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Kia Soul Tops List of Must-Have Cars in the City

Surprisingly, Smart ForTwo doesn’t make Top 10.

by on Aug.12, 2014

Kia's 2014 Soul was named the top choice for city dwellers due to its ride-and-handling as well as its convenience features.

Many folks imagine that once you move to a large urban center, like New York or Chicago, that the need for a car evaporates; however, the reality is that city denizens need to get around and that means hundreds of thousands of vehicles are clogging those streets.

If you’re going to have a car in the city, it needs to be small enough to squeeze into tight spots, turn around in small spaces, yet be able to carry lots of stuff. Fortunately, the folks at Cars.com have compiled a list of what they believe to be the 10 best cars for city dwellers.

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The website’s top pick is the 2014 Kia Soul and not because it’s so easy to drive even a hamster can do it. According to the website, the Soul’s ride-and-handling, abundance of convenience features, such as heated front and rear seats as well as a heated steering wheel – features typically found on pricier rides – combined with Kia’s Android-based UVO multimedia system made it the best ride. (more…)

Toyota Aygo Images Leak Ahead of Geneva Debut

City car gets more “playful” design.

by on Mar.03, 2014

Toyota is hoping to attract buyers with a fun city carcalled the Aygo, built in partnership with PSA.

Toyota is clearly hoping that potential buyers will have some fun with the new Aygo city car set to debut at this week’s Geneva Motor Show – but you’ll have a chance to decide based on these images that leaked out a bit ahead of schedule.

The second-generation Aygo continues to share its underlying platform with Toyota’s French partner PSA – which markets two versions of its own as the Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108. (Both of those also getting updates this year.)

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The underlying design theme for Toyota was “J-Playful,” the maker hoping to make the Aygo more fun to drive than the typical econobox. (more…)

BMW Uses Cutting Edge Technologies on New i3

Lightweight materials and Volt-like extending engine doubles range.

by on Jul.29, 2013

BMW is using the latest technology in its new i3.

BMW has made a point of incorporating a great deal of new technology, such as the wide use of lightweight carbon fiber, into its vehicles. But it has borrowed a concept from General Motors so the i3 will also be available in an “extended range” version similar to the Chevrolet Volt.

If desired, the BMW i3 is also available with a range-extender engine, which maintains the charge of the lithium-ion battery at a constant level while on the move as soon as it dips below a certain value. Performing this role is a 650cc two-cylinder, 34-horsepower engine, which is mounted immediately adjacent to the electric motor above the rear axle, BMW said.

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Maximum range stands at approximately 186 miles, which is more than double the range of battery electric version of the i3. (more…)

BMW Launches i3 City Car in New York

Maker compares impact of i3 on society to cell phone.

by on Jul.29, 2013

BMW rolled out the new i3 electric vehicle in New York today.

BMW launched what it described as a new era in “sustainable” transportation by unveiling its new mega-city vehicle, the i3.

“Innovation drives change and revolution innovation can change society. We are in the starting blocks for sustainability mobility,” said Norbert Reithofer, BMW’s chief executive officer, who compared the new vehicle to the mobile phone, which changed the way we communicate with the world and opened up new business opportunities.

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“We are entering a new era,” Reithofer added, during a press conference today in New York, adding that BMW’s research indicates that electric cars and sustainable and connected transportation are the wave of the future particularly in large cities around the globe. (more…)

BMW Sets $42,000 Price Tag for New i3 Battery Car

Official unveiling scheduled for July 29th in NY, London and Beijing.

by on Jul.22, 2013

BMW gets ready for the formal unveiling of the production i3 next week.

Though it’s still nearly a year from reaching U.S. showrooms, BMW has set a price of $42,275 for the new i3 electric vehicle that will serve as the launch platform for its all-new battery-car brand-within-a-brand, BMW i.

The little battery-electric vehicle will primarily target urban commuters who’re nonetheless looking for more than just basic transportation. The BMW i3 will not only offer more up-market attributes but also will be notable as the auto industry’s first mass-produced vehicle to make extensive use of super-light carbon fiber.

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“The BMW i3 heralds the dawn of a new era for individual mobility and for the BMW Group,” suggested Ian Robertson, Member of the Board of Management, Sales and Marketing BMW. “True to a genuine BMW, the BMW i3 has strong emotional appeal, outstanding product substance and a guarantee of sheer driving pleasure.  With this leading-edge vehicle and attractive price, we will provide customers with a compelling offer for electromobility.” (more…)

VW Reveals 5-Door Up! and Confirms Up! GT

Preview coming at Geneva.

by on Jan.24, 2012

Volkswagen will introduce a 5-door version of its Up! city car in Geneva.

Having already seen images leak out onto the web, Volkswagen has decided it’s not worth hiding the new 5-door hatchback version of its global minicar, the VW Up! – which will make its formal debut at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show.

Meanwhile, the German maker is getting ready to launch a spiced-up version of the 3-door city car, which will be badged the Up! GT.  It’s the production version of the hot-hatch Up! that made its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show last autumn.

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The Up! is sliding into the entry niche that once was filled by the Volkswagen Polo, the Up! GT targeting the sort of folks who might once have opted for the Golf GTI or smaller Lupo GTI.

The more functional 5-door will go on sale later this year, reportedly with a pair of turbocharged  and direct-injected 1.0-liter, three-cylinder gasoline powertrains, one making 59 hp the other 74.

(more…)

First Drive: 2012 Scion iQ

Is it smarter than a Smart?

by on Oct.25, 2011

Scion's iQ targets a new generation of City Car buyers.

There’s one thing you can be guaranteed will happen when driving the new Scion iQ: expect to get plenty of stares, folks routinely stopping to ask you about the little microcar.

Measuring barely five feet tall and 10 feet nose-to-tail, the 2012 Scion iQ isn’t the smallest car on U.S. roads but it comes awfully close, somehow squeezing four seats into a footprint only 14 inches longer than the 2-seat Smart fortwo.

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But this is no pedal car.  At $15,995, Scion will be commanding something of a premium considering what other makers are charging for their current subcompact offerings.  Perhaps that can be expected in the electronics world: you pay more for a smaller smartphone or MP3 player.  But getting motorists to pay more for less car is a challenge that few have so far pulled off, notably British marque Mini.

The 2012 Scion iQ hopes to take advantage of the "new urbanism," where - small - size matters.

Once you get past its miniscule size, the 2012 Scion iQ doesn’t look like a tin econobox.  A tweaked and update version of the European Toyota iQ, it has a reasonably substantial look and feel to it that comes in sharp contrast to some past small cars that made you wonder what you were risking by slipping inside.

Clearly, Toyota made a major effort to deliver a microcar that lived up to the brand’s reputation for tight fits and on-the-nail quality.  If we found a single issue after poring over our test car it was a slight misalignment in the two inside door handles – and even that appeared to be more a visual miscue than an actual defect.

Like many modern small cars, the new iQ opts for a relatively tall cabin, at least compared to its overall length.  This approach creates a much more roomy interior package than you might otherwise expect, even though the cabin is still a bit cramped, with a back seat that only barely slips into the usable category.

At 10 feet, nose-to-tail, the 2012 Scion iQ is just 14 inches longer than the Smart fortwo.

But the interior is surprisingly well-appointed, with nice details such as the sporty, flat-bottomed steering wheel.  There’s a nice mix of chrome and pewter accents completed by the piano-black finish around the center display.  Gauges and controls are well-placed and easy to reach.  The center speedo display is mated to a small digital readout that is legible but not nearly as appealing as the motorcycle-style display serving similar purpose on the new Chevrolet Sonic.

If there’s a drawback it’s the seats, which are thin and cheap feeling, almost like they were lifted out of a ‘70s-era econobox.  But they’re more comfortable than they look – at least on relatively short drives.

Another disappointment is the lack of much useful storage, with no functional glovebox, just a little tray under the passenger seat.

Under the tiny hood one finds a port-injected, 1329 cc inline-four engine making 94 horsepower and 89 pound-feet of torque.  Not exactly a rocket, but that’s reasonable for a car weighing in at just 2,150 pounds.  The specs tell you it’ll take nearly 12 seconds to get to 60, with a top speed – if you have a long enough road – to hit 100.  In practice, perhaps it’s the miniscule size of the 2012 Scion iQ but it feels a bit faster than the numbers would imply.

Scion has delivered a reasonably well-executed interior in what others might have considered a basic econobox.

It has enough oomph – okay, just barely – to let you feel comfortable in a passing maneuver on a two-lane blacktop if there’s no oncoming traffic.

The little four is mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission and under hard acceleration it seems pinned to the 4,000 rev mark, inducing that dreaded rubber-banding that is the nature of the CVT.  We’d certainly prefer the manual gearbox offered in the European Toyota iQ.

Safety is clearly an issue that a lot of folks wonder and worry about when it comes to small cars.  The recent news that the Fiat 500 has won the IIHS Top Safety Pick award (Click Here for the full story) should help potential buyers recognize that small doesn’t have to mean vulnerable.  It also helps that Scion is packing 11 airbags into the tiny confines of the 2012 iQ – including the world’s first airbag mounted behind the seats, designed to reduce injuries during a rear-end collision.

More clearly in the plus column, the Scion doesn’t just nudge into the 40 mpg club, as a number of new small cars have done but punch right past it at 50 mpg Highway and an impressive 39 mpg around town – the latter figure better than Smart’s Highway rating.

The Scion iQ during its preview at the NY Auto Show.

On the whole, Scion has done a reasonable job with the new iQ considering the severe constraints of a vehicle not much bigger than a golf cart.  It’s a hands-down improvement over the Smart fortwo, for one thing.  But is that enough to win over many American motorists?

Perhaps for those who can only park it where they used to keep a bicycle.  But other than in a few American cities does the size of the 2012 Scion iQ really offer it much of an advantage.  So, while there may be a few trend-setters who just have to have the newest, if not greatest, it’s hard to see where there’ll be much of a market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toyota’s youth-oriented Scion division took the wraps off the 2012 iQ, an innovative new entry in the growing segment of urban microcars.

Powered by a 1.3-liter, 4-cylinder engine, the iQ stands a mere 59 inches tall, 66 inches wide and 10 feet long. But inside there is more than ample legroom for driver and front-seat passenger. The backseat is more appropriate for one passenger, but the 50/50 fold-down back seat provides decent storage space. The iQ represents an all-new model for Scion.

The most notable feature of the iQ is its 11 standard air bags. Drivers can turn it around in a nimble steering radius of 12.9 feet, which provides maneuverability and ease of parking in narrow city streets.

The car goes on sale in early December, first on the West Coast, said Jack Hollis, Scion vice president. Dealers in the South and Southwest will begin to receive the car in January and February, with the sales launch for the East Coast and Midwest slated for March. The base price, including delivery charge is $15,995.

 

Tata Gives the Go to Pixel

Set for Europe, could Indian maker also target U.S.?

by on Mar.16, 2011

The Tata Pixel reportedly gets the go for Europe. But will the Indian maker next target the U.S.?

Even by city car standards, Tata’s Pixel concept is diminutive, measuring just 10 feet nose-to-tail, or nearly a foot smaller than the Indian maker’s already compact Nano.  But there’s apparently a market to be had, Tata reportedly giving Pixel the green light for launch into the European market.

Could the States be far behind?

Tata took the wraps off the little Pixel at the recent Geneva Motor Show, and the white, gull-winged two-door proved one of the most popular concepts of the show – if for no other reason than curiosity value.

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Tata bills Pixel as “the most package-efficient four-seater in the world,” and it is, indeed, a surprisingly roomy vehicle, one that could readily hold four adults – as long as those in the back weren’t part of an NBA team.

In European trim, anticipate a weight of less than 1700 pounds.  It will help that Tata expects to remove the gull-wing doors, which require plenty of reinforcement, and replace them with conventional portals.

(more…)

Get a new Aston Martin for under $50,000?

British maker sets price for new Cygnet.

by on Jan.21, 2011

Aston rolls out two launch models of the new Cygnet urban luxury minicar.

Is it the bargain of the decade – or a complete con?  Opinions have been running both ways about the new Aston Martin Cygnet, the maker’s first-ever mini car.

The minicar will carry a price tag of 30,995 British pounds, Aston has announced, or $49,368 at the current exchange rate.  That’s barely a fifth the starting price of the maker’s top-line DBS and only a bit more than a third as much as the “base” model in the supercar maker’s line-up, the Aston Martin Vantage.

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But will James Bond be caught driving one of the compact urban cruisers?  Maybe if he’s looking for a parking space on the crowded streets near MI6 headquarters, in London.  With its 99-horsepower, 1.3-liter engine this isn’t exactly the sort of product you expect to see 007 using to get away from the bad guys.

(more…)

First Look: Lotus City Car

Design could incorporate hybrid, plug-in or battery drive.

by on Dec.20, 2010

Lotus plans to launch this city car by late 2013.

Lotus is the latest automaker hoping to convince buyers that small doesn’t have to mean cheap, as it releases the first images of a proposed city car that could hit market by late 2013.

As urban streets get more crowded and regulators press for big increases in fuel efficiency, even the most high-line automakers are looking for downsized alternatives, and the as yet-unnamed Lotus city car, which was first discussed by CEO Dany Bahar in Britain’s Car magazine, is one approach.

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Looking a bit like a modernized, four-door take on the Smart fortwo, the tall Lotus three-door uses a platform specifically designed for an extended-range electric driveline.  A 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine would most likely serve as a generator which, in turn, provides current to the vehicle’s electric motors.

It’s unclear whether Lotus might try to offer other driveline options, such as a pure battery-electric model, or a more conventional hybrid.  Bahar did note that several versions will be developed, including a sporty model.  Battery power actually lends itself to performance, as electric motors generate maximum torque as soon as they start spinning.

(more…)