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News and views about cars, bikes and motorsport. Covers new cars and motorcycles, auto industry news, motoring issues and motor racing.

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    Despite its humble city car origins, the new Volkswagen e-Up! isn’t going to be a particularly cheap route to electric-powered motoring.

    In Germany the e-Up!’s price has been set at an astonishing €26,900, which makes it almost 2.7 times more expensive than the entry-level petrol version.

    Volkswagen e-Up! 5-Door (2014) Front Side
    The electric Volkswagen e-Up!...

    Applying a similar differential means the e-Up! could cost about £22,100 in the UK before the government’s £5,000 Plug-in Car Grant has been deducted. Although the Volkswagen will come as standard with satellite navigation, heated seats, a heated windscreen and climate control (all items that’ll help drain the battery more quickly, incidentally), it nevertheless looks relatively poor value.

    The recently upgraded Nissan Leaf, for example, currently starts at £25,990 (including a battery pack but excluding the £5,000 subsidy). However, the Nissan is a much larger vehicle and it features a 107 bhp (80 kW / 109 PS) electric motor. That’s enough for a 0-62 mph (100 km/h) time of 11.4 seconds and a top speed of 90 mph (145 km/h).

    Nissan Leaf (2013 European Spec) Front Side
    ...and the Nissan Leaf.

    By comparison, the less powerful e-Up! boasts a peak output of 80 bhp (60 kW / 82 PS). Consequently it’s slightly slower, taking 12.4 seconds to hit 62 mph before going on to a maximum of 80 mph (130 km/h).

    But the most important criterion for today’s electric cars is range. With its ability to travel 124 miles (200 kilometres) between recharges the Nissan once again outperforms the Volkswagen, which manages 99 miles (160 kilometres).

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  • 07/08/13--15:23: Suzuki Swift 4x4 launched
  • Suzuki has decided to bring the 4x4 version of its Swift supermini to the UK.

    Available in five-door guise only, buyers have a choice of two trim grades. The first is the SZ3, which looks virtually identical to the equivalent front-wheel drive model apart from a slightly raised ride height.

    Suzuki Swift SZ4 4x4 (2013) Side

    Alternatively, the SZ4 gains some extra SUV-inspired details, including skid plates front and rear, black wheel arch extensions and larger side skirts.

    Both feature an automatic all-wheel drive system that sends additional torque to the rear wheels via a viscous coupling when required. The powertrain comprises a 92 bhp (69 kW / 94 PS) 1.2 litre petrol engine combined with a manual transmission. Perhaps surprisingly, there’s no diesel option.

    Suzuki Swift SZ4 4x4 (2013) Rear Side

    The list price of the Swift SZ3 4x4 is £13,819, while the SZ4 4x4 costs £15,739. However, thanks to Suzuki’s current ‘VAT Free’ promotion that runs until the end of September, those amounts are temporarily reduced to £11,516 and £13,116 respectively.

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    Triumph has collaborated with custom shop 8 Ball to build fifty special examples of its Sprint GT tourer.

    Compared to the regular model, the only difference is the striking (yet slightly retro) two-tone paintjob that’s being offered in two guises. Buyers get a choice of either Pacific Blue and Pewter Silver with red pinstripes, or Phantom Black and Bullion Gold. Both are likely to divide opinion, especially the latter.

    Triumph Sprint GT 8 Ball Limited Edition (2013) Side 1

    Triumph Sprint GT 8 Ball Limited Edition (2013) Side 2

    Twenty-five bikes have been produced in each colour scheme and they are available now. With an on the road price of £8,649, the limited edition is only £150 more than the standard Sprint GT.

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  • 07/09/13--15:54: Škoda Rapid gets updated
  • Škoda has announced a series of changes to its Rapid compact five-door hatchback.

    They focus mainly on the interior and include new seat fabrics, different trim strips, revised dashboard colours, alterations to the audio controls and the introduction of a three-spoke steering wheel.

    By contrast everything on the outside remains the same, apart from the availability of optional xenon headlights for the first time.

    Skoda Rapid (2014) Centre Console DetailSkoda Rapid (2014) Headlight Detail

    The engine line-up meanwhile is being augmented by the arrival of a less powerful edition of the 1.6 litre turbodiesel engine.

    Producing 88 bhp (66 kW / 90 PS), it joins the existing 103 bhp (77 kW / 105 PS) version and promises an average consumption figure of 72.4 mpg (3.9 l/100km) when equipped with the fuel-saving GreenTech package. Buyers can specify either a five-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.

    Skoda Rapid (2013) Front Side

    UK availability and pricing for Rapid variants powered by the new engine have yet to be confirmed.

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    MV Agusta has revealed the new limited edition Brutale Corsa.

    Equipped with the same 156 bhp (116 kW / 158 PS) four-cylinder 1,078 cc engine that powers the latest Brutale 1090 RR, the Corsa version additionally features a fully adjustable Öhlins front fork and ultra-lightweight forged wheels. Anti-lock brakes are also fitted as standard.

    MV Agusta Brutale Corsa (2013) Side

    Visually, the Corsa is distinguished by its gloss black frame, bespoke hand-stitched saddle cover and unique pearl red and pearl white colour scheme. Furthermore, many of the bike’s components have been machined from solid billet, including the foot pegs, levers, steering head and reservoir caps. Finishing touches are provided by the special number-plate holder and a carbon fibre rear mudguard.

    Although a UK price has yet to be announced, in Italy the Brutale Corsa costs €20,990 including VAT. That makes it €3,000 more expensive than the 1090 RR.

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  • 07/10/13--05:14: Caterham Seven 620R unveiled
  • Despite the joint sports car project with Renault sub-brand Alpine and talk of new crossover and subcompact models, Caterham hasn’t forgotten its iconic Seven.

    The latest iteration is called the 620R, which replaces the Superlight R500 in the range. Designed to be the most extreme road-going Seven ever, it features a supercharged 2.0 litre Ford Duratec engine that produces 311 bhp (231 kW / 315 PS) with 296 Nm (219 lb/ft) of peak torque.

    That output is delivered to the rear wheels via a six-speed sequential transmission and a limited-slip differential. Combined with the Seven’s lightweight chassis, it results in stunning performance: the 620R will complete the 0-60 mph (96 km/h) sprint in just 2.79 seconds, before going on to a top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h).

    Caterham Seven 620R (2014) Front Side

    Also included in the specification are a wide-track front suspension set-up, a special airflow optimised nose cone, 13” alloy wheels with Avon ZZR tyres and a race-derived cooling package.

    The motorsport theme continues in the cockpit where carbon fibre race seats, four-point harnesses and a quick-release steering wheel are all fitted as standard.

    Available to order now ahead of the first deliveries later this year, the Caterham Seven 620R is priced at £49,995 fully built. A slightly less hardcore 620S version is also in the pipeline.

    Caterham Seven 620R (2014) InteriorCaterham Seven 620R (2014) Side

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  • 07/10/13--13:19: Five-door Suzuki Swift Sport
  • Suzuki has added a five-door version of the Swift Sport to its range.

    Like the existing three-door model, power comes from a 1.6 litre petrol engine that delivers 134 bhp (100 kW / 136 PS) with 160 Nm (118 lb/ft) of torque.

    Suzuki Swift Sport 5-Door (2013) Front Side

    Fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox, the Suzuki is capable of accelerating from rest to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 8.7 seconds before going on to a 121 mph (194 km/h) top speed. Not bad performance then, but a combined cycle fuel economy figure of 44.1 mpg (6.4 l/100km) and carbon dioxide emissions of 147 g/km are somewhat worse than many of the Swift’s competitors.

    Suzuki Swift Sport 5-Door (2013) Rear Side

    Available now, the five-door Swift Sport costs £14,249. That makes it £500 more expensive than the three-door.

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    New Suzuki Swift Sport

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    Mazda has launched another special version of the MX-5. This one’s called the Sport Graphite and it’s based on the Roadster Coupé.

    Identifiable by some smart 17” dark gunmetal alloy wheels and a unique Meteor Grey finish for the retractable hardtop and door mirror caps, buyers have a choice of Aquatic Blue Mica, Zeal Red Mica or Aluminium Silver Metallic paintwork.

    Mazda MX-5 Sport Graphite (2013) Front Side

    Mazda MX-5 Sport Graphite (2013) Interior

    On the inside, the extensive equipment list starts with heated seats that are upholstered in black leather with contrast grey stitching. Also fitted as standard are a 5.8” TomTom satellite navigation system with integrated Bluetooth connectivity, dark grey dashboard trim pieces and alloy pedals.

    Production of the MX-5 Sport Graphite is being limited to 500 units. With the 1.8 litre engine it costs £20,995, while the more powerful 2.0 litre model is £22,995.

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  • 07/11/13--08:14: Peugeot RCZ R revealed
  • Ongoing financial woes and a generally uninspiring range of models mean Peugeot isn’t currently experiencing the best period in its long history. So the brand badly needs cars like the new high-performance RCZ R coupé to give it some zing.

    Identifiable by its lowered suspension, two-tone 19” alloy wheels and matt black roof arches, the RCZ R also features a larger rear spoiler, a rear diffuser and red four-piston brake calipers.

    On the inside redesigned bucket seats, Nappa leather and Alcantara upholstery, a smaller steering wheel and a short-throw gear stick all contribute to a suitably sporty ambiance.

    Peugeot RCZ R (2014) Rear Side

    To make sure the RCZ R’s performance matches its looks, power comes from an upgraded 1.6 litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 266 bhp (199 kW / 270 PS) with 330 Nm (243 lb/ft) of peak torque.

    That’s a huge output for the front-wheel drive chassis to cope with, but wisely a Torsen differential is fitted in an attempt to tame the torque-steer. For better handling characteristics the dampers, springs and anti-roll bar have all been made stiffer, while the track widths and wheel camber angles are increased.

    With a 0-62 mph (100 km/h) time of 5.9 seconds and an electronically-limited 155 mph (250 km/h) top speed, the RCZ R is undoubtedly a quick car. However it manages to be fairly efficient too, as demonstrated by the combined cycle figure of 44.8 mpg (6.3 l/100km).

    Sales of the 2014 Peugeot RCZ R begin early next year. A price has yet to be announced.

    Peugeot RCZ R (2014) InteriorPeugeot RCZ R (2014) Front Side

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    A ‘black’ theme for a special edition isn’t especially original, but it’s exactly what Ram has used to create the new 1500 Black Express.

    As the name suggests, just about everything on the outside has a black finish. That includes the paintwork, 20” aluminium wheels, front grille, badges, bumpers, headlight bezels and rear light surrounds.

    Ram 1500 Black Express Crew Cab (2013) Front Side

    Prices for the 1500 Black Express start from $26,955 (plus a $1,095 destination charge) in the United States. It’s available from this month with a choice of regular, crew or quad cabs.

    As with the regular 1500 Express, power is provided by a 395 bhp (295 kW / 400 PS) 5.7 litre Hemi V8 and buyers will be able to specify either rear- or four-wheel drive.

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    BMW is expanding its six-cylinder touring bike range with the introduction of the K 1600 GT Sport.

    The ‘Sport’ part of that name might be slightly misleading though, as there’s no extra performance and the chassis set-up remains standard. Indeed, the only changes compared to the regular GT model are a lower windshield and a unique seat design.

    BMW K 1600 GT Sport (2014) Front Side

    BMW K 1600 GT Sport (2014) Side

    Completing the package is a smart Sakhir Orange / Black Storm two-tone colour scheme that’s complemented by gloss black wheels.

    A UK price has yet to be announced, but in Germany the K 1600 GT Sport costs €20,920 (including VAT at 19%). It’ll be available at dealers from next month.

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    Aprilia has revealed the latest version of its naked Tuono, which gains a few more horsepower, anti-lock brakes and a full suite of electronic chassis control devices.

    Modifications to the 999.6 cc V4 engine are fairly limited and consist of a redesigned exhaust, recalibrated mapping and reduced internal friction. Nevertheless, output is up slightly to 167 bhp (125 kW / 170 PS) at 11,500 rpm, while peak torque is 111.5 Nm (82.2 lb/ft) at 9,500 rpm.

    Aprilia Tuono V4 R ABS (2014) Side

    By contrast the brakes have been totally revamped, with the highlight being the adoption of a Bosch 9MP anti-lock module. Adjustable to Track, Sport and Rain settings (or turned off entirely), it’s also capable of preventing inadvertent stoppies when braking hard. The front wheel additionally gets new radial-mounted monoblock calipers that are paired with Brembo discs.

    Fitted as standard to the new Tuono is an updated Aprilia Performance Ride Control package. Working with the ‘ride by wire’ throttle and engine management systems, it comprises traction control, wheelie control, launch control and a ‘quick shift’ gear-change function.

    Aprilia Tuono V4 R ABS (2014) Front Side

    Other changes are intended to make the bike more practical for everyday road use. These include a less harsh suspension set-up, extra saddle padding and a larger 18.5 litre (4 gallon) fuel tank.

    Tuono V4 R ABS buyers will have a choice of black or white paintwork, but UK pricing has yet to be announced.

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  • 07/12/13--10:58: 2014 Mazda 3 saloon revealed
  • Following the unveiling of the all-new Mazda 3 hatchback last month, the first images of the four-door saloon version have been released.

    Mazda 3 Fastback (2014) Side

    Termed the ‘fastback’ by Mazda, the addition of a separate boot has increased the car’s length by 120 mm (about 5 inches) to 4,580 mm (a tad over 15 feet). The result is a total luggage capacity of 419 litres and, as with the hatchback, the fastback’s rear seats can be folded almost flat to accommodate larger loads.

    Mazda 3 Fastback (2014) Front SideMazda 3 Fastback (2014) Rear Side

    Prices have yet to be announced, but sales of both body styles are due to begin this autumn.

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    Piaggio has given its Liberty scooter a major revamp, which has included changing the name. It’s now called the Liberty 3V in recognition of its new three-valve fuel-injected engine.

    While the styling looks familiar, a redesigned saddle promises more rider comfort. Beneath it, the helmet storage compartment has usefully grown in volume from 8.8 to 10.8 litres because the battery has been moved to the leg shield.

    Piaggio Liberty 3V 125 (2013) Front Side

    Stability should be improved too thanks to a slightly longer wheelbase and the use of a smaller 15” front wheel (instead of the 16” item used by the Liberty 3V’s predecessor) combined with a narrower, higher profile tyre.

    However, the focus of the upgrades has been the single-cylinder engine. Available in 125 cc or 150 cc guises, it’s a four-stroke unit that features one exhaust valve and two intake valves in order to optimise both fuel economy and performance.

    Piaggio Liberty 3V 125 (2013) Side

    As a result, Piaggio is claiming the smaller capacity version will manage 166.7 mpg (1.7 l/100km / 59 km/l) when running at 31 mph (50 km/h). The 150 cc model meanwhile achieves a very similar 161.0 mpg (1.8 l/100km / 57 km/l) at the same speed.

    UK pricing and availability for the Piaggio Liberty 3V have yet to be confirmed.

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    Škoda has released the first images of its Rapid Spaceback ahead of a public debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show later this year.

    Like the regular Rapid, the Spaceback is a five-door hatchback that sits on a 2,602 mm (8’ 6”) wheelbase. However, Škoda reckons the new arrival has a more sporty appearance thanks to its shortened tail and three side windows.

    Skoda Rapid Spaceback (2014) Rear Side

    That impression might be reinforced by the optional full-length tinted glass roof and deeper tailgate window, but both body styles still seem very similar.

    On the inside things are essentially the same too. The reprofiled roof does mean there’s a tad more rear headroom, but boot space (with the rear seats up) is reduced from the ordinary Rapid’s 550 litres to 415 litres in the Spaceback.

    In Europe, the Rapid Spaceback is due to go on sale this coming October. Customers will have a choice of six engines, including the recently launched 88 bhp (66 kW / 90 PS) 1.6 litre turbodiesel.

    Prices have yet to be announced.

    Skoda Rapid Spaceback (2014) DashboardSkoda Rapid Spaceback (2014) Front Side

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    Yamaha’s latest motorcycle has a very long name. Called the XV1900A Midnight Star Casual Full Dress, it’s basically a rebranded version of the Star Motorcycles Stratoliner Deluxe that was recently launched in North America.

    Styled as a ‘bagger’, a prominent fairing and a pair of hard luggage cases differentiate the CFD from the regular XV1900A Midnight Star.

    Yamaha XV1900A Midnight Star Casual Full Dress (2013) Front Side

    Everything else remains the same, including the aluminium double-cradle frame and 1,854 cc V-twin engine that produces 88 bhp (66 kW / 90 PS) with 155 Nm (114 lb/ft) of torque. For ease of use and better stability when decelerating, the motor now comes equipped with an ‘assist and slipper’ clutch.

    In the UK, the XV1900A Midnight Star Casual Full Dress costs £16,132 (including vehicle tax and first registration fee).

    Yamaha XV1900A Midnight Star Casual Full Dress (2013) Side

    At that price, one obvious rival is the £14,732 Kawasaki VN1700 Voyager Custom. The Harley-Davidson FLHX Street Glide and the six-cylinder Honda Gold Wing F6B are also similar in concept, but they’re more expensive at £17,895 and £19,199 respectively.

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  • 07/15/13--15:42: 2014 Datsun Go first view
  • Following Nissan’s announcement last year that the Datsun brand would be resurrected, the marque’s first new model has now been unveiled.

    Called the Datsun Go, it’s a small five-door hatchback that’ll be powered by a 1.2 litre petrol engine. Measuring 3,785 mm (12’ 5”) long and 1,635 mm (5’ 4”) wide, the Go is virtually the same size as a Nissan Micra.

    Datsun Go (2014) Front Side

    Datsun’s plan is to target those markets that have a rapidly increasing demand for car ownership, so the chances of a European presence are slim.

    The Go will initially be offered in India from early 2014. Built at a plant in Chennai, prices are expected to start at under Rs. 400,000. That’s around £4,400 or €5,100 based on current exchange rates.

    Versions are then going to be developed for Russia, Indonesia and South Africa, with production likewise due to take place locally.

    Datsun Go (2014) DashboardDatsun Go (2014) Side

    Datsun Go (2014) Rear SideDatsun Go (2014) Interior

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  • 07/16/13--12:59: 2014 KTM RC390 Cup bike
  • KTM has shown off its RC390 Cup, which will be used in the one-make ‘ADAC Junior Cup powered by KTM’ race series in 2014.

    More significantly, it’s also going to spawn a new road-going sports motorcycle that should be a potential rival for the likes of the Kawasaki Ninja 300.

    KTM RC390 Cup 2014 Front Side

    Built around a tubular steel trellis frame, the RC390 Cup is powered by a fuel-injected, four-stroke, single-cylinder engine. With a capacity of 375 cc, power output is expected to be around 37 bhp (28 kW / 38 PS). Interestingly, that’s actually slightly down on the current street-legal 390 Duke.

    Completing the Cup package are WP Suspension components, four-piston brake calipers and a full fairing.

    KTM RC390 Cup 2014 Side

    Commenting on the RC390, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer said: “We developed a pure GP racing machine for the Moto3 World Championship. In contrast, the RC390 Cup is based on a series model project. Both of these two projects were given the highest priority because the development of lower displacement, high quality street bikes are among our core activities.

    “The new KTM RC390, which will be available for sale in 2014, will meet a big demand for affordable, quality sport bikes for the lower displacement class.”

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    Mountune’s latest modification kits for the Ford Fiesta ST and Focus ST have four major things in their favour: they’re factory-approved, the original manufacturer’s warranty is unaffected, 120 Ford dealers around the UK can fit them and they offer a useful boost in performance.

    The package for the Fiesta ST costs £599 and comprises a re-modelled air box with a secondary inlet duct, a high-flow air filter element and a recalibrated engine control unit. That lot increases the output of the 1.6 litre turbocharged engine from the usual 180 bhp (134 kW / 182 PS) to 212 bhp (158 kW / 215 PS).

    Ford Fiesta ST 3-Door (2013) Front Side

    As a result, the Fiesta’s 0-62 mph (100 km/h) time is shaved to 6.7 seconds, a figure that incidentally matches that of the new Renault Clio Renaultsport 200. Perhaps of more relevance to real-world driving is the 31-62 mph (50-100 km/h) increment, which drops by 0.7 seconds to 5.7 seconds when in fourth gear.

    The upgrades for the Focus ST are more comprehensive, as they include a larger intercooler and a replacement inlet duct, both of which are made from alloy and are available in either silver or black powder-coat finishes. Completing the transformation are a high-flow air filter element and a retuned engine control unit.

    Ford Focus ST Wagon (2012) Front Side

    Power from the 2.0 litre engine is lifted by 24 bhp (18 kW / 25 PS) to 271 bhp (202 kW / 275 PS), while peak torque rises from 360 Nm (265 lb/ft) to a substantial 400 Nm (295 lb/ft). Consequently, the 0-62 mph sprint is completed in less than six seconds and accelerating from 31-62 mph takes just 4.9 seconds.

    Fast Ford fans might really want to see the arrival of a proper Focus RS, but until that happens the Mountune conversion for the ST version is a decent compromise. It’s priced at £1,225, or £1,275 if the black components are chosen.

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    Audi has added to its A1 supermini line-up by introducing a new S line Style Edition trim grade.

    Based on the existing S line models, the Style Edition cars are distinguished by their xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and 17” V-spoke alloy wheels. Furthermore, many of the exterior components have a black finish, including the door mirror caps, roof line elements (or the entire roof on five-door Sportback versions), grille, number plate holder and front fog light surrounds.

    Audi A1 S Line Style Edtion 3-Door (2013) Front Side

    Style Edition buyers have a choice of Phantom Black, Misano Red, Ice Silver and Glacier White paintwork, all of which are either pearl-effect or metallic shades.

    Available with a selection of three petrol and diesel engines, prices for the A1 S line Style Edition range from £18,125 to £20,605 on the road. That makes them £950 more expensive than the regular S line variants, but Audi is claiming the extra specification is worth £2,200.

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