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I been an avid reader of car magazines for many years. Autocar has always been one of my favourites, and it still is after 20 years.
More colour than ever before and a clear layout is keeping it at the top of the pile. Its also well priced at under 3 pounds.
I've tried Auto Express, and although they take a different an often interesting angle on features, some of the journalism is poor and the road test data can be inaccurate also.
I find that the other competitors such as What Car and Car Magazine are too expensive. What car is just stuffed full of facts, with very little emotion for the driving experiences, and Car Magazine is just too focused on Supercars that few of us can afford.
A blend of News, Road Tests and New car price data are very useful to any car owner. Long live Autocar!
For much of the 20th century the buyer of a motoring magazine in the UK had a choice of just two weekly titles - Autocar and Motor. In the 1980s the two titles merged to become Autocar and Motor before the single word title - Autocar was chosen to be used again.
Whilst many things have changed and motoring magazines are now very plentiful and cater for many niches within the general motoring genre the Autocar is maintaining its appeal through these more competitive times.
The format has evolved without unnecessary revolutionary changes. Each edition has at least one usually two obligatory road tests. These tests cover every possible piece of testing and more a prospective buyer would wish to undertake. It is no accident that if you visit car showrooms they will often have reprinted complementary Autocar road test reports of their cars. This is certainly due to a wide motor industry view that Autocar test reports are thorough and authoritative.
Autocar is not however merely about road tests. The latest motoring industry and motor sport news is well covered and as new vehicles are launched there is a short preview of what is to be offered. The magazine is clearly intended for those who are likely to be active in the car market. There is therefore regular articles on the state of the car market and guides to the levels of pricing of some used vehicles.
My only criticism of Autocar is it repetitiveness. You could pick up a copy from any week in the last 5 or more years and its feel is exactly the same. In some circumstances this can be a benefit but in the car magazine market with 20 or more titles vying for your money you need a compelling reason to buy.
For me the Autocar does not do that week in week out.
Rather you may be best advised to dip into it on an occasional basis, peruse the cover in WH Smiths and if there is something on the cover which takes your fancy then go ahead. Many weeks may go by however with your £2 still in your pocket. When you do dip in there is some of the data printed at the back, you may find however that this is done better in the likes of What Car magazine.
As a self confessed car nut I read just about all the motoring press from time to time, but the only magazine I actually subscribe to is Autocar.
To any of you who enjoy this weekly motoring magazine, but are complaining about the expense, do yourself a huge favour, save a bundle by subscribing, for years I had it delivered from the newsagent and wasted literally hundreds of pounds.
The cover price weekly is £2.20, on subscription you can save 15% or more and currently they will send you a very good Aston Martin model worth £20 as a thank you.
Indeed my subscription has been recently renewed for the coming year, I was not offered the Aston (a £20 1:18th scale Burago model) but was automatically allowed a 30% discount on the cover price - in my case money for nothing, as I would continue to purchase this magazine each week anyway. In a sense I suppose you could call this my one and only weekly extravagence in life!
My collection - a complete set - goes back to mid 1972, the year I was packed off to boarding school at the tender age of 10. Week after week my father sent the (then) Autocar, it kept me sane for all those boring hours imprisoned on the Isle of Wight, but that's a story for another day!
Autocar has not only traced the huge strides in the motor industry over the years, but its artistic style, photography and even editorial content have much to say about our ever changing fashions and society.
Now well into the 21st century this magazine remains modern and fresh and has kept well abreast of the times. It is certainly a definitive reference material, friends and colleagues who know little, or care little about the cars they drive, always come and ask me for the read of a relevant Autocar road test when they are considering buying a new, or even second hand car. The Autocar road test is still second to none, covering usually a test approaching 1000 miles including performance and handling testing at the UK's premier test track - Millbrook in Bedfordshire.
For those of you interested in such bald statistics in these reviews, looking at this weeks Autocar, the total number of pages is 138, 54 of which are the "Marketplace" - previously referred to as "Classified", section at the back. As with all such magazines there are many (23) pages of advertising within the main section of the magazine.
Autocar have now at least sorted this so that the editorials and articles, road tests etc are unbroken by advertising. In my opinion there is nothing worse than being in the middle of an article and having to flick page after page of advertisments in order to finish reading it.
The database at the back of the magazine is very useful as it not only provides list price information on every car on the market (less comprehensive than the "What Car" data fest though) but also a good range of performance and fuel consumption figures derived from their road tests. You will however find a few gaps, once a newly launched car becomes a little "less new" it never tends to get tested, I have for years waited in vein for a road test of the Volvo S60 D5 for instance.
I have also found that the slightly more ordinary cars that sell in huge numbers are increasingly neglected to find room for road tests of every exotic sports or luxury car that is launched. As a car enthusiast who likes to keep his feet on the ground I find this ever more frustrating due to the fact that the cars that my friends and colleagues are actually asking me to find road tests about are simply not being tested by the magazine. Making the magazine ever more elitist ("Car" magazine already fantastically successfully fills that particular market slot anyway) does not strike me as a sensible way to increase readership numbers.
My, and other regular readers from comments made in the excellent (and often criticising) letters page, main moan about this magazine, tends to be that anything carrying a German badge is by default better than anything else on the market, you'll have to live with that though - I have for over 30 years now and well remember road tests raving about BMW 2002's and the first Golf GTi.
My interest centres on road cars, generally practical ones at that. If you are a Formula 1 or WRC (World Rally) fan probably Autosport (Autocar's sister publication) would be of more interest. Having said that, there are brief, but very well written sports pages, but Autocar is more about keeping up to date with technology and developments regarding, if not the cars we actually drive, then at least cars we are likely to see on the road.
The whole magazine is written by enthusiasts for enthusiasts, which is great if cars are your thing. I can understand less interested parties being completely dazed however by all the understeer, oversteer, torque steer talk.
I sometimes yearn for the old days too where there were regular articles on subjects such as European touring, good and scenic driving routes in this country and best of all, a great weekly one the "Used Car test". They do run cars as staff runabouts for 20,000 miles and report on them long-term. But the idea of test driving a car from a used car lot to see what a car the vast majority of us have to spend our own (as opposed to our employer's) cash on is like when a sales rep has thrashed it about the country, would be very revealing in the real world.
The latest re-design, whilst very much bringing my favourite magazine into the current century with even more colour and fancy graphics introduced to the data section, has made the whole rather messy and difficult to follow. It has also put the sport pages back amongst the general car stuff, which as far as I am concerned was a definite retrograde step - its natural place was at the back of magazine before the data section.
Before winding up this review, I would put one important pointer in here. It is a lesson that I have learned over the last ten years or so, since gaining the opportunity of driving hundreds of different cars rather than just reading about them. Enjoy Autocar as a good read yes, however if you are in the market to buy a new car however, there is absolutely NO substitute for taking the best test drive you can. No car magazine however authoratitive it sats out to be can tell you what is the best car for YOU. In all likelyhood a car is the second most expensive purchase that you will make in a lifetime - unlike a property it will not appreciate in value either, therefore a magazine such as Autocar must only guide you rather than making a decision on your behalf.
In my own experience from attending many various test days, followed up by road tests from local dealers on roads that we use every day, some of the cars that Autocar have never tested (that Volvo S60 D5 for one, the 2.0 litre Subaru Legacy for another) are vastly superior all round purchases to the cars that they are constantly testing and telling us that we should be driving.
Having said all of that though, importantly, for me anyway, this is a magazine which you never flick through, say "oh there's nothing in it this week" and put it down un-read.
Expensive, yes maybe, but excellent value for money all the same.
Well who would have thought eh? Little old me writing yet another review on a car magazine! All I can say is that the public gets what the public wants. We demand to know who makes the worst and best magazines, we need to know who is getting our hard-earned cash this week! Let me tell you my friends, this week you’re buying Autocar and nothing else! If you like the weekly appearance and continually fresh information of Auto Express but aren’t quite so keen on the less refined style of magazine then you may well be about to discover just what you’ve been looking for. Autocar is, like Auto Express, a weekly magazine but has that glossy magazine feel like the Top Gear or Evo magazines. That means you get the quality feel of a monthly mag but in the convenient weekly format. What more could you possibly want my motoring fascinated friend?! Just like just about every other motoring magazine, there is a fairly linear format. It very closely resembles Auto Express in my opinion and if I didn’t know differently I would have been convinced that they were made by the same publisher. So, on that note, read my review of Auto Express and you’ll get the rough idea. Only joking..... Spanning approximately 130 pages, Autocar is a well-presented glossy magazine that is published weekly for £2. I have to say that £2 for a weekly magazine is a little on the steep side when you consider that Auto Express is quite a bit less at £1.40. Autocar does however benefit from approximately 30 more pages and does have that more hardback book feel about it. Are you getting much more for the extra sixty pence though? Now don't go saying 'sixty pence isn't much' because you could be eating a choccy bar whilst reading Auto Express instead of being hungry and reading Autocar. Anyway....as with most magazines the front is graced with an index that highlights all the key aspects in that particular issue alongside a brief
section from the editor. I have to say that the index in Auto Express is much simpler as the index runs along with the actual magazine page order. In Autocar the index isn’t quite so religiously in order but this is only to highlight the key issues. The cover story for example is listed at the top but it usually appears many pages in to the magazine. Not a problem though is it? We can all read (I hope) so we’ll find what we’re looking for. News: Being a weekly magazine, one of the big plus points is the ability to be constantly up to date with all of the latest news and information. As such the magazine concentrates on this first with a large news section at the very beginning. As with other magazines they love to get hold of those ‘spy’ shots and you really will be one of the first to see the latest cars as they are spotted on the roads both at home and abroad. Some of these spy shots (pictures that are taken often in secret/unofficial pictures) can be a little blurry but wherever possible the magazine will get close up pictures and sometimes you’ll even get a glimpse inside the car!! Talk about commitment to the job, these photographers must have the best bribing skills in the land! The news section is very packed indeed with all of the latest rumours and facts from the wonderful world of motoring. If there’s a story to tell then you’ll probably find it here. It’s not all just facts though, the writers also give their views and comments about the news that they’re reporting so you’re not just bombarded with facts and figures (regardless of how exciting or ‘hot off the press’ they may be). New cars: On to the juice. The thing I used to love about Top Gear (the TV programme, not the magazine) was when the reviewer really got stuck in to a car. I don’t necessarily mean hating a car, loving it too. There’s nothing better than finding a reviewer
who really enjoys talking/writing about a car. If you’re a motoring fanatic then no doubt you’ve sat through hours of Jeremy Clarkson praising and destroying the reputation of many cars. I have to say that I find it hilarious when he finds a car that he hates but he can also back it up with his reasons. The same goes here, I genuinely like the style of writing in this magazine and of course all of the cars and just reviewed by one person. This means we get a fresh style and attitude from each person although overall the reviews have a fairly similar feel. The good thing is that the reviews are consistent which is a good thing. Sure, they have their particular favourites but it doesn’t ruin the review of other cars. Each review is generally a page in size although there is usually one car that is the big review and gets a two-page spread. There aren’t many pictures in the review only six or so and some of those are quite small. This is a shame as the written review is very good and there are plenty of manufacturer’s facts displayed (mpg, engine size, UK price etc). Road Test: This is the big one of each issue. To be totally honest the road test isn’t a million miles away from the new car reviews. Yes, it has a two-page spread with plenty of facts listed and all the information you should need. There still aren’t enough pictures, which in my opinion are just as important as the write-up, although the ones printed are very good and are taken very well to give you the best view of the car. Other than that there isn’t anything wildly exciting about the road test and it’s certainly very similar to the ordinary review which for what’s supposed to be a comprehensive review simply could be so much better. More pictures may seem like a waste of space but it’s essential that you can see as much of the car as possible. This road test is supposed to be able to let you make your mind
up even if you haven’t got the chance to drive it yourself. Features: This is slightly different to other magazines and it’s good to see. Take a car (not quite ANY car but almost) and discuss. Potentially very dull but usually not. It’s not just necessarily talking about a car, it could be an important issue related to the car. A recent example would be buying an Audi TT from abroad. It’s a subject that is perhaps of no interest to most of us can’t actually afford one anyway regardless of a £2000 saving! Nevertheless, the features section gives the writers a bit of an opportunity to take a particular motor related topic and just go to town on it. I like the featured topics usually and it’s great if there happens to be a feature that you’re really interested in as no doubt you’ll discover loads of useful things that you simply never would have otherwise known. Long term test: Now we’re really talking about the good stuff! Take virtually any brand new car and it will probably impress as long as it’s half-decent. This usually means that you end up with dozens of different magazines reviewing a car and the same things being said. In some cases magazines actually review the SAME car and I mean the very same car even on the same day sometimes. So what would you call a realistic review? A whole day with a car would be more like it. Let’s go one better though and try and whole YEAR. That’s right, a twelve-month test my friends! All those problems that happen in that magical first year are all recorded and reported to us and this really is a good way to get a proper idea of how good a car really is after a period of time. Sport: As with Auto Express, Autocar have included a sports section at the back of the magazine to keep you posted with the very latest Motorsports information. Formula 1, Rallying, Touring cars and more is featured although the vast majority
of space is dedicated to F1. I’m a big touring car fan (not big in size, big in commitment OK!) and I would have liked to see a little more BTCC coverage but hey, we can’t all have our own way can we? The coverage is very good though and the latest race results and championship standings are published clearly and attractively. Buying/Selling: Not exactly a new idea, but at the back of Autocar there are many pages of car information. An A to Z listing of most cars that gives the results of the Autocar road tests. Mph, MPG and insurance group information (among others) appears here to give you a very brief indication of what you should be paying for any particular car. This isn’t just for new cars either, older models are featured with an index according to age within the existing A to Z index. Useful if you’re wondering how much a second hand car is going to cost or how much you can expect if you’re selling one. It’s always nice to know how much yours is worth I suppose. Other than a few adverts throughout the magazine that is pretty much it. Autocar isn’t exactly a revolution in motoring magazines but it’s certainly consistent and in my opinion is a quality magazine that is a worthy purchase although perhaps not every issue. You can make a decent saving if you decide to subscribe which means each issue is down to around £1.50 but I have to say that for 75p per issue my money is with Auto Express for now. Thanks for reading!
This is a bi-weekly magazine covering the whole of the car industry. It is not a bad read for the price and if you are interested in the latest news and good round up of all the cars then its for you (however its weekly sister auto express is obviously more up-to-date). If you have a particular preference for an area of the car market then there are much better magazines out there which will cater to you. However, as with most things there is an exception and this is their performance car of the year issue. In this they get all of the best performance cars of the year and place them head-to-head on the track. An excellent issue and one I buy every year.