TO SAY 2021 was a tumultuous year would be an understatement. Between the pandemic, fuel shortages, smart motorways, the supply-chain crisis and spiralling prices, motorists have had a lot on their plate. We sadly lost a few big names in motoring too — Murray Walker and Sabine Schmitz to name just a couple.
On a brighter note, electric car ownership has been on a rise as accelerated as a Tesla in Ludicrous mode, we got a new Bond movie, a thrilling F1 season and a host of new and exciting cars hitting the market.
There were a few weird ones, certainly. Remember the “Voltswagen” incident and Prince Charles’s wine and cheese-powered Aston Martin?
If the year seems a little hazy, let’s take a look back at Driving.co.uk’s biggest and best news stories and reviews of 2021.
Clarkson reveals he caught Covid over Christmas
The Sunday Times columnist Jeremy Clarkson caught Covid-19 during the course of last Christmas and admitted that, as a former heavy smoker and having suffered serious bouts of pneumonia, he found the experience to be a “scary” one.
Singer revealed an off-road Porsche restomod
Singer created an off-roader inspired by 1980s Porsche rally cars. The All-Terrain Competition Study was developed so as to compete in off-road rally events such as the Baja 500 and Dakar Rally and is powered by an air-cooled twin-turbo 3.6-litre flat-six engine. Very pricey and very desirable.
Driving.co.uk reported exclusively on AA Driving Instructors being forced to pay franchise fees, despite not being able to teach
Rather than having their fees waived, AA driving instructors were forced to pay franchise costs during the third lockdown at the beginning of 2021 despite, due to covid restrictions, being unable to teach. We reported exclusively on the story.
Lotus said it was killing off the Elise, Exige and Evora
The Lotus Elise is one of the motoring world’s most admired sports cars, so there was regret when Lotus announced in January that it was killing off the Elise along with the Exige and Evora in a push to develop new and electrified models.
Tesla U-shaped steering wheel controversy
Despite some initial rumblings to the contrary, our investigations revealed that Tesla’s U-shaped yoke steering device was, in fact, legal under UK law.
Ford said it would go electric in Europe by 2030
Ford announced in February that by 2026, every new car it sold in Europe would be “zero-emissions-capable” and pure-electric by 2030. It said that its entire commercial range of vans and pickups would be zero-emissions-capable by 2024.
Peugeot changed its branding with the latest take on a lion’s head being reminiscent of the company’s 1960s models such as the Pininfarina-styled 404.
Tiger Woods crashed a Genesis
For many in the UK, Woods’s crash was the first time they’d heard of Hyundai’s luxury sub-brand, Genesis. It is thought that the GV80 SUV’s advanced safety features may have saved the golfer’s life in the high-speed accident in which he himself was seriously injured.
£3.1m Gordon Murray T.50S Niki Lauda was revealed
McLaren F1 designer, Gordon Murray, revealed a track-only version of his V12 T.50 hypercar, named after the Austrian F1 driver Niki Lauda. With 701bhp and weighing-in at 852kg, the T.50S Niki Lauda is, it’s fair to say, pretty brisk.
We reviewed the BMW M3 and M4
Not everyone liked the looks of the latest BMW M3 and M4, but, looking beyond the grille, we were impressed by the performance, handling and usability of BMW’s latest M cars.
“What a beauty it is – smooth, refined, oodles of power on tap right up to the red line.”
Aston Martin showed off its first F1 car in 61 years
Aston’s new F1 car may not have set the track alight during its first season in F1, but it did help Sebastian Vettel secure his only podium finish of the year in Baku.
Murray Walker died
Murray Walker, the legendary motor sport commentator who was the voice of Formula One in Britain and beyond from 1978 to 2001, died aged 97, with warm tributes pouring in from across the motorsport world.
Jenson Button and Ant Anstead revived a car brand
A consortium including ex-F1 driver Jenson Button and TV mechanic Ant Anstead came together to revive Radford, a defunct coachbuilder best known for its modified Minis in the 1960s, to create a new range of Lotus-based sports cars.
Sabine Schmitz died
Sabine Schmitz, an accomplished racing driver and “Queen of the Nürburgring,” best known in the UK for her appearances on Top Gear, died aged 51 following a battle with cancer. Many of her friends and TV colleagues paid warm tributes.
Mitsubishi pulled out of the UK
Mitsubishi exited the UK market, auctioning off its mint-condition heritage fleet of classics including Shoguns, Lancer Evos and some of the earliest 1970s Colts registered in the UK.
We reviewed the Citroën C4 and ë-C4
While there were things we liked about the new Citroën C4 such as the styling, value for money and decent range in the electric model, we weren’t so enamoured by the ride quality, the gearbox and the infotainment system.
Nissan Leaf production exceeded that of Bluebird
With 195,000 units built, Nissan’s pioneering mass-market electric hatchback exceeded the 187,000 units of the company’s classic Bluebird model, built between 1986 and 1990, at Nissan’s Sunderland plant.
Ford announced the death of the Mondeo
Ford said that it would start phasing out its Mondeo saloon from March 2022 as more buyers opt for crossovers and the company sees no place for the Mondeo in its electrified future.
“Voltswagen” joke sparks outrage
Volkswagen’s April Fool’s Day prank backfired when, after being asked whether it was actually a joke or not, the company denied it, creating a great deal of confusion among the world’s motoring press. It was forced, eventually, to admit that it was a joke and that the company wasn’t changing its name to “Voltswagen” in America.
We reviewed the new Vauxhall Mokka
We liked the look, feel and road manners of the new Vauxhall Mokka as well as its space and choice of petrol and pure-electric powertrains. The level of body roll in the EV was a bit too much though and, overall, the cabin felt a little claustrophobic.
We reviewed the Skoda Enyaq iV
Skoda’s first EV was an excellent effort with a long range, extremely high build quality and great levels of tech. The window switches did feel a bit low rent, however, and once you start adding options, it gets quite pricey.
Mercedes revealed the EQS electric luxury car
Mercedes revealed its new luxury electric flagship, the EQS, a high-tech, aerodynamic model with a huge 107.8kWh battery and a range of 478 miles.
There were concerns over self-driving cars and racism
Researchers sought to dispel the idea that autonomous vehicle technology would struggle to recognise people with darker skin tones, saying that their sensors tend to see in shades of grey rather than colour.
We reviewed the Kia Sorento PHEV
The Kia Sorento was big on space and tech with low running costs and superb refinement. We found the dashboard a bit fussy though and it was far from cheap.
Rules changed to allow self-driving cars on UK roads
The government proposed legislation that would, under certain conditions, allow drivers of cars with autonomous driving technology to take their hands off the wheel. Safety experts said, however, that there was a long way to go before such technology could be safely rolled out to UK roads.
Model maker Tamiya revealed a buggy we can drive for real
Tamiya, the remote-controlled car company responsible for endless hours of childhood fun in the 1980s, released a full-size, driveable model of its famous Wild One buggy that can be made road-legal on request.
We reviewed the Audi e-tron GT
This was a stunning car with blistering performance, excellent ride quality and beautiful handling. Interior storage space wasn’t great though, there was a lot of road noise from the tyres and it doesn’t quite have the same range as a Tesla. Plus, we broke it.
We reviewed the Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
An astoundingly quick and spacious zero-emissions car. We felt the cabin could do with a restyle here and there (the air vents, for example), that the cruise control was unfathomable and that the ride quality in the Turbo S was a bit sick inducing.
Genesis launched in the UK
Until now, the only thing most UK motorists had known about Genesis was that Tiger Woods was driving one when he crashed in February. Hyundai’s luxury brand (what Lexus is to Toyota) launched in the UK in the summer with a line-up of two saloons and two SUVs and with three electric cars to follow within the first 12 months after launch.
We visited a company converting classics into electric cars
Genius or sacrilege? We visited converters Electrogenic to find out what’s what in the world of electric classic car conversions.
We reviewed the Jaguar F-Pace
All round, a fine car with impressive performance, handling and tech coupled with a superb interior. The mild hybrid isn’t any cheaper than the plug-in hybrid though, and some might still suffer some spiritual malaise at the thought of Jaguar building a big SUV.
The Sunday Times revealed the richest people in motoring
While at £17 billion Sri and Gopi Hinduja, the Indian owners of the Ashok Leyland automotive manufacturing conglomerate topped the Sunday Times’ rich list for those involved in the automotive sector, one new entry was Denis Sverdlov, the Russian billionaire behind the Arrival electric vehicle company.
Max Mosley died
Former boss of motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, Max Mosley, a leading figurehead for safety in Formula 1 as well as, latterly, an outspoken privacy activist, died at the age of 81.
Times Luxx’s David Green drove a “new” Bentley Blower
David Green got behind the wheel of a sublime and brand-new supercharged 1920s Bentley racing car. At £1.5 million plus taxes, it’s unlikely many will find one under their Christmas tree.
We reviewed the DS 9 E-Tense
The new DS 9 was really quite a pleasant car with nice detailing, quality upholstery and plenty of room in the rear. Less impressive was the touchscreen, the driver’s seat massage function and the overall ride quality.
1,888bhp Rimac Nevera was revealed
Croatian hypercar-maker Rimac revealed its newest creation, a 1,888bhp monster called the Nevera capable of doing the 0-62mph sprint in a lightning-quick 1.85 seconds. An astonishing machine.
We reviewed the Audi Q4 e-tron
Good-looking for a compact SUV, the Audi Q4 e-tron is amply roomy inside with a nice cabin. It’s not that quick though and the handling is far from excellent. The Android Auto, annoyingly, isn’t wireless either.
Hyundai boss said flying cars will be here by 2030
With the development of a new drone-style vehicle alongside ride-sharing company, Uber, Hyundai’s boss said that by 2030, electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft will be widely in use around the world.
We reviewed the VW ID.4
A roomy, pleasant cabin, rapid charging and good looks are offset in the VW ID.4 by its only-ok infotainment system, expensive top-spec models and competition from the ID.4’s own cousin, the excellent Skoda Enyaq iV.
We reviewed the Genesis GV80
The interior was sumptuous, the chassis supple and prices keen. The steering felt a little dead though and a plug-in option would be nice in this kind of vehicle. We liked it, though Jeremy Clarkson most certainly didn’t, damning it as one of his worst cars of 2021.
Nissan confirmed a £1bn UK Gigafactory
Nissan announced a £1 billion expansion of its Sunderland plant that will expand its capacity to produce batteries and electric vehicles as well as creating 6,200 jobs.
Vauxhall’s Merseyside factory saved
A decision by Vauxhall’s parent company, Stellantis, to produce electric vans at the Ellesmere Port plant on Merseyside was warmly welcomed. The future of the factory had been in doubt when the company announced that it would no longer build the mid-sized Astra model there in future.
Lotus revealed its first new car in years
With the axing of the beloved Elise, Lotus revealed a new petrol-powered model — the company’s last, it says — the mid-engined Emira, powered by a 3.5-litre V6 engine.
Vauxhall announced it’s going electric by 2028
Vauxhall said that it will cease building internal-combustion-engined cars in 2028, only building electric vehicles from then on. It also hinted that it may revive the Manta model, though it’s not yet clear what form that will take.
We wrapped up an extended test of Skoda’s Octavia PHEV
July saw the end of our long-term test of the Skoda Octavia plug-in hybrid estate. Fuel economy was decent (though nowhere near claimed figures), and the ride quality and space were excellent. The cabin was comfortable and felt well-made, though the lack of a 12V socket was a problem. The infotainment system was a bit dim-witted and, though at £33,000 the Octavia PHEV was expensive, it still featured a manual rather than electrically-operated tailgate.
Honda closed Swindon factory
After 35 years, Honda shuttered its Swindon factory with the loss of more than 3,000 jobs at the plant and an estimated 10,000 in the wider supply chain. A number of factors were blamed including Brexit and the poor economic sense of upgrading the Swindon plant for the production of the next generation of electric vehicles.
Grand Tour “Lochdown” released
With covid curtailing international travel, Clarkson, Hammond and May headed to Scotland driving a trio of big, totally unsuitable American cars from the 1970s in the latest special of Amazon Prime Video’s The Grand Tour.
We reviewed the Hyundai Ioniq 5
There was a lot to like about the Hyundai Ioniq 5, namely those excellent, sharp looks, a brilliant cabin and 298 miles of battery range. The handling was disappointing though, and the electric seat controls were cheap and confusing. Otherwise though, we loved it.
Morgan revealed an off-roader
Morgan uncharacteristically revealed a rally version of its Plus Four sports car, the CX-T aimed at off-road adventures and designed in conjunction with Dakar Rally specialists, Rally Raid UK. Exciting, fun and extremely limited in production.
Paul Smith created an eco-Mini
Fashion designer Paul Smith created a minimalist concept car known as the MINI Strip, deleting extraneous components and using swathes of eco-friendly material such as recycled cork. The MINI Strip garnered almost universal acclaim, many hailing it as being very much in the spirit of Issigonis’s original. High praise indeed, but there are no plans to put it into production.
Aston took the roof off the Valkyrie
Aston Martin took the roof off its extreme V12 hypercar to create the Valkyrie Spider, the fastest open-topped Aston yet, with a top speed in excess of 217mph and a price tag expected to be close to £3 million.
A new Lambo Countach was revealed
Lamborghini unveiled a new limited-edition take on its legendary, wedgy Countach supercar from the 1970s and ’80s. The 112 units of the Countach LPI 800-4 to be built will receive the same V12 engine and mild-hybrid powertrain as the Lamborghini Sián giving it 804bhp to match its extreme looks.
A McLaren F1 sold for a record £15 million
The £15 million paid for a McLaren F1 at a Pebble Beach auction in the United States was the highest sum ever paid for the rare 1990s supercar and long-time holder of the world’s fastest production car title.
We ran short of truck drivers
A shortage of 76,000 truck drivers caused by a combination of factors including Brexit, covid, changes to employment rules and poor working conditions for drivers led to shortages in supermarkets and petrol stations across Britain, with the government seemingly unable to do much to help.
Used car prices soared in 2021
A shortage of new cars caused by the global semiconductor shortage led to a rise of some 15% in the value of used cars. Nervousness around using public transport during the pandemic may also have contributed to the high demand that has driven up prices.
UK switched to E10 petrol
The UK switched to a new type of petrol, E10, with a 10% ethanol content, making it, according to the government, much more eco-friendly. Drivers of some older cars, however, are unable to use the new fuel, being forced to pay premium prices for the old E5 petrol as ethanol can damage engine components in pre-2009 cars.
Survey showed public dislike of smart motorways
A survey by the RAC showed that three in five UK drivers wanted to see all-lane-running “smart” motorways scrapped. The majority of drivers felt that motorways without a permanent hard shoulder were unsafe in the event of breakdowns and did not trust National Highways’ ability to respond quickly to an incident.
We reviewed the Mercedes S-Class
The new S-Class looks great with its understatedly elegant exterior. As ever, it’s a paragon of tech innovations. That said, some of the interior features felt like a gimmicky waste of time and the ride quality isn’t as smooth as in previous models.
Insulate Britain caused chaos on the M25
Protestors demanding greater government investment on home insulation caused traffic mayhem for several weeks in September, blocking the carriageway of the M25 by sitting down and gluing themselves to the road. While it certainly drew the ire of a lot of motorists, it also got the protestors plenty of attention.
No Time to Die finally hit cinemas – we looked at all the cars of the Bond film
The latest, long-awaited instalment in the Bond franchise was a veritable feast of cool cars between Bond’s classic Astons such as the DB5 and V8 Vantage, his colleague Nomi’s DBS Superleggera, a bunch of Land Rovers, an old Toyota Land Cruiser and an achingly cool 1990s Maserati Quattroporte.
The Little Car Company showed off a pint-sized Bond DB5
As part of a tie-in with No Time to Die, Bicester-based The Little Car Company released a gadget-laden two-thirds-scale version of Bond’s DB5 with a skid mode, smoke screen and simulated machine guns. The little DB5 is electrically powered and capable of up to 45mph and 80 miles between charges, though it’s not road legal. Prices start from a truly eye-watering £90,000.
We reviewed the Dacia Duster
We found the Duster to have a quiet, comfortable cabin, and the 4×4’s capability was impressive at this price point. Unfortunately, the quality of the materials in the cabin reflected the Duster’s cheap price tag and the road manners were really rather bargain basement.
We reviewed the Schumacher documentary
Netflix’s documentary, Schumacher, marks the first time the Red Baron’s family has spoken about the skiing accident that left him with a life-changing brain injury. Although it was a touching portrait of an enigmatic character, it left a lot of questions unanswered.
We reviewed the BMW iX
The exterior looks may be polarising, but the cabin is really quite beautiful and the iX is great to drive, especially taking into account its considerable weight. Some 380 miles between charges may be useful, but the below-average-sized boot is less so.
Lucid set a record for longest-range EV
The EPA in the United States recorded a 520-mile battery range in the new Lucid Air, making it the longest-range EV in production and giving it over 100 miles on the Tesla Model S Long Range. An exciting car from a company led by a former Tesla engineer who vowed to beat Tesla when it came to luxury, acceleration and range.
We reviewed the Tesla Model Y
An impressive package from Tesla with a great, roomy cabin, superior electric performance and access to the company’s Supercharger network. Its good points are marred by a terrible ride, a boomy cabin and a higher price than expected.
Ken Block swapped from Ford to Audi
Automotive gymkhanist Ken Block switched his allegiance from Ford to Audi and released a new YouTube video hooning some of the Audi heritage fleet’s precious prototypes and rally cars around an airfield. Well, they were built to be driven fast, right?
We reviewed the Cupra Born
The first electric hot hatch from Cupra was an exciting package that still managed to provide decent real-world battery range and fast charging. The infotainment system was quite average though, maximum power only available for thirty seconds at a time and the Born comes with rear-wheel drive only.
Lambo recreated the Countach concept
Lamborghini recreated an inch-perfect version of its long-lost Countach LP 500 concept to mark 50 years since the car first wowed audiences at the 1971 Geneva Motor Show. The concept was destroyed in crash testing in the early seventies, but the reborn wedge was the result of some 25,000 hours of work by Lamborghini’s Polo Storico division.
We reviewed the Kia EV6
The Hyundai Ioniq 5’s cousin, the Kia EV6 looked good, rode very well, had a great-quality interior and excellent electric powertrain performance. A fine car all round, though some niggles include the fact that there’s no smaller, cheaper battery option, that the best tech isn’t standard and that all-wheel drive is pricey.
We revealed our cars of the year
The Ford Mustang Mach-E was our car of the year with notable mentions to the Land Rover Defender, Toyota GR Yaris, Hyundai Ioniq 5 and a whole host of others chosen by our expert panel and readers alike. Our readers chose the Ford Kuga as best family car of the year making it a strong 12 months for Ford. The Tesla Model 3 was our readers’ pick for best electric car.
We reviewed the Porsche 911 GT3
We only got to test this one on the track, but we can sing the praises of its lovely normally-aspirated engine, its incredible agility and poise and the fact that it encourages the driver to explore the performance available rather than outright terrifying them. It gets really expensive once buyers start to add options though and there’s no Android Auto support: iPhone users only.
New Range Rover was revealed
Land Rover revealed its fifth-generation Range Rover with a refreshed exterior design, ultra-luxury non-leather interiors, new technology including headrest speakers, upgraded air suspension, all-wheel steering, up to seven seats and an all-new platform designed to take petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid and pure-electric powertrains.
Prince Charles was reported to have an Aston Martin that runs on “cheese and wine”
One of the year’s weirder stories with the outlandish claim that the prince’s Aston DB6 runs on wine and cheese. It’s actually powered by E85 bioethanol that can, in fact, be derived as by-product of wine and cheese production, meaning Charles isn’t totally talking out of his glass.
Rivian launched on the stock market with extraordinary valuation
Electric pick-up maker Rivian made its stock market debut with an enormous valuation of $53 billion — higher than veterans such as Nissan and Kia. More remarkable still is that it achieved this valuation despite only beginning production of its R1T pick-up in September. In doing so, however, it beat the likes of big truck makers such as GMC and Ram in getting an electric pick-up to market. The Tesla Cybertruck still looks a long way off too.
Tesla stock yo-yoed on back of Hertz deal
A deal with rental car firm, Hertz, to supply 100,000 cars at close to cost price saw Tesla’s stock rocket to beyond the $1 trillion dollar mark, making it the highest value car maker of all time and putting it among the likes of tech giants such as Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. The deal to supply the Model 3 cars was worth at least $4.2 billion to Tesla.
We reviewed the Audi RS 3
A genuinely great engine, blistering performance and a confidence-inspiring drive made us really fall for the outrageous 395bhp Audi RS 3. We were less keen on its near-£60,000 asking price though and its high running costs.
The DVLA urged drivers to take the number plate eyesight test
The DVLA sought to remind drivers that, in order to be able to drive legally and safely, they need to be able to read a car number plate from 20 metres away. Drivers could be fined £1,000 and prosecuted if their eyesight fails to meet minimum requirements.
Times Luxx motoring editor reports on the dynamic debut of GMA T.50
David Green spoke to Gordon Murray about his magisterial new T.50 V12 hypercar and why its £2.4 million asking price might well be a canny investment if you’ve got that kind of money burning a hole in your pocket.
We drove the new Taycan GTS
Space and performance were the main things we liked about the Taycan along with its excellent body control and driver-focused cabin. Start adding options and the price starts to rise exponentially, however. It’s a heavy beast, too, and a nearby rapid charger is essential if you want to use it on track.
F1 2021 in pictures
With an unbelievably thrilling season now behind us, we took a look back at some of the highs and lows of F1 in 2021, the biggest story unquestionably being the often-bitter battle royale between seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and the flying Dutchman, Max Verstappen.
We looked at the new Highway Code rules coming in 2022
We looked at everything drivers need to know about the changes to the Highway Code coming early in the new year and which will see a new hierarchy of road users as well as different rules around priority at junctions.
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