2017 Ford GT: inside the top secret design studio

2017 Ford GT

2017’s must-have supercar was revealed at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, after years of hard work by a small group of Ford employees at the firm’s Dearborn design centre in Michigan. While it might look like the new GT was the work of a futuristic design studio, all the design work was carried out by in a top secret basement studio.

Most employees at Dearborn knew nothing about the project. While they were upstairs working on designs for the new Edge or Fusion, a small group in the basement were sketching Ford’s Lamborghini-rivalling supercar.

Before we take a look at the design studio, let’s look at some stats and figure out why the Ford GT is such a big deal. It costs £450,000 and only 1,000 will be made – with just 40 coming to the UK. All the cars have already been allocated – Ford has been very strict about the application process, meaning only genuine fans will be getting their hands on the GT.

Power comes from a 3.5-litre V6 Ecoboost engine producing 656hp and 550lb ft of torque, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. A lightweight carbonfibre monocoque combined with aluminium front and rear subframes means it’s boasts a kerb weight of just 1,385kg.

Officially, the Ford GT hits 60mph in 2.8 seconds and can reach a top speed of 216mph. That puts it on par with McLaren’s incredible 720S.

So that design studio? We visited Dearborn, where we were met by Ford’s design director for the Americas, Chris Svensson. Following Svensson down a staircase and through a series of passages, you could see the excitement of someone who has spent a great deal of time locked in a basement, keen to show off his lair.

How did it remain a secret for so long? Surely other people suspected it? “Fortunately no one really asked what I was working on,” says Svensson. “Most people in the building didn’t know until it was unveiled at Detroit.”

Svensson stops by what appears to be a broom cupboard. He produces a key from his pocket – “old school,” he quips, and opens the door.

Behind it, we’re in for a treat. While the room itself is nothing particularly special, its contents are guaranteed to get any petrolhead excited.

From mock-ups to the final car, it’s fascinating to see how the design has progressed.

Not that it’s changed a lot. Compare the final design with an early clay model, and it’s clear that very little has been altered. That’s down to the team largely being able to do their own thing – the performance team have been hands on from day one, while accountants have been kept well away.

The car is being launched to commemorate the 50th anniversary since Ford’s Le Mans win with the original GT40, and is set to run in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours race.

So why is it using a 3.5-litre V6 Ecoboost engine, rather than a bulky V8, if economics aren’t in mind? Surely a throaty V8 would be more in-keeping with both the Le Mans spirit as well as the GT ethos.

Ford Performance chief engineer Jamal Hameedi disagrees: “Le Mans is very much a full economy race. Ecoboost technology makes it extremely fuel efficient. If the other guys want to haul around two cylinders not doing anything, then go ahead, but a six cylinder is all we need.”

2017 Ford GT

One challenge they did face was the interior. With such a small area to play around with, how could they fit something suitable for a £450,000 supercar into such a tiny space?

The man responsible for that was global interior design director, Amko Leenarts. He explains that comfort wasn’t a priority – anyone much taller than six foot is going to struggle, and don’t expect to be able to carry golf clubs.

Working with such a tiny space created numerous issues. Fitting rails under the seats to allow them to move back and forth would take up much-needed headroom, so it was decided to keep the seat fixed. Instead, the steering wheel and even the pedals move towards the driver.

There wasn’t even room for a conventional steering wheel. It would be impossible to get in the Ford GT with a full-size wheel, so a small wheel was used with the top and bottom cut off.

While obviously designed without luxury in mind, Leenarts has done an incredible job on the interior. Like everyone involved, he’s rightly proud of it.

The Ford GT is different to anything else the manufacturer makes – it’s a real labour of love, designed with nothing but performance in mind. And the experts in charge of the project? Absolute enthusiasts. And that’s refreshing. Please keep clicking to see more pictures of the Ford GT design studio.

Porsche builds its one-millionth 911

Porsche builds its one-millionth 911The Mazda MX-5 may be the world’s best-selling sports car, but the Porsche 911 is the most iconic. And today, after 54 years in production, the company built its one-millionth 911.

Dr Wolfgang Porsche unveiled the milestone car in Zuffenhausen, where it begins a promotional world tour that includes the Scottish Highlands, Nurburgring, USA and China – ending up as part of the collection at the Porsche Museum.

Porsche builds its one-millionth 911The 991 Carrera S has a distinctly retro theme, with many details that evoke the 1963 original. Spot the Irish Green paint (a special order colour since 1965) chrome window-surrounds, old-style Porsche bonnet crest and – oh yes – gold badges.

Inside, there’s liberal use of mahogany on the steering wheel and dashboard (no, us neither), plus ‘Pepita’ houndstooth trim on the trad-911 ‘tombstone’ seats. A plaque marks this car out as number 1,000,000 off the production line.Porsche builds its one-millionth 911A visibly proud Dr Porsche said: “Fifty-four years ago, I was able to take my first trips over the Grossglockner High Alpine Road with my father. The feeling of being in a 911 is just as enjoyable now as it was then. That’s because the 911 has ensured that the core values of our brand are as visionary today as they were in the first Porsche 356/1 from 1948”.

Although the 911 is easily outsold by Porsche’s Macan and Cayenne SUVs today, it remains core to the German brand: a halo car that shines brighter than perhaps any other. Porsche builds its one-millionth 911

Amazingly, more than 70 per cent of all 911s ever built are still on the road, and over half of Porsche’s 30,000 race wins can be credited to the car, too.

We don’t expect this very special 911 will be racking up the miles – it’s already too valuable for that – but devotees can buy an Irish Green Porsche Design watch, with a strap using the same leather as the 911’s interior. 

20 years of Italian supercars

20 years of Italian supercarsIn the red corner: the Lamborghini Aventador SV. In the black corner: the Ferrari 355 GTS F1. Two prize fighters separated by 20 years and a not-insignificant 370hp. Yet these supercars have more in common than you might expect.

Both are Italian, for starters. And both use high-revving, naturally-aspirated engines with semi-automatic gearboxes. Also – less obviously – both are the property of two brothers: Andrew and David Bagley.

The Bagleys are the brains behind Salon Privé, an exclusive classic and supercar show hosted each summer at Blenheim Palace. Today, Blenheim serves as the suitably dramatic back-drop for our supercar showdown. Can classic hero defeat modern master?

A trip to Italy20 years of Italian supercars

“I fell in love with the Aventador after seeing one at Salon Privé,” Andrew explains. “It looked like a fighter jet, all crazy angles.” A few years later, he realised that dream, visiting Lamborghini HQ in Sant’Agata to specify his own Aventador SV.

The SV, or Superveloce, badge was first used on the Miura SV of 1971. It denotes something special: a lighter, faster Lamborghini, built in limited numbers. “Going for a special edition such as this – one of 600 SV coupes made – does mean the car should hold its value longer-term,” says Andrew. “Just look at the prices of RS Porsches. That said, I buy cars to drive and enjoy, not as investments.” And who wouldn’t enjoy a Lamborghini?

Drawing a crowd20 years of Italian supercars

I start by taking a few moments simply to stand and stare. I’m not alone: a crowd of Blenheim day-trippers gathers, asking questions and taking supercar selfies. I walk around and drink in the details: the shark-like snout, gaping air intakes framed in naked carbon, louvred rear window (a Lamborghini trademark) and, of course, that towering rear wing.

Pardon the cliché, but the SV looks like it’s doing 200mph standing still. And people can’t get enough of it. The Ferrari parked alongside looks remarkably understated: a Learjet versus a stealth bomber.

Waking up the neighbours20 years of Italian supercars

If half the visitors at Blenheim have already clocked the Lamborghini, the other 50% snap to attention when I flip the red ‘bomb switch’ cover and stab the starter button. With a theatrical blip of the throttle, the 750hp V12 barks into life, settling to a menacing idle that echoes across immaculate Capability Brown gardens.

I pull down the dihedral door via a small leather strap (this is a lightweight special, remember?) and adjust the mirrors. Mental note: the Aventador is A LOT wider at the back than the front. The pedals are skewed towards the centre, but the ‘long arms, short legs’ driving position of Italian supercars past is thankfully absent. Even the seats are comfortable – Andrew decided against the hard-shell buckets standard on the SV.

Unleash the beast20 years of Italian supercars

The exit road is peppered with speed humps, so I push the ‘suspension lift’ button and we crawl cautiously along. The mid-mounted V12 gargles and growls like a caged lion pawing at my shoulder blades. The ride feels racecar-firm, with very little travel from the in-board suspension, yet all the major controls, from the steering to the clutch pedal, move with weighty precision. It’s not difficult to go slowly, but neither would your grandmother feel comfortable driving it.

We turn onto a stretch of dual-carriageway and it’s time to let the Lambo off the leash. I shift to second, hit the loud pedal and – bam! – we lunge forwards like Bolt from the blocks. With four-wheel-drive traction, there’s no wheelspin: just grip and relentless G-force. I snatch third just before the 8,500rpm rev limit and by now we’re piling on serious speed – polite conversation suspended as cabin reverberates with Italian V12 thunder.

Lord of the ’Ring20 years of Italian supercars

I steal a glance at Andrew: he’s grinning broadly. “Like riding a bull, isn’t it?”, he laughs. “You grab it by the horns and hang on.” It’s a good analogy – the Aventador feels totally unhinged, like being strapped to a heat-seeking missile. You’ll be lucky to use even a fraction of its performance on the road. On a race track, it would be an absolute weapon.

Want proof? A driver with vastly more talent than me lapped the Nürburgring Nordschleife in six minutes 59 seconds – just two seconds shy of Porsche’s 918 Spyder hypercar. Which proves the SV isn’t merely about straight-line speed. Along with the new (and Nürburgring record-breaking) Huracan Performante, it also shows Lamborghini is finally on par with Porsche and Ferrari for ultimate driving performance.

Wide and wild20 years of Italian supercars

On rutted and occasionally narrow Cotswold lanes, however, the Aventador feels mildly out of its comfort zone. It’s savagely fast and utterly planted – you’d need to be a complete hooligan to unstick the rear end – but it’s also a big car. I involuntarily hold my breath every time a Range Rover or Transit van squeezes past.

The gearbox is the only other minus point. The seven-speed automated manual is whipcrack-fast when you’re pressing on, but feels a little clunky at low speeds. The latest dual-clutch ’boxes are smoother and just as quick.

Lights, camera, action20 years of Italian supercars

Heading back to base, we again reach a long stretch of straight dual-carriageway. I pull across into the outside lane and bury my right size-eight. Seven hundred and fifty Italian horses awaken and the scenery blurs into fast-forward. Imagine jumping out of a plane, but with carbon-ceramic brakes instead of a parachute.

Suddenly, blue lights appear. Andrew and I glance at each other in nervous silence. I slow to a steady 50mph and a Vauxhall Astra looms large in my mirrors, sirens wailing. Relief: it’s an ambulance car with no interest in this now-dawdling Lamborghini. But the experience serves as a stark reminder of the restraint needed to drive a 217mph supercar on the road.

Betting on black20 years of Italian supercars

The Aventador leaves me wired and wanting more. Can David’s Ferrari possibly measure up? We grab a quick coffee first. “The F355 was on my bedroom wall as a kid – I’ve always wanted one,” he explains. “And it took me a long time to afford one, so this car’s a keeper. I don’t plan to sell it.”

In defiance of Ferrari purists, David shunned the iconic open-gate manual and sought out a F355 with the semi-automatic gearbox (badged ‘355 F1’). “I like paddle-shifters,” he explains. “That said, I don’t leave it in auto – I always use the paddles to change gear.”

Ageing gracefully20 years of Italian supercars

Me? I had a red Testarossa on my wall, but as a child of the 1980s, I automatically consider any car with pop-up headlights to be cool. It seems ironic that Ferrari designed the 355 with an F1-style flat undertray, then undid those aerodynamic gains with upright lights.

But no matter: this 20-year-old is ageing gracefully. It may even be the last genuinely beautiful Ferrari. While later models look increasingly aggressive, the 355 has the classic, almost dainty elegance of a 308 GTB or Berlinetta Boxer. It’s stylish, but not shouty.

Scintillating soundtrack20 years of Italian supercars

At least, not until I fire up the 3.5-litre V8. David’s car has an aftermarket Capristo exhaust and is even louder than the Aventador at idle. It hums with the undisguised potency of a naturally-aspirated engine that produces nearly 109hp per litre (380hp total): the highest specific output of any car at the time. With only a fabric roof between me and those four tailpipes, the cacophony fills the cabin and reverberates through my skull.

There’s a whole other dimension to the Ferrari’s soundtrack beyond 5,000rpm, though. At lower revs, the flat-plane-crank V8 is boisterous, but not especially tuneful. Only when you close in on the 8,500rpm redline (the same, incidentally, as the Lambo) does it shift up an octave, morphing into a high-pitched howl that has every hair on your body standing to attention.

Into the red20 years of Italian supercars

You need to work this engine hard to get the best from it, too. With a paltry 268lb ft of torque at 6,000rpm, the Ferrari is no quicker than many modern hot hatchbacks in everyday traffic. But then a gap opens, you drop a cog and it feels like a bona fide supercar again.

Cards on the table: I’d have my 355 with a manual gearbox – and no doubt pay a premium for doing so. But the F1 transmission, with its comically small lever on the centre console, is better than I’d been led to expect. The paddles move with mechanical precision, and the ability to upshift at full throttle keeps the engine spinning furiously. It’s rather more recalcitrant around town, but that’s also true of a manual Ferrari ’box. Ultimately, the faster you go, the better it gets.

The light fantastic20 years of Italian supercars

And believe me, it gets very good indeed. The 355’s steering is sublime – a reminder of how feelsome a hydraulic system can be in this era of anaesthetised electric helms. It’s slower and weightier than present-day Ferraris, yet still fabulously communicative.

On damp roads, I’m acutely conscious that, unlike every new car on sale, the 355 has no stability control. There’s no electronic safety net. Clearly, its limits are much lower than the ’Ring-slaying Aventador, but it doesn’t intimidate. Its suspension is supple and the whole car feels light on its feet. You couldn’t say that about a Testarossa.

Analogue to digital20 years of Italian supercars

With its compact dimensions and unfiltered driving feel, the 355 reminds me of two other cars of this era. One is the original Honda NSX – the brilliantly usable Japanese supercar that showed up Ferrari’s below-par 348 and, ironically, forced the Italians to up their game with the 355. The other is the Porsche 964 Carrera RS, a raw road-racer with an equally charismatic engine and superb chassis.

There’s perhaps an argument that these were the last of the truly analogue sports cars. Electronics would soon infiltrate every area of car construction, to the benefit of reliability and safety, but often to the detriment of good old-fashioned fun. No wonder the prices of all three cars are heading skywards.

Picking a winner20 years of Italian supercars

This isn’t a comparison test. Nobody is likely to whittle their shortlist down to an Aventador SV (from £280,000) or F355 (from £45,000). However, it shows how far high-performance cars have come in 20 years. These two share some similarities, but they could hardly feel more different.

The Lamborghini is awe-inspiring and magnificent; it’s the supercar turned up to 11  a double Sambuca washed down with a Red Bull. I loved driving it, but can’t escape the feeling I’d lose my licence if I owned one. The 355 is more of a robust Italian red: equally intoxicating, but fun at saner speeds and a better fit for UK roads. It’s a tough call, but I’d take the Ferrari.

New Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

New Ford GT – and other great cars that share its nameGT: two letters that mean so much in the car industry. The badge is primarily used to designate a grand tourer, but has been put to good use on mildly warm hatches or for when a GTi badge would promise something a car might not be able to deliver.

So, with the new Ford GT hitting the headlines, we trawled the archives in search of other famous GT cars. Note, this is a not an exhaustive list and we’ve steered clear of badge extensions, meaning you won’t find a GT-R, GTi, GTS or GTE here.

Porsche Carrera GTNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

When production of the Carrera GT ceased in 2006, Porsche concluded – with a certain degree of bravado – that it was “ the most successful supercar in history”. Its point was that, at 1,270 units, more Carrera GTs rolled out of the Leipzig production facility than the McLaren F1, Ferrari Enzo and Pagani Zonda combined.

OK, so 605hp and a 0-62mph time of 3.9 seconds might not seem like a big deal in an age of the Dodge Demon, but it was the way in which the Carrera GT went about its business that made the difference. The race-honed V10 engine makes a noise rivalled only by Thor gargling on a single malt Scotch.

Citroen AX GTNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

The Citroen AX GT is unlikely to win a game of Top Trumps, unless the chosen category is ‘lightness’ or ‘risk of death in the event of an accident’. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fit to wear the GT badge, because the featherlight Citroen was one of the most exciting cars of the late 80s and early 90s.

Power was sourced from a 1.4-litre engine developing just 86hp, but it was mated to a body that tipped the scales at a mere 722kg. It meant that the AX GT could punch well beyond its weight, especially on a twisty B-road, where it could hold its own against more illustrious competition.

Ferrari 456 GTNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

The GT badge is part of the furniture at Maranello, albeit more commonly with the addition of an extra letter. The 250 GTO, F355 GTS and 348 GTB are just three examples.

The 456 GT saw Ferrari return to the front-engine layout for the first time since the 365 GTB4 of 1968 and was, perhaps, one of the greatest grand tourers of the 1990s. A 2+2 coupe with the beating heart of a 5.4-litre 12-cylinder engine isn’t a bad form of transport for crossing a continent or two.

Opel GTNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

“Only flying is better,” proclaimed Opel when it launched the achingly beautiful GT. That it looked like a European Corvette was no accident, because the styling of contemporary Opel cars was heavily influenced by its American owners.

Underneath the GT you’d find the floorpan of a humble Kadett, while the fastback coupe body was built in France. The rotating headlights are superb, but although more than 100,000 GTs were built, none were right-hand drive. Shame.

Lamborghini 350 GTNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

For Lamborghini, this was where it all began. The 350 GT was an evolution of the earlier 350 GTV and was the first Lamborghini to be mass-produced. If Ferruccio Lamborghini’s sole aim was to stick a metaphorical two fingers up at Ferrari, he well and truly succeeded.

Carrozzeria Touring built 120 units, the majority of which were powered by a 3.5-litre 12-cylinder engine. Two Spyder versions were also built by the famous Italian coachbuilder. A 400 GT followed in 1966 and was the first proper 2+2 four-seat Lamborghini.

Toyota 2000GTNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

Is this the most beautiful car to emerge from Japan? You’d struggle to find anything better than the Toyota 2000GT, which was completed in prototype form by Yamaha in 1965. With Japan’s wealthy elite quick to open their wallets – shouting the equivalent of “take my money” – Toyota got involved with the next stage of development.

Yamaha was entrusted to tackle the production, with the first of these hand-built supercars arriving in 1967. Two open-top versions were created for use in the Bond movie, You Only Live Twice.

MGB GTNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

The MGB was launched in 1962, but the Pininfarina-penned GT fastback wouldn’t arrive in 1965. It retained all of the handling characteristics of the roadster, with a raised windscreen height ensuring there was ample room in the cabin, at least in the front.

The MGB GT V8 arrived in 1973, right in the midst of the energy crisis. Timing is everything.

Audi Coupe GTNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

The common or garden Audi Coupe arrived six months after the launch of the iconic Quattro and offered some of the styling for much less cash. OK, so the wide arches and ‘bahnstorming’ performance were absent, but the Coupe managed to cut a mean figure on the Audi forecourts of the land.

Select a Coupe GT with a five-cylinder engine and you could at least pretend to be Hannu Mikkola or Michele Mouton as you made your way home from the office.

Alfa Romeo GTNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

It’s a modern Alfa Romeo, so you know you’ll have to make one or two sacrifices in order to live with the GT, but it’d be worth it just to stare at it on your driveway.

When powered by the 3.2-litre V6 engine, the Alfa GT is more than capable of living up to the promise of both badges. A proper Alfa and a proper GT.

Renault 5 GT TurboNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

The Renault 5 GT Turbo was a true hot hatch hero of the 1980s, able to hold its own against the might of the 205 GTi and Golf GTi. Key to its brilliance – aside from the turbocharged engine – was its lightness, with the GT Turbo tipping the scales at just 850kg.

Today, Renault uses the GT badge to denote its flagship models, as demonstrated by the Megane and Twingo. In truth, they can’t hold a candle to the French GTs of yesteryear.

Family cars with 5 stars for safety

Family cars with 5 stars for safety

Car manufacturers know that safety sells, which is why they embrace the high-profile, ultra-tough Euro NCAP crash test safety standard. Not achieving a five-star safety rating in the family segment could mean the difference between success and failure.

Read on to discover which new family cars have achieved the maximum five-star rating in 2016 and 2017.

BMW 5 Series

The new BMW 5 Series is the latest car to be awarded a five-star safety rating, including an impressive 81% for pedestrian safety. According to Euro NCAP, “the car showed good all-round performance in crash protection and avoidance tests thanks to its new platform, body and safety features”.

Euro NCAP’s secretary general, Michiel van Ratingen, said: “BMW has led the way with a new 5-Series that features lots of driver assistance systems which Euro NCAP believes will transform safety in the years to come”.

Audi Q5

To achieve a five-star safety rating, a car must perform well in four key areas, namely: adult occupant protection, child occupant protection, pedestrian protection and safety assist.

The Audi Q5 performed well in the safety test, with a 93% rating for adult occupant protection being the standout performance. The adult occupant score is determined from frontal impact, side impact and whiplash tests.

Land Rover Discovery

Land Rover Discovery

Meanwhile, the child occupant protection covers three aspects: the protection offered by the child restraint systems in the frontal and side impact tests; the vehicle’s ability to accommodate child restraints of various sizes and designs; and the availability of provisions for safe transport of children in the car

The new Land Rover Discovery – which offers an optional seven-seat layout – scored an impressive 80% in this area.

Toyota C-HR

The third part of the Euro NCAP safety rating concerns pedestrian protection, which is determined from the most important vehicle front-end structures, such as the bonnet and windscreen, the bonnet leading edge and the bumper.

The bold looking Toyota C-HR scored 76% in this area and a highly impressive 95% for adult occupant protection.

Volvo S90/V90

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Volvo S90 and V90 have achieved the most impressive figures across the board. A 95% for adult occupant protection and 93% for safety assist puts the big Swede at the top of the class, while 80% and 76% for child protection and pedestrian protection respectively are close to the benchmarks.

Safety assist focuses on driver-assist technologies, such as electronic stability control, seatbelt reminders, speed assistance, automatic braking and lane support systems. The Volvo is the final car on our list to have been awarded a five-star rating in 2017. All of the remaining cars were tested in 2016.

Audi Q2

Audi Q2

A compact crossover with an Audi badge is always going to be popular, even with prices starting from £21,360. Audi is launching the Q2 with the help of a so-called ‘Edition #1’, which commands a price tag of £31,170.

The Q2 scored well across the aboard, including 93% for adult occupant protection and 86% for child occupant protection.

Ford Edge

The Ford Edge’s 89% rating for safety assist technology was the highest of 2016 and is beaten only by the 93% scored by the Volvo S90/V90 in 2017.

The Edge is Ford’s flagship SUV and prices range from £32,295 for the Zetec to £39,545 for the super-posh Vignale.

Hyundai Ioniq

The five-star Euro NCAP rating covers all versions of the Hyundai Ioniq, including electric and PHEV.

The Ioniq is available with a host of safety systems, including lane departure warning system, blind spot detection, automatic brakes and adaptive cruise control.

Suzuki Ignis (safety pack)

Suzuki Ignis (safety pack)

In 2016, Euro NCAP introduced a new ‘Dual Rating’ system, which means that the default rating is based on standard safety equipment available throughout the range. Additional tests are done to determine what the result would be with an optional safety pack.

Without the safety pack, the Suzuki Ignis was awarded a middling three-star rating. However, the top-spec SZ5 model with dual camera brake support was awarded a five-star rating.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

You’d be surprised if a car such as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class wasn’t awarded a maximum five-star rating. It is, of course, simpler and more cost-effective to optimise the safety of a larger, more expensive car.

The E-Class scored an impressive 95% for adult occupant protection.

Peugeot 3008/5008

The Peugeot 3008 and 5008 are structurally identical, except for extra length in the rear and a third row of seats. With this in mind, Euro NCAP was happy to award a five-star rating to the 5008 based on the 3008 as tested.

In March 2017, the Peugeot 3008 was named the European Car of the Year at the Geneva Motor Show.

Kia Niro (safety pack)

Kia Niro (safety pack)

The Kia Niro is another car to benefit from the new ‘Dual Rating’ system. With the optional safety pack, the hybrid achieved a four-star rating. With it, the Niro achieved full marks.

Pedestrian safety jumped from 57% to 70%, while safety assist rocketed from 59% to 81%. And, of course, you also get Kia’s seven-year warranty.

Renault Scenic

Motorists are falling out of love with MPVs, which is why the Renault Scenic looks more like an SUV. Renault was the first company to achieve a five-star rating, when the Laguna (remember that?) was given full marks in 2001.

The Euro NCAP crash test has come a long way since. Back then, the safety rating was based solely on occupant protection. The child protection rating wasn’t introduced until November 2003.

Subaru Levorg

Euro NCAP celebrated its 20th anniversary in February 2017, at which point it claimed that 78,000 lives have been saved as a result of the tough crash safety tests.

As many as nine out of 10 new cars sold in Europe hold a Euro NCAP rating. One of these is the Subaru Levorg, which scored 92% for adult occupant protection.

Toyota Hilux (safety pack)

Toyota Hilux (safety pack)

In February 2008, Euro NCAP began testing pick-ups as more of these vehicles were being used for lifestyle and family use. The Toyota Hilux was awarded a three-star rating in 2016, including a lowly 25% for safety assist.

However, equip Toyota’s excellent Safety Sense package – which includes pedestrian detection, road sign assist and lane departure alert – and the Hilux achieves a maximum five-star rating.

Alfa Romeo Giulia

This is impressive. The Alfa Romeo Giulia received a score of 98% for adult occupant protection: the highest score ever achieved by any car, even with the introduction of a more stringent rating system in 2015.

Standard equipment across the Giulia range includes lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring, with rear cross path detection available as an option.

SEAT Ateca

The SEAT Ateca is one of the latest breed of compact SUVs battling for position in a fiercely competitive sector.

A five-star safety rating – which includes a 93% rating for adult occupant protection – will help its cause. Prices start from £18,150.

Volkswagen Tiguan

Volkswagen Tiguan

The Volkswagen Tiguan is built on the same MQB platform as the Ateca, which also provides the platform for the Skoda Kodiaq and the forthcoming replacement for the Yeti.

In 2016, the Tiguan scored 96% for adult occupant protection and 84% for child occupant protection. Prices start from £23,250.

Toyota Prius

And finally, the Toyota Prius, which delivered an impressive set of results in 2016. The 85% for safety assist was the second highest score of 2016, while 92% for adult occupant protection was equally as impressive.

For more information on the safety ratings, visit euroncap.com.

Time pressures put van drivers at risk of mental health problems

Time pressures put van drivers at high risk of mental health problems

Internet shopping could be to blame for one in five van drivers being concerned about their mental health, according to new research revealed today.

A report commissioned by Mercedes-Benz Vans ahead of 2017’s Mental Health Awareness Week found that almost one in five van drivers describe their current mental health as poor or very poor, blaming work pressures such as increased workload and even congestion on the roads.

A total of 2,000 van drivers and operators were surveyed for the research, which found that only a third of those drivers worried about their mental health have spoken to their manager about their concerns.

“With a continued surge in online shopping, an increasing reliance on same-day deliveries and spiralling traffic volumes across the UK, the real-world pressures on van drivers are changing,” said Mercedes-Benz Vans UK’s managing director, Steve Bridge.

“Our research findings act as a clear call to van drivers to talk about their mental health concerns and work pressures with their employers and for employers to actively listen to the real concerns of their workforce not only during Mental Health Awareness Week but beyond.”

The survey revealed that 51.8% of van drivers say increased time pressure has contributed to their mental health, while 50.2% highlighted increased workload as an issue. Nearly a third (32.0%) said they were concerned about job uncertainty, while 13% identified increased traffic volume as a factor.

Mental Health Foundation’s spokesman, James Harris, added: “Compared to the national average, these figures indicate that van drivers are experiencing an increased rate of poor mental health. In part this may be explained by the pressures of the job, and the fact that van drivers can often be isolated.

“This is important because we know that men are less likely to reach out for help, and are four times more likely to end their life by suicide. We need to create a culture in which anyone experiencing problems can ask for help in the knowledge that they will be supported.”

Mental Health Awareness Week is taking place from 8-14 May with ‘surviving or thriving’ as this year’s theme. Research by the Mental Health Foundation has revealed that collective mental health in the UK is deteriorating, with people across all ages and demographics affected by the issue.

Classic Porsches on show at Autofarm for MR Retro Live

MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Autofarm in Oxfordshire is a mecca for disciples of the air-cooled and the rear-engined. The company has been fixing and restoring Porsches since 1973, and its huge wooden barns are stuffed with classic 911s. Where better, then, to hold our second MR Retro Live event – this time catering for Porsche enthusiasts.

And so it was that, one brisk Sunday morning, a group of Porsche fans gathered at Autofarm, chatting cars and supping coffee to a flat-six soundtrack. The Motoring Research team was there, too: Peter in his 964 Carrera 4 and Andrew in a Cayman GT4 nabbed from Porsche’s press fleet. Here are some of the highlights.

MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS

Yes, before you ask, it’s a real one. The Carrera 2.7 RS is the most iconic 911 of all, with the best examples today costing seven figures. Designed for motorsport homologation, it boasted a fuel-injected 210hp engine, stiffer suspension and bigger brakes – not forgetting that trademark ‘ducktail’ rear spoiler.

This ’73 RS belongs to one of Autofarm’s customers and was in for a service. It was restored about 10 years ago and remains in flawless original condition.

MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Porsche 911S

Speaking of originality, Chris Knowles’ stunning 2.4 S looks exactly as it left the factory in 1972. The Signal Yellow bodywork has been resprayed by Autofarm, but the interior has never been retrimmed.

Interestingly, 1972 was the only model-year where 911s had an oil tank access flap on the side of the car. However, some owners filled it with petrol, so Porsche wisely chose to relocate it under the engine lid. 

MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Ruf 964 special

Remember the Ruf CTR – star of the 2017 Geneva Motor Show? The German company has been modifying Porsches for decades, including this unique 964. Based on a 3.6 RS, it packs a twin-turbo engine from the later 993 Turbo.

Ruf also fitted its ‘electronic foot’ clutchless manual gearbox. And the eagle-eyed will spot the wide-arched Turbo bodywork has been de-seamed – just like an old Mini.

MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Porsche Cayman GT4

Not a 911, but equally as cool, the Cayman GT4 is a modern Porsche destined for classic status. MR’s Andrew had this Guards Red example for the weekend and kept finding tenuous excuses to run errands in it.

With added aero, a stiffer chassis and brakes from the 911 GT3, the 385hp GT4 is a serious driving machine. It also comes with a six-speed manual gearbox – something that wasn’t available on the GT3 at the time.MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Porsche 911 Carrera RS

Regular readers will recognise this car – also Guards Red – from our Retro Road Test last year. The hardcore 964 was the first 911 to wear the RS badge since the 1970s. Thankfully, Porsche did it justice, with more power, less weight and a close-ratio gearbox.

This car was recently for sale at Autofarm and has been expertly restored in-house. MD Mikey Wastie reckons it’s one of the best 964s he’s driven. We were equally effusive, saying: “It’s a car you’ll ache to spend time with, to learn its quirks and exploit its talents. The buzz of driving it stayed with us many hours after we reluctantly handed back the keys.”
MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Porsche 911 GTS  

Paul Woods brought along his immaculate 991 GTS, complete with appropriately speedy number plate. We love the primer-grey paint, too.

This first-generation GTS is one of the last with a naturally-aspirated engine. It also came with the Powerkit engine upgrade, sports exhaust and adjustable PASM suspension. GT3 aside, could this be peak modern 911?

MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Porsche 911L

How pretty is this 1968 911L? Another customer car, it was already at Autofarm for some engine work. Note the oh-so-classic Fuchs alloys, as worn by many 911s of the era – including the Carrera RS.

The 130hp 911L was the mid-point in Porsche’s late-1960s range, sitting between the 110hp 911T and 160hp 911S. It also had front disc brakes.
MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 Supersport

The Supersport was essentially a Carrera 3.2 with the wider wheelarches and ‘tea tray’ spoiler from the 930 Turbo. Suspension and brakes were also sourced from the flagship car, but engine output remained a standard 234hp.

Porsche also sold the Supersport in Cabriolet and Targa body styles. Today, such cars are rare, as many were cannibalised for race-look RSR conversions. MR Retro Live at Autofarm

Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS replica

This one is a replica, but a fantastic car nonetheless. It started life as a 1988 Carrera 3.2, then was ‘backdated’ by Autofarm to resemble a ’73 RS.

The paintwork is ‘Aubergine’, an original Porsche colour. And the dashboard was recently backdated, too, giving an authentic look inside and out. Classic style and modern(ish) mechanicals? Yes please.

Car industry welcomes government UK Air Quality Plan; Greenpeace calls it ‘half-baked’

London trafficThe Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has welcomed new government proposals for a UK Air Quality Plan, particularly the recognition that “new Euro 6 diesels which have been on sale for the past two years will not face any penalty charges anywhere in the UK”.

More anti-diesel news on Motoring Research:

Greenpeace has, however, called the plan a “hodge-podge of vague proposals [that] offers little help and no justice to drivers duped by car companies and people breathing toxic air pollution.

“The only real winners here are the car makers who, despite misleading customers about their cars’ real emissions and causing this mess in the first place, are getting off scot-free.”

National road safety charity Brake has gone further, accusing ministers of an “abdication of responsibility”. Its campaigns director Gary Rae said the organisation “will study the details in the plan, but the headlines give us cause for concern. It appears the government has abdicated responsibility for reducing air pollution to local authorities. If any issue needs tackling on a national – and international – level, it’s this one. We have a national health emergency, and the government is kicking the issue into the long grass.”

Greenpeace says the government “accepts that diesel is at the root of the problem, and that phasing it out is the most effective solution”. The SMMT disagrees, by stressing the fact Euro 6 diesels face no threat of charges as part of the plan. Greenpeace says “a plan to help drivers swap polluting diesel for electric cars would be a good idea,” but the SMMT believes it is more important to accelerate rollout of the car industry’s multi-billion pound investment in existing low emissions vehicles.

The SMMT adds that any proposed diesel car scrappage scheme should deliver clear environmental benefits. It is also “encouraged that plans to improve traffic flow and congestion, as well as increased uptake of electric hybrid vehicles, will be prioritised in towns and cities.”

Consultation is now underway on the government’s draft UK Air Quality Plan. The final report will be published by 31 July; consultation closes on 15 June.

The Royal College of Physicians estimates UK air pollution is linked to around 40,000 premature deaths a year.

2017 SEAT Ibiza review: is this the best supermini on sale?

2017 SEAT Ibiza review: is this the best supermini on sale?

Volkswagen’s Spanish arm is on fire at the moment. Not literally, à la Vauxhall – that would be another scandal VW Group could do without – but sales are storming. Nearly 410,000 SEATs were sold worldwide last year, while here in the UK March 2017 registrations were up by nearly a third compared to 2016.

A large chunk of that success can be put down to the new Ateca crossover – something SEAT has needed in its range for, well, about as long as the Nissan Qashqai has been around. Another, smaller crossover is set to arrive in the form of the Ibiza-based Arona later in the year, and a bigger SUV in 2018.

In the meantime, the uber important Ibiza supermini has been given a substantial refresh for 2017.

What’s new?

2017 SEAT Ibiza review: is this the best supermini on sale?

We say ‘substantial refresh’, but that’s rather playing it down somewhat. The new Ibiza is based on VW Group’s new MQB A0 platform – meaning it’s 87mm wider yet 2mm shorter than before. As the first in the Group’s range to use the platform (ahead of the new Arona and Audi’s A1), it’s a clear indication how serious SEAT is about its aim to make the Ibiza “the best small car in Europe.”

It looks more Leon-like than ever before, with an undeniably familiar ‘face’ and a longer wheelbase than previously. There’s no three-door or estate version available – SEAT is concentrating on its crossover models, which’ll appeal to both the fashion-conscious and those seeking practicality.

The interior is a clear step up over the outgoing Ibiza. From the pleasing ‘thunk’ as you close the door, to the premium materials used throughout the cabin, this feels like an upmarket VW Group product that belies its SEAT badge. The car’s wider dimensions along with stretched wheelbase means there’s a good feeling of space within the Ibiza, aided by large windows which help visibility.

2017 SEAT Ibiza review: is this the best supermini on sale?

SEAT says connectivity is a huge focus for the brand over the coming years, and as the Ibiza generally attracts an average buyer 10 years younger than those of other superminis, it’s important that the Ibiza offers the latest in infotainment. The majority of buyers are expected to opt for the mid-range SE Technology, and all models from this up feature an 8.0-inch infotainment system at the centre of the dash.

This is intuitive to use, with menus easy to navigate and the satellite-navigation system clear to understand. Like the previous model, the latest Ibiza features SEAT’s clever three-in-one Full Link capability, offering Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. These features effectively mirror your mobile through the touchscreen system, allowing you to use your phone’s navigation software and access calls and music.

The first drive

2017 SEAT Ibiza review: is this the best supermini on sale?

At launch, buyers get a choice of a naturally-aspirated three-cylinder 1.0-litre MPI petrol engine producing 75hp, and a 1.0-litre three-pot turbo with 95hp or 115hp. We tried the latter, which comes in sporty FR trim, adding lowered suspension, rear disc brakes and SEAT’s drive profile, which lets drivers flick between normal, sport, eco and individual modes.

In 115hp guise, the engine is a willing yet typically vocal unit. Not everyone likes the thrum of a three-cylinder engine, but it suits a car like this well and a six-speed ’box means it’s not too tiring at motorway speeds. Although flicking between the drive profiles supposedly tweaks a range of inputs including the steering, throttle response and even the dampers, the difference is hardly noticeable under day-to-day driving.

The standard 17-inch alloys on the Ibiza FR provide a firm but not uncomfortable ride – at least, not on the relatively smooth roads of Barcelona where our first drive took place. While the steering isn’t overly communicative, it’s direct and provides an assured drive. The manual gearbox – we haven’t tried the DSG auto – is pleasingly precise and tech such as front and rear parking sensors, a rear view camera and adaptive cruise control make the Ibiza easy to drive.

As well as the 1.0-litre, we’ve spent time with the 150hp four-cylinder 1.5-litre Ibiza, which is set to go on sale later in the year. The TSI petrol engine, which made its debut in the recently facelifted Volkswagen Golf, is as hot as you’ll be able to get in the Ibiza in the near future. It hits 62mph in 7.7 seconds and, while not electrifying, provides adequate thrills for those looking for something a bit more than the 1.0-litre.

A 1.6-litre turbodiesel will also be launched later in the UK, with 80 and 95hp power outputs.

What’s our verdict?

2017 SEAT Ibiza review: is this the best supermini on sale?

The supermini segment is extremely competitive, made up of old-time favourites such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, along with recent new models in the form of the Nissan Micra and Citroen C3. We’ve yet to drive the Ibiza on UK roads to decide whether it’s truly class-leading, but it’s certainly up there with the best.

It really doesn’t feel like a budget VW Group model – indeed, you’d have to really want a Volkswagen badge to opt for the ancient Polo over an Ibiza. It looks great, in our opinion, while the interior is of high quality. Generous equipment levels means it represents good value for money, and keen drivers are well covered with the FR model.

We’d probably stick with the 1.0-litre, as the three-cylinder engine suits the car well and, in 115hp guise, will be quick enough for most drivers.

VW Group’s Spanish flame is set to burn brightly for a while yet, if the new Ibiza is anything to go by.

Ford Fiesta

UK new car registrations down 20% as VED changes introduced

Ford Fiesta

New car registrations plummeted by 19.8% in April as new car tax rates were introduced.

That’s according to data released this morning by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) which shows 152,076 new cars were registered last month – making it the worst April since 2012.

The new VED rates, which were brought into force on on 1 April 2017, introduced a flat-rate of £140 for all petrol and diesel vehicles after the first year, compared to the CO2-based system used previously.

While electric cars continue to be tax-free, alternative-fuel vehicles including hybrid and plug-in hybrid models face a £130 yearly fee. This has resulted in the first downturn in alternatively-fuelled car registrations in nearly four years, as registrations dropped by 1.3% compared to April 2016.

“With the rush to register new cars and avoid VED tax rises before the end of March, as well as fewer selling days due to the later Easter, April was always going to be much slower,” said SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes. “It’s important to note that the market remains at record levels as customers still see many benefits in purchasing a new car. We therefore expect demand to stabilise over the year as the turbulence created by these tax changes decreases.”

Registrations by private buyers were down by 28.4%, while businesses and large fleets also registered fewer cars (-21.0% and -12.3% respectively).

Despite the substantial hit in April, the SMMT says the overall new car market remains ‘strong’, with registrations over the first four months of 2017 up 1.1% compared to 2016.

April 2017 best sellers top 10

  1. Ford Fiesta: 4,957
  2. Nissan Qashqai: 4,430
  3. Mercedes-Benz C-Class: 3,777
  4. Mercedes-Benz A-Class: 3,608
  5. Ford Focus: 3,421
  6. Vauxhall Astra: 3,346
  7. Volkswagen Golf: 3,223
  8. Audi A3: 3,000
  9. Volkswagen Polo: 2,800
  10. BMW 1 Series: 2,740