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Suzuki’s S-Cross Hybrid takes on a challenging segment

The S-Cross has a whole lot of rivals – but can a new full hybrid setup keep it competitive?

Suzuki has carved a nice little niche for itself by creating low-cost and frugal vehicles that also bring the option of four-wheel-drive – something that many competitors are leaning away from. It has also seriously ramped up its electrification plans, with every car in its range now incorporating some form of electrical assistance, be that mild or full hybrid.

The latter of which has now been applied to the recently-introduced S-Cross, swapping out the mild-hybrid setup (which is still available to buy) in favour of a more electric-focused full hybrid setup.

Photos: PA Media

The biggest changes come underneath the S-Cross, of course, but elsewhere we’ve got plenty of standard equipment and included technology, as well as four-wheel-drive as standard through Suzuki’s AllGrip technology.

The real focus here is on value-for-money. Whereas some other cars in Suzuki’s range utilise Toyota technology, the S-Cross Full Hybrid does with an in-house setup. It’s centred around a 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine, which is then linked to an electric motor and battery. Suzuki says that the combination should bring up to 48.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 132g/km for the four-wheel-drive version, those these do improve on the two-wheel-drive model.

Linked to an automated manual gearbox, this setup brings 0-60mph in 13.3 seconds and a top speed of 108mph. Again, you’ll see slightly quicker acceleration figures from the two-wheel-drive version so, if slightly sprightlier performance is what you’re after, you’re better suited to go for that option.

The light steering that you get from the S-Cross makes it easy to get along with from the off. There’s decent visibility, too, with that high riding position that is so key to this segment’s popularity present and correct. It does actively manage between petrol and full EV modes, and the switch to battery power is largely unnoticeable. It ran in EV-only mode for quite a portion of our drive, in fact.

However, that automated manual is central to the somewhat compromised driving experience that you get from the S-Cross. It’s incredibly slow and dim-witted and makes any kind of forward progression difficult. In fact, the delay is so bad that it feels like the S-Cross is fitted with a large, laggy turbocharger, rather than a naturally-aspirated engine. A broken ride doesn’t help the S-Cross an awful lot, either.

There’s nothing to separate the S-Cross Full Hybrid from the mild one. It would’ve been quite nice to see a couple of styling elements to differentiate the two, but even without these choice accents it’s still a largely good-looking thing – to our eyes at least.

The front lights are sharp in their design, while the ones at the back incorporate a full-width design that is so popular across the motoring industry at the moment. There’s nothing controversial nor eye-catching about the look of the S-Cross but, for many people, that won’t be a bad thing in the slightest.

The S-Cross is nicely kitted out inside with plenty of features and controls. As we’ve mentioned the forward view is good, giving that all-important elevated view of the road ahead. The material quality isn’t the best, mind you, with sharp scratchy plastics littering much of the lower section of the cabin. It all appears just a little bit dated, with the drab colours only contributing to the feel.

In terms of boot space, the S-Cross Full Hybrid falls shy of the regular mild-hybrid; you get 295 litres as standard in the former, which is some way shy of the 430 litres you get in the latter. It’s also a long way off many of its rivals. The Nissan Qashqai e-Power hybrid, for instance, packs a healthy 504 litres, for example.

Suzuki has always focused on value-for-money and that’s definitely the case with the S-Cross Hybrid. It’s packed with standard equipment, with highlights such as 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control and keyless entry and start all included on entry-level Motion cars. Bump up to Ultra specification and you’ll get a panoramic sunroof and a 360-degree parking camera but, as we mentioned, this increases the price of the S-Cross a little too high.

The infotainment setup on the S-Cross feels a little behind the times, in truth, with the eight-inch display on our ‘Ultra’ grade cars being a touch unresponsive during our time with the car.

If you dialled back the clock a few years, the S-Cross Hybrid would feel like an attractive proposition. After all, it’s well-specified and does have efficiency on its side. However, that powertrain and its unrefined, slow-to-respond nature feels significantly behind the times today.

The fact that it’s even less practical than the regular car isn’t great, either. If you do fancy yourself behind the wheel of the S-Cross we’d urge you to go for the regular 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol version but against such prominent and rounded competition, the S-Cross Hybrid is a tricky car to recommend.

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Is the MG4 EV the car to tempt buyers away from well-established brands?

MG is broadening its EV line-up with the new MG4. Ted Welford gets behind the wheel.

The modern-day MG is a far cry from the one that produced classic British sports cars, but it’s proving no less successful. The brand is now expanding further with the new MG4, its first electric hatchback and one that’s set to grow this brand even further. But is it set to succeed?

The MG4 is the first model from the firm to use a bespoke EV platform that will go on to be used in a number of electric MGs in future years – the key advantage to this being that it’s rear-wheel-drive and uses a thin battery that takes up minimal space.

The MG4 also shows a more adventurous design direction for MG, though more on that later. But crucial to the appeal of the MG4 is its price, undercutting rivals by a significant chunk of money.

Photos: PA Media

MG is offering two powertrain options here – the Standard Range and the Long Range. The Standard car features a 51.1kWh battery and 168bhp electric motor, with MG claiming a more-than-respectable 218 miles from a charge.

But here we’re trying the Long Range version, which packs a larger 64kWh battery and increases the claimed range to an impressive 281 miles, or 270 miles in the case of our top-spec Trophy test car. It packs a slightly more powerful motor producing 200bhp and 250Nm of torque, though performance is almost identical to the Standard Range car because of the additional weight of the battery – 0-60mph arriving in 7.7 seconds, and maxing out at 100mph.

It can also charge at up to 135kW, meaning a 10 to 80 per cent charge at an ultra-rapid charger would take 35 minutes. When plugged in at home into a 7kW wallbox, it will take nine hours to top-up.

Behind the wheel, the MG4 feels a real step up compared to the brand’s models so far. It’s got a 50:50 weight distribution, and the rear-wheel-drive setup makes it quite entertaining to drive – you can really feel the car pushing you around a corner. The acceleration is brisk and instantaneous (as with any EV), but here it feels quicker than the 7.7-second 0-60mph figure figures suggest.

There are various driving modes and levels of regen to play with, depending on preference, too. It rides well and avoids the choppy ride of many rivals. Our only real complaint is that there is quite a lot of wind and road noise at speed, and it doesn’t feel as refined as plenty of other EVs in this class.

MG’s designs to date have been quite straight-laced and uninspiring, but the MG4 is quite a lot bolder. There are sharp angles all over the place, and it certainly doesn’t give the impression that it’s one of the cheapest EVs on sale.

There are some great touches to it, such as the twin aero roof spoiler, which looks like it’s been taken from a concept car, while the imposing LED rear lights feature a fancy ‘hatched’ pattern on top-spec Trophy models. It’s a touch that wouldn’t look out of place on a high-end premium product. We’re personally not a fan of the front end of the car, as it just looks a bit squashed and busy, though styling will always be subjective.

The MG4’s interior adopts the increasingly trendy minimalist look, with very few buttons in the cabin, and instead just a central touchscreen, which is where you find the climate menus alongside traditional media and navigation functions.

It’s a slick-looking cabin, particularly with the floating centre console – housing the drive selector – that offers loads of storage space beneath. The squared-off steering wheel is another modern touch and features configurable shortcut buttons on it, which you can use to change the climate. It’s a clever feature, and though the interior doesn’t feel quite as well screwed together as some rivals, it certainly doesn’t feel as ‘cheap’ as its price.

The MG4 ticks plenty of boxes in the space department too, with that new platform ensuring there’s room in the rear seats for adults. The 363-litre boot is smaller than a Volkswagen ID.3 and Nissan Leaf’s but is still a practical and usable size.

The talking point with the MG4 is what it costs. Its starting price for the SE Standard Range not only undercuts cars in its class but cars from the class above.

Yet the level of standard equipment is superb and includes LED front and rear lights, a 10.25-inch touchscreen, seven-inch digital dial display, 17-inch alloy wheels and adaptive cruise control. The top-spec Trophy brings a 360-degree camera system, wireless smartphone charging and heated front seats.

The MG4’s starting price truly shows how expensive rival EVs are, and answers the needs of those wanting a lower-cost electric car, yet without having to bring any sacrifice on range and equipment. It’s also hardly any more expensive than a like-for-like petrol or diesel car.

While, yes, there are some areas where it doesn’t score top marks – interior quality and refinement – the MG4 has no real weakness, and how it manages that at this price is remarkable. It should certainly give plenty of the established brands something to worry about.

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Off-roading in the most unlikely SUV: The Lamborghini Urus Performante

SUVs are rarely used to go off-roading in, but are they capable? Ted Welford takes the Lamborghini Urus Performante on a rally course.

SUVs are absolutely dominating new car sales at the moment, with 46 per cent of all new cars sold in Europe in 2021 being models of this bodystyle. That figure is only expected to grow when you consider the influx of new SUVs due on the market in the coming years.

It’s easy to see the appeal, as these models bring more eye-catching styling, while their higher ride height helps to give drivers and occupants a better view out on the road and presents more of a ‘secure’ feel from behind the wheel.

Though SUVs originally played on their four-wheel-drive capability, an increasing number are purely front- or rear-wheel-drive, with many buyers not interested in whether it is actually suitable to take off the tarmac.

Photos: PA Media

But, what if you still want an SUV that can go off the beaten track? While a Jeep or Land Rover might be the safe and sensible options, safe and sensible is a bit boring. What isn’t boring is the Lamborghini Urus Performante – perhaps the silliest and most extreme SUV on sale, even dubbed a ‘Super SUV’ by the Italian marque.

While the Urus – first introduced in 2018 and now Lamborghini’s most popular product – might be more likely to be seen lapping Harrods than on an off-road course, the firm is keen to demonstrate it can be used away from tarmac.

To try it out, we’re on an off-road rally course just next to the Vallelunga race circuit near Rome. We also got the chance to try the Performante – the new, most extreme version of the Urus yet – out on the track itself, as it can even be equipped with bespoke Pirelli ‘Trofeo R’ semi-slick track tyres, the first SUV to get that kind of rubber.

But for the new Performante, Lamborghini has also engineered a new ‘Rally’ driving mode that’s our focus here. Admittedly it’s more suited to a dirt track than it is ascending a steep bank or negotiating deeper water, but it adds a further dimension to the Urus, and will come in useful for those wanting to demonstrate their SUV’s capability in a different setting.

On jumping into the Urus, it’s clear that this is no rough-and-ready utilitarian SUV. The cabin is awash with black Alcantara – a suede-like material widely used in high-end performance cars. It’s on the steering wheel, the seats – even the dashboard. Jumping in with your muddy boots on would feel like walking into The Ritz with your wellies on.

Once you’ve pressed the engine start button and the mighty 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine has fired, it’s time to activate that ‘Rally’ mode on the central cluster, which Lamborghini calls the ‘Tamburo’.

Just the thought of having a ‘Rally’ setting on Lamborghini takes a minute to adjust to. Still, it’s an angle this Italian firm is exploring, and will continue to do so when it reveals an off-road-focused version of its Huracan supercar later in 2022.

But back to the Urus and the course that awaits us. It’s no Dakar Rally, and admittedly a front-wheel-drive crossover with a decent amount of ground clearance could probably master most of it. But that’s not the point here, as it’s the fun factor that is what makes this SUV so special.

You see, what the Rally mode does is ease off the traction control, allowing for more oversteer – and essentially means you can get it a little more sideways. Of course, this comes with the caveat that this is only permitted away from the public road, and where safe to do so.

At the same time, the Rally mode sends a greater chunk of torque to the rear wheels and means that if you put your foot down coming out of the dirt stages’ corners, it’s really easy to get it to slide, yet always in a controlled fashion. It feels like it’s been engineered in a way so that anyone, whether an experienced rally driver or a 21-year-old that’s just won the EuroMillions, can enjoy it within their capabilities.

The grip levels are also impressive, admittedly on this predominantly dry course, and more so when considering our test Urus Performante is riding on normal ‘off-the-shelf’ road tyres.

Admittedly this dirt stage didn’t let us experience the full 657bhp that the Performante offers, but accompanied by the fantastic growl of the titanium Akrapovic exhaust system, it’s impossible not to smile when drifting a Lamborghini around a rally stage. Those Alcantara seats also keep you firmly in hold, too, while even though the Performante rides on fixed steel springs – rather than the adaptive air suspension of the standard car – you don’t feel like your back’s about to give way. Far from it.

A Lamborghini with a Rally Mode shows this Italian firm’s eccentricity as its very finest, and demonstrates that even the most Made in Chelsea of Chelsea Tractors can still prove their worth off-road if need be.

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What does an electric future look like for these popular cars?

As we transition into an EV world, we look at the likelihood of popular cars continuing to exist.

Ford recently announced the shock news that it was going to stop making its best-selling Fiesta by the end of next year.

The news might seem baffling. However, Ford said it came as a result of the model ‘accelerating its efforts’ to go all-electric, with a Fiesta EV playing no part in its future as the firm abandons traditional nameplates – including the Focus and Mondeo.

It begs the question of whether a number of other, well-loved models will make it into an electrical age. Let’s take a look at their chances.

Photos: PA Media

Volkswagen Golf

The Volkswagen Golf will soon be turning 50 years old, with this popular hatchback spanning eight generations, with the most recent arriving in 2020. More than 35 million have been produced to date, and it’s historically been VW’s most popular car, though has more recently been overtaken by the Tiguan SUV.

While the firm did offer the electric e-Golf for a number of years, production ended in 2020 to make way for the ID.3 – Volkswagen’s bespoke EV hatchback, though occupying a similar footprint as the Golf. All of Volkswagen’s current and future focus appears to be on its bespoke electric ‘ID’ range of EVs, with the brand yet to confirm a new generation of Golf. It means a replacement electric model seems unlikely.

Range Rover

In the SUV segment, the Range Rover is an icon – a model with brand awareness and desirability that other car companies can only dream of. Land Rover has spun Range Rover off as its own sub-brand, reaping the benefits as a result.

But it’s the full-fat Range Rover that remains the one at the top of the pile, with the latest fifth-generation model only arriving in dealers earlier this year. The future of the Range Rover looks to be in safe hands, too. Not only is it already offered with a choice of hybrid powertrains, but an EV version has been confirmed for a 2024 launch, arriving as Land Rover’s first electric model.

Honda Civic

The Honda Civic might not be an icon in the same ilk as a Range Rover, but this popular hatchback remains a huge deal for this Japanese manufacturer and has now been around for an impressive 50 years and 11 generations.

The latest version only arrived earlier this year, but in Europe Honda introduced it purely as a hybrid model. However, other overseas markets can still get it as a conventional petrol. While the next generation of Civic is unlikely to arrive much before the end of the decade, the fact all of Honda’s EVs to date have been bespoke EVs doesn’t bode well for the future of the Civic.

Mini Hatch

Mini’s iconic hatchback is a model ripe for electrification, with the British brand introducing the ‘Electric’ in 2020. It’s gone on to account for a significant proportion of this brand’s sales, and though Mini might be increasingly looking at larger vehicles, this dinky model will remain a part of the brand for many years to come.

A new generation Mini Hatch is due to arrive in 2023, boasting smaller dimensions and a simplified dashboard – and the good news is that an electric model will be launched too. The bad news? Mini is set to move production of the EV models away from its factory near Oxford to China.

Vauxhall Astra

While the Astra might not sell in the droves it once did, this family hatchback remains an important model for both Vauxhall, and sibling company Opel. That was shown with the introduction of the latest generation earlier in the year, which brought a big uplift in terms of design and quality.

You can already get the new Vauxhall Astra with a choice of plug-in hybrid powertrain, but the British brand will go a step further in 2023 by introducing the Astra Electric. An estate version is also planned and helps to future-proof this important model.

Porsche 911

There’s not a more coveted sports car than the Porsche 911, which has been the star of this German brand’s line-up for almost 60 years, Porsche is currently committing heavily to electrification, as its Taycan EV is proving hugely successful, and an electric Macan is due in 2024 too.

While Porsche has so far not confirmed or denied an EV, the brand is already exploring what electric sports cars will look like. It may prove challenging in the 911, though, because the model is renowned for its rear-engined layout. But as the 911 remains so important for Porsche, we’d be highly surprised if it didn’t continue as an EV in the future. Just expect it to look quite different to how it does now.

BMW 3 Series

Arguably BMW’s best-known model, the 3 Series saloon and estate continue to be hugely successful models, even in the face of SUV popularity. You can buy the models with a choice of plug-in hybrid powertrains.

BMW is already offering an electric 3 Series (called the i3), but currently, it’s produced and sold exclusively in China. However, a new i3 for Europe is on the way, though it likely won’t be until the next generation model launches in 2025 or 2026. It’s likely to use a bespoke platform developed under what BMW calls ‘Neue Klasse’, which will essentially be its next-generation EVs.

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Hyundai to rebuild legendary Pony Coupe Concept

Original concept influenced many of the brand’s vehicles.

Hyundai has announced that it will rebuild the iconic Pony Coupe Concept originally created for the 1974 Turin Motor Show.

Working with Italian design firm GFG Style, the rebuilt concept looks set for a full reveal in the spring.

GFG Style is headed up by father and son founders Giorgetto and Fabrizio Giugiaro, the former of which helped to create the original concept back in 1974. At the time, Hyundai contacted Giugiaro with a proposition to design the firm’s first independent model. Giugiaro was commissioned to create blueprints and build five concepts, one of which was a coupe.

Luc Donckerwolke, chief creative officer of Hyundai Motor Group, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Giorgetto and Fabrizio to Seoul for this rare occasion and we look forward to collaborating with them and GFG Style on this extraordinary design project.

“Not only does this project hold historical value, but it also represents a cross-cultural exchange that could pave the way for more collaborations down the road.”

Photos: PA Media

Debuting with its eye-catching wedge design, the Pony Coupe was originally destined for North American and European markets but was halted in 1981 prior to mass production because of an ‘adverse global economic environment’, according to Hyundai.

The Pony Coupe Concept remained an ‘unfinished dream’ according to the firm, but it helped to inspire the design of Hyundai’s later Pony model which was sold from 1975 to 1990.

Giorgetto Giugiaro said: “I designed the Hyundai Pony when I was still a young designer at the start of my career. I felt very proud that I was in charge of creating a vehicle for a company and country that was about to take on a fiercely competitive global market.

“Now, I’m deeply honored that Hyundai has asked me to rebuild it for posterity and as a celebration of the brand’s heritage.”

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Is the BMW i7 a worthy flagship electric car?

BMW is expanding its EV line-up with the i7 – an electric version of its 7 Series. James Baggott heads to California to put it to the test.

This is the latest – the tech laden, gadget toting i7, an electric version of its flagship 7 Series. It’s a clever new model with lots of tricks up its sleeves. Firstly there’s a new look to contend with – a gaping front kidney grille and refreshed headlights can certainly be described as, well, distinctive. Elsewhere there’s plenty of talking points including an optional 31-inch rear cinema screen that folds down from the roof lining and turns the back seats into a movie theatre.

The doors are powered and can be opened or closed with a touch of a button and the interior features a striking new ‘interaction bar’ for some of the controls. But gimmicks aside, it’s what’s driving the wheels that’s really of interest as this is the first fully electric option for the 7 Series.

While the new 7 Series is available with two plug-in hybrid options – sadly neither of which we got to drive at the launch – the big talking point is really the electric unit.

Photos: PA Media

With a range of up to 388 miles, the car boasts 544bhp and a whopping 745Nm of torque. It’s an incredible unit that offers a huge range thanks to massive batteries buried in the floor.

Fast charging can be carried out at up to 195kW – which will give the car 106 miles of range in just 10 minutes. At home, where most people have 7kW chargers, a full replenishment of the batteries will take 16 hours.

On the road it’s incredibly smooth. The power delivery is linear and rapid, and like most electric cars, very rapid. With several different driving modes, piped in sound via the 36 speakers ranges from Hans Zimmer-like cinema scores to growling roars. It’s all rather dramatic.

The 7 Series has active steering and suspension which helps to offer the smoothest ride possible, even reducing roll to keep occupants comfortable. There’s a brilliant head-up display and augmented reality sat nav built into the dash that projects arrows onto a live video feed of the road ahead as well.

The car is full of clever tricks too. In countries that allow it, fully autonomous driving is available on motorways up to 85mph and it can even park itself. It will remember 10 different parking spaces in underground garages or similar and can take over and park for you.

The looks are a little controversial, but BMW likes to make a statement with its design. The new nose is the focal point but there are lots of additions to make it more aerodynamic and thus maximise its range.

BMW describes the new look as its ‘luxury class face’ and it’s also present on the new X7, so you better get used to it.

For the first time, there’s an optional two tone paint – with one colour above the doors and another below them. It’s all rather regal, but probably won’t be chosen by very many buyers.

Inside it’s rather classy too. The new interior has had a lot of thought put into it including spacious, reclining rear seats and that cinema screen to entertain executives.

The screen is 31-inches and, although it’s rather close to your face, the 8K quality is stunning. It works thanks to Amazon Fire TV software and a 5G internet connection from the car, which owners will have to pay for separately.

In the back, speakers are buried in the seats to really give a cinematic bass-filled experience and the 2000W Bowers & Wilkins sound system does sound incredible.

The auto opening doors are a bit of a gimmick, though – they close or open electronically at the touch of a button, just like they do on a Rolls Royce, but it’s really no quicker than just doing it yourself.

The spec is very high. There’s lots of kit included as standard, like a clever security system that records images around the car if it detects a break in.

The BMW curved dash has two displays – one 12.3 inches and the second 14.9 inches – which are angled towards the driver and are a brilliant addition.

The entry level Excellence specification has niceties which include 19-inch alloys, illuminated kidney grille, front and rear heated seats, adaptive LED headlights, head-up display, wireless mobile phone charger and much more. An M Sport specification, which adds things like larger wheels, is also available.

Just nine per cent of global BMW 7 Series sales will head to Europe. Add in the fact that a lot of people have fallen out of love with saloons and it doesn’t really matter how many tricks the i7 has up its sleeves, as it’s unlikely many retail buyers will shell out for one. Far more of interest to them are the electric SUV models BMW offers, like the fantastic iX.

Most i7 models will actually find their way into the hands of chauffeurs and with much of the focus on back seat comfort – and entertainment – those who do get a lift in the new car are unlikely to want to get out at the end.

That said, the tech making a debut on the i7 is fascinating and (mostly) very well executed – what will be of real interest is just how quickly much of that trickles down to more affordable cars in BMW’s range.

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The Peugeot 408 is a great alternative to a conventional SUV

Peugeot is expanding its line-up with the new 408 fastback. Ted Welford heads to Barcelona to put it to the test.

Against the vast swathes of SUVs, manufacturers are increasingly having to think outside of the box when it comes to their cars’ designs. This equates to increasingly bolder options for customers, and the latest example of this comes from Peugeot, with its new 408.

Designed to sit between the conventional 308 hatchback and 508 saloon in the line–up, Peugeot’s calling it a ‘fastback’ and is targeting those that are looking to escape an SUV, yet want something more exciting than a traditional hatchback. But is it more than just a niche-filling exercise?

Photos: PA Media

The 408 is a new addition to Peugeot’s range and arrives with a striking new look. We’ll explain more about the design later, but a few highlights are its fantastic colour-coded, frameless grille along with the popular SUV cladding for a more rugged appearance.

Electrification is core to the 408 too, with hybrid versions predicted to account for the bulk of sales, while there’s the new version of Peugeot’s i-Cockpit system, bringing the latest in-car technology that the firm has to offer.

There are three powertrains on offer with the 408 – a 128bhp 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine that serves as the only non-electrified version, and a choice of two plug-in hybrids.Both these hybrids use a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, though with two different outputs, and are paired to the same electric motor and a 12.4kWh battery. An eight-speed automatic gearbox is also used, with power delivered to the front wheels.

There are two combined power outputs – 178bhp or 222bhp, with our top-spec test car using the latter. The sprint to 60mph takes 7.6 seconds (only three-tenths quicker than the 178bhp car), with a top speed of 145mph possible.

Peugeot claims up to 40 miles of electric range is possible (though based on our testing, we reckon 30 miles is more likely), with Peugeot saying more than 200mpg and CO2 emissions of 26g/km. Speaking of charging, it will take three hours and 25 minutes to charge the 408, though you can reduce this time to an hour and 40 minutes with a faster 7.4kW onboard charger.

Peugeot won’t admit it, but the 408 is essentially a sibling model to the Citroen C5 X – a model with a particular focus on comfort with its softer suspension.

But here, Peugeot has managed to liven up the experience a touch, with the 408 feeling flatter through the corners, and feeling more secure if you put your foot down a bit. It’s no sporting model, but it sticks to the road well, while the hybrid setup delivers a decent amount of punch when the ‘Sport’ driving mode is selected.

At the same time, it rides well with comfortable leather and Alcantara seats helping out with this, while the refinement on motorways was particularly impressive. The hybrid system isn’t the smoothest, however, and the petrol engine and gearbox aren’t the quietest or most responsive when the battery range is depleted.

The 408’s design is one that will really divide opinion, and it’s Peugeot’s boldest model in some time – and that’s coming from a brand that has been pushing the boundaries anyway.If you like a clean, fuss-free design, it might not be the car for you. There’s an awful lot going on, and we mean a lot. There are lines, creases, and angles all over the place, but combined, it’s a really smart package and one that gives off a look of a car more expensive than it is. The number of people that stared at the 408 on our test route only emphasised this. That frameless front grille is stunning, as are Peugeot’s trademark ‘claw’ headlights.

Bits we don’t like? All personal of course, but we think there’s too much plastic cladding going on at the rear, while the 20-inch alloy wheels (thankfully optional) are challenging. That’s being kind.

Inside, the 408 really delivers on the promise of feeling larger than a regular hatchback. The 471-litre boot (536 litres on non-plug-in models), is a great size, while there’s a decent amount of room in the rear seats. Headroom is slightly impeded by a combination of a sloping roofline and panoramic sunroof, but six-feet tall adults will still be able to sit comfortably.The quality throughout the cabin is excellent, with green stitching and Alcantara and leather seats (fitted to GT models) only adding to the ambience.

The i-Cockpit system is a touch hit-and miss, however. The digital dial display offers 3D graphics, making it slightly harder to read than a standard 2D effect. The small steering wheel (a feature Peugeot has used for some years) also remains a point of contention – with the top of it often restricting the vision of the dials themselves.

Standard equipment on the entry-level Allure trim includes Peugeot’s latest 10-inch touchscreen, which is fantastic to use and offers quick and easy widgets that make it far less fiddly to use on the move, along with a 10-inch digital instrument cluster, 17-inch alloy wheels and a reversing camera.Mid-spec Allure Premium brings much more visually-pleasing 19-inch alloy wheels, along with keyless entry and adaptive cruise control. If you want all the bells and whistles, the GT packs full Matrix LED headlights, a heated steering wheel and electric boot, along with the aforementioned colour-coded grille we’ve already mentioned.

The Peugeot 408 feels like a breath of fresh air in the increasingly ‘samey’ new car market. Bringing a cool new design, it will likely appeal to both hatchback and SUV buyers that want to combine the two models without losing out on too much of one or the other.

Also packing a high-quality interior, good on-road manners and a generous amount of space, the 408 is a really welcome addition to the Peugeot line-up. The only real sticking point comes from fellow French brand Citroen with its C5X. The 408 might offer a sharper design and slightly better interior, but it doesn’t quite justify its price over its arch-rival.

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The history of the Ford Fiesta

After almost five decades on sale, Ford’s Fiesta is being discontinued in 2023.

The Ford Fiesta holds a rather special and important place in British automotive history. Thousands have learned to drive in a Fiesta, before going on to buy one as a first car, family car, fun car – we could go on. There have been more than 22 million produced in factories around the world.

Despite still being a popular choice, Ford has now announced that production of the supermini will finish before the end of June 2023, after 47 continuous years of sale. Let’s take a look at the history of the iconic Ford Fiesta.

The Ford Fiesta was engineered to be as fuel-efficient as possible. Photos: PA Media

Fiesta I (1976-1983)

It was 50 years when Ford began working on the car that would become to be known as the Fiesta. Designed as a ‘small car for the world’, the 1973 oil crisis added urgency to the need for an affordable, efficient model.

The Fiesta name was chosen in 1975 by Henry Ford II in celebration of the brand’s connection with Spain – the model would be produced in Valencia, along with Saarlouis, Germany, and also in Dagenham, near London.

The Fiesta was officially launched in 1976, and became an instant hit – Ford clocked up a million sales by 1979. In 1981 the XR2 was the first Fiesta hot hatch, establishing a trend that remains to this day.

The Fiesta XR2 injected extra sportiness into the model.

Fiesta II (1983-1989)

Though there might not look to be a huge difference between the first and second Fiesta, this newer Ford was larger and more fuel-efficient.

New engines were introduced – including a 1.6-litre diesel, while the revised XR2 in 1984 brought improved suspension and brakes. An automatic transmission was launched for the first time in 1987.

The Fiesta III saw the arrival of various hot hatches, including the RS Turbo pictured.

Fiesta III (1989-1996)

The Fiesta III represented a more major change in design and took the push for efficiency further with new engines designed to meet European emissions standards.

This was the generation with all the hot hatches, with Ford initially launching the XR2i with a new 1.6-litre petrol engine, before following it up in 1990 with the substantially quicker Fiesta RS Turbo in 1990. A Fiesta RS 1800 hot hatch followed, with this model getting a 16-valve 1.8-litre petrol engine.

Fiesta IV (1996-1999)

The Fiesta IV arrived in 1996 with a far more rounded shape than its predecessor, getting a more aerodynamic shape to enhance fuel economy further. A raft of new engines was introduced, while this Fiesta served as the basis for the sporty Puma coupe, which was launched in 1997.

The Fiesta V was only on sale for a short number of years.

Fiesta V (1999 -2001)

The arrival of the fifth Fiesta really proved to be little more than a mid-life facelift. Arriving just three years after its predecessor went on sale – and replaced just two years later – it also saw the introduction of the Fiesta Sport as a racier version.

The Fiesta Mk6 adopted a boxier design than its predecessors.

Fiesta VI (2001-2008)

The previous three generations of Fiesta models were all largely quite similar, so the arrival of the Fiesta VI proved a big step forward. Getting a boxer design than its predecessors, a range of new engines was launched. It also proved to be fantastic to drive, and helped to develop the model’s reputation for being a fun driver’s car.

In 2005, Ford introduced a new Fiesta ST. With 148bhp on tap, it was the most powerful Fiesta to date. Ford marked three decades of the Fiesta with a Zetec S 30th Anniversary edition, finished in a bright Radian Yellow and with a chequered roof.

The Fiesta Mk7 features a much more modern design.

Fiesta VII (2008-2012)

A much more rounded Fiesta was introduced as the next-generation car in 2008. The design was slightly softer, with Ford having a target to appeal to more female buyers with the model.

The Fiesta Mk8 saw the introduction of the fantastic ST hot hatch.

Fiesta VIII (2012-2017)

While little more than a mid-life update, Ford moved to call this reworked model the Fiesta VII. Introduced in 2012, it brought a sleeker design, and more technology (including a ‘MyKey’ feature that allowed parents to program a speed limiter when their children were driving their car).

Ford also introduced its clever new EcoBoost petrol engines, while in 2013 the 180bhp Fiesta ST was introduced – this being widely considered one of the best hot hatches ever made. This model would develop into the Fiesta ST200 – a limited-run special came painted in a unique Storm Grey colour, and saw a power increase to 197bhp.

Ford introduced a range of new versions to expand the latest Fiesta’s appeal, including rugged Active models, pictured.

Fiesta IX (2017-2023)

The most recent generation of Fiesta to launch is the ninth iteration – arriving in 2017 as a smarter, more high-tech model. It was available with an extensive choice of trim levels, including a more luxurious Vignale grade and a rugged-looking Active trim. These ensured the model’s continued popularity as tastes evolved.

The 197bhp Fiesta ST would arrive in 2018, though this time bringing a three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engine, though it still delivered a highly entertaining driving experience. The model was updated in 2021, gaining a reworked front end, new technology and mild-hybrid technology to boost performance and efficiency. Fiesta production will continue until the end of June 2023 at the latest.

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The new Ford Ranger Raptor takes this pick-up to another level

Ford is back with a next-generation of its Ranger – debuting in extreme Raptor form. Ted Welford heads to Barcelona to put it to the test.

Ford holds a pretty enviable position in the pick-up market. Its F-150 is the best-selling truck in the States.

And sitting at the top of the Ranger line-up as the halo version is the Raptor. While only taking up a small fraction of Ranger sales, this toughened-up, sports-tuned truck still makes up for one in 20 pick-ups sold in Europe. Now Ford is back with a next-generation version, bringing a whole wealth of improvements.

Photos: PA Media

This latest Ranger introduces a number of key upgrades, not least on the interior where a new 12-inch portrait touchscreen dominates proceedings.

But our focus is the Raptor. Showcasing its importance, it arrives on sale several months before standard Ranger models. It’s a sizable thing to behold, sitting noticeably higher up thanks to its tough Fox suspension setup, which has been re-engineered. There’s a new front locking differential to help with extreme terrain, while the key highlight is the arrival of a new, powerful petrol V6 engine.

Previously Raptors making it to Europe were offered solely with a 2.0-litre diesel engine, and though this will return a few months down the line, the real highlight here is the new turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol unit.

Producing 288bhp and 491Nm of torque, it’s almost 100bhp up on the diesel, and immediately gives the Raptor a sportier focus. Accelerating from 0-60mph takes just 7.7 seconds – bear in mind this truck weighs nearly 2.5 tonnes unladen – while it will keep going to 111mph. Ford’s 10-speed automatic gearbox is also used, with an electronic all-wheel-drive system adopted.

The elephant in the room is the frankly abysmal running costs. Ford claims just 20.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 315g/km. If you care even the slightest about fuel bills, it will likely be worth waiting for the more efficient diesel.

The Ranger Raptor is a truck like no other. Designed to be one of the most capable ‘off the shelf’ vehicles around, its talents are staggering. Our test route involved some impressively daunting rock climbs, and extreme, steep descents, and it felt like it was hardly working up a sweat. There are front and rear locking differentials and that bespoke Fox suspension setup is entirely different to a regular Ranger.

The Raptor is a model developed by Ford Performance too, and that’s really amplified with this V6 engine. The power on offer is superb, while a new active exhaust system gives this Ranger a burble that you just can’t help but smile at. A ‘quiet’ setting is available, though, so you don’t have to fall out with your neighbours.

To embrace the full madness of the Raptor, however, you need to put it in the Baja mode (one of seven different driver settings), though Ford stresses this is for off-road settings only. It offers the full performance of the Raptor to be unleashed, allowing for ridiculous sideways action.

Though there’s no denying the Raptor’s off-road pedigree, it’s no secret that the majority of these models are bought for the way they look. It’s possibly one of the most aggressive vehicles on the road, with its crazy ride height (those side steps are needed to help you access it more than anything) and chunky bumpers looking particularly assertive.

Even though the standard Ranger is hardly a shrinking violet, the Raptor is noticeably angrier. There’s the imposing FORD lettering on the grille, combined with new wraparound C-shaped LED lighting at the front. You can go even bolder by optioning the new Raptor-exclusive Code Orange paint colour, as well as a special decal pack.

The last Ranger’s cabin was starting to show its age, so this new Raptor feels like a real step forward, not least helped by the new 12-inch touchscreen. Benefitting from Ford’s latest software, it’s as good to look at as it is to use. Ford’s also brought back traditional climate buttons, which are very welcome – not least when off-roading.

The quality feels like a step up, too, with new red accents and leather and Alcantara seats ‘inspired by fighter jets’ giving the cabin a welcome lift. One gripe, though, is the rather flimsy drive mode selector dial, which feels like it could come off in the palms of the heavy-handed.

This new Raptor also continues to suffer from the same practical problems as its predecessor. Because of the revised suspension, its payload is capped at 652kg, while its 2.5-tonne towing limit is down a tonne on the standard model.

The Raptor is laden with off-road features – those Fox dampers don’t come cheap, and neither does that sports exhaust and the raft of other changes Ford makes to transform a Ranger into a Raptor.

But the spec is generally excellent, including Matrix LED headlights, a 10-speaker B&O sound system, keyless entry and electric and heated front seats.

While Ford is getting understandably sensible with its electrification plans (just look at the news the Fiesta is being discontinued as the brand goes EV-only), the Ranger Raptor feels like a true final blowout for a big, silly-engined pick-up.

It’s a remarkable feat of engineering that manages to feel like a skunkworks project, when in fact it’s built by one of the world’s largest car makers. Its off-road capability is unmatched, and it somehow manages to be even more ‘tough’ than before. Combined with a more modern cabin, its hilarious V6 engine, and its sports exhaust, the Ranger Raptor can bring a smile to your face whatever the occasion. Until you reach a petrol station, that is…

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