STOP PRESS! The car news highlights of 2016

We round-up the car news that defined 2016 looking back at all the key new models and big consumer stories…

In the fast moving world of the automotive industry, news on new cars, new tech and big car-related issues is never in short supply. With 2017 looming and 2016 just about set to start disappearing in the rear-view mirror, we decided to take a look back at the big car news stories that have defined the year in cars. 

It’s amazing just how much has happened in 2016 with an incredible line-up of new cars being revealed for the first time and huge news stories that have shaken the automotive world and entered the mainstream news agenda. It seems like only yesterday that we were embarking on 2016 with the Detroit Motor Show in January and heading to Geneva in March for the motor show reveals of the Aston Martin DB11 and the Bugatti Chiron.

Best new cars for 2017

Then it was the new Peugeot 3008 in May along with the hot breaking consumer news on the Vauxhall Zafira fires recall. In June Brexit rulled the roost while July brought our Car of the Year Awards and the 2016 Driver Power survey results. In September it was off to Frankfurt for the Frankfurt Motor Show to see the new Land Rover Discovery and the Skoda Kodiaq

The run-in to the close of the year brought us first looks at the new BMW 5 Series, Ford’s next Fiesta, Alfa’s Stelio SUV and the futuristic Jaguar I-Pace. Plus much, much, more. There was plenty to get excited about for car buyers and car fans, just like there had been throughout 2016.

Scroll down the page or click the links below for our month-by-month review of the year’s news. We’ve got all the big stories to jog your memory of a year that has been a genuinely thrilling one in the wonderful world of cars…

January - February - March April - May - JuneJuly - August - SeptemberOctober - November - December


The biggest car news of 2016

January 2016 car news

Smart new Mercedes E-Class steals Detroit show

In the first few weeks of 2016, Mercedes used the Detroit Motor Show to unveil its all-new E-Class. The new rival to the Jaguar XF and BMW 5 Series was labelled as “the most intelligent saloon in the business class”. Loaded with tech, the E-Class inherits many features found on the flagship S-Class.

The fifth-generation saloon is 43mm longer than before, with an extra 65mm added to the wheelbase. That translates to bags more rear legroom, while up front, the new E-Class debuted with a sleek 12.3-inch display in place of the old model’s analogue dials. Luxurious leather, plush seats and semi-autonomous drive features complete the executive car’s kit tally.

As well as offering more equipment and tech, it promises incredible efficiency. The 2.0-litre E 220 d shames the competition with 102g/km CO2 emissions and claimed economy of 72.4mpg. That engine has been joined by a V6 E 350 d diesel, with a tax-busting plug-in hybrid and hot 604bhp AMG E 63 on the way.

Pre-reg figures skewing ‘record’ sales

Even though new car sales had reached a record high of 2.63 million in 2015, Auto Express research revealed up to 15 per cent of those could have been pre-registered.

Our investigation of approved used websites found thousands of cars for sale with only a handful of miles on the clock, potentially skewing the record high sales as manufacturers register vehicles via dealer networks to meet sales targets.

Drastic fall in traffic cop numbers

The number of full-time traffic police in England and Wales dropped by nearly a third between 2010 and 2015, we reported.

An Auto Express investigation found numbers fell from 5,327 to 3,742 between 2010 and 2015, with 36 of the 42 forces in  the two countries recording fewer staff. The drop in numbers came at a time when new offences had been introduced, requiring officers to juggle even more tasks.

Drop-top BMW i8 wows tech show

This year we got a hint of what’s to come from BMW’s i sub-brand. The iVision Future Interaction concept was revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, and previews a roofless i8, which we now know will hit dealers in 2018. 

This doorless car came loaded with tech, including an advanced gesture control system. The roadster also featured an intelligent sat-nav set-up that can automatically select the best route for autonomous driving.

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End of the road for the Defender

After 68 years and two million models, production of the iconic Land Rover Defender finally came to an end this year. The last car rolled off the line in Solihull, West Midlands, on 29 January. 

Over 700 current and former employees watched the final Defender make its way out the factory, almost seven decades after the original went on sale. The car will live on, however, as CEO Dr Ralf Speth revealed a new Heritage Restoration Programme, which will repair old models.

Hyundai’s Prius is go

“Hyundai’s Prius-beater is ready,” we proclaimed, as the brand’s new Ioniq was revealed at the start of the year. The Ioniq was the first production car to be made available with a trio of electrified powertrains – conventional hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure EV – as it bids to dethrone Toyota’s Prius hybrid at the top of the green car sales charts.

Since its unveil, we’ve driven both the hybrid and full EV Ioniq on UK roads, and praised their driver appeal, refinement and competitive prices. The frugal plug-in hybrid model arrives in early 2017.

January 2016 in numbers

  • • £870 - Insurance premium
  • Highest average annual motor insurance premium found in the UK, in east London, at £870. However, drivers in Dumfries pay the least, at £265 a year.
  • • 379,925 - Battery bother
  • Breakdowns caused by batteries in 2015. Every day saw, on average, 1,040 battery-related breakdowns.
  • • 6,100,000 - Car recalls
  • Number of vehicles recalled in the past five years, with airbag faults, fire risks and brake issues the most common causes for millions of UK car owners.


February 2016 car news

SEAT breaks fresh ground with its chunky new Ateca SUV

SEAT’s first ever SUV – the Ateca – was revealed in February, taking the fight to Nissan’s big-selling Qashqai and the Renault Kadjar. While it looks like a Leon on stilts, boss Luca de Meo told Auto Express it was a car designed to help the brand “take another step forward” and return SEAT to “sustainable profitability”. Judging by the recent influx of brash SUVs, we were left in no doubt that this was the right car for the job.

Sitting on the same platform as the new Volkswagen Tiguan, the Ateca boasts a decent 510-litre boot, as well as plenty of interior space and a range of petrol and diesel engines.

As always, there is a choice of manual and DSG automatic gearboxes, while flagship cars get four-wheel drive and selectable drive modes. The line-up kicks off with a three-cylinder turbo and (for now) is topped by the powerful four-wheel-drive 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel.

We also broke the news on the prospect of a hot Ateca Cupra. It’s still unclear which engine it’ll use, but a tuned version of the Leon’s 286bhp 2.0-litre turbo is the current front-runner. 

NCAP’s two-tiered crash tests

Euro NCAP introduced a new, two-tiered safety rating system in February to account for the latest technology. Base models will continue to be tested for an initial star rating, but now manufacturers have the option to apply for a second rating based on optional kit on board.

To receive the latter, makers have to confirm the safety tech will be installed on 25 per cent of models sold in Europe in the first three years after the crash test is done. 

Cool Volvo V90 leaks on social media

We had our first look at Volvo’s sleek V90 courtesy of leaked images on social media. And they confirmed the model would come with the same ‘Thor’s Hammer’ headlights and plush interior as the S90 saloon.

At the rear we were given a glimpse of the new LED tail-lights and steeply raked rear screen. It later became clear that the 560-litre load bay would allow the V90 to compete with the biggest cars in its class.

February 2016 in numbers

  • • £5,000 - roadworks fine
  • Fine for councils and utility companies for leaving roadworks unmanned at weekends, under new Government plans to cut congestion.
  • • £7billion - Insurance profits
  • Law firm Thompsons Solicitors accused insurers of raking this in since 2010 with higher premiums and lower payouts
  • • £600billion - To lower emissions
  • Taxpayers’ bill over 20 years to help lower CO2 emissions by having smoother roads, proposed by European Automotive Manufacturers’ Association.


March 2016 car news

Aston’s new DB11 shows its face

Aston Martin’s stunning replacement for the long-serving DB9 was revealed in March: the all-new DB11. It features a 600bhp twin-turbo V12 engine with 700Nm of torque, meaning it can get from 0-62mph in just 3.9 seconds and up to a top speed of 200mph. 

The model is clearly recognisable as an Aston Martin, but the styling develops the family look much more than any recent model in the brand’s range with its clamshell bonnet, LED headlights and sculpted body and roof shapes.

Inside, there’s a totally new dashboard design as well as tech such as a Bang & Olufsen stereo and a 360-degree parking camera. The cabin offers more room than in the DB9 predecessor, too. 

An eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox with GT, Sport and Sport+ driving modes sends power to the rear wheels, while the lighter, stiffer chassis ensures the car is sensational to drive – as we found out for ourselves later in the year when we got behind the wheel. 

The DB11 followed the DB10, which was built by Aston Martin for the James Bond film Spectre. Although that car was only ever made for the movie, the name meant that this new road car was called DB11. The name was revealed first, but in March we were able to see the stunning GT for the first time in full – and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.

Priced at £154,900, the Aston Martin DB11 rivals the Bentley Continental GT and Ferrari GTC4 Lusso.

Chiron roars in to replace Veyron

The Geneva show also hosted the reveal of the new Bugatti Chiron, a £1.9million hypercar and the successor to the world’s fastest car, the Veyron. 

It’s powered by an 8.0-litre W16 engine with four turbos, giving it 1,479bhp and 1600Nm of torque. Those figures produce a 0-62mph time of around 2.5 seconds, and a top speed of more than 270mph. Sources suggest that the new model could hit 288mph; could a future version reach 300mph?

Maserati joins the SUV bandwagon

An SUV with a Maserati badge might have seemed strange a few years ago, but in 2016 it just had to happen – and the Levante was revealed at the Geneva show to fill the gap in the firm’s range. 

It has the same family face as the sporty Ghibli and Quattroporte saloons, as well as a similar range of turbo V6 petrol and diesel engines, although the UK is only getting the 270bhp 3.0-litre diesel. That model goes from 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds and 143mph flat-out, but emits 189g/km of CO2. 

Another fuel duty freeze in Budget

Although ex-Chancellor George Osborne is now looking for a new job, his Budget had longer-lasting repercussions. 

Osborne treated motorists to a sixth year of fuel duty freeze, saving the average driver £75. Drivers heading to Wales were also promised 50 per cent lower toll charges on the Severn Crossing by 2018. However, it wasn’t all good news as he also raised the Insurance Premium Tax by 0.5 per cent.

Foreign cars earn Treasury £42k 

A trial to catch foreign vehicles that remain unregistered in Great Britain had grown into a successful operation that recouped the Treasury £42,000, Auto Express revealed.

After a try-out in 2014, the DVLA went on to seize nearly 3,000 foreign-registered vehicles that had overstayed in the UK. It prosecuted 621 owners, earning back £42,000 in out-of-court settlements.

March 2016 in numbers

  • • £15,000 - Game simulator
  • Cost of the simulator used by Codemasters to create DiRT Rally, the most advanced rally game ever, which was released in March. 
  • • 2018 - DAB switchover 
  • The earliest we’ll see the digital radio switchover as the Government once more admitted to delaying the decision.
  • • £4.6million - Abandoned cars bill
  • Annual cost for taxpayers and insurers to recover cars abandoned at the roadside. More than 565,000 have been dumped since 2004, costing £98 each.

Now jump to page 2 or click the links below to continue our review of 2016's big car stories...

January - February - March April - May - JuneJuly - August - SeptemberOctober - November - December

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