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.
Cheap and Excellent on Gas
Last week we exposed the cheapest and most fuel minded vehicles on the market. All hybrid vehicles, the list started at the $30,000 mark, with the most affordable being the $19,320 Honda Insight.
If you’re looking for a car that is even more affordable than those hybrids, you’ll have to sacrifice some fuel economy. Here’s a list of cars that net 40 miles per gallon on the highway or better. This segment is quickly growing in popularity, and is soon to be joined by the upcoming 2014 Fiesta with its 1.0-liter 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine, which Ford claims will hit at least 40 mpg on the highway.
When you’ve got a concept car and one that makes it’s world premiere at a European motor show, it’s sometimes difficult to gauge whether or not, A, a production version will materialize and B, if it will make it to other markets, like the US.
In North America, Nissan recently revamped the Versa sedan for 2012 into a car that, let’s be serious, is built to a price and considered by many to be a retrograde step compared with its predecessor. The Versa hatchback, however, continues on totally unchanged, leaving many to question what comes next for the 5-door.
And although there’s been no official word so far, during informal discussions with Nissan insiders, AutoGuide has learned that the idea of a subcompact hatchback for our market, a car that’s perhaps sportier and better equipped than the Versa sedan, is very much on the table. The question remains however, exactly what form it will take.
Nissan’s Invitation Concept, unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show today could lead to that car, though as Andy Palmer, Nissan Executive Vice President stated, the Invitation was conceived very much with Europe in mind and will be built at the automaker’s facility in Sunderland, UK.
Nissan is in a somewhat unique position among Japanese automakers in Europe, as it is currently the most popular Asian brand and heavily invested in the region, with assembly plants and R&D facilities in Britain, Spain and Russia. The Invitation sports an interior that was designed to be “comfortable and practical,” featuring the first application of an Around View Monitoring System in a B-segment car, plus Nissan’s Safety Shield, to ensure the driver has a complete peripheral vision of what’s going on around the vehicle.
As for powertrains, not much information is being released at the moment, Nissan simply stating that the production version of the Invitation, which will be launched in 2013, will sport “class-leading levels of fuel efficiency and emissions.” Figure small displacement direct-injection gasoline and diesel engines to make the cut, along with a manual gearbox and CVT. Given Nissan’s current push toward zero emissions, don’t rule out the possibility of a Hybrid or even EV variant down the road either.
GALLERY: Nissan Invitation Concept
Gallery: Nissan Invitation Concept
10. Mini Cooper S Clubman
Cars can be bad for your health, and we’re not just talking about tailpipe emissions. The Ecology Center has published a list of the least and worst toxic vehicles from 2011-2012 after testing 205 different models with the aid of an x-ray fluorescence analyzer.
The tests consisted of scanning interior components such as the seats, dashboard, carpets, headliner, and door trim, and identifying the elements in each material. Based on the size of the item and the amount of contact a person would have with it, the numbers were crunched and the car given a score from a scale of 1-5, with a low score showing the chemicals being tested for weren’t detected, while a 5 would indicate high levels of the chemicals were detected.
Items commonly found in car components include elements like bromine, chlorine, antimony, mercury and lead.
Coming in as the 10th worst pick is the MINI Cooper S Clubman with an overall score of 2.84. The Cooper S Clubman is the MINI for those that wish to have a little more room than the standard Coopers. The Clubman is 9.4 inches longer overall than the standard MINI with a 3.2-inch longer wheelbase.
Despite less-than-glowing reviews, Nissan‘s Versa sub-compact continues to dominate its segment. In December, Nissan moved 9,939 Versas, nearly double that of its nearest competitor, while giving the Versa an incredible 24.2 percent market share dominance in a segment that is populated by 13 models.
Thanks to the addition of the new Versa sedan, sales for the sub-compact hit a record in 2011 with 99,730 units moved in 2011.
The Versa’s main competitors in the sub-compact segment include the Chevy Sonic, Hyundai Accent, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta and Fiat 500. Compared to the Versa’s impressive 9,939 December sales figure, Chevy sold 5,743 Sonics, Hyundai sold 5,316 Accents, Honda came in with 5,138 Fits, Toyota’s Yaris sold 4,514 units, while Ford moved 3,673 Fiestas. Coming in last for Nissan’s comparison was Fiat’s 500 with 2,325 vehicles.
Along with a 30-mpg city rating and 38-mpg highway number, perhaps the biggest reason for the Versa’s success is the lowest MSRP in the market, starting at just $10,990.
The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is besting the competition for safety ratings, for now. The little sub-compact Sonic scored a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to beat out the Ford Fiesta, which only scored four out of five.
Safety isn’t the only thing we’re pleased to say makes the Sonic great, it’s a peppy starter car that comes available with a six-speed manual and a turbocharged four-cylinder that had us scooting past the speed limit with surprising ease. It also comes with 10 standard airbags.
The Sonic still has to go up against its other competition: this year’s Kia Rio and Honda Fit, which both have yet to be rated. The 2012 Nissan Versa sedan also still has to be rated, but the verdict isn’t looking good for its hatchback brother with three of five in the frontal crash category and four of five in rollovers.
Poor ratings aside, the Sonic hasn’t won the race yet. It got four out of five stars in the rollover category, so there is still a chance the unrated cars can equal or best it.
Of course, that rating is coming hot off the heels of a recall over missing brake pads in the Sonic. We’re willing to assume the rating is based on completely assembled cars.
The Sonic is also a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Read Autoguide’s Chevy Sonic review here.
10. Toyota Yaris 3-Door: $14,115
You can sound polite and say “inexpensive” but if you’re strapped for cash, the most important question when shopping for a new car is: what’s the cheapest car on the market? AutoGuide has got the answer, along with the nine runners up.
Toyota‘s warmed-over Yaris makes the 10th spot on our list with a base price of $14,115 for the 3-door model. The pricier 5-door will run you $15,150.
Using a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder like many of its counterparts the Yaris makes 106-hp and is rated at 38-mpg on the highway making it one of the most efficient models in its class, but not the most efficient. Growing three inches overall, Toyota claims the new car has 68 percent more cargo room than the outgoing model, which it shares a near-identical resemblance with. Standard on all models is air conditioning, nine airbags and power windows.
CEO Carlos Ghosn has set a lofty goal for Nissan: capture 10% of the total American car market in the next 4 years.
Right now in the first five months, Nissan and Infiniti have sold 8.2% of all cars in America, or about 433,032 vehicles. Nissan aims to sell over 1 million vehicles in the US by the end of this year.
The sales target comes as part of Nissan’s six-year global plan to increase sales, with volume cars such as the new Versa. Ghosn didn’t mention specifics other than some impressive numbers and a deadline, but hey, that’s how Kennedy got us to the moon.
[Source: Left Lane News]
The Ford Fiesta has been selling exceptionally well in the Small car segment, beating key competitors like the Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa. Last May, 7,120 Fiestas were sold, outselling the Versa’s 4,793 units in the same month.
The success of the Fiesta has been attributed to skyrocketing fuel prices as well as the shortage of Japanese vehicles as a result of the March 11 earthquake.
Within the small car segment, the Fiesta commanded 4.6% of sales in June 2010 when first launched in the U.S. Last April, the Fiesta held 29.1% of sales, according to Ward’s data.
“Fiesta customers are up to three times more likely to buy for style and innovation in this segment,” explained Ken Czubay, vice president- U.S marketing, sales, and service. He also said that eighteen percent of Fiesta buyers are purchasing for the first time, and the average age of the customer is younger than two other well-known nameplates in the small car segment.
George Pipas, Ford’s top U.S sales analyst, said Ford has received increased consideration from small-car buyers over the past year.
[Source: Ward's Auto]
The 2012 Nissan Versa does something rare, though not entirely unexpected these days: it gets bigger and gains a surprisingly slick interior, but keeps its $10k sticker.
Nissan’s smallest car gets completely redesigned to target the global market: the V platform (V for “versatile,” in Nissan marketing-speak) will be sold around the world as the Tilda, Versa, or Sunny. And like the previous model, it will still be built in Mexico.
Under the hood, the Versa gets a new 1.6-liter 4-cylinder that produces 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque. Transmissions are a 5-speed manual and the Xtronic CVT, a revised example of Nissan’s long-standing experiments with variable transmissions that gets a broad gear ratio of 7.3:1 and an auxiliary gearbox with planetary gearing. How’s the mileage? 33-mpg combined, and a 37-mpg highway rating that isn’t bad but lags behind that of its Fiesta and Accent competitors.
During its redesign it gets 90 cubic feet of room and a trunk big enough to attract the attention of mob bosses—at 14.8 cubic feet, it is cavernous. Inside, the Versa is available with a touch navscreen, satellite radio, and standard radio aux/USB interface.
And mercifully, the styling is less frumpy than the outgoing model, inside and out—the interior gains soft curves and bulging knobs that at least don’t look as cheap, and the exterior gains some brightwork and a long rear end that belies its $10,990 price.
GALLERY: 2012 Nissan Versa at the New York Auto Show
Taking shots at your competitors is nothing new in the advertising world, but North Americans generally see the kind of gentle ribbing that comes from restrictive libel laws and the preference for subtlety over braggadocio.
Not so in Brazil, where Nissan ran a campaign for their Tiida small car (aka the Versa on our shores) that featured actors imitating rappers and dancing with bikini-clad video girls in front of a Ford Focus. The message of the ad was that Ford was overcharging customers (due to the $1,800 delta in price between the Focus and Tiida) and their lavish lifestyles were funded by the extra cash.
Ford took issue with the gratuitous nature of the commercial and has decided to sue. We don’t know whether their argument will hold up in a Brazilian court of law, but we sure appreciate the video!
Hit the jump to see the video
While the Nissan Sunny has already been previewed at AutoGuide, we just got out first look at the hatchback version of Nissan’s subcompact (known as the Tiida) thanks to a Chinese photographer who spied the car out in the open.
The new hatchback looks like a Lexus CT200h mixed with Nissan’s familiar corporate styling cues, not a bad step up from the current Versa’s dowdy looks. The interior also looks like it will get a big bump in quality. We aren’t sure if this is the “locked-in” styling for North America, nor do we know what kind of powertrains will be offered, but the gallery below should give you a good idea of what to expect. Expect a New York Auto Show debut, and AutoGuide will be on hand with live coverage.