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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.

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'i-sapping' car breakdown risk for unwary motorists

‘i-sapping’ car breakdown risk for unwary motorists

'i-sapping' car breakdown risk for unwary motorists

Motorists charging sat navs, smartphones and iPods from their car’s 12v socket are at increased risk of battery-related breakdowns this winter, warns Kwik-Fit.

The automotive repair firm has dubbed the problem ‘i-sapping’.

More than three in five drivers are charging devices in their car using the 12v socket, with nearly four in 10 charging sat navs and over a third topping up their smartphones.

However, because batteries have to work so much harder in the winter, this extra drain is putting motorists at risk of breakdowns and non-starting issues.

The fact more than half of drivers do not get their batteries checked during winter is not helping, says the firm.

Communications director Roger Griggs said: “Many motorists don’t realise the effect devices plugged into their cars can have on a battery.

“Sat navs, tablets and other gadgets that are designed to make our lives more comfortable can actually have the opposite effect, by cutting short the life of even a new battery and leaving us stuck with a car that won’t start.

“At Kwik Fit, we often see an increase in vehicles coming in with battery issues when the temperatures drop, normally to the surprise of the customer.”

The firm advises anyone with a battery more than five years old to get it checked – that’s “a usual turning point in a battery’s life”.

M6 and M6 Toll

M6 Toll for sale: should the government buy a motorway?

M6 and M6 TollThe M6 Toll motorway has been put up for sale by the banks that own it – for a reported asking price of almost £2 billion.

This is to recover £1.9 billion of debts from the perennially loss-making motorway, which cost £900 million to build (a figure that was privately funded) and is said to lose around £25 million a year.

That’s despite charging car drivers a weekday flat fee of £5.50 to use it; HGVs pay £11 to avoid M6 congestion.

The 27-mile toll motorway, which first opened in 2003, is used by around 50,000 vehicles a year, compared to the 200,000 vehicles that pass through the ‘free’ M6 spaghetti junction.

And it is this stark under-utilisation, coupled with regular gridlock around the rest of the West Midlands motorway network, that is leading calls for the government to nationalise the M6 Toll motorway.

‘Buy the M6 Toll’

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to take this asset into public ownership and make it possible for it to work more effectively for the West Midlands and the rest of the UK,” Conservative MP Gavin Williamson told regional paper the Express & Star.

“Potentially you could still charge to use it, but at a much lower rate that makes it possible for more people to use it regularly, creating a far higher rate of usage than at present.”

And although the West Midlands already has lots of free motorways, including the M5, M6, M40 and M42, Williamson said opening up the M6 Toll would be a worthwhile investment that would “transform the situation and improve the way the motorway network works for the people of the West Midlands.

“We don’t have a lack of motorways in the West Midlands, what we have is a motorway that is massively under used.”

 

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest inClassic cars appear to be the in thing. Celebrities such as Chris Evans and Harry Styles are well-known collectors and a new report suggests that owners of older cars may now be insuring their vehicles for far less than they are worth, due to the rapid increase in prices.

New tax regulations mean that more classic cars are now tax-free, too, so it got us thinking. What would be our pick of 25 cheap classic cars that could go up in value?

Choose carefully and you can buy an appreciating classic rather than simply scrap metal, so sit back and enjoy our list of 25 classic car gems. We’ve set a budget of £5,000; remember there’s no guarantee these cars will go up in value, and that the prices are for guidance purposes only.

Alfa Romeo Alfasud

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £1,500 – £3,500

A cast-iron classic car, it’s just a shame the Alfa Romeo Alfasud wasn’t built with such rock-solid foundations. When it was launched in 1972, the Alfasud revolutionised the small car sector and also delivered one of the best front-wheel-drive cars in history.

Rust has killed many of these little gems, and today there are fewer than 100 Alfasuds enjoying active service in Britain. Top Gear once heralded it as the best car of the 1970s. And as Alfa Romeo had effectively taught the world how to deliver a sweet-handling front-wheel-drive car, Top Gear probably had a point.

Audi TT

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £2,000 – £8,000

Two decades on from its debut as a concept car at the 1995 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Audi TT still looks box-fresh. Many would argue – with huge justification – that it looks better than the current third generation TT. Three years after its debut as a concept car, it became a production reality, with only minimal design changes.

Its bold, Bauhaus-inspired exterior was matched by a delightfully individual interior and early cars were powered by a 1.8-litre turbocharged engine, either in 180hp or 225hp guise. A guaranteed future classic?

BMW E30 3 Series

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £500 – £5,000

For something a little more practical, how about the E30 3 Series, which offers rear-wheel-drive motoring at budget prices? Naturally, the wonderful E30 M3 won’t slot neatly into the ‘cheap’ category, so our money would be on the Touring, which was the result of a BMW employee’s desire to create a more practical version of the 3 Series saloon.

The engineer Max Reisböck needed something bigger to go on holiday with, so he bought a wrecked 3 Series and built an estate version in his home garage. His bosses at BMW were so impressed, they put the car into production with only minimal changes.

Citroen AX GT

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £750 – £3,000

James May once called the Citroen AX GT the best car in the world and although his tongue was firmly in his cheek, he may have had a point. They simply don’t make cars like the AX GT any more.

It was light – just 710kg – so its 1.4-litre carburettor engine was perfectly capable of giving the tiny French hero a mighty turn of pace. And with no power steering or other electrical nonsense to get in the way, it provided the kind of engaging drive that modern hatchbacks can only dream of.

Citroen GS

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £500 – £4,000

And then there’s the Citroen GS, which is doing a very good disappearing act in the UK. Seriously, Paul Daniels has got nothing on the GS.

The DS and SM might be out of reach these days, but the GS is still sensibly priced – for now. It brought hydro-pneumatic suspension and all-round disc brakes to the man on the street, plus an ability to drive on three wheel – a wonderful car.

Citroen XM

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £250 – £3,000

Putting the C6 to one side for a moment, the XM was the last truly eccentric Citroen. Highlights included a wonderfully-styled interior and super-comfy hydractive suspension. It was only appreciated by a minority of motorists and a reputation for unreliability and complexity didn’t help its cause.

But prices have bottomed out and a strong following with Citroen circles will ensure that good examples are highly sought after.

Fiat 126

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £500 – £2,500

The all-new Renault Twingo and Smart Fortwo prove that the old rear-engine and rear-wheel drive recipe is alive and kicking. Some would suggest this puts them in mind of the Porsche 911, but we’re looking at something a lot smaller – the Fiat 126.

This is an everyday miniature hero you can park anywhere. Surely a classic to invest in, especially when viewed alongside the values of the Fiat 500.

Ford Escort XR3/XR3i

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £500 – £4,500

Fast Fords will always hold their value and whilst the Escort XR3 and XR3i don’t have the RS badge to add kudos, they remain the epitome of 1980s cool. And don’t let the fact that the MK3 Escort did away with rear-wheel drive fool you, these cars will be appreciated.

Values are already on the rise. Early XR3s are thin on the ground, but there’s a good supply of the later fuel-injected XR3i, first introduced in 1983.

Ford Puma

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £500 – £2,000

One day, we’ll look back at the time when a Ford Puma could be bought for a few hundred quid. That day might be a long way off, so patience is definitely required. There are some 29,000 Pumas on the roads of Britain, but rust (check the wheelarches…) and high mileage will see many falling by the wayside in years to come.

Find a rust-free 1.7-litre Puma, ideally with the early ‘propellor’ alloy wheels, and revel in one of the greatest front-wheel drive cars ever built. Better still, stretch to the sublime Ford Racing Puma, because the prices won’t stay this side of £10,000 for very long.

Honda Accord Type-R

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £1,500 – £3,000

The arrival of the all-new Honda Civic Type-R will renew the market’s interest in the Type-R brand, so you can expect the prices of good ones to go up. The Integra Type-R already commands strong prices and there are few bargains to be had. So how about the super-crazy Accord Type-R?

It’s often forgotten, which means the prices have sunk to rock bottom. Ask anyone who has owned one, the Accord Type-R is a properly sorted performance saloon.

Mazda RX-7

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £500 – £4,000

In reality, all three generations of the Mazda RX-7 would make good investments, but our heart belongs to the original, also known as the SA22C. Besides, try finding a good third generation (FD) car for our budget. That’s if you can find an unmodified example at all.

With a purity of design and a free-revving rotary engine, the original RX-7 was a unique proposition in the sports car market. Seek out a specialist and the RX-7 should provide good long-term returns.

Peugeot 309 GTi

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £500 – £3,000

You’ll need to be quick on this one, because we’re already seeing signs that prices may be on the rise. In fact, we’ve seen one admittedly excellent 309 GTi Goodwood on sale for a price in excess of £10,000. Wow.

Here’s the thing. The Peugeot 309 GTi is essentially a 205 GTi in a different frock. Far too many were stripped for their mechanicals, including the 1.9-litre engine, which means there’s around 100 on UK roads. Fortunately, there are treble this amount listed as SORN (off the road).

Peugeot 405 Mi16

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £1,000 – £3,000

Good luck hunting one of these down, but if you do, you’ll be rewarded with one of the very best performance saloons of the 1980s and 1990s. Far too many have been lost to rust or for their engine to be extracted for use in a Peugeot 205.

The earlier cars are quicker and lighter and it’s also worth hunting down the four-wheel drive Mi16x4.

Peugeot 505

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £500 – £3,000

Don’t let the relative anonymity of the Peugeot 505’s styling put you off, this is one special car. Not only was it Peugeot’s last rear-wheel drive model, it was also rather good to lick down a back road in.

Numbers are dwindling fast, which is a shame, because the seven-seat estate is brilliantly practical and the super-rare 505 GTi is a convincing performance car that could give the Germans a run for their Deutschmark.

Porsche 924/924 S

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £500 – £5,000

The Porsche 924’s backstory is the stuff of legend. Originally designed to be a Volkswagen and powered by an engine sourced from Audi…blah, blah, blah.

But the 924’s stock has been rising for some time now, and with numbers decreasing and interest increasing, it’s only a matter of time before values head north. The pick of the bunch is the 2.5-litre-engined 924 S, which is essentially a 944 in a 924 body.

Renault Avantime

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £500 – £4,000

Talk about making an entrance. Over a decade on from the Renault Avantime making its debut, it still looks like a concept car that could so easily be unveiled in 2015.

It wasn’t particularly brilliant to drive (underneath you’ll find an Espace), but the Avantime is all about its bold, coupe-styling and brilliantly eccentric, four-seat interior. Naturally you’ll want the 3.0-litre V6 engine, but the Avantime is a guaranteed future classic.

Renault Fuego Turbo

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £300 – £2,500

The Renault Fuego was the French answer to the Ford Capri, famed for its ‘bubble’ tailgate and sleek styling. It wasn’t especially quick and it wasn’t the sharpest drive, but it was practical.

And – three years after the Fuego was introduced – Renault invited us to enter ‘the turbo zone’ with the new Fuego Turbo, complete with huge 1980s-style side decals. Very few remain today.

Rover 200 BRM

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £500 – £2,500

The Rover 200 BRM is unfairly dismissed in classic car circles, presumably because a) it’s a Rover 200, b) the interior is a bit, er…challenging and c) that orange grille. But hang on a minute, because it’s actually far better than you’d think.

The 200vi upon which it was based was a thoroughly decent car, it has a Torsen differential and that Brooklands Green paint gives it a timeless appeal. Yours for around a grand. Bargain.

Saab 9000 Turbo

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £250 – £5,000

The Saab 9000 Turbo is destined to follow in the footsteps of the super-desirable 900 Turbo by becoming highly collectable. The 9000 was built to Saab’s exacting standards and designed to cover long distances. The seats are amongst the comfiest you’ll find in any class.

The 2.3-litre 9000 Turbo is the one to have and prices are looking strong. Compare and contrast the survival rate to that of the Thema, 164 and Croma – three cars which shared the same platform.

Suzuki Cappuccino

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £750 – £3,750

Thanks to its cult status and neat packaging, the Suzuki Cappuccino is a car that will, at the very least, hold its value. Rarer than the majority of roadsters of the same era (just 1,110 cars were officially imported), the Cappuccino was built to Japanese Kei-car standards.

This means it’s incredibly small and – at 725kg – very light. Go on, you know you want to.

Vauxhall Carlton 3000 GSI

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £500 – £4,000

Right, we know what you’re thinking, but bear with us on this one. Without the Vauxhall Carlton 3000 GSI, there wouldn’t be a Lotus Carlton. And while you can’t afford the Lotus-badged version (not without selling a kidney), you can afford the 3000 GSI.

It’ll be hard to track down a good example, but with a top speed of 150mph and rear-wheel drive, the 3000 GSI makes for an interesting alternative to the cars more commonly spoken about.

Volkswagen Corrado

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £400 – £5,000

What we have here is not only one of the greatest cars Volkswagen has produced, but it’s also another of the best front-wheel drive performance cars of all time. Naturally, the pick of the crop is the properly quick VR6, but you shouldn’t rule out the supercharged G60 or the humble 16V.

The Corrado is a rare thing, in that it was a classic even before it went out of production. Amazingly, Volkswagen struggled to sell it, so a few tears were shed when the VR6 Storm signalled the end in 1995. Useable everyday and even now, as good as many brand-new performance cars.

Volkswagen Golf GTi MK2

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £700 – £4,500

The MK1 Golf GTi is already a bona fide classic and there are very few bargains to be found. But the MK2 Golf GTi is a different story. Yes, prices of the most desirable cars are very strong, but there are still affordable cars to be found.

For example, find a good value three-door 16V in Oak Green and there’s money to be made. The trick is to find a MK2 Golf GTi away from specialist dealers and club forums. You may have to be patient, but the MK2 Golf is a useable and highly rewarding daily classic.

Volvo 240 Estate

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £250 – £2,000

Have your green wellies and National Trust window sticker at the ready, because here is the venerable Volvo 240 Estate. For a generation of car enthusiasts, this is where it all began – being transported to school in the back of a 240 Estate.

So well engineered was the Volvo 240, you could still press one into daily service and it wouldn’t even flinch. Loved by the well-to-do and antique dealers, the 240 boasted a huge load area and rear-wheel drive. There are plenty to choose from, so prices are low. For now.

Volvo 480 Turbo

Top 25 cheap classic cars to invest in

Price guide: £350 – £2,000

The elegant P1800 is out of reach and the C30 is too new to be considered a classic. But somewhere in between you’ll find the 480. As the first front-wheel drive Volvo, it has secured a place in history, but it was never really universally accepted.

Which means values plummeted and it fell head first into bangerdom. But look, it has pop-up headlights, individual styling and – in Turbo guise at least – a bit of poke. One for the long-term future.

Police forced to respond to 999 calls without sirens

Police forced to respond to 999 calls in Vauxhall Corsas without sirens

Police forced to respond to 999 calls without sirens

Police say they are having to respond to emergency calls in Vauxhall Corsas not equipped with sirens following budget cuts made by the Government.

West Midlands Police have had to use the Vauxhalls – which are kitted with blue lights but no sirens – to reach emergency calls over 100 times in the last 12 months, according to reports.

The force has 109 Vauxhall Corsa patrol cars on its fleet, intended for non-emergency use only. Budget cuts, however, mean they’re being used to respond to urgent 999 calls.

Officers are told they’re not allowed to break the rules of the road without sirens – leading to ‘huge frustration’ as they struggle to make their 15 minute target to reach crime scenes.

Superintendent Kerry Blakeman, from the West Midlands Police’s operations department, told local newspaper the Express and Star: “Any officer can respond to an incident if they are suitably trained to drive at speed and are in an appropriate vehicle – with lights and siren.

“Officers who are not appropriately trained and/or driving an appropriate vehicle can attend an incident as quickly and safely as possible while complying with the Road Traffic Act just as members of the public should.

“Incidents graded as ‘immediate’ are responded to as soon as possible, usually in a matter of minutes and on many occasions require the use of lights and sirens.

“At no point was the Corsa intended for response work as it is a low performance vehicle.”

Volkswagen e-Golf home charging

Stop wasting money on fuel says government – buy an EV

Volkswagen e-Golf home chargingThe average British driver spends 12p a mile on fuel for their diesel or petrol car – but could cut this to 2p a mile if they switched to an ultra-low emissions vehicle.

The figures have been revealed by the government and a consortium of car manufacturers set up to promote ultra-green cars called Go Ultra Low.

Spread the savings across Britain’s 31.6 million cars and it means UK motorists are missing out on £24.5 billion in savings by spending more on fuel and tax.

And that’s an annual multi-billion saving that Brits are turning down…

How do you save money with an electric car?

Hetal Shah, head of the Go Ultra Low campaign, said: “After buying a house, a car is the second most expensive purchase that most of us will ever make.

“With fuel costs from just 2p-per-mile, no road tax, no congestion charge and free parking in many locations, electric cars certainly present a compelling proposition.

“Put simply: the more you drive, the more you save.”

Money saving expert no longer wincing

Crack money-saver and newspaper columnist Ashleigh Swan has joined the panel of the Go Ultra Low campaign and reckons EV motoring has been an eye-opener.

“Fuel bills are the most noticeable regular outlay, and every time we pull up at a petrol station, my husband and I wince at the price of a full tank.”

Contrast this with the “extremely low running costs” of an EV and this hefty outlay for the average motorist – who covers 7,500 miles a year, or around 140 miles a week – can be mitigated.

Car manufactures have almost cracked the range anxiety part too, adds Go Ultra Low: the quoted range of up to 124 miles for many electric cars is getting ever-closer to the UK-average weekly mileage…

MORE on MR

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Tesla at Edinburgh Airport

Does your car insurance policy include valet parking cover?

Tesla at Edinburgh AirportMore than four in 10 car insurance policies exclude cover for damage by valet parking staff – despite ‘meet and greet’ services becoming increasingly popular in the UK.

GoCompare Car Insurance, which analysed 230 comprehensive car insurance policies to reveal the findings, is thus warning Brits to check their policies carefully before using such services.

Examples where valet parking cover may be excluded by car insurance policies include:

  • Airport ‘meet and greet’ car parking
  • Hotel chains
  • Entertainment venues
  • Hand car wash valet services

Matt Oliver, car insurance spokesman at Gocompare.com said: “Valet parking is becoming more common in the UK.

“While valet parking can be a convenient way to park your car, especially at airports, any damage to your car while in the care of the valet service might not be covered by your car insurance.”

A sure-fire way to spoil a holiday upon your return…

What else should I check before using valet parking?

Oliver also advised you check terms and conditions on the valet operator’s side, too. “These will outline what insurance cover, if any, they offer, and detail any exclusions, limits and excesses.

“Typically, operators offer very limited cover for damage to your car, which you will need to spot and report to them when you collect your vehicle.”

Make sure you do this before driving away – scour the car carefully because once you leave, you’ll find it very difficult to argue your case if you subsequently spot any damage.

“Any possessions left in your car are also typically excluded.” So don’t forget to take everything valuable out before you leave the car…

MORE on MR

  • Car insurance still getting cheaper – but it won’t last
  • The best travel apps for your summer holidays
  • Do you know the number to ring in an emergency in the EU?
@JeremyClarkson via Twitter

Clarkson drives last ever lap of Top Gear test track

@JeremyClarkson via TwitterJeremy Clarkson has driven his last ever lap of the Top Gear test track after raising over £100,000 for charity to do it.

But the question is, which car did he do it in?

The former Top Gear presenter posted a picture to his 5.3 million followers on Twitter, of him standing next to three supercars and asking which he should do it in.

The three choices were:

  • Mercedes-AMG GT
  • LaFerrari
  • Ferrari 488 GTB

More than 11,000 retweets and 26,000 favourites later, the debate still rages on.

Clarkson has yet to reveal which car he actually chose, but did report after the drive that he was a “bit sad leaving the place for the final time”.

There were two good things about the last lap though, he added: “It raised a load of cash for a good cause.

“And I did the mother****** of all tail slides through Chicago.”

Racing driver Marino Franchitti and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason were also there, it was later revealed: Clarkson also drove them around the Top Gear test track before undertaking his final lap.

MORE on MR

Greatest hits of Top Gear: in pictures

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Top Gear Show to be renamed ‘Clarkson, Hammnd and May Live’