The week is drawing to a close and while that can mean several things, most importantly (of course), it’s time for another installment of Ask AutoGuide, the information superhighway’s most exciting semi-regular feature. Beating the competition to market with mildly informative and generally accurate content is the name of the game. Our skilled geniuses are ready to spread their expertise like frosting on a sheet cake; just scoop it out of the tub and smear it all around.
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Ah to be young again. AutoGuide’s nationally recognized, board-certified Oracles remember their youth vividly… it was terrible. People often say age is just a number and you’re only as old as you feel, unfortunately they were born wearing elastic-waist jeans and Science Olympiad fanny packs. Gingivitis arrived when they were in middle school.
Back Seat Space
A couple weeks ago our Top 10 target was the large-sedan segment. We looked at a diverse lineup of full-figured four doors, comparing them based on their theoretical maximum range. We multiplied the number of gallons in their respective fuel tanks by each of their highway economy ratings.
Against all expectations the Volkswagen Passat TDI drove away with top honors, and it did so by a wide margin. It wasn’t just the comparison’s valedictorian; it skipped two grades took all AP classes and still wound up with a GPA of 4.2. This diesel-powered “People’s Car” can devour nearly 800 miles on a single tank!
On the other hand, today’s big idea is small. We’re examining cars at the opposite end of the spectrum, specifically C-Segment sedans. We’re comparing a crowd of popular compacts based on, wait for it… rear-seat legroom! Which popularly priced car offers the most-spacious back bench? Which one will give an agoraphobic night terrors? Click ahead for all the details you can stomach.
Whether due to rising gas prices or changing trends by consumers, small cars are increasingly becoming a big deal across America. In fact, sales of compact and sub-compact vehicles are poised to make up the largest segment of total auto industry sales since 1993.
Can a hot hatch also be a diesel? They certainly think so in Germany and an increasing acceptance of diesel-powered cars could see such a model on our shores in the near future.
In the past Mazda has hinted that it may drop the current base engine in the Mazda3 and instead offer the Skyactiv powertrain as standard. According to Mazda USA PR rep Beverly Braga that won’t happen for 2013, but the Japanese automaker has made the decision to offer the Skyactive 2.0-liter as the core powertrain on more trim levels.
While not quite segment leading, the new numbers are near the top of the pack, with the entry-level 160 hp 2.0-liter Tigershark 4-cylinder rated at 25 mpg city and 36 mpg highway with the six-speed manual, and 29 mpg combined.
Available after launch will be a 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbocharged 4-cylinder (shared with the Fiat 500 Abarth) also making 160 hp mated to a dual-clutch transmission making 27 mpg city and 39 mpg highway, though it will still get a 29 mpg combined rating. Dodge also plans to launch a fuel economy package “aero” version of the Dart with “at least” 41 mpg highway, which will arrive in the the Fall.
In addition, Dodge will offer a 184 hp 2.4-liter 4-cylinder model, though no fuel economy numbers have been announced for that package yet.
The 2013 Dodge Dart will go on sale in June starting from $15,995.
GALLERY: 2013 Dodge Dart
Discuss this story at DartForums.com
10. 2012 Mazda CX-5
Ward’s Auto has released its top 10 picks for best interior in 2012 today, though in no particular order. Here they are with brief notes on each car’s engine specs and starting price.
The 2012 Mazda CX-5 crossover is powered by 2.0-liter Skyactiv inline four cylinder that makes 155 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque with a starting MSRP of $20,695 with front-wheel drive.
During its glory days, Toyota enjoyed 43 victories as well as seven FIA world rally titles. From 1973 through 1999, Toyota was a fixture in the sport.
Now, a report from the FIA World Rally Championship website revealed that Toyota has built a regulation 1.6-liter turbocharged powerplant, which meets the WRC Global Race Engine technical regulations, and is currently performing a series tests at Toyota Motorsport GmbH in Cologne. According to a spokesman from Toyota Motorsport, “We’re leaning towards an S2000-style of car which would be available for customers first. This is a development project, but it’s very early days – the engine only fired up for the first time a few weeks ago- at the very earliest, a car won’t be available until next year. Obviously, this being a Global Race Engine, it could go in any car, but the Yaris seems to make sense.”
According to the anonymous spokesman, participation in rallying is a part of the automaker’s medium-term future goals. What’s more, a Super 2000 category vehicle may also suggest new plans for World Touring Car Championship, as the S2000 specification is split to cover both rally and touring car racing regulations.
It might not make sense to trade your gas guzzler in for a more fuel-efficient car, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping people.
Sub-compact and compact car sales are spiking this year, according to J.D. Power and Associates. It seems that both segments are growing, but the smaller sibling is winning out among American consumers, probably because of rising fuel prices.
The average gallon of gas across the U.S. sells for $3.80 today and is expected to climb in the coming months, as is common in during the warmer seasons. That seems to be driving consumer preferences toward cars like the Scion iQ, Chevrolet Sonic and Fiat 500 which might have seemed unthinkable a couple of years ago.
In fact, both segments are outpacing growth in the rest of the industry, which saw an 11.5 percent sales gain over last year. Sub-compact deliveries grew by 37.7 percent, while compacts enjoyed a 13.3 percent increase.
What’s more, 23.6 percent of sub-compact owners traded in their fuel efficient car or crossover for another sub-compact. More models are also being traded in for smaller cars at dealerships this year compared to last.
So it seems that the small cars some people looked at with disdain a few years ago are actually gaining popularity. Maybe Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne will be able to announce good news for his brand’s U.S. sales for a change.
[Source: J. D. Power and Associates]
Citroën has just released official images of its latest hot-hatch concept model set to premiere at the upcoming 2012 Geneva Motor Show. It’s images like these that convince us the North American market could really use some French metal.
In terms of hardware, the Citroën DS4 Racing concept receives the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine found in many vehicles in the Peugeot-Citroen line-up. Unlike the other models, the engine in the DS4 R has been tuned to produce an incredible 256-hp in DS4 R trim. At an astronomical 160-hp per liter, Citroën claims the ratio is the highest for any mass-production car. New geometry lowers the ride hight by 35mm compared to the standard DS4 and tracks are widened by 55mm in the front and 75mm at the back.
For aesthetics, the DS4 R Concept takes from Citroën’s earlier DS3 R, receiving a similar ground effects kit including sculpted bumpers with wider air intake, a subtle carbon fiber trim around the grille, a rear diffuser , wheel-arch extensions, and side sills.
While details around the new French hot-hatch are limited, it’s power output places the concept squarely against the VW Golf R and Ford Focus ST. More details on the DS4 R Concept will be available as we near the 2012 Geneva Auto Show.
GALLERY: Citroën DS4 R Concept
The Sports Car Club of America’s B-Spec class is growing in popularity as enthusiasts enjoy a relatively inexpensive entry into amateur racing while automakers are discovering B-Spec to be a great platform for grassroots motorsport marketing. Honda, one of the early adopters to B-Spec racing, is committed to the series and hopes to gain even more fans.
Honda Performance Development, HPD General Manager Marc Sours said, “A cornerstone of our grassroots motorsports marketing initiative has been to establish a connection between Honda’s passenger cars and the racing cars that evolve from these models. The B-Spec category provides a relatively low-cost means for the prospective racer to enter the sport, and the Honda FIt offers a natural point of entry. These are inexpensive, great-handling cars that should provide both excellent competition and help grow the sport at the entry level.”
Continuing its support, Honda has announced a new line of “manufacturer-approved suspension components” for the Honda Fit that will be available via HPD on February 1, 2012. The suspension components kit includes coil-over shocks, front and rear race springs, cat-back exhaust, performance front brake pads, camber bolts, braided stainless brake lines, an air filter, and an A/C delete belt.
Despite the thorough list of performance parts in the kit, Honda fit owners and racers will still need to be responsible for a competition roll cage, racing seats, harness and other safety equipment.
[Source: Inside Line]
Swedish automaker Volvo is looking to shack up with a new mate in the hopes of making a fresh set of small cars. Their current compact, the C30 (above), is based on technology from former parent company Ford.
However, Ford dumped Volvo almost two years ago, passing them off to Chinese Geely Holding Group for $1.8 billion, a fraction of what they originally paid. Now the company says the are welcoming partnerships with other companies to fill the void their former American partner left behind.
Volvo CEO Stefan Jacoby told the Financial Times that the company is open to new partners who will be able to share in developing further compact models alongside Volvo in an effort to drive down production costs.
There isn’t an official decision yet about pairing up with any specific company, though it makes sense that Volvo would be looking for a new dance partner given that their current C30 line is nearing the time when a model typically gets a refresh.
The collaborative strategy is becoming increasingly common among automakers as profit margins start to wear thin. Last year Volvo agreed to work with German company Siemens to produce an electric vehicle.
Aside from business to business collaboration, Jacoby is taking Volvo in a similar direction as the last company he managed: Volkswagen. In an effort to cut costs, he’s taken the company from offering 10 engines to only two. He’s also implementing something similar to VW’s “modular box” approach to building cars, where multiple vehicles of different sizes are made in the same facility.
In the spirit of consolidation, Volvo is also expected to launch the compact V40 at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show this March. That car will replace the current S40 and V50 models.
[Source: Financial Times]
It’s no surprise that the 500′s return to North America did not make the splash that Fiat expected. Having sold less than 20,000 vehicles in its first model year in the United States, the 500 only did half as well as the company initially forecasted.
The success of the 500 is essential to the Italian automaker’s re-entry into the North American market. In Europe, Fiat sold more than 770,000 units since the 500′s introduction in 2007. Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne admitted that the 500′s weak performance was in part due to overly-optimistic forecasting. “We thought we were going to show up and just because of the fact people like gelato and pasta, people will buy it.”
However, Fiat believes that creating variants for the 500 could help boost its popularity.
Set for unveiling at the 2012 Geneva Auto Show, Fiat hopes that a 5-door Fiat 500 wagon will find better success in the North American market. The official release date of the Fiat 500 wagon is slated for 2013, while a sportier Fiat Abarth hot hatch will be available for sale later this year.
Whether the 500 wagon will boost Fiat sales remains to be seen. While the wagon’s dimensions will be slightly larger and more suitable for American consumers, station wagons are historically unpopular in North America.
[Source: Car Connection]