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Friday, 23 July 2021 06:38

Renault Arkana review

A well-priced and good-to-drive Coupe/SUV crossover

 PROS

  • Tidy handling and comfortable ride
  • Practical and welcoming interior
  • Good-value pricing

 CONS

  • Performance isn't exactly sparkling
  • Dated-looking controls and screen
  • If you want diesel, look elsewhere

Is the Renault Arkana any good?

This is the latest addition to the Renault range. It's a new SUV/coupe crossover – currently the biggest it offers in the UK – and it's a direct rival for the Parkers car of the year-winning Toyota C-HR as well as the innovative Citroen C4 and Mazda CX-30. We've driven a European-spec left-hand drive version for early impressions.

The Arkana is usefully on point right now – it's exclusively a hybrid, and comes in front-wheel drive form only. It's the first coupe-styled SUV from Renault, it arrives in the UK in late August, and is priced from £25,300, making it an affordable alternative to its bigger-selling rivals.

Most importantly, the Renault Arkana aims to offer a mix of style, practicality and refinement in a value-for-money package. The early signs are that it's a good-value and stylish car with appeal.

What's it like inside?

The cabin quality is intended to be premium. Certainly, Renault has massively upped its game in this area recently – the interiors of the current Clio and Captur are very modern, stylish and clever. Our test Arkana was a pre-production model, in not-quite UK spec, so it wouldn't be fair to pass comment on the details, but there's nothing radical or innovative going on with the cabin architecture.

There are a lot of physical switches, which dates the cabin, but for many people will actually be a boon, meaning you won't be over-using the touchscreen.

This is a stylish car, but also very much aimed at families, so it needs to look more coupe-like from the outside than it feels from the inside. And it does. The curve of the roof hasn't resulted in tiny windows for the rear passengers, and unlike the Toyota C-HR it's bright and airy in the back.

Rear passengers get slightly more width than those in the front. There are three seats in the back, although a full-grown adults wouldn't enjoy spending an extended time there. It's better to treat the Arkana as a four-seater, and use the wide, comfortable central armrest in the back. Rear legroom is adequate, and headroom will only be an issue for over-six-footers.

The rear seat splits 60:40, and folds flat to increase boot size from a decent 480 litres for the E-Tech hybrid (513 for the TCe mild hybrid) to a handy 1,263 (1,296), although the angle of the hatch will rule out boxier loads.

Renault Arkana (2021) review, interior

What's it like to drive?

A battery sits under the rear seats and powers an electric motor that's attached to the 1.6-litre petrol engine up front, supplemented by a starter-generator, much as you get in a mild hybrid. Between them they muster a total of 140hp, and it starts up in EV mode.

It sits on the same platform as the Clio and Captur, which are both excellent cars to drive. Increasing its size has not harmed the handling or ride quality one jot. It corners willingly and soaks up most bumps unobtrusively, helped by comfortable seats.

Renault Arkana (2021) review, cornering

On all but entry-level models you get drive modes play with, but since Pure seems a little sluggish and Sport a bit sudden, you're best off sticking with Hybrid, which provides a responsive set-up and deploys whichever permutation of electric, petrol and mixed power sources is best for any given situation.

Don't be fooled by the RS Line trim, which is purely cosmetic. The on-paper figures are modest and correspond closely with the undramatic sensation of driving the Arkana.

The E-Tech's automatic transmission system doesn't have a manual shift option. Instead, it just gets on with delivering power to the front wheels without drawing attention to itself or requiring any driver input.

The other version, the TCe 140 mild hybrid, has only a small extra battery under the front seats, which can store surplus energy directed to it by the 12-volt starter-generator attached to the 1.3-litre petrol engine. It can't drive on electric power only – it's there to help the petrol engine and give smooth stop-start operation. It's the lighter and quicker of the two cars: 140hp, 9.8sec to 62mph and a top speed of 127mph.

What models and trims are available?

There are three spec levels, all available with either powertrain: Iconic, S Edition and RS Line. All look and feel like good value-for-money cars. The performance isn't going to get anyone excited, but if your priorities are style, practicality and a good smattering of convenience and comfort features, then you're looking in the right place.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is standard. All models get Active Emergency Braking System, Traffic Sign Recognition, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist and cruise control. Lighting is all-LED. Options include an opening sunroof, leather upholstery, black roof and adaptive cruise control.

The middle-ranking S Edition has better infotainment than the entry-level Iconic, with the touchscreen up from 7.0 to 9.3 inches, bigger wheels – up from 17 to 18 inches – and various design changes. RS Line trim has different 18-inch wheels and more significant exterior changes, including a different front bumper and grille.

What else should I know?

The sleek shape isn't just about the looks. Renault says that the Arkana is about 25% more aerodynamic than a traditional SUV, which helps with economy and refinement.

Renault expects the E-Tech hybrid to be the big seller in the range. This system – as already seen on the Clio, Captur and Megane – uses energy-recovery know-how from the company's F1 team. The aim is seamless transition between electric, hybrid and petrol.

 
Renault Arkana (2021) review, cornering

Should you buy one?

The Renault Arkana might seem rather ordinary, even old-fashioned these days, considering the form is committed to launching 14 E-Tech hybrid and electric models by 2025. But looking at it in a more positive light, the Arkana is a proper car, adopting the SUV/coupe style that's a proven success for other car makers.

The Arkana uses tried-and-trusted technology that makes it capable and good to drive. More radical cars, with a higher degree of electrification, are available from Renault and elsewhere, if that's what you want, but for those who want a contemporary-looking car, and don't want to go electric, this is an appealing choice.

Right now, this is a smart, practical, enjoyable and decent-value new car that's going to be offered at an appealing cash price.

Versus the competition: More than simply energy-efficient, the Model Y is space-efficient, with generous passenger and cargo room for its size, making it a perfectly usable and spacious small SUV.

The Tesla Model Y is the most popular EV today, with more registered in the first quarter of 2021 than any other EV, according to reports from Experian and Automotive News. So what is it about the Model Y that’s so appealing? A lot, actually, even considering the latest competition from electric SUVs like the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 and 2021 Mustang Mach-E.

Looking at the Model Y, you might think, “That’s an SUV?” The Model Y is a higher-riding version of the Tesla Model 3, with a liftgate and open cargo area versus a trunk, and it has all-wheel drive. So — by today’s standards — yes, it’s an SUV. The Model Y’s exterior footprint is almost identical to the BMW X4, which is a fastback “coupe” version of the popular BMW X3 SUV — an originator of the compact luxury SUV class. The Model Y is sized right in the heart of the soon-to-explode EV SUV class, which could see up to a dozen new luxury and non-luxury offerings in the next couple of years

Tesla Model Y as an SUV

Cargo Room

tesla-model-y-2021-42-interior--rear-cargo.jpg2021 One of an SUV’s defining characteristics is cargo room, and the Model Y has ample amounts of it, especially considering its compact proportions. Three large storage areas add up to big versatility: There’s the main cargo area behind the backseat, as well as two large tubs — one in back under the cargo floor and a front trunk — both of which can store sizable items.

We perform our own cargo testing in part because automakers vary in how they execute standardized methods, leading to invalid comparisons. By our measurements, the Model Y’s 20.9 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the backseat, including the rear tub, is more than the ID.4’s 18.9 cubic feet and the Mach-E’s 15.9 cubic feet. It’s also slightly more than you get in traditional electrified compact SUVs: the Honda CR-V Hybrid has 19.6 cubic feet and the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has 20.7 cubic feet.

The Model Y’s backseat folds in a 40/20/40 split, but it doesn’t quite fold flat because of the seats’ prominent side bolsters. Even so, with the seats folded, what looks like a small car on the outside can haul items like a larger SUV could.

A bonus: The Model Y’s front trunk measures 2.9 cubic feet, beating the Mach-E’s 2.0 cubic feet. The ID.4 has no frunk at all.

Passenger Room

I’m a slender 6 feet tall with long legs, and my legs had room to breathe in the driver’s seat. The backseat reclines but doesn’t slide in the two-row version, and I was adequately comfortable back there; there’s good thigh support and headroom to spare, plus generous cutouts in the back of the front seats that opened up foot room. We tested a two-row model, but there’s a small optional third row that increases the number of seats to seven and gives the second row a sliding function for third-row accessibility. I don’t expect the third-row proportions to be quite as generous, but we haven’t tested it yet.

tesla-model-y-2021-40-backseat--interior.jpg2021 Tesla Model Y | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

Driving Impressions

What’s not SUV-like about the Model Y is how it drives; it’s more like the Model 3, which is aggressively tuned for spirited driving. Here in the Chicago area, where potholes are simply a road feature instead of an occasional deterioration, you too may find the ride quality somewhat uncomfortable if you don’t care for a tight, sporty driving feel.

The Model Y’s ride quality was a polarizing topic among Cars.com editors. Some thought it was unrefined or simply too harsh, but others, including myself, found the ride taut yet sophisticated and well controlled. For those looking for a sports-car-like feel, the stiff ride is worth the price of admission. It’s a genuine joy to drive, with quick reflexes thanks to a tight steering ratio, good steering feedback and competent dynamics. Snaking the Model Y through curvy roads reminded me of the latest BMW 3 Series with the M Sport package: not for everyone, perhaps, but those who appreciate a dynamic car will be rewarded.

tesla-model-y-2021-06-black--exterior--front.jpg2021 Tesla Model Y | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

Versus other EVs, the Model Y is more nimble than the Mach-E, which feels a bit bloated in comparison — and it is 500 pounds heavier when similarly equipped despite comparable exterior proportions. There was no polarization over the Mach-E’s ride quality: We all found something peculiar about how it porpoised down the road, seemingly pitching from its center over bumps.

Most affordable EVs don’t ride that well, but if none of the above sounds appealing, check out the VW ID.4: Its soft, inoffensive ride makes it a standout among the current crop of EVs.

The Model Y’s acceleration is punchy and rewarding, and those who haven’t driven an EV will be blown away by how quickly even the non-Performance Model Y accelerates compared with traditional gas-powered luxury SUVs in its price range. Typical of EVs, there’s no step-gear transmission, and the result is near-instant acceleration response, with no waiting for kickdowns or gear changes. The Model Y seemed to accelerate harder for longer than the Mach-E, despite equal 0-60 mph claims from each automaker (4.8 seconds). Where the Mach-E fell off around 50 mph, the Model Y felt like it was just winding up.

 

Visibility

tesla-model-y-2021-39-interior--rear-visibility--sunroof.jpg2021 Tesla Model Y | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

Where there’s less confidence is in the Model Y’s visibility. The small rear window doesn’t offer great natural visibility, though it has electronic assists that might help if you’re willing to put in a little effort. This takes us to the large 15-inch touchscreen that’s the main control and user interface for the vehicle’s climate controls, vehicle systems, multimedia, navigation and driving monitors.

One function of the screen is the rear camera system, which isn’t simply a backup camera display that pops up when the car is in Reverse. The rear view can be left on while driving to show what’s behind the Model Y, and you can augment the display with two rearward-facing, side-view cameras so you can also see along the left and right sides of the vehicle.

tesla-model-y-2021-30-center-stack-display--front-row--infotainment-system--interior--safety-tech.jpg2021 Tesla Model Y | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

The large, high-resolution camera feed is detailed and informative, but having it appear in a central 15-inch touchscreen, along with the speedometer and everything else, is somewhat distracting. It would be easier to simply glance at a display integrated across a full rearview mirror, like what’s offered in the Chevrolet Bolt EV. A 360-degree, top-down camera view would also be nice for parking, but it’s not offered.

What would have made for more confident lane-changing is a traditional blind spot monitoring system that alerts drivers to a car in their blind spot with an illuminated symbol in a side mirror. That doesn’t exist in the Model Y; instead, a real-time visualization of the road and your surroundings are digitized in that central 15-inch screen, showing what’s around the Model Y. Colored markers alert you to what’s there, and you can also see digitized versions of surrounding cars in real-time proximity.

This all requires looking at the screen, however, versus simply seeing an orange light in your periphery while looking forward — or hearing a “ding-ding” when the turn signal is on, as a traditional system would sound. The Model Y does have a selectable audible warning that alerts you if you try to change lanes with a vehicle in your blind spot, but it has a high threshold and is more of a “What are you doing?!” alert versus a gentle “Excuse me, someone is over there right now.”

Towing

The Model Y is rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds — good compared with conventional small SUVs and more than good compared with today’s EV SUVs, including the VW ID.4 (2,200 pounds) and Mach-E (not rated to tow). An optional tow package unlocks the Model Y’s capabilities, including a tow bar with a 2-inch hitch receiver, a seven-pin connector and a harness, plus a tow mode. We can only guess how much the SUV’s range would suffer towing a 3,500-pound trailer; likely a lot.

 

Range Anxiety: What’s That?

With up to 326 miles of EPA-estimated range, range anxiety wasn’t a concern while driving the Model Y in the Chicago area — and that wasn’t only because of its long range and a surplus of Tesla DC fast-charge Superchargers in the area. Peace of mind was easy to come by because of how the Tesla informs you of its efficiency through useful driving information. For example: the Trip Monitor, which is one of the most useful information graphics I’ve experienced.

tesla-model-y-2021-26-battery-level--center-stack-display--front-row--infotainment-system--interior.jpg2021 Tesla Model Y | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

The Trip Monitor helps drivers understand how their habits affect efficiency, plus how much battery life and range will be used in a given trip. It works only when there’s a navigation destination entered, showing a gray line predicting how much energy you’ll use in a given trip, overlaid in real time by a green line representing your actual energy use. You can use it to make real-time corrections to your driving style in order to arrive at a destination with a greater pad for your return trip. You can see right away when you need to stop driving like an ass, or just change to more efficient driving and regenerative braking modes.

This is what it looked like in action: I was supposed to return the Model Y to its owner at the end of the loan with at least 80% battery charge. When I got in the car and entered the destination, the Model Y estimated I’d have exactly 80% left by the time I got to the owner. Driving efficiently in the lower power and greatest regenerative braking modes, I ended the trip with 82% battery life — so a 2% less jerk move.

Braking

The Model Y’s braking feel is top-of-the-line. Few EVs, hybrids or even gasoline cars with brake-by-wire systems stop as naturally as the Model Y. Pedal feel is linear and firm but not hard, and unlike the Mach-E you can use the brake pedal to stop without worrying about giving your passengers whiplash. The regenerative braking function is always active, but you can make it more aggressive in the Hold mode  in order to increase efficiency. That mode will slow the car to a stop using regenerative braking at lower speeds than will other braking modes, then hold once stopped. It takes a fair amount of attention to use, however, because simply letting off the accelerator in this mode aggressively stops the car; it takes a slow return of the accelerator to smoothly decelerate. There are two other stop modes: Creep mode, which acts like a regular gas car, leaving the Model Y to slightly accelerate at “idle” when your foot is off the accelerator, and Roll mode, which lets the car roll without any intervention, as if it were in Neutral. But neither have the extra regenerative force of Hold mode.

Charging

tesla-model-y-2021-13-angle--black--charging--exterior--front.jpg2021 Tesla Model Y | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

In a metropolitan area like Chicago, it’s possible to use Supercharging regularly because there are so many locations, but home charging is really the best way to do EV ownership. Tesla warns in its owner’s manuals to minimize the use of DC fast chargers, like Supercharging, for the sake of optimal battery health. In addition, DC fast charging can be expensive.

At home, the fastest a Model Y can replenish its battery is 42 miles of range per hour, using the car’s maximum 11.5 kilowatts, a Tesla or equivalent wall unit, and a compatible 240-volt circuit providing up to 48 amps (a 60-amp circuit breaker). At a more average 24 amps, like you’d find on a standard 240-volt clothes dryer circuit (a 30-amp breaker), you’d be able to charge at 21 miles of range per hour. That’s a difference of adding 250 miles of range in six hours or 12 hours, both with charging systems classified as 240-volt Level 2.

The Model Y comes with what Tesla calls a Mobile Connector, which has a pretty robust 32-amp rating you can tap into by purchasing an appropriate short adapter cord for use with a 240-volt outlet (the plug determines the current and, thus, the charging rate). It comes with a 120-volt adapter for trickle charging at 3-4 miles per hour. Good for 29 miles of range per hour, this unit might be all you’ll need.

Home charging can vary wildly from house to house depending on your electrical setup, and one advantage Tesla has over other EVs is how many amperage settings it provides, allowing you to charge on a variety of 120- and 240-volt circuits. The charging rate is selectable via an onscreen Energy Display, where you can change the charging rate by single digits to accommodate whatever circuit you might encounter. This maximizes the charging speed when possible and cuts it down when the circuit is shared with another car or appliance. The Model Y will even learn a location’s settings and remember them when you return.

Supercharging is ideal when on a road trip or on the go; 250-kW Superchargers aren’t uncommon in our area. Other common speeds are 150 kW and 72 kW. How quickly these DC fast chargers add miles will vary by charger and your battery’s state of charge. In our testing, we added 127 miles of range in 50 minutes on a 250-kW Supercharger, though that was with a battery not at an ideal state for the fastest charge rates: It started at over 50% and stopped at full.

tesla-model-y-2021-21-battery-level--center-stack-display--front-row--infotainment-system--interior.jpg2021 Tesla Model Y | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

The fastest charge times come with lower battery levels, and the rate slows considerably as the charge level nears full; we never saw a rate above 70 kW during the charge referenced above. Case in point: We hit a charging rate as fast as 127 kW on a slower, 150-kW Supercharger when going from a quarter-full battery up to 90%; that charge added 198 miles in 40 minutes. Supercharging cost us 31 cents per kilowatt-hour, or $15.19 for the replenished 49 kwh. At home, the same charge would have cost $6.51 at the national average rate of 13.29 cents per kwh, but it would have taken at least 4.7 hours.

In our experience, we haven’t been able to charge faster than 80 kW on a DC fast charger with the ID.4 or the Mustang Mach-E, even though those vehicles are rated for 125 kW and 150 kW, respectively.

Autopilot — What It Is, What It Isn’t

tesla-model-y-2021-18-front-row--interior--steering-wheel.jpg2021 Tesla Model Y | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

Autopilot is a semi-autonomous, hands-on driver-assist system that Tesla doesn’t recommended using hands-free. In its current incarnation, which could expand in the future, Autopilot acts as an advanced cruise control that centers the car in its lane. It was ahead of the curve a few years ago, but it’s since been matched by many competitors, including modest brands. It is, however, standard in the Model Y, unlike Cadillac’s more ambitious hands-free Super Cruise and BMW’s Extended Traffic Jam Assistant, and it works well in a variety of driving situations — more than some advanced lane-centering driver assistants.

Autopilot won’t truly distinguish itself again until its full capabilities are unlocked. Some of these capabilities are in beta testing if you opt for the $10,000 Full Self-Driving Capability Package. Even then, Tesla warns, “the currently enabled features do not make the vehicle autonomous.”

Our test car didn’t have this package, which currently unlocks the following:

  • Navigate on Autopilot: A beta feature that gives the ability to navigate a highway interchange automatically, engaging the turn signal and taking an exit
  • Auto Lane Change: Can move the vehicle to an adjacent lane
  • Autopark: Can automatically parallel or perpendicular park the car (competing brands also offer this feature)
  • Summon: Moves the car in and out of tight parking spaces with an fob or phone application
  • Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control: Also a beta feature; reads stoplights and traffic signs and can slow the vehicle to a stop
  • Autosteer on city streets: As it currently exists, Autosteer is designed for highways and limited-access roads, but Autosteer on city streets (currently in beta to select owners) will open that function to city speeds. This will allow a Tesla to navigate to an entered destination while following traffic signals, turning, stopping and accelerating. This is still a Level 2 hands-on system requiring driver attention and intervention.
tesla-model-y-2021-28-center-stack-display--front-row--infotainment-system--interior--safety-tech.jpg2021 Tesla Model Y | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

Even without the self-driving package, our car showed a preview of this advanced functionality. The driving status display shows what the car’s cameras are viewing and visualizes it on the touchscreen, including vehicles of different shapes and sizes — it will show a pickup truck or bus as well as pedestrians and cyclists — but there’s more you can add with the Full Self-Driving Visualization Preview. In this beta preview, the car will read trash cans, safety cones, red lights, road markings and more. There are self-driving implications here, but for now it’s more informative than actionable; on our test car (without the package), it was sometimes overwhelming. What’s shown on the screen isn’t always accurate, either; at one point, the screen didn’t show a bicyclist on the side of the road but recognized a garbage can behind the bicyclist. This can all be turned off.

Tesla recently announced that this functionality will come exclusively through camera-based technology, instead of using both radar and cameras, in Model 3 and Model Y vehicles produced from May 2021 onward. The transition means the car’s software hasn’t fully caught up with the hardware yet, and there are limitations on those cars: Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance isn’t functional, and for a short period Tesla says Autosteer, which keeps the car in its lane, will be limited to a maximum speed of 75 mph — down from 90 mph.

Interior Quality

tesla-model-y-2021-17-dashboard--front-row--interior.jpg2021 Tesla Model Y | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

The Model Y’s interior quality isn’t going to wow anyone like a similarly priced Mercedes-Benz GLC300 or Genesis GV80 might. It’s not flashy, but it does feel high-quality — like its synthetic seating upholstery, which is supple and convincing. The front seats aren’t too aggressive, but nor are they unsupportive; they’re comfortable seats with a natural seating position. The wood trim has open pores, and aluminum trim is used sparingly but well. The interior doesn’t scream “luxury,” and it’s not considerably more opulent than a loaded Mach-E’s insides, but I think it’s a fair trade-off for what the Model Y does give you as far as an exceptional EV experience.

No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto

The biggest omission I see is a lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is almost inexcusable nowadays. There also isn’t a Siri function through steering-wheel controls as other cars that omit CarPlay have. Since the last Tesla I reviewed, in 2018, voice-to-text functions have been added through over-the-air updates — a staple of post-purchase Tesla expandability — and it’s included in new Teslas. Also added since 2018 is Spotify streaming music integration, which is nice if you’re a Spotify user.

As for the omission, I somewhat get it: Apple CarPlay or Android Auto would make it harder to use Tesla’s integrated navigation features, like finding Supercharger locations and availability, plus the trick efficiency monitor and Supercharger routing based on charge status and destination. One of the greatest assets of these smartphone mirrors is to provide Google Maps and Apple Maps when navigation isn’t optioned or offered, but Tesla uses graphics from Google Maps and Tesla-powered routing with success. I wanted Apple CarPlay and Android Auto more for their seamless voice-to-text functionality, Siri, and the apps and podcasts that weren’t included in the Tesla.

tesla-model-y-2021-15-cockpit-shot--dashboard--front-row--interior.jpg2021 Tesla Model Y | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

One more annoyance with Tesla’s phone integration: The wireless charging pad didn’t work with my phone case — an OtterBox Commuter Series, which is designed to work with the iPhone 12’s wireless charging. It works on other cars I’ve tested with wireless charging, including our long-term 2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid. In the Model Y, I had to remove my phone from its case in order to use wireless charging, which is ridiculous for a convenience feature; I just kept it plugged in to charge via a wired connection. The wireless charger comes standard, so it’s not like it costs extra to get something that doesn’t work, but it’s still a bummer. I wasn’t the only one whose phone didn’t work with the wireless charging pad; another editor’s Android phone wouldn’t charge in its bulky case.

No Instrument Panel

tesla-model-y-2021-16-cockpit-shot--dashboard--front-row--interior.jpg2021 Tesla Model Y | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

What took the most acclimation was that the Model Y doesn’t have a speedometer within the driver’s forward view, just like the Model 3. Yes, you’ll get used to looking at the speedometer in the central screen’s upper left corner, but I really wanted a proper instrument panel like you’d find in the Mach-E or ID.4 — or even the Tesla Model S and Model X, which continue to use one even after their recent refresh. Even though the speedometer is at the top of the screen, it’s still a noticeable glance down versus a traditional instrument panel or head-up display.

I don’t mind almost all other controls being relegated to the touchscreen because it’s responsive and familiar enough to find items in the shallow option menus (like you would in a phone). Also, you can save your preferred settings and configurations to a unique profile, which limits having to play around with the screen after an initial setup.

Simply the Best?

Back to the estimated 326 miles of range: It’s a lot. In the budding EV SUV class, no one is close to offering that kind of rated range and giving you the Model Y’s acceleration (which, reminder: 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds). A Mustang Mach-E is rated for up to 305 miles of range, but only with single-motor rear-wheel drive and a 0-60 mph time of 6.1 seconds. The larger-battery Mach-E with the 4.8-second 0-60 mph time — thanks to dual motors and all-wheel drive — is rated at 270 miles of range. The Model Y Long Range AWD is simply more efficient than the Mach-E AWD Extended, using 27 kwh for every 100 miles versus 37 kwh per 100 miles for the Mustang, according to EPA estimates. In an EV, efficiency translates both to faster charging and longer range, other factors being equal, along with cheaper cost for each mile driven.

In 2018, we matched the Model 3 and Model X 0-60 mph claims, so I don’t think Tesla is overstating the Model Y’s capabilities at this level. As far as range accuracy, I didn’t feel shorted during my few hundred miles behind the wheel. The range prediction was in the ballpark for my actual distance traveled, but I’d need to do a longer test in various weather conditions in order to say whether 326 miles is realistic, and in what conditions. Cold temperatures rob range from any EV — roughly 40% at 20 degrees Fahrenheit versus 75 degrees, according to AAA.

As for the list of “wants” that could be deal breakers, they’re available in other EVs, but with a hit to range and performance — or both. There are also states where Tesla isn’t allowed to sell you a new car (including Texas, Delaware and Wisconsin) or are limited in the number of stores it can operate (including New York and Colorado). That doesn’t mean you can’t own a Tesla in those states, but the purchase must happen elsewhere — leading to questions about future service, though a Tesla mobile service is available. You do, however, likely have a Volkswagen or Ford dealership in closer proximity — just keep in mind that those dealerships will need to be trained and have the proper equipment to work on their brands’ electric cars, and not every location may make that investment.

It’s easy to see why the Model Y is so popular. It’s affordable in the context of other luxury SUVs, has oodles of range and a great charging infrastructure, and it’s fun to drive and own. The Model Y does do a couple of goofy things, and unfortunately, they’re not easy fixes expected to be remedied anytime soon. If a stiff ride or lacking Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and an instrument panel are deal breakers for you, you have more compelling options in the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Volkswagen ID.4, but it’s really hard to look elsewhere when the Model Y does so many things so well — things that are core to what’s considered good for both EVs and SUVs.

(cars.com)

The Lyriq electric SUV and Celestiq electric sedan are central to Cadillac’s EV charge.

The Lyriq will be followed by the Celestiq, a limolike four-door sedan that will take over as Cadillac's flagship. The interior is intended to coddle chauffeur-driven passengers in the second row under a transparent, four-quadrant glass roof. Up front, a large dashboard screen stretches the width of the cabin. It will feature all-wheel drive, a hatchback cargo opening, and four-wheel steering.

WHY IT MATTERS: General Motors wants Cadillac to lead its EV push, so every one of the brand's new models moving forward will be electric. That starts with the Lyriq, followed by the Celestiq sedan, the Optiq and Symboliq SUVs, another sedan/coupe, and an electric version of the Escalade full-size SUV. The Lyriq sets the styling tone for the lineup.

2023 Cadillac Lyriq 8 

PLATFORM AND POWERTRAIN: The Cadillac Lyriq will use the same BEV3 architecture and Ultium battery system as the 2022 GMC Hummer EV pickup. The battery cells are packaged as modules to allow the creation of vehicles of any size or shape. GM is building a new Ultium battery plant in Tennessee to supply the Lyriq, which uses a 12-module, 100-kWh pack versus the Hummer's 24 modules. Future electric SUVs for the Chevrolet and Buick brands will share a similar layout. The Celestiq is more of a one-off vehicle and a surprise addition to the portfolio. It will have at least two motors, and the long body provides a lot of underfloor space for energy storage. It will be able to fast-charge at 800 volts and likely provide at least 300 miles of range per charge.

ESTIMATED PRICE: The Lyriq starts at $59,990, and the Celestiq is expected to command at least $200,000.

EXPECTED ON-SALE DATE: Lyriq, Q1 2022; Celestiq, as early as 2023.

(motortrend.com)

Amazon commissioned Rivian to develop and build it the best last-mile delivery van

WHAT IT IS: This fully electric delivery van will be offered in three sizes capable of carrying 500, 700, or 900 cubic feet of packages. All share the same stand-up interior height. The smallest one is narrower than the larger two and is as roomy as today's mainstream Mercedes-Benz Sprinter or Ford Transit delivery vans. The largest one has roughly the same turning circle diameter as smaller competitive vans to guarantee easy urban maneuverability. Because its design will eventually become ubiquitous nationwide and is expected to remain unchanged for years, the Rivian Amazon Prime van's designers gave it a friendly, smiley, cartoonish visage.

 
 
2022 Rivian Amazon Prime Van 6

WHY IT MATTERS: These vans were designed and developed exclusively for Amazon and will be built in the same plant as Rivian's R1 line of products. This will provide Rivian with reliable positive cash flow while the R1T and R1S products come up to speed, while simultaneously helping Amazon reduce its costs and shrink its carbon footprint. The contract calls for 100,000 Prime vans to be delivered by 2030. The design prioritizes driver safety, ergonomics, and comfort, providing a hinged door with side-impact protection on the driver's side and a sliding door on the passenger's side with entry steps designed in such a way as to avoid becoming dangerously slippery when wet or covered in slush. The van features driver assist handles for use while carrying packages.

PLATFORM AND POWERTRAIN: The Prime van will share its basic electrical and network architecture, ECUs, and battery pack design with the Rivian R1 models. The van will also share its basic single-motor e-axle drive unit with the entry-level Rivian R1 products. Range is said to be 150 miles. To manage costs, Prime vans use a steel body on a steel ladder chassis instead of the R1's aluminum setup. The vans will be assembled on a separate "low-feature-content" assembly line, though common body and paint shops will handle both vans and R1s. 

2022 Rivian Amazon Prime Van 3

ESTIMATED PRICE: The public will not be able to buy a Rivian Amazon Prime van, so official pricing may never be disclosed, but Jeff Bezos is no dummy. We expect the average price Amazon pays for each Prime van will land in the ballpark of a primary competitor: the Ford E-Transit. That electric cargo van starts at $52,690 for the high-roof, extended-wheelbase version.

EXPECTED ON-SALE DATE: Early production models have already entered the field, but volume production will ramp up next year with an aim of delivering the first 10,000 vans by the end of 2022.

((motortrend.com)

Saturday, 10 July 2021 05:52

Volkswagen Golf Estate review

Thoroughly rational, practical family car with an air of quality
 

 At a glance

New price £24,730 - £31,330
Lease from new From £270 p/mView lease deals
Used price £17,990 - £24,915
Used monthly cost From £449 per month
Fuel Economy 46.3 - 62.8 mpg
Road tax cost £155
Insurance group 14 - 22How much is it to insure?
New
8.0 - 10.7
Miles per pound (mpp)

 PROS

  • Sensibly sized for British roads and towns
  • Premium feel and many clever details
  • Diverse range of engines and trims
  • Uncompromised practicality

 CONS

  • Appreciably more expensive than rivals
  • Tech overkill, touch-controls are annoying
  • Some trim is not family-friendly
  • Can’t escape engineering shared with cheaper cars
 

Is the Volkswagen Golf Estate any good?

You won’t be surprised to learn that in eighth generation form, the Volkswagen Golf Estate is a thoroughly polished car and it’s somewhat better than good. However, it’s not a car that achieves greatness, because it is far from unique. The core engineering is shared across many cars from the wider group of brands owned by Volkswagen – from Audi to Skoda – and each one is micro-managed to the finest points to appeal to different audiences.

As both the progenitor of VW’s modern-family car approach, and the ‘widest appeal’ marque, the Golf thus ends up being something of a personality-free zone. There’s none of the zest of the Leon Estate, nor the superior arrogance of the A3 Sportback, or the reserved pragmatism of the Skoda Octavia, even though the best qualities of all three are wrapped up in one package.

So yes - it’s very good, and of high quality. But it’s just a touch anonymous.

In isolation, though, it’s rather impressive against the likes of the Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake, Ford Focus Estate and Hyundai i30 Tourer. A safe, advanced choice that won’t let you down or lose much money when it's time to trade in.

Whether it wins your heart, however, is another matter.

What’s it like inside?

Blurring the lines between VW Group’s brands, the Golf has taken some of the ‘high tech’ thunder from Audi and swapped to futuristic touch controls throughout. It’s not just the gadgetry, depending on trim level there are luxury touches that set the Golf ahead of many premium marques – albeit at the cost of family resilience.

Take, for example, the velvety-soft fabric lined door pockets on some models – they dampen rattles and feel much nicer than sharp edged unfinished plastic, but you wouldn’t want to clean it up after leaving some forgotten sweets in there on a hot day.

Everything is put together to a very high standard, with excellent fit and finish and no in-car rattles even with the large panoramic sunroof. Materials and appearance vary with specification, but all models get some version of two-screen cockpit; this is where the polish starts to wear off as the infotainment system can be laggy, the touch heater controls are hard to use by, well, touch, and after a while you just wish it had been designed with more focus on usability rather than looking good.

None of it is a showstopper though and you’ll adapt, it’s just there’s a lot of progress for the sake of it in a car that is supposed to be a familiar family friend.

Volkswagen Golf Estate (2021) review interior view 

Practicality and luggage space

With big windows, a long, flat roofline, and a large, flat-sided boot the Volkswagen Golf Estate is the perfect shape for carrying people and stuff; there’s little attempt to make it ‘sporty’ or fashionable, and that’s the way we like it. The tailgate extends low down with a wide, unimpeded opening and there’s an impressive amount of width available relative to the car’s size. Because the Golf Estate is still a relatively small car it’s got a short load area that is easily extended by folding the seats – and it has the useful feature of Isofix points on the front seat so you can fetch large items and take your infant with you.

Front seat comfort is the same as a normal Golf. In the rear seats the more upright roof and windows mean visibility is better, and Volkswagen’s thoughtful touches extend to not one, but three pockets on the seat backs on some models – with smartphone-sized slots further up the back of the front seat.

Fabric interiors retain that VW trick of making your back feel a bit hot after a while behind the wheel, but as many models come with air conditioning or climate control as standard, that isn’t as uncomfortable as it used to be. Ride depends on engine and spec – but every Golf is a strong performer here.

Volkswagen Golf Estate (2021) boot space
 
 

What’s it like to drive?

We tested the Volkswagen Golf 150 TDI Style, a mid-range model with torquey diesel engine and DSG automatic gearbox. VW’s diesel offers impressive refinement and more than adequate performance, as well as near 60mpg real-world economy.

Despite a wealth of driver assistants on offer, the Golf’s unobtrusive, driver-friendly setup means you can enjoy the car’s precise steering and neat handling. Yet it’s easy to let the tech take over in more tedious situations, which it does very effectively.

Nothing is outstanding on this spec, given the price – it’s just very, very good, intuitive, and predictable. As the Golf Estate is also available in very basic, luxurious, all-wheel drive and soon, high-performance R models as well, you should be able to find the experience you want; crucially they all have the same impressive, no-nonsense practicality that you want an estate for in the first place.

What models and trims are available?

As the best of Volkswagen Group, the Golf Estate offers, well, the best of VW’s engine selection. Everything from a 110hp 1.0-litre petrol to the storming Volkswagen Golf R will be available eventually – the latter offering all-wheel drive and 320hp when it arrives, depending on spec. This will be a truly fast load-lugger with only the smallest of external clues to tell other drivers what it is. Until the R arrives, the 200hp Alltrack provides grip and torque.

At present the hybrid Golf – the GTE – is not available in estate form, and for this generation there’s no e-Golf as the VW ID.3 fulfils that role, so there's unlikely to be a plug-in Golf Estate.

However, there is a slightly higher ground clearance, all-wheel drive Golf Alltrack, which is only available with 200hp diesel power and DSG automatic gearbox.

On other models, you can opt for a manual gearbox or VW’s proven DSG automatic, and there’s a comprehensive set of driver assistance available if desired. In short, the Volkswagen Golf may be a byword for the essentials of family motoring, but it can be lavishly equipped.

What else should I know?

One thing the Golf Estate has going against it is cost. No VW Golf is ‘cheap’, but even so you’ll find you pay a hefty premium for a normal spec of Golf against strong rivals such as the Ford Focus Estate, Kia Ceed and of course, the in-house rivals of the Skoda Octavia and SEAT Leon estates.

However, the Golf feels more like a premium product – in places it feels more upmarket and higher quality than more obvious posh brands such as Mercedes-Benz and even some Audis. A little bit of that is in soft, short-lived things like soft-trimmed door bins – but it implies a longer-lasting, more robust car overall.

On the other hand, if longevity is important to you other manufacturers are now offering warranties that make VW look decidedly stingy. With that in mind, read on to find out if we think the Volkswagen Golf Estate is worth buying.

 
Volkswagen Golf Estate (2021) review, driving

Should you buy a Volkswagen Golf Estate?

There is absolutely no denying that the eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf is technically the best Golf ever – and it isn’t always a given that a new one will be a better one, as the third generation demonstrated. However, the same engineering is available with different badges for less money, in the form of the Skoda Octavia Estate – which also has some physical controls instead being completely dependent on touch controls for many features, too.

If practicality is foremost in your buying decisions, that alone will rule the Golf out. However, the Golf does present a more pragmatic image and balance than, say, an Audi.

Soon, the appeal will be enhanced with the delightful combination of family-friendly, small-enough-for-towns subtle performance in the Golf R Estate which has few direct rivals, and little that can approach the performance for the money.

So ultimately, it’s down to whether you’re the sort of person who likes to pay for high quality, without necessarily shouting to the world that you bought the fanciest thing. If you are, the fit and finish will impress, the details reassure, and the relatively classless badge will appeal.

What we like

The wide range of engines and transmissions, the classless image and the sheer practicality of the Golf Estate make it a very easy car to like.

What we don't like

It's more expensive than a Skoda Octavia Estate and when you start optioning it up, it gets even more costly. The touch controls on the fascia are also unresponsive and are not as satisfying to use as traditional knobs and switches.

Which model is best for you?

There’s a diverse range, from the bare-bones 1.0 TSI Life to the 200hp all-wheel drive Alltrack, but we think the Golf Estate works best as a subtle, premium model – either of the 150hp diesel or petrol versions, in Style trim, will deliver an efficient, refined experience that justifies the expense.

The Golf Alltrack offers a different dilemma – when compared with premium rivals it represents good value for a capable car, ideally suited for rural areas prone to bad weather and patchy road clearance. It may struggle to look appealing next to a traditional 4x4 or SUV.

Overall though, the Skoda Octavia Estate offers better value than the Golf, particularly at the more affordable end of the range, and it would be our starting point here.

Volkswagen Golf Estate (2021) review, driving
 
(parkers.co.uk)

Many drivers save on brakes, and on the other hand spend a lot of money on "make-up" cars. Similar to tires.

At the same time, they forget that due to bad brakes, their car can easily turn into a pile of useless sheet metal. Not to mention other consequences ...

That is why we remind you that the brakes must be checked and maintained regularly. However, there are countless discussions on this topic - how many kilometers can the discs last, how many tiles, whether the discs should be processed if they are distorted or buy new ones, which brand is the best, etc.

 

The new Mazda MX-5 Sport Venture is the latest in a long line of special editions of the world’s favourite roadster 

Verdict

Like the standard roadster, the limited-edition MX-5 Sport Venture is a fantastic car to drive, thanks to its direct handling and buzzy naturally aspirated 1.5-litre engine. But the extra equipment Mazda has added to this limited-run car has pushed its price a little too close to its more powerful (and similarly equipped) siblings, which makes it hard to recommend unless you’re an avid MX-5 collector. You can find similar plushness and kit in the existing Sport Tech model.

Since the fourth generation of the MX-5 was launched in 2015, Mazda has released a steady stream of special-edition versions, following the pattern established by the three previous models. There was the Z-Sport in 2017, then a model that marked the roadster’s 30th anniversary in 2019, followed by a variant to celebrate Mazda’s 100th anniversary last year.

Now the company has launched the MX-5 Sport Venture, and it carries a little bit of heritage with it, because the limited-edition nameplate returns from the previous-generation car. The formula remains pretty much the same, too. Sold only in limited numbers, this one comes painted in a new Deep Crystal Mica Blue shade and with a grey fabric hood, which combine to give it a unique appearance among the MX-5 line-up. Stone-coloured Nappa leather upholstery gives it a premium edge over the Sport trim-level car it’s based on.

However, the £27,615 price-tag doesn’t look like much of a bargain when you consider that prices for the equally fun and much more practical Ford Fiesta ST start from £21,955. The MX-5’s price has crept up considerably since launch, but it remains a rare offering in today’s market.

The new MX-5 Sport Venture is only available with the entry-level 130bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. If you would prefer an MX-5 with the stronger 181bhp 2.0-litre engine, prices for that version start at £28,670, £1,055 more than this special-edition model.

What’s the point of the MX-5 Sport Venture, then? Exclusivity for one, because just 160 examples will be sold in the UK. It also helps that it comes with a whole host of features that you can’t specify (even as options) on the cheapest 1.5-litre car, including the roof colour, the leather interior, and silver mirror caps.

It also comes with standard adaptive LED headlamps (borrowed from the high-spec Sport Tech model), which swivel as you turn the wheel to light up dark spots on the road ahead in tight bends. They’re a welcome addition at night on the sort of narrow B-roads the MX-5 suits so well.

As in the Sport model, buyers also get a Bose audio system, which will please audiophiles and tech geeks alike. It’s a bit more bassy than the standard stereo in the SE-L car, and has speakers built into both headrests, which help to defy the wind noise when driving with the roof down.

 

When you’re listening to music, the speakers play mid-range frequencies and, if you get a phone call, they pipe your contact’s voice directly into your ears. It’s certainly a handy feature but, again, it’s a benefit more than a necessity.

Mazda hasn’t made any mechanical changes to the MX-5 Sport Venture, which means it drives exactly the same as the standard roadster. So, the power steering is a little over-assisted for such a light car, but the rack gives you enough feedback to know where the front wheels are pointing.

 
 
The manual gearshifter is also one of the best in the business and, because you’ve only got 130bhp to play with, you’ll be constantly rowing through the ratios to try and keep the engine in its sweet spot.

Despite all of its many charms, though, the MX-5 Sport Venture still ends up feeling just a bit too expensive for what it is, which is mostly due to the level of tech Mazda has added, and the premium the firm thinks such exclusivity is worth. This special edition costs the same sort of money that used to secure a solidly equipped 2.0-litre version of Mazda’s iconic sports car.

The biggest selling points for the special edition are its styling and its rarity, which makes it hard to recommend unless you’re an MX-5 aficionado. If it were our money, we’d either opt for the £26,335 MX-5 Sport and pocket the difference, or splash the extra cash and go for the bigger, more powerful engine in the MX-5 Sport Tech.

Model: Mazda MX-5 1.5 132PS Sport Venture
Price: £27,615
Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl petrol
Power/torque: 130bhp/152Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
0-62mph: 8.3 seconds
Top speed: 127mph
Economy: 44.8mpg
CO2: 142g/km
On sale: Now
 
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