The greatest hot Renaults ever

In pictures: the greatest hot Renaults ever

The greatest hot Renaults ever

As Renault launches its next generation Megane Renault Sport, we set ourselves a challenge to find 40 hot Renaults of the past. It didn’t take long to complete the list…

Renault 8 Gordini

The Renault 8 Gordini might not have been the first ‘hot’ Renault – the  4CV 1063 and the Dauphine 1093 were its forebears – but the modern crop of fast Renaults owe a great debt to this rather anonymous saloon car. First came the 1108cc of 1964, which was followed by the more powerful 1255cc in 1966, known as the Gordini 1300. Thanks to its success on the world rally stage, the R8 ‘Gorde’ laid the foundations for future performance cars from La Régie.

Renault 5 Alpine/Gordini

The Renault 5 Alpine – known as the 5 Gordini in the UK – was one of the world’s first hot hatches, which, in France at least, beat the Golf GTI to market. Powered by a twin-choke Weber carburettor 1400cc engine, the 5 Gordini could sprint to 60mph in 10.7 seconds before reaching a top speed of 110mph. A go-faster turbocharged version arrived in 1982, which paved the way for one of the greatest hot hatches of the 80s…

Renault 5 GT Turbo

“Gordon Bennett!” proclaimed the double page press ads, as Renault took a lump hammer to the hot hatch fight. The “125mph Renault 5 GT Turbo” subhead played to the car’s key strength: outright pace. At its launch, the 5 GT Turbo was 11mph faster than a Golf GTI and 5mph quicker than a Uno Turbo or Astra GTE. A 0-60mph time of 7.5 seconds meant that, pound for pound, the £7,360 5 GT Turbo was the best value hot hatch you could buy.

Renault 5 Turbo/Turbo 2

But of course, the real hero was the homologation special Renault 5 Turbo. It was, if you like, Renault’s answer to the Lancia Stratos and it had very little in common with the regular 5 parked on your local high street. A host of unique parts made this mid-engined Group 4 rally car rather expensive to build, which led to the development of the Turbo 2, which was both cheaper to build and therefore less expensive to buy.

Renault 16 TX

The Renault 16 was a pioneer of the hatchback body, which makes the 16 TX a kind of hot hatch of the 1970s. It was based on the TS and featured a five-speed gearbox, four iodine headlights, a rear spoiler and Gordini alloy wheels. Not quick by today’s standards, but it allowed the driver to cover ground in supreme comfort: a hallmark of French cars of years gone by.

Renault 12 Gordini

Once a familiar sight, the Renault 12 has all but disappeared from these shores. Launched in 1969, the 12 was built in a number of locations around the world and actually lived on until 2004 in the form of the Dacia 1300. In 1971, a Renault 12 Gordini set a new record between Cape Town and Algiers, covering 15,432km in just eight days. The Gordini, along with the TS, was a credible performance car of its day.

Renault 17 TS

The Renault 15 and 17 arrived in 1971 and were La Régie’s answer to the Ford Capri, launched two years earlier. Of the two, the 17 was designed to appeal to a younger audience, with the TS model the choice of the enthusiast. It used the engine from the 16 TX to give this Renault 12-based coupe genuine pace.

Renault 18 Turbo

For a car marketed as a new model, the Renault 18 was little more than a reskinned Renault 12. And in blistering 18 Turbo form, it used the same 1565cc engine found in the old Renault 16 TS, albeit with a little help from a turbocharger. The performance model was set apart from the rest of the range thanks to its distinctive alloy wheels and rubbing strip, which ran alongside the side of the car and into a boot lid spoiler. This was the first time Renault had fitted a turbocharger to a production car.

Renault Alpine GTA

We had to wait an age for the first Alpine to be officially imported into the UK, but it was worth the wait. The GTA was the first Alpine to be launched under Renault ownership, although the two firms had a history dating back many years. Known as the Renault Alpine GTA elsewhere, in the UK it was sold as the Renault GTA, as Chrysler owned the rights to the Alpine name. First came the GTA Turbo in 1986, which was followed by the cheaper GTA V6 in 1988.

Renaultsport Clio V6

>Every so often, the mad people of Renault Sport decide to smoke something a little stronger than a Gauloise and let their hair down a little. The results can be staggering, like sticking a 3.0-litre V6 engine where the rear seats and boot should be. Sadly, thanks to Brunel-levels of reengineering, the rear-engined Clio was 300kg heavier than the 172 Cup, which only served to blunt the performance of this potential supercar-slayer.

Renaultsport Clio V6 255

By tweaking the cylinder head and induction system, Renaultsport managed to squeeze an additional 25hp for the phase 2 model, creating the Clio V6 255. Sadly, the weight also increased, with the Clio V6 now tipping the scales at 1,400kg. It was also ‘blessed’ with the interior of a regular supermini, which isn’t great when you’re pitching a car against genuine sports cars. And yet, despite all of this, we can’t help but love the unhinged and ‘mad as a box of frogs’ Clio V6.

Renault 21 Turbo

“The 21 Turbo is the best sporting saloon Renault has ever built,” proclaimed Autocar in 1988. High praise indeed for Renault’s Cossie killer. With 175hp on tap, the 21 Turbo could sprint to 60mph in just under eight seconds, before going on to reach a top speed of 137mph. And if you were struggling to harness all that power, the 21 Turbo Quadra added four-wheel drive to the mix.

Renaultsport Megane R26.R

Fans of the Renaultsport Megane take note, because we haven’t included all versions in this gallery. The fact is: there are simply too many. The R26.R is, perhaps, not only one of the best hot Renaults of all-time, but one of the best hot hatches the world has ever seen. Comprises? Sure, there were a few – no rear seats, polycarbonate side and rear windows, no climate control, to name but three – but the R26.R is as hardcore as it is focused. A true modern classic.

Renaultsport Megane 230 F1 Team R26

But if you fancied a little soundproofing and the option to carry some rear seat passengers, the Renaultsport Megane 230 F1 Team R26 is arguably the next best thing. Ridiculously long name aside, the R26 was, until the arrival of the R26.R, the best hot Megane you could buy. A 230hp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and a limited slip diff were just two of the highlights.

Renaultsport Twingo 133 Cup

Good things come in small packages, as demonstrated by the Renaultsport Twingo 133 Cup, which is perhaps the closest thing a French carmaker has got to creating a modern-day Citroen AX GT. In standard form, the Renaultsport Twingo 133 was a riot, but the Cup shed 10kg of weight, doing away with the aircon in the process. Stick a can of deodorant in the glovebox.

Renaultsport Clio 172

By the time the Renaultsport Clio 172 arrived in 1999, Renault had cemented a reputation for delivering the very best hot hatches. Fortunately, the first of the hot Mk2 Clios was up for the challenge, showing the rest of the world how a hot hatch should behave. Power was sourced from a 2.0-litre 16v engine and buyers could opt for a more focused Cup trim level.

Renaultsport Clio 182 Cup

Five years after the launch of the Clio 172, Renault launched the 182, which offered more power and twin tailpipes. As before, the Cup was the choice of the purists, available to buy as a stripped-out version from the factory, or as an optional extra ‘pack’ to be applied to a more luxurious 182. While we like to think of ourselves as purists, we rather like the feeling of dry armpits, so we’d opt for a Cup with aircon, thank you.

Renaultsport Clio 182 Trophy

If the Clio V6 was unhinged and slightly compromised, there could be no such complaints concerning the Clio 182 Trophy. In short: this was the hot Mk2 Clio at its peak. Only 550 were ever built – 500 for the UK and 50 for Switzerland – each one with trick Sachs dampers and Turini alloy wheels. A future classic with genuine investment potential.

Renaultsport Clio 200 Cup

We have fond memories of driving a Renaultsport Clio 200 at a Renault media driving day, at which we became so besotted with the hot Clio we lost track of time and were late back to the car park. We were greeted by the sight of a fully laden car transporter and a definite look of “what time do you call this” on the faces of the waiting press team. Any regrets? Only that we wished we had carried on driving until the tank was dry.

Renaultsport Megane dCi 175

History isn’t exactly littered with diesel-powered hot hatches, but the Renaultsport Megane dCi 175 was Renault’s first attempt at a performance car that appealed to both head and heart. It was good, too, looking to all intents and purposes like a petrol version, with the lack of a rear spoiler the only visual clue to its identity. It was a full second quicker from 50 to 75mph than the Renaultsport 225 and could deliver 10mpg more on a combined cycle.

Renaultsport Megane 275 Trophy-R

We said we’d avoid listing all variants of the most hardcore Meganes, but we simply have to make room for the 275 Trophy-R. As the spiritual successor to the R26.R, the Trophy-R did away with all but the bare essentials and scored a Nürburgring lap record in the process.

Renault 19 16v

In its day, the Renault 19 16v – available in hatchback and Chamade saloon flavours – was considered to be one of the best performance cars. And yet today, it is almost forgotten, suffering a similar fate to that of the Peugeot 309 GTi. Sure, the interior is as flimsy as a tray in a chocolate box and something electrical will throw a hissy fit at some point, but your patience will be rewarded by this forgotten gem of the 1990s.

Renault Sport Spider

It should have been brilliant, but somehow the Renault Sport Spider failed to hit the mark. It didn’t help that the Spider was launched around the same time as the cheaper Lotus Elise, and we all know what an impact that had on the sports car segment. On the plus side, the Spider was powered by the 2.0-litre engine from the Clio Williams and has rarity on its side: only 96 were officially imported.

Renault 9/11 Turbo

If you’ll struggle to find a Renault 19 16v, you’ll find it just as tough securing a 9 or 11 Turbo. The rather conservative looking Renault 9 was an unlikely source for a performance car, but in both cases these were genuine alternatives to the more famous 5 GT Turbo. Good luck finding one.

Renault Fuego Turbo

Beneath the slippery Fuego body you’d find the floorpan and drivetrain of the Renault 18, although quite why it took La Regie so long to fit a turbocharger is anybody’s guess. The Fuego Turbo arrived in 1983 and was blessed with a pair of oh-so-80s TURBO decals. At the time, the 120mph Fuego Turbo was – homologation and handbuilt specials aside – Renault’s fastest production car.

Renault 25 V6 Turbo

Not all performance cars are focused on B-road thrills and track day spills. In fact, nobody does fast and comfortable quite like the French, as demonstrated by the Renault 25 V6 Turbo. By adding a Garrett T3 turbocharger to the Douvrin V6 engine, the flagship 25 produced 182hp and 207lb ft of torque. The top speed was 140mph, with a 0-62mph time of 7.7 seconds. A bit of a discreet street sleeper, this one.

Renault Clio RSi

The phase one Clio might have lacked the Renaultsport badge, but that doesn’t mean it was lacking in poke. The Clio RSi was the junior version of the 16v and Williams, but without the wide arches and bonnet scoop, and powered by an 8v engine. It was, if you like, the entry point to the world of hot Clios.

Renault Clio 16v

The Renault Clio 16v, on the other hand, felt like the real deal. Power was sourced from the 1.8-litre 16v engine from the brilliant Renault 19 16v and, even then, the Clio handled with aplomb. All the ingredients were there for a thoroughbred hot hatch…

Renault Clio Williams

It might have lacked the badge, but Renault Sport was involved in the development of the Clio Williams. This was the real deal, powered by a 2.0-litre 16v engine and built for homologation purposes. Much to the annoyance of those who had ordered the ‘limited edition’ original, Renault decided to build the heavier and therefore less desirable Williams 2 and 3.

Renault Megane Coupe 2.0 16v

Weirdly, you might find it easier to find a Clio Williams than you would a Renault Megane Coupe 2.0 16v. The problem being, in this form the pretty and pert Megane Coupe is powered by the same 2.0-litre engine you’d find in the ‘Willy’ and the Sport Spider. So while there were literally thousands left a decade ago, today the number has shrunk to fewer than 100, as many have been sacrificed in the name of engine transplants.

Renault Safrane Biturbo

The Renault Safrane failed to reach the heights of its forebears – Renault 25 in particular – with a lack of power one cause for complaint. The Biturbo laughed in the face of such criticism, powered by an evolution of the 3.0-litre V6 engine found in the Alpine A610, along with all-wheel drive and a manual gearbox. Sadly, this 258hp French express never made it to these shores. A shame, as the likely catastrophic depreciation would have made it a used car bargain.

Renault Laguna Coupe Monaco GP

In the case of the Renault Laguna Coupe Monaco GP, we readily admit that it’s more hot in the styling department than it is from a performance perspective. From the rear it looks like an Aston Martin, but at the front you’ll find a 2.0-litre diesel engine, which removes any thought of this being a cut-price Bond car. But four-wheel steering, rarity and stunning looks earn it a place here.

Renault Clio Maxi

We’ve deliberately kept motorsport specials to a minimum, but we’ll make an exception for one or two heroes of stage and track. Take the Renault Clio Maxi, which was an evolution of the Clio Williams Group A rally car. For one glorious season, the Clio Maxi, complete with sequential gearbox, was a rallying hero, before it made way for the even more bonkers Megane.

Renault Alpine A610

Like its predecessor, the GTA, the Alpine A610 was once again branded as a Renault in the UK and was, until the rebirth of the Alpine brand, the final car to wear the famous badge. It failed to sell in big numbers, despite Renault slashing £5,000 off the list price in 1993, but this 160mph sports car could sit comfortably alongside a Porsche 968 and 911.

Not to be confused with the Renault Espace your parents drove to seaside every summer, the Espace F1 was more Formula 1 car than it was MPV. It was built to celebrate the Williams-Renault team’s third consecutive Constructors’ crown and the sixth title for Renault’s V10 engine. Aptly, then, it was powered by a 3.5-litre V10 engine producing 800hp. Top speed: 194mph.

Renaultsport Twizy F1

We drove the Renaultsport Twizy F1 in 2013. Even now, three years later, we’re still picking the stones from our teeth. The Twizy F1 was given the full Renaultsport makeover, or as much as you could squeeze into an electric quadricycle. Which means a KERS unit derived from Renault Sport’s F1 experience, Michelin slicks and a motorsport steering wheel from a Formula Renault 3.5 racecar. We kept up with a Megane 265, which tells you all you need to know about this tiny car’s potential.

Renault 20 Turbo 4×4 Paris-Dakar

In 1982, Claude and Bernard Marreau emerged victorious in the gruelling Paris-Dakar Rally. Three years earlier they had raced in a Renault 4, but to win outright in ‘82 was testament to the brothers’ skill behind the wheel and the pace and reliability of the turbocharged four-wheel drive prototype.

Renault Dauphine 1093

The Renault Dauphine 1093 of 1962 was essentially a race car for the road: a rally-prepared version of the popular Dauphine family car. Larger headlights, vented wheels, two blue stripes on the body and a modified powertrain were just some of the highlights. Top speed: for its day, an impressive 87mph.

Renault Etoile Filante

The oh-so-pretty Etoile Filante has held a land speed record since since 1956, and yet it has been all but forgotten. On the Bonneville Salt Flats, the Etoile Filante – powered by a 270hp gas turbine engine – reached an average of 306.9km/h over 1km and 308.85 over 5km, a record that still holds today.

Renault 4CV

The 4CV was Renault’s first major development after the Second World War and the rear-engined family car proved to be a commercial hit, with sales in excess of a million. It also enjoyed some sporting success, with none other than Jean Rédélé, the founder of Alpine, racing a 1063 model. This is Rédéle at the wheel of a modified 4CV while competing in the Monte Carlo Rally. Later, he would secure a class win in the Mille Miglia and overall victory in the Coupe des Alpes, the latter of which would inspire the name of his company. The rest, as they say, is history.

Cape Town: the South African city with incredible car culture

Cape Town: the South African city with incredible car culture

Cape Town: the South African city with incredible car culture

I’ve just arrived in the city of Cape Town. I’m in a Toyota Etios, surrounded by modified Honda Civics, old BMWs and the odd fast Ford. “Are you going to the same place as these guys,” asks our Uber driver. On replying that we are, he responds with “shall we get there before they do?”

And at that, he drops a cog and works the little 1.5-litre engine hard as he points the Etios at Cape Town’s back streets. Along the way, he tells me how much he loves the plucky little motor, while I crane my neck at the cars that we’re passing. Modifying is clearly a ‘thing’ in the Cape Town area – young drivers are keen to put their own stamp on their car in a way that seems to be dying out elsewhere.

When we get to the meet at a car park on the seafront, it’s clear that this ‘thing’ is something the local cops don’t necessarily approve of. Any modified vehicle is being stopped with tickets handed out for minor offences. One modified E30 BMW necessitates a senior officer with a clipboard. He’s there a while.

What’s impressive is the variety on display. Old Toyotas are popular, as are Volkswagens. But there’s weirder stuff, too: a slammed Micra, a Hyundai i10 on deep dish rims, a modern VW Polo all but standard apart from a dixie horn (I only know it has a dixie horn because the driver beeps at the officer holding traffic up and promptly earns herself a ticket).

There’s an obvious divide between the rich and the poor in South Africa and – while I wouldn’t want to suggest that the car scene reflects that (most of the poor can barely afford a house, never mind a modified car) – it does at least mimic the state of the country. Just as the slum neighbourhoods border well-to-do gated estates, someone’s pride-and-joy Opel Kadett (Vauxhall Astra to you and I) is parked next to a C63 AMG.

It’s not long before the police kill the party spirit, so it’s time to head elsewhere. We jump in another Uber (sorry, local taxi drivers) and head to a must-visit tourist attraction: Table Mountain. Having been dropped off at the bottom of the hill, a classic Datsun is spied descending into a hidden car park. We follow for a closer look, and find more than 30 similar models parked up. Initially, their owners (members of the All About Datsun Facebook group, I later discover) treat us with suspicion – we have just turned up at their hidden meet out-of-the-blue and started taking pics, but after a brief chat they’re happy to show off their vehicles.

Unfortunately the event is over as quickly as we discovered it. Of course, watching the cars leaving is quite the spectacle – models that either were never sold in the UK or disintegrated within a few years of arriving are on display with a variety of modifications. Their owners, of course, are also willing to burn some rubber – as much as ancient Datsuns with open differentials can, anyway.

This is a city that loves cars. Stumbling across two car meets within hours of arriving is evidence of that, while there are weird and wacky creations cruising up and down the streets 24 hours a day. The best thing, though, is the respect from the majority of the public, no matter what you drive. There’s very little in the way of snobbery: people were happy to stop an admire cars at both the meets I visited, whether the car in question was an old Datsun or something European and therefore seen as exotic.

As car modification seems to be long out of fashion in the UK – whether that’s because of restrictive insurance, a downturn in car ownership or just a plain simple lack of interest – I can’t help but be a smidgen jealous of Cape Town’s thriving car scene.

In pictures: Cape Town cars

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Lister Thunder

The Lister Thunder is a lightning-quick Jaguar F-Type

Lister Thunder

Lister will launch the fastest, most powerful and luxurious car it has ever built at next month’s Historic Motorsport International, staged at London’s ExCeL.

The Jaguar F-Type-based Lister Thunder uses the showroom 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine to deliver a devilish 666bhp, enough to send the firm’s first modern-day road car since the Storm of 1993 to a top speed of 208mph. The 0-62mph sprint is polished off in just 3.2 seconds.

It won’t come cheap: Lister is asking £139,950 for the thunderous F-Type, and the Cambridgeshire-based company will build just 99 examples. Lister hopes to use its heritage and cars like the Thunder to become synonymous with tuned Jaguars.

Lawrence Whittaker, CEO of Lister Motor Company, said: “Like Brabus and AMG with Mercedes and Alpina with BMW, we are hoping to become synonymous once again with tuning Jaguar vehicles, giving customers new enhanced, bespoke performance and design alternatives to Jaguar’s acclaimed model programme.

“Although we are not directly affiliated with Jaguar Land Rover, Lister has a Jaguar tuning heritage dating back 65 years. Our new Lister Thunder is the fastest and most powerful Lister ever created, with a 208mph top speed and 0-100 time of just 6.8 seconds. I am utterly proud of what we have achieved, and the Thunder is just the beginning!”

The firm already builds continuation models at its factory in Cambridge, including the Stirling Moss Edition: an exact replica of the super-lightweight Lister Knobbly driven to victory by Moss at Silverstone in 1958. But the Thunder is more in-line with the V12-engined Storm of 1993 and the Le Mans of 1986.

Lister Storm

Lister will release the full specification of the Thunder at the car’s unveiling in February, but the company has confirmed some details. The carbon fibre front bumper is custom-made and includes an extended splitter for added downforce. Lister vents adorn the bonnet, while the grille centre, decals and callipers match the customer’s desired interior combination.

The rear bumper is also carbon fibre and houses enlarged carbon exhaust tips that are said to deliver a “thundery note when pressed”. The rear badge is made from solid brass and chromed, presumably because that’s what customers expect from their 208mph F-Type.

The Thunder’s cabin is finished in Bridge of Weir Nappa leather, available in 36 colours, with Lister logos stitched into the headrests and seat pattern, matching the front grille.

Lawrence Whittaker has high hopes for the future, saying: “We came to the inaugural ExCel show last year and it was one of the best shows we have attended, quickly selling a new Knobbly whilst on the stand!

“That is why we have chosen this year’s follow-up event at ExCel to launch the exciting new Lister Thunder, which will mark the first car from our revised Jaguar tuning programme.”

What else can we expect from Lister? With the popularity of crossovers and SUVs, would tuned versions of the F-Pace and E-Pace be a stretch for a brand steeped in motorsport history? Don’t bet against it.

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Jaguar Land Rover Solihull

The 10 most popular British-built cars in 2017

Jaguar Land Rover SolihullFirst, the bad news. Fewer cars were built in Britain during 2017, the first decline in UK car manufacturing for eight years, new figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reveal . A total of 1,671,166 cars were made here last year, 3 percent down on 2016 – but in more positive news, this is still the second-highest total in 17 years.

It’s British car buyers who are to blame for the decline. Last year, we bought almost 10 percent UK-made cars, and worryingly, the decline accelerated to almost 25 percent in December 2017. Exports were also down, but by a lesser 1.1 percent – although these too fell over 9 percent in December.

8 in 10 British-built cars are exported: in 2017, that equalled 1.3 million new cars. So which cars did Britain build most of in 2017? Here’s the countdown of the 10 most popular…

10: Land Rover Discovery Sport

Land Rover Discovery Sport

Built at Halewood in Liverpool, Land Rover’s seven-seat SUV is doing solid business, although is still not as popular as its ageing premium Range Rover sibling, up next…

9: Range Rover Evoque

Range Rover Evoque

But how long can the Range Rover Evoque continue to defy the odds? Since its introduction in 2011, Halewood has operated 24/7, but Land Rover recently announced this is drawing to a close, as sales start to slow ahead of its replacement.

A new Range Rover Evoque is expected to be seen later in 2018, and hopefully the flat-out operation of the giant JLR plant near Liverpool will recommence…

8: Jaguar F-Pace

Jaguar F-Pace

Jumping into eighth place is a Jaguar! The firm’s incredibly popular F-Pace is becoming the most successful, most significant Jag ever, and has at last put the brand on the map. It’s built in Solihull and this facility too is operating around the clock to meet demand.

It’s the reigning 2017 World Car of the Year, which boosted its success in 2017, and demand still shows little sign of tailing off in 2018.

7: Range Rover Sport

Range Rover Sport

Said to be Jaguar Land Rover’s single most profitable model, the Range Rover Sport thrived for another year in 2017. It was facelifted later in the year and a plug-in hybrid is now available, further boosting the aluminium-built model’s green credentials.

6: Nissan Juke

Nissan Juke

Nissan builds the Juke at its massive Sunderland plant, but the supermini-sized crossover is ageing badly, and demand is tailing off. We expect to see a new Juke in 2018 which again should restore the car’s fortunes – provided Nissan again gets the design right, that is.

5: Vauxhall Astra

Vauxhall Astra

There’s much concern over Vauxhall’s Astra production plant in Ellesmere Port. A second round of redundancies has been announced as the facility ramps up efforts to prove its sustainability. The latest Astra is a good car, but the malaise of the brand is having a big effect on sales.

The future of this car plant is one to watch carefully – it’s probably the most under-threat automotive factory in Britain right now…

4: Toyota Auris

Toyota Auris

The ageing Auris is nearing replacement. Toyota has already announced its Burnaston, Derbyshire factory will make the new one, which is good news. This means there won’t be too much concern about dropping behind a Japanese arch-rival in the UK car production stakes…

3: Honda Civic

Honda Civic

The latest Honda Civic is proving to be a huge success, which is great news for the plant in Swindon. Half of all production is exported to the United States, such is North American demand for the new Civic, and the factory is back to operating at near-capacity.

2: Mini


Mini enjoyed a solid year in 2017. Production was up slightly, and a new electric model was confirmed for the Plant Oxford factory, bringing sustainable models to its future roster.

1: Nissan Qashqai

Nissan Qashqai

The Nissan Qashqai continued its reign as the car Britain builds in greater numbers than any other. A facelifted model was seamlessly launched in 2017 which, like all other Qashqais, was designed at the firm’s Paddington studio and engineered at its base in Cranfield, Bedfordshire.

That the Qashqai continues to be one of the best-selling cars for British buyers means it’s a success story both here and abroad. Long may it continue…

2017’s biggest car makers in Britain

So that’s the top 10 cars – how did that leave the brand rankings? Well, fittingly, Jaguar Land Rover came out top, as the car firm building most cars in Britain. It was down marginally, by 2.3 percent, as was the next-largest car firm, Nissan.

Mini was third, with a modest production increase, and Honda was boosted by over 22 percent by the success of the new Civic. Derbyshire’s Toyota, in contrast, was hobbled by the ageing Auris and Avensis – although Ellesmere Port’s Vauxhall has no such excuses, as the Astra is a relatively new model. Just what is going wrong at Vauxhall?

1: Jaguar Land Rover: 532,107 cars – DOWN 2.3 percent

2: Nissan: 495,206 cars – DOWN 2.4 percent

3: Mini: 218,885 cars – UP 3.8 percent

4: Honda: 164,160 cars – UP 22.4 percent

5: Toyota: 144,077 cars – DOWN 20.1 percent

6: Vauxhall: 92,164 cars – DOWN 22 percent

7: Specialists: 24,567 cars – DOWN 9.4 percent

The British car exporters

So where are all the cars built in Britain exported to? The EU is Britain’s single biggest trading partner, taking more than half the 1.3 million cars built here in 2017. The next biggest market is the US, although as the figures show below, this is way down on around 15 percent of cars made here…

Top 10 markets for British-built cars in 2017

1: 53.9% – EU

2: 15.7% – US

3: 7.5% – China

4: 2.9% – Australia

5: 2.6% – Turkey

6: 2.6% – Japan

7: 2.1% – Canada

8: 1.6% – South Korea

9: 1.2% – Russia

10: 0.9% – Israel

Britain in Europe

Which were the top EU countries for British cars? Leading the way is Germany, which is fitting, because many of the UK’s top 10 best-selling cars are actually built in Germany. Surprisingly, more British-built cars go to Belgium than the much larger market of Spain.

And what was the best-selling car in the best-selling country for British cars, Germany? Why, the Vauxhall Astra…

1: Germany

2: Italy

3: France

4: Belgium

5: Spain

The powerhouses of Britain

It wasn’t just cars built in Britain last year – and this was a real production highlight of 2017. 2.72 million of them were made in 2017, the biggest total ever, thanks to growth of 6.9 percent on 2016.

Big engine plants include Ford’s Dagenham and Bridgend, Toyota in Deeside BMW at Hams Hall and, of course, Jaguar Land Rover’s huge factory in Wolverhampton.

Series 25 of Top Gear

It’s back! Top Gear returns to our screens in the spring

Series 25 of Top Gear

It’s back… but not just yet. The BBC hasn’t confirmed the official air date for the next series of Top Gear, but with The Grand Tour finding its groove, the broadcaster will be keen to ensure it doesn’t get forgotten.

“The world’s biggest motoring show is back!” proclaims the press release, which appears to be a direct response to Jeremy Clarkson’s introduction to a recent episode of The Grand Tour, in which he declared it be “the world’s most exciting motoring show”.

But let’s not turn this series preview of Top Gear into a battle of handbags and a steak-infused fracas. Instead, let’s look forward to an old favourite returning to our screens on a Sunday evening. It’ll sure as hell be a welcome break from Strictly Come Ice Skating Midwives.

The BBC is calling it series 25 of Top Gear, which is a bit like the Premier League claiming there was no football before 1992. But, it is the 25th series since Clarkson and co. gave the show a much-needed reboot in 2002. Sorry Woollard, Goffey, Edmonds and Rippon.

So, what can we look forward to when Top Gear returns at some point in the spring? Quite a lot, if the teaser images and video are anything to go by. They have a lot to cram into six hour-long episodes.

The group tests look interesting, with Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid driving across Utah in a Ford Mustang GT350R, Jaguar F-Type SVR and McLaren 570GT, and tackling the Burghley Horse Trials in an Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Volvo XC60 and Range Rover Velar.

We’ll also see Chris Harris taking a sumo wrestler for a ride in Japan, Matt LeBlanc getting up to mischief with Ken Block (again), and Rory Reid dancing in a car.

“Who says we don’t do serious car reviews?” asks Matt LeBlanc at the beginning of the trailer, before we’re treated to 60 seconds of dirt, tyre smoke, hijinx and a Roller slamming into a fruit and veg stall. Oh, and not forgetting The Stig.

When is it back? Well, the final episode of series two of The Grand Tour airs on 16th February, so our guess would be 25th February at the earliest.

Clarkson, Hammond and May have hit some real high points in this series – the Lancia vs Audi feature is a good case in point – so the BBC has some catching up to do. Over to you, Le Blanc, Harris and Reid.

Top Gear series 25: preview gallery

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European new car sales grew slightly in 2017

Revealed: Europe’s best-selling cars of 2017

European new car sales grew slightly in 2017The European new car market experienced modest growth in 2017, reveal latest figures from JATO Dynamics – and would have been better still if it weren’t for the declining UK market and a fast-growing distaste for diesel cars. 

Overall, 15.57 million cars were sold in Europe last year, a 3.1 percent increase on 2016. Thank Southern and Eastern Europe for this: the UK, in contrast, remains a “concern” and dragged down the otherwise-solid overall results. Britain is, remember, Europe’s second-largest new car market, behind Germany. 

Other trends were more universal. Just as in Britain, diesel market share fell by 7.9 percent (and a whopping 20.5 percent in December 2017): across Europe, it’s down to 43.7 percent, the lowest in a decade. Europe, don’t forget, is the world’s leading market for diesel cars. If the declines here continue, the fuel’s entire future may soon be in doubt. 

Petrol sales were boosted as a result – 760,000 more of them (growth of almost 11 percent) were sold in the EU last year. But that’s nothing compared to the growth of SUVs. 4.56 million were registered in Europe last year, almost a 20 percent rise on 2016.

As for alternative fuel cars such as hybrids, plug-in hybrids and EVs, they were up 46 percent, to take 4.8 percent of the overall European market. 

Along with the headline numbers, Europe’s favourite new cars of 2017 have been revealed. Using data supplied by JATO Dynamics, we run through the top 25 best-selling cars in Europe, along with figures that tell us if the cars are on the up or on the way down. The data is presented in reverse order.

  1. Audi A3: 164,045 registrations

Audi A3

Change 2016 vs 2017: down 13.9%

A3 registrations were down 13.9 percent in 2016, but Audi’s volume hero just manages to hold on to a place in the top 25. A new-generation A3 will arrive in 2019, with Audi confirming that the three-door variant will be axed from the range.

  1. Peugeot 3008: 166,784 registrations

Change 2016 vs 2017: up 554.9%

We’re not going to pretend that this is anything other than a list of cars you’ll probably see on your European travels in 2018, but there are some genuinely impressive figures. Take the Peugeot 3008, which has seen registrations increase by 554.9 percent. Having an all-new and much improved model certainly helps.

  1. Renault Megane: 168,132 registrations

Change 2016 vs 2017: up 12.9%

The current Renault Megane arrived in 2016 as a long-overdue replacement for the ageing Mk3 Megane. The coupe and cabriolet versions are long gone, but you can still buy the five-door hatchback and Sport Tourer estate models in the UK, along with a four-door saloon in other European markets. The Renault Sport version will finally join the range in 2018.

  1. Vauxhall/Opel Mokka: 170,384 registrations

Change 2016 vs 2017: up 3.5%

The PSA Group has plans to make Vauxhall and Opel profitable, and cars like the Mokka X – along with the smaller Crossland X and larger Grandland X models – will be key to that success. In the UK, the Mokka X is priced from £19,000, but you’ll pay £27,000 for the Ultimate model.

  1. Mercedes-Benz C-Class: 176,705 registrations

Change 2016 vs 2017: up 0.2%

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class was the ninth most popular car in the UK in 2017, and the 21st across the whole of Europe. It’s a terrific result for a car with a premium badge and in a segment supposedly struggling in the wake of the continued rise of the crossover and SUV.

  1. Skoda Fabia: 180,136 registrations

Skoda Fabia

Change 2016 vs 2017: up 2.1%

Skoda will unveil a new Fabia at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, but the outgoing model continues to put on a good show of strength. Since 1999, more than four million Fabias have been sold worldwide, with the current model accumulating sales in excess of 500,000. Amazingly, it’s not even Skoda’s most popular car.

  1. Peugeot 2008: 180,868 registrations

Change 2016 vs 2017: up 2.6%

The Peugeot 2008 was launched in 2013 and given a mid-life facelift in 2016. It must have worked, because registrations are up 2.6 percent to 180,868 in 2017. Prices start from £16,495, but you’ll pay upwards of £18,645 for the recently released Allure Premium trim, which offers £1,400 of equipment over the Allure model at a price increase of £800.

  1. Volkswagen Passat: 184,123 registrations

Change 2016 vs 2017: down 11.6%

Sales of the Volkswagen Passat are on the decline, which is hardly surprising for a car that dates back to 2014 in Europe. Volkswagen’s SUV offensive might also play a part, with the German manufacturer offering no fewer than four models, namely the T-Roc, Tiguan, Tiguan Allspace and Touareg. In this company the Passat feels so last year.

  1. Fiat Panda: 187,322 registrations

Change 2016 vs 2017: down 2.1%

Of all the cars in the top 25, the Fiat Panda is the one in need of a refresh. Amazingly, the current model dates back to the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, although we should see a facelift in 2018. For now, the Panda continues to punch above its weight, especially in Italy, where it has been the best-selling vehicle for six years in a row.

  1. Fiat 500: 189,928 registrations

Change 2016 vs 2017: up 3.5%

Meanwhile, the Fiat 500 is the fourth best-seller in Italy and the 16th in Europe as a whole. The popular city car was given a facelift in 2017, which has played a part in a small but significant increase in registrations.

  1. Dacia Sandero: 196,067 registrations

Dacia Sandero

Change 2016 vs 2017: up 15.6%

Good news: Dacia Sandero registrations are up 15.6 percent, which is proof that Europeans love a good deal. The Sandero was given a facelift at the tail end of 2016, but the headline price of £5,995 remains.

  1. Toyota Yaris: 199,182 registrations

Change 2016 vs 2017: up 3.1%

In 2017, the Toyota Yaris was awarded a maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, scoring 83 percent for adult occupant safety and 80 percent for child safety. Registrations fell just short of the 200,000 mark, but were up 3.1 percent year-on-year.

  1. Citroen C3: 207,299 registrations

Change 2016 vs 2017: up 54.2%

The new Citroen C3 arrived in UK showrooms in January 2017, so it had a full year to accumulate strong sales. It hasn’t disappointed, with registrations up 54.2 percent, which is the second highest figure in the top 25. Sales in 2018 will be bolstered by the arrival of the C3 Aircross.

  1. Renault Captur: 212,768 registrations

Change 2016 vs 2017: down 1.8%

It’s not great news for the Renault Captur, which records a 1.8 percent fall in registrations. That said, it remains the best-selling B-segment SUV in Europe for the second year in a row. It’s also Renault’s best-selling car in the UK.

  1. Ford Focus: 214,661 registrations

Change 2016 vs 2017: up 4%

A new Ford Focus will be unveiled in the spring, ahead of its launch in the summer. Ford has circulated an image of a test car wearing a #TimeToFocus hashtag as it builds some hype ahead of its arrival. Sales remain strong, even with a new version just around the corner.

  1. Vauxhall/Opel Astra: 217,813 registrations

Vauxhall Astra

Change 2016 vs 2017: down 13.8%

This is a miserable performance for the Astra, with registrations down 13.8 percent. It’s a thoroughly decent car, but it’s hard to see an improvement in 2018, not when a new Focus is being launched and the Volkswagen Golf continues to sell in big numbers. How long before the Astra slips below one of Vauxhall’s SUVs?

  1. Skoda Octavia: 230,116 registrations

Skoda Octavia

Change 2016 vs 2017: up 0.5%

Skoda delivered more than 1.2 million vehicles worldwide in 2017, the fourth time in a row the company has sold more than one million cars in a year. China was the most successful market, with Skoda shifting 325,000 units, while the UK was the fourth best with 80,100 registrations. Octavia sales were actually down 3.9 percent globally, but up 0.5 percent in Europe.

  1. Vauxhall/Opel Corsa: 232,738 registrations

Vauxhall Corsa

Change 2016 vs 2017: down 12%

We’ve got a while to wait before the launch of the all-new Corsa in 2019, so Vauxhall’s best-seller must soldier on for another year at the very least. The arrival of the new Ford Fiesta will have focused the minds of the people in charge at PSA.

  1. Volkswagen Tiguan: 234,916 registrations

Volkswagen Tiguan

Change 2016 vs 2017: up 30.6%

What a difference a new model can make. The launch of a new Tiguan has resulted in a 30.6 percent increase in sales for the popular Volkswagen SUV, and we suspect the arrival of the more practical Tiguan Allspace will have a positive impact on registrations in 2018. Unless it simply robs sales from the standard Tiguan.

  1. Peugeot 208: 244,615 registrations

Peugeot 208

Change 2016 vs 2017: down 1.7%

Six of the cars in the top 10 saw a fall in registrations in 2017, including the Peugeot 208, which remains the brand’s best-selling car. UK prices start from £14,630 for the three-door Active, but a number of trim levels and personalisation packs are available.

  1. Nissan Qashqai: 247,939 registrations

Nissan X-Trail

Change 2016 vs 2017: up 6.2%

Into the top five, where we find Europe’s most popular crossover: the Nissan Qashqai. Even in the face of some fierce competition, the Qashqai goes from strength-to-strength, with registrations up 6.2 percent.

  1. Ford Fiesta: 254,539 registrations

Ford Fiesta

Change 2016 vs 2017: down 15%

Britain’s best-selling car has to settle for fourth place in Europe, with registrations down 15 percent. The shift from the old to the new Fiesta would have played a part in the slump, so it will be interesting to see how the supermini does in 2018.

  1. Volkswagen Polo: 272,061 registrations

Volkswagen Polo

Change 2016 vs 2017: down 11.6%

It’s no surprise to find the Volkswagen Polo on the slide, as many buyers will have been waiting for the all-new and much improved model. The new Polo is on sale now, with prices starting from £13,855.

  1. Renault Clio: 327,395 registrations

Renault Clio

Change 2016 vs 2017: up 4.1%

The Renault Clio didn’t even appear in the top 20 of the UK’s best-selling cars in 2017, so it might come as a surprise to find it performing so well in the rest of Europe. According to the Best Selling Cars Blog, the Clio is the best-seller in France for the 19th time in the past 26 years. It has been number one for seven years in a row, which is the longest run since the Renault 5 in the 70s and 80s. Go Clio!

  1. Volkswagen Golf: 483,105 registrations

Volkswagen Golf

Change 2016 vs 2017: down 1.7%

But the runaway leader, by a country mile, is the Volkswagen Golf. Even with a slight downturn in registrations, the Golf is some 155,000 units stronger than the Clio, and it’s hard to see anything dethroning the evergreen Volkswagen in 2018.

Matt LeBlanc and Chris Harris

Top Gear Series 25 trailer

LeBlanc, Harris and Reid are back for a new series of Top Gear: here’s a taste of what’s in store…

2018 Honda Civic i-DTEC diesel

MR week in review: 27 January 2018

2018 Honda Civic i-DTEC diesel

Whilst the press and government continue whipping up anti-diesel rhetoric into a frenzy, manufacturers are still selling and launching new cars seemingly powered by the devil in hydrocarbon form. Yet the latest diesel cars, conforming to Euro 6 regulations and submitted to real-world emissions testing, are the cleanest DERV machines to ever hit the road. Volkswagen’s dieselgate debacle has opened the floodgates for dissing diesel, but are we hurting our choices by shunning them?

Richard’s review of the new Honda Civic i-DTEC proves that diesel can still play a part in our motoring landscape, fitting a niche that neither petrol or EV power can easily match. Perhaps it is time to stop vilifying those who make the decision to fill up from the black pump, and celebrate the progress diesel technology has made.

This week we have also tested the latest Audi RS4 here in the UK, driven a Mercedes-AMG that is likely to offend, and checked out the controversial new Lamborghini SUV. There’s also the small matter of multi-million dollar car collection discovered hidden away in an abandoned garage.

Car News

Lamborghini Urus

Ahead of the first deliveries in the summer, Lamborghini has unveiled to new Urus SUV in London. Watch our video as this controversial crossover takes a bow.


2018 Honda Civic i-DTEC diesel

2018 Honda Civic i-DTEC – First drive review
For fleet drivers, and those with long-distance commutes, the diesel-powered Civic is the one they’ve been waiting for. Does it still justify a place on the road in 2018? 

2018 Audi RS4 Avant

2018 Audi RS4 Avant – UK first drive
The V8 engine might be gone, but the new RS4 still has all the power and practicality to keep up the fast Audi estate tradition. We’ve now tested it here on UK roads.

Mercedes-AMG GLA 45

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA45 – Not for shrinking violets
With over 380hp and four-wheel drive, the AMG GLA45 could be the fastest car in the real world. Just don’t expect to make many friends on your daily commute in it.

Features and opinion

Woodworth, Hagerty Garage Find

$4 million car collection found in an abandoned garage
Can you imagine the shock from opening up a condemned building in North Carolina, to find an ultra-rare Shelby Cobra and classic Ferrari 275 GTB inside?

The real McLaren Senna
Forget the new hypercar. This is the actual chance to buy an F1 car, driven to victory at the Monaco GP by Ayrton Senna in 1993

Used SUVs for less than £200 a month

£200 a month used SUVs
With Auto Trader letting car buyers searched on monthly payments, we have tracked down a host of used SUVs for less than £200 a month.

Charging an electric car: everything you need to know

All charged up
With the number of EVs set to rise, these are the answers to all those important questions you might want to ask before plugging in.

Retro MR

Audi RS2

Retro MR – Audi RS2 review
Although the new RS4 might be latest fast Audi wagon, the RS2 is the one which began it all with a little help from Porsche. Rich Gooding is your guide to driving it.

Range Stormer

Retro MR – Remembering the Range Stormer concept
The expansive Range Rover lineup is about to get another new model. This was the concept which kickstarted the dramatic transformation of the traditional brand.

Lancia Thema 8.32

MR Retro – Lancia Thema 8.32 – The four-door Ferrari
Shoehorning the V8 engine from the Ferrari 308 QV into a Lancia saloon made for one of the greatest Q-cars ever created. Gav is certainly a fan of this Italian machine.

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Charging an electric car: everything you need to know

Charging an electric car: everything you need to know

Charging an electric car: everything you need to know

If estimates are to be believed, one million of us could be driving electric cars within the next four years. Like it or not, it’s probably time to consider whether an electric vehicle could work for you.

The actual process of driving an electric car is very simple. Many are very similar to petrol or diesels in the way that they drive albeit with an automatic transmission and instant torque. They generally feel more relaxing than equivalent petrols or diesels, but they can also offer surprising performance.

It’s recharging that’s a little more difficult. Rather than simply stopping at a petrol station and filling your car’s tank within a few minutes, charging an electric car can be a time-consuming process. But it doesn’t necessarily need to be difficult and, for many of us, it’s easy enough to fit it into our lives.

How do you charge an electric car?

Charging an electric car: everything you need to know

Think of charging an electric car the same as charging your phone. You can do it using a simple three-pin domestic plug socket, leaving it overnight for a fully-charged car when you wake up the next day.

Although it depends on your electricity supply, the specific car and, of course, how flat the batteries are, it typically takes around eight hours to charge an EV using a three-pin socket.

For faster charging, a professional can install a home charging point. This would normally cost around £1,000, but there’s currently a £500 government grant available for EV drivers. This can reduce charging times by up to 50 percent – meaning you can have a fully-charged EV in about four hours.

But that’s longer than filling up with petrol…

Charging an electric car: everything you need to know

True, most people don’t have four hours to waste waiting for their car to charge. But with the range of many electric cars (i.e. how far they will travel on a charge) now exceeding 200 miles, ask yourself how often you exceed that in one day? If your daily mileage is usually less than 200 miles, just charge your electric car at home overnight.

For those occasions when you do travel further afield, there are alternatives to charging at home. There’s a network of more than 14,000 chargers at around 5,000 different locations around the UK, with the number of fast and rapid chargers growing quickly.

Rapid chargers are usually found at motorway service stations. They can top an electric car up to 80 percent charge in just 30 minutes  ideal if you’re on a long journey and want to break it up with a coffee and a refill. They do cost, though, with Ecotricity (the firm that owns UK’s rapid charging network) implementing a £3 connection charge, plus 17p per unit of electricity used.

Alternatively, there are a number of slower public chargers available to use for free. These include more than 7,000 fast chargers, often found in shopping centres and supermarket car parks. These can charge an electric car in a couple of hours  perfect if you’re spending an afternoon shopping.

Tell me about charging networks

Charging an electric car: everything you need to know

Wouldn’t it be handy if there was a streamlined charging network around the UK? Several different companies run public chargers across the country, meaning you may need various different cards or methods to access them.

The best thing we did when we ran a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV for six months was to obtain a Polar Plus card from Chargemaster. For £7.85 a month, this gave us access to more than 6,000 charging points across the UK. This live map showed us where we could use the card  including live information  and then all we had to do was swipe the card and plug in.

The majority of chargers at motorway service stations are operated by Ecotricity which, as we’ve mentioned, does charge you for a, er… charge. Tesla owners, meanwhile, can use the brand’s own Supercharger network.

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You can now Airbnb your car while you're on holiday

You can now Airbnb your car while you’re on holiday

You can now Airbnb your car while you're on holiday

Travellers flying from Gatwick Airport are being given the opportunity to make money by renting out their car while they’re away.

Rather than paying expensive airport parking fees for leaving their car while they’re travelling, customers using Gatwick’s official Rent & Earn service can drop their car off at the airport and earn money from renting it out.

The total amount you earn depends on the make and model of your car, as well as how long you’re away for. Car & Away, the company running the service for Gatwick Airport, says you’ll earn 52 percent of the rental income for your car.

It adds that it will only be hired out to ‘carefully vetted renters’, and will be fully insured by Allianz and protected by RAC breakdown cover. A telematics unit will also be fitted to monitor how it’s driven while it’s rented.

There are some strict rules, too: for both renters and rentees. You can only hire out your car if you’re the registered keeper, it’s less than six years old and has covered less than 100,000 miles. It must be fully road-legal with tax, fully-comprehensive insurance and a valid MOT.

Renters must be residents of UK or Ireland, aged over 25 with a licence for more than two years and with no more than three penalty points.

All you need to do is book the Rent & Earn parking service at Gatwick’s South Terminal and they’ll advertise it to prospective hirers. You don’t need to pay anything up front – just drop it off at valet parking, and a member of staff will meet you and record the car’s condition.

Your car will be cleaned before he’s hired out, and again before you return. Although the company can’t guarantee that it’ll succeed in renting out your car, you’ll at least get discounted airport parking and you could earn up to £200 a week.

Opinion: this isn’t as mad as you may think

Handing over keys to a hire car

It’s easy to be horrified at the thought of letting a total stranger drive your car for anything up to a few weeks while you’re on holiday. Personally, I wouldn’t dream of using this service.

But let’s look at the advantages. For the same price as long stay parking, you get valet parking, saving you hassle at the airport. And then, obviously, you should earn the parking fee back in rent.

While car enthusiasts might snub the idea, most of us simply treat our car like an appliance. Let’s say you’ve got something relatively modern on a PCP deal, likely to be returned and swapped for a new model after a few years, are you really going to be that fussed about letting someone drive it?

We’re constantly being told that car sharing is the future. Being able to summon a car via an app will replace car ownership, and this is simply another step towards that. It’s right to be cynical, but don’t scoff just yet.

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