Our new car reviews help new car buyers research the latest models in plain English. We avoid jargon in our road tests to help you make an informed decision

Citroen C4 Cactus review

Citroen C4 Cactus review: 2014 first drive

Citroen C4 Cactus review

  • Bold new compact crossover combines style and practicality with stunning impact
  • 91mpg diesel, 110hp turbo petrol, innovative Airbump technology, cool design
  • £13,000 – £18,000 (approx. TBC) | On sale in the UK October 2014

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MG EV Concept 2014 review

MG EV Concept review: 2014 first drive

MG EV Concept 2014 review

  • Introduced as concept to test public reaction
  • Likely to undercut competitors if it makes production
  • Prices TBA | On sale TBA
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    Aston Martin Vantage N430 review: 2014 first drive

    Aston Martin Vantage N430Aston Martin builds a V8 Vantage Club Sport; it drives as well as it looks, prices from £89,995 are good value, but age is catching up

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    BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe

    BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe first drive review – 2014

    BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe

  • Five-door hatchback coupe joins BMW 3 and 4 Series range
  • Boot is as big as 3 Series Saloon, rear doors add practicality, still great to drive
  • £29,425 – £44,545 | June 2014
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    Ferrari California T review – 2014 first drive

    Ferrari_California_T_1

    • 560hp California T becomes first turbocharged Ferrari since the F40
    • Much better looking, latest tech, sharper driving, still comfortable
    • £154,490 | on sale now, UK deliveries September 2014

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    Jaguar XF R-Sport review

    Jaguar XF R-Sport review – 2014 first drive

    Jaguar XF R-Sport review

    Jaguar introduces new performance-look, CO2-friendly R-Sport trim line

    New trim variant combines sporty looks and fuel efficient engines; it’s a rival to BMW M3-like M Sport and Audi S4-like S line trims. Priced from £33,995, it’s on sale now

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    BMW X4 review - 2014 first drive

    BMW X4 review – 2014 first drive

    BMW X4 review - 2014 first drive

  • New, smaller SUV coupe from BMW, based X3, junior to X6
  • Great to drive, not as impractical as you might expect
  • £36,695 – £48,995 | on sale now, first deliveries 12 July 2014
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    Porsche Macan S Diesel review

    Porsche Macan S Diesel review – 2014 first drive

    Porsche Macan S Diesel review

    The Porsche Macan may be the best compact SUV on sale: the Macan S Diesel probably IS the best…

  • Macan is a new compact SUV from Porsche, we test projected best-selling S Diesel
  • Ideal upgrade for Boxster/Cayman owners seeking more practicality
  • £43,300 (£63,660 as tested) | On sale now
  • CJ Hubbard | May 2014 

    This is a strong contender for the best premium SUV currently on sale – and we aren’t just talking about the Porsche Macan in general, but this S Diesel model in particular.

    Combing a gold-standard brand image with a thumping V6 turbodiesel that claims more than 46mpg, and then wrapping the entire lot up in what we think is one of the best-looking off-roader designs on the market – well, if that isn’t a recipe for success we’ll eat the steering wheel. Which just happens to be similar to that fitted in the Porsche 918 hypercar. The Macan is not messing around.

    But more than this, the S Diesel also quite astonishingly accomplished to drive. Looking for a more practical Porsche but put off but the sheer bulk (and cost) of the Cayenne and Panamera? Even if you’re coming from a Cayman or Boxster, the Macan is unlikely to disappoint. Just be prepared to pay for the privilege…

    What is the 2014 Porsche Macan S Diesel like to drive?

    3_Porsche_Macan_S_Diesel

    At a basic price of £43,300, the Macan S Diesel is already an expensive choice. That it costs the same as the turbo petrol S is interesting, but probably irrelevant; you’ll either want the petrol’s extra speed (0-62mph in 5.4 versus 6.3) or prefer the diesel’s greater economy (32.5mpg versus 46.3mpg). What is worth mentioning here is that the test car had a few options – the total showroom tally being an outstanding £63,660.

    Still, only £1,789 of that was directly focused on improving the handling – the amount you’ll pay for air suspension and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) – and the Macan is fundamentally a very well sorted machine to drive. Porsche will even try to tell you it’s a sports car rather than an SUV, but that’s taking things a little too far. Not even the firmest suspension setting here could completely overcome the higher centre of gravity that causes the Macan to lean its way through corners at speed.

    Having said that, the Macan retains enough compliance to be comfortable and composed over bumps in this setting. The steering is positive and precise, and its one of few SUVs we’ve ever driven that really goads you into pressing on. The whole thing feels alive at your fingertips, and the decidedly rear-biased power delivery of the four-wheel system gives you a proper shove out of the turns, in a manner that’s actually reminiscent of – whisper it – Porsche’s own 911. But then, the 911 did serve as the Macan’s development benchmark at the Nürburgring.

    The seven-speed PDK automatic gearbox is smooth, and amongst the very best when it comes to paddleshift inputs, while the 258hp diesel engine’s refinement is first rate. There’s never a hint of dirge once warm, and the faint, turbinous boosting noises it makes when passing slower traffic swell with character. 458lb ft of torque at just 1,750rpm makes very light work of this, too.

    Is the Porsche Macan S Diesel the best SUV on sale?

    4_Porsche_Macan_S_Diesel

    Of course, it’s hard to imagine Porsche failing to deliver a stunning drive on current form – and that’s before you learn that the firm spent €1 billion on the Macan’s engineering programme. So although it is based on fundamentally the same architecture as the Audi Q5 – and Audi will also sell you a more powerful 315hp diesel in SQ5 guise for similar money – the feeling you get from behind the wheel of the Macan is very different. There really are elements of Cayman DNA here for enthusiastic drivers to get their teeth into.

    Beyond this, the Macan is also beautifully finished inside and out. The dashboard is dominated by a rev counter, in traditional Porsche fashion, while the rising centre console is a design cue that also separates this car from those of other brands. The open-spoked 918 steering wheel is also a delight, allowing you an even better view of the gorgeous metal paddleshifters. There’s enough space in the back for two adults to get relatively comfortable, while the boot’s nominal volume is a useful 500 litres – which expands to 1,500 litres with the rear seats folded. A powered tailgate is standard.

    CO2 emissions of 159g/km mean you’ll pay £180 a year in road tax, more than reasonable considering the performance. Official fuel economy is 46.3mpg – and we know from experience with other Porsches that you might actually achieve this on a the motorway, thanks to a combination of efficiency measures that include stop-start and a coasting function that disconnects the drivetrain whenever you’re off the power, instantly saving fuel. Drive it more in the manner the chassis encourages, though, and don’t be shocked if you halve that figure.

    The Macan does also have an “Off-road” button, which makes some changes to the way the electronic stability and traction control systems work. But it’s no Range Rover, and we can’t see too many people taking one further than the occasional muddy field doubling as an event’s parking lot.

    MR Verdict: Porsche Macan S Diesel

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    The Porsche Macan S Diesel is very, very good. Expensive – yes, but that’s not the same as saying it doesn’t deliver value for money. The combination of image and accomplishment here is simply unrivalled at the compact end of the SUV market. Sometimes if you want the best, you have to pay for it, and this is an excellent example.

    If you can afford the entry price, perhaps you aren’t worried about running costs – and the petrol alternatives certainly deliver an even greater performance hit than the Macan S Diesel. But the torque-rich response of the diesel means it can do relaxed as well as rapid, and you will also travel further between fuel stops. It’s one hell of an all-rounder. And a proper Porsche.

    MR_5_star

     
     

    Rivals

    • Audi SQ5
    • BMW X4
    • Infiniti QX50
    • Range Rover Evoque
    • Nissan Qashqai

    Porsche Macan S Diesel specification

    Engine 3.0 turbodiesel

    Drivetrain front engine, four-wheel drive, seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic with paddleshifters

    Price from £43,300

    Power 258hp @ 4,000-4,250rpm

    Torque 428lb ft @ 1,750-2,500rpm

    0-62mph 6.3 seconds

    Top speed 142mph

    MPG 46.3mpg

    CO2 159g/km

    Vauxhall Astra GTC BiTurbo review

    Vauxhall Astra GTC Bi-Turbo review – 2014 UK test

    Vauxhall Astra GTC BiTurbo review

    Bi-Turbo engine makes diesel Astra GTC a leftfield VXR alternative

    • 195hp diesel version of good-looking GTC Astra ‘coupe’
    • Offers twin-turbo performance without the OTT turbo roar of a full-fat VXR
    • Priced from £24,175 | On sale now

    Richard Aucock | May 2014

    The Vauxhall Astra VXR is a bit of an animal. Which is how it should be. So too was the 1980s Astra GTE, and that’s what made it so distinctly appealing alongside the Ford Escort XR3i and Volkswagen Golf GTI. It’s taken Vauxhall a few goes to discover the dose of sophistication that modern buyers demand with the VXR, but the latest one is a very well engineered machine.

    But still, with 280hp, an absolute ballistic missile.

    For some (many?), it’s a bit too much. One for the enthusiasts only, really. So, for those who want some of its performance potency in a slightly more daily-use package – and who’d like to benefit from the extra fuel efficiency that’s made the Volkswagen Golf GTD such a hit – Vauxhall now has another special GTC variant: the Bi-Turbo.

    As the name indicates, it has two turbocharger, and 195hp. Heavens, even the latest Golf GTI only has 220hp in base guise, and its 258lb ft of torque is also dwarfed by the Astra’s 295lb ft.

    Vauxhall’s not given it the full on VXR visual makeover but there’s enough bespoke stuff here to mark it out: twin exhausts, Corvette Stingray-style black edge to the rear spoiler, more heavily sculpted front bumper. Add in the already striking GTC shape and you potentially have something rather unexpectedly special.

    What is the 2014 Vauxhall Astra GTC Bi-Turbo like to drive?

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    Vauxhall fits its expensive HiPerStrut front suspension to all Astra GTC. This is proper engineering: it gives the car a well-honed feel because it allows lots of drive to be channelled through the front wheels without the steering throwing a hissy fit.

    It’s particularly impressive with the Bi-Turbo.

    The engine is nice too. Vauxhall’s 2.0-litre CDTi motors are typically clattery things, but the dual turbos has taken the edge off that racket here. More impressively, it delivers its pulling power with expensive sophistication, driving near-immediately to the throttle from 1,000rpm round to the redline without hesitation or rumble. In use, it feels high-quality, even if the rather baulky and loose six-speed gearbox slightly spoils the sensation.

    The flipside to the grumbly gearbox is the sensation of power coming instantly as you change gear. There’s no sense of waiting for the turbo to speed up again and this linearity feels very satisfying, particularly when you’re pedalling hard. It also responds with accuracy to tiny throttle inputs, something that complements the surprising sensitivity of the steering to small, measured inputs.

    Is the 2014 Vauxhall Astra GTC Bi-Turbo a better VXR?

    Vauxhall_Astra_GTC_08

    The Vauxhall Astra VXR is a 280hp monster. Its 2.0-litre turbo engine has never been subtle and, with that 295lb ft of torque from 2,400-4,500rpm to play with, it can seem demonic (not through an excess of torque steer, we hasten to add – that HiPerStrut again). The Bi-Turbo isn’t as fast or as fearsome as this, but still delivers usefully hot pace – and does so in a more precisely engineered way.

    Some who remember woolly old performance Vauxhalls won’t believe this but the sense of precision quality (yes, we said precision) you get from the Bi-Turbo is very pleasing. It’s not Focus-like (or, perhaps, not how the Focus used to be) in its feedback-laden detail. But drivers will still draw pleasure from it, in a similar way they do from an Audi or Mercedes-Benz.

    It also doesn’t have the slight Asbo appearance of a VXR (or the sounds effects of one in action). You decide if that’s a good thing or not: we’re big fans of the VXR here…

    MR VERDICT: 2014 Vauxhall Astra GTC Bi-Turbo

    Vauxhall_Astra_GTC_10

    The classy performance diesel hot hatch of choice is the Volkswagen Golf GTD. But we reckon the Astra GTC Bi-Turbo is just as appealing, mainly through the interesting and very pleasing power delivery of its more-powerful oil-burning motor. A car enthusiast will find a little bit intriguing, and certainly something that shouldn’t bore them.

    We know from experience that the Astra VXR is an incredibly fast hot hatch – a level above things like Golf GTIs and Ford Focus STs. But for some, it’s too much of a hotshot. The Bi-Turbo may thus be just the thing for them – and 50mpg potential in daily running rather than half that adds not a little further bit of appeal too…

    MR_4_star

     

     

    Rivals

    • Volkswagen Golf GTD
    • SEAT Leon FR
    • BMW 220d
    • Mercedes-Benz CLA 200 CDI
    • Audi A3

    Specification: 2014 Vauxhall Astra GTC Bi-Turbo

    Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel

    Drivetrain: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive

    Prices from: £24,175

    Power: 195hp

    Torque: 295lb ft

    0-62mph: 7.8 seconds

    Top speed: 139mph

    MPG: 57.7mpg

    CO2: 129g/km

    Volkswagen Golf SV

    Volkswagen Golf SV review – 2014 first drive

    Volkswagen Golf SV

  • New Golf-based compact MPV, replaces the previous Golf plus model
  • Boasts much increased passenger room but remains easy to manage on the road
  • £18,875 – £26,815 | On sale now, first deliveries 22 July 2014
  • CJ Hubbard | May 2014 

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