A weekly look at all that’s scummy in the car industry, and some good bits
What new cars can we look forward to this year that we seem very likely not to buy considering life is getting more precarious by the week, democracy falls about around our ears, potholes become standard tourist sights worth photographing, and sales are falling by the month, buyers looking to second or third-hand purchases.
Is there anything that is innovative and not just the usual boring bi-annual rehash of a few styling tweaks, and some fashionable electronics ready to go wrong at great cost?
I’ve had a look at all the A to Z of brands, dear readers, to save you the time and trouble, and cherry picked vehicles fit for Scotland’s roads and weather.
Unless there’s a revolutionary vehicle yet to be announced that floats because it doesn’t need tyres, has a body made of material that reforms after a crunch, and runs on clean air, these are my choices worth a look.
It might not seen like it but there is every indication white van man has had his day. The more ubiquitous pickup is everywhere, Ford a pioneer for the American market, Toyota and Nissan long-time rivals, Mercedes has entered the competitive market, and now an all-electric Tesla Pickup. The benefit of a pickup is they come with four our five seats for the family, posh enough to be seen most places you’d never take a van. You don’t need a second vehicle. The Tesla is likely based on the Model X, offer remarkable performance but still over 200 miles’ electric range and payload capacity to match the Nissan Navara. You local handyman will have a smug smile when he sees your beat up Vauxhall.
Frances Citroen is making a determined effort to return to its halcyon of days of adventurous design. The least you can say of those on our streets today is they are well thought out internally and quirky to look at on the outside. DS 7 Crossback’s interior is rather special, and could make it a rival for models like the Jaguar F-Pace. It won’t be sporty like the Jag, though, with engines ranging from 1.2 to 2.0 litres but they will be a plug-in hybrid version. Technology such as ‘active scan’ suspension should ensure the DS 7 has a supple, characteristically French ride. Please forgive the ‘Burnt Umber’ body tan.
The Mini is one car that can be used for city journeys and long distance, so long as you’re not a back set passenger. Too long in the rear has you feeling like a lump of meat in an over-cooked pie. They are still essentially two-seater car but with a hatchback, the practical addition suggest by, but denied to, the original designer Sir Alec Issigonis. Mini boss Peter Schwarzenbauer has previously spoken of his desire to trim the Mini range to five models, which he describes as “superheroes”. The three and five-door hatches are considered one superhero, the Convertible, Clubman and Countryman three more. There has been mystery around the fifth. Now we know it’s to be an all electric Mini. Except for some design cues altered to show its electric, the shape will be instantly recognisable as a Mini. Inside gossip says prices will be close to £20,000. If BMW has any nous it will junk the Union Jack tail lights, or offer a version showing the Scottish Saltire.
The tragedy for Jaguar is their new all-electric SUV won’t stop the loss of 5,000 jobs to save over a billion pounds a year. The shame is their Jaguar I-Pace is one of the most advanced vehicles on the planet and good for the planet. I saw a mock up of it in exhibition in the poorly laid out Dundee V&A museum. To remark how wide it is in comparison to other SUVs is to say an elephant is very large compared to a hippo. Jaguar photographers cheat with three-quarter shots to decrease width. The size is a surprise because it’s so low and sleek like a sports car. The wing mirrors are the first to go parked in the High Street. Jaguar claims the I-Pace will be a “long-distance sprinter”, a 300-mile range, 0-60mph time of around 4 seconds and a total power output of around 395bhp. Distinctively styled; it won’t have to accommodate a bulky engine – something that should allow for generous interior space. It won’t come cheap – expect the cost 10-15% more than the equivalent F-Pace, starting at £55,000. Ouch! Low cost to run and service mitigate buying new, as does the government grant. Keep it 10 years to level costs.
Hard to believe Kia Motors was established in 1944. After fifty years restricted to South Korea, the brand is generally accepted in Europe and the UK as a good, cheap alternative to the more high-end marques. People are beginning to trust the brand to buy new. Their latest SUV is called the Kia Stonic, (not stonking!) a crossover aimed at potential Peugeot 2008 and Nissan Juke customers. The Stonic’s engine range comprises 1.25 and 1.4-litre petrol, so nothing spectacular, while Kia’s modern three-cylinder turbo petrol produces 118bhp. There’s no prices available but I should think they will be around the £18,000 mark fully loaded with extras.
Seat is the car you were always given at the start of your Spanish holiday when you had ordered a Volkswagen but somehow that car was never available. Still made in Spain, and following on from the hugely capable Ateca SUV, the SEAT Arona is a smaller SUV crossover that’s based on the Ibiza supermini and sounds like a cup of coffee. The Arona has its own distinct identity, partly thanks to the ‘floating’ roof and the letter ‘X’ engraved on the pillar between that and the car’s body, and … that’s it. VW Group’s familiar 1.0-litre and its new 1.5-litre ‘Evo’ turbocharged petrol engines are the choices.
Yes, another SUV, a small one this time for SUVs are now the biggest sellers in car shapes. The popularity of small SUVs is set to continue as manufacturers race to get in on the action small, mid-size and vast, some hybrid, some full-on leccy. Accordingly, Volkswagen is preparing to launch its Polo-based SUV T-Cross will follow on from the success of its recently introduced sibling, the medium-sized T-Roc. It’ll square up against the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008 when it goes on sale, as well as the SEAT Arona with which it’ll share much of its mechanicals. Boxy and tall is all the rage. Buying boxy and small helps to keep insurance costs down.
I had hoped to bring readers a stunning new concept, such as the Honda car-van above, but car bosses are just not adventurous enough. They assume we buyers are dyed-in-the-wool conservative when it comes to contemporary design. Even Tesla cars are pretty conventional in looks, inside and out, a deliberate marketing ploy not to scare us off. That leaves buyers of SUVs spoiled for choice, thus my choices are almost all SUVs.
We can expect the same as last year as a far as saloons are concerned, and nothing in the way of revolutionary body materials used in common and garden cars.
The year will see electrification continue across the board, whether it’s a supermini or a supercar, the chances are you’ll have the option of hybrid power at the very least. Expect EV models more advanced and usable than ever before. Many of these will offer viable alternatives to petrol, diesel and hybrid models, with petrol propulsion made cleaner than ever to tempt us to stay oily.
In Scotland, go for an electric vehicle with the help of an interest free loan of up to £35k over 6 yrs and a free home charger. The interest-free Electric Vehicle Loan, funded by Transport Scotland (an agency of the Scottish Government), currently offers drivers in Scotland loans of: up to £35,000 to cover the cost of purchasing a new pure electric / plug-in hybrid vehicle, and up to £10,000 to cover the cost of purchasing a new electric motorcycle or scooter. Give them a call free on 0808 808 2282.
GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS
Government Charging Points
I’m halfway to building a garage for a city runabout electric vehicle – not yet purchased – a wee flaw in my plans, I know, hence installing a ‘smart’ electric charger is a wise move. All Government-funded electric vehicle (EV) charge points will have to be “smart” by start of 2019, allowing the chargers to receive communications from electricity suppliers. This will allow EVs to charge – that is, switch on automatically – when demand for electricity is low. To facilitate this the Government’s home charging scheme will only provide grants for chargers capable of being remotely accessed and receiving, interpreting and reacting to a signals from energy suppliers. I’d like to think we won’t get any interference from Russian hackers in the system, or ‘Made in China’ on the equipement. (Satire.)
Another fall in UK car manufacturing
Britain’s car manufacturing output fell by almost a fifth in December, as Brexit worries and weakening demand in key markets affect the industry. Car manufacturing declined by 19.6% in November compared to the same month in 2017, a steeper decline than the 10% year-on-year fall that occurred in October, according to industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). It was the biggest year-on-year fall since the financial crisis in 2008, when output fell by more than 32% as the British economy contracted. Production has fallen for six months in a row.
Edinburgh Airport new road
Time to kick ass in the boardroom of Edinburgh Airport and Edinburgh Council. A few weeks ago I reported a 100% increased fee for the drop-off and collection point. The excuse give by the Airport Authorities is, the airport is working with City of Edinburgh Council on a long-term solution to growing congestion problems on Eastfield Road by proposing to build a new access road to the airport – the increased fee will help go to the £10 million cost. Were you asked? Neither was I. Will the fee return to £1 when the road is funded? That’s a joke for the next Festival Fringe Stand Up Show. The new tariff is: 0-5 mins: £2, 5-10 mins: £4, 10-15 mins: £10. Still a rip off. What happened to free?