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Archive for the ‘hatchback’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Seat Ibiza

First put into production in 1984, the Ibiza is one of Seat’s most successful models. In the 33 years it’s been on the market, the Spanish automaker has managed to move as many as 5.4 million examples of the Ibiza. That’s an impressive number, with a total of four generations coming and going over the years. Now, there’s a new fifth generation, which saw a debut earlier this year at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show following a reveal at the island that provided the car’s namesake, Ibiza, off the eastern coast of Spain. This refreshed entry in the supermini segment sees improvements across the board and was created in order to offer customers higher levels of safety, a fresh aesthetic, greater performance, and more comfort as well. Both gas and diesel powerplants are available, while a seven-speed automatic transmission and the latest smartphone support are on the table as well. Under the skin is a brand new platform, courtesy of Seat’s parent company, Volkswagen Auto Group.

Of course, as one of Seat’s most popular models, the trick is to add to what’s already there without taking away anything from the outgoing model. As such, the question is this – does the new Ibiza have the same spark as the old? Read on to find out.

Continue reading to learn more about the 2017 Seat Ibiza.

Exterior


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 703971

Seat is offering the Ibiza exclusively in a five-door body style, but says the exterior design was created in order to mimic that of a sportier three-door, as well as offer “an edgier, sportier design, featuring more sculpted, accentuated and streamlined surfaces.”

Overall, we think the brand succeeded in that regard. Looks good, no?

“Seat is offering the Ibiza exclusively in a five-door body style, but says the exterior design was created in order to mimic that of a sportier three-door.”

In front, we find two prominent character lines drawn across the hood, adding some visual beef to the front end. The fascia utilizes an x-shaped design, with lots of angles throughout. The profile reveals short overhangs in front and back, plus additional character lines that enhance the car’s natural forward lean. We really like the shoulder line and lower character line, as both lead the eye rearwards and into the rear fenders. Further into the tail, we find the taillights wrap around into the flanks. The tail also incorporates similar triangular designs for the taillight housings, mirroring the front end once again with an x-shaped design layout.

Further design elements are offered as unique bits per trim level. These include sportier elements (blacked-out trim, etc.), or a more premium appearance (chrome trim, etc.). Wheel sizing up to 18 inches, with two different colors to choose from.


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 709561

2017 Seat Ibiza - image 709558
“Further design elements are offered as unique bits per trim level. These include sportier elements with blacked-out trim, or a more premium appearance with chrome trim.”

The new-generation Ibiza also gets revisions to the exterior dimensions. These include a wider body, with as much as 87 mm (3.4 inches) added. Meanwhile, the overall length was slightly decreased, losing just 2 mm (0.08 inches), plus there was 1-mm reduction to the vehicle height as well. Under the body panels, you’ll find the track was increased by 60 mm (2.4 inches) in front and 48 mm (1.9 inches) in the rear. Wheelbase is now measured at 2,564 mm (100.9 inches), which is 95 mm (3.7 inches more than the previous generation.


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 703973
“The new-generation Ibiza also gets revisions to the exterior dimensions.”

These new dimensions and the overall styling changed are meant to give the car a “powerful image of a car that hugs the ground.”

Finally, the new Ibiza gets full LED lighting for the headlights, indicators, and rear fog lights, plus the traditional triangular housings and daytime running light graphics.

Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase (Inches) 100.9
Length (Inches) 159.8
Width (Inches) 70.07
Height (Inches) 56.85

Interior


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 703976

Step into the cabin of the Seat Ibiza, and you’re met with a somewhat simplified, yet elegant interior layout. The overarching design scheme draws similarities to the Leon and Ateca, but with “more tension, more technical and precise lines and lighter proportions”

Updates for the generation include new materials for a heightened sense of premium feel, as well as an emphasis on horizontal lines. The layout is driver-focused, with the various controls on the center console angled towards the hot seat.

“Updates for the generation include new materials for a heightened sense of premium feel, as well as an emphasis on horizontal lines”

A variety of customization options are offered, while a new Air Car filter handles the interior circulating air.

What’s more, the Seat Ibiza now offers a larger, roomier interior, mostly thanks to the new exterior dimensions previously discussed. For example, rear legroom saw a bump of 35 mm (1.4 inches), while there is 24 mm (0.9 inches) of extra headroom in front and 17 mm (0.6 inches) of extra headroom in the rear. The seats are now 42 mm (1.7 inches) wider as well. Cargo space saw an increase of 63 liters (2.2 cubic feet), up to a total of 355 liters (12.5 cubic feet), a figure Seat claims as best in class. Complementing the extra rear room is a lower load height.


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 709563

2017 Seat Ibiza - image 709566
“The Seat Ibiza now offers a larger, roomier interior, mostly thanks to the new exterior dimensions.”

Seat also says it improved the NVH levels substantially, although the automaker failed to provide exact specifications on this.

In terms of ambient lighting, both red and white LEDs were added to select trim levels. Seat says this isn’t just an improvement to the aesthetics, but should help reduce power draw as well, and thus improve fuel mileage, although we’re not sure how many more miles you’ll get by swapping the interior lights for LEDs. The headlights and taillights will have a much bigger impact in that regard.


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 703974
“The Seat Ibiza gets new driving assists, several of which were originally introduced on the Seat Leon and Seat Ateca, such as Front Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Keyless Entry.”

And of course, like any new vehicle, having the latest and greatest technology is a must. To that end, the Seat Ibiza gets new driving assists, several of which were originally introduced on the Seat Leon and Seat Ateca. These new features include stuff like Front Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Keyless Entry (plus a “heartbeat engine starter”), new front and rear parking sensors, and a rearview camera.

Providing inputs is a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen, while a wireless charger for your smartphone keeps it in the green. Support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as Mirror Link are on board.

Finally, Seat partnered with Beats Audio for the stereo system, which includes a digital signal processor, seven speakers, and an eight-channel 300-watt amplifier.

Drivetrain


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 709552

For motivation, the Seat Ibiza is offered with a full line of Euro 6-compliant engine options. Kicking things off is three gas engines to choose from, each offering aluminum construction for reduced weight. Kicking it off is a 1.0-liter three-cylinder TSI, which can be had in two states of tune, with either 95 or 115 horsepower. Features for the gas engine include turbocharged induction, an intercooler, and fuel injection. Heading the list of gas-engines is an Evo 1.5-liter TSI four-cylinder making 150 horsepower, which will be available later in 2017.

“Heading the list of gas-engines is an Evo 1.5-liter TSI four-cylinder making 150 horsepower. A variety of diesels are also on the table.”

A variety of diesels are also on the table, and include a 1.6-liter TDI in both a 80-horsepower and 95-horsepower variant.

Transmission options include a manual five-speed, which is offered on engines with 95 horsepower and below, plus a six-speed for those engines with more than 95 horses. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is also offered.


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 709567
“Some of the bigger news is that the fifth-generation Seat Ibiza is the first model from the Volkswagen Group to utilize the new MQB A0 platform.”

Some of the bigger news is that the fifth-generation Seat Ibiza was built on the new Volkswagen MQB A0 platform. In fact, the Ibiza is the first model from the Volkswagen Group to utilize the platform. The upgraded bones increase torsional rigidity by as much as 30 percent, which helps to improve ride quality and handling performance.

Further features include additional “hot formed” components for the construction, plus spot welding and laser technology, all of which work together to reduce overall weight and increasing torsional rigidity even further.

Prices


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 709554

2017 Seat Ibiza - image 709560

The new fifth-generation Seat Ibiza is available in U.K. dealers now. Buyers can have it in three separate trim levels. Starting off the line is the S, followed by the SE, FR, and finally headed by the new XCellence trim level.

Those looking for a sharper, sportier appearance are encouraged to check out the FR, which gets a unique rear diffuser, black styling updates to the bumper and various body panels, and a stiffer sport suspension set-up. The FR also includes four driving modes, such as Comfort, Eco, Sport, and Individual.

Pricing starts at 13,130 pounds.

Competition

Mini Cooper


2014 Mini Cooper - image 532525

2014 Mini Cooper - image 532527

If you want customizable style in a fun, affordable package, the Mini is the way to go. A plethora of drivetrain options are on the table, although anyone looking for an alternative to the Ibiza will likely go for the lower trim three-cylinder models. However, if you’ve got some extra coin to spend, the more expensive 2.0-liter models will offer a bigger bang.

Read our full review on the Mini Cooper.

Ford Fiesta


2017 Ford Fiesta - image 699484

2017 Ford Fiesta - image 699486

Ford knows what it’s doing when it comes to offering fun hatchbacks, and the Fiesta is definitely one of the best. The number of drivetrain options and specs is mind boggling, many of which offer some pretty entertaining performance. The suspension was also tuned for nippy handling, although the interior spec leaves something to be desired.

Read our full review on the Ford Fiesta.

Conclusion


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 735180

As one of Seat’s most important models, this big generational changeover for the Ibiza is critical to the brand’s success. Overall, we like what we’re seeing. The car looks good, while the onboard technology is about where it needs to be. Performance-wise, we like the drivetrain specs here, with both efficient diesels and quicker gas-powered variants on the table.

Will it be enough to topple the other big names in the segment? So far, so good.

  • Leave it
    • Lots of competition in the segment
    • Interior looks a little bland
    • Additional engine options would be nice

References

Seat Leon


2017 Seat Leon - image 692413

Read our full review on the 2017 Seat Leon.

Seat Ateca


2016 Seat Ateca - image 665647

Read our full review on the 2016 Seat Ateca.


2018 Seat Leon Cupra R - image 729649

Read more Seat news.

PostHeaderIcon BMW i3 M

BMW launched the i3 electric errand-runner in 2014, and recently introduced a new iteration called the i3s at the Frankfurt Motor Show. This latest “s” version is sportier than the standard model, gaining more power and extra handling capabilities, which got us thinking – where would this sort of evolution eventually lead? Would (could?) BMW turn the i3 into a bona-fide sports machine, rather than just an eco model with 15 extra ponies and a lower stance? If so, what would something like that look like? To answer those questions, we gazed into our crystal call, drew up a rendering, and did a little speculation. The end result is this – the BMW i3 M, a true motorsport performance box with specs to back the badge. Try 0-to-60 mph in less than five seconds and tail-happy handling dynamics, all with that i-branded eco friendliness when you’re ready to dial back the aggression.

So yeah, it’s just a rendering for now, but why not? After all, BMW is no stranger to the world of high-speed hybrids – just look at the i8, the success of which most likely prompted further discussion on the topic amongst BMW’s top brass. Add in copious rumors that such a thing is indeed under development, plus the fact that actually producing this thing wouldn’t be terribly difficult for the brand, and we’d say odds are split 50/50 yay to nay. Read on for our speculative take.

Continue reading to learn more about the BMW i3 M.

Exterior


2020 BMW i3 M - image 734375

Overall, the BMW i3 M gets the same bubbly exterior styling as its non-M’d counterpart. The look is angular and chunky, with tons of little details offset in contrasting colors.

The colors we picked for the rendering are black and white, which makes it easy to visually pick out individual exterior features. Starting in front, we find a revised fascia, which ditches the rounded frumpiness of the old i3 in favor of a longer lower bumper and hard edges. There are three intakes here, with triangular-shaped intakes in the sides and a larger intake underneath, all of which get a black mesh covering. A lower splitter element helps add a little front-end downforce and directs the air to where it needs to be. Above the bumper is the traditional kidney grille, which utilizes a blue and chrome surround to denote the car’s eco friendliness, plus the requisite “M” badge as a nod to its sporting intentions. The kidney is bookended by the usual aggressive headlight units, which get U-shaped daytime running lights around the perimeter of the housings. The hood is finished in a glossy black, the shape of which pulls the eye rearwards towards the A-pillars.


2020 BMW i3 M - image 734374
“Above the bumper is the traditional kidney grille, which utilizes a blue and chrome surround to denote the car’s eco friendliness, plus the requisite “M” badge as a nod to its sporting intentions.”

Moving into the flanks, we find modest fender flares, once again in a glossy black color. The front fenders also get a V-shaped vent, similar to other M models seen before. The top half of the vehicle continues the black coloring, which gives it a sort of “floating” appearance, which is similar to the standard model. The side skirts continue with a black strake, which enhances a visual sense of forward lean to it, plus a bit of blue embellishment that adds a nice splash of color, similar to the i8. The side view mirrors were also reshaped to offer a more aggressive look.

In back, we find a modest trailing edge roof spoiler, once again in black. We would expect the i3 M’s hatch to be finished in black, with the taillights offering a similar shape as the headlight housings.

We think it’s a solid combination of cues, pulling heavily from both the BMW i8 and existing M products. Check it out –


2015 BMW i8 - image 522680

2015 BMW M3 - image 554283

Note: BMW i3 (standard model) pictured on the left, BMW M3 pictured on the right.

Overall, we think the updates add a good deal of much-needed aggression to the i3, which becomes even more important when framing it as a performance vehicle.

We’d also expect BMW to offer the i3 M with a large collection of optional aero enhancements and carbon fiber exterior pieces. Stuff like carbon fiber side view mirror covers, a carbon fiber rear wing, carbon fiber front splitter, carbon fiber wheel arch extensions, and maybe even a graphics package for a heavier-hitting visual impact should make the list.

Finally, Bimmer would most likely equip LEDs for the lighting front to back, while large 19-inch wheels (the option for 20-inch wheels will be offered) fill the corners.

Interior


BMW Unveils 2018 i3 and i3s - image 728630

Note: standard BMW i3 pictured here.

Getting in and out of the BMW i3 M will be the same procedure as the standard model. The doors will split down the middle, with the front doors opening forward and the rear doors opening towards the tail, providing a good amount of space to settle into the front seats or crawl onto the back bench. This ease of ingress and egress will be upped thanks to the lack of a B-pillar, which is a testament to the i3’s impressive chassis rigidity.

Once you situate yourself in the cabin, you’ll be met with a fun and funky layout. First and foremost will be an upgraded steering wheel, which will get a flat-bottom and multi-function design, plus the requisite M badging in the right spots and handy grips at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions. The dash will incorporate copious horizontal design schemes, and mount a digital display in a tall, central position. The central tunnel will get additional buttons and toggle switches, plus a rotary knob to control the infotainment system. The seats will gain additional lateral support, and come with the option for even sportier sitters if desired.

“First and foremost will be an upgraded steering wheel, which will get a flat-bottom and multi-function design, plus the requisite M badging in the right spots and handy grips at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions.”

While not quite as spacey and futuristic as the i8, the i3 M should still be a pretty nice place to be. Also expect copious amounts of M components inside, both optional and standard. That means additional M branding (door sill plates, etc.), and faux carbon fiber for the trim (dash, door panels, etc.). High-end contrast stitching and Alcantara upholstery will be included as well.

Of course, being an i model, there should be the option for sustainable interior materials as well. Packages for green stuff like recycled materials and renewables will help the i3 M keep its eco cred, if that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for.

“Of course, being an i model, there should be the option for sustainable interior materials as well.”

In terms of technology, the i3 M will also get the very latest tech BMW has on offer. These include stuff like parking assist, front collision warning, active lane keep assist, active cruise control, and the like, not to mention gesture control inside the cabin. Apple CarPlay will be there to support your smartphone, while the display mounted high on the dash will measure in at 10.25 inches.

Drivetrain


2017 BMW i3 94 AH - image 674522

Note: standard i3 drivetrain and powertrain pictured here.

The current standard i3 model comes equipped with a variety of different powertrain options. The first is the i3 60 Ah, which gets a 22-kWh lithium-ion battery, while the i3 94 Ah gets a 33-kWh lithium-ion battery. All that juice makes its way to a single electric motor in the rear, which drives the rear axle with as much as 125 kW (or 168 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque). Properly applied, it’s enough to do the 0-to-60 mph run in 7.2 seconds, while top speed clocks in at 93 mph. The recently unveiled i3s is tuned for a bit more output, bumping it up to 184 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque, shaving a little time off the acceleration figure in the process. Finally, the i3 can be had with the option for a two-cylinder gas-powered internal combustion engine. Displacement for the ICE is rated at 647 cc’s, which adds substantially to the car’s range

So what about the i3 M?

For starters, we’re thinking the powertrain will pull heavily from the BMW i8, ditching the two-cylinder range extender in favor of a three-cylinder ICE as standard. That’s right – go with the M, and you’re hybrid no matter what.

“We’re thinking the powertrain will pull heavily from the BMW i8, ditching the two-cylinder range extender in favor of a three-cylinder ICE as standard. About 230 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque would fit well with a car that’s this lightweight”

This inline three-cylinder will once again get mounted in the rear, with the displacement coming in at roughly 1.5 liters. Power will also see a substantial increase, and we’re thinking as much as 230 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque would fit well with a car this lightweight. That much muscle would propel the BMW i3 M from 0-to-60 mph in less than 5 seconds, while the top speed would look something like 130 mph, which is far above the sub-100 mph top speed of the current i3.

Despite the increased power and faster acceleration, the BMW i3 M should also offer some half-decent all-electric range, with about 90 miles of local emissions-free motoring possible, if desired.

What’s more, the powertrain will offer that classic electrified instant torque, which will make it an absolute pleasure to drive. Just stamp the long pedal, and the little speed cube will squat and go, no fuss involved whatsoever.

Chassis And Handling


2020 BMW i3 M - image 734372

While it’s true that M division cars have been getting a bit soft around the edges over the last few years, I’d argue the Bavarian skunk works still has the know-how to make the BMW i3 a stellar handler.

While the current model tips the scales at a few hundred pounds under the 3,000-pound mark, we’d wager the larger ICE and more powerful electric motor would inevitably bump the i3 M up to at least 3,000 pounds. Of course, the i3 M would retain the same carbon fiber tub as the non-M variants, utilizing the identical carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) material wherever possible.

“Utilizing the identical carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) material wherever possible, the weight would mostly get centered over the rear, but approach that magical 50:50 front/back weight distribution that’s so desirable amongst sporty vehicles.”

The weight would mostly get centered over the rear, but approach that magical 50:50 front/back weight distribution that’s so desirable amongst sporty vehicles. Of course, with a RWD, rear-engine configuration, that’s to be expected, and with the proper suspension set-up, the i3 M could be magnificent in the corners. Furthermore, the battery will be stashed underneath the floor of the vehicle, keeping a lot of the pounds low enough to maintain relatively low amounts of body roll.

Regardless, we’d expect the BMW i3 M to come equipped with much wider tires, as the standard i3 gets super skinny eco rubber. By contrast, the M version will get a wider track and tons more grip. The stance will also be lower over the large wheels, and there’s likely to be multiple driving modes to sharpen the throttle, tighten the steering, and other such sporting features. Finally, we’d also expect the option for a sport suspension package, plus bigger brakes.

Prices


2020 BMW i3 M - image 734373

The current BMW i3 starts at $42,400, and can range as high as $48,300 when adding in the range-extender internal combustion engine. If BMW was to go about offering an M version, we’d suspect that number would rise substantially – up to $60,000, give or take, which would represent a $20,000 rise over the current entry-level model. Throw in a few pricey options (M exterior package, sportier suspension package, etc.), and that number could go even higher.

Competition

Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4 Hybrid


2017 Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 - image 693245

2017 Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 - image 693246

Small, quirky, and chic – these are the things that make the Countryman hybrid special. This is really an ideal competitor for the i3 M, as it’s not only relatively similar in terms of body shape and size, but it’s got the same BMW gloss as well (BMW owns Mini, in case you were unaware). Not only that, but this small hatch also rocks the same 1.5-liter turbo three-cylinder as the i8. The run to 62 mph takes 7.6 seconds thanks to 221 horsepower, while upwards of 26 miles of all electric range helps it get around without gasoline.

Read our full review on the Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4 Hybrid.

Tesla Model 3


2018 Tesla Model 3 - image 671345

2018 Tesla Model 3 - image 671349

Yes, we’re well aware that the Model 3 is all electric, all the time, and not a hybrid, but this segment isn’t exactly overflowing with options when it comes to competition. Not only that, but the Model 3 has pretty much established itself as the go-to affordable compact when it comes to green-intentioned driving. Thanks to its large lithium-ion battery pack, this thing can go upwards of 310 miles per charge, and hit the 60 mph benchmark in as little as 5.1 seconds. It’s cheaper too, priced at $35,000 before incentives. Of course, you need to factor in the convenience factor as well, given new orders take as long as 18 months to reach customers, plus the fact that charging the batteries takes hours to reach 100-percent capacity.

Read our full review on the Tesla Model 3.

Conclusion


2020 BMW i3 M - image 733434

While a BMW i3 M might seem like a long shot now, that could definitely change in the not-too-distant future. You see, BMW is doubling down on its electric and hybrid investments, and while that might seem a bit disturbing to those customers accustomed to the “Ultimate Driving Machine,” it’s highly doubtful the Bavarians will completely disregard their performance past in the name of eco friendliness. Sure, efficiency will get a bump and engines will get electrified, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun along the way.

“BMW is doubling down on its electric and hybrid investments, but it’s highly doubtful the Bavarians will completely disregard their performance past in the name of eco friendliness.”

We think a BMW i3 M is a great example of that balance. A car like this would be a mix of efficiency and power, offering sharp handling and comfort, all without burning too much petrol along the way. Yes, it’s expensive, but hey – it’s a Bimmer. That should be expected. Will customers feel the same way? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

  • Leave it
    • Very expensive
    • Faster options available
    • In the customer interest there?

References

BMW i3


BMW Unveils 2018 i3 and i3s - image 728638

Read our full review on the 2018 BMW i3.

BMW M3


2015 BMW M3 - image 554284

Read our full review on the 2017 BMW M3.

BMW i8


2015 BMW i8 - image 522684

Read our full review on the 2017 BMW i8.


2017 Tesla Model S - image 672439

Read more electric car news.

PostHeaderIcon Suzuki Swift Sport

Introduced in 2000 as the Suzuki Ignis, the Swift was redesigned in 2004 and again in 2010 when the third-generation model was launched. In 2017, Suzuki brought the fourth-generation into the spotlight with the company’s brand-new design language, which debuted on the slightly bigger Baleno. Unveiled for the European market at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, the new Swift received its higher-performance Sport version a few months later, at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show.

Developed as a higher performance version aimed at similar offerings from Volkswagen and Ford, the Swift Sport has been around since 2005. The recipe was pretty much simple and revolved mostly around a slightly more powerful engine and a few chassis tweaks. Unlike hot-hatches like the Volkswagen Polo GTI and Ford Fiesta ST, the Swift Sport didn’t really stand out in the lineup styling-wise. But this changes with the new hatchback, which gained a more individual appearance and even a range of unique features. Let’s find out more about that in the review below.

Continue reading to learn more about the Suzuki Swift Sport.

Exterior


2018 Suzuki Swift Sport - image 731181
“The grille is flanked by larger fog lamp housings, while the splitter below adds a touch of aggressiveness to the bumper”

Modern and sportier than ever, the new Swift is surprisingly aggressive in its Sport trim. Especially when compared to the outgoing model, which was… well… very boring. The new Swift also has a rather unique look, mostly because its styling blends European design features with Japanese Kei car elements. As I said before, I can’t stand a very serious, mature hatchback that draws too many cues from a sedan, and Suzuki read my mind with the new Swift Sport.

So what makes it different compared to the standard model?

First up, there a larger grille up front. Like most sports-trimmed models, it features a honeycomb mesh and a more aggressive frame. The black horizontal bar that separates the upper section from the one that trickles into the bumper is also unique to this model. The grille is flanked by larger fog lamp housings, while the splitter below adds a touch of aggressiveness to the bumper. The latter is made from a plastic that mimics carbon-fiber in a very authentic way. Sure, it’s not the real deal and this may be a turn off for most enthusiasts, but I think it’s a nice touch on an affordable car.


2018 Suzuki Swift Sport - image 732005
“Around back, there's a diffuser-like element made from fake carbon-fiber and a pair of large exhaust pipes”

The Swift’s profile is already appealing to look at in standard guise, but the fake carbon skirts and the bespoke, thin-spoke 17-inch wheels further enhance the muscular beltline and the roof that “floats” on blacked-out pillars. Around back, there’s a new diffuser-like element made from the same fake carbon and a pair of large exhaust pipes. The sporty look is rounded off by a black-colored spoiler atop the tailgate.

Seven exterior colors are available for the Swift Sport, including three new hues. Six of them are taken from the standard Swift palette and include Burning Red Pearl Metallic, Speedy Blue Metallic, Pure White Pearl, Premium Silver Metallic, Mineral Grey Metallic, and Super Black Pearl. The red and blue were introduced with the new Swift. Finally, there’s Champion Yellow, a color inspired by the color scheme of the Suzuki Works rally car from the Junior World Rally Championship.

Interior


2018 Suzuki Swift Sport - image 731183
“Arguably the most noticeable new features are the bright red accents on the dashboard, center console, and door panels”

The interior doesn’t stand out as much as the exterior, but it’s no surprise that the layout is identical to that in the standard model. Thankfully, Suzuki did add a few extra features, so it’s safe to say that the Sport’s cabin is somewhat unique.

Arguably the most noticeable new features are the bright red accents on the dashboard, center console, and door panels. These add-ons not only add a splash of color to the overall black interior — which I’m not a big fan of, by the way — but also give the car a more upscale look. The instrument cluster also features red accents, especially in the rev counter gauge. And speaking of that, the Swift Sport comes with new boost and oil temperature gauges.

In front of the instrument cluster there’s a flat-bottom steering wheel wrapped in dimpled leather for a more secure grip. The wheel is actually more of a mild D shape, so it’s not overly aggressive, but it adds a touch of sportiness to the cabin, while the standard leather puts it closer to the competition.


2018 Suzuki Swift Sport - image 732017
“In front of the instrument cluster there's a flat-bottom steering wheel wrapped in dimpled leather for a more secure grip”

Speaking of higher quality materials, the Swift Sport package also includes piano black accents, red cross-stitching, satin finish for various elements, a chromed gear shift knob, and alloy sports pedals. Finally, it has semi-bucket front seats that provide enhanced support for spirited driving. The Bluetooth-compatible Smartphone Linkage Display Audio Display*unit with the seven-inch touchscreen and a SD Card 3D-map navigation is standard equipment.

On top of all of the Sport-spec features above, you will benefit from all the new stuff in the new, third-generation Swift. Highlights include air conditioning, DAB radio, four speakers, rear privacy glass, and a rear-view camera. The new Swift also benefits from increased roominess. There’s almost an inch of extra head clearance, more legroom for rear passengers, as well as 25-percent more luggage space.

Drivetrain


2018 Suzuki Swift Sport - image 731184
“Powered by a 1.4-liter, Boosterjet engine, the Swift Sport is rated at 138 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque”

Powered by the company’s relatively new 1.4-liter, Boosterjet engine, the Swift Sport is rated at 138 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. That’s an eight-horsepower and 50-pound-feet increase over the outgoing model. It’s pretty decent for a new-generation car, but it’s also significantly off compared to what you get with the Volkswagen Polo GTi and Ford Fiesta ST, both of which deliver almost 200 horsepower.

Needless to say, Suzuki’s claim that the Swift Sport delivers hot-hatch performance isn’t exactly true. Still, with a curb weight of only 970 kg and a revised suspension system, the Swift Sport is a solid option if you don’t want to pay Volkswagen or Ford premiums.

Not only 80 kg lighter than the outgoing model, the new Swift Sport also uses a new turbocharger that helps the engine produce impressive torque from low in the rev range, while the small displacement and direct fuel injection system optimizes fuel consumption. The old 6-speed manual transmission has been enhanced, with retuned actuating force providing improved shift smoothness and increased driver feedback.


2018 Suzuki Swift Sport - image 731179
“In the suspension department, the Swift Sport continues to use Monroe shock absorbers front and rear”

In the suspension department, the Swift Sport continues to use Monroe shock absorbers front and rear, but the chassis received numerous upgrades compared to the standard model. The wheel hub and wheel bearings have been made into a single unit, and the width between the bearings has been expanded, which results in a 15-percent increase in camber rigidity during cornering.

The rear suspension was also specifically designed to ensure superior stability. The trailing arm was developed exclusively for this model to minimize deformation during cornering. Finally, toe rigidity has been improved by 1.4 times compared to its predecessor, and camber rigidity is higher by a factor of nearly three. All told, expect the new Swift Sport to be the sportiest iteration of the hatchback ever made.

Prices


2018 Suzuki Swift Sport - image 732007

2018 Suzuki Swift Sport - image 732003

Pricing for the new Swift Sport isn’t yet available, but it’s safe to assume that it will cost more than the range-topping SZ5 trim of the standard model, priced from £14,499. It should also cost less than the new Volkswagen Polo GTI and Ford Fiesta ST, which are expected to start from around £19,000 to £20,000. All told, look for a sticker set around £17,000 to £18,000. For reference, the base model starts from £10,999.

Competition

Volkswagen Polo GTI


2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI - image 731370

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI - image 731371

One of the most popular subcompact hot-hatches in Europe, the Polo GTI was redesigned for the 2018 model year. Now benefiting from the sportier, more angular looks of the new Polo (heavily based on the latest Golf), the new GTI sports a range of unique design features, including red detailing on the front grille, a diffuser-like element around back, and special wheels. The cabin is by far the most appealing in this niche thanks to its clean, high-tech looks and premium market features. Under the hood, the old 1.8-liter four-cylinder was replaced with a 2.0-liter unit, making the Polo GTI the hot-hatch with the biggest engine in this comparison. The four-banger generates 197 horsepower and 240 pound-feet, a small upgrade over the outgoing model that puts it on par with the Fiesta ST, but below the Yaris GRMN. Obviously, it’s significantly more powerful than the Swift Sport. As far as performance goes, it’s as quick as the Fiesta ST with a 0-to-62 mph time of 6.7 seconds, but it’s slower than the Yaris. Top speed is rated at 146 mph, the highest in this niche. Pricing is not yet available as of this writing, but it should start from around £20,000 in the U.K..

Read our full review of the Volkswagen Polo GTI.

Ford Fiesta ST


2018 Ford Fiesta ST - image 706952

2018 Ford Fiesta ST - image 706953

Also redesigned for 2018, the Fiesta ST is also of the evolutionary variety, but unlike the Polo GTI, it sports a few more significant changes. Up front, the new grille is reminiscent of the larger Focus, while the bumper is decidedly more aggressive. But it’s the boasts the biggest change, in the form of horizontal taillights instead of the previous model’s vertical units. The Fiesta ST is pretty different under the hood too, as Ford ditched the four-cylinder in favor of a three-pot. But while small, the turbocharged, 1.5-liter unit cranks out a solid 197 horsepower and 214 pound-feet of torque, which makes the Fiesta ST just a quick as the Polo GTI from 0 to 62 mph. Top speed, on the other hand, is lower at 130 mph, but hey, the overall package is better when compared to the Swift Sport. Pricing is likely to start from around £19,000 in the United Kingdom.

Read our full review of the Ford Fiesta ST

Toyota Yaris GRMN


Gather Round Hot-Hatch Fans, Toyota Will Unveil a 210-HP Yaris Soon - image 701697

Gather Round Hot-Hatch Fans, Toyota Will Unveil a 210-HP Yaris Soon - image 701696

Launched at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, the Yaris GRMN is Toyota’s first high-performance hatchback and the company’s first rival for the popular Polo GTI and Fiesta ST. Also heavily based on the standard model design-wise, the GRMN stands out by means of a more complex aerodynamic package and race-inspired wheels and rear diffuser. While not overly aggressive, it still looks as if it could give the competition a run for its money by exterior design alone. Performance-wise it actually quite appealing. Using a supercharged (an exclusive feature in this segment), 1.8-liter four-cylinder rated at 212 horsepower, the Yaris GRMN hits 62 mph in only 6.3 seconds. On the other hand, its cabin is nowhere near as fancy as the Polo’s and lacks many of Volkswagen’s latest features. Pricing is also somewhat of an issue, as it is set at £26,295, at least £6,000 more than what the Polo GTI, Fiesta ST, and Swift Sport are expected to fetch.

Read our full review of the Toyota Yaris GRMN.

Conclusion


New Suzuki Swift Puts On Aggressive Suit In Frankfurt - image 731176

The Suzuki Swift Sport has been the underdog of the performance-oriented supermini market ever since it was introduced back in 2005. And that’s not going to change very soon because it’s very difficult to compete against the already established Volkswagen Polo GTI and Ford Fiesta ST. And these two cars are not only more popular in most markets, but also come with better equipment lines. The latest Polo GTI was also moved higher on the premium ladder, so Suzuki is again at least one step behind. But the new Swift Sport is a significantly better car than the outgoing model and this is a big deal given all the issues the Japanese automaker is facing nowadays. Not only more powerful and quicker, the new Swift Sport is actually sportier on the outside. Its exclusive features make quite the big difference and the Swift is finally on par with the competition when it comes to range-topping trims. Sure, you don’t get the performance you can buy from Volkswagen and Ford, but the Swift Sport is a cute, little but souped-up bug that’s powerful enough to give you some thrills. And it should be a bit more affordable to take home.

  • Leave it
    • Not as powerful as the competition
    • Tough competition

References

Suzuki Swift


2017 Suzuki Swift - image 699505

Read our full review on the Suzuki Swift.


2015 Suzuki Ignis Trail Concept - image 649064

Read more Suzuki news.

PostHeaderIcon Hyundai Ioniq – Driven

Toyota Prius, you’re on notice: The Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid is here, and it’s arguably doing this whole hybrid, fuel-efficient family car thing better than you.

The Prius has had this market sewn-up for over a decade now. There’s been competition, but it’s been limited. Considering gasoline has been “cheap” here in the States for most of that time, it’s easy to understand why automakers haven’t been eager to challenge Toyota with a compact hybrid hatchback. After all, compact cars aren’t the hottest-selling things in truck-and-SUV-loving ‘Merica, so getting folks to pay a little more for a hybrid electric powertrain in a compact car can be a hard sell.

So while other compacts like the Ford Focus, Nissan Sentra, Kia Forte, and yes, even Toyota’s own Corolla and Hyundai’s own Elantra fought it out for a piece of a shrinking pie, the Prius more or less had the super-efficient niche all to itself.

All three versions of the Prius — compact Liftback, subcompact “C”, and midsize “V” — sold 136,632 copies combined in 2016 — down 48,162 from the year prior. (Toyota didn’t provide a breakdown of individual Prius model sales in its 2016 year-end sales stats.) By comparison, the brand’s Corolla sedan sold 360,483 copies in the same year, and that’s not counting the 17,727 copies of the closely related Corolla (née Scion) iM hatchback. But to show you how much we ‘Mericans love trucks and cheap gas, Ford sold more gas-guzzling F-Series pickup trucks in 2016 than all of the above combined — 820,799 trucks total.

Into this fuel-swilling American marketplace steps Hyundai with its first dedicated compact hybrid, the Ioniq, designed specifically to compete with the Prius Liftback. Even with the Prius getting a much-needed total redesign this year, there are things I like better about the Ioniq. First and foremost: its design.

Continue reading for the full story.

Design Notes


2017 Hyundai Ioniq - Driven - image 733920

The Hyundai Ioniq shares one notable design element with the Prius Liftback: a “Kammback” hatch design. This unique rear shape also has been a feature of other fuel-efficient cars in the past. Honda’s CR-Z and Insight hybrid models utilized this shape in recent memory, and models like the Honda CR-X also utilized the shape many years ago.

“The Hyundai Ioniq shares one notable design element with the Prius Liftback: a “Kammback” hatch design”

Hyundai’s integration of the shape is less ostentatious than that found on the latest Prius Liftback, but it’s still a little awkward to behold. A spoiler runs across the lower third of a rear hatch glass area that would otherwise be quite elegant, spanning the distance between the two taillight lenses. Losing this design element would benefit both the attractiveness of the exterior design and the driver’s rearward visibility, but I’m sure the spoiler was necessary to wring the most fuel economy from the car.


2017 Hyundai Ioniq - Driven - image 733907

2017 Hyundai Ioniq - Driven - image 733913

From the side view, the Hyundai Ioniq looks like an attractively styled compact sedan with its trunk lopped off. A mild crease connects the front corner of the taillights to the rear corner of the headlights, traveling just above both door handles along the way. Small chrome-strip accents on the door handles and on the lower portion of the side window trim are elegant and add a bit of flair to the design.

“From the side view, the Hyundai Ioniq looks like an attractively styled compact sedan with its trunk lopped off”

The front of the Hyundai Ioniq doesn’t look too different from any other current Hyundai sedan, and that’s a good thing. Inoffensive and attractive, it’s a face you probably won’t mind seeing in your driveway every day. I can’t say the same for the newest Prius.


2017 Hyundai Ioniq - Driven - image 733918

Overall, Hyundai said the Ioniq has a class-leading coefficient-of-drag of 0.24. That they managed to achieve that slippery shape while maintaining the car’s attractiveness deserves applause.

Powertrain Notes


2017 Hyundai Ioniq - Driven - image 733906

Hyundai goes about this whole hybrid-electric thing a little differently than Toyota. I found the Ioniq nicer to drive than most Toyota hybrids primarily because of these differences.

“I found the Ioniq nicer to drive than most Toyota hybrids primarily because of these differences.”

The primary difference many drivers will notice right off the bat is the Ioniq’s six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. This is quite different from the continuously variable transmission in the Prius and most other Toyota hybrids. With seven real gears instead of an infinitely variable set of pulleys, the Hyundai will feel more satisfying to most drivers who have been conditioned to feel shift points as they accelerate.


2017 Hyundai Ioniq - Driven - image 733905

That said, this is probably the best iteration of Hyundai’s dual-clutch transmission. This same transmission in the Hyundai Elantra Sport feels too herky-jerky at low speeds, such as when you’re crawling in rush hour traffic or backing out of a parking space. The 43-horsepower electric motor delivers plenty of torque — up to 125 pound-feet — from the moment you touch the accelerator. I suspect that’s the reason the Ioniq’s implementation of this transmission is nicer than it is in other, non-hybrid Hyundais. At speed, the transmission’s shifts are silky smooth.

“The Ioniq combines a 1.6-liter direct-injection Atkinson-cycle gasoline four-cylinder engine with a permanent magnet synchronous electric motor”

The Ioniq combines a 1.6-liter direct-injection Atkinson-cycle gasoline four-cylinder engine with a permanent magnet synchronous electric motor. The gasoline engine makes 104 horsepower at 5,700 RPM and 109 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 RPM. Total system horsepower is listed at 139.


2017 Hyundai Ioniq - Driven - image 733909

Hybrid-electric cars are all about fuel economy, and the Ioniq does not disappoint on that front, with EPA rating the car at 59 MPG city, 57 MPG highway, 58 MPG combined. I drove it like a total buffoon and still got 53 MPG.

The Drive


2017 Hyundai Ioniq - Driven - image 733904

Hyundai did not go with a fully independent rear suspension, as the newly redesigned Prius did. That may be the one thing the Prius has over the Ioniq, when it comes to driving characteristics. But for the majority of drivers, I suspect the difference will not be noticed. It’s not like you buy either of these cars with the intention of racing in an autocross event.

“Hyundai did not go with a fully independent rear suspension, as the newly redesigned Prius did.”

What more drivers will notice is Hyundai’s lack of zany features to remind them they’re driving a hybrid: No funky gearshift. No distracting center-mounted gauge pod. No “guilt games” displayed on the dashboard to make you feel bad about dipping into the throttle when necessary.


2017 Hyundai Ioniq - Driven - image 733919

The Ioniq is not a fast car, with the aforementioned 139 total system horsepower motivating about 3,000 lbs. That said, it doesn’t struggle to keep pace in traffic. Nor does it feel piggish when driven on a curvy road. There’s some body roll, to be sure, though the hybrid batteries’ positioning under the floor of the car’s interior helps give it a low center of gravity that keeps handling pretty neutral unless pushed hard. Remember, the Ioniq primarily wants to be a comfortable family car that gets great fuel economy. It’s not trying to be a race car or a hot-hatch.

“Pedal feel was nice and linear, which is something of a struggle for most of the Ioniq’s competitors”

Steering feel was on-par with everything else in the compact segment — which is to say, pretty numb. But brake feel was a class above the last few hybrids I have driven. Pedal feel was nice and linear, which is something of a struggle for most of the Ioniq’s competitors. With the first few millimeters of pedal travel used for regenerative braking, recapturing kinetic energy to provide a boost to the hybrid battery pack, the transition from regenerative braking to regular braking often is troublesome in hybrids. The transition in the Ioniq is smoother than most.

The Competition

Competitors in this segment are not plentiful, thanks mostly to the “cheap” gas to which we Americans are accustomed.

Toyota Prius


2017 Toyota Prius Prime - image 670438

2017 Toyota Prius Prime - image 670448

But of course, the biggest target Hyundai had in mind was the Toyota Prius Liftback. With a nearly 20-year head-start on the Hyundai Ioniq, the Prius doesn’t necessarily do things any better than the Ioniq — just differently.

Arguably, the Prius has the better suspension design, with independent rear suspension allowing for a more planted, sure feel in curves and over broken pavement. But it almost every other way, the Ioniq is aiming for more mainstream buyers. Principally, the Ioniq isn’t trying to shout about its green credentials as loudly as Prius, with its design being more understated and its interior looking and feeling a lot more like a traditional compact sedan.

Either one of these hybrids will return great fuel economy for most drivers, and they should prove reliable for years to come. The Ioniq has a starting price about $1,200 cheaper than Prius Liftback, however. A fully loaded Ioniq will come in with an even larger price advantage over a fully loaded Prius.

Read our full review on the Toyota Prius.

Ford C-MAX Hybrid


2016 Ford C-Max Hybrid - image 703706

2016 Ford C-Max Hybrid - image 703707

While it’s not as fuel-efficient as the Ioniq or Prius, the Ford C-MAX Hybrid has its own charm.

It’s more of an MPV than the sedan-like Ioniq, with an upright form factor that makes it friendly for passengers and cargo. Taller seat cushion height makes entry and exit easier, too.

The C-MAX carries a slightly higher starting price than Ioniq, at $24,175, and a fully loaded example will set you back about $32,000. However, Ford often has steep incentives on the C-MAX, one of its slowest-selling models, to help bring that price down before you even step foot in a dealership and start negotiating. At the time of this writing, a C-MAX Hybrid with all the options was advertised at $26,880 after $5,750 in incentives.

Read our full review on the Ford C-MAX Hybrid.

Kia Niro Hybrid


2017 Kia Niro - image 665038

2017 Kia Niro - image 665032

Kia Niro is the sister car to the Hyundai Ioniq, as the two share the same powertrain layout. But where Ioniq takes direct aim at the Prius, Niro aims at a different sort of driver — namely, someone who is attracted to mainstream small crossover SUVs.

Mostly as a result of its less-slippery, SUV-like shape, the Niro doesn’t quite achieve Ioniq’s fuel economy. It is rated at 52 MPG city, 49 MPG highway, 50 MPG combined in its most-efficient FE trim. Step up to nicer options in the LX or EX trims, and those numbers go down to 51/46/49. Go up to the top-level Touring trim, and they further decline to 46/40/43.

While not as efficient, the Niro has a more desirable form factor for a lot of families. It more closely resembles the SUVs that many families crave. Like the Ioniq, it does not try to announce its eco-friendly intentions to the world too loudly. Best of all for buyers on a budget, the Niro has prices similar to the Ioniq, with a starting MSRP of $22,890 and with a fully loaded Touring trim carrying a price tag of about $33,000 before incentives.

Read our full review on the Kia Niro Hybrid.

Conclusion


2017 Hyundai Ioniq - Driven - image 733917

I like the idea of using less fuel, but not if it means I have to put up with a lot of design features that I detest. Toyota’s Prius reels me in with its excellent fuel economy and promise of a well-sorted (for a hybrid) chassis, but then it turns me off when I actually interact with it. Its weird gear selector, center-mounted gauge pod, and exterior design do nothing to convince me I want to commute every day in a Prius.

Hyundai Ioniq is the no-compromise Prius, if those things bother you as much as they bother me. It’s less wild-looking on the outside than the Prius, and it’s a lot more like driving a non-hybrid compact car once you’re on the inside. It also gets fuel mileage that will make Prius fanboys look twice — Hyundai notes it’s “the most fuel-efficient car in America,” with the Ioniq’s “Blue” trim being rated at 57 MPG city, 59 MPG highway, and 58 MPG combined by EPA.

If the Ioniq is billing itself as the hybrid for people who aren’t sure a hybrid is right for them, I think it’s hitting the target perfectly. I think it stands a chance to make a lot of new converts to hybrid motoring.

Disclosure: Hyundai provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of fuel for this review.

References

Hyundai Ioniq


2017 Hyundai Ioniq - image 662198

Read our full review on the Hyundai Ioniq.


2017 Hyundai Next-Gen Fuel Cell SUV - image 726681

Read more Hyundai news.

PostHeaderIcon Volkswagen Polo GTI

Volkswagen’s most iconic model after legendary Beetle, the Golf became a performance hatchback all the way back in 1976, only two years after the nameplate was introduced. A popular model since day one, the Golf GTI inspired Volkswagen to design a higher performance version of the smaller Polo too. Although the first Polo GTi didn’t arrive until 1995, the model can trace its roots back to the first-generation G40 version. Following a limited-edition introduction in the 1990s, the GTI has become a regular member of the Polo family, and 2017 brought the latest-generation hatch into the spotlight.

Launched at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, the latest Polo GTI is based on the latest, sixth-generation subcompact, also unveiled in 2017. Built on a new platform, it uses an updated design language based on the latest Golf and a redesigned interior that moves the new Polo into a higher class, closer to the premium market. More importantly, the new GTI gained a 2.0-liter engine instead of the old, 1.8-liter unit. On the flipside, if you were expecting a new Polo GTI with significantly more power, you’ll probably be a bit disappointed. But more about that in the review below.

Continue reading to learn more about the upcoming Volkswagen Polo GTi.

PostHeaderIcon Quick Highlight – Subaru Impreza Gravel Express

I think at this point, Subaru is well established as one of the primary movers and shakers in the world of rough, rally-tough performance, mostly thanks to the turbocharged, all-four-driven, race-bred WRX. But while this mainstay of the import enthusiast culture first hit U.S. shores in the early 2000’s, older overseas slideways fans have known the joy of boosted Scoobys for much longer. Probably the most famous old school ‘Rex is the wide-hipped, be-winged 22B, a true icon in and of itself. But I’m not here to sing the praises of the 22B, at least not this time around. No, instead I want to raise awareness of something a little… weirder. Say hello to the Gravel Express, a JDM-special WRX rocking two-tone paint, a raised ride height, a giant bull bar on the nose, and a spare wheel on the hatch.

All you really need to know about this thing is right there in the name. Indeed, this odd Impreza is rocking WRX-levels of power from a carryover turbocharged 2.0-liter boxer engine and the traditional high-performance symmetrical AWD system. Unfortunately, Subaru axed the Gravel Express after just one generation, because apparently, this tasty slice of automotive awesomeness just didn’t sell as well as hoped. But the fact it was made at all is reason to celebrate, no?

On these shores, we got the much-less-interesting Impreza Outback Sport, which neglected boost in favor an all-atmosphere 2.2-liter four-cylinder, but the bones are pretty much the same. Your job, dear enthusiast, is to find an old Outback Sport, drop in a turbo 2.0-liter, lift it up, mount a bull bar up front, and put a spare wheel on the hatch. Once your task is complete, let the gravel be your guide…

PostHeaderIcon Honda Urban EV Concept

Honda has finally found its way again – the new Civic and new Accord look amazing and serve their purpose well, and the new Civic Type R is even coming to the U.S. for the first time. Needless to say, Honda is on a roll. Now, with auto show season kicking off, Honda decided to show up to the first big auto show with the Honda Urban EV Concept, a car that showcases Honda’s pride in its history and provides a glimpse at what we can expect from Honda in the future as it begins to transition deeper into the EV market. Basically a modern interpretation of the first-gen Civic (1972 – 1979), it features circular, LED headlights, an illuminated “H” up front, all the looks of the first-gen Civic, and an electric drivetrain that includes a high-density lightweight battery pack. It’s also nearly four inches shorter than the Honda Jazz, so there’s that.

With that in mind, it should be noted that Honda hasn’t released too much information on the concept or the production model that should see the light of day in Europe of 2019. But, if you look at the exterior look, we can say with near certainty that the production model will sport a similar look. The interior will likely find itself toned down a bit, but hey, we’re talking about an affordable vehicle here, so you can’t always have your cake and eat it too. Be that as it may, let’s take a good look at Honda’s newest concept and talk more about it.

Continue reading to learn more about the Honda Urban EV Concept.

PostHeaderIcon Brabus Ultimate E Concept

In the 23 years that it’s been around, Smart has become a staple in urban cities, fulfilling its mission of being a purveyor of affordable compact cars. But like most car brands, Smart has a sporty and aggressive alter ego, though one that we rarely get to see. It just so happened that one such example was presented at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show by noted tuner Brabus. It’s called the Brabus Ultimate E Concept, and it’s an absolute humdinger.

Okay, so I know what you’re thinking. “It’s a Smart ForTwo. ‘Humdinger’ isn’t exactly the kind of word I’d use to describe it.” You’d be right about that, but you’d also be wrong in assuming that the Ultimate E Concept is nothing more than a dressed up ForTwo wearing a Brabus kit. It’s way more than what it appears to be, and we have Brabus and its partner-in-crime in this project, Kreisel Electric, to thank for that. This concept – it really shouldn’t be a concept – represents the pinnacle of what the Smart ForTwo can become if it adopts new technologies and embraces its inner id in the process. Think a 200-horsepower Smart ForTwo is still the stuff of dreams and fantasies? Think again. Smart has come a long way since it started in 1994. I can’t tell for certain if the Brabus Ultimate E Concept is the future, but if it is, then that future just became mighty exciting.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

PostHeaderIcon The 2018 Polo GTI is an Attractive Reminder of Why Volkswagen is King of the Hot Hatch Market

The Volkswagen Polo isn’t exactly a spring chicken, gracing various markets of the world since 1975. In the 47 years the Polo has lived, it’s seen a number of different versions, including the Polo Fun, Polo Soho, Polo Vivo, Polo Dune, and even the funky, jacked up Cross Polo. Come 1995, and the Polo (in Mk3 form) was finally all grown up and was christened with its very first GTI badge, a model that was produced in just 3,000 examples. Since then, the Polo GTI has gotten better and better as it shifted into the Mk4 and Mk5 generations, but come 2017 and Volkswagen was proud to announce the newest, Mk6 Polo GTI– a model that sports GTI-specific bumpers, exclusive 17-inch wheels, large brakes, twin exhaust, sport steering, lowered suspension, and the 2.0-liter from the Golf GTI that has been slightly detuned to 200PS, the most power ever offered by a Polo GTI and the equivalent of 197 horsepower for those of you not on the metric system. 18-inch wheels are also available as an option, and the largest wheel offering in the history of the little hatchback.

On top of all of these GTI extras, the Polo GTI is based on the sixth-generation, 2018 Polo, which means it gets all of the fresh stylings inside and out to go with some standard safety features like front collision detection, blind spot assist, and even automatic emergency stopping. The base model is even available in 14 different exterior colors while the dash inside is customizable with any one of 17 different color options. When you add the extra power, the new styling, the standard safety systems, and the ability to choose from a wide array of different colors inside and out, this is by far the best Polo GTI to date. Let’s give it a quick once over and talk about all the goodness that comes with the sixth-gen GTI before we get to the full review.

PostHeaderIcon Renault Megane R.S. Is Proof that the French Need to Return to America ASAP!

After no fewer than eight years on the market, the third-generation Megane was finally replaced in 2016. The redesign brought a significantly more modern vehicle in showrooms, as well as proof that Renault can deliver pretty cars. Of course, the company’s most recent design language looks appealing on just about any nameplate that uses it, but the Megane is particularly attractive due to its balance, hatchback body style. For more than a decade now, a new Megane was always followed by a redesigned Megane R.S., so it’s far from surprising that Renault brought a new rendition of its performance hatchback at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show.

With the hot-hatch heavily based on the standard Megane and most R.S. features borrowed from the existing Clio R.S., the new Megane R.S. is far from surprising if you ask me. I mean, it’s just like I imagined it and all the recently launched R.S. features are there. This isn’t a bad thing though. On the contrary, the new Megane R.S. is stunning to look at, and I think it trumps everything else in this segment styling-wise, including the Volkswagen Golf R and the Ford Focus RS. Okay, so maybe the Focus RS is hard to beat, but the Megane R.S. is still cool enough to get us frustrated over the fact that Renaults aren’t available in the United States.

Continue reading for the full story.

PostHeaderIcon New Suzuki Swift Puts On Aggressive Suit In Frankfurt

While most Japanese automakers are enjoying success in both the United States and Europe, Suzuki hasn’t been doing particularly well in recent years. But that’s not to say that it hasn’t been trying. The last couple of years brought three brand-new Suzuki vehicles into dealerships — the Ignis, Baleno, and Swift — and the Japanese firm may be on its way to a better future, at least in some markets. Come 2017 and Suzuki is pushing things a bit further with a redesigned version of the Swift Sport.

The higher performance version of the small hatchback broke cover at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, and it’s more appealing than ever. The new Swift design is perfect for the hot hatch treatment, and even though the performance might not be on par with the likes of the Polo GTi, the Swift Sport sure looks like it could outgun the competition. Of course, looks won’t it help it go faster, but it’s a significant progression compared to previous iterations of the Swift Sport. And, it’s worth looking into.

Continue reading for the full story.

PostHeaderIcon Brabus Goes Electric With The Ultimate E Concept

You know the electric revolution in the auto industry is looking more and more like a real thing when aftermarket tuners, usually the last defenders of traditional gas-powered engines, start to slowly embrace the prospect of tuning electric cars. Brabus isn’t quite there yet, but one of its offerings for the Frankfurt Motor Show points exactly to that kind of future. The model is called the Brabus Ultimate E Concept, and while it does take its roots from the smart ForTwo, this creation is more about what the tuner can do moving forward more than it is a showcase of smart’s expanding portfolio.

To be fair, there are a number of interesting items in the Ultimate E Concept. It’s all dressed up in a swath of fancy aero bits, making it look a lot more dynamic than a run-of-the-mill ForTwo. It even has an eye-catching yellow paint that a Mercedes-AMG GT R would be proud to wear. The real highlight of the concept though is its drivetrain. Don’t go looking for a combustion engine in there because it’s long gone. In its place is a full electric powertrain that Brabus developed in collaboration with Kreisel Electric. The result is a car that can produce 201 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, making it one of the most powerful versions of the smart ForTwo in the world. For a car that’s never been considered exciting, the Brabus’ Ultimate E Concept looks to be one way to inject some life into the little ride.

Continue reading for the full story.

PostHeaderIcon BMW 1 Series

We didn’t get a chance to enjoy the second-generation 1 Series here in the States, but with the introduction of the third-gen model, BMW has decided we are worthy yet again. So far, very little is known about the new 1 Series, but one big factor could be rather detrimental to its success: it’s shifting from a RWD architecture to a FWD architecture. It’s a move that’s surely ruffling some feathers in the Bimmer community. This switch is made possible by UKL platform that debuted in the 2014 Mini Cooper and now underpins the new 1 Series Sedan, 2 Series Active Tourer, and the X1. Outside of this, the new 1 Series will shed its homely exterior design in favor of a more aggressive look with a slightly longer wheelbase than previous models. Rumor also has it BMW is dropping the three-door model, leaving just the five-door hatch to fight against models like the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus, among others.

More importantly, however, is the fact that the UKL platform will translate to more space inside for rear seat passengers and cargo. Compared to the Mini Cooper, the new 1 Series will be a bit longer and is even said to be coming back to the U.S. And, to add even more fuel to the fire, the BMW 1M could come back with as much as 360 horsepower on tap – just enough to put the Focus RS and Golf R in their place. But, before we get too far into all of that, let’s take a short walk down memory lane before diving into hints offered by the first round of spy shots.

Update 11/02/2017: It’s been two months, but the BMW 1 Series has finally been seen testing on public roads yet again. Nothing has changed on the outside, but boy do we get an exciting look at the inside. Check out the spy shots section below to see it for yourself.

Spyshots

11/02/2017 – Take a peek inside the 1 Series crystal ball


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So, let me start off by saying that we’ve gone over these spy shots multiple times attempting to find something new, but nothing on the outside has changed. It’s only been a couple of months, and, it happens. But, what’s important here is what came at the end of our photo roll, and that was a look at the interior. It’s pretty wild considering BMW rarely changes much, but the truth is, there’s a lot going on here – even if we can’ see most of it because it’s covered up. First of all, let me point out the more obvious items like the new shifter for the automatic transmission, and there’s also a button for the ugh electronic emergency brake. Dear God, don’t get me started on the addition of the electronic E-brake.


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The real changes are what’s happening under the covers. In case you don’t see it, those center HVAC vents are sitting much lower than on the current model and take a look at the infotainment display. Sure, it’s covered up but notice how much larger it is? Oh, and look at the controls down below the vents for the HVAC, there’s only one control knob there. The instrument cluster also looks to have grown a bit while the infotainment display itself will actually sit more forward toward the driver instead of hovering above the dash. In the end, the dash and center console are more integrated into the vehicle and appear to have a much cleaner fit and finish. The center console itself should be revised to a varying degree while the door trim panels should be all new.


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For now, that’s all we really have to go by, and while it may be a little disappointing that the new 1 Series will be switching over to FWD with the UKL platform and least the interior will be nice and fresh – should make for a breath of fresh air, to say the least. And, it shouldn’t be that surprising that the interior is getting such a makeover since the UKL platform and FWD layout mean more room inside. Instead of giving it all to the boot or the rear passengers, the extra space should spread out evenly through the cabin, a smart move for such a small vehicle. Oh, and in case you forgot, the three-door model isn’t going to be around for this generation, so you’re stuck with the five-door model. Best of luck with that…

09/08/2017 – The 1 Series drops some camo and shows face for the first time


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The last time we saw the 1 Series, it was sporting a look that told us that it was very early in the test phase. It didn’t feature any important defining features in the front, with the grilles and vents all square in shape. Meanwhile, there was enough whacky camo to send your eyes into a goofy spiral if you looked at it a little too hard. Well,
a lot of the camo is still there, but this time around the 1 Series is sporting kidney grilles that aren’t production ready but show off the official shape. We can also make out what the fascia will look like thanks to a nice view of the left corner, and we can see what appear to be the production headlights as well.

So, what does any of this tell us about the production model?

“The 1 Series will ditch the headlight style of the newer BMW’s and go with a single LED projection unit that is mounted pretty much in the center of the lens”

Let’s start with the headlights. The last prototype we saw didn’t give us a very good look, but this time around we can make out just about everything. For starters, the 1 Series will ditch the headlight style of the newer BMW’s and go with a single LED projection unit that is mounted pretty much in the center of the lens. We can’t make out the LED strips that will be in the lights, but based on the camo they will be along the top and lower edges. The side/corner markers will also feature a clear lens with amber reflectors and bulbs, so that will be a nice, Euro-like touch. Of course, BMW could have just made these decoys look really nice to throw us off, so try not to take that too much to heart quite yet.

Next up, we’ve got those kidney grilles that look like they were 3D-printed in a rush. They are larger than those of the current model and feature wider but fewer louvers. The outer, lower corners are also more rounded and longer than those of the current model too. It’s a nice look and seems to be a trend, as all recently revamped models from Bimmer seem to have larger grilles up front. As you can see from the close-up shot of the front, the grilles are almost entirely blocked off, allowing very little air through so this isn’t a hint toward extra performance or a need for increased cooling either. Further down, we can back out part of the air dam which is also largely blocked off. It features a louver in the center that connects to the lower lip. There also appears to be a sensor or camera of some sort that hints toward some kind of semi-autonomous features – most likely things like active cruise control and automatic emergency braking.


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“It will rock vents that are similar to those found on the BMW M2 with a small inlet at the bottom and a vertically oriented inlet on the side”

Finally, in the corners of the fascia, or more specifically on the front driver’s side, we can spot out the shape of the corner vents and the overall design. From the look of things, it will rock vents that are similar to those found on the BMW M2 with a small inlet at the bottom and a vertically oriented inlet on the side. There’s an overhang or insert in the middle with a smaller overhang just above. The chances are that there will be LED fog lamps found on the center inserts as the circular units from the current gen have obviously be nixed.

Around back, there’s nothing new to really speak of, but this model happens to be sporting a single exhaust outlet on the driver’s side. This could mean that this prototype is rocking a smaller engine. But, at the same time, the rear end is sitting just a little lower, so this could be some kind of higher-performance prototype or a hybrid model testing without any adaption to the rear suspension to support the extra weight of the batteries. My bet would be on the latter as there is only one exhaust outlet, but we’ll just have to wait and see. Either way, the little hatch is starting to come together nicely. And, before I sign off from this update, I should point out that the new 1 Series will be built on the UKL platform which means power will be sent to the front wheels. It will be a bit larger for better interior space but don’t expect a driven axle in the rear. And, rumors are suggesting there will be no three-door model, just the four-door model with a hatch out back, so if you’re hoping to get a sportier three-door model, you might be out of luck.

What do you guys think so far? Is the new 1 Series something you might be interested in? Let us know in the comments section below.

History


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Introduced in 2004 but not making it to the United States until the 2008 model year, the 1 Series is the smallest and least expensive vehicle in the BMW lineup. Despite its low price, the first-generation baby Bimmer was rear-wheel drive, exceptionally well balanced, and used an aluminum, multi-link suspension system. Worldwide, the 1 Series was available as either a three- or five-door hatchback, a coupe, or a convertible. However, here in the U.S. we only saw the coupe and convertible. While the 1 Series was available with a variety of four-cylinder and six-cylinder options, the most potent model was the 1 Series M Coupe, which sported a 335-horsepower inline-six and was only available with a six-speed manual transmission. The second-generation 1 Series was introduced in 2011 with a new look and no plans for sale in the United States. Also, available with a variety of engines, the potent trim level was the M135i which came later in 2012. It was then followed by the all-wheel-drive M135xi.

The new, third-generation 1 Series is set to become front-wheel drive and is reportedly coming back to the U.S., so let’s take a closer look at it and see what kind of changes are in store for the smallest Bimmer in the lineup.

Exterior


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“This thing is rocking a relatively low ride height, beefy brakes, and large dual exhaust outlets.”

Before we dive too far into the looks of this prototype, I want to point out that this thing is rocking a relatively low ride height, beefy brakes, and large dual exhaust outlets. This all points to this being a higher-trimmed model, most likely the M140i. As such, it’s probably hiding a good number of aggressive cues under the camo that include rounded and defined corner air intakes and a larger air dam. And, if you peak through the screen in the corners, you can actually see the lip of the fascia curving up on the bottom, reinforcing my thoughts on the more aggressive nature. As is the usual case, we can’t make out anything about the grille at this point, but it appears as if it’s going to grow in size a bit. It will still have the usual rounded appearance and chrome trim but should grow by at least five to 10 percent.

Moving onto the headlights, these units will be a little sleeker than before and appear to have a triangular top. It looks as if they will have a single projection unit, but a smaller unit could be hidden under the camo that covers up the inner corner of the lens. It looks like the hood will still get the same body line that runs from each of the A-pillars toward the headlights, but the central lines found on the current model seem to have been smoothed out for the next generation. Moving over to the sides, however, leads us to a whole new world of change.


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“The most noticeable thing about this prototype, when viewed from the side, is that this model is significantly longer than its predecessor.”

The most noticeable thing about this prototype, when viewed from the side, is that this model is significantly longer than its predecessor. First off, the nose is clearly four to five inches longer while the rear overhang adds a few more inches to overall length. This can also be justified by the added space between the rear door and the rear hatch, which as extended by several inches as well. As far as the roof goes, it’s not quite as bubbly as before thanks to the extra length while the beltline itself actually grades upward a bit from the front to the rear. The rear door glass also takes on an all-new shape, now featuring sharp angles and less of the rounded appearance. With the new slope of the rough, the elevated beltline, and the overall length of the next-gen 1 series, this could turn out to be quite a looker, but what’s going on in the rear?

In the rear, we find that the next-gen 1 Series will actually feature much smaller taillights that are more triangular in shape and feature a single module inside that’s split in half – the top half will function as a reverse light while the lower half will handle tail- and brake light functions. There could be some kind of lens overlay on the lower rear hatch, but it doesn’t appear that way as of now. The rear hatch now has slightly shorter glass while the lower half of the hatch doesn’t have the sharp curvature around the taillight areas. Down below, we can spot dual exhaust outlets, and if you look close enough, you can see a valve inside the left outlet, pointing toward an active exhaust system that is controlled via the various driving models.

Finally, I want to point out the both the front and rear fascias have a few holes cut into them, which could point to the next-gen 1 series featuring advanced camera and radar sensors. This could point to the 1 Series having some form of a semi-autonomous feature. For now, it’s just speculation, of course, but those holes wouldn’t be there for no reason, right?

Interior


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There’s really no telling what BMW will do for the interior of the next-gen 1 Series, but we may have a hint thanks to the recently released 1 Series sedan for the Chinese market. It’s based on the current-gen model but was updated to have its very own look inside. As such, BMW could very easily use this interior, or a derivative of it, for the next-gen 1 Series hatchback. Compared to the current 1 Series, the dash will be a bit smoother with redesigned trim, while a reworked, two-gauge instrument cluster will serve as the centerpiece ahead of the driver. The steering wheel should shrink in size a bit thanks to a smaller air bag unit, while the thumb buttons on the steering wheel should be refined.

On the infotainment front, the same display found in most BMW models should float above the center stack, but it will get the latest software that includes 3D, street-level map rendering and a phone-like interface for better usability. If this model does indeed come with some semi-autonomous functions, there should be some kind of controls for that system as well, or the instrument cluster could take on a digital presence instead of the standard analog readouts. Seats in the base model should provide decent support, but the higher trim levels – namely the M140i and M1 – will receive more supportive seats up front to accommodate the spirited driving style that undoubtedly comes with owning any BMW with some form of an M badge. But, as a 2019 model, we still have a while longer to wait, so BMW could have something completely different planned as well.

Drivetrain

This is where things really get interesting. With the next-gen 1 Series making use of BMW’s UKL platform, it will undoubtedly be offered standard with front-wheel drive. A whole range of three- and four-cylinder engines are on the table depending on trim level with anywhere from 100 horsepower up to as much as 360 horsepower in an M1 or what we suspect to be in this photo, an M140i. As such, the M-branded variants of the new generation could be offered with all-wheel drive based on a hybrid system that puts an electric motor at the rear axle. A plug-in hybrid version is on the table as is the possibility of an all-electric model at some point down the road. Plug-in models are more likely considering BMW already has a few plug-in models based on the UKL platform, but an all-electric model definitely isn’t out of the question.

Transmission options are still up in the air, but a six-speed manual should be available. For those that prefer a more automated experience, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters could be on the table as well. M-branded models like the one you see in the images here will get an M-Sport suspension system that lowers the ride height by nearly an inch, while an active exhaust system will keep things audibly comfortable during day-to-day commutes or obnoxious when you decide to piss off the neighbors on Monday morning when you leave for work. M-branded models will get beefier brakes and larger wheels compared to the base models.

Pricing


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The current 1 Series stats out for around $36,000 in China at current conversion rates. Here in the U.S., a $36,000 price point would be much too high considering the 2 Series starts out at $33,150 and the 3 Series starts at $33,450. Knowing BMW, however, it’s not going to want to offer the 1 Series too cheaply here in the U.S., so it’s likely the 1 Series will be priced quite close to the 2 Series (much like the 2 Series is to the 3 Series). As such, expect pricing for the 1 Series to start out around $31,000 and climb to as much as $43,000 for the range-topping model. Of course, it’s still way early for this kind of talk, so we’ll have to discuss pricing again a little further down the road.

Competition

Mercedes A-Class


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This wouldn’t be your traditional party if we didn’t pit BMW against Merc, and Mercedes has a strong contender in this niche. I’m, of course, talking about the Mercedes A-Class. By the time the new 1 Series makes it to U.S. showrooms, the A-class will be in its fourth generation. The last we saw of the next-gen A-Class left us with more questions than answers thanks to heaving padding and camo, but we do know that it should offer more interior space, sportier looks, and more powerful engines, among other things. It will be fitted with the latest infotainment and system technology and could, in fact, be offered with semi-autonomous capabilities as well. Like the 1 Series at this time, the A-Class isn’t available here in the U.S., but over in Europe, the A-Class can be had in as many as 10 trim levels that offer as little as 109 horsepower or as much as 381 horsepower in AMG A45 trim. Pricing ranges anywhere from £20,715 ($26,794) to as much as £48,660 ($62,941) for the A45 Yellow Night Edition.

Find out more about the Mercedes A-Class.

Audi A3


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A party of German vs. German wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t throw Audi in the mix, and as such, you’ll want to look to the Audi A3 as your four-ringed go-to in this segment. The A3 is currently available here in the U.S., but we’re limited to the A3 e-tron Sportback. Over in Europe, the A3 comes in a variety of flavors. To start off, the A3 can be had with as little as 113 horsepower or as much as 181 horsepower. Pricing for these models start out at £20,365. The, you’ve got the S3 which offers up just a little over 300 ponies with a starting price of £33,505. Finally, for those who want the absolute best in this niche, there’s the Audi RS3 with a 2.5-liter five-cylinder that delivers nearly 400 ponies. Pricing for this model isn’t available quite yet as the order books don’t open until late 2017.

Learn more about the Audi A3.

Conclusion


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At this point, we’re still at least a year out from seeing the new 1 Series in the metal. But, it will be a pretty big deal as BMW will be bringing it back to the U.S. which could trigger Mercedes to finally bring back the A-Class and Audi to offer something more that the A3 e-tron Sportback. This could also open up the niche that currently dominated by models like the Volkswagen Golf R and the Ford Focus RS as well, which is good news for those of us here in the States. We’ll get another round of spy shots for the upcoming 1 Series sometime later this year or in the beginning of next, which will be followed by the official unveiling at the Detroit Auto Show or Chicago Auto Show in 2018. Until then, check out the spy shots and let us know what you think in the comments section below.

References

BMW 1 Series Sedan


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Read our full review on the BMW 1 Series Sedan.

BMW 1 Series


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Read our full review on the current BMW 1 Series.

Update History

Update 09/08/2017: It’s been months since we’ve seen the next-gen 1 Series testing on public streets, and it’s finally be spotted again. As it turns out, BMW has been quite busy inching the 1 Series closer to production. Check out the “Spy Shots” section below to learn about what’s new this time around.

PostHeaderIcon The New 2018 Nissan Leaf Might Be The Best Replacement for the VW TDI

Last night Nissan finally unveiled the all-new 2018 Leaf, and it’s a massive improvement over the old car. The biggest news for EV fans will be the new 150-mile range. That’s nearly double what the original Leaf launched with. It’s even easier on your wallet with a starting price under $30,000, making it nearly $700 cheaper than the current model. But the best improvement is the all-new electric motor. The old car made a useable, but unimpressive 107 horsepower and 187 pound-feet of torque. But the new 2018 car makes 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, and that is more amazing than you realize.

Let us put those power numbers into perspective. The Volkswagen 2.0L TDI engine, the best “performance” fuel-economy engine on the market before the Dieselgate scandal destroyed everything, produces 150 horsepower and 238 pounds of twist.

Nissan just made a viable alternative to scorned TDI buyers.

True, the TDI had some other advantages like a massive 600+ mile range before needing to be refueled, but on a pure day-to-day performance perspective, the new Leaf might work. If you bought a TDI to make your daily commute, and you still want something that is good for the environment while providing the same level of thrust, maybe you should call your Nissan Dealer.

Yes, we do know that other alternatives like the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 have even more power and performance, but those cars also have much higher price tags. We aren’t sure about you, but we feel like people buying $26k Volkswagen’s might not be able to afford the $38,000 asking price of a Bolt.

But what do you guys think? Is the new Nissan Leaf good enough to be a real competitor in the market now? And if you are a former TDI owner, please let us now, and be sure to give us your thoughts on this new car.

PostHeaderIcon What Makes A Civic Type R?

The entry of the 2017 Honda Civic Type R into the U.S. market is big news – both for Honda fans and the hot hatch segment. The new Type R will only add fuel to the already large flame burning between the Ford Focus RS, Volkswagen Golf R, and Subaru WRX STI. Needless to say, Honda had to bring its A-game. Turning the 10th-generation Civic into competitive hot hatch wouldn’t be an easy task, but the Type R had to perform as good or better to be taken seriously. Well, thanks to time behind the Type R’s wheel, both on the track and bombing down mountain roads, it’s clear Honda has built a worthy rival for its global counterparts.

It all starts with the bones of Honda’s 10th-generation Civic, which debuted back in 2015. Even the base car was designed with a stronger structure for added rigidity, knowing in two years’ time, the Type R would need the extra strength. The same is true for the Civic hatchback, which is new for 2017. But Honda didn’t stop there. Engineers added even more structural adhesives to bind the bodywork together. A stiffer yet lighter suspension with adaptive dampers, bigger wheels, and stickier tires were added, too. And of course, Honda dumped that 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder for something with a bit more power – a 2.0-liter turbo-four with 132 more horsepower and 133 pound-feet more torque. Add to that the aggressive yet functional aerodynamic features and heavily bolstered front bucket seats, and the Type R’s pedigree begins to take shape.

Continue reading for more info on the 2017 Honda Civic Type R.

PostHeaderIcon Mini John Cooper Works GP Concept

I suppose we should’ve expected something like this from Mini. Give the company an inch, and it’s more than happy to take a mile. Take the new John Cooper Works GP Concept for example. On the surface, the concept’s objective is pretty simple: pay tribute to its conquest in the Monte Carlo Rally back in 1967. But like everything that Mini does, it’s as interested in simply giving homage to a rally car as it is in making a statement and going above and beyond what’s needed. That attitude gave birth to the Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP Kit and the Mini John Cooper Works GP from 2006 and 2012, respectively. Now, Mini’s back with a new randy concept called the John Cooper Works GP Concept, and wouldn’t you know it, it looks positively stunning.

Nobody’s going to ever accuse Mini at being bashful, but even the JCW GP Concept seems to have been done with a simple purpose in mind: get a Cooper JCW and drown it in aerodynamic bits. Even Mini boss Peter Schwarzenbauer describes the JCW GP Concept as “driving fun in its purest form,” and it’s hard to even come up with a reasonable argument otherwise. The end result is a car that can make even the most demented of tuning firms blush with pride, though I suppose getting that kind of reaction is already old hat for Mini. Good to know then that after all these years, the BMW-owned automaker still has what it takes to grab everyone’s attention the way very few of its peers in the business are able to.

Updated 09/18/2017: Mini John Cooper Works GP Concept looked even more aggressive on the Frankfurt floor. Check our gallery for more images from the show.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

PostHeaderIcon Seat Leon Cupra R

The 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show is just around the corner and we’re already getting a steady stream of cars that will be in attendance at the event. One car that has our attention is a hot hatchback from an automaker that normally doesn’t get its share of the spotlight. Prepare yourselves as Seat is looking to take Frankfurt by storm with the new Leon Cupra R, the automaker’s most powerful road car in history.

The Leon Cupra R will be joined by the likes of the Ibiza and the Leon Cupra Evo 17 in Frankfurt, but make no mistake, the Cupra R will be the highlight of Seat’s booth, in large part because of its status as a limited edition model and its significance for the company moving forward. Remember, Seat recently filed trademark applications for a Cupra sub-brand, seemingly separating the model from the entire Seat family in hopes of turning it into a performance sub-brand. I can’t
help but wonder then if the Leon Cupra R is more than just a limited edition hot hatch, but a preview of sorts of what we can expect from the Cupra sub-brand in the event that its separation from Seat does happen. For now, though, our attention should be on the Frankfurt-bound Leon Cupra R. With its credentials, the hot hatch has at least earned its place as one of the most exciting cars to hit the upcoming motor show.

Continue after the jump to read more about the Seat Leon Cupra R.

PostHeaderIcon Everyday Life With the 2017 Honda Civic Type R

Honda’s new Civic Type R is a beast on the track. Its 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque are more than enough to push this 3,100-pound car toward speeds anyone besides a pro driver should feel comfortable with. My time with at The Ridge Motorsports Park proved that much. Yet, despite the Civic Type R’s race-bred underpinnings, it’s still a Civic hatchback. That means it should be easy to live with, easy to drive slowly, and easy to throw cargo into. So, how’d it do?

Wonderfully. The Civic Type R still offers a pleasant driving experience around down. The light clutch and short-throw shifter are just as enjoyable on the street as on the track. And despite their heavy bolstering, Honda’s front bucket seats are comfortable to get into and easy to get out of. They remain supportive over a long drive, too. The rear seats aren’t touched in the Type R transformation, so they remain spacious for the Civic’s class, yet do lack a center armrest and air vents.

But the value really arrives when it’s time to haul stuff. The Civic boasts a class-leading 25.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second- row seat. Fold the 60/40-bench flat, and the Civic Hatch has 46.2 cubic feet of room. The hatchback’s rear opening is wide and tall, allowing for ungainly items like furniture and boxes to easily slide in.

When it comes to storing everyday items like drinks and cell phones, the Civic offers tons of options. The center console is ingeniously designed with a deep container under the armrest. It houses three cup holders – two of which are mounted midway down on a slidable track. The third is way down low, perfect for those Trenta-sized Starbucks drinks. A small storage cubby ahead of the shifter is great for phones and knick-knacks. A cable pass-through lets charging cables run into the lower tier area where Honda locates the USB and 12-volt charge ports. Large door pockets add to the usable (and reachable from behind the wheel) storage space.

On the downside, the Civic Type R rides on 245/30ZR-20 performance wheels and tires. While great on smooth pavement, the 30-series sidewalls offer little cushion from potholes and bumps. This leaves the active dampers with all the work of quelling uneven pavement. Road noise is prevalent, too, imitating mostly from the rear of the interior. Long drives on older pavement might spur on a headache from those sensitive to booming noises. I don’t remember noise being an issue in the 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback EX-L Navi I previously tested, so it’s likely a trade-off for the added lightness and stickier rubber needed to make the Type R perform. In truth, these negligible complaints won’t turn away those eager customers. The Type R isn’t trying to pass as a Cadillac, after all.

Thankfully, the firm ride is about the only trade-off for upgrading to the Type R over the standard Civic Hatchback – at least in terms of everyday livability. The big wing and aggressive aero bits might make it a target for speeding tickets. Just ask one of the journalists at this press event…

PostHeaderIcon Flogging The 2017 Honda Civic Type R

It doesn’t get hotter than the 2017 Honda Civic Type R – at least this month. That comes as no surprise since the Type R is just now making its debut in the U.S. after decades of devouring foreign roads in markets worldwide. This performance variant is based on the 10th-generation Civic, a compact car with a pedigree that needs no explanation. Honda wanted me to give the new Type R a swing, so they flew me to Seattle, Washington for some seat time in those heavily bolstered front buckets on winding mountain roads and through all 16 corners of The Ridge Motorsports Park just north of Olympia.

The Civic Type R arrives amidst a raging fight in the hot hatch segment. The Ford Focus RS and its ridiculous powertrain and Drift Mode square up against the dethroned champion, the Volkswagen Golf R and the rally-bred Subaru WRX STI. What these competitors all have in common are four cylinders being force-fed via turbochargers, six-speed manual transmissions, and AWD. Tit for tat, these compact brawlers are mostly equal – save for the Focus RS’ extra horsepower and the Civic Type R’s lack of AWD. Wait, what? Yep, Honda ditched the idea of a heavy, complex, and parasitic AWD system in favor of a lighter curb weight, a limited slip differential, and its dual-axis front MacPherson struts. The result is a 3,100-pound car that hangs with its toughest competitor despite its 44-horsepower, 55-pound-foot disadvantage.

Continue reading for my on-track driving impressions.

PostHeaderIcon MINI Electric Concept

The modern Mini Cooper was launched in 2001, some 42 years after the British firm launched the original model. This time build under BMW Group ownership, the Mini became more of a fashion statement rather than an affordable, people’s car, but this is exactly what turned it into a big hit. Redesigned in 2006 and 2013, the Cooper grew larger and larger and gained more technology with each generation. In 2017, Mini introduced its first hybrid model, the S E Countryman All4, and it’s now looking to launch its first-ever electric car. And it just unveiled the Mini Electric Concept ahead of the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show.

Designed as a preview for a production model that will be introduced in 2019, the Mini Electric Concept arrives almost ten year since Mini built its first EV, the Mini E. More of a demonstration vehicle rather than a production car, the Mini E was produced between 2009 and 2010 in the form of a three-door Cooper. More than 600 cars were deployed in several countries for on-road testing in a project that eventually led to a couple of BMW trial cars and finally the i3. A modern reinterpretation of the Mini E, the Electric Concept moves Mini one step closer to joining the EV market. It’s a bit late to the party, but as they say, better late than never.

Updated 09/19/2017: We added a series of new images taken during the concept’s debut at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show.

Continue reading to learn more about the Mini Electric Concept.

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