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Car news 2022: the year's biggest motoring stories: April - July

These are the biggest and best motoring news stories of the year

April

SUV-style makeover for Toyota’s smallest car

It’s not easy to make a profitable city car, which is why Toyota gave its Aygo the crossover treatment early in the year. The result was the Aygo X, a funky, chunky city-focused SUV that’s a little longer and wider than the car it replaced. Although many other cars are moving over to hybrid powertrains, the Aygo X remains purely combustion-powered, delivering a low kerbweight while keeping the price as affordable as possible.

EVs’ potential effects on pacemakers highlighted

In April, Auto Express addressed the worrying lack of research and understanding on the effect that high-power EV chargers can have on pacemakers. One test conducted in 2014/15 found no issue, but a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation told us there could be a risk and that more research is needed. One Auto Express reader with a pacemaker told us he wouldn’t consider buying an EV because of this.

First Smart SUV is revealed

Smart has seen sales of its current cars slow. However the #1, due in 2023, is poised to reverse that. It’s an “urban companion compact SUV”, Smart says, developed under joint Daimler and Geely ownership, and based on the latter firm’s SEA architecture. 

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Like Geely-owned Polestar, Smart will ‘name’ its future models with a number – in this case after a hash – not to signify size or market position, but to signal the order in which the models will go on sale.

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The #1 will be a similar size to the MINI Countryman, so it’s the largest Smart ever, and its maker claims the five-seat SUV is as spacious inside as a Mercedes E-Class saloon

Like the exterior, the cabin is neatly styled, and it’s full of advanced technology. Two trims, Pro+ and Premium, will be offered, and from launch, the #1 will come with a 66kWh battery. 

This will give a claimed range of up to 273 miles, while 150kW charging capability will allow a 10 to 80 per cent top up in around 30 minutes. It’s expected that smaller batteries with a lower price tag will be introduced in time.

The battery feeds a single electric motor developing 268bhp and 343Nm of torque. Smart says the #1 will do 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds and top out at 111mph.

Wild Magento sets scene for future Jeep EVs

The Magento 2.0 is possibly Jeep’s most extreme model yet, and in many ways one of its most important, setting the scene for an all-electric Wrangler. The concept might only offer up a range of 124 miles, but its 70kWh battery feeds a 625bhp motor that powers all four wheels.

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While it sports classic ‘rock crawler’ styling, its on-road performance is remarkable: 0-62mph takes a mere two seconds. If there was ever a Jeep to drag the brand’s purists into the electric age, this is it.

We reveal how next- gen Audi Q5 could look

The next Q5 will be the swansong for Audi’s biggest-selling nameplate globally before the brand embarks on its all-electric future. Our scoop showed what the new car, due in 2023, could look like following a series of spy shots. It’ll be based on the same MLB architecture as the current car, albeit with a raft of revisions. Audi’s technical boss Oliver Hoffman said it will be “the best” Audi ever launched. As with the current car, there will be petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid versions.

Bold new looks for BMW’s flagship saloon pair

BMW is no stranger to controversial styling, so the oversized grille on the new 7 Series and electric i7 should come as little surprise. Beyond this, both models drip with cutting-edge tech: all-wheel steering, a 48-volt motor-based active anti-roll system and an “extremely thin” 101.7kWh battery fitted under the i7. Luxury will be at the heart of both models, with a 31.3-inch screen that drops down from the ceiling, so passengers can stream films via an Amazon Fire tablet. 

May

Clean-looking Range Rover Sport splashes down

Just weeks after we drove the new Range Rover, its Sport sibling was shown. JLR design boss Gerry McGovern said “it blends Range Rover luxury and capability with sporting character. It’s a redefinition of sporting luxury”. Like the full-fat Rangey, the Sport boasts clean lines, but the rear has a closer connection to the Velar and Evoque. There’s no electric version yet, but there are three plug-in hybrids available, two petrol and a diesel. 

Renault reinvents Scenic MPV as family EV

With the MPV market in terminal decline, Renault announced a plan to reinvent its Scenic as a family SUV. The Scenic Vision Concept is “more than 90 per cent production car”, according to design chief Gilles Vidal. When it makes production in 2024, it’ll be based on the CMF-EV platform used by EVs such as the Megane E-Tech, with a range of up to 300 miles. The concept has a hydrogen-electric hybrid powertrain.

Accessibility fight bears fruit

In 2022, Auto Express continued its campaign to improve accessibility for disabled drivers at EV chargepoints. Having won the endorsement of wheelchair basketball legend Ade Adepitan, we played a pivotal role in bringing this important issue into the public eye.

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A key moment for our campaign came in the spring, when the British Standards Institute (BSI) published its draft PAS 1899 standards. These Government-backed proposals were supposed to vastly improve EV charging accessibility.

Public charging firm Osprey designed and built a new type of EV charging bay in line with these standards, so we brought some disabled volunteers to a site in Oxfordshire where they had been installed to try them out.

But the results weren’t as positive as we had hoped. Our three volunteers used walking sticks rather than wheelchairs and all struggled to handle the heavy rapid-charging cables.

Our key finding was that the proposals didn’t guarantee suitable weight and manoeuvrability of these components for disabled drivers. The cables weighed up to 7kg depending on how far they were extended from the charger, which was too much for our volunteers. Although the draft standards required cables to be suspended at one end to limit weight and avoid trip hazards, this was clearly not enough. 

We fed the findings of our test back to the BSI, calling for maximum weight limits to be agreed with disabled groups and for better cable ‘tidies’ to be used to prevent the charger from being obstructed.

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This proved worthwhile, because when the final standard was unveiled in October, the BSI had taken our concerns on board and addressed them. The maximum cable weight was set at 7kg, and operators of public chargepoints with cables exceeding the limit were required to offer ‘additional assistance’ for users with disabilities.

While compliance with PAS 1899 is not mandated by UK law, the fact that a ‘best practice’ standard has been agreed between the BSI and an industry steering group means public EV chargepoint providers who fail to comply will find it hard to defend legal actions brought on grounds of disability discrimination. 

This should provide reassurance for the many disabled motorists in this country who want to drive electric vehicles, plus the PAS 1899 standard also gives the UK a globally leading framework for investment in an accessible public EV infrastructure.

It was a worthwhile endeavour and Auto Express is glad to have played its part with our campaign.

Drivers hit hard as fuel prices go through roof 

Fuel prices were constantly in the headlines in 2022 when they rocketed to unprecedented highs, with petrol breaching the £2-per-litre mark at some retailers. 

Rishi Sunak, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, cut the rate of fuel duty by 5p per litre in an effort to ease the burden on hard-pressed motorists, but this proved to be too little, too late. Accusations of greed and inaction were thrown at retailers and the Government respectively, until prices finally settled down later in the year.

Facelift brings tech and mild-hybrid changes to 3 Series

Styling tweaks, a bit more tech and some improved trim are the bread and butter of any facelift, but such is the fondness and enthusiasm for the BMW 3 Series saloon and Touring estate, that these mid-life revisions really do matter.

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May’s announcement showed that the latest Three would mirror the recently revised 5 Series, and gain new, slimmer headlights, which make the same-sized grille appear a little larger, plus redesigned bumpers and new paint colours. Popular M Sport versions feature chrome trim, but the optional M Sport Pro pack turns this black, and adds a black rear spoiler and exhaust tips, plus red brake calipers.

More significant was the news that the interior would receive BMW’s new ‘Curved Display’ interface, which combines a floating 12.3-inch digital instrument panel with a 14.9-inch central touchscreen positioned to give the appearance of a single huge panel. The tech is backed up by BMW’s latest OS 8 software, but while the rotary iDrive controller is retained, the touchscreen is needed to change the car’s climate control settings.

The changes aren’t as far reaching under the bonnet; the much-vaunted all-electric model won’t arrive until an all-new generation hits the roads in 2025, despite a EV variant already available in China. But there have been alterations where they matter, with the introduction of mild-hybrid power for the 320d, and a new exhaust manifold and turbo for the 330i to give gains in performance and efficiency. 

The entry-level 320i petrol and the plug-in hybrid 330e are mechanically unchanged, while the 330i is dropped. The M340d gains mild-hybrid tech, but its petrol-powered sibling remains the same. 

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Those seeking even more performance will have to wait for the changes to be applied to the M3 saloon, while the new M3 Touring will feature them when it arrives. 

Mehari is the star at Bentley staff’s first event

You’d be right to assume it helps to be a car fan if you work at the Bentley factory in Crewe. The Pyms Lane Motor Club hosted its inaugural Colleagues, Cars and Coffee event this year, giving staff the chance to show off their beloved motors, with awards given to the best. A Citroen Mehari owned by Louis Tyson, technical assistant to the member of the board of engineering, was crowned supreme champion, with a huge variety of other cars on show at the factory in Cheshire.

June

Electric Transit flies up Goodwood hill

0-62mph in 2.0 seconds, 1,972bhp. No, not the latest supercar or a new product announcement from Elon Musk, rather the headline stats of Ford’s latest Transit Supervan. At the hands of Le Mans winner Romain Dumas, it was one of the stars of this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, where it set a remarkable time of 46.58 seconds up the hill. It wasn’t the fastest vehicle on the day, as we’ll see, but it was certainly the most surprising. 

This year’s creation is the fourth Supervan in a lineage that began all the way back in 1971, but this is the first to have all-electric power. It packs four motors, a 50kWh battery and a bespoke control system. And although it sports mostly unique composite panels incorporating aggressive aero and features a steel space frame, it shares its basic platform with the regular E-Transit Custom. In a bid to make the most of its power, the Supervan uses a double-wishbone suspension set-up with motorsport-grade subframes, plus a full roll cage and FIA-standard bucket seats. 

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As far as hillclimb times went this year, all eyes were on the Gloucestershire-designed and built, single-seat, electric McMurtry Spéirling which, with Max Chilton at the wheel, set the fastest ever time: a barely believable 39.08 seconds – significantly faster than the previous records set by Nick Heidfeld in a McLaren MP4/13 F1 car and Romain Dumas in a VW ID.R Pikes Peak car. The Spéirling is not only small and light, but it also employs a fan to suck the car onto the track.

There was plenty for production-car fans, too. A Polestar 5 prototype took to the hill, heralded by the announcement that the Porsche Taycan rival could have as much as 872bhp and 900Nm of torque, allied to engaging dynamics. Unusually, Polestar isn’t seeking a huge range for the 5 – around 310 miles on a charge – because instead the firm is focusing on practical battery sizes with fast recharging.

It wasn’t all about EVs though; Prodrive also showed its take on the legendary Subaru Impreza 22B. The P25 sports a 400bhp 2.5-litre turbocharged flat-four engine to deliver a soundtrack straight off Colin McRae-era WRC stages. It’s underpinned by a rally-spec chassis, plus hi-tech suspension and brakes, while many parts are made from composites, meaning Prodrive’s model tips the scales at under 1,200kg – lighter than the original 22B. 

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Just 25 examples will be built to commemorate a quarter of a century since the 22B launched, and despite a £552,000 price tag, all were sold in advance of its Goodwood appearance.

Peugeot treads new ground with bold 408 hatch

Peugeot intends to breathe new life into the saloon market with the 408. Blending a crossover stance with hatchback sensibility, it breaks new ground for the firm. Yet under the skin it’s far more familiar, with the EMP2 architecture and proven powertrains. Behind the smart styling is a spacious and practical interior, plus the latest iteration of the controversial i-Cockpit, i-Connect Advanced infotainment and touch-sensitive i-Toggles.

UrbanRebel shows Cupra’s upcoming small car

Cupra’s product offensive shows little signs of slowing. As well as the Terramar mid-sized SUV and the Tavascan, the firm’s answer to the VW ID.4 and Skoda Enyaq, it showed the UrbanRebel concept. The small EV is officially a concept, but bosses told us that the exterior design is 95-per cent complete. The car will be based on the VW Group’s Small MEB platform, with a battery that should be good for a range of around 273 miles on a charge.

Jaguar lifts the lid on its plans

It’s been a year of change for Jaguar. In February the firm announced its Reimagine plan, which outlines a bold new future, while CEO Thierry Bolloré revealed that the price of this would be cars costing around £100,000. But by the middle of the year, things had gone quiet.

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To find out more, we met with Jaguar’s vehicle programme boss Nick Collins, who revealed that since Bolloré’s announcement, the entire JLR team had been working flat out to deliver these plans. He told us how they’ve redefined both the development process and Jaguar’s brand ethos, which would be “respectful of its rich past, but not bound to it”.

The need to deliver JLR design boss Gerry McGovern’s vision means engineering a bespoke architecture, and in the coming years this will underpin three new models. Collins revealed little about the market positioning or design of the trio, but he said they’d been signed off and by now, development mules will be on the road ahead of production starting in 2024 and deliveries the following year.

But Jaguar’s push upmarket has already begun. The F-Pace 1988 edition is “cementing F-Pace into a really bespoke positioning, exquisite in detail and limited in numbers,” Collins said. It’s a profitable way of delivering upscale products that we’ll not see the last of, and indeed the next model, the F-Type 75 (which like the F-Pace 1988 celebrates an anniversary), has since been revealed. Despite this, there will be a future for its more affordable models, the XE and XF, for the time being, at least.

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In order to ensure Jaguar’s future, Collins said he has a team “deliberately locked away” in a separate part of JLR’s buildings, allowing them to think, act and behave in a different way. It’s all about “clean sheet of paper thinking”, and ensuring Jaguar is a “copy of nothing”. 

Significantly, Jaguar is also changing the customer experience to reflect the company’s repositioning in the market. “We’ve got a responsibility to the customers who have been loyal to the brand for many years – we’re not going to abandon them,” Collins told us. 

MG heads back to its roots with new Cyberster

We scooped MG’s new roadster, declaring it the model that’ll take the brand back to its roots – in part at least, because MG is forging a very successful path making affordable EVs. The Cyberster will be a Mazda MX-5 rival, but with more evocative styling; patent images show aggressive headlights and a squared-off tail. While the concept had a 500-mile range and a three-second 0-62mph time, MG4 tech in the production car could see a 273-mile range and 0-62mph in about seven seconds.

July

Aceman concept sets scene for MINI crossover EV

MINI gave us a hint at its plans for the future of its range with its Aceman concept. With the MINI Hatch set to go back to its roots in compact three-door EV form and the Countryman crossover growing larger, it leaves a space in the middle for a new model: the Aceman. The electric crossover had some close-to-production design details that we expect to see on MINI’s future cars, such as the lights and grille. The Aceman is due in 2024.

DBX 707 turns up the heat for Aston’s SUV

Aston Martin unleashed its DBX 707 super-SUV. The name gives a clue to the car’s power output, with the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 producing 697bhp (707PS) for a 0-62mph time of 3.3 seconds and a 193mph top speed. This new flagship SUV gave the likes of Lamborghini’s Urus something to think about, with the British brute offering a combination of grace and pace, all set to a scintillating soundtrack from its V8 engine.  

Type R packs a 316bhp punch

Hot hatchbacks such as the Honda Civic Type R might not be long for this world in their current form, which is why the Japanese manufacturer went all out for its latest sixth-generation version, boosting power to 316bhp from a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. 

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Shunning the trend for dual-clutch gearboxes, Honda preserved driver involvement for its last pure-petrol hot hatch, retaining its six-speed manual transmission while adding a new ‘Individual’ driving mode that allows owners to tailor suspension and powertrain settings for the sharpest engine response but a more compliant chassis.

Honda bucked another trend, downsizing the wheels by one inch compared with its predecessor, with the 19-inch alloy rims wrapped in sticky Michelin Pilot 4S tyres. The car’s aerodynamics received a thorough going over to add more downforce, making the most of this rubber.

The welcome byproduct is a much sleeker design. It still looks aggressive, but the Type R no longer appears as if it’s been draped in aftermarket modifications. The trademark three-pipe exhaust system remains, and the wheelarches have been blistered to accommodate the wider tracks.

Apart from a deep front bumper and side skirts, the more mature look got a good reception when the car was revealed. Honda has also lengthened the newcomer’s wheelbase and stiffened the chassis by 15 per cent.

The Type R inherits the latest Civic’s more premium-feeling cabin, too. There are still plenty of racy touches inside, including the Alcantara bucket seats and touring car-style gearlever, but the horizontal dashboard design and higher-quality materials mean the hottest Civic should be nicer to live with day to day.

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There is also more technology in the cabin. Honda confirmed that a digital dashboard and a new infotainment system with plenty of telemetry and data readouts to detail the Type R’s performance will feature. But with prices to be confirmed at £47,000 later in the year – £10,000 more than the outgoing car – the Honda would have to be very special when we eventually got to drive it.

Red X offences need police OK before PCN issued

Since June 2019, motorists who drive under ‘red X’ signs – which indicate a closed lane on a smart motorway – have been targeted by cameras, with offenders facing three penalty points and a £100 fine.Transport minister Baroness Vere told the Transport Select Committee that these offences were not being enforced as planned. It turned out that each offence recorded by a camera had to be signed off by a police officer before a penalty charge notice could be sent out.

VW’s Amarok is first product of link-up with Ford

The first fruits of Volkswagen’s tie-up with Ford for commercial vehicles arrived when the German firm unveiled its rugged Amarok premium pick-up back.Sharing its underpinnings with the US brand’s Ranger, the Amarok arrived sporting V6 power and a recognisably robust look that’s been reimagined for this new generation. More affordable 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engines were also confirmed, while the truck offers more tech inside and greater practicality, too.

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Sean’s been writing about cars since 2010, having worked for outlets as diverse as PistonHeads, MSN Cars, Which? Cars, Race Tech – a specialist motorsport publication – and most recently Auto Express and sister titles Carbuyer and DrivingElectric

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