UK's poor roads; electric Renaults; GM to sell Saab; Scirocco R; new Macca factory; Cayman vs Evora
21 December 2009

The month began with a sorry tale of the even sorrier state of the UK road network. The Asphalt Industry Alliance reported that potholes and, more often, trenches dug by utility companies had created a road surface crisis that would take £861 million and 13 years to put right. “As it is,” the report said, “the typical British motorist will find a pothole or rut wanting repair every 120 yards.”

May 2009 in pictures

Renault set out on its path to bring electrically powered cars to showrooms by committing to a plan that would put its Kangoo ZE on sale by 2011. The Kangoo ZE, it said, would have a 100-mile range, a 59bhp/140lb ft motor and the potential to be charged overnight from a standard three-pin plug.

Also in May, there were the first formal indications that General Motors was seeking to divest itself of struggling Swedish car maker Saab. By the end of the month the General had its shortlist of suitors reduced from 10 entries to just three. Both Fiat and Geely were rumoured to be on it.

Volkswagen got our attention when it issued the first pictures and details of the Scirocco R. It would have no four-wheel drive, but 261bhp and a £25k list price seemed exciting enough, as did the promise that the car would crack 62mph in 6.4sec, making it quicker than a Golf R32.

From Woking came news that McLaren had lodged a planning application to build a new road car production facility next to its technology centre. The McLaren Production Centre would be home to the MP4-12C supercar. Cars would be built at a rate of 20 a day, providing 800 jobs, starting in early 2011.

Those unexcited by such performance machinery may have had their appetite whetted by news of the new Toyota Prius. By May, some 80,000 orders had been taken for the new car, Toyota proudly told us. It must have been an orderly queue.

Four comparison tests meant four group test winners during May. One of them was an old favourite. The Porsche Cayman S had just enough to rebut the challenge of Lotus’s new Evora in a twin test conducted on the idyllic tarmac of western Scotland, even though in our first drive only weeks before the Lotus had seemed “good enough to beat the world’s best”. It was a temporary setback for the Evora, which would go on to win greater plaudits later in the year.

Other group test winners were the Citroën C3 Picasso (which dominated a run-in with mini-MPV rivals from Nissan, Toyota and Kia), the Seat Exeo saloon (which easily upstaged its sibling rival, the Audi A4) and the awesome Aston Martin V12 Vantage (which took a considerable scalp when it comprehensively outshone and outhandled Porsche’s flagship 911, the £131,000 GT2).

Other highlights of the month were a drive in Citroën’s imaginative Hypnos concept, which Andrew Frankel described as the kind of car that could propel Citroën back into the technological avant garde, and a taste of the intriguing Hyundai Genesis on UK roads.

“The Koreans have achieved something remarkable with this car,” we said, “and the rest of the world simply has to take note.”

Matt Saunders

Autocar's review of 2009: JanuaryAutocar's review of 2009: FebruaryAutocar's review of 2009: MarchAutocar's review of 2009: AprilAutocar's review of 2009: JuneAutocar's review of 2009: JulyAutocar's review of 2009: August

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