News - March 28 2023

New electric models from Ford, Kia and VW, Renault revives the Espace and Ferrari drops the top on the Roma, all in the latest Car co uk news.

Ford is going back to its American roots with the Explorer EV, Volkswagen is promising an electric VW for the people with the ID 2all and Kia continues to move upmarket with its EV9. Plenty of new electric models in our latest news review but we do also have a V8 Ferrari, Renault has SUV’d the Espace and there’s unsurprising news on potholes.

Electric exploring

Ford has revealed its next all-electric model using a name that has been part of SUV history in the US for years, Explorer. Unlike the big gas guzzler, the new Explorer uses a battery-electric powertrain developing between 170hp and 340hp. There will be a choice of batteries and rear or all-wheel drive in the new model which sits on the shared MEB electric vehicle platform from Volkswagen. 

The collaboration doesn’t extend beyond the powertrain though, with the Explorer designed and built in Europe but returning to the Blue Oval’s American roots. This is particularly evident in the design which has a bold look that we could see carried through into some the many other new EVs Ford has in development. 

We got our first insight into the Explorer in November 2022 at a preview event at Ford’s UK HQ in Dunton, Essex. There, the head of Ford’s European Design Studio, Amko Leenarts told us that the new Explorer represents a “big shift in design language, from something that’s busy to something pure, clean and capable.”

It’s very different inside too, with a 14.6-inch movable infotainment screen that hides a locker behind it and another storage area at its base. The materials have a premium look to them and there’s plenty of space for five passengers and luggage.

“Explorer is a trailblazer for a new breed of exciting Ford electric vehicles,” says Martin Sander, general manager for Ford Model E Europe. “Steeped in our American roots but built in Cologne for our customers in Europe, it is road trip-ready for the big adventures and fully loaded with everything our customers will need for their daily drives,” he says. The Explorer is expected to go on sale in the UK later this year and given that it sits between the Volkswagen ID 3 and ID 4 in terms of size, we suspect it will be between them in price too.


Electric VW for all

Speaking of Volkswagen, after recently revealing updates to the design of the ID 3, VW has now shown us its new ID 2 or what it currently calls the ID 2all. Looking remarkably like an evolution of the design of the Polo, it is similar in size and even taps into some VW history with a digital instrumentation display that can be made to look like that of the Mk 1 Golf GTi. 

That might be cool, but the really big news is that VW is promising it will start from £22,000 when it goes on sale in 2025. It sits on the brand’s MEB Entry all-electric platform and will be front-wheel drive with a claimed range of up to 280 miles. 

While it might be Polo size on the outside, VW says the inside will be as spacious as a Golf and it will have plenty of comfort and tech in spite of its price tag. That will include a Travel Assist driving assistance system, IQ.Light matrix LED headlights, Park Assist Plus and a full connected touchscreen infotainment system. In welcome news for anyone who has been frustrated with VW’s touch sliders for things like volume and climate control, VW says it will return to “classic” controls, which means actual physical dials and switches. 

It all sounds like great news for those who have wanted to go electric but have been put off by the high prices of EVs.

“We are transforming the company rapidly and fundamentally, with the clear objective of making Volkswagen a genuine Love Brand,” says Thomas Schaefer, CEO of VW Passenger Cars. “The ID. 2all shows where we want to take the brand: close to the customer, top technologies and a fantastic design. We are implementing the transformation at pace to bring electric mobility to the masses.”

There’s more to come though, with VW promising ten new EV models by 2026 including an even cheaper EV at under £18,000. At the moment, the ID 2all looks like a genuine game changer but with the flow of new EVs increasing at a rapid pace, it could have some similarly priced rivals when it arrives.


Kia goes big on premium

One that won’t be as cheap is the new Kia EV9. First shown as a concept in 2021, the EV9 is a full seven-seater SUV that will go on sale towards the end of this year. It dispenses with the sporty and elegant curves of the EV6 with which it shares a platform and instead goes all big and angular, with a more aggressive look intended to make it look rugged and adventurous. 

The traditional Kia tiger face goes digital for the first time and there are cool star map LED daytime running lights. 

Inside will be a choice of six or seven seats, with those in the first or second row able to swivel their seats 180 degrees when parked so the whole family can interact. The interior features the same screens layout as the EV6 but the interior is lighter to give it a more airy and premium feel. Expect the price to be more premium too, although it should still be significantly less than rivals like the BMW XM.


Renault Espace returns, as an SUV

The Renault Espace was always a trendsetting MPV with unique looks, a great interior and loads of versatility for family use. Now it’s back but Renault has thrown out the legacy of great design and instead just made another massive blob of an SUV. It will still be available as a five or seven-seater, no doubt with loads of practicality and versatility, but it’s no Espace and should probably just have been called a Grande Kadjar or something like that. 

Leaving aside the name, it does look like it will offer plenty for those looking for a large SUV to suit all their needs. However, with cool designs like the Kia EV9 and others coming to market this year the new Espace just looks like a massive disappointment. 


Ferrari Roma drops its top and its looks

If you have the cash to go beyond premium into luxury then Ferrari has revealed the drop-top Spider version of its beautiful Roma grand tourer. While you might be able to drop the roof and enjoy all that wind in your hair sports car driving, it’s definitely not as attractive as the coupe version. It’s still as quick though with the twin-turbo V8 able to propel it to 62mph in 3.4 seconds.


Smart jumps in at number three

Smart has released design sketches of its second model since it was relaunched under the joint ownership of Mercedes-Benz and Geely. Oddly, the first model was the #1 and the second is the #3. We can only assume that it didn’t seem very smart to call a car a number two. The new model will only be revealed in full on 18 April, but so far we know it will be an all-electric coupe-like SUV that continues the design theme of the #1 that goes on sale in the UK in the summer. Smart says that the design shows a clear “performance intent” so it seems likely to be more sporty than the #1 but again, we have no more details at this stage. 


In other news….

Mercedes-Benz has updated its GLA and GLB models. Both get a few exterior design changes, new materials inside and more equipment including the latest MBUX infotainment and driving assistance systems. New electrified powertrains have been added and the plug-in hybrid versions get more power and slightly increased electric driving range.


Getting away from new models to the ones we are all driving today and Skoda has revealed research stating that a quarter of UK drivers have damaged their car on a pothole. Going even further, the latest Pothole Impact Tracker from KwikFit reveals that pothole damage has forced nearly 2.7 million cars off the road during the past year. We’re not always ones for survey statistics because they are taken from a sample group but we can well believe the report when it says that 13.1 million drivers had suffered damage to their car from a pothole during the same period. The same report states that since 2013 the cost of damage for UK motorists from potholes has risen by a massive 121% so it’s probably not surprising that 51% of those surveyed say that our roads are in worse condition than they were ten years ago. 


After saying we aren’t always fans of survey statistics, we do have another one for you. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) which represented the UK automotive industry, says that 67% of those it surveyed supper keeping the first MOT test at three years rather than extending it to four as the government is considering. The idea is that it could save motorists money but with many car owners and the industry citing safety as more of a priority, it’s looking unlikely that we will see any changes to the existing format. 



Written by Mark Smyth