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Car news: the biggest motoring stories 2021 – April to May

April

Impact of penalty points on insurance

Data exploring the impact of penalty points on insurance costs was published in April. We reported that the average premium for a driver with no points was £700, and that having three points would only raise that by an average of £5. 

However, if that increases to six points then a further £232 is added. This means that on average, adding three points to your licence results in a £131 rise in cover costs – often more than the fine itself.

Three to six penalty points increases insurance premium by £232

Opel Manta GSe ElektroMod

The Manta is a fondly remembered coupé from Opel’s past, and it was brought up to date with a new ElektroMod version revealed in April. 

It uses a 31kWh battery and a 145bhp electric motor but, because it still has a manual gearbox, it was intended to prove that electric cars can be just as fun to drive as older cars. You’ll have wait a while to find out if Opel is correct, because there are no immediate plans for production.

New Opel Manta GSe ElektroMOD gets 145bhp and 124-mile range

Audi bolsters its EV line-up with new Q4 e-tron, plus a preview of all-electric A6

In April’s magazine we featured a story covering two new electric Audis: the official reveal of the Q4 e-tron SUV production model and a new concept car called the A6 e-tron.

The Q4 e-tron is the first Audi built on the VW Group’s MEB platform, which also underpins the VW ID.4 and Skoda Enyaq iV. The Audi was launched as a more upmarket choice than those, featuring higher-quality cabin materials and a classy look to match the rest of the Audi range. It sits between the Q3 and Q5 size-wise, which explains the Q4 branding. 

Despite this, the Q4 e-tron’s interior space was said to be close to that of the largest petrol-powered Audi SUV, the Q7, thanks to the packaging allowed by the MEB platform. 

Inside, we found out that the Q4 e-tron was to be fitted with a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster (or a 12.3-inch version optionally) and a 10.1-inch central touchscreen display (or an 11.6-inch replacement). A special route planner would include charging points and Google Earth mapping, plus live traffic data and more – so the Q4 e-tron was to be packed with tech, whether that was in the cabin or under the skin. The battery options would allow a range of up to 316 miles, plus 125kW rapid charging tech.

The A6 e-tron concept was revealed at the 2021 Shanghai Motor Show and previews an all-electric model that will sit alongside the standard A6. It’ll use a new platform called Premium Platform Electric (PPE), although the Q6 e-tron SUV will be the first model to use PPE.

The platform allows a very flat floor and a lower roofline without compromising cabin space, and the A6 e-tron proved this theory with its roomy interior, despite the low-slung body and sporty roofline. 

Technology on the concept included “EV-optimised” air suspension and a 100kW battery for a range of 434 miles, which is the most we’ve seen from any electric Audi. The car is not far off reality, either, because we were told that the A6 e-tron concept is very close to what we’ll see in the upcoming production model.

The large battery powers two electric motors, which allow for quattro four-wheel drive and deliver a total power output of 469bhp and 800Nm of torque. Audi also said that the most powerful models in the A6 e-tron range will be able to go from 0-62mph in less than four seconds, while the more affordable versions should nudge under the seven-second mark. These models will be more focused on efficiency; they’ll only have rear-wheel drive to save weight and energy.

Rapid-charging tech will come as standard; the concept car was said to be able to charge at up to 270kW, which would allow a five to 80 per cent charge in just 25 minutes. The A6 e-tron was just a concept, but we reported that the production version would be likely to arrive in 2023. Expect to read more about it in 2022, when it should be officially revealed.

Read our review of the Audi Q4 e-tron

MG Cyberster concept

Chinese-owned MG has become known for its cheap small family cars and affordable EVs, so the reveal of the Cyberster concept was a surprise. 

This dramatic sports car is like nothing we’ve seen from the reborn brand, and signals a return to two-seater roadsters for the firm – something most people will remember MG for making many of over the years. The brand even said that it’s “exploring the possibilities of a future sports car” with electric power. The concept was said to accelerate from 0-62mph in less than three seconds and have a range of around 500 miles.

MG Cyberster: first pictures of roadster concept released

Citroen C5 X official unveiling

April brought our first look at the new Citroen C5 X, a flagship crossover for the French firm (hence the X in the name) that will focus on long-distance touring and comfort at an affordable price, because it’s expected to cost from around £27,000.

It’s based on the Stellantis Group’s EMP2 platform (which it shares with the taller C5 Aircross SUV), and there will be petrol models as well as plug-in hybrid versions to choose from. The C5 X is planned to launch in the first quarter of 2022 in the UK.

New Citroen C5 X flagship crossover set to offer ‘ultimate comfort’

May

Iconic Renault 4 reimagined

Renault confirmed this year that a new version of the Renault 4 will arrive with electric power only, and in May we showed you how it could look with a set of exclusive images. 

The new model is set to feature retro-inspired styling, like the reborn Renault 5, and appeal to a similar set of buyers as the classic Renault 4. It should be a cheap, practical and small car with a big boot and a focus on value for money.

Platform switch sees latest Fabia hatch get practicality boost plus latest technology

A new Skoda Fabia is always going to be of interest to Auto Express readers – we know you love this popular little car’s practicality and value for money. That’s why the unveiling of the new model was big news in May. The Mk4 Fabia is the last VW Group supermini to switch to the MQB A0 platform, which gives Skoda access to the latest engines and tech found in the Volkswagen Polo and SEAT Ibiza.

The new Fabia is longer than before and has styling that’s more in-line with the rest of the current Skoda range, including a large grille, creased bodywork and Skoda lettering stretched out over the tailgate. Fresh colours, including an eye-catching orange paint, were promised, plus wheel sizes of up to 18 inches on top cars. 

The Fabia isn’t just longer than before, it has a longer wheelbase than the previous car and adds 50 litres of boot space, for a total of 380 litres. That’s the same as a Volkswagen Golf, a car from the class above, which shows how practical the new Fabia is. The Skoda’s boot is a little shy of what you get in a key rival, the Renault Clio, but it’s proved to be larger with the seats folded.

Skoda showed a revamped interior, with nice fabric and body-coloured trim, plus a range of new tech. Conventional dials still appear on some models but there’s the option of a 10-inch digital instrument cluster on higher-spec cars, as well as an eight-inch touchscreen display that replaced a standard-fit 6.5-inch unit. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity featured from launch, too.

The engine range is made up of 1.0-litre three-cylinder engines from launch, including two naturally aspirated motors that should be cheaper to insure, and two turbo models that should offer a more relaxing driving experience. 

The more affordable engines come with either 64bhp or 79bhp, while the turbo models have either 94bhp or 109bhp. The latter has 200Nm of torque, so it ought to be the most flexible model in the range. Yet the 94bhp version’s economy of 55.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 113g/km mean it’ll be the choice for company car drivers or anyone with long commutes.

The Fabia was unveiled with a choice of manual and automatic gearboxes, while a four-cylinder turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine will arrive later as the range-topping powertrain choice. 

Given that the MQB A0 platform wasn’t designed to support electric power, there’s no electric or plug-in model on the horizon. In fact, there aren’t even any mild-hybrid engines available in the new Fabia – reflecting the focus on keeping costs down.

Read our full review of the Skoda Fabia here

Genesis G80 and GV80 on sale in UK

A new maker joined the car market in the UK this year: Genesis. Its first two models were the G80 saloon and the GV80 SUV, which were revealed in May. The Hyundai Group’s luxury brand has existed since 2015, but has only just reached these shores. 

The G80 saloon and GV80 SUV have a similar look, featuring a large grille and matching LED lights. One of the biggest selling points for both models was a high-quality and technology-filled interior, plus an online-only buying experience and a five-year warranty package. 

Pricing for first two Genesis models to hit the UK revealed

Shortage of semiconductors hurts UK and global car production

One of the biggest and most impactful news stories of 2021 was the shortage of semiconductors – electronic parts that control everything from digital displays to safety systems in cars. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), around 55,000 cars were made in the UK in May this year, compared to 116,035 in May 2019 (in Covid-hit 2020 only 5,314 were made). 

The crisis is a global one. Supply issues have hit the manufacturers of semiconductors, and the car industry was hit hard because it is a much smaller customer to these firms than smartphone or other IT makers. After all, demand for tech has increased during lockdowns around the world for both entertainment and business purposes. 

Orders of semiconductors by car makers were put to the back of the queue as a result. Modern cars are packed with semiconductors, but because we buy far fewer cars than we do smartphones or tablets, car brands don’t order as many chips as the big tech firms. The semiconductor makers naturally put their limited resources into their biggest customers.

In turn, this has put the brakes on car building both in the UK and around the world. It’s contributed to rising prices of used cars, delayed orders for new-car customers and even cars sold without certain tech features. Experts predict the issue may take up to two years to resolve, and it has even caused a few car makers to rethink some models. For example, the previous Peugeot 308 used traditional dials rather than digital ones to save on semiconductors. MINI also changed the specifications of certain parts, such as the digital dashboard. 

Jaguar Land Rover and MINI paused production of cars in the UK this year, and Ford expects to build 1.1 million fewer cars than in previous years. Ford added that buyers were facing longer lead times for cars they have ordered from dealers. SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said production was “massively challenged here and abroad by global supply shortages”.

Global chip shortage hits car makers

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