Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

BMW plans new plant in Brazil

Posted: 23 Oct 2012 06:24 AM PDT

BMW is serving demand for its products in Brazil by announcing a new production facility in the country

BMW has unveiled plans to build a new plant in Joinville, Brazil. If approved by the Brazilian government, production is set to begin in 2014. More than 1000 new jobs will be created at the site and in the supply network. 

BMW already has a local sales business in the country, which sold 15,214 vehicles in 2011, representing a growth rate of almost 54 per cent. 

The new plant will extend the companies production network which comprises of 29 production and assembly facilities in 14 countries around the world. The planned investment for the project is said to be more than €200 million, with a production capacity of approximately 30,000 vehicles a year.

BMW sales and marketing boss, Ian Robertson said: "Brazil is a market with tremendous potential for the future for the BMW Group. For that reason, we are strengthening our long-term commitment to this country

"This will create the necessary conditions for us to maintain the balance of sales between Europe, Asia and the Americas - and, therefore, for the long-term success of our company. With this move, the BMW Group is applying its strategic principle of 'production follows the market', which has already proved successful in markets such as the US, China and India."

Sam Davis

Who would bet against VW becoming number one?

Posted: 23 Oct 2012 03:21 AM PDT

With Volkswagen's revelations that it is considering "doing a Dacia", who would bet against their desire to be the world's biggest car maker?

It probably hasn't escaped your attention that the Volkswagen Group plans to be the world's largest car maker by 2018. And if two of its revelations in the past 24 hours come off, it would be almost incomprehensible if it doesn't get there.

First up is its new budget brand to rival Dacia, which VW R&D chief Ulrich Hackeneberg spoke so candidly about for the first time.

VW has a wealth of tried, trusted and fully developed mechanicals across many different car sizes and model types in its stable that it can quite conceivably roll-out for its new brand in little time and without vast set-up or development costs.

And on top of that, it has the production lines to build the models and a full stock of parts and suppliers to call on with its enormous buying power to keep costs to a minimum.

The Dacia model seems hard to fault, but you get the sense VW sees volume potential for its new brand far above Dacia. "Dacia is not in big markets," said Hackenberg, "It's in Europe and South America, but not China. There is much more space for a budget brand to grow." And no doubt VW's chances of the number one spot with it.

If VW is soon to have the budget end of the market covered, it plans to cover the core of the market with its much talked about MQB platform. Its imminent presence in Europe on models ranging from the VW Polo to Passat in size, with every Audi, Seat and Skoda falling in between those models also switching to MQB, is well documented, but VW's plans for MQB and fully realising its buying power, production efficiency and economies of scale is truly a global plan.

At a briefing into the future of the Brazilian car market on Monday, it was confirmed that VW would be building models on MQB-based structures in South America in the near future.

The economies of scale will be such that VW will be able to build models in the region on much more contemporary underpinnings at the same cost as today's more dated, less sophisticated structures.

So in real terms, that will mean your average Brazilian buyer will be able to get the most up-to-date technology, a higher quality interior and a lighter, more economical car for the same price as a rival product that's unlikely to match any of those things in the developing marketplace for a few years yet.

VW is already the market leader in Brazil, and with such a compelling business case for the market for the next few years there while the market rapidly expands, it's hard to see buyers turning away. 

And if this sort of success is mirrored in other emerging markets, can anyone stop VW in its quest to be number one? 

Sao Paulo motor show: Lamborghini Aventador 2+2 ruled out

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 02:00 PM PDT

Lamborghini bosses say there is much they can do with the Aventador, but plans don't include a 2+2 version

Lamborghini chief Stephan Winkelmann has ruled out the possibility of the firm launching a 2+2 version of the Aventador.

Although the model was understood to be one of several Aventador concepts under consideration, the idea of an extended Aventador with two small seats in the back was one that hasn't progressed beyond the drawing board.

Winkelmann told Autocar at the Sao Paulo motor show that although there were "a lot of ideas of what we can do with the Aventador, not all the ones that have been suggested are true".

He added that there was "a lot in the pipeline for the Aventador" and the launch of the standard V12 coupé had been "very successful".

Next up for the Aventador is expected to be an open-top roadster version, with a more powerful version likely after that. 

Sao Paulo motor show: Lamborghini Urus still not signed off

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 01:54 PM PDT

Signing off the Lamborghini Urus has taken longer than expected, according to senior bosses

The Lamborghini Urus SUV has still yet to be given the official approval from the Volkswagen Group board, Lamborghini boss Stephan Winkelmann has told Autocar at the Sao Paulo motor show.

Winkelmann said he "hoped a decision would have been taken" by now, but a final decision has yet to be taken "at group level".

Despite the delay in the signing off process, Winkelmann said Lamborghini was continuing to work on developing the concept and the target launch date of 2017 had not slipped. "We are working on the project as if it is going to be accepted," he said.

Bentley is understood to still be waiting for its own EXP 9 F SUV concept to be signed off for production, a model that will be closely linked to the Urus, although its launch is expected sooner.

Although the design of the Bentley was questioned at launch, the reaction to SUVs from both Bentley and Lamborghini was unanimously positive. So VW Group insiders have suggested the delay is more down to the current European financial crisis than any opposition to the models themselves.

Sao Paulo motor show: New Volkswagen Phaeton confirmed

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 01:45 PM PDT

The next Phaeton will share its platform with the next-generation Bentley Continental and Porsche Panamera

An all-new Volkswagen Phaeton is in the firm's production plan, R&D chief Ulrich Hackenberg has confirmed at today's Sao Paulo motor show.

The new Phaeton has never been a commercial success in its 10 years on sale. But VW is intent on replacing the model, which is the flagship of its range.

Hackenberg said the new Phaeton would feel "very new", a reference to how far the VW Group's technology has moved on since the Phaeton's launch.

He also revealed it would be underpinned by the new modular MLB platform for larger models in the VW Group, underpinnings which will also be used beneath the next-generation Continental family from Bentley and Panamera family from Porsche.

Sao Paulo show: Two-cylinder VW Up confirmed

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 12:11 PM PDT

Two-cylinder Volkswagen Up will use a modified version of the XL1's twin

Volkswagen is to launch a two-cylinder diesel version of the Up in 2013 as a rival to the Fiat Panda TwinAir.

Speaking at the Sao Paulo motor show, Volkswagen R&D chief Ulrich Hackenberg said the engine would be adapted from the radical Volkswagen XL1, which has also been confirmed for production next year.

He said the two-cylinder engine was compatible with all models in the New Small Family platform, which opens up the possibility of a two-cylinder diesel version of the NSF-based VW Taigun concept when it makes production as expected in 2015.

The current three-cylinder engine from the Up range of cars is also compatible with VW's larger MQB platform-based cars, said Hackenberg, which opens up the possibility of three-cylinder petrol-powered Golfs in the future.

The three-cylinder engine is of a modular design and closely related to the new four-cylinder engines in the new MQB range, meaning installation would be relatively straightforward in a Golf-sized car.

Sao Paulo show: Taigun could spawn more VW Group versions

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 12:01 PM PDT

Volkswagen could look to other brands within its group to exploit economies of scale to build new versions of the Taigun crossover

The Volkswagen Taigun could spawn Seat, Skoda and even Audi versions if it makes production, a senior VW official has hinted at the Sao Paulo motor show today.

R&D chief Ulrich Hackenberg said that, although it was too early to commit to even the Taigun for production, let alone other versions, VW would "look for synergies with other brands" to bring greater economies of scale to the Taigun's business case.

But although stopping short of confirming the Taigun for production, Hackenberg said: "If I make a concept, it is my target to bring it to production. I have a close to 100 per cent record at this. It's a viable concept the Taigun, not just a dream."

He also confirmed that the New Small Family platform on which the Taigun is based could not be adapted for four-wheel drive without significant investment, something VW has no intention of doing.

"The main target with Taigun is going into the city with it," said Hackenberg. "It's for the urban jungle."

Sao Paulo motor show: Peugeot 208 GTI Brazil

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 11:51 AM PDT

The Brazilian market Peugeot 208 GTI has been premiered at the Sao Paulo motor show

Peugeot's new 208 GTI has been given its latest public airing at the Sao Paulo motor show in Brazil – complete with a nod to the home market.

The 208 GTI gets a Brazilian flag on the lower part of its grille. Peugeot plans to offer the national flag of the country it is sold in on all 208 GTIs, including in Britain where Peugeot hopes to invoke the spirit of the Peugeot 205 GTI.

The new 208 GTi is due to go on sale in UK early next year, with power coming from a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine with 197bhp.

Peugeot has a strong presence in Brazil; its recent 207 and 208 superminis have proved particularly popular. A Peugeot spokesman wouldn't confirm whether the 208 GTI would launch there, but its presence at the Sao Paulo show means its likely to be given a nod if it gets positive feedback.

Sao Paulo motor show: Hyundai HB20X

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 11:45 AM PDT

Hyundai reveals a crossover version of its new HB20 supermini, the HB20X

Hyundai has accompanied the launch of its new Hyundai HB20 supermini at the Sao Paulo motor show with a new crossover version of the car.

The Hyundai HB20X is production ready and will be joined in the three-strong HB20 line-up next year by a saloon version. The new trio have been designed especially for Brazil and will be built in the country in a new dedicated plant near Sao Paulo.

The HB20X gets a different bumper to the HB20 hatchback, raised ground clearance, black body cladding and larger 15in alloy wheels. Roof bars are also fitted to the HB20X, as is a new rear bumper and tweaked interior trim.

Power for the HB20X will come from Hyundai's 1.6-litre Gamma petrol engine, which has been adapted to run on both petrol and ethanol, or a combination of both.

Sao Paulo motor show: Chevrolet Onix

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 09:35 AM PDT

Chevrolet has joined the circle of manufacturers who are creating cars especially for the Brazilian market with the new Onix

General Motors' new small car developed specifically for the Brazilian market has been revealed at the São Paulo motor show. The Chevrolet Onix is based on GM's small car architecture but has been adapted to suit Brazilian's rough and ready road conditions.

The Onix will be built in Brazil as a five-door hatchback and be offered with 1.0 and 1.4 litre engines which can run on petrol, ethanol or a combination of both. Five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions are offered.

A high level of specification is being offered with the Onix, including Bluetooth connectivity and Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system. Special customisation options will also be offered.

"We looked to create a car with high levels of design, comfort and technology that will exceed customer expectations," said Chevrolet marketing director Gustavo Colosi.

Sao Paulo motor show: Toyota Etios

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 09:25 AM PDT

Toyota has taken the covers off its 'global' Etios for its Sao Paulo debut

The Toyota Etios, the firm's global car aimed at emerging markets, has been revealed in its Brazilian spec at the São Paulo motor show.

The Etios has just entered production in saloon and hatchback guises at Toyota's new plant in São Paulo, which opened in August.

The Etios is the first Toyota to ever launch in its segment in Brazil, a class of car that counts for more than half of all sales in the Brazilian market place.

Toyota has set an annual production target in Brazil of 70,000 units for the model.

Sao Paulo motor show: Honda Fit Twist

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 09:17 AM PDT

Honda show a more rugged looking version of the American-market Jazz - the Fit Twist - at Sao Paulo

A rugged version of the Honda Jazz has been revealed at the São Paulo motor show. The Fit Twist, as it will be known, is in response to the popularity of superminis with a perceived go anywhere ability in the Brazilian market.

But despite the more rough and ready look, Honda has confirmed no suspension changes for the model have taken place. Instead, there is extra body cladding and bigger wheels to give it a more purposeful look.

The model has been conceived purely with the Brazilian market in mind, and as such is not destined for sale in Europe or the UK.

Sao Paulo motor show: Renault DCross Concept

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 09:11 AM PDT

Renault has launched the DCross concept, an SUV based on the Dacia Duster at the Sao Paulo motor show

A new Renault concept car based on the Dacia Duster has been launched at the São Paulo motor show.

The Renault D Cross previews how a potential new style-led range-topper for the Duster SUV could look. In Brazil, Dacia models are sold as Renaults.

The concept is easily distinguished from the Duster with its new front grille and headlight design, as well as its circular rear LED lights.

It gets a two-tone pant finish; bright green for the front and cabin, and grey for the rear section.

Chrome alloy wheels also feature, as does increased amounts of body cladding and a spare wheel of the roof.

London Black Cab maker collapses

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 08:49 AM PDT

Manganese Bronze, maker of the London Black Cab since 1948, goes into administration

Manganese Bronze, maker of the iconic London black cab has gone into administration after talks with Chinese partners Geely failed to produce a rescue package for the ailing firm. Geely owns around 20 per cent of Manganese Bronze and around 300 people work at the company's Coventry factory. Geely builds a version of the cab for the Chinese market, though it is marketed as a passenger car.

Manganese Bronze bosses have said that they hope the brand's "global reputation" will allow the company to be revived.

Earlier this month 400 new cabs were recalled because of problems with a Chinese-supplied steering box. The problems also meant production of all new cabs was also halted. Manganese Bronze (MB) lost £3.6m in the first half of 2012 as sales slid by 11 per cent.

When MB shares were suspended last week, they were valued at just 10p, down from this year's high of 41p and down from nearly £8 in 2007. MB made just over £5m profit in 2007, but the credit crunch saw losses plummet to more than £13m in 2008. Losses in 2011 totalled £3m.

Sales of the LTI black cab have also been hit by the Mercedes Vito which uses rear-wheel steering in order to meet London's '25ft turning circle' rule. Nissan has also announced  it will compete in the London black cab market with a new taxi. Based on the NV200 van, it is designed to be the cheapest and most fuel-efficient cab yet.

Sao Paulo motor show: VW Taigun Concept revealed

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 07:35 AM PDT

VW has revealed its Taigun Concept car at the Sao Paulo motor show in Brazil

Volkswagen has revealed its plan to join the junior SUV ranks after unveiling a concept that hints towards a future production model at the Sao Paulo motor show in Brazil.

Called the Taigun, the compact four-seater previews the look set to be adopted on a planned new Mini Countryman and Nissan Juke rival to be positioned and priced below the Tiguan when launched towards the middle of the decade.

The production model will provide the basis for a whole new family of similar sized offerings from Audi, Seat and Skoda. Ulrich Hackenberg, VW's R&D chief, told Autocar that the compact SUV would be sold in each of VW's global markets, including the UK.

The Taigun is based around a stretched version of the VW Up's NSF (New Small Family) platform. At 3859mm in length, 1728mm in width and 1570mm in height, the Taigun is 566mm shorter, 82mm narrower and 130mm lower than the Tiguan. The concept is not four-wheel drive, as the NSF platform currently only supports front-wheel drive.

VW design chief Klaus Bischoff describes the new SUV's appearance as "confident, logical and clean". It is more rugged and technical in style than the Tiguan, and previews the new face of VW's future SUVs.

The interior of the Taigun has, according to Bischoff, been inspired by the latest smart phones, with a clean and reduced look that aims to provide the sort of visual clarity and simplicity of operation associated with early workhorse off-roaders, albeit with modern day levels of quality and finish.

Power for the concept comes from the same 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine with 108bhp and 129lb ft as the upcoming Up GT. Drive is channeled through a six-speed manual gearbox.

The 985kg Taigun can crack 0-62mph in 9.2sec and reach a top speed of 116mph. Combined economy is rated at 60.1mpg and CO2 emissions are 110g/km.

Greg Kable/Mark Tisshaw

Fears for Ford Mondeo plant

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 07:14 AM PDT

Ford's troubled Belgian plant could be set for the axe

Fears are growing that Ford is about to announce the closure of its plant in Genk, Belgium. The company reportedly called 'an emergency meeting' with the unions earlier today, but neither party has so far commented on the situation.

Genk, which employs around 4300 people, builds the Ford Mondeo, S-Max and Galaxy, which are all based on the same EUCD platform. Mondeo production has, however, collapsed to under 90,000 units per year from a high of around 300,000 at the turn of the century. With the move towards downsizing and a continued rise in premium brand sales, European Mondeo sales are unlikely to see a turnaround.

Ford is poised to launch a new 'global' Mondeo and suspicions were raised about the plant's future when the production date for the European version was pushed back by six months to October 2013. The most likely scenario is that the new Mondeo will be sourced from another factory and Genk will be wound down as the S-Max and Galaxy reach the end of their lifespan.

Ford says it expects to lose around £620m in Europe this year and industry analysts say that one of the company's main problems is that the company has under-utilised factories. One estimate claims Ford's plants are running at an average of just 52 per cent of their potential maximum output.


Autocar magazine 24 October preview

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 06:44 AM PDT

This week's issue of Autocar magazine reveals Britain's best driver's car. We also deliver our first verdict on the Aston Martin DB9, while the Honda CR-V gets the full road test treatment

This week's issue of Autocar magazine reveals Britain's best driver's car. We pitch nine of the most entertaining cars launched this year against 2011's winner, the Porsche Cayman, in the most thorough test of dynamics you'll read this year. The rivals are driven together in a series of tests on road and track, and the overall winner is guaranteed to raise a few eyebrows.

Also hitting the cover are the first details of the all-new Range Rover Sport. It's shaping up to be another hit from Jaguar Land Rover, and will be one of the most important launches of 2013. We also investigate Volkswagen's plans to launch a budget brand, similar to Renault's Dacia marque, and reveal how VW's Taigun concept is being readied to battle the Nissan Juke.

In our first drives section, Steve Sutcliffe gets to grips with the outstanding new Aston Martin DB9. We also get muddy in the new Fiat Panda 4x4, deliver our first verdict on the Mazda 6 estate and put the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 to the test.

The Honda CR-V is the subject of this week's full Autocar road test. We find out if the latest incarnation of Honda's SUV can bring anything new to a crowded market.

We also celebrate ten years of the Ford Focus RS and Hilton Holloway looks at how Lada is reinventing itself thanks to investment from Renault-Nissan.

In the Our Cars section, we say hello to our Caterham Seven long termer, and give an update on our Audi A6 Allroad. The Subaru Forester is the subject of our used buying guide and James Ruppert tells us why the Kia Sorento has caught his eye.

As ever, the magazine is available from all good newsagents or can be downloaded from Zinio or the Apple iTunes store.

Next-generation awards shortlist announced

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 04:05 AM PDT

Finalist in the Autocar-Courland Next Generation Awards have reached the next stage as they prepare to present to the competition's judges

The six finalist in the Autocar-Courland Next Generation Awards have been announced. They will face a 'Dragons Den'-style judging day on 7 November, where they will present to judges from Autocar, Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren Automotive, Peugeot, Toyota and Skoda.

The winner will be announced at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders' annual dinner on 27 November.

Autocar publisher Alastair Lewis said: "The 2012 contest has seen an unprecedented number of high quality entries from university students countrywide.  The first and second round judges faced an extremely difficult task in carrying out their evaluations.

"We would like to thank all students and university lecturers and faculty heads for embracing the Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award and we look forward to working with them in 2013 as the contest grows and establishes itself on the academic calendar".

This year's winner will be rewarded with a work experience package comprising one month sessions at Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren Automotive, Peugeot, Skoda and Toyota, as well as £7500 cash.

The contest was launched in 2009 to offer entrants a unique chance to kick-start an automotive industry career.

The 2012 brief was: "In no more than 500 words, describe an improvement (be it an invention, innovation, a legislative change, a change to corporate policy or the adoption of a new convention) which you believe would be a worthwhile benefit to the UK automotive business. You will be expected to demonstrate an understanding of how such an improvement could be made viable and what the wider implications of it might be." 

The 2011 winner, Oliver Brunt, proposed a new kind of active head-up display, known as Social Heads-Up Display that uses sophisticated graphics to employ the whole of a car's screen as its 'canvas'. The SHUD system conveys real-time car-to-car communication to provide drivers with improved information, presented more attractively and without distraction.

The 2012 finalists, and their subject interests are:

Ross Hannah, Bath University, Automotive lifting system

Jonathan Maynard, Brunel University, Cooled EGR discharge

Edward Bannister, Coventry University, Acceleration actuated electronic forced aspiration

Niall McCann, Bath University, Interactive traffic management system

Roberto Antonio Pace, Kingston University, Cylindrical brake system

James Benson, Huddersfield University, Car theft prevention system

Sao Paulo motor show: full show report and gallery

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 03:32 AM PDT

Dozens of debuts, some of global importance, underline the importance of the Sao Paulo motor show to the world car industry

We'd imagine the past 26 Sao Paulo motor shows together didn't have as much significance as the 27th running of the bi-annual event in 2012.

Such is the rise of the global car and the sharing of common platforms and engines between cars sold in Brazil and Britain, Bangalore and Beijing that far-flung shows such as Sao Paulo can no longer be dismissed as irrelevant.

But in order to prosper in the Brazilian car market you have to build cars in South America to avoid high import taxes. And these cars all follow a very strict formula - small, inexpensive, built on proven and sturdy underpinnings, with fresh but rugged styling and powered by flex-fuel petrol/ethanol engines – as Brazil is a market that knows what it likes.

So at first glance, the real headline cars at the Sao Paulo motor show from the big sellers may not seem that relevant in Europe or the UK, but the Brazilian formula to which the likes of the Volkswagen Gol, Toyota Etios, Chevrolet OnixHyundai's HB20 and Renault Clio Mercosur have been developed sounds spookily familiar and relevant: Dacia. Maybe the UK needs a few more cars built to this most surprising contemporary approach?

The Sao Paulo show is not just one for the budget car. Concepts originating from Brazil were to be seen on most stands, the Nissan Extrem concept and Renault DCross perhaps the most interesting.

Concepts at shows like Sao Paulo in the past would have been models that had already done the rounds in North America and Europe, but such is the innovation, unique challenges and growth in these emerging markets that intriguing concepts are needed to stimulate local discussion on future mobility. 

VW, which had taken its group evening to Brazil for the first time on the eve of the show, won the headlines with its Taigun concept. A small SUV built on the same platform as the Up, the Taigun looks a shoe-in for production in 2015. It's also got the freshest face of a VW for many a year, something very welcome following the Russian doll approach of the most recent round of models.

VW's choice to launch the Taigun, a very important future model in one of the fastest-growing global segments, in Brazil speaks volumes about how important the car market there is. There were no major absentees at the show; everyone from Aston Martin to Volvo was there to spell out what Brazil means to them.

The Brazilian car market is growing faster than any of the other BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries and is already the fourth-largest market in the world. Its sales volume of 3.4 million units in 2011 is expected to have grown to four million in 2014 and five million by 2018.

It is these numbers that make it hard to ignore the significance of the Sao Paulo motor show and Brazil as a whole. The Economist magazine recently ran a lead story under the headline 'Brazil Takes Off'. By the time the motor show circuit rolls back round to Sao Paulo in October 2014, that headline could well be wheeled out again to describe the Brazilian car industry, should the positive feeling of the 2012 Sao Paulo motor show bear fruit. 

Sao Paulo motor show: VW Gol

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 03:16 AM PDT

Volkswagen has revealed the three-door version of Brazil's best-selling car, the Volkswagen Gol

A new three-door version of the Volkswagen Gol, Brazil's best selling car has been revealed at the São Paulo motor show.

The locally produced Gol has been Brazil's best selling model in each of the last 25 years, and is on track for a 26th in 2012. More than seven million units have been produced in that time.

The Gol is closer to a current Polo than a Golf in size, and although VW officials wouldn't confirm its exact underpinnings in relation to a more familiar European model, it has been upgraded to be given the VW Group's latest electrical architecture and design.

The engine line-up is made up of FlexFuel units, which can run on petrol, ethanol or a combination of both.

The Gol is such a success for VW in Brazil, a market expected to expand to 5 million sales per year by 2018, that if it was a brand by itself it would be the fourth largest in Brazil with a 10 per cent market share.

First drive review: Peugeot 208 Feline THP 156

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 12:39 AM PDT

The swiftest Peugeot 208 yet is a warm hatch rather than a hot one, but it's good fun to drive and augurs well for the GTI to come This 208, which has just joined the rest of the range on UK sale, is the closest thing yet to a properly sporting 208 pending the arrival of the 208 GTI next March (April in the UK).The Feline is currently the top trim level, but this version with the 154bhp turbo 1.6 has extra visual up-revving and a three-door-only body style. That engine is familiar from other Peugeots and Citroens and is related to the Mini Cooper S's unit.With power raised to 197bhp it will also appear in the GTI. In the Feline THP 156 it joins 17in wheels with 205/45 tyres, an extended tailgate spoiler, firmed suspension and glowing blue outlines for the instruments (they'll be red in the GTI) to set it apart from lesser Felines. Seats are part-trimmed in leather and there's a huge glass roof panel with a retractable blind.

New Kia Procee'd GT hot hatches for 2013

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 09:37 AM PDT

Kia will introduce three hot versions of its Procee'd next summer - three-door and five-door hatches and an estate

Kia's entry into hot hatch territory next summer with a 200bhp Procee'd three-door hatchback will be intensified by applying the same high-performance running gear to a five-door hatchback. In addition, a third, estate car variation on the GT-badged theme is close to approval.

Equipped with bespoke body kits, 18-inch alloy wheels and coloured brake calipers, the 1.6-litre turbo petrol GT Procee'd and five-door hatchback models are due to be launched at the Geneva motor show next March, having undergone final shakedown chassis tuning on British roads.

To help mark out Kia's first overtly performance model, the three-door Procee'd will also feature stitched leather Recaro seats and other signature cabin details.

A senior Kia executive said that an internal European debate on how to badge the series had resulted in using GT "because we must be careful about presenting these new Kia performance models and something like RS would have more hardcore connotations. It's better to under-promise than to over-hype".

It is believed that the GT models will be offered with stand-alone 'hot' colours, mimicking Ford's ST spectrum and its orange and electric blue paint finishes.

Kia's marketing managers are tracking the sales success of the Focus ST estate before a final decision on the Cee'd Sportswagon GT is taken.

Hugh Hunston

Mercedes GLA SUV due in 2014

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 09:22 AM PDT

Mercedes' new GLA soft-roader is set to take on Audi Q3 with bold styling and a host of high-tech kit

Mercedes-Benz's new entry-level GLA SUV has been spied undergoing testing in prototype guise some 18 months before it is due to go on sale in the UK.

The new five-seater is set to rival the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Range Rover Evoque. It will be part of a five-strong line-up based on Mercedes' new MFA platform, along with the A-class, B-class, CLA small saloon and CLA Shooting Brake, that's designed to bring younger customers to the Mercedes-Benz brand.

The disguised GLA reveals that it has the contemporary styling theme of the new A and B-class, with a bold front end, flamboyant swage line graphics and shallow glasshouse, all aimed at providing it with the modern-day appeal that Mercedes' recent small cars have lacked.

Design details include a large oval grille bookmarked by curvaceous headlights, generously dimensioned wheel arches, heavily structured flanks, a curvaceous rear shoulder, an angled tailgate and a raised ride height.

The new junior SUV is set to offer the same range of transversely mounted engines as the B-class.

Petrol units will include a Renault-sourced 1.6 with 120bhp or 154bhp and an in-house-developed 2.0-litre turbo with 208bhp, or around 330bhp in the twin-turbo AMG version. Two diesel engines will also be offered, consisting of a 1.8-litre unit with either 108bhp or 134bhp and a 2.2 with 168bhp.

A six-speed manual gearbox will be standard, with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic as an option. Base GLAs will get front-wheel drive, while more powerful models will be four-wheel drive.

The GLA will support a range of optional media connectivity services as part of Mercedes' efforts to ensure future models carry greater appeal among younger buyers.

The GLA is one of three new SUVs Mercedes is planning to launch before the middle of the decade. Joining it will be the second-generation GLK, which will be based on the next-generation C-class and offered with right-hand drive for the first time, and a new BMW X6 rival, the MLC, that's based on the current ML-class.

New Mercedes A-Class orders boom

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 09:14 AM PDT

Mercedes-Benz has had the most successful model launch in the company's history with the all-new A-Class

The launch of the new A-class has been the most successful in Mercedes' history, boss Dieter Zetsche has revealed.

He said the firm had taken 70,000 pre-orders in western Europe alone, one for every 10 people that attended pre-launch events.

He also revealed Mercedes' absence in key markets such as the small SUV sector was making the firm lag behind Audi and BMW's growth in China.

"These are not excuses, and we will close the gap in the next five years," said Zetsche, who has set his company the goal of being the largest premium car maker by 2020.

Next Renault Scenic, Laguna and Espace to get radical

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 09:02 AM PDT

The next generation of Renault Scenic, Laguna and Espace will follow new Clio in departing completely from current designs

Renault is set to make a significant departure from its current designs when it replaces its Scenic, Laguna and Espace models by the middle of the decade.

The next-generation Scenic was previewed by the R-Space concept at the 2011 Geneva motor show. Renault's exterior design chief, Anthony Lo, said the concept made the firm re-evaluate how it viewed the needs of family car buyers.

He added that the firm "could not ignore" how well the R-Space had been received.

The next-generation Scenic is also likely to have a new SUV as a sister car, a model likely to be based on the next-generation Nissan Qashqai.

Renault marketing chief Steve Norman said the firm "needed something a bit more sturdy with genuine off-road capability" that sat between the Mégane and Laguna in size in the Scenic range.

The replacement for the Laguna is understood to still be a traditional four-door saloon, but executed in a much more contemporary way, as with the Vauxhall Insignia.

Lo said Renault would always need a D-segment saloon for its global markets, but Norman believes "the Insignia is an example of how you can do the unexpected with the right car", hinting that a greater emphasis would be put on style with the Laguna replacement.

Norman said the current Laguna's styling was the most likely reason why it hasn't succeeded. "The current Laguna is the right car in the wrong clothes," he said. "People are impressed with the quality, and the roadholding is good. But in the upper-middle market, customers will be spending upwards of £30,000 for a properly specced car. They expect it to say something about their status. If it doesn't, you narrow the market."The Espace replacement was put on hold in 2009, and since then Renault has re-evaluated the requirements of buyers of large family cars.

"We're looking at a different style of car for Espace," design chief Laurens van den Acker revealed. "It doesn't escape us that people are leaving big MPVs for crossovers. After four generations [of Espace], it's time for a new idea."

Quick news: New Jeep Cherokee S-Limited; VW extends van trims; Pininfarina design new Eurostar

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 03:57 AM PDT

Jeep has launched a kitted-up Grand Cherokee; VW equips vans with Trendline and Highline ranges; Pininfarina has designed the new Eurostar trains

Jeep has announced the Grand Cherokee S-Limited. A black grille, 20in gloss black wheels, a black rear-light, carbon-fibre cabin trim, leather sports seats and a 19-speaker, 825-watt Harmann-Kardon audio system are among standard features. The S-Limited is priced at £44,595 and goes on sale later this month.

The Volkswagen Caddy and Transporter ranges are now offered in higher specced Trendline Highline trims. Trendline spec Caddys and Transporters will save customers more than £650 and £750 on optional extras repsectively. Highline models build on the Trendline's trim costing an extra £1,900 (excluding VAT) for the Caddy and from £1,100 (excluding VAT) for the Transporter. New standard features of the Highline include alloy wheels, climatic air-con and a Thatcham alarm.

Eurostar is planning to introduce ten new E320 trains, designed by Pininfarina as part of a scheme to update the company's rolling stock by 2015. Current Eurostar trains will be fitted with updated interiors. Pininfarina CEO, Silvio Angori, said: "Together with Eurostar we're mixing our style and outstanding functionality with a clear vision of future train travel".

Josh Woodcock and Dan Cogger

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