27 Nov 2015

What I Need Is A "Don't Give A Shit" Car

Remember that funny clip doing the rounds recently where two Mercedes drivers were facing each other in a tunnel? There's no room for one to pass the other and neither will budge. One car was an S-Class driven by an old fool who reckoned he didn't know how to reverse and the other an SLK driven by a middle aged blonde woman who should've known better.

For forty minutes she cursed and hectored whilst he sat, unmoving. Eventually with help from people who knew how to drive he reversed his old bus out of the way and she drove off, no doubt accompanied by a two fingered salute. He had been in the wrong but she should have read the situation and reversed.

I had one of these moments of my own recently. It was along one of the many single lane country lanes with passing places around and about where I live. It was dark, slightly drizzly and I was in my 10 month old Volvo XC60 which is relatively large and incredibly visible due to the Swedish-spec lights which could be used to bring down a 787 Dreamliner were the runway lights to fail at Heathrow.

My opponent was in a four year old Skoda Fabia estate - a hateful car. The standard issue Fabia looks great but the estate is in the Peugeot 207 SW category for dreariness as far as I'm concerned.

I was driving down the lane and could see his lights in the distance. I passed a passing place but given he was a good third of a mile away didn't stop at it. There would be more.

But I didn't pass another until we met, nose to nose. I know the road well and given the distance from the one I'd passed I knew he would just have passed one.

But he refused to budge. I waved my hands at him, gesticulating for him to reverse. He refused to budge. I flashed my lights. He refused to budge. I became enraged and called him a very rude name from within the confines of my own car. He refused to budge. I honked my horn. He refused to budge. I leaned out of the window and shouted that he'd just passed a passing place and would he reverse back to it please. He refused to budge. I called him another rude name and told him to reverse back to the rude word passing place he'd just rude word driven past. Rude word.

He refused to budge.

It was at this point I wished I wasn't in my almost-new Volvo. I wished I was in a car I didn't give a single shit about. I wished I could have slowly driven up to him and forcibly pushed him all the way back to the passing place where I would have scraped all up the side of his rude word Fabia rude word estate and carried on my merry rude word way.

I was annoyed that the only course of action was for me to reverse a third of a mile to the next passing place and let him through. I didn't care about conceding defeat or any other stupid macho nonsense. I cared that he was both too stubborn and too thick to be able to drive properly and that I had to put myself out purely because he was too stubborn and thick to do so himself. And, yes, there was a passing place twenty yards behind where his car had been.

And then I set about thinking. I thought about the amount of times I'd cursed somebody else's driving, about their obvious lack of skills and the sheer arrogance of many drivers. I reckoned at least half of drivers I meet coming the other way are more than half way over the middle of the road so that I have to scrape along a hedge so they don't have to.

And then I thought, yes, I really do want a 'don't give a shit' car, and being a petrolhead I decided there and then exactly what it would be.

It would obviously have to be cheap and reasonably old, say ten to twelve years. It would also have to be small. A large car would be useful in some circumstances but in this car I'd want to never have to stop or swerve for someone coming the other way. I'd want to carry merrily on and watch as they panic and plunge their brand new Audi A7 into a hedge. I'd want to play chicken and win every single time because I had the nerve to do so because I didn't give a shit about the car I was in.

It would also have to be quick - just because.

I decided my ideal 'don't give a shit' car would be a 2004 Mini Cooper S. You can pick one up for a couple of grand and it'll be in good nick. It's small, has great steering and goes like the proverbial off a shovel.

So one day when the lease on my Volvo is nearing it's end I might buy myself a cheap Mini Cooper S and then you'd better watch out because I really won't give a shit.

By Matt Hubbard

25 Nov 2015

The 80s Called - They Want Their Speed Bumps Back

I live in a lovely village. It has one high school, two primary schools, several shops, a recreation ground, a doctor's surgery and lots of houses. There is virtually no crime and you see a policeman about as frequently as a total solar eclipse.

Yet all of us who drive are treated like criminals. We are subjected to harsh treatment at the hands of spiteful little people every single time we leave our driveways and venture into the scary world of murder and shoplifting beyond the village boundary.

It is impossible to drive from where I live to anywhere else without driving over at least three speed bumps. There are two types in the village and, perversely, all are situated on the whimsically named Hollybush Lane.

The first is placed at a T-junction where a quiet residential street meets Hollybush Lane. It is built from bricks and has only a small elevation from the tarmac surrounding it. This type isn't quite so bad although the fact you go from tarmac to brick means a change in surface and a reduction in grip level just at the point you want the tyres to grip. This means most people slow down to around 0mph before making the turn.

The second is the truly vicious type of bump. An angular lump with steep inclines and sharp creases. There is one in each lane which are just about wide enough that if you straddle them will not be quite so catastrophic on your spine as if you hit it full on.

However these bumps slowly eat away at your car's suspension, pushing it every time you ride them so that one day it will collapse at 60mph on a really dangerous corner. This is the whole point of speed bumps - to mete out damage to car and self until one or the other concedes defeat.

If cars are parked in the road the situation becomes a whole lot worse because then you cannot straddle the bumps unless you head right out onto the other side of the road and play chicken with oncoming traffic.

Motorcyclists and cyclists suffer more than drivers. They normally ride around the bumps but when the weather is wet this is not always very sensible. If the traffic is busy a rider can quite easily find themselves unavoidably and rapidly approaching a bump. Panic braking will cause a crash so you hit the bump and, if you're male, the subsequent impact can mean the testes being pushed into the body. This is horribly painful and makes the eyes water, which isn't very safe.

We have speed bumps because in the 1980s some dreadful people who couldn't be bothered working enjoyed stealing the cars of people who could be bothered working. In their snow washed denim jeans, white socks and and shiny bomber jackets they would break into Peugeot 205 GTIs and tear up and down the roads of our towns and villages whilst smoking Benson and Hedges cigarettes.

This became such a popular pastime that the annual car insurance for people who could be bothered working rose to such ridiculously levels that everyone had to sell their XR3s and buy a Fiesta 1.1 Popular instead.

Town councils got together with highways engineers and decided that the best way to slow down these 'joy riders' was to leave large lumps of tarmac in the road to slow them down.

This didn't work because the driver of a stolen car doesn't care about wear and tear but the councillors, highways engineers and government in general realised that speed bumps perfectly aligned with their victimisation of the driver.

Then as time progressed and the joy riders either died of heroin overdoses or got jobs as estate agents and bought their own Ford Cougars and Vauxhall Astras the need for speed bumps disappeared.

Now in the 2010s people don't speed through villages and towns much anymore. There is no counter culture, the children of the baby boomers are conformists, they don't break the rules. Real police don't exist any more, they just operate ever more clever machines designed to catch the motorist out.

So we don't need speed bumps. Yet they still exist. Why? The reason for their being is no longer valid.

Because, much as with cameras and tickets and red routes and single occupancy lanes and hatched zones and double yellow lines and bus lanes, those who think they are in charge of us do not like us to be truly free. Cars represent freedom, speed bumps represent control.

Tear them all up I say.

By Matt Hubbard

24 Nov 2015

Please Don't Let Me Die Of Boredom Behind The Wheel

Cars can be many things. They can ferry our kids to school, us to work, our groceries back from the shop, our pets to the vets and our entire lives when moving house.

But cars can also carry us spiritually. I don't mean in some horrible hippy-trippy way, I mean we can be driving them when - to steal a phrase from Anchorman - whammy! We're not in the real world, we've transcended normal space and time and the only thing that matters is pure physics and the road ahead of us. Our fingers, toes and eyes are in control. Everything else is just along for the ride.

This is when driving becomes zen. Your mind becomes like the cleanest mirror, reflecting the road, your body reacting and controlling the car perfectly.

OK so this kind of thing doesn't happen every day and most drivers go out of their way to prevent you having a good time behind the wheel. Driving is quite often stressful, annoying and boring. Our roads are full and most people who drive drive only to get from A to B. Most people don't care for the art of driving or driving for pleasure.

Most people drive at the speed limit, or just below. Most people get annoyed when they're overtaken. Some unregistered psychopaths even move over and into us when we're overtaking them because their penis is tiny and this makes them angry with society, especially when people overtake them.

Some people drive just close enough to the idiot in front of them in a train of several idiots that means, despite the entire train of idiots doing 45mph on a 60mph road, you are unable to overtake any of them and so become one of the idiots yourself for a few minutes. And then as some point you decide you've had enough of idiots and overtake one or more on a straight bit when no-one's coming the other way, and have to barge in between the idiots who are maintaining a gap to the car in front slightly smaller than the length of your car, thereby elevating yourself above the level of idiot.

If you are like me then you like to drive and everybody else is the enemy. They are out to persecute and denigrate you. To make you drive slow, to pull away from the green light just slowly enough that you hit the red, to wait until you're approaching and pull out in front of you and then take an absolute age to get up to speed. Their speed - not yours.

The enemy drives past horses with their engines revving whilst you crawl past with the clutch dipped and the engine at idle. The enemy drives past your kid's school at 42mph whilst you stick to 30 all the way through the village just in case some old dear or young sprog should jump out from behind a parked car. The enemy parks with their wheels over the white lines. The enemy gets in your way every time the road gets interesting.

On our congested roads full of idiots you must enjoy driving pleasure when you can. Those ten minutes in a journey of an hour when the road is empty, your right foot heavy and your hands loose and easy on the wheel. When the coppers have gone for coffee and donuts and the idiots have gone shopping for Christmas paraphernalia at the garden centre - in September

Then you find yourself enjoying those precious minutes of freedom. When your mind attunes to the road and nothing interferes save for the occasional suicidal pigeon. That is what driving is for in twenty first century Britain.

Don't allow yourself to be in that situation with a boring car. Make sure you drive something interesting all of the time just in case the magic happens, whilst the idiots are buying garden gnomes and the roads are briefly empty.

In twenty years time self-driving cars will start to become the norm. Insurers will soon realise that fallible humans are the cause of the vast majority of accidents and they'll price us off the roads. They won't differentiate between the zen-merchants and the garden gnome buyers. We'll all be lumped into one category - human - and therefore pathetically incompetent behind the wheel.

Enjoy driving your car while you can.

By Matt Hubbard

3 Oct 2015

What happens if you get caught speeding in your lease car?

Speeding fines are a big issue in the UK, in excess of 100,000 are handed out every year, but the process of dealing with one is generally fairly simple. However, if you lease your car the process can differ slightly.

For example if your vehicle is leased on a personal contract hire (PCH) or business contract hire (BCH) agreement, it actually remains the property of the car leasing company. Despite you being the actual keeper, the chances are any fines that are issued will be sent straight to the company in question.

Of course, this doesn't mean you can simply dodge the fine. Not only will you still be liable to pay for it, you may even be subjected to an admin fee by your car leasing provider.

Surprisingly the process of dealing with a speeding fine incurred whilst travelling in a leased vehicle is seldom talked about. With that in mind I've compiled the following guide to help you better understand what to expect.

Receiving a Notice of Prosecution (NIP)

When you lease a car the registered owner will be the car leasing company, the registered keeper may be the leasing company too, but the day to day keeper will be the driver of the vehicle. This is especially true with company cars and fleets who are rarely the registered keeper.

Because of this, any Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) for a speeding offence is likely to be sent to the car leasing company, at which point they will grass you up, it's nothing personal, just what the law dictates they do. It's worth noting that although initial correspondence is referred to as a NIP, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a prosecution will be undertaken, this depends on several factors.

The issuing of the NIP is something that must be done within 14 days of the offence taking place. That doesn’t mean that you must be notified within 14 days, but simply that it will be issued, if a leasing company is involved it will inevitably take longer for the notice to reach you.

Accepting liability

As mentioned above the car leasing company is the likely recipient of the NIP, they will then respond to the notice with confirmation of your details. Once confirmed, the Police will send you a separate notice asking you to confirm that you were driving at the time of the offence, if you weren’t driving you will be asked to name the offending driver.

You must respond to this letter within 28 days, failure to do so is classed as an offence in its own right. It's also worth noting that simply claiming you are unsure who was driving won't get you off with a slap on the wrist, quite to the contrary as you could be charged with failing to disclose the drivers details.

Fees imposed by the leasing company

The leasing company's involvement in this process takes time and effort, admittedly not very much, but an admin fee is likely to be imposed by them nonetheless. If it's a company car then your employer is likely to be charged the admin fee instead, but may pass it on to you.

In addition, your employer may also charge their own admin fee to cover the administrative costs involved. Both of these fees will likely be deducted straight from your pay packet.

However, if this happens, you'd be wise to check your contract of employment to make sure they have the right to do so. If not, then you may choose to dispute the fees, though it's worth noting that being caught speeding in a vehicle leased and provided by your employer may be interpreted as gross misconduct so you may not wish to rock the boat and risk possible dismissal.

The likely punishment

Once you have accepted liability, the type of punishment you are handed out will depend on the extent of the offence, but also any previous speeding conviction that you may have. The Association of Chief Police Officers has a set of guidelines that suggest when a prosecution should be made, though individual officers do have discretion.

Options available to Police who are dealing with a speeding incident begin with a simple verbal warning or a speed awareness course, something you will have to pay for out of your own pocket.

At the other end of the spectrum there's the issuing of a Fixed Penalty Notice (speeding ticket), with a £100 fine and three penalty points on your licence. The most severe action would be a prosecution, something that requires you to attend court and could see you landed with a fine of up to £1,000 or £2,500 if the offence took place on a motorway. That's in addition to either three or six penalty points and the possibility of a driving ban.

2 Oct 2015

Lotus Elise S2 Review

My day to day car is a 2015 Volvo XC60 which I love dearly. It's comfortable, sips diesel as if from a thimble and has a crystal clear and extremely powerful sound system. But when it comes to thrills n'spills it's only average.

I also have a motorcycle, a Triumph Street Triple, which I bought brand new in 2011 and which has 8,000 miles on the clock. 2,000 miles a year might not seem much but it isn't bad for a bike. I love the Triumph and ride it often, and it provides thrills n'spills in ample quantities.

But I'd been hankering for something else. I'd been hankering for a Porsche 911.

The 911 had always been my dream car. The object of my affection. My ultimate driving machine (to pinch a phrase from another of ze Germans). And 911s of the 90s era are seriously cheap.

You can bag a 996 911 for £8,000. Eight grand! That buys you a dark blue, rear engined speed machine with fried eggs for headlights, no glove box and an interior the colour of baby shit.

I wanted one. But then I remembered that 911s of that era come with a special engine that explodes itself to pieces unless you take it to a Porsche specialist and pay him many thousands of pounds to take the engine apart and build it as Porsche should have done in the first place.

So I didn't want a 911 any more.

And anyway my son said I was stupid if I didn't buy a Lotus Elise. He said the Elise is the best looking car ever made and that Lotus is the best car company ever. My son is 13 and when he was 11 he was driven round the Lotus test track at high speed in an Exige by a man called Darren, who is Lotus's senior engineer. He may be somewhat biased.

But he was right. I bought a Lotus Elise and it is the best car ever made.

The reasons for this are many but can be summarised in just one statistic. If you were to strap my motorcycle on to my Elise the combined weight of the resulting six wheeled monstrosity would be less than one single, measly Mazda MX5.

My 2002 Elise has the bog standard Rover K-Series 1.8 litre engine, manually winding windows, a passenger seat that is bolted to the floor and an accelerator pedal modelled on the head of a pin and as such it weighs 720kg.

The Street Triple weighs 160kg. A Mazda MX5 of any age weighs more than 1,000kg. Fat, lardy bastard thing.

A bog standard £8k Porsche 911 weighs 1,350kg. That's almost double what the Elise weighs.

This lack of weight is felt everywhere. For a start it is felt whilst sitting in it. It is felt in the extremely thinly cushioned seat, which adjusts about 4 inches backwards and forwards - and that's it.

The seat is supportive and lends itself well to spirited driving, which is something the Elise excels at. The cast aluminium Rover 4-pot chucks out a measly 115bhp but this is plenty enough as it hurls the Lotus from 0-60 in 5.6 seconds.

You need to be good at changing gear to match that though. The gearbox is the Elise's worst feature. It doesn't like being hurried. Get it right though and acceleration is supremely swift.

The driving position is snug. The car is essentially an aluminium bathtub chassis on to which a GRP body is glued. The chassis dictates everything about the shape of the car and where you fit in it. The sills are high and wide (which makes getting in and out comically difficult) and the footwell narrows to almost nothing where your feet should go.

You need to be friendly with your passenger as your elbows will overlap, and neither of you had better bring any luggage. The boot (behind the engine) is tiny and the storage space in the cabin pretty much non-existent.

The steering wheel doesn't adjust (did you really think it would?) but it, the pedals, the gearstick and the seat align themselves in such a way you wouldn't want to change any of them - unless you were quite tall or quite short in which case the Elise isn't the car for you. Go buy a lardy old Porsche, freak.

Fire up the engine and you realise it wasn't tuned to make a great noise. It's just there and sounds about as good as  the same unit in a Rover 45.

The first time you pull away you drive like an 89 year old with arthritic feet who's forgotten his glasses. The throttle needs a hefty push, the clutch bite point is hard to find.

Tune yourself to the car some more and getting away from the line becomes easier, but expect a degree of pogoing when in a traffic jam.

The steering has no assistance but doesn't feel like it needs any. The front tyres are quite narrow and did I mention how light the car is? The brakes don't have any assistance either, but you do sometimes wish they did.

Aside from pulling away from a standstill driving the Elise is a doddle - as long as you aren't an 89 year old with arthritis, or aren't freakishly tall or short. Or aren't too fat to fit in it.

The steering is light and wonderfully fluid. The Elise is legendary in this regard and with good reason. Quite simply it is sensational. You feel every undulation of the road yet the compliant suspension irons out irregularities. Darren did an amazing job when he engineered Mr Chapman's legacy.

The engine doesn't make much noise or power but it doesn't need to. The Elise is fast everywhere. Visibility is great and the controls are the most intuitive of any car I've ever driven.

The brakes are wonderfully competent and deliver great feel, although you need to push hard on the pedal to make them work. The discs are drilled and never give up their bite, even after many miles of hard driving.

The roof is a canvas affair that rolls up and lives in the boot when you're not using it. Putting it in place takes around 2 minutes. It is a bit of a pain in the arse. With the roof off the Elise feels light and airy and wonderful and lovely and fun. With the roof on the Elise feels very, very snug. Almost claustrophobic if you suffer from that kind of thing.

You remain dry until it rains. You'll stay dry if you drive at under 50mph. Above that and the roof's limitations are revealed. Water enters at the top of the windscreen - the traitorous roof lifts to expose your dry head - and proceeds to pelt you in the face with water at high speed. This is funny the first time it happens. After that you resolve not to drive your Lotus in the wet.

I bought my Lotus Elise as a plaything. I do drive it whenever I can. It is impractical but it has proved to be reliable. I have as much fun driving it as any car I've driven (quite a lot). I like it a lot and so would you if you bought one, and weren't built in such a way as you couldn't fit in it.

By Matt Hubbard

26 Feb 2015

2015 Vauxhall Insignia SRi 2.0 CDTi Review

Matt Hubbard drives the overly long named Vauxhall Insignia SRi VX-Line Nav 2.0CDTi 16v (140PS) ecoFLEX Start/Stop

2015 Vauxhall Insignia SRi 2.0 CDTi

The Vauxhall Insignia is not a bad looking car. It looks like a saloon but is actually a hatchback, albeit one you wouldn't want to consign your dog to travelling in the boot of. He wouldn't be able to see out.

The upside of that diminished practicality is that the Insignia's profile is a good one. Unfortunately the effect is spoiled somewhat when you look directly at the front or rear of the car and encounter the acres of chrome that embellishes it.

You may be a fan of chrome but I'm not so the sight of a fully chromed grille and chrome lines under the fog lights at the front and a big chrome strip at the rear tend to lead to chrome overkill.

Which is a shame because otherwise the Insignia is a perfectly reasonable car who's only other crime is its ubiquity. When you drive one you notice them everywhere.

The 19" wheels on the test car are standard fit and look pretty snazzy (if a little 'busy').

The Insignia is a long car and has a vast boot and rear seats with plenty of leg room. It uses the space well but a lack of a rear view camera or parking sensors make reverse parking a bit hairy - especially as the rear hatch window, when viewed in the rear view mirror, is tiny.
2015 Vauxhall Insignia SRi 2.0 CDTi

The interior is dark but tasteful. Buttons are few and well laid out and the overall design is easy on the eye with a single line that runs from each door and across the dash (similar to that in the Jaguar XJ). The dials and knobs feel quality and are simple to use, the screens are big enough and feature nice graphics and everything feels more refined and premium than you'd expect in a Vauxhall.

I shot a video the very first time I drove the Insignia and guessed the price would be edging towards £30k.  I was wrong, it costs £23k.

Once you study the specs and drive it for a few days you realise why it's not a £30k car, but the shortfalls between it and a Volvo S60 or Merc C-Class are not obviously apparent from behind the wheel.

It has leather seats that are comfortable and part electrically adjustable. It has sensibly placed and sized storage binnacles, USB points, Bluetooth, digital radio, satnav, cruise control and a screen in front of the the driver.

It's let down by confusing menus on both screens, a digital radio that is sometimes easy to tune but sometimes you cannot find the station you want and a satnav that is found wanting in terms of speed and ease of use. It defaults on top down 2D view and the 3D view just tilts the screen a bit. It doesn't have traffic and instead the traffic reports on the local radio station suddenly cut in on top of whatever you're listening to at maximum volume.

The steering feels good - it's predictable and precise - and the ride is both smooth and reasonably supportive when going round corners. Push hard round a fast bend and you can feel the edge of its limitations. The Insignia is no sports car but it is possible to drive it in a spirited manner and enjoy doing so.

Driving at night is aided by some super bright lights - that automatically come on as dusk arrives. The windscreen wipers aren't automatic though.

The engine is a modern 2-litre diesel that lacks in bhp but makes up for it in torque. Once you get above the point the turbo kicks in it will carry you along on a wave of grunt, which means you can be cack handed with the light and easy to use gearbox and still carry a decent turn of speed.

As with other saloon/hatchbacks in the sub-premium class the Insignia has a bit of an image problem (few will be bought as private purchases) but if you end up with one as a company car you'll not be disappointed when you drive it.

It is spacious, practical, drives well, efficient, costs little to run, has a good sound system and looks good but you will miss a reversing camera, a decent satnav and the image of other saloons. But if you  ignore the lack of a premium badge the Vauxhall Insignia SRi CDTi is a thoroughly good car.


Price - £23,204
Engine - 4-cylinder, 2.0, turbodiesel
Transmission - 6-speed manual
0-62mph - 10.5 seconds
Top Speed - 127mph
Power - 138bhp
Torque - 258lb ft
Economy - 76.3mpg
CO2 - 98g/km
Kerb Weight - 1,538kg

25 Feb 2015

Driven – Peugeot 108 Allure 1.2

Colin Hubbard reviews the Peugeot 108 Allure

The Peugeot 108 is the second generation of the city car jointly developed by Peugeot, Citroen and Toyota.  The 108, C1 and Aygo are produced by the same factory in the Czech republic.

It's a small, safe, quality car designed for 4 occupants in a tiny package - kind of like the original Mini in concept but with increased height for better packaging.

They share approximately 70% of their components including bodyshell, gearboxes and engines with each other but each model has its own spec, look and trim.

All are available in 3 or 5 door and the 108 has a choice of naturally aspirated 1.0 or 1.2 three cylinder, petrol engines.

The test car was fitted with the larger of the 2 engines - a 1.2 with 82bhp and a useful 86lb/ft torque - and has a 5 speed manual gearbox. The new range of 3-cylinder ‘Pure Tech’ engines are made from aluminium to save weight but are fitted with cast iron cylinder liners for longevity and feature a raft of fuel saving features.

Spec levels start at Access followed by Active then Allure and finally Feline.

The test car came in Allure spec which has many bells and whistles for such a small car and includes but a reversing camera, bluetooth phone connection and music streaming, keyless entry and start, large touchscreen DAB radio along with the usual, but maybe not standard on supermini, electric windows, electric mirrors, air conditioning, rev counter, LED daytime running lights and tyre pressure sensors.

The whole idea behind city cars is motoring on a budget and the 108 puts a tick in this box as even with the largest available engine fitted the CO2 rating is 99 g/km, meaning free road tax, and the combined fuel consumption figure is 65.7mpg. Insurance is group 11E.

In addition to cheap running costs superminis also need agility to manoeuvre around town and park easily. Again the 108 fulfils this role due to its tiny dimensions and light steering.

The packaging is pure genius and every inch of available space has been utilised by something or other. By designing the car around small, three cylinder engines there is no wasted space in the engine bay and so overall length is as short as it possibly can be.

At the front there is a small overhang, just enough to satisfy pedestrian impact and crash tests but also to retain a small overall dimension so it is easily visible to aid parking and manoeuvring in confined spaces.

The 3 door model has quite long doors to aid rear access. They open in staged notches so can be opened in several varying degrees when exiting without fear of knocking the car next to you.

At the rear there is no tailgate to speak of but instead a hinged glass rear screen with integral wiper. This works well in daily use although the small aperture means there is a high boot lip impeding access for getting heavy shopping in.

Styling wise Peugeot has followed Mini in its customisation program. The 108's main visual option is a two tone paint job as seen here in Purple Berry and Zircon Grey.

Lots of other customising kits are available from mirror covers to transfer kits and the theme spreads through to the interior and even the key fob.

The interior packing is where most of the ingenuity lies.

The front seat sits fairly high so the driving position is a little more upright which means rear passengers feet can fit under the front seats comfortably. This also aids visibility when manoeuvring around and especially so when parking. In the front there is plenty of headroom, I am 5'9 and there were a good 4 inches clear above my head so whilst the car is small you don't feel claustrophobic on the inside.

The sports style seats have fairly squashy side supports but are comfortable nevertheless. Leather seat facings are an £650 option.

Rear seat passengers also have good headroom unless they lean backwards intentionally and then the headlining can just be felt. There is only space and belts for 2 in the back so this is a strict 4 seater which meant the car could be designed narrower than 5 seaters which again saves weight and helps drive through tighter gaps.

Whilst on trial I tested out the real world usability of the cabin with a trip to the pub with 3 friends, one of whom is 6'3 and the others 5'10 and everyone had sufficient space to be comfortable. Quite some achievement for such a tiny car.

The boot appeared tiny at first due to the high lip but look further and it is deceptively deep which swallows quite a lot of luggage, certainly enough space for a families weekly shop. Lift the boot carpet and amazingly they have squeezed in a spacesaver spare wheel and tyre under there although this is only standard on Allure and above.

The engine is started with a stop/start button on the centre console and kicks into life with a kind of electrical whirr style noise. As the motor warms and the revs settle the sound softens to a gentle murmur.

Oddly the steering column only adjusts for rake and takes the instruments with it which makes the motion feel heavy but as I only needed to adjust it once this was no issue. This does also mean that the position of the clocks is spot on. There is a large central speedo with the fuel level and trip computer functions in the centre and a vertical digital rev counter off to the left.

The driving position once set is actually pretty good, the wheel could do with coming toward me a little but overall it is comfortable with everything to hand.

All the controls are light, the steering particularly so with easy slow speed manoeuvring meaning quick turns into a parking space are done with ease. There is a self centring action at higher speeds and a more positive motion as it weights up over 40mph.

When on the go the engine is a little belter. Yes it does need revving due to its modest power output and you need to be in the correct gear to keep things moving along nicely but when you do so it is very enjoyable. At higher revs the little three-pot sounds thrummy and toward the red line quite harsh but the odd number of cylinders provides real character in terms of both torque and sound.

The flywheel is offset to balance vibrations from the odd number of cylinders but the buzzy, unbalanced nature is still felt which I liked and made me change up higher up the rev range than I normally would. It is certainly more entertaining than a four pot.

The gearbox is a sweet five speed unit and has a tall and circular gear knob that makes changing gear fun with a positive shift action. Just five gears is enough for the little motor which red-lines at just over 6,000rpm and at 70 mph it is ticking along nicely at just over 2,500 revs.

The clutch has the usual small Peugeot annoyance of being hinged from the left so your left foot fouls the pedal arm when stepping on the clutch pedal from the rest position.

The chassis engineers have got their way over the designers and this 108 wears little 165/60/15 tyres so the suspension only has a small amount of unsprung weight at each corner. Some fairly elastic feeling damping and long travel suspension keeps each wheel firmly on the ground so it can be chucked around with confidence yet also has a surprisingly supple ride quality. It does help that you are doing lower speeds than you would in a larger car but that is part of the appeal as 'normal' trips out can turn out to be rather enjoyable due to the provocative nature of the fizzy engine and engaging, fun chassis.

The brakes are capable with strong positive action from the servo, even four-up they still felt confidence inspiring. Fully loaded with people the performance, however, is dulled as the power to weight ratio is seriously reduced but it's safe and acceptable for one-off trips. The handling is also affected with more bodies on board with more pronounced understeer but again nothing scary.

The rear three quarter view on the 3-door 108 is pretty terrible. If you are on the motorway in lanes two or three and want to move a lane to the left the view over your left shoulder is mostly the tall front passenger seat but also the very wide C pillar. Instead you have to alter your driving style to rely on the large mirrors and plan ahead.

This doesn’t affect parking so much as the test car was fitted with a parking camera as standard, which is viewed on the large central screen. When reverse is selected the camera kicks in to provide a clear rear view and guides you into parking spots with a set of side lines. This negates the need for parking sensors and proved to be more intuitive - being able to see rather than hear if you are about to hit something.

The rest of the tech was also up to scratch with a quality 4 speaker sound system controlled by the 7 inch touchscreen display and wheel mounted controls. This plays either DAB radio or music from your own device via Bluetooth, USB or headphone jack and both inputs worked a treat with excellent quality sound.

It seems strange at first having no CD player but many people now have an iPod or its equivalent so why pay for a CD player that may not get used? Very forward thinking for Peugeot but also disappointing if you haven’t got a music device as a CD player can’t even be optioned.

Another oddity is the lack of satnav. It's only available as an option in the form of a Tom Tom that you stick on the windscreen. This gets a thumbs up from me as I have nothing but praise for the most intuitive and accurately mapped navigation tool on the market but for some the lack of integration could be a turn off.

Tested over a week at freezing temperatures and left outside at night the heater proved to be quick to warm the cabin and then provided a toasty source of heat when on my way.

The interior is filled with little cubby holes, cup holders and bottle holders and real thought has gone into clever use of the available space. There must have been a small void available behind the glovebox as it has been opened out so a 1 litre bottle can be inserted lengthways into it and kept a little cooler than within the cabin on a hot day. Little features like this make it easier to live with and more pleasant to own.

As tested this 108 Allure was just over £12,500 which is good value considering it is near the top of the range and has a huge specification. If you fancy a little wind in your hair motoring the 108 ‘TOP!’ Is available with a fully electric folding fabric roof and is available on most specs for an extra £1,000.

As a whole the 108 is a well-made, superbly packaged little car with a fun chassis and bubbly engine meaning low cost motoring doesn’t have to be low fun motoring.

If you are in the market for a small city car I heartily recommend a test drive in the little Peugeot 108.


Price - £11,095
Engine – 1.2 litre, inline-3, petrol
Transmission - 5-speed manual
Drive – front wheel drive
0-62mph – 11 seconds
Top speed - 106 mph
Power – 82 bhp
Torque – 86 lb ft
Economy – 65.7mpg (combined)
CO2 - 99 g/km (zero road tax)
Kerb weight – 865 kg

24 Feb 2015

Driving Five Classic Cars In One Day

Recently I attended a classic car rally with of Great Escape Cars where I got to drive five bone-fide classics in one day

I've hired a car from Great Escape classic cars before. It was a 1971 Jaguar E-Type Series 3 V12 convertible and was huge fun to drive over a 24 hour period. This time out I was to spend a day with their fleet of classic motors, driving five olde English (and American and Italian) beauties.

At 9am on a cold but clear winter's day 25 of us arrived at Great Escape's Cotswold base. There were 25 cars available and to save arguing it was decreed that the choice of car would be decided by picking them from a hat - well, actually a hub cap.

Graham Eason, owner of Great Escapes, talked us through the various cars available for the day. The final one was a 1981 Austin Allegro 1.1. Graham had included it because it made for a good talking point, and because I think he secretly has a soft spot for it and hoped some of us would too.

I hoped it wouldn't be on the card as I reached into the hubcap. I'd brought my son, Eddie, along for the day and he wouldn't be too impressed if dad got the Allegro!

Eddie hadn't wanted to go with me, saying it would be boring just driving cars all day. Unlike his dad he isn't a petrolhead but he cheered up a bit when I showed him what car would be our first drive. No, not the Allegro but a 1983 Audi Quattro. Fabulous.

The air wasfilled with white smoke as 25 classics were fired up all at once in the morning chill. Rumbling V8s, shrill V12s, smooth inline-6s, a few inline-4s and my own turbocharged 2.1 Audi.

The Quattro's interior was clad in luscious, almost tiger-stripe, material that shows its age much more than the sharp, boxy exterior that still looks fab today. The engine is eager once the turbo has kicked in and whistles excitedly when the throttle is pressed hard.

What made it successful in its day, as well as those looks, are its handling and grip and the one I drove was still sharp round corners, although the brakes took some getting used to.

Eddie enjoyed that drive and took more of an interest in the fleet when we stopped at a cafe atop a hill, with a glorious view of the Cotswolds.

After tea and cake Graham once more flourished his hubcap and I picked a bright blue 1976 MGB convertible replete with 1.8 litre flat-4 with not many horsepowers at all.

The hood stayed down and we set off, following another car as Eddie's map reading skills are not up to much. Yes, the Great Escape's old school adage filters right down to using maps instead of satnav. Much more satisfying and in this day and age I rediscovered that getting lost really can add to the experience.

The MGB's interior was much more basic than the Audi's. So too was the engine and gearbox. With a crunch as I selected reverse instead of first (not for the last time) we were away.

This time Eddie's face really lit up. He's been a passenger in more than a few powerful and expensive cars but we had real fun for that hour in the humble MGB. Mind you we were getting seriously cold towards towards the end. We wished we'd brought some gloves and hats.

Lunch was held at a posh hotel after which Graham once again brought out the hubcap. Eddie had his sights set on a 1980 Corvette C3 in white but with a bright red interior and whilst I waited patiently he ran round the back and asked if we could drive it.

Triumphant he waved the Corvette card at me and we clambered in. White is perhaps my least favourite car colour but the Corvette in white looks sensational. Climb inside and those razor sharp lines around the front wheel arches look a million dollars.

The cabin is a snug fit but extremely comfortable. Despite being from the early 80s it was fitted with all the mod cons you'd expect from a car today - except for a touch screen. Electric seats, mirrors and windows, cruise control, air conditioning and, as a bonus, flip up headlights.

The Corvette's piece de resistance is its V8 which sounds deep and raw. This doesn't really translate into vast reserves of power but it does ride along well on a swell of torque, which is a good job because the 3-speed auto doesn't change down from 3rd unless you press the throttle really hard.

We had set off with the targa roof panels in the boot and the wind in our hair but after 30 minutes big lumps of hail started to come down. It took about 2 minutes to suss out how they fitted and to lock them into place.

Glad we weren't in the MG any more we set off once again. The hail was coming down in huge volumes and pretty soon the roads were very slippery. The Corvette is confidence inspiring and has light controls but as we drove up a steep hill at 20mph the rear wheels slipped and slid, although it did keep going to the top.

Half an hour later we stopped in a lay-by to drive car number four. The rally was running late so instead of the hubcap we merely swapped cars and jumped into a 1992 Alfa Romeo Spider.

Hail had turned to rain so we kept the hood up and set off. I'm not much of an Alfa fan and the Spider confirmed my prejudice. The switchgear is all over the place and the driving position odd but the car we drove was well maintained and reliable so if Alfas are your thing you'll enjoy a spin in it. I sort of did.

The day's final car was a 1965 Jaguar Mk2 3.4 (not the Allegro - yay!). This was the oldest car we'd driven. The interior is timeless and classic with bakelite switches, proper wood panelling, comfortable seats and the thinnest rimmed steering wheel I've ever experienced.

The Mk2 was smooth and the pace was lazy. It doesn't like being hurried. You just cruise around and soak up the atmosphere. Mind you the steering isn't that tight so you do have to keep your wits about you.

And so we arrived back at the base, bade our goodbyes and thank yous and left. Eddie had had a wonderful day and loved the variety of experiences.  He might not be a petrolhead but he does now have a soft spot for old cars, and the Corvette in particular.

So do I. I got in my modern TT and the steering wheel felt weirdly fat and the controls light as a feather.  Classic cars might be great fun but you really do have to drive them with due respect, and that makes you a better driver.

By Matt Hubbard

23 Feb 2015

Driven – Audi R8 V8 4.2FSI Quattro

Colin Hubbard reviews the Audi R8 V8 4.2FSI Quattro

Audi R8 V8 4.2FSI Quattro

It is scarcely believable but the Audi R8 will be celebrating its 8th birthday this year.

What is admirable is that Audi's first attempt at a supercar has only received minor cosmetic and mechanical tweaks to remain competitive in a market place of Porsches, Ferrari' and Lamborghinis.

It knows its place in the VW group line hierarchy as the more sensible supercar to sister company Lamborghini's wild Gallardo and LP 560-4 variants and whilst perhaps not as jaw dropping as the italian it has won many hearts and orders purely by being an Audi.

That may be a strange statement but I believe to be entirely true in that it is a supercar made by the company that makes the very car that you can afford and drive on a daily basis, and that is part of the key to the passion of the R8.

It is a supercar that anyone can relate to.

This of course does have an adverse affect on some petrolhead's opinions as that is entirely what it is, an Audi, but a really fast one with the engine in the right place and rear-biased permanent four wheel drive system.
Audi R8 V8 4.2FSI Quattro

In addition it is seen by some as perhaps too polished and easy to live with. There's a notion that supercars should be cramped and uncomfortable, roughly finished and edgy at the limit!

Whatever your thoughts on the R8 let's face facts - it is a sensible, restrained supercar - maybe one for the conservative type - but a supercar nevertheless.

The genesis was the V8 coupe which is what we have on test.

Little has changed since 2007 - the Walter de Silva design still looks sharply Germanic and turns heads like the front row of cinema goers.

The engine is still the same acclaimed RS4 derived motor only with a dry sump to enable it to be mounted lower to the ground with a remote reservoir housing the oil to supply a constant flow during aggressive cornering. It has received only a minor tweak over the years, to produce an additional 10bhp.

The 4.2 litre aluminium V8 is fitted with direct fuel injection and variable valve timing and really likes to rev with peak power of 424bhp being delivered at 7,900rpm and stopping at a glorious 8,500rpm redline. Being naturally aspirated torque lags behind the competition at 317lb/ft, which is available between 4,500 and 6,000rpm but it doesn't feel like it's lacking twisting power due to its light weight.
Audi R8 V8 4.2FSI Quattro

The main benefit of the smallest engine in the R8 range is that it is lighter than the V10 by some 60kg which in turn means it is that little bit more agile in the corners and take some of the pressure off the brakes.

In addition as the engine is shorter there is more available cabin space behind the seats so they can recline further or even fit some specially tailored luggage for a weekend away.

The manual gearbox is still offered but in the test car sat a 7 speed S-Tronic twin clutch auto which sends 70% of the power to the rear wheels and 30% to the front wheels which explains the safe but playful nature of the R8.

This car features fixed rate suspension so no fancy magnetic wizardry, just double wishbones at each corner.

One upgrade the R8 has received over the years is the fitment of steel wavy discs which are lighter than conventional round edged ones. The weight difference is minimal but any effort to reduce unsprung weight is welcomed so the suspension components can react quicker to changes in the road surface.
Audi R8 V8 4.2FSI Quattro

The wavy discs are clamped by some pretty serious looking 8 piston calipers up front with 4 piston calipers at the rear and finished in black with R8 logos behind the polished 'Y' design alloys.

The alloys add some bling to the restrained contours of the R8 and, although an option at £870, are the icing on the cake. The bodywork has stood the test of time - it hasn't been changed at all since launch, although the grilles have been refreshed.

Down the side of the car the most striking feature is the controversial sideblades, seen here in carbon fibre as an £1800 option. At launch the sideblades seemed over the top and, to my eye, ruined the R8's lines but over the years have grown to be part of its identity and I do hope they appear on the future model. Talking of identity the way to spot the difference between the V8 and V10 R8 is that the V8 has smooth blades all the way down whereas the V10 has widened air intakes so step out below the height of the door handle.

On a personal note a supercar should be special and there are certain vital ingredients but one is essential. The key point is a mid-mounted engine, as in the R8, so it has the perfect balance over the axles, it then has the correct hunkered-down, cab forward stance so the driver is in the best position to see the road and control the car.

Anyway back to my original point which was features vital to a supercar and one such is the visible engine which, in the case of the R8, is a glass cover. To increase its swagger the engine bay is illuminated so at night both pedestrians and other motorists by can see where your money has gone.

As I had the car for a week I hand washed it which is a good way to see and feel the shape of the body. One thing was obvious is that the shape is sleek and the fixings flush with the undercarriage aero noticably present although not shouty. It has been designed and built to travel at seriously high speeds but also be quiet and stable.
Audi R8 V8 4.2FSI Quattro

Open the door to the cabin and it has a set of nicely damped notches to open to varying degrees so you don't knock on the neighbouring car. Step in across the wide but low sill and, as you step sideways rather than down, access and ingress can be achieved gracefully.

If you have driven a modern Audi then you will feel instantly at home in it, only this time trimmed with the finest quality leather draped over all of the surfaces. Seen in the test car with contrasting stitching (a £275 option) it really is a lesson in restraint and class. The cab forward design and wide body offer generous interior space with plenty of foot, head and elbow room whilst the reclined driving position with long reach steering wheel has very much the feel of a race car.

The seats, whilst not looking particularly sporty, offer a good blend of long distance comfort with sufficient lateral support.

On the tech front the R8 is starting to feel its age and is positively shown up by the new TT's gadget laden cabin. The sat nav doesn't take full postcodes and cruise control isn't standard but the standard fit hifi has a great sound although the CD changer is optional!

On the road is where the R8 excels and that old hat tech is easily forgotten.
Audi R8 V8 4.2FSI Quattro

On start up the V8 makes a great sound particularly from cold when the exhaust flaps are open, much to the dismay of your neighbours.

Acceleration is rapid as it should be in a supercar with 0-62mph coming up in 4.3 seconds before going onto a top speed of 187mph. The V8's 0-62 time is 0.7 of a second slower than the equivalent V10 R8 and oddly enough is the more enjoyable car to drive for being that tiny bit slower.

Let me explain.

On a recent driving day at the Millbrook Alpine circuit I drove a Golf R and McLaren 650S back to back. Now the McLaren was the biggest emotional high but I had more fun in the Golf as I was able to use all the power and for longer, extracting every last rpm and bhp out of the 2 litre engine. In the 650S full power could only be used a few times and even then you have to be wary in case it overwhelmed the rear tyres.

The same principle occurs when you drive a model with slightly lower performance and the V8 R8 is still incredibly quick but you can use full throttle for longer than the V10 which is a more enjoyable experience and also better news for your licence. Manufacturers constantly strive for more power for next gen models whereas the key is lighter weight and more accessible performance.

One thing the V8 doesn't lack is noise and with such high revs available it constantly rumbles and bellows just behind the cabin. Being naturally aspirated it does need 5-6,000 revs to feel properly quick but select sport mode and leave the S Tronic box to pick the cogs and keep the revs in the upper reaches and acceleration is properly in keeping with the £100,000 price tag.

Being in sport mode also adds in throttle blips on down-changes and permanently opens the exhaust flaps so the V8 can be heard singing its heart out just inches from your head.

On the go the S Tronic can swop cogs incredibly quick as the next gear is lined up using the second clutch so changes are completed like flicking a switch but at pedestrian speeds there is a small amount of lurching as the clutch is unsure how much to slip.

Despite the car running fixed rate dampers the ride is actually very good, it can be fidgety at low speeds on roughly surfaced roads but potholes don't shake through the cabin.

Where it excels, as perhaps it should do, is in the corners as the wheel control and balance have been perfectly honed to this habitat and even when you provoke it mid-bend it doesn't snap back as that 30% power sent to the front wheels is just enough to keep things in check.
Audi R8 V8 4.2FSI Quattro

The cab forward design and small weight over the front end means oversteer is almost non-existent but be hamfisted with the throttle and oversteer can be easily provoked which can be effortlessly balanced on the throttle, just a small let off and it steps back in line. This safe and playful set up has been the R8's forte since launch and remains as good today as it ever was.

As a GT car the R8 is the perfect companion. On the motorway it is beautifully serene and stable due to being designed for high speeds, the cabin is spacious and the seats are comfortable. After a 190 mile journey I exited the car feeling fresh as a daisy.

The brakes work really well, there is a hard feeling initially to the pedal action but keep going and those large calipers begin to clamp the pads to the disks and then the modulation starts to shine through so the car can be nicely placed on the road. The lack of servo takes a little getting used to but after a while is rewarding.

Even 7 years after it was launched the R8 is competitive in the market and still giving Porsche a headache, and proving Audi got the design and engineering spot on first time.

As a road car the V8 engined R8 is the most fun as that brilliant engine can be fully utilised and heard for more of the time. In addition the small weight saving helps it reacts quicker to direction changes and makes it that little nimbler on its feet.

As a car the R8 is simply outstanding and even when it is fitted with the mere V8 it is a bona fide supercar!

I can't wait for the second generation model.


Price - £94,900 (£104,980 as tested)
Engine – 4.2 litre, V8, petrol
Transmission – 7 Speed S-Tronic
0-62mph – 4.3 seconds
Top speed - 187 mph
Power - 424bhp at 7,900rpm
Torque - 317lb ft between 4500 - 6000rpm
Economy - 22.8mpg combined
CO2 - 289 g/km
Kerb weight - 1,585kg unladen
Audi R8 V8 4.2FSI Quattro

20 Feb 2015

2015 Volvo V60 D6 Hybrid Review

Matt Hubbard reviews the Volvo V60 D6 Hybrid, which is actually a plug-in hybrid.

2015 Volvo V60 D6 Hybrid
2015 Volvo V60 D6 Hybrid

The future of motoring is slowly taking shape in front of our eyes.  The basics of car design will continue to be refined but will essentially remain as it is - seats, body, wheels, power unit. The fundamental problem in future cars comes down to one of energy storage both at car and distribution level.

Petrol and diesel are relatively easy to extract and refine and extremely easy to transport and store. Once in the car it stays where it's meant to until it is used, at which point it is quick and easy to replace. Enough can be stored in a car to give a range of hundreds of miles without the need to refuel.

Petrol and diesel also have a large amount of energy stored within their mass, and extracting that energy is as easy as setting fire to it.

Emerging technologies and fuels have to match existing fuels in terms of storage, range and price - or else the market will not adopt them.

Electricity is in many ways a better fuel than anything else to power a car. It requires few moving parts in the drive train and will ultimately lead to lower running costs. It also provides a smoother driving experience and produces no pollution when it is used (although it sometimes produces lots when generated).

But mankind has yet to suss out the problem of quickly refuelling a car with electricity, and storing enough on board to match the range of a fossil fuelled car. Until that happens electric vehicles are folly.

And until that point we are stuck with hybrids which utilise electricity until such point it runs out, whereafter a petrol or diesel engine takes over. The two engines can also be combined for more and better power delivery.
2015 Volvo V60 D6 Hybrid

Some companies (Toyota and Honda) have been making hybrids for years whilst others resisted (mainly due to being smaller companies with lower R&D budgets) and waited until the technology was mature enough that it cost less to introduce it.

Nowadays most manufacturers have at least one hybrid in their range. Some hybrids look the same as any other car and some look...different. Some cost a little bit more than a standard car whilst others cost the earth.

Volvo has taken the approach of making its hybrid V60 look the same as any other V60 - to an almost fanatical degree - but it does cost the earth.

Volvo has also taken the bold approach of giving its hybrid more performance than the rest of the range. Until the V60 Polestar came along the V60 Hybrid was the most powerful, as well as most expensive, V60 you could buy.

If you want to know what the standard car is like read my review of the Volvo V60 D3 here, and you can check out my V60 Polestar review here.

Visually the Hybrid is almost identical to any other V60. The only differentiators are small 'Plug-In Hybrid' badges on the front quarter panels, an extra fuel flap, a much higher boot floor and more badges on the door sills.

The extra fuel flap (under which is a plug) and badges mean this is a plug-in hybrid, which means you can charge the battery up (in around 3 hours) and it'll provide around 30 miles of purely electric motoring. That leads to an official economy figure of155mpg and emissions of 48g/km of CO2. Stunningly low but meaningless in the real world.
2015 Volvo V60 D6 Hybrid

In practice the V60 D6 Hybrid is a sensible, practical, fast, economical, cheap to run car that costs a lot but has a few benefits over a standard car.

The only real inconvenience is the reduced boot area. My border collie came for a ride and wasn't too impressed with having to stoop down low in the boot. A V60's boot floor is quite high in the first place. In the hybrid, with even more height, it looks (and is) a bit ridiculous.

The battery and electric motor live under the boot floor - hence the height - and power the rear wheels which means in certain modes the car is four wheel drive. Of course, the diesel engine up front powers the front wheels.

The electric motor has 70bhp and the diesel engine has 215bhp. Select the Power setting and the V60 hybrid is a 275bhp, 471b ft, four wheel drive continent crushing estate car with the comfiest seats in the business and a fabulous interior.

Power and torque are felt from low down, with minimal lag away from the line. The gearbox is sweet and the steering slightly heavier than you'd expect. Steering feedback and handling are lacking in favour of a smooth ride and safe understeer but boot the throttle and it's fast, grippy and great fun.  With all that grunt you can overtake where you couldn't in most cars.

Select the Pure setting and it'll use the electric motor as much as possible, resorting to diesel assistance only when you press the accelerator more than about 50%. I found myself driving in EV mode through towns and villages and pressing POWER when hitting the 60 zones in between.
2015 Volvo V60 D6 Hybrid

Trying not to allow the diesel engine to kick in gives an added dimension to driving the car. Gently does it on the throttle and keep momentum up as much as possible makes boring roads slightly more interesting.

In between Power and Pure you can just drive the V60 as a hybrid, with the diesel and electric engines operating independently or together depending on your speed and heaviness of right foot.

I tested the EV mode and battery capacity on a run. On purely electric power I drove 6 miles round twisting country lanes and 14 miles at 65mph on the motorway before the battery was exhausted and the diesel engine kicked in. After another 20 miles the battery had replenished one third of its capacity which allowed me to cruise another few miles in EV mode.

You can feel the extra 200kg weight of the hybrid system when driving round bends but not so much when braking. The brake pedal feels strange at first as it is both battery regenerator and conventional discs n'pads brake.
Kes in the Volvo V60 D6 Hybrid

The diesel engine is the old 2.4 litre unit which was never the most refined or economical of engines. The Volvo V60 D6 Hybrid is a fantastic car to drive - I'd happily own one if it didn't cost so much - but it could be improved massively by using the new D4 2.0 engine. In Power mode you'll average 35mpg if you drive enthusiastically.

Volvo has shown its hand and that means its hybrids will not be radically different cars from the rest of its range. Instead Volvo acknowledges hybrids as being a mainstream part of the medium-term future of motoring - so why make them different?

We'll see a hybrid in the new XC90 SUV and soon after most of the Volvo range be available with hybrid engines (and probably EVs too).  That this, the first Volvo hybrid, is such a good one bodes well.

As an experiment, and a car that will mostly be bought by early adopters who don't want to look too different, the V60 Hybrid is a resounding success that could be improved in a couple of areas, namely by using a better engine and by packaging the battery better.
2015 Volvo V60 D6 Hybrid


Price - £46,675 (£54,075 as tested)
Engine - 2.4 litre diesel plus electric motor 
Transmission - 6-speed automatic 
0-60mph - 6.1 seconds 
Top speed - 143mph 
Power - 215bhp diesel, 70bhp electric - 275bhp total
Torque - 324lb ft diesel, 147lb ft electric - 471lb ft/640Nm total
Economy - 155mpg CO2 - 48g/km 
Kerb weight - 2058kg
2015 Volvo V60 D6 Hybrid

2015 Volvo V60 D6 Hybrid

By Matt Hubbard

17 Feb 2015

Supercar Diary - Part Two - Getting To Grips With The Audi R8

Colin Hubbard spends a week with an Audi R8 V8 4.2FSI Quattro


As I left for work the road outside my house was particularly busy so when a sensible gap appeared I gave it the beans - this wasn't such a good idea as the cold tyres gave up grip quickly and the R8 oversteered rather a lot. I quickly eased off and the car straightened up but it gave me a taste of the R8's playful nature.

My resolution to master the paddles had me thinking a little too much about what I was doing and I found I held the steering wheel at a quarter to three, as this is the most natural position to have immediate access to the paddles. This in turn means I ended up steering less naturally as I wanted to keep my hands in a fixed position next to the paddles in case I needed to change gear mid bend.

This got me thinking about the car chase scene in Ronin when De Niro was driving. His hands were fixed at a quarter to three position but he looked petrified. I wasn't not petrified at all, instead I was grinning like a Cheshire Cat. I found that a lot that week, I just smiled to myself for no other reason than I had access to the R8.

On the motorway the traffic flowed at a reasonable speed and the rain hammered down. The wipers on full speed do a decent job of clearing the windscreen and are just another reason why the R8 is the thinking man's supercar - you know everything is going to work and work properly.

At lunch I popped to Asda for another colleague passenger ride request. I bought lunch and a few other larger items and try the front boot which is opened off the key fob. It is a fairly large space and swallowed groceries with ease, although I did get some funny looks from shoppers thinking I was putting my sandwiches in the engine bay. No matter how hard I dropped the bonnet it doesn't completely shut and needs a further push to click into the locked position.

There were speed bumps as we exited the car park so I drove over them cautiously, waiting for cringeworthy scraping noises - but needn't have worried as despite the low cabin there is still reasonable ground clearance.

Later that day when in the gym I got chatting to a friend. During the conversation I couldn't help throw in that I was in an R8 for a week - seems many people adore them, even non petrolheads and it is always their dream car, not a Lamborghini or Porsche but an R8. I think this is down to the fact that people can relate to it being an Audi so can do things normal cars can do (well, apart from carrying more than 2 people) but then can do things that other cars can't do - supercar things.

The last job for the day is to pick up my eldest daughter from brownies. She hasn't been in the R8 before and as she buckles up I hear quietly from the passenger seat, "This is ridiculous." When I ask why she tells me she prefers the purple one. The purple one happen to be the 108 which has 4 seats and a belting heater. There just no pleasing some people...

At least there were no complaints from the passenger seat on the drive back which is a good sign as she doesn't like going fast - the stable R8 provides a secure ride and made her feel safe.


After an enjoyable few miles on some twisties I pondered the question of the R8's status as a supercar. Evo magazine doesn't list the R8 as a supercar, instead it is listed in the sports car category along with Boxsters and MR2's. What codswallop!

Even in V8 spec the R8 is pure supercar, definitely more so than a Honda NSX or BMW M1 with their six cylinder engines -  that have been listed in the supercar category in Evo.

To me a supercar must be mid-engined, highly-powered (enough to get you into trouble), exotic, special, shouty, slightly impractical and, most importantly, an entertainer. The R8's only failing on the list is that it isn't that impractical in that there's tailored usable luggage for weekends away and even a set of golf clubs can be accommodated on the shelf behind the seats. Granted it is wider and lower than most cars so exiting the car in a standard size parking bay can be tricky but it copes brilliantly as an everyday car.

On the way home from work I approached a Fiat 500 doing some 20mph below the speed limit. It wasn't safe to pass so I pressing the sport button to prep the car and waited patiently behind for a safe opportunity. As I waited, peeking out from the R8's low cabin, the little 500 looked comically high in front of me which tickled me rather.

Moments later the corner levelled out and the road straight ahead beckoned so with 2 clicks on the left cog I was in second and foot flat to the floor the V8's violent power delivery slung me level with the little Fiat. At this point as the revs approached the 8,000rpm redline -  sounding part powerboat part race car - and just a tickle on the right paddle put me into third for the final pass to get past.

It was a joyous experience, not just the acceleration but the raw engine noise made by the high revving V8 inches behind me. It also meant that the overtake was delivered quickly and efficiently so we were on the wrong side of the road for the shortest amount of time. Quite safe these supercars!

Later on I was sat at some traffic lights and whilst I was looking around the cabin noticed that the climate control is controlled by good old fashioned rotary controllers - one for heat, one for fan speed and the other for air direction. What a brilliant idea, not only are they much easier to use than conventional climate control switchgear but they look much more purposeful than a keyboard of confusing buttons that take 20 seconds to click click click in half degrees from 18 to 25 degrees and then click click click click to change the passenger side.

I parked up at the house and smiled as I got out. It was a good day.


It was a big day today. I was off to Berkshire to visit Speedmonkey (Matt (our kid)) so would spend lots of time in the R8 and was really looking forward to it.

First off and this morning was my only opportunity to give the R8 a clean and take some decent pictures for my full review. I don't use car washes, they're horrible things that throw all the dirt collected in the brushes into your paintwork and then swirl it around so it's out with the hosepipe and bucket .

She got a hosing down to loosen road dirt and then good a good rub with a sponge and some soapy water.

I always hand wash press cars as you spot detail you may not ordinarily notice. Particularly noticeable was the underbody aero and amount of the vents for various radiators and air intakes to cool the car. The underneath is very smooth and I couldn't feel any fixings, this has been properly designed and engineered to go fast, be utterly stable and also keep wind noise to a minimum.

One feature that I previously hadn't noticed was that the shape of the door mirrors - they ape the contour of the rear arches.

The wheels were up next. The 10 spoke 'Y' design alloys were a complete pain to clean as the shape is so intricate. The spokes are mounted on the very edge of the alloy and there is an inner rim just behind the spokes.

Whilst getting busy with the alloys I took a good look at the brakes, 8 pot calipers at the front and 4 pots at the rear with steel 'wavy' discs. These looked awesome behind the alloys. I also noticed a second smaller brake calliper on each back wheel which is used for handbrake duties.

Once rinsed and dried it was time for photos, first on the drive and then I drove to a couple of locations near my house - an industrial estate with a gravelled area and then to the car park of the local football ground. Different locations produce different lighting off surrounding buildings and trees which I why I like to mix them up a little.

The last job before heading south was to take my youngest daughter for a ride in the R8, which I had been promising. Booster dropped on the passenger seat and moved fully back the 6 year old was buckled in and grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

We just squeezed in a few miles taking it steady in the corners with such a precious cargo onboard but on the straights and particularly from traffic lights gave it some stick to show off the supercar's acceleration.

Back at home we finished off with some nice photos with both kids in the driver's seat.

I set off for the at about 14:00, stopping of in Knutsford to pick up some greenhouse staging I had won on ebay. I trusted the sat nav which doesn't take full postcodes and it got me there spot on. I disassembled the staging expecting to have to put it in the passenger footwell but it fitted nicely in the front boot. I paid the man then set off for Stoke to James who manages the Speedmonkey Facebook page.

The sat nav took me a queer route and I ended up in north in Altrincham before heading out to the A556 then onto the M6. I had intended to hook up an emergency TomTom but with time limitations didn't bother, in hindsight it may well have saved me that time.

A steady jaunt down the motorway and then some fast A-roads led me to somewhere in Stoke. Again the sat nav got me bang on the destination although, as I couldn't see the house numbers, drove past it at first. As I turned around a little boy waved at me, grinning. Mustn't see many of these around there. As I came back on myself another couple of young lads rubber-necked the R8 as I drove past.

I picked James up and then we went off for a few miles to explore the delights of Stoke and the R8. I was directed to some tunnels and, as is customary, the windows went down, sport mode was selected and, using the paddles, dropped down to second for some hard and fast acceleration. As the revs climbed the noise of the high V8 reverberated off the tunnel walls and back into the cabin. I just wish I could have bottled the sensation!

It would be rude not to so we turned around and did it again before heading back to drop off a seriously impressed mate.

With sat nav duly set I headed south for the final leg.

The sat nav turned out to be fairly intuitive and could be used solely by the display between the clocks and the voiced directions (which sounded just like my Auntie Pauline) but it is easier to navigate with the main central screen on nav mode so roundabouts and junctions ahead can be seen on a map as they approach.

The first fault I found with the R8 is that you cannot use the trip computer while the nav is in operation so whilst I knew I had 150 miles to go I couldn't tell the range the fuel would provide. You have to turn off the navigation so you can see the range then turn it back on again. Not good.

Down on the M40 the sky was beautifully clear with just a scattering of dark, moody looking clouds high up.

As I took the exit off the M40 onto the A34 the skies turn dark and I saw the R8's LED auto headlights turn on - shining a bluey white clean light onto the road. Even the front indicators are bright and can be seen shining their amber glow on other cars and traffic signs.

The A34 is tree lined and very dark in places so I am grateful for such quality lighting as the A34 is jolly good fun when it is quiet. The 2 lane carriageway meanders through the countryside rising and dipping and veering left then right which gives the R8's fixed suspension a good workout and proves more than up to the job. It does ride reasonably hard but the damping is spot on so it deals with bumps immediately and no crashiness is felt through the cabin.

The weather has turned quite windy and is blowing from the side, not evident from the cars behaviour or through the wheel but it can be heard whizzing through the side vents just the door. This was the first time I heard any wind noise in the R8.

I had to stop for some fuel on the M34, just a little to get me to somewhere near Matt's house with cheaper fuel so I put a tenners worth of super unleaded in to the 90 litre tank. I had done some 360 miles on the full tank and, with a range showing 10 miles, real world calculations mean I have done approx 18mpg with 150 steady motorway miles and 210 on fast country roads. Pretty impressive really and a benefit of the V8 over the V10's more thirsty motor.

I arrived at Matt's house at 19:00. He guides me onto his drive over a fairly steep pavement and the R8 clears it with no issues.

We have a quick brew then head out to find some fuel and to show off just some off the R8's talents. There are many speed bumps and traffic calming measures in the vicinity but this supercar takes them in its stride and 30mph proves no issue at all over them.

Yet more super unleaded is added and then we find some open roads for a little play.

Using the paddles is a more enjoyable experience as you interact with the car more and can hold a lower gear with the second clutch ready to deploy the next gear, but it shows off better in fully automatic - and especially with sport mode selected.

For fear of doing any damage to the engine in manual I change up at 7,000rpm but in auto it drops down one or two gears at a time which unsettles the S-tronic box as it shuffles between clutches and gears so there is a small delay - then rushes to the redline before dropping the clutch for the next loaded gear. As you slow for the next corner the box drops cogs and gives a glorious throttle blip on every change.

Even though this is the smallest engined V8 it is still incredibly fast and maybe, just maybe it is a enjoyable car than the V10 as all the power and revs are available at slightly lower speeds. More of these thoughts later but for now the R8 has another impressed passenger

We head back home, climb the drive and park up for the night.

After a good 220 miles I feel fresh as a daisy and am more in awe at the R8's abilities as both a supercar and everyday comfortable usable transport.


One of the reasons I came to see Matt was to have a play with his GoPro and get some footage of the R8 in action. Some things can't be fully described through words or seen in photos, like the sweeping indicators or the noise of that V8 roaring up through the rev range, so we strapped the GoPro to back of a Volvo V60 Hybrid.

This was a cunning plan as the hybrid could run on electric power so the R8 could be heard in its full glory. Well, that was the plan. Unfortunately it was too fast for the Swede and so diesel power had to kick in to keep in range of the German sprinter.

Half an hour's driving and a video review (my first please be gentle) and it was time to head back and review the footage.

GoPro downloaded and luckily it did capture some nice footage of the R8 so after a brew I headed north for the 190 mile trip home.

Coincidentally the range read 190 miles and so I promised myself I would take it easy so I could refuel back home instead of on the motorway.

The A34 in daylight was a different road, still quiet and still fast but daylight made progress easier but less exciting.

As I turned onto the M40 I settled to a steady 70mph which equates to slightly over 2,000rpm and at this point I would have turned on cruise control but R8's don't come with it as standard, and this one wasn't fitted with it.

Shortly after a red Ferrari F430 was seen in my drivers mirror, then pretty quickly along side me and then in front - he was going some! Oddly enough I wasn't remotely interested in giving chase and having a little play as I felt smug that the car I was in was capable of doing more than two and a half times the speed limit yet was more than happy to let him go.

As I sat in the inside lane at legal speeds I drank in the details of the cabin.

This R8 is trimmed in fine black Nappa leather but the test car sported the extended leather package (£2,700) and contrast stitching (£275) so not only were the seats trimmed in super smooth cowhide but so are the tops of the doors and dash, plus they are finished off with millimetre perfect white stitching.

The result is the equivalent of a Saville Row suit in automotive cabin terms which, combined with the quality Audi switchgear, is a very nice place to spend time.

The driving position is spot on too. It is a fairly horizontal position to keep the car and centre of gravity low but is perfect in execution. The steering wheel has plenty of reach, there was lots of room for the redundant left foot and a good 2 inches of space between my head and the headlining. As the R8 is a wide car for increased stability and cornering this benefits in a nice wide cabin so there is an air of lightness about it.

As mentioned previously visibility is excellent, the very wide side windows mean you can carry out a quick and easy lifesaver when changing lanes. The rear view can be comical at times as the extreme rake has the effect of comedy mirrors at the funfare - at one point I could clearly identify the car behind was a recent 7-series but the grille looked about 2 feet tall.

Shortly afterwards I dropped onto the M6 (not the toll) which for once was quiet. At junction 5, near Fort Dunlop, the road quality turns abysmal which feels like it was patched together in 10 metre sections and has the effect of feeling like all 4 wheels are running over cats-eyes - bum, bum, bum, bum bum and doesn't get any better for about 3 junctions.

This had the firmly sprung R8 jiggling and pogoing quite a lot so I was glad when I got past it.

As I get past Birmingham the M6 is quieter still so I gave the stereo a good workout. The first disc in the 6 disc changer (a £150 option) was the best of Dire Straits. The sound is very good for a standard hifi - the 7 speakers provide warm, clean sound with very effective bass. I love my car hifi and have all sorts of woofers and amplifiers in my boot but can honestly say I would be perfectly content with this set up and wouldn't feel the need to spec the options £950 Bang and Olufson with 3 times the power and an additional 5 speakers.

Next up was Pendulum and again it coped very well, the increased bass notes were handled with ease.

At junction 18 it was my turning and some fast A roads took me home.

I pulled into my drive at 15:30 having just driven 190 miles in 3 and a half hours, and with 60 miles miles left in the tank according to the trip computer.

I got out and felt comfortable. I had no aches and pains and my head was clear.

This turned out to be my last drive in the R8, which is sad as it's such an accomplished, capable and desirable companion.


I was hoping Audi had forgotten about the R8 but sadly I received a text from home at 15:00. It had gone.

What a car!


Price - £94,900 (£104,980 as tested)
Engine – 4.2 litre, V8, petrol
Transmission – 7 Speed S-Tronic
0-62mph – 4.3 seconds
Top speed - 187 mph
Power - 424bhp at 7,900rpm
Torque - 317lb ft between 4500 - 6000rpm
Economy - 22.8mpg combined
CO2 - 289 g/km
Kerb weight - 1585kg unladen