Then and Now – The UK’s most popular cars

The endless changes don’t just finish at how they look on the outside, most of their updates are spawned from the manufacturer keeping up with changes in technology, production and what’s under the bonnet to stay competitive and relevant in the car industry – which is all good news for car buyers!

So we’ve taken a look at some of the UK’s, and our, most popular models and how they have changed since they were first created.

Ford Focus

Ford Focus 2001 model

Succeeding the just as popular Ford Escort, the Focus was first introduced back in 1998 and has became a staple family car ever since. It came in various sizes from a 3-door hatchback to 5-door saloon. Features included CD/Radio, heated front windscreen and air conditioning.

Ford Focus 2018 model

In 2018, the fourth generation Focus was revealed to mark the brand’s 20th anniversary. The overall design these days has a much sportier feel. The latest model is packed with technology such as the FordPass connect, which enhances the Sat Nav system with real-time traffic updates, in-car Wi-Fi hotspot and additional remote features like starting your engine from the comfort of your own home.

BMW 3 Series

BMW 3 series 1989 model

Released as a compact executive car back in 1975, the BMW 3 Series was the successor to the 2 series and has seen 6 different generations. Available originally as a 2-door sedan, the range has expanded throughout the years to include a 2-door convertible, 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback amongst others. In addition to winning several awards over the years, it is BMW’s bestselling model.

BMW 3 series 2018 model

In its most recent incarnation, the coupe and convertible models have been split from the range and sold as the BMW 4 Series. If you’re looking for something a bit special, the M3 is the most powerful of the 3 series, developed by the brand’s in-house motorsport division. The 2018 Saloon model comes with a £27,800 OTR price and top speed of 130mph.

Volkswagen Golf

Volkswagen Golf 1982 model

One of only three cars that has ever been voted European Car of the Year twice, the Volkswagen Golf is the brand’s bestselling model. A compact car produced since 1974, the first generation was designed as a replacement for the Beetle, coming away from the rounder style to a more boxy shape. They later introduced the GTI variation in 1976 aimed at those who craved extra performance. The Golf was so popular for the brand that by 1988 VW had sold 10 million of the model worldwide.

Volkswagen Golf 2018 model

Now on its 7th generation, it’s had a few facelifts as well as an electric model, the e-Golf, and a plug-in hybrid with the Golf GTE. The Golf has become popular within motorsports and particularly with younger customers looking for something sporty and high quality. Still a very popular car within the UK and around Europe, despite the emissions scandal Volkswagen faced in 2015. Can anything stop the success of the Golf?

Fiat 500

Fiat 500 1959 model

It’s hard to believe that this popular car has such a long history, back to 1957 when it was first born. It was originally known as the ‘Cinquecento’ and was created as a cheap, functional town car for the people of Italy. Designed as a two-seater and only 9 feet long, it wasn’t until 1958 that the car became hugely popular due to improvements such as an opening sunroof. The 500 has had several versions over the years including the Fiat L, or Lusso, but sadly production ended in 1975 after the launch of its replacement, the Fiat 126.

Fiat 500 Mirror 2018 edition

More than 30 years after production had ceased, Fiat decided to bring back the classic little car. Staying true to its retro styling, the new 500 was a modern interpretation with many noticeable changes such as moving the rear mounted engine to the front. One of the 500’s most appealing traits, especially with the younger market, is its different colours options and quirky interior. It’s also been updated with USB connectivity, Bluetooth, DAB and Sat Nav options. It’s easy to see why it has become one of the UK’s most loved small cars.

Luckily for you, whether you prefer the original, the latest model or something in between, you’ll find a huge range of cars at Exchange and Mart/s1cars.

Past, present and predicting the future

Over the years, the magazine became synonymous with motors and even a household name, with name drops in iconic TV shows like Only Fools and Horses to 8 out of 10 cats to Jools Holland’s Hootenany. Famous faces from the motor industry appeared in the magazine, including Jenson Button and Vicki-Butler Henderson.

During this time, car buying was changing. People needed to be able to search for, and buy, their car more conveniently. Dealerships started opening later in the evening and at the weekends and shopping online became more and more popular. In 2009, Exchange and Mart decided to focus solely on their website and ceased printing of the magazine.

Online classified sites like Exchange and Mart, allow the customer to visit an ‘online forecourt’ where instead of viewing tens of cars, they can view over 100,000. And the variation of cars doesn’t just stop at price and colour, the oldest car on the site is from 1913, almost as old as Exchange and Mart itself!

It’s undeniable that the automotive industry is one of the most fast-paced, not only in terms of technology in cars, but also in the way that people buy their car. For example, you can now live chat with a sales person or product genius 24/7, watch video reviews and even buy your car online and have it delivered straight to your door.

So what does the future hold?

When it comes to all things political a good idea seems great on paper but, as they say, the devil’s in the detail. So, while we may have just about finalised the UK’s Brexit negotiations by 2068, even with all the talk of Electric Vehicles or EVs, your car is highly likely to still involve a petrol power unit – but a plug-in hybrid version.

Looking forward 100 years we could well see high tech electric vehicles where there’s no need of a driver and everything will be connected so you can truly work, rest and play in your car. But in any large town or city, we put our money on it being the wheels of the bus going round and round.

With the idea of driving a car daily into work being priced out of the pocket of every day folk by city taxes and high parking charges, we reckon you’ll be hopping on the latest “Enviro Bus”. That’s if you’re not working from home in the first place.

But when it comes to predicting our means of transport in 150 years’ time, well, that’s anyone’s guess.

Safety and tech we take for granted

But imagine a time where parking sensors didn’t exist and the biggest development in terms of safety was seat belts.

It’s the past developments of features like the seat belt and even starter motors that without those discoveries, wouldn’t have led on us to modern day advances like stop/start, cruise control and even starting the engine from your own home.

Let’s have a look at the motoring inventions that have paved the way.

Starter Motors

Before the starter motor, most cars would need to be hand cranked. Not always as easy as it sounds. Get it wrong and a broken wrist or even a broken arm could be the result.

It was Clyde J. Coleman who invented and patented the first electric starter in America in 1903. In 2018, remote starters are proving more and more popular, so that you can start you car from inside your house to warm everything up or get the air-con working. Just remember that you need to get in and actually drive it.

More standard engine features include start/stop technology which allows the car to come to complete stop, saving fuel when stationary.

Tyres

We take a smooth ride for granted today, but wooden spoked wheels with metal rims were what the first cars rode on.

It was John Dunlop in 1887 who first developed practical tyres for his son’s bicycle. In 1890 he was manufacturing car tyres from a factory in Belfast and it was in 1946 that Michelin invented the radial tyre. Today the tyre choice is enormous with run-flat tyres and nitrogen gas filled tyres becoming more common place, along with tyres specifically for summer and winter, improving handling and stopping distance all year round.

With the developments of tyres, new safety features like Brake Assist Systems can rely not only on cameras and radar technology but the reliance on the tyres themselves.

Seat Belts

It was following World War II that a greater focus on car safety began. Car design slowly changed, and during the 1950s seat belts became an optional extra with more and more manufacturers. It was after the Saab GT 750, displayed at the 1958 New York Motor Show featuring seat belts as standard that the practice became commonplace.

In the UK advertising encouraged drivers and passengers to use them on every journey, and in 1983, it became law for drivers and front seat passengers to belt up. Today, all passengers need to wear seat belts with many coming with ISOFIX points making fitting child seats much easier.

But there is a down side to all this new technology. A recent survey revealed that it is evolving faster than the typical driver’s understanding.

It highlights the importance of a good dealer, who’s willing to spend the time with you when you buy the car (and perhaps at a later date), to take you through all that amazing tech.

But as we’ve seen, this new technology can help make driving easier and safer, and is definitely here to stay.

Dates that changed the motor industry

1903

Before car dealerships and motor supermarkets became the norm, if you wanted to view all the latest new models you needed to visit the British International Motor Show. First held at Crystal Palace, London. The same year that the speed limit was raised from 14 miles per hour to 20 miles per hour.

This was also the year that driving licences were first introduced at a cost of 5 shillings, 25p in today’s money.

1904

One of Britain’s most iconic car manufacturers, Rolls-Royce Limited, was formed by Charles Stewart Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce.

1907

With 25,000 black cabs in London, it’s easy to forget a time when they weren’t around. This was the year that cabs with meters first began operating in London.

1920

Jumping ahead a few years, Motor Vehicle Excise Duty, otherwise known as car tax, began for the 1 million drivers that were on the road in Britain. Small numbers compared to the 31.3 million cars licensed for use in the UK in March 2018.

1925 – 1935

Considering the number of drivers on the road, it wasn’t until this 10 year period that 3 important aspects of road safety were introduced. Firstly in 1925, the first three-colour traffic signal was installed in London, in 1931 the Highway Code was launched and in 1935 the compulsory driving test was introduced.

1958

Travelling the length and breadth of the UK may be time consuming but compared to 1958 when the first motorway opened, it’s pretty simple.

1960

The MOT test was introduced for cars 10 years old.

1967

The Road Safety Act of 1967 introduced the first maximum legal blood alcohol or drink driving limit but it wasn’t until 16 years later in 83 that it became law for drivers and front passengers to wear seatbelts.

1996

61 years after the driving test, the theory driving test was introduced.

2017

An electric driverless car was tested in public for the first time in Milton Keynes.

The future looks very exciting for the world of cars and we’re looking forward to being a part of it.