North East Post
A Voice of the Free Press
Andy Harris
Motoring and Property Editor
1:00 AM 30th September 2023

Wetherby Tales – A Day With The Northern Group Of Motoring Writers

Members of the Northern Group of Motoring Writers gather
Members of the Northern Group of Motoring Writers gather
After four lovely years, I have now passed on the baton and am no longer chairman of the oldest motoring writers’ group in the UK. We recently celebrated our 50th anniversary and did so in style with an event at Aldwark Manor, near York. The memories linger.

This week saw our annual barbecue and social evening for members and industry friends at Wood Hall Hotel in Linton, which nicely warmed us up for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders drive day at Wetherby Racecourse. The latter is a chance for journalists to drive a good selection of cars back-to-back, either for comparison purposes or more likely to try out models that had slipped below the radar.

Nissan X-Trail
Nissan X-Trail
My day began with the latest Nissan X-Trail, a family sized SUV. On rain-soaked roads, it handled with aplomb and will most likely please those who choose to buy one. It is certainly not as distinctive as the original model, but there is space for seven and it is now powered by a fuel-efficient petrol engine and lithium-ion battery. These work together to power an electric motor. It sounds overly complicated to me, but in practice it seems to work very well.

My test car was in high-spec Tekna trim, with a price uncomfortably close to £50,000. A few facts:
Nissan X-Trail Tekna e=POWER
Price £46,990 (£47,995 as driven)
1.5-litre VCR turbo engine
213PS and 520Nm torque
0-62mph in 7.2 seconds
Combined economy 42.2mpg
Emission 152g/km CO2

MINI Convertible - lots of roof down fun
MINI Convertible - lots of roof down fun
The next car to warrant my attention was a convertible MINI Cooper S. Although very familiar with the model, a break in the weather was the opportunity for a quick top-down blast. It certainly blew the cobwebs away. This is a premium product and although less involving with the automatic gearbox, it is still an absolute hoot to drive. It is easy to see why the MINI brand remains as popular as it is and there is a raft of new models due in the showrooms next year. I can’t wait.

The striking new Smart #1
The striking new Smart #1
German brand Smart has reinvented itself for the electric era and its new offering, the Smart #1 is now a 50:50 joint venture between owners Mercedes-Benz and Geely. A 62kWh battery will provide up to 260miles of range for entry level models, and the list price of £35,950 looks attractive, given the amount of standard equipment.

The car I drove was a ‘Premium’ model, £3,000 more expensive and with an extra 13 miles of stated range. I had little time with the car, but I suspect many will be drawn to the family hatch on looks alone. A longer drive and more details will follow when I have had more time behind the wheel.

Isuzu's updated D-Max pickup
Isuzu's updated D-Max pickup
Last to come under my scrutiny was the updated Isuzu D-Max pickup. Styling changes are the order of the day, but I suspect most would not notice. A new grille, some new wheels and colours are the highlights.

The Utility model I drove was fitted with an automatic gearbox, something that had only been available on more expensive models. It’s a big improvement on the rather notchy manual offering and makes for a much more relaxing drive. It is also much easier should some serious off-roading be the order of the day, something many D-Max owners buy their trucks for. A 3.5-tonne towing capacity and 1.1-tonne payload demonstrate the D-Max’s working credentials.

The 1.9-litre diesel engine seemed quieter than I remembered it, so perhaps some extra sound deadening has been fitted. Air conditioning, remote central locking and a myriad of other features ensure this is no poverty spec vehicle, yet the price remains affordable as many rivals are moving well over the £40,000 mark.

Some more details:
Isuzu D-Max Utility 4x4 Double Cab
£28,929 + VAT
1.9-litre diesel engine
Automatic gearbox
3.5-tonne towing capacity
5-year/125k mile warranty
12-year anti-corrosion warranty
No speed restrictions

The Northern Group of Motoring Writers' Car of the Year 2023 - The MG4
The Northern Group of Motoring Writers' Car of the Year 2023 - The MG4
The Northern Group of Motoring Writers also uses the Wetherby event to present our Car of the Year award. This year, MG has taken home the trophy with the MG4 winning the EV category and then the overall title.

The MG4 range starts at a very reasonable £26,995 and not only is it good to drive, but it also has a decent real-world range and is well equipped into the bargain.

Hyundai’s new Kona came second, whilst in third place there was a three-way tie between the Volkswagen ID. Buzz, Lexus RX and Kia EV6 GT.

The new Group Chairman Andrew Evans was among those voting the MG4 in first place and he commented:
“The MG4 is an antidote to the trend of making ludicrously fast, pricey, and heavy electric halo products. It’s a simple, inexpensive, electric hatchback for the masses with enough performance, and importantly range for most.”

I completely agree and when asked to comment was happy to say the following:
“It is a testament as to how far MG has come in just a few short years, and it is the only affordable EV that I am happy to recommend to friends.”

As is traditional, the ‘Arthur’ – an antique miner’s lamp named after one-time miner’s leader Arthur Scargill – was presented to the PR marketing manager for MG, Jasmine Jiang.