France is to scrap a law which required all drivers, including those from other countries, to carry breathalysers in their car at all time.
The law was introduced in 2013 to try to address the country’s shocking drive-drive fatality record but has been mired in confusion and controversy from the start.
It required all drivers travelling in France, including those visiting from the UK, to carry at least one breathalyser in the car at all times and be able to use it if asked to by police. Those who didn’t have one were meant to be subject to an 11 euro fine.
However, even before the law came into force, President Francois Hollande decided to scrap the fine, meaning that drivers who failed to comply were still breaking the law but faced no punishment if caught.
The law is now being abolished as part of a new transport and mobility bill – Le projet de loi d’orientation des mobilités.
The French government said that the feasibility and effectiveness of the law hadn’t been proven in addressing the problem of drink-driving.
The offence is thought to be a factor in a third of all road deaths in France and around 1,000 people died in drink-drive related incidents last year. In the UK, despite drink-drive related fatalities reaching an eight-year high, they account for 250 deaths or around 14 per cent.
While the law is to be repealed, observers have warned drivers to remember France’s strict drink-drive limit and consider still carrying a breathalsyer.
RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “While the law governing drivers carrying breathalysers in France might be about to change, drivers heading across the Channel should still remember that the country has a much stricter drink-drive limit than in the UK [except Scotland] – and anyone caught over the limit faces some very tough penalties.
“The best advice is to never drink and drive, whether driving in France or elsewhere. For any driver that still chooses to, it still makes a lot of sense to carry a portable breathalyser to check they are well below the relevant legal limit.”
Hunter Abbott, managing director of AlcoSense Laboratories and member of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) added: “It is still a legal requirement to carry an NF approved breathalyser in the vehicle while driving in France and that will be the case for a while yet.
“With the French limit significantly lower than the English limit and the penalties harsher, it will remain advisable to carry a breathalyser to test yourself while driving in France and avoid unintentionally drink driving.”
Nearly 1,000 new drivers a month had their licence revoked last year, according to data from the DVLA.
The figures, which showed an average of 33 new drivers a day lost their licences in 2018, have prompted calls for the rapid introduction of a graduated driver licensing (GDL) system.
Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for road safety charity Brake, said that the data showed drivers were being let out on the roads without all the necessary skills and urged “swift and decisive action” to improve driver training.
Under the New Drivers Act, motorists who get six or more penalty points within two years of passing their test have their licence revoked. If they wish to drive again, they are required to re-apply and pay for a new provisional licence and pass both theory and practical parts of the test again.
Drivers with more than two years’ experience can rack up as many as 12 points before facing the prospect of losing their licence, with some managing to accumulate far more than than and keep driving.
Young drivers’ problem
The Freedom of Information request by Brake showed that of the 11,953 motorists who lost their licences under New Drivers Act nearly two thirds (62 per cent) were aged between 17 and 24.
This age group represents just seven per cent of licence holders but accounts for almost one in five deaths or serious injuries on the roads.
Brake says that the findings prove that more needs to be done to ensure young drivers are safe on the roads.
It wants to see a minimum 12-month learning period introduced as part of a GDL system, followed by an initial test and two-year “novice” period. Under this, new motorists would be allowed to drive independently but with some restrictions, such as a late-night curfew.
The Government announced in July that as part of its two-year Road Safety Action Plan it would examine the issue of graduated licensing. It said it would consider restrictions such as minimum learning periods, nighttime curfews and limits or bans on carrying passengers under a certain age.
Joshua Harris said: “It’s shocking that so many new drivers are racking up enough penalty points to have their licences revoked so soon after passing their test, in particular those in the 17-24 age bracket.
“It clearly demonstrates that we need to make our licensing system more robust so that when a driver passes their test, they have all the necessary tools and knowledge to drive safely on all roads and in all conditions. Fortunately, there is a proven solution which can deliver this, graduated driver licensing.
“The Government’s announcement that they will explore the issue of GDL further is welcome. Swift and decisive action must, however, be taken to introduce GDL across the UK, as a priority to ensure new drivers have the skills and experience they need and to end the tragedy of young people dying on our roads.”
There are alternatives, however, in the shape of home breathalyser units which claim to accurately tell whether you’re near or over the drink-drive limit.
With dozens on the market, ranging in price from a couple of pounds to a couple of hundred pounds, we decided to test how accurate home breathalsyer units are with the help of the UK’s biggest manufacturer, AlcoSense Laboratories.
It makes consumer units for home use as well as supplying industry and single use breathalysers to several police forces.
Its founder and managing director, Hunter Abbott explains the differences between different types of unit.
“The most basic ones are single-use tubes with reactive crystals, which basically give you a pass or fail. Above them are semi-conductors which are cost-effective to make but not as accurate or long lasting as fuel cell units. Fuel cell units use the ethanol in the sample as a fuel to create electricity and measures this to determine the amount of alcohol present. They are much more accurate and have a longer life but are more expensive due to their use of precious metals like platinum.”
At the top of the tree are the breathalysers which use expensive infrared spectrometers for ultimate accuracy and reliability, one of which we’ll be using as a benchmark.
Sadly, testing the units doesn’t involve borrowing a police breathalyser, necking a few pints and blowing into them one after the other.
The human body, as it turns out, is pretty useless at performing controlled, consistent, repeatable tests. A few minutes’ difference, how deeply you breathe and how many samples you’ve already given all affect any reading. Instead, we used breath alcohol simulators which produce a constant and repeatable sample of alcohol in air at the same humidity as human breath.
For the purpose of the test the solutions in the simulators were made up by an independent supplier to the Scottish drink-drive limit – 0.22 milligrammes of alcohol per litre of breath (mg/L) – which many want to see introduced in the rest of the UK.
The apparatus looks a little like something from a cheap sci-fi film. Glass jars are linked to a small air pump and the breathalysers via a network of rubber hoses, with various valves, switches and LCD screens controlling and monitoring everything from the temperature of the samples (vital for accuracy) to the pressure of the air passing into the unit.
It works by pumping air through the solution at a set pressure and volume. When the air passes through the solution it is heated and ‘picks up’ alcohol and water vapour at a fixed value, replicating the action of a person blowing into the unit but without any of the pesky person-related variables.
To set a control reading, we used a £13,000 Drager Alcotest 9510 which is a police evidential breathalyser, not the handheld devices used at the road side. If you’re taken to a police station to give an evidential breath sample – the reading used if you’re taken to court – you’ll probably be faced with one of these.
All units have a built-in tolerance. The Drager allows for three per cent misread either way and police will round down in the drivers’ favour. The AlcoSense units also have a margin of error but are calibrated to take this into account and overread slightly, so users can’t accidentally end up over the limit.
Using the samples prepared to the 0.22mg/L limit the Drager returned a result of 0.229mg/L.
We then tested four of AlcoSense’s systems, ranging from the basic semi-conductor Lite 2.0 to the fuel cell Excel, Pro and Ultra, which uses the same sensor as police handheld units.
In normal settings the devices round up the readings to two decimal places and add the tolerance to avoid any risk of underreading. For our testing we were able to access the raw figures on the AlcoSense Excel, Pro and Ultra.
The Excel, showed 0.233mg, the Pro 0.212mg and the Ultra matched the Drager exactly with a reading of 0.229mg. In normal mode (the readings you would see when using them), each one read slightly higher than the police evidential unit.
The entry-level AlcoSense Lite 2.0, which uses the more basic sensor proved less accurate, with a reading of 0.4mg/L, but at least overread rather than risking a falsely low reading which could put an over-the-limit driver behind the wheel.
So, for the purposes of using one to check yourself the morning after a big night out, all four proved more than accurate enough.
The results did, however, show the gap between different types of sensor and Hunter warns that not all breathalsyers are created equal.
“The making and selling of consumer units isn’t regulated in the UK,” he says. “There is a very good Pan-European consumer breathalyser standard which is based on a cut down version of the European police standard. This is what we design and build our fuel cell and single-use products to, but as it’s not a legal requirement to comply with it, it means standards in the marketplace are variable to say the least.”
Fuel cells can vary in size and quality. The key active ingredient in a fuel cell sensor is platinum – the most expensive metal in the world – so an easy way to cut cost is to use less platinum, but at the expense of accuracy. There’s also the question of calibration, which if done wrong at the factory will render the unit useless. Likewise, without annual recalibration even a good sensor will lose accuracy over time.
Further complicating the problem is that many limits are set in an alcohol in blood reading. The breathalyser has to convert the breath reading to a blood reading, and different countries calculate the conversion differently, so depending on where a unit is made and where it is designed to be used, the numbers might not line up. For example, a breathalyser designed for French use will under read by 13 per cent if used in the UK.
It makes the market a potential minefield but choose a reputable unit from a recognised manufacturer and you should be able to rely on it. Just remember that the components in these are expensive and you get what you pay for, so don’t expect a £5 unit from Amazon to perform nearly as well.
Most drivers understand what single and double yellow lines mean on the road. But alongside these common markings, red lines are appearing more and more frequently in towns and cities.
The markings have been in use since the early 1990s but it is not immediately clear what makes them different from yellow lines and misunderstanding the rules could leave you facing a fine of up to £130.
To help understand the purposes and rules around red road markings, LeaseCar.uk has created a guide to them.
What are red lines for?
Red lines are similar in purpose to yellow line road markings – they restrict stopping and waiting on certain sections of road, including those know as “red routes” – but impose stricter limits.
First introduced in London in 1991, red routes are urban clearways that form a network of major roads which carry a significant amount of traffic, especially during rush hours.
The restrictions, indicated by single or double red lines prohibit vehicles from stopping, in a bid to prevent traffic jams or minimise congestion.
More have been added in recent years and can now be found in towns and cities such as Edinburgh. Luton, Leeds, Nottingham, Birmingham, Coventry and Newcastle, as well as around busy airports and hospitals.
What are the restrictions and fines?
Double red lines marked along the left of the inside lane indicate that no stopping, waiting or parking is permitted by any vehicles at any time, as outlined by accompanying signs.
A single red line denotes that no vehicle is allowed to stop during the hours of the route’s operation, which are displayed on roadside signage.
Unlike yellow line restrictions, these rules also ban quickly dropping off or picking up passengers and loading or unloading goods, and applies to vans and lorries as well as cars. Other regulations often apply on red routes too, including prohibition of U-turns and lane restrictions.
In London, the owner of a vehicle that is found to be involved in a contravention of the rules will be sent a Penalty Charge Notice of £130 to be paid within 28 days. Fines are generally of a similar amount around the country, though a discount often applies for early payment.
In general, red line restrictions apply along the full length of red routes but some exceptions do still apply.
Exceptions to the no stopping rule on red routes include when forced to do so by traffic, such as at a queue for a red light, and vehicles such as public transport and emergency services, in necessary locations.
Bays may also be marked in certain places for parking or temporary loading on red routes – signs are placed by them to indicate the times that they may be used and for how long.
Tim Alcock from LeaseCar.uk said more needed to be done to help motorists understand the regulations.
He said: “Despite having clear rules and objectives, the regulations and purpose of red routes hasn’t been adequately communicated to the public.
“We support the roll out of red routes, but believe drivers need to be made fully aware of the rules so they’re not caught out and hit in the pocket.”
The DB5 is not the only Aston Martin set to appear in the new film. On-set footage released in July showed Daniel Craig pulling up on a London street in an Aston Martin V8 Vantage. The V8 Vantage was 007’s vehicle of choice in 1987’s The Living Daylights, complete with lasers, skis and a rocket booster.
The DB5 is undoubtedly Bond’s most famous but has only starred in a handful of the 24 films so far. After its star-making debut in Goldfinger the DB5 appeared again in 1965’s Thunderball then disappeared until Pierce Brosnan got into an unfeasible race with a Ferrari 355 in Goldeneye. After fleeting appearances in Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is Not Enough, it reappeared in Daniel Craig’s first Bond film Casino Royale and has cropped up in the most recent Skyfall and Spectre movies.
Bond has a long history with Aston Martin. As well as the DB5 and V8 Vantage, the character has driven a DBS, V12 Vanquish and the non-production DB10.
No Time to Die is widely expected to be Craig’s last outing as Bond and sees the spy come out of retirement to help his old CIA friend Felix Leiter rescue a kidnapped scientist. According to its makers, the plot then sees him on the trail of a mysterious villain, played by Rami Malik, armed with “dangerous new technology”. It’s due in cinemas in early 2020.
Honcho’s makers say its pricing also makes it more attractive to insurers, who pay just £1 per policy, compared to price comparison sites which charge up to £60 – a sum that’s often passed on to the customer.
It is initially focused on getting cheaper car insurance for young drivers but its creators want to expand to offer services to more drivers and across other markets.
Gavin Sewell, CEO of Honcho, commented: “Honcho is one-of-a-kind and will be revolutionary for drivers of all ages. However, we’re especially keen to see the benefits to young motorists who, for so long, have struggled to acquire fairly priced policies – with many paying 149 per cent more than the average driver.
“We see Honcho taking on the role of ‘matchmaker’ between customers and insurers or brokers, initially for car insurance, but with a view to offer the service across a range of other insurance products and markets later this year.”
A few car makers have recently started adding bits of cladding and a minor suspension lift to standard hatchbacks to create something they claim is “SUV-inspired”.
At first glance, you might think that’s what’s happened to the Mazda3, but look again and you’ll see that the CX-30 is a completely different car.
It’s not as long as the 3, for a start, but is significantly taller. It’s also got a bolder interpretation of the family front end and a more swooping coupe-like roofline along with that hefty black plastic cladding.
Nonetheless, there’s a distinctly familiar look to this compact SUV, destined to sit between the existing CX-3 and CX-5 (the CX-4 name is already in use in China). Still, that’s no bad thing as Mazda builds some of the prettiest mainstream family cars out there.
The CX-30 also shares the 3’s basic platform and some drivetrains, including the groundbreaking Skyactiv-X engine.
Mazda CX-30 GT Sport
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 115mph
0-62mph: 10.6 seconds
CO2 emissions: 141g/km
This all-new engine has been developed in-house by Mazda and uses unique spark-controlled compression ignition technology in an effort to offer diesel-like economy and CO2 emissions from a petrol engine.
The on-paper figures are impressive. Mazda says it’s up to 20 per cent more efficient than the regular petrol engine and the WLTP combined economy figure is a diesel-challenging 47.8mpg for the two-wheel-drive manual, falling to 40mpg for the four-wheel-drive auto. For comparison the 2.0-litre diesel (which the UK won’t get) returns between 43mpg and 55mpg. On CO2 emissions the petrol outperforms the diesel in all but four-wheel-drive auto form, with a low of 133g/km.
Our brief test drive of a pre-production version got closer to 35mpg but it’ll take longer at the wheel to see if this is a true reflection of the engine’s abilities.
On the road, there’s nothing to tell you this engine uses revolutionary ignition technology. It’s as pleasantly smooth and refined as the regular petrol engine, linked to Mazda’s impeccable six-speed manual gearbox.
The Skyactiv-X engine packs 178bhp and a relatively weedy 165lb/ft of torque. That lack of torque is especially evident at low revs where it feels sluggish. It’s only once you start working the engine and get into the higher revs that it begins to feel as lively as the figures hint at.
The regular 2.0-litre non-turbo 120bhp Skyactiv-G has the opposite problem. It feels more responsive initially but runs out of puff quite abruptly.
If you can find their sweet spots, though, you can make decent progress, helped by a nicely balanced chassis and responsive steering. There’s a definite bit of SUV lean in tight corners but there’s plenty of grip and, at least on good European roads, the ride is finely balanced between comfort and control.
At a more sedate cruise, the CX-30 is wonderfully refined. Even at the motorway speed limit the cabin is superbly insulated from noise and the suspension does a great job of smoothing out bumps.
The serene feeling is helped by an interior that stands out in look, feel and operation. Mazda make a big noise about human-centric cars but, for once, it feels as though there’s substance behind this marketing spiel. The instruments and controls are symmetrical, which is visually and ergonomically pleasing as well as being less distracting than some overly complicated rivals. The materials, too, are a cut above the mainstream, with all but SE-L and SE-L Lux cars getting leather that covers the seats, door panels, arm rest and wing-shaped dashtop. Chrome effect highlights on the air vents and controls sit alongside gloss black plastics to good effect, adding a high-end feel.
Front seat passengers are well accommodated, with as much shoulder room as in the larger CX-5 and plenty of space to stretch out. Rear space isn’t so generous, particularly considering this car is as long as the much more spacious Nissan Qashqai.
But the CX-30 isn’t really aimed at Qashqai buyers. Its real rivals in design and price are other coupe-styled SUVs such as the Toyota C-HR and Honda HR-V which sacrifice a little space for added style.
Pricing for the CX-30 starts at £22,895, which might seem steep for a B-and-a-half-segment car but it reflects not only the car’s premium feel but a generous specification that packs some high-end technology into every model.
Even entry-level SE-L cars come with a windscreen-projection head-up display (vastly improved over older Mazda pop-up units), radar adaptive cruise control, LED headlights, sat nav, an eight-inch screen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and an eight-speaker stereo.
Standard safety systems included lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, intelligent speed assist, traffic sign recognition, driver attention alert and GPS-enabled emergency call.
The move up through the four other trim levels brings the usual goodies such as bigger alloys (a jump from 16 to 18 inches), keyless entry, powered tailgate, adaptive headlights, signature LED running and rear lights, heated leather upholstery and a 12-speaker Bose stereo. On top-spec GT Sport Tech a 360-degree camera, cruising and traffic driver assistance, rear cross traffic braking, smart city braking and front cross traffic alert also appear.
It’s a high-end specification for what looks and feels like a high-end car.
The only questions around the CX-30 remain about Mazda’s refusal to go down the small, turbocharged engine route and whether we really need another compact crossover in a crowded market.
From September, filling stations around the country have had to display new labels on their petrol and diesel pumps.
The new signs replace the simple “unleaded” or “diesel” wording as well as those indicating the octane rating of the fuel.
They don’t however represent a change in the actual fuel. The petrol and diesel from the pumps is exactly the same as before and retailers are expecting to keep naming them as such alongside the new labels.
Petrol pumps now display E5 inside a circle, while diesel pumps show B7 inside a square.
Fuels with higher levels of renewables could be rolled out in future, with E10 (petrol with a 10 per cent ethanol mix) already in use in some parts of Europe. However, concerns that more than 800,000 older cars cannot run on E10 have delayed its introduction in the UK.
Whatever the rating, the circle represents petrol, the square represents diesel.
Where will I see the signs
The new signs are now a legal requirement on fuel dispensers and nozzles around the UK and are also in use across Europe.
New cars also feature the symbols, usually on or near the fuel filler cap. These might feature a higher number than on the pumps and represent the maximum blend you car will run on.
For instance, any car with an E10 sticker can use E5 petrol.
Some diesel vehicles have a “no biodiesel” sticker but these are used to stop people using very high biodiesel blends or even 100 per cent biodiesel. All diesel vehicles can safely use B7 diesel.
The Ford Focus feels increasingly like the Heinz variety of cars.
Moments after I test one variant, another pops along, adding to the seemingly endless versions of this stalwart family hatchback.
A quick glance at the brochure for the 2019 car reveals four “standard” trim levels – Style, Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X – before you get to the more specialised models. Above Titanium X there’s the luxury-leaning Vignale and the sportily-styled ST-Line (and the higher-specced ST-Line X), and then off on their own little sub-sub-branch the lifestyle-focused Active and Active X. And that’s before you consider the ST hot hatch that’s just been launched.
It’s the Active that we’re concerned with here – a slightly more rugged variation of the Focus aimed at the sort of people who own a paddle board and a springer spaniel but don’t fancy something as bulky as the Kuga SUV.
In the Focus’ case that brief means a hatchback or estate body with a 3cm suspension raise, thicker tyres, protective cladding around arches, sills and bumpers, roof rails, and only the more powerful versions of the available engines.
Ford Focus Active
Price: £24,995 (£25,505 as tested)
Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo petrol
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Top speed: 125mph
0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
CO2 emissions: 134g/km
It’s not going to conquer the Dakar Rally but it’s the sort of extra clearance and protection that might come in handy if you’re bouncing down a beach access road or crawling along forestry tracks to mountain bike trails. To help in such pursuits, the Active also gets an extra “slippery & trail” driving mode to adjust the traction control and throttle but there’s no four-wheel-drive option.
Inside, the Active gets unique and curiously appealing hard-wearing upholstery with Active details, privacy glass as standard and some shiny scuff plates.
Apart from those details, it’s the same layout as every other Focus, with clear, easy-to-use controls and decent ergonomics and space. Even after all these years the VW Golf might have it licked on quality but the Focus can hold its head up high among other rivals.
If you’re serious about practicality, the tested estate offers 575 litres of luggage space with seats up, 1,620 with them down, with a wide-opening tailgate for easy access and a clever adjustable boot board for keeping different sizes and shapes of load secure.
As standard, the Active gets the latest Sync 3 eight-inch touchscreen with sat nav, keyless start, autonomous emergency braking and lane-keep aid but, astonishingly for a £25,000 car in 2019 does without parking sensors or keyless entry and gets manual one-zone climate control.
You can, of course, upgrade to Active X which offers much of the Titanium X’s kit. This is also the only way to get the 2.0-litre 148bhp diesel engine.
Our test car came instead with the 148bhp petrol, which is a willing but occasionally gruff-sounding unit. Having sampled the Focus with the 124bhp version of this 1.5-litre engine, I’d be tempted by the extra oomph offered by this one.
Being an estate meant our test car also benefited from the more advanced multi-link suspension that’s helped the Focus maintain its enviable reputation as a fine-handling car. The taller ride and thicker tyres of the Active definitely give it a slacker feel on the road than other Focuses but it’s still better than any SUV. Sadly that softer ride still manages to transmit quite a bit of judder on bad road surfaces.
While many cars branded crossovers are now just small SUVs, the Focus Active is far closer to the original idea of the crossover – a standard car adapted to be a little more suited for rough conditions and offer the kind of practicality that people with active outdoorsy lifestyles need.
If that’s you, it’s definitely worth considering for what it adds over the standard car, just watch out for the weird equipment levels and bear in mind that there are alternatives out there in the shape of the VW Golf Alltrack and the soon-to-be-launched Kia XCeed.
The reveal of the new Land Rover Defender has caused a sensation around the motoring world this week and Lego has added to the excitement of the launch (for a certain selection of fans at least) with the announcement of its own version of the car.
Revealed, just like the real thing, at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Lego Technic Land Rover Defender is a scaled down version of the 2020 model designed to appeal to Lego fans and Land Rover enthusiasts of all ages.
Despite the iconic boxy Defender shape being a perfect fit for the brick-base construction toy, this is the first official tie-up between the companies.
The 2,573-piece set was developed in partnership with Land Rover and closely follows the new car’s instantly recognisable silhouette.
It also recreates many of the real car’s features including a working four-wheel drive system with three differentials, fully independent suspension and a working winch. It also gets Technic’s most sophisticated gearbox ever with high- and low-range settings, although unlike the real thing the Lego model has a four-speed sequential ‘box.
It’s also loaded with accessories from the Defender’s options list such as a working winch, removable roof rack with storage box, pannier, ladder and traction mats so you can go on your own miniature off-road adventures around the garden.
Joe Sinclair, director of branded goods and licensing at Jaguar Land Rover, said: “The Land Rover Defender and Lego brand are both iconic across the world, and the launch of New Defender felt like the perfect time to bring them together.
“The level of detail and engineering that has gone into creating this Lego model perfectly reflects the work of our own designers and engineers who have been so dedicated to bringing a motoring icon back for the 21st century.”
The Lego Land Rover Defender goes on sale around the world on October 1 and has just shot its way to the top of our Christmas list.
With this in mind, James Fairclough, CEO of AA Cars, has offered his advice on what critical checks to make when buying a used car.
Know the seller
If you choose to buy from a private seller, you should ensure that they are the registered owner of the vehicle by going to their address and checking it matches the address found on the vehicle’s V5C document. Always be cautious if the seller wants to meet you on ‘neutral’ ground such as a service area, car park or lay-by somewhere, as the car may be stolen.
Some scammers advertise a car and claim it’s overseas and ready to be shipped once you’ve paid a deposit. If you encounter a seller like this walk away immediately.
Remember that if you choose to purchase your vehicle privately, you are not protected by the Consumer Rights Act if something goes wrong.
If you buy from a registered motor trader this Act ensures you are entitled to a repair, replacement or if a fault comes to light in the first six months after purchase as long as the problem was present when you bought the car.
The majority of reputable dealers will also offer a warranty which will protect you should any unforeseen mechanical failures occur. Just check what is and isn’t covered as levels of protection do vary.
If you’re buying for a trader do your homework on them, many are great, some are less trustworthy. Look for reviews online from previous customers and ask around for recommendations to see if they have a good reputation or not.
Check the history
Whoever you buy from, it is vital to see the car’s history and ask about any accidents or recent repairs. Getting a history check will help you ensure you are not buying a stolen car, or one that has been written off, while also providing other critical information about the vehicle.
Dealers are obliged to prepare the car before offering it for sale, including verifying the accuracy of the recorded mileage. The service history will indicate the vehicle’s mileage, as it should have been recorded at every service, and is important to check. Paying attention to this will help to protect you from ‘clocking’, whereby the mileage is tampered with so the car can be sold with a lower mileage than it actually has.
Take care to check how the car looks – if it appears worn, but the mileage seems low, take extra precautions.
James recommends paying for a professional mechanic to check any vehicle before you buy to ensure there are no underlying problems.
A good vehicle inspection will look at all the major elements of a car, including the bodywork; chassis; suspension; steering, transmission; fuel and exhaust systems, brakes; wheels and tyres; electrical controls and the interior.
If you don’t want to pay for an inspection James recommends you check external features such as the tyres, lights and windscreen wipers, and ensure the warning lights function properly.
However, it is crucial you check all the working components too. Are the brakes effective, or do they make an unusual noise when applied? Is the steering wheel pulling to one side? Check the clutch – a noise when you press the pedal or a high biting point could mean that repairs will be required soon. Find out if the car has been driven frequently in hilly areas or towed a lot, this can affect how long a clutch will last before it needs to be repaired or replaced.
Keep your ears open for any unusual noises, be mindful of how the car looks (mismatched colours can indicate multiple repairs) and check if the keys work properly.
If you consider that the engineers carrying out the inspection check for nearly 130 elements of a car, then question if you have ticked off as many aspects of the car in your own assessment as possible.
Don’t rush in
Crucially – if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. It is best not to sign anything or hand over any money until you’re absolutely happy – there will be other, similar cars available so there’s no need to take a risk if you feel uneasy.
Some of Britain’s most popular cars are being affected by “inherent” flaws which manufacturers are keeping hidden from owners, according to new research by a leading consumer group.
Which? has found widespread failings in a number of models, including the best-selling Nissan Qashqai, that could leave owners facing large bills.
It is now calling on car makers to be more honest with the public about common problems and issue voluntary recalls to address them.
The consumer group carried out a survey of nearly 44,000 car owners covering more than 52,000 vehicles to assess reliability and found that the 2014-onwards Nissan Qashqai had the highest breakdown rate of the 276 models it ranked.
The family SUV is consistently one of the UK’s best-selling cars and the Which? study found that a fifth of all owners had needed to replace their car’s battery in the last year – almost five times the average rate for cars of the same age.
Nissan said that it was aware of issues with batteries on older cars and had switched suppliers in 2018. It also said that it was working to address a problem with the body control module software on 2018-19 cars which could drain the battery.
Which?, however, said that it was unacceptable that Nissan had not warned owners of a potential battery fault which could leave them out of pocket if it fails outwith the car’s warranty.
The survey also found that despite owners loving their Teslas, more than a fifth of Model S owners (22.2 per cent) had been let down by problems with exterior features such as door handles and locks on cars aged three to eight years – that’s 10 times higher than the average for a car in the same age range.
Owners of the more modern Model X also reported similar problems in 10 per cent of cases, that Which? said suggested an inherent flaw in the cars.
Across all brands Tesla had the highest percentage of faulty cars in the three to eight-year bracket, with more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of all owners reporting an issue.
Tesla said that its warranties covered repairs and replacement of parts such as door handles for cars up to four years but Which? argued that this left owners of older models facing a repair bill for a problem that Tesla is well aware of.
Other models which performed particularly poorly in the Which? ratings were the Seat Alhambra and previous generations of the BMW 5 Series Touring and Ford B-Max, which all saw far higher than average failures.
Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said: “It is concerning that it has taken Which?’s survey of thousands of motorists to uncover what are in some cases inherent flaws with some of the UK’s best-selling cars. Owners should be able to trust that manufacturers will make them aware of these issues and offer a fix when they see a recurring problem.”
“It is vital these manufacturers make the public aware of these serious faults and ensure vehicle owners are not left out of pocket should the issues occur outside their warranty.”
Seat said that it offered a three-year warranty on its new cars and that without more details couldn’t identify or explain the study’s findings that nearly a third of Alhambra owners had experienced exhaust and emissions issues and nearly a quarter had faced suspension problems.
Ford said it had offered extended warranties on cars affected by the automatic gearbox problem which a quarter of B-Max owners had experienced and was assessing out-of-warranty problems on an individual basis.
BMW said that despite a quarter of 5 Series Touring (2010-17) owners reporting suspension failures, such issues had affected a “tiny fraction” of its customers in the first half of 2019.
Motorists could be able to watch a film, send emails or check text messages from behind the wheel of their car within two years, according to vehicle safety and insurance experts.
A new report from the Association of British Insurers and Thatcham Research has suggested that under certain conditions automated driving systems could allow drivers to legally carry out other activities while on the road.
It says that “limited automation” technology that is geofenced to motorways and includes comprehensive systems to return control to the driver could be ready by 2021 but warns that full automation won’t be possible until at least 2025.
While the report contains predictions about what could be possible in the near future, its main focus is on offering guidelines to governments and regulators to help make the transition to full automation as smooth and safe as possible.
It warns that the move from assisted driving (such as adaptive cruise control) to automated driving poses the highest level of risk and could cause a rise in accidents as functionality is limited and systems rely on drivers being ready to take back control.
Increasingly complex environment
Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham, comments, “Decreases in road fatalities have plateaued over the past decade, and automated driving is rightly seen as a sea change for road safety.
“However, new and emerging technologies with inexperienced users, in an increasingly complex highways environment requires heightened levels of vigilance from regulators, vehicle manufacturers and users.”
The Thatcham/ABI report sets out 12 principles which it says must be applied to make the move to automated driving safe, including limiting such systems’ use to certain locations, cars being able to monitor the user and featuring robust protection against hacking.
Avery continues: “The UK Government’s prediction that fully automated vehicles will arrive on UK roads in 2021 is unlikely. However, early automated driving systems designed only for motorway use could be available to consumers by then. To avoid introducing a new hazard, the vehicle needs to have an effective driver monitoring system to ensure safe handover of control between driver and vehicle, and that the driver is available to take back control when needed.
“This is important because if the system can’t handle a scenario, it can bring the driver back into the loop. If the driver does not respond, the system should be able to assess the road conditions, just as a human would, and decide on the safest action.”
That includes manoeuvring the vehicle out of traffic, with Avery emphasising that simple deactivating automation or stopping in a live lane is not acceptable.
The report also wants all systems to include in-vehicle training for drivers and displays that make it clear whether the car or user is responsible for driving at any given moment.
It also warns that early systems should feature driver monitoring systems and only allow secondary activities such as watching a film via the car’s built-in infotainment system so it can be interrupted if a driver is required to take back control.
Avery concludes: It’s paramount that initial automated driving systems can identify if the driver has become too far removed from the task of driving. This is especially important if the vehicle cannot deal with unplanned situations or when the vehicle is about to transition from the motorway to roads where automated driving will no longer be supported.”
James Dalton, the ABI’s director of general insurance policy, said: “To fully realise the benefits of automation, it is absolutely vital that there is a clear definition of what constitutes an automated vehicle. These latest guidelines will enable the safe introduction of automation on motorways from 2021 onwards.
“There must be robust rules regulating automated vehicles, to ensure that users are aware of their responsibilities. While we expect automated cars to improve road safety, some accidents will still occur. All collisions must trigger data to help authorities and insurers to understand what went wrong and so that passengers can get the help and support they need.”
The DVLA has released images of some of the scam messages sent to drivers by criminal gangs trying to rip them off.
Fraudsters regularly target British motorists with fake messages in efforts to steal bank details from the unwary.
The messages usually come as text messages or emails, claiming to be from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and often relate to vehicle tax.
In an effort to help drivers spot and avoid the cons, the licensing agency, tweeted a selection of the most recent messages.
Some claim that a motorist’s latest car tax payment is overdue or has failed due to a problem with incorrect bank account details, threatening that this is their “last chance” to pay and avoid a £1,000 fine. They then contain a link to a fake DVLA website where victims are asked to make a payment or enter their bank details.
#SCAM WARNING: we don’t send texts or emails about a vehicle tax refund.
Other message take the opposite approach and inform the driver that they are due a car tax refund but again contain a link to a phishing website designed to steal their bank details.
The DVLA says it never contacts drivers regarding payment information via text or email and drivers should ignore any such messages.
A DVLA spokesman said: “We don’t send emails or text messages that ask you to confirm your personal details or payment information, such as for a vehicle tax refund. If you get anything like this, don’t open any links and delete the email or text immediately.
“The only official place to find our services and information is on gov.uk.”
He also warned of other third-party websites either trying to steal drivers’ details or charging fees for services which are free through the official DVLA website.
The spokesman added: “To try and pass themselves off as genuine, these sites might include ‘DVLA’ in their web address (URL). They might also design their site to appear as if it’s DVLA – for example, using DVLA’s old ‘green triangle’ logo, which we no longer use.
“Don’t be fooled by these sites – even if they appear at the top of search engine results. Always double check you’re using gov.uk.”
The new Land Rover Defender has been officially unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
Three years after production of the original model ceased, the iconic 4×4 name is back on a brand-new model which Land Rover says will offer the unstoppable off-road ability of its predecessor with technology, design and comfort fit for the 21st century.
Available to order right now, the new Defender will initially cost from £45,240 with cheaper short-wheelbase and commercial vehicles joining the range later.
Land Rover has confirmed that there will be two wheelbase options for the Defender. The standard 110 (with a 119-inch wheelbase) will be available from launch and will be joined in mid-2020 by a short wheelbase 90 (102 inches), priced at around £40,000. The commercial versions of both will also arrive in 2020 starting at roughly £35,000 before VAT.
There’s no doubting the inspiration for the new model came from the original Defender.
There’s a little more curve to the panels and a lot more angle to the windscreen but its relationship to the original is clear. The silhouette is the same tall, square shape with high sills, square arches and short overhangs, and everywhere you look are nods to the old car but with a 21st century sheen. From the flat nose and circular headlights to the safari windows in the roof and the spare wheel mounted on the side-hinged rear door, everything screams “this is a Defender”.
The interior is more of a change but retains the upright, flat dashboard, here comprising an exposed full-width magnesium alloy beam that forms part of the car’s structure and acts as a mount for the 10-inch touchscreen and high-set gear lever.
In another nod to the early Defenders an optional central jump seat can be added to the front row, giving the 90 six-seater capability and the 110 up to seven seats.
There are also touches designed to give the Defender a rugged, functional feel. Parts of the interior bodywork and fixings are left exposed and there are rubberised “hose-down” floor mats and strategically placed grab handles.
The image is slightly undone by options like the open-grain walnut veneer and Windsor leather upholstery available on high-end models.
Unlike Defenders of the past which used a body-on-frame construction, the new model features an aluminium monocoque as part of the D7x architecture. As well as saving weight, Land Rover says this is three times more rigid than a body-on-frame vehicle, aiding in the Defender’s stated aim of being the best 4×4 on the market.
Permanent four-wheel-drive is a given with the Defender and comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, two-speed transfer box, locking centre differential, active locking rear differential and all-independent suspension with passive coil or active air suspension.
The Defender features the latest multi-mode Terrain Response system for managing the four-wheel-drive and matching it to the conditions and, for the first time, lets experienced off-road drivers configure the setup to suit their specific needs.
There are a lot of numbers flying around relating to the Defender’s capabilities so here are just the highlights: 291mm of ground clearance; 38-degree approach and 40-degree departure angles; 900mm wading depth; 3,500kg towing capacity, 900kg payload; 300kg static roof load; 500mm of axle articulation, up to 145mm of lift from the air suspension and up to 2,380 litres of cargo space.
Land Rover says that the Defender’s capabilities – tested everywhere from the heat of the Mojave Desert to the sub-zero temperatures of the Arctic and the African savannah – put it in a class of its own. It also claims new adaptive dynamics mean it has solved the old vehicle’s problematic on-road manners to make it comfortable and refined even on long journeys.
From launch, the Defender will come with two petrol and two diesel options.
A 2.0-litre diesel will offer either 197bhp or 237bhp. Both offer 317lb/ft of torque, economy of 37.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 199g/km, with the 237bhp just under a second quicker to 60mph.
The entry-level petrol is a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit producing 296bhp/295lb/ft and promising 0-60mph in 7.7 seconds with economy of 28.5mpg.
The second petrol option is a 395bhp 3.0-litre, six-cylinder mild hybrid which does 0-60mph in a very un-Defender-like 6.1 seconds and offers better economy that the 2.0-litre, at 29.4mpg.
Later in 2020 a plug-in hybrid variant will join the line-up.
The Defender sees the debut of Land Rover’s new Pivi Pro infotainment system which comes with a 10-inch touchscreen. Land Rover says this is its simplest, fastest and most intuitive system and it comes with navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and over-the-air updates as standard.
A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and head-up display with video capability offer everything from speed information to axle articulation graphics and the Defender also makes use of clever camera technology to offer the GroundView “transparent bonnet” and ClearSight rear view mirror, which give uninterrupted views of otherwise obscured areas outside the car.
The Defender also features all the driver assistance system familiar to modern SUV owners, including autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control and Speed Limiter functions, a driver condition monitor and 360 parking aid.
The Defender will come in six trims – Defender, S, SE, HSE, First Edition (for one year only) and top of the range Defender X.
Basic Defenders will get steel wheels; LED lights all round; dual-zone climate control; auto lights and wipers; heated seats, mirrors and windscreen and the 10-inch Pivo Pro system. Long-wheelbase models also get air suspension and adaptive dynamics as standard.
More expensive models will get 19 or 20-inch alloys; fancier seats, keyless entry; a better stereo; matrix adaptive headlights; fabric or glass sliding roof and the most advanced off-road systems.
Upholstery will range from basic cloth to part or full leather and even a Steelcut Premium Textile that’s 30 per cent wool.
Personalisation is set to be big on the new Defender with 12 wheel designs ranging from 18-inch painted steels to 22-inch alloys, and a broad spectrum of standard and metallic paint finishes. Three of the exterior colours – Indus Silver, Gondwana Stone and Pangea Green – will be offered with a protective film wrap that will absorb scratches and can be quickly removed and replaced.
Four accessory packs have been created to match different uses, working up in ruggedness and practicality. The showy Urban pack adds shiny trim and big wheels while Country adds some body protection, portable rinse system with shower and hose, and loadspace partition. Above that the Adventure pack features the rinse system, integrated air compressor and side-mounted external gear carrier and the Explorer is aimed at the real off-roaders, with a snorkel, roof rack, external gear carrier and options side steps, roof ladder and underbody protection.
There’s also a host of individual accessories ranging from remote controlled winches and roof racks to inflatable awnings and roof tents.
Drivers’ safety could be put at risk by unscrupulous garages cutting corners on vehicle maintenance, according to industry experts.
Common faults with a car’s brakes could be going unnoticed because some lazy mechanics are skipping the “wheel-off” portion of servicing, leading to potential danger signs being missed.
And other expensive issues could arise because not all maintenance is carried out correctly.
Duncan McClure Fisher, founder of warranty, breakdown and servicing group MotorEasy, warned some garages are conducting a brief “through the wheel” check on the condition of vital parts, rather than a full inspection.
He said: “A proper service will involve the garage technician taking all of the wheels off your car in order to check the condition of your brakes.
“And yet many garages don’t bother, and instead simply peek through the gaps in your alloys or rely on the last MOT brake test.
“Loose or broken pads cannot be seen with the wheel on. We’ve even seen a car pass its MOT despite having this problem as the engineer didn’t check properly.
“And brakes can’t be measured, to see how much life there is left in them, with the wheels on. That’s not ideal if you’re doing high mileage.”
Check what you’re paying for
Mr McClure Fisher also warned that skipping other jobs could leave owners with bills running into thousands of pounds further down the line.
He recommends car owners scrutinise the garage job sheet to check what’s covered by a service and advises that many garages have a viewing area where you can watch the process if you’re concerned jobs might be missed.
He added: “We know there’s a huge problem with car servicing in the UK because we’re the ones who pick up the pieces when things go wrong.
“Very often a car’s owner has made every effort to keep their vehicle in the best possible shape, having it serviced regularly and keeping up with the maintenance.
“But unless that service actually involves all the jobs that need doing, and is conducted precisely to the manufacturer’s guidelines, then you’re going to have a problem.
“When you book a service, find out precisely what it entails before you agree to it so you’re not caught short – they should be able to give you a job sheet.”
Servicing fails that could leave you out of pocket
Cambelt tensioner and water pump (potential cost: £3,000 – £20,000 for engine replacement)
Mr McClure Fisher says: “Your cambelt is part of the system that synchronises the rotation of the engine, opening and closing valves at the proper times. If it’s not working correctly, the engine falls out of synch and can disintegrate. If you don’t change the belt at the right interval, it can snap, writing the engine off in the process. Most people are aware of this and make sure the belt is changed. But if you change the belt – and not the tensioners and pumps associated with it – they can seize, tearing the new belt and obliterating the engine! Cambelt tensioner and water pump replacement typically costs between £300 and £800 on top of a normal service.”
“This is the most important part of any service, and should be done annually. Changing the oil is pointless unless the oil filter is replaced too. Old oil will lose its viscosity, causing engine components to wear prematurely.”
Gearbox and differential oil (potential cost: £3,000 – £6,000 to repair)
“Just like your engine, your gearbox and differential – the component that drives the shafts that spin your wheels – also need regular oil changes. And yet these vital changes are often missed from bog-standard services. Check for your car’s guidelines on when to change the oil, and make sure it gets done – as it only costs from £200 extra on a typical service and won’t need to be done each year.”
Fuel filter (potential cost: £1,000 – £4,000 to repair)
“The fuel filter is not an expensive part to replace (around £200) and should be done in accordance with your manufacturer’s service requirements. But again, it often gets overlooked. As the name suggests, the fuel filter removes any debris that’s lurking in your fuel tank and stops it getting into the engine. This debris can cause damage to the high pressure pump and injectors, leading to an almighty repair bill and lots of inconvenience for the poor owner.”
Clean brake calipers (potential cost: £1,000 and safety risk)
“Like most things on your vehicle, keeping things clean and free from corrosion can really increase the part’s longevity. And this is key with your brake calipers – the things that squeeze your brake disc when you press the pedal, forcing the wheels to slow down. Neglect them and they’ll get dirty and corroded. And they’ll stop working correctly – which is the last thing you want on Britain’s hazardous roads. Calipers should be cleaned with a scrub brush and brake fluid to get rid of excess grease and dirt. When you consider than some calipers cost around £1,000 to replace, you could save yourself a small fortune.”
Parliament’s cross-party transport select committee said that the issue of cars blocking pavements had left some people scared to leave their homes for fear of not being able to get around safely.
The MPs have recommended that the Government bans the practice completely and hands enforcement power to local authorities, who would then be able to create exemptions if they felt it was necessary.
London is the only part of the UK where there is a specific law against pavement parking, which has been in place since 1974.
The issue is a devolved matter and the committee’s recommendations apply only to England. The Scottish Government is currently working towards a ban and the Welsh Assembly is conducting its own review.
Putting pedestrians in danger
The committee heard from witnesses that the worst cases of pavement parking were effectively leaving the disabled and elderly trapped in their homes “afraid to leave”.
Its report said that the issue posed safety risks to pedestrians as well as increasing isolation for vulnerable members of society.
The Pavement Parking report said: “Pavement parking puts pedestrians in danger when they are forced to move into the road to get around a vehicle or where there are trip hazards due to damage to the pavement.
“People with mobility or visual impairments, as well as those who care for others, are disproportionately affected.
“It exacerbates, and is a cause of, social isolation and loneliness for people who feel unable to safely leave their homes or are physically prevented from doing so by pavement parking.”
Lilian Greenwood MP, who chairs the committee, said: “We are deeply concerned that the Government has failed to act on this issue, despite long-standing promises to do so.
“This is a thorny problem that may be difficult to resolve to the satisfaction of all, but the Government’s inaction has left communities blighted by unsightly and obstructive pavement parking and individuals afraid or unable to leave their homes or safely navigate the streets.
“In the long-term we believe the Government should ban pavement parking across England – as is already the case in London.
“Local authorities could create exemptions if they choose to do so, but drivers would know that unless it was expressly permitted it was illegal to park their car on the pavement.”
A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “We are committed to ensuring that our roads work for everyone, but we are also aware that pavement parking can cause real problems for a variety of road users.
“The department recently concluded a review to better understand the case for changing the law, and ministers will be considering our next steps over the coming months.”
The AA’s president, Edmund King, has previously warned that a blanket ban could be a “step too far” and any ban needed to be applied on a street by street basis.
Once upon a time the big three German car brands were famous for massive, luxurious saloons and estates, and not much more.
But like everyone, they’ve had to diversify over the last couple of decades, launching an endless fleet of SUV as well as more compact, city-friendly motors.
This A1 is the second generation of Audis attempt to create a premium supermini and aims to keep pace with advances in the industry while undercutting the Mercedes A-Class and BMW 1 Series on price.
Audi says the A1 is all about bringing the qualities and values of its larger models to the supermini segment and there’s no doubting that it’s related to those models, in everything from its design to its technology.
The styling starts off well at the front with a mini-me version of the A6’s deep grille, topped by three neat slats in the bonnet line that add some character. But the further back you go the blander it gets. Cars with two-tone paint finishes stand out but our single-colour test model could easily be mistaken for a VW Polo from the rear.
Audi A1 Sportback Sport
Price: £19,160 (£24,000 as tested)
Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 126mph
0-62mph: 9.6 seconds
CO2 emissions: 108g/km
At certain points inside you could also be forgiven for thinking you were in the A1’s more mainstream cousin rather than an Audi.
While the A1 enjoys elements of technology above the Polo and touches such as Audi’s trademark knurled metal heater controls, a lot of the materials – from the door tops to the centre console – feel very Polo-like, not something you’d expect from the VW Group’s premium brand, even in the supermini segment.
Its interior shortcomings are particularly exposed in comparison to the marginally more expensive Mercedes A-Class, which feels more premium even if the actual design is a bit over the top.
All A1s get digital instruments but our test car’s technology pack brought the full virtual cockpit along with wireless phone charging and the top-of-the-range 8.8-inch media/3D navigation setup with internet connectivity and personalised mapping.
Coming good on Audi’s promise of big-car tech in a small car, it’s as intuitive and easy to use as in more expensive models. The A1 also gets features such as full-LED headlights, cruise control and parking sensors that are paid-for options on its VW cousin.
According to Audi’s utterly baffling naming convention our test car was a 30 TFSI. Using a logic that only makes sense to one man in Ingolstadt that means it features a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine that, thanks to turbocharging, produces 115bhp.
Silly naming aside, it’s a good engine. The turbo means there’s decent torque and it’s responsive and smooth. It’s also frugal, returning more than 50mpg over a week’s driving – bang on the official figures.
It’s mated to an easy shifting six-speed manual and the whole driving experience is easygoing and smooth. It isn’t the most engaging car in its class but from the driver’s seat it’s a very pleasant place to spend time, although a slightly rough ride is out of kilter with the smooth engine, gearbox and steering.
That strange juxtaposition is a bit of a theme of the A1. It’s a slightly odd mix of premium Audi touches and cheaper bits.
It is only a supermini but it’s still an Audi with an Audi price tag and I wouldn’t expect the similarities with the cheaper Polo to be quite so obvious. Yes, it has fancier kit but at the expense of some cheap feeling finishes.
Its appeal will come largely to your priorities. If having the very latest and most advanced in-car tech is top of your list the Audi ticks the boxes but in many other ways, from looks to materials and driving experience there’s not a huge amount to separate it from its VW cousin.
Millions of parents could be unwittingly risking the health of their newborn babies by leaving them in car seats for longer than they should.
A new study has found that more than two-thirds of parents (69 per cent) are unaware that leaving a very young baby in a car seat for more than half an hour can cause health problems.
A 2016 study funded by the Lullaby Trust found newborn babies seated at a 40-degree angle in a car seat for as little as 30 minutes can experience increased heart and breathing rates and lower blood oxygen level due to their ‘scrunched up’ position.
The report recommended that children younger than six weeks should not be left in a car seat for more than 30 minutes but new research by Churchill Car Insurance has found that many parents are unware of the advice and as many as 22 million – two-thirds of parents – have driven for longer than this with a newborn in a car seat.
The research also found that as many as 10 million have left their baby sleeping in a car seat when not driving, rather than put them in a cot.
Suitable sleeping place
Professor Peter Fleming, from the University of Bristol was part of the team which conducted the research funded by the Lullaby Trust.
He said: “Although it is very important for parents to always use an appropriate car seat for young babies on car journeys, the baby should always be taken out of the seat and placed in a suitable sleeping place such as a cot or Moses basket after the journey. Car seats are not designed for longer periods of infant sleep.
“In the first four to six weeks after birth parents should try to avoid car journeys of more than 30 minutes for their baby, and whenever possible an adult should travel with the baby in the back seat of the car to keep a check on their position and well-being. If longer journeys are unavoidable, please take regular breaks in which the baby is taken out of the car seat as much as possible.”
The Churchill study found large generational differences in knowledge of the recommendations.
Younger parents, aged 18-34 were most likely to be aware of the advice, with 59 per cent saying the knew of the potential health risks, compared to 39 per cent of parents aged 34-54 and just 12 per cent of parents now aged 55 or older.
Alex Borgnis, head of car insurance at Churchill, said: “We understand that new parents face numerous challenges and have to make many decisions about what is best for their baby. Driving with newborns is usually unavoidable and parents shouldn’t be worried every time they need to do so, after all, the safest way for a baby to travel in a car, is in a car seat and it is also required by law. There are some simple steps parents can take to help reduce any potential risk.”
Tips for driving with babies:
Make sure you have a car seat which is designed for your baby’s age and weight and is fastened properly in the car
If you need to travel long distances, take at least a 15-minute break for every two hours driving
Where possible, have an adult sit in the back of the car with the baby for longer journeys
Try not to travel for longer than 30 minutes with a newborn baby, but if it is necessary, take regular breaks and take the baby out of the car seat when you stop driving
If the baby changes its position and slumps forward, then stop the journey and take the baby out of the car seat for a period of time
Do not leave a baby sleeping in their car seat after a journey
Do not use a car seat for anything other than transport – they should not be used as sleeping aids
Halifax is home to Britain’s worst drivers, according to the latest data from the Department for Transport.
The West Yorkshire town has the highest proportion of motorists with penalty points on their licence, with almost one in 10 drivers holding endorsements.
However, London has the most drivers with a licence-threatening 12 points or more and East Sussex is home to the country’s worst offender who, somehow, has racked up 60 points on his licence.
The data was obtained by Vantage Leasing, which broke down licence endorsement figures to find where in the country you’re most likely to encounter a driver with penalty points.
The north of England took the top three spots on the list of shame. Of the 111,820 licence holders in the HX postal area, 9.62 per cent had at least one penalty points. In second place Bradford (BD) 9.46 per cent of the 364,162 had an endorsement, while in the Huddersfield HD post code the figure was 9.04 per cent.
10 postcodes with highest proportion of penalty point holders
Drivers with points
% with penalty points
Canterbury (CT) has the fewest law-breaking drivers (or at least the fewest who have been caught) with 3.72 per cent with points on their licence, ahead of Lerwick (ZE), with 4.04 per cent and Tunbridge Wells (TN) with 4.16 per cent.
The DfT data shows there are 2,711,493 motorists in Great Britain with penalty points – 6.65 per cent of the total driving population. A significant number have racked up 12 points or more – the limit before drivers face a potential disqualification, and the figures include drivers currently banned from the roads.
London is home to 969 drivers with 12 or more points, ahead of Birmingham (393) and Peterborough (265).
A 41-year-old man from East Sussex holds the shameful record of the most active points – at 60 – while a 25-year-old from Nottingham is the worst female offender, with 48 points.
10 postcodes with lowest proportion of penalty point holders
Drivers with points
% with penalty points
Tunbridge Wells (TN)
You can be given penalty points for a wide range of offences – from speeding and using a mobile phone to driving an unroadworthy car or drink-driving. Most offences carry three penalty points but the most serious can see you handed up to 11 points at one time. Depending on the severity of the offence, points remain on your licence for four or 11 years.
Accumulating 12 or more points within a three-year period can lead to disqualification but for drivers with less than two years’ experience six points is enough to see your licence revoked and you forced to resit your test.
Two of the three most dependable models in the annual What Car? Reliability Survey are hybrids and the hybrid/EV class is the most reliable segment overall, according to feedback from 18,000 drivers.
The Lexus CT and Toyota Yaris hybrids were joint top performers along with the conventionally fuelled Kia Soul. All three scored a 100% reliability rating from owners, meaning they had suffered no faults over last 12 months.
As a segment, hybrids and EVs scored a 96.1 per cent reliability rating while luxury SUVs proved to be the least dependable, with an average reliability score of 86.5 per cent.
However, those figures hide big differences between the best and worst performing models.
While most EVs proved to be very reliable, the Renault Zoe scored a relatively low 82.3 per cent, with 44 per cent of owners experiencing a problem in the last year.
Top 10 most reliable brands (cars up to five years old)
As a brand, Renault performed poorly, coming second bottom in the rankings with a score of 84.2 per cent. But 4×4 specialist Land Rover proved to be the worst of all, with an average rating of 81.3 per cent.
Its Range Rover model was the least reliable car in the least reliable segment, with a rating of just 69.3 per cent. In contrast, the most reliable luxury SUV was the Volkswagen Touareg, with a score of 96 per cent – far above the segment average.
The Range Rover Velar was also highlighted as being particularly problematic, with almost half of owners (44 per cent) reporting problems with their car.
Reflecting a regular pattern, Japanese and South Korean brands dominated the top of the rankings. Lexus took top spot with a ranking of 99.3 per cent and related brand Toyota came second with 97.7 per cent ahead of Suzuki with 97.3 per cent.
American EV brand Tesla was ranked fourth – ahead of the likes of Subaru, Kia and Hyundai – with a rating 96.9 per cent.
Nissan was the only Japanese brand to feature in the list of least reliable brands, sitting among European and American manufacturers, including premium brands such as Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Jaguar.
Top 10 least reliable brands (cars up to five years old)
The What Car? survey used feedback from more than 18,000 owners to assess vehicles from brand new to five years old. It asked them whether their car had gone wrong in the past 12 months, how long repairs took and how much they had to pay to get their vehicle back on the road to, using the results to calculate a reliability rating.
It found that a quarter (26 per cent) of drivers had experienced at least one fault, with a non-electrical engine fault the most common.
Diesel drivers were more likely to have visited a garage than owners of other types of car, with diesels accounting for 58 per cent of all faults.
When it came to paying for repairs, 11 per cent of owners had to fork out between £101 and £200, while three per cent of repairs exceeded £1,500.
The British-built mid-sized hatch has become a bit of an institution over the decades, with a quarter of all UK motorists estimated to have owned or driven one.
We’re now on the seventh generation and while an all-new Astra using a platform from new owners PSA is coming, for the moment the GM-based model has been updated.
While this isn’t a ground-up new car it does bring some significant updates.
Not that you’d guess that by looking at it.
Vauxhall Astra Elite Nav
Price: £26,510 (£28,395 as tested)
Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Top speed: 127mph
0-60mph: 10 seconds
CO2 emissions: 109g/km
Vauxhall say the old Astra’s looks were so popular they didn’t see the need to do much beyond a new fascia, grille and headlights. Even under scrutiny it looks near-identical to the old car and compared to its key rivals – Focus, Corolla, Golf, Mazda 3 and Ceed – it’s pretty bland.
There have been some other subtle exterior modifications to add active aero shutters and remodel the underfloor in order to make the Astra the most aerodynamic model in its class. In fact, the Astra estate has the lowest drag coefficient of any estate in any class.
That’s important to Vauxhall as the main focus of this revised model is to make it cleaner and more economical than before.
To that end, the Astra’s powertrains are completely new – smaller, lighter and more efficient than those which came before.
For the first time, the Astra is offered only with three-cylinder engines. Petrol buyers get a choice of a turbocharged 1.2-litre with 108, 129 or 143bhp or a 143bhp 1.4 turbo, which comes exclusively with a CVT automatic transmission.
A single 1.5-litre diesel comes with either 104 or 120bhp and a choice of a six-speed manual or new nine-speed automatic. The nine-speed is smooth in operation under constant acceleration but brake into a corner then power out and you’ll be waiting a second or two for it to drop back down the ratios.
Across the range, economy has improved by an average of 12 per cent, with the manual 143bhp 1.2 a massive 21 per cent more fuel efficient than the old 148bhp 1.4.
That drivetrain, expected to be the biggest seller, offers economy of between 51 and 54mpg and CO2 emissions of just 99g/km. In fact, all manual transmission versions of the hatchback – both petrol and diesel – fall under the 100g/km threshold.
On paper the top-powered 1.2 sounds reasonably lively, with a 0-62mph time of 8.8 seconds, but on the road it needs to be worked really hard to get moderate performance, with a complete lack of pulling power until you’re well up the rev band.
In fact, the 120bhp diesel feels more muscular despite giving away nearly 30bhp, thanks in part to its 221lb/ft torque (210 in the auto), which gives the car more impetus at low revs.
Although their frugality is an improvement on the old car neither engine offers substantially better economy than rivals such as the Focus and Ceed, and they feel distinctly less responsive. However, thanks to the low CO2 emissions and being the only engines in class that meet RDE2 standards they do offer business buyers some significant savings.
The Astra’s also not a match for the Focus in its driving experience, despite suspension and steering improvements. It’s more closely matched to the sensible Ceed – secure, predictable and controlled but less likely to inspire you to take the long route home. Whether that’s a big deal will depend on how you plan to use your family hatchback.
Inside, the Astra has been gently refreshed with some new materials, new instruments with optional digital displays and some minor layout changes. As before it all feels well built and has a level of quality that old Astras could only dream of. Higher grade models also now get fantastically supportive and comfortable “AGR” ergonomic seats.
The media system is also new and stands out as particularly slick-operating and good-looking among its mainstream rivals. Lower-spec cars get a seven-inch screen without navigation while top-of-the-range models get the Insignia’s eight-inch internet connected navigation setup. Every version gets smartphone mirroring.
Pricing for the Astra starts at £18,885 as part of a “simplified” range that still features seven different models.
Alloys are standard, as is cruise control and air conditioning – with electronic climate control on pricier models. SRi models and upwards get the excellent seats, LED headlights, and an improved front camera with traffic sign recognition.
Push all the way up to the Focus Vignale-rivalling Ultimate Nav – starting at £26,755 – and you’ll get heated leather seats front and rear, a heated steering wheel and front windscreen, a Bose sound system, front and rear parking sensors and rear camera, wireless phone charging and Intellilux matrix LED lighting – the only car in its class with this smart dipped-beam technology.
The Astra’s refresh is hardly groundbreaking. That’s no surprise since this is a stop-gap before the all-new model arrives but where it has changed, it’s for the better.
The new engines are an improvement and offer business buyers (that’s most of the Astra’s market) some real savings over rivals. For private customers, though, their fuel economy is nothing special and they lack the responsiveness of many rivals.
Changes to the interior and specification also keep the Astra competitive but this is a tough segment and it does little to make itself stand out. If you’re looking for a straightforward, competent family hatch, the Astra is worthy of consideration but, then, so are several other models.
To try to make it stand out from the crowd, the new Sunderland-built Juke retains many of the bold but divisive styling elements of the old model and brings a wealth of new technology.
Although it’s an all-new car, the Juke still carries some of the features that made the original so recognisable. The over-under lights remain, with giant round LED headlamps set beneath skinny running lights, and the rest of the shape is also fairly familiar, with the window and rooflines pinching together at the rear to give the Juke a coupe-style silhouette. But the curvy lines of the old model have been replaced with sharper edges and the whole car is bigger than before.
At 4.2m it’s 7.5cm longer than before and 3.5cm wider, addressing one the last generation’s biggest problems – a lack of space.
Inside, a much longer wheelbase means rear passengers get nearly 6cm more knee room and a 1cm increase in headroom. The boot is also a significant 20 per cent larger – at 422 litres – yet the whole car is 23kg lighter than the outgoing model and more rigid thanks to the use of more high-strength steel.
At launch, the new Juke will come with just one engine – a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol with 115bhp. It will be offered with a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and come with selectable drive modes for “eco”, “standard” and “sport” settings.
As well as issues with space the old Juke suffered from a fairly ropey interior so the new one has been completely reimagined. There are new soft-touch materials on the dashboard, door trim and even foot wells, and the controls and storage have been reworked to be more user friendly.
All but the most basic models get an eight-inch touchscreen with smartphone mirroring. TomTom navigation and wifi connectivity are also available and the NissanConnect Services app lets owners do everything from lock doors to check tyre pressures via their phone and also works with Google Assistant.
For the first time, the Juke also gets Nissan’s ProPilot driver assist systems with adaptive cruise and lane keep assistance. Other safety technology includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, traffic sign recognition, lane intervention, rear cross traffic alert, and active blind spot intervention to stop drivers pulling into the path of a vehicle approaching from behind.
Prices for the new Juke will start at £17,395 for Visia spec, rising to £25,295 for the top-of-the-range Tekna+.
Nissan says owners will be able to extensively personalise their cars with a variety of colour combinations for body, roof and interior, as well as a choice of different alloy wheels. Tekna+ models will also offer customisable bumpers, side sills and 19-inch alloys.
Orders for the new Juke are open now, with the first customer deliveries expected in late November.
RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “Drivers have the right to feel angry that the price of fuel did not fall more in August than it did. With nearly 4.5p coming off the wholesale price of petrol drivers should have seen, at the very least, 2p a litre being knocked off at the pumps by the end of the month.”
The supermarket “big four” did reduce their prices slightly more than the average, with cuts of 0.55p on petrol and 0.6p on diesel bringing their prices to around 3.5p lower than the national average.
Mr Williams added: “While the average price charged by the supermarkets came down a little more than the UK average they should really have led the way with larger cuts which would have spurred other retailers to reduce their prices too.
“By our calculations retailers ought to be charging around 126p for a litre of unleaded based on a wholesale price of 98p a litre, which many retailers will have bought at a couple of weeks ago, and then factoring in delivery, a reasonable margin of 5p a litre and VAT. As for the supermarkets they could easily be selling at around 122p.”
Regional data showed that drivers in the south-east paid most for both fuel types – 129.72ppl and 132.73ppl – while those in Northern Ireland enjoyed lower prices than the rest of the UK at 126.01ppl and 129.02ppl.
“If Northern Ireland can charge a fairer price why can’t retailers in the rest of the UK do it?” said Williams. “For this reason we strongly urge all retailers outside of Northern Ireland to cut their prices in the next week by at least 2p a litre on both petrol and diesel.
“There was a time when a 4.5p reduction in the wholesale price would have led the supermarkets to cut their prices significantly, but unfortunately those days seem to have passed.
“Perhaps they are hedging their bets thinking there could be a further drop in the value of sterling which will could cause wholesale prices to increase again.”
Battery electric vehicles in the UK produce half the CO2 of a traditionally fuelled car, even when their battery production is taken into account, according to new research.
A study from Imperial College London has found that the increased use of renewable and low-carbon energy generation in the UK means that, on average, charging an EV produces just a quarter of the CO2 emitted by a petrol or diesel engine.
Taking into account the production of an EV’s battery as well the CO2 emissions associated with charging it over its lifetime, the study found an EV’s CO2 contribution was around half that of an equivalent internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle.
It also suggested that the “decarbonising” of the UK’s electricity supply could reduce their environmental impact further.
Winners and losers
There has been a lot of debate about how the whole-life energy costs of building and running an EV compare to an ICE vehicle, largely related to battery production and producing the electricity to recharge them.
The research was commissioned by biomass and low-carbon energy producer Drax Electric Insights to look at how changes in the UK’s energy production would affect EVs’ environmental impact, as well as comparing electric cars’ impact against ICE equivalents.
It found that after two to three years the lack of tailpipe emissions from the most efficient EV models would have balanced out the CO2 emitted in their battery production. However, it also found that not all EVs are as clean as each other.
It showed, predictably, that smaller cars with smaller batteries, such as the Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf balanced out their production emissions far quicker than larger vehicles with greater capacity batteries. The biggest luxury EV models, such as the Tesla Model S and Jaguar I-Pace, were found to take up to three times longer to pay back their carbon cost, with the battery production of the worst offenders using more CO2 than 15 years’ worth of recharging. They did, however, still contribute far less CO2 than an equivalent ICE car.
According to the study, the decarbonising of the UK’s energy production is helping make EVs cleaner over their lives by reducing the CO2 produced to charge them.
On June 30, wind, solar, biomass, and hydro met 55 per cent of the country’s electricity demand and CO2 emissions from electricity production have almost halved since 2015. The Imperial College researchers estimate that if the move towards low-carbon energy sources continues at the same pace, in five years’ time an EV bought today could be emitting 10 per cent of the CO2 of an equivalent petrol car.
Dr Iain Staffell of Imperial College London said: “EVs have real potential to reduce our carbon footprint and help meet our net-zero carbon ambitions – despite some speculation about how clean they really are.
“An electric vehicle in the UK simply cannot be more polluting than its petrol or diesel equivalent – even when taking into account the upfront ‘carbon cost’ of manufacturing their batteries.
“The carbon content of Britain’s electricity has halved in recent years and keeps on falling, whereas conventional engine vehicles have very limited scope to reduce emissions over their lifetime
“Any EV bought today could be emitting just a tenth of what a petrol car would in as little as five years’ time, as the electricity it uses to charge comes from an increasingly low-carbon mix.”
Skoda has revealed a new technology which lets parents who share a car with their children monitor where they go and set up alerts if they stray too far from home.
In a move sure to be welcomed by concerned parents and cursed as nanny state madness by young drivers, the Czech firm has introduced a geofencing option to its connected car system.
The system is part of the Skoda Connect internet-connected car service and allows owners to set approved areas on a map as well as identify no-go zones.
Should the car stray beyond the approved area then the owner is alerted via an app on their smartphone, leading to some potentially awkward conversations when their children get home.
Skoda says the system is ideal for parents who don’t want their recently qualified offspring straying too far from home or racking up big miles in the family car when they claim they’re just “popping to the shops”.
It also means they’ll be able to tell if their youngsters spend every evening sitting in a McDonalds car park.
The system works in one of two ways; users can set an approved “green” area on the map in which the car is allowed to move freely. Using the car’s GPS system to track its movements and the in-built internet connectivity, the owner will be notified via the app on their smartphone if the car moves outside this area, meaning parents will know if their kids venture further afield than they’ve agreed.
Alternatively, parents can identify a “red” area in which they don’t want the car driven at all and will receive an alert if the car enters that zone.
For families where lots of people are using the same car, the geofencing function can be tailored to be active only on set days and times and multiple different zones can be set up for different drivers, with up to four area notifications active at the same time.
A recent poll found that a third of car owners change their vehicle every four years or less, making depreciation from new a major concern for buyers.
Research by What Car? found that alternatively fuelled cars such as hybrids and battery electric cars (EVs) hold their value better than traditionally powered alternatives and a new study has now looked at just how well some of the country’s most popular models hold their value.
The research by InsuretheGap.com compared depreciation rates for some of the best-selling EVs and plug-in hybrids in the UK, but did not consider serial or “self-charging” hybrids.
The Volvo XC90 T8 proved to be hybrid/EV which held into its value best over the course of three years. According to the research, which used respected valuer Glass’s to compare models, the large SUV will lose just 31 per cent of its value.
Another premium manufacturer was in second place, with the Mercedes-Benz C350e hybrid estimated to lose 40 per cent of its original cost after three years of ownership.
The Tesla Model S was the best performing pure-electric car on the list. It was third overall, with a depreciation rate of 43 per cent.
Britain’s best-selling plug-in hybrid, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, lost 45 per cent of its value, putting it fourth on the list just ahead of the closely related Audi A3 e-tron and VW Golf GTE, which lost 47 and 48 per cent, respectively.
According to findings from WhatCar? The average internal combustion engined car loses around 58 per cent of its value after three years and 30,000 miles, putting almost all of the hybrids and EVs on InsuretheGap’s list ahead of the field.
Only the Renault Zoe lost more than this, with a depreciation of 61 per cent making it the worst-performing new car but a potential second-hand bargain for buyers looking for a small EV.
Data: InsuretheGap/Glass’s based on 3 years, 30,000 miles
Ben Wooltorton, chief operating officer at InsuretheGap, commented: “Electric cars are usually more expensive than their petrol equivalent, but their running costs are significantly cheaper.
“For example, to fully charge the VW Golf GTE car’s 8.7kWh battery, which has a driving distance of 20 miles, costs around £1.04 at home (this is 5.2p per mile). Whereas, the petrol or diesel version would cost around £2.40 (or 12p per mile) to drive 20 miles.
“Electric cars are also usually exempt from vehicle tax. However, as with all investments it pays to know how well they will keep their value over time and electric cars are no different.”
The number of people killed in drink-driving incidents has risen to an eight-year high, according to government data.
The latest Department for Transport figures for Great Britain show that the number of fatalities in incidents where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit rose to 250 in 2017.
That is a nine per cent increase on 2016’s 230 deaths and the highest number since 2009 when 340 people died.
The number of serious injuries also increased by just over 10 per cent, from 1,250 to 1,380.
The increases comes as police figures reveal that there were 56,000 fewer roadside breath tests carried out in 2017 than in 2016.
The rise in deaths has prompted calls to invest in better enforcement and cut the drink-drive limit, with some campaigners demanding a zero-tolerance limit.
‘Direct link to police cuts’
Hunter Abbott, member of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety and managing director of breathalyser firm AlcoSense said the latest figures showed the damaging impact police cuts were having on road safety.
He commented: “Police carried out just 325,000 roadside breath tests in England and Wales in 2017 – a fall of 15 per over the previous year and the lowest level since this data has been collected
“The number of road traffic officers also decreased by 30 per cent between 2007 and 2017.
“There’s a direct link between cuts in police budgets and increased drink drive deaths.
“Together with the highest drink drive limit in the developed world, it’s a lethal cocktail.
“A two-pronged strategy of better enforcement, plus a drink drive limit across the UK in line with the rest of Europe, could save many lives each year.”
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the drink-drive limit is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, while in Scotland and most of mainland Europe it is 50mg/100ml blood.
The RAC’s head of policy, Nicholas Lyes, said: “These figures are disappointing and show that much more needs to be done to eradicate the scourge of drink-driving.
“The data shows that no discernible progress has been made for nine years in reducing the number of people killed in road traffic collisions where at least one driver was over the legal drink-drive limit.
“The Government should be looking closely at all its options, even reviewing the drink-drive limit. But ultimately, it is absolutely vital that we have police enforcing laws and increasing roadside breathalyser testing so that law breakers know they will be caught.”
Joshua Harris, director of campaigns at road safety charity Brake, added: “The fact that the number of people estimated to have been killed in drink-drive-related crashes has increased to the highest level since 2009 is incredibly concerning.
“The current drink-driving limit gives a false impression that it is safe to drink and drive – this is a dangerous message and one that couldn’t be further from the truth. Research has shown even very small amounts of alcohol dramatically affect safe driving.
“The Government must act now to tackle the blight of drink driving by implementing a zero-tolerance limit, making clear to drivers that not a drop of alcohol is safe.”
While fatalities and serious injuries rose in 2017, the overall number of casualties in drink-drive incidents fell by five per cent to 8,600 – a return to the level in 2015 after a rise in 2016.
The total number of drink-drive-related collisions fell by six per cent to 5,700, also reverting to a similar level to 2015.
It’s very easy to complain that today’s roads are clogged up with nothing but cookie-cutter SUVs that all look the same, drive the same and have the same equipment.
Certainly, the C-segment SUV market is overflowing with cars badged differently but sharing lots of the same bits, and producing largely the same results.
However, recent weeks with three very different examples of the breed have convinced me that there is still some welcome variety out there.
While the Ford Kuga concentrates on offering a jack-of-all-trades approach and the Cupra Ateca is all big-power sportiness, the Citroen C5 Aircross is all about embracing the French manufacturer’s reputation for quirky, comfortable non-conformist machines.
It’s certainly quirky. The big bubbly detailing and soft edges are a sharp contrast (no pun intended) to the razor-like creases and folds that typify most rivals. The looks fit in with the broader Citroen family but are perhaps less successful than the smaller C3 Aircross, which looks cheeky and appealing where the C5 looks bloated.
The curved squares and chunky bubbles motif works better inside, where it crops up everywhere from the air vents and on-screen graphics to the door pulls and “fat biscuit” upholstery which apes that of cars from the 60s and 70s. It’s a funky and fun alternative to the more staid features of most rivals and more than a match in material quality for most of them.
The interior also shows off the C5 Aircross’s two stand-out features. Firstly, it’s the only car in its class to have three proper individual rear seats. Each slides, reclines and folds separately, allowing all sorts of configurations. From a family point of view, it also allows you to safely and easily fit three child seats in the back, unlike pretty much all its rivals. Sadly, while it wins in the width stakes, the C5 Aircross’s rear legroom is among the worst in its class, robbing it of some family friendliness.
All the seats are designed to meet Citroen’s advanced comfort philosophy – its second party piece. They’re made of multiple types of foam with different densities and are pretty soft – probably be too soft for some. I would prefer firmer cushions but must admit I didn’t feel any twinges or aches after a six-hour motorway stint.
The other main elements of the comfort-driven approach are cabin refinement that is among the best in class for noise and vibration isolation and the progressive hydraulic cushion suspension that aims to replicate the magic carpet ride of the C5’s predecessors.
It’s doesn’t quite float over speed bumps the way a 60s DS or 2CV does but, then, it also doesn’t pitch and wobble like them either.
That’s not to say that there’s no lean. Compared with something like a Ford Kuga or Seat Ateca, the body control is slack and even the soft-riding Qashqai is more composed. But it is better at absorbing road imperfections than any of them.
It proved accomplished at soaking up hour after hour of cruddy motorway and taking the pain out of city-centre routes in a way only the Qashqai can come close to replicating.
Our test car’s 128bhp diesel is another success for the PSA group. It’s not as punchy as the bigger 2.0-litre units in the likes of the Ateca or Kuga but exceeds expectations in terms of willingness, refinement and economy – after several hundred miles with five onboard and a full boot we saw a solid 46mpg.
Among many very similar C-SUVs, the C5 Aircross is another different approach but its appeal will depend on what you want from a car. It is among the very best in its class for comfort and refinement but lacks the space and body control of rivals.
However, drivers are advised by the tester to address any minor fault quickly and failing to do so could land them in trouble with the police if the fault becomes worse.
According to data gathered by Protyre, one in six cars leave the garage with a warning that its tyres or brakes will soon need attention.
While it is legal to drive a car with tyres or brakes nearing the end of their life, prolonged use like this can push them beyond legal limits, make them unsafe and leave you open to fines of up to £2,500 and penalty points.
If police catch you driving on tyres which have worn beyond the 1.6mm legal minimum you can be fined £2,500 per tyre as well as receiving three penalty points for each faulty tyre.
Other failings can also see you fined up to £2,500 and given penalty points for using a vehicle in an unsafe condition.
Warnings about suspension components were the second most common (one in seven), hinting at possibly serious failures in the near future. Suspension problems are also the second most common reason for an MOT refusal, behind problems with lighting.
The study found that a single advisory was most common but 12 per cent of drivers left the garage with two or more outstanding issues and four per cent had more than three.
Protyre’s national retail operations manager, David Sholicar, said: “Most drivers breathe a sigh of relief when their car passes its MOT, but the advisories are a warning that your vehicle could still become unroadworthy in a matter of weeks if you ignore them.
“For example, a tyre advisory could be because the tread is nearing the 1.6mm minimum depth, or the tyres may have cracking due to the tyres age, or a brake advisory could be because the brakes are nearing the wear limit, or showing signs of deterioration – potentially posing a safety risk to you and your passengers.
“Despite poor tyre maintenance and faulty brakes being the top two most common reasons for vehicle accidents in Britain, they are the most common advisory for cars that pass their MOTs. Some research even suggests that as much as half of British drivers even ignore warnings of a faulty car part until payday.”