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The cost of a car in the year you were born

Ford Anglia 100E

Your first encounter with a car was probably when your parents drove you home from the maternity ward.

Safe to say you won’t remember much about the journey, but did your folks ever reveal their choice of wheels for this momentous drive?

Make no mistake: they’ve probably never driven in a more careful and considerate manner.

The coolest car from the year you were born

This got us thinking: how much did it cost to buy a car in the year you were born? To find out, we’ve selected a broad selection of cars from 1950 to 1999.

The 1950s: Tutti Frutti

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This was the decade in which Britain got back on its feet. Still recovering from the effects of the Second World War, the nation’s economy began to improve, with a surge in housebuilding and a raft of new time and labour-saving devices.

The car industry was also beginning to find its feet. Trips to the seaside and picnics in the park were made possible by a new and exciting range of family cars, with the Morris Minor, Standard Vanguard, Ford Popular and Rover P4 just four examples.

America’s obsession with fins and chrome was influencing British car design, with two-tone paint jobs also proving to be rather popular. The future was bright.

According to a copy of Motor, October 1948, the Ford Anglia was the cheapest four-wheel car in Britain. In 1950, the Anglia – an ancestor of the current Ford Focus – would have set you back £310, the equivalent of £10,703 in today’s money.

To give that figure some context, the average house price in 1950 was £1,940.  

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Costing significantly more, the Austin A30 of 1952 was – together with its replacement, the A35 – one of the most popular cars of the 1950s. None other than James Hunt was a fan, as was Wallace of Wallace & Gromit fame, who drove an A35 van.

In 1951, an Austin A30 would have set you back £507, with the A35 – which arrived in 1956 – starting at £541. The most expensive A35 was the Countryman, which commanded a price tag of £638. That’s the equivalent of £20,190 in 2020.

Other vehicles of note include the luxo-spec Humber Hawk, which would have cost £695 plus £290 in purchase taxes back in 1955. In today’s money, that’s £26,037, about the same price you’ll pay for a Ford Mondeo Titanium Edition in 2020.

It would be remiss of us not to mention the Mini. Though synonymous with the Swinging Sixties, the Mini burst onto the scene in 1959, with prices ranging from £497 to £537. It quite literally changed the shape of British motoring and laid the foundations for a new decade.

Year/Car/Price new (2020 adjusted)

1950: Ford Anglia – £310 (£10,703)
1951: Austin A30 – £507 (£16,045)
1952: Ford Consul – £717 (£20,786)
1953: Ford Popular – £391 (£10,199)
1954: Austin A50 – £649 – £720 (£17,903 – £20,111)
1955: Humber Hawk – £985 (£26,037)
1956: Austin A35 – £541 – £638 (£13,606 – £16,046)
1957: Berkeley Sport – £574 (£13,944)
1958: Austin A40 – £676 – £698 (£15,913 – £16,430
1959: Mini – £497 – £537 (£11,651 – £12,599)

The 1960s: Good Vibrations

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The 1960s: a decade of flower power, free love, the first man on the moon, the Beatles, the Mini and miniskirts. Britain was the centre of attention, with the nation leading the way in fashion and pop music.

And England won the football World Cup, which is something we’re reminded about every four years…

If London felt like the centre of the world, the likes of Coventry, Dagenham, Luton and Cowley were the epicentre of car manufacturing. Sadly, by the end of the decade, the rot had set in, with the British motor industry already in decline.

In 1960, the original Skoda Felicia would have cost £744, the equivalent of £17,264 when inflation adjusted. Today, that price will secure you a Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo, or a Scala, if you’re prepared to do a little haggling.

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Another car of note is the Ford Lotus Cortina. Back in 1964, you could drive away in this super-saloon for £1,100 – about a third of the average house price. Inflation adjusted, that’s a little shy of £22,500. Good luck securing a Lotus Cortina for that price in 2020.

In 1966, as England lifted the still gleaming Jules Rimet trophy, the Porsche 911 was still in its infancy. You could have celebrated the Three Lions’ triumph by purchasing a 911 for £3,438 (£64,529 in 2020). Today, you’ll need at least £83,000.

There was an alternative. The four-cylinder 912 – so often unfairly overlooked – was available for the more affordable price of £2,466. That’s the equivalent of £44,285 – quite a significant saving. All of the flash, a lot less cash.

As if to bridge the gap between the 60s and 70s, Ford launched the Capri in 1969. The ‘car you always promised yourself’ became a firm favourite of the 1970s, not least because of its low price. Just £890 for the ‘European Mustang’ – what a steal.

Year/Car/Price new (2020 adjusted)

1960: Skoda Felicia – £744 (£17,264)
1961: Hillman Super Minx – £854 (£19,153)
1962: Ford Classic – £723 – £779 (£15,542 – £16,746)
1963: Hillman Imp – £508 – £532 (£10,718 – £11,224)
1964: Lotus Cortina – £1,100 (£22,459)
1965: Saab 96 – £729 (£14,222)
1966: Porsche 911 – £3,438 (£64,529)
1967: Rover P6 – £1,358 (£24,834)
1968: Renault 4 – £599 – £629 (£10,467 – £10,991)
1969: Ford Capri – £890 (£14,759)

The 1970s: Go Your Own Way

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The optimism of the 1960s was washed away in the 1970s, with the decade remembered for its conflicts, political unrest and unemployment. Many people also consider the 70s to be the decade that style forgot.

An unfair reflection? Perhaps. Families were richer than ever and people had more social time than before. The likes of David Bowie and Marc Bolan gave rise to new-found self-expression, while women enjoyed more freedom than in previous decades.

Of course, from an automotive perspective, the 70s will be remembered for the decline of the British motor industry and a new wave of cars being imported from the Far East. But how much did you have to pay for cars in the 1970s?

We kick things off with the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow: the car that saved the company, while – in the long term – tarnishing its reputation. Oversupply led to falling values, with the Silver Shadow developing a reputation for being associated with ‘end of the pier’ entertainers and some rather shady characters.

It wasn’t always like this. In 1970, a Silver Shadow would have cost £9,272 in old money, the equivalent of £144,509 in new money. Take a moment to consider the average house price in that year – £4,975.

A year later, Jaguar unveiled its first V12-engined car: the Jaguar E-Type V12. Not the best time to be launching a gas guzzler, considering the imminent fuel crisis, but at £3,139.39, at least it wouldn’t break the bank.

In 1972, a basic Ford Cortina cost a mere £963 – not a bad price for the fastest selling car in Britain. In today’s money that’s £12,802. Try getting a new Ford Mondeo for that price.

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But that’s nothing compared to the £1,894.75 Renault was asking for the brilliant and forward-thinking 16TX. Its 1,647cc engine helped to propel this smooth-riding hatchback to 50mph in under 9.0 seconds, while the big Renault was also generously equipped. Great car, sadly missed.

We’ll leave the 70s with two cars that went on to lead very different lives. The rather brilliant BMW 2002 Tii cost an eye-watering £3,659 in 1975, while, a year later, the 1976 Car of the Year Chrysler Alpine cost £2,164.49.

One of those cars has gone on to become a gilt-edged classic car, while the other rusted into oblivion.

Year/Car/Price new (2020 adjusted)

1970: Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow – £9,272 (£144,509)
1971: Jaguar E-Type V12 – £3,139 (£44,703)
1972: Ford Cortina – £963 (£12,802)
1973: MGB – £1,393 (£16,974)
1974: Renault 16TX – £1,895 (£19,898)
1975: BMW 2002 Tii – £3,659 (£30,925)
1976: Chrysler Alpine GL – £2,165 (£15,693)
1977: Renault 4 – £2,595 (£16,244)
1978: Ford Capri 2.0S – £4,035 (£23,324)
1979: Fiat Strada – £3,044 – £3,742 (£15,517 – £19,075)

The 1980s: How Soon Is Now

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Big hair, big shoulder pads and big cellphones: welcome to the 1980s. If the years before were brown and nicotine-stained, the new decade ushered in an era of brighter colours and renewed optimism.

Greed was good, or so we were told. As Madonna sang, we were living in a material world and she was a material girl. It was the decade of MTV, yuppies, video games and blockbuster movies. And, let’s not forget, the hot hatch…

We kick things off with the TR7. Triumph claimed it was ‘the exciting car you can afford’, pitching it alongside the £35,100 Ferrari 512 BB. A bold approach for the £6,361 sports car, but “… in these hard times, you’ve got to economise somewhere”.

Two years later, Fiat celebrated the Panda’s first birthday by slashing its price to £2,995. “Fiat [has] discovered a way of making Pandas breed like rabbits.” Well, quite. The equivalent price today: £10,649. That’s cheaper than a 2020 Fiat Panda…

By 1985, the Citroen 2CV was about to enter the twilight years, with £2,774 securing some ‘Tin Snail’ action. In 1986, Seat was a relative newcomer in the UK, with the Spanish firm asking between £4,095 and £5,771 for its neatly-styled Ibiza.

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Oh, Rover, where did it all go wrong? Actually, that’s a rhetorical question, because its demise has been well documented. In 1988, the not so small matter of £19,944 could get you behind the wheel of the fastest road-going Rover: the 800 Vitesse.

Consider that price for a moment. That’s perilously close to BMW M3 or Jaguar XJS money. But what a car: 2.7-litre 24-valve V6 engine, 140mph top speed and more gadgets than a branch of Dixons.

We close the curtains on the 80s by mentioning the Lada Riva. Back then, a budget car probably meant something from the Eastern Bloc, with the Riva available for ‘just’ £3,495. Compare and contrast with the £6,995 Dacia Sandero.

Year/Car/Price new (2020 adjusted)

1980: Triumph TR7 – £6,361 (£27,482)
1981: Mazda 323 – £3,399 – £4,499 (£13,127 – £17,375)
1982: Fiat Panda – £2,995 (£10,649)
1983: Ford Escort RS1600i – £6,700 (£22,779)
1984: Saab 900i – £8,510 (£27,559)
1985: Citroen 2CV Special – £2,774 (£8,468)
1986: Seat Ibiza – £4,095 – £5,771 (£12,090 – £17,038)
1987: Citroen BX GTi – £10,205 (£28,922)
1988: Rover 800 Vitesse – £19,944 (£53,882)
1989: Lada Riva – £3,495 (£8,761)

The 1990s: Spice Up Your Life

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What’s the story, morning glory? Welcome to the 1990s: the decade of Brit Pop, the Spice Girls, the Tamagotchi and Noel’s House Party. Yes, it was a bit of a mixed bag.

Football very nearly came home, Blur and Oasis often came to blows and Jarvis Cocker bared his bottom at the Brit Awards. House prices rocketed from £59,785 in 1990 to £101,550 by the turn of the Millennium.

Looking back, cars weren’t exactly cheap. The Daihatsu Charade GTti might have been the world’s most powerful 1.0-litre car, but you’d need £8,299 to secure a slice of three-pot turbocharged loveliness.

Today, the equivalent price will secure a Ford Fiesta ST. A year later, a Renault 19 16v – a forgotten gem from the 90s – would have cost £12,725. In today’s money, that’s not enough for a new Renaultsport Megane RS.

Check out the price of a Jaguar XJS 4.0 Convertible in 1992. At just shy of £40,000, it was about two-thirds of the average house price. Expensive? At £83,195 in today’s money, that’s around £15,000 more than a Jaguar F-Type First Edition Convertible.

In 1993, the Citroen ZX Volcane turbodiesel would cost less than £13,000 – not bad for what was arguably the world’s first diesel hot hatch. At £21,895, the Vauxhall-based Saab 900 SE Turbo Coupe looks expensive, as does the £15,499 Hyundai Sonata 2.0 CD.

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But that’s nothing compared to the launch price of the Porsche Boxster. At £33,950 it sounds good value, but inflation adjusted that results in a figure of £62,255. There are two things to consider here.

Firstly, the average house price in 1997 was £76,103. Secondly, you can buy an entry-level 718 Boxster in 2020 for around £46,500. You’ve never had it so good.

We’ll say goodbye to the 90s by referencing the Bristol Blenheim. The price in 1998 was an eyebrow-raising £119,000, which is around £37,000 more than the average house price. You pays your money, you takes your choice…

Year/Car/Price new (2020 adjusted)

1990: Daihatsu Charade GTti – £8,299 (£19,005)
1991:  Renault 19 16v – £12,725 (£27,525)
1992: Jaguar XJS 4.0 Convertible – £39,900 (£83,195)
1993: Citroen ZX Volcane TD – £12,630 – £12,995 (£25,922 – £26,671)
1994: Saab 900 SE Turbo Coupe – £21,895 (£43,879)
1995: Hyundai Sonata 2.0 CD – £15,499 (£30,020)
1996: Land Rover 90 County V8 – £14,468 (£26,363)
1997: Porsche Boxster – £33,950 (£62,255)
1998: Bristol Blenheim – £119,000 (£210,981)
1999: Lexus IS200 – £20,500 (£35,794)

Prices sourced from Car, Autocar, Autocar & Motor, Motor, What Car? Today’s prices sourced from the Bank of England’s inflation calculator and are based on 2019 figures.

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The hottest hatch: new 400hp Audi RS3 driven

2017 Audi RS3

Audi has turned the screws on BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The new RS3 outguns both the M2 and A45 AMG, with 400hp to the AMG’s 381hp and the M2’s paltry 370hp. Yet this battle is more than a race for headline numbers. Ultimately it’s about which is the best and most entertaining car to own. We’ve been to Oman to push the RS3 to its limits.

First, though, the all-important visual credentials. A wider track, subtly pumped-up front wheelarches and a redesigned ‘blade’ in the bumper show sporting intent. UK cars get titanium highlights, but sinister gloss black is an option. At the rear there’s an RS-specific roof spoiler, and a deep black diffuser between the waffley oval tailpipes. The exhaust sound is all-important.

Booting it

2017 Audi RS3

Two-part big news. First is that alongside the Sportback there’s an RS3 saloon for the first time. That’s aimed at bringing more US and Chinese buyers into the fold, but reckon on seeing a fair few on UK roads, too. It’s an added dimension, although surprisingly the seats-up luggage space is a touch smaller than you get in the Sportback.

The second major development is the engine, which has had a complete makeover. Still a charismatic 2.5-litre five-cylinder, the block is now aluminium alloy rather than iron graphite. That makes a large contribution to the 26kg weight saving, and helps make the RS3 more agile in the corners.

Sensational speed

2017 Audi RS3

Enough of the static detail. What’s the RS3 like to drive? Fabulous, fantastic, awe-inspiring – you think of the adjective. Four-hundred horsepower is a mighty amount of power in any car, but in a compact hatchback sensational speed is guaranteed. The RS3 reaches 62mph in 4.1 seconds and is limited to 155mph, although you can optionally remove the speed limiter to let the Audi reach its true maximum of 174mph. We’re not quite sure where you’d make use of that, but it brings excellent bragging rights.

There’s a very easy-to-use launch control, which gets the most out of the S Tronic double-clutch gearbox from a standing start. Impressive enough from the driver’s seat, passengers will involuntarily whoop at the shock of being shoved so violently back into the seat as the RS catapults towards the horizon. There’s no manual transmission option, but that’s not a problem. The seven-speed S Tronic is well matched to the car’s power characteristics, with the ability to fine-tune the changes, as well as the steering and suspension characteristics, via the central control screen.

Get the RS3 on the right road and there’s much entertainment to be had. The 2.5-litre single-turbo engine picks up instantly, and then the speed at which your progress changes is largely down to your right foot. It would be just greedy to ask for more power, such is your freedom to exploit pretty much all the 400hp on offer.

Fire up the Quattro

2017 Audi RS3

Much of the RS3’s prowess is down to Quattro four-wheel-drive, which has undergone further refinements since the pre-facelift RS3 was launched a couple of years back. Drive to the rear wheels is dependent on the demand and, although this varies continually, you are never aware of changes. The RS3 drives like a very good hot hatchback, and this nimbleness is to its advantage over the (previous) RS4 models, which have the edge in horsepower but not agility.

Options include front ceramic brakes that bring improved high-speed retardation. However, as you’ll probably only notice the difference on a racetrack, you should question the £6k additional cost. Magnetic Ride, though, is a well worth the balance it brings between low-speed ride and agility on faster sections.

And then there’s the sound. Audi had an easy job making the RS distinctive. Five cylinders, with a firing order of 1-2-4-5-3, is all you need to build a characterful soundtrack. With the exhaust set to Dynamic, the sound is simply sublime – standing roadside next to an RS3 driving by at full throttle will send tingles down your spine.

Cabin fever

2017 Audi RS3

You’ll want some special touches to move the RS3 apart from a regular A3 inside, and it’s there for the asking – as long as you are prepared to dig deep. There are some nice colour packs that add pizzazz to the dashboard and air vents. Audi’s marvellous Virtual Cockpit may well be a standard feature (Audi UK hadn’t made up its mind as we went to press), and it includes some RS-specific features – such as displays for torque, power output, and G forces.

Seating is critical when the cornering forces are so high. The test cars had the optional diamond quilted RS sports seats in Nappa leather, which give all the support you could wish for. Space in the rear is decent for the size of car: good for four adults, but obviously roomier than the BMW M2 (which is a two-door coupe, of course).

The ultimate hot hatch – or saloon

2017 Audi RS3

While it’s hard not to like the BMW M2, or the more aggressive attitude of the Mercedes A45 AMG, the RS3 is simply the better all-rounder. Easier to drive fast, and more pleasant when all you need is a regular hatchback (or saloon) that’s nice to live with. You make fewer compromises with the RS3, and to us that makes it a winner.

The Audi RS3 goes on sale later in 2017, with first UK deliveries expected at the tail end of the year. Prices will start at around £45,000, with the saloon a little more. Don’t plan on getting away with less than £50k, though. The options list is simply too tempting.

Ferrari 328 GTS

Ferrari 328 GTS review: Retro Road Test

Ferrari 328 GTSWe’ve covered a lot of bases in these reviews, from a £2,000 Skoda to a £200,000 Porsche. But we’ve never driven a classic Ferrari… until now. Welcome to the Retro Road Test Christmas special.

The prancing horse in question is a 328: the entry-point to Ferrari’s mid-1980s range, alongside the Mondial, Testarossa, 412 and – latterly – F40. Thirty years on, it remains one of the most beautiful ‘modern’ Ferraris – and potentially one of the most sensible, too.

This 1988 328 is a targa-topped GTS (Gran Turismo Spider), kindly loaned to us by GVE London. It’s for sale at GVE’s Uxbridge showroom, priced at £129,900.

What are its rivals?Honda NSX

If you were shopping for a new Ferrari 488 GTB, you might also look at the Aston Martin V12 Vantage, Audi R8, Lamborghini Huracan, Noble M600, McLaren 650S, Mercedes-AMG GT S or Porsche 911 Turbo S.

Back in 1988, supercar buyers weren’t so spoilt for choice. The 328 had just three rivals: the Lamborghini Jalpa, Lotus Esprit and Porsche 930 Turbo. Oh, and the De Tomaso Pantera, if you really must.

Perhaps the most obvious alternative today is the original Honda NSX. Launched in 1990, the NSX has an identical power output to the 328 and shares its mid-engined layout, wedgy profile and cockpit-style cabin. It’s a sharper drive than the Ferrari – and cheaper to buy, too. But it doesn’t offer the same investment potential.

Which engine does it use?Ferrari 328 GTS

Fire up this mid-mounted V8 and there are no theatrical throttle blips or showboating exhaust pops. Only when you approach its lofty 7,700rpm redline does this engine sound special. Well, needs must…

The 328 uses a 3.2-litre development of the 3.0 quattrovalvole (four valves per cylinder) V8 from the Ferrari 308. Maximum power is 274hp at 7,000rpm, while peak torque is 224lb ft at 5,500rpm. In a car weighing a modest 1,325kg, that’s good for 0-60mph in 5.5 seconds and a top speed of circa. 160mph.

What’s it like to drive?Ferrari 328 GTS

Ferrari’s open-gate manual gearbox looks timelessly cool, but boy it needs some muscle – especially when cold. I’m advised to short-shift from first to third until the oil is warmed-up. However, I immediately fail by forgetting first gear is on a dog-leg: down and left, where reverse might usually be. Forget your click-click flappy paddles, this car demands deliberate, decisive inputs.

The same goes for the unassisted steering, which is heavy at low speeds, and the engine, which demands to be kept on the boil. The brakes are far better than most cars of this era, though, despite the pedals being ridiculously skewed towards the centre of the car.

On damp, December tarmac, I won’t pretend I pushed the 328 anywhere near its limits. But I did escape the London suburbs and find some quiet lanes, stowing the targa top behind the seats (a two-minute job, incidentally) and relishing the rasp of the V8 as it bounced off the hedgerows.

It took a while, but here the Ferrari and I had a meeting of minds. Its gorgeous Momo steering wheel danced in my hands as we dived through a series of bends, poised and precise. If offers no electronic safety nets, and thus no excuses. Driving a 328 is physical, cerebral and utterly analogue – and all the better for it.

Reliability and running costsFerrari 328 GTS

The 328 is considered one of the most reliable classic Ferraris. An evolution of the 308, launched in 1975, it’s a relatively simple car, free from electronic wizardry. Bosch K-Jetronic mechanical fuel injection was the order of the day here.

Unlike many Ferraris, a 328 can be serviced without removing the engine. This keeps servicing costs down: GVE estimates around £750 for a new cambelt, plus oil and filter change. Taking into account wear-and-tear parts, such as tyres and brake pads, budget around £2,500 a year in total.

Fuel economy is quoted as 22.5mpg at a constant 56mph – and probably low teens if you give the car a workout. Still, look after your 328 and it should be an appreciating asset. With luck, that rise in value could outweigh the running costs altogether.

Could I drive it every day?Ferrari 328 GTS

In theory, yes. Amazingly, the 328 is shorter and narrower than a current Ford Focus, so it’s compact enough to feel nimble in the city. That’s not something you could say about the wide-boy Testarossa, or indeed the majority of 21st century supercars.

Ride quality is better than modern machines, too – thank absorbent 55-profile tyres – and the 328 has enough luxuries (air-con, electric windows, um… a cassette player) to be comfortable on longer journeys. It feels like a sports car built for the road, rather than the racetrack.

The big question, of course, is should you drive it every day? There, the answer is probably ‘no’. The rising value of 328s dictates that most owners want to keep wear and mileage to a minimum. And on that note…

How much should I pay?Ferrari 328 GTS

The 308 GTS was built in large numbers for a Ferrari. In total, 6,068 left Maranello, versus 1,344 for the hard-top GTB.

Prices vary widely depending on mileage and condition. The cheapest UK-based GTS at the time of writing was a left-hand-drive car with 60,000 miles for £59,995. At the other end of the scale, a GTS with a scant 275 miles on the clock was advertised at £169,990.

GVE’s car falls somewhere in the middle. It’s covered a modest 13,000 miles from new – the equivalent of less than 500 miles a year – and is offered at £129,900.

What should I look out for?David Rai

We asked GVE owner David Rai (pictured) and the company’s leading Ferrari expert, Guy Tedder, what to look for when buying a Ferrari 328. These are their top five tips:

  • As with all Ferraris, service history is of paramount importance. Originality is vital with older cars, too.
  • Don’t be scared off by service stamps from a specialist; they can be a better bet than Ferrari main dealers, who don’t necessarily know much about the classic models.
  • All 328s had a galvanised body, so rust problems aren’t a big issue. However, check the bottoms of the doors and the back of the rear wheelarches for possible corrosion.
  • Windows can become slow and shuddery through lack of use. This can be rectified by lubricating the moving parts inside the door.
  • Always check that the air conditioning works efficiently. It wasn’t the most well-designed system in the world, and most cars have been converted to new gas by now.

Should I buy one?Ferrari 328 GTS

The Pininfarina-penned 328 is an object of beauty. I had one on my bedroom wall as a child and, unlike yours truly, it has only grown lovelier with age.

It isn’t particularly quick by 2016 standards (a Ford Focus RS would leave it for dust), but that hardly matters. The Ferrari offers a driving experience that’s immersive, invigorating and intoxicating. It’s a car you’ll want to learn more about: to discover its abilities by developing your own. It isn’t perfect, but the quirks are all part of its character.

For the price of this particular 328 GTS, you could buy a new Porsche 911 Turbo, a car that is, objectively, better in every way. But that is missing the point. The Ferrari is a car to be enjoyed on sunny Sunday mornings and special occasions. And it’s a savvy investment, too.

So, our Retro Road Test Christmas special didn’t disappoint. Let’s just hope Santa is paying attention…

Pub factFerrari 328 GTS

Ferrari built 542 UK right-hand-drive examples of the 328 GTS between 1986 and 1989. Of these, 292 had anti-lock (ABS) brakes.

According to Guy Tedder, ABS, models are slightly less desirable due to revised suspension geometry that made the car feel less responsive. ABS cars – like the one seen here – are easily identified by their convex alloy wheels. Non-ABS cars have concave alloys.

The 10 most popular classic cars – and what they’re worth

The 10 most popular classic cars – and what they’re worth

The 10 most popular classic cars – and what they’re worthThe classic car market is celebrating a buoyant end to the year, that’s according to data released by insurance firm Hagerty. Using data from the cars that generate the most enquiries, we present the 10 cars in reverse order. If you sold a Peugeot 205 GTI or Audi Quattro at the beginning of the year, you might want to look away now.

10. Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC: 21.4% increase

2016 value: £10,200

2015 value: £8,400

The 5.0-litre 450SLC was built to allow Mercedes-Benz to go racing in the 1978 World Rally Championship. Of all the cars featured on the Hagerty list, we think this one offers the best value for money. Just over £10,000 to secure what is undoubtedly far more interesting than anything offered by Mercedes-Benz today.

9. Citroen SM: 26.5% increaseThe 10 most popular classic cars – and what they’re worth

2016 value: £34,125

2015 value: £26,975

Speaking of things far more interesting… Values of the Citroen SM continue to head north, as the market wakes up to the fact that this was one of the coolest creations of the 1970s. Part Citroen, part Maserati, the SM was a victim of circumstances beyond its control.

8. Ford Capri 2.8i: 28.0% increaseThe 10 most popular classic cars – and what they’re worth

2016 value: £13,950

2015 value: £10,900

We remember a time when you couldn’t give a Ford Capri away. Today, even the lowly four-cylinder cars command a sizeable premium, but six-cylinder Capris attract the most interest. In March 2016, a Ford Capri 280 ‘Brooklands’ sold at auction for £54,000…

7. Porsche 944 Turbo: 31.0% increaseThe 10 most popular classic cars – and what they’re worth

2016 value: £21,875

2015 value: £16,700

As 911 values continue to spiral out of control, it’s logical that some magic dust would be sprinkled over other Porsche models. Not too long ago, you could secure a 944 for a nominal amount. Today, the 944 Turbo has broken the £20,000 mark.

6. Jensen Interceptor III: 36.9% increaseThe 10 most popular classic cars – and what they’re worth

2016 value: £51,250

2015 value: £37,425

Meanwhile, this Anglo-Italian grand tourer has enjoyed a remarkable 2016, with values shooting up from £37,425 to £51,250. That’s an increase of 36.9%.

5. Porsche 928 GTS: 67.6% increaseThe 10 most popular classic cars – and what they’re worth

2016 value: £33,850

2015 value: £20,200

Hagerty says: “Front engine Porsches have been rising rapidly across the board for the last 18 months. The 928 is just starting to be considered for the superb sports that it is – a huge commitment by Porsche to their support and restoration has helped this.”

4. BMW 3.0 CSL: 70.8% increaseThe 10 most popular classic cars – and what they’re worth

2016 value: £83,800

2015 value: £49,050

Wow. Just wow. A year ago we were reporting a 1.1% increase in values, but a further 70.8% increase has seen the 3.0 CSL break through the £80,000 mark and on its way to six figures.

3. Aston Martin Lagonda S1: 71.6% increaseThe 10 most popular classic cars – and what they’re worth

2016 value: £62,725

2015 value: £36,550

Not to be confused with the wedge-tastic Lagonda S2, the Aston Martin Lagonda S1 was a four-door version of the Aston Martin V8 (pictured). Only seven were ever built, so we’re surprised to discover that Hagerty receives so many enquiries about this limited-run car.

2. Peugeot 205 GTi 1.6: 84.8% increaseThe 10 most popular classic cars – and what they’re worth

2016 value: £11,275

2015 value: £6,100

Hagerty says: “Over the summer of 2016, Peugeot 205 GTIs rocketed in value, with exceptional examples achieving over £30,000. The difference between fair and concours examples is huge.”

1. Audi Quattro RR: 151.2% increaseThe 10 most popular classic cars – and what they’re worth

2016 value: £47,925

2015 value: £19,075

Congratulations if you bought an Audi Quattro at the start of the year. Values of the desirable 20v RR model have skyrocketed over the past 12 months, up a massive 151.2%. Fire up the appreciator…

Ford Focus ST-Line: Two-Minute Road Test

Ford Focus ST-Line (2016) road test review

Ford Focus ST-Line: Two-Minute Road TestWant bigger biceps without paying for gym membership? Ford has the car for you. Its new ST-Line models offer pumped-up looks without high fuel and insurance bills. More mouth and less trouser, if you will.

ST-Line is available on the Fiesta, Focus, Mondeo and Kuga and replaces the old Zetec S trim level. As well as racier styling inside and out, you get bespoke alloy wheels and 10mm lower suspension. We tried the Focus 1.5 TDCi diesel in suitably sporty Race Red. Has any of that fast Ford magic rubbed off on this otherwise humble hatch?

Prices and dealsFord Focus ST-Line: Two-Minute Road Test

The current Mk3 Ford Focus has been around since 2011, albeit with a facelift in 2014. As one of Britain’s best-sellers and a perennial fleet favourite, it’s not a car you should pay anything close to full price for. Discounts of 25% or more aren’t uncommon if you shop around – and that includes ST-Line versions.

At the time of writing, ‘reverse auction’ website AutoeBid was offering the Focus 1.5 TDCi ST-Line hatchback – similar to the car in our photos – for £15,229. That’s more than 28% below the list price of £21,295.

What are its rivals?Ford Focus ST-Line: Two-Minute Road Test

The Focus competes in the heartland of what car-industry types call the ‘C-segment’. As such, its rivals include some very familiar names: the Volkswagen Golf, Peugeot 308, Vauxhall Astra and Mazda 3 to list but a few.

Like the Focus, and the Peugeot pictured, many competitors also come as estate cars. Most also offer a ‘semi-sporting’ trim level to rival ST-Line. Peugeot has its GT Line models, for example.

What engine does it use?Ford Focus ST-Line: Two-Minute Road Test

You can buy an ST-Line Focus with one of five different engines. The petrol line-up starts with the hugely popular 125hp 1.0-litre Ecoboost, then the 1.5 Ecoboost in 150hp or 182hp outputs. If you prefer diesel, there’s the 120hp 1.5 TDCi tested here, plus a 150hp 2.0 TDCi.

The most powerful petrol and diesel engines are only available with a manual gearbox – all others can be specified with an auto.

How fast?Ford Focus ST-Line: Two-Minute Road Test

It might boast deeper bumpers and a sizeable rear spoiler, but a 120hp diesel engine doth not a hot hatch make. The 1.5 TDCi hits 62mph in 10.5 seconds and has a top speed of 120mph. Compare that to 8.1 seconds and 135mph for the ‘proper’ ST diesel – or 6.5 seconds and 154mph for the ST petrol.

Nonetheless, ‘our’ Focus doesn’t feel slow. With maximum torque from 1,750rpm, there’s enough mid-range muscle for brisk overtaking. Its smooth, but not particularly quiet.

Is it comfortable?Ford Focus ST-Line: Two-Minute Road Test

ST-Line cars sit 10mm closer to the ground on slightly stiffer suspension. Without driving one back-to-back with a regular Focus, we struggled to tell the difference. Suffice to say, the ST-Line still offers a good compromise between responsiveness and refinement.

Inside, sports seats look the part, but won’t hug your hips like a pair of ST-spec Recaros. Look closely and you’ll also spot an ST gearknob, aluminium-faced pedals and a smattering of red go-faster stripes. Fancy.

Will I enjoy driving it?Ford Focus ST-Line: Two-Minute Road Test

The Focus has always been a family car for people who actually like driving. And while the latest model isn’t a dynamic benchmark like the 1998 original, it’s still an engaging and entertaining steer. Proof you don’t need a hot hatch to have fun, in other words.

Drop the kids off, find a quiet B-road and take time to appreciate the Ford’s taut chassis, direct steering and confidence-inspiring brakes. It feels poised and precise – without sacrificing long-distance comfort.

Fuel economy and running costsFord Focus ST-Line: Two-Minute Road Test

Here’s the good bit. Behind all that Race Red, ST-branded attitude is an engine that emits a tax-free 99g/km of CO2, plus official fuel economy of 74.3mpg. Interestingly, the figures for the estate version are exactly the same, although you’ll pay an £1,100 premium for the bigger boot.

It’s worth remembering that ST-Line trim costs £1,250 more than the default Focus Zetec, however. That’s the price of style.

What’s the interior like?Ford Focus ST-Line: Two-Minute Road Test

Those ST-Line additions give the Ford’s interior a useful lift, but there’s no escaping the slightly cheap plastics and fussy design. The general ambiance is no better than an equivalent Hyundai or Kia – and some way behind the rival Volkswagen Golf.

You won’t have any problems getting comfortable, though. The driving position offers a wide range of adjustment and all controls are within easy reach. The chunky, three-spoke steering wheel gets a thumbs-up from us, too.

Is it practical?Ford Focus ST-Line: Two-Minute Road Test

Unlike previous models, the Mk3 Focus hatchback only comes with five doors, so access to the rear seats isn’t an issue. There’s ample room for children (with standard Isofix mountings for child car seats), but taller adults may lament the lack of legroom.

The Focus hatch certainly isn’t as practical a crossover, such as the Nissan Qashqai. Boot space is 316 litres, or 1,215 litres with the rear seats folded. Compare that to 370/1,210 litres in the Astra and 380/1,270 litres in the Golf. Opt for the Focus Estate, however, and capacity swells to 476/1,502 litres.

Tell me about the techFord Focus ST-Line: Two-Minute Road Test

Before its mid-life facelift, the Focus dashboard was a veritable button-fest, not unlike an old mobile phone. Now there’s a neat colour touchscreen, which is located high on the dashboard, easily within the driver’s line of sight. It’s straightforward to use, with bold, bright graphics and intuitive sub-menus.

It’s certainly worth paying £300 for Ford’s Sync2 navigation system. We’d also fork out £225 for rear parking sensors, although the £250 rear-view camera seems like overkill. Bluetooth phone connectivity is standard across the Focus range.

What about safety?Ford Focus ST-Line: Two-Minute Road Test

The Focus scored a full five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests. Standard safety equipment includes six airbags and electronic stability control.

We think Active City Stop (an automatic emergency braking system) is well worth an extra £200. Alternatively, you could simply upgrade to the £550 Driver Assistance Pack, which includes Active City Stop, plus lane-assist, automatic headlights and wipers, traffic-sign recognition and a driver alertness monitor.

Which version should I go for?Ford Focus ST-Line: Two-Minute Road Test

What we’re really asking here is ‘Should I go for ST-Line?’. And, without wanting to sit on the proverbial fence, the answer really depends on your priorities. For the same money (starting from £20,595), you could have a Focus in Titanium-spec, which comes with front foglights, Active City Stop, rear parking sensors and automatic lights/wipers – all extra-cost options on the ST-Line. However, you’d do without the sporty bodykit and lower suspension.

Then again, the Focus Zetec offers all the features you really need for around £1,700 less. You pays your money…

What’s the used alternative?Ford Focus ST-Line: Two-Minute Road Test

The obvious used equivalent to a new Focus ST-Line is the outgoing Focus Zetec S. This model has been around since late 2011, so there are cars in the classifieds to suit most budgets. The Zetec S came with a bodykit, 17-inch alloy wheels and suspension that was 28% stiffer than the standard car. Some also had part-leather seats.

Us? We’d be tempted to put any money saved upfront towards the (hefty) fuel bills for a full-fat Focus ST.

Should I buy one?Ford Focus ST-Line: Two-Minute Road Test

Everybody loves a fast Ford. And while the Focus ST-Line isn’t technically, um, fast, it looks the part. For many, that will be reason enough to buy one.

Importantly, ST-Line trim doesn’t detract from the Focus’s traditional strengths: agile handling, decent comfort and practicality, and an attractive price-tag (especially after discount). If you’re in the market for a C-segment car, it should definitely be on your shortlist.

Pub factFord Focus ST-Line: Two-Minute Road Test

Ford first used its iconic RS badge in 1968, but the ST name didn’t appear until 1997. The Mondeo ST24 (pictured) had a 170hp 2.5-litre V6 and a bulbous bodykit. It lasted for just two years, before being replaced by the 200hp Mondeo ST200 in 1999.

ST versions of the Fiesta and Focus followed soon after, with the high-point of the saga being the latest Fiesta ST: one of the greatest hot hatches ever made.

2017 Audi TT RS

2017 Audi TT RS review: flat-out in the junior R8

2017 Audi TT RSLet’s start with a stat: the new Audi TT RS hits 62mph from standstill in 3.7 seconds. That’s quicker than a Ferrari F40, Porsche 959 or Jaguar XJ220. Indeed, the RS can show a clean pair of Michelins to most supercars built before the millennium. It’s also just 0.2 seconds slower than Audi’s flagship R8.

A bona fide baby R8?2017 Audi TT RS

The formula for such savage speed is simple: more power, less weight and, of course, Quattro four-wheel drive. But faster doesn’t always equal more fun, especially when it comes to hot Audis. Is the TT RS a bona fide baby R8, or just a seriously hot hatch? We drove it on-track, then on challenging mountain roads, to find out.

Pricier than Porsche2017 Audi TT RS

You can order a TT RS from late September, with first deliveries due in November. List price for the Coupe is £51,800, while the Roadster is £53,350. That’s pricier than an equivalent Porsche Cayman S or Boxster S, but still less than half as much as big-brother R8. However, this being an Audi, you’ll probably want to set aside at least £5k for extra-cost options.

Power to the people2017 Audi TT RS

In terms of performance-per-pound, though, the TT looks solid value. Its 2.5-litre, five-cylinder engine pumps out 400hp and 354lb ft of torque: more than even the hottest hatchbacks the 350hp Ford Focus RS, 381hp Mercedes-AMG A45 and Audi’s own 367hp RS3 included. It also outguns the aforementioned Boxster/Cayman (350hp) and the outgoing TT RS (360hp).

Rollercoaster racetrack2017 Audi TT RS

We start our test-drive at Jarama, a fabulous rollercoaster of a racetrack just outside Madrid. Used for Formula One until 1981, it offers a stomach-churning blend of blind apexes, off-camber corners and (gulp) short run-offs. It’s the perfect place to put the TT RS through its paces.

Ready for launch2017 Audi TT RS

First, though, we line up to try the Launch Control the easiest way to achieve that headline 3.7sec sprint to 62mph. And it really couldn’t be easier: floor the right pedal, left foot off the brake and wham! the RS rockets down the main straight. It clouts you in the back and strains your neck muscles; the sheer ferocity of its acceleration is startling. God only knows what these full-bore starts do to the clutch.

Straight-line speed2017 Audi TT RS

Still, there’s more to life than straight-line speed. And if the TT RS is truly the pint-size R8 we’re hoping for, it needs to be just as fleet-footed in the corners. Good thing we’re on a racetrack, then.

Keeping it wheel2017 Audi TT RS

One immediate similarity with the R8 is the new steering wheel. Compact, flat-bottomed and Alcantara-wrapped, it adds an authentic motorsport feel particularly with the new ‘satellite’ buttons for engine start/stop and switching drive modes. Shame you can’t have a manual gearbox as well; the RS comes with a seven-speed S tronic semi-automatic only.

Get a grip2017 Audi TT RS

Heading into turn one a hairpin right-hander the Audi’s steering feels light and responsive. There’s barely any body-roll as the front tyres bite and Quattro four-wheel traction catapults us towards the next corner. Scything effortlessly through a tightening corkscrew, then a flat-out, uphill left-hander, the RS feels utterly planted. It simply grips and goes.

Shift into neutral2017 Audi TT RS

As our confidence grows, we push harder, but the TT RS stubbornly refuses to be provoked. Even as grip turns to slip, it remains remarkably neutral. The juddering understeer of Audis past is just that: a thing of the past.

Scorched tyres, baked brakes2017 Audi TT RS

We return to the pitlane with the smell of scorched rubber seeping through the air vents and smoke pouring off the (optional) ceramic front brake discs. Clearly, the TT RS is an easy car to drive very fast. But it’s almost too capable on-track, lacking the poise and throttle-adjustability of a good rear-driver. Perhaps it will be more rewarding on the road.

Going topless2017 Audi TT RS

We swap into a Roadster for a drive into the Iberian countryside. The drop-top is 0.2sec slower to 62mph than the Coupe, but the chance to soak up some Spanish sun seems ample compensation. Besides, the TT RS looks even better with no roof. Hawkish headlights and a gaping grille with ‘Quattro’ lettering provide plenty of rear-view-mirror presence, while twin tailpipes and a fixed rear wing beef up the back end.

Cabin fever2017 Audi TT RS

The TT’s exterior is simply an amuse bouche before the main course of its cabin, however. Stylish, ergonomically excellent and beautifully built, it’s one of the finest interiors of any car on sale. The centrepiece is Audi’s digital ‘Virtual Cockpit’, which takes the place of traditional dials behind the steering wheel. Standard-fit on the TT, the RS has an additional screen with a central rev counter and readouts for torque, tyre pressures, G-forces and other such geekery.

Cramped in the back2017 Audi TT RS

You also get Audi’s excellent MMI Navigation system, subtle LED interior lighting and gorgeous quilted leather sports seats. Not that these offer much comfort if you’re seated in the rear. If you thought a Porsche 911 felt cramped, this is the next level of back-bending, neck-cricking claustrophobia. Our advice: consider the back seats a useful extension of the boot.

Playing the long game2017 Audi TT RS

Talking practicality, we should also mention fuel economy: a claimed 34.4 mpg for the Coupe, with CO2 emissions of 187g/km (Roadster: 34.0mpg and 189g/km). Hardly ground-breaking figures, but at least strong residual values – 43% of list price retained after three years/60,000 miles, according to CAP – keep overall running costs down.

Filth and the fury2017 Audi TT RS

We press the red start button and the TT’s five-cylinder engine – an Audi RS trademark dating back to the original 1994 RS2 – erupts into life. Its pulsating growl, which swells into a hard-edged snarl as the revs rise, is amplified by the lack of a roof. With the exhaust in sport mode, it sounds downright filthy.

Jolts and jitters2017 Audi TT RS

Leaving Jarama, the TS RS jolts over speed humps and jitters across broken Tarmac. The optional 20-inch wheels on our test car doubtless don’t help (19s are standard), but there’s no escaping that firm, borderline-uncomfortable ride.

Explosive performance2017 Audi TT RS

The pay-off comes as we head into the hills, switching Drive Select to Dynamic and changing gear manually using the paddles behind the wheel. On sinuous switchbacks that snake through rock-strewn valleys, the uber-TT feels in its element. Magnetic Ride adaptive dampers (another option, naturally) hunker it down deliciously, before another huge slug of turbocharged torque blasts us between the bends. It’s deft and controlled, yet utterly explosive.

Redeemed on the road2017 Audi TT RS

Phew. With exhausts ticking furiously in the heat, we park the TT RS back at Jarama and reluctantly return the keys. After a slightly underwhelming session on-track, the Audi has redeemed itself on the road. Where some RS-badged Audis – latest RS3 included – feel aloof, the TT RS comes alive. It’s a car you’ll genuinely enjoy driving, over and over again.

Porsche is our pick2017 Audi TT RS

However, there is a hulking Porsche-shaped elephant in the room, and its name is 718 Boxster/Cayman. We spent a week with a Cayman S shortly before the TT launch and there’s no question which German sports car we’d spend our (sadly, theoretical) £50k on. Despite reservations about its new, four-cylinder engine, the Porsche is a simpler, purer sports car – and all the better for that.

A kind of magic2017 Audi TT RS

Not convinced? We can agree to disagree. After all, the Audi is quicker, more powerful, better looking, nicer to sit in and will be more exclusive. It even has rear seats… sort of. But in those rare moments when the traffic clears, your focus sharpens and the road becomes a ribbon to be reeled-in, the Audi is merely memorable. The Porsche? It’s magic.

Mercedes-AMG A45

Mercedes-AMG A45 (2016) road test review

Mercedes-AMG A45

 

The hot hatch arms-race shows no sign of letting up, so – as part of a mid-life makeover – Mercedes-AMG has tinkered with the 4WD performance A-Class to make it truly weapons-grade.

The original A45 could hardly be accused of lacking focus or performance, but this ‘entry-level’ AMG product now cements its place as the most powerful compact hatchback on sale, with 376hp.

However, being top dog comes at a cost, literally, in the form of a big price tag. At £40,000, expectations are set high.

What are its rivals?

Mercedes-AMG A 45 rivals

With the Audi RS3 currently off the market while it undergoes a facelift, the closest rivals to the AMG A45 cost almost £10,000 less.

The £31,000 Volkswagen Golf R is proving popular, through a combination of pace and pricing. It too packs a 4WD system, but can’t match the rabid pace of the A45. Ford’s Focus RS is impossible to ignore, but badge snobbery may put some people off – despite a bargain cost of £29,995.

Honda’s front-wheel-drive Civic Type R also cuts under the £30,000 mark, but might not be the best investment for those who want to don’t want to attract attention. And the rear-wheel-drive BMW M140i has a six-cylinder engine and premium badge, if not quite the same pace as the Mercedes. It starts at nearly £32,000.

Which engine does it use?

Mercedes-AMG A45

Proving that this isn’t just a hotted-up A-Class, but a genuine AMG product, the A45 features a hand-built 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine. The ‘one man, one engine’ philosophy means each unit comes with a signed plaque on the engine cover, letting you know who put it together.

With 376hp and 350lb ft of torque, this is a serious motor. The 0-62mph sprint takes a scant 4.2 seconds, and top speed is limited to 155mph. A 4Matic AWD system has the job of channelling all that power to the wheels through a seven-speed, dual-clutch ‘AMG Speedshift’ gearbox, with steering-wheel-mounted paddles.

What’s it like to drive?

Mercedes-AMG A45

Fast. Very fast. In fact, almost incomprehensibly fast the first time you give it full throttle in Sport or Sport+ mode. There’s some minor turbo lag, but then the A45 unleashes everything in a way that’ll have you clinging to the AMG GT supercar steering wheel. It pulls all the way through the rev range, and feels every bit as rapid as the stats say it is. Such is the brutal ferocity of the way the A45 accelerates, you’ll be left in no doubt this isn’t just a normal hot hatch.

Gearshifts are rapid, whether the transmission is left in automatic or by using the manual paddles. Upshifts feature a pleasing crackle from the sports exhaust, while downshifts get a cheeky blip of the throttle, too. The noise made by the A45 is addictive, but can be muted by selecting Comfort mode.

The ride is firm, but not uncomfortably harsh, and improves as the speed rises. There’s a feeling of infinite grip, matched with impressive traction from the AWD system. And while the steering lacks feel, it does at least weight-up accurately. Braking is as impressive, as you would imagine from a set-up that features big calipers and drilled discs.

Fuel economy and running costs

Mercedes-AMG A45

Despite having the performance of a 1990’s supercar, the A45 doesn’t have the matching thirst. Official combined fuel economy is rated as 40.9mpg, with CO2 emissions of 162g/km for cars wearing 18-inch wheels.

In the real world, that translates to around 30mpg when cruising, but will drop further when you’re making use of all 376hp. There’s only so much a standard stop-start system can do.

Band G road tax (VED) means £185 a year, although be careful if you specify 19-inch wheels, as this pushes the A45 into the £220 Band H due to increased CO2 emissions.

Is it practical?

Mercedes-AMG A45

Being based on a regular C-segment family hatchback means the AMG A45 benefits from the same five doors and usable boot as the normal A-Class. It’s perfectly capable of being used every day, especially with AMG mode in the Comfort setting.

There’s 341 litres of luggage space in the boot, increased to 1,157 litres with the rear seats folded down. Rear-seat space is adequate, although passengers may feel slightly claustrophobic on account of the high-backed bucket seats in the front and the A45’s shallow window line. They might also complain if you unleash the full potential of the AMG engine without warning…

What about safety?

Mercedes-AMG A45

Beneath all the wings and spoilers, this is still a Mercedes, so safety hasn’t been forgotten in the quest for speed.

The basic A-Class gained the full five stars in Euro NCAP tests, so it’s already starting from the best possible place. Add in a three-stage ESP system, collision prevention warning, brake assist and fatigue awareness, and the A45 racks up many points in the safety stakes.

Also, as a Mercedes-AMG buyer, you’ll have the chance to attend the AMG Driving Academy, giving you one-to-one tuition in how best to handle your new car.

Which version should I go for?

Mercedes-AMG A45

There’s only one version, so it’s a question of how far into the options list you want to go.

As standard there’s cruise control, dual-zone climate control, DAB radio, LED headlights and taillights, auto-dimming mirrors, even illuminated AMG-branded door sills. You’ll also find a standard 8-inch media display, with satellite navigation, which looks like an iPad but isn’t. You’ll undoubtedly learn this after several stabs at it, literally, until realising you need to use the rotary controller instead. Don’t forget the high-back bucket seats, which will make you feel like you’re in a BTCC racer, and do very much fit the price tag.

The sports exhaust adds £510, while that huge rear spoiler costs an eye-watering £1,530. We would avoid the carbon fibre wing mirror covers, as they add on £1,230! There is a genuine risk of specifying a hatchback that costs the best part of £50,000 here.

Should I buy one?

Mercedes-AMG A45

The Mercedes-AMG A45 is a staggering car to drive, with explosive performance and extraordinary levels of grip and traction. Driving cross-country, it could easily surprise and embarrass supercars costing several times more.

Cost is perhaps the biggest barrier as, on a purely objective level, a Focus RS or Golf R can do 90% of what the A45 offers for £10,000 less. But for some there will be the overriding allure of owning a genuine AMG product, even if it doesn’t feature a high-capacity V8 engine.

So, if you can afford it and want the ultimate performance hatchback, the AMG A45 is certainly one to consider.

Pub fact

Mercedes-Benz and Mika Hakkinen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The A45 isn’t the first quick A-Class. Back in 1998, AMG decided the best way to make the original elk-worrying A-Class quicker was by adding a second engine. By slotting one 1.9-litre engine under the bonnet, and another one in the boot, the 250hp 4WD A38 was born. McLaren-Mercedes F1 driver Mika Häkkinen seemed suitably thrilled by the idea, it appears.

Audi A5

2016 Audi A5 and S5 review: Vorsprung durch design

Depending on who you talk to, A5 is either a small piece of paper, a busy dual carriageway between west London and Wales or an attractive four-seat coupe based on the Audi A4. With more than a million sold since 2007, we’d wager most people would think of the latter.

The new 2016 A5 has sharper styling and Audi promises improved driving dynamics. But we’ll get to the subjective stuff shortly. Let’s start with some facts.

The A5 coupe is available to order from late summer and arrives in showrooms in November. The five-door Sportback version follows in January 2017, then the A5 Cabriolet several months after that. Prices weren’t confirmed at the time of writing, but are said to be ‘on par’ with the outgoing car. That means from around £32,000 for the coupe and Sportback, and £44,000 for the sporty S5.

Six engines are offered at launch. The petrol line-up kicks off with the 190hp 2.0-litre TFSI, then 252hp 2.0 TFSI and 354hp 3.0 S5. If you prefer diesel, there’s a 190hp 2.0 TDI, plus a 3.0 TDI in 218hp and 286hp outputs.

Buyers can pick from six-speed manual or seven-speed S tronic semi-auto transmissions, with an eight-speed auto standard on the 3.0 TDI and S5. In trad-Audi style, there’s also a choice of front- or four-wheel drive.

Keeping up? Just wait until you’re faced with the lengthy options list….

More muscular in the metal

How the A5 looks is vitally important; it’s the main reason for choosing one over the cheaper and more practical A4 saloon.

Audi has been criticised for its ‘same-again’ styling, but when your template is as handsome as the old A5 designer Walter de Silva called it his ‘masterpiece’ that’s no bad thing.

The 2016 car appears similar in pictures, but see it in the metal, as we did at the international launch in Portugal, and the differences really stand out. Most obvious is the bulging bonnet, with a pronounced ‘power dome’ that hints at a potent engine below. The S5 delivers on that promise, the 2.0 diesel… less so.  

The jutting front grille is wider and lower, too, while hawkish headlights share their LED signature with the TT. Top-spec S line versions have full LED headlights as standard.

Bolder bodywork creases and aluminium accents aft of the front wheels are the main changes at the sides. Audi geeks will also spot the mirrors, which have moved from the windscreen pillars to the doors. The trademark chunky C-pillar remains: a nod to the original and much-loved ur-Quattro of 1980.

The rear of the car is less distinctive, perhaps a bit dull, although the S5 gains a small lip spoiler and racing-inspired diffuser. We can’t fault the aerodynamics, though. A drag coefficient of 0.25 makes the A5 the slipperiest car in its class.

Any other interior is inferior

Before we drive the new A5, it’s worth dwelling on its interior. We were bowled over by the latest A4’s cabin, and the A5 shares all the same hardware.

Everything you see reeks of obsessive attention to detail. From the touch-sensitive heater controls to the reassuring ‘clunk’ of the paddle shifters, you feel it with your fingers, too. Only the Mercedes-Benz C-class comes close for perceived quality; BMW and Jaguar are miles away.

Audi’s fabulous-looking Virtual Cockpit, which swaps traditional dials for a customisable 12.3in TFT screen, is available in the A5 for the first time albeit as an extra-cost option (likely to be £450). Its chief benefit is that you can display the navigation map behind the steering wheel, leaving the central 8.3in screen free for entertainment functions. In the S5, you can also select a Lexus LFA-style digital rev counter: not useful, but very cool.

The MMI media system gains a touchpad on top of the rotary ‘clickwheel’ controller, which responds to smartphone-style swipe and pinch gestures. However, it’s tricky to operate on the move and feels like overkill on a system that’s already very intuitive to use.

Opt for Audi Connect (price: TBC) and you get in-car internet with a flat-fee for data usage, wherever you drive in Europe, during the first three years. It also transforms your car into a mobile wi-fi hotspot, which should please the kids on long journeys.

Gracious and (quite) spacious

Coupes inevitably sacrifice space for style, but the A5 is pretty practical for a car of its type. Boot capacity of 465 litres (up 10 litres) is much better than the 305 litres you can squeeze into an Audi TT, plus it trumps the rival BMW 4 Series (370 litres) and Mercedes C-class coupe (400 litres). You can also fold the rear seats for longer loads.

Audi says a stretched wheelbase has liberated more space for people, although the A5 remains a strict four-seater. There’s ample room in the front, with a wide range of adjustment for the driving position. Anyone up to 5ft 10in can get comfortable in the back – once they’ve squeezed in. If you regularly carry more than one passenger, the forthcoming five-door Sportback is a no-brainer.

Dieselgate or diesel great?

We start our test-drive in the 190hp 2.0 diesel, a car that’s likely to account for the majority of A5 sales.

Only a few months ago, diesel was front-page news. But while the ‘dieselgate’ scandal has tarnished Volkswagen’s reputation, sister-brand Audi has escaped almost unscathed.  

It certainly isn’t hard to see the appeal of the 2.0 TDI on paper. It hits 62mph in a brisk 7.7 seconds, yet delivers official fuel economy of 68.9mpg  impressive stats for a premium coupe. CO2 emissions of 114g/km equate to free car tax (VED) in the first year and just £30 thereafter.

On the road, the entry-level diesel is remarkably quiet. There’s enough mid-range punch for overtaking and the S tronic gearbox shifts smoothly (Audi didn’t supply any manual cars at the launch).

Many A5s will spend much of their lives clocking up motorway miles, a job the 2.0 diesel handles with aplomb. Where it falls down, however, is when the tarmac gets twisty. Anyone expecting a sporty coupe will be disappointed; the A5 is well-balanced and confidence-inspiring, with feelsome steering that’s a vast improvement on the outgoing car. But ultimately it feels like a two-door A4, rather than a plus-sized TT.

Let’s hope the hot S5 is a little more engaging…

All aboard the S-express

With a 354 horses to its name, the S5 is altogether more serious: a car to tame Germany’s Autobahns, and – hopefully – some Portuguese B-roads into the bargain.

One in four A5s sold last year was either an S5 or RS5 (the new RS5 arrives in 2017), so this is more than just a loss-leading halo model. And Audi is keen to stress its credentials as a ‘proper’ performance car, citing its lightweight new V6, Quattro four-wheel drive and specially tuned sports suspension.  

The first thing you notice is the torque – maximum oomph arrives at just 1,370rpm, so you don’t need to work the engine hard to make swift progress. In this respect, the twin-scroll turbocharger makes the S5 feel like a muscular diesel: punchy and effortless. The price you pay, of course, is the absence of high-rev drama – the heady rush to the redline that characterises many powerful naturally-aspirated petrols.

The S5 is certainly quick, though; 62mph arrives in 4.7 seconds and top speed is limited to 155mph. It also sounds good, a subtle growl that builds to a cultured howl, with cheeky pops and farts from the four exhaust tailpipes when you shift gears in Dynamic mode.

Our test S5 was fitted with the optional Continuous Damper Control (CDC), which adjusts ride stiffness according to the driver inputs and the road surface. Even so, on 19in alloy wheels, the car thudded uncomfortably through low-speed potholes and felt pattery on uneven asphalt at speed.

Turn-in is confident and body-roll well contained, but the S5 isn’t malleable like an M4 or riotously playful like a C63 AMG. Perhaps we shouldn’t expect it to be – this isn’t the full-fat RS5, remember. Nonetheless, while the S5 is an easy car to admire, it’s a difficult car to love.

Still a class act, but not for everyone

The latest A5 is still a handsome beast, although its design is fussier and less elegant than before. As with the second-generation TT, you get the impression Audi struggled to improve on a ‘masterpiece’, and simply made changes for their own sake.

In all other respects, however, the 2016 A5 builds on the strengths of its predecessor. It’s refined, efficient, superbly built and even relatively practical. As an executive express for life in the outside lane, plus Sunday jaunts to the golf club, it takes some beating.

Beauty is also defined by the details, of course, and in that respect the A5 has got it licked. It’s a thoroughly ‘premium’ car, with an interior that wouldn’t feel out of place in something twice or even three times the price.

We drove the models that bookend the range, the 2.0 TDI and S5, and it was the entry-level diesel that felt most comfortable in its own skin. Its punchy power delivery encourages you to make relaxed progress without pushing too hard and exposing the limitations of the chassis. So, cheaper is better: you heard it here first.

If you live in North Wales or the Scottish Highlands, the dynamically sharper (and rear-wheel drive) BMW 4 Series will make you smile more often. But for the rest of us, the Audi A5 is the new mid-size premium coupe of choice. At least until the A5 Sportback arrives.

Audi A5: Early verdict

For:

Fabulous interior

Build quality is second-to-none

Enjoyable and relaxing to drive

Against:

Styling is fussier than before

Not as sporty as some rivals

Many features are expensive options

Audi A5 2.0 TDI 190 S tronic: Specification

Price: £TBC

Engine: 2.0-litre turbodiesel

Gearbox: 7-speed semi-automatic

Power: 190hp

Torque: 295lb ft

0-62mph: 7.7 seconds

Top speed: 148mph

Fuel economy: 68.9mpg

CO2 emissions: 107g/km

Audi S5 Quattro: Specification

Price: £TBC

Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo petrol

Gearbox: 8-speed semi-automatic

Power: 354hp

Torque: 369lb ft

0-62mph: 4.7 seconds

Top speed: 155mph (limited)

Fuel economy: 38.7mpg

CO2 emissions: 166g/km

BMW M2

2016 BMW M2 review: best M-car since the E46 M3?

BMW M2For a new car, the M2 comes steeped in history. It’s the follow-up to the much-loved 1 Series M Coupe of 2011, but BMW also draws comparisons with the original 1986 E30 M3 and 1973 2002 Turbo. An illustrious bloodline, then.

The smallest fully-fledged M-car looks like a pumped-up M235i, but much of its hardware comes from the larger M3 and M4. A 3.0-litre straight-six turbo petrol engine sends 370hp to the rear wheels via a manual or DCT dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

You want stats? Try 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. Official fuel economy is 33.2mpg, while CO2 emissions of 199g/km mean £265 annual car tax (VED). Figures for the DCT version are 4.3 seconds, 35.8mpg, 185g/km and £230 respectively. M2 prices start at £44,070 – around £13,000 less than the M4 coupe.

BMW M2A traditional performance car

This is ‘a car for purists’, says BMW – hence the traditional front-engine, rear-wheel-drive format. Yet the M2 is that rare thing: a car with no direct rivals.

BMW usually squares up to fellow Germans, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. But its competitors at this price-point – the RS3 Sportback and A45 AMG – are four-wheel-drive hot hatchbacks, not rear-driven coupes. The three cars are comparable when it comes to price and performance; all cost around £40k and hit 62mph in less than 4.5 seconds. But there the similarities end.

In fact, the M2 is conceptually closer to another fast German: the Porsche Cayman. Porsche’s compact coupe is a benchmark for driving dynamics and one of our favourite cars full-stop. However, it gives away two seats to the more practical BMW – and in new ‘718 Cayman’ guise, two engine cylinders as well.

BMW M2Subtle styling tweaks make a big impact

Like a hormone-pumped Bavarian bodybuilder, the M2 looks almost as wide as it is long. Bulging wings (80mm wider at the rear) are stretched over 19-inch alloys, giving the car a squat, purposeful stance.

At the front, a square-jawed bumper houses enlarged ducts that divert air into the wheelarches and along the sides of the car. There’s a splash of chrome on the front grille, plus the obligatory blue, red and purple ‘M2’ badge.  Moving rearwards, you’ll find shapely side skirts, a steel roof (the M3’s is carbonfibre) and a small boot spoiler. Four shotgun exhausts confirm – if there was any doubt – that this is no bodykitted 220d.

Although relatively subtle, the body mods reduce drag by 5% and high-speed lift by 35% versus the 2 Series Coupe. They also give the M2 the visual clout to match its no-punches-pulled performance. The mouth to match its trousers, if you will.

BMW M2It makes an M235i seem slow

Spec your M2 with a six-speed manual gearbox and – with some deft cog-swapping – you’ll hit 62mph in 4.5 seconds. That’s 0.5 seconds swifter than an M235i and just 0.2 seconds behind the manual M4. Splash out £2,500 on the seven-speed DCT semi-automatic gearbox and that figure is cut to just 4.3 seconds.

A top speed of 155mph is fast enough for most, but BMW also offers a optional Driver’s Package, which removes the speed limiter, increasing the VMax to 168mph. If you regularly commute on the Autobahn at 3am, it’s a must-have.

I suppose you’ll be wanting a Nurburgring lap time, too? The M2 circumnavigates Germany’s most notorious racetrack in seven minutes and 58 seconds, a modest 12 seconds behind big-brother M3. As we’ll discover, it’s the way this car goes around corners that makes it genuinely special.

BMW M2The M2 is a car you’d just drive for the hell of it

Or should I say the heaven of it? Screaming up Spanish mountain switchbacks, feeling the tyres squirm and tail twitch as we exit each hairpin, is an experience I will remember for a long time. Yes, it has a turbocharger (doesn’t everything these days?), but this is a pure, undiluted M-car – and all the better for it.

Key to the M2’s impressive agility is near-perfect 51% front, 49% rear weight distribution. Its electric power steering is light around town, but gets heavier as speed increases, offering plenty of feedback through a chunky M-badged wheel. The slick manual gearbox blips the throttle automatically for smoother downchanges (tell friends it’s your expert heel-and-toe technique), while the DCT ’box is excellent, too – certainly one of the quickest and most intuitive automatics available.

Even on the road, you can explore the limits of the M2 in relative safety. For a chassis with a short wheelbase and 370hp at the rear tyres, it’s remarkably benign. It turns in with eager immediacy, and you can adjust your cornering line using the throttle without undue fear of the car biting back.

The engine is hushed at low revs, but builds to a classy straight-six roar as the needle surges towards 7,000rpm. There’s ample mid-range grunt for overtaking and, unlike some turbocharged engines, it doesn’t run out of puff near the redline.

BMW M2It needs handling with care in the wet, though

Part-way through our test-drive of the M2, the heavens open and the smoothly-surfaced roads suddenly feel like they’re coated in Teflon. You know what they say about the rain in Spain…

In these conditions, the M2 needs handling with care. A tail-happy car at the best of times, it’s very drifty indeed on damp Tarmac. Only a Toyota GT86 feels so eager to go sideways – and that has 170 fewer horses. Thankfully, unless you neck a Brave Pill and select Sport Plus mode, the DSC stability control does a sterling job of keeping you on-track. It allows a small degree of slip, but the safety net is certainly there.

Traction is perhaps more of an issue. The Active M Differential juggles torque between the rear tyres, giving impressive traction out of corners in the dry. In the wet, though, the M2 struggles to put all its power down. You need a delicate right foot to keep the wheels from spinning.

BMW M2As performance cars go, the M2 is pretty practical

Sadly, few people apart from car journalists regularly drive on deserted mountain roads. They’re more likely to lap the M25 than the Nurburgring. So what’s the M2 like in this ‘real world’ I keep hearing about?

Well, it’s more practical than most driver-focused cars, with comfortable front seats, a sculpted rear bench that accommodates two adults (at a squeeze) and a 390-litre boot (about the same as a VW Golf). BMW’s Professional Navigation package is standard, along with leather trim and super-bright xenon headlights. Shame the 2 Series interior doesn’t feel worthy of a £40k+ car.

The ride is on the firm side of comfortable, and the exhaust is too noisy in Sport mode on the motorway. Official fuel economy in the low-to-mid 30s won’t win any plaudits from Greenpeace either, but is what about you’d expect for a car with this level of go. We saw closer to 20mpg on our ‘spirited’ test-drive, though…

BMW M2
It has a ‘smoky burnout’ mode

If that all sounds a bit sensible, don’t worry; the M2’s ‘smoky burnout’ function is evidence that Germans really do have a sense of humour. Available on M2s with the DCT auto gearbox, it allows for full-bore, tyre-shredding getaways. If you so feel the need.

On cars with a manual ‘box, you can replicate this effect by dumping the clutch, of course. And the retro six-speeder would certainly be our choice. It adds an extra layer of involvement, and saves you £2,500 for your trouble. A quarter of customers have chosen a manual so far – much higher than in the M3 and M4. And BMW expects that figure to rise to 40% over time.

The M2 is well-equipped, particularly for a BMW. So your other big choice is colour. There are four shades available: Long Beach Blue, Alpine White, Black Sapphire and Mineral Grey. For us (and around 50% of M2 buyers), it has to be the blue – it looked stunning in the Spanish sunshine.

BMW M2It’s a future classic

After several disappointments, the latest M3 and M4 among them, M GmbH has come up trumps. The new M2 is fantastic – a car dominated by its superb chassis, such as we haven’t seen since the 2000 (E46) M3. Finally, a BMW that feels worth of the old ‘ultimate driving machine’ tagline.

Enthusiasts are already queueing up, chequebooks in hand, so you’ll probably wait until 2017 if you order now. However, BMW plans a generous production run of 15,000 cars (with 1,900 allocated for the UK). That’s good news if you want one, although less so in terms of the car’s long-term value.

Let’s go back where we started by talking about the M2’s predecessor: the 1 Series M Coupe. With only 6,000 built, prices are higher now than when the car was new in 2011. The 15,000-strong M2 is unlikely to appreciate quite so readily, but hold on long enough and it’s a dead-cert future classic.

So, that’s the M2. Would I choose one over an RS3 or A45 AMG? Oh yes. Is it the best M-car you can buy? No question.

BMW M2BMW M2: Early verdict

For:

Very quick indeed

Superb rear-wheel-drive handling

More practical than a Cayman

Against:

Tricky on wet roads

Interior doesn’t feel special

Limited investment potential

2016 BMW M2: Specification

Price: £44,070

Engine: 3.0-litre turbo pterol

Gearbox: six-speed manual, seven-speed DCT semi-automatic

Power: 370hp

Torque: 343lb ft (369lb ft with overboost)

0-62mph: 4.5 seconds (4.3 DCT)

Top speed: 155mph

Fuel economy: 33.2mpg (35.8 DCT)

CO2 emissions: 199g/km (185 DCT)

 

Ford Fiesta XR2

Ford Fiesta XR2: Retro Road Test

Launched in 1984, the second-generation Fiesta XR2 is the plucky underdog of 1980s hot hatches. Forever associated with yoofs sporting baseball caps and Reebok Classics, it has never been esteemed by enthusiasts like many of its rivals.

However, with prices creeping upwards and bona fide classic status on the horizon, perhaps it’s time to revisit the much-maligned XR2? When an invite to a special ‘fast Fiestas’ event in Dagenham popped into the MR inbox, we jumped at the chance.

What are its rivals?

The XR2 competed with sportier (SR and GTE) versions of the Vauxhall Nova, plus more celebrated hot hatches of the era, such as the Renault 5 GT Turbo, Volkswagen Golf GTI and Peugeot 205 GTI.

Money-no-object, we’d choose the Peugeot for its chic styling, superb steering and delicately-balanced handling (a little too delicate for some). But a 205 GTI will typically cost you more than twice as much as an equivalent XR2.

What engine does it use?

The original – and much rarer – Fiesta XR2 of 1981 boasted a modest 85hp. For the Mk2 version seen here, Ford upped output to 97hp with the aid of a new 1.6-litre CVH engine from the Escort XR3.

In a car weighing just 839kg (a new Fiesta ST is 1,163kg), that meant 0-60mph in 10.2 seconds and a top speed of 112mph.

The Fiesta also inherited the Escort’s five-speed gearbox, replacing the four-speeder in the first-generation car.

What’s it like to drive?

With unassisted steering, no ABS and no electronic driver aids, the Fiesta offers a refreshingly back-to-basics driving experience.

Its rorty, carburettor-fed engine feels eager, while compact dimensions and great all-round visibility make it a joy to duck and dive through the streets of Dagenham.

Heading to open roads, the XR2’s limitations become more apparent. It thumps over bumps and leans like a listing ship in fast corners. And the brakes – front discs and rear drums, with a cross-linkage to the master cylinder that deadens pedal feel – don’t inspire confidence.

On a more superficial level, public reaction to the XR2 can’t fail to give you a buzz. Pensioners point, a lorry driver nods approvingly and two young lads even request a selfie. Everybody, it seems, loves a fast Ford.

Reliability and running costs

The quality of the Fiesta’s interior trim would make even Dacia blush. There are no soft-touch plastics here. Despite its flimsiness, though, there’s little to actually go wrong. The CVH engine is pretty robust, and most problems can fixed with a spanner and a well-thumbed copy of the Haynes manual.

Fuel economy is quoted as 32.9mpg at a constant 56mph. That’s half what the current Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost achieves on the combined cycle, while producing a near-identical 100hp.

Could I drive it every day?

Thousands did in the 1980s, so there’s no reason why not. But we’d keep our XR2 for high days and holidays. Its rough-and-ready charms might wear thin if used every day, and the threat of rust is ever-present – particularly if you drive the car in winter. Best not to think about crash safety either.

How much should I pay?

XR2s have been vanishing from our roads (many as victims of the scrappage scheme) so – in common with other 1980s hot hatches – prices are rising rapidly. Expect to pay £2,500 for a scruffy-but-usable example, up to around £8,000 for restored cars in as-new condition.

Emerging classic kudos means the Fiesta should hold onto its value, though, and may appreciate over time. The Mk1 XR2 is a surefire investment opportunity – if you can find one.

What should I look out for?

The Fiesta’s 1.6-litre engine is simple and tough. Even so, it needs regular oil and cambelt changes, so check the condition of the oil using the dipstick and look for blue smoke from the exhaust on start-up.

Corrosion is the biggest potential problem. Inspect the wheelarches and sills carefully, as dirt and moisture can become trapped between bodykit and metal. The front suspension turrets and bulkhead (at the base of the windscreen) are potential rust traps, too.

Cosmetic items, such as seat fabric or the rear spoiler, can be hard to find – and thus expensive. On that note, check the V5 registration document to ensure the car is a genuine XR2. Plenty of fakes were built by aspiring boy racers back in the day.

Should I buy one?

Of all our Retro Road Tests so far, this one surprised us the most. We approached the XR2 with low expectations and it resolutely won us over.

Its engine is rough, performance is mediocre and it’s hardly the last word in dynamic finesse. But the XR2 is also a car that you can wring every last horsepower from. It connects you to the road in a way that few modern cars can.

So while would be difficult to overlook such faults in a daily-driver, in a classic car they simply become part of its character. Like a cheeky Eastender done good, the XR2 is a rough diamond. And we love it for that.

Pub fact

Ford eventually replaced the XR2 in 1989 with the fuel-injected XR2i. However, it was dull to drive and roundly panned by the motoring press. In January 1990, CAR magazine ran a cover story with the unequivocal headline: ‘XR2i: another duff fast Ford’.

It would take until 2004, and the first-generation ST, before the Fiesta became a credible hot hatchback again.