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Performance

Can a Skoda match posh German cars?

Car lovers often feel they have a compromise to make – do you go for the sensible option, or splash out on a car built for speed? Skoda aims to provide the answer with the fast, economical Skoda Octavia vRS. But how does it stack up against the premium German performance crowd?

In our latest round of tests, we’ve put a range of performance cars through their paces. As well as the Skoda, we have the luxurious Mercedes GLC Coupe, the fastback-roof version of the Mercedes-Benz GLC medium-size SUV. If your tastes run to the more sophisticated, then the svelte, cosseting coupe version of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class might tempt you, not to mention 2016’s E-Class Estate.

Both are hugely expensive when fully loaded with optional extras. Meanwhile, BMW aims to help out your bank balance with a cheaper alternative – more comparable in price to the Skoda. Launched in 2016, the BMW M240i Coupe has a powerful 340hp engine and a chassis very much tuned for sporty driving.

For the more budget-conscious, we’ve also updated our test of the Mazda 3. It’s a medium-hatchback rival to the VW Golf and Ford Focus, but with a much more sporty driving character. So which is our expert pick?

Want to head straight to the best cars uncovered by our independent tests? See our top cars for 2018[1].

Skoda Octavia vRS Estate (2013-)

The vRS version of the Skoda Octavia Estate[2] aims to give the best of both worlds in one vehicle. It’s a high-performance car that’s also designed to be great choice for families.

It’s sensible enough to have plenty of room (for both passengers and luggage) and avoid the wrong kind of stares on the school run, but also packs a punch when you’re looking to have bit of fun. There’s plenty of power, too, with one engine option being a 184 horsepower diesel. If you switch to Sport mode, the engine sounds louder in the cabin, for a fun trip back after dropping off the kids.

With its starting price of GBP26,885, you could make a seemingly huge saving by opting for the Skoda Octavia vRS Estate over the upmarket alternatives below. Is this finally the way to persuade yourself you need to get a performance car? Find out in our Skoda Octavia vRS Estate[3] review.

Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe (2015-)

This fastback-roof version of Mercedes-Benz’s GLC medium-size SUV[4] combines rugged 4×4 underpinnings with coupe-like styling – but is it really possible to be both an SUV[5] and a sports car[6]?

This Mercedes[7] is also designed to be a very usable family car. Despite its sporty looks, the emphasis is on comfort rather than racy driving. The GLC Coupe is available with a choice of two 2.1-litre diesel engines with 170hp and 204hp respectively, and a 3.0-litre diesel with 258hp.

Two very high-powered petrol engines are also available, one with 367hp and another with 476hp or 510hp. All versions have a nine-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive. However, at GBP39,064, this is not a cheap car.

Plus much of the nicest equipment will cost you extra. In fact, it will cost you a lot extra, making the GLC Coupe rather expensive. With slightly less space than the regular Mercedes GLC, which impacts on practicality, is it really worth it?

We reveal whether the price is worth paying in our Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe[8] review.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe (2017-)

Sleek and refined, the Mercedes E-Class Coupe blends great luxury and comfort with a feeling of quality throughout. We’ve tested the E400 4Matic, which has a powerful 333 horsepower six-cylinder petrol V6 engine with two turbochargers. But with the E-Class Coupe not being as focused on driving enjoyment as some of its rivals, does it manage a great-performance drive, while being smooth and discreet enough to be a practical choice?

And does spending 10 grand more than the price of the Skoda Octavia vRS really get you that much extra? We reveal whether the cost of GBP36,487, plus expensive options, really makes a difference in our Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe review[9].

BMW M240i Coupe (2017-)

One of the hottest members of BMW’s 2 Series family, the BMW M240i Coupe is designed to give a performance-focused ride at a comparable price to the Skoda Octavia vRS Estate. With the BMW[10] having a powerful 340hp engine and a chassis designed for sporty driving, is this the choice for the more adventurous, and could it really be practical?

If you’ve been secretly looking at BMW’s M2, the sportiest in the BMW’s 2 Series Coupe[11] and 2 Series Convertible[12] range, is this a more sensible alternative with super-sharp driving dynamics, or a challenging animal to tame? We give you our verdict in our BMW M240i Coupe review[13].

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate (2016-)

Looking for a more practical performance Merc? The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate aims for a healthy balance of boot space, luxury and technology, all wrapped up in a highly opulent package.

Since the mid-1990s, the E-Class has been Mercedes-Benz’s most popular luxury car. It’s available not only as an estate car, but also as a saloon (reviewed separately – Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate saloon[14]). It’s up against competitors including the Audi A6 Avant[15], BMW 5 Series Touring[16], Volvo V90[17] and Jaguar XF Sportbrake.[18] And now the very reasonably priced Skoda Octavia vRS Estate, too.

Is this an all-rounder, combining practicality with luxury, as well as agility and refined driving as well? Brought alive by expensive luxury options, we reveal whether the cost is worth it in our Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate review[19].

Mazda 3 (2013-)

If your bank balance is insisting you have to downgrade your performance-car ambitions, maybe the Mazda 3 will fit the bill. It’s got bolder looks and a sportier driving character than medium-sized hatchback rivals, such as the Volkswagen Golf[20] and Ford Focus[21].

The Mazda 3 should also impress in terms of fuel economy and spaciousness, so perhaps this is just the ticket. Compared with the previous-generation model, it’s wider and rides lower. Although most of its competitors have moved to small turbocharged petrol engines or hybrid powertrains, Mazda[22] is staying with larger petrol units.

Instead, it’s driving through efficiency with a hi-tech, lightweight design philosophy.

An update in 2016 also sharpened up the driving, so perhaps you can get a fun drive without even opting for a performance car.

We reveal whether this is the most fun-to-drive hatchback in our Mazda 3[23] review.

References

  1. ^ top cars for 2018 (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ Skoda Octavia Estate (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ Skoda Octavia vRS Estate (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ Mercedes-Benz’s GLC medium-size SUV (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ SUV (www.which.co.uk)
  6. ^ sports car (www.which.co.uk)
  7. ^ Mercedes (www.which.co.uk)
  8. ^ Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe (www.which.co.uk)
  9. ^ Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe review (www.which.co.uk)
  10. ^ BMW (www.which.co.uk)
  11. ^ BMW’s 2 Series Coupe (www.which.co.uk)
  12. ^ 2 Series Convertible (www.which.co.uk)
  13. ^ BMW M240i Coupe review (www.which.co.uk)
  14. ^ Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate saloon (www.which.co.uk)
  15. ^ Audi A6 Avant (www.which.co.uk)
  16. ^ BMW 5 Series Touring (www.which.co.uk)
  17. ^ Volvo V90 (www.which.co.uk)
  18. ^ Jaguar XF Sportbrake. (www.which.co.uk)
  19. ^ Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate review (www.which.co.uk)
  20. ^ Volkswagen Golf (www.which.co.uk)
  21. ^ Ford Focus (www.which.co.uk)
  22. ^ Mazda (www.which.co.uk)
  23. ^ Mazda 3 (www.which.co.uk)

Will Christmas boost your investments?

The FTSE 100 index – which measures the share performance of the biggest companies in the UK – surged this morning by over 0.46% by midday. But this shouldn’t surprise the most seasoned investors – Christmas is often the most wonderful time of the year for investments. Share performance often improves in December, a trend affectionately known as the ‘Santa rally’.

The market is once again showing signs of an upswing, with the FTSE 100 rising almost 0.7% early in the morning trades and by 0.46% by midday. Which? takes a look at this stock-market phenomenon, and explores whether you should be pinning your hopes on a Christmas boost for your investments.

What is the Santa rally?

A rally is a rapid increase in the general price level of the stock market or the price of a particular stock.

While rallies can happen at anytime, traditionally, a rally often occurs towards the end of the year. This is referred to as the ‘Santa rally,’ as it happens to coincide with the festive period. There is a lot of speculation as to exactly when the rally takes place.

Some argue that it relates to the entire month of December, while others believe it’s only the last two weeks of the month. Some also claim that the Santa rally lasts for the five trading days of any given year (which covers the period between Christmas and the New Year.)

Is the Santa rally real?

While the Santa rally is widely considered a myth, research from Schroders suggests that it could be real – and that there’s a strong possibility it will happen again this year. Since 1987, the FTSE 100 – an index of the UK’s largest companies listed on the London Stock Exchange – has risen by an average of 2.4% in December, the highest average gain of any month in the year.

According to Schroders, there is an 83.3% chance that the Santa rally could strike again this year. The next best performing month is October, where there is a 74.2% chance of the stock market rising. June came out as the worst performing month, with the stock market falling by an average of 1%.

Where does the Santa rally happen?

In true festive fashion, the Santa rally comes to stock markets across the globe.

Similarly to the UK, December is the best performing month for stock market prices worldwide, while June is the weakest. Taking an average of the FTSE 100 (UK), S&P 500 (US), MSCI World (Global) and Eurostoxx 50 indices (Eurozone), a 79.2% chance of a rally in December was measured.

Can you really predict the stock market?

It is nearly impossible to predict how the market will behave, especially over a short time period. Past performance is not indicative of future results, so making investment decisions based solely on theories such as the Santa rally could lead to a number of investment risks.[1]

According to Shroders, using a long-term strategy for investing could provide better returns overall for investors. Take the FTSE 100, for example. Since December 31st 1986, the index has grown by 4.9%.

This means that if you invested GBP1,000 in the FTSE 100 in 1986 and left the money alone for 31 years, your investment would now be worth GBP4,463.

For help and tips about the world of investing, check out our comprehensive guide.[2]

References

  1. ^ investment risks. (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ comprehensive guide. (www.which.co.uk)

Breville VKJ954 Vista Polished Stainless Steel Jug Kettle, 1.7 L, Silver – Bonus Price

The Breville VKJ954 polished stainless steel jug kettle combines modern design with high performance. Featuring a useful viewing window for accurate filling and generous 1.7 litre capacity. This kettle will stand out on any kitchen worktop and will help provide the perfect hot drink every time.

  • Red illuminated switch in boil mode, and 3kW heating element for rapid boiling times
  • Push button lid for easy filling, and removable, washable limescale filter
  • Rear water gauge makes accurate filling easy
  • 1.7 Litre capacity allows you to brew 6-8 cups
  • 360 degree base for left and right handed use

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