Driving home for Christmas? Survey reveals your travel plans

Gareth Herincx

2 days ago
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2022 Honda Civic e.HEV

More than three quarters of Brits will be relying on their car over the festive period, according to new research from Honda UK.

The survey of 2,000 people also revealed that the most common number of trips we’re planning on making is between four and six (35%), covering a distance of less than 50 miles (29%).

People in Northern Ireland will be most reliant on a car over the Christmas and New Year (94%), followed by folk in the East Midlands, the South West, and Yorkshire and the Humber (each 85%). Those in London are set to be the least reliant on a car, with just 28% hitting the road over the festive period.

The research suggests that people prefer to travel with company as more than two thirds (70%) are joined in the car by a partner, friend and or child/children, while just 11% of those surveyed will be travelling alone over the festive period.

Christmas and the New Year are a time for families to come together and celebrate, with presents, food and beverages. But first, you have to get it all in the car. The below table reveals the most popular things to travel with.

Travelling With: Percentage Of Surveyed Brits
Presents 64%
Food 47%
Shopping 47%
Alcohol 37%
Pets 24%

In keeping with the festive season, more than a quarter of people will be listening to a Christmas playlist (26%) while on the road. Gen Z is most likely to enjoy a festive soundtrack for their car journeys, with more than half of 18-24s (52%) listening to a Christmas playlist.

A surprising number of survey respondents (14%) admitted to arguing with family whilst travelling at Christmas time.

The top five passenger activities are as follows:

Passenger Activities Percentage Of Surveyed Brits
Listening to the radio 60%
Listening to a Christmas playlist 26%
Listening to a streaming service 24%
Arguing with the family 14%
Playing car games 9%

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Honda Civic review

Honda Civic e:HEV

We’ve been road testing the all-new Honda Civic, and it’s no surprise to us that it’s been winning awards…

The first Honda Civic was launched 50 years ago and it’s become a legendary model in the automotive world. Now it’s the turn of the 11th generation Civic, which is only available as a full hybrid, so there’s no need to plug it in.

Officially marketed as the ‘Civic e:HEV’, it’s an old school, family-friendly hatchback. Refreshing, when the market is awash with SUVs.

At 4,551mm long, 1,802mm wide and 1,408mm high, the substantial new Civic is the longest, widest and lowest hatchback in its class.

2022 Honda Civic e:HEV

The advantage of the increased wheelbase over the outgoing model is that it creates extra cabin space.

So, there’s plenty of room up front, while rear passengers have space to stretch their legs, and only very tall people will struggle for headroom.

The boot is a generous 410 litres, rising to 1,220 litres with the back seats flipped down, while the load space is long and wide.

The interior represents a real step up in terms of quality and functionality. There’s a solid feel overall, the seats are comfortable and there are plenty of soft-touch surfaces.

2022 Honda Civic e:HEV

The infotainment system isn’t the slickest, but does the job nicely. Most of all, the dashboard is not too minimalist – there are still dials and buttons for essentials such as climate control, radio volume, heated seats and drive mode selection.

At the heart of the latest Civic is Honda’s clever e:hev hybrid powertrain, which is a scaled up version of the system also used in the smaller Jazz and HR-V.

Unlike hybrid systems from most other car makers, the 2.0-litre engine acts as a generator to power the battery rather than the wheels for much of the time, so it runs in EV mode as much as possible.

However, at higher speeds or under heavy loads, it can send drive straight to the front wheels. What’s more, the e-CVT transmission isn’t a conventional gearbox either, but I’ll come to that later.

2022 Honda Civic e:HEV

The naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine (141bhp) is paired with two electric motors and a small 1.05kWh battery, giving a combined output of 181bhp.

Official figures tell much of the story, with a 0-62mph time of 7.8 seconds and a 111mph top speed. CO2 emissions are as low as 108g/km, while fuel economy is up to 60.1mpg.

Until the new Civic Type R hits showrooms, buyers will have to make do with just the one hybrid powertrain.

Priced from £29,595, the Civic e:HEV is offered in one of three specs – Elegance, Sport and Advance.

2022 Honda Civic e:HEV

Entry-level Elegance gets 17-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, a 7.0 digital instrument cluster, plus a 9.0-inch central touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. Safety and driver assistance features include lane-keep assist and traffic jam assist.

Sport models boast 18-inch gloss black alloy wheels, as well as black door mirrors and window frames. Inside, there’s faux leather upholstery and sportier pedals.

The range-topping Advance is treated to 18-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof, full leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, a larger 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster and a 12-speaker Bose sound system.

Once inside, it’s immediately clear that you’re driving a rakish, fairly wide hatchback. If you’re used to the raised seating and commanding driving position of an SUV, it may take a while to acclimatise to the new Civic.

2022 Honda Civic e:HEV

I love a low seating position. In fact, I would have preferred a little more downward adjustment, but overall, it’s a relaxed and comfortable place to be.

There’s plenty of poke, thanks to that electrical assistance, but the biggest surprise is the e-CVT gearbox.

The boffins at Honda have done their best to eradicate the sudden rise in revs you generally get when you put your foot down in a car with a conventional CVT box.

Instead, there are ‘steps’, giving the feel of conventional transmission ratios. It’s still not perfect, but it is a huge improvement.

2022 Honda Civic e:HEV

There are three drive modes (Econ, Normal and Sport). Go for Econ on motorway journeys and 50 mpg is easily achieved, Normal is just fine for everyday driving, while Sport is fun for blasts on more challenging roads. The e-CVT works best in Normal and Sport modes.

The hybrid system is efficient and smooth, while the regenerative braking can be adjusted. At its strongest setting, it’s almost at one-pedal level, slowing the car down virtually to a halt whilst charging up the battery.

The ride is on the firm side, but not uncomfortably so, but generally it’s a great all-rounder – happy cruising motorways and stretching its legs on more engaging roads.

In fact, the new Civic offers a surprisingly agile drive. When pushed, it stays flat in more challenging corners, there’s good grip and the steering is nicely weighted, which all bodes well for the upcoming Type R.

2022 Honda Civic e:HEV

Awarded a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash testing, the Civic is fitted with Honda Sensing (a suite of safety and driver assistance features) which includes goodies such as Traffic Sign Recognition, Lane Keep Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Collison Mitigation Brake System, Intelligent Speed Limiter and Auto High-Beam Headlights as standard.

Rivals include the Toyota Corolla Hybrid, Kia Ceed, Ford Focus, Peugeot 308, Vauxhall Astra, Mercedes A-Class, BMW 1 Series or Audi A3 Sportback.

Verdict: The Honda Civic is a fantastic all-rounder. A family-focused hatchback that’s sleek, safe, practical, well built and economical, it’s rewarding to drive and packed with the latest tech. Add Honda’s reputation for reliability and it’s right up there with the best in its class.

Honda UK

ORA Funky Cat review

ORA Funky Cat

We road test the first car from a new brand to the UK – the ORA Funky Cat EV…

With its cool name and retro looks, this affordable electric hatchback is our introduction to ORA – one of five brands owned by Chinese car giant, Great Wall Motor.

Founded in 1984, GWM is China’s largest producer of SUVs and pick-up trucks, and the Funky Cat will be followed by more 100% electric siblings, probably all with cute feline names.

Apparently, ORA stands for “Open, Reliable and Alternative” and so far the strategy seems to be working well because ORA sold 135,000 cars in China during 2021 and several thousand UK motorists have already registered an interest in the Funky Cat.

ORA Funky Cat

Priced from £31,995, ORA has kept it simple at launch with just a ‘First Edition’, available in four colours, including Aurora Green and Nebula Green.

Featuring a 48kWh battery offering an official range of 193 miles, power comes from a 169bhp electric motor driving the front wheels, giving a 0-62mph time of 8.3 seconds and a top speed of 99mph.

It can be charged via a 6.6kW home charger in five hours 24 minutes, or 3 hours 12 minutes using an 11kW public charger.

ORA Funky Cat

If you can find a rapid 100kW connection, you’ll be back on the road in less than 45 minutes.

The Funky Cat is bigger than it looks in pictures, so it’s more Golf than Polo, or Focus than Fiesta. Crucially, it’s also about the same size as the VW ID.3 – the electric vehicle ORA reckons is the Funky Cat’s closest rival (though we’d say the Citroen e-C4 is closer still).

With its blend of retro features and modern touches, this five-door family hatchback is a breath of fresh air on the road.

ORA Funky Cat

There are hints of MINI, VW Beetle, Nissan Micra and Alfa Romeo MiTo, with its round headlights, sloping nose and bonnet creases.

The Funky Cat’s wheel-in-each-corner profile is more unique with clever curves and a high waistline, while its pert rear is not unlike a Nissan Leaf, though the ‘Cat’ has low set lights, a full width lightbar along the bottom of the tailgate window and a sporty spoiler.

The interior is right up there with the MINI Electric in terms of build quality and the near-premium use of materials. It feels solid too (the doors close with a satisfying clunk).

ORA Funky Cat

It’s funky inside with a minimalist design and a trim matching the exterior colour. There’s a big two-spoke steering wheel, a row of toggle switches and a 10.25-inch touchscreen, plus a large digital driver’s display (also 10.25 inches).

Note: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will form part of an over-the-air update in summer 2023.

A special mention for the voice command system, which works surprisingly well. Simply say “Hello Ora” and you’re away. It recognises your voice too and it’s very good at opening and closing windows!

ORA Funky Cat

The Funky Cat is spacious too, with enough room for adults to sit behind adults, though the boot is a modest 228 litres (rising to 858 litres with the rear seats flipped down).

The heated and electrically adjustable leatherette seats are comfortable and even feature cool cross stitching usually found on luxury cars (check out the door cards too).

When it’s time to set off, simply select D via a centrally located rotating knob, release the parking brake and you’re away. Accompanied by a distant whine, the Funky Cat is as swift as you’d expect for a relatively lightweight EV.

ORA Funky Cat

Smooth, comfortable, fun, and easy to drive with light steering, visibility is good, while cabin refinement is admirable.

There’s also some decent performance (it’s not hard to spin the front wheels if you floor it, especially in the wet) and you can choose from various drive modes.

Stick to Eco for town driving, Normal on more open roads and Sport for occasional bursts of range-sapping run.

ORA Funky Cat

You can also select single-pedal drive mode, which almost eradicates the need for brakes – simply lift off and it slows down fast. Or you can choose between three levels of regen via the touchscreen.

However, despite its looks, the Funky Cat is no match for the MINI Electric in the handling department. Push it to the limit in faster corners and it becomes unsettled, but for everyday driving it’s a joy.

So, as long as you don’t go expecting hot hatch driving dynamics, the Funky Cat won’t disappoint, while a real-world range of 150 miles is way above the smaller MINI’s 100 miles.

ORA Funky Cat

Standard kit on the Funky Cat Launch Edition includes LED headlights, wireless phone charging, adaptive cruise control and a 360-degree camera system, a rear traffic cross alert and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).

In fact, it’s so safe that Euro NCAP awarded it a maximum five stars in crash testing.

ORA Funky Cat

No car is perfect, and the Funky Cat is no exception., because it’s not without its irritations.

For instance, the indicators are tricky to cancel. They require an incredibly light touch and it’s all too easy to activate the opposite signal.

We’re sure it won’t be such an issue after a few weeks of ownership, but it’s not ideal initially.

ORA Funky Cat

The various bongs and safety warnings are slightly overbearing too, while the infotainment screen looks cool, but could be much bolder with a larger typeface.

Overall, the Funky Cat is an impressive debut model for GWM in the UK, and if it can keep its pricing competitive, it could be the cat’s whiskers.

Verdict: The all-new ORA Funky Cat is a welcome addition to the EV scene. Not only does it stand out from the crowd, but it also offers practicality, fun driving, good build quality, a useful battery range and a five-year unlimited mileage warranty.

GMM ORA UK

ORA Funky Cat

DS 4 review

DS 4 review

Once in a while I get to road test a new car I know little about, and it proves to be something of a revelation. The stunning DS 4 is one such vehicle.

A cross between a hatchback and a compact crossover, the five-door DS 4  challenges everything from the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class to the Audi Q2, BMW X2 and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class.

And if you’re new to DS Automobiles, then it’s probably best described as Citroen’s premium spin-off sister brand.

Sharing a platform with other Stellantis group cars (eg Citroen C5 X, Vauxhall Astra and Peugeot 308) the DS 4 is available with petrol and diesel engines, plus a flagship plug-in hybrid.

DS 4 review

Priced from £29,710 to £43,550, there are two trim levels (Performance Line and Performance Line ), plus a DS 4 Cross which complements the stylish design of the DS 4 with SUV-inspired styling cues, including side skirts, gloss black roof bars, front and rear skid plates and black bumpers.

You only have to look at the pictures to see that the DS 4 oozes kerb appeal. Its profile is rakish with a blend of smooth surfaces and elegant lines – there are also big wheels and flush-fitting door handles.

The front is dominated by a large diamond mesh DS grille, slim matrix LED headlights and sharp vertical, zig-zag LED running lights, delivering a unique lighting signature, while the rear gets a slim window and sexy rear light clusters.

DS 4 review

All in all, the DS 4 has an athletic stance and if cars were judged purely on style, it would go straight to the top of the class.

It’s the same story inside where there’s a classy, hi-tech feel mixed with top build quality. DS does things differently and the uncluttered interior is a treat with numerous clever design touches. Who else would have thought of integrating the electric window switches so beautifully into the top of the door trim?

A special mention for the seats too, which are easily the most comfortable you will find in this price bracket. There’s plenty of space too, though taller passenger in the rear may struggle for headroom if you opt for the panoramic sunroof which eats into the roof space. Boot capacity is a decent 430 litres, expanding to 1,240 litres with the rear seats folded down.

DS 4 review

Every DS 4 features a 7.0-inch digital driver’s cluster, plus a 10.0-inch central touchscreen which its flush with the dashboard, while higher trim levels get a head-up display that’s projected neatly onto the windscreen.

The infotainment system takes some getting used to, but after a while you get the hang of it. The home screen is customisable and there are short-cut buttons below, but sadly essentials like the climate control are not permanently accessible.

There’s also a twinkly 5.0-inch touchpad (‘DS Smart Touch’) down near the gear selector, which allows you to pre-set up to six shortcuts – each with their own gesture movement. It’s a bit gimmicky, but anything that avoids tapping and swiping menus on the main infotainment screen when driving must be a good thing.

DS 4 review

To summarise, the DS 4’s infotainment system isn’t without its frustrations, but it will grow on you. If nothing else, it’s a thing of beauty – like the rest of the cabin.

I tested the entry-level DS 4 Performance Line PureTech 130, which is fitted a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol turbo driving the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It may sound weedy for a car of this size, but it’s surprisingly powerful.

Developing 128bhp, it’s a punchy little unit and a mainstay within the Stellantis group of cars (Vauxhall, Citroen and Peugeot too).

DS 4 review

On paper it’s capable of up to 48.6mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as 132g/km. Top speed is 130mph and its 0-62mph time is 10.4 seconds.

There’s a pleasant thrum from the engine when pushed, but such is the refinement of the DS 4’s cabin, it’s hardly noticeable in everyday driving.

Naturally, it’s in its element darting around in an urban environment, but it settles down well on the motorway too. Push it on more challenging roads and the engine will become a little more vocal and it will run out of puff. There’s a slight hesitation getting off the mark sometimes, but generally it works well.

DS 4 review

If you want more petrol power, then move up to the 1.6-litre four-cylinder options, delivering 178bhp and 222bhp respectively, or the plug-in hybrid which offers up to 398.5 miles of electric only motoring.

The DS 4 rides smoothly and feels planted, while body lean is well controlled in faster corners. Just the job, considering this is a car that prioritises comfort over hot handling.

Drive it sensibly and it will deliver close on 50mpg on longer runs. What’s more, you’ll arrive at your destination more relaxed than many of its rivals.

DS 4 review

You’ll also feel special, because the DS 4 turns heads (for all the right reasons), the interior is a designer wonderland and it’s a joy to drive. The best DS I’ve driven yet, it deserves to succeed.

Verdict: Test drive the gorgeous DS 4 if you’re in the market for a premium five-door family car that stands out from the crowd and delivers a tempting alternative to its German rivals. One of 2022’s biggest surprises, you may just fall for its stunning design, classy feel, comfortable drive and twinkly charms.

DS Automobiles UK

2022 Ford Focus review

Ford Focus review

We road test the new, improved version of the popular Ford Focus – now with mild hybrid assistance available…

The current fourth generation of the Ford Focus five-door family hatchback and estate was launched in 2018 and has just been treated to a mid-life makeover.

Gaining bolder looks, an updated infotainment system and more advanced driver assistance technology, a mild hybrid system is also on offer for the first time.

The update couldn’t have come sooner because the Focus has been slipping down the sales charts as buyers switch to crossovers and fully electric/hybrid cars.

Ford Focus review

It’s also facing serious competition from newer rivals such as the Vauxhall Astra, Peugeot 308, Seat Leon, Mazda 3, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf.

As before, the freshly facelifted Focus is also available as a sporty ST variant or a rufty-tufty Active version which bridges the gap between conventional family cars and SUVs. 

Priced from £22,965, there’s now a choice of three engines – two petrol and one diesel. The three-cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol unit, so familiar to Fiesta and Puma owners, is available with outputs of 123bhp or 153bhp. 

Ford Focus review

Mild-hybrid tech is offered as an option on the less powerful version, and included as standard on the higher-output version, helping to boost both performance and efficiency. A choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic are available on both too. 

Accelerating to 60mph takes 10.2 seconds in the 123bhp car, or just 8.2 seconds on the more powerful mild hybrid model. The latter is the most efficient, returning a decent 54.3mpg, with CO2 emissions of 116g/km. 

If performance is more important to you, then go for the Focus ST hot hatch, which benefits from a 2.3-litre petrol engine delivering 276bhp and a 0-60mph time of just 5.7 seconds.

Ford Focus review

High-mileage drivers still have the option of a diesel – a 118bhp 1.5-litre unit that comes with either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission. 

A 9.6-second 0-60mph sprint time is possible, while Ford claims an impressive 61.4mpg fuel economy figure (CO2 emissions as low as 120g/km).

My test car came in high spec ST-Line Vignale trim and was fitted with the 153bhp version of Ford’s punchy 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine, paired with a six-speed manual gearbox.

Ford Focus review

The refreshed front end adds kerb appeal to the Focus, while overall it has a more athletic stance. The sporty ST-Line models look especially good with a body kit that includes a rear diffuser and spoiler. 

The interior has been smartened up too with all trim levels getting the much improved SYNC 4 13.2-inch landscape-oriented touchscreen infotainment system.

Even though it now incorporates the car’s heating and ventilation controls, it’s slick, colourful and easy to use. Every Focus also now comes with digital dials.

Advanced driver assistance technologies include Blind Spot Assist which can help prevent a driver switching lanes if a potential collision is detected.

Ford Focus review

Before I proceed, let’s just be clear that the 48-volt mild hybrid system used in the Focus is pretty basic. Unlike plug-in and full hybrids, it cannot drive the car alone. 

Instead, it boosts engine acceleration and aids fuel economy (though that’s marginal), and it drives just like an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) car, so no plugging in to charge the small battery.

However, when rivals such as the all-new Vauxhall Astra and Peugeot 308 are available as plug-in hybrids (with all-electric versions to follow in 2023), the Focus is barely keeping up and will lose out in the all-important business sector where lower CO2 levels means big tax benefits.

Ford Focus review

That said, there are plenty of drivers who are not ready (or can’t) make the switch to plug-in and electric vehicles, or simply prefer conventional cars for now, so there is still a place for the Focus.

And here’s the thing – I’ve driven dozens of full hybrid, plug-in hybrid, 100% electric vehicles (EVs) and SUVs with indifferent dynamics, so the Focus’s blend of driver engagement and practicality is a real treat.

Not only does it look the part, but there’s plenty of space inside for five adults, plus the boot is a competitively sized 375 litres (rising to 1,354 litres with the rear seats folded). There’s also a lovely low driving position should you want it – an impossibility in most EVs and SUVs.

Ford Focus review

Then there’s the famed handling characteristics of the Ford Focus. It’s fun to drive, feeling agile and planted with sharp steering and loads of grip.

Push it in faster corners and where some rivals will become unsettled, the Focus takes it in its stride.

That’s not all, the lively little engine punches way above its weight, providing ample power, the slick six-speed manual gearbox is an absolute joy to use and the brakes are reassuringly reactive.

Ford Focus review

The ride is on the firm side, but not uncomfortably so, while the build quality is hard to fault and cabin refinement is excellent.

Three selectable drive modes – normal, sport and eco – add to the overall driving experience.

Verdict: The Ford Focus is a fantastically well sorted car. Fun to drive, stylish, practical, comfortable, economical, and now featuring a  bang up to date infotainment system, it’s still one of the best family hatchbacks on the market.

Ford UK