How we test cars Road test
It's imperative that we get our hands on each car before we send it to our lab for thorough testing. But what exactly do we do with the cars during this time?
Road test - we get hands-on with every car
Two road testers assess each car at a time
If a new car has been identified as a key model for the UK, we ensure we get our hands on it as soon as we can.
We attend launches of all the cars that are most important to UK consumers. We also borrow press fleet cars for prolonged periods of time as soon as they become available. This allows us to get a hands-on feel for them on UK roads and use them in environments and conditions you only get in the United Kingdom.
The test route
Each car we road test is driven on all types of road, including unclassified roads (eg country lanes), B roads, A roads, motorways and town/city routes.
Two road testers assess each vehicle and come to a consensus for the First Drive report. If they can't reach an agreement, a third tester is brought in to help make a decision. Once an agreement is reached on each of the below criteria, test notes are completed immediately.
We then score each car for the following:
We look at interior and exterior workmanship on each car
- Adjustments: we rate ease of adjustment for both the driver’s seat for optimal driving position and the passenger seat to find the most comfortable position. We take into account the extremes (tall/short/heavy built/slight/strong/weak) and comment on obvious limitations if there are any for specific body types.
- Controls and information: we have a five-point checklist for assessing for the controls. This is broken down into driver controls, climate control, entertainment controls, sat nav controls (if any) and gear change and handbrake function.We also scrutinise how information is fed back to the driver, including the dashboard and speedometer display and car information such as oil pressure and service indicators. We make a separate judgement for use at night and in bright sunlight, considering reflections on the windscreen and displays being obscured by glare.
We assess boot practicality with rear world items
- Boot practicality: to test how practical the accessibility to the boot is, we load three controlled items of luggage into each car boot for easy comparison. These are an item of luggage, a pushchair and a wheelchair. We also consider the height of the sill, the drop from the sill to the boot floor, the shape and size of the boot opening, the height of an open boot lid (which can be dangerous for taller people), and obstructions within the boot, such as wheel arches.
- Visibility: our road testers consider all aspects of visibility while driving the test route, including visibility out of the front, rear and side windows. They also pass judgement on the blind spot and the view through the mirrors.
- Starting up: we look at the different methods of starting a car and how easy they are. This means we take into account whether it’s keyless start or uses a fob or traditional key, the process you need to go through for the engine to start, such as depressing the clutch and ensuring the car’s in neutral, and the initial noise and vibration on start-up.
We asses ride and handling from the driver and passenger point of view
- Handling and comfort: our comfort rating is dependent on a number of different aspects that we make judgements on during the full test route. These include comfort, noise, grip, primary ride, secondary ride, cornering, body roll and lane changing.
- Gear change and clutch use: with different transmissions available, we rate ease of shifting and finding the correct gear in the gearbox, as well as rating the clutch weight, stroke and feel. For automatics, we consider easy of gear selection and smoothness, timing and speed of gear changes.
- Overall comfort: we rate how easy it is to remain comfortable during a sustained period of time in the car, both as the driver and passenger. This takes into account how often you need to adjust the driver seat to find the optimum position, any aching during the journey, seat support and legroom.