Sunday, 29 November 2009

New Car: 2010 Fiat Doblò

This is the all-new Fiat Doblò 7 seater, which will go on sale in the UK Spring 2010.

The car is based on a new, larger platform and Fiat is claiming that it offers more passenger and luggage space than ever, plus reduced emissions thanks to new engines. Since the Doblò is sitting on a 2,755mm wheelbase, luggage capacity is now at 790 litres. For added practicality, the 2nd & 3rd row seats can be folded and tilted.

In Europe, the Doblò will be offered with four different engines: a 95bhp MultiAir petrol, and three Multijet diesel engines with 90bhp, 105bhp and 135bhp. A dual fuel engine (petrol/methane) and a diesel engine mated with a Dualogic robotized gearbox with paddle-shift will be offered. The former will not come to the UK.

Start-stop will be offered as standard to reduce overall CO2 emissions. The lowest powered diesel, 1.3 litre MultiJet 90bhp emits just 129g/km of CO2.

In terms of safety, the Doblò will be fitted with hill-
start assist control, x4 airbags, electronic stability control and ABS with electronic brake force distribution as standard.

Fiat says the Doblò offers automatic climate control, cruise control, rear parking sensors, integrated Blue&Me hands-free communication system, and a Blue&Me TomTom navigation system will be offered.

Besides the standard passenger variant, Fiat has also introduced the new Doblò Cargo. Featuring a larger load compartment than the previous model, the Doblò Cargo will be available in seven different body configurations (short/long wheelbase, high top, short/long wheelbase 5 seater combi and short/long drop-framed versions for easy conversion into refrigeration vans and flatbed trucks).

The new Doblò will rival the Renault Kangoo, Citroen Berlingo/Peugeot Partner, Volkswagen Caddy, Vauxhall/Opel Combo, Ford Transit Connect/Tourneo, Nissan NV200 and , is due to be launched from mid-January 2010, but it will be possible to order the vehicles from the end of November in Italy and from December in other European markets. No details of pricing have been released.

U.S sales could start in 2012 where it will where the RAM badge instead.

Press Release:

World premiere New Fiat Doblò: meet the first 'family space'

Meet the new Doblò, the Fiat car that is all about space.

A space to be shared with family and friends: a liveable space for people who travel and love to be in company; for people who choose the Doblò as a partner for leisure or work.

A vehicle designed to meet a need for functionality and comfort that makes the most of interior space and can accommodate up to seven people. An authentic 'family space' that can rely on top-class safety, economy and respect for the environment.

Compared to the previous version that sold approximately one million units, the new model has been completely revamped in terms of style, engines and technical specifications. These aspects make the new Fiat Doblò the "best in class" both in terms of space and in terms of reduced emissions.

All this has been achieved through the use of a new platform, more passenger space (with a wheelbase of 2755 mm, the biggest in its segment), a roomy 790 litre luggage compartment, reduced CO2 emissions (129g/km with the 1.3 Multijet 90bhp engine, the lowest in its category), standard safety features and highly modular interiors with seats that can be folded and tilted.

Style and comfort:

The look is very cutting-edge. With a central shield and side bumpers that are perfectly integrated with the body, the front end blends protection and sophistication while the pronounced wheel arch and sloping shoulder contribute to the vehicle's strong and agile look. The tailgate's essential lines emphasise the accessibility and size of the generous load compartment; clear, sparkling light clusters and expanses of glass give the new Doblò a touch of elegance.

The interiors have also been designed to offer functionality and create attractive, welcoming environments through combination of colours, materials and trims.

Smart solutions for the best use of on-board space, such as a range of storage compartments and flexible interiors, offering up to 7 places, will satisfy the needs of those who make the Doblò a car to be enjoyed with family or friends.

Environment and economy:

The Fiat Doblò will offer 4 power units at its launch: a 95bhp petrol engine and three diesel Multijet engines, 90, 105 and 135bhp, which will later be joined by a Natural Power engine with dual fuel system (petrol and methane) and an additional diesel engine with Dualogic robotized gearbox.

All units are lively and offer smooth torque delivery. They are remarkable for driving satisfaction, excellent performance, low noise levels, low operating costs (fuel consumption and maintenance) and also for their reliability and eco-friendliness.

The range is available with Euro 4 and Euro 5 versions and offers a Start&Stop device as standard, which cuts off the engine temporarily when the car is stopped to guarantee reduced fuel consumption and emissions.


To ensure optimum dynamic behaviour, comfort and active safety in all road surface and load conditions, the vehicle has been equipped with innovative mechanical features including a bi-link rear suspension system available with various component calibrations depending on vehicle application. The Doblò's consistent and predictable road-holding is also guaranteed by the use of state-of-the-art electronic devices for stability control, namely ABS with electronic brake force distribution EBD and, above all, ESP complemented by a hill-holder system that helps the driver during Hill starts and comes as standard on this model.

The vehicle has been designed and built to achieve the highest levels of passive safety, due to a body with crumple zones, front air bags and innovative front side bags. The latter offer protection for both head and chest.

The vehicle also offers technical solutions and equipment that create optimum comfort conditions and help keep attention on the road: these include an automatic climate control system with distribution to rear seats, cruise control, parking sensors, a built-in Blue&Me hands-free system and a “Blue&Me TomTom” navigator.

The Doblò Cargo, also new, is at the top of the professional vehicle category:

The new Fiat Doblò is joined by the new Doblò Cargo which has been designed to take its place at the top of its category in terms of performance and functional characteristics. It offers a more roomy load compartment than the previous model: square, regular, fully exploitable and equipped with sliding side doors and generously-sized rear doors to make light work of loading and unloading operations. Record-breaking statistics (interior length up to 2.2 metres, width between wheel arches of 1.23 metres, volume from 3.4 to 4.2 cubic metres, payload from 750 to 1000kg, combined fuel consumption of 4.8 litres/100 km and range of 1250km with the 1.3 Multijet engine) ensure that the new vehicle can offer substantial benefits in terms of optimisation and reduction of running costs.

The range finds expression in 7 different body types: short and long wheelbase van, high top van, short and long wheelbase 5-seater combi; a particularly appealing and brand-new short and long drop-framed version can be easily and cheaply converted for specific trades (refrigeration chambers, fixed and tilting flatbed trucks).

The new models are due to be launched from mid-January 2010, but it will be possible to order the vehicles from the end of November in Italy and from December in other European markets.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Lexus GX460/Toyota Land Cruiser pricing announced (U.S/UK)

Lexus has released new pics of its second-generation GX460 SUV, which was launched at the Guangzhou motorshow in China earlier this week. The new model is the Asian and Middle Eastern version of the Toyota Land Cruiser V8 sold in European markets. The Land Cruiser V8 is offered alongside the GX in the U.S.

Featuring a standard 7 seat configuration, Lexus positions the new GX between the brand's LX570 premium luxury utility vehicle and unibody-based RX SUV.

The GX470's replacement is fitted with a new 4.6 litre V8 petrol engine producing 301bhp and 329 lb-ft of peak torque, coupled to a 6 speed automatic transmission with sequential shift.

It comes equipped with standard full-time four-wheel drive using an electronically controlled transfer case and a TORSEN torque-sensing centre differential that distributes power 40:60 under most driving conditions and changes the ratio as needed based on steering input and wheel slip. The new Lexus GX also offers a low gear range for off-road driving while the Japanese automaker claims that it retains the same 6,500-lb. towing capacity as the 263bhp GX470 offered.

An optional Crawl Control system is also offered to help improve off-road performance. It automatically modulates the throttle and brake, allowing the driver to concentrate on the steering. Hill-start Assist Control also features, as does a Downhill Assist Control system.

According to Lexus, the new GX460 returns an EPA-estimated 15mpg town, 20mpg motorway and 17mpg combined.

For the first time, the GX will be offered in two trim levels, with the base carrying an MSRP of $51,970 and the Premium model priced at $56,765. Delivery, processing and handling fee is an extra $875.

Standard features include 10 airbags, power folding flat third row seat, electrically adjustable/heated and cooled front seats w/ memory, 4.2” multi-information display w/ rear-view camera, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and door mirrors, electric sunroof, Bluetooth, 9 speaker audio system w/ iPod connectivity and XM Radio, rain and light sensors, flip-up rear window, active front headrests, 3-zone climate control, leather & wood steering wheel w/ audio controls, HomeLink, front fog lamps, low-profile roof-rails, side-steps, 18” alloy wheels and full-time four-wheel drive. Options include a Pre-Collision System, adaptive xenon headlamps, 17 speaker sound system, heated steering wheel and heated second-row seats.

The new GX will make its first public debut in North America at the Los Angeles motorshow in December with sales starting towards the end of the month.

A Lexus source confirmed there are no plans to bring the GX460 to the UK, due to the Land Cruiser V8’s presence in this market.

The Land Cruiser in the UK meanwhile is offered exclusively as a 5dr model powered by a revised 4-cylinder 3.0 litre D-4D diesel engine that pumps out 173bhp and is linked to a 5 speed automatic transmission. Combined fuel economy is around 35mpg with CO2 emissions rated at 214g/km. The LC slots into VED band K.

Customers can choose from three different equipment levels; LC3, LC4 and LC5, with seven seats being fitted as standard on LC4 & LC5 but on the entry-level model, third row of seats are optional.

The LC3 (£29,795/£30,495 for 7 seats) comes equipped with DAB radio, electric power steering, 4-spoke height & reach adjustable leather steering wheel w/ audio controls, 6 speakers & AUX input, electric mirrors w/ plastic casing, plastic door handles, side-steps, vanity mirrors w/ illumination and cover, trip-computer, velour upholstery, alarm & immobiliser, 7 airbags, 40/20/40 split/slide/fold 2nd row seats with folding 3rd row seats (7 seater only), 17” 6-spoke alloys, roof rails, front & rear fog lamps, 4 electric windows, climate control w/ clean air filter, cruise control, full-time 4WD w/ centre Differential lock, under-body mounted full-size spare wheel, Bluetooth and Smart Entry and Start system as standard.

Pick the LC4 (£40,395) and you also get 3-zone climate control, 6CD/DVD autochanger, body-coloured door handles & mirrors, power-folding door mirrors, laminated privacy glass - rear windows, powered folding 3rd row seats, leather upholstery, electrically adjustable heated front seats, 2nd row reclining seats, rear Differential lock, dusk-sensing xenon headlights w/ pop-up washers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rear parking monitor, Bluetooth, colour-coded front & rear parking sensors, 18” 5-spoke alloy wheels w/ locking wheel nuts, 17 speaker JBL premium audio package and a hard disc drive (HDD) satellite navigation system with a 10GB storage.

The range-topping LC5 (£44,795) adds to equation an Adaptive Variable Suspension with Active Height Control, electric sunroof, 3-spoke leather & wood steering wheel, centre console w/ wood-detail, Crawl Control, Multi-terrain Monitor, Steering Angle Display, Multi-terrain Select and a rear seat entertainment system for DVD playback and gaming.

On-the-road prices for the 2010 Toyota Land Cruiser range from £29,795 to £44,795 with first deliveries set to take place in early December.

Acura ZDX pricing announced (U.S)

The all-new Acura ZDX crossover goes on sale at Acura dealerships across the U.S on the 15th December with a base price of $45,495 plus a destination and handling charge of $810, making a grand total of $46,305.

The ZDX will be offered exclusively with a 3.7 litre VTEC V6 that produces 300bhp and 270 lb-ft of torque, and is mated to a 6 speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, while Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system is also standard. According to Acura, the new ZDX achieves an EPA-rated fuel economy of 16mpg in the town and 23mpg on the motorway. Combined fuel economy will hover around 18mpg.

The 2010 ZDX will be available in three trim packages: the base ZDX, ZDX with Technology Package and the ZDX with Advance Package.

Priced at $46,305, the base model comes equipped with a panoramic glass roof - described as 'the worlds longest' according to Acura, hand-stitched leather dash, centre console and door panels and 4 electric windows as standard.

The ZDX with Technology Package that is priced at $50,805 (including destination and handling fees) gets a Navigation System with Voice Recognition, VGA display screen, multi-view rear camera, upgraded Acura/ELS Surround 415w audio system with a integrated 15GB media storage system, GPS-linked, solar-sensing dual-zone automatic climate control system and Keyless Access System.

The ZDX with Advance Package ($56,045 including destination and handling fees) adds a blind spot information system (BSI), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Collision Mitigating Braking System (CMBS), Integrated Dynamic System (IDS) active damper system, heated and ventilated front seats with Perforated Milano Premium Leather seats, premium brushed tricot headliner material and a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Next generation Mercedes C-Class to be built Stateside, CLC will be axed

Updated: 16/12/09

Mercedes will move U.S production to Vance, Alabama in 2014. World-wide production will commence at the Bremen plant in Germany.

Mercedes is set to add the fourth generation C-Class saloon to the list of cars already produced at its Tuscaloosa plant in Alabama as part of a program aimed at fighting slumped profitability in its second biggest market.

With the continued strength of the Euro against the U.S dollar eating into margins on models produced in Germany and sold in the U.S, Mercedes insiders say efforts are underway to provide protection from unfavourable currency exchange rates in the form of increased North American production.

“We’ve reached a window of opportunity where we can now consider producing the next C-Class in the U.S,” a source revealed. “We’re mid-cycle on the W204 (the current C-Class) and need to decide if we want to push ahead with its successor at Tuscaloosa.”

Mercedes already produces the M-, R- and GL-Class at Tuscaloosa – a plant that opened in 1997 and expanded in 2005 to meet growing demand. While nothing is official, annual U.S production of the C-Class would likely reach 80,000 units.

During a press conference, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said "It's no secret that a decision for the new C-Class has to be made in the near future".

But with sales of large SUVs down in most markets owing to the miserable state of the economy, the currency balancing effects of U.S production are not as significant as they have been in recent years, leading the German car maker to consider the addition of other models.

The earmarking of the next C-Class saloon, due in 2014, for North American production is significant as it could ultimately pave the way for other mechanical similar models, including the GLK to be built there. However, it would come as major blow to Mercedes-Benz’s worker union which fought hard to ensure production of left-hand drive versions of the current C-Class saloon remained in Germany despite high labour costs.

Additional North American production would unlikely affect the UK as right-hand drive versions of the C-Class saloon are supplied from Mercedes-Benz’s East London plant in South Africa, while the GLK is only available in left-hand drive form owing to difficulties in re-engineering its four-wheel drive system for right-hand drive markets, although Mercedes is still trying to find a way.

An official decision is set to be made in January 2010.

Meanwhile, in related news, Mercedes is preparing to axe the CLC to make way for a new C-Class coupe in 2011. The C-Class coupe will be the second two-door car based upon the existing C-Class but the first to take its name into production.

Set to go on sale in the UK at the same time as facelifted versions of the existing saloon and estate reach showrooms in early 2011, the new C-Class coupe has been conceived to replace the CLK, discontinued earlier this year after 12 years and two model generations.

The introduction of the C-Class coupe spells the end for the CLC, a small sports hatch that was only recently updated. Sources indicated the model will be phased out and will be replaced by the new coupe.

The forthcoming two-door will avoid having a unique bodyshell and individual styling that made the CLK such a success for a comparatively upright look that draws heavily on the silhouette and detailing of its four door siblings.

“We went back and studied what made our coupes so popular in the past. If you look at some of the more successful two door models Mercedes-Benz has produced you can see a direct relationship between them and their four door stable mates,” said an insider describing the new coupe’s appearance. Don’t expect the new Mercedes-Benz to have a very long life, though. With engineering of the fourth-generation C-Class already underway at the German car maker’s R&D centre near Stuttgart, the new two door is planned to be sold for a maximum of four years before it is replaced by a much more curvaceous model that’s likely to follow the example of the CLS in boasting a more practical four door layout.

The upcoming C-Class coupe will be the second two-door model to be based on today’s C-Class. Unlike the E-Class coupe, however, the C-Class version will not be modified and offered in cabriolet guise.

“We did look at an open top version but in the end the costs were too high given the short model life,”

Monday, 23 November 2009

News in brief

The U.S spec Chevrolet Cruze will debut at the forthcoming LA motorshow. 10 airbags, XM Satellite Radio & Bluetooth will be standard. Powering the car will be a 1.4 litre turbo petrol 4-cylinder engine delivering upto 40mpg. Sales start Autumn 2010.

A Porsche dealer from the Netherlands decided to drape a brand-new 911 Carrera S in smooth milk chocolate. 3kg of white chocolate was used to cover the headlamps, fog-lamps and tail-lights. 175kg (386lbs) or 1,100 bars of chocolate were melted down and used on the exterior.

The car will be on display untill the end of the year and will be kept at tempretures of under 27°C to prevent melting.

Volkswagen's forthcoming Amarok pick-up truck will be supplied to the 2010 Dakar Rally as an official event vehicle. A total of 35 Amarok units are to be used, with 20 going to the organiser and 15 scheduled for press and shuttle services.

The 2010 Dakar takes place in South America from 1st - 17th January. It starts off in Argentina, goes through parts of Chile and ends up back in Argentina. The race course covers about 9,000km (5,592 miles).

The 2011 Mazda2 supermini will also debut at the LA autoshow on the 2nd December. "Bringing Mazda2 to North America completes the bookends in our line-up," said Jim O'Sullivan, president and CEO of Mazda North America. The newcomer will hit showroom floors late next year with either a 1.3 litre or 1.5 litre petrol engine.

Mercedes-Benz is set to launch a smaller, two-seater, affordable version of the SLS AMG supercar in 2013. "The feedback we've received since showing the car at the Frankfurt motor show has been extremely encouraging. A second model that will project a similarly exclusive image but be more accessible in terms of its pricing is already in planning." - Via Autocar.

Groom crashes £233k Lambo (UK)

Any wedding, another supercar, another Lamboghini and another British driver. This time, it's a Murcielago Roadster, not a Gallardo.

A bridegroom's dream drive to his wedding ended in catastrophe when he crashed the £232,990 Lamborghini Murcielago Roadster that his bride had hired for him.

David Gallucci and his best man walked away from the wrecked car with nothing more than bruising after crashing on a roundabout near Bradford. The car suffered more than £160,000 worth of damage and has reportedly been written off. Gallucci's new wife, Abi also lost the £5,000 deposit that she'd paid to cover the insurance excess for hiring the car.

Mr Gallucci opted not to tell his wife-to-be about the damage until after the ceremony, instead saying that the supercar had broken down. When he eventually came clean, his new wife saw the funny side. She said: 'I get in trouble with him if I get the slightest scratch on an alloy. It cost me £8,000 to hire the car for 1 hour but thankfully I paid the excess insurance, otherwise we'd have to sell the house.'

The hire company refused to comment on the incident.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

2011 Buick Regal to be offer a 6 speed manual (U.S)

The 2011 Buick Regal will be offered with a manual transmission. How do we know? A major online-car magazine has test-driven a 2011 Regal. In Michigan, the journalist rolled down the window and called Jim Federico, the man behind the Insignia/Regal, over and said something along the lines of "This is a manual. What the hell?"

Federico responded that the 2.0 litre turbo version of the Regal (which will arrive a few months after the car goes on sale in the U.S. in Spring 2010) will eventually be offered with the 6 speed manual gearbox. This engine arrives in Summer 2010.

Apart from the 2.0 litre turbo, a 182bhp 2.4 litre 4cylinder petrol engine will be offered alongside a 220bhp twin-scroll turbocharged 2.0 litre. Both engines are mated to a 6 speed automatic transmission. Early Regal's will be built in Russelsheim, Germany with production shifting in Spring 2011 to Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. Prices are expected to start from under $28,000.

No-show for Lamborghini, Bentley, Ferrari & Maserati at LA motorshow (U.S)

If you wanted to see the 4.5 litre V8 570bhp, $225k 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia at next month's LA motorshow, think again. Ferrari, Maserati, Bentley and Lamborghini have all pulled out of the show due to financial considerations.

A source close to the LA autoshow said the decision came months ago, though a report out of Detroit has drawn the Web's attention to it today.

Aston Martin is still attending, although Aston public relations officials recently said the company would have no official presence there – LA-based Aston dealers are still expected to pull together a booth.

Source tells us that show organisers tried to persuade the other exotics to do the same, but Ferrari and Maserati in particular were against that because they wouldn't be able to control the brand message going out to consumers.

The official exhibitor list can be view here.

First Kia rolls off production-line (U.S)

Kia Motors has unveiled its first U.S-built vehicle. The all-new Sorento SUV came off the Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG) plant. The 2,200 acre facility has a capacity of 300,000 units per year and employs 2,500 people. These figures represent yet another milestone in Kia Motors America's commitment to the country. Kia's U.S investment currently comes to about $1.3 billion since 2002.

In total the Korean company now has a global production capacity of 2.56 million units from locations in North America, Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.

"The start of production at our first manufacturing facility in the United States further demonstrates our commitment to growth in North America and we are proud to be adding 2,500 jobs to the local economy," said B.M. Ahn, President and CEO, Kia Motors America (KMA) and KMMG.

The U.S spec Kia Sorento is available with either a 172bhp 2.4 litre 4 cylinder or a 273bhp 3.5 litre V6 petrol engines mated to 6 speed manual or automatic transmissions. The unibody SUV will have a choice of FWD and 4WD drivetrains. Standard equipment will include 7 seats, 17" alloy wheels, ABS, EBD, hill start assist w/ downhill brake control, ESC w/ TCS, 6 airbags, active front headrests, Bluetooth, USB/AUX sockets and SIRIUS satellite radio.

On the options list will be 18" alloy wheels, metallic paint, push-button start/stop ignition, rear parking sensor, satellite navigation system w/ voice control, rear parking camera and a panoramic glass sunroof. Sales start January 2010.

Press Release:
Kia Motors' first U.S-built vehicle, a white all-new Sorento, has rolled off the production line at Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG), officially opening the company's first U.S production plant.
KMMG is expected to produce 300,000 vehicles a year at full capacity and employ 2,500 people, with on-site and nearby suppliers creating 7,500 additional jobs in the region.

"The start of production at our first manufacturing facility in the United States further demonstrates our commitment to growth in North America and we are proud to be adding 2,500 jobs to the local economy," said B.M. Ahn, President and CEO, Kia Motors America (KMA) and KMMG.

Representing an investment of US$1 billion by Kia Motors, KMMG will establish new benchmarks for vehicle quality and productivity by utilizing some of the world's most advanced manufacturing techniques.

KMMG's general assembly area is outfitted with more than a half mile of height-adjustable conveyors to achieve the best installation position for each team member and reduce physical fatigue. The plant is also remarkable in being fitted with wooden flooring in the general assembly area to provide a more comfortable and forgiving work environment for team members.

Built on 2,200 acres, the complex includes a body stamping facility, a transmission shop where the Sorento's six-speed automatic transmission is produced and a two mile test track. The plant's 186-foot-long stamping press delivers 5,400 tons of pressure to stamp steel into 17 different types of vehicle panels for the Sorento, operating at a speed of seven to 15 strokes per minute.

The massive stamping equipment ranges from almost 20 feet below the floor to 39.4 feet above ground. KMMG continues Kia Motors' aggressive investment in the US market. Since 2002, more than $1.3 billion has been invested in various facilities throughout the country, including a dedicated corporate campus and design center in Irvine, California, a state-of-the-art research and development centre in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a custom-built vehicle proving ground in Mojave, California.

Kia now has production facilities in Korea - at Hwasung, Sohari and Kwangju as well as a joint-project facility close to Hwasung - in Slovakia and in China plus CKD operations in a number of Asian and African countries plus Russia. Total global production capacity currently stands at 2.56 million vehicles per year with the opening of Georgia. That figures is comprised of 1.53 million in Korea, 430,000 in China, 300,000 in Slovakia and now 300,000 in the U.S.

Toyota Prius SUV and station wagon rumoured

A Japanese newspaper is reporting that Toyota may be deep in development of a Prius SUV. The SUV could be in addition to the long rumoured Prius wagon since the Toyota Hybrid X Concept was put on display at the 2007 Geneva motorshow.

During that show, the manufacture suggested the possibility of a Prius wagon hitting the market in 2011/2012. Although Toyota does not market a wagon in North America in any shape or form, they do in other parts of the world like Europe. These models could serve as the base for a new hybrid, however, they also suggest the possibility of rebranding the Lexus RX 400h as the Prius SUV.

If released, we would expect that Toyota would include regenerative braking and a solar roof. Plug-in versions could be in the works as well. No word yet if Toyota would use the nickel-hydrogen battery pack seen on the Prius sedan or the Lithium-ion battery used on the plug-in model.

Toyota officials remained tight-lipped on the topic, but the upcoming shows in Los Angeles, Detroit, and Geneva could all be perfect settings for a debut.

2005 Lexus RX400h:

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Hyundai Santa Fe pricing announced (UK)

Hyundai has announced prices for its updated Santa Fe range.

The range starts at £21,495, which is cheaper than the outgoing model and it includes a new engine, more equipment and a simpler two-trim range. You pay £25,495 for the 7-seat Premium automatic.

The new Santa Fe features minor styling changes. At the front, the black two bar grille is replaced by chrome-edged three bar version, while revised headlight clusters sit above a reworked bumper that houses new fog lights in a black surround. At the back there's a new bumper and light clusters, and the reworked SUV features a new alloy wheel design.

Inside, carbon black trim replaces the previous wood finishes and the standard single CD/RDS radio now comes with an aux-in/USB connection with full iPod control.

The range has been simplified with a two-model range now comprising the entry-level Style and flagship Premium trims.

Style models get 17” alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, rear fog light, ESP, air conditioning, x4 electric windows, x6 airbags, steering wheel mounted audio controls, USB/AUX sockets, trip computer, gear-shift indicator, height-adjustable driver’s seat, height adjustable steering wheel, electric/heated door mirrors, halogen headlamps w/ day-time running lights and remote central locking with immobiliser.

Premium adds 18” wheels, dual climate control with rear controls on 7 seaters, front electric leather seats w/heat function, auto-dimming rear-view mirror w/ reversing camera, xenon headlamps, leather steering wheel w/ cruise control, front fog lamps, dusk & rain sensors and electric sunroof.

There's seven-seat option available for a £750 extra on both Style and Premium models.

Under the bonnet is a new 2.2-litre direct injection diesel delivering 194bhp and 311lb-ft of torque (322lb-ft when specified with an automatic gearbox) which amounts to improvements of 26% and 27% respectively on the previous engine. CO2 emissions on manual models are now 176g/km, down from 191g/km with combined fuel economy of 41.5mpg, up from 38.7mpg.

The new engine is mated to a 6 speed manual transmission and it can sprint from 0-62mph in 9.8 seconds. An alternator management system that disengages when not required saves fuel and an ECO' Drive Indicator on automatic versions monitors fuel efficiency. Manual versions have an optimum gear shift point indicator built into the trip computer display.

The new engine delivers an increased towing capacity, with a maximum braked towing weight of 2,500kg, up 300kg on the outgoing model.

Sales start in mid-December.

VAT rate confuses people (UK)

Tax doesn't have to be taxing, says the advert, but it's certainly managing to confuse manufacturers, dealers, car buyers and even HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

HMRC had originally said that the only way to avoid paying the increased rate of VAT being introduced on 1st January was to pay for the full balance of a car before the end of the year.

While that remains the case, HMRC has changed its tune slightly and says buyers can also avoid paying the increased rate, without handing over the full balance, if the dealer raises a full VAT invoice before the end of the year and pays the VAT due at their next return.

HMRC has confirmed that the rate will be returning to 17.5% on 1st January.

To take advantage of this invoicing opportunity, the car your order must also cost less than £100,000 and be delivered according to the manufacturer's usual schedules and within six months of order. You can't ask for a delivery to be delayed so you can take advantage, for instance, of the new registration plate in March.

Buyers do not have to clear the balance of the car to benefit from this, but dealers may be reluctant to hand over VAT due on cars that they haven't received the cash on.

The VAT rate due, in short, is calculated either when a full VAT invoice is raised by the dealer, and the tax paid at the next return, or when you clear the balance.

You pay 15% VAT on cars costing less than £100,000:

•When you've ordered, paid for and registered a car before the end of 2009

•When you pay for a car in full before the end of the year but, in the normal course of delivery schedules, it is registered in 2010 but no more than six months from order

•When you order a new car, a dealer raises a full VAT invoice before the end of the year and pays the 15% tax at their next VAT return. You do not have to pay the full balance in this case.

You pay the increased rate of 17.5% VAT:

•If you order a car in 2010

•If you order a car now and pay the balance in 2010

•If you order a car now, a VAT invoice isn't raised by the dealer, or the tax due isn't paid, before the end of the year.

•If you order a car now, a VAT invoice is raised and paid, but you ask for delivery to be purposefully delayed, perhaps in a bid to get the new registration plates in March or September.

•The car you order is delivered six months from order

•The car you order is worth more than £100,000.

What are the 10 best-selling car manufacturers saying? Here's what they said:

Audi: Transactions completed by the end of the year will attract the 15% rate. If a customer placed an order today, the price quoted would automatically include the 17.5% rate because our lead times are such that the transaction would definitely be finalised in 2010.

BMW: Customers need to order and collect the car in 2009 to benefit from the 15% VAT. Some dealers may offer special VAT-busting deals, but this will be on an individual basis.

Ford: It's a psychological barrier to sales rather than an actual barrier. There's so much space between the sticker price and the actual price that we think 2.5% doesn't really matter. Any negotiator worth their salt will ask for that.

Honda: Customers will have to collect the car this year to avoid the VAT increase. We'd suggest customers look for cars that are in stock now, or check lead times to make sure they benefit. We're not doing any special promotions.

Kia: At this stage, we have not announced a VAT-protection offer. We are looking at the situation, particularly with regards to scrappage buyers, but at this stage there is no protection offer.

Nissan: Any cars ordered before December 31 for delivery by the end of March will be charged at 15% VAT and Nissan will pay the remainder, up to 17.5%.

Peugeot: We are seriously considering absorbing the VAT increase for customers that order through December for cars delivered in 2010. We'll know for sure by Monday (November 23).

Toyota: Toyota has no offers in relation to VAT.

Vauxhall: We have no offers going into the New Year at the moment, but order a car before the end of November, and take delivery before the end of December, and you pay 15% VAT.

We also have an entirely VAT-free offer running to the end of November.

Volkswagen: Cars ordered before the beginning of November 2009, but delivered in 2010, up to the end of February, will be reduced in price by 2.5%.

Nissan NV200 pricing announced (UK)

The new Nissan NV200 compact van goes on sale in the UK priced at £13,867.50 for the entry-level E model. Standard features include CD/MP3 audio system, black door mirrors, bumpers and handles, keyless entry, halogen headlamps, twin front cupholders, driver airbag, 1 sliding side door, steering height adjustment, 13 cabin storage areas and an immobiliser.

The SE grade adds electric front windows, electrically adjustable/heated door mirrors, driver’s seat height adjustment and a full steel bulkhead at £14,442.50. Both models are powered by a 4 cylinder 1.5 dCi diesel engine that returns a combined fuel economy of 54mpg with CO2 emissions of 137g/km.

Those who want to personalise their vans can choose from various optional extras such as air conditioning for £575, glazed rear doors for £150 and a safety pack that includes air conditioning, ESP, front passenger, side and curtain airbags for £1,000. Bluetooth, front fog lights and front passenger forward-folding seat should also be available.

Nissan said that a Combi version with the option of seven seats will join the NV200's range later with prices to be announced closer to its launch date in February 2010. Combi models should have body-coloured door mirrors, handles and bumpers, front fog lights, electric door mirrors, cruise control, Bluetooth, air-conditioning and alloy wheels as standard.

Peugeot i0n electric city-car order book opens (UK)

Peugeot has opened the order books on its all-electric iOn ahead the car’s expected on sale date of late 2010.

The car is the firm’s version of the Mitsubishi iMiEV and it was revealed on the eve of the Frankfurt motorshow in September. Citroen launched its own version, the C-Zero, last week.

A Peugeot spokesman said that the exact terms of its availability had yet to be decided, but pre-reservations were now being taken on the iOn.

“We’ve yet to decide whether the car will be available to buy outright or whether you will lease it due to the cost of the batteries,” said the spokesman. “We’ve had significant interest from both private and fleet sectors and we’ll be finalising our plans about how exactly we’ll market it nearer the on-sale date.”

Power comes from a permanent magnetic synchronous motor, which produces 64bhp. It produces 133lb ft of torque between 0 and 2000rpm and power is sent to the rear axle by a single-speed reduction gear. A centre-mounted 330-volt lithium-ion battery pack powers the motor and has been included as it is lighter and more durable than nickel-metal hydride batteries, while offering equivalent performance.

A full recharge of the battery pack takes 6 hours by plugging the car into a conventional 220v socket, while an 80% fast charge takes 30 minutes when using a 400v socket.

It has a claimed range of 80 miles and a top speed of 80mph. Its 0-62mph time is 15secs and it can get from 37-56mph in 6secs. Standard features will include ESP, traction control, ABS, electric windows, air conditioning and 6 airbags.

Toyota Auris hybrid caught on test

Toyota showed off its Auris Hybrid Concept at the 2009 Frankfurt motorshow – and here is the completed product testing in Europe ahead of its launch in 2010.

This will be Toyota's first mainstream hybrid; the Prius has pioneered the petrol-electric technology in a standalone bodystyle but now the Japanese want to roll out the Hybrid Synergy Drive across its entire model range, so the Auris will be the first of many Toyotas to wear the HSD hybrid badge.

The 97bhp, 1.8 litre petrol-electric powertrain of the Auris Hybrid is largely shared with the Prius, giving this five-door hatch sub-80g/km CO2 emissions married to 0-62mph performance in around 10sec. Fuel economy should hover around 80mpg combined.

Like on the Prius, there are numerous tweaks to make the Auris cut the air more efficiently. So there are changes at the front end and the rear bumpers visible in this spy picture are flatter. They make the car look wider but are designed to optimise airflow and reduce turbulence and drag. The car sits 20mm lower, has a new rear spoiler and a drag figure of around 0.28cd.

The Auris Hybrid should be green, compared with conventional Auris models. Because it's a full hybrid, it can run on battery power alone in zero-emissions mode. There will be several driving modes selectable by the driver: Eco for maximum efficiency; Power for more performance; EV mode for full electric running for 2km at up to 31mph.

The Auris Hybrid spied here will be built in Burnaston, UK and go on sale during Summer 2010.

                                  Toyota Auris Hybrid Concept:

Toyota Prius posts very strong sales for October (JP)

In the Toyota Prius vs Honda Insight hybrid battle of sales in Japan, it is the Prius which continues to rule.

In October, the Prius was Japan's number one selling car for the sixth consecutive month. Toyota's third-generation model put 26,918 units on the board, while the Insight was down in ninth place with 7,074 units.

The Insight, the first hybrid to top Japan's sales charts this April, is also now regularly being outsold by the Fit (Jazz) in the country too. The Fit was Japan's second biggest seller in October with 15,444 units. Nonetheless, Honda isn't concerned about the Insight's flagging sales.

First, the sales target for the Insight is set at 5,000 units per month, so Honda's hybrid is still actually well ahead of schedule.

Second, the Fit is still a very competitive all-rounder, especially in terms of mpg, utility and pricing, and is on the market for much less than an Insight. Therefore Honda is happy the Fit is where it is and the Insight is more than living up to expectations.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Lotus Evora pricing announced (U.S)

Lotus has announced official pricing for the Evora. Set to go on sale in Spring 2010, the Evora will be priced at $73,500 ($74,675 including destination).

Options include a premium package ($1,990 for extended leather upholstery and accent lighting), a sport package ($1,275 for sports traction control, revised throttle, sports diffuser, cross-drilled brake discs, and titanium exhaust tips), and a technology package ($2,995 for cruise control, rear parking sensors, and a Alpine 'Mobile Media Station' with GPS navigation and Bluetooth/USB connectivity). Other luxuries include a "sports ratio" 6 speed gearbox ($1,500), premium audio system ($695), reversing camera ($495), and electric folding door mirrors ($450). For the exterior, Lotus offers a variety of alloy wheels ($475 to $2,125) and numerous exterior paint colours ($590 to $3,300).

Standard equipment includes a 6 speed manual gearbox, gear-shift indicator, twin polished exhaust pipes, BOSCH electronic diff lock w/ switchable traction control and electronic stability control, bi-xenon headlamps, stainless-steel fuel tank, 2 stage twin front airbags, ABS + EBD + HBA, , air-conditioning, tyre pressure monitoring system, height and reach adjustable steering wheel, leather seats, Alpine audio system and leather gearknob, handbrake & flat-bottomed leather and magnesium steering wheel.

Featuring a mid-mounted 3.5 litre V6 Toyota engine with 276bhp and 258 lb-ft of torque, the Evora can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds before hitting a top speed of 162 mph. Motorway fuel economy is predicted to be more than 30mpg U.S.

Maserati GranCabrio pricing announced (UK)

The Maserati GranCabrio, the new convertible version of the GranTurismo, will be priced from £95,630 OTR when it reaches UK showrooms in April 2010.

The same 4.7 litre V8 with 434bhp in the GranTurismo, will be used in the drop-top helps the GranCabrio sprints from 0-62mph in just 5.4 seconds with a top-speed of 175 mph via a ZF 6 speed automatic gearbox. Not only are you going to need deep pockets to buy the car, you will also need deep pockets to run the car. With a combined fuel economy of 18.5mpg, you will get a theoretical range of 303 miles from its 16.4 gallon fuel tank. CO2 emissions are rated at 354g/km.

To help you personalise the GranCabrio, Maserati will offer 14 different exterior colours and six different shades for the soft-top. As well as huge range of options to customise the new convertible, the Italian sportscar maker is also offering a bespoke four-piece leather luggage set which fits within the boot.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Mercedes SLS AMG pricing announced (DE)

Mercedes Germany has released pricing on their all-new flagship supercar.

Available for pre-order today, the SLS AMG starts at €149,000 (€177,310 with 19% VAT) in Germany. Options include a ceramic composite high-performance braking system at €9,500, AMG performance suspension at €1,200, light-alloy wheels in a 5-twin-spoke design at €950, and forged wheels in a 10-spoke design at €2,000. Other goodies include a carbon-fibre engine cover (€4,000) and "Alubeam Silver" (€10,000) and "Monza Grey Mango" (€3,250) paint schemes.

Inside, the SLS can be outfitted with an AMG performance steering wheel in leather and Alcantara (€400), sport seats (€3,300), carbon-fibre trim (€3,500), exclusive nappa leather upholstery (€2,500), memory package for the front seats and steering wheel (€1,225), six-disc DVD changer (€660), and a Bang & Olufsen BeoSound audio system at €5,900.

While the car won't be launched until Spring 2010, prospective buyers can configure their SLS at the AMG website ( or go to a local Mercedes dealer for more information.

The SLS AMG is powered by a 6.3 litre V8 engine that produces 571bhp and 650Nm of torque. Mated to a 7 speed double-declutch transmission, the SLS accelerates from 0-62 mph in 3.8 seconds before hitting an electronically limited top speed 197 mph.

Combined fuel economy is rated at 13.2 litres/km/21.4mpg UK/17.8mpg U.S. UK sales start in July 2010.

Press Release:

The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG can be ordered from 16 November: The Gullwing is in the starting blocks

The new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, the absolute highlight at this year's International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, is now available to order. From Monday, 16 November 2009, company-owned sales and service outlets and sales partners of the Mercedes-Benz brand in Germany will be taking orders for this super car with its characteristic Gullwing doors. The sales price is €177,310 (including 19 % VAT).

"Following a high-profile world premiere at the IAA, we are very excited about the SLS AMG's commercial release on Monday. There is huge interest in our new super sports car and we are convinced that the SLS AMG will captivate our customers," says Volker Mornhinweg, Chairman of the Management Board at Mercedes-AMG GmbH.

As of the commercial release on 16th November 2009, prospective buyers will be able to obtain high-quality informational material which provides details of the paint finishes, leather colours, standard equipment and optional extras available for the SLS AMG. It will also be possible to configure your dream vehicle online at and To bridge the time until the market launch in Spring 2010, it is worth watching the web specials at

These offer a comprehensive insight into all the top features of the SLS AMG. Both online magazines cover performance, technology, design and equipment in exciting video material, as well as in words and pictures.

Mercedes-Benz and AMG active on online platforms:

Mercedes-Benz and AMG are exploring new ways of communicating with customers on social media platforms: at fans of AMG will find short video clips and articles by Matthew K., the SLS AMG reporter. This 36 year old car enthusiast is following the market launch of the SLS AMG and provides information about various events worldwide at which the Gullwing model is presented to the public. Matthew K. is also active at , reporting live on his travels with the SLS AMG, as well as about his experiences and thoughts on the super sports car. Up-to-date information about the SLS AMG is also available from - fans can communicate with other users and even upload their own photos and videos that express their passion for Mercedes-Benz.

A new legend delivering exceptional performance:

The new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG dazzles with its purist design, intelligent lightweight construction and superior handling dynamics, and is bound to cause a sensation in the super sports car segment. The new SLS AMG is nothing short of a masterpiece by Mercedes-AMG GmbH. As its first completely independently developed vehicle, the super sports car is the highlight in the company's more than 40-year history. It not only takes AMG, the performance brand within Mercedes-Benz Cars, into a new era, but also demonstrates development expertise of the very highest order.

The SLS AMG's unrivalled technology package is an alluring proposition:

Aluminium spaceframe body with Gullwing doors, AMG 6.3 litre V8 front-mid-engine developing 420 kW/571bhp peak output, 650Nm of torque and dry sump lubrication, 7 speed double-declutch transmission in a transaxle configuration, sports suspension with aluminium double wishbones and a kerb weight of 1,620kg based on the DIN standard - this superlative combination guarantees driving dynamics of the highest order. The front/rear weight distribution of 47 to 53 percent and the vehicle's low centre of gravity are testimony to the uncompromising sports car concept. The 'Gullwing' accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds, before going on to a top speed of 317 km/h (electronically limited). Fuel consumption of 13.2 litres per 100 kilometres (combined) makes it one of the best among its competitors.

The SLS AMG sells at €149,000 net and €177,310 gross (including 19% VAT). Thanks to a diverse range of optional extras, the Gullwing model can be enhanced to suit any personal taste.

Some of the main options include:

AMG ceramic composite high-performance braking system: €9,500 net/ €11,305 gross

AMG performance suspension with a stiffer setup for optimum lateral dynamics: €1,200 net/€1,428 gross

AMG light-alloy wheels in a 5-twin-spoke design, size 9.5 x 19 inches (front) and 11.0 x 20 inches (rear), tyre sizes 265/35 R 19 (front) and 295/30 R 20 (rear): €950 net/€1,130.50 gross

AMG forged wheels in a 10-spoke design, size 9.5 x 19 inches (front) and 11.0 x 20 inches (rear), with tyre size 265/35 R 19 (front) and 295/30 R 20 (rear): €2,000 net/€2,380 gross

AMG performance steering wheel in leather/Alcantara: €400 net/€476 gross

AMG sports bucket seats: €3,300 net/€3,927 gross

AMG carbon-fibre engine compartment cover: €4,000 net/€4,760 gross

"AMG alubeam silver" paint finish: €10,000 net/€11,900 gross

"AMG monza grey magno" paint finish: €3,250 net/€3,867.50 gross

AMG carbon-fibre trim (front stowage tray and rear stowage compartment including lid, AMG DRIVE UNIT surround, surrounds for the centre console, shiftgate and rear, trim strips for centre console and door armrests): €3,500 net/€4,165 gross

AMG interior carbon package (carbon-fibre trim, trim on seat backrests and sides, door sill panels): €3,500 net/€4,165 gross

Leather nappa exclusive single-/two-tone: €2,500 net/€2,975 gross

Memory package with electric seat and steering column adjustment, as well as four-way lumbar support: €1,225 net/€1,457.75 gross

6-disc DVD changer: €660 net/€785.40 gross

Bang & Olufsen BeoSound AMG surround sound system: €5,900 net/ €7,021 gross

Skoda set to offer budget sedan

Skoda will launch a new budget saloon in 2012, designed to take on Dacia.

Budget brand Dacia has seen strong sales growth under European scrappage schemes and the Volkswagen Group is keen to cover the gap between Skoda and Dacia as part of its ‘alignment’ strategy.

The new car will directly replace the original Octavia, which is still sold in some emerging markets including the UK – strictly as taxis. It will be similar in size to the original Octavia, making it smaller than the current Octavia.

Skoda’s CEO, Reinhard Jung said the model would be sold in parts of Western Europe in order to bridge the gap between the current Fabia and Octavia, which he described as “too big.”

No decision has been taken on whether the model will be sold in the UK.

Last VW Golf Mk1 to be built (SA)

Volkswagen has launched a new edition of the Golf Mk1 in South Africa, as production of the iconic hatchback finally comes to an end.

The VW Golf Mk1 is still being produced for sale in the country and has been since in production at the Uitenhage plant since 1984, when the Mk2 model went on sale in markets around the world. It is the only factory in the world still making the Mk1. The Citi was introduced in 1978.

Ever-evolving safety regulations have finally caught up with the Mk1with production ending once the 1,000 roll-out models, known as the Citi Mk1 are built. Around 377,484 Citi's have been produced in South Africa over the last 25 years.

The Citi Mk1 will be available in either Black or Shadow Blue metallic paint, with a range of upgrades also fitted over the standard Mk1. These include 15” gun-metal painted alloys, GT-style stripes under the doors, chrome exhaust pipe, twin headlights and a chrome front grille surround.

Inside, the Citi gets half-leather sports seats, retro golf-ball gearknob, leather steering wheel, manual windows, new floor mats, special red stitching throughout and an individually numbered plaque on the dashboard.

Each Citi Mk1 will be fitted with a 100bhp 1.6 litre petrol engine and will start from R113,500 (£9,200/€10,280). It will only be available in South Africa.

A replacement for the Citi is being rumoured to be the 2009 Volkswagen Gol – a cheap compact family car sold in Brazil.

Press Release:

Citi Mk1 Limited Edition - the final chapter in the life of the iconic Citi

Volkswagen of South Africa is paying homage to the original Golf 1, with the introduction of a final limited edition Citi, aptly branded, Citi Mk1. Only 1,000 of these collectors' cars will find their way into the hands of motoring enthusiasts in South Africa and around the world.

The introduction of Citi Mk1 to the Citi range is a fitting gesture to send off and close the final chapter of the best-ever selling hatchback in South African motoring history. Citi has provided South African motorists with a fun, unique, affordable driving package for 25 years. It has defied all marketing textbook theories on the lifecycle of a brand. Citi will remain a legend for decades to come.

Since 1978, when the Golf 1 was launched in South Africa, Volkswagen of South Africa has produced 377,484 Citi's and a total of 517,384 A1 Golfs (including the Citi's). The Volkswagen of South Africa plant in Uitenhage has been the only plant in the Volkswagen Group to have continued building the legendary A1 Golf in the guise of the Citi Brand.

Citi made its first appearance on South African roads in 1984, six years after Golf 1 was introduced in South Africa. Volkswagen of South Africa launched the Citi as its affordable car to compete in the entry level segment following the introduction of a bigger and more expensive Golf 2 - the "Jumbo" Golf as it became affectionately known.

For 25 years, the Citi range has continuously been refreshed and kept alive with innovative, appealing special and limited editions such as the Designa, CTI, Deco, Sonic, Wolf, Bafana Bafana, R Line, Xcite, Billabong and most recently the GTS.

The latest and last limited edition of the Citi range, the Citi Mk1, is offered with the 1.6i engine which has a power output of 74kW at 5400rpm.

The Citi Mk1 is fitted with 15-inch, gunmetal painted alloy wheels and will have a polished exhaust tailpipe, dark taillights, double headlights and chrome highlight around grille. On the sides, it will have GT-styled stripes in chrome foil.

The interior has sport seats with partial leather, leather steering wheel, the original golf ball gear knob, floor mats with Mk1 logo and red stitching detail throughout.

Citi Mk1 will only be available in two colours, Black and Shadow Blue metallic.

Only 1,000 units will be available and each will have a unique number - from 1 to 1,000 - which will be embossed on the passenger side dashboard and integrated into the uniquely designed exterior Mk1 logo.

Like other Citi models, Citi Mk1 comes with the standard 3 year/120 000km warranty.

Volkswagen AutoMotion maintenance and service plans are optional.

Citi Mk1 retail price is R113 500 (VAT included).

Citi bids farewell to South Africa:

Two of the last produced Citi Mk1 units will join other Volkswagen Classic cars that are on permanent display at the Autostadt, the Volkswagen Group Museum and Brand Expo in Wolfsburg, Germany and at the Volkswagen AutoPavillion Brand heritage centre in Uitenhage.

At the Volkswagen of South Africa production plant in Uitenhage, it was an emotional day for the employees when the last Citi, Citi Mk1 001, rolled off the production line to mark the official end of the A1 production. Thousands of employees attended a special event to bid farewell and pay tribute to the legend and the people who have been crafting the A1 (Citi and Golf 1) by hand for more than 30 years. Over 120 employees, who are still employed by Volkswagen of South Africa, have worked for more than 20 years on the A1 production line.

Meanwhile, a Goodbye Tour to the Citi will kick off on 12 November 2009 in Uitenhage and will end on 22 November 2009, back at the home of Citi in Uitenhage. The tour will take the limited edition Citi Mk1 across the country with major stopovers in Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. At each city or town where Citi Mk1 will stop, the local public will be invited to make their mark on the car that has made its mark on so many people in South Africa by signing the last Citi ever produced.

A special website for the Goodbye Citi Tour, will be created for the Citi fans and the public to follow the route and daily activities of this very special Citi Mk1 across South Africa. The video footage and photos captured each day will be posted onto the website.

Citi fans will also be invited to post their own farewell messages and tributes to the icon through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.

Citi Mk1, unit number 003 and the last Citi produced that will be available to the public, will be auctioned online through from the 3rd to 23rd of November 2009. The reserve price will be R1 and the minimum bid increments are set as R100. All the proceeds from the auction will be donated to a community-based organisation, Ubuntu Education Fund* in Port Elizabeth. The auction will be open to local and international bidders. However, the bids will only be accepted in South African Rand (ZAR) and the car will be delivered to one address in South Africa.

                          Volkswagen CitiGolf (1978 - Present):

BMW X1 kids

A clan of 800 extremely enthusiastic children aged between 5 and 13 took four days to build this BMW X1 from mostly yellow LEGO bricks. Danish company, LEGO has been giving joy to children from around the world for 50 years. The model was built to scale of 1:1 which means it measures 4.5 metres long, 1.8m wide and 1.5m high.

BMW started the artwork to raise funds for socially disadvantaged children. For every built-up LEGO block, the company will donate money to the Children's World "Die Arche" in Munich. Rumour has it that a total of about 165,000 LEGO bricks were used.

The car will be on exhibition at the BMW Welt ("BMW World" in German) building in Munich from 25th November.

2012 Mazda MX-5/Miata to be smaller & lighter

The next Mazda MX-5 will be smaller and lighter than the current car in an attempt to duplicate the spirit of the original, according to Mazda insiders.

Mazda’s R&D team is working on making the new car as light and compact as the original MX-5/Miata, which was launched 20 years ago. A Mazda source described the current car as “just too heavy”; with a 2.0 litre petrol engine, its kerb weight is 1,098kg, compared with the original’s 970kg. So engineers are targeting a kerb weight of 1,000kg, same as the current Mazda2. That would give the new car a figure similar to that of the recent 980kg MX-5 Superlight concept, the first of a series of design studies that will define the direction Mazda will take with the new car.

Much of this weight loss will be achieved through a smaller and lighter engine, likely to copy the original’s 1.6 litre capacity. “We are testing both 1.6 and 1.8 litre engines, which undercut our current 2.0 litre unit but deliver the same 160-170bhp power range,” said our source.

The dimensions of the car’s platform and wheelbase will stay much the same but Mazda is known to be looking at reducing the front and rear overhangs.

Lightweight construction techniques will also be used. Mazda is experimenting with using new steel construction methods that enable less metal to be used in its bodyshells. Mazda is also employing the chief engineer of the first MX-5, Takao Kijima, as a special advisor for the new car.

The new MX-5 is due to be unveiled in 2011, possibly at the Tokyo motorshow. Sources suggest that the price could come down, too, to reflect the new MX-5’s more simple appeal.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Volkswagen launches new Passat edition (UK)

Volkswagen has introduced a better-equipped Highline Plus version of the Passat.

The Highline Plus spec is based upon the Highline model and the new car can be identified by the chrome grille surround. Inside Bluetooth connectivity and VW’s new RNS 310 satellite navigation system, featuring a 5 inch colour touch-screen. This new system will soon be available as an option on other Passat models, priced at £795.

The Highline Plus will be available with most Passat engines, from the 1.8 litre TSI 160 to 2.0 litre TSI 170, with or without Bluemotion. The Highline Plus offers all the features of the standard Passat Highline, like ABS, ESP, six airbags, 17 inch alloy wheels, semi-automatic climate control, cruise control and leather upholstery.

The Highline Plus carries a £750 premium over the standard Highline; prices start at £20,515 for the 2.0 litre TDI 110 PS.

The Highline Plus is available to order now, ready for deliveries in January 2010.
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