AUTOBEST finalist 2020

Finalists revealed for Best Buy Car of Europe 2020

AUTOBEST 2020 finalists - Nissan Juke, Peugeot 208, Renault Clio, Skoda Kamiq, Vauxhall Corsa

Five cars are in the running for the AUTOBEST title of Best Buy Car of Europe 2020 – also known as the award for Europe’s best real-world new car.

All-new versions of the Nissan Juke, Peugeot 208, Renault Clio, Skoda Kamiq and Vauxhall Corsa are the five finalists. They will now undergo detailed assessment by jurors from 31 European countries.

The AUTOBEST organisation will hold a Final Test at the Intercity Istanbul Park F1 circuit in Turkey, where jurors will submit their final votes. Each juror – one from each country – will assess each car on a detailed 13-point voting matrix. 

All votes are transparent and will be published when the winner is announced in mid-December.

“At AUTOBEST, we closely follow the trends in the industry, and continuously learn from European consumers what they are looking for when buying new cars,” said AUTOBEST founder and chairman Dan Vardie. 

“We believe the final five is an expression of these trends.”

AUTOBEST Best Buy Car of Europe 2020 finalists

  • Nissan Juke
  • Peugeot 208
  • Renault Clio
  • Skoda Kamiq
  • Vauxhall Corsa

Highways England is turning motorway lights back on

Highways England switches lights back on

Highways England is ending its policy of switching off some motorway lighting between midnight and 5am.

The government-owned company has maintained this policy since 2009 on 100 miles of the road network. A recent report, however, indicated that ‘lighting unlit’ sections saw casualty rates increase by 88 percent. These included non-functioning lighting, as well as lighting that was turned off. That’s a rise from 93 to 175 casualties between 2010 and 2017.

Highways England says the switch-off policy ended in 2018. This, because of the installation of more efficient LED lights and, presumably, the negligible savings a switch-off would make. It’s not yet linked the revocation of the switch-off to safety concerns.

Highways England switches lights back on

“Safety is our top priority,” said head of road safety Richard Leonard. 

“On our roads we light what needs to be lit, and we know where those locations are. We have a greater understanding of where night-time collisions occur and the impact road lighting would have. This means we can target lighting where it is needed, rather than putting lights everywhere.

“We are absolutely committed to further reducing deaths and injuries on England’s motorways and major A roads. This will require a concerted effort and investment over the long term.”

Are lit areas more dangerous?

Highways England switches lights back on

Conversely, the company actually points out that its data suggests that ‘you are more likely to be involved in a casualty incident on a lit section of road’. This could, however, be because areas they choose to light are, by comparison, more dangerous.

Why? Because when it reviews lighting, it carries out safety risk assessments to see if it’s still needed. Therefore, if the lights are on, they’re likely needed. It’s a piece of road that lighting is viewed to help make safer, but not necessarily by comparison to roads that don’t warrant it. In short, the lights indicate that a section is viewed as less safe than those without lighting. The lighting is there to help, if only in part, but isn’t the cause.

You can now experience classic Ferraris in Italy

Ferrari Classiche Academy

Ferrari’s new Classiche Academy is underway, and it makes possible one of the great automotive impossibilities: the opportunity to see, learn about, feel and drive classic Ferraris. This, and more, takes place over two days of immersion in the world of Ferrari at the marque’s Fiorano circuit.

Not quite the multi-million-pound V12 GTs of the 50s and 60s. You do, however, get the authentic 70s and 80s experience, with a 308 GTS and GTBi. Unlike any other supercar driving experience, Ferrari opens by taking you underneath these early era Ferrari supercars, to discover what makes them tick.

Ferrari Classiche Academy

Then you go for a tour of the Officine Classiche Ferrari, where you can view technical drawings and notes taken by engineers in period. The marque has an archive of notes, drawings and race reports going back to 1947. 

Driving classic Ferraris

Ferrari Classiche Academy

The track experience shouldn’t be the standard UK fare of ‘stay in a gear, don’t go over X,XXXrpm’, either. With the Classiche Academy, you get a course in vehicle dynamics and corner management.

You learn various driving techniques like high-speed counter steering, wet-weather driving, heel and toe and double clutching. It’s all stuff you’d at least hesitate to try on the road in your own car, let alone in someone else’s classic Ferrari.

Ferrari Classiche Academy

This is all because Ferrari wants to deliver pre-digital driving experiences and to encourage the learning of car control in cars with no safety net to catch you. Again, how many people who actually own these cars dedicate time to learning how to drive them?

Imagine in 30 years time if Ferrari offered a two-day course at Fiorano where you got to learn to drift ‘classic’ 458s? That’s the kind of thing this is for 70s and 80s supercar aficionados.

Electric Mini laps the Nurburgring without braking

Mini Nurburgring no brakes

It takes a certain level of bravery to take to the Nurburgring at all. But one Mini driver has lapped the infamous circuit without even touching the brake pedal. His goal: to test the new electric Mini Cooper SE’s Green Mode regenerative systems.

For clarification, we’re not talking about flat-out driving. Rather, the lap required perfectly measured inputs of throttle to engage the right amount of battery-charging regenerative braking at the right time. 

The Green Hell in Green Mode

Mini Nurburgring no brakes

What’s the point of driving the Nurburgring if not flat-out? Well, besides the PR kudos that comes with taking your car there, it’s great for testing and calibration.

As with many electric cars, the Mini allows you to select how much retardation and regeneration you get when off the throttle, to the point where you can drive with one pedal. The Mini’s system is two-stage and adjustable with a toggle switch to the left of the start-stop button.

Mini Nurburgring no brakes

There’s a whole new challenge in selecting the right amount of regeneration for the coming corner. The softer stage provides 0.11g of deceleration, while the harder setting provides 0.19g.

Mini calls it ‘timely toggling’, to ensure ‘soft recuperation ahead of extended bends and full energy recovery with corresponding deceleration ahead of tight curves’.

The car will let you know which mode you’re in, with recuperation rates displayed, and LED lighting to correspond. The toggle switch also has its own LED that lights up in energy recovery mode.

Mini Nurburgring no brakes

“The first lap in the ‘Green Hell’ already reveals the extent to which the two-stage recuperation increases driving fun in tandem with efficiency,” said a Mini spokesperson.

Half-term traffic: 54,500 breakdowns expected this weekend

Half term breakdowns expected

The October half-term begins for many children today (Friday 18 October) – and families across the UK will be taking to the road for short breaks.

Not all will make it to their destinations, however. Breakdown service Green Flag is warning of 13 breakdowns every minute between now and Sunday evening.

That equates to 54,500 breakdowns overall. The company is expecting more callouts this weekend, too: 84,500 in total.

Half term breakdowns expected

“The October half-term always sees more cars on the roads as families head off on a well-earned autumn break,” said Simon Henrick at Green Flag.

“However, as a result, the roads will be busier than usual and a high number of breakdowns are predicted to occur, hence we’re urging drivers to ensure their vehicles are road-ready before embarking on long journeys.

“Many breakdowns are avoidable if proper care is taken of your vehicle, both before and during a journey, so it’s important to conduct a thorough inspection of your car before leaving home and staying vigilant on the roads when driving.”

Half-term travel adviceHalf term breakdowns expected

 

The usual tips apply to avoid breaking down. It’s all about planning ahead, and making sure your car is up to the job. Here are a few tips for staying mobile over the half-term.

1. Tyres, lights and liquids

Check your tyres are all well-treaded and pumped up, that all your lights are working, and that all your car’s fluids are at the correct level and not leaking.

2. Plan ahead

Even with everything checked, you never know what could happen. Give your car its best chance by planning your journey. That means taking quieter routes and travelling at times when there is less traffic.

Half term breakdowns expected

 

3. Road-trip essentials

Even with all that, you could still come a cropper. It’s October, so it can get chilly. Keep blankets, as well as food and drink on board. A map is always good to have, in case your phone signal fails, and a warning triangle for if you stop on the road. Keep your phone charged, too.

4. Breakdown cover

Needless to say, you’re going to want breakdown cover, and to keep the contact details for rescue close at hand.

Opinion: the Copen GR Sport is the sports car we need

Daihatsu Copen GR Sport

Life is full of disappointments. Like discovering an absence of Chomp bars in a Heroes variety pack. Or arriving at a pub with locked doors after a 12-mile walk. Or realising that there’s little chance of buying a Copen GR Sport.

Toyota Gazoo Racing – a company most famous for making the Yaris appealing – has turned its attention to the tiny Daihatsu Copen.

The opening paragraph atop the press release is wonderfully Japanese: “A new lightweight feel sports car combining the joy of the open air with the Toyota Gazoo Racing delight of handling at will.“

In other words, Gazoo Racing’s wizards have focused on body rigidity and suspension tuning by adding a front brace, changing the shape of the centre brace and tweaking the spring rate.

Further upgrades include tuned electric power steering, aerodynamic tweaks, BBS alloys and Recaro seats. Basically, the kind of things you’d demand from a lightweight sports car.

The intercooled, turbocharged 660cc engine is unchanged, and you have a choice of a five-speed manual gearbox or seven-speed CVT with paddle-shifter.

Sounds perfect, especially when you consider that it costs the equivalent of £17,500 – about the same as a mid-range Ford Fiesta. At least it would be perfect if we could buy the blimmin‘ thing.

‘Handling at will’

Copen GR Sport

But you can’t, because the Copen GR Sport is reserved for the Japanese domestic market. Boo, hiss, etc. No “handling at will” delights for you, Minasama.

Still, at least we’ve got a plentiful supply of affordable, lightweight sports cars to choose from. Only we haven’t. Not today.

Fiat’s Mazda MX-5-based MX-5 rival has bitten the dust, leaving the Mazda MX-5 as the sole flag-bearer for affordable roofless fun. These days you need to keep your top on to enjoy maximum thrills, although the Alpine A110 – the current king of the lightweights – costs upwards of £48,000.

Even the Lotus Elise – the former benchmark for cheap(ish) thrills – will set you back at least £42,000 in its rawest form. A lightweight gem for a heavyweight price.

Cast your mind back 20 years to the summer of 1999. You were spoilt for choice: Alfa Romeo Spider, BMW Z3, Caterham 21, Fiat Barchetta, Honda S2000, Lotus Elise, Mazda MX-5, MGF and Porsche Boxster were just some of the sports cars bugging you for your pre-millennium pound.

An unlikely Hethel-built Vauxhall sports car was also waiting in the wings, making this a golden period for wind-in-your-hair joy. Meanwhile, the Ford Puma was acting like an appetiser for the main course – serving up front-wheel-drive delights to prepare drivers for the joy of rear-wheel-drive heaven.

How many Ford Puma owners spent time on the nursery slopes before tackling the black runs offered by the preeminent sports car manufacturers?

Million-dollar paperweights

Copen GR Sport interior

Where are the affordable sports cars of 2019? Hardly a week goes by without a carmaker unveiling another unattainable and inaccessible hypercar that you can’t afford, can’t buy and can’t drive. Million-dollar paperweights destined for air-conditioned basements and the auction catalogues of 2029.

We’ve allowed this to happen. By falling at the heels of crossovers and SUVs, we’ve sent sports cars spiralling into oblivion, rendering them uneconomically unviable for many manufacturers. Christ knows how lucky we are that Renault had the balls to launch the Alpine A110, but where’s the Copen GR Sport equivalent for the UK market?

Don’t hold your breath. Even Mazda MX-5 sales are down nine percent in Europe over the first half of 2019, so it would take a brave marketing department to propose the launch of a sub £20,000 sports car in the UK. 

Saying you can have fun in a small SUV is like saying you can enjoy telephone hold music. Both are there to serve a purpose, but you wouldn’t want to spend longer than you have to enduring them. The Copen GR Sport looks like fun even when it’s standing still.

“Toyota Gazoo Racing will continue to make efforts to create attractive cars for car fans through dialogues with customers, utilising the voices of many car enthusiasts to ‘create ever-better cars‘,” says Toyota.

Open a dialogue with UK buyers, Toyota. We’re ready for your ‘ever-better cars‘.

How much does it cost to charge a Tesla Model 3?

Tesla Model 3

The Tesla Model 3 is one of the most talked about cars in Britain. Our Tim Pitt said “it could be a game-changer for Tesla: the car that propels it into the mainstream“. But how much does it cost to charge?

You’d be forgiven for feeling slightly confused. Some Tesla owners don’t pay for using the Supercharger network, while others do. Cutting to the chase: you WILL have to pay to charge a Tesla Model 3.

Anyone who bought a Model S or Model X before 2 November 2018 enjoys free and unlimited access to the Supercharger network. Cars bought after this date are subject to an annual allowance of 400kWh before paying to use the network.

Then, in August 2019, Tesla reinstated the unlimited free Supercharging as part of the Model S and Model X sales package. It isn’t clear how long this will last, but it doesn’t apply to Model 3 owners. 

Model 3: cost of charging

How much you pay to charge your Tesla Model 3 depends on where you’re charging. The following guide is based on prices correct at the time of writing:

  • Tesla Supercharger: based on a price of 24p/kWh, a full charge in the Model 3 Standard Range Plus costs £12. This delivers a range of 254 miles.
  • Public charging network: using a Pod Point rapid charger should cost between £7.52 to £10.26 for a 20 to 80 percent charge. Other rapid chargers are available.
  • At home: based on a cost of 14p/kWh, it should cost £7 for a full charge when using a domestic supply.

Prices vary, while access to a rapid charger network could involve a registration fee and monthly charge.

Tesla Superchargers in Britain

There are currently nearly 15,000 Superchargers across the world, and that number is growing all the time. However, it’s worth noting that the Model 3 is the first Tesla to come with a CCS charging port, so you aren’t restricted solely to the company’s Supercharger network. 

Click here to read our Tesla Model 3 UK review.

Ford GT review: a Le Mans racer with number plates

Ford GT

Ford v Ferrari, a new docudrama starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, debuts in cinemas soon. It retells one of the most celebrated stories in motorsport: how Henry Ford II tried to buy Ferrari, was rudely snubbed by Enzo, then enacted his revenge on the racetrack. Ford’s weapon of choice was the GT40 – so-called because it was just 40 inches tall – and it went on to utterly dominate endurance racing.

Success for the GT40 took time. At Le Mans in 1964, all three cars failed to finish. The following year, Ford suffered the same fate. But an updated MkII model came good in 1966, with a legendary 1-2-3 finish in the 24-hour race. Ferrari’s 330 P4 prototypes were nowhere to be seen. Incredibly, Ford would win Le Mans four times in a row, from 1966 to 1969, cementing the GT40’s near-mythical status and inspiring Hollywood to tell its tale.

Read more Motoring Research reviews FIRST on City AM

The story doesn’t end there, though. Fifty years after its first historic victory, Ford returned to Le Mans in 2016 with a new GT (not christened ‘GT44’, despite being four inches taller) and won the LMGTE Pro class. Job done, you might think, but unlike the original GT40, this car has another mission to accomplish: taking on Ferrari on the road. That’s where I come in.

Ford GT

OK, so I didn’t drive the GT on the road. Ford only has two press cars in Europe and didn’t want either reconfigured by an over-excited hack confusing the M6 with the Mulsanne Straight. Instead, I was let loose on M-Sport’s new test-track in the Lake District. As the firm behind Ford’s WRC rally cars, M-Sport knows how to design a tortuously twisty loop of tarmac. Whether such a circuit suits a barely-disguised Le Mans racer is another matter. Oh, did I mention it was raining?

In the metal (sorry, carbon fibre), the GT looks stone-cold sensational, the voluptuous curves of the GT40 fortified by slash-cut intakes and aggressive aero. The rear view – past two afterburner tailpipes, over the transparent engine cover and through diverging rear buttresses – is like nothing else. In radiant ‘Triple Yellow’ with nose-to-tail racing stripes, it makes brightens up even a damp day in Cumbria.

I lift the scissor-style door and slide over a wide sill. Headroom feels tight with a crash helmet on and the bucket seat doesn’t move; you pull a strap to slide the pedals instead. Ford anoraks will spot the infotainment screen from a Fiesta, but that’s your lot for luxury – there are no cupholders and no carpets. No matter: this car is for driving, and its suede-wrapped wheel and anodised shift paddles feel superb.

Ford GT

In place of a good ol’ V8, the latest GT packs a downsized 3.5-litre Ecoboost V6, but what it lacks in cubic inches is amply compensated for by twin turbos and a dry weight of 1,385kg (scarcely more than a new Ford Focus). With 656hp coursing through its carbon fibre rear wheels, it scrabbles for traction in first, second and third gears, but feels brutally quick. It’s also fiercely loud: not sonorous like a Ferrari, but industrial and raw like a race car.

It responds like a race car, too. Anti-lag technology keeps the thrust coming, while the dual-clutch gearbox never pauses for breath. Its suspension is taut and tied-down, its steering telepathically direct. Switch into Track mode and the whole car drops by 50mm, but even in Normal it feels fiercely focused. However, while its sheer speed intimidates, its balanced, cohesive chassis does not. By the time my brief session comes to an end, I’m convinced I could win Le Mans.

Price: £450,000

0-62mph: 2.8sec 

Top speed: 216mph

CO2 G/KM: N/A

MPG combined: 17.0

This review was originally published in City AM.

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The best and worst areas of the UK for truck drivers

Best places for truck drivers

A new study has revealed the best places in Great Britain for truck drivers – and there’s good news for the Midlands Engine.

The East and West Midlands are ranked first and second, based on average HGV driver pay, number of jobs, employment density and the cost of living.

According to the government, the Midlands, which stretches from Shropshire to Lincolnshire, with the M1, M6 and most of the UK railway network running through it, is a ‘powerful engine for economic growth’.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show there are more than 183,000 large goods vehicle driving jobs in the UK – growing at a rate of 3.6 percent per year. Basing yourself in the Midlands is a way of capitalising on this growth.

Truck drivers can expect to earn an average £29,313 per year, but the figure is higher in both the East and West Midlands. Predictably, London attracts the highest wages, with an average of £31,110.

Lorries in the East Midlands

But far from boasting streets paved from gold, London isn’t the promised land for for budding HGV drivers. A shortage of jobs and a high cost of living makes the capital a place to avoid.

While the East Midlands is one of the least populated parts of Britain, the region is known for its manufacturing. Around 140,000 HGV journeys are completed per day, with firms taking advantage of the excellent road network.

The M1 connects Northampton in the south of the region to Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and Mansfield in the north, as well as providing a direct link to London and onward to ports on the south and east coasts.

The research was conducted by financial website Nimblefins. It found that London, the South East and South West are the worst places to be a truck driver.

Top regions for HGV driver jobs

This table shows the Nimblefin data in full. Note: higher numbers are more desirable.

Rank/RegionAverage HGV driver payNumber of HGV jobsJob densityCost of living metric
1. East Midlands£30,49616,0006.51.10
2. West Midlands£29,56717,0005.81.17
3. Yorkshire and The Humber£28,92320,0007.41.07
4. North East£29,0067,0005.51.22
5. Scotland£28,18918,0006.51.10
6. East£30,01820,0006.21.01
7. North West£28,58123,0006.31.10
8. Wales£27,1479,0005.81.11
9. London£31,1108,0001.60.91
10. South East£30,27421,0004.40.89
11. South West£27,93417,0005.80.94

Click here for information on the new London Direct Vision Standard.

Newcastle named best city for car parking

City parking UK

New data reveals which UK cities offer the best car parking facilities. The study by InsuretheGap, assessed cities based on the number of parking spaces per resident, average walking distance from the city centre and prices per hour.

It might not surprise you to learn that London comes last. It seems the further from the capital a city is, the better. However, there is good news for the people of Newcastle.

Paradises for parking

City parking UK

In 10th place is Cardiff. Although it has plenty of spaces per resident, it’s not so hot when it comes to walking distance and price. Sunderland in ninth, does better for walking distance, but suffers when it comes to the number of spaces. It claws things back massively on price, though, being the cheapest in the country. How does £1.73 for two hours of parking sound?

Sheffield in eighth does OK, with a great score for walking distance. Birmingham in seventh suffers enormously when it comes to available spaces, but good walking distance and competitive pricing redeem it. Sixth-placed Hull, meanwhile, is something of a jack-of-all-trades. 

City parking UK

The top five best cities for parking do well in combining all three. Nottingham in fifth is a prime example. Bradford in fourth has a poor number of spaces per resident, but competitive costs and the best walking distances on the list. 

Belfast, Leicester and Newcastle round off the top three, each with great availability and pricing. Belfast falls short somewhat when it comes to walking distances. It does have the most parking spaces per resident on the list, though.

City parking UK

“Trying to find a parking space, especially one in a good location and at a reasonable rate, seems to be getting more difficult,” said Ben Wooltorton of InsuretheGap.com.

“This data highlights areas that are doing well in providing adequate parking for residents and visitors. The other end of the scale indicates where drivers might need to put in a little more research and planning to find the space they want.”