Charge Hard – Volvo C-40

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Volvo were always regarded for many years as a “safe” car. People bought them because of their safety, and not always for their style and sharp looks. A Volvo was bought for transporting people and kids safely, and for their carrying capacity, the Volvo Estate was a hit globally.

But now Volvo have gone ultra-modern in terms of design and technology. The C40 is best described as a Coupe SUV, as it has all the advantages of a SUV, but the lines of a Coupe with its sloping roof, so does look a handsome car with some nice crisp lines, it’s sort of a “coupéfied” crossover.

Volvo have been working hard recently, first with plug-in hybrids, and now they are breaking into the Full-Electric market, and the C40 is an electric car, with Volvo saying 50% of its will be EV’s by 2025 and 100% by 2030, so a big job ahead for them, in a short space of time.

There are two versions of the C40: Recharge (single motor and front wheel drive 231hp) and Recharge Twin (two electric motors and all-wheel drive that produce equivalent of 402hp). I had the Recharge Twin on test, and it certainly goes, with a 0-100kph in just 4.7 seconds, but it did feel quicker than this.

The car has noticeably hardly any buttons, there isn’t even a start button, you fire it up by simply sitting in the drivers seat … yes the start button is under your bum. You then just put it in to drive or reverse, and away you go, no fumbling with keys, or looking for the start button, your bottom takes care of all of that.

The satellite navigation system and both the screens, one in the centre of the dashboard and the other in front of the driver are crystal clear, so accurate and precise, and is run on Google Maps, very impressive.

Volvo have also fitted their “Birds Eye” parking system. Now I thought Birds Eye did fish fingers and burgers, but no, they also help you park the car. This system works with external cameras all around the car, and the image of the car is super-imposed onto the central screen and it actually looks like there is a camera above the car. It is just so clever and accurate. I could go on and on about the brilliant technology the C40 has, but space is limited.

With a full charge the range on the Recharge Twin is around 350km, which is not bad, and most people can live with that on a day to day basis. But with all electric cars, especially in the UK, going on a long journey does need some planning, and always add extra time to charge the car up.

Prices are not cheap for the C40, starting at £44800 and going up to £58900 in the UK.

The nicest thing about an electric car is they are just so quiet. Turn off the radio, and it becomes such a peaceful and relaxing place to sit, no noise at all. It’s like riding on a magic carpet. Perfect.

Lastly, I just want to say thanks to Clive Brook Volvo Huddersfield for organising this test car.

Honda HR-V

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I think it is fair to say that Honda went through some fairly dull years when it came to design. They seemed to rely on their good name, great engineering and faithful following, so styling didn’t really matter, so played it safe, not wanting to upset or lose their current customers. But the faithful got older, and Honda started losing ground, and customers.

But in recent years, the company has invested heavily in new, more modern designs, out with the old designers, and in with the new.

The all-new HR-V is a great example of this new fresh look from Honda. Crisp lines that run down the sides, a big bold front end, and a ‘coupe-Like’ roof-line in this cleverly styled SUV.

The HR-V is powered by a frugal 1.5-litre petrol engine called i-MMI (Intelligent Multi Mode Drive, and coupled to a smooth e-CVT automatic gearbox, and goes from 0-100kph in 10.7 seconds.

The HR-V has the latest Honda Full-Hybrid system fitted which adds dramatically to improved fuel consumption and reduces emissions. This hybrid systems works quite simply by having additional batteries that charge when you are slowing down, coasting or braking. The energy saved is then used to power the car, so the petrol engine is not used. Living in hilly Yorkshire this system works really well, for every hill you go down, you charge the batteries, and then this energy is used to go back up another hill. During the time I had the test car from Honda UK I got on average 63mpg (4.484 l/100km) so a good result I thought. With this hybrid system, like others on the market, you don’t have to think about doing anything, it’s all done for you automatically, clever stuff, eh…

The interior has also been well thought out with lots of standard equipment and all the on-board systems easy to fathom out and use, all very instinctive.

The seat ride height is higher than a typical hatch, and with it being a small SUV, you do get a better, commanding view around you.

There is plenty of storage space, and although the boot is not ‘over-big’ you can get quite a bit of luggage or shopping in it.

The rear seat has a clever mechanism, so it can lift up to give more storage space, and there is plenty of room under the rear seat for storage also, so much space in fact that you can actually lose stuff under it, I know, because I lost some shopping, it just disappeared in the huge cavity, like a black hole.

The petrol engine combined with the batteries and electric motors produce 131ps, so enough power for the coupe-like SUV.

The cost of the test car, the Advance in the UK costs £31,035 OTR, but you do get a lot of car, and equipment for your money.

During the week I had the Honda HR-V I liked it more and more every time I drove it, and when it was unfashionable not long ago to say you liked a Honda, this had now changed, and you feel good driving one, and seeing the excellent fuel consumption, helps you like it even more.

Suzuki S-Cross

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For those familiar with the Suzuki range of passenger cars will no doubt know the Swift and Vitara, these are the bread and butter for Suzuki.

Lesser known ones include the Ignis, Alto and Jimny, but also on that list is the S-Cross, which has never really attracted much attention, and probably bought by those who thought it was a Vitara, as they were very similar to look at. Only a close examination of the badge, for many could tell them apart. Different they were, with the S-Cross really being a slightly larger version of the ever-popular Vitara.

But now a new S-Cross has been launched, and it couldn’t be any different, what the previous model lacked in style, this all-new model makes up for. It has bold and striking lines that make the exterior look very handsome.

We drove this new car on the UK Press event in Cheshire, on a variety of roads and it proved to be good in all conditions. We did not however take it off-road, but with previous experience of using the Suzuki AllGrip four-wheel drive system, I can be pretty confident in saying it will be great on any slippery surface.

The new S-Cross is powered by a 1.4-litre BoosterJet petrol engine with 48v Mild Hybrid technology that produces 129ps, goes from 0-100kph in 10.2 seconds.

The mild Hybrid system, put quite simply is a way of generating electricity that is stored in a separate battery. This stored energy is used when accelerating away from standstill and helps reduce fuel consumption and reduce emissions. During the short time I drove the car it achieved 42.2 mpg (6.694 litres per 100 km) which for the type of roads and journey was a good result.

The interior, is well, a complete change, Suzuki have thrown everything away from the previous model, and started again, a huge step forward, in design, materials used and quality. It is comfortable, easily fits in five adults and enough room in the luggage compartment for plenty of luggage or shopping.

Suzuki have moved away from their usual badging, or naming, and instead replaced it with Motion and Ultra, they’ve kept it simple with just two models. I drove the Ultra 6-speed manual, and it was fully loaded with standard equipment, and the cost of this car in the UK is £29,799, a lot of car for your money. The Motion is not at all basic, and costs £24,999, but for the bit extra, I’d go for the Ultra.

I drove the car from England into Wales, and back then there were different rules for both countries, but the route only took us over the border for a short time, so didn’t need to get out the Rule Book.

This all-new S-Cross is such a departure from the previous car, and I can imagine those who had never considered one before, for a variety of reasons, might just be temped by this much improved one. It does offer a lot in terms of style, quality, design, fuel consumption and value for money.


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i had a id.4 on test for a week from volkswagen uk press office, and it was the first time i had sat in one, i really hadn’t seen one up close before.

When it arrived at my house, the first thing that I was surprised at was, just how big it was, both on the outside, and the interior. To put the size into perspective, it is the same size as the VW Tiguan on the outside, but has much more room in the inside.

The ID.4 is the big brother of ID.3, and both came to the market around the same time, and both are fully electric.

The ID.4 has a 77kWH Motor, which translates to 204ps, it goes from 0-100kph in 8.5 seconds, a top speed of 160kph and a manufacturer quoted range of 490 kilometres but these figures are generally about 25% too optimistic. I charged it to 99% full and got a range of 252 miles or 405 kilometres, which in realty isn’t a bad range, and you can live with that. During the time I had the ID.4 I went to Lytham St Anne’s near Blackpool, a distance of 84 miles each way, and when I got back home, it still had 100 miles range left in the batteries. So no ‘range anxiety’ going to the coast and back.

I usually go to a public charging point to charge up the batteries as it is much quicker than charging at home. With the ID.4 using a 50kW charger you can get in around 120 miles in one hour, so from empty to full will take just under two-hours.

I liked most things on the ID.4, but the one thing I did find a little annoying was the position of the gear-shift lever (button) as, VW in their wisdom have decided to put it just above the windscreen wiper stalk, and not in the traditional and usual place of in the centre, in between the two front seats, I guess they moved it to a bit of a silly place, because they could, and for no other practical reason.

Although the ID.4 is quick, it is not throw you back in your seat quick, which makes a refreshing change for an electric car, and the way I see it, what you loose in acceleration, you gain in range, which suits me.

Volkswagen offer a 8-year 100,000 mile battery warranty in the UK, but not sure what they offer here in Europe.

Driving the ID.4 is a real pleasure and so easy to drive, all the controls, switches and the on-board systems are very intuitive (except the gear shift) and with minutes you instinctively know where everything is, and what it does, although I have heard other reports that say exactly the opposite, I’m not technically minded at all, but I seemed to manage to work it out relatively quickly, I even surprised myself.

With the batteries it is a heavy car, and although you cannot detect it weighs nearly two-tonnes, but at lower speeds, and going over uneven road surfaces you do notice it’s a heavy thing.

The price in the UK for the ID.4 First Edition is £40,800, but prices range from £34,595 to £55,485.

Audi Q4 e-tron

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I recently drove a Audi Q4 e-Tron on a launch near Wetherby, but was only a day event so did not get chance to charge it from either home or a public charge point.

The official figures for the maximum range is just over 300 miles or 480km, but in my experience of having quite a few electric vehicles recently this is very optimistic and difficult to achieve. A more realistic figure would be around 380km, and even then you would need to drive it very carefully, and steadily. As a rough guide, you can generally knock around 25% of the claimed figures to get a better idea of how far it is likely to go.

The Q4 e-tron has an output of 150kW or equivalent to 204ps, and has a top speed of 160kph and goes from 0-100km/h in a very rapid 8.5 seconds, it is, like all electric cars, it feels really quick of the mark, and it just keeps going.

So what exactly is the Q4 Sportback well it is  mid-size SUV, but it looks more like a five-door Coupe with its sloping rear end, but it does look very handsome from every angle.

The Q4 is based on Volkswagen Group’s EV-only ‘MEB’ platform, which also underpins Skoda Enyaq iV, Cupra Born, and VW’s ID.3 & ID.4, so it has some good company. There are three battery options, with different ranges just to make it a bit more complicated, but I won’t go into the technicalities of this, even I struggle to understand it.

You would think with that nicely designed rear end, with its ‘Coupe-Like styling you would lose some valuable luggage space compared to the regular Q4 SUV, which is a bit more ‘boxy’.

And the sloping rear roof doesn’t really affect head room for rear passengers either, although it doesn’t have the most room of cars this size, it’s not bad, and room doesn’t get compromised for style, so it’s a bit of a win-win.

The interior is typically Audi, everything is up to a very high standard, Audi were the pioneers of bringing exceptional quality, fit and finish and brilliant materials to the mainstream, and in all the years they have been masters in building luxury, yet affordable cars, they are still leaders in this art.

It is a quick car, though not as quick as some other electric cars, but if you wanted to keep up with a hot-hatch on some twisty, windy roads, the Q4 could easily compete very easily, and safely. But in reality this is not a sports car, it is a family SUV, powered by electric.

I enjoyed the short time I spent in the Q4 e-tron, was fun, high quality, quick and quiet.

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4

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Porsche was founded in 1931 in Stuttgart by Ferdinand Porsche, and originally offered motor vehicle development, technology, consulting, but did not build any of its own cars.

One of the first contracts for the company was from the German Government to design a car for the people, for Volkswagen. This resulted in the design and birth of the original Beetle.

During WW2 VW turned its production to military vehicles, and Porsche produced many designs for heavy tanks, although not many of their designs were used.

At the end of WW2 in 1945, the VW factory went to the British and Major Ivan Hirst from Saddleworth, near Manchester was put in charge. Ferdinand lost his position of Chairman and was put in prison for nearly two years, but never tried. During his time in prison, Ferdinands son, Ferry decided to design and build a car he wanted to drive, and the original Porsche sports car was launched, the 356

If you like cars, then there’s not a right lot not to like about a Porsche, but many traditionalists have shaken their heads in disbelief over some models the company has produced over recent years. A large SUV Porsche, ridiculous, an Electric Porsche, outrageous you can hear them say at owners club meetings. But the simple fact is, that  whatever it looks like, whatever the drivetrain, they have sold in bucket-loads.

But I recently drove the second-generation 718 Cayman GT4, now this is what those Porsche owners will like. First of all, it looks like a Porsche sports car, typical lines and design, and from 500m away you know it’s a Porsche. It has the huge air-scoops on the rear body panels.

It is fitted with the new 9AE Evo engine that is a 4.0-litre flat six that produces 420ps, goes from 0-100kph in 4.4 seconds, and is coupled to a 6-speed short-shift manual gearbox, all very smooth, and more than enough power. It also has a top speed of 300kph, where permitted, which is hardly anywhere, especially here in Gibraltar, and doubtful you could get up to that speed on the runway, you might get up to 300kph, but not sure there’d be enough runway left to slow down. But the 718 does have a high-performance braking system to match its performance and acceleration.

The interior is most definitely a Porsche, slightly awkward to get into, and a bit more awkward to get out of, but there is a knack, and you’d soon get used to it. But if it was easy to get in and out of, the the traditionalists would say it’s not a proper Porsche. Once you are comfortably seated, the controls are easy to use, and very intuitive, but some of the suspension settings and dynamic controls would need a bit of thinking about, I just left everything as it was, and was perfectly happy.

The whole of the cabin oozes quality, yes it looks and feels very sporty, but during the time I drove it, it was very comfortable. It rode over the lumps and bumps on the roads in North Yorkshire with ease, and didn’t once feel too harsh, a good sign of clever engineering. I dare say if you pressed a few buttons, and levers near the gear-stick then the ride would form up, and might feel a bit more uncomfortable.

The 718 looks like a Porsche, drives like a Porsche, but more importantly, it sounds like a Porsche. On start-up, the engine and exhaust give out the most glorious ‘roar’ just fantastic.

The price of the test car in the UK is £75,348, which sounds a lot of money, but it is a lot of car. And it does have those Porsche badges on it.

Porsche do now offer a wide range of car sizes, engines, electric and prices, but think after driving the Cayman, I might just have joined the Traditionalists Brigade.

What is it?

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Who is it made by? How much is it? Where’s it built? What’s the range?

A lot of questions, but here are the answers….

I recently had a Polestar2 on test for a week from their UK Press Office. I was asked numerous times what was it, who is it made by, where is it built, how much is it and the big question what is it’s range..?… a lot of questions, but here are the answers.

Polestar2 is an all-electric Car, no engine, just batteries and motors. 

On the drivers door pillar there is a small label that says ‘Polestar, Volvo Car Corporation, Made in China’ so some of the answers are on the car. Polestar say they are an electric performance brand, sharing technology and engineering expertise with the Volvo Car Group, yet, they are going their own way.

As soon as you get into the Polestar2 you know it is different to anything else you have driven, it just somehow looks and feels different. It is crammed full of technology and some new ideas, and during the 7-days I had the car, I don’t think I found or used half of them.

The car is a All-Wheel-Drive as it has an electric motor powering each of the wheels, The battery and motors are 78kWh / 300kw so in Electric Car terms it has quite a bit of power, and not a bad travel range.

But from the batteries it produces a phenomenal acceleration, it really does throw you back in your seat, and where traffic and conditions allow, put your foot down and your passengers say words they very rarely say, and are generally too polite to say them, but the Polestar brings out the worst in them!!.. it’s official 0-62mph (0-100kph) is 4.7 seconds, but in reality it feels much quicker than that, it feels more like ‘what *** #@£’ as passengers put it.

The advertised range is between 292 miles (469km) to 348 miles (560km) but I charged it to 90%, as per the recommendation of Polestar and got it to 240 miles (386km) which isn’t a bad range to have. I used a local public charge-point, that had a relatively quick 50kw charge and in an hour put in 80 miles 128km, so from empty to 90% would take around 3-hours, whereas to put in 240 miles of petrol or diesel would take about 5-minutes.

Driving the Polestar is a fantastic experience, it is very comfortable, plenty of rear legroom, but it is the technology and systems that make it special. It has a brilliant ‘Birds-Eye’ view camera (and I thought they made Fish Fingers) that somehow, and I cannot fathom how it works, has the appearance of looking down on the car, and showing the image on the large screen on the dash. It is very accurate and makes parking very easy.

As you slow down, or brake then energy goes from deceleration to put a bit of charge into the batteries, so you find yourself trying to slow down at every available opportunity to try and top-up the battery, a really clever system.

The Polestar is full of goodies, all very impressive, and after a short while you quickly get used to the systems and soon become very intuitive and easy to use.

The downside of owning any Electric Vehicle is the time you need to put aside to charge it, and plan your days accordingly. It’s fine if you’ve got off-street parking and can charge at home. But if you need to rely on public charge points, like me, it can become a bit of a problem.

And now to the cost, in the UK prices range from around £50,000 to £60,000 depending on specification and options

Obviously it’s a Cupra Formentor

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But that answer to some just wasn’t good enough, after dodging the question, and going round in circles, I finally had to admit it was built by SEAT, and part of the VW Group. SEAT have always tried to use Spanish place names to call their cars, such as: Ibiza, Malaga, Marbella, Alhambra, Córdoba, Toledo, and some more obscure ones such as Leon, Arona and Altea.

But Formentor is a very pretty place in Majorca, and the Formentor is a very pretty car, with some bold and striking lines, the pressing of the metal is really clever engineering with the body panels having razor sharp creases.

The car I had on test from SEAT UK press office, sorry, CUPRA UK, was a 1.4 petrol plug-in Hybrid that produces 245ps (combined output, petrol engine and electric motors). It goes from 0-62mph (100kph) in 7-seconds, and boasts a top speed of 130mph. It is coupled to a very smooth 6-speed automatic gearbox.

You can charge the battery either from home using a standard household plug, or take it to a public ChargePoint. I just charged it from home, and like all other full electric, or plug-ins, it seemed to take forever to do so. It took nearly five hours to go from a range of zero miles to 21 miles. It’s meant to be able to go for 34 miles when fully topped-up. Using a swanky 3.6KW ChargePoint it takes about three hours to “electrically fill”. However, it begs the question, “3 hours to get 34 miles, is it worth it?”. When it was completely out of battery power and solely relied on petrol power, the economical 1.4-litre engine achieved just over 50mpg (4.704l/100kph).

The interior is quite exquisite with some really nice touches, with its black nappy leather heated bucket seats with copper stitching on the VZ2 test car. The whole of the interior looks and feels like real quality, a great place to sit for a long journey.

It has a large (12-inch) screen in the centre of the dashboard and a 10.5-invh Digital Cockpit in front of the driver. The infotainment system is really easy to use, and very intuitive, and much improved on some previous efforts by VW Group, I think they have learned by their mistakes.

There is a great long list of standard equipment on the Formentor, too many to list. The UK OTR price of the test car was £41,115, and does sound a hefty price to pay, but when you look at the complete package, all the nice features you get, then it begins to look reasonable value.

The Cupra Formentor is certainly a striking looking five-door hatch, with some very distinctive lines, that stand out in a crowd. The interior is stunning, and SEAT, sorry, CUPRA have gone over and beyond what would have been expected in this type of car, from the Spanish manufacturer, so well done for a brave effort.

The luck of the Alfas

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I recently had on test, not one but two QuAdrifoglios from Alfa Romeo’s UK Press Office. I was curious to know what Quadrifoglio meant, simple really, and you only have to look at the badge on the front wings, and it all becomes apparent… four leaf clover.

The Giulia arrived in a nice shiny metallic white, with yellow brake mechanism, and with this car it doesn’t matter what colour they are, but they need to be better than good.

The Giulia is a four-door saloon, similar in size to an Audi A4, or BMW 3-Series. It is powered by a whopping 2,891cc V6 petrol engine that produces 510hp, and goes from 0-62mph (100kph) in 3.9 seconds and a ridiculous top speed of 191mph (307kph) where you can actually do this is an unknown, certainly not around the United Kingdom’s motorway network and certainly not anywhere in Gibraltar!

The 2021 model has put right a lot of things that was wrong with the previous car, not much, but does benefit it, such as the infotainment system and the way you control has been improved.

Driving the Giulia Quadrifoglio is great fun, and although it has massive amounts of power, and when you put your foot down on the accelerator it really pushes you back in your seat, and you feel your face cheeks and your lips altering shape, a bit like a Disney cartoon when a character is going at massive speeds and the whole face is distorted.

The Giulia, despite its power is comfortable and is such an easy car to drive at low speeds, it doesn’t ever feel as though it wants to run away with you. The cost of the test car is £74,555 in the UK.

The second Quadrifoglio that I tried was a bright Misano blue Stelvio, and has the same engine and power output as the Giulia, but despite it being a larger vehicle, it is slightly quicker to 0-62mph, and does this in 3.8 seconds, this must be because the Stelvio has a four-wheel drive system, so more power can be put onto the tarmac. It has the same V6 engine with 510hp, coupled to a ZF 8-speed automatic gearbox; and very smooth it is too.

The Giulia felt a bit cramped in the rear, with little legroom if the driver or passenger were above average height. But the Stelvio had much more, and rear passengers could not complain. The boot was also large enough for plenty of shopping or luggage, so was a very useable SUV.

Around town, and local journeys the fuel consumption wasn’t brilliant, and I had to go to Ascot for an event in the Stelvio, and I was worried I had to stop at every fuel station on the way there, and on the way back. But driving over 400 miles it achieved nearly 30mpg (7.84 l/100 km) which I though was pretty good for a large 4×4 SUV with a powerful petrol engine. I got out of it, after sitting in it for over six-hours, feeling as fresh as the moment I had just sat down to embark on my journey. The price of the Stelvio in the UK is £79,275.

I did enjoy using both Quadrifoglios. Both are quick, fun to drive and very comfortable, but I think, purely for practicality and usefulness, it would have to be the Stelvio that I’d recommend.

Take your Pick(UP)

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In the UK, the choice of Pick-Ups is diminishing rapidly.

Many manufacturers have produced them, with some built in cooperation with others, the same Pick-Up, but with different Badges, so now there are really only Three to chose from, two of which I have recently tested.

Many manufacturers have produced them, with some built in
cooperation with others, the same Pick-Up, but with different Badges, so now there are really only Three to chose from, two
of which I have recently tested.

I had a Toyota HiLux Invincible for a week on test, and as we know these trucks are virtually indestructible. The Toyota can be seen worldwide doing a variety of jobs, and always able to cope in any situation. It is powered by a 2.8-litre 4-cylinder Diesel engine that produces 201bhp, it had a very smooth 6-speed Auto gearbox But despite it being a workhorse, the interior on the Invincible is very luxurious and comfortable, yes it’s a truck so not exactly a large premium saloon, but the ride is very acceptable. I didn’t get chance to take the Toyota off-Road, the nearest was Morrison’s car park, and to visit our local farmer, but I have driven one previously on an off-road course, and it was very competent. 

A couple of weeks later I was invited to drive the all-new Isuzu D-MAX on a press event in a quarry near Buxton. Isuzu was founded in 1916, but wasn’t until 1987 that the first vehicle was brought to the UK. 

We were each given the keys to a truck, and were alone, due to COVID restrictions and followed the lead-car around the old quarry: up steep hills, down slippery slopes, through deep water, it now has a wading depth of 800mm. Some of the terrain was just very loose gravel, so the four-wheel-Drive button needed to be pressed on some difficult and slippery areas. But the D-MAX did everything it was asked to do. 

Then it was out onto the open road to see if it was as good on tarmac as it was on gravel and in water, and as expected, it was. The interior, like the Toyota is now very ‘car-like’ and probably even more luxurious than many cars, it just had the look and feel of something very special. 

The Isuzu is powered by a much smaller engine than the Toyota, it has a 1.9-litre Diesel engine that produces 164ps, on paper it just doesn’t look right, but in reality it is perfect.

Both the Toyota & Isuzu are packed full of goodies, not a basic pick-up anymore, the list of standard specification on both is endless.

Both are exceptional vehicles, and both have their individual advantages, but both are brilliant all-rounders, can go off-road, can carry lots of heavy goods, and a pleasure to drive on-road, and all for just over £30,000, plus Taxes…a bargain..

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