Posts

No Deal: European cars we can’t buy in the UK

European cars you can’t buy

From compact city cars to luxury SUVs: there’s a new car for everyone. But that doesn’t stop us peering across the English Channel to gaze longingly at some of the European cars that we’re denied access to in the UK. Here’s a selection of Euro motors we wish were sold on these shores.

Renault Megane Grand Coupe

European cars you can’t buy

When is a compact saloon not a compact saloon? When it’s a Grand Coupe. The name makes no sense, but there’s no denying the Renault Megane Grand Coupe is a good looking saloon. It actually boasts a larger boot than its hatchback counterpart, but while it will be sold in 20 countries worldwide, UK buyers will be denied the privilege of driving the attractive Renault.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio manual

European cars you can’t buy

We still have to pinch ourselves about this one. A genuinely handsome, rear-wheel-drive Alfa Romeo with a top speed that puts it at the top table of the supercar elite. Thanks to the small matter of 510 raging horses, the Giulia Quadrifoglio will hit 191mph, all for a shade over £60,000. Yes, you can buy it in the UK, but the cost of converting to right-hand drive means we don’t get the manual transmission. Shame.

Citroen E-Mehari

European cars you can’t buy

The original Mehari is a bit of cult vehicle within Citroen circles, so this beach buggy for the new millennium has a lot to live up to. The signs are good: a potential range of 125 miles, 70mph top speed and a maintenance-free body are amongst the highlights. It’s already on sale in France, but a UK-launch is unlikely. On the plus side, it’ll be the coolest car at the holiday rental compound.

Renault Talisman

European cars you can’t buy

The Citroen C6, Renault 25, Peugeot 605, Renault Vel Satis and Peugeot 607, to name but a few – lessons from history warning French carmakers that shifting big cars is a big ask in the UK. Which helps to explain why the Renault Talisman isn’t available here. Nobody would buy it and it would depreciate faster than you could say ‘financial ruin’, but that doesn’t stop us wanting one.

Citroen C-Elysée

European cars you can’t buy

We’re not fans of small saloons in the UK, preferring the practicality of a hatchback. Thus the C-Elysée – a staple of the French taxi trade – has never made it to these shores. On the one hand, that’s a positive; Jalopnik journalist Doug DeMuro described it as the worst car he’s even driven. On the other, the championship-winning WTCC racer looks pretty cool.

Fiat Freemont

European cars you can’t buy

Spend some time across the Channel and it won’t be long before you stumble across a Fiat Freemont, especially in its native Italy. Actually, that’s a bit of a moot point, because the Freemont is based on the all-american Dodge Journey. It was unveiled back in 2007, so it’s hardly a spring chicken and is currently being phased-out. If we’re honest, that’s probably a good thing.

Dacia Lodgy Stepway

European cars you can’t buy

The Dacia Lodgy offers space for up to seven people and traditional Dacia value for money. OK, so the Stepway version does inflate the price, but it looks a million Euros. Practical, wipe-clean motoring for a bargain price. Where do we sign? Oh, we can’t. Shame.

Renault Espace

European cars you can’t buy

The Renault Espace helped to establish the people carrier segment in the early 1980s and it soon became part of the UK furniture. The fourth generation Espace offers styling that doesn’t say to the world you’ve given up on life and are well past your prime. In fact, it looks more appealing than the majority of crossovers. Being denied access to the Espace just isn’t playing fair.

Opel Ampera-e

European cars you can’t buy

The original Vauxhall (and Opel) Ampera was one of the first production plug-in hybrids. Sadly, it was too far ahead of its time and sold in tiny numbers. This second-generation car – renamed Ampera-e and only available in left-hand drive – looks more conventional and is now fully electric. Opel claims a range of 236 miles using the latest WLTP test cycle.

Mercedes-Benz G500

European cars you can’t buy

If you want a new G-Wagen in the UK (and we do), your only option is the blood-and-thunder 585hp AMG G63. However, many consider the detuned 422hp G500 a better all-rounder. It’s quieter, smoother and more efficient – and considerably cheaper to buy, too. But only if you live on the continent…

Volvo S60 Polestar

European cars you can’t buy

We’re fortunate enough to be offered the Volvo V60 Polestar, but the S60 is strictly off limits. This is due in part to the fact that we prefer wagons to saloons, but there’s something delightfully old-school about the S60 Polestar. Avoid the Rebel Blue paint job and it’s one of the world’s ultimate sleepers.

Skoda Rapid Spaceback ScoutLine

European cars you can’t buy

On character count alone, this is one of the biggest names in Europe. The Skoda Rapid Spaceback Scoutline could be the Rapid you always dreamed of. Don’t let the looks deceive you, because this particular Skoda has about as much off-road ability as a Mini Moke, but it looks wonderfully cool in Pistachio Green.

Toyota Camry

European cars you can’t buy

The Camry made its UK debut in 1984, soon establishing itself as the flagship of the Toyota range. It majored on equipment and refinement, but there was a Sport model, complete with 2.2-litre 16v engine. The Camry lived on until 2004, but hasn’t been seen in the UK since. However, it will make a comeback later this year…

Lada Granta Sport

European cars you can’t buy

Who doesn’t want a budget-priced compact saloon with sporting credentials? The Lada Granta Sport is powered by a distinctly old-school 1.6-litre 16v engine, delivering a distinctly old school 0-62 mph time of 9.5 seconds. For some reason we’re really keen to drive it. We have visions of being transported back to the 1990s. And that’s a good thing.

Renault Clio Estate

European cars you can’t buy

Small estate cars aren’t hugely popular in the UK, with the Skoda Fabia and SEAT Ibiza representing the best of a rather niche breed. But we feel we’re missing out by not having the Renault Clio Estate on sale in the UK. One for Nicole’s more practical sister, perhaps?

Toyota Highlander

European cars you can’t buy

The Toyota Highlander is a seven-seat SUV built at Toyota’s plant in Indiana, along with its assembly plant in China. It’s not widely available in Europe, but customers in Moldova and Ukraine are able to get their hands on Toyota’s “sophisticated” SUV. We’d like a single Highlander to be sold in the UK, just to enable us to use the ‘there can be only one’ gag.

Lada 4×4 Urban

European cars you can’t buy

The word ‘urban’ is often synonymous with cutting-edge cool. Not here. Lada’s 4×4 Urban is essentially a reworked version of the ancient Niva, with a 1.7-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine and (slightly) more modern dashboard. Like the Land Rover Defender or Suzuki Jimny, though, it has a certain back-to-basics appeal.

Fiat Tipo saloon

European cars you can’t buy

While UK buyers will be able to buy to the Fiat Tipo as a hatchback or estate car, we’re being denied the compact saloon. Taking into account the fact that small estates are a hard sell in the UK, we think the Tipo saloon looks rather stylish. A budget alternative to the Audi A3 saloon and Mercedes-Benz CLA?

Renault Kwid

European cars you can’t buy

The Indian-market Renault Kwid is set to enter Europe and there’s every chance it could arrive in the UK as a Dacia. Remarkably, prices in India start at the equivalent of £2,945, so it could present astonishing value for money in the UK. A decent addition to the Dacia range? We think so.

The crazy world of Group B

The crazy world of Group B rally cars

To mark the 30th anniversary of the end of Group B rallying, we select our favourite cars from the sport’s wildest era

The biggest and most flamboyant American cars

The biggest and most flamboyant American cars

The biggest and most flamboyant American carsFrom the 1960s through to the early 1980s, giant beasts roamed the highways of America. Bedecked in chrome and vinyl, wearing whitewall tyres and powered by huge, lazy engines, these land yachts were the biggest of the big. We’ve unearthed 21 of these dinosaurs, and all of them stretch the tape measure to at least 214 inches (5.4 metres) in length. Let’s set sail.

1963 Dodge Custom 880 – 214.8 inches / 5.45 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Our first port of call is Dodge’s short-lived Custom 880. Although still a large vehicle by modern standards, the era of the land yachts was one where size really did matter. Under pressure to compete with Chevrolet, Dodge rushed out its own version of the Chrysler Newport. A 361-cubic inch (5.9-litre) V8 engine with 265hp was standard, with a 383ci (6.3-litre) 305hp V8 optional. It wasn’t enough, and the 880 was dead in the water by 1965.

1975 Dodge Charger SE – 216 inches / 5.48 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Most people immediately think ‘muscle car’ when the name Charger is mentioned. But by 1975, an icon of the horsepower wars was little more than a jaded luxury coupe. It may have had sumptuous 24-ounce shagpile carpeting inside, but the square exterior styling made it a nightmare for the NASCAR teams forced to use it on-track. Dodge only managed to sell 31,000 examples in 1975.

1970 Ford LTD – 216.1 inches / 5.49 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Between 1969 and 1978, Ford sold 7.75 million examples of the second-generation LTD and its Mercury sisters. It was also the biggest car offered by the Blue Oval during its lifetime. Styling for the 1970 model year included a grille inspired by the Thunderbird, combined with funky hidden headlights. Engine choices ranged from a big 302-cubic inch (4.9-litre) V8, through to a really big 429ci (7.0) V8.

1971 Buick Riviera – 217.4 inches / 5.52 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Big and bold was the look for the third-generation Buick Riviera, launched in 1971. A giant ‘boat tail’ rear end seems apt for a land yacht, but the radical styling proved unsuccessful with buyers. A ‘Full-Flo’ ventilation system, with a habit of sucking exhaust fumes and rain water into the cabin, probably didn’t endear the Rivera to customers either. More impressive was the standard-fit ‘MaxTrac’ traction control for the 455-cubic inch (7.5-litre) V8 engine.

1969 Dodge Polara – 220.8 inches / 5.61 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Now we’re getting into the realm of serious yachting as we sail across the 220-inch longitude. Adopting Dodge’s ‘fuselage’ styling concept, the 1969 Polara was available in five different body styles. Engine choices were all V8s, ranging from a modest 230hp 381-cubic inch (6.2-litre) to the thumping 440-ci (6.5-litre) Magnum with 375hp and 480lb ft of torque. The sales brochure boasted of hidden windshield wipers, and carpets so plush you’d want to take your shoes off to drive.

1959 Chrysler New Yorker Town & Country Wagon – 220.9 inches / 5.61 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

It might be from an earlier decade than the others on our list, and it also happens to be an estate. But the ’59 Town & Country is still very much a land yacht. Standard-fit was the ‘Golden Lion’ 413-cubic inch (6.77-litre) V8 engine, with 350hp and a push-button three-speed automatic transmission. Optional extras included the ‘Mirrormatic’ electrically dimming rear-view mirror. Strange to think you often need to pay extra for an automatic dimming mirror on a new car almost six decades later.

1980 Plymouth Gran Fury – 221.5 inches / 5.62 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

For a significant period of its life, the Plymouth Gran Fury existed to satisfy the demands of the fleet market, and this lifeline kept it alive. It may have been downsized for 1980, but this is still a huge vehicle. Police chiefs loved them, with a special package offered to boost the 360-cubic inch (5.9-litre) V8 engine to a ‘massive’ 195hp. By 1980, the land yacht era had capsized, and Plymouth ditched the Gran Fury part-way through 1981.

1973 Chevrolet Impala Custom Coupe – 221.9 inches / 5.64 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Chevrolet’s marketing pitch for 1973 sounded more like a political campaign speech, rather than a way to sell cars. It was about ‘building a better way to see America’ and what could be better than seeing it from the vinyl and woodgrain interior of your Impala? Powering you across the country was a standard 145hp ‘Turbo Fire’ 350-cubic inch (5.7-litre) V8. But, if you really wanted to make progress, you could pick the optional 455-ci (7.5-litre) ‘Turbo Jet’ V8 with 245hp. That might have required several more stops for gas, though.

1976 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible – 224.1 inches / 5.69 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

This is decadence! In 1976 Cadillac was very keen to stress that the Eldorado was the last American convertible. Features such as automatic climate control and plush six-way adjustable leather seats pushed the Eldorado’s weight to 5,153lb (2,337kg). Thankfully, propulsion came from an extravagant 500-cubic inch (8.2-litre) V8, even if all that displacement could only generate 235hp. Owners might have been even more grateful for the standard ventilated disc brakes.

1976 Ford Thunderbird – 225.7 inches / 5.73 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Can you imagine how long polishing all the chrome on the Thunderbird’s front bumper would take? And that’s before you even get to the grille, the headlight surrounds, wing mirrors, and finally, the rear bumper. All that shine meant the Thunderbird weighed in at over 5,000lb (2,268kg). Power came courtesy of a 460-cubic inch (7.7-litre) V8, connected to a ‘Cruise-O-Matic’ transmission. An eight-track tape player was a $382 option, whilst the distinctive ‘Lipstick’ colour scheme added $546 to the $7,790 list price.

1977 Dodge Royal Monaco – 225.7 inches / 5.73 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

If you were the kind of person who liked traditional value, combined with an added touch of luxury, then the Royal Monaco was for you. Slide around on the standard vinyl-upholstered seats, revel at the choice of two ashtrays in both the front and rear passenger compartments, and impress people with your hidden headlights. If you’re really feeling flush, perhaps you might go for the option of a locking gas cap, or the unmitigated luxury of an electric digital clock.

1978 Ford Country Squire – 225.7 inches / 5.73 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Nothing says ‘premium’ like slapping simulated woodgrain to the side of a station wagon. From 1951 to 1991, Ford’s full-size estate featured imitation timber trim. The 1978 Country Squire would be a final flourish for outlandish size, as the following year saw a smaller seventh-generation car. But in 1978, tipping the scales at some 4,881lb (2,214kg) meant even the largest engine option of the 460-cubic inch (7.5-litre) V8 could only push the Squire to a maximum speed of 111mph. Still, at least you wouldn’t have to worry about varnishing that wood.

1970 Buick Electra 225 – 225.8 inches / 5.74 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

It becomes evident how important size was in the land yacht era, when manufacturers were willing to incorporate length into a model name. Between 1959 and 1969, the length of the Electra had fluctuated, but for 1970 it returned to that eponymous measurement. Also new for 1970 was a 455-cubic inch (7.5-litre) V8 with an impressive 370hp and 510lb ft. It may have been vast, but the Electra 225 was certainly no slouch, making it one of the raciest yachts on our list.

1972 Lincoln Continental Mark IV – 228.1 inches / 5.79 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Aside from the Ford Thunderbird, the Lincoln Continental range of the 1970s is perhaps the best example of the personal luxury coupe genre. For those customers wanting to go completely overboard, Lincoln offered a range of designer special editions. Created by Bill Blass, Gucci, Givenchy, and Cartier, each car came with a bespoke colour scheme, plus a gold-plated plaque on the dashboard. The latter could even be engraved with the owner’s name, just in case you forgot who you were.

1970 Imperial Crown – 229.7 inches / 5.83 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Chrysler had used the Imperial name since the 1920s, but between 1955 and 1975 it created a standalone marque to rival Cadillac and Lincoln. Life was tough for the third-generation range of Imperials, as being based on Chrysler platforms and bodyshells placed them at a disadvantage versus other luxury brands. Instead, the Imperial had to compete on features like a standard 440-cubic inch (7.2-litre) V8 engine with 350hp, or bench seating described as being like a sumptuous sofa – finished in cloth and vinyl.

1975 Cadillac Coupe de Ville – 230.7 inches / 5.86 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Across the 230-inch threshold we sail, and into what we can probably title as the ‘super yacht’ category. These next six cars are truly vast, and the de Ville is a perfect expression of the self-indulgence available. Interiors were offered in both leather or patterned velour, while the exterior featured a huge vinyl roof and cornering lights to help steer your ship. Airbags for the driver and passenger were an option, as was traction control and, of course, whitewall striped tyres.

1978 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham – 231 inches / 5.88 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

By the late 1970s, land yachts like the New Yorker were bigger than disco music. But 1978 would be the final year of the Chrysler ‘C-body’ platform that saw service in many of the full-size machines on our list. A 400-cubic inch (6.6-litre) V8 came as standard, unless you happened to live in California or high-altitude states ,where the smaller and cleaner 360-ci (5.9-litre) V8 was mandatory. On the options list was a AM/FM stereo with a search function operated by a foot switch, and even a CB radio.

1974 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight LS – 232.4 inches / 5.90 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Another giant of the Chrysler ‘C-body’ era was the Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight. Before the marque was made to walk the plank in 2004, Oldsmobile was the oldest surviving American car brand. The glory days came in the 1970s, and with cars like the colossal 1974 Ninety-Eight it’s not hard to see why. Plus, any car with a 455-cubic inch (7.5-litre) V8 engine named ‘Rocket’ gains serious credibility. The record length for ’74 models came from the need to incorporate federally mandated 5mph bumpers into the already vast design.

1979 Lincoln Continental Mark V – 233 inches / 5.92 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

If you thought the Mark IV Continental was whale-sized, then we’re going to need a bigger boat for the Mark V. With almost a further five inches in length, the Mark V was even more opulent and ostentatious. A vinyl roof was standard for 1979, as were the round ‘opera’ windows, and a Cartier-logoed clock. For true glitz, buyers could opt for The Collector Series, which was promoted by Tom Selleck. Gold-toned grille inserts, a crystal-like hood ornament, and acres of padded vinyl proved you were ready to celebrate the final year before downsizing would claim another victim.

1975 Buick Electra 225 – 233.7 inches / 5.96 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Having strayed a long way from the original 225 inches, by 1975 the Electra was now one of the biggest monsters roaming the turnpike. According to Buick, the 225 was for those who wanted to drive a luxury car without being pretentious. Although the promotional photo, taken outside a sprawling mansion, somewhat begs to differ, while interior options included plush patterned velour upholstery. Sadly, the steadfast 455-ci (7.5-litre) engine was now smothered by emissions and fuel-saving changes, producing just 205hp.

1973 Imperial LeBaron – 235.3 inches / 5.98 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

This is it, the end of our epic voyage. It means we’ve come to the biggest land yacht, and one of the longest post-war American production cars, period. Federally mandated bumpers were responsible for making the LeBaron even lengthier in 1973, adding an extra 5.8-inches to its already imposing dimensions. After 1973, the Imperial brand would slip away, finally being cast adrift for good in 1975. Oil embargos and emissions regulations would be the factors that sunk the Imperial, and would do the same for the rest of the land yacht fleet by the early 1980s.

Vauxhall Cavalier GSi: £3,489

The cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

The cars your dad drove – and dreamed aboutIt’s Father’s Day this weekend (you hadn’t forgotten, had you..?), so we thought it was time to trawl the archives in search of cars your dad drove… and those he dreamed about.

In each case, we’ve selected the sensible and the sexy, or the humdrum and the hero.

Honda AccordThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Spare a thought for your poor, beleaguered father. At the end of the 1990s, he was preparing to wave goodbye to more than just the last millennium. A receding hairline was a sign that his best days were behind him, with his misery compounded by the list of potential company cars faxed to him by his fleet manager.

If he was lucky, the company would offer him a Mondeo, but the spectre of the original Vectra was a looming menace. Sensibly he avoided the Avensis and opted for the reliable Honda Accord, which ensured he would make it home for tea and your weekend trips to the seaside would pass without a call to the AA.

Honda Accord Type RThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

“The Accord has the lowest running costs, the best residual values and one of the most comprehensive warranties in its class. It’s also well built and has a better image than most of its rivals. Extremely well equipped and tremendous value, in SE trim it costs around £1000 less than the equivalent Passat and comes with cruise control and ABS as standard,” said Fleet Car Business in 1999.

Which is all well and good, but as your father browsed the Honda website, he couldn’t help but have his head turned by the Accord Type R. He pleaded with Colin the fleet guy, but even the prospect of a delete option on that rear spoiler wasn’t enough for him to put a four-door saloon with the performance of a touring car in the office parking lot.

Ford SierraThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

When the Ford Sierra arrived in the UK in 1982, its space-age styling wasn’t exactly met with universal applause. Even some dyed-in-the-wool Ford fans preferred the outgoing Captain Sensible Cortina to the Kool & The Gang Sierra. Others simply switched allegiances to the Vauxhall Cavalier.

But soon, the Sierra cemented itself as part of the furniture in 80s Britain, alongside Daisy Duke’s shorts, Sonny Crockett’s espadrilles and Terry Wogan’s microphone. Some 3.4 million Sierras were sold before it made way for the Mondeo.

Ford Sierra RS CosworthThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

As if to motivate your father to try even harder at work – “these paperclips won’t sell themselves, you know” – Ford unleashed a number of ‘sportier’ models. The fuel-injected 2.0iS was within reach, as was the XR4x4, if your dad spent less time eating Early Starters in the Little Chef.

But no hostile boardroom takeover would be complete without an in-yer-face Sierra RS Cosworth. In excess of 200hp, a top speed of 149mph and a 0-60mph time of 6.5 seconds. In his head, your father’s 1.8-litre LX was a pair of Recaro seats and a whale-tail away from a Cossie. The reality was quite different.

Vauxhall CavalierThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Back in the day, your father would do anything to get ahead in the office, even if it meant jumping the queue once in a while. Insert something here about a high-flying career or a jump in sales.

The little badge on the back of the Cavalier acted like a barometer of success. An ‘L’ delivered a Philips stereo radio cassette player, remote-controlled door mirrors and flush wheel trims. But a man in a CD was a man in control. His Cavalier offered electric windows, mirrors and aerial, plus power steering, sunroof, central locking and a tiltable steering wheel.

Vauxhall Cavalier CalibreThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Your dad was happy cruising in his Cavalier CD, sunroof open, Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald cassette on repeat to sooth away the miles spent on the M1. Happy, until he saw a blaze of Carmine Red exiting the Roadchef at Watford Gap. Your father’s ‘Lady in Red’ wasn’t a lady at all, it was a Vauxhall Cavalier Calibre.

These run-out models were styled and converted by Tickford and Irmscher and only 500 were built, each one commanding a price tag of £13,000. Even today, your father probably daydreams about turning up at a meeting in a Calibre, so best not tell him there are believed to be four on the road.

Ford CortinaThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Ford knew how to tickle the fancy of the average company car driver. In the days before motivational memes, a Ford Cortina brochure could make the difference between jumping out of bed and pressing ‘snooze’ on the bedside teasmaid.

Over the course of two decades, the Cortina was the archetypal fleet and family car, being cheap to run, cheap to service and good to drive. It also was named after an Italian ski resort, which added a touch of glamour to the otherwise worthy saloon.

Ford Cortina LotusThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

But your dad didn’t want to be ‘Jim from sales’, he wanted to be Jim Clark. Which is why he had his eyes on the Lotus version. The recipe was delightfully simple: add a Lotus twin-cam engine to a Cortina bodyshell to create an instant legend.

To your father, the Lotus Cortina was as tantalising as a free bar at a sales conference with drinks served by Diana Rigg in a catsuit.

Peugeot 405The cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

We hate to break it to you like this, but once upon a time, your dad fancied himself as Surbiton’s answer to Tom Cruise, and your mum was his Kelly McGillis. All that was needed to complete the effect – aside from a pilot’s licence – was the Porsche 356 Speedster replica as seen in Top Gun.

Only your father couldn’t stretch to a 356, which is why the sight of a Peugeot 405 blazing a trail through a field of burning maize took your dad’s breath away. The British-built 405 became a sales sensation (just like your dad).

Peugeot 405 Mi16The cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Your dad would have been happy in his 405 GRD, until Peugeot decided to up the ante with the 405 Mi16. This was less a case of having your cake and eating it and more having your cake and slapping it in the face of your unsuspecting work colleagues. The Mi16 was a race-bred hero.

Drivers would gleefully inform anyone who’d listen that the engine was derived from the 205 T16 Group B rally car, which is why your father fancied one parked outside his three-bed Poco Home.

Ford CapriThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

The Ford Capri should have been enough for your father. Although it was based on the humble Cortina, the transformation from everyday to exciting was quite remarkable.

Even the lowly 1.3- and 1.6-litre versions looked the part and while he wouldn’t like to admit it, the Capri offered the much needed comfort and practicality a traditional sports car couldn’t offer.

Ford Capri RS3100The cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Throughout its long and illustrious career, the Capri range featured a range-topping model, kicking off with the Advanced Vehicle Operations RS3100. The pert ducktail spoiler sat on the back, encouraging your father to spend the best part of £2,500 on the flagship Capri.

The V6 Capris were the cars you always promised yourself, the others were merely pretenders.

Vauxhall VivaThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Vauxhall did its best to extol the “sporty qualities” of the Viva, positioning the HB version as “Britain’s sportiest 1.1-litre gadabout”. There aren’t enough gadabouts in today’s new car market.

It handled well enough, but the Viva wasn’t exactly what you’d call exciting. Even the Brabham failed to live up the promise made by the illustrious connection.

Vauxhall Viva GTThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

The Vauxhall Viva GT, on the other hand, was a different kettle of carp. That it was more a rival to the Escort Twin Cam and Cortina GT than the Lotus Cortina hardly seemed to matter, because the hot Viva looked the part.

The contrasting bonnet was an option, but the bonnet scoops were standard fit, guaranteed to turn heads on the King’s Road. The GT took Viva drivers somewhere they’d never been before: 100mph.

Austin/Rover MontegoThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Naming a car after an exotic location is a clever marketing trick – witness what the Cortina name did for Ford’s family saloon. Montego, then, should conjure up images of long days relaxing by the ocean on Jamaica’s north coast.

In truth, the Montego felt about as exotic as a Rustie Lee leftover curry in the TV-AM studio, but it sold well enough and was more than attractive to fleet buyers. But your father didn’t fancy Rustie Lee, he was after the automotive equivalent of Grace Jones.

MG MontegoThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

“The quickest MG production car of all-time,” proclaimed the headlines, as Austin Rover waved the MG Montego Turbo under your father’s nose. “Quicker than a BMW 325i, a Porsche 924 or a Ferrari Mondial,” claimed the ailing British company, knowing full well that your dad would be impressed.

It was faster than a Grace Jones right hook on an unsuspecting Russell Harty, and Austin Rover even managed to tame the torque steer. If only somebody was on hand to tame Grace Jones, thought Harty. Probably.

Volvo 240The cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

During the late 70s and throughout the 80s, nothing said ‘middle class family man’ quite like a Volvo estate. Only wrapping yourself in After Eight mints and sticking a Sade compact disc on repeat would be more middle class.

Your dad pretended he was happy with his 2.4 children and golden retriever. But in truth, his head had been turned by a hot Swede. No, not Britt Ekland…

Volvo 240 TurboThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Secretly, in 1985, your dad was watching Swedish porn, as the Volvo 240 Turbo romped to victory in the European Touring Car Championship. This was as far away from daytrips to the in-laws as your father was from marrying Felicity Kendal.

Your dad’s heart rate had just returned to normal when Volvo decided to go racing again, this time in an 850 estate. Well, strike me down and call me Björn Borg.

Peugeot 406The cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

A Peugeot 406 towing a caravan could act like a metaphor for your father’s life. No, really, it could. Sure, the 406 estate is handsome enough and certainly capable of living a long and fruitful life, but it’s not exactly svelte, suave and sophisticated.

And that caravan weighing things down at the back represents a mortgage, bills and responsibilities. Ouch.

Peugeot 406 CoupeThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Looking at the Peugeot 406 Coupe, it’s hard to believe it’s related to the more humdrum versions. Fact is, Pininfarina penned one of the most beautiful cars of the turn of the millennium, which seems to look better with every passing year.

Something your father was reminded of, as a 406 Coupe whooshed past in a display of French glamour, as he trundled along the A303 to screams of “are we nearly there yet?”

LEGO Bugatti Chiron

Lego Bugatti Chiron: a hypercar in 3,599 pieces

LEGO Bugatti ChironBugatti and Lego have revealed what could be the world’s fastest Lego Technic model: the 1:8 scale Chiron hypercar kit. On sale now through Lego stores, it arrives in all retailers from 1 August 2018. The price? £329.99.

LEGO Bugatti Chiron

Lego CEO Niels B. Christiansen and Bugatti president Stephan Winkelmann revealed the new kit at Lego House in Billund. It was first seen two years ago, but has only just reached production.

LEGO Bugatti Chiron

The Lego Bugatti Chiron kit is full of complex detail engineering, comprising of no fewer than 3,599 pieces. Christiansen reckons “our Lego designers have done an amazing job capturing the details of this iconic Bugatti design. It truly stands as testament that with Lego bricks you can build anything you can imagine… it’s a huge model that I can’t wait to start building myself”.

When Christiansen says huge, he means it. The Chiron model is 560mm long, 250mm wide and 140mm tall…

LEGO Bugatti Chiron

Winkelmann said the Lego Technic Chiron “is an expression of a perfect relationship. I am impressed at the precision and refinement with which our super sports car has been translated into the Lego world and I am sure that fans of both Lego bricks and Bugatti will love this product.”

LEGO Bugatti Chiron

The attention to detail is wonderful. Lego has engineered an impressively convincing replica of the Chiron’s aerodynamic bodywork, including spoked rims with low-profile tyres.

LEGO Bugatti Chiron

The rear wing is a moveable active spoiler and – brilliantly – the kit includes a ‘speed key’ that lets model-makers twitch the position of the rear wing from the handling position to its more streamlined top speed setting.

LEGO Bugatti Chiron

Inside, the cockpit is super-detailed, with Lego even engineering moving paddle-shifters for the eight-speed gearbox. Behind, the mighty W16 engine is faithfully depicted, and this too has moving positions.

Under the hood of each Lego Bugatti Chiron is a unique serial number, which can be used to unlock special content via lego.com/technic. You’ll find another delightful feature hidden there, too – a Bugatti overnight bag.

If you need further justification to fork out £300+ on a Lego kit, check out the presentation set. All models come in an exclusive box, with a coffee table-style collector’s booklet that includes the instructions. Set aside plenty of time, but rest assured, your efforts will be worth it.

In pictures: Lego Bugatti Chiron

2018 Volvo model range meets WLTP

Volvo is first to give ‘real’ fuel economy data across its range

2018 Volvo model range meets WLTP

Unless you’ve managed to avoid the news for the last three years, you’ll know that the long-running ‘NEDC’ emissions and fuel economy testing regime has come under criticism. The huge gulf between the results from the official figures quoted online and in brochures, and the performance of cars in the real world, was no longer acceptable. 

The car industry has devised an answer. First introduced in September 2017, the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Testing Process (WLTP) has been designed to recreate the conditions drivers actually experience more closely.

Combining a laboratory test with a new on-road ‘Real Driving Emissions’ test lasting two hours, buyers should have more confidence in the figures provided for comparison on fuel economy and emissions. 

Volvo is now ahead of the curve. It has become the first manufacturer selling cars in the UK to have every model across the range complying with the new WLTP rules. This includes all petrol and diesel-powered models, plus the collection of hybrid vehicles offered by the Swedish brand. 

Set to apply to all new registrations from the 1st September 2018, only new cars homologated to meet WLTP standard will be able to be sold in the European Union. Although manufacturers will be able to sell a limited stock of cars tested under the old rules, compliance with WLTP is a must for major players.

Basically, cars that aren’t WLTP-compliant by September will be barred from sale in the UK. Hence the significance of Volvo’s achievement, nearly five months ahead of schedule. 

Volvo has already committed to a programme of ensuring all new Volvo models offered from 2019 will feature some form of electrification, along with plans for 50% of all products on sale by 2025 to be fully electric. 

Of course, with a model range focussed on a core of premium SUVs and estates, and with powertrains shared between many products, Volvo has arguably had a slightly easier task to ensure WLTP compliance than other manufacturers.

This should still take nothing away from the fact that Volvo can lay claim to being the first, and adds pressure to other brands to ensure their new cars meet the 1st September deadline…

2018 Ford Fiesta ST in Performance Blue

Why is the 2018 Ford Fiesta ST such a star car?

A first drive in the 1.5T Fiesta ST new fast Ford for 2018 leaves us breathless

New car registrations improve in April 2018

April new car sales recovery fails to lift industry gloom

New car registrations improve in April 2018New car registrations staged a recovery in April 2018, reports the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) – but only thanks to a disastrous performance in April 2017 following the roll-out of controversial new road tax legislation.

Despite the improvement in the headline figures, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes warned that “it’s important not to look at one month in isolation and, given the major disruption to last April’s market caused by sweeping VED changes, this increase is not unexpected.”

Sales were up 10.4 percent, with 167,911 new cars registered. Other factors helping the year-on-year growth include Easter falling earlier in 2018, giving two extra selling days, and bad weather in March pushing some new car deliveries into April.

Year-to-date new car sales are still down though, by a significant 8.8 percent. 

What’s more, the breakdown of the new car sales figures shows the demonisation of diesel continues. Petrol registrations were up 38.5 percent; diesel was down 24.9 percent. Petrol thus now accounted for 63.8 percent of all new cars registered in April, a shocking increase over the 50.9 percent in 2017.

Diesel has plunged from 45 percent to just over 30 percent.

Plug-in hybrid and electric cars were up too, by almost half, but this is still from a very low base – they make up just 5.6 percent of new car sales.

“While the continuing growth in demand for plug-in and hybrid cars is positive news, the market share of these vehicles remains low and will do little to offset damaging declines elsewhere,” said Hawes.

Once again, he called for the government to take action to reassure people. “Consumers need certainty about future policies towards different fuel types, including diesel, and a compelling package of incentives to deliver long-term confidence in the newest technologies.”

Top 10 best selling cars: April 2018

2018 Ford Fiesta Vignale

1: Ford Fiesta

2: Volkswagen Golf

3: Nissan Qashqai

4: Ford Focus

5: Volkswagen Polo

6: Ford Kuga

7: Vauxhall Mokka X

8: Vauxhall Corsa

9: Mercedes-Benz A-Class

10: Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Citroen C4 SpaceTourer

Past master: Citroen C4 Picasso MPV renamed Citroen C4 SpaceTourer

Citroen C4 SpaceTourerThe MPV isn’t history quite yet – but the art part of the Citroen C4 Picasso’s name is. The French firm has ditched the Picasso name (and the licence payments to the Spanish master’s estate) and renamed the five- and seven-seat people carrier range Citroen C4 SpaceTourer and Grand C4 SpaceTourer instead.

The name change, says Citroen, means the five- and seven-seat mid-size MPV models can be brought in line with the original large van-derived SpaceTourer, which seats between five and nine people. All share the same ‘SpaceTourer’ tailgate badge and typography.

Benefitting from the C4 Picasso’s mid-life facelift that introduced extra comfort and more features from the Citroen Advanced Comfort programme. This includes softer suspension, plusher seats and other things to help with occupant wellbeing.

Three trims are offered, the familiar Citroen lines of Feel and Flair, plus a better-value Touch Edition entry spec. All have a decent haul of kit – and, mindful of the car’s family-friendly pretensions, the top-spec Flair now has a standard Safety Pack which includes active safety braking, driver attention alert plus speed limit recognition.

There’s a new gearbox coming from June, too: the eight-speed automatic EAT8, which will be paired with the BlueHDi 160 diesel. Prices start from £27,550, or £29,250 for the Grand C4 SpaceTourer.

C4 SpaceTourer

TRIMENGINEMRRP OTR
Touch EditionPureTech 110 S&S 6-speed manual£21,125.00
PureTech 130 S&S 6-speed manual£21,725.00
BlueHDi 100 S&S£22,160.00
BlueHDi 120 S&S 6-speed manual£22,940.00
BlueHDi 120 EAT6 automatic£24,290.00
FeelPureTech 130 S&S 6-speed manual£23,100.00
PureTech 130 S&S EAT6 automatic£24,450.00
BlueHDi 120 S&S 6-speed manual£24,315.00
BlueHDi 120 S&S EAT6 automatic£25,665.00
FlairPureTech 130 S&S 6-speed manual£25,835.00
THP 165 S&S EAT6 automatic£28,285.00
BlueHDi 120 S&S 6-speed manual£27,050.00
BlueHDi 120 S&S EAT6 automatic£28,400.00
BlueHDi 150 S&S 6-speed manual£28,290.00
BlueHDi 150 S&S EAT6 automatic£29,640.00

Grand C4 SpaceTourer

TRIMENGINEMRRP OTR
Touch EditionPureTech 130 S&S 6-speed manual£23,425.00
BlueHDi 100 S&S£23,860.00
BlueHDi 120 S&S 6-speed manual£24,640.00
BlueHDi 120 S&S EAT6 automatic£25,900.00
FeelPureTech 130 S&S 6-speed manual£24,800.00
PureTech 130 S&S EAT6 automatic£26,150.00
BlueHDi 120 S&S 6-speed manual£26,015.00
BlueHDi 120 S&S EAT6 automatic£27,365.00
FlairPureTech 130 S&S 6-speed manual£27,535.00
THP 165 S&S EAT6 automatic£29,985.00
BlueHDi 120 S&S 6-speed manual£28,750.00
BlueHDi 120 S&S EAT6 automatic£30,100.00
BlueHDi 150 S&S 6-speed manual£29,990.00
BlueHDi 150 S&S EAT6 automatic£31,340.00

 

2018 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid

2018 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid has a 27-mile EV range: prices from £67,128

2018 Porsche Cayenne E-HybridThe Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid is the firm’s latest second-generation plug-in hybrid, with even more economy and electric range to back up its greater performance and dynamism. The claimed EV-only range is now up to 27 miles – and if you’re less worried about zero-emissions distance, it can drive at speeds of up to 83mph fully electrically too.

Porsche claims the new Cayenne E-Hybrid has an electric boost strategy matching that of the 918 Spyder hypercar. Its 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine delivers 340hp and an additional electric motor puts out 136hp; combined, the total system power is 462hp. That’s good for 0-62mph in 5.0 seconds and a top speed of 157mph.

2018 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid

The 918 Spyder boost strategy is new. It means that the instant you press the accelerator pedal, you have access to the car’s full 516lb ft of pulling power. In Sport and Sport Plus mode, the Cayenne E-Hybrid will unleash virtually all of the battery’s energy – and it’s automatically recharged to give another boost as soon as you demand it.

Other modes place more of an emphasis on economy and efficiency…

Speaking of fuel economy, all are good, but exactly how good depends on wheels (and where you drive it). Choose big alloys, and the official NEDC average is 83.1mpg. Choose more sensible rims and the official figure rises to 88.3mpg.

And if you live in town and mainly do short journeys in between charging points, you could see over 100mpg, thanks to the ability to drive so far on electric power.

Battery capacity is up 30 percent, to 14.1 kWh, and it’s still stored beneath the boot floor. Charging takes just under eight hours on a domestic supply, and just over two hours with the optional 7.2 kW fast charger are used.

2018 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid

The rest of the Cayenne E-Hybrid is largely the same as other new versions of Porsche’s large luxury SUV. One figure that did stand out to us was the fact it’s still capable of towing a full 3.5-tonne load, although while Porsche has introduced a 22-inch alloy wheel option in Europe, it’s not yet decided when these are coming to the UK.

Ordering for the new Cayenne E-Hybrid is now open, with prices from £67,128, and first delivers will begin in late May.