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The biggest motoring news stories of 2019

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

It’s been a big year for new cars and motoring news. In between stories about how Brexit is going to drag the British motor industry into the dark ages, new cars, new challenges and new ideas have permeated our online pages. Here’s a snapshot of 2019 on Motoring Research.

Ferrari to the borders

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

We started 2019 in the best way you possibly could: in a Ferrari, on a road trip. The car in question was a Portofino, with nearly 600hp. A sub-zero foray into the Lake District and up to the Scottish border was obviously the sensible thing to do for a first-time Ferrari driver. We had an absolute ball.

“The Portofino isn’t the most spine-tingling of sports cars,” I concluded. “It will put a smile on your face if you take the scenic route and let that muzzled 488 lump off its lead. The rest of the time, it really is a car for all seasons: a well-judged entrance into Ferrari ownership and a supremely accomplished GT. The smallest horse in the stable is still a prize steed, by my reckoning, a worthy introduction to this most prestigious of automotive marques.”

2019 Toyota Supra

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

The Supra was the first of several icons to be overhauled in 2019. It joins the Land Rover Defender and the Chevrolet Corvette – the former in terms of being revived and reinvented, and both in causing an uproar about how it was carried out.

MR’s Tim Pitt was impressed by the tightened sports car the new Supra has become, saying “It feels malleable and confidence-inspiring, rewarding commitment yet forgiving mistakes. You can do your best Tokyo Drift impression (and I did), but side-on isn’t its preferred angle of attack. It’s too tenacious for that”. And the BMW thing? It’s your bone to pick. Although quite BMW-ey, Tim reckons “It feels closer to a well-sorted M car than a Z4 – and that alone shows the depth of Toyota’s input”. Would you really rather the Supra never came back at all?

Brexit, Brexit, Brexit…

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

Like it or not (who does at this point?) but Brexit was the buzzword of 2019 in the motor industry and, of course, far beyond. It was hardly a chirpy way to open the year, but on January 15 we reported on SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes warning of the “catastrophic consequences” of leaving without a deal in March. That didn’t come to pass, with Brexit at the time being delayed until autumn. And we all know how that went… You can find all of our Brexit coverage here.

Aston Martin on a roll

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

Happily, Aston Martin was at the Geneva Motor Show in March to show the world Britain still has an ambitious streak. As well as showing off the first running Valkyrie hypercar, it introduced what we now know is the Valhalla hypercar, as the AM-RB 003. Most surprisingly, though, it showed a concept for the forthcoming mid-engined Vanquish. Its Lagonda brand also revealed a concept for a lovely all-electric luxury SUV. MR’s Richard Aucock summed up Aston’s supercar assault at Geneva: “Stay tuned, because what we’re watching unfold is the remarkable expansion of Bond’s favourite GT brand into a bona fide supercar and hypercar maker.”

The ULEZ comes to London

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

In April, the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) happened in London. It’s the beginning of a revolution on the road, as we are encouraged to ditch our dirty gas-guzzlers and move into ultra-low emission cars. The long and the short of it? If your car isn’t new and clean enough, and you drive into central London, you pay a charge, And that’s on top of the Congestion Charge, 24/7 and 365 days of the year. Find out more about the ULEZ here, and whether you have to pay.

Electric Peugeot 208

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

The perfect car for the ULEZ, or indeed the Congestion Charge zone? The new Peugeot 208 is available as a full EV, with more than 200 miles of range. The car was the first of a number of ‘attainable’ EVs to debut in 2019. When Tim Pitt drove it, he said “If you have a charger at home or work, the e-208 offers few compromises and several notable benefits – not least the environmental kudos of driving an EV”. It didn’t quite win him over though, given he concluded the more affordable petrol was his 208 of choice.

Electric Vauxhall Corsa

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

Hot on the 208’s heels was the new Vauxhall Corsa, which shares the same platform. So that means there’s also an all-electric Corsa. You can pick it up next year for £270 a month, albeit with a deposit of more than £5,000. The Corsa is a bit pricier than the Pug, starting from around £1,500 more.

Electric Mini

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

It’s not just PSA getting in on the electric small car action either. The original miniature marque – Mini – launched its Mini Electric, complete with a 144-mile range and a £24,400 start price (including government grants). Yours for £229 a month, and deliveries begin in March 2020.

Honda E

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

This is the last of 2019’s small electric cars, we promise. But this year really has been the year of the EV. With a 134-mile range and a £30,000+ price, the Honda is a tough sell. But just look at it! It drives well, too, according to MR’s Richard Aucock. “An early taster of the Honda e Prototype suggests it will be as appealing to drive as it is to look at and sit in. It looks characterful, and its on-road performance is distinctive, particularly the comfort, the quietness and the turning circle.”

Can an electric car really save you money?

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

At the end of the day, when considering spending £25,000 on an electric hatchback, you have to ask yourself: ‘Can an electric car really save you money?’. Clearly people want to know, because this was one of our biggest stories of the year. To buy, they’re quite expensive, but you’ll save on ‘filling up’ – at least for now. Electric cars will get cheaper, too. As I summed up in the piece: “The jumping-off point is coming, sooner or later, for most car buyers. It just needs the numbers to add up – even if they don’t yet.”

Keyless car theft – the scourge of 2019?

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

One of 2019’s biggest topics in the car world is keyless theft. Owners of recent and current models with keyless go have faced hackers ‘hijacking’ the signal from their cars. This lets them open, start and drive away, even with your keys hung up indoors. We have a rolling piece on the best ways to stay safe from keyless car theft, but we also reported on numerous keyless theft stories. Will the industry nip this nasty spike in 2020? It’s become such a problem that MR’s Gav wrote an opinion piece comparing the Volkswagen Golf R to the classic Ford Sierra Cosworth in terms of thievability…

Volkswagen Golf R – the new Sierra Cosworth?

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

Gav noted a tweet from Harry Metcalfe, which highlighted the fact that a third of cars stolen in his area were Golf Rs. Like the Sierra and other fast Fords back in the day, the Golf R is hot property for car thieves. Could it become ‘uninsurable’ as the Ford was?

“It’s easy to draw comparisons between the Cossies of the past and the Golf R of the present. Scary times if you’re an owner,” Gav said. “Would you consider selling yours to buy something less likely to be stolen?”

Mid-engined Corvette

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

Back to some of the year’s most important car reveals. Probably the most dramatic overhaul of an icon in 2019 is the new Corvette, which is going mid-engined for the first time (in production form, at least). The latest Corvette also brings dual clutch-only shifting, improved cabin quality, much higher potential performance and even the possibility of right-hand drive. What the Corvette retains is its iconic pushrod V8 and, amazingly, a low entry price, which actually renders it unprofitable at first. You can pick up a base ’Vette, now a near-500hp pseudo-supercar, for less than the price of a Porsche Cayman in America.

Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

This year, a road-going car passed the 300mph barrier. Of course, the champion of speed for the new millennium, Bugatti, was the one to do it, with a specially-prepared Super Sport version of the Chiron hitting 304mph. A production variant was later announced, called the Chiron Super Sport 300+. There was a great deal of debate, both about whether the record was legitimate, with the car being a pre-production prototype, and whether top speed is still relevant. In my opinion piece, I argued aggressively in favour.

Green number plates

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

It wouldn’t be a year of motoring stories without a weird idea from the government. Green number plates, anyone? They were touted as a ‘very visible way of distinguishing [ultra-low emission] vehicles and raising their profile’. There’s also the possibility of giving these clean cars extra privileges on the road, including access to bus lanes and zero-emission zones. MR’s Gavin Braithwaite-Smith wondered if green number plates were the answer to a question nobody asked. The public seems to think so, with only one in five drivers liking the idea.

Volkswagen ID.3

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

Joining the Porsche Taycan at the Volkswagen Group’s Frankfurt EV showdown was the long-awaited Volkswagen ID.3. ‘ID’ is the marque’s new electric sub-brand, while ‘3’ refers to the third chapter of the ‘people’s car’, following the Golf and Beetle.

Land Rover Defender

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

We’d been waiting an age. And unlike Toyota with the Supra, Land Rover kept the new Defender tightly under wraps. Its return at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show was probably the reveal of the year. The Defender is all-new, but retains much of the original’s rugged looks. It will be, by far, Land Rover’s best off-roader, with short overhangs for impressive approach and departure angles, plus a massive 900mm wading depth. Unlike the original, it should also be a good road car, with independent suspension, a new monocoque chassis and up-to-date infotainment. Available in three- (90) and five-door (110) guises, it won’t be cheap. The 90 starts at £40,000, while the 110 opens at £45,000. We can’t help but love it, but for now we can only afford the Lego version.

Brexit, Brexit, Brexit…

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

We asked whether keyless theft was the scourge of 2019 for motorists. For the motor industry, however, it was Brexit. We’ve covered it, but because leaving the EU was put off again in the autumn – and now until January – we’re reminding you that all of our Brexit coverage can be found here.

Bristol diesel ban

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

It’s official: the war on diesel is hotting up. Bristol is the first city in the UK ban diesel cars from certain areas. Yes, that means certain smoggy petrol cars from when emissions regulations were a pipe-dream still have access, while the very latest, cleanest diesels don’t. And there’s no ULEZ-style charge you can pay. The SMMT criticised the move, with chief exec Mike Hawes saying “we need a clear and consistent national approach to clean air zones that incentivises uptake of the latest, low emission vehicles, including new Euro 6 diesels”.

Morris J van

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

If the vendetta against diesel concerns you, don’t worry: the reborn Morris has got it covered. Of course, it might not, given its new J-type JE electric van will cost more than £60,000. MR’s Gav, often a classic evangelist, didn’t put on his rose-tinted spectacles. He has some strong opinions on the JE. “What’s the obsession with reimagining stuff from our past?” he asks. “What next, a reimagining of other distinctive elements of 1950s Britain, such as polio, pea-soupers and women tied to the twin-tub washing machine?”

Aston Martin DBX

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

Another year, and another sports car manufacturer has gone to the dark side. We live in a world where Porsche, Bentley, Alfa Romeo, Rolls-Royce, Maserati, Lamborghini, and now, Aston Martin, make SUVs. Happily, the DBX is, for an SUV, quite a tidy looking thing. MR’s Richard Aucock called it “striking, stylish and suitably sporty. The DBX is a standout SUV that eschews boxy blockiness for a more elegant and exotic profile. Can SUVs be beautiful? This lays a greater claim to it than most.”

The cabin is gorgeous – by far Aston’s best of late – and it borrows Mercedes’ very talented twin-turbo V8, in 550hp guise. It’s a pricey thing, mind, starting from £158,000, but the super-SUV marketplace is surprisingly crowded. Leave the Urus, forget the Cullinan ever existed and swap out the Bentayga: if it drives as good as it looks, the DBX is the new king of the high-riders.

Tesla Cybertruck

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

Next to this, the DBX is a veritable pin-up. Where to begin with Elon Musk’s latest ‘market disruptor’? We’ve covered the Star Wars prop department reject that is the Tesla Cybertruck extensively, from the reveal, to Elon’s accepting of Ford’s challenge for another rematch. More than 200,000 people have paid $100 for a reservation. How many will follow through? Will Tesla actually be able to deliver? Will you eventually be able to hit its ‘Armor Glass’ with a sledgehammer and not smash it? All burning questions, about one of 2019’s most polarising cars. The 2022 launch can’t come soon enough.

Uber loses its licence

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

Uber has been the subject of many a harsh headline over the past couple of years, but it all came to a head in late 2019. It has officially lost its licence to operate in London, one of its busiest marketplaces. We covered that licence loss, which was due to poor security, as well as the taxi alternatives.

FCA and PSA become one

Biggest motoring news stories 2019

Our final big story of 2019? It’s the combination of FCA and PSA, bringing 13 brands under one roof, ranging from Peugeot and Citroen, to Jeep and Dodge, through to Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and Vauxhall. It’s hard to imagine. On the plus side, it does slightly increase the chances of a new Maserati-engined Citroen SM. We can but dream.

Inbetweeners Fiat Panda Hawaii

April Fools’ Day: the best car manufacturer pranks

Inbetweeners Fiat Panda HawaiiMany car manufacturers have a penchant for prankery and April Fools’ antics. Highlights from over the years include a Skoda umbrella for dogs, a Mini for hipsters and a four-seater Mazda MX-5.

But this is an absolute corker from Fiat. Behold, the Panda Hawaii – a tribute to the Cinquecento that starred in cult TV show ‘The Inbetweeners’. It will apparently be offered with free insurance for first-time teenage drivers. No one wants to be a bus… well, you know. Features include ‘amphibious qualities’ in case you get too friendly with your local pond, as well as a pre-dented red door, plus a cassette player in place of the usual infotainment system.

“The Panda Hawaii is perfect for young men as, not only is it cheap to run, it also attracts members of the opposite sex,” said a Fiat spokesperson. Quite. Ordering opens on April 1…

Tesla Roadster in space-age sale

Tesla Roadster

The Tesla Roadster sent into space is up for sale. The electric sports car was blasted beyond the Earth’s atmosphere aboard a SpaceX rocket, with a David Bowie ‘Starman’ mannequin in the driving seat.

Pending its return to solid ground, the interplanetary Tesla will be offered for sale via auction website Collecting Cars. With one owner from new and full main-dealer service history, its estimated hammer price is $420,000 (£320,000).

Aida Prilgrap, Collecting Cars’ specialist in the Netherlands, said: “Our early auctions include cars from across Europe, but this is the first vehicle we’ve consigned outside our atmosphere. It’s unbelievable.” Well, quite.

Kahn Design electronically customisable paint

Kahn Design electronically customisable paint

Kahn Design has created the world’s first electronically customisable paint. Via an app, owners can control the 3 billion diodes in the paint to create a bespoke colour at the touch of a finger. The video explains all: 

Skoda ProjectaPal LED reminder system

Skoda ProjectaPal April Fools' Day

Many Skoda Karoq now have standard boarding spotlights, illuminating the ground when the door is opened. Cue a development of this, called ProjectaPal lighting system, which projects personalised messages onto the ground.

Skoda ProjectaPal April Fools' Day

“Owners can create a bespoke reminder or link to their diary,” says Skoda, and also “project images from smartphone galleries”.

Skoda ProjectaPal April Fools' Day

The firm’s head of infotainment development, Dr Ivor Tüchskreen apparently said: “Every week, I forget to put my bins out for recycling. Before ProjectaPal, I would tape a note on the interior door handle, but it would always fall off. Then I thought ‘why don’t I ask my Karoq to remind me instead?’ – and that’s when we started designing ProjectaPal.”

MG road-colouring tyres

MG colour the road

MG’s mantra is ‘colour the road’. So on April 1 2019, it has announced road-colouring tyres. They’re coated with a water-soluble dye that covers the road as the car drives, before fading shortly afterwards. And don’t worry about safety, adds the firm; they’ve passed the strictest industry tests with, ahem, flying colours.

The most remote charging point in the UK

Land Rover April Fools' Day

Land Rover is taking a stand in the fight for a better electric vehicle charging infrastructure. For EV owners on the remote Scottish Isle of Skye, the company has installed what is officially the most remote charging point in the UK. The non-existent electric outlet allows for zero-emissions adventures in the new P400e Range Rover. Its batteries will charge in two hours and 45 minutes, according to LR. “Plenty of time to take in the electrifying view,” then.

BMW Motorrad iRace Kit

BMW iRace Kit

BMW’s astonishing S 1000 RR produces 207hp, weighs just 193kg and is a superbike of the highest order. What about if you’re not quite so talented, but still want to sample what it’s capable of? Enter the new iRace Kit, which uses BMW’s patented autonomous-ride motorcycle tech to accelerate, brake, gearshift and steer riders around circuits at speed all the way up to the current lap record. They simply hold on. “What I experienced was sheer fear,” said test pilot Rosario Froschle, “but I started to gain trust. It was pure madness, but completely safe.”

A 1,000hp jet-powered motorbike

Triumph Rocket

From the vaguely silly, to the absolutely insane; here’s a new accessory for your Triumph Rocket motorbike. Two jets are fitted where the exhaust would normally be, each lending 500hp to the cause of forward motion. And that is forward motion only, given this Rocket will be thrust-driven. “The new Rocket Mode Thrusters will beat just about anything in a straight line, including up,” said S.P. Aceman, chief project engineer at Triumph. We believe you, Mr Aceman.

Toyota ‘Pieace’ mobile oven

Toyota Pieace

Somebody at Toyota Australia has been busy with Photoshop. The result is a convertible version of the Hiace van, complete with an optional pie oven. Meet the Pieace.

Apparently the slide-out oven includes a grill with four cooking racks. Toyota Australia’s head of public affairs, Brodie Bott, said the Pieace “made smoko a breeze”. Whatever that means.

Toyota Pieace

“It works a lot like a slow cooker,” continued Mr Bott. “All you do is pop an uncooked pie or sausage roll in the Pieace, set it to the desired temperature using the buttons on the steering wheel, and away you go. An alarm on the dash lets the driver know when the pie is cooked.” 

Mini Hipster Hatch

Mini Hipster

Mini is famous for its special editions and here’s one that taps straight into the current psyche. The Mini Hipster Hatch answers the needs of “what those who refused to be categorised want from a car”: enter red lumberjack check exterior details and Instagram-filtered windows. Take it in Brooklyn Blue, Monochromatic Green or this rather fetching Organic Pumpkin. It has a fixed gear drive, just like hipsters’ beloved fixie bicycles, with a maximum speed of 25mph.

Mini Cooper T

Mini Cooper T

Does it get any more British than this? It’s a Mini Cooper that’ll run on tea. Colours include ‘Chamomile Yellow’, ‘Red Bush’ and ‘Early Grey’.

Toyota Aygo Instagram app

Toyota Instagram April Fools' Day

How can Toyota make its Aygo city car more desirable to young drivers? It’s found the answer, by teaming with photo-sharing app Instagram to offer its famous filters on the car’s rear-view camera. Selfies taken through the camera can then be shared through the app.

Toyota x-touch engineer Flora Poli said: “This is certainly one of the trickier projects I’ve worked on. At first I was worried, because let’s face it, using a reversing camera to take selfies seems a stupid idea. But if this engages people in what is actually an important and useful safety feature that is available across most of the Aygo range, it is worth it… I think.”

Morgan MOGrod

MOGrod

The Malvern firm that specialises in sports cars made out of wood teased its latest project – a new range of hot rods, powered by Ford’s 3.7-litre V6. We kinda wish this wasn’t an April Fool gag.

Hyundai i10 special project

Hyundai April Fools' Day

In 2009, Hyundai claimed that world leaders were becoming concerned about emissions from large limos and adapted SUVs, so announced a cost effective solution in the form of a customised i10 city car. The roof was specially raised to accommodate VIPs, while the seats were finished in a cloth nicknamed ‘holy sheet’…

Paw-wheel drive

Volkswagen April Fools' Day

Volkswagen announced that it had been working with the RSPCA to teach dogs to drive its Amarok pick-up truck. Apparently the three mixed-breed dogs, Tulip, Jacob and Harry were initially taught using a wooden trolley, before upgrading to the four-wheel drive.

Nissan Gym

Nissan gym button

Thanks to Nissan, driving to work could be as healthy as walking, courtesy of this ‘Gym’ button. It turns off features drivers take for granted, such as power steering and electric windows, while also increasing the resistance in the accelerator, brake and clutch pedals. The firm reckoned motorists would burn thousands of calories a week and raise their fitness levels as they drive. There was even a ‘Gym and Go’ app in the infotainment system.

Kia KEE_wii

Kia Kee Wii

Another Kia prank, this time from 2008. The Korean manufacturer took its Kee concept car, seen at Frankfurt the previous year, and claimed it could be driven using a small controller inspired by computer games consoles.

Citroen C4 Cactus Arsenal edition

Citroen April Fools' Day

The Citroen C4 Cactus is already an eye-catching car, but its blue, red and gold Arsenal edition got a mixed reception ahead of the 2014/15 season. It featured a Geo Organised Away-day Location, Information & Entertainment interface (GOALIE), pre-loaded with Arsenal’s away fixtures including directions to the matches, a database of pie and mash vendors and a music playlist of football anthems.

SEAT electro reflective technology

Seat April Fools' Day

Could invisible cars be a thing? In April 2008, SEAT claimed that it had used technology similar to that used in auto-dimming mirrors to create a Leon that could mimic its surroundings.

SEAT Aero-Tonto

Seat April Fools' Day

On 1 April 2009, SEAT followed this up with a wind turbine that could be mounted on top of the Ibiza Ecomotive’s roof to generate power for its headlights. As a result, it could return an extra 3mpg.

Vauxhall Astra VXR Accelerator Pedal Retarding Intervention Lump

Vauxhall April Fools' Day

Back when you could get a new Vauxhall Astra VXR, the firm offered a solution to quelling the expensive fuel bills that went with it: the Accelerator Pedal Retarding Intervention Lump (APRIL), which prevented a heavy right foot.

BMW Force Injection Booster

BMW April Fools' Day

Like every drive to feel like an Autobahn blast? BMW’s Force Injection Booster (FIB) extracts kinetic energy from the car’s engine at speeds of up to 20mph, converts it into positive g-forces and channels it through the air vents. At the same time, a mild electric current is delivered through the front seats, to simulate the same exhilarating feeling of driving at high speed.

BMW xDrive Baby Boots

BMW xDrive Baby Boots

Good news! Now your baby can enjoy the benefits of xDrive, BMW’s intelligent four-wheel drive system. The xDrive Baby Boots enable perfect weight distribution, providing maximum walking pleasure for your toddler. You know something, if BMW actually produced these, we think there’d be a queue outside dealerships everywhere…

Mazda MX-5 four-door

Mazda four-door MX-5

We doubt Mazda will have much trouble shifting its MX-5, but would it more desirable as a four-door? The manufacturer tweeted this picture, saying “We’re excited to share with you the first picture of the all-new Mazda MX-5 4 seater.”

BMW Canine Repellent Alloy Protection

BMW Canine Repellant Alloy Protection

Fed up of dogs doing their business on the wheels of your new BMW? In 2008, the manufacturer revealed its Canine Repellent Alloy Protection (CRAP) which would give animals an electric shock if they came too close to your BMW.

BMW Political Roundel Attachment Tag

BMW PRAT

BMW has form for April Fools’ gags. Ahead of the 2010 general election, it revealed its Political Roundel Attachment Tag (PRAT) – a bonnet badge that could be specced in the colour of whichever political party you support.

Vauxhall Astra Copacabana

Vauxhall Astra Copacabana

On April Fools’ Day, Vauxhall revealed a £41,024.01 Astra. The Copacabana’s 2.6 second 0-60mph time would push passengers back into their seats, which were trimmed from genuine Rio turf. The footwells were filled with sand and the horn resembled a Vuvuzela.

BMW M3 pickup

BMW M3 pickup

The way BMW’s model line-up is going, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see an M3 pickup added to the range. Apparently its lightweight (50kg less than the convertible) and lower centre of gravity meant it could hit a top speed of 300km/h (186mph).

Land Rover self-levelling tax disc holder

Land Rover self-levelling windscreen

In 2011, Land Rover developed a self-levelling tax disc holder in response to new legislation that said tax discs legally should not be displayed at jaunty angles.

Kia Concept i

Kia i-Kia

Buying a new car is getting increasingly like buying home furnishings, with some manufacturers now opening dealerships in shopping centres. Kia saw this coming in 2007, with the introduction of its Concept i. Described as a ‘modular car’, buyers could choose the engine, transmission and trim specification of their new car before opting for the rear model (saloon, hatch, estate etc). Dealers would then supply the modules for the customer to put together at home, creating their new, erm, i’Kia.

Vauxhall Taxi Kebabi

Vauxhall Taxi Kebabi

Many nights on the town end with a quick kebab before a taxi ride home. In a stroke of genius, Vauxhall launched the Taxi Kebabi, which is like having your kebab and eating it. Based on the nine-seat Combi minibus, it featured two gas-fired spit rotisserie grilles, integrated salad bowls, chili dispensers and a selection of sauces.

Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Mini

Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Mini

If today’s vans are a little too large, the Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Mini could be the answer. This pint-sized van is just 2.4 metres long and answers the need for ultra-compact vans in urban environments. It can even be parked at right angles to the kerb, Smart style.

Skoda Simply Clever dog umbrella

Skoda Simply Clever dog umbrella

You couldn’t make it up. Actually, you could, with Skoda’s new dog umbrella for its flagship Superb. Like its ‘human’ counterpart, the dog umbrella integrates into the car’s doorframe, and can be attached to a conventional lead to provide a unique ‘paws-free’ operation.

Honda emoji licence plate

Honda emoji licence plate

Honda’s response to demand from younger drivers in the UK? Plans to introduce the world’s first official emoji vehicle registration plates. Shigastu Baka, First Officer of Licences at Honda UK, said: “We are really excited to offer our customers a fun, quirky way to customise their car, which importantly, is reflective of their personality and lifestyle.

World’s first Formula 1 coach

Luxoria Formula 1 coach

This is Luxuria, the world’s first purpose-built track and tour coach. It develops 3,614lb ft of torque, with a top speed of 122.6mph. It has lapped the Barcelona F1 circuit in a mere 2m 18 sec, with a list of features that includes an adjustable carbon fibre rear spoiler, carbon ceramic disc brake sand super-soft slick tyres. 30 guests can enjoy this unique experience.

 

Motorway at night

Opinion: Motorways are smart. Pity drivers aren't

Motorway at nightAs a regular user of the M6 and M1, it happens almost every time I drive on them: someone cruises up the hard shoulder and drives past me.

Quite apart from the obvious rules-flouting undertake, this is also illegal because, well, it’s the hard shoulder, not a live running lane. So why do they do it?

Because it’s a smart motorway section and they clearly think it’s within their right. Indeed, the undertake is probably a badge of honour because I’m in the wrong and they’re teaching me a lesson. (Such is the logic of many road rage-infused motorists.)

Only I’m not. And they’re not so smart. Because although it’s a smart motorway, the ‘smart’ hard shoulder bit isn’t actually live. The overhead gantries, shorn of illuminated speed limit indicators, confirm this.

And if they then do come across someone stopped on the side of the motorway, poking about under their bonnet or struggling to change a wheel – well, it doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?

This is the conundrum of smart motorways: they’re an excellent idea, and the stepchange in available road space really does help manage congestion. I’m all in favour of them – but people need to be taught how to use them, and this is where the Department for Transport has failed.

Because now, it’s almost an assumption that if a motorway is smart, the hard shoulder can be used all the time. And, sooner or later, I fear this is going to cause a big accident. If, indeed, it hasn’t already.

The simple solution is obvious: if the lane is closed, permanently display a big red ‘X’ in that lane. This would make it blindingly obvious to all road users. Oh, and maybe set the speed cameras to capture motorists who drive past a red ‘X’ (or at least tell people that’s what you’re planning to do).

Motorists are still getting used to smart motorways, and an apparent lack of information means many just don’t understand it. So, DfT, until you get your education campaign fully into gear, turn on the crosses. It may just save lives.

Motorway at night

Opinion: Motorways are smart. Pity drivers aren’t

Motorway at nightAs a regular user of the M6 and M1, it happens almost every time I drive on them: someone cruises up the hard shoulder and drives past me.

Quite apart from the obvious rules-flouting undertake, this is also illegal because, well, it’s the hard shoulder, not a live running lane. So why do they do it?

Because it’s a smart motorway section and they clearly think it’s within their right. Indeed, the undertake is probably a badge of honour because I’m in the wrong and they’re teaching me a lesson. (Such is the logic of many road rage-infused motorists.)

Only I’m not. And they’re not so smart. Because although it’s a smart motorway, the ‘smart’ hard shoulder bit isn’t actually live. The overhead gantries, shorn of illuminated speed limit indicators, confirm this.

And if they then do come across someone stopped on the side of the motorway, poking about under their bonnet or struggling to change a wheel – well, it doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?

This is the conundrum of smart motorways: they’re an excellent idea, and the stepchange in available road space really does help manage congestion. I’m all in favour of them – but people need to be taught how to use them, and this is where the Department for Transport has failed.

Because now, it’s almost an assumption that if a motorway is smart, the hard shoulder can be used all the time. And, sooner or later, I fear this is going to cause a big accident. If, indeed, it hasn’t already.

The simple solution is obvious: if the lane is closed, permanently display a big red ‘X’ in that lane. This would make it blindingly obvious to all road users. Oh, and maybe set the speed cameras to capture motorists who drive past a red ‘X’ (or at least tell people that’s what you’re planning to do).

Motorists are still getting used to smart motorways, and an apparent lack of information means many just don’t understand it. So, DfT, until you get your education campaign fully into gear, turn on the crosses. It may just save lives.

Volkswagen Beetle

Day trips ruined by the car journey say 8 in 10

Volkswagen BeetleThe vast majority of Brits say they’ve had a day trip ruined before it’s even begun by a terrible car journey – with heavy traffic being the biggest reason why.

81% of respondents to an Automyze survey admit the whole trip has been spoiled by the actual journey to it, with 52% of them blaming heavy traffic.

Even if they get there without trouble, 34% have suffered a ruined day trip because they couldn’t find anywhere to park, while almost 1 in 10 barely made it to their destination in the first place because they got lost en route.

“Brits are great opportunists and often take advantage of the UK’s sporadic days of heat to go on mini-breaks or drive to the coast,” said Automyze director Lucy Burnford.

“While images of knotted handkerchiefs and fish and chips may conjure up the British summer of old, perhaps lines of traffic backed up in seaside downs is today’s more accurate depiction.”

Motorists also revealed the things most likely to wind them up when on the road in summer: topping the table here was people who throw rubbish out of the window – a particular gripe of those aged 45-54.

Groups of cyclists and inconsiderate parking wind up millennials, while slow-moving caravans irritate those aged 35-44.

If you’re 65 or older, other cars playing loud music with the windows open is the thing guaranteed to get your blood boiling.

“The holiday season can mean warmish temperatures but even hotter heads,” said Burnford. Be careful out there…

Family car trip

Most stressful minute into a long journey revealed

Family car tripFamilies travelling on a staycation will reach peak stress 1 hour 16 minutes into the journey, new research has revealed.

Insurance comparison site comparethemarket.com questioned more than 1,000 adults with children about staycations and discovered breaking point thus comes relatively early into the journey: more than 6 in 10 UK car holiday trips take three hours or more.

Topping the list of stress inducers is boredom, which beats arguments between siblings and the need for loo breaks; perhaps this is why 16% of parents admit they keep their children up late the night before a holiday drive in the hope they’ll sleep through the trip.

5% will even turn to (over-the-counter) drugs: Calpol is cited by some as a solution to induce sleep and reduce stress.

Note, Calpol for the children, not the parents.

A more sanguine 46% will load the car with tablet computers, smartphone chargers and video games to keep children entertained – meaning technology is a more populate cure for boredom than traditional games such as I-spy.

1 in 5 also say they still play the number plate game, although since the advent of the new-stye number plate in 2001, the threat of arguments over the exact rules is a risk many parents may wish to steer clear of.

New car finance

Car finance: 3 in 4 Brits use it but 2 in 3 can't explain it

New car financeBritish car buyers do not understand common car finance terms such as personal contract hire, personal contract purchase and gap insurance – despite 77% of new car sales now using car dealer finance.

New car finance actually grew once again last month, by more than 10%, but two in three Brits do not feel confident explaining commonly-used car finance jargon.

Vauxhall: ‘most Corsa VXR buyers are under 30’

The survey of more than 1,000 car buyers, by BMW Group Financial Services, discovered that just 18% of car buyers can explain personal contract hire (PCH) and less than 20% can explain personal contract purchase (PCP).

This is despite some brands claiming nearly 9 in 10 sales are made via PCP.

Indeed, 28% of new car buyers admit they can’t explain any car dealer jargon.

“These results go a long way to illustrating the state of the nation’s knowledge about finance,” said BMW Group Financial Services’ general manager Suzanne Gray.

That, she says, is why the financial firm has simplified all its car finance terms – and Gray hopes other providers will now do the same.

“Simplified motor finance is long overdue and we are responding to a public need for clear terms.”

Last month, new car sales grew once again – and they’re up 7% thus far in 2015 compared to the same period last year. Nearly 40 consecutive months of growth in new car sales has now been achieved.

The five most commonly misunderstood new car finance terms

  1. PCH (personal contract hire): An upfront payment scheme with regular monthly hire payments: you rent the car rather than buy it outright
  2. GAP insurance: covers you for any shortfall if your car is written off while you’re still paying the loan
  3. PCP (personal contract purchase): Similar to PCH but monthly payments are only the car’s depreciation rather than the full amount (see below); At the end, you can buy the car, give it back, or use the equity towards a new car
  4. GMFV (guaranteed minimum future value): How much the car will be worth at the end of a PCP; monthly payments are the difference between the purchase price and the GMFV
  5. Deposit contribution: A dealer incentive offered for those who take out dealer finance
New car finance

Car finance: 3 in 4 Brits use it but 2 in 3 can’t explain it

New car financeBritish car buyers do not understand common car finance terms such as personal contract hire, personal contract purchase and gap insurance – despite 77% of new car sales now using car dealer finance.

New car finance actually grew once again last month, by more than 10%, but two in three Brits do not feel confident explaining commonly-used car finance jargon.

Vauxhall: ‘most Corsa VXR buyers are under 30’

The survey of more than 1,000 car buyers, by BMW Group Financial Services, discovered that just 18% of car buyers can explain personal contract hire (PCH) and less than 20% can explain personal contract purchase (PCP).

This is despite some brands claiming nearly 9 in 10 sales are made via PCP.

Indeed, 28% of new car buyers admit they can’t explain any car dealer jargon.

“These results go a long way to illustrating the state of the nation’s knowledge about finance,” said BMW Group Financial Services’ general manager Suzanne Gray.

That, she says, is why the financial firm has simplified all its car finance terms – and Gray hopes other providers will now do the same.

“Simplified motor finance is long overdue and we are responding to a public need for clear terms.”

Last month, new car sales grew once again – and they’re up 7% thus far in 2015 compared to the same period last year. Nearly 40 consecutive months of growth in new car sales has now been achieved.

The five most commonly misunderstood new car finance terms

  1. PCH (personal contract hire): An upfront payment scheme with regular monthly hire payments: you rent the car rather than buy it outright
  2. GAP insurance: covers you for any shortfall if your car is written off while you’re still paying the loan
  3. PCP (personal contract purchase): Similar to PCH but monthly payments are only the car’s depreciation rather than the full amount (see below); At the end, you can buy the car, give it back, or use the equity towards a new car
  4. GMFV (guaranteed minimum future value): How much the car will be worth at the end of a PCP; monthly payments are the difference between the purchase price and the GMFV
  5. Deposit contribution: A dealer incentive offered for those who take out dealer finance
MINI TLC

1 in 4 MINI owners waste TLC one-off cost servicing pack

MINI TLC26% of MINI owners who pay for the TLC servicing pack are wasting money, the firm has revealed – because they pay for servicing outside the MINI network when there’s still credit left on their TLC pack. Read more

Lotus rolls out three-year free servicing incentive

Jean-Marc-Gales_CEO-of-Group-Lotus-and-Aslam-FarikullahLotus has introduced a three-year free servicing deal on the Elise, Evora and Exige S range in what is hoped will give a big boost in buyer confidence. Read more