Mercedes SLK Review

Mercedes SLK Review - Now in its third generation, the Mercedes SLK has carved itself a niche as a comfortable, stylish roadster, which is particularly good to live with day-to-day thanks to its folding hard top roof. And, despite MERCEDES mastering the tin-top roadster in the 90s, all its rivals, like the BMW Z4 and Audi TT roadster still come with a soft top. So, is that alone enough of a reason to choose the Merc? Time to go for a drive. It's a cold October morning, so we're starting with the roof up, and you know what, you can see why MERCEDES' engineers came up with this design, because it really does feel like driving a coupe. Definitely a small coupe though, because it's quite snug in here and you sit very low to the ground. Mercedes offers x petrol engines, but we're in the 250d, which is really popular in the UK thanks to its punchy performance and spectacular economy, which sets it apart from all its rivals except for the TT. At first it's a bit odd hearing the diesel, especially when the roof is down, but Mercedes has done a good job of hushing any clatter and you soon get used to its muted growl. In fact, after a while I found myself enjoying the way you can whizz through the countryside at the crack of dawn, almost like you're in 'stealth' mode, without any loud cracks from the exhaust. Acceleration to 62mph takes 6.6 seconds, but the most important pub fact is xxxNM, which is how much torque it sends to the rear wheels. Oh, and there's now a standard 9-speed auto, which is smoother and faster than the old 7-speed tiptronic box, has nicer shifter paddles and improves the mpg to 64.2mpg How's the handling? Well, your opinion will probably depend on how you approach the Mercedes SLK. This car is fitted with AMG sport suspension and wheels, but it steel feels like a small grand tourer rather than an aggressive sports car. 

Mercedes SLK Image

As a road car it works well, with lots of grip, enough comfort and precision to be satisfying and appeal to a wide range of drivers. What it isn't, is a car you'll take on track at the weekend, so if that's you, the Boxster will be more your thing. Nope, drop the roof, and the SLK is happiest at 70 or 80 per cent effort, threading between the hedges letting you soak up the sun, on those rare occasions we get any sun of course. Cruising along also gives you chance to enjoy the sLKs other big strength, it's well-finished interior, which takes its styling cues from the SLS supercar. With black leather, a really good to hold steering wheel and clear dials, this is a Roadster which treads a happy line between luxury and sportiness. This brushed aluminium not only looks expensive, but it feels it, because it's cold to the touch. The controller wheel for the COMAND system is intuitive to use, as are the climate control knobs, but there are quite a few buttons to get used to. The switch for the roof, thats neatly hidden under this leather flap, to avoid any accidental knocks. And, one thing you can't see, but you can feel, is the fact the SLK is shaped so the breeze goes over your head without spilling into the cabin and ruffling the you and your passenger even at fairly high speeds. 

The boot is easy to load items into and big enough for a weekend away, with 335 litres of space when the roof is up. But, if you want to stow the roof it shrinks to 225 litres and you need to pull this safety device down. The SLK isn’t cheap, costing from £33,020 for the 250d, while the range-topping AMG 55 is much pricier at £55k. It’s undercut by the Audi TT Roadster, which starts from £27,150, while the BMW Z4 costs from £29,690, but there are attractive finance deals available, which make the SLK more affordable than it first appears. The SLK offers drivers a small and affordable Roadster, which has feels expensive and looks stylish and has boasts comfort than its rivals. It's appeal doesn't lie in its ability to set track lap times, or ultimate handling precision, but just how easy and rewarding it is to own for the everyday driver. Thanks for read Mercedes SLK Review.

Volkswagen Passat Estate Review

Volkswagen Passat Estate Review - Now in its eighth generation, the Volkswagen Passat Estate is a stalwart of the motoring industry, racking up 22 million sales worldwide. If it was a goalie, it would be considered a very safe pair of hands. But, as good as the last Passat was, it could never be described as particularly exciting. With sharper looks, a lighter body and stylish new cabin, the latest Passat is hoping to attract more customers through its sheer desirability, not just attractive leasing deals. Having just been made European Car of the Year, it’s off to a good start. We often praise Volkswagen interiors for their logical dashboard layouts and impressive quality, but not for being very daring. So, by VW standards this continuation of the vent detailing across the dashboard is borderline radical and gives the Passat a contemporary feel. Even the standard S model gets DAB radio, Bluetooth and eight speakers. Sat-nav is included with this SE Business trim level and above, bringing an crisp 8.0-inch touchscreen and the possibility of adding Car-Net. This brings online traffic info, points of interest and google street view. From later this year, you’ll also be able to choose a 12.3-inch display to replace the instrument panel, as seen in the Audi TT. 

Volkswagen Passat Estate Image

The previous Passat was hardly pokey inside, but this one has a 33mm longer cabin thanks to all four wheels been pushed out to the corners of the car. Knee room for rear passengers is very good, as is head room. The estate’s boot has increased in size by 47 litres to 650, easily surpassing the Mondeo’s 500 litres and Insignia Sport Tourer’s 540 litres. The Passat is around 85kg lighter than before, the equivalent of asking one large adult to get out and walk. It also comes as standard with driver profile selection, sharpening up the throttle and steering in Sport mode. Like the outgoing model, the Passat makes an excellent motorway cruiser, but it also has faithful handling, with plenty of grip. It might not be exciting to drive, but comfort is excellent, with bumps soaked up with little fuss and very little noise in the cabin, which is crucial for the Passat owners who will spend several hours in their car each day. 

The all-diesel line-up starts with the 118bhp 1.6-litre TDI we’re testing, followed by a 148bhp or 187 2.0TDI and even a four-wheel drive 237bhp model. We’ve found the 11.0 second acceleration to 62mph of the 1.6 feels rather sluggish, so we’d recommend the 148bhp diesel which is expected to be the best-seller. The 1.6 will appeal to business drivers though, returning 68.9mpg and emitting only 107g/km of CO2, costing £20 each year in road tax. The latest Passat might only look subtly different, but that’s just the Volkswagen way, it’s actually been thoroughly improved. The interior is now so good it can hold its own against the likes of Mercedes and BMW, and the Passat is smooth and quiet to drive. The Ford Mondeo and Mazda 6 are slightly more fun to drive, but the gap is now far smaller and the Passat is a great all-rounder. Thanks for read Volkswagen Passat Estate Review.

Audi A4 Review

Audi A4 Review - While crossovers and SUVs might be flavour of the month with buyers, the big German manufacturers still see executive saloons as critical to their success. So, this latest Audi A4 has a tough fight on its hands against some of the world’s best: the 3 Series, C-Class and all-new British upstart, the Jaguar XE. To win over customers, Audi has gone all out on its interior quality, smartphone connectivity and refinement. In fact, this run-of-the-mill A4 is about as quiet on the motorway as the A8 luxury saloon. Audi is already known for its great interiors, but even by its own high standards, the A4 is on another level. It looks incredibly smart in here, with a wing-shaped dashboard sweeping across the cabin. The large centre console is stylish and functional with the gear selector in this automatic doubling up as a hand rest when you’re using the MMI controller. Every button oozes quality, and little touches like the climate control icons which expand as you reach for them, just help to set the experience apart. 

Audi A4 Image

Even the SE trim gets a seven-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with rear parking sensors. Unlike the 3 series, sat-nav isn’t standard, it’s fitted when you step up to the Sport trim, which also adds sports seats, a three-spoke steering wheel and better speakers. Choose the S line and you’ll get LED headlights and sweeping rear indicators, 18-inch wheels, sports suspension and a body kit. Of course, being an Audi there are plenty of options, like the Virtual Cockpit which we’ve already heaped praise on in the TT and Q7. Hop in the back, and the A4 has become more spacious, with 23mm extra legroom. It’s wider as well and you can sit three back here, so some may even question if they need the larger A6, when the A4 is this accomodating. 

As for the boot, it’s on a par with rivals and beats the XE, with 480 litres of space behind the folding rear seats. Of course, this being the saloon, the boot opening is wide, but its height is somewhat restrictive, so if that’s an issue you’ll be better off with the Avant estate with its larger hatchback. There are a couple of things you need to know about the A4. Firstly, it’s over 100kg lighter than before, and secondly it is incredibly aerodynamic, helping it cut very cleanly through the air. Now, along with improved suspension, you can really sense this as you drive, because the A4 both feels lighter on its feet and much quieter than before. In fact, this car is fitted with glazed noise-reducing side and rear windows, and at almost any speed it’s serene inside the cabin. 

We just drove to London and back in the same day for an event, and after 400-miles and about 8 hours behind the wheel, the lack of fatigue was really noticeable. Every part of the car, including these door-mounted and ridged door mirrors has been fine-tuned to reduce turbulence, cutting wind noise. There are of course lots of options to go for, including manual or automatic, diesel or petrol and front or Quattro four-wheel drive, so Audi has most bases covered. This car could be the pick of the bunch though, it’s the 2.0-litre TDI with 187bhp, front-wheel drive and an automatic. It gets from 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds so feels plenty fast enough, the auto suits the A4 far better than the manual and you can still return 67.3mpg. 

The 148bhp Ultra diesel might be even greener, but the step up in performance here is noticeable. The steering isn’t dripping with feel, but it’s accurate, and while the A4 never feels playful like the XE or 3 Series, it just gets you down the road with minimum fuss and in comfort. Yes, even with this S line sport suspension and optional 19-inch wheels, it rides pretty well, and comfort or adaptive suspension is available to make it even better. The A4 1.4-litre petrol starts from just under £26k, which gets you get an incredible amount of car for the money. 

This 2.0 TDI S line S tronic costs from £33,345, although this one has some quite pricey options, taking it up to £40k. It compares well with rivals though, even undercutting the C-Class slightly. The new A4 might look quite similar, but it is a very different beast. The way it drives, its refinement, efficiency and technology have all been given a major upgrade. Not only that, but the interior is a sensational place to spend time. It might not excite like the 3 Series or XE can, but if you spend more time on motorways than an idyllic mountain pass, the A4 will make a great companion and you might even start accepting far-flung meetings all over the country. Thanks for coming in Audi A4 Review.

Hyundai i40 Tourer Review

Hyundai i40 Tourer Review - The business and fleet market can be a tough nut to crack, with competition ranging from everything like the Vauxhall Insignia to the Mercedes C-Class. So what about the Hyundai i40? The 2015 Hyundai updated its Hyundai i40 Tourer range with some new tweaks to its exterior, making it look much more modern and stylish, and rejigged its engines and transmissions. So let’s see what it’s got to offer. 

The i40’s interior has obvious traits of Hyundai about it, with this funnel-like dashboard shape that neatly houses all the whistle and bells and the brand’s unmistakable blue lightning, which looks particularly cool at night time. Equipment across the range lives up to Hyundai’s well-equipped reputation for high kit levels, with every model gets Bluetooth and USB connectivity a leather wrapped steering wheel with convenient audio controls and 16 inch alloy wheels. The SE Nav model we are driving is great for those who are going to be eating up motorway miles, with a touchscreen navigation system with a rear view camera, cruise control with speed limiter and heated seats. 

Hyundai i40 Tourer Image

Its seating position goes hand-in-hand with its cruiser personality, with plenty of adjustment and supportive seats that really hug you in place which is great for long trips. Those chunky C-pillars do obstruct your rear vision a bit though. Although you are unlikely to have a full car of passengers, the i40 is more than capable, with leg room in the rear being enormous. And thankfully the slightly sloping roof doesn’t aped on headroom too much either But does this leg room threaten boot space nope, not one bit. There is 553 litres on offer with the seats up trumping its Insignia Sports Tourer and Mondeo Estate rivals, and 1,719 litres with the seats folded down. The only problem is that the seats don’t fold completely flat, which is worth noting if you travel up and down the country with a bike or plenty of luggage or a surf board. Motorway cruisers don’t necessarily need to be amazing in the handling department, because let’s be honest, you are going to be driving in a straight line the majority of the time. 

The Hyundai i40 though offers good levels of responsiveness and speed sensitive power steering, giving a bit more character to it as it can adjust accordingly. Its drive definitely offers more predictability and confidence than the Insignia, but the Mondeo still has the edge when it comes to agility. As long journeys will no doubt be on the itinerary, the i40’s supple suspension will serve you well, but, although the suspension masks the lumps and bumps in the road, the small thumping sound does still make it through to the cabin. The 1.7-litre diesel available comes with two power outputs, 113 and 139bhp. The 139bhp variant we are driving will return an average of around 50mpg in real world driving and emits 114g/km of CO2. is its coupling with a new seven-speed dual clutch transmission. Once you are up to speed this gearbox accelerates through the gears very smoothly, but when you are edging off at junctions or edging your way backwards on the driveway, it can be a bit jolty, and this takes some getting used to. 

With that said, it is very smooth and comfortable all-round and so much so, you end up coming to the end of your journey so relaxed, that you want to take a bath each to their own I suppose. Priced at £1,250 more than the i40 saloon, the Tourer model sits in between its ford and Vauxhall rivals at just under £21,000 and you know what, when it comes to driving dynamics and interior quality, it sits quite comfortably in between both those models. But let’s not forget its five year, unlimited mileage warranty which will be a particularly enticing proposition for anyone after a cruiser. Thanks for read Hyundai i40 Tourer Review.

Nissan Qashqai Review

Nissan Qashqai Review - It says a lot about the rising popularity of the crossover that the format, along with superminis, made up the bulk of 2.5 million new cars sold in the UK last year. Surely then, it says a lot about the Nissan Qashqai as well, with more than a million of the things sold since it first launched back in 2007. People are buying Qashqais up like they're going out of fashion, but does it still have what it takes to keep up with fresher, newer rivals? Generally considered to be the first true crossover as we know it, the Nissan Qashqai aimed to combine SUV ride height and capability with everything people love about comfortable family cars. To that end, the cabin is big and spacious and quite well laid out with this large centre-mounted touchscreen. Although some leather panelling or something in the top trims would be nice to break the mundanity of all this plastic, but given that this is a car that starts from around just 18 and a half grand, it’s not bad at all. We’ve got the range-topping Tekna model, which will set you a little under £25,000, but it comes with an impressive amount of kit that includes automatic lights, leather seats and cruise control, plus DAB radio and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Pound-for-pound, the base Qashqai comes with a lot more standard equipment than the majority of its rivals, while all except the entry-level model get Nissan’s full suite of Safety Shield technologies which includes things like blind spot detection and a 360-degree surround-view camera and which helped the car earn the title of the safest car you can buy. 

Nissan Qashqai

Climbing in the back, things are spacious and both leg and headroom are decent, while you’ve also got ISOFIX attachments for child seats. However, if seven seats are a necessity then Nissans larger and ever-so-slightly more rugged X-Trail might be a better option. Boot space with the rear seats folded up clocks in at 430 litres, but adjust this false floor and fold the rear seats down and you get a full 1,585 litres, more than enough to take what most average sized families can throw at it. We have to admit that when I first took delivery of this car I was a little bit unenthused, it just felt a little squishy around the edges, but having driven it for a few days it has actually grown on me a lot. The ride, while not as cosseting as some of its rivals, is pretty comfortable, with a plushness to the way it tackles bumps and cracks in the road; you know they’re there, but you don’t really feel them. Likewise, while you don’t get much in terms of feedback from the steering it is reasonably well weighted and direct, and there’s not quite as much body roll as you might expect from a car of this size. The first-generation Qashqai had a bit of a reputation for being quite noisy on the road, but this model is impressively refined and hushed, even at motorway speeds, while the 109bhp 1.5-litre diesel engine in this model is nowhere near as gruff as some of the oil-burners in its rivals. 

It’s got a fair amount of punch as well, but the real selling point of this engine is its efficiency. With front-wheel drive and a manual gearbox, the only options available with this motor, it emits just 103g/km of CO2. Nissan says it can return up to 70.6mpg on the combined cycle, though we’ve only been able to return around 45 in this car, but that’s still not bad. The gearbox, however, could use some work as it feels really rather clunky; the automatic available in other engines is much smoother. Prices for the Qashqai kick off at £18,545 and range all the way up to around £29,000, making the base model considerably cheaper and more cost-effective than rivals like the Mazda CX-5 and the Volkswagen Tiguan. If there’s one criticism you could aim at the Qashqai, it’s that it mightn’t offer much by way of thrills. But to say this is unfair; it’s comfortable, it’s safe, it’s well-equipped and it sells like hotcakes. The original genre-defining family crossover might find itself with stiffer competition these days than ever, but it’s still a chart topper nonetheless. Thanks for visit Nissan Qashqai Review.

Fiat 500X Review

Fiat 500X Review - After the smash-hit success of the Fiat 500 city car, and the release of the practical 500L, comes the latest model in the 500 family. Called the 500X, it gives fiat a crossover to go head-to-head with models like the Nissan Juke and MINI Countryman. Styling-wise, it’s a success, with Fiat’s retro design cues working well here. Its large circular headlights and chrome grille are well executed, and on looks alone, the Fiat 500X should attract plenty of buyers. Hop inside, and the driving position feels quite low-slung for a crossover, but you can lift the seat up a bit for a more commanding view of the road. It’s neat and stylish in here too, with different finishes available for the dashboard, attractive dials for the air-con and what looks and feels like a pool ball on the gear lever. Trim levels are Pop, Popstar, Lounge, Cross and Cross Plus, and this Pop Star model has rear parking sensors, climate control, a touch-screen with Bluetooth and a USB connection. We’d avoid the entry-level Pop trim as it does without the uConnect infotainment system. Any criticisms? Well, Fiat has given the trip computer lots of prominence in the central pod, but that means the speedo is rather small, making it hard to read at a glance. There are also some scratchy plastics lower in the cabin, but overall, this is one of the best Fiat interiors yet. 

Fiat 500X

If you’re upgrading from a Fiat 500, the X will feel very roomy, but as Crossover’s go it’s still on the small side thanks to that curved roof. Four adults should be comfortable though, unless those sat in the back are particularly tall. The driving position is pretty good, with a well-placed arm rest improving comfort on long trips. There are also two gloveboxes and cup holders in the centre console and door bins, as well as places to put your mobile phone. Measuring 350 litres, the boot isn’t the biggest in the class, and models like the Renault Captur can carry around 100 litres more. It’s also a shame the rear seats don’t fold completely flat, making it harder to load large items like furniture. Still, for those simply after a stylish small crossover, it should suffice. There’s quite a lot of choice when it comes to the Fiat 500X, but we’d say this 1.4-litre petrol with 138bhp in Pop star trim is probably the sweet spot in the range. It’s a refined engine, which feels plenty quick enough and comes with a slick six-speed gearbox. And, because the engine is fairly light, it should offer the best handling of the bunch. But if you want the best economy, there are three diesels with 93, 118 or 138bhp, either front or four wheel drive and a manual or nine-speed automatic. 

And, with the mid-power 1.6-litre returning almost 70mpg it’s sure to be popular. Fiat has clearly tuned the 500X to be taut, because it corners with hardly any body roll and plenty of grip. In fact it’s at its best on a twisty road, and in town, where its slightly raised driving position comes in handy. But, there’s always a compromise, and in the Fiat’s case it’s a firm ride, so it’s less relaxing than we hoped, and we’d recommend avoiding the biggest 18-inch alloy wheels. We’d also leave the Sport mode alone too, as it makes the car feel rather flighty in town and gives the artificial steering feel a rather gloopy feel. If you want to partake in some light off-roading, the Cross version comes with a tough body kit and front wheel drive models are available with a traction control system, to help keep you going if one wheel begins to spin. The 500X starts from £14,595, which puts it in the same ballpark as the £13,930 Nissan Juke, but undercuts the pricey MINI Countryman, which starts from just over £17k. This 138bhp petrol Pop star model costs £17,595 and if the 500X can replicate the superminis success, it should hold its value fairly well. Thanks for read Fiat 500X Review.

Ford Fiesta Red Edition Review

Ford Fiesta Red Edition Review - Aiming to deliver the same thrills as the full-fat ST hot-hatch, but with a much lower cost and a little more sensibility, the Ford Fiesta Red Edition is the latest in a range of fast Fiestas. The Fiesta is a pretty common sight on the roads, but Ford has made this one stand out with a racy bodykit, large rear spoiler and this gorgeous red and black finish. It certainly looks the part, so what’s it like to drive? Inside, Ford continues the same sharp-looking red and black contrasts, with both the sculpted wheel and the gearbox cover upholstered in black leather with red stitching. Even the front cupholders get illuminated in red light, which is a nice touch. The cloth sports seats cement you in place well and they’re a lot more comfortable than full-on bucket seats, but they can take a bit of adjustment to get right. Based on the Zetec S trim, standard kit is pretty comprehensive and includes air conditioning, Bluetooth and DAB digital radio. There’s also a 12v connection and USB slot for your mobile, while this test model has cruise control as a £150 option, plus auto wipers and lights. The only real problem that I have with the Fiesta range in general is this – the infotainment system. The gloss black surround is nice and everything, but it does look incredibly dated, while the endless amount of buttons makes it annoying to use, particularly on the move. Considering the Fiesta is Ford’s best-seller, it’s a little confusing as to why they still come with this, particularly when virtually all of its rivals – and the rest of Ford’s range – all come with slick touchscreens. 

Ford Fiesta Red Edition Image

Clambering into the back, everything’s as comfortable as in the front, though middle passengers might find themselves a little bit squashed in. Still, leg and headroom are both good, and there are even two storage binnacles with their own cupholders. That said, three doors are obviously not as practical as the five-door Fiesta. It’s a bit hard to get in and out of, while parents with child seats won’t find it ideal either. The 290-litre boot isn’t the biggest in its class, but it’s still pretty spacious and well-proportioned, while 60:40 folding seats make light work of carrying most items. The Red and Black Edition Fiestas come powered by a souped-up version of Ford’s tiny turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol EcoBoost engine. Despite being so small that the engine block can fit on an A4 piece of paper, not a joke, the little engine wrings out a full 138bhp. That means that this dinky little supermini has more power per litre than a Bugatti Veyron, courtesy of cylinders no bigger than two cans of beer. As a result, acceleration is fantastic, with the Fiesta rocketing to 62mph from a standstill in nine seconds flat. True, it’s not as lairy as the full-blooded Fiesta ST, but it trades all-out balls to the wall performance for a little more usability. The 17-inch gloss alloys are gorgeous, but also comfortable, while the suspension is infinitely friendlier on the vertebrae than the rigid ST shocks. It’s also remarkably quiet for a three-pot, but produces a satisfying thrum when you put the boot down. On the road, it’s all Fiesta. 

There’s a reason it’s the biggest-selling car in the UK of all time, and a large part of it is thanks to this. Diving into corners with razor sharp precision, its strong performance is matched with a slick-shifting gearbox and incredibly well-weighted steering. With the exception of the ST, it’s probably the most fun you can have in a car of this size, and it’s simply awesome. It’s well-priced too, with the base model starting from £16,145 – more than a grand cheaper than the ST and much less costly than the Polo GTI. Match this with fuel economy of nearly 63mph thanks to standard start-stop and just 104g/km of CO2, and you could end up getting some serious bang for relatively little buck. Everything else aside, the main selling point of a car like this is always going to be the fun factor. In that respect, the Red Edition Fiesta delivers in spades. It looks great, it feels great and it’s an incredibly addictive drive for relatively little money. Sure, three doors won’t suit everyone while some might be put off by the infotainment controls, but for pure pleasure there are few better options at this price point. Thanks for read Ford Fiesta Red Edition Review.

Audi RS Q3 2016 Review

Audi RS Q3 2016 Review - Once famed for producing just one hot model at a time, Audi’s RS division has grown hugely over recent years, and so has its line-up. The result: you can now walk into an Audi dealership and buy an RS version of the humble Q3 crossover that will bark its way to 62mph in 4.8 seconds, making it quicker than a standard Porsche Boxster. Get behind the wheel, and it’s hard not to make instant comparisons with the RS 3, because after all, this is the same 2.5-litre, five-cylinder engine with just slightly less power, and this crossover also shares the same four-wheel drive system as the super hatch. But, the really big surprise for me, is that We've actually having more fun in this car. Why? Well, while the RS 3 is devastatingly fast, it basically grips and goes no matter what, and sometimes you don’t feel that involved as a driver. But, there’s something about the tiny bit of extra body roll of the Audi RS Q3 and the way you can really feel it shuffling power to each wheel which actually feels more exciting, even on a dry road. The rather numb steering feel from the RS3 seems less of an issue in high-riding crossover and there’s also another less objective reason. The RS Q3 can do things most people wouldn’t believe a small SUV can do, and that feeling of complete surprise is actually very fun and very addictive. And, if that doesn’t make you grin enough, Audi has now announced an even faster version. 

Audi RS Q3 2016 Image

So if this car with 335bhp isn’t enough, there’s a Performance option with 362bhp, slicing four tenths from the 0-62mph time. Complaints? Well, the seven-speed Stronic automatic can clunk when shifting at lower speeds, and there’s also too much of a difference between the light steering in Comfort mode and the heavy feel in Dynamic, so it’s a shame there’s no Individual setting to tweak things yourself. Economy is rated at 32mpg, and I have been getting around that on my motorway commute, but a B road blast will decimate it, so you need an iron will if you want to save fuel. The interior definitely feels very upmarket, with special mentions going to these grey RS dials, gorgeous seats and the steering wheel, which is great to hold, even if the paddles feel like plastic, because, well, they are. 

This car is fitted with the Comfort Package and Technology pack, adding a reversing camera, cruise control, auto high-beam lights and sat-nav. It also brings Audi Connect, which includes a 3G connection, Google earth view and traffic updates, although adding both packs adds up to almost £1,700. Everything works quickly and is easily laid out too, but the Q3 isn’t one of Audi’s very latest models, so you won’t find all of the company’s latest tech, including the excellent Virtual Cockpit in the TT, Q7 and Audi A4

Space up front is good, as you’d expect, and while the Q3 doesn’t actually look that tall parked next to other cars, you do get a better view of the road than in a hatch. Interestingly the driver’s seat does go 15mm lower this time though, so it’s possible to get a sportier driving position. Perhaps the Q3’s biggest compromise over larger SUVs is the back seats. You can just about get two adults back here, but legroom and headroom are adequate rather than exceptional. The RS Q3 also doesn’t have a particularly big boot, in fact measuring 356 litres, it’s quite a bit smaller than the GLA 45 AMG and Macan, which both have more than 480-litres, and if you need speed and practicality, the Golf R Estate we recently tested, might actually be a better alternative. 

So, you’ve probably guessed all this performance doesn’t come cheap, and yes, starting from £45k the RS Q3 is an awful lot of money. With options, this car is £49k, which is actually about the same as the RS 3 we tested a few months ago. Saying that, it is on a level footing with its rival from Mercedes and undercuts the Macan. RS models are always focussed on performance, but here the combination of 335bhp in a car you’ll see on the school run, just makes you smile. Audi has created a car with more character and ability than you would ever guess. If you can stomach its fairly high running costs, you’ll certainly have one of the most surprising crossovers so far. Thanks for read Audi RS Q3 2016 Review.

All-New JCB 457 Review

All-New JCB 457 Review - The all-new JCB 457 Wheeled Loading Shovel will improve your productivity, profitability and safety. We set out three years ago to instil a common logic, a recognisable JCB feel, and consistently high quality in every JCB Cab and this new 457 will have the very first Command Plus cab to go into production. With every other JCB model set to receive its own variant in the next couple of years. We’ve created a full 13% more room in the new 457 Command Plus cab. We’ve also radically redesigned the steering column so that it’s fully adjustable as standard. With a memory reset and foldaway park feature. It's noise levels are the quietest in class, Cab pressurisation has been increased to keep out more dust, and our improved demisting feature will lead to faster start-up times. A key feature of Command Plus is the new Command driving position, devised to optimise the relationship between seating, controls and steering. Switchgear on the new JCB 457 is grouped intelligently on the A-pillar, with enhanced switch feel and clearer icons. We tested the new seat extensively for the optimum design of supportive cushions and innovative materials. Offering the best balance of slip, grip and breathing. Controls are now seat mounted electro-hydraulic units. 

JCB 457 Image
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Low on effort, high on ergonomics All of the main cab plastic is now injection moulded so that it is tougher, more scuff resistant, easier to clean and has a higher quality finish. With MTU we’ve brought you a truly cutting edge engine. Which delivers 4% more power, and 6% more torque. It is optimised to match the ZF driveline. Allowing the operator to reduce the working speed by up to 200 rpm. The overall payoff is 16% lower fuel consumption. Lower in cab noise, and reduced operator fatigue. No DPF treatment needed to meet Tier 4 final legislation means lower servicing costs and no fuel burning regeneration is necessary. The base engine has been rig and machine tested for a hundred million kilometres. 

Servicing is made easy by the introduction of a single piece bonnet, allowing great all round access. Externally the re-styled tapered rear end gives good visibility and the wider wheel arches keep dirt away from the body work and windows. Be in no doubt – this is a truly innovative machine. The all-new 457 Wheeled Loading Shovel, enhancing productivity, profitability and safety, all from JCB. Thanks for read All-New JCB 457 Review.

Review Of Hyundai Santa Fe

Review Of Hyundai Santa Fe - If you want flash SUV style, saloon-like luxury and 4x4 practicality – something like the Hyundai Santa Fe might be right up your street. But just because it marries all of these qualities together, don’t be fooled into thinking models like this are niche – the Santa Fe is by no means short of competition, with rivalling models from BMW and VW as well as neighbouring brand Kia with its Kia Sorento. When it comes to the interior We want to start with my favourite feature; the infotainment system – because not only does it offer oodles of useful kit, like Bluetooth and DAB radio, but the system itself is just incredibly responsive – so much so that you can zoom all the way in and out on the sat-nav and you don’t get dreadful lag. Other tech-savvy features of this flagship Premium SE model include a long list of safety and convenience kit, like lane departure warning, heated and cooled front seats, an autonomous parking feature and a bird’s eye view camera to help with parking. You can even manipulate individual cameras on either side of the car for added peace of mind. Materials in the cabin are half and half, being a mix of both good quality soft touch materials and robust plastics, which to be honest, for a family car of this size is probably what you want. 

Hyundai Santa Fe Image

There’s also a proper sized glovebox, hooray for that, a button layout that doesn’t take too long getting used to, and a very comfortable driving position, with a convenient arm rest on the door. And that arm rest from the front is here in the back as well, which makes it very easy to get comfy, combine that with its easy to operate reclining seat feature, funky cup holders and an all-round spacious feel and you have one of the best rears in class. And looking at the amount of space back here, you may not have guessed that it’s got another two seats behind it. Now, these seats are optional and intended for children, but they are quite flexible in terms of seating positions, so you should be able to squeeze in two relatively small adults. Going for the seven seat option will shrink the boot size a bit though, but you’ll still get over 500 litres, which is on par with rivals, but not as roomy as the Sorento. 

Still, you get a handy loading bed when you fold the seats down and over 1,600 litres of storage space. The best thing about the six-speed automatic is that it doesn’t have the usual nuisances associated with an auto. For example, you can move off smoothly, it’s easy to cruise at low speeds and the brakes aren’t too grabby. And if you did need a bit of oomph then its 197bhp 2.2-litre diesel will happily oblige – with a benchmark sprint of under 10 seconds. As well as a smooth automatic gearbox, other features that help create a sense of luxury include a competent suspension that slurps up bumps with ease and impressive road and wind insulation. The diesel itself is pretty quiet as well, especially when sitting in traffic. One of the big questions with big SUVs is whether they are fun to drive. Well, usually We've not a fan of variable weighting with steering as it’s very hard to get right, but the Santa Fe manages to offer lighter steering when it comes to minor manoeuvres around town, but then at around a three-quarter turn the steering weights up and yet feedback is strong. 

So, you actually get the ‘best of both worlds’, sort of. Certainly beats the experience of the Sport mode offered in other Hyundai models. All this aside though, if you are after efficiency and low running costs, then the Santa Fe – or any large 4x4 for that matter - is not the best way to go, as it emits 177g/km and realistically you’ll probably get around 30mpg, less than it claimed 42mpg. To really make the most of the Santa Fe, you’ll want to go for one of the higher trims, with the auto’ box and maybe even the seven seats. If that’s the case then you’re looking at upwards of £35,000. But let’s put that in perspective. The Santa Fe is in the same segment as the Volkswagen Touareg and BMW X5, two models that start from around £45,000. So the Santa Fe is better thought of as a cheaper alternative to the uber luxurious 4x4s out there. But is it better than the Kia Sorento? Well, the main distinguishing factors are going to be the Hyundai’s style and the fact that Kia offers a slightly better warranty and bigger boot. Thanks for read Review Of Hyundai Santa Fe.

Review Of Mitsubishi Outlander

Review Of Mitsubishi Outlander - Mitsubishi has a long and storied history of building tough vehicles for off-roading, from the L200 pick-up to the mighty Shogun. Still, tough and sturdy doesn’t usually mean economical and comfortable. This is the Mitsubishi Outlander, a compact SUV in the same vein as the Hyundai Tucson, and which aims to swap some of the ruggedness for a much more family-friendly approach. Its plug-in hybrid version of the same car, the PHEV, has enjoyed quite a bit of success, but how does the more traditional diesel-powered model stand up? The Mitsubishi Outlander used to have something of a reputation for being a bit drab inside. Thankfully, this test model isn’t all bad with a full leather interior, plus these smart-looking trim panels on the dash and door sides. Plastics don’t look or feel overly cheap, though I’m not a massive fan of the way they carry over to the steering wheel here. Controls are big, easy to reach while driving and simply laid out, which is always a plus, while the infotainment system is also particularly good. It’s quick to respond compared with others, intuitive to use and there’s also integrated sat-nav and Bluetooth connectivity for your phone. 

Mitsubishi Outlander Image

You’ve also got lots of smart mod-cons like plenty of big cubbyholes and storage bins. A large smartphone binnacle up the front is handy, along with these USB and 12v connections that are neatly tucked away behind this sliding shelf under the armrest. Mitsubishi goes a long way to stress the practicality and family-friendliness of its Outlander range, and as such you’ve these got two ISOFIX attachments in the rear and lots of space for three people in the seats. Taller passengers might find themselves bashing their heads off the low roof however, but legroom is decent at least. 

There is also a third row of seats in the very back, but in all honesty it’s hard to envision anybody fitting back here except, say, a pair of double amputees. Even for kids there’s not much breathing space in the third row at all, and it’s therefore probably best just folding the seats flat and using them as extra storage space. Speaking of storage space, if you fold the back seats flat you’re left with this large 591-litre boot, with a flush loading lip that makes it easy to pack in larger items. Slide and fold the second-row seating away and storage capacity soars to 1,022 litres - more than enough for what most drivers could throw at it. While its size and boxiness is perfect for offering lots of space, on the road the Outlander feels rather cumbersome. 

The steering to me feels shockingly wispy and quite lifeless, and unlike many other cars of its type, you can feel every bit of this car’s size on the road. If you’re the sort of driver who just wants to get from A to B with as little fuss as possible, then its marshmallow-y ride will probably suit you quite well, but if you’re looking for something with a bit more life in it, then you’re probably better off with something like an S-MAX or Kia Sorento. Where it does stand out from its rivals is with its four-wheel drive ability; pushing this button down here can lock up the centre differential for more grip when the ground gets tough and traction is low. 

Outside of that, the single 2.2-litre 148bhp diesel engine available is okay; it feels a little bit on the weedy side, but 0-62mph is brisk enough for a big car, taking 11.7 seconds with this automatic gearbox. It’s not the quietest diesel around, but then it’s far from the noisiest either, and on the whole it’s relatively refined when at speed. Still, what it lacks in enthusiasm, the Outlander makes up for with decent fuel economy compared to its rivals. Able to return around 53mpg on the combined cycle, CO2 emissions clock in at 138g/km. Of course, if low running costs are your main priority, then you’re much better off with the Outlander PHEV. 

Totally exempt from road tax altogether, it can return up to 148mpg, making it one of the most economical SUVs on earth. Prices for the Outlander range start at £24,798 for the entry-level model, while the PHEV is priced from £29,248 when taking the government’s plug-in grant into consideration. As a result, the diesel’s cheaper to buy up front, but overall running costs might tip your favour in the direction of the hybrid. It’s certainly not the best driving SUV around, but then it’s not really meant to be. 

Mitsubishi has always been a name associated with functionality, and with lots of space it’s plenty functional indeed. Sure, the PHEV is much better in terms of economy, but then plug-in hybrids aren’t for everyone. If you’re looking for a good blend of practicality, comfort and ease-of-use, then the Outlander might just be for you. Thanks for read Review Of Mitsubishi Outlander.

Review Of Nissan Pulsar

Review Of Nissan Pulsar - Up close, you may think you are looking at Nissan's Qashqai, X-Trail or Juke. But no, this isn’t a crossover, it’s the new Nissan Pulsar hatchback. Nissan has catapulted it into the market to tackle models like the Ford Focus, giving Nissan fans their first hatchback since the Almera disappeared in 2006. First off, because the Pulsar is an all-new model, its handling doesn’t feel as seasoned as the Ford Focus or VW Golf. Instead, Nissan has decided to give the Pulsar a drive to match its family hatchback name tag, and that means it is all about comfort. The Pulsar does deliver in this department it's got to be said, with a quite cabin and supple suspension. The steering can be a little unresponsive at times, but it is very easy to live with and well-weighted. Its engines are also family-friendly as they offer low running costs. From launch they include a 113bhp 1.2-litre turbo petrol, great if you need a small engine to potter about town in, and a 109bhp 1.5-litre diesel, both of which are borrowed from the Nissan Qashqai. The diesel we are testing emits just 94g/km of CO2 and returns around 78mpg, which should cut down on trips to the pumps, but it still has decent shove when you feather the accelerator, and that’s handy when it comes to overtaking on the motorway. 

Nissan Pulsar Image

The Nissan Pulsar’s interior is incredibly ergonomic, with easy to understand buttons and toggles. The floating console effect and swooshing design across the dash also gives a really funky look. Equipment levels are pleasing too. All models get cruise control, all-round electric windows, air-con and Bluetooth, while more lavish models like this N-TEC trim get satnav and a reversing camera. If you go for the flagship Tekna trim, you get Nissan's new-fangled Safety Shield system, offering everything from object detection to a cool 360 parking view of the car. When it comes to being a family car, good over the shoulder visibility, a tall windscreen and some convenient cubby holes, just make things that bit easier. 

Nissan has made a point of saying the Nissan Pulsar is one of the best in its class when it comes to rear passenger space, and well, They were right to. As you can see there is more than enough head and leg room here. Boot space is also worth shouting about, at 385 litres, there is more room in here than the both the Golf and Ford Focus – it is smaller than the Civic though. You do however get a bit of an awkward loading lip here, and a lip when you fold the seats down as well. So, while we’ll be intrigued to try the hot hatch version, which is coming by the way, the standard Pulsar hasn’t really got the fun factor. But it’s still a great car, especially if your family is looking for something comfortable and kitted up to the eyeballs with interesting gadgets. Thanks for coming and read Review Of Nissan Pulsar.

Review Of Kia Sportage

Review Of Kia Sportage - When crossover SUVs hit the mainstream, the Nissan Qashqai was the poster boy, but, alongside the Qashqai were models like this, the Kia Sportage. This crossover has been an integral part of the south Korean-manufacturers success in the UK over the last few years, along with models like the Picanto city car and Rio supermini. With a minor facelift back in 2014, the Sportage is in its third-generation, and judging by the sheer amount of them you will have seen on the road, it’s clear to see that it’s Kia’s bestseller. I just want to start by showing off the Sportage’s practicality, which is really important as some vehicles in the crossover segment tend to forget this and go for style over substance. The boot for example offers 564 litres with the seats up and 1,353 with the seats down, meaning its bigger than the Honda CR-V – it’s just a shame those seats down fold flat. Still, very practical. Sitting in the back feels more like a large saloon than an SUV as there is plenty of space from head to toe, particularly important if you plan on going on long distance journeys. 
Kia Sportage Image

Inside, the Sportage is pretty swarve. It may not quite have the German manufacturing edge of VW or Audi, but you’ll pay a premium for that anyway. On a whole, the materials used are good quality and the dashboard layout is very logical. Standard Kia Sportage models come with essentials like Bluetooth and air con, as well as luxury features like cruise control and leather trimmings. The flagship KX-4 model we have has a handy 7-inch touchscreen with sat nav and a reversing camera display as well as a panoramic sunroof. There is even a parallel park assist system which analyses your surroundings and steers the car for you, which is a bit strange at first, but, it really does work. Right, enough of the robotics, let’s do some actual driving. 

Just like the Hyundai ix35 that it shares its blueprints with, the Sportage is very much built for comfort, with a supple suspension that makes everything from city to motorway driving a breeze. What it fails to offer though is high levels of engagement as the steering lacks feedback and weighting. There’s also a fair amount of body roll when you chuck it into corners and the diesel engines can be noisy. But before we get too critical, let’s not forget, the Nissan Qashqai hasn’t really got the X factor in the driving dynamics department either and in fact, apart from the likes of the Ford Kuga, crossover SUVs tend to struggle when it comes to excitement behind the wheel. Although there is an entry-level 1.6-litre petrol with 133bhp available, it is the diesel options that will most likely get people’s attention, and these come in two forms, a 1.7-litre and 2.0-litre. 

With power outputs including 114, 134 and 181bhp, it is pretty easy to find a diesel to suit you. It is however a bit disappointing that the most efficient engine, which is the 114bhp 1.7-litre diesel, emits 135g/km and returns a claimed average of 54mpg. This still remains the best overall pick in the engine range though. If you really want to spruce your Sportage up, then there is an AWD model available with the 181bhp 2.0-litre diesel, which is what we are testing. This will allow you to explore more of the countryside, with the ability to split power evenly between all four wheels, so you don’t slip in the mud, along with a hill descent assist feature. Word of advice though, go for the manual box, because the automatic is rather sluggish when changing in-between gears. While the Sportage might lack some driving excitement, its good levels of kit, impressive practicality and comfort definitely warrant it a place on your shopping list of crossover SUVs. It’s also cheaper than the Nissan Qashqai and Ford Kuga, plus you get Kia’s seven-year warranty, which in itself is worth a great deal, especially if you’re a family car buyer. Thanks for visit Review Of Kia Sportage.

Review Of Suzuki Vitara

Review Of Suzuki Vitara - The flamboyant style of crossovers never ceases to amaze me – just look at Suzuki’s new fourth-generation Vitara. Sharing a platform with the SX4 S-Cross crossover, the Suzuki Vitara has compact crossover looks – with an Evoque-esque two tone paint job, and all-wheel-drive capabilities, so competition includes the likes of the Renault Captur and Nissan Juke. Starting at £13,999, around the same price as a mid-range supermini, the new Vitara is competitively priced, so it will be interesting to see how its new credentials compare to 0:40 rivals. Now, We personally think the cabin of the Vitara is quite fresh and funky, but after asking several different people, I got some mixed responses. On one hand you have this cool body-coloured inlay and a very modern-looking touchscreen system, which I particularly like – but, on the other hand, there are loads of scratchy plastics. Regardless of aesthetics though, standard kit on every model is impressive, with cruise control, automatic air-con, digital radio and Bluetooth. Storage compartments are pretty good too. Although the flagship SZ5 model we have has all the bells and whistles, the mid-range SZ-T trim still offers you sat-nav and a rear parking camera. Leg room is reasonable in the back, but head room lacks a little, and average-sized adults might struggle if you have this panoramic sunroof of our SZ5 model. 
Suzuki Vitara Image

As it’s slightly smaller than the S-Cross it is based on, the boot isn’t quite as big at 375 litres. But it is on par with most of its rivals. The under floor storage is good for hiding valuables though, and its ability to offer a smooth loading surface when you fold the seats down is handy too. But with the seats folded down you get just 710 litres of storage, a fair bit off rivals like the Renault Captur and Nissan Juke. The engine line-up is very simple, there is one diesel and one petrol, both are 1.6-litre units and both produce 118bhp. The petrol is available with a five-speed manual and six-speed automatic gearbox, whereas the diesel come with just a six-speed manual. 

We’re driving the 1.6 petrol mated to a five-speed manual which requires a bit of work to get the most out of it. In fact, max pulling power comes in at just under 4,500 rpm, so you will end up getting a loud rumble from the engine by the time you get some oomph. And speaking of noise in the cabin, wind noise at motorway speeds is quite intrusive. The diesel on the other hand delivers max pulling power in around half those revs, so is easier to drive low down the revs, as you would expect. The diesel is also the most economical, emitting just 106g/km of CO2 and you will realistically get around 65 to 70mpg. Much better than the 40mpg we have been getting in the petrol. 

Compact crossovers are not renowned for their driving dynamics, but that is where the Vitara is different, as the steering is very sharp and responsive and its spongy suspension doesn’t jeopardize its composure in the corners. If you go for the All Grip four-wheel-drive system, which does slow down its 0-62mph sprint times a bit, you get extra traction when cornering thanks to the intelligent Auto mode available. You can also flick it into Sport mode, and you can actually feel the instance the throttle response sharpens up. 

There is also a Snow and Mud mode, pretty self-explanatory really. If you do get stuck in really bad snow or mud though, then you can use Lock mode. This utilises the limited slip differential and diverts power to the wheels that are actually gripping to stop you spinning on the spot. The new Vitara offers the fun character of the Swift supermini with the All Grip, off-road capability of the S-Cross it’s as simple as that really. And even though compact crossovers veer more towards style and practicality, the Vitara still manages to offer some clout when it comes to driving dynamics, which is lacking in this segment. It’s certainly more entertaining to drive than the Peugeot 2008 or Renault Captur. Thanks for read Review Of Suzuki Vitara.

Review Of Kia Soul

Review Of Kia Soul - This is the new Kia Soul, and just like its predecessor it offers the same mish-mash appeal of hatchback and SUV, ultimately earning it a crossover nametag and a place on the hit list of rivals like the Nissan Juke. So what’s changed, well, on the outside there have been a few design tweaks, like this reworked front-end and it now sits lower than before, giving it a sportier appeal. However, it is now longer and wider than before, making it more practical. And We think that in this paintjob and with the floating roof effect, it actually looks rather charming. Anyway, let’s start by jumping in the back. The best way to describe the space back here is that it’s like a mini bus. We mean buckle up, and there is room to slouch, relax, and even put your feet under the seat in front of you. There is also plenty of space for a middle passenger. Coming around to the boot, it’s not massive, but it has been improved over the last model, as the opening is now 62mm wider and there has been a storage increase of four per cent, bringing its total up to 354 litres, which just pips the Nissan Juke by four litres. The seats also fold down to allow for up to 1,367 litres of storage space.

Kia Soul Image

Now, on to the cabin, It is clear that the new Soul has a more upmarket feel than the previous model, especially when it comes to the materials used. Even things like these quirky speakers just seem to give it more character. Kit is also in abundance as every model comes with DAB digital radio, air-con and USB connectivity. And when you start climbing up the trims you can make the Soul quite lavish. I mean one of the top trims we have, Mixx, comes with sat-nav, Bluetooth and the cool two-tone paint job. Essential storage compartments are also on offer, with cup holders, decent sized door bins, and convenient places for your spare change and house keys. So far, so good. 

Now let’s take it out on the road. Like any other Kia, the Soul has an easy to drive feel about it thanks to its light controls, including its gearbox. Other reassuring and comfortable elements include great all-round visibility, which is in part thanks to its huge wing mirrors, and a high SUV-like riding position. There is also great insulation in the cabin from the outside world, and you can actually use Bluetooth on the motorway without having to scream down the phone. When it comes to drive quality it behaves itself in the corners and won’t do anything unexpected, but you will find it hard to have any amount of fun. Also, I recommend you stick to Normal mode when driving, as the weighting of the selectable Comfort and Sport modes can feel a little artificial. 

The suspension is also on the firm side, which although it has been improved over the last model, it’s still not as comfortable as that of the Renault Captur or Peugeot 2008. Engine wise, there are two conventional units to choose from, a 1.6-litre petrol and a 1.6-litre diesel. We are driving a 126bhp version of the diesel and it’s not too bad when it comes to cruising along, but you will have to go above two and a half thousand revs to actually get some decent pull from it. And although the diesel trumps the petrol for efficiency, it’s hardly class leading, returning an average of around 56mpg and this particular model emits 132g/km of CO2. 

Something like the Nissan Juke 1.5-litre diesel is much more efficient. But, if efficiency is your prerogative in the Soul, then fear not, as there is also a full electric model on offer. What the Kia Soul lacks in on-road finesse, it makes up for with its welcoming, comfortable and practical interior. Its price tag is also very appealing, as it starts from less than the Nissan Juke, and Renault Captur, and Peugeot 2008, and Vauxhall Mokka. And, of course, let’s not forget about Kia’s seven-year/100,000 mile warranty, which I’m sure will give family car buyers great peace of mind. Thanks for read Review Of Kia Soul.

Review Of Kia Optima 2016

Review Of Kia Optima 2016 - Kia has done an amazing job of making a name for itself in almost every segment in the UK – there’s the likes of the Picanto city car, the Rio supermini, the cee’d hatchback and of course the Sportage crossover. But what about this, the Kia Optima saloon, well drove one, and apart from that it has flown very much under the radar, but Kia hopes that will change with a new fourth-generation Kia Optima for 2016, which is longer, wider and has a new grille. The question is, can Kia replicate its rapidly improving formula with its saloon? Well it’s going to have to if it wants to compete with the likes of the Ford Mondeo and Skoda Superb. Well, first things first, the Optima definitely feels like an upmarket saloon inside, with this smart-looking fascia spliced into distinctive, easy to digest sections. The leading feature though is this touchscreen system, which comes in 7-inch as well as a new 8-inch size – and as with many other Kias, this system is snappy and incredibly responsive. Standard kit is impressive across the range with reversing sensors and camera, sat-nav and dual automatic air-con all thrown in – you’ve also got business driver favourites like cruise control and Bluetooth. On the quality front the Optima is well screwed together, has a comfortable driving position with plenty of seating adjustment and the materials used all-around are nice to the touch and look the part as well. 

Kia Optima 2016 Image

Practicality in the rear is one of the Optima’s trump cards as there is loads of leg room and plenty of head room – reminds me a lot of the Superb actually. There’s also a convenient arm rest with cup holders in the middle. Boot practicality is a bit different though. Now usually you fold the seats down manually with a lever or pull a handle in the boot and they fall down. The Optima however requires both, which okay is only a small thing, but you do notice it. And although boot space stands at over 500 litres, the actual boot opening is quite narrow. The first thing I look for when driving a Kia is steering feel – because it used to be the case that this was underwhelming and let its cars down a bit. Thankfully though Kia has improved its steering across its range. The Kia Optima’s steering doesn’t feel quite as natural as the new Sportage, but its speed-sensitive power steering responds fairly well and weights up when you pick-up speed and head into a corner, although it is a little too light when plodding around the city. A 1.7-litre 139bhp diesel is the sole engine option which delivers a fairly nippy zero to 60 sprint time of 9.7 seconds and has 340Nm of torque on tap for swift motorway overtaking. As part of its new-generation comes a huge improvement in CO2 emissions, which now stands at 110g/km for this six-speed manual and 116g for the seven-speed twin-clutch. And fuel economy is quoted at an average of 67.3mpg – expect around 50mpg in day-to-day driving though. From a composure point of view, Kia has actually retuned the chassis in order to improve handling and ride quality. 

Now, the Optima is comfy enough, even over pot holes in fact, but in terms of offering the fun-factor, you’ll want to look elsewhere. Now this bit may shock you. Price wise the Optima is more expensive than the Vauxhall Insignia, Skoda Superb, Hyundai i40 and Ford Mondeo, starting from £21,895. But let’s not get too carried away, Kia are well known for its well-equipped interiors and the quality of kit you get in the standard Optima could cost you a few hundred or even a few thousand pound more in one of its competitors. Plus the Optima looks totally unique to anything on the market and it comes with a seven-year warranty. In terms of offering a comfy, gadget-packed saloon cruiser, you couldn’t really ask for much more, okay a fun drive would be nice, but hopefully that will come with time. And there’s actually an estate and hybrid version of the Optima on its way too, so you might want to keep your eyes peeled for that. Thanks for visit Review Of Kia Optima 2016.

Review Of Kia Picanto 2016

Review Of Kia Picanto 2016 - The smallest model in Kia’s growing range, the Kia Picanto is a city car rivalling models like the Skoda Citigo, Citroen C1 and Suzuki Celerio. Aimed at trendy young urbanites, it has quite chic looks, thanks to its bold grille, bright colours and stylish wheels. It is one of the older cars in Kia’s line-up, but a refresh in 2015 brought some subtle improvements to its design and even more equipment. So, should this shopper be on your shopping list? Let’s find out. Kia says the Picanto has a ‘big-car feel’, and if kit is anything to go buy they’re not wrong. I don’t normally like listing equipment but in this ‘4’ trim level it defines your whole experience. This tiny 12ft long car has keyless entry, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, reversing camera, climate control, Hollywood mirror lighting, a sunroof and the same responsive 7-inch infotainment system and sat-nav you’ll find in much more expensive Kias. It’s the motoring equivalent of a whisky liqueur. And it’s not all just plastic fantastic, most of the materials look pretty smart, the driving position is perfectly fine and there are some really neat touches. I particularly like these flip out cup holders, with enough room above to fit in a fairly large mug of coffee. It also has a large glovebox, deep door bins and a USB port for charging your phone. Now, you can get a three-door Picanto, but we’d say this five-door is much better, especially as it doesn’t actually cost any extra. It does make getting in the back far easier though, and once inside it’s actually surprising how much head and legroom there is.

Review Of Kia Picanto 2016

Step around to the boot though, and you see why, because the rear seats almost go to the back of the car. The boot is fairly deep, so you can stack a few bags on top of each other, but its 200-litres of space is down on the Citigo and Celerio, which both have just over 250 litres. But, if there’s just two of you in the Picanto, you can fold the rear seats flat to give yourself more luggage room. So it might have the gadgets of a bigger car, but does it feel lively and nip in and out of gaps like you want a city car to? Well, let’s get the bad news out of the way first; this Kia Picanto has a clutch more like a switch than a pedal, so it can be tricky to get going smoothly, and you might even stall once or twice. But once up and running, it’s less of a pain and we’d definitely rather have this five-speed manual than the optional four-speed automatic, which blunts performance and economy. And yes, it can be rather fun actually, with enough grip from the front wheels, steering which is a bit artificially heavy, but basically fine and just enough body roll to warn you to calm down if you get too carried away. There’s a 1.0-litre engine with 64bhp, or this 1.25-litre with 84bhp and we’d go for the latter. 

Despite a small economy advantage on paper, both should just hit 60mpg in the real-world if you drive carefully. Reaching 60mph in 11.5 seconds the 1.25-litre Picanto is actually quicker than its main rivals, but there is a slight problem. While the Citigo has a sweet three-cylinder, the Kia’s four-pot engine gets quite thrashy and loud at high revs, and motorway refinement isn’t as good. OK, so this is a city car, but with more commuters downsizing, it could impact on its versatility. The Picanto is amongst the cheapest cars on sale, starting from £8,345, while this top-of-the-range ‘4’ model is £12,795. But, the Citigo is even less, costing between £8,275 and £11k. Still, the Kia does have a trick up its sleeve, which is a seven-year warranty, more than double the length of the Skoda’s. So, the smallest Kia looks good, it’s very well-equipped and should prove reliable. But, it is starting to show its age a bit, with a small boot and fewer motorway smarts than newer rivals. If you are staying around town, the Picanto is a great choice, but if you are downsizing from a bigger vehicle, there are city cars which will keep you feeling more grown-up. Thanks for read Review Of Kia Picanto 2016.

Review Of Hyundai i30

Review Of Hyundai i30 - Hyundai is a company that’s come on leaps and bounds in the past few years, thanks in no small part to cars like this, the Hyundai i30 hatchback. Aimed straight at the family hatch segment, it mightn’t have the same star power as something like a Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus, but don’t think for a second that it’s anything of an underdog. In fact, this is a car that’s so popular that Hyundai says it specifically had to ramp up production of this new facelifted 2015 version at its factory in the Czech Republic just to keep up with buyer demand. All those people can’t be wrong, right? Open the doors and step in, and the first thing you’re greeted with is this neat infotainment system and large, sweeping dash. On first impressions, this is a smart-looking car. Having received various extra gizmos in an effort to further boost its appeal, it’s loaded with touches like two massive smartphone docks with USB and aux inputs, plus a total of two 12v sockets. It even has this neat connector included specifically for iPods, so if you’re into your tech, this will prove one seriously welcoming interior. Wide and spacious, other mod cons include a handy sunglasses holder and a huge storage binnacle under the armrest, while it also gets a reversing camera, cruise control and DAB radio. 

Hyundai i30 image

Is it perfect? Well, no. It’s something of a shame that the cool bits are slightly let down by these plastic-y panels, and while the infotainment system isn’t quite as fiddly as those offered by some other manufacturers like Peugeot, it still does feel like something of a step down from VW’s. Likewise, the controls could be better laid out and the air con feels a little like somebody’s puffing at you through a straw, but overall the interior’s comfortable with supportive seats and this nice leather-trimmed wheel. The back’s just as comfy, with loads of leg and headroom, plus ISOFIX for your child seats and two cupholders in the armrest. 60/40 folding seats tumble down, flip up and fold flat really easily to free up more room, with a maximum boot space of 1,316 litres that’s bigger than the Focus, the Golf and also the SEAT Leon. Comfort’s the aim of the game when it comes down to driving the Hyundai i30, with a decent ride quality that soaks up most of what the road throws at it. The suspension still can’t soak up all the larger bumps, but overall it’s composed and confident round corners, though admittedly not that compelling thanks to steering that’s a little lacking in feedback. If you’re looking for something similar but a bit faster, Hyundai does now offer a warm-hatch version called the i30 Turbo, but in honesty you’re probably better off with a Leon FR. 

All Hyundai i30s come with 1.6-litre engines, with this car featuring a turbodiesel with an automatic gearbox and stop-start technology. Again, performance fans will find themselves disappointed, but for the average Joe it offers plenty of pull and smooth gear changes. The gearbox does tend to clunk up a bit when you first put your foot down, but with claimed fuel economy of nearly 73mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 94g/km when you specify the manual gearbox, realistically the only sound you’ll hear is that of all the spare change jingling about in your pocket. Cool, easy to live with and with an obvious appeal for drivers looking for something that bit different, the Hyundai i30 matches style with substance in a smart and appealing package. Add low running costs and a list price that starts from around £15k, it’s a well-price alternative to mainstream European hatches, with a distinctive style all of its own. Thanks for read Review Of Hyundai i30.

Review Of Volkswagen Golf R Estate 2016

Review Of Volkswagen Golf R Estate 2016 - Fast Golf R Estate cars. There’s just something about them, which seems to appeal to petrol heads. Perhaps it’s the fact they are a bit odd, as if they have snuck out of the factory when the CEO isn’t looking. It could also be because, as you grow up, needing more space doesn’t necessarily mean you have to drive a dull car. Step forward the Volkswagen Golf R Estate. And this isn’t a badge engineering exercise, you really do get the 296bhp, four-wheel drive hardware from the super hatch. But, this is no rally car, it’s a civilised, sensible Volkswagen Golf. That is until you put your foot down. Acceleration to 62mph takes a luggage destroying 5.1 seconds, just 0.2 seconds more than the hatchback, with rapid-fire DSG fitted as standard. And, while all of the noise in the cabin might not be from the quad tailpipes, or entirely genuine, does it really matter when it sounds this exciting? That might be a matter for debate, but what isn’t is the four-wheel drive, because whether it’s summer, winter, rain or shine, plant your foot and the result is the same. 

Volkswagen Golf R Estate 2016 Image

In fact, this is one of the most planted cars I’ve ever tested. But that’s not it, because select Comfort or Eco from the dash and the noise disappears, the suspension softens and the Golf is more comfortable than a standard Golf with 18-inch wheels. You really can take your dog to the park one minute and hammer through the compression at Eau Rouge the next. But, for this full transformers effect, you really need to go for the £830 Dynamic Chassis Control, it’s money very well spent. In fact, I actually like it best in Comfort, because the suspension soaks up bumps beautifully, but there’s still not too much body roll and loads of grip. And this is where the individual setting comes in, because you can tweak each element of Volkswagen Golfs repertoire to your taste. The only bad news. Performance doesn’t come for free, and even in Eco mode, the best economy I’ve seen has been below 35mpg, some way off the 40.4mpg claimed average. Of course up front, the interior is identical to the Golf R hatch, so you get the blue needles only fitted in ‘R’ models, Alcantara bucket seats which are both comfortable and supportive, along with blue ambient lighting. And yes, compared to rivals like the Focus ST Estate and Leon ST Cupra, the Golf’s level of finish keeps it one step ahead. But, while ‘R’ means you get all the performance gear, you’ll still need to spend a bit extra for all the kit you see here. 

This ‘Discover’ navigation system is £765 and adding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto costs £100 extra. You can also spec a £545 Dynaudio speaker upgrade and if you are worried about the elongated boot, there’s an optional reversing camera. Space in the back seats is pretty good, the Golf has certainly grown in recent years, but it’s still no Passat if you want three abreast or lots of extra room for child seats. Still, there’s plenty of room for two adults back here. But, of course this car is noteworthy for its 605-litre boot, with a low and wide loading lip and practical hatchback. Fold the seats down and it grows to 1,620 litres, more than many cars from the next class up and around 100-litres more than the ST Estate. There are also plenty of lashing points, and yes, you’ll need to use those. As for its price, well, you’ll either think that £33k is a huge amount of money for a Golf, or that a car which feels this special to drive is worth every penny. Either way, the Leon Cupra and Focus ST are cheaper alternatives. If I could fill my dream garage, I’d probably have an SUV, a daily runabout and a lightweight sports car for the weekends. But, what if you could just have one car? For me, the Golf R would certainly tick a lot of boxes, and if one of yours is “wardrobe shifting boot space” then the Estate will be even better. Thanks for read Review Of Volkswagen Golf R Estate 2016.

Review Of Peugeot 308 SW

Review Of Peugeot 308 SW - Peugeot is off to a great start with the 308, which has already been crowned European Car of the Year. But, what if its 470-litre boot is just too small for your needs. Well, you could need the SW estate version, which has a boot larger than some SUVs. Not only that, but it also looks rather elegant too. It has certainly taken a step upmarket compared with its predecessor, with a smaller grille, neat headlights and cleaner lines. It has been on a diet too, shedding up to 140kg in an effort to perform better and save you money. Peugeot doesn’t have the same reputation for quirky styling as Citroen, but the 308’s cabin is quite adventurous. This small steering wheel is said to improve agility and you need at the instruments over it, rather than through it. The dashboard is minimalist and focused around this 9.7-inch touch-screen, which is a great move, although we do miss having physical heater controls. Even the base Active trim comes with air-con, sat-nav and parking sensors, while the top T version boasts red stitching for its upholstery, keyless entry and even a display showing acceleration and how hard the turbo is working. 

Peugeot 308 SW Image

Aimed at families, the back of this car is just as important as the front, and the middle bench is fine for two adults or three children and folds flat easily when you pull these boot levers. The 660-litre boot is huge, exceeding models like the Civic Tourer and Golf Estate. With the seats folded, its 1,775 litres of space is more than you’ll find in the back of a Jeep Grand Cherokee. A low and smooth loading lip makes loading heavy objects far less of a strain. The Peugeot 308 SW is a comfortable car to drive, partly thanks to its lighter body, which has allowed Peugeot to soften its suspension without blunting handling. The small steering wheel is a novel feature, making sharp corners easy to tackle with a flick of the wrist, but it can also grate on longer motorway journeys, where I found it less comfortable to hold. Diesels are popular in the SW, and you can choose from a 1.6 or 2.0-litre with between 92 and 180bhp. 

Our pick is the version we’re driving now, the BlueHDI 120, because it can return a staggering 85.6mpg and costs nothing in annual road tax. If you don’t have a high annual mileage, it’s also worth test driving the 1.2-litre turbo petrol with 130bhp, because it’s surprisingly good at getting this load-lugger moving, despite its small size. Peugeot is targeting premium brands like Volkswagen and Audi, and it shows. This 308 SW not only looks a lot classier, it feels it too. The small steering wheel and minimalist interior may polarize opinion, but its low running costs and gigantic boot certainly won’t. Thanks for read Review Of Peugeot 308 SW.

Review Of Vauxhall Astra 2016

Review Of Vauxhall Astra 2016 - Now, we’ve already tested a diesel Astra and we were very impressed. In fact, we obviously weren’t the only ones as the Astra was now been crowned the European Car of the Year for 2016. And with such a broad range of Astras on offer, we thought it would be well worth testing a petrol, along with a different trim level. Not just any petrol either, because this is Vauxhall’s new 1.0-litre turbo, with just three cylinders. So, it seems fitting to start on the road first. And, while the way the previous version of the Astra drove was nothing to rave about, in this model there are reasons to get excited. You probably already know that this generation of Astra is over 100kg lighter than before, but what you might not know is that amongst new Astras, the 1.0-litre petrol is 87kg lighter than the diesel. Can you feel the equivalent of a rugby player been taken off the front wheels? Well, perhaps not around town, but head out onto a country lane and the nose is a fraction quicker to dive into corners, the steering feels particularly fluid and the Astra resists understeer doggedly. Of course, weighing a similar amount to a supermini also means this tiny 1.0-litre actually feels quite nippy. It might only have 104bhp, but it can get you to 62mph in 10.5 seconds, and it feels wonderfully smooth, so using the revs doesn’t feel unnatural. One downside to choosing the smallest engine is you only get a five-speed manual, but once you get used to not reaching for a sixth gear, it’s impressively relaxed and refined for motorway cruising. 

Vauxhall Astra Image

Fuel economy is rated at 64.2mpg, but in real-world driving, we’ve been getting mid-50s, meaning more than 400 miles between fill-ups, while CO2 is rated at 102g/km. The last Astra we drove was the SRi trim, so this Tech Line is slightly lower in the pecking order. But, you know what? It is extremely well-equipped, and just as before, we love the eight-inch IntelliLink infotainment system, which is easy to use and very responsive. It’s not quite perfect in here though. While we loved the sportier seats in the SRi, these more basic ones are a little firm and unsupportive, and the standard air-con comes with the smallest heater and fan controls I think I’ve ever seen. Also, with this much kit I’d also have expected reversing sensors, and the lack of them highlights the poor rear visibility out of the small back window. Still, this is largely nit-picking, and the Astra’s interior is very pleasant indeed, with a far more logical layout than we’ve seen in older Vauxhall’s and many of the Astra’s competitors. Of course, if you’ve seen our review of the diesel, you’ll know there’s plenty of space in the front and back too, along with lots of room for coffee cups and your wallet. 

We not sure if it’s what it was designed for, but this lip also keeps my phone secure, even if you might be out of luck with something like an iPhone 6 Plus, or a sandwich… Measuring 370 litres, the Astra’s boot is 10 litres down on the Golf, but it’s larger than a Ford Focus. It’s not class-leading then, and the fact it has this fairly tall lip and lacks clever ideas like the Civic’s magic rear seats or Skoda’s Velcro dividers means it’s a bit dull if you like those ‘surprise and delight’ moments. The Astra starts from just over £15k, making it several hundred pounds cheaper than a Focus, and several grand less than a Golf. This 1.0-litre Tech Line is great value at less that £17k, with the only option fitted to this car being the ten-spoke wheels, costing £395. Petrol seems to be enjoying a resurgence at the moment, and with engines like this cracking 1.0-litre turbo, we can see why. In fact, personally I’d take this over the entry-level diesel, because it’s quieter, smooth revving and more fun. If you aren’t worried about blistering acceleration or having every gadget, this 1.0-litre Tech Line could even be the pick of the Astra line-up. Thanks for read Review Of Vauxhall Astra 2016.