Tesla Model S CPO used long-term test review

How exciting! It’s rare that we get to experience something genuinely new and different these days, but that’s exactly what happened with our Tesla. Getting into the car one afternoon, the big screen flashed up with a message we hadn’t seen before: Software Update.

Other than telling me that the update would be done at 00:55 in the morning and that I could postpone it if I needed to (handy, as the system also warned me that the update would take one hour and 40 minutes and that the car couldn’t be used during that time), I had no clue what the update would include.

Previous updates had bestowed new powers on our used Tesla Model S since it first left the showroom – it didn’t have Autopilot and other driver assistance features when new; they came about courtesy of similar updates.

So it was with a new level of excitement the next morning when I approached the car and the door handles moved outwards to greet us – nothing unusual in that.

Getting into the car, the screen flashed up a new message where it usually shows my calendar appointments: “Update Succeeded – What’s new in this update?

“This release contains minor improvements and bug fixes.”

• Best electric cars

I can’t deny there was a slight sense of disappointment that my first ever vehicular software update didn’t produce something noticeable, but that was soon overcome when I realised just how ground-breaking this moment was for me. A free, over-the-air software update in my car. It’s something we’ve become accustomed to on our mobile phones, but not – yet – on our cars.

It’s been something I’ve been regaling friends with stories of and I’ve already had two of them seriously start to consider buying a used Tesla now knowing these software updates bring them up to a standard that’s not far off new.

Living with a Tesla is also something I’m being asked lots about by rival car makers. They’re all keeping a watchful eye on what Tesla is doing, many in advance of their own electric car launch. So they’re fascinated to know what it’s like from an owner’s point of view.

So far, this owner is thrilled to bits. This software update might not have made any noticeable difference, but it’s such a cool thing to have happened. And it’s another reason why the rest of the car world is going to be playing catch up with Tesla for quite a while yet.

Tesla Model S CPO used long-term test

First report: we add a used Tesla Model S to our fleet to see what it’s actually like to live with a Tesla every day

Mileage 31,000 miles

There’s a lot to get your head around when you’re a Tesla owner, not least the groundbreaking array of technology fitted to every car.

But if, like us, you take delivery of a Certified Pre-Owned Tesla, there’s something else that’s a bit unusual for used car buyers: our near two-year old Model S is better today than when it first left the showroom.

When the first owners took delivery, their rear-wheel drive 85kWh car was at the cutting edge of tech. As well as traffic-aware cruise control and forward collision warning, it had auto high-beam and a smart reversing camera.

However six months later, an over-the-air software update added Tesla’s now-famous Autopilot system, which will not only keep a measured distance from the car in front, but also keep you safely in lane when it’s engaged – with you in control at all times, obviously. The system will also change lanes for you if it’s safe to do so – just operate the indicator and the car’s cameras and radar will decide when it’s safe to move, then do it for you.

A few months after that, the car was upgraded again to be able to park itself in perpendicular parking bays, while Summon was also added. This lets you move the car out of a tight parking space via Tesla’s smartphone app without even being in it! I’m looking forward to that one.

The updates go some way to explaining why Tesla residuals are so strong – our two-year old car cost £59,800 with 31,000 miles on the clock. New it was £72,000. Spend £72,000 on pretty much anything else and it would’ve lost a whole lot more than £12,000 in a couple of years.

• What is Autopilot?

You always hope for a special occasion when you collect a new car, and collecting our used Tesla was no different. Our car was hidden under a cover at Tesla’s Heathrow centre, where Tesla’s Laura Hardy took us through every last aspect of Tesla ownership from the app to the Supercharger network, not forgetting the in-depth menus on the car’s massive 17-inch touchscreen.

With over 1000 miles covered in the first week, ownership has been painless, as has charging. As long as you think about your journeys before you go – and check where charging is available if you need it – you’ll be absolutely fine.

Taking my daughter back to university in Southampton from our home in South Buckinghamshire was a 150-mile round-trip. With 175-miles of charge left on the car before we left, the navigation confidently and correctly predicted that we’d return home with plenty of charge left. However, I checked that there were Tesla Superchargers near Heathrow and Winchester – close to either end of the trip – if I needed a last minute top-up.

Superchargers can provide half a charge in around half-an-hour – and free for cars registered before January this year. It takes rather longer for a full charge from my PodPoint home charger, or from the Tesla Destination Chargers that are dotted elsewhere around the country – including the public car park we use at work.

From behind the wheel, you’d be hard pushed to know my car was used. Newer cars have a slightly different interior with a centre console rather than the ‘yacht floor’ of my car – personally, I’m quite happy with the large storage area of the latter, while quality is still first rate.

And although the 85 model I’ve got has been superceded by the 90 and 100kWh models, you couldn’t describe my car as slow – it does 0-60mph in 5.4 seconds with that intoxicating instant hit of torque that makes it such fun to drive (and so good at overtaking).

My car also does without the air suspension of some models, making the ride a touch firm, but not uncomfortable. Talking of comfort, living with the car you realise how wide it is – not that it’s unwieldy on the road, but it’s a real benefit when it comes to interior space. My three adult-sized kids are comfier in the back of the Tesla than they have been in many large SUVs. The flat floor helps, too.

The boot’s big with a wide-opening, electrically powered tailgate and there’s additional storage in what Americans call the Frunk – or front trunk. Being British, I reckon it should be called the Froot – I’ll leave you to work out why!

Land Rover Discovery review

The most important new car of 2017? The new Land Rover Discovery is certainly one of them, and when we say it’s new, we mean it’s new-new. You can probably see that yourself, mind. 

The previous-generation car, the Discovery 4, looked a lot like the Discovery 3, only was far more upmarket inside. And it drew a lot more sales by being that way. That’s what gave Land Rover the impetus to up the ‘premium’ count again and make the Discovery a family of cars and launch the Discovery Sport.

In its place is a car that’s more Ranger Rover-esque around the front. Land Rover is aware it’s playing with a car that owners have dearly loved and bonded with, so is at pains to say it has carried over many Discovery cues, such as some shapely metalwork around the C-pillar, a clamshell bonnet (though a Range Rover gets one of these too), and a roofline gently rising all the way to the rear.

This is essential to package the seven full-sized seats which Land Rover says are crucial to the Discovery’s success – and which differentiates it from a Range Rover. It uses words like ‘lifestyle’ and ‘versatile’, but what it’s talking about are the things that have made it a great family car in the past.

Getting underneath the Discovery’s skin

More on that in a moment, but first, technical details. As with the Range Rover Sport, the old Discovery’s separate chassis and body has been replaced by an aluminium monocoque, suspended by double-wishbones at the front and an integral link setup at the rear, just like the Range Rover.

There are differences, though: instead of aluminium subframes front and rear, the Discovery uses steel ones; heavier, yes, but they take up less room, which is what allows a full-size set of seats in the third row, a deep luggage space (up to 2406 litres) and room for the full-size spare wheel that buyers of ‘proper’ 4x4s will consider essential.

This make the new Discovery lighter than its predecessor, obviously – by up to 480kg according to the headline figure. As ever, it’s not quite that simple: the body itself is 250kg lighter, the chassis 130kg, with the rest coming from the fact that the entry-level engine is no longer a V6 turbodiesel, but a 2.0-litre four-cylinder from Land Rover’s Ingenium family. Bit worrying, that.

The Discovery is lighter, yes, but it’s still a 2184kg car. It’s also at least a £43,495 one, with a top-spec 2.0 HSE Luxury asking £62,695. All big numbers to be accompanied by ‘2.0’. Some markets (though not the UK) will even get a 178bhp 2.0 base engine, but our way into the Discovery range is at least a new variant of the Ingenium unit, with two turbos of unequal sizes and making 237bhp at 4000rpm and, crucially, 368lb ft from just 1500rpm; claimed to be good enough for a 0-60mph time of 8.0sec.

The rest of the engine range is made up with a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 diesel good for 254bhp and a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol punching out 335bhp.

It drives all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, there is a low ratio transfer case, and the Discovery gets the full suite of Land Rover’s latest ‘terrain response’ system, which manipulates power delivery, throttle response, differentials and so on, to make this car – absolutely no question, says Land Rover, so don’t be fooled by the sleeker new looks – simply the most capable car off-road it has ever made. It can wade 900mm, its maximum ground clearance is 283mm, and it has half a metre of axle articulation. It’ll go further than any DiscoveryRange Rover, or even Defender, before it, they say.

Inside, most of the things that made the old Discovery a Discovery have been retained. What we always liked about this car – and what got under customers’ skin – was how relaxing it was to drive. It took the S out of SUV, with a high driving position, low window line, and very clear ends to its body, making it easy to place.

Some of that has been compromised by the new appearance. I feel like you sit a touch lower, in a more car-like driving position, but the window line is still lower than in most rivals, the mirrors are big and you can see the most part of the bonnet. The rear window is large too, although now lacking in the cut-out half way across it – instead only the number plate holder is skewed, making the back of your Discovery look like it’s had a stroke.

Like the rest of the design, Land Rover is aware that, with the tailgate, it’s messing with something customers loved, by replacing a two-piece one with a one-piece, top-hinging plastic tailgate: it points out, before you’ve even asked, that the first Discovery had a side-hinged tailgate and that these things always evolve, so please don’t think badly of the company for doing it. I was tempted to, but as standard there’s a powered flap inside the boot, which does the same thing as the split-tailgate: can hold 300kg when it’s lowered and you sit on it to change out of your wellies, and helps keeps dogs or shopping in place when it’s raised.

The rest of the interior continues the best of the previous Discovery’s themes; it gets big buttons, and clear dials, there is masses of storage space dotted around the cabin, entry to middle and third rows of seats is easier than ever and the rearmost seats themselves are more accommodating than ever. It really is a genuine seven-seater in a way that an Audi Q7 or even a Volvo XC90 just aren’t; this is a very useful car, but a lot of car to be powered by a 2.0-litre engine, right? So you’d think.

On the equipment front, there are four core trims – S, SE, HSE and HSE Luxury. Entry-level models get 19in alloy wheels, heated door mirrors, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, air conditioning and Land Rover’s 8.0in touchscreen InControl infotainment system.

Upgrading to SE adds parking sensors, leather upholstery, sat nav, LED headlights, electrically adjustable and heated front seats and dual-zone climate control. HSE models gain an extra layer of luxury including a panoramic roof, a reversing camera, heated rear seats and a 10.0 touchscreen infotainment screen.

The range-topping HSE Luxury gets a rear entertainment package, ventilated seats all round, a 360-degree camera system, four-zone climate control, 21in alloy wheels and a Meridian sound system.

Discovering the Land Rover’s surprises

First surprise: this new Ingenium unit is quiet. I’m not sure if it’s the new engine derivative or the installation that makes it so, but the Ingenium is massively vocal in a Discovery Sport – far more so than, say, an Audi Q5 – and pretty gruff in a Jaguar XE.

Here it just isn’t; I’d swear it was quieter than the V6 diesel in the old Discovery, and certainly more refined than Volvo’s XC90. Serve a dining hall with rice puddings and it’d even remove their skins, too.

Before this drive, a couple of Land Rover employees told me they’d been driving the 2.0-litre and that it had plenty of power, which is the sort of thing you take under advisement. But they were right. Throttle response is fine, torque is high, and you don’t have to work the 2.0 nearly as much as you might think to make progress.

Obviously, if you tow a lot of stuff – the Discovery has traditionally been a fabulous tow car, and still has a 3500kg limit – you’d want a 3.0-litre diesel, which makes 254bhp and a more oofsome 443lb ft. It’s probably not that much less economical, either. Instead of the 2.0’s claimed 44.8mpg mpg (we saw around 30), the V6 is 39.2mpg, but you probably have to work it less hard, less often, and the premium is only £3k.

What engineers will say, though, is that the 2.0 – by dint of being a good 70kg lighter than the V6 – is the better handling car of the two.

The weight of an adult missing from the nose means that the Discovery steers and turns more easily and its weight distribution is close to 50:50. It’s still no sports car, or even sports SUV, you should understand, but it’s extremely satisfying to drive, even if it’s a touch less imperious than it was.

The steering is 2.7 turns between locks, pleasingly weighted and smooth, brake and throttle weights are good, and the seats are armchair comfortable, which all go to make the Discovery an extremely relaxing car.

Our test car rode on 20in wheels with 255/55 profile tyres; and we suppose the world is coming to something when you think: ‘phew, these are some of the smaller ones, so should be kinder on the ride’. You can have up to 22s, but we probably wouldn’t. Certainly, on 20s, the ride is isolated as smooth as it always was, but now with better body and roll control, too. It’s still a Discovery in character, but enhanced.

A real contender or another plucky Brit?

We know what some of you will be thinking. Don’t think we don’t read the comments: ‘British mag, British car, of course they’ll love it’. Listen: the last time we wrote a Discovery group test the Land Rover was beaten by a Volvo.

Ride and handling aside, a Jaguar XE is inferior to a BMW 3 SeriesA Discovery Sport’s Ingenium motor is so vocal that I’d have an Audi Q5, perhaps a Mercedes-Benz GLC, instead of one.

I’m still not sold on the looks, but maybe that’s just me, because on the day the car goes into showrooms, Land Rover has already taken 20,000 orders.

And certainly, while it looks less like the bluff, blocky Discovery whose character farmers, shooters, horse owners, towers and, quite frankly, big families have come to adore, its intrinsic personality, beneath it all, is, if anything, enhanced.

From the outside, I really thought they’d screwed it up. And I do think Discovery 3 and 4 will become standout classics in future. But make no mistake: this is one of the world’s most capable cars.

2016 Nissan Sentra Sedan

Quick Summary
After a full redesign in 2013, the 2016 Nissan Sentra gets a midlife refresh that gives it a revised look, an improved ride and more features. It’s also quieter and better-riding than the car it replaces, and offers an optional active safety package that includes one of the best adaptive cruise control systems we’ve sampled. It’s now a more competitive car, but unfortunately, the rest of the segment has gotten so much stronger that the “B”-rated Sentra finds itself far down the compact sedan bench.

What Is It?
The 2016 Nissan Sentra is a four-door compact sedan available in five trims: S, FE+S, SV, SR and SL. In base S configuration with a manual transmission, the Sentra starts at $17,605. Opt for the automatic (like 98 percent of Sentra buyers) and you’ll pay $18,445. Jumping all the way to the top-of-the-tier list, the Sentra SL costs $23,005.

For the 2016 model year, the Sentra receives a host of upgrades inside and out. The exterior now mimics Nissan’s larger Altima and Maxima sedans, while the interior features a new steering wheel, center console and audio display. New active safety features are also part of the updates for 2016.

What’s the Interior Like?
Nissan likes to point to the new 370Z-inspired steering wheel and shift lever as the highlights of the 2016 Sentra’s updated interior. It also wants you to focus on the Apple Siri Eyes-Free integration (on SV, SR and SL trim levels) or maybe on the new interior materials. These are all tangible, touchable things that are easy to identify as improvements to an already user-friendly cabin (the touchscreen interface in particular is easier to decipher than Honda or Mazda’s).

Yet, what we noticed more than anything is how quiet the cabin is when you’re on the road. Nissan added thicker sound-damping materials and a new “acoustic windshield” that blocks a noticeable amount of noise. The result is a compact car with interior sound levels on par with many mid-to-full-size sedans.

During a long highway stint on a road surface we know to be particularly loud, we managed to have a conversation with rear-seat passengers without anyone raising their voice. Just make sure to go easy on the throttle:  The underpowered engine and continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) can conspire to create a ruckus akin to an amplified Ninja blender.

As for those rear-seat passengers, there’s so much legroom that Delta would charge extra for it. Besides an ample wheelbase, there are two reasons for that. First, the bench is mounted high, which may cause your hair to brush the roof a tick despite the Sentra’s bubble-like roof. And second, the driver seat doesn’t slide far enough rearward.

Both front seats are also mounted curiously high (the non-adjustable passenger seat more so), which limits headroom and comfort. A 6-foot passenger’s head was grazing the roof, while several editors found it difficult to find a comfortable driving position. The leather-lined seats in our SL test car also lacked the superior long-distance comfort of those found in pricier Nissans.

In total, the Sentra’s cabin space is generous, but really no better than the all-new and generally more appealing Honda Civic. The same could be said of its otherwise huge-for-a-compact-car 15.1-cubic-foot trunk.

Are There Any Interesting New Features?
SR and SL level Sentras are available with Nissan’s new Technology package. This $1,230 option includes automatic emergency braking and one of the smartest adaptive cruise controls we’ve ever used. At any price.

Unlike some other adaptive cruise control setups, the Sentra’s system seems to understand how traffic actually works. The gas is applied smartly and smoothly, keeping your speed even on sharp grades. The system also uses the brakes efficiently and will bring the car to a complete stop more smoothly than most human drivers. (We did not test the automatic emergency braking for obvious reasons.)

Nissan also offers a subscription smartphone app/telematics service, NissanConnect Services, with plans starting at $11 per month. For this you get collision notification, emergency calling, stolen-vehicle locator, maintenance alerts, dealer service scheduling and more. Remote door lock and unlock, boundary/speed/curfew alert (think: a way to keep your teen driver within a virtual fence) and point of interest search cost extra.

What’s New Under the Hood?
Nothing. Unfortunately. The 2016 Nissan Sentra is powered by the same lethargic 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that powered the 2015 Sentra. It’s rated to deliver 130 horsepower but it feels like even less. In Edmunds testing, it propelled the Sentra from zero to 60 mph in 10 seconds. That’s not only the slowest time in the segment (tied with the Scion iM), but it’s nearly 2 seconds slower than the segment average. Those gaps are very significant, and represent differences you’d be able to identify when pulling away from a traffic light or merging onto a freeway.

Now, acceleration is far from being a top priority for many car shoppers. Instead, fuel economy is usually of much greater concern, and the Sentra doesn’t disappoint. With the FE+S model, the EPA estimates 34 mpg combined (30 city/40 highway) with the CVT. All other CVT-equipped models achieve an estimated 32 mpg (29/38). In our own testing, a Sentra SL managed an impressive 37.7 mpg on our 116-mile evaluation route.

However thrifty it may be, though, it is matched or even bettered by competitors like the Honda Civic (both available engines), Mazda 3i and Toyota Corolla that also offer better acceleration.

How Does It Drive?
It only took us a few minutes on a local highway to tell that the upgrades to the Sentra were more than just marketing gimmicks. Previous Sentras could get flinty at highway speeds, and while they weren’t loud, they never seemed particularly quiet, either. This new one fixes both problems.

Nissan retuned the suspension with higher spring rates and stiffer rear bushings, which translates to a car that doesn’t bob or bounce as much. The carmaker also managed to retain all of the impact-isolating characteristics that we liked in the previous car.

Then again, and forgive us if this is getting repetitive, such improvements relative to last year’s model aren’t enough to give it a significant leg up (if any) on many competitors. The Honda Civic and Volkswagen Golf manage to be comfortable and quiet, while simultaneously delivering a sharper and more refined driving experience. The Mazda 3 isn’t quite as cushy, but it’s not what we’d call uncomfortable, and is capable of putting a smile on your face.

The Sentra’s brakes also leave much to be desired. The 124-foot stopping distance from 60 mph is average for the segment, but it’s overshadowed by substantial nosedive, some lateral shimmying and ample ABS pedal feedback.

What Competing Cars Should You Also Consider?
The Honda Civic is a game-changer in the compact car segment. It does just about everything very well. It has raised the bar for all competitors.

The Mazda 3 isn’t quite as dominant as the Civic, but is nevertheless well-rounded and one of our top-recommend “A”-rated compact cars. It is also available in sedan and hatchback body styles.

The Kia Forte likely slots just below those two, as it lacks some general, overall polish. It’s high on value, though, and like the Sentra offers more user-friendly electronics.

Why Should You Consider This Car?
You want compact car pricing, fuel economy and dimensions, but big car quietness, space, tech features and cargo space.

Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
The 2016 Sentra is slow, and steep terrain will exacerbate this trait. More than this, though, it is simply outdone by most competitors.

Ford Kuga vs Volkswagen Tiguan vs Mazda CX-5

Ford Kuga vs Volkswagen Tiguan vs Mazda CX-5 - front

Ford hopes to muscle in on the compact SUV class with its facelifted Kuga. How does it fare against VW Tiguan and Mazda CX-5?

Ford is currently in the middle of a big product push, with new models coming thick and fast. From SUVs to city cars and everything in between, the firm is trying to fill every gap in the market. The latest addition to the line-up is the new Kuga, which is a heavy reworking of the second-generation model.

Featuring bolder looks, a range of revised engines and a refreshed model range, the newcomer is ready to wade into battle in the evolving and increasingly competitive compact SUV class. This sector comprises a host of talented choices, including the recently launched Volkswagen Tiguan. Boasting a mixture of premium appeal, impressive practicality and cutting-edge kit, the rugged German machine presents a stern challenge.

Best crossovers on sale right now

So does the Mazda CX-5. It’s the oldest model here and soon to be replaced, but is still on top of its game. The CX-5 has sharp handling, handsome looks, a classy cabin and plenty of standard equipment, and delivers strong driver and showroom appeal.

Ford Kuga

Model: Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi ST-Line
Price: £31,795
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbodiesel, 178bhp
0-60mph: 8.4 seconds
Test economy: 36.1mpg/7.9mpl
CO2:  134g/km
Annual road tax: £130

The latest Ford Kuga is an update of the second-generation model that made its debut in 2012. Featuring refreshed looks, a tweaked interior, revised engines and a rejigged trim line-up, the newcomer aims to give the brand a bigger slice of the lucrative compact SUV class.

There’s a choice of two and four-wheel drive, plus the option of 1.5-litre petrols and diesels. There’s also a larger 2.0-litre TDCi in two states of tune, and we test the more powerful 178bhp AWD auto here. The car costs £31,795 in new ST-Line trim.

The 178bhp 2.0-litre is nearly 10bhp down on the VW’s engine, so it was a surprise to find that the newcomer matched its rival from 0-60mph, with a brisk time of 8.4 seconds. However, the Ford wasn’t able to disguise its chunky 1,716kg kerbweight as effectively during our in-gear tests, where it trailed both the seven-speed Tiguan and torquey Mazda.

On the road, however, this shortfall is negligible. The Kuga’s TDCi engine is remarkably refined, only becoming intrusive when worked hard – although with a useful 400Nm at 2,000rpm, you rarely have to extend the unit to make quick progress.

Less impressive is the PowerShift gearbox. The six-speed unit delivers smooth and rapid shifts when cruising, but at low speed it trips over itself and struggles to find the right gear. On the plus side, there are now handy gearshift paddles instead of the old car’s tiny, lever-mounted rocker switch.

And as before, the Kuga delivers taut handling. There’s plenty of grip, while the torque vectoring system helps keep the car locked on your chosen line. As with the Mazda, the steering is well weighted, plus the stiffened sports suspension delivers decent body control.

The trade-off for this agility is the firmest ride on test. The Kuga settles down at speed, but around town it follows bumps and potholes. Head for the rough stuff and the Ford is the least capable choice. Its all-wheel-drive system sends torque to the axle with most grip, but there are no off-road aids such as a centre differential lock or hill descent control.

Testers’ notes: “The Kuga is available in luxurious Vignale guise. Featuring a bespoke bodykit, special leather seat trim and dedicated dealers, this flagship model starts at £30,445.”

Volkswagen Tiguan

Model: VW Tiguan 2.0 TDI SE Nav
Price: £33,115
Engine:  2.0-litre 4cyl turbodiesel, 187bhp
0-60mph: 8.4 seconds
Test economy: 37.6mpg/8.3mpl
CO2: 149g/km
Annual road tax: £145

This second-generation Tiguan hit showrooms last year, and represented a step upmarket for Volkswagen’s compact crossover.

We’ve already sampled the entry-level two-wheel-drive diesel variant, so now it’s the turn of the flagship 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel, which is paired with the firm’s 4MOTION all-wheel-drive transmission and seven-speed DSG gearbox. We sample it in popular £33,115 SE Nav guise – although the car in our pictures is a racy £37,005 R-Line.

With 187bhp, the VW’s 2.0-litre diesel is the most powerful unit on test – although its 400Nm torque figure is 20Nm down on the Mazda’s. In combination with the car’s four-wheel-drive traction and launch control, it accelerated from 0-60mph in a brisk 8.4 seconds, matching the lighter Kuga and surging a full second ahead of the CX-5.

The seven-speed transmission’s shorter, more closely stacked ratios gave the VW an advantage during our in-gear tests, where it was consistently faster. Only in its overdrive seventh gear does the Tiguan feel sluggish, which was reflected in its leisurely 17.8-second 50-70mph time.

As the Tiguan is based on the same platform as the Golf, it’s no surprise it drives with the same reassuring composure. It’s not as engaging as the Mazda, but it boasts more grip and benefits from direct and naturally-weighted steering. Our test car was also fitted with the £810 Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive dampers, which in their sportiest setting deliver tauter body control.

Yet the biggest benefit is the improvement in ride quality over the standard set-up. Most of the time, the VW soaks up bumps with a soft-edged plushness. VW’s 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system features an Off-Road setting that tunes the traction control for maximum grip, but the lack of ground clearance and the use of summer tyres mean you won’t want to venture too far off the beaten track.

The VW also leads when it comes to refinement, with good suppression of both wind and engine noise. It’s particularly hushed at 70mph, where our sound meter revealed it was the quietest car here.

Testers’ notes: “VW’s scalable platform means you’ll soon be able to get your hands on a seven-seat Tiguan. Set to be called the Tiguan Allspace, the newcomer is 215mm longer.”

Mazda CX-5

Model: Mazda CX-5 2.2 D Sport Nav
Price: £31,195
Engine: 2.2-litre 4cyl turbodiesel, 173bhp
0-60mph: 9.4 seconds
Test economy: 35.0mpg/7.7mpl
CO2: 144g/km
Annual road tax: £145

The Mazda CX-5 is one of the sharpest-handling crossovers on sale, whichever version you go for. A recent facelift has helped keep the rest of the car fresh, plus it’s added a sheen of premium appeal. Here we test the flagship £31,195 2.2 D Sport Nav Auto version – although the car in our pictures has a manual gearbox.

The 2.2-litre diesel delivers 420Nm of torque, which is 20Nm more than both the Ford and VW. The car is also nearly 100kg lighter than its rivals here, tipping the scales at 1,628kg.

However, at the track its performance was hobbled by its automatic transmission, which didn’t lock up quickly enough off the line to make full use of the CX-5’s muscle advantage. The Mazda put in a stronger display during our in-gear tests, where it was faster than the Ford and closely matched with the Tiguan.

In the real world, the CX-5 actually feels the most responsive car of this trio, with its smooth and eager powerplant pulling strongly from 1,400rpm and revving through to the 5,000rpm red line with a petrol-like enthusiasm. And while the automatic box doesn’t change gear anywhere near as quickly as its rivals’ twin-clutch units, its shifts are smooth and it responds promptly to the throttle.

The steering is accurate and well weighted, and the suspension controls the body through bends. And while there’s not as much grip as in the Ford and VW, the Mazda’s controls deliver more feedback.

Yet while the CX-5 is reasonable over uneven tarmac, it does tend to fidget and move around, thanks to its stiff springs; it can’t match the VW, with its adaptive dampers, for comfort. Road noise is ever-present, too, due to the low-profile tyres and the car’s relative lack of soundproofing. As a result, it’s the noisiest car here at 70mph.

Like our other contenders, the Mazda shouldn’t be considered for serious off-road use. As with the Ford, it moves torque automatically to the axle with the most grip, but that’s about it for rough-road aids.

Testers’ notes: “The Mazda is available in both four and front-wheel drive. Go for the latter with the 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel and six-speed manual gearbox, and emissions drop to 119g/km.”

Verdict

First place: Volkswagen Tiguan

The Tiguan isn’t the most exciting SUV, but its compelling blend of practicality, premium appeal, composed driving dynamics and reasonable running costs gives it the edge over its rivals here. It’s backed up by the most sophisticated four-wheel-drive system and slickest gearbox. We’d recommend ticking the box for adaptive dampers and going for SE L trim if you can.

Second place: Mazda CX-5

Even though it’s due to be replaced soon, the CX-5 still runs the Tiguan close for victory. It’s not as spacious or refined, but it’s more fun to drive, and its engine delivers strong real-world pace and efficiency. Factor in its lower list price and long list of kit, and the Mazda still makes a fine choice for buyers wanting a handsome and great-value SUV.

Third place: Ford Kuga

The updates have kept the Kuga looking fresh, while the revised trim line-up gives buyers greater choice. As before, the Ford delivers sharp driving dynamics, plus there’s a welcome boost in refinement. Business users will also like the reasonably low emissions. But in such a competitive class, the Kuga’s practicality shortfall, lack of kit and firm ride are harder to overlook.

Is it worth waiting for…

New Mazda CX-5

New Mazda CX-5 - front

Due: Summer
Price: From £25k
Engine: 2.2-litre 4cyl, 173bhp

The boldly styled new Mazda CX-5 promises more premium appeal and cutting-edge kit, while a slightly bigger platform will boost space. Mazda is also claiming big gains in refinement, and SkyActiv tech should mix strong pace and efficiency.

Figures
VW Tiguan 2.0  TDI SE Nav DSG Mazda CX-5 2.2 D 175 Sport Nav  Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi ST-Line
On-the-road price/total as tested £33,115/£33,115 £31,195/£31,195 £31,795/£32,640
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000) £14,637/44.2% £13,819/44.3% £12,877/40.5%
Depreciation £18,478 £17,376 £18,918
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £1,867/£3,734 £1,674/£3,348 £1,644/£3,287
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £1,774/£2,957 £1,906/£3,177 £1,848/£3,080
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost 20/£644/F/£145 21/£509/F/£145 25/£747/E/£130
Servicing costs £288 (variable) £711 (3yrs/36k) £390 (2yrs/20,000)
Length/wheelbase 4,486/2,677mm 4,555/2,700mm 4,541/2,690mm
Height/width 1,673/1,839mm 1,710/1,840mm 1,694/1,856mm
Engine 4cyl in/1,968cc 4cyl in-line/2,191cc 4cyl in-line/1,997cc
Peak power 187/3,500 bhp/rpm 173/4,500 bhp/rpm 178/3,500 bhp/rpm
Peak torque 400/1,900 Nm/rpm 420/2,000 Nm/rpm 400/2,000 Nm/rpm
Transmission 7-spd auto/4wd 6-spd auto/4wd 6-spd auto/4wd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 60 litres/foam 58 litres/foam 60 litres/foam
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 615/1,655 litres 503/1,620 litres 456/1,603 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,723/472/2,200kg 1,628/497/2,000kg 1,716/514/2,100kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient 11.5 metres 11.7metres 11.1 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (60,000)/1yr 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs 3yrs (60,000)/1yr
Service intervals/UK dealers Variable (1yr)/223 12,500 (1yr)/154 12,500 (1yr)/781
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 24th/28th 9th/19th 27th/27th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars 96/84/72/68/5 (2016) 94/87/64/86/5 (2012) N/A
0-60/30-70mph 8.4/7.9 secs 9.4/8.3 secs 8.4/8.4 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 3.1/4.4 secs 3.4/4.6 secs 3.5/5.0 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th 6.2/9.0/17.8 secs 7.3/9.4 secs/N/A 7.1/9.7 secs/N/A
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 131mph/1,800rpm 127mph/2,100rpm 124mph/2,000rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 47.5/34.3/8.9m 50.3/36.4/9.4m 49.4/35.5/9.5m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph 70/46/62/68dB 73/56/62/72dB 68/44/61/70dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range 37.6/8.3/496 miles 35.0/7.7/447 miles 36.1/7.9/476 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 43.5/54.3/49.6mpg 44.1/57.6/51.4mpg 51.4/57.7/54.3mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 9.6/11.9/10.9mpl 9.7/12.7/11.3mpl 11.3/12.7/11.9mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 201/149g/km/29% 216/144g/km/27% 210/134g/km/26%
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/camera Seven/yes/yes/£300 Six/yes/yes/yes Six/yes/yes/£250
Auto box/stability/cruise control/AEB Yes/yes/yes/£280 Yes/yes/yes/yes Yes/yes/yes/£200
Climate control/leather/heated seats Yes/£1,785/£280 Yes/yes/yes Yes/no/£345
Metallic paint/LED lights/keyless go £570/£1,375/£380 £560/LED/yes £545/£1,125*/£250
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/Bluetooth Yes/yes/yes/yes Yes/yes/yes/yes Yes/yes/yes/yes

Abarth 595 Competizione 2017 review

The Abarth 595 gets treated to a light refresh as part of the 500’s facelift. We’ve driven the Competizione on demanding North Yorkshire roads

Abarth Front

 

What is it?

With the Abarth 124 Spider doing most of the headline-grabbing lately, it’s all too easy to forget that it’s the car that we’re testing here which put the Italian tuning company back on the map. First released in 2008, the 500 Abarth, with its cutesy looks, characterful engine and classless image showed that Abarth could stand on its own as a separate marque from Fiat. That’s no easy feat – just ask Citroën about DS.

However, in recent years, the car has struggled somewhat, with its premium price putting it directly in the firing line of some exceptionally talented hot hatches. Abarth’s response? To release a run of even more expensive special editions, such as the 695 Tributo Ferrari, Abarth 595 Yamaha Factory Racing and 695 Biposto – the latter coming equipped with a spectacularly expensive £8,500 race-bred five-speed dog ring gearbox.

However, the car has been treated to a refresh that isn’t absurdly expensive or limited run; the latest 595 being launched in a three-trim line-up with three different engine outputs. All are equipped with the familiar turbocharged 1.4-litre T-Jet motor, but it’s the top-spec 178bhp Competizione model that we’re particularly interested in. Chiefly, because it comes with an all-new mechanical limited-slip differential.

Buyers of the manual Abarth 595 Competizione can also specify 17in Supersport alloys on their car, as part of a new Performance Pack, which adds Sabelt leather and Alcantara seats with carbonfibre shells, 595 badging in the interior and a red, white or gloss black finish for exterior and interior trim. As standard, the Competizione also gets uprated Koni FSD dampers all-round and a more potent Brembo braking system with 305mm perforated discs.

We tested the Competizione in Italy late last year, and were impressed with its revised chassis, but now it’s time to subject it to bumpy British B roads, the ultimate lie-detector test.

What’s it like?

Energetic. Turn the key and the turbocharged 1.4-litre bursts into life with an intensity that is entirely unbefitting of a car this size. Below 30mph, small throttle inputs have the Abarth gurgling, popping and crackling, eliciting scornful looks from confused onlookers. Even without leaving town, it’s clear that this is not a hot hatch for those who crave anonymity.

Thankfully, once we were out onto the desolate North Yorkshire moors, it was possible to exploit all 178bhp away from prying eyes. Stretch your right foot and there is inevitably some turbo lag before you get into the meat of the power, but once past 3000rpm the Competizione pulls with a fervour that is lacking from the more powerful yet portlier Mini Cooper S. In fact, with a 0-62mph time of 6.7sec and 143mph top speed, straight line performance is on a par with our favourite hot hatch; the brilliantly effervescent Ford Fiesta ST200.

However, straight line pace has never been the Abarth’s problem. Instead, it’s the 595’s lack of adjustability that has prevented it from being looked upon as a truly rewarding driver’s car. And unfortunately, that hasn’t changed here. The new limited-slip diff feels almost intermittent in its operation and the car’s innate tendency to succumb to understeer early is still a prevalent theme. Compared with the best hot hatches, which allow you to modify your line with a lift of the throttle or some well-calculated braking, the 595 feels rather one dimensional.

That said, despite not being the most involving hatch on the market, the 595 is still startling quick point to point. Uprated Koni frequency-selective dampers endow the 595 with impressive body control, and allow the top heavy Abarth to remain surprisingly flat through quick direction changes. Granted, on busier road surfaces, things can get fairly lively inside the cabin, but it’s something we’d be prepared to live with in return for the precision of the Abarth’s movements when things get twistier.

However, what we’d struggle to live with is the Abarth’s carbon backed Sabelt seats. From the Alcantara inserts, to the fighter jet inspired seat pulls, these £1,200 competition spec units are dripping with quality. And yet, for everyday driving, they are wholly inappropriate.

With minimal cushioning and a lack of lumbar support, back pain is guaranteed, and despite their sporty looks, you feel like you’re sitting on them rather than in them. And don’t try adjusting them on the move, either. With a spatially challenged interior, it’s virtually impossible to reach the seat adjuster without opening the door. A triumph of function over form? Absolutely.

Should I buy one?

From Chelsea to Chester the 595 Abarth remains a common sight, despite commanding a significant premium over more complete hot hatches, such as the Fiesta ST and Renault Clio RS. Why you might ask? Character. With its city-car on steroids looks, silly soundtrack and extravagant carbon-fiber laden interior, the 595 is desirable in a way that something like a Mini Cooper S simply isn’t.

Yes, it’s a shame that the addition of a limited-slip differential and uprated dampers haven’t endowed the Abarth with the kind of playful chassis we’ve come to expect from modern hot hatches, but will that affect sales? Will it heck.

Abarth 595 Competizione 2017

Location North Yorkshire; On sale Now; Price £20,290; Engine 4 cyls, 1368cc, turbo, petrol; Power 178bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 184lb ft at 3000rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual; Kerb weight 1045kg; Top speed 143mph; 0-62mph 6.7sec; Economy 47.1mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 139g/km, 24%