Revealed: The world’s most popular new car of 2023

Gareth Herincx

4 days ago
Auto News

Tesla Model Y

The Tesla Model Y is on course to take the crown as the world’s best-selling vehicle of last year.

While a small number of countries are yet to release their sales figures for 2023, preliminary data collected by automotive analyst JATO Dynamics indicates that the Model Y is in an unassailable position with 1.23 million cars sold – a 64% increase year-on-year.

“The increase in global sales of the Model Y is unprecedented, particularly for a vehicle in the top ten best-sellers,” said Felipe Munoz, Global Analyst at JATO Dynamics. “What Tesla has been able to achieve with the Model Y in such a short space of time is simply remarkable.”

Crucially, it topped sales in both Europe and China, the world’s two largest EV markets. According to data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), more than 456,000 were registered in China alone – an increase of 45% from 2022.

All this means that 2023 will mark the end of Toyota’s recent dominance with the RAV4 and Corolla leading the way. However, both models lack pure electric options, with only hybrid alternatives on offer.

Despite this, the second best-selling vehicle in 2023 is set to be the Toyota RAV4, with 1.07 million registrations, pipping the Corolla in third place (1.01 million).

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Nissan Qashqai e-Power review

Nissan Qashqai e-Power

We get behind the wheel of the Nissan Qashqai e-Power – a full hybrid like no other…

The Nissan Qashqai has been a huge success. Originally launched in the UK back in 2007, it pioneered the crossover concept with its blend of hatchback compactness and SUV practicality, becoming the best-selling car in the UK by 2022.

Built in Britain at Nissan’s giant plant in Sunderland, it entered its third generation in 2021 and it’s better than ever.

Introduced initially with just a 1.3-litre mild hybrid engine, an intriguing e-Power version was added in 2022. And it’s this model that’s the subject of this week’s road test.

Nissan Qashqai e-Power

Unlike a conventional hybrid, the e-Power’s 1.5-litre petrol engine doesn’t directly drive the car. Instead, it acts as a generator, sending power to a small 1.97kWh lithium ion battery, then on to an electric motor (outputting 187bhp), which drives the front wheels.

As the marketing blurb says, it’s “powered by electric, refuelled with petrol”, so there’s no need to recharge the Nissan Qashqai e-Power. In fact, you can wave goodbye to the range anxiety so often associated with pure electric vehicles.

Priced from £34,020, the Nissan Qashqai e-Power feels more like an EV to drive (instant torque, single-speed, seamless performance), but it never has to be plugged in – nor will it run out of charge.

Nissan Qashqai e-Power

The system is happiest in low-speed urban driving environments or when cruising where there’s no stress on the engine and it can almost tick over as it charges the battery. Sometimes, the engine will cut out altogether and it will just run in pure electric mode.

It’s only under heavy acceleration or prolonged high-speed driving, on motorways for instance, that the engine has to work harder and it makes itself known.

But even then (unlike some full hybrids) the revs don’t shoot up creating a din in the cabin, even if it’s not a completely whisper-quiet experience. Disconcertingly, the engine’s revs sometimes seem to bear little relation to the demands made by your right foot, but broadly speaking, it works well.

Nissan Qashqai e-Power

For the record, it’s capable of a 0-62mph dash in a spritely 7.9 seconds, and on to a top speed of 105mph.

Nothing goes to waste either. Kinetic energy otherwise lost via braking and coasting is used to recharge the battery (brake regeneration) and you can engage e-Pedal mode to give you a one pedal driving like the 100% electric Nissan Leaf.

In practice, the Nissan Qashqai e-Power offers economy close to a diesel. Officially, it will return 53.3mpg, and in everyday driving that’s realistic and can be bettered – especially if you drive sensibly. During our week with the car, at best we managed close on 70mpg, at worst closer to 40mpg.

Nissan Qashqai e-Power

Of course, the downside is that it’s not 100% electric, so while it’s capable of good fuel economy, CO2 emissions are a low, but significant 120g/km – despite all that tech.

Three driving modes are available (Eco, Standard and Sport) with the car always defaulting to standard, which is just as well because it offers the best blend of performance and economy.

Elsewhere, the e-Power is much like a regular Qashqai, which is no bad thing. Distinctive and modern, it offers serious kerb appeal.

Nissan Qashqai e-Power

Inside, it looks fresh, it’s well put together, soft-touch surfaces give it a classy feel and it’s packed with technology.

The 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, featuring Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, is responsive and easy to use. There’s also a 12.3-inch digital driver’s instrument cluster, plus the latest version of Nissan’s ProPILOT semi-autonomous driving system.

All models are equipped with Nissan’s driver assistance and safety package, which includes autonomous emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and blind spot monitoring.

Nissan Qashqai e-Power

There’s plenty of space for all the family to be seated in comfort, and the rear doors open wide for easy access. Luggage capacity is a decent 504 litres, expanding to 1,447 with the rear seats folded down.

The driving position is ideal, and just as you’d expect from a high-rider, visibility is impressive.

The Nissan Qashqai e-Power handles well and is surprisingly agile. Push it and there’s a little body lean in corners, but otherwise it offers a comfortable ride with ample grip, while the light steering works a treat in town.

It would be an exaggeration to call it an engaging drive, but then the e-Power is more about practicality and economy.

The Qashqai e-Power has a long list of rivals, including the Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson and Suzuki S-Cross, though none use Nissan’s novel hybrid system.

Verdict: Nissan has dared to be different with the Qashqai e-Power – a cross between a full hybrid and an EV. Economical, comfortable, smooth, safe and practical, it’s a perfect stepping stone for drivers who aren’t ready – or can’t yet – make the switch to a pure electric vehicle.

Nissan UK

Renault Austral E-Tech review

Renault Austral E-Tech

There’s no doubt that the Renault Austral E-Tech has serious kerb appeal, but what’s this classy full hybrid like to drive?

Over the years I’ve driven dozens of electric vehicles. And if you can charge from home and you’re open to a change of mindset, there’s every reason to switch.

However, running an EV is not without its issues, thanks to the patchy public charging infrastructure and high price of electricity at rapid chargers.

Which brings me to this week’s test car – the Renault Austral E-Tech. It’s a full hybrid, so there’s no need to plug it in to charge, and in theory it can travel up to 683 miles between fuel stops. No range anxiety there then!

Renault Austral E-Tech

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an EV evangelist, but for many motorists not ready to make the transition to 100% electric or without off-street parking, a full hybrid is the next best thing.

Sure, they are not as kind to the planet as EVs, but the Renault Austral E-Tech can run in EV mode for reasonable distances, emits as little as 105g/km CO2 and can achieve up to 60.1mpg.

And as full hybrids go (its rivals include the Hyundai Tucson Hybrid, Nissan Qashqai e-Power, Honda ZR-V and Toyota RAV4), it’s definitely one of the best.

About the same size as another of its competitors (the Kia Sportage), Renault’s stylish replacement for the lacklustre Kadjar is a looker.

Renault Austral E-Tech

Priced from £34,695, the range begins with the Techno, which features 19-inch alloy wheels, matrix LED headlights, flush roof bars and parking sensors with rear-view camera, plus a hands-free key card with keyless entry.

The Techno Esprit Alpine adds 20-inch wheels, black carbon fabric and Alcantara upholstery with blue stitching, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, electric power tailgate, electric driver and front passenger seats with massage function for driver, traffic/speed sign recognition, and adaptive cruise control with lane centring.

Top-of-the-range Iconic Esprit Alpine gets 4Control Advanced four-wheel steering, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, 360-degree Around View camera, panoramic sunroof, and wireless phone charging.

Renault Austral E-Tech

So, as you can see, the Austral is well equipped. Additionally, all versions get a 12-inch infotainment touchscreen, a 12.3-inch digital driver’s display, 9.3-inch head-up display, plus a range of Google services built-in, including Google Maps, Google Assistant (voice control that works), and access to Google Play.

The Austral’s 196bhp hybrid system uses a gutsy new 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine, two electric motors and a small 2kWh battery.

Feeling swifter than the official 0-62mph acceleration time of 8.4 seconds, the Austral can travel in EV mode up to 70mph unless you plant your right foot, in which case the engine kicks in.

And joy of joys, there’s no CVT gearbox, which means the revs don’t go sky high when accelerating. Instead, the Austral E-Tech has a seven-speed automatic transmission (which uses Renault’s Formula 1-derived clutchless technology), driving the front wheels.

Renault Austral E-Tech

Our Techno Esprit Alpine test car also had four-wheel steering, giving the Austral E-Tech a 10.1m turning circle – that’s city car levels of manoeuvrability.

On the move, it allows the rear wheels to turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels at speeds of up to 30mph, helping to increase manoeuvrability. Plus, at speeds above 30mph, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front wheels, for improved stability.

In fact, there’s a lot of clever stuff going on, including a suite of 30 advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).

The Renault Austral E-Tech always starts in EV mode, then zips along smoothly, delivering an impressive blend of electric and petrol power, enhanced by impressive cabin sound deadening. If you’re in hurry, there’s a hesitation while the system decides what it’s going to do, but broadly speaking, it’s a very slick.

Renault Austral E-Tech

The ride is firm, but such is the joy of that punchy electrically-boosted powertrain, all is forgiven.

It’s set up for sporty handling, and works well. The steering is on the light side and the four-wheel steering turns in rather too eagerly initially, but you get used to it and after a while your confidence grows.

There’s also decent grip from those big wheels, and when pushed on more challenging roads, body lean is kept in check and it’s more agile than you might expect for a crossover.

There are four levels of regenerative braking accessible via the steering paddles, and after a while, you learn to charge the battery on long downhill runs or when coasting and braking, ready to deploy when needed. And the good news is that 55mpg is relatively easy to achieve, and in town you can get closer to 60mpg or more.

Renault Austral E-Tech

The Renault Austral E-Tech is dark inside – everywhere from the seats to the headlining and door cards. That said, it has a premium feel and it seems solidly put together.

There’s plenty of space up front, even if the lowest driving position is a tad high for taller drivers. Sliding rear seats allow you to juggle space between rear passengers and boot capacity. At its most generous setting, boot space is a useful 555 litres, rising to 1,455 litres with the rear seats flipped down.

So, the Austral E-Tech isn’t perfect, but after a few days it really grows on you. And let’s face it, 600-odd miles out of a tank of petrol is very welcome.

Verdict: The Renault Austral E-Tech is one of the best full hybrid family SUVs on the market. Good-looking, classy, packed with tech, practical and economical, it should definitely be on any family car shortlist.

Renault UK

Celebrating 30 years of the Kia Sportage

Kia Sportage - five generations

We head off for a trip down memory lane, taking all five generations of the Kia Sportage for a spin…

Originally launched in 1993, the Kia Sportage has been the backbone of the South Korean brand’s remarkable success story.

The popular family-sized SUV’s evolution perfectly reflects the manufacturer’s rapid rise since its single-model debut in 1991.

Just to put that into context – in year one the little Kia Pride achieved 1,786 sales. In 2022, Kia passed the important milestone of 100,000 sales per year, and 2023 is on track to be even better.

Kia Sportage 1 and 5
Kia Sportage: First and fifth generations

Over that time, Kia has developed a solid reputation for quality, reliability, design flair and innovation.

What’s more, the brand has become a driving force in the switch to electrification with hybrid, plug-in hybrid and 100% electric models in its line-up.

To mark the Sportage’s 30th birthday, Kia gave us the opportunity to sample all five generations. A fascinating day driving the models back-to-back, and here’s what we thought…

Kia Sportage - first generation

First generation (1993-2003)

UK sales: 10,897

The Kia Sportage was first launched in the Asian car market in 1993, reaching the UK in 1995. The example from the Kia heritage fleet we drove is a special edition all-wheel drive 2.0-litre XSE from its final year of production. It may look boxy and dated, but it’s surprisingly spacious and refined. Yes, the handling is wallowy, the gear change is a tad notchy and the seating position is particularly high in the rear, but it’s powerful enough and compares well with a Toyota RAV4 of the same vintage.

Kia Sportage - second generation

Second generation (2005-10)

UK sales: 23,371

Following a two-year break, the Sportage returned in 2005. Bigger and more grown-up, it featured mod cons such as central locking, adjustable wing mirrors and a CD player. Gaining a reputation for reliability over its production run, there was also extra space in the rear, a noticeable uplift in quality and a more composed feel on the road. The Sportage was going places. The heritage model we sampled was an XE 2.0-litre diesel (CRDi) all-wheel drive from 2007 – the year production of the Sportage moved from South Korea to Zilina, Slovakia, where the Sportage is still built today.

Kia Sportage - third generation

Third generation (2010-16)

UK sales: 95,626

With another big leap in quality, the Sportage bulked up and became a major player in the SUV market. Little quirks were finally ironed out (the indicator moved from the right to the left-hand side of the steering wheel), there was yet more space in the back for passengers, and it picked up a prestigious 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating. More comfortable than ever, modern touches include a USB port and a remote key fob, no less. The KX-3 AWD we drove dated from 2011, and though the 2.0-litre petrol engine lacked some of the punch of the diesel from the previous generation, the car itself handles well and has stood the test of time well and is still a solid second-hand SUV choice.

Kia Sportage - fourth generation

Fourth generation (2016-22)

UK sales: 197,547

Kia hit the jackpot with the curvaceous fourth-generation Sportage, which is still a cracking car. Surprisingly dynamic to drive for an SUV, it was also comfortable and spacious. The first Sportage to be offered with an electrified option (a mild hybrid model joined the petrol and diesel options in 2018), the Mk4 is so good that it could still be on sale today. In fact, the only age giveaways are the manual handbrake, the modest infotainment screen and a liberal dose of buttons and dials.

Kia Sportage - fifth generation

Fifth generation (2022-)

The best just got better. The latest version of the Sportage was launched in 2022, delivering a winning blend of striking looks, hi-tech interior, practicality, top safety features, driving engagement and big bang for your bucks. Crowned What Car? ‘Best Family SUV’, it’s available as a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV), Hybrid Electric (HEV) and Mild Hybrid (MHEV). In PHEV form it has a theoretical fuel economy of 252mpg, and an emissions-free EV driving range of up to 43 miles. And as ever, the Sportage offers peace of mind because it’s backed by Kia generous seven-year warranty.

So, Kia has now established itself as one of the top five car brands in the UK – a brilliant feat in just three decades. In fact, since its 1991 debut, it’s sold some 1.5 million cars in the UK alone.

And in July 2023, Kia UK reached the 50,000 EV sales milestone, an important step in its journey to having nine EVs by 2027.

Driving home for Christmas? Survey reveals your travel plans

Gareth Herincx

2 days ago
Auto News

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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