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Eye test

30 percent of drivers risk a ban due to poor eyesight

Eye test

‘Get your eyes tested’ is the advice, following research that reveals 30% of motorists are overdue an eyesight test.

Not only is this putting lives at risk, but drivers are risking invalidated insurance, a heavy fine, points on their licence and even disqualification. Tests cost from as little as £10, while Tesco Opticians offers a free 30-minute eye test. 

If you’re under the age of 16 (or 19 if you’re in full-time education), or over 60, you’re entitled to a free eye test on the NHS. In Scotland, everyone gets free eye tests. So there’s no excuse for not booking an appointment.

Earlier this year, Vision Express teamed up with road safety charity Brake with the aim of raising awareness of the importance of regular eye tests, claiming that five million UK drivers would fail a number plate test if they had to take it again.

Eye tests save lives

According to Brake, road crashes due to poor driver vision are estimated to cause 2,900 casualties in the UK every year. Vision Express has been lobbying the government to display signs on major roads and motorways, encouraging drivers to book an appointment.

This follows a successful campaign in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with Vision Express and Brake keen for Highways England to display ‘EYE TESTS SAVE LIVES’ on roadside matrix signs.

Last year, further research conducted by Vision Express found that 15% of drivers haven’t had any form of eye test since reading a number plate as part of their driving test, on average 14 years ago. And while 92% of drivers claim their eyesight meets the legal requirement, more than 60% couldn’t identify what this is*.

Neil Worth, roadside safety officer at GEM Motoring Assist, said: “Our eyes are the most important sense we have when it comes to driving. Around 90% of the information we process is visual, so what we see is a fundamental element of our decision making. Many of us take our eyesight for granted, so the tendency is to ignore eye health.

“GEM has long argued the case for compulsory regular eyesight testing for drivers of all ages. The present situation relies on individual drivers taking responsibility for their own eye health. That’s why it’s so important to get regular checks.”

In June, Brake wrote to Jesse Norman MP, the new minister for roads, outlining a raft of key road safety priorities, including compulsory eyesight tests for drivers and what it calls “rigorous enforcement” of the laws relating to vision impairment and distraction.

Earlier this month, police in Birmingham posed as cyclists to catch drivers putting bikers lives at risk. Around 200 offenders were pulled over during the operation, with 13 drivers prosecuted for failing roadside eyesight tests. A further two drivers had their licences revoked.

The maximum penalty for driving with defective sight is £1,000, three penalty points or a discretionary disqualification.

Five steps to healthy eyes

GEM has outlined five tips to encourage the best possible eye health for drivers:

  • Get an eye test: the guidelines are every two years until the age of 70, then annually after this.
  • If you have been told to wear glasses for driving, make sure you wear them.
  • Always carry a spare pair of glasses, especially on long journeys and when driving abroad.
  • If you’re struggling to see at night, get your eyes tested.
  • Don’t deal with night-time glare by wearing glasses or tinted lenses. Adjust your seat and avoid looking directly at oncoming headlights.

Advice for employers

Employers have a responsibility to ensure that their drivers are fit and able to drive, and being able to see is the most basic requirement for safe driving. Research conducted by Specsavers found that up to 40% of employers haven’t asked if their drivers can see properly.

The company offers eVouchers to employers, which staff can use in store in exchange for eye tests and glasses, if required. Its driving eyesight toolkit is designed for employers and employees.

*Drivers must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary), a modern car number plate (made after 1 September 2001) from 20 metres away.

This is how you're supposed to use your fog lights

This is how you’re supposed to use your fog lights

This is how you're supposed to use your fog lights

With freezing fog sweeping across the UK, now is a good time to get a clear understanding of how to be seen when visibility is at a premium.

It should go without saying, but when it’s foggy, put your headlights on. Automatic headlights don’t always detect fog in the same way as they do darkness, so make sure your headlights are switched on manually.

Now, you might ask if you need to use your fog lights. The answer, probably, is no – at least not straight away. Fog lights are there to be used proactively. You shouldn’t switch them on at the start of your journey and leave them on ‘just in case’ it gets a bit foggy.

So when should I switch my fog lights on?

So when should I switch my fog lights on?

If there are other cars around, use them as an indication of how poor visibility is. Can you see a car 100 metres (that’s roughly the length of a football pitch) in front, or coming towards you, without fog lights on?

If the answer is yes, and fairly clearly, you don’t need to use your fog lights.

If you find that you are struggling to see other traffic – particularly if you’re travelling on the motorway – then put your fog lights on. A good sign that you need to use your fog lights is that the fog is thick enough to cause you to slow down.

As soon as visibility clears, turn your fog lights off. If you’re travelling in traffic and there’s a car behind you who will be able to see you without your rear fog light on, turn it off.

What happens if I use my fog lights when I don’t need to?

Fog lights can dazzle other road users, while rear fog lights can obscure your brake lights. Driving with them on can actually be more dangerous than not using them at all, which is why it’s important to think carefully about whether they’re needed.

If a police officer sees you driving with your fog lights on when they’re not needed, you could be hit with a £50 fixed penalty notice at the side of the road.

How do I turn my fog lights on?

How do I turn my fog lights on?

By law, all cars built since 1986 must have at least one rear fog light. This will be operated using a switch with a symbol similar to those above.

Front fog lights aren’t a legal requirement, but many cars have them fitted as standard. In most cars, they can be switched on using the same stalk as the headlights, or by a button on the dashboard.

When on, you’ll see a warning symbol on your dash that looks like the above picture.

The one on the left indicates the car’s front fog lights are on, while the one on the right is informing you the rear fogs are lit.

Any other tips for driving in fog?

First of all, it’s usually beneficial not to use your main beam. While it might be tempting to flick it on to give a better view, in thick fog it’ll reflect and reduce visibility even more.

Drive slowly, and leave a bigger gap to other vehicles in case they have to stop suddenly for something you can’t see.

When you’re stopped, for example at traffic lights, keep your foot on the brake pedal so your brake lights are lit up, making you more visible to other traffic. When a car stops behind you, use your handbrake and remove your foot from the brake pedal to avoid dazzling the driver.

This is how you're supposed to use your fog lights

This is how you're supposed to use your fog lights

This is how you're supposed to use your fog lights

With freezing fog sweeping across the UK, now is a good time to get a clear understanding of how to be seen when visibility is at a premium.

It should go without saying, but when it’s foggy, put your headlights on. Automatic headlights don’t always detect fog in the same way as they do darkness, so make sure your headlights are switched on manually.

Now, you might ask if you need to use your fog lights. The answer, probably, is no – at least not straight away. Fog lights are there to be used proactively. You shouldn’t switch them on at the start of your journey and leave them on ‘just in case’ it gets a bit foggy.

So when should I switch my fog lights on?

So when should I switch my fog lights on?

If there are other cars around, use them as an indication of how poor visibility is. Can you see a car 100 metres (that’s roughly the length of a football pitch) in front, or coming towards you, without fog lights on?

If the answer is yes, and fairly clearly, you don’t need to use your fog lights.

If you find that you are struggling to see other traffic – particularly if you’re travelling on the motorway – then put your fog lights on. A good sign that you need to use your fog lights is that the fog is thick enough to cause you to slow down.

As soon as visibility clears, turn your fog lights off. If you’re travelling in traffic and there’s a car behind you who will be able to see you without your rear fog light on, turn it off.

What happens if I use my fog lights when I don’t need to?

Fog lights can dazzle other road users, while rear fog lights can obscure your brake lights. Driving with them on can actually be more dangerous than not using them at all, which is why it’s important to think carefully about whether they’re needed.

If a police officer sees you driving with your fog lights on when they’re not needed, you could be hit with a £50 fixed penalty notice at the side of the road.

How do I turn my fog lights on?

How do I turn my fog lights on?

By law, all cars built since 1986 must have at least one rear fog light. This will be operated using a switch with a symbol similar to those above.

Front fog lights aren’t a legal requirement, but many cars have them fitted as standard. In most cars, they can be switched on using the same stalk as the headlights, or by a button on the dashboard.

When on, you’ll see a warning symbol on your dash that looks like the above picture.

The one on the left indicates the car’s front fog lights are on, while the one on the right is informing you the rear fogs are lit.

Any other tips for driving in fog?

First of all, it’s usually beneficial not to use your main beam. While it might be tempting to flick it on to give a better view, in thick fog it’ll reflect and reduce visibility even more.

Drive slowly, and leave a bigger gap to other vehicles in case they have to stop suddenly for something you can’t see.

When you’re stopped, for example at traffic lights, keep your foot on the brake pedal so your brake lights are lit up, making you more visible to other traffic. When a car stops behind you, use your handbrake and remove your foot from the brake pedal to avoid dazzling the driver.

5 ways to save money on a new car

5 ways to save money on a new car

5 ways to save money on a new carSeptember is nearly upon us: the month of children returning to school, X Factor returning to our screens and, er, a registration-plate change.

If you’re keen to buy a new 66-plate car, follow our guide to get the best deal from your local dealer.

Buy the outgoing model5 ways to save money on a new car

Manufacturers replace their cars every six years on average, with facelifts half-way between – plus minor tweaks to specifications every year. Just like with phones and gadgets, some of us have to have the latest version. But cars don’t suddenly become irrelevant just because they’re not this year’s model.

If you’ve decided which car you want, do some research about how old it is. Is it due to be replaced? If so, use this as a negotiating point. The dealer will want to shift soon-to-be-outdated cars and might offer a big discounts if it’s about to be replaced.

Sell your part-ex car privately5 ways to save money on a new car

Unless the car you’re selling fits in with the dealer’s stock, they’re unlikely to put it on the forecourt. Instead, they’ll punt it on at auction at trade price – so don’t expect to get anywhere near a private-sale price if you have a part-exchange.

While there are companies that will buy your car for cash, they’re just as likely to sell your car through auction. That means they’re unlikely to offer more than a dealer for a part-ex. With more and more people buying via finance, the days of turning up cash-in-hand and expecting a huge discount are over.

Shop around5 ways to save money on a new car

In the age of the internet, it’s easier than ever to shop around. We do it with everything, from groceries to electrical appliances. So why not cars? Brokers such as DrivetheDeal.com can find you enormous savings on new cars, while Carwow.co.uk lets dealers ‘bid’ for your custom.

You might not feel comfortable buying a car online, but websites like these should give you an idea of the savings available. If it’s a new car and marginal savings are available online, the salesman at your local dealer won’t have a lot to play with either. Conversely, if larger discounts are available, ask your dealer to match them. They’ll probably be able to get very close.

Choose a petrol engine5 ways to save money on a new car

Diesel cars are being given an increasingly rough time. The Volkswagen ‘dieselgate’ emissions scandal, along with an ongoing NOx emissions crackdown in London, means running a diesel could work out more expensive than you think. Add to that an increased likelihood to go wrong thanks to temperamental particulate filters a few years down the line, and you could well be much better off with a petrol – especially if you don’t cover high miles.

Petrols are generally cheaper than their diesel equivalents to buy when new, and bad press for diesels could mean they hold their value better long-term. Petrol fuel is also usually cheaper to buy, plus efficient downsized petrol engines can be just as cheap to run.

Be friendly5 ways to save money on a new car

Yes, it might sound odd, but it pays to be friendly towards the salesman. They want to build a rapport with you – and if you’re pleasant and honest with them, they’ll try their to best to get you a good deal. If you go in pretending to be a hardened negotiator, they’ll be less likely to play ball.

Be open about any deals you’ve seen elsewhere and give yourself plenty of time to negotiate. It’ll be more pleasant for all concerned if you visit during a quiet period with a couple of hours set aside – rather than trying to order a new car 10 minutes before closing time.

The safest new family cars in the UK

The safest new family cars in the UK

The safest new family cars in the UK

Looking for the safest family car money can buy? We’ve selected the family motors awarded a maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating between 2013 and 2016. Note: Euro NCAP doesn’t include small and large off-road vehicles in its family car category, but given the popularity of such models, we’ve included them in our gallery.

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Adult Occupant: 98%, Child Occupant: 81%, Pedestrian: 69%, Safety Assist: 60%

Euro NCAP introduced the overall safety rating in 2009, based on four areas: Adult protection; Child protection; Pedestrian protection; and Safety Assist technologies. A star rating was introduced to add more flexibility. Based on the current system, the Alfa Romeo Giulia received a maximum five-star rating, including an impressive 98% for adult occupants.

Toyota Prius

Adult Occupant: 92%, Child Occupant: 82%, Pedestrian: 77%, Safety Assist: 85%

The Safety Assist rating is focused on technologies that support safe driving to avoid accidents and mitigate injuries. These include seatbelt reminders, automatic city braking, lane support and speed assistance systems. The Toyota Prius scored 85% when tested by Euro NCAP, contributing to an overall five-star rating.

SEAT Ateca

SEAT

Adult Occupant: 93%, Child Occupant: 84%, Pedestrian: 71%, Safety Assist: 60%

The Ateca is SEAT’s first SUV, so the Spanish firm will be delighted to receive a maximum Euro NCAP safety rating. It’s one of four cars tested by the safety firm in 2016…

Volkswagen Tiguan

Adult Occupant: 96%, Child Occupant: 84%, Pedestrian: 72%, Safety Assist: 68%

The Volkswagen Tiguan is the fourth and final car to be awarded a maximum five-stars in 2016, a year in which Euro NCAP recognised the increasing popularity of safety packs. In other words, a car can now be tested with or without an optional safety pack. Based on the new system, the Suzuki Baleno received three stars, but this was increased to four with optional safety technologies.

Mercedes-Benz GLC

Adult Occupant: 95%, Child Occupant: 89%, Pedestrian: 82%, Safety Assist: 71%

Next up: cars that received the maximum five-star safety rating in 2015, starting with the Mercedes-Benz GLC. Using Euro NCAP’s own categories, small off-road and large off-road vehicles are omitted from the family cars section, but given the popularity of crossovers and SUVs, we thought it best to include them.

Lexus RX

Lexus RX

Adult Occupant: 91%, Child Occupant: 82%, Pedestrian: 79%, Safety Assist: 77%

Which means the Lexus RX is also included in our safest family cars feature. Look beyond the challenging styling and you’ll find a large SUV that goes head-to-head with the likes of the Audi Q7, Volvo XC90 and BMW X5. The RX features a pre-crash system with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, automatic high beam and adaptive cruise control. Prices start from just shy of £40,000.

Audi Q7

Adult Occupant: 94%, Child Occupant: 88%, Pedestrian: 70%, Safety Assist: 76%

If you’re struggling to choose between the Lexus RX and Audi Q7, and safety just happens to be your primary concern, the best way to look at things is that the Q7 is better for those travelling in the car, while the RX does a better job of protecting pedestrians. Life is all about priorities…

Volvo XC90

Adult Occupant: 97%, Child Occupant: 87%, Pedestrian: 72%, Safety Assist: 100%

Check out those scores. The Volvo XC90 is the safest thing short of wrapping your children in cotton wool and never letting them leave the house. The five-star rating includes a maximum 100% for safety technologies, plus 97% for adult occupants. Prices start from £46,850 for the Momentum trim level, which includes city safety, road sign information and lane keeping aid.

Volkswagen Touran

Volkswagen Touran

Adult Occupant: 88%, Child Occupant: 89%, Pedestrian: 71%, Safety Assist: 76%

The Volkswagen Touran scores well across the board. Depending on trim and the amount of options boxes you tick, you can equip your Touran with adaptive cruise control, park assist, trailer assist and traffic jam assist. The latter is a clever system that controls the brakes, acceleration and steering in stop-go traffic.

Audi A4

Adult Occupant: 90%, Child Occupant: 87%, Pedestrian: 75%, Safety Assist: 75%

The current Audi A4 is arguably the benchmark in the fiercely competitive compact executive sector and it doesn’t score lower than 75% in any of the Euro NCAP classifications. Prices start from £26,350.

BMW X1

Adult Occupant: 90%, Child Occupant: 87%, Pedestrian: 74%, Safety Assist: 77%

The X1 is BMW’s entry-level X model and prices start from £27,440. You can equip your BMW X1 with a Drive Assist package, which includes lane departure warning, approach control warning and person warning, which provides an alert when a pedestrian is in the road, preconditioning the brakes.

Ford Galaxy

Ford Galaxy

Adult Occupant: 87%, Child Occupant: 87%, Pedestrian: 79%, Safety Assist: 71%

The humble MPV may have had its day, but private hire firms and rental companies keep the likes of the Ford Galaxy alive. In this sector, a five-star safety rating is almost essential.

Ford S-Max

Adult Occupant: 87%, Child Occupant: 87%, Pedestrian: 79%, Safety Assist: 71%

The second generation Ford S-Max was unveiled in 2015 and it remains the best choice for those in search of a people carrier that’s good to drive. It includes an optional camera mounted on the front of the car that relays a split-screen image to the dashboard, allowing the driver to see vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians coming from either side.

Renault Megane

Adult Occupant: 88%, Child Occupant: 87%, Pedestrian: 71%, Safety Assist: 71%

In 2001, the Renault Laguna became the first car to be awarded the maximum five stars for occupant protection. Fast forward 15 years and the all-new Renault Megane has received five stars, including 88% for adult occupant protection.

Infiniti Q30

Infiniti Q30

Adult Occupant: 84%, Child Occupant: 86%, Pedestrian: 91%, Safety Assist: 81%

The Infiniti Q30 is based on the same platform as the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and boasts a number of safety devices. These include intelligent cruise control, blind spot warning, lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition. With a 91% score for pedestrian safety, this is one car that won’t strike fear into those who are walking through town.

Kia Optima

Adult Occupant: 89%, Child Occupant: 86%, Pedestrian: 67%, Safety Assist: 71%

The Kia Optima is available in three trim levels: Optima 2, Optima 3, Optima 4. The top trim offers blind spot detection, lane keep assist, high beam assist and autonomous emergency braking.

Skoda Superb

Adult Occupant: 86%, Child Occupant: 86%, Pedestrian: 71%, Safety Assist: 76%

It’s perhaps most famous for packing a pair of umbrellas and doing a good impression of something that costs double the price, but the Skoda Superb is rather safe, too. Along with the usual options, such as lane assist and blind spot detection, the Superb can also be fitted with crew protection assist. If the car senses a collision is imminent, it retracts the front seat belts, pulls up the side windows and closes the sunroof. Clever.

Hyundai Tucson

Hyundai Tucson

Adult Occupant: 86%, Child Occupant: 85%, Pedestrian: 71%, Safety Assist: 71%

The Hyundai Tucson was one of our favourite new cars of 2015. Prices start from a headline grabbing £18,995, but in order to take advantage of the full array of safety equipment you’ll need to part with at least £25,340 for the Premium model. This adds autonomous emergency braking, blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert.

Toyota Avensis

Adult Occupant: 93%, Child Occupant: 85%, Pedestrian: 78%, Safety Assist: 81%

It’s easy to overlook the Toyota Avensis, which means you might not know that Toyota Safety Sense is standard across the range. The package includes lane departure warning, automatic high beam, road sign assist and a pre-collision system. Prices start from £18,085.

Vauxhall Astra

Adult Occupant: 86%, Child Occupant: 84%, Pedestrian: 83%, Safety Assist: 75%

The all-new Vauxhall Astra is a thoroughly good car and these are a thoroughly decent set of results. Opt for the SRi and Elite models and you can enjoy the benefits of OnStar, which provides 24/7/365 access to an advisor. It also includes an automatic crash response system.

Kia Sportage

Kia Sportage

Adult Occupant: 90%, Child Occupant: 83%, Pedestrian: 66%, Safety Assist: 71%

The Kia Sportage is an extremely popular car in the UK, not least because of its excellent value for money and seven-year warranty. We’re surprised buyers manage to escape Kia dealers without reaching for the headache pills – there are ten different trim levels to choose from.

Jaguar XE

Adult Occupant: 92%, Child Occupant: 82%, Pedestrian: 81%, Safety Assist: 82%

When you’re hoping to mix it with the Germans, a good Euro NCAP score is going to help. Fortunately for Jaguar, the XE doesn’t disappoint, with 81% being the lowest of the four scores. The all-wheel drive versions can be fitted with adaptive surface response, which recognises differences between surfaces to exploit the maximum available grip.

Honda HR-V

Adult Occupant: 86%, Child Occupant: 79%, Pedestrian: 72%, Safety Assist: 71%

The Honda HR-V is based on the Jazz supermini and features the clever ‘Magic Seats’ system found in the Civic. The top trim HR-V EX costs from £24,305 and features forward collision warning, intelligent speed limiter, lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition.

Mercedes-Benz GLA

Mercedes-Benz GLA

Adult Occupant: 96%, Child Occupant: 88%, Pedestrian: 67%, Safety Assist: 70%

The GLA is the Mercedes-Benz equivalent of the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. All models are fitted with an active bonnet for pedestrian safety, attention assist and active brake assist, while an optional Driving Assistance package includes blind spot assist, lane keeping assist, distance pilot and Pre-Safe anticipatory safety system.

Porsche Macan

Adult Occupant: 88%, Child Occupant: 87%, Pedestrian: 60%, Safety Assist: 66%

With a score of 60%, the Porsche Macan records the lowest pedestrian safety rating of all the cars featured here. According to Euro NCAP, “the front edge of the bonnet scored no points, with poor protection being provided”.

Subaru Outback

Adult Occupant: 85%, Child Occupant: 87%, Pedestrian: 70%, Safety Assist: 73%

Like the Macan, the Subaru Outback was crash tested back in 2014, when it was awarded the maximum five-star rating. The Outback uses Subaru’s EyeSight technology to monitor the road ahead and recognise potentially dangerous driving situations.

Volkswagen Passat

Volkswagen Passat

Adult Occupant: 85%, Child Occupant: 87%, Pedestrian: 66%, Safety Assist: 76%

Volkswagen Passat prices start at £22,680, but you’ll need to upgrade to the £23,490 SE to take advantage of front assist including city emergency braking. The SE also offers adaptive cruise control.

Jeep Renegade

Adult Occupant: 87%, Child Occupant: 85%, Pedestrian: 65%, Safety Assist: 74%

The Renegade shares its platform with the Fiat 500X and is the first Jeep to be assembled outside the US. But while the Renegade gets the maximum five stars, the 500X has to make do with four, not least because it scored a lowly 64% for safety technologies.

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer

Adult Occupant: 84%, Child Occupant: 85%, Pedestrian: 60%, Safety Assist: 70%

The 2 Series Active Tourer is BMW’s first people carrier, and a front-wheel drive one at that. This might upset the purists, but families will appreciate the five-star safety rating and quality interior.

Volkswagen Golf SV

Volkswagen Golf SV

Adult Occupant: 87%, Child Occupant: 85%, Pedestrian: 62%, Safety Assist: 73%

The Volkswagen Golf SV is known as the Golf Sportsvan in the rest of the Europe, but there’s nothing remotely sporty about the inflated Golf. Still, at least it’s safe.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Adult Occupant: 92%, Child Occupant: 84%, Pedestrian: 77%, Safety Assist: 70%

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class can be fitted with the likes of adaptive cruise control, active lane keeping assist, active blind spot assist, cross-traffic assist, pre-safe preventive occupant protection and LED intelligent lights.

Kia Sorento

Adult Occupant: 90%, Child Occupant: 83%, Pedestrian: 67%, Safety Assist: 71%

The Kia Sorento KX-3 adds lane departure warning and speed limit information to an already impressive level of kit. Upgrade to the KX-4 and you’ll find blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert and drive mode select.

Renault Kadjar

Renault Kadjar

Adult Occupant: 89%, Child Occupant: 81%, Pedestrian: 74%, Safety Assist: 71%

The Renault Kadjar shares its platform with the Nissan Qashqai, but while both crossovers achieved a five-star rating, the individual scores are different. The Kadjar is better for adult occupants, but in every other respect the Qashqai scores better.

Nissan Qashqai

Adult Occupant: 88%, Child Occupant: 83%, Pedestrian: 69%, Safety Assist: 79%

Amazing to think the Nissan Qashqai was tested back at the start of 2014. Since then it has cemented itself as the nation’s favourite crossover. A five-star Euro NCAP safety rating helps.

Nissan X-Trail

Adult Occupant: 86%, Child Occupant: 83%, Pedestrian: 75%, Safety Assist: 75%

It’s a similar story for the larger X-Trail, which scores better for adult and pedestrian protection, but slightly worse for safety technologies.

Ford Mondeo

Ford Mondeo

Adult Occupant: 86%, Child Occupant: 82%, Pedestrian: 66%, Safety Assist: 66%

In the case of cars available in different body styles, Euro NCAP will list the model tested. For the Ford Mondeo it was the estate, but the five-star rating also applies to the saloon.

Lexus NX

Adult Occupant: 82%, Child Occupant: 82%, Pedestrian: 69%, Safety Assist: 71%

Lexus NX brand ambassador will.i.am will be delighted to learn the posh crossover scored a maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

Nissan Pulsar

Adult Occupant: 84%, Child Occupant: 81%, Pedestrian: 75%, Safety Assist: 68%

The Nissan Pulsar offers a huge amount of rear legroom and a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

Adult Occupant: 82%, Child Occupant: 78%, Pedestrian: 66%, Safety Assist: 68%

Since 2013, 11 hybrid and electric cars have been tested by Euro NCAP, seven of which scored the maximum five-star rating. One of these was the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron.

Citroen C4 Picasso

Adult Occupant: 86%, Child Occupant: 88%, Pedestrian: 68%, Safety Assist: 81%

The Citroen C4 Picasso offers an array of safety features, including active lane departure warning, active blind spot warning, safety brake and speed limit recognition.

Mazda 3

Adult Occupant: 93%, Child Occupant: 86%, Pedestrian: 65%, Safety Assist: 81%

All versions of the Mazda 3 get Smart City Safe support, a system that applies the brakes if it senses a low-speed collision is likely. Higher spec Sport Nav models can be equipped with lane departure and blind spot monitoring.

Skoda Octavia

Skoda Octavia

Adult Occupant: 93%, Child Occupant: 86%, Pedestrian: 66%, Safety Assist: 66%

The Skoda Octavia is one of our favourite cars at any price, so it’s good to know it has a maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating. Prices start at £16,660 for what is essentially a more practical and affordable Volkswagen Golf.

Land Rover Discovery Sport

Adult Occupant: 93%, Child Occupant: 83%, Pedestrian: 69%, Safety Assist: 82%

The Land Rover Discovery Sport records one of the best adult occupant protection scores, while also performing very well in terms of safety technologies. Driver aids include lane keep assist, driver condition monitor, autonomous emergency braking and surround camera system.

Lexus IS

Adult Occupant: 91%, Child Occupant: 85%, Pedestrian: 80%, Safety Assist: 66%

Like the aforementioned Jaguar XE, the Lexus IS another alternative to the executive saloons offered by the ‘big three’ from Germany. It’s available as a 2.0-litre petrol or a 2.5-litre hybrid.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Adult Occupant: 88%, Child Occupant: 84%, Pedestrian: 64%, Safety Assist: 81%

The Outlander PHEV has been a runaway success for Mitsubishi, fast becoming the UK’s best-selling plug-in hybrid. Brake assist and city crash provision are fitted as standard, with higher trim levels gaining curve guidance warning, forward collision mitigation and lane departure warning.

Toyota Auris

Adult Occupant: 92%, Child Occupant: 84%, Pedestrian: 68%, Safety Assist: 66%

The Toyota Auris faces a fight in a sector dominated by the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, but the availability of a hybrid version and a maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety provide some much needed standout qualities.

Toyota RAV4

Adult Occupant: 89%, Child Occupant: 82%, Pedestrian: 66%, Safety Assist: 66%

The original Toyota RAV was an early pioneer of the crossover recipe. In common with the Auris, there are better alternatives to today’s RAV4, but the hybrid version is a good enough reason to take a closer look.

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross

Adult Occupant: 92%, Child Occupant: 80%, Pedestrian: 72%, Safety Assist: 81%

The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross is about to be refreshed for 2016. It’s long overdue, as Suzuki’s Qashqai rival has been eclipsed by the newer Vitara, which was also awarded five stars, but is classed as a supermini by Euro NCAP.

Jeep Cherokee

Adult Occupant: 92%, Child Occupant: 79%, Pedestrian: 67%, Safety Assist: 74%

Order a Jeep Cherokee in a top trim level to take advantage of lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and park assist.

Peugeot 308

Adult Occupant: 92%, Child Occupant: 79%, Pedestrian: 64%, Safety Assist: 81%

It’s a while since the Peugeot 308 scooped the European Car of the Year award and was put through the rigours of the Euro NCAP crash test. In 2013 it scored an impressive 92% for adult occupant protection.

Mazda 6

Mazda 6

Adult Occupant: 92%, Child Occupant: 77%, Pedestrian: 66%, Safety Assist: 81%

This is the same score as the Mazda 6, a car that deserves more recognition than it gets. Not only is the 6 great to look at, it’s also great to drive.

Kia Carens

Adult Occupant: 94%, Child Occupant: 76%, Pedestrian: 64%, Safety Assist: 81%

It might not be the most exciting new car on the market, but buyers love its blend of practicality, value for money and ease of use. The seven-year warranty and five-star Euro NCAP rating also help.

Mercedes-Benz CLA

Adult Occupant: 91%, Child Occupant: 75%, Pedestrian: 74%, Safety Assist: 81%

Mercedes-Benz calls its CLA model a coupe, but in reality it’s a compact four-door saloon that rivals the Audi A3 saloon. It scores brilliantly for adult occupant protection.

Honda CR-V

Honda CR-V

Adult Occupant: 93%, Child Occupant: 74%, Pedestrian: 68%, Safety Assist: 66%

You’ve made it this far, but we promise we’re nearly at the end of our marathon look at the safest family cars in the UK. The penultimate car on the list is the Honda CR-V…

Ford Tourneo Connect

Adult Occupant: 94%, Child Occupant: 85%, Pedestrian: 62%, Safety Assist: 70%

Which is swiftly followed by the Ford Tourneo Connect. Think of it as a Ford Transit Connect dressed up as a practical MPV.

Car buyers warned to check for recall work

Car buyers warned to check for recall work

Car buyers warned to check for recall work

More than six million vehicles have been recalled in the UK over the last five years – but many buyers aren’t checking if important work has been carried out ahead of buying a secondhand vehicle.

That’s the warning from car history check provider HPI, who says used car buyers could be left out of pocket and even driving a dangerous vehicle if they don’t check for recall work.

Recalls take place when a manufacturer discovers a potential fault (often safety related) and writes to the owners of affected vehicles, asking them to return their car to their local dealer. Remedial work is then carried out free of charge.

Recalls are increasingly common, with manufacturers including Toyota, Honda, Vauxhall, BMW and Fiat all issuing them since 2011. The number of vehicle recalls rose to a total of 39 in 2014/15 – a 30% increase from the 30 recalled in 2013/14.

HPI’s consumer director Fernando Garcia said: “The problem of recalls just doesn’t seem to be going away. What the high figures demonstrate is just how commonplace recalls are now.”


Opinion

If your dealer writes to you telling you a potential fault has been discovered with your car, surely you’ll let them fix it for you free of charge?

I always thought it’d be a pretty obvious move. But recently I was chatting to an elderly owner of a Toyota Yaris. He was telling me how happy he was with his car – it never needed anything more than servicing.

His only complaint was his pesky dealer, who kept sending letters saying a potential fault had been discovered and asking him to take his Yaris back to them for remedial work. This, in this chap’s view, was a scam. They just wanted to get him into the dealer to be tempted by new models.

In truth, these recalls could be a variety of fairly important issues – from seats that move under braking to steering column brackets that break. If I were the chap I was speaking to – or whoever he ends up selling his car to – I’d want to know the work had been done.

Andrew Brady


Manufacturers are now more likely to issue a recall after identifying potential faults, says HPI, after General Motors was hit by scandal in the US last year. Many criticised the firm for failing to promptly recall cars with a potentially faulty ignition switch.

Garcia added: “As seen with GM Motors, where 2.6 million cars were recalled, it can often take an issue of this scale to bring the topic to the public’s attention. Thankfully, the automotive industry is very efficient at repairing faults.”

The firm has added recall information to its car history check available to used car buyers. Along with information about whether a car has been written off in a crash or is subject to finance, they’ll also be able to see if a recall has been issued.

Buying a used car tips

What to look for when buying a used car

Buying a used car tips

You’ve fallen in love with a used car, so all that’s left is for you to hand over your hard-earned cash and drive away into the sunset. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Sadly, before you get too carried away, there are a few important things to check. Take note of our advice and you could save yourself a few sleepless nights, not to mention a few difficult conversations with your bank manager.

Documents

V5C registration certificate

Even before you look at the car, it’s important to make sure all the supporting documents stack up. The V5C registration document registers the vehicle with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and contains all the essential information about the car.

You must ensure the V5C is genuine (check the ‘DVL’ watermark), whilst checking to see if it has been tampered with in any way. Make sure you view the car at the address listed as the registered keeper and that the engine and VIN numbers match those on the vehicle.

While you’re at it, check the most recent MOT certificate, as well as any service history that will not only verify the mileage, but also provide evidence that the car has been looked after.

The gov.uk website includes a handy tool that allows you to check basic information about the used car you are intending to buy. Go to the website, key in the vehicle’s registration number and make, and you’ll be presented with useful info, such as date of registration, MOT expiry date, colour, engine size, year of manufacture, CO2 emissions and current vehicle tax rate.

You can also find a brilliant MOT history tool, supplying details of all MOT tests stretching back to 2006. This is useful for identifying work that has been done, along with any advisories from the most recent MOT.

If in doubt, walk away. Unless you’re viewing something super-rare, like a Sao Penza or SEAT Malaga, there are plenty more used cars to choose from. Don’t make an expensive mistake.

Visual check

Examining_a_car_park-scratch

Assuming the car has passed its pre-flight checks, it’s now time for a visual inspection. Ensure you view the car in daylight and start with the basics: scratches, dents, mismatched colours and uneven panel gaps are things to look out for.

It’s not essential to walk away from a car with light scratches or dents, especially if it has a few miles on the clock. Either use them as bargaining tools, or ask the seller to put them right before you agree a deal.

Uneven panel gaps and mismatched colours are more concerning. Ask the seller why the car has been painted and when. A front wing may have been replaced following a low-speed run-in with a shopping trolley, but it might be evidence of a serious accident.

Also, be on your guard if the car looks too good to be true. A vehicle with 80,000 miles on the clock and no stone chips on the front is unlikely, so find out if the car has been resprayed.

A few stone chips and signs of light use are nothing to be afraid of – they actually deliver some reassurance of the car’s authenticity. Similarly, original dealer number plates, window stickers and glass are signs that the car hasn’t been involved in an accident.

Finally, while you’re circling the outside of the car, check for signs of rust. Today’s cars offer far greater protection against corrosion than vehicles of old, but even a relatively new car might be suffering from tin worm. Do your homework: research the car’s known trouble spots.

More thorough checks

Tyre inspection

Having given the car a cosmetic check, it’s now time to dig a little a deeper. Start with the tyres – do they have sufficient tread? If not, you’ll need to factor in the cost of replacement. Alternatively, use the tyres as a bargaining tool.

Ensure the wear is even right across the width of the tyre. If it’s not, it could be a tell-tale sign of problems with the suspension, or worse, historical accident damage. Note: a set of premium-brand tyres could suggest the car has been cherished by its current owner.

While you’re outside, make sure all the lights work. Changing a bulb might seem trivial, but a short list of issues can soon turn into something quite lengthy. Oh, and look under the car for signs of leaks, which could be costly to repair.

On the inside

Car interior inspection

Moving to the inside, the first thing to check is that the condition of the cabin tallies with the mileage. You wouldn’t expect to find a worn-out seat bolster, smooth steering wheel and tired pedal rubbers on a low-mileage car.

In the past, a ‘clocked’ car was relatively easy to spot, thanks to a misaligned milometer, but today’s digital displays can be changed using a laptop. Check the service history and pay for an HPI check to ensure the mileage is genuine. This will also alert you to any outstanding finance and previous accident damage.

While you’re inside, check everything works. Do the seats recline as they should? Does the air conditioning blow hot and cold? Does the radio work? Do the electric windows wind down and up again? All simple checks that could save you time and money in the long run.

Be on the lookout for nasty stains, which might be difficult to remove. Similarly, the smells of cigarettes and wet dogs are notoriously hard to remove, so factor unpleasant whiffs into your cabin check.

Under the bonnet

Ford Mustang under bonnet

Before you start the engine, open the bonnet for a visual inspection. Is the oil level correct? Too low is a sign of neglect, whilst too much could be a sign that the engine is using lots of oil, with the seller over-compensating to allow for the issue.

Remove the oil filler cap and inspect the underside. A mayonnaise-type sludge could indicate a lack of use or a series of short trips. Worse, it could suggest the head gasket is on the way out. That’s a big concern.

The coolant should be the colour of antifreeze – if it’s rust-coloured, that’s a sure sign of neglect.

Starting the engine

Exhaust

Before you drive away, there are some visual checks to do when starting the engine. Turn the key to illuminate the dashboard lights. The warning lights should come on before you start the engine, before going out once the engine is ticking over. If they don’t, you could have a problem.

Have somebody with you to check for smoke from the exhaust. Some white vapour is perfectly normal when the engine is cold, but blue smoke could mean the engine is burning oil.

A diesel car will emit a puff of faint blue smoke on start up, but black smoke generally means there’s a serious fault with the engine. If in doubt, walk away. Also listen out for unwelcome noises or rattles that could indicate a costly repair job.

The test drive

Test driving

Only now, after the car has passed all the previous examinations, should you take it for a test drive. Give yourself plenty of time on a mixture of different roads, making sure you use every gear, including reverse.

Does the car accelerate smoothly? Does it pull to one side under braking? Is the clutch biting point too high? Does the handbrake work? Does the car steer in the correct manner?

If nothing else, you could be living with the car for many years to come, so make sure you enjoy the experience. Faults are one thing, but ensuring you actually like the car is another consideration.

Other checks

Buying a used car

There are also a number of specific checks that will vary depending on the car. Find out when a cambelt needs to be changed, as this is an expensive job. Similarly, ask a dealer about service schedules – if the car is due a major service, it could be on the brink of a costly bill.

Other considerations, especially if you’re looking at an older car, include: diesel particulate filters (DPF) – bank on upwards of £1,000 if you need to replace one; catalytic converters – check the most recent emissions test; and ABS – does the light go out once the engine has been started?

You should also ask for the spare set of keys, as replacements can be expensive. In short, you should draw up a shortlist of everything that’s required if you decide to take the plunge.

Add up the total cost and then decide whether or not it’s worth proceeding with the purchase. There are plenty more cars in the classifieds.

Lots-of-cars

It’s often said that you ‘buy the seller’, as much as you buy the car. In other words: if you get a good feeling about the seller, that’s a positive start. Are they keen to answer questions? Do they speak with knowledge and enthusiasm when describing the car? Go with your gut feeling.

Also, beware of a car that’s been over-prepared for sale. Don’t be swayed by a layer of tyre polish, bumper black and some interior air-freshener. It’s always better to view car warts-and-all. Finally, remember, if the deal seems too good to be true, it most probably is.

Car tyres are the only contact point between you and the road

1 in 4 cars in Britain has an illegal tyre

Car tyres are the only contact point between you and the roadMore than a third of AA tyre-fitting call-outs is to replace tyres that are either below the legal tread limit or dangerously close to it, new analysis has revealed.

This means millions of Brits could be risking a £2,500 fine and three penalty points for having a tyre below the legal tread limit of 1.6mm – and in the most extreme case, four illegal tyres could result in a £10,000 fine and an instant driving ban.

  • More advice on Motoring Research

“Our findings point to an alarming lack of concern about tyres by British driver,” said AA Tyres co-founder Mark Shankland.

“With summer upon us, now is a good time to check your tyres before heading off on a long trip, and replace them if there is 2mm of tread or less remaining.”

The AA research is backed up by official research from Highways England and TyreSafe: they measured 340,000 car tyres and found 66% were below 2mm and 27% were illegal.

More than 10,000 journey-stopping AA call-outs were for problems with tyres in the first three months of 2016 alone.

The dangers of driving on balding tyres are clear, said Shankland. “Not only is the risk of a blow-out greater but stopping distances are significantly increased too.

“If there’s a sudden summer downpour there’s a high chance of aquaplaning on worn tyres which means you lose control of your car with perhaps unthinkable consequences.

“If your tyres are worn or damaged, you’re putting your family at risk.”

Can you insure a driverless car?

Can you insure a driverless car?

Can you insure a driverless car?

As driverless cars are becoming ever-increasingly closer to reality,  specialist insurance company Adrian Flux has launched a policy specifically for cars with autonomous driving features.

The Modern Transport Bill, announced last month, extends compulsory cover to accidents where the car itself, rather than the driver, is at fault.

Although we’re some way off seeing cars capable of dealing with traffic and completing journeys without input from the driver, autonomous features such as self-parking are increasingly common.

This means, for example, if your car is parking itself and misjudges a space, resulting in crunched bodywork, your insurance will cover it – and may even pursue the car manufacturer for costs, rather than the driver.

But Flux’s driverless policy goes a step further than the autonomous cover provided by a standard insurance policy. Customers will be covered for loss or damage in the following scenarios:

  • If updates or security patches for things like firewalls, operating systems, electronic mapping and journey planning systems haven’t been successfully installed in the vehicle within 24 hours of the owner being notified by the manufacturer or software provider, subject to an increased policy excess
  • If there are satellite failure / outages that affect the navigation systems, or if the manufacturer’s operating system or authorised software fails
  • Where there is loss or damage caused by failing, when able, to use manual override to avoid a collision or accident in the event of operating system, navigation system or mechanical failure.
  • For loss or damage if your car gets hacked or an attempted hack results in loss or damage.

Adrian Flux general manager Gerry Bucke said: “As the UK continues to invest in driverless research in preparation for the growing market for autonomous vehicles in the near future, we wanted to help provide confidence and clarity around the ongoing debate of ‘who is liable?’

“We understand this driverless policy to be the first of its kind in the UK – and possibly the world. It’s a fantastic starting point for the insurance industry and the policy, like any other, will be updated as both the liability debate and driverless technology evolve.”

A Motoring Research investigation in 2014 found that most insurers weren’t prepared to insure cars with fully-autonomous technology.

At the time, LV insurance’s managing director Selwyn Fernandes told us: “Driverless cars are still in the early stages of development and the insurance industry as a whole will need to investigate how best to go about insuring them in the future.

“One of the key issues facing insurers at the moment is whether the liability will sit with the insurer or the car manufacturer should the car be involved in a collision.

“However, as many features, such as blind-spot information systems, have been designed to improve safety, customers who have automated systems built into their cars could see a reduction in their insurance premium as they are less likely to make a claim.”

Driverless cars, in the form of the Lutz Pod, are currently being trialled in the UK – and manufacturers including Nissan and Volvo are expected to launch driverless cars by 2020.

Revealed: the car insurance companies charging up to £50 in admin fees just for renewing

Revealed: the car insurance companies charging huge admin fees just for renewing

Revealed: the car insurance companies charging up to £50 in admin fees just for renewing

While it’s always good practice to shop around at insurance renewal time, it’s often very tempting just to let your car insurance automatically renew with the same company.

But an investigation by Money Saving Expert (MSE) has discovered that many insurance companies are rewarding loyal customers by hitting them with an admin fee of up to £50 – just for renewing.

Out of 20 major insurers and brokers contacted by the website, nine admitted charging customers admin fees on renewal.

The most expensive admin fee was the £50 charge applied by Budget – but the firm insisted this fee was also charged to new customers opening a policy.

MSE points out that renewal quotes are often more expensive than those given to new customers, so the admin fees are on top of the pricier insurance quote.

One firm, First Central, also applied a £50 admin fee to renewals – but guaranteed that its quotes for loyal customers would be cheaper than those for new policies on a like-for-like basis.

MSE’s managing editor Guy Anker said: “Auto-renewal is often a rip-off, and this investigation shows those who do it often face a double whammy, with extra renewal fees making it even worse.

“This once again proves what we’ve long said – you should simply never auto-renew, but look around to find the best overall deal instead.”

While insurance companies are free to charge admin fees – as long as they can prove they’re proportionate to the work involved – customers haven’t got anything to lose by attempting to haggle over the phone.

Many will be keen to keep a loyal customer so will likely waive admin fees for renewal, and hopefully match or beat the price you paid a year earlier.

This is the list of insurance companies that MSE found to charge admin fees at renewal:

  • Auto Direct (owned by Ageas): £25
  • Bluefin (owned by Axa): £27.50-£35
  • Budget: £50
  • Direct Choice (owned by Saga): £10
  • Hastings: £20
  • Kwik Fit Financial Services (owned by Ageas): £35 (for instalment customers)
  • Saga: £20
  • Swinton: £25
  • Towergate: £10 (for classic cars)