Posts

Ferrari California T review – 2014 first drive

Ferrari_California_T_1

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

Read more

Jaguar XF R-Sport review

Jaguar XF R-Sport review – 2014 first drive

Jaguar XF R-Sport review

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

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

Read more

BMW X4 review - 2014 first drive

BMW X4 review – 2014 first drive

BMW X4 review - 2014 first drive

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

    Porsche Macan S Diesel review

    Porsche Macan S Diesel review – 2014 first drive

    Porsche Macan S Diesel review

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

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

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

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

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

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

    3_Porsche_Macan_S_Diesel

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

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

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

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

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

    4_Porsche_Macan_S_Diesel

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

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

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

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

    MR Verdict: Porsche Macan S Diesel

    2_Porsche_Macan_S_Diesel

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

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

    MR_5_star

     
     

    Rivals

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

    Porsche Macan S Diesel specification

    Engine 3.0 turbodiesel

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

    Price from £43,300

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

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

    0-62mph 6.3 seconds

    Top speed 142mph

    MPG 46.3mpg

    CO2 159g/km

    Volkswagen Golf SV

    Volkswagen Golf SV review – 2014 first drive

    Volkswagen Golf SV

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

    Read more

    BMW M4 Coupe review

    BMW M4 Coupe review – 2014 first drive

    BMW M4 Coupe review

  • The successor to the BMW M3 Coupe
  • Replaces V8 with straight-six turbo; efficiency and entertainment are key targets
  • Priced from £56,635 | On sale 21 June 2014
  • Read more

    Kia Soul 2014 first drive review

    Kia Soul review – 2014 first drive


    The new Kia Soul is as quirky as ever: it’s now better to drive but no less standout to look at. The choice remains as before: one of these, or a Nissan Juke?


    Kia Soul 2014 first drive review

  • Second generation of Kia’s surfboard-style small crossover
  • Standout styling and some outstanding family-friendly strengths
  • Priced from £12,600 | On sale Now
  • Richard Aucock | April 2014

    The Kia Soul is huge in America; they sell hundreds of thousands there each year. Fitting, really: it was designed in California after all. But for all its utilitarian cool, the first generation model never really caught on in the UK. Buyers like quirky when it’s Nissan Juke-shaped, but not when the compact crossover looks like a Soul.

    The incompleteness that pre-modern era Kias used to suffer also didn’t help. It wasn’t as well rounded as cars such as the latest cee’d. Kia’s thus having another go by using the current cee’d platform for its underpinnings (good start) and rolling out honed styling that aims to round off the excess blockiness that Europeans didn’t like.

    The latest Soul is now a bit longer and wider, with a longer wheelbase, but it’s a bit lower. It looks more elegant in the metal – still with the a sort of US station wagon starkness, but now with a more deft touch that you’d expect of a Schreyer-era car. There’s nothing deft about some of the colours: this vivid green is particularly striking.

    Kia will offer even more from the autumn when the Mixx and Maxx models arrive – contrast roofs, graphics packs, the lot. They’re very expensive though, and we don’t think the Soul has the cult-cool status to carry them off. Best instead consider its family-friendly capabilities instead.

    K_4824

    What is the 2014 Kia Soul like to drive?

    No great surprises with how the Soul drives, but no nasty surprises either. It’s perfectly able all round thanks to its cee’d-derived platform: it somehow has lost its multi-link rear suspension but as it’s not a B-road blaster, this shouldn’t hinder it too much.

    Indeed, it’s more the soft settings Kia’s chosen for the new Soul that will cap any fast charging – but the pay-off for this is a sensible one: the in-town ride quality is excellent. Particularly impressive is its refinement, its ability to take the edge off potholes and cushion things very pleasantly indeed. It’s perhaps even better than the more Germanic Volkswagen Golf here. Just keep it steady when they do start to twist, aye…

    Two engines sounds a simple choice but Kia makes it even easier by forgetting to give the 1.6 petrol any torque. The diesel is the clear choice; it exhibits that loose top-end clatter that most Kia 1.6 diesels do, but it’s nicely torquey enough and the six-speed gearbox is effortless to use.

    Generally, the Soul is an undemanding and cheery thing to drive. Comfort is high on the agenda and that fits the ethos of the car well. Kia proves that not everything has to be rigidly sporting in its focus, and each time you drive in the city centre, you’ll be thankful.

    K_4835

    Is the 2014 Kia Soul a family car winner?

    The Soul is theoretically a Nissan Juke alternative but it’s actually a pretty decent alternative to the cee’d, for a little less cash to boot. Whereas the cee’d offers all-round Golf-like talent, the Soul focuses on the stuff families like: ride quality’s one, but so is space, equipment, a highly flexible layout and standout-different styling.

    Not everyone will like how it looks but the families that do will love it. Once inside, they have a much better quality dash to enjoy, with a modern-look and slightly SUV appearance to it. Piano black adds a quality touch and, if you go for the expected best-seller Connect Plus, so too does touchscreen sat nav.

    Make that widescreen touchscreen nav: Kia’s already-excellent high-res system has been made even bigger and more appealing. It’s coming to other models in time but the Soul previews it and its breadth of functionality will certainly appeal. Other kit count pluses standard on all models include DAB, air con and keyless entry: for the money, the Soul’s very well stocked.

    And it’s great to sit in. All seats are high, with loads of drop-down legroom, and massive flat windows give a great view out. There’s a particularly boost to rear legroom over the old car, thanks to a longer wheelbase, and stepping in and out is easy (an important consideration if you live in the tight-to-park city). Newfound practicality to the boot lets you make best use of its near-Golf-like capacity.

    K_4818

    MR VERDICT: 2014 Kia Soul

    The new Kia Soul isn’t quite the leftfield urban cool machine Kia GB would like (and which it admittedly is in the US). People will still buy Fiat 500s and MINIs for that. They’ll also still buy Nissan Juke in their droves too: it’s expected to still outsell the Soul 10 to 1.

    So what’s the appeal of the Soul? In offering something a bit different in the small family car sector, and doing many of the things growing families will value highly. All the lifestyle and ‘radical, man’ surfboard stuff will be lost on them, which may disappoint the marketeers, but if they can get past that and discover the Soul’s gentle charms, it’ll prove an interesting addition to add on the consideration list.

    MR_3_star

     

     

    Rivals

    • Nissan Juke
    • Ford Focus
    • Volkswagen Golf
    • Vauxhall Mokka
    • Fiat 500L

    Specification: 2014 Kia Soul

    Engine: 1.6-litre turbodiesel

    Drivetrain: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive

    Prices from: £16,400 (1.6 CRDi Connect)

    Power: 126hp

    Torque: 192lb ft

    0-62mph: 10.8

    Top speed: 112mph

    MPG: 56.5mpg

    CO2: 132g/km

    McLaren 650S review – 2014 first drive

    McLaren-650S-2

    • New 650hp McLaren supercar takes the 12C to the next level
    • Aerodynamic makeover influenced by P1 hypercar, awesome driving experience
    • £195,222 (Coupe) – £215,222 (Spider) | On sale now Read more

    BMW X5 eDrive PHEV prototype

    012BMW_InnoDays2014

  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) prototype version of BMW X5 SUV…
  • Amazing CO2 and MPG claims in combination with great performance…
  • Anticipated price £60,000 | On sale 2015
  • Read more

    Great Wall Steed

    Great Wall Steed Chrome review (2013)

    Great Wall Steed

    • The Steed double-cab pick-up is Great Wall’s first entry in the UK
    • Low priced, well-equipped, generous warranty, but quality lags behind rivals
    • £13,998 + VAT | On sale now

    Gavin Braithwaite-Smith | 21st November 2013

    Great Wall is one of China’s largest vehicle manufacturers, although as it’s not the biggest, we can’t make a joke about being able to see the company from space.

    The firm’s ambitions are no laughing matter though, with a serious assault on building a strong export market already well underway. Indeed, the Steed double-cab pick-up – as tested here – represents Great Wall’s first entry into the UK and whilst it can’t quite match its more established rivals when it comes to quality and refinement, it’s a remarkably good first effort.

    In fact, it’s arguably one of the most surprising vehicles we’ve driven this year. Not perfect by any means, but like the Dacia Duster, it presents a compelling blend of high specification and exceptionally good value for money.

    Prices start from £13,998 plus VAT for the Steed S, rising to £15,998 for the Steed SE, which boasts a body-coloured hardtop, reverse parking sensors, chrome side bars and a load liner.

    There are also a couple of special editions, including – as tested here – the Chrome, which features chrome side and sports bars, chrome fog light surrounds, chrome rear-lamp finishers, stainless-steel door entry guards, an over-rail bed-liner, tinted windows, metallic paint and rubber mats. It costs £14,998 plus VAT.

    Great Wall Steed 2013 2

    What is the 2013 Great Wall Steed Chrome like to drive?

    Double-cab pick-ups like the Great Wall Steed Chrome will invariably spend most of their time in urban or rural environments, rarely venturing further than the county border. Tradesmen will rely on them for regular trips to the builders merchants, whilst a farmer may wish to sling a few bags of feed into the load bed.

    But perhaps the most surprising element of the Great Wall Steed Chrome is how well mannered it is when out on the road. The steering may be horrendously vague, but its lightness gives the Steed tremendous manoeuverability. The high driving position also provides a commanding view of the road ahead.

    Great Wall describes the Steed’s 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine as ‘gutsy’, which for the rest of us translates to ‘unrefined’. Making swift progress is hard work, with the engine becoming ‘boomy’ when pressed hard. You soon find yourself avoiding the temptation to change down a gear as the six-speed gearbox isn’t one of the Steed’s strongest assets.

    That said, we used the pick-up on a 500-mile round trip to Leicestershire, plus a family outing to Longleat Safari Park and it’s long distance manners were very good. The slightly bouncy ride is typical of pick-ups of this nature and you do learn to avoid potholes, as the resulting ‘thud’ can be quite severe.

    Other negatives include plenty of wind and engine noise at high speeds, although at least they help to drown out the excessive road noise. Aside from that, the Steed behaves far better than you might think. We wouldn’t think twice about doing another 500-mile round trip in one.

    Genuinely, if you intend to run a Steed as a weekday workhorse, you won’t feel shortchanged if you’re forced into using it at the weekend. Just look out for the brakes, which seem inadequate at bringing this 1835kg lump of Chinese metal to a halt. They certainly make you think twice before mixing it with the Audi A4s and the Vauxhall Insignias on the outside lane of the M5.

    So how does it perform as an everyday proposition?

    As you’d expect, we approached the Great Wall Steed Chrome from a more consumer-led perspective – viewing it more as a lifestyle vehicle than the hardworking commercial vehicle it’s destined to become. And after a week spent in the company of the Steed, we see no reason why it couldn’t slot neatly into family life.

    Let’s get the workhorse essentials out of the way first. The Steed boasts a braked towing capacity of 2500kg and a maximum payload of 1050kg. Great Wall claims the 2.0-litre diesel engine will return 34.0mpg, although we suspect you’ll see nearer the high 20s.

    It also features a low-range gearbox and a ‘shift-on-the-fly’ four-wheel drive system, which was perfectly adequate on some light green-laning, if a little agricultural in its delivery.

    Even the basic Steed S offers an enviable list of standard equipment, with air conditioning, electric front and rear windows, 16-inch alloy wheels, steering wheel audio controls, Alpine radio/CD, Bluetooth and heated leather seats all included for the entry-level price. Opt for the Chrome edition and – as we’ve already mentioned – this extends to a few more cosmetic enhancements, including metallic paint.

    It’s impressive and on paper at least, a formidable offer. But there’s a catch. Start to dig a little deeper and the gloss – quite literally – begins to wear off.

    Even after 3000 miles, the interior was showing severe signs of wear and tear. The leather is of a low quality rarely seen today and was already ‘threading’ in a number of places. The plastic coating on the passenger airbag panel – well that was already peeling as though it has been sat in the sun for 20 years. And we even found areas where the metallic paint lacquer was beginning to deteriorate.

    The Alpine CD/radio also feels a bit archaic, with a series of tiny buttons making it near-on impossible to use whilst out on the road. It may have been acceptable in the 80s, but today a head-unit like this just doesn’t cut it. The air conditioning didn’t feel particularly efficient and, most irritatingly, the wiper motor ‘clicked’ each time the wipers cleared the screen.

    That said, the gap between the Steed and its more established rivals is much narrower than you might think.

    Great Wall Steed 2013 3

    MR VERDICT: 2013 GREAT WALL STEED CHROME

    If we were asked to write a school report on the Great Wall Steed Chrome, we’d probably sum it up as a ‘surprisingly good first effort’. It’s much, much better than we thought it would be and, given the purposes for which it is likely to be purchased, the concerns over quality may not be an issue.

    We’d recommend spending as little as possible, forgoing the temptation to ‘upgrade’ to some of the cosmetic enhancements. Again, like the Duster, the Steed is at its most convincing when you’ve paid the least for it.

    On the evidence of this first effort, it won’t be long before Chinese companies are delivering vehicles in the UK capable of giving some of the more established brands a few sleepless nights.

    In the meantime, pick-up a Steed and take advantage of the generous 6-year/125,000-mile warranty package. It could be the best take-away you’ve had this year.

    MR_3_star

     

     

    Rivals

    • Volkswagen Amarok – from £20,720 plus VAT
    • Toyota Hilux Double-Cab – from £20,045.83 plus VAT
    • Nissan Navara Double-Cab – from £17,954.17 plus VAT
    • Mitsubishi L200 Double-Cab – from £16,549 plus VAT
    • Ford Ranger Double-Cab – from £18,102.97 plus VAT

    Specification – Great Wall Steed Chrome

    Engine 2.0-litre 16v turbocharged diesel engine

    Price from £13,998 (Chrome)

    Power 143hp

    Torque 225lb ft

    0-62mph  n/a seconds

    Top speed 87mph

    MPG 34mpg

    CO2 220g/km