2000 in motoring


2000 in motoring

United Kingdom

The big news of the year 2000 for Ford was the launch of its all-new Mondeo. The original 1993 Mondeo was one of the best selling European cars of the 1990s thanks to its modern looks, excellent handling and competitive pricing. The new Mondeo looks set to continue this trend thanks to its distinctive styling as well as its spacious, comfortable and well-appointed interior. As with the previous Mondeo, it is an excellent car to drive and comes equipped with a good range of engines. The current line-up consists of 1.8 and 2.0 four-cylinder petrol units, as well a 2.0 turbo-diesel and a 2.5 V6 petrol.

Meanwhile, the Escort nameplate has finally been discontinued after 33 years, four incarnations and three facelifts.

Vauxhall has expanded the Astra range to include a stylish new coupe and cabriolet. It has also entered the roadster market with the VX220 (Opel Speedster on the continent), a two-seater roadster with a turbocharged 2.2 engine, a top speed of nearly 140mph and a superb chassis derived from the Lotus Elise. The Corsa supermini has finally been replaced by an all-new model after eight years. The new Corsa is a big improvement on its predecessor thanks to its upmarket interior, good range of engines, fine handling "Dynamic Safety Chassis" and competitive pricing. New to the range is a swift 1.8 GSi hot hatchback which gives Vauxhall a real competitor for the likes of the Citroen Saxo VTR and Peugeot 206 GTI.

BMW has sold the Rover Group after six years of ownership. Its new owners are an independent group called the "Phoenix Consortium", who will next year be bringing out an estate version of the Rover 75 as well as three MG-badged sports saloons. The sell-off of the Rover Group saw Land Rover become part of the Ford combine, while the all-new Mini will be produced by BMW from its launch 2001. The original Mini finally ceased production in October, after 41 years on sale.

Italy

The all-new Alfa Romeo 147 hatchback was this year's European Car of the Year winner. Based on the chassis of the 1998 winner - the 156 - Alfa's latest offering is another very stylish creation which has a driving experience to match.

Germany

Audi has kept up its game in the compact executive sector by launching an all-new A4. The new car will be sold initially as a saloon and estate, with a cabriolet version due next year as a replacement for the ageing 80-based cabriolet. Another major car launch for Audi is the A2, which is similar in concept to the Mercedes A-Class but is better to drive, even though it comes with 1.4 petrol and 1.4 turbo-diesel engines.

Volkswagen has kept its six-year-old Polo supermini up with the best of its competitors by giving it a major facelift and fitting all models with power steering, twin airbags, anti-lock brakes and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty as standard. There will also be the option of a powerful 1.6 GTI model which is the fastest Polo yet, with a top speed of nearly 130mph, but can't match the handling standards of the Saxo VTR and 206 GTI. The Sharan people carrier has also received a mild facelift to keep it looking fresh.

BMW has launched the final two models of its latest 3 Series range. The cabriolet and hatchback (Compact) models have followed nearly two years after the saloon, estate and coupe, and like the rest of the range offer a first rate driving experience.

The seven-year-old Mercedes-Benz C Class has been replaced by an all-new model which has the look of the much larger S Class. The engine line-up and pricing are similar to the old model's, but the new car is far more stylish and even more comfortable and spacious than its predecessor. Built in South Africa, its only major criticism is the lack of driver appeal and sporting prowess that has made its key rival - the BMW 3 Series - such a success.

France

After seven years on sale, the Renault Laguna has been replaced by an all-new model which promises to be even better than its predecessor. The Laguna II is a stylish family car available as hatchback or estate (Sports Tourer) with class-leading levels of interior design, space and comfort. It is one of the world's first cars to come with keyless entry, with a credit-card style pad - Carte Renault - powering the door locks and ignition. The new Laguna comes with 1.6 and 1.8 four-cylinder petrol engines as well as a 3.0 V6 petrol and a 1.9 direct-injection diesel. A 2.2 direct-injection diesel and 2.0 petrol will go on sale next year.

Japan

Nissan has launched an all-new Almera family car to join the current Micra and Primera at the British Sunderland plant. The new Almera is a very dull looking car, but it offers impressive ride and handling as well as good equipment levels, competitive pricing and a comfortable interior. Interestingly, it comes with a curry hook in the footwell! Power comes from adequate 1.5 and 1.8 petrol engines as well as a 2.2 diesel, provided by Renault and making it the first beneficiary of a venture between the two marques. There is also a practical compact MPV based on upon the Almera - the Almera Tino.

The Nissan-Renault venture's next product will be next year's replacement for the Primera. A concept car was shown this year to give buyers an idea of what the next Primera will look like, and it promises to be a far more imaginatively-styled machine than the bland current model. The next few years are also expected to see the next generation Nissan Micra and Renault Clio sharing the same mechanical design.

Toyota has departed from grand touring coupe styling on its MR2 sports car after 16 years and come up with an entirely new roadster which makes it a direct competitor for the likes of the BMW Z3. It has also facelifted the world's best selling car - the Corolla - and tidied up its previously bulbous looks as well as adding new VVTi petrol engines. The larger Avensis has also received a similar facelift.

Honda has created a highly impressive competitor in the family car market with its latest Civic. With its high roof and spacious interior, it is currently the only car in its class to offer full seating for five adults. Its 1.4 and 1.6 petrol engines are impressively refined and give strong performance, while equipment levels are also high. The only model currently on sale in Britain will be the five-door hatchback, with a three-door to follow later, and a four-door saloon which won't be imported to Britain. There will also be a 1.7 engined coupe and eventually a Type R version of the hatchback which promises a top speed of more than 140mph.

ee also

*1999 in motoring - the previous year
*2001 in motoring - the next year


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