Lego Bugatti Chiron

You could catch a life-size Lego Bugatti at a London shopping centre

Lego Bugatti Chiron

The only thing that’s more amazing than an actual Bugatti Chiron is a life-size model of one made out of Lego Technic. Well, they made one, and it’s going to be on display at the Westfield shopping centres and Bluewater.

We built our very own Lego Bugatti Chiron, albeit a one-eighth scale one, in our office. Watch the video here.

The working 1,000,000-piece model made its debut in the UK alongside a real 1,500hp Chiron at the H.R. Owen Bugatti dealer in Mayfair. The establishment is the only place in the UK where customers can consult directly on the latest Bugatti product.

Lego Bugatti Chiron

In this case, it’s the Lego Chiron, though production is at the very best unlikely…

The Lego car doesn’t offer quite the same level of performance as the real thing. In contrast to the 1,500hp and 261mph capability of the real car, the model packs 5.3hp and will top a heady 18mph.

What powers it? Rather brilliantly, 2,304 Lego Power Functions motors. These are connected to a steel chain, which then drives the shaft at the rear wheels.

So the Lego Bugatti is a rear-wheel-drive Chiron, rather than all-wheel-drive…

Now, the Chiron twins are embarking on something of a tour. Having made their way from H.R. Owen to the Savoy Hotel, they’re heading out to Westfield London, Westfield Stratford and finally Bluewater in Dartford.

Where to see the Lego Technic Bugatti Chiron

  • 1 Nov: Westfield London, outside Sheperd’s Bush Tube Station, 4006 Ariel Way, Shepherd’s Bush, London W12 7GF, 10am – 10pm
  • 3 Nov: Westfield Stratford, Second Floor outside M&S, Olympic Park, Montfichet Rd, London E20 1EJ, 9am – 9pm
  • 8 Nov: Bluewater Shopping Centre, Second floor Upper Plaza Car Park, Bluewater Pkwy, Dartford, Greenhithe DA9 9ST 12 noon – 9pm

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Breadvan

The company that built the Tesla Estate is building a new Ferrari Breadvan

Breadvan

Niels van Roij Design, the company that brought us the coach-built Tesla Model S Shooting Brake, is working on a homage to the iconic Ferrari 250 Breadvan.

A distinguished customer approached the coach-builder with his desire to pay tribute to the Breadvan.

The build process is yet to begin, with consultation between the coach-builder and the client ongoing. The company stated it would post weekly updates on the progress of the project starting on October 19th.

The Giotto Bizzarrini-designed machine was originally a response to the then-new factory GTO based on the ageing 250 Short Wheel Base. In latter-day historic racing, the unique Breadvan has become something of an icon, putting in plenty of winning appearances at Goodwood, Silverstone and beyond.

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There’s no word on what car the build will be based on. Logically, a modern Ferrari V12 fits the bill. The FF and GTC4 certainly have the shape for it. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume one of these will be hitting the operating table at Niels van Roij Design over the coming months.

“We see it as a great privilege that we can honour the Breadvan through this homage commission,” says Van Roij.

“It is a complex task to translate the essence of the legendary original into a contemporary design. We intend to be inspired by the original, but will ensure we are not limited by it in our creativity.”

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Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4MATIC+ at the Nurburgring

Four-door Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S is world’s fastest four-seater around the Nurburgring

Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4MATIC+ at the NurburgringThe Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4MATIC+ four-door has set a new Nurburgring lap record with a time of 7 minutes 25.41 seconds. The record? Fastest production four-seater ever.

But… hold on a minute, you’re thinking: didn’t the Jaguar XE SV Project 8 run a time of 7 minutes 21.23 seconds around this time last year? And that’s a four-door, right?

Yes indeed, Project 8 is a four-door. But not a four-seater. And it’s on this technicality that Mercedes-Benz is claiming the AMG GT four-door… er, four-seater record.

It’s going to remain all very confusing right up until Jaguar launches a track-pack Project 8 with two ultra-lightweight rear seats…

Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4MATIC+ at the Nurburgring

The Mercedes driver was former racer and AMG development engineer Demian Schaffert. Watch his progress in the video below. Better still, turn up your speakers or have a headphones moment, because this one’s well worth listening to.

As a reminder, the new four-door AMG GT 63 S 4MATIC+ is a 639hp turbo V8, with active rear steering, electronically controlled rear diff lock and optional Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2 tyres.

How do we know all this? Because the lap time, and the specification of the car, was “certified by an independent notary public”. It might not quite be the quickest four-door, but surely it’s the only one to have a qualified lawyer overseeing its record run?

Watch: Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S sets Nurburgring record

FCA probe into car insurance industry

Car insurance industry to face FCA probe

FCA probe into car insurance industry

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is to investigate how customers are charged for their car and home insurance after initial research identified “potential consumer harm”.

General insurance (GI) represents a key part of the UK economy, generating over £78 billion in premium for UK insurers. Most UK adults (82 percent) have one or more GI products, with home and motor insurance the most commonly held policies.

But the FCA is concerned that consumers might be overcharged for their cover, with policies affected by a customer’s age, loyalty, postcode, marital status, employment and whether they are online.

Access to a computer is important leading up to the date of the renewal, as shopping around for alternative quotes can save policyholders hundreds of pounds.

Sticking with an existing provider can often lead to so-called ‘price walking’, with the cost of cover increasing every year, eventually making the policy more expensive than for a new customer. More costly for the consumer and more profits for the insurance provider.

The market study will give the FCA a deeper understanding of the scale of the problem, who it affects and what needs to be done in order to improve matters.

‘Potential consumer harm’

Andrew Bailey, FCA chief executive, said: “Our initial work has identified a number of areas of potential consumer harm. We want to make sure that general insurance markets deliver competitive and fair prices for all consumers.

“This market study will help us examine the outcomes from general insurance pricing practices and inform how, if necessary, we should intervene to improve the market.

“If change is needed to make the market work well for consumers, we will consider all possible remedies to achieve this.”

Tackling the loyalty penalty

Car insurance

In response, Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, commented: “We knew insurance companies were penalising loyal customers, but it is shocking that the FCA has found many companies don’t even seem to have oversight of how much they’re charging customers.

“The insurance industry has said they want to tackle the loyalty penalty – but it’s hard to see how they can achieve this when companies don’t even have these basics in place.

“The FCA is treating the loyalty penalty seriously by conducting this review and scrutinising firms through a market study. We now expect strong regulatory action to stamp out this problem and enforcement against firms who are overcharging loyal customers.

“This is symbolic of a wider issue across essential markets like mortgages, broadband, mobile and savings. The Competition and Markets Authority needs to look very carefully at this as they respond to our super-complaint on the loyalty penalty.”

The study will focus on the following key areas:

  • The consumer outcomes from pricing practices
  • The fairness of outcomes from pricing practices
  • The impact of pricing practices on competition
  • Remedies to address any harm that the FCA finds

People ‘are being ripped off’

Georgie Frost, consumer advocate at GoCompare said: “We welcome any investigation into this area because clearly something isn’t right and people feel they are being ripped off.

“Clearer rules and regulations will be better for everyone because we can’t have a system where it is the most vulnerable that are the hardest hit. Equally, some people who can switch aren’t doing so and we need to find out why and make sure they are fully engaged.

“It’s well-known that loyalty doesn’t pay when it comes to insurance. Just a glance at the feedback we receive from our customers shows that you can save hundreds of pounds on a policy without compromising cover.

The FCA is seeking input on the issues outlined in the market study by 3 December 2018 and will publish an interim report in summer 2019. The final report will be published by the end of 2019.

zombie cars

Zombie cars: the dead motors Brits are still buying

dead cars

Halloween is upon us and CarGurus has got us thinking about cars that are no longer with us, but still enjoy a healthy customer base. It has dubbed them ‘zombie cars’, models that are out of production but remain prolific in the secondhand market.

The market-leading zombie cars, according to official data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), include the Land Rover Freelander, Jaguar X-Type, Vauxhall Vectra and Toyota Corolla.

The former two offer a good-value entrance into a pair of premium brands, even though the X-Type was hardly received warmly when new. The Vectra was pretty forgettable too, but clearly has attributes that used car buyers find appealing.

Of the latter Toyota, as we’ve reported previously, the famous nameplate is soon to come back from the dead. Don’t be scared: the new British-built car is pretty and promising. 

What about other bygone models? In the case of Saab, try bygone marque. CarGurus have found that the 9-3, sold between 1998 and 2010, remains a highly popular model in the used market, despite the fact Saab (or, rather, the firm’s administrators) shut up shop six years ago.

dead cars

Popular too is the old Peugeot 206. The staple French hatch on sale between 1998 and 2006 is part of the backbone of the budget driver’s market. Peugeot sold so many, finding parts these days isn’t hard, and you generally won’t have to spend a fortune to fix it. Insurance is surprisingly affordable too, thanks to low insurance group ratings. 

“These zombie cars might no longer be in production, but our research shows they remain hugely popular,” said Chris Knapman, Editor at CarGurus.

“As you’d expect, there are models to suit a variety of requirements and budgets.” And all of them prove zombies are anything but scary for many a bargain-hunting British car buyer.

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History of Volvo estates

A history of Volvo estate cars

History of Volvo estates

For many years, Volvo estate cars have been synonymous with green wellies, Labradors and the good life. Indeed, a 145 was the choice of wheels for Jerry and Margo in the hit BBC TV series, The Good Life.

So, hot on the heels of the launch of the new V60 Cross Country, we take a nostalgic look back at a history of Volvo estates.

Volvo PV445 Duett – 1953

History of Volvo estates

From 1949 to 1953, the PV445 formed the basis for small lorries, vans and estate cars, all of which were available through independent coachbuilders. In 1953, the PV445 Duett was introduced – a car widely regarded as the godfather of all Volvo estates. It was one of the first Volvos to be exported to the US and was even immortalised on its own Swedish postage stamp.

Volvo P210 Duett – 1960

History of Volvo estates

The P210 Duett was introduced in 1960 and was essentially a continuation of the PV445 Duett. Times were changing, and although the P210 was available as a van or estate, the popularity of coachbuilt special editions was in decline. Production of the P210 continued until 1969, with sales focused on Nordic markets.

Volvo Amazon – 1962

History of Volvo estates

While the P210 enjoyed success in Nordic countries, the P220 – or Amazon – would become Volvo’s international bright young thing. Unlike Volvo estates of old, the Amazon wasn’t based on a delivery van and was more elegant as a result. It was practical, stylish and rather nice to drive.

Volvo 145 – 1967

History of Volvo estates

In 1967, Volvo launched the car that would lay the foundations for one of the most iconic shapes in the automotive world. The 145 was the estate version of the 140 Series and featured a near-vertical tailgate. At launch, the 145 featured a split in the rearmost side window, but this disappeared in 1970.

Volvo 1800 ES – 1971

History of Volvo estates

The 1800 ES was a shooting brake version of the beautiful P1800 coupe. It arrived in 1971 and featured an extended roofline and a profile reminiscent of an estate. Now, 1800 ownership was open to more people, with the ES offering four seats, a sizeable boot and decent levels of performance. Sadly, the 1800 ES died in 1973 – a victim of American safety legislation.

Volvo 245 – 1974

History of Volvo estates

Is this the archetypal Volvo estate car? Absolutely. Launched in 1974, the 245 would live on until 1993, by which time it had cemented itself as the favourite amongst soccer moms and the middle classes. In 1981, the 245 Turbo became one of the fastest estate cars in the world, and the first to be fitted with a turbocharged engine.

Volvo 265 – 1975

History of Volvo estates

The Volvo 265 was the more upmarket version of the 245, fitted with a more powerful six-cylinder engine. It would enjoy a 10-year production life, offered with both 2.6- and 2.8-litre engines.

Volvo 66 – 1975

History of Volvo estates

In the mid-seventies, Volvo took total control of DAF Car BV, and the first car to benefit from the change in ownership was the DAF 66. In 1975, it became the Volvo 66, featuring rear-wheel-drive and the famous Variomatic continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Volvo VCC – 1980

History of Volvo estates

In 1980, Volvo launched its VCC experimental vehicle. The VCC – or Volvo Concept Car – was built to test concepts in the fields of energy and consumption and was equipped with monitors in place of a traditional dashboard. The VCC was a test bed for the 760, which would arrive in saloon form just two years later.

Volvo 260 – 1983

History of Volvo estates

The Volvo 260 of 1983 was the result of little more than a badge-changing strategy, with the 265 becoming the 260. The Volvo 264 was replaced by the 760 GLE in 1982, but with the estate version still three years off, the five-door 260 estate remained in production until 1985.

Volvo LCP Concept – 1983

History of Volvo estates

If the Volvo LCP 2000 had the whiff of fish and chips, this was no coincidence. The LCP – or Light Component Project – was Volvo’s vision of a lightweight and fuel-efficient car of the new millennium. It was fitted with a choice of engines, including a 1.4-litre unit that could run on rapeseed oil – hence the smell of Britain’s favourite takeaway.

Volvo 740/760 – 1985

History of Volvo estates

The Volvo 760 GLE was powered by a 2.8-litre ‘Douvrin’ engine it shared with Renault and Peugeot, but customers were given the option of four-cylinder turbocharged and six-cylinder diesel units. Unlike Volvos of old, the 4 and 6 in 740 and 760 no longer referred to four- or six-cylinder versions. Instead, the ‘6’ was the more luxurious of the two.

Volvo 940/960 – 1990

History of Volvo estates

The 940 was introduced in 1990 and was – along with the S90/V90 – the last rear-wheel-drive Volvo to be built. The 960 was the more upmarket of the 900 range and was offered with a new aluminium 24-valve six-cylinder engine.

Volvo 850 – 1993

History of Volvo estates

The 850 estate was unveiled in February 1993, two years after the launch of the 850 saloon. This was a significant car for Volvo, not least because it heralded the dawn of a new front-wheel-drive future for the brand. It was the first car in the world to offer a side-impact protection system (SIPS).

Volvo 850 T5-R – 1994

History of Volvo estates

Keen to shake off its staid and dependable image, Volvo turned to Porsche for help. The Stuttgart company assisted with the engine tuning, transmission and interior of the 850 T5-R, helping it to a top speed limited to 155mph. The ultimate Q-car, assuming you didn’t tick the box marked Cream Yellow paint.

Volvo 850 BTCC – 1994

History of Volvo estates

This is without doubt one of the most famous racing cars of all time. The Volvo 850 BTCC car was the first factory-entered racing estate car and it made its debut at Thruxton in April 1994.

Volvo V40 – 1995

History of Volvo estates

The V40 – mechanically identical to the S40 – arrived in 1995. Not to be confused with the current Volvo V40, this was a compact estate car built at the Nedcar factory in the Netherlands. The S40/V40 was actually based on the same platform as the Mitsubishi Carisma, meaning it is also related to the Proton Impian.

Volvo 850R –1996

History of Volvo estates

When it was launched in 1996, the 246hp 850R was the fastest and most powerful Volvo ever produced. Unlike the 850 T5-R, the 850R was not a limited-edition model and it is thought that between 5,000 and 7,000 were actually built. A future classic in the making.

Volvo V70 – 1996

History of Volvo estates

In 1996, the Volvo 850 seamlessly morphed into the V70, retaining its now familiar near-vertical tailgate. It may have been based on the 850, but the V70 spawned a few rather special editions…

Volvo V70 XC – 1997

History of Volvo estates

In 1997, Volvo introduced the X70 XC, which would later become the XC70. Alongside Audi and its Allroad model, Volvo pioneered the premium 4×4 estate car segment, combining the on-road dynamics of an estate with the off-road capabilities of an SUV.

Volvo V70R – 1997

History of Volvo estates
The V70 XC was developed off the back of the all-wheel-drive Volvo V70R. Up to 300hp was available, depending on the model year, with AWD tech successfully managing to harness the potential of that glorious five-cylinder engine. The 90s was a golden decade for fast Volvo wagons.

Volvo V90 – 1997

History of Volvo estates

Although it featured some new interior and exterior colours, the original V90 of 1997 was little more than a badge-engineering exercise, designed to bring the 960 in line with the new model-name strategy. Just over 9,000 of these six-cylinder estate cars were built between 1997 and 1998.

Volvo PCC2 – 2001

History of Volvo estates

Could this be the best looking Volvo estate car never built? The PCC2 – or Performance Concept Car 2 – was introduced at the 2001 Frankfurt Motor Show and featured a 300hp five-cylinder engine and a trick suspension system. The V70-based concept was finished in Laser Blue.

Volvo ACC 2 – 2002

History of Volvo estates

Another year, another concept car. According to Volvo, the Adventure Concept Car 2 (ACC 2) provided a “glimpse into the future of extreme winter transportation” and featured studded tyres and GPS-controlled headlights, which would automatically adjust for left- or right-hand-drive traffic conditions. The interior was said to be inspired by the Swedish Ice Hotel and the Swiss Army Knife.

Volvo V50 – 2003

History of Volvo estates

The V50 was the replacement for the V40 and it shared its platform with the Ford Focus and the Mazda 3. Highlights included the availability of all-wheel drive and a five-cylinder 2.5-litre engine. It also featured Volvo’s signature ‘floating console’ centre stack.

Volvo V50 SV Concept – 2004

History of Volvo estates

This was the first Volvo to be built by the firm’s Special Vehicle department in Gothenburg and it made its debut at the 2004 SEMA trade show in Las Vegas. It was designed to appeal to a younger audience, with its 2.5-litre engine developing an eye-watering 340hp. Other tweaks included a 12mm lower ride height, AP Racing brakes and race-bred Pirelli tyres.

Volvo XC70 AT Concept – 2005

History of Volvo estates

A year later, Volvo unveiled the XC70 AT Concept. It featured a 408hp 2.5-litre engine, a six-speed automatic transmission and – as is probably obvious from the photo – all-wheel drive. The air suspension could see the ride height increased by as much as eight inches compared with the standard XC70.

Volvo XC70 Surf Rescue Concept – 2007

History of Volvo estates

Inspired by the surf vehicles of the Californian coast, the XC70 Surf Rescue Concept was another SEMA show special. With its 20-inch wheels and 3.2-litre six-cylinder engine, this thing was perfect for would-be Pamela Andersons across the world. A neat idea, but if Volvo ruled the world, we doubt anyone would ever find themselves in danger on the beach.

Volvo V60 – 2011

History of Volvo estates

In many ways, the V60 flied in the face of Volvo’s estate car heritage, majoring on style and performance, as opposed to outright practicality. That said, with the V70, XC60 and XC90 in the range, you’d forgive Volvo for introducing what was essentially an alternative to a large hatchback.

Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid – 2013

History of Volvo estates

This was the world’s first diesel plug-in hybrid, combining 48g/km of CO2 with a claimed 155.2mpg. The combination of a 215hp five-cylinder diesel engine and a 70hp electric motor earned it the right to wear a D6 badge.

Volvo V60 Polestar – 2014

History of Volvo estates

This was Volvo at its bonkers best. The V60 Polestar felt like an old-school performance wagon, lost in a new era for Volvo. But don’t let that put you off, because the combination of a 3.0-litre straight six engine and all-wheel drive made it one of the best all-weather wagons on the market.

Volvo Concept Estate – 2014

History of Volvo estates

Before it launched the all-new XC90, Volvo teased us with three glorious concepts. In our humble opinion, the Concept Estate was the best of the trio. A shooting brake finished in brown and blessed with a delightful interior – what’s not to like? Aside from the fact it was only a concept.

Volvo V60 Cross Country – 2015

History of Volvo estates

We didn’t see this one coming. In 2015, Volvo launched the V60 Cross Country – a soft-road version of the larger XC70. It was available in both front- and four-wheel-drive guises, but either way it offered a ride height increased by 65mm.

Volvo V90 – 2016

History of Volvo estates

Volvo might be doing a fine job of making some of the world’s best SUVs, but it’s reassuring to know that it hasn’t given up on the estate car. “In many people’s minds we are known as the definitive estate brand. While the Volvo brand today stands for more than estates, we are proud to carry forward this rich heritage with the V90,” said Hakan Samuelsson, Volvo’s president and chief executive.

Volvo V90 Cross Country – 2016

History of Volvo estates

Twenty years after the launch of Volvo’s first off-road estate, the Swedish company unveiled the new V90 Cross Country. It was developed to cope with the extreme Scandinavian climate, so it should be more than up to the task of dealing with some light drizzle and a stiff breeze. It also looks more appealing than a crossover. Discuss…

Volvo V60 – 2018

History of Volvo estates

Volvo won’t stop until it has built the most attractive cars within each segment. The V60, which goes into battle against the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4, combines all that is great about the V90, but in a smaller, well-proportioned package. In true Volvo tradition, it features a huge boot, offering 539 litres of luggage space with the rear seats in their upright position.

Volvo V60 Cross Country – 2018

History of Volvo estates

The V60 Cross Country sits 75mm higher than the standard wagon and features all-wheel-drive, hill descent control, corner traction control and an off-road driving mode as standard. According to Volvo, it takes the V60 from the suburb to the skogen (Swedish for forest).

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Jaguar Land Rover

Jaguar Land Rover loses £90 million due to falling sales

Jaguar Land RoverJaguar Land Rover (JLR), Britain’s biggest carmaker, has revealed a 13.2 percent decline in quarterly sales, turning longstanding profits into a pre-tax loss of £90 million.

The firm said a big slowdown in China was the primary cause of the decline, but softening sales in North America, a WLTP-affected European market and the Brexit-afflicted UK market also contributed to the loss.

The sales fall to 129,887 vehicles generated revenues of £5.6 billion, itself a 10.9 percent year-on-year decline.

Jaguar Land Rover CEO Dr Ralf Speth says the company is already taking action to reverse the losses. He said the firm has “launched far-reaching programmes to deliver cost and cashflow improvements.

“Together with our ongoing product offensive and calibrated investment plans, these efforts will lay the foundations for long-term sustainable, profitable growth.”

Jaguar Land Rover

Two initiatives have been launched to address the profits decline, called ‘Charge’ and ‘Accelerate’. These will “identify short-term cost and cashflow improvement as well as longer-term operating efficiencies”.

The target is profit, cost and cashflow improvements of £2.5 billion over the next 18 months, he said. Spending already planned is going to be reduced by £500 million, to £4 billion, both this financial year and the next one.

JLR adds it expects its financial performance to improve in the second half of the financial year. It therefore anticipates pre-tax profits to still break even for the full year ending 31 March 2019, albeit “impacted by the weaker than planned first half”.

The firm added it ended the quarter with £2.6 billion of cash and £1.9 billion in undrawn credit.

Kia Sportage GT-Line S 2.0 CRDi 184 48V long-term test

Kia Sportage GT-Line S 2.0 CRDi 48V mild hybrid long-term test

Kia Sportage GT-Line S 2.0 CRDi 184 48V long-term testThe Kia Sportage is the firm’s most popular car in the UK. It’s on a roll at the moment, entering the top 10 best-sellers list in September, thanks to Kia timing a mid-life facelift to perfection. As other brands’ registrations fell throughout Europe due to not being ready for the new WLTP fuel economy tests, Kia was there to pounce and take advantage.

A rival to the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar and Ford Kuga, this generation of Sportage was introduced in 2015. The 2018 facelift brings a tweaked nose and rear, new wheels and colours, a quality upgrade for the interior and other detail revisions.

The most interesting addition is at the top of the range. Kia has introduced a ‘mild hybrid’ Sportage, one that combines a big diesel engine with a little electric motor-generator and 48-volt lithium ion battery. It’s tech first seen in the posh Audi Q7, but this is the first time it’s featured in a car this affordable.

Kia Sportage GT-Line S 2.0 CRDi 184 48V long-term test

Well, relatively affordable. It’s the most expensive Sportage you can buy, costing around £34,500 – but even this isn’t the hindrance you’d think. Most Sportage sold, Kia’s marketing boss told me, are high-sped models. Car buyers capitalise on Kia’s great value by spending as much as they can to get luxury-line equipment. 

We’re thus running one, a Sportage GT-Line S 2.0 CRDi 48V to give its official title, to see how the first mild hybrid Kia fares in everyday use. Is this the pick of the range for Britain’s favourite Kia? And can it help counter the current anti-diesel mood with enhanced green credentials? Follow our regular updates to find out.

Delivery: Kia Sportage GT-Line S 2.0 CRDi 48V

Kia Sportage GT-Line S 2.0 CRDi 184 48V long-term test

I had a sneak preview of the 48V mild hybrid Kia Sportage on the launch of the new Kia Ceed. But, on fast, hilly Slovakian roads, it didn’t seem to make much difference. Certainly there wasn’t the feeling of extra ‘engine off’ low-speed running promised by the tech. I came back confused. 

After all, this is expensive hardware. It comprises an additional 48-volt battery and a mild hybrid starter-generator unit (replacing the normal starter motor). The idea is to extend engine-off time, by cutting the engine when the vehicle’s rolling at slower speed, and instantly restart it when the driver wants to go again. 

Even better, in ‘motor’ mode, the system provides 10kW of electric power (that’s 13hp), instantly, for an acceleration boost. The vehicle will feel more alert, and because there’ll be less load on the diesel engine, economy should be better and emissions improved. Kia reckons it will save up to 7 percent in CO2, and boost fuel economy by the same amount. And you never need to plug it in!

Kia Sportage GT-Line S 2.0 CRDi 184 48V long-term test

Delivery day was delightful. GT-Line S trim is the top-grade Sportage variant, and includes, almost literally, all the extras. Big 19-inch wheels with diamond-cut finish perfectly set off the beautiful Blue Flame premium paint (it’s a rare option, costing £595). GT-Line models have a sportier front end, jam-packed with ‘ice cube’ LED lights: with the standard LED headlights of this model, it’s more Porsche Macan than Kia Sportage.

Kia Sportage GT-Line S 2.0 CRDi 184 48V long-term test

Inside, the standard leather is soft and rich to the touch (at least in the front: the rear bench has a lower, tougher grade…). The small, sporty steering wheel has the same leather, plus piano black trim. Metal-look caps for the buttons give the interior a lift, and the big 8-inch ‘glass panel’ infotainment screen is a real lift over standard Sportage. 

The first drive revealed a 2.0-litre diesel engine that sounds… well, like a diesel. Not particularly clattery but not particularly memorable. The twin-clutch automatic felt slick, quick steering was meaty, while the ride, despite my fears about the impact of those huge wheels, proved surprisingly adept and absorbent. 

But still, I couldn’t detect quite what the 48V mild hybrid tech was doing. And certainly, the engine wasn’t turning off, apart from at a standstill (although the ‘immediate’ restart and lack of starter motor whirr was appealing). I was still confused.

And this is why we’re testing the Sportage – to find out what the difference is, and show people what they’ll probably miss on a short test drive. 

So be sure to come back soon and find out more…

char.gy lamppost EV charging unit

London’s first public lamppost electric vehicle charging points are here

char.gy lamppost EV charging unitThe first electric vehicle (EV) public charging points to be installed in London’s lampposts have gone live, thanks to a partnership with Southwark Council and charge point provider char.gy.

The innovative scheme promises to significantly and quickly expand the electric car charging network by utilising existing infrastructure, rather than costly new installations.

50 open-access charging points are now being installed, in the Southwark areas of Borough & Bankside, and Dulwich.

After initial trials in Marlow earlier this summer, London has been targeted by the scheme because 78 percent of residents there don’t have off-street parking. Tapping into the existing street lighting network aims to easily provide an affordable, scalable EV charging solution for them.

Significantly, Char.gy says it’s the only public lamppost charging provider to be approved under the Alternative Fuels and Infrastructure (AFI) regulations. This makes it a legal requirement for providers to allow ad-hoc public charging – without needing a specific subscription, membership, RFID card or cable.

char.gy lamppost EV charging unit

It thus works via a smartphone app. “Users plug a standard (Type 2) charging cable into the char.gy unit and enter the location of the unit into their device to begin charging” says the firm. Those without a smartphone can do it by visiting the charge point’s dedicated web page.

There are both pay-as-you-charge and membership package tariffs.

char.gy lamppost EV charging unit

Councillor Richard Livingstone from Southwark Council said the charging points “are being installed in residential streets, outside people’s homes, in response to feedback from our residents.

“These new charge points are making it easier than ever for people who live in Southwark to make the switch to electric vehicles.”

Char.gy CEO Richard Stobard says its units can be fitted onto nearly all on-street and car park lampposts, utilising existing infrastructure and “avoiding the need to dig up residential streets”.

Poppy Welch, head of national campaign for EVs Go Ultra Low, has praised the initiative. “For drivers in the UK without access to off-street parking, innovations like lamppost charge points from Char.gy are a great option. It’s good to see the work Southwark Council, a beneficiary of the Go Ultra Low Cities Scheme, is doing to allow people without off-street parking the ability to charge at home.”

“For other local authorities looking to roll-out on-street charging infrastructure, the Government is investing £4.5 million in the Onstreet Residential Chargepoint Scheme until 2020. They also want to see all new street lighting columns include charging points, where appropriately located, in residential areas with current on-street parking.“

The installation has been funded with help from London’s £13 million Go Ultra Low City Scheme. This aims to install more than 1,000 residential charging points across London by 2020.

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