When are McDonald’s drive-thru restaurants opening?

McDonald's drive-thruMcDonald’s has announced plans to reopen its UK restaurants – including the drive-thru service.

All McDonald’s in the UK and Ireland were closed down two months ago in response to the coronavirus pandemic. From today (Wednesday 13 May), the company begins a gradual return to business. 

The process begins with 15 pilot sites in the south-east of England, which will offer delivery via Uber Eats. There will be a £25 order cap (to support smaller teams and social distancing), while seating areas, car parks and drive-thrus will remain closed.

McDonald’s plans to add a further 30 outlets from Wednesday 20 May – the date drive-thru lanes will also start to reopen. 

“Moving in step with government guidelines, we plan to reopen all our drive-thrus by early June,” says the company. “We will keep the restaurant locator on our website updated as our drive-thrus reopen over the coming weeks.”

McDonald's drive-thruFrom 20 May, there will also be a £25 spending limit for drive-thru customers, with customers encouraged to use contactless payment.

However, it’s worth noting that paying via your smartphone in a drive-thru is illegal – and could land you with six penalty points and a £200 fine. Police advice is to switch off your car’s engine and engage the handbrake if you wish to pay via Apple Pay or Google Pay.

Paul Pomroy, CEO of McDonald’s in the UK and Ireland, said: “When your local drive-thru does reopen, it will be different. Our service will not be as quick as you might be used to. We expect there will be some queues for some of our busier sites and our restaurants will look different, with Perspex screens at our drive-thru windows and employees wearing protective equipment.”

As McDonald’s sites – usually at motorway services – are the unofficial offices of Motoring Research, we look forward to decent coffee and wi-fi again. But the point where restuaurants fully reopen is still some months away…

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Queuing at the drive-thru

Is it illegal to use Apple Pay or Google Pay at a drive-thru?

Queuing at the drive-thru

It’s never been easier to pay for fast food on the move. If you left home without a wallet, no problem: simply arrive at the drive-thru and use Apple Pay on your iPhone or Google Pay on your Android device.

However, before you splash the cash on a burger, fries and a soft drink, be warned that you could be handed six penalty points and a £200 fine.

Worse still, if the matter goes to court, you can be banned from driving and told to pay a maximum fine of £1,000.

It turns out that a Happy Meal might result in an unhappy day.

The law is quite clear on the subject of using a phone at the wheel, stating: ‘It’s illegal to hold a phone or sat nav while driving or riding a motorcycle’.

You must have hands-free access using a Bluetooth headset, voice control, a dashboard holder or mat, a windscreen mount or a built-in sat nav. The law still applies if you’re stopped at traffic lights, queuing in traffic or supervising a learner driver.

A hand-held phone can only be used when you are safely parked with the engine switched off and the handbrake engaged. The only exception to this rule is in an emergency if you need to call 999 or 112.

But does smartphone payment at a drive-thru create a potential grey area? The Ask The Police website urges caution, advising motorists to leave their vehicle before paying. In response to question number 955, it says:

‘Potentially there could be legal issues with using a smartwatch/phone to scan/pay for goods services whilst driving riding, e.g. at a takeaway food retailer or car park, but it would be a matter for a court to decide.

‘To avoid any problems, we would suggest that if you wish to pay in this way you stop, turn the engine off and get out of the vehicle to scan your watch/phone.’

Engine off, handbrake on

A tweet sent by Greater Manchester Police in February is more conclusive, saying you cannot use Apple Pay when the engine is switched on.

To avoid an unhappy meal, either park up and walk into the restaurant, use contactless or pay with the means of good, old-fashioned cash. Do you want fries with that?

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Morrisons UK filling station

Morrisons cuts UK petrol price to 99.7p a litre

Morrisons UK filling station

The price of petrol at Morrisons filling stations has dropped below £1 a litre for the first time in more than four years.

The nationwide petrol price at Morrisons filling stations is now 99.7p a litre.

This is 9p a litre cheaper than the UK national average.

Diesel prices have also been cut, to 104.7p a litre – compared to the national average of 114.2p.

“This cut will help people who are travelling to work, those shopping for essentials, and those assisting the elderly and vulnerable,” said Morrisons’ head of fuel, Ashley Myers.

For the average 50-litre fill-up, Morrisons’ latest price cut will save £4.50, he added.

The fuel retailer says its headline-grabbing new petrol price makes it only the second time since the 2008-09 financial crisis that petrol prices have fallen below £1 a litre.

The price cut is now live as of 11 May 2019 at all of Morrisons’ 337 filling stations across the UK.

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Fuel prices

The coronavirus crisis was meant to bring fuel prices down, due to a collapse in the price of oil. 

However, while there was initially a big drop in the pump price of petrol and diesel, decreases seem to have stalled in recent weeks. 

Happily, there are a number of ways you can track down the best deals, making savings despite pump prices remaining stubbonly static.

Here’s our complete guide to finding the cheapest petrol and diesel near you.

Latest petrol and diesel prices in the UK

Car fuel gauge

First, let’s set a baseline. What are the average prices for petrol and diesel in Britain right now? The RAC has a Fuel Watch tool that reveals all.

As of 11 May 2020, diesel is 114.2p per litre, unleaded petrol is 108.7p and super unleaded is 123.9p. The RAC says all are very likely to decrease in the coming weeks.

So there’s your target petrol and diesel prices right now. Let’s see how to get the cheapest fuel near you…

Connected cars

Audi Connect

If you’re in a new car with a built-in SIM card and the latest infotainment system – for instance, an Audi equipped with Audi Connect – your route to the cheapest fuel in your area should be very swift indeed.

Audi Connect utilises an online database to find fuel stations with the cheapest fuel options for you. Simply follow your way through the infotainment to the petrol stations icon where it says ‘Refuel for the best price’ (see image above).

Many manufacturers over the past couple of years have been taking similar measures to get connected and will likely offer a similar service – it’s worth asking the salesman as you shop around for the best car deals. Great stuff if it works…

Waze

Waze fuel finder

And if it doesn’t… Waze is a free user-supported navigation app for iPhone and Android. Accident alerts, roadworks, camera locations and more are fed in as contributions from people using the app, thereby keeping information up to date for the entire user base in that local area.

That user contribution-based system isn’t limited to route planning, either. One incredibly useful feature is the fuel station finder complete with, you guessed it, prices to match. If the BP up the road from your hotel is a bit heady at 129p a litre, Waze might show you a Tesco five miles away that’s down at 124p. We are quite literally dealing with pennies here, but if you have a long journey ahead, you’d save £2.50 on a 50-litre fill-up.

What are the drawbacks? Well, depending on where you are, the user-supported nature can be patchy. In busy urban areas, it’s great. Savvy commuters are always online, keeping the app’s information fresh on all of the above, including fuel prices. Find yourself further out in the sticks, however, and it falters. The user base is Waze’s most precious resource and if that dries up, well, so does Waze. The ads can get irritating, too, but ads make the world go round!

Regardless, it’s a handy first port of call to have installed on your phone.

Price comparison websites

Confused.com fuel guide

We mean that in the actual Confused.com sense, and its dedicated cheapest fuel price finder near you tool.

Sign up for free, pop in your postcode, tick whether you want stations that are open at that particular time and away you go. It’s a clean and crisp facility. The semi-regular weekly update can catch you by surprise price-wise if there’s a sudden hike in between updates.

By and large, the cheapest stays the cheapest, though, regardless of universal hikes. One thing none of these facilities can do is keep prices down. The main drawback really is that you’ll have to search for your chosen watering hole on a map separately.

petrolprices.com

That’s where Petrolprices.com comes in, in a manner of speaking. Like Confused, you plug in your postcode but the filling stations come up on a map within a radius around your chosen postcode. It seems to be the best of the website-based facilities that feature a map.

Where Petrolprices falters is in its clunkiness (we suspect due to the ads) and the fact that to get rid of them, it’s a £20-a-year subscription as standard. Whats more, some of the fuel stations, while marked out on the map, are kept anonymous. It’ll only show you all of them if you get that subscription. You may prefer to use Confused.com and search the station on a map.

Fuel prices

Know your brands

One thing it’s easy to overlook is just having a general knowledge of fuel station brands. The general rule is that supermarket filling stations are cheaper than branded stops like Shell, BP and so on. Especially if you’re in the market for the juicier stuff. We found in a recent stop at Tesco that Momentum (99 Octane) came in at the same price as the standard 95 stuff from a nearby Shell.

Want proof? The AA produces a regular report on fuel prices, and the results are conclusive. The average at supermarkets is nearly always cheaper than the national average – in the case of February, 4.5p cheaper than average.

Asda regularly sets the standard for fuel price drops, with the most recent coming at the end of January. Its prices are set country-wide, too. If you’ve got a big shop planned, Tesco can be a worthwhile stop. It often runs a 10p discount per litre of fuel bought if you spend over a certain amount (usually £40 or more) in-store.

M6 motorway

A general rule of thumb? Stay well away from motorway service stations unless you want to pay a huge premium for a litre over literally anywhere else.

So, if you’re in an unfamiliar area and want a safe bet on cheap fuel, simply ask someone where the local supermarket filling station is.

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Toyota Highlander

Toyota Highlander 7-seat SUV confirmed for 2021 UK launch

Toyota Highlander

Toyota is expanding its SUV range in early 2021 with the UK launch of the seven-seat Highlander.

Already on sale in North America, where it is a best-seller, it will be the first time the Highlander has been offered in Europe.

Toyota will sell it in full hybrid guise, pairing a 2.5-litre petrol engine with front and rear electric motors.

Toyota Highlander

It produces 241hp, averages 42.8mpg and emits 146g/km of CO2 – a best-in-class combination, reckons Toyota.

Space is likely to be the Highlander’s biggest draw, though. It measures 4,950mm in length, which is as long as a Land Rover Discovery.

It has a rugged two-tonne towing capacity, too.  

Toyota Highlander

Inside, it has three rows of seats, and even the third row is said to be adult-sized.

There is an impressive 658-litre boot even with all seven seats in place. Fold them flat and it expands to 1,909 litres.

Toyota hasn’t worked out what UK cars will get as standard yet, but does suggest goodies such as head-up display, ventilated front seats and a ‘clearview’ rear view mirror will be included.

Toyota Highlander

Prices are also still to be confirmed, and will be revealed nearer to its early 2021 UK launch.

A rival to the 2020 World Car of the Year-winning Kia Telluride, the Highlander sits above alternatives such as the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe.

A list price of around £40,000 thus seems feasible, making it a good-value alternative to a Land Rover Discovery, which costs from £46,000.

Toyota recently announced another SUV addition at the other end of its range, too: the new Yaris Cross.

This is also scheduled for a 2021 launch. 

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M6 motorway

1 in 3 motorists admit lockdown driving is increasing

M6 motorway

Motorists are starting to use their cars more, and drive more miles per trip, despite lockdown restrictions remaining unchanged, new figures show.

RAC black box car insurance driving data shows there were 11 percent more cars on the road last week than at the beginning of lockdown.

Daily driven miles also increased 23 percent.

In a separate survey by the RAC, more than 1 in 3 motorists admitted they are using their vehicles more.

Even usage of the RAC Routeplanner tool is increasing, with planned journeys rising 16 percent in a week.

“There is now mounting evidence that people are venturing back out in their vehicles,” said RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes.

“Until anything concrete is confirmed, the current advice remains to only go out when necessary for essential purposes, or where you cannot work from home.

“The question drivers should ask themselves before venturing out is, ‘do I really need to?”

Why are motorists driving more in lockdown?

When asked, a quarter of motorists said they were using a car more for grocery shopping. 1 in 10 said it was to pick up essential supplies or visit a pharmacy.

However, 5 percent admitted it was to visit a DIY store, and another 5 percent said it was to buy alcohol.

4 percent said they were driving more for work purposes.

A tiny 1 percent said it was to visit a beauty spot, and 1 percent said it was to simply give their car a lockdown run.

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2020 Kia Sportage 3 in Blue Flame

2020 Kia Sportage update: prices, specs and ordering dates

2020 Kia Sportage 3 in Blue Flame

Kia has updated the Sportage SUV for 2020 with a simplified model line-up, boosted standard equipment and a new ‘3’ spec offering added value.

First launched in 2016, the current Sportage was facelifted in 2018

The updated 2020 Sportage line-up now comprises 2, 3, GT-Line and GT-Line S. Prices start from £23,445.

Ordering is open now. 

2020 Kia Sportage: specs

2020 Kia Sportage GT-Line interior

Every model in the line-up gets a new 8.0-inch ‘frameless’ touchscreen. This includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus online services that can show fuel prices at nearby filling stations, real-time availability of parking spaces and live traffic updates.

Rear parking sensors and a reversing camera are standard, plus lane-keep assist, alloy wheels, dual zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers and cruise control.

The new 3 spec (the blue car pictured above) adds electric leather seats, panoramic roof, keyless entry, electric handbrake and a heated steering wheel.

Outside, it gets more chrome trim, front parking sensors, LED headlights and blind spot collision warning.

GT-Line models have a sporty make-over with features such as 19-inch alloys and silver mesh radiator grille.

GT-Line S versions go further with extra luxury features such as a JBL premium sound system, wireless smartphone charging and a hands-free power tailgate.

2020 Kia Sportage: engines

Kia has cut the Sportage engine range back to three motors. The basic petrol engine is a 130hp 1.6-litre GDi that averages 36.2mpg. 0-62mph acceleration takes 11.1 seconds.

A turbocharged version producing 174hp is available. The 1.6-litre T-GDI averages just 33.2mpg, although 0-62mph acceleration falls to 8.9 seconds.

The best all-rounder is the 1.6 CRDi 134 48v diesel. This is badged ‘EcoDynamics+’ on the bootlid.

The base six-speed manual version returns 52.3mpg while still accelerating from 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds.

The diesel has much more pulling power too, thanks to its 48v ‘mild hybrid’ system that gives an added boost from a self-charging lithium ion battery.

Motoring Research is living with a mild hybrid Sportage, to see if its claims of saving fuel bear scrutiny. 

Across the range, Kia offers both manual and DCT automatic Sportage, plus front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive (AWD) versions.

Ordering for the revised Sportage range is open now.

2020 Kia Sportage: prices

2

1.6 GDI 130: £23,445

1.6 T-GDI 174 AWD: £25,555

1.6 CRDi 134 48v: £25,150 (DCT auto: £26,630)

3

1.6 GDi 130: £26,445

1.6 T-GDI 174 AWD: £28,555

1.6 CRDi 134 48v: £28,455 (DCT auto: £29,660)

GT-Line

1.6 T-GDI 174: £29,660

1.6 T-GDI 174 AWD DCT: £29,480

1.6 CRDi 134 48v: £27,555 (DCT auto: £29,055)

1.6 CRDi 134 48v AWD DCT: £30,575

GT-Line S

1.6 T-GDI 174: £30,510

1.6 T-GDI 174 AWD DCT: £33,330

1.6 CRDi 134 48v: £31,315 (DCT auto: £32,805)

1.6 CRDi 134 48v DCT AWD: £34,325

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Police cancel speeding fines ‘due to coronavirus’

Police speed check

Following the announcement that speed awareness courses are suspended for three months, some speeding tickets have now been cancelled altogether.

As police forces struggle to cope with the COVID-19 crisis, drivers may simply be issued a written warning – with no fine or licence penalty points to follow.

The Times reports letters sent to motorists explaining it is ‘not in the public interest’ to prosecute minor speeding offences.

And one Motoring Research reader had his speed awareness course cancelled, and the fee refunded, ‘due to issues related to the coronavirus’. 

Fewer cars, greater speeds

The news comes against a backdrop of vastly reduced traffic and some high profile speeding cases during the coronavirus lockdown.

Further research by The Times showed journey times increased by 13 per cent in Belfast’s morning rush hour, versus 57 percent on a normal day. The RAC also reported a 40 percent reduction in traffic levels by the second week of lockdown. 

Meanwhile, a driver was filmed doing 151mph on the M1 over the Easter weekend, while another clocked at 130mph on the M25 told police he was speeding to “avoid catching coronavirus”.

Speed camera

Courses may be cancelled

The usual yardstick for a speeding offence is 10 percent over the limit plus 2mph – so 46mph in a 40mph zone, for example.

Speed awareness courses are intended for drivers close to this threshold. The fee is around £100, but opting for the course means no Fixed Penalty Notice or points.

UK Road Offender Education, which operates speed awareness courses on behalf of the police, suspended all classroom-based courses for 12 weeks from Friday 20 March. However, many could now be cancelled altogether.

Officially, motorists have four months from the date on a speeding letter to complete a course (if offered) – or face further action. It seems likely some leeway will be afforded due to the lockdown, however, even if some courses are simply suspended for longer.

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2020 Seat Leon driving

2020 Seat Leon prices, specs and ordering announced

2020 Seat Leon driving

Ordering is now open for the new 2020 Seat Leon, with prices starting from £19,855.

The new five-door family hatchback is offered from launch with a choice of three trims and five different engines.

An estate version is also available from launch, priced from £22,455.

More variants will be available later in 2020, after deliveries begin in the summer.

Seat is pleased to have got prices for the entry-level 1.0 TSI 110 SE down below the £20k mark.

Even better, the entry-level version is offered on a four-year, 4.0 percent APR PCP for £195 a month: we’ve outlined details of the deal below.

Announcement of prices comes after the outgoing Seat Leon scored a rare top-10 place in the UK’s best-selling cars last month

2020 Seat Leon specs

2020 Seat Leon interior

Seat is using its ‘easymove’ simplification strategy with the new Leon. This makes the range easier to understand.

SE grade gets 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and an 8.0-inch touchscreen system as standard. Keyless go is also included.

Next up is SE Dynamic, which brings Seat Digital Cockpit electronic instruments, plus a bigger 10-inch infotainment screen with standard sat-nav (that’s the one pictured above.)

Rear glass is tinted, the wheels grow to 17 inches and all-round parking sensors are fitted.

FR trim gets a racy makeover with bespoke front and rear bumpers, dual exhausts and 15mm lower sports suspension.

FR models also get contrast stitching, wireless smartphone charging, three-zone climate control and LED rear lights.

FR Sport, Xcellence and Xcellence Lux variants will follow later in the year.

2020 Seat Leon engines

2020 Seat Leon rear

Even at launch, Seat is offering a broad engine range with the new Leon, heavily biased towards petrol. 

The basic motor is the three-cylinder 1.0 TSI 110. Next up is the four-cylinder 1.5 TSI, which comes in either 130hp or 150hp guises.

There’s a high-tech mild hybrid version too, called the 1.5 eTSI MHEV 150, which uses a DSG automatic gearbox.

The sole diesel is a 2.0 TDI 115. Later in 2020, Seat will roll out a 2.0 TDI 150.

2020 Seat Leon prices

SE

Hatch

1.0 TSI 110: £19,855

1.5 TSI 130: £21,425

2.0 TDI 115: £22,835

Estate

1.5 TSI 130: £22,455

SE Dynamic

Hatch

1.0 TSI 110: £20,955

1.5 TSI 130: £22,525

2.0 TDI 115: £23,935

Estate

1.5 TSI 130: £23,555

FR

Hatch

1.0 TSI 110: £23,185

1.5 TSI 130: £23,515

1.5 TSI 150: £24,805

1.5 eTSI 150 DSG: £26,865

Estate

1.5 TSI 130: £24,545

1.5 TSI 150: £25,855

1.5 eTSI 150 DSG: £27,895

2020 Seat Leon finance offers

Seat Leon PCP finance prices start from £195 a month for the 1.0 TSI 110 SE.

A sporty Leon 1.5 TSI 130 FR, which Seat says will be the most popular model in the line-up, costs £249 a month.

The £195 a month Seat Solutions PCP deal on the 1.0 TSI 110 SE works out like this:

  • Duration: 48 months
  • Retail price: £19,855
  • Seat deposit contribution: £1,000 (and £500 more if you take a test drive)
  • Customer deposit: £4,000
  • Optional final payment: £6,882
  • Total amount payable by customer: £20,057
  • APR: 4.0 percent

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2020 Skoda Octavia hatch

2020 Skoda Octavia prices, specs and ordering confirmed

2020 Skoda Octavia hatch

The new 2020 Skoda Octavia range opens for ordering in June with prices starting from £22,390.

Three specs will be available from launch: SE First Edition, SE Technology and SE L First Edition.

Skoda is loading up the standard features on the special First Edition variants to help the new fourth-generation large family hatchback hit the market running.

2020 Skoda Octavia estate

The new Octavia will be available in estate guise from launch, as well as the hatchback. Estate car prices start from £23,370.

2020 Skoda Octavia specs

2020 Skoda Octavia interior

Entry-level SE First Edition grade will have more than enough standard equipment for many.

It includes climate control, an 8.25-inch touchscreen, five USB-C ports (including one in the rear-view mirror for connecting to a dashcam), LED headlights, ‘Virtual Cockpit’ electronic instruments and a safety pack that features lane-keeping assist and Autonomous Emergency Braking.

SE L First Edition costs from £25,150. These models get more chrome trim on the outside and bigger 17-inch alloys.

An enhanced Columbus infotainment system with 10-inch screen and online access is fitted, plus an electric driver’s seat, all-round parking sensors, keyless entry and adaptive cruise control.

SE Technology models are aimed at company car drivers. These have fuel-saving 16-inch aero alloy wheels, the Columbus infotainment system and ‘Laura’ voice control. Prices start from £22,640.

2020 Skoda Octavia engines

2020 Skoda Octavia hatch rear

Three engine choices are available at launch. Petrol buyers take a 1.5-litre TSI 150, while diesel customers have a choice of either 115hp or 150hp 2.0-litre TDI.

The 2.0 TDI 150 has a DSG automatic gearbox as standard: the other two are six-speed manual.

Skoda says it will broaden the engine range available on the new Octavia throughout 2020.

Ordering for the new 2020 Skoda Octavia range opens at retailers in June, with cars arriving for test drives and delivery from July.

2020 Skoda Octavia prices

SE First Edition

Hatch

1.5 TSI 150: £22,390

2.0 TDI 115: £23,300

Estate

1.5 TSI 150: £23,370

2.0 TSI 115: £24,280

SE L First Edition

Hatch

1.5 TSI 150: £25,150

2.0 TDI 115: £26,060

2.0 TDI 150 DSG: £28,460

Estate

1.5 TSI 150: £26,225

2.0 TDI 115: £27,405

2.0 TDI 150 DSG: £29,515

SE Technology

Hatch

1.5 TSI 150: £22,640

2.0 TDI 115: £23,550

Estate

1.5 TSI 150: £23,620

2.0 TSI 115: £24,530

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