Most of us will only have one of two things on our mind during December: how to ensure we don’t blow the monthly household budget in one day of frenzied present shopping; and whether or not it’s a good idea to eat three helpings of Christmas dinner.
Buying a car is rarely top of the To Do list. But for the canny car buyer, it can be an ideal time of the year to shop around for the best car at the best price. New car sales last December were less than half those from September so motor traders will be delighted to see anyone on their forecourt. Here are some of the best new cars going on sale this month.
For a British-built alternative to the Volkswagen Golf: Vauxhall Astra
Price: from £15,295
Hottest high-tech feature: OnStar high-speed 4G mobile network.
Slowly but surely, fewer and fewer drivers are choosing the Vauxhall Astra, while the Volkswagen Golf has grown in popularity. Perhaps mindful of this, Vauxhall went back to the drawing board and has hit back with a new version that’s more advanced, more fuel efficient and better equipped than ever.
The new Astra is handsome and comes with an acclaimed three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that can return as much as 67mpg and emits just 96g/km of CO2. Spacious enough for a growing family, it also comes with OnStar, the latest 4G mobile tech. It means drivers can create an onboard wifi hotspot for smartphones, tablets or laptops.
There’s also a smartphone app for locating the car or checking the doors are locked. And in the event of an accident, the OnStar system can automatically notify the emergency services.
For a plug-in hybrid SUV that drives like a sports car: BMW X5 XDrive40e
Price: from £51,845
Impressive fact: It can travel up to 19 miles on battery power alone.
BMW’s new SUV, called the X5 XDrive40e, has a two-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor. The two can work in harmony (so the electric motor gives the engine a helping hand) or independently of one another (for zero emissions driving). On the combined fuel economy cycle, BMW claims this luxury SUV can manage 85.6mpg, and emit just 78g/km of CO2.
As a plug-in hybrid, the X5 can travel as far as 19 miles, at speeds of up to 75mph on battery power alone. So anyone doing a commute or school run that’s less than 20 miles there and back could - in theory at least - avoid costly petrol bills.
For putting the style into the family hatchback: Mini Clubman
Price: from £19,995
Good to see: Mini has now given the car four passenger doors.
The Mini Clubman has grown up, and is all the better for it. The car appears more substantial, the interior is smarter and robust and most importantly there’s finally room for a family. That the engine range is dramatically improved (pick the turbocharged, three-cylinder Cooper) and the suspension can now smooth away the shabby state of British roads is an added bonus.
It is also a more interesting hatchback (if we can call a car with van-like rear doors a hatchback) than the usual suspects such as the Audi A3 and Ford Focus. Give it a try. You may be pleasantly surprised.
For Britain’s best sports car in decades: McLaren 570S coupe
Price: from £143,250
Pub trivia: Only the £1 million LaFerrari has a chassis as advanced as this.
The new McLaren 570S is the least powerful, most affordable sports car from McLaren. But here’s the thing: it’s also reckoned to be the British car maker’s best effort yet. Barely any more expensive than an Audi R8 or Porsche 911 Turbo S, the 570S positions McLaren against some seriously big guns. At the same time, it rather cleverly undercuts the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini – neither of which have sports cars like the 570S in this price bracket.
Tactically, it’s a bold move; technically, it’s equally brave. There’s a carbon-fibre chassis, called the MonoCell II. To get something similar from Ferrari, you would need to stump up for a LaFerrari. Powering it is a twin-turbo V8 engine with 562bhp, and the whole thing goes extremely fast and feels totally thrilling. If you’re in the market for a sports car, the new 570S is hard to beat.
For having fun on the school run: Porsche Macan GTS
Price: from £55,188
Nice to know: Every buyer benefits from a complimentary advanced driving course at the Porsche Experience Centre, Silverstone.
Who says family cars can’t be a whole lot of fun to drive? Not the engineers at Porsche, if the new Macan GTS is anything to go by. The sporty edition of the smallest Porsche SUV takes a practical car, with enough room for up to five people plus luggage, and subtly tinkers with the engine and suspension. The result is impressive.
It can accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds and the top speed is 160mph. More significantly, the 3.0-litre, twin-turbo V6 petrol engine pulls effortlessly in any gear and the four-wheel drive system gives sure-footed responses even on a wet, slippery road.