Category Archives: Transport

Final flourish for Exige and Elise

Iconic Lotus models get special treatment

By Bill McCarthy


Iconic is often used to describe cars, but few in reality deserve that status. Lotus most certainly does. Small in production numbers, but virtually universally recognisable, they are true drivers’ cars.

The Norfolk-based manufacturer is saying farewell to two models with limited editions of the Exige and Elise, so you can add rarity value to iconic in this case.

Both models have been around for more than 20 years and are bowing out with a bang.

Iconic? Yes, and thrilling because both offer a stripped down, raw form of driving which enthusiasts love, even if you need to be a contortionist to slide yourself into the seats.

Push it towards the red line and the roar becomes more pronounced, while the 420Nm of torque means the car pulls beautifully in all gears

Once inside having navigated the large step down into the cockpit, you are seated low to the ground, go-kart style. But there is plenty of legroom and the new flat-bottomed steering wheel also help with ingress/egress, while the seats are surprisingly comfortable.

Creature comforts are few and far between in pursuit of weight saving. Spartan, would be a kind way to describe it with aluminium dominant for dash, sills and exposed gear linkage and central tunnel. Soft touch finish is not for these models, with hard plastics prevalent, although there is some suede finish.

The Exige Sport 390 Final Edition is a real supercar, offering blistering performance and a road presence that is hard to match and, as Lotus would say, has  become the genre-defining definition of a race car for the road.

The Elise Sport 240 Final Edition is no less head turning than its sibling and says farewell after 25 years of gracing roads worldwide.

So what are the main differences? Both have stunning curvaceous styling and a choice of eye-catching, some garish, colour options, new exterior decals, lare air scoops, new wheel finishes and trim, but the Exige has a more raw, track-racing look, with its roof scoop and distinctive rear spoiler

Both are mid-engine and take advantage of their low-weight aluminium construction to offer stunning performance.

I perhaps got it the wrong way round driving the Exige first. Stripped down motoring it is with a 3.5 litre V6 supercharged engine mated with a slick shifting six speed box.

Muscle car might be a better description of this beast, with no power assisted steering and stiff clutch giving shoulders and left leg a workout before you’ve even got going.

Fire it up and it burbles calmly until you press the throttle and the roar and response is instantaneous. Acceleration through the 397bhp power unit is neck-wrenching, although care had to be taken on a wet road drive. Having said that, on long straight stretches, the car could be put through its paces. 

The lack of power steering then really comes into its own as the driver gets superb feedback, feeling every inch of the road, while grip from the combination of 17 and 18-inch wheels front and rear, means it goes exactly where you point and at blistering pace. 

Push it towards the red line and the roar becomes more pronounced, while the 420Nm of torque means the car pulls beautifully in all gears.

 It can hit 60mph in around 3.5 seconds and on to a top speed of over 170mph. The kind of car built as much for the track as for the road.

The Elise 240, in comparison felt almost pedestrian. That’s if you can call hitting 60mph in just over four seconds pedestrian.

Powered by a supercharged and charge-cooled 1.8-litre, four-cylinder mid-mounted engine, it delivers 240bhp and 244Nm of torque.

 Again response is instantaneous as you rip through the gears while the car clings limpet-like to the tarmac. It almost feels like power steering after the fat tyres of the Exige, 16 and 17-inch respectively here, but handling and steering feedback are superb.

For both cars, the excellent aerodynamics and spoilers produce huge downforce to keep both glued to the road, so wet weather could only slightly detract with what was a thrilling drive in both.

For their final farewell, both have come with what Lotus describes as the most extensive list of interior and exterior features, ever, which to be honest, aren’t that many, but that won’t matter for enthusiasts.

The biggest upgrade is the new TFT digital dashboard with the choice of two screens, one with a conventional set of dials and the other a race car-style with digital speed read-out and an engine speed bar and all with a Final Edition build plaque, plus new seat trim and stitch patterns.

Colours are split into two; Select, which includes Daytona Blue, Fire Red, Metallic Orange and Motorsport Black; and Heritage, which includes Racing Green, Nightfall Blue, Essex Blue and Calypso Red. 

Five new variants of the two cars are the Elise Sport 240, Elise Cup 250, Exige Sport 390, Exige Sport 420 and Exige Cup 430. Lotus is anticipating high demand from global markets as customers rush to buy a slice of history. Prices range from £45,500 for the Elise to £100,600 for the range topping Exige.  

Lotus owners, Chinese firm Geely are now joining the electric party with the 1,000bhp Evija hypercar set to hit the roads, while the new petrol engined Emira also on the way.

Speedwatch volunteers hit streets

A Sutton Coldfield volunteer is helping to keep people safe after setting up a Speedwatch inches area.

David Homer has helped set up the Vesey Speedwatch.

People across the West Midlands have been picking up speed guns and taking to the streets alongside our officers as part of UN Global Road Safety Week.

These fantastic volunteers are part of a growing network of Speedwatch groups, set up by local community members to monitor the speed of vehicles passing through their area. 

With lockdown restrictions easing, our roads are getting busier and we’re keen for more people to get involved and communities to form groups.

David said: “About four or five of us started the group as there was not an existing Speedwatch group in the ward. It’s up to individuals and groups of neighbours to set it up with the support of their local PCSO. 

“There’s a very simple vetting process and then you’re signed up on the insurance policy and it’s just a matter of pressing the button on the speed gun while another volunteer or officer notes the car’s details (speed, make, model etc).

“Most people respect the limit, but for those who floor it, the only thing that will stop them is the fear of being caught. We hope that by being visible it makes speeders think twice.”

David said the primary aim of the group is to keep the community safe and make the area a better place to live, adding that the Vesey Speedwatch has already received a lot of praise from passers-by. 

He added: “We get people stop by when we’re doing the patrols and when we explain about the community Speedwatch, the feedback is always positive and people who speak to us are very appreciative. 

“When you’re on a street and people drive at excessive speed, it makes it a very worrying place to be walking around or cycling. Speeders deter people from wanting to use the streets and crossing roads, especially vulnerable residents and older people who don’t move so fast.

“We’ve been able to identify speeding hotspots through the scheme and it helps us to control the problem locally.”

David said as well as keeping his community safe, the volunteer role ensures speeders don’t get away with breaking the law.

“There’s a great satisfaction knowing they’re going to get warning letters. There’s even more satisfaction when you get people driving slower – 30mph is a limit, it’s not a target. 

“People do tend to stick to speed limits if they know they’re being watched. The more of us that do it, the more Speedwatch patrols there are, then the bigger the effect.

“We could do with more support and more people doing similar things in different places.”

If you would like to get involved or become a Speedwatch volunteer in your neighbourhood, then contact your local policing team by clicking here

“You only need to spare an hour or so a month,” adds David, who acknowledges a lot of people have work commitments, children and so on. 

“There is support on the street for it – people are enthusiastic and want to make a difference, but we do have constraints and would need more people to get involved.

“It’s really easy to sign up, it’s just a question of committing a bit of time. If you care about your community and you’ve got some time, get involved. If you don’t do it, nobody else will.”

A PCSO, special constable or police officer has to be present when a Community Speedwatch group is out conducting checks for their safety. Any vehicles spotted speeding are referred to us and the driver receives a warning letter. Follow up action is taken in the case of repeat offences.

Sergeant Jon Butler, who leads our Road Harm Prevention Team, said: “Speeding continues to be a concern for many communities and we are very grateful to all the volunteers who use their own time to help make our roads safer for everyone. 

“To ensure the full safety of community Speedwatch members, a full risk assessment is carried out for each group and volunteers receive appropriate training. 

“We are keen to grow the number of community Speedwatch groups and to do everything we can to support them to check speeds in their local communities.”

For more information on speeding and your options, please click here.

Find out more about the Active Citizens Fund

MG steps up to the marque

MG3 

By Bill McCarthy

MG’s supermini has taken a quantum leap forward from the first version introduced back in 2013. Better in virtually every area, but still offering incredible value for money, an iconic badge and industry-equalling seven-year warranty – notot to mention low insurance rates, making it particularly attractive for younger buyers.

It’s also stylish and practical, with the largest boot space in its segment. The firm’s blurb says: “Designed to make a bold statement, the New MG3 is targeted at style-conscious buyers seeking something different from the rest of the market, offering a wealth of personalisation options.”

A typical sales pitch, but accurate in many ways. One of the first things that strikes you about it is the ease of entry and exit, the kind you would expect on a larger SUV.

It is a smart looking car, with the iconic MG badge set in the middle of a deep, wide grille flanked by LED daytime running lights, wit deep air scoops below.

 In addition there are body coloured door handles, powered electric door mirrors and rear spoiler, together with side sills with  body coloured with black insert, so it does have a funky, sporty look. 

Equally distinctive is the side profile where the body coloured side skirts lower the stance and it is all finished of nicely with 16-inch diamond-cut alloys.

“It’s quite a package and hard to argue about value for money”

 if that’s not enough, there are also customisable options, with six distinctive colour variations.

It is well equipped, with many goodies found on much more expensive cars. It features all round electric windows, all versions come with Bluetooth telephone and audio streaming and AUX/USB as standard, plus an eight inch colour touchscreen and steering wheel audio controls.

The interior continues the sporty theme, but lacks some of the soft touch plastics sophistication of some of its competitors. But the harsh dark plastics are nicely offset with a tartan finish on this model, together with matching red stitching and graphic highlights. This model also featured sports seats and multi-function steering wheel.

The centrepiece is the screen, which features navigation, smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay, DAB radio and also houses the reversing camera on this model. Other controls are functional, if looking slightly dated.

Underlining the easy access and exit from the car is the class-leading head and legroom, which accommodates  four people in comfort, with the fifth a  tight squeeze. No surprise really in this class of car. But it does have a roomy feel to it especially with the large glass areas allowing plenty of light into the cabin.

The 105 bhp petrol engine is a lively unit. Mated to a slick-shifting five speed manual gearbox, it hits 60mph in just over 10 seconds. It is refined enough and has just enough poke on the motorway for reasonable overtaking. Fuel economy is a claimed 47-odd mpg, but I struggled to get 40, while CO2 emissions are on the high side.

 Road performance is good with sharp, sporty handling making it an engaging drive, while the direct, responsive steering adds to the agility of the car. This can be at the expense of comfort through the firm ride. The suspension is  specifically designed for British roads and  can become uncomfortable over lesser surfaces.

In practical terms, it has one of the most spacious boots in its class, with an impressive 285 litres of capacity. Rising to 1,262 with the seats folded. A sizeable stowage space in a small car.

Versions include Excite at £12,195, Exclusive and Exclusive Nav and all featuring the single 1.5 litre petrol power unit. 

Safety features include twin front, side and curtain airbags, electronic stability control, corner brake control, hill hold control and traction control as standard.

It’s quite a package and hard to argue about the value for money, with even this range topper costing £13,840 on the road.

Oh yes, and there’s that warranty, seven years or 80k miles for extra peace of mind.

Factfile

MG3 Exclusive 1.5 

Price: £ 13,840

Mechanical: 1498cc, 105bhp, four-cylinder petrol engine driving front wheels via five speed gearbox

Maximum speed: 108mph

Acceleration: 0-60mph in 10.4 seconds

Economy: 47.1 mpg (NEDC2)

Insurance group: 6

CO2 emissions: 140g/km

Warranty: seven years, 80,000 miles’

Carving out a special niche

Audi A1 Citycarver 

By Bill McCarthy


Even superminis are getting the steroids treatment these days as the appetite for SUVs/crossovers seems insatiable.

So I suppose it should be no surprise that Audi, who produce some pretty mean SUVs already, has given its smallest car the muscle treatment.

The A1 Citycarver is a striking looking car with a striking name. What is the idea behind it? Does it carve its way through city traffic? Who knows. But it’s sure to be popular with Audi enthusiasts offering the rugged look with Audi quality and a price that will not actually blow your socks off. Those looking for all-wheel drive will be disappointed however, so despite its looks there is no Quattro version available yet.

 There’s a choice of two petrol engines, the lively 1.5 litre, 148bhp petrol on this model and a smaller, three pot one litre,113bhp power unit.

The design is based on the A1 Sportback, but the more muscular look includes wheel arch cladding, underbody protection, a stainless steel finish and raised suspension giving around four centimetres of additional ground clearance for easier entry and better visibility. The striking black grille has the knobbly honeycomb finish seen across the range while two slots above the grille differentiate it from the Sportback.

It also features a large bumper to the rear, full LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels and roof edge spoiler. The colour palette is extensive and features include a two-tone option like the unmissable yellow and black combo on the model driven here, enhancing, or diminishing the muscular look, depending on your point of view.

While the exterior looks different, the interior pretty much mirrors the A1 with the centrepiece the familiar eight-inch MMI touchscreen that controls major functions like navigation, infotainment and smartphone connectivity mirroring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

It sits in the middle of a sweeping, ergonomically designed dashboard, which also houses a version of the Audi digital ‘cockpit’ which can be configured in various ways to show a different combination of dials and information readouts.

Fixtures and fittings are sturdy and typically Audi with soft touch finish for the most part, but some cheaper plastics thrown in which you won’t find on some its bigger (and more expensive) stablemates.

The power unit is excellent, mated to the seven-speed DSG auto transmission, it has plenty of urge and even when pushed hard retains a sweet note.

Acceleration is brisk, the car hitting 60mph in just under eight seconds, ideal for smart getaways around town, and can confirm it is a pretty refined motorway cruiser, have completed around 300 miles on the country’s main highways. There’s plenty of power in reserve for overtaking, while road and engine noise is barely noticeable. Economy is pretty impressive to with official figures of 44mpg.

Sitting higher off the ground than the A1, handling is only slightly compromised and it feels assured when cornering, with lots of grip, while the steering is direct and nicely weighted.

Seats are comfortable with decent space in the front, even for taller occupants, but is cramped in the rear, which you would expect with this type of car.

Small it may be but it scores well with practicality with a decent sized, sensibly shaped boot. Stowage space is also good with  335 litres, increasing to 1,090 litres with the rear seats folded.

Standard spec includes  full-LED headlights with dynamic rear turn signals, air conditioning, the Audi drive select dynamic handling system and assistance technologies such as cruise control, and for safety a full complement of airbags, plus Audi Pre-sense Front with pedestrian and cyclist recognition, lane departure warning and hill-hold assist.

As ever with Audi options abound and this model included the Technology pack at £1,695 and Comfort & sound pack at £1,150. The Technology Pack incorporating the Audi virtual cockpit with an increased range of views and functions, MMI navigation plus with larger 10.1-inch high resolution screen, Audi connect with its wide variety of online services and the Audi Phone Box facilitating wireless smartphone charging.

Comfort and Sound Pack adds Parking System Plus with acoustic and visual assistance and additional front protection to complement the standard rear sensors, front seat heating and the Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system with 560 watts of music power.

Factfile

Audi A1 Citycarver 35 TFSI S tronic

Price: £25,435

Mechanical: 150PS, 1,498cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 7-speed DSG auto gearbox

Max speed: 136mph

0-60mph: 8 seconds

Combined mpg: 44.1

Insurance group: 24E

CO2 emissions: 145g/km

BiK rating: 33%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

Tiguan a true ‘people’s car’

Volkswagen Tiguan

By Bill McCarthy

THE translation of Volkswagen into English could well describe the latest version of the firm’s hugely popular SUV.

‘The people’s car’ is very apt, with the VW Tiguan having sold six million worldwide since its introduction in 2007. So popular it took another nine years for the second generation to come along in 2016 and now that model has had a major revamp at the end of last year.

It is Europe’s best selling SUV and gets a new trim line-up and a choice of petrol, diesel and hybrid power units, together with design and technological advances.

Already one of the most stylish and recognisable on the market, it retains its muscular SUV look, sitting high off the ground with stylish 18-inch alloys. However the rugged look is softened with roof rails, rear tinted glass, LED Matrix headlights flanking the slim grille and large air flow ducts below.

 The firm’s Y-structure trim allows for two range toppers. It starts with Tiguan, then Life and a choice at the top end of Elegance for luxury, and R-Line, driven here, being the sportier model. This features 20-inch ‘Misano’ alloy wheels, lowered sports suspension, bespoke  bumpers and rear roof spoiler, as well as upgraded light clusters.

“Acceleration is brisk, hitting 60mph in just over nine seconds, with top seed of 121mph, if you are driving on German autobahns”

This model featured the hi-tech 1.5-litre TSI, 150 PS engine, mated with the familiar, slick-shifting 7-speed DSG transmission. The engine features cylinder deactivation, shutting down two cylinders under certain conditions to boost mpg and reduce CO2 emissions.

The interior is much improved  with the digital instrument panel ‘cockpit’ and the eight-inch touch screen dominating. The touchscreen controls navigation and sound system which includes DAB radio, and connectivity with streaming and internet capabilities. Smartphones can be hooked to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto via screen mirroring.

In typical VW style the interior is solidly built with high quality fixtures and fittings, together with high-end soft touch finish to dash and doors and leather bound steering wheel and gearshift.

It is a comfortable place to be, with 30-colour ambient lighting, heated front seats, sports steering wheel with touch control function, brushed stainless steel pedals and a black headliner and aluminium scuff plates displaying the R-Line logo.

On the road the engine is refined, with plenty of grunt, and whether in full auto mode or having fun with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, is an engaging drive. Acceleration is brisk, hitting 60 in just over nine seconds and on to a top speed of 121 mph, if you fancy it, driving on the German autobahns.

Considering its high-off-the-ground stance, it feels stable, even when cornering at higher speeds, while the steering is nicely weighted and direct. The gearshifts via the dual-clutch box are barely perceptible, particularly around town. On the motorway is a comfortable cruiser with plenty of torque to aid overtaking at higher speeds, with only road noise from the large alloys occasionally intrusive and, if being really picky, some wind noise from the door mirrors.

 The cylinder technology helps to deliver impressive real-world economy, with nearly 40mpg possible according to the WLTP figures and CO2 emissions of 143 g/km.

There are multiple space and stowage options via the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats which also slide back and forth. It has a large boot, which comes with the option of ‘kick’ operation for easy remote opening and easy loading, and partitions for keeping items separate.

The generous 615 litres increases to a huge 1,665 with the seats folded flat. In addition a large bin between the front seats offers further stowage space, as do the roof rails.

 There is a full complement of airbags, plus features like stability and traction control together with Adaptive Cruise Control, Front Assist and front and rear parking sensors, as well as a Driver Alert System and Dynamic Road Sign Display.

The R-Line also features Emergency Assist and Travel Assist over the Elegance trim model, facilitating Level 2 autonomous driving at speeds of up to 130 mph (where permitted).

The entry-level trim kicks off with a generous raft of equipment, including 17-inch alloy wheels and LED headlights and the goodies mount up as you move up through Life and then twin range toppers Elegance and R-Line.

Factfile

Volkswagen Tiguan R-Line 1.5 TSI 150 DSG

Price: £ 32,135

Mechanical: 1498cc, 150PS, four-cylinder petrol engine driving front wheels via seven-speed DSG auto transmission

Maximum speed: 126mph

Acceleration: 0-60mph in 9.2 seconds

Economy: 38.8 mpg

Insurance group: 20E

CO2 emissions: 165g/km

BiK rating: 36 per cent

Warranty: three years, 60,000 miles

Stylish Vitara gets electric boost

Suzuki Vitara Hybrid

By Bill McCarthy


THE Vitara may be something of a veteran these days, having been around for more than three decades.

But looking at the 2020 version, you would not believe it was the same car with its sleeker design and hybrid technology.

 If an SUV can be described as attractive, then The Vitara is a strong contender, particularly in this two-tone version.

Red, with contrasting black roof, door mirrors and wheel arch guards, it also  features raked windscreen, familiar clamshell bonnet to complement the recently redesigned front grille, lower bumper, silver roof rails, and stylish rear lamp clusters. This year new LED design headlamps have also been incorporated  for this hybrid model.

Engine choice is easy. It is powered by the efficient and powerful turbocharged 1.4 litre Boosterjet engine, mated to a Suzuki’s lightweight Integrated Starter Generator, or ISG, 48v lithium-ion battery and 48V-12V (DC/DC) converter to power some low power electrical components. All of this adds only an extra 15kg is added to the overall weight of the vehicle.

Vitara offers great value for money, with comprehensive kit and a great reputation for liability. It looks good too.

The ISG is charged by the battery which is in turn re-charged as the car brakes and decelerates.

It helps power electrical systems like safety features, air conditioning, Bluetooth and smartphone connectivity and electrical components that help the car to move.

According to the latest official WLTP figures, this can lead to a 15 per cent boost to fuel economy and a 25 per cent reduction of CO2 emissions. This was pretty much evident during a long and varied run to the coast where close to 50mpg was indicated.

It can also give an extra power boost to the petrol engine when pushed.

Suzukis are always great value for money with high levels of standard kit. The base  model includes seven airbags, assisted braking,  collision avoidance system, alloy wheels, LED projector headlamps for low and high beam, DAB Radio with CD, USB and Bluetooth connectivity,  auto air conditioning and front and auto headlights and wipers.

The SZ-T model driven here adds 17-inch  alloy wheels, white stitching for seat trim fabric, Smartphone link audio and navigation system.

If you want the bells and whistles and the option of four wheel drive, move up to the SZ5 which adds 17-inch polished alloy wheels, suede seat upholstery, keyless entry with start button and panoramic sunroof.

The interior centrepiece, the  touchscreen, controls a number of major functions including infotainment and navigation. Other instrumentation feels sturdy and logical and is easy to use.

There’s also bags of headroom and legroom is good, while the seats are comfortable and fully adjustable, while the commanding driving position is a bonus.

 A neat touch is the partial privacy glass to the rear.

The boot offers 375 litres of space, increasing to 1,730 with the rear seats folded. There is also a secret compartment space under the boot floor cover, with various oddment holders throughout the car.

It is a lively performer on the road with the combined power pushing the car to 60mph in 9.5 seconds, plenty quick enough for most needs.

 It remains well planted and stable when cornering, with little evidence of body roll sometimes associated with SUVs. The only drawback is the light steering, which at times can feel vague.

The car is also packed with safety kit to deliver a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. 

Equipment includes: seven airbags fitted, lane departure warning and lane departure prevention; blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.

As hybrids go, the Vitara offers great value for money with comprehensive standard kit and a great reputation for reliability. It does look good too.

Factfile

Suzuki Vitara 1.4 SZ-T Hybrid

Price: £22,749

Mechanical: 129PS, 1,373cc, four cylinder petrol engine and electric motor driving front wheels wheels via six-speed manual gearbox

Max speed: 118mph

0-62mph: 9.5 seconds

Combined mpg: 49.7

Insurance group: 19E

CO2 emissions: 129g/km

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 mile

Ton up for classic roadster

Mazda MX-5 2.0 100th Anniversary 

By Bill McCarthy


Producing a special edition of the iconic MX-5 takes, well, something special. Arguably the best pound for pound two seater in the world, it has a rich and proud history since first arriving on the scene back in 19.

It has always been a thrilling drive, with an improved, gutsy two-litre petrol engine, mated to one of the finest gearboxes around and superb handling. It also offers practicality with a decent sized boot and a soft top that folds away in seconds for that wind-in-the-hair experience.

 To complement all of this it has a raft of safety features, for those overenthusiastic drivers who may push it beyond the limits and it has those in spades..

Now, as part of Mazda’s 100th anniversary celebrations, this limited edition model, based on the GT Sport Tech, has joined a range of models marking the centenary with special modifications to a limited edition of just 100 models.

‘This roadster is still highly desirable and without doubt one of the best of its kind’

 Each of the models feature white paint and a burgundy interior, plus unique badges as well as contrasting ‘two-tone’ exterior/interior look inspired by the exterior of Mazda’s first car: the R360.  

Other additions include the anniversary badge featuring on the burgundy floor mats, on the key fob and embossed into the headrests. Externally, the same badge is on the wheel centres and the side of the car, while the convertible features a contrasting cherry coloured fabric roof.   

With a price tag of £29,995 the roadster is powered by the 184bhp 2.0-litre engine so there’s plenty of power which is complemented by stiffer suspension and for greater stability and cornering prowess, a limited-slip differential. All this amounts to a superb drive with oodles of power, an agile chassis and sharp direct steering, putting some of its more expensive contemporaries to shame. Throw in that super slick short throw gearshift and you have the almost perfect driving combination.

The two power trains available are the 1.5 litre and two litre  petrol engines with fuel efficient SKYACTIV technology.

The fpower unit on this model now revs up to 7,500 rpm making it  a real driving experience, with the engine almost daring you to take it to the rev limit for peak performance.

The extra power to the rear wheels delivers enhanced performance too, with the 0-60mph sprint achieved in 6.5 seconds, while the tuned exhaust has a throaty rasp under acceleration.

Standard interior features include climate control air-conditioning  and multi-function steering wheel inserts, while telescopic adjustment has been added to the steering. This model  also features integrated Bluetooth, front fog lights, cruise control and auto-dimming rear-view mirror and alloy pedal set. 

Central and brains of the car is  the seven-inch colour touch-screen display and a rotary controller on the console, in addition to navigation functions, it works with compatible internet-enabled iPhone and Android smartphones and controls the impressive sound system.

On the road there are few better handling cars. It stays planted to the road on tight corners and any back end twitch is easily corrected. The ride is firm, but it’s worth it for the fun factor.

 Despite improved soundproofing, things can get a bit noisy with the roof down and the fat tyres on certain surfaces, at higher speeds, but that’s all part of the fun. But it is quiet and refined when pottering around  town. 

 Being a Mazda, reliability is all but guaranteed as are residual value – another reason they are so popular. The car is quite practical for a two seater with that decent boot space,  while there is extra space behind the seats for odds and ends as well as a pair of cup holders.

Safety kit is the best yet with deployable active bonnet system for pedestrian protection, front and side airbags are standard, and the side airbags feature a special bracket on the outside shoulder of the seat to protect occupants’ heads even with the top down. This model adds lane departure warning, front and rear smart braking, traffic sign recognition and driver attention alert.

Still not the quickest, but more than quick enough, highly desirable and still easily one of the best drives around. Add to that around 40mpg economy and you have quite a package.

As a bonus on this anniversary edition, each vehicle will arrive with a bespoke key presentation box to be used on vehicle handover. Following delivery, the customer will also receive a limited edition book documenting the 100th anniversary of Mazda.

One of the limited edition or not, this roadster is still highly desirable and one of the best of its kind.

Factfile

Mazda MX-5 2.0 100th Anniversary

Price: £24,095

Mechanical: 184ps, 1,999cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving rear wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max speed: 136mph

0-60mph: 6.5 seconds

Combined mpg: 40.9

Insurance group: 26

CO2 emissions: 156g/km

BiK rating: 36%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

Irish ferries sail in with new service

Irish Ferries will operate Isle of Inishmore on its new Dover to Calais service this summer

Operator to run cross-Channel ferries

Irish Ferries is to start operating a new service between Dover and Calais for the first time in summer 2021 in a bold move to offer and alternative to the existing very fleets and the Channel Tunnel.

Despite the current travel restriction in place in the UK and uncertainty when some kind of normality will resume, the operator, part of Irish Continental Group, is planning to transfer its Isle of Inishmore ferry on to the busy cross-Channel route where it will compete with existing firms P&O Ferries and DFDS.

Services are due to begin in June 2021 with Irish Ferries planning to add more capacity on the Dover-Calais route in the “coming months”.

“We are very excited about launching our services on the best short sea ferry market in the world and we believe we can bring more choice for customers in the years ahead,” said Irish Ferries.

“The initial level of passenger services offered will be dependent on the easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions.”

Doug Bannister, Port of Dover’s chief executive, added: “We are delighted to welcome Irish Ferries to Dover. This announcement gives the millions of customers across the UK and the Republic of Ireland who value the intrinsic benefits of the shortest sea crossing to Europe, the prospect of even more choice.” 

Irish Ferries is also adding a new ship, Blue Star 1, to its fleet which will sail on the Rosslare to Pembroke route.

Life in the too-fast lane

Sutton pensioners have more penalty points than young drivers

Older drivers in Sutton Coldfield are taking risks and driving illegally, totting up more penalty points than younger drivers, according to a road safety charity, which added many should be banned from the roads.

There are more than 304,000 pensioners (over 66s) currently driving on UK roads with penalty points on their licence, nearly 25 times the number of young teenage drivers – of which there are just over 12,000 with penalty points.  

The findings, which came from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the DVLA by the UK’s largest independent road safety charity – IAM RoadSmart – also revealed that the oldest person driving with points on their licence was 102 while there are more than 3,000 over the age of 90 currently driving with penalty points. 

Overall, there are more drivers in their 30s with penalty points than any other age range (575,029), closely followed by those in their 40s (572,238) and then by those in their 50s (568,511). The highest single age with the greatest number of people with points was 49 (63,248). 

Additional findings from the FOI discovered that there is up to 8,800 people still driving with more than 12 points – the amount at which you are disqualified – while the highest number of penalty points currently held by one individual is 68.  

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart Director of Policy & Research, said: “The findings from our Freedom of Information request are surprising. Speeding and other motoring misdemeanours are often associated with younger drivers but the findings clearly show there is a large number of older drivers also flouting the rules. 

“Regardless of age, the message we need to get through is that road safety is paramount and we urge drivers of all ages to stick to the speed limits and ensure their vehicles are in a roadworthy condition. 

“We also urge government to urgently revisit the issue of drivers with more than 12 points who still have not had their licences revoked. IAM RoadSmart has been raising this issue for almost a decade now and the problem still persists.

“It’s not by chance that certain drivers amass 12 or more points and they need to be removed from the public roads. By letting them keep their licence it undermines the simple “four strikes and you’re out” message and this urgently needs to be addressed.”

To find out more about IAM RoadSmart products and services visit: http://www.iamroadsmart.com

Sutton bike scheme goes live

A new cycling scheme, piloted in Sutton Coldfield, has gone live in the town today (March 8), before being rolled out across the West Midlands later this year.

New bike stands have already appeared at Sutton Park and across the town as part of the new cycle hire scheme championed by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street.

Now the scheme, piloted in Sutton Coldfield last month, has gone live in the town and in Wolverhampton and customers can hire the bikes via an app at a cost £1 to unlock a bike and 5p per minute after that. This means a 20 minute cycle will cost £2 and an hour £4.

Docking stations have appeared in the town centre, at Beeches Walk and at three Sutton Park gates, including Town Gate, Boldmere Gate and Banners Gate.

The scheme will also go live in Coventry, Birmingham, Stourbridge, Walsall and Solihull in the summer.

Eventually there will be 170 fixed docking stations and 1,500 bikes for hire, of which 150 will be powered e-bikes.

The bikes are also fitted with high quality laser safety lights.

Mayor Street, has welcomed the initiative. He said: “I know the people of Sutton will be itching to get involved now they can see the docks and bikes, and I look forward to seeing the first residents of the royal town trying the bikes out.”

“As well as providing a great opportunity for more people to take up cycling – these bikes also made here in the West Midlands, supporting local jobs and businesses.”.

The scheme, which will include a mixture of three speed and electric bikes, is run by Serco, who operate the so-calledBoris Bikes in London on behalf of TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

To find out more visit the website at: https://www.wmcyclehire.co.uk/