A Green Executive Supermini?

Super minis are ideal for city driving. They are easy to park, they nip through city traffic, they are cheap to run and have cool futuristic styling. Their prices are incredibly low and some come with impressive warranties – up to 7 years long. However the drive for accessible (cheap) pricing means that none of these cars provide a luxury driving experience. They are all a bit kiddie with some very basic interiors. As a result they have never been a realistic choice for the well heeled who are still buying huge cars for their city driving.

These buyers don’t need the size but they do want the high quality experience these cars provide and the feel good factor provided by the luxury car makers. Is there a small city car out there with good green credentials that a high earning city professional would actually want to drive?

Well now there might be an option. Before the most prestigious maker in the electric super mini market was Toyota with the Yaris. It is cheap at around £16,000 but the handling was average and the interior low quality. BMW have just released their i3 fully electric model which delivers excellent handling and prestige but with a correspondingly high price. Is it worth the extra money and is it something high fliers will want to drive?

BMWi3 Interior

BMW i3 Interior

Key Points

  • Electric car.
  • CarBuyer.co.uk Best Hybrid / Electric Car 2014.
  • High Quality Interior.
  • Exempt from the London Congestion Charge.
  • Top speed: 93mph
  • Range: 80 – 100 miles
  • 0-60mph in 7 seconds.
  • Full charge in eight hours on a regular domestic plug. This halves to only 4 hours if you buy a BMW wallbox for around £315.

The Drive

All reviewers agree that this car is brilliant to drive around cities. In general in the 0-30mph range it is surprising nimble so nipping in and out of city traffic is a doddle. An electric engine is actually better than petrol at delivering instant power from stationery which is why they are being developed as city cars rather than long rangers. The BMW i3 is even better at delivering this advantage than its electric rivals – it can accelerate to 60mph over 3 seconds faster than the Toyota Prius.

It manages to deliver a high driving position with excellent visibility coupled with great stability which is provided by the low slung heavy battery under the floor. It has a tiny turning circle of only 10m making parking easy which is just as well as the standard model does not come with parking sensors.

More importantly this car is actually fun to drive; not fun for an electric car just plain grin inducing FUN.

BMWi3 Is Fun!

BMW i3 Is Fun!

Pricing & Charging

The price range for the BMW i3 is £30,680 – £33,830 which is much higher than the rest of the electric supermini class. However it qualifies for the governments £5,000 electric car grant.

A full charge should take 8 hours from a normal mains socket and cost £1 delivering 80-100 miles of city driving. You can buy a wall unit which greatly reduces the charging time. In london there is government backed charging point network called Source London which offers a huge London wide network of charging points for an annual membership of only £10. The estimated fuel cost per mile is 3p which is excellent – the Yaris comes out at 8p.  The sat nav console integrates information on power usage and expected range as well as information on the nearest charging points. You can also download apps for this.

It is exempt from the London congestion charge so you could easily save £2,000 a year if you commute daily.

Styling and Interior

BMW i3 Two Tone

BMW i3 Two Tone

Most importantly the interior has the quality of a normal BMW and it offers the level of features you would expect from a prestige maker. The exterior styling is modern and various colour combinations are offered. Some of the two tone versions look a bit too cool and not series enough for a professional however see this car in white or silver and it looks classy; see left.

The floor is flat with no central columns and the cabin is high so this car feels spacious. The back only seats two adults; this is not a five person car. The boot is relatively small however the back seats flatten should you need to transport something large.

What Are Other People Saying?

“The BMW i3 is the most appealing electric car yet, with a premium cabin and surprisingly fun handling.” whatcar.com


“The electric BMW i3 has zero CO2 emissions, a fuel economy of 196 MPG equivalent and a NGC Rating of 22. Approved by NGC; one of the greenest supermini cars.” nextgreencar.com


“…acceleration is always smooth, quick and incredibly quiet. That makes the i3 nippy and relaxing about town. The steering is very responsive and accurate, too, and it handles well. And while it’s at its best in town, the little BMW copes just fine with motorways……………The i3 feels very spacious on the inside, with plenty of headroom for all passengers. The floor is completely flat – it doesn’t have the bulge running underneath the middle back seat that many cars have, which means there’s more space for legroom.” carbuyer.co.uk

Conclusion

This is a proper car – it looks, feels and handles like a prestigious model. It is quiet with an incredibly low running cost and excellent green credentials. The only downsides are the high initial cost and its limited range; it is only really suitable for city commuting. The cost is only high when compared to its supermini rivals but none of these can come close to offering the driving experience and quality of this car. After all, you get what you pay for.

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2014 Range Rover Evoque Review

It was not really easy to make a case for the Range Rover Evoque to be your next car last year – it was stylish, yes, but it was among the least fuel efficient cars in its class due in large part to the six-speed automatic gearbox that kept the engine ticking over far too highly.

Thankfully, Range Rover have now changed the gearbox, as well as a few other things. The result? It is now easy to make a case for the Range Rover Evoque as your next car.

Range Rover Evoque SD4

You’d be hard pushed to tell that 2014 Evoque apart from the 2013 version. Aside from some new alloy wheels and an altered badge, the Evoque remains the same. That’s a good thing however as this cars striking looks put many other cars on the road to shame.

It is this style that has helped Range Rover ship over 180,000 Evoque’s worldwide.

The biggest changes to the Evoque come internally. The six-speed automatic has been replaced with a nine-speed automatic, and this changes the driving experience dramatically. The car now has more gears to play with and the car sits comfortably at 30 mph in fifth. Plant to the throttle, and the car will drop down to third or second depending on your engine choice. The aim of the nine-speed gearbox is to cut emissions and increase economy. To this end, it succeeds. The top specification 2.0-litre petrol turbo will return 36.2 miles per gallon with a CO2 output of 193 g/km.

The most impressive of the engine and gearbox match ups is with the 2.2-litre turbo diesel SD4 though, which will return an excellent 47.1 miles per gallon combined with a CO2 output of 159 g/km.

The SD4 Prestige Lux is the version that I recommend. This has an on-the-road price of £44,655, which makes it among the most expensive versions, but it benefits from 20-inch alloys, terrain response, satellite navigation, full leather, heated seats, dual zone climate control, Bluetooth, DAB, plus much more. If you like to build not buy, then the cheapest Evoque is the eD4 150 Pure, but this lacks 4WD and it is therefore less versatile and will suffer from worse residuals than a 4WD Range Rover.

Farnell Land Rover believe that buyers will get the most from a 4WD version “Prices for 4WD Evoque’s start from £31,000. The extra versatility the intelligent terrain response system gives is value for money, giving the driver confidence in the bends and during bad weather.”

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Tips for Driving Abroad

When driving abroad the most important thing to do is to stay legal. Being prepared and taking care when on the roads in Europe can ensure you don’t get hit with a big fine or possibly even worse. There are plenty of motoring regulations and rules in the UK but in Europe they step it up a level.

The info-graphic below shows some of the wide-spread and unusual legal requirements you’ll need to be aware of. You’ll need your own breathalyser in France, two pairs of glasses in Spain if you wear them and even replacement light bulbs in Italy. The bizarre rules can massively vary by country but some don’t get any less strange to your average UK driver.

There’s also the typically lower drink/drive limits to consider in majority of European countries so if you’re driving then you probably shouldn’t be considering that small one. You might also want to consider going easy the night before if you’ve got an early start driving the following day.

That “expensive” taxi or bus ride isn’t looking so bad now is it?

Image courtesy of Autoweb.

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Choosing the right van for your business

Vans are the workhorses of the automotive world. Depending on your requirements, your commercial vehicles have to be versatile enough to complete a variety of tasks during the course of a typical working week or they might simply have to do one job very well. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all van that’s perfect for every requirement but here are five things to think about to make sure you get the right one for you.

Body types

The Classi Combi van

The best body type for you will depend on the type of jobs you need the van for. A Combi van, is used for transporting stock and other goods, are typically panel vans, box vans or Luton vans. Panel vans are solid ‘one-piece’ vehicles with an enclosed cargo bay and panels where the rear side windows would otherwise be. Box vans have a cab at the front and a separate cargo bay behind, while Luton vans are similar but feature a cargo bay that also extends over the top of the cab for extra space. Other options include mini-vans, flatbeds and pick-ups.

 

Size and capacity

The ideal carrying capacity will also depend on what you need to transport. A bigger van and load capacity will obviously allow you to carry more but a van that is bigger than your needs may be impractical in terms of economy and accessibility. If you only need to transport yourself and your work tools for example, your needs will be different than if you regularly have to transport bulky stock.

 

Versatility

If you require your van to have multiple capabilities, a small-medium van might be versatile enough to cover most eventualities. Folding or removable seats and variable storage configurations can help you switch between different loads including goods, passengers or a combination of both.

 

Affordability

The list price of your van is important but it’s far from the only aspect of affordability. Fuel efficiency can make even more of a difference, especially if you intend to use the van heavily over a long period of time. Tax and insurance can also affect your overall costs and reliability is important. You certainly don’t want a van that breaks down at a crucial moment and servicing, maintenance and potential repair costs should also be taken into account.

 

Security

It’s always best not to leave goods or tools in a van unattended but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Consider the security features fitted as standard and consider additional after-sales improvements where required.

 

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First look at the 2014 Chevrolet SS

If you live in the UK or any other part of Europe, then the likes of the BMW M3 and Audi RS4 are the best mid-size performance saloons money can buy. There’s others, but these two saloons mix refinement, luxury, handling and performance best. Over in the US, things are a little different, although the BMW and Audi are still available.

If you’re looking for a stylish mid-size performance saloon that’s a little different to what the Germans have to offer, the Chevrolet SS should fit the bill nicely. But then it should – this is the first RWD performance saloon Chevrolet have made in 17 years.

2014 Chevrolet SS

It’s powered by General Motor’s trust-worthy LS3 V8 which in this car develops 415 bhp and 415 lb /ft of torque. According to Bristol Street Motors MOT Gloucester, this engine is simply to service. Power is sent to the rear wheels by a six-speed automatic gearbox, with fat and sticky 19-inch Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tyres to keep everything in check. The brakes are big too – four-piston Brembo calipers with 14-inch front rotors provide the stopping power this 1,622 kg car needs.

In a straight line, the Chevrolet SS is brutal. 0 – 62 mph happens in 4.9 seconds and it’ll complete the quarter mile in 13.2 seconds. With a top speed of 165 mph, it’ll edge past a standard BMW M3 or Audi RS4 out on the motorway, too.

When the roads get twisty, the Chevrolet SS is a bit of a weapon too.

The chassis has MacPherson struts upfront and a multilink rear arrangement. The car also boasts a 50:50 weight distribution. The result is an American car that actually handles well, and a car that wills the driver to push on through the corners.

The biggest drawback is the gearbox. It simply isn’t sharp enough. It lags around town and it isn’t the smoothest when pressing on. It also numbs the experience, and despite the thumping V8, it ruins a lot of the sportiness.

At least the interior is nice though.

Like the best mid-size performance saloons on the market, the SS is packed with technology. As standard it comes with a front collision and lane departure warning system, as well as automatic parking assist. Dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, every type of connectivity option imaginable and full leather come as standard too. Like a lot of American cars, the interior isn’t of the same quality as a BMW or Audi, but it’s damn close, and the ergonomics are excellent.

The Chevrolet SS is branded as the Holden VF Commodore in Australia, which sounds much cooler than the name you’ll know it by. Prices start from $43,475, which makes the SS quite the bargain for the performance on offer.

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