• Renault Koleos review

    The Renault Koleos is the newest entrant in the fiercely fought mid-to-large SUV segment that includes the Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, Kia Sorento and Skoda Kodiaq. Completing Renault’s crossover range, which also includes the Captur and Kadjar, the Koleos is in effect the French giant’s flagship car. As such, it’s offered in just two top …

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  • Seat Ibiza review

    It’s proving to be a stellar year for superminis – all-new kids on the block include the transformed Nissan Micra and latest version of the market-leading Ford Fiesta. Now it’s Seat’s turn with the fifth-generation of the popular Ibiza. Originally launched in 1984, it’s the Spanish brand’s best-selling model with more than 5.4 million sold. …

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  • Subaru BRZ review

    Subaru BRZ review

    The Subaru BRZ is one of the best kept secrets of the auotmotive world.

    Developed alongisde the near-identical Toyota GT86, it’s an affordable back-to-basics front
    engined, rear-wheel drive 2+2 sports coupe.

    For 2017, Subaru has given the evergreen BRZ a mid-life facelift, equipment upgrade and distilled the trim options down to just one – SE Lux.

    Subaru BRZ review

    The exterior design tweaks are subtle, apart from the old school aerodynamic wing at the rear. Elsewhere, there’s a new front bumper, LED headlights and 10-spoke 17-inch alloys.

    You can choose from five colours, though Subaru’s iconic WR (World Rally) Blue Pearl is surely the one to go for.

    Inside, a 4.2-inch LCD colour display is added to the instrument display, featuring such sporting essentials as a G-Force meter and braking gauge.

    Subaru BRZ review

    The leather steering wheel is now smaller and boasts audio controls, while plastics generally have been upgraded or replaced by leather, giving the cabin a more upmarket feel.

    The Alcantra and leather seats are more comfortable than ever (the driver’s seat has a six-way adjustment), while a 6.2-inch touchscreen has been added to the centre console, though sat nav is a £1,250 option.

    The infotainment system is not as hi-tech as the best of them, but it does the job and, of course, offers full connectivity.

    Subaru BRZ review

    Traditionalists will be pleased to note that the cockpit is still adorned with plenty of retro-feel knobs and toggle switches.

    The rear passenger seats are fitted with ISOFIX anchor points, but as with most 2+2s, they are
    almost totally useless. Better news in the boot where there’s 243 litres of space available – 1,270 with the rear seats folded flat.

    The 2017 Subaru BRZ is more driver focused than ever. Sadly, there’s no extra power for the 2.0-
    litre 200PS ‘Boxer’ petrol engine, but it is more responsive, it still sounds suitably throaty and CO2 emissions are slightly lower.

    Subaru BRZ review

    Elsewhere, Subaru’s engineers have made various changes (to the steering, suspension, dampers and
    brakes) to tweak the driving dynamics and make the BRZ even sharper than before.

    Priced from £26,050, the BRZ is one of the most entertaining cars you’ll find for that money.

    The chassis is better than ever and it’s enormous fun on flowing country roads. Agile and engaging, it’s helped by a slick six-speed short-throw manual gearbox and it feels totally
    planted.

    Subaru BRZ review

    For the record, the BRZ is capable of 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds (but feels faster) and it tops out at 140mph. Fuel economy is a claimed 36.2mpg (and it not far off that in the real world), while CO2 emissions are a very average 180g/km.

    But here’s the thing. The BRZ is also now available with automatic transmission – and it’s a bit of a revelation.

    Subaru BRZ review

    It may sounds like sacrilege in a sports car package like this, but the auto box slams through the gears pretty well – even producing the odd pop on down-changes, allowing you to concentrate on the driving. The engine even sounds more sporty.

    Verdict: The new, improved Subaru BRZ is better than ever. With a mild makeover inside and out, plus enhanced driving dynamics, it has to be one of the best-value, most entertaining sports cars
    on the market – and it still looks just as cool.

    Review by Gareth Herincx

    Subaru BRZ review

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  • Ford S-Max – Don’t Be ‘Sports Dad’

    Purchasing a new Ford S-Max should be regarded as a textbook example of refusing to stand out from the crowd. While being one of the herd is traditionally frowned upon, actually in the case of the new S-Max it’s highly beneficial. Unless that is, you’re ‘Sports Dad’.

    Ford S-Max Static 03

    ‘Sports Dad’ wants to be the best. He wants to the best so much, that he’ll pick the biggest engine with the highest bhp output on his new car just so everybody knows he is the man. Basically, ‘Sports Dad’ is the guy you avoid like the plague when you go and watch your own kids football team playing because he abuses the referee and generally makes a monumental tit of himself. Fear not reader, I’m here to show you how to get the best S-Max for you, all while getting a better S-Max than ‘Sports Dad’ and saving a bit of money in the process.

    The guy we all love to hate has already chosen his S-Max, and naturally it’s the one that sits at the very top of the S-Max pyramid – the 2.3 236bhp litre petrol powerhouse. Ford expects only 1% of all S-Max buyers to take this one up, but that’s ok because ‘Sports Dad’ has always thought of himself as being in the top 1% anyway. For us though, let’s think of that 1% as those people who are so keen to distance themselves from the herd, so keen to look special, that they’d go as far as to shoot themselves in the foot in a bid to impress others around them.

    Ford S-Max Driving 01

    Yes, as tempting as it may sound on paper, the ‘sporty’ variant of the new S-Max is certainly not the high point of the range. It’s an engine that just doesn’t feel at home in this car, lacking the torque needed to launch the heavy S-Max, and despite that high-ish power output, in reality it doesn’t feel anywhere near as quick as the spec sheet might have you believe. The 6-speed automatic Ford has attached to it doesn’t help either, a pure cruiser unit that’s clearly not been designed to deliver on the excitement front, and to be fair why would it? ‘Sports Dad’ will tell you all about the flappy paddles, but I’ll tell you that it’s so lacking in shift feel you wonder why they even attached them to the steering wheel in the first place. Ford hasn’t offered a manual option with this engine, but even with that option box open I still think it would be a poor choice. Despite the disappointment with this particular powertrain, this is where the problems with the new S-Max end.

    Ford S-Max Interior 04

     

    Some drivers will naturally prefer some of the more conceptual design flair seen in some of France’s latest offerings, but it can’t be said that the S-Max isn’t a handsome looking beast. The strong, angular lines make this one of the best efforts at putting together an attractive people carrier that I can remember, it looks like a car with real class and that continues inside. From the moment you step in you can see and feel the improvements in the interior, with plenty of quality materials applied to make the cabin a genuinely pleasurable place to spend time. The seating is particularly excellent, providing a hugely comfortable and supportive place to park the posteriors of you and your family. The S-Max now feels more premium than ever before and – through these eyes at least – is a nose ahead of the interior environments found in some of its rivals.

    Ford S-Max Interior 02

    As it’s the modern age, the class and comfort of the interior would be nothing without decent technology to back it up, and there is some very tasty tech to examine. The SYNC2 system is a must have, and while the interface and arrangement of the software is good, the touchscreen it’s wrapped in can occasionally be unresponsive. Other useful features include split view cameras to assist in pulling out of parking spaces and junctions (not something obnoxious yet genetically superior ‘Sports Dads’ will ever feel the need to use), a variable ratio steering setup that Ford has even managed to squeeze the mechanism of inside the steering wheel, and a system to monitor road signs and adapt the speed limiter to match them, theoretically preventing you exceeding the speed limits. For those show offs who always have something new to stick in the garden, boot space starts at 700 litres in 5 seater mode, but the 2 seated van-like layout will bump that up to a cavernous 2000 litres, perfect for that gazebo hauling, faux-brick BBQ buying dad who always calls you ‘mate’.

    Ford S-Max Interior 01

    So, how do you stick it to ‘Sports Dad’? By knowing the following important information; those who love to drive will ultimately gain more pleasure from one of the more powerful diesel manual options than the petrol powered brute discussed earlier. The new S-Max is a brilliant cruiser, being both remarkably quiet and hugely comfortable and when driven as such it’s a joy, even if as the driver you do feel a little detached from what’s happening outside. With one of the more grunty diesel engines, the excellent manual gearbox, and ‘Titanium’ spec, you’ll have a truly excellent car on your hands. This might be about as good as a people carrier gets. Refined, comfortable, practical, and perhaps most crucially it’s actually quite desirable. It’s also cheaper to buy and will depreciate less than the flash git’s top spec model. That means when you lift lazy waves from the steering wheel of your S-Max outside the school gates, you get the satisfaction of knowing you’re in the better car.

    So, who’s winning now ‘mate’?

    2015 Ford Galaxy

    Performance & Economy 2.0 TDCi Titanium X 2.0 EcoBoost Titanium X
    Engine 1,997cc tubocharged diesel 1,999cc turbocharged petrol
    Transmission 6-speed manual, front engine, front-wheel drive 6-speed automatic, front engine, front-wheel drive
    Power (PS / bhp) 180 / 177 240 / 236
    Torque (Nm / lb.ft) 400 / 295 345 / 254
    0 – 62 mph (seconds) 9.5 8.3
    Top Speed (mph) 131 140
    CO2 Emissions (g/km) 129 180
    VED Band D I
    Combined Economy (mpg) 56 35
    Price (OTR) £33,845 £35,205

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