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.
It’s Friday and another work week is slowly… drawing… to… a… close. Like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s epic musical CATS, this string of five days feels like it’s never going to end. At least people aren’t prancing around the AutoGuide offices in leotards and leg warmers. Meow!
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.
Hoping that the compact Volkswagen Polo will head to the United States anytime soon? Don’t hold your breath, as the German automaker is focusing on its Jetta and Golf models and has no immediate plans to bring a Polo to the American market. But it is ready should market demand change says Volkswagen’s VP of marketing, Rainer Michel.
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.
“Our goal was always to make something small great,” a Volkswagen executive said on stage.
To garner the award, the Up! beat both the volume-selling and luxurious BMW 3 Series and the thrilling Porsche 911. The victory suggests that journalists across the world are putting a growing emphasis on greener, or at least more fuel-efficient vehicles.
This victory for means the automaker won four of the past five years for the most prestigious of the four awards offered by the World Car Awards each year.
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]
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.
Toyota is expected to debut an all-new Yaris later this year with the hopes of climbing back to the top of the sub-compact sales charts. To do that, the Japanese automaker will need to offer plenty, with current rivals delivering style, high-tech options and plenty of interior space at a reasonable price.
We can’t confirm much about the new Yaris, although it is roughly 4-inches longer than the predecessor with half that space coming between the wheels to improve rear seat legroom. Drivers will also notice a big change with the gauge cluster moving from the terrible (and terrible looking) central position, to a more ideal location immediately above the steering wheel.
While we wouldn’t expect to see a new Yaris out testing on the Nurburgring, we were surprise to snap these photos just outside Toronto – a short drive from the company’s Canada headquarters.
GALLERY: 2012 Toyota Yaris Spy Photos
If little changes from some of the Yaris models we’ve seen unveiled in other countries it should significantly resemble the Euro-spec model. See a pic of that car after the jump:
Mazda has just announced that it will bring the Mazda2 model to market in North America late next year, to compete in the growing sub-compact market alongside models like the Toyota Yaris, Hyundai Accent, Honda Fit and Ford’s upcoming Fiesta.
“You’ve asked us for it for a while now, and we’ve been studying the market to make sure we can make a business case for it across North America,” said Mazda North America CEO Jim O’Sullivan. “As consumers’ tastes and attitudes toward small vehicles have changed, we now believe strongly there is a place in our lineup for a car below our current least-expensive car, the MAZDA3. MAZDA2 will be true to everything that makes our cars stand apart from the competition: it will be stylish, fun-to-drive and a heck of a value. In short, it will be Zoom-Zoom.”
There is no word on any specifics about the North American model, but in Europe and Japan (where it is sold as the Demio) it is available as a three-door and five-door hatchback, while a sedan version is available in China. Several different gasoline and diesel engines are available overseas, with a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder making just over 100hp a likely option for North America.
The current Mazda2 model was introduced in 2008, when it won World Car of the Year. It is based on the same chassis that underpins Ford’s European Fiesta, which, by no coincidence, will also be on sale in North America by 2011.
Over the past 12 months Ford sold-off much of its stake in Mazda and recently announced it would bring to North America the European Grand C-Max MPV, which would compete directly with the Mazda5. The introduction of the 2, while no-doubt a pure business decision, is also very much a well-timed retaliation.