Eurotunnel makes ‘Brexit Promise’ for driving to France

Eurotunnel makes 'Brexit promise'

Eurotunnel is reassuring travellers that Brexit will not prevent them driving to France – at least in the short term. The message is that whatever happens, the tunnel will stay open.

On its ‘Brexit Promise’ page, it says ‘even in the case of a “no-deal” Brexit, the EU and UK have confirmed we’d continue to have visa-free travel this year and next.

‘Our Brexit promise gives you complete peace of mind, so you can make those holiday dreams reality, and secure the best fares today.’

As October 31 looms. prime minister Boris Johnson insists the UK will depart the EU on this date.

Eurotunnel makes 'Brexit promise'

Even your four-legged friends will be safe from the Brexit fallout. They’ll be allowed to accompany you on your travels as before.

Eurotunnel does warn of potential increased traffic outside the docks, though: 

‘Eurotunnel cannot control traffic flow outside of its terminals. However, we will continue to work with local authorities to ensure our customers are kept up to date.

‘In the unfortunate event of a build-up of traffic on the motorway which results in customers arriving late, we will as always endeavour to accommodate them on the next available shuttle.’

Eurotunnel makes 'Brexit promise'

Booking benefits also remain. These include free amendments up to 24 hours before your departure time, plus free cancellation up to seven days before you go.

‘Our shuttles will be running as usual throughout the year, whatever form Brexit takes,’ the site reads, in bold lettering.

Frankfurt Motor Show tightens security after anti-car vandalism

Frankfurt Motor Show

Security around the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show will be increased after protests involving damage to luxury cars.

A group calling itself ‘Rocks in the Gearbox’ is currently being investigated by police in relation to the vandalism. Forty upmarket cars at a dealership in Frankfurt were targeted, including Aston Martins, Land Rovers and Jaguars.

Damage was caused to bodywork and windows were smashed, which the group took responsibility for.

Frankfurt Motor Show

A statement from Rocks in the Gearbox seemingly threatens the Frankfurt Motor Show itself:

“In two weeks Frankfurt will once again launch a propaganda show where the outmoded, climate and environment destroying transportation system is hyped.

“We want to expose this show for what it really is: profits made on the backs of the poorest and at the expense of future generations … We think it is time to throw rocks into the gearbox of capitalist and automotive profit logic.”

Frankfurt Motor Show

It isn’t just environmental matters that the protests relate to, but working conditions in areas such as precious metal mining for batteries.

The VDA, Germany’s auto industry association, has attempted to calm the situation. Environmental activists from Deutsche Umwelthilfe and Greenpeace will be invited to a panel debate with executives from major German marques such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz. They’ll be talking about the environmental crisis and the future of the car.

Visitors to Frankfurt are being warned to expect delays and queues when trying to enter the event, given the heightened security measures.

Widow to sue Highways England over death on ‘smart’ motorway

Smart motorways dangerous

The widow of a man killed on the M1 is suing Highways England, claiming the ‘smart’ motorway system is directly responsible for his death.

“Removing the hard shoulder robbed my husband… of a safe refuge,” Mrs Mercer told the Sunday Telegraph.

“Police told me the lane was not closed after they became stranded. If it had been, they would be alive today.

“Two people died that day. Two families have been utterly devastated because the hard shoulder had been turned into a live lane. It’s that simple.”

Smart motorways dangerous

Jason Mercer and Alexandru Murgeanu were hit by a lorry on the M1, having pulled over to exchange insurance details following a prang.

Mrs Mercer wants to prove that Highways England’s removal of permanent hard shoulders without constant protection for stopped drivers is a breach of the organisation’s duty to make motorways safer. If successful, Highways England will technically be guilty of corporate manslaughter.

These aren’t the only deaths of this kind to have occurred on this stretch of the M1, between Woodall services and Meadowhall. In the past year, two other drivers were lost in similar circumstances.

The issue with ‘smart’ motorways

Smart motorways dangerous

Smart motorways work by effectively turning hard shoulder sections into live lanes, only shutting them and turning specific sections into a hard shoulder when needed.

This is done via the use of light-up gantries that display a red ‘X’ over lanes that are blocked, to let people know not to drive in them.

Red X closed lanes smart motorway fines

In this case, the lane was potentially not closed in time. Indeed, it’s reported that CCTV operators take an average of 20 minutes to spot stranded or stopped vehicles.

Highways England plans to make 788 miles of motorway ‘smart’ by 2025, compared with the 416 there are today. 

To 300mph and beyond: the fastest production cars in the world

Bugatti Chiron 300mph

There are more than 12 production cars in existence that can reach a speed beyond 240mph. That’s an incredible thing to consider in itself.

Following Koenigsegg’s 277mph world record of 2017, Bugatti has finally surpassed 300mph with a prototype variant of the Chiron.

To celebrate, we’ve come up with a list of the fastest cars in the world. As if we needed an excuse.

1993 McLaren F1 – 241mph

The fastest cars in the world

As a mark of respect for the founder of the 240+mph club, we start with the McLaren F1. One of only two naturally-aspirated cars on this list (the other is the Aston Martin Valkyrie), it remains a biblical achievement – and one of the most sought-after cars on Earth. Remove the rev limiter and you can hit 241mph, given a long enough stretch of road. Gordon Murray’s masterpiece is immortal.

2004 Koenigsegg CCR – 242 mph

The fastest cars in the world

Officially the CCR is the only Koenigsegg other than the Agera RS to break a record, although they’re all good for between 240 and 260mph. The CCR’s 4.7-litre supercharged V8 produced 806hp – a titanic figure for 2004. If Koenigsegg is to be believed – and at this point, we reckon it is – the CCR will actually top 245mph. 

2017 W Motors Fenyr Supersport – 246mph

The fastest cars in the world

We’re more sceptical about the W Motors Fenyr SuperSport. This relative unknown is, in theory, capable of 246mph. That’s thanks to a twin-turbo six-cylinder engine with 900hp, not unlike those you’ll find in the fastest Porsche 911s.

2005 Saleen S7 Twin Turbo – 248mph

The fastest cars in the world

Who remembers the Saleen S7 Twin Turbo? Not many, we’d wager. Gamers will know it as one of the fastest cars on the Test Drive Unlimited open-world racer. To everyone else, it’s a supercar made by a Mustang tuner. Regardless of what you think, it’s a bona fide 248mph car. Respectable for the early 2000s.

1993 Dauer Porsche 962 Le Mans – 251mph

The fastest cars in the world

At this point we should clarify we’re not re-writing the record book itself. Official or not, the fastest are on this list. That includes the Dauer Porsche 962 Le Mans. It doesn’t get official recognition because it’s not a ‘real’ Porsche. But there are road-going variants of this Le Mans racer capable of 251mph. At least, that’s what one was independently measured at in 1998 on Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien test-track.

2005 Bugatti Veyron – 253mph

The fastest cars in the world

From the flakey and vaguely unofficial to one of the most famous fast cars ever. Like the McLaren F1, although some are faster now, the Bugatti Veyron will always remain a speed king. Topping 253mph was an expensive endeavour for Bugatti and the VW Group. This 1,000hp hypercar with a 16-cylinder quad-turbo engine cost far more per unit to build than it sold for.

2016 Koenigsegg Regera – 255mph

The fastest cars in the world

The Regera is Koenigsegg’s gearless hybrid. There isn’t room to explain how that tech works here. All you need to know is that it’ll reach 255mph. And this is supposed to be the marque’s luxury GT.

2007 SSC Ultimate Aero – 256mph

The fastest cars in the world

The car that took on Bugatti and won (sort of). The SSC Ultimate Aero topped 256mph back in 2007. Bugatti fans contest that the SSC is capable of this and little more, as opposed to the ultimate all-rounder that is the Veyron. Its twin-turbocharged 6.3-litre V8 churned out 1,200hp.

2016 Bugatti Chiron – 261mph

The fastest cars in the world

The long-awaited Veyron replacement saw Bugatti position top speed as a side-effect. Its predecessor, the Veyron Super Sport (to follow) would keep its record, given the Chiron was limited to 261mph. Bugatti claimed that tyres weren’t yet ready to propel this 1,500hp hypercar to its true potential top speed. Not to start with, anyway.

2010 Bugatti Veyron Super Sport – 268mph

The fastest cars in the world

The Super Sport was Bugatti’s revenge against the boutique pretenders from America and Sweden. With 1,200hp, less weight and less drag, the SS topped the ‘standard’ car of five years before by 15mph, with a certified 268mph record. This official record would stand for seven years.

2014 Hennessey Venom GT – 270mph

The fastest cars in the world

Unofficially, American tuner Hennessey with its Venom GT would beat it, hitting 270mph. But the run was in a single direction, rather than the average of a back-and-forth blast, and the Venom wasn’t the company’s own car. There are also complications with its relationship to the Lotus Exige. Still, it’s a road car that’ll do 270mph, so it’s on this list.

2017 Koenigsegg Agera RS – 277mph

The fastest cars in the world

All Koenigseggs would be record holders given the chance, but the last of the Ageras was the one to prove the potential of the marque’s updated hypercar. The RS monstered the Veyron SS’s official record with a 277mph average two-way speed. One way, it actually exceeded 284mph. 

2019 Bugatti Chiron prototype – 304mph

The fastest cars in the world

After limiting the Chiron’s speed in 2016, Bugatti is back – and it’s only gone and done it. This prototype Chiron is officially a 300mph car. At 304mph, it covers a mile every 12 seconds, or five miles every minute. The mind boggles.

Although this is a prototype, a production variant (still 300mph-capable) is expected to be revealed soon, either at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show, or the Geneva Motor Show in March 2020. 

Coming soon: more fastest cars in the world

But wait – there’s more! Here are some cars coming soon that might also lay claim to being amongst the fastest cars in the world…

2020 Tesla Roadster – 250mph (claimed)

The fastest cars in the world

The new Tesla Roadster begins our bonus list of cars that will make this list when (and if) they’re ready. The jury’s out on whether the second-gen Roadster will actually top 250mph as Elon Musk claimed two years ago…

2020 McLaren Speedtail – 250mph (claimed)

The fastest cars in the world

McLaren are past masters of fast, but the marque hasn’t ever gone for its own record. The otherworldly Speedtail is a love letter to the F1, with three seats and a claimed 250mph top speed. Not huge by comparison to some more recent offerings, but respectable nonetheless. 

2020 Aston Martin Valkyrie – 250mph (claimed)

The fastest cars in the worldThe car they say is capable of lap times comparable to top level racing cars should also do 250mph. We don’t doubt F1 design ace Adrian Newey’s ability to deliver. It’s not quite ready yet, but this V12-powered 10,000rpm monster could be the most exciting car since the McLaren F1. 

2020 Koenigsegg Jesko – 300mph+ (claimed)

The fastest cars in the world

You can bet this is the real deal, though. The Jesko is Koenigsegg’s Agera replacement and is the car most likely to take on Bugatti and win. Revealed in a suitably bewinged and track-ready specification at Geneva this year, questions of a speed record were fielded with claims that a low-drag variant dubbed the Jesko 300 was coming. We wonder what the ‘300’ stands for… 

2020 Hennesey Venom F5 – 301mph+ (claimed)

The fastest cars in the world

Hennessey is also back with a new Venom. The F5 will supposedly be good for 300mph, when it’s eventually ready. Once again, power will come courtesy of a twin-turbo V8 engine with upwards of 1600hp. We await eagerly, albeit without holding our breath. 

2019 SSC Tuatara – 300mph+ (claimed)

The fastest cars in the world

The Tuatara has actually been around for eight years, albeit in an unfinished state. Our scepticism is understandable, although at the 2019 Pebble Beach event the first production car was handed over to its owner. Maybe it is serious, then? On E85 fuel its 5.9-litre twin-turbo V8 can produce 1,750hp and rev to 8,800rpm. SSC claims it will top 300mph. Let’s see it happen!

2020 Devel Sixteen – 320mph+ (claimed)

The fastest cars in the world

This thing makes the SSCs and Hennesseys look vastly more credible, somehow. The Devel Sixteen project is ongoing since its reveal in 2013. In its most powerful state, it’ll produce over 5,000hp via a quad-turbo 12.3-litre V16 engine. It’s effectively two General Motors LS V8 engines welded together. It’s not even that one that’s supposed to do 320mph. For that, all you need is the middling 3,000hp variant. Sceptical though we are, this project seems to have unlimited money behind it, and money tends to get things done. We’ll wait and see.

Frankfurt Motor Show 2019 preview: the 25 most exciting new cars

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

With the Frankfurt Motor Show just days away, we’ve taken a look at the most important new cars set to cause a stir in Germany. Among the wealth of reveals and debuts, these are the cars that matter.

Electric power takes a starring role in many of the expected new machines, while the rise of the SUV certainly isn’t over yet. Here’s what’s in store…

Porsche Taycan

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

The first all-electric Porsche has undergone extensive testing. Recently, it covered 2,100 miles in 24 hours at the Nardo high-speed track. The four-door prototype has also set a lap record around the fearsome Nurburgring circuit.

The launch of the Taycan, which is capable of covering 300 miles on a single charge, will take place a few days before Frankfurt on 4 September. However, with more than 20,000 customers already expressing an interest, it will be a major attraction at the show.

Volkswagen ID 3

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

Electric vehicles will play a large role at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show more generally. Volkswagen’s ID 3 is the first car to be launched on its bespoke electric ‘MEB’ platform. The brand hopes it will follow the Beetle and Golf in capturing mainstream sales.

Similar to Tesla, a range of battery sizes will be offered, allowing customers to tailor the ID 3 to their needs. Initial pre-order interest in the ID 3 actually broke Volkswagen’s website, with unprecedented demand for the £34,000 1st Edition model.

Land Rover Defender

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

Ignore the leaked images, Lego models and disguised prototypes testing in the desert. On Tuesday 10 September 2019 we will finally see the finished article. Providing the show floor doesn’t collapse under the weight of expectation, that is.

Land Rover knows it has to win over the purists, and prove the new Defender can live up to the legendary original. To that end, one is being driven from the Charyn Canyon in Kazakhstan all the way to Frankfurt.

Audi A3

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

The original Audi A3, launched in 1996, was one of the first premium hatchbacks. Fast-forward 23 years, and Ingolstadt is adding the finishing touches to its fourth-generation car.

Expect styling changes to be evolutionary, with elements borrowed from the smaller A1. Audi’s Virtual Cockpit system, as seen in the latest Q3 SUV, will also make an appearance. Engine choices will include mild-hybrid technology, whilst a full plug-in hybrid follows later.

Cupra EV concept

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

Another Volkswagen Group brand means another all-electric new car. Seat’s sporty offshoot Cupra is promising a battery-powered concept with ‘confident exterior design’ and a ‘sculpted yet versatile interior’.

So far, Cupra has only teased us with this exterior image, showing a four-door crossover. Although this is Cupra’s first all-electric road car, it previously produced a battery-powered e-Racer touring car with 500kW of power.

Mercedes-Benz ESF 2019 Concept

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

Based on the current GLE SUV plug-in hybrid, what will impress about the ESF 2019 concept is an incredible array of experimental safety technology. Level 4 autonomy capabilities are also included, allowing the car to take charge of driving.

Most noticeable are the lights and exterior displays, used to indicate what the car is doing when acting autonomously. This includes a front LED screen that shows pedestrians if the car is slowing down at a crossing. Inside, there’s a range of safety features, including a special carbon fibre baby seat.

Lamborghini hybrid hypercar

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

Only a cryptic social media message has hinted at the future for Lamborghini. Other than the words ‘something new is on the way’, the Italian company is keeping quiet about what it plans for Frankfurt.

However, all rumours point towards a hybrid version of the Aventador supercar. Not even the iconic V12-powered machine can escape the move to hybridisation, it seems. If it’s anything like the Terzo Millennio concept shown in 2018, though, fans should be excited about this secret project.

Honda E

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

Two years after the Urban EV Concept wowed crowds in Frankfurt, the finished production Honda E makes its debut. Journalists have already tried the prototype version, with our Richard Aucock suitably impressed by the battery-powered supermini.

In fact, the only remaining changes to the prototype are said to be interior trim tweaks and a working infotainment system. We’ll also get details of the battery range, which Honda has previously stated will be more than 125 miles.

Vauxhall Corsa-e Rally

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

Vauxhall has already released details of the battery-powered version of the new Corsa supermini. However, the company also wants to prove that electric propulsion can be exciting. On show in Frankfurt will be the first all-electric rally car offered for customer motorsport.

The 130hp Corsa-e Rally will compete in its own ADAC Opel e-Rally Cup in Germany. Priced at around €50,000 (£46,000), normal commuters might prefer the regular road-going Corsa-e, which costs a more palatable £26,490.

New 2020 Audi RS6 Avant

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

Does anyone need an estate car with 600hp and 800lb ft of torque, capable of 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds? Possibly not, but Audi’s latest addition to its hot wagon line-up is something to be celebrated. Dramatic bodywork, 21-inch wheels and giant oval tailpipes will give it serious Autobahn presence.

The 4.0-litre turbocharged V8 has mild-hybrid technology, allowing the RS6 to coast for up to 40 seconds with the engine turned off. There is an impressive 1,680 litres of luggage space with the rear seats folded down, too.

BMW 3 Series Touring

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

Slightly less dramatic than the Audi, the new 3 Series Touring continues the tradition of BMW’s compact estate series. While many of the details were revealed earlier this year, Frankfurt will mark the first major show debut for 3 Series wagon.

More than 1.7 million examples of the 3 Series Touring have been produced since 1987, and the new model is likely to be very popular. Its redesigned boot is bigger than its predecessor, and the new Touring benefits from the range of technology upgrades seen on the saloon.

Alpina will also reveal a tuned version of the new 3 Series Touring, with the potential for 400hp.

BMW X6

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

If you were concerned that the existing BMW X6 coupe SUV doesn’t look aggressive enough, worry not. Set to debut in Frankfurt, the third-generation X6 is larger in every direction, including the size of its front grille.

It even comes with an option to have its kidney grille illuminated: helpful to warn-off smaller cars on the road. BMW will also display its incredible ‘Vantablack’ version of the X6, described as the ‘blackest black’ ever made. Its space-age nanotechnology absorbs almost all external light, making objects appear two-dimensional.

Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

With the demise of the Range Rover Evoque Convertible, the new Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet is your default choice if you desire a drop-top SUV. Apparently, this is the first cabriolet offered in the crossover class.

The automatic roof can be retracted in just nine seconds, and operates at speeds of up to 19mph. A reinforced windscreen frame and a pop-up rear roll bar ensure the T-Roc cabrio is as rigid as the regular version.

Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4Matic

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

Like the sound of the new Mercedes-AMG A35 hatchback, but wish it was a compact SUV? Say hello to the new GLB 35 4Matic. GLB production only began in July, but there has been no delay in making a hot version.

Its 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces 302hp. This is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, allowing the GLB 35 to hit 62mph in 5.2 seconds.

Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 4Matic Coupe

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

Hold the phone, there is another new performance Mercedes-AMG SUV making its way to Frankfurt. Alongside the launch of the second-generation GLE Coupe, a hot AMG 53 version will also be on show.

Mercedes promises a greater emphasis on coupe-like styling, along with improved aerodynamics and updated infotainment. The GLE 53 is powered by a turbocharged six-cylinder engine, generating 435hp. Hybrid technology offers an extra 22hp boost when needed.

Hyundai i30N Project C

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

Hyundai is rightly proud of the success of the i30N hot hatch. Now it has created a limited-edition version, which removes weight to offer more performance. Carbon fibre is used for the body panels, motorsport-derived alloy wheels are added, and the suspension is lowered.

The bad news? Hyundai will not produce any of the 600 units in right-hand drive, denying it to UK buyers. Sorry.

Hyundai ‘45’ EV concept

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

Along with the i30N Project C, Hyundai will also display a new electric concept at the Frankfurt show. The ‘45’ fully-electric car is said to show the direction for battery-powered Hyundais in the future, and is inspired by the brand’s first car from 1970.

A new electric Hyundai racing car will also be unveiled, although details are limited so far.

Vauxhall Grandland X Hybrid4

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

Already available to order for UK buyers, the plug-in hybrid version of the Grandland X SUV makes its public debut at Frankfurt. Priced from £35,590, Vauxhall hopes to lure in a new audience to plug-in hybrid technology.

The combination of two electric motors and a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine results in a combined output of 300hp. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes just seven seconds, but the Hybrid4 can still achieve a potential 176.5mpg. It can also travel up to 32 miles in all-electric mode.

Seat Tarraco FR PHEV

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

One of the competitors for the Grandland X Hybrid4 will be the newly announced Seat Tarraco FR PHEV. Combining a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine with an 85kW electric motor, Seat aims to offer a sporty driving experience.

Like the Vauxhall, an all-electric range of around 32 miles is available. CO2 emissions are said to be below 50g/km on the WLTP test cycle. FR trim also brings new 19-inch alloy wheels, wider bodywork and sports seats.

Skoda Kamiq Monte Carlo

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

The Kamiq SUV might be one of the newest additions to the Skoda range, but the Czech brand is already offering up sporty trim levels. Monte Carlo branding was seen previously on the Fabia, and pays tribute to the company’s historic success on the Monte Carlo Rally.

Special badges will mark out the Kamiq Monte Carlo, along with black trim for the grille and roof rails. Skoda has also confirmed that the new Scala hatchback will receive the Monte Carlo treatment, with both on show in Frankfurt.

Mercedes-Benz EQV

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

Touted as the first fully-electric MPV, the production-ready EQV will be on show in Frankfurt. A choice of wheelbases will be offered, and a top speed of up to 100mph is promised.

The headline-grabbing figure is a range of up to 252 miles when fully charged. The 90kWh battery is replenished via an on-board water-cooled charger. Positioned below the floor, the battery pack is also said to have no impact on interior space.

Hyundai i10

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

Along with electric cars and hot hatches, Hyundai will also use Frankfurt to reveal its latest version of the i10 supermini. This sketch shows a more aggressive and angular design, with a wide front grille and triangular air intakes.

Hyundai also promises the new i10 will offer features such as wireless smartphone charging, a rear-view camera and a range of active safety tech. This will include Driver Attention Warning and Lane Keep Assist as standard.

BMW M8 coupe and convertible

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

BMW has gone all-out for the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show, filling its stand with a wealth of new models. These include the Competition versions of the M8 coupe and convertible. A 625hp output means a 189mph top speed (with the correct options package).

A production version of the four-door M8 Gran Coupe is also expected to take centre stage in Frankfurt.

Renault Captur

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

Since launch in 2013, Renault has sold 1.2 million examples of the Captur compact SUV. As the most popular car in its class in Europe, Renault has taken its time developing an all-new version.

Styling is evolutionary, but more space can be found inside, along with an optional digital dashboard. Significantly, a plug-in hybrid version will be on sale from 2020.

BMW 1 Series

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

First revealed in May this year, Frankfurt marks the first proper motor show outing for the third-generation BMW 1 Series. Switching to front-wheel drive may have upset some commentators, but is apparently what customers requested.

The result is greater interior space, with more technology included. Buyers can also specify options such as a head-up display and panoramic sunroof. A 306hp M135i xDrive model acts as the range-topping hot hatch.

2020 Vauxhall Astra

2019 Vauxhall Astra review: cleaner engines slash running costs

2020 Vauxhall AstraThe Astra is one of the best cars Vauxhall makes, yet it’s frequently overlooked by family car buyers. It’s outsold by both the fresh Ford Focus and the Volkswagen Golf which, while aged, still carries the allure of the VW roundel.

So Vauxhall is having another go, with a mid-life refresh. Surprisingly, it has chosen not to advertise this with an obvious visual facelift. Customers, it argues, still like how the current car looks.

We think this could be a mistake, because there’s been so much work under the surface. The Astra is now even better to drive than before. The ho-hum styling update means all this risks passing people by.

2020 Vauxhall Astra

All-new engines are the headline change. Each is now a three-cylinder turbo: 1.2-litre petrol or 1.5-litre diesel (with a 1.4-litre turbo petrol for the handful who want an automatic gearbox). 

They are very efficient engines, with both diesel and petrol emitting less than 100g/km CO2. Emissions of the outgoing Astra were too high, but Vauxhall has fixed that and then some.

2020 Vauxhall Astra

Choose from 110hp, 130hp or 145hp 1.2-litre, with the diesel coming in 105hp or 122hp formats. Although eight in 10 Astra sales are to fleets, petrol still sells best, and Vauxhall expects the 130hp SRi to be the most popular model.

It’s a nice engine, with a cheery three-cylinder throb and decent pulling power when the turbo is spooling. Just don’t let the revs drop below 2,000rpm, because there’s nothing there. You’ll be left floundering at roundabouts before the turbo kicks in.

Despite its small capacity, the engine cruises quietly, and reinforces a real Astra strength: refinement.

2020 Vauxhall Astra

Indeed, this is a car as quiet as one from the class above. Road noise is subdued, wind noise is distant and other sources of noise are well isolated. It takes the pain out of long journeys, and delivers a high-quality, Germanic feel as it glides effortlessly along.

Although exterior changes are limited to a tweaked front end and a couple of new paint colours, Vauxhall has installed active aerodynamics behind the front grille, and air-smoothing panels underneath. This improves the drag factor from 0.29 to 0.26 – the same as the ultra-slippery Vauxhall Calibra from the 1990s. Undoubtedly, this helps make the Astra such a peaceful cruiser.

2020 Vauxhall Astra

The suspension has been revised so it rides bumps more smoothly, but still handles positively. The Astra is now an even more satisfying car to drive. It isn’t quite as dynamic as a Focus, but doesn’t have that car’s sporty ride, either.

Also, it’s more engaging than the squidgier Golf. If you drive on twisty roads regularly, your only gripe will be steering that’s a bit soft just off-centre. If it’s mainly motorway, you’ll appreciate the relaxed positivity.

2020 Vauxhall Astra

Inside, Vauxhall offers three grades of infotainment. Base cars have a 7.0-inch touchscreen, with a ‘pro’ version (pictured above) having an 8.0-inch screen plus matching digital instrument cluster. All come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The interior has been tidied up – that daft panel in the centre console is now a small cubby – and already-impressive quality notched up yet further. It makes a Focus feel plasticky.

Front seats are comfortable (Vauxhall chairs are often superb) but rear space is only average, and the boot is middling, too. The Astra is a little smaller than its direct rivals, and it shows in the rear. Other gripes include a manual handbrake that’s far too heavy (posher trims have an electronic parking brake) and an oddly pronounced restart shudder following auto stop-start.

2020 Vauxhall Astra

The diesel is particularly rugged here, and the clatter at idle is more gravelly than in, say, a Golf TDI. At all other times, though, this new engine is smoother and even more hushed than the petrol. It is responsive, suffers less from low-rev lethargy and is a consummate cruiser. In launching a lower-power 105hp version, Vauxhall has even reduced the price premium compared to petrol. Much as we like the petrol, we’d rather take this impressive new diesel.

Vauxhall won’t sell many 1.4 autos, but those who do choose it will enjoy a very capable mini-exec. Despite being a CVT ‘stepless auto’, it has none of the slipping-clutch effect you usually suffer, and the 1.4 is a strong performer. Choose this if you’re downsizing from an Insignia-sized car: you’ll barely notice the difference.

2020 Vauxhall Astra

Trim lines are now simpler. SE and Business Nav are entry-level fleet-focused variants, then there are three variants of SRi, plus Elite Nav for fleet upgraders and Ultimate for the tiny percentage who want it all. Pricing is broadly similar to the outgoing car, and starts from £18,885.

The clincher is the sheer efficiency of the new engines. The 105hp diesel emits just 90g/km CO2, which is a big money-saver for fleets – particularly as all engines are now so clean, they’re RDE2-compliant. In plain English, this means diesels escape the four percent surcharge, saving both companies and company car drivers thousands. No rival is RDE2-compliant yet: this is a massive advantage for Vauxhall.

2020 Vauxhall Astra

Mid-life upgrades have made the very decent Vauxhall Astra even better. It’s British-built, too (and hopefully will remain so) for those who want to support the home team. What a pity the designers haven’t made more of it with a standout visual refresh.

Here’s hoping the planned punchy new ad campaign can encourage more people into it. This is a car that still deserves to be shortlisted.

Bugatti is first to break the 300mph barrier

Bugatti Chiron 300mph

Bugatti is officially back as the king of speed. Driving a specially-prepared Chiron, race ace Andy Wallace burst through the 300mph barrier, achieving a top speed of 304.77mph at Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien test-track.

It beats the official 277mph record that Koenigsegg scored two years ago with the Agera RS. 

The 300mph Bugatti

Bugatti Chiron 300mph

As you can tell by looking at the pictures, this is no ordinary Chiron (if any Chiron could be called ‘ordinary’). It features extensive modifications, both visible and under the skin, to make it a 300mph car.

At such speeds, the air is your enemy. To help defeat it, the Chiron has modified bodywork, including a 250mm longer tail with a reduced cross-section for increased stability.

Stacked quad exhausts protrude from the rear, to keep the hot gasses from interrupting airflow. These were also seen recently on the Bugatti Centodieci ‘EB110 tribute’, revealed at Pebble Beach. 

Bugatti Chiron 300mph

Speaking of interrupting airflow, this is the first Bugatti of the modern era without any sort of spoiler, active or fixed. The Chiron’s hydraulic item has been ditched to save weight. At the front, the horseshoe grille is engorged, along with the flanking vents, to suck in as much air as possible and cool the Chiron’s many radiators.

The front wheelarches evacuate air through new vents in the bodywork. The ones on the top, in particular, are very reminiscent of the EB110 SS.

Those radiators have more work to do than ever. The 8.0-litre quad-turbo W16 engine in this prototype produces 1,600hp. That power goes to all four wheels via the regular Chiron transmission. On the inside, the passenger seat has been removed, although we don’t expect any production version to be a single-seater.

Bugatti Chiron 300mph

When the Chiron was first revealed, Bugatti seemed nonplussed about speed records. The car could top 260mph, but was electronically limited. It dismissed questions about an attempt, saying tyres were the limiting factor.

Clearly that’s no longer the case. Michelin has been working closely with the marque on the triple-tonne project over the past six months.

Bugatti Chiron 300mph

As for what this new Chiron actually is, it’s not clear. At the moment, it’s a one-off. Bugatti refers to it as ‘a near-production derivative of the hyper sportscar Chiron’, so we can probably expect a limited run soon, akin to the Veyron Super Sport of 2010.

You can bet Bugatti’s sales team are already fielding phone calls from people whose bank balances have more digits than their phone numbers… 

The government has made it easier to create a ‘play street’

Play streets are now easier to book

The government has made it a lot easier to get your local road closed to make a ‘play street’.

The phenomenon of making ‘play streets’ out of roads by closing them is a relatively new one, and increasingly popular. Some close-knit communities hold regular events in their streets. With cars temporarily banned, people are free to roam and mingle, and children are free to play.

Play streets can be used for anything from sporting events to community gatherings. It’s a concept being pushed by the government and community organisations alike. 

In an update to existing guidelines, the Department for Transport has now given councils powers to make ’special event’ orders on request. Roads can be closed for ‘play’, without the need for advertising.

Play streets are now easier to book

Councils can also use single consent applications for multiple ‘play’ days over a 12-month period. Individual applications for each closer are no longer necessary.

“Play streets offer wonderful opportunities for children to get outdoors and for families and communities to get together,” said Roads Minister Baroness Vere.

“A generation ago, it was common to see young people playing out in the street but today it can be a rare sight.

“That’s why I’m delighted to be making it easier for those who want to create Play Streets, boosting the health and wellbeing of children, families and communities.”

Play streets are now easier to book

“We are delighted that the government has now issued guidance for councils to support play streets,” said Alice Ferguson, Director of Playing Out.

“Children need the chance to play out freely near home, as was the norm a generation ago. Heavy traffic and other conditions have made this increasingly difficult.”