Headline grabbers: best car news stories of 2019

From hatchbacks to hypercars, all manner of cars grabbed headlines in 2019, but these were some of the biggest and best news stories

Jan-Feb • Mar-Apr • May-Jun • Jul-Aug • Sep-Oct-Nov


SUVs and EVs dominate the Geneva show stars

The automotive world made its annual pilgrimage to Switzerland in March for the Geneva Motor Show. Held at the Palexpo not far from the shores of Lake Geneva, the show once again delighted attendees with a rich mix of new cars on display. Whether outlandish supercars or affordable superminis prick your interest, Geneva had it covered.

There were a number of world debuts at this year’s show, most notably the Alfa Romeo Tonale. While still officially a concept, the SUV will morph into a production vehicle in 2020. Another concept, the Nissan IMQ, gives us a glimpse of the next-generation Qashqai that reaches showrooms in 2022, including a potential range-extender powertrain.

Perhaps the biggest attraction, and most popular stand at Geneva, was Aston Martin. The British firm has a rich history of high-performance vehicles, and the Vanquish Vision concept continues that trend. It previews Aston’s mid-engined Ferrari and McLaren rival, due in 2022.

When it arrives it will revive the famous Vanquish name and be the first home for an all-new V6 engine with hybrid tech. Aston hasn’t confirmed any performance details, but company boss Andy Palmer has said the engine will feature an F1-style KERS system to boost acceleration.

At the other end of the spectrum, a fleet of new superminis attracted a lot of attention, chief among them the new Centoventi concept from Fiat. The small, electric hatchback is a car the Italian firm could desperately do with in its range, and although it sports rugged Panda-like proportions, the concept could be a model in its own right, rather than a replacement for the much-loved Panda.

And after endless concept cars, we were finally able to see the production version of the Honda e electric city car. Compact, boxy and retro-infused, the hatchback is unlike any Honda we’ve seen before. The 124-mile electric range could be a potential weak link, however.

Porsche Cayenne Coupé joins the fray

Porsche ventured into the SUV-coupé segment in March with the Cayenne. As you’d expect, the main changes are to be seen at the rear, where the Cayenne’s roofline falls away more aggressively to give a sportier profile. Mechanically the model is the same as the regular Cayenne; the range kicks off with a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 and is topped by a 671bhp Turbo S E-Hybrid. 

Tesla expands SUV range as Model Y offers electric alternative to X3

A new Tesla is always big news, and the arrival of the Model Y in March was no different. The compact SUV was launched at the firm’s factory in California and CEO Elon Musk claimed it is likely to become the company’s biggest-selling model when it arrives in 2020.

The Model Y is based on the same set of chassis components as the Model 3 saloon, although it’s slightly longer and wider. Overall it’s comparable to a BMW X3 and Mercedes GLC in terms of physical size. The styling is also familiar, resembling a slightly inflated Model 3, but with a much taller roofline and glasshouse.

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Tesla says the entry-level Long Range will cover 300 miles on a single charge and hit 0-60mph in 5.5 seconds. Above it sits the Dual Motor edition, which sacrifices some range – a total of 280 miles is claimed – for 0-60mph acceleration of 4.8 seconds. At the top of the line-up is the Model Y Performance, capable of 0-60mph in 3.5 seconds. However, UK buyers will have to wait until 2021 to take delivery.

Speed limiters lead 2022 safety roll-out

In March, the Department for Transport confirmed that all new cars going on sale in the UK from 2022 will be fitted with EU-mandated speed limiters. The intelligent limiters use traffic-sign recognition cameras and/or GPS data to determine the speed limit and automatically restrict engine power if the driver does not adhere to the limit themselves – although they will be able to ‘accelerate through’ the limiters by pressing the accelerator hard. Data loggers, autonomous emergency braking, lane assist, driver fatigue detection, rear sensors or cameras and pre-wiring for alcohol interlock devices are set to be introduced at the same time.

Great British write-off scandal

In one of the most shocking stories Auto Express has ever reported, we uncovered how cars that had been written off following accidents were coming back with a clean bill of health in history checks run by HPI and Experian, putting the safety and money of the vehicles’ owners at risk. The issue related to gaps in the database used by the checking companies to determine if a car has been written off.

Figures we uncovered from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) showed that there were 688,435 vehicles logged as written off in the previous financial year, but the database used by HPI and Experian held just 597,278 vehicles. Potential reasons for the 91,156 missing write-offs included cars that only had third-party cover, and fleet vehicles with high insurance excesses that were not claimed for by their owners, and were therefore not declared ‘total losses’ by insurers.

The Motor Insurers’ Bureau, which manages the database used by history-checking companies, subsequently admitted it ”didn’t know the direct scale of the gap” until our investigation was published, and said it was now proactively working with the DVLA to solve the issue.


All-new Kuga aims to put Ford on top in the compact SUV class

The arrival of a new Ford Kuga in April was big news for British SUV buyers. Since hitting the market in 2012, the second-generation Kuga has been an ever-present figure in the UK’s top 10 most registered new cars. This third-generation model – which is hitting the roads now – builds on the basics of the Kuga recipe, but with one key new ingredient.

Ford has started to electrify its line-up, and the arrival of a plug-in hybrid version of the new Kuga, which is capable of a claimed 235.4mpg, represents an important step forward for the brand, given the model’s popularity.

Conventional petrol and diesel models will continue to be offered, while the design is all-new, inside and out. There are clear nods to the latest Focus on the outside, and a dashboard lifted directly from the brand’s popular family hatchback.

Aston DBS Superleggera Volante revealed

Aston Martin took the top off its fastest ever car in April, with the reveal of the stunning DBS Superleggera Volante. A true Aston rival for the Bentley Continental GT Convertible, it features a twin-turbo 5.2-litre V12 with 715bhp and 900Nm torque. The DBS Superleggera Volante is capable of 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 211mph; all that power is sent to the rear axle through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Priced from £247,000 from launch, it commands a hefty premium over the hard-top DBS Superleggera – £22,500 more than the coupé, to be exact.

Toyota offers up hybrid tech

Toyota gave away 23,740 patents for hybrid and electrified vehicle technology in order to help other manufacturers develop eco-friendly cars. The patents related to areas including electric motors, power-control units and system controls. In addition, Toyota would also offer fee-based technical support to companies developing and selling EVs using its batteries, motors and control systems.

Volkswagen ID. Roomzz concept

Volkswagen continued a steady stream of all-electric concept cars by revealing the ID. Roomzz at the Shanghai Motor Show. Previewing a large, seven-seat electric SUV destined for the Chinese and US markets, it uses the same MEB underpinnings as the much smaller ID.3 hatchback, and will become a production model and fresh rival for the Tesla Model X in 2021.

Stalwarts and surprises among the results of Driver Power 2019

Driver Power, the UK’s largest car satisfaction survey, returned in April, with thousands of readers giving us the lowdown on what life is really like with the cars you can buy today. The title of best new car to own went to the Toyota Prius, which had fantastic scores across the board, but won particular favour with its affordable running costs, smooth powertrain and comfortable ride.

Second was another Toyota in the shape of the Lexus IS. The hybrid compact executive saloon impressed with its smooth drivetrains, well-designed interior and unimpeachable reliability. A surprise third-place finish went to the Alfa Romeo Giulia. Owners reported that the executive saloon is so good to drive that they could forgive its slightly below-par exterior build quality and limited interior storage.

Moving on to class winners, Auto Express readers chose the Kia Picanto as the best city car, giving it high scores for style, build quality, reliability and safety. In a double win for Kia, the Rio was rated as the best supermini; you ranked it as the cheapest car to service in the whole survey. The Fiat 500 won best premium small car, with an impressive 10th-place overall score for driving pleasure. Our ultimate winner – the Prius – was top of its compact family car class, while the Mazda 6 came out as the best family car.

The Citroen C4 Picasso’s clever interior helped it win best MPV, while the title of best small SUV went to the SEAT Arona. The best mid-size SUV was the Peugeot 3008, while the best large SUV was the immensely practical Kia Sorento.

The premium mid-size and large SUV categories saw victories for the Volvo XC60 and Lexus RX respectively. Lexus also picked up best executive car with its GS and best compact executive car with its second-place-overall IS. Finally, the Hyundai Ioniq was the best electric car, the Mazda MX-5 was the best roadster and the Lexus RC won best sports car.

Official figures show rise in cloning

The number of cloned cars quadrupled over the course of six years, according to official figures. Only 1,255 vehicles were reported as cloned in the 2012/13 financial year, according to the DVLA, rising to 4,802 in the nine months between April and December 2018. Car cloning is when number plates from one car are copied and fixed to an identical model in order to disguise its identity.

Speed camera scare story

Rumours started to circulate in early 2019 that new speed-camera tolerances on some motorways were so strict that drivers could receive penalties for breaking the 70mph limit by 1mph. So Auto Express asked the UK’s 45 police forces via Freedom of Information requests how strictly their 3,224 speed cameras enforce limits. The majority confirmed that their cameras only activate when drivers exceed the speed limit by 10 per cent plus 2mph, in line with guidelines from the Association of Chief Police Officers. For example, most cameras won’t issue tickets until someone is driving at 35mph or more in a 30mph limit.

Jan-Feb • Mar-Apr • May-Jun • Jul-Aug • Sep-Oct-Nov

Review of the Year 2019

• Best car news stories of 2019• Best car reviews of 2019• Best car group tests of 2019• Best long-term tests of 2019• Best motoring features of 2019• Best car videos of 2019• Best motorsport stories of 2019• Our highlights of 2019

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