Postcard from the SMMT Test Day (September 2018)

So we attended the SMMT test day at Oakley Hall on 27th September.  This is an event held by the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) to give press the chance to compare and contrast some of the latest models on sale in the UK, all in one day.  Our previous review from earlier in the year can be read here.

The cars that we chose to drive and our thoughts are below.  If you are thinking of buying one of these models let me know and I’d be happy to give you my thoughts.

I’ve placed the cars I drove in order of my favourites first:

Joint First Place (a cop out I know, but both the Honda and Renault were amazing, so without more time in both, on the same day, there’s nothing in it)

Honda Civic Type R GT

On the road (OTR) price = £32,495

What a car.  We drove it earlier in the year and loved it, and this drive just reinforced that love.  Some people may not like the full on looks, but that doesn’t bother us.  Like most Honda things, every part of the car is there to fulfil a specific purpose.  This car drives exceptionally well, it is a petrolheads nirvana.  For what it is, the price range it falls into, is there any better?  I doubt it.  It’s a big thumbs up from us.  I’d give it a 10/10.  It costs £32k, and it goes like the clappers, it really does.  I fit into it like a bespoke glove which helps.


Renault Megane R.S. 280

OTR price = £27.5k, but the car we drove was £34.5k with various boy racer options.  Paint job (volcanic orange) was £1300 alone, and Cup Chassis Pack was £1500 extra.

Well wow, what a car.  Absolutely T for tremendous.  Various drive modes, including Comfort, Neutral, Sport and Race.  Yes Race.  Guess which drive setting I chose?  Yep Race mode.  You guessed it.  What acceleration this car has, what a feeling, and for the money it’s a smile a second literally.  This and the Honda (above) are immense.  I love them both.  I give the Megane RS a 10/10 as well.  It’s a sensory masterpiece.  It goes and goes, Love it.


Third place


OTR price of £86k.  The specification we drove was an extra £11k, so this car is £97k.

Now at 45 years young I’m ashamed to say I’ve never driven an M3 (yes I know), so this was an eye opener.  Why was all the fuss about?  Well, holy s**t, what a car.  The engine noise, what a loud rumble, and what a pull when you accelerate.  It just goes, then goes again, and the sound is intoxicating.  On the engine settings you have sport and sport plus.  What did I go for I hear you say…Sport Plus of course.

I have to say that the £11k of extras I would not go for, £2.6k on paint, £6.25k on M carbon ceramic brakes, but each to their own.  So £87k it is.  It’s a lot of money, but it is a great car.  It will appeal to a different buyer than the Honda and Civic above for sure, but it’s certainly not twice as good as them.  Thumbs up from us though.


Fourth place

Abarth 695C Rivale 1.4 T-Jet

OTR price is £25k.

Now it may seem fourth place is not good, but there you’d be wrong.  All the cars above are exceptional, but this 695 made me smile from start to finish, and if those other cars were not available I’d have no hesitation to recommend this as our No.1 car and to buy one.

With so many models of Fiat 500s, Abarth 595 and Abarth 695s, what’s this model all about I hear you say.  Well lucky for you I have the answer.  The Rivale is a tribute to the boat company Riva.  To those that are not aware of the Italian boat company Riva, they make top end boats, normally with a lot of wood, and look gorgeous.  This car has design hints of Riva, such as its paint which is two-tone blue and grey, separated by an aquamarine stripe, while inside… oh my word, inside, there’s bright blue leather, which we love.

This car is fun, fun, fun.  I have to give this car a 10/10.  It’s great, looks great, sounds great and drives great.  For £25k your going to have a smile on your face all the time, like I did.  This, like all the Fiat 500s and 695s put a small on your face and give you a feel good factor.  So much fun.


Fifth place

Volvo XC90 T5 AWD R-Design

OTR price = £51k, this model as tested was £58k, with park assist, 360 degree camera and other bits.

Now usual followers of us will know that it’s rare for me to talk family vehicles, and even rarer to talk Volvo, however, with a family of 5 and a Audi Q7 in our fleet of cars, we took an XC90 for a spin when considering it in 2013.  So we were keen to understand how the XC90 had developed, so we took it for a spin.

To me on first glance the car looks the same externally, and in my opinion it’s a nice looking car for the type of car it is.  Some very Neat features included a bar on the speedo that indicates the speed limit of the road you are driving (very useful), then there is the birdseye view on the parking camera system.  This Birdseye view (on your touch sensor screen) sees the area around you from above the car, as though a bird is hovering 5-10 metres above you.  Very cool and useful, and we parks perfectly on first attempt.  Another neat feature was the sat nav location,  rather than the sat nav like most cars being located in the central area, the sat nav was in the middle of the dash with speedo and X either side.  Directly in front of you works so much better. Why don’t all cars have the sat nav directly in front of the driver.

Does this better the 2018 Q7 or 2018 Land Rover Discovery.  We’ll have to test drive them too and let you know.

Read our review from a few years back, where we compared the Q7, XC90 and Disco here.

It’s a 10/10 car again for its type.  I can recommend for sure.  Watch our brief video here.


Sixth place

Lexus RX 450h L

OTR price = £62k, this model as tested was £64k (sunroof and paint work as optional extras).

We thought that we’d give this car a drive.  Now Lexus is the premium brand for Toyota, and we bought a new RX400h in 2005, when we wanted a family car, as we were expecting a few little ones.  To be frank our RX400h is the most reliable car we’ve ever owned, and we still have it to this day, 130,000 miles later.

We jumped at the chance to drive this 2018 Lexus RX450h L, Lexus’s  first seven seat model in Europe.  I did a quick walk around video to give you a flavour.

For me this is a nice car, but not a 7 seater, just like a Porsche 911 is not a 2+2.  The car needs another 30-50cm in length.  The back two seats are cramped and if you make sufficent room in the back, the chairs in the middle don’t have enough leg room.

Nice effort Lexus, a nice car, luxurious, but not really a 7 seater in our opinion, more of a fudge.  We give this car 7/10 and at £62k cannot recommend over the Volvo or Audi Q7.  Back to the drawing board Lexus.


Seventh place

Nissan Qashqai Tekna ProPILOT CVT

Priced at £33k.  We took this car for a spin thinking it was a 7 seater, it was not, but here’s the review anyway.It’s nice enough car and a good family car.  Safety is a big feature with its pilot control feature, which is simple to operate with the touch of one button.  Nissan is hoping increased take up of its latest driver assistance technology, combined in a single pack, will help reduce fatigue and improve safety for high mileage drivers.

ProPilot launched in the new Leaf earlier this year,  and became available in the Qashqai in March. Nissan points out that both cars are the best sellers in their sectors and help to increase the presence of the technology on the roads.Many other car manufacturers offer similar technology, but usually as a separate option or in a cluster of packs and elements that are activated independently.

ProPilot combines lane-keeping assistance, ‘intelligent lane intervention’, adaptive cruise control and, for automatics, ‘traffic jam pilot’. All are activated when pressing the ProPilot button on the steering wheel.  The technology works based on traffic and road conditions data supplied by a camera mounted in the windscreen and a radar behind the Nissan badge in the radiator grille.  When the driver sets cruise control, ProPilot maintains a centre lane position and keeps a minimum distance from the vehicle in front.  Cool stuff.

Pairing up phone is simple, and radio is good.  It gets a thumbs up from me.  Priced fairly I’d say.  6/10


All in all a good day at the SMMT test day.  Just wish I could have got to drive a few more cars.  Cars I wanted to drive, but the timing was not right, so always missed out, and never got to them:

BMW i8 Roadster
Fiat 124 Spider S-Design, 1.4 MultiAir Turbo
Alfa Romeo Stelio Speciale, 2.0Tb Q4
Mercedes-Benz A200 AMG Line
Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+ Coupe
Nissan LEAF 40 kWh, Tekna with ProPILOT Park, 100% Electric
Ford Focus 1.5TDCI (EcoBlue) ST-Line X, 5DR 120PS Auto 8SP

Maybe next time…


If there are any cars highlighted above that we’ve test driven that you want an opinion on, or have a question please feel free to ask.  All the best.


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