Displaying items by tag: Hybrid

Wednesday, 14 April 2021 06:40

Toyota Prius Review: High Mileage, for a Price

The verdict: Sky-high fuel efficiency with front- or all-wheel drive remains the main draw for Toyota’s iconic Prius hybrid, even as the aging current generation grows less competitive in other ways.

Versus the competition: When Toyota unveiled this generation of the Prius more than five years ago, we lauded the car’s advancements in handling and interior quality. The intervening years, however, have seen rivals catch up on fuel efficiency and pull ahead in refinement and other technologies — though none yet offer all-wheel drive.

Toyota added the option of AWD to the Prius two model years ago, and it remains one of the most fuel-efficient cars of its type, at least before you look at plug-in vehicles. The AWD Prius comes in LE and XLE trim levels; we evaluated an XLE. The Prius can be had with front-wheel drive in five trims, including a limited-run 2020 Edition that commemorates two decades since the Prius debuted. (Heritage notwithstanding, it’s a baffling move; slapping “2020 Edition” on a 2021 model invites needless confusion, not to mention a constant reminder of a year everyone wants to forget.)

Besides the 2020 Edition, changes for 2021 include some augmented safety features and new Android Auto smartphone connectivity on most trim levels (Apple CarPlay remains standard). Stack up the 2020 and 2021 Prius or compare 2021 trim levels. Note, we separately cover the Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid with an EPA-rated 25 miles of all-electric driving range on a full battery charge before the gas engine kicks in. (Here’s more about the main differences between a hybrid and plug-in hybrid.)

Gas Mileage: The Reason Anyone Buys a Prius
The Prius’ mileage leader is the L Eco, a base trim level that’s good for an EPA-estimated 56 mpg combined. Among plug-free cars, that rating trails only one rival: the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, whose base trim level, Ioniq Blue, gets an EPA-rated 59 mpg combined. That said, the L Eco trim accounts for less than 10% of Prius cars listed in Cars.com’s dealer inventory as of this writing. Most shoppers will end up with other trims of the Prius, which the EPA still rates a very good 52 mpg combined.

The Prius AWD, meanwhile, employs an additional electric motor at the rear axle, which powers the car continuously from a stop, then as-needed up to 43 mph. There’s no mechanical connection to the main powertrain, which pairs two electric motor-generators with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. A power-split device with continuously variable properties doles out power to the wheels.

The whole of it makes for a combined 49 mpg in EPA ratings — short of the front-drive Prius but outstanding for an AWD vehicle that isn’t a plug-in. Our real-world testing returned results consistent with the car’s rating, with 46.6 mpg according to our calculations based on fill-up mileage ( 51.5 mpg on the trip computer) after 215 miles of mixed highway and suburban driving.

What You Give Up to Get There
As with most hybrids, electric operation alone is possible at low speeds under light acceleration, with the engine kicking in for anything beyond that. Under a combination of engine and electric power, the Prius has enough oomph; I needed most of the drivetrain’s reserves to claw my way up to 40 mph with 17 bags of mulch aboard — at least several hundred pounds — but power felt workably adequate.

That’s not to say the drivetrain is all that responsive. Press the accelerator while already in motion, and the Prius hesitates a beat or two before raising rpm to pull noisily ahead. Most modern CVTs implement quicker rpm transitions to mimic a step-gear downshift, but such programming usually trades fuel efficiency for responsiveness, so I seldom observe it with the CVT-style transmissions many hybrids use. The Prius, unsurprisingly, does none of that: Engine revs meander up or down in a slow, old-school fashion.

A few other downsides persist. Toyota’s regenerative brakes — a feature employed in all hybrids — impart a nonlinear pedal feel reminiscent of the technology’s early days. Response is tentative in the first inch or so of pedal travel, then becomes suddenly sharper as you press harder. So-called pedal linearity has improved among many hybrids over the years, even as a few non-hybrids introduce new forms of it.

Ride quality and noise abatement also remain areas that could use improvement. At highway speeds, our test car’s efficiency-oriented Bridgestone Ecopia tires let out quite the howl, with adjacent trucks matching the ambient noise. The suspension sorts out minor bumps well enough, but anything significant sends turbulent aftershocks through the body. The Prius is not especially comfortable or quiet.

Is this the penalty for sky-high mileage at an affordable price? Maybe; the rival Honda Insight is no bank vault, either. Mass-market hybrids aren’t known for sophisticated suspensions or gobs of noise insulation, but some execute those things better than others. A redesigned Prius will probably improve on such aspects, and with the current Prius entering its sixth model year for 2021, time for a new version is nigh.

By contrast, the Prius’ hybridness has little bearing on its other deficiencies. Most trims get a touchscreen measuring just 7 inches diagonally — an inch short of what you’ll find in the base version of many mass-market cars — with modest screen resolution and undersized volume and tuning knobs. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa integration are included with the 7-inch system, but they require a tethered connection as opposed to the wireless integrations that are expanding industrywide. Upgrade to the front-drive Prius Limited and you get the Prius Prime’s 11.6-inch vertically oriented touchscreen, but it confoundingly loses Android Auto connectivity. See our impressions of it otherwise.

Where It Still Shines
An early example of Toyota’s well-executed TNGA platform, which now underpins many other cars, the Prius boasts improbably good handling. The steering has a touch of vagueness on-center, but it communicates lively feedback as you turn the wheel into corners. Body roll is nicely controlled, and the AWD model shows unexpected balance if you slide it around — something the Bridgestones easily allow.

Space efficiency, at least up front, is also among the Prius’ strengths. The low center console leaves good space for your knees and thighs, and all but the tallest drivers should find sufficient headroom, even with the seat elevated all the way. The backseat is a bit low to the floor, so adults may find their knees uncomfortably elevated, but we found sufficient clearance to fit bulky rear-facing child-safety seats behind a 5-foot-6-inch front passenger. (That’s not to say, however, that the Prius passed Cars.com’s Car Seat Check with flying colors; parents with young children should check out our full scoring.)

We measured 13.1 cubic feet behind the Prius’ backseat, a figure comparable to our audits for two other smallish hatchbacks, the Mazda3 (13.1 cubic feet) and Subaru Crosstrek (13.0 cubic feet). (Note that our independent accounting of cargo space differs from manufacturer specs, which we’ve found overrepresent hatch space, underreport trunk volume and are unreliable for comparison.)

The Prius earned top scores in most crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but suboptimal results in the passenger-side small overlap front test kept the vehicle from garnering one of IIHS’ influential, if widespread, Top Safety Pick awards. Still, Toyota’s long list of safety and driver assist features is impressive: Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure steering assist and automatic high-beam headlights are standard, as are adaptive cruise control and hands-on lane centering. Those last two features can both operate from a standstill all the way up to highway speeds. New for 2021 is the latest generation of Toyota Safety Sense, which adds more detection capabilities, and all but the base trim level get a blind spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert. Top trims add curve-adaptive headlights.

Should You Buy a Prius?
The Prius starts around $25,500 for the cheapest front-drive trim. That’s roughly commensurate with Toyota’s immediate competition, and the base Prius doesn’t skimp on multimedia features or safety and driver-assist tech, as some rivals do. Optional AWD adds a modest $1,000-$1,400 to the Prius’ mid-level trims, depending on specifics; the cheapest AWD Prius lands comfortably under $30,000 (all prices include destination charges).

Ascending trim levels add items like faux-leather upholstery, heated front seats and a power driver’s seat. Oddly enough, you can’t get certain top-of-the-line features on any AWD model, and niceties like a memory driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control and genuine leather are unavailable on any 2021 Prius.

Loaded with factory options, the Prius tops out around $34,500. You should be able to find plenty of examples well below that, given about two-thirds of the new 2021 models listed on Cars.com are priced at or below $30,000. Still, budget-conscious shoppers might find wider affordability on the Insight, with 82% of its new 2021 models priced at or below $30,000 on Cars.com.

That said, the venerable Prius is bound to find plenty of shoppers. The current generation shows its age through its drivability and multimedia tech, but lower trim levels offer a good mix of value and efficiency — especially with AWD, a capability that hybrid shoppers would otherwise need an SUV to get.


Published in Toyota
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Saturday, 20 March 2021 06:45

BMW 7 Series saloon review

"The latest BMW 7 Series sports a brash new grille, improved powertrains and even more tech"

This is the sixth-generation of the BMW 7 Series luxury saloon and arguably the most identifiable, thanks to its bold new face. BMW clearly decided its conservative flagship saloon needed to stand out against the stately Mercedes S-Class and forward-looking Audi A8, increasing the size of its kidney grille by around 40%.

Elsewhere the makeover is far less dramatic, with slim new headlights and a full-width LED rear light-bar representing the most noticeable changes. It also has a smoother overall look and has been tweaked to suit the Chinese market, where more than a third of all 7 Series are sold.

The interior has also been reworked with a light touch, leaving most of its design intact but revisiting the tech on offer. The start of the show is BMW's latest infotainment system, bringing digital instruments and an updated tablet that passengers in the back can use to control the car's interior features.

Depending on its expected use, the 7 Series can be specified with a standard or long wheelbase to boost passenger space, along with either a bench rear seat or two-seat 'lounge' setup. The latter brings the full VIP experience, with individual seats that are heated, cooled and reclining either side of a centre console.

For a car that doesn’t sell in huge numbers, there's a wide range of engines, spanning from a plug-in hybrid model to diesels, and even a flagship V8 petrol. Every 7 Series is quick and supremely comfortable, but the range-topping petrols are also powerful for a large saloon, and the BMW has a sportier edge than the Mercedes S-Class.

BMW 7 Series saloon - MPG, running costs & CO2

The plug-in hybrid and diesel models make the big BMW 7 Series surprisingly efficient

Thanks to the breadth of the BMW 7 Series' engine range, there should be a version to suit every customer and location. We say ‘location’ because the plug-in hybrid 745e will bring real advantages in terms of taxes and charges if the owner drives into cities like London with low-emission zones and tariffs.

For this reason, the 745e plug-in hybrid is popular thanks to its CO2 emissions from 41g/km and fuel economy of up to 156.9mpg. The exact economy you get will depend on how often you can charge its battery pack and make use of its 28 mile electric range, but its fixed emissions figure gives the car free access to city centres with low-emission zones. A low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company-car tax will also appeal to business users.

The 7 Series’ standard petrol models are considerably pricier to run. The 740i returns up to 35.8mpg and emits from 180g/km, while the hugely powerful 750i xDrive returns little over 25mpg and sits in the top BiK tax band for business drivers.

Diesel engines are still very popular for the 7 Series, and the 730d will especially suit high-mileage drivers. Fuel economy of up to 51.4mpg is pretty impressive given the BMW's size, but emissions from 144g/km (with the smallest alloy wheels fitted) mean it still sits in a high BiK tax band. The 740d still returns 47mpg despite posting a very quick acceleration time and getting four-wheel drive. It features mild-hybrid technology with a small battery that stores the energy harvested from braking and deceleration, which is then used to give the engine a boost helping to improve fuel economy and emissions.

Insurance groups
Insurance groups for the BMW 7 Series saloon are high because of how much it costs, the complex engineering and high performance. Even models lower down the range, such as the 740i are in insurance groups 48 or 49. Every other model, including all long wheel variants and even the 745e hybrid, sit in the top insurance group 50.

All BMW models come with a three-year warranty that's typical amongst the German brands, however it does also have unlimited mileage within this period.

BMW offers servicing packages that can be purchased when the car is new, covering maintenance for a fixed cost for a set period of time, for up to five years, which can also be transferred to subsequent owners.

Servicing packages can also be extended to include consumable items like brake pads, discs and a new clutch for an extra charge.

BMW 7 Series saloon - Engines, drive & performance

While still comfortable, the BMW 7 Series is a bit more involving to drive than most large saloons

Unlike most BMW models, the 7 Series favours a plush ride over sporty handling, but it still feels lighter on its toes than the Audi A8 or Mercedes S-Class. This is partly thanks to use of a carbon fibre 'core' running through its underpinnings, which helps save weight and increase structural stiffness.

In any of its driving modes and any scenario, the 7 Series is incredibly comfortable. We found the normal Comfort mode to be the best all-round setting; Comfort Plus makes the air suspension even softer, but this can make the body feel a little wayward on demanding roads, so is probably best left for the motorway.

BMW 7 Series diesel engines
There are two versions of the same 3.0-litre straight-six diesel, and the BMW 730d has traditionally been the bestseller in Britain. It has 282bhp and manages 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds when equipped with rear-wheel drive, with the xDrive four-wheel drive version taking 5.6 seconds. The more powerful four-wheel drive 740d gets 335bhp, and manages to get from 0-62mph in only five seconds. BMW’s mild-hybrid technology is fitted to both models, which provides an extra 11bhp overboost under full throttle to aid acceleration.

Petrol engines
The petrol line-up consists of one relatively normal straight-six, and two much more expensive to run, powerful and exotic engines. With 328bhp, the 740i engine is shared with models including the BMW 3 Series and BMW 5 Series, and still proves spritely in a bigger vehicle, getting the 7 Series from 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds.

BMW 7 Series saloon - rear 3/4 dynamic 17
An all-new 4.4-litre V8 offered in the 750i creates a thunderous 528bhp and gets the car from 0-62mph in four seconds, aided by four-wheel drive traction. Despite its extra size and four extra cylinders, the 577bhp 6.6-litre V12 in the M760Li could only shave 0.2 seconds off the 0-62mph sprint, and has now been discontinued in the UK.

Hybrid engines
While the 730d has long been the most popular model, a shift away from diesel and heavy taxation means the 745e plug-in hybrid is likely to win favour with business buyers - who make up the bulk of 7 Series customers. It combines a six-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor and battery pack, providing an electric-only driving range of up to 28 miles. Zero-to-62mph takes a fraction over five seconds.

 BMW 7 Series saloon - Interior & comfort

Technology has been improved with a better infotainment system and rear seat entertainment

Aside from its grille, the BMW 7 Series and its rivals are known for being conservative, and the interior hasn't changed too much from its predecessor. Of course, technology has been bolstered, so every gadget you can think of is standard or available as an option.

BMW 7 Series dashboard
While it looks pretty similar, there's a new set of digital instruments that can show much more information to the driver. Materials have also been updated to keep the 7 Series near the front of the pack, with every surface covered in leather or wooden trim, including oak and polar.

Perhaps most importantly, the infotainment system runs BMW's Operating System 7.0, bringing the latest connectivity, media and navigation to the driver and passengers via seven-inch removable tablets.

Choose the 730d and so much is included you'd be hard pressed to tell it's officially the entry-level model. A Harman Kardon stereo, adaptive LED headlights, powered boot, wireless phone charging and a key with its own display are all standard.

BMW 7 Series saloon - infotainment 17
In-car technology doesn’t disappoint either, with all models coming as standard with the ‘Connected Package Professional’. This includes Remote Services, which allows you to send destinations, find your vehicle or even keep an eye on your 7 Series’ surroundings via your smartphone. A remote 3D view generates an up-to-date 360-degree image around the car so that you can see it even when you’re not near it, using the BWW Connected App. Other features include Connected Navigations, Concierge Services and Apple CarPlay.

The M Sport trim gives the 7 Series a more athletic look inside and out, capped off by unique alloy wheels, while the M760Li xDrive flagship is essentially its own trim level, with just about every option included.

It's hard to believe you'd need to add a Comfort Plus Pack, but do so and it brings massaging and ventilated seats, scented air and laminated glass designed to help regulate the interior temperature and add soundproofing. A Technology Plus Pack adds driving aids, remote control parking and a head-up display, while the Rear Seat Comfort Plus Pack upgrades the back seats for first-class luxury by adding heated seats and two 10-inch screens on the back of the front seats along with a Blu-ray player and TV.

BMW 7 Series saloon - Practicality & boot space

There's plenty of room to stretch out and the boot is a generous size


The BMW 7 Series saloon has been designed to carry adults in ultimate luxury from the outset, and the latest version is 22mm longer than before. Choose the long-wheelbase version and it gains a full 14cm of additional length, providing even more room for rear passengers to stretch out and sleep on the move.

BMW 7 Series interior space & storage
In standard form, the interior of the 7 Series offers a generous amount of room for both front and rear passengers. Travelling in the rear seats though, is more like first-class air travel than squeezing into the back of a hatchback. That's especially the case if you specify the individual executive lounge rear seats rather than the standard three seat rear bench.

Opt for the extended long-wheelbase version of 7 Series and the rear passenger space is extended further still, meaning that while in transit, you can enjoy a film, work or have a nap. This can be complemented by electrified rear and side window sunblinds and the optional BMW Touch Command, which adds a capacitive touch sensor to control the rear interior lighting. Even more space can be afforded by pressing a button to move and tilt the front passenger seat out of the way.

Boot space
The powered boot lid opens to reveal a large 515-litre boot (10 litres more space than the Audi A8), providing plenty of room for suitcases or golf clubs. Due to the onboard battery in the 745Le plug-in hybrid, boot space is reduced to 429 litres. Those opulent rear seats don't fold down, though, so you can't expand the space.

While you're unlikely to ever see a 7 Series towing a trailer, its 2,300kg capability means it would actually be rather adept at the task.

 BMW 7 Series saloon - Reliability & safety

The BMW 7 Series boasts some of the world's most advanced safety technology

The BMW 7 Series is a hugely complex car, but a decent manufacturer's warranty should allay many fears. It's also laden with safety technology.

BMW 7 Series reliability
It can be daunting buying a car with as much technology and equipment as the 7 Series, but it’s covered by an unlimited-mileage warranty for the first three years. Because this model is essentially a thorough facelift of the previous version, a lot of the new model's underpinnings have also been tried and tested.

Its smaller sibling, the 5 Series, came 40th in our top 100 cars rated by owners in the 2020 Driver Power satisfaction survey. It seems that BMW owners aren’t happy with the running costs, which include high insurance premiums and servicing bills. Surprisingly, BMWs are getting worse than average reviews in the ride and handling and acceleration categories.

While it's unlikely to be tested by Euro NCAP because of its status as a luxury car sold in small numbers, we'd be amazed if the 7 Series didn't get a five-star result. After all, it's BMW's flagship saloon and a showcase for the brand’s latest safety technology. That includes myriad systems to help warn you of, and even help avoid accidents.

Onboard safety technology includes BMW’s Parking Assistant Plus which is capable of taking control of the car steering and brakes to park the car automatically in parallel or perpendicular parking spaces. This functionality can also be operated via the BMW Display key, with the driver outside the car. Other safety features include the optional Driving Assistant Professional system, which uses a series of cameras and radar to guide the car as you drive, and includes lane change assistance, and can even stop you if you attempt to drive down a one-way street the wrong way.


Published in BMW
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Friday, 19 March 2021 07:40

Ford Puma review

The Ford Puma is back - the small, sporty coupe is now a stylish, practical compact SUV that’s good to drive, but lacks cabin space.

We’ve waited a while for Ford to give us a proper compact SUV based on the Fiesta. Until now, the firm’s sole offering in the B-SUV market - the EcoSport - has not been good enough. The new Ford Puma hits the right notes and is precisely what you’d expect of the brand, blending practicality and affordability into a package that’s good to drive.

The Puma’s looks won’t appeal to everyone, but few rivals can better it for boot-space and virtually none can outshine the Puma from behind the wheel - equipment levels are strong too. However, there are more upmarket-feeling and spacious rivals out there for this sort of cash.

About the Ford Puma
Cast your memory back to 1997, and you may remember Ford launched a fun, small, front-wheel-drive coupe based on what was then the fourth-generation Fiesta. It added a bit of richly needed desirability at the smaller end of the brand’s British line-up. It was a hit - the Ford Puma had landed.

Now, the Puma name is back, and it’s an extremely similar story save for one very important detail; the new Ford Puma is not a small coupe, but a small five-door SUV. It’s based on the current, seventh-generation Fiesta supermini, sharing its chassis and its engines, as it enters a market that’s overflowing with choice at the minute.

Chief rivals include the Renault Captur, the Peugeot 2008, Skoda Kamiq and SEAT Arona, while the handsome Mazda CX-3 and spacious Volkswagen T-Cross offer further possibilities for customers considering a small family SUV. Left-field alternatives include cars like the design-led Nissan Juke, chunky Jeep Renegade and the retro Fiat 500 X.

The Puma line-up isn’t quite as expansive as the Fiesta’s, but there are still plenty of models to choose from and even more engine options will be available soon. The trim structure is very straightforward too, with four core versions: Titanium, ST-Line, ST-Line X and luxury ST-Line Vignale. The Puma ST performance model sits at the top of the range.

The Titanium is the entry-level trim for the Puma range, but it’s still well equipped and finished with flair, including 17-inch alloy wheels, a leather steering wheel, power folding mirrors, navigation via an eight-inch central touchscreen display, cruise control, rear parking sensors and even a wireless charging pad. The other side to this is that the Puma’s starting price is relatively high compared with rivals, many of which start from below £20,000.

ST-Line models add a bit more standard equipment such as a widescreen 12.3-inch digital instrument display and automatic headlamps. But these cars major on sporty touches including a body-kit, different alloy wheels, sports seats and pedals and a sports suspension setup that helps the Puma to shine as one of the best crossovers to drive.

ST-Line X builds on this with luxury features such as partial leather upholstery, privacy glass in the windows and a 10-speaker audio setup from Bang & Olufsen, while the Vignale upgrade brings heated front seats, front parking sensors, keyless entry and Windsor premium leather upholstery.

The Puma is front-wheel-drive only and buyers are offered three engine options. The EcoBoost 125 uses a 123bhp 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine as found in the Fiesta, while a 48-volt mild-hybrid version of this engine is also available. It doesn’t bring any additional power, although there is a slight increase in torque, and it introduces marginal reductions in CO2 emissions and gains in fuel economy, too. The third option is another 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol with the same mild-hybrid system, but power is pushed up to 153bhp.

Mild-hybrid versions of the Puma use a six-speed manual gearbox for now, with a seven-speed automatic available with the 123bhp non-hybrid variant, although Ford has plans to introduce the auto transmission throughout the Puma range.

For the performance enthusiast, the Puma ST is arguably the best-handling compact SUV on sale, powered by the Fiesta ST’s 1.5-litre engine for a total of 197bhp.

 Ford Puma review - Engines, performance and drive

The Puma’s proven 1.0-litre EcoBoost units are a known quantity, but the mild-hybrid system isn’t flawless.

Ford’s reputation for fun family cars has been sealed with models like the Focus and Fiesta, while the original Puma - though short lived - is another prime example of the Blue Oval’s proficiency in chassis development.

Much the same can be said of this Puma, thanks in the main to the Fiesta chassis that sits beneath it. It links up with a solid 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine to deliver a family crossover that’s good to drive.

When we pitted the Puma up against the Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008, we hailed the Ford as being “easily the best to drive.” The driving position is fundamentally sound, and once you’re settled in, you’ll quickly see why the Puma has won plaudits.

Get on the move and the steering feels light - even if you put the Puma into the Sport mode using the drive mode selector. But, it’s well resolved for a car like this, accurate, keen to re-centre and with a great steering ratio. There’s a good level of grip too, so immediately the Puma feels like a crossover that you can flick through corners nicely. The six-speed gearbox is lovely, too, while Ford’s engineers have also done a good job with the Puma’s suspension.

Even with the sports suspension on the ST-Line model, the damping is very well set up and it has a decent level of compliance. It all comes together to mean that the Puma has brilliant composure and the ability to offer an engaging drive.

The Puma ST is based on the sublime Fiesta ST hot hatchback, which means a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine under the bonnet, making the same 197bhp and 320Nm of torque.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
All three engines are based on the same 1.0-litre engine block, but there’s quite a difference between them, owing to the Puma’s various drivetrain technologies and power outputs.

The 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine has been a really strong contender in its various applications over the last few years, and the Puma is another vehicle where this small engine shines. It may no longer be the outright best three-cylinder engine on the market and some engines - such as the TSI units used in the Volkswagen Group cars - may be more refined these days, but you shouldn’t be disappointed.

The 123bhp and 170Nm torque served up by the base model is enough for most family motoring, propelling the Puma to 62mph in 10.0 seconds and on to a top speed of 119mph.

Hybrid badge
What is a hybrid car? Mild hybrids, full hybrids and plug-in hybrids explained

Pick the mild-hybrid version and the power stays at 123bhp, but torque improves to 210Nm thanks to the small amount of electrical assistance. Top speed is still 119mph, but the 0-62mph time falls a little to 9.8 seconds. The real benefit is lower CO2 emissions from the exhaust pipe and better running costs from improved fuel economy, which we’ll come to on the next page.

The only downside to the mild-hybrid system is that to fill the small battery pack with energy, the Puma features a very minor amount of brake energy regeneration. It’s set at a constant, unchangeable level, that’s just about detectable when you lift off the throttle and feel the car slow more quickly than it otherwise would, and takes a little getting used to.

If you need more power, the 153bhp car has you covered. It also has braking recuperation that cannot be altered in strength, but it takes 8.9 seconds to reach 62mph from standstill and goes on to a top speed of 124mph.

The 197bhp ST performance model dispatches the same sprint in 6.7 seconds, with a 137mph maximum.

 Ford Puma review - MPG, CO2 and running costs

Ford uses proven 1.0-litre petrol engines for the Puma, with mild-hybrid technology helping to improve economy and emissions.

Ford’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost unit has received much praise for its versatility and ability to blend decent power with good returns from a tank of fuel. So, it’s probably no great surprise that the engine is at the core of the Puma range.

The flexible 1.0-litre powerplant comes in three guises for Puma customers. The base 123bhp version returns a maximum 46.3mpg, with 138g/km of CO2, while the same unit with 48-volt mild-hybrid assistance is able to improve on these figures a little by delivering a claimed 50.4mpg and CO2 levels of 127g/km.

The 153bhp variant produces the same economy and CO2 figures as its lower-powered sibling, while the 197bhp Puma ST still performs pretty well with 41.5mpg on the combined cycle and 155g/km of CO2.

Most economical SUVs, 4x4s and crossovers 2021
The mild-hybrid system captures kinetic energy naturally lost while driving, particularly during braking, before storing it as electricity in a small battery. This electrical energy is then used to assist the engine during acceleration, reducing the amount of petrol needed to make decent progress.

Drivers can view a display on the digital instrument panel to see exactly when the system is in action. Alongside it, cylinder deactivation means the engine can run on two cylinders where driving conditions allow, to save more fuel.

Insurance groups
Insurance premiums for the Puma range should be competitive with those of rivals. The base 123bhp Titanium model comes in at group 11, while the ST-Line Vignale cars with 153bhp occupy group 15. The 197bhp ST variant is in group 22.

Competitors such as the Renault Captur start at group 8 for an entry-level 99bhp version and move through to group 21 for a top-of-the range model with 152bhp.

Our experts predict the Ford Puma will retain a healthy 51% of its original value over 3 years and 36,000 miles, whereas the Renault Captur keeps an average of 43% over the same period.

 Ford Puma review - Interior, design and technology

The Ford Puma has a familiar cabin design and good levels of standard kit, but overall quality can’t match rivals.

Ford’s new small SUV is based on the best-selling Fiesta, which is no bad thing. Despite being one of the smaller B-segment models, the Puma has ensured it stands out from competitors with a distinctive design and impressive levels of standard equipment.

In the cabin, the dash and centre console will be familiar to those who’ve peered inside a recent Focus or Fiesta, although the visible plastics aren’t the Puma’s greatest quality. There’s far too much hard black stuff to be found, while other small SUVs are available with nicer interiors, and for similar money.

Ford offers four individual trim levels for the Puma. The entry-level Titanium is still very well equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED rear lights and daytime running lights, body-coloured exterior trim, power-folding heated mirrors, rear parking sensors and selectable drive modes.

ST-Line models include a muscular body-kit, sports suspension, a leather sports steering wheel and alloy pedals, although the ST-Line X car adds stylish 18-inch wheels, partial leather seat trim, privacy glass and carbon-effect interior accents.

The luxury Vignale version ups the luxury count with heated seats, Windsor premium leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, front parking sensors and keyless entry, while the ST car features 19-inch alloy wheels and a body styling kit.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
All Puma models come with Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system, including navigation, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. There’s also a wireless charging pad as standard. Bearing in mind the high list prices as you climb the range, the Titanium trim offers a sweet spot in terms of equipment and on-board tech.

ST-Line cars feature a 12.3-inch digital instrument display which, along with the central touchscreen, is sharp and easy to navigate. And, if you feel the need for better quality audio while on the move, the ST-Line X models add a B&O Premium stereo with 10 speakers.

 Ford Puma review - Practicality, comfort and boot space

Although smaller than most rivals, the Ford Puma remains practical for family use and offers clever storage solutions.

Ford has worked hard to ensure the compact Puma combines its athletic low stance with plenty of practicality and comfort. From the driver’s seat, the links to the Fiesta’s chassis are clear, with ability to tackle the twisty stuff with vigour as well as being a solid, quiet performer at motorway speeds.

ST-Line cars get sports suspension, and while on the firmer end of the spectrum for SUVs of this size, it’s not overly harsh. The driving position definitely feels sportier while there’s a great level of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel, a typical Ford trait.

The Puma is one of the smaller options in the supermini sized SUV class. It measures 4,207mm in length, 1,805mm wide and stands 1,537 tall. By comparison, the Peugeot 2008 and Mazda CX-3 are 93mm and 68mm longer, respectively.

Leg room, head room & passenger space
The Puma manages to maintain decent passenger space, despite its sloping roofline. Room up front is very good, while the rear bench is an acceptable size.

Passenger space in the rear is compromised when compared with a Renault Captur. Passengers in the back sit higher up, which brings your legs back towards the seat base, so although there’s enough space overall, the seating position might not be as comfortable.

A boot of 456 litres is on-par with competitors in this class, and there’s virtually no lip to get over, so awkward items shouldn’t be too tricky to load. In comparison, the Peugeot 2008 offers 434 litres of boot space and the Renault Captur 12 litres less than that, although the Captur has an ace up its sleeve in the form of a sliding rear bench seat. When the bench is pushed all the way forward it frees up a 536-litre capacity.

One area where Ford has been rather clever is in the Puma‘s adjustable boot floor with the so-called ‘Megabox’ hidden storage area beneath. This is a 68-litre plastic compartment that you can use to store muddy boots or wet clothes, for example. It also has a drain plug so you can hose it out. Plus, Ford claims that using the MegaBox allows you to stand a golf bag upright in the Puma’s boot.

 Ford Puma review - Reliability and safety

Ford has a lot riding on the success of the Puma. It’s previous effort at a small SUV, the EcoSport, was a poor one, so the brand has to get this right. Fortunately, the Puma arrives with proven engines, a chassis based on the best-selling Fiesta and interior tech already in use across other model ranges. We’d expect the Puma to be a car you can rely on, and also one that keeps the driver, passengers and other road users as safe as possible.

All models include cruise control, a lane keeping aid with departure warning, Pre-Collision Assist with Autonomous Emergency Braking, Pedestrian/Cyclist Detection and Post-Collision Braking. Other useful features include auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers and a tyre pressure monitoring system.

Those wishing to upgrade further can opt for the Driver Assistance pack (£900), which adds a blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control and a rear view camera among other features.

The Puma was tested by Euro NCAP in 2019 and achieved a full five-star rating. Adult and child protection was rated at 94% and 84%, respectively, while the car scored 77% for pedestrian safety.

Although Ford finished a disappointing 24th out of 30 manufacturers in our 2020 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, it’ll be looking towards cars like the new Puma to guide it to improved results next time.

Every new Ford car comes with a 3-year/60,000 mile warranty. There’s also the benefit of Ford Assistance for 1 year, providing roadside cover in the UK and throughout Europe.

If you plan on keeping your car for longer than three years or are a high mileage driver, you can extend the standard warranty to either 4 years/80,000 miles or 5 years/100,000 miles.

Ford offers the Ford Protect Service Plan giving you the option of scheduled services and extended Ford Assistance. It covers scheduled servicing including associated parts and labour, and vehicle hire for up to 7 days. The Ford Protect Service Plan can be purchased any time before the first service is due.


Published in Ford
Tagged under
Tuesday, 09 March 2021 06:12

Mercedes E-Class hybrid review

"The smooth and quick Mercedes E-Class plug-in hybrids combine luxury with impressive fuel efficiency”

Those who live out of town might only encounter heavy traffic during the latter stages of the daily commute to and from work. It's in these circumstances, where the roads get congested, slow and polluted, that a plug-in hybrid really makes sense, and the Mercedes E 300 e and E 300 de plug-in hybrid’s are compelling options for those who want a decent amount of pure-electric range and low running costs for the daily commute.

The E-Class hybrid range underwent a midlife facelift in 2020, getting a subtly tweaked exterior design that included a new grille and restyled LED headlights. The interior was also given a tech refresh with the latest touchscreen version of Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system.

Unlike plug-in hybrid rivals such as the BMW 530e and Volvo S90 T8 Recharge, which can only be had with a petrol engine and electric motor, the E-Class hybrid is available as a petrol or a diesel, badged ‘E 300 e’ and ‘E 300 de’ respectively.

Both versions combine their conventional internal combustion engines with a compact battery and an electric motor that's capable of propelling the car using only pure-electric power, while emitting zero CO2 emissions. Mercedes claims both cars are capable of triple-digit fuel economy figures, low CO2 emissions and over 30 miles of pure-electric range.

In fact, make frequent use of that capability and you could come close to realising Mercedes' fuel-efficiency claims, while emitting less than 50g/km of CO2 – a figure far lower than a petrol or diesel car can deliver. The former is good news for anyone who has to pay for fuel and the latter will be appreciated by company-car drivers who have the cost of Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax to worry about.

Away from what's under the bonnet, the cars conform to the usual E-Class template. That is to say you get an elegant, upmarket-looking car that continues to impress when you take a seat inside, finding yourself surrounded by high-quality materials, attractive finishes and advanced technology. A highlight of the latter is the dual-screen digital dashboard and infotainment system, as well as the smart blue mood lighting unique to the plug-in hybrid.

Every Mercedes E-Class is a smooth, quiet cruiser and the E 300 e and de are no exception. Although the four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines aren't as pleasing to the ear as a six-cylinder might be, it's certainly not obstructive and settles into the background once up to cruising speed. The ride is smooth and wind noise is minimal, so motorway cruising is relaxed.

The E-Class doesn't embarrass itself on winding roads, either – it doesn't have quite the steering precision of a BMW 5 Series or feel quite as agile when you pitch it into a fast corner, nor does it resist body lean as stoically as an Audi A6, but it's responsive, safe and well controlled, so you can take the rural route home in a hurry if you want to. There's no shortage of power, either – the E 300 e petrol engine produces 208bhp and the 121bhp electric motor provides a handy boost, for a total of 316bhp when you need it. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes less than six seconds.

The E 300 de diesel version is no slouch either, taking 5.9 seconds, and might be better suited to those who make frequent long high-speed journeys with an urban portion at either end.

Overall, the E-Class is a fantastic executive saloon that makes plenty of sense for business drivers. Its range and technology impress, as does refinement and the interior, but we'd stick with the AMG Line Edition without adding expensive Premium packs for the best value.

MPG, running costs & CO2
Business drivers stand the best chance of saving money in a Mercedes E 300 e or de

If your daily commute runs to no more than 15 miles each way, both the petrol and diesel versions of the Mercedes E-Class plug-in hybrid can get you to work and back without having to burn any fuel at all. This is courtesy of a claimed all-electric range of over 30 miles, which also helps the E 300 e to return a claimed fuel-economy figure of 176.6mpg, with the E 300 de even more efficient at up to 235.4mpg. The digital dashboard gives suggestions for economical driving, which can actually be curiously engaging to follow, gamifying the driving experience.

However, the testing procedure under which these economy figures were achieved assumes that owners can maximise the use of electric mode for a majority of their driving. If you cannot recharge the battery, or are making longer journeys where the battery becomes depleted, then you will be relying on the engine more often, which will make the official fuel consumption figures impossible to achieve.

During our test of the E 300 e, we spent the majority of our time running in pure-electric mode. One of the most impressive aspects of the car is its realistic electric range estimate, with a mile of range falling for every actual mile travelled - sadly this isn’t the case in every electrified car.

While Mercedes claims 33-35 miles of range with a fully charged battery, most drivers should be able to manage close to 20-25 miles in mixed driving, with around 30 miles possible at slower speeds in town. With the battery depleted, fuel economy is liable to fall to around 35mpg.

When compared to the petrol version, the E 300 de is a slightly different prospect that’s aimed at higher mileage drivers. While the claimed fuel economy of over 200mpg is a little fanciful, regular charging of the battery and careful use of the car’s driving modes returns around 51mpg across a mix of town and motorway driving. When running on pure-electric power, we were able to eke out around 15-20 miles, which is somewhat short of the 32-34 miles claimed by Mercedes. Once the battery was depleted, fuel economy fell to around 43mpg.

Every E-Class hybrid offers different driving modes to either hold onto battery charge (until you reach a town for instance), stay in electric mode, or use a mixture of engine and electric power. All aim to help the driver to maximise fuel economy.

The official CO2 emission figures of both cars are cast in stone regardless of your driving habits, with the E 300 e emitting 37g/km and the E 300 de just 33g/km. This means that company-car users can enjoy a low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rating, which is far lower than any pure petrol or diesel version of the E-Class; the likes of the E 200 and E 220 d sit close to the top of the BiK ratings.

The 13.5kWh battery can be charged via 7.2kWh wallbox in 1.5 hours. Opt for a three-pin plug socket and you can expect to wait around five hours for charging to complete. Unlike fully electric cars, there’s no fast-charging option.

Other running costs are unlikely to differ from the Mercedes E-Class norm, which is to say expensive servicing but reasonable parts prices and tyres that are a fairly common, sensibly priced size. You can take out a service contract to help manage the cost of routine servicing, and there's a three-year/unlimited-mileage warranty, which can be extended at extra cost.

The E-Class hybrid costs more than £40,000 to buy, incurring an additional tax surcharge of £325 a year. After this period, tax falls to the typical reduced rate for hybrids.

Engines, drive & performance
Plug-in hybrid power serves up strong performance, but doesn't bring excitement

The Mercedes E 300 e plug-in hybrid is very similar in concept to its BMW 530e hybrid rival. Both cars use a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, a battery pack and an electric motor. The Mercedes is faster, though.

With 208bhp from the petrol engine alone, 121bhp available from the electric motor and a total of 316bhp to call upon when you need it, the E 300 e can sprint from 0-62mph in 5.7 – and sprint is the operative word, with the electric motor capable of delivering all its power instantly. This makes it feel surprisingly urgent when you nudge the throttle, despite its size and weight.

However, the four-cylinder petrol engine can sound somewhat strained if you floor the throttle, with a noise that isn't as smooth or pleasing to the ear as the V6 in the Mercedes-AMG E 53; it just emits a nondescript wall of sound under full acceleration. This fades away when you take it easy, though, and is quieter than the E 220 d's diesel engine when cruising on the motorway. It's a shame, though, that such exciting acceleration doesn't come with an equally appealing soundtrack, and that the petrol engine has to work that much harder once the battery is depleted.

The E 300 e doesn't offer the last word in driving pleasure on a twisty road, either. Instead, the E-Class focuses on comfort and refinement over outright handling prowess. It feels planted and secure in corners but falls short for driver involvement when compared to a BMW 5 Series or Audi A6, even if its steering has a nicer feel.

In terms of overall refinement, the E-Class excels against its rivals and the E 300 e is no exception. It absorbs bumps and potholes with ease, especially if you add the optional air suspension. There's barely any wind noise at motorway speeds, and engine noise only becomes noticeable when overtaking or joining fast-flowing traffic.

During normal driving, the switch between petrol and electric power is barely noticeable, but is perhaps not as smooth as it could be. Once in all-electric mode at lower speeds, there's barely any noise at all, aside from a faint hint of tyre roar and the whirr of the electric motor.

With a combined 302bhp and 700Nm of torque, the diesel powered E 300 de feels as quick as its petrol power sibling, with the benchmark 0-62mph time taking 5.9 seconds. In real-world driving, it offers more shove than the E300 e thanks to the increased pulling power from the 2.0-litre diesel engine.

Switching between electric and diesel power is fairly unobtrusive, with a distant thrum letting you know the engine has started. On occasions in electric mode, the car did hesitate slightly under hard acceleration as it decided whether to fire up the diesel engine.

Much like the petrol-powered version, the E 300 de is smooth and refined on the move, with only the occasional hint of diesel clatter making its way inside the car. The additional pulling power of the diesel engine means there’s always enough power in reserve for getting up to speed or overtaking.

Again, the E 300 de cannot match the dynamics of a diesel 5 Series, but offers a greater level of refinement. It feels planted though, with plenty of grip and accurate turn in. In sharper corners, the additional weight of the diesel engine is noticeable, but the handling is good enough for most drivers.

Interior & comfort
The Mercedes E 300 e has a hi-tech look inside, without feeling cold or unwelcoming

The ability to cruise so quietly on the motorway makes it easier to enjoy the E-Class hybrid’s comfortable and well-designed interior. Both the petrol E 300 e and diesel E 300 de are identical inside, and while the Audi A6 may offer a more futuristic look and improved material quality, many will prefer the more traditional, comfortable feel of the Mercedes.

In terms of overall refinement, the E-Class excels against its rivals and the E 300 e is no exception. It absorbs bumps and potholes with ease, especially if you add the optional air suspension. There's barely any wind noise at motorway speeds, and engine noise only becomes noticeable when overtaking or joining fast-flowing traffic.

The specification of the E-Class plug-in hybrid range is the same as the standard car, with every version getting a pair of 12.3-inch displays mounted in parallel to create the illusion of a seamless display that flows from in front of the driver to the centre console. It incorporates a fully configurable digital instrument cluster that can display a rev counter or an 'efficiency' gauge that can help you eke the most range from the car’s battery.

The left-hand panel hosts the touchscreen infotainment display, which incorporates sat nav with 3D mapping, Bluetooth smartphone connection, DAB radio, and access to Mercedes' online services. These include a concierge service that can provide real-time information about parking spaces and local petrol prices.

As part of the 2020 facelift, the infotainment system has been improved and is easier to navigate. The addition of a responsive touchscreen makes it easier to operate with Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system, which is on par with the best in the class. Top versions even feature augmented reality sat nav, which overlays directions on a live video view of the road ahead. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both included, and are far more straightforward to use via the touch interface. The addition of the full-screen digital dials is a nice touch as well, adding a luxury element from the S-Class.

The facelifted E-Class boasts an all-new steering wheel, which features a number of physical buttons. This layout is slightly confusing at first but is easy to get used to.

Every version of the E-Class plug-in hybrid is well-equipped, with the entry-level AMG Line Edition (an exclusive trim for the PHEV models) getting 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, heated seats, leather-trimmed upholstery, three-zone climate control and an array of standard safety kit.

Plusher AMG Line cars get multibeam LED lights and different interior trim. Stepping up to the AMG Line Premium trim adds to the kit list further still, with a 360-degree camera, augmented reality sat nav and keyless go.

The range-topping AMG Line Night Edition Premium Plus is fitted with a panoramic sunroof and gloss black detailing. Inside you get a premium Burmester stereo system and ash wood interior trim but the additional outlay means we think the standard AMG Line car is better value.

Practicality & boot space
The Mercedes E 300 e boasts lots of space for passengers, but batteries reduce boot space
On top of its elegant, high-quality interior and generous list of standard equipment, the Mercedes E-Class has lots of space for passengers to stretch out. It's not short of luggage room, either but does feature a smaller boot than the conventional models.

The latest E-Class was designed with a longer wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels) than its predecessor, and that extra length has gone towards increasing interior space, particularly legroom. The front seats have lots of adjustment as standard, with fully electric memory seats available if you do find the perfect driving position elusive.

In the back, the E-Class nips at the heels of the more expensive Mercedes S-Class when it comes to space. The curvaceous roofline means rear headroom is the one area that could be more generous, but most will find legroom to spare, and only when there's a fifth person in the centre rear seat do passengers rub shoulders.

Interior storage is generous, too, with a large glovebox, storage area beneath the centre armrest and a wireless phone charging pad at the base of the dashboard.

The car’s battery has been fitted under the boot floor, which affects boot space. At 370 litres, the hybrid E-Class loses over 100 litres when compared to a standard petrol or diesel model.

Reliability & safety
The E-Class has strong safety credentials, but Mercedes' reputation for quality varies between owners

The Mercedes E-Class has yet to feature in our annual Driver Power owner satisfaction survey. However, taking into account all the Mercedes models that did feature, the brand finished in 28th place out of 30 manufacturers in 2020. Ending up towards the bottom of the table was an uninspiring result for a premium brand, but BMW actually finished just one place ahead of Mercedes. Both were beaten by 21st-place Audi, while Jaguar finished in a far more respectable 12th position.

Mercedes owners seemed particularly disappointed by servicing and running costs. Interior styling and build quality received more praise than handling and ride comfort, and reliability was regarded as below average, with 24% of owners reporting a fault within the first year of ownership.

The brand is often regarded as something of a pioneer when it comes to on-board safety equipment. The E-Class offers sophisticated features such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assistance, auto-dipping headlights and traffic-sign recognition, as well as active cruise control.

The plug-in hybrid E-Class shares its five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating with other models in the range – the independent organisation awarded the Mercedes a 95% score for adult protection in a crash and rated it at 90% for how children are protected.


Published in Mercedes


The Mitsubishi Outlander is very much on trend. It's an SUV, and also a plug-in hybrid – but it actually arrived slightly ahead of its time. Here we're driving the current model, which is almost identical to the previous car aside from the lightest of facelifts and a few technological tweaks aimed at keeping ahead of emissions regulations. Why mess with success? It's an established big seller in Britain, although the rest of the range hasn't been doing so well, prompting plans for Mitsubishi to leave Europe. For now, though, this Outlander is a current model, available through the familiar dealer network. The question is, in a market that's now brimming with hybrid SUVs, does the 

 How can I spot a new Mitsubishi Outlander?
With difficulty. Mitsubishi’s goals for this version clearly didn’t include major styling changes. In fact, even sat next to a 2018-spec car, it takes a few moments to spot the newer LED headlights and the lightly tweaked front grille and bumpers. The new design for the wheels is the biggest giveaway.

Inside, there’s a tweaked instrument cluster, plus new air vents and a USB port for rear passengers.

The sunroof has been relegated to the options list in an attempt to fend off the extra car tax premium buyers have to pay when pricing creeps above £40,000.

While we were impressed by the quilted leather upholstery on the seats of our test car, these are limited to the top-spec models costing north of £40k.

Still, the range starts at below £36k for the Verve, and the big-selling Dynamic version still comes in below £40k, and includes heated leather seats and a lot of safety and convenience equipment.

What’s the Mitsubishi Outlander hybrid like to drive?

It’s not that far removed from the previous generation, which we drove back-to-back with this latest verion, but in a couple of important respects improvements have been made. The first is in cabin refinement, because the current car is quieter, rides better and feels more solid than ever.

There’s been extra adhesive applied to the body-in-white (before painting) to strengthen the shell using an approach similar to that used in aircraft manufacture, and this has the effect of enhancing torsional rigidity, so the car flexes less through bumps and bends. The difference is slight, but worthwhile.

The tyres have changed from Toyo to Yokohama, there’s a quicker steering rack and the suspension has been recalibrated.

Doesn't sound like much of a big deal? But in fact the handling and body control have improved. The quicker steering is the most notable change, making this Outlander easier to thread through narrow roads. Road-noise intrusion levels have turned down a notch too.

What has been sacrificed is the ride quality, which has become a bit busy on UK roads. It’s not uncomfortable by any stretch, but it feels far less settled than before. A fair trade-off for a bit more verve? Almost.

There’s a new Sport mode that offers a bit more punch, but this feels incongruous in light of the epic bodyroll that occurs when you hit a bend too quickly. An additional Snow mode prepares the capable chassis for slippery conditions.

You still get the paddles behind the steering wheel to adjust the brake regen’s effect, making one-pedal driving a possibility, and they’re still arguably backwards: the left one turns up the deceleration, whereas the opposite seems more intuitive.

 Isn’t a new engine the biggest news here?

It would be, except it's rather a stretch to call this a new engine. Instead it’s an adaption of the old 2.0-litre petrol, with the latest Mivec (remember that badge from FTOs and Evos of yore?) variable valve timing added. The 2.4-litre engine can switch between Otto and Atkinson cycles, meaning it can make more power and torque when required (133bhp and 156lb ft up from 119bhp and 140lb ft in the 2.0) thanks to the extra CCs using the former cycle, but burn less fuel under lighter loads with the latter.

Which sounds great. And it is, except not literally. Put your foot down and you’re greeted with a monotone moan very similar to that of the old car, in that uniquely disappointing CVT fashion – lots of noise and not much acceleration. Only now, the noise is just a bit more distant than it used to be.

Funnily enough this isn’t a CVT either. It’s a fixed-gear system that drives power to the wheels, with a hydraulic clutch to modulate the electric twist provided by the twin motors. It’s built by GKN – the firm responsible for the Focus RS’s lively rear axle assembly, among many other applications.

The transmission catches up eventually and meaningful movement occurs, but it’s still no thoroughbred. The 0-62mph time has dropped 0.5 seconds to 10.5.

 This engine revision plus work on the battery – which gets 10% more power output and total capacity of 13.8kWh thanks to new cells and better management – has allowed Mitsubishi to recalculate maximum electric range, fuel economy and CO2 emissions for the more realistic WLTP testing, and the results are more impressive for that reason. We’re talking 30 miles on electric power, 141mpg and 46g/km. You’re also able to drive faster on electric power – now 84 rather than 78mph.

The trade-off is it takes an extra 30 minutes to charge the car using a 16A/3.6kW charge point – this now takes four hours.


Mitsubishi Outlander hybrid: verdict
The latest Outlander PHEV doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but then it didn’t need to. It’s more relevant now than ever before as the push for plug-ins intensifies. And looking beyond the powertrain, the Outlander remains a decent if unexciting all-round package.

Published in Mitsubishi

We begin a 40,000-mile shakedown of Honda's first electrified crossover to see if the powertrain scales up into the brand's bestselling vehicle.


We invited a 2021 Honda CR-V to join our long-term fleet so we could spend some quality time (and 40,000 miles) with Honda's bestseller and the fifth-bestselling vehicle in the United States. We chose the hybrid because it's new to the lineup and because we liked the 212-hp fuel-sipping powertrain in the Accord. In the CR-V, the system boosts fuel economy and performance, making it the choice for buyers who want efficiency and power. Those customers will have to shell out for it, though, given the CR-V Hybrid sits at the top of the range. In addition to shaking down the powertrain and seeing if it can deliver the promised fuel economy, we're hoping this compact crossover—the brand's first with hybrid power to make it to the U.S.—will give us a glimpse at the future of Honda, which will soon phase out gas-only powertrains in Europe.

We ordered a top-of-the-line Touring model loaded with just about everything: leather seats (heated up front), navigation, wireless phone charging, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, a nine-speaker audio system, a liftgate that opens when you wave your foot under the bumper, proximity key entry, remote start, the Honda Sensing suite of driver-assistance features, and more. Our $37,920 example has but one option: white paint for $395. Perhaps it's because all of southeast Michigan is currently covered in two feet of snow or because half the vehicles in the grocery-store parking lot are also painted in America's favorite automotive hue (and shaped like tall boxes), but the CR-V blends in a little too well with its surroundings. We wouldn't call the color choice regrettable but maybe a bit forgettable.

Inside, Honda's inoffensive design, easy-to-use 7.0-inch touchscreen, and highly adjustable center console should satisfy most shoppers in this class if not the nit-pickiest staffers on our masthead. Hybrid versions differ from regular CR-Vs in a few subtle ways. A unitless battery gauge replaces the tachometer in the digital instrument cluster and tells you vaguely how much juice you're using at any given moment. Honda also opted for a push-button transmission instead of the chunky gear lever used in the core model. Staff reaction to push-button shifters is mixed, but the setup at least makes for a tidy, unobtrusive center console. In the same way a light color creates the illusion that a room is larger than it is, the Ivory surfaces in our CR-V make the cabin appear adequately spacious, which, granted, it is, offering 103 cubic feet of passenger volume. Provided that light-beige leather can withstand the dye in our Levis, the simplicity of this interior all but ensures it will age well.

A couple of hybrid caveats to note: Choosing this powertrain nullifies the nonhybrid CR-V's 1500-pound tow rating, so technical editor David Beard will have to look elsewhere when he wants to tow his snowmobile. Which is just as well, considering the cargo hold probably wouldn't fit all of his gear. The gas-electric CR-V sacrifices six cubic feet of cargo space (and its spare tire) to the battery. The upside is that, compared with a regular all-wheel-drive CR-V, you gain 9 mpg in combined driving by the EPA's yardstick. That said, if you drive like we do, you can expect much worse results: We're currently averaging a mere 27 mpg.

The Honda's road manners are in line with the amiable-but-boring norm of the segment. Its smooth ride and secure handling are immediately apparent, but there's nothing here that'll make an enthusiast grin—unless of course you're reading its VIN, which by dumb luck contains a bit of bathroom humor. Floor the accelerator and the powertrain fills the cabin with 75 decibels of sound. That's quieter than the regular CR-V's 78-decibel moan at full throttle.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we haven't had as many butts in these seats as we'd like, but after soft-shoeing it through the break-in period, we sent the Honda to the test track. The hybrid's drive motor can contribute 232 pound-feet of torque from the get-go, which helps this ute reach 60 mph a tenth of a second quicker than the unelectrified model, but the latter catches up by 70 mph and pips the hybrid at the quarter-mile, 15.9 seconds to 16.1. Our long-termer also lagged behind the regular CR-V in braking (170 feet versus 165) and roadholding (0.80 g versus 0.85). Given both cars wear identical Continental CrossContact LX Sport tires, we suspect the hybrid's extra 190 pounds are primarily to blame. Fortunately, in the real world, this CR-V seems more athletic than the gas-only version, and its quicker 5-to-60-mph time bears that out. As we put more miles on the odometer, we hope to see some of these numbers improve—particularly the observed fuel economy.

Months in Fleet: 2 months Current Mileage: 5131 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 27 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 14.0 gal Observed Fuel Range: 370 miles
Service: $0 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0


Published in Honda
Tagged under
Saturday, 27 February 2021 06:48

New Skoda Octavia e-TEC 2021 review

The mild-hybrid Skoda Octavia e-TEC offers a cheaper way to electrification

The Octavia e-TEC is a fine first effort at mild-hybrid propulsion from Skoda. It drives smoothly, while the ride, refinement and practicality make a strong supporting case to the impressive efficiency on offer given the price. In SE Tech trim the Octavia Estate e-TEC is a versatile and affordable choice for those looking to explore what electrification can offer.

If you’re dead against diesel and still find the price of a plug-in hybrid hard to swallow, then mild-hybrid tech can be a more affordable way into an impressively efficient model – and the Skoda Octavia 1.0 TSI e-TEC proves this fact resolutely.

The e-TEC tag highlights that the Octavia, tested here in Estate form, is powered by a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with a belt-driven starter-generator as part of the car’s 48-volt electrical system.

It charges a small 0.6kWh lithium-ion battery when slowing down or lifting off the throttle, allowing engine-off coasting, which it’s surprisingly keen to do. It can also provide a boost of torque (up to 50Nm) to help performance when pulling away.

You simply don’t notice it working though, such is the system’s impressive calibration. Given that this is Skoda’s first mild-hybrid model, it’s a great effort. Total output is 108bhp and 200Nm of torque, enough for a 0-62mph time of 10.6 seconds. But that’s not important. It never feels quick, but it also never feels slow or particularly underpowered, despite the Estate’s weight.

Performance is adequate because the combustion engine’s torque is delivered low down, helped by the turbo’s variable-vane geometry, plus the small electric boost.

Refinement is excellent because the three-cylinder unit is so quiet under light loads when cruising that you rarely notice the engine cutting out. The needle on the digital rev counter falling to zero is the main hint.

Touch the throttle and the petrol engine fires back up quickly and smoothly (a benefit of the mild-hybrid technology and its starter-generator system), while the DSG dual-clutch gearbox handles changes with similar finesse, even if it is a little jerkier at low speed, losing some drivability compared with the best automatics.

The beauty of this set-up is claimed efficiency of 54.3mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 118g/km, yet in fleet-focused SE Technology trim the newcomer costs from just £24,505 – that’s £7,680 less than an Octavia Estate iV plug-in hybrid in the same specification.

You get the same level of equipment, but due to the need to package the iV’s bigger battery there’s 150 litres more room in the e-TEC’s boot (its battery is located under the front passenger seat), at a total of 640 litres. This has long been an Octavia Estate strong point, and it’s no different here, with a simply cavernous load bay that opens out to 1,700 litres, while a pair of levers in the boot means you can flip the seat backs down at the touch of a button.

SE Technology is a solid blend of kit and cost, with LED headlights, Skoda’s Front Assist system with collision warning and autonomous braking, a 10-inch touchscreen infotainment set-up with sat-nav, Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay, a 10.25-inch digital dash panel, all-round parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, and 16-inch alloy wheels all fitted as standard.

Those rims help deliver a nice level of comfort and the Estate rides with composure but plenty of compliance. Combined with the quiet powertrain, it’s a very refined car.

It’s a bit bland and boring inside, despite the new fourth-generation Octavia’s smarter cabin design, while the lack of personality isn’t helped by our car’s metallic grey paint, but then this is a pragmatic choice and it fulfils that brief completely.

Remember that while it’s more affordable, despite the ‘hybrid’ tag associated with the e-TEC name, as a mild-hybrid it can’t run solely on electric power; its battery isn’t big enough for that and the belt starter-generator isn’t strong enough to support it. It means that if you’re after a heavily electrified model to lower your running costs (especially if you mostly travel short distances that could be covered on electricity alone) then the Octavia iV will be a better choice, with fuel efficiency claims of up to 282.5mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 23g/km.

As with any PHEV, take these figures with a pinch of salt, because if you don’t plug in at every opportunity when the battery is depleted, you’ll be carrying around that extra weight but not reaping the benefit.

If as a result your circumstances still don’t work with a plug-in though, this mild-hybrid model is yet another great Skoda.

Model: Skoda Octavia Estate 1.0 TSI e-TEC DSG SE Technology
Price: £24,505
Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl mild-hybrid petrol
Power/torque: 108bhp/200Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive 
0-62mph: 10.6 seconds
Top speed: 124mph
Economy/CO2: 54.3mpg/118g/km
On sale Now


Published in Skoda
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