Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

First drive review: Vauxhall Mokka

Posted: 09 Oct 2012 02:23 AM PDT

Vauxhall has high hopes for its sub-compact SUV, and those in the market for such a vehicle won't be disappointed The new Vauxhall Mokka, sister car of the Chevrolet Trax, left flank of GM's small car pincer movement and, if the hype is to be believed, the preordained second biggest retail seller in the brand's UK line-up by this time next year.Big boots for a sub compact SUV to fill, then, but the Mokka is plodding up the tyre tracks laid by the Skoda Yeti and the Nissan Juke, and Europe's thirst for tiny soft-roader chic apparently grows quicker than giant kelp.Consequently there's room for some significant differentiation between this model and its overseas cousins (the Buick Encore is also closely related). First, and most noticeably, Vauxhall design cues are now prevalent in a restyled body shell, and the innards have been swapped out for the firm's familiar interior look.Underneath, the Gamma II platform sits unaltered, but the European engineers have been given space to tinker liberally with the running gear. Suspension mounts, bushes, damper and spring rates have all been shifted, replaced or retuned for a revised character. The electric power steering has also been reprogrammed with greater directness in mind.Nevertheless, some of the ruggedness so important to other parts of the world arrives in the Mokka, too. Along with the front-wheel-drive version, an AWD car will be offered which uses an electromagnetic clutch to send as much as 50 per cent of the torque to the rear axle when a control module deems it necessary. The new model also comes with a Descent Control System and Hill Start Assist as standard across all four trim levels (S, Exclusiv, Tech Line and SE). Admirably, even the entry-level car gets digital radio and cruise control, but dual-zone climate control, USB socket, Bluetooth connectivity and parkings sensors are saved for the mid-spec offering where British buyers are likely to start shopping.Three engines (shared between the brands) are available: two petrols — a 113bhp 1.6-litre and a 138bhp turbocharged 1.4-litre — and one diesel, the 128bhp 1.7-litre CDTi. The less powerful petrol unit (mated to a five-speed manual) kicks off the range at £15,995, but we drove the likely much more popular diesel engine, with a six-speed gearbox, in front-drive guise.

Renault design chief hints at Alpine styling direction

Posted: 09 Oct 2012 02:02 AM PDT

Models from the reborn Alpine marque look set to be based on a brand new platform, according to Renault's exterior design chief Anthony Lo

Renault's exterior design chief Anthony Lo has dropped further hints as to the future design direction of Renault's reborn Alpine model.

Last week, Autocar sources revealed Renault is poised to imminently reveal a tie-up with Caterham to create a new Alpine in a deal that will also see the niche British sports car maker launch its own bespoke model based on the same platform.

Lo hinted that the platform to underpin a new Alpine would be an entirely new one, but maintained the official Renault line that it needed a partner with common interests if the Alpine rebirth was to be realised.

The hint that the Alpine revival would be based on a new platform would rule out Lotus's Evora platform and Fiat Auto's Alfa 4C base as potential donor cars for the new Alpine.

An Alpine concept revealed by Renault at the Monaco Grand Prix in May, which put DeZir styling on a Mégane Trophy racer was described by Lo as "misleading" in showing how a potential Alpine production car would look. But he maintained such a concept was necessary as it "made us truly realise that for Alpine to work we need a package for it [underpinnings] that doesn't exist today".

Autocar magazine 10 October preview

Posted: 09 Oct 2012 02:00 AM PDT

This week in Autocar magazine: why the Vanquish is the best big Aston ever; the inside line on the next Clio Williams; why Honda lost is way and how company boss Ito will fix it; Ford Ranger tested

This week's edition of Autocar magazine is led by our first drive in the new Aston Martin Vanquish. Steve Cropley declares the £190,000 the best big Aston ever – One-77 included – but it's not a five-star review, for reasons readers can discover.

Other cars reviewed include the Ford Ranger, which gets the full road test treatment, the Lotus Evora 414E hybrid, Mazda 6, Kia Sorento and Mercedes E300 Hybrid. Our long-term test fleet updates include the new Fiat Panda, BMW 320d and Subaru XV.

The lead news story is the latest information on the much-vaunted next generation Renault Clio Williams hot hatch, which Autocar sources have indicated is finally going to be built. We also have the inside line on a proposed Polo SUV, the next Bugatti model and an exclusive on a harder, faster Honda NSX variant that is set to be built.

Our feature section also centres on Honda; Andrew Frankel tests the last generation Honda NSX, Civic Type-R and S2000 and analyses why the manufacturer that once thrilled car buyers has lost its way, while Honda president Takanobu Ito enjoys a right of reply in a world exclusive interview with the magazine, in which he outlines where it went wrong, and how he plans to turn the business around.

Our used buying guide focuses on the Maserati Granturismo, which can now be had (reliably) from £30k. James Ruppert's wisdom falls on smart SUVs for less than a £1000, with the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 leading his recommendations.

Speed matters?

Posted: 08 Oct 2012 10:54 AM PDT

Latest DfT figures suggest that perhaps speeding isn't the main contributory factor in deaths and serious injuries on our roads; poor driving standards are more to blame

Last week the Department of Transport released the annual Road Accident statistics which were then turned into very clear graphics by The Guardian newspaper. The results made fascinating reading, not least because the issue of speeding as a notable cause of accidents was notable by its absence.

1901 people died on the UK's roads last year. Compared to 2010, that was an extra 51 fatalities. However, this fatalities figure is well down (by around a third, according to the Guardian) on second half of the last decade.

While the rate for 'fatalities as car passenger' was up by 6 per cent, it was down 10 per cent for motor cyclists and down four per cent for cyclists. Perhaps more of note was that pedestrian deaths were up by 12 per cent, surely a symptom of the smart phone generation whose eyes are not always on the road ahead.

Overall, 256 pedestrians were killed by cars and taxis, 34 by buses, 18 by motorbikes and two by cyclists.

Surprisingly, the number of road accidents has also tumbled since 2009. There were 203,950 accidents in 2011, down 2 per cent on 2010 and down an amazing 17 per cent since 2009. The deaths of drivers over the blood alcohol limit are also tumbling, down from 560 in 2006 to just 280 in 2011.

One of the most instructive breakdowns are the total fatalities by road speed limit. While just seven people were killed in 20mph zones, 612 were killed in 30mph zones and 661 in 60mph zones. Although these figures included pedestrians, it shows just how dangerous urban and B-roads can be. By stark contrast 235 people were killed in 70mph zones.

However, the real surprise is the breakdown of contributory factors in the accidents attended by police. 42 per cent of the accidents were at least partly caused by failure 'to look properly', 21 per cent by failure to 'judge other person's path or speed', 16 per cent 'careless, reckless or in a hurry'. A further 14 per cent were 'loss of control', 14 per cent a 'poor turn or manoeuvre and 10 per cent 'pedestrian failed to look properly'.

You'll have already twigged that speeding – breaking the local speed limit – has not been listed. It might be that breaking the speed limit has been merged into 'loss of control' or '…in a hurry', but there can be little doubt that speeding is not one of the main causes of serious accidents and deaths.

We've come a long way from the ridiculous and simplistic 'speed kills' mantra and the speed camera rage generated by the last government. Bad driving causes death and destruction. Tailgating, drink, drugs, going too fast in poor weather, using the phone… there are many reasons and only speeding at a fixed point – surely the cause of a tiny number of accidents – can be patrolled by a camera.

Unusually, two Autocar staffers have recently been pulled for speeding and are heading for 'speed awareness' courses. I'd be much happier about the current approach of traffic cops if drivers were also pulled for the reasons listed above and that these courses were called 'road awareness' courses.

After all, by the police's own accident investigation figures, speeding is not nearly the biggest problem. Lack of attention, poor judgment and limited driving skill are the real killers.

First drive review: 2013 Renault Clio

Posted: 08 Oct 2012 10:16 AM PDT

The fourth-generation Renault Clio ushers in a new era for Renault. The car feels more mature but no less enjoyable to drive A new Renault Clio. Big news in the supermini segment, then; and this latest Clio is a small car with about as big and important a brief as it gets. The Clio 4 is the latest incarnation of the model that helped define the segment as we know today. Mk1 and Mk2 Clios seemed to nail the class requirements perfectly: chic looks, compact proportions, fun dynamics.But then the Clio got all serious on us with the Mk3. It became bigger and more grown up, and blander to look at and inside and out in the process. And the fun dynamics had been swapped for something altogether more refined, which created a very accomplished and mature car (it still feels so today), but not something you'd recognise as a Clio.Renault knew this too. So in 2009 it went out and hired former Mazda man Laurens van den Acker as its new chief designer with the brief of bringing character and that certain kind of 'Renaultness' back to its models, however hard that is to define. The stunning DeZir concept followed a year later and did the defining for us, previewing the new face of Renault in the process and leading directly to the new Clio 4.This Clio sticks with the same fundamental accomplished underpinnings as its predecessor, but an overhaul (think Volkswagen Golf Mk5 to Mk6) means the Clio is wider, lower and with a longer wheelbase than ever, and is said to be more responsive to drive than ever as a result.An increase in size doesn't mean an increase in weight; it's around 100kg lighter than the Clio 3, a drop that, in combination with more efficient engines, has allowed Renault to do such things as fit a smaller fuel tank (45 litres vs 55 litres) without a drop in potential range.The big news under the bonnet is two new Renault powerplants making their debuts in the Clio 4, a 0.9-litre turbocharged petrol tested here and the most efficient version ever - 88.3mpg and 83g/km - of the French firm's familiar 1.5-litre turbodiesel. A new turbocharged 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine mated to a new six-speed dual-clutch gearbox is to follow in 2013.

2013 Renault Clio 4: price and specification confirmed

Posted: 08 Oct 2012 04:57 AM PDT

The new Renault Clio 4 will be priced between £10,595 to £16,095, and feature a stability control and keyless entry as standard

Renault has announced pricing for the fourth generation Clio, with prices ranging from £10,595 to £16,095. The prices place it in direct competition with its key rival, the Ford Fiesta.

The latest generation Clio is described as the most upmarket incarnation yet. Equipment levels reflect this with four trim levels available.

All models feature Bluetooth and USB connectivity, front, front side and curtain airbags cruise control, ESC, hill start assist, height and reach adjustable steering wheel, electric front windows and door mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, plus speed limiter as standard.

The £13,245 Dynamique MediaNav model is the third of four trims offered, and is expected to be the most popular. It features gloss black and chrome trims, automatic lights and wipers and a seven-inch touchscreen navigation system.

Options also include a panoramic glass roof, parking sensors and rear parking camera.

Three engines will be available at launch, including a new three-cylinder 900cc three-cylinder petrol, with which Renault claims 99g/km and 62.8mpg in ECO guise. A "heavily upgraded" 1.5-litre dCi unit delivers headline figures of 88.3mpg and  83g/km in ECO spec.

A modified version of the current car's 1.2-litre sees economy improved by 2.7mph and emissions reduced by8g/km.

Renault will release Clio Renaultsport pricing and spec details in February, ahead of its launch in the summer.

Tom Heron

Sebastian Vettel wins Japanese Grand Prix

Posted: 08 Oct 2012 04:16 AM PDT

Vettel breezed to victory from pole at Suzuka yesterday to take advantage of Fernando Alonso's first lap retirement.

Championship leader Alonso suffered a puncture after Kimi Räikkönen's Lotus clipped his Ferrari's left-rear tyre going into the first corner – forcing him to watch on as Vettel closed his championship lead to just four points.

Felipe Massa was left to score points for Ferrari and proved he still has the pace to run at the front by leap-frogging McLaren's Jenson Button and Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi during the first pit stops. He kept his red car ahead of his two rivals to score second place – his first podium of the year.

Button chased Kobayashi to the end but lost out to the Japanese driver by just one-second at the flag. Local hero Kobayashi enjoyed his third-place finish and became only the third native driver to finish on the podium at Suzuka some 22 years after Aguri Suzuki.

Elsewhere in the tussle for the first corner, Mark Webber was hit by Romain Grosjean in the second Lotus, sending him to the back of the field. He fought back to claim ninth at the flag but later called Grosjean a "first-lap nutcase" in an interview with the BBC.

Grojean was awarded a 10-second stop/go penalty but later retired with two laps to go. He later told the BBC: "I was just trying to avoid any contact. It didn't work. It was a stupid crash."

Mclaren's Lewis Hamilton found a way through the first lap bedlam, gaining places from his disappointing ninth-place grid-slot to finish behind his teammate in fifth – despite driving an ill-handling car. Lewis provided one of the highlights by racing out from the pits to beat Kimi Räikkönen into the first corner. The pair displayed supreme skill through the 170mph corner to demonstrate why they are worthy championship contenders.

Alonso still leads the championship on 194 points going into the last five races of the season. Vettel is close behind with 190, Räikkönen third, Hamilton fourth, Webber fifth and Button taking the final spot of front-runners in sixth.

Red Bull continues to lead the constructers' championship with 324 points, followed by McLaren's 283, Ferrari's 263 and Lotus's 239.

2012 Formula One drivers' championship

1 Fernando Alonso - Ferrari 194

2 Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull Racing-Renault 190

3 Kimi Räikkönen - Lotus-Renault 157

4 Lewis Hamilton - McLaren-Mercedes 152

5 Mark Webber - Red Bull Racing-Renault 134

6 Jenson Button - McLaren-Mercedes 131

7 Nico Rosberg - Mercedes 93

8 Romain Grosjean - Lotus-Renault 82

9 Felipe Massa - Ferrari 69

10 Sergio Perez - Sauber-Ferrari 66

11 Kamui Kobayashi - Sauber-Ferrari 50

12 Paul di Resta - Force India-Mercedes 44

13 Michael Schumacher - Mercedes 43

14 Nico Hulkenberg - Force India-Mercedes 37

15 Pastor Maldonado - Williams-Renault 33

16 Bruno Senna - Williams-Renault 25

17 Jean-Eric Vergne - STR-Ferrari 8

18 Daniel Ricciardo - STR-Ferrari 7

19 Timo Glock - Marussia-Cosworth 0

20 Heikki Kovalainen - Caterham-Renault 0

21 Vitaly Petrov - Caterham-Renault 0

22 Jerome D'Ambrosio - Lotus-Renault 0

23 Charles Pic - Marussia-Cosworth 0

24 Narain Karthikeyan - HRT-Cosworth 0

25 Pedro de la Rosa - HRT-Cosworth 0

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