Thinking of buying a new car? All hail the class of 2013: the pick of the best motors
From superminis and electrics through to high-end powerhouses - the latest drives offer innovation and good looks in spades. David Williams praises this year's line-up of new vehicles
Tuesday 12 March 2013
For visitors to the Geneva Motor Show, there have been so many glittering new cars on display that it's been hard knowing where to look. Flying the flag for British production - we'll forget for the moment that the firm is German-owned - is the magnificent, 616bhp, 200mph Bentley Flying Spur, the firm's fastest four-door model ever, and expected to cost a cool £140,900.
Fancy something a little quicker? How about the 218mph McLaren P1, also built in Britain? You'd better get in quick; they're only building 375 P1s, at £866,000 each. Other British-built stars include the new £215,000 Rolls-Royce Wraith, a fastback version of the Ghost saloon and the fastest model in the firm's history. Aston Martin, meanwhile, has pulled the covers off its sleek, 550bhp Rapide S. If it's ultimate performance you're after, how about the dashing new Ferrari F150? It's powered by a mighty V12 with extra power from an electric motor, so expect an output of around 900bhp - and a £1 million price tag.
But it's not all about high-speed and unaffordable glamour. The show, is also debuting the first ever nine-speed auto box in a regular production car - the Range Rover Evoque - while Nissan is showing off its facelifted, range-extended Leaf.
Other cars drawing the crowds at the show - which continues until next weekend - include Toyota's convertible version of the GT86 coupe, Vauxhall's new Cascada cabriolet, the new Lexus IS range, an extensive range of revised Volvos, a production version of the Honda Civic estate, the new Citroën DS3 Cabrio, Peugeot's new 2008 'crossover', our cover star - the new Ford Fiesta ST, and many many more.
But no matter where the models are designed or built, it's all good news for the motor industry in Britain, where new-car sales got off to a confident start in 2013 - 11.5 per cent up in January over the same month the year before.
Here, in our spring edition of Motors, we're celebrating our pick of the new-car lineup - from a handful of performance models to SUVs, city runabouts and family cars - most likely to make a splash in 2013…
Superminis and City cars
Ford Fiesta. From £9,795
The Fiesta is consistently the best-selling UK car, a trick it repeated last year when it was bought by a total of 109,265 customers, compared to the next best-selling car, the Vauxhall Corsa (89,434); so any changes to this iconic model are always closely-watched. On sale since January, the facelifted model looks crisper, boasting a restyled front end with the large grille first seen on the Focus and eye-catching LED daytime running lights. Good news is that the 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost petrol engine is now available in 99bhp or 118bhp guise. Fuel economy should hit 70mpg, with CO2 emissions at 99g/km on the less powerful variant. Even better news is the new six-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox, although initially only on the 103bhp 1.6. The cabin's been tweaked too. This spring we shall get the new 178bhp Fiesta ST model, which is bound to be fun. Prices for this 136mph model - with 177bhp on tap from its 1.6-litre engine - will start from £16,995.
BMW i3. Approx £28,000 (estimated)
Unfortunately you'll have to hang on until winter for this exciting all-new electric city car, but with ultra-modern looks, BMW's engineering pedigree and high-technology, it's a safe bet to be well worth the wait. It's a four-seater with lightweight carbon-fibre body and “clever packaging”. This means rear doors hinged at the rear, to present a wide entrance into the cabin, Rolls-Royce-style. It's powered by a rear-mounted electric motor generating 168bhp, enough for 0-62mph in under eight seconds and a top speed of over 90mph, while the lithium-ion battery pack should deliver a range of 100 miles. Penny-pinching however it will not be - expect to pay in the region of £28,000-£32,000.
Vauxhall Adam. From £11,255
Strange name, and slightly strange looks… but then the thing about small city cars is that designers feel they have a licence to be more adventurous, trying styles they wouldn't dare in more conservative markets. Up against the (slightly shorter) Mini and the (narrower) Fiat 500, the Adam comes with a choice of three engines, all petrol and all of which have stop-start. A high degree of customisation is available, with more than 30,000 possible combinations.
Hyundai i10. From £8,500 (estimated)
The South Korean car-maker's reputation for building affordable, desirable, well-engineered cars knows no bounds, so expect its new i10 city car to dish up more of the same when it debuts towards the end of 2013. Expect impressive fuel economy and practicality - and an extra dash of style inside and out. Insiders hint that the car will be much the same size as the current model, while it will be powered by updated versions of the existing 1.0 and 1.2-litre engines. The firm's ix35 - its SUV - will also receive a facelift in the autumn.
Renault Zoe. From £13,650 (including grant)
Spearheading the French firm's foray into the world of all-electric cars, the quaintly-named Zoe will be fairly mainstream with an official maximum range of 130 miles from its 87bhp electric motor and batteries. The difference is that you will lease Zoe's batteries separately, with prices starting at around £70 a month for a three-year/7,500 package. Equipment levels are generous across all three trim levels; Expression, Dynamique Zen and Dynamique Intens. If you've been thinking about going electric but haven't taken the plunge, this good-looking car should be the one that does it for you.
Small Family cars
Kia Procee'd. From £17,495
This great looking car is actually the three-door variant of the all-new Cee'd, but with more whizzy lines, including redesigned rear lights, bumpers and tailgate, giving it a highly distinctive appearance. Available with a choice of 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol engines, and two 1.6 diesels when it emerges in April. Next summer, it will be joined by a Procee'd hot hatch powering along on 200bhp.
Nissan Leaf, European version £23,000 (estimated, including grant)
Many good things have been written about the capable, swish all-electric Nissan Leaf and it will become more affordable when the new European version goes on sale in late Spring, as it will be built at the firm's Sunderland plant. Crucially, the move to the UK means that there will now be a choice of trim levels. The range will also improve, going from 109 to 124 miles, while more luggage space in the boot will be created by moving the charger to under the bonnet, and handling will be better tuned towards European roads. Meanwhile, due in September is the new British-built Nissan Note, to take on Ford's Fiesta. It is expected to switch from high, upright hatchback to more conventional but dashing, supermini lines.
Renault Clio. From £10,595
The Clio Mk 4 migrates away from the rather solid look of the Mk 3 and back towards the fun, chic shape of the earlier generations. And as we've seen since the car's launch last month, that's a good thing. Not only is the brand new Clio around 100kg lighter than the outgoing model, it's lower and longer too, and there are new, cleaner engines, along with more sophisticated interiors. Although it's a more mature proposition than before, it is still fun to drive, and the star of the show now is the new 0.9-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine. In the summer, we shall also see the new Clio SUV, derived from the Nissan Juke platform, and packed with family-friendly styling features.
Family cars and Compact Executives
Skoda Octavia. From £14,000
Skoda have built an impressive reputation for quality and value for money in recent years, and the new Octavia will build on that. Based on the “underpinnings” of the Audi A3 and VW Golf, it will actually have a longer wheelbase and bigger rear overhang. Every model will have touch-screen “infotainment” and the interiors will slide the car farther upmarket. The cabins will be big, as will the boot, making it something of a family workhorse.
Mazda 6. From £19,595
The Mazda 6 is a striking, fresh-looking car aimed squarely at the Mondeo market. Placing emphasis on providing plenty of space and comfort, there is also a cavernous, sensibly-shaped boot, while the interior is finished to a high standard. Those who have driven it say that the 148bhp diesel is the pick of the bunch, with its claimed 68.9mpg. There will also be a 173bhp diesel for those who need a bit more oomph. The MX-5-style short-throw manual gearshift is impressive, and it handles pretty neatly too.
Executive and Luxury cars
Mercedes-Benz S-Class. From £63,000 (estimated)
The firm's flagship model will go even further upmarket, if such a thing is possible, when it launches in the summer. As usual, it will be bristling with eye-poppingly impressive technology to make the business of driving safer than ever. It will have cameras to “read” the road ahead and set up the suspension accordingly, even setting up for each individual wheel - clever stuff indeed. Weight-saving will be playing heavily on the thoughts of the engineers', with more use of aluminium on the agenda. Meanwhile, for the first time, four-cylinder diesel engines will be available alongside the traditional V6s and V8s. Eventually, a new S-Class Coupe is expected to replace the current CL model. Expect to see them lining the roadside of London's more exclusive quarters by the end of the year.
Coupes and Convertibles
Citroën DS3 Cabrio. From £15,045
Citroën have been great at injecting huge levels of fun and style back into their cars in the past two to three years, with the stunning DS line. The recently-launched DS3 Cabrio is no exception, complete with folding fabric centre section, rather like the Fiat 500C's. Citroën is going further down its personalisation route too, allowing buyers to “customise” their car with different roof fabrics, as well as colours for the body, door mirrors and wheels. The roof folds electrically and can even be operated - unlike conventional cabrios - at around 70mph, and opened in around 16 seconds. It looks chic and stylish, and the mods add only a modest weight increase, so that it will be almost as efficient as the standard car.
BMW 4 Series. £28,000 (estimated)
The BMW 3 Series Coupe is no more, with the launch - in September - of the 4 Series. As with the current 3 Series coupe and convertible models, the 4 Series will not share any exterior body panels with the 3 Series, and the model will be altogether sleeker. The 4 Series Coupe is expected in showrooms by the end of 2013, with the 4 Series convertible and more practical 4 Series Gran Coupe arriving later on. To set the 4 Series apart from the 3, it will have a lower-slung rear end, and a lower roofline.
Honda CR-Z. Sport from £20,550; GT from £23,050
The dynamic-looking CRZ was the first car to show that you could have dollops of fun while also having some regard for the environment. For while being reminiscent of the CR-X of the 1990s, it was actually a hybrid, combining a petrol engine and an electric motor for propulsion. Now there is an updated hybrid powertrain providing slightly more power, without upping fuel consumption or emissions. In fact the 1.5-litre petrol engine and new lithium-ion battery boost the combined power from 122 to 135bhp. There's also a new Plus Sport (S+) boost system, providing temporary, extra assistance from the electric motor for up to 10 seconds. Honda's official figures put fuel consumption at 56.5mpg on the combined cycle, with CO2 emissions at 116g/km. Styling updates include a new front bumper and grille, new rear diffuser and paint choices. Honda also debuted their new Civic 1.6 diesel in January, and will launch the Civic Tourer estate this autumn.
Citroën C4 Picasso. From sub-£18,000
If it's as good as the previous model, the C4 Picasso will prove highly popular with families seeking swish, stylish, spacious transport, as the Technospace “design study”, on which it will be based, reveals.
There will be a five-seater and a longer Grand C4 model with seven seats, and it's likely there will be an update of the way the seats fold away and “move” around the cabin. Upgraded engines will mean even better economy, too
Peugeot 2008. From around £14,000
Due for launch in July, this rugged-looking SUV is based on the 208 supermini and will be launched with front-wheel drive only, despite its all-action bulging wheel-arches and raised ride height. It's aimed at “young city-dwellers who love the urban environment, but also enjoy escaping it at every opportunity,” say Peugeot. Higher-spec models are expected to be available with Peugeot's Grip Control system, while a full-length panoramic glass roof will flood the spacious interior with light. It has what Peugeot calls a “versatile” cabin, as well as low-emission engines.
Fiat 500L. From £15,000
Playing heavily on the chic image of the 500 and a dose of extra practicality, this car will be aiming for family buyers when it launches this spring. Substantially larger than the cute 500 model, there will be three engine choices; the 0.9-litre TwinAir two-cylinder and 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrols, plus an 84bhp 1.3 diesel. To start off it will be a five-seater, but it will be followed by an even more practical seven-seater. Buyers will like the slightly elevated driving position and the flexible seating layout.
Toyota RAV4. From £22,600
The current model was launched way back in 2006, so expect big changes on the new model, out this summer including a smart new cabin, a vehicle that's half a metre longer and higher levels of luxury all-round. In the UK we shall be getting one petrol and two diesel versions, and most buyers are expected to opt for 4WD. The cabin will be more upmarket than before, aided by a stitched, padded lower dashboard panel, and there will be improved head and leg-room, especially in the back. For added practicality, the rear seats will recline or fold flat, to create lots of loadspace.
Porsche Cayman. From £39,694
It's hard to tell by looking at it, but the Cayman shares most of its parts with the Boxster, even though the two look little alike. The second-generation Cayman, due out this spring, promises to be even more fun to drive than the current model, which is already highly rewarding with a great turn of speed and particularly agile handling. A true “driver's” car, the new model will be longer, lower and wider than before and have a lower centre of gravity, and will also have sharper looks that will distance it further from the 911. It will weigh some 30kg less and the body will be 40 per cent stiffer, for better handling. It will have more boot space too. There'll be a choice of engines; the 275bhp 2.7-litre or 325bhp 3.4-litre (from £48,783), both flat-sixes.
Peugeot RCZ R. From sub-£30,000
You're bound to have spotted the handsome, low-slung RCZ, which had a minor facelift earlier this year. Now prepare yourself for the super-fast R model, due to be the most powerful production Peugeot ever when it arrives at the end of the year. Producing 260bhp from a tuned 1.6 turbo engine, it will not only be fast but will also boast pin-sharp handling thanks to its re-tuned suspension.
Peugeot 208 GTi. From £18,895
Peugeot was once the master of exciting, sharp-handling hot hatches such as the 205 GTI, and this new model - due in April - will please those who've been awaiting a return to form. Power will come from a turbocharged 197bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine - expect a 0-62mph time of under seven seconds. There will also be upgraded brakes, revised suspension settings and other embellishments such as special headlight lenses and a boot lid spoiler.
Jaguar F-Type. From £58,000
The F-Type is without question one of 2013's most hotly anticipated cars, and not just because it looks absolutely superb. The design hints at the iconic E-Type from the rear, but in fact this is an incredibly modern Jaguar, resplendent with crisply sculpted lines. Three models are due to be available from May, all featuring rear-wheel drive and an eight-speed auto box. The standard model will have a 335bhp supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine, but there'll be a 375bhp version in the S. Meanwhile, the V8 S gets a supercharged 488bhp 5.0 V8. A coupe version will follow, and look out also for the XFR-S in June, due to be the fastest saloon in the firm's history, with a 542bhp supercharged 5.0-litre V8 and 186mph top speed, and 0-62mph acceleration expected to be in an eye-popping 4.6 seconds.
Claiming the “most extensive redevelopment of existing models in the company's history”, the Swedish car-maker will soon launch seven models that have been substantially updated and improved. The S80 saloon, V70 estate, S60 saloon, V60 estate, XC60, XC70 and a plug-in version of the hybrid V60 have all been refreshed with the pleasing new Volvo “face”. Bodywork on the cars has been reworked to make them look more muscular, while there will be bigger 19 and 20-inch alloy wheels. All models will come with a new, sportier seat which will keep drivers in position during hard cornering, without - say Volvo - loss of comfort. Other improvements will include new infotainment systems, more fuel-efficient engines and - for automatics - gear-changing “paddles” on steering wheels. Production begins in May.
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