Skoda Kodiaq Sportline 2018

The Kodiaq SportLine is the latest addition to the Kodiaq family, and, in Skoda’s own words, has been created “to appeal to drivers who like the dynamic look of Skoda’s performance models, but require the practicality of a full-size SUV”. Despite the dynamic looks, the SportLine is mechanically identical to every other Kodiaq in the range (the Kodiaq vRS will be the car that delivers a truly sporty drive), so think of it not as Usain Bolt in his running gear but, well… one of the Diesel Car team in his running shoes. Slotting above the Edition models, there are a pair of 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engines, one with 148bhp and the other with 188bhp. So what’s new? On the outside, you’ll notice new front and rear bumpers, a black finish to the grille, mirrors and roof rails, and 20-inch alloy wheels. Subtle though the changes are, it definitely carries a more menacing look.

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Volvo XC40 2018

Not only is the XC40 Volvo’s first foray into the compact SUV market, but it also marks the renewal of the ‘40’ series of vehicles, with a replacement for the V40 hatchback and V40 Cross Country, as well as the re-introduction of an S40 saloon, which is set to go head-to-head with Audi’s A3 saloon and the Mercedes-Benz CLAClass. All will be powered by Volvo’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engines, as well as plug-in hybrid variants using a similarly sized petrol engine for propulsion. The investment in the lineup renewal has been masterminded by Volvo’s Chinese owner Geely, who, if you haven’t heard of them, also owns the London Electric Vehicle Company that makes the London Taxi, as well as its recent acquisition of Lotus cars. Oh, and the company has also recently acquired a 9.7 per cent stake in Daimler, the owners of Mercedes-Benz. So pretty significant in the global car industry and one that you’ll no doubt hear lots about in the coming years.

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Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport GSI 2018

Vauxhall’s Insignia is the first of a new generation of GSi-badged models from the manufacturer, set to sit below any potential hardcore VXR variants, with as much focus on everyday usability as performance. Saying that, the Insignia GSi gets a sophisticated four-wheel-drive system and eight-speed automatic transmission as standard, plus the company’s latest FlexRide adaptive damping, so it should not be dismissed as just another trim level. Buyers can choose from two engines (one petrol, one diesel) and whether they’d like the Grand Sport fastback or the Sports Tourer estate. The twin-turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel engine is not unique to the GSi, as it’s already available in the Vauxhall range with the same 207bhp output.

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Vauxhall Grandland X-ultimate 2018

Ultimate is a good description for the latest model to join the Vauxhall Grandland X range. Not only does it feature the most powerful engine in the mid-sized SUV, it is also the most luxurious, sitting right at the top of the five-model line-up. For those that are in the know, this newcomer shares its underpinnings and engine with the rather impressive Peugeot 3008 GT, and so we’re keen to find out whether that car’s accomplished nature has rubbed off on this Vauxhall.

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Ssangyong Musso 2018

The overhaul of the SsangYong lineup continues, and this time it’s the Musso pick-up truck that comes in for some attention, with an allnew model based on the Rexton SUV. It made its debut at the Commercial Vehicle show at the NEC Birmingham late last month, and ahead of its unveiling, we got behind the wheel of a left-hand-drive pre-production vehicle in mid-range trim. With a one-tonne payload that can accommodate a Euro Palet and a towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes in automatic guise, it has all the right statistics in order to succeed. And the fact that prices will start at around £22k means that it will undercut the opposition by some margin.

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Mercedes-Benz A-class 2018

No longer the quirky, upright hatchback of old, the 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class is a sleek, polished and mature specimen packing a wealth of technology that would only recently be reserved for its maker’s top of the range cars. Design-wise this A-Class eschews its predecessor’s many creases and crisp lines for a smoother, more organic form. It might be an evolutionary approach, but it’s still a bold one when the car is tasked with getting buyers on the bottom rung of the MercedesBenz ladder.

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Kia Sorento 2018

The launch of the updated Sorento kicks off what will be another busy year for Kia, all with an aim of selling 100,000 new cars in the UK. Last year they managed 93,222, the highest tally yet. This finessed sevenseat SUV sits alongside the Stinger Gran Turismo as the flagship of the lineup. Still to come this year is a totally renewed Ceed range, as previewed on the cover of last month’s issue, together with updates to the Optima, a wider range of engines for the Stonic and rumours suggest that we’ll also see a facelifted Sportage, too. And not forgetting a pure-electric version of the Niro SUV, too.

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Audi A8 2018

The renewal of the A8 luxury saloon is Audi’s first assault in a multi-pronged attack on the large car segment, with the latest A7 Sportback recently revealed and a brand new A6 saloon set to take the Geneva motor show by storm. But it’s the A8 that gets our attention in this issue, packed to the gills with hi-tech equipment that is set to filter down the Audi range over time. Audi says that it’s the first series production car in the world to have been developed for level three conditional automated driving, with a staged rollout of the technology later this year, including a self-parking system and artificial intelligence traffic jam pilot. More than 40 driver assistance functions are offered on this latest A8, making it the most featurepacked Audi ever made.

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BMW X2 2018

The X range of SUVs at BMW was missing a number, skipping from 1 to 3 before climbing up to 6 and, in the near future, beyond. Now there’s an X2 to fill that gap. Being an even numbered model, it’s something that’s a little more emotionally appealing and sporting than the more practical odd number models.

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CITROËN C4 CACTUS 2018

You either loved the old Citroën C4 Cactus or you hated it. There were those who really enjoyed the quirky looks, the unique interior, and the added Airbump door protection; then there were those who thought it was unattractive, vague to drive, and that the added exterior protection was one of the ugliest inventions in automotive history.

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HONDA CIVIC 2018

The workforce at the Honda plant in Swindon were handed an enormous compliment when the Japanese firm decided where to build the new tenth-generation Civic, as the Wiltshire plant has been entrusted with worldwide production of the five-door hatchback. Significantly (not necessarily for diesel fans) it also means that the legendary Civic Type-R is made here and put on a boat to Honda’s home market, and that’s a huge honour for the British factory.

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VAUXHALL INSIGNIA GSI 2018

The last big GSi from Vauxhall was the Vectra from the early noughties; a harder, lower, faster version of the family hatchback, beloved of sales reps everywhere. It’s taken a decade or so, but now there’s a new GSi that Vauxhall promises is definitely not a replacement for the even hotter VXR. That said, they’ve done development work at the Nürburgring and are proud that the car is 12 seconds quicker around the circuit than the old Insignia VXR, despite falling 64bhp short.

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Volvo XC60

Staying with Volvo, the XC60 is the mid-sized SUV, between the XC40 and the XC90. The XC90 was the first to be introduced and its reputation meant it was held in arguably higher esteem than some of the premium brands.

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Toyota C-HR

The Toyota C-HR has very aggressive styling, and even the entry-level models have a lot of kit. The flagship Dynamic version, as tested here, comes with rear camera, touchscreen, DAB radio, adaptive cruise control, dual-zone automatic air conditioning and satnav – and that really is skimming the surface.

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SEAT Arona

It may have been below zero when the Arona was tested in Austria, but it always felt confident and very at home. The Arona is up against cars like the Nissan Juke and Hyundai Kona, so doing well in this segment is not easy.

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Jaguar E-Pace

The E-Pace is diminutive when compared with the F-Pace, and it doesn’t look much like it. It has more in common with the Range Rover Evoque, because it uses the same chassis. There are other Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) models rolled into the mix, too. The new SUV’s headlights are reminiscent of the two-seater Jaguar F-Type, possibly hinting at the athletic potential of the E-Pace.

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Lexus IS 300h

The IS has a stylish appeal. It’s also a hybrid, so you can enjoy sportiness without having to look sorrowfully at your wallet.

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Mitsubishi ASX

A revamp has given the ASX good looks, matched with a great price. While entry-level models can be snapped up new from £16,250, the one on test here is the 1.6 diesel ‘5’, with an asking price of £27,205.

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Volvo V90 Cross Country

If you fancy an SUV that isn’t an SUV, then the Volvo V90 Cross Country may be the answer. While it’s an estate car, the ‘Cross Country’ moniker is more than a name – it’s higher, has four-wheel drive, and it does work on the rough stuff.

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