Revealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

Revealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

Revealed: the Ford Fiestas that never wereThe eight-generation model of Britain’s best-selling car has been revealed. While the new model is set to go on sale in 2017 – with highlights including a posh Vignale model and a jacked-up Active crossover – Ford has a backlog of Fiesta concept cars that will never see production. Here are a few highlights.

Ford Fiesta clay modelRevealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

It all started with this: a clay model of the Ford Fiesta. Developed under the project name of Bobcat, the Fiesta owed much to the Ford Ghia Wolf concept car of 1972.

Ford Ghia CorridaRevealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

It didn’t take long for the Fiesta-based concepts to appear. The striking Ford Ghia Corrida concept was unveiled at the 1976 Turin Auto Show and – as a small coupe – was like a 1970s version of the Ford Puma, also based on the Fiesta. But the Puma wasn’t blessed with hydraulically-powered gullwing doors.Revealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

The Corrida – which is Spanish for ‘bullfight’ – also featured headlight flaps to make the car more aerodynamic, as well as a bumper-hinged tailgate. Sadly, it never made it into production, but it laid the foundations for four decades of Fiesta-based concept cars.

Ford Ghia PrimaRevealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

It’s like a Citroen Pluriel for a different generation. Why have one car when you can have four? The Ford Prima concept of 1976 could be converted into a pickup, coupe, estate car or two-door saloon. Ghia worked with the Ford Design Studio in Dearborn to create this oddball.

Ford Fiesta FantasyRevealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

‘Let me be your fantasy,’ sang Baby D in 1992. We’re not sure if this was a reference to the Ford Fiesta Fantasy of 1978, although we think the breakbeat hardcore music group would appreciate its versatility. The Fantasy concept was part coupe, part pickup and part wagon. Ford of America wanted it to lower the average mpg across its fleet.

Ford TuaregRevealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

Surely the greatest Ford Fiesta never made? Not to confused with the oversized and over-styled Volkswagen Touareg, the little Tuareg of 1979 was cool in a way the Ford EcoSport can only dream of. The floor pan was unchanged, but Ford extended the roof line at the rear to create an off-road shooting brake with more attitude than John McEnroe. Oh, Ford, why wasn’t this given the green light?

Ford Ghia PockarRevealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

More fruits of Ghia’s labour here, with the delightful Pockar concept of 1980. The Pockar – pocket-sized, car, Pock-car, geddit? – featured a pair of matching suitcases, hidden away in each door. Inside, the luggage compartments doubled up as a pair of armrests. Neat.Revealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

Meanwhile there’s ample space for four adults, while the rear seats could fold flat to create a pocket-sized estate car. The Ford Fiesta was proving itself to a versatile little thing.

Ford Ghia ShuttlerRevealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

The Ford Shuttler concept of 1981 looks like it has driven straight from the front cover of the box for an Atari video game. The red accent running the entire length of the wedge-tastic Shuttler was good for an additional 5hp. We think.

Ford Ghia BarchettaRevealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

It’s sitting on a set of ‘pepperpot’ alloy wheels, so the link to the Ford Fiesta XR2 is plain to see. Barchetta means ‘little boat’ in Italian, and was the name used by Fiat when it launched its own pint-sized roadster. The Italian Barchetta was based on the Mk1 Fiat Punto.

Ford Fiesta UrbaRevealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

What you can’t see from the photo is the fact that the Ford Fiesta Urba featured two doors on one side and a single door on the other. It was designed as a kind of city shopper car, featuring a fridge in the boot, built-in garage door openers and parking sensors. And yellow. Lots of yellow.Revealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

Ah, now you can see the ‘innovative’ door arrangement. Coming soon: top 10 cars with crazy door configurations, featuring much-loved favourites like the Mini Clubman, Hyundai Veloster and Ford Fiesta Urba, accompanied by the dulcet tones of Jim Morrison.

Ford Fiesta BebopRevealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

In 1990, some bosses at Ford were enjoying lunch in the park when a recently-launched Suzuki Vitara convertible drove past. Muttering something along the lines of “we’ve gotta get ourselves one of those,” they set about turning a Fiesta into a “dynamic pick-up… geared to sports-minded drivers.” At least, that’s how it played out in our heads.

Ford Zig and ZagRevealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

Not to be confused with the puppets of Big Breakfast fame, the Fiesta Zig was a two-seat barchetta and the Fiesta Zag was a small van. They were designed to show the versatility of a single platform, with no strings attached.

Ford LynxRevealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

The Ford Lynx concept was built in just eight weeks – a cabriolet based on the Fiesta and unveiled at the 1996 Geneva Motor Show. Although the engine was the familiar 16-valve Zetec unit, the proposed roof used breathable Gore-Tex fabric. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes levels of investigative work to conclude that the Lynx was a strong influence on the Puma.

Ford SaettaRevealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

If the Ford Saetta concept of 1996 looks familiar, it’s because it became the Ford Streetka. For sure, the production version was far less dramatic, but the influence is clear to see.Revealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

Highlights included a central arch connecting the windscreen with the rear end, plus detachable panels that formed the roof. Once again, Ford has Ghia to thank for this conceptual gem.

Ford Zetec S3 DISIRevealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

DISI stands for Direct Injection Spark Ignition – a new powertrain trialled by Ford. In short, it was a three-cylinder turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol engine with 110 hp, but 15-30% more efficient than a 1.8-litre engine. It was too expensive to make production, but it paved the way for the modern 1.0 EcoBoost engine.

Ford Rallye ConceptRevealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

The genesis for the Ford Fiesta rally car: the Rallye Concept of 2002 looked like it had driven straight out of a PlayStation game. It’s good, but it’s not our favourite Fiesta concept of the new millennium…

Ford Fiesta RS ConceptRevealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

Because that honour belongs to the Ford Fiesta RS Concept of 2004. Inspired by the Rallye Concept, it featured huge arches, massive rims and twin racing stripes – just three essential components required for any self-respecting RS car.Revealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

It looked production-ready, right down to the showroom-winning interior, which meant we all got rather excited about the prospect of a Fiesta RS. Sadly, it never made it to production, quite simply because Ford’s calculator kept saying no. Over a decade on, we still mourn this missed opportunity.

Ford VerveRevealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

Ford claims the inspiration “came in part from mobile phone design”. Which means the Fiesta Verve of 2007 will often run out of juice just when you need it and be rendered useless if you get it wet. On the plus side, there was no headphone jack, so it was quite the pioneer.

Ford Verve saloonRevealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

Ford also created an ugly compact saloon version. To borrow a line from Richard Ashcroft, the Verve saloon was bitter, the Verve hatch was sweet. In both cases, they previewed the latest Fiesta.

Ford Fiesta eWheeldriveRevealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were

We conclude with the Ford Fiesta eWheeldrive of 2013. Powered by independent electric motors in each of the rear wheels, the eWheeldrive offers more space than a conventional petrol or electric vehicle. Ford claims the eWheeldrive could even move sideways into parking spaces.

2017 Ford Fiesta: everything you need to know

2017 Ford Fiesta: everything you need to know

2017 Ford Fiesta: everything you need to know

Ford has revealed its all-new 2017 Fiesta at a special event in Cologne. Despite remaining largely unchanged since 2008, the outgoing model had comfortably held its title of Britain’s best-selling car – so it’s important that Ford doesn’t mess up a winning formula.

Higher-spec Fiestas account for six in 10 sales. Indeed, the upscale Titanium alone accounts for one in every two Fiesta sales. Ford has therefore deliberately pushed the new one upmarket – and up in price. If it’s now too expensive, says the firm, take a look at the all-new, much-improved Ka+.

There’ll be the usual ST-Line and Titanium trims…

Like the outgoing model, there’ll be the recently introduced ST-Line trim (replacing the old Zetec S), as well as classy Titanium.

And there’ll be a posh Ford Fiesta Vignale

And there’ll be a posh Ford Fiesta Vignale

For the first time, the Ford Fiesta will be also available as a premium Vignale model, following in the footsteps of the Mondeo, Kuga, S-Max and Edge. Highlights of the Fiesta Vignale include bling 18-inch alloys, unique exterior detailing (we spy chrome) and quilted leather seats.

There’ll also be a jacked-up Ford Fiesta Active crossover

There’ll also be a jacked-up Ford Fiesta Active crossover

Remember the European Ford Fusion from 2002? Well it’s coming back… sort of. Ford’s launching a jacked-up crossover version of the Fiesta called the Active. It’ll be the first of a line of Active models being added to the range over the coming years, says the manufacturer.

Highlights include increased ground clearance, body cladding and a different coloured roof. Roof bars are fitted as standard, topping off the lifestyle look.

What engines are offered?

Buyers of the new Ford Fiesta wanting a petrol engine get the choice of the 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol turbo from the outgoing model, in 100hp, 125hp and 140hp guises. There’s also a cheaper non-turbo three-cylinder 1.1-litre derived from the 1.0-litre Ecoboost.

Diesel fans can choose from the 1.5-litre TDCi in 85hp or 120hp guises. In the former, it’s expected to emit just 82g/km, while the latter is expected to emit 89g/km CO2.

Although ‘Eco’ buttons are commonplace on automatics, Ford’s adding one to the manual Fiesta. It adjusts engine and throttle settings to help drivers save fuel. There’s also stop/start offered on all engines, plus a clever active grille shutter fitted to the 1.0-litre Ecoboost and 85hp diesel engines.

A hot ST model will follow

If this all sounds a little sensible, don’t worry – a hot Fiesta ST is set to arrive later in 2017. It’s been spotted testing and is expected to use the same 1.6-litre petrol engine as its predecessor.

A hot ST model will follow

The Ford Fiesta has always been one of the best-handling cars in its class, and Ford says the new model will provide more grip, better performance and improved steering feel – not to mention improved ride quality and refinement.

The front track is 30mm wider, while the rear track has been widened by 10mm. The ground clearance is 4mm higher, meaning the suspension can cope with larger 18-inch alloys. A lighter front anti-roll bar improves steering feel, while steering friction is down by 20%. The gearbox also delivers smoother changes, says Ford.

It’s packed with tech

No fewer than two cameras, three radars and 12 ultrasonic sensors mean the Fiesta takes another step towards autonomous driving. Technology highlights include an enhanced version of Ford’s pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection. This can apply the brakes if it detects people in the dark who might be about to enter the road.

For the first time, the Fiesta will be offered with Ford’s self-parking system, including bay-parking. Usually it relies on the driver operating the pedals, but the car will now be able to apply the brakes if it detects an imminent collision.

Tech that’s trickled down from other models in the range also includes automatic high beam and traffic sign recognition. It will also offer cross-traffic alert, notifying the driver of approaching vehicles when reversing out of spaces.

It’s packed with tech

Ford’s latest SYNC 3 infotainment system is being offered on the Fiesta for the first time. Using an eight-inch tablet-inspired touchscreen, SYNC 3 features DAB radio across the range, along with USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity as standard.

A B&O Play sound system uses 10 speakers to provide an ‘elevated audio experience’, says Ford. A CD player is optional, hipsters will be pleased to hear.

At last, the Fiesta offers the option of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as part of the SYNC 3 system. It will smoothly integrate with apps such as Spotify, so you can access almost every song and album in the world.

As part of its upmarket move, Ford says the Fiesta now delivers improved quality. Examples include parking sensors that are flush with the body panels, hidden windscreen washer nozzles and a tighter panel gap between the roof and the boot. Windscreen wipers now clean 13% more screen.

What about the Fiesta’s design?

What about the Fiesta’s design?

We’ve got this far without discussing the Fiesta’s design. It’s certainly evolutionary in its approach, clearly a Fiesta, with headlights mimicking those of the Focus. It’s 71mm longer than its predecessor, and 12mm wider. The Fiesta has a more upmarket appearance, says Ford.

“Our customers’ ongoing overwhelmingly positive response to the dynamic design of today’s Fiesta is a significant factor in why Fiesta is still leading its segment, even after seven years,” said Ford of Europe’s design director, Joel Piaskowski.

“We evolved the design to make it more contemporary, yet not lose the ‘Fiesta-ness’ that the customers love. The next generation Fiesta is refined, yet much more sculpted with an equally emotional appeal. Fiesta’s exterior is visually simpler, allowing us to create stronger personalities within the expanded line-up, each with distinct fascias, grilles and details that will appeal to a much broader range of customers.”

For the first time ever, the Ford Fiesta is offered with a panoramic glass roof. The full-length roof is openable and stretches almost the entire width of the car.

Price and on-sale date

Price and on-sale date

The Ford Fiesta will go on sale in the UK in June 2017. Prices are yet to be announced, but expect a small increase over the current £13,545 starting price.

Classic car enthusiasts furious as Vauxhall brings back the scrappage scheme

Classic car fans furious as Vauxhall brings back scrappage scheme

Classic car enthusiasts furious as Vauxhall brings back the scrappage scheme

Angry classic car fans have taken to social media after a picture emerged of an Austin Maestro abandoned in a skip outside a Vauxhall dealer in Suffolk.

The advertising stunt is part of a promotion for the car manufacturer’s latest offer, which apes the controversial scrappage scheme introduced by the government in 2009.

The official scheme saw nearly 4,000 old bangers scrapped when their owners part-exchanged them for a new model in return for £2,000 off the list price – causing outrage when rare or interesting cars were traded in as the rules said they could not remain on the road.

Vauxhall’s latest offer gives customers £2,000 off a new model whenever they part exchange their car – and, like the original scheme, dealers are being told that trade-ins must be scrapped.

However, in a move to keep classic car owners on side, the car company says it will flag up any cars made before 1991 before scrapping them.

“Vauxhall’s scrappage programme is not designed to rid the world of classic cars,” the car manufacturer said in a statement. “As a result, Autogreen, Vauxhall’s recycling partner, will identify any cars manufactured prior to 1991 that are presented through the scheme and inform Vauxhall’s Luton HQ.

“Relevant owners’ clubs will then be notified, giving them the opportunity to purchase parts through the Authorised Treatment Facility.”

Vauxhall’s product and heritage PR manager, Simon Hucknall, added: “Vauxhall has immense respect for the UK’s classic car groups, irrespective of what make or model they support.

“The Scrappage Allowance is designed to capture vehicles that are beyond economical repair, and given the low value of scrap metal, recycling of parts is vital to the scheme’s viability. We’re also confident that the number of genuine classics over 25 years old presented to the scheme will be minimal, especially given the steady rise in value of even the most mainstream collectors’ cars in recent years. But if we do see any, our ‘safety-net’ will ensure that classic car owners and clubs will benefit.”

Vauxhall scrappage scheme

UPDATE: On the Maestro itself, Hucknall has since contacted Motoring Research to add: “We have seen the picture of the Austin Maestro outside the Vauxhall dealership and would like to emphasise that this vehicle has not been presented as part of Vauxhall’s Scrappage Programme.

“The retailer concerned, which is an independently run business, has used the car to promote the scheme. Had this very car been presented as part of Vauxhall’s Scrappage programme, we would have been alerted by Autogreen, our recycling partner, due to its age and a relevant owners club would have been alerted, giving members the chance to purchase parts from the car.

“As a manufacturer that respects Britain’s motoring heritage, no matter what the make or model, we would make sure that this Maestro was treated with respect.”

But classic car enthusiasts aren’t satisfied – branding the stunt carried out at the Drive Vauxhall dealership in Haverhill, Suffolk, a “disgrace”.

Commenting on the photos, which showed a beige 1988 Austin Maestro City X in a skip and were posted in the Pride of Longbridge Facebook group, Chris Denyer said: “It’s worth saving… it’s a British 80’s retro car. It’s going to get valuable, mark my words!”

But others pointed out that the car – which hasn’t been MOTed since 2008 – could require a lot of work to make it roadworthy.

“Oh look, a skip in a skip,” commented Martin Burston.

In a joke about the ongoing Zafira fires issue, Andie Nelson said: “Well they’re not going to put a Zafira in it are they? All skips say ‘No Fires’ on them!”

A number of posters have said they have contacted the dealership asking if they can rescue the Maestro, but have so far not received a reply.

Vauxhall’s scrappage scheme is eligible on cars ordered before the 18th December which are then registered by 31st December 2016.

The rules says that cars being traded-in must be registered to the customer at least 90 days prior to the order date of the new vehicle – meaning you can’t buy an old banger just to save £2,000 on a new Vauxhall.

Nissan Juke Sunderland

Car industry risks £4.5 billion Brexit bill

Nissan Juke SunderlandThe UK government should immediately focus on post-Brexit priorities for the automotive industry or the sector’s considerable recent success story will be at risk, the president of trade body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has warned.

British car buyers could also face much higher prices in showrooms. 

Speaking at the organisation’s 100th annual dinner in London, Gareth Jones revealed the British motor industry faced a £4.5 billion Brexit ‘double whammy’ bill if single market access is not secured once Britain leaves the European Union. 

This could comprise EU tariffs of at least £2.7 billion on cars imported to the UK, and £1.8 billion on automotive exports. 

It risked adding an average of £1,500 to the price of an imported new car: many best-selling models in the UK, such as the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Golf, are built in Europe and imported into the UK.

‘Don’t take today’s boom for granted’

The British automotive industry is booming at the moment, said Jones. 2016 is likely to set a record for exports and also top 2015’s hefty production volumes. This, however, is the result of investment decisions made years before the vote to leave the European Union, warned Jones.

Success thus cannot be taken for granted. “The renaissance is down to years of hard work, hard won investment and long-term collaborative partnership between industry and government… We operate in an intensely competitive environment.”

SMMT members are clear on what they want: membership of the single market, consistent regulations, access to skilled workers globally and international trade free from barriers and red tape. 

“This won’t be easy,” said Jones. “There will be competing priorities. But be assured, as the negotiating positions harden, SMMT will continue to make this case to government.”

And the automotive industry’s current strength, he added, should ensure such demands are heard. 

2017 Ford Fiesta revealed: next year's best-selling car will look like this

2017 Ford Fiesta revealed: next year's best-selling car will look like this

2017 Ford Fiesta revealed: next year's best-selling car will look like this

The all-new Ford Fiesta is set to make its world debut this evening – but this single image has been revealed first, showing what the front three quarters of the car will look like.

The shot shows an ST-Line model – a trim that was launched on the outgoing Fiesta as a replacement for the Zetec S. Like the current ST-Line, the new model is expected to combine sporty looks with low running costs to appeal to young drivers.

Unsurprisingly, the new Fiesta appears to take an evolutionary approach to design. But when the current model has been such a winning formula for Ford, it’d be a bold move to make any dramatic changes.

Despite being largely unchanged for eight years, the Ford Fiesta continues to account for around 5% of all new car registrations in the UK. That makes it easily the UK’s best-selling car, ahead of the Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Focus.

The new model bears more than a passing resemblance to the bigger Focus, with new headlights and a gaping front grille.

Technical specifications are yet to be revealed, but expect a similar line-up of engines to those currently found in the Fiesta – including 1.6-litre turbodiesel TDCi units, and a choice of 1.0-litre petrol Ecoboosts.

With the Fiesta moving upmarket to make room for the recently-launched five-door Ka+ model, expect to see a sporty ST model and perhaps even a luxurious Vignale.

We’ll be reporting live as Ford reveals more about the new Fiesta at its unveiling this evening.

2017 Ford Fiesta revealed: next year's best-selling car will look like this

2017 Ford Fiesta revealed: next year’s best-selling car will look like this

2017 Ford Fiesta revealed: next year's best-selling car will look like this

The all-new Ford Fiesta is set to make its world debut this evening – but this single image has been revealed first, showing what the front three quarters of the car will look like.

The shot shows an ST-Line model – a trim that was launched on the outgoing Fiesta as a replacement for the Zetec S. Like the current ST-Line, the new model is expected to combine sporty looks with low running costs to appeal to young drivers.

Unsurprisingly, the new Fiesta appears to take an evolutionary approach to design. But when the current model has been such a winning formula for Ford, it’d be a bold move to make any dramatic changes.

Despite being largely unchanged for eight years, the Ford Fiesta continues to account for around 5% of all new car registrations in the UK. That makes it easily the UK’s best-selling car, ahead of the Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Focus.

The new model bears more than a passing resemblance to the bigger Focus, with new headlights and a gaping front grille.

Technical specifications are yet to be revealed, but expect a similar line-up of engines to those currently found in the Fiesta – including 1.6-litre turbodiesel TDCi units, and a choice of 1.0-litre petrol Ecoboosts.

With the Fiesta moving upmarket to make room for the recently-launched five-door Ka+ model, expect to see a sporty ST model and perhaps even a luxurious Vignale.

We’ll be reporting live as Ford reveals more about the new Fiesta at its unveiling this evening.

Buy a new Hyundai online in five minutes through 'Click to Buy' service

Buy a new Hyundai online in 5 minutes with ‘Click to Buy’ service

Buy a new Hyundai online in five minutes through 'Click to Buy' service

Hyundai is launching a new “Click to Buy” online service – letting buyers trade-in their car, arrange finance and order a new vehicle, all from the comfort of their sofa.

Going live in January, the new website will feature ‘competitive fixed pricing’, says the company, meaning buyers won’t need to negotiate on a new car.

Although the initial buying process will take place online, most buyers will still visit a dealer to drop off their part-exchange, sign any finance papers and collect their new car.

Selected dealers will also be able to offer evening and weekend collections to help those short on time – while some will be able to deliver your new car to your doorstep.

The car manufacturer says that, for those buying outright without any finance involved, the process of buying a new Hyundai online can take less than five minutes.

Click to Buy follows Hyundai’s Rockar stores at Bluewater and Westfield shopping centres in London.

President and CEO of Hyundai UK, Tony Whitehorn, said: “It’s no understatement to say that we’ve been pioneering in the field of online car sales, thanks to our successful experience with our digital stores. Now it gives me great pleasure to launch Hyundai’s own website, Click To Buy.

“We’ve spent many years listening to customers and Click To Buy is the result: it’s a site that makes the process of buying a new car easier, simpler and clearer than ever, doing away with haggling through fixed pricing – and offering the ability to buy a car online in just five minutes flat. This is just the start of Hyundai offering even greater customer service. Over the coming months we’ll be adding even more functionality to Click To Buy – watch this space.”

Lotus Exige Sport 380

Why the Lotus Exige Sport 380 is a £67k bargain

Lotus Exige Sport 380Lotus is ending 2016 with yet another new car, the Exige Sport 380. This sounds suspiciously similar to the Exige Sport 350, which we drove last year and deemed brilliant. Only this one costs £11,000 more than the 350, which remains on sale (and remains subject to a waiting list). Quite a price tag for 30hp more, no?

Ah, but this is Lotus. It’s not just given the Sport 380 more power. It’s also give it much more focus and attitude to back up the claim this is a bona fide ‘supercar killer’. You don’t need a Ferrari or an Aston Martin, believes Lotus. The Exige Sport 380 will run rings around them for far less. We headed over to Norfolk to find out why it’s so confident.

Lotus Exige Sport 380: it means business

Lotus Exige Sport 380

For starters, the Sport 380 looks the business. To the Sport 350, Lotus has made the rear wing even larger, and now built it from carbon fibre. There’s an enlarged front splitter with ground-sucking rubber edge hidden beneath, and beefy air blades on the sides to further aid aero. It looks more serious, and it is: this car generates 60% more downforce at its top speed – a whopping 140kg (akin to having two blokes sitting on the rear wing).

Pirelli out, Michelin in

Lotus Exige Sport 380

Lotus is switching from Pirelli to Michelin tyres, so the Exige Sport 380 wears a semi-slick set of Cup 2 tyres. The front tyres are bigger, to reduce understeer (“completely tune it out,” says Lotus boss Jean-Marc Gales) and they clothe ultra-lightweight forged alloy wheels. With a set of 3-Eleven grooved two-piece brakes (which Porsche tells him they consider “the best in the business,” reveals Gales), unsprung weight is reduced by 2.5kg a corner. That’s a hefty weight reduction.

The Sport diet

Lotus Exige Sport 380

All told, the Exige Sport 380 is 15.2kg lighter than the Sport 350. Lotus has actually taken around 30kg out of it, including a whopping 10kg by swapping the normal battery for an exotic lithium ion one. But it’s added some weight back: the air blades weigh more, there’s a new gearbox oil cooler to help it cope with track use, and the fuel tank is now an enlarged 48 litres which adds weight. Overall weight? 1066kg, or 1100kg with fluids. A basic Vauxhall Corsa weighs 1166kg.

It’s a roadster as standard

Lotus Exige Sport 380

In its standard guise, the Lotus Exige Sport 380 is an open-top roadster. You can have an optional carbon fibre hard top if you want: because it’s so light, there’s no weight difference between the two. And, adds Gales, the top speed is the same whether the roof is up or down – on some Italian supercars, it’s capped when the roof is down.

Inside the Exige Sport 380

Lotus Exige Sport 380

A hefty 6kg has been cut from the weight of the Sport 380 by using carbon fibre seats. These are hard but purposeful, adding further richness to an interior whose appearance and quality has come on leaps and bounds. This is a genuinely well-finished car now, certainly one capable of commanding premium-level pricing.

The seats are now Alcantara (“it grips you better,” says Gales), there’s a new Clarion stereo with Bluetooth at last, and you can get carbon fibre door sills that save weight and make it (a bit) easier to get in and out.

Speed is up, power is up

Lotus Exige Sport 380

As for that top speed, it’s now up from 170mph to 178mph – an impressive increase given how downforce has increased so significantly. Gales says careful work in the wind tunnel means drag at speed has marginally decreased, helping the top speed. 0-62mph takes 3.7 seconds, down from 3.9 seconds for the Sport 350. 

 

The 3.5-litre supercharged V6 engine, sourced from Toyota, has a new supercharger pulley that increases the charge pressure, plus revised engine calibration, and it’s been donated the sportier exhaust from the exotic Evora 410. This increases power to 380hp at a slightly lower 6700rpm; it also ups engine torque to 302lb-ft. Lotus says above 4000rpm, the Sport 380 is appreciably more responsive than the Sport 350.

Racing cars use British-made Nitron dampers: now you can get them on a Lotus. The two-way adjustable front and rear dampers come as part of the £3200 track pack, which also includes Eibach two-way adjustable anti-roll bars. Because most people take their Exige Sport out on track, Lotus expects it to be popular. So what else for us to do, but…

On track: Lotus Exige Sport 380

Lotus Exige Sport 380

Visiting Hethel to drive a Lotus means you get to enjoy the firm’s on-site test track. It’s already clocked the lap time of the Sport 380 at 1 minute 26 seconds, down from 1 minute 29.5 seconds for the Sport 350. We enjoyed the extra low-rev burble of the exhaust, and the meaty kart-like steering, as we trundled out onto the circuit for some hot laps. “Get some heat into the tyres” was the advice, fully heeded as we slithered around on the autumn dew for a few laps. Then it clicked.

Wider front tyres allow you to attack corners more aggressively in the Sport 380. There’s both more front-end grip and more feel and feedback through the wheel. You have a firm, clear idea of exactly what’s going on below, what the grip levels are like and how much harder you can push – and that’s not the only way in which confidence levels are boosted.

The significant increase in downforce (“most cars generate lift at speed,” says Gales) means the Exige is better planted at speed. This itself gives you more confidence as you go faster, and means the car responds more sharply and cleanly through higher-speed corners. Add in the greater front-end bite, plus all the brilliance of those amazing Michelin semi-slick tyres, and you have a car that simply seems to get better the faster you go. It’s incredibly confidence-inspiring.

Extra pull, extra howl

Lotus Exige Sport 380

The extra responsiveness of the engine is felt right away, and out on track where immediate response is everything. At higher revs, it’s appreciably meatier and more reactive to the accelerator. The rich, deep burble at lower revs also transforms above 5000rpm into a deliciously loud and intense howl. The V6 has never sounded this fine in an Exige before – and if you want it even more intense, choose the exotic titanium exhaust option (which will also cut 10kg from the kerbweight).

On road: Lotus Exige Sport 380

Lotus Exige Sport 380

Air con is, as ever, an option on an Exige, but most cars are fitted with it. Luckily ours was: after a thrilling 45 minutes out on track, we went back, swapped cars and took an identical but fully-fuelled Sport 380 out onto the road. Lotus was keen to stress that, although the focus has been intensified for track-day use, it still remains a perfectly fine road car too. Lotus hasn’t spoiled the everyday comfort for weekend thrills.

A Lotus feels different to most other cars from the off. You sit low, face a minimalist and largely exposed aluminium cabin, albeit now enhanced by judicious use of rich leather across the dashboard. The pedals are cramped, the gearchange clicks loudly like a race car and forget about rear visibility. Indeed, forget about any sort of easy parkability: non-assisted steering is heavy at walking pace. But as on the track, it quickly starts to gel.

The first highlight is, still, the Exige Sport 380’s fine ride quality. Taut and purposeful, sure, but also brilliantly damped and remarkably fluid. It rarely bangs over bumps, remains in control yet never jars, basically displays controlled, sporting comfort over challenging British roads like few other cars. Its elegance is, at times, brilliant: it’s a perfectly able machine to use every day, in contrast to the aggressive jars and intensity of some other high-performance machines.

Handling highlights

Lotus Exige Sport 380

Steering, heavy at slow speed, soon lightens up. It remains meaty and impossibly packed with feel though, giving on-road clarity and detail we thought we’d lost these days on modern cars. Grip is high, the balance incisive, there feel to be no nasty tricks up its mid-engined sleeve. This is a car you can drive as quickly or as slowly as you wish across twisty B-roads and get a different level of satisfaction at the end of it to most normal cars. But because it eggs you on and feels so great, chances are you’ll be driving more quickly than most normal cars without even knowing it…

The Sport 380 feels extremely well honed, well matched and cohesive. It’s a car that gels, a car whose engine, ride, handling and aerodynamics all work together so well. It’s much more than just a Sport 350 with a power boost – this is a more focused, bigger-hitting driver’s car that fully justifies the extra Lotus is asking.

Lotus doesn’t just charge £67k for the Exige Sport 380, but builds and finishes it, by hand, in a way that justifies this. The paint finish is rich. No Lotus has ever been as precisely assembled as the latest machines from the production line. The interior smells of Alcantara and leather, not adhesive. It looks rich and well-finished. Even the doors open and close with a Porsche-like click, not a clang. It now feels like a £67k exotica.  

Verdict: Lotus Exige Sport 380

Lotus Exige Sport 380

This Lotus is a hand-built, richly-honed bargain. It delivers an exotic-level driving experience for relatively attainable prices. A car as satisfying to drive as a six-figure supercar, for a decidedly five-figure ticket. It’s a genuine thoroughbred. Lotus has had a great year in 2016. With the Exige Sport 380, it’s saved the best until last.

10 great cars we’ve said goodbye to in 2016

10 great cars we’ve said goodbye to in 2016

10 great cars we’ve said goodbye to in 2016

Brexit, Trump and the death of far too many celebs: some folk will be glad to see the back of 2016, but what of the cars that won’t be around to see in the new year? We’ve selected 10 cars that will no longer be on sale in 2017.

1: Land Rover Defender

At the end of January, we said goodbye to a British institution – a vehicle that had been part of the furniture since 1948. A few tears were shed as the final Land Rover Defender rolled off the Solihull production line, a victim of increasingly stringent safety and emissions regulations.

Land Rover said farewell with the help of a trio of last-of-the-line special editions, including the Defender Heritage, which the firm claimed was a modern interpretation of HUE 166 – the first Land Rover built in 1948. Land Rover will build a replacement – set to arrive in 2019 – but it’s unlikely to capture hearts and minds quite like the original.

2: Audi R8 e-tron

Audi unveiled the second coming of the R8 e-tron at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, after an earlier attempt to build a flagship electric vehicle was canned in 2012. By October 2016, Audi had pulled the plug on the production version, with Car and Driver reporting that fewer than 100 had been built.

The figures were compelling: 456hp, 679lb ft of torque, 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds and a range of 280 miles. But it didn’t come cheap – a price tag of $1 million (£800,000) pitched the electric supercar against some seriously hardcore machines. Combine this with a bizarre sales and marketing strategy and you could argue the R8 e-tron was doomed to failure.

3: Renaultsport Megane

3: Renaultsport Megane

Renault has made it easier to name the best new hot hatch you can buy simply by axing the Renaultsport Megane. To be fair, ‘axing’ is probably the wrong word, because the hot Megane is merely a victim of a model change – a new Renaultsport version of the fourth generation Megane will follow.

In the meantime we must mourn the loss of what was – for seven years – the undisputed king of the driver-focused hot hatch segment. The last-of-the-line was a Liquid Yellow Megane 275 Cup-S with ‘kitchen sink’ levels of optional equipment. Make no mistake, third generation RS Meganes are destined for classic status.

4: Citroen C5

In a sign of the times, Citroen has axed the C5 from the UK market, choosing to focus on superminis, hatchbacks and people carriers. Indeed, Citroen claims the C4 Picasso and Grand C4 Picasso are suitable alternatives to the former fleet favourite.

Actually, ‘favourite’ might be overplaying things, because a mere 237 C5s were registered in 2015, highlighting the increasing popularity of crossovers and SUVs. In Tourer guise, the C5 was achingly good looking, while the C5 saloon deserved more love than it ever received. But large French cars have never sold well in the UK and the C5 was a victim of trends beyond its control.

5: Roewe 750

The Rover 75 is dead. Hardly headline news, given the fact that the 75 disappeared from these shores back in 2005. But the 75 lived on in the form of the Roewe 750, when Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) bought the rights to the car following the collapse of MG Rover.

Without the rights to the Rover name, SAIC created the Roewe brand and marketed the 75 as the 750 in China. But now, CarNewsChina is reporting production has ended, bringing to an end nearly two decades of Rover 75 production.

6: Volvo S80

6: Volvo S80

You didn’t need to splash the cash on a Volvo S80 to enjoy its deep pile carpets, superb seats and refinement. In 2011, Volvo renewed its contract with Tristar Worldwide to supply 2,100 cars for Virgin Atlantic Airways’ Upper Class chauffeur duties. The chances are, you’d have been driven to the airport in an S80 or V70.

But the Volvo S80 is no more, replaced by the even more sumptuous and satisfying Volvo S90. The S80 was no drivers’ car, but that hardly mattered when you were being chauffeured along the M25 in supreme comfort.

7: BMW Z4

It hasn’t gone, yet, but the BMW Z4 is on borrowed time. In August, BimmerToday reported that the last Z4 had rolled out of the factory in August, bringing to an end 14 years of production. It’s still listed on the BMW website – priced from £29,695 – but you’ll need to be quick.

Not that you should necessarily be in a hurry to grab a late slice of Z4 action. While its boulevard cruising abilities are in little doubt, there are far better options out there, most notably those wearing a Porsche badge. Alternatively, wait for the launch of the Z5, which will be the result of project involving BMW and Toyota.

8: Toyota FJ Cruiser

The retro-inspired FJ Cruiser was first seen as a concept at the 2005 Chicago Auto Show and, such was the response, Toyota pressed ahead with a production version. It was inspired by the third generation Land Cruiser, known as the FJ40.

The FJ Cruiser – which lived out its twilight years in Australia – was a wonderful antidote to the raft of soft-focus crossovers, with a 4.0-litre V6 engine producing 280lb ft of torque. The Aussies loved it, with an average of 180 sold every month. We’re sad to see it go.

9: Volvo V70

9: Volvo V70

We’d be just as sad to say goodbye to the Volvo V70, were it not for the fact that its replacement – the Volvo V90 – is so damn desirable. But let us take a moment to treasure the memory of the V70 – which is able to draw on a heritage spanning three generations and 20 years.

The original V70 of 1996 borrowed heavily from the 850, but displayed softer styling, as Volvo looked to shake off its boxy image. Curiously, the V70 was never the most cavernous estate car on the market, but its reputation for safety and solidity helped to carry it a long way.

10: Rolls-Royce Phantom

This year represents the final year of production for the seventh generation Phantom, with Rolls-Royce introducing the Zenith Collection to give it a fitting send off. It brings to a close a history of craftsmanship and bespoke detailing dating back to 2003.

The first Phantom was handed over in 2003, with the Phantom Drophead Coupe following in 2007, which in turn was followed by the Phantom Coupe in 2008. All 50 examples of the Phantom Zenith Collection have been commissioned, so if your name’s not down, you’re not getting a slice of Rolls-Royce history.

Drivetribe: 7 tribes you need to join now

Drivetribe: 7 tribes you need to join now

Drivetribe: 7 tribes you need to join now

Forget Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – the latest must-use platform for car enthusiasts is Drivetribe. Established by The Grand Tour hosts Clarkson, Hammond and May, the car enthusiast social network is owned by the trio’s company: W. Chump and Sons.

It allows petrolheads to establish and join ‘tribes’, which can be for anything loosely car-related. These tribes provide a home for all kind of car enthusiasts – from supercar spotters to those who appreciate a practical estate car.

“If two people have an interest in, say, the Bolivian custom car scene, there’s now a place for them to share it,” explains James May. “This is the velvet revolution of motoring enthusiasts, and there are millions of us, waiting. I hope we take over the world.”

Jeremy Clarkson adds: “The internet is brilliant. You can watch Pandas sneezing and find out when it’s high water in the Easter Islands. But until Drivetribe came along, there’s never been a one-stop-shop for people who like cars.”

After months of build up, Drivetribe is launching today – with Clarkson, Hammond and May holding a live Q&A about the site and their own personal tribes. If you’re interested in seeing what all the fuss is about, we’ve rounded up a selection of tribes we think are worth a look.

1: Dogs in Cars

1: Dogs in Cars

This tribe does exactly what it says on the tin. It involves pictures of dogs. In cars. And pictures of dogs in cars are always worth a few minutes of internet browsing, right? On the first day of the site being open to the public, Dogs in Cars already has more than 8,000 members.

From a Dalmatian in a Mini Moke to a Westie in a Ferrari, Dogs in Cars has lots to like.

2: Future Machines

Keen on seeing what the motoring world looks like in the not-so-distant future? Future Machines is a tribe led by industrial designer Joey Ruiter. So far, it has more than 23,000 members keen to see his vision of cars of the future.

He says: “This tribe is about shaping a future that might be closer than you think. This is where ordinary things meet the unexpected to create amazing, unbelievable machines.”

3: Eleven Tenths

Although anyone can set up a tribe, a number of well-known motoring journalists have been brought in to populate the site and give fans a reason to keep returning. Jethro Bovingdon, previously of Evo magazine, is now editor-at-large at Drivetribe – and runs a tribe called Eleven Tenths.

“ET [Eleven Tenths] is going to be a little oasis of fun and noise and smoke. A place to see some amazing footage and photography of some fantastic cars on the best roads and tracks out there, as well as place for members to share their own adventures, too. A 100% guilt-free environment in which to celebrate the simple pleasure of driving.”

4: Perfect Roads

4: Perfect Roads

All car enthusiasts appreciate a good, traffic-free road – and this tribe celebrates exactly that. Established by Sara Nåse, the founder of a supercar driving tour company based in the south of France, Perfect Roads will feature “stories about the perfect road trip, brought to life with amazing photography.”

It seems that Drivetribe members are convinced, with nearly 35,000 already in the group.

5: Off Road the Planet

Are you a fan of 4x4s and off-roading? Proving that there’s a tribe for everyone (supercar fans need not apply to this particular group), Off Road the Planet has been set up by enthusiast Robb Pritchard.

He describes the tribe as: “Featuring unimaginable builds doing unimaginable things: from tales of the extreme, the strange and the inspiring, to reports from the world’s toughest competitions, weirdest expeditions and most unbelievable destinations.”

6: Curves, Soulful Driving

Curves magazine celebrates the joy of a road trip. Featuring stunning pictures of mountain passes, it’s aspirational reading for those of us who love the idea of jumping in a car and seeking motoring nirvana.

This tribe has been set up by the magazine’s founder, Stefan Bogner. It features incredible video footage, along with some amazing pictures guaranteed to drive you towards Google Maps and hours of dreaming.

7: Selfies With Cars

7: Selfies With Cars

If we said there was a tribe called Selfies With Cars and asked you to guess which of the three The Grand Tour presenters set it up, James May probably wouldn’t be the first name to pop into your head. But he’s set up a tribe called just that.

“This is intended as an all-inclusive worldwide forum for people wanting to make themselves look a right tit on a global scale,” he says, “but… with a car in the background. Crack on.”

Only 51 fans have joined the tribe so far.