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Peugeot-Citroen agrees deal with GM to buy Vauxhall-Opel
The French company that owns Peugeot and Citroen has struck a 2.2bn euro (£1.9bn) deal to buy General Motors’ European unit, including Vauxhall. GM Europe has not made a profit since 1999 and the deal has raised fears about job losses at Vauxhall. The UK factories at Ellesmere Port and Luton employ about 4,500 people. With GM’s Opel and Vauxhall operations, PSA Group would become the second largest carmaker in Europe, behind Volkswagen.
The fine print behind the GM deal
The £1.9bn headline price suggests both General Motors and Peugeot think the former’s European operations have significant value. The fine print of the deal suggests something slightly different, and shows that GM has in fact taken a hit of up to £6bn in order to get shot of Vauxhall and Opel. First, a big chunk of the price – three-quarters of a billion pounds – is not for car plants, but for loans taken out by the owners of Opel and Vauxhall cars through GM’s finance arm. Peugeot is paying four-fifths of the book value of the outstanding loans.
Scottish apprenticeships target raised
Up to 27,000 young people will benefit from apprenticeship employment opportunities this year, according to the Scottish government. The figure is 1,000 higher than last year’s target for apprenticeship starts. The statistics have been released ahead of Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2017.
China cuts growth target to 6.5% this year
The Chinese growth target for this year has been cut to around 6.5%, down from 6.5 to 7% last year, Premier Li Keqiang has announced. He was addressing the country’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), which has gathered in Beijing for its annual session. The Chinese economy expanded at its slowest pace in 26 years in 2016.
Dartford Crossing excluded from pollution assessments
Pollution levels around the Dartford Crossing have been excluded from government air quality assessments because it was classed as a “rural” road, the BBC has discovered. Despite carrying 50 million vehicles a year, the status meant nitrogen dioxide recordings were not reported to the EU. Consisting of the Dartford Tunnel and QEII Bridge, the crossing – officially known as the A282 – connects the M25 north and south of the River Thames. It has now been reclassified. In a letter obtained by the BBC, government minister Therese Coffey conceded the error.
UK new cars sales suffer first February dip in six years
New UK car sales registered their first February drop in six years, in signs the market could be feeling the pinch from early signs of a consumer spending slowdown in the British economy. Annual new car registrations declined by 0.3 per cent last month, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT), after strong growth in January. Private car sales – a better gauge for consumer demand – dropped 4.4 per cent in February compared to the same month last year. They had climbed 5 per cent in January. Britain’s motoring market has been booming in recent years, so far defying scares it would be hit hard following the Brexit vote. New car registrations hit an all-time record in 2016 but February’s small dip comes after separate surveys of the UK economy have revealed a softening in the consumer spending after the start of the year.
Six things to look out for in the Budget
Philip Hammond’s first and last spring Budget will be delivered against a backdrop of economic resilience since the EU referendum last summer, but still heightened uncertainty as the government prepares to invoke Article 50 to leave the EU.
The economy has performed better than the Office for Budget Responsibility expected in the latter half of 2016 and started this year with significant momentum which will raise the growth numbers for this year. Headline growth forecasts for 2017 will be revised sharply higher from 1.4 per cent to close to 2 per cent.
Tax receipts for 2016-17 have proved stronger than was expected at the time of the Autumn Statement and the deficit is likely to be around £12bn smaller than feared in November.
The chancellor has come under severe pressure to ease the burden of steep rises in business rates for some companies in London and the south-east following the revaluation of properties this year. The chancellor has told MPs that he has been listening to concerns and will act to help small companies facing the largest increases.
Funding pressures in social care for the elderly and the vulnerable are overwhelming some local authorities and almost all are raising council tax significantly to inject money into social care in their areas.
Having done little to ease the family finances of those just about managing in his Autumn Statement, Mr Hammond is facing calculations from several think-tanks pointing out that the government’s freeze on working-age benefit rates, starting in April, will leave these families worse off as inflation erodes their living standards.
If three people have similar jobs, but one is an employee, one is self-employed and one runs an incorporated company, they will pay significantly different levels of tax and national insurance.
Impact of business rate changes ‘has been exaggerated’
Concerns about new business rates are “overstated”, a think tank has claimed, arguing that the overhaul will cause average rates to rise in only two cities in England and Wales. Changes due in April have caused a backlash from employers’ groups and Conservative MPs in the southeast, who argue that many smaller businesses could be forced to close. However, Centre for Cities has found that average rates will fall in every city except for London and Reading and will prove a significant benefit for several urban centres in the north.
Volkswagen emissions scam ‘means early death for thousands in Europe’
Thousands of people will die early across Europe because of excessive air pollution from the Volkswagen cars that were fitted with illegal devices to cheat emissions tests, according to scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The German manufacturer fitted “defeat devices” to more than 11 million diesel VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat cars built between 2007 and 2015, including 1.2 million sold in the UK. The devices ensured that pollution controls worked properly only in the laboratory, while on the road the cars emitted four times the legal limit of pollutants.
Driverless cars clock up hundreds of miles on public roads in London
It would take an eagle-eyed motorist or pedestrian to notice, but for the last five days, carmaker Nissan has been quietly testing its new driverless cars on public roads in London. Using modified Leaf models, the company says its week-long trial is the first time anywhere in Europe that autonomous cars have been let loose on the public highway.
The manufacturer put the electric vehicles through their paces around a complex route in east London, taking in stop signs, dual carriageways, pedestrian crossings and parking challenges. Since Monday, the firm says the cars have clocked up hundreds of miles with no collisions and only a handful of incidents in which an engineer in the driver’s seat had to intervene to prevent a crash. The company has also collected lots of useful data that will help it to develop the technology further.
Motorists ready to go green… for a cash perk: Half say they would switch to a less polluting car if give a financial incentive to do so
Nearly half of all motorists said they would be likely to switch to a cleaner vehicle if provided with a financial incentive, a survey claims. Environmentalists are calling for scrappage schemes for the dirtiest diesel cars. A survey by Friends of the Earth found yesterday that 45 per cent of British adults would be likely to change their car to a cleaner model if given government-backed financial assistance. The pressure group is calling for Chancellor Philip Hammond to reform vehicle excise duty and company car tax in Wednesday’s budget – to create incentives to switch from diesel cars to cleaner alternatives. The group suggests a scrappage scheme that will be paid for by an initial £800 charge for people buying new diesel vehicles – a move that is estimated would raise £500 million a year.