The biggest and best car news stories of 2020: April - June

It wasn't just the cars that made headlines in 2020, check out the biggest and best news stories of the year

Jan-Mar • Apr-Jun • Jul-Sep • Oct-Nov

April

Electric car charging in the spotlight as part of Driver Power 2020

In one of our most important issues of the year, the results of our 19th Driver Power new-car ownership survey were published in April, with the (since-replaced) Kia Sorento taking the top spot as the best new car on the road. With a combination of comfort, space and great infotainment helping it to the top spot, Sorento owners could hardly have been more pleased with their SUVs.

The Peugeot 3008 continued to shine, with a second-place finish in our 2020 poll courtesy of its strong style, driving experience and reliability. The plush Lexus RX took the bronze medal, with owners telling us it’s an impeccably reliable car with a silky-smooth drivetrain, and comfortable, cosseting handling.

This year’s Driver Power survey also saw the launch of our new poll for public EV chargepoints, allowing the growing numbers of readers who run plug-in hybrid and electric cars to give us unvarnished feedback on which companies run the most and least impressive chargers. 

With both the Department for Transport and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders adamant that the convenience of charging EV batteries will be key to the transition to zero-emission motoring, and the 2040 ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars being brought forward to 2030, our chargepoint survey is sure to only grow in importance and influence as it develops over the coming years. 

Tesla took the top spot, with its Supercharger network being rated as brilliantly reliable and fast when replenishing the batteries of the US car maker’s Model 3, S and X. But for those who don’t own a Tesla, it was Instavolt that generated the best result, thanks to its combination of speed, reliability and ease of use. ChargePlace Scotland, meanwhile, came third. 

Not all providers impressed, though, with Ecotricity’s chargers coming last and getting the thumbs down from readers, who said the chargers are unreliable, slow and tricky to use. Given that the company has chargepoints at many motorway services across the country, it’s hoped that Ecotricity will focus on improving these results. 

Naughty list reveals DVLA’s latest banned plates

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is a serious organisation with the onerous task of managing the UK’s millions of drivers and car registrations. But it also has a sense of humour, as revealed by the list of banned number plates it releases every six months

It coincides with the most recent number plate change, and with a switch to ‘20’ plates in the spring, registrations including BS20TRD, AS20 HOL and TO20 SRR were deemed too rude for the road. 

Motorsport mourns the loss of a racing legend

The world of motorsport was saddened by the passing on 12 April of Sir Stirling Moss – easily the greatest driver to never win a Formula One title.

Our own Mike Rutherford penned a tribute to Sir Stirling, and recalled their first encounter in an airport lounge, where the Mille Miglia winner broke the ice by asking Mike if he’d like to borrow the classic car mag he’d just finished reading.

The pair would go on to work together, because Sir Stirling penned a column for Auto Express during the magazine’s early years. “He oozed class.” Mike wrote, “What a man. What a legacy.”

May

Old-school BTCC stars brought back to life

Just as there are myriad genres of music, there are numerous subjects in the automotive world, each with its dedicated fans. For many petrolheads, the British Touring Car Championship is where it’s at, and for those deep of pocket and with fond memories of the BTCC cars of the eighties and nineties, commissioning a custom-built interpretation of a classic Group A car holds an irresistible appeal.

We spoke to Alan Strachan of AWS Engineering, the mastermind behind the team bringing Ford Sierra RS500s and BMW 635i CSis back to life, and back to the race track. 

Long-awaited Dyson EV breaks cover before car project is mothballed

In the summer we got our very first glimpse at the car that had intrigued the automotive world for years: the Dyson EV. The project had been under wraps for a long time, with very little detail revealed but promises of big ideas that would disrupt the motoring status quo. However, the project was ultimately a failure and the car was never launched because it was not financially viable.  

We thought that was the end of the story, but out of the blue Dyson released a series of images of the electric SUV. The hope was that it would pique enough interest for someone to adopted the project and reboot it. Sadly, nobody came knocking. 

The images revealed an SUV unlike anything else; it rode on enormous 24-inch wheels, but had a narrow glasshouse and very steeply raked windscreen. The car’s surfacing was very clean, in a bid to boost aerodynamic efficiency, while cameras for door mirrors and flush door handles were other design cues engineered to reduce drag. 

Inside, the SUV could take seven people across three rows of seating. It was trimmed entirely in fabric, while the dash and centre console were almost completely devoid of physical switches. Most of the car’s functions were operated via buttons mounted on the steering wheel. There wasn’t even a traditional instrument cluster, just a head-up display instead. 

Tesla models go the distance in first three years

Surprising data from MoT mileage recordings revealed that Teslas cover the greatest distance in their first three years on the road, with an average of 12,459 miles a year being racked up before owners of the Model S and X put their cars through their first MoT. 

The RAC Foundation’s analysis also found Mercedes owners are the second highest-mileage drivers, covering 12,100 miles each year on average. Meanwhile, Volvo owners put 11,578 miles on the clock every year. 

BMW gives 5 Series efficiency and power boost

One of BMW’s big hitters, the 5 Series, was given a mid-life update with the focus on increasing efficiency. A new plug-in hybrid 530e estate joined the range for the first time, while a more power- dense battery ensured buyers could travel further on electric power before having to recharge. 

At the other of the line-up, a new hot M550i xDrive was introduced, a 523bhp hot saloon that sat just beneath the flagship M5 in the performance stakes. 

Cyberster teases MGB successor

MG once again flirted with the idea of a spiritual successor to the MGB, by teasing a new concept car called the Cyberster

The open-top EV featured trademark roadster design cues such as the set-back cabin and an elongated bonnet, and even included an interpretation of the original MGB’s round headlamps and wide grille. There is still no word if the car will ever make it to production.

June

Citroen C4 revealed as a radical crossover

We got our first glimpse of the all-new Citroen C4 in June, as the French firm continued its product overhaul. The model morphed from a forgettable hatchback into a crossover-style vehicle, with a swooping rear end and striking exterior detailing. 

It was all change under the skin, too, because Citroen moved the C4 on to a new platform – shared with the Peugeot 208 – that allowed a fully electric version, called the e-C4, to be developed.

Vauxhall Mokka leads styling revamp

The latest generation of one of the UK’s biggest-selling models, the Vauxhall Mokka, was revealed in June. While some brands evolve the styling of their cars, Vauxhall started from scratch with the new Mokka in a bid to maintain its popularity in such a competitive segment of the market. 

The new crossover is actually 125mm shorter than the model it will replace, but the wheelbase is longer, so as well as getting a sportier stance on the road, you also get more space inside for passengers. A lot of design influence was borrowed from the latest Corsa, to keep the family resemblance, but new LED headlamps integrated into a blanked-off grille give the Mokka a striking new front end. Add in the two-tone green and black paintwork of the launch car, and you certainly couldn’t accuse Vauxhall’s designers of being conservative. 

One of the biggest gripes with the old Mokka was the cabin, so we were delighted to see that Vauxhall had addressed that with this all-new model. Gone was the button-heavy centre console and small infotainment system, and in its place was a slick-looking cabin with gloss-black plastics and a new infotainment set-up that integrated with a set of digital dials behind the wheel. 

There were also big changes beneath the skin, because Vauxhall has moved the Mokka on to a new platform developed by parent company PSA Group. Shared with

the Corsa, as well as the Peugeot 208 and 2008, it allows Vauxhall to offer the new Mokka with petrol, diesel or fully electric powertrains. The 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol will make up the bulk of sales, but the 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel should be a good fit for those covering longer motorway miles. The fully electric option, fitted with a 50kWh battery, is able to cover up to 201 miles on a single charge, too.

Controversial new BMW 4 Series noses in

There was only one thing people were talking about when the new BMW 4 Series broke cover in June: that grille. In a bid to separate it from the 3 Series saloon, BMW took the bold approach of giving the two-door a completely different front end. But reception was mixed to say the least. Some liked it, while others simply couldn’t stomach the size of the grille. 

BMW lowered and widened the car, too, while also adding a range of new chassis tech to help improve the way it drives. At launch, a 368bhp M440i xDrive model topped the line-up, with a hot M4 added later in the year.

DfT reveals green plates for eco-friendly cars

The Department for Transport announced that EV owners would soon be able to display number plates with a green flash on their edges, highlighting to other motorists the eco-friendly nature of their vehicles in the hopes of encouraging them to make the switch to electric. 

The plates also have the potential to easily allow local authorities to offer incentives to zero-emission drivers. New and used electric and hydrogen cars have been allowed to display the green plates since 8 December.

Disappointment as Lexus IS stays away

Readers were delighted to see that an all-new Lexus IS had been revealed over the summer, but that joy soon soured when they discovered that the model wouldn’t be coming to the UK. 

The Japanese company had instead chosen to focus on booming segments such as SUVs and crossovers, so traditional saloons such as the IS had lost their place in UK dealers, while the CT hatch and RC coupé were also dropped.

Jan-Mar • Apr-Jun • Jul-Sep • Oct-Nov

Check out the rest of our 2020 round-up below...

  • Best features 2020
  • Christmas quiz 2020
  • Best group tests 2020
  • Best long termers 2020
  • Best reviews 2020
  • Highlights of 2020

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