21 Oct 2014

The Most Anticipated Vehicle Releases In The Next 12 Months

For those of us who have a need for speed, or are just thrilled by car technology and gadgetry, the latest car releases are always something that we look forwards to. With ever increasing performance capabilities and new stylistic features, the latest models will be sure to incorporate brand new looks and features. When the time comes for the global motor shows, such as the Paris Motor Show, it’s always a huge talking point for all petrol heads.

We’ve looked at the cars which pack a punch. These are the sports cars, the muscle cars and the speedsters; all powered by the latest turbos and V8s, whilst handling with precision.

Here’s the most anticipated vehicle releases over the next 12 months, starting with the beautiful Alfa Romeo 4C Spider:

Alfa Romeo 4C Spider


The Italians know how to manufacture a fast car, with Ferrari, Lamborghini, Pagani and Alfa Romeo all rolling out the most beautiful, astonishing and downright impressive supercars that we’ve ever seen. The great news is that Alfa are set to release the new 4C Spider next year, with it expected to hit the road in June.

The Spider is an update on the Coupe which is adored around the world, and for the new model, Alfa have simple turned the car into a convertible. Taking the roof off a coupe doesn’t always breed success, but it seems Alfa really have managed something special here.

A stunning centre mounted exhaust system and dual carbon-titanium pipes, with 18-inch front and 19-inch rear wheels, come together to create a magnificent looking Italian racing beast. Under the bonnet there is a 1.7-litre four-cylinder engine, which produces huge 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. We can't wait to get behind the wheel of this one when it arrives on British shores next year!
Alfa Romeo 4C Spider

Mercedes C63 AMG Coupe


In 2015, Mercedes is set to unleash its C63 AMG Coupe, with the grand unveiling booked in for the Paris Motor Show this autumn. With prices starting from £96,565, the C63 sees its old 2.6 litre V8 dropped in favour of a fresh, but downsized, turbo engine.

The new compact V8 will benefit drivers who’re looking for a sportier drive with efficiency very much in mind. Initially the C63 will be on offer as a four-door saloon, with an estate accompanying it at the launch in Paris.

Touted as a rival to the BMW M4, it’s expected that Mercedes will also announce an advanced version complete with a 4.0-litre engine and plenty of other additional features.

Mazda MX-5


The Paris Motor Show is set to be quite an event, especially as it’s been announced that Mazda will be unveiling its latest MX-5 model. As the world’s most popular roadster, the update comes equipped with an aggressive new look, with flared side panels and a curved yet strong looking body on offer in the aim to tempt a brand new generation of Mazda fans.

It will be a shorter, wider and lower version of the current model, and in addition to the upgrades in the looks department, it will also shed over 100kg of weight. This car is set to be priced at around £20,000, unfortunately the cabin remains very much the same, albeit a well finished off interior which features a host of SKYACTIV technology.

The soft-top models weigh as little as 1,050kg, which gives you an example of the engineering that Mazda have put into this new sportster.
New Mazda MX-5

Ford Mustang


2015 will be the next chapter in one of America’s favourite cars, the legendary Ford Mustang. With over 9 million of these aggressive muscle cars sold over the past fifty years, and appearances in movies, on television and with many famous owners, Ford are set to deliver what looks to be one of the car releases of the coming 12 months, if not the last decade or so.

Ford are delivering the Mustang to Asia and Europe for the very first time, with customers in the UK able to get their hands on a right-hand drive version. It’s hoped that the new release attracts all different types of driver, especially with a range of engines on offer including a fuel-efficient 4-cylinder, all the way up to a more powerful V8.
2015 Ford Mustang

Audi R8


We are getting very close to the latest Audi release, the R8. We’ve already seen a camouflaged version of the car being tested around the Nurburgring in Germany and it’s expected that it will be launched in the earlier part of 2015.

Audi are looking to balance performance with everyday driving with this latest release. The interior might be minimal but there is enough space to travel in comfort, with the bonus of their being tons of power under the bonnet, ready to be unleashed from the primed R8.

The entry-level 420-horsepower, 4.2-litre V8 will feature plenty of superior updates from the last model, including much more refined and luxurious leather upholstery.

The R8 is geared up to be one of the top releases of 2015, so watch this space!

The next 12 months look to be fantastic for car lovers, especially with the return of the legendary Mustang, the Audi R8 and the simply superb looking Alfa 4C Spider. We have only had time to run over a few of the releases which are set to hit the roads over the next year, but you can bet your bottom dollar that there are plenty more innovative, sleek and superb new cars waiting in the wings, and yet to be unveiled by manufacturers the world over.

This blog was written by Jennifer Smith on behalf of LeaseCar.co.uk, a vehicle leasing company from the UK


This Is Why Kamui Kobayashi Retired From The Russian GP

Kamui Kobayashi retired from the Russian GP. At the time he said there was nothing wrong with the car but that the team wanted to save mileage on parts. Now, it seems he was protecting the team and himself - he thought his suspension would collapse following a botched repair.


The BBC has seen Kamui's personal Facebook page, which is only visible to friends of the Japanese driver, where he posted this photo and several updates on the car.

On the Friday of the Russian GP Kamui posted: "Scary! Last night a suspension defect was found. There's no spare so it was repaired by wrapping it in carbon. It's checked all the time but, even so, being asked to race like this is too scary! I want to go home already. From here on there are still practices and the race to go. I'm seriously troubled. As a racing driver, should I drive? Should I safely decline? I drive again in 15 minutes…"

Caterham told the BBC Kobayashi was, "...kept informed at all times and at no time did he have any reason to believe it was not safe," and, "It was extensively evaluated at Sochi and Leafield and ultimately a carbon-fibre wrap was applied to provide additional reinforcement - a normal procedure. The component was signed off as safe and re-checked between each subsequent session, to be absolutely sure there was no issue." 

Scary stuff, especially following Jules Bianchi's accident in Japan the week before.

By Matt Hubbard




Fleet - The Triumph Street Triple's First MoT

I never buy new cars but the Triumph Street Triple is the third brand new motorcycle I've bought.  This is daft because I drive cars every day but the bike comes out of the garage much more infrequently.

The Triumph - aged 3

I bought the Triumph in October 2011, chocked a knackered Bandit in as part-ex against it and paid the balance on the never-never.  The finance ended this month so I now own it outright. Being three years old means it needed its first ever MoT.

After a summer of fantastic weather, which extended right through to September, autumn arrived with a vengeance in early October.

I used to ride all year round, in fact I commuted into central Reading for three years on a Yamaha FZ6, but since I hit 40 I've turned into a fair weather rider.

So it was that the morning of the MoT it had rained all night and was drizzling at 9am when I set off.  The dealer, Bulldog Triumph, is 13 miles from home. The roads were wet and the traffic was busy.

I wasn't looking forward to it. Motorcycling is all about confidence and the last time I rode in the wet was in August 2013.

Togged up in my winter riding kit I headed out - and found it perfectly fine. The visor misted up when I slowed down but otherwise the Street Triple's light weight and supreme balance helped no end. It was a cinch.

Brake earlier and smoother, corner slower, lean less, accelerate with a lighter touch and riding in the rain is fine. Avoiding slippery manhole covers, puddles and painted lines the journey was great fun, if a little cold.

It took 40 minutes for Bulldog to pronounce the bike fit to be ridden, with no advisories.  Whilst waiting I looked at the bikes in the showroom, persuading myself I didn't need a new bike, but when faced with such gloriously presented, brand new stock my resolve crumbled.

I've no allegiance to any car manufacturer but am happy that Triumph make the only bikes I'll ever need.  I'd love a Scrambler but there wasn't one in the showroom. There were, however, a trio of gleaming Tiger 800s.  I sat on them, I looked them over and I did the man-maths in my head.

I asked for a valuation of the Street Triple. £3800 said the man. What??? Surely my three year old bike is worth more than that? A Tiger is £8k so I'd end up paying out over £4k for a new bike.  No way Hosé.

In fact the Street Triple is worth more than that, more like £4,500 in a private sale.  But that shocker was enough to put me off.

I've bonded with my bike, I love it in a way that only a man and a machine can do (obviously not in any kind of perverted way).  I'm not getting rid of it, I'm sorry to it that I even thought I would.

One day I'll be one of those old blokes who own a classic bike, and bought it brand new.  Yep, that'll be me and the Triumph. It's a keeper.
The palace of glittering delights

A Triumph Tiger 800

A custom Bonneville

One of the new Bonneville T124s

By Matt Hubbard


20 Oct 2014

Peugeot RCZ R - First Drive Review - Road Trip!

Colin Hubbard has a Peugeot RCZ R for a week. Here's his first drive review combined with a long day's road trip.

Peugeot RCZ R
I had some work commitments in far away places that I'd been putting off for too long, and also a new car to purchase for my wife. With a Peugeot RCZ R due to be delivered I decided to combine all of these things into one long day. A road trip was born.

I left the house at 06:00 and made my way in the dark and wet to the RCZ R that had been delivered the day before. I hadn't yet seen it in daylight and despite having a RCZ a few months back it takes time to familiarise yourself with the controls, functions and positioning.

I sat myself in the heavily bolstered driver's seat and dropped my bag on the passenger seat.

My thermos coffee cup sat nicely in the single cupholder between the seats and I located my TomTom on the right of the windscreen. The RCZ has a built in satnav but it won't take UK postcodes and I hate getting lost. I programmed the TomTom to take me to my first appointment which was a paper storage depot in Northampton, some 120 miles away.

The engine starts with a key which is fine by me and turns over with a slightly gruffer engine tone than the normal models. It's deadly quiet compared to my TT V6, which was no doubt appreciated by my family and neighbours on this early morning.

I depressed the clutch and noticed how light it is, considering it's a heavy duty item to cope with 270bhp from the little 1.6 turbo 4 pot. Select 1st from a rather smooth alloy gear knob and head out from my drive onto the local A-roads, noticing the ride is surprisingly choppy which makes me think this is going to be a very long day.

After 10 minutes I was on the M6 heading south and the ride calmed as the road quality improved and direction straightens. I got up to motorway speeds and settled to a steady cruising speed, dodging lorries and lane 2 hogging cars.

The hard ride comes into its own on the motorway as it feels like a go-kart in that you move the wheel and there's no slop in the bushes or damping so the car moves in correlation with the wheel to the nth degree. A soft push is felt on the opposite Alcantara shoulder bolster to direction change as you move lane.

6th gear is well suited to motorway speeds so at 70mph the engine is spinning at 2,800rpm, which is calm, yet there's also good pull from this rev level. I couldn't recall how to set the cruise control so that will have to wait for daylight.

Sometime later I switched from the M6 onto the M1 for a short hop to Northampton. As I had plenty of time I stopped off at Rothersthorpe Services for my road trip treat of a McDonalds breakfast. As I turned on full lock into a parking space the limited slip differential groaned as it tried to push both front wheels at equal-ish speeds.

After a soggy sausage bagel, lovely hash brown and well needed coffee I headed back to the car. I found a Mk1 Audi TT had parked next to me and it's obvious to me the TT's looks were a heavy influence in the RCZ's design inspiration, although the RCZ is so much bigger than the TT. Both great looking cars!

15 minutes later and I parked up at Howard Smith Paper for a meeting over the decommissioning of my client's mobile phone installation on the roof of its building.

After 2 hours spent looking at the installation from the inside of the building I head back to the car park and soak in the details of the RCZ in proper daylight. It is a fabulous looking car, the R gets unique alloys (which help to cool the uprated brakes), a fixed rear spoiler and matt black roof arches which differentiate it from the already good looking RCZ.

On the inside the seats are a work of art and wouldn't look out of place in a Lamborghini. The gear knob is carried over from the 208 GTI, has 3 different colours and is a joy to stir the gears with as it is smooth and nicely shaped.

Next, I'm off to Coventry to look at an 'immaculate' Audi A6 Avant in Ibis White to replace our now sold BMW 320d.

The sat nav took me on the A45 towards Coventry which is littered with 50mph limits and speed cameras so I took the time to figure out the cruise control. It is operated from a lower left stalk and, once armed, speed is adjusted via two buttons on the same stalk. 

The speed is shown in a digital display between the clocks and you can alter the it by 1mph at a time. I set it to 53mph which, according to the satellite calculated speed from my TomTom, is exactly 50mph.

When in Coventry the hard damping revels in the turns and twist of the side roads and I found it perfectly acceptable for my own taste.

The A6 is parked on a rough street and as I walked up to it I saw the first mark on the rear wheel arch. As I walked around I saw more marks and think about walking away - but decide to wait for the trader to turn up. 10 minutes later he arrives, we chat, I ask if he has both keys, the reply is no but the previous owner said he will send them on if he finds them. Yeah yeah.

I also ask where the immaculate Audi is as this clearly isn't immaculate and, as I point out the half dozen marks on the body, the trader remarks, "ooh I didn't notice that," and, "that wasn't there this morning," and as there's no movement in the price I walk away without even opening a door never mind going for a test drive.

Now off to Boston which will be a pain in the arse as the route is diagonal across the country on some tiny roads which will no doubt be littered with HGV's on their journeys to the middle of nowhere.

Just before I set off I connected my phone to the Peugeot's Bluetooth system - this is done simply and quickly and is a lesson to other manufacturers. I set off and call the wife to update her on the car situation, the call is clear and easily made but you do have to stretch out to press the buttons on the infotainment system which is annoying. The problem is the upper centre console rakes back towards the windscreen so while the heater controls can be reached easily you have to stretch to be able to touch the hi-fi and phone controls.

As I passed Leicester if find my assumption on the nightmare journey is totally wrong, it turns out that the A52 is actually a brilliant road and fabulous fun in the zingy, curvy Peugeot. The mix of high power and high torque (243lb/ft) with a lightweight 4 pot motor and mechanical LSD means progress is fast and steady.

The scatterings of tractors and doddering Landrovers were simply annihilated with a good dose of right foot and it stepped back in quickly and safely afterwards. The wheel control in the R is much, much better than the other models, no doubt helped by the lighter alloys but also the stiffened suspension and bracing.

The handling has been tuned by Peugeot Sport and they have done a damn fine job. The RCZ R is 10mm lower than the rest of the range and whilst hard it is very accurate and stable so the car can be placed inch perfect without being thrown off line by potholes. Compared with a well damped German car the French car's damping is almost elastic in feel rather than fluid, I suspect down to the hard bushing and tight damping. 

I would go so far as to say that it's on par with the front wheel drive hot hatch king, the Megane 265 Cup and only a back to back test would reveal which is the better car.

When I get to my destination in Boston to view a 520d Touring the private drive to the trader's house is littered with deep potholes which are a potential challenge to the hard ride and low body height. I needn't have worried as there was no awkward scratching noises nor crashing through the wheel when the Goodyear Eagle F1s suddenly hit the other side of a pothole.

When I see the Le Mans blue Beemer it looks great but needed to be jump started by the trader as a seized rear wiper meant that the rear screen wouldn't close so the interior light stayed on, which then drained the battery. 

A brief drive reveals it as a large, heavy car which is kind of what I expected but also a little prehistoric in terms of feel - yet it was only 5 years old. It was a genuine enough car with a full BMW service history and 2 keys but the missing sat nav disc, missing floor mats, seized wiper and the traders refusal to budge on the price meant I didn't leave a deposit. My intention was to think about it overnight but the final straw of no heated seats meant I'm still looking for a new car.

My last stop en route was in Messingham, just outside Scunthorpe, which was some 60 miles away and the same mix of roads as the journey to Boston.

The roads turn slightly different as I headed north - straighter and more open with long reaching views which offer great overtaking potential and the R didn't fail to impress again, surprising a BMW driver, which is always nice.

There's no escaping torque steer in a 270bhp front wheel drive car, the forward pulling motion is exaggerated with higher power but the mechanical limited slip diff does a great job of balancing traction to either front wheel. Physics are still there and it does pull increasingly at higher revs where most of the power is. You have to hold the wheel tight during full bore acceleration but luckily the steering is light and direct so any compensation required is easily dealt with.

The speed limits though the Lincoln area really had me confused and annoyed.

I entered a large village which was a 40mph limit and as I drove through (at about 35mph (remember it's a limit not a target)) there were families walking and cyclists cycling and then I got to the other side and it was still 40mph. The village should have been a 30mph.

At the other end of the scale were some very quiet open roads about a mile before a small village which were marked as 30mph and all that was about were farms. Absolutely crazy regulation of limits which needs an outsider to regularise.

After leaving Lincoln on the A15 it remained eerily straight for 16 miles like something you would expect in America. I started getting tired and with traffic at a steady speed there was no point overtaking to gain a few seconds here and there which just annoys other drivers.

I tried to wake myself a little by turning up the volume on the excellent standard fit JBL sound system. Up to this point I had been listening to Radio 2 so I popped a Metallica (Black Album) CD into the single CD slot and the Just Bloody Loud speakers coped well with the highs and lows of Los Angeles's finest. It may not be a high end (read high price) set up like Bose or Harman Kardon with many speakers and an additional amplifier but it produces cracking sound quality and some good volume from just 6 speakers.

I turn off the A15 onto the B4100 which provides some opportunities for a little more fun, some nice straights and then fast corners until it becomes built up and 30mph limits.

I entered Messingham and located the garage where I am to meet the owner to discuss the positioning of a new cabinet as part of a 4G telecoms upgrade for EE. I agreed the location for the new cabinet and then drove onto the forecourt to fill up with fuel.

I put in 10.56 gallons of unleaded and calculated the RCZ R has done a real world 32.9mpg which is pretty impressive considering how hard it has been driven.

I left Messingham at 16:40 and according to TomTom it was 120 miles and just over 2 hours to home. On the M62. Oh joy!

I was soon on motorways, first the M180, then the M18 and then the M62 which will take me the majority of the way home.

Strangely, at rush hour the M62 is free flowing and the R settles on cruise at an appropriate pace. The ride was still noticeably firm but it's forgiven the moment you change lane and feel the stability of the car.

Soon I dropped on to the M6 for a short hop then onto the M56 for a junction before getting onto the A559 to near enough home. The A559 is a winding tree lined county road well known for a high death rate as the corners get increasing tighter and catch drivers out but I know this road like the back of my hand so I can play safely.

Out of tight corners in second gear the torque steer builds quickly from 4,000rpm and is great fun to interact with through the thin rimmed steering wheel. Many new cars are dull lifeless boxes but this feels alive and edgy.

The uprated brakes (380mm floating dics and 4 piston calipers) come into full use along here, they have huge stopping power and practically no fade yet still offer a good degree of modulation through the pedal.

Sadly the journey's about to end as I turned into my road - Ollershaw Lane. 1 mile later and I turned into my drive and parked up at 18:57.

I'd been on the road for 13 hours and 428 miles and predictably was knackered but I didn't have a single ache or pain from sitting in the same position for many hours. That's pretty impressive and partly due to the good driving position but is mostly down to the seats in the R. They could have been moulded to fit my torso as they are so comfy yet also supportive in the corners, nevermind looking like they have been plucked from something Italian and very expensive.

I got out of the car, gave it a pat on the Le Mans scooped roof, closed the door and went in the house for a well deserved brew.

What a day, what a car! The Peugeot Sport team have done an excellent job.

Full review to follow. 
Peugeot RCZ R and Mk1 Audi TT

Peugeot RCZ R

Peugeot RCZ R

Peugeot RCZ R

Peugeot RCZ R

By Colin Hubbard





19 Oct 2014

Find Out What The Drive Team REALLY Thinks Of Chris Harris

Chris Harris, aka Monkey Harris, recently announced several things, mostly that he was leaving projects.  One of these projects is not very happy with the manner of his leaving.


First off he announced the Drive videos weren't making any money and would become subscription only.

Next up was the announcement that he was leaving Pistonheads - cue much brown nosing from the PH community. Pistonheads is a great website with good articles but with a 'vibrant' forum full of opinion.

Then Harris announced he was leaving Drive altogether.  Normally these things aren't talked about outside journo circles (oh, I have some great stories to tell one day) but not this time.

Possibly because Americans are more open than us Brits but the Smoking Tire/Drive team, who regularly record podcasts, decided to openly call Harris' leaving, and manner of leaving, into question.

Listen to the podcast from 19 minutes in.  In it the team talk about how they were informed of this move, by reading about it on Twitter, and go on to say, "I'm pretty fucking annoyed", "...he spent way too much money...", "...Chris really didn't like going from a million views to 20,000 views which really hurt his ego...", "...we now have a mild drought of talent...", "It's pretty fucking shameful..." and "...it's a fucking dick move."

Not a happy bunch of bunnies then.

By Matt Hubbard




17 Oct 2014

Top Defensive Driving Techniques To Avoid A Car Accident


“The best defence is offence” – unless, of course, you are behind the wheel of a car. The old adage urging us to go on the attack in order to protect ourselves is appropriate for many things, such as business and sports, but it is a definite no-no when it comes to driving. Car accidents are more often than not caused by aggressive drivers who are willing to put other road users at risk in order to get where they want to go in the fastest possible time. And they leave behind them thousands of dollars in damages and a mountain of legal bills.

If you have already had an accident at the hands of an aggressive driver, you might be in line for some compensation. It might be valuable to have a chat to with legal professionals who specialise in traffic and accident law, such as Turner Freeman (visit their website at http://www.tfqlawyers.com.au/). In the meantime, here are some defensive driving techniques to help you avoid an accident.

Skills and Common Sense

Driving defensively is best achieved by combining your skills behind the wheel with your common sense. While we are all taught the basics of how to drive – how to take corners, how to negotiate traffic and the road rules – only common sense will truly keep drivers out of trouble. If you are driving down a highway marked at 100km/h but it feels unsafe at that speed, slow down. If you are about to enter an intersection and your inner voice tells you to check for traffic again, have another look.

Let Them Know Where You Are Going

Indicators or turn signals are there for an important reason, yet so many people use them improperly or don’t touch them at all. Signalling your intentions to other drivers is one of the most defensive techniques you can use, and is the only way to ensure you stay out of the way. Give plenty of time for other drivers to see your flashing signal before you actually turn or change lanes.

Give The Others A Bit Of Room

Tailgating is both illegal and dangerous. Give the car in front a little space. This will give you plenty of time to see if the driver up ahead is turning, changing lanes or stopping. The best advice is to give the vehicle ahead about two seconds’ distance – otherwise you are not going to be able to react in time if the driver has to brake suddenly.

Eyes In The Back Of Your Head

Be alert. When you are on the road, particularly highways and freeways, there are hundreds of things going on around you and you should be aware of them. Watch for pedestrians who might step onto the road at any minute; look for drivers in front who might brake suddenly or change lanes; look for cars about to enter the road from other streets or driveways. Most importantly, remember to check your blind spots. Your rear view and side mirrors don’t cover all of the areas behind you, so you are going to have to look over your shoulders to check that someone isn’t behind you.
Drive your car like you expect the person behind or in front of you to do something silly or make a mistake. That way you are going to be far better prepared and more likely to avoid an accident.


2014 Toyota Yaris 1.33 Icon Review

Matt Hubbard reviews the face-lifted Toyota Yaris in Icon trim with the 1.33 litre petrol engine and manual gearbox

2014 Toyota Yaris 1.33 Icon
2014 Toyota Yaris 1.33 Icon
Small cars, cheap cars, cheap small cars. They're everywhere, from the Jazz to the Fiesta via the Koreans, the Polo, Fabia, Citigo, the ADAM and all sorts in between.  There's no other sector with so much choice.

Right in the mix is Toyota's range of hatchbacks.  The Yaris is one of those cars you don't notice until you take a good look at one, and then every other car you see seems to be one.

It's quiet, unassuming, anonymous.  Well it was.  The Yaris has been refreshed and relaunched and now has a ruddy great X running across its bows, just like its younger sibling, the Aygo.

On the brightly painted Yarises you see in press photos this makes it look funky and fun but on the test car, which was tastefully painted all in black, the X melts into the background so the eye is drawn to the basic shape rather than the shiny new conk.  Pity.

Lesson one - don't order your Yaris in black.

You can spec your Yaris with various different engines, a 1.0 petrol, 1.4 diesel, 1.5 petrol hybrid or this, the 1.33 litre petrol. All are manual except the 1.33 which comes with a CVT automatic option.  The test car was a manual.

Now for the trim levels - Active (basic), Icon (a few options thrown in), Sport (erm, sporty?) and Excel (top of the range).  The test car was an Icon.

It's a small car on the outside that's quite spacious on the inside.  There's plenty of room in the front, the back and the boot.  The driver sits slightly on top of the pedals but even with the seat pushed back the rear seat occupants have a decent amount of leg room.

The rear seats fold, but not flat, and create a large space when in van mode.
2014 Toyota Yaris 1.33 Icon
2014 Toyota Yaris 1.33 Icon

The interior looks pretty good, the materials are generally of half decent quality and those areas you're likely to touch regularly, such as the steering wheel, get upgraded materials.  It's all arranged in such a way that it doesn't look cheap, even if it is.

Mind you the seat material is designed more for durability than comfort.  Toyota have made efforts to 'Europeanise' its cars but the fabric you sit on feels more British Rail than anything else.  Also, the rear windows have manual winders, which are a bit 1970s.

There are a few spaces in the front to put things in, although the door pockets narrow towards the rear which means your sunglasses case doesn't fit in them.

The £650 optional Touch and Go infotainment system is a worthwhile addition. It's essentially satnav (a good one too) with touchscreen, Bluetooth streaming (through the powerful and clear sound system) and AM/FM radio.  No DAB digital though, which is remiss.

The other controls are simple and easy to use. Climate controls are three dials on the dash - simple, clear, uncluttered. Very Toyota.

If you are my height (5"10') or above you'll push the driver's seat back so your feet sit comfortably on the pedals, and then find that the steering wheel's reach adjustment is minuscule.  This is a bit of a pain.

Turn the key and note the crisp, clear note of a petrol engine that has a lovely balance and no turbo to interrupt the torque map.  Both power and torque are delivered in a linear fashion right to the 6,000rpm redline.  Very old school, much fun.
2014 Toyota Yaris 1.33 Icon
2014 Toyota Yaris 1.33 Icon

The gearbox is rather sweet too, light and easy with no annoying notches or gears too close together.

The steering and pedals are also light - the Yaris' customer base is more easy driver than boy racer - but this, along with the delightfully fluid drive-train, makes it a fun car to drive.

Open the bonnet and you'll see the engine is pushed right back in the bay.  At 1,000kg it's a light car and the chassis set up is perfect for pootling along to the library or for hooning around the lanes.

The suspension is neither firm nor soft but it rides speed bumps well and keeps the Yaris in line when cornering.

As more a fan of speedy driving than just using a car to get to the community centre I found the Yaris, especially with the 1.33 engine and manual gearbox, a great back road slicer.  Throw out the back seats, install a roll cage and it's 95% on its way to being a rally car.

Having said that I did cover some miles in it and found myself getting a bit weary after a couple of hours behind the wheel.  It's fine for most journeys but if you regularly travel distances the slight lack of refinement, those seats and that lack of steering adjustment add up to a tiresome experience.  Lack of digital radio doesn't help either.

But don't let that put you off.  None of its competitors are particularly accomplished grand tourers either.

In essence the Yaris is a normal, reliable, sensible, spacious, practical, not too expensive hatchback that's trying to shed its dull image and, with this latest version, is succeeding.

I liked it, if you buy one I'm sure you will too.

Stats:

Price - £14,095 (£14,745 as tested)
Engine - 1.33 litre petrol, inline-4
Transmission - 6-speed manual
0-62mph - 11.7 seconds
Top Speed - 109mph
Power - 98bhp
Torque - 92lb ft
Economy - 57.6mpg
CO2 - 114g/km
Kerb weight - 1,000kg
2014 Toyota Yaris 1.33 Icon

2014 Toyota Yaris 1.33 Icon

2014 Toyota Yaris 1.33 Icon

2014 Toyota Yaris 1.33 Icon

2014 Toyota Yaris 1.33 Icon

2014 Toyota Yaris 1.33 Icon

2014 Toyota Yaris 1.33 Icon


By Matt Hubbard


16 Oct 2014

Lotus Exige V6 Roadster Review



Forza Auto is owned by Dave Tillyer. Dave occasionally tests some decent machinery and records video reviews.

This is his Lotus Exige V6 Roadster review.


Should Certain Cars Be Protected By Law?

In the UK a system exists so that buildings are protected if they have a special architectural and historic interest. Surely we should be listing cars as well.


Recently details have emerged about some of the cars that were lost under the 2009 scrappage scheme where owners were given £2,000 to scrap their old cars when traded in for shiny new motors.

The list of cars that were scrapped in return for a £2,000 discount off a new car was brain-numblingly painful for anyone with the remotest interest in cars, or even with an aesthetic eye. Lancia Delta HF Integrales, BMW 2002s, Mercedes 560 SECs, Porsche 928s and many more were lawfully destroyed by the state in return for a discount off a crappy Korean hatchback.

We need to learn from our (and our government's) mistakes and protect certain older cars to ensure they are protected and cannot be scrapped or tastelessly modified whether under a future scrappage scheme or just by ignorant owners.

Under our car listing scheme those who buy and own these cars will be required to keep them in a certain condition, to protect them from idiotic modifications and to display them at at least one event per year so they can be enjoyed by the public.

If a listed car requires major work to keep it in roadworthy condition and the owner cannot afford the work they can then apply for a grant, just as the owners of listed buildings are able to.

Listed buildings come in three categories, Grade II covers 92% of all listings, Grade II* provides extra protection for 5.5% of buildings and Grade I protects buildings of exceptional interest and importance and covers just 2.5% of all listings.

In the car world we are a bit more modern so I'd go for an update to the numbering system at the very least with Grades 1, 2 and 3 where Grade 1 is the most important.

A board should be formed consisting of men and women who know their onions about cars and who would select those models to be listed. That board would debate and elect the list which would be updated annually.  Car Listings Board members would include luminaries such as Ian Callum, James May (but NOT Jeremy Clarkson) and the Earl of March.

As to the listings themselves I've my own ideas but asked Twitter for examples. These were some suggestions.

Grade 3 - Ford Cortina Mk1, Ford Escort Mk1, Maserati Biturbo (all variants), BMW E24 6-Series, Triumph 1300, Austin Mini, Jaguar E-Type S3, Porsche 928, Porsche 924, Porsche 911 Classic, 964 and 993, Volvo P1800 and 1800ES, Ferrari 308, Land Rover Series 1, Mercedes 560 SEC, Lancia Stratos

Grade 2 - Austin Mini Cooper, Jaguar E-Type S1 and S2, Ford Escort Mk1 RS and Mexico

Grade 1 - Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing, Ford GT40

The list and grades are endlessly debatable, which is why the selection of members to the Car Listings Board should be performed with the utmost diligence.

Let me know your suggestions for our new system of car listings.

By Matt Hubbard





15 Oct 2014

Audi RS4 B8 Vs Audi RS6 C5 - By Someone Who Owns Both

Andrew Dryburgh owns a 2003 Audi RS6 and drives a 2014 Audi RS4 every day to work. He compares the two


I’m very fortunate to work in car sales for a great Audi dealership where I get to drive some truly astonishing cars every day. Despite being associated with the Audi brand for nearly 12 years I genuinely still surprise myself with the quality of our cars, often using a different model of the range for my commute to try them in a real world drive. In addition I’m lucky enough to have a company car which I use for 95% of my motoring. However a great deal of my enthusiasm for cars is for slightly older vehicles hence I’ve usually owned my own car in addition.

I’ve previously written about my own RS6 and I hinted that I was driving a similar sounding car daily. Well, that is to say… approximately the same dimensions, the same engine size, same nominal power output, and similar weight. It shares the commonality of an Avant body shell, automated transmission with manual gearshift mode, high performance in a luxury car. I’ve been living with it for nearly 6 months as my day to day company car, and I thought it might be quite interesting to do a comparison review…

So. What first?

Simple stuff:


The Audi B8 version of the RS4 Avant is an amazing machine, like its ancestor. When you examine the cars their ethos is the same - take the practical Avant body shell to maintain a family car appeal, but shoehorn a special drivetrain into the space. And then sprinkle more aggressive styling everywhere. Audi does this better than anyone, with the boxed, flared arches and storm trooper face mask grill making the new RS4 look “subtly threatening”. A Twitter friend even said he felt small children could be lost in the exhaust tail pipes…

Both cars have 4.2 litre V8 engines. RS6: Bi-turbo, low (6500 rpm limit) revs, torque monster. 5 gears to the (now) slow witted auto transmission RS4: High revving (8250rpm) lightweight internals, crazily fast 7 speed S-tronic double clutched transmission. Both were labelled as 450ps power.

Park the two cars together and their family similarities are clear.

Also clear when you see the two cars together is that the RS6 is the same size as the newer RS4. When you look at the attached dimensions and specification you’ll see that their length, width, weight, power and published performance figures are nearly identical. Separated at birth, but by 11 years too. Equal marks on styling for the RS4 and RS6.

Stats:


New RS4: 0-62mph: 4.7sec. 155mph limited top speed

Old RS6: 0-62mph: 4.9sec. 155mph limited top speed

Hard to separate. Except when you observe how they go about their business.

Engines and performance:


0-62mph - winner = RS4, That new high revving, sprinting engine with the sharp shifting S-tronic gearbox won’t be beaten here. It will take the strain time and time again. The older transmission I’m almost afraid to admit might crumble under this activity.

However - once the cars are at road speed, the tables turn. The RS4 struggles at low revs. Needs to be on-cam. Needs to have its neck wrung. Once the revs are up there and you keep them high it’s a searing soundtrack with it’s valved exhaust open and screaming, like a touring car and nascar sound clip rolled into one. The RS6 on the other hand suddenly becomes the daddy - all barrel-chested brawn and muscle. The V8 Biturbo torque figures don’t lie - 560Nm beats 430Nm no matter which way you view it, and in the RS6 you get that 560NM from 1950-5500 revs. RS4 for the record is 430Nm from 4000 - 6000rpm. The RS6 is well into it’s torque repertoire before the RS4 has really got going. Telling, isn’t it? The RS6 explodes from corners, roundabouts, up hills, from barely above idle speed. The engine and exhaust note rumbling bass with barely contained potency from those low revs, and it’s here, on the road, that the RS4 would truly struggle to keep up. Audi don’t publish 50 - 70mph in gear times, or any other increments for that matter - but they would tell a story here. RS6 wins.

Handling:


11 years shows. Within a few hundred yards of taking the controls of the newer B8 you can feel that the body shell has much more torsional rigidity. It’s much stronger and more resistant to flexing. And this gives the suspension a better platform to work from. So from the get go the older RS6 feels its age, with body flex, less reaction to helm inputs. It’s a bit like comparing a fit 20 year old runner to me. I could try to keep fit but the newer generation will always be sharper. The new car doesn’t stop there - mine has the standard coil sprung suspension and it’s excellent. My initial thoughts were that it was too hard - but in combination with the standard fitment “quattro Sports differential” (gives active torque vectoring) once the car was run in and on the few sporty drives I’ve had the suspension was just perfect in pressing back at me when I pushed the car. You might recall that my older RS6 has had the Audi DRC removed in favour of a similar coil over set up, but here it cannot keep up. The new car was predictable, agile and nimble with confidence inspiring abilities where the older car was blunt and despite being a loyal old thing it made me “pucker” at high suspension loads and where, perhaps, one was a shade over committed… Scalp one for the RS4.

Steering feel in the RS4 is a matter of some debate. My car has the non-dynamic rack and this give the same number of turns lock-to-lock no matter whether the car’s “Drive Select” setting is at Comfort or Dynamic. You can specify the RS4 with a “Dynamic steering:” system where the rack has a gearbox attached giving a reduction of turns lock-to-lock, and some don’t like it. I’ve said for a long time that I prefer the power steering’s weight when set to “Comfort” over the artificial feeling “Dynamic”. Setting the “Individual” controls to Engine-dynamic, quattro sports diff- dynamic, steering-comfort, exhaust sound-dynamic, the steering feels uniform in weighting even though its light, and the car is very rewarding to drive. For the record I think Audi could still improve the optional dynamic steering - sometimes it would be nice to have the quicker rack so as not to get too crossed-up in tighter turns, but the feel would need to be natural.

The older RS6 also has a “Servotronic” electrically assisted power steering system - but what feel! I often find this is where the car re-establishes itself with my brain as my favourite, when I’ve not driven it for a week or two, and I turn ONE bend on the open road. Steering feel, and no artificial motorised kickback or variability whatsoever. A handling god it ain’t, and the RS4 would eat it on a racetrack challenge, but the C5 RS6 feels so GOOD in comparison. An important equalising point for the old RS6.

Gadgets:


Here’s a matter close to my heart. I love gadgets. iPhones, and Android phones, connectivity to the web for news, weather and more. Taking my whole music collection with me on what is only a 1 hour drive. Why? I don't know - I just do. I also want the option to play a movie on the dashboard screen. I know it cannot be watched when the car is in motion - but now I know it’s available I also want that. I want to stream Spotify through the Hi-Fi via Bluetooth. And have Google Earth and street view on the Sat Nav. And the new car has this down, along with a very good Bang & Olufsen surround-sound system. It’s noticeably better than the standard music system. Having said that… have you ever tried to listen to your own music collection on your home cinema sound system - it loses something, doesn’t it?

The older RS6 does none of this. It has a 6CD changer. No DAB, and has trouble playing anything digital, unless you format it to MP3 files and load it onto SD card taking care not to add more than 256 files per SD card (note - cannot be SDHC) of 4Gb or less capacity. Try finding those SD cards in the shops! The BOSE Hi-Fi in the old car wins here too - it’s organic sounding, rich and warm and CDs (strangely) sound like an analogue stereo Hi-Fi. This is the way I want to listen to my favourite music. And while I think about it I’d like to do it without my phone, Facebook and Twatter beeping at me while I’m in the middle of the Great Gig in the Sky please, alright? RS6 is in the lead now.

Occupancy:


Enough space for the family? People, luggage, pets, all fit in each car. But the newer RS4 seems to be shrink wrapped around JUST that essential space. Here the older RS6 scores another one of its victories. The interior cabin space is massive compared to the new RS4 and the boot wider, longer, taller, with a more upright rear window meaning it swallows loads more gear - an able demonstration in the space occupied by all that chassis stiffening, safety cells, airbags, crumple zones, has occupied in newer cars. RS4 is safer no doubt, but RS6 wins on space.

The modern features don’t stop there. The interior has the now de-rigour Audi business like appearance. Utter quality, formal styling. Door trims blend into the panels in front and behind. Controls are logically placed. Owners say they didn’t need much time to learn to use it as it’s intuitive. It’s the iPhone of the car world, learn the radio controls and every other on board system uses the same logic. And there’s not much wrong with that. The RS6 is a little more dated but the Audi brand core strengths are here.

What’s my choice?


Think Porsche 991 and 993. Which would you rather have in your garage? Comes down to taste (and budget) and you’ll have a similar arguments with fans of both the modern and air cooled varietals.

I know as a day to day driving car the RS4 is the more modern and advanced. The RS6 is not left behind here - it makes a compelling case for itself even amongst newer competitors…

I’ll try to keep both for the time being thanks!

Twitter: Drybeer
Instagram: drybeer



14 Oct 2014

Five Alternatives To A VW Transporter

The Volkswagen Transporter is massively popular, but what alternatives are there? Mike Armstrong investigates


Petrol heads and ordinary civilians alike cannot deny their admiration and love for the Volkswagen Camper. Particularly the T2, which has seemingly managed to cross genres and win the hearts of everyone on the planet. Even later T25 and T4 models are appreciating in value at a rate which will exclude the majority of those seeking a budget camper.

Many specialists exist across Britain who will convert just about any form of commercial-ish vehicle into a dayvan or fully blown camper conversion. Let's set ourselves a budget of £10,000 and see which vehicles would be a better alternative for the average lover of the great outdoors. Hopefully we can encourage a few readers to begin projects for next spring/summer!

1 - Mitsubishi Delica


A rather overlooked potential conversion in the UK. The Delica is a robust Japanese van/people carrier with attitude. Firstly, it will go just about anywhere thanks to the world renowned four-wheel drive system, which will be equally as effective in sub-Saharan Africa as a muddy field in Cornwall. £3,000 will buy a MK3 Japanese import with around 100,000 miles and a diesel engine. Sources suggest that a firm in Wigan provides the basic conversion starting from £4,000. In total, this reliable and indestructible Delica will cost as little as £7,000.

2 - Mazda Bongo Friendee/Ford Freda


Another dayvan/camper from Japan joins the list. The Bongo has been a grey import hit in many countries, including: the UK, New Zealand and Russia. Not many vans of the late 90's offered electric sliding doors and air conditioning as standard. Some were even specified with cooking units as an option from the factory, making one of these earlier examples preferable for a budget conversion. Furthermore, they came available in either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive formats, with the engine situated in the middle. A mid-engine sports car it is not, however with prices around the £4,000 mark, you would be foolish not to consider a Bongo.

3 - Vauxhall Vivaro/Renault Trafic


Surprisingly overlooked amongst the camper scene. Rather unfortunate that is as these vans drive very well, are plentiful and are fairly modern for the price you pay. Conversion specialists are plentiful too, offering various different types of flatpack and custom designs. Due to their modern credentials, spare parts are cheap and specialists common. Furthermore, the diesel engines will return better MPG on a long run than the Delica or Bongo. Not bad for a van which can be obtained from around £3,000 plus conversion costs.

4 - Chrysler Grand Voyager


No, we haven't gone crazy! The Grand Voyager would make a superb camper, and this is why. Unlike most other conversions, the roofline is lower, meaning that campers can park their Voyager in regular sized car parks or travel with regular vehicles on the Eurotunnel. Also, the width and length of the interior is nigh on identical to a T4 VW Transporter, only costing a fraction of the price. Early examples can be had for under £1,000. We'd obviously recommend spending around £2,000 for peace of mind. Conversion costs may be less too, as the Grand Voyager already has windows, therefore the law does not require any extras fitted for re-classification. Similar projects could feasibly be done with the Renault Grand Espace and Kia Sedona to the same effect.

5 - Ford Transit


Britain's best loved work horse certainly makes the list. Price conscious members of the camper conversion society forever rant about how much better the Transit is than the Transporter. Indeed, with a lower starting price, the argument appears to have weight to it. Not to mention, Transits are far more common, cost less to repair and drive pretty well. With prices starting from £1,000 and rising as to your requirements, the Transit will offer a lot of camper space for your money.

So if building your own camper this winter is the ideal project for you. Take these five vehicles into account, and sleep on it to decide which you'd prefer to sleep in. Also feel free to suggest any other vehicles or feedback on your experiences via Twitter or in the comments section below.



13 Oct 2014

2014 Citroën C4 Cactus First Drive Review

I'm running a Citroën C4 Cactus Feel PureTech 82 manual for a week. Here's my first drive review

2014 Citroën C4 Cactus
2014 Citroën C4 Cactus

Never before has a car elicited such a large, and mixed, response to my tweets about it.  The Cactus was delivered, I took a few photos, tweeted them, drove it around, tweeted some more.  Some people hated it, others loved it.

There was no middle ground.  The Citroën C4 Cactus is, it seems, a true Marmite car. 

But that doesn't matter. It is an important car for two reasons. One, it matters to Citroën, it is a return to quirky, innovative, ground breaking form. Two, it matters to the car industry because it's the size of a Golf yet is only 50kg heavier than an Up! It is astonishingly light.

Look outside, look inside and you wouldn't know where all the weight has been saved. Look closer though and you will notice that the rear windows are pop-out rather than wind down, the dials have been replaced with a digital readout and the door handles are leather straps.

But drive it and you instantly know you're in a light car.  You can feel it in the steering, the braking, the acceleration and the way it goes round corners.

Why is this important? Because something with less mass requires less power to propel it which aids economy and reduces emissions. It also means it doesn't need large brakes or suspension and the tyres will last longer.

Cars have been getting heavier as regulations and consumer demand meant we needed safer, more sophisticated vehicles. The latest generation of most popular models has seen them shave some weight here and there (except the Mini which gets more porky with every generation) but the Cactus has taken weight saving to new extremes.

Yet it's not apparent in the crucial areas of comfort and refinement. It has cruise control, DAB, Bluetooth, auto lights and auto wipers. It has all the toys.

A quick run through of the Cactus after a couple of days and 100 miles:

The cabin is well designed with lots of sensible storage spaces, two specifically for smartphones but only one cupholder.  The materials are largely of high quality but some of the plastics, especially on the door tops, are harsh. The glovebox is vast (because the airbag is in the roof)

The driving position is compromised by the lack of reach adjustment on the steering wheel, no doubt to save weight but a step too far. 

The seats are like sofas, comfortable but not very supportive.

There are hardly any buttons, most things are controlled but the excellent infotainment touchscreen.

This is the first French car I've driven with full postcode input in the satnav.

The engine is puny but in this car is acceptable, the gearbox is fine but only has 5-speeds.

The dash and readouts are clear and give lots of good info but it doesn't have a rev-counter, which is silly.

The handling is adequate but the ride is excellent.

The looks are...well I think it's great looking and 50% of you will agree.

I'll publish a full review soon.

Stats:


2014 Citroën C4 Cactus
2014 Citroën C4 Cactus
 
2014 Citroën C4 Cactus

2014 Citroën C4 Cactus

2014 Citroën C4 Cactus

2014 Citroën C4 Cactus
Price - £14,590 (£16,500 as tested)
Engine - 1.2 litre, 3-cylinder, petrol, turbocharged
Transmission - 5-speed manual
0-62mph - 12.9 seconds
Top Speed - 106mph
Power - 82bhp
Torque - 87lb ft
Economy - 61.4mpg
CO2 - 107g/km
Kerb Weight - 965kg

By Matt Hubbard


11 Oct 2014

Citroën Cactus - A True Marmite Car

The Citroen C4 Cactus I'm running at the moment certainly attracts attention. It is stared at more than any other car I've driven, with the exception of a Maserati GranTurismo.

Citroën C4 Cactus in Hello Yellow
Citroën C4 Cactus in Hello Yellow

On social media it generates, and splits, opinion. Here's a taste of some of the responses to my tweets.

Watch out for my First Drive Review on Monday.





















For the record, I think it looks great.

By Matt Hubbard



10 Oct 2014

Ferrari F60America - Exclusive, Expensive, American

Ferrari has revealed a new car, but only ten models will be built and they'll only be sold in the US

Ferrari F60America
Ferrari F60America
The Ferrari F60America has been created to celebrate 60 years of Ferrari in North America. It's a V12, front engined convertible based on the F12, with a few nods to the California.

The V12 produces 730bhp and 509lb ft of torque which makes for a top speed of over 200mph and a 0-60 time of 3.1 seconds.

Don't get too excited though. All ten have been sold already for roughly a third of a million pounds each.
Ferrari F60America
Ferrari F60America

Ferrari F60America
Ferrari F60America

By Matt Hubbard


After Eight Attempts Volkswagen Finally Nails The Passat

VW is one of the world's biggest car companies yet its models mostly have a huge cult following.  Well, except the Passat.

2015 Volkswagen Passat

The Golf has a deserved following amongst aficionados. It gave us cheap, stylish motoring and thrills aplenty, even spearheading a whole new category - the hot hatch. Similarly the Beetle, the Transporter and even the humble Polo each have a big fan base.  Oh, and I almost forgot the Scirocco which, in new and old form, has its own following.

But the Passat?  Not really. Bit dull. Bit beige. Bit errrrrrmmmmmmm.

Yet it's been around since 1973. That first incarnation was probably the most interesting looking but since then it's stuck to the tried and tested Volkswagen formula of refinement and glacial evolution in design terms.

The formula never pushed the boat out, never dazzled, never had a spark, never sung.  So over eight evolutions it altered ever so slightly as a saloon and estate with the occasional foray into boring coupe.

I owned a 4th gen Passat. It was a 110 Tdi SE estate and it was the most capable, spacious, economical and boring car I've ever owned. It was five years old when I bought it and the red paint had faded to a dull salmon pink which was representative of the character of the thing. I hated it for its sheer boringness.

Then, at the end of September, VW revealed the eighth generation Passat.  And it was a real looker.

Seriously, it looks great. VW's designers must have added a little something to their coffee the morning they came up with it. For the first time in 41 years the world has a good looking, smart, stylish Volkswagen Passat.

Well done VW.  It took eight tries but you got there in the end.
2015 Volkswagen Passat

2015 Volkswagen Passat

2015 Volkswagen Passat

By Matt Hubbard