Monday, 22 August 2016

NEWS: Special Edition @SubaruUK Forester Marking 50th Anniversary of Heroic Boxer Lump

Subaru are celebrating 50 years of the awesome, low centre of gravity, horizontally-opposed, flat four Boxer engine this year – a personal favourite lump of ours – and have just released details of a Forester Special Edition, to help mark this auspicious occasion.

On sale from the 1st September, just 100 units of the specced-up Forester will be produced – priced at £29,995 for the petrol Lineartronic and £31,495 for the diesel Lineartronic. Based on the XC Premium model, the Special Edition model comes with £1,500 of additional equipment... at no extra cost. Both models come with Subaru’s comprehensive five-year, 100,000-mile warranty, #obvs!

Unique equipment for the Forester Special Edition includes Hunter Green Metallic Paint, front, side and rear under guards, wheel arch extensions and stainless steel cargo step panel as well as Special Edition brown leather seats with brown leather interior door grips, centre armrest and centre panel uprights. Not so sure on the seats, personally, but will reserve judgement until we see it in the flesh...!

Other equipment on the Forester Special Edition includes Subaru Starlink; a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment, connectivity and navigation system, Hill Descent Control (HDC), X-Mode system, which intelligently manages the car’s power and torque, brakes and drivetrain to maintain traction on even the most slippery surfaces.

Discover more here.

Monday, 1 August 2016

NEWS: BAC Graphene Innovation @DiscoverMono

Over the weekend, BAC were playing with the famous RAF red arrows, raising money for charity and now they hit us with the an amazingly innovative car industry first... taking "a large development leap by using (super light, super-strong) graphene on the single seater supercar, the Mono."
Is this the new carbon fibre?

The uber-cool single seater track day special manufacturer BAC say the use of the innovative graphene material is a world first – further illustrating their USP ability of make technological advancements through their car building program.
The panel development was done in collaboration with Haydale Composite Solutions and the lightweight material that is stronger than its main rival carbon fibre features on the Mono’s rear wheel arches, bringing weight and performance benefits.
Trick eh?

Graphene is made of sheets of carbon just one atom thick, and is significantly lighter than standard carbon fibre. It is also stronger than carbon fibre, meaning that it can bring weight reductions of around 20% while being 200 times stronger than steel. These benefits could have implications for cost, performance and fuel economy when applied wider in the manufacturing process.
BAC chose to test the use of graphene on the rear wheel arches due to the size and complexity of the part, to thoroughly test the manufacturing process and how the material fitted in with the car.

BAC Development Director and co-founder Neill Briggs said: "BAC is uniquely placed in the automotive industry to be able to take innovative steps, and latest work with graphene is further proof of this. This development work is further proof of our ability to work with the very latest materials and innovators. At BAC we don’t wait for new technology to come to us, we actively seek it out and work with the very best in the industry to stay at the forefront of the automotive and motorsport industries.
"Making significant weight savings and improving body strength will allow us to offer improved performance to our customers. This is the latest in a line of ground-breaking innovations on the Mono, and we were delighted to have worked with graphene composite industry leaders, Haydale, on this exciting project."

Ebby Shahidi, Haydale Composite Solutions Ltd.’s Director of Aerospace and Defence added: "We are pleased to have worked on the design and development of the graphene enhanced carbon fibre materials for the BAC Mono. These initial materials have shown some major increases in impact and thermal performance coupled with improved surface finish and it’s pleasing to see these attributes being demonstrated on such a high performance vehicle as the Mono. We look forward to collaborating further with BAC and delivering even higher performance materials and components to increase the performance of this exciting vehicle."

BAC recently showcased the graphene enhanced Mono at the Science in the City festival in Manchester.

BLOG: Rally Finland's Irish Eyes Are Smiling

There's no doubt about it, Colin McRae would have been a very happy Celt this weekend – as his Irish protege Kris Meeke came of age, with the most historic victory on the most historic of rallies, Rally Finland (aka 1000 Lakes if you're old like me!).
Conventionally a WRC round only to be won by the Scandinavians due to its high-speed, specialist airborne nature, ballsy Kris demolished the competition in his Abu Dhabi Citroen Racing DS3, winning easily, with a 30s lead over Finn Jari-Matti Latvala.
And to make things even more unreal for British rally fans, the under-the-radar Craig Breen bagged himself a podium place, in floods of tears and up against very stiff competition from the well known Hyundai races of Thierry Neuville & Hayden Paddon, separated by just a few seconds after 21 high-speed special stages.
It was the stuff of dreams for Meeke & Breen & co-drivers Paul Nagle and Scott Martin, and the Abu Dhabi team – who clearly nailed their Finland set-up – let alone the scores of British rally fans.
Bravo to you all for making history & no doubt Colin raised a dram or two your way last night!

Kris Meeke said: "For a WRC driver, winning Rally Finland is the ultimate goal before becoming World Champion. It’s an incredible feeling to win on the greatest roads in the world. This result was largely determined yesterday with the two runs on Ouninpohja. At the end of the first run, I didn’t know my time but I knew that I had driven really well. But I could hardly believe it when I found out that I gone thirteen seconds faster than Jari-Matti Latvala! Last year, in the other direction, he beat me by six seconds when I thought I had driven the perfect stage. That just goes to show the progress we have made, through a combination of work with the team and my growing experience. I also have to say that the car worked perfectly all weekend. We only did one day of testing, last Sunday, but that was enough for us to see that we already had the best set-up. I felt really confident right from the word go and that was a key factor in the win. This morning, I was totally relaxed. I just had to drive the last few stages to finish off the work that we had done in the first two days."

Craig Breen said: "It’s the best day of my career again. But it seems that with this car, every day is a bit better! When I grabbed third place yesterday afternoon, I already felt that I had moved up another level. There weren’t many kilometres left to complete today but it was still pretty tough because I was put under pressure by my rivals. I couldn’t be happier, claiming my first WRC stage win and finishing on the podium. The finish was very emotional. I couldn’t believe it, but it was fantastic to celebrate this moment with the people who have supported me. It’s also a richly-deserved result for the guys in the team, who had to work hard to repair the car after I went off during testing on Monday. I’ve taken a step closer to where I want to be this weekend."

1. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (DS 3 WRC) 2:38:05.8
2. Latvala / Anttila (VW Polo R WRC) +29.1
3. Breen / Martin (DS 3 WRC) +1:41.3
4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:45.9
5. Paddon / Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:48.2
6. Østberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:04.6
7. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (VW Polo R WRC) +2:22.4
8. Lappi / Ferm (Skoda Fabia R5) +4:53.8
9. Abbring / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +5:22.4
10. Suninen / Markkula (Skoda Fabia R5) +5:35.5

Friday, 29 July 2016

ROAD TEST: Suzuki Jimmy 1.3 Adventure

It's a word banded about a lot, usually unjustifiably and frequently for expensive, exclusive, often pretentious and predictable stuff in the car world.
But the humble Suzuki Jimny – now an incredible four decades into production and with tens of thousands of units sold globally – wears the tag well, we think.

Suzuki's diminutive 4WD takes its roots from way back in 1968, with the LJ10 and its tiny 359cc two-stroke motor, leading to the LJ20 (Little Jeep BTW) and then SJ10/20 models, which were the first to bear the Jimny nomenclature, way back in 1975. And the first generation of Jimny as we know it started in 1981-1998, when the current design style took over, recently and radically updated in 2013 with its retire-modernity branding and now with a new primarily digital dashboard design, cool wheels, improved safety and tech-boost.

The "high value, high fun" 4x4, with its dash-mounted, on-the-move-switchable 2WD (rear, one of the Jimny's core fun characteristics), 4WD and low ratio transfer 4WD system, rugged retro looks, peppy & economical (c40mpg combined) 85 bhp, 81 Lbft, 1328cc 16V M13A engine and compact size starts at just £12,499 OTR, for a SZ3 model. Bargain!

Then there's the range-topping SZ4 from £13,949 (manual) and £14,849 (auto, which is nowhere near as economical or fun, so the dealers tell me!), offering leather seats, air con and nicer 15-inch alloys. Or you can now plumb for the limited edition Jimny Adventure, as tested at £14,949 OTR.

Suzuki says: "The classic design, small lightweight chassis and rugged 4x4 capability are exactly what you’d expect from the Jimny but the limited edition ‘adventure’ gives you even more. There’s Satellite Navigation, limited edition 2-tone metallic colour and a unique hard spare wheel cover (with Adventure logo), all of which really make the adventure stand out from the pack. If you want to get your hands on the limited edition Jimny Adventure then hurry as you really don’t want to miss out."

Truth is the Sat Nav/Infotainment system is a tad on the clunky side compared with other systems out there and the two-tone colour/spare wheel cover aren't to everyone's taste. In fact, adding all this rather detracts from the Jimny's USP: Simple smiles. Trying to keep up with the Jones' is a hiding to nothing for the Jimny, as it just inflates the price into a territory it can't really cut it in and detracts from the affordable, enjoyable, simplicity of it's core appears, in our view.

But cut back to basics and the Jimny is fun on and off-road, bringing a smile to your face and air of competency and sense of security way beyond its size... and whatever the weather.

There's bags of grip on offer and the bouncy ride is soft enough to make mincemeat out of urban obstacles like speed humps and curbs. Plus, it's compact size makes it a dream to park, whizz down narrow back streets and in and out of traffic gaps. Nippy doesn't even cover it.

Then there's the visibility. At 1705mm tall, and sitting high up, it's got a vista not unlike a mini Range Rover – allowing you to see over traffic safely, and over people's hedges, nosily! That's a big plus.

We wouldn't say Jimny's most natural environment is on the motorway, but the baby 4x4 is more than capable off cutting it in the outside lane with the big boys, despite its V-max only being 87mph! And although 0-62mph is quoted at 14.1s, tbh, it feels more brisk than that, as light, small cars often do: It certainly couldn't be described as slow, especially with the nuts cornering speed you can do in it, where it feels like a jacked-up classic Mini, with its wheel at each corner, cocking an inside rear-wheel, rear-steer attitude! Folks who expect it to be quiet and refined and good at cruising or think it "can't do corners" are just that, fools. Get with the Jimny program guys!

Venture off road (and we suggest you do, or what's the point?!) and the Jimny's impressive 190mm ground clearance and lack of overhangs, combined with its low 1090Kg kerb weight and tractive 4WD system make it a extremely capable – easily going where a lot of so-called-4x4 SUVs would bog down and fail on their road rubber. Fit a set of knobblies and a winch and you could literally pretty much go anywhere in a Jimny.

And Even without, it can cope with 34 degree approach angles, 46 departure and 31 breakovers! It really is like a mini Land Rover – with its upright (comfy) high drive POV over its vented, flat-topped bonnet and with the superbly wobbly, long-throw manual gear lever, which we love!
Fabulous fun.

A lot of people don't get the Jimny, calling it out-dated, old fashioned and a lot worse. But, they're totally missing the point. That's it's appeal: Good, honest simplicity and fun from something that dares to be niche and different.

Yes, there are cars that are more capable off/on-roaders, with more space, better finish/engines/rides/tech/interior/styling blah blah blah. But most are not the great giggle, brilliantly clunky, cheeky little Jimny with its smile-inducing unique blend of muscular masculine fun femininity. Go test one if you've never driven one. We gurantee you will get out smiling. This is why people who do get it, keep theirs for years... then get another, because they're so great, and ultra reliable too (another core Jimny value).

Road Magazine's better half, design queen Bonnie & Road Magazine toddler G loved the Jimny so much, we're seriously considering getting one to replace Project UP! Toddler G cried when it left! And having just spotted the awesome range of accessories on offer, I'll be more than happy creating a micro Dakar raider project car and bouncing down a few green lanes in it... so watch this space!

If you're looking for old skool cool, fun-filled, unpretentious practicality (the load area with the seats down is massive at 324-litres!) with some serious character and that's something very different from the normal drones that people respond so positively too... get into the rugged little Jimny.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

NEWS: 143 Classics Hammer Down @SilverstoneAuc

How do you fancy owning this nuts & stupidly cool 1981 Porsche 924 Carrera GTR race car? Or indeed any of the other 142 special lots going under the hammer at the Silverstone Classic three-day auctionfest Thursday 28th to Sunday 31st July.
One has to where they've all been hiding and marvel at the talented crew responsible for bringing them to market. Yes, Silverstone Auctions returns once again to the Silverstone Classic event in just two days time. Excited? We are! 
They say: "With a dedicated race car sale, a two-day classic road car sale offering a huge variety of cars, as well as an extensive selection of collectible automobilia and luxury lifestyle items, Silverstone Auctions are set to host their biggest ever sale with a total of 450 lots.
"Headlining the competition car sale is a 1981 Porsche 924 Carrera GTR race car which has covered just 109 kilometres from new. One of only 17 examples made, it is the most original Porsche Silverstone Auction has ever seen and will be offered with a sale estimate between £475,000 and £575,000.
"A 1958 Lotus Elite Series I first owned by the jazz legend Chris Barber and with an incredible race history, is estimated at £75,000 to £100,000. Today the car has just emerged from a top quality, exacting restoration carried out by Ant Anstead’s team at Evanta Motors. Amazingly, the car will compete in a race at the Silverstone Classic before heading to the auction hall to be sold.
"Another incredibly sought after British sportscar, a 1961 Jaguar E-Type Series 1 Roadster, Chassis #62, one of the ‘missing’ early examples of the model, will go to auction with a sale estimate of between £140,000 and £170,000."
Speaking ahead of the sale, managing director of Silverstone Auctions, Nick Whale, said: "The Silverstone Classic Sale is one of our most exciting and high profile auctions in the calendar and it’s a delight to be back. We’ve been hosting an auction here at the world’s biggest classic motor racing festival for the past six years and it just gets bigger and better every year. This will be our biggest catalogue to date and one of our most intriguing catalogues ever."
Viewing of the lots will be available all day on Thursday 28th July before the Race Car Sale at 18:30. Viewing continues on Friday, with the two-day road car sale taking place on Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st from 12:30.
You can find out more about the sale, please visit the website here.
Online Bidder Registration (Proxibid) -
Twitter – @SilverstoneAuc
Facebook –
Instagram – @silverstoneauctions

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

VIDEO: Celebrate Juha Kankkunen @RallydayUK: A Pug 205 T16 Love-in

NEWS: Juha Kankkunen @RallydayUK 2016

One of the true legends of the glorious sport of rallying – Juha Kankkunen – a hero of the epic Group B and Group A golden era and four-time WRC champion is penned in to star at Rallyday on Saturday 24th September at the historic Cotswolds Castle Combe Circuit, 30 years on since his maiden WRC championship success.
Cigar-smoking, tyre-shredding Juha Kankkunen blasted sideways onto the World Rallying scene in 1983, in the magic era of big boost, 500bhp cars, no active diffs and five-day events with long old night states – rallying for real men! 
Within three years he'd taken his first outright victory, powering the unwieldy Celica Turbo to overall honors on the gruelling 1985 Safari Rally. 
1986 saw him tame the rip-snorting Peugeot 205T16 and become the youngest man to lift the title that very year, all achieved against some of the toughest Group B competition imaginable. 
A spell in the early ‘90s at Toyota underlined his awareness of the shifting sands of the WRC, and he was one of the first top drivers to recognise the increased role Japanese manufacturers would play in the coming decade. Fittingly, he clinched his final title at wheel of the Celica ST185 in 1993.
Rally fans will be spoiled rotten at the 2016 Rallyday, as the legnedary Finn set to appear alongside fellow 1986 Lombard RAC Rally competitors Jimmy McRae and Louise Aitkin-Walker, celebrating the 30 years since it was last held in Bath; just down the road from Rallyday’s home of Castle Combe Circuit.
That;'s on-top of all the amazing rally weapons packed in the paddock and demolishing the speedy circuit. trade stands, car clubs and more. 

Organisers say: "Making a name for itself over the past 15 years as Europe’s Premier Rally Car Show, Rallyday continues to celebrate all that’s great in the rallying world, packing the famous Wiltshire Circuit with a selection of fantastic historic and modern feature cars, hundreds of rally club cars, an extensive trade village and NEW for 2016; the SuperPro on track rally stage access to which can be purchased as part of a Clubman’s package or individually by motor club members. Yet another highlight in Castle Combe’s busy show season and a must-do event for rally fans of all ages (especially as it’s free for under 17s!) We'll see you stage side on Saturday 24th of September!"

Show Admission prices are £18 in advance, £25 on the day, and Tickets to the RAC Anniversary Friday Night BBQ are £20 each.
Contact: for more details. 

Friday, 17 June 2016

NEWS: Nissan's New "Godzilla" GT-R To Break Cover At Goodwood FOS

Nissan’s bargain bad boy bruiser of a supercar, the all-new for 2017 GT-R is all set to make a flame-spitting debut in the UK debut at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed (June 23-26) – which has now become THE place to launch a new (speedy) car in the UK.
The new "Godzilla" (forgive me R32 GT-R purists!) will boost its merry way up the famous 1.16-mile hillclimb course in the hands of NISMO racing driver, Briton Jann Mardenborough, who holds the fastest supercar time there of 49.27 second record in 2014 in the GT-R NISMO N-Attack.
Expect a rapid time from the 3.8-litre, V6 twin turbo-powered GT-R which kicks out a thumping 562bhp.
Also making its UK premiere at Goodwood's epic Festival of Speed is the new GT-R’s even more hardcore brother, the GT-R NISMO, which packs a full 592bhp and has handling and aerodynamics tuned by Nissan’s enigmatic global motorsport arm.
Should be good... and just one of many highlights at another action-packed event. Bring it on! 

Monday, 13 June 2016

NEWS: WRC Rally Italia Sardegna Win For Thierry Neuville

Great news for fans of one of the nicest, most talented (& best bespectacled) drivers in the WRC – Thierry Neuville – as he netted a third WRC win for the fast-growing Hyundai Motorsport team, with a thrilling win on WRC Rally Italia Sardegna this weekend.

And, topping off a great weekend for them, fellow i20 pilot, Dani Sordo finished in fourth place for the fourth rally in a row... and as the new WRC Mr Consistency, moves up into second place in the 2016 Drivers’ Championship. 
It's rather like below Spaniard, Carlos Sainz in points mean prizes style... eh?

So, the strength and dominance of Volkswagen Motorsport and their ace drivers has been challenged again – despite their two top names, Jari-Matti Latvia and Sébastien Ogier finishing runner-up and P3  respectively on the podium, and leading the manufacturers championship... for now!

Once again, the new Generation i20 WRC is proving to be a force to be reckoned with – following on from Hayden Paddon's maiden win at Rally Argentina, in April. All great news for the sport and its fans. 

Hyundai said: "Thierry Neuville has been on sublime form throughout the rally, extending his lead over Volkswagen Motorsport’s Jari-Matti Latvala on the final day to win the rally by 24.8 seconds.
"The result marks the second victory for the New Generation i20 WRC this season, and the team’s third win in total after Rallye Deutschland in 2014 and Rally Argentina back in April.
"For Thierry Neuville, the victory is the result of a concerted team effort as well as the improved performance of the New Generation i20 WRC, and marks his first victory in WRC since Germany 2014. It is the most accomplished performance of his career with nine stage wins within his rally history."

Thierry Neuville commented: "A truly fantastic weekend! Great things come to those who earn them, and it’s definitely a nice feeling to share this victory with an amazing team. The New Generation i20 WRC has performed very well, class-leading. It’s been great fun to drive and we’ve felt comfortable. We didn’t feel too much pressure in final stages, but just focused on getting the car safely through to the end. We did everything we needed to and we can now celebrate our second WRC victory."

Hyundai Motorsport has now taken podiums in five out of six rallies this season, with two victories, making it the team’s most successful WRC season even before reaching the halfway point. The next round of the FIA WRC, WRC Rally Poland, takes place from June 30 to July 3, and will mark the halfway point of the 2016 WRC Championship.

Interesting times! 
And with Toyota back in the sport next year and Citroen and Ford expecting new machinery, we can expect some big battles and challenges to success of the Team Volkswagen crew... which we are sure they will relish the prospect of, being uber-competative and successful. Bring it on!

Meantime, it's great to see Thierry back on form. Bravo! 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

NEWS: 143mph 170bhp Abarth 124 Spider To Start at £29,565

The pricing and specification for the much-anticipated and super-chic, all-new Abarth 124 spider have been announced by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles UK – just in time for its arrival here in the UK this summer – with a starting price of £29,565 OTR for the 1.4 TJet 170bhp Manual and £31,605 for the automatic.
Bit £££ heavy?
Maybe, but only on first impressions. Then you drill down into the devilish detail...

143mph and 6.8s to 60mph from the four-cylinder 1.4-litre MultiAir Turbo engine, tuned Record Monza sports exhaust system, six-speed manual or the automatic Sequenziale Sportive gearbox and a five fab colours, including olid "Turini 1975 White” and "Costa Brava 1972 Red", metallic "Isola d'Elba 1974 Blue", "Portogallo 1974 Grey" and "San Marino 1972 Black."
The new Abarth 124 spider has a three-gauge instrument binnacle featuring a large central rev counter, a speedometer on the right and a data display on the left allowing the driver to monitor all key driving information at a glance.
Standard equipment includes climate control system, cruise control, adjustable, electrically-folding door mirrors, and an infotainment system with ergonomic, selector dial on the centre console. The system features a 7-inch colour display, DAB digital tuner, MP3 player, two USB ports, AUX input, and Bluetooth connectivity.
There is also a stereo with four speakers while, for superior sound quality, a Bose premium sound system with nine speakers, including dual headrest speakers on both seats and a subwoofer, is available as an option. A satellite navigation system is also optional.

Excited yet?
We are!

Fiat says: "The new Abarth 124 spider marks the return of the ‘spider’ badge, and is the natural heir of the original model launched in 1972. The 2016 car incorporates performance, technology and iconic Italian style as the key factors of a very successful line-up.
"Each car is tested and certified by an Abarth technician who applies a metal plaque showing the sequential number of each car to certify the exclusiveness of the Abarth 124 spider: it’s a unique number for a unique customer."

Full pricing for the new Abarth 124 spider is as follows:
124 spider 1.4 TJet 170hp Manual £29,565
124 spider 1.4 TJet 170hp Automatic £31,605

"The 124 spider is a new car and a new chapter in the exciting Abarth story," says Gerry Southerington, Abarth brand manager. "It’s what many of our existing customers have been waiting for, and I am confident we will now welcome a new group of owners into the Abarth family. Great looks, stunning performance and unique equipment will set the 124 spider apart from other roadsters and I am excited about this car’s UK launch."

We look forward to test driving it soon... and will report back!  

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

ROAD TESTS: @SkodaUK_Media Range Drives

Our good friends at Skoda UK had a range driving day in the glorious sunshine of "God's own country" (Yorkshire to thee & me, lad) yesterday, attended by our staff snapper supremo, Neil Denham.

As you can see, the new design language-festooned full range of Skoda goodness made for quite a sight it has to be said and goes to show just how far the increasingly-popular brand has developed in the last decade.
And with their all-new 4x4 Kodiaq coming later in the year, surely we can only expect more greatness from the Skoda stable?

Having a range diverse test, our Neil had a spin out in the new Octavia vRS 4x4 2.0 TDI 184PS, fresh faced Citigo Monte Carlo 1.0 MPI 60PS 3-door, funky Fabia SE L 1.2 TSI 90 PS, new-look Yeti SE 2.0 TDI SCR 110PS and formed an orderly cue to drool over the chrome-wrapped, air-slicing, 227mph Bonneville salt flats race record breaking 2011 Octavia vRS.

In his typically understated manner, snapper Neil said: "All the cars were well made and drove well. The driving position of the Citigo steering wheel for me hid the speedo. But the Citigo diesel went very well for the size of car and engine, but it did put out a lot of road and engine noise. The Octavia vRS 4x4 has a smooth acceleration with a smooth gear box and seemed to be very economical by the dash gauge. But I'm not too sure about the look or the colour (Meteor Grey) of the one I drove: The only thing to make a second glance was the exhausts (see above). The Yeti is van size, but a car and drives and handles really well. The Fabia handled well and the TSi engine pulled well too."

Looking at them in a touch more detail...

Octavia vRS 4x4 2.0 TDI 184PS

Tested in OTR price at £29,025 with the plush and supportive £925 heated leather sports seat option and £360 of Meteor Grey paintwork (which we like, in the pics), the lower-powered vRS 4x4 (versus its vRS 230 petrol big brother) is a sensible choice for those who love two things – a wolf in sheep's clothing stealth bomb and practical performance. Oh, and oil burning torque over revs and sweet petrol.
The 2.0 TDi is capable of a whopping 57.7mg (vs vRS 230's 45.4mpg) and still does 0-62mph in 7.6 (Vs 6.7s petrol) and can stomp onto 142mph (155mph vRS 230). It rides nicely too, thanks to its 18-inch Gemini anthracite alloys and 40mm profile tyres. The vRS 230 has 19s with 35mm profile. Nice to look at, but we suspect a lot more choppy anywhere but Silverstone. But the popular diesel comes at a premium, £1,000 over the more powerful and faster petrol variant. You go figure.
Interior quality, spec generosity and style is better than ever (and it was always good, even way back tot he first vRS in 2001). This is a spacious, speedy, stylish and understated choice for the family man with a dark side, still.

Yeti SE 2.0 TDI SCR 110PS 

The Skoka Yeti is still to this date one of the most pleasing, surprising and enjoyable family cars we've ever driven. Paradigm shifter and ground breaker alike. And the (prettier, less masculine) face-lifted, new version is as stylish and elegant as it is still rough, tough and cool in design.
Now two-wheel-drive only – where the new Yeti Outdoor range deals with the 2WD and 4x4 variants – it's more urban cruiser than river bed wader and green laner now, which is a shame. But it's still got the X-Factor, even if many rival manufacturers have ripped off the formula and tried to mop up some of the Yeti's success.
The mildly elevated driving position gives great visibility, the dash and interior layout is 100% practical and functional and the 2.0 TDi is just fast and frugal enough, doing 0-62mph in 12.2s, 109mph and 53.3mpg.
The test model was £22,405 OTR, with almost £2,500 of actually pretty good values extras, like the £150 Candy White paint, £395 Black Magic coloured roof and mirrors and £250 heated front seats etc.
Still a great car, but we prefer the rugged Outdoor 4x4 range – which is what the Yeti brand values are really about.

Fabia SE L 1.2 TSI 90 PS

Skoda's rally-bred pocket rocket Fabia used to be one of our favourites. It kicked ass in the hands of drivers like Andreas Mikkelsen and Guy Wilks, in S2000-spec half a decade a go. And we still have fond memories of road rallying a petrol vRS, ripping off its sump guard in a waterspalsh, but that's another story.
The new car is much less rally and much more sensible, more's the pity. And, at £16,430 OTR for the model we tested, I'm afraid it's just not cutting the mustard, for us. It's not that great to look at – even with the £535 (!) Rally Green metallic paint blowing an airhorn and the black Rock alloys. But Neil rated the handling (that rally derived chase pedigree lives on) and said the 60+mpg 1.2-litre TSI engine pulled well – as the 0-62mph 10.9s and 113mph top speed figures prove. Maybe I need to drive it again...?    

Citigo Monte Carlo 1.0 MPI 60PS

We might be biased (as we own a very similar, from the same stable, VW UP! Black special edition, with a massive 75bhp) but we love the little Citigo, especially in the young and fun Monte Carlo spec, with its Monte reference livery, kick plates, dashboard pad, window logos, seats and Tornado red paintwork, all coming FOC at part of the great value £10,670 price tag.
For that you also get the peppy three-cylinder 1.0-litre MPi engine, offering 60PS, more revs that you can shake gauge at and, amazingly, 1mph shy of a ton potential. 0-62mph takes some time (14.4s), but you won't care. The nippy, great handling Citigo loaded in all its red and black Monte Carlo goodies is so much fun and the frugal engine sips away fuel at 62.8mpg and costs you about £35 at current fuel prices to do c400 miles, safely, and loaded with cool, with features like the PID (Portable Infotainment Device) - inc Bluetooth, media player, satellite navigation, trip computer taking the strain. 
What a great first car, second car, city slicker this is. Love it. 

More pics to be seen from the range driving day on Facebook.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

NEWS: Ariel Atom V8 for £150 Anyone?

How do you fancy owning one of the greatest, limited edition cars of the last decade, for just £150?
Well, thanks to the epic homespun lightweight legend brand that is the Ariel Motor Company, you can... in the etherial form of the unreal Atom V8... sort of, as a 1:18 scale replica! 
Arguably one of the most difficult car models to make Ariel have assisted Soul Models in Spain in making a 1:18 scale model of the Limited Edition Ariel Atom V8. Featuring the gold chassis and wheels, carbon bodywork, side pods and unique colour scheme of the Atom V8, the car has been carefully modelled to exactly replicate the real car right down to the builder’s plaque on the seat.
Simon Saunders of Ariel said: "We have been approached by a few model makers over the years but when they understand the complexity of modelling the Atom they have all given up at an early stage. We’ve been keen to see a scale version of an Atom so it’s great that Soul Models have taken on the task and produced such a great, detailed model."
The model is limited to just 1,500 numbered units worldwide and is priced at £149.94 inc VAT. Models are available from Soul Models in Spain or Ariel Motor Company
Want one? Like the car... be quick! 

Here's the Atom V8 as we featured it at its launch in 2010: