These government agencies are ditching diesel cars

These government agencies are ditching diesel cars

These government agencies are ditching diesel cars

More than 400 diesel company cars used by government department Defra are being swapped for hybrid models under a shake-up intended to reduce harmful CO2 and NOx emissions.

Defra  the government department responsible for the environment, food and rural affairs  is replacing a significant proportion of its diesel car fleet with the British-built Toyota Auris hybrid within four of its organisations: the Environment Agency, Marine Management Organisation, Rural Payments Agency and Animal and Plant Health Agency.

“The cars from these four Defra organisations already represent one of the lowest CO2-emitting fleets in the UK,” said Defra’s strategic fleet manager, Jim Gregory.

“We have reduced nitrogen oxide gases (NOx) emissions, linked to respiratory illness, by nearly 10 percent, and CO2 by nearly 30 per cent, across our 7,000 cars, commercial vehicles, plant and machinery. We have challenged ourselves to go even further by buying only hybrid or electric vehicles from 2025, replacing our current fleet of diesels with cleaner vehicles and setting targets for NOx as well as CO2 emissions.”

The changeover of Defra’s fleet has already begun, and will continue throughout 2018 as an ongoing rolling replacement process.

It comes as figures revealed by Go Ultra Low today show that popularity of 100 percent electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles continued to grow in the first quarter of the year, following a record-breaking 2017. The first three months of this year saw 13,327 new cars registered to UK drivers, a 16% increase on the same quarter last year.

“This continuous growth in the plug-in market shows no signs of slowing down,” said Go Ultra Low’s head, Poppy Welch. “Month after month, we are seeing registrations increase, demonstrating that the public appetite for plug-in motoring is growing. With the range of pure electric cars constantly increasing and plug-in hybrids continuing to offer the best of both worlds, it’s getting easier for motorists to see the benefits of electric motoring.”

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Morgan is restoring an old bus to celebrate 50 years of the Plus 8

Morgan is restoring an old bus to celebrate 50 years of the Plus 8

Morgan is restoring an old bus to celebrate 50 years of the Plus 8

The second-to-last Routemaster bus to be withdrawn from service in 2005 has been bought by British sports car manufacturer Morgan.

Manufactured in 1968 – the year the first Morgan Plus 8 was sold – the iconic London bus entered service in January of that year. Since then, SMK 759F is believed to have clocked up more than 1.5 million miles before retiring nearly 44 years later. As it took its final journey on 9th December 2005, crowds gathered along the route to give it an admirable send-off.

Described as being in ‘incredible condition’, Morgan bought the bus earlier this year and has set to work making sympathetic conversions. It’s expecting to display it at events around the country this summer in a joint 50th anniversary celebration with the Morgan Plus 8.

“The Routemaster bus is arguably one of the most iconic vehicles in existence,” said Morgan’s managing director, Steve Morris. “It serves as a symbol of Britain and is part of our national identity. It therefore gives us great pleasure to continue the life of one of the last decommissioned buses as our event space. Morgan has an exciting year ahead, and we can’t wait to utilise the bus at events all around the UK.

“Our plans for the bus will make it the ideal event space for Morgan customers and enthusiasts alike.”

All the work will be carried out in-house by the same team responsible for hand-building Morgan sports cars.

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Marcello Gandini: the maestro

Marcello Gandini: greatest hits of a car design genius

Marcello Gandini: the maestro

Born in 1938, Marcello Gandini is one of the world’s best car designers, responsible for penning some of the most eye-catching, dramatic and important cars of the 20th century. Here, we take a look at some of his greatest hits. Prepare to be left slack-jawed by the man’s genius.

Lamborghini Miura

Lamborghini Miura

When Lamborghini unveiled the 400 TP rolling chassis at the 1965 Turin Auto Show, it was faced with a queue of potential customers armed with open wallets, and a number of coachbuilders hoping to create the body. Ferruccio Lamborghini turned to Bertone, with chassis developer Gian Paolo Dallara tasked with working with stylist Marcello Gandini. But is the Miura really Gandini’s baby?

Gandini replaced Giugiaro at Bertone and is credited as being the godfather of the Miura. Lamborghini’s own website is conclusive on the matter, saying: “He took over from his contemporary Giorgetti Giugiaro at Bertone, designing the most popular Italian sports vehicles in 60s and 70s, including the famous Lamborghini Miura and Countach. Giugiaro would beg to differ, and in a 1996 interview with Classic & Sports Car magazine, he claimed: “Gandini took my sketches and finished the car – 70 percent of the design is mine.”

But Gandini blames Giugiaro for allowing doubts to linger for five decades. In a 2009 interview with Automotive News Europe, he said bluntly: “I did the Miura – and I did it alone – in just three months. Any alleged influence by [Giorgetto] Giugiaro in that car is simply not true. This misinterpretation of history first surfaced when the car was unveiled in 1966.”

Alfa Romeo Carabo

Alfa Romeo Carabo

The Alfa Romeo Carabo is a classic Gandini design. Unveiled in 1968, it championed the wedge shape at a time when sports cars featured smooth and flowing bodies. Stick the Carabo alongside a Miura, Toyota 2000GT or Jaguar E-Type and it’ll look like a car from another century, let alone the next decade. Chalk, meet cheese (wedge).

The shocked onlookers in attendance at the Porte de Versailles in Paris would not have known it at the time, but the experimental concept previewed the future of car design. It’s hard to believe that it was based on the voluptuous and alluring Alfa Romeo Tipo 33.

According to a Bertone press release, the Carabo was “a bold but aesthetically and functionally valid vision of the sporty car of the future. And the use of new materials and novel construction techniques means that this concept car was something more than just an exercise in styling.”

Lamborghini Marzal

Lamborghini Marzal

None other than LJK Setright described the Lamborghini Marzal as “perhaps the most extravagant piece of virtuoso styling to have come out of Europe since the war.” Road & Track agreed, labelling it “so fresh that everything else looks old fashioned.”

Strong praise indeed, but it’s not hard to see why the Marzal was, and remains, held in such high regard. The glazed gullwing doors are a standout feature, although Ferruccio Lamborghini famously objected to the design, complaining that they would “offer no privacy: a lady’s leg would be there for all to see.”

But there could be no such complaints about the rest of the car, including that mad louvred rear window. Sadly, the Marzal remained a one-off creation, and was sold at an RM Sotheby’s auction in 2011 for €1,512,000. Fortunately, its design inspired the styling of the next car on our list…

Lamborghini Espada

Lamborghini Espada

“Styling, of course, is always a personal matter, but you could call the Espada a classic of the sixties and a Bertone masterpiece not so much because of its sleek beauty but because of the extraordinary space utilisation contained within the low shape. At 104 inches its wheelbase is two inches shorter than the [Ferrari] GT/4s; it is shorter overall too, but nearly three inches wider and five inches lower.

“And yet it contains quite a deal more interior room – it is a full four-seater rather than a 2+2 and as such has unique attraction among the supercars.” The words of the esteemed motoring journalist, Mel Nichols, writing in Car, May 1974.

The Espada was created to satisfy Ferruccio Lamborghini’s desire to have a genuine four-seater GT car in his lineup, and the fact that it remained in production for a decade is testament to Gandini’s eye for design. That said, the Espada went through a series of changes before bowing out in 1978.

Autobianchi Runabout

Autobianchi Runabout

If the Autobianchi Runabout looks familiar, it’s probably because you spent your formative years kneeling down in your living room, smashing a Matchbox Speed Kings version into the skirting boards. The Bertone concept was first shown at the 1969 Turin Motor Show and used the engine from a Fiat 128.

The design was inspired by the racing powerboats of the 1960s, most notably the shape of the body and the windscreen, while the car is loaded with neat details, such as the headlights mounted on the rollbar.

According to Bertone: “The Runabout is an invitation to fun, stress-free travelling, evoking the sheer joy of driving in places where traffic is no more than a distant memory.” Places like your parents’ living room, then?

Fiat X1/9

Fiat X1/9

While the Runabout remained a one-off concept, it inspired one of the most successful sports cars of the 1970s. The Fiat X1/9 was the replacement for the Giugiaro-designed 850 Spider and it made its debut in November 1972.

Bertone handled the production of the bodies, which were shipped to Lingotto to enable Fiat to fit the engine and running gear. The influence of the Runabout is clear, albeit with added stiffness and safety protection to comply with American crash legislation.

Fiat was never shy of playing the ‘baby Ferrari’ card in its promotional messages. A press ad of 1983 said: “This 1498cc mid-engine machine is a design by Bertone, the same people who created the Ferrari GT4. Like the GT4, Fiat’s X1/9 looks, feels and drives like a true Italian sports car.”

Alfa Romeo Montreal

Alfa Romeo Montreal

Fate is a wonderful thing. This extraordinarily handsome Alfa Romeo was unveiled in concept form at Expo 67, before going on show as a production car in 1970. In 1967, the World Fair was held in Montreal, presenting Alfa with an evocative name for its V8 sports car. A year earlier, it would been Munich, while a year later it would have been San Antonio. Neither name has quite the same appeal as Montreal.

Location-inspired name aside, the Alfa Romeo Montreal is unquestionably one of Gandini’s finest achievements. Highlights include the slotted eyelid shutters over the headlights and the sliding shutters within the rear quarter panels.

Disputes in Milan meant that the Montreal didn’t arrive on these shores until 1972, a full 12 months behind schedule, but the delay did little to dilute the appetite for Alfa’s masterpiece.

Lancia Stratos HF Zero

Lancia Stratos HF Zero

In 2011, the one-off Lancia Stratos HF Zero sold for €761,600 at RM Sotheby’s Villa D’este auction. Officially, the car was labelled “Stratos HF”, but Nuccio Bertone wanted to call it “Stratolimite”, or “limit of the stratosphere”. After time, it would become known by its internal nickname of “Zero”.

There’s so much for the eyes to take in, like the ultrathin row of headlights backlit by ten 55w bulbs, or the flip-up windscreen, which you’d expect to open up to reveal the Pink Panther staring back at you.

At the back, you’ll find a pair of exhausts protruding out alongside the gearbox case, along with a rear light strip containing no fewer than 84 tiny bulbs. It looks and feels like a flight of fancy, and yet it influenced the design of one of the greatest sports cars of the 20th century.

Lancia Stratos

Lancia Stratos

The Lancia Stratos: a star of the road and track. From the outset, the Stratos was designed to build on the competition success of the Lancia Fulvia. Gandini worked alongside Sandro Munari (rally driver) and Cesare Fiorio (team boss), to develop a car in time for the 1974 season.

The result was a car with incredibly small dimensions, allowing it to corner with unbelievable speed and poise. In his book, Marcello Gandini: Maestro of Design, Gautam Sen suggests that Gandini looked at the wheelbase of the car’s two closest competitors as the starting point: the Alpine A110 and Porsche 911.

Once again, the Autobianchi Runabout is evident in the design, but the Stratos stands alone as a true great. Successful on the track and superbly packaged, yet its beauty appears to lie in its simplicity. A candidate for Gandini’s finest hour? Given that he worked on the body, chassis and the packaging, we think so.

BMW 5 Series (E12)

BMW 5 Series (E12)

The BMW 5 Series was the replacement for the long-running New Class (or Neue Klasse) of saloons dating back to the Michelotti-designed 1500 of 1961. Gandini’s 5 Series – internal code E12 – was a monumental leap forward, both in terms of how it looked and how it behaved on the road.

Bertone had worked with BMW since 1960 and first presented proposals for the new saloon in the late 60s. This was the all-new medium-size BMW for more than a decade and its launch coincided with Munich hosting the Olympic Games.

Lamborghini Urraco

Lamborghini Urraco

Lamborghini’s brief to Bertone and Gandini was simple: to design a cost-effective four-seater GT to cope with the oil crisis of the 1970s. The result was the Urraco, powered by a 2.5-litre V8, which was increased in size to 3.0 litres in 1974.

At the time, the Italian manufacturers were jockeying for position, keen to grab a slice of the junior supercar market. Ferrari had the Dino 308 GT4 (more on this in a moment), while Maserati had the Merak. All offered engines with less than 3.0 litres, but were of a similar size to their more powerful siblings.

Of the three, the Urraco is the least conservative from a styling perspective, but is certainly less wild than Gandini’s other creations.

Dino 308 GT4

Dino 308 GT4

How do you follow a car like the 246 GT? The answer, if your name is Marcello Gandini, is the Dino 308 GT4, which found itself up against one of his other creations: the Lamborghini Urraco.

No surprise, then, that the 308 GT4 doesn’t look too dissimilar to the Urraco, albeit with a little less flair and muscle. Cruelly, and without a thought for political correctness, Car claimed that its rear end looked “fiddly and unattractive, rather like a woman with a narrow, pinched backside.”

Things were different in the 70s, lad. But to our eyes at least, the 308 GT4 has aged better than donkey jackets, flares and hostess trolleys.

Lamborghini Countach

Lamborghini Countach

“Once again, designer Marcello Gandini managed to draw a fascinating, unconventional car that left everyone speechless,” says Lamborghini. We’re not going to wade into the debate over Gandini’s role in the design of the Miura – we don’t fancy a discussion with his lawyers – but there’s little doubt that the Countach is more Gandini than its predecessor.

Gandini said that he wanted people to be astonished when they first laid eyes on the car. Little wonder, then, that Lamborghini chose the Countach name, which is a Piedmontese expletive for “wow”.

The Countach is everything a supercar should be: otherworldly, impractical, inaccessible and prime bedroom-wall poster material.

Maserati Khamsin

Maserati Khamsin

Unveiled at the 1972 Turin Motor Show, the Maserati Khamsin was a radical departure from the Indy, which was first shown in 1969. It would be another two years before the Khamsin made production, but it was still available in 1982.

Its beautiful lines are matched by a surprising level of practicality, which extends to the spare wheel, which is located underneath the front grille. Other nods to common sense include the safety glass housing the rear light clusters, and the rubber inserts within the bumpers.

Renault 5 Turbo

Renault 5 Turbo

We have to credit Marc Deschamps for the overall design of the Renault 5 Turbo, but the back end was the work of Marcello Gandini.

This low-mileage example sold at an RM Sotheby’s auction in 2017 for €89,600.

Citroen BX

Citroen BX

The Citroen BX has its roots in the Gandini-designed Volvo Tundra concept of 1979. It shared its platform with the Volvo 343 and featured pop-up headlights, a digital dashboard and a Renault-sourced 1.4-litre engine. Sadly, Volvo canned the project and the Tundra never made it to production.

But the Tundra lived to fight another day, as Citroen asked Gandini to use elements from the concept in the design of the BX.

The great man even appeared in a television advert for the BX, in which he walks past a Countach as the narrator asks: “What does the Lamborghini designer drive to Lamborghini?” The answer, of course, was a Citroen BX.

Renault 5 Supercinq

Renault 5 Supercinq

Renault left it very late before launching the second-generation Renault 5, or Supercinq. The hugely successful R5 had enjoyed 12 years of continuous production before Renault unveiled the Supercinq in 1984, by which time it was jostling for position with a plethora of chic superminis.

Marcello Gandini succeeded in staying true to the original’s cheeky charm, while giving the new car a more 80s vibe. Underneath, the Renault 5 was entirely new, but the fresh design enabled the Supercinq to live on until the the middle of the 1990s.

Maserati Shamal

Maserati Shamal

The Maserati Shamal was a comprehensive overhaul of the Biturbo and the final car to be launched in the 80s. The styling was classic Gandini, complete with a pair of Countach-inspired rear wheelarches.

The interior was similarly exotic, but Maserati managed to shift just 369 examples of this 326hp supercar-tamer. That’s 369 people who know a good pair of arches when they see them.

Lamborghini Diablo

Lamborghini Diablo

With the success of the Countach, it was pretty obvious that Marcello Gandini would be contacted to work on its replacement. Lamborghini started working on the Diablo project in 1985, but it would be five years before it made its first public appearance.

The lineage was clear to see, although the Diablo was smoother and more rounded than the Countach, an approach far more in keeping with the trends of the time. Interestingly, although Gandini penned the original design, certain elements were changed following Chrysler’s takeover of Lamborghini in 1987.

Cizeta-Moroder V16T

Cizeta-Moroder V16T

Marcello Gandini’s vision for the Lamborghini Diablo lived on in the Cizeta V16T: the supercar penned by the Italian before Chrysler waded in with its soft-focus lens and smoothing iron. It’s dramatic, OTT, and has more in common with the Countach than the Diablo.

The 6.0-litre V12 supercar was built in Modena by a team of ex-Lamborghini employees, headed up by Claudio Zampolli, Giorgio Moroder and Marcello Gandini. The company had plans to build 100 cars per year, but when Moroder walked away from the project, taking his money with him, the project was doomed to failure. As a result, only nine Cizetas were built.

Bugatti EB110

Bugatti EB110

In 1991, exactly 110 years after the birth of Ettore Bugatti, the company launched the EB110. The supercar featured a quad-turbocharged V12 engine, permanent four-wheel drive and the world’s first carbon fibre chassis. The body, as you might have guessed, was designed by Gandini.

According to The Economic Times, the great man lives in a 17th century villa, located in the foothills of the mountains near Turin. In an interview with Car & Driver, Gandini was asked if he would have done anything differently. “As with most people, many,” was his response.

We doubt that would include the Lancia Stratos and the Countach’s rear wheelarch.

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Prodrive

Video: Prodrive’s amazing race and rally car collection

Prodrive

Prodrive has been building successful competition cars since 1984. The Banbury-based company is best known for its 19-year association with Subaru, which included three manufacturer titles in World Rallying. It’s now the official partner of Aston Martin Racing, competing in the World Endurance Championship with the Vantage GTE.

We paid a visit to Prodrive HQ to see its fantastic collection of classic race and rally cars. From the original Prodrive Porsche to a pair of Le Mans-winning Astons, join us for a guided tour.

Video: historic race and rally cars at Prodrive

Colin McRae’s Impreza WRC

Pride of place in reception goes to Colin McRae’s former company car. ‘N1 WRC’ took victory in the 1996 Catalunya Rally, sealing the manufacturers’ championship for Subaru that year. McRae went on to finish second in the drivers’ championship, behind arch-rival Tommi Mäkinen. 

In classic blue and yellow livery, the Group A Impreza is one of the most iconic rally cars ever. Subaru continued to use the colours even after its sponsorship deal with 555 – a Japanese cigarette brand – had ended.

Prodrive’s first rally car

Prodrive

Here’s where it all started for Prodrive: the Porsche 911 SC RS. Driven by Al Hajri, it won its first ever event, the 1984 Qatar Rally, then claimed the overall Middle East Rally Championship.  

In 1985, Billy Coleman piloted the Porsche to victory in the Irish Rally Championship, before trading it in for a Prodrive-fettled MG Metro 6R4 (see below).

The Group B brute

Prodrive

With its boxy bodykit and snowplough spoiler, the 6R4 looks like an escapee from the Barry Boys website. However, behind that steroid-pumped styling lurks a serious competition car, with a rear-mounted six-cylinder engine and four-wheel drive.

The Metro competed in the mid-1980s Group B class, which was outlawed after a series of high-profile accidents. Other famous – and much-loved – Group B racers include the Audi Quattro, Ford RS200, Lancia 037 and Peugeot 205 T16.

M3 takes on tarmac 

The original (E30) BMW M3 was a capable tarmac rally machine. This particular car won four rounds of the 1990 French Rally Championship in the hands of Francois Chatriot.

At the same time, Prodrive ran BMW’s British Touring Car Championship team – taking the M3 to three consecutive BTCC titles in 1988, 1989 and 1990. 

The first Prodrive Subaru

Prodrive

The fruitful and long-running partnership between Prodrive and Subaru began in 1990 with the Legacy RS. Note its distinctive white, green, pink and blue livery – used until the introduction of 555 sponsorship in 1993.

Both Colin McRae and Richard Burns drove this car in the British Rally Championship. McRae and the Legacy also took victory in the first ever round of the World Rally Championship, the 1993 Rally of New Zealand.

It’s the Mondeo, man

Prodrive

While Tony Blair was busy courting Mondeo Man, Ford’s family-favourite was conquering all-comers in the British Touring Car Championship. This Mondeo Super Tourer took the overall BTCC title in 2000, winning 11 out of 24 races.

For Touring Car fans, the Prodrive Mondeo is a poignant sight. The 2000 season marked the end of BTCC’s golden era, as new BTC Touring regulations introduced for 2001 saw manufacturer and spectator interest wane.

Safari special

Prodrive

Four years after McRae’s Catalunya clincher in the Type A, Richard Burns drove this Impreza WRC99 to victory in Kenya’s Safari Rally. Note the raised ride-height, knobbly tyres, stone guards and engine air-intake snorkel – all essential for tackling tough African terrain.

Richard Burns would win the World Rally Championship for Subaru in 2001. He tragically died from a brain tumour in 2005, aged just 34.

Maximum Mini

Prodrive

Prodrive took charge of the Mini team for the 2011 World Rally Championship. Interestingly, the car chosen was the five-door Mini Countryman, rather than the three-door Hatch. Its 1.6-litre turbocharged engine is modified for improved power and durability.

The Mini WRC is also available as an off-the-shelf customer car for wealthy rally enthusiasts. Perfect for making those Paddy Hopkirk dreams come true…

Le Mans legends

Here’s something you don’t see every day: two former Le Mans winners separated by a decade and parked side-by-side. On the left is the 2007 Aston Martin DBR9 and on the right, the 2017 Vantage GTE.

Elsewhere in the workshop, technicians were tinkering with the latest 2018 Vantage GTE – a likely front-runner in the World Endurance Championship.

Prodrive photo gallery

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Revealed: the 20 most satisfying cars to own

Revealed: the 20 most satisfying cars to own

Revealed: the 20 most satisfying cars to own

What’s the best car currently on sale in the UK? A car that you’d enjoy owning with low running costs, excellent practicality and a disinclination to go wrong? Auto Express magazine has asked owners to rate their cars in a wide range of areas, compiling a list of the best cars to own and live with.

Each car is given a percentage score, which is based on the average rating given by owners across 31 subject areas in nine different categories. As you’ll see, they’re all pretty close…

20: Toyota Auris

20: Toyota Auris

Score: 91.67%

It’s no surprise to see a Toyota feature here. Toyota and its sister brand Lexus regularly perform well in the Driver Power survey. They rarely go wrong, and owners really like them. The Auris is due to be replaced, yet it still ranks highly. It scores well for its engine and gearbox, being let down slightly by its interior and comfort.

19: Mazda CX-5

19: Mazda CX-5

Score: 91.82%

The Mazda CX-5 SUV looks great, is practical and is fun to drive. While owners generally like their CX-5s, some are disappointed with its fuel economy and running costs.

18: Volkswagen Golf

18: Volkswagen Golf

Score: 91.86%

The world loves a Vauxhall Golf. The ever-popular Mk7 Golf was given a facelift last year, which seems to have gone down well with owners. Like the CX-5, buyers would like to see better MPG, while practicality and space can also be a downside.

17: Kia Sportage

17: Kia Sportage

Score: 91.87%

You only need to look around on UK roads to see how successful the latest Sportage has been for Kia. Buyers think it looks good, while also rating its infotainment and in-car connectivity highly. Downsides? That’ll be the fuel economy and running costs. We spot a theme here.

16: Nissan Juke

16: Nissan Juke

Score: 91.98%

The Nissan Juke might have been around a long time, but owners love the crossover. It scores particularly highly for its exterior design, safety features and in-car infotainment. Impressively, only two percent of Juke owners responding to the survey have experienced any faults.

15: Nissan Micra

15: Nissan Micra

Score: 92.04%

The latest Nissan Micra is a huge improvement over its predecessor, and that’s reflected in the Driver Power results. It scores well across the board, with owners only slightly concerned with its running costs and reliability. Nearly one in five have reported issues with their Micras.

14: Toyota C-HR

14: Toyota C-HR

Score: 92.08%

You’ll love or hate the C-HRs appearance, but owners are unanimous: they think it looks great. They also rate its ride and handling, but aren’t so sure about the interior or infotainment. Worryingly, 29 percent report faults.

13: Mazda MX-5

13: Mazda MX-5

Score: 92.12%

With a 97.5 percent satisfaction rating for ride and handling, Mazda’s MX-5 scores the highest individual category rating in the survey. Buyers love their MX-5s, with it only being let down for its interior, comfort and practicality. No surprises there for anyone who’s driven one.

12: Honda CR-V

12: Honda CR-V

Score: 92.15%

We saw the new Honda CR-V at Geneva Motor Show. The outgoing model might have been around since 2012, but it still pleases owners. It excels in most categories, only being let down in areas where it’s beginning to show its age, such as infotainment and safety features.

11: Lexus IS

11: Lexus IS

Score: 92.19%

Like the Honda CR-V, Lexus IS owners are frustrated by the car’s dated technology. Fortunately, it scores well across most other categories, including its engine and running costs. Impressively, only 3.6 percent of owners report issues.

10: Skoda Octavia

10: Skoda Octavia

Score: 92.45%

No one’s going to be excited by the Skoda Octavia’s aesthetics, but that doesn’t stop it edging into the Driver Power top 10. Owners really like the Octavia, rating its reliability, engine and running costs highly.

9: Honda Civic

9: Honda Civic

Score: 92.50%

This is the first time the new Honda Civic has appeared in the Driver Power survey, coming in ninth place. Surprisingly, reliability appears to be an issue, with nearly one in 10 owners reporting issues – mainly with electronics.

8: Toyota Verso

8: Toyota Verso

Score: 92.83%

Launched in 2009, the Toyota Verso is the oldest car to appear in the Driver Power top 20. Only really being let down by its exterior design (and, to an extent, its engine and gearbox), the Verso scores extremely well across the board.

7: Kia Sorento

7: Kia Sorento

Score: 92.85%

There’s no fewer than three Kias in the top 20, proving the Korean firm continues to sell likeable, good-value vehicles. The latest Sorento achieves a 92.85 percent overall rating, with buyers particularly liking its practicality and build quality. Despite that, nearly a quarter have reported niggles.

6: Lexus NX

6: Lexus NX

Score: 92.90%

The Lexus NX is the best built car currently on sale in the UK, according to owners. If it wasn’t let down by its infotainment and running costs, the NX would be in the running for number one spot.

5: Lexus RX

5: Lexus RX

Score: 92.99%

The NX is pipped to the top five by the bigger Lexus RX. Surprisingly, the RX doesn’t score as highly as the NX for its build quality, but owners appreciate its infotainment system, keen engine and upmarket interior.

4: Toyota Prius

4: Toyota Prius

Score: 93.04%

If you’re after a reliable car, it’s generally a good idea to look at what taxi drivers choose to spend their money on. The hybrid Toyota Prius is rated for its fuel economy – unsurprisingly – as well as its running costs and safety features. Owners would like a bit more practicality.

3: Alfa Romeo Giulia

3: Alfa Romeo Giulia

Score: 93.06%

We’re into the top three now, and we’re a trifle surprised to see the Alfa Romeo Giulia appear here. It’s pipped rivals such as the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4, and if it scored better for reliability it’d be in an even stronger position. Incredibly, more than 40 percent of owners have reported faults – with electrics the most likely to go wrong.

2: Kia Niro

2: Kia Niro

Score: 93.07%

The final Kia to appear here just misses out on the number-one spot. Named by the survey as the most satisfying small SUV to own, Niro owners report that they like its user-friendly stereo and touchscreen infotainment system. They hybrid powertrain is a bit of a let-down, unfortunately.

1: Peugeot 3008

1: Peugeot 3008

Score: 93.88%

To number one… and the most satisfying new car to own is the Peugeot 3008, according to the Driver Power survey. If you’ve sat in its cabin you’ll understand why owners love the comfort on offer, while reliability is also excellent. It scores highly for safety – reflecting its five-star Euro NCAP safety rating – while only the engine and running costs are a slight disappointment.

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1968 Chevrolet Camaro SS 396

The hottest Chevy muscle cars to buy – that aren’t Camaros

1968 Chevrolet Camaro SS 396The collector car specialists at Hagerty have identified the top five Chevy muscle cars that aren’t Camaros.

For many, the first-generation Camaro is the apex predator of the muscle car world. Lightweight, easy on the eyes, and available with a variety of high performance options, the Camaro ruled the roads when it was new and was the envy of every high school parking lot for years after.

As a collectible today, Chevy’s pony car is a popular sight in magazines, movies, and car shows. Special editions like the Z/28 or RS/SS (above) are fiercely fought over at auction, and even shockingly rough plain Jane examples still command top dollar.

Chevy made muscle cars other than the Camaro, however, both before and after the first generation’s reign from 1967 to 1969. These are the top five.

1965 Chevelle Malibu SS 396 Z16

1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Z16

Average value: $129,000

The Pontiac GTO debuted in 1964 and changed the world forever. It was a lightweight, midsize car that packed a powerful, full-size V8 under the hood, and is often seen to be the first true muscle car.

Chevy offered no competition until the late 1965 model year, when option RPO Z16 became available. It offered a 396 cubic-inch engine with 375 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, paired with the stronger box frame of the convertible. Only 201 examples were built, and only one of those was a convertible.

1968 Impala SS 427

1968 Chevrolet Impala SS 427

Average value: $37,300

Muscle cars ruled the streets by 1967, and almost every Detroit manufacturer had a midsize model with a big block engine on offer.

The full-size Impala was no slouch, however, and could be had with 427 cubic inches under the hood, producing 385 horsepower.

In 1968, Chevy offered the L72 version of the 427 in the Impala. Its iron block and solid lifters produced 425 horsepower.

1,778 Impala SS 427s were produced in 1968, with just 568 receiving the L72 option.

1968 Nova SS 396

1969 Chevrolet Nova SS

Average value: $32,200

Chevy’s value-minded Nova was redesigned for 1968, and its larger size meant that a big block engine could fit up front. Enter the SS 396.

The lightweight car was cheaper than a Camaro, but could be had with 325 horsepower form the L35 396 cubic inch engine, or 350 horses from the L34. Even more prized, both then and now, is the solid-lifter L78 version with 375 horsepower on tap.

Just 667 L78-equipped Novas were built for 1968.

1969 Chevelle COPO 9562

1969 Chevrolet Chevelle COPO

Average value (Yenko): $215,000

The Chevelle SS 396 was the hot model for 1969, but savvy buyers could opt for the Central Office Production Order (COPO) version with a 427 under the hood, assuming the dealer knew such a model existed.

COPO vehicles were specially equipped for fleet service like in police and fire departments. Dealers in the know, like the famed Don Yenko in Pennsylvania, could subvert the program to order high-performance upgrades on customer cars, creating some of the rarest and most coveted muscle cars of all time.

Most of the 323 Chevelles with the 427 option are unmarked, except for 99 with the Yenko S/C badging.

1970 Chevelle SS 454 LS6

1970 Chevrolet Chevlle SS

Average value: $98,300

Chevy’s big block ballooned to 454 inches in 1970, the same year the Chevelle received a redesign. The powerful new shape was accented in SS trim by racing stripes on the hood and trunk.

Different versions of the 454 were offered, but it was the LS6 with 450 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque that made the history books. Performance additions like a Muncie four-speed close-ratio gearbox could be ordered, along with a cowl induction hood and limited-slip 4.10:1 rear axle.

The LS6 could launch the Chevelle to sixty mph in a hair over five seconds, and to a quarter mile time in the mid-thirteens.

4,475 LS6 Chevelles were built in 1970.

Suzuki Swift Sport

2018 Suzuki Swift Sport first drive: punchy hot hatch lacks fizz

Suzuki Swift Sport

It’s funny how a relatively low-powered warm hatch can be one of the most hyped cars of 2018. The new Suzuki Swift Sport has a lot to live up to; both its predecessors have punched well above their weight, attracting a niche following of enthusiasts looking for a new car more akin to old-school hot hatches than the Nurburgring-record-breaking hyper hatches of today.

The formula for the new Swift Sport has changed slightly. Suzuki’s finally given in to the downsized, turbo’d engine trend, replacing the 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated unit of its predecessor with a four-cylinder 1.4-litre turbo. Like the standard Swift, it’s quite dramatically different to the old car and, as we’re fans of the cooking-spec model, we’d been looking forward to a drive in the Sport.

First impressions

Aesthetically, the Sport looks much like the regular car. There’s an exclusive Champion Yellow colour (one of six paint options available), along with a more aggressive front bumper, splashes of fake carbon fibre and a honeycomb grille. A subtle rear spoiler adds to the sporty appearance, as do twin exhaust tailpipes. It’s also lower and wider than the standard Swift.

To our eyes, it’s quite a handsome thing – but reaction on social media suggests we might be alone here. The sporty touches have done a commendable job of beefing up a rather cutesy-looking supermini and, while the yellow of our test car won’t be to everyone’s taste, we reckon it suits it well.

First seat

Suzuki Swift Sport

This isn’t a premium offering, and that’s clear as soon as you sit inside – much like the standard Swift, really. There’s not much in the way of soft-touch materials but, as with the exterior, there are various sporty touches. Red accents brighten up the dash, while sports seats with red stitching and plenty of support strike the right balance of comfort and being aesthetically pleasing.

Although you sit slightly high – a common trait of small hot hatches – a good driving position is easy to find. There’s no three-door option this time, so access to the rear is straightforward. You probably wouldn’t want to carry adult-sized rear-seat passengers regularly, though.

There’s a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system fitted as standard in the centre of the dash. This provides access to sat nav, DAB radio, Android Auto and Apple Carplay. It works perfectly well, being intuitive to use, but we favour Apple Maps over the car’s slightly slow in-built nav.

First drive

Suzuki Swift Sport

Let’s tackle the thorny issue of the engine. Suzuki couldn’t stick with the old 1.6-litre, high-revving and naturally-aspirated engine that we loved in the old Swift Sport. Like practically every other car manufacturer, it’s had little option but to go the downsized, turbocharged route, opting for the 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol used in the Vitara S crossover.

Is it disappointing? Yes and no. Little effort is needed to keep the engine in its power band. In fact, on the twisty roads of the Costa del Sol where the car was launched, we usually found it best left in third gear. Peak torque is reached between 2,500rpm and 3,500rpm, meaning you can usually rely on it to accelerate out of bends or up hills without having to drop down a gear.

But most buyers are enthusiasts. If you buy this instead of a more powerful rival such as the Ford Fiesta ST, you probably don’t mind working the gearbox hard and holding onto revs to extract the best out of the engine. If you try to drive in that style, though, you’ll soon find yourself nudging the 6,400rpm limiter and getting frustrated with a harsh, grating noise that appears if you lift off at high revs. We wondered if our test car was broken, but other reviewers noted the same irritant.

Oh, and then there’s the gearbox. It’s fine – a six-speed manual (no auto will be offered), and an evolution of the ’box found in the previous model. It’s just not as precise as we’d like, and you’re likely to miss gears if you attempt to rush changes. And while we’re having a moan, the exhaust note, although moderately sporty, isn’t exactly thrilling.

We’re ambivalent about the powertrain, then, but surely it has a card up its sleeve in the form of its handling – right? Well, it certainly has a lovely chassis. We’d be keen to try it on the bumpy roads of the UK, but our first impressions suggest the ride quality is exceptional, while the car is eager to tuck into bends. Even if you try to provoke it by braking hard into a turn, its rear end will obediently follow the front.

You’ve probably sensed there’s another caveat. And that’s the steering. A variable-ratio setup, the response increases as you begin to turn the wheel. And it feels a bit odd. As such, the car is quite hard to place as you enter a bend – you’re never entirely sure if it’s going to dramatically understeer or if it’s got more grip in reserve. Usually it’s the latter, but the steering always used to be a highlight of the old model. Not any more.

First verdict

Suzuki Swift Sport

If you’re a normal person looking for a likeable, Japanese supermini with a bit of poke, the Swift Sport’s absolutely fine. But traditional Swift Sport buyers aren’t normal people. They’re part of unique breed of petrolheads who favour lightweight cars that provide fun at sensible speeds. The Swift Sport has always catered well for them, and this new model just doesn’t excel in any of the areas buyers will want it to.

We’ve also avoided mentioning the price so far. During our day driving the Swift Sport, Suzuki was holding back from telling us how much it was going to cost. The old model started at £13,749, and we expected this one to be priced closely to the £13,750 Volkswagen Up GTI. For this kind of money, some of the Swift Sport’s faults could be overlooked on an ‘at least it’s cheap’ basis.

As Suzuki announced a £17,999 price tag in the press conference following our drive, there was an audible gasp in the room. This is not an £18,000 car. The new Fiesta ST, due later this year, will pack 200hp and is expected to come in at less than £20,000. Perhaps considerably less than £20,000. A five-door Mini Cooper can be had for £18,040.


Fortunately for Suzuki, few people care about the list price in 2018. It’s all about the monthly payments – and the firm’s accountants are aiming for £249 a month with no deposit, making it easier to stomach. Suzuki also points to its high standard spec – you really could buy a Swift Sport and not have to tick any options boxes. A Mini would need a few grand of options to bring it up to the same level.

Even taking prices out of the equation, though, the new Swift Sport is an easy car to like but a difficult one to love. And that’s frustrating, as we really wanted to love it. Its engine is fine, as is its interior – and the handling’s pretty good. But ‘fine’ and ‘pretty good’ won’t cut it with traditional Swift Sport buyers, especially as they’re now being asked to fork out close to proper hot hatch money.

Verdict: 3 stars

Rivals

Mini Cooper

Abarth 595

Ford Fiesta ST

Peugeot 208 GTI

Volkswagen Polo GTI

Specifications

Price: £17,999

Engine: 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo

Power: 140hp

Torque: 170lb ft

0-62mph: 8.1 seconds

Top speed: 130mph

Fuel economy: 47.1mpg

Length/width/height: 3,890/1,735/1,495mm

Boot space (seats up/down): 265/579 litres

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New car sales lot

EU new car sales fall for the first time in 4 years

New car sales lotThe growing pressures throughout the European car industry have been highlighted by March 2018 new car registration figures that show the first March fall in four years. 5.3 percent fewer cars were sold across Europe than in 2017.

The biggest decline was, of course, in the UK, where March registrations plunged 15.7 percent. But the big markets of Italy and Germany were also down, by 5.8 percent and 3.4 percent respectively.

The only large markets to grow were France and Spain, by 2.2 percent and 2.1 percent.

Despite the declines, European new car registrations are still marginally up in 2018, but the market remains under pressure – which is being felt particularly acutely by some big-name brands. Ford is down 15.7 percent across Europe in the first three months of 2018, and Nissan is down 11 percent.

Opel/Vauxhall has been amalgamated into the PSA Group, so its 11 percent decline has been hidden in the figures. This is why PSA Group’s overall figures are up a hefty 65.9 percent – and, thanks to a strong performance by Peugeot and Citroen, it would be even better, if its new acquisition from GM hadn’t declined…

Jaguar Land Rover has recorded a worrying 16.5 percent thus far in 2018, with Jaguar down 10.9 percent and Land Rover an alarming 19.2 percent: that’s around 10,000 fewer high-value Land Rovers delivered in Europe so far this year.

Other premium brands are weathering the storm a little better. Audi is down 3.1 percent, BMW is down 2.8 percent and Mercedes-Benz is actually up marginally, by 1 percent.

The region’s biggest car brand is also outperforming the market. Volkswagen Group sales so far in 2018 are up 5.4 percent, to almost 1 million cars – helped by a strong performance at Seat and Skoda, and the improving fortunes of the Volkswagen brand itself.

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera badge

The new Aston Martin DBS Superleggera revives a retro nameplate

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera badgeAston Martin first used the DBS name back in 1967. It revived it in 2007. Now, for 2018, it’s back for a third time – adorning a car Aston describes as a range-topping super-GT.   

It’s not just any old DBS, either. It’s an Aston Martin DBS Superleggera, the famed moniker of Italian styling house Touring. It designed the Aston Martin DB4, DB5 and original DB6; Touring’s famed ‘superlight’ branding is now back on the bonnet of an Aston Martin.

And although the Gaydon firm isn’t saying much at this stage, needless to say the new DBS Superleggera will offer just that – a generous helping of superlight tech. It will also have “the highest levels of performance, craftmanship and design”.

Aston Martin chief creative officer Marek Reichman said: “When you hear the name DBS Superleggera, you know what it is. It’s the definitive Aston Martin Super GT.

“It’s an icon, a statement and this one will be no different. We’ve pushed the boundaries of performance and design to give this car a distinct character and ensure it’s worthy of the heritage and weight that this name carries.”

Reichman’s focus on the word ‘super GT’ is significant: it suggest Aston Martin has new plans for the future Vanquish, which to date has been its top-line GT car. Some are suggesting it could even become a mid-engined supercar in the future.

Before it went out of business in 1966, Aston worked frequently with Milan’s Touring. Aston intended it to produce the replacement for the DB6, but only two prototypes were finished before it went bust. Aston designer William Towns used these as the basis for the new car – the DBS.

The original DBS is notable for being the last Aston Martin developed under the control of then Aston Martin company owner David Brown – he of ‘DB’ fame.

We’ll find out more about the new DBS Superleggera in the second quarter of 2018, confirms Aston.

2018 Ford Mustang

The Ford Mustang is the best-selling coupe in the world – again

2018 Ford MustangGlobal car sales data has confirmed the Ford Mustang is the best-selling coupe in the world, for the third straight year. In 2017, Ford sold 125,809 Mustangs in 146 different countries worldwide. 

Analyst IHS Markit has compiled the data, which it says captures around 95 percent of all car sales across the globe. No other sports coupe on the planet comes close. 

The 2017 total means Ford has sold a staggering 418,000 examples of the current Mustang since it was launched in 2015. The latest car is the first truly global Mustang in the car’s five-decade history, and is proving to be a runaway success. 

“The world is falling in love with the Mustang,” said Erich Merkle, a sales analyst at Ford. 

According to Ford’s own sales data, 81,866 Mustangs were sold in North America last year. In other words, one in three Mustang registrations was an export car, with particularly strong markets including China. With sales of 7,125 last year, the Mustang was the best-selling coupe there, too. 

Making the Mustang global means more sales are being made to women. “Sports cars have traditionally skewed towards male buyers in the United States,” says Ford, but “Ford research shows a 10 percent gain in women buying Mustang in the last five years”. 

Of course, Ford sells the Mustang in two flavours, the 2.3-litre four-cylinder Ecoboost and the full-fat 5.0-litre V8. Which version sells best globally?

2018 Ford Mustang

Why, the 5.0-litre V8 Mustang GT, of course…