What a week. Last Sunday was dripping as I watched the world men’s cycling road race championship splash through the Yorkshire Dales. My special award went to the happy enthusiast who rode the route wearing ram’s horns on his head and a soaking sheepy fleece.
Bentley delivered its first plug-in hybrid Bentayga with a potential battery range of 24 miles, rated at 79g CO2 and price of £133,100.
Its Czech VW Group stablemate, Skoda, announced its first hybrid, a plug-in Superb, with a range of 35 miles and a price of £31,970 when it arrives in January. The month also sees the arrival of Ford’s Puma, a chubby SUV, from £20,845.
Jaguar promoted its electric I-PACE’s role in Channel 4’s Drag SOS, raising money for four LGBTQ+ charities.
BMW told us about its X5 and X6 M Competition, a pair of fast and dirty petrol V8 SUVs with 616bhp, 0-62mph below four-seconds, and ratings of 22mpg and 290g of CO2. From £110,610 next April.
The dichotomy between fast-n-furious and fun-n-sensible afflicts many companies. Family cars like the Focus, Golf, Leon, Civic and i30 have versions aimed at both extremes. The debate about why we need cars capable of excessive performance has been current in the Camshaft Arms.
Opinions vary. It’s not necessarily the superfast cars that cause accidents. Driver behaviour causes accidents and idiots in a fast car are likely to be going faster than ordinary drivers in a fast car. Confession: I have been both, and in between both. Then I took a RoSPA advanced driving course.
Anyway, back to the cycle race. I was in a Renault Mégane GT Line TCe 140. Unpacking that, as they say on radio, we have Renault’s Ford Focus rival from France in saucy sports clothes with a responsible 138bhp (140ps) 1,332cc petrol engine, six manual gears, 18-inch alloys, front sports seats and reasonable “figures”. The 0-62mph time is 9.5 seconds. Top speed is 127mph (well, you did subconsciously want to know and then harrumph).
It is rated at around 45mpg and 132g of CO2.
We are on the fourth version of this very popular five-door hatchback, also offered as an estate and in some markets a saloon. Tested here is the hatch, built in Spain, and priced from £17,995 but check current offers, such as zero per cent finance. This entry model, the Play, has a central 7-inch tablet-style touch screen which links with your smart phone, comfy 16-inch alloys, a (fiddly) hands-free keycard and left and right climate control. The Iconic, from £18,820, adds 17-inch wheels, and other kit including lane departure warning, traffic sign reading and automatic high and low beam and rear parking sensors. The GT Line, from £20,660, has snazzy upholstery, navigation, stainless lettered sill plates and GT front and rear bumpers.
It has a speed limiter and five response tunes, including sport and eco. I drove it in middle-of-the-pack neutral and loved it. The screen is 8.7-inch and has live TomTom guidance. “Keep left after petrol station” was new on my regular commute route.
Taking it over the cycle race route, still sloppy a few days later, its handling on the dips and turns was as good as I could hope for. The low-speed tyre noise and thump was banished. The Continentals gave excellent grip and the chassis and steering manners never made me wonder whether I had gone back to idiot-mode.
Passengers (female) liked the blue mood lighting which matched the body colour, and the appliqué inserts on the doors and front panel which relieved the familiar auto-industry dark tones.
Renault is on another rush with new models. There’s a Clio, a new Koleos SUV from £28,195. A new Captur, its urban SUV which leads the class in Europe, is coming. Here in January, from £18,670 including a home charger, is the 3rd generation of Europe’s electric bestseller, the Zoe, with a 245-mile range and faster charging. Scottish Fire & Rescue has ordered 45 as it moves its pool cars towards electric. The Zoes will be used for site visits and community events, reaching to Orkney and Shetland.
But back to speed and the 296bhp R.S.Trophy-R version of the Mégane which has pipped the Honda Civic Type R by a few seconds to set a new lap record at the Nürburgring’s 20.6km circuit for a front-wheel-driven production car in a blink over 7 minutes, 40 seconds. A few hundred will be sold to the public at £51,140, or £72,140 for the Nordschleife record breaker specification.
Verdict: Good enough.