Currently reading: Cropley on cars - driving the best Kia yet, Aston Cygnet's new life
New Sorento takes the Kia a step farther into 'premiumness'; don't laugh about the Aston Martin Cygnet, because it has a long and useful life ahead
Steve Cropley Autocar
3 mins read
28 January 2015

MONDAY - Drove my first Kia Sorento for six years in Barcelona today at the launch of the third-generation model, due here in April.

Last time I tried one, the current model was fresh from the oven, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised what a terrific vehicle this new edition is. Kia and Hyundai have been charging towards a goal of market-leading excellence for years, seemingly at twice the speed of everyone else.

What stood out was the relaxed, supple gait of this machine, plus what I’m pretty sure was its class-leading refinement - made all the better by classy cabin design and top-quality manufacture.

My one caveat is that Spanish roads are all like billiard tables (thank you, EU) so I’m now impatient to hear what Prior, Saunders and Co say when the Sorento hits its first UK-spec rut. Kia seems confident: it's pricing the top-spec KX4 to shatter the emotive £40k barrier, which takes it close to the Land Rover Discovery Sport, a tough rival. So while all the omens are all good, Kia still has things to prove.

TUESDAY - Convivial trip to the RAC Club to hear new Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer deliver the annual Walter Hayes lecture on behalf of the AMOC. Palmer was great - reassuring about the company’s future but very much alert to his challenges.

If body language was anything to go by, the 150 attendees (149 of whom, I’d say, were Aston owners) were well impressed. Aston Martin, currently 102 years old, has had a wonderful revival since 2000 under Bob Dover (happily present) and Ulrich Bez. But I get the feeling its greatest days are still to come. In fact, whenever I’m not in the best spirits, I think of the revivals under way at Aston Martin and Lotus and I feel better.  

WEDNESDAY - Fascinating phone conversation with classic Aston specialist Nick Mee, one of my table companions last night, about the market prospects of the Cygnet, Gaydon’s 'Astonified' version of the Toyota iQ. I’d made some daft joke about the car’s market prospects, which turned out to be well wide of the mark. Turns out there’s a strong market in Cygnets; low-milers fetch £22k-£24k.

Mee (whose emporium is near busy Shepherd’s Bush) reckons the Cygnet is the only city car that’ll be worth more than pennies in 10 years’ time. It might even hold its money. “You always feel special when you’re in a Cygnet,” he says, “because the interior’s so luxurious. The car is rare [only 400 were made], works perfectly in the city and costs nothing to run, because it’s a Toyota. But at the end of the day, the V5 still says 'Aston Martin'. For lots of people, this is the perfect combination of qualities.”

FRIDAY - Remember Black Friday, before Christmas, which drove the shoppers of Britain into a false frenzy? I’m having similar anxiety pangs over the Land Rover Defender, which has been around since I was born but is due to cease production, at least as a UK model, at the end of this year. The scary finality of this struck me today - and now I’m scared it’ll strike thousands like me.


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Aston Martin Cygnet

The Aston Martin Cygnet is perfect for inner-city fans of the brand. For the rest, it's an expensive and quirky distraction

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My family has always had strong Land Rover connections. I drove to my first job in a crash-gearbox Series 2. At about the same time, my missus was doing her driving test, three-point turns and all, in another.

My two sons both learnt to drive in a Series 3 pick-up, and for a foolish few years one of them drove his girlfriends about in an ex-army rag-top. Both sons have since worked for the company, and one still does. So should I be buying a Defender now? I’m pretty sure the answer is 'yes' and the matter is urgent.    

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28 January 2015
The continuing inability to rectify a simple procedure such as turning to the next page, leaves a considerable creditability gap for Autocar's expertise in anything technical

28 January 2015

28 January 2015
Just wondering if I'm the only person who has no clue what differentiates a Kia from a Hyundai? As far as I can tell they both make good cars aimed precisely at a market point where practicalities overcome desire But what's the difference? Why not just have one brand?
Intersting point about the Cygnet - Geneva may have most of the total production resident. I saw three in 30 minutes last time I was there.

PS Think we can all overlook the tautology in the expression "RAC club"

29 January 2015
The only differences I can see between the two is that Kia designs generally are better looking with a bit more character. In the past, I've had two Kia sport wagons and didn't even consider the Hyundai i30 on looks alone.

28 January 2015
When will the website be fixed. Posting comments is largely a waste of time now that most can't be seen. I ask the question here because an email to the magazine has gone unanswered suggesting maybe things are even more up the spout than they appear.

28 January 2015
If all commenters on Autocar's site had a worthwhile input, then I am sure that moves might be made to update shortcomings.

My view is that Haymarket publishing subcontracted the Comment section to a 3rd party. If so, then everyone should direct their comments there.

28 January 2015

Hi sierra, Bullfinch and RPrior,

Thanks for your comments. Traffic on has been steadily growing month on month and to accommodate all of our users in December we moved to a new fully responsive website.

However, that move has thrown up some gremlins, including the comments issues you've described. Please rest assured that we are aware of the problems, and are in the process of getting them fixed.

We are aware that our users like debate and have valid opinions to share, and we anticipate that the problem with displaying comments will soon be fixed.

In the meantime, thanks for your continued patience.



28 January 2015
I hope we can rest easy, in the absence of anything to suggest he has the appropriate qualifications, that RPrior will not be given the job of weeding out those comments which he feels may be unworthy.


28 January 2015
....RPrior has a fair point though...healthy debate is great, I am all for that, but there are a number on the site who want to turn it into a warzone and simply will not let others voice valid opinion.
If I was Autocar, I would probably can the availability of isn't worth the time and trouble to them. So we should be relieved that Darren has confirmed Autocar intend to continue!

28 January 2015
I see what you mean - it is shocking how rapidly comments deteriorate even on more serious websites than this one - but people liked to feel involved and a website with no 'interactive' element would probably go into decline. People like banging on about their hobbies, petrolheads certainly do, and having nothing to say has rarely been a bar to saying it.


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