Before we dive into the main reviews of this month, I want to mention the Ford Mustang. There’s a new one available after the success of the outgoing model. Given that it will likely be some time before we get one on test, we grabbed the last of the old model to wet our appetite once more.
On paper, the Mustang makes little to no sense. For starters, a 5.0-litre V8 petrol isn’t ever going to be economical. And a convertible in England is as useful as an inflatable dartboard. And yet, on a sunny Saturday afternoon with the roof down, it was suddenly the perfect car.
The Mustang turns heads wherever you go, and there was not a car in the world I’d rather have been driving that day. Okay, maybe one… where’s that new Mustang Bullitt?
Those of you who have followed this column for a while will know I am a fan of Volvo. I think they make brilliant cars, and have long shouted their superiority over the likes of BMW. This month I had an XC60 R-Design Pro on test.
It looks fantastic down to every last detail: from the ‘Thor’s Hammer’ LED daytime running lights to the aggressive bumper angles. On the inside there are lashings of the finest leather, and not a scratch plastic to be found anywhere.
The engine in this test car was a new one to me: the 2.0-litre T5 turbocharged petrol. It produces a handsome 254PS and 350Nm of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels via an 8-speed Geartronic gearbox. 0-62mph is dealt with in 6.8 seconds and the top speed is 137mph.
The standard specification on the R-Design Pro includes the Active Four-C Chassis: four-corner adaptive dampers with electronic air suspension. In comfort mode it is smooth and rides well over bumps. In sport mode it hunkers down and the damping stiffens to minimise roll.
The T5 R-Design Pro starts at £46,385. By the time my test car was even more comprehensively equipped (including the £2,500 Bowers & Wilkins stereo) it weighed in at £53,985. A lot of money, yes. But also a lot of car.
Or, for something a little less expensive, how about the Hyundai i30 N Performance? For £28,000 it’s yours, and by the end of this brief write-up you’ll consider that an absolute bargain.
For starters, just look at it. In Performance Blue (the best colour by far) it looks absolutely superb. Fans of the WRC will recognise the colour from the i20 rally car. Red detailing to the bumpers, a gloss black spoiler and large exhaust pipes are suggestive of what this hot i30 is capable of.
Inside, the cabin is a little on the plain side (Hyundai might call it ‘focused’) but the big alcantara sports seat are lovely.
Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, producing 275PS and 353Nm of torque. The i30 N is front-wheel drive with an electronic Limited-Slip Differential, and has a 6-speed manual gearbox with launch control. 0-62mph takes 6.1 seconds and the top speed is 155mph.
The i30 N is the first car I have driven which features ‘rev matching’ technology. On down shifts, it blips the throttle before you disengage the clutch so even the most aggressive changes are still smooth. That, and with the pops and bangs from the sports exhaust, it sounds wonderfully antisocial.
The i30 N is a brilliant car, a true hot hatch in many ways. And as far as the front-wheel drive alternatives go, I think you’d struggle to find a better complete package. Golf GTi watch out, the i30 N is coming for you!