Friday, January 4, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

2013 Skoda model offensive

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 06:45 AM PST

Skoda confirms plans to launch six new models this year

Skoda has confirmed it is to launch six new models by the end of 2013.

This image, posted on the company's Facebook page, hints at the forthcoming models. The Rapid and Octavia saloon have already been announced, and the Octavia estate, known as the Combi, will arrive in June.

The other forthcoming models are likely to include the performance flagship Octavia vRS, as well as facelifted versions of the current Superb saloon and Yeti crossover.

The new models will wear the updated Skoda logo, first seen on the Citigo, and will feature the company's new model designation typeface, due to appear first on Fabia and Roomster models.

Daljinder Nagra

Dacia Sandero

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 01:08 AM PST

The Dacia Sandero appeals, but its not quite the bargain it could, or should, have been Every value brand needs a hook, something to grab your attention – an 'everything's a pound' or 'buy now pay later' tagline. For Dacia, Renault's Romanian budget car brand, that hook is the Sandero supermini – the cheapest new car on sale in Britain, bar none.Acquired by Renault in 1999 and re-launched in continental Europe in 2004, the Dacia brand has made it to UK shores, and the Sandero represents the first rung on the model ladder. On offer from just £5995, this five-door hatchback is similar in size to class stalwarts such as the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Renault's own Clio, but it undercuts those cars on price by as much as 50 per cent.That's possible thanks to a unique sales philosophy and a relentless focus on value for money. While most new car deals are sweetened by a healthy discount off list price, Dacias are different. The price in catalogue is low – but it's the price you pay, uninflated as it is by overly generous dealer margin. And while the car in the showroom is new, it's built on a recycled Renault platform, and designed and equipped above all else to be singularly affordable. Not to be particularly fast, stylish, comfortable or interesting to drive but, first and foremost, to be cheap.Understand that and the Sandero's chunky, up-to-date exterior styling may actually come as a pleasant surprise. Designed in parallel with the fourth-generation Clio, the Sandero is intended to serve as the perfect counterpoint to the ritzy, effete-looking Renault. It's square-cut and substantial to behold but not unattractive.Having said that, not all Sanderos look quite like the one in our pictures. Sharing the vast majority of its components with the Logan saloon, there are two petrol engines and one diesel to choose from in the range – but more importantly, three trim levels. And if you plump for the £5995 1.2-litre, 74bhp Access model you'll get white paint, grey plastic bumpers and body trim, and 15in steel wheels, which give the car a particularly austere visual flavour.On the inside, low and mid-spec Sanderos get a two-tone fascia to lift the ambience a bit, but equipment levels are modest at best. On an Access you get the essentials - power steering, split-folding rear seats, stability control and ISOFIX child seat anchorages to go with your roomy cabin and decent boot – but there's no stereo, no air conditioning, no central locking and old-fashioned workout windows. You can have niceties like an alarm, sat-nav, Bluetooth connectivity and the like if you're willing to pay more. What you can't have is a steering column with reach adjustment – a potential bugbear for taller drivers.And you can't escape the impression that 'paying more' for a car like this runs contrary to its raison d'etre. Dressing a Sandero up to the same equipment level as a £13,000 Fiesta would be an act of pretence – because, while it's entirely functional, this car doesn't meet the usual supermini standard in lots of ways. Nor does it really need to.Performance levels in the 89bhp, 0.9-litre TCe petrol and the 1.5-litre dCi diesel are broadly competitive; those of the 1.2-litre petrol are less so. But none of the Sanderos have the mechanical refinement, noise insulation or ride control to stand comparison with a good £12,000 supermini. They're adequate to drive; seldom good.The three-cylinder petrol engine is better mannered than the four-cylinder 1.2, but the torque of the diesel is more convincing still; the diesel is also the only Sandero likely to return a 50mpg average. Grip levels are fairly slight, but handling is quite accurate, secure and well balanced, although flat and unsupportive seats offer some discouragement to spirited driving.All of which is good enough, we'd advise, provided you're not paying proper supermini prices for a Sandero. 'Laureate'-spec cars with a few optional extras can approach £10,000, which is simply too much to spend on a car whose mission statement leads it so far from the state of the art. Bought for significantly less than that, however, the Sandero is in a class of its own on metal for the money, and offers plenty of cheery competence to go with its liberating cheapness.

Facelifted Mercedes E-class coupé and cabriolet unveiled

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 12:01 AM PST

Revised two-door Mercedes E-class models join the recently announced saloon and estate

Mercedes-Benz has revealed a facelifted version of the E-class coupé and cabriolet.

Following hot on the heels of the facelifted E-class saloon and estate, the two door duo eschew the quad headlamp treatment of the outgoing model for a more cohesive look that brings a pair of larger headlamps configurations. The grille has also been made larger and now boasts Mercedes-Benz's latest propeller-inspired look for a cleaner appearance.

The engine line-up for the facelifted E-class coupé and cabriolet continues to mirror that of the standard E-class saloon and estate with a single petrol and two diesel units. All are carried over from the outgoing model with detailed upgrades that are claimed to provide incremental improvements in fuel economy and emissions.

The entry-level turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder direct-injection petrol engine develops 181bhp in the E200 and 208bhp in the E250. It is supported by a 2.1-litre four-cylinder common rail diesel with 168bhp in the E220 CDI and 201bhp in the E250 CDI.

Topping the range is a 3.0-litre V6 common rail diesel unit that endows the E350 with 248bhp. It receives urea injection to reduce emissions and ensure all engines comply with upcoming EU6 emission standards.

The E500 coupé, with its twin-turbocharged 4.6-litre V8 engine, has been deleted from the UK line-up.

As with their predecessors, Mercedes-Benz's new mid-range two door models also offer the choice of two gearboxes, depending on which engine they run. Included is a six-speed manual and an updated seven speed automatic with a steering wheel column mounted shift lever. Both gearboxes come with standard stop/start and brake energy recuperation systems.

Mercedes-Benz is flagging up increased levels of standard equipment, too. Collision prevention assist (a radar-based collision warning system, with the ability to brake the car in order to reduce the severity of an impact) and attention assist (a system used to detect drowsiness) are fitted as standard.

In line with Mercedes-Benz's aim to further consolidate its reputation as a leader in safety technology,  the new E-class coupé and cabriolet also receive an optional stereo multi-purpose camera that provides a three-dimensional view up to 50 metres in front of the car. The camera also permits the inclusion of a range of hi-tech anti-collision systems, including Distronic Plus with Steering Assist, which helps to keep the car centred in a chosen lane and tracks traffic in tailbacks. And with Brake Assist Plus with Junction Assist, the car is able to detect cross traffic and pedestrians and can boost the braking power if the brakes are insufficiently applied by the driver to avoid an impact.

Mercedes-Benz is yet to confirm pricing for the new E-class coupé and cabriolet but expect the E200 coupé to land at close to £33,000.

First drive review: Dacia Sandero Stepway 1.5 dCi 90 Laureate

Posted: 03 Jan 2013 10:00 PM PST

Jacked-up treatment enhances the appeal of mid and high-spec models Roughty-toughty off-road flavour works well for Dacia. It makes the Duster a singularly unpretentious and likeable machine. And on the Sandero Stepway, loosely termed a crossover supermini, it only seems to enhance the simple, functional value.Mechanically, there isn't much that differentiates the Stepway. This is ostensibly a standard Sandero hatch with plastic wheel arch extensions, faux plastic scuff plates, roof bars and an extra 40mm of ground clearance (to make 207mm in all).

Insurance cost shouldn't drive kid car choice

Posted: 03 Jan 2013 07:22 AM PST

Classics may be cheaper to insure, but the true cost might be far higher

Last year a car insurance firm published a list of its cheapest cars for a 17-year old to insure. Unsurprisingly, most are old and all are small.

The information within isn't unwarranted; I'm all too aware of the cost of insurance. It has just become more expensive for women due to an EU ruling that insurers can no longer offer them reduced rates.

But I think choosing your car purely on the basis of insurance cost is a dangerous game to play.

Of the top 10 cars mentioned by Adrian Flux Insurance as the cheapest to cover, half are classics. And the last time I checked, it's this kind of old tin that'll leave you digging deep to fix, weld and replace parts. So what you'll save on insurance, you'll be forking out to fix.

Safety standards have improved enormously over the past couple of decades, and the only cars here that have certainly been tested by EuroNCAP are the three star-rated Peugeot 107 and Hyundai Atoz. It took the Vauxhall Corsa four generations to gain a five-star rating, with a star added each time. It is unclear which generation the report focuses on. The same is true of the Vauxhall Agila.

In 2007, Which? magazine described the original Mini and Citroën 2CV as offering "frighteningly low" levels of protection. And as much as I love classics, there are few cars I'd rather crash than the tin-thin Fiat 126, original VW Beetle or Ford Anglia.

Yes, running costs are expensive. But there's no way I'd let my 17-year old hoon around in a old motor built before the invention of the three-point seatbelt. Or a car with less than three NCAP stars, for that matter.

I prefer to think of a safer car – and those increased premiums – as an insurance to help them see their 18th birthday.

Model - Average insurance cost

Volkswagen Beetle - £1450

Peugeot 107£1880

Ford Anglia - £1890

Citroen 2CV - £1950

Vauxhall Agila - £1980

Vauxhall Corsa - £1980

Hyundai Amica - £2030

Hyundai Atoz - £2030

Fiat 126 - £2030

Austin Mini - £2150

Suzuki Alto misses out as UK's cheapest new car

Posted: 03 Jan 2013 07:11 AM PST

An extension to Suzuki's VAT offer means the Alto is offered for less than £6000, but the Dacia Sandero is marginally cheaper

Suzuki has extended its 'VAT free' offer on the Suzuki Alto range, meaning the entry-level Alto SZ is available for £5,999.

But the £1200 discount on the base model fails to secure it the accolade of Britain's cheapest new car. The Dacia Sandero is priced at £4 less.

The offer, which has been extended until the end of March, sees up to £1,724 cut from the Alto range's price list.

Suzuki describes the Alto as the "best value" city car on sale in Britain. Its emissions of 99g/km make it exempt from both road tax and the London Congestion Charge.

Range Rover Sport: latest spy pics

Posted: 03 Jan 2013 07:08 AM PST

The most revealing images yet of Land Rover's forthcoming sports SUV

These latest spy shots of the forthcoming Range Rover Sport give the best indication yet of what the SUV will look like.

The Range Rover Sport largely mimics the design of its bigger brother, but will have a different front bumper with revised air intakes. It also features a large rear spoiler above the tailgate window.

The front and rear overhangs are also shorter than those on the Range Rover, giving a more athletic stance.

The engine line-up is expected to include 255bhp V6 and 335bhp V8 turbodiesels, and a supercharged V8 petrol with around 500bhp.

The new Range Rover Sport is expected to be unveiled this Spring at the Geneva motor show. Prices have yet to be announced, but a price hike of 10 per cent over the current £50,000 entry price due to the new car's aluminium platform.

Daljinder Nagra

First drive review: Porsche 911 Carrera 4

Posted: 02 Jan 2013 01:13 AM PST

Four-wheel drive makes the 911 secure and precise, but we prefer the handling purity of the standard model Porsche's 911, freshly provided with four driven wheels for UK buyers. But does it need 'em? It's a question that's been lingering ever since the '964' was introduced in 1989, and – annoyingly – as the generations come and go, it only seems to get harder to answer.Unlike Zuffenhausen's first all-paw models, the new Carrera 4 and 4S '991s' come with very few associated bugbears. The latest four-corner drivetrain, together with the wider body and fatter rear wheels that are standard on the 4 and 4S, impose a kerb weight penalty of just 50kg on the car; that's half what it used to be.In the case of our Carrera 4 manual test car, standing start acceleration suffers by just a tenth of a second, and top speed by just two miles per hour relative to the equivalent Carrera – according to the official claims. Carbon dioxoide emissions are higher, but not by enough to lift the Carrera 4 into £460-a-year 'Band L' tax disc territory. So the only cost owners really need to concern themselves with is the £6500 price premium.

First drive review: Dacia Sandero 1.2 16V 75

Posted: 30 Dec 2012 10:00 PM PST

Entry-level Sandero majors on value but lacks creature comforts and is almost exceptionally slow This – almost – is the Sandero version that really has the accolade of 'cheapest car you can buy in Britain'. It has an oldish-tech 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine instead of the clever, nominally more economical, 898cc turbo three-pot which powered the top-spec Sandero Laureate we've already covered, and loses some of the toys we used to manage so well without. In entry-level Access guise it really does cost just £5995.We've now driven the Sandero closest to the Access model that Renault/Dacia would let us near. It's the 1.2 Ambiance pictured here, but if you delete the paint on the bumpers, the trims over the 15in steel wheels, the electric front windows, the central locking, the radio/CD player and the chrome vent and instrument rings, you'd have an Access and would have saved £600 (some of which you might want to spend on a radio). It's available only in white, with naked plastic bumpers, but it's an odd pleasure to see perforated steel wheels on show with neat hubcaps in the centre.

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