Yearly round-up 2017: Diesel downers, supermini superiority, vexing VED, hybrid hype, and lots of new cars
If 2016 proved to be a roller-coaster of a year then 2017 was definitely a ghost train filled with unwanted surprises, shocks, screams and adrenaline pumping sights.
From ill-fated elections and ongoing Brexit dramas to Donald Trump’s inability to stop tweeting and and North Korea-related panics, the motoring world has been quietly ticking along while all this drama goes on around it.
Okay, maybe not so quietly as the industry certainly went into flux with a year of diesel demonisation resulting in a massive 30% year-on-year drop in diesel registrations and the new car market declining by more than 10% overall year-on-year.
It wasn’t all bad news though, with industry innovation rising to this challenge and a host of amazing new cars being launched into the world.
Leasing also continues to go from strength to strength as consumers continue to turn their back on vehicle ownership.
Here’s a digest of some of the many highlights and lowlights the automotive world turned up this year. We hope you like endlessly scrolling…
Our year started off the way it meant to go on, with a hybrid being our first review of the year. The Toyota Prius certainly set a precedent for a lot of the cars we would review throughout 2017 and hinted at the way the industry as a whole was going. We made a few predictions on what we expected from the year too, some of which came to pass and some of which didn’t and some of which the jury is still out on.
The year kicked off with a bang thanks to the Detroit Motor Show where we caught glimpses of the Kia Stinger and Audi Q8 concept. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the month, and arguably 2017 as a whole, was how good the new Nissan Micra was – something Phil Huff went into detail on in his glowing review.
We kicked off the month by announcing the winners of our Car of the Year Awards 2016/17 as well as the winners of our Deal of the Year Awards too. Ford, Citroen, and Mercedes-Benz walked away with the most plaudits in our Car of the Year awards, but it was the Mercedes-Benz E-Class which impressed the most. The E-Class was chosen as the winner in the Executive Car class, but even more prestigiously was also chosen as our overall winner for ContractHireAndLeasing.com Car of the Year.
It was a month for Volkswagen to celebrate too, not because they won our awards but because they became the world’s biggest carmaker having reported sales of 10.31m. February ended with Storm Doris battering the UK and disrupting travel with fallen trees, debris and even a flying trampoline causing an obstruction. Luckily for our roving reviewers Al Suttie and Phil Huff, they were in sunnier climes as Al got behind the wheel of the tech-filled 2017 BMW 5 Series and out in Spain, Phil tried out an updated version of Seat’s popular Leon.
Cheese, chocolate and watches is what Switzerland is best known for 11 months of the year but March will forever be known as the month of the motor show, and the 2017 event didn’t disappoint. We picked out our favourite Geneva Motor Show cars of the show AND had an inside view courtesy of our man on the ground Phil Huff while getting live glimpses of the Volkswagen Arteon, Mercedes-Benz X-Class, Honda Civic Type-R and Range Rover Velar.
Back on home soil, our second hybrid drive of the year rolled into ContractHireAndLeasing HQ, with Kia’s enticing Niro being the next vehicle to be put to the test.
Away from the glitz and glamour, March also saw changes to how drivers caught using their mobile phones will be prosecuted. From the 1 March, any driver caught using a mobile phone behind the wheel faces six points, a £200 fine and will have no option of an awareness course whether you are making a call, using it on loudspeaker, texting, filming, taking a picture or using the internet, and the law applies even when you are sitting stationary in traffic.
April brought with it some confusing changes to Vehicle Excise Duty (aka VED, aka road tax). New road tax rates to all new cars registered after 1 April 2017 meant first-year payments were introduced across all bands except for zero emission cars, which will pay £0. Those emitting more CO2 will pay more tax in the first year, but after that there will be a flat rate of £140 a year. There will also be a new supplement of £310 per year on cars costing more than £40,000.
We continued to try out the best hybrid had to offer, reviewing the Hyundai Ioniq and finding the build quality and comfort to be fantastic, and a lot cheaper to lease than you might think with a 1.6 GDi petrol-hybrid model yours for less than £200 per month on a personal lease. At the opposite end of the scale, we put Fiat’s first foray into the pick-up truck segment through its paces and found the Fullback to be hard-wearing, capable and practical with a viable claim to being the ultimate choice for the working man's pick-up.
We ended the month with the launch of our YouTube channel and our first video review, as Howard Ritchie got behind the wheel of the our Car of the Year, the Mercedes E-Class.
It was the capital’s turn to feel the glitz and glamour of a motor show, as the month was kicked off with the London Motor Show. TVR revealed its comeback car, MG revealed its Juke-rivalling ZS and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, the lavish Maserati Levante and of course the latest Land Rover Discovery all were shown.
The new Ford Fiesta entered production in May, hoping to continue its unrivalled dominance of the UK car buying market, while the Skoda Karoq had its official unveiling as a small SUV replacement for the outgoing Yeti.
This month also saw the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Road Safety Act and with it came fresh calls for the drink drive limit to be reassessed.
The most ground-breaking news for the month of May came with the government’s £3bn Clean Air Fund, which arrived off the back of a legal battle last year in which the government was ordered by the courts to produce new plans to tackle illegal levels of harmful pollutant nitrogen dioxide.
Measures to achieve this included retrofitting buses and other public transport to make them more environmentally-friendly, changing the phasing of traffic lights, removing speed bumps and improving road layouts.
This year marked the 25th anniversary for Honda’s esteemed ‘R’ badge. In recent years this designation has become synonymous with hot hatch fans thanks to the fiery Civic Type R and, it just so happens this milestone coincides with the launch of an all-new Civic. But what has changed? We collected five things you need to know about this crazy new car.
Meanwhile, Apple revealed it would introduce a 'Do not disturb while driving' function in its upcoming iOS 11 update with the idea that notifications such as texts, instant messages and news updates will be withheld while drivers are on the move.
June also brought with it plenty of new crossovers as Hyundai revealed its new Kona, Kia revealed the Stonic ahead of schedule, Nissan released a facelifted version of the Qashqai, Seat announced the all-new Arona and we reviewed the Mazda CX-5. Elsewhere Jaguar revealed the E-Pace, a car that, confusingly, isn’t electric (that’s the I-Pace duh).
Sadiq Khan rounded out the month by releasing one of the most ambitious transport strategies we’ve seen from a London mayor, with the long-reaching aim for London’s entire transport system to be zero emission by 2050. Khan he do it? Time will tell.
Perhaps the biggest news this month, or at least the biggest news to be then blown all out of proportion by every major media outlet, was Volvo’s announcement that by 2019 its entire range will be all-electric. Of course, what Volvo meant by that is that no model will be 100% a diesel or petrol internal combustion engine – five fully electric cars will be produced between 2019 and 2021 while the majority of their range will be plug-in hybrid or mild-hybrid models.
Having got our hands on the Skoda Kodiaq, finding it to be stylish, functional and incredibly practical, we got to wondering if the runaway success of SUV and crossovers has come at the expense of other areas of the car market, notably the traditional estate car. Alternately fuelled vehicles were on the rise this month though following the changes to VED in April, with demand rising by 29% and maintaining its record 4.4% share of the new car market for the second month in a row. This proved, if anything, that the motoring public really really really hate paying road tax. In light of this we compared the petrol and hybrid Toyota C-HR to see which offered the better drive.
The demonising of diesel continued, as newspaper headlines about cars being unclean continued to stoke fear and concern among the public. In light of this Al Suttie looked at the pseudo-science behind a lot of the alarming statements and ways we can all contribute to reducing emissions.
Toward the end of the month, the Tesla Model 3 finally made it into production but… well, the less said about how many actually got produced this year the better.
Our August was certainly punctuated by the enticing Nissan GT-R. With utterly ludicrous velocity, out of this world handling, and break-neck acceleration of 0-62 in 2.7 secs, the GT-R is without a shadow of a doubt Nissan’s finest hour as a manufacturer as Howard Ritchie found out.
A more sensible offering, and continuing on our supermini-themed 2017, was the new Seat Ibiza, which proved to be sharper, edgier, and more complete than its predecessors.
Diesel demonisation continued as the UK followed France’s lead in announcing that new diesel and petrol cars will be banned from 2040. In a timely manner Hyundai revealed details behind its second commercially produced hydrogen model but good luck finding a pump…
August ended with Volkswagen revealing, surprise surprise, another compact crossover. The Volkswagen T-Roc will sit between the Golf and Tiguan and offer customers personalisation not seen in this particular segment before.
And finally, having been lucky enough to drive some of the newest hybrids to hit the UK market over the last year, we put together an in-depth comparison pitting the Toyota Prius, the Kia Niro, the Toyota C-HR and Hyundai Ioniq head-to-head.
September saw the introduction of all-new emissions tests for vehicles following concerns that the ageing New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) isn’t fit for purpose. This has been replaced by the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) which is a longer cycle and takes place on real roads to better represent emission output and economy levels of vehicles.
The middle of the month saw the news come thick and fast from the Frankfurt Motor Show as Volkswagen revealed the I.D. Crozz, a sporty, zero-emission all-rounder while BMW banked on the i Vision Dynamics - a four-door electric Gran Coupe with a range of 373 miles and Mercedes-Benz gave a glimpse at their all-electric sub-brand in the form of the EQA concept.
Elsewhere, Jaguar become the latest manufacturer to announce all its model lines will feature hybrid or all-electric power from 2020, and Dyson announced that 400 engineers and individuals from the automotive industry have begun work on their own battery electric vehicle. Whether the end product will suck or clean up the burgeoning EV market is one for the future.
All this talk of electric cars sent us in the opposite direction as we looked at the top eight V8s you can lease through ContractHireAndLeasing. Get ‘em while you still can folks.
Having entered production in May, and to round out 2017 being the year of the supermini, we finally got our hands on the king of the mountain and reviewed the all-new Ford Fiesta.
The Kia Stonic, Seat Arona, Volkswagen T-Roc and Skoda Karoq all opened their order books in October which seemed like a compact crossover inundation never seen or heard before. This led us to question what makes crossovers so successful and whether we’ve reached peak crossover.
While it does seem like it’s all about SUVs and superminis at the minute, another slice of the market that’s doing incredibly well is the four-door coupe. Just take a look at the upcoming Kia Stinger and Volkswagen Arteon as an example, but back in 2012 it was Audi that kicked the segment off with its A7 – and October saw the announcement that there’s a new one that’s aiming to fend off that new competition.
And finally, off the back of the Clean Air Bill, Oxford announced that it aims to become the world’s first zero-emission city by 2035 meaning no petrol, diesel or even hybrid cars will be allowed on its streets in 18 years. Along those lines, London brought in the T-Charge, which costs a pre-2006 diesel and petrol vehicle an additional £10 on top of the £11.50 congestion charge to enter the centre.
The month started off with a record being broken, as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio was put to work around the famed 12.8-mile Nurburgring circuit, completing the gruelling track in just 7 minutes and 51.7 seconds.
Remember when the Model 3 went into production in July? Well, come November it managed to have missed its sales targets by more than 80% due to production not being able to keep up with orders. Ouch. Never mind that though, Musk was here with a shiny red distraction in the form of the Tesla Roadster – it can do 0-60mph in 1.9 seconds with a top speed of over 250mph.
Speaking of fast, and readily available, the Kia Stinger GT made its debut in the UK this month and is now available to lease.
The end of the month brought with it the Autumn Budget. While the months leading up to it had seen the new car market plummet and diesel grow more and more out of favour, Chancellor Hammond announced that first-year Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) for new diesel cars that don’t meet new real-world emission standards (RDE2) will be pushed up a band from April 2018. He also confirmed that the existing diesel supplement on company car tax will rise to 4%, with the proceeds going toward a new £220m clean air fund.
The year has ended in a maelstrom of wintery weather, and while there was commuter chaos caused around the UK we looked to the burgeoning electric vehicle market to see just how these cars of tomorrow would cope in cold weather.
Elsewhere, looking ahead to 2018, lease deals became available for the Mercedes-Benz X-Class executive pick-up truck – arguably the most anticipated new vehicle release this year – while Merc announced something at the opposite end of the scale for next year too in the form of the new CLS, yes, another four-door coupe.
These weren’t the biggest announcements for next year though. Over five years since we caught our first glimpse of it at the 2012 Beijing Motor Show, the Lamborghini Urus was finally revealed as it aimed to create a new niche in the luxury segment, and a super SUV class of its own, by combining outstanding performance with a unique design and everyday usability.
And finally, as we bid farewell to this year, you may be getting driving lessons for Christmas. If so, there’s a few changes that have been made to the driving test which you might not be aware of…
So all that’s left to say is have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more news, reviews and tempting lease deals in 2018.
If you think you’re clued up now, how about taking our Monster Motoring Quiz of the Year 2017. Can you get 20 out of 20?