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Chancellor Philip Hammond

Budget 2018: key points for motorists and how the industry reacted

Chancellor Philip Hammond

Chancellor Philip Hammond has announced what’s described as the biggest ever cash injection for England’s major roads in the 2018 Budget.

The flagship £28.8 billion National Roads Fund upgrade plan will run from 2020-2025, and forms the major part of a £25.3 billion budget for Highways England, called Roads Investment Strategy 2.

This is a 40 percent increase on the previous five-year plan’s £17.6 billion (dubbed Roads Investment Strategy 1) – and it will be raised largely from ring-fencing Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). This was announced in the 2015 Budget by then chancellor George Osborne, following claims only 25p in every £1 raised from VED was being spent on roads.

The government also announced £3.5 billion of ‘new money’. This will be used by local councils to upgrade major local roads that fall outside the control of Highways England.

Another £150 million will be provided to improve problematic road junctions and congestion hotspots, benefitting all road users, not just motorists.

The UK’s pothole scourge was addressed in the 2018 Budget with an extra £420 million for road repairs. This is on top of a previous £300 million pothole fund (although the Asphalt Industry Alliance says to fix all England’s potholes would actually cost £8 billion).

The Chancellor said the £420 million sum “will be available immediately, to local highway authorities, for fixing potholes, bridge repairs and other minor repairs”. 

There’s also a £680 million commitment to supporting sustainable transport in cities – that’s buses, trams and cycling routes. From 2022, Future Mobility Zones will be created with £90 million from the Transforming Cities Fund. The Treasury says this will help “trial new transport modes, services, and digital payments and ticketing”. The West Midlands region alone will receive £20 million of it.

As earlier announced by Prime Minister Theresa May, fuel duty has been frozen for the ninth successive year. “This will keep the cost of fuel down for millions of drivers across the UK,” said the Chancellor, “saving people around £800 million this year alone.”

The saving to the average car driver will be more than £1,000, and for the average van driver, £2,500.

The tougher new WLTP fuel economy test has raised the CO2 emissions of many big-selling cars, with particular impact on company car tax. The government says it will review the impact of WLTP, both on VED and company car tax, in the spring.

Ahead of this, VED and company car fuel benefit charges will increase in line with RPI. 

The 2018 Budget also hinted that greater changes to motoring taxation are being considered. “Technology is changing many aspects of the economy – including the vehicles we drive – and the government is considering how the tax system will need to adapt to manage those changes.” Could this be an early indication of road pricing, perhaps?

2018 Budget for motorists: reaction  

SMMT

“There are some welcome announcements in the Budget,” said Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders chief executive Mike Hawes, but “the automotive industry was looking for a stimulus to boost a flagging market. We wanted to see more incentives for consumers to purchase the latest, most environmentally friendly vehicles.

“The forthcoming review into the impact of WLTP on Vehicle Excise Duty and company car tax must, therefore, ensure that motorists buying the latest, cleanest cars are not unfairly penalised. Industry looks forward to working closely with government on this review to ensure we encourage the newest, cleanest vehicles on to our roads rather than incentivising consumers and businesses to keep older vehicles going longer.”

RAC

“This is good news for the nation’s motorists,” said RAC chief engineer David Bizley. “While the focus of this cash injection is on strategic major roads, it is also positive that other local roads will benefit to some extent. But what is also needed going forward is a similar long-term strategy and funding for the maintenance and improvement of all local roads so that we can, over 10 years, eliminate the backlog.”

BVRLA

“The BVRLA was dismayed to hear that the Budget included no reference to an early introduction for the 2 percent company car tax rate for electric vehicles,” said chief executive Gerry Keaney. “The Chancellor chose to ignore the overwhelming voice of fleets, motoring groups, business organisations, environmental groups and MPs – all of whom were united in calling for this simple tax measure to support the electric vehicle market.

“The Government has missed a golden opportunity to incentivise the most important market for electric cars and is in danger of undermining its own Road to Zero strategy. “

Cox Automotive

Philip Nothard, customer insight and strategy director at automotive solutions provider Cox Automotive UK, said: “This was a very broad budget. We now need to have a real look into the detail and what it actually means for car owners.

“The freeze in fuel duty is obviously welcomed but there didn’t appear anything new, with no obvious references to challenges that the industry currently faces such as WLTP, autonomous vehicles and #dieselgate”.

Paul Johnson, IFS director

Labour MP Emily Thornberry

2018 Budget: cash for motorists

  • £28.8 billion: Roads Investment Fund (2020/25)
  • £420 million: local road maintenance (2018/19)
  • £150 million: tackling local congestion hotspots (£75 million in 2021/22 and the same in 2022/23)
  • £680 million: Transforming Cities fund (2022/23)
  • £90 million: Future Mobility Zones (2019/20 and 2021/22)
Diesel fuel pump

Diesel car tax rise a ‘knee-jerk reaction’, say experts

Diesel fuel pump

Government plans to raise taxes on diesel cars have been labelled “a terrible misjudged ‘knee-jerk’ reaction” by the RAC. The response follows a report in the Financial Times outlining chancellor Philip Hammond’s decision to inflict higher taxes on diesel vehicles to raise funds for new air-quality initiatives.

The government is expected to announce the move as part of its autumn budget, although it’s not clear whether the chancellor will increase VAT on diesel cars or decide to implement a new levy.

Sales of diesel cars have plummeted this year, with the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showing a 30 percent fall in registrations, amid concerns over emissions and the threat of anti-diesel car charging schemes.

The RAC is urging the government to think again, arguing that diesel cars remain relevant for company car drivers and those who cover long distances.

RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “We might be just over 20 years from the Government’s own deadline for ending the sale of new diesel and petrol vehicles, but it seems intent on dissuading as many of us from opting for diesel as possible.

“We are concerned that those who drive long distances, business drivers especially, might consider sticking with their older diesels given the superior economy they offer. It would be a terrible misjudged ‘knee-jerk’ reaction which could backfire and have the unexpected effect of encouraging these owners of older diesels and fleets not to upgrade to newer, cleaner diesels which offer significant benefits in reduced emissions.

“This isn’t what the Government, or any of us, want and is the opposite of what is needed from an air quality perspective. However, it would also be grossly unfair to penalise owners of current diesel vehicles.

“The irony is that the next generation of diesel engines which manufacturers are developing right now are likely to be as clean as their petrol equivalents – so while a new tax might be logical in the short term, this logic will likely not apply within a year or so.

“The possibility of a sudden rush to petrol engines also risks a new rise in CO2 emissions, precisely what previous governments tried to avoid by encouraging drivers into diesel vehicles.”

The chancellor of the exchequer will present his autumn budget to parliament on 22 November 2017.

NEXT> Diesel remains Britain’s favourite used car fuel

The best family cars for every budget

The best family cars for every budget

The best family cars for every budgetWhile most of us dream of sports cars and hot hatches, there comes a time in our lives when we need something a little more practical. With this in mind, we’ve created a list of 20 family cars to suit every budget. Yep, we have everything from a Dacia to a Rolls-Royce, and much more in between.

£5,000 – £10,000: Dacia SanderoThe best family cars for every budget

The Dacia Sandero is available for a headline price of £5,995, but unless you enjoy the feeling of sweaty armpits and the sound of your own singing voice, we’d avoid the Access model. Instead, upgrade to the mid-spec Ambiance for manual air conditioning and DAB digital radio.

Even with the Sandero Ambiance with the super-frugal diesel engine creeps below the £10,000 mark, but we’d save the best part of £1,500 and choose the turbocharged petrol engine for £7,995.

£5,000 – £10,000: Dacia DusterThe best family cars for every budget

We make no apology for featuring a second Dacia in our bargain basement category because the Duster offers exceptional value for money. Yes, the £9,495 Access is basic in the extreme, but there’s something appealing about a UN-spec SUV-lookalike for the price of a supermini.

The 1.6-litre SCe petrol engine offers as much as 44.1mpg on a combined cycle and CO2 emissions of 145g/km. This is the closest you can get to a Tonka toy for grown-ups. Just steer clear of the skirting boards.

£10,001 – £15,000: SsangYong TivoliThe best family cars for every budget

The SsangYong Tivoli might be a leftfield choice, but it offers exceptional value for money. Both the petrol and diesel engine versions of the entry-level SE model are available for less than £15,000, while even the better equipped EX breaks the £15k mark by a mere £300.

At the time of writing, SsangYong is offering discounts of up to £2,155 across the Tivoli range, taking the top-spec ELX diesel with a manual gearbox down to £16,995. Prices start from just £11,995.

£10,001 – £15,000: Skoda Rapid SpacebackThe best family cars for every budget

Don’t be fooled by the name, because the Spaceback is smaller than the standard Skoda Rapid. As a result, boot space is down 135 litres, but the load space is a better shape, making it easier to make full use of the 415 litres on offer.

That’s a boot larger than the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus, despite the Spaceback sitting on the same platform as the Polo. The 1.0 TSI S is the only model to meet the £10-£15k criteria, although some haggling should secure an SE Tech within budget.

£15,001 – £20,000: Mazda CX-3The best family cars for every budget

If you must drive a compact crossover, do the right thing and make sure it looks good and drives like a regular hatchback. You’re not exactly spoilt for choice, but fortunately, the Mazda CX-3 fits the bill.

The SE Nav version is available for £18,495 when powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine and £19,995 for the 1.6-litre diesel. The boot offers 350 litres of boot space, which extends to 1,260 litres with the rear seats folded down.

£15,001 – £20,000: Skoda OctaviaThe best family cars for every budget

Assuming you’re not after a crossover, the Skoda Octavia might be the ultimate family car. It’s larger than the Volkswagen Golf upon which it is based, with 590 litres of boot space, extending to 1,580 litres with the rear seats folded down. And that’s just the hatchback version.

Prices start from £17,195 for the entry-level 1.0 TSI S, while the 1.5 TSI SE slips below the £20k mark. Right now, Skoda is offering £3,500 scrappage discount on the Octavia.

£20,001 – £25,000: Citroen Grand C4 PicassoThe best family cars for every budget

Seven-seat MPVs are hardly flavour of the month, but if you want a proper MPV, the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is a great option. Prices start from £23,155 for the Touch Edition, with the mid-spec Feel available for £24,530.

The Grand C4 Picasso looks good – a rare thing in this segment – and the cabin is light and airy. The middle-row seats slide individually and offer a huge amount of space, while the rearmost seats are perfectly adequate for children and occasional use by adults.

£20,001 – £25,000: Skoda SuperbThe best family cars for every budget

The Superb range kicks off at £20,050, with even the most lavishly-equipped model costing a reasonable £35,000. Spend some time in a Skoda Superb and you’ll begin to question why anyone would fork out more on a so-called ‘premium’ car.

The boot is huge – 625 litres extending to 1,760 litres – while rear seat passengers will enjoy the limo-like legroom.

£25,001 – £30,000: Audi Q3The best family cars for every budget

The Audi Q3 competes against the Mercedes-Benz GLA and BMW X1, but unlike its German rivals, it’s pleasing on the eye. The interior, while a little sombre, oozes quality, while the badge will provide some driveway appeal.

The Sport trim kicks off at £27,610, while the ultra-desirable S Line Edition creeps below the £30k mark by £150. Be warned: go mad with the options list and the Q3 becomes rather expensive.

£25,001 – £30,000: Skoda KodiaqThe best family cars for every budget

Recently, Reuters reported that Volkswagen might take measures to “curb competition from lower-cost stablemate Skoda, move some of its production to Germany and make the Czech brand pay more for shared technology.” If VW bosses are concerned, the Kodiaq will give them sleepless nights.

Even a top-spec Kodiaq with seven seats costs a little over £30,000, with prices starting from £22,000. This SUV will sell like the hottest of hot cakes.

£30,001 – £40,000: Jaguar F-PaceThe best family cars for every budget

Speaking of hot cakes… The F-Pace is fuelling what looks likely to be a record-breaking year for Jaguar, with sales up 8% on the same point in 2016, at 401,565 vehicles sold. The Jaguar F-Pace is hot property.

Prices start from £34,730 for the Prestige model, with the range-topping S costing £52,665. Not only does the F-Pace seat five adults, but the boot is also able to carry 650 litres of luggage with the rear seats in place. More F-Space, then?

£30,001 – £40,000: Volvo V90The best family cars for every budget

Thankfully, not everybody has bought into the crossover-SUV craze, which is why Volvo can produce masterpieces such as the V90. While we might miss the old five-cylinder engines, and the boot isn’t as cavernous as it was in the old days, the V90 is handsome in a way a crossover so often isn’t.

Prices start from £36,345, while the beautifully-appointed Inscription model slips beneath the £40k mark. The interior is a masterclass in fit, finish and simple sophistication.

£40,001 – £50,000: Porsche MacanThe best family cars for every budget

Of the 186,000 Porsche sales so far in 2017, 49,000 of them were Cayenne and 73,000 Macan. To say the SUV saved the company would be a huge understatement. Porsche can play with wild 911 creations thanks to the Macan and Cayenne.

The Macan range kicks off at £46,000 for the entry-level model, with the S and S Diesel both available for less than £50,000. That it isn’t quite as practical as some of its rivals won’t matter one jot when you reach your favourite corner of the local B-road. This is essentially a 911 in an SUV suit.

£40,001 – £50,000: Land Rover DiscoveryThe best family cars for every budget

One of the world’s greatest off-roaders just got better; it’s just a shame Land Rover forgot to finish the styling. Putting the controversial tailgate design to one side for a moment, the fifth generation Discovery offers a compelling blend of on- and off-road manners.

In seven-seat form, you’ll find 258 litres of space, although this increases to 1,137 litres with the rearmost seats folded down. Fold the second row and the Discovery could give a small van a run for its money, offering 2,406 litres of space. Prices start from £46,000.

£50,001 – £75,000: Volvo XC90The best family cars for every budget

The reinvention of Volvo began with the XC90, with the smaller XC60 and XC40 soon following suit. For such a large SUV, the XC90 oozes charm and elegance, while the minimalist interior is arguably the best thing this side of a luxury car costing tens of thousands of pounds more.

Prices start from £49,905, while the T8 Twin Engine weighs in at £61,705. Three years on from its launch, the XC90 has lost none of its appeal.

£50,001 – £75,000: Audi Q7The best family cars for every budget

The Audi Q7 might not be as elegant as the Volvo XC90, but it’s arguably its closest rival. If the original Q7 was a cumbersome and aggressive machine, the new version is positively featherlight, shedding 325kg between generations. As as a result, it’s more efficient and less of a threat to polar bears and penguins.

Not that it is any prettier, although owners will love the huge amount of interior space, which extends to 1,955 litres, some 100 litres more than the XC90.

£75,001 – £100,000: Range RoverThe best family cars for every budget

The Range Rover is the Swiss Army Knife of the automotive world, blending off-road capabilities, family car appeal and opulent levels of luxury in one iconic package.

Sure, it won’t be the cheapest thing to run, but that hardly seems to matter at this price point. Besides, few cars offer such impeccable on- and off-road manners. Go forth and climb every mountain and ford every stream.

£75,001 – £100,000: Porsche Panamera Sport TurismoThe best family cars for every budget

Dear Porsche, thank you for giving us an alternative to the SUV. For the first time in a Panamera, the Sport Turismo offers a central third seat, although this is available as a delete option.

There’s also more headroom in the back and more luggage space in the boot. But before you get too carried away, at 520 litres, it’s only 20 litres more than you’d find in the regular Panamera. Still, this is a very cool thing.

£101,000+: Bentley BentaygaThe best family cars for every budget

You probably don’t like the look of the Bentley Bentayga, and that’s your prerogative. But ask anyone who has spent quality time in Bentley’s first SUV and they’ll regale you with tales of brilliance and wonderment.

From our 2016 review: “We shuddered at the thought of a Bentley SUV a few years ago. But the Bentayga has confounded all our fears. A cosseting, rapid and satisfying to drive luxury SUV, it’s a true Bentley – the best car the firm makes. Without doubt, one of the best premium SUVs you can buy, full stop.”

£101,000+: Rolls-Royce GhostThe best family cars for every budget

Into the realms of fantasy we go. Look, the Rolls-Royce Ghost has got four doors and four seats, so it must qualify as a family car. Not convinced? This thing has a 490-litre boot.

If you’ve spent a quarter of a million quid on a family car, we doubt you’ll be too fussed about the thirst, so we won’t mention the 20mpg figure. But good luck finding a space in the pre-school car park…

>NEXT: 10 most popular paint colours revealed

Best budget family cars

Best budget family cars

Best budget family carsTransporting a family is hard work at the best of times, but trying to do it on a budget is even tougher. Fortuntely, trying to be fiscally responsible doesn’t mean you have to compromise on a new car – as these 12 choices demonstrate.


More car news on Motoring Research: 


Dacia Duster: from £9,495Best budget family cars

As one of the cheapest cars on sale in the UK, the Dacia Duster is perfect for embracing automotive austerity. There’s genuine off-road ability and its looks are pleasingly utilitarian, rather than needlessly overstyled. The interior is equally spartan, but it means you can let kids and dogs go wild, and fill the 451 litres of boot space without concern.

The Access model is priced from £9,495, and really is budget motoring: a radio is not even standard. You’ll have to adjust your wing mirrors manually, but at least the windows are operated electrically. Move further up the range and you’ll get sat nav and air conditioning included, but the Duster makes the most sense bought as cheaply as possible.

Dacia Logan MCV Stepway: from £11,495Best budget family cars

The regular Dacia Logan MCV is a cheap and cheerful compact estate, but moving up to the Stepway version adds extra glamour with off-road-ready bodywork. Think of this as a very cut-price alternative to the Audi A4 Allroad or Volvo V60 Cross Country. Although with 1,518 litres of boot space with the seats down, the MCV Stepway is actually more practical than those premium machines.

With a starting price of £11,495, the Logan MCV Stepway might seem pricey for a Dacia, but you do gain a more substantial level of specification. Parking sensors, air conditioning and even satellite navigation come as part of the deal in Laureate trim, while there is a choice of petrol or diesel engines.

Suzuki Baleno: from £11,999Best budget family cars

Created as a larger alternative for buyers who have outgrown the Swift supermini, the Baleno offers up a decent combination of price and practicality. It’s big on interior space, with plenty of room for those up-front and for rear passengers. The boot can also hold 320 litres of luggage: on par with the bigger Ford Focus.

Suzuki offers a comprehensive standard specification across the Baleno range, with even the £11,999 entry-level SZ3 packed full of features: DAB radio, air conditioning, automatic headlights and even a leather-covered steering wheel are all there. SZ3 trim means you only get the 1.2-litre petrol engine, though. You’ll need to spend an extra £2,000 to get your hands on the superb 1.0-litre turbocharged Boosterjet engine.

Nissan Pulsar: from £13,275Best budget family cars

While the Juke and Qashqai crossovers take all the Nissan limelight, the hatchback Pulsar is left in the shadows. This is a conventional family hatch in the truest sense of the word, bringing nothing revolutionary to the segment. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, though – especially if you happen to have children with rather long legs.

Yes, the Pulsar has the largest amount of rear legroom in the entire C-segment hatchback class: enough to shame much bigger cars. It’s also competitive in terms of boot space, beating the omnipresent Volkswagen Golf with 385 litres. The cheapest 1.2-litre turbo Visia model includes air conditioning, cruise control, and Bluetooth connectivity, all for the bargain price of £13,275.

Citroën C4 Cactus: from £13,770Best budget family cars

Proof that family motoring on a shoestring doesn’t have to be dull, the styling of the C4 Cactus is divisive, but undoubtedly quirky. Yet it is also practical, with the trademark Airbumps helping protect the bodywork from errant car doors and shopping trolleys. Drivers benefit from the commanding view created by the raised ride height, although rear passengers have to contend with windows that only pop open.

Stylish utilitarianism is the name of the game with the C4 Cactus, with a standard touchscreen display controlling almost all functions and cutting the dashboard button count down to virtually zero. Entry-level Touch models are rather sparse on kit, but do at least gain electric front windows, DAB radio, and cruise control as standard. Air conditioning isn’t even optional on Touch trim – worth bearing in mind given those pop-out rear windows.

Suzuki Vitara: from £14,999Best budget family cars

Forget the Vitara from the late 1980s and early 1990s. There are no ultra-wide bodykits or rhino-branded spare wheel covers here. Today the Vitara is a family-friendly compact SUV, with a practical interior and a driving experience far more fun than you would ever believe. It might not have the biggest boot, at just 375 litres, but overall space is good for young families.

For a pound less than £15,000, you’ll be getting the Vitara in SZ4 specification. It means you miss out on the touchscreen multimedia system offered higher up the range, but do still get a DAB radio, cruise control, automatic air conditioning, and 16in alloy wheels. SZ4 trim limits engine options to just one: a 1.6-litre petrol with 120hp driving just the front wheels. Best keep your off-roading aspirations to a minimum, then.

Kia Cee’d: from £15,365Best budget family cars

The existing Kia Cee’d has been around since 2012, with an all-new version planned for next year. That doesn’t mean you should discount the current Cee’d though, as it still offers a pleasing blend of value and usability, plus good looks. It’s also impossible to rule out the value of the standard seven-year/100,000-mile warranty if you plan on keeping your Cee’d for the long haul.

Kia doesn’t do optional extras, meaning the trim level you pick is all-or-nothing. Entry-level ‘1’ specification comes with air conditioning, dual projector headlights, Bluetooth connectivity and a DAB radio as standard. There’s not even alloy wheels at this basic specification level, while the standard engine is a naturally-aspirated 1.4-litre petrol with 98hp and the potential for a combined 47.1 mpg. Take solace in the handsome styling, and make use of the luggage space that rivals a far costlier Volkswagen Golf.

Fiat 500X: from £15,430Best budget family cars

Forget ideas of the tiny Fiat 500 city car. The 500X is a compact crossover based on the Jeep Renegade, but undercutting its American rival by almost £3,000. It’s bigger than it looks in photos, meaning cabin space is capable of making adults feel well accommodated, both front and rear. Boot space of 350 litres is nothing to write home about, but retro styling and the potential for 4WD will always create limitations. The interior does at least feel well made, with added Italian design flair.

Shopping at this price point means buying a 500X in ‘City Look’, which means no off-road bravado. The entry-level ‘Pop’ model brings a choice of 1.6-litre petrol or 1.3-litre diesel engines, with the latter adding £1,585 to the price. Standard specification includes air conditioning, cruise control, electric windows, and a body-coloured dashboard. Plus, can you really put a price on retro charm?

Vauxhall Astra: from £16,535Best budget family cars

It’s built in Britain and was the 2016 European Car of the Year, fending off challengers like the Volvo XC90 and Mazda MX-5. Despite all that, the Astra tends not to rate too highly in terms of desirability, which does it something of a disservice. It’s a thoroughly competent family hatchback, provided you can see beyond the inevitable desire for a Volkswagen Golf.

With prices beginning at £16,535, the Astra costs some £1,230 less than the German machine, and is more than £3,000 cheaper than the lowliest Ford Focus. Proof that substantial savings abound if you can park your badge snobbery. The entry-level Design model comes with cruise control, air conditioning, and even Apple CarPlay/Android Auto as standard.

Skoda Octavia Estate: from £18,395Best budget family cars

If maximum load space is top of your priorities, say hello to the Octavia Estate. Visually it isn’t the most exciting car, and the use of the Octavia for everything from minicabs to ambulances and unmarked police cars certainly gives a it a blue-collar reputation. However, there’s a reason it gets picked for practical roles, and that’s its gigantic 610 litres of boot space with the rear seats up – swelling to a vast 1,780 litres with them folded flat.

With prices from £18,395, there is something of a compromise to pay for all that internal real estate. Basic ‘S’ trim means a 1.0-litre petrol engine with 115hp, but that’s still enough for the Octavia to achieve 0-62mph in 10.1 seconds and return an official 59mpg. You’ll also get air conditioning, an 8in touchscreen multimedia system, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, DAB radio and 16in alloy wheels as standard.

Vauxhall Zafira Tourer: from £18,685Best budget family cars

Previous generations of the Zafira have hardly had the greatest image, but at least the Tourer brings genuine good looks to the MPV party. It’s a full seven-seater, with over 1,800 litres of luggage space with the seats down – and is better to drive than you might imagine. If you can ignore any personal hang-ups about the Vauxhall badge, this may be the answer to your family needs.

As with the Astra, entry-level with the Zafira Tourer means Design trim. However, just like with the smaller hatchback, this is still very generous in terms of standard specification. Air conditioning, front and rear parking sensors, 17in alloy wheels, cruise control and a DAB radio are all part of the kit. A 140hp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine is the cheapest offering, capable of 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds with a combined 44mpg.

SEAT Alhambra: from £25,435Best budget family cars

Once upon a time, large MPVs roamed the retail parks and service station car parks of the nation in droves. Today, a big upmarket seven-seater MPV is something you turn to when you need a very particular set of skills. Fortunately, just like Liam Neeson in Taken, the Alhambra is rather good at taking care of your kids, with a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

It might be the most expensive car here, with prices starting from £25,435, but that comfortably undercuts key competitors like the Ford Galaxy and Volkswagen Sharan. Even with all seven seats in use, there’s still 267 litres of luggage space, while with the rear seats folded flat it becomes a gargantuan 2,297-litre-capacity van. All versions get alloy wheels, climate control and Bluetooth connectivity as standard.

Best budget cars for track days

Best budget cars for track daysWant to push your car to its limits in a safe environment – and without the risk of seeing flashing blue lights in your mirrors? A track day might be just what you’re looking for. Track days take place at circuits around the country throughout the year and typically cost around £200. For that, you can use the track all day and, on an ‘open pit lane’ event, you can go out onto the track and come back into the pits whenever you like.

Keep it cheapBest budget cars for track days

Still, you’re unlikely to want to thrash your daily-driver around a circuit. What would your other half say if they found out you’d been drifting the family motor? How would your boss react if you were asking for new tyres on your company car a little too often? And remember, your insurance won’t cover you on-track, so the lower the value of the car, the less you’ll worry about getting it wrong.

So here are some options for track day cars that cost buttons, but will still leave you grinning from ear to ear.

Mazda MX-5 (Mk1)Best budget cars for track days

There’s only one place to start a list like this and it’s with the venerable Mazda MX-5. There’s a reason you won’t go to a track day without seeing one of these. Rear-wheel drive makes it fun in the corners, and low weight means you’ll get plenty of track days from a set of tyres and brakes. It may not be the quickest on the straights, but the unstressed engine is practically bombproof. Just watch out for rust.

BMW 328i (E36)Best budget cars for track days

Want to keep that classic front-engine, rear-wheel-drive balance, but with a bit more oomph? The BMW 3 Series might be a bit of a barge in standard form, but budget for uprated suspension and brakes and you’ll be driving one of the best all-round track cars for a minimal outlay. What’s more, you can pretend you’re a 90s touring car driver while you do it.

Toyota MR2 (Mk2)Best budget cars for track days

The Toyota MR2 is the alternative for those who find the MX-5 just too obvious or, indeed, rusty. The mid-engined layout might make it intimidating for the first-time track day driver, but it provides a long-lasting appeal to those who like a challenge.

Renaultsport Clio 182Best budget cars for track days

If the classic rear-wheel-drive track car is the MX-5, the archetypal front-wheel-drive track car is the Clio 182. As the name suggests, its 2.0-litre engine produces a healthy 182bhp. Combine this with low weight, sharp handling an affordable purchase price, and you can see why hot Clios make a popular track-car choice.

Honda Civic Type R (EP3)Best budget cars for track days

The Civic Type R packs all the Clio 182’s pointiness and punch, but with the addition of Japanese reliability. Its high-revving VTEC engine is often criticised for lacking low-down torque on the road, but comes into its own on track, where you’re exploiting every last rpm.

Caterham SevenBest budget cars for track days

A price tag of around £15,000 for a track-worthy Caterham might be pushing the limits of what we can describe as a cheap track car, but the sub-600kg weight means it’ll look after its brakes, tyres and other consumable parts like nothing else. And let’s not forget the mind-blowing handling, acceleration and braking that this featherweight offers.

Lotus EliseBest budget cars for track days

The Elise is to the Caterham what the MR2 is to the MX-5. Uber-lightweight, direct and driver-focused, but with the engine in the middle instead of at the front. Also, like the MR2, we’d advise that the Elise isn’t for the inexperienced track driver – it can be notoriously snappy thanks to that mid-engined layout.

Toyota MR2 (Mk3)Best budget cars for track days

A saying you hear trotted-out about the Mk3 Toyota MR2 is: ‘80% of an Elise for 20% of the price’. While we’re not convinced this really is the case, we can’t deny that the Mk3 MR2 makes a fine track car, no doubt helped by the weight saving of 200kg compared to its predecessor.

BMW M3 (E46)Best budget cars for track days

We’ve already suggested the E36-generation 328i, but the E46 M3 has everything we like about its older brother turned up to 11. The screaming 3.2-litre straight-six pushes out 343hp which, combined with the M-car’s upgraded suspension and brakes, will put you straight to the top of the lap-time leaderboard. While these can be had for as little as £7,000, beware of the ‘M tax’ on consumable parts like brakes.

Subaru Impreza WRXBest budget cars for track days

The only four-wheel-drive car to make the list is the rally-derived Subaru Impreza WRX. While the Impreza may have cut its teeth on the dirt, it can hold its own on tarmac, too. On a wet track day, not many things will keep up with it. But be warned, that four-wheel-drive grip means tyres won’t last long in the dry.

Ford PumaBest budget cars for track days

With just 123hp, the Ford Puma may be the least powerfuk car on this list, but it punches above its weight on-track thanks to its rev-happy Yamaha-developed 1.7-litre engine, low weight and acclaimed handling. Like the MX-5, though, finding one without the dreaded tin worm could prove a challenge.

Mazda RX-8Best budget cars for track days

The Mazda RX-8 is powered by a rotary engine, rather than a conventional piston engine. It revs to a dizzying 9000rpm and, thanks to its compact dimensions, is fitted low in the chassis, improving the car’s handling. Every silver lining has a cloud, however, and the RX-8 is notoriously unreliable.

Porsche 944Best budget cars for track days

Porsche 944s are getting rarer by the day but, if you can find a clean one, you’ll have a worthy track car. The 3.0-litre versions produce a healthy 211hp, although on a car of this age the suspension is likely to feel tired and be in need of a refresh.

Porsche BoxsterBest budget cars for track days

The Porsche Boxster is one of the best performance bargains there is, with prices starting from as little as £3,000. A hardcore track-dayer may consider the Boxster a little soft for serious circuit work, but for someone wanting their track car to double up as weekend sports car, it could be the ideal choice.

Jaguar S-TypeBest budget cars for track days

And finally… the leftfield choice. The Jaguar S-Type, in V6 manual form, has all the right ingredients for a good track car: a reliable 250bhp engine, manual gearbox (essential), and its driven wheels at the back. Aftermarket parts may be hard to come by, but fit coilover suspension and strip out the interior to save weight and you’ll be embarrassing people in ‘faster’ cars.

Autumn Statement 2016

Autumn Statement 2016: fuel duty frozen for seventh year in a row

Autumn Statement 2016

Chancellor Philip Hammond has announced a fuel duty freeze as part of his autumn statement – following a commitment to invest £1.1 billion on UK roads.

Speaking to the House of Commons, Hammond said: “The oil price has risen by over 60% since January and sterling has declined by 15% against the dollar. That means, of course, significant pressure on prices at the pumps here in Britain.

“Today, we stand on the side of millions of hard-working people in our country, by cancelling the fuel duty rise for the seventh successive year.”

He added that this fuel duty freeze would save the average car driver £130 a year and the average van driver £350 a year.

“This is a tax cut worth over £850 million,” said Hammond. “This means the current fuel duty freeze is the longest for 40 years. ”

Welcoming the announcement, RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “The Chancellor’s commitment to freeze fuel duty will be greeted with relief by motorists and businesses at a time when we know drivers are concerned that fuel prices will rise significantly over the next six months – which might be the case if oil-producing countries that are members of OPEC commit to an oil production cut when they meet this time next week.

“The Chancellor’s decision to extend the freeze shows that he understands that motorists are the backbone of the British economy. It is vital that in such uncertain times, the Government can give as much certainty to them as possible.”

However, ex-Top Gear host and FairFuelUK campaigner Quentin Willson is upset that fuel duty hasn’t been cut.

He said: “I’m disappointed that the Chancellor didn’t instantly put money into everyone’s pockets by cutting duty. There’s an immediate benefit to the economy. I’m surprised too given the CEBR has said cutting duty by 3p wouldn’t change net tax receipts. This is a lost opportunity from a government still afraid of supporting drivers and roads.”

Insurance Premium Tax is going up

Despite freezing fuel duty, Hammond said he needed to raise Insurance Premium Tax “in order to raise revenue,” increasing it from 10% to 12% from next June.

However, motorists shouldn’t be hit by higher insurance prices as the chancellor revealed the government would introduce new legislation in 2017 to end the compensation culture surrounding whiplash claims – meaning drivers will save an average of £40 on their car insurance premium.

The RAC says the new legislation doesn’t justify the tax increase, however – and could even encourage motorists to break the law by driving without insurance.

RAC director of insurance Mark Godfrey said: “After a recent double rise in Insurance Premium Tax, this further increase is a slap in the face for motorists who will surely see their premiums once again increase. It will mean three rises in in two years and a more than doubling of IPT from 5% to 12% making Insurance Premium Tax the stealth tax of our time.

“Insurance premiums have already risen by over £100 compared to last year, and motorists have told us they are feeling the pinch, with 57% telling us that their premiums have increased over the past 12 months.

“We are concerned that the Government’s whiplash reforms, while welcomed, will not achieve savings for motorists as only a small number of insurers have so far committed to passing the savings on.

“The Chancellor may now be at risk of encouraging some hard-pressed motorists to break the law by driving without car insurance, which will further increase premiums for law-abiding drivers. We would urge the Government in the name of road safety, to reconsider this rise.”

£1.1 billion of investment into English local transport networks

Hammond told MPs that his autumn statement would commit significant additional funding to “help keep Britain moving”, by investing in transport networks and vehicles of the future.

“I will commit an additional £1.1 billion of investment in to English local transport networks where small investments can often offer big wins,” he said.

An extra £220 million was pledged to address traffic pinch-points on strategic roads, and a further £300 million on the development of low emission and autonomous vehicles. This includes funding for the installation of more electric vehicle charging points.

Managing director of leasing firm, LeasePlan, Matt Dyer said: “It’s promising to hear that the treasury is set to invest in the English road infrastructure. With the decision made weeks ago to back a third runway at Heathrow, the government can now focus on getting the economy ‘match fit’, particularly in the example of potential new road and rail links between Oxford and Cambridge.

“By pledging this kind of investment, the Government is securing the provision for a better connected and more dynamic infrastructure that suits both the needs of people and businesses.”

The announcement follows a poll by Motoring Research that revealed 45% of readers thought Hammond should prioritise upgrading roads over incentives for electric cars or freezing fuel duty.

‘Unfair’ salary sacrifice schemes axed – but not for ULEV vehicles

The chancellor also announced cuts to ‘unfair’ salary sacrifice schemes which allow employees to fund things such as cars while saving money on tax.

This will mean that employees swapping salary for benefits will pay the same tax as the vast majority of individuals who buy them out of their post-tax income. Arrangements in place for salary sacrifice car schemes before April 2017 will be protected until April 2021.

However, in a bid to encourage the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles, those with CO2 emissions below 75g/km would be exempt from the changes being made to salary sacrifice schemes.

LeasePlan UK’s managing director, Matt Dyer said: “The Chancellor’s decision to target cars gained through salary sacrifice is both destructive and disappointing for the motoring industry.

“These drivers are the hard working essential car users such as tradesman and nurses, most of whom will be the ‘JAMs’ that the government is so keen to provide for. While we should take some solace from the fact that Ultra Low Emission Vehicles will remain unaffected and any existing arrangements will be protected until 2021, this is complicated by the fact that a new definition has been given for ‘Ultra Low’ and we will have to wait for the finance bill on the 5th December to see exactly what this means.”

What do you think about Philip Hammond’s autumn statement? Will motorists be better off or should more be done? Let us know by commenting below.

George Osborne

RAC urges George Osborne to cut costs for motorists

RAC urges George Osborne to cut costs for motorists

Tomorrow, George Osborne will announce his autumn statement – and the RAC is calling for him to stop penalising motorists through taxes.

The organisation says that UK motorists paid £40 billion in taxes last year, and has suggested that cutting costs for drivers could help the economy.

A key area in which the chancellor could do this, says the RAC, is fuel duty. In a statement, the organisation said: “Research conducted for the RAC Report on Motoring shows motorists are realistic and whilst a minority (32%) are calling for further cuts in fuel duty,a far higher percentage (46%) recognize that this is unlikely in the current economic climate and support an ongoing freeze in duty.

“The Treasury’s own modelling has confirmed the link between the cost of fuel and economic growth. The freezing of fuel duty has contributed to the UK’s economic growth in recent years. The RAC believes that it would be beneficial to the economy, as well as popular with motorists if the Chancellor extended the freeze on duty for the remainder of this Parliament.”

As well as a freeze in fuel duty, the RAC is calling on Osborne to protect the £15.2 billion budget previously set aside for investment in roads – and to ring fence more money for the repair of local roads.

The RAC added: “Around 85% of all journeys begin on local roads and the state of local roads is seen as the top issue for motorists, with Research for the 2015 Report on Motoring showing that the condition of local roads is the top concern for motorists with 10% ranking it number one and a further 20% listing it as a top-four concern. Our message is that local roads are just as important as the strategic road network and new long-term funding mechanisms should be considered.”

The organisation is also urging the chancellor to extend the £5,000 plug-in car grant, which is currently due to end in February 2016.

What do you think George Osborne should prioritise in his autumn statement? Let us know by commenting below.

FTA warns Chancellor: 'Cut fuel duty or else...'

FTA warns Chancellor: ‘Cut fuel duty or else…’

FTA warns Chancellor: 'Cut fuel duty or else...'

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has warned the Chancellor that if he doesn’t freeze or cut fuel duty in the Summer 2015 Budget, he risks sabotaging the country’s economic growth.

The FTA, dubbed ‘the voice of the freight and logistics industry’, says falling fuel prices have played a major role in Britain’s ongoing economic recovery.

However, despite world oil prices dropping 43%, pump prices have only fallen 13% – because of the high levels of fuel taxation.

FTA Chief Executive David Wells last week wrote to the Chancellor telling him not to break his promise of holding current fuel duty rates until September.

He also warned the Chancellor that any subsequent rises “would force businesses to cut back on investment, training, efficiency improvements and modernisation.”

If fuel duty goes up, businesses will make cuts in other ways, “and that would be detrimental not only to the businesses themselves but also to the economic growth of the country as a whole.”

George Osborne, you have been warned…

FTA warns Chancellor: 'Cut fuel duty or else...'

FTA warns Chancellor: 'Cut fuel duty or else…'

FTA warns Chancellor: 'Cut fuel duty or else...'

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has warned the Chancellor that if he doesn’t freeze or cut fuel duty in the Summer 2015 Budget, he risks sabotaging the country’s economic growth.

The FTA, dubbed ‘the voice of the freight and logistics industry’, says falling fuel prices have played a major role in Britain’s ongoing economic recovery.

However, despite world oil prices dropping 43%, pump prices have only fallen 13% – because of the high levels of fuel taxation.

FTA Chief Executive David Wells last week wrote to the Chancellor telling him not to break his promise of holding current fuel duty rates until September.

He also warned the Chancellor that any subsequent rises “would force businesses to cut back on investment, training, efficiency improvements and modernisation.”

If fuel duty goes up, businesses will make cuts in other ways, “and that would be detrimental not only to the businesses themselves but also to the economic growth of the country as a whole.”

George Osborne, you have been warned…