Independent Reviews of New and Used Cars

Audi A3 Sportback - Preview: THREE CALLING

The MK4 model Audi A3 Sportback demonstrates that class is permanent. Jonathan Crouch reports.

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Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid FWD Automatic: Family View (500 words)

Volvo's XC40 Recharge Plug-in hybrid is a pricey but very complete product, thinks Jonathan Crouch reports.

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SEAT Leon - preview: LEON KING?

SEAT's fourth generation Leon has sharpened up its act. Jonathan Crouch reports.

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Though opinion may be divided as to whether the RAV4 invented the soft roading segment, no one doubts that, more than any other, this model defined it. In some ways, it continues to do just that, for this car still sums up most of what a model of this kind should be all about. Smart, wieldy, reasonably spacious, affordable to run and with just enough SUV-ness about it to get you to the places you tend to dream about but will probably never go. This fifth generation version has brought notable changes - extra space and technology, lower running costs and a more dynamic drive - timely improvements, even if there are still other rivals that better it either on or off road. Few though, provide a stronger compromise between the two and none can better the unimpeachable build quality and strong residuals that have become a RAV4 trademark. There's a choice between self-charging and Plug-in Hybrid powertrains.

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MINI Hatch Cooper S 'F56' / 'F55' (2014 - 2018): S EXPRESS

We can all argue about whether this generation F56/F55-series Cooper S Hatch is as pretty a car as its predecessor, but there can be no doubt that it was a better all-rounder. It's more spacious, better built, features some fascinating technical features and seems to have been engineered to offer more driving fun on one hand and lower bills on the other. Just make sure you get a car whose original owner specced it right, with extras like the Driving Modes system and the Variable damping. You might want to avoid examples fitted with larger wheels that bring a crashy ride and automatic gearboxes that detract from the connected feel. Yes, you could pay the same kind of money and buy a more conventional supermini-based hot hatch. Perhaps the purer, more focused Fiesta ST. Or the more comfortable and relaxing Peugeot 208 GTI. This Cooper S though, arguably delivers an appealing compromise between the two - and feels much more special while it's doing it. It's a MINI to the max. And that's always a tempting thing.

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