The BIG car news highlights of 2017

We explore the car news stories that rocked the automotive world in 2017

It has been an unforgettable year in the motoring world, with a host of new cars launched. But the automotive industry is fast paced and, with 2018 just around the corner, we’ve decided to take a look back at all the big car news stories from 2017. 

It’s amazing just how much can happen in 12 months and it seems like only yesterday that 2017 arrived with a bang at the Detroit Motor Show. A dazzling array of models then starred at the Geneva Motor Show in March, with the new Honda Civic Type R, Alpine A110 and Volkswagen Arteon all making their debuts. 

April’s Shanghai show was all about Electric SUVs, while May saw the wraps come off the new Skoda Karoq and Volkswagen Up! GTI.

Best new cars for 2018

In June we crowned the Land Rover Discovery as our 2017 Auto Express Car of the Year, while Kia, Hyundai and Citroen all released small SUVs in the shape of the Stonic, Kona and C3 Aircross respectively.

Audi showed off their autonomous tech in the new A8 in July, with Tesla launching the new Model 3 in August. It was then the Frankfurt Motor Show, with Mercedes, Renault and Nissan stealing the headlines.

As winter approached, Mazda revealed a pair of intriguing concepts at the Tokyo Motor Show, while Aston Martin rounded off one of the most successful years in its history by unveiling the all-new Vantage. 

There was so much more that happened during 2017 though, so before 2018 arrives, scroll down below to take a look back at al the biggest car news stories of the year.

January - February - March - April - May - June July - August - September October - November

The biggest car news of 2017

January 2017 car news

Bold new Audi Q8 leads the stars at Detroit Motor Show

The car world focused on America in January, as the Detroit Motor Show kicked off the automotive calendar. The Motor City not only showcased the latest from the US big three of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, but also a raft of technology from overseas makers.

Highlights included the Audi Q8 concept, previewing a new Range Rover-rivalling SUV. This vast 4x4 gets a curvier look than the Q7, and will share much of its tech with its sister model. That means Q8 e-tron and rapid SQ8 models are likely, although the cabin will offer only five seats.

Also on display was a new Volkswagen Microbus, the I.D. Buzz. This eight-seat MPV concept mixes the retro and the thoroughly modern, as its Type 2-inspired body clothes the same running gear found in 2016’s I.D. hatch. That means electric drive and autonomous tech from the MEB platform, while a production version has been confirmed for 2022. Finally, the factory-ready Kia Stinger GT was revealed.

This rear-wheel-drive four-door coupe marked a new era for the brand, focusing on style and performance over practicality and low running costs. The slinky shape hides an upmarket cabin, while the most powerful car features a 365bhp V6.

Sharp look and new tech for latest Ibiza 

Undoubtedly, 2017 was a big year for superminis – and one of the first new arrivals in the sector was the latest SEAT Ibiza. The hatchback was unveiled for the first time at the end of January, with a sharp look and plenty of new technology.

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The new model uses the smallest version of the VW Group’s MQB platform – a significant move, because the Ibiza was revealed well ahead of the platform-sharing Volkswagen Polo, which arrived later in the year. The Ibiza Mk5 gets a range of responsive yet economical petrol and diesel engines, including Volkswagen’s latest 148bhp 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol, while tech includes adaptive cruise control, a range of connectivity on board and LED lights. 

Crossland X SUV replaces Meriva

Vauxhall added a third SUV to its line-up back in January, with the introduction of the Crossland X.

Designed as a replacement for the Meriva small MPV, the newcomer is similar in size and price to the existing Mokka X, although it actually shares its platform and running gear with the Peugeot 2008 in a joint venture that preceded the news of PSA’s takeover of Vauxhall later in the year. 

Confusion over new VED rates 

Preceding April’s Vehicle Excise Duty changes, with a £310 surcharge for cars retailing at over £40,000, in January we showed how the DVLA’s definition of list price differed from other interpretations.

The Finance (No. 2) Act says list price excludes options; the DVLA disagrees. One reader paid more tax than expected on his Land Rover that was due after April, as its options pushed its cost past £40,000. 

More practical 5 Series Touring is go

We published first pictures of the second BMW 5 Series bodystyle – the Touring – in January. As with the saloon, the estate focuses on comfort, handling and efficiency, while the addition of a 570-litre boot, up 10 litres on before, boosts practicality.

Useful touches such as the separate opening tailgate glass and remote-control folding seats only serve to enhance this family car’s credentials even further. 

Wraps are off new, hi-tech Picanto 

The wraps came off the new Picanto in January as Kia sought to knock the Hyundai i10 and Skoda Citigo off the top of the class. With its ‘tiger nose’ grille and hi-tech cabin featuring a seven-inch touchscreen, it shows just how far city cars have come.

As well as boasting smarter looks and more technology, the latest Picanto offers more room for passengers than its predecessor. That’s thanks to a wheelbase that has been stretched by 15mm.

January 2017 in numbers

  • • 90 days – Drink-drive shock: An Auto Express investigation revealed women convicted of drink-driving receive driving bans that are 90 days shorter than their male counterparts.
  • • 6,000 – Young drivers banned: We reported how 6,000 drivers aged 17 to 25 lost their licences in the previous five years after accruing six or more points.
  • • £3.5 billion – Savings on potholes: How much local councils could save thanks to a new method of road repair that uses infrared heat to patch up potholes. 

February 2017 car news

EV charging infrastructure shock

The number of plug-in cars sold in the UK rose from 2,254 in 2012 to 85,983 in 2016, but an Auto Express study found the public charging infrastructure is lagging behind.

In the same period, the network of charge points grew from 2,883 to 11,736. The surge in EV sales meant there were just 0.78 EVs to every charger in 2012, but 7.32 in 2016 – close to the EU Commission’s maximum suitability ratio of 10 chargers per EV.

PSA in talks to take over Vauxhall

Thousands of workers at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port and Luton plants were left facing uncertain futures after General Motors confirmed it was in talks to sell the company and its sister brand Opel to PSA.

Unions called on the Government to issue reassurances over jobs. However, experts said the Cheshire plant’s status as one of the most efficient car factories in Europe might help secure its future. 

Ferrari 812 Superfast let off the leash

Ferrari took us into February with a bang by revealing its fastest naturally aspirated production car ever, the 812 Superfast. This replacement for the F12 Berlinetta produces 789bhp from its 6.5-litre V12, and hits 211mph-plus.

As with the F12, the 812 powers the rear wheels via a dual-clutch box, but ditches hydraulic power-steering in favour of Ferrari’s new electronic set-up. Active flaps under the bodywork also remove the need for extra wings and spoilers, giving the 812 a clean look.

Range Rover dusts off Velar name

Ahead of its grand reveal at the Geneva Motor Show, Auto Express scooped the name of Range Rover’s new coupe-SUV. The Velar would be the fourth model in the line-up, carrying a badge which harks back to the brand’s history in the sixties.

Along with the name, we also revealed that the Velar could be joined by a baby Range Rover Evoque, which would be a new entry point into the range.

February 2017 in numbers 

  • • 35 per cent – Unqualified MoT testers: New assessments for MoT testers were due in March, but an Auto Express investigation found that just 35 per cent had completed training, leading to a potential shortage of testers.
  • • 1909 – UK’s oldest garage: Auto Express visited Western Motor Works in Chislehurst, Greater London, which had first opened its doors over a century ago and is the oldest garage in the country.
  • • 10 million – Parking tickets: Number of parking fines handed out each year. Local Government Ombudsman says councils don’t provide enough guidelines, leading to unnecessary tickets.

March 2017 car news 

Civic Type R and Fiesta ST turn up the heat

There was a wave of March madness, as a pair of exciting new hot hatchbacks made their debuts in quick succession.

First was the new Ford Fiesta ST, which had some very big boots to fill, because of the sheer brilliance of its predecessor. We had yet to try the new Fiesta at this point, so we couldn’t confirm that the base model had the ingredients to make the ST a star – but what we did know was that the outgoing car’s 180bhp 1.6-litre turbo would be replaced by a 1.5 three-cylinder unit with 197bhp and 290Nm of torque.

Although the Honda Civic Type R isn’t a direct rival for the Fiesta, it has a similar reputation for delivering driving thrills, and Honda revealed the all-new version at the Geneva Motor Show. On top of its revised chassis, the Civic Mk10 has a new body with suitably wild wings and spoilers, while power is from the outgoing model’s 2.0-litre VTEC turbo, but with 316bhp. That meant the Type R had a shorter development period than the old car, and it hit showrooms soon after the standard hatch.

Velar makes a splash with latest tech 

Following our world exclusive in February revealing the car’s name, Range Rover took the wraps off the striking new Velar in March. The fourth product in the luxury brand’s model line-up slots between the Evoque and the Range Rover Sport.

Beneath the dramatic looks, a raft of new technology makes a debut appearance in the cabin. Twin touchscreens and TFT dials give the dashboard a cutting-edge look, while a variety of personalisation options ensures the Velar offers the same kind of sumptuous feel as you’d find in larger models.

Power comes from four-cylinder Ingenium and V6 engines in petrol and diesel forms, and although the focus is on luxury, the car delivers the off-road ability you expect from a Land Rover. 

Mitsubishi and DS continue SUV blitz

Crossovers and SUVs are utterly dominating the new car landscape at the moment, and two more models joined the ranks at the Geneva Motor Show.

The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross slots into the Japanese manufacturer’s range below the Outlander, and features a coupe-style body and an all-new 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a choice of two or four-wheel-drive transmissions. Also on the stands in Switzerland, French luxury brand DS introduced a new flagship in the shape of the DS 7 Crossback.

This high-riding five-seater crossover aims to take on upmarket rivals such as the Audi Q5 and Range Rover Evoque, although the DS 7 Crossback is focused squarely on offering the kind of comfort and luxury for which upmarket models such as the original DS became famous.

Alpine brand makes a comeback 

Renault’s sports car division Alpine finally revealed the production version of its exciting new coupe, the A110, at the Geneva Motor Show.

Power comes from the same 1.8-litre petrol turbo that’ll find its way into the next Renaultsport Megane, although with its midship layout, optimal chassis balance and a kerbweight of just over a tonne, the two-seat A110 is a vastly different machine. 

Arteon takes on A4 and XE execs

With family saloon sales in decline, VW launched the Arteon as an upmarket, Passat-based alternative to executive cars such as the Audi A4 and Jaguar XE.

Its striking looks certainly justify the name change from the previous CC, plus the generous kit puts it on par in terms of luxuries. And with power coming from the same range of efficient engines, company car running costs are competitive. 

Sleek 720S is McLaren’s latest star

It hadn’t been five years since the debut of McLaren’s first production car, the MP4-12C, yet the British firm launched an all-new model at Geneva with the 720S.

The newcomer’s dramatic looks hide plenty of carbon fibre construction and cutting-edge tech under the skin, while McLaren claimed the 720S delivered the kind of performance that had first been seen in the P1 hypercar.

Budget boost for automotive tech

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the spring 2017 Budget, with big boosts for automotive tech thanks to a £270m ‘disruptive technology’ fund.

A further £16m was set aside for a new 5G mobile network – vital for autonomous and connected cars – while a contest was launched to help local authorities tackle congestion. Hammond said from next year there would be only a single annual budget. 

March 2016 in numbers

  • 37,000 – Logbook loans: Number of ‘logbook loans’ – involving customers borrowing and using their vehicles as collateral – taken out in 2015. Government wants to end practice.
  • • 44 per cent - Interest rates: Amount of annual interest some insurers charge motorists taking out monthly payment policies, as highlighted in an Auto Express investigation.
  • £65,000 – Average annual salary: including bonuses and benefits, this is what some workers in Korean car plants earn each year, as revealed in our global wage guide 

Now jump to page 2 or click the links below to continue our review of 2017’s big car stories…

January - February - March - April - May - June July - August - September October - November


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