Audi Q7 e-tron: what is it?

Audi Q7 e-tron (2015) road test review

Audi Q7 e-tron: what is it?

Audi Q7 e-tron: what is it?

First it was Mitsubishi, now everyone wants in. Plug-in hybrid SUVs are all the rage, apparently – with the Volvo XC90 and the BMW X5 both being available with electric motors, not forgetting Porsche’s upmarket Cayenne S E-Hybrid.

But Audi is doing it slightly differently. Rather than going down the conventional petrol/electric hybrid route, it’s combining its 3.0-litre turbodiesel with an electric motor. Is it enough to convince the environmentally-conscious to drive a diesel Audi SUV?

Audi Q7 e-tron: what are its rivals?

Audi Q7 e-tron: what are its rivals?

Traditionally, you’d consider the BMW X5 to be one of the Q7’s closest rivals. But most people who’ll buy the Q7 e-tron will do so for tax reasons – and for reasons we’ll come to shortly, the X5 just doesn’t cut it.

Its closest rival, on paper at least, is the Volvo XC90. If you’re scoffing at the thought, it can only be because you haven’t heard just how impressive the new XC90 is. With its flagship T8 plug-in hybrid powertrain, the XC90 starts at £59,955 in Momentum trim (not including the Government’s plug-in car grant). Prices of the Audi Q7 e-tron are yet to be confirmed, but expect it to be marginally more expensive than the XC90.

Audi Q7 e-tron: which engines does it use?

The Q7 e-tron is powered by Audi’s 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine, which produces 258hp and 442lb ft of torque. Combine this with an electric motor and an eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox and it’ll hit 62mph in 6.0 seconds flat – topping out at 140mph.

Audi Q7 e-tron: what's it like to drive?

Audi Q7 e-tron: what’s it like to drive?

If a relaxing drive is what you’re after, the Q7 e-tron is up there with the best. When you set off, it’ll initially start in silent electric mode – only starting the diesel motor when you push the accelerator pedal beyond a certain point. When the diesel does kick in, it’s practically seamless – there’s not the vibration or the lurch you may expect.

It uses clever autonomous technology to work out the best driving mode for you. Set the sat-nav and it’ll alternate between using pure EV, hybrid and diesel-only modes depending on what’s best for the situation. So, for motorway cruising, it’ll use the diesel engine to charge the battery, while around town it’ll switch to electric mode to provide silent, emissions-free driving. Cleverly, it’ll make sure the battery is practically empty by the end of the journey, so the journey has been as efficient as possible.

Audi Q7 e-tron: fuel economy and running costs

The Audi Q7 e-tron boasts an official electric-only range of 34.8 miles. This equates to an MPG figure of 166mpg in the European NEDC tests. Of course, you’re unlikely to see this in real life, as part of the tests are done under electric power alone. But over a 60-mile test route, we managed a more-than-respectable 67.3mpg.

Crucially, the Q7 e-tron emits 46g/km CO2, putting it into the lowest bracket for company car tax. At 77g/km, that’s something that the BMW X5 plug-in hybrid misses out on.

Audi Q7 e-tron: is it practical?

Audi Q7 e-tron: is it practical?

While the Q7 e-tron’s battery pack doesn’t particularly eat into boot space (650 litres compared to 770), it does mean it’s not available with seven seats or a full-size spare wheel. If five seats are enough, the e-tron is about as practical as, well, a regular Q7. At just over five metres in length, the Q7 is a big car, and the interior offers Range Rover levels of comfort.

Audi Q7 e-tron: what about safety?

If you’re going to have a crash, the Audi Q7 is probably a good car to be in. Not only is there plenty of mass to absorb an impact, it’s also piled high with clever systems to help prevent an accident in the first place. These include collision assist, turn assist and cross traffic assist rear. Adaptive cruise control includes traffic jam assist, which takes over the braking, acceleration and steering from the driver at speeds of up to 40mph.

Audi Q7 e-tron: which version should I go for?

Audi Q7 e-tron: which version should I go for?

Specifications for the Audi Q7 e-tron are yet to be confirmed, but buyers are likely to get little choice. It should be loaded with kit, however.

Audi Q7 e-tron: should I buy one?

If you want a big, comfortable SUV that’ll provide exceptional fuel economy then the Audi Q7 e-tron is a worthy contender. It’s pricey to buy, but so are its rivals, and it offers little in the way of driving pleasure in the traditional sense. But it’s brilliantly relaxing to drive, and darting around town (as much as you can in a huge cumbersome SUV) is surprisingly fun. You’ll be doing it in exceptional comfort, too.

Audi Q7 e-tron: pub fact

Audi Q7 e-tron: pub fact

The Q7 e-tron uses information from sensors, as well as data from cameras and its navigation system, to generate a detailed image of the route ahead for up to 1.9 miles. It will then pulse the accelerator pedal to tell you when to lift off in a bid to encourage economical progress. It’s a step towards autonomous driving.

Son accidentally buys Saab sold by his dad 43 years ago

Son accidentally buys Saab sold by his dad 43 years earlier

Son accidentally buys Saab sold by his dad 43 years ago

Saab fan and garage owner James Edwards couldn’t resist buying a Saab 96 at a classic car auction in October.

When he got the car home he discovered that his father had sold the car, registration number BAW 77IL, when it was new 43 years earlier.

  • 1960 Saab 96: new arrival

John Edwards, 81, who retired from running Westbury Garage in 1996, fell in love with the Saab in 1972. He was so taken with it that he photographed it and hung its picture on the garage wall for many years.

He sold it for £1,023 and hadn’t seen it again until James brought it home from the Richard Edmonds’ Chippenham auction on 25 October.

Former garage employee, Doris Williams, now aged 86, was also reunited with the car, which she had washed while it was up for sale.

James Edwards said: “I was amazed to discover Dad had sold the car all that time ago. I knew there was a local connection, but had no idea it was such a strong one.”

Auctioneer Richard Edmonds added: “When James told us the story about the car and his father, we were blown away. I feel like we’ve played matchmaker in this story, which is wonderful for us and our team.”

James will display the car at Westbury Garage and use it occasionally. He is researching the car’s history, and would like any previous owners to contact him by email info@westburyonline.co.uk.

Ferrari to auction V12 LAF number plate for charity

Ferrari to auction V12 LAF number plate for charity

Ferrari to auction V12 LAF number plate for charity

Bought a La Ferrari but yet to find the perfect private number plate? Ferrari is taking bids for its V12 LAF plate – with proceeds going to the Henry Surtees Trust.

The brand’s flagship model is powered by an 800hp V12 engine and a 163hp KERS hybrid system.

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If you want the plate you’ll have to find the cash pretty quickly though, as it is up for grabs in a sealed bid auction that ends on 30 November.

The money it raises will be donated to the charity set up by former F1 champion, John Surtees OBE, in memory of his late son Henry.

Surtees said: “We are honoured that Ferrari has chosen to donate the proceeds of this auction to the Henry Surtees Trust. The work we are doing is absolutely critical to help save the lives and provide emergency support for people who sustain serious head injuries.

“Henry would have been very proud of Ferrari’s continued association with the Surtees family, more than 50 years after I drove for Il Commendatore.”

Bids for the number plate should be sent to Ferrari’s head office in Slough, in a sealed envelope marked HSF Charity Auction.

1992 Skoda Favorit review: Retro Road Test

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The Favorit was the beginning and the end for Skoda. Launched in 1987, it was the Czech firm’s first front-wheel drive car, but the last before it was swallowed by the huge Volkswagen Group empire.

  • 1983 Austin Metro: Retro Road Test

As the last of the old Skodas, the Favorit shows us how far the company had come since being established in 1895. We took a factory-fresh 1992 example on a tour of some wet Oxfordshire roads for our Retro Road Test, to see if it can still cut it in 2015.

Skoda Favorit: what are its rivals?

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Back in 1992, Skoda was still the butt of some ill-judged and ill-informed jokes. It was one of a small number of cheap and cheerful cars to be imported from East Europe and could count the Lada Samara and Yugo Sana as two of its direct rivals. It was slightly smaller than a Ford Escort, but its low price (£5,000 at launch) meant it could be bought for the same price as a top-spec Ford Fiesta.

Sadly for Skoda, disputes between the communist government of Czechoslovakia and the designer, Nuccio Bertone, meant the car was delayed. The project was approved in 1982, but development didn’t start until 1985. The Favorit was launched in 1987, arriving in the UK two years later.

Skoda Favorit: what engine does it use?

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The Skoda Favorit was powered by a 1.3-litre engine, derived from the 1.0-litre engine used in the Skoda 1000MB. British firm Ricardo Consulting redesigned the combustion chambers, while Porsche engineered the engine mountings. Interestingly, the Stuttgart firm also helped with the Favorit’s front suspension. With Czech, British, German and Italian input, the Favorit was a European car in more ways than one.

The 1,289cc engine developed throughout the Favorit’s 18-year production run, with a catalytic convertor and later fuel injection having an impact on the car’s power output. As tested here, the Favorit offers 56hp at 5,000rpm.

Skoda Favorit: what’s it like to drive?

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The Favorit was parked at the crossroads of 120 years of Skoda history. It lacks the character and charm of the rear-engined Skodas of old, but it represented the dawn of a new front-wheel drive future. As a result, the Favorit is wonderfully predictable and perfectly adequate. It’s a very easy car to drive, with a decent enough five-speed gearbox (a big selling point at the time) and terrific all-round visibility.

Performance would be best described as leisurely and the Favorit can feel strained if you push it too hard. We could bemoan the lack of a rev counter (you’ll find a huge clock in its place), but the engine soon tells you when it’s time to change up. The steering is slow and you’ll find a huge dollop of understeer if you enter a corner with too much enthusiasm. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to the Skoda Favorit.

Skoda Favorit: reliability and running costs

06_Skoda_Favorit

The combination of a five-speed gearbox and meagre kerb weight of 840kg translates to a more than respectable average fuel economy of 54.3mpg. Classic car insurance should keep running costs to a minimum.

Bear in mind that few Favorits will be as tidy and well-maintained as this 2,500-mile example. Many will have been used as basic A to B transport, meaning services will have been skipped and cheap parts may have been used. Prices are cheap enough to warrant waiting for a good Favorit.

Skoda Favorit: could I drive it every day?

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There’s no reason why you couldn’t drive a Skoda Favorit every day. After all, people were still buying these things new in 1995. But given the relative scarcity of the Favorit, it would be a shame to subject it to the rigours of 2015 motoring. If nothing else, the winter salt could bring a premature end to an otherwise tidy example.

It’s also worth remembering that the Skoda was a cheap car in its day, so you’re unlikely to feel cosseted by the Favorit’s cabin. It’s a sea of cheap plastics which, even in this super low-mileage car, is beginning to shake and rattle. It’s also worth noting that safety wasn’t one of the Favorit’s strongest features.

Skoda Favorit: how much should I pay?

01_Skoda_Favorit

Prices are still measured in hundreds, rather than thousands, but you will pay substantially more for a box-fresh example such as this. Expect to pay no more than £800 for a tidy Favorit with a fresh MOT.

It’s also worth hunting down a Skoda Favorit estate, known in some markets as the Forman, which offers acres of space for a bargain price.

Skoda Favorit: what should I look out for?

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Rust will be an issue, so inspect the Favorit for signs of rot. The interior isn’t particularly hard-wearing, so you may need to live with some broken trim and scratched plastics. Also look out for smoky engines and signs that the Favorit hasn’t been serviced for a while.

Sure, the Favorit stems from a time before Volkswagen played a part in the engineering of Skoda products, but this feels like a properly sorted car. Driving one today, you get the sense that age-old Skoda jokes were well past their sell-by date. The Czechs had every right to feel proud of their little Favorit.

Skoda Favorit: should I buy one?

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If you’re after a pre-Volkswagen Skoda you can use everyday, this is arguably your only option. It’s easy to drive, cheap to buy and potentially hassle-free to own. It’s a highly likeable car with distinctive Bertone style and loads of interior space. You’ll also find plenty of on-board storage bins and pockets, including a sizeable and very deep glovebox.

Skoda purists will, with good reason, flock to the likes of the Estelle, Rapid and 110R, but for a retro cool car that may turn a few heads, the Favorit is hard to ignore.

Skoda Favorit: pub fact

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When the Favorit first arrived in the UK, Skoda owned the UK importers based in King’s Lynn. This company would, depending on spec, fit a Philips car stereo, rear wash-wipe, sunroof and mud flaps. They’d also supply alloy wheels to Czechoslovakia.

As a bonus pub fact, in common with other Skoda models, the Favorit name harks back to a much older Skoda car. The original Skoda Favorit was a luxury car built in the late 1930s.

2015 Ford C-Max 1.5 TDCI Titanium X: a week in Cornwall

2015 Ford C-Max 1.5 TDCI Titanium X: a week in Cornwall

2015 Ford C-Max 1.5 TDCI Titanium X: a week in Cornwall

I have to confess, Ford’s MPV line-up does confuse me a little bit. Sure, there’s the Galaxy, that’s the big one. And then there’s the S-Max, which is the sporty one.

The B-Max is for those who want a Fiesta with a bit more practicality, while the C-Max is essentially a slightly bigger Focus. But then there’s the Grand C-Max, with its seven seats, and let’s not even think about the Tourneo Custom and Connect (they’re essentially Transits with windows and seats, if you must know).

2015 Ford C-Max 1.5 TDCI Titanium X: new arrival

It’s more than a tad befuddling. Buying a five-seat C-Max, like the one we’re running on our long-term fleet, is like saying “I want as much practicality as possible, but with just the five seats please.”

But for a recent autumnal camping trip to Cornwall, that is precisely what I wanted. Two seats would have done, in fact, as the rear seats were folded down to cater for a week’s worth of camping kit. And that’s quite a lot, as it turns out – comfortably filling the C-Max’s 1,684 litres of boot space.

2015 Ford C-Max 1.5 TDCI Titanium X: a week in Cornwall

When it’s full of gear, the extra weight is noticeable. But even with the 1.5-litre turbodiesel, it’s fine at making progress along the M4. It’s only when negotiating Cornwall’s steep hills that I started to wish I was in the bigger 2.0-litre diesel.

On Cornish lanes, the C-Max starts to feel a lot bigger than it actually is. At 1,828mm wide it’s only 5mm wider than a regular Focus but, even so, extra care is required on roads lined with Cornish hedgerows, full of rocks ready to jump out and scrape the C-Max’s gleaming frozen white paint.

Overall, though, the C-Max proved to be the perfect companion for a week away. Manufacturers often go a bit lifestyle in their marketing for cars such as this, but it’s certainly capable of being loaded with kit and traipsing around challenging Cornish lanes.

2015 Ford C-Max 1.5 TDCI Titanium X: a week in Cornwall

Notepad

  • The dark nights have highlighted a reluctance for the C-Max’s self-dimming infotainment screen to self-dim. I’ve had to turn the brightness down manually when driving in the dark… a bit of a hassle

Specification

Price (October 2015): £23,395
Price with options: £25,220 (metallic paint £250, rear parking sensors £225, key free system £700, blind spot information system £400, SYNC2 DAB navigation system £250)
Engine: 1.5-litre TDCI turbodiesel
Power: 120hp
Torque: 199lb ft
0-62mph: 11.3 secs
Top speed: 114mph
MPG: 68.9
CO2: 105g/km

Volkswagen logo

Volkswagen tells us ‘our CO2 and mpg may incorrect ‘

Volkswagen logoVolkswagen has issued a warning to motoring journalists that the fuel consumption and CO2 values in its media database ‘may be incorrect’.

Following on from last week’s revelation that it had discovered “irregularities in CO2 levels” in around 800,000 cars, the firm is warning the press that its media site may now be wrong.

Volkswagen scandal: CO2 emissions now in question

“Please take into consideration the CO2 emissions and therefore the fuel consumption data published on the VW media services website are therefore subject to reservation until this has been resolved and may be incorrectly stated.”

VW says the CO2 for around 800,000 cars may have been set too low: “the majority have diesel engines” but petrol models are also affected, for the first time in the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

The revelation last week that engineers may have cheated with CO2 emissions comes after Volkswagen admitted 11 million vehicles worldwide have been fitted with a ‘defeat device’ to cheat NOx emissions tests.

“Volkswagen will do everything in its power to clarify the further course of action as quickly as possible and ensure the correct CO2 classification for the vehicles affected.”

Last week, VW CEO Matthias Müller told EU officials Volkswagen would pay any additional costs related to revised CO2 emissions data, rather than customers: in the UK, VED road tax is linked to CO2.

It is not yet clear how VW would fund any costs involved in revised fuel consumption figures, should it confirm the 800,000 cars are returning fewer miles per gallon than first thought, though.

Volvo V60 Polestar (2015) road test review

Rebel without a cause: can a £50k super-Swede make sense in the UK?

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Volvo V60 Polestar: What is it?

In many ways, the V60 Polestar feels like a last hurrah for old Volvo. A menacing, brute of a wagon that sticks two fingers up at convention and cares little for economic or environmental matters.

A Rebel Blue estate car without a cause, while Volvo embarks on its brave new SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) world. If talk of Volvo wagons and the BTCC makes you go misty-eyed, this could be the car for you.

Volvo V60 Polestar: What are its rivals?

When it comes to leftfield rivals, how about the Vauxhall Insignia VXR SuperSport Sports Tourer? After all, it does offer a 2.8-litre V6 engine developing 325hp. BMW will enter the ring armed with a 335d xDrive M Sport Touring. Sure, it’s a diesel, but it packs a 313hp punch. And come the end of next year, Audi will mix things up with the all-new S4 Avant.

Volvo V60 Polestar: Which engines does it use?

There’s only one engine on offer, but fortunately it’s a good one. The 3.0-litre straight-six develops 350hp and a mighty 368lb ft of torque. The all-wheel-drive V60 Polestar is offered with Volvo’s six-speed Geartronic transmission. Top speed is limited to 155mph and it’ll sprint to 62mph in 5.0 seconds.

Volvo V60 Polestar: What’s it like to drive?

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Curiously, the Volvo V60 Polestar never feels bonkers-fast, not until you glance down to see the digital speedo failing to keep up with the actual road speed. The feeling of pace is diluted by the way the Volvo cocoons you from the outside world. Even in the harshest of conditions, you get the sense the V60 Polestar will guide you home in absolute safety, accompanied by a rousing soundtrack.

It always feels better in a straight line, with corners only serving to highlight the V60’s 1834kg weight. On the plus side, the Polestar offers a bucket-load of grip, while the Brembo brakes provide immense stopping power.

As for the ride, when you take into account the rubber band-thin tyres, 20-inch rims and suspension that’s 80% stiffer than an S60 R-Design, it’s remarkably good. Your passengers may not agree, but from a driver’s perspective it simply heightens the sense of this being a Touring Car for the road. Just avoid big potholes, unless you fancy spending some quality time and money with your chiropractor. 

Volvo V60 Polestar: Fuel economy and running costs

Face it, the Volvo V60 Polestar isn’t a car for penny-pinchers. For a start, it costs £49,775, more than you’ll spend on an entry-level XC90. But as a halo model, Volvo has thrown the veritable kitchen sink at the V60 Polestar, with every single option box ticked. Not that it’ll be cheap to run. Over seven days we averaged 24.7mpg, not too far short of the claimed 27.7mpg. First year vehicle tax is £860, dropping to £485 each year thereafter.

Volvo V60 Polestar: Is it practical?

The V60 is more of a sportswagon than an antique-clock-swallowing estate car, so you’ll have to make do with 430 litres of space. You can extend this to 1,241 litres with the rear seats folded down. There are plenty of useful storage areas throughout the cabin, including a shelf behind the ‘floating’ centre console and pockets on the front of the brilliantly supportive and comfortable front seats. The Alcantara sports seats are as good as they look, while the blue stitching is a neat touch.

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Volvo V60 Polestar: What about safety?

It’s a Volvo, so do you really need to ask about safety? The V60 received a maximum five-star safety rating when it was tested by Euro NCAP back in 2012, scoring 94% for adult safety, 82% for child safety and 100% for safety assist. The V60 Polestar benefits from a vast array of active and passive safety devices, including city safety, pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind-spot information, lane-departure warning and active high-beam.

We’ll give a special mention to the adaptive cruise control, which was faultless and helped to ease the pain of two very long journeys. In heavy traffic, queues or on empty motorways, it’s a system you can use with confidence.

Volvo V60 Polestar: Which version should I go for?

In classic Highlander style, there can be only one. That said, you do have a choice of colours, namely Rebel Blue, Ice White, Bright Silver and Onyx Black. But to choose anything other than Rebel Blue would be a mistake, as it wears the colour so well. It’s like a signature hue that gives the V60 Polestar a real standout quality. Having said that, the other colours do offer maximum Q-car potential…

Volvo V60 Polestar: Should I buy one?

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The Volvo V60 Polestar is a car where your heart will undoubtedly rule your head. Spending the best part of £50,000 on a Volvo that uses an old platform and is powered by an old engine makes little sense on paper. But spend some quality time with the V60 Polestar and convention goes out of the window. There’s a genuine feelgood factor associated with the car, and you’ll win petrolhead points for choosing something a bit different. Only 125 will be sold in the UK, so exclusivity is guaranteed. 

Volvo V60 Polestar: Pub fact

This week, Volvo announced a new Polestar-developed performance upgrade for the new XC90. There are rumours a full fat Volvo XC90 Polestar could follow in the future. Dear Volvo, please make this happen.

Because this is the point about the Volvo V60 Polestar. It’s not some half-baked go-faster special. This looks and feels like an authentic performance wagon, engineered by a proper Swedish racing team.

Brembo brakes, Ohlins dampers, Polestar engineering, a 3.0-litre engine and Volvo safety. Sounds like a compelling cocktail, doesn’t it? Drive one and you’ll realise it’s as good as it looks.

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Going the extra mile: the world’s hardest-to-reach post deliveries

Going the extra mile: the world’s hardest-to-reach post deliveries

Going the extra mile: the world’s hardest-to-reach post deliveries

As tough jobs go, you may not think being a postman or woman compares with the likes of being an SAS soldier, Arctic explorer or North Sea gas rig worker.

But not all post delivery locations are as easy reach as Postman Pat’s quaint village of Greendale. And some drivers have far bigger challenges than the occasional unfriendly dog.

In fact, cars can’t be used to deliver mail to many of the most remote places in the world, such as the Canadian Arctic or Tristan Da Cunha, a tiny island nearly 3,000 miles off the coast of South Africa.

We reveal five of the world’s hardest-to-reach delivery locations, and the lengths postal staff go to in order to deliver to them.

Alert, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

02 World's toughest post deliveries

Inside the Arctic Circle and just 500 miles from the North Pole, this remote outpost is believed to be the world’s northernmost permanently inhabited place.

Although it has no indigenous population (they are the Inuits, who live 500 miles further south), it’s home to the staff of a Canadian military base and the Environment Canada weather station.

Situated at the northeastern tip of Ellesmere Island, Alert is surrounded on one side by rugged hills and valleys. The land and sea are carpeted in snow and ice for at least 10 months of every year, and in some years the ice doesn’t melt at all.

So mail and other provisions are delivered by Hercules cargo plane once a week, weather permitting. The flight time from Canada’s northernmost cities is around eight hours, and hazards along the way include blizzards and temperatures of -50 degrees centigrade.

Bardsey Island, off the coast of West Wales

World's toughest post deliveries

For more than 40 years Ernest Evans, 68, has gone the extra mile (or five) once a week to deliver mail to the eight inhabitants of Bardsey Island.

The tiny community consists of a farming family, a couple who run a bird observatory and the warden of the Bardsey Island Trust.

Ernest, who is also a lobster fisherman, plans his post runs at least two days ahead, sailing when the weather and tide are best. The mail is stored in waterproof postbags.

Ernest took over from his father, John Evans, who did the same journey from Porth Meudwy beach near Aberdaron to Enlli for 15 years.

Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland

World's toughest post deliveries

Getting to Ittoqqortoormiit can be an adventure in itself. To reach it you have to cross Northeast Greenland, the world’s largest and most northerly national park, which is home to polar bears, musk oxen, walruses and seals.

While this remote settlement is reasonably accessible by sea for the brief summer months, the only viable form of transport for nine months of the year is a helicopter from the airport 24 miles away.

Although Ittoqqortoormiit was only founded in 1925 by settlers from Denmark, today it’s home to 450 people, so there’s a significant amount of mail to transport.

Supai Village, Arizona, USA

World's toughest post deliveries

A standard post delivery van is no use for getting mail to this village at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The only way to get post, food, supplies and furniture down the eight-mile path to it is the traditional way – by mule train.

Every day, the mule train transports an average of 1,800kg of goods to the 200-strong Havasupai Indian tribe, who live in Supai.

It takes at least a week for deliveries to reach Supai from the main post depot in city of Bullhead, Arizona, so any mail order purchases need to be planned well ahead.

Tristan Da Cunha, South Atlantic Ocean

World's toughest post deliveries

Not surprisingly, delivering post to the world’s most remote island is the most lengthy task of all.

It takes a fishing boat six days to sail the 2,800 miles there from Cape Town, and with only one boat doing the journey every three weeks, residents need to allow up to a month for items to be delivered.

And that’s an improvement on the situation 10 years’ ago. Until August 2005, the island didn’t have a postcode, so most companies refused to accept orders from residents – and with a capital called Edinburgh, post often went astray.

The island’s 270 residents still have to plan ahead, though, so Christmas presents don’t arrive at Easter.

Vauxhall Zafira B

Are Vauxhall Zafira fires being caused by cheap eBay parts?

Vauxhall Zafira B

Vauxhall chairman and managing director Rory Harvey has released a video (watch it below) addressing customers about the recent reports of its Zafira model bursting into flames.

In the video, Harvey apologised for the issue and said: “Our investigation has found evidence of improper repairs of the blower motor resistor and its thermal fuse, which is designed to protect the blower motor system.”

Motoring Research has discovered hundreds of cheap Vauxhall Zafira blower motor resistors being sold on eBay. While it’s not confirmed if they’re linked to the fires, the internet parts are unlikely to be genuine and will correspond with Vauxhall’s implication that cars have been repaired incorrectly.

Harvey added: “At this stage, further analysis is ongoing towards verifying the root cause of the fires. This leads me to why it has taken some time to find the root cause and provide an answer.

“Unfortunately, fires in cars can provide a major challenge to investigators as many are damaged beyond investigation. As such we need to get to the root cause through a detailed analysis of a significant number of vehicles.”

But owners have reacted sceptically to the issue. Darren Lee McCarney posted in the Vauxhall Zafira car fires Facebook group, which originally highlighted the fires, saying: “Vauxhall has made a statement heavily guided by a legal team. That video wasn’t a man concerned for people lives, that was a video of a well-prepared legally-versed puppet promising nothing more than we are already getting.”

Stephen Mitchell added: “He doesn’t want to speculate only facts, yet he is blaming non-genuine parts. Says are cars are safe after the checks but doesn’t know the root cause! What about cars that have had genuine parts fitted and gone up! A carefully worded statement about what we already know to try pull wool over our eyes to make them look good!”

Only Zafira B models, built between 2005 and 2014 are affected, and only those fitted with the standard air conditioning unit, rather than the similar-looking climate control system.

Vauxhall is now writing to 220,000 owners asking them to take their Zafira to their local dealership for a free inspection. Any suspect components will be changed free of charge.

The manufacturer is yet to confirm if any other models are affected.

Austin Metro: Retro Road Test

1983 Austin Metro review: Retro Road Test

Austin Metro: Retro Road Test

This is a new series for Motoring Research. You may have seen our ‘Two-Minute Road Tests’, putting new cars through the same structured scrutiny and highlighting the good and bad in easy-to-read, bitesize chunks. But we realise not everyone is in the market for a new car. So we’re introducing the Retro Road Test – testing everything from classic cars to simply older vehicles you might consider spending your money on.

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The first car to get the Retro Road Test treatment is a car that was very popular in its time, but has all-but disappeared from the roads today. Some may even dispute its classic status – but it was a turning-point when it was launched in 1980. It’s the Austin Metro.

Austin Metro: what are its rivals?

Austin Metro: what are its rivals?

The Austin Metro was initially intended as a successor to the Mini. But British Leyland panicked at the last minute. The Mini was an iconic design, and early feedback on the Metro’s design sketches wasn’t positive enough to risk giving it the Mini name.

There was a solution, however. Manufacturers were creating a new segment – the supermini, led by the likes of the new Ford Fiesta. Customers loved them – they were great around town and frugal, yet could cope on the expanding motorway network. So all BL had to do was to make the Mini Metro slightly bigger than planned, and introduce it above the Mini and below the Allegro in its line-up.

Austin Metro: what engine does it use?

Austin Metro: what engine does it use?

The model we’re testing here is fitted with the more powerful 1,275cc A-plus engine (a smaller 1.0-litre powertrain was also available). It’s a reliable unit that likes to be worked hard. If you do so, it’ll comfortably keep up with modern traffic. On motorways it can be pushed beyond 70mph, but sticking closer to 60mph will provide a more relaxing journey.

Austin Metro: what’s it like to drive?

Austin Metro: what’s it like to drive?

Handling is fun – the Metro likes to go around corners, but it does feel less planted than the Mini. It’ll roll in a way that modern cars just don’t, but its tiny 12-inch wheels will grip.

The steering position feels awkward at first. The wheel seems almost horizontal – more akin to a bus than a small car. But the seats are comfortable and the feeling of space inside the car is remarkable – helped no doubt by the large windows and thin pillars.

Austin Metro: reliability and running costs

Austin Metro: reliability and running costs

The example we’re testing is an HLE from 1983. The HLE was launched in response to rising fuel prices – it was the ‘eco’ model of its day, arguably ahead of its time. It featured a longer fourth gear ratio than the standard model, helping it return better fuel economy at high speed. They renamed the fourth gear the ‘E’ gear.

Combined with the 1.3-litre engine, Austin Rover made bold claims about the HLE’s fuel consumption. It returned an impressive (even by today’s standards) 57.8mpg ‘at a steady 56mph’. In reality, it’ll comfortably return mid-40s MPG today, while other running costs should be very low. Classic insurance companies will cover the Metro very cheaply, while parts are often shared with other British Leyland products and easy to track down.

Austin Metro: could I drive it every day?

Austin Metro: could I drive it every day?

Considering how much smaller the Austin Metro is than modern day superminis, it’s amazingly practical. The rear seats fold down – unusual for its time – and four adults can fit in the Metro comfortably (OK, we might expect a few complaints during longer journeys).

But, with numbers declining so rapidly, it would be a shame to use a Metro every day. It’d cope with it – but the whine of the gearbox in lower gears would soon lose its charm, and you’d probably get bored of being intimidated by giant Vauxhall Astras on your daily commute. And then there’s the rust – winter wouldn’t be kind to a Metro.

Austin Metro: how much should I pay?

Austin Metro: how much should I pay?

Metros are dirt cheap – especially when you consider how much a Mini of the same era would be. Slightly ropey examples can be picked up from as little as £500, while around a grand should get you a usable project. You’re looking at no more than £2,000 for a minter, while a rare MG Metro Turbo might cost up to £4,000.

Austin Metro: what should I look out for?

Austin Metro: what should I look out for?

Don’t worry too much about the mechanicals – the A-plus engine is fairly bulletproof, although a good service history is always nice for peace of mind. Watch out for sagging suspension, although this can be sorted fairly cheaply. The Metro’s biggest issue is rot – check the floor pans and sills, as well as around the front wings and the front valance.

Austin Metro: should I buy one?

Austin Metro: should I buy one?

If you’re after an entry-level classic car that will turn heads and encourage people to reminisce, a Metro is definitely worthy of consideration. It wasn’t class-leading in its day, and some people simply won’t get why you’d want a Metro today, but can you think of a more significant classic car you can pick up for less than a grand?

More than two million Metros were sold between 1980 and 1997 (including rebadged Rover 100 models) – but only around 500 Austin Metros are believed to remain on UK roads. If you want to save a rare but significant British car, this is your chance.

Austin Metro: pub fact

Austin Metro: pub fact

The four-wheel-drive MG Metro 6R4 rally car shares little with the road car apart from its name. Created as a Group B racer, the 6R4 was powered by the same 3.0-litre V6 engine that went on to appear in the Jaguar XJ220. It produced more than 416hp – and customers could buy homologation versions for more than £40,000.