Time for something new? – March 2019

AUDI

Audi’s range continues to expand. The latest generation A6 saloon and Avant models claim to take autonomous driving to the next level. Executives looking for an extra dash of style meanwhile, are being targeted by the new second generation A7 Sportback that’s a smarter, more unique option. There’s an all-new A1 Sportback model too, a revised version of the TT sportscar and a new second-generation version of the Q3 compact SUV.

ONE TO WATCH: The new Q3 is now smarter and more efficient, these being attributes it’ll need if it’s to make headway in this increasingly crowded segment.

BMW

The key news for BMW dealers in recent months has been the launch of a second-generation version of the company’s mid-sized X4 SUV Coupe. There’s also a fresh lifestyle-orientated option for Executive segment buyers in the form of the new 6 Series Gran Turismo model. In other news, the company has revised its i3 electric range and added a sporty i3s variant. There’s also a new M5 high performance sports saloon, a ‘Competition’ version of the M2 coupe and a roadster version of the top i8 sportscar.

ONE TO WATCH: The X4 is a far more competitive mid-sized premium-badged SUV-Coupe than its predecessor.

SEAT

SEAT’s most important recent arrival in the brand’s mid-sized 7-seat SUV segment is the Tarraco. You get sharp styling, plenty of interior space and, the Iberian maker hopes, a dash of Spanish flair. In other news, the company has introduced a super-hot hatch model, the Leon Cupra R – now sold out. SEAT also has plans in the future to launch ‘Cupra’ as a separate sub-brand for its high-performance models the first being the Cupra Ateca.

ONE TO WATCH: SEAT’s Tarraco aims to shake up the mid-sized 7-seat SUV market.

SKODA

The big news is the introduction of a heavily revised version of the company’s Fabia supermini, but Skoda now finds SUVs more profitable. Earlier this year, they launched the Qashqai-class mid-sized Karoq to sell just beneath the 7-seat Kodiaq and the launch of the Skoda Kamiq combines the agility and handling of a compact car with the traditional advantages of an SUV.

The rest of Skoda’s line-up has been significantly revised in recent times. The Citigo citycar has undergone a minor update, plus the Rapid models have also been given a facelift and gained a new 1.0 TSI engine. That unit also features in the lightly revised version of the company’s Octavia family hatch, which features a potent vRS 245 flagship variant. The launch of the Skoda Kamiq combines the agility and handling of a compact car with the traditional advantages of an SUV.

ONE TO WATCH: Skoda has a strong contender in the hatchback segments, in the shape of its new Scala hatch.

SMART

The fortwo and forfour citycar models are both now available in full-battery-powered ‘EQ’ form. Power comes from a 60kW (81bhp) electric motor mated to a one-speed auto transmission. In other smart news, the standard fortwo and forfour ranges have a new, more affordable ‘pure’ entry trim level.

ONE TO WATCH: smart fortwo EQ is a good bet for city driving in eco style.

If brand-new isn’t your thing and you’re looking for a great deal on a used or delivery mileage car, then check out our thousands of great deals, from local trusted dealers throughout the UK.

We’ve also got a huge range of new car reviews and used car guides to help with your car research.

Keeping your body(work) beautiful

The first thing to remember is that not all bodyshops are the same. Anyone can patch your car up with a hammer and a touch of filler, but in the long run there’s little doubt that going this route will cost you more than you save.

Today’s cars tend to need more sophisticated equipment to get them back to pristine condition, particularly if the accident damage has been substantial. So, it’s important to find the right bodyshop, which might be a specialist repair centre for your make and model. When it comes to getting a quote for your repair work, ask the workshop what kind of tooling they have and check that their staff are properly trained to deal with your car. Maybe they are associated with trade or motoring organisations?

Secondly, make sure that you get a number of quotes before deciding. Find out if they work regularly for any of the well-known franchised dealerships.

Finally, it’s worth checking out any extra customer service provided. If you don’t have it covered in your insurance policy already, is there any possibility of a loan car while your vehicle is off the road? Will the workshop offer a free collection and delivery service? A little time on the phone could save you a lot of money, plus it could be the deciding factor between two workshops!

Of course, accidents aren’t the only reason for a visit to the bodyshop. Older cars in particular will suffer the effects of weather and show up wear and tear more easily. Without preventive maintenance, your bodywork may well end up in a sorry state. The key to keeping your older vehicle running well for years to come is to keep it well maintained. Look after your car and it’ll look after you. Remember it’s not all about your car looking good, it’s about keeping it safe and roadworthy too.

If possible, keep your car in a garage or under cover. This is important not only during bad weather, but in good weather too as cars with older paint work can fade quicker during prolonged exposure to sunlight. Ask your bodywork centre for any paint treatments that will help keep your car shinier for longer if you don’t have the luxury of a garage to keep it safe in.

Follow these simple steps for keeping your bodywork looking better for longer:

  • Wash beneath the bodywork and around the wheel arches to remove salt.
  • Clean and polish the paintwork with a good quality polish and, for extra protection, add a coat of gloss protectant. Resist the temptation to cut back the paint, however bad it looks modern paints do not need aggressive treatment.
  • Treat all exterior plastics and rubber with a suitable dressing – you may find that some plastic surfaces have faded.
  • Wash regularly with a genuine car shampoo to keep the car in top shape. Don’t use household dish washing liquid, as this is designed to cut through grease and is too aggressive for car paintwork.

When to get the best car deal

It can also depend on what kind of car you’re looking for, whether it’s a brand-new, just-out-the-wrapper model or if it’s more about the price than if it’s the latest edition.

So, here are our tips for getting the best deal at the best time of year.

New registrations

You’re no doubt aware of new registration releases that happen in March and September every year. If not, it basically means that new registration plates are released on 1st March and 1st September so plates for 2019 March will be 19 plates and September will be 69 plates. Although new models are released from manufacturers all year round, if you’re looking for a car with the latest plate then these are the months for you. Start your research a few months before though, as you can sometimes pre-order and collect as soon as it’s released.

Making way for new releases

With dealers having to make way for brand-new releases and new editions, this means that the ‘older’ versions often see a price drop. So, if you’ve got your eye on a car but know there is a newer edition on the horizon, if can often be fruitful to hold back and see what great offers become available when the new model is released. This way you can get a bargain on a nearly new car and no one will ever know the difference, although your bank balance might!

Tis the season

Car dealers are just the same as any other retailer, with seasonal offers happening all through the year. You’ll often find that just like your favourite clothes shop is having a summer sale, your local car dealer is prepping for the same. More dealers are jumping on the marketing band wagon and having their own ‘Black Friday’ deals, Christmas giveaways and January sales. Car dealers have targets to make just like any other business, so take advantage of these promotional offers.

Time to upgrade?

Is your finance agreement coming to an end? Many drivers these days are taking advantage of the great finance offers available and often opt for PCP deals which means you finance the car over a few years and often have a balloon payment, or guaranteed future value, at the end. If your agreement is coming to an end, you’ll probably expect a call from your car dealer soon with great offers on a newer car. There’s no pressure, but once you get that new car itch it’s hard to get rid of.

If you’re looking for a car then really the best time to buy is when you’re ready. There will always be great deals out there but, with buying a car being a huge financial decision, it’s important that you take time to do your research. At Exchange and Mart and s1cars, we have thousands of car reviews (new and used), buying tips, advice and thousands of great deals from dealers throughout the UK.

Tips for buying your first car

Stay calm and plan

Choosing your first car can be a daunting task, especially with the amount of choice out there. How many doors? What litre engine? What size? What colour? Our tip is to take a step back and focus on the things you need from your first car. We can guarantee that the biggest deciding factor is budget so start by working out what you can afford. Remember to take into account ALL of your other outgoings. By narrowing down your budget, you’ll find that this starts to narrow down your choices.

Think of what you need the car for. Is it just social use, out and about at the weekends? Or is it for work, will you be driving long distances? This could determine what size of engine you need, how much you can afford to pay in road tax or even if you prefer petrol, diesel or electric?

Remember, it’s often wise, for your first car, to stick to one that is practical – there will be plenty of time later for that turbo roadster you’ve had your eye on!

Understand finance

While most of us had to settle for an old banger for our first car, with today’s finance deals, buying a car on finance is becoming more accessible for young people. But although it seems simple, it’s important to understand the various levels of finance before you sign on the dotted line. Deals vary from leasing (PCP and PCH), personal loans to credit cards, so our advice is to do as much research as possible. Look at the length of the finance term, how much you can afford to pay per month, what the risks are if you fail to pay and if there are any restrictions? For car finance explained in full, click here.

Where to buy?

When it comes to finding the right place to buy to your first car, there are various options. If you’re opting for a brand-new car then a franchised dealer is the best place to buy that straight-from-the-factory model. If you’re looking for a used car, or delivery mileage, then visit your local dealer. Fancy checking out all the dealers in your area? Then Exchange and Mart and s1cars are the place to find your first car. We have thousands of used cars from local, trusted dealers throughout the UK, with prices to suit your budget. Plus, we’re open 24/7.

Don’t forget about insurance

This is a biggie and can often be neglected. If you’re a young driver you may find it can be expensive initially, but there are things you can do to help lower the price. Try piggy-backing onto a parent’s policy as a named driver, although this comes with its own risks like driving up the existing policy or affecting your parent’s no claims bonus. Other insurers offer discount for safer drivers by fitting trackers to your car, monitoring speed and driving techniques. Although you may need to pay the higher price for a few years, it’s worth it to be confident that you have the right cover and protection should you need it.

Quick tips

  • Learn to haggle – you might bag an even bigger bargain.
  • Always take the car for a test drive.
  • Think carefully about colour.
  • Avoid costly add-ons.
  • Do your research.

Top cars of 2018 – And the winners are….

Here are just a select few of the winners.

City car of the Year – Kia Picanto

With its blend of affordability and impressive build quality, the Kia Picanto is one of the most popular small cars around. Not only is it stylish in looks, comfortable on the inside and is also one of the safest small cars around. Combine that with Kia’s 7-year warranty and low ownership costs, if you’re looking for a small car then the Kia Picanto is your perfect fit.

Supermini of the Year – Ford Fiesta

One of the most popular cars in the UK, if not the world, the Ford Fiesta has always been an affordable choice but also a great car to drive. In its seventh generation, it has been designed to make a statement on the supermini segment. As before, it is available in 3 and 5 door options but is also available in an ‘Active’ crossover body style aimed at customers wanting luxury and sportiness.

Medium SUV of the Year (C-Segment) – SEAT Ateca

Named after the traditional Spanish town, the Ateca competes with the likes of the Volkswagen Tiguan but as the brand says, it offers a sportier feel and affordable price tag. This is SEAT’s first foray in to the SUV market and seems to be well worth the wait, with standard equipment including air conditioning, touchscreen media system, leather steering wheel and 16-inch alloy wheels. If you’re a fan of the Nissan Qashqai then it’s definitely worth a look.

Luxury large SUV of the Year – Land Rover Discovery

There’s nothing quite like a Land Rover Discovery and this fifth-generation version continues to offer the toughest, most practical and most capable choice in the large SUV sector. It’s, larger inside, cheaper to run and more media-savvy than its predecessor. Yet it remains a practical choice for up to seven adults and is an easy class-leader off the beaten track. In the large family SUV segment, there’s nothing quite like it.

Full electric car of the Year – Jaguar i-PACE

With the launch of the i-PACE, Jaguar became the first premium brand to make a long range, practical, battery-powered electric vehicle but with an asking price of £60,000 – is it worth it? With a 300-mile driving range, competing with the likes of Tesla, almost zero emissions, comfortable on the race track and with all the luxury from the premium brand you’ll find it hard not to want one.

Car of the Year – Ford Focus

Also, winner of the ‘Family Hatch of the Year’, the MK4 version of this popular model offers slicker, more stylish lines, higher quality interior and extra technology like radar-operated cruise control, lane-keep assist, emergency auto-braking and wi-fi network. It’s good to know that despite its fancy facelift and gadgets, the Focus is still as rewarding to drive as it has always been.

 

Driving home for Christmas

No road trip home is complete without some festive tunes – and we’re not talking Christmas carols. Here are out top picks for Christmas tunes for any car journey, from classics to recent releases.

Driving Home For Christmas – Chris Rea

We couldn’t begin the list without this obvious classic. Perfect for getting you in the mood for your journey home and excited to see your loved ones at the other end.

White Christmas – Bing Crosby

We all love a white Christmas but not when we have to drive in it! So hopefully this is the only white Christmas you enjoy on your drive home and the roads stay clear and safe.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Michael Bublé

It might be a bit controversial to not include the original, but it wouldn’t be Christmas without some Michael Bublé.

Frosty The Snowman – Cocteau Twins

A nice fun, joyous song to liven the journey up. It’ll be hard not to sing-along, whether you have some company or are a solo singer.

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Wizzard

So maybe we don’t wish it literally but a great tune none the less. We’re sure you won’t be the only one screaming ‘It’s Christmas!!!’ on the roads this year.

Underneath The Tree – Kelly Clarkson

Are you dreaming of what’s under the tree this year? A more recent tune to hit the Christmas charts but is fast becoming a festive favourite.

Step Into Christmas – Elton John

This one is bound to put a smile on every Grinch this year. It may not get you out the holiday tailbacks, but it’ll lift your mood and spread that festive cheer.

Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley

Some of the best Christmas songs are the chilled-out ones but maybe skip this one if you’ve just gone through a break up!

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – Jackson 5

You might feel like Santa coming to town if your boot is packed full of presents for friends and family so get the whole car signing along to this one!

Last Christmas – Wham!

Our list of top Christmas tunes wouldn’t be complete without this classic, although you might find yourself shedding a tear or two!

However you travel home this Christmas, and if you’re out driving during the holidays, make sure you stay safe on the road. Check out our tips for winter driving, preparing your car and stocking up on your winter survival kit.

The perfect gifts for car lovers – Our 2018 gift guide

Personalised chocolate cars

Perfect for the car lover with a sweet tooth. Not just for birthdays, this box of chocolate cars can be personalised with their favourite colour and age. Great as a little extra to share with the family or keep to themselves!

Personalised car keyring

This is a great gift for a new driver that likes to put their stamp on everything! It can be personalised with their name or a special message and will hopefully stop them losing their keys!

Fiat 500 gift wrap

The car theme doesn’t need to stop at the presents! Why not keep the theme going into the wrapping paper? Perfect for the Fiat 500 driver in your life that just can’t get enough of their car.

Puma x Ferrari merchandise

Have you got a big F1 fan in the family? Give them a taste of life in the fast lane with a choice of F1 Ferrari branded sportswear, from trainers to beanies.

Hand drawn car illustration

How about a hand drawn illustration of their pride and joy to take centre stage on top of the mantelpiece or even the bedside table?

Personalised car air fresheners

Do you know someone that spends most of their time in the car, away from family and friends? Make sure they take a piece of you on every road trip with these personalised car air fresheners – fun and practical!

Dash camera

A more practical gift to ensure they stay safe on the road. Dash cameras are becoming more popular these days and almost essential if you use your car for business.

Car experience day

Whether their dream is to race a Formula 1 car or crash around in a big monster truck, why not treat them to an experience of a lifetime with a choice of car driving experience days?

Kids car

An obsession with cars can start at a young age so if you’ve got a child that has been wishing for their own Range Rover Evoque or Lamborghini then these toy cars are perfect. Plus, for less than £200 they are a bargain compared to the real deal!

A new car?

Big kids need a treat too. So, if you’re thinking of treating that special someone, or yourself, to a new car then look no further than Exchange and Mart and s1cars. We’ve got thousands of used cars from trusted dealers throughout the UK just waiting for you.

Preparing your car for winter

Get it serviced

It might seem obvious, but get your car serviced.

It can be all too easy to forget to do this as often as we should – that year can come around more quickly than we realise. If your car is still under warranty, then regular servicing as per the manufacturer’s requirements is a must.

However, it will pay to get things checked before winter kicks in regardless. Many dealers offer free winter health checks so take advantage of these if available near you.

You can also do a lot of the checking yourself, like oil land waters levels, engine coolant and make sure your wipers don’t need replaced.

Get your brake pads, brake discs and brake fluid checked to make sure your car is stopping as well as it should. This is especially important in winter when roads are wet or icy. Check the fan belt and alternator belt are tight and not worn.

Check the spark plugs and other leads are in good condition. Do this regularly through the winter – and, indeed, all year round.

Check your tyres

Tyres are very important – they’re the only part of your car that’s in contact with the road, after all. The legal minimum for tread on your tyres is 1.6mm, but in practice at least 3mm is recommended. Make sure your tyres are in otherwise good condition, checking for cracks in the side walls and other irregularities.

Winter tyres are also worth considering. Although it can seem a bit extreme in the UK and could be considered an unnecessary cost, winter tyres are designed to deal with the worst of weather.

And, if you swap them over in the summer, both sets of tyres will last twice as long, making the overall cost little different.

Remember the basics

Don’t forget the basics that can be done very quickly.

Keep your lights clean. Although it can often seem pointless to wash your car every weekend during the winter, do make sure that your lights are clean. Dirt from the road, especially wet roads, is much worse in poor winter weather and headlights quickly accumulate a grubby film that can reduce the effectiveness of your lights dramatically, so clean them often.

The same goes for your windscreen and wipers. A dirty screen can add to the effect of glare when driving in the dark and make for a streaky view in the rain – which is both annoying and dangerous. Clean the wipers themselves, while checking for deterioration, to make sure they wipe the screen smoothly and without streaking. Replace them if you need to.

Be ready for the worst

Don’t think that preparing for the worst is a silly idea. If you do break down, you’ll be glad for that box of handy stuff you put in your boot for such eventualities.

Include a shovel – in case your car is physically stuck in snow or mud – a torch, blanket, hi-vis vest, screen wash, de-icer and scraper and food and drink supplies.

Make sure, too, that you have a fully charged mobile phone, or the means to charge it.

Neil Worth, road safety officer for GEM, the road safety and breakdown recovery organisation, said: “If you need to drive, have a plan ready that can help you postpone a journey. “Agree to reschedule a meeting or a visit if it’s not vital. In that way, you’re avoiding a lot of potential trouble for yourself, and ensuring you won’t be putting additional strain on emergency and recovery crews, who are sure to be at full stretch in the coming days. “If you’re out and about when snow hits, then the simple preparation measures suggested above really can make a big difference to help keep you safe.”

Check your cover

Above all else, check you’ve got adequate breakdown cover in place.

If the worst does happen, you want to get home quickly and safely.

Breakdown cover these days has various levels, so make sure yours covers what you need. Basic cover will get you roadside assistance – and if your car can be fixed you’ll be on your way. If not, you need cover that will at least get your car to the garage.

If you can afford it, higher-level cover will get you on to a destination of your choice.

Also check your insurance cover. It goes without saying that the risk of a crash increases in bad weather, so check you’re covered if the worst happens. And make sure that you carry details of what to do if you do break down or have an accident – phone numbers and policy numbers are key.

Winter Driving Tips

Slow down

It might seem obvious, but a lot of us forget that we need to drive differently in the winter. If it’s dark, or wet, or icy, for example, slowing down buys you time. It gives you time to access situations and, crucially, to react.

Keep more distance

You might have heard the saying ‘only a fool breaks the two-second rule’.

If you haven’t, then it’s simple. It’s a way of measuring the distance between you and the vehicle in front.

You should keep a two-second gap between you and the vehicle in front and you can measure this by beginning the above saying (it takes two seconds to say it) when that vehicle passes a fixed point. If you pass it before you finish the saying then you’re two close. Now, in winter, try extending this to four seconds.

Stopping distances in the wet are twice what they are for dry roads and on ice they are 10 times as far.

Set aside more time for your journey

If you can, give yourself more time. This will mean that you can factor in the increased potential for delays, as well as giving yourself a mindset that you’ve got plenty of time and don’t need to rush, again reducing the odds of having an accident.

Be mindful of the extra risks

The difficult thing about winter driving can be the hidden risks. Black ice is one such thing – a road might look fine, but could have a layer of ice across it.

Be particularly careful on tree-lined roads. Think about it – the trees mean that the sun doesn’t get onto the road, so the surface could still be icy even when all around it has thawed out.

Watch out for big puddles in the dark when it’s raining – hit one at speed and it’s all too easy to lose control of your car. And, as much as we all love sunny winter days, low sun at this time of year can blind you when driving. Take extra care.

Make sure you and your car are prepared

Washing your car during the winter might seem a bit of a waste of time, but it’s far from it. Although it might seem a fruitless task in the knowledge that it’ll be dirty again within minutes, salt that is used to keep roads ice-free, although with general dirt, builds up quickly during the winter.

So wash your car regularly, in particular keeping the windows and lights clean – as they can quickly build up a film of grime. Keep your fuel tank topped up in case of delays and diversions and keep an eye on traffic information.

Clear your windows properly before setting off and carry a scraper and de-icer. 

Winter Tyres Why Fit Them

Ask any British driver about cold weather tyres and their answer is likely to relate in some way to snow or ice-covered roads. Ask a them how often they encounter snow or ice and the answer is likely to range from very infrequently to occasionally, depending upon where they are located in the British Isles.

Recent prolonged bad winter weather coupled with significant advances in tyre technology has started to change the UK motorists’ attitudes towards winter tyres.

Advancements in technology

The perception that winter tyres only give benefits on snow or ice is years out of date as modern rubber compound technology and advances in tread pattern design mean the modern day winter tyre also provides higher levels of road safety on cold and damp road surfaces too. Much progress has been made over the last twenty-five years and tyre technology is now at a very advanced level. New vehicle concepts, combined with tyres ideally adapted to requirements, have made driving noticeably safer today. The benefits are persuasive – substantially increased mileage performance, less weight, reduced rolling resistance and considerably shorter braking distances on both wet and dry roads all speak for themselves.

“The number of accidents caused by wet road conditions increases in winter by a massive 267 per cent”

As vehicle design and technology has advanced, tyre design has had to do the same but it is unreasonable to expect one tyre type to provide high safety levels with temperature ranges such as +30 oC to -15 oC, both of which have been experienced in Britain in recent years. This is why specialist tyres have been developed over many years. To enable them to develop their potential to the full, there is one crucial aspect – they have to have balanced characteristics.

When am I most at risk?

Ambient temperature is a deciding factor on which tyre type provides the highest safety for road users. Most drivers will adapt driving styles when snow is on the ground and when temperatures drop below zero degrees. Why? Because such conditions are either very visible or very apparent to the driver. However, cold damp road conditions visibly are no different to damp conditions in the warmer months, hence drivers will tend not to adjust driving style to suit, therefore it is potentially these latter road conditions which present the highest risks. Research shows these potentially hazardous conditions are most likely to be encountered when the ambient temperature drops below 7oC, which in the UK means between October and April. Also of interest is the frequency of vehicle damage insurance claims which increases sharply with the onset of the cold season.

On damp or wet roads, tyres grip differently – and the braking distance is substantially longer. Which means the question of the right tyres and the temperature is even more important. Over 7oC – between Easter and October – traditional summer tyres are truly in their element. Between October and Easter however, Cold weather winter tyres show distinct safety advantages. On snow or ice-covered roads, only cold weather tyres reduce the braking distance by those vital metres.

When ambient temperatures fall below 7oC, the molecules in tread rubber progressively harden and freeze. This means that the tyre is less able to adapt to the contour of the road surface, which in turn reduces grip levels. With cold weather tyre rubber compounds, there is a higher proportion of natural rubber and coupled with extended use of silica technology, they minimise the hardening effect at low temperatures. This allows the tyre to key into the road surface, resulting in higher grip levels. Together with highly developed tread patterns, the combination is such that no summer tyre can match.

Preparing your tyres

A small amount of maintenance pays great dividends in terms of safety. Only well-maintained tyres perform fully and provide a comfortable ride. Tyres should be inspected regularly for cracks, cuts and bulges, and every four weeks check the tyre pressure on the cold tyre to ensure optimum contact with the road. Double-check the tread depth too, because as this decreases, braking distances increase. It’s a clear indicator of when to change your tyres – when summer tyres have only 3 mm tread depth and winter tyres 4 mm.

In summary, drivers are five times more likely to skid on snowy or icy road conditions than they are on dry roads, while the number of accidents caused by wet road conditions increases significantly during the winter months.

Despite the fact that 60 per cent of people feel scared or uneasy when driving in winter conditions, fully 75 per cent of these same people would not consider fitting winter tyres. It seems crazy, especially when you realize that the latest winter tyres generally outlast conventional summer tyres by many thousands of miles. So it can’t be purely a financial consideration.

Many car manufacturers through their dealerships and tyre centres are now actively promoting the use of winter tyres and are even offering to store the set you are not using free of charge until you want them refitted. It seems the industry and the British motorists are finally starting to wake up to the benefits of changing tyres to match the seasons’ varying weather conditions.