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Issue 13

january 2013

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Car of the Year 2012 2012 was a great year for motoring, but it was about so much more than just the cars. don’t get me wrong, there have been some spectacular new arrivals. i will, for instance, never forget the rumble and thunder of the morgan threewheeler, and the explosion that was the Jaguar XKr’s acceleration will be forever etched into my memory. there was also the marvel of how much peugeot’s partner could swallow, the delicacy of the toyota gt-86’s handling, and the want-one factor of the land rover defender Xtech. all great cars. But there were also the moments machines alone can’t provide, like seeing firsthand how ormskirk’s motorFest pulled in even more punters than last

year’s event, or watching texas follow the proclaimers at CarFest north. there were great roads too, including one i’d never have found were it not for getting slightly lost in Snowdonia (sorry, chaps). if the mayans were right and 2012 was the last year to hold a car show, then what a high note to end it all on. this year’s been a vintage year for cars, shows, and automotive experiences, and i can only hope that’s reflected in this special issue of Life On Cars. Sit back, read on and enjoy what’s been a great year for petrolheads. Life On Cars wishes both of its readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

David Simister Editor, Life On Cars Editor david Simister dESignEr david Simister www.lifeoncars.blogspot.com david.simister@hotmail.co.uk

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photography: manufacturer photography courtesy of the Society of motor manufacturers and traders (as newspress); all other photography by david Simister, Katie massam and Cornelia Kaufmann.

read Life On Cars each Wednesday in The Champion newspaper, and on the web at www.lifeoncars.blogspot.com © life on Cars 2010

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Jaguar XKR-S: thanks to having no less than 542bhp at its disposal the Big Cat’s flagship XK was easily the fastest - and priciest - car Life On Cars got to test in 2013. Image by David Simister


In this issue 4 Best event With 2012 proving something of a vintage year for car and bike nuts there was plenty to keep petrolheads entertained - but there was one event in particular which impressed more than most this year

6 Camera, action!

there were some cracking car moments at the cinema this year, and Life On Cars thought it only fair to recognise them. hence the creation of the inaugural movie of the year prize for best automotive film

8 2012’s hopefuls the quintet of cars which proved particularly impressive and enjoyable throughout this year this far, picked from a cast of dozens of motors launched over the past 12 months

10 Car of the Year this year Life On Cars has been lucky to try out the Fiat panda, the lotus Evora S, and just about everything else in between. But the best of this year’s bunch, by the narrowest of margins, was [cont. page 8]

12 Best road a true petrolhead enjoys a great road as much as the great car they tackle it with. this award honours the windy stretch of tarmac which excited and terrified Life On Cars the most in 2012

14 Driver’s hits there were plenty of cars worth seeking out simply for the thrill of driving them alone. the best driver’s car of 2012 is a bit of a classic in the making, thanks to its balance of poise and punch

16 Special award Which goes to the set of wheels which somehow defies all the other categories but still manages to impress Life On Cars anyway. this year, a salute to a one-man effort which impressed with its sense of fun

17 Best surprise the biggest shock to the system from a year of driving dozens of new cars had to be the small car everybody laughed at - until they found out just how good it was to drive

18 2013 is coming david Simister picks a few hot tips for the biggest motoring hits of the next 12 months.

20 Best bargain how an ancient sports car survived its baptism of fire to provide a whole summer of bargain open-top thrills

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SiXty poUndS. that’s what set CarFest north apart, even before i’d got through the gates. the car show Chris Evans organised, to raise funds for BBC Children in need, was easily twice as expensive any motoring event i’d been to before, but then this was quite unlike any show i’ve been to before. it was a great, if slightly pricey, weekend for petrolheads and their long-suffering families. you got all the classics miles of them, in fact, and endless parades of the automotive aristocracy - but at the point when most car shows end the music began. as darkness fell, the Cholmondeley estate stopped being a car show venue and became a music festival, with the proclaimers, paloma Faith and texas keeping the crowds entertained until almost midnight. Best of all, Chris himself stopped gawping at all the cars and put on a great show, making it one of the most entertaining days out of any kind i’ve been to. CarFest north is in the top level of car shows when it comes to ticket prices, but it’s worth budgeting for because it’s big fun, and it all goes to charity too. Go to the Life On Cars blog to see more from CarFest North 2012

Event of the Year 2012 4

Life On Cars


hitting just the right note

Chris Evans blended music and cars to create a great event, despite the price

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Movie of the Year 2012

live a

The jewel in a ye left Life On Cars s

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and let drive

ear of great on-screen moments for cars shaken, but not stirred at the cinema

“SomEtimES the old ways are the best.” it’s perhaps this line, repeated twice in Skyfall, which sums up the Bond film’s nostalgic vibe. 2012 has seen plenty of great petrolhead moments at the pictures – hence the creation of this award – with both Taken 2 and The Bourne Legacy in particular keeping fans of all things automotive at the edge of their seats. But daniel Craig’s third outing as Britain’s best known secret agent has

proved a particularly special treat. not only was there a thrilling chase in the film’s opening sequence, starring an audi a5, a land rover defender and some very tight turkish streets, but director Sam mendes brought the aston dB5 out of retirement for some wonderful scenes in the Scottish highlands for the film’s climax. the thing i love most of all about these scenes is that, in much the same way the daniel Craig

movies have tried to take Bond back to basics, devoid of Cgi and gadgets, so these shots take the dB5 away from being a cheesy automotive cliché and remind car nuts what it really is and what it does best; it’s a classy, handcrafted gt car, designed to wind its way over mountain passes in speed and comfort. action-packed the dB5 scenes aren’t, but they make you want to be there. Life On Cars

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The nearly cars

THE car I really wanted in the final five – but it just missed the cut, by the tiniest of margins – was Suzuki’s Swift Sport, which is wonderfully engaging to drive but lost out because simply because some of this year’s contenders offered more innovation. Another surprise is the Range Rover Evoque, which loses its place to the Jag because the saloon’s better looking and nicer to drive, but for both to impress shows just how Jaguar Land Rover is going from strength to strength. Also missing the cut is Vauxhall’s Ampera, which offered a lot to like but loses out as the eco contender because Renault’s Twizy gives a much bigger grin for a considerably lower price. The biggest disappointment of the year was Hyundai’s Veloster, which didn’t match up to its coupe rivals in the driving stakes. A pity, because its sister offering the i30 is one of 2012’s more impressive arrivals. Honourable mentions also go to the Fiat Panda, VW Up, and the MINI Roadster.

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Car oF the Year 2012: the Final Five Car of the Year 2012 The automotive achievers which stood out from the rest after being given The Champion’s road test treatment... ...and why some impressive new arrivals haven’t made the final shortlist


“Plushly trimmed and politically correct it isn't but the GT-86 is the steal of the century if you're looking for a driver's car with a sense of mischief. It's been worth the wait.”

Toyota GT-86

Life On Cars - October 2012

“The Twizy is odd and impractical but it puts a smile on your face and has a definite ‘want one' factor. Which for me makes it a landmark in the world of electric cars. ”

Renault Twizy

Life On Cars - June 2012

“Despite being friendlier and more manageable than I could’ve have hoped for it is completely unlike anything I’ve driven before. It is a sort of cross between the open-air buzz of a microlight and the vintage style of a Sopwith Camel fighter plane with the deepthroated roar of an old TVR thrown in.”

Morgan Threewheeler

Life On Cars - March 2012

“ The Jag's better looking than a BMW 5-Series, more characterful and more fun when it strays off its natural habitat of the motorway's outside lane. Jag's XF is all the executive saloon you could ever ask for”

Jaguar XF 2.2D

Life Cars Life On Cars - JuneOn 2012

“Peugeot’s been back on form since the RCZ but the 208 comprehensively beats the Fiesta in every area. It is an astonishingly accomplished supermini.”

Peugeot 208

Life On Cars - December 2012

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NO, Life On Cars hasn’t taken leave of its senses. This year’s Car of the Year really is a car lacking a roof, doors, windscreen or even a fourth wheel. All five of the cars which made the shortlist this year could have won. The likes of Autocar and Evo have raved about the Toyota GT-86, for instance, and I can see why; at £25,000 it’s the bargain driver’s car of the decade. The XF, in 2.2 diesel form, is arguably the best saloon on the market today and it’s the car Jaguar should have made years ago – that it beat Jaguar Land Rover’s other big hitter, the Range Rover Evoque, into the shortlist, says it all. The XF is all the car you could ever ask for. The 208’s remarkable too; three years ago Ford’s Fiesta was the Life On Cars favourite of 2009 and it’s ruled the supermini roost ever since, but Peugeot’s effort has well and truly knocked it off its perch. From its crisp handling to the quality of its interior, it’s a superb product. But what I was looking for in the winner was something radical, which excites as much as it impresses, and just as the Focus and DS3 Racing proved tricky to pull apart last year, this year choosing between Renault’s Twizy and Morgan’s Threewheeler was the toughest choice of all. For all their similarities – they’re both open-air, reardrive, two-seaters with an emphasis on lightness and fun – they couldn’t be more different, with one a £6k electric ecomobile which just happens to be a hoot to drive, and the other a £30k sports car which just happens to be surprisingly sensible when you want it to be. The Renault is a true triumph of engineering because it’s cheap, fun and the first electric car I could actually see myself owning, even though deep down I wish they’d offer the option of a tiny petrol engine for all those enthusiasts, like me, enthralled with its Renaultsport-tuned dynamics. I love it... but I love the Morgan more. Not only is it something which takes motoring and makes it into an unforgettable experience, but it turns heads quite unlike any others, uses weight to keep costs and pollution down, and it has a quality and feel cars costing twice as much would be proud of. It’s utterly mad, but it’s a deserving winner.

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Car of the Year 2012

WINN ER : Morgan Threewheeler NNER

the best things Come in threes Life On Cars

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Road of the Year 2012

the Fast and the Curious

Every enthusiast enjoys a great road as much as a great car. It’s just that some roads are so much greater than others 12 Life On Cars


it WaS an automotive grudge match, played out on the wonderful, winding roads of north Wales. in the blue corner were the sports cars – a Ford puma and a mK1 mazda mX-5 – while in the red corner the rover metro gti and the supercharged Volkswagen polo gti were fighting it out for hot hatches. after hundreds of miles, there was no real victor, but the roads themselves proved the

real inspiration. Both north yorkshire and the lake district have some truly stunning roads but in north Wales they’re almost ten a penny, from the bleak beauty of the llanberis pass, the challenging curves of the great orme, and the climbs and dips of the horseshoe pass. But it’s a road i discovered by accident that proved the most memorable drive of the year. head out of Betws-yCoed on the a5, point your car towards

llangollen and take a right at the little village of pentrefoelas. the road’s more of a track at first, threading its way through farm after farm, but eventually the cattle grids give way to a challenging little route which heads into the mountains of Snowdonia. after hundreds of feet of climbing, you take a right towards Ffestiniog, and before you drop back down towards the sea you’re rewarded with a real treat. the road hangs to the mountain side, with just a

slate wall to protect you from a sheer drop, but beyond that is a wonderful panorama across the Welsh mountains, plunging down to the irish Sea. it’s every bit as good as the Buttertubs pass, but with the added benefit that it’s one of Wales’ best kept motoring secrets. the B4407 from pentrefoelas and the B4391 to Ffestiniog. Whether you’re in a Ford racing puma, an mX-5, a metro gti or a supercharged polo, you’re going to enjoy the ride.

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Best Driver’s Car of 2012

Photos by Cornelia Kaufmann

the suPerCar to drive all daY

The Lotus Evora S might well cost the thick end of £60,000, but it’s so good you’ll want to drive it until the sun sets

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So it’S two on the trot while i can’t pretend it’s for lotus. Where the Elise a Jag XF it’s not that far S was my favourite driving off when it comes to hit of 2011, so its bigger, comfort. it’s sumptuously faster brother takes this trimmed, rides with a year’s honours. remarkable level of Which is a surprise, softness for a supercar because not all of my and comes equipped with memories of the Evora S satnav, cruise control, a were ones i recall happily. killer sound system and so it’s hard to forget the fuel on – all the toys you’d economy – one of the expect, basically, from an Elise’s stronger suits – executive saloon. head up because in a week’s worth the motorway to the of press-on lakes, as i did, motoring the and you’ll supercharger arrive relaxed brought the “You could and unruffled. 3.5 litre V6 yet it’s only happily use when you get in the Evora down to as there the other it on the little as Evora – the motorway, 20mpg. BEttEr Evora – there’s also emerges. plant but you the memory your foot down of nursing won’t want and the those wide supercharger to because instantly surges arches through a it’s so good you forward, particularly and thanks to to drive.” the light body congested Kendal onethe 340bhp at way system, your disposal is the next-tomore than useless rear seats and, enough. What’s more, it worst of all, the handles just as sweetly as immobiliser from hell the the Elise does, even if the particular car i tested thrills, thanks to the came fitted with. Where sumptuous trimming, life with an Elise was a aren’t quite as seat-ofdoddle once you’d your-pants. squeezed into it, the therein lies the week with lotus’ range wonderful paradox of the topper was more of a Evora S; you could happily challenge. use this car every day on But being the best the motorway, but you driver’s car isn’t about won’t want to because practicality or fuel it’s such a joy to drive economy or running costs everywhere else. it is a – it’s about things like car you’ll want to drive handling, feel and punch, until the sun goes down and on these fronts the and the fuel runs out. lotus excels because it’s Would i have one on my effectively two cars in Euromillions dream one. shopping list over the For starters, it’s the much faster Jaguar XKr-S motorway cruiser the i also tried? you bet i Elise never can be, and would...


mini marvel

thE key thing to remember about the Cub is it’s a riot to drive. Even though it’s been crafted by hand in a workshop in Bootle by the andersen motor Company – hence amC – it is essence a blend of some of my favourite motoring

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ingredients – light weight, and open top roof and the best bits from the original mini – in a brand new package. not only does it hold up as a quality product, but it’s a giggle and gets lots of curious looks.yes, for the £12,000 asking price for the

The gong that goes to the c but somehow too mem

This year, one of the most crafted in a Bootle work Then again, the AMC Cub is

factory built version you could get a brand new, BmW-engineered mini but that’s missing the point – true, the modern car is more sensible but the Cub, a faithful recreation of the original mini moke of the 1960s, is much, much more fun. it’s all

the joys of driving a classic mini, still one of the best handling small cars ever made, with added al fresco thrills. it’s a bit too niche to even come close to winning Car of the year but the little Cub made a big impression.


car ineligible for Car of the Year morable to go without a mention.

t exciting drives came from a car kshop rather than a huge factory. sn’t exactly an ordinary motor...

eleCtriC shoCK Surprise of the Year 2012

Special Award 2012

I REALLY wanted Renault’s Twizy to be rubbish. It wasn’t. To say this was 2012’s biggest surprise is an understatement – at an SMMT test driving event back in May, I joined a queue of journalists lining up to get a go in it, who all looked at the weirdly styled two seater with a slightly bewildered expression. The tiny, allelectric Twizy looked faintly ridiculous, but words written across the country were about to eaten. The Twizy might be tiny, exposed, powered by amps alone and limited realistically to about 40mph but I hadn’t banked on what else it offers. It’s narrow, slide-happy tyres, a midengined layout, rear wheel drive and a chassis tuned by Renaultsport, and it showed. It might be cheap, easy to run and kind to the environment, but what made it count was the grin factor. The Twizy is hilariously good fun. If all eco-friendly driving in the future is going to be this much fun, count me in!

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get revved uP For the Class oF 2013

Porsche’s stunning 918 Spyder is among next year’s arrivals hElp save the planet while doing 200mph. that’s the unique premise porsche is promising with the 918 Spyder. no, really; the spiritual successor to the Carrera gt and the 959 – porsche’s other 200mph hypercars – uses a clever blend of a mid-mounted V8 engine and electric motors to offer up 770bhp and C02 emissions lower than a Bluemotion VW polo’s. it

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also, thanks to a martini paintjob nicked straight off the old 917 le mans racers, looks seriously cool. But it’ll have to be good to woo buyers away from another supercarking-in-waiting, in the form of mclaren’s p1, arguably the old mclaren F1’s long awaited successor. you’d think with that legacy in mind that the Woking company

would’ve gone after Bugatti in a bid to build the world’s fastest production car but they haven’t; boss ron dennis has already made it clear he wants the p1 to be the best driver’s car rather than the best card to have in Top Trumps. it should be quite a car. that’s if you haven’t put your name down for the Vanquish, the latest in a long line of aston

martins which offer plenty of punch and panache but, for better or worse, still look strikingly similar to 2004’s dB9. then again, with a shape like that to convey you and a friend to 200mph in comfort, would you blame them for leaving it largely as it is? Certainly, you couldn’t blame land rover for choosing not to mess with the styling of the range rover, because even


though the outgoing model was introduced way back in 2002 it still looks great today, so wisely they’ve decided not to mess with it. Sure, the stance is a little squatter and there’s a couple of changes here and there, but the big changes are beneath the skin, because it’s lighter and kinder to the environment than ever before. So what if you haven’t won the Euromillions? Well, there’s even more to excite motorists at the more affordable end of the market, especially if you’re after a saloon car which looks curiously like an aston martin rapide. Ford have given the new mondeo a very, er, astonishing nose, but it could give the insignia, the 508 and the 3-Series a run for their money. there isn’t going to be a new insignia for a while but Vauxhall’s cleverly used the existing one in its efforts to conquer a corner of the market BmW and audi have had to themselves for a while – the big convertible. the Cascada is a smart looking bit of kit and looks set to be keenly spaced, and i can see it neatly filling the gap left by Saab’s much-missed 9-3 Cabriolet. the other new arrival Vauxhall’s banking on is its long overdue rival to the mini, Fiat 500, audi a1 and alfa mito, in the shape of the amusingly named adam. it looks funky and offers an almost

endless scope for buyers to customise their cars. it could be a great car, but it’ll lack the heritage and the image of its more established rivals. in fact, one of the most crucial small car arrivals is a rather more familiar supermini staple; renault’s new Clio.its success, particularly in the UK where the company’s struggled during the recession, is vital for renault, but with the Fiesta and the 208 to topple it’ll have to be excellent to become the small car of choice, particularly when peugeot’s ready to reclaim the crown of Britain’s favourite hot hatch. the 208 gti is being billed – by peugeot themselves, no less – as being the spiritual successor to the iconic 205 gti, which just shows how ambitious the French firm is feeling. it missed the mark with the spicier versions of the 206 and the 207 but i think, if the cooking versions of the 208 i’ve already driven are anything to go by, they’re onto something. But the one car company i’d keep an eye on more than any other is... Kia. the Sportage and the Cee’d show the Korean firm is clearly feeling confident to take on the big boys, but if the sporty pro_Cee’d gt turns out to be better than the 208 gti it’ll be the automotive upset of the year. let battle commence!

Opposite: porsche is keen to impress enthusiasts and environmentalists alike with the stunning 918 Spyder supercar. Right, from top: mclaren’s new p1 is being billed as the ultimate car for keen drivers; new aston sees the Vanquish moniker make a return; new mondeo is a great looker; the Cascada will take on audi and BmW cabriolet models; adam is Vauxhall’s answer to the mini; latest Clio is crucial for renault success; the 208 gti is promising much for hot hatch fans; the first image of Kia’s new sporty pro_Cee’d gt model.

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Bargain of the Year thingS started badly for the mX-5. not the world’s best selling sports car in general but this particular one, which i snapped up for less than a grand last year. it might be one of the most revered modern classics of them all but the g-plater i’d bought had a ropey battery, a leaky roof, electric windows which didn’t work and some pretty appalling alloy wheels and

bits of aftermarket trim. not that i had much time to moan about them, because less than a fortnight later a Cumbrian road, cold weather and cheap tyres got the better of it. Cue an expensive repair and a very bruised ego! But once the repairs had been done, and the niggles had been sorted the mX-5’s soul started to shine through; it was a thrilling, affordable

ragtop with Japanese engineering know-how and a sense of fun. i’d sold a mini to make way for the mX-5 and in the first two months thought i’d made an expensive mistake, but after thousands of miles on all sorts of roads it’s wormed by way into my affections. it happily cruised along aberystwyth’s seafront on a sunny afternoon as effectively as it devoured the Buttertubs pass in

north yorkshire on a chilly evening, and blasted me along motorways as easily as it tootles around town centres, and not once has it complained at any of the tasks i’ve set it. Best of all, it delivers you along just about every road with a darty, alive sensation which makes you smile. What was frustrating when i bought it is now a firm favourite. i’m glad i stuck with it.

a baPtism oF Fire For one star Car This MX-5 didn’t have the greatest of starts, but it’s gone to impress on some of the country’s best roads 20 Life

On Cars

Life On Cars Magazine, Christmas 2012  
Life On Cars Magazine, Christmas 2012  

A Christmas special edition of the magazine focusing on the Life On Cars car of the year for 2012.

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