Number of average speed cameras doubles in three years

Number of average speed cameras doubles in three years

Number of average speed cameras doubles in three years

The coverage of permanent average speed cameras along the UK road network has more than doubled since 2013, figures obtained by the BBC have revealed.

More than 263 miles of UK roads are now covered by the average speed cameras – with Scotland being the hardest hit.

Cameras were installed along 100 miles of the A9, running from Perth to Inverness, in 2014 – helping to reduce casualties on the roads, says Transport Scotland.

The data counts all cameras which measures a vehicle’s average speed between two points, but excludes temporary average speed cameras – such as those through motorway roadworks.

In the UK, there are a total of 2,300 miles of motorway and 5,300 miles of trunk A-roads.

The longest stretch in England covered by average speed cameras, according to the research carried out by the RAC Foundation, is on the A614 in Nottinghamshire. Before the cameras were installed, this 12-mile stretch claimed 289 deaths and injuries in a five-year period.

The rise in popularity of the average speed cameras is partly being attributed to decreasing costs. They now cost typically around £100,000 per mile, according to Richard Owen from Road Safety Analytics, compared to £1.5 million per mile in the early 2000s.

He told the BBC: “Some of the old fixed speed cameras have been around for 25 years and they are based on 35mm film.

“They are coming to the end of their life so as they are replaced, they’re sometimes getting replaced with average speed camera systems.”

Earlier this year, the House of Commons’ Transport Committee recommended increasing the number of average speed cameras on British roads as they’re “generally better received by motorists than traditional fixed speed cameras”.

Nissan GT-R

2017 Nissan GT-R track-test review: Godzilla bites back

Nissan GT-REau Rouge, Raidillon, Les Combes, La Source… The list of Spa-Francorchamps’ corners reads like a motorsport greatest hits. Nestled among the lush green hills of the Ardennes, Spa is widely regarded as one of the best circuits in the world. Legends have been born here, and lives have been lost here. Today, I’ll be driving it flat-out in the new Nissan GT-R.

If the car in these photos doesn’t look entirely ‘new’, that’s because it isn’t. The current (R35) GT-R was launched way back in 2007, but – like smartphone technology or the common cold – it has evolved constantly, with annual updates to keep it competitive.

This 2017 version, known as the ‘MY17’ by GT-R geeks, is the most comprehensive update in the car’s history. And frankly, with rivals like the Audi R8, Mercedes-AMG GT and Porsche 911 Turbo, it needs to be.

We can pore over spec details later, though. Right now, the electronic gates have swung open and, with sweaty palms and 570hp under my right foot, I’m about to unleash the GT-R on an empty racetrack…

Nissan GT-RA relaxing Spa break? Not exactly

Entering the circuit at La Source, I dive downhill and straight into Spa’s most famous corner: Eau Rouge. This tight left-right-left kink bottoms out and then climbs sharply, making the front end of the car go light as I surge forward into the Kemmel Straight.

Along here, the GT-R accelerates relentlessly, its twin-turbo V6 blasting us beyond 150mph before you can say “Les Combes”. Braking hard, you can really feel the car’s 1,752kg weight, but it tracks straight and feels stable. Thank mammoth cast-iron discs (there’s no carbon-ceramic option) and Brembo six-pot calipers.

Turning in, the car feels planted and precise, but I overcook this tricky series of three bends at the first attempt and it bumps uncomfortably over the rumble strips. The rear-biased four-wheel-drive catapults us away again without even a chirrup of wheelspin, but it’s clear the GT-R isn’t averse to understeer (running wide) if you push too hard in slower corners.

As I’ll discover, taking faster bends too quickly has the opposite effect…

Nissan GT-RHolding on for a hero

As Spa’s rollercoaster ribbon of asphalt plunges downwards, I enter the more open corners at Pouhon and Blanchimont. The GT-R is so fast, and throttle response so instant, that it’s easy to carry far too much speed here. And being a reckless amateur, that’s exactly what I do.

As your velocity increases, so the Nissan’s cornering attitude shifts from understeer to tail-twitching oversteer. Being a higher, heavier car than many of its rivals means this transition happens more slowly and predictably. Nonetheless, the slight wriggle from the rear end as we approach Blanchimont at over 100mph is enough to make me wish I’d packed my brave pants.

Of course, even a car with as much traction and grip as the GT-R can be provoked into going sideways if you so wish. But we didn’t come to Spa for showboating. As as racing driver will tell you, smoothness is the key to speed. Well, that and the small matter of 570hp.

Nissan GT-R‘The ultimate performance super-sports car’

Yes, ‘the ultimate performance super-sports car’ is the modest claim Nissan makes for the GT-R. But you know what, they might just have a point.

With 570 hp from its 3.8-litre V6 up 20hp on the MY16 car the GT-R will explode to 62mph in “about 2.7 seconds” (it hasn’t been officially timed yet, apparently) and keep going to 196mph. The standard car last set an official Nurburgring lap time in 2013, a 7min 18sec result making it one of the fastest production cars ever. Unless you enter the rarified world of six-figure supercars, there’s little to match it.

That said, the GT-R isn’t the bargain at once was. When first launched, it was barely more expensive than a BMW M3. But prices have crept up over the past decade, with the cheapest version now starting at £79,995. The ‘engineered by Nismo’ Track Edition will be £91,995, and the forthcoming full-fat GT-R Nismo is likely to be north of £100k.

For that kind of money, Nissan’s flagship needs to offer premium-feel as well as performance. That’s why the biggest changes are inside the car.

Nissan GT-RMore premium, less Playstation

When the R35 was born, Tony Blair was still prime minister and nobody knew what a ‘credit crunch’ was. At the time, its tech-heavy cabin including a media system designed by Polyphony, makers of the Gran Turismo games – was futuristic and impressive.

However all those buttons look dated in the iPad era, so Nissan has fitted a new eight-inch touchscreen that de-clutters the dashboard (a bit). There’s also a rotary controller on the centre console, so you can keep your eyes on the road – rather than on your G-force meter, gearbox oil temperature gauge or real-time braking pressure graph. Yes, this is still a car to delight data nerds.

Whether its upgraded cabin will delight the rest of us is debatable. Nissan has swathed the dashboard in hand-stitched leather and fitted plusher, more comfortable seats (electric Recaros are a £2,000 option). Yet there’s still an awful lot of hard plastic, plus a random scattering of switchgear that will be familiar to anyone who’s driven a Note or Qashqai.  

On the plus side, the GT-R remains quite practical. Its two rear seats are fine for kids – albeit hopelessly cramped for adults – and its deep boot is big enough for a week away.

Nissan GT-RIron fist in a boxing glove

The changes on the outside of the car are less obvious. Only dedicated GT-R spotters – and plenty of such folk exist – are likely to notice the V-shaped front grille and new front bumper with LED daytime running lights.

At the rear, the Ferrari-aping round taillights are still the car’s most distinctive feature, although a closer look reveals a new silver-finished diffuser, plus side air vents next to the titanium-tipped exhaust pipes. You wouldn’t call the GT-R beautiful, but it’s brawny and utterly purposeful.

As we leave Spa through the local town of Francorchamps, it’s time for the acid test. A group of school children is being marched along the pavement by a flustered-looking teacher. The boys at the head of the queue stop suddenly as they point and stare at our rumbling, growling GT-R. The teacher shouts and gesticulates. Our work here is done.

Nissan GT-RGran Turismo for the road

It’s ironic the GT-R found fame through the Gran Turismo racing game, because it’s brilliantly capable GT. And we mean that in the old-fashioned sense: a car that could whisk you to the south of France without breaking sweat.

If anything, the uber-Nissan is even more impressive on the road than on the track. Through the tight turns of Spa, it feels heavier and less agile than some similarly-powerful sports cars. Yet on the road, it’s crushingly competent, with acceleration, braking and cornering abilities so far beyond what you can safely – or legally – achieve that you never want for more.

Unlike many rivals, the GT-R is also very easy to drive. You don’t have to clamber in and out, the seating position is upright, ride comfort is better than you might expect and the control weights won’t scare somebody more used to a Micra. With the six-speed dual-clutch gearbox in auto mode, its a refined and relaxing way to travel. The sheer size of the car is the only potential stumbling-block.

Nissan GT-RGodzilla still has teeth

One comment you’ll occasionally hear about the GT-R is that it lacks character, or that it doesn’t have the soul of a sports car.

I don’t buy that, though. The car the Japanese call ‘Godzilla’ may not be as fast as a Ferrari, or as head-turning as a Lamborghini. Its interior may still look a bit downmarket and its V6 doesn’t sound special enough. But Nissan’s fast and furious flagship has a depth of ability that trancends virtually anything else on sale – especially if you’re just an ‘average’ driver like me.

It takes time to fully appreciate the GT-R’s talents (a track session at Spa helps, admittedly) but it will confound expectations and, ultimately, get under your skin. As I handed the – cheap, plasticky – key back at Dusseldorf airport, all I wanted to do was carry on driving. And what better testimonial is there for ‘the ultimate performance super-sports car’ than that?

Nissan GT-R2017 Nissan GT-R: Early verdict

For:

Gobsmackingly quick

Formidable traction and grip

Practical for a supercar

Cheaper than its rivals

Against:

Interior not worthy of an £80k car

Engine doesn’t sound special enough

2017 Nissan GT-R: Specification

Price: £79,995

Engine: 3.8-litre V6 twin turbo

Gearbox: six-speed semi-automatic

Power: 570hp

Torque: 470lb ft

0-62mph: 2.7 seconds (est.)

Top speed: 196mph

Fuel economy: 23.9mpg

CO2 emissions: 275g/km

 

Lamborghini Huracan: Two-Minute Road Test

Lamborghini Huracan (2016) road test review

 

Lamborghini Huracan: Two-Minute Road Test

Wedge-shaped, ferociously fast and unashamedly extrovert, the Huracan is Lamborghini’s ‘junior’ supercar. It replaced the Gallardo (the best-selling Lambo ever) in 2014, and sits beneath the Aventador in the Italian marque’s two-car range.

Huracan buyers can choose from a closed-roof coupe or open-top Spyder, plus two engine configurations: 580hp rear-wheel-drive LP 580-2 (£156,575) or 610hp four-wheel-drive LP 610-4 (£181,895). The LP 610-4 coupe is the car tested here.

What are its rivals?

What are its rivals?

As ever, Lamborghini’s main rival comes from nearby Maranello. The newly-turbocharged 670hp Ferrari 488 GTB trumps the Huracan for horsepower, and is a sharper tool for track days.

McLaren’s highly-acclaimed 570hp 570S and new 570GT ‘hatchback’ also pose a serious threat. Plus, of course, there’s the venerable Porsche 911. In range-topping Turbo S spec, the Porsche offers 580hp and a price tag some £36,000 lower than the Lamborghini.

What’s it like to drive?

What's it like to drive?

The Huracan is an assault on the senses. The first time you bury the throttle, it literally takes your breath away: a tsunami of V10 fury that thumps you in the back and batters your eardrums. Anyone worried that Lamborghini has been sanitised since becoming part of the Volkswagen Group can rest easy.

That naturally-aspirated V10 dominates the driving experience, lurking behind your left shoulder like Hannibal Lecter in his cell – calm and controlled, yet ready to explode at any moment. You need a will of iron to drive this car sensibly, and stay on the right side of the law.

Fortunately, the Huracan isn’t simply a one-trick bull. Switch the drive mode selector to Strada (road), leave the dual-clutch gearbox in auto and you’ll discover a car that’s surprisingly easy to drive. Yes, visibility is virtually non-existent through the louvred rear window, but large door mirrors and a reversing camera help with parking. And you needn’t be terrified of city width restrictors – unlike in the wide-boy Aventador.

Four-wheel-drive traction makes the LP 610-4 feel planted and confidence-inspiring on open roads. The steering is direct and nicely-weighted (our car had the optional variable-ratio Lamborghini Dynamic Steering) and the mid-engined chassis is beautifully balanced. Those who have driven the Huracan on-track say it understeers in extremis. But most drivers will rarely, if ever, reach those limits on the road.

Fuel economy and running costs

Fuel economy and running costs

You do know this is a 610hp supercar, right? With no turbochargers to help its cause, the Huracan is less efficient than some rivals – although we suspect few owners will care.

Official figures are 22.6mpg (we managed around 15mpg in our test), with CO2 emissions of 290g/km. The latter equates to £1,120 car tax (VED) in the first year, then £515 a year thereafter. All Lamborghinis come with a generous four-year, unlimited-mileage warranty in the UK, but be prepared to budget big for servicing every 12 months or 9,000 miles.

Is it practical?

What's it like to drive?

Again, this is hardly the Huracan’s strong suit. The small boot under the bonnet holds 70 litres – enough for a couple of overnight bags, provided you pack light – plus you could squeeze a small amount of shopping onto the narrow shelf behind the seats. A Porsche 911 is much more practical.

On the plus side, the Huracan’s compact dimensions, comfortable seats and motorway refinement mean you really could drive it every day (and why wouldn’t you?). Unlike Lamborghinis of old, it doesn’t make a journey feel like a physical workout. At 5:30pm on a wet Friday evening, you’ll probably be thankful for that.

What about safety?

What about safety?

Euro NCAP doesn’t crash-test supercars, so we can’t tell you how the Huracan stacks up in an accident. However, this Italian supercar offers decidedly Germanic build quality – no surprise, perhaps, considering it’s closely related to the Audi R8.

With 610hp on tap, undoubtedly the greatest threat to safety is your right foot. At least this particular Huracan has four-wheel drive. The two-wheel-drive LP 580-2 would certainly be a trickier beast on wet roads.

Which version should I go for?

Which version should I go for?

If you’re the sort of person who wears dedicated driving shoes and pores over Nurburgring lap times, you’ll doubtless prefer the purity of the LP 580-2. However, we’d have our Huracan with four-wheel drive.

Likewise, the Huracan coupe is probably a slightly sharper steer. But when you’re driving one of the most incredible-sounding cars on sale, why not go for the Spyder? The snaps, crackles and pops of that mighty V10 don’t deserve to be muffled.

Lamborghini can personalise each car to suit your personal taste – or lack of – and most customers will spend five figures on optional extras. Essentials include the front-lift kit (£5,148 – needed to clear speed humps!), rear-view camera and parking sensors (£2,940), DAB radio (£636) and Bluetooth phone connectivity (£732).

Should I buy one?

Should I buy one?

Driving the Huracan was an experience to savour. The looks, the noise, the performance… everything about it screams ‘supercar’.

If we’re being critical, the mechanically-similar Audi R8 is cheaper, has a nicer interior and is almost as exciting to drive. And the Ferrari 488 GTB is, by all accounts, a superior all-rounder. However, it’s the Lamborghini that turns most heads; it’s pure street theatre.

We can’t imagine ever getting bored of the Huracan. It’s a car that constantly stimulates the synapses. As personal transport turned up to 11, there’s little to touch it. And for many, that’s what supercars are all about.

Pub fact

Pub fact

You can’t have failed to notice our Huracan is painted in bright ‘Giallo Midas’ – a £5,360 option. In fact, yellow is the most popular colour for Lamborghinis ever, a fact celebrated by Aventador LP720-4 50 Anniversario.

This ‘Giallo Maggio’ yellow special edition was launched in 2013 to mark 50 years of Lamborghini. You could even opt for a yellow interior, in case the standard car was too subtle…

French autoroute

Travelling to France? Do not stock up on fuel in cans warns RAC

French autorouteMotorists travelling to France for the Bank Holiday weekend are being warned NOT to stock up in the UK on fuel in cans before they travel – because not only is it dangerous, it’s also illegal.

The RAC is warning drivers that French authorities only permit motorists to bring 10 litres of additional fuel into the country. “That is only enough to drive around 70 to 100 miles,” says the RAC’s Simon Williams, “and therefore may not be that helpful for holidaymakers who are driving long distances.”

Not only that, ferry operators such as P&O do not permit the carrying of any additional fuel in cans. Others only allow a maximum of 5 litres.

The RAC adds that it’s not a good idea to carry petrol or diesel for prolonged periods anyway – and it’s certainly not sensible to store it up if your car’s in a confined space such as a ferry or train.

Williams said the French government insists it’s committed to swiftly resolving the fuel issue – but “though fuel stations do have supplies of petrol and diesel, motorists should expect delays and rationing in the next few days”.

Latest reports are that filling stations are using France’s strategic oil stocks, reserves last used in 2010, as the dispute with the CGT union drags on. Striking workers are preventing fuel tankers from loading and unloading.

Are you travelling to France this Bank Holiday weekend? Let us know how you get on

Fiat 500

Fiat 500: Retro Road Test

Fiat 500The current Fiat 500 has been the darling of the city car market and beloved of young and trendy urbanites since it was launched in 2007. But there is another way to go if stylish retro motoring tickles your fancy. The current 500’s predecessor – the Nuova 500 – first won over city drivers in 1957. Designed in part to get a country on wheels, its diminutive dimensions, simple two-cylinder engine and cute-as-a-button looks immediately earned it many fans. And, of course, it proved so popular, it unashamedly provided inspiration for its newer (and much larger) ancestor.

Replacing the front-engined 1936 Fiat 500 ‘Topolino’ (or ‘little mouse’), the Nuova (‘new’) 500 made use of the popular rear-engined template of the time. It followed in the tyre tracks of its larger 600 predecessor, and was part of the ‘economic miracle’ that was post-war Italy’s decade-and-a-half of sustained economic growth. Like the contemporary Volkswagen Beetle and Citroën 2CV, it can be considered one of the earliest mass-market ‘people’s cars’. It enjoyed an 18-year production run from 1957-1975.

Replaced by the angular, but similar-in-concept Fiat 126, the Nuova 500 is now a popular classic car. With a simple outlook and endearing character, it’s easy to see why over four million Nuova 500s were produced. Our test car is a 1966 500 ‘F’ with a 499cc 18bhp engine, which is owned by Great Escape Cars. Available to drive on the company’s road trip or corporate event packages, the car has also been used on the Antiques Road Trip TV programme. It was imported from Milan in January 2015.

MiniWhat are its rivals?

As its production run encapsulated almost two decades, the Nuova 500’s rivals are varied. Perhaps the most obvious is the ground-breaking Morris Mini Minor/Austin Seven/Mini of 1959, which brought front-engined, front-wheel-drive technology to the mass market. Similar in size to the 2,970mm Nuova 500, the 3,054mm Mini was more powerful: its 848cc four-cylinder developed 33hp – almost twice as much as the little Fiat’s unit. The Fiat weighed less, though; the tiny Italian car tipped the scales at 470kg, against the Mini’s 617kg. 

As the Nuova 500 entered the 1960s, more rivals appeared in the shape of the similarly-powered two-cylinder 1961 NSU Prinz 4, as well as the four-cylinder Hillman Imp of 1963. Both newcomers shared a rear-engined layout with the Nuova 500, but had larger dimensions than both the Italian car and its British Mini rival. Coincidentally, there was another NSU link: the pretty Neckar Weinsberg 500 Limousette and Coupé were based on the Nuova 500 and produced by NSU/FIAT Weinsberg Karosseriewerke in Heilbronn, Germany.

Fiat 500What engine does it use?

The first 500 models were powered by a two-cylinder 479cc engine (500cc nominally, which gave the car its name) that initially developed 13hp, then 15hp. A larger-capacity 499.5cc ‘Sport’ variant produced 21hp. The 500 ‘D’ arrived in 1960 and ushered in an enlarged 499cc two-cylinder engine, this time with 18hp, which powered the little car – including our 1996 500 F test model – until 1973. The last incarnation of the 500, the ‘R’, borrowed its 594cc engine from the similarly diminutive 126. It produced a heady 23hp. Abarth versions were even more dizzying: engines ranged from 593cc to 689.5cc with power outputs from 27hp to 38hp.

Fiat 500What’s it like to drive?

The first thing that strikes you when you first get into a 500 is the amount of space inside. Despite its bijou size, it uses what interior space it does have to much better effect than the newer model that shares its name. Thanks to its rear-engine, rear-drive layout, there’s no bulky transmission tunnel to get in the way (unlike the current car), and its large and upright glasshouse makes it feel spacious and easy to place on the road.

On the move, the engine really has to be revved to get any decent performance, and although our mildly hilly, open-road test route wasn’t best suited to the little Fiat, it coped well. Once the engine is on song, it does assault the ears somewhat, but don’t worry – it might sound like you’re doing it some damage, but that’s just the way it is. Quiet it’s not, but then that’s one part of the original 500’s multi-faceted character. Top speed is just 59mph, so motorway cruising is something denied to Nuova 500 drivers.

The hardest thing to master if you’ve not driven one before, is the non-synchromesh ‘crash’ gearbox. You need to double de-clutch every time you change gear – you’ll do it very often – and it can be a tricky thing to get the hang of. The steering can feel vague out on the open road, too, but the 500 feels quite nimble and light on its tyres. The brakes work well enough, and you’ll be glad when you have stopped, just to give your ears a rest if nothing else. For a small car, the little Italian can feel quite demanding and tiring to drive for long periods. But isn’t that just part of the fun?  

Fiat 500Reliability and running costs

Although the downsized two-cylinder engine was a departure for Fiat, it has a reputation for being a tough little unit. The car’s non-synchromesh gearbox was used throughout its life, but thankfully is also famed for being strong. If it does need repair, though, it’s not a simple task.

The 500’s dinky dimensions mean parts prices aren’t too prohibitive: a front panel can cost from as little as £72 from an independent specialist, while bonnets start at around £95. Door hinge kits are as little as £6, while doors themselves range from £288 to almost double that. 

With not much power – and therefore not a huge amount of speed – the 500 has an advantage when it comes to economy, with 53mpg commonly reported. Most now fall under the VED historic vehicle exemption rule for cars registered before 1 January 1976, too, meaning they cost nothing to tax. To further keep costs to a minimum, a classic car insurance policy would be a wise investment. 

Fiat 500Could I drive it every day?

For today’s congested streets, the Nuova 500’s pint-sized footprint is perfect. A modern Smart Fortwo may still be shorter – so 90-degree parking facing the kerb may be off the cards – but the 500 can nip through narrow streets that would be out of bounds to bigger cars, its later relative included.

If you want more practicality, the equally cute ‘Giardiniera’ estate version of the Nuova 500 was made from 1960 to 1977 and enjoyed a larger carrying capacity, thanks to the engine being turned on its side and mounted under the boot floor.  Don’t forget the sunroof on the standard car, though – fold it back to carry long loads and you’ll possess the coolest load-lugger in town.

While longer journeys out of town may prove more of a challenge due to that small engine, our 1966 test car provided modest fun out on the roads surrounding the Welsh borders. However, you do have to rev the little unit to its absolute limit, so it’s best to keep to the urban landscape. 

Fiat 500How much should I pay?

Most early-1970s, good-condition 500 F, L or R models command around £6,000-£8,000, while top collectors’ cars can go for upwards of £20,000. Restoration projects start as low as £1,500, with fully-restored 500s priced around ten times that much. A car around the same age as the 1966 car pictured here can be had for around £8,500, while 1970s-era 500s can be advertised for up to £1,000 less.

Cars that need importing may be cheaper still – mid-1960s cars can be around £3,500, but don’t forget you will need import duty and VAT adding to the total bill. It goes without saying that cars that have been better cared for fetch higher prices – we’ve seen one 1971 500 F that has been resprayed, serviced and kept in a garage for £12,500. Later 500 Rs see peaks in demand as they offer a combination of the later running gear with the early, retro-style ‘round speedo’ dashboard, rather than the plastic padded one of the 500 L.

Fiat 500What should I look out for?

As with almost all classic cars, rust is one of the biggest enemies of the 500. Examine the front panel behind the headlamps closely, along with the areas around the front and rear windows, as well as the engine cover. Don’t forget the usual spots, too, such as the bottoms of the doors, sills, wheel arches, and wings. Open the front ‘bonnet’ and check there, too, paying particular attention to the battery tray and spare wheel well. The floor can need attention on cars that haven’t been looked after, too. Rot is usually caused by leaks from that same large sunroof that gives the car a certain amount of its character.

Oil leaks from the engine are common, but a lot of smoke from the exhaust suggests the little two-cylinder will need a rebuild. The dinky unit also relies on its cooling flaps working correctly – if they don’t, it can overheat and substantial engine damage can result. Also look for worn carburettors, timing chains and clean, regularly-changed spark plugs. A check of the suspension morning points is also worth doing, too. Look at both the rear semi-trailing arms and the transverse front leaf spring for corrosion. Every 1,000-1,500 miles the front kingpins need greasing, too. 

With so many leaving Fiat’s Lingotto factory in Turin, a great number of Nuova 500s will be left-hand-drive like our test car. If it’s known that a particular car has been subject to a steering wheel swap to right-hand drive, an independent specialist can check if the conversion has been carried out properly. As befits its car-for-the-masses roots, the 500’s interior is refreshingly simple. Wear and tear will be noticeable, but parts (as well as exterior panels) on early cars can be difficult to find. 

Fiat 500Should I buy one?

As with almost all classic cars, there’s characterful appeal to the 500 that rubs off on you as you drive it. A happy little car with plenty of personality, for retro-chic appeal, a Nuova 500 beats the current Fiat 500 hands down. Healthy production figures mean there are still plenty around, and the tiny silhouette is one of the most well-known and endearing on the classic car scene. We’d buy one and keep it for high days and holidays, unless its condition and patina dictates everyday use.

Later 500 F and L cars from the mid-1960s onwards will probably be the most reliable, for those considering a longer-term proposition. As well as the engine, last-of-the-line R cars shared some of the chassis with their 126 successor and so will be more robust still. But, even the final examples will now be more than 40 years old. However, even though it’s so instantly recognisable, we’d probably have a Nouva 500 over a similar vintage Mini, purely for the added style and Italian character it offers. With a starring role as Luigi in the first Cars movie, your kids will thank you, too. 

SMEG fridgesPub facts

For the first eight years of its life, the Nuova 500 had reverse-hinged suicide doors, but they were phased out in 1965 due to safety concerns. However, the Giardiniera stuck with the rear-opening doors for all of its production run. The estate version of the 500 also had its wheelbase extended by four inches. The original 500 was also the first car to be offered with a flexible finance package, set to appeal to the bank of mum and dad.

If you love your 500 that much and want to park it indoors rather than in a garage, you can also buy a Smeg fridge that immortalises the little Italian. ‘Because a refrigerator is not just a domestic appliance and a bonnet is not just a car’, the SMEG 500 has been available since 2013, and is based on the front of a Nuova 500. It has a 100-litre capacity under its ‘bonnet’, and is available in traditional Italian red, green or white.

Tiff Needell reveals Fifth Gear is dead

Tiff Needell reveals Fifth Gear is dead

Tiff Needell reveals Fifth Gear is dead

As hype around the the all-new Chris Evans led Top Gear and its Amazon rival The Grand Tour builds, Tiff Needell has revealed there’s unlikely to be another series of Fifth Gear filmed. Ever.

Although not confirmed, Needell revealed on Twitter:

Responding to outcry from his Twitter followers, Needell revealed that Fifth Gear is finding it hard to get recommissioned, even though now would be a good time to poach ‘disgruntled Top Gear fans’.

Racing driver Tiff has presented on Fifth Gear since it was launched on Channel 5 in 2001. Before that, he appeared on Top Gear for 14 years.

His co-presenter Jonny Smith responded to Needell’s tweets, saying: “You need a new show Tiff. Let’s call it The Needell For Speed. Please.”

Fellow co-presenter Vicky Butler-Henderson hasn’t reacted to the news.

McLaren 570GT 2016

2016 McLaren 570GT review: the people’s McLaren?

McLaren 570GT 2016The McLaren 570GT is the model everyday Porsche 911 buyers have been waiting for. The sublime 570S, McLaren’s first Sports Series model, is a fantastic machine, but it’s a little too focused for the people who buy most 911s. More GT3 than Carrera 4S. Cue the 570GT.

OK, it’s still not quite a rival to the ‘volume’ 911. It’s called 570 because it still has 570hp. Still has 911 Turbo S power, then – with the price tag to match the range-topping non-road-racer Porsche. £154,015 makes it even pricier than the 570S, in fact. McLaren’s production limit is 5,000 cars a year: it has no need to make an ‘affordable’ model.

What the 570GT does do is broaden the Sports Series appeal a little for those who, like so many 911 drivers, will use their cars more regularly than once or twice a week. Of all the McLarens on sale, the 570GT is most likely to be the daily driver, is the one that will cover the highest annual mileage. This is the McLaren you’ll be seeing in the Waitrose car park.

McLaren 570GT 2016

So this is the McLaren that’s easier to live with than any other. OK, it can’t match the 911’s USP of being a four-seater, but that’s because the engine’s in the middle rather than far out back. What McLaren has done is give it an additional boot, and a ‘hatchback’ to load it up through.

It also has an elegant new fastback rear to integrate this side-hinged door. With a standard panoramic roof, it has a glassier, sleeker look than the more focused 570S, although they’re clearly otherwise one and the same. Similarly inside: interiors are identical, just trimmed in comfier materials and more elegant combinations for the 570GT.

McLaren initially thought the 570S would be the best-selling Sports Series but, since revealing the 570GT at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, believes it could actually be this. Certainly it’s the McLaren most likely to draw wavering 911 owners bored with a Turbo’s normality, plus a few ‘everyday’ R8 and Aston Martin DB9 owners for good measure. So what’s it like?

The McLaren 570GT is an elegant looker…

McLaren 570GT 2016

The main visual changes are that smoother rear, fancier alloys and more grown up colours. It loses the 570S’ skeletal flying rear buttresses and the extra volume in the rear gives it, well, more of a GT look. This makes it a sleek-looking thing on the road, particularly in the subdued silvers and greys many everyday drivers will choose. See – McLaren doesn’t have to be all extrovert lime green paint and track-spec exposed aerodynamics.

… But it’s still a racy McLaren

McLaren 570GT 2016

That’s not to say it’s gone soft. This is still a McLaren honed in the same aerodynamic wind tunnel used by the F1 racers, after all. So it’s still packed with diffusers and carbon fibre addenda, still has standout purpose and muscularity that will turn even the stiffest of necks. Compared to the ‘humdrum’ 911 and R8, it’s still a radical, attitude-lavished car to look at.

It’s still not the easiest car to get into…

McLaren 570GT 2016

For supercar step-in-and-out-ability, nothing beats a 911. The McLaren, 570GT, with its dihedral ‘scissor’ doors, chunky sills, low seats and MonoCell tub you have purposefully to ease yourself into, is a car tricker to hop into and out of. It hasn’t gone everyday in this respect. Nor would today’s McLaren buyers, who like this sense of climbing down into a racing car, want it to (but maybe it’s something McLaren may want to consider in the future).

… But loading luggage is a breeze!

McLaren 570GT 2016

The 570GT has not one but two boots! One deep one in the front, like a 911, plus the extra load deck (McLaren calls it a Touring Deck) behind the front seats. Leather-lined, with anti-slip ribbing and an anti-fling-luggage-forwards bar, the side door opens kerbside for both left-hand and right-hand drive markets, and McLaren even fits folding seats so you can flip the seatback forward and chuck stuff into the 220-litre space without opening the rear door. Luggage space is up to 370 litres (just 10 litres shy of a Volkswagen Golf): GT-ability swells accordingly.

It’s ridiculously refined (for a supercar)…

McLaren 570GT 2016

On the road, the first thing that strikes you is how quiet and plush-running the 570GT is, for a supercar. It’s not silent, and the twin-turbo V8 is rightly ever-present (the 570GT exhaust is apparently quieter, but you’d barely guess), but cruising noise from wind rush and, in particular, tyres is extremely low. There’s one key reason for this: McLaren’s using Pirelli’s new noise cancelling tyres, that dampen out tyre noise at source. They really work, making the 570GT a very relaxing, appealing motorway supercar cruiser.

… And it’s staggeringly fast

McLaren 570GT 2016

This may be the (rich) people’s everyday McLaren, but it’s also still stonkingly fast. The 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 is identical to the 570S, so its only a bit of extra weight that dulls acceleration. A bit: 0-62mph takes 3.4 seconds, it does a quarter-mile in 11.1 seconds and will hit 204mph. Get it above 3,500rpm and it’s mind-blowingly rapid for a GT car, with the howling, wailing exhaust note to match. Way more thrilling than any anodyne-feel 911 Turbo S, that’s for sure.

It’s softer, but only relatively

McLaren 570GT 2016

McLaren has softened the suspension, a bit, made the steering a fraction slower and fitted regular steel brakes as standard rather than the track-feel carbon ceramics of the 570S. Compared to the S, it is more compliant, a touch less intense, easier to live with everyday. Compared to most other cars, it remains a true supercar, all nose-darting intensity, amazing grip, never-ending grip and taut, positive, ‘I feel like Jenson Button’ riding attitude.

The 570GT is not as thrilling as the 570GT, but it’s easier to live with

McLaren 570GT 2016

If you’ve driven the 570S, the 570GT won’t immediately grab you with quite the same intensity. It’s a fantastic car, but it’s strengths over the wild 570S are slower-burn. Only after an hour or so will you appreciate the better ride, more easy-converse noise levels, more relaxed steering and airier cabin. You don’t need to think about where to put all your stuff when you get in; the soft leather and sunshine-lavished cabin feels less like a road-going Le Mans car and more like a very special, more interesting alternative to a 911. Which will, if you drive your 911 to a McLaren dealer for a test drive, will make you feel a million dollars.

Its everyday strengths are considerable

McLaren 570GT 2016

All McLarens have great forward visibility: the deep front screen, thin pillars and low nose sees to that. Great for hitting an apex, surprisingly perfect for threading through Central London. The 570GT enhances this with its standard panoramic glass roof and standard front and rear parking sensors. McLaren also includes standard soft-close doors, electric heated seats and an electric steering column that slides out the way for easy entry and exit. It hasn’t turned into an S-Class, far from it. But for those who like to use their supercars hard, this is the best McLaren for the job.

Verdict: 2016 McLaren 570GT

McLaren 570GT 2016

The McLaren 570GT is the best definition of McLaren’s Sport Series models. It’s very McLaren, so is all fantastic design, exotic engineering, ultra-precision drive and mind-warping speed. But this is McLaren blended more to the (relative) everyday: you could use it to commute in if you wanted to, and the refined extra comfort that makes it such a good GT car will also make it good for the M25 grind and inner-city jams McLaren’s entrepreneurial customers may choose to use it in.

For instant-hit satisfaction, the purity of the 570S still gets our vote. If you have a fleet of cars, like many McLaren customers, you may prefer the sharper, more F1-like 570S for its pure McLaren brilliance. But anyone who’s looking for a McLaren as an alternative to a 911 or R8 – and given those cars’ sales, there may be a lot of them – should steer to the thrilling 570GT. No wonder McLaren’s betting it will sell better than any other car it has ever made.

For:

The most practical McLaren yet…

… But little less exciting than the others

Thrilling yet tolerable to live with everyday

Against:

Not as exciting as a 570S

Still hardly as everyday as a 911

Price remain more Ferrari level than Porsche

2016 McLaren 570GT: specification

Price (from): £154,015

Engine: 3.8-litre V8 twin-turbo

Gearbox: 7-speed twin-clutch auto

Power: 570hp

Torque: 443lb ft

0-62mph: 3.4 seconds

Top speed: 204mph

Fuel economy: 26.6mpg

CO2 emissions: 249g/km

Opinion: we need more motorway cameras

Opinion: we need more motorway cameras

Opinion: we need more motorway cameras

This morning we revealed that there are 27% fewer dedicated traffic police on our roads compared to just five years ago. That’s a worrying stat. Especially if you drive around the M25 regularly.

You see, while there are cameras everywhere along the M25, ready for sniping that person who strays up to 60mph when the 50mph signs are displaying on the gantries, there is so much poor driving that the police aren’t there to see.

It’s interesting to look at the police areas in which the M25 passes, and how traffic officer numbers have fluctuated over the years.

As of 31 March 2015, Kent has 94 traffic officers (a drop of 44 compared to 2010), Surrey has 94 (down by 6), Thames Valley 204 (down by 24), Hertfordshire 91 (down by 48) and Essex 148 (down by 109 compared to 2010, but up by 72 compared to 2014).

The general theme is that you’re considerably less likely to see a liveried 3 Series patrolling London’s orbital motorway than just five years ago.

So what’s the solution? More traffic cops, obviously. But as cuts mean that’s unlikely to happen in the near future, I have another idea. Why not turn all those average speed cameras into lane-hogging cameras?

Lane-hogging is a huge issue on the M25. It probably accounts for something like 154% of congestion (figure might not be entirely accurate). Traffic officers are now able to dish out on-the-spot fines for those showing poor lane discipline, but they’re not there to do so.

So, how difficult could it be to use those cameras to catch lane-hoggers? As I was sat in traffic on the M25, I was giving this thought. Simply, they could read number plates of cars passing through in each lane, and any vehicle that repeatedly passes under cameras in the same lane could be flagged up.

Obviously it can’t be that simple. What about if there’s heavy traffic, where it just isn’t possible or practical to move between lanes? This is 2016… it can’t be that difficult for cameras to cleverly work out whether the inside lanes are clear enough for cars to move over.

Alternatively, they could just be used to snipe motorists continually passing under middle lane cameras at speeds above 60mph – in which case the motorway should be clear enough to move over occasionally.

Sure, some people won’t support the idea of more cameras. But anything that stops middle-lane morons clogging up the M25 is fine with me. What do you think?

Know your plaice: fish and chips in a Rolls-Royce Ghost

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Where should you go to taste the UK’s best fish and chips? Whitby? Poole Harbour? Just about anywhere in Cornwall? No, according to the 2016 National Fish & Chip Awards, the nation’s best chippy can be found in Cheltenham.

Yes, landlocked Cheltenham.

Not the picturesque coastal village I had hoped for. No brightly-coloured fishing boats bobbing around in the harbour. No wheelie bin-sized gulls waiting to steal your fish supper. Instead, Cheltenham – more famous for Regency architecture, horse racing and GCHQ than its medium-cod-and-chips-with-salt-and-vinegar-please.

Nevermind. With the… ahem, ‘plaice’ secured, I just needed the wheels. Step forward the Rolls-Royce Ghost. The stage was set: the Great British Takeaway in a Great British Car.

It’s at this point that cynics will point to the fact the nation’s favourite takeaway is just as likely to be an Indian curry or a Chinese, while Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited has been under the ownership of the thoroughly German BMW since 1998.

But listen, if you asked a foreign visitor to name a British dish and a British car, it wouldn’t be long before you arrived at fish and chips and a Rolls-Royce. Besides, I didn’t fancy the 150-mile trek in a Land Rover Defender.

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Rolls-Royce Ghost: seventh heaven?

At £222,888, this is the ‘entry-level’ Rolls-Royce, designed with the owner-driver in mind. Assuming you could live with the 5.4m length and unquenchable desire for unleaded, the Ghost could almost pass as a family car. Almost.

In ‘basic’ terms, the Ghost is well-equipped. As comfortable and as opulent as a honeymoon suite and as imposing as a stately home. But how many Ghost Series II owners actually stick to the basic configuration?

As if to demonstrate the option-happy nature of a typical customer, Rolls-Royce has lavished this test car with – as near as makes no difference – £100,000 worth of optional equipment. You could create a rather special BMW 7 Series for that.

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The Ghost has been around long enough for most people to know that it is based on the previous generation 7 Series. The twin-turbocharged 6.6-litre V12 engine is sourced from BMW, while the iDrive media system will be familiar to anyone who has experience with Bavaria’s finest.

You’d have to be feeling pretty uncharitable to point to the BMW bits as evidence of Rolls-Royce losing its identity. The Ghost feels every inch an authentic Rolls-Royce – majoring on comfort and dripping in charm.

Dripping in charm, but not in chip fat. There were multiple cupholders, veneered picnic tables and even a coolbox complete with RR-engraved glasses in our test car. However, the risk of spoiling the Seashell and Consort Red interior was simply too great.

We only just stopped short of removing our shoes before entry. So thick and heavy are the lambswool mats, when you lift them you start to question if you’re holding an actual sheep. Just don’t ask me how I know what it feels like to hold a sheep…

Great British takeaway, great British weather

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The journey from Dartmoor to Cheltenham was wet and uneventful. Waking up to a dawn chorus of heavy rain, I actually questioned whether it would be simpler to nip down to the nation’s second best chippy, which just happens to be in Plymouth.

But there’s nothing like the sight of a Rolls-Royce sat outside your bedroom window to stir the soul. The theatre begins as soon as you click the unlock button on the weighty key fob. The Spirit of Ecstasy emerges from her slumber beneath the famous slatted grille, ready to point the way like a figurehead on an ancient ship.

The nautical references don’t stop there, because the huge, thin-rimmed steering wheel puts you in mind of something you may have seen on Howard’s Way or The Onedin Line (ask your parents).

The steering itself is wonderfully sharp and direct, although you won’t find too much in the way of feel. Rolls-Royce claims the Ghost is “born to be driven” and, after 150 miles of largely dual-carriageway and motorway driving, I can safely say this is true.

Clearly, the two-door Wraith is – to reference BMW again – the ultimate driving machine, but as opulent four-door saloons go, the Ghost is lesson in craftsmanship and finish. In next to no time we were crawling into Cheltenham, hooking up with the familiar Saturday morning traffic.

In fact, we were early. Simpsons Fish & Chips wasn’t open until 11:45, so we spent the spare time touring the leafy avenues of Cheltenham Spa. We drove past Cheltenham Town FC, with most onlookers no doubt speculating that we were there to inject some cash into the football club.

Sorry, Robins fans, I had the car but I didn’t have the cash.

Eating the best fish and chips… in the UK

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If there’s a typical look for a fish and chip shop, Simpsons is atypical. From the outside it could pass for a furniture store or bike shop. On the inside, though, the recently renovated restaurant looks like a classic British diner of days gone by.

If you like it, I’m pretty sure Rolls-Royce Bespoke will create an interior to match. Dare I say it would be more tasteful than some of the other designs it has been ‘forced’ to conjure up for some of its more demanding clientele?

The cod-and-chips lunch was probably award-winning, but definitely worthy of a 150-mile drive. If I’m honest, my food critic skills aren’t up to the standards of, say, A.A. Gill. I once asked for a Coke with my meal at Monaco’s Café de Paris, and my default restaurant order is a burger. But if you like fish and chips, you’ll love Simpsons.

Of greater interest was the people watching. The Ghost was parked in the road opposite, giving us the chance to monitor people’s reactions to the Red Velvet Sparkle Rolls-Royce. We watched as a young lad nearly scootered into the back of a bus, while many others seemed to be uploading pics of the Ghost to whatever social channel is fashionable this week.

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A chap in a Swiss-registered Range Rover was so intent on getting a closer look, he blocked the road for a few minutes. Later he would see us driving away from the chippy, at which point he gave us the thumbs up for our choice of vehicle.

This became a regular occurrence. Folk seem keen to acknowledge the Ghost. In a world in which Bentleys are commonplace and carmakers are clambering over each other to build crossovers and SUVs, the Rolls-Royce Ghost feels like old money. Less Premier League and more different league.

Wet, wet, wet

We returned from Cheltenham via the drenched roads of the Cotswolds, with the rain doing its best to hamper swift progress. There’s nothing like the small matter of a £320k car and a 6.6-litre V12 engine to focus the mind when you’re driving a rear-wheel-drive leviathan in the rain.

The traction control light illuminated a couple of times, but the Ghost was soon brought back into line. When conditions allowed, I planted my right foot into the deep lambswool, with the needle on the power reserve dial spinning its way round to the small numbers. I never did manage to break into the teens. Must try harder.

Even the simple act of accelerating in a Ghost is an event. You feel the weight transfer to the back, as the rear end digs in. The nose is thrust upwards, as if the Spirit of Ecstasy is about to take off. It’s intoxicating and highly addictive, but with an average on-test economy of 19.4mpg, you need deep pockets to indulge in such playtime.

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If I’m being critical, while the ZF eight-speed transmission is perfectly suited to the Ghost, I’d love a pair of paddle-shifters, just to feel more in control. It’s arguably more of an issue on the Wraith, but it would improve the overall driving experience. Nit-picking? Perhaps.

Some engine braking would also help when trying to bring the Ghost to a halt. When pulling up the anchors, the car feels at its most unwieldy, as the brakes struggle to cope with dimensions that wouldn’t look out of place on a frigate. Shifting all that weight to the nose leaves the Ghost at its least graceful.

That said, at 1,948mm wide, the Rolls-Royce Ghost is narrower than the likes of a Range Rover and the new Jaguar F-Pace. But the big door mirrors, huge steering wheel, raised driving position and sheer weight combine to create an illusion that you’re driving something much wider. The width you can live with, the length is a different matter. You’ll need two parking bays. “Do you think you own this car park…?”

Once through the Cotswolds, we meandered our way along the M4, diverting via Filton to catch a glimpse of the forlorn looking Concorde, before heading down a wet M5. When it comes to the weather, you can see a theme developing here. Just as well the Ghost comes with a pair of umbrellas in the doors.

Ghost: the best compromise?

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As the children settled back into their individual rear seats to enjoy a DVD on the pair of ‘theatre’ screens, I pondered the relevance of the Ghost. Captains of industry will no doubt opt for the Phantom, while super-lux supercar drivers will choose the Wraith.

The new Dawn convertible offers a different dimension, so where does that leave the Ghost? One could argue that it lacks the USPs of its stablemates: less grand than the Phantom, not as focused as the Wraith and too much roof to rival the Dawn. The least interesting Rolls-Royce then?

The counter argument is that it offers the best compromise. With 490 litres of boot space and spare-bedroom levels of rear accommodation, it’s certainly practical. It’s arguably prettier than the Wraith, while the Phantom… well, the Phantom is just a bit too Lord Sugar…

So I’d say the Ghost is the ultimate Rolls-Royce. On the evidence of my five days with the car, people will still let you out of junctions and – aside from the issue of car park spaces – the Ghost can cope with the best and worst of Britain’s streets.

The electronic air suspension does its best to iron away our notorious potholes, with the Ghost wafting and gliding in a manner you’d expect it to. It’s just a shame that the ride doesn’t feel quite so cosseting at low speeds.

The familiar dashboard clock remains a signature piece, but you’ll be hard pressed to hearing it ticking at 60mph. Flying in the face of the famous ad line, the loudest noise will either be a hint of tyre roar, the wind buffeting the huge door mirrors, or the air conditioning system, which seems overly noisy, even on the ‘soft’ setting.

Rolls-Royce: luxury, not premium

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The world has caught up with Rolls-Royce. A well-appointed Volvo XC90 riding on air suspension can feel just as sumptuous and as commanding as a Ghost, but for a significantly reduced price. And the Ghost’s infotainment screen does seem a touch outmoded in world of Apple CarPlay and virtual cockpits.

But, thankfully, there’s still a firm line between premium and luxury. The Ghost feels hand-built in Goodwood, and not just because it tells you so on the polished steel treadplates. The stitching, the leather, the wood, the fit and the finish – all are uniquely Rolls-Royce.

If I won the lottery, I’ve always maintained I wouldn’t splash out on a super-expensive car, instead opting to build a barn before filling it with sensibly-priced cars that I’ve always wanted.

As I write this, my stance has changed just a little. If I had £320,000, I still wouldn’t buy a Ghost. But if I had £3.2m, I wouldn’t hesitate. Money can’t buy you taste, but it can buy you one of the best four-door family cars in the world. And wouldn’t it be delightful to have one built just for you?

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I can’t remember much about the fish and chips, but I could wax lyrical about the Ghost for days. Next time, could somebody arrange for a traditional chippy on the west coast of Scotland to win the award?

There’s a certain Rolls-Royce Dawn I’ve been meaning to drive…

Specifications:

Rolls Royce Ghost Series II

Price: £222,888

As tested: £321,768

Engine: 6.6-litre V12

Transmission: eight-speed automatic

Power: 593hp

Torque: 575lb ft

Top speed: 155mph

0-60mph: 4.7 seconds

Fuel economy: 20.8mpg

CO2 emissions: 327g/km

Tailgating and mobile phone use revealed as drivers' biggest gripes

Tailgating and mobile phone use revealed as drivers’ biggest gripes

Tailgating and mobile phone use revealed as drivers' biggest gripes

Tailgating and using your phone behind the wheel are the habits most likely to annoy other drivers, a survey has revealed.

The survey by finance company Zuto has discovered that 84% of motorists are irritated by seeing other road users on their phones – while the same amount are annoyed by people driving too closely behind them.

Other grievances include drivers who don’t stop at zebra crossings (72%), driving too slowly (71%) and bad parking (68%).

Interestingly, that last point seems to be the one most of us seem to be ready to admit to struggling with – with more than a third (34%) of those questioned holding their hands up to poor parking. Surprisingly, one in 10 confess to parking in family spaces while travelling without children.

Meanwhile, 29% of us admit to speeding and more than one in 10 (14%) regularly drive too close to the car in front, stop in yellow box junctions or go too slowly.

Zuto CEO James Wilkinson said: ”As a nation we are very polite, but that doesn’t stop us secretly getting annoyed at other drivers, and with such poor practices on show it is easy to see why!”