Tyres over 10 years old could be BANNED

Old tyres banned

Tyres aged 10 years or older could be soon banned in the UK, although only for heavy vehicles such as buses, goods vehicles, minibuses and coaches at first.

A government consultation is looking at how tyre performance degrades over time.

“Keeping people safe on our roads is our priority, and we have been working hard to understand the link between tyre age and road safety” said Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling.

“Emerging evidence and leading expert testimony shows us that we need to ban tyres over the age of 10 years from larger vehicles based upon the ‘precautionary principle’ – a move that will make our roads safer for everyone.”

Old tyres banned

Campaigner Frances Molloy lost his 18-year-old son Michael in a coach crash on the A3 in 2012. He and two others died when a 19-year-old tyre failed on the front of the coach.

Molloy subsequently set up created the ‘Tyred’ campaign against old tyres. Needless to say, if the government bill passes, it will be mission accomplished.

In November last year, DVSA guidelines were updated to mandate that heavy vehicles could not use tyres aged over 10 years on the front axles. This would be the extension and completion of this policy, with tyres of that age being banned altogether.

PSA Group on a roll: Vauxhall in profit, Peugeot going to the USA

PSA Peugeot Citroen Vauxhall Profit

In the summer of last year it was reported, to the surprise of many, that Vauxhall/Opel was returning to profit under new PSA Peugeot/Citroen ownership.

This was a quick turnaround following PSA’s acquisition of the two marques from General Motors not two years previously. Final numbers indicate that Vauxhall/Opel’s profit margin was 4.7 percent in 2018.

Brexit confidence 

Peugeot, Citroen and DS, meanwhile, have doubled profits in the UK since the Brexit vote two years ago. Indeed, chairman Carlos Tavares isn’t worried about Brexit, saying “Vauxhall is warm to the hearts of UK consumers. Maybe we are the ones who have the best opportunity out of it”.

That doesn’t necessarily secure the safety of the Ellesmere Port plant, though. Tavares is no stranger to making difficult choices in the pursuit of progress: “If we have to make tough decisions, we will”. 

Going global

PSA Peugeot Citroen Vauxhall Profit

With revenue up 18.9 percent compared with 2017 (at more than £63 million), PSA Group is now looking to go global. Just two years after Opel was withdrawn from Russia, there are plans to return. This is part of a strategy to increase sales outside Europe by 50 percent, which also includes Citroen heading to India.

By far the most interesting facet of PSA’s future expansion, however, is the plan to reintroduce Peugeot to North America. We never thought we’d see the day where a Peugeot 508 vs.Toyota Camry twin-test was a possibility in Automobile magazine.

Overall, the group aims to launch 116 new models by 2021. A Core Energy Strategy will also see 50 percent of the Group’s offerings electrified by 2021, with 100 percent targeted for 2025.

Baby steps have already been made with the new 208, available with a 50kwh electric powerplant from launch. So too with the new Vauxhall Corsa later this year, which will be available with electric power.

Tavares’ success

PSA Peugeot Citroen Vauxhall Profit

This will be the fifth year in a row that Carlos Tavares has delivered impressive results for the Peugeot Citroen Group. What’s the secret to his success?

Agility is a word that keeps popping up, as a descriptor for the Group’s ability to adapt to new challenges. Tavares claims that “we will be continuing our Darwinian transformation and approaching each challenge as an opportunity to stand out against our competitors”.

Brexit tax: new car prices could leap by 22 percent

Brexit EU tax new cars

Independent car buying website Carwow has developed a tool to predict Brexit price rises for individual car manufacturers.

On average, it says, new car prices will rise by £8,000 if no deal is reached between Britain and the EU.

That doesn’t mean that middling Ford Fiesta is going to leap from £16,000 to £24,000, of course. The £8,000 figure mostly refers to premium models, which will be the most affected by the EU exit

Premium jumps

Brexit EU tax new cars

After March 29th, cars from marques such as Volvo, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Alfa Romeo, Volkswagen, Fiat and Audi could be around 22 percent more expensive. 

For a Maserati that costs £67,000 at present, a £14,000 increase is on the cards. And the Alpine A110 is expected to jump by £10,000.

The news follows many marques from the Volkswagen Group announcing potential 10 percent rises post-Brexit.

Budget brands ‘safe’

As for more affordable cars, there’s better news. While there are rises predicted, cars from Nissan, Ford, Mini and Vauxhall will likely only increase by about three percent.

A typical new Ford is due to set you back an extra £727, according to the prediction tool. A new Mini is predicted to cost an extra £644, while a new Vauxhall will be £631 more.

Good Housekeeping Ford ecosport

The tool is a response to Carwow research that revealed only seven percent of Brits are prepared to pay more for a new car post-Brexit. On the plus side, there could be some superb deals over the next five weeks.

One thing is certain. If you’re in the market for a new car, your best bet is to buy now and make sure your delivery date is before 29 March. If not, buy straight off a forecourt. Uncertain times are ahead…

Kia Soul EV

Kia Soul EV: another real-world long-range electric car is coming

Kia Soul EVThe march of the mainstream electric car continues. After bringing us the impressive Kia e-Niro, the firm is doubling down on this with another entrant in the crossover SUV sector: meet the new Kia Soul EV.

Making its European debut at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, the new Soul EV arrives in EU markets this spring. UK prices and an on-sale date will follow later – but, as with the e-Niro, we can expect an on-sale price of under £35,000.

Indeed, as well as the range-topper, which has a 64kWh battery, Kia’s also selling a lesser Soul EV with a 39.2kWh battery. This one could actually squeeze under the £30k mark, if the firm decides to bring it to the UK.

Kia Soul EV

The longer-range is the one most will want though. At 280 miles, it has an almost identical range to the e-Niro. And because the battery is bigger, Kia can fit a powerful 204hp motor, giving 0-62mph in a scant 7.6 seconds. 

Don’t expect the Soul EV 39.2kWh version, with its 136hp motor, to be anywhere near as fast. The range isn’t as good either: 172 miles, rather than 280 miles. It will share the longer-range model’s regenerative braking paddles though, allowing ‘one-pedal’ driving and charging the battery at the same time. 

Both version will charge up from zero to 80 percent charge in just 42 minutes, via a public 100kW fast charger. 

Third-generation Soul

Kia Soul EV

The new Soul EV is the third generation of Kia’s leftfield crossover SUV. This one is still very distinctive, but more refined and fully-formed than earlier versions. It even has sophisticated multi-link rear suspension, instead of a cheaper torsion beam setup, so should drive much better. 

At 4,195mm long, it’s 55mm longer than before, and is a fulsome 1,800mm wide. Plenty of body height means Kia’s been able to create a lot of space inside – this is the roomiest Soul yet, despite the all-electric drivetrain (other global markets will get petrol and diesel Soul, but for Europe and the UK, it’s Soul EV only). 

Kia Soul EV

The designers are particularly proud of the ‘island’ tailgate, which opens up to a so-so 315-litre boot; fold the seats and it grows to 1,339 litres. 

Sales of the outgoing Soul convinced Kia to go all-electric for Europe. There was a previous-generation Soul EV and, explained Emilio Herrera, CEO for Kia Motors Europe, “in 2018 – the outgoing model’s final year on sale, Kia sold more of the zero-emissions Soul EV in Europe than petrol and diesel versions combined.

Kia Soul EV

“Electrified vehicles account for one in eight Kia cars sold in Europe in 2018, up from one in 10 in 2017, and the Soul EV will further build on this momentum.”

Kia adds the new Soul EV’s electric motor and battery are so advanced, they’re up to 30 percent more energy-efficient than Europe’s current best-selling electric car. Which is? We’re looking at you, Nissan Leaf – such is the pace of how quickly things move on in the electric car world. 

Indeed, even Nissan already has an answer to the launch Leaf’s so-so range…

 

New Skoda Kamiq revealed: baby SUV to take on big-selling Nissan Juke

2019 Skoda KamiqThe new Skoda Kamiq, which makes its world debut at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show next week, is the Czech brand’s third all-new SUV and the smallest one it’s launched to date.

Billed as a city SUV crossover, the new Kamiq is gunning for the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Vauxhall Mokka X (as well as its Seat Arona sister car). Skoda hopes it will bring brand new, younger customers into dealers, those who have never considered the brand before.

At 4,241mm long, it’s only slightly larger than a regular supermini, and shorter overall than a family hatchback like a Volkswagen Golf (or, indeed, the upcoming new Skoda Scala). But the higher ground clearance gives it a safe and sturdy feel inside, and the tall body creates plenty of space.

2019 Skoda Kamiq

Chunky styling draws from the Skoda SUV family DNA, with a wide grille and contoured bonnet. Even the smallest wheels are 16 inches in diameter; up to 18 inches are available, underlining the tough and chunky look.

The Kamiq is “powerful and emotive, despite its compact dimensions,” said Skoda head of design Oliver Stefani. He’s proud of the split LED headlights; choose optional full LED lights and the daytime running lights “appear like four gemstones above the main headlights”. Crystalline 3D effects further enhance the “glistening jewels” appearance.

2019 Skoda Kamiq

The Scala introduced Skoda’s new interior layout, with a large, freestanding infotainment screen in the centre of the dash. The Kamiq is the second – and at 9.2 inches, the screen is the largest in the city SUV segment.

2019 Skoda Kamiq

There’s lots of soft-touch materials and more crystalline textures, while ambient lighting in three colours – white, red and copper – help it feel more spacious at night. Luxury touches include optional heated seats in the rear as well as the front.

The boot is enormous – 400 litres with the seats up (20 litres bigger than a VW Golf), 1,395 litres with them folded. Skoda will even let you option a fold-down front passenger seat, so loads up to almost 2.5 metres can be loaded in.

2019 Skoda Kamiq

Skoda’s selling the Kamiq purely in front-wheel drive guise: people care more about fuel economy than off-road traction in this sector (although it does have 37mm more ground clearance than a Scala, add the engineers). There is a diesel, a 115hp 1.6 TDI, but the best-sellers will be the turbo petrol engines – a 1.0 TSI with 95hp or 115hp, plus a 1.5 TSI with 150hp.

Those who want a sportier drive can have a sport chassis setup, that’s 10mm lower and comes with adaptive suspension – choose from normal, sport, eco and individual modes.

2019 Skoda Kamiq

There are lots of standard safety features, plenty more optional ones, and a Skoda wouldn’t be a true Skoda without a plethora of so-called ‘Simply Clever’ features. The Kamiq? It has no fewer than 20 of them.

These include sector-first door edge protectors, an electric tailgate, removable LED torch and a Skoda Connect app that allows you to remotely check whether the Kamiq is locked, or how much fuel is in the tank, from your smartphone.

2019 Bentley Continental GTC review: need for tweed

Bentley Continental GTCBentley has started its centenary year with a bang. First, it revealed the world’s fastest SUV – the 190mph Bentayga Speed – then it teased details of racing-inspired special edition, due to debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

The biggest story of 2019 so far, though, is the new £175,890 Continental GTC. A drop-top version of Bentley’s benchmark GT, it has a 635hp W12 (V8 and hybrid versions will follow) and top speed in excess of 200mph. With the roof up, ideally.

A grand tourer deserves a grand tour, so we tested the GTC’s mile-munching mettle on a 276-mile drive from Marbella to Seville, taking the scenic route via some of Europe’s best roads. Here’s what we learned.

The tweed roof is brilliantly British

Bentley Continental GTC

Let’s start with the insulated fabric hood, which disappears in 19 near-silent seconds, at speeds up to 30mph. Rear-seat space isn’t compromised, nor does the retracted roof encroach on luggage space. Boot volume is just 235 litres, however, versus 358 litres in the GT.

You can choose from seven roof colours, but ‘contemporary tweed’ is easily the coolest option. It’s an understated beige and brown check, as opposed to something you’d find on a hipster suit, but its bespoke Britishness sums up Bentley perfectly.

In profile, the GTC sacrifices the coupe’s flowing fastback for a three-box, saloon-style silhouette. Nonetheless, its roof is elegantly executed, tapering gently aft of the doors. When folded, it lies flush below the rear deck.

The design is all about the details

Bentley Continental GTC

In terms of overall styling, this second-generation car has played it safe. The original 2003 Continental GT reinvented Bentley under Volkswagen Group ownership, so one can’t blame Bentley for not reinventing the Continental GT.

But while the shape is familiar, many details are different. The LED matrix headlights, for example, resemble cut crystal, while the fulsome haunches kick upwards into a subtle spoiler. With overhangs that are shorter at the front and longer at the rear, the whole car looks leaner and more purposeful.

There are some unconventional colours, too. Orange Flame is the obvious choice for extroverts, while Banarto evokes classic British Racing Green – and looks fantastic with the chrome-deleting black pack. Our pick of the paints, though, is Dove Grey, a primer-like shade not dissimilar to Porsche’s Crayon.

Interiors are what Bentley does best

Bentley Continental GTC

Inevitably, the best view of the Continental GTC is from the driver’s seat. Its interior is utterly exquisite, a cosseting cocoon of five-star luxury. Not even Rolls-Royce does it better.

We’re told there are 310,675 stitches in every Continental GTC cabin, although we declined count them. The quilted leather seats are heated and ventilated, and have a built-in ‘neckwarmer’ (à la Mercedes-Benz Airscarf) for top-down driving. Usefully, the central armrest is also heated, just in case your left elbow catches cold.

Beautiful polished wood covers the dashboard and doors, or Sir can specify the new Côtes de Genève textured aluminium, inspired by Swiss watches. Reassuringly, there’s also plenty of Bentley’s trademark knurling: a machined metal finish that makes handles, stalks and switches feel deliciously tactile.

Elegance isn’t simply a veneer…

Bentley Continental GTC

Equally impressive is how the GTC’s cabin combines the fundamentally opposing forces of tradition and tech. The convenience and infotainment features you’d expect are brilliantly integrated beneath a (literal) veneer of olde worlde charm.

The main talking point is the Toblerone-shaped rotating display, which shows plain veneer when parked, then flips to a 12.3-inch touchscreen when the start button is pressed. If you fancy what design director Stefan Sielaff calls a “digital detox”, the third side comprises three analogue gauges: outside temperature, compass and chronometer.

The main instruments are a configurable TFT display, similar to Audi’s Virtual Cockpit. Audiophiles will adore the 18-speaker Naim hi-fi fitted to our test car (an indulgent £6,500 option, a 10-speaker system is standard). Apple Carplay connectivity is included, but there’s no Android Auto.

Its speed could worry a supercar

Bentley Continental GTC

Beneath that prominent prow lies the same 6.0-litre turbocharged W12 fitted to the Bentayga Speed. Billed by Bentley as ‘the most advanced 12-cylinder engine in the world’, it drives all four wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

The stats are truly startling – as is the shove between your shoulder blades. With 635hp, this 2,414kg cabriolet blasts to 60mph in 3.7 seconds, topping out at 207mph. Many six-figure supercars are scarcely any swifter.

To save fuel, the engine seamlessly deactivates six of its cylinders under light loads. Quoted economy is 22.8mpg, although we managed 18.9mpg on a variety of roads.

On the road, it feels utterly effortless

Bentley Continental GTC

That variety included the famous mountain route from Marbella to Ronda (sadly now heavily policed, with a 60kph speed limit) and a loop through the rocky hills around Zufre. Here, on Teflon-smooth roads untroubled by tourist traffic, we could finally let the W12 off the leash.

With a thumping 664lb ft of torque from a toe-tickle above tickover, the Bentley makes light work of steep inclines and dawdling Seats. The dual-clutch ’box doesn’t have the treacle smoothness of the old torque converter, but it’s infinitely quicker and more intuitive. The manual shift paddles almost seem redundant.

Few cars, then, make so little fuss about going fast. Yet unlike some super saloons, the GTC isn’t all speed and no sensation. On writhing roads carved into the hillsides, it was also riotous fun.

The suspension makes more torque than the engine

Bentley Continental GTC

Key to this surprising agility is iron-fisted body control, courtesy of Bentley Dynamic Ride. The 48-volt system uses computer-controlled anti-roll bars to keep the car flat when cornering. Its electric motor alone generates up to 959lb ft of torque – around 50 percent more than the engine.

Well-weighted steering, a benign chassis and huge 10-piston front brakes (at 420mm, the largest iron discs of any production car) mean the GTC can hustled with confidence. Ironically, we preferred the waftier, looser-limbed Comfort mode to the slightly brittle Sport on twisty Tarmac.

And comfort is a grand tourer’s raison d’être, after all. Riding on huge 21-inch wheels (22s are optional), the car seems to crush the road surface into submission. If anything can solve the UK’s pothole crisis, it’s the Continental GTC.

It’s quieter than old Continental GT coupe

Bentley Continental GTC

Quietness is also an essential ingredient of long-distance comfort and, here again, the Bentley doesn’t disappoint. With the roof up, it’s even more hushed than the previous-generation coupe. Folding hard-tops – who needs ’em?

With the roof open (which is how we drove at least 90 percent of the route), you can have a conversation at 70mph without raising your voice. Keep the side windows raised and there’s very little turbulence inside the cabin, too.

We’re less convinced by the noise of the engine. It’s very obviously turbocharged, with an intake whoosh and the unmistakable hiss of a dump valve. In Sport mode, the exhaust also braaaps abruptly like a Volkswagen Golf R. Past experience suggests the forthcoming V8 will sound more characterful and cultured.

Forget Clarkson: this is the ultimate grand tour

Bentley Continental GTC

Minor quibbles and hefty price tag aside (our car was £210,925 including options), the Continental GTC is difficult to fault. It fulfils its brief of being the ‘definitive grand tourer’ admirably. After a full day on Spanish roads, we emerged fresher than a Seville orange.

Among rivals, both the Aston Martin DB11 Volante and Ferrari Portofino provide a similar sense of occasion, but neither matches the Bentley for comfort. The BMW 8 Series, meanwhile, simply doesn’t feel special enough.

The old fashioned idea of a grand tour has largely been lost, but given the choice of crossing Europe by budget flight or Bentley, the GTC wins hands-down. Roof down and W12 up front, it’s a fine way to fly.

Verdict: 5 stars

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1987 Toyota Hilux

Would you buy this 1987 Toyota Hilux? We would

1987 Toyota HiluxIt’s hard to understate the reputation the Toyota Hilux has for toughness and reliability. There is a literally a war named after it, the Toyota War, in which Chad mounted guns and missiles onto a fleet of Hiluxes and went into battle with Libya. The compact pickups took out columns of tanks and armoured personnel carriers, shrieking through the opposing armies thanks to speed, light weight, and maneuverability.

Even more amazing is the aircraft count: the wingless, completely non-flying Hilux has 32 confirmed kills of fighters and attack helicopters. Libya was so terrified of this minitruck they used MiG-23s against it.

And lost.

The reputation the Hilux gained for invincibility on the field of battle is so fearsome that, to this day, the most powerful nations on earth, including the United States, get twitchy around large numbers of Toyotas.

MiG 23

“It’s the vehicular equivalent of the AK-47,” said Andrew Exum, a former Army Ranger and U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy. “It kicks the hell out of the Humvee.”

1987 Toyota Hilux

With these impactful images clearly in mind, let’s take a closer look at this totes adorbs JDM (Japanese domestic market) 1987 Hilux, currently on offer in the Peach State.

It began life in Toyota’s Tahara plant in Aichi Prefecture, and was given the formal name of “Hi-Lux 4×4 Double-Cab SR.” According to its number plate, it’s a right-hand drive model powered by a naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder (a.k.a. the 3YJ). When new, the engine made 105 horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque, and sent that power through a five-speed manual gearbox.

This deluxe Hilux came with automatic locking hubs, power steering, power mirrors, ice-cold A/C, a tonneau cover, and running boards.

1987 Toyota Hilux

For the next 30 years, the truck remained in Japan, unmolested and pristine. Given that it has a mere 26,000 miles (42,000 km) on the clock, we can only assume it was owned by a little old lady from Mishima who only drove it to church on Sundays (Mishima being the sister city to Pasadena).

The Hilux was purchased at auction in 2017 by an American gentleman and long-time admirer of the breed. It was shipped to South Carolina for a red, white, and blue stamp of approval before finally arriving at its new home in the great state of Georgia.

1987 Toyota Hilux

The $17,900 asking price might seem prima facie aspirational, but the recent sale of a 1983 Toyota Truck for an eye-watering $55,000 means that’s simply what these things cost now.

If that seems insane, look at the first-gen Ford Bronco. Once thought of as a rust-prone, rough-riding oddball, prices have skyrocketed, nearly doubling in the last three years alone. The market wants what the market wants, even if it is driven by speculation.

That being said, Toyota trucks have always been good buys. Even brand new, they retain their value exceptionally well. Prices for older models bottomed out years ago, helped by offroaders who prize the rugged body on frame construction and solid axles. While the front was switched to independent suspension in 1986, scarcity of older models drags up prices for most of the range.

1987 Toyota Hilux

Our 1987 Hilux piles onto that value with its shocking originality and clean Georgia title. Someone else has already done the work of finding it, getting it imported, and getting it licensed.

Its JDM pedigree adds even more. Fans of the venerable Toyota Truck, as the Hilux was called here in the States, will no doubt know that the four-door cab was not offered here in 1987, only the extended cab.

1987 Toyota Hilux

The U.S.-spec engine was different, too: the legendary 22R and its derivatives. This 2.4-liter unit used a cast-iron block and still retains near-mythic reputation for reliability.

1987 Toyota Hilux

It was never triumphant against furious hordes of rocket-barfing MiGs however, at least not in the American market. The rest of the world got the same 3YJ our Hilux has and was able to keep them running in conditions like war zones using nothing more than buckets of rocks and a surfeit of pure vitriol. Suffice to say, both engines are incredibly tough.

So, would you buy this 1987 Toyota Hilux? We certainly would. Underneath that metallic charcoal paint and jaunty Eighties graphics package blazes the immortal heart of a warrior. Point it in any direction—over hill, dale, jungle, or ice cap—and it will just go. Dreaming of Patagonia? Want to run the Mexican 1000? Fancy circumnavigating the globe? Buy this truck.

1987 Toyota Hilux

This is a classic pickup the new owner can use every day for years to come and, at some point in the future, when it’s finally time to sell, will be worth more than what was paid for it.

And to that new buyer, it’ll still be worth every penny.

Buy this Toyota Hilux.

More classic cars from Motoring Research:

Ford gets first Reader Recommendation from Good Housekeeping

Good Housekeeping Ford ecosport

The Good Housekeeping Reader Recommendation is a highly sought-after accolade for anything in the consumer sphere – be it technology, clothing or indeed housekeeping.

Now cars are on the iconic magazine’s radar, with the Ford Kuga and Ecosport earning a first ever automotive Reader Recommendation.

The Reader Recommendation comes with a combination of the ‘expertise of Good Housekeeping’s acclaimed testing institute’ as well as the insights of readers giving their personal experiences of a product.

Good Housekeeping Ford Kuga

Fully 98 percent of readers rated the Kuga as very good or excellent. And 96 percent said they would recommend the crossover to friends or family.

The Ecosport scores slightly lower, with 96 percent of readers giving a good/excellent score and 91 percent saying they’d recommend it. Still, not a score to be sniffed at.

Alongside the success and acclaim the Fiesta and Focus are accruing, Ford has quite the award-winning lineup on its hands. 

Good Housekeeping Ford Kuga

“We are incredibly proud to be the first automotive manufacturer to be Reader Recommended,” said Mandy Dean, marketing director, Ford of Britain. “It’s great to have Ecosport and Kuga, two very popular vehicles in our range, receive further validation from such an established and respected consumer voice, representing everyday users.” 

“It’s great to see a brand like Ford engaging in our rigorous Good Housekeeping testing programme to ensure they’re providing the best quality for the ever-discerning consumer,” added Jim Chaudry, automotive director at Good Housekeeping publisher, Hearst UK.

Good Housekeeping Ford ecosport

 

Dogs are more expensive to insure than cars

Dogs more expensive than cars on insurance

Dogs are more expensive to insure than many cars, according to comparisons made by AA Insurance.

Incredibly, if you’ve got yourself a great dane, you can expect to pay more than twice as much for insurance as for a BMW X5. A steep £1,138.80 for the pup plays £474,78 for the German SUV.

Dogs more expensive than cars on insurance

Even Her Majesty the Queen could be buckling under the weight of insurance costs. A corgi costs £483 to insure, though you can times that by 30 for the number she’s owned over the years. Compare that to the £636 it’ll cost to insure a royal Land Rover Discovery.

So what about the most popular dogs versus one of the most popular cars? Well, it’ll cost £216 to insure a Ford Fiesta, otherwise known as the UK’s best-selling car so far in 2019. Compare that, if you will, to the chihuahua – the UK’s second most popular dog breed in 2018. That’ll set you back £336 for a year’s worth of insurance.

The cars’ figures were based on their being one year old and belonging to a 38-year-old with a protected no claims bonus. The dogs’ figures were based on the AA’s Gold Plus cover for a one-year-old dog.

Dogs more expensive than cars on insurance

So, there you have it. When it comes to samoyed versus Sportage or rhodesian ridgeback versus RAV4, you’d best have your pockets lined to insure your pup.

The ridgeback’s £706 figure is well over twice as much as the £289 for a Toyota RAV4. The samoyed is only £386 – £21 more than the £365 for a Kia Sportage.

Lexus UX review: hybrid SUV is a classier Qashqai

Good things are expensive, we all know that. It’s why we flock to buy Apple products. It’s how Rolex sells watches. And its why the Rolls-Royce is held in such high esteem. No one needs these things, but plenty of us want them.

How do you grow from ‘everyday’ to desirable? History counts for a lot: look at Rolls and Rolex. Yet Apple, which had already been around for a couple of decades, went from almost zero to hero overnight with the iPhone.

It’s that type of success that Toyota’s top brass aims for with the Lexus brand. Fortune has shined on Lexus in the States, but in Europe they still dream of selling 100,000 cars a year. The new UX is the major part of this ambition to grow.

So the Lexus UX is an SUV?

Yes, well… sort of. The trouble with the SUV acronym – which stands for ‘Sport Utility Vehicle’ – is it used to mean a full-blooded 4×4 with some creature comforts. Something like a Land Rover Discovery. Other things that looked like SUVs, but were really just tall cars? They’re crossovers.

Now SUV is the ultimate catchphrase, and woe betide any manufacturer that doesn’t have one in its range. So, led by Peugeot and Citroen, who have few scruples and even fewer proper 4x4s, the SUV tag is game for almost anything on four wheels. Basically, if you want your car to be an SUV, it is. Just call it that and you are a player.

The new Lexus UX thus qualifies as an SUV. The vast majority are likely to be bought with front-wheel drive, but you can get four-wheel drive as a £1,250 option. Brilliantly simple, there’s an electric motor that powers the rear wheels when required. So it can deal with snow and wet grass when the need arises.

Quality counts for a lot

 

In any customer satisfaction survey you care to look at, Lexus comes out very high – often top. The cars are supremely reliable and, if you do need help, the dealers are great. That’s a damn good reason to buy any car.

Yet to make its cars better than mere Toyotas, Lexus gets a bit anal. For example, neural scientists measured brain waves to create the most pleasing door closing sound. The wipers also stop when you open a door, so you don’t get splashed.

The tightness of the gaps between the doors is paper thin, and you only have to lift the bonnet to admire the neatness of all the pipework. It’s solidly good work. You feel more confident than you might in, say, a Land Rover, that it’s all going to work dependably.

It looks striking, but hardly elegant

So the Lexus UX seems well-built and is likely to be reliable, but is it really desirable? In the UK, Lexus sales have been on the slow-burn.

Pitched against Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz, Lexus has forged its own path rather than facing rivals head-on. Which means a distinctive design dominated by an insanely massive front grille that only a mother could love. Only by sticking a number plate across the middle, to break up this mishmash of chrome squiggles, does it start to look less alarming.

Elegant? I don’t think so. Of course, good design is partly down to individual preference, but the UX is unlikely to be bought by anyone desiring a great looking compact crossover.

What about the X1, Q3, E-Pace, GLA and XC40?

The UX is a direct competitor for compact crossovers from BMW, Audi, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. Lexus is diving head-first into a busy sector already full of competence. The big difference here, though, is that every UK version of the UX is a petrol-electric hybrid.

And that’s definitely the flavour of the moment. Diesels are fading fast, and petrol engines are too thirsty, but hybrids answer the question that many are asking – without the apparent cost or unknowns of a purely electric car.

Lexus is keen on the term ‘self-charging hybrid’, which is a bit self-serving because it doesn’t have a plug-in version of the UX. No matter, though: this is the technology of the Toyota Prius, honed into its fourth generation. No-one knows better than Toyota and Lexus how to get the best out of a hybrid.

Tell me about fuel economy

The numbers certainly stack up. You should be able to get close to 50mpg in the front-wheel-drive version, although opting for bigger wheels or the E-Four (4WD) version hits economy a little. The CO2 emissions of the front-wheel-drive UX sneak below 100g/km, which is also an excellent result.

It’s all very easy to live with, too. An automatic transmission is standard, the (all-new) 2.0-litre engine is powerful and there’s extra punch from the battery when you need it. If the battery has a decent amount of charge, the UX will drive away on electric power before the petrol engine chimes in.

You won’t go much more than a mile on the battery alone. You’d need a plug-in hybrid to get 20-30 miles of electric range, and then, of course, you’d need to plug in your car once or twice a day to recharge it.

A 181hp output? Sounds like a hot hatch

It isn’t. There are people at Lexus who’d love you think the UX was a sporting drive, but it doesn’t have the engine refinement at high revs. Also, the CVT automatic gearbox works in a way that discourages getting the most from the car.

That makes what will likely be the most popular version, the UX F Sport, seem slightly incongruous. Yet this doesn’t really matter, because you’ll buy a UX for its refinement around town, relaxed motorway cruising and quiet demeanour.

The ride is also very good: best on the 17-inch wheels that come with the lesser models.

Blending the boundaries

It’s good fun going to a Lexus press conference. They desperately want you to believe their new car has some sort of magical quality that could only come from a deep-rooted Japanese fable. Here’s it’s engawe, a blending of the boundaries between the interior and exterior. Like wide-opening doors from a lounge onto a patio.

Here, though, we – rather obviously – have glass that gets in the way. Maybe it translates better at home.

Snipes aside, the interior, with a facia firmly focused on the driver, is a nice place to be, even though calling it luxurious is stretching things a bit. The seats are very comfortable. In the rear, however, it’s more of a two- than three-seater. Luggage space is a disappointment: more shopping-friendly than weekend-away usable.

How much does the Lexus UX cost?

Prices start at a shade under £30,000, rising to just over £40,000. If you want a few choice options, including leather seats, a UX is going to cost a minimum of £35k.

So the Lexus UX is far from a bargain. As a company car proposition, though, it looks a strong option. The CO2 levels are very low for a petrol car, while there is no dastardly diesel penalty to contend with.

Yet the UX has to face competition from an unexpected quarter: electric cars. The latest models from Hyundai and Kia, the Kona Electric and Niro EV, are electric cars that offer the best everyday practicality seen so far, including a range as high as 250 miles, for a touch less outlay than the UX. They are certainly worth considering.

Lexus UX verdict: 4 stars

By moving into a more compact segment of the car market, Lexus is following the well-trodden path of the other luxury brands. Affordable cars inevitably sell in greater numbers.

There’s much to admire about the UX, not least its easy nature and pleasing levels of comfort. The hybrid system is as good as you’ll find in any car, and the ownership costs – whether you buy privately or run it as a business expense – will be very competitive.

For those who aren’t quite ready to go fully electric, it makes a great deal of sense.

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Lexus UX: rivals

Audi Q3

BMW X1

Jaguar E-Pace

Mercedes-Benz GLA

Volvo XC40

Lexus UX: specification

• Price: £29,990-£39,100

• Engine: Four cylinder, 1987cc, electric motor

• Drivetrain: Front-engine, front-wheel drive

• Transmission: CVT automatic

• Chassis: Steel with aluminium doors, front wings and bonnet

• Suspension: McPherson struts

• Wheels: 17 or 18 inches

• Power: 181hp@6,000 rpm

• Torque: 140lb ft@4,400rpm-5,200rpm

• 0-62mph: 8.5 seconds

• Top speed: 110mph

• Fuel economy: 46.3-53.3mpg

• CO2 emissions: 94-103g/km

• Length/width/height: 4,495/1,840/1,540mm

• Kerb weight: 1,540-1,680kg