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back to article 2011's Best... Cars

Sky-high petrol prices and environmental concerns are leading to a revolution inside the average car. Across the board, we are seeing increases in power and reductions in emissions and consumption that even a decade ago would have been called fanciful. And let’s not forget the electric car. No matter where you stand on the …

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Tech

I find cruise control takes away the temptation to speed.

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Should be mandatory!

I also use cruise control, and I find nothing more frustrating than drivers that can't maintain speed. Fly past you then slow down, so you end up catching them up then cruising past them, only for them to either start to floor it as you're going past (I guess they think their manhood is in question) or wait til your past and floor it past you, pull in and start the whole thing again.

Wish I had adaptive cruise control... The one that slows you down when you get near to the car in front.

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Cruise Control

I find cruise control almost useless unless passing through average speed cameras or on an empty motorway.

Other motorists speeding up, slowing down and cutting you up means you can hardly ever cruise at a steady speed.

Unless you're one of those cretins that sits at 60mph in the middle lane of the motorway?

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when you drive 80k per year

cruise control is great and yes you do see how bad people are at maintaining speed.

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Its been shown time and again that cruise control drops your economy significantly.

I tend to drive my Zafira around 50-55mph and find its very economical. I used to have a Manta that was better than the Zafira's 50mph economy when it was doing 80, at 70 it was lots better.

Many of the modern cars are designed with a blunt back end, this creates a mass of turbulance therefore drag that significantly slows and reduces fuel economy.

What is needed is a properly aerodynamic car (not just one with a pointy front end) with a decent modern engine. This would make things a lot better.

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Holmes

I would be very curious to see these studies that show 'time and time again' - its not that I automatically do not believe it, and intuitively if you are in a position to keep trimming your speed to match both traffic and gradient/conditions it would seem reasonable, but the ANECDOTAL evidence of self, wiff and a couple of colleagues, backed up by a little record keeping shows that we all improve fuel economy - by different amounts to be sure.

Oh, and blunt backends can be a problem with maintaining smooth(ish) flow, but they are practical for load carrying.

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Anonymous Coward

> a blunt back end, this creates a mass of turbulance therefore drag

No, the blunt back end creates turbulence to *reduce* drag, by spoiling the airflow. In a time when CO2 figures are all important, why would a designer create a car that increases fuel consumption?

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@ Richard Taylor 2

Unfortunately the best fuel economy is had by driving in a more reckless manner when there's traffic around, continually weaving in and out of traffic in an attempt to keep optimal engine RPM with that causing changes in speed on all but straight, flat roadway.

Optimal RPM is key, keeping the motor in it's peak efficiency band. If you drive with this in mind your fuel economy can (done with practice, will) exceed that of cruise control which ignores engine RPM to keep a constant speed instead.

If your driving does not consider peak engine efficiency, rather keeping in an even flow with traffic, then yes cruise control will probably help your fuel economy by undermining your attempt to keep an even flow since the traffic around isn't doing that, but to whatever extent it overrides the intention it would help.

Bottom line, the test conditions determine whether your focus is best spent on fuel economy or sacrificing that to retain a certain level of safety (risk reduction even without an accident).

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A Blunt Back End

You mean a Kamm tail? By constraining the turbulent flow behind the moving vehicle it actually reduces drag to a level not much above that of a full tear-drop shape while giving a much more practical shape for a car.

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In many cases it is extremely deliberate. I have had it when driving a classic car - they are happy doing 50mph until they see a classic overtaking then suddenly they have to do 80, let them do it and they slow back down to 50 and you again catch up... the only answer is to show that some little old cars aren't that slow after all... get to up to their front wing, pop your indicator on and start to pull back over....

Having a car with 'sri' or similar on the back is also inclinded to have morons come round you, pull in and then stop... several times, again a clean pair of heels or a demonstration of how annoying their behaviour is are the only effective retorts.

I only take action against repeat offenders - it is possible that a car might suddenly have a mechanical / overheating or other problem that causes them to slow down after they've come past you (once) so thats allowable, and with an underpowered/overloaded car they might well struggle on some up hills so allowance is made for that.

Generally though the standard of driving in the UK is terrible, people are rude and arrogant - especially those 'middle lane' and 'outside lane' hogs - you know the people, mile after mile after mile without pulling in, often without even overtaking, at whatever the speed they think is appropriate - for these the only answer is inside lane overtaking, illegal but not as bad as sitting behind them. Amazingly one of these hogs - who had done 2 miles with me behind, 1.5 of them with nothing at all on his inside - decided to speed up on me when I pulled in a lane and started coming up his inside - cost me dear in petrol having to boot the hell out of my car.

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It also massively cuts down on fines ..

Nothing pisses me off more than waste money on fines, so cruise control is a good approach to avoid accidental drifting over the limit.

As for those who state cruise control is less economic: depends on you. Used long distance that isn't the case - unless you forget to change gear, of course..

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MJI
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I get this when towing

Why do little shopping cars and old Jap Diesel people vans try to overtake cars & caravans on hills?

Just because there is a caravan on the back doesn't mean it will be slow. Light van and big engine.

I have had this a few times, people van overtakes me at 75, slows down to 50 I pass, repeat until they keep at 75 up to a traffic jam. What did I do - overtake them on Telegraph Hill while towing a caravan.

The little cars running out of elastic band is so funny, engine screaming - then gets lower as they cannot match power to weight.

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Unhappy

acksheley

I can believe it. What I do not believe is that any driver can maintain this safely and over any great distance m'lud

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@Dave 15

Cruise control worsens economy ? It is difficult to imagine how that might be so. My annecdotal experience is the opposite. The biggest fuel hogs are accelleration and braking (because it wastes momentum and demands subsequent accelleration).

Re pointy front ends - these are now disallowed by European pedestrian safety regulations. Bummer.

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Other than the McLaren ( which will probably be stored away) which of these cars is most likely to still be on the road in 10, 20 or 30 years time & hence can really claim the sustainability crown?

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Given that the global supply of conventional crude oil peaked permanently in 2006 and is beginning to go into rapid decline, it is a fair bet that the only two of these cars on the road 20 years from now will be the leaf and the Mclaren, because the only the super-rich will be able to afford petrol.

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Gimp

If I had no other choices, I'd say...

The Fiat 500 Twin Air. Two cilinder engines are supposedly more reliable in the long run due to less moving parts and stroke requirements. Of course, that is if the legendary Fiat chassis quality manages to survive that long.

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Anonymous Coward

Seriously?

My mk1 focus is coming up to 12 yrs old and still runs perfectly.

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10 years: Probably all of them.

20 years: Probably all but the Nissan; I expect advances in battery technology to make it obsolete, but it may be possible to refit it with newer battery technology in which case it may still be around.

30 years: Only the McLaren. How many Peugeot 305s, Mk1 Ford Fiestas or Datsun Sunnys do you see on the roads? Those are all 30 year old vehicles now.

Ultimately, the Leaf is probably the most awkward one; it's hands-down the best for someone on a restricted budget who only uses their car for short journeys (shopping trips, school runs, etc.). Unfortunately, those particular people are probably unable to even afford a £10k car, never mind a £26/31k one.

That means it's most likely to be bought by people who don't really need it, but can afford it. And a few of those (cough, Robert LLewellyn, cough) may even have large enough properties to put up sufficient solar panels to charge the car - effectively making it free to run from both a financial perspective and a carbon perspective. It's going to get an even bigger "smugmobile" reputation than the Prius.

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Same here

W reg Focus, still going strong. No issues to report. Well that's not true, you have to fiddle with the fag lighter socket to get chargers to connect.

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Pint

I assume this was a light hearted jab

Because all fag lighter sockets do this, pretty much.

It's an awfully designed general purpose socket. So unstable, easy to short out. I wish someone would come up with a new general purpose 12v socket in cars that is compact, has seperately insulated pins and connector, and is nice and stable. It would be a trivial task.

You could then buy an adapter from your old socket to the new one in the transition period.

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Facepalm

I'd love to see how the Ford's sign-reading technology would cope in London where you often have at least five signs at a junction, some of them with entirely contradictory information!

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Thumb Down

Granted, this is TheReg and not PistonHeads

But id rather cheese-grate my own cock off than drive 4 out of 5 of these cars, ill let you guess which one id want

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MJI
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1 I like and 1 which is a good city car

The Fiat is supposed to be pretty good fun.

But I would like the McClaren.

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The Fiat!

That little turbocharged twin sounds great fun.

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Had crossed my mind ...

... to post this story on PH and see just how bad the response is.

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Sir

"Next year it will get the all-singing, all-dancing Sync voice command system."

screeeeeeeeeeeeech...

"Oh shit!"

"oh no. Wet wipes please"

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Petrolheadonism - hardly. No one who enjoys driving would go near the Nissan Leaf - it is a soggy pudding. The 500 TwinAir is sprightly but CO2 is proportional to the fuel consumption and this thing struggles to do 35mpg if you cane it - which is worse than my Mondeo 2.0TDCi with 130bhp hauling nearly two tons around. Peugeot's 1.6HDi struggles to move a 307 so the 508 must be about as fast as a Morris Minor. The new Focus looks good and has some great tech but it doesn't handle like the previous model which was its USP. At least the MP4-12C is worthwhile and I have to say looks better than the 458. The Italia looks a bit gawky IMHO whilst the McLaren is exactly what I used to draw in my school books

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MJI
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Sticking with my 10 year old Vauxhall

V6, comfy and does 20mpg on LPG, while not hanging about

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Anonymous Coward

35mpg? Really?

That's only 5mpg more than my 4.4 V8 8-series (admittedly, that's on a motorway- ragging the 8-series means more of a 30-mpg differential).!

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Headmaster

Literally ?

"quite literally stuffed to the gills"?

OK, so why does a car HAVE gills? If it is stuffed to them, is there room for anything else?

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FAIL

Nissan Leaf

A car almost entirely designed for London?

It can't go any great distance and the price is eye-watering that no-one else in the country would even consider one.

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"A car almost entirely designed for London?"

Considering how large a percentage of people live in and around large cities in the world, kinda makes sense to design cars for them, no?

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No, but ..

Then you'd just use the tube.

It's a car for a place that doesn't exist. OK, that's not quite true, I could see it working very well on a much smaller island.

The Isle of Wight could be all EV and have no range issues ;)

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Design for large cities? Not so much. The infrastructure can't support the majority of them driving or parking and it's also more feasible to take mass transit when it passes quite near your begin and end destinations.

Sure we could say a smaller car is more suited for city transport but the parking spots have to accommodate the larger ones as well. Regarding range it's well and good to have a few dozen KM range for everyday commutes but then if you have to rent, borrow, steal or buy another car to make your longer trips, then you've paid a premium for a little thing you don't even enjoy the fuel economy on much because your most frequent city trips aren't very far, most of what you need is nearby.

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Mushroom

"Then you'd just use the tube."

You can get the same effect in your car.

1) Piss on the seats, let 'em dry and then stick some chewing gum in strategic places.

2) Liberally distribute socks nicked out of some soap-dodging fat bastard's laundry basket around the thing, stuff a fresh mackrel in the cabin air intake and pour half a pint of double cream in after it.

3) Scratch all the windows, then paint over them, then scrape the paint off badly.

4) When driving from A to B, make sure you go via F, Q, Z, G, R and D, stopping at each.

5) Stick some crap rap music in the CD player, wind the volume up to 11, turn the bass down to zero and stick a screwdriver through all the speaker cones.

6) Do not maintain the car at all. Treat any failure as it going on strike.

7) Put all the money you'll use for petrol over the year in a jar at the start of the year. If you haven't got the spare cash to do this then, every time you fill up, take an amount of money equal to that paid and set fire to it.

8) Find eight soap-dodging fat bastards to sit in your five seat car with you while you commute. Ideally, at least one should have a teething baby in their lap.

9) Banjax the climate control so the airco only comes on in winter and the heater only works at the height of summer. Glue the windows closed.

10) Park your car a couple of miles away from your house at one end of your commute and a couple of miles away from your office at the other.

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So

You're all for public transport then :-p

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MP4-12C v Ferrari 458

To quote Top Gear:

"So we're going to ignore the empirically ‘better' car, and choose to take home the car that delivers a sucker punch to the soul - the Ferrari 458 Italia. Because sometimes winning isn't just about being faster."

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The MP4-12C has lost virtually every comparison test it's been in, mainly due to a 'lack of soul and involvement', so much so that McLaren are now producing an updated model with the improvements being back fitted to existing cars for free.

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WTF?

What the fuck does anyone on Top Gear really know about cars or driving? Relying on that as a source of automotive expertise or insight is about as wise as studying paleantology and prehistoric civilisation by watching The Flintstones.

Hint: anyone who quotes 0-60 or standing quarter mile times is actually telling you they have no clue about anything to do with cars.

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Given they almost exclusively review expensive sports cars I'd say the seemingly meaningless to everyday driving metrics that they cycle through are likely highly relevant to the cars under review and their potential future owners. I'd venture to add that "The Stig" knows a touch more about driving than you so anything relayed of their experience in the cars about handling and performance are also highly relevant.

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re: no soul

Its a bit of a cop out isnt it - Entirely intangible excuse for why they dont like something - despite it being second fastest round the track (fastest being a jumped up go-kart).

They might as well say, "its not a ferrari we dont like it".

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A lack of soul and involvement is a criticism that has been levied at both the Veyron and the Nissan GT-R, but both have built up a cult following. I think McLarens biggest problem is the old F1 - it is such a sensational car that the MP4-12C was always going to struggle to match it's legacy.

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Anonymous Coward

I drove the new Focus last week as a hire car.

Nice car but it didn't have any of those fancy gizmos you speak of.

Oh and my 10 year old mk 1 is also running just fine :)

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Anonymous Coward

Five cars, one electric, one hybrid and one piddly petrol...

It's a bit of a shame you didn't put in an affordable fun car, and not something sold on green credentials.

Also I hate that new Ford Focus for it's stupid grill drag system, and that they seem to think it's good enough to sell the car.

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hmm not quite

Where is the new bmw 1 series beats the focus hands as all the gizmo items listed are optional for The BMW beats the focus hands down on kit, MPG power CO2 emmisions and handling.

And dont forget the beemer will be worth 60 % plus in 3 yrs the focus will be 5k at a push. and base price is not much more than the focus for the 116D SE

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@Darlord: Where is the new bmw 1 series

I'm sure the new 1-series is a wonderful car...from the inside. From the outside its taken one hell of a beating with the ugly stick.

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Meh

So what you're really saying darklord is...

that rather than buy either a BMW or a Focus, you should buy a 3 year old Focus for 5k.

A base spec 116d 5dr will cost you 20k list. Your BMW is going to be way down on toys compared to the focus, as you'll get a 1.6 Titanium X (so toy-tastic) Focus for less than that base spec model BMW by the time you've haggled with both dealers.

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FAIL

BMW series 1

Yes, but who in their right mind wants to be considered a plonker who sits in the middle lane at 60MPH and doesn't know how to use his indicators? BMWs are like iPhones, shiny-shiny fashion accessories for people with more money than no taste.

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MJI
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Get S/H BMW with bigger engine

At least they are proper wheel drive

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