This week, Cropley sings the praises of Dacia's unbelievably affordable and - for the money - unbelievably classy Sandero, sniffs out something big on the horizon at JLR and bids a fond farewell to outgoing Lotus CEO Phil Popham.


The Dacia Sandero has always seemed a decent car on practicality and low price, but was never a standout for me until four things recently happened. First, they launched a thoughtfully improved, well-rounded new model. Then our man Piers Ward returned from a test drive impressed with the Sandero’s value and capability. Soon after that, I managed to see the car up close and had a real rush of ‘all the car you need’ feelings. Now our colleagues at What Car? have made the Sandero their Car of the Year, a breathtaking step given the sophistication and snob appeal of safer contenders costing five times as much. I love well-engineered value models like the Sandero, not just for the money they save but also, in this new age of efficiency, for the example they set consumers and other car makers.


Something big is brewing at JLR if my nose is working right. Trouble is, said olfactory sense can’t decide whether great news is coming (they’re doing a life-saving deal with BMW) or something really bad is about to break (Jaguar’s a goner). All we’ve recently had is a voluble announcement to the effect that “Professor Gerry McGovern OBE” has been elevated even further into the ivory tower – and can’t be spoken to for a month. We (and the rest of hackdom) seem to be barred from the usual conversations with JLR insiders that keep media – thus customers – keen and informed. If I didn’t have so much baked-in regard for this fine company and its people, I’d use the term ‘embattled’. Can anyone tell us, unofficially, what the hell’s going on?


Weird hybrid event. We’re near Lambourn, photographing a car, when two people in a new Toyota Prius pull in, step out, free their eager mutts from its rear and disappear. A minute later, their car bursts into life on its own: evidently, the petrol engine was resting as the Prius pulled up and has revived itself without help from a driver, who plainly hasn’t turned it off and is no longer in sight. We wonder what to do. Trying someone else’s car door seems like trespassing, and without the key we probably can’t do anything useful. And an hour’s intermittent running won’t do it any harm. But you do wonder what would have happened if this had been the airport and these people were off to Ibiza for a week.