Wednesday, November 21, 2012

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Autocar Online - News

New Soul to kick off Kia model blitz

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 05:42 AM PST

Kia will develop 51 new models to arrive by 2016, including hot hatches and EVs

Kia will launch 51 new or updated models before the end of 2016 in an effort to maintain its spectacular growth surge, which is set to result in 2012 becoming the company's fourth successive record year for production, sales and profits.

As part of the plan, Kia will move into new niches, with a hot hatchback based on the new Procee'd arriving next summer, an electric version of the next Soul in 2014 and possibly even a rear-wheel-drive sports car. There would also be additional derivatives of existing or updated cars in the list of newcomers.

The product onslaught for Europe begins with the introduction of the next Procee'd and an all-new seven-seat Carens in the first half of next year. Before the end of the year the second-generation Soul will be unveiled, although it will be 2014 before it makes it to the UK. There will also be updates or 'product enhancements' to three of Kia's current models.

For markets outside of Europe, Kia has just announced a facelifted version of the K7/Cadenza executive saloon and a new K3/Cerato, a compact four-door car that shares many parts and systems with the European Cee'd. The flagship K9 saloon, which went on sale in the domestic market earlier in the year, will also begin exports as the Quoris.

Kia has replaced almost all of its European range in less than two years, so it will be 2015-2016 before big changes are made to the most recent models. The Venga will be first up for replacement after the Soul.

Roger Stansfield

Kia GT hot hatch to spearhead performance push

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 05:34 AM PST

Korean firm's CEO reveals his desire to launch a flagship coupé and sports cars to take the brand's image forward

Several sports and performance cars — including a large, flagship rear-drive coupé — are on Kia's agenda as the Korean company seeks to continue building on its brand image over the next few years.

A high-performance version of next year's second-generation Kia Procee'd, which made its debut at the recent Paris motor show, has already been confirmed for production from the middle of next year.

However, Kia is also thinking about taking a model based on chief designer Peter Schreyer's rear-drive GT coupé concept — seen at 2011 Geneva motor show — through to production.

Vice-chairman and CEO Hyoung-Keun (Hank) Lee says the company is "seriously looking" at turning the GT into reality.

"In my opinion, a sports car should be rear-wheel drive," said Lee. "When I was at Hyundai we tried the Coupe with front-wheel drive. It was considered sporty looking, but the driveability was different.

"We haven't decided yet, but we need a certain product to help with our brand image. We have tried a couple of concept cars and found some potential in the GT. We will try a couple more in the future, starting at Geneva next year, and test the media and consumer response before choosing one." Lee said the decision would be made "in a short time".

Schreyer is keen on adding a small, nimble sports car to Kia's range, similar in spirit if not appearance to the Mazda MX-5. Lee admitted there is "potential" in the idea, but that no decisions have been taken.

The priority at the moment, he said, is to bring the hot Procee'd — known internally as HPV, but widely expected to be badged GT — to market.

It will be powered by a 200bhp version of Hyundai-Kia's T-GDi turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine and will be offered with a choice of six-speed manual or dual-clutch automatic transmissions. Schreyer has also given the hot hatch a look that sets it apart from the rest of the three-door Procee'd range, said Lee.

Kia has only once previously dabbled with making sports cars. In 1997 it bought the design rights to the Lotus Elan and began a small-scale production run, with one of its own engines in place of the original Isuzu unit.

A year later, however, Kia went bust as Asia's tiger economies collapsed, leading to the takeover by Hyundai. Since then, the company's offerings have stayed firmly on the straight and narrow.

Roger Stansfield

Quick news: Opel’s new race cars; Mitsubishi Lancer named most reliable

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 05:10 AM PST

Opel returns to motor racing, Mitsubishi Lancer named most reliable car of last 15 years and Nissan updates the Leaf EV.

Opel/Vauxhall has announced a return to motor racing with race-ready versions of both the new Adam and Astra GTC. While the Adam will take to the dirt, competing in the FIA R2-class ADAC Opel Rally Cup, the Astra, which is based on the hot VXR version, will stick to the track in the Astra OPC Cup – the highlight of which is a 24 hour endurance race at the Nürburgring.

The Mitsubishi Lancer has been named the most reliable car of the last 15 years by automotive warranty specialists Warranty Direct. Its research revealed that Japanese and Far Eastern manufacturers produce the most reliable cars, with only three European models - the Vauxhall Agila, Mercedes E-class and Volvo S40 - making it into the top ten. The Audi RS6, BMW M5 and Mercedes SL topped the list of the least reliable.

Nissan has unveiled the 2013 Leaf in Japan. A new electric motor and AC/DC converter saves 80kgs, and the Leaf gets a style upgrade in the form of new alloy wheels, optional blue-tint headlamps and a choice of three new paint finishes. Currently the revisions only apply to the Japanese market model and aren't planned for UK cars.

Tom Heron

LA motor show debut for Volvo S60 Polestar

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 03:17 AM PST

M5-rivalling Volvo S60 Polestar saloon develops 508bhp and will make its North American debut at the LA motor show

The Volvo S60 Polestar concept will make its motor show debut at next week's Los Angeles motor show.

Polestar – Volvo's official performance partner – has comprehensively reworked the standard S60's T6 engine, adding a new cylinder head and inlet manifold. The 3.0-litre straight-six unit now develops 508bhp and 424lb ft; significant improvements over the standard car's 300bhp and 325lb ft

The power gains are enough to get the large S60 saloon from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds and on to a top speed of over 186mph.

The Polestar concept also benefits from a widened chassis, uprated brakes, Haldex four-wheel drive system and trick Ohlins dampers. A Ferrita 3.5-inch stainless steel exhaust completes the mechanical upgrades.

Aesthetically, the S60 receives a commendably discrete bodykit, 19-inch alloy wheels and is finished in Polestar's trademark colour, Rebel Blue.

It remains to be seen whether the S60 Polestar will form an unlikely rival to the class-dominating BMW M5, as Volvo is yet to confirm whether it's to ever put it into production.

Daljinder Nagra

Meet the ancestors: Porsche Boxster - video

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 02:41 AM PST

We drive the original and latest Boxsters back-to-back

The Porsche Boxster has been one of our favourite roadsters since the original car launched. But has time been kind to it? We pitch it against the Mk1 Boxster against the very latest model to find out.

First drive review: Citroen C5 Exclusive HDI 200

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 02:01 AM PST

Some aesthetic mid-life tweaking can't stop the left-field C5 from falling behind its competitors Wide angle, the Citroën C5 range has received an incredibly gentle cosmetic update; close up, this is the new range-topper, equipped with a 201bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine not previously found under Citroëns in the UK (although it has already premiered in the priciest Peugeot 508).If you were hoping to see the C5's middle-age spread pulled taut by some face-hardening botox, think again. Despite being hemmed in by younger rivals (and with a new Mondeo and Mazda 6 on the horizon), Citroën has only managed to lever LED daytime running lights into revised headlights and accommodate the brand's new chevrons on the nose.A Techno Pack (available with any trim level) adds the new eMyWay sat-nav system and 18-inch wheels to the Exclusive spec, but otherwise the interior, too, remains as it was. Consequently, improved engine choice is clearly meant as the chunks of meat in otherwise thin gruel.At the opposite end of the HDI 200's scale is the e-HDI 115 Airdream, which uses a 115bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine and stop-start tech, in conjunction with PSA's electrically controlled six-speed gearbox, to deliver claimed economy of 62.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 117g/km.In contrast to the fleet buyer shelf-filler, the flagship returns 47.9mpg and emits 155g/km in return for a vastly improved 0-62mph time of 8.3sec and flat-out 143mph potential. The four-cylinder engine's extra performance sees it command an £8k premium over the base-spec daydreamer.

First drive review: Ford Fiesta Ecoboost 1.0T 125PS

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 01:19 AM PST

The Fiesta Ecoboost marks the smallest car Ford's tiny three-pot engine has been installed in. Logic suggests it should be good. Whatever the parlous state of Ford's European balance sheet – a document best avoided by accountants of a nervous disposition – the flow of new cars wearing Blue Oval badges continues unabated. Next up, at the end of the year, comes a refreshed Fiesta, which gets far more than the usual mid-term spruce-up.The headline act is the introduction of Ford's 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine in 99bhp or 123bhp guise. This three-cylinder, direct-injection turbocharged engine has been cropping up all over the place since Ford slotted it into the Focus, and it's destined to find a home in a lot more models yet.The Fiesta is the smallest and lightest car it has appeared in so far. With the more powerful of the two engines you have a power-to-weight ratio of almost 113bhp per tonne, which eclipses what's on offer in anything else in the Fiesta range – at least until the 180bhp ST arrives next spring.

Mitsubishi Outlander core to brand's US resurgence

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 10:18 AM PST

Mitsubishi will launch its Outlander SUV to the American market in LA next week

The Mitsubishi Outlander will form the first part of the firm's comeback strategy in the North American market, following its US launch at next week's Los Angeles motor show

The SUV, launched in Europe in 2011, will form a crucial part of Mitsubishi's plan to increase sales by an ambitious 45 per cent next year. Mitsubishi is currently on track to sell 55,000 cars in the US, and is aiming for 80,000 by 2014.

The new Outlander is expected to make up 33,000 of those sales – the current model sold just over 5000 units in the first nine months of this year. 

An Outlander plug-in hybrid will follow the petrol powered model in 2014, while the Thai-built Mirage will go on sale in September of next year. 

Dan Stevens

Mini to show refreshed Countryman at LA

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 09:40 AM PST

Interior revisions aim to increase practicality and ease of use

Mini is to unveil a revised version of its Countryman crossover at this month's Los Angeles motor show.

The revisions come two years after the model's initial debut and focus on bringing interior quality up to a higher standard, in the face of competition from the Audi Q3 and BMW X1.

The biggest changes are to the centre console, which gains a new storage cubby hole — thanks to the relocation of the window switches to the door panels. The driver's side door will come equipped with all-around window controls as well as switches for the electric door mirrors.

New door inserts have been fitted and the armrests re-profiled for greater comfort, while the centrally mounted speedometer and four air vents are now ringed in carbon-black, with the option of gloss black or chrome detailing.

The Countryman will now come as standard with a three-seat rear bench, with two individual seats available as a no-cost option.

Exterior revisions are limited to new colour options: Brilliant Copper metallic and Blazing Red metallic.

The engine line-up is unchanged, meaning three diesel and four petrol units with power ranging from 90-218bhp. All except the entry-level diesel model are available with an optional six-speed automatic gearbox in place of the standard six-speed manual item.

Daljinder Nagra

Peugeot confirms RCZ pricing

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 08:15 AM PST

Refreshed coupé returns with familiar two-level trim choice

The facelifted Peugeot RCZ, which was unveiled at September's Paris motor show, will go on sale in the UK in January, starting at £21,595.

The coupé has been given a mid-life makeover, including revised frontend styling, which brings it in line with the current Peugeot design theme – first shown on the 208 supermini – and a new alloy wheel design.

The cabin has also been updated with a greater choice of trim colours and personalisation options.

The RCZ will continue to be offered in two trim levels: Sport and GT. Sport models are equipped with 18-inch alloys, dual-zone air-conditioning, rear parking sensors, USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity. Further additions included on facelifted cars include automatic lighting and the option of leather and Alcantara upholstery.

GT trim bestows 19-inch alloys and a sports steering wheel and gear-lever. GT cars also get leather upholstery as standard, with customers now able to choose the optional Cohiba Brown colour. GT models cost an additional £2,400 over the entry price.

A performance version – the 260bhp RCZ R – also unveiled at the Paris motor show, will reach UK showrooms towards the end of 2013.

Daljinder Nagra

BMW to showcase concept X1

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 08:00 AM PST

BMW teams up with ski manufacturer K2 to create Concept K2 Powder Ride

This is the BMW Concept K2 Powder Ride, a concept off-roader due to be shown at this month's LA motor show.

Created in conjunction with ski equipment manufacturer K2, the Powder Ride concept is essentially an aesthetically tweaked X1 crossover.

The most obvious addition is the Valencia Orange paint scheme, complete with a fox graphic that runs the length of the cabin – a design that has been lifted straight from one of K2's limited edition skis.

Further exterior alterations include a silver finish to the side skirts and to the bottom edges of the front and rear bumpers, dark tinted windows with matt black surrounds and new grey 19-inch alloy wheels. The Power Ride concept also gets an extra 8mm of suspension travel to aid off-road driving.

Attached to the roof-rack is a 320 watt Harman-Kardon stereo system, complete with a 1100 watt amplifier and AKG microphone. Perhaps not the most sensible kit to be using in avalanche-prone mountain ranges.

The LA motor show opens on November 30.

Daljinder Nagra

Fiesta Ecoboost to be USA's most efficient car

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 07:36 AM PST

Ford is readying its three-cylinder Fiesta for a North American launch at next week's LA motor show

Ford hopes to have the most fuel efficient engine on sale in the US when it adds the 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost engine to the Fiesta line up. It will be launched at next week's Los Angeles motor show

Although the car hasn't yet been tested by the US's Environmental Protection Agency, which provides official fuel consumption figures, it should easily achieve over 50mpg. 

It will only be available as the more powerful 123bhp, 143lb ft version that, in the Focus, emits 114g/km of CO2.  

The 1.0-litre Fiesta is set to go on sale in the US next year. No other manufacturer currently offers a three-cylinder engine in the USA.

Dan Stevens

BMW i8 concept roadster to appear at LA

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 07:22 AM PST

Production version of BMW's convertible hybrid sports car due in 2014

The BMW i8 concept roadster – the third model in the company's electric 'i' line-up – will be shown at this month's Los Angeles motor show.

Previously seen earlier this year at the Beijing motor show, the roadster concept uses the same carbonfibre construction as the i8 coupé, which is due to launch in 2013.

Unlike the coupe's 2+2 layout, the roadster is a strict two-seater and has a shallow rear deck in place of the coupé's sloping roof-line.

BMW has not confirmed how the roof mechanism will work, although a lift-out panel – also made from carbonfibre – is the most likely option.

The i8 roadster will use the same drivetrain configuration as the coupé, meaning a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine developing 220bhp and driving the rear wheels, while an electric motor, with the equivalent of around 134bhp driving the fronts.

The configuration allows the i8 to operate in front, rear and all-wheel drive, as well as in combustion, electric and combined modes. The positioning of the motors over each axle, and the battery pack in a central tunnel, also allows BMW to stick to its famous 50/50 weight distribution.

With a total of 354bhp, the i8 roadster will have a 0-60mph time of 4.6 seconds. As with all BMWs, the top speed is limited to 155mph.

Despite the performance on offer, thanks to its efficient petrol engine and battery power, the i8 Roadster will average around 104mpg. The lithium-ion battery pack will also allow for electric-only driving for up to 20 miles, and can be fully charged in just 1hr 45mins using a high-voltage outlet.

A production version of the i8 roadster is due for launch in late 2014, with a projected price tag of around £80,000.

Daljinder Nagra

Audi continues to push diesel in America

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 07:11 AM PST

Audi will push on with its introduction of diesel models at next week's LA motor show

Audi is to add four new diesel models in its North American range as the firm continues to push sales of oil-burners in the US. 

To be launched at next week's Los Angeles motor show, the A6, A7, A8 and Q5 will all get variations on the 3.0-litre V6 diesel, branded in the US as CleanDiesel.

In the A8, the only car that Audi has released specifications for, the engine develops 240hp and 406lb ft. 

The addition of the four new models increases Audi's diesel range in the States to six – the A3 is availalble with a 2.0-litre TDI, and the Q7 has used the 3.0-litre V6 since September – giving it more diesels than rivals BMW and Mercedes. 

Dan Stevens

The art of the rally pacenote

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 07:57 AM PST

As complex as it is essential, pacenote mastery is a dark art. Here is our guide

What you're looking at is not a secret code, but a set of pacenotes. Hidden in those letters, numbers and squiggles is all the information double Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Andreas Mikkelsen needs to tackle some of the world's most demanding roads as quickly as possible. In the dark, if needs be. Or on slick tyres in the wet. Or even, on occasion, in fog so thick he can't see the end of his car.

"Our system is the work of years of honing what we do," says Mikkelsen. "Every driver has their own way of making pacenotes, and we've settled on around 30 different sayings that tell me exactly what I need to do. There's enough information in there for me to drive flat out, but not so much that I get overloaded."

Those notes are delivered to Mikkelsen by his co-driver, Ola Fløene, a veteran of WRC, IRC and the Dakar Rally who has been a guiding influence for all of his sidekick's career. Together they have spent the past seven years perfecting the system of calls that have won their two titles.

"We are always looking for ways to improve our performance, and getting the notes right is perhaps the most important," says Fløene. "Even if we are flat out mid-stage and we think there is a chance a note could have been better, I will make a quick mark in pencil to amend it for next time. Sure, we're going fast and there's another call to make, but with experience it's amazing what you can do."

Today, Mikkelsen and Fløene's notes are made up in three different languages: Norwegian, Swedish and English. Why? "Andreas is fluent in them all, so we pick the language that has the shortest way of describing what we want to say," says Fløene. "When you are trying to describe two or three tricky corners in as much detail as possible while you're flat in sixth gear, it really helps to be as brief as possible."

Providing enough detail without delivering so much that it's confusing is tricky, and is relative to the sharpness of the driver's brain. Mikkelsen, for instance, has six different corner descriptions: 'ok', 'maybe plus', 'maybe minus', 'fast', 'fast fast' and 'flat'. For each, he'll fractionally modify his approach to a corner. Then there's the instructions for how much to cut apices; 'no cut' warns to keep all four wheels on the road, 'cut' means he's okay to put one wheel to the inside, 'max' means he can put all four wheels off the road and 'super cut' is a rare shout that means a massive time-saving detour.

The level of detail is astounding, until you appreciate the sort of speeds at which rally crews are driving and the types of roads they are on. "Rallying has many challenges," says Mikkelsen. "Blind corners are normal, and so are crests. If Ola tells me the road afterwards is straight, I will trust him and commit. If you lift a fraction in this championship, or run a fraction wide and go off line, you will not set a fastest time. The competition is that intense. You have to get your pacenotes perfect and then drive to them in exactly the way they describe."

Because Mikkelsen sits so low in the car (to help with the centre of gravity), he often can't see over crests in the road. "The fact is, I am not driving primarily with my eyes but with my ears," he says. "My pacenotes are my instructions, and they build a picture for me of what I need to do."

On each event, Mikkelsen and Fløene get a chance to recce each stage twice in a road car, at road-legal speeds. If they've done the stage before, they are allowed to modify the set of notes they have. If not, they must start from scratch. The world's leading rally drivers are closely monitored to ensure they aren't getting in sneaky extra practice outside the event timetables. The only concession is that they're allowed to video the recce. They usually watch a stage back between two and six times, depending on its complexity, checking their notes. But after that it's on to the rally and trusting every bit of information as they battle over tenths of a second.

"That's part of the reason rally drivers can't just arrive at the top level and expect success," says Mikkelsen. "They must hone their experience of the stages and get the notes spot on. That's hard to do from two slow-speed runs – the first of which is normally done very slowly, so that there's time for me to make a judgement and Ola to write it down. And of course different types of cars need different notes, depending on their capabilities."

So what happens when the fog descends and visibility is near zero? In any form of racing – on a prescribed circuit the competitors can memorise, remember – they'd go home. In rallying, it's a case of driving according to the conditions. "I just make sure I deliver the notes precisely," says Fløene. "If we've got the notes accurate from the recce, Andreas just drives to what I say. On the straights I can help a little more by counting down the distances using the trip meter, but otherwise we just carry on. Of course, the times are a lot slower – but, trust me, it doesn't feel that slow when your driver pulls top gear and you know he can't see where he's going."

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