2011 In Review

January

XL1

2011 started as it was to continue – with a host of special edition models. First of all Lexus brought us the Lifestyle version of its RX 450h, and then the floodgates opened and we saw the Smart ForTwo Lightshine, the Land Rover Defender X-Tech, the Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo, the Vauxhall Corsa VXR Blue Edition, the Citroen DS3 Orla Kiely, the Toyota Aygo Go!, the Mitsubishi Lancer Juro, and the Porsche 911 Black Edition. Phew.

In other news, Volkswagen revealed its hyper efficient XL1 concept car at the Qatar motor show, Ford announced the on-sale date for its new Focus, Mercedes-Benz premiered the new SLK Roadster and Alfa Romeo introduced its dual clutch TCT gearbox.

January also saw the launch of the all new Nissan Micra, which left us a little underwhelmed, and the introduction of a heavily facelifted Passat, which scored a little higher thanks to impressive on road refinement. Citroen also launched the C4, which “sacrifices radical styling for comfort, quality and refinement.”

The Ask HJ section was awash with talk of diesel particulate filters, dual mass flywheels and all manner of other queries on everything from missing V5s to leaking bootlids.

Finally, we took delivery of a Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion for the new ‘Our Cars’ section. David Ross explains: “...as well as the usual things you’d read in a review or road test, we’ll be covering pretty much everything and anything from how much it costs to run to whether you can fit a labradoodle in the back.”

February

February 2012 remained cold and, of course, dark leading to 90% of drivers complaining about being blinded by xenon headlights, according to a poll.

It wasn’t all gloom, though – a selection of bright new colours were added to Mazda’s range, along with handsome styling enhancements and extra equipment as part of the new Takuya trim. Mazda also placed top of the customer satisfaction index for automotive brands.

Yet more special editions were introduced, including the Mazda MX-5 Kendo, the Alfa Romeo MiTo Sprint and the Renault Megane Monaco GP.

Hyundai revised the i10, giving it a more prominent face. It also added a 99g/km Blue model to the range, which we got used to quite quickly when it joined the Polo BlueMotion and Skoda Yeti in Our Cars.

MINI added the Cooper SD performance diesels to its range, which provides commendable performance and enjoyable handling with the benefit of decent fuel economy.

We also got behind the wheel of some new models, including the green (both in colour and character) Honda Jazz Hybrid and the newly introduced Chevrolet Orlando.

Finally we had a huge number of questions about long waiting lists for new cars, with some readers having waited almost a full year without getting an expected delivery date.  

March 

The biggest new car news of March 2011 came from the Geneva Motor Show, which we covered live. You can watch all of the highlights in the box below.

Some of the premieres included a five-door hatchback version of the Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai’s i40 and Veloster, a new GT car from Ferrari called the FF, a brace of new small Kia models – the Rio and the Picanto, and the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet.

March was also the month in which Japan was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami. More than 15,000 deaths were confirmed as a result of the wave, with many more people still unaccounted for. Besides the loss of life, the tsunami had a crippling effect on the Japanese car industry, with most factories closing down due to power interruptions and supply issues.

The knock on effect meant engine parts, electronics and paint bound for European auto makers was also affected. To read about how the tsunami affected the car industry, read our coverage here.

The 2011 budget was announced, and we highlighted all of the changes that would affect car owners, including changes to road tax and fuel duty.

Finally, the next generation Ford Focus was introduced. The previous Focus was one of the most popular cars offered in the UK, so the new generation had a lot to live up to. Luckily it offers a fine balance of comfort and handling, with a quality interior and a good selection of engines. We covered the launch live, and you can read the transcript here

April

Untitled -3 Copy

April was an important month for Honestjohn.co.uk, thanks to the launch of the Real Life Fuel Economy Register. This section of the site allows users to add their real fuel economy to a form, which then works out the average and displays it for all to see. It means car buyers can see what the real mpg of their car is likely to be before they buy, and owners can contribute their best and worst figures.

We embarked on our first foray into the classifieds, bringing you a regular helping of good, bad and ugly machines from the cars for sale section of our site. In the first month we discovered that you can purchase a Rolls-Royce for the same price as a Ford Focus, and that a 5.7-litre V8 only produced 260bhp back in 1968.

Porsche added yet another limited edition to the 911 line up, SEAT added some value-for-money Copa models to the range, Citroen revealed the DS5, Volkswagen premiered the new Beetle and BMW took the wraps of the new M5 super saloon.  

We also saw a massive leap in the number of questions about parking fines, with many car owners coming to the conclusion that penalty charges are punitive and should be simply ignored, often to great effect. We also got a lot of questions from people weighing up the pros and cons of petrol vs diesel cars.

Dan compared his Yeti to others in terms of fuel tank range, David drove his Polo BlueMotion around the M25 as many times as he could, and John threaded his i10 through narrow gaps in London traffic.

We also gave our readers the opportunity to Ask HJ anything they wanted, live. To read a transcript, click here

May

The biggest news for May was the inaugural Honest John awards. The awards were given to the cars which scored the most reader interest in a selection of categories, and we also had several special awards for the car most highly rated by readers, the most genuinely efficient petrol car, the most surprisingly economical car, most brilliant rule bender and an outstanding achievement award. To read who won what, click here.

­­A host of new models were revealed for the first time in May, including the Audi A6 Avant, the Mercedes-Benz SLS Roadster, the Volkswagen Golf GTI Edition 35, the Delta E-4 electric sports car and the Hyundai i40 Saloon, and Porsche added the Cayman S Black Edition.

The Chevrolet Captiva was given an overhaul, with a restyled front end amongst the improvements. We also got behind the wheel of the all new Kia Picanto (see video above), and were impressed by the value for money it offers. Mercedes-Benz added a coupe version of the C-Class to the range, offering a far more compelling package than the CLC-Class it effectively replaced. We also got behind the wheel of the high performance C63 AMG version, with its huge V8 engine.

As the weather heated up the number of questions about cabriolets increased – Dan drove the new Golf Cabriolet, but the on sale date for the UK came too late to bag Volkswagen any summer sales. Nontheless, the promise of summer sunshine always brings out the cabriolet buyers – so here’s a selection of soft-top related questions. Sticking to the summer theme, we also browsed through the classifieds to find some fun cars for good weather, with models for all budgets – including millionaires.

We also welcomed Honest John’s Mazda5 to the Our Cars fleet, as well as his Fiat 500. David’s Polo suffered an expensive windscreen crack, care of flying chunks of road surface. He also offered up a problem in the form of a boot carpet that’s fixed in place, so can’t be changed when it becomes soaked with diesel. The i10 was praised for its impressive fuel economy, which, while short of the official figure, is still outstanding, and Dan told us the story behind his Yeti’s Greenline II title. 

June 

June saw the introduction of many, many limited edition models. There was a run of 14 luxurious Aston Martin Cygnets, two limited edition R8 models, a limited edition lightweight BMW M3, a Trophy edition of the Renaultsport Megane and an ‘Asphalt’ edition of the Peugeot RCZ.  There were also a few new model reveals, including the Toyota Yaris, the MINI Coupe, the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, and the BMW 1 Series. You can find all of the new model news for the month here

David was lucky enough to get behind the wheel of the Jaguar XKR-S, an ultra high performance version of the luxury sports car, and the Audi RS3, the hottest version of the A3 hatchback. We also drove the Hyundai i40 Tourer and the Citroen DS4 in June.

The end of the month saw the Goodwood Festival of Speed – a key date in the calendar of many a car fan. With all the most important new cars of the year displayed at the Moving Motorshow, static stands, rally experiences and all manner of other entertainment, it’s an important event that grows every year.

Yet more questions on parking fines and penalty charges were brought up, with more and more motorist getting angry at the punitive charges imposed by many private parking companies and their incessant threats of legal action. The usual questions on buying, selling and fixing cars were present in abundance, too. A summary of the June Ask HJ Q&As can be found here.

Dan took his Yeti to bits – removing the back seats so he could carry a giant bench, John started to appreciate the finer details of the i10, like the cleverly positioned gear lever and the sensible engine bay layout. It wasn’t all good news in ‘Our Cars’ though – the sound of David’s Polo started to get on his nerves. 

July

David attended the first drive of the all new Volkswagen Beetle in July, and covered it live - the transcript is embedded above. As live launches have become a more common appearance on Honest John, so have people entering curious user names like Jimmy Lasers.  But of all the strange names used, Crabslammer wins the award for the most downright weird and features in the Beetle live launch with a question about small wheel sizes. 

We also got a chance to drive the five-door hatchback variant of the Chevrolet Cruze, which offers genuine value for money, as well as the Audi A6 Avant, and an updated Volvo S80. Finally, Dan tested the all-new BMW 1 Series ahead of its UK launch.

In other new car news Ford added the entry level Studio trim level to the Focus range, bringing the entry price down to £13,995. We also found out the first details of the 2012 Honda Civic, and got two ‘Black Edition’ models from both Mercedes-Benz and Mazda. Numerous manufacturers tweaked their models, too, including Fiat with the Panda, Audi with the A5 and A7, Chrysler with the Grand Voyager and Land Rover with the Discovery.

We also pre-empted the winter rush to buy 4x4s and brought an early selection from the classifieds section. We picked out something to suit all budgets, from the inexpensive Suzuki Vitara to the ridiculous Techart Magnum, a tuned, beefed up version of the Porsche Cayenne.

David waved off the Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion, praising its fuel economy, build quality and motorway performance, with the only real criticism being the noisy engine. “The Polo BlueMotion has been a great performer during its time with us and shows that ‘green’ cars needn’t be dull or slow.”

John explained that the i10 is perhaps a little lacking in the image department, so investigated the optional extras offered by Hyundai, including flowery graphics and chrome.

Ask HJ was a mixed bag through July, with questions on everything from misfires to insurance, and on all kinds of different car, small and large. 

August

In August we introduced the first of a series of features called Data Bank, which looks at the figures behind the cars. The first covered the cheapest ten cars with free VED – top of the pile was the Kia Picanto, at £7,795, followed by the Hyundai i10.

We also picked out the ten speediest models sold for under £20,000 based on 0-60mph figures. The Renaultsport Clio Cup came out on top, with a 0-62mph sprint time of 6.9 seconds, followed by the Volkswagen Polo GTI and the MINI Cooper S.

One of the biggest surprises was the highly equipped Skoda Octavia TSI SE Plus, which comes with sat nav, Bluetooth and all the Skoda refinements you’d expect, yet can reach 62mph in just 7.8 seconds.

We also opened the floor to our Twitter followers and asked them what they’d buy from the classifieds section with an imaginary £20,000. The results were a mixed bag, with everything from a classic Porsche to a Perodua Myvi.

Most of the August news was dominated by manufacturers hinting at their Frankfurt Motor Show machines – previewing everything they could ahead of the show proper – but the best coverage of the Frankfurt news came from the show itself, so see September for the highlights.

Besides that we also saw a sub 100g/km Hyundai i20 model introduced, making it congestion charge exempt. Ford added a Centenary special edition version of the Fiesta, Renault added some more Gordini models to its range and Mercedes-Benz detailed the new diesel SLK and its high performance AMG stablemate.

The trending topic of August in the Ask HJ section was supermarket petrol, with many readers questioning whether it’s worth buying a premium fuel. The Real Life Fuel Economy Register continued to pick up entries, with all sorts of different cars being regularly updated with information, giving a true picture of their mpg. 

We also saw loads of entries into the Good Garage Guide, with readers recommending their favourite local mechanics and dealers.  

September

September was one of the most important months of 2011 for the car industry. The new 61-plate was introduced, so we gave a lowdown of the best new car offers, but more importantly it was the month of the Frankfurt Motor Show - which we covered in depth, live from the event.

Frankfurt is far too big to summarise without missing something hugely important out, so the very best place to look for the highlights is on this page, which features all of the important stories from the show. One car conspicuously absent from the show was the new BMW 3 Series, but it didn’t take long to be revealed, premiering in October. 

We got behind the wheel of a Lada Niva in September, too, to see whether the rugged Russian still holds its own after going more or less unchanged for so long – you can still buy one new, you know? We also explained all about tyres, when to change them, and how much to spend

In the news, Saab’s troubles came to a head when it filed for ‘voluntary reorganisation,’ Nissan made the Juke more fuel efficient, Honda opened a hydrogen filling station, the Jensen Interceptor was reborn and Chrysler started selling the Ypsilon and the Delta - a pair of rebadged Lancias.

Amongst the new cars roadtested and reviewed by the team were the new Toyota Yaris, the Porsche Panamera Diesel, the facelifted Audi A5 and the MINI Coupe - the video is below.

The papers ran numerous stories predicting a terrible winter ahead, and so many drivers started to consider fitting winter tyres to their cars. The questions began to roll into Ask HJ, many about winter tyres, but some on topics such as de-icing and 4x4s.

Our Young Drivers section got two important additions in September – our bloggers Robyn Wright and Charlotte Cobbs. Both are learning to drive, and we’re following them along every step of the way, from their first time behind the wheel to picking out a car and tearing up their L-plates.

Finally, we checked out EuroNCAP scores for some of the cheapest small cars on sale, and rounded up five of the safest – complete with footage of the crash tests. 

October

After the business of the Frankfurt show, October was quieter for news, but there was still plenty going on. Audi facelifted the A4 in time to compete with the new BMW 3 Series, MINI added the Roadster to its range, order books opened for the new Volkswagen Beetle, Hyundai detailed the prices for the Veloster, SEAT revealed the Mii and Kia revised the Soul. Check all of the October new car news here.

It was a busy month for new road tests and car-by-car reviews – there was the BMW 6 Series Coupe, the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer, the Chevrolet Camaro, the Citroen DS5, The Vauxhall Astra GTC and the Audi Q3. Plenty!

We bode farewell to John’s Hyundai i10 in October, and said hello to David’s Audi A6, which he will be running for the next six months. It got a baptism of fire thanks to a round trip all the way to Frankfurt just days after being delivered. 

We also had a browse through the classifieds to find a selection of value-for-money used automatics, and we looked at the cheapest new auto models offered in a Data Bank feature. Automatic transmissions are often a talking point in the Ask HJ section of the site, too.

Our learners continued to make good progress, and Charlotte took a trip to Mercedes-Benz world for a lesson in a brand new A-Class, something that worried her at first! 

November

During the course of 2011, FairFuelUK campaigned for a reduction in fuel prices. Its petition reached more than 100,000 signatures and as a result it was eligible for discussion in the House of Commons in November, and we covered the discussion live. You can read the transcript by clicking here.

With fuel prizes rising so often and so quickly, buyers are rightly seeking the most fuel efficient models when buying, so we found out which new models on sale are the most efficient, with the Kia Rio 1.1 EcoDynamics coming out on top.

In new car news, Peugeot revealed the new 208, Volkswagen updated the Passat CC, Audi revised the A4 range and added a pair of doors to the A1, Porsche released details of the new 911 Cabriolet and Toyota revealed the GT86 sports car.

The team got behind the wheel of a good selection of cars, too, including the Suzuki Swift Sport, the updated Nissan Qashqai, the new Honda Civic, the Suzuki Kizashi, the high performance BMW M5 and the Ssangyong Korando, an SUV you might never have heard of.

In the Young Drivers section there were, of course, new blogs from our learners, as well as a low down of some ideal first cars for less than £1000, and we added some practice theory tests to help learners on the road to getting rid of their L plates.

We also saw numerous questions on maintenance and servicing, wheels and tyres, winter tyres ad 4x4s in the Ask HJ section, with many buyers looking to ensure their cars are as safe and healthy as possible in time for the inevitable cold snap.  

December

December is traditionally a quiet month in the motoring business. Sales tend to slow while people prepare for their Christmas break, and show rooms wind down before starting again in earnest come the new year.

Nonetheless, some manufacturers were keen to launch new models – Volvo revealed the details of its new V60 Plug-in Hybrid, an all-wheel drive diesel electric car which is – according to the manufacturer – capable of close to 150mpg and a six-second 0-60mph sprint. It’ll be pricey, though.

Vauxhall added a new BiTurbo diesel model to the Insiginia range, with 195PS and 400Nm of torque, making it the most powerful diesel Vauxhall ever made. It's offered as both a front-wheel drive and a four-wheel drive. 

We got behind the wheel of a few new models in December, too, including the facelifted Audi A4, the overhauled Toyota Avensis and the new Renault Clio Gordini diesel and SEAT’s new tiny city car, the Mii.

In the Ask Honest John section there were questions from a few later adopters of winter tyres, but the biggest trend for the month was in-car heating – a lot of owners are suffering heater failure after having neglected their heaters all summer. The most common cause is sticking valves.

Besides that, December was typically quiet, with most manufacturers holding back on the biggest news until new year.

We hope you’ve found the Honest John website useful over the past twelve months, and we’re looking forward to some new features in 2012, so keep coming back. For the latest news as it happens, you can find Honest John on Twitter, and you can watch all of our video road tests in one place on our YouTube channel. Also, if you’re a learner or new driver you can find all the latest young driver news on our Facebook page

 

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