Motoring and Property Editor
1:00 AM 28th December 2023
My Motoring Year 2023
Another year has positively flown by and now is the time to look back on an undoubtedly exciting year of road testing all the latest cars. I still love what I do and hope that my enthusiasm for all things automotive comes across in my writing.
The Northern Group of Motoring Writers Car of the Year Finalists
Once again, I was one of the judges trying to decide on the Northern Group of Motorists’ Car of the Year. The final six cars were gathered together in order that we might drive them back-to-back. A sign of the changing times, three of the finalists were fully electric.
Our eventual, and much deserved winner was the MG4. Not only did it drive well, but its affordable pricing also tipped the balance firmly in its favour. It was the top pick by most of the judges.
At the wheel of the NGMW Car of the Year - The MG4
One vehicle I was most keen to drive was the Ineos Grenadier. It was autumn 2021 when I was treated to a passenger ride in a pre-production model. Some two years later, I made the trip north to Kelso for a meagre hour or so behind the wheel. Prices have jumped considerably, with a two-seat Utility Wagon available from £64,500, VAT inclusive. In passenger form, expect to pay from £76,000.
The truck rides well and made light work of the muddy tracks that crisscrossed the grounds of Floors Castle. On the highway, the lack of self-centring of the steering is something I think I might struggle to get used to. Sales seem quite brisk for now, but I fear some may well find the delights of the new Land Rover Defender more to their liking.
The Ines Grenadier at Floors Castle
The fastest and most expensive car that I drove was Italian car maker Maserati’s MC20 Cielo. It was a warm summer’s day and my hour or so behind the wheel passed far too quickly. It was a delight to pilot on the challenging roads around Grantley Hall, but truth be told, driving the Cielo at the UK legal speed limit feels a bit of a tease. Some time on a racetrack would have been required to fully get to grips with this supercar’s capabilities.
Maserati MC20 Cielo at Grantley Hall
Add in a few options, as most buyers will do, and you can easily spend over £300,000 on one!
Back in the real world that most of us inhabit, a Dacia Jogger came to stay for a week. Prices for this commodious seven-seater start at a smidgen over £18,000. In its latest hybrid form, a modest £2,500 jump in price, it continued to inspire. In ‘Expression’ trim as driven, the pick of the range, it is a car I am very happy to recommend. Nicely specified, cheap to run, it drives well but it’s that flexible interior that will undoubtedly appeal.
Early in the year I had Toyota’s limited run GR86 on test, a car designed with driving pleasure first and foremost. A veritable bargain at just under £30,000, cars like this will soon be but a distant memory. I made the most of my time with the car, taking it to the Honda Civic Type R launch away down south at Thruxton Race Circuit.
The commodious Dacia Jogger
However, it was a weekend drive on my favourite local roads where the car came alive. What was meant to be a few hours on the road turned into a full day’s excursion, such was the fun that was being had. The conclusion I reached was that I really wanted one and put my name on the reserve list. Much to my amazement I was offered one of the very last examples to come to these shores, but in the end I declined. I still regret that decision, though finances would undoubtedly have been stretched.
Regular readers of this column will know I am rather fond of the Suzuki Jimny. When the current model launched, I did discuss with Suzuki’s PR department the possibility of buying one. You can see there is a theme developing here. However, head ruled heart and I walked away.
I was however very intrigued to head to Thirsk to drive Twisted Automotive’s take on the Jimny. With a background modifying Land Rover Defenders for wealthy owners, they know what they are doing. With my good friend Damian from The Mud Life Magazine (worth a read I might add), we enjoyed an exciting day with the diminutive 4x4.
Changes to the suspension, a turbocharger under the bonnet and a custom-made interior are the highlights, but the conversion work is much more extensive than that. The fruit of their labour is a Jimny that can not only provide fun everyday transport both on and off road but can also tackle a long motorway cruise should you have the need. Just under £50,000 plus VAT if you would like one. I most certainly do…
Luxury motoring was taken care of this year by time spent with some of Bentley’s finest motorcars. I organised a factory tour for fellow members of the Northern Group of Motoring Writers, which was followed by some time with a Continental GT. Although a cold day, the roof was soon lowered, all the better to hear the sound of the fine V8 engine at full chat.
Bentley Continental GT
Fairly soon after, I enjoyed a week with a dazzling Bentayga. It was a chance to try out the Crewe manufacturer’s new Hybrid powerplant which mates a 340PS turbocharged V6 engine with a 128PS 94kW electric motor-generator. Performance and economy were certainly impressive, but if I had £150,000 + to spend, it would be a V8 engine under my Bentayga’s long bonnet.
I do like a pickup truck and back in February I was the first UK journalist to get behind the first electric pickup to go on sale in this country. I pre-empted the manufacturer’s official launch and ruffled a few feathers. It was quite eerie driving the Maxus T90EV, without the customary diesel soundtrack.
However, with power only fed to the rear wheels and a low 1,000kg towing capacity, demand is likely to be limited. Oh, and I have not mentioned the price, £49,950 + VAT. I am sure other EV pickups will be on our roads soon, though I doubt Mr Musk’s hideous Cybertruck will be amongst them.
The above is just a fraction of the cars I have been lucky enough to test this year and whilst writing this I have been pondering which has been my favourite. Not hard to guess, but it’s that red GR86 without a shadow of a doubt. Perhaps I should have splashed the cash after all.