AutoGuide News Blog
The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
The next Smart ForTwo and ForFour are scheduled to be revealed later today, but images of the cars meant to showcase their JBL speaker systems are revealing them early.
Ask AutoGuide No. 40
We’re thinking small on this week’s installment of Ask AutoGuide, where value reigns supreme. Are cheap and cheerful mutually exclusive traits or can they really coexist in an automobile? We aim to find out and help one faithful reader in the process.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced the results of its 2014 sub-compact crash tests and they aren’t good.
Indianapolis plans to swap all its city-use sedans for electrified cars according to a new order signed by mayor Greg Ballard.
Details about the 2013 Chevrolet Spark have been revealed today, including its price range. Chevy is looking to simplify the car buying process by having three trim levels for its well-equipped subcompact.
Chevrolet calls the 2013 Spark a “sporty, fuel-efficient, four-passenger, five-door hatch” that apparently offers more passenger and cargo space than other mini cars such as the Fiat 500, Smart fortwo and Scion IQ.
The Spark’s base model, the LS starts at $12,995 and is equipped with a 1.2L Ecotec engine and five-speed manual transmission. Additionally, even the base Spark has 10 airbags and features 60/40 split rear seats, air conditioning, power windows, rear window wiper, auxiliary input jack, outside temperature display and trip computer. Not bad for a base model subcompact.
Ultra cheap cars are often a tough proposition, as Tata knows only too well following the original Nano, which failed to meet expectations. Nonetheless, the Indian conglomerate is pushing forward with plans for the future, which could include another tiny city car, inspired by this, the Megapixel concept.
It might not come equipped with a digital Camera, but the MegaPixel does boast some interesting technological features, including easy access sliding doors, a lithium ion battery pack and four electric motors (one for each wheel), supplemented by a small 325 cc on-board gasoline generator that extends range beyond 54 miles.
The electric motors not only help deliver 369 lb-ft of torque, they also help the Megapixel achieve a very tight turning radius (nine feet), a valuable asset for a city car aimed at buyers in large urban centers. Whether some of the technologies employed on this pint size concept make it to production remains to be seen, especially on car pitched at very low price.
Nonetheless, given the advancement of automotive engineering and Tata’s ambitious plans (after all it’s pumping a lot of effort into Jaguar and Land Rover), there’s every indication that when it finally does arrive, the next generation of the company’s entry-level car will likely be far better than the last.
GALLERY: 2013 Tata Megapixel
Toyota has released a new selection of teaser images and a video, showing off some of the many angles on its upcoming FT-Bh Concept car. The hybrid mini-car is touted to have emissions roughly 50 percent lower than current segment competitors.
What really makes the FT-Bh a big deal, however, is that unlike some recent mini car concepts from the likes of BMW and Audi, the FT-Bh uses low-cost materials (ie. no carbon fiber) and economical production methods, allowing it to be an affordable machine. As a result, Toyota says it weighs less than 1,800 lbs – surprising when you consider the heavy electric components used in the hybrid powertrain.
To reach maximum efficiency Toyota has focused on five factors with this concept: low weight, aerodynamic performance, powertrain efficiency, thermal energy management and electricity saving.
GALLERY: Toyota FT-bh Concept
Watch the video below:
Toyota is taking big steps towards moving hybrids down-market. At the upcoming Geneva Motor Show the Japanese automaker will unveil the production version of its Yaris Hybrid and that’s just the start. Also set to be revealed is what Toyota is calling the FT-Bh concept.
A size down from even the sub-compact Yaris, look for the FT-Bh to be iQ sized. Toyota says it will be a full-hybrid and be “ultra-lightweight”, and yet don’t expect the use of pricey composite materials like carbon fiber. Instead, Toyota says the car will utilize materials that are currently commonplace in the industry. In a release, the automaker says the city car is designed to, “achieve low emissions within an economically viable production framework,” meaning that it is most certainly already cued for production.
Numerous other concept cars will be on display at the Toyota booth, including the NS4 and FCV-R Concepts. The NS4 is a look at an all-new hybrid from Toyota, while the FCV-R uses a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain and is targeted for sale by 2015.
Joining those two will be Toyota’s diji concept, looking at the future of car-driver interaction and personalization.
And let’s not forget the European premiere of the Toyota GT 86 sports car.
GALLERY: Toyota Geneva Motor Show Preview
“I’m not satisfied with Cygnet sales,” declared Aston Martin‘s Chairman Dr. Ulrich Bez recently, though it’s not for the usual reasons. Rather than lack of demand, Aston’s main problem with the pint-size city car is actually lack of supply.
That said, wait times for the £31,000 (approximately $48,680 U.S.) machine are now starting to put customers off actually buying one, especially since Bez views the car very much as an impulse buy. “It is the sort of product a customer sees and decides they want on the spot – they don’t want to have to wait for their car to be built, but to drive it away there and then,” he said.
Bez says that in order to get Cygnet sales to where they should be depends on two things, firstly availability, which should improve once the company opens its first Cygnet store in London’s swanky Park Lane district and secondly, by taking a more active approach towards promoting the car, which may take time, given Aston’s limited resources.
In addition, with Toyota scheduled to release an electric version of the iQ, on which the Cygnet is based, it’s very likely that a version of this will form the basis for Aston’s first EV.
Aston’s city car has been a controversial topic since day one, yet in response to those who believe the Cygnet is diluting the Aston Martin brand, Bez had this to say, “it [the Cygnet] is a luxury piece, a great car to go around town in. Why would you take a Vantage through London when you could have this?” He’s got a point.
The highlight of Volkswagen‘s press conference at the Frankfurt Auto Show, the Up! was designed as a spiritual successor to the original Beetle. Priced at 9,850 Euros (roughly $13,500) it is intended to be the new “people’s car”.
That is, if the people you’re referring to are numbered four or less. You see, the diminutive new Up! seats four and is intended as form of urban transportation, measuring just 11.6 feet in length (roughly three feet longer than a Smart Fortwo) and 5.4 feet wide.
Two gas engines are offered, both being tiny 1.0-liter 3-cylinder mills. The entry-level one makes just 59-hp, but get an impressive 56-mpg (on the Euro test cycle). The “more powerful” 74-hp model gives up little in terms of fuel economy, managing 55-mpg. VW is also offering a 67-hp natural gas version with 73-mpg!
Already available to order, deliveries will begin in December, with a possible Up! electric car available in 2013.
GALLERY: Volkswagen Up!
Ahead of a more official debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show tomorrow, Audi has revealed its new city car concept twins, the Audi Urban Sportback and the Audi Urban Spyder.
These 1+1 seaters put the driver ahead (and slightly to the left) of the passenger and as city cars (not to mention European ones) are powered by electricity. Two electric motors power the rear axle through a single speed transmission, giving roughly 20-hp and 35 lb-ft of torque. Energy is stores in a 200 lb lithium ion battery behind the rear seats, which can be charged completely in just one hour using a conventional household outlet or approximately 20 minutes with a special fast charger. Acceleration isn’t exactly brisk, despite some rather sporty looks from these two concepts, with a six second time to 37-mph and a 16.9 second time to 62 mph. Both Audi’s have a range of roughly 45 miles.
Allowing the cars to achieve many of their “performance” and range goals is an ultra light weight chassis, weighing a total of just 1,058 lbs thanks to a structure comprised of both aluminum and carbon fiber, with carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) body panels.
At 126.72 inches the Urban concepts are about two and a half feet longer than a smart car. Despite it’s diminutive size, at each corner are some sizeably Donk 21-inch wheels with ultra-thin 125/60/21 tires up front and 145/50/21 tires in the rear.
GALLERY: Audi Urban Sportback, Spyder Concepts
Austrian-based KTM, best known for producing motorcycles (not to mention the lightweight X-Bow racer), has teamed up with the Austrian Institute of Technology to create an electric vehicle called the E3W.
The E3W (Electric 3-Wheeler) can carry two passengers for up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) using a 15kW motor and lithium-ion battery, not to mention a body that is primarily built of plastic. As a result, the E3W weighs just 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds).
The E3W also features Lamborghini-type doors that open to allow the two-seater to fit in small parking spaces. KTM hopes to build 50,000 of the E3W units in 2013. The price has not been confirmed for the vehicle, but estimates fall somewhere in the $7,000- $11,500 range.
GALLERY: KTM E3W
In an effort to reach out to what it sees as ‘new customers in urban areas,’ Aston Martin has joined forces with fashion authority colette to produce a very limited edition city car.
Dubbed the Cygnet & colette, it’s based on Aston’s Cygnet, a thoroughly reworked version of Toyota’s pint size iQ, but with even more exclusivity. Commissioned by colette and crated by Aston Martin Works Tailored, the Cygnet & colette perhaps represents the first true, bespoke city car and quite possibly, a sign of things to come.
Just 14 of these limited editions will be built, each sporting special Lightning silver paint; accented by unique blue colette trim, on the hood and exterior mirrors, along with diamond finished alloy wheels and special Cygnet & colette exterior emblems.
Inside, is a Bitter Chocolate themed cabin (inspired by colette’s mascot, the Chocolate Labrador) that sports blue accents along with quilted inserts for the seats, door panels and even the sunvisors. It’s also loaded with goodies, including a satellite navigation system, plus a selection of candies, a Wallpaper guide to Paris, a custom Sigg bottle and a selection of colette CDs.
Orders for each of the 14 Cygnet & colette cars (the number chosen to celebrate colette’s 14 years in business as a fashion retailer) can be placed through the company’s store in Paris. Price? 48,995 Euros ($70,160).
That certainly helped push sales, with Tata selling 9000 units in July 2010. However, after a few vehicles caught fire and concerns over its safety became public, sales took a plunge and resulted in just 509 units sold in November.
Now it seems Tata has addressed the safety and reliability concerns for its city runabout, and along with good finance deals to tempt more people into their showrooms, Tata is now doubling production to met demand. Their hope is to sell 20,000 units per-month for the next fiscal year. Only time will tell if their plan works out.
There are no plans for a North American launch anytime soon.
Lotus, a company best known for producing great sports cars like the Elise and the iconic Esprit, is about to head into a whole new direction.
While it will continue building sports cars, Lotus CEO Dany Bahar has announced that in October, 2013 the company will produce its City Car, which was shown as a concept at the recent Paris Auto Show.
This new car will be jointly developed by Lotus and its parent company Proton, along with a mystery OEM car company. Bahar went on to say that “We will build three versions: one for the Asian market, one for Europe and a sporty one.”
No exact specification details are known at the moment, however the City Car concept had a 1.2-liter, 3-cylinder engine with hybrid drive technology.
While Lotus will continue its sports cars side of the business, which in the next few years will launch models like the all new Elise, Elan and Esprit, Bahar said that in order for the company to become profitable, it needs to expand its business portfolio.
Bahar told CAR magazine that “Over the past 15 years, Proton has had no profit at all from Lotus. They decided to sell it or give it another chance.”
Let’s hope their new business plan works and enable them to stay in the business of making exciting cars for years to come.
Nissan is denying reports that Suzuki‘s tie-up with Volkswagen will affect their small car ventures in countries like India. Nissan sells a rebadged version of the Suzuki Alto (one of India’s most popular cars) in that market, but a senior Nissan exec was quoted as saying that ““Suzuki and Nissan have done a lot of business for many years. As far as we are concerned, nothing changes.”
VW took a 20 percent stake in Suzuki last year, and was allegedly attracted to Suzuki’s small car and motorcycle expertise. Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn told Autocar that “We have set up a joint project office in Wolfsburg to coordinate cooperation,” he said. “Work on concrete ideas and vehicle projects will begin in the coming weeks.”
Touted as the smallest four-seater in the world. At just 120-inches long it is roughly one-foot longer than the Smart fortwo. Saying it’s a 4-seater is a bit of a stretch, however, and Scion does qualify that it’s more of a 3+1, with the “1″ being a child.
Referred to by Scion as a “premium micro sub compact” the iQ is powered by a 1.3-liter 4-cylinder and gets a CVT transmission. No performance or fuel economy numbers are available, but Scion says to expect fuel economy in the high-30 mpg range.
Safety features will also be big on this small car with standard abs, vehicle stability control traction control and 10 airbags – including a world’s first rear window curtain airbag.
Qnd keeping with Scion’s youth-oriented approach with a six-speaker audio system, USB and auxiliary ports, as well as steering wheel mounted controls.
GALLERY: Scion iQ
Get more Scion iQ news and info at iQ-Forums.com
For months we’ve heard rumors of a new MINI model that will slot in underneath the Cooper in the British automakers lineup, but that doesn’t mean the newest and miniest MINI will put fuel economy ahead of fun. Inside sources are reporting that this new city car will get a high-powered John Cooper Works (JCW) edition.
At roughly 10 feet long the new MINI (Minor?) will compete with vehicles like the Smart fortwo and upcoming Toyota/Scion iQ. Powering the car will be a turbocharged 3-cylinder (likely a 1.5-liter), which is part of a new range of 3-cylinder engines BMW is producing to deliver both fuel economy and power. These engines are also expected to power the next-generation of Cooper models and in 1.5-liter turbo form should produce around 150-hp.
Along with a naturally low curb weight, this new model will get typical JCW upgrades like a stiffer and lower suspension, unique wheels and aerodynamics.
A concept version of the new smaller MINI could be unveiled as early as the Geneva Auto Show in March.
Looking like what Hello Kitty might drive if she lived in the Tron universe, this new city car concept by Kia is called “POP” and is set to officially debut at the Paris Auto Show this fall. Taking design cues from the Kia Ray electric coupe concept, the POP is roughly 10 feet long and about the same size as the Toyota iQ. This makes it about a foot and a half shorter in length than the smallest model in Kia’s European range, the Picanto.
Style highlights include a panoramic glass roof and what appear to be scissor doors, while inside the cabin is distinguished by a unique 3-passenger layout with a bench seat for two up front and one central seat in the rear. In a statement Kia says the Pop Concept brings, “innovative design chic and dramatic styling to the city car segment.”
Powered by an electric motor, Kia hasn’t released any info on the powertrain but has said we’ll learn more as the Paris Auto Show approaches.
GALLERY: Kia POP Concept
Police in Portugal have broken up a theft ring that exclusively targeted Smart Fortwo . The thieves were (not surprisingly) affiliated with an independent Smart repair shop, and the perpetrators had their stash of stripped down cars and spare parts seized as well.
According to police, Smarts can be easily disassembled using an allen key, screwdrivers and other hand tools. Some cars were left stripped in the streets, while others were turned into new cars using fake VIN numbers and a Frankenstein mish-mash of parts from other vehicles.
Some owners ended up buying cars and parts back from the chop shops on the black market. Steering wheels were a hot ticket, as they cost nearly $1000 new, but went for much less thanks to the five-finger discount available on the stolen variety.