.
The initiative is open to anyone who has a visionary idea in any of the three categories. Prior experience isn’t required: the range of entrants spans those starting out in their career to those with more experience, be that within the automotive world or outside of it. The key is to have an idea that could challenge the status quo.
There was a time when fixed and average speed cameras didn’t exist, and the most likely way of accruing endorsements (now better known as penalty points) on your licence was to miss seeing the local policeman pointing a ‘speed gun’ at your car as you edged above the posted limit. Those days have long since passed, and the rise in digital technology now means that drivers are faced with a plethora of different roadside devices.
How can I be caught speeding?
There are a variety of different speed-detecting technologies on British roads today. Here are the most common.
All speed cameras have to be coloured bright yellow by law and the Travelo is no exception. Most commonly mounted on a pole at the side of a single or dual carriageway, the Travelo uses a front-facing camera to record your speed, backed up by a matrix of small squares painted on the road. (Secondary evidence of speed is required with all fixed-position cameras.) While images of motorcycle numberplates can be tricky to capture, due to their lack of front registrations, the Travelo can identify drivers of other vehicles, adding a further layer of evidence if a prosecution is disputed. More recently, a Travelo D-Cam has been launched for motorway applications, with front- and rear-facing capabilities.
The name that most of us are familiar with, the Gatso first graced our road scene in 1991 and is a rear-facing camera, meaning that it records your vehicle after it’s passed the camera unit, with two images taken in quick succession. Like the Travelo, the images are supported by secondary evidence of speed provided by painted ‘dashes’ on the road surface. These dashes may be found on both sides of the road next to the camera, but the Gatso will only record your speed in the direction in which it is facing.
SPECS (average speed check cameras and speed enforcement) units measure your speed over a set distance, via two banks of cameras. Most commonly found through roadworks, or where there is a lower than normal speed limit, they use automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) to identify vehicles. As you pass the first set of cameras, your vehicle’s details are recorded, and if your average speed before reaching the second cameras is above a set threshold, a notice of intended prosecution (NIP) will be automatically generated. (See below.)
The catchily named Highways Agency Digital Enforcement Camera System 3, or HADECS 3 for short, is most commonly found on smart motorways, mounted on the overhead gantries that carry variable speed limit alerts. The camera’s limited use of yellow cladding and the fact that it is a fraction of a Gatso/Travelo’s size mean that it can be easily missed, especially if you’re travelling at 70mph. HADECS 3 is rear facing, and once again it uses painted dashes on the road as secondary evidence of a vehicle’s speed. It also adapts to posted, mandatory speed limits that can vary depending on road conditions.
Mobile speed camera units
It’s not uncommon for the police to monitor vehicle speeds at known accident hotspots using mobile units – quite literally, vehicles with miniature Gatso cameras pointing through their rear windows. These are often found parked in laybys or above dual-carriageway or motorway bridges and have a range of up to one mile. The police also have access to handheld radar- and laser-controlled devices that can be used at a variety of locations.
How will I know if I’ve been caught speeding?
If you’ve been caught speeding with a hand-held device, or one installed in a moving police car, you could be asked to stop there and then. In this case, the police have two options: they can either give you a verbal warning and send you on your way, or they can issue you with a fixed penalty notice (FPN). But if you’ve been caught speeding by a remote device, the registered keeper of the vehicle will receive a notice of intended prosecution (NIP) and section 172 notice by post within 14 days of the offence. The section 172 notice then has to be returned within 28 days, providing details of the driver who committed the offence. A fixed penalty notice (FPN) will then be issued to the driver, or if the offence is deemed serious enough, a court summons.
What kind of penalty can I expect?
If you receive an FPN, you can either plead guilty or not guilty to the offence, with each decision triggering its own process. A guilty plea will generally carry a fixed £100 fine and three points added to your licence. Depending upon where you were caught speeding, there will be different ways to pay the fine, which can be found here.
However, you may be offered the option of paying instead for a speed awareness course (typically costing a similar amount to the fine itself), which will avoid the addition of points to your licence. Certain caveats exist, though. The police will decide if it’s appropriate to your offence (so it tends to be offered for more minor transgressions). And it will only be offered if you’ve not been on such a course in the past three years. It’s also worth noting that not all police authorities run speed awareness courses, so this option is by no means a given.
The situation becomes more complex if you plead not guilty, though. Of course, if you’re convinced of your innocence, then it’s the right and proper course of action and it will probably involve a trip to court. But if you lose your case, you could be fined more and receive more penalty points.
Excess speed bands and your weekly income make up the fine
In 2017, the speeding penalty system was overhauled, with larger fines for drivers charged with excessive speed. If you are prosecuted in court, the amount you are fined and number of points you receive (or the disqualification period) will firstly be determined by the speed you were travelling over the posted limit, as shown here.
But as you can see from the last line, the actual fine is ‘personalised’ depending on your average gross weekly income.
For example, based on a driver earning the UK average income (2020-21) of £29,600:
Speeding at 81-90mph in a 60mph zone = £428-£713 fine plus 4-6 penalty points
Speeding at 66mph+ in a 40mph zone = £713-£998 fine plus 6 penalty points
There are a further three bands (D, E and F) that deal with more extreme transgressions, which may include excessive speed where the driver is: on bail; has existing convictions; in charge of a large vehicle; heavy load; towing; carrying passengers; driving through a heavily pedestrianised area.
It’s also worth noting that if you’ve only held a full driving licence for less than two years, it will be revoked if you reach six or more penalty points.
On the upside, mitigating factors, such as it being a first offence, or being of ‘good character’, may help reduce the fine and penalty. The court may even take into account speeding for a genuine emergency.
Either way, under any circumstances, there is a £1000 fine cap for all speeding offences, apart from those committed on motorways, where it increases to £2500.
How many points do I need before I lose my licence?
Even less serious speeding offences can cause you to lose your licence. If you accrue 12 or more penalty points in a three year period – potentially four minimum-fine/points offences – you could end up with a six-month ban. And this could have further repercussions. If you’re disqualified for 56 days or more (see also the more serious single-offence bans, above) you’ll need to apply for a new licence, and this may even entail retaking your driving test.
How will speeding penalties affect my car insurance?
Insurers will generally regard drivers who’ve accrued penalty points for any offence – including speeding – as a higher risk and will likely impose a higher premium as a result. While penalty points for speeding are generally only valid for three years as far as totting up endorsements and a potential ban goes, they remain visible on your licence for four years. Most insurance companies will ask you to declare any motoring offences in the past five years, and if you withhold information, it could affect a future claim, so it’s important to be honest when searching for new quotes.
Top 10 speeding trivia
Would you be surprised if we told you that the world’s first speeding fine was issued in the UK? Well, it was. Driving his new Benz, Walter Arnold was nabbed at four times the national speed limit in Paddock Wood, Kent. That the limit was just 2mph and the year, 1896, explains a lot. To make matters worse for Arnold, he was reprimanded for not having a red flag waver walking in front of him, too.
And from one extreme to another… The UK’s fastest speeder was caught in 2015 travelling at 192mph in a Nissan GTR. A 28-month custodial sentence followed and Northamptonshire police banned him from driving for 10 years.
But you don’t need anything exotic to get your collar felt. In 2003, an off-duty policeman was caught driving his unmarked Vauxhall Vectra at 159mph on the M54.
It wouldn’t have been as much as the hapless Swiss driver had to shell out, though, after he hit 85mph in a 50mph zone driving his Ferrari Testarossa. Swiss authorities base fines on your financial worth, and with £14.1 million in the bank, this driver ended up with a £180,000 ticket.
But that was nothing compared with another Swiss millionaire who managed 180mph on local roads in his Mercedes-AMG SLS and set a new speeding fine world record at $1,001,400 (£727,166).
Both the above would have got away with it if they’d come to the Isle of Man, where no speed limits apply (although dangerous/careless driving is still an offence, as is breaching local speed limits through built-up areas). Other speed-limit-free havens are Germany’s autobahns (for now) and Australia’s Northern Territories.
But not Dubai. Driving a rented Lamborghini Huracán, a British tourist managed to trigger 33 speed cameras while joyriding through its downtown area, generating $48,000 (£34,847) in speeding fines, before fleeing the country and leaving the rental company to sort out the mess.
If you live near Bristol, though, it takes only one speed camera to extract mega-sums in fines. A camera positioned on the city’s M32 motorway captures on average 50 speeding drivers each day, and over a three-year period relieved them of £5.7m.
Showing slightly more lenience, Poland has the highest speed limits in Europe, at 140km/h (87mph), and in the US, Texas’s Highway 130 allows 85mph before fines are imposed. But the world’s highest speed limit is 160km/h, or, tantalisingly, 99.4mph, in the UAE.
But like it or not, speed cameras in the UK are now part of our motoring life, and with 7000 of them positioned around the country, only Russia, Italy and Brazil have more on their roads.
The government will introduce digital driving licences as part of a bid to make the UK transport network “fairer, greener and more efficient,” secretary of state for transport Grant Shapps has said.
The changes will include moving provisional cards online and removing paper test certificates. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will also develop an app to display virtual licences by 2024.
Reports suggest full licences will also eventually make the transition to digital form, but plastic licences will still be available alongside the app for the foreseeable future.
It is claimed that licences were previously unable to go digital due to EU-related regulations.
MOTs will also be updated to suit modern standards, Shapps said, moving to digital booking platforms and discarding paper certificates.
The UK government began digitising driving-related documents in June 2015, scrapping the paper counterpart of driving licences, which previously included penalties and the type of vehicle you were allowed to drive.
"These days, the one thing drivers are most likely to have with them is their phone, so using it to carry their driver's licence could be quite handy," said Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation. "The risk is that the more personal data we store on our phones, the more tempting a target they become for thieves and hackers."
The 'DVLA Strategic Plan 2021 to 2024', a document that summarises the targets and expectations of the organisation, highlights the changes.
"We will continue to accelerate the expansion and sophistication of our digital services, including working to secure the legislative changes that will be needed to move to providing digital driving licences," it says.
The report also states: "We will introduce a digital driving licence for provisional drivers and also start to build a customer account facility. This will ultimately give our customers personalised, easy and secure access to a range of services and allow them more choice in how they transact with us.
"Our services will be secure, scalable and resilient and we will continue to explore and expand the use of emerging technologies."
The changes come shortly after eight US states announced that they will accept digital licences and other IDs on an iPhone through the integrated Wallet app.
Electric vehicles (EVs) have been a long time in rising to prominence, but they’ve now well and truly arrived, with more options available to buyers than ever before. Because the battery pack is usually hidden in the floor, most are SUVs, but there are some hatchbacks, saloons and even an estate to choose from as well.
Battery technology has come a long way, too, which has brought down prices of new EVs and also means that range anxiety is much less of a problem than it used to be. Charging infrastructure still leaves much to be desired, but if you can charge at home, you may never need to visit a public charger.
Add in the fact that EVs let you travel in silence and produce zero emissions, are exempt from road tax and the London Congestion Charge, and qualify for a government grant if they cost less than £40,000, and they start to become a truly viable alternative to petrol- or diesel-fuelled models.
While we have yet to see many true driver’s cars with electric power, the instant, silent punch, uninterrupted by gearchanges that even fairly basic EVs offer, will surprise and delight many drivers used to conventional powertrains.
This is a list of our top 10 electric cars for families, compiled considering factors such as range, usability, driving dynamics and value for money. Some EVs are still subject to relatively high prices compared with combustion-engined cars, but their premiums can be offset against lower running costs.
20 years ago, it would have been surprising to see a list like this dominated by Hyundai and Kia, but the Korean duo have not only managed to build a range of impressive mainstream cars, they were also quick out of the gate with electric versions of regular cars.
The Ioniq 5 is the start of them getting truly serious about EVs, debuting a bespoke EV platform with 800V architecture. An 800V system allows for much faster charging and the only others doing something similar are the Porsche Taycan and Audi E-Tron GT. Pretty good company. It’s not just a technical exercise. The Ioniq 5 draws attention with its distinctive retro-futuristic design and modern, high-quality interior.
We were impressed with the rapid dual-motor version when we drove it. Although it is too big and soft to be truly engaging, it proved a lovely relaxing cruiser, with good noise suppression and a comfortable ride. Good packaging means that space in the back is more than generous, with a usable boot. The long-range rear-wheel drive version narrowly saw off the Skoda Enyaq in a recent group test, proving a more engaging drive and winning over our tester with its more daring design.
The range starts from £36,995 for a 168bhp rear-wheel drive car with a 240-mile range, rising to £41,945 for a 281-mile, 214bhp version, and £45,145 for the 302bhp dual-motor range-topper.
Skoda often takes Volkswagen Group mechanicals and wraps them up in an even more sensible, spacious package that’s better value to boot. So too with the Enyaq. It uses the same VW Group MEB electric ‘skateboard’ platform that underpins the VW ID 3 and ID 4, and the Audi Q4 E-Tron. Clever design choices ensure it hits a sweet spot in the EV SUV market, though.
It impresses with a roomy and cleverly thought-out cabin that is a match for the Audi’s on tangible quality and personalisation. The chassis set-up proved very mature during our road test: it won’t appeal to keen drivers, but medium firm and tightly controlled to inspire confidence, without any meaningful detriment to the range.
The 201bhp ‘80’ version we tested showed performance that should satisfy most drivers and the 333-mile range makes the Enyaq very usable on longer journeys, too. For the more budget-conscious, Skoda offers a ‘60’ model with a 58kWh battery pack that yields a 250-mile range. An even smaller 50 exists but isn’t available over here at the moment. The 80X Sportline adds a front motor for extra power and all-wheel drive and details of the range-topping vRS with 302bhp and all-wheel drive are to be announced soon.
Only the added character of the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and a handful of awkward design decisions, some slightly annoying active safety features and a slightly mean standard equipment tally keep it from finishing at the very top of this list.
3. Kia e-Niro
The Kia e-Niro redefined how much real-world range and family-friendly usability we should now expect from an EV towards the more affordable end of the price spectrum. For around £35,000, the car’s 64kWh battery pack enables it to comfortably travel 230 miles on a single charge; and further still if you stay off the motorway or around town. A few years ago, that would be the sort of range you’d be expecting from something far pricier, and probably with a Tesla badge on its nose.
It's now a few years old and looks a little dated, both inside and out, and Kia and Hyundai are starting to launch electric models on a dedicated rear-wheel drive platform that enables even faster charging. Nevertheless, its genre-challenging relationship between range, usability and affordability means it still scores very highly. It also pulls ahead of the technically related Hyundai Kona because the e-Niro is a thoroughly practical, dynamically well-resolved and pleasant-to-drive EV. It’s roomier than almost every other EV at the price, and it rides and handles with a greater level of sophistication and accomplishment than many of its rivals. It may lack some of the accelerative potency of its rivals, but as a well-rounded, truly usable affordable EV, the e-Niro is takes some beating.
The ID 4 is the second Volkswagen to be launched on the group’s MEB platform, following on from the ID 3. It’s a bigger, pricier car than that earlier model, but also one that will play just as crucial a role in helping VW become a dominant player in the global EV market. The world is, after all, crazy for SUVs, and Volkswagen claims the ID 4’s packaging allows it to offer Touareg levels of practicality in a Tiguan-sized package. That sounds like a winning combo.
In practice, it works pretty well, too. There’s loads of space up front, and its 531-litre boot is larger than a Tiguan’s. Even better, since locating the battery under the floor allows for clever packaging, space in the rear is similar to a Mercedes E-Class. The only slight niggle is that it also means the rear bench sits a bit higher than you might like, which restricts head room.
Speaking of the battery, two sizes are available, and they correspond to the output of the rear-mounted electric motor. The 146bhp and 168bhp models come with a 52kWh unit, while the 201bhp model has a 77kWh battery that’s good for a WLTP range of 324 miles. A dual-motor, four-wheel-drive 295bhp GTX model tops the range, though it’s more of a fast cruiser than a true GTI for the electric age.
Performance of the normal 201bhp version is usefully brisk as well, and it’s very refined, even on big wheels. But there’s also enough character to ensure that it doesn’t leave you cold: neatly tuned control responses, sharp initial performance, interesting little design cues and a sense of maturity on the move.
The ID 4 offers a neat, simplified and intuitive electric-car experience, though the interior ergonomics have been simplified a bit too much. Despite a very appealing ambiance inside the ID 4, the loss of most buttons means it’s not very user-friendly – a common complaint with modern Volkswagens.
The Blue Oval was a little late to the full-sized electric car market, but has made something of a splash in any case by appropriating its much-loved Mustang sub-brand for its first battery-electric production model. The Mustang Mach-E isn't a square-jawed muscle coupé, though, but a proper five-seater with an appealing-looking crossover bodystyle, as well as impressive real-world range potential and a more affordable price than some of the cars listed here.
It's available from just over £40,000 in the UK, so it’s not as affordable as the badge suggests. If you want the WLTP-accredited 379-mile Extended Range version, you’ll need almost £50,000. However, it's a proper, usable family car that beats premium rivals by up to 30% on both claimed range and value.
In Extended Range RWD form, Ford’s first proper EV doesn’t dazzle with warp-speed acceleration. Instead it is the chassis that brings driving satisfaction, with its appreciable poise and playfulness when the moment takes you. Outright fun? Like its rivals, the Ford is too heavy for that, and its steering too synthetic, but this is the most pleasing driver’s car of its ilk.
Fears that the Mach-E would be very much ‘style over substance’ are further dispelled by what is a truly spacious and airy cabin, even if the look of the place is somewhat unimaginative and perceived quality a rung or two below what you’ll find in European rivals.
As Volkswagen looks to move on from the fallout of Dieselgate, the ID 3 kicked off the brand’s rehabilitation. This Golf-sized hatchback thus became the first to use the MEB platform, an entirely fresh rear-engined architecture. That gives the ID 3 a long wheelbase, boosting cabin space, and it is powered by a rear-mounted motor with up to 201bhp and 229lb ft. It launched with two battery sizes: 58kWh pack lends a WLTP range of 261 miles, while the larger, pricier 77kWh battery ups that to 340 miles. Since then, VW has also added an entry-level ‘Pure Performance’ version with a 45kWh battery, which is rated for 218 miles and costs less than £30,000.
It excels in terms of manoeuvrability and low-speed response and, although heavy by compact car standards and sitting on wheels as big as 20in in diameter, it would seem to hit the company’s high standards for ride sophistication, too. Handling is surprisingly agile, balanced and nimble, despite a fair bit of body roll. It is also let down by its interior, which doesn’t have the same feeling of quality we used to expect from VW, and suffers from the same clunky and slow infotainment system as most modern Volkswagen Group products.
7. Kia EV6
Kia’s sister model to the Hyundai Ioniq 5 uses the same 800V E-GMP platform with the potential for 350kW charging and a 577bhp range-topping EV6 GT model. Although the range starts with a more family-friendly 226bhp model, it’s positioned as a sportier car than the Hyundai from the off.
We’ve only driven a late-stage prototype in 321bhp dual-motor spec, so we’ll need some more time with it to reach a definitive verdict, but we were very impressed anyway, and the EV6 might still rise in this list once we’ve driven a production-spec car in the UK.
There’s a pleasing directness and feedback to the steering that belies the EV6’s size and 2015kg kerb weight. It also turns and corners with relative gusto, helped by the rear-focused set-up of the AWD system. The ride can feel a little skittish at the rear, although Kia is still performing final tuning on the adaptive suspension’s innovative frequency selective dampers.
The interior also feels like a major step forward for Kia, and introduces a new design language for the brand. There’s plenty of space in there, and lots of practical touches such as the large centre console that hosts some key functions and plenty of storage elements. The comfortable seats are clothed in fabric made from recycled water bottles.
Prices are set to start from £40,895, so it’s at the premium end of the market, but that base model does already come with 226bhp and 77.4kWh battery for 328 miles of range, so there might be no need to upgrade at all.
8. Kia Soul EV
Kia’s boxy compact crossover is back for a third generation, but this time around, the Soul will be offered exclusively as an electric vehicle in European markets.
While not particularly sporty, it rides well, performs strongly and doesn’t make too much of a point of its 1682kg kerb weight. And because it makes use of the same powertrain as the slightly bigger e-Niro, it promises a WLTP-certified range of 280 miles when equipped with a 64kWh battery.
UK prices start from £34,945 after the UK government incentive, so the car will be only a few thousand pounds cheaper than the Kia e-Niro, which offers slightly more in the way of practicality. It's one of the pricier compact EVs on the market, clearly, but has more alternative styling appeal than the e-Niro and should easily attract people who can afford to pay a premium and don’t need quite as much space as an e-Niro affords.
Until relatively recently, an electric car good enough to combine a genuine 300-mile daily-use range with a sub-£30,000 price seemed an awfully long way off. However, the Hyundai Kona Electric made it a reality a couple of years ago – quite a coup for its ambitious Korean maker.
By wielding what must be a sizable competitive advantage on battery buying power, Despite being a few years old, its range is still impressive, especially for the price. It has enough capacity for more than 250 miles of range at typical UK motorway speeds, and more than 300 at a slightly slower clip or around town. Hyundai seemed to be able to imbue its first EVs with efficiency matched only by Tesla, even though they’re based on combustion cars.
That the car’s slightly low-rent, restrictive interior doesn’t make it quite the match of a full-sized family hatchback on practicality is a bit of a disappointment. Also, there’s some frustration to be found in the car’s ride and handling, which both feel somewhat compromised by its weight and the low-friction tyres. But if you want outright range for a small outlay, this is probably still where to get it.
10. Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf, in first-generation form, set the mould for the affordable electric car almost a decade ago – and in new second-generation form, it’s still right in among the list of contenders who are following in its tread marks.
Battery capacity has been boosted so that, in standard guise, the Nissan has a WLTP-certified range of 168 miles - still not much by today’s standards. However, this rises to more than 200 in the case of the range-topping 64kWh e+ version. It’s also got significantly more power and torque than its direct predecessor, performs fairly keenly, feels like a more rounded car to drive generally and has one of the strongest showings here on daily-use practicality for a small family. Its interior is starting to look and feel pretty dated, though.
A value proposition that’s also improved and is now on a par with that of a mid-market, conventionally fuelled family hatchback once you take the government’s £2500 PiCG grant into account cement the car’s strengths.
The Dolcevita is equipped with a roll-back fabric roof, similar to the smaller Fiat 500 Cabrio's, that can be opened in 15sec at vehicle speeds of up to 62mph. Ten exterior paint colours are available and the canvas roof can be selected in black, red or grey.
Fiat says the model will provide drivers with “the option of combining open-air driving with everyday versatility and practicality.” Volkswagen is currently the only mainstream manufacturer to offer a soft-top crossover, T-Roc Cabriolet, although the entire roof on that car can be lowered, rather than just the central section.
Three specification levels are available for the Dolcevita. The entry-level Connect trim includes a 7.0in infotainment display, a DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Black seats are standard, as are a leather steering wheel, blacked-out windows, foglights and 17in alloy wheels.
The mid-range Cross adds new seat upholstery with a camouflage design, vinyl inserts, 19in alloy wheels, automatic air conditioning and parking sensors.
Top-of-the-range Sport models gain black exterior design features, including 19in alloy wheels, side skirts and rear spoiler. Changes have also been made to the interior, which gets black, fabric sport seats featuring red stitching and a ‘500’ logo and a matt titanium dashboard.
Two petrol powertrains are available from launch: a 120bhp 1.0-litre engine with a manual gearbox and 150bhp 1.0-litre with a dual-clutch automatic. Both engines are available for all three specification levels.
Orders for the 500X Dolcevita are open now, with the first model deliveries expected later this year.
Sinclair C5 (Image credit: Beaulieu)As its inventor passes at 81, we recall our first experience with the C5 and consider its legacy
Sir Clive Sinclair, courageous inventor of the pocket calculator and home computer who has just died, is best remembered in the car business for one of his more spectacular failures, the Sinclair C5 pedal-electric tricycle.
I was around when the C5 was launched in January 1985, and apart from the singular experience of actually driving the vehicle (which I tried half a dozen times and found rather appealing) I remember two outstanding things — the ineptness of the Sinclair C5’s launch, rapidly followed its ferocious dismissal by a succession of sneering BBC TV reporters, who queued up to criticise the C5’s funny looks, meagre performance and the fact that it lacked weather protection (inexplicably, Sinclair chose to launch in January).
However, my most vivid recollection is the eye-level proximity of the massive wheel-nuts on red buses as I took my first test-drive through London, always enjoying the agility and mobility, always inches from disaster.
The actual concept of a part-electric recumbent single-seater made (and makes) a lot of sense. With the right kind of launch it might well have prospered in today’s world, so much more accepting of pedal-electric power and bicycle lanes for such vehicles’ use. But Sinclair’s people botched the launch. They promised us a car. They launched in winter. What popped out was disappointing and nowhere near as capable as the rumour-mill had suggested it would be. It was almost comically simple and small.
But believe it or not, the Sinclair C5 was fun to drive; Lotus was involved in its chassis design. It felt amazingly swift in dense traffic. The handlebars-under-the-thighs steering worked well, the vehicle felt agile and stable, the 15mph top speed seemed plenty (until you noticed now uncomfortably quickly following traffic caught you) and there was even a chip-driven indicator to warn you to start pedalling because the lead-acid battery was getting hot.
The range, billed at 20miles but only half-delivered, still seemed plenty. And the C5 was quite affordable, though you had to pay extra for a horn, turn indicators and a “visibility mast” so Sir Clive could keep the price under £399.
The biggest problem, something that scuppers many a promising product, was that people simply couldn’t see themselves using it, however bold, affordable and innovative. It looked instantly dangerous and, worse, deeply uncool. Potential users saw only potential accidents and the derision of others. Having started in January, C5 production ceased in August. Only 14,000 C5s were made, and more than half were unsold by the end of production. Now a pristine example can fetch £5000. Funny how the world turns.
With the prices of 996-generation 911s (1997-2004) climbing, how attractive does the model’s successor, the 997 of 2004- 2013, look? To find out, we stuck a pin in the price map at £30,000.
For this money you could have a 2003-reg 911 (996) Carrera 3.6 4S or a 2006-reg 911 (997) Carrera 3.8 S, both with 50,000 miles and manual gearboxes. The 4S would be more secure in the wet thanks to its ability to send around 40% of the engine’s power to the front wheels, allowing its driver to enjoy more of the power, more of the time.
However, that next-gen Carrera S has our attention. Back in the day, our reviewer declared the 997 to be 15% better in every area than the 996. Peter Robinson concluded: “In 997 S form, the 911 Carrera is faster, more stable, more precise and forgiving and an altogether superior – make that more efficient – sports car than the 996.” Praise doesn’t come much higher.
So, with his words ringing in your ears, what should you be looking out for on our find? With even the simplest problems extremely expensive to fix, being sure there’s nothing lurking in the woodshed is key to happy 997 ownership. It’s rather over-egged but check for leaks from the rear main seal.
Next, try the clutch. It lasts around 50,000 miles – or exactly the mileage our find has done. Does the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system work properly, with a clear distinction between Normal and Sport modes? Be sure the cooling system works (it’s vulnerable perched out there at the front) and that the body is rust-free. Finally, drive it and others so you can tell good from bad.
Toyota GT86 2.0-4D S, £12,295
Many GT86s have done high mileages, but our find from 2015 has covered just 37,000. It has full Toyota history and a few tweaks, including a full Miltek exhaust. It’s a private sale but rest easy: the car is protected by a one-year Toyota warranty.
Jaguar XF 2.0i 300 R-Sport Sportbrake auto 4WD, £32,995
This do-it-all performance estate shares its 2.0i 300 engine with the F-Type, so is decently rapid, and it has four-wheel drive plus air springs at the rear. This example is a 2019-reg with 5000 miles.
Peugeot 208 1.6 GTi, £5995
It’s no Fiesta ST but the 208 1.6 GTi is still a blast and, as we’ve found, it’s great value. Our spot is a 2015-reg with 45,000 miles and a full Peugeot service history. It’s a private sale, so cash and determined haggling should tease £500 off the price.
Citroen XM 2.0 SX
The XM was never the prettiest thing, but today it looks like the kind of new car they would put an electric motor in and wheel out with a fanfare. This immaculate 1998-reg has 82,000 miles and a stack of receipts, including for a timing belt and clutch.
Suzuki Vitara Fatboy
Not sure you’d get away with calling a special-edition bodykit a Fatboy these days, but back in 1993 we were less kind. The popular option increased the Vitara’s width by 180mm, allowing chunkier tyres to be fitted within flared wheel arches. Side skirts completed the look. Our featured car exited the auction ring at £4500. Classic SUVs in good condition like this Fatboy seem to be attracting the right attention. Around the same time, a same-age Discovery 2.5 TD in immaculate condition with 97,000 miles made £6500 at auction. Good Series 1 Discos are rare, so we can understand its attraction.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X FQ-440 MR 4x4, £44,950
Any Lancer Evo has future classic stamped on it, but this one deserves the title more than most thanks to its rarity. Just 40 came to the UK, and our find, registered in 2014, has done only 12,500 miles. Its owner has clearly had an eye on its investment potential since, at least during their ownership, during which it has been dry-stored and only ever driven in dry weather. The service book has no less than eight stamps. New, the model cost £50,000 so with our example priced just £5000 less, it looks like classic status may already have arrived.
Clash of the classifieds
Brief: I have £25,000 to get a hypermiling hatchback for a long commute
Ford Focus Active X 1.5 EcoBlue 120, £25,000
Mercedes-Benz A180d AMG Line, £24,900
Felix Page: For many road users – yourself included in this instance, James – diesel remains very much the fuel of choice. Indeed, the most frugal version of the current Ford Focus still sups from the black pump – and in 1.5-litre guise should crack around 67mpg at a cruise.
Jack Warrick: I too have opted for a 2020-reg diesel, but one that’s considerably more stylish. An AMG Line Merc always looks great, comes full with kit to keep you entertained on a long commute and this one should even match your Ford’s fuel economy. Every little helps…
FP: A bit poky, no? My Focus has a 575-litre boot, compared with your Merc’s 360-litre shoebox, so James can take all of his kit (and maybe a dog or two) to work if he wants.
JW: I think even Fido would get bored after a few minutes in that bland volume-selling cabin. Interiors don’t get much more slick than mine, which brings all the bells and whistles and will stand the test of time.
FP: Your frustratingly slow seven-speed automatic ’box might get irritating before long, though. While we’re splitting hairs, it’s worth noting the A-Class is three insurance groups above the Focus, making ownership a more costly proposition.
JW: You get what you pay for, and if James is spending several hours per day in his car, he might as well be enjoying them.
Verdict, James Ruppert: Better residuals and a classier cabin? It’s got to be the Merc.
Chinese EV maker Nio has confirmed its new ET7 saloon will arrive on the German market in late 2022, following the imminent arrival of the ES8 SUV, and has hinted at the potential for production in Europe.
The ES8 is now on sale in Norway and will soon be available in Germany, where Nio has deemed EV demand sufficient to make a market launch viable, but the brand has yet to confirm a date for its UK launch, which it has previously suggested is highly likely.
The ET7 is a Tesla Model S rival with a claimed maximum range of 620 miles (on the Chinese NEDC cycle) from its largest, 150kWh battery and a twin-motor powertrain pumping out 644bhp and 627lb ft for a 0-62mph time of 3.9sec. It also features a raft of advanced driver assistance features that, the company says, enable autonomous driving.
The car has already entered trial production at Nio's Hefei plant ahead of Chinese deliveries starting in early 2022, but speaking to German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung recently, chairman William Li said "very high" interest from German customers has prompted the firm to commit to a European roll-out next year.
Not only that, but comments from Li in the same interview suggest the firm could cement its market position in Europe by building cars in the region. He said: "I believe if we have a lot of sales in the European market, we can also explore the other possibilities to work with other supply chain partners.
"I understand that in Europe, there is manufacturing capacity. We can also explore the possibility to work together with other OEMs and to discuss joint manufacturing with them."
The company has not named any potential production partners but this announcement, notably, follows Li's recent investment into Lotus Technology.
Lotus said its new partnership with Nio could pave the way for both companies to "explore opportunities for mutually beneficial industrial co-operation". However, given Lotus's European production operations are centred in Norfolk and Nio has yet to launch its cars in the UK, it remains unclear how Lotus could assist in this regard.
Osprey Charging aims to install a total of 1500 chargers nationwide. The units will charge at a 150-175kW rate and be positioned adjacent to A-roads and motorways.
The firm says each hub will make use of Kempower technology for the first time in the UK, allowing for improved power distribution when chargers are in demand. The chargers are also 74% smaller than usual, increasing accessibility.
The technology is said to optimise load-balancing, meaning a higher number of fast chargers can be installed per site with a higher average charging speed.
Ian Johnston, CEO of Osprey Charging, said: “The EV market is booming, with sales up over 117% year on year and EV adoption continuing to grow exponentially. In less than nine years’ time, buying a new petrol or diesel car will be impossible, so it’s crucial that public charging infrastructure stays ahead of the curve.”
Osprey hopes the charging hubs will help to “make charging anxiety a thing of the past” among potential EV drivers, prompt a growth in EV ownership and “herald a new era of public EV charging.”
“Our roll-out of hubs across the country’s major transport routes will ensure drivers are supported with convenient, reliable, on-the-go charging, delivering the best possible consumer experience for UK motorists,” Johnston said.
Construction for Osprey charging hubs has begun at four sites, with the first expected to open near Wolverhampton. Construction will start on 10 hubs before the end of the year, at Banbury (M40), Suffolk (A14), Essex (A127), Glasgow (M8), East Lothian (A1), Wolverhampton, (A4123), Birmingham (M6), Croydon (A23), Crewe (A534) and Brackley (A43).
Osprey also says each rapid charger is capable of adding 100 miles of range in 10 minutes, with no membership or subscription required. Charging hubs will also be positioned near food and drink amenities.
The firm’s investment follows announcements earlier this year of plans for other EV charging hubs, such as the Energy Superhub in Oxford, and companies such as BP and Audi hope to introduce their own sites in the future.
“The widespread transition to EVs means we need to rethink how we make, move and use energy,” said Graeme Cooper, the National Grid’s head of future markets. “The power demand for charging will be significant, so it’s crucial that we use the cleanest and cheapest power in our cars and make the most of each grid connection.
“By optimising power management at charging facilities, we can ensure a smooth transition away from petrol and diesel whilst maintaining a stable and effective electricity grid.”
More than any other branch of domestic motorsport, forest rallying has suffered dreadfully from the pandemic. While circuit racing was back up and running by July 2020 and resumed again in April after the second UK-wide lockdown, forest rallying didn’t return until this summer. From February 2020 until July 2021, there was not one significant forest rally in England or Wales.
Even though racing was go at the beginning of April, albeit behind closed doors, the issues of controlling fans meant no major gravel rally ran until July.
Some of the reasons behind the ongoing delays to resuming rallying were led by the government’s travel and gathering rules. There was also an acknowledgement that a lack of overseas travel has pushed more people into the UK’s forests for recreation.
But finally there’s better news, with the recent running of the Woodpecker Stages, albeit without spectators for specific logistical reasons.
Demand for competing on gravel shows no sign of being terminally damaged by the long break. Even though costs continue to rise and typical 45-mile one-day forest events now charge entry fees in the region of £600, the oversubscribed entry for the Woodpecker, run in Radnor Forest in the Welsh borders, showed that people still want to compete on gravel.
The hiatus hasn’t just been sad for drivers; it has also hurt firms and individuals who earn some or all of their living from preparing cars, supplying parts and dealing in consumables.
The extended shutdown led to some pundits hailing the end of the sport – but they couldn’t be more wrong, despite the obvious environmental issues that forest rallying has to face.
Graham Hopewell, clerk of the course for the Woodpecker, confirmed that the landowner, Natural Resource Wales, was supportive throughout the process of running his event. However, he still had to redesign it to run solely in Wales, as English forests will remain largely out of bounds until October.
“This year, we had to run only in Wales. We’re also aware that we run through isolated communities,” he said. Rod Parkin, chairman of Trackrod Rally Yorkshire, added: “We’re encouraged by competitor support for forest rallying. There’s still enthusiasm to do these events, but we have to acknowledge that green issues are a factor. The sport needs to be aware of these and plan ahead.”
Competitors naturally shared the enthusiasm for the return of forest rallying. Richard Hill, a leading contender in his four-wheel-drive Mitsubishi, said: “There’s nothing better than competing on stages like Crychan in Wales and Langdale in Yorkshire.” Leading historics competitor Paul Barrett agreed: “You can’t beat the forest to put a smile on your face!”
How it works: preventing copycat cars in F1
The definition of a Formula 1 constructor is written into the FIA’s sporting rulebook: “A constructor is the person (including any corporate or unincorporated body) which designs the listed team component (LTC), as defined in the technical regulations. The make of an engine or chassis is the name attributed to it by its constructor.”
So what stops a constructor copying another’s car, as Racing Point was accused of last year with its ‘pink Mercedes’? The rules clarify: “No competitor may use LTCs whose design (including, for the avoidance of doubt, its three-dimensional shape and the evolution history leading to it, any preliminary designs, simulations, wind-tunnel tests, and analysis) is based on reverse-engineering of any LTC of another competitor.” There are all sorts of broad brushstrokes in that sentence. The devil in the detail, as we saw last year, is judged on a case-by-case basis...
Motorsport greats: Nelson Piquet
When F1 enthusiasts talk about Brazilian triple champions, Ayrton Senna dominates. The other one, Nelson Piquet, is unfairly overlooked when discussion turns to history’s greats. It has been nearly 40 years since Piquet won his first title, as Carlos Reutemann faltered in the final race to lose by a point. He then became the first turbo-powered champion in 1983, before leaving for Williams to beat team-mate Nigel Mansell to the 1987 crown. He took fewer poles and wins, but critics should remember he overcame serious crash injuries and won the team’s respect for his development work, belying his playboy reputation.
The small roadster is a hairdresser’s car. The big SUV with heavily tinted windows is a drug dealer’s car. There are some unfair and unkind stereotypes in motoring, which were never funny, aren’t accurate and often come with troublingly prejudicial undertones.
So fair play to West Midlands Police for smashing one of them by releasing a video of a car chase from last year that resulted in the arrests and convictions of two drug dealers trying to make an escape from a police car in, of all things, a BMW i8.
A lot has been written about this plug-in hybrid coupé: that it’s an intelligent sports car; that it was groundbreaking; that it was the most interesting car on sale; that its rear styling looks like it’s defecating a Porsche 911. But never have I heard it described as a drug dealer’s car.
But here we are: an i8 is this drug dealer’s motor. To quote the officer as the chase is initiated, after the BMW speeds down the hard shoulder of the M6 in heavy traffic, unwittingly undertaking him: “Really?”
And so the pursuit begins. There’s lots of overtaking, a bit of undertaking, speeding through roundabouts and traffic lights and doing 90mph in a 30mph zone, all while a calm, gentle voice updates police headquarters and us on progress from the passenger seat. I think the commentary highlight is: “We’re into the Toby Carvery now.”
Yes, I said ‘highlight’. The subject matter is grim, but there’s a reason that Police Camera Action! was hit TV and why Hollywood films have car chases. If all ends well, as this one did, they’re compelling.
They’re also educational. And while I’m by no means an expert, this video makes me think that the i8 is really bad at this sort of thing.
For a start, everyone looks at it and looks into it, which if you’re picking your nose is merely embarrassing, but if you’re holding a rucksack containing 5kg of cocaine (worth around £500,000) and belting along a hard shoulder strikes me as considerably more perilous.
In the 2018 film The Mule, loosely based on a true story, Clint Eastwood, an ageing horticulturist, is hired as a drug courier because he has driven through the US for decades in an old pick-up and “never received a traffic ticket”. Surely subtlety is patiently sitting in lane one in a Skoda Octavia?
From the point that an i8 does something iffy, like racing down a hard shoulder (maybe drug dealers are resolutely punctual; again, I’m no expert), it becomes a getaway vehicle. And I don’t think it’s a good one.
There’s strong accelerative urge through the mid-range, sure, but this is reduced once the plug-in battery goes flat. Plus it’s low, which makes thumping over kerbs risky, and wide. Unlike other BMWs, the i8 doesn’t get run-flat tyres, so if you run over a spike strip, you’re stuffed. And those butterfly doors? Our villains’ i8 takes to a park and the passenger leaps out, but the high sill and daft door make him stumble badly. Hopeless. In the end, the driver gives up.
This year’s most famous drug dealer’s car is a poor one, then, but I’m glad it busted the stereotype. And while we’re doing that, how many hair-drying hoods can you can fit into a Mk3 Toyota MR2? I don’t think so. Another one it’s time to let go.
New British firm Soventem is hoping to shake up the EV industry with a unique take on car sharing, using carbon-neutral electric cars with unconventional designs and a focus on automation.
The London-based start-up aims to launch its EVs in the UK in March 2024, making them available for outright purchase and for use as part of shared-mobility schemes.
They will be developed at a new facility in Warwickshire’s MIRA technology park through partnerships with Israeli EV platform developer REE and US suspension specialist Clearmotion.
Soventem claims its cars will have 300 miles of range and be able to charge to full capacity in less than five minutes.
Speaking exclusively to Autocar, founder Robert Parson explained his thinking behind the radical designs of the company’s planned EVs, which feature gullwing doors, front and rear storage areas and a lounge-like interior.
The more sporting model has a 1+1 seating arrangement similar to that of the Renault Twizy, which Parson said “goes back to my days of racing”.
He explained: “We wanted to sell road-legal electrified race cars with air suspension and just have fun on the road. Most of the times I’ve been out in my sports cars, it was usually by myself. [So] a two-seater made sense with the passenger in the back, and through a video screen on the back of the driver’s seat, you can see the driver with a little camera. You have a visual connection and you can see forward on that video screen and have a two-way conversation.”
Having previously toured the factories of Mini, Rolls-Royce and TVR, Parson said that Soventem will throw conventional production lines “out the window”, instead using teams of five people who will build cars from start to finish.
They will be built in dedicated pods, while customers will be able to commence the production process themselves and have question-and-answer sessions with the production team.
Each model will be built using 3D-printed components with a unique production experience and the goal of being as carbon-neutral as possible.
“We’re not going to be a high-volume, mass car manufacturer,” said Parson. “We can’t compete in that world. We decided to become a niche car manufacturer with 3000 cars a year tops. We knew we were going to build some exciting, futuristic, concept-looking cars that we will actually bring to the market.”
Soventem’s concepts showcase advanced levels of technology, including a new incar assistant called Lucy, which has been designed in-house.
“As you walk up to the car, Lucy will scan you and remember you. As you get close to the car, she will actually greet you in your native language. As you get in, the door closes and Lucy will engage you in a conversation to refresh you of the features she can provide,” Parson said. “We like to think that Lucy will be connected to everything.”
Parson claimed the assistant is able to detect contacts of the driver in nearby locations, such as cafes, and will request to ‘ping’ their phone to make them aware of your presence.
Soventem says its cars will be equipped with other technologies found on modern vehicles, including LED matrix lighting, a sentry mode and a degree of autonomous driving.
It also hopes to launch a new ‘tri-power’ system in 2029. Parson said this will reduce road users’ reliance on chargers and hydrogen stations by enabling the extraction of hydrogen from polluted air and converting it into electricity through a fuel-cell stack.
Parson claimed Soventem’s cars will be affordable and is confident there will be demand, adding: “Potential owners I’ve been talking to like the fact that it’s off-the-wall thinking. They like that it’s totally different to anything that’s coming to the market.” Parson expects to make a loss at the beginning of production, both in private ownership and the rental sector, but remains optimistic.
“I would say within the next five years, car-sharing sites in cities around the world will be 100% electric,” he said. “These companies will have to rethink their strategy and where they’re going to get their stock from.”
To date, investment in Soventem has come solely from Parson and his family. Crowdfunding measures are being considered, and Parson is looking to obtain capital investment within two to five years, when Soventem expects to be ready for Euro-standard vehicle production.
Marc Lichte: “The Audi Skysphere concept showcases the potential of automated driving”We learn more about Audi’s shape-shifting new design, which blends a luxurious interior, grand touring style and sportscar handling – all in one car
Every personality has multiple facets. No-one is defined in binary terms. Some days, we want to step back and revel in our surroundings. On others, we want to take command and enjoy the thrill of controlling our destiny. Meet the Audi Skysphere concept: the shape-shifting concept car that gives you the best of both worlds.
The Audi Skysphere concept is the first in a new family of concept cars (alongside the Grandsphere concept, and the Urbansphere concept arriving in early 2022) that are reimagining the role of a car’s cockpit – the ‘sphere’ – and how it works for the driver and passengers, offering a driving experience that goes well beyond simply getting from A to B.
Under its spectacularly sleek and low-slung all-electric convertible two-door roadster skin, the Audi Skysphere concept is a showcase for how Audi is rethinking the future of progressive luxury – blending revolutionary interior design, a seamless digital ecosystem and advanced level 4 autonomous driving technology to reimagine the idea of a car’s interior as a more interactive and connected space.
The Audi Skysphere concept also has a unique dual-personality party trick. With the push of a button, it can contract its variable wheelbase by 250mm – morphing from a long-wheelbase grand tourer with a refined driving style, to a more compact and dynamic sportscar boasting more engaging handling.
“The Audi Skysphere concept is a look into the future, showcasing the potential of technology – especially automated driving,” says Head of Audi Design Marc Lichte. “It shows the opportunities around this technology, because the Audi Skysphere concept is on one hand a real sportscar, and it can transform in a few seconds into an autonomous lounge.”
So, who better to tell the story of this pace-setting car than the people who crafted it? And it all starts with the innovative way in which the car was designed digitally and virtually – from a place called Malibu…
Learn more about how Audi e-tron is reimagining electric driving
Designed with California spirit
The Audi Skysphere concept comes from the US-based Audi Design Loft in Malibu, southern California. Sitting in the capital of car culture, a stone’s throw from the iconic Pacific Coast Highway, this advanced studio takes an all-digital approach. It lets the team, led by Senior Director Gael Buzyn, collaborate seamlessly with colleagues in Audi’s global HQ in Germany – doubly crucial in a year in which travel for face-to-face conversations was limited.
Marc Lichte (Head of Audi Design): “Audi’s HQ is in Ingolstadt, Germany, but we need to come up with and capture ideas from all around the world. That’s why we have a digital design studio in Beijing and one in Malibu.”
Henrik Wenders (Head of Brand, Audi): “The Audi Design Loft is located just north of Los Angeles – a city built around the automobile. That southern California lifestyle celebrates its passion for cars day in and day out, and with its cultural diversity and creative community it felt like the perfect fit for this innovative new take on design.”
Gael Buzyn (Senior Director of Audi Design Loft): “Malibu is a fantastic place for car design – extremely inspirational. We’re a small advanced all-digital studio. Early on, we sketch a lot by hand, but we also use 3D virtual models. After a few days, we can put on VR goggles to see and discuss what we’ve created.”
Marc Lichte: “The Audi Skysphere concept has been developed and designed 100% digitally. We have a digital call a few times a month, meeting in a virtual studio to talk about the status of the design. It’s amazing. After a few seconds, it feels like we are together, working in one studio in Malibu.”
Gael Buzyn: “It’s an exciting part of the process to meet virtually with the design team from Germany through the VR Holodeck. We can talk with people that are 10,000km away, and walk around the car.”
Inspired by Audi’s past; redefining Audi’s future
The Audi Skysphere concept may boast the most advanced all-electric, in-car and driving technology, but its distinctive interpretation of progressive luxury harks back to the 1930s Horch 853 roadster – a cornerstone car that helped to form the original Auto Union, which eventually became modern Audi.
The Horch 853’s long front-end and pushed-back cabin have been re-imagined for the electric age. Thanks to the flexibility of electric motors and low-slung battery backs, a spacious front trunk replacing what – in the 1930s – would have been a huge five-litre straight-eight engine. The rear end blends speedster style with shooting brake practicality. A 465kW motor delivers 750Nm of torque for punchy 0-100km/h acceleration in 4.0s, while the anticipated 80kWh battery could potentially deliver up to 500km of range.
Inside, the Audi Skysphere concept boasts a stylish interior that blends luxurious sustainable materials with the latest advanced connected touchscreens for a more interactive in-car digital experience. Level four autonomous technology can even take control in appropriate situations, dramatically changing the role of the driver, and giving them more freedom to enjoy the journey.
Hildegard Wortmann (Audi Board Member): “For Audi, progress is a commitment. Concept cars are an essential part of our strategy, and the Audi Skysphere concept represents our take on the future of progressive luxury. It’s all about the challenger spirit; those who don’t accept the status quo. The ones who push us forward and who make a difference in the world. The most important thing is to create a better tomorrow for everyone. To shape that future, we had to think outside the box.”
Marc Lichte: “I asked Gael: ‘Please think about a vehicle which has level four autonomous technology at its centre’, and he came up with this roadster. I instantly fell in love with it when I saw the first proposal.”
Henrik Wenders: “You could call Gael a designer, but to me he’s a future shaper.”
Gael Buzyn: “It sounds like a cliché, but it started out, as it so often does, with a simple sketch. The first idea was to create a sculpture in motion. We knew the car had to be extremely beautiful, and we were really inspired by the Horch 853 – its long hood, and its dramatic proportions. Grand touring is about the romance of the journey, and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to recreate this romance, but with the aim of redefining grand touring. A thrilling sports car or a glamorous tourer, with all the comfort you would expect.”
Marc Lichte: “In the 1930s, the Horch 853 roadster was the benchmark in driving dynamics and comfort. The Audi Skysphere concept is a modern progressive interpretation of these characteristics and of roadster design. Its proportions are breath-taking – dream proportions, to be honest. Big wheels. A long wheelbase. A long, low bonnet, in combination with short overhang and a speedster roofline. We combine a very muscular body with very elegant lines. The Audi Skysphere concept is, on the one hand, very sporty and muscular, but also super elegant and sleek.”
Gael Buzyn: “Its sophisticated blend of muscular fluidity and architectural lines gives the car structure and elegance, but it also gives it a streamlined dynamic look – especially in the rear where we’ve combined the sport silhouette of a speedster with the practicality of a shooting brake. The body panels seam draped over the glass core of the cabin – almost like a scarf in the wind.”
Henrik Wenders: “Audi has always been at the forefront of progressive luxury, shaping and creating experiences. When development of the Horch 853 started back in the Golden Age, this is what our predecessors considered the future. Grand tourers, like the Horch 853, provided the best of the best. Lavish interiors, powerful engines and hand-built bodywork. It was the most exclusive motoring experience. The Audi Skypshere is our reinterpretation of that experience. It marks the beginning of a new Golden Age of mobility. An age of progressive luxury, of fascinating experiences. An age in which technology redefines what premium mobility can be.”
Dual dimensions; dual driving personality
The Audi Skysphere concept offers two unique driving experiences: first, a grand touring mode with a spacious lounge-style interior, seamless digital integration and level four autonomous driving; second, compact sportscar dimensions that lend themselves to more dynamic and engaging handling.
Thanks to the relative simplicity of an advanced electric powertrain – with no driveshafts, fuel lines or hydraulics to consider, and the ability to use fly-by-wire steering, throttle and brakes – the Audi Skysphere concept can shapeshift by having its body and frame slide over each other. Contracting its wheelbase by 250mm at the A-pillar, it transforms from a luxurious Audi A8L-sized grand tourer to compact Audi RS5-style sportscar dimensions.
The interior of the car also transforms to put the driving controls back in the hands of the driver, while giving them a more commanding and engaging cockpit-style feel. It’s all about choice.
Henrik Wenders: “For Audi, progress isn’t either/or. Progress is both. The future of the automobile is about choice. Technology lets us create unique experiences.”
Gael Buzyn: “The most exciting thing about the Audi Skysphere concept is that it was always designed to have two distinct personalities – to be two cars in one. How do you merge a grand touring car with a long wheelbase and an autonomous mode, and a true sports car with a short wheelbase that is all about the thrill of driving into one vehicle, without compromising either experience? I mean, what a challenge.”
Hildegard Wortmann: “The digital world opens up so many possibilities, such as automated driving, which lets us give passengers the ultimate luxury – the freedom to choose. To relax or drive; to work or play; or stay in touch with friends.”
Gael Buzyn: “We had to find a way to make that extremely elegant comfortable car become this driving machine, and this involved a change of geometry. We soon arrived at the conclusion that we needed a variable wheelbase – offering ultimate comfort, as well as elegance and beauty. Then the car transforms, and you get a short wheelbase with all the agility and control you would expect from a sportscar. It lets us offer the best of both worlds.
Henrik Wenders: “In the past, a conventional engine, with all the propeller shafts and fuel lines, would have made a variable wheelbase almost impossible. But, thanks to the electric powertrain, it’s now reality.”
Gael Buzyn: “Just push the switch, and the transformation starts. The exterior changes geometry and the wheelbase decreases by 250mm. The front fender overlaps a decorative side element for a seamless invisible transformation. Inside, the layout changes into a driver-centric environment. The steering wheel appears from under the dashboard, the pedal box comes out from the footrest while the passenger seat moves back 250mm to give the driver a commanding position.”
Henrik Wenders: “It morphs into a true performance machine that offers a thrilling and uncompromising driving experience.”
Gael Buzyn: “Creating a design theme that works and looks stunning with a 250mm variation of the wheelbase was the biggest challenge. In grand touring mode, the Audi Skysphere concept concept has a majestic presence. The long wheelbase gives it dramatic proportion and offers exceptional ride comfort, while the interior in this configuration feels more like a stylish lounge. It’s informed by the Art Deco style and wrapped in eco-friendly microfibre, vegan leather and sustainably harvested eucalyptus wood. It is the perfect place to enjoy a glamorous motoring experience.”
Redefining and reshaping the future
The Audi Skysphere concept truly is the definition of a dual-personality car. Depending on which mode you’re in, the car’s illuminated graphics change to match its character – with LED headlights around the imposing Audi single-frame grille taking on a unique signature, and the rear LED lights featuring a specially composed dynamic sequence. You can tell that the Audi design teams – both in Malibu and Germany – are incredibly – proud of what they have achieved.
Marc Lichte: “I’ll never forget when I saw the Audi Skysphere concept for the first time – it was a very emotional moment. I’ve been working as a professional designer for almost 25 years. I’ve done many cars in my career, and this is definitely one of the most exciting projects or show cars that I’ve ever worked on with my team.”
Hildegard Wortmann: “The Audi Skysphere concept is an incredible start to what we know will be an amazing hub of creativity. From just a little sketch, we’ve come to this bold moment. The Audi Skysphere concept defines how we reinvent the future of progressive luxury. We’ve created something much more than a concept car; we’re creating an experience and a glimpse into the future of what luxury mobility can feel like.”
Henrik Wenders: “The Audi Skysphere concept is a celebration of progress and impactful design – because it’s in our hands to shape the world to come. When was the last time you saw something entirely new? With the Audi Skysphere concept, we’ve done exactly that – redefining what ‘grand touring’ can look like and feel like in the 21st century. The Audi Skysphere concept is a beautiful reinvention of our heritage; an experience unlike any other. It’s amazing to create and design the future. To create something that truly moves you. At Audi, we aim to create exactly these moments.”
Learn more about how Audi e-tron is reimagining electric driving
Michael Schumacher deserves this. The seven-time world champion is a true sporting colossus and should be lauded as such, despite the controversies that peppered his 20-year Formula 1 career. Like Maradona in football, the flaws are integral to the story and Schumacher fired deep emotions on both sides of the love-hate divide because of his actions on and off the field of play. But whichever side you take, no one can deny he will be forever remembered as a grand prix game-changer. This new documentary, simply titled ‘Schumacher’ and available now via Netflix, is long overdue.
The trouble, of course, is how to celebrate and mark his life with the correct tone and tense when he has disappeared from public view. In the wake of the devastating head injury he suffered in a skiing crash nearly eight years ago, it’s so easy to speak about him in the past tense, and yet he’s still alive, even if his existence now is difficult beyond comprehension. What a terrible situation for him and for his poor family, who are understandably fiercely protective of his privacy. Schumacher was never comfortable in the public glare, but now he’s strictly off limits for very different reasons.
It’s pleasing, then, that his resilient wife Corinna finally agreed that the time was right to support and take part in a feature-length film that tells her husband’s story from the perspective of those who know and love him best. As his long-time manager, Sabine Kehm has described the project as “his family’s gift to their beloved husband and father”.
Inevitably, that means it’s perhaps a little softer on Schumacher’s dark moments – taking out Damon Hill at Adelaide 1994, trying and failing so scandalously to do the same to Jacques Villeneuve at Jerez in 1997 – although it’s not as if the German filmmakers sweep that side of his character under the carpet. Ross Brawn admits “he overstepped the mark that day” in Spain, Damon Hill wonders whether he would have acted the same had the roles been reversed in Australia, Mika Häkkinen speaks openly about racing against the man who put him on the grass at nearly 200mph at Spa and David Coulthard recalls Michael admitting he never thought he was wrong in one memorable conversation after their collision at the same circuit in 1998.
There are plenty more big-name voices who contribute to give a colourful sketch of Schumacher the sportsman, including Bernie Ecclestone, Flavio Briatore, ex-Ferrari team-mate Eddie Irvine and current Aston Martin racer Sebastian Vettel, who grew up idolising Schumacher. But it’s the warm, loving and deeply personal insights into the man beyond the race tracks from Corinna and her children Gina and Mick – now of course an F1 driver himself – that make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.
The archive action of his roots as a dedicated kart racer and mechanic from rural Kerpen is superb, including a lovely clip of him celebrating a win with champagne on a very modest podium. Shades of things to come on much bigger stages. His father Rolf recalls the pair going for a pizza the weekend of his grand prix debut at Spa in 1991 as the last occasion Michael could go anywhere without being recognised, and the narrative then pulls us through his rise at Benetton and the back-to-back world titles in 1994-95. The story is well known, but only rarely told from his perspective, and there are some truly enlightening moments. An interview with Michael (in English) on the death of Ayrton Senna shows how deeply and genuinely affected he was by the tragedy, challenging to its core the old perception that Schumacher was some sort of cold-hearted sporting machine.
The focus is largely on Schumacher’s early years at Ferrari following his switch from Benetton in 1996, and how the pressure built as he failed to deliver the world title glory the whole of Italy was demanding. The sense of adversity is perhaps a little laboured in the interests of building to the watershed moment, when Michael overturned Häkkinen’s lead at Suzuka in 2000 to claim his first championship in red. The floodgates were now open for a domination the like of which F1 had never seen and the film skips through these years, mistakenly using shots of team-mate Rubens Barrichello a few times to offer a montage of the incessant red-wash.
But inevitably the shadow of what was to come begins to loom. The skiing accident and the new reality of Schumacher’s limited life are handled subtly and with great care, and the family interviews are deeply moving. When speaking about Michael at the height of his career, Corinna reveals the self-doubt he battled – “Can I still do it?” following the Jerez controversy – and how he was a “suspicious person” with most people until he got to know them. Now she emphasises that “Michael is still here. Different. But still here.” And she knows, accepts and embraces her current role in life: “Michael always protected us and now we are protecting Michael.”
A family-endorsed portrait was always going to play down the blemishes – but then it’s not as if they haven’t been talked and written about countless times before. Instead, we are privileged with this documentary to be allowed a glimpse behind the public mask and understand the deeply private, fun-loving and emotionally open man his family knows and adores. It is, as we said at the top, everything he deserves – and also the least, given the difficulties he and his family now face. As they say, keep fighting, Michael.
Citroën is targeting growth outside of Europe with a bold plan to capture a share of the developing Indian and South American markets, starting with an affordable rugged supermini: the 'New C3'.
The brand is aiming for 30% of its sales to be outside of Europe by the middle of this decade and is ramping up its presence in high-growth markets. India, for example, is projected to become the third-largest automotive market in the world with four million car sales a year by 2025.
The New C3 has been especially designed with a focus on affordability, durability and agility, because it is destined for use primarily in regions with challenging road surface and traffic conditions, compared with what the urban-oriented C3 faces in Citroën's Europe home market.
Although it occupies a similar footprint to the C3 available here, at 3980mm long and with a wheelbase of 2540mm, it has been styled with influence from larger SUVs and, as a result, more closely resembles the C3 Aircross. Crucially, at just under four metres in overall length, the New C3 is eligible for a lower tax rate in India, where excise duty is calculated according to size.
With raised suspension and large-diameter 25in tyres giving 180mm of ground clearance, and short overhangs allowing for favourable approach and departure angles, the New C3 offers a higher driving position than its European counterpart and can avoid underbody damage on rough surfaces. The rugged styling is functional as well as aesthetic: Citroën noted that the pavements in South America are particularly high so took extra measures to protect the mechanicals.
The New C3 is the first of three 'C-Cubed' cars created specifically for developing markets and will have a tangible styling influence on its range-mates, which will adopt a similar rugged ethos.
Inside, the New C3 offers a familiarly functional layout and majors on comfort and storage. It has five seats and a 315-litre boot and rear passengers get 653mm of leg room - the highest in the segment, Citroën says. Despite its value focus, the New C3 gets a 10.0in infotainment touchscreen with smartphone-mirroring functionality and comes equipped with various cubbies and charging facilities in recognition of the growing ubiquity of smartphones.
The New C3 is important in a global sense because it marks the beginning of Citroën's landmark push into crucial emerging markets, which could go some way to cementing it as a leading brand in the 14-strong Stellantis portfolio. Although it has been present in South America for several years, it is a newcomer to the Indian market, where it has sold exclusively the C5 Aircross SUV since 2019.
Citroën CEO Vincent Cobée said that, as a "generalist car maker", the firm will seek to provide good value in these markets, where cars are usually "the second largest purchase after the home" and, particularly in India, "owning a car is proof of social success and independence".
However, Citroën has detailed its Indian market aspirations just a week after Ford announced its shock exit from the region, citing under-utilisation of factories and uneconomical production costs. Asked how he can be sure Citroën won't face the same issues, Cobée told Autocar: "We all know India is a tough market. I have had the privilege of launching a number of models in India so I can speak with a bit of experience if not wisdom.
"When you introduce a vehicle in India, you need to address four things: A: localisation is the word. B: reassurance is the second needed word; there is a dominant player in India [Maruti Suzuki] which has been present for more than 40 years and covers more than 50% of sales, and has something to the tune of 10,000 sales points across the sub-continent.
"So for you to exist, you need to assure competitiveness, presence and parts availability. The third thing you need to do is be nimble and [the fourth is] flexible. If you build a brand-new greenfield plant and invest in a very expensive dealer network and wait for the sales to come, you will be hit by fixed costs before you can achieve viable revenues."
Citroën has therefore invested in a 'brownfield' factory to save on construction costs and has ramped up production gradually with the C5 Aircross (which sold just 50 units in August and is projected to account for just 500-1000 sales in 2021 overall). Cobée said the dealer network is "flexible and agile", too, and is tied to a mobile maintenance programme to better suit the sparsely populated areas of its target regions.
Notably, the New C3 is a petrol-only proposition, and Citroën has made no mention of an electrified variant, which is at odds with its rapid push to electrify its much larger European fleet.
Cobée said the vehicles on sale in India and Latin America could be "technically" electrified, but added: "Is the market ready? Not yet." There is a form of CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) legislation in India, and an energy usage regulation system in South America, which means the markets are already "going through the downward curve in terms of CO2 emissions". The priority in these markets, for the moment, is to reduce overall CO2 emissions before focusing on the sale of electrified cars.
The perennially popular Ford Fiesta has been restyled and updated as part of a mid-life facelift aimed at keeping it near the top of the B-segment sales chart.
Revealed before customer deliveries begin in early 2022, the rejuvenated supermini will be priced from £16,670 in its entry-level form – a subtle increase over the current car.
The visual refresh is centred on the front end, where the 2022 car is distinguished from its predecessor by way of slimmer headlights (now LED as standard or optionally matrix LED), and a markedly different grille design that varies slightly according to specification. The bonnet has been reshaped as well, to give a higher nose profile, while the Blue Oval emblem has been moved from the bonnet's leading edge to the grille, which is said to contribute to "greater road presence".
Ford's European design boss, Murat Gueler, told Autocar that his priority for the Fiesta was to give a "more grown-up feeling". "The current car – if you're very critical – is a bit rounded at the front. The line work around the headlights is a bit swoopy, a bit 'baby-eye', and some of the sculpturing is relatively simple," he said. "We felt, in that respect, the Fiesta could use an upgrade to refresh the front end." At the rear, meanwhile, the light clusters – optionally LED-equipped – have gained contrasting black surrounds.
Each version of the Fiesta continues to bring bespoke styling cues that nod to their positioning. The entry-level Trend and mid-rung Titanium cars, for example, feature chrome grille and window surrounds, while the hot ST gets a deep-set grille with a black honeycomb design, along with colour-coded side vents and a widened lower grille, and the Fiesta Active continues to chase compact crossover sales with its rugged design cues and raised ride height.
"We have tried to separate the characters of the cars even further," Gueler told Autocar, emphasising that the Active has been pushed "as much as possible into the crossover segment" and the ST is "as sporty as can be".
There are seven new alloy wheel designs available across the range, along with three new colours: Boundless Blue, Beautiful Berry and – for the full-fat ST – Mean Green.
The Fiesta is unchanged mechanically, and continues to be offered exclusively with petrol power, with the option of a mild-hybrid element.
The 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost Hybrid engine is available with either 123bhp or 153bhp in the standard car, equipped with a belt-integrated starter generator (BISG) that can be deployed to provide a torque boost under acceleration, and can power the electrical ancillaries. So equipped, the Fiesta will manage 48mpg on the WLTP cycle and emit 111g/km of CO2. The mild-hybrid engine is paired as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, but the lesser-powered version can be optionally mated to a seven-speed automatic.
Just one pure-combustion option remains for the standard Fiesta, following the axing of the diesel car last year: a 99bhp variant of the Ecoboost triple paired exclusively with the manual gearbox. It is capable of 45.2mpg and emits 118g/km.
Meanwhile, the Fiesta ST's 1.5-litre petrol triple has been fettled to provide a torque boost from 214lb ft to 236lb ft, though power output is unchanged at 197bhp, sending the hot hatch from 0-62mph in 6.5sec and to a top speed of 143mph. The ST also gets a new Track driving mode, in place of Eco on the standard car, which disables the traction control and sets the ESC to 'wide-slip mode'.
Elsewhere, the new Fiesta seeks to "increase comfort, confidence and convenience" in all driving scenarios with a host of new features and improved functions.
The supermini is now equipped with a 12.3in TFT digital gauge cluster with customisable display modes and different themes depending on the selected driving mode. The new display arrives alongside a suite of advanced driver aids including wrong way alert, active park assist, cross traffic alert, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control with stop and go, which minimises the need for accelerator and brake usage in stop-start traffic.
The 8.0in central touchscreen offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, as well as a number of connectivity features including live traffic updates and local hazard information. The FordPass app can also be used to remotely unlock and start some models, and gives access to data including fuel level, alarm status, tyre pressures and oil life.
Full pricing and specification information for the updated Fiesta will be available closer to launch, but early details suggest only subtle increases across the line-up.
Q&A with Murat Gueler, design chief, Ford of Europe
How has customer and media feedback directed this redesign?
“Shortly after we launched this Fiesta, some people were saying the B299 (the previous Fiesta) had a bit more character, more edges, while the new car was very well sculpted but a bit soft, especially on the hood. As a designer you're always up to speed on how things are developing, so three years after the launch of the old car we started to see opportunities to give the car more personality.”
How were the styling changes influenced by the Fiesta's engineering?
“The car that is always slightly challenging is the ST because the engine needs quite a lot of air for the intercooler, so while you're designing the ST-Line – which is basically an ST with different grille inserts – you have to take that into consideration. You have to make sure it looks harmonious because ST-Line customers might like the look of the ST but they don't want the big horsepower.”
How do you update such a strong-selling car without alienating buyers?
“That's always the fine balance you have to strike as a designer. You have a gut feeling as a designer and you need to follow that. You have a lot of opinions while you're doing it – 'this is too much change, this is too little…’ - and sometimes it's good to have a vision of your own and to keep pushing. I feel the changes we have done keep the feeling of the Fiesta intact; it will still look like a B-size hatchback with dynamic qualities about it, which is a key thing about the Fiesta: it's a very dynamic and fun-to-drive vehicle."
Small SUVs don’t come much funkier-looking than the Toyota C-HR. The car’s bold, sporty and somewhat futuristic styling certainly helps it stand out from the cut-from-the-same-cloth crossover crowd, even if that attention-grabbing exterior design won’t appeal to everyone.
The C-HR is by no means a case of function following form, though. Sharp looks aside, there is much to hold your attention here, as well as plenty for used buyers to take in. When the C-HR was first launched back in 2016, the powertrain options were a 120bhp 1.8-litre petrol-electric ‘self-charging’ hybrid or a 114bhp 1.2-litre petrol.
The 1.2 is pretty efficient, with a combined economy figure of 47.1mpg, albeit under the old NEDC tests. The hybrid fared better, though, with a claimed combined 74.3mpg, dropping to 58.8mpg under the newer WLTP regime.
A facelift in 2019 signalled the end of the 1.2 and introduced a 2.0-litre hybrid to sit above the 1.8. As well as enhanced steering and suspension tweaks to help cope with a small increase in mass of the larger engine, this 181bhp 2.0-litre set-up offers improved performance, along with a claimed WLTP figure of 54.3mpg.
The C-HR is a decent steer. It rides well – it’s not soft and wallowy like some crossovers – and there’s minimal body movement along undulating roads. No variant is particularly rapid – the 2.0-litre hybrid is the nearest you’ll get to a quick car – but nor does any powertrain option feel inadequate.
The 2019 update also brought with it a new front bumper design, new rear-end styling and a revised dashboard design and multimedia system that offered Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity as standard on all models.
Entry-level Icon specification comes with dual-zone climate control, 17in alloy wheels and automatic lights and wipers. Excel trim adds satellite navigation, larger 18in alloy wheels, keyless entry and heated front seats, which are also partly covered in leather. If you like your luxuries, Dynamic comes with LED headlights, model-unique 18in alloys and metallic paint with a contrasting black roof. Among post-facelift cars, a range-topping GR Sport version is available.
Front-seat passengers won’t have any issues with leg or head room unless they are especially tall. There’s also some stowage space between the driver and passenger seats for odds and ends, along with a couple of cupholders (one behind the gearlever and another in front of it). Boot space may not be class leading, but the hold itself is fairly wide towards the rear.
Used prices start at £13,000. For that you should get a 2016 or 2017 model in 1.2-litre Icon form. Expect to pay at least £14,000 or £15,000 for a 2018 or 2019 example respectively. Facelifted cars from 2020 go for upwards of £20,000 – quite a price hike, but they should be in pristine condition and have very low mileage. Want a 2021 C-HR? Set your budget at around £22,000 at least.
Need to know
The 1.2-litre petrol C-HR delivers a 0-62mph time of 10.9sec. The 1.8-litre hybrids are slightly slower over the same sprint, at 11.0sec, while 2.0-litre cars dispatch 0-62mph in 8.2sec.
Every C-HR gets a lane departure warning system, automatic high-beam headlights, adaptive cruise and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Many rivals didn’t even offer these as options, let alone fit them as standard.
For C-HRs registered after April 2017 – which is the vast majority of examples – current VED rates of £155 per year for petrol and diesel cars will apply. Hybrid C-HR owners will be charged £145 per year.
1.2 T: The non-hybrid 1.2-litre is our engine of choice for those on a budget. The petrol-powered C-HR provides good performance, will be cheaper to buy than its hybrid counterparts and the running costs should be modest.
2.0 GR Sport: The GR Sport trim paired with the 2.0-litre hybrid unit is the priciest combination. That said, you will be getting the quickest C-HR available. It’s also impressively economical and has an extensive kit roster.
Ones we found
2017 C-HR 1.2 Icon, 30,000 miles, £13,690
2019 C-HR 1.8 Design, 60,000 miles, £18,700
2021 C-HR 2.0 GR Sport, 1500 miles, £28,495
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has released its 2021 Sustainability Report, showing that the UK automotive fleet has recorded its best-ever year for carbon emissions reduction.
The figures show automotive brands are investing billions into the development and production of zero-emission models. More than one in 10 vehicle registrations in the UK in 2020 were electric, and there was a 90% year-on-year increase in the number of plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vehicles alone, helping to bring fleet average carbon emissions down by a record-breaking 11.8%.
Electrified vehicles’ share of all cars produced in the UK continues to rise. Battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), PHEVs and hybrids accounted for 18.8% of all cars made, up from 14.8% in 2019, with BEVs claiming a 4.5% market share, up from 3.4% last year.
The SMMT noted vehicles were also being manufactured more sustainably, with 14.2% less energy and 36.8% less water used on average per vehicle than at the turn of the millennium. Total combined waste to landfill over that period dropped by 98.7% and CO2 equivalents per vehicle produced fell by 36.5%.
However, reduced production caused by the pandemic meant year-on-year energy increased by 11.2%, with waste to landfill up 19.9% and water usage up 8.3%.
The Sustainability Report also considers the economic state of the industry, and while this year's shows that annual turnover is up 25.7% compared with 1999 at £60.2 billion – with a more than threefold increase in R&D spending over the same period – it has declined by 24.6% compared with the same period last year.
“The impact of the pandemic on a sector such as automotive, one which depends on global supply lines, strong consumer demand and a highly skilled workforce, was always going to be severe. As the latest Sustainability Report shows, economic and market growth stalled with many factories shuttered and retail closed,” said SMMT CEO Mike Hawes.
“Yet the pandemic also proved the importance of the sector as it turned its capabilities to PPE and ventilator manufacture and assured the nation’s mobility through the continued servicing and repair of vehicles.
“Despite the adversity, the industry’s commitment and investment in zero-emission vehicles remained undiminished, delivering the best-ever single year of fleet average carbon reduction.”
Despite the setbacks caused by the pandemic, the SMMT believes the move to electric will be bolstered by the introduction of new models, with 300 plug-in models expected to be available for customers by 2025, doubling current availability. The organisation also noted that charging infrastructure in the country must improve to support the increase in electric models.
Picking the best e-scooter for your needs can be trickyThere's thousands of e-scooters on the market, ranging from £100s to £1000s. We guide you through the most common mishaps
E-scooters offer all the advantages of a bike without the downside of having to work up a sweat to get to your destination.
So, after checking if you can use one legally on your proposed route (remember, private land is fine, but roads, pavements, pedestrian areas and cycle lanes are not at the time of writing, unless you are hiring through an approved government trial scheme, when roads and bike lanes are potentially legal), what should you look out for?
With prices ranging from £100 to £1000s, and capability from surviving billiard smooth asphalt to full off-roaders, here’s Move Electric’s handy guide to making sure you get the e-scooter you need.
How much should I pay for my e-scooter?
It largely depends on what you want from your e-scooter, with added price usually bringing added range, speed, comfort, braking or a combination of the four.
As a rough guide, the quality end of the market starts at around £250 and extends beyond £1500.
How far will my e-scooter go on a charge?
Like all salesmen, e-scooter manufacturers tend to quote a best-case range capability, so be aware that what you get out of a charge isn’t the same as what’s possible from a charge.
As a rule of thumb, a manufacturer will test with a 70kg adult riding on a super-smooth road with no gradient and a freshly brimmed battery on board. The tyres will also be pumped up to the optimum pressures.
If you’re lighter, you will go further, but if you are heavier, then the range will decrease. Likewise if the road is bumpy or features inclines. Especially on cheaper e-scooters, you can also expect the charge the battery can hold to decrease with every charge and over time.
As a rule of thumb, the average bike commuter travels around 15 miles, so you’ll likely want your e-scooter to have that sort of capability. The majority of e-scooters promise at least 15-20 miles of range, making ones that offer 20-30 when new a stronger long-term bet.
The longest-distance e-scooters offer around 50 miles of range - but you’ll pay a premium as a result of the larger battery.
How fast will my e-scooter go?
Most official e-scooter trials are limited to 15.5mph, or 12.5mph in London. While that can make you feel like a mobile chicane when you are out on the open road, the limits are set to keep you as safe as possible, and - as many cyclists will testify - can be plenty fast enough, especially if you’re unfortunate enough to take a tumble.
Out on the open market, there are scooters available with higher speeds. Most commonly, these top out at 18mph, although there are some mainstream models that claim up to 40mph.
Before you climb aboard any e-scooter, though, we’d urge you to ensure you have the correct safety equipment. Even low-speed accidents can hurt, and a novice taking to an e-scooter with minimal or no suspension and very small wheels can sometimes be a recipe for disaster.
Faster scooters are also typically more expensive, both because of the higher-grade electric motor and the need for a larger battery in order to deliver a sensible range.
Remember, too, that we typically walk at 4mph, and average speeds in traffic-congested towns and cities is usually below 10mph. With that in mind, even the most basic e-scooter should provide enough oomph to save you time getting your to your destination.
E-scooter speed is determined by several factors including motor power, rider weight, your tyre pressures and the terrain you ride on.
How much power has my e-scooter got?
Be wary of rated power outputs and peak power outputs. The former is the sustained output, the latter the most it can achieve.
An e-motor’s power is shown in watts, with 250 watts a basic offering for a typical 15mph scooter. These will tend to struggle slightly up hill or to carry heavier loads.
If you plan on travelling on hilly or rough routes, experts typically recommend 350-500 watts of rated power output.
How quickly will my e-scooter brake?
Brakes come in three typical types on e-scooters - and given the important job they do, it’s worth pausing to consider the best option you can afford.
At the lower end of the scale, some e-scooters have a mudguard over the rear wheel that you operate by pushing down on it. These will be familiar to younger readers who grew up with push scooters, but otherwise take some getting used to. They can be surprisingly effective, but you do also need to learn how to use them to their potential.
Drum brakes are typically the next-best budget option. They are enclosed inside the wheel hub and, while they may not deliver ultimate stopping power, they should be consistent in all conditions and rarely require in-depth maintenance.
Disc brakes normally add cost, but are both lighter and more effective than drums. The weight saving should also net you more range or power.
Regenerative braking systems harness some of the energy created when you brake and turn it into usable electricity, extending your e-scooter’s range. However, they add cost and can often be slightly less effective in emergency situations.
How comfortable is an e-scooter to ride?
Arguably, the ride quality of your e-scooter is more important than its top speed. After all, it’s no use getting somewhere faster but in no fit state to do anything. A well-sprung e-scooter can also go a long way to mitigating accidents, soaking up bumps and lumps in the road and keeping you upright.
Considerations to avoid skeletal rattle should first focus on the wheels and tyres. The smaller the wheel, the more likely it is to wedge into a pothole and pitch you off into the boondocks.
A decent guide for using an e-scooter on a sealed surface is to look for wheels of at least 10in in diameter. If you plan to go off road, though, you’ll want to look for much larger wheels, plus tyres with tread.
Meanwhile, air-filled tyres give a far better ride quality, but are prone to punctures. You’ll also need to check your tyre pressures regularly, as running them too high or too low can pose a greater risk of wear and tear and damage, as well as making your e-scooter less efficient, thereby using up more battery range than you need to.
In contrast, airless, or solid, tyres are less prone to damage but do not provide as smooth a ride.
Some e-scooters also have suspension. Without it, many of the imperfections of the road surface will rattle their way through the frame, up the handlebars and into your body.
Different scooters have front, rear or double-wheel suspension. The more intricate the set-up, the higher the price, but anyone using an e-scooter on bumpy surfaces or off road is likely to want at least some form of suspension.
How much can my e-scooter carry?
This should be clearly displayed on the box, but as a general rule, an average male adult plus their clothes and baggage will often be close to topping 90kg. Female adults plus their baggage are typically lighter, at around 85kg.
As a result, most e-scooters are rated for 100kg. Be aware that carrying more can invalidate the warranty and reduce range and top speed.
What if I have to carry my e-scooter?
The chances are you will end up carrying your e-scooter about, because they are much harder to tether and leave in public spaces when compared with a bike.
You therefore need to consider the weight of the scooter, which will largely but not exclusively be determined by battery size, and whether the handlebars fold up to make it a neater package to carry.
Typically, e-scooters weigh 8-15kg. The former is around the size of a typical bowling ball and the latter is almost twice that, and heavy for all but the hardiest souls.
E-scooters: common questions
What kit do I need? A helmet is a must-have whichever scooter you buy. Lights are equally crucial if you will ride at night. Locks are available, but even then be careful before leaving your e-scooter unattended. Puncture protection fluid is a wise investment for air-filled tyres. If you plan to look at your phone while you ride, for instance for navigation, always use a phone holder.
Do I have to buy my e-scooter up front? No, many top-end e-scooter manufacturers and retailers offer them on finance.
Have I bought a fake e-scooter? It can be hard to tell, given the quality of some lookalike e-scooters on the market, so the cautious approach is always to consider if a deal looks too good to be true. If it is, there’s usually a reason.
Is my e-scooter waterproof? Especially at the budget end of the market, many aren’t, and so if there is water damage, the warranty won’t apply.
Are there hidden costs to watch out for with an e-bike? Because of their size, be wary of post and packing charges. Likewise, consider any import taxes an e-scooter posted from abroad could attract.
This is one in a series of articles set to be published by Autocar over the coming weeks exploring e-mobility under the Move Electric name, a new editorial channel created by Haymarket, our owner. We intend to cover electric cars, motorbikes, scooters, bicycles and more, as well as exploring themes around electricity generation and electric lifestyles. Content will include features, reviews and opinion. If you have any thoughts about what kind of content you'd like to read – or that you wouldn't like to read – please use the comments section below to provide feedback.
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