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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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    Forget diesel engine scandals (for the time being), because Volkswagen's latest concept runs on electricity. The Budd-e is a largish MPV that has just been unveiled at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

    Significantly, it's the first application of the new Modular Electric Drive Kit (MEB) platform architecture.

    Volkswagen Budd-e Concept (2016) Front Side

    A flat under-floor 101 kWh battery pack sends energy to an electric motor mounted on each axle. Total output is rated at 312 bhp (235 kW / 317 PS), although the all-wheel drive Budd-e is limited to a modest top speed of 93 mph (150 km/h).

    Expected range is really anybody's guess, as the official figures vary massively depending on which measure is used. Under the New European Drive Cycle the Budd-e would manage 331 miles (533 kilometres), but that drops to 233 miles (375 kilometres) when applying the EPA's estimated real-world method.

    Replenishing the battery to 80 percent capacity takes around 30 minutes. Cordless inductive charging is supported, along with more traditional lead-based arrangements.

    Volkswagen Budd-e Concept (2016) Rear Side

    As befits a vehicle making its debut at CES, there's plenty of technology on board.

    The customisable instrument cluster and 13.3” screen-based infotainment system are merged into what Volkswagen describes as a “single information hub”. This incorporates a 3D navigation map display, internet access and full smartphone integration. Functions can be operated via voice, gesture or touch.

    Other gadgets include haptic-sensing controls on the steering wheel, a foot-activated automatic tailgate and video cameras instead of door mirrors. There's even a built-in 'drop box' that allows an unattended Budd-e to accept parcel deliveries via a digital key.

    "The Budd-e is a realistic trend setter,” according to Volkswagen's brand chief Dr. Herbert Diess. Whether or not that comment indicates a future production version remains to be seen.

    Related posts:
    New petrol engines for the Caddy and Caravelle
    2016 Volkswagen Transporter T6 first view

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  • 01/08/16--12:28: Top 10: UK car sales 2015
  • 2015 was the best year ever for the UK’s new car market. According to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, there were a total of 2,633,503 registrations. That’s an increase of 157,068 compared to 2014.

    Just 29,313 of those additional units came from the Private category. Fleet was responsible for most of the growth, which suggests growing business confidence. It could also be a sign of some extra dealer demonstrator and manufacturer pre-registration activity, of course…

    Total UK Car Registrations 2015 - By Category
    Category 2015 2014 Change Change %
    Private 1,208,812 1,179,499 29,313 2.5%
    Fleet 1,317,570 1,178,416 139,154 11.8%
    Business 107,121 118,520 -11,399 -9.6%
    Total 2,633,503 2,476,435 157,068 6.3%
    Fleet + Business 1,424,691 1,296,936 127,755 9.9%

    Ford, Vauxhall and Volkswagen remained the country’s three most popular marques. BMW ended the year in fourth position, reminding us that ‘premium’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘exclusive’.

    BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer (2015) Front Side
    Additional products such as the 2 Series Gran Tourer
    helped to increase BMW's registrations in 2015.

    Top 10: Total UK Car Registrations 2015 - By Manufacturer
    Position 2015 Manufacturer Registrations Market Share Position 2014
    1 Ford 335,267 12.7% 1
    2 Vauxhall 269,766 10.2% 2
    3 Volkswagen 223,784 8.5% 3
    4 BMW 167,391 6.4% 5
    5 Audi 166,709 6.3% 4
    6 Nissan 153,937 5.9% 6
    7 Mercedes-Benz 145,254 5.5% 7
    8 Peugeot 104,249 4.0% 8
    9 Toyota 98,709 3.8% 9
    10 Hyundai 88,117 3.4% 11

    Although Volkswagen’s and Audi’s year-on-year deliveries rose, Škoda and Seat both went the other way.

    The effects of the infamous diesel emissions scandal (first reported in September) are hard to quantify. However, with the exception of Audi, the group’s volume brands appeared to suffer badly during the fourth quarter.

    Fourth Quarter 2015
    Brand 2015 2014 Change Change %
    Volkswagen 41,343 46,166 -4,823 -10.5%
    Audi 33,409 32,500 909 2.8%
    Škoda 14,548 15,102 -554 -3.7%
    Seat 7,134 10,901 -3,767 -34.6%
    Total 96,434 104,669 -8,235 -7.9%
    Market Total 536,617 518,239 18,378 3.6%

    Full Year 2015
    Brand 2015 2014 Change Change %
    Volkswagen 223,784 214,828 8,956 4.2%
    Audi 166,709 158,987 7,722 4.9%
    Škoda 74,692 75,488 -796 -1.1%
    Seat 47,654 53,512 -5,858 -11.0%
    Total 512,839 502,815 10,024 2.0%
    Market Total 2,633,503 2,476,435 157,068 6.3%

    Turning to individual model performances, the league table was fairly predictable.

    Most of the movements seemed to centre on Vauxhall. Corsa and Mokka climbed into second and tenth places respectively, but the introduction of a new Astra understandably saw the firm’s C-segment contender slip from fifth to seventh spot.

    Vauxhall Corsa VXR (2015) Front Side 1
    Still some way behind the Fiesta in volume terms, but the Vauxhall
    Corsa became the UK's runner-up car. (Image © General Motors.)

    The Fiat 500 and Nissan Juke disappeared from the top ten, while the Mini Hatch moved up to ninth. Otherwise, everything was pretty much identical to 2014.

    Top 10: Total UK Car Registrations 2015 - By Model
    Position Model Registrations Market Share
    1 Ford Fiesta 133,434 5.1%
    2 Vauxhall Corsa 92,077 3.5%
    3 Ford Focus 83,816 3.2%
    4 Volkswagen Golf 73,409 2.8%
    5 Nissan Qashqai 60,814 2.3%
    6 Volkswagen Polo 54,900 2.1%
    7 Vauxhall Astra 52,703 2.0%
    8 Audi A3 47,653 1.8%
    9 Mini Hatch 47,076 1.8%
    10 Vauxhall Mokka 45,399 1.7%

    Related posts:
    Top 10: New cars due in 2016
    Top 10: UK car sales 2014

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    A record 2,633,503 new cars were registered in the UK during 2015, a rise of 6.3% versus the previous year. However, that average market change hides a very broad range of individual manufacturer performances.

    For example, Jeep volumes grew by 6,885 units, a relatively massive increase which was fuelled by the arrival of the new Renegade small SUV.

    Jeep Renegade Trailhawk (2015) Side
    The Jeep Renegade, responsible for many
    of Jeep's extra UK registrations in 2015.

    Other notable entries on the 2015 ‘winners list’ include Smart. Its sales almost doubled thanks in part to the introduction of a second-generation forfour model.

    Top 10: Total UK Car Registrations 2015 - Winners
    Manufacturer 2015 2014 Change Change %
    Jeep 10,794 3,909 6,885 176.1%
    SsangYong 3,344 1,542 1,802 116.9%
    Smart 8,455 4,342 4,113 94.7%
    Abarth 2,743 1,642 1,101 67.1%
    Infiniti 1,195 746 449 60.2%
    Lotus 375 235 140 59.6%
    Mitsubishi 22,693 15,805 6,888 43.6%
    MG 3,152 2,326 826 35.5%
    Porsche 12,167 9,160 3,007 32.8%
    Jaguar 23,954 18,401 5,553 30.2%
    Total Market 2,633,503 2,476,435 157,068 6.3%

    At the other end of the spectrum, two American marques recorded the greatest decreases.

    Chevrolet’s drop followed General Motor’s decision to effectively withdraw the make from Europe. A similar fate has now befallen Chrysler, because new products bearing that badge are no longer available in the UK.

    Chrysler 300C Platinum (2015) Front Side
    While Jeep enjoyed a successful year, sister
    brand Chrysler all but disappeared from the UK.

    Seat achieved the greatest absolute reduction of any brand, with 5,858 fewer vehicles registered versus 2014. To what extent this was due to the current Volkswagen Group diesel emissions scandal is difficult to quantify, but the bulk of that deficit did occur during the fourth quarter.

    Strictly speaking, Citroën should appear on the ‘losers list’ too, as the French firm’s registrations fell by 3,385 to 80,012 in 2015. That -4.1% decline was primarily caused by the separate reporting of DS since May, though. Adding the two together for year-on-year comparison purposes actually shows a combined 6.3% lift.

    Top 10: Total UK Car Registrations 2015 - Losers
    Manufacturer 2015 2014 Change Change %
    Chevrolet 12 2,774 -2,762 -99.6%
    Chrysler 137 1,982 -1,845 -93.1%
    Seat 47,654 53,512 -5,858 -11.0%
    Alfa Romeo 5,069 5,523 -454 -8.2%
    Suzuki 34,437 37,395 -2,958 -7.9%
    Bentley 1,379 1,472 -93 -6.3%
    Fiat 64,257 67,162 -2,905 -4.3%
    Škoda 74,692 75,488 -796 -1.1%
    Honda 53,417 53,544 -127 -0.2%
    Vauxhall 269,766 269,177 589 0.2%

    Related posts:
    Top 10: UK car sales 2015
    Top 10: New cars due in 2016
    Top 10: UK car sales 2014 - winners and losers

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  • 01/09/16--14:52: Kia Telluride concept teased
  • Ahead of a debut at next week's 2016 North American International Auto Show, Kia has released two teaser shots of its latest concept.

    The new creation, which has been named Telluride, is a large premium SUV that was designed at the brand's California studio.

    Kia Telluride Concept (2016 Rendering) Side

    Kia Telluride Concept (2016 Rendering) Dashboard

    One innovation is the use of 3D-printed components on the steering wheel, door panels and dashboard. 'Health-and-wellness' technologies (whatever they might be) also feature in the cabin.

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    While the previous-generation Cruze was produced in hatchback guise, Chevrolet decided not to offer it in North America. That won't be the case with the current model though, because a new five-door version is set to appear at this month's North American International Auto Show.

    Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback (2017) Rear Side

    The 2017 Cruze hatch, which will be marketed as a more sporty and practical choice, shares its 2,700 mm (106.3”) wheelbase with the existing sedan variant. Opening the tailgate reveals 643 litres (22.7 cu. ft.) of cargo space, or 1,336 litres (47.2 cu. ft.) if the rear seats are folded flat.

    Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback (2017) Front Side

    Interestingly, only the upmarket LT and Premier trim grades are going to be available, with or without an RS appearance package. Deliveries are due to begin during autumn 2016.

    Related posts:
    Top 10: Facts about the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze
    2016 Vauxhall / Opel Astra first view

    Images © General Motors.

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  • 01/11/16--15:53: 2016 NACTOY winners
  • A jury of 53 automotive journalists from Canada and the United States has decided the 2016 North American Car of the Year and Truck / Utility of the Year winners.

    The Honda Civic compact took first place in the car category. Chevrolet's Malibu was just 22 points behind, while a more distant third spot for the Mazda MX-5 Miata perhaps demonstrates that many 'head over heart' votes were cast.

    Honda Civic Coupe (2016 North American Spec) Front Side
    Honda Civic: 2016 North American Car of the Year.

    2016 North American Car of the Year
    Winner: Honda Civic – 203 points
    Second: Chevrolet Malibu – 181 points
    Third: Mazda MX-5 Miata – 146 points

    Turning to the truck and utility award, Honda failed to achieve double honours because the Volvo XC90 secured an emphatic victory. In fact, there was hardly anything between Honda's Pilot and Nissan's Titan XD in the battle for the runner-up position.

    Volvo XC90 (2015) Front Side
    Volvo XC90: 2016 North American Truck / Utility of the Year.

    2016 North American Truck / Utility of the Year
    Winner: Volvo XC90 – 310 points
    Second: Honda Pilot – 111 points
    Third: Nissan Titan XD – 109 points

    Related posts:
    2016 NACTOY finalists
    2016 NACTOY shortlists
    2015 NACTOY winners

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    One of the most striking concepts on display at this year's North American International Auto Show is the Buick Avista. Several styling elements on this 2+2 coupé appear to have been inspired by Aston Martin, which is no bad thing.

    However, a minor criticism is that some typically Buick details – such as vertical 'waterfall' grille bars and individual VentiPort outlets behind the front wheels – are absent. If the badges were covered up, attributing Avista to a particular brand would be tricky.

    Buick Avista Concept (2016) Front Side

    While the 400 bhp (298 kW / 405 PS) 3.0 litre twin-turbo V6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission are based on a current powertrain, the concept's rear-wheel drive platform is unique.

    Consequently, the chances of Avista entering production are slim without a few major alterations. Nevertheless its creation does suggest that Buick is giving serious consideration to building a coupé.

    Buick Avista Concept (2016) Rear Side

    But why is Avista potentially significant for Europe? Well, given that Buick and Vauxhall / Opel already do a lot of model sharing, a showroom version might also become a long-awaited successor to the Calibra.

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    Buick unveils the all-new 2017 LaCrosse

    Images © General Motors.

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    Compared to its predecessor, the second-generation Honda Ridgeline looks much more conventional. Nevertheless, this all-new mid-size pick-up truck – which has just been unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit – still boasts several distinctive features.

    Unlike some body-on-frame rivals, Ridgeline retains a unibody structure. Combined with all-round independent suspension, Honda claims the result is best-in-class ride, handling and refinement.

    Honda Ridgeline (2017) Front Side

    The cargo box measures 5’ 4” long and 5’ 0” wide (with 4’ 0” of flat space between the wheel arches). It incorporates an innovative In-Bed Trunk lockable storage compartment plus, on certain trim grades, built-in audio 'exciters' for listening to music. Access is provided via a dual-action tailgate that can flip down or open sideways.

    Inside Ridgeline's four-door crew cab, the 60:40 split rear seats can be folded up to allow larger items to be carried securely. Also included on the equipment list are tri-zone climate control and an 8” touchscreen-controlled infotainment system that's compatible with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

    Power comes from a 3.5 litre i-VTEC V6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Customers will have a choice of either front-wheel drive or i-VTM4 torque-vectoring all-wheel drive.

    The 2017 Ridgeline is scheduled to arrive at Honda dealers before the middle of this year.

    Honda Ridgeline (2017) Cargo BoxHonda Ridgeline (2017) Dashboard

    Honda Ridgeline (2017) InteriorHonda Ridgeline (2017) Rear Side

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    When the extreme Seven 620R was first announced in the middle of 2013, Caterham promised that a less intense 620S model would also be joining the range. Now, after rather a long wait, it's here.

    Caterham describes the new 620S as a “mildly saner, more road-oriented” version of the 620R. Power still comes from a supercharged Ford Duratec engine that develops an impressive 310 bhp (231 kW / 314 PS) with 296 Nm (219 lb/ft) of peak torque. However, the 620R's sequential six-speed transmission has been swapped for a conventional five-speed manual gearbox.

    Caterham Seven 620S (2016) Front

    Another key difference concerns the suspension set-up, which features recalibrated springs and dampers for better comfort. 15” 'Orcus' six-spoke alloy wheels shod with Avon ZZS tyres are also part of the standard specification.

    A small degree of luxury is provided by a heater, leather-covered seats, a proper windscreen, side screens and a fabric roof. The 620S should appeal to larger customers too, because they can choose an optional wide-body SV chassis instead of the regular S3 item.

    UK prices for a fully-built 620S start from £44,995 (including VAT), or £47,495 in SV guise. Deliveries are expected to begin later this year.

    Caterham Seven 620S (2016) SideCaterham Seven 620S (2016) Front Side

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    Caterham Seven 620R unveiled

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    For 2017, GMC's mid-size Acadia sport utility has become smaller and lighter than its predecessor.

    The all-new model is 184 mm (7.2”) shorter, 99 mm (3.9”) lower and 87 mm (3.5”) narrower, while  curb weight is down by around 318 kg (700 lbs). Despite the reduced dimensions, most versions still come with three rows of seats.

    GMC Acadia Denali (2017) Front Side

    As standard, power is provided by a 2.5 litre four-cylinder Ecotec gasoline engine that's mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Featuring direct injection and variable valve timing, peak output and torque are rated at 194 bhp (145 kW / 197 PS) and 258 Nm (190 lb/ft) respectively.

    In front-wheel drive guise, highway fuel economy is estimated by GMC to be a not particularly impressive 28 mpg US (33.6 mpg UK / 8.4 l/100km). Expect that figure to be even worse if all-wheel drive is ordered.

    For those customers seeking better performance, a 3.6 litre V6 is alternatively available. Developing 310 bhp (231 kW / 314 PS) and 367 Nm (271 lb/ft), it too can be specified with either front- or all-wheel drive.

    Joining the range for the first time is an All Terrain trim grade. Aimed at users requiring extra ability over rough ground, this variant boasts an enhanced all-wheel drive system and, uniquely, an Off Road driving mode. Distinguishing features include black chrome, special wheels and a body-colour grille surround. Furthermore, covered storage boxes are fitted instead of a third row of seats.

    2017 Acadia deliveries are due to begin across North America this spring.

    GMC Acadia Denali (2017) DashboardGMC Acadia All Terrain (2017) Rear Side

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    Images © General Motors.

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    Mini has launched a high-performance John Cooper Works version of its latest convertible.

    Like the existing JCW Hatch, power comes from a turbocharged 2.0 litre four-cylinder engine which delivers 227 bhp (170 kW / 231 PS) and 320 Nm (236 lb/ft) of peak torque. That output is up by 38 bhp (29 kW / 39 PS) compared to the current Cooper S Convertible.

    Mini John Cooper Works Convertible (2016) Rear Side

    With a six-speed manual gearbox, the JCW Convertible can accelerate from rest to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 6.6 seconds before going on to a top speed of 150 mph (242 km/h). Opt for a Steptronic six-speed automatic transmission instead and those figures become 6.5 seconds and 149 mph (240 km/h) respectively.

    Among the chassis upgrades are a unique suspension set-up, Brembo four-piston brake calipers and a set of 17” alloy wheels. Dynamic Damper Control offers a choice of two settings, but unfortunately it's a cost option.

    The standard specification includes a power-operated fabric roof, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, Bluetooth connectivity and JCW sports seats with integrated head restraints.

    UK deliveries are due to begin in April. On-the-road prices start from £26,630, or £28,205 if the automatic transmission is ordered.

    Mini John Cooper Works Convertible (2016) InteriorMini John Cooper Works Convertible (2016) Side

    Mini John Cooper Works Convertible (2016) Front SideMini John Cooper Works Convertible (2016) Dashboard

    Related posts:
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    2015 Mini John Cooper Works Hatch revealed

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    Chevrolet's association with outdoor gear brand Realtree is continuing with the launch of the Silverado 1500 Realtree Edition.

    Based on the current LTZ trim grade and available in crew cab guise only, special features include some tastefully restrained camouflage body graphics, 20” wheels, all-terrain tyres and numerous black trim pieces. Inside, the front-seat head restraints are embroidered with the Realtree logo.

    Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LTZ Z71 Realtree Edition Crew Cab (2016 Rendering) Front Side

    Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LTZ Z71 Realtree Edition Crew Cab (2016 Rendering) Rear Side

    Furthermore, the Z71 off-road package also forms part of the standard specification. It comprises hill descent control, under-body protection, recovery hooks, Rancho monotube dampers and a G80 automatic locking rear differential.

    Deliveries of the 2016 Silverado Realtree Edition are due to begin across North America this spring.

    Related posts:
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    Chevrolet Silverado Special Ops concept

    Images © General Motors.

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    Mini is extending the appeal of its recently-launched Clubman by offering ALL4 all-wheel drive as an alternative to the usual front-wheel drive set-up.

    Available for the petrol-powered Cooper S and diesel Cooper SD variants, the newly-developed electronically-controlled ALL4 system has been designed to be small and light. It initially sends output to the front axle differential but, when needed, some torque can be directed to the rear wheels via a 'hang-on' multi-disc clutch.

    Mini Cooper S Clubman ALL4 (2016) Front Side

    The required front / rear split is continuously recalculated by reference to numerous factors. These include road speed, wheel rotation speeds, longitudinal and lateral acceleration, accelerator pedal position, engine revs and steering angle. Mini claims that the result is better agility and stability, plus a reduced tendency to either under- or over-steer.

    Further helping traction out of bends is an Electronic Differential Lock Control device. Fitted as standard, this uses selective braking to stop the inside front wheel spinning.

    As would be expected, efficiency does suffer. For example, the 189 bhp (141 kW / 192 PS) Cooper S Clubman ALL4 equipped with a manual gearbox records 40.9 mpg (6.9 l/100km) on the combined cycle while emitting 159 g/km of carbon dioxide. By comparison, the equivalent front-wheel drive model achieves 45.6 mpg (6.2 l/100km) and 144 g/km.

    Deliveries of the Oxford-built Clubman ALL4 are scheduled to begin in April. On-the-road prices for the UK are:
    • Cooper S Clubman ALL4 (six-speed manual) – £24,305
    • Cooper S Clubman ALL4 (eight-speed Steptronic automatic) – £25,985
    • Cooper SD Clubman ALL4 (eight-speed Steptronic automatic) – £27,410
    Mini Cooper S Clubman ALL4 (2016) DashboardMini Cooper S Clubman ALL4 (2016) Rear Side

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    The Mini Clubman just got a lot bigger

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    Van manufacturer LDV has certainly had a turbulent history. Originally part of British Leyland, it was later known as Freight Rover before becoming a Leyland DAF offshoot in 1993. A management buy-out subsequently saw the name simplified from Leyland DAF Vans to LDV, but during 2005 the company entered administration.

    A private equity firm stepped in, then soon afterwards LDV was sold to Russia's GAZ Group. Unfortunately things did not go well, because further financial woes saw the Birmingham factory close at the end of 2008.

    Eventually, LDV's assets were acquired by SAIC Motor Corporation, the Chinese firm that incidentally also owns MG.

    Production of the Maxus range moved to China in 2011, at which stage the vans received the V80 model title while 'Maxus' was elevated to brand status. All in all, a convoluted tale...

    It's the Chinese-built V80 that Dublin-based importer Harris Group is now relaunching in the UK and Ireland. However, in common with some other territories such as Australia, the LDV marque (rather than Maxus) is being used for both markets.

    LDV V80 Panel Van (2016) Range

    The V80's design is almost a dozen years old and, apart from a revised grille, the looks are largely unchanged. Inside, a revamped dashboard retains a central instrument binnacle that still seems rather unergonomic.

    Panel van customers will have a choice of low roof / short wheelbase, medium roof / long wheelbase and high roof / long wheelbase body styles. Chassis cab, crew cab and minibus versions are all due to be offered in the future.

    Power comes from a 2.5 litre VM Motori four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine. Mated to a six-speed manual transmission, its power and torque are rated at 134 bhp (100 kW / 136 PS) and 330 Nm (243 lb/ft) respectively.

    Standard equipment is fairly generous. As well as twin rear doors and a single side sliding door, the list includes three cab seats, heated power-adjustable door mirrors, rear parking sensors, cruise control, air conditioning and Bluetooth connectivity.

    To further sweeten the deal, LDV is selling the V80 with a five-year warranty. Nevertheless, prices and depreciation rates are surely going to be two major considerations for prospective buyers. For the time being at least, neither are known.

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    Ferrari has introduced an optional Handling Speciale package for the California T. Intended to provide a more dynamic driving experience, its major feature is a revised suspension set-up.

    This comprises recalibrated settings for the adjustable dampers, as well as modified springs which are stiffer by 16% at the front and 19% at the rear. The claimed result is enhanced agility and responsiveness. However, Ferrari does admit that the car's ride quality suffers slightly (as would be expected).

    Ferrari California T With Handling Speciale Package (2016) Front Side

    Customers who go down the Handling Speciale route will also experience quicker gear changes in Sport mode, plus better acceleration out of bends thanks to an altered F1-Trac traction control system.

    Although the 552 bhp (412 kW / 560 PS) 3,855 cc V8 engine is unchanged, a new exhaust is included. This delivers a more sonorous sound that gets louder as the revs increase.

    Ferrari California T With Handling Speciale Package (2016) Rear Side

    Completing the Handling Speciale specification is a unique matte grey finish for the front grille and rear diffuser. Furthermore, there's a special plaque inside.

    Related posts:
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    Ferrari unveils the 488 Spider

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    A couple more trim grades are joining the Holden Cruze line-up for 2016. Named Z-Series and SRi-Z, they feature numerous equipment upgrades.

    Two-tone 17” alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and unique doorsill kick plates identify the Z-Series. Inside, its specification includes leather upholstery, special front floor mats, a reversing camera and a touchscreen-controlled infotainment system. 

    Holden Cruze SRi-Z Hatchback (2016) Front SideHolden Cruze SRi-Z Hatchback (2016) Rear Side

    Based on the existing SRi-V model, the SRi-Z gains a set of satin-finish 18” alloys, a rear spoiler and some alloy pedal covers. Exclusive badges, kick plates and front floor mats complete the list of enhancements.

    The Cruze Z-Series and Cruze SRi-Z are available in Australia now. Both can be ordered in either hatchback or saloon form.

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    Images © General Motors.

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  • 01/25/16--15:51: Top 10: Irish car sales 2015
  • Another year of strong demand saw 124,945 new car registrations in Ireland during 2015. That figure, published by the Society of the Irish Motor Industry, represents an increase of almost 30% versus 2014’s total.

    With the second plate-change month of July now well established, the spread of sales throughout the year was pretty much unchanged.

    Likewise, the mix of fuel types remained broadly similar, although diesel’s market share slipped from 73.5% to 71.2%. The ‘alternative’ category (which includes pure electric and hybrid vehicles) showed the largest percentage increase, but volumes are still very modest.

    Irish Car Registrations 2015 - By Fuel Type
    Fuel 2015 2014 +/- % +/-
    Diesel 88,951 70,751 +18,200 +25.7%
    Petrol 33,903 24,252 +9,651 +39.8%
    Alternative 2,091 1,281 +810 +63.2%
    Total 124,945 96,284 +28,661 +29.8%
    Figures provided by SIMI Motorstats

    The top ten manufacturers’ list ended up looking virtually identical to 2014’s, too.

    However, two brands recorded particularly notable performances. Firstly, Hyundai grew its market share by 0.7% to 9.2% thanks to additional i10, i20 and ix35 deliveries. Secondly, the arrival of the Pulsar was primarily responsible for Nissan’s rise from 7.3% to 9.0%.

    Nissan Pulsar (2015) Front Side
    1,821 examples of the new Nissan Pulsar were registered in 2015.

    Top 10: Irish Car Registrations 2015 - By Manufacturer
    Position Manufacturer 2015 2014 +/- % +/-
    1 Volkswagen 15,379 11,674 +3,705 +31.7%
    2 Toyota 13,109 10,275 +2,834 +27.6%
    3 Ford 12,050 9,841 +2,569 +27.1%
    4 Hyundai 11,484 8,159 +3,325 +40.8%
    5 Nissan 11,198 7,032 +4,166 +59.2%
    6 Škoda 7,816 6,296 +1,520 +24.1%
    7 Opel 7,483 6,356 +1,127 +17.7%
    8 Renault 6,090 4,881 +1,209 +24.8%
    9 Kia 5,481 4,236 +1,245 +29.4%
    10 Audi 5,224 4,272 +952 +22.3%
    Figures provided by SIMI Motorstats

    Once again the Golf topped the individual models’ league table, while the Focus took over second position from the Qashqai.

    In fact, it was a successful year for Volkswagen Group products, as the Škoda Octavia and Volkswagen Passat moved up two and five places respectively. Of course, any impact of the diesel emissions scandal (which was first reported in September) has yet to be seen, because the fourth quarter accounted for just 3.1% of 2015’s total registrations.

    Top 10: Irish Car Registrations 2015 - By Model
    Position Model 2015 2014 +/- % +/-
    1 Volkswagen Golf 5,525 4,425 +1,100 +24.9%
    2 Ford Focus 4,248 3,793 +455 +12.0%
    3 Nissan Qashqai 4,163 3,806 +357 +9.4%
    4 Škoda Octavia 3,887 2,830 +1,057 +37.3%
    5 Volkswagen Passat 3,578 2,224 +1,354 +60.9%
    6= Ford Fiesta 3,474 3,119 +355 +11.4%
    6= Toyota Corolla 3,474 3,007 +467 +15.5%
    8 Hyundai ix35 3,429 2,635 +794 +30.1%
    9 Toyota Yaris 2,840 2,051 +789 +38.5%
    10 Kia Sportage 2,589 1,938 +651 +33.6%
    Figures provided by SIMI Motorstats

    Related posts:
    Top 10: Irish car sales 2014
    Top 10: Irish car sales 2013

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    So, the propensity for manufacturers to throw together a ‘black’ or ‘white’ special edition to gain a few more registrations is going to continue into 2016.

    Smart is the latest marque to follow this long-standing trend. Indeed, by launching the edition black and edition white together, both monochrome shades have been covered in one go.

    Smart ForTwo Edition White Coupé (2016) Front Side

    Available in fortwo coupé and forfour guises, they follow a well-proven formula: take an existing trim grade (Prime, in this case), apply an all-black or all-white colour scheme as appropriate, then add some extra equipment.

    The enhanced specification comprises the Urban Style, Premium and Comfort packages. These include useful features such as rear parking sensors, touchscreen-controlled satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and height-adjustment for the steering wheel and driver’s seat.

    Smart ForFour Edition Black (2016) Front Side

    To be fair, the results actually represent pretty good value for money (if buyers would’ve ordered the additional items anyway). Smart reckons that fortwo versions come with £1,500-worth of options, for example, but prices are just £895 higher than the equivalent Prime models.

    fortwo coupé edition black / edition white
    Engine Transmission UK OTR price
    70 bhp (52 kW / 71 PS) 5-speed manual £12,715
    70 bhp (52 kW / 71 PS) 6-speed auto £13,710
    89 bhp (66 kW / 90 PS) 5-speed manual £13,310
    89 bhp (66 kW / 90 PS) 6-speed auto £14,305
    forfour edition black / edition white
    Engine Transmission UK OTR price
    70 bhp (52 kW / 71 PS) 5-speed manual £13,210
    70 bhp (52 kW / 71 PS) 6-speed auto £14,205
    89 bhp (66 kW / 90 PS) 5-speed manual £13,805
    89 bhp (66 kW / 90 PS) 6-speed auto £14,800

    Deliveries of the edition black and edition white are due to begin next month.

    Related posts:
    2016 Smart fortwo cabrio first view
    2015 Smart fortwo and forfour revealed

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    European brands have rather dominated the finalist lists for the 2016 World Car Awards. Indeed, they account for 60 percent of the vehicles chosen by a jury of 73 international motoring journalists.

    Jaguar Land Rover and Volkswagen Group are particularly well represented, as six products from the former and five from the latter appear across the five categories.

    The finalists in alphabetical order are:

    World Car of the Year

    • Audi A4 Sedan / Avant
    • BMW X1
    • Hyundai Tucson
    • Jaguar XE
    • Land Rover Discovery Sport
    • Mazda CX-3
    • Mazda MX-5
    • Mercedes-Benz GLC
    • Škoda Superb
    • Toyota Prius
    Deserves to win: Jaguar XE or Land Rover Discovery Sport.

    Jaguar XE (2015) Front Side 1

    World Luxury Car of the Year
    • Audi Q7
    • BMW 7 Series
    • Jaguar XF
    • Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupé
    • Volvo XC90
    Deserves to win: Volvo XC90.

    Volvo XC90 R-Design (2015) Side

    World Performance Car of the Year
    • Audi R8 Coupé
    • Chevrolet Camaro
    • Honda Civic Type R
    • Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR
    • Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupé
    Deserves to win: Audi R8 Coupé or Chevrolet Camaro (simply because they’re not just sporty versions of mainstream models).

    Chevrolet Camaro RS (2016) Front Side

    World Green Car of the Year
    • BMW 330e (plug-in hybrid)
    • Chevrolet Volt (range extender)
    • Toyota Prius (hybrid)
    • Toyota Mirai (hydrogen fuel cell)
    • Volkswagen Passat GTE (plug-in hybrid)
    Deserves to win: Toyota Mirai.

    Toyota Mirai (2016) Front Side

    World Car Design of the Year
    • Cadillac CT6
    • Mazda CX-3
    • Mazda MX-5
    • Jaguar XE
    • Land Rover Discovery Sport
    Deserves to win: Land Rover Discovery Sport.

    Land Rover Discovery Sport (2015) Rear Side

    Now a second round of voting begins. After that’s done, the top three finalists in each class are going to be announced at the Geneva International Motor Show on the 1st of March.

    Then, to complete the process, the five winners will be declared at the New York International Auto Show on the 24th of March.

    Related posts:
    2016 NACTOY winners
    2016 European Car of the Year nominees
    2015 World Car Awards winners

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    According to Opel Group CEO Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann, “The GT Concept shows what Opel [and therefore Vauxhall] stands for now. We are confident, ambitious, innovative and we want to win over more customers with every new car.”

    And that's exactly what a concept car should do. Unfortunately, the chances of a production version are looking very slim at the moment, not least because a business case for such a niche vehicle must be difficult to justify.

    Vauxhall GT Concept (2016) Front Side

    Nevertheless, the GT Concept is surely going to attract a lot of attention when it appears in public for the first time at the Geneva International Motor Show in March.

    The styling, which Opel describes as sculptural and avant-garde, incorporates classic long nose / short tail proportions and an almost complete lack of ornamentation. Cameras and monitors replace traditional door mirrors, for example.

    Beneath the skin, a turbocharged 1.0 litre three-cylinder petrol engine sits well behind the front axle line to aid handling balance. Its output – a relatively modest 143 bhp (107 kW / 145 PS) with 205 Nm (151 lb/ft) of torque – is sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed sequential transmission.

    Combined with a weight of less than 1,000 kg (2,200 lbs), performance is brisk rather than rapid. The GT Concept can apparently post a sub-eight second 0-62 mph (100 km/h) acceleration time before going on to reach a top speed of 133 mph (215 km/h).

    Vauxhall GT Concept (2016) Rear SideVauxhall GT Concept (2016) Side

    Opel GT Concept (2016) Front SideOpel GT Concept (2016) Rear Side

    Related posts:
    Opel creates the Vivaro Surf Concept
    2016 Vauxhall / Opel Astra first view

    Images © General Motors.

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