Carcraft

Thousands of warranties voided as Carcraft goes bust

Carcraft

Customers of car supermarket giant Carcraft will be left with their warranties and breakdown cover voided after administrators enter the firm’s 10 branches around the country.

Despite selling more than 12,000 used cars a year, at an average price of £9,000 a vehicle, the company is thought to have been making losses of around £8 million a year.

Over 500 staff at the firm’s head office in Rochdale and 10 sites across the UK have been left jobless today.

Customers with Drive Happy Plans (DHP), which include a warranty, breakdown cover, servicing and MOTs, will no longer be covered.

Daniel Smith and Joe McLean, partners at Grant Thornton UK, have been appointed as administrators to Carcraft, the UK’s seventh largest second-hand dealership chain an annual turnover of £120 million.

Smith said: “With great regret a conclusion was reached that it is no longer viable to keep Carcraft in operation. In order to prevent further losses it has been agreed with management and creditors to cease operations with immediate effect.”

In a statement, the administrators said: “The group operates in a competitive market and has suffered from poor market reputation, lack of investment, a high cost base, expensive loan note financing and an insolvent balance sheet all of which have hindered investment.  The group also has legacy PPI claims.”

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine

Volvo confirms 407hp, 134mpg, 49g/km CO2 XC90

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin EngineThe new Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine will be the world’s most powerful and fuel efficient SUV when it arrives in UK showrooms later this spring.

The homologated figures, revealed today, are even better than initial estimates: they initially put the XC90 T8 at 59g/km CO2, with less power than the final production car too.

Extensive development means Volvo can confirm 407hp, 472lb ft of torque and 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds from the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine and electric motor.

It also officially averages 134.5mpg, thanks to plug-in batteries that give up to 26 miles’ electric only range.

“We have been working hard to earn our competitive edge and to give our customers the ultimate combination of performance and low fuel consumption,” said Volvo’s senior VP for R&D Dr Peter Mertens.

“Our Twin Engine technology has enabled us to build on our heritage of efficient powertrain development in a completely new way… we (now) have a clear and leading position.”

Volvo hasn’t even had to strip seats out of the XC90 T8 Twin Engine – it still packs in up to seven people, thanks to the batteries being integrated into the chassis rather than added on at the back.

The big question is, of course, how muych the plug-in hybrid Volvo XC90 actually returns in the real world. Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV has been criticised this week by Which? for returning 120% less than its claimed fuel consumption during testing.

The next worst on the list? Volvo’s V60 Plug-in Hybrid, returning 92% less than Volvo claims…

Jowett Javelin

Great Motoring Disasters: Jowett Javelin

Jowett JavelinThink of revolutionary, post-WW2 cars from Britain, and one small thought immediately comes to mind – the 1959 Mini. But 12 years before the country’s most famous car was launched came another quietly brilliant, rule-bending machine.

Like the Mini, that car would win silverware in the Monte Carlo rally, it would demonstrate that fast, family car cornering needn’t be a torrid affair and – wait for it – it was the first British car to have a curved windscreen. And again like the Mini, its design was largely the work of one man.

That car was the 1947 Javelin. Compared to most of the warmed-over, upright, separately mudguarded pre-war throwbacks that most British car-makers were building in the late 1940s, the Javelin was a peek into a brighter future. Its origin was as much a surprise as its streamlined silhouette, the Javelin made by the Yorkshire-based Jowett company.

Jowett Javelin

This was relatively small outfit compared to the dominant Austin, Morris, Ford, Hillman and Vauxhall of the day, its pre-Javelin range mostly centred around a tough 1.0 litre twin cylinder that the founding Jowett brothers had developed in 1910. This engine was usually found propelling vans and utilitarian family cars that would have complemented homes with no bath and an outside toilet.

The vehicle Jowett was most dependent on for its business was the Bradford van, a 1946 rework of a 1932 design that nevertheless found 38,000 buyers, many of them overseas. And presumably, given its 55mph top speed, most of them had time on their hands. The Javelin, however, would be capable of a far headier 80mph, an eye-widening pace for a late ‘40s family car. And it had the looks to go with it.

But what made the Javelin especially special was a lot more than its clean, fastback shape. Its creators were well ahead of their time for conceiving it as a world car, suitable not only for the UK but Europe, North America and Africa. Designer Gerald Palmer was better qualified than many for the task, having grown up in southern Africa. His dirt road experience determined several Javelin fundamentals, among them eight inches of ground clearance and the unusually strong chassis structure partly responsible for its fine handling.

Like Mini designer Alec Issigonis Palmer was a lot more than a stylist, his considerable engineering skills enabling him to design the entire car, engine included. Apart from aiming for the robust, he also wanted an aerodynamic car with plenty of passenger space. The Jowett’s aerodynamic properties were part guesswork, the car never seeing the inside of a wind tunnel, but there was a widely held view at the time that ultimately, cars would resemble the teardrop shape of a fish.

Jowett Javelin

In many ways that was right, Palmer’s attempts leading to the sloping tail, the fared in rear wheels and the absence of running boards. The curved windscreen would have helped too, glassmakers Triplex offering Jowett the chance to be first in the UK with this feature.

The roomy cabin – a bench front seat allowed room for six – was achieved by mounting the Javelin’s 1.5 litre engine well forward. The engine was a bit more compact than a conventional in-line four cylinder because of its Subaru-style boxer layout, yielding a shorter block.

Flat-fours were not new to Jowett, the company selling some before WW2, the layout a logical development of the company’s flat twin. But this engine was all-new, and the work of Palmer.

He also designed the car’s space-efficient, all-independent torsion bar-sprung suspension, most other rear-wheel drive cars having a live axle suspended by cart springs. The result was a ride that kept a Javelin man’s tobacco in his pipe, and roadholding grippy enough to get aunty Gertie begging for mercy.

Jowett Javelin

All of this contributed to the car’s slightly unexpected class win in the 1949 Monte Carlo rally, in which Palmer was a co-driver. This success was followed by a still more impressive class win in the Spa 24 hour race, the car soon gaining a name as a car for the sporting chap.

It also gained plenty of press accolades, ‘The Motor’ concluding that the Javelin had ‘a combination of qualities rendering the car unrivalled in its field.’ Jowett’s gamble on a new car, a new engine and advanced new factory equipment to build it with looked like it was paying off. And having finished this design, Palmer was head-hunted by the Nuffield Organisation to design new models for Morris, Wolseley, Riley and MG.

But he left behind a company whose success would turn to failure. In an effort to save money, Jowett designed its own transmission to replace the bought-in unit, but the ‘box was not up to the job. Of the first 1000 cars fitted with it, 78 suffered failures, early cars also prone to overheating and worse, fracturing crankshafts.

Jowett ultimately upgraded the engine into quite a tough performer, but by then the Javelin’s poor reputation, and a shrinking UK market, saw sales the sales graph plunge.

The Javelin’s body supplier had also been bought by Ford, which continued to honour the contract to the point that Jowett ended up having to store bodies around Bradford, football ground included, because sales were so slow. Body supply was temporarily halted in 1952 and was never restarted, because Jowett ceased trading in 1954.

Jowett Javelin

The company had over-reached itself, introducing too many new components and systems and failing to test them adequately, a common failing of the British car industry. Had the Javelin been more reliable it could have propelled Jowett to new heights. As it was, only 22,700 were built – less than the geriatric Bradford van.

The British car industry has many stories of brave failure, just as the American, German, French, Italian and Japanese industries do.

But what made the Javelin different, apart from its striking looks, was the quality of thinking that went into its design. It’s a real shame that the same effort wasn’t invested in its testing.

Skoda Superb review (2015)

Skoda Superb review: 2015 first drive

Skoda 1Sharply styled and packed with premium equipment, the new Superb could banish Skoda’s ‘budget brand’ image for good.

Tim Pitt | April 2015

Skodas used to be joke – literally. But the Czech carmaker’s reinvention under Volkswagen is a modern success story.

The first Superb of 2001 stretched the VW Passat platform to create a cut-price limo that, in turn, stretched perceptions of Skoda. It offered the space to rival a luxury saloon, at a decidedly mid-market price.

This third-generation Superb sticks to the lots-of-car-for-your-cash formula. It’s based on the same MQB platform as the latest Passat and is longer, wider and taller than before, with a roomier cabin and even bigger boot.

“That’s all very well,” I hear you retort, “but if all I wanted was lots of space I’d buy a people carrier.” So the Superb needs to cut it on the road and – crucially – in the executive car park. Let’s start with the ‘road’ part…

What is the 2015 Skoda Superb like to drive?

Skoda Superb review (2015)

The Superb comes with a choice of turbocharged, four-cylinder engines: three TSI petrol and four TDI diesel. The petrols produce between 125 and 280hp, while diesels range from 120 to 190hp.

In addition, you can have a six-speed manual gearbox or pay £1,400 extra for a DSG semi-automatic. There’s also the option of four-wheel drive if you go for the 2.0 TDI.

Skoda reckons 93% of Superbs will have a diesel engine, so that seemed like a sensible place to begin. We picked the 150hp 2.0 TDI, which is likely to be the bestseller. And looking at the figures, it’s not hard to see why.

Despite, its 30hp advantage over the entry-level 1.6 TDI, the 2.0-litre lump posts exactly the same fuel economy and CO2 emissions figures: 68.9mpg and 108g/km. Pick the DSG ’box, as fitted to our test car, and that drops to 62.8mpg and 118g/km. Nonetheless, those are still strong stats for such a large car.

The low-down grunt of this engine suits the Superb well and there’s plenty of oomph for overtaking. It is rather vocal, though, and the DSG gearbox feels slightly slow-witted and reluctant to change down.

We also tried the 150hp 1.4 petrol, which features cylinder deactivation – effectively working as a two-cylinder engine where possible. It needs to be worked harder than the diesel, but its smooth, free-revving character means that’s no chore.

Around town, the switch between two and four cylinders is imperceptible, and 57.7mpg economy (115g/km CO2) isn’t far off the 2.0 TDl either. This clever petrol engine is a real alternative to diesel; shame so few Superb buyers will choose it.

The reason diesel engines are so dominant is that around 70% of Superbs will go to fleet buyers. And it’s the day-to-day grind of motorway work where this car feels in its element. It’s stable, quiet and very comfortable – perfect if your second home is the outside lane of the M6.

At lower speeds, the Superb’s ride is less convincing. It thuds over road humps and feels jittery on broken tarmac. We’d like to say the payoff is pin-sharp handling, but sadly that’s not the case. The Superb doesn’t ‘shrink’ around you like a good sports saloon and it won’t entertain like a BMW 3 Series, or even a Ford Mondeo.

Both our high-spec SE L Executive test cars had Drive Mode Select, which allows you to adjust steering, suspension and gearbox settings via the touchscreen. However, we found the steering too vague in Comfort and the ride too firm in Sport. Normal mode seemed the best compromise.

Just how more spacious is the new Skoda Superb?

Skoda Superb review (2015)

What the Superb lacks in dynamic finesse, it makes up for in space and equipment. There’s enough headroom for a quintet of basketball players and rear legroom rivals an executive jet.

Boot space has swelled to a cavernous 625 litres, or 1,760 litres with the rear seats folded. For comparison, a Ford Mondeo holds 541 or 1,437 litres. An estate version of the Superb arrives in 2016 but, frankly, it’s hard to see why you’d need it…

The Skoda’s straight-edged dashboard is plain but functional, and the quality of the plastics falls short of a Passat. No doubt that’s a deliberate move – Volkswagen Group has to differentiate its products somehow.

On the plus side, the media system is straightforward to use (our test cars had the higher-spec Columbus system, with 8in touchscreen) and the wide seats offer plenty of adjustment.

The Skoda is brim-full with thoughtful touches, too. The front cupholder has a grippy base that allows you to open bottles with one hand. There’s a removable torch in the boot. And there are pop-out umbrellas in both front doors, just like a Rolls-Royce.

One feature that has been abandoned is the old ‘Twindoor’ boot, which could be opened like a saloon or hatchback. Now the Superb is strictly a hatch, but if you have a low-ceilinged garage, you can set the tailgate so that it won’t open above a certain height.

Standard kit on all Superbs includes air-con, Bluetooth phone connectivity, DAB radio and automatic emergency braking. Upgrade from S to SE and you’ll get rear parking sensors and cruise control, while SE L Executive adds sat nav, xenon headlights and leather upholstery.

There’s also the Laurin and Klement flagship, with three-zone climate control and in-car TV, plus a value-packed SE Business trim (including sat nav) for fleet buyers.

Verdict: Skoda Superb (2015)

Prices for the Superb start at £18,640, and the mid-range 2.0 TDI manual in SE-spec costs £22,090. That’s around £4,000 cheaper than a VW Passat with the same engine, and over £6,000 less than a BMW 318d SE.

Consider that the Skoda is much bigger than both those cars and it’s hard to argue against in terms of value. Skoda may no longer be a ‘budget brand’ when it comes to quality, but it hasn’t forgotten about low prices.

The Superb won’t make you smile from behind the wheel; it’s a car you admire rather than fall in love with. But what Skoda has created is a thoroughly competent luxury car.

Handsome, spacious, comfortable and practical, it’s a fitting flagship.

Rivals: Skoda Superb (2015)

  • Volkswagen Passat
  • Ford Mondeo
  • BMW 3 Series
  • Mercedes C-class
  • Lexus IS

Volkswagen and Ford represent the mainstream marques here, while BMW, Mercedes and Lexus are well-established premium brands. The Passat is perhaps the most capable all-rounder, although the Mondeo isn’t far off. The BMW is the driver’s choice, the Mercedes has the best interior and the hybrid Lexus is great for urban driving. You pays your money…

Specification: Skoda Superb 2.0 TDI 150 (2015)

Engine: 2.0-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder

Gearbox: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive

Price: from £22,090 (SE L Executive DSG as tested: £26,520)

Power: 150hp

Torque: 251lb ft (340nm)

0-62mph: 8.9 seconds

Top speed: 135mph

Fuel economy: 68.9mpg

CO2 emissions: 108g/km

Land Rover emergency services

Automatic emergency call for ALL new cars sold from 2018

Land Rover emergency servicesAutomatic emergency call – or eCall – will be fitted as standard to every new car sold in the EU from 2018 following a vote today by the European Parliament.

This will potentially save over 2,500 lives in the EU in one year alone, estimate politicians.

eCall is technology built into cars that can detect the severity of a crash and automatically dial the emergency services. Using speakers and microphones, it can connect occupants with an operator even if they’re trapped within the car.

The system will automatically send information on the type of vehicle, the fuel used and the time of the accident. Crucially, it will also send the location of the crash, potentially cutting minutes or even hours from the time it takes emergency services to reach an accident.

“The European Parliament has repeatedly stressed that reducing deaths and the severity of injuries on the roads is its priority,” said rapporteur Olga Sehnalova from the Czech Republic, speaking on behalf of politicians.

“eCall as a public service, free of charge for all citizens, irrespective of the type of vehicle or its purchase price, will contribute to that common goal.”

Road accidents in the EU cost 25,700 lives in 2014. eCall could cut that by an estimated 10% a year.

BMW sat nav

BMW makes sat nav standard on ALL new cars

BMW sat navBMW is to become the first volume premium car brand in the UK to fit satellite navigation as standard on all new models from September 2015.

Starting with the new generation 1 Series, now arriving in UK dealers, the firm will move to include sat nav on all new cars where it isn’t already standard – beating premium rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz which currently charge for the feature on key affordable-price variants.

The newly standardised BMW Navigation system won’t be a stripped-back system either; it will have the latest generation graphics and processors, 3D city modes and a fuel-saving Eco Pro routing algorithm to choose the greenest route.

It will also offer the full range of BMW ConnectedDrive services, including three years’ free concierge access, real-time traffic information and even wireless sat nav updates – with three years’ subscription to ongoing updates included in the car’s list price.

BMW claims the move is a market-first: no other car brand offers sat nav included in the list price of such a broad range of cars – from £20,000 to £120,000, says the firm.

It’s set to benefit secondhand values too, used value experts CAP has confirmed. Cars forecasting editor Jeff Knight said: “BMW introducing navigation across its entire model range is a first for any mainstream manufacturer in the UK and will inevitably pave the way for others to follow.

“On-board navigation systems now offer so much more technology than previously seen with the likes of 2D & 3D navigation map displays, traffic information and particularly with BMW standard e-call functionality which is a key safety feature.

“As well as having standard navigation across the range all BMW models will see an improvement on their residual value from between £300 to £600 (model dependant) so this is good news all round for the customer.”

New car CO2

Record low new car CO2 means FREE tax for two in three

New car CO2New car CO2 emissions have fallen for the 17th straight year – and it’s new car buyers who are the winners as nearly 69% are getting free first-year tax.

Cars emitting 130g/km CO2 or less – the 2015 EU target – are exempt from road tax charges in the first year, and such big reductions in car emissions mean more than ever are benefitting from it.

Indeed, car makers have been so successful in reducing new car CO2, the SMMT reports the policy itself is now under scrutiny. The next government must, as a priority, review the policy because “this tremendous success raises questions about the future shape of taxation and incentives in the UK”.

Numbers of VED tax-free new cars may be swelling right now, but it’s unlikely to last…

New car CO2: from 181g/km to 124g/km in 14 years

The average UK new car now emits just 124.6g/km CO2, which is 4.2% better than the 2015 EU target. This contrasts with 2000, where average new car CO2 emissions were a choking 181g/km.

Even as soon as 2007, they were still a gasping 164.9g/km, which shows how successful car manufacturers have been.

Tailpipe emissions are cleaner than ever too: latest diesel cars are increasingly meeting Euro 6 standards ahead of the September 2015 obligation for all new cars sold, and sales of ultra-low emissions vehicles are also spiralling.

Sales of plug-in hybrids such as the Audi A3 e-tron and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV rocketed fourfold in 2014 alone, to 14,498 vehicles.

“The UK automotive sector has made enormous strides in cutting emissions across the board and should be proud of its achievements,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“However, there is a long way to go, and meeting ambitious targets in 2020 [where new car CO2 emissions must get down to 95g/km] will require on-going support and investment.

“Striking the delicate balance between influencing buying behaviour, encouraging investment and maintaining critical tax income will be a big challenge.”

A balance that today’s policy, due to the rapid work of the automotive sector, arguably no longer strikes…

SEAT Leon Cupra yellow

Why are there no yellow SEAT Leon Cupras?

SEAT Leon Cupra yellowSEAT will let you choose one of seven colours to paint your scorching-hot new 280hp Leon Cupra.

Scorching hot red? Check. Fancy metallic blue? Check. White, even? Bingo. Then it gets a bit less, er, scorchio: grey. Silver. Black. Another grey.

Given how the Leon Cupra used to be the yellow hot hatch so many Cupranet-following enthusiasts wanted, this seems rather strange (particularly given how SEAT last year sent us a Cupra badly wrapped in bright orange, suggesting the UK side really wouldn’t mind if brighter colours were offered).

But I recently had chance to speak with SEAT exterior designer Amin Sadek at the UK launch of the ST Cupra. So I naturally asked him: Why are there no yellow SEAT Leon Cupras?

Mellowing on yellow?

It’s all to do with the sharp lines of the car, he said – created to “reflect SEAT’s dynamic brand image with proportions and stance.

“These lines do not suit yellow. Colours and trims are created to complement a car, which our current range does: they’re ‘metal’ colours, defining the lines in a sharp, crisp way.”

Yellow, he said, would wash them out and leave them ill-defined. You can assume they’ve experimented: after all, you can get yellow Ibizas, and they’re built in the same giant Martorell plant.

So there we go. No yellow for the new Leon Cupra (Which was, way back in its late 1990s sir-causing launch period, called 20V T. Which was mainly sold in yellow).

Over to you, Cupranet fans, is this the correct decision or not?

2015 Ford Mustang will hit 62mph in 4.8 seconds

mustang

Ford has revealed its new 5.0-litre Mustang V8 will be able to hit 62mph in 4.8 seconds when it goes on sale in the UK in October.

The more efficient 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine, meanwhile, takes just 5.8 seconds to complete the 0-62mph sprint – yet is capable of returning 35mpg on the combined cycle and emitting 179g/km CO2.

Mustang vehicle line director, Hermann Salenbauch, said: “The new Ford Mustang will be wickedly fast off the line and throw you back in your seat with a thrilling engine soundtrack.

“But Mustang isn’t just fast in a straight line. The ride and handling will be a revelation for European drivers.”

Ford says its Mustang is capable of delivering up to 0.97g during cornering. Drivers can optimise the car’s performance using selectable driving modes, while track apps can be used to record lap times.

More than 1,200 UK customers have already ordered their new Ford Mustang – plus a further 2,200 across Europe.

It’s the first time the Mustang has been sold in Europe in its 50-year history. Prices start at £28,995.

Mustang

Paper driving licence to be scrapped from June 2015

Hiring a car after June 8? You’ll need a ‘special code’ from the DVLA

Paper driving licence to be scrapped from June 2015

The paper counterpart driving licence is being axed on June 8 – and organisations are warning that drivers will need a ‘special code’ from the DVLA to hire a car or drive a company vehicle.

Currently, penalty points are displayed on a driver’s counterpart licence, but from June 8 they’ll be recorded on a virtual record which can be accessed online, by phone or post.

Should you need proof of your driving history, motorists will need to get a code from the DVLA to pass on to their employer or hire car company.

This unique eight-digit code can be accessed online through the DVLA’s ‘share your licence’ service, or over the phone.

But the code only lasts for three days – leading to criticism that drivers might be stranded abroad unable to hire a car if they’re unable to contact the DVLA or are simply unaware of the changes.

From June 8, the DVLA is telling motorists to destroy their paper licences as they’ll no longer be valid, but the AA is suggesting otherwise.

AA president Edmund King said: “Not all car rental companies, or indeed traffic police abroad, will be aware of the changes, so a ‘belt and braces’ approach of also taking the counterpart might help.”