Green car green trees

Opinion: Don’t demonise diesel – or the planet will pay the price

Green car green treesWho’s to blame for this week’s news that new car CO2 emissions have risen for the first time in history? The government. And us, for being misled by these confused, ill-informed politicians.

It’s all because we’ve stopped buying diesels. The Volkswagen emissions scandal kicked off the downturn in 2015 and the fuel hasn’t recovered since. Last year, sales were down more than 17 percent in the UK.

But diesels are dirty, right? They’re choking our cities and killing our kids? Well, not quite. Old diesels certainly are. But new ones? These so-called Euro 6 diesels are almost as clean as petrol cars, something proven time and again by independent testing (the same sort that exposed VW).

Like so many things, the government doesn’t get this. So it’s penalising all diesels as if they were the same. Ironically, this deters people from buying new cars, keeping the dirty diesels on the road for longer. So they’re continuing to choke and kill us.

Diesels also, as a rule of thumb, emit 15-20 percent less CO2 than a comparable petrol engine. There’s no fudging this, and the fuel economy boost you get from a diesel proves it. If people buy fewer diesels, new car CO2 emissions go up. Today’s data proves it.

Car buyers have forgotten about CO2. The government has forgotten about CO2, and all the commitments it’s signed up for to reduce it. And all because everyone’s getting mixed up about old diesels and new ones.

The cost – to the planet, to car manufacturers, to our government, to ourselves – will emerge in time. When it does, who will blame who?

Cheapest new cars for young drivers to insure

The cheapest new cars for young drivers to insure

Cheapest new cars for young drivers to insure

You’re young, you’ve just passed your driving test, and you’ve got the keys to independence. It’s time to buy a car. Only it’s not that simple, because the shortlist of four-wheeled delights you’ve lined up for your first taste of the open road soon becomes even shorter. The problem: car insurance.

Research by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has revealed that one-tenth of a young driver’s salary is spent on car insurance, and that’s before you’ve factored in the cost of fuel, servicing and the monthly repayments on your new motor. has released details of the top 10 cheapest cars to insure for 17-24 year-olds, based on the average price returned for vehicles with more than 1,000 enquiries for a particular model. Opt for one of these motors and you stand a better chance of not paying over the odds.

10. Citroen C1: £1,267.24

Cheapest new cars for young drivers to insure

A car’s insurance group rating will play a big part in the price you pay for your annual premium, with groups ranging from one to 50. The lower the group, the less you’ll pay, but other factors will influence the price, such as your postcode, employment status, how many miles you drive in a year and the value of the car.

According to, the new Citroen C1 costs an average of £1,267.24 to insure, which is actually more than the £973 average quoted by ABI in its young driver analysis. A couple of things play a part here: this average is based on 18-21 year-olds and it also includes cheaper, used vehicles.

9. Ford Ka+ Zetec: £1,267.06

Cheapest new cars for young drivers to insure

“More than any other drivers, young motorists need relief from rising motor insurance premiums. While telematics technology is helping many young drivers manage their insurance bills, cost pressures keep mounting. The Government has a key role in helping keep motor insurance costs under control, and this latest analysis highlights why they need to implement their proposals to reform personal injury compensation and lower value whiplash-style claims as soon as possible,” says James Dalton of the ABI.

The Ford Ka+ won’t top many lists of dream cars, but at least the insurance premium is unlikely to result in too many nightmares. The basic Ka+ Studio slots into the lowest insurance group, although says the Ka+ Zetec 1.2 Ti-VCT 70PS is the one to have.

8. Kia Rio 3: £1,265.39

Cheapest new cars for young drivers to insure

The only Kia to be referenced in an Arctic Monkeys song – sort of – but the Rio won’t cut the mustard on the dancefloor. But, do you wanna know how much it will cost to insure Kia’s supermini? Around £1,265, if is correct.

Prices start from £11,995, but you’ll have to dig deep to secure a Rio 3, for which the lowest price is £16,785. As first cars go, a well-specced Kia Rio 3 would be quite a start. Sure beats a rusty Mk3 Ford Fiesta or an Austin Metro with a hole in the floor. Or does it?

7. Vauxhall Viva: £1,259.76

Cheapest new cars for young drivers to insure

It is said that young drivers are falling out of love with the car, but when faced with the prospect of the Vauxhall Viva, is it any wonder? Sure, the Viva is a thoroughly decent car, but since when was ‘thoroughly decent’ good enough for a young person? The Max Power generation wouldn’t have stood for it.

In fairness to the Vauxhall Viva, it does exactly what it says on the website: “Just think of the Vauxhall VIVA as insanely rational. It has everything you need, including five doors, five seats, class-leading comfort, ride and handling, together with class-defining assistance technology.” If you’re insanely rational, this is the car for you. Probably.

6. Fiat 500: £1,258.32

Cheapest new cars for young drivers to insure

The Fiat 500 could be the automotive case of having your cake and eating it. It offers character and style by the bucket load and won’t break the bank when it comes to lacing your insurance broker’s palm with silver.

Much will depend on which engine size and trim level you opt for as insurance groups range from seven to 15. The 1.2-litre is likely to be cheaper to insure than the fizzy 0.9-litre TwinAir.

5. Skoda Citigo: £1,212.87

Cheapest new cars for young drivers to insure

The Skoda Citigo might be the cheapest of the Up/Mii/Citigo trio, but it’s likely to be the most expensive to insure. But before you go running to your local Volkswagen or Seat dealer, it’s worth remembering that some models fall into the lowest insurance group.

Even the top trim levels with GreenTech engines slot into group four, so drive a Citigo for a year, build up some no-claims discount and you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank. Or all the way to your banking app.

4. Volkswagen Up: £1,210.58

Cheapest new cars for young drivers to insure

You’re young and enlightened, so you’re probably not bothered about the old Skoda jokes (ask your parents), but if you’re swayed by the VW roundel, the ‘Up exclamation mark’ is a wise choice.

According to, it should be cheaper to insure, although you’ll want to avoid the turbocharged versions if you’re hoping to run a car on a strict budget. No GTI frolics for you. Well, not yet, anyway.

3. Seat Mii: £1,191.77

Cheapest new cars for young drivers to insure

This lady has just been shopping. Why? Because she’s just saved a packet on her car insurance. Lower premiums mean more money to spend in Mango. Or something.

Seat is gunning for the female market with the Mii, which is why its website is filled with images of international bright young ladies. Jogging with dogs, chatting with friends, connecting a smartphone – it’s all there.

2. Vauxhall Adam: £1,189.14

Cheapest new cars for young drivers to insure

The Vauxhall Adam is the very antithesis of the Viva, offering more personalisation options than you could shake a stick at. There are three trim levels to choose from – Jam, Glam and Slam – along with the crossover-styled Rocks and sporty S.

You will, of course, need to avoid the S to ensure your insurance quote stays the right side of a price comparable to the national debt, but many Adam models slot into groups two and three.

1. Fiat 500X: £1,040.39

Cheapest new cars for young drivers to insure

This is a surprise: the Fiat 500X might be the cheapest car to insure for young drivers. The groups range from five to 16, but this isn’t reflected in the prices returned by But ask yourself this: do you really want to drive a crossover at your age?

The data would suggest otherwise, as the most popular car to insure for 17-24 year-olds is the Vauxhall Corsa. Other modes in the top 10 include the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo, Renault Clio, Seat Ibiza and Fiat Punto. The Audi A3 also gets a mention, which is proof that badges matter.

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Toyota Auris built in Burnaston

The all-new Toyota Auris will be built in Britain

Toyota Auris built in BurnastonToyota has confirmed the all-new third-generation Auris family hatchback will be built at its Burnaston, Derby plant, news that will be a major fillip to the under-pressure UK automotive industry.

The Japanese giant’s commitment to the UK comes despite uncertainties over Brexit, although Toyota Motor Europe president and CEO Dr Johan van Zyl was keen to stress the need for politicians to strike the best possible deal for when the UK leaves the EU.

“As a company, we are doing what we can to secure the competitiveness of our UK operations as a leading manufacturing centre for our European business.

“With around 85 percent of our UK vehicle production exported to European markets, continued free and frictionless trade between the UK and Europe will be vital for future success.”

Are you listening, Westminster?

In a double boost for Britain, most of the engines used in the new Auris will come from Toyota’s engine plant in Deeside and the UK workforce was singled out for praise by Toyota Europe’s chief. “Today’s announcement… shows our confidence in the skills and capabilities of our TMUK members.”

Toyota Manufacturing UK MD Marvin Cooke was naturally delighted with the good news. “It signals Toyota’s trust in TMUK’s ability to build ever-better cars for our customers.”

The new Auris will be built on the latest Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform, for which Toyota has invested £240 million in Burnaston to install the new equipment and technologies.

Using this new tech “is a big responsibility,” said Cooke, and “we will constantly improve our productivity and competitiveness to help secure a bright future for TMUK”.

All-new 2018 Toyota Auris teaser

The all-new Auris will be revealed at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show next week. In the build-up, Toyota has issued a teaser of the new car – Motoring Research will bring you all the news LIVE from the show starting early next week.   

10 Geneva Motor Show stars we’re really excited about

10 Geneva Motor Show stars we’re really excited about

10 Geneva Motor Show stars we’re really excited aboutOne of the biggest motoring events of the year kicks off next week, with no fewer than 60 manufacturers heading to Palexpo for the 88th Geneva show. Whatever your tastes, from a new Toyota Auris hybrid to a stripped-out Ferrari 488 Pista, you can expect to be well catered for.

We’ve rounded up the 10 cars that excite us most. With the new Citroen Berlingo and McLaren Senna included, we really have got all bases covered…

1: Polestar 1

10 Geneva Motor Show stars we’re really excited about

Want to launch a range of premium or sporty vehicles that don’t particularly fit in with your brand image? Just create a new offshoot carmaker. It’s what Citroen’s done with DS, Seat’s doing with Cupra and Volvo’s trying with aftermarket-tuner-come-electric-car-specialist, Polestar.

While it’s easy to take a cynical view of any rebranding exercise, Polestar is at least kicking off with an almost entirely new model – and an extremely attractive one, at that. The S90-based Polestar 1 is a two-door, four-seat GT car powered by a 600hp hybrid drivetrain.

There’s a catch, though. Polestar won’t be producing a right-hand-drive version, and prices will start at around £115,000 when it finally arrives in the UK.

2: Mercedes-Benz A-Class

10 Geneva Motor Show stars we’re really excited about

OK, the A-Class isn’t one of the most exciting cars that’ll be revealed at Geneva but, as the best-selling Mercedes in the UK last year, it is one of the most significant. Besides, Mercedes has been hyping it up for so long that we can’t wait to see it in the metal (if only to check whether it’s as droopy as pictures suggest).

Other highlights from the Mercedes stand will include the AMG GT4 – a four-door AMG GT that’s a little more exciting than the A-Class, admittedly, but also strikes us as a niche within a niche, surely guaranteed to steal buyers from the new Mercedes CLS.

3: Porsche 911 GT3 RS

Over on Porsche’s stand we’re expecting to see the new 911 GT3 RS. Before you get too excited, it’ll only have two pedals and a PDK gearbox. But still, a 520hp naturally-aspirated flat-six and a 3.2-second 0-62mph time is plenty to get excited about, right?

Porsche engineers have also been spotted testing the new 718 Cayman GT4 which, with the GT3’s flat-six NA engine, promises to be very exciting. Will it be at Geneva? Not if Porsche wants all the attention on the GT3 RS…

4: Range Rover SV Coupe

10 Geneva Motor Show stars we’re really excited about

Tucked away on Land Rover’s stand somewhere at Palexpo, the SV Coupe promises to be the most exclusive (and expensive) Range Rover yet. A rival to the upcoming Rolls-Royce Cullinan, we’ve already seen a teaser in the form of an interior shot showing individual rear seats and a wide, wooden centre console that stretches the length of the cabin.

Only 999 will be made by Land Rover’s Special Vehicles department, with prices expected to be close to £250,000. That’s a lot of money.

5: Ferrari 488 Pista

10 Geneva Motor Show stars we’re really excited about

The 488 Pista follows the 458 Speciale, 430 Scuderia and 360 Challenge Stradale in Ferrari’s line of track-focused specials. The supercar manufacturer is – naturally – making some bold claims for the Pista (which is Italian for ‘track’, FYI).

Described by the brand as a ‘significant step forward’, the 488 Pista is powered by the standard car’s twin-turbocharged 3.9-litre V8 with a significant power hike to 720hp. That makes it the most potent Ferrari V8 engine ever, boasting a 2.85-second 0-62mph time. And 124mph (200kph) is reached in 7.6 seconds.

6: Toyota Supra

10 Geneva Motor Show stars we’re really excited about

Toyota has revealed it’ll be taking its ‘modern racing concept’ to Geneva, saying it “signals its commitment to bring its most iconic sports car back to the market.”

Pictures of the Supra concept have already been leaked all over the internet, but that doesn’t stop us being excited by the Gazoo-branded sports car. Developed as part of a joint venture with BMW, the Supra will used a turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine shared with the new Z4. Hybrid versions are expected to follow in the future.

7: Aston Martin Vantage

10 Geneva Motor Show stars we’re really excited about

We’ve been waiting for the new Aston Martin Vantage for what feels like forever, but we’ll finally see it in the metal at Geneva. Sure, we already know what it’ll look like and almost everything about it, but still.

Powered by a Mercedes-AMG engine, the twin-turbo V8 coupe is replacing a model that’s been around, with a few minor tweaks, since 2005. Available to order now with prices starting at £120,900, the new Vantage will hit 62mph in 3.6 seconds and is good for 195mph flat-out.

Alongside the Vantage, Aston boss Andy Palmer has hinted that there may be one or two surprises in store at Geneva. We’ll definitely be checking out Aston’s stand to find out more when the show kicks off next week…

8: Morgan Plus 8 50th Anniversary

10 Geneva Motor Show stars we’re really excited about

The Morgan Plus 8 will soon be deprived of its wonderful 4.8-litre BMW V8 engine, and to mark the occasion (and the small matter of 50 years since the original Plus 8 was launched) the small-time British firm is taking a 50th Anniversary model to Geneva. We don’t know much about it, other than just 50 will be built. But as the Plus 8 still looks remarkably like it did in 1968, we doubt any big changes are on the horizon.

From the teasers, we can tell it’ll have motorsport-style decals and each car will be individually numbered.

9: Citroen Berlingo Multispace

10 Geneva Motor Show stars we’re really excited about

Look, you have to allow us the odd real-world indulgence. The van-based MPV isn’t being defeated by the crossover craze just yet. And it looks pretty good, to us, with Cactus-esque styling and ‘Airbump’ plastic cladding to prevent trolley dings.

There’s loads of room inside, as you’d expect, with sliding rear doors to help rear access. Expect more connectivity and improved tech over its predecessor. Now, back to normal…

10: McLaren Senna

McLaren’s most extreme road car ever, the Senna boasts 800hp, 800Nm of torque and 800kg of downforce. Named after three-time F1 world champion Ayrton Senna, we first saw the new McLaren at a special event in Woking last year. Geneva will be its public debut, however.

It’ll hit 62mph in 2.8 seconds, 124mph in 6.8 seconds and 186mph in an incredible 17.5 seconds. Only 500 will be made, with production starting later in 2018. Prices will start at £750,000.

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New car CO2 2017

New car CO2 RISES as buyers shun diesel

New car CO2 2017The car industry risks missing its 2021 CO2 targets with the first-ever annual increase in carbon dioxide emissions today being revealed by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Last year, average new car CO2 went up 0.8 percent, to 121g/km.

This will have “negative consequences for the UK’s own climate change goals,” warned the SMMT.

The reason is the demonisation of diesel, says the automotive industry trade body – and it means the car industry is at risk of missing its challenging 95g/km average CO2 target set for 2021.

In order to meet it, CO2 needs to plunge by 5.9 percent every year, something the SMMT is now calling “increasingly challenging”. Car firms thus face the risk of big EU fines from 2021, depending on how much over target their average CO2 emissions are.

Diesel is a lower-CO2 fuel than petrol, and the rapid shift away from it is responsible for almost half the CO2 increase. Diesels generally emit 15-20 percent less CO2 than their petrol counterparts, says the SMMT.

Other reasons for the unprecedented rise in CO2 include the slow uptake of zero-emissions electric cars (99.5 percent of all new cars are still petrol or diesel), a big fall in registrations of smaller cars – and ever-growing sales of crossovers and SUVs. These vehicles are less efficient than conventional alternatives.

New cars are, at least, more efficient than the ones they’re replacing. On average, a car driven out of a UK showroom emits 12.6 percent less CO2 than the one it’s replaced.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “The anti-diesel agenda has set back progress on climate change… motorists must have the confidence to invest in the cleanest cars for their needs – however they are powered.”

The SMMT again criticised the government’s confusing policy over diesel. “A consistent approach to incentives and tax, and greater investment in charging infrastructure will be critical. Now, more than ever, we need a strategy that allows manufacturers time to invest, innovate and sell competitively, and which gives consumers every incentive to adapt.”

Opinion: Not a fan of Top Gear? Turn it off


Did you catch the first episode of the new series of Top Gear last night? What did you think of it?

OK, now we’ve got that out of the way, let me tell you what I think. Only I’m not going to because – sorry, Mr Editor – I don’t think it matters what I think. My brief was to write an opinion piece on the series 25 curtain-raiser, but really, what’s the point?

Sure, the BBC will be monitoring the ratings, hoping to improve on the 1.9 million or so who tuned in to watch the final episode of series 24, which was down from 2.8 million for the season premiere.

To provide some context, 14 million watched an episode of Blue Planet II in October 2017, while 10 million tuned in to watch some fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Heck, even the first episode of the ill-fated Chris Evans series managed a peak of 4.7 million.

Unlike just about every other Top Gear preview or review over the past couple of years, I’ve managed to get this far without mentioning the C word. That’s ‘Clarkson’, in case you were wondering.

Drawing comparisons with the Clarkson era of Top Gear – not to mention The Grand Tour – is inevitable, but can’t we just move on and embrace the variety? The fact is, we’ve never had it so good.

I’ve been a fan of Top Gear since the days of Tony Mason’s hat, Chris Goffey’s beard, Jezza’s afro and Michelle Newman’s Alice band. Back then, Top Gear was your only real hope of anything motoring-related on TV, unless something made the news, such as yet another strike at Austin Rover or Lancia’s rust scandal.

Today, aside from the two flagship motoring shows, there’s a seemingly infinite number of channels to choose from, some of which offer car-based entertainment. Wheeler Dealers and Car SOS are two of the best, but there are others of varying degrees of quality.

Then there’s the increasing number of YouTube channels, which allow you to select from a menu to suit just about every taste. From the brilliantly eccentric HubNut to Jonny Smith’s relaunched and excellent Carpervert, you’ll find enough content to last a lifetime of lunchtimes.

If you didn’t enjoy Top Gear, that’s fine. But can we put an end to the Blur/Oasis-like TG/TGT comparisons? I’m yet to stumble across a television without an ‘off’ button, so why don’t you just switch off your television set and go out and do something less boring instead?

For what it’s worth, I enjoyed the first episode, but I’ll spare you the root and branch examination of the complete 60 minutes. Besides, I couldn’t tell you anything about the celebrity bit as I was too busy making a cuppa.

I’ll still find more interest in a Chris Goffey review of an Escort XR3 or watching Clarkson’s trying to squeeze his hair beneath the roofline of a Porsche 968, but that’s just me. The vast majority of TV shows hold no interest, but I won’t waste your time or mine telling you how much I don’t enjoy them. 

Now if you don’t mind, I’m about to spend the next 50 minutes listening to the best album of the 1990s – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

Opinions, eh? Don’t you just love ’em?

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This is why you didn’t have to defrost your car this morning

This is why you didn’t have to defrost your car this morning

This is why you didn’t have to defrost your car this morning

Despite temperatures plummeting well below zero across the UK, you may have noticed that your car didn’t need defrosting this morning.

In simple terms, that’s because the air in Northern Europe is currently very dry. If there’s very little moisture in the air, it won’t freeze, and you won’t notice frost on your car windscreen.

“For a classic frosty night we need a few ingredients: low temperatures, clear skies, calm winds and moisture,” explained a Met Office spokesperson. “A clear, calm night gives excellent radiation conditions – by this we mean that the heat absorbed by the Earth’s surface during the day escapes readily back into space and allows temperatures to fall.”

While last night we experienced low temperatures, clear skies and calm winds, it fell short of having all the ingredients required for a hard frost.

“If the temperature falls to the dew point (the temperature to which air must cool for it to become saturated with water vapour) moisture will condense and form droplets on the ground’s surface. When temperatures fall below freezing the droplets freeze and we get frost.”

More than 20cm of snow could land in parts of the UK by the end of the Wednesday, as the ‘Beast from the East’ weather front hits Europe.

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Here's what to do if your car gets stuck in the snow

Here’s what to do if your car gets stuck in the snow

Here's what to do if your car gets stuck in the snow

As the ‘Beast from the East’ hits the UK, temperatures are expected to plummet as low as those within the Arctic Circle with motorists warned not to travel unless it’s strictly necessary.

Traffic officers are already reporting weather-related crashes across the country.

Forecasters are expecting this week to be the coldest spell in five years – with heavy snow due to arrive later in the week.

“Travel delays on roads are likely, stranding some vehicles and passengers,” said a Met Office spokesperson. “Some delays and cancellations to rail and air travel are likely. There is a good chance that some rural communities could become cut off. Power cuts are likely and other services, such as mobile phones, may be affected.”

10 tips for driving in the snow

Here's what to do if your car gets stuck in the snow

  1. Be smooth. Sudden steering or pedal inputs could result in a loss of traction.
  2. Travel slowly. This will mean you can stop quicker if necessary.
  3. Use higher gears when setting off and keep engine revs low. Drop to a lower gear when slowing down or descending hills.
  4. Look far ahead, leaving a gap between your car and other vehicles. This will give you lots of time to react to obstacles.
  5. Brake ahead of a corner, and if you do experience a skid, steer into it.
  6. Use dipped headlights and switch your foglights on if visibility drops below 100m. Turn them off once visibility improves.
  7. Clear your car of snow before moving. Not just the windows, but also the roof.
  8. Check your tyres. Worn tyres will provide less grip in snow. Consider winter tyres if you regularly drive in cold temperatures.
  9. Be cautious of black ice. Just because the road looks clear, it doesn’t mean you won’t skid.
  10. Four-wheel drive will help you keep moving, but won’t necessarily help you stop any quicker.

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Seat Leon Cupra R

Mk2 Seat Leon Cupra R review: driving a bargain hot hatch

Seat Leon Cupra R

As part of Seat’s plans for a sporty new Cupra sub-brand, it has revealed new models in the form of a Leon Cupra R ST wagon and a Leon Cupra TCR racing car. Confusingly, unlike the Cupra Ateca, these will retain the Seat badge. The firm says removing it halfway through the model’s life would be cheating. Or something.

Of course, Leon Cupra Rs are nothing new. The latest model has been a sellout success, while the original, launched in 2002, was an infinitely more exciting hot hatch than its Golf GTI brother.

The Mk2 Leon Cupra R, launched in 2010, shared a 2.0-litre petrol engine with the Volkswagen Golf R and Audi S3 of the era. Thanks to an ECU remap, high-pressure fuel pump and revised exhaust system, it produced 25hp more than the Cupra (265hp in total), resulting in a 6.2-second 0-62mph time.

How does it drive?

Seat Leon Cupra R

Scrabbly. With all that power going through the front wheels, electronics struggle to stave off old-fashioned torque steer if you’re indelicate with the throttle. While this is obviously amplified in the wet, it’s not scary – just be smooth with your inputs and the Cupra reacts well. Take a ham-fisted approach, though, and be prepared to gently lift off when you detect a hint of scurrying through the wheel.

It’s no Mk1 Focus RS  fortunately  and the electronics do a good job of mimicking a proper limited-slip diff on British B-roads. Tuck it into a bend, accelerate and power quickly shifts between the front wheels and drags you out the other side. The steering lacks a degree of feel and is on the light side, but it’s communicative enough to tell when less is more.

Even by today’s hot hatch standards, the Mk2 Cupra R’s ride is easily unsettled. Around a third firmer than the Cupra, it translates every minor lump and bump into the cabin. The plus side of that is, despite its almost ‘MPV’ appearance, there’s little in the way of lean detected in the cabin when driving enthusiastically. And it feels quick – not just in the bends, but also in a straight line. Even in an era of 300hp-plus hot hatches, the 265hp Cupra R from just a few years ago still feels plenty thrilling.

Tell me about buying one

Seat Leon Cupra R

Production ended just six years ago, so finding a good Cupra R of this generation shouldn’t be too difficult a challenge. They didn’t sell in huge numbers, though, so be prepared to travel for the right one. An Auto Trader search reveals prices start at around £10,000 for an early one being sold privately, increasing to £13,000 for tidy examples being sold by dealers.

Don’t take it as read that just because it’s a modern VW Group product it’ll be in good order, however. The very nature of the Cupra R means it could have led a hard life, so we’d insist on a detailed service record and, ideally, a chat with the previous owner. Buying privately gives you the benefit of finding out how it’s been used. Has it been lapping track days or spent its life on the motorway?

Four matching premium-brand tyres with plenty of tread is a good sign. While you’re there, inspect the wheels for signs of kerbing.


In the era that followed the FN2 Honda Civic Type-R and five-pot Ford Focus ST, hot hatches like the Leon Cupra R became increasingly capable while struggling to retain the magic of their predecessors.

At the time, many people complained that it was too discreet, but it did represent good value for money alongside the Golf GTI. Today, it makes for an interesting used buy that still looks and feels relatively modern, and shouldn’t cost a fortune to maintain. With prices dropping towards £10,000, it almost looks like a bargain.

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Cupra Ateca

Seat’s sporty new Cupra sub-brand: 9 things we’ve learned

Cupra Ateca

The new Cupra sub-brand has made its official debut ahead of its public launch at next month’s Geneva Motor Show. From now on, all new sporty Cupra models will be badged solely as Cupras, without any Seat branding.

It comes as the sporty offshoot reveals its first new model in the form of the new Cupra Ateca SUV, which made an appearance at a glitzy event in Barcelona yesterday. The event – attended by media from across Europe and a number of senior executives from the Cupra brand, gave us an opportunity to find out more about what the firm stands for and how it’s going to work. Here’s what we learned.

1: Seat has an image problem

Would the Seat badge put you off buying a car? According to marketing chiefs, some people will never buy a Seat – no matter how good it is. “We could [make] the best product in the world, but for some people who are more image-sensitive, they will not take one of our cars,” Seat boss Luca de Meo told Motoring Research.

We’re not sure that’s entirely true in the UK. Sister brand Skoda hasn’t been the butt of jokes for years now, and Seat has never really been viewed as a brand to avoid. Indeed, our quick straw poll reveals that two thirds of people don’t think Seat has an image problem. Clearly, that’s not the case around the world.

“You still have, in some markets, a certain level of rejection of the Seat brand,” explained de Meo. “Starting from scratch with something new [means] we can attract customers who will not, in other cases, buy Seat.”

It’s a simple idea – some people won’t buy Seats, so removing the Seat badge and swapping it with a Cupra badge is one way of attracting new customers and charging them more money for cars. However…

2: Cupra isn’t premium

Cupra Ateca

You might think this smacks of Seat going upmarket, but doing so would tread on the toes of fellow VW Group brands Volkswagen and Audi.

“There are enough [premium brands] around and the traditional, prestigious, premium [market] is occupied,” said Seat’s sales and marketing vice president, Wayne Griffiths. “I don’t think these classical, prestigious, premium values speak to these young people.”

Cupra says it plans to attract customers from between the mainstream and premium segments, but it’s reluctant to name brands that it intends to rival. Seat already has a high level of conquest (new customers coming in from other manufacturers account for around 60 percent of sales in the UK), but the firm expects this will be even higher for Cupra.

Bosses predict around 80 percent of Cupra customers will come from other brands, moving from mainstream cars but not yet feeling ready to buy an old-fashioned premium car such as an Audi or Mercedes-Benz.

3: Cupra will be a money maker for Seat

Griffiths isn’t shy about his hopes for Cupra. “We want to double sales,” he says. “Within five years.”

That’s quite a target for a brand that’s only just separating itself from its parent company, but Griffiths points to the current figures.

“We did 10,000 [Cupra models] in 2017,” explains Griffiths. “We want to do much more than 20,000 when we have the Ateca and some other models later. But that’s in the short-term… we have to because this brand is only going to fly if it’s visible. And you’re invisible if you’re below 10 percent of the mix.

“It will be an important profit-driver but also volume for as well,” he adds.

Despite this, numbers will be deliberately limited to aid residual values and allow tempting finance and leasing deals to be offered. “The only way to make residual values better is not to build more cars than you can sell,” said Griffiths.

4: A Cupra Ibiza and Arona could be in the pipeline – but not a Mii

The brand is being launched with the 300hp Cupra Ateca SUV – but there are seven new cars planned within the next three years. An Arona and Ibiza are both being considered, but Cupra hasn’t decided whether they’ll reach production. We suspect both are likely.

“[The Ateca] will be a great opportunity for us to position the brand but we’re looking for more product as well – so, more Cupra models, because if this brand is to be sustainable in the future than it needs a product base,” said Griffiths.

“We have the Leon, we have the Ateca, we are looking at other cars in [Seat’s] range that we could do a Cupra car of – whether that’s Arona or Ibiza – or, in the future, even go as far as launching a car purely as a Cupra car. Somewhere in the future our product range will be suitable for doing that.”

When asked whether the affordable Mii city car could be on the horizon, Griffiths said: “It wouldn’t be something I’d focus on at the moment. I think there are other segments that are more profitable and more fitting with the Cupra values.”

5: Electrification will happen

Although Cupra insists there’s a future for the internal combustion engine, future models are likely to feature some sort of electrification in a bid to reach tightening emission targets.

This doesn’t mean they’ll be boring to drive, insists Cupra.

“[They’ll feature] electrification in a sporty way, not electrification in a driving fun limiting way,” said research and development chief Dr Rabe. “That means a plug-in hybrid. It’s going to be much more sporty [than current plug-in hybrids].”

Griffiths also touched on electrification – saying that Cupra will take inspiration from motorsport in a bid to lower its emissions.

“The whole issue of motorsport will move to a future where they’ll be ecological – whether that’s with electric motor sport cars you might see in the near future – or plug-in hybrid, performance hybrid or using CNG-powered cars.

“We are working in parallel to make sure this new brand is sustainable as a performance brand in an ecological environment where we have to fulfill CO2 requirements.”

6: The logo is meant to look like a tribal tattoo

Cupra Ateca

The logo, which was revealed last month, is intended to feature two back-to-back Cs while also looking like a tribal tattoo, explains Griffiths.

“It would be great to have a wonderful explanation about where [the logo] came from but it’s difficult, because it doesn’t really have a history. The brand is brand new, so there’s no heritage, it’s not trying to get something from the past which, when you look at Abarth or other brands do… all of them are trying to make their sports brands out of the past and heritage but we want to look to the future.

“It should stand for a tribal tattoo… for people who want to belong to something special without having to show off. It doesn’t have to be a star or a four rings or whatever, it’s something different. And we think this tribal thing could be a brand that attracts the younger target group.”

Although the brand goes short of insisting its customers get genuine Cupra tattoos, Griffiths hinted that all customers could be given a bracelet to make them instantly recognisable as Cupra tribe members.

“To be able to recognise these customers, we want to introduce a Cupra ID, perhaps with this bracelet, so we know who is part of this Cupra world and so that we know we can treat them properly and in a different way.”

7: One in five Seat dealers will become Cupra specialists

Although all UK Seat dealers will be able to sell new Cupra models, around 20 percent will become Cupra specialists. These will have the cars on display and available for test drive, while ‘Cupra masters’ will be on hand in the showroom and workshop to take care of customers.

“My dream is, in certain areas where there is a big Cupra demand, I can imagine having specific Cupra showrooms,” said Griffiths, adding that Cupras account for as much as 10 percent of Leon sales in areas such as Munich, which would be a sufficient demand for a Cupra-specialist dealer.

All Cupra models will come with a four-year warranty and a service and maintenance package included in the deal.

8: There’ll be a Cupra Line

Cupra Line

Can’t afford or don’t want a hardcore Cupra? The brand will also be used to sell parts for Seats. You’ll be able to buy Cupra accessories for your cooking-spec Seat.

“Why not offer [Cupra Line] to some of the Seat products?” asks Rabe. “That’s not so much performance – maybe a wheel package, maybe an interior package or something like that.

“But first of all we want to establish a brand. You will not see this spread to other cars within this year. It will come later.“

Cupra’s marketing chiefs also revealed that it’s working with fashion and sunglasses companies, meaning you’ll even be able to dress in Cupra-branded clothing.

9: You’ll be able to drive a Cupra every day

Anyone who’s driven the Cupra R will tell you that it feels a rather extreme hot hatch. Fortunately, for those of us who want to drive a Cupra every day, future cars from the brand will not be much more extreme.

“I don’t want to get rid of the daily drivability [of Seat’s Cupra models],” explains Rabe. “It is important to have that balance. The Cupra customer wants to be excited every day while driving, and therefore that balance should be there. That means on the comfort and daily-drive side, I want it to be at least the same as today, but why not go a little bit more on the edge of the sporty side?”

He adds that engineers were allowed to go a little more focussed with the Cupra R as it was a flagship model for the brand, but the Cupra Ateca will cater for a different market and won’t be as extreme. In the future, Rabe expects to offer Cupra and Cupra R versions of the same models to cater for different tastes.

In pictures: Cupra Ateca

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