2017 Toyota C-HR review: a trendy crossover from an untrendy company

2017 Toyota C-HR review: a trendy crossover from an untrendy company

2017 Toyota C-HR review: a trendy crossover from an untrendy company

There’s a British-built crossover made by a Japanese car firm (not Toyota) that has dominated the sales charts since it was launched in 2006. It’s become a cliche that almost every car ever launched is trying to compete with this crossover. Which is why we’re going to attempt to get through this review without mentioning the Q-word.

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of other rivals we can mention. There’s the Renault Kadjar (which itself is based on the same platform as you-know-what), Volkswagen Tiguan, fab new SEAT Ateca, Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson. You could even compare upmarket alternatives, such as the Audi Q3 and BMW X3 to the C-HR. Toyota isn’t shy about using the word ‘premium’ when describing its new crossover.

So where does this fit alongside the RAV4? On sale for 22 years, the RAV4 was initially a fashionable alternative to the likes of the Volkswagen Golf. You could even say it started the crossover craze, ahead of Nissan and its Kumquat.

The Toyota RAV4 has now grown-up. It’s bigger than ever before, and is more of a compact SUV to transport families and take on the Ford Kuga and Mazda CX-5 than a fashionable crossover. And, with sales of Nissan’s crossover-that-shall-not-be-named stronger than ever, Toyota has a gap in its line-up that desperately needs filling.

And that’s where the C-HR comes in. Based on the same TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform as the Prius, the C-HR was first previewed in concept form at the Paris Motor Show in 2014.

Toyota’s not being shy with its expectations for the C-HR. The carmaker is gunning for more than 100,000 sales across Europe – taking 11% of the segment share – and is expecting it to account for around 15% of Toyota’s sales in the UK next year. When a high proportion of those are expected to be trendy buyers who haven’t bought a Toyota before, that’s significant for a manufacturer better known for selling reliable saloons to Uber drivers.

So how does it drive?

So how does it drive?

An unexpected gem in the Toyota C-HR is the turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol engine. Recently launched in the Auris hatch, the 1.2 produces 116hp and accelerates the crossover to 62mph in 10.9 seconds when paired with the slick six-speed manual ’box.

That manual gearbox is a new Intelligent Manual Transmission, making its debut on the C-HR, but set to spread across other Toyota models. It works like a heel-and-toe action, blipping the throttle when you change down a gear (and rev-matching on the way up). Many sports cars have similar features, but it’s not designed to benefit enthusiastic drivers in this case. Instead, it makes for a smoother ride.

It’s not the torquiest engine (boasting 136lb ft at 1,500-4,000rpm), but it’s refined and suits the car well. We prefer it to the hybrid…

75% of sales will be the hybrid

75% of sales will be the hybrid

Unfortunately, Toyota’s expecting most buyers to overlook the petrol turbo and opt for the hybrid. This combines a four-cylinder 1.8-litre petrol engine with an electric motor, using a CVT automatic gearbox.

Although CVT ‘boxes have a bad reputation, Toyota says it’s sticking with it because of the durability and efficiency it offers. Around town it’s fine, remaining hushed as the car automatically switches between petrol and electric modes.

Out of town, it soon starts to feel strained. Anyone who’s floored a car equipped with a CVT gearbox will be all too familiar with the intruding noise as the car gradually picks up pace.

Still, around three-quarters of C-HR buyers in the UK will opt for this set-up, says Toyota. And with official CO2 emissions as low as 86g/km, resulting in low company car tax (it’s in the 15% band) and free VED road tax (if you’re quick), it does make sense on paper. And that’s before we get to the 74.3mpg fuel economy figure.

The obvious answer for those wanting favourable fuel economy and company car tax rates could be a diesel – but being the eco-friendly brand that it is, Toyota isn’t offering one. Technically, a turbodiesel could be fitted, but Toyota’s engineers have told us that’s unlikely. What’s more likely is a sporty derivative, perhaps powered by a larger naturally-aspirated petrol engine. Now that we’d like to see.

It handles better than most other crossovers

To give chief engineer Hiroyuki Koba an idea what Europeans expect from a car’s handling, the part-time race driver apparently spent a lot of time in Europe, speaking to crossover drivers and seeing for himself how we drive compared to folk in Japan.

His conclusion? Europeans love to drive fast – and won’t slow down for anything. Roundabouts, obstacles in the road, blind bends… we’ll tear around them, and expect our car to take it.

The result is a car that not only handles better than its Sunderland rival, but also soaks up poor road surfaces with a minimum of fuss. The steering is light (a bonus around town), and there’s a typical shortage of feedback. But body-roll is well managed, helped by the C-HR’s low centre of gravity, and the car remains composed when driven enthusiastically, both in town and out.

There’s tonnes of kit

There’s tonnes of kit

A trick of many manufacturers is to offer a low-spec entry-level model that no one really buys. Sure, fleets favouring low costs over everything else like them – but private buyers generally favour higher-spec models.

As Toyota is firmly aiming its C-HR at fashion-conscious private buyers, it’s not offering a traditional low-spec entry-level model. Instead, the range starts with the £20,995 Icon trim (or, more temptingly, £229 a month on PCP, following a deposit of around 25%). This comes with 17-inch alloy wheels as standard, along with a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system and Toyota’s ‘safety sense’, consisting of an urban automatic braking system and adaptive cruise control, amongst other useful systems.

Walking up the range, the Excel starts at £23,995 and top-spec Dynamic is £25,495. The latter features LED lights, a contrasting black roof and an eight-inch infotainment system. Despite the large, upright screen on the centre of the dash (which, incidentally, seems to be the perfect location for reflecting the sun), there seem to be buttons everywhere.

It falls short on practicality

It falls short on practicality

People typically buy crossovers because they offer good interior space compared to equivalent hatchbacks. But Toyota’s unashamedly put design above practicality with the C-HR.

While there’s no shortage of headroom for passengers (front or rear), those in the back will complain about the mediocre legroom. And the car’s rising beltline results in a very small, and high, rear window – something that is begging for child sickness if you use the C-HR to transport young children.

The boot is reasonable, albeit a tad on the shallow side and, at 377 litres, not as roomy as the Nissan’s. The coupe-esque roofline, mimicking the BMW X6, means anyone looking to carry large loads would be better off with a RAV4.

Should I buy a Toyota C-HR?

Should I buy a Toyota C-HR?

We’ve deliberately steered away from mentioning the C-HR’s divisive design. It won’t appeal to everyone – us included – but there are no doubt many people wanting something a little bit obscure, ready to flock to Toyota showrooms.

Then there’s the practicality, which isn’t great for a crossover of this size, although headroom is good. If you’re the trendy young urbanite Toyota tells us this model will appeal to, that perhaps won’t be a huge issue either.

It’s a shame about the engines, though. The hybrid powertrain, while efficient, is fairly joyless to drive. The 1.2-litre is good in comparison, but it’s down on power and feels strained at motorway speeds.

Should you spend your money on one? If you’re desperate to be different and aren’t concerned about these points, then yes. Us? We’d probably stick with the Qashqai. Ah…

Ecotricity slammed for misleading claims that £6 charges will be cheaper than petrol

Ecotricity slammed for misleading 'cheaper than petrol' claims

Ecotricity slammed for misleading claims that £6 charges will be cheaper than petrol

The firm behind electric car chargers at motorway services has been slammed by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) over ‘vague’ claims that a £6 fee for electric vehicle charging would work out cheaper than refuelling a petrol or diesel car.

We reported earlier in the year that Ecotricity had sent an email to its users saying that it would be introducing a £5 fee for a 20-minute charge at motorway services across the UK. The cost was soon increased to £6 for a 30-minute charge following feedback from customers.

The email said: “After five years, 30 million miles and £2.5 million-worth of free travel, Ecotricity will finally begin charging electric car drivers for using Britain’s most comprehensive car charging network – the Electric Highway. A rapid charge of up to thirty minutes will cost £6, significantly less than the cost of an equivalent petrol or diesel car.”

At the time, we argued that it worked out “almost as expensive as running as combustion-engined car, with added inconvenience.”

It deemed charging plug-in hybrid cars such as the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV at motorway services pointless – something Ecotricity didn’t deny, claiming that the best-selling plug-in was ‘clogging up’ its network.

But seven people approached the ASA over the claim that it would still be cheaper to charge an electric car at motorway services than using petrol or diesel – and the authority upheld their complaints.

Ordering the wording never be used in emails again, the ASA said: “In the absence of sufficient qualification, consumers would understand that they were comparing the cost of running an electric vehicle against that of all petrol and diesel vehicles in the UK market. As we did not consider that the implied claim had been adequately substantiated, we concluded the ad was misleading.”

The email from Ecotricity also claimed that its network would remain free for its domestic energy customer. However, a number complained that its ‘fair-use policy’ limiting users to one charge a week wasn’t fair.

The ASA agreed, concluding: “We considered that the limitation on the number of charges that consumers could obtain without paying contradicted the claim that the charging was free for Ecotricity energy customers. We therefore concluded that the ads were misleading.”

Ecotricity slammed for misleading claims that £6 charges will be cheaper than petrol

Ecotricity slammed for misleading ‘cheaper than petrol’ claims

Ecotricity slammed for misleading claims that £6 charges will be cheaper than petrol

The firm behind electric car chargers at motorway services has been slammed by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) over ‘vague’ claims that a £6 fee for electric vehicle charging would work out cheaper than refuelling a petrol or diesel car.

We reported earlier in the year that Ecotricity had sent an email to its users saying that it would be introducing a £5 fee for a 20-minute charge at motorway services across the UK. The cost was soon increased to £6 for a 30-minute charge following feedback from customers.

The email said: “After five years, 30 million miles and £2.5 million-worth of free travel, Ecotricity will finally begin charging electric car drivers for using Britain’s most comprehensive car charging network – the Electric Highway. A rapid charge of up to thirty minutes will cost £6, significantly less than the cost of an equivalent petrol or diesel car.”

At the time, we argued that it worked out “almost as expensive as running as combustion-engined car, with added inconvenience.”

It deemed charging plug-in hybrid cars such as the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV at motorway services pointless – something Ecotricity didn’t deny, claiming that the best-selling plug-in was ‘clogging up’ its network.

But seven people approached the ASA over the claim that it would still be cheaper to charge an electric car at motorway services than using petrol or diesel – and the authority upheld their complaints.

Ordering the wording never be used in emails again, the ASA said: “In the absence of sufficient qualification, consumers would understand that they were comparing the cost of running an electric vehicle against that of all petrol and diesel vehicles in the UK market. As we did not consider that the implied claim had been adequately substantiated, we concluded the ad was misleading.”

The email from Ecotricity also claimed that its network would remain free for its domestic energy customer. However, a number complained that its ‘fair-use policy’ limiting users to one charge a week wasn’t fair.

The ASA agreed, concluding: “We considered that the limitation on the number of charges that consumers could obtain without paying contradicted the claim that the charging was free for Ecotricity energy customers. We therefore concluded that the ads were misleading.”

Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Cabriolet

Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Cabriolet revealed

Mercedes-Maybach S 650 CabrioletThe Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Cabriolet is a €300,000, limited-to-300 edition that brings delicious colour (and some of the excitement) of the recent Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 concept to showrooms from spring 2017.

The ultra-exclusive model is the first convertible from the recently-reinvigorated Mercedes-Maybach brand. It debuts at the 2016 LA Auto Show.

It’s all about Sensual Purity, says Mercedes-Maybach

Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Cabriolet

The Mercedes-Maybach form of modern luxurious is dubbed ‘Sensual Purity’ by the firm: apparently (it says here), it is both hot and cool at the same time. Such as its fantastically rich red paint, offset by deep polished metal and those amazing 20-inch bichromatic 20-inch forged alloys. Swarovski headlights are optional. Yes, that’s Swarovski headlights.

Inside, we’re told ‘everything flows’

Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Cabriolet

It’s leather everywhere within the four-seat Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Cabriolet. Check out the seats: the waterfall-like feature is created by progressive perforations. Diamond quilted side bolsters adds further decadence. If you don’t like the nut brown magnolia trim here, choose from one of nine additional interior colours, from nice porcelain and saddle brown, to more dubious pastel yellow and black.

The trim is like you’ll find on a yacht

Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Cabriolet

Pretty much all the interior trim will be commissioned bespoke for each of the 300 Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Cabriolets. Some might choose the flowing lines detailing seen here – inspired, says the firm, by the Mercedes-Benz Style ‘Arrow 460 Granturismo’ yacht. A special precision-machine process ices the trim a 3D look.

You get Mercedes-Maybach luggage for free

Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Cabriolet

Mercedes-Benz is pleased with the Maybach luggage included with every S 650 Cabriolet: two travel backs and two smaller man/woman bags, made from the same leather used in the car. Indeed, they match the interior leather. Needless to say, they fit perfectly.

What engine does the Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Cabriolet use?

Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Cabriolet

Under the bonnet lies, naturally, a V12. The 6.0-litre biturbo unit puts out 630hp and, in Euro-speak, a dizzying 1,000Nm of torque between 2,300-4,300rpm. Such pulling power is enough to take it from 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds, in utter refinement. Economy isn’t so disastrous given this, either: 23.5mpg and CO2 of 272g/km.

How will it drive?

Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Cabriolet

On the road, it will drive like most other S-Class Cabriolets, probably: utterly impeccably and with gloriously refined comfort. The Airmatic suspension is largely unchanged and the seven-speed auto is also familiar. Monster engine apart, creating a distinctive drive isn’t the order of the day here. Creating a jewel-like possession overall is.

So it’s pretty special, huh?

Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Cabriolet

Just to underline how special the Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Cabriolet is, every one of the 300 editions will be delivered with a welcome pack. This will include a keyring made of the same nappa leather as the interior, in the same colour, with ‘1 of 300’ lettering. Not special enough? How about a certificate personally signed by Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Dr Dieter Zetsche? Will that do you?

It’s a keeper, the Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Cabriolet

Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Cabriolet

Mercedes-Benz knows this new Maybach edition is a keeper. So it’s giving every owner a special car cover finished in the same colour as the soft-top roof. Diamond-quilted, it’s embroidered with the Maybach logo and lettering on the bonnet. Just the job to keep your prized possession spick and span.

What other Mercedes-Maybach models are on sale?

Since reviving the Maybach brand as a premium alternative to the Mercedes-AMG performance brand, Mercedes-Benz has been swelling the Mercedes-Maybach ranks. The original Mercedes-Maybach S 500 and S 600 models, launched in February 2015, have now been joined by an armour-plated S 600 Guard bulletproof limo. There’s also an S 600 Pullman, with a stretched rear that’s so big, occupants sit ‘vis-à-vis’ (one row faces forwards, the other faces rearwards). Next year, an armour-plated S600 Pullman Guard arrives.

Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Cabriolet: in pictures

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Aston Martin Vanquish S

600hp Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017) revealed

Aston Martin Vanquish SAston Martin has at last given us a higher-performance version of its Vanquish V12 GT car, with the launch of the 600hp Vanquish S.

With suspension and styling upgraded to suit, it’s the long-awaited follow up to the original mid-2000s Vanquish S. That was one of the last cars engineered at the Aston Martin Works in Newport Pagnell – indeed, the final new Aston built there was a Vanquish S Ultimate Edition. Does this Gaydon-developed Vanquish S successfully carry on the line?

Aston Martin Vanquish S

Well, one thing’s for sure, it’s not short on performance. By taking the 6.0-litre V12 up to 600-horsepower, the Vanquish S delivers 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds and a 201mph top speed, while torque is up to 465lb ft as well.

Aston has achieved this by a free-flow intake system boasting larger inlet manifolds, and it’s also recalibrated the eight-speed auto to shift gear faster and more precisely. Just one thing to note: you only get 600-horsepower in the UK and EU: for the rest of the world, it’s 588-horsepower. Blame emissions…

Aston Martin Vanquish S

Handling all this power is suspension that has new spring rates and anti-roll bar bushes, plus revised damper internal hardware. Aston’s sought to give it a keener, sportier feel, particularly in the more sporting settings of the adaptive dampers, without ruining the ride.

Aston Martin Vanquish S

As this amazing blue colour suggests, it’s no shrinking violet. There’s a new aero pack made from exposed carbon fibre, whose front splitter and rear diffuser help significantly cut frontal lift despite only marginally affecting high-speed drag.  

Aston Martin Vanquish S

Also check out the wonderful quad exhaust outlets finished in moody heat-treated black. Oh, and the neat little Vanquish S badge. The new Vanquish S certainly oozes attitude – and if you want even more, Aston will sell you options including carbon fibre bonnet louvres, painted graphics packs and…

Aston Martin Vanquish S

… These amazing forged five-spoke diamond turned wheels.

Aston Martin Vanquish S

Inside, Aston’s offering rather fancy quilted leather called Filograph, which is pretty striking, as is…

Aston Martin Vanquish S

… The striking Satin Chopped Carbon Fibre dash panel. Chopped-up carbon: ever seen anything quite like it in a car?

Aston Martin boss Dr. Andy Palmer said the original Vanquish was a modern icon from the moment it was launched, starting a new era of great British GT cars that continued with the new one. “Now, the Vanquish S takes things a step further, confidently asserting itself within the Aston Martin range and distinguishing itself from the new DB11. A spectacular machine in every sense, the Vanquish S is a magnificent addition to our range.”   

Aston Martin Vanquish S

How much is the new Aston Martin Vanquish S? In the UK, £199,950, in the U.S. it is $312,950 and in Germany it is €262,950. That’s for the Coupe two-seater; it’s also available as a Volante 2+2, which will cost a little chunk more. The best news of all for keen Aston Martin fans is the fact deliveries begin very soon – from next month, in fact.

Jaguar I-Pace

New Jaguar I-Pace Concept electric SUV revealed

Jaguar I-PaceThe Jaguar I-Pace Concept SUV is the British sports car firm’s first ever electric car – and if you already like the look of it, get ready: Jaguar will roll out the production version in 2017, and promises the new I-Pace will be on our roads by 2018.

In less than two years, this new zero-emissions Jaguar EV could be plugged in on your driveway. Read on to find out why it’s so electrifying…

Jaguar I-Pace Concept: revealed in LA

Jaguar I-Pace

Jaguar has revealed the i-Pace Concept electric SUV ahead of the 2016 LA Auto Show: it will make the car the star of its show stand later this week. We reckon it’s already odds on to be the star of the show: with a 310-mile range, 0-60mph in 4.0 seconds, roomy and luxurious five-seat interior plus styling that’s a different take on a Jaguar, there’s lots to get excited about here.

In pictures: new Jaguar I-Pace Concept

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Jaguar reckons it has rethought the car with the I-Pace Concept. The cab-forward design references the C-X75 supercar (driven by baddie Franz Oberhauser in Bond’s Spectre), rather than being a conventional car with a bonnet. It’s tall, like an SUV, but has a silhouette more like a sports car. It seats five and is smaller on the outside than sector rivals such as the BNW X5, but bigger inside than all of them. And all because it’s electric.

New dimensions

Jaguar I-Pace

Because there’s no combustion engine, the wheelbase can be longer (almost 3 metres, in fact – longer than a Smart Fortwo is overall!), the overhangs shorter. The rear haunches can be more aggressive. There’s more interior space, better visibility and improved aerodynamics. Jaguar says the exterior mimics mid-size SUVs, but rear legroom matches full-size SUVs and luxury cars.

A Jaguar like no other

Jaguar I-Pace

The appearance of the Jaguar I-Pace Concept is intentionally different to, say, the Jaguar F-Pace SUV, despite the styling similarities. Designer Ian Callum said he was determined the look would reflect the change in mechanicals. “With the I-Pace Concept, the revolution is in the profile, not the design language,” he said. “The profile is possible because this car is electric. It’s not just that we wanted to create something that was very different from anything else we do: we wanted the design to celebrate the new battery electric technology.”

Detail differences

Jaguar I-Pace

Design highlights of the Jaguar I-Pace Concept include the low cabin, sporty windowlines and heavily curved glass, the ultra-low (for an SUV) bonnet. It’s as aerodynamic as it looks: the Cd drag factor is just 0.29. At the front, the current Jaguar brand grille is retained, and there’s a C-X75-style bonnet scoop that cuts drag. At the rear, there’s no wiper, just a ‘fast’ tailgate shape and hydrophobic glass.

An interior Jaguar can be proud of, at last

Jaguar I-Pace

The I-Pace Concept seats five within a cabin that’s as futuristic-Jaguar as the outside. Interiors has been a weakness of the new-era of Jaguars up to now; only the F-Pace really passes muster. The I-Pace Concept is a massive leap forward and suggests future Jaguar interiors are going to be as appealing as the exteriors. Airy, sporty, contemporary and visually appealing, it’s a clever, warm cabin that Jaguar is rightly already chuffed with.

It has a flightdeck rather than a dashboard

Jaguar I-Pace

Jaguar says the I-Pace Concept launches its new ‘flightdeck’ interface for driver controls. There’s a floating centre console, simple and clear displays, plus a combination of touchscreens, rotary dials and multi-function buttons: Jaguar hasn’t gone fully-digital here. There are smart capacitive switches on the new-design steering wheel, invisible until activated, which respond to the driver with haptic ‘micro-clicks’ when pressed. A bit like an iPhone.  

It has stowage boxes not gearboxes

Jaguar I-Pace

Because there’s no transmission, there’s a clever 8-litre stowage area in the centre console. And no transmission means no traditional gearlever, so there’s an extra stowage area where that would normally sit. Jaguar calls the seats ‘luxury slimline’ pews and calls the driving position ‘sports command’. Higher than normal, but still sporty-feeling.

There are some beautiful design details

Jaguar I-Pace

Jaguar’s using some gorgeous contemporary materials within the I-Pace Concept. The burl wood on the dash is laser-etched with the (slightly cheesy) words ‘Lovingly crafted by Jaguar Est. Coventry 1935’. Paw-print labels are stitched into the seat seams (Jaguar, geddit?). There are laser-etched driving gloves on the slide-out passenger shelf. The Jaguar lozenge pattern features throughout. It’s luxury, boutique-like attention to detail we hope carries through to production.

It’s sports car fast

Jaguar I-Pace

The Jaguar I-Pace Concept uses dual 200hp electric motors, one on the front axle and one on the rear. That means a combined 400hp and 516lb ft of torque, sent to all four wheels. Jaguar says 0-60mph in 4.0 seconds, so faster than a cooking Porsche 911. There’s also no lag and no gearchanges, simply seamless surge. It’s going to be an exciting performer, alright.

It will handle like a sports car

Jaguar I-Pace

Jaguar has fitted the same type of double wishbone front suspension as on the F-Type to the I-Pace Concept. Sports car suspension for a sports car SUV, it insists. With a low centre of gravity and centralised masses from having the batteries packed low within the wheelbase, chief engineer Mike Cross is promising “this will be the first electric vehicle developed for enthusiasts who love driving”.

It’s double-take roomy

Jaguar I-Pace

The Jaguar I-Pace Concept, as mentioned, is a seriously roomy five-seat SUV, insists Jaguar. Moving the front-seat occupants forwards has created more space for those in the back. And in the boot: it’s a practical 530 litres with the seats up, despite the need to pack batteries in. And because the front electric motor is space-efficient, there’s even another small 28-litre boot in the front, a bit like a Porsche 911. 

It has a Tesla-like electric range

Jaguar I-Pace

Tesla’s electric cars set the benchmark for EV driving range. The Jaguar I-Pace Concept is able to measure up though. On the European NEDC cycle, the range between battery charges is over 310 miles; on the U.S. EPA cycle, it’s over 220 miles. For the average commuter, that means once-a-week recharges. A fast charge will top up the 90kWh lithium ion battery pack to 80% full in 90 minutes.

Ian Callum on Jaguar I-Pace Concept

Jaguar I-Pace

“The I-Pace Concept is a radical departure for electric vehicles. It represents the next generation of battery electric vehicle design,” says Callum. “It’s a dramatic, future-facing design – the product of authentic Jaguar DNA matched with beautiful, premium details and British craftsmanship.”

And the best bit of all?

The Jaguar I-Pace Concept is not just a concept!

Jaguar I-Pace

The Jaguar I-Pace isn’t some flight of fantasy either. “It is a preview of a five-seat production car that will be on the road in 2018,” confirms Jaguar. “This will be Jaguar’s first-ever battery-powered electric vehicle.” Yes, things are happening fast: so fast, the production version will be fully revealed before next year is out. The Jaguar I-Pace performance electric SUV is coming, soon. Want one yet?

Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOWFeeling slightly mischievous this week, we set ourselves a particularly challenging, er… challenge. Armed with a virtual wad of £2,000, we wandered through the lower reaches of Auto Trader in search of performance bargains. We emerged with everything from a pint-sized hot hatch to a lazy, all-American Cadillac. As always, inclusion does not represent an endorsement.

Ford Mondeo ST220: £2,000Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

We’re tempted to conclude this gallery here and suggest you go out and buy a Ford Mondeo ST220. This thing has got it all: a delightful 3.0-litre V6 engine, a terrific chassis and – just as importantly – a bargain basement price tag.

This is one of a number of ST220s available on Auto Trader, but it looks like an absolute steal. The Essex number plate is a bonus, too.

Jaguar X-Type 3.0 V6: £1,999Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

Fancy a sleeper? The 3.0-litre V6 in the Jaguar X-Type is significantly faster than the 2.5-litre version, with only a marginal difference in terms of economy. You also get the benefits associated with all-wheel drive in a body that could pass as a standard diesel repmobile.

This 2004 example benefits from the lavish SE spec, including upgraded 17-inch alloy wheels, full leather, climate control, and electric everything. A steal at just under £2,000

Lexus IS300 SportCross: £1,495Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

The Lexus IS300 SportCross won’t be able to offer proper estate levels of practicality, but if your idea of ‘lifestyle’ extends to carrying the odd mountain bike and space for the dog, it could be the ideal chariot.

It’s another 3.0-litre V6 engine, although the SportCross is able to add rear-wheel drive to the mix. The 0-60mph time is polished off in 8.4 seconds, but don’t ask about fuel economy. It’ll only put you off.

Mazda RX-8: £1,949Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

We recently covered the Mazda RX-8 as a Retro Road Test and concluded that, if you buy a good car, it’ll be an enjoyable (and unusual) car to own. We appreciate a RX-8 is more of a heart than a head purchase, but good cars do appear in the classifieds.

This might be one such car. Yes, it’s an earlier RX-8 – some folk advise buying a later car – but it has three things going for it. Firstly, the mileage is sensible. Secondly, it has had just one previous keeper. And finally, the MOT history check is rather promising. Worth a look?

Proton Satria GTi: £1,995Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

You don’t need a gazillion horsepower to have fun. With the right chassis, even a mediocre hot hatch can provide the necessary thrills – and none of the spills – on a British B-road. Cars like the Proton Satria GTi, then?

You might not like the styling and the cheap-looking bodykit. You probably won’t be too keen on the quality of the interior. The Mitsubishi-sourced 1.8-litre engine isn’t the most refined unit, either. But Lotus worked some magic with the chassis, which is something you’ll discover when you reach the first corner. Try it. You might like it.

MG ZR: £1,250Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

The MG makeover could only achieve so much, which is why the ZR still has the look of a Rover 25. You’ll know about the issues associated with the K-series engine, but in ZR 160 guise, this was a properly quick car.

Sadly, this example isn’t powered by the 1.8-litre engine, meaning you’ll have to make do with the 105 1.4-litre unit. But look on the bright side: it’ll be cheaper to insure, it has had “one careful owner from new” and there’s only 43,900 miles on the clock.

Skoda Octavia vRS: £1,695Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

The Skoda Octavia was the first car to wear the vRS badge, taking its running gear from the Volkswagen Golf GTi of the time. This means you get a 1.8-litre turbocharged engine developing 180hp, although some cars have been tuned to 225hp, giving them Audi S3 levels of performance.

We like the look of this 2005 example as it has had just one owner from new and comes with full Skoda service history. If it’s as good as it looks, this might be a performance bargain.

Subaru Forester S-Turbo: £1,950Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

And now for something completely different. Back in the day, the Subaru Forester S-Turbo was a bit of a (sound the cliché klaxon) wolf in sheep’s clothing, thanks to its 170hp ‘boxer engine’ and ability to cover ground – rough or smooth – at an alarming pace.

The black alloy wheels and aftermarket exhaust suggest this Forester may have been owned by an ‘enthusiastic’ owner, but it looks to be in great condition. The perfect winter hack?

Suzuki Swift Sport: £2,000Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

The Suzuki Swift Sport is one of our favourite junior hot hatches of all-time, with an ability to deliver ‘scruff of the neck’ old-school thrills. Prices of the earliest cars are edging temptingly close to the £2,000 mark.

Some, like this 2010 car, are already at the £2,000 mark. OK, so the category D status might be an issue (the seller claims it has a dent on the boot lid), but the MOT history is almost faultless. What’s more, it has a mere 47,000 miles on the clock. Further investigation is required, but this might be a bargain.

Rover 200 BRM: £1,995Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

Before the MG ZR there was this: the Rover 200 BRM. The special edition was based on the Rover 200vi and featured a Torsen differential from the 220 Turbo. A bright orange grille was added to pay homage to the BRM F1 cars of the 1960s.

Sadly, somebody has painted the orange grille on this example, but fortunately the ‘Marmite’ red interior remains in place. A future classic for £1,995. Where do we sign?

Toyota MR2: £1,995Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

The Mk3 version of the MR2 is the last one Toyota built and is therefore the most sensible choice if you intend to use it everyday. Unless you want to carry any luggage, that is. There are dozens of similarly priced MR2 for sale on Auto Trader, but this has strong appeal.

Silver over red is a classic combination, while the MOT history makes for good reading. Winter is a good time to buy a roadster, so get haggling.

BMW 328i: £895Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

A gallery on cheap fast cars – ideal territory for the BMW 328i and 330i. Or so you might think. Sadly, a few minutes desktop research suggests that many of the cars on sale haven’t exactly been treated to a pampered lifestyle.

Which is why we’re proposing a 328i convertible. The chances are it will have led a more relaxed life, while the seller claims it comes with full dealer history. The one downside is that it needs a new roof. But look on the bright side: it’s only £895.

Saab 9-5 Aero: £1,695Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

There was a time, in the not too distant past, when Saabs were driven by nice people. You always knew where you stood with Mr Saab (the majority were driven by men). Buying a Saab from a main dealer or directly from a seller was a pleasurable experience.

Sadly, those days have gone, not least because the majority of cars have fallen into banger territory. But gems do exist, like this 2004 Saab 9-5 HOT Aero. The description reads like it has been written by a seller who’s rather reluctant to part with the car. This is always a good thing.

Volvo V70 T5: £1,999Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

From one desirable Swede to another: this Volvo V70 T5 ticks many boxes. With acres of space and 250hp on tap, it’s little wonder they were firm favourites of the nation’s traffic cops.

The gold paint gives this 2002 added stealth appeal, while the specification and seven-seat factor means this could be all the family car you could ever need. Few cars offer such a compelling mix of space, comfort and pace.

Ford Puma: £1,495Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

Again, the Ford Puma isn’t the fastest car on the planet, but its chassis means you can cover ground rather quickly. If it’s not the best front-wheel-drive coupe ever built, there can’t be too many cars above it.

A price tag of £1,495 is punchy for a Puma, but sub-£1k cars tend to be high-milers with more than a little body rot. Which means paying extra for a 26,000-mile car might be a wise investment. Green isn’t the Puma’s nicest colour, but the 1.7-litre Yamaha engine is the one to have

SEAT Toledo V5: £1,000Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

You want a sleeper? Have we got a sleeper for you. The SEAT Toledo V5 is essentially a Volkswagen Golf V5 in a more sombre and less desirable suit. All of which means nobody will know you’re packing a 170hp 2.3-litre five-cylinder engine until you disappear into the distance.

This 2002 car has covered 131,605 miles, which won’t be an issue if it has been serviced correctly. There’s an old-school performance saloon feel to the Toledo V5 and we’re very tempted to make an enquiry about this stealth weapon.

Audi TT: £1,850Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

In standard 180hp form, the 1.8-litre Audi TT is more pose than power, but with 225hp on tap, things get a little more interesting. There are many TTs available for this sort of price, so you can afford to be selective.

This 2001 example looks to be in good condition. As for its performance credentials: bank on a 0-60mph time of 6.6 seconds.

Fiat Stilo Abarth: £1,550Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

If you’re looking to stand out from the crowd, the Fiat Stilo Abarth could be the car for you. Contemporary reviews criticised the Italian warm hatch for looking a little plain, but to our eyes it has aged rather well. You’ll also be able to enjoy the soundtrack from a 2.4-litre five-cylinder engine.

Sadly, the engine only manages to rustle up a mere 170 raging horses, delivering a 0-62mph time of 8.5 seconds. On the plus side, this 2003 car has been treated to some subtle modifications and looks to be in good order.

Ford SportKa: £1,995Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

Much like the aforementioned Ford Puma, it might be worth spending a little extra to secure a good SportKa. Rust is the big issue, while many cars will have been well used and abused. Find a tidy SportKa and you’ll be rewarded with a terrific junior hot hatch.

A price knocking on the door of £2,000 is bold, but it’s a late, 2008 car with a mere 40,000 miles on the clock. What’s more, we can’t see any tell-tale signs of rust on the wheelarches and around the filler cap. Looks great in red, too.

Cadillac CTS 3.6: £1,990Performance per pound: cheap fast cars for sale NOW

And so to our final car: the curveball, or leftfield choice. This time we’re offering something American: the full-fat Cadillac CTS 3.6-litre V6. Check out the performance figures: 0-60mph in 7.0 seconds and a top speed of 145mph. Best we gloss over the 24.4mpg and 275g/km CO2 figures.

As you’d expect, the Cadillac CTS is a rare sight in the UK, with many customers preferring the more economical, but rather lethargic 2.8-litre version. But if straight line speed and the ability to waft floats your boat, a CTS might be an inspired (if brave) choice.

Mazda 3

Mazda 3 2.0 Sport Nav quick review: the underdog hatchback

Mazda 3If you’re looking for a new Ford-Focus-sized car, there are a lot of contenders you’d probably consider before you get to the Mazda 3. The Japanese manufacturer’s mid-size hatchback has been around since 2004, yet is still under the radar for many new car buyers. Those in the know have always been rewarded with a car that drives well, has a solid interior and offers commendable reliability. We’ve driven the freshly-facelifted 2017 Mazda 3 to find out whether you should buy one over a more popular rival.

Prices and deals

In the 2.0-litre Sport Nav guise we’re testing here, the Mazda 3 has a list price of £20,645. Most buyers will be more interested in the finance deals on offer, however – and the same spec is currently available through Mazda on a 0% PCP deal for £279 a month over three years, following a deposit of £2,779.62 (and an extra £750 from the manufacturer).

If you’re happy with the lower-spec SE with the same engine, you can pick one up for £239 a month with a £2,442.50 deposit.

What are its rivals?

There’s no shortage of rivals: the popular (but ageing) Ford Focus, the much-improved Vauxhall Astra, and of course, a plethora of hatches from VW Group, including the SEAT Leon, Skoda Octavia and the Volkswagen Golf. The new Renault Megane is also worth a look, as is the Peugeot 308.

What engine does it use?Mazda 3

The engine we’re testing here is likely to be the most popular – a 2.0-litre petrol producing 120hp – while the same engine is also available in sportier 163hp guise. There’s a lesser 100hp 1.5-litre (but this is underpowered and best avoided), while company car drivers will favour the 1.5- and 2.2-litre turbodiesels.

How fast?

The Mazda 3 isn’t as fast as you might expect from a 2.0-litre petrol, as Mazda snubs the turbocharged trend in favour of low weight. It hits 62mph in 8.9 seconds, with torque available across a wide rev range – a welcome change from the usual short, punchy acceleration turbocharged engines offer.

Will I enjoy driving it?Mazda 3

Traditionally, enthusiastic company car drivers have opted for a Ford Focus or (if they’re lucky), a BMW 1 Series. But the Mazda 3 is a brilliant drive, taking traits such as its snickety gear change and direct steering from the MX-5 sports car. Body-roll is well controlled, while the suspension soaks up bumps well – even on the 18-inch wheels of our test car.

Fuel economy and running costs

Officially the 2.0-litre Mazda 3 hatchback will return 55.4mpg – and in a refreshing change from the norm, that’s actually fairly achievable. The likeable thing about naturally-aspirated engines is they’re fairly consistent in fuel economy tests. On a busy M25 run we averaged 54.6mpg, while day-to-day driving saw this drop to high 40s. We can see why Mazda is sticking with larger, naturally-aspirated engines.

What’s the interior like?Mazda 3

The interior, frankly, puts the Ford Focus to shame. It’s almost premium in its approach, with a high level perceived quality and everything where you’d expect it. Fleet drivers, if you’re offered one of these to spend several hours a day in – grab it!

Is it comfortable?

For drivers, yes. There’s plenty of adjustment in the front seats and the steering wheel, meaning it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position.

It’s in the rear where things start to go wrong. Rear-seat passengers won’t be particularly happy after a long journey – the sloping roofline eats into headroom, while the rising windowline won’t be popular with children who suffer from travel sickness.

Is it practical?Mazda 3

Things don’t get much better here, either. The boot is rather shallow, offering 364-litres of space in total. There is a Fastback saloon version available, which offers a bit more luggage room (419 litres in total), but you’d be much better looking at a crossover like the Nissan Qashqai if practicality is important.

Tell me about the tech

This Sport Nav model isn’t short of kit – a seven-inch infotainment system takes pride of place in the centre of the dash with an easy-to-use sat nav, DAB radio and excellent Bose speakers as standard.

What about safety?Mazda 3

When Euro NCAP crash tested the Mazda 3 in 2013, it was awarded five stars for safety. The safety pack, an £800 option on this model, adds adaptive LED headlights, blind-spot monitors and an autonomous city braking – amongst other handy features.

Which version should I go for?

The turbodiesel is regarded highly, but we’re big fans of the 2.0-litre petrol used in our test car, especially if you don’t spend a lot of time traipsing the motorways (not that it can’t do that efficiently – as we proved).

Trim-wise, we’d find it hard to resist the Sport Nav on PCP for £279 a month.

What’s the used alternative?Mazda 3

The latest Mazda 3 has just been given a mid-life facelift, but it’s remained largely unchanged since 2013. Early examples of the latest model are now coming to the end of their three-year leases, meaning they’re hitting dealerships and car supermarkets from around £10,500 for an entry-level 1.5-litre SE.

Alternatively, older examples can be picked up from as little as £500 for a 2004 model. Watch out for rust, though – Mazdas of this period were partial to a little light corrosion.

Should I buy one?

The Mazda 3’s abundance of rivals means it’s all-too-often overlooked. The only slightly disappointing area is practicality, but in every other aspect it’s pretty much class-leading. If you want a hatchback that’s great to drive, good value for money and has an upmarket cabin, break from the herd and buy one of these.

Pub factMazda 3 MPS

The previous Mazda 3 was available in hot MPS guise (short for Mazda Performance Series). It produced 260hp, making it one of the most powerful hot hatches on the market at the time – hitting 62mph in 6.1 seconds. Unfortunately it didn’t sell particularly well, meaning there’s no hot derivative of the latest model. A shame, as the chassis would cope with it very well.

NEC Classic Motor Show

In pictures: NEC Classic Motor Show

NEC Classic Motor ShowThis weekend, the NEC played host to the Classic Motor Show, the self-proclaimed “biggest and best classic car show in the UK”. We sent our man Andrew to Birmingham and asked him to take photos of his favourite cars. Here’s what caught his eye…

Austin Metro

NEC Classic Motor Show

We kick things off with this delightful Austin Metro City, which was awarded the Pride of Ownership trophy at this year’s NEC Classic Motor Show. It belonged to the late wife of James Cribb, who restored it in her memory.

Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS

NEC Classic Motor Show

From a Metro to a Porsche 911, but not just any 911. This rare 911 2.7 RS Lightweight is one of just four right-hand-drive ‘First 500’ examples.

Porsche 924S

NEC Classic Motor Show

Speaking of desirable Porsche models: this 924S is fresh from a restoration at a Porsche dealership. This year, the Porsche GB Restoration Competition celebrates the anniversary of the first front-engined Porsche. Finally, the 924 is being accepted as a bona fide classic car.

BMW MINI

NEC Classic Motor Show

What’s this – a modern MINI at a classic motor show? Ah yes, but the tide is turning and folk are beginning to accept the original BMW MINI as an important car in the history of the British car industry. This is an ex-press car and one of the earliest survivors of its kind. It has covered around 140,000 miles and was rescued from a used car dealer by a MINI enthusiast.

Vauxhall Nova Irmscher Spider

NEC Classic Motor Show

And now for something completely different. In 1984, Irmscher UK teamed up with Vauxhall to produce the right-hand-drive Nova Spider. Two Nova 1.3 SRs were registered and driven to the Irmscher factory in Russelsheim and this car was known as ‘England 1’.

The Irmscher Spider was the only topless Nova recognised by Opel and Vauxhall, and six were registered in the UK. Only five remain, two of which are in a roadworthy condition, making this example one of the rarest cars on show at the NEC.

Vauxhall Nova Sport

NEC Classic Motor Show

This Nova should look a little more familiar. It’s a 1985 Nova Sport, one of the coolest special editions of the 1980s. It was powered by a 1.3-litre engine and treated to a host of tasty upgrades. Note the blistered wheelarches, which remain one of the best design elements to come out of the 80s.

Vauxhall Cavalier GSI Turbo

NEC Classic Motor Show

We’re not done with our Vauxhall love-in, as this immaculate Cavalier GSI certainly caught our attention. Some might argue that the Mk3 Cavalier shouldn’t be seen at a classic motor show, but we beg to differ. In its day, this was the choice of many high-flying reps charging up and down the motorways of Britain.

Ford Mondeo V6

NEC Classic Motor Show

Another car on the cusp of classic greatness: the Ford Mondeo Ghia V6. This car has it all, including superb dynamics, a terrific 2.5-litre V6 engine and the desirable Ghia spec. The want is strong for this Mondeo.

Skoda Estelle

NEC Classic Motor Show

Look, a Skoda Estelle stretched limousine. No jokes about Skoda, please…

Lamborghini Countach

NEC Classic Motor Show

The NEC Classic Motor Show played host to the Silverstone Auctions sale, with this Lamborghini Countach taking top billing. It’s on sale via the Silverstone Auctions website for £396,750.

Porsche 911 Turbo SE ‘Flatnose’

NEC Classic Motor Show

Meanwhile, this Porsche 911 Turbo SE ‘Flatnose’ sold for £202,500, more than double its pre-auction estimate. It’s an original Porsche GB press car.

Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II

NEC Classic Motor Show

As for this ‘Autobahnstormer’, it sold for £120,375. A massive fee to match its massive rear wing.