The Ford Focus Vignale is a near-perfect blend of performance, practicality and price


This hatchback has a large boot, small footprint and plenty of leg room for four adults

Ford Focus Vignale

Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader

The Ford Focus hatchback has been among the top 10 best-selling cars in the UK since its inception, and was only beaten to the top spot this year by its smaller sibling, the Fiesta. Get behind the wheel and it’s easy to see why you might choose this car over a VW Golf, Mazda3, Honda Civic, Audi A3, Mercedes A-class, BMW 1-Series or Vauxhall Astra (see how crowded this market is?!): there exists a near-perfect blend of the three ps – performance, practicality and price.

Style

The Ford Focus Vignale is not the most exciting car to look at: the current equivalents from Audi, BMW and Mercedes all look better, but will also cost you more. We had a Vignale version, which is the top spec, with a dark Mulberry paint job (a £550 extra), and the panoramic sunroof (£995).

Ford Focus Vignale

The new fat grille at the front makes a good statement, and this is the most handsome Focus to date, with a creased rear that hides some of the traditional hatchback lumpiness.

Inside the Vignale spec gives you a dark wood insert along the dash which we could have done without – it kicks any cool, youthful vibe into touch. The black leather is smart, however and the lack of clutter in the cabin adds to a sense of space and light.

Tech

Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system isn’t the best – while the graphics for the satnav are clear and helpful, when our iPhone was plugged in for Apple CarPlay, it over-rode the car’s own satnav which we needed as we were in the wilds of the Highlands with no phone reception for most of our long weekend with the car. There was then a short delay between selecting various functions and them actually doing anything, which got annoying, we struggled to get rid of the waypoints on a satnav route and the satnav does not tell you initially how many miles to your destination, which means you can’t readily calculate the fuel you need.

Ford Focus Vignale

However, the wireless phone charging in the car was a welcome addition for just £100 more, as was the Driver Assistance Pack, which is a positive bargain at £500 for traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control (does the braking and accelerating for you while keeping a monitored distance from the car in front) and lane-centring assist which nudges you back should you stray over the white lines.

Standard tech includes for the Vignale includes a heads-up display, active park assist, hill-start hold, cruise control and pre-collision alert – it proves you should do your homework and check the higher price of a top-spec car against how much kit it’s loaded with – a cheaper initial outlay can sometimes prove a false economy.

Comfort

A large boot makes this a good family car when combined with a relatively small footprint for easier parking. The seats are supportive and there’s plenty of leg room for four adults. My partner remarked how smooth the car felt over the rutted, potholed lanes of Skye – the supportive suspension set-up is one of the reasons Ford continues to sell its hatchbacks and SUVs in such large numbers over here in the UK. The car was also surprisingly quiet at motorway speeds – normally you have to spend at least £30,000 to achieve such high-speed refinement – see pricing details below.

Power

The 1.5-litre Ecoboost petrol engine that Ford sells is an incredible unit – very feisty from a standstill for the first few seconds, which makes this car feel like it’s got more power than it has (182 horsepower). We had the eight-speed automatic, controlled via a rotary knob instead of a gear lever, which was a bit slow to engage Drive or Reverse: we’d choose a manual gearbox.

You’ll do 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds which is fine for a family car but won’t set your hair on fire, but in return you’ll achieve just under 40mpg which is very reasonable – we drove all over the Highlands from Inverness, across to the top of Skye, and back to the airport via Loch Ness on one tank.

Ford Focus Vignale

Price

The Ford Focus Vignale with the 1.5-litre Ecoboost starts at £28,500; with our options the price rose to £31,270. Look at both a PCP and an HP deal (no option to keep the vehicle after three years but in return you don’t pay the depreciation as well as the hire price) to decide which monthly payment plan is best for you. With good reliability and a friendly dealer network, the Focus should be on your list if you’re after a hatchback.

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Bentley celebrates its 100th birthday in style with the new EXP 100 GT

Bentley celebrates its 100th birthday in style with the new EXP 100 GT


Bentley

Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader

While most people celebrate their hundredth birthday with a message from the Queen and a little lie-down, Bentley has been hard at it all year, devising its car of the future. Called the EXP 100 GT, the jaw-dropping two-seat, electric, autonomous grand tourer was unveiled today to Marie Claire at their Crewe HQ.

It’s electric, of course, with four motors giving it huge acceleration – 0-62mph in under 2.5 seconds, which is F1-car fast. Bentley also says owners will be able to charge the batteries to 80 per cent in just 15 minutes, which is more or less half the current charging time.

But really it’s all about the extraordinary sustainable materials used, and the technology this car has – in the next 10-20 years, it will be what’s inside cars that counts.

Approach the car and the glass grill and headlight surrounds glow and pulsate to welcome you. The paintwork on this car is called Compass: it uses a deep, soft grey pigment made from rice husk ash – rice husks end up in landfill in huge amounts as an otherwise harmful by-product of the rice industry, apparently.

Open the huge gullwing door to this car and a spacious, calm oasis of luxury is revealed. The two thin, cream seats seem to be covered in leather but actually the textile is a by-product of the wine industry. The carpets are made with British farmed wool, and there are cotton-clad surfaces, embroidered by Hand and Lock, the 18th-century British company that sews royal and military dress uniforms.

Bentley

Perhaps the most extraordinary material is the burnished warm wood that surrounds the seats – it comes from 5,000-year-old riverwood – wood that has fallen naturally over time and sunk to the bottom of peat bogs, from where a company called the Fenland Black Oak Project recovers it for future generations. Bentley is working with the project, and has infused its own reclaimed wood with copper for a more lustrous look.

Naturally there is a high degree of artificial intelligence in the car – biometric analysis detects via gesture and touch whether the occupants are tired, stressed or energised, and adapts the lighting, temperature, air purification and seats within the car accordingly. The AI system is called the Bentley Personal Assistant and can also suggest journeys you might like to take, or point out places of interest as you pass. One activates it via a huge cut-crystal, illuminated interface in the car made from crystal sourced and hand blown in Cumbria.

This, then, is the new face of British automotive luxury, using rare, high-quality materials found in the UK from sustainable sources. It’s a fitting way to celebrate Bentley’s extraordinary heritage, while looking firmly forwards to the next 100 years.

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‘The floodgates are now open for electric vehicles’: Introducing the new Audi E-tron

‘The floodgates are now open for electric vehicles’: Introducing the new Audi E-tron


Audi e-tron

Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader

Hot on the heels of the Jaguar I-Pace, and quite a long time after Tesla’s Model X, comes the Audi E-tron, an electric SUV. The floodgates are now open for electric vehicles (EVs), with Mercedes’ ECQ electric SUV also out now and plenty more to follow. But is the time right to buy electric?

Style

To the naked eye, there isn’t much to differentiate this car from a petrol Audi Q5 or Q7 SUV, which is probably just as well – no one wants to scare the horses by suggesting that electric cars are a whacky, tricky purchase – “Think Normal” is the phrase du jour.

A few telltale signs are there – the rear has a futuristic taillight bar stretching across it, and there’s a charging port where the fuel filler cap would be, plus the front headlights are a bit more mean-looking, but, er, that’s about it.

Inside is a similar story: all standard Audi fare although the automatic gear-lever is a very funky horizontal bar, and there are two big digital touchscreens plus another digital display behind the steering wheel instead of dials.

Tech

A rear-view camera and parking sensors come as standard, and a 360-degree camera is an option (one we’d recommend for reverse parking). You can also specify – wait for it – virtual door mirrors which replace the wing mirrors with cameras mounted on the doors which project the view on door-mounted screens. An impressive toy.

There’s the usual DAB, Bluetooth and very good Audi satnav, plus you can toggle across the screen to see how much electric charge you have left. The car will also recommend ways to save the available mileage, by showing you just how many miles of range you’re wasting on, say, aircon.

Audi e-tron

Comfort

This is a big car which, while it doesn’t make for easy manoeuvring around town, does mean there’s plenty of space on the inside for five adults and luggage in the boot. A handy touch is the button in the boot to lower the rear seats so you can load bigger items. There’s also a pleasingly wide centre console with loads of room to bung your purse and phone in.

Being electric also means you get that trademark silent ride which leaves you more relaxed at your destination.

The suspension is wonderfully set up to counter-balance the added low weight of the battery pack, and the kids and I enjoyed floating over speed humps on the way to school.

Power

The E-tron has two electric motors – one for the front wheels and one for the rear, producing 400 horsepower between them, which is plenty for a premium motoring experience. The 0-62mph sprint is a claimed 5.7 seconds when you put the car into Sport mode: in reality that translates into plenty of confidence when overtaking other vehicles.

As for the all-important range: it’s about 240 miles, which isn’t quite as good as the Jaguar I-Pace’s 290 miles, but it will be fine if you have a wallbox mounted at home and one at work, too.

Charging couldn’t be simpler: you release a bonnet catch to retrieve your cable and plug, push one end into the charging point on the car which is revealed by a nifty sliding door, and plug the other end into the power source (I charged it overnight on a three-pin domestic socket in my garage which was painfully slow and gave me enough for the 12-mile school run – you’ll definitely need a wallbox installed). Locking the car locks the cable in place so you can walk away, and a little light by the plug glows green on and off while it’s charging.

Price:

As with all EVs, there’s a hefty upfront price to pay, not helped by the government knocking £1,000 from its £4,500 grant. But you’ll immediately start to recoup that money in running costs – the industry reckons an EV will cost you on average 3-4p per mile to run, while a petrol or diesel will be more like 7-8ppm.

The E-tron has a sticker price of £71,420, which is about £20,000 more than the bigger Q7 starts at, and makes it more expensive than the Jaguar I-Pace but less so than the Tesla Model X. But its resale value is predicted to remain high and the battery is covered for 8 years, or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.

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‘The Jeep Wrangler Overland is America’s take on an off-roading icon’

‘The Jeep Wrangler Overland is America’s take on an off-roading icon’


Jeep Wrangler

Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader

The Jeep Wrangler is the most “Jeep-ish” of the range, with fabulous rugged styling that echoes the original Second World War Willys Jeep. If you think Land Rover has all the 4×4 heritage, think again; this is America’s take on an off-roading icon. We tested the larger four-door version in Overland (more expensive) spec.

Style

It’s all about the design of the Wrangler. The shape is fantastically boxy, with squared wheel arches, a massive bumper at the front, exposed hinges on the narrow doors, an upright windscreen and grab handles everywhere. There’s masses of air between the huge wheels and the bodywork, a spare wheel mounted on the rear tailgate, which opens in two halves, with the bottom opening horizontally like a normal door and the glass rear window rising up.

Inside, up front it’s reminiscent of a Land Rover Defender, with a very shallow dashboard to show that creature comforts are essentially for wimps. All the buttons are large and clad in durable plastics that beg to be splattered in mud from your off-road adventures. In the back, it’s a different story, with a plush leather-clad bench seat for three adults, and a big enough boot for the dog and the shopping.

Tech

There’s masses of standard equipment, which is a good job considering the hefty price (see below). There’s Apple CarPlay, which is an obvious winner. The satnav screen is small, and there are plenty of brands that do the maps better, but you’ll no doubt be using Google Maps from your phone along the with the rest of the world, anyway.

The Alpine sound system is fantastic, with tons of bass from the subwoofer in the boot, as it would be for a car that majors on style. Our test car had heated seats and heated steering wheel, and there’s the usual DAB radio and Bluetooth phone connection.

Driving aids as standard include front and rear parking sensors with an automative braking function if the car sense a vehicle approaching from the side as you reverse. You also get a rear reversing camera, tyre-pressure monitoring, and cruise control.

Comfort

This is a big car, with loads of head room and leg room. If, however, you want more head space, you can simply remove the freedom panels, or roof, as we call it. This couldn’t be easier: there are big chunky black levers that you rotate, and two central clips under the sun visors, which remove the two roof panels at the front. You can leave it there if you want, or go the whole hog and unclip the entire upper half of the car at the rear, too. This will leave you with a huge cage-type roll-bar that you see surf dudes hanging from in California as they race along the beach. You don’t get quite the same effect in the Kent countryside, but hey, my boys, aged six and nine, said it was the best car they’d ever been in, and it’ll bring out the kid in anyone.

We genuinely haven’t enjoyed a car this much in ages. It’s gone back to Jeep now, and we’re all moping about the house, as if we’d lost the family pet.

Power

Ah, this part you need to ignore. The car is woefully underpowered – it weighs two tonnes with its indestructible four-wheel-drive system, which is brilliant if you’re stuck in a muddy field somewhere or climbing a rocky outcrop for some reason (it even has a low-ratio transfer box with a separate gear lever which gives you more traction at low speeds to get out of slippery situations – it makes you look like a farmer), but not so good if you need to go far at any sort of speed. The engine is a 2.2-litre diesel with 200 horsepower which just isn’t enough. The automatic gearbox clings to gears for as long as it can before you get frustrated, stamp your foot all the way to the ground and get a gear change out of it.

The trick, however, is to relax into this ambling gait and enjoy the scenery. If you force it along in a hurry, you’ll get annoyed quite quickly. So chill out and enjoy bumbling about.

Price

At first glance, this is a very pricey car, at £48,365 and without much power, plus none of the sophisticated ride and handling dynamics we’re used to in Europe. A Land Rover Discovery Sport seems a better bet. But look again at that standard list of kit – it’s very generous. Plus we attracted comments from lots of fellow Wrangler owners during our week with the car, who all said they’d swapped their Land Rovers for Jeeps, for better reliability.

For monthly personal contract quotes, go here https://www.jeep.co.uk/private-promotions/wrangler. Note you get five years’ roadside assistance.

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Meet the woman leading the charge for electric vehicles in the car industry

Meet the woman leading the charge for electric vehicles in the car industry


Emma King has been named winner of Autocar’s Great British Women in the Car Industry Rising Stars 2019 initiative

Words by Niamh McCollum

Each year, Autocar celebrates trailblazing women in the car industry by picking its top 100 female rising stars.

Topping the list this year was Emma King, Ford’s senior purchasing manager and pioneer of its $11 billion investment in Electric-Vehicle Batteries.

King began her career in 2007 as a commercial buyer for Ford, before rising through the ranks to lead the firm’s electric car charge in purchasing. She now manages an international team stretching across Europe, the US and China.

She has been widely praised in leading the procurement of global battery cells, which has played a massive part in Ford’s rapid move toward eco-friendly electrified vehicles.

Speaking of King’s significant impact on technological changes within the car industry, Autocar editor Mark Tisshaw stated: ‘The car industry is always experimenting, pushing boundaries and looking into new technologies, and Emma’s role perfectly highlights how exciting it is to be a part of.’

King also said of her role: ‘The work I do with Ford is a really exciting area to be involved in. Investing heavily in an electric future means our work is at the forefront of the migration to new technologies and services.’

‘I am deeply thankful to have been considered alongside such accomplished and varied female talent and hope that we can, in turn, inspire future generations.’

During the event, Rachel Prasher, managing director of Autocar, emphasised why this year’s commemoration of female car pioneers felt particularly special:

‘Not only are we looking at the strength of the UK’s automotive industry at the moment, but we are celebrating the names to look out for, carrying the industry into the future.’

‘Our list of 100 rising stars is only a snapshot of the great work women are doing to make a name for themselves in the automotive industry, and the essential role that women will continue to have in developing the UK’s automotive landscape in the years to come.’

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes stressed that it’s innovative developments in ‘electrification, digitalisation and AI’ that secure the conclusion that it has ‘never been a more exciting time to join the motor sector.’

‘The calibre of nominees this year highlights the women excelling in our sector and the crucial role they play now and in the future. This can only inspire more women to join our industry, helping shape the future mobility of the UK.’

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Feel the wind in your hair this summer behind the wheel of the Mazda MX-5 RF

Feel the wind in your hair this summer behind the wheel of the Mazda MX-5 RF


Erin Baker explains why the latest version of the Mazda MX-5 is set to be a major talking point in the car world this summer

Mazda

Words by Erin Baker, editorial director at Auto Trader

The Mazda MX-5 is the world’s best-selling sports car ever, with more than one million sold since it launched 30 years ago, in 1989. The reason for its success is the perfect blend of rear-wheel-drive fun, affordability, reliability and easy use. And now there’s this, the RF (Retractable Fastback) option, which replaces that simple, collapsible fabric roof with an electronic folding hardtop. Is it still a winner?

Style

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we like the fatter haunches of the RF, where the body spreads out over the wheels and rises to meet the roofline behind the seats – it looks like a cute little American muscle car, ready to hustle its way out of trouble, and gets the MX-5 out of the “hairdresser’s car” accusations so unfairly thrown at it.

With the roof up, you get a solid sports car, and with the roof collapsed into a slot behind the seats, you get some remaining metalwork which gives it the appearance of a Porsche 911 Targa: it looks more hardy, more serious.

Inside, it’s still a small, simple cabin, thank goodness, full of cheap but inoffensive plastics and some exposed bodywork painted the same colour as the outside. Ours also had some cheeky pink stitching – maybe the hairdresser is still lurking inside.

Tech

The MX-5 RF has Mazda’s touchscreen protruding from the dashboard, which has been around for a while now, with red and black graphics. The price of this car, and its size, means you’re not going to get a huge amount of cutting-edge technology, but the twiddly rotary dial takes you between functions like satnav, Bluetooth for your phone calls and DAB radio nicely. Our car, which was towards the top of the price tree, had audio buttons mounted on the steering wheel too, which are a much better solution than reaching for the rotary dial or touchscreen.

We also had an USB port for phone charging and playing songs, and the Bose sound system including two speakers near the head rests, which is important when the roof’s down and the wind is whistling round you.

Mazda

Comfort

My boyfriend is 6ft and drove it comfortably, albeit you can’t really enjoy the go-kart position of legs and arms straight out and seat reclined when you’re that tall, because the seat won’t go back far enough.

But for most women, this is a very comfy car, with the pedals right next to each other for sporty driving, the little gearstick a quick, short throw between its six manual gears, and the feeling that you’re wearing the car, which gives you a huge amount of confidence in its, and your, capabilities.

I owned an MX-5 15 years ago and used it for the daily commute as well as long trips from Scotland all the way down to Cornwall. It was always a joy, and never a chore, to drive: somehow, despite it being a small sports car, you arrive refreshed every time.

There’s also decent boot space in the rear – what it loses in width, it makes up for in depth. There are two cubby holes between the two seats, and even cupholders these days.

The only downside is, er, two seats, which, if you need to transport kids at all times, won’t do.

Power

The MX-5 in both standard convertible form and RF, comes with an engine choice of a 1.5-litre petrol or 2.0-litre petrol. Mazda has always made the best petrol engines – reliable and frugal, they like to rev high to provide maximum fun. We tested the 2.0-litre job with 184 horsepower, which is plenty (0-62mph in 6.8 seconds); it’s worth test-driving both, because we actually prefer the 1.5-litre version, which feels younger, keener and more puppy like, which is exactly the character you want from this car. Or maybe you just like overtaking others, in which case it will be the 2.0-litre version. Just keep the revs at 3,000-4,000rpm to get the most out of this car.

Price

Outstanding value for money has kept the MX-5 at the top of the sales tree. The MX-5 RF range starts at £23,095 (£19,495 for the standard convertible), and you get that fantastic Japanese reliability (I utterly abused my MX-5 for years in London, leaving it parked on the road for weeks in between drives, and it started and drove perfectly every time). You will not find that much driving fun for that little money anywhere else.

In addition, Mazda offers 0 per cent APR finance on a 24-month PCP deal or various other deals with a Mazda deposit contribution – check out their website for further details.

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Meet Ellie Norman – Formula One’s first female executive on a mission to rebrand the sport

Meet Ellie Norman – Formula One’s first female executive on a mission to rebrand the sport


‘44% of our fan base is actually female’

Ellie Norman

Ellie Norman was working at Virgin Media when she got a call in the beginning of 2017 from her now-boss Sean Bratches, Managing Director of Commercial Operations at F1, asking to meet him for a coffee. Today, Formula One’s first female executive, is doing her very best to change the sport’s false perception.

Did you feel comfortable going into Formula One?

‘Believe it or not, as a ten-year-old girl I dreamt of being a female Formula One driver. I never got to the stage, as you may have guessed, but I’ve always had a love for cars and speed – I obtained my racing license in 2007 – and I am fascinated by the engines and technology in cars. Having that general, sort of basic, knowledge of the automotive industry, made the transition easier.’

Ellie Norman

Ellie Norman, Director of Marketing & Communications at Formula One

Growing up as a girl interested in cars, did you ever feel like the industry was primarily targeted towards men?

‘That’s really interesting because from a very young age, I’ve never seen any barriers. I grew up on a farm with my sisters – my dad was a farmer – and we weren’t really exposed to gender stereotypes. I got thrown into the deep end, worked outside with machinery and altering vehicles like tractors. I’ve never looked at anything and thought: that’s more of a boy’s thing versus a girl’s thing.’

You’re the Director of Marketing & Communications at Formula One. What keeps you busy on a daily basis?

‘My role is structured around delivering the business’s three main objectives. First, we want more people to engage with the sports, this can be via TV or via digital channels. Secondly, we want more people to attend the races around the world. And finally, we want to grow our fan base, make Formula One as relevant to as many people as possible. There is a false perception that F1 is a male-oriented sport, but 44% of our fan base is actually female. I believe that as an organisation and as a sport, we have the responsibility to look for ways to further increase that inclusion and diversity.’

Is that why you removed the grid girls?

‘We realised that if we wanted to grow our female fan base, this was a decision we had to make. Their roles were no longer relevant – the drivers couldn’t actually see the lollipops these girls were holding, neither could the audience that was watching the race on TV. This one simple move has allowed us to shine the spotlight on other highly skilled women in the sport, like the women in the pit crew, broadcasters, marketers and event managers – there are a lot more women taking on roles in this sport than you might expect.’

So you never doubted this decision?

‘Oh no, not at all. t’s fair to say that it was a controversial decision that didn’t make everyone happy. Especially for the older fan base – those who have been avid fans of F1 for years – it was a big change. It was incredibly interesting to see the amount of support we received from newer fans and the Generation Z audience, as well as from young guys who found the whole concept slight archaic.’

Tell me more about how you’re getting Gen Z interested?

‘One of our goals is to inspire the younger generations to consider careers in Formula One. The sport has always been perceived as quite elitist. We want to break down these barriers, open up the conversation with Gen Z, and the best way to do that is via social media. We had Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things come in and join us. That gave us an opportunity to create relevant content and portray the sport in much more relatable way to her fan base.’

It is still very much a male-dominated industry. Do you have a lot of women working for you?

‘When I joined the company, I got an office, a mobile phone, a laptop and essentially a blank sheet of paper. I was very conscious about how to built my team – we’re a small team, only 22 people – so my recruitment strategy was to hire 50-50 men and women, some with experience outside the industry, as well as people from within F1.’

What advice would you give young girls that want to get into Formula One?

‘As an aspiring race driver, you have to stay focussed and keep the momentum up – work hard and go for it. There are more and more young women coming up through the ranks, like Tatiana Calderón – the first woman to compete in Formula 2 – and Jamie Chadwick. If you’re interested in the business side of F1, remember to be brave, be bold and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.’

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Tesla’s new high-tech Model 3 is changing the electric car game

Tesla’s new high-tech Model 3 is changing the electric car game


Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader, explains why the Tesla Model 3 is set to be a major player in the electric car industry

Tesla

Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader 

Electric vehicles (EVs) are finally becoming a sensible purchase for motorists, thanks to increased battery ranges and an increased number of public charging points, plus general awareness making them a less scary idea. Most electric cars now offer between 200 and 300 miles of range on one charge, and the cost of running one works out at about 2-3p per mile, instead of the 7-10p per mile you’ll pay if you run a petrol or diesel car.

But how does Tesla’s long-awaited car for the masses compare with the healthy competition emerging from every other brand?

Style

Very, very weird, this. We are so used to talking about how a car looks from the outside, that it’s hard not to comment on the ultra-bland appearance of the Model 3 – give a five-year-old some crayons, tell them to sketch a car, and he or she would pretty much draw this very bog-standard outline.

However, that is to totally miss the point that Tesla has cleverly realised, which is that cars of the future will all be about what goes on inside; no one will care what they look like for passers-by.

And so it’s inside we go, where our test car was bathed in Tesla’s very white synthetic (part of the sustainable messaging) leather. There are four seats, a steering wheel, two pedals, one massive screen and, er, that’s it. No buttons, bar two scroll buttons on the steering wheel. No dials, no switches, no clocks… nothing but a big empty dashboard and that massive touchscreen which does everything. It’s brilliant.

Tech

I took my eight-year-old and six-year-old sons with me for the test drive from Tesla’s West Drayton showroom, which couldn’t have been better, because the Model3 is essentially an app more than a car. And children are far better at operating apps than adults.

Where to start? The massive screen does everything. It’s got Spotify, a pinch-and-swipe satnav map showing Tesla superchargers, calculating distances and charge for routes. You operate the lights, the sunroof if you have one and the ventilation on the screen – for the latter, simply pull the air-flow graphic from the vents wider or downwards to control the direction. You can toggle between “Chill” and Standard for acceleration, between low and standard levels of retardation for braking and recouping energy. You can select autopilot, which will steer, over and stop the car as long as you have a hand on the wheel, and so much more. There’s a credit-card device instead of a key, or you can download your Tesla app and start the car with your phone.

Obviously the kids’ favourite was the app that allows you to change the audible tick of the indicator stalk to either Santa’s sleigh bells or – giggle – a whoopee cushion. Yeah.

One downside: no head-up display, which means you are looking down at the screen an awful lot of the time, fiddling with the controls, until you get used to where everything is.

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Desert Supercharger by @dinokuznik

A post shared by Tesla (@teslamotors) on May 1, 2019 at 11:34am PDT

Comfort

A real step up here for Tesla over its other cars, the Model S saloon and the Model X huge SUV/weird family mover. The suspension set-up has changed and the result is a car that rides the UK’s rough and cracked roads softly, with none of the crashing into potholes that the other two cars have.

My children loved sitting in the rear, with its massive glass roof and good view forwards. Obviously, being electric, it’s oh so quiet around town and out on the motorway, and feels like an expensive car, whereas it’s about £20,000 cheaper than the other two Teslas.

Power

You have three options: the base version comes with rear-wheel drive and is good for 258 miles on the WLTP (most accurate) index. Then there’s the Long Performance all-wheel-drive model for 348 miles of real driving, and finally the Dual Motor Performance model, which we tested, with all-wheel drive which will give you up to 329 miles but more pizzazz.

As for charging it, Tesla owners have access to 445 superchargers in the UK which you’ll be wanting if you’re out and about as they put in a huge dose of charge in just 20 minutes. But you can also charge your Tesla at any public or domestic charging point.

The Model 3 feels very quick, and very powerful, partly because, as with all electric cars, you don’t have to wait for the engine revs to rise but instead get 100 per cent of the power from the moment you press the throttle pedal.

But the stats are good: 0-60mph in 3.3 seconds which is proper sports-car territory, and yet you’re seating four adults in comfort with a decent boot too.

Price

The Model 3 starts at £38,900 but the rub is the infamous waiting list for this car in right-hand drive, ie UK spec, as Tesla struggles to fill its orders. If you are interested, get your order in now because you’ll be waiting several months.

We drove a left-hand-drive model on Dutch plates – deliveries of UK cars to people who got their deposits down early on start this month. As our car was the top model, it came with a price tag of £49,300, which includes the £3,500 government grant for electric cars (it was recently cut by £1,000).

An 80 per cent charge on a supercharger will cost you about £14, so that’s £14 for about 280 miles. A little better than petrol or diesel, I think you’ll agree…

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‘The BMW 3-Series is the open door into a world of sporty, premium driving’

‘The BMW 3-Series is the open door into a world of sporty, premium driving’


Erin Baker gives us a glimpse into the endless driving possibilities offered by the new BMW 3-Series

BMW 3-series

Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader

There’s a simple reason the BMW 3-Series has been with us for more than 40 years: it’s a very good car. Nowadays there are some juicy alternatives from Audi, Mercedes, Volvo, Alfa Romeo and Jaguar to name a few, but the BMW 3-Series is still the most searched-for car on Auto Trader. It is the open door into a world of sporty, premium driving which has been opened wider by the advent of personal contract monthly payments. So how does the latest version fare in this iconic family tree?

Style

There’s a new rear end for the 3-Series, with aggressive tail lights which signal dynamic intent. Our test car (a saloon – you can have the 3-Series as a coupe, convertible or estate) was painted the company’s iridescent electric Portimao Blue which suits the in-your-face character of a 3-Series, combined with styling cues from the M-Sport trim level: a little rear spoiler, special blackened wheels and privacy glass.

Inside, it’s a different kettle of fish, with that German minimalist design: the front of the car is sparsely appointed, with black leather and dark soft plastics. The only fun stuff comprises the sporty blue and red stripes on the seatbelts and sports seats, courtesy of that M-badge styling.

Tech

Our 3-Series test car had BMW’s gesture control: if the driver waves her hand in a circular motion in the air, for example, the audio volume will rise. The technology isn’t perfect however, often missing your gestures, and you look a twit gesticulating randomly in the car.

Much better is BMW’s funky digital read-out behind the chunky steering wheel for the speed and satnav display, and the touchscreen with its split display to show two of the car’s functions at once. Our car also had the optional wireless phone charger and head-up display that projects speed and directions onto the windscreen, and which you very quickly miss if you don’t have it.

BMW 3-series

Comfort

The 3-Series in standard saloon form has a very decent amount of leg space in the rear, and room for three adults across the back seats, plus a boot big enough for proper luggage.

There’s an optional old-fashioned sun roof which is nice to see again, after months of panoramic glass roofs on cars that don’t actually open.

BMWs used to have hard rides as standard, to denote that sporty nature, but these days seem a bit softer and are easily every-day usable.

A striking feature is the peace and quiet in the cabin at speed, which was always the preserve of BMW, Audi and Mercedes, but Jaguar and Volvo recently joined them with super silent cabins.

Power

The most popular 3-Series is the 320d, but that means diesel, and that, as we now know, is the devil’s work (at least, according to the Government, and therefore your wallet). Still, it’s a lovely, silky smooth engine, producing just enough power for challenging commutes, and very decent fuel economy which should save you money at the pumps.

Our test car was the xDrive version, which means four-wheel drive instead of rear-wheel drive. The purists take great offence, believing all BMWs should be rear-wheel drive, which is associated with motorsport and high-performance cars. Don’t listen to them: if you’ve ever tried to drive a rear-wheel-drive car on wet grass or muddy lanes, or through a smattering of snow, you’ll know that xDrive badge is worth every penny…

Price

BMWs have never been the bargain-bucket option: you pay for that badge. The 320d will cost you about £33,610 although with bells and whistles our car came to £47,885. There’s a lovely 330e plug-in hybrid option, if you’re willing to pay more. You’d pay similar starter money for the Jag or Volvo, however.

Still, everyone buys on a monthly payment plan: £400 a month would get you a decent 3-Series with a £6,000 deposit on a PCP deal: as ever, there are multiple online finance calculators out there: just put in your mileage, desired contract term and deposit.

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‘The Mini still captivates urban drivers’: Taking a trip in the Mini Cooper S Convertible

‘The Mini still captivates urban drivers’: Taking a trip in the Mini Cooper S Convertible


Erin Baker embarks on an adventure in the Mini Cooper S Convertible, and reminds us why it remains one of the most iconic cars on the road.

Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader

The Mini, which celebrates its 60th birthday this year, is one of the truly iconic cars on our road. Now owned by BMW, it is bigger and bolder than its predecessor, but still captivates urban drivers with its bespoke style and cool tech. We’ve driven the more sporty S version of the hatch, in convertible form.

Style

Let’s be honest, most people buy a Mini first and foremost for the design. The hatchback version (there’s a Clubman small estate and raised-up Countryman, too) may be bigger and heavier than the original, but it’s still small enough to park easily round town. You can personalise the paintwork any way you like, from different-coloured roofs to patterned wing mirrors and stickers down the side. We love the Union Flag tail-light design: very Cool Britannia.

The joys, however, are to be found inside. Mini excels at clever little design flourishes, courtesy of the MINI Yours service, which allows you to play around with colours, materials and finishes. From the leather seats with embossed Mini badges or the metal surface with herringbone pattern on the dash, to the huge central circular dial which frames the touchscreen and has LED lights which glow round it depending on what you’re doing (a red strip acts as a parking sensor warning light, while a white strip in the other direction shows acceleration or volume), it’s just beautiful.

Tech

Mini benefits from BMW technology. So you get the familiar BMW premium satnav experience and iControl rotary knob to activate services like media and phone. The £1,666 Navigation Plus Pack gives you real-time traffic info, Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth with wireless charging, while the Comfort Plus Pack (£1,333) gives you a rear-view camera, parking sensors front and rear, floor mats, heated seats, folding wing mirrors and more.The Harman Kardon audio is another £600 but worth it if you like your tunes loud, as is the head-up display which projects your speed and satnav onto a screen at eye level.

Comfort

A Mini will always have a jiggly ride, as befits a car with a short wheelbase (it’s genuinely part of the character), but BMW parentage gives it a quiet ride with a feeling of real quality that otherwise belongs to a 3-Series.

Due to the quirky upright styling of Minis, you get a lot of headroom for a small car; my partner is a 6ft rugby player but fits in the driver’s seat easily.

There isn’t a lot of leg room in the back, however, and if you have that fabric rood collapsed all the way back, there isn’t much boot space either.

Power

We tested the Cooper S version which, while not hot-hatch powerful, has 192 horsepower which gives you some needed oomph for overtaking on hills, as well as a bit of exhaust noise for fun. If you want serious acceleration, you’d have to go for the John Cooper Works (JCW) Mini hatch, but that takes away the humble joy of Mini ownership, in our opinion, which is all about bumbling round town, looking pretty, with the roof down (it lowers electronically, via a button above the rear-view mirror).

You also get the dual-clutch seven-speed automatic gearbox, which is super smooth, although personally we’d prefer a manual transmission, which seems more in keeping with the chirpy nature of the car.

Price

Our Mini Cooper S Convertible came loaded up with play things, which sent the price rocketing to £33,390, which is VW Golf GTI territory. But strip out some of the optional extras and you can bring it down to about £25,000. Put up a deposit of £5,000 and a PCP deal should take you to about £250 (Mini has an excellent finance calculator that’s actually easy to use, at offers.mini.co.uk)

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