VW’s ‘Dieselgate’ emissions saga has rumbled on, a radio presenter has joined (and left) a car programme, while the world has gone mad, with Porsche launching a turbocharged Cayman and Bentley introducing its first ever diesel.
Yes, 2016 certainly hasn’t been a quiet year for car news. As we approach the end of the year, join us as we take a look back over the weird and wonderful stories of 2016.
January: Land Rover Defender production ends
The year started with the timely (but still sad) passing of a British four-wheel-drive icon: the Land Rover Defender. After more than 60 years in production (albeit only 25 years carrying the Defender badge), the final model rolled off the Solihull production line.
March: Man takes legal action after winning a Vauxhall Corsa
Emphasis on ‘weird’ with this story from March, when a lucky golfer won a brand new Vauxhall Corsa – but complained that it was just the entry-level model. He took the golf club, where he won the competition, to court – but the case was thrown out and he was left with legal costs of more than £10,000. His prize was worth just £7,500.
March: Tesla Model 3 revealed
Tesla chief Elon Musk revealed the ‘affordable’ Model 3 in March, prompting more than 400,000 potential customers to place deposits of around £1,000 each. Deliveries are expected to start in mid-2018, with prices from around £30,000. The Model 3 will rival the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4, with even the entry-level models hitting 62mph in less than 6.0 seconds and capable of covering more than 215 miles from a single charge.
April: Mitsubishi hit by emissions scandal
After Volkswagen was caught cheating emissions tests, many predicted other manufacturers would also be found out. Mitsubishi followed, admitting falsifying test data on models built in its factories but sold as Nissans in Japan. The scandal led to a controlling-stake in Mitsubishi being bought by Nissan later in the year.
April: 93-year-old man trades skateboard in for MG3
When an elderly gentleman heard that his local MG dealer was offering £2,000 off a new MG3 when “anything with four wheels” was traded in, he turned up with his skateboard and asked if he could use it as part-exchange. They agreed – and Mr Edwards drove away in an MG3 that day.
April: Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman get turbo power
A controversial move for 2016: Porsche’s Boxster and Cayman models have been updated, with their flat-six naturally-aspirated engines replaced by small-capacity turbocharged units. The announcement (expected by many) was made by April, and has proved to be controversial. Many road testers have complained that the new turbocharged Boxster and Cayman lack character.
May: Chris Evans joins (and later leaves) Top Gear
We’re now approaching the two year anniversary of Clarkson’s famous ‘fracas’, but 2016 saw the arrival of Top Gear with a whole new team of presenters. Radio 2 presenter Chris Evans took the lead, but a lack of chemistry between Evans and fellow host Matt LeBlanc along with plummeting ratings led to Evans giving up after one series. “Stepping down from Top Gear,” he tweeted. “Gave it my best shot but sometimes that’s not enough. The team are beyond brilliant, I wish them all the best.”
May: Volkswagen Golf Clubsport S breaks Nurburgring record
Volkswagen had one record in its sight when it developed the frantic Golf GTI Clubsport S: the honour of being the fastest front-drive car around the Nurburgring. By binning the rear seats, boosting power to 310hp and tweaking the adaptive dampers in ‘Nurburgring mode’, the Clubsport S managed to lap the Nordschleife in 7:49.21. That’s more than a second quicker than a Honda Civic Type R.
July: Ecotricity announces £6 fee for electric car charging
In July, the company behind 300 electric car chargers at motorway services across the UK announced it was planning to charge drivers £5 for a 20 minute top-up. After a social media backlash, Ecotricity announced it’d had a re-think and decided it would instead demand £6 for a 30-minute charge. That makes it just as expensive to run an electric car on a longer journey as many diesels.
July: Learner driver fined £220 for hitting 132mph on the M25
Driving on the motorway before you’ve passed your driving test probably isn’t the brightest idea – but this learner driver took it a step further and was clocked at 132mph by speed cameras on the M25. Cydney Mantle, 28, handed herself in after receiving a Notice of Intended Prosecution in the post.
August: Leicester City players treated to BMW i8s
As a treat for defeating the odds and claiming the Premier League title, Leicester City’s billionaire chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha treated players to a fleet of BMW i8s. As they were all finished in the same colour, the ungrateful players had their cars wrapped to help them stand out in the car park.
September: New Nissan Micra revealed
Although there weren’t many surprises at this year’s Paris Motor Show, the new Nissan Micra was one of them. Its predecessor is a dowdy ‘global car’, designed to appeal to 160 different markets – yet massively failing to hit the spot in Europe. Our first impressions of the latest model suggest it could be a serious rival to the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa. And Nissan is so confident, it’s axed the Note.
September: MG axes UK car production
Production at MG Rover’s historic Longbridge plant restarted in 2011 following the firm’s acquisition by Chinese firm SAIC. But, with slow sales of the MG6 and MG3, the company announced it would be manufacturing the cars entirely in China. Previously, they had been shipped to the UK, where they were assembled at Longbridge. Around 25 redundancies have been made.
September: Bentley announces first ever diesel
Ever since the Bentayga was first revealed at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, it’s been a controversial car: from being the Crewe carmaker’s first SUV, to the first to be given diesel power. It was an inevitable move, really, borrowing a turbodiesel V8 powertrain from the Audi SQ7. With 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds and a 168mph top speed, it’s no slouch.
September: Paris Motor Show flop
Motor shows have traditionally been major events on the automotive calendar – but this year’s Paris Motor Show was not the must-visit it usually is for car manufacturers. Many snubbed the show, with no official presence from the likes of Ford, Mazda and Volvo to name a few. Many blamed the exorbitant cost of exhibiting at a motor show, while some pointed out that the French car market is skewed towards French carmakers.
October: Nissan confirms car production will remain at Sunderland following Brexit vote
Of course, the biggest news story of the year for the UK was the country’s decision to leave the EU. The move has resulted in a great deal of ongoing uncertainty, so the 7,000 employees at Nissan’s Sunderland plant were relieved to hear that the Japanese car manufacturer has announced it will continue building cars in the UK. It came after boss Carlos Ghosn met with prime minister Theresa May.
November: New Ford Fiesta revealed
It’s Britain’s best-selling car, and the latest Fiesta has just been revealed ahead of it going on sale in 2017. Fortunately, Ford hasn’t messed with a winning formula too much – it gets an improved interior, along with upmarket Vignale and lifestyle Active crossover variants. Is it enough to keep the Fiesta in pole position in 2017? We’ll soon find out…
November: The Grand Tour goes live
After the disaster that was the return of Top Gear, all eyes were on Amazon Prime for the launch of Clarkson, Hammond and May’s new show: The Grand Tour. Although Amazon is keeping quiet about just how many of us have watched it, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive, with many happy to see the ex-Top Gear trio back on our screens.
December: Calls for action over Vauxhall Corsa fires
It started off with the Vauxhall Zafira, but now there’s talk of Corsa models also being affected by an issue that results in cars going up in flames. The manufacturer has recalled 2,767 Corsa models so far, but drivers are applying pressure on Vauxhall to take more immediate action to prevent further fires.