Category Archives: Transport


Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin

Volvo XC40 Recharge

By Bill McCarthy

Volvo has gone the Full Monty with electric with their small XC40 leading the charge, if you pardon the pun. The firm has confirmed it will be an electric-only car manufacturer by 2030 and will roll out several additional electric models in the coming years.

The stylish Recharge is their first 100 per cent electric SUV, offering the usual Volvo refinement, and depending on the model, a claimed range of 261 miles.

They are not cheap, this range starts at £45,750, but Volvo is a premium brand and you do get plenty for your money.

It is a stylish SUV looking very much like non-electric versions, with smart light clusters to front and rear and a choice of striking alloy wheels. It has a sleeker look and the front lights feature the now familiar ‘Thor’s Hammer’ design. It also features a discrete rear spoiler.

Like other electric vehicles, the grille has been blanked out, rendering the car less attractive as a result.

The interior is real premium quality and dominated by the nine-inch tablet style touchscreen and a 12-inch TFT display behind the smart multi-function steering wheel.

The central screen controls major functions and now features Google Maps, navigation, infotainment and smartphone connectivity. There are also a number of apps available.

It has a real high-end feel with leather style micro tech powered seats, soft touch finish and a minimalist approach to buttons and and dials.

All models  are well equipped, and  standard kit includes two-zone climate control, cruise control, rear parking sensors, electric windows and door mirrors and host of other goodies.

This model  adds 20-inch alloys, Sensus Connect with Premium Sound by Harman Kardon with Dolby Pro Logic II Surround Sound, powered boot, power-adjustable and heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, a panoramic sunroof and a 360-degree parking camera.

Like most electric cars, acceleration is instant and the 231bhp on tap from the electric motor powers the car to 60mph in seven seconds. Pretty much hot hatch territory.

A fairly lengthy road trip put the claimed 256 mile range to the test, as well as recharging availability on the UK roads.

Hook up though, and it can be charged from 10 to 80 per cent capacity in around half an hour using a 150kW fast charger, if you can find one, otherwise a full hit using the 11kW onboard charger will take eight hours

Despite being an SUV, it sits fairly low to the ground and feels stable, cornering well and good feedback from the well weighted steering.

In practical terms it has plenty to offer with the rear seats folding and tumbling to provide maximum stowage space of 1,295 litres. There is even 21 litres of extra  space at the front beneath the bonnet lid, where the combustion engine would have been. 

Safety kit is comprehensive, with City Safety which includes pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection, and front collision warning with fully automatic emergency braking, including at junctions,.

There is also a host of other technologies, like autonomous emergency braking, pedestrian, animal and cyclist detection and front collision warning are included on this model.

Also standard are full set of airbags and lane mitigation, which steers you back into the correct lane if drifting.


Volvo XC40 Recharge Pro

Price: £51,750

Mechanical: 231bhp, electric motor driving with 69 kWh battery driving front wheels via automatic gearbox

Max speed: 99mph

0-62mph: 7 seconds

Range : 262 miles

CO2 emissions: 0g/km

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

Supercars with power and panache

The stylish and powerful McLaren GT
The more powerful, yet equally stylish McLaren 720S

McLaren GT and 720S

By Bill McCarthy

When is a supercar not a supercar? Well according to McLaren, it’s the GT, classed as Grand Tourer, but without doubt delivering supercar performance. Its stablemate, the 720S, has no such nuances and is classed as an out and out supercar.

There’s no doubt both deliver supercar prices, with the GT starting at £163k and the 720S from £215k.

Both offer stunning performance on the track or, when permissible, on the open road.

Both look stunning with 720S coupe and 720S Spider cabriolet delivering a brutal 720PS from its four litre V8 engine, while the GT delivers a less muscular 620PS, but both are capable of reaching 200 mph.

Both are light with monoframe bodies surrounded by carbon fibre chassis and aluminium panels, which also allows for good interior space and the lowest kerb weights. At 1,530kg (DIN), the McLaren GT is more than 130kg lighter than its closest core competitor

There’s also practicality in the shape of the GT, with ample room under the full length, glazed, powered tailgate for a set of golf clubs and, because it is mid-engined, space in the front storage area. The 720S is tighter with baggage space behind the seats and 150 litres of space under the front pane.

The low height of the engine and positioning of the exhaust system has allowed the volume, shape and usability of the luggage bay to be optimised. 

A golf bag or two pairs of 185cm skis and boots, as well as luggage, can be carried with ease, while a further 150 litres of storage at the front means the GT can accommodate a total of 570 litres.

And unlike some supercars where you need to be a contortionist to get in and out, the signature gull-wing doors offer easy access and egress, although the GT offers the easier access of the two.

They look the part, sleek and elegant with longer overhangs, muscular curves, with large air scoops, showstopping alloy wheels and aerodynamically turned to slice through the air with minimum resistance.

A key feature on the 720S is the absence of radiator intakes on the side of the car, which has been replaced unique ‘double-skin’ aerodynamic form of the dihedral doors, which channel air to the high-temperature radiators that cool the mid-mounted engine. 

As you would expect with both cars, the cabin is sports focussed, but offers some luxurious leather offset by aluminium switchgear, and high-end sound system although not on the same level as a similarly priced Bentley Continental GT.

The GT has a more sophisticated feel, with the 720S more stripped back to unleash the extra power.

On the road, both are remarkably responsive and the harder you push, the better the drive. Both were taken on a simulated Alpine route, followed, a straight mile power run and laps on a two mile oval banked track.

Both are mated to a seven-speed auto transmission with the option of using steering wheel paddles. 

The immense power and torque of both were evident at all times as was the superb handling on the twisting, sometimes icy mountain track.

With the aid of the new generation of McLaren’s Proactive Chassis Control combined with power-assisted, electro-hydraulic steering they deliver a thrilling experience as they cling limpet-like to the road on the tightest of hairpins. 

They respond with an almost balletic poise as the steering keeps the car where you are pointing it.

In addition, the Proactive Chassis Control suspension of the 720S, uses inputs from sensors to ‘read’ the road ahead, interpreting what is likely to happen next and reacting predictively in just two milliseconds.

Switch to the straight mile run for blistering acceleration, both the GT and 720 race to 60mph in 2.8 seconds, and 3.2 seconds respectively. Stand on the brakes as they end of the track approaches at 150mph and the car comes to a standstill in just over four seconds.

For those looking for an even more raw, full-fat driving experience, choose from Comfort, Sport, or Track modes for an even more jaw-clenching experience.

Just as impressive is the GT which can hit 60mph in just 3.1 seconds and on to 125mph in just nine seconds, again with instant braking.

And just in case anyone hadn’t noticed you, a bespoke exhaust system can deliver a spitting crackling roar under acceleration, or a more discrete sound under more normal circumstances.

Stunning performance, but both are capable of being driven in a more sedate environment with the braking and steering at lower speeds optimised for everyday ease of use as ride height and ground clearances engineered for urban usability

Creature comforts are catered for with the GT offering Standard, Pioneer and Luxe interior specifications with high-quality materials throughout and advanced technologies including ambient lighting, new McLaren Infotainment System II and optional electrochromic panoramic glazed roof.

The 720S comes as Standard, Performance and Luxury trim.

Suffice to say economy and CO2 emissions are nothing to write home about, but when you spend on a car, it’s not a major issue, is it? 

There’s no doubt they are superb cars and brilliant to drive. Supercars in the true sense of the word.

Electric ID.3 opens new chapter in VW story

Volkswagen ID.3 

By Bill McCarthy

VOLKSWAGEN has high hopes for the stylish ID.3. A slightly odd name for a car VW hopes will emulate the iconic Beetle and Golf, to become a third major chapter in the history of Volkswagen. No pressure then.

It is their first purpose-built electric model and built on their new modular platform, the MEB, on which, by 2029, VW hopes to sell around 26 million electric vehicles.

Again, no pressure. So it’s new but it’s very much a VW, with eye-catching styling and, well, just being a VW. Electric cars are no longer immediately distinguishable from their combustion engined siblings and, unsurprisingly, this does have the look of a Golf, but is rear wheel drive with the motor and gearbox situated at the rear axle. Think of the original Beetle.

It looks stylish with swooping, coupe-like lines and a smart but slightly minimalist interior which now uses a combination of touch controls and voice commands for the majority of functions. The car also features clever light animations that respond to voice commands.

The MEB platform, says VW, allows different-sized batteries and offers a similar footprint to the Golf, but interior space comparable to a Passat. Clever, or what?

Like all electric cars, it offers swift acceleration from a standing start and choice of three batteries of Pure, Pro and Pro S specification. Trim levels include Life, Style, Family, Max and Tour. They are 45, 58 and 77 kWh power units and the claimed range for each is 216, 264 and a whopping 340 miles, all but negating range anxiety that has been prevalent with electric cars.

Prices are now ever more competitive with the first ID.3 available in the UK for under £30,000 (including the plug-in vehicle grant).

This model was the range-topping Tour with the 77kWh battery and mega range.

All are well equipped and this model included goodies like heated seats with integrated armrest and height adjustment, heated steering wheel, interior ambient light with a choice of 30 colours and split folding rear seats with headrests plus the usual array of electric and electronic driver aids.

It looks the part with exclusive efficient alloys, dominant LED matrix headlights, daytime running lights and contrasting black roof and hatchback which features a small spoiler.

The interior is impressively roomy, with large glass areas and little instrument clutter. The gear selector, a rocker switch, is just behind the steering wheel, and the lack of a handbrake lever means there is plenty of space between the front seats. It proved a boon when I had to climb across from the passenger seat when someone had parked too close to the driver’s door.

 A bit like the Tesla, a central console dominates and handles major functions, like connectivity  and navigation and is aided by the Hello ID intelligent voice control which can handle infotainment and climate control.

There is another five-inch display behind the steering wheel which gives immediate driver information. In addition strip light which runs beneath the windscreen flashes up different colours and responds to voice inputs.

On the road it is a versatile car, a composed motorway cruiser, and, with its low centre of gravity a fun car to drive with plenty of grip on offer when accelerating into corners. It is quick off the mark, hitting 60mph in just over seven seconds.

As a compact family car it needs to be comfortable and the suspension offers a composed and comfortable ride. Pottering around town the car is simplicity itself, with nicely weighted steering which gives a good turning circle for easy parking.

You can select two drive modes, D for normal and the energy recovering B mode, which allows the car to slow down while regenerating energy at the same time, improving the  greater range.

As a family hatchback it must be practical and offers decent boot space of 385 opening up to 1,267 litres with the seats down. And plenty of other cubbies and storage spaces available for nick racks.

VWs are packed with safety kit and the ID.3 the full range of airbags, traction and stability control and assisted braking, together with a range of traffic and pedestrian warnings.


Volkswagen ID.3 Tour 77kWh Pro S 204PS

Price: £38,815

Mechanical: 207bhp/150kWh, electric motor driving rear wheels via CVT transmission

Max Speed: 99mph

0-62mph: 7.9 seconds

Range: 340 miles (WTLP)

Insurance Group: 30E

C02 emissions: 0/km

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

Sleek and sophisticated Cupra makes an impact

CUPRA Formentor e-HYBRID 245PS VZ2

Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid

By Bill McCarthy

WHEN SEAT decided to split the sporty arm of its brand, Cupra, away, they came up with something special with the Formentor design.

It is a dramatic looking vehicle bold and in your face, yet at the same time chic and sophisticated, while eye-catching copper colour to badge and bits of trim to give it a certain uniqueness.

Previously, Cupra was the badge given to more sporting SEAT models, being a combination of Cup and Racing, ergo Cupra. In the   periodic table, copper’s symbol is Cu, which derives from Cupra, Latin for copper, which features heavily on the vehicle.

Now, a bit like DS with Citroen, it has split and become a brand of its own, while remaining part of SEAT.

It is a kind of coupe/crossover/SUV with a low set, predatory look with muscular wheel arches, distinctive alloy wheels and striking light clusters and the distinctive Cupra badge, a copper coloured inverted triangle. The puddle lights on the electric door mirrors are also a nice touch.

The interior is stylish and features high end trim and upholstery and logical and intuitive layout. The copper colour features again on the stitching of the leather bucket seats which also see the Cupra logo incorporated into the head restraints. It is also visible with the copper coloured and aluminium accents.

It feels spacious, with good head and legroom thanks to its 2.68m wheelbase. It’s very practical as well with a boot capacity of 450 litres which stretches to 1,475 with the rear seats folded.

Central is the 12-inch touchscreen, the brains of the car, which controls navigation, sound system and connectivity via smartphone. In addition, it features a customisable digital binnacle which provides key information for the driver. The flat-bottomed steering  wheel also incorporates gear change paddles plus the stop/start and sport mode buttons.

On the road, performance matches the sporty look with rapid acceleration and plenty of torque available.

The model tested here was one of the plug-in hybrids, with a combination of a 1.4 litre petrol engine and electric motor developing 245PS combined. That’s a fair bit of power and depressing the throttle doesn’t disappoint.

It can hit 60mph in just seven seconds, with a theoretical top speed of 130mph, unless you are in Germany of course.

As a plug-in hybrid it is also capable of running on battery power only for up to 34 miles, perfect for low emission or congestion zones, while combined CO2 emissions are just 33g/km.

The ride and handling inspire confidence and thanks to a sports-tuned chassis, drivers can push the car that little bit extra. It delivers a firm ride but comfortable enough with responsive steering and plenty of grip. Press the sport mode and everything sharpens up for a more engaging drive.

The five trim levels are well equipped and include the V1, V2, VZ1, VZ2 and VZ3. 

As standard on V1 trim, there are 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control, wireless smartphone charger, rear parking sensors.

This model adds further bells and whistles, including the powered seats, heated steering wheel and door mirrors and rear diffuser with twin exhaust pipe on each side

In addition the safety and driving pack includes  Dynamic Road Sign Display, High Beam, Assist, Side Assist, Exit Assist, Lane Change, Assist and Emergency Assist

Prices start at £27,745, a competitive price for a stylish premium quality vehicle. A new kid on the block, but it sure to be familiar sight in the near future


Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid 245PS VZ2

Price: £40,560

Mechanical: 245PS, via combined 1395cc, 4-cylinder, petrol engine and electric motor driving front wheels via DSG transmission

Max Speed: 130mph

0-62mph: 7 seconds

Combined MPG: 176-188

Insurance Group: 26

C02 emissions: 33g/km

Warranty: 3yrs/62,000 miles

Suzuki makes space with the Swace

Stunning addition to line-up

By Bill McCarthy

MANY people may be wondering about two new Suzukis appearing on the scene, the size of both bucking the trend of the firm’s small car/offroad reputation.

Both the new Swace and SUV Across are models launched from the Suzuki /Toyota collaborative Business agreement which saw both firms take a stake in each other.

The oddly-named Swace is based on the Toyota Corolla Hybrid Estate with Suzuki signature front design changes, re-badged essentially, but manufactured in the UK with exports to Europe.

It features two models, SZ-T and SZ5 models, both lavishly equipped, and featuring a 1.8 litre petrol engine with 53kW electric motor to deliver excellent economy and low CO2 emissions.

It is a large car which has room for five adults with a spacious interior and loads of stowage space. It also features a comprehensive array of safety kit.

It is striking looking, sleek and muscular with a large honeycomb pattern deep grille, slim headlights, integrated roof rails and eye-catching 19-inch alloy wheels.

The interior too, feels high end and features  quality upholstery with soft touch finish throughout, powered leather seats, multi-function steering wheel and the centrepiece tablet-style touchscreen which controls sound system and connectivity through Apple CarPlay Android Auto and MirrorLink for smartphones, which is vital as it does not feature its own sat nav.

Standard specification is good with the ‘entry’  SZ-T model featuring dural zone automatic air conditioning, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, rear parking camera and radar cruise control.

This tested SZ5 model further adds auto door locking, park assist with parking sensors and wireless phone charging tray.

It has a roomy, executive feel with ambient lighting, soft touch finish offset with chrome and silver accents, with sturdy fixtures and fittings throughout. Another neat touch is the S-Flow air conditioning.

This uses a detection control function to ensure that air conditioning is only provided to occupied seats. It also takes the set temperature, ambient temperature, interior temperature and sunlight into account to maintain optimum cabin comfort. Head and legroom are among the best in class with 

On the road, the petrol/electric combo mated with CVT transmission, works well to deliver excellent economy and low emissions. Performance from the petrol engine and electric motor produces 122PS with economy of around 64mpg. And as this is the kind of vehicle that could appeal to business users, emissions of 99g/km puts it in the 24 per cent bracket for Benefit in Kind taxation purposes.

Acceleration, if you will pardon the pun, is not exactly electric, hitting 60mph in around 11 seconds. The hybrid system selects an electric motor, engine or both depending on driving conditions.

It is also equipped with an EV drive mode function where the vehicle is driven solely by its electric motor with power supplied from the battery. This mode can be used for driving short distances in low emissions zones.

The driver also has two other drive modes: 

NORMAL, as the name suggests, ECO, which helps the driver deliver better fuel economy through more gradual throttle response and minimal air-conditioning use. This mode is useful during stop-and-go city driving.   

SPORT boosts acceleration, and sharpens acceleration and handling.

The car does sit low to the road with consequently benefits handling characteristics, and is designed to reduce body roll around corners, improving stability and contributing to a smoother ride.

Stowage space is excellent with 596-litres available, while the rear carpeted floorboard can be placed in a lower position to store taller objects and is also reversible with a resin backside that can be used for stowing wet or dirty items.

Space is further increased using the remote lever to fold down the second row of seats for a flat floor and maximum stowage capacity of 1,606 litres.

There are other convenient oddment spaces and cup holders throughout the cabin.

It is packed with hi-tech stuff including intelligent parking on this test model. Fitted as standard on the SZ5 model, S-IPA assists the driver when reversing into a parking space, parallel parking, or departing from a parallel parking space, by providing audio and visual guidance while automatically operating the steering wheel. The system uses ultrasonic wave sensors for sensing and allows accurate parking even in narrow spaces.

Other safety measures include Pre-Collision System which detects  other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists; Lane Tracing Assist which adjusts the steering if it veers off on a marked road; traffic sign recognition, blind spot monitor and rear crossing traffic alert.


Suzuki Swace 1.8 Hybrid SZ5

Price: £29,299

Mechanical: Combined 122PS, 1798cc, four cylinder petrol engine and 53 kW electric motor driving front wheels via CVT gearbox

Max speed: 112 mph 

0-62mph: 11.1 secs 

Combined mpg: 64.2 (WlTP)

Insurance group: 17E  

CO2 emissions: 99 g/km 

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

In the lap of luxury with Bentley

Continental remains an icon of British motoring

By Bill McCarthy

There is no doubt that the Continental convertible is breathtaking. Breathtaking in looks, breathtaking in performance and, breathtaking in price.

Paying well north of £180k for a car takes it beyond the means of the majority, but if you can afford it, it is a hugely desirable grand tourer that remains a British icon

If a car can be described as beautiful, then this Bentley both with the roof up or open car, fits that description – a compelling combination of elegance and power.

It never failed to get admiring looks, and comments on the stunning green colour of this particular model.

Bentley is German owned, VW in fact, but the hand-built features are a tribute to the master craftsmanship of British expertise at their factory in Crewe.

On the road, the car is a superb drive and brutally powerful

Now in its third generation the GT features a tailored roof that can be deployed or stowed in just 19 seconds, with the car travelling at speeds of up to 30 mph (50 km/h).

We love our convertibles in the UK but the weather doesn’t always play ball. But the Continental makes the wind in the hair experience throughly enjoyable. A discreet neckwarmer is integrated into the front seats, together with a heated steering wheel and heated armrests.

It looks sensational, with a low slung predatory look, featuring muscular haunches, swooping bonnet and the latest LED cut-crystal effect matrix headlamps. Sitting on 21 and 22-inch wheels it looks a powerhouse – and it is, with a four litre twin-turbo V8 engine on this model propelling the car to 60mph in four seconds. 

The interior is a masterpiece of craftsmanship and opulence, almost decadence. Just like its sibling the Flying Spur, it is a riot of handcrafted wood and leather of choice and chrome, together with jewellery-inspired diamond knurled finish switchgear and classy analogue style clock.

This model added the optional Mulliner Driving Specification which includes three-dimensional diamond quilted leather to seats, door casing and rear quarter panels, sports pedals and jewelled fuel and oil filler cap and embroidered Bentley emblems.

On the road, the car is a superb drive and brutally powerful. The 542bhp V8, mated with a seamless eight-speed transmission, delivers incredible acceleration, with the throaty roar of the V8 through the quadruple exhausts adding to the enjoyment, especially with the roof down.

It goes on to a theoretical 198mph, nearly three times above the legal speed limit in the UK. All the power is all well and good, but it needs to be kept in a straight line and that is where the intelligent four wheel drive kicks in, delivering traction where required.

There are four driving modes that adjust engine, suspension and gearbox settings, which, given the enormous power in ‘normal’ mode, seems fairly superfluous.

Listing all the features would fill a book, but tin addition to a host of bells and whistles, the centrepiece is a 12.3-inch central touchscreen system including HDD-navigation, two SD card slots, Bluetooth and WiFi streaming, a CD/DVD slot and digital radio. 

Also included is Apple CarPlay, Sirius satellite radio, 60GB solid-state hard drive and 4G telephone system. 

Hugely aspirational

Like other German car makers, Bentley provides plenty of options with the rotating display, a particularly clever piece of kit. It switches between touchscreen, three analogue gauges (compass, chronometer and outside temperature) and unbroken veneer.

But boot space is also surprisingly good, even with the roof stowed in the rear, with 235 litres, enough for a couple of small cases.

Safety is vital with such a powerful car and the  kit, some optional, features huge brake callipers, stability and traction control, a full complement of airbags and features including Active Lane Assist, Traffic Jam Assist and Park Assist with 360 degree all round cameras, infra-red camera, and head-up display.

Hugely aspirational, but practical and British built. What’s not to like?


Bentley Continental GT Convertible

Price: £182,800

Mechanical: 546bhp, 3,996cc, V8 petrol engine driving all wheels via 8-speed auto gearbox

Max speed: 198mph

0-60mph: 4 seconds

Combined mpg: 22.6

CO2 emissions: 284g/km

Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited miles

Highlander makes its mark in UK

Toyota Highlander

By Bill McCarthy

The Highlander has certainly taken its time to land in this country. The big seven-seater SUV has been on sale in other parts of the world for 21 years, but it has now joined  the RAV4, C-HR and the new Yaris Cross to complete the Toyota European SUV line-up. Not forgetting, of course, the full-fat off-road Land Cruiser.

 The all wheel drive model now on sale in the UK is the  fourth generation and its full hybrid self-charging system provides up to 80 per cent emissions-free driving. 

There are just two versions Excel and Excel Premium and both provide triple-zone air conditioning, Skyview panoramic roof, LED headlights, wireless phone charging, heated front seats and 11-speaker JBL sound system. Premium adds  hands-free tailgate operation, head-up display and digital rear-view mirror, plus a host of other driver aids, bells and whistles.

The powertrain is mated with CVT transmission and high levels of torque gives a two-tonne towing capacity. The 245bhp/182kW hybrid combination delivers fuel economy of around 40mpg, which is pretty impressive for such a big vehicle.

It is  more than capable off-road, but it offers so much more and is more likely to be seen at the school gates than the Amazon rainforest.  It offers the longest load space in its class and up to 1,909 litres of boot capacity.

The rear seats slide backwards and forwards and with the rearmost two seats folded into the floor a huge amount of space can be opened up.

With the rearmost pair of seats in situ, it can accommodate adults but is probably more suitable for children. When all seven seats are in place, this provides 332 litres of storage, including 27 litres beneath the floor.

It certainly has striking looks, sitting high off the ground and with wide grille, slim light clusters and flared wheel arches encasing the alloy wheels.

The interior itself has an executive feel with leather seating, satin and woodgrain finish and soft touch materials to the door and dashboard, while instrumentation is logical and sensibly laid out.

The central point is the eight-inch multimedia touchscreen which controls major functions like navigation and infotainment and can mirror your smartphone via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, while the seven inch TFT screen provides instant driver information.

On the road, the powertrain delivers smooth and swift acceleration. It can hit 60mph in just over eight seconds and can cruise on electric power only at speeds approaching 80mph.

There are four drive modes, Eco, Normal, Sport and Trail. The final mode acts like a limited-slip differential but uses braking to help send power from the slipping wheel to the wheel with traction, between the left and right sides of the vehicle. 

All four modes can still be used when the vehicle is operating in its separately selectable EV all-electric mode. In addition the intelligent all wheel drive system delivers extra stability in slippery or rough conditions. 

The Toyota Safety Sense active safety and driver assistance include a Pre-Collision System that can detect pedestrians by day and night and cyclists during daytime driving, with Emergency Steering Assist and Intersection Turn Assistance.

On-the-road prices are £50,595 for the Highlander Excel and £52,575 for the Excel Premium. Both are protected by Toyota’s five-year/100,000-mile new vehicle warranty.


Toyota Highlander Excel

Price: £50,595

Mechanical: 245bhp, 2487cc, 4-cylinder, petrol engine and two electric motors driving all wheels via CVT transmission

Max Speed: 112mph

0-62mph: 8.5 seconds

Combined MPG: 282

Insurance Group: 40

C02 emissions: 162g/km

Warranty: 5yrs/100,000 miles

New bikes clocking up the miles in Sutton

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street at the launch of the bike scheme earlier this year at Town Gate

They may not be to everyone’s taste, but the ubiquitous West Midlands Cycle Hire Scheme, launched earlier this year in Sutton Coldfield by West Midlands Mayor Andry Street, is claimed to be a big success by the town council.

More and more of the green bikes have appeared around the town, including at Four Oaks station and Good Hope hospital as the Midlands wide scheme gathers pace.

The scheme, which is generally welcomed as a boost to fitness and wellbeing, has faced some criticism over the cost with an hour’s ride costing £4.

But Sutton’s council, which is working in partnership with WMCH, says the scheme is very popular with residents and visitors alike, with around 25,000 km – over 15,500 miles – already clocked up.

There arena 50 West Midlands Cycle Hire bikes available in Sutton Coldfield located at seven conveniently placed docking stations:

The bikes can be unlocked and docked at any of the stations and can be used for fun, for example a leisurely ride around Sutton Park, or for commuting.

Users do not need to begin and end at the same docking station; they can begin at one and cycle to another, providing of course there is room at that docking station. There have been reports of bikes being abandoned at various docking stations in Birmingham city centre.

To unlock and hire the bikes, users will need to download the Beryl cycle hire app and register for an account through the Play Store (Android) or App Store (Apple).

Leader of Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council, Councillor Simon Ward, said: “It has been fantastic to see the enthusiasm for the West Midlands Cycle Hire scheme, delivered by the Town Council alongside WMCA, grow in Sutton Coldfield with many residents and visitors now using the bikes to enjoy our wonderful Royal town.

“Sutton Park Banners Gate already sits within the 10 most popular destinations to hire a bike across the West Midlands. Since March 2021, over 5,000 journeys have been made with over 3,000 being regular and repeat users. There is real appetite among new riders with over 800 in April alone.

“The bikes have enabled residents to enjoy time outdoors and experience the joy of cycling evidenced by an average journey time of 60 minutes. We are so fortunate to have our fantastic park and the bikes provide yet another way to enjoy it in all its glory. The Town Council pledged to put in place a public cycle hire scheme in its early years, and we are delighted to have delivered on this promise.”

Whatever the journey, the West Midlands Cycle Hire bikes in Sutton Coldfield provide a safe, efficient and a practical way to enjoy our town.”

The bike docking stations can be found at:

1. Sutton Park Banners Gate
2. Wyndley Leisure Centre
3. Stonehouse Road (Boldmere Gate Entrance to Sutton Park)
4. The Parade in the Town Centre
5. Four Oaks Train Station
6. Boddington Gardens
7. Good Hope Hospital Rectory Road Entrance


 It costs £1 to unlock a bike and then 5p per minute. Here are some ride cost examples:

10 mins20 mins30 mins

To find out more and register for updates visit the website at


Suzuki Across hybrid

By Bill McCarthy

Suzuki is justifiably lauded for its small cars and four-wheel drive capability, but like most manufacturers is increasingly turning to electric power and in this case, a large SUV.

And like other manufacturers, Suzuki is collaborating with others in model production, sharing engines and body architecture.

The Across has been produced in collaboration with Toyota, who now have a stake in Suzuki, and vice versa and looks suspiciously like a RAV 4, because that’s pretty much what it is.

So Suzuki has joined the big boys, literally, with the Across, a AWD hybrid that looks good, has excellent range and delivers blistering performance.

OK, people buying SUVs don’t necessarily go for performance, but in typical electric vehicle style, the Across is extremely rapid off the mark, capable of hitting 60mph in six, seconds, proper hot hatch territory. The performance comes via a combination of electric motors, one on each axle, and 2.5 litre petrol engine, mated to the CVT transmission delivers a brutal 306bhp.

Add to this low emissions of just 22g/km a theoretical 282mpg economy and the ability to charge the battery on the move via the petrol engine and you have a versatile, practical performer.

This is particularly useful when entering low emission zones, where the claimed range of 46 miles on electric power only, means it is not subject to emission and congestion charging.

It is stylish and offers a comprehensive array of standard kit, but for a Suzuki it is expensive, up there in the near premium range.

It has just one specification and offers Suzuki’s E-Four electronic 4×4 system, heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, dual zone automatic air conditioning, auto function opening tailgate and nine-inch multimedia touchscreen as standard, together with all the electric and electronic aids you would expect from a vehicle costing north of £45k.

It is a striking looking SUV, with a sporty stance, with a large deep grille, slim headlights, muscular wheel arches and eye-catching 19-inch alloy wheels.

 The interior too, feels high end and features  quality upholstery with soft touch finish throughout, powered leather seats, multi-function steering wheel and the centrepiece touchscreen which controls sound system and connectivity through Apple CarPlay Android Auto and MirrorLink for smartphones.

There are also various storage spaces including driver’s and passenger’s side trays, centre tray, cupholders and a console box.

They hybrid system works in tandem with the 4×4 system and allows a rear motor that works in conjunction with the front motor to provide drive to either front or rear wheels, or both, depending on road conditions such  as icy road, or genuine off road conditions.

It can run on electric only at up to 84mph. Driving modes are selected by two central buttons which allows the driver to choose electric only, full hybrid, engine only or charge mode where the engine is used to replenish the battery in preparation for entering low emission areas. This obviously has a detrimental effect on fuel economy.

In addition, Trail Mode is an automatic limited slip differential control feature that ensures the best possible grip and control on slippery surfaces. It all sounds great and while it is no wallowing beast, cornering too rapidly causes the vehicle to become unsettled. Having said, that I can’t think of any SUV driver who demands sporty handling.

In practical terms. The Across has much to offer with a total of 490 litres of stowage space and the luggage compartment is equipped with a mains voltage (220V) electrical outlet and 12V accessory socket and can be accessed via kick operation electronic tailgate

It is packed with safety kit including airbags, traction and stability controls, collision prevention, radar cruise control, lane warning and rear traffic alert. If the vehicle is involved in a traffic accident, the eCall system alerts emergency services with a phone message that includes the precise location of the vehicle.


Suzuki Across PHEV

Price: £45,599

Mechanical: 307bhp, 2487cc, 4-cylinder, petrol engine and electric motors driving all wheels via CVT transmission

Max Speed: 112mph

0-62mph: 6 seconds

Combined MPG: 282

Insurance Group: TBC

C02 emissions: 26g/km

Warranty: 3yrs/62,000 miles

Focus on quality pays off

Ford Focus

By Bill McCarthy

IT’S fair to say that the Focus, launched back in 1998, has been a game changer in the industry. It’s only just over 20 years, but it seems so much longer, such has been its impact on the car market.

Inevitably, the latest version is the best yet, with smart styling, improved interior and ever more efficient engines.

These include powerful and fuel-efficient EcoBoost petrol and EcoBlue diesel units, some of which embrace the  latest mild hybrid technology.

This model was powered  by Ford’s highly-efficient EcoBoost three cylinder engine. Not huge, Ford says it is so compact it could fit the overhead compartment on an aeroplane. But it packs plenty of power and can hit 60mph in a shade over nine seconds, and, aided by the mild hybrid technology, delivers extra horsepower together with good economy and low emissions.

Official figures suggest around 52mpg, but the onboard computer suggested something nearer 44.

The turbocharged one litre engine is assisted by a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, which features a small lithium-ion battery pack and a belt-driven integrated starter-generator, which adds an extra 20Nm of torque and helps mitigate turbo lag.

The electric motor is fitted alongside an energy recovery system on the brakes which can then be redeployed to assist the petrol engine or provide assistance to electrical systems.

It is a striking looking car with this ST-Line version giving you the sporty look, but without the performance of the firecracker ST.  It has sharp angles and curves, slim headlamps, wide grille and sloping silhouette, rear privacy glass, smart projector headlights and fog lamps with cornering lights. 

The powered door mirrors also feature smart puddle lights. It also has its own unique ST-Line badging on door plates together with red stitching to complement the dark finish.

It feels well engineered with a combination of sturdy and soft touch finish trim.

The interior is without doubt, the best yet, particularly with this range topper. And with a price tag of around £27k, it needs to be.

The interior is dominated by the central eight inch touchscreen, which controls major functions like navigation, infotainment through a high quality sound system and smartphone connectivity.

 In addition, a central 12-inch digital instrument cluster provides all the driver information needed.

This model has just about all the bells and whistles including rain sensing wipers and auto headlights, parking sensors and rain sensing wipers.

On the road, the engine has plenty of pace and delivers that throaty rasp so familiar these days with three cylinder engines.

But it’s the handling, the feature that made it stand out when launched, that is still peerless.

The ride is as impressive as ever with the independent rear suspension system featuring continuously controlled damping, which e monitors suspension, body, steering and braking inputs, and adjusts for the smoothest ride. In fact it handles brilliantly.

Boot space is good and not having a dog didn’t try this, but Ford says it can accommodate a large dog crate without needing to fold the rear seats. Fold the rear seats and a huge stowage area comes into play. 

The boot is easy to access, using a simple kicking motion under the rear bumper to open the hands-free tailgate.

Folding the rear seats is also simplified – they now drop simply by pulling a switch in the boot space. Safety kit is comprehensive with full set of airbags and includes, stability control, cruise control, pre-collision assist with brake and pedestrian/cyclist alert.

A game changer it was, and it remains one of the best in the segment.


Ford Focus ST-Line X Edition 1.0T Ecoboost Hybrid

Price: £27,160

Mechanical: 155ps, 998cc, three cylinder diesel engine driving front wheels via six-speed gearbox

Max speed: 131mph

0-62mph: 9.2 seconds

Combined mpg: 52.3

Insurance group: 17

CO2 emissions: 122g/km

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles