This month we have big and bigger, small and smaller, cuddly and stonkingly good value motors, all proficiently assessed by our motoring expert, Paul Horrell
In the aftermath of the acute effects brought about by the pandemic, you might expect new cars to be readily available. They’re not.
It’s because all cars contain dozens of microprocessor chips – and these are still in short supply. When sales and production slowed to a snail’s pace last year, the car manufacturers cut their orders to chip factories. That was a standard industry prac-tice: they keep the inventory low to cut standing costs. Then, when production geared up again, they re-ordered – but, in the meantime, the chipmakers found other customers. Manufacturers of phones and games consoles, and cryptominers, were willing to pay more so they went to the front of the queue. Storms at Texan semi-conductor factories and a fire at another in Japan didn’t help.
The situation looks like it will drag on for a while yet, and as a result, prices of good used cars have spiked. That’s great news should you be in the market to trade your car in for a new one. Not so good for everyone else...
1. Electric Crossover: Skoda Enyaq IV
Here’s a roomy family crossover with decent performance, a great sense of construc-tion quality, good safety, excellent trim materials, comfortable suspension and hushed refinement. So a price in the low thirties appears very decent value. Oh, and did I mention it’s electric? Anyone who says battery cars are dearer than diesel needs to get up to speed. And that’s before you take into account the low running costs. True, this base-spec isn’t the biggest-battery version of the Enyaq, but it’ll still do a real-world 230 miles, or one charge every 10 days at average UK mileage. Its corner-ing is smooth and the steering accurate, if not engaging. That, and the well-controlled and plush suspension, combine to relax you into the smooth driving style that’ll get the best range from the battery.
SPEC 60 NAV LODGE
Price £31,585 after grant
Engine electric motor, RWD, single-speed
Power & torque 179hp, 310Nm
0–62mph 8.7 seconds
Top speed 99mph
Range 256 miles
2. Seven-seater: Toyota Highlander
At nearly five metres stem to stern, the Highlander looks a big ship. And there’s lots of space on board. It fits seven of you in three rows, albeit the rearmost two seats don’t have the headroom for a full-grown able seaman. Cadets only. But from the captain’s chair it avoids feeling too much of a barge. The controls are light and in bends it heels over comparatively moderately. It’s propelled by a hybrid system (no plug required), which is smooth and quiet most of the time, although a bit wheezy when you go full ahead. Best ease off and let the supple suspension absorb most of the choppiness. Do that and it’s properly economical, yet still provides both 4WD traction and the ability to tug up to two tonnes.
SPEC EXCEL PREMIUM
Engine 2487cc 4cyl petrol hybrid, 4WD, CVT
Power & torque 248hp, N/A Nm
0–62mph 8.3 seconds
Top speed 111mph
Fuel economy 39.7mpg
3. Small crossover: Hyundai Bayon
People like to think they buy small crossovers because they’re more roomy than the superminis they’re adapted from. In fact, they do it for reasons of style. And the Bayon plays to that. Hyundai pushed the envelope on exterior design, with a vexa-tious facial expression, faceted sides and glossy rear. Inspiration rather ran out when it came to the interior, which is pretty much the same as the regular i20 supermini. Still, that means it’s easy to operate and free of quirks. Driver assistance and screen-based connectivity are intuitive to use. It drives with the cheery agility of a supermini. The engine is small but doesn’t have too much trouble, and has some clever fuel-saving tricks, although these sometimes make the pedals feel unnatural. You get used to it.
SPEC ULTIMATE 120PS
Engine 998cc petrol turbo, FWD, six-speed manual
Power & torque 120hp, 172Nm
0–62mph 10.4 seconds
Top speed 115mph
Fuel economy 53.3mpg
4. Electric estate: MG 5 Long Range
Most EVs are fashionable crossovers. But an estate has an advantage: in presenting a lower frontage to the air it’s driving through, it should be more energyefficient. The MG is also spectacular value for an EV that can do 250 miles in the WLTP range test, or a real 220 miles for most drivers. Nothing else at this price can match that. Now I’m not going to pretend it’s the last word in style, inside or out. The driving experi-ence is safe but not entertaining, although acceleration is lively. But the boot space is more than decent and the MG 5 has plenty of on-board electronics to assist the driver, improve safety, navigate and entertain. It’s also quiet and smooth riding and can accept recharging at 100kW. Like the range, the warranty is satisfyingly long: seven years.
Price £28,995 after grant
Engine Electric motor, FWD, single-speed
Power & torque 156hp, 260Nm
0–62mph 7.3 seconds
Top speed 115mph
Range 250 miles
5. Sports estate: Cupra Leon 4Drive Estate
An estate only a little bigger than the MG, but with an entirely different mien, Cupra is Seat’s sporty sub-brand, and here it means an acceleration time that’d beat the Ferraris of my youth. Some of that ability against the clock comes from a turbo en-gine, some from a quick-shifting DSG transmission, and some from the huge trac-tion of four-wheel drive. The steering is pin-accurate and brakes stout. Standard-fit adaptive dampers let you choose between brutal firmness for when you’ve a clear twisty road, and acceptable comfort when your pants aren’t ablaze. It’s furnished with flair and practical, with 610 litres of seats-up boot. Only downside is the obtuse touchscreen electronics and climate controls, but that’s a common VW Group irk.
Engine 1994cc 4cyl petrol, 4WD, 7-speed auto
Power & torque 310hp, 400Nm
0–62mph 4.9 seconds
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy 32.8mpg
6. Small crossover: Citroën C3 Aircross
It notionally competes with the Bayon, but this Citroën’s approach is very different. The exterior is just as distinctive but in a cuddlier way, although the new facelift has blinged it up. Inside, it’s all about versatility. The back seat slides, the front passen-ger backrest drops forward too, opening up a 2.4 metre space should you need to ingest a surfboard. Smaller storage boxes are handy for the bric-a-brac we all collect in our cars. It has cheery colour options, too. The whole set-up is tuned for comfort and a laid-back driving approach. The seats sigh softy under your body, and the suspension casually swallows most bumps. Decent ground clearance and soft sus-pension, plus an optional reprogrammed traction control, make it surprisingly plucky off road.
SPEC SHINE PLUS 130 AUTO
Engine 1199cc turbo 3cyl, FWD, six-speed auto
Power & torque 130hp, 230Nm
0–62mph 9.2 seconds
Top speed 99mph
Fuel economy 44.8mpg
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