13 SEPTEMBER 2010

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Airport hotel given green light

SOUTHEND BOROUGH COUNCIL has given the green light for a hotel on the Essex airport site close by the new railway station which is nearing completion.  A frequent train service to London’s Liverpool Street will be inaugurated once the two-platform station is commissioned next month.  The 131-room hotel will provide high quality facilities for airport passengers as well as for local businesses.  In an ambitious and innovative concept is has been designed to incorporate both 3-star facilities and a separate 5-star executive floor with 12 suites.  A new passenger building is also planned offering an integrated complex of station, airport terminal and hotel.  The Council’s decision to grant permission for a runway extension is currently subject to a judicial review.  www.southendairport.com

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Belfast finds a saviour

FLYBE, as predicted in last week’s AERBT, has quickly stepped into the gap vacated by Ryanair at George Best Belfast City Airport.  From Sunday 31 October 2010, Flybe will operate up to two daily flights to Bristol, two to East Midlands and up to four daily flights to Liverpool.  With the new operations Flybe will serve 17 destinations from the harbour airport.  Flybe says the new routes will mean locating two additional aircraft at the airport with the potential creation of 250 indirect jobs adding to the 215 already directly employed by Flybe in Belfast. www.flybe.com

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Coventry Airport re-introduces revenue flights

BAGINTON, as it was called in the past, is again welcoming fare paying passengers, albeit in a fairly modest way.  With the granting of a licence by the CAA to the new Coventry Airport operator Patriot Aerospace, Air Atlantique Classic Flight’s AIRBASE living museum is once again able to offer pleasure flights. These coincide with the museum’s open days Thursday to Sunday.  The 30-minute experience in a de Havilland Rapide takes passengers on an overview of the surrounding countryside including the City of Coventry, Warwick Castle and historic Leamington Spa.  Cost is £75 per person.  On Sunday 26 September the airport, as part of its re-opening festivities, will host a major open day in aid of “Help for Heroes” including the first ever landing of an Avro Vulcan. www.coventryairport.co.uk www.classicflightclub.com/airbase

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FlyLight bag weighs itself

LUGGAGE WEIGHT on flights was always a problem and recently has been made worse with some airlines charging for the smallest of carry-on bags.  Weighing one’s luggage on the bathroom scales is not always practical.  FlyLight has come up with an innovation that gets over this problem, a self-weighing roller bag that meets the current regulations on cabin size.  Pack your case; pull on the handle and an LCD screen lights ups telling you exactly how much it all weighs.  Because the mechanism is within the actual suitcase, you won’t just be sure that your luggage is within the guidelines on your outbound flight, but also upon your return.  There is choice of colours and sizes. www.flylightluggage.co.uk

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Manchester to Manston

FLYBE’S new air link from Manchester to Manston has been introduced.  The route is operated by a 78-seat Bombardier Q400 turboprop with a flight time of 70 minutes, the service daily except Saturday.  This is Flybe’s second venture from the Kent airport.  A daily Edinburgh route started in May and is proving extremely popular.  Manston Airport serves a large area of Kent and East Sussex, with poor road links to the north of the country.  Manston to Manchester is 275 difficult miles, and Edinburgh 500 miles.  The popular cruise and ferry port of Dover is less than 20 miles from Manston. www.flybe.com www.manstonairport.com

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PremiAir adds executive Learjets

VON ESSEN GROUP member PremiAir can now offer the Learjet 45 executive jet with the aircraft’s addition to the company’s Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC).  This follows PremiAir’s acquisition last month of the former Gold Air facilities at London’s Biggin Hill Airport.  The sleek twin-engined business jet can carry up to eight passengers and also operate out of London City Airport.  From London it can make Moscow non-stop cruising at around 500mph.  Established 30 years ago, PremiAir is the UK’s largest Executive Helicopter Charter and Management company.  It has bases at Denham, Biggin Hill, Blackbushe, Farnborough and Oxford airports, plus the group-owned London Heliport.  Fixed wing private jet charter and management services were introduced in early 2010 using the Hawker Beechcraft Premier 1.  Two LearJet 45s have now been added to the fleet. www.premiair.co.uk

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Virgin Atlantic strike

SIR RICHARD BRANSON will be well pleased that a possible strike by Virgin Atlantic fight deck crew has been averted.  After a series of long drawn out discussions between the management and the pilots union a compromise has been reached which appears to suit all parties.  Under a deal, pilots will now receive at least 120 days off per annum, which is believed to equal holidays and weekends that employees in other sectors receive.  BALPA General Secretary Jim McAuslan said: “In our discussions with the company, we have identified a range of relationships and processes that can be improved.  We are looking forward to working with Virgin Atlantic on these matters to ensure that our industrial relations is on a more professional and progressive footing.”  www.balpa.org.uk www.virgin-atlantic.com

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HAPPY TALK: Job advertisement

A leading airline is advertising for pilots with strong bladders.  It would appear that this unnamed carrier is thinking of seeking approval to operate with just a single pilot making what is commonly known as “a visit” somewhat complicated.  The airline says that all captaincy applications must guarantee a personal “range” of a minimum two hours!

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COMMENT: The airport tax

AERBT is sorry to have to return to the issue of Air Passenger Duty (APD) but the matter is of such vital importance it needs to be aired time and time again. 

Unless the Chancellor has a change of heart in the October Treasury review, APD will dramatically rise from 1 November (again).  At least his Department has admitted it is not an environmental tax but a pure revenue cash cow!

Cost conscious travellers (and high yield business travellers in particular) will find much cheaper alternatives to the UK.

That it is likely to prove to be counter productive is a generally accepted view.

Other countries, in particular Belgium and Holland, have rejected the tax.  Both will benefit from passengers diverting from Germany and the UK.  Their view is that increased transit traffic will more than make up for any duty levied.

Have you noticed the amount of noise generated by certain airlines in respect of APD?

Virtual silence!

Why?

Because APD actually generates revenue for the airline.

Cancel your flight, or fail to turn up.  Do you make a claim for the return of the duty paid?  The airlines make it too expensive. 

According to a WHICH survey the worst offenders were found to be Jet2.com, charging £40 per transaction, while Flybe and bmi charge £25 per person.  The British Airways cost is between £15 and £30 per person, and Ryanair £15 each individual.  Monarch and Thomson Airways each require £25 per transaction, regardless of the number of passengers on the booking.

Easyjet was the only airline in the survey that did not charge an administration fee for reclaiming APD.

Take an airline with a single class operation moving 70m passengers annually.  Let us say that 40% of that number is UK generated, and it is split 50/50 between outgoing and incoming passengers.  14m passengers taxable.  At a guess 5% don’t travel for one reason or another.  700,000, but it could be as many as one million.  Within Europe (ie less than 2,000 miles capital to capital) the new fee is £12 but with Tel Aviv and Cairo now within the focus of the budget airlines APD will be £45! 

Our guess is for a 70m-passenger airline the tax not passed on will be between £12m and £15m, not an insubstantial figure.

There are two ways around this problem.

Install departure tax machines at the airports.  The cost in relation to income is insignificant and transit passengers will not be hit by a totally unfair tax.  The Treasury receives its money instantly.  From an airline marketing point of view it keeps the visible cost down.

An alternative is to change the function of APD.  Make it an inclusive booking tax rather than a departure tax. 

Only if the booking is cancelled is the tax not passed on to Government.

It is a separate issue, but the current practice of airlines charging extra for taxes and fees is totally immoral.  Taxes are one thing, but the so-called fees are just operational costs that should be part of the fare.  Any breakdown needs to note the duty separately.

The Treasury is just as bad as the airlines in concealing the tax situation.

Go to HM Revenue & Customs and you will find all the details set out in civil service language including the current charges.  The November 2010 costs are not noted.  Visit HMRC.  For whatever reasons the new taxes are not in the simple form of the previous document but have to be downloaded as a PDF.  Not easy.  Much better to visit Wikipedia where it is all set out very clearly.

This government is likely to destroy the UK’s once thriving air transport industry.  The Transport Minister is largely invisible and silent on aviation matters and his deputy, who held the position in opposition, seems opposed to air transport.  Perhaps she takes her holidays by train.

AERBT will again repeat its view.  The Chancellor should review the situation and cancel/postpone the November tax hike.  He should take into consideration the 2012 EU Emissions Trading Scheme which will not single out the UK.  And use the Conservative Party Conference to establish grass root views.  At the end of the day the duty rise was signalled by the previous administration and a change of view will cause no embarrassment.

Malcolm Ginsberg

Editor in Chief

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Artwork at Luton

LUTON AIRPORT may not be the prettiest in the country when it comes to visibility but it is making efforts in an artistic sense.  Situated in the arrivals area to gain maximum visibility the Gateway Gallery shows works from local artists and is part of the airport’s Community Engagement Strategy.  David Lowther, who trained at the world famous Goldsmiths College of Art and taught art in Bedfordshire for 25 years is the subject of an exhibition which will run until the end of September.  The set of paintings is a combination of work freely based on Seamus Heaney's poem "Storm on the Island." www.london-luton.com

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Big Boeings get Delta upgrade

DELTA AIR LINES has unveiled plans for the complete revitalization of its fleet of Boeing 747-400 aircraft flying primarily from its Tokyo-Narita hub.  Between summer 2011 and 2012, Delta will equip each of its 16 747-400s with new fully horizontal flat-bed seats in the BusinessElite cabin and new Economy Class seats featuring personal on-demand entertainment, increased personal space and added under-seat storage.  This is essentially the same product recently introduced on all North Atlantic services out of Heathrow, and several other mainland European points. www.delta.com

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Dreamliner progress

BOEING is pressing on with the flight test programme for its new 787 Dreamliner aircraft, but when lead airline ANA will actually put the aircraft in service is anyone’s guess.  Five aircraft are currently flying, and four of these are nominally at least based away from Seattle.  Chosen locations for the intensive development operation include Edwards Air Force base in California, famous for its military work, Roswell, also in California where wet runway tests are taking place, and Keflavik Airport in Iceland for high-latitude and cold weather testing.  At the other extreme Yuma, Arizona, is being used for hot weather flights.  The 787 flight test fleet has conducted more than 1,650 hours of flying over more than 540 flights. www.boeing.com/commercial

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Hilton for Montenegro

PODGORICA, capital and largest city of Montenegro, and once called Titograd, is to gain its first Hilton Hotel.  Scheduled to open by the end of 2012 the 200-guest room property replaces an historic existing hotel which is being extensively re-modelled.  Montenegro escaped the worst of the Slavic wars at the end of the last century and has been an independent pro-western democracy since 2006.  In neighbouring Croatia, Hilton has been represented since 2005 with Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik, located some 130km from Podgorica by road.  In late 2012 Hilton is to open a Garden Inn at Davos, Switzerland. www.hilton.com

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Nigerian airline in growth

ARIK AIR, which now claims to be Nigeria’s leading commercial airline, has finished the summer season by registering a growth in uplift of 10.3% for the three-month period ending 31 August 2010 compared to the same period last year.  During August, and only eight months on from lifting its four millionth passenger, the airline reached another landmark when it carried its five millionth passenger on 6 August on the Johannesburg to Lagos route.  Reaching the milestone of five million passengers is particularly impressive given that Arik flew on its first scheduled flight (Lagos to Abuja) on 30 October 2006 and is yet to celebrate its fourth anniversary.  The launch of its first international route was Lagos – London, on 15 December 2008.  Since then, it has added Lagos – Johannesburg (9 June), Abuja – London (9 November) and Lagos – New York (9 Nov) to its long haul operations as well as opening regional routes from hubs in Lagos and Abuja to Dakar (Senegal), Accra (Ghana), Freetown (Sierra Leone), Cotonou (Benin), Banjul (The Gambia) and, most recently, Monrovia (Liberia). www.arikair.com

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Train operator upsets ASA

THE STANSTED EXPRESS, often called the “Stansted Slow”, has run into trouble after a complaint by a member of the public.  The train service, run by National Express, which makes two stops on its way to London’s Liverpool Street station, had put in place posters "Train to London 35 minutes" with images of the capital, partly to help those not fluent in English.  But the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) noted that the journey to central London took 45 minutes.  It ruled that the advert was likely to mislead passengers.  The ASA pointed out that the train would reach Tottenham Hale in 35 minutes, a station well outside the central London area.  The train operator says the posters are being amended. www.stanstedexpress.com

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ON TOUR: The Goodwood Revival Meeting

The Goodwood Revival motoring event, which begins next Friday (17 September), now ranks second only to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone as the country’s most popular motor sport event.  By the time the last spectator departs on Sunday, and with good weather prevailing, something like 120,000 spectators would have passed into the Duke of Richmond’s extensive estate, a fantastic achievement since the whole occasion is pure nostalgia, no car (or motorcycle) built after 1966 allowed to compete. 

Visitors are encouraged to wear the fashions of the 1950s and 1960s too, and the former RAF World War II airfield, which sits in the middle of the motor racing circuit, will again play host to vintage de Havilland biplanes, the commuter aircraft of their day, pleasure flights a feature of the weekend.

The rules for the media are strict.  Track pass holders and TV must wear period dress.  The Duke is insistent.  Normal patrons can dress how they like, but the classic line is encouraged. 

Goodwood is an anomaly and a very successful one at that, combining a quite separate motor racing track, speed hill climb, a flat horse racing course “Glorious Goodwood” and the Goodwood Park Hotel and Country Club with not one but two Championship golf courses.  You can visit all year round.

Since its inauguration in 1998, the Goodwood Revival has become the world’s most popular historic motor race meeting and the only event of its kind to be staged in the romantic time capsule of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.  As a motor racing circuit Goodwood thrived between 1948 and 1966. 

It was the scene of the near fatal crash of the then Stirling Moss in 1962, and of his own ‘revival’ if that is the right word, as the senior personality in today’s motor racing world.  Perhaps not so well known, it was at Goodwood that New Zealander Bruce McLaren (aged 32) lost his life when his McLaren Can-Am car crashed on the Lavant Straight just before Woodcote on 2 June 1970.  McClaren have been eight times constructor champion.

John Surtees will be honoured at this year’s event, the only man to be world champion on both two wheels and four.  BRM (British Racing Motor) will also be highlighted, the winner of 17 Grand Prix and Graham Hill’s victory stead three times at Monte Carlo.

Expected to been seen in the paddock and participating in various events are Rauno Aaltonen, Monte Carlo and RAC Rally winner, and European Rally Champion; Gerhard Berger, ten-times Grand Prix winner, Martin Brundle, Veteran Grand Prix driver and now the voice of Formula 1 (F1) on the BBC; Tony Brooks, unsung hero of the late-1950s racing scene, winner of six Grand Prix; Christian Horner, former racing driver and now Red Bull Racing F1 Team Principal; Nick Mason, Pink Floyd drummer and renowned classic car enthusiast and racer; Jackie Oliver 1969 Le Mans winner, Lotus F1 driver, and former Arrows team owner;  Phil Read, seven-time World Champion and first man to win 125cc, 250cc and 500cc titles, Sir Jackie Stewart three times F1 World Champion who kick-started his career at Goodwood; and finally Sir Stirling Moss.

The races themselves will include an amazing selection of cars ranging from one litre Austin Healy Sebring Sprite, seven-litre Le Mans winning Ford GT40 and, by today’s standards, tiny space frame rear-engined Lotus 18 in which Moss won the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix.

The Revival Weekend is not just motor racing.  If you have not been before make time to visit the Earls Court Motor Show.  Here, and under cover, it is not all vintage.  Expect to find the new Jaguar XJ.  The Freddie March “Spirit of Aviation” will include some rarely seen aircraft.  For those not inhibited with money Bonham will be conducting a car auction, whilst 1930s-style the March Motor Works “art deco” style showroom building houses a range of mouth-watering 1950s and 1960s road and race cars.

RAF Westhampnett will mean nothing to the present generation but it was the official name of Goodwood Airfield during the Battle of Britain where it played a key role.  It was also the site of Sir Douglas Bader’s final sortie.  Throughout the Revival weekend a series of legendary aircraft – long associated with Goodwood – will be flying over the famous motor circuit including Hurricane, Spitfire and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Avro Lancaster.  There is a period fairground and an old-fashioned style open market.

On Revival Sunday, a very special Goodwood-based RAF pilot will be honoured with a moving tribute.  American-born Billy Fiske joined the RAF long before the USA became formally involved in the Second World War.  Fiske was a dynamic and successful young American that wrote and directed movies and was a double Olympic bobsled champion.  He was the first American to volunteer to join the RAF when war was declared, and joined the famous 601 Squadron, flying from RAF Westhampnett and nearby Tangmere, and dashing around the Sussex country lanes in his distinctive Blower Bentley.  Sadly he was one of the first US citizens to lose his life in World War II, shot down in August 1940.

ADMISSION:  The gates open at 07:30 each day.  The organisers are keen to get motor racing in the blood at an early age and accompanied under 12s get are admitted for free.  A basic pass for all three days costs £107, with standalone tickets priced at £35 for Friday and £50 for Saturday and Sunday.

Goodwood also has one of the best and most informative of websites anywhere.  Perhaps its 21st century approach is the secret of its success. www.goodwood.co.uk

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Airline advertising to be better regulated

THE ADVERTISING STANDARDS AUTHORITY (ASA) is to extend its powers to cover all online marketing and advertising from 1 March 2011, including any on social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter.  Currently the ASA’s powers extend only to traditional advertising such as print and television.  Since 2008 it says it has received 4,500 complaints that it has been unable to deal with, mainly adverts for airfares that do not include taxes or charges.  The Air Transport Users Council (AUC), the UK aviation watchdog, welcomed the extension of the ASA’s remit.  “When this ruling is enforced by the CAA, there will be no more misleading pricing by airlines whereby the first price is advertised, only for taxes and charges to pop up in a separate window or at a later stage in the booking process,” a spokesman said.

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BA strike news

BRITISH AIRWAYS cabin crew have voted in favour of another ballot over industrial action.  If the strike(s) go ahead, it could hit passengers travelling over the Christmas holiday period.  A meeting at Kempton Park Racecourse attracted more than 1,000 members of the British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association (BASSA), which is Unite’s main cabin crew branch.  Although the BASSA members have voted for the ballot, it would have to be endorsed by Unite.  Unite Joint General Secretaries Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley are said to be hoping to hold further talks with BA in Manchester this week, where the TUC’s annual congress will be held.  Willie Walsh, BA Chief Executive, said the airline has contingency plans to fly 100% of long haul and a high proportion of short haul services in the event of another walkout. www.baa.com www.unitetheunion.org

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Christchurch Airport fully operational

NEW ZEALAND'S Christchurch Airport is now fully operational following the massive earthquake on 4 September.  Both domestic and international terminals and the runways have been certified by engineers as structurally sound.  All public areas are open and fully functional.  Retail outlets including food and beverage are also operating as normal.  The airport says that passengers could face minor delays travelling to and from the airport and are advised to confirm their flight details with their relevant airline prior their flight. www.christchurchairport.co.nz

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Eastern Airways goes to France

DIJON BOURGOGNE AIRPORT is to be Eastern Airways first ever overseas base.  From 20 September, services will start to Bordeaux with two flights each weekday along with a Sunday service.  Flights to Toulouse will start from 27 September from Dijon with two flights each weekday along with a Sunday service.  Two 29-seater Jetstream 41 aircraft will be based in Dijon.  The airport has not offered scheduled services for over seven years.  Eastern Airways has an extensive, mainly UK, operation and currently operates some 30 aircraft. www.easternairways.com

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Lufthansa Passenger Airlines

AUSTRIAN, BMI, LUFTHANSA AND SWISS, collectively the Lufthansa Passenger Airlines Group, has published it passengers' figures for August, demonstrating its different approach to a collective, rather than the Air France/KLM scenario, and that also proposed by BA and Iberia.  Lufthansa itself achieved a load factor of 82.9% (down -0.6%).  The use of larger aircraft meant that capacity went up by 5.7 %, whereas the number of flights only increased by 3.5%.  SWISS carried more passengers this August than in the same period last year (+3.4%) giving a load factor of 86.3 % (-1.0).  A similarly high passenger load factor of 83.3 % (+1.5 per person) was also reported by Austrian Airlines.  Sales (+2.8%) were well above the slight expansion of capacity (+0.9%).  Austrian Airlines carried 11.3 % more passengers than last year.  Evidence of the sustainable restructuring of bmi can be seen in a sharp adjustment to capacity (-28.0%).  This was accompanied by a load factor of 78.6 % (-2.5 per person). www.lufthansa.com

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Oslo Airport hotel

REZIDOR has opened a Park Inn by Radisson hotel at Oslo Airport.  The new build property is within walking distance from the Terminal and has 300 rooms, meeting facilities and its own restaurant concept, RBG Bar & Grill.  The hotel is only approximately 20 minutes by train from Oslo Central Station.  Rezidor is very active in promoting the conference facilities at the hotel which include 31 flexible meeting rooms and a 360 capacity ballroom.  All of the meeting rooms feature audio-visual equipment, free wireless internet access and soundproofing to ensure quiet facilities. www.parkinn.com/airporthotel-oslo

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UK airport figures for BAA

BAA's six UK airports handled 10.6m passengers in August, a reduction of 0.6% on the same month last year.  Heathrow recorded its busiest ever August, and second busiest month on record, with 6.5m passing through the world’s major international hub.  Relative to other UK airports, Heathrow benefited from its greater exposure to the business travel sector with the main growth driver European scheduled traffic, which was up by 10.4% on the back of an 8.3% increase in seat capacity compared with August 2009.  All the airports showed a decrease both on a monthly and year to year basis with Stansted the worst in pure number terms, now less then 19m on an annual basis. www.baa.com

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MOTORING UPDATE by Ted Wilkinson

HONDA INSIGHT ES-T 1.3 IMA CVT

Honda’s Quiet Revolutionary

Ghostly, my friend said as we cruised along in serene silence at 70 mph in Honda’s second generation Insight hatch back.  It seemed as though we were coasting but uphill!

Yes, Honda has proved that a car can be frugal without shouting it from the roof tops.  Certainly there is much more car to this Insight than the rather cramped predecessor of the same name and the later Civic Hybrid.  Indeed there is also a lot of style that proves modern innovation need not be compromised by design constraints.

Honda is among the pioneers in hybrid and alternative power sources, not so long ago hosting a workshop on the subject which proved eye-opening to both myself and other invited journalists.  It is obvious that this company is well on the march into the future and this Insight model convinced me that it is a practical, not excessively costly, form of transport, fortunately lacking in any eccentricities or unusual gimmickry.

Here is a sensibly sized four (or even five at a pinch) seat hatch back, clean lined, bearing obvious family resemblance to the Honda range though a stand alone design (employing the underpinnings of the well proven Jazz model) with a hint of sporty styling that incorporates a good sized 408-litre luggage area augmented by 60/40% split folding rear seats.

As with the earlier Civic Hybrid, the Insight features four-cylinder 1.4-litre engine, albeit further developed, located transversely under the bonnet that is augmented by an electric motor to provide a combined power output of 97 bhp, delivered through
a reasonably smooth acting and very responsive CVT automatic transmission to the front wheels.

The driver is confronted with an ultra modern fascia that is less daunting than it actually looks though the ever fluctuating digital speed indicator is not to my liking and, of course, there is additional information to show just how well the economy is being delivered.

A green economy button cuts some of the overall power, contributes to that quiet running ability, allows more effort to go into the air conditioning system, but come the need throttle kick-down will produce full acceleration when some noise intrusion is noticeable.

Performance is competitive for the size of car, Honda claiming a top speed of 113 mph with 62 mph (100 kph) reached in a passable 12.5 seconds.

The real acid test is what do you get in the way of economy?  According to the official figures up to 62.8 mpg on the extra urban cycle though I suggest amore realistic target would be around 45 mpg under mixed condition.  There again, it really depends the way you drive.

The low exhaust emissions and the fact that it is hybrid powered does not qualify for free road tax but freedom from congestion charges in the UK, the latter undoubtedly worth considering for those frequenting such places.

In all respects the well equipped Insight (there are four specification versions on offer) and tested here is the entry level iMA ES-T which is close to executive standards for kit and is smartly finished close to premium grade qualities.

Driving characteristics?  Perhaps not totally a slick performer but an easy drive with good response through all controls, a bit busy on the ride especially when lightly laden but with good driver vision and an accommodating driving position for all shapes and sizes.

To a great degree the Honda Insight Hybrid makes a lot of sense for owners intent on lowering their motoring overheads as well as placating those concerned with saving the planet.


Rivals include: Toyota Prius, Golf Blue Motion TDI Stop+Start. Price from: £18,890.


STAR RATINGS

Performance 9
Handling 8
Transmission 8
Noise 10
Economy 9
Ride and Comfort 8
Accommodation 9
Styling 9
Brakes 9
Finish 9

TOTAL: 87

NOTES FROM TED WILKINSON‘S MOTORING DIARY

A NEW SWIFT IS HATCHED

SUZUKI’S hugely popular small Swift hatch back range moves into a new generation model with the arrival of a totally new 3-5-door model that is overall slightly larger than the outgoing model.

Designed and made in Europe, the initial impression at launch was of an exceptionally well made and finished product that demonstrated near impeccable driving qualities on the German test route.

Clever packaging, combining with impressive styling, good levels of practicality, projects the new Swift strongly into a competitive market where it has the credentials to challenge all the mainstream players.

The three version range is based on two power plants, an impressive Fiat designed 75 ps 1.3 Multijet turbo diesel and a Euro 5 compliant 1.2 litre petrol unit developing 94 ps and both driving through a 5-speed manual gearbox with the option, at a slightly later date, of a 3-speed automatic petrol unit.

Specifications across the range are seriously competitive with all cars offering a seven-airbag system with ESP as standard – Suzuki has also been quick off the mark to gain a 5-star Euro NCAP rating – while mid-range models come with air conditioning and alloy wheels, the flagship SZ4 with automatic air conditioning, push button start, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, automatic headlamps and rear privacy glass.

A nice comfortable light feeling car to drive the new Swift (priced from £9,995 to £13,245) is claimed to be good for 103 mph in petrol form, 99 mph in diesel form and returns up to 67.3 mpg on the combined cycle.  With emissions of 116 g/km the road tax is £30 per year.

 

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