Page 1

T E S T E D: S u z u k i S w i f t S port

Plus the latest motoring news, reviews, and opinion

Issue FOuR

APRIL 2011

F i f t y a nd f a b u l ou s Why everybody loves the E-Type w w w. l i f e o n c a r s . b l o g s p o t . c o m

In this issue 3 Coming soon Anything Vauxhall can do with the rear doors of its small people movers, Ford reckons it can do better. Say hello to the smaller sister of its C-Max and S-Max models

THE Geneva special in this issue shows there’s an awful lot of exciting metal on the way. Even if you can't afford the amazing new Aventador, Lamborghini's longawaited replacement for the Murciélago, you're going to love the Alfa 4C. Or the MINI Rocketman. Or the Aston Martin Virage. Or even Vauxhall's new Zafira. Point is, there's an awful lot of new metal on the move. Yet I've just been wondering what'll happen to two iconic - but ultimately outgoing - cars I've just spent a lot of time with. The Suzuki Swift Sport, which you can read all about in this issue, is a brilliant example of what

hot hatches are all about, but with the rest of the Swift range since superseded by a newer model its days are numbered. I can only hope the Swift concept which starred on Suzuki's range points to a promising replacement. Meanwhile the Lotus Elise has shown why the boys from Norfolk do small sports cars better than anyone else, but if the concept Elise shown off last year is anything to go by, its replacement will be bigger, heavier and risks losing some of the light weight which makes it so compelling. But that's another road test, and that's the next issue...

Created by EDITOR David Simister DESIGNER David Simister


ADDITIONAL PHOTOGARPHY: All manufacturer images, including the Geneva Show pictures, provided by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders; all other photography by David Simister. Read Life On Cars each Wednesday in The Champion newspaper, on the web at and on the radio at

4 Fire up the... ...the latest contenders for your cash. Motoring writer David Simister gets to grips with the latest Toyota Prius hybrid, a looney Lexus, and a Fiat Punto that’s been given the hot hatch treatment

6 Motorfest 2011 Why the inaugural Ormskirk Motorfest, held on the one-way system of a busy West Lancashire town, will be a classic car event not to miss out on later this summer

7 E’s are good How do you top dirt-racing a Jaguar to celebrate one of the company’s anniversaries? By hitching a ride in the iconic E-Type on the eve of its 50th birthday, of course

10 Peak practice Why Suzuki’s Swift Sport is the hot hatch bargain of the decade, as David Simister discovers on some of the country’s toughest roads

12 Geneva special A concept car previewing the next Vauxhall Zafira was apparently one of the stars of the 2011 Geneva Motorshow. But we forgot and thought we’d show you all the shiny new supercars instead

14 Best of the blog Why Kylie Minogue looks lost next to a Lexus CT 200 h and other gems of wisdom from the Life On Cars online offerings

16 Ford is 100! A look back at some of the Blue Oval’s best efforts from a century of selling cars in the UK

© Life On Cars 2011


Life On Cars

Coming soon A FUNKY new Ford on sale later this year is hoping to beat Vauxhall at its own game when it comes to baby people carriers with clever doors. Vauxhall's Meriva impressed Life On Cars last year not only with its funfactor but also its use of rear doors which open backwards instead of forwards to ease access, but rivals Ford have gone a step further by making them slide out of the car altogether, something usually seen on the largest MPVs. “With the B-MAX we set out to create a vehicle that captures the spirit of a smaller S-MAX,” said Martin Smith, Ford of Europe’s executive design director. “We wanted to show that a small car could be very spacious and practical inside, while still having the sleek, dynamic appearance that has made the S-MAX so popular.” The B-Max it is expected to be within the next 12 months.

The cars you could be driving next year

2011: A space odyssey

Vauxhall does clever doors too... Geneva Special: Page 12


Above:Ford’s B-MAX, top, offers smart doors but Vauxhall’s Meriva, above, already comes with “suicide” doors at the back

For the latest car news check out the Life On Cars blog at:

Life On Cars


Fire up the...

The road test verdict on the motors that matter

...Toyota Prius TOYOTA'S Prius at ten years old, is a global icon of the world's biggest car company, beloved of eco warriors and Hollywood actresses alike, and the first car you're likely to think of when it comes to saving the planet or saving at the pumps. It is the hybrid. Unfortunately, that means a quick science lesson. Hybrids are, as the name suggests, motors which use a mix of petrol and electricity to get you moving, with the Toyota's 1.8 litre lump doing the sterling job of not only moving you about, but also helping to charge an electric battery,


Life On Cars

which in turn helps with the duties of swooshing along silently in traffic and in low speed parking manouveres. Cast your eyes over the latest version, the third generation of the car, and it's definitely a love or hate job. Some of my passengers were instantly put off by the unusual proportions but to my mind it's the best looking Toyota hybrid to date, ditching the dowdy looks of its predecessor in favour of some crisp detailing, like the edgy headlights and alloy wheels. It's the same story on the inside, which looks

The original hybrid car reaches its tenth birthday

more like the cockpit of a spaceship than a rival to the Golf or Focus. The dials are replaced with a brilliantly bizarre computerised screen in the middle of that deep dashboard, and the gearstick is a minute, translucent blue affair which you'd swear has been nicked straight off a gaming console. You have to forget the too-light steering and slightly stodgy handling and concentrate instead on learning the low speed coasting this car loves to get anywhere near the 70 miles to the gallon the Prius can and will do. There's even a game you

can play to make it more fun; choose the animated display of the car's energy consumption on your car's Starship Enterprise display panel, and see how long you can get it to run on just electricity. The Prius is also almost certainly a better bet than the rash of electriconly cars coming later this year, because after 100 miles on a longer trip you'll still be saving the planet long after the ‘leccy-driving do-gooders have run out of battery power and ground silently to a halt. It's not an exciting car, but it is an impressive one.

...Abarth Punto

Fiat’s go-faster Punto just isn’t as good as its smaller 500 sister WHAT'S red and white and travels around Britain at breakneck speed? Nope, it's not Father Christmas, but Abarth's go-faster treatment of one of Fiat's best sellers. This pimped-out Punto isn't, the marketing men insist, a Fiat at all, but an exciting and sporty hot hatch from Abarth, who if you reach for the history books have actually notched up quite a bit of motorsport heritage.Since then it's made a bit of a comeback. Like the Abarth 500, it has one of the best bodyk-

its I've seen on any of today's sportier superminis, having go-faster stripes where you'd want them, black alloy wheels, and nothing at all in the way of silly spoilers or big wings. There's something very Seventies about the big ABARTH logos running down the side, and the company's famed Scorpion badge will allow at least some bragging rights in the pub car park. But even that doesn't get you past this car's biggest problem; whichever way you look at

it the Fiat Punto, which the Abarth's based on, it's a car that's showing its age. It's also something you sense behind the wheel, because while the Abarth has a delightful scrabbly feel off the line, you always get the suspicion that its 180bhp isn't quite

enough in a hot hatch market obsessed with horsepower. I'd buy it over the Abarth offerings of old, but over a Citroen DS3? Sadly, I suspect I probably wouldn't. And anyway; Abarth already makes a hatchback that really is worth every penny. The Abarth 500.

The sober suited saloon with jumbo jet pace THIS car's closest rival, believe it or not, is Liverpool Airport. I say because the easiest and cheapest way to experience the epic acceleration of Lexus' IS-F, the company's first ever supersaloon, is to check in for the next flight from John Lennon, strap yourself into an Easyjet Boeing 737, and remind yourself of the way it rockets down the runway as it takes off. Japan's answer to the BMW M3 is a master of that same sort of relentless acceleration. Thanks to a 414bhp, 5.0 litre V8 engine nestling under the bonnet of this otherwise sober suited saloon, this Lexus is fast on a level far removed from

...Lexus IS F ordinary British motoring, making it wickedly intoxicating and effortlessly illegal at the same time. It's as easy to drive as anything else from the firm's showrooms, being smooth and quiet on country roads and a doddle through built up areas, but mash your right foot into the floor and you

might as well be on the next flight to Malaga. Even overtaking, this car's party piece, can get you into trouble if you don't watch your speed, because even split second bursts will propel you well over the speed limit, although as a conselation you're treated to an American muscle car sound-

track as you do it! In my heart of hearts I know that a £57,000 Lexus that gets from nought to 60mph in less than five seconds before powering on to a top speed of almost 170mph is completely irrelevant. But you just can't help loving this Lexus.

Life On Cars


R e v v i ng u p Preparations for a full throttle spectacular for Ormskirk now underway

LAST year Life On Cars revealed that work was underway to hold a motoring spectacular in Ormskirk this August, which will combine a display of classic cars in Coronation Park with a parade of


Life On Cars

sports and racing cars on the town's one-way system. Event Co-ordinator, John Bailie, on behalf of organisers Aintree Circuit Club, said:

"We have been amazed at the incredible interest which the MotorFest has already generated. We'll have historic Grand Prix cars on the streets, along with a wide variety of racing cars and motor cycles, sports, classic and vintage cars and many more. "This event is sure to bring many visitors to the town, so we're staging this Preview Event to show the Ormskirk business community how it will benefit them, and how they can

play their part in ensuring its success". It's brilliant: close the roads off for a couple of hours, use it show off some Jags, MGs and old F1 cars, and give the local economy a bit of a boost at the same time. Get it down in your diary for Sunday, August 28 and make sure that old classic in the garage is actually finished in time for the big event, because I reckon it'll be a full-throttle event to remember.

For more information on the event contact John Bailie, the event coordinator of Aintree Circuit Club, on 07860 255485 or get in touch with him by email on

D e s i r e David Simiste r the Jaguar E-T on why y 50 years old, is pe, now sports car eve still the rybody lusts after

Life On Cars


LIGHT up the candles and stick on a silly hat, because an icon of the automotive world is about to celebrate a momentous anniversary. One of my favourite cars of all time is approaching its fiftieth birthday bash. Jaguar's E-Type, which first wowed the world in 1961, is almost exactly twice as old as I am, meaning it was long gone when I was young and impressionable and carefully nurturing my love of all things cars. I should have lusted after something faster and more modern from my own childhood, like an Aston DB7, any of TVR's offerings or even Jaguar's own XK8, but I didn't. At the tender age of ten all I wanted was an E-Type. Not that our fifty-some-

thing's going to get off that easily, of course; read any of the classic car mags and you'll be well versed with all the E-Type horror stories that abound, like the cramped driving position in the early models, the 1960s reliability, the heart-stopping (but not car-stopping) brakes and the increasingly ugly styling modifications, spurred on by the ‘elf ‘n' safety conscious American market. Most notoriously of all, the only E-Types that would actually do the car's claimed top speed of 150mph were the soupedup ones lent to the press. It wasn't quite the bargain Ferrari-bater Jaguar made it out to be. But this isn't a car you justify by numbers, particularly if you're looking

Above: 2+2 E-Type Coupe owner Nigel Spry meets David Simister outside The Champion offices in Southport to take him for a spin


Life On Cars

at the £50,000 pricetag for a good one these days. The reason why I've always wanted an E-Type is because....well, just look at it. This isn't a car that's been designed for anything so boring as going to the shops. It's a rolling work of art that's been sculpted to go as single-mindedly fast as possible, like a 1950s jet fighter. Sure, I can think of lots of cars that are better all-rounders, but none that are anything like as beautiful. So I couldn't believe when not one, but two Life On Cars readers rang up to offer me the chance to do something I've wanted to do since the age of ten, and finally get up close to the classic car everybody lusts after. This, for a car nut like

me, was a dream come true. You don't even have to be remotely interested in cars to understand why everybody wants an EType - all you need to do is take in the shape, which first stunned the world way back in 1961. Hesketh Bank reader Nigel Spry, who brought his bright red 1970 E-Type to the Champion offices last Friday, reckons it's the head-turning looks that make it such a memorable motor. "It's the shape, pure and simple, and it's so elegant," he said. "Yes, it's a car you can drive in any weather, and the performance was remarkable for its day, but the reason all the pop stars and footballers bought them in the Sixties

Above: Tom Melia shows David Simister his 4.2 litre E-Type Coupe; Main picture and previous page: The glorious 3.8 litre Jaguar E-Type Roadster, to this day among the most sought-after of all E-Types

was becase it's such a beautiful shape. It just hits you." Although I wasn't allowed to get behind the wheel myself for insurance reasons, just strapping myself into the passenger seat and looking at the wooden steering wheel, the delicate rocker switches and that gorgeously curvaceous bonnet reminded me the car was something special. As soon as the Jag's straight six engine fired up, I couldn't help but smile. I'd have been happy to leave it at the blast along Southport's streets in Nigel's glorious example of the elegant E-Type, but when Bispham reader Tom Melia got in touch to offer me a ride in his, I couldn't refuse. One E-Type ride is a dream come true, so surely two in the space of a weekend is just being

greedy! "It's a really nice car drive, really responsive, with great lumps of power. You could almost liken it to a four wheel motorbike," he said of his 1968 E-Type Coupe. "Even the young kids wave and give you the thumbs up when you go past them in it. Everyone sees the shape and smiles, because it's just so different to anything else out there." With prices for decent E-Types starting at around £25,000, I can't see one ending up in my garage any time soon but I can at least tick off one of the boxes in my list of things I've always wanted to do. For a car that's just turned fifty, the E-Type is as fabulous as it ever. It's the best birthday I've ever celebrated, anyway...

“It's the shape, pure and simple, and it's so elegant” - E-Type owner Nigel Spry Life On Cars


Suzuki’s Swift Sport is the perfect car for the tricky roads of Cumbria, as David Simister discovers EVER wanted to own your very own sports car but never could because you'd struggle to get the kids, the shopping and your suitcase in the back? Well anyone familiar with the letters G, T and I will already know you can, because ever since the hot hatch was invented in the late Seventies it's been showing the family man the sort of full-throttle thrills he'd normally

miss out on. Whether it's the Golf GTi of the Seventies, the Peugeot 205 GTi of the Eighties, or the Renault Clio Williams of the Nineties, chances are there's a go-faster shopping car from your generation that proved you can pack both a big punch and a big boot. Fast forward to 2011 and Suzuki's Swift Sport, yours for a smidgen under thirteen grand, brings the

Photos by Katie Massam familiar formula bang up to date. Although it's based on the outgoing model rather than the new range brought in last year, it mixes funky styling with sporty touches like a rear spoiler, alloys all round and bucket seats on the inside, and definitely looks the part if you're a keen driver. With the same practical touches and easy-revving

Peak practice 10 Life

On Cars

nature as its slower siblings in the Swift range, it's a doddle to drive around town. It's a shame the boot doesn't offer the room of larger rivals like the Fiesta or Corsa, but it's very easy to get comfortable inside, with plenty of space front and rear. But you can do all that with a normal hatchback, which is why to see the Sport in its element you have to get off the

housing estates and onto the hills, like the Yorkshire Dales. Take it to somewhere like the Buttertubs Pass, one of Britain's toughest driving roads, and you'll see exactly where the Sport shines. Out here, its handling is as impressive as much more expensive sports cars like Mazda's MX-5, and the 126bhp engine eggs you on into every corner, giving you all the confidence you could ever ask for. After tackling the Buttertubs I could have pulled over, but I carried

on, heading right through the Dales and across the whole of Cumbria, simply because it's a car you never get tired of driving. It's never anything less than a giggle from behind the wheel, and when you do decide you've had enough fun for the day the price and practicality prove plenty to smile about. Forget your posey, pricey sports cars - get yourself one of these and get into the countryside. This is one of the best hot hatches you can buy today.

Life On Cars



Mini Rocketman: THE unlikely star of the Geneva motorshow wasn't the new Lamborghini but a back-to-basics MINI which could make production. The MINI Rocketman might have a silly name but it comes with with a clever “three plus one” seating layout, sliding doors and a boot that slides out of the car like a drawer, the Rocketman shows off some of the packaging flair familiar not only to fans of the original Mini but also of Toyota's innovative IQ, which would be one of the minature MINI's rivals if it ever hit the high street.

Jaguar XKR-S, below: It’s been 50 years since Jaguar stunned Geneva showgoers with the first ever outing of its E-Type, and what better way to celebrate than by unveiling its 21st century equivalent? The XKR-S packs no less than 550bhp, meaning it can dismiss the 0-60mph in just 4.2 seconds, before blasting to a top speed of 186mph.

12 Life

On Cars

A sucession of new supercars all unveiled in just one place? It could only be...

Aston Martin Virage: Did you know there’s a gap in Aston’s range, between the DB9 and DBS? Nope, neither did we, but the Virage is determined to plug it using a 490bhp, 6.0 litre V12 and the revival of an old Aston name from the 1990s.



Lamborghini Aventador, above: Richer Life On Cars readers should add another supercar to their shopping list, after Lamborghini announced its replacement for the decade-old Murcielago. The 700bhp Aventador follows in the footsteps of the scissor-doored Lamborghinis of the past, including the Countach and Diablo, and uses carbonfibre construction to keep the weight of the car down as much as possible. Anyone who's just found a spare ÂŁ201,900 down the back of their sofa is advised to order their Aventador - named, in true Lamborghini tradtion, after a famous fighting bull - now to be in with a chance of enjoying the car and its all-new V12 engine.

eneva 2011

Alfa Romeo 4C, above: This will go on sale next year, the Italian company has confirmed. The 4C, which blends a mid-engined, rearwheel-drive two seater layout with mini-supercar styling, was officially unveiled at this month's Geneva Motorshow, and is aimed at driving enthusiasts who want a more thrilling ride than the company's existing Spyder sports car. Powered by a turbocharged 1.8 litre ‘Cloverleaf' engine, the 4C is expected to go on sale across Britain in 2012.

Life On Cars


let loose Strange stories and outspoken opinion from the motoring world via the Life On Cars blog

Why I’m still to be sold on electric cars IF you make it as far as the motors section in The Champion, you'll probably be bored with all the stories about the Coalition Government cutting things. But what if they gave you £5,000 off your next new car? That's right; David Cuts Cameron and his Lib Dem sidekick, Nasty Nick Clegg, actually announced yesterday that they're going to give you a whopping £5,000 off the price of your next car. Naturally, there's a slight snag to this nugget of good news - it has to run on electricity. When the scheme starts in January, there will be just three cars on sale in British showrooms which run solely on electricity, which admittedly is three more than this time last year. The Mitsubishi iMiev, the the Smart Fortwo electric drive and the Peugeot iOn. Yet as much as I'd like to save the Earth,

14 Life

On Cars

I'm yet to be convinced electric cars actually work properly yet. I base this on my limited experience of driving just one electric car, the zero-emissions MINI E which BMW trialled in the South East earlier this year. I've driven and enjoyed the petrol-powered Cooper on a couple of occasions, but the MINI of the volt-powered variety was - and I choose my words carefully - one of the worst cars I've driven this year. Sure, with all the power available at precisely no revs at all it got off the line like a greyhound, but the engine braking in particular was appalling; one on occasion, I pulled up safely at a roundabout without touching the brakes. It also had no back seats and a range of less than 150 miles and as much as BMW stressed it was an experiment and not a finished product, I really

couldn't recommend it. I've every hope that the similarly electric Nissan Leaf, which has just been voted European Car of the Year, and Citroen's C-Zero, which has just achieved the not-at-all-impressive feat of being the first car to successfully use the Eurotunnel, prove better buys. But there's still one real price you'll have to pay, and that's the price itself. With the iMiev - a tiny city car - on sale at £24,000 and the Leaf due to cost about the same when it eventually goes on sale, I just can't see why you'd pay the price of a 3 Series or Golf GTi for a tiny and not terribly inspiring hatchback just because it runs on electricity. I can't wait to be proven wrong, of course, but at the end of 2010 and even with the temptation of a tasty £5,000 discount, I just can't get charged up about electric cars yet.

Life On Cars on the radio A FEW choice gems from the recently launched show: On the Mazda 5: “It looks like a trout” On the Ferrari FF: “It’s different, but the back end looks like it’s missing something.” On the MINI Countryman: “Owning a big 4x4 Mini sort of defeats the point of owning a Mini.” On the Kia Picanto: “Oh dear.” Join the debate by heading onto and then click the “Radio” tab.

A car to bamboozle your senses FORGET the Ferrari 458 Spider, the BMW 650i Convertible and even the new MINI Roadster. Next year's ultimate open top car will be made in Switzerland from bits of bamboo. Switzerland as a nation has never really taken the car to its heart - motorsport, for instance, is banned altogether - and I've already reckoned Rinspeed, this new car's creator, is the result of all the latent enthusiasm left to boil over among the country's few petrolhead

residents. In previous years they've given us the Splash, the world's first and as far as I know only hydrofoil car, the Presto, which can stretch in size at the touch of a button, and the X-Trem, which is what a Mercedes M Class would look like if you asked a small child to redesign it as a yellow pickup truck with a hovercraft on the back. As a car company, they're ingenious and insane in equal measure.

So it's not at all surprising to discover the Rinspeed Bamboo has an interior lined with - you guessed it - bamboo - and an exterior painted in gold and topped off with some poles and a bit of black fabric. Apparently, it's meant to remind you of St Tropez at some point in the Seventies, with Brigitte Bardot behind the wheel with playboy Gunther Sachs at her side. That's the company's description, not mine! It is, particularly from

the viewpoint of a frosty British person, possibly about the most pointless vehicle I've ever seen, unless you're actually convinced you're a character from the Roger Moore era of James Bond films and have Boney M's greatest hits on standby. Even if Seventies fashion makes a comeback next spring you've still got remember what it is; a beach buggy lined with bamboo and crafted by lunatics in a shed in Switzerland. I still want one though.

Volkswagen’s black cab failure EVER wondered what the iconic black cab would look like if a group of German engineers went about redesigning it? That's the question Volkswagen have put to the public with its Taxi Concept Car, which it launched in London complete with a raft of what it calls “tongue-in-cheek” design touches. Naturally, it's black and has a sign with the word TAXI written on it in large, luminous letters, but the rest of the details are either a) a tad fatuous or b) not really taxi-esque

enough. The stylised Union Flag on the roof, for instance, would be fine as a sort of cheeky style statement atop a Mini Cooper, but unless you've somehow landed at Heathrow and made it to the exit without working out which country you're now in, I can't see it being much use on Volkswagen's reinvention of the cab. What about, for instance, fitting a stereo that only plays MOR and Easy Listening? I have, for instance, only encountered these genres being played on sound systems

in taxis, which in the happy haze of a drunken hour sound like a cross between an Enya cover of Fleetwood Mac's back catalogue and a blue whale giving birth. Taxis, too, are usually equipped with a cheap, nasty faux leather you'd never see in any normal car; I know it's a cover designed to make it easy to clean a reveller's kebab/Smirnoff Ice vomit cocktail, but it's not a feature VW's mentioned on its taxi, which makes me think they haven't thought of it.

And don't forget the piece de resistance: the drivers themselves, who are more often than not lovely, intelligent people but on the very odd occasion seem to be opinionated chaps you'd be forgiven for assuming are practising for a BNP preentry oral exam. In the past friends and I have been forced into all sorts of conversations you thought had been left behind at Bernard Manning gigs, circa 1980. Volkswagen misses out on these quintessentially British details, you see... Life On Cars


is 100!

TLife On Cars looks back at a century of UK classics


Life On Cars

Ford - or at least its British outpost, Ford UK - is now a century old. Admittedly, it has come up with a couple of stinkers in its time - Exhibit A, your honour, is the Escort and Orion range of the early 1990s - but by and large we Brits have taken the Blue Oval to our hearts to such an extent that it's hard not to walk down a street without seeing at least one of its products. Products like the Fiesta, which might seem boring by its ubiquitousness but impressed me enough to name it this column's car of the year in 2009. Or you can delve back into the archives and pull out the likes of the Lotus Cortina, the Escort Mexico, the Capri or even the

Sierra (stop sniggering), all of which proved you don't have to be minted to enjoy a motor that's feisty and fun to drive. I think the secret of 100 years of steady sales can be summed up by just one car the original Focus from 13 years ago, which I’d argue is the best car in the world, because it is brilliant or at least very good at absolutely everything. The honour or my favourite Ford of all, however, goes to theEscort Cosworth, which escaped from the world's rally stages in the 1990s and headed straight for your local showroom, bonkers rear wing, turbocharger and four wheel drive intact. Happy birthday, Ford. Any chance of celebrating by launching another Cosworth?

Life On Cars, Issue Four, April 2011  
Life On Cars, Issue Four, April 2011  

A celebration of all things cars with Champion and GR8Life motoring correspondent David Simister.