From lawn mowers to the Civic Type R: we drive Honda’s model range

From lawn mowers to the Civic Type R: we drive Honda’s model range

From lawn mowers to the Civic Type R: we drive Honda’s model range

Can you remember 1965? It was the year the Beatles performed the first stadium concert in the history of music, and Tom and Jerry made their debut. Cigarette advertising was banned on British TV, the Sound of Music premiered and Churchill was buried.

But it was also the year Honda first came to the UK – meaning it’s now celebrating 50 years of selling, er, things here.

Why ‘things’? Well, although you may think of Honda as being that company that makes the Jazz (your nan’s pride and joy, right?), it also makes record-breaking hot hatches, trusty all-terrain vehicles and even lawnmowers. So, for its 50th birthday party, Honda got together a load of its things and we went along to try them out.

Honda Civic Type R

Honda Civic Type R

We’ve already spent a lot of time in the new Civic Type R, but there’s nothing quite like a soaking-wet race track for showing off just how capable it is. With 310hp going through the front wheels, there is only so much its systems can do to prevent torque steer if you chuck it into a greasy corner with too much throttle. But lift off at that moment and enjoy the Type R’s adjustability. It’ll go properly sideways very easily, while depressing your right foot brings it nicely back into line and makes you feel like Gordon Shedden.

That’s until you have a passenger ride with Gordon Shedden. Which we did. The Scot, crowned British Touring Car Champion for the second time just a few weeks ago, manages to hold a conversation while teasing the Type R with the handbrake and showing just how far that adjustability extends when you’re one of the country’s handiest drivers.

Go karts

Go karts

You could say the Honda Civic Type R ‘handles like a go kart’, but we won’t. Not only because it’s a lazy cliche, but also because, on a wet track, you could say it handles better than a go kart.

Honda let us loose on a tight, twisty track in one of its karts – only it was very, very damp. With little more than four wheels, a seat and an engine, it’s very easy to find yourself understeering towards a tyre wall and wishing you had the Civic Type R’s clever electronics to make you look more skillful than you actually are.

Still, engage your brain and learn how to extract the best out of the karts (stamp on the brakes until the back end starts to swing around and then drift, yo) and you’ll have an awful lot of fun in them – if not achieve a particularly good lap time.

ATV

ATV

Honda offers free training with the sale of all its new all-terrain vehicles. You may scoff but if you’ve never ridden one before, it’s definitely worth it. Rik Mayall and Ozzie Osborne both diced with death following serious quad bike accidents – and they were both experienced riders.

But that’s enough of the scary stuff. Hammering around the off-road site at Silverstone (we stayed away from the circuit on the ATVs…), you can have an absolute blast at relatively low speeds. It takes a little bit of getting used to – the hand throttle, for example – and they don’t turn quite like a go kart. But for farmers and those who need to tackle tough terrain, there really is little else that comes close.

Lawn mower

Lawn mower

Honda holds the world record for the fastest ever lawn mower – bagged last year with its 109hp Mean Mower, capable of 130mph. That thing is nuts – created with input from Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden, it boasts a high-carbon steel chassis and a 2.0-litre engine from a Honda VTR Firestorm.

We weren’t allowed to drive that at Silverstone (something about health and safety), but we did get a go on a more down-to-earth (common or garden?) mower. The only complication here is that the accelerator is operated using the left-hand pedal, with reverse on the right and a brake in the middle. Yup, we promptly reversed it into a fence.

Still, in keeping with a theme that’s starting to become clear, it’s amazing how much fun it’s possible to have in something many regard as little more than a tool. Seriously, if you’ve got an acre or two, invest in one of these.

Motorbike

Motorbike

And finally, Honda let us loose on a motorbike. We say ‘let us loose’, but a lack of motorbike licence meant we were restricted to a pillion ride. However, it still made for an exciting experience for someone who has never been on a bike before. It’s not as scary as you may expect – pootling through the countryside is pleasurable even at a gentle pace.

The Honda VFR1200F we ‘rode’ is powered by a 170hp V4 engine, combined with a dual-clutch transmission that provided almost-imperceptible gearchanges.

Vauxhall Zafira B

Vauxhall offers free Zafira safety check after reports of fires

Vauxhall has offered Zafira owners the chance to have their vehicles checked at dealers for free after reports of models setting on fire began to be circulated on social media.

Vauxhall Zafira B

Anyone who thinks their Zafira B model, built between 2005-2014, may be affected should contact their local Vauxhall dealer.

The firm says warning signs that something could be amiss include:

  • Unusual characteristics from the heating system such as a squeaking from behind the dashboard
  • The fan does not work in positions 1, 2 or 3
  • The car has had previous work done on its heater system

Only cars fitted with the standard air conditioning unit, rather than the similar-looking climate control system, are affected – suggesting it could be a problem with the air conditioning switch.

Vauxhall says the way to tell the difference is look for a button marked ‘AUTO’ on the heater panel: if this is present, your car is NOT affected.

Cars with a button carrying a snowflake symbol, and a dial marked 1, 2, 3 and 4, ARE affected.

Until the car can be checked out by a dealer, Vauxhall advises either setting the fan speed to zero or, to clear the screen, only using the fan on level 4 and then turning it off as soon as possible.

The current Vauxhall Zafira Tourer is not affected. Neither, adds Vauxhall, is the first-generation Zafira built between 1999-2005.

605hp Audi RS6 and RS7 performance editions revealed

605hp Audi RS6 and RS7 performance editions revealed

Ever felt your 560hp Audi RS6 Avant or RS7 Sportback was just a bit down on power? Well, good news – Audi has announced two new ‘performance’ variants, shaving 0.2 seconds off their 0-62mph time.

605hp Audi RS6 and RS7 performance editions revealed

That performance boost comes from an extra 45hp and 516lb ft of torque – increased to 553lb ft by way of an overboost function.

As a result, both the RS6 Avant and RS7 Sportback models can hit 62mph in 3.7 seconds and 124mph in 12.1 seconds – a 1.4-second advantage over the regular RS models. As standard, they’re both electronically limited to 155mph, but good for 174mph with the limiter removed – or 189mph if you spec the dynamic package plus.

At a time when Volkswagen Group is under a lot of pressure to be utterly transparent with regards to efficiency claims, Audi says the RS6 Avant performance returns 29.4mpg while the RS7 is capable of 29.7mpg in the official NEDC test. This is partly thanks to the manufacturer’s cylinder on demand system, which means only four of the 4.0-litre engine’s eight cylinders are activated under regular driving.

605hp Audi RS6 and RS7 performance editions revealedThe extra power comes from a tweaked engine management system, while the eight-speed tiptronic gearbox has also been revised to accommodate the increased output.

Externally, both RS6 and RS7 performance models sport 21-inch alloy wheels, wearing 285/30 (RS6 Avant) and 275/30 (RS7) tyres.

Revised bumpers with large air inlets, as well as flared sills and a black honeycomb grille complete the performance look.

The Audi RS6 Avant and RS7 performance models will be available to order in the UK from November, with deliveries starting from February. The Audi RS6 Avant will cost from £86,000 while the RS7 Sportback costs £91,600.

Ferrari 488 Spider review: 2015 first drive

Ferrari 488 Spider review: 2015 first drive

Ferrari 488 Spider review: 2015 first drive

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to drive the Ferrari 458 in anger, you’ll know what an unremittingly fine car it was. Fast beyond your dreams, it combined the aural signature of a Ferrari F1 car with engineering integrity that was unsurpassed.

Now it is being replaced by the 2016 Ferrari 488. You might, like me, think a replacement was unnecessary. But Ferrari never rests on its laurels and its six-year product cycle means a new model is called for.

While the 488 owes a little to its predecessor – the windscreen and folding roof mechanism in the Spider are unchanged – there are many major changes, including a stronger, stiffer chassis and a new power unit.

It’s that engine which will raise eyebrows. It has shrunk 600cc to 3.9 litres, but turbochargers lift the power by 100hp to 670hp, while giving small gains in CO2 emissions and economy, too. The issue is that turbos always have a dramatic impact on exhaust noise, critical for any Ferrari. But, as Ferrari made great pains to point out, it has that point more than covered.

The 488 is also the first production Ferrari, apart from the LaFerrari, to be designed entirely in-house. That means long-term collaborator Pininfarina was not involved, something I reckon I spotted before I asked the question. To my mind, the 488 does not have the elegance of the 458. But maybe that’s what Ferrari wanted.

2016 Ferrari 488 Spider: On the road

2016 Ferrari 488 Spider: On the road

Two-hundred-plus mph and 0-62mph in three seconds dead. What more do you need to know? Well, the numbers only tell half the story. It’s not simply the extra power of the 488 engine. The torque that comes from turbocharging means vastly more pulling power right across the rev-range.

While the new rev limit is 8,000rpm, 1,000rpm down on the 458, the performance is a whole lot more accessible at sub-stratospheric engine speeds. As an example, with the manettino set in ‘race’ mode (entirely appropriate for road use if you know what you are doing) the rear tyres will shimmy and the back end step out at quite modest road speeds and throttle openings. The extra torque simply lets those tyres rip.

There is, naturally, a bank of electronics to keep the Ferrari 488 on the Tarmac, the stability system rapidly braking individual wheels to keep things pointing in the right direction. This time around, the systems are even more sophisticated – as they arguably need to be.

It’s very hard – some would say impossible – to build a turbocharged engine that has the throttle response of a naturally aspirated equivalent. And to make matters worse, Ferrari had set the bar very high with the previous 458 Spider. Yet the engineers reckon they have cracked the lag-free goal and there was only one condition where it wasn’t quite there. Driving fast into an uphill hairpin, on the beautiful roads around San Marino, and the switch from trailing throttle to full power brings on a momentary hesitation.

The reverse of this then happens as you carry on accelerating. Such is the sheer ferocity of the gain in speed, the warp speed at which everything happens, that the engine is bouncing off the rev limiter before you’ve had time to grab the next gear.

Sticking the paddle-shift transmission into auto lets the driver get on with the steering, accelerating and braking. Needless to say, the 488 handles these three aspects with alacrity, helped by some incredible work on the aerodynamics. As always, Ferrari avoids the deployable rear spoilers that others use.

2016 Ferrari 488 Spider: On the inside

2016 Ferrari 488 Spider: On the inside

The joy of the Spider’s retractable hard-top is its simplicity. The two sections flip backwards into the area above the engine in just 14 seconds, at speeds of up to 25mph. The rear window powers down so there’s a proper fresh-air feel, and more of the deep bass from the engine. The noise is pretty dominant. There’s no ‘quiet’ button, though driving in the gentler manettino settings can be relatively relaxed.

The optional sports seats are incredibly grippy, but firm and unforgiving. Passengers may well ask why comfort has to suffer so much, although keen drivers will love them.

And it’s a nice interior, full of pleasing detail married to technical sophistication. There’s plenty of room, stowage space is reasonable there’s a decent trunk and additional space behind the seats for luggage. Apple Carplay is integrated into the infotainment system.

2016 Ferrari 488 Spider: Running costs

2016 Ferrari 488 Spider: Running costs

The UK list price is £204,400 and you’ll surely want to add to that from the extensive options list. So it’s expensive, certainly, yet the Ferrari offering is not without merit. Incredibly, new Ferraris now come with a seven-year routine maintenance package included in the price. Yes, that’s no extra for the annual service, apart from wear and tear items. The warranty in the UK is also four years, rather than the three years offered elsewhere.

Residual values are invariably strong for Ferraris, especially as many of its dedicated sports cars, like this 488, will cover low mileages.

Most car manufacturers move to lower capacity turbo engines to maximise CO2 and mpg statistics, but Ferrari, naturally, focuses more on pumping up the horsepower. So the CO2 is down only a touch to 260g/100km, and the combined fuel economy figure is now 24.7mpg.

2016 Ferrari 488 Spider: Verdict

2016 Ferrari 488 Spider: Verdict

This is such an emotional sports car. No matter how you skin it, how many rivals you put up against the 488 Spider, none them are Ferraris. That counts.

But there’s much more to it than this, for here you getting the very finest engineering money can buy. That’s a bold assertion, but it’s hard not conclude with the awe-inspiring attention to detail.

And then the 488 Spider is an utterly thrilling car to drive, stupendously fast in the right circumstances, but equally rewarding when the limits are more constrained. Personally I’d like the styling to be less brutal, and I prefer the sound of the old naturally aspirated 458. The majority, however, are likely just to lap it all up with a great smile on their face.

2016 Ferrari 488 Spider: Specifications

Engine: 3.9-litre turbocharged V8

Price: £204,400

Power: 670hp

Torque: 561lb ft (760Nm)

0-62mph: 3.0 seconds

Top speed: 203mph (300km/h)

Fuel economy: 24.7mpg (11.4l/100km)

CO2 emissions: 260g/km

Aston Martin RapidE

All-electric Aston Martin RapidE unveiled in London

Aston Martin RapidE

Aston Martin has revealed a fully electric version of its Rapide S four-door saloon in London. Developed in collaboration with Williams Engineering, the concept is being showcased as part of the government’s GREAT campaign, which encourages foreign investment in British firms.

Called the RapidE, the concept is part of a study to assess the feasibility of the first all-electric Aston Martin. According to company CEO, Dr. Andy Palmer, EVs could represent the future of the brand. He said: “We see luxury electric vehicles as an intrinsic part of our future product portfolio and welcome ChinaEquity into the next phase of study for the project development.

“The exciting RapidE concept tangibly demonstrates the capability and ambition of Aston Martin towards developing low- and zero-emission sports cars.”

Chinese investment group, ChinaEquity, is working with Aston Martin and the two organisations are hopeful a production version could be brought to market by 2017. The electric RapidE would be built at Aston Martin’s global HQ in Gaydon.

Could offer as much as 1000hp

While the loss of a V12 engine would undoubtedly detract from the full-fat Rapide experience, a battery-powered version would lower Aston Martin’s overall CO2 emissions.

It has been suggested that the electric version will develop power to match the 560hp offered by the V12. The RapidE would also benefit from the instant acceleration offered by EVs.

Even more mouthwatering is the prospect of a 1000hp RapidE, if all four wheels are powered by their own electric motors.

Aston Martin: ‘an iconic British brand’

Aston Martin has released a short video to promote the RapidE concept. Oliver Letwin MP, who has lent his support to the project said: “Aston Martin is an iconic British brand, and I welcome their agreement today with ChinaEquity.

It is a great example of British and Chinese businesses working together to develop links and bring benefits to the UK economy.

“It also demonstrates how a collaboration between the UK and China can develop the innovative low emission solutions needed to tackle the pressing global issue of air quality.”

The launch of the RapidE is a welcome fillip for Aston Martin: it’s been a mixed month for the famous brand. The hype and good feeling generated by the appearing of the one-off DB10 in the forthcoming Bond movie has been offset by news of losses at its parent company.

Aston Martin Holdings UK reported an annual pre-tax loss of £71.8m, which would could result in job losses. As many as 15% could be cut from its 2,100-strong workforce.

New Lexus Design Concept

New Lexus Design Concept set for Tokyo reveal

New Lexus Design Concept

Another motor show, another set of teaser images in the lead up to the event. What you’re looking at here is, in part, a new Lexus concept car that ‘captures the company’s vision of progressive luxury’, which is set to be unveiled at next week’s Toyota Motor Show.

Lexus hasn’t released any further details, so you’ll have to make do with what is admittedly a rather nice headlight cluster. This doesn’t look like a radical departure from the existing design language, as the teaser shot shows elements of the NX, RC F and IS models.

New Lexus LS in 2016

This has strengthened rumours that this could be a hint of the next generation Lexus LS, which is set to go on sale in 2016. The existing LS has been in production since 2006, so the new model is long overdue. Sales in the important US market have dwindled in recent years, following high points in 2007 and 2008.

The new Lexus LS is likely to feature a 5.0-litre V8 engine, along with a new LS 500h hybrid model.

Prices of the current model, which goes wheel-to-wheel with the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, start at £71,995.  The rear-wheel drive luxury saloon will need to be inch perfect to take on the Germans and win. Given the talk of ‘progressive luxury’, the LS is likely to offer a different take on what is a demanding segment.

The Design Concept will be one of 11 Lexus models on display. These include a the revised GS and the GS F super-saloon. The RX will be shown ahead of its international launch, before going on sale in the UK in January 2016. We’ll bring you more news on the concept when it is revealed on the 28 October.

McLaren 570S (2015)

McLaren 570S review: 2015 first drive

McLaren 570S (2015)Six years ago, McLaren Automotive was created. Four years ago, it launched its first road car. Today, it’s made more than 6,000 cars, posted its second year of profits after launching more than a car a year, and is now gearing up for its biggest challenge yet: taking on the Porsche 911 with the new McLaren 570S.

Up to now, McLaren has been a supercar and hypercar manufacturer: the 570S (and slightly cheaper, more accessible 540C) is its first sports car. It will also go up against the Audi R8, Lamborghini Huracan and Mercedes-AMG GT; it will very quickly become the best-selling McLaren ever.

The 540C costs £126,000 but, at least in Britain, most sold will be the £143,250 570S. Do those price points sound familiar? So they should; a Porsche 911 Turbo PDK is £121,523; the Turbo S PDK is £143,045. Audi R8? £134,500 in 610hp plus guise, £119,500 as a 540hp standard car.

McLaren 570S (2015)

Visually, the 570S is clearly a McLaren family car but less of a mini 650S than you might think from the images (not least because it’s actually bigger than a 650S, certainly in terms of length and height). The front is the most familiar aspect, albeit sharper and more incisive here; and it gets more different the further you go back.

The sides are slimmer, more sculpted, have more form than the big, blocky 650S supercar. The duct in the side is beautifully functional aero, feeding the radiators and directing air aring the rear ‘flying buttresses’; this cancels the lift generated by airflow from the roof. The concave rear window is a lovely touch and the dark-finish rear deck exposes the engine beneath active cooling grilles wonderfully.

The rear is how you’ll split a 570S from a 650S at 50 paces. Without the 650S’ rear Airbrake, it’s a lot slimmer, more taut and toned; the rear haunches are positively curvaceous and the forms are quite something (that’s why body panels are aluminium rather than carbon fibre – it’s the only way to get the surfaces so well-defined).

It’s a striking, exciting, unique car to look at, all the more so as it brings the F1-grade McLaren brand into its most accessible sector yet. Arguably McLaren Automotive’s most important car, the business case largely rests on getting the 570S right. So, is it?

2015 McLaren 570S: on the road

McLaren 570S (2015)

The McLaren shares an engine, key chassis components and architectural elements with the 650S, but not its character. This is key: McLaren hasn’t just made a cheaper supercar, but a sports car with its own distinct feel. They really are more different than you’d ever first suspect.

The 650S has a rear Airbrake that pumps up the downforce for hard cornering; the 570S does not. The 650S has ProActive Chassis Control adaptive anti-roll; the 570S does not (but it retains the adaptive dampers). The 650S has ultra-wide tyres on the rear; the 570S caps them to 285/35-section 20-inch Pirelli rubber. See the approach? Basically, where the 650S is rock-solid and planted, the 570S is playful and slidey.

Feel through the controls is sublime. Steering is immediate, palmy and direct, covering your hands in feedback: needless to say, it’s perfectly, uncommonly well weighted. The firm carbon-ceramic brakes complement it – the pedal’s actually a bit weightier than you’d find in a Porsche, but the depth of pin-perfect accuracy means it’s no issue once you’re used to it.

Because it’s a sports series car rather than a super series, McLaren’s engineered a light and agile front end with truly whip-crack response and turn-in (that panoramic visibility helps here). Confident agility, precision-placement and all that feedback makes it an absolute delight to thread through twisting roads: a mid-engined layout and lack of heft means it’s wieldier than an Audi R8, more alive than a 911 Turbo.

And it’s up for hooning. Rear-end grip is sports car level but not another-level high: you can get the back end out if you dial back the traction systems (McLaren actually engineers them to let you do this while still retaining a safety net) and you soon find drifting out of corners is the most natural thing in the world. Honest. It won’t bite. It’s enormous fun.

McLaren 570S (2015)

Ride quality is barely affected by the switch from active anti-roll to regular anti-roll bars. Compliance and body control are world class and the way it breathes with racecar-like quality of damping over rough roads is superb. And just as the ride dampens away wobbles you don’t want to feel, so too does the ultra-rigid steering, which remains shimmer-free even over the most hideous mid-corner bumps.

McLaren’s changed 30% of the engine compared to the 650S including, significantly, the exhaust manifold. It’s now equal-length and sounds divine – different and more melodious to its supercar sibling. What hasn’t changed is the speed. Boy, it’s fast. 3.2 seconds to 62mph proves it’s fast; it’s the effortlessness and effervescence of this speed that’s so compelling though.

Twin-turbos spool up without delay and deliver humungous torque: the mid-range surge is all you need. Then you find a straight and let it redline – the most wild howl combines with ridiculous performance at this price point. But, crucially, whereas the Porsche 911 Turbo gathers pace without you noticing, you’re with the 570S every step of the way, fully involved in its potency. It’s a wonderful feeling.

There’s more, from the intensity of the punch you want from the seamless-shift gearchange, to the fact all the 570S’ delicious clarity of feel is yours even when you’re not driving on the absolute limit (not something every sports car can claim). Really though, it’s the enthusiastic enjoyment you get from driving it that really sets it apart. McLaren, straight-laced and clinical? The wonderful 570S disproves that absolutely.

2015 McLaren 570S: on the inside

McLaren 570S (2015)

You can tell McLaren Automotive is still a young car company, because the detail improvements within the 570S compared to the 650S are clear. Take the door panels: flat and plain on the 650S, wonderfully detailed and shaped on the 570S. McLaren’s even integrated door bins big enough to swallow water bottles. It’s also worked out how to integrate a glovebox and – shock – installed vanity mirrors for the first time (but not vanity mirror lights: “That would be going too far.”)

McLaren has retained its trademark dihedral (“scissor”) doors for the 570S, engineering them so they take up less space in compact car parks: bosses say you need less space to get in than for a Ferrari 458 or Porsche 911 – and “it’s easier and more elegant to step into a 570S”.

Helping this is a reengineered carbon fibre MonoCell II with a lower, slimmer sill, making the 570S almost a step-in sportscar. The incredibly reassuring sense of sitting within a strong, secure safety cell remains though, just one that’s less compromised, more spacious and better laid out than you’d expect for a non-Porsche supercar.

Visibility is fantastic – panoramic, uncorrupted. The windscreen is wide, super-deep (actually, deeper than it is wide) so you can almost see the apex you want to hit as you hit it; the front wing peaks, visible from the driver’s seat, correspond to the centreline of the tyres, so you can use them as guides. Side windows are deep, McLaren’s moved the door mirror back so it’s out the way, and even rear visibility is aided by the big, concave screen and slim pillars. It all really gives you confidence to drive more quickly.

McLaren 570S (2015)

The cabin design is an evolution of that in the 650S, sharing many of the details such as the portrait-mounted IRIS infotainment screen, beautiful column stalks and snazzy switchgear. It’s slimmed down though, most obviously through the floating centre console that opens up space for extra cupholders and stowage slots.

Indeed, McLaren’s really sweated practicality, claiming class-leading storage space from a central arm rest cubby to ingenious pockets and boxes dotted throughout the cabin. The area behind the front seats is carpeted and spacious, while the 144-litre front luggage bay is deep and wide. It’s one-action open and close too; there’s no fiddly latch to undo like on a Porsche 911.

It exudes modern hand-crafted quality. McLaren knows how to build an impeccably-finished car and the 570S has all the clean-room F1-like finish of other models, despite its higher volumes (after all, it is built on exactly the same line). It’s a high-tech, contemporary luxury that’s unique at this price point and is a cut above Porsche and Aston Martin.

2015 McLaren 570S: running costs

McLaren 570S (2015)

McLaren is quoting remarkable retained values for the 570S, showing how desirable it is. After 3 years and 36,000 miles, the 570S will retain 63% of its list price. The next-best Audi R8 V10? 49.3% – nearly 14% less! The Porsche 911 Turbo S will retain 47%, 16% less than the McLaren. As they’re almost the same price, that’s a big monetary difference.

So it proves: on a PCP finance scheme, your 570S will be worth £90,248 at the end of the 3-year term. The 911 will be worth £67,165. More than £23,000 less. And this is why you can buy a McLaren 570S for £995 a month on finance, rather than £1,533 for a Porsche 911 Turbo S and £1,863 for the Audi R8 V10.

Running costs complement such low (well, by supercar standards) ownership costs. Emissions of 249g/km CO2 are intentional; this dips it beneath the 250g/km US Gas Guzzler tax. For a 570hp car, it’s a relative fuel-sipper, averaging 26.6mpg. Helping this is engine stop-start, fitted to a McLaren for the first time ever; it even has its own button.

McLaren 570S (2015)

Servicing is every 10,000 miles or one year – but the Mobil 1 oil McLaren uses is so advanced, the firm will offer to extend the oil change to two years if you don’t cover 10,000 miles and the visual service check is all OK. Overall maintenance costs are lower than for any McLaren: the firm reckons they’re now half what the servicing costs for the MP4-12C was at launch in 2011.

Aluminium bodywork is easier and more cost-effective to repair than carbon fibre, so this will have a big effect on accident repair work; it should also mean insurance costs are not quite as supercar-exotic as for previous McLarens. Overall, it’ll still be a bit more expensive to run than a Porsche, admits McLaren, but the gap should be manageable for most owners – with retained values more than making up for it.

2015 McLaren 570S: verdict

McLaren 570S (2015)

The McLaren 570S is unquestionably a five-star car, without doubt a new sports car great. Just like the Audi R8 at launch, it’s a new take on the super sports car, one that’s thoroughly McLaren and, because of the supercar richness it delivers for £140k, will have Porsche holding special engineering meetings to dissect it.

It drives wonderfully well and is heroically fast, but it’s the additional usability that will make the 570S. It takes McLaren from being unobtainable to being the cool sports car you may well now see on the street. And what pleasures its lucky owners have in store.

We wondered if it would be too 650S to find its feet in McLaren’s range. We needn’t have feared. The 570S is a delicious new addition to the sports car ranks that everyone considering an Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Audi R8, Mercedes-AMG GT and Porsche 911 must check out. That’s how compellingly complete it is.

2015 McLaren 570S: specifications

Engine: 3.8-litre V8 twin-turbo petrol

Price: £143,250

Power: 570hp

Torque: 443

0-62mph: 3.2secs

Top speed: 204mph

Fuel economy: 26.6mpg

CO2 emissions: 249g/km

The perfect year-round vehicle? Rare Range Rover convertible up for auction

The perfect year-round vehicle? Rare Range Rover convertible up for auction

The perfect year-round vehicle? Rare Range Rover convertible up for auction

Can’t wait to get your hands on a new Range Rover Evoque convertible? A rare 1973 soft-top Range Rover is set to go under the hammer next month – with bidding expected to reach around £40,000.

Unlike the Evoque, the classic Range Rover was never offered as a convertible from the factory. This example is believed to have been converted by Special Vehicle Conversions in the early 80s, before being won by the previous owner in a card game.

It spent the next 20 years in a lock-up, before being discovered in 2014 and treated to a £20,000 nut-and-bolt restoration.

Now it’s being auctioned by Silverstone Auctions at next month’s NEC Classic Motor Show, held on 14-15 September.

Classic Car Consignor at Silverstone Auctions, Arwel Richards, said: “This classic Range Rover convertible conversion is a car worthy of the modern-day James Bond, but has a story akin to that of ‘007’ too.

“Not only does this convertible conversion have unique provenance, but it’s based on a truly superb early right-hand drive Range Rover ‘Suffix B’ and has covered a mere 62,500 miles – I doubt you’ll find one like this in the near future.”

Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: Two-Minute Road Test

03_Skoda_Citigo

Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: what is it?

The Citigo is essentially a Volkswagen Up with a Skoda badge, which is also available as the SEAT Mii. It’s available in both three- and five-door body styles and a range of different trims. Although it’s been on sale a while, we wanted to get reacquainted with the little Citigo and spent a week with a top-spec Elegance five-door with the higher powered 75hp 1.0-litre engine.

Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: what are its rivals?

The Volkswagen Up fancies itself as a more premium alternative to the Citigo, while SEAT is chasing the female market with the Mii by Mango. Which kind of leaves Skoda owning the value for money territory, which is something the brand does very well. Not convinced by the UpMiiCitigo trio, then you could consider the 108C1Aygo trio, along with Ford’s Ka and Fiat’s Panda or 500.

Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: which engines does it use?

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The Skoda Citigo is powered by a single 1.0-litre turbocharged unit, with two power outputs: 60hp and 75hp. The latter of these manages to propel the Citigo along at a rather brisk rate, seemingly much faster than the 0-62mph time of 13.9 seconds would suggest. As you’d expect, it runs out of breath at motorway speeds, but once cruising it’s surprisingly good at covering long distances. There is, however, one issue…

Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: what’s it like to drive?

Our test car was fitted with the semi-automatic transmission, which must be one of the most disappointing systems on the market. It single-handedly manages to wipe off any sense of enjoyment, with lethargic gear changes and an inability to select the right cog for any given situation. It certainly won’t be hurried, but even a smooth and relaxed driving style doesn’t improve matters. It’s a shame, because aside from this, the Citigo is great fun to drive.

Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: fuel economy and running costs

On paper, the 75hp Citigo automatic could deliver up to 62.8mpg on a combined cycle, with CO2 emissions of 105g/km. Opt for the Green Tech models, available on SE and Elegance trim levels, and the 60hp version offers 68.9mpg and 95g/km respectively. It achieves this through a stop-start system, along with a brake energy recovery system, lowered suspension and energy-efficient tyres.

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Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: is it practical?

For such a small car, the Citigo is surprisingly practical. There’s enough room inside for four adults to be seated in comfort, while even the tallest of occupants will find plenty of head-room. There are also multiple storage bins throughout the cabin, plus a useful 251 litres of boot space, although access is hampered by the high boot lip. Overall it’s a clever use of space, with neat touches, such as a slot for your phone in the cup holder, a clip on the windscreen for parking tickets and pockets on the side of the front seats.

Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: what about safety?

The Skoda Citigo has been awarded the maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating and includes four airbags and a tyre pressure monitor. You can also opt for parking sensors which, despite the car’s tiny dimensions, may come in handy in tight spaces. For £275, you can order the Safety Pack, which includes a passenger airbag switch-off function and City-safe automatic braking.

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Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: which version should I go for?

You almost certainly won’t want to opt for the semi-automatic transmission, as the five-speed manual is a better option. If you intend to spend as much time out of the city as you do in it, we’d recommend the 75hp version, as this offers better long-distance potential. Elegance trim starts at £10,000, with our car weighing in at £11,810 with some well-chosen options. Not cheap, but the feel good factor is high. That said, the PID (Personal Infotainment Device), which is standard on Elegance models, does feel a bit dated. Bluetooth, sat nav and a media player are welcome, but we’d expect to seem them integrated in the dash. It’s the one area where the Citigo shows its age. It still manages to sit head and shoulders above its rivals.

Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: should I buy one?

Almost certainly. Taking the transmission out of the equation, the Skoda Citigo is fun to drive, eager, spacious, well-equipped and safe. Gone are the days when a small car felt unsafe and you’d only venture beyond the city limits on special occasions. Skoda always performs well in satisfaction and reliability surveys, so your time spent with the Citigo should be stress-free. Have some fun with the options list and regardless of what you spend, you won’t feel short-changed.

Skoda Citigo Elegance 1.0 MPI: pub fact

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The Citigo is the first Skoda to be offered with three or five doors. We also reckon it features one of the smallest and nicest rev counters since the Citroen AX GT. What a shame it’s so redundant when mated to the semi-automatic transmission. Did we mention how much we dislike this system?

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Parking paranoia losing commuters five hours a week

Wilderness car parkOne in seven workers are getting into work more than an hour earlier than their contracted start time in order to secure a parking space, new AA research has revealed.

The competition for workplace parking spaces is being dubbed ‘parking paranoia’ by AA president Edmund King, who recommended car-sharing schemes and better public transport as solutions to commuters’ lost family time.

Figures reveal almost two thirds of commuting is done by car and the AA survey of 10,000 motorists shows London, the West Midlands and the North East are worst for parking paranoia.

In London, nearly half of all commuters worry about where they are going to park when they get to work.

“Good employers keep an eye on parking availability for their workers and, when pressure on spaces increases, may go to the local authority if some outside influence such as another company’s expansion starts to make life hell for their employees,” said King.

“Local authorities providing more long-term parking can help, although it doesn’t seem to be one of their top priorities. Perhaps that will change if proposals to give them the proceeds of business rates go ahead.”

The AA survey also revealed pressure to get into work at least an hour early is felt most strongly by lower-income drivers – without time off to compensate if they choose to start work early rather than waiting for their shift to begin.