Kia launches Stonic crossover

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The compact and subcompact crossover segments have become increasingly popular in recent years, as people search for something that drives more like a car but adds the ride height or all-wheel capabilities of an SUV without taking up too much space on the road. Take the Nissan Qashqai, which isn’t terribly pleasing on the eye but which has a presence on virtually every road in Ireland these days.

Given that around 1.1 million of new European car sales are in the subcompact segment (think Dacia Duster or Renault Captur), Kia has decided that now is the time to jump into this lucrative market with its all-new Stonic.

Though it’s based on the Kia Rio hatchback the Stonic looks like it has taken some inspiration from Peugeot and Citroen. Launched as a direct competitor to the Nissan Juke and due on sale in the autumn, consumers will have a choice from a range of lightweight and turbocharged diesel and petrol engines paired with a manual 2WD or 4WD transmission, beginning with the 1.0L T-GDI producing 118hp.

Based on what Kia is promising so far, the Stonic sounds like a tasty package. Alongside steering and suspension tuned to European standards, a lightweight platform and bodyshell, and smart use of interior space (including a 353L boot), buyers will be able to customise their new wheels to their liking, with the option of a two-tone paint finish offering a stamp of individuality. Electronic Stability Control and Vehicle Stability Management will come as standard, while safety will be boosted by options such as autonomous braking with pedestrian recognition, forward collision alerts, blind spot detection and a driver attention warning system to name but a few – there’s really very little left for the driver to do.

The name comes from a dubious combination of ‘speedy’ and ‘tonic’, though customers are likely to be more attracted by Kia’s seven-year, 100,000 mile warranty. Slotting in beneath the Sportage in Kia’s line-up, it’s nice to have some options in the market, but there’s almost too much choice these days, not to mention confusion over the increasing amount of labels. Gone are the days when you had a choice between a car, jeep or a van – you need your dictionary, or perhaps a thesaurus, when you visit a dealership today.

However, Kia is quite hopeful about the Stonic’s prospects, to the point they think this particular branch could overtake larger competitors like the Qashqai or even the Sportage in the years ahead.

Your move, Nissan.


Eight great Phantoms

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When he retired from active service in 1958 as the Deputy Supreme Commander of NATO in Europe, Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery had a long and distinguished career under his belt. Having fought in the First World War and held several command posts in the interwar years, he commanded the British Eight Army during World War II, leading that field army during the Western Desert Campaign in North Africa against the highly decorated Desert Fox, Erwin Rommel, subsequently overseeing the Eight Army’s campaigns during the Allied invasions of Sicily and Italy, and eventually taking command of all Allied ground forces until after the Battle of Normandy.

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Skoda students in their Element

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Students from the Skoda Academy have once more put their heads together and devised a brand new Skoda car, showcasing the skills they’ve learned through their training.

The result is the rather nifty-looking Skoda Element, a once-off electric buggy based on the Citigo city car, capable of tackling ordinary road and beach terrain, and featuring a few unusual additions such as a solar panel, smart TV, a cool box and a mobile disco. Bedecked in pearlescent yellow (presumably a safety feature), there’s a conspicuous lack of doors – you simply clamber over the decorated side sills and slide into the comfortable bucket seats.

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Cross Country with the Volvo V90

Earlier this year I spent a week behind the wheel of the Volvo S90, the first Volvo I’ve been in since the family 340, a 1991-badge hatchback that was better known for its safety than performance. An immediate contender in the executive market, the S90 is a fabulous car – powerful yet sleek on the outside, very comfortable on the inside, filled with gadgets and quite fun to drive.

The V90 (and its Cross Country version) is essentially an S90 with a squared rear end, albeit with a few tweaks here and there. It’s not quite as good looking, in my opinion, though both share sleek lines, a forward stance and that aggressive Volvo prow – there’s no mistaking it for anything else on the road. Having said that, the V90 Cross Country is one of the most stylish estates on the market today, in a segment perhaps more known for practicality than looks. Straddling the line between estate and SUV, it’s been raised 60mm compared to the ordinary V90 (offering a more composed ride), but doesn’t look any bit awkward on the road.

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Pristine T2 goes under the hammer

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Volkswagen’s T2 camper is an iconic model with universal appeal. No matter where you go on the planet you’re likely to encounter one in various states of repair, whether in need of a little attention or restored to its former glory.

The 1967 T2 that has until recently remained in storage at luxury car storage company Windrush’s facility in the Cotswolds is one of the latter. Its transformation began in 2008 when its current owner Steve Quinn acquired the T1 without rust or an engine. An extensive makeover included the addition of a 2.0L engine producing 100hp, new seating, wood panelling and exterior chrome, a paintwork restoration not to mention a few mod cons such as an Alpine surround sound system, a DVD player and an internet connection.

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Honda takes on the Nürburgring

Quick: what’s the current fastest front-wheel drive car around the Nürburgring?

If you’ve been keeping up with your motoring news, you’ll know that Honda’s latest Civic Type R has smashed that particular record. Following its recent unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show, a pre-production model lapped the famous German circuit in a time of 7 minutes 43.8 seconds (7 seconds faster than the previous Type R), knocking Volkswagen’s GTI Clubsport off its perch.

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Sutton’s mad Mustang

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There are two types of people in this world. The kind that get behind the wheel of a 5.0L V8 Ford Mustang and simply enjoy tearing around with 410bhp on tap, and the type who sit there and think ‘this is a little underpowered’.

Clive Sutton falls firmly into that latter category. The Sutton CS800 Mustang has been unveiled at the 2017 Top Marques show in Monaco, and to be fair it sounds very tasty. Based on the new Mustang V8, the CS800 has been fitted with a high performance supercharger that boosts the power output to a cool 800hp, alongside a new exhaust system, an upgraded intercooler, new injectors and a new throttle body.

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