Blog: could motorists be forced to pay millions more in tax to compensate for exaggerated efficiency figures?

Summer budget 2015: free road tax axed for petrol and diesel cars

Summer budget 2015: free road tax axed for petrol and diesel cars

George Osborne has announced in his summer budget that new cars will be subject to different vehicle excise duty (VED) bands from 2017.

The new system is still based on CO2 emissions, but only cars emitting 0g/km CO2 will benefit from free road tax.

Apparently, 95% of new cars will fit into a ‘standard’ category, costing £140 per year, while cars that cost over £40,000 new will face an extra £310 per year for the first five years.

Osborne said: “Because so many new cars now fall into the low-carbon emission plans, by 2017 over three quarters of new cars will pay no VED at all in the first year.

“This isn’t sustainable and it isn’t fair. If you can afford a brand new car, including some of the most expensive models available, you can pay no VED. If you can only afford an older second-hand car you have to pay more tax.”

Summer budget 2015: free road tax axed for petrol and diesel cars

The new VED bands will only apply to new cars from 2017 onwards – Osborne insists no one will pay more in tax for vehicles they already own.

Anyone spending more than £40,000 on a new car will have a pay an additional £310 a year in road tax for the first five years.

That means even electric cars worth over £40,000 new, such as the Tesla Model S, will cost £310 to tax.

Anything with a conventional engine, including hybrids, will cost £450 a year in VED for the first five years if it has a list price over £40,000.

Another big change is that the money raised through VED will go directly back into improving the roads.

Osborne added: “I will return this tax to the use for which it was originally intended. I am creating a new roads fund from the end of this decade – every single penny raised from VED in England will go into that fund to pay for that sustained investment our roads so badly need.”

The Chancellor also announced he would consult on the current MOT system, looking at increasing the age at which cars and motorbikes require their first test from three to four years.

Fuel duty will also remain frozen at the current rate.

BAC Mono packs more power - accidentally breaks Goodwood hillclimb record

BAC Mono packs more power – accidentally breaks Goodwood hillclimb record

BAC Mono packs more power - accidentally breaks Goodwood hillclimb record

Take a silly little car with no doors or windows and stick in a fairly big, powerful engine. It’s a formula that’s worked for the likes of the Ariel Atom and this, the BAC Mono.

But now BAC has decided a 284hp 2.3-litre Cosworth engine isn’t big or powerful enough. So for the 2016 model year, it’s fitting a 2.5-litre Mountune engine producing a bonkers 309hp.

Performance figures are yet to be confirmed, but it’s fair to say it’s going to be very fast.

So fast, in fact, that during testing, driver Oliver Webb unofficially broke a record – completing the Goodwood hillclimb in 47.9 seconds.

That puts the Mono ahead of the Noble M600, Lexus LF-A and Porsche 918.

Webb said: “It’s always a privilege to drive at Goodwood and particularly to be entrusted to give the 2016 Mono its world debut in the ‘First Glance Class’. As Goodwood regulars will know, this class is not timed, but our onboard telemetry showed that all of our runs were comfortably sub-50 seconds.

“Our time would have been faster than the quickest time set in this year’s supercar shootout and would have even beaten the fastest road car time ever recorded on the hillclimb, by the mighty Nissan GT-R Nismo Time Attack. Clearly our times were unofficial, but I would love to come back next year and challenge for the record officially, on new tyres and with our latest-spec Mountune engine.”

BAC has recently opened a new factory in Liverpool, where one car per month can be produced. Located close to Liverpool Airport, the company uses its runway to test and shake-down customer cars.

Ford Galaxy review: 2015 first drive

Ford Galaxy review: 2015 first drive

Ford Galaxy review: 2015 first drive

MPVs have never been vehicles that are bought because somebody wants one. It’s more that they need one, and those needs are now met in much more attractive packages. Essentially, those with four-wheel drive and premium badges.

One MPV that has managed to shake off the drab image is the Ford S-Max. Launched in 2006 and replaced this year, it proved that people carriers could be fun. Combine an enjoyable driving experience with attractive looks, clever sliding seats and a decent amount of kit, and Ford was on to a winner.

The Galaxy has always been a bit more of an old-school people carrier. Very ‘1990s’ (despite the third-generation model launching at the same time as the S-Max in 2006) it provided plenty of space for a sensible amount of money, but not a lot more. As a result, Ford sold 6,250 of its Galaxy last year. When you compare that to the huge numbers full-size SUVs sell in, it’s a relatively small deal – yet it accounts for more than half of the MPV segment.

So what has Ford done to make its Galaxy more desirable? On the outside, not a lot. It still looks very similar to its predecessor – simply dragged into 2015. It now boasts Ford’s signature trapezoidal grille, as seen across the range, and its slimline headlights look modern.

But to make the Galaxy more desirable to private buyers (yes, people other than Addison Lee do want these people carriers, apparently), it’s moving upmarket with extra technology and a more luxurious interior.

2015 Ford Galaxy: on the road

2015 Ford Galaxy: on the road

If you’ve not driven an MPV before, the Ford Galaxy is a big car. When negotiating tight car parks you’ll be very aware of that – but good visibility helps, and tech such as Ford’s active parking system is genuinely useful rather than simply gimmicky.

The new Galaxy shares the same platform as the S-Max, and out on the open roads you can tell. It shrinks around you and is easy to place on country roads, meaning driving a big seven-seater isn’t as daunting as it could be.

It’s also, dare we say it, a rather fun steer. It does that typically Ford thing of being much more fun to hustle along than it has any right to be. The steering is nicely heavy (but not overly so), while the 180hp 2.0-litre TDCi diesel engine we tried provided plenty of power to make progress in a relaxed manner.

For those who require their Galaxy to be extra grippy, it’ll be available with four-wheel drive for the first time since the 1995 original. We didn’t get the opportunity to try the Intelligent AWD version, but Ford says it can shift 100% of the engine’s torque to the front or rear wheels depending on where it’s needed. By doing this, it has minimal effect on fuel consumption as, under normal driving, it’s essentially front-wheel drive.

Just under half of buyers are expected to specify the Powershift automatic gearbox, which we think is well suited to the character of the car. For those watching the pennies, however, the manual gearbox is similar to that you’ll find across the Ford range – with a slick change that’ll be recognisable to anyone used to driving one of the smaller models.

On the motorway, the Galaxy is very refined – but there is a little wind noise at high speeds. There’s no getting away from the Galaxy’s boxy dimensions when you’re cruising along the M6 at 70mph.

Bumps are well absorbed, however, with the Galaxy’s new integral-link rear suspension doing a good job of preventing travel sickness (also aided by the excellent visibility and airy interior).

2015 Ford Galaxy: on the inside

2015 Ford Galaxy: on the inside

Despite looking similar to its predecessor on the outside, the new Ford Galaxy is longer than the old model. Naturally, that equates to more space inside, although if you do use all seven seats you will find boot space is limited.

Otherwise, the Galaxy is a brilliantly practical car. The rear seats fold down entirely flat at the touch of a button, and the rearmost seats can even be raised electronically. A cool trick, perhaps, but it seems a little pointless if you have to raise the middle seats manually.

It’s a car designed with families in mind, however. There’s storage available everywhere – from under the seats to the huge 1.5-litre bottle holders.

Fold down all but the two front seats and you’ve essentially got a capable van – with an entirely flat floor, easy access from the boot opening and a considerable 2,339 litres of luggage space.

One gripe we have with the interior is the 8-inch high-res touchscreen. In the Titanium X specification of our test car, with its panoramic sunroof, light bounces off the awkwardly-angled screen – making it hard to follow the sat nav.

And, rather than the traditional instrument cluster, our car was fitted with the 10-inch digital screen including an animated speedometer. A bit of a fad, in our opinion, especially as the needle is several millimetres thick, making it hard to tell exactly what speed you’re driving at.

2015 Ford Galaxy: running costs

2015 Ford Galaxy: running costs

Ford says that 30% of its outgoing Galaxy sales were to daily rental companies, meaning the market was flooded by well-used examples a few years down the line.

But as it moves the Galaxy upmarket, it says none will make it onto hire fleets. What difference will that make to you as a private buyer? According to experts CAP, your Galaxy will be worth an extra £1,950 three years down the line.

That goes someway towards justifying the small increase in price over its predecessor, with prices starting at £26,445 for the entry-level Zetec – the model around half of buyers are expected to opt for.

Running costs are astounding for the size of the car. It’s available with Ford’s new 210hp 2.0-litre bi-turbo TDCi engine, as seen in the Mondeo. This provides an official fuel consumption figure of 51.4mpg and emits 144g/km CO2 – a considerable 24% improvement over the outgoing 200hp 2.2-litre TDCi.

For those who don’t need as much power, the 2.0-litre TDCi is available in 120, 150 and 180hp forms – boasting 56.5mpg and 129g/km CO2. Not quite as good as the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, but impressive nonetheless.

A handful will be sold with the 1.5-litre petrol Ecoboost engine, delivering 43.5mpg and 149g/km CO2 in 160hp form.

2015 Ford Galaxy: verdict

2015 Ford Galaxy: verdict

Put aside your prejudices against MPVs and the new Ford Galaxy is a thoroughly good car. It’s full of clever touches that’ll make family life easier, and it does feel more premium than its predecessor.

It’s massively practical without being intimidating to drive – indeed, you may even enjoy yourself behind the wheel. Perhaps not as much as in the smaller S-Max, but if practicality comes first the Galaxy should be high up in your considerations.

The numbers add up too, but we’d stay away from the higher-end versions. The Zetec makes the most sense to us, as by the time you’ve spent over £33,000 on a Titanium X model the practical people carrier doesn’t look quite as good value.

Specification: 2015 Ford Galaxy

Engines: 1.5-litre Ecoboost petrol, 2.0-litre TDCI diesel

Prices from: £26,445

Power: 120hp – 240hp

Torque: 177 – 295lb ft

0-62mph: 8.6 – 13.6 seconds

Top speed: 138mph

Fuel economy: 35.7 – 56.5mpg

CO2 emissions: 129 – 180g/km

TVR logo

Waiting list for 2017 TVR ‘T37’ opens today following high demand

TVR logo

Interest in a new TVR sports car set to launch in 2017 has been so high that the waiting list will open from midday today.

In an email sent to potential customers, the reborn British manufacturer said the deposit scheme would help plan initial production quantities, and “allow people who are genuinely interested in what is definitely the most hotly anticipated new sports car in a decade to book a slot in the queue.”

The manufacturer is keeping quiet on details about the new 2017 TVR, which is being produced in partnership with Gordon Murray and Cosworth.

In the email, TVR’s chairman Les Edgar said: “This is not because that detail is as yet undetermined, rather because we will only announce specifications when we are 100% confident in their accuracy – this has always been our policy. However, we will be releasing details as they are confirmed via our website, through the motoring press and, of course, by email to everybody who has registered for information on the new car.”

The email did reveal that the car, which will be built in the UK, has been codenamed the T37.

The refundable £5,000 deposit can be placed online via TVR’s website or over the phone on 0330 120 0032 – but the manufacturer has asked that no one phones the deposit line seeking more details, as they won’t get them.

Members of the TVR car club who joined more than six months ago will benefit from a reduced deposit of £2,500 if they place it before the end of July 2015.

Renault Wind

Renault trumped! Why the Wind failed to set sail

Renault WindIt probably wasn’t Renault’s plan to name one of its cars after a mildly unpleasant human condition, but the condition in question was what some people thought of when the Wind was mentioned.

Which is a shame, because wind of the wind-in-the-hair kind was what this dinky little Renault was supposed to be about. A completely reskinned and rather stylish two-seat machine based on the Twingo, the Wind also benefitted from RenaultSport tuned suspension.

It was a combination that promised some satisfyingly deft moments on country backroads, especially as both the engines offered were decently perky devices, one a turbocharged 1.2 of 100PS, the other a 133bhp variably-valve timed 1.6.

The Wind’s cool roof

Renault Wind

But the most intriguing thing about the Wind was its roof. Hinged at the rear, it would perform a 180 degree flip into the boot as an encore to the near-dizzying rise of its long rear deck lid, which lifted near-vertically to accommodate the Wind’s top.

Renault Wind

The whole process was automated and took only 12 seconds, although you needed to be stationary for the car to perform its lightly spectacular transformation.

Renault Wind

 

And this design avoided the humiliating surprise potentially suffered by occupants of Ferrari’s limited edition 550 Barchetta, whose flip-back roof simply folded onto the car’s bootlid. Come the sudden downpour, that rain-collecting lid could part-fill before spilling its contents over your head as you closed the car from the rainstorm above.

The Wind’s system was much better thought-through and would doubtless have been more expensive to make too, even if it was less complex than the folding roof of your traditional cabriolet.

Not cheap to develop

Renault Wind

The entire Wind project can’t have been cheap to develop, in fact. Not only were no exterior panels shared with the Twingo, but neither was its interior, the car getting a bespoke dashboard, centre console and door trims.

It was just the kind of intriguing niche derivative that journalists often chivvy manufacturers to build, rave over briefly at launch, and then forget about. Your reporter is among the guilty.

And there was quite a lot to rave about. The Wind’s low weight – just 1173kg as a 1.6 – and well-sorted suspension produced an entertainingly nimble drive, its agility heightened by its small scale and relative peppiness.

In some ways the 1.2 turbo was the better buy, this engine generating barely any less torque than the 1.6, and earlier in the rev range. Carefully weighted, well-placed pedals, a slickety-snick gearchange and revvy engines made a modest entertainer of this Renault, even if it wasn’t blazingly fast.

Cool Wind

Renault Wind

Windy downsides? Despite being an open-top car, this Renault’s curiously high flanks, big and steeply raked windscreen and small roof meant that you didn’t feel particularly exposed to the sky above, even if you dropped the windows.

Its steering was a bit too numb, the 1.6 motor needed a lot of revving to give its best and the road noise yelling from its mildly fat tyres could be enough to have you longing to get out. The will to escape was not countered especially strongly by the Wind’s interior, either.

Renault Wind

It may have been bespoke, and flaunted an instrument binnacle shrouding some rather sexy dial shrouds, but the low-grade plastics surfacing much of its cabin were almost as disappointingly as the steering wheel, which could have come from one of Renault’s vans.

But for all that it was quite an agreeable car, a lot more fun than your average cabrio on the right roads, and it looked pretty different. Renault launched the Wind in the middle of the summer of 2010 with prices starting from £15,500 and a range of no less than six models, later expanded when the GT Line and Gordini were added.

That turned out to be a lot of derivatives for relatively few buyers, the Wind’s life abruptly cut short by the sales and profitability crisis engulfing Renault UK during 2011.

Wound up

Renault Wind

A persistently unfavourable pound-to-euro exchange rate meant that models had either to be sold at a loss-making competitive price, or the reverse. And the effect was to trigger a sharp decline in sales and profits, prompting Renault’s UK managers to initiate a rather brutal cull of their range.

All the company’s low volume models were to be deleted, including several supposedly high-volume cars that weren’t, like the Laguna, Modus and Kangoo, besides the niche Wind and Espace.

So early in 2012, after not much more than 18 months on sale, Renault’s unusual sports two-seater had gone from the UK, and would only live another year in mainland Europe, being deleted in June 2013.

The result was that the Wind made as much impact on the British car market as the softest zephyr nuzzling a doldrum-marooned yacht. Only 2300-odd were sold, because the Wind’s UK life was cut short.

An ill Wind

Renault Wind

Like many specialty models it was a bit of a firework car, sales climbing high at first, only to fall to earth like a spent rocket. You could see that in its sales graph, the Wind initially registering around 300 sales per month, then 200, then 100 by the end of 2012. So it was already fading out when it was dropped.

That Renault also terminated around a third of its dealers around this time can’t have helped, but neither did the Wind’s slightly effete look, which ran counter to its more dynamic innards. It was not a bloke’s car, and that closed it off to plenty of sales.

Now it’s almost forgotten, unsurprisingly given that the already small pool (or should be whirl?) of 2300 Winds is now being reduced by attrition. You don’t often see one.

For Renault the Wind was ultimately an ill one (sorry), but the good news is that the company has not been discouraged from selling niche models, the next to arrive stemming from the rebirth its sporting Alpine marque.

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