Motor and vehicle news for business, fleet and lease in Wiltshire and Swindon.

Motor technician named Suzuki Apprentice of the Year

Jai Gill at workA motor technician from Cirencester car dealership Pebley Beach has been named Suzuki Apprentice of the Year, while a senior colleague from the firm's Swindon branch has been named among the top technicians in the UK.

Jai Gill (19) won the Suzuki Apprentice of the Year accolade for his achievements during his first year of a three-year apprenticeship.

His achievements were recognised at an awards ceremony Suzuki's headquarters in Milton Keynes in what was a double night of celebration for Pebley Beach, as former Apprentice of the Year finalist Arron Smith – who started his career as an apprentice in 2005, and is based at the firm’s Swindon dealership – was named one of the top six Suzuki apprentices in the UK.

After a footballing injury scuppered his chances of joining the Army as a motor mechanic, Jai worked as a pallbearer for a firm of undertakers before joining the Suzuki dealership in August 2017.

The former Deer Park School pupil underwent constant assessment during his first year, and every two months would spend a week in a classroom environment at Suzuki's training centre in Doncaster.

"We were assessed on all kinds of things, from giving a vehicle a visual health check to manual work like drilling and riveting," said Jai.

"We were marked on the tasks we'd done during the year, and I think that's where I picked up points.

"Pebley Beach is such a supportive environment, and the team are keen for me to work on all aspects of motor maintenance – under strict supervision, of course. I learnt so much in my first year."

Pebley Beach's workshop maintains, services and MoTs any make or model of car – giving Jai experience in working with a wide range of marques.

His favourite part of the job is diagnosis. "I like helping motorists who come in with a problem, identifying the fault, and fixing their car for them,' said Jai.

And the youngster has set himself high standards: "I'm in year two of my apprenticeship now, and after year three I can work towards becoming a fully qualified technician and, eventually, a master technician."

Managing director Dominic Threlfall said: "We had high hopes for Jai and we're delighted that he has done so well in his first year. We look forward to more successes in years to come.

"If he can be half as good as Arron that’s classified as a result.”

"Arron joins a number of other Pebley Beach staff recognised as being among the highest qualified in the country.

"I've been an advocate of quality apprenticeships for as long as I've been in business, and the recognition of Jai, Arron and other members of the team prove that investing in apprenticeships can provide an employer with excellent fully-qualified staff for the long term."

How's that for a service? Employee clocks up 20 years with Pebley Beach

Steve LawroAn employee at Swindon motor dealership Pebley Beach has clocked up 20 years.

Steve Lawro joins colleagues Lesley Jones, Dee Theobald and Chris Pobjoy in celebrating two decades with the firm.

Steve's relationship with the family business goes back to the 1980s, when he managed four Swindon petrol stations for Roger Threlfall, before leaving to run his own franchise – Shell Oasis on Great Western Way.

When Dominic Threlfall joined Pebley Beach's predominately petrol forecourt business, Steve was tasked with training him in all things 'forecourts and shops'.

As managing director, Dom changed the company’s focus to cars and workshops, and he was able to repay the favour by employing Steve as a parts manager.

"The principles of stock management remain the same for oil filters and Mars bars, so we hit the ground running," said Dom.

Steve recalled: "I came in as parts manager on April 1, 1999 and built the parts department as the business expanded – first with the opening of the Cirencester branch, then with the acquisition of Swindon Hyundai."

He has trained a number of apprentices including his protégé Luke Rapley, who joined the firm as an apprentice and was promoted to parts manager last year, after five years in the department, as Steve was looking to gear down.

Steve, who now works in a customer liaison role, said: "I've really enjoyed my first 20 years at Pebley Beach – the time has flown by.

"It's like a big family here – everyone is so supportive of each other. I'm proud of the department I helped to build, and glad that my younger colleagues can benefit from my experience."

Motor dealer becomes first in Swindon to offer NHS discounts

NHS staff in Swindon can now get discounts on services, MOTs and even a new set of wheels after Pebley Beach became the first firm from the automotive sector to partner with the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The partnership means that doctors, nurses, and other NHS staff can access deals through the Trust's intranet on new Hyundai and Suzuki motor cars, as well as services, MOTs, and repairs on any make and model of car.

The affinity scheme sees discounts from a range of local and national brands being offered to NHS employees, with Pebley Beach being the first local car dealership and garage to join the programme.

"We're delighted to support Swindon's hardworking NHS staff through this scheme," said Pebley Beach managing director Dominic Threlfall.

"Savings of up to 22 percent on new cars are available as a reward to these dedicated men and women on whom we all rely."

Suzuki cars offer excellent MPG in the real world, tests confirm

The Suzuki IgnisDrivers of Suzuki motor cars from Cirencester dealership Pebley Beach could be saving themselves pounds at the pumps after a major survey put three models in the Top Ten for real-world fuel efficiency.

The True MPG test by What Car? magazine used a real-world driving route to show drivers what fuel economy they can really expect from their car.

The test found that the compact crossover Suzuki Ignis SHVS offered the best real-world fuel efficiency at 59.6 miles per gallon.

In second place was another Suzuki – the Celerio 1.0. And claiming joint sixth place was the Suzuki Baleno 1.0.

"The SHVS version of the Ignis, which is front rather than four-wheel drive, is the most efficient car we've ever tested," wrote What Car? editor Steve Huntingford.

"It's a mild hybrid, which means a small electric motor works alongside its 1.2-litre petrol engine, helping to get you moving and reducing the strain on the engine."

Award-winning City car the Celerio achieved a real-world MPG of 57. "Despite being one of the cheapest new cars around, the Celerio comes with a decent array of equipment, including air conditioning, a DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity," said What Car?

And the hatchback Baleno achieved a sixth place real-world MPG of 55.2, which it shared with the Skoda Citigo and the Renault Kadjar.

What Car? tested vehicles on a on a rolling road under strictly controlled laboratory conditions at Millbrook Proving Ground. The tests are based on real-world driving data across a selection of different roads, giving what the magazine says are more true to life fuel economy figures than those published by manufacturers.

Dominic Threlfall, managing director of Pebley Beach, said: "The Suzuki Ignis, Celerio and Baleno represent great value for money motoring – both on purchase price and fuel economy.

"The results of these real-world tests are great news for anyone currently driving, or thinking of buying, one of these models from us."

Hyundai wins a clutch of national awards

The Hyundai Kona ElectricMotor manufacturer Hyundai has won an impressive four awards at the What Car? Car of the Year Awards, including three for its market-leading alternative-fuel technologies.

Chief among them was the Technology Award, handed to Hyundai for its work in electrification and the development of hydrogen fuel cell technology.

The judges said: "Hyundai won not only for building the EV with the greatest real-world range we’ve tested so far – the Kona Electric – but also for leading the way in developing the hydrogen fuel cell technology that could one day offer car buyers greater electric range without the hassle of recharging a battery."

The Ioniq was named Hybrid Car of the Year for the second year running, with judges finding that it “presented the most polished all-round package of all its competitors," while the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid Premium won Best Plug-in Hybrid for less than £30,000.

"We think the regular Ioniq is the best hybrid car you can buy, but it’s also among the very best plug-in hybrids at any price," said the judges.

Meanwhile, the sporty i30 N also won the Best Hot Hatch for £22,000 to £27,000 title for its rewarding drive and extremely generous standard equipment list.

And in a separate competition, Hyundai's Kona electric has been named Best Green Fleet Car by Fleet World.

Judges praised Kona Electric as a tipping point for fully electric vehicles, bringing real-world usability, smart looks and a fun driving experience to the mainstream.

The win followed plaudits from Auto Express, which named the Kona Affordable Electric Car of the Year, and the Next Green Car Awards where it won Car of the Year.

Dominic Threlfall, managing director of Swindon's Hyundai dealership, Pebley Beach, said: "Hyundai's innovative approach to motor manufacturing is really grabbing people's attention.

"Hyundai is unique in that its model range includes petrol, diesel, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, fully electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles – with the hydrogen-powered Nexo arriving early this year – while the Ioniq family is the world’s first car to be offered with three different electrified powertrains.

"With Swindon playing its part as a centre of hydrogen technology, we were delighted to give the town a premiere of the Nexo last year.

"And we are committed to making Swindon and cleaner, greener place to live and work, which is why we've put Swindon's mayor behind the wheel of an Ioniq plug-in hybrid."

2019 is hailed the Year of the Electric SUV

The Hyundai Kona Electric2019 has been hailed the Year of Electric SUV by leading eco-motoring publication Green Car Reports. And one of the first electric SUVs off the blocks is Hyundai's Kona Electric.

Already popular in petrol form, the Hyundai Kona – which arrives at Swindon dealership Pebley Beach later this month – promises an electric powertrain under an SUV body for the masses.

It will be the first electric car in the small SUV segment – making it desirable to urban drivers looking for SUV styling, safety, and driving position without the impracticalities that full-size SUV ownership can bring.

Jaguar and Tesla were the first brands to launch electric SUVs in the UK. But the I-Pace and Model X came with a premium price tag – £64,000 for the Jaguar, and £80,000 for the Tesla.

The zero emissions Kona, however, starts at £27,250, with the whistles-and-bells Premium SE with 64 KWh battery available for £35,145.

Auto Express has already named the compact crossover its Affordable Electric Car of the Year – ahead of the Nissan Leaf and Volkswagen e-Golf – saying the Kona Electric "shows that genuinely mainstream electric cars are viable now." have called the Kona Electric "a landmark in the development of the electric car" which "offers the most compelling blend of usability and affordability yet seen in an EV."

And What Car? were impressed with an electric car which could match a petrol for mileage – 300 miles between plug-ins.

"It’s all down to a whopping great 64kWh battery, like those that, until recently, were found only in astronomically expensive Teslas," explains their article.

Reviewers have also been wowed the performance of the Kona. Auto Car said: "The performance of the motor and batteries is quite startling if you choose to use the 291 lb ft of torque, which is available instantly.

"If you unleash all of the Kona Electric’s performance, it will sprint from 0-30mph (and onwards) at super-saloon pace."

And What Car? found: "the Kona 64kWh builds speed almost as rapidly as a Ford Fiesta ST. And there’s no waiting for the revs to rises before maximum performance is delivered; simply tread on the accelerator pedal and the car immediately surges forward."

Dominic Threlfall, managing director of Pebley Beach, said: "The Kona Electric has been receiving rave reviews, and for SUV drivers wanting to ditch fossil fuels in 2019, the Kona Electric offers a stylish and affordable alternative to the premium brand models."