The biggest car news of 2015

2015 brought scandal, innovation and more new car launches. We look back at the most popular stories of the year.

If there was one type of car that defined 2015, it was the SUV. Virtually every car maker now has one – from Bentley downwards – as it’s now an accepted part of the market.

But the last few months have been overshadowed by Volkswagen’s emissions scandal – and if there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s something that will continue to affect the car market and new car buyers for a while yet.

Jaguar F-Pace breaks cover

It looks like the Jaguar F-Pace is the right car at the right time. In a world obsessed with SUVs (five of our top 10 biggest stories were about them in 2015), Jaguar has a car that looks spectacular, is priced well and – if its recent launches are anything to go by – should be great to drive, too. It’ll sit just above the Range Rover Evoque in Jaguar Land Rover’s portfolio, but will be more about on-road handling than off-road ability. We’ll reserve judgement until we drive it, of course, but it’s already shaping up to be one of the more eagerly awaited cars of 2016.

All-new Honda HR-V boasts low running costs

Old name, new car. The original HR-V from the late 1990s was an SUV that actually looked sporty. The new model continues that theme with a sleek stance you could almost describe as sporty. The ‘utility’ part of the sports-utility vehicle designation is dealt with by some clever interior packaging that reveals a surprising amount of space. We also reported on the HR-V’s price (it starts at £18,000) and the decent amount of equipment it offers. When we drove it a couple of months later, we were left impressed, and it scored four stars out of five.

New Audi A4 saloon and Avant

A new Audi A4 is always an event, even if you know exactly what it’ll look like. While the design is an evolution of previous models’, the new version packs in more technology, more space and a better driving experience than before. Crucially, the efficient ‘Ultra’ version claims to be capable of 74mpg fuel economy and emits just 99g/km of CO2. That means it can stake a claim to be one of the cheapest-to-run posh saloons (or estates in the case of the Avant) around.

Land Rover Discovery Sport

Another car that went on sale early this year was the Land Rover Discovery Sport. The replacement for the old Land Rover Freelander packs seven seats into a relatively small package. Although it originally went on sale with a dated 2.2-litre diesel engine, that’s now been replaced with a much-improved 2.0-litre diesel. So equipped, the Discovery Sport is capable of up to 57mpg. If the popularity of our Discovery Sport video review is anything to go by (608,000 views and counting), it has a very bright future indeed.

Ford Edge SUV for 2016

The Ford Edge will be the latest model originally developed for the American market to appear on our shores. The big SUV is slightly shorter but slightly wider than the Land Rover Discovery and looks no less imposing. Its interior has echoes of the Ford Mondeo and Ford S-MAX, but despite its size, it won’t offer the option of seven seats. It will, however, provide the same level of safety equipment found in Ford’s plusher models, including inflatable seat belts and traffic-sign recognition. We expect the Ford Edge to have a starting price of less than £30,000 when it goes on sale in the spring.

2016 Range Rover Evoque

The 68mpg Range Rover Evoque is how we introduced the latest revisions to the stylish SUV. The chief change for the latest iteration of Evoque was the introduction of an all-new 2.0-litre diesel engine. In 148bhp form, it emits just 109g/km of CO2, making it one of the cheapest mid-sized SUVs to run. Land Rover also introduced its latest infotainment system and more clever off-road technology. Visual changes were more limited, with a new front bumper and new headlights the main visual cues.

2015 Ford Mondeo – full details

The latest Ford Mondeo was a long time coming. We knew exactly what it would look like and had a feel for how it’d drive, because it went on sale in North America a year earlier. And such was the anticipation, our story about the car’s 2014 launch remains one of the most popular on Carbuyer, even though we’ve also reviewed it separately. We reported on the car’s cutting-edge technology (inflatable rear seat belts, automatic emergency braking), its engine line-up (including a hybrid for the first time, plus a tiny 1.0-litre petrol) and the plush Mondeo Vignale, which ushers in a new upmarket Ford brand.

Jaguar XE production now underway

The second most-anticipated Jaguar of the year has actually gone on sale, and has won over critics with a blend of good looks, efficient engines and sporty handling. As is the way with new Jaguars, the launch was full of glitz and glamour – even the start of production was a star-studded event with Stirling Moss leading a parade of old Jags. Most models sold in the UK are fitted with an all-new diesel engine, which, when paired with a manual gearbox, emit less than 100 grammes per kilometre of carbon dioxide. It proved to be an exceptional all-rounder, even if it missed out on becoming our favourite executive car by the narrowest of margins.

Road tax to soar in 2017

The UK road tax system will change in 2017 and could lead to many drivers paying more. The new framework, set out by Chancellor George Osborne in July, is a response to the current system being described as “unsustainable”. In some ways, the current tax system has become a victim of its own success in encouraging the take-up of low-emission cars as buyers seek to reduce their road tax bills. The new scheme means only zero-emission cars, such as electric cars, will enjoy free road tax. All other models will attract a varied charge in the first year of ownership – between £10 and £2,000 depending on CO2 emissions – after which there’ll be a flat rate of £140 a year to pay.

VW emissions scandal

Had the Volkswagen diesel scandal happened earlier in the year, it would almost certainly have topped this list. The news that Volkswagen had fitted a ‘cheat device’ that allowed its cars to temporarily reduce their emissions in order to pass tests in the US has become one of the biggest scandals in corporate history. The scandal claimed the job of the VW Group boss and affected hundreds of thousands of cars around the world. Volkswagen, along with its sister brands Audi, SEAT and Skoda, is about to embark on a massive recall programme to rectify all cars concerned, and compensation for owners could yet be forthcoming.

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