We were always fans of the old Volvo XC60. That's not surprising when you consider it consistently found itself at the top of the premium SUV best sellers list. In fact, Volvo sold more XC60s in its last year of production than they had in any other year. Clearly, this new XC60 is a car Volvo can't afford to get wrong. So let me start by letting you in on a secret: they haven't.
So now, we’ve come full circle. After reinventing every model in the Mazda range under the guise of the company’s Kodo and Jinba Ittai malarkey, it’s now the turn of the one that started it all, the CX-5, to enjoy a comprehensive going-over. And to best explain it all, I’d like to start by talking about cargo covers. Ok, I know that sounds about as exciting as watching water evaporate, but bear with me...
While most people probably think of pickups as a fairly simple creation, these days buyers expect something more from their working vehicles: like all-day comfort, for one. That makes designing the modern pick-up a rather more delicate balancing act than it used to be, one that some manufacturers seem to struggle with, with more than one recently-launched pickup arriving onto the market while, shall we say, significantly under-engined. Thankfully, there is an answer in the form of the Ford Ranger, and with the option of a 3.2-litre five-cylinder it’s currently the most powerful pickup on the market.
So, let’s recap. Starting in 2010, Alfa Romeo binned most of its product line-up, leaving just the MiTo and Giulietta to carry the brand’s somewhat wilting flag. When Alfa dragged the 159 behind the garages to put it out of their misery, they attempted to console us all with promises of a soon-to-arrive new model to replace it – the Giulia. That makes this a car we’ve been waiting six years for. So it had better be good to make up for all that self-flagellation.
Never, while behind the wheel of an Isuzu D-Max, have I found myself thinking "this is a great truck, but what it really needs is a smaller engine." In 2.5-litre twin-turbo form, we've praised the D-Max for its no-nonsense utilitarian appeal, and in Arctic Trucks AT35 guise, it's proved itself practically unstoppable. So when Isuzu revealed the 2017 model would be powered by a new 1.9-litre engine, I have to say I had my doubts.
So busy are we buying hatchbacks and crossovers that the concept of having four doors and a boot feels like something that died with the Ford Cortina. But that didn't stop the Mercedes C-Class bursting into the top 10 sellers list this year to rub shoulders with the Ford Focus. And if all saloons were like the Volvo S90, we’d probably buy a lot more of them.
Jacked-up estate cars can sometimes end up feeling like the poor relation; a last-ditch attempt to mop up a few niche sales with the promise of a suspension lift and some plastic cladding. However, it's a recipe Volvo have been perfecting since they created the V70 XC back in 1997. And, having spent a week a with it, I humbly submit that this latest Cross Country model, far from being the runt of the V90 range, is actually the pick of the bunch...
Most of us think of the Mazda MX-5 as an enthusiastic little soft-top. Which is ironic, because far more people bought the folding hard-top version, and by some margin (80%, in fact). Perhaps that was an admission that our country’s climate offers far from ideal convertible opportunities. Or, more likely, simply because the folding hard-top offered just the same roof-down experience but with the bonus of an added sense of security. For the new MX-5, however, Mazda wanted to do something a little different...
For a supermini to be successful, it needs to perform a seemingly impossible task: it must appear larger on the inside than it does from the outside. Rather encouragingly, we’ve seen with the Optima that Kia has a history of performing minor packaging miracles, so it was with raised expectations that the new Rio arrived for a week’s testing, accompanied by a press pack that described Kia’s global best-seller as a ‘big little car.’
When we reviewed the Mitsubishi ASX back in 2014, it arrived almost exactly as large swathes of the UK became submerged during the worst flooding the country had seen in decades. At the time, the ASX impressed us with its willingness to keep on chugging even as our roads became fast-flowing rivers, but with Mitsubishi giving the ASX something of a facelift for 2017, we thought we’d see how the company’s crossover has fared over the years.
Mazda has always been one of the better manufacturers for regularly updating their products to keep them ahead of the curve, and for 2017 it’s the turn of the Mazda6 to benefit from a little fiddling. From the outside, you perhaps wouldn’t know anything has changed, save for a new Machine Grey metallic paint finish and indicators built-in to the door mirrors. That’s because most of the changes are to things you wouldn’t necessarily notice at first glance, but the cumulative effect is far greater.
If, like me, you’re of a certain age, you’ll probably remember being buzzed by a Suzuki Whizzkid. Despite having less than 50hp to play with, these little tykes had a habit of appearing in your rear-view mirror as if from nowhere before whirring past the instant a tiny gap appeared. As anyone who drove one knew, the secret to making progress was to maintain momentum at all costs. Clearly, someone at Suzuki has similarly fond memories, because the new Ignis feels like the Whizzkid’s spiritual successor.