18 February 2016

The two faces of the Chicago Auto Show 2016

On a map, the American city of Chicago looks a stone’s throw away from Detroit, home to what many consider to be the world’s most important motor show. There’s actually 282 miles between the two US cities, which are situated next to Lake Michigan and Lake Erie respectively. We like an underdog so wanted to share some Chicago Auto Show love this week, looking at the vehicles showcased there over the last few days. Two polar-opposite themes emerged, so we’ll tackle them in turn.

Big and brash

Americans are known for their love of 4×4 SUVs and pickup trucks that are so absolutely huge, they border on the ridiculous. I guess it’s understandable as there’s so much space there compared to in England, so driving something that large doesn’t pose a problem like it would here. Also, petrol is much cheaper in the USA, so motorists there don’t bat an eyelid over dismal fuel consumption.

Ford, a car manufacturer that feels like it’s been around since the beginning of time, has focussed in recent years on sporty handling in small packages, along with family practicality. Take the Fiesta and S Max, for example. The thing is, appetite around the world for SUVs is positively booming, so Ford announced at the Chicago Auto Show that they will be adding four new SUVs to their global range, to fill market gaps they don’t currently occupy. It’s got us wondering if Ford will reveal a Range Rover rival in due course, but at an affordable price, typical for the brand. Crossovers based on the Focus and Fiesta are also likely to be in the Ford pipeline, along with more all-wheel drive and electric or hybrid models, plus an expansion of its posh ‘Vignale’ division.

Carrot Insurance telematics young drivers blog - CAS 2016 brash


The biggest and brashest vehicles showcased at the Chicago Auto Show 2016 were this bunch, shown above, starting on the left with the 2017 Nissan Titan half-ton V6/V8 pickup that’s big enough to block sunlight from the average UK bungalow, followed by the 2017 RAM Power Wagon, muscle provided by a 6.4-litre V8, with styling perfect for bulldozing duties. Finally, as seen on the right, Toyota also unveiled an imposing pickup, the 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro, described by company bosses as a beast focussed on extreme off-roading.

Green and sensible

As a complete contrast, around half of the vehicles featured at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show were environmentally-minded. Korean manufacturer, Kia, which is experiencing a boom these days, showed off the 2017 Optima saloon, set to be available in two formats – a plugin hybrid and a petrol-electric hybrid version. The big news from Kia, though, was the Niro, a new crossover that will sit on an all-new, eco’ platform. Sitting between the C’eed and new Sportage in terms of size, the Niro’s 1.6-litre petrol engine has been specially designed for use in a hybrid setup. Offering attractively high fuel consumption, the Niro will be launched in the UK this summer but the details are still under wraps.

Carrot Insurance telematics young drivers blog - CAS 2016 green


The most important ‘green’ car to debut at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show was arguably the Chevrolet Bolt EV, a fully electric family car. Set to take on the Nissan LEAF, which in many ways is a decent car but has a poor real-life electric range of 60-80 miles, the attractively-styled Bolt EV pledges a range in excess of 200 miles, making it sound much more useable in daily life. Even its Bluetooth system has been designed to draw as little energy from the battery as possible and, like many cars nowadays, the Bolt EV will be connected to the world via OnStar 4G LTE and will act as a Wi-Fi hotspot. It will be priced at a relatively cheap $30,000 when it goes on sale in America later this year. Chevrolet says they don’t plan to sell it in England – but it’s quite feasible they’ll change their minds, seeing as the British government is pushing for people to switch to electric cars.

If you’ve been to a motor show, we’d love to hear from you on Twitter or Facebook, perhaps even sharing some photos with our readers.

Oliver Hammond

Written by Oliver Hammond

Oliver is an established freelance motoring writer, published journalist and automotive copywriter based in Manchester. He regularly reviews cars and covers events and launches as editor of petroleumvitae.com and his articles appear in various magazines each month. No relation to Richard from Top Gear, he’s got a weakness for luxo-barges, proper 4x4s and oddball cars.