Ford Focus ST-Line X 2019 long-term review

Ford Focus 2019 long-term review - hero front

It has already proved itself in Autocar’s road test, but what is Ford’s all-new Focus like to live with? We’re finding out

Why we’re running it: To find out if Ford’s all-purpose hatchback remains the driver’s car of choice in the family car class

Month 1 – Specs

Life with a Ford Focus: Month 1

Welcoming the Focus to the fleet – 23rd May 2018

Since it was first launched 20 years ago, the Ford Focus has been entrenched as a core part of British motoring. On any motorway, the Focus is as ubiquitous a sight as road signs and traffic cones.

That’s because, throughout three generations, the Focus has always been a true all-rounder: an affordable, refined and thoroughly decent machine that can work as family transport, company car, motorway cruiser and even, in certain forms, hot hatch.

That versatility is why the car’s name has always seemed something of a misnomer. In an era when models are increasingly laser-targeted to ever-narrowing market niches, the Ford Focus never had such a singular, well, focus. It’s a laudable and proudly mainstream car, with the widest possible target audience – although the Ford Lack of Focus doesn’t sound so good.

That broad approach applies with the new fourth-generation Focus, launched late last year. And, in a bid to reach a huge number of market segments, the Focus is available in a head-scratchingly wide array of variants. There’s the ‘standard’ hatch, an estate, the upmarket Vignale edition and the SUV-inspired high-riding Active version, all of which are available in a number of trims with different bodywork style. Oh, and there’s a hot ST model on the way, which is likely to be followed eventually by a hotter RS.

Add in multiple different suspension and engine options (even before a mild hybrid arrives next year), and a Focus buyer has plenty of decisions to make. And that’s before you start ticking boxes for the myriad option packs and extras.

That incredible breadth is reflected in differing abilities across varying specs. So when it came to putting the Focus through Autocar’s exacting road test, our testers spent considerable time ensuring they secured the spec most likely to appeal to Autocar readers, the most dynamically capable version on offer.

They settled on the ST-Line X trim, running on 18in alloy wheels, powered by the 180bhp 1.5-litre three-pot Ecoboost engine through a six-speed manual ’box, riding on optional ‘continuously controlled’ adaptive dampers. Sounds good, right? Our testers thought so, awarding it a class-leading 4.5 stars.

So when considering a car to add to our long-term fleet, rather than battle through the configurator and spec sheets, we took the easy option. We asked for a car just like the one our road testers specced. Ford took that a step further: for the next few months or so, I’ll be driving around in AE68 VYB, the exact car we road tested.

It’s worth noting that quite a few option boxes were ticked in the process of speccing that car. Among the extras added on are a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights, heated steering wheel, head-up display, wireless charging pad and plenty of supplementary safety kit. All additions that will doubtless make my life more comfortable in the coming months, but they do raise the price of our car from £25,650 to £31,145.

That’s stretching it a bit for a mass-market family car, so I’ll be pondering hard which of those extras, if any, are actually worth the cash.

It’s those sorts of questions we’ll be out to answer. We know the Focus is good to drive – great, even – but will it still shine with the familiarity that comes after thousands of miles? The early signs are positive. While it’s an all-new design on an all-new platform, the fourth-generation model still has that familiar Focus styling – but it’s definitely sharper and fresher, especially in ST-Line trim. I’ve noticed it drawing the odd admiring glance, which isn’t something you’d expect from a Focus.

The interior doesn’t quite live up to the bodywork. There’s nothing really wrong with it, but it doesn’t feel special, even taking into account the faux carbonfibre and other ST-Line flourishes. It feels like the mass-market car it is, lacking the sheen of, say, a Volkswagen Golf.

That said, some of that relative lack of visual appeal is because the Focus retains a good number of physical buttons and switches, and I’m happy to forsake a bit of sheen for the ease of use and functionality they’ve offered so far – especially since Ford’s Sync infotainment isn’t particularly special.

While the Focus may look familiar, one major difference is how big it feels inside. The switch to Ford’s new C2 platform has allowed the wheelbase to be extended by 52mm, which Ford claims allows for an extra 40mm of rear leg room. I’ve mostly been sitting up front, so haven’t put that fully to the test yet, but expect us to start cramming family, friends, flatpacks and other assorted oddments inside soon.

We’ll be loading up the Focus for journeys long and short, and on all types of road. Basically, we’re intending to treat our Focus the way thousands of owners have theirs over the past 20 years – which is to be used for pretty much everything.

Second Opinion

Knew I’d love the Focus and I did. That 1.5-litre Ecoboost powertrain is so far ahead of where affordable cars used to be, it’s ridiculous – smooth, strong, willing. And the gearbox stirs my interest in pure manuals again. Only drawback is this Focus feels unnecessarily big. Time to slim?

Steve Cropley

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Ford Focus ST-Line X specification

Specs: Price New £25,650 Price as tested £31,145 Options Ruby red colour £800, blind-spot monitor £400, head-up display £400, keyless entry £250, wireless charging pad £100, LED headlights £750, heated steering wheel £150, continuously controlled damping £650, Convenience Pack (rear-view camera, active park assist) £500, Driver Assistance Pack (traffic sign recognition, auto high beam, adaptive cruise control) £500, panoramic roof £995

Test Data: Engine 1498cc, 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol Power 180bhp at 6000rpm Torque 177lb ft at 1600rpm Kerb weight 1369kg Top speed 137mph 0-62mph 8.3sec Fuel economy 51.0mpg CO2 127g/km Faults None Expenses None

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Source: Autocar Online

Autocar drives Britain's 'biggest, best and most bonkers race'

Citroen C1 racing at Silverstone

C1 event was by far the biggest motor race ever held in Britain

Take (almost) 100 identical Citroën C1 city cars and race all day and all of the night. We joined in

You’d think that 100 racing cars – one for every 60 metres of track – would just make for one enormous traffic jam. 

But if those cars are all slow, and the circuit and race are long – like, say, Citroën C1s at Silverstone for 24 hours – it turns out it’s the most fantastic thing in the world. 

This should be no surprise, because the C1 Racing Club has really hit on something. It first raced only two years ago yet easily got 99 cars to the Silverstone grid (one of the 100 entries not making it on the day) and its other endurance races are routinely oversubscribed. More than 250 cars have been built here, and there are similar series in Portugal and Belgium. Norway wants one, too. 

The Silverstone grid, which required special permission from Motorsport UK, was by far the biggest race ever held in Britain. 

What makes C1 racing special is that it is relatively cheap and the cars are near-identical. They’re all three-door C1s from 2005-2014, with 1.0-litre 68bhp engines

Modifications are light: for safety, plus uprated brake pads, dampers, springs and longer front suspension control arms to increase front-end grip from the Nankang tyres. But the cars even have to retain an MOT, so you can listen to Silverstone radio while you’re lapping. 

It was reckoned you could put a race car together for £3500: though a Cat D C1 on eBay today sells for double the £500 it used to. But still, Citroën sold something like 300,000 C1s here over the years, so there are plenty of cheap cars around. 

With 99 of them together, even bunched closely, they occupy all of Silverstone’s old pit straight, and considerably more when performing a rolling start. But that’s how you begin 24 hours of utter lunacy: in that time, 13 cars roll and one or two drivers get a ticking off, but there are mandatory in-car cameras and all of the racing I see is clean and fair. Theoretically, you could drive to the circuit in the car and drive home again. 

Some teams did. But some take it more seriously than when Autocar last raced a C1, at Spa in 2017. Nobody’s getting paid to drive but there are professional drivers (international GT championship winners of the past and future) competing because it’s a laugh. 

And there are good teams, like Amigo Motorsport that ran ‘our’ car, raced by three paying drivers and two car hacks. We finish 52nd, having been within 25 positions of either end at one point or another.

The C1 is great fun to drive. In the wet, it tends to be quite sideways most of the time and it’s adjustable in the dry. The brakes are terrific, grip is good, but with whatever’s left of 68bhp you still get time to think about where you’re getting it right or wrong. 

Before the race, some of us joked that it was probably flat out everywhere. It isn’t, but the lead driver lifts too much on what he wrongly thinks is his last lap. On the next and final lap, he’s passed by the car that started 99th. Extraordinary end to the biggest, best and most bonkers race I’ve ever been in.

Read more

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Source: Autocar Online

The best budget British bangers to buy before Brexit

Jaguar S-Type V8 drifting

We might be a bit poorer after leaving the EU, according to some experts. So celebrate or dull the pain of Brexit with our best-of-British bargains

At some point in 2019, so we’re told, this wonderful country of ours will cut its ties with the EU. 

Whatever your views on Brexit, it’s surely not a matter of opinion that since the referendum back in June 2016, this country has singularly failed to present itself in its best light. At times, it has felt as though Great Britain has forsaken its proud history and recast itself in the role of international laughing stock. 

But Britain should not allow itself to be characterised by self-serving politicians any more than it should by narrow-mindedness. For this is a country of Aston Martin, Land Rover and Rolls-Royce, of the Lotus Elise’s bonded aluminium chassis, the TVR Cerbera’s AJP V8 and Ian Callum’s right hand. At this time especially, we should remember that Britain’s contribution to the automotive landscape has been a great one. This, then, is our guide to this country’s best used cars. Every one of the 20 models listed here is affordable – or at least will be after your next promotion – and a small number of them are irresistibly cheap right now.


Mini Cooper

With every passing year, the first new Mini of the BMW era seems to look better and better. It has helped, of course, that the more recent versions have swollen increasingly as though in severe anaphylactic shock, their proportions becoming gradually less well-balanced with each new iteration. Built in the same Cowley plant as those early Rover 75s, the R53 Mini had a reputation for perky handling, particularly in Cooper guise. 

The truth is a 15-year-old Mini Cooper isn’t likely to drive with the same finesse it would have done when it first rolled off the line but, with serviceable cars going for less than £1000, you can surely overlook a baggy damper or two (or simply replace them at £70 a corner). There are so many cars available, you can afford to be picky, so walk away if the engine sounds at all rattly or if there’s a mayonnaise-like build-up around the coolant bottle lid, which could indicate imminent head gasket failure. 

One we found: 2004 Mini Cooper, 90,000 miles, £950

Jaguar S-Type V8

The most surprising thing about the Jaguar S-Type when it was unveiled at the British motor show in Birmingham in 1998 was that it somehow managed to be even more wilfully retro than the Rover 75 that was launched at the same show. Jaguar’s recent designs have been far more modern, suggesting even the S-Type’s maker realised its mistake. Nonetheless, the S-Type was good to drive and today you will find a V8 model for less than £2000. 

One we found: 2003 Jaguar S-Type V8, 102,000 miles, £1595

MG ZS 180 

There must have been a moment in time, probably in a long-since-deserted meeting room in the bowels of Longbridge, when one engineer raised a hand and said he reckoned the company’s 178bhp V6 motor might just fit inside the Rover 45’s engine bay. Presumably, everybody else hurriedly sat up and took notice. The result was a potent small family car – available as a hatchback or a saloon – with a rasping soundtrack and genuinely engaging dynamics.

One we found: 2005 MG ZS 180, 115,000 miles, £800 

Nissan Primera GT

Keen students of the automotive industry will be rushing to point out that the Primera GT’s maker is not actually British. Nissan is, alas, Japanese. So the Primera GT really shouldn’t count. It makes the cut, however, because having been manufactured in Sunderland, the Primera GT is British by birth, if not bloodline. With a chassis developed on the Nürburgring and a feisty 2.0-litre engine, the car is better to drive than most would ever imagine. 

One we found: 2000 Nissan Primera GT, 113,000 miles, £950

Rover 75

It would be all too easy to disregard the Rover 75 for being so self-consciously nostalgic. With its chrome exterior brightwork and lashings of wood veneer inside the cabin, it seems to yearn for a time when cricket was played over five days rather than 20 overs. If he had been created just a few years later, Victor Meldrew would surely have driven a Rover 75. 

But writing the 75 off so haughtily would do a fine executive saloon a real disservice. In its day, a good number of reviewers had it as superior to the more expensive and equally wistful Jaguar S-Type. The earliest 75s were built at Cowley in Oxfordshire but production was shifted to Longbridge in Birmingham in 2000. 

Today, it’s possible to find a V6-powered 75 with sensible miles for less than £1000. If properly maintained, the V6 will prove to be more durable than the four-cylinder motors, as well as being smoother and more powerful. 

One we found: 2001 Rover 75, 70,000 miles, £990


Jaguar XK8

The XK8 seems to have become Jaguar’s forgotten grand tourer, replaced in the first instance by the prettier and far more modern XK in 2007 and latterly – as well as indirectly, since it’s more of a sports car than a GT – by the F-Type in 2013. With an unstressed 4.0-litre V8 that develops 290bhp and more leather than an out-of-town sofa showroom, a tidy example will still have plenty of effortless high-speed wafting left in it. 

These days, £3000 will stretch to a high-mileage, 20-year-old car, while £4000 will afford a newer example with the updated post-2000 V8. If an XK8 feels soggy to drive, it’s mostly likely down to worn suspension bushes, while if it’s going to rust, it will do so first along the sills or up inside the wheel arches. Finally, you should anticipate running costs in line with a V8 grand tourer – any XK8 is going to like a drink. 

One we found: 2000 Jaguar XK8, 120,000 miles, £3900

Honda Civic Type R

Built in the picturesque English market town of Swindon, the EP3 Honda Civic Type R just about qualifies as British despite its maker being nothing of the sort. Besides, it would be a pity to dismiss a truly brilliant hot hatch at what is undoubtedly a bargain-bin price simply because the company that makes it is actually Japanese. 

You’ll find Type Rs for less than £2000 but, if you don’t spend closer to the £3000, you do risk saddling yourself with an unloved shed of a car. That still isn’t a huge sum of money to pay for a 197bhp hot hatch with a simply divine powertrain and one of the best gearshifts in the business. 

You would be well advised to avoid modified cars, unless you know exactly how well it has been reworked. Get the wheel alignment checked and any worn out suspension bushes replaced, because only then will the Type R feel its best. 

One we found: 2003 Honda Civic Type R, 118,000 miles, £2795

Rover Mini

The original Mini might well be remembered as the most iconic car this country has ever produced. Having been on sale for a staggering 41 years, there are far more models and derivatives than you can possibly count. The thing to remember, though, is that any original Mini in anything like decent condition will be a sought-after classic, and values will hold firm. By the late 1990s, the Rover Mini Cooper had as much as 62bhp. 

One we found: 1996 Rover Mini Cooper, 98,000 miles, £3000

Land Rover Discovery 3

Squiffy though the rear-end styling of the latest Land Rover Discovery undeniably is, it does at least serve to remind us how attractive the Discovery 3 – introduced in 2004 – actually was. It had the no-nonsense chunkiness of a Tonka toy but with a hint of modernism thrown in. The truth is you’ll be looking at a car that’s been to the moon and back at this money, but choose wisely and maintain it well and it might just repeat the journey. 

One we found: 2006 Land Rover Discovery 3, 140,000 miles, £4950

Vauxhall Astra VXR

Just how British is the Astra VXR? It’s a very debatable point. Vauxhall is a British marque, of course, but it hasn’t been British-owned for a very long time and, although certain Astras were manufactured at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire, the VXR was not one of them. In fact, it was built in Germany. It’s a 237bhp hot hatch that can be bought in good condition for as little as £3000, though, so who’s going to argue? 

One we found: 2006 Vauxhall Astra VXR, 87,000 miles, £3000


Range Rover

A fighting-fit L322 Range Rover must be one of the most broadly capable sub-£10,000 vehicles on the road. The trouble is, a not-so-healthy L322 will present its owner with bills and running costs so vast, the purchase price will seem like a minor inconvenience. Introduced in the early noughties and only the third all-new Range Rover, the L322 was untouchable in its day. Apart from looking both bang up to date and unmistakably like a Range Rover, it also had a superb cabin, mature on-road manners and off-road ability to burn. 

The earliest and leggiest cars can be picked up for just £4000, but you would be well advised to spend at least double that on a car that’s been really well looked after. The L322 does have a reputation for poor reliability, although anecdotal evidence suggests that isn’t what can be frustrating about Range Rover ownership – it’s the sheer cost of keeping these things going. 

One we found: 2008 Range Rover V8 Vogue, 138,000 miles, £8540

Jaguar XFR

By the middle of the previous decade, Jaguar’s executives were well aware the brand and its products were in desperate need of a giant leap forward into the modern age. Whereas the S-Type’s cabin was apparently modelled on the Duke of Marlborough’s drawing room, the XF that replaced it in 2007 had a cockpit that was more akin to a West End vodka bar. Those rotating air and heating vents and the rotary gear selector that rose elegantly from the centre console on start-up would have been unthinkable in a Jaguar a few years previously. 

The exterior was more modern, too, although with plenty of chrome highlights and an oval grille, you still recognised the XF as a Jaguar. The XFR super-saloon, fitted with a 503bhp supercharged V8, was monstrously impressive, combining speed, dynamic response and luxury the way a true Jaguar should. The earliest examples have slipped to as little as £14,000. 

One we found: 2006 Jaguar XFR, 59,000 miles, £13,995

Lotus Elise

Some cars are a decent bet to achieve classic status in the future and creep up in value – the original Lotus Elise is absolutely guaranteed to do so. Introduced in 1996, the S1 Elise saved the company that built it and reminded a generation of sports car enthusiasts that light weight, not big power, is what makes a great driver’s car. You will not struggle today to find a car that’s been owned by somebody who’s been fastidious with maintenance and servicing. 

One we found: 1998 Lotus Elise S1, 66,000 miles, £11,250

Caterham Seven Roadsport

For a car that’s close to unusable for the majority of the year here in Britain, the Caterham Seven holds its value remarkably well. In fact, residual values are so strong, you could buy a brand-new car, have unthinkable amounts of fun in it for a couple of years, sell it and lose only a small percentage of your original investment. Much the same applies to older models, too, and there are plenty to choose from at £15,000. 

One we found: 2013 Caterham Seven Roadsport, 18,000 miles, £14,795

Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit 

There probably isn’t a more romantic name in the global automotive sector – never mind the British car industry – than Rolls-Royce. The Silver Spirit that ran for two decades from 1980 onwards may not be the most sought-after Roller, but it is the one you can afford with a £15,000 budget. While such a car is unlikely to lose any value in the coming years, you should expect to pay several thousand each year to keep it running. 

One we found: 1986 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, 60,000 miles, £15,000

Over £15,000

Aston Martin V8 Vantage

The biggest risk associated with buying an Aston Martin V8 Vantage for less than £30,000 these days is the steady stream of bores you will encounter asking why you didn’t spend that money instead on a Porsche 911. The answer to which, of course, is to point at the car and shout: “Just look at it!” 

As the latest generation of sports cars – the newest Astons very much among them – become more extravagantly styled, the relatively pared-back and elegant design of the previous Vantage will surely become ever more desirable. Those inch-perfect proportions will look right for the rest of time, too. The Vantage isn’t only pretty, though – with communicative steering, a characterful normally aspirated V8 and agile handling, it’s fantastic to drive, too. Will a 12-year-old Aston prove to be a disaster to live with? Specialists reckon the Vantage is actually very dependable, although only if the car has been serviced and maintained diligently. 

One we found: 2007 Aston Martin V8 Vantage, 50,000 miles, £28,000

Bentley Continental GT 

In the eyes of many, the Bentley Continental GT has a new-money image problem. For those of us who really couldn’t give a hoot, though, the GT is simply a very fast and very luxurious super-coupé that can be bought for less than £20,000. You needn’t look particularly hard around the cabin to recognise Bentley’s shameless Volkswagen Group parts-sharing strategy, but in such moments the 6.0-litre W12 engine with its pair of turbochargers should provide sufficient distraction. 

As long as a GT has been well maintained, it should be very dependable. The engine, transmission and suspension are all reckoned to be tough and durable, but the cost of replacing connectors, electric motors, sensors and consumables can certainly add up. Those early cars will now be approaching the bottom of the depreciation curve, which means two or three years from now you’ll get back most of what you paid. 

One we found: 2004 Bentley Continental GT, 77,000 miles, £18,800

TVR Cerbera

If there’s one thing we know to be true about TVRs it’s that they’re expensive to repair when they go wrong, which they do all the time. In fact, it isn’t that TVRs are woefully unreliable, just that they need specialist maintenance to keep them working the way they should. The Cerbera’s AJP V8, for instance, can be a dependable unit, but only if it’s been serviced properly by an expert. Find the right Cerbera and it will be a delight to own. 

One we found: 1999 TVR Cerbera, 48,000 miles, £23,000

Lotus Evora

Was the Lotus Evora really a passable everyday sports car? That depended on your perspective. Anybody trading up from an Exige or an Elise would have found it remarkably civilised, but patchy build quality and tricky cabin ingress/egress still made it more demanding than a Porsche 911. The earliest cars are now a decade old, but they’re still as great to drive as they were in 2009. Clutches can cost as much as £3000 to replace, although the V6 engines are bombproof. 

One we found: 2010 Lotus Evora, 39,000 miles, £27,995

Morgan 4/4 

Motor vehicles get no more idiosyncratically British than this. The 4/4 designation indicates a four-cylinder engine and, curiously, four wheels. (When the 4/4 nameplate was originally used way back in 1935, the car it was applied to was Morgan’s very first four-wheeler. Until then, Morgans had all favoured three wheels.) You’ll be looking at a car from around 2000 on a £30,000 budget, although assigning a year to a Morgan is about as helpful as assigning gender to a cloud. 

One we found: 2000 Morgan 4/4, 24,000 miles, £29,995

Brexit and the British car industry

According to Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders chief executive Mike Hawes, Britain’s exit from the European customs union and single market will “inevitably add barriers to trade, increase red tape and cost”. Despite working closely with the government to safeguard UK automotive interests, the SMMT sees numerous difficulties arising, from recruiting workers and the cost of new cars going up, to major disruptions to manufacturing. 

One in 10 UK automotive workers, says the SMMT, is from the EU. Car makers will struggle to fill vacancies if free movement of labour across European borders is capped, inhibiting growth. New tariffs on imported models could see prices rise by an average of £1500, while border checks will seriously hinder just-in-time manufacturing processes. 

All of this, says the SMMT, threatens to damage the UK’s competitiveness in the global automotive sector and will potentially reduce overseas investment. “We urgently need a transitional arrangement which allows business to continue as normal until the UK’s new trade arrangement with the EU has been agreed and implemented,” says Hawes.

Manufacturing in the UK

From artisans who wear brown leather aprons and beat aluminium panels into shape in dimly lit sheds to automated production lines that churn out a new car every 60 seconds, the UK’s automotive sector has all bases covered. According to the SMMT, UK automotive contributes more than £82 billion to this country’s annual turnover and it employs – directly and indirectly – as many as one million people. It accounts for 12% of the UK’s total exported goods. 

Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Jaguar Land Rover are all in foreign ownership now, while Nissan, Honda and Toyota are all overseas companies, but every one of them and plenty more besides mass produce cars right here. In fact, 30 car manufacturers build as many as 70 models in the UK, with close to two million passenger and commercial vehicles made each year. What’s more, some £3.65bn is invested in research and development annually. 

Read more

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Source: Autocar Online

Are semi-autonomous systems making cars safer?

Volvo V60 braking tests

V60 simulates undertaking the ‘fake’ Fiesta on the motorway but the Fiesta moves into the lane at the last moment and the AEB-equipped V60, like many AEB cars, fails to avoid it

Assisted driving tech should boost road safety, but it can actually make things worse if it isn’t tuned properly

The question I’m asked the most is also the most simple one,” says Matthew Avery, director of insurance research at Thatcham Research. “‘What is the safest car on the road?’ I’m beginning to think the answer is a white Ford Fiesta,” he says, nodding at a pretty convincing mock-up of the very same car parked on the runway ahead of us. 

The ‘Fiesta’ in question is made of flexible, detachable plastic panels quite loosely fixed onto a moving base that looks like an oversized speed bump. It is, in fact, a robotised mobile target, with wheels hidden away underneath it and a top speed of around 15mph. And Thatcham has been using it to design, develop and prove a new batch of tests for the latest active safety and crash mitigation and avoidance systems fitted to new cars. 

“These systems use stereo cameras, radar sensors and sophisticated image processing software to recognise threats before responding to them,” says Avery. “People might think we could simply drive at a pile of empty cardboard boxes to test an AEB [autonomous emergency braking] system on a car, but they’re not so easily fooled. 

“The industry’s software engineers tell us that we have to use realistic targets in order to trigger the systems properly. So I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that those systems end up being particularly good at recognising white Ford Fiestas,” he adds, joking, “because that’s the kind of car our target happens to look like.” 

We’re with Avery and his team of research engineers to get a taste of exactly what kind of tests of these assisted driving technologies Thatcham has been devising, because they’re due to become a parallel part of Euro NCAP’s new car safety testing regime later this year. 

Founded in 1969 by the insurance industry, Thatcham is now a signatory member of Euro NCAP. “Twenty per cent of the total Euro NCAP safety score that a new car gets today is defined by the effectiveness of its driver assistance systems,” says Avery, “and you already get a 10% discount on your insurance if you choose a car with AEB.” 

The industry picture we’re looking at now, as Avery explains it, is one in which almost every major car manufacturer is fitting what we call ‘SAE level two’ driver assistance systems to their cars: lane keeping systems that will work to prevent you from changing lanes into the path of another car, for example, or adaptive cruise control systems that not only recognise the current speed limit but can also automatically adopt it. 

“But they’re all very different,” says Avery, “so there’s a real need to assess the effectiveness of them in a strictly objective sense [for which Thatcham has come up with meticulously repeatable tests done by robots] but also how sensitively they’re tuned, how well they’re integrated into the driving experience and how usable they are.” 

We’re about to get a firsthand idea. Having earlier run through an S-bend marked on Thatcham’s proving ground runway as if on a particularly windy dual carriageway to show how it tests lane keeping systems, we’re now motoring towards our plucky fake Fiesta at 50mph in a Volvo V60 as if we’re about to undertake it on the motorway. The Ford pulls into our lane at the last minute, as part of what Thatcham calls a ‘cut-in’ test – something most of the models in its first fleet of test cars apparently struggle to negotiate satisfactorily. Sure enough, the V60’s AEB system fails to detect the threat and the Volvo thumps through the target’s deformable plastic panels and rips them clean off. 

“The best cars we’ve tested have balanced driver support systems,” says Avery. “They don’t feel like they’re driving themselves, keeping the driver fully engaged; they don’t break in and out abruptly or ‘throw control over the fence’, as we refer to it – but they do provide a dependable, robust amount of assistance. Not too much and not too little.” 

Our man is very clear, too, on the need for that kind of system tuning in the most relevant technological context in which the car industry now finds itself: the sweep towards fully autonomous driving. 

“Our research suggests that there is already a sense among today’s drivers that their cars are ready to drive themselves – but, right now, they’re anything but,” he says. “If assisted driving technologies encourage drivers to disengage at the wheel – and one or two of them already are – we could see road safety statistics suddenly get a lot worse when you would reasonably expect them to be doing the opposite. 

“And so, for safety reasons if nothing else, we need to stop thinking of autonomous driving technology as if it’s already fitted to the cars we’re buying. I’d be in favour of changing our terminology: throwing out the SAE’s five-level classification for autonomous cars and instead putting clear blue water between the ‘assisted driving’ technologies of today and the properly automated systems we’ll only begin seeing in 2021.” 

There is no safe halfway-house solution for the self-driving car, as Avery sees it. We either have full automation, when the technology, road network and drivers are ready – or we wait until they are. And until then, we plainly need to keep drivers informed and clear about their role at the wheel.

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Calling cars ‘autonomous’ is dangerous, say industry experts​

Some automatic braking systems have proven to be ‘ineffective’​

Is the public ready to share the roads with self-driving cars?​

Source: Autocar Online

BMW X2 M35i 2019 review

BMW X2 M35i 2019 first drive review - hero front

Most potent X2 yet gets BMW M division’s first four-pot in 33 years to challenge the likes of Audi’s SQ2

The BMW X2 M35i is among a new class of high-riding performance cars that aim to bring traditional hot hatchback values to the premium crossover ranks.It’s not a full-blown M model per se, but its brief is quite similar to its more focused siblings in that it was conceived to appeal first and foremost to enthusiast drivers – those seeking greater driving precision and pace than that provided by standard X2 models.Significantly, it’s the first four-cylinder model from BMW’s M division since the original M3 was launched 33 years ago. Behind the X2 M35i’s distinctively shaped grille is the most powerful version yet of BMW’s B48 engine. It’s been upgraded with new cooling measures, among other detailed changes. The transversely mounted turbocharged 2.0-litre unit delivers 302bhp and 332lb ft of torque – some 113bhp and 126lb ft more than the most powerful of BMW’s existing petrol-powered X2 models, the xDrive20i.To ensure its heady reserves get placed to the road reliably and without any untoward wheel-spinning antics, the new range-topping M model comes as standard with an eight-speed torque converter-equipped automatic gearbox featuring a race start function and a multi-plate clutch four-wheel-drive system with a differential for the front wheels.It doesn’t end there. BMW’s M division has also provided the X2 M35i with a retuned MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension. It receives firmer springs and dampers as well as a reduction in ride height over regular models and standard 18in wheels. Buyers can specify active dampers and the choice of either 19in or 20in wheels.Beyond this, the X2 M35i receives a reworked M Sport exterior styling package from the standard X2 with redesigned air ducts within the front bumper for more efficient cooling, grey accents for the grille and mirror housings as well as a spoiler element and twin tailpipes as part of an M Sport exhaust system at the rear.Further changes are concentrated within the interior. It adopts a number of M Sport accents, including a leather-bound steering wheel with shift paddles, a pair of heavily bolstered front seats with M-branded seatbelts and front door trims with the lettering ‘M35i’ among other detailed upgrades.Among the more useful options are a multi-colour head-up display unit, BMW’s ConnectedDrive suite and a traffic jam assistant.

Source: Autocar Online

Hyundai Tucson 1.6 CRDi N-Line 2019 review

Hyundai gives its mid-size SUV an N-inspired sporting treatment. We drive it to see if it’s all style and no substance

Here we have another example of Hyundai’s halfway-house sporting trim line, applied to the brand’s big-selling family SUV. We first sampled the delights of N-Line last year in the i30, bridging the market gap between the fizzing heat of the i30 N and the stark tepidity of the regular hatchback.This doesn’t apply to the Tucson, however – at least for the time being. Word on the street is that a full-fat Cupra Ateca rival is in the works, but that’s a good year away at the very least. So, if you want a sporty Tucson, here’s your lot for now. Think Volkswagen’s R-Line and Ford’s ST-Line trims to understand the intention.However, perhaps even ‘sporty’ is an adjective too far for the particular variant we’re testing here: the fleet-friendly 1.6-litre diesel, which is boosted by a recently introduced 48V mild hybrid system. Thankfully, you can also have a 174bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine.Most of the appeal here is visual, then. There’s black detailing everywhere, black 19in alloy wheels, a unique LED daytime running light design and bespoke bumpers. As well as some familiar N brand touches inside, including red leather stitching, there are more supportive seats and the same gearknob as the i30 N. Hyundai claims a bit of dynamic substance here, though; the suspension is lightly tweaked for tighter body control, while the software calibration of the steering is revised with the aim of giving “a more direct, linear feel”.

Source: Autocar Online

BMW launches limited-run M5 Edition 35 Years

BMW M5 Edition 35 Years

BMW M5 Edition 35 Years

Anniversary version of 616bhp M5 Competition super saloon gets exclusive trim and design features

BMW will celebrate 35 years of its M5 super saloon with a limited-run reworking of the 616bhp M5 Competition.

The BMW M5 Edition 35 years features the same tuned version of the 4.4-litre V8 twin turbo engine as the M5 Competition, which produces 553lb ft of torque and can achieve 0-62mph in 3.3 seconds on its way to a limited top speed of 155mph.

The all-wheel-drive model also features the lowered and stiffened suspension from the M5 Competition, along with ball-joined rear suspension mountings and upgraded front anti-roll bars.

The 350 examples of the M5 Edition 35 Years that will be produced feature a number of design changes, including a new metallic grey paint, and new 20-inch alloy wheels. The brake calipers are finished in high-gloss black, while the calipers on the optional M carbon ceramic brakes are available in a golf finish.

The interior features a number of trim finishers made from aluminium carbon structure gold in the door trim, instrument panel and centre console. The door sills and cupholder covers feature M5 Edition 35 engravings.

The M5 Edition 35 Years will go on sale in July. No pricing details have been revealed, but it is likely to be above the £96,205 of the standard M5 Competition.

The first M5, which featured an in-line six-cylinder engine taken from the mid-engined M1, was launched in late 1984. 

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BMW M5 Competition review

Autocar’s top ten super saloons 2019

BMW M5 long-term test: three months with the super saloon

Source: Autocar Online

Exclusive: Government won't reinstate plug-in hybrid grants

Plug-in hybrid Range Rover

UK Transport Minister tells Autocar full electric vehicles are the focus of future government incentives

The UK government will not reinstate a grant for the purchase of new plug-in hybrid vehicles, Jesse Norman, Minister of State for the Department for Transport, has told Autocar.

The grant was modified in October last year, with only electric vehicles qualifying for a £3500 subsidy. Previously, the subsidies for hybrid and electric vehicles ranged from £2500 to £4500, depending on the model’s zero-emissions range.

“We have to spend the tax payers’ money in a way that reflects the changing market,” said Norman. “The evidence was very clear: owners of plug-in hybrids were not plugging them in, negating the environmental benefits and undermining the incentives.

“Instead, our focus is very much on pushing battery electric vehicles. It is where we have to get to and where we can see the biggest benefits. If I look at the electric bicycle industry and how that has taken off and been opened up then I see great opportunity. Today you can buy an electric bike at Aldi for £500 – and that wasn’t the case a few years ago.

“I expect the prices of electric cars to come down dramatically in the same way and I’m not prepared to spend tax payers’ money incentivising technology that doesn’t reflect this changing market.”

Manufacturers of plug-in hybrid vehicles and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) had vigorously campaigned for an incentive to be reintroduced, saying its withdrawal had damaged the transition to low emission vehicles. 

Last month sales of plug-in hybrids dropped 34 per cent to 1922 units, compared with 2929 last April when the incentive was still in place. While supply issues of the latest plug-in hybrids have been identified as one reason for this, SMMT chief Mike Hawes said the figures were also “evidence of the consequences of prematurely removing upfront purchase incentives before the market is ready.” 

Mitsubishi, maker of the best-selling Outlander PHEV presented evidence suggesting that UK owners of the car cover half their average weekly mileage in electric mode, substantially lessening the model’s environmental impact.

Although Norman didn’t confirm if the government’s decision had been based on data from Holland, which indicated that many plug-in hybrid cars weren’t being charged, when asked about Mitsubishi’s UK-specific data he added: “I am not prepared to look back and make retrospective changes that undermine the benefits full battery-electric vehicles can bring.”

Reports suggest the German government is on the cusp of raising its grant for full electric cars to €4000 (£3400) – a figure which must be matched by the selling manufacturer – on cars costing less tha €30,000 (£26,000).

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Mitsubishi ‘extremely disappointed’ by end of government plug-in grants

Plug-in hybrid sales fall sharply in April 2019

Autocar’s top ten hybrid SUVs 2019

Source: Autocar Online

BMW 730Ld 2019 UK review

BMW 7 Series 730Ld 2019 UK first drive review - hero front

Refined diesel powerplant feels strongly suited to BMW’s luxurious executive flagship

The entry-point of the revised, restyled 7 Series, and BMW’s renewed effort to make its executive flagship deliver on a luxury brief in ways the outgoing car couldn’t quite achieve.The 730Ld slots in beneath the six-cylinder 740i and the V8-powered 750Li we recently sampled on the continent, with a 3.0-litre diesel powerplant sitting behind that enlarged, unmissable kidney grille.BMW’s new-found styling boldness has certainly divided opinion here in the West – but keeps China, which accounts for more than 40% of global 7 Series sales, happy. And seeing how every other manufacturer also wants to keep China happy, they’ll eventually follow suit. At which point the 7 Series fits right in, and we all stop complaining.Driven here in long-wheelbase form, which BMW expects to make up to 40% of UK sales, the 730d is rear-driven and rides on standard-fit adaptive air suspension, but eschews the optional Integral Active Steering and active anti-roll bars found in the Executive Drive Pro pack that had such an impact on driving dynamics during our initial encounter back in April.It’s the presence of the rear seat comfort pack on the options list that indicates where BMW has made the greatest improvements, with a much-improved interior that can now genuinely claim to be among the class best.

Source: Autocar Online

Matt Prior: why trucks and beards go hand-in-hand

Ford Ranger parked - front

A pick-up sends out a message about the person driving it

It looks like human survival instinct is kicking in nationwide, as commercial vehicles fly off the forecourts

A bloke who sold vans once told me that it was a much nicer gig than selling cars. 

The trouble with cars, he said, was that when somebody came into the showroom to buy one, they were probably going to spend their own money, which meant they took negotiations personally. 

There’s no great surprise or shame in that, given a car is the second most expensive thing most of us buy and the first most expensive thing that sees us dealing with a big, bad, faceless conglomerate who we fear is out to get us, rather than dealing with a home owner in a similar situation to ourselves. People do not like buying cars for this reason

Buying vans, though, according to my dealer interviewee, was more relaxed. There he was, the anonymous face of a corporation with a minimum number in mind, meeting the anonymous face of another corporation with a maximum number in mind, and they’d chat until they found a mutually satisfactory number. If they couldn’t, they shook hands and moved on. 

He found it much more agreeable. And I suspect that during the past decade, it has also been much more profitable. I know that Ford and Peugeot – and I suspect this of several other car companies, too – make more profit from actually selling commercial vehicles to companies than failing to sell you and me hatchbacks. 

It’s something that’s made even easier by the fact that more and more of us want vans and pick-up trucks. Since the 2008 financial crash, we’re buying more of them, while car sales – save for fancy, expensive ones – are less buoyant. The logical conclusion, then, is that there are those among us who used to drive cars who are now driving vans. 

That, one industry insider told me last week, is because more of us are working for ourselves, because there’s an upsurge in home delivery shopping, or because we’re working for ourselves delivering home delivery shopping. Whatever, with more zero-hours contracts and more self-employment, we are becoming more independent of, and doing more sticking it to, our former bosses. 

And there’s something else we want more of these days: beards. 

Now, I thought we’d seen peak beard in the early 2010s, but they just don’t seem to stop growing. Figuratively. I mention beards and commercial vehicles together because I think their respective growth – in sales terms, or more literally – is closer linked than you might imagine. 

What says ‘independent spirit’ better than a pick-up truck and a beard? Why shave if you have no boss to make you? And, in this desperate, post-recessional austere time, where showing you can provide for your loved ones is more important than how shiny your alloy wheels are, what sends out a better message to rivals and potential partners that you can look after them, and could probably kill and skin a rabbit with your bare hands, than a flat-bed vehicle and a bushy chin? You are a provider, and they are the trappings that prove it. People are resilient and resourceful and, in hard times, we find novel new ways of thriving. These are the visible signs of such ingenuity. 

I generously impart this free, then, in case you’re in the planning department for a commercial vehicle maker: watch the facial hair.

Read more

Black cab maker LEVC to delay launch of range-extender van​

Ford Ranger Raptor 2019 review​

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Source: Autocar Online

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