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XC60 is one of the best family SUVs on sale
AS far as model line-ups go, Volvo’s takes some beating. XC40, XC60, XC90, V60, V90, S60, S90… all utterly brilliant, all intrinsically linked thanks to their handsome looks, supreme interiors and interesting engines.
The way to decipher them is rather simple: S-badged cars are saloons, Vs are estates and XCs are SUVs. In truth it doesn’t really matter which you pick; all are at the top of their game in 2021.
However, some...
Rally-ready GR Yaris is an all-time great...
EXCITEMENT levels always ramp up when eagerly anticipated cars are released after months of spy shots and the subsequent glossy magazine splashes.
Usually the furore - heightened by cars wearing camouflage taken on the Nurburgring, then the following media coverage - is reserved for exotic manufacturers: new Ferraris, GT-badged Porsches and road-going Lamborghini racers dripping with carbon fibre always register column inches.
But hot hatches - special ones in particular - never fail to strike...
UX continues Lexus' purple patch
LOVE it or loathe it, the government’s unquenchable thirst to reduce emissions is happening at a rapid pace and manufacturers are doing all they can to adhere to ever more stringent rules.
While bans on internal combustion engines are on the horizon, if you can’t be bothered with tedious plug-ins and want an economical, kind-to-the-environment car in the meantime, Lexus and its Toyota sister brand have the market pretty much covered.
Let’s start...
TT RS takes fight to Porsche’s finest
ONE of my earliest motoring memories is of a then-new Ferrari 360 Spider tearing along a dual carriageway. More than 20 years later I can still recall it with crystal-clear clarity: black paint, black cloth roof, V8 shrieking and leaving its indelible mark on an impressionable, car-obsessed youth.
It wasn’t so much the speed because, to my recollection at least, its driver can’t have been doing much more than 50mph on that particular stretch of...
Jag takes fight to German rivals
THE executive estate market shows no sign of slowing down - having been dominated by German marques for years - so manufacturers simply must be on the top of their game if they dare go toe-to-toe with Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
So it’s a relief that Jaguar’s XF Sportbrake, which has been around for more than a decade now, is better than ever in 2021 guise and has become a genuine alternative to the...
Hybrid V60 offers economy and performance
BABY number two arrived in my life earlier this summer.
Joining three-year-old Arthur, little Mia - a precious, tiny little thing - came early and reminded me just how important safety is in a choice of car.
Fatherhood changes everything as your number one priority immediately turns into keeping them away from danger. Like it or not, the roads are indeed very dangerous places, with dawdling lane hoggers and idiotic...
All-electric XC40 is an immediate class leader
VOLVO’S fast become one of my favourite manufacturers thanks to their cars’ unrivalled quality, safety and ultra-modern design.
With a sea change in the air - which will see all new petrol and diesel-powered vehicles banned in just nine years’ time - Volvo’s first all-electric attempt away from its Polestar spin-off is absolutely brilliant.
It’s called the XC40 Recharge P8, which is based on the wonderful family-friendly SUV, and manages to retain every...
Fourth-generation Sorento the best yet
OVER the last few years I've driven pretty much everything in Kia’s range and I've been impressed by them all in their own way, but the Sorento four-by-four raises the bar to a whole new level.
Launched back in 2002 as the South Korean company's first SUV, the fourth-generation model is a marked move on design-wise from the pretty simply-styled third version.
Whereas the previous car would appear a little archaic - in...
Pair top of their hybrid game...
LOVE it or loathe it, the government’s unquenchable thirst to reduce emissions is happening at a rapid pace and manufacturers are doing all they can to adhere to ever more stringent rules.
While bans on internal combustion engines are on the horizon, if you can’t be bothered with tedious plug-ins and want an economical, kind-to-the-environment car in the meantime, Lexus and its Toyota sister brand have the market pretty much covered.
Let’s start...
RS4 ticks every box
EVER find yourself prowling AutoTrader on the hunt for random cars? A strange thing to non-car-loving people but absolutely normal to us lot and an enjoyable way to pass time when your mind wanders from hot hatches to supercars, taking in everything else between as you piece together your dream multi-car garage.
I’ll go from searching for former cars - the much-missed 106 Rallye and 182 Trophy mainly - and rue the days I...
Type R Limited Edition builds on standard car's greatness
IF I picked the perfect ingredients for a countryside drive the car would - 100 times out of 100 - be a hot hatch. Their uncanny knack of fitting tight, twisty roads like a glove mean you’re not worrying about grazing an eye-wateringly expensive, low-slung carbon splitter and you can instead concentrate on why the car of choice was created: the thrill of driving something built for enthusiasts.
Of course the weather - particularly...
Eighth-generation GTI is the perfect daily driver
There’s always a tiny bit of trepidation when an all-new version of a motoring icon is released.
Volkswagen’s indomitable Golf GTI is unquestionably royalty, formed over more than 40 years of providing pace, practicality and supreme quality.
Although there's been some low points during previous decades, the eighth-generation GTI looks, on paper at least, set to re-write past cars' wrongs.
To be fair, VW’s been on a role since the woeful mark...
MX-5 remains at its best
THROWBACKS to the motoring world of yesteryear are few and far between in strait-laced 2021 - with ever-tighter rules and restrictions, manufacturers are seemingly on a hiding to nothing when it comes to making simple cars.
That’s why Ferrari ditched its manual gearboxes and naturally aspirated engines - unthinkable a decade ago - and Lamborghini V10s and V12s will surely be a thing of the past in the coming years.
Every car -...
All-electric Kia is a welcome surprise
YOU usually know what you’re going to get in the motoring world - surprises just don’t come along too often.
Volvos are supremely comfortable if a little beige-trousered, Audis have second-to-none interiors, Peugeots still have that irritating view ahead which blocks the speedo and Land Rovers will end up going wrong at some point.
However, on the rare occasion something does surprise, they instantly become memorable as they shatter any pre-conceived opinions which...
Saloon-shaped A3 is top notch
WHILE fast Audis have always divided opinion in recent years - chiefly because of their clinical Quattro four-wheel-drive systems - their ‘normal’ models have excelled in all departments.
That’s because the recipe for creating a good day-to-day vehicle is very different from doing one for a select group of enthusiasts. An emphasis on comfort appears, replacing hard-riding suspension set-ups, while outright performance is dismissed for fuel economy and government-friendly emissions.
As boring as...
RX450h still impresses with clever tech
I’VE always struggled getting my head round people who opt for large SUVs instead of a better-driving estate but as my years advance, it really isn’t hard to see why they do.
I blame my little boy, Arthur. He’s almost three and extremely precious to me so I want him wrapped up in the tough, protective metal cocoon SUVs enable.
There are some good ones, and some not-so-good ones, but Lexus’ clever RX450h...
C-HR steals Qashqai's class-leading crown
IF you’re not into cars, I can all but guarantee you’ll have seen a handsome-looking thing gliding around. Angled lines, extremely futuristic, albeit with a familiar Toyota badge on its front and rear.
It’s called the C-HR and it’s their crack at the competitive family SUV sector, which in recent years has been dominated by the good-but-dull Nissan Qashqai.
Based on the Prius platform and sharing its 1.8-litre hybrid engine in this test...
Top-drawer spec for enigmatic Cupra
IF I reel off some stand-out features on this car’s spec sheet, it’ll be sure to whet the appetite of every petrolhead. Here goes: Akrapovic exhaust made from titanium, Brembo brakes, carbon fibre wing mirrors, bucket seats, tuning from ABT, 345bhp, less than 100 models…
I could go on, but it all sounds incredibly appealing, doesn’t it? Add in a seven-speed DSG gearbox and four-wheel-drive and it translates into 60mph in under five seconds...
Grimethorpe tuning company's two creations to be raffled
As someone who’s always been an OEM-plus kind of bloke when it comes to cars, you’d perhaps think an assignment to drive two heavily modified superminis would fail to ignite my excitement.
My car modifying history is as follows: Supersprint, Milltek and KTEC exhausts on my S2 106 Rallye, Clio Trophy and Megane R26 respectively, and a nice remap on the latter to unlock a bit more power. That’s it.
When I look...
Quadrifoglio models turn Alfa's fortunes around
IF I think of guaranteed disappointments which have caused no end of misery in my life, I can recall three key players responsible for continuously plastering a forlorn-looking expression on my face.
Firstly, two football teams: Leeds United and England. My love of the former began when I was a seven-year-old but since the heady, albeit debt-ridden days of the Champions League, I’ve been knocked down more times than a journeyman boxer by a...
Type R remains an all-time great
STAND-OUT drives from years gone by can often be recalled as if they had happened yesterday. Each ingredient for that recipe has to be in place - the right road, car and weather conditions all play a huge role but if everything comes together, a perfect memory is formed and it’s something that will stay with you for a lifetime. You’ll remember it each and every time you return to that particular stretch of road.
...
Little T-Cross hits high notes
REMEMBER a time when families only had the option of choosing between humble hatchbacks, a saloon or its estate version? The motoring world’s a very different place in 2020 and just about every manufacturer has branched out into the complex world of SUVs.
You’ve got large ones, middling ones and smaller ones - no matter what your budget is, there’s something for everyone. Take Volkswagen, for example. Whereas before you had the Golf and...
Range Rover Sport and Velar continue brand's purple patch
I BET I know what you’re thinking… something about footballers, right?
Range Rovers have always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with petrolheads as although there’s been supercharged original Sport models in the mid-noughties and current fire-breathing SVRs, they’ve always been a bit ‘footballer’. You’ll have seen countless Premier League stars being pictured in them, and no doubt their spouses turning up to a designer shop in one in some glossy magazine.
Time’s...
Class-leading Volvos shine in congested sectors
IT wasn’t too long ago I used to scoff at Volvos whilst going about my day-to-day business. I used to believe they were boring, bought by two types of people: sensible Simons in their big saloons on their way to their middle-management office jobs or middle-class, school-run mums who have a few quid but don’t want to appear too flashy amongst the Range Rover Sports and Audi Q7s outside the gates.
Don’t get me...
New Golf better than ever
VOLKWAGEN’S Golf - thanks to its eight generations over almost 50 years - has always been the go-to choice for families from all backgrounds. Its can-do-all ethos, no matter what setting, has yielded a legion of fans who expect the best from VW’s most famous creation - space, comfort, a good drive and an everything-to-everyone character.
It’s an amazing feat when you think about its breadth of ability - the Golf is a car anyone...
Refreshed Captur appeals
IF I’d taken delivery of a Renault Captur three or four years ago, I’d have moaned about its family-friendly traits and probably come to the hasty conclusion - incorrect, I must now to add - that it was a boring creation that was about as appealing to me as watching daytime television.
Then fatherhood happened. The life-changing impact of having a child - a tiny bundle of joy who somehow requires more additional equipment on...
RS5 is one of the great fast Audis
THE German-led battle in the world of family-friendly performance cars with supercar pace shows absolutely no signs of abating - and thank goodness it hasn’t.
For years we’ve been treated to many - BMW M3s, Audi RS4s and Mercedes C63 AMGs to name a few - but there’s always been a little gap in the market for those punters who just don’t really require as much space as an RS4-sized car affords them.
That’s where...
ES300h offers a different take on the German-dominated saloon sector
THINK of the highly competitive saloon sector and your mind automatically conjures up images of a BMW 5-Series, probably dawdling along, infuriatingly hogging a motorway’s middle lane.
The Germans have the market pretty much cornered in truth - Merc’s handsome new E-Class and Audi’s A6 are both worthy contenders to the BMW and, if anything, even eclipse that car.
However, Lexus isn’t a manufacturer known for treading the same path as its rivals and its...
CX-30 fits into small SUV segment
BADGE snobbery is rife within the car world and it often results in blinkered motorists staying true to typical premium brands. It’s why Audi’s hugely successful Q-badged cars, BMW’s uglier-but-popular X range and Mercedes-Benz’s extensive range of crossovers clog Britain’s roads.
But that small Q3-sized segment, so lucrative to manufacturers, hasn’t had much competition from Japan, a nation famed for producing cars that simply have more character than their European counterparts.
Mazda – renowned for...
Ibiza FR remains the go-to choice
CAST your mind back to being a young motorist and, if you’re like me, you’ll remember two things: the sheer excitement at the prospect of owning your first performance car and then the crushing disappointment when the insurance quotes roll in.
The car of my youth was the Renaultsport Clio, available in various guises in mark two form, and I ended up spending the best part of £2,000 to insure a 182 Trophy aged 21....
Hot Megane is worthy of its Trophy moniker
RENAULTSPORT, to me at least, represents just about the final word when it comes to hot hatch magnificence - no other performance arm has created cars like the ones they’ve done, time and time again.
Think back to the two versions of the crazy Clio V6, for example. They plucked a humble supermini from obscurity, pulled out its rear seats and shoehorned a 3.0-litre V6 where children once sat. If that doesn’t get you hooked...
Seven-seat Tarraco impresses
IF I’d received a Seat Tarraco several years ago, I’d have scoffed at its family-friendly traits and probably come to the rapid conclusion - incorrect, I now hasten to add - that it was a boring creation that was about as appealing to me as watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
Then fatherhood happened. The life-changing impact of having a child - a tiny bundle of joy who somehow requires more additional equipment on mundane...
Rally-ready Raptor's character shines
IF I decided to write a list of my most-loathed features found in cars, it’d just save time to pick out Ford’s gigantic Ranger Raptor as a beacon of everything I hate. It weighs two-and-a-half tonnes, it’s got a ten-speed automatic gearbox which, if my memory serves me correctly, is more than my first bicycle, its interior is full of nasty plastics and it’s pretty abysmal to drive.
So why, then, do I absolutely adore...
New Focus ST comes of age
ONE of the motoring world’s simple pleasures is attacking a tricky stretch of countryside road in a car that’s brimming with steering feel and involvement.  If you enjoy driving and being an integral part of the process, little can beat the brilliance of doing such a thing in a hot hatch.
Key to the exercise, repeated countless times over the years, is the subject’s simplicity. Intrusive stability programmes are often dialled down or made redundant...
503bhp Giulia bloodies German noses
IF I think of guaranteed disappointments which have caused no end of misery in my life, I can recall three key players responsible for continuously plastering a forlorn-looking expression on my face.
Firstly, two football teams: Leeds United and England. My love of the former began when I was a seven-year-old but since the heady, albeit debt-ridden days of the Champions League, I’ve been knocked down more times than a journeyman boxer by a host...
Volvo continues its purple patch
IT’S been almost two years since I became a father for the first time and although it is an absolute joy, the life-changing moment has radically altered what I look for in a car.
If I cast my mind back to February 21 of last year - the day before my son arrived - my ideal car would have been manual, small, quick, communicative, have no electronic nannies and be petrol-powered. A simple hot hatch...
Entry-level F-Type impresses
THERE’S long been misconceptions attached to cars in the motoring world which, more often than not, have been formed by silly people who don’t really know what they’re talking about.
The Porsche Boxster, for example, is instantly dismissed and regarded as a ‘poor man’s 911’ which is utterly ludicrous when you hang on to that well-used riposte and analyse it. While normal people who have an ounce of sense know the Boxster is one of...
Fiesta ST is a modern-day hero
ONE of life’s simple pleasures is barrelling down a tricky stretch of road in a car that’s fizzing with feel, feedback and involvement. If you enjoy driving, little can beat the brilliance of doing such a thing in a well-sorted hot hatchback.
Key to the exercise is the car’s simplicity. Intrusive stability nannies are often dialled down or made redundant at the press of a button, there’s just about always a six-speed manual gearbox and...
Top marks for new A1
SEVERAL years ago I was given the keys to a 2015 Audi A1 for a week while my personal car was having a bit of work done. I must admit it: I went into it with pre-conceived ideas about what it was going to be like, given a family member has one and often waxed lyrical about just how great it was to drive.
Upon opening its door, I was greeted by plastics which wouldn’t...
Middle-level F-Type is the sweet spot
PRETTY, isn’t it? Jaguar’s F-Type might have been around a few years now but it’s one of those cars you never fail to have a second look at when one elegantly prowls by. Whether you opt for the coupe or convertible, they just have a knack of looking right.
You absorb all of its intricacies: its wide front grille, the thin rear lights and the downright gorgeous side profile. It may have made its debut...
New Megane RS has predecessors' magic
I MUST let you in on a little secret: I’m a former owner of two of Renaultsport’s cars so I took delivery of the new Megane RS 280 with a significant amount of bias towards the brilliant French brand.
I was 21 when I bought a several-year-old Clio 182 Trophy, build number 490 of 500, and covered more than 40,000 miles over the following three years on its trick Sachs dampers. I replaced it with...
Throwback GT86 is something to be remembered
ASK a keen driver to tell you their ideal on-paper spec for a performance car and you can all but guarantee three things will appear before anything else: a naturally aspirated engine, a manual gearbox and rear-wheel-drive.
It’s a tried-and-tested recipe, one which has appeared on countless greats throughout the years, and unfortunately it’s something that’s all but extinct in today’s market as manufacturers ditch high-revving screamers in favour of smaller capacity engines with a...
New Evoque steals class-leading crown
IN my car-reviewing infancy I was somewhat narrow-minded in my approach to delivering a verdict - if the subject wasn’t something that intrigued me I often struggled to get excited about it.
While I still love driving cars which have a sorted chassis and a manual gearbox, in that time I’ve become a father and as every parent will know, your outlook on life changes dramatically at the flick of a switch. That also includes...
i30 N stakes its claim for the hot hatch crown
I’VE regularly voiced my opinions on manufacturers’ seemingly unquenchable thirst for honing their latest, greatest performance car on 12-and-a-bit miles of German track nestled in the Eifel mountains.
There’s a similar routine: an email will ping into a journalist’s inbox from a hyper-active PR officer containing a car’s lap time around the fabled Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit, like that somehow means it’s better than everything else… even though the majority of us will never drive on...
Type R set to be remembered amongst the greats
IT’S strange how stand-out drives from years gone by can be recalled as if they had happened yesterday. A mixture of things have to be in place: the right road, car and weather conditions all play a huge role but if everything aligns, the perfect memory is formed and it’s something that will stay with you for a lifetime.
Hot hatches have predominantly played the lead role in my memory bank of great drives. Simple,...
Polo GTI is a good all-rounder
CAST your mind back 15 years ago and so-called ‘junior’ hot hatches were bloodying the noses of vastly more expensive cars and while today’s crop are more polished than ever, have they lost a bit of their soul?
I remember reading about cars like Renaultsport’s indomitable Clio 182, in both Cup and Trophy form, chasing down six-figure supercars in magazine tests on countryside roads. Key to their greatness, first and foremost, was a lack of...