Electric car charging could cost more at peak times, says regulator

News 23 Jul, 2018 Ofgem says 60 per cent more electric cars could be charged up if owners plug in during off-peak periods

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Electric cars: ‘Flexible’ charging aims to cut costs

Charging cars at different times of the day could save owners significant sums, Ofgem says.

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Mike Manley replaces Sergio Marchionne as boss of Fiat Chrysler

Steve Fowler 2018-07-21 21:35 Briton Mike Manley steps up to CEO role due to worsening health of former FCA CEO following surgery Briton Mike Manley has been appointed CEO of Fiat  Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) with im...

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Fiat Chrysler replaces CEO Sergio Marchionne for health reasons

Sergio Marchionne, 66, is replaced after suffering complications from shoulder surgery.

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New Hyundai i30 Fastback N prototype review

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20 Jul, 2018 7:15pm Jonathan Burn

We drive a prototype version of the new Hyundai i30 Fastback N to see if it's just as good as its hatchback sibling

Hyundai’s newly formed N performance brand, headed up by former BMW M boss Albert Biermann, is wasting no time in getting its second model into showrooms. Following the successful launch of the i30 N hatchback, the Korean firm is applying the finishing touches to the new i30 Fastback N.

To see what’s in store, we were invited to drive a camouflaged version of the four-door coupe at the Nurburgring, before it arrives in showrooms early next year.

Best performance cars on sale

While the standard i30 N clearly casts itself as a rival for the likes of Volkswagen’s prodigious Golf GTI and the Renault Megane RS, the Fastback sits in a rather more exclusive part of the market. The closest thing it has in terms of a direct rival is Skoda’s Octavia vRS, although the Hyundai is significantly more focused and packs more power.

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The basic look and setup of the i30 Fastback N, as expected, shares much of its DNA with the hatch. The camouflage applied to the prototypes masks the detail changes but its clear Hyundai is continuing with a more modest approach to styling.

But the Fastback cuts a rather elegant shape; the cascading rear end tails off into a neat boot spoiler, while two oval tailpipes and rear diffuser give it the adequate amount of aggression required for a performance model.

In fact, Biermann says, the sleeker body of the Fastback is one of the main reasons why people will choose it. Initially, there was no plan to put the i30 Fastback N into production, but once the Biermann and his team saw the first clay models they had no choice but to build it.

Beneath the skin is much of the hardware you’ll find on the i30 N; a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine sits under the bonnet, paired exclusively to a six-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels. Like the hatch there are two setups available; a 248bhp entry model and, the car we’ve driving, the more powerful 276bhp Performance pack, which adds larger brakes, 19-inch wheels, Pirelli P Zero types and a limited-slip differential.

While the powertrain remains unchanged from the hatch, the Fastback has been given a “slightly softer setup” according to Beirmann. The springs and bump stops are a little softer; the German describes it as “more elegant” and “compliant”.  

We’re restricted to two laps of the Nurburgring, which isn’t a place known for being able to detect a car’s softer side. However, it’s clear the changes haven’t affected the N’s focused but well-rounded nature; within the first few corners you can immediately detect the i30 N’s well-balance chassis set-up.

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The steering, like the hatch, remains slightly artificial in weight and gets progressively heavier when you begin to dial it up through Normal, Sport and N driving modes. However, the front end is always quick to react to steering inputs; the limited-slip differential helping slingshot you out of corners by effectively deploying the engine’s power. If you get a bit over enthusiastic with the throttle on the entry to a corner you are met with speed sapping understeer.

It feels significantly quicker than a Skoda Octavia vRS, but lacks the raw pace of some of the more established hot hatches such as the Honda Civic Type R and Megane RS. The engine delivers all it has by about 5,500rpm but that lack of overall grunt doesn’t linger for too long, as the Hyundai’s lovely balance through corners makes it a hugely enjoyable and rewarding car to drive quickly.

There’s a nice fluidity and composure to the way the Fastback N manages high-speed changes in direction, but you’re always aware of the N’s rather firm setup. In the most aggressive N mode it remains overly harsh; Sport mode slackens things off and makes for more comfortable progress.  

It feels very much at home on a track and Biermann promises the Fastback N will be even better on the road, particularly in the UK with our notoriously rutted tarmac. We’ll find out for sure in February, but on this evidence the Hyundai’s N brand is going from strength to strength.

It’s clear Hyundai’s new N brand isn’t resting on it laurels developing, on this evidence, another finely-tuned and competent performance car. It may lack the razor sharp responses of the more senior hot hatch competition, but factor in what should be an attainable price tag matched to a sleek five-door body, and the i30N Fastback is stacking up to be a promising proposition.
  • Model: Hyundai i30 Fastback N Performance pack
  • Price: £28,500 (est)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo
  • Transmission: Front-wheel drive, six-speed manual gearbox
  • Power/torque: 276bhp/378Nm
  • 0-62mph: 6.1 seconds (est)
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Economy/CO2: 39.0mpg (est)/165g/km (est)
  • On sale: Early 2019

By |July 20th, 2018|Latest News|Comments Off on New Hyundai i30 Fastback N prototype review

New Volvo XC40 T3 2018 review

Volvo XC40 T3 - front

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21 Jul, 2018 3:00pm Alex Ingram

The Volvo XC40 is one of our favourite SUVs, but this entry-level petrol version doesn't get the best out of it

The Volvo XC40 is one of our favourite SUVs. Indeed, it scooped our Best Small Premium SUV gong at the 2018 Auto Express New Car Awards earlier this month. But will the T3 petrol – the latest engine to join the range – still be a class leader?

The T3 is the entry point to the XC40 range, being the smallest and most affordable engine on offer. Prices start from £27,610 in Momentum trim, which makes it £1,400 cheaper than the entry-level diesel.

Best crossovers and small SUVs

Standard kit includes 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, and a set of 12.3-inch digital dials. This Momentum Pro model adds bending headlights, folding door mirrors, a heated windscreen and an electric driver’s seat.

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Onto the engine itself. It’s 1.5-litre, three-cylinder, direct injection turbocharged petrol unit making 154bhp, and is offered only with front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox. It’ll be paired with a plug-in hybrid eventually, but for now it works alone.

Although it’s the first time Volvo has produced a three-cylinder engine, it’s not completely unfamiliar: it’s closely related to the brand’s 2.0-litre four-pot unit - a modular configuration means that, in effect, it’s three-quarters of the existing engine.

While engineering the T3 won't have been anywhere near as straightforward as simply lopping off a cylinder, when you fire it up for the first time it sounds like that’s all that has happened. The rough, rattly noise at idle sounds unpleasant – to the point where you might mistake it for a diesel.

Fortunately, refinement improves considerably on the move. There’s maybe a little more whooshing and hissing from the turbo than you might expect, but the engine itself sounds smooth all the way to the red line, and there’s very little vibration through the pedals or steering wheel.

But from here, the engine begins to fall apart. Performance is fine if you’re willing to rev it out, but off-boost there’s almost no power at all. If you accelerate on a motorway from around 65mph in fifth or sixth, nothing really happens. Blame such long gearing - 2,000rpm at 70mph is good for refinement, but you’ll need to shift down at least two gears to make any sort of progress at all.

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The problem is that, long gearing or not, fuel economy is poor. In a mix of urban, motorway and A-road driving, we calculated an average of just 29.3mpg. Sit at a constant 70mph, and you’ll be lucky to top 37mpg.

But is the gearbox any better? Well it’s reasonably precise, but a slightly notchy, springy action means that plenty of alternatives are more pleasant. The square gear knob isn’t nice to hold and, considering the manual V60 uses a rounder design, seems like an odd choice.

The one plus to this engine is weight. Compared to a four-wheel drive, diesel XC40 auto, the T3 weighs almost 150kg less. The lack of mass over the nose makes it feel noticeably more darty than the heftier models in the range. The soft damping and light steering means that it’s never truly fun to drive though. For an entertaining small SUV, you're better off in a BMW X1.

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Spend an extra £1,500 on the Intellisafe Pro pack, and the XC40 comes equipped with Volvo’s semi-autonomous Pilot Assist system. It’s one of the very best set-ups of its type on the market, and its ability to steer between lanes autonomously for short periods makes it an incredibly relaxing companion for motorway driving. At least until you have to shift down a gear again.

But the driving enjoyment should only be a small consideration for a car like this, and elsewhere, the T3 remains the same brilliant XC40 that we’re familiar with. The funky, chunky exterior remains - even is this penguin-spec colour scheme isn’t perhaps the most flattering combination. Inside it’s even more attractive: the dashboard layout is clean, well-screwed together, and offers a breath of fresh air against the dowdy German alternatives in this class.

The nine-inch touchscreen infotainment system looks great, and on the whole works smoothly. An extra £300 for smartphone integration seems a bit stingy though, and the portrait-style touchscreen doesn’t lend itself well to displaying the landscape-oriented Android Auto and Apple CarPlay - their displays are forced into a very small area which makes them quite fiddly to use.

The XC40 is a brilliant SUV - funky on the outside, beautifully luxurious on the inside, and comfortable and relaxing to drive. However, this 1.5-litre petrol engine and manual gearbox mean the T3 is the weakest link in the range. This three-cylinder unit will eventually form the basis of a plug-in hybrid powertrain, and based on this encounter, an extra wallop of torque from a punchy electric motor is just what it needs.
  • Model: Volvo XC40 T3 Momentum Pro
  • Price: £29,160
  • Engine: 1.5-litre 3cyl turbo petrol
  • Power/torque: 154bhp/265Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 7.8 seconds
  • Top speed: 124mph
  • Economy/CO2: 40.4mpg/146g/km
  • On sale: Now

By |July 20th, 2018|Latest News|Comments Off on New Volvo XC40 T3 2018 review

Jaguar E-Pace review

For  Good handling, sporty looks, plenty of choice Our Rating  4 Against  Interior doesn’t wow, frustrating infotainment, expensive to buy and run 2018 ...

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New Nissan Leaf Nismo revealed – pictures

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Hyundai confirms development of new ‘halo’ sports car

News 20 Jul, 2018 A new halo model that will sit within Hyundai’s N division is in the pipeline

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Best summer cars 2018

Dean Gibson 2018-07-21 11:00 With wall-to-wall sunshine, this year is turning into a hot one. Here we pick 10 hot cars to make the most of the summer months Summer is the perfect time to get out on the road and enjoy...

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