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Hyundai N division plans bespoke sports car

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 20:11
Hyundai’s new N performance division will get a halo car to raise its profile with car fans and buyers

Nissan Leaf Nismo - Electric hot hatch debuts in Japan

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 15:43
Uprated chassis and sharper styling for Nissan's electric car, but power improvements are conspicuously absent

2018 Volvo V60 review - sleek Swede brings its A-game to tough segment

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 15:15
Handsome, comfortable and safe. Excitement should come with the Polestar versions

Subaru Impreza special editions Mk1 and Mk2 - 22B, RB5, P1, UK300 and more

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 16:44
We plot the Subaru Impreza's special edition lineage lineage through two generations and twelve years.

New 2018 Mazda 6 review – facelifted family car a hidden gem

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 10:27
Forget about SUVs. The Mazda 6, particularly in estate form, is proof that brilliant mainstream family cars still exist

Renault Megane RS Trophy ups the ante

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 19:36
With more power, extra torque and a stiffer chassis the Renault Megane R.S. Trophy is hoping to recreate the magic of its predecessors.

Skoda Citigo review – small on size, big on quality

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 15:34
For  Well-screwed together, lightweight Against  Long gearing

Not a true thriller, but a competent car in which some fun can be had.

Whereas many rivals feel built to a budget, the Skoda Citigo fosters its VW Group roots to good effect, exhibiting impressive build quality, decent practicality and, most importantly, polished driving dynamics. . As a result, it feels a grownup car, at home on fast flowing roads as it is in the urban jungle.

In 2017 Skoda refreshed the Citigo’s interior and exterior, and updated its suite of technology ,  too. Lengthened gear ratios constituted the only mechanical change of note, which improved fuel economy and refinement, albeit at the expense of some driver engagement and real world performance.

> Best small cars 

While the Citigo isn’t huge on thrills, there's some fun to be had. The age-old recipe of low l power, light weight and a tiny footprint lends the junior Skoda some charm when you hustle it. However, it's certainly no hot hatch.

Volkswagen Golf in detail

Performance and 0-60 time - With 0-62mph sprint times ranging from the to mid-to-late teens, the Citigo is certainly one of the slower cars on the roads.  

Engine and gearbox - One engine, in two guises, is available, while there's an automatic gearbox option as well. 

Ride and handling - It's all steady going and relatively comfortable, too. Opt for the sport suspension package and the Citigo becomes a tad more agile. 

MPG and running costs - All Citigos are budget-friendly, occupying in the lower road tax brackets and returning 60-plus MPG figures on combined cycles,

Interior and tech - Simple but effective, the interior is well laid out if a little dull,

Design - Its VW Group relatives are better looking in our eyes. However in sportier forms the Citigo still harbours some appeal. 

Price, specs and rivals

At £8,860, the three-door Citigo is one of the cheaper cars you can buy today's. As we said before, though, the basic model is best avoided, so you should be spending over £10k, affording you the SE trim;, which includes alloy-wheels, (manual) air con and bluetooth phone and audio connectivity.

Next up in the trim hierarchy are the Colour Edition and SE L, priced at £10,820 and £10,685 respectively. Over the SE the former offers fog lights and alloy wheels, which you’ll also find in the latter, along with heated seats and rear parking sensors. Topping the range in price terms is the £11,500 Monte Carlo edition.

> Skoda Citigo Monte Carlo review

Range-wide the five-door body carries a £350 premium, so it’s worth the outlay for the extra practicality. Unsurprisingly, the options list is short, and aside from the aforementioned sports suspension there’s nothing worth specifying.

The SEAT Mii and VW Up are the Citigo’s closest rivals. All three roll off the same production line, so there’s little to separate them. However, to differentiate the Up from its VW Group relatives, it’s offered with a wider range of engines.

Elsewhere, Renault’s Twingo  range offers Play and Dynamique trims which sandwich the Monte Carlo price-wise. However, this side of the expensive GT model, the Twingo isn't as fun to drive as the Citigo.

Citroen, Peugeot and Toyota offer city cars too; all developed as a joint enterprise in similar fashion to the VW Group city car triplets. None, though, are as well polished as the Citigo and feel built down to a price.

Performance and 0-60mph 

One naturally aspirated engine is offered – the 1-litre three-cylinder motor – in two states of tune. In its lesser form it develops 59bhp and 70lb ft of torque; the more powerful application produces 74bhp while torque remains unchanged and is developed at the same 3000rpm. 

The lower powered unit will take the Citigo to a 100mph top speed; the 74bhp versions tops out at  107mph. 0-62mph sprint times range from 13.5 seconds to 16.7 seconds depending on the engine and gearbox combination; quickest is the 74bhp derivative, hooked up to a manual transmission, while the 59bhp engine mated to the ASG automatic (effectively a single clutch automated manual) is the slowest.

To make the most of the three-pot’s modest means, in either guise, you really need to wring it out and chase the red line with the gears so widely-spaced. As a result any overtakes or quick manoeuvres require planning and wide-open throttle applications.

Engine and gearbox

With no turbocharger to boot peak torque comes on stream at a high 3,000 rpm in both engine applications. However, peak power arrives at different crank speeds: at 5,000rpm in the 59bhp model and at 6,200rpm in 74bhp model. However, you don't notice the latter’s extra oomph unless you work it hard.

That said, the recent facelift has  lumbered the Citigo with ridiculously  long-gearing (of both transmissions). It’s clearly a move designed to improve official efficiency claims, but the changes make the car feel sluggish to respond, with second gear taking you past 60mph and third past 90mph.

A shorter final drive would add a layer of involvement, forcing you to use more of the gears with greater frequency. That said, the shift is action is rubbery and notchy so you’re not missing out. Although changes can at least be dispatched quickly to avoid losing hard-gained momentum. Furthermore, the heavy flywheel sees the engine hang onto revs after an upshift which can make for jerky going.

Ride and Handling

Softly sprung, the Citigo takes nobbly city streets in its stride, with the suspension comfortably filtering out the road’s imperfections – only a cavernous pothole will send a crash through the structure.

However, up the pace on winding roads, and the loose-limbed body control translates to plenty of roll. Initial turn in is responsive enough, but the Citigo adopts a leaning stance under sustained loads. While this doesn't scream sporty, the small Skoda clings on gameley with decent control - although mid-corner bumps can unsettle the car.

Opt for the £155 Sport suspension (it’s standard on the Monte Carlo), which lowers the ride height by 15mm, and the Citigo takes on a sportier edge giving some pliancy in the process. The body is better buttoned-down with vertical movements less exaggerated, so it nips into corners with greater alacrity, encouraging you to carry impressive speeds through the bends. Even so, the sportier chassis setup still advertently favours understeer, and the ESP isn’t shy of stepping in when you overwhelm the front tyres or attempt to mobile the rear axle, but it does so smoothly.

The steering rack offers just enough feedback, but  it's accurate and light so you can intuitively position the Citigo. As a result you feel confident t driving right up to both the Skoda’s and , the road’s limits, as you strive to sustain momentum. This proves surprisingly challenging, addictive and fun. 

A combination of disc and drum brakes, at the front and rear respectively, offer appropriate stopping power. Most of the brake pressure comes in the top half of the pedal, which feels a tad overservoed, so you don't get the extra performance you hope for under with heavier brake inputs.

MPG and runnings costs 

Even the least fuel efficient variants, in the shape of the 59bhp manual and 74bhp automatic, achieve returns of 64.2mpg on a combined cycle. The leanest runner is the 74bhp manual model, that returns 68.9mpg on combined cycle.

All the models fall into two VED brackets, although the difference of £25 between the dirtiest and cleanest models is unlikely to influence you one way or the other. Service intervals are every 10,000 miles and the Citigo should be light on consumables.

Interior and tech

Unsurprisingly, the Citigo’s interior is pretty sparse and it’s no tech-fest. That said it’s well screwed together, and provided you plump for a higher-speciation model, it’s equipped with the mod-cons you'd expect from a car in its class. 

Despite its compelling price, the entry-level trim is best avoided: air conditioning, a tachometer and a height-adjustable driver’s seat all are extra cost options. Furthermore, the standard all-black interior is a little drab, although the exposed door tops add a welcome flash of colour across the range.   

The switchgear in the centre stack is well laid out an easy to interface with, positioned around the digital display. While the cabin’s small you can seat two people comfortably on the rear bench, but the tradeoff is reduced boot space.

Design

The Citigo cuts a similar, boxy figure to the SEAT Mii and the VW Up, so you have to pick out smaller details to tell them apart: each receives a bespoke grille, headlights and front apron. In our eyes the Citigo’s arrangement isn't the best execution. At least in Monte Carlo guise, the black trim, wheels and decals add some visual excitement.

18 Jul 2018

Channel your inner James Bond with Lego’s Goldfinger DB5

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 13:20
1290-piece Aston Martin recreates film’s iconic car

2018 Audi TTS review – Audi’s small coupe gets a fresh new look and revised drivetrain

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 12:35
It might not have quite as much power as before, but the TTS is just as fast, grippy and impressive as its predecessor

‘Cleaning your car is the simplest and most readily accessible car-based pleasure’

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 17:09
It’s easy to get sentimental about cars, but to romanticise washing them? No problem for Meaden (who hasn’t held a sponge in years)

Old vs new: Honda NSX Tokyo shootout

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 16:07
We drive the first and last Honda NSXs in Tokyo to see if the adoration is universal across the generations.

Updated Porsche Macan spied ahead of imminent launch

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 13:05
Porsche has issued official spy shots of the forthcoming refreshed Macan in testing.

Maserati to offer entry V6 petrol engine in Quattroporte and Levante

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 18:26
New entry-level V6 petrol versions of Levante and Quattroporte released amongst range-wide updates

BMW M Performance Parts Concept revealed at Goodwood

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 16:43
BMW has previewed a suite of parts which will be available on the new M2 Competition.

Our picks from the Silverstone Classic sale: De Tomaso Pantera, TVR Sagaris and more

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 15:30
Other stars include a pair of flat-nosed Porsches, a manual 355 and a Clio V6

Potential electrification in the pipeline for Lexus F models

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 13:10
Lexus’s internal performance arm may feature electrified models in the future, starting with a GT, according to president Yoshihiro Sawa.

Jean-Eric Vergne takes 2017-18 Formula E title in New York

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 12:07
A good weekend for France, and a good weekend for Audi who took the team's title at the Brooklyn circuit

2018 Jaguar XE 300 Sport review - finally the XE we've been waiting for?

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 17:46
M3-lite version of Jaguar’s XE is deceptively rapid, predictably refined, and is therefore a welcome addition

Polestar 2 set for 2019 launch - to challenge Tesla Model 3

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 17:04
Polestar 2 electric saloon to set for Geneva Motor Show 2019 debut with £35,000 starting price

Ford Fiesta ST review – still the class leader?

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 15:43
For  Agile and engaging chassis, punchy engine, improved cabin Against  Ride remains very firm, not the raw thriller of its predecessor

Doesn’t quite have its predecessor’s spark, but the new Fiesta ST is still a hugely entertaining class leader

Ford’s latest Fiesta ST has big boots to fill. The old ST was one of the best performance cars Ford has ever made – a car capable of fighting right at the top of its class in terms of performance and driving fun, and excellent value for money, too, with entry-level models undercutting most rivals by thousands.

On paper the new model does the same, with a tempting starting price of £18,995 and performance figures that beat the top ST200 version of the old car. The new 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine matches the old car’s output without resorting to an overboost function and the ST still offers three- and five-door formats (an increasingly rare attribute in modern hatches) and a six-speed manual gearbox.

But the best news is that the new ST doesn’t just look good on paper. While it’s lost a little of the old car’s raw character and feels a little bigger on the road – an unavoidable side-effect of the car being more liveable – it’s still a riot to drive, from the ultra-quick steering to an engaging drivetrain and effervescent character.

Ford Fiesta ST in detail

Performance and 0-60 – Quicker than the old car and up at the sharp end for the class, with a 6.5sec 0-62mph time and 144mph top speed. We prefer the old engine’s character, but the new three still impresses.

Engine and gearbox – Three cylinders, 1.5-litres and a turbocharger – all fixed to a six-speed manual gearbox. Engine uses cylinder-deactivation tech for better economy.

Ride and handling – Still one of the best small hot hatchbacks. Sharp steering and great body control give the ST real agility.

MPG and running costs – No more frugal than its predecessor on paper or on the road. Running costs shouldn’t be too high, but keep an eye on those Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres.

Interior and tech – A big improvement over the old car. Grippy Recaro seats are welcome, improved dash and infotainment set-up even more so.

Design – Three- and five-door options, with just enough aggression to mark it out as a performance model. Looks better at the front than the back.

Prices, specs and rivals

The Fiesta remains a decent value proposition, though ultimately few will go for the basic £18,995 ST-1 model. Just one per cent, according to Ford’s figures, with 28 per cent opting instead for the £19,995 ST-2 and a full 71 per cent will opt for the £21,495 ST-3. Five-door versions – available on the ST-2 and ST-3 – cost an extra £600, and are expected to account for around a quarter of ST sales. The model itself will account for around a tenth of all Ford Fiesta sales in the UK.

ST-1 models get 17-inch wheels, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, air conditioning, keyless start, cruise control, Recaro seats, halogen headlights and selectable driving modes. ST-2s wear a slightly flashier 17-inch wheel design (with 18-inch optional), with climate control, heated seats, privacy glass, and a larger 8-inch touchscreen, while ST-3 upgrades to 18-inch wheels, navigation, a TFT screen ahead of the driver, a parking camera, leather trim and a heated steering wheel.

> Best hot hatches

To this you can then add various option packages. Most popular by a hair will be the performance pack, with a fifth of buyers spending an extra £850 (on ST-2 and ST-3 only) to get a Quaife limited-slip differential, launch control and shift lights. B&O Play audio is £350 and LED headlamps (ST-2 and ST-3 only) are £600. Most ST buyers will also go for the car’s signature Performance Blue paintwork – a £745 option.

It’s feasible then that many customers will spend over £24,000 on their STs rather than the headline £18,995, but that’s still in the same ballpark as the relatively few remaining rivals in this class – the 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport has recently gone off sale pending emissions upgrades but cost £23,550 when it was on sale.

The current Renault Sport Clio 200 isn’t our favourite hot hatch, but at £20,300 it offers similar performance to the Fiesta (albeit through an auto ’box) for a similar price to the lower-spec STs, while the 220 Trophy is a better effort (though still not as good as it should be…) for £23,000. The Fiesta is currently the class leader, but unfortunately that’s as much down to a lack of competition as it is any inherent talent.

Performance and 0-60

The new ST isn’t short of performance. Make use of the launch control function (engaged via the steering wheel buttons) and keep your right foot pinned as you shift through the gears (thanks to flat-shifting technology) and you should match Ford’s claim of a 6.5sec 0-62mph time and eventually a 144mph top speed.

The three-cylinder engine definitely has a different aural character to the old ‘four. Not an unpleasant one, at that – it’s definitely among the angrier threes we’ve heard, and while Ford uses sound generation to enhance its note inside the cabin, it’s not too artificial – and the active exhaust out back is making a ‘proper’ noise anyway.

> Best hot superminis

Much of the time it doesn’t really sound like a three-cylinder, so different is it from the usual economy car fare, but nor does it sound like a four-pot. We still prefer the raspy, induction-noise-heavy note of the old four-cylinder, but we could definitely get used to the triple.

There’s little difference in the way the new engine delivers its power, either, with good throttle response from low revs all the way to the upper reaches of the rev counter. It doesn’t quite cover the last 1000rpm or so with the verve of the old car, though flick through the gears quickly enough and there’s sufficient torque to chirp the tyres even on the change to third.

This much power in a small car still feels ever so slightly unhinged, too, making the ST feel exciting before you’ve even reached a corner. The limited-slip diff can make the steering a little fighty from low speeds, and particularly on bumpy surfaces, but that’s all part of the thrill of a compact hot hatch like this. Thankfully, the brakes are up to the task of shedding all that speed, and while they began grumbling after a few hot laps around the Goodwood race circuit, actual braking performance remained fairly consistent.Engine and gearbo

Engine and gearbox

It’s out with the old 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine and in with a new 1.5-litre turbocharged triple for the new ST. It’s definitely a step forward in terms of cleanliness and economy, at least on paper, with the new unit allowing you to travel an extra mile on every gallon of fuel and using a petrol particulate filter to meet the latest Euro 6.2 standards.

The engine also uses cylinder deactivation technology – the first on a three-pot – with cylinder one shutting down at low revs and low loads to the benefit of economy, firing back up in 14 milliseconds when more torque is required. It’s imperceptible to the driver, and ST owners are less likely to experience it anyway than their counterparts in less sporty Ford Focuses using the same powerplant…

In numeric terms the new ST develops 197bhp and 214lb ft of torque, both of which shade the ST’s standard predecessor, though there’s less of a difference to the ST200 and various Mountune-fettled STs.

To this new three-pot Ford attaches a six-speed manual transmission, with the option of a Quaife mechanical limited-slip differential to handle drive to the front wheels. STs feature both electronic sound generation inside the cabin and an active exhaust, and the behaviour of both varies depending on the driving mode (Normal, Sport and Track) selected.

Ride and handling

Handling was always the old ST’s strongest point and it remains so with the latest model. It’s one of the most entertaining hatches on sale, pairing agility with interactivity and feeling as approachable when you first start exploring its abilities as it is capable when you’re more familiar.

Steering first. It’s sharp – Ford says it has the fastest rack of any Ford Performance model (around 14 per cent faster than the old car’s set-up) and you get a reaction from the car the instant you steer off the straight ahead. Yet it’s not nervous – just responsive and well-tuned to the rest of the chassis.

> Ford Puma - review, history, prices and specs

There’s good weighting, too, increasing progressively through the different driving modes, though there’s not much feel until you’re really putting some loads through the tyres, at which point you’re probably travelling rather quickly. If there’s a demerit it’s that the steering is so quick you don’t really feel like you’re having to actually do much to navigate most corners, which takes away some interactivity and enjoyment on all but the twistiest of roads.

You’ll spend some time fighting the limited-slip diff on rougher surfaces too, but the Fiesta otherwise seems relatively untroubled by cambers and ruts in the road. The diff isn’t as aggressive as some, but it’s satisfying to get on the gas early out of a corner and feel your line tightening rather than washing wide – and the ST’s rear axle always feels willing to help out by slipping just enough to minimise understeer from turn-in all the way to corner exit.

The ride? Well, that’s still pretty firm – to the point of annoyance on some surfaces, though it’s not as punishing as the old model, and to the ST’s credit it never feels like it’s being shaken apart even on rougher roads. Just like the old model, the firmness bleeds off as speeds rise, the frequency selective passive dampers seemingly happier dealing with greater loads. Body control is excellent, and with minimal roll you can quickly find and then exploit the front-end grip available.

MPG and running costs

Manufacturers have several reasons for downsizing engines, from fuel economy to economies of scale, but if it’s the former then the new engine gains nothing over its predecessor. In fact, it loses slightly, at 47.1mpg combined compared to 47.9mpg for the old car.

Economy in the real world is unlikely to be better, either – our old long-term Fiesta ST had averaged 38.1mpg during our tenure, and in mixed driving we saw high-30s in the latest model, too. If you opt to take your ST on a track – a not unreasonable scenario, given how entertaining the new car is when freed from the constraints of road driving – then you’ll need to keep a beady eye on the gauge, too, as the car we tried burned through over half a tank in a few short sessions around the Goodwood circuit. We’d estimate economy in the low teens in such a situation.

It’s difficult to estimate other costs at this stage, though all STs wear Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, and burning through a set of those will cost around £120 per corner (delivered from Blackcircles) for the cars on 205/45 R17s, and about £150 a corner for the ST-3 on its 205/40 R18 wheel and tyre set-up.

The ST’s 136g/km of CO2 means a first-year VED rate of £205, and then £140 a year thereafter. In terms of BIK for those lucky enough to have an ST as a company car, all three models sit in the 28 per cent bracket.

Interior and tech

The interior of Ford’s previous Fiesta wasn’t great even from the start, with a dashboard that looked like it’d been cribbed from an old Nokia, and as the competition quickly improved (particularly in terms of infotainment) the Ford trailed even further behind. ST models had great seats, but they always felt like they were mounted a little too high.

No such issues in the latest car. Its cabin won’t be remembered as a design classic, and isn’t as ruthlessly ordered as that of a Polo or as imaginative as a Mini – it does the job and no more – but it’s such a huge improvement on its predecessor that owners will have very little to complain about.

The ST still gets great seats, too, though those of larger frame may find themselves a little pinched – the Recaros feel like they’ve been developed for a racing driver’s physique. There’s plenty of adjustment in the seat and wheel, though, and you sit a little lower, for a cosier feel than before. The steering wheel is perhaps both a little too large in diameter and a little too thick in profile – the trend for fat wheel rims shows no sign of diminishing – but overall this is a good driving position, with decently placed pedals and a snappy gearlever a relatively short movement away from the wheel.

It’s a big improvement technologically, too. On the infotainment side a 6.5-inch screen is standard with Ford’s SYNC 3 operating system, with an 8-inch screen with navigation optional. A B&O Play audio system is also optional, while ST-3 models get a 4.2-inch TFT instrument cluster which conveys more information than the simpler clusters in the ST-1 and ST-2. Various safety systems are also included, while on the performance front you get technologies such as launch control, flat-shift gearchanges, and three driver modes – Normal, Sport and Track – with varying levels of steering weight, throttle response, exhaust noise and stability control intervention.

Design

The Fiesta ST uses much the same ingredients as other cars in this class, but throws a few herbs and spices into the mix to give the car its own flavour.

Thus you get a fairly conventional chassis set-up: steel monocoque with MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion beam rear, with electrically assisted rack and pinion steering.

But you also get Ford’s patented ‘force vectoring springs’ – directionally-wound and non-interchangeable coil springs as an alternative to the Watt’s linkage. The aim is the same – improving lateral location of the axle – though the ability of the springs alone to apply vector forces to the suspension save the 10kg that Ford says a Watt’s linkage would add.

The dampers use frequency-selective damping (a technology developed by Koni, and also used on some Mercedes-Benz and Jeep models) which offers some of the benefits of active dampers without the complication of electronics – an ability to deal with high-frequency bumps and high-amplitude undulations without too great a compromise on either ride quality or body control.

In terms of styling, the ST is more conventional. You get three- or five-door options and it looks like… well, a Fiesta. The front end is a little smoother than before and the rear a little blander to our eyes, but ST models do get a subtle body kit and some less subtle 17-inch and 18-inch wheel designs to differentiate them from regular Fiestas.

13 Jul 2018