fbpx

Malta's 1st Motoring Website

Test Drives Comments (0) |

The 2 Series Coupe continues a legacy of accomplished BMW two-doors

BMW has a fine history of making coupes. These compact two-doors have represented the sportier edge of the firm’s line-up for a long time, providing an involving mode of transport for those who don’t mind sacrificing a little in the way of practicality for sleek looks and dynamism.

Now the previous-generation 2 Series – which arrived as a coupe-version of the hatchback 1 Series – went down a treat with buyers, which is why the new version has been given a whole host of new touches and features to ensure that it still hits the mark with drivers. We’ve been testing it out in popular 220d layout.

Things have really changed with this new age of 2 Series Coupe. Whereas the old version was based upon the 1 Series, this latest version is, in fact, underpinned by the same platform you’ll find underneath the 3 and 4 Series.

Photos: PA Media

BMW says that it wanted to retain the rear-wheel-drive layout that enthusiasts love – but that’s something you won’t find on the front-wheel-drive 1 Series, which is why the different platform was adopted.

It’s considerably shorter than the 3 and 4 Series, while its overall appearance is far more muscular than ever before. Even our diesel-powered model looked like it could be doing laps of the Nurburgring.

Our test car uses a diesel engine, namely a 2.0-litre turbocharged unit incorporating mild-hybrid technology for more efficient running – and boy, is it efficient. BMW claims that it’ll return up to 60.1mpg on the combined cycle and we achieved that during our time with the car. Emissions stand at 123g/km, meanwhile.

In terms of performance, the 220d’s 188bhp and 400Nm of torque equate to a 6.7-second 0-60mph time and 147mph top speed. It is, in fact, slightly quicker than the petrol-powered 220i. Power is fed to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox, with gear shift paddles fitted behind the steering wheel to allow you to swap cogs on your own should you want to.

The 2 Series Coupe feels like a 3 Series or 4 Series when it comes to how it drives. That is to say, very good indeed. The whole package feels remarkably grounded, with excellent body control combined with a real sense of balance to give the 2 Series Coupe great agility and eagerness through the bends. Even the diesel engine mixes into the equation, providing more than enough low-down punch to keep things interesting.

Yes, the low-speed ride is a little sharp, but on a cruise, the 2 Series Coupe feels remarkably refined and grown-up. This is a package that feels at the top of its game, giving the whole car that involved feel that people are looking for. Well-isolated road and wind noise also helps to keep the 2 Series Coupe hushed, even at motorway speeds.

As we’ve already touched upon, the 2 Series Coupe has a seriously beefed-up look compared with its predecessor. The boxy arches look really cool, and while the bonnet dome which features on this diesel-powered model might be a little over the top, it definitely works to inject some extra drama into the car’s overall design.

Around the back, the sharp lights really do help to finish off the look. Purists might enjoy the Coupe’s regular-sized kidney grilles, too, as opposed to the super-large versions fitted to other BMW models.

Are there some hints of 4 Series here? Maybe slightly. But the more compact proportions of the 2 Series mixed with its chunky looks do help to differentiate it from the rest of the range. Our car was finished in eye-catching Portimao Blue, too, which only helped to make it stand out even further.

If you’ve ever sat inside a 3 Series the cabin of the 2 Series Coupe will be immediately recognisable. The whole dashboard area wraps around the driver, with the large central screen within easy reach of the person behind the wheel. Material quality is good overall, too, with some harsher plastics only used lower down.

Space in the back? Well, that’s pretty tight as you might expect. Taller adults are unlikely to find the rear seats of the 2 Series Coupe all that comfortable, though there’s just enough space for smaller kids or babies in car seats. Open up the boot and you’ll find 390 litres, which is actually 20 litres more than you’d find in the older car. It’s also nicely square and really easy to access, though the load lip is a little pronounced.

The 2 Series Coupe can be specified in M Sport trim only. You do get plenty of equipment, mind you, with headline features including automatic air conditioning and an M Sport leather steering wheel, as well as a full M Sport exterior styling pack. The front seats are also fitted with an automatic slide-forward function to make entering and exiting the rear of the car a little easier.

The new 2 Series Coupe feels like an extension of that glowing history that BMW has for making accomplished two-doors. It’s comfortable when it needs to be, but involving and exciting when required too.

Though diesel may be losing favour with buyers, this 220d model still feels like a real sweet spot and will be particularly good for those travelling further distances as they’ll be able to reap the benefits of its excellent fuel economy. Overall, the 2 Series Coupe feels like an old-school BMW with up-to-date touches – and that’s no bad thing at all.

Read more

Test Drives Comments (0) |

Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio Estrema brings added adjustability to this SUV

Alfa Romeo isn’t one to rest on its laurels when it comes to expanding its range. A consistent fan of the special edition or limited-run model, it’s never much of a surprise when the Italian firm brings out a new version of its existing cars as a way of injecting a little extra interest into one of its product lines. In fairness, most manufacturers are the same.

Enter the Estrema. It’s a new specification designed to offer the dynamic involvement of the top-rung Quadrifoglio but without the added list price or raised running costs that come with that tip-top model. It’s being introduced on both the Stelvio SUV and Giulia saloon and here, we’re trying the former.

On the outside at least you’d be hard-pressed to notice the difference. This is a Stelvio with a little extra presence courtesy of added carbon-fibre trim pieces and new 21-inch alloy wheels. You also get darkened ‘Estrema’ badges on the flanks and the badges around the back are black too for a more undercover look.

Photos: PA Media

Underneath, we’ve got the same engine setup as you’ll get in the Veloce – the model the Estrema now sits above. Importantly, the Estrema comes with adaptive dampers as standard, something you had to pay more for on the Veloce, but which have now been removed from that model. You also get a limited-slip differential as standard.

If you’re after a de-tuned version of the 2.9-litre V6 from the Quadrifoglio here, then you’re likely to be disappointed. No, here we have 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine from the Veloce, and it kicks out the same amount of power as that car, too – 276bhp and 400Nm of torque. Driven to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox, it equates to a 0-60mph time of 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 142mph, which are still pretty respectable for a ‘regular’ model.

In terms of efficiency, we’re talking 32.1mpg combined and CO2 emissions 198g/km, so pretty much on the money for a car of this size and in this segment.

We’ve had little issue with the way the regular Stelvio drove in the past and because of that, understandably, we’ve got little issue with the Estrema. The addition of the adaptive dampers means you can stiffen or soften them off – but only in sport mode, oddly. It does mean that in normal driving modes you can’t adjust the suspension – it stays in its softest setting by default – and though this isn’t exactly a dealbreaker, it would’ve been nice to have the option. You can feel the differential working through tighter corners, too, which helps to give a slightly keener edge to how the car drives.

The rest of the car is just as good as before. Alfa Romeo has hit a real dynamic sweet spot with both the Giulia and Stelvio, packing some genuine responsiveness and agility into these run-of-the-mill cars. Couple this with a decent punchy engine and you have a car that is really enjoyable to corner quickly, but comfortable at a cruise too.

The added features that you get from the Estrema do help to boost this car’s appearance even further, but the Stelvio was no bad looking thing in the first place. Certainly against its key competition from German manufacturers it stands out with its more interesting design. It’s got a number of those hallmark Alfa design touches such as the front grille and wheels, applied to a modern SUV style. It’s still a successful design, just as it always was.

Though the blacked-out badges might be a key bonus for some people, the Estrema badges are completely lost on darker-coloured cars – our black test car meant that these new badges were barely noticeable.

There are some nice updates for the cabin on the Estrema. You’ve got race-inspired red stitching throughout, while carbon fibre has been used on a variety of different elements too. Combined with lashings of Alcantara, it creates a genuinely upmarket-feeling place to be.

We also really liked the seats. Again, they’re trimmed in Alcantara, but toe the line between a standard seat and a full-on bucket well, providing ample support without feeling too claustrophobic or cinched-in.

The Estrema does bring some added bells and whistles over the regular Veloce. There’s a lot of carbon-fibre going on here, covering the wing mirrors and front grille as well as all of those interior elements. All Stelvio Estrema models ride on 21-inch wheels as standard too, while darkened Estrema badges sit on the flanks and bumper. The standard-fit infotainment system works well too, though its menu layout can be a little confusing at times. Still, the inclusion of a rotary controller makes things a little easier than with some solely touchscreen-operated systems.

Is it a whole lot more than you’d find on the previous range-topping Stelvio? Not particularly. But if you’re fancying a slightly sportier feel, then the Estrema will no doubt appeal quite a bit.

The Estrema arrives to add a little extra interest to what is already quite an interesting SUV. The addition of adjustable dampers does give some added flexibility to those who want to control the Stelvio’s ride but, in truth, the regular car feels more than adequately set up in its standard form so this addition feels neither here nor there.

Is it a slightly watered-down version of the range-topping Quadrifoglio? Not really. It feels like Alfa could’ve done slightly more to bring some of the energy from that tip-top version into the Estrema. As it is, this is still a fine car but one which only brings a handful of elements over the standard – and already very good – Stelvio.

Read more

Test Drives Comments (0) |

Is the Toyota bZ4X the EV to shake up this brand’s line-up?

Toyota has unveiled its first battery-electric vehicle. TED WELFORD heads to Barcelona to try it out in prototype form

Toyota has led the way when it comes to hybrid cars for a quarter of a century and has produced more than 15 million electrified models to date.

But for a firm with such a vast amount of experience when it comes to hybrids, it’s taken a remarkable number of years for the firm to lose the engine and create a pure-EV. The wait is now over, though, with the arrival of the bZ4X. Representing a bold new step for the world’s largest car company, has it been worth the delay?

We’ve been to Barcelona to put a pre-production prototype through its paces, though it’s pretty close to the finished article – bar the funky disguise used with these test cars.

Photos: PA Media

Make no mistake this is no normal Toyota with an electric powertrain squeezed in – this is a brand-new model based on a bespoke platform designed purely for EVs. It’s given Toyota’s engineers greater scope when it comes to the car’s look and packaging.

Its name also needs a bit of explaining. ‘bZ’ stands for ‘beyond zero’; essentially Toyota’s pledge to do more to improve the planet than just creating zero-emission models. Meanwhile, the ‘4’ translates to its size, and the ‘X’ the fact it’s an SUV. You can expect five more EVs from the Japanese car firm with a similar naming strategy in the next few years, while it’s worth noting that the BZ4X has partly been developed with Subaru, who will rebrand it as the Soltetta for its first EV.

At launch, there’s the choice of two bZ4X models – both of which use the same 71.4kWh battery, but with the choice of front- or all-wheel-drive – the former using a single motor with 201bhp on the front axle, and the latter two equally-sized motors (one on the front and one on the rear) to make a combined 215bhp and 336Nm of torque.

By EV standards it’s not a massive amount of power (it’s worth remembering that plenty of the bZ4X’s rivals, including the Hyundai IONIQ 5 and Volkswagen ID.4, offer 300bhp) but it’s still enough to take this SUV to 60mph in 6.7 seconds, with the top speed capped to 100mph.

As for range, the BZ4X’s figures are yet to be fully confirmed due to them not quite being ready for sign-off, but Toyota says it should be able to travel ‘more than 255 miles’ in all-wheel-drive form, or 280 miles if you stick with just the front motor. As for charging, it can be plugged in at up to 150kW, meaning an 80 per cent charge will take around half an hour.

Even though our test car isn’t quite the finished product, Toyota largely seems to have hit the nail on the head when it comes to the way the bZ4X drives. Though the proof in the pudding will be back on Britain’s poor-quality roads, it seems to ride impressively well, despite sitting on relatively large 20-inch alloy wheels.

Though it might not have the outright pace of some of its competitors, it feels more than powerful enough for a car of this type. It handles well, too, having a good degree of weight to the steering, and offering only a small amount if body lean. There is quite a lot of wind noise generated, though we expect this to be improved with the production car.

The other trick up the bZ4X’s sleeve is its off-roading ability, helped by the tie-in with Subaru. Featuring a dedicated X-Mode for muddier and snowier terrains, as well as a feature known as Grip Control – essentially an off-road cruise control – this Toyota is remarkably accomplished on tougher terrain, providing you go for the all-wheel-drive car.

Even though Toyota has already unveiled the bZ4X in full, our test cars were still wearing a disguise – used to signify that they are still in prototype stage, as there are currently just four versions of this SUV in Europe.

However, the thing that immediately surprises you about the bZ4X is its size. A bit like the Hyundai IONIQ 5, it doesn’t look all that big in pictures, but up close it’s a fair size, and is actually longer than Toyota’s hybrid RAV4 SUV, even though it’s lower, which gives it a neater presence. The production cars will feature huge chunky black plastic, which in pictures does look a bit strange, though will hopefully suit a darker colour, rather than the grey pictured.

The bZ4X’s interior represents quite the shift for Toyota, headed up by a new 12-inch touchscreen, which is far sharper and easier to use than the systems from this firm of late. Beneath it is a new touch panel for adjusting the climate settings – not too dissimilar to those used on the Hyundai Tucson.

The use of Toyota’s bespoke e-TNGA platform also frees up a huge amount of space, with the bZ4X offering a vast amount of legroom in the back, while the 452-litre boot is a decent size. There are some weird omissions, though, the main one being the fact it has no glove box whatsoever, a strange idea given this is likely to be bought by families.

The driving position is also slightly odd – and likely won’t suit all drivers – because the digital driver display is blocked by the rim of the steering wheel. It’s not a too dissimilar setup to that seen on modern Peugeots, but just seems a bit of an afterthought from a marque known for its fantastic engineering.

At the back of the mind, there was the thought that the bZ4X might just have been engineered by Toyota as a quick fix to address the fact it didn’t have an EV in its range. But from our first drive of this prototype, it’s safe to say that’s not the case.

This is an EV that’s good to drive, practical and well-built, while offering genuine off-roading ability – something that none of its rivals can offer. The lack of glovebox, average range and questionable driving position will likely mean the bZ4X doesn’t quite sit at the top of the family SUV class, but it’s certainly a very positive sign of things to come from Toyota.

Read more

Test Drives Comments (0) |

Does the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace impress in the family SUV class?

Volkswagen has tweaked its seven-seater Tiguan. TED WELFORD gets behind the wheel to see if it’s worth considering.

The Tiguan has been a roaring success for Volkswagen since its introduction 15 years ago, and today it’s this German firm’s best-selling car around the globe – even more so than well-known models like the Polo and Golf.

Given its popularity, it’s not surprising that Volkswagen looked to expand the range with a roomier, stretched version offering seven seats, which is known as the Allspace. Launched in 2017, globally it outsells the regular five-seat model, though here in Britain, only around one-in-eight choose it. Following on from updates to the standard Tiguan, this seven-seater now gets a range of tweaks, but is it worth considering?

Volkswagen isn’t known for major facelifts, so the changes on this Tiguan Allspace are by no means huge. Styling changes include a redesigned front-end, with higher-spec versions bringing full matrix LED headlights, which are called ‘IQ.Light’. These get ‘dynamic’ indicators and even an illuminated strip that runs between the two headlights.

Photos: PA Media

Elsewhere the Allspace adopts the same simplified trim level range that’s been rolled out across the Volkswagen range – with new Life, Elegance and R-Line grades launched.

Unlike the regular Tiguan, the Allspace doesn’t get a plug-in hybrid option, and instead offers a broad range of petrol and diesel engines, ranging in power from 148bhp to 242bhp.

Our test car uses Volkswagen’s well-renowned 2.0-litre turbodiesel, which here puts out 148bhp and 360Nm of torque, though a more powerful 197bhp version is available. Paired to a seven-speed DSG gearbox, and in this case with 4Motion four-wheel-drive, it can manage 0-60mph in 9.5 seconds and would reach a top speed of 122mph.

Volkswagen also claims 42.8mpg and 173g/km of CO2 emissions, though we found it to be far better on fuel than this – on an extended motorway run it averaged more than 50mpg.

While fewer buyers than ever might be choosing diesels, if you do a lot of miles – or frequent motorway runs – this 2.0-litre TDI remains a superb option. It’s impressively smooth once up to speed, while even at motorway speeds it sits at low revs – enabling that efficiency we’ve mentioned. Around town, it does suffer from the typical diesel gruffness, while the DSG gearbox can be hesitant, but we’d still choose it over the petrol.

The ride can prove a bit unsettled at slower speeds too, but these faults are immediately ironed out as the speedometer climbs, as it’s impressively comfortable – helped by wide and cushioning seats that make long motorway runs entirely hassle-free. You’re unlikely to drive this seven-seater too enthusiastically, but it does handle well for its size should you want to put your foot down a bit.

Ever since the Tiguan launched in second-generation form in 2016, it’s always been a handsome thing, and we’d argue the Allspace is even more so. At first glance, it doesn’t look too different to the standard car, but up close it is quite chunky, with the sheer size of its lengthened doors the easiest way to tell it apart from the normal Tiguan.

Design changes aren’t huge, but it’s the front end that gets the bulk of the alterations – receiving a more aggressive and prominent stance than the old car thanks to new chrome trim and air inlets. As we’ve mentioned, more intricate matrix LED lights are introduced too, though we’re not personally a fan of the illuminated grille strip. It’s something Volkswagen has rolled out on many of its models, and just makes the Tiguan look a bit chintzy, and at odds with the otherwise classy design.

The thing that strikes you about the Tiguan Allspace is the sheer space on offer. The cabin offers a vast amount of room, while the panoramic glass sunroof (fitted as standard to Elegance cars) helps the cabin to feel really light and airy.

Though the Tiguan doesn’t adopt VW’s modern buttonless interior that you find in models like the latest Golf, we reckon the simpler and clearer layout here for the touchscreen and digital dials is actually better. The new touch control panel for the climate settings is a bit fiddly to use, however, and no better than the good old-fashioned knobs that were there before.

As we’ve mentioned, the Allspace adopts a simplified trim range, though all models get a huge amount of kit as standard.

Most will likely find all they need in the entry-level Life version, as equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, three-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control and an eight-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and smartphone mirroring.

Both the Elegance and R-Line command quite a premium. They gain heated seats, greater driver assistance technology and keyless entry, with the Elegance bringing more high-end features like a panoramic sunroof and 30-colour ambient lighting, while the R-Line favours sportiness with its larger 20-inch alloy wheels and more aggressive styling kit.

If you’re looking for a large family SUV, they don’t get much better than the Tiguan Allspace at this price. Its combination of quality, comfort and space will please many, while generous equipment levels and a great selection of engines really adds to its appeal.

It is not, however, the roomiest of seven-seaters, with a cramped third row only really suitable for children or occasional use – larger models like the Kia Sorento are better in this area. For many, the standard Tiguan will still tickplenty of boxes, and save you a few thousand too. But if you want that extra room and option of having seven seats, the Allspace is certainly worth a look.

Read more

Test Drives Comments (0) |

Is Suzuki’s new Vitara ‘Full Hybrid’ worth considering?

Suzuki is expanding its electrified range with a new hybrid version of its Vitara crossover. TED WELFORD sees if it’s worth checking out.

You might not think of Suzuki as being at the cutting edge of electrification, but this is a manufacturer that was one of the first to introduce a mild-hybrid.

Suzuki is now rolling out its own in-house-developed hybrid system, which makes its first outing here on the brand’s compact Vitara SUV. But is it any good?

Not to be confused with Suzuki’s mild-hybrid 1.4-litre ‘BoosterJet’ engine, which will be sold concurrently with this new ‘Full Hybrid’ model – albeit only in manual guise – this new Vitara powertrain uses an adapted 1.5-litre petrol engine from the loveable-if-flawed Jimny, and pairs it with an electric motor and battery.

Photos: PA Media

We’ll explore more on it later, but it’s important to note that the Vitara gets no other changes as part of this new hybrid version, with the exception of a new ‘Eco’ driving mode.

As we’ve mentioned, the Vitara Hybrid gets a redeveloped 1.5-litre petrol engine, connected to a 140V lithium-ion battery and inverter.

The stats from it don’t make for the most impressive reading, with the combined setup putting out just 113bhp and 138Nm of torque. These also aren’t favourable next to the mild-hybrid version, either, which makes 127bhp and 235Nm of torque.

Sprinting – well, slowly accelerating – to 60mph takes 12.5 seconds, while Suzuki claims a top speed of 111mph. On a brighter note, the Vitara Full Hybrid is pretty good on fuel, returning up to a claimed 53mpg with low 121g/km CO2 emissions in front-wheel-drive form. It’s worth noting that an ‘All Grip’ all-wheel-drive model remains available, which is somewhat of a rarity in this class.

One of the best things about the standard Vitara is its boosty petrol engine, and when combined with the manual gearbox it’s actually decent to drive. But sadly this new full hybrid doesn’t have much going for it.

The stats speak for themselves, as it’s 2.5 seconds slower to 60mph than the standard car, and while this is not a car all about performance, it really is exceptionally slow – not helped by the power-sapping six-speed automated manual gearbox, which is a real letdown.

When you need some power, such as when pulling away from a junction, it just dilly-dallies about and gives you nothing for what feels like seconds. There are a few positives, though, as it will quite easily return close to 50mpg in steady driving (though so will the mild-hybrid) and it’s comfortable enough in most settings.

Suzuki hasn’t changed the look of the Vitara at all, but it remains quite an appealing and sturdy-looking choice. There are some very bright colours for those that don’t like anything too monochrome – such as the fluorescent Solar Yellow and Atlantis Turquoise – while in tandem with the contrasting black roof, makes for quite a smartly-styled SUV.

The Vitara’s boxy and chunky looks will also appeal to those that like something a bit more rugged-looking, while it sits noticeably higher up than rivals like the Ford Puma and Renault Captur.

It’s business as usual in the Vitara’s interior, as it continually uses the same switchgear we’ve seen from Suzuki for some time. There’s the same cheap tablet-like touchscreen in the middle, which isn’t high-tech, but functional and easy enough to use, while the button and layout– while lacking in ‘premium’ feel – is easy to use and operate on the move. The leather and suede-effect seats on top-spec cars look and feel the part too, though the same can’t be said for all the materials used in the Vitara’s cabin.

There’s not a vast amount of space on offer either in this hybrid, as the boot measures just 289 litres, due to the lack of underfloor storage – because of the room taken up by the battery. If you have passengers sitting in the rear, it’s worth avoiding the top-spec SZ5 too, as while its panoramic glass roof is a nice high-end touch, it puts a significant dent into headroom.

One area where there are no complaints on the Vitara is when it comes to equipment levels. Even as standard, the SZ-T features 17-inch alloy wheels, climate control and the aforementioned touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and satellite navigation. It also provides class-leading levels of safety equipment, including adaptive cruise control and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring.

Move up to the SZ5 – which you have to choose if you want all-wheel-drive – and it brings a panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, suede seat upholstery and front and rear parking sensors.

There’s really not a huge amount going for this new Suzuki Vitara Full Hybrid, and its main weakness is the fact the standard car is better in most areas. This hybrid model is less powerful, much slower, more expensive and not as nice to drive as the mild-hybrid Vitara, with its only real advantage being that it’ll be slightly cheaper to run.

If you like the Vitara, which you should as it’s well-equipped, looks good and offers great value, choose the mild-hybrid, though you will have to settle with a manual gearbox. If an automatic is a must, look outside of Suzuki at a Ford Puma or Skoda Kamiq.

Read more

Test Drives Comments (0) |

Is the BMW 230e xDrive Active Tourer a plug-in hybrid with practicality on its side?

The 2 Series Active Tourer is getting a plug-in hybrid setup and we’ve had an early try of it. JACK EVANS explains what he found.

BMW’s new 2 Series Active Tourer is on the way. Initially launched with a series of petrol and diesel engines – as well as mild-hybrid variants – it’s set to be joined later on by a new plug-in hybrid version, bringing a whole lot of performance as well as plenty of electric-only ability.

BMW was keen to stress that the cars we were in were prototype vehicles, but on face value at least they appeared awfully road-ready. The big change here, of course, is that hybrid powertrain, which is one of BMW’s very latest plug-in hybrid setups designed to offer a boatload of efficiency as well as a surprising amount of power for a car like the Active Tourer.

Elsewhere, we’ve got BMW’s latest iDrive operating software – which has already seen use in cars like the i4 and iX – as well as a spacious interior with loads of flexible loading solutions.

Photos: PA Media

We’re driving the 230e xDrive, which is the most powerful 2 Series Active Tourer you’ll be able to get. Between a combination of a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine and its electric motor, you’re getting a huge 322bhp, while a 16.4kWh battery – of which 14.2 is usable – brings a very decent electric range of up to 55.9 miles. Four-wheel-drive is here as standard, too.

BMW claims a very respectable 5.3-second zero to 60mph time, yet despite this performance, you could see up to 256.8mpg when the batteries are fully charged. Incidentally, a full charge will take two and a half hours when hooked up to a conventional 7.4kW home wallbox. CO2 emissions of between 22 and 30g/km are also impressively low.

Off the bat, it’s clear to see that this is a very quick car. It might be even more exaggerated simply because you’re in a practicality-focused MPV, but the 230e really does pick up pace quickly. The steering is slightly too light, mind you, which can lead it to feel a touch nervous.

One of the most impressive aspects of the whole package is the regenerative braking. BMW has fitted it with an intelligent system that can automatically detect a car in front and will adjust the amount of braking accordingly. It even uses satellite navigation information to predict bends ahead and change the regen to reflect this – and the system doesn’t have to have a route pre-programmed in order for this to work, either. It’s really clever and feels even more intuitive from behind the wheel, too.

This plug-in hybrid version doesn’t have that many styling tweaks over the regular 2 Series Active Tourer. It’s still a reasonably high-up design, with those uber-large kidney grilles dominating the front end of the car. Around the back, the hybrid gains some extra badging to denote its plug-in nature, but there’s very little to differentiate this against the standard car.

The easiest way to tell this car apart from the regular 2 Series Active Tourer is its charging flap, which is located on the front wing of the car and features a small amount of chrome detailing.

Much like the regular Active Tourer, this plug-in hybrid has a very wide, spacious cabin which has plenty of storage for odds and ends. The area usually taken up by a regular handbrake has been cleaned up too, freeing up extra storage space. The front seats offer a wide view of the road ahead while those sitting in the rear can take advantage of a decent amount of head and legroom.

As with so many other plug-in hybrids, the 230e does suffer a boot space penalty due to its electrified powertrain. So whereas in the 218i petrol you get up to 470 litres or 1,455 litres with the rear seats flat, this shrinks to 406 and 1,370 litres respectively in the plug-in hybrid. It’s still not a bad amount of space, mind you – but if you’re after the best possible practicality you’ll most likely lean towards those regular models.

We’re yet to have a full idea of the plug-in hybrid’s specification, but going off the regular car’s setup it’s likely that it’ll get a lot of equipment as standard. All cars get the latest version of BMW’s iDrive system, which is lifted from the i4 and iX electric models. As with the standard Active Tourer, there’s no rotary controller, so you have to rely on either touch or voice controls.

Luckily the screen itself is responsive, but it seems like an awful lot of information has been located within the system, requiring a few too many menus to access simple functions. The heated seats, for instance, need you to go through two separate menus to switch on.

With its very powerful hybrid setup, the 230e is a bit of a dark horse in the segment. Though it looks reasonably ‘normal’ from the outside, it’s got some genuine performance to tap into and this could make it an appealing prospect for those who want practicality but also a decent turn of pace, too.

But that reduced boot space does mean that the plug-in hybrid Active Tourer goes against what people will be attracted to the car for in the first place. That said, lower running costs and improved emissions might help to counteract this.

Read more

Test Drives Comments (0) |

Is the Bentayga Hybrid a sign of Bentley’s electrified intent?

The refreshed Bentayga Hybrid is here, bringing low-emissions running and a new interior. JACK EVANS finds out what it’s like.

Bentley has some big electrification plans. By 2026 it’ll only sell electrified vehicles – be that hybrid or electric – and past 2030 it’ll only be making full EVs. Today, we’re going to be looking at one of the cars that kicks off this plan – the Bentayga Hybrid.

Combining the luxurious qualities of Bentley’s popular SUV with an efficient petrol-electric powertrain, the Bentayga Hybrid could be an indication of what we can come to expect from the Crewe-based manufacturer. Let’s jump behind the wheel and find out what it’s like.

You may remember that the Bentayga Hybrid first made an appearance back in 2019, but quickly afterwards the entire Bentayga line-up was given an update. It meant that the previous generation of car only went on sale for a short period of time before being removed, refreshed, and turned into the car we’re looking at here.

Photos: PA Media

The exterior has been given a light redesign, while the interior takes on a much-needed lift in terms of technology and systems. It’s this latter touch that makes the biggest impact on the new Bentayga – but more on that in a bit.

The Bentayga Hybrid uses the same powertrain setup as its predecessor, which sees a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 engine combined with an electric motor for a total output of 443bhp and 700Nm of torque. Now the Bentayga is no lightweight, measuring in at over two and a half tonnes, but this powertrain still manages to send this SUV from 0-60mph in 5.2 seconds and onwards to a top speed 158mph.

But the efficiency gains are there to see too. Bentley claims that a full charge will allow for just under 25 miles of electric-only driving as well as 83.1mpg combined. Emissions are impressively low for a car of this size, too, at 82g/km. It does mean that when fully charged this car is noticeably cleaner to run than many of its non-hybrid competitors.

Thankfully the switch to a hybrid powertrain has left the Bentayga’s excellent refinement unaltered. It’s still a beautifully quiet and sumptuous car to drive, with well-isolated road and wind noise combined with that silent EV running to create a genuinely relaxing cabin. When called upon, however, during hard acceleration or higher speeds, the V6 engine does interrupt the peace somewhat. It’s a slightly alien noise when it does present itself, mind you, clashing with the traditional V8 or W12 soundtrack that you’d usually get from a Bentley.

It feels its weight, mind you, but then the Bentayga Hybrid isn’t here to set lap records. But the power that is available does feel nearly up to what you’d expect from a Bentley, even if it can’t quite offer the bottomless wells of power that you’d find in both V8 and W12 Bentayga models.

Big and in your face, the Bentayga’s styling is still getting people talking just as much as it did when it first arrived. The refreshed version has definitely refined the styling, mind you, with the rear end of the car now a little better executed than before. There’s no mistaking it for a car from another brand, however, with Bentley’s tell-tale styling tweaks like the twin headlight design all present and correct.

There’s not a lot to distinguish this hybrid version from the rest of the range, too. Some subtle badges are dotted here and there, while there’s an extra flap at the rear for the charging port. Many people will appreciate that this car doesn’t scream about its electrified underpinnings, however.

The Bentayga Hybrid’s interior is, like all other Bentleys on sale at the moment, built to an excellent standard. There are a few touches that give away the car’s Volkswagen Group backing – such as the steering wheel buttons and indicator stalks – but these do fade into the background against the wide variety of high-end materials and classic features. The front seats are also comfortable and supportive, while there’s plenty of space for those sitting in the back too.

The only real issue is that there’s no dedicated space for the charging cables, so they have to take up space in the boot. Thankfully, there’s no real penalty in terms of overall luggage space between the regular Bentayga and this hybrid, which deliver 484 and 479 litres respectively.

It’s the technology that has taken a real step up in this latest generation Bentayga and it’s an aspect that has completely transformed the experience. You now get a 10.9-inch central infotainment screen that is head-and-shoulders above the one you’d find in the older car, both in terms of usability and features. It also incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; we tried the former and it worked seamlessly.

There are also a vast number of safety assistance systems on board, including traffic sign recognition and park assist. The Bentayga also features Night Vision; a bit of a gimmick? Perhaps. But you can’t help but be impressed by the function when it’s switched on.

The Bentayga Hybrid feels like a good sign of things to come. It’s just as refined as you’d expect a Bentley to be, but that addition of a hybrid powertrain does transform the experience and, at lower speeds at least, makes it even more refined than the standard car thanks to near-silent driving.

As Bentley’s plans progress we’d like the Bentayga Hybrid to be given a longer electric-only range and a little extra punch, but for those after a high-end way of getting about while reducing emissions, it’ll prove mighty appealing.

Read more

Test Drives Comments (0) |

The Suzuki S-Cross is an interesting alternative to more mainstream crossovers

Suzuki has released a heavily reworked version of its S-Cross. TED WELFORD sees if it’s worth considering.

Standing out in the crossover segment is no easy task. For starters, there are best-selling models like the Nissan Qashqai and Ford Puma that snap up a huge chunk of sales, while virtually every manufacturer competes in this market.

It can make things quite tricky for less well-known brands such as Suzuki. It’s a firm known for its affordable and compact cars, but these days it’s better regarded for its crossovers and 4x4s. The best-known of them all is the Jimny, which suffers massively from demand outstripping supply, along with the similarly sized Vitara and S-Cross models. It’s the latter we’re focusing on here, but is it good enough to sway people out of their Qashqais?

Described by Suzuki as ‘all-new’, what we’re looking at here is a sizable update to this often-glossed-over model. Though the mild-hybrid powertrain remains the same as before, the S-Cross now boasts a far bolder design, with details of note including a brasher-looking front end, along with a black design piece running across the full width of the rear of the car.

Photos: PA Media

There’s also a new nine-inch touchscreen sitting proud and central in the dash, while Suzuki has revised the trim levels, and included more standard equipment for customers in the process.

Bar Suzuki’s rebadged Toyota models, all of its ‘own’ cars are mild hybrids, with the S-Cross using a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine that develops 127bhp and 235Nm of torque. Our test car uses a six-speed manual gearbox, though an automatic option is also available. That mild-hybrid system, while not able to drive the car on electric power alone, does feature a noticeable amount of regenerative braking, which charges the battery when decelerating, and is excellently engineered so it’s not at all intrusive.

You can also choose it with ‘Allgrip’ four-wheel-drive if you’re wanting that extra grip – which our car features – though a front-wheel-drive model is the default. With that Allgrip system, the S-Cross can accelerate to 60mph in 10 seconds and can hit a top speed of 118mph. As for efficiency, it’s surprisingly frugal – particularly for a 4×4 – with Suzuki claiming 47.9mpg and 133g/km CO2 emissions, or 53.2mpg and 120g/km if you go with the front-wheel-drive version.

While Suzuki has made a range of changes to the way the S-Cross drives, it continues to be a bit rough around the edges, with refinement being its real low point – you’ll want to whack up the radio volume to drone out the road noise.

It’s not all bad, though, with its mild-hybrid engine being a highlight. Despite a relatively modest power output, it offers a decent turn of pace, and really lives up to its ‘Boosterjet’ name, while at the same time being quite frugal. This is in-part achieved by its lightness, with the S-Cross being a good 200kg lighter than a Qashqai, and helps to make it feel relatively agile for a vehicle of this type.

It’s surprisingly accomplished off-road too, with dedicated ‘Snow’ and ‘Lock’ modes really helping in more challenging conditions. If you live somewhere remote or down a muddy farm track, the Allgrip system is worth having.

In previous years, the Suzuki S-Cross wasn’t blessed with style, instead being a vehicle you could probably walk past in a car park – even if it belonged to you. The new model is certainly a more striking-looking thing, even if it might not be for all the right reasons.

Starting with the front, you now get more grille for your money, while there’s an attempt at some Audi-esque LED daytime running lights. At the rear, the S-Cross gets a new black bar that runs across the full width. At first glance it looks like a fancy LED light bar, but it’s a bit underwhelming when you realise only the outer edges actually light up. On a more positive note, the S-Cross manages to look reassuringly sturdy, all while retaining smaller dimensions that make it easier to drive and park.

The S-Cross’s real letdown is its interior, which lacks the finesse and quality of the majority of its rivals. On first glance, it looks quite pleasant, with a smart new nine-inch touchscreen introduced. However, it’s not intuitive to use at all, and pretty slow too – feeling like a backwards step to the system used in older Suzuki models.

Much of the cabin also feels quite cheap, with many low-rent plastics being used – the heated seat buttons and indicator and wiper stalks feel like they’ve been taken from something 25 years old. One redeeming feature, though, is the full-length, opening sunroof, which lets plenty of light into an otherwise drab interior. It significantly eats into rear headroom, though, so if adults or taller teens sit in the back seats regularly, you might want to look elsewhere.

Suzuki has always been known for giving customers plenty for their money, and the S-Cross is no exception. As standard, the Motion model comes equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, heated front seats and a whole suite of driver assistance kit – such as adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring. The assists did seem quite temperamental on our test car, though, with even the lightest fog patch disabling them.

If you upgrade to the top-spec Ultra, like it or not it gains four-wheel-drive, along with leather upholstery, a 360-degree camera, larger nine-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and a panoramic glass sunroof.

There are some real highlights of the Suzuki S-Cross that will be enough to tempt some buyers to sign on the dotted line. Its value and equipment levels will appease those keeping an eye on the costs – as will its efficient engines – while its off-roading capability is genuinely impressive, and a bit of a rarity in this class.

The trouble with the S-Cross is the fierce competition it faces, and in a class brimmed with other choices, its low-quality interior with disappointing comfort and refinement levels just doesn’t quite cut it.

Read more

Test Drives Comments (0) |

Is the Kia Stinger GT-S a compelling alternative to a BMW or Audi?

Kia is looking to play the German premium car makers at their own game. DARREN CASSEY finds out of it has succeeded.

In this day and age we know exactly what cars a manufacturer will make. Unless you’re a specialist, exotic car maker, you’ll have an expanding range of SUVs, a few saloons and estates for the old school crew, and maybe some smaller city focused cars.

However, back in 2017, Kia threw a bit of a curveball. Alongside its ‘of course you build that’ models, it chucked in a four-door coupe with a punchy engine, stylish looks and an upmarket interior. And it hired former head of BMW’s M performance division Albert Biermann to oversee dynamics. Then they called it Stinger. Well, you can’t get everything right, can you?

While the Stinger was originally pitched directly at the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, it’s likely that a little badge snobbery saw it never really take a chunk out of their sales. As such, last year’s model update simplified the range so it’s only available as a GT S with a twin-turbo V6 and a high specification, acting as a ‘halo performance car’.

Photos: PA Media

Changes are not extensive, but that’s no bad thing as the previous model was well-received by those who drove it. The eagle-eyed will spot a few aesthetic changes inside and out, while a new 10.25-inch infotainment system and updated safety kit further enhance the equipment on offer.

One of the highlights of the Stinger show has always been that silky smooth engine. It’s a 3.3-litre V6 configuration twin twin turbochargers boosting power to 361bhp, while torque is 510Nm. It’s the fastest-accelerating Kia ever, completing the 0-60mph sprint in 4.7 seconds.

It’s only available with an eight-speed automatic transmission, with power being sent to the rear wheels. It’s not built with economy in mind, but with official figures suggesting 28mpg it’s pretty reasonable for this type of car.

As soon as you get behind the wheel it’s clear the Stinger was built with the driver in mind. The seating position is excellent and makes you feel like you’re sitting low while still having great visibility. The engine is very responsive when pressing on, while the gearbox is a slick shifting unit that’s rarely caught out.

That front-engined, rear-wheel-drive layout feels as pure as you’d expect, while the steering is beautifully weighted. There’s just enough weight to give you confidence but it’s light enough to not be tiresome in everyday driving.

Then there’s the ride quality. Kia has done a brilliant job of creating a comfortable car that’s also pretty handy in the corners. It’s engineering is clearly aimed at being a long-distance GT car but the way it handles whatever you throw at it is hugely impressive.

It’s not just from behind the wheel that the Stinger impresses, because it’s a handsome thing, too. It looks a lot like it’s come from one of the premium German car makers but with more character than they could ever muster up.

It gets an evolution of Kia’s ‘tiger nose’ grille design, which sits between bold LED headlights, while the lower bumper is well-sculpted to give it a sporty-looking edge. The raked roofline and chunky rear quarter should give it a heavy look, but it still manages to look sleek. Then, at the rear, new tail lights have individual LEDs arranged in a distinctive grid pattern.

If you were jumping straight from a high-spec BMW you might notice the details that leave the Kia’s cabin falling a little behind its rival, but as a standalone product the Stinger’s cabin is fantastic. It wraps around you without ever feeling claustrophobic and all of the switchgear is within easy reach.

The new screen looks great and works well with a smattering of physical buttons that are intuitive to use for regular features. That said, despite its crisp resolution the infotainment’s design feels quite dated and getting around takes some getting used to – though most will use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto anyway.

There’s just the one trim level on the Kia Stinger, with the GT S. That might seem like a lot for the badge on the nose but the South Korean firm more than makes up for it with generous kit, including 19-inch alloy wheels, Nappa leather upholstery, heated front seats and adaptive cruise control.

You also get that new 10.25-inch infotainment screen with a seven-inch instrument display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a 15-speaker Harmon/Kardon sound system. Kia seven-year/100,000-mile warranty is also included, which is excellent for a more premium model.

Its value for money is even clearer when you look at the competition. The BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe starts around the same price, but you get an engine with just over half the Kia’s power.

It’s always a risk when a mainstream manufacturer aims to push into the premium segment, but Kia has been building handsome, high-quality cars for years now, so it’s a natural progression.

The Stinger has long won plaudits for being great to drive and fantastic value for money, and the latest updates only cement that. If you’re looking for a practical, comfortable and stylish GT car, the Kia Stinger GT S should be very high on your shopping list. You’ll be rewarded for not sticking to the obvious.

Read more