Datsun Go-Cross

Datsun unveils new Go-Cross concept: is it a Dacia Duster buster?

Datsun Go-CrossFast-growing value brand Datsun has unveiled an all-new concept car in Japan called the Go-Cross – suggesting it is planning to launch a car to take on the ultra-successful Dacia Duster.

The stylish Go-Cross is easily the firm’s most appealing-looking car yet, with a high-set stance, chunky body and plentiful neat styling features.

By revealing it’s derived from the platform of the Datsun Go+ already in production, chief designer Vincent Cobee has already hinted that Datsun plans to put the Go-Cross into production. It may even be called Go-Cross.

It will be the natural next step for the ambitious Datsun brand that was relaunched just 18 months ago – but which has already sold 114,000 cars in the four markets it’s currently sold in.

India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa are already receiving Datsun cars, which are engineered from Renault and Nissan mechanicals (the brand’s part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance).

Its growth has already been rapid, growing from zero to 420 dealers: now, chief Carlos Ghosn wants to see Datsun step up another gear, firstly by expanding into markets local to the ones it’s already represented in. The rest of Africa, for example.

Datsun was launched, said Cobee, because the existing markets of Japan, Western Europe, Korea and North America, are not really growing any more. But the overall new car market is still set to double from 2000 by 2020, from 50 million units to 100 million, thanks to the input of emerging markets keen to own a car for the first time.

It is to serve these customers the Datsun brand was revived for – and the potential growth of it means there’s now a pressing need to roll out new models in response to the demands of its quickly-expanding customer base.

We can thus expect to see a production version of the Datsun Go-Cross very soon, perhaps within the next year.

Question is, will it be a company that comes to Europe to offer a value-brand alternative to Dacia? Logic would suggest so, but remember: Dacia is also part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Besides, with 50 million customers in the rest of the world to go for, the prospect of a Duster bust-up with the Go-Cross may not be top of the firm’s priority list…

Motorists set to pay £1 billion a year after 'stealth' insurance tax hike

Motorists set to pay £1 billion a year after 'stealth' insurance tax hike

Motorists set to pay £1 billion a year after 'stealth' insurance tax hike

A compulsory insurance tax hike will force up the cost of  all car insurance policies from next week – with motorists expected to pay more than £1 billion a year in tax for the first time.

The increase in Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) from 6% to 9.5%, announced in George Osborne’s summer budget, will add an extra £12.80 to the average car insurance policy, warns the RAC – with young drivers expected to be hit the hardest.

Young drivers (25 and under) pay an average of £810 a year for their insurance while 18 to 20-year-olds paying £972 a year. The insurance premium tax (IPT) rise would take their next renewals to £838 and £1,006 – increases of £28 and £34 respectively.

Taking other taxes into account, including fuel duty, IPT and annual vehicle excise duty (car tax), a typical driver will now pay in the region of £1,200 a year to the Treasury.

RAC Insurance director Mark Godfrey said: “Insurance is – rightly – mandatory for anyone getting behind the wheel. The 3.5% hike in IPT is another stealth tax like fuel duty that has unreasonably added to the already considerable contribution made to the Treasury by motorists.

“With insurance premiums currently going up faster than they have in the last five years, it’s sadly going to be a double whammy of bad news for the motorist.

“What’s more, these changes significantly raise the bar for anyone wanting to start driving for the first time. Young drivers tell us that the cost of insurance is the biggest barrier to them owning and running a car after passing their test.

“Sixty-two per cent of young drivers surveyed by the RAC felt this was the case as opposed to 22% who felt it was buying a car and 12% who cited day-to-day running costs.”

Eight out of 10 motorists surveyed by the RAC said they were unaware of the insurance tax hike.

Motorists’ annual tax contribution – how it all adds up

TaxDescriptionMotorists’ total contribution in 2014
Fuel duty57.95p paid on every litre of fuel bought£26.4bn
VAT on fuel20% of all automotive fuel sales£6.3bn
Vehicle Excise DutyPaid every year according to a vehicle’s CO2 emissions£5.9bn
Insurance Premium TaxForms part of the cost of motor insurance£624m
Motorists set to pay £1 billion a year after 'stealth' insurance tax hike

Motorists set to pay £1 billion a year after ‘stealth’ insurance tax hike

Motorists set to pay £1 billion a year after 'stealth' insurance tax hike

A compulsory insurance tax hike will force up the cost of  all car insurance policies from next week – with motorists expected to pay more than £1 billion a year in tax for the first time.

The increase in Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) from 6% to 9.5%, announced in George Osborne’s summer budget, will add an extra £12.80 to the average car insurance policy, warns the RAC – with young drivers expected to be hit the hardest.

Young drivers (25 and under) pay an average of £810 a year for their insurance while 18 to 20-year-olds paying £972 a year. The insurance premium tax (IPT) rise would take their next renewals to £838 and £1,006 – increases of £28 and £34 respectively.

Taking other taxes into account, including fuel duty, IPT and annual vehicle excise duty (car tax), a typical driver will now pay in the region of £1,200 a year to the Treasury.

RAC Insurance director Mark Godfrey said: “Insurance is – rightly – mandatory for anyone getting behind the wheel. The 3.5% hike in IPT is another stealth tax like fuel duty that has unreasonably added to the already considerable contribution made to the Treasury by motorists.

“With insurance premiums currently going up faster than they have in the last five years, it’s sadly going to be a double whammy of bad news for the motorist.

“What’s more, these changes significantly raise the bar for anyone wanting to start driving for the first time. Young drivers tell us that the cost of insurance is the biggest barrier to them owning and running a car after passing their test.

“Sixty-two per cent of young drivers surveyed by the RAC felt this was the case as opposed to 22% who felt it was buying a car and 12% who cited day-to-day running costs.”

Eight out of 10 motorists surveyed by the RAC said they were unaware of the insurance tax hike.

Motorists’ annual tax contribution – how it all adds up

TaxDescriptionMotorists’ total contribution in 2014
Fuel duty57.95p paid on every litre of fuel bought£26.4bn
VAT on fuel20% of all automotive fuel sales£6.3bn
Vehicle Excise DutyPaid every year according to a vehicle’s CO2 emissions£5.9bn
Insurance Premium TaxForms part of the cost of motor insurance£624m
Driver caught with windscreen held together using SELLOTAPE

Driver caught with windscreen held together using SELLOTAPE

Driver caught with windscreen held together using SELLOTAPE

Police have stopped a motorist in the West Midlands after spotting a car being driven with the windscreen held together using sellotape.

Officers from the Central Motorways Police Group, which covers a large area including M6, M5 and M42 motorways, are believed to have issued the Renault Laguna with a PG9 prohibition notice, preventing it from being used until fixed.

They also found that the driver wasn’t insured to drive the vehicle. This will cost a minimum fine of £300 and six points on their licence.

Porsche Macan SUV gets hot GTS treatment

Porsche Macan SUV gets hot GTS treatment

Porsche Macan SUV gets hot GTS treatment

Porsche has revealed its hot new Macan GTS at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show.

Based on the Porsche Macan S, the GTS boasts 360hp from its 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 – an increase of 20hp. That means, as with other Porsche models, the GTS sits below the Turbo in the Macan range.

Performance wise, it’ll hit 62mph in 5.0 seconds when Porsche’s optional £729 sport chrono pack is fitted (5.2 seconds without), and it’s good for a top speed of 160mph.

It’s not all about power, however. A throatier exhaust is fitted as standard, while the Macan’s electronically controlled dampers have been tweaked to provide a sportier (and lower) ride.

You can tell the Macan GTS apart from the S on which it’s based by a plethora of GTS badges, the usual smattering of black exterior trim and 20-inch black alloys.

Inside, there are special seats and the latest version of Porsche’s touchscreen infotainment system.

If it matters, the Macan GTS returns an official 31.4mpg and emits 212g/km CO2. Orders are now open in the UK, with prices starting at £55,188. Deliveries are likely to start early in 2016.

Mazda's RX-Vision rotary-engined concept car makes the internet go 'phwoar'

Mazda's RX-Vision rotary-engined concept car makes the internet go 'phwoarrr'

Mazda's RX-Vision rotary-engined concept car makes the internet go 'phwoar'

Rejoice, the rotary engine is back! Mazda’s unveiled its RX-Vision concept car at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show.

It previews a new model from Mazda, set to take on the Porsche Cayman as a successor to the Mazda RX-8.

In typical RX fashion, it sports a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout – but just the two seats.

Details are vague, but expect it to follow Mazda’s lightweight philosophy. Power will come from a new SkyActiv-R engine – likely to be turbocharged, so expect commendable efficiency combined with impressive performance if it makes it into production.

Reliability will also be important – something Mazda struggled with on the RX-8. Mazda president and CEO, Masamichi Kogai, said: “We have had quality issues with our rotary engines in the past, and want to make certain we don’t cause customers any more problems.”

The manufacturer has confirmed dimensions – at 4,389mm by 1,925mm by 1,160mm it’s slightly shorter, wider and lower than the RX-8.

Although previously rumoured to preview an ‘RX-9’ model, many are now saying it could see a return of the RX-7 name.

Whatever it’s called, we’re not alone in hoping Mazda puts the RX-Vision into production with few changes…

Mazda's RX-Vision rotary-engined concept car makes the internet go 'phwoar'

Mazda’s RX-Vision rotary-engined concept car makes the internet go ‘phwoarrr’

Mazda's RX-Vision rotary-engined concept car makes the internet go 'phwoar'

Rejoice, the rotary engine is back! Mazda’s unveiled its RX-Vision concept car at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show.

It previews a new model from Mazda, set to take on the Porsche Cayman as a successor to the Mazda RX-8.

In typical RX fashion, it sports a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout – but just the two seats.

Details are vague, but expect it to follow Mazda’s lightweight philosophy. Power will come from a new SkyActiv-R engine – likely to be turbocharged, so expect commendable efficiency combined with impressive performance if it makes it into production.

Reliability will also be important – something Mazda struggled with on the RX-8. Mazda president and CEO, Masamichi Kogai, said: “We have had quality issues with our rotary engines in the past, and want to make certain we don’t cause customers any more problems.”

The manufacturer has confirmed dimensions – at 4,389mm by 1,925mm by 1,160mm it’s slightly shorter, wider and lower than the RX-8.

Although previously rumoured to preview an ‘RX-9’ model, many are now saying it could see a return of the RX-7 name.

Whatever it’s called, we’re not alone in hoping Mazda puts the RX-Vision into production with few changes…

Nissan IDS Concept

Nissan IDS Concept previews next Nissan LEAF at Tokyo Motor Show

Nissan IDS ConceptNissan has revealed the IDS Concept at the Tokyo Motor Show 2015 to demonstrate its take on the autonomous car of the future – and provide a clear tease as to how the next-generation LEAF EV will look.

The IDS Concept is a zero-emissions EV that blends autonomous self-driving car functionality with artificial intelligence. This, says Nissan, helps give autonomous drive tech real-world relevance – something the firm is planning to launch on several vehicles within the next five years.

Nissan says the IDS Concept offers two functions, Manual Drive and Piloted Drive. Intriguingly, it will learn the driver’s own style and apply this to piloted driving: the cars will perform slightly differently, based on who’s been driving them previously.

Potentially some self-driving Nissan IDS Concepts will autonomously corner, accelerate and brake more quickly and sportily than others!

Nissan is keen to emphasise the fun-to-drive part and says the driver will still remain engaged even when the car is driving itself. This is an important factor in occupants having confidence in autonomous cars.

“Two zeroes”

Nissan president and CEO Carlos Ghosn said: “Nissan’s forthcoming technologies will revolutionize the relationship between car and driver, and future mobility.”

“Nissan Intelligent Driving improves a driver’s ability to see, think and react. It compensates for human error, which causes more than 90 percent of all car accidents.”

It’s part of Nissan’s aspirations for zero fatalities and zero emissions, “in our mission to help create a sustainable car-based society”. The firm dubs this the ‘two zeroes”.

Two interiors

The IDS Concept has two interior layouts, one for each driving mode. In Manual Drive, all seats face forward, the steering wheel, dials and head-up display are all present, and interior lighting switches to blue: this is said to improve the ability to concentrate.

However, in Piloted Drive, the steering wheel folds away and the dashboard slides back below the windscreen, replaced by a large flatscreen instead. Seats rotate inwards, the interior is illuminated by soft light and all driving-related functions are handled either by AI or driver voice and gesture control.

Nissan reckons it’s like relaxing in a living room.

Drivers can switch between modes using the PD Commander between the front seats. When in Piloted Drive, this is the only control the driver can operate.

Multi-function exterior

The exterior panels are also functional. For example, there’s an illuminated silver bodyline LED strip that switches to red when pedestrians and cyclists are nearby – this is to assure them the car knows they’re there. The dashboard also has an electronic display that can flash text messages to pedestrians.

The Nissan IDS Concept wears lightweight carbon fibre bodywork that’s just 1,380mm high to lower the aerodynamic drag.

Wheels are large in diameter but relatively narrow in section, like on a BMW i3, again, to reduce drag. It’s a wheel-at-each-corner design to maximise interior space.

High-power EV

The IDS Concept has a 60kWh battery – twice the size of the revised Nissan LEAF we drove recently – and Nissan says the low weight, sleek aerodynamics and low stance “meet the need to drive long distances”.

Today’s extended-range LEAF can do up to 155 miles on a full charge, and the IDS Concept has double the battery capacity. With these other improvements in the EV drivetrain too, a driving range of 400 miles or more per charge seems likely.

For added convenience, the IDS Concept has wireless charging.

Future EV: future LEAF?

The big question is, does the IDS Concept preview the next Nissan LEAF? It seems almost certain the next-generation LEAF will include elements of its styling, such as the crossover-look stance and space-efficient proportions.

Remember, Nissan continues to have huge success with the Qashqai and Juke in Europe; it seems natural for its groundbreaking EV to incorporate similar elements.

We can also expect the next LEAF to be much more aerodynamic, perhaps with bigger, narrower tyres and plentiful body-smoothing features.

What’s also interesting is the autonomous element. Nissan says this is going to happen sooner than we think: a car that has a reconfigurable dashboard may be a bold step for 2020, but having more autonomous functionality on the already highly networked LEAF would also be logical.

Nissan knows the LEAF has done the groundwork in preparing the world for mainstream EVs: its successor can fully capitalise on this if the firm gets the styling and the functionality right. The pretty, clever IDS Concept suggests it’s preparing to roll out another EV revolution in the next few years…

Tokyo Motor Show 2015

Why I'm looking forward to the Tokyo Motor Show

Tokyo Motor Show 2015To Tokyo, and the biannual motor show that this year seems THE event to be at.

The last time I came to the Tokyo Motor Show was back in 2009, in the depths of the recession. You felt it: the show didn’t seem as confident as the European norm, had clearly been scaled back, felt as if rushed economising was pervading throughout.

Tokyo Motor Show 2015 on MR

Despite this, I really enjoyed it, because Japan is such a shock to those of us used to Western normalities. Such as, even if you can’t speak the language, still being able to read road signs. Or subway maps. Or elevator buttons. Seemingly straightforward things are suddenly alien: it’s the most foreign place I’ve been to, and I adore it.

The Japanese culture helps too. Walking through the airport, you’re struck by how immaculately clean and cared for it is. Everyone smiles, and nods, and asks to help. Respect is everywhere. It can’t help but rub off on you, making every interaction a feel-good pleasure.

Past experience tells me the motor show is going to run exactly on time and be logistical perfection, so I’m looking forward to the many, many surprises and curious waiting on the stands. This year’s theme seems to be future fuels, autonomous driving and alternative mobility: just as it always is, you may say – only now, it’s right on the horizon.

Making this year’s exhibits more relevant than ever. Who knows, in two years’ time, we may be building up to see their production-ready equivalents…

Tokyo Motor Show 2015

Why I’m looking forward to the Tokyo Motor Show

Tokyo Motor Show 2015To Tokyo, and the biannual motor show that this year seems THE event to be at.

The last time I came to the Tokyo Motor Show was back in 2009, in the depths of the recession. You felt it: the show didn’t seem as confident as the European norm, had clearly been scaled back, felt as if rushed economising was pervading throughout.

Tokyo Motor Show 2015 on MR

Despite this, I really enjoyed it, because Japan is such a shock to those of us used to Western normalities. Such as, even if you can’t speak the language, still being able to read road signs. Or subway maps. Or elevator buttons. Seemingly straightforward things are suddenly alien: it’s the most foreign place I’ve been to, and I adore it.

The Japanese culture helps too. Walking through the airport, you’re struck by how immaculately clean and cared for it is. Everyone smiles, and nods, and asks to help. Respect is everywhere. It can’t help but rub off on you, making every interaction a feel-good pleasure.

Past experience tells me the motor show is going to run exactly on time and be logistical perfection, so I’m looking forward to the many, many surprises and curious waiting on the stands. This year’s theme seems to be future fuels, autonomous driving and alternative mobility: just as it always is, you may say – only now, it’s right on the horizon.

Making this year’s exhibits more relevant than ever. Who knows, in two years’ time, we may be building up to see their production-ready equivalents…