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What with the Volkswagen emissions saga, the government championing ultra-low emissions vehicles (ULEVs) and the arrival of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, more and more private and business drivers are left scratching their heads over which fuel to go for. What’s more, people lease or rent all kinds of things these days, from music and films to mobile phones and of course, cars. I’ve been brushing up on company cars, efficiency developments and the pros and cons of leasing, whilst pondering on whether plugin hybrids really make sense.
Residual values of Volkswagen cars may be affected a tiny bit in the short term, but VW owners seem to be a fairly loyal bunch, and cars like the Golf GTD, GTI and R, the Passat, Toureg and Scirocco are prestigious and desirable, so the brand will regain ground. Contract hire/leasing cars aren’t affected by depreciation, making the VW situation less relevant for such motorists.
Which fuel is best mainly seems to boil down to the annual mileage involved. If a car or van will be munching hundreds of miles per week, upto around 18,000 miles or more per year, diesel is still the best fuel to choose. Although cars and vans hardly ever achieve the MPG figures quoted by manufacturers, fuel consumption from diesel engines is typically far better than petrol when it comes to high-mileage use. Some wonderfully economical three-cylinder petrol engines have recently come on the market, but they best suit motorists whose commutes are no more than around 40-50 miles per day. If you live 20-25 miles or less from your office, it might make sense to lease a petrol variant of the model you’ve set your heart on, as forecourt fill-ups, road tax and monthly car leasing rental payments can sometimes work out cheaper.
I’ve learned that diesel vehicles are often dictated to business fleets because of their attractive Business in Kind (BIK) rates resulting from their typically lower CO2 emissions, and it’s clearly not always about the P11D book value. The P11D value of a petrol BMW 320i SE Auto, for example, is lower at £28,675 than a diesel BMW 320d ED Plus Auto, which weighs in at £32,035. However, because the petrol 3 Series emits 129g/km CO2 compared to the 99g/km of CO2 the diesel model produces, it ends up with a 3% higher BIK rate, meaning that many businesses’ accountants won’t recommend one. Contracthireacar.com of Manchester says 85% of its customers still choose diesel.
What about plugin hybrids (PHEVs)? The V60 D6 PHEV from Volvo sounds great on paper, its diesel-electric powertrain only emitting 48g/km of CO2. In the real-world, though, its electric range only provides around 15 miles and the batteries make it heavier and therefore less economical than the D4 and D5 diesel versions. So the fact it costs close to £50,000 and doesn’t tend to meet the quoted MPG figures means it’s a bit of an odd one.
Fully electric cars range from the more affordable Nissan LEAF and Renault ZOE, which have ranges of about 60-70 miles in the real world, to the £55-80k Tesla Model S, which looks awesome and can cover 265 miles on a full charge. Where I live down south, quite a few Tesla supercharges are within reach, but for my mates up north, only a few exist at the moment, making recharging a hassle.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) promise real life ranges of around 400 miles, making them much more useable, but the Mirai from Toyota isn’t cheap at around £60,000 and if anyone decided to ‘early adopt’ one of them or a Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell, they’d currently be hard pushed to find hydrogen fuel stations.
Petrol and especially diesel will continue to sell the most, for several years at least, partly because the government will soon be reducing the plugin car grant. But with increasing publicity over the polluting effects of diesel NOx on air pollution and for asthma sufferers, it’s going to be interesting to see how things shape up.
Images used by permission from Oliver Hammond
Sometimes I come across some really terrible copy writing; so bad it makes me wince. I am certainly not attacking the people who do their best to write content for their own motoring sites and online shops. No, I am attacking the people that charge small businesses for bad content. Not everyone can write, that is fine, that is also just life. But everyone has the choice in life to be honest and selling themselves as a copy writer, then charging good people money for thier “skills” is essentially theft.
The rise of the internet and search engines has meant many businesses are desperately trying to keep up. Prior to the internet you could run a shop as you saw fit and people responded buy being customers or not. Now many businesses struggle to keep up with online marketing and the amount of content Google likes to see in order for them to rank well. This has lead to hundreds of poor quality SEO and content agencies preying on the innocent business owners under the premise they will improve their rankings.
I am not saying employ me as your motoring copywriter…that is up to you. However, please please check and double check the quality of peoples’ work before you pay them. If you ask for a test piece can often be misleading as it can be written by anyone. You need to ask for live online examples of their work for other companies. If you don’t feel your written English skills are up to proof reading their work, find a friend who can, everyone knows at least one wordy geek like me.
Poor content on your website can lead to you site being penalised by Google, the same can happen if you don’t have enough. So go out and find good people to work with and simply do not tolerate second rate writing. Hopefully if everyone stops paying them they might go away!
When you work in the motoring industry and especially when you are a motoring journalist you get constantly bombarded by technology and upgrades. It could be a spec list for a brand new range rover, or it could be the latest Demon Tweeks catalog it doesn’t really matter. The up shot is; there is an almost unlimited range of things you can spend money on to make your car better. I drive a Subaru Impreza and the money people spend on modifications in the owners club is mind boggling. What a great deal of people fail to count when they are thinking about spending money on their car is the humble tyre. People in the performance world understand the value of rubber but that is not a common position, and it should be.
With no exaggeration at all, the tyres on your car are the most important safety system you have. No matter how nice or how fast your car is, a poor quality or worn out set of tyres renders the car largely unsafe. For most road users this fact is not something they have even considered and they really should.
To understand how important good tyres are you first need to appreciate the wonder of the contact patch. This is the amount of tyre that actually touches the road surface at any one time. For most cars this contact patch is about the size of a post card per wheel. So the only thing keeping most cars on the road is a piece of rubber that adds up to about the size of an A4 sheet of paper. Now consider the forces involved in taking a corner at 60 mph… now do that in the wet! Scary isn’t it? It gets worse, just take a moment to think of the last time you braked hard at 70 mph, hopefully have never had too but you will have had to brake hard at some point. The forces involved are immense and very uncomfortable, and the only thing holding it all together is our friend the contact patch.
It is critical to choose good tyres, and it is critical to change them when they wear out. People running on bald tyres are a danger to themselves and others and most don’t even know it. Buying tyres to many people is a pain, it should be a pleasure. It should be like buying new shoes, something to be looked forward too…well OK maybe that’s just me but it should be done whether people like it or not.
My father was a mechanic for nearly 60 years and his advice was simple, when buying tyres go for one or two levels above the cheapest. No need to buy to super expensive ones for normal road use but try and find a few extra pounds to get yourself a mid range tyre. Websites like www.point-s.co.uk are perfect for tyre shopping. You get a chance to read reviews, check prices and then order them to your local fitter. You don’t need to go into a garage and just buy whatever they tell you too. These kind of sites let you take control, and get a good deal.
Be safe, treat the humble tyre with the respect it deserves and you can enjoy driving in all sorts of conditions. Good tyres also help on those corners too if you like to have a spirited drive every now and again!
Well, it has been as interesting few weeks at Holder Towers. Not only did I have the brutal Jaguar XFR-S on test for a week but I also headed up to Northampton for round 3 of the DMAX karting championship.
The Jag was a triumph, it almost, and I do really mean almost, made it into the top slot of all time favorite test drives. The Maserati GT Sport still holds that crown though, I will explain why in another post perhaps. The big can was just sublime, the power plant was more like a power station, the power delivery was relentless thanks to the super charger…why do we bother with turbos when we can have power from the off?! But it was the fact the sportbrake was a legitimate family car that really made it so amazing. Yes it handled well, yes it puled like a train and sounded like hell on earth but the inner chuckles I felt when I managed to get the wife, 2 kids and a dog in with all their stuff in were joyous.
The karting didn’t go so well and you can read all about my misery on motor-heads.co.uk !
British motoring journalists like me are all starting to smile again now too, the weather is getting better, the rain may well not be so consistent and it means we can get out for some country road test drives on dry tarmac, brilliant!
As a UK motoring journalist there are a number of things that make writing about cars in this country unique. The first is the roads, I was driving along last week in a 550 BHP Jag XFS-R and realised I had not actually got my foot to the floor properly. Yes I had pushed the car, I was testing it, I had to, but the country roads just don’t allow you to really open up a car like that. If I lived in some US backwater I am sure I could find a big empty highway to thrash the living daylights out of it, but in Sussex? in the UK? not really. I am lucky enough to live in a rural part of Sussex and as such we have some stunning driving roads, great views, turns and dips, but no BIG straights. Of course, this doesn’t matter, I have said many times, the tougher the road the better the test. If a car still handles, performs and does what it is meant to on challenging roads then it’s a good car. If it only goes well on an airfield then it is a different kind of car, its a track car!
The other thing we have to deal with is speed limits, 70 mph really isn’t very much, stopping distances are based on cars that are 50 years old and so the speed limit it rather redundant too. Don’t get me wrong UK speed limits in towns are perfect, 30 mph is spot on, but some the motorway limits are not. Lets look at Germany…they seem to be going on OK with no limit at all!
What else does the UK offer a motoring journalist? High petrol prices; it’s not really a problem but it does make testing a big V8 over the course of a week rather expensive, and we don’t get paid much!
None of this is really meant as a moan, it is more just a few things I was thinking about while driving around. I am a UK motoring journalist and I am very proud to be so, but it might be fun to be one in the states for a week or two perhaps?
We do however, have such beautiful places to drive, I am not sure I would want to be land locked and never have the pleasure of a coastal road, or be somewhere flat and not enjoy romping a torquey lump up a steep hill. I won’t be moving just yet.
As someone who is not only a motoring journalist but also a content writer you might expect I spend more time writing than talking. You would be wrong, sadly I am one of those people that simply wont shut up, it’s mainly down to the simple fact that I am enthusiastic about most things and this means I love banging on about anything and everything. Even at school, every single report I ever had said “talks too much”..well who cares, I like communicating and it hasn’t done me any harm, I don’t think.
Last week all this chatter finally came into it’s own when I was invited to talk on the Danny Pike show on BBC Radio Sussex and Surrey about my feelings on driverless cars. My feelings on the subject are mixed, as is the subject. It really isn’t a simple yes or no situation, the technology is at such an early stage we simply cant tell what form it will end up taking. Of course, small automated taxis for the city centre are not a bad idea at all, until they go a bit wrong of course. But at the speeds being suggested I don’t think it will be too much of an issue. My concern comes when we talk about motorways, or even A and B roads! That is a long long way in the future and, as such, should not really be speculated about. The other point that is no minor issue for me is that I get car sick when I am not driving. Yes, I know that is hilarious, but it is a fact, I think that’s why I love driving so much and developed such a passion for motoring.
So unless driverless cars come with a sick bag I am not going to be getting involved for as long as I am able to drive myself, but that doesn’t mean others wont benefit. In terms of talking on the radio, I loved it, I did very well by all accounts and have been asked to be available for future appearances…keep your ears out!
Its not long now until my first season of DMAX Karting begins with the Daytona Motorsport group. I am super excited but also very unsure of quite how badly I might be beaten! Some of the people in my “light” category are likely to be very good indeed, so watch this space to see how I do!
I will be writing up each race for www.motor-heads.co.uk so tune in to watch my highs and lows and eventual defeat!
I am actually really excited, to be part of a race season involving points and weigh ins etc is going to be fantastic…I can just about pretend I am a racing driver! I have also been training for this so if nothing else I am fitter than I was last year and hopefully a bit lighter too!
As you might imagine, I get asked to help people buy a second hand car quite a lot. I love doing it, I find the world of used car buying one of almost limitless choice. Its so much more fun than buying a new car, but people do fail to grasp some of the basics.
One of the biggest things people don’t get is this, If you cant afford a new BMW, why do you think you can afford to run a second hand one? I use Beemer as a example, but it stands for any high end car. Just because it was once a reliable and luxury car does not mean it will still be as good when it has done 140,000 miles. Thanks about it…someone sold that car because it had done too many miles, and they could afford to run it and buy it new! You cant, but still you take it on hoping you can have a slice of luxury for none of the price.
There are lots more ramblings on this topic in my head but this one makes for a simple point. Only look at cars you could see yourself buying new at some stage, the cost of the parts and servicing etc often sit at the same level as the original cost. They don’t get cheaper to run…
I love winter, I even like challenging driving conditions so as the season changes I always get excited. However, I always forget the spectre of de-icing the car in the morning, it drives me mad. My wife insists on throwing boiling water over the windscreen of her car every morning which leads to me wincing and waiting for a bang and a visit from autoglass. I tend to be a “scraper” and rarely have gloves on so I get freezing cold hands and a long face!
Then once you are in the car its still freezing until the engine warms up, thank god I don’t really like diesels as they take an age to warm up, but still, the 5 minutes or so before I start to be able to see the road and feel my hands is always too long.
Such is life I suppose, until I can afford a car with a heated steering wheel!
I am really pleased to announce I am know a regular contributor for www.motor-heads.co.uk It’s a great website that is gaining some serious recognition, I hope to add to the already great content being written over the coming months.
My first post is one I put together in the light of being asked to join the Daytona Motorsport DMAX championships next year. This is my first competitive UK karting and certainly my first karting involving weight categories. I am really looking forward to entering and meeting all the other racers, but I wont lie, it’s going to be tough and I may well come last every month!
Keep an eye on motor heads for lots of great content and from Feb…my tales of woe from the back of the grid.