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Insurance body in liability call for driverless vehicle manufacturers

Insurance firms are worried about claims relating to driverless vehicles
Insurance firms are worried about claims relating to driverless vehicles

Insurance firms should have a legal right to recover costs from manufacturers when a defect in a driverless car causes a crash, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has said.

The trade association believes that both the driver of the car and injured third parties should be able to pursue a claim against the driver’s insurer in such cases.

But insurers should then be able to recover the cost of the payouts from manufacturers, according to a joint paper published by the ABI and industry body Thatcham Research.

There is currently no automatic right for insurance companies to obtain compensation from car makers when their vehicles are found to be at fault for a crash which results in a claim.

Insurers are concerned that with the development of driverless technology, product liability insurance cannot be relied on as it is not compulsory and can be subject to limits – whereas motor insurance cover for personal injury is required to be unlimited.

Also, product liability does not cover damage to the product by the product, making it ineffective if an automated vehicle drives itself into an object and the owner wants to cover the cost of replacing the vehicle.

The ABI and Thatcham Research called for drivers to continue to require just a single insurance policy to cover both manual and automated driving, to avoid complications and ensure accident victims have enough cover.

They stressed the importance of agreeing good procedures for collecting and sharing data so those involved in claims get compensation without delay and warned that drivers should not be misled into thinking “their car can drive itself when it cannot”.

The paper was issued in response to a Department for Transport consultation into driverless cars, which closed on Friday.

ABI director James Dalton said: “With these proposals, insurers are showing their commitment to the new technology, and to ensuring that anyone injured in a road accident continues to get quick and easy access to help and support, as they do at the moment.

“Motor manufacturers share our goal of reducing deaths and injuries on the roads.

“When an automated vehicle or piece of software causes an accident it is important insurers can recover costs from the companies involved so that vehicle owners are protected from any upward pressure on the cost of motor premiums.”

Peter Shaw, chief executive of Thatcham Research, commented: ” Building driver confidence is at the heart of this consultation paper, so keeping things simple and clear is paramount.

“Similarly, there is still much work to be done by legislators and the automotive industry to give drivers absolute clarity and confidence around what automated driving systems are capable of doing and under what circumstances they can be used.”

Driver assistance systems are already in use in some cars, including control of speed and lane changing. But fully automated driving technology is not yet commercially available.

US manufacturer Ford announced last month that it intends to have completely driverless vehicles with no steering wheel or pedals on the road within five years.

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BMW’s 520D M-Sport saloon was ‘sheer driving bliss’

Sheer bliss: The classy BMW Five Series is a joy to drive on mountainous roads
Sheer bliss: The classy BMW Five Series is a joy to drive on mountainous roads

Valentine’s Day was spent in Southern Spain testing the new BMW Five Series.

It was beautiful weather, the roads were pretty empty and you could really give the car some welly and set the pulse racing a bit. It was good to escape the mind-numbing commercialism of February 14, although, of course, I had left the obligatory chocolates and card.

Yet if you think I was road testing a car, that was not quite what the BMW people had in mind. They seemed less interested in how much I enjoyed thrashing the 520D M-Sport saloon down to Gibraltar and then among the mountains to the north of Estepona than how I liked the “connectivity” on board through the car becoming what they claimed is “the most innovative vehicle in its segment”.

Everything is now possible: just wave your hand at the large touchscreen and you can control most functions – the car will park itself, keep in lanes by itself, coast along autonomously, take dictation for emails or text messages, and warn you about all sorts of hazards that the eyes can’t see.

It is getting to the point where the car can be the office and people can go on conference calls or have animated discussions with people in the back while the car does the boring driving stuff for you.

BMW makes no secret of the fact that this is how it sees its future. At press conferences on Tuesday night and then at breakfast time the following day, the message was very clear: “We are not a car company, we are transforming into a technology company.” There is a mission to “let the car take care of you” in order to keep driver and passengers safe at all times. Semi-autonomous systems will change the way we do our driving and save lives.

The Five Series was first launched in 1972 and the company likes to think it has been very much at the forefront of technical innovation since then.

On paper, the new model is a bit bigger all round with especially more rear leg-room, but, strangely, the driver feels more cocooned and tighter, rather like the Three Series. This is a bit of a paradox when set against the idea that it is your office on the move.

For my money, the new model drives better than the old, although there isn’t a consensus on this. I kept to the 520D, which will be the big-seller and is perfectly adequate for all needs, especially with the M-Sport trim. All Five Series cars now have an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The overall car is lighter and more efficient but really needs the sports suspension set up to be in play to stop wallowing over country roads.

The car is extremely quiet and while on the whole is not quite up with the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class, it has a sportier feel.

The Five Series will largely be diesel, BMW is hedging its bets on the future with massive investments in petrol/hybrid and electric, so that it can switch heavily, if as expected, the massive diesel off-load happens.

Of course the 10.2-inch touchscreen, which includes Professional Navigation as standard, dominates the fascia of the car. When I have the car for a full week’s test, I’ll have to take a lot of time to get to grips with it all.

At the moment, I tend to believe that this connectivity is going in the wrong way for anyone who really enjoys driving. It is wrong that we are so wedded to our phones that some people cannot go through a meal or meeting with a friend without spending a lot of time gazing at them. And worse, people drive or cross roads totally concentrating on the little device squeaking into their ear rather than the job at hand.

But then maybe I’m just too much of a dinosaur or grouch. Yet I’ll keep happy thoughts and remember the sheer driving bliss of pushing the 520D across the mountains last Tuesday in the sun. That’s what driving a well-built and controlled, powerful rear-wheel drive saloon is about. Sheer bliss. For the moment, connectivity can look after itself, but no doubt one day I will want a car that parks itself and then delivers itself to me ready to drive. But maybe by that time it would be safer just to put me in the back.

Prices start at €52k but expect to pay about €60,000 for a well-equipped Five Series. Many, many people will be doing that or rather getting their companies to do it for them.

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Renault eyes return to its heyday with new Megane Hatchback

The company, which likes to think of itself as the automotive equivalent of the Marseillaise — ie that Renault is to French car-making what l’Hymne National is to patriotism — has hit various purple patches down the years, but the 1980s and ’90s was a particularly potent time for the company.

During those heady years Renault consolidated its position as one of Europe’s leading manufacturers with a series of cars which were not only innovative, but breaking completely new ground. The Regie National des Usines Renault, as the company had become after de Gaulle nationalised it out from under the Renault family, became a powerhouse of design ingenuity and sales success.

Unfortunately, a golden era featuring the likes of the Espace, Clio, Twingo, Scenic, turbocharging, and Megane, died away and while the originals of those cars and technologies were classics of their time, what followed was not.

Despite being privatised once more in 1996, poor product quality dogged the brand and even killed off several models — remember the Renault 14? — but thanks to a very productive alliance with Nissan (which it purchased in 1999) and the firm hand of boss Carlos Ghosn on the corporate tiller, the company has once more turned a corner.

With such SUV hits as the Captur and the Kadjar, as well as revitalised stock models such as the Clio, Twingo, Scenic, and so forth, Renault is now, it would appear, well into another golden era and the test car we’re trying this week would tend to suggest this epoch might be with us for a while.

Now the Megane has always competed gamely with the likes of Ford Focus and VW Golf without ever replicating the vast sales numbers achieved by those behemoths of the family car genre, but it sold well in the various guises afforded it down the years while not really troubling the big boys.

It might have been snazzy (one of the first cars to have keyless operation), good looking, and techie (it had satnav before most of us plebs knew what that was), but there was always the impression — misguided or otherwise — that it was not the same build quality league as its main rivals and did not have the same clout in terms of residual values either.

And, as any self-respecting driver will tell you, it did not have the same appeal as an on-road experience as the VW or the Ford. Well, let me tell you now, you can forget the old misgivings you had about the Megane because a new one is here and it is damn good.

But let us not lose the run of ourselves here, because by comparison with previous Meganes, the new car is better looking, better built, and nicer to drive.

But — and it’s a big but — has it gotten any closer to the top dogs in the segment?

I believe it has — quite a deal closer in fact — but there is still something of a gap between the new Renault and its primary targets and this may well be due to a critical element of its DNA. French cars have traditionally preferred comfort over driver engagement and the new Megane, unsurprisingly, follows this well-trodden path.

If you want something with bags of grip and body control, you’ll have to look elsewhere because, even in GT Line trim as tested, the Megane does not come close to the class leaders.

It handles quite well, but the ride is very mushy and you feel, as so often is the case with Gallic machinery, that the focus during the design process was to end up with a car which glided rather than gripped.

This is fine for a lot of family requirements on great surfaces where Aunty Mabel would adore the tremendously comfortable rear seats on a balmy Sunday afternoon trip; but her cucumber sambos might not be resting as easy when she’s getting bounced around in the back on ragged Irish by-roads where the set-up’s flaws become quickly obvious.

Engaging ‘sport’ mode does tighten things up a little bit, but cannot overcome what appears to me to be a basic design flaw.

And, I do have to say that the Megane’s mega-sensitive lane-change warning system was a real pain in the ass. The Renault is not alone in this regard as all too many such systems — a complete waste of time, in my view, and an excellent example of safety consciousness gone mad — are too intrusive and annoying.

I also had a minor quibble with the automatic low/high beam lights which I felt were not quite intuitive enough for my liking and in the end I turned off the ‘auto’ function and did it manually.

Auto lights, lane-changing warning, and ride and handling aside, then, what was good about the car? Well, aside from the excellent exterior looks, Renault has made big strides on the quality of the interior. Gone are those awful scratchy, plastic surfaces and instead you’re presented with chic, tactile, and pleasing surroundings.

The seating too is excellent and the engine — the very familiar 1.5 DCi unit with 1120 bhp, which is almost ubiquitous across the Renault and Nissan ranges at this stage — is very easy to live with and, let’s not be shy about it, extract the most from.

It is a very willing partner and while performance is not too far removed from pedestrian (11.2 seconds 0-100km/h and top speed of 188) it is still a smooth and relatively entertaining package.

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Sales of SUVs overtake passenger cars for the first time in Australia

SALES of SUVs — also known as “faux-wheel-drives” and “soft-roaders” because they’re more suited to sealed roads despite their rugged looks — have overtaken passenger cars for the first time in Australian automotive history.

According to official sales figures in February, 35,497 SUVs were reported as sold versus 34,740 passenger cars.

However, year-to-date, passenger cars remain narrowly ahead of SUVs: just 36 sales apart, 69,660 compared to 69,624.

Our changing taste in vehicles comes as more drivers favour the high driving position and better cargo flexibility of SUVs over traditional sedans and hatches.

The arrival of more “pint-sized” but high-riding hatchbacks — categorised as SUVs — is also behind the surge.

The Mazda CX-5 (left), Toyota RAV4 (centre) and Subaru Forester (right) are becoming commonplace. Picture: Joshua Dowling

The Mazda CX-5 (left), Toyota RAV4 (centre) and Subaru Forester (right) are becoming commonplace. Picture: Joshua DowlingSource:Supplied

“This one monthly outcome doesn’t signal a landslide but clearly Australian buyers are attracted by the features and capabilities of new generation SUVs, and how these types of vehicles suit their needs and lifestyles,” said the chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Tony Weber.

The February figures also revealed the biggest new-car sales slowdown since the Global Financial Crisis.

Sales of all new vehicles were down 7.7 per cent in February: 89,025 deliveries versus 96,443 in the same month last year.

“It’s important to look at sales results in the proper context because February 2016 was an unusually strong month,” said Mr Weber. “It included one extra selling day and saw a lot of activity in the market. This resulted in a 6.7 per cent surge over February 2015.”

Nevertheless, the sudden drop in new-car deliveries means dealers will be more desperate to move metal in the coming months as they clear last year’s stock, sparking further discounts.

Toyota continued to lead the market ahead of Mazda and Hyundai, but Holden had a shocker, down 22 per cent to fifth place and was overtaken by Mitsubishi. The Commodore only just stayed inside the Top 10.

Commodore sales took a hit in February but will bounce back when final editions arrive in showrooms midyear, Holden claim. Picture: Supplied.

Commodore sales took a hit in February but will bounce back when final editions arrive in showrooms midyear, Holden claim. Picture: Supplied.Source:Supplied

Holden’s sales and marketing chief Peter Keley said sales were slow because the full Astra line-up was yet to arrive in showrooms and many customers placed forward orders for limited edition Commodores.

“We actually grew our order bank for the Commodore but that’s not reflected in the February figures,” said Mr Keley. “As those cars are built you will see Commodore sales pick up in the coming months.”

Ford posted first decline after 14 months of growth (down 15 per cent), its sales dented after Territory and Falcon reach the end of the line.

Despite the popularity of SUVs, only three are in the Top 10 — the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Tucson — because the market is so fragmented.

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Autonomous city driving on a rainy night now a reality

Silicon Valley start-up demonstrates its self-driving technology in sketchy conditions

Can an autonomous, driverless vehicle drive safely through busy city traffic on a dark, rainy night? You bet it can, if this new video from Silicon Valley-based start-up is any indication.

Indeed, as you can see from this 3:46 time-lapse film shot in a car as it navigates the dim, wet urban streets of Mountain View, California with no human intervention whatsoever, it can even handle a heavy downpour, narrow streets littered with parked cars, glare from oncoming traffic, a busy four-way stop sign, a car possibly illegally cutting in front of it, a broken red light and confusing reflections from a dark, wet road. says it’s devoted to developing the software of self-driving vehicles to create a safer, more productive future on our roads. Most of its staff have made their way from Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) lab and the company is one of around 20 now with a license to drive autonomously in the state of California.

Carol Reiley, co-founder and president of, explained in an interview with TechCrunch how deep the team is going with the artificial part of the intelligence algorithms in autonomous vehicle software.

“We are using deep learning for more of an end-to-end approach. We’re using it not just for object detection but for making decisions, and for really asking the question ‘Is this safe or not given this sensor input on the road?,” she explained.

“A rule-based approach for something like a human on a bicycle will probably break if you see different scenarios or different viewpoints. We think that deep learning is the definitely the key to driving because there are so many different edge cases.”

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) uses a scale of six levels to define different levels of automation. Those in the field of building AI for cars have adopted both the definitions and the challenges they entail.

For example, current driver-assist systems like radar-based automatic cruise control and camera-based lane-keeping — which can accelerate, stop and steer a car without driver input for short periods — are classed as Level 1 autonomy, while Tesla’s fully autonomous – and controversial — Autopilot system is rated as Level 2.

A wide range of car-makers – as well as the likes of Uber, Google and Apple — are aiming to deliver Level 4 production cars by early next decade. is already showcasing this technology and is already working on Level 5, in which there should be no need for a ‘driver’ at all.

Tesla claims its vehicles are already fitted with the hardware to support Level 5 autonomy, but hands-free driving remains illegal in most jurisdictions, including all Australian states.

Since human error is the cause of 90 per cent of collisions, autonomous vehicles have been hailed as the cure for road deaths and have even been predicted to kill the car insurance industry, while Nissan promises that even car enthusiast will love self-driving cars.

Car-makers are investing billions in automotive AI  and a driverless vehicles have already been approved for roads in the US, Europe, UK and Australia, where the government commenced autonomous motoring hearings this week and Victoria’s first self-driving vehicle trials start on Melbourne’s CityLink within months.

But despite assurances from companies like Audi and Volvo, which have vowed to take responsibility for any damage, injuries and deaths caused by their autonomous vehicles, most Americans doubt they’ll be more productive in an autonomous cars, there are fears of an increased risk of cyber attack from hackers and many remain sceptical of claims that self-driving vehicles will reduce traffic congestion.

Furthermore, going beyond Level 5 autonomy requires not just vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication – which would require all vehicles to be fitted with a transponder — but expensive vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X), as well as a high level of AI, raising serious ethical issues like ‘who should be killed if a fatal collision is unavoidable?’ and ‘will your car decide to kill you?’.

What this video doesn’t show is’s other areas of interest — tracking pedestrians and giving vehicles the ability to emote their intentions to pedestrians and other drivers — but it does demonstrate that groups like are hard at work to make the transition to a driverless future as seamless as possible.

Now let’s see the crew survive the swagger of an oncoming B-triple on the Nullarbor, and emerge unscathed from the gibbers, washouts and errant ‘roos of the Birdsville track.

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Alfa Romeo confirms Supercars interest

Italian car-maker could return to Aussie touring car racing, says local brand boss

Alfa Romeo will enter the nation’s premier motorsport category, the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship (VASC), if it can justify the investment.

That’s the official word from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Australia (FCAA) boss, Steve Zanlunghi, who told that Aussie touring car racing could be a good way to promote Alfa’s blistering new 375kW Giulia QV sports sedan.

However, he cautioned that the business case for a V8SC program, which could cost up to $10 million, would have to be approved and funded by FCA HQ in Turin, and it’s unlikely that Alfa would enter the VASC within two years.

“We will do what it takes. If there’s a good return on investment we will do it, if it helps the brand and is brand-specific,” said Zanlunghi.

Alfa is one of two brands currently considering a Supercars assault, with Kia a potential starter as early as 2018 with its all-new rear-drive twin-turbo V6-powered Stinger sports sedan, which will be launched as a direct rival to the Holden Commodore by October this year.

FCAA had early discussions with VASC organisers, who presented their case for this year’s new Gen2 rules (that allow body styles other than sedans and engines other than V8s) to a number of brands as part of a ‘road show’ last year, about the potential for a Giulia safety car, but that role has now been filled by Porsche’s Cayenne.

Zanlunghi said discussions are no longer active and a business case to take the Giulia racing Down Under is not being actively pursued as FCAA instead focuses on launching the Giulia QV and mainstream members of the mid-size sedan family, which he says is squarely “aimed at the BMW 3 Series space”.

But he also points to the illustrious motorsport history of the 106-year-old Italian brand, its current ties with Formula 1 and the Giulia QV’s suitability to Supercar racing, which Alfa could also choose to enter with its upcoming Giulia Sprint coupe as soon as 2019.

“It depends if it fits the Alfa Romeo space,” he said. “If you look at the Alfa brand, it’s one that is very rich in racing heritage. And if you look at some of our global sponsorships we do sponsor the Ferrari team – we have a logo on their F1 car.

“We want to get the car into market first before we think about ancillary spaces that we could play in to build on the brand. The key is getting the car to market and letting people know it’s about there before we go into specific niche places.”

These comments follow similar statements made by Zanlunghi last year: “We are looking at all the available opportunities for Alfa Romeo that would fit the brand DNA, so obviously it is a racing brand and it’s a got a racing heritage.

“No news to report but we are looking at a lot of different things.”

Alfa Romeo’s current global motorsport activities are not big, but there are rumours it will contest TCR series in Europe and possibly Le Mans in the US.

As evidenced by these computer renderings by RC Workchop and LP Design, there has also been ongoing speculation that Alfa could enter Europe’s dying WTCC or Germany’s closed-shop DTM touring car categories, but both of these scenarios seem unlikely.

Nevertheless, was told by a senior Supercars team engineer that the Giulia’s aerodynamic shape would be well suited to the category, and we presume the coupe version will be even more so.

Mercedes-Benz and Volvo contested the VASC until last year, but the only brands confirmed for the 2017 season, which kicks off this weekend, are Holden, Ford and Nissan.

Zanlunghi didn’t rule out a Giulia coupe tilt at Australia’s burgeoning GT4 racing scene, which this year sees BMW (M4) join Porsche (Cayman), Aston Martin (Vantage) and KTM (X-Bow), but he indicated his preference for Supercars.

“If you’re asking me if I’m looking at proposals the answer is no, I’m not,” he said.

“But at the same time we’re looking to see what space Alfa Romeo could fit in and play in.

“Would an Italian race car work in V8 Supercars? We will look at anything that will help advance the brand and has a good return on investment.

“We would have to put a business case together because it would have to provide a return on the investment. If it brings sales, we’ll do it.”

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Wood you believe it? Bentley to install hi-tech OLED visual displays inside timber dashboard veneers

Bentley Bentayga
Future Bentleys could have the new dashboard installed (Photo: Bentley)

Bentley is incorporating new luxury technology into its vehicles which it claims will help to pave the way for the future of motoring.

The car manufacturer has released their vision of what their future fleets will look like after the introduction of OLED tech.

OLED – or organic light emitting diodes – are the latest in digital displays and are being used in TVs, computers and other devices.

Now, Bentley has found a way to install the technology into their dashboards – finished with a wood veneer.

Bentley claims this retains the luxury style while also keeping their motors current.

An artist’s impression of what the hi-tech dash could look like (Photo: Bentley)

It released a mock-up of what the new dashboards will look like in future cars to hit the market.

Chairman and CEO, Mr Wolfgang Dürheimer, told Automotive News World Congress in Detroit, USA: “We will certainly use new technology to enhance traditional and authentic materials in new and contemporary ways.

“One possible example of this could be to overlay OLED screens across wood veneers.

“These ultra-thin screens would be invisible except when in use, for example, to control the audio or HVAC systems.”

Production at Bentley Motors Ltd. Plant
The company is planning to fit the latest OLED tech in the cars (Photo: 2012 Bloomberg)

He added: “Our belief is that technology on its own is not enough. Technology in isolation is cold and can never be truly luxurious.

“We must never lose the human touch.”

The new advancement in technology for the brand comes after it announced one of its cars will include a virtual butler.

The EXP10 Speed 6 has already won multiple awards as one of the company’s most successful concept cars.

The futuristic virtual personal assistant

And the designers have gone one step further to realise its future with a mock-up of a holographic assistant in the back seats.

It was created to show how the British company will keep up with modern technological advances.

Unfortunately, the virtual personal assistant isn’t yet available to buy.

Bentley Flying Spur
The Bentley Flying Spur is more of an accessible model at the moment (Photo: Bentley)

But Director of Design Stefan Sielaff claims that these kind of technologies will be ingrained into car interiors in years to come.

He said: “In the future our cars will of course feature yet-to-be-invented connectivity and technologies – perhaps a virtual butler, for example – that enhance the lives of our luxury millennial customers, and I strongly believe that how these technologies are integrated into the cabin will become ever more important.”

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Which is better the MX-5 or Fiat 124?

Fiat 124 Spider 1.4 MultiAir Lusso Plus
Fiat 124 Spider 1.4 MultiAir Lusso Plus

When I was coming up to my seventh birthday, my parents told me I was getting a new bicycle. There were two in the big display window of Kennys that I loved. One was a dark red; the other a larger blue one. I spent hours, nose against glass, looking at them, always diverting on my way home from school to see if they were still there. We decided on the red. But that wasn’t the end of the matter by any means.

I’m in something of a similar dilemma with two little roadsters (not that I could afford either). They have much in common but myriad little differences too.

One is the Mazda MX-5 roadster which is World Car of the Year (I gave it my second-best vote). The other is its close sibling, the Fiat 124 Spider, reviewed today.

Both are built alongside each other in Japan and share a fair bit. Yet their differences are profound on key fronts: not one of the 124’s panels is the same as the Mazda’s.

And the 124 has its own, distinctive, 1.4-litre (140bhp) turbo petrol while the Mazda has a 1.5 (130bhp) and a more powerful 2-litre (as well as having soft and hard-top versions).

I’ve reviewed the Mazda before. If you can’t love a car like that, I don’t know what to say. But could I love something else more?

The sense of difference is intriguing. Firstly, the Fiat is more muscular and angular to look at. I do prefer that somehow, but the margins are fine. The Mazda is simpler, cleaner of line. People love that too.

There’s also a throatier noise out the Fiat’s exhausts and that 140bhp engine (10bhp up on the MX-5 1.5) begged to be revved and driven. I obliged. That’s what driving a roadster should do; make you want to drive, feel the innate speed magnified by low-and-close proximity to the tarmac. There is only 10bhp between it and the Mazda 1.5 but it counts a lot. The Fiat felt rawer (in the nicest sense) and had that bit of roar that had me feeling I was driving a much more powerful entity.

My goodness, I sat low; the tall daughter and myself hadn’t much legroom in the cabin either but, as we said with the wind and rain battering the fabric roof, what did we expect?

Financial considerations could play a part in your decision too. And let’s be honest, so could perceptions around the marques themselves.

The Mazda starts lower (€27,995) and is €100 easier on the 124’s road tax (€280). Fiat’s price is affected by its higher emissions and, they claim, higher level of equipment.

This could drive you mad, you know; like looking at the two bikes in the window. So I’ll try to give you a flavour of the 124 drive. But not before giving out a bit first: about, for example, the non-retracting seatbelt which constantly fell to the outside when I exited: maddening. So was the lack of any movement on steering wheel adjustment. And it took a long time to warm the cabin. Brrr. Maybe the cabin is a good place to start because I had my usual bad luck with roadsters and weather. It was so bad when I went to pick it up, the nice people at Fiat waited until the last minute to leave it out of its sheltered cubbyhole for me.

I got reasonably comfortable, eventually – that bonnet is so long, and boy is the cabin low and dark. The few dials are cluttered; it’s not easy to glean info at a glance.

But a few blares of the engine turned thoughts to less mundane matters. Even with sleet in the wind and heavy traffic (you feel vulnerable from such a low vantage point) it was great fun. Even more so when I could give it a good scoot. The gearbox, older than that in the Mazda, was fine by me and I loved the free-flow of power and revs. Sure, you feel the ripples of road but not in an intrusive way; more engaging. It’s a classic set-up: rear-wheel drive, front engine and a wonderfully tight turning circle.

It got a lot of short 40km drives, and my luck never returned on the weather. Not once did I get to drop the hood. That’s what I get for driving a roadster in February.

But I’d say the most convincing argument for it came late on the Friday night that I picked it up from Quick Park at Dublin Airport. I was cold, tired, miserable. Within five minutes, I was happily scooting down the M50, relishing the high revs and slightly raucous engine note.

Look, this is all about marginal preferences. The 124 Spider has more thrust; the MX-5 is so refined, a beautiful car.

I’m leaning slightly towards the Fiat But I can’t dismiss the Mazda. Really, you know, this is emotional rather than analytical. I make no bones about saying that because that is what these cars are supposed to be about.

As you read this, I’ve probably changed my mind already. But the 124 gets the nod for now.

By the way, we did end up leaving back the little red bike and taking the larger blue one.

Facts & figures

Fiat 124 Spider 1.4 MultiAir Lusso Plus; 1.4-litre (1,368cc) turbo petrol, 140bhp, 6spd manual. 0-100kmh in 7.5 secs, 6.4l/100km, 148g/km, road tax €390.

From: €31,495; car tested: €35,795.

Equipment includes: BOSE system/ 8 speakers, 7ins touchscreen radio, satnav, DAB, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 2 USB ports, front electric windows, cruise control/speed limiter, parkview rear parking/camera, LED headlights, adaptive front lights, rain/dusk sensors, rear parking sensors/camera, 17ins alloys, leather, chrome double exhaust, Fix&Go puncture repair kit, heated seats, auto climate control, electric/mirrors, front fogs, 45-litre fuel tank.

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Halfords to train autocentre mechanics in electric car maintenance

Halfords plans to train one mechanic at each of its 300 centres in electric and hybrid maintenance
Halfords plans to train one mechanic at each of its 300 centres in electric and hybrid maintenance

Halfords is backing the electric car boom by having specially trained mechanics at its autocentres.

The company announced plans to train one mechanic at each of its 300 centres in electric and hybrid maintenance.

Stefan Warhaftig, commercial director at Halfords Autocentres, said: “We want our technicians to be the very best in the business, with access to the latest training.

“This is a really exciting time for innovation in the automotive industry – we’ve hit a real milestone as electric and hybrid cars are becoming more and more popular and the introduction of driverless cars is just around the corner.”

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New Land Rover Discovery arrives in Ireland

New Land Rover Discovery arrives  in Ireland

New Land Rover Discovery

Land Rover’s new Discovery arrives in showrooms next week giving customers the first opportunity to test the most versatile SUV on sale today on Irish roads.

Gerard O’Farrell, Managing Director Jaguar Land Rover Ireland said, “We are delighted to announce the arrival of the new Discovery at Land Rover retailers across the country. The New Discovery is set to broaden its well-established appeal in the large premium SUV market.

“ It does everything its predecessor does and more. With increased efficiency, improved versatility and clever technology for the whole family it is sure to attract new customers to the Land Rover brand.”

Since its star-studded reveal at Packington Hall, Solihull in September when the new Discovery was unveiled against a Guinness World Record-breaking Lego backdrop, the new Discovery was previewed in Dublin, Cork, and Galway before Christmas. New and existing customers were invited to see the ground-breaking new model for the first time.

Since then, customers have been able to experience the new Discovery though a Virtual Reality experience in retailer showrooms, but now, customers can see, touch and drive Ireland’s most anticipated SUV. With a starting price of €57,815 customers can experience the ‘seven wonders’ of Discovery:
1. The Magnificent Seven: every seat is the best seat in the house
Flexible interior provides seven full-sized adult seats
2. A much loved member of the family: keeping you safe for the last 26 years
Semi-autonomous safety technology provides the family peace of mind
Premium interior combines leading design with durable, high-quality materials and space for the whole family
3. King of the hill: unstoppable on all surfaces, all terrains and in all weathers
Land Rover’s full-sized SUV architecture delivers world-beating all-terrain capability
Lightweight aluminium construction saves 480kg, delivering enhanced efficiency and CO2 emissions from 171g/km
Super clean Ingenium family grows with adoption of 240PS, four-cylinder diesel engine with 500Nm of torque
Towing king: best-in-class 3,500kg towing capacity and semi-autonomous Advanced Tow Assist take the stress out of difficult reversing manoeuvres
4. British creativity: designed with charm & sophistication loved by the world
Design retains key Discovery family cues, adding optimised proportions and sophisticated surfaces
5. Storage addiction: discover the space for everything
Up to 2,406 litres of luggage space with seven seats and clever storage for 21st century family essentials
6. Connects every generation: Ingenious features that make life easier
Digital Discovery equipped with up to nine USB ports, four 12-volt charging points and an in-car 3G WiFi hotspot for up to eight devices
7. After the roads end: reaching threatened habitats and vulnerable people
New Discovery will continue Land Rover’s work in humanitarian aid and conservation projects around the world.

Since 1948 Land Rover has been manufacturing authentic 4x4s that represent true ‘breadth of capability’ across the model range. Discovery, Discovery Sport, Range Rover Sport, Range Rover and Range Rover Evoque each define the world’s SUV sectors.

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