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…

 

July 2016 car news

Brilliant Jaguar F-Pace storms to Car of the Year glory

Jaguar’s first ever SUV, the F-Pace, claimed the Auto Express Car of the Year title, as it delivers in the key areas of design, technology, performance, practicality and efficiency at the right price. It’s instantly recognisable as a Jag, with its bold grille and sporty styling, but it’s about more than just looks. Unlike its close rival the Porsche Macan, the F-Pace is offered with a 2.0-litre diesel, so affordable running costs mean it appeals to the money-conscious.

There’s also a choice of V6 petrol and diesel engines, so the Jaguar has plenty of power, while the chassis set-up results in great body control and accurate steering.

However, the reason the F-Pace drove off with the title was its beautiful combination of all these elements with impressive practicality for a family (it has a 650-litre boot), and a comfortable ride. It ensures the car lives up to Jaguar’s “grace, pace and space” values.

Renault tops charts as readers rate their dealers

Renault broke Lexus’s 14-year stranglehold on our Driver Power dealer chart, with its garages taking top spot for the first time.

The French brand’s franchised network dominated the standings to be named the best for customer service. It was praised for its staff’s friendliness, attitude and standard of work.

Renault’s budget sister brand, Dacia, also impressed in 2016 with a second-place finish. Lexus still scored strongly, ranking third, and was rated number one for standard of work and technical knowledge of mechanics. Meanwhile, SEAT picked up the wooden spoon in our 2016 dealer ratings.

We also provided a ranking of the best insurers and breakdown providers as voted for by you.Past winner NFU Mutual returned to the top spot of the cover providers’ pile after a few barren years, ahead of Swinton and Royal & Sun Alliance. 

There was a change at the top of the breakdown operators list, too, as the AA managed to usurp past champ GEM Motoring Assist.

Bold look for Citroen’s C3 supermini

Citroen unveiled its new C3 in July, giving us our first look at the supermini’s bold design. The Skoda Fabia rival is influenced by the C4 Cactus, with a distinctive nose and optional protective Airbump panels on the side.

Inside it has a minimalist design, impressive levels of tech and the latest connectivity features. The C3 will arrive early next year with engines including PSA’s PureTech1.2-litre petrol turbo and a range of BlueHDi diesels.

F1-inspired Aston causes major stir

Motoring enthusiasts around the world were stunned by Aston Martin’s new hypercar, created in partnership with the Red Bull Formula One team.

The AM-RB 001 claims performance to match a Le Mans LMP1 car and a 1:1 power-to-weight ratio, but it’s not all about straight-line speed – the sculpted bodywork features F1-inspired aerodynamics to create large amounts of downforce. Despite unrivalled track ability, Aston CEO Andy Palmer said it’ll be “the most luxurious car in its class”.

Ferrari birthday beauty sells out fast

Ferrari revealed its drop-top version of the LaFerrari in July. The Aperta helped mark the company’s 70th anniversary, and all 150 examples due to be produced were snapped up by clients and collectors.

Each example comes with a temporary fabric roof, plus a removable carbon-fibre hard-top. The Aperta features the same 950bhp 6.3-litre V12 and electric assistance as the standard LaFerrari.

Capital is top for uninsured drivers

East London was declared Britain’s uninsured driver hotspot, with 13.4 per cent of vehicles not covered by a valid policy. Figures released by Churchill Car Insurance revealed that the capital has five of the 10 worst postcode areas in terms of uninsured drivers.

Major cities including Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester and Belfast also performed badly in the study.

July 2016 in numbers

 

  • • £71.6billion - Auto sector turnover
  • Record turnover reported by the automotive sector according to Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders figures. That’s a 7.3 per cent increase.
  • • £6 - EV charge
  • Ecotricity announces EV owners will have to start paying to use its 300-strong network of motorway rapid chargers, with flat fee of £6 for 30 minutes.
  • • £14.5million - Litter clear-up
  • Cost of clearing litter from England’s motorways and A-roads, according to our figures. A total of 364,000 bags of rubbish have been collected since 2013.

 

August 2016 car news

Mercedes spells out electric future

Mercedes uncovered its plans to battle Audi and Tesla with a range of future electrified vehicles in August.

It starts with the Generation EQ: an electric crossover built on a platform that’s set to underpin a raft of new models in the next decade. 

Under its radical exterior styling, the Generation EQ features two electric motors with a combined output of up to 420bhp and permanent four-wheel drive. Mercedes is also hoping to deliver a range of 310 miles.

Foreign HGVs in £96m road boost

Foreign-registered lorries generated £96.2million towards road improvements during the first two years of the Government’s HGV Levy, we reported. This made up nearly a quarter of the £390m collected in total, with the cash used for maintenance and repairs.

It wasn’t all good news for Her Majesty’s Treasury, though, as it was also revealed that foreign speeders had escaped fines of more than £7m since 2012.

Despite being apprehended, the offenders had failed to pay up because they couldn’t be tracked outside the UK.

Infiniti reveals radical petrol tech

Infiniti unveiled its groundbreaking new petrol tech in August. The 2.0-litre turbo VC-T engine is the first of its kind, with variable compression ratios.

Set to debut in the next QX50 SUV,  previewed by the QX Sport Inspiration (above), the VC-T four-cylinder unit can switch between low compression (for superior performance) and high compression (for improved fuel economy).

August 2016 in numbers

  • • 67.2% - L-test failure rate
  • Average failure rate of learners in Wanstead, east London – the worst place to take your test. Most successes were in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.
  • • £1,000 - Consumer cover
  • Customers covered by up to £1,000 under new garage guarantee scheme announced by the Independent Garage Association. 
  • • 35% - Renault saving
  • Discount available on a new Renault Grand Scenic, as revealed by our investigation into the most discounted motors with Buyacar.co.uk.

 

September 2016 car news

Sleek, hi-tech Discovery leads stars at Paris Motor Show

There was a whole host of new cars on display at September’s Paris Motor Show, but the Land Rover Discovery stole the limelight. The fifth generation brought some of the biggest changes in the 4x4’s 26-year history, as it features a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel for the first time. A new aluminium chassis has also helped the Discovery shed 480kg, and while the car is 14cm longer than its predecessor, the lowered roofline gives it a curvier appearance. 

Although the tough and boxy workhorse of Land Rover’s range will be the new Defender when it arrives in 2019, the Disco potentially risks alienating some customers with its softer and more sophisticated look. It promises to still be more than up to the task off road, though, with the new All-Terrain Progress Control system. Land Rover says the tech allows drivers to focus on the road and steering inputs, while it controls the speed over tough terrain.

Early look at bold BMW X2 

BMW revealed how it’s set to plug a gap in its SUV range with the introduction at Paris of the Concept X2. The car is a thinly veiled glimpse at the X2 coupé-SUV that will arrive in showrooms in 2018, to sit neatly between the X1 and X3. 

As with the X4 and X6 that will sit above it in BMW’s line-up, the X2 is a more image-led alternative to a traditional SUV. No technical spec was released, but it’s expected that the production version will use the same front-wheel-drive platform as the smaller X1.

New Micra aims at younger market

Nissan said its Micra would “raise expectations” of what a supermini was capable of when it pulled the covers off the all-new model at Paris. To give it a chance of competing with the dominant Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen’s Polo, the car has been set up to be better to drive than ever. 

The Micra’s new look is part of a plan to appeal to a younger audience. Also new are a 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbo and a 1.5-litre diesel, helping to make the latest car cheaper to run.

Wraps are off Mk10 Civic

Honda introduced the new Civic to the world a few weeks ahead of the car’s Paris debut. The company announced the 10th-generation Ford Focus rival would be produced on a new platform, and said there’d initially be no diesel option, with new 1.0 and 1.5-litre turbos offered instead.

Still, the car sees a step up in cabin finish and ride quality, as we reported when we took the wheel of a prototype Civic later in the year. The boot, which is 100 litres larger than a Vauxhall Astra’s, also helps it score points.

UK buyers rush to snap up Skoda’s first SUV

The SUV theme continued in Paris as Skoda rolled out its first full-size 4x4, the Kodiaq. The newcomer sticks to the brand’s value-for-money ethos, because it’s priced from just over £21,000, undercutting key class competitors from the likes of Hyundai, Land Rover and Kia.

The reveal followed months of drawn-out teaser images and spy shots, but when the covers came off in Paris, the Kodiaq got the attention it deserved. In fact, its sharp front end, with slim LED headlamps and chrome grille, gave it enough of an impact for 27,000 UK buyers to register an interest in buying one.

It’s inside where the Skoda really impresses, with a new infotainment system, an optional third row of seats and a huge, 720-litre boot. Handy extras such as umbrellas in the doors, rear USB charging ports and door protectors to prevent car park dings add extra family appeal.

Peugeot 5008 joins switch to SUV

Peugeot was busy in Paris, revealing the new 5008 for the first time.

As with the smaller 3008 also on show, the old 5008’s MPV body has made way for a sleeker crossover look. It takes all the best bits from the 3008 and puts them in a more practical, family-friendly package. 

Inside, Peugeot’s second-generation i-Cockpit layout helps to clean up the previously cluttered dashboard.

Fresh face and tech for new Kia Rio

Kia gave us our first look at the new Rio supermini, complete with a more modern look and improved technology.

The Ford Fiesta rival is based on the same chassis as the outgoing model, and although its dimensions haven’t changed a new 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbo leads the range of engine updates. 

Prices have yet to be announced, but shouldn’t stray too far beyond £11,000.

More practical Hyundai i30 on show

Hyundai’s new i30 was put under the spotlight at September’s Paris show, and it promises to be better as well as bigger.

The conservative VW Golf rival didn’t pull in the crowds at the show, but a range of efficient new engines and strong value for money should continue to make it a hit with those on a budget. The i30 range will also grow to include an estate as well as a coupe, plus two hot hatch versions.

A year on, VW reflects on Dieselgate plus maps out its electric future

September marked one year since the VW emissions scandal rocked the industry. To mark the anniversary, we looked back at the continuing effects of one of the biggest motoring stories of the decade.

Recalls on the UK’s 1.2 million VW, Skoda, SEAT and Audi models fitted with ‘defeat devices’ started in March, and this was followed by the VW Group agreeing a $15billion buy-back and compensation settlement in the US. There was no similar deal for UK owners, although VW faced continued pressure from ministers to implement one. In fact, the EU Commission met with consumer groups to seek compensation through legal channels.

While weathering the impact on its finances and reputation, VW admitted to us the scandal had accelerated its EV programme. At a conference in Wolfsburg, the brand announced it was targeting a 400-mile-range Tesla rival based on a new electric platform as part of its plan for 30 new electric cars.

Crackdown on mobile phone use

The Government said it would introduce harsher penalties for using mobiles while driving, as figures revealed the problem was getting worse. Around 11 million people admitted to doing so in the past year, with 14 per cent claiming it’s acceptable.

However, from early next year, those caught will face six penalty points and a £200 fine, while repeat offenders will face a six-month driving ban.

September 2016 in numbers

  • • 1,400 - Micro cars
  • Number of models on the Register of Unusual Micro Cars, as we caught up with the register’s founder and her collection of bubble cars dating back to 1954.
  • • £40m - Bentley spares
  • Value of spare parts in Bentley’s back catalogue from 1955 to today, stored at its 150,000 sq ft site in Crewe, Cheshire.
  • • 54,445 - Vehicle fires
  • Number of vehicle fires in Britain over the past three years, according to Auto Express figures. A third of these were reported to be arson by fire services.

Now jump to page 4 or click the links below to continue our review of 2016's big car stories...

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